Entries for August 2009 (September 2009 »    October 2009 »    November 2009 »    Archives)

 

Ecological appleAUG 31

This is about as creepy as you can make an apple. (via clusterflock)

Norway's greatest value creatorAUG 31

The FT has a profile of Farouk al-Kasim, an Iraqi who immigrated to Norway as a young man and helped the country set up their sizeable oil concern. His biggest contribution was helping Norway cope with the discovery of oil.

Poor countries dream of finding oil like poor people fantasise about winning the lottery. But the dream often turns into a nightmare as new oil exporters realise that their treasure brings more trouble than help. Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, one time Venezuelan oil minister, likened oil to "the devil's excrement". Sheikh Ahmed Yamani, his Saudi Arabian counterpart, reportedly said: "I wish we had found water."

Oil expertise was so scarce in the Nordic country when al-Kasim arrived that an innocent query at the Ministry of Industry turned into a job that paid him more than Norway's prime minister. (via gulfstream)

CycloManiacsAUG 31

CycloManiacs is Excitebike all grown up...it can drink alcohol and tie cherry stems in knots with its tongue. Warning: this is literally hours of fun. Hours.

How a car's differential gear worksAUG 31

The video starts off with synchronized motorcycle riding but give it a minute.

The evolution of the modern blockbuster movieAUG 31

Matt Zoller Seitz and Aaron Aradillas recently completed a five-part video series on the evolution of the summer blockbuster movie focused on the summers of 1984 and 1989.

Part 1: "The origins of MTV editing and post-Boomer cynicism. Also starring Ronald Reagan, John Hughes, semi-gratuitous T&A, synth-pop videos, The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and Prince."

Part 2: "Steven Spielberg's society of the spectacle, the rise of sadism and cynicism in the blockbuster movie, and the influence of the PG-13 rating. Also starring Indiana Jones, Red Dawn, and gremlins. Lots and lots of gremlins."

Part 3: "A lickety-split recap of the second Reagan term, and begin the Bush years with the rise of hip-hop, Field of Dreams, Do the Right Thing, and the American indie film opting out and breaking out with sex, lies and videotape."

Part 4: "We watch feel-good sequels ape the spirit of '84 while the heroes of Lethal Weapon II and The Abyss flip out, and the unprecedented Batman taps into the decayed American city."

Part 5: "The New Sincerity, as rediscovered in the hallowed teen-movie triumvirate of Heathers, Dead Poets Society and Say Anything, released within three months of each other twenty years ago."

Some of the clips are NSFW.

Things that are better than a New York City hot dogAUG 31

In response to a hyperbolic statement from a friend about the goodness of New York City hot dogs, Matthew Diffee compiles an extensive list of stuff that's better. A sampling:

Nice fluffy towels
Believing in yourself
Finding a lost twenty in your coat pocket
Prince Edward Island
Coming home after being away for a while
Submarines
Supermodels
A kiss in the rain

Edward RondthalerAUG 31

The intentional misspelling in the headline caught my eye: Edward Rondthaler, Foenetic Speler, Dies at 104. Turns out that Mr. Rondthaler was quite a fellow. He was a pioneer in the field of phototypesetting, cofounded the International Typeface Corporation & the Type Directors Club, and was a advocate of a phonetic spelling system called SoundSpel. Rondthaler's fascination with letters began at an early age:

At 5, Edward received a toy printing press as a gift and began publishing his own newspaper. (It was a very small newspaper, about the size of a postcard, his son said.) Only a few years later, he and a friend opened a print shop in a nearby basement, doing jobs for paying customers; they ran the business through high school and for a year afterward, to earn college money.

Rest easy, Mr. Rondthaler.

Update: A few years back, Rondthaler did a charming video on the pronunciation complexities of seemingly simple words for House Industries, a type company that owns the physical assets of Rondthaler's company, Photo-Lettering, Inc.

(thx, all)

Blogger as accidental puppeteerAUG 31

Heather Armstrong purchased a new washing machine which promptly broke. After several attempts to get it fixed failed, she registered her displeasure on Twitter to her 1,000,000+ followers. The rest of the story is amusing but I enjoyed it for more inside-baseball reasons, i.e. this is how you fucking blog. Take notes.

This is where some of you are all, WTF? You spent how much on a washing machine? Don't you know that some of us don't even have washing machines? Don't you know that some of us have to drag our five loads of laundry AND our three kids down to the laundromat every week? HOW DARE YOU EVEN WRITE AND/OR COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR PRECIOUS LITTLE WASHING MACHINE.

And you can give me a goddamn break. It's not like we said, you know what? Let's just go spend fourteen hundred dollars today! It'll be fun! Where can we go? An appliance store! Hurry, let me change into my diamond-studded panties and climb into our golden chariot! Have the local police shut down traffic so that we don't have to maneuver around the little people! Also, where is Clive Owen and that blow job I paid for?

Updates on previous entries for Aug 28, 2009*AUG 29

Would-be collective nouns orig. from Aug 21, 2009
Widescreen vs pan and scan orig. from Aug 28, 2009
Helen Keller video orig. from Aug 26, 2009
1965 Ikea catalog orig. from Aug 26, 2009
The case of the missing Wired writer orig. from Aug 27, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Exploded StoreAUG 28

Much thanks to this week's RSS sponsor, Exploded Store. ES offers t-shirts and posters featuring gadgets old (Atari 2600, keytar) and new (Xbox 360, iPhone) in "exploded" views that reveal their inner workings.

From the FAQ, here's how the shirts are made:

These are internals of actual equipment. We buy items, usually via eBay or Craigslist, and we take them apart. Sometimes this requires special tools. Then we photograph the pieces and meticulously render them in Adobe Illustrator. Troy Paiva and Garry Booth are two of the skilled artists who have 'exploded' designs for us.

Museum of Animal PerspectivesAUG 28

A bunch of videos that show the world from the perspective of several animals, including an armadillo, a wolf, a scorpion and a house fly. Here's a bison's view of moving with a herd:

(via @dunstan)

NYC parkourAUG 28

Rocketboom recently profiled some parkour practitioners in NYC. Is 35 too late to take up a new sport?

Man in a van interviewAUG 28

Jimmy Tarangelo lives in Manhattan in a van down by the river.

He doesn't like paying rent, but he does like living in Manhattan. So what does he do? He lives in a van down by the river, literally. I spent a few hours with Jimmy and let him speak his mind.

On donkeys, the "little pistons" of MoroccoAUG 28

Susan Orlean travels to Morocco to find out about donkeys for Smithsonian magazine.

The medina in Fez may well be the largest urbanized area in the world impassable to cars and trucks, where anything that a human being can't carry or push in a handcart is conveyed by a donkey, a horse or a mule. If you need lumber and rebar to add a new room to your house in the medina, a donkey will carry it in for you. If you have a heart attack while building the new room on your house, a donkey might well serve as your ambulance and carry you out. If you realize your new room didn't solve the overcrowding in your house and you decide to move to a bigger house, donkeys will carry your belongings and furniture from your old house to your new one. Your garbage is picked up by donkeys; your food supplies are delivered to the medina's stores and restaurants by mule; when you decide to decamp from the tangle of the medina, donkeys might carry your luggage out or carry it back in when you decide to return. In Fez, it has always been thus, and so it will always be. No car is small enough or nimble enough to squeeze through the medina's byways; most motorbikes cannot make it up the steep, slippery alleys. The medina is now a World Heritage site. Its roads can never be widened, and they will never be changed; the donkeys might carry in computers and flat-screen televisions and satellite dishes and video equipment, but they will never be replaced.

This is probably the most interesting thing you'll ever read about donkeys.

Wrist-mounted flamethrowersAUG 28

A man demonstrates a pair of wrist-mounted flame throwers in his garage.

This somehow does not end in tragedy, but I see a very painful sneeze in this fellow's future. (via minizud)

Farewell, Reading RainbowAUG 28

Reading Rainbow is going off the air today after 26 years, making it the third longest running show on PBS (after Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood). Nothing about this on Levar Burton's blog or Twitter acct. as of yet.

Celebrity GPS voicesAUG 28

I had no idea you could get celebrity voices for your GPS navigation device. There's Mr. T ("what does he say if you need to go to the airport?"), Yoda, KITT from Knight Rider, Michael Caine, Kim Cattrall, the Star Trek computer voice, Homer Simpson, Gary Busey, and Dennis Hopper.

And then of course you've got the mashups like Mr. T navigates Mr. Bean, Mr. T navigates Frogger, and Mr. T navigating in Mario Kart Wii.

You may even be able to get a Bob Dylan voice soon.

Widescreen vs pan and scanAUG 28

This video features a number of directors talking about the difference between viewing films in widescreen vs. pan and scan. Martin Scorsese:

[Converting to pan & scan] is, technically, re-directing the movie.

Update: Thoughts from David Lynch about pan and scan taken from a 1997 interview:

I would like to see everything done letterboxed and with great sound. I'm not too interested in doing the commentary, you know, like a lot of people do. But in some strange way I kind of like pan-and-scan. Because you see things. It is a compromise, and in a couple of things you really say, "Why am I doing it?" But it's just an interesting thing that happens- another composition. It's not so bad, but I wish really that people could see the thing in a theater and that laserdiscs and videos didn't exist. Because on the big screen with the sound, you become inside the film, and that's the beauty of cinema. And it never happens on video, and it doesn't happen on laserdisc, either.

(thx, bill)

Life advice from old peopleAUG 27

Seth Menachem takes his video camera out on the streets and collects Life Advice From Old People. Menachem is in the movie biz so he even got advice from Jon Voight and Errol Morris.

ISS construction timelineAUG 27

Nice animated timeline of the construction of the International Space Station. (thx, struan)

Atul Gawande profileAUG 27

Harvard Magazine has a nice profile of surgeon and writer Atul Gawande that talks about, among other things, his constant state of flow.

Gawande had seen that part of the man's colon was ischemic -- dead and gangrenous -- and had ceased to move waste out of the body. He wasn't sure about the cause, but suspected a blood clot. One thing was clear: without immediate surgery, the colon would rupture.

After examining the patient, Gawande conferred with the resident in the corridor outside the man's room. He went through a familiar and well-practiced set of actions that he seemed to do without thinking: slipping his ring finger into his mouth to moisten it, working his wedding band off, unbuckling his watchband, threading it through the ring, and refastening it, all the while carrying on a conversation about stopping the patient's anti-clotting medication and getting a vascular surgeon to assist.

The case of the missing Wired writerAUG 27

Wired writer Evan Ratliff is on the lam and Wired is holding a contest to find him. The prize is $5000 and your photo in the magazine.

Starting August 15, I will try to stay hidden for 30 days. Not even my closest friends or my editors will know where I am. I'll remain in the US and will be online regularly. I will continue to use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and I'll make cell phone calls. I'll generally stay in the kind of social environment I like to live in (no hiding in a cabin in Montana), and I'll keep track of my pursuers, searching constantly for news about myself.

Wired is keeping a blog detailing Ratliff's breadcrumb trails (emails, IP addresses, CC purchases). Ratliff himself wrote an article for the most recent issue of Wired called Gone Forever: What Does It Take to Really Disappear? which is well worth the read.

Update: Robert Sharp tracked a friend through London using only Twitter updates and caught up with him at the bar of his hotel.

Update: Evan Ratliff has been found, felled in part by his love of pizza with gluten-free crust.

Update: Now that he's been caught, the story of what Ratliff was up to all that time is worth reading...
the costume changes are hilarious.

MRI sex tapeAUG 27

This, I guess, is NSFW but really, if I didn't tell you that it's an MRI video of two people having sex, you probably wouldn't even know it.

Venn diagram of mythical creaturesAUG 27

Mythical Venn

My favorite is dog + dog + dog = Cerberus. (thx, ben)

Updates on previous entries for Aug 26, 2009*AUG 27

Bad company alert: Fiji Water orig. from Aug 18, 2009
Fiddling while our kids don't learn orig. from Aug 26, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

20 cool ancient mapsAUG 26

Among this list of 20 fascinating ancient maps, you'll find the island of California, a would-be beautification of Paris circa-1789, and the Modern and Completely Correct Map of the Entire World, which turned out to be nothing of the sort. (thx, john)

The solution to the soprano problemAUG 26

The soprano problem is the mispronunciation of lyrics by sopranos at the high end of their range. In order to make themselves heard in opera houses, sopranos need their voices to resonate, which they only do when making certain sounds.

Jane Eaglen, a critically acclaimed soprano who has performed Wagner's works in opera houses worldwide, explains that sopranos must try to find a balance between power and clarity. "It's really about how you modify the vowels at the top of the voice so that the words are still understandable but so that you are also making the best sound that you can make," she says.

A pair of scientists have found that the meticulous Richard Wagner may have been aware of this problem and wrote the soprano parts in his operas to minimize the mispronunciations.

1965 Ikea catalogAUG 26

From the looks of the 1965 Ikea catalog, the company could make a killing selling that same furniture today. Maybe they should do that rather than switching to Verdana. (thx, paolo)

Update: From a museum display, a photograph of a bunch of old Ikea catalog covers.

The best of WikipediaAUG 26

The Best of Wikipedia blog collects interesting entries from Wikipedia. Some recent entries include Lawsuits Against God, Missing White Woman Syndrome, and Dead Cat Bounce.

No meetings at CraigslistAUG 26

From a long piece by Gary Wolf in Wired about Craigslist and Craig Newmark, a glimpse of the tiny firm's internal working structure:

The long-running tech-industry war between engineers and marketers has been ended at craigslist by the simple expedient of having no marketers. Only programmers, customer service reps, and accounting staff work at craigslist. There is no business development, no human resources, no sales. As a result, there are no meetings. The staff communicates by email and IM. This is a nice environment for employees of a certain temperament. "Not that we're a Shangri-La or anything," Buckmaster says, "but no technical people have ever left the company of their own accord."

I also enjoyed this line: "the public is a motherfucker".

Helen Keller videoAUG 26

This 1930 newsreel footage shows Helen Keller and her companion Anne Sullivan demonstrating how Keller learned to speak.

Much is made of Keller's method of sign language, but I had no idea she could talk. (via gulfstream)

Update: Here's an audio clip of Keller giving a speech.

Fiddling while our kids don't learnAUG 26

A truly maddening article about the NYC school system and its interactions with government and the teacher's union.

These fifteen teachers, along with about six hundred others, in six larger Rubber Rooms in the city's five boroughs, have been accused of misconduct, such as hitting or molesting a student, or, in some cases, of incompetence, in a system that rarely calls anyone incompetent.

The teachers have been in the Rubber Room for an average of about three years, doing the same thing every day -- which is pretty much nothing at all. Watched over by two private security guards and two city Department of Education supervisors, they punch a time clock for the same hours that they would have kept at school -- typically, eight-fifteen to three-fifteen. Like all teachers, they have the summer off. The city's contract with their union, the United Federation of Teachers, requires that charges against them be heard by an arbitrator, and until the charges are resolved -- the process is often endless -- they will continue to draw their salaries and accrue pensions and other benefits.

Nobody comes out of this looking good.

Update: This American Life did a segment on Rubber Rooms earlier this year in cooperation with a group of filmmakers making a movie about them. (thx, @hautenegro & heather)

Updates on previous entries for Aug 25, 2009*AUG 26

Would-be collective nouns orig. from Aug 21, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Power reading with Google ReaderAUG 25

Google recently asked a bunch of folks, including me, what their favorite online reads are. The result is Power Readers (more info). You can find my picks on the tech/web page and subscribe to the whole mess of 'em in Google Reader.

A pizza oven grows in BrooklynAUG 25

Adam Kuban interviewed my friend Mark about the pizza oven he built in his Brooklyn backyard.

It is actually pretty amazing how well the oven works. The first thing we made after pizza was a roasted chicken. I just can't describe how amazing it was. Not to mention the pizzas. They cook in about 90 seconds, and when I pulled the first one out of the oven, and the backyard smelled like a pizzeria, we knew all the work was worth it.

Mark and I work in the same office and it's nice to hear that his daily phone conversations about stucco, stucco suppliers, stucco styles, and stucco application techniques have resulted in success.

Ikea as tourist attractionAUG 25

For many Chinese, the Ikea in Beijing is not just a store, it's a lifestyle amusement park with free admission.

Bai mapped out a five-hour outing. First, they had hot dogs and soft ice cream cones at noon. Then they enjoyed a long rest lounging on the beds. Bai kicked off her sandals and sprawled out on a Tromso bunk bed. The 36-year-old homemaker made herself comfortable and even answered passing shoppers' questions about the quality of the mattress. "It's soft and a great buy at this price," she told a young woman, pointing to a dangling price tag. After that, Bai and her family took group pictures. By 5 p.m., it was time for another meal, so they headed to the cafeteria and ate braised mushrooms with rice.

Some are for you, some are for me, but more are for meAUG 25

The @shitmydadsays Twitter account is written by someone who lives with his 73-year-old dad and "writes down shit that he says". A sampling of recent posts:

Your brother brought his baby over this morning. He told me it could stand. It couldn't stand for shit. Just sat there. Big let down.

Love this Mrs. Dash. The bitch can make spices... Jesus, Joni (my mom) it's a joke. I was making a joke! Mrs. Dash isn't even real dammit!

The dog is not bored, it's a fucking dog. It's not like he's waiting for me to give him a fucking rubix cube. He's a god damned dog.

I didn't live to be 73 years old so I could eat kale. Don't fix me your breakfast and pretend you're fixing mine.

Update: There were some doubts about if this were for real or not but it appears to be. A book deal is in the works. Of course.

A history of modern art in three paragraphsAUG 25

Impressionism - painting outside of a studio with quick, loose brushstrokes to capture an evocative impression of their subject. Van Gogh was an Impressionist but wanted to express how he felt about what he saw so he distorted the subject. This helped to lead to Expressionism practised by artists from Edvard Munch through to Francis Bacon. The Fauves (wild beasts) expressed themselves by painting with bright colours. Jackson Pollock did it by throwing or dripping paint on a canvas. His paintings were abstract -- Abstract Expressionism.

Cezanne was very important. He began as an Impressionist but then started to look at a subject from two different perspectives to represent how we see. Picasso and his friend Georges Braque were very impressed and started to paint subjects from lots of different views. This is Cubism. Marcel Duchamp was a Cubist but then changed art for ever. He said the idea is more important than the medium and refused to stick with the limited choice of canvas or stone. So he chose everyday objects and called them art because he had altered their context. This led to Conceptual Art where the idea becomes the medium.

The Dadaists were very cross. They blamed the horrors of the First World War on the Establishment's reliance on rational and reasoned thought. They radically opposed rational thought and became nihilistic -- the punk rock of modern art movements. Dada plus Sigmund Freud equals Surrealism. The Surrealists were fascinated by the unconscious mind, as that's where they thought truth resided. Piet Mondrian thought he could paint everything he knew, felt and saw by using two lines placed at rectangles and three primary colours. This was called Neo-Plasticism and was inspired by Cubism. So was Futurism, which is Cubism with motion added. Vorticism is the same as Futurism, but British. The Minimalists might represent the real truth because they weren't trying to represent anything. Performance Art is Dada live.

That's from Will Gompertz in the Times. (via sippey)

The history of Levi's jeansAUG 25

A Continuous Lean has an interview with Lynn Downey, an archivist and historian for Levi Strauss.

Well, [Levi's] started just as a regional thing, we had the lock on the West and other brands had their own consumer segments. I believe Lee had the South sort of sewn up, and there were some other brands, I think Lee included, that were known in New York. It's funny, you could always tell where someone was from; if they said "jeans," then they were from the west, if they were from the East they called them "dungarees," you could immediately tell where someone was from.

Update: Here's part two of the interview.

Damn nature, you scary!AUG 25

I almost wet my pants laughing the other night watching this little bit on Family Guy:

Beach parkour in KazakhstanAUG 25

My pal Mouser is in Kazakhstan and took a bunch of photos of kids doing parkour on the beach. This shot is my favorite.

Kazakhstan parkour

Will parkour eventually join soccer as one of the world's most egalitarian sports? You don't even need a homemade ball to play, just stuff to jump over, through, and off. The whole world's a course.

Updates on previous entries for Aug 24, 2009*AUG 25

Aronofsky and Portman in Black Swan orig. from Jun 16, 2009
Immaculate innings orig. from Aug 24, 2009
Usain Bolt: 9.58 orig. from Aug 16, 2009
Gambling your money away to a safe place orig. from Jul 22, 2009
The Line Diet orig. from Aug 24, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

I'll have a rum and Coke and cokeAUG 24

Route 36 is a cocaine bar located in La Paz, Bolivia and is understandably popular.

The waiter arrives at the table, lowers the tray and places an empty black CD case in the middle of the table. Next to the CD case are two straws and two little black packets. He is so casual he might as well be delivering a sandwich and fries. [...] Behind the bar, he goes back to casually slicing straws into neat 8cm lengths.

The Inheritance of RomeAUG 24

As Tyler Cowen seemingly reads every new book published in English each year (and I'm not even sure about the "seemingly"), a rave review from him directs my finger from its holster to Amazon's 1-Click trigger. This week Cowen is on about The Inheritance of Rome by Chris Wickham. From the review:

What can I say? I have to count this tome as one of the best history books I have read, ever.

Having just finished, coincidentially, Cowen's Create Your Own Economy (more on that soon), I *am* looking for another book to read.

Religion and science sitting in a tree, c-o-o-p-e-r-a-t-i-n-gAUG 24

Writing in the New York Times this weekend, Robert Wright attempts to reconcile religion and science. The middle ground is the "built-in" moral sense of our universe, in that the universe builds and rewards organisms that cooperate with one another.

I bring good news! These two warring groups have more in common than they realize. And, no, it isn't just that they're both wrong. It's that they're wrong for the same reason. Oddly, an underestimation of natural selection's creative power clouds the vision not just of the intensely religious but also of the militantly atheistic.

If both groups were to truly accept that power, the landscape might look different. Believers could scale back their conception of God's role in creation, and atheists could accept that some notions of "higher purpose" are compatible with scientific materialism. And the two might learn to get along.

This is essentially the subject of the last chapter or two of Wright's The Evolution of God, the only part of this excellent book that I didn't quite buy into, even though I've been thinking about his conclusion quite a bit since finishing the book.

Must Pop WordsAUG 24

Boggle + Tetris/Snood = Must Pop Words. This is difficult for poor typists like me. (via vsl)

Immaculate inningsAUG 24

Immaculate innings are those innings in baseball games where the pitcher strikes out all three batters with nine pitches. It's only happened 42 times in the history of the game. David Archer is tracking the frequency of such innings; they are getting more common.

As one friend pointed out, the best explanation for the increase in recent decades appears to be the advent of the modern reliever, especially the flame-throwing, one inning closer (more immaculate innings have been thrown in the 9th inning* (eight) than in any other inning), though starters -- such as Burnett -- have also been throwing them with impressive frequency.

Update: See also three-pitch innings. (via noah brier)

Pitchfork's songs of the decadeAUG 24

As part of their review of the music of the 2000s, Pitchfork listed the top 500 tracks of the past decade. Here are the top 10:

10. Arcade Fire, "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"
9. Animal Collective, "My Girls"
8. Radiohead, "Idioteque"
7. Missy Elliott, "Get Ur Freak On"
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Maps"
5. Daft Punk, "One More Time"
4. Beyonce [ft. Jay-Z], "Crazy in Love"
3. M.I.A. [ft. Bun B and Rich Boy], "Paper Planes (Diplo Remix)"
2. LCD Soundsystem, "All My Friends"
1. OutKast, "B.O.B."

Be sure to click through for the extensive explanations. It would easy to nitpick specific selections, but that's a pretty good top 10.

Gorilla vs. Bear also shared their top songs and albums of the decade.

The Line DietAUG 24

The Line Diet (good name!) is a web-based version of the Steve Ward Diet. There is also an (unrelated) iPhone app. From the site's creator:

About 4 weeks ago, I stumbled across a story on Kottke's Blog about the "Steve Ward Diet". The idea seemed ingeniously simple to me... so I started my chart the same day. I've lost almost 8 pounds since then.

Update: There's an Excel spreadsheet version as well.

Attention deconcentrationAUG 24

It's a bummer that Alec Wilkinson's article on free diving isn't available online (except for NYer subscribers)...it's fascinating and right up the alley of the relaxed concentration/deliberate practice enthusiast. One of the two divers profiled uses a technique called attention deconcentration to govern her body and mind as she dives.

To still the unbidden apprehensions that might interfere with her dive -- what she describes as "the subjective feeling of empty lungs at the deep" -- Molchanova uses a technique that she refers to as "attention deconcentration." ("They get it from the military," Ericson said.) Molchanova told me, "It means distribution of the whole field of attention -- you try to feel everything simultaneously. This condition creates an empty consciousness, so the bad thoughts don't exist."

"Is it difficult to learn?"

"Yes, it's difficult. I teach it in my university. It's a technique from ancient warriors -- it was used by samurai -- but it was developed by a Russian scientist, Oleg Bakhtiyarov, as a psychological-state-management technique for people sho do very monotonous jobs."

I asked if it was like meditation.

"To some degree, except meditation means you're completely free, but if you're in the sea at depth you will have to be focussed, or it will get bad. What you do to start learning is you focus on the edges, not the center of things, as if you were looking at a screen. Basically, all the time I am diving, I have an empty consciousness. I have a kind of melody going through my mind that keeps me going, but otherwise I am completely not in my mind."

I found only one other reference online to attention deconcentration, an article on free diving written by Natalia Molchanova herself. In it, she talks about the three types of attention deconcentration: visual, aural, and tactile.

Rising from the depth, it is important to constantly scan your condition to prevent shallow water black-out, which can occur without any discomfort sensations. Somatic attention deconcentration appears to be extremely useful in this situation. Somatic AD implies attention distribution on the whole volume of the body and allows noticing tiny changes of organism state.

There is one more kind of AD -- aural attention deconcentration. It is not so effective in the water, but it helps preparing to the dive and not to be distracted by judge's countdown.

It's interesting that both the attention deconcentration and flow techniques are designed to get the practitioner to basically the same place (i.e. ready to perform difficult tasks) from opposite directions.

Somewhat related, a reader (thx, martin) recently sent in a link to The Game, a mind game with an unusual objective:

The Game is an ongoing mind game, the objective of which is to avoid thinking about The Game itself. Thinking about The Game constitutes a loss, which, according to the rules of The Game, must then be announced. How to win The Game is not defined in the rules; players can only attempt to avoid losing for as long as possible. The Game has been described alternately as pointless and infuriating, or as a challenging game that is fun to play.

Would-be collective nounsAUG 21

Culled from Twitter, a list of collective nouns that may or may not be in the dictionary. Some favorites:

a conspiracy of theorists
an array of geeks
a melancholy of goths (more here)
a pratfall of clowns
an argument of lawyers
a tantrum of 2 year olds
a fondling of vicars
a meta of collective nouns

Update: And I'd completely forgotten about the perfection of a fixie of hipsters.

Update: An Exaltation of Larks is a book chock full of collective nouns written by James Lipton (yes, that James Lipton). (thx, david)

Play Max DamageAUG 21

Max Damage. You didn't want the rest of your afternoon, right?

The importance of first aidAUG 21

My wife recently got re-certified in first aid and CPR and was able to use those skills the other day on the street.

Walking home, I realized being certified isn't necessarily about providing the aid. I didn't stop the bleeding, though it subsided on its own. I didn't try to examine her. This was in part because she refused my help initially but also because I knew the ambulance would be along soon. Mostly it was about providing comfort to someone in a difficult situation, helping them feel ok, and letting them know they weren't alone. The certification gave me the confidence to do that: to kneel on the sidewalk, holding an old woman's hand, and to help make those scary few minutes hopefully just a little bit better.

New Super Mario Bros. WiiAUG 21

Might have to dust off the Wii for this one: New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Features include four-player collaborative play (!!) and something called "demo play".

The game will also be the first game on the Wii to feature "demo play", where players will be able to pause the game, let the game complete the level for them, and resume play at any time by unpausing.

In my house, this was called the "give the controller to my 11-year-old cousin and let him show you how it's done" feature. I both hated and loved that feature. (via object of my obsession)

North Korean cuisineAUG 21

The new restaurant hotness in NYC: A Taste of Pyongyang.

After a lengthy stare down, the maitre d' shows you to your table. Once seated, you must adhere to two conditions: you will cook your own meal with your own ingredients, and no photography. If you refuse these terms, you will be warned that a crushing defeat will soon be brought down upon your soul. Don't give in, though; stick to your guns (to coin a phrase), and ask calmly for a menu. But don't press your luck by asking for water. This is very important.

The $1 million bookAUG 21

A book listing the top 100 wineries in the world will retail for $1,000,000. To be fair, the purchase price also includes 600 bottles of wine from said wineries. (via eat me daily)

The CoveAUG 21

The Cove has been getting great reviews: four stars from Ebert (who calls it "a certain Oscar nominee") and a score of 82 on Metacritic. A quick synopsis from Wikipedia followed by the trailer:

The Cove is a 2009 documentary film documenting the annual killing of more than 2,500 dolphins in a cove at Taiji, Wakayama in Japan. The film was directed by former National Geographic photographer Louis Psihoyos, and was filmed secretly during 2007 using underwater microphones and high-definition cameras disguised as rocks.

The Wild ThingsAUG 20

Dave Eggers has written a young adult novel called The Wild Things that is based loosely on Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and the screenplay he co-wrote with Spike Jonze for the movie version. The New Yorker published an excerpt of the book this week.

Max left the room and found Gary lying on the couch in his work clothes, his frog eyes closed, his chin entirely receded into his neck. Max gritted his teeth and let out a low, simmering growl.

Gary opened his eyes and rubbed them.

"Uh, hey, Max. I'm baggin' a few after-work Z's. How goes it?"

Max looked at the floor. This was one of Gary's typical questions: Another day, huh? How goes it? No play for the playa, right? None of his questions had answers. Gary never seemed to say anything that meant anything at all.

"Cool suit," Gary said. "Maybe I'll get me one of those. What are you, like a rabbit or something?"

Eggers explains how the idea for the book came about in an associated interview.

But while I was working on the book, it was funny, because I started going in new directions, different from any of the screenplay versions, pushing it into some territory that was personal to me. So in a way the movie is more Spike's version of Maurice's book, and this novel is more my version.

Here's the latest trailer for the movie.

To sum up: children's book, movie, young adult book. Oh, and a movie soundtrack.

What's missing from the news?AUG 20

Matt Thompson wrote a thoughtful post about the four key parts of news stories, including the three that journalists usually don't cover. My particular pet peeve: the absence of the longstanding facts.

In reality, these longstanding facts provide the true foundation of journalism. But in practice, they play second-fiddle to the news, condensed beyond all meaning into a paragraph halfway down in a news story, tucked away in a remote corner of our news sites.

(via waxy)

Migraine headache triggers crazy typingAUG 20

At the onset of what he later learned was a migraine headache, David Friedman subconsciously typed in tongues on his laptop.

Again, my fingers were typing nonsense. Could I have made the same mistake twice? No, I was definitely starting out in the correct position. I watched my fingers move as I typed. Nothing looked wrong. The sensation was just as familiar as any other time I typed. My fingers moved with the same confidence, as though they knew exactly where they were going to reach the letters they needed to hit. And yet: gibberish on the screen.

Don't miss the cliffhanger in the final paragraphs.

Sonar ruler iPhone appAUG 20

Sonar Ruler is an iPhone app that uses clicking sounds to measure distances.

Basically it uses the iPhone's speaker to send out a short click sound and it then measures how long it takes for that sound to bounce off of something in the environment. It can be quite accurate to within an inch or so when used in the right situations. I'll say right upfront it's not perfect, and cannot measure something small like a person. It works best on a large flat surface that is perpendicular to the iphone (like a large wall.)

Things that come to mind: "reverify our range to target...one ping only", the boy who sees by clicking, Daredevil, the last 30 minutes of The Dark Knight, and this app is going to be many architects' new best friend. (thx, matt)

The Midtown GamesAUG 20

It was so hot in New York City last week -- HOW HOT WAS IT? -- it was so hot that the first event of the Midtown Games was held in a fountain on 50th St.: a 50m freestyle swim.

Friday, August 14th at 1pm marked the opening event of the Midtown Games: Olympics, and was attended primarily by the city's punch-drunk, heat-stroked interns. With the blare of a foghorn the crowd closed in like a shield, trumpets sang out "Eye of the Tiger" and five swimmers in Speedos and caps leapt into the burbly water of a decorative fountain to swim its 50 metres or so in elegant racing style.

Circle the catAUG 20

The Circle the Cat game is addictive until you figure out the optimal strategy (which took me way too long) and then it's pretty easy. (via @dunstan)

Dance, Pete Campbell, dance!AUG 20

Pete Campbell happy dance

I could watch Pete Campbell dance all the day long. Pitch perfect acting by Vincent Kartheiser. (via this recording)

Bang Bang Diet iPhone appAUG 20

Inspired by the Steve Ward Diet, an iPhone developer wrote Bang Bang Diet to help you "diet like a robot". Again, here are the rules:

You plot your desired weight on a desired date towards the right side, making sure that you've left the correct number of lines in between (one per day). You draw a line from the current weight/date to the desired weight/date. Every morning you weigh yourself and plot the result. If the point is below the line, you eat whatever you want all day. If the point is above the line, you eat nothing but broccoli or some other low-calorie food.

The app takes care of the plot for you and tells you either to "Eat Normal" or "Eat Light" on any particular day. Only $1.99 at the App Store.

Update: The folks behind Bang Bang Diet have cleverly applied the same idea to budgeting with their Simple Budget app...the app tells you to "Spend" or "Don't Spend" based on how much you've already spent for the day.

Uncomfortable plot summariesAUG 19

Some plot summaries of movies and TV shows that might make you feel uncomfortable. Among my favorites:

THE GOONIES: Physically abused, retarded man finds love with overweight preteen.
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST: Mel Gibson fulfills fantasy of showing a Jew beaten to a bloody pulp and killed on-screen.
TITANIC: Crazy old widow disregards lifelong memories of husband, children, and grandchildren in favor of that one time she fucked a bum.
STAR WARS: Religious extremist terrorists destroy government installation, killing thousands.
LORD OF THE RINGS: Midget destroys stolen property.
DOCTOR WHO: Elderly man serially abducts young women.
BOOGIE NIGHTS: Deformed boy goaded into life of crime.

(via the browser)

New football rule: the time-inAUG 19

Sam Arbesman has a proposal for a new football rule: coaches get one time-in per season.

The possibility of a sudden time-in would loom large in every coach's mind at the most tense points in the game, introducing just enough concern and uncertainty to make the game different. Timeworn clock-management strategies would no longer be a given. And yet, for the average viewer on a Sunday, the game on the field would still be your father's football.

Extract, a new movie from Mike JudgeAUG 19

The trailer for Extract, the latest film from Mike Judge (Office Space, the underrated Idiocracy).

From ComingSoon:

In "Extract," writer/director Mike Judge returns to the fertile territory of the American workplace, rotating his perspective away from the white collar cubicle warriors of "Office Space" and towards a blue collar boss -- a small business owner -- who employs an odd cast of losers, loners and misfits in his flavor extract factory.

Burning carAUG 19

The best part of this video of a car on fire is the sound. (via today and tomorrow)

Tarantino's dialogueAUG 19

Matt Zoller Seitz has put together a selection of scenes from Quentin Tarantino's movies to illustrate what Seitz calls "the filmmaker's Socrates-in-a-dive-bar mindset" with regard to dialogue.

Tarantino doesn't just explore language's capacity to reveal and conceal motives and personality, he shows how people pick words and phrases (consciously or subconsciously) in order to define themselves and others, and describe the reality they inhabit (or would like to inhabit). Even low-key and seemingly unimportant exchanges are as carefully choreographed as boxing matches. Clever flurries of interrogatory jabs are often blocked by witty responses; the course of conflict can be shifted by deft rhetorical footwork that re-frames the terms of debate.

New issue of Emigre magazine, sort ofAUG 19

The influential design magazine Emigre stopped publishing issues back in 2005, but now they're releasing issue No. 70, which is actually a hardcover book celebrating the best of Emigre from the past 25 years.

This book, designed and edited by Emigre co-founder and designer Rudy VanderLans, is a selection of reprints, using original digital files, tracing Emigre's development from its early bitmap design days in the late 1980s through to the experimental layouts that defined the so called "Legibility Wars" of the late 1990s, to the critical design writing of the early 2000s.

(via quipsologies)

Ricky JayAUG 19

Can you resist reading an article that starts off with an anecdote this interesting? I couldn't.

The playwright David Mamet and the theatre director Gregory Mosher affirm that some years ago, late one night in the bar of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago, this happened:

Ricky Jay, who is perhaps the most gifted sleight-of-hand artist alive, was performing magic with a deck of cards. Also present was a friend of Mamet and Mosher's named Christ Nogulich, the director of food and beverage at the hotel. After twenty minutes of disbelief-suspending manipulations, Jay spread the deck face up on the bar counter and asked Nogulich to concentrate on a specific card but not to reveal it. Jay then assembled the deck face down, shuffled, cut it into two piles, and asked Nogulich to point to one of the piles and name his card.

"Three of clubs," Nogulich said, and he was then instructed to turn over the top card.

He turned over the three of clubs.

Mosher, in what could be interpreted as a passive-aggressive act, quietly announced, "Ricky, you know, I also concentrated on a card."

After an interval of silence, Jay said, "That's interesting, Gregory, but I only do this for one person at a time."

Mosher persisted: "Well, Ricky, I really was thinking of a card."

Jay paused, frowned, stared at Mosher, and said, "This is a distinct change of procedure." A longer pause. "All right-what was the card?"

"Two of spades."

Jay nodded, and gestured toward the other pile, and Mosher turned over its top card.

The deuce of spades.

A small riot ensued.

That's from a 1993 profile of Ricky Jay, who is probably more well known now for his acting (Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Deadwood, The Spanish Prisoner, The Prestige) than his magic scholarship. Check out a couple of Jay's tricks on YouTube: Four Queens and Sword of Vengence. (via df)

Oxytocin != oxycontinAUG 19

I recently learned that oxytocin and oxycontin are not the same thing. Oh, the strange assumptions I made based on that little bit of ignorance.

An abundance of deathAUG 18

Joanne McNeil on The Daily Death:

In the future, a famous person will die every fifteen minutes. Already it's happening. The ascent of the microcelebrities, the 24 hour news cycle, citizen journalism, and our darkest fantasies all collide on Twitter now. The website's rhetorical question "What are you doing?" sometimes feels more like "Who died today?"

I wrote about something similar a few years ago in a post called Death in the celebrity age:

Chances are in 15-20 years, someone famous whose work you enjoyed or whom you admired or who had a huge influence on who you are as a person will die each day...and probably even more than one a day. And that's just you...many other famous people will have died that day who mean something to other people. Will we all just be in a constant state of mourning? Will the NY Times national obituary section swell to 30 pages a day? As members of the human species, we're used to dealing with the death of people we "know" in amounts in the low hundreds over the course of a lifetime. With higher life expectancies and the increased number of people known to each of us (particularly in the hypernetworked part of the world), how are we going to handle it when several thousand people we know die over the course of our lifetime?

The population pyramid for who the average American knows (or knows of enough to care) probably looks something like this:

Celebrity Population Pyramid

That's a lot of future death.

Update: On Twitter, Kurt Anderson quoted David Kipen:

Baby Boomers have created so many celebrities that, in the future, somebody famous will die every fifteen minutes.

Update: The NY Times has a slightly different take on the recent rash of celebrity death:

This summer could come to be known as the summer when baby boomers began to turn to the obituary pages first, to face not merely their own mortality or ponder their legacies, but to witness the passing of legends who defined them as a tribe, bequeathing through music, culture, news and politics a kind of generational badge that has begun to fray.

Parkinson's and pesticidesAUG 18

Scientists are gradually coming to the conclusion that exposure to organophosphate pesticides increases the risk of Parkinson's disease.

Taken together, 30-plus years of research add up to an increasingly persuasive conclusion: exposure to pesticides and other toxins increases the risk of Parkinson's disease, and we are only now beginning to wrestle with the true scope of the damage.

(thx, peter)

Killed book coversAUG 18

Some well-known book cover designers talk about their rejected cover designs.

Helicopter taking offAUG 18

This one is for Ollie:

Helicopter timelapse

(via today and tomorrow)

Early Anna Wintour workAUG 18

Fashionologie has a bunch of New York magazine spreads that Anna Wintour (currently editor of Vogue and subject of The September Issue) did when she was a fashion editor there in the early 1980s.

The 2000s, summed upAUG 18

Momus is first out of the gate with a summary of the 00s, what he calls a "mister narrative of the decade"...a one-man master narrative.

Other things that looked dead or dying this decade: I personally stopped going to the cinema. Why sit behind someone's head in a fleapit when you can download all you need to see and project it at home? Copyright effectively died, overtaken, de facto, by events on the internet. Magazines and newspapers ended the decade looking very unhealthy indeed, although books seemed strong. Young people got a lot less interested in cars, leading some to label Japan a post-car society. Detroit pretty much collapsed. The polar ice caps melted rapidly; climate change is a fact. Banks -- having invented what they thought were clever ways to spread risk around, and play with planet-sized sums of entirely fictional money -- looked pretty shaky.

Embedded in Momus's post is a video called Rise of the Rest, the title of which was borrowed from Fareed Zakaria.

From the video:

In ten years, the number one English speaking country in the world will be USA India China.

The footnotes of Mad MenAUG 18

This may be my favorite new blog of the year: The Footnotes of Mad Men. Sample footnote: The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife, the tentacle porn hanging in Bert Cooper's office. (via sandwich)

Bad company alert: Fiji WaterAUG 18

Bottled water is bad but Fiji bottled water is particularly odious. For starters, the country's military regime monitors internet usage at internet cafes in real-time for information about the popular bottled water brand:

I sat down and sent out a few emails -- filling friends in on my visit to the Fiji Water bottling plant, forwarding a story about foreign journalists being kicked off the island. Then my connection died. "It will just be a few minutes," one of the clerks said. Moments later, a pair of police officers walked in. They headed for a woman at another terminal; I turned to my screen to compose a note about how cops were even showing up in the Internet cafes. Then I saw them coming toward me. "We're going to take you in for questioning about the emails you've been writing," they said.

Then the cops threatened the reporter with prison rape. The rest of the story isn't much better.

Update: From Fiji Water's official response to the article:

We strongly disagree with the author's premise that because we are in business in Fiji somehow that legitimizes a military dictatorship.

(thx, mason)

Don't text while drivingAUG 17

This is why you shouldn't text while driving. While you're at it, knock it off with the phone conversations, lipstick application, and crossword puzzles. NSFW or for the faint-of-heart.

While I was awayAUG 17

JD's girlfriend was not a good listener. He was leaving on a trip to Europe for two weeks. She wasn't aware he had left. Then the emails started.

(via that's how it happened)

Chopping widescreen moviesAUG 17

Steven Soderbergh on the new pan-and-scan: the cropping of 2.40:1 films to fit the HD TV screen.

Television operators, the people who buy and produce things for people to watch on TV, are taking the position that films photographed in the 2.40:1 ratio should be blown up or chopped up to fit a 16:9 (1.78:1) ratio. They are taking the position that the viewers of television do not like watching 2.40 films letterboxed to fit their 16:9 screens, and that a film insisting on this is worth significantly less -- or even nothing -- to them.

He has particular contempt for AMC and HBO:

[HBO wants] everything pan/scanned. On the Ocean's films I had to get somebody VERY HIGH UP WITH WAY BETTER SHIT TO DO to call them and make an exception. Their influence means they could make this problem go away single-handedly, but since they won't, they get to be the poster child for stupidity. Not that they're uninterested in hypocrisy too; while their PR caters to the most adventurous TV watchers, their actions indicate they think their viewers are very, very afraid of anything actually different.

I watched The Darjeeling Limited on Starz a few months ago. This is a movie where the wider aspect ratio is almost another character and the knuckleheads at Starz chopped the hell out of it. Blech.

The Pale King and that Kenyon commencement speechAUG 17

This little tidbit at the end of this look back at David Foster Wallace's career gives me hope for The Pale King, the forthcoming (and posthumous and unfinished) novel by Wallace.

Pressed for more details, Pietsch cites a commencement speech that Wallace gave at Kenyon University in 2005, which he says is "very much a distillation" of the novel's material. "The really important kind of freedom," said Wallace, "involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom... The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing."

I loves me that commencement speech.

The world's worst healthcare reformsAUG 17

Foreign Policy has a list of the worst healthcare reforms in the world...the list includes China, Russia, the United States, and Turkmenistan.

So, in a frankly insane healthcare reform effort, [Turkmenistan's "President for Life" Saparmurat Niyazov] restricted the public's access to care by replacing up to 15,000 doctors and nurses with unqualified military conscripts. The next year, he ordered hospitals and clinics outside of the capital, Ashgabat, to close -- even though the vast proportion of Turkmenistan's population lives in rural areas. The BBC quoted him as saying, "Why do we need such hospitals? If people are ill, they can come to Ashgabat." He also implemented fees and created an "unofficial" ban on the diagnosis of certain communicable diseases, like hepatitis.

(via mr)

Quentin Tarantino's top 20 moviesAUG 17

Quentin Tarantino talks about his 20 favorite movies that have been made since he became a director.

Here's the full list in handy text form:

Battle Royale
Anything Else
Audition
Blade
Boogie Nights
Dazed & Confused
Dogville
Fight Club
Fridays
The Host
The Insider
Joint Security Area
Lost In Translation
The Matrix
Memories of Murder
Police Story 3
Shaun of the Dead
Speed
Team America
Unbreakable

Updates on previous entries for Aug 16, 2009*AUG 17

The unlikeliest thing in the world orig. from Aug 05, 2009
Sincerely, John Hughes orig. from Aug 07, 2009
Usain Bolt: 9.58 orig. from Aug 16, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Usain Bolt: 9.58AUG 16

At the track and field world championships in Germany this evening, Usain Bolt set another world record in the 100-meters: 9.58 seconds, besting his previous record of 9.69. Can he go under 9.5?

Update: Here's the race in HD. It's a lot closer than the Olympic final...Gay was really hauling as well. The Times reports that the 0.11 seconds Bolt shaved off the record was the largest difference since the advent of electronic timing in 1977.

Update: More on the 100 meter record. If you look at a graph of the 100 meter records (and here), Bolt's time looks even more impressive...he broke the record more than it's ever been broken.

But second off, you can also see that Usain Bolt is running much faster than humans ought to be running right now. This should give you an inkling of just how special these performances we're seeing from him are. We shouldn't be seeing times like this until the 2030s. Which means, honestly, that it ought to take around 30 years for someone else to come along and break his record.

Even Michael Johnson was impressed.

And then, of course, Bolt went out and broke his own record in the 200 meters, a record which seemed untouchable at the Olympics last year and he beat it by 0.11 seconds. Here's the video in HD.

(thx, newley, @holgate, and david)

Game Boy blingAUG 14

I am kind of in love with this photo.

Game Boy Bling Bling

Always on camerasAUG 14

Adam Lisagor notices that the iPhone 3GS camera might always be buffering images so that when you press that shutter button, you get the photo that you wanted, not the one delayed by slow software or a slow shutter. Adam's observation gives me the opportunity to trot out one of my recent favorite informational factoids about the super high-speed cameras used to capture jumping great white sharks:

In order to get the jaw-dropping slow-motion footage of great white sharks jumping out of the ocean, the filmmakers for Planet Earth used a high-speed camera with continuous buffering...that is, the camera only kept a few seconds of video at a time and dumped the rest. When the shark jumped, the cameraman would push a button to save the buffer.

2003 blackout memoriesAUG 14

The readers and writers of The Morning News share their stories of the 2003 blackout, which occurred six years ago today.

In Lower Manhattan, my computer screen fizzled and the air conditioner cut off. While walking back to Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge I heard the following rumors: 1) The power's out in the entire country; 2) The power's out in the entire country and all of Canada; 3) There was an explosion and somebody's definitely behind this but I don't know who. (The last one was from a cop.)

I wrote about my blackout experience the day after.

I reach 18th Street. Some shops are open, most are not. The ice cream shop is doing good business. The owner of a bodega has barricaded the door with shelves of food and stands watch with his employees.

Convincing computer generated voicesAUG 14

CereProc's computer generated voices are impressive...scroll down the page for a passable Obama and a downright convincing Schwarzenegger. (via ebert)

Interview ProjectAUG 14

Interview Project features David Lynch traveling around the country and interviewing normal folks. (thx, youngna)

Update: David Lynch isn't travelling around...his son Austin and Jason S. are co-directing. (thx, eric)

Aldous Huxley vs. George OrwellAUG 14

A cartoon about the two great writers.

Orwell feared the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

(via sippey)

Indian casinosAUG 14

David Treuer, an American Indian, is writing a series of dispatches for Slate in which he visits Indian casinos. I'd never heard the story of how casinos on Indian lands came to be. It seems a state tax bill on a mobile home led to a lawsuit which led to a legal precedent that state and federal governments have no regulatory jurisdiction on Indian lands.

The Supreme Court ruling in the Bryan case was expansive. More than just a ruling on taxation, it declared that states and the feds had the right to police the reservation only in the interest of "law and order" and had no civil or regulatory jurisdiction over sovereign Indian nations. Until this time, tribes and states more or less assumed that states had civil and regulatory power on reservations. But the Supreme Court maintained that as sovereign nations, Indian tribes had always had the right to govern themselves (including civil and regulatory powers), just as all nations do, and that tribes should deal with the U.S. federal government, not with states. Kansas, for example, has no power to levy taxes in Luxembourg -- and not only because Luxembourg is far away.

Google Street View as documentary photographyAUG 13

An assessment: what sort of photographer is the Google Street View car?

Initially, I was attracted to the noisy amateur aesthetic of the raw images. Street Views evoked an urgency I felt was present in earlier street photography. With its supposedly neutral gaze, the Street View photography had a spontaneous quality unspoiled by the sensitivities or agendas of a human photographer. It was tempting to see the images as a neutral and privileged representation of reality -- as though the Street Views, wrenched from any social context other than geospatial contiguity, were able to perform true docu-photography, capturing fragments of reality stripped of all cultural intentions.

Gambling strategyAUG 13

A relatively short article on the mathematics of gambling.

Let's say, for example, you want to bet on one of the highlights of the British sporting calendar, the annual university boat race between old rivals Oxford and Cambridge. One bookie is offering 3 to 1 on Cambridge to win and 1 to 4 on Oxford. But a second bookie disagrees and has Cambridge evens (1 to 1) and Oxford at 1 to 2.

Each bookie has looked after his own back, ensuring that it is impossible for you to bet on both Oxford and Cambridge with him and make a profit regardless of the result. However, if you spread your bets between the two bookies, it is possible to guarantee success (see diagram, for details). Having done the calculations, you place £37.50 on Cambridge with bookie 1 and £100 on Oxford with bookie 2. Whatever the result you make a profit of £12.50.

I say relatively because there are literally millions of pages on the web just about blackjack statistics. For instance, it's easy to see how you'll lose money playing blackjack in the long run -- card counting aside -- by looking at this house edge calculator. The only real advantage to the player occurs with a one-deck shoe and a bunch of other pro-player rules, which I imagine are difficult to find at the casinos. (via big contrarian)

Multitasking, now in game formAUG 13

In Multitask, you start off playing one game and then another and so on until you're playing several games at the same time. I am horrible at this. (via waxy)

Healthcare lessonsAUG 13

Atul Gawande and some colleagues searched the US for healthcare successes -- hospitals and clinics where costs are relatively low and quality of care is high -- and came up with a few lessons.

If the rest of America could achieve the performances of regions like these, our health care cost crisis would be over. Their quality scores are well above average. Yet they spend more than $1,500 (16 percent) less per Medicare patient than the national average and have a slower real annual growth rate (3 percent versus 3.5 percent nationwide).

I wanted this article to be much longer than it was with breakouts of each of the ten lessons with lengthy explanations.

Like a shotgun full of snowAUG 13

Avalanches were used as weapons in World War I.

Some unknown person got the idea that avalanches could make a highly effective weapon. The avalanche war had begun. Avalanches could be started and even directed by just bombing a mountain. History has not yet calculated the exact number of deaths. Deaths have been estimated as high as 40,000 on each fighting side.

Harrison Ford, family guyAUG 13

Harrison Ford is concerned about his family. Like in every movie he's ever been in. (via cyn-c)

Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3-DAUG 13

Using redshift data, a 3-D animated view of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field was created.

Titles from The Baby-Sitters Club: The College Years seriesAUG 13

They include:

Claudia Goes to Class Wearing Sweatpants With Words On the Backside
Kristy's Softball Friends Don't Buy it That She's Dating a Dude
Mary Anne Narcs On Her Roommate

When I was a kid, there were never enough books around the house that I hadn't read (and I was apparently too lazy to go to the library) so when my younger sister started reading the Baby-Sitters Club series, I did too; she would finish a book and I'd pick it up right after her. At one point, I even got ahead of her and read the first six or seven in the series. This also explains why I've read all of the Anne of Green Gables series (yes, even Rilla of Ingleside), many of the Little House books, and quite a few Nancy Drew books. Anyway, great to see that Claudia, Kristy, Mary Anne, and Stacey made it to college!

The cinematography of Mad MenAUG 12

In a video at the end of this post, Film Freak explores the cinematography of Mad Men. (via house next door)

Dust and shiftingAUG 12

I've made some little tweaks to kottke.org here and there. One little tweak was to the RSS feed...I've shored it up and moved to an Atom format. Aside from 40 unread duplicate entries flooding your feed reader (sorry, it's a one time thing1), you shouldn't notice a thing. Bug reports and feedback welcome.

[1] Oddly, Google Reader hiccuped this morning and spit out 40 unread duplicate entries for the kottke.org feed...before I even modified anything (i.e. not my fault). So a double apology to GR users. I hope this is the end of our Long National Unread Duplicate Entries Nightmare.

Meet the generationsAUG 12

From Joshua Glenn at Hilobrow, an alternate generational periodization scheme:

1844-53: The Prometheans
1854-63: The Plutonians
1864-73: The Anarcho-Symbolists
1874-83: The Psychonauts
1884-93: The Lost Generation The New Kids
1894-1903: The Lost Generation The Hardboiled Generation
1904-13: The Greatest Generation The Partisans
1914-23: The Greatest Generation The New Gods
1924-33: The Silent Generation The Postmoderns
1934-43: The Silent Generation The Anti-Anti-Utopians
1944-53: The Boom Generation
1954-63: The Boom Generation, or Post-Boomers The OGXers (Original Generation X)
1964-73: Generation X The PC Generation
1974-83: Generations X/Y The Net Generation
1984-93: The Millennials
1994-2003: The Millennials TBA

Models with no makeupAUG 12

Tired of retouched women in magazines looking like "objects from Mars", photographer Peter Lindbergh captured eight models without makeup or excessive retouching for Harper's Bazaar's September issue. (via fashionologie)

Surrogate at the ready!AUG 12

Jobless and saddled by debt from student loans, Leah Finnegan checks into becoming a surrogate mother.

I'm 23. I have a fresh liberal arts degree, $50,000 in student loans, and I can't find a job. In the past, I've gotten through money-thin months by subletting my apartment or selling my personal possessions on eBay. But newly homeless and with my car, bike, and dressy trousers under new titles, I've nothing of worth left to proffer. Except, of course, myself.

The real Ferris BuellerAUG 12

Life lessons from Ferris Bueller, from the boyhood friend of John Hughes who provided some inspiration for Ferris.

For one of those Chicago adventures, we secretly borrowed a car almost as ridiculously conspicuous as the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT in the movie: my dad's purple Cadillac El Dorado (yes, purple). Put an extra 113 miles on the odometer. Hoping to erase that telltale mileage, we raised the back on a pair of jacks and ran the car in reverse. The Caddy did not fly backward into a ravine, as in the film. What it did do is quickly take off a clean 10,000 miles. Oops. (Yes, you bet he noticed.)

True fruits and false fruitsAUG 12

Under close scrutiny, hardly any of the things we refer to as fruits actually are.

Strawberries, you will be glad to know, are a 'false fruit'. Which seems reasonable enough. But at this point a small doubt started to grow in my mind... what, actually, then, was a real fruit? Oranges? No, they're a modified berry. Bananas? Leathery berry. Plums? Drupe -- fleshy bit with one stone inside.

(via clusterflock)

Little House books ghostwritten?AUG 12

As a kid, I read many of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books so I was interested to read that Laura's daughter Rose may have co-authored them.

Wilder scholarship is a flourishing industry, particularly at universities in the Midwest, and much of it seeks to sift fiction from history. The best book among many good, if more pedestrian, ones, "The Ghost in the Little House," by William Holtz, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Missouri, explores a controversy that first arose after Wilder bequeathed her original manuscripts to libraries in Detroit and California. It is the work of a fastidious stylist, and, in its way, a minor masterpiece of insight and research. Holtz's subject, however, isn't Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is her daughter and, he argues, her unacknowledged "ghost," Rose Wilder Lane.

Rose was an interesting character; she escaped the prairie life of her parents and transformed into a "a stylish cosmopolite who acquired several languages, enjoyed smoking and fornication, and dined at La Rotonde when she wasn't motoring around Europe in her Model T".

Reclaiming suburbiaAUG 11

There are some fine ideas among the finalists in the ReBurbia competition.

Calling all future-forward architects, urban designers, renegade planners and imaginative engineers: Show us how you would re-invent the suburbs! What would a McMansion become if it weren't a single-family dwelling? How could a vacant big box store be retrofitted for agriculture? What sort of design solutions can you come up with to facilitate car-free mobility, 'burb-grown food, and local, renewable energy generation? We want to see how you'd design future-proof spaces and systems using the suburban structures of the present, from small-scale retrofits to large-scale restoration--the wilder the better!

Google's new search engineAUG 11

Google is developing their next-generation search engine and needs your help in testing it out.

For the last several months, a large team of Googlers has been working on a secret project: a next-generation architecture for Google's web search. It's the first step in a process that will let us push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions. The new infrastructure sits "under the hood" of Google's search engine, which means that most users won't notice a difference in search results.

(via waxy)

Matte screen back on the MacBook ProAUG 11

Apple is finally offering the 15" MacBook Pro with an anti-glare screen. I bought a new MBP about a week before Marco but don't want to pay $250 for the exchange even though the glossy screen bugs the shit out of me and ranks right up there with Apple's worst design decisions ever (e.g. the Mighty Mouse and the puck mouse). Irritating.

NYC greenmarket documentaryAUG 11

Serious Eats made a short documentary (~9 min.) about the Union Square Greenmarket and one of the farmers who brings his goods to the market every week.

A phone that makes you breakfastAUG 11

Rick Webb on all the recent bitching about the iPhone, Apple, and the App Store.

They made a mobile browser light years better than any previous browser & you promptly took it for granted & bitched about it lacking Flash.

And on cut and paste:

You whined for 2 years about cut and paste. They invented a brand new user interface means to implement it. You never even used it.

There's a bunch more. (thx, david)

Mathematics in Infinite JestAUG 11

Those of you still plugging away at Infinite Summer may not want to read this (i.e. spoilers!), but Brian Barone finished early and found some interesting mathematical themes in the book.

Now, here's the part that really boggled me: the Consumption/Waste idea is a 1:1 correspondence (something in yields something out), what mathematicians call a linear function. The Parabola idea connects, pretty obviously, with parabolas -- now we're looking at x raised to the power of two. Annular Systems are modeled by circles which are given in analytic geometry by equations with both x^2 and y^2. Limits and Infinity, of course, become necessary in order to find the area of shapes under curves like parabolas and three-dimensional projections of circles.

Whoa. That is a tiny bit mind-blowing...do I really have time for a reread right now? (thx, nick)

No more Radiohead albums?AUG 11

Thom Yorke says that there will be no more Radiohead albums.

"None of us want to go into that creative hoo-ha of a long-play record again," he said. "Not straight off ... It worked with In Rainbows because we had a real fixed idea about where we were going. But we've all said that we can't possibly dive into that again. It'll kill us."

No!! (via @davidfg)

Pre-order Star TrekAUG 11

This is going to be beautiful in 1080p: pre-order Star Trek on Blu-ray (DVD too).

Jared Diamond lunch interviewAUG 10

Last week, the Financial Times had lunch with Jared Diamond.

"Was it a cultural choice that the Inuit up in the Arctic did not become farmers? No, it wasn't. You could not have agriculture in the Arctic," he bristles. "So it seems to me that the rise of agriculture in the modern world really does involve strong environmental influences. And if you want to call that geographical determinism, you can call it geographical determinism.

Ten things we don't understand about humansAUG 10

New Scientist has a series of articles about aspects of humanity that scientists don't quite have a handle on...like pubic hair, art, dreams, and teenagers.

Even our closest relatives, the great apes, move smoothly from their juvenile to adult life phases -- so why do humans spend an agonising decade skulking around in hoodies?

Moving walkwaysAUG 10

At the beginning of the 20th century, the idea of moving walkways was in vogue. After successes in Paris and Chicago, plans were drawn up for a three-speed moving sidewalk across the Brooklyn Bridge to alleviate traffic on the crowded bridge.

With the Brooklyn Bridge walkway, Schmidt upped the ante. This time he envisaged a loop system at each end of the bridge, with a series of four ever-faster walkways. Passengers moved from one to another until finally taking a seat on the benches aboard the fastest, which whisked them across the bridge at 16 km/h [~10 mph]. Because the system ran constantly, there would be no waiting and little momentum lost on stops and starts.

2003 blackout photosAUG 10

The NY Times' Lens blog has a visual look back at the blackout of 2003.

Men at their most masculineAUG 10

The Morning News has an interview with Chad States about his series of photographs of Men at Their Most Masculine. Some of the photos are NSFW.

I found all my subjects through Craigslist. I began by asking the question "Are you masculine?" in the heading. In the body of the posting I talked briefly about the project. Much to the effect of: "I am doing a photography project on masculinity. If you identify as being masculine, please get back to me."

Masculinity seems to involve a lot of shirtlessness (and pantslessness). This one is kind of amazing.

"I am masculine because I abandon women after taking their love. Because when you study Freud, you don't let him study you. Because I study philosophy, not literature."

More of States' masculinity photos can be found on his web site.

What if you got rid of the NYC subway?AUG 10

You'd need the equivalent of a 228-lane Brooklyn Bridge to move all those people into Manhattan during Monday morning rush hour.

At best, it would take 167 inbound lanes, or 84 copies of the Queens Midtown Tunnel, to carry what the NYC Subway carries over 22 inbound tracks through 12 tunnels and 2 (partial) bridges. At worst, 200 new copies of 5th Avenue. Somewhere in the middle would be 67 West Side Highways or 76 Brooklyn Bridges. And this neglects the Long Island Railroad, Metro North, NJ Transit, and PATH systems entirely.

Kinda puts the subway in perspective, doesn't it? And don't miss the map at the bottom that shows the size of the parking lots needed for all those cars.

The Root Bridges of CherrapungeeAUG 10

In one hilly area in the rainforest of northeastern India, they build bridges out of living trees. Specifically the roots.

Cherrapungee Bridge

The root bridges, some of which are over a hundred feet long, take ten to fifteen years to become fully functional, but they're extraordinarily strong -- strong enough that some of them can support the weight of fifty or more people at a time. In fact, because they are alive and still growing, the bridges actually gain strength over time -- and some of the ancient root bridges used daily by the people of the villages around Cherrapunjee may be well over five hundred years old.

The Iron GiantAUG 07

The Iron Giant came out ten years ago and Scott Thill has a nice appreciation of the still-underrated film at Wired.

Warner Bros. didn't know what to do with a movie about a killer robot who becomes a pacifist with the help of a patriotic kid in love with comics like Superman, the ultimate alien benevolent (and the Iron Giant's eventual role model). "When we showed the executives the movie, they didn't get it," Iron Giant screenwriter Tim McCanlies said in 2003. One possible reason: The movie has no clearly defined protagonist or antagonist, a must for popcorn entertainment. "Let's just have paranoia be the enemy," McCanlies remembers Bird saying, "not the combined armies of the superpowers." The Iron Giant's domestic box office gross of $23 million didn't come close to recouping the movie's production budget, which reportedly hit $70 million.

As I've written before, 1999 was a great year for movies and The Iron Giant was one of my favorites. If you haven't seen it, it's only $6 on Amazon.

Moneyball inefficiencies erasedAUG 07

Unsurprisingly, the MLB teams currently drawing the most benefit from the lessons of Moneyball are those with lots of money operating in big markets.

Well, of course, the big-market teams figured it out. They hired their own Ivy League consultants. They bought even better computers. Walks is only one tiny aspect in it ... but who leads the American League in walks this year? The New York Yankees. Last year? The Boston Red Sox. The year before that? The Boston Red Sox. And so it goes. Now, six years later, it seems to me that the small-market teams are really grasping and trying to find some loophole, some opening that will allow them to win in this tough financial environment.

Arrested Development DVD on saleAUG 07

Amazon has all three seasons of Arrested Development on DVD for 60% off...only $44.

Sincerely, John HughesAUG 07

Thoughts from a former teenaged pen pal of John Hughes, who recently passed away.

John told me about why he left Hollywood just a few years earlier. He was terrified of the impact it was having on his sons; he was scared it was going to cause them to lose perspective on what was important and what happiness meant. And he told me a sad story about how, a big reason behind his decision to give it all up was that "they" (Hollywood) had "killed" his friend, John Candy, by greedily working him too hard.

A lovely tribute. (thx, mark)

Update: A remembrance from Molly Ringwald.

John saw something in me that I didn't even see in myself. He had complete confidence in me as an actor, which was an extraordinary and heady sensation for anyone, let alone a 16-year-old girl. I did some of my best work with him. How could I not? He continually told me that I was the best, and because of my undying respect for him and his judgment, how could I have not believed him?

And somewhat related, How Sloane Peterson from Ferris Bueller's Day Off Taught me how to be an Awesome Girlfriend.

Rein him in, but only when necessary.
You are his girlfriend, not his mother. If he wants to sing to the city on a giant float, let him do it. He's a big man and he can deal with the consequences. You can nicely remind him, Look, if you do that there might be trouble, but if you throw a bitch fit and give him the silent treatmeant you will look fucking retarded when he has a new girlfriend on his arm from the impressive stunts he's pulled.

A world without trustAUG 07

Errol Morris shares Seven Lies About Lying, principles about lies often assumed to be true but which Morris believes are false.

5. Lying will be punished. Perhaps. But not as often as truth-telling. Lying effectively in many situations is generally superior than telling the truth, because often we have to search our minds for the truth, whereas a good lie can be easier to produce (though of course caution is indicated if the lie can be easily unmasked). Invariably a skillful liar makes a calculation about his chances of being exposed and avoids situations where a lie can be revealed. Lying is punished only if it is detected. A more reasonable assessment would be that ineffective and unskillful lying is severely punished. No one is held in greater contempt than an unskilled liar.

Morris also solicited Ricky Jay's thoughts on a world without lying:

When you're talking about Kant and trust, it made me think of one of the ways I tell people about the con game. I say, "You wouldn't want to live in a world where you can't be conned, because if you were, you would be living in a world with no trust. That's the price you pay for trust, is being conned."

Parking really isn't freeAUG 07

Parking is heavily subsidized in the US; spaces in cities can cost between $10,000 and $50,000, a high price to pay to house hunks of metal that don't do anything for 95% of the day.

Who pays for this? Everyone. The cost of building all that parking is reflected in higher rents, more expensive shopping and dining, and higher costs of home-ownership. Those who don't drive or own cars thus subsidize those who do.

The argument comes from a book called The High Cost of Free Parking.

Imaginary GOOPAUG 07

From Vanity Fair, an imagined GOOP newsletter from Gwyneth Paltrow.

What is it about books that make them so truly great to read? I think it's the way the words are printed on every page, the right way up and in just the right order.

This means you can start reading on the first page and then continue reading through the middle pages all the way to the last page.

Here are some of my absolute favorite books. War, by Leo Tolstoy. A great read. Bonus: You can get it as part of a two-volume edition which includes Peace by the same great author.

Shakespeare, by Shakespeare. He has so many great lines. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." "I am the Walrus." "My heart will go on." They're part of the language.

Next week, we learn to peel a banana with a world-expert fruit psychologist.

Compare with the real thing:

As I write this, I am finishing the amazing three-week-long "Clean" detox program detailed below. Designed by New York cardiologist and detoxification specialist Dr. Alejandro Junger, this program allowed me to work and exercise regularly, something I cannot do if I am on a liquid-only detox. I followed it to the letter and I can report that it worked wonders. I feel pure and happy and much lighter (I dropped the extra pounds that I had gained during a majorly fun and delicious "relax and enjoy life phase" about a month ago). I also really enjoyed learning about the incredible health benefits of resting your digestive system, etc. This thing is amazing. And don't forget to ask your doctor if a cleanse is right for you.

Cleanses, "relax and enjoy life phase", resting your digestive system...I don't know where to begin. (thx, dj jacobs)

Updates on previous entries for Aug 6, 2009*AUG 06

Can you copyright a tweet? orig. from May 28, 2009
Scheduling: makers vs. managers orig. from Jul 27, 2009
Light tests orig. from Jul 10, 2009
The Hot Waitress Index orig. from Aug 03, 2009
Food allergies orig. from Jul 30, 2009
Mad Men Yourself orig. from Jul 27, 2009
Hiroshima, 64 years ago orig. from Aug 06, 2009
New NY Times restaurant critic orig. from Aug 05, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Wrestling with MosesAUG 06

Of Wrestling with Moses, the story of how Jane Jacobs took on Robert Moses and his plans for two Manhattan freeways, Tyler Cowen says:

The parts of this book about Jacobs are splendid. The parts about Moses are good, though they were more familiar to me. I believe there has otherwise never been much biographical material on Jacobs's life.

The New York Times has a lengthy excerpt from the book that recalls Jacobs' arrival in NYC.

Writing about the city remained her passion. She often went up to the rooftop of her apartment building and watched the garbage trucks as they made their way through the city streets, picking the sidewalks clean. She would think, "What a complicated great place this is, and all these pieces of it that make it work." The more she investigated and explored neighborhoods, infrastructure, and business districts for her stories, the more she began to see the city as a living, breathing thing -- complex, wondrous, and self-perpetuating.

The mighty flat mountainsAUG 06

I love JK Keller's Tatamount project.

Photographs of mountains are computationally altered to flatten the mountain's elevations, while an ocean horizon is altered to mimic the mountain's original topography.

Tantamount

In the comments, he mentions that the effect is done with a combination of JavaScript and Photoshop...which I didn't even know was a thing. (via today and tomorrow)

Vanity Fair on Mad MenAUG 06

Vanity Fair goes long in a profile of Mad Men and series creator Matthew Weiner. Great stuff if you're a fan.

The dialogue is almost invariably witty, but the silences, of which there are many, speak loudest: Mad Men is a series in which an episode's most memorable scene can be a single shot of a woman at the end of her day, rubbing the sore shoulder where a bra strap has been digging in. There's really nothing else like it on television.

The article mentions that the show's core group of writers are all women. The show's portrayal of women is what really drew me into the show. The first 2-3 episodes were nothing but men behaving badly and I was ready to give up on it but then came episode 4 and it was like, oh, the women are sticking it to the men now...this could be interesting.

Update: From the WSJ, a piece about the women on the show and behind the scenes.

Behind the smooth-talking, chain-smoking, misogynist advertising executives on "Mad Men" is a group of women writers, a rarity in Hollywood television. Seven of the nine members of the writing team are women. Women directed five of the 13 episodes in the third season. The writers, led by the show's creator Matthew Weiner, are drawing on their experiences and perspectives to create the show's heady mix: a world where the men are in control and the women are more complex than they seem, or than the male characters realize.

(thx, lopati)

How is America going to end?AUG 06

In a week-long series for Slate, Josh Levin asks: how is America going to end?

Hurricane Katrina proved that modern America is resilient. It didn't prove that we'll be around forever. After watching the place where I grew up avert total annihilation, I can't help but wonder what course of events will eventually wipe out New Orleans and America as a whole. When it comes to human civilization, entropy conquers all: Rome fell, the Aztecs were conquered, the British Empire withered, and the Soviet Union cracked apart. America may be exceptional, but it's not supernatural. Our noble experiment, like every other before it, has to end sometime.

Jeremy Roenick retires as best video game hockey player everAUG 06

After 20 years in the NHL, Jeremy Roenick has decided to retire from the league. Topping the list of Roenick's off-ice achievements are two items related to the God-like status of the then-Chicago Blackhawks center in NHL 94.

Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi brandingAUG 06

You know that image that's been going around that shows several revisions to the Pepsi logo while the Coca-Cola logo is the same as it's been since 1885? It tells a compelling story...Pepsi shifting its brand every few years in an attempt to catch up to steady market leader Coca-Cola. But of course it's bullshit...Armin Vit constructs a more accurate brand timeline that shows many Coca-Cola logos over the years.

A long walk across ChinaAUG 06

Man shaves head, walks across China for a year, grows beard & crazy hair, and takes daily photos and short videos of himself along the way, which he stitches into this.

Hiroshima, 64 years agoAUG 06

In remembrance of the mass destruction of life and property due to the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima 64 years ago today, The Big Picture presents a typically excellent selection of photos.

Update: From Design Observer about a year ago, Hiroshima, The Lost Photographs.

The unlikeliest thing in the worldAUG 05

From Freed Journalists Return to U.S. in the NY Times:

"Thirty hours ago, Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea," Ms. Ling said in brief remarks to reporters, blinking back tears. "We feared that at any moment we could be prisoners in a hard labor camp. Then suddenly we were told that we were going to a meeting. We were taken to a location and when we walked through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton."

One could imagine a chart of the possible range of human experiences from negative to positive circa 2009; near one end would be "prisoners in a North Korean hard labor camp" and near the other, "personal meeting with President Bill Clinton".

Update: Christopher Hitchens says that Clinton's trip did little but gratify and flatter Kim Jong-il.

The Kim Jong-il gang was always planning to release them. They were arrested in order to be let go and were maintained in releasable shape until the deal could be done. Does this not -- or should this not -- slightly qualify and dilute our joy in seeing them come home? Does the Dear Leader not say to himself, That was easy? Are the North Korean people not being assured, through their megaphone media, that the sun shines so consistently out of the rear end of their celestial boss that even powerful U.S. statesmen will appear at the airport to bring apologies, pay tribute, and receive custody of uninvited guests in the workers' paradise?

The Lovely Bones trailerAUG 05

The trailer for The Lovely Bones, directed by Peter Jackson and based on the 2002 book by Alice Sebold.

It is the story of a teenage girl who, after being brutally raped and murdered, watches from heaven as her family and friends go on with their lives, while she herself comes to terms with her own death.

Jackson personally purchased the film rights to the book and from the trailer, it seems like this is a return to his Heavenly Creatures days, with a bit of the LOTR fantasy and special effects sprinkled in. Looking forward to this one.

How to build a long-lived culture of excellenceAUG 05

I loved this deck of slides from an internal presentation at Netflix on their company's culture.

This slide deck is our current best thinking about maximizing our likelihood of continuous success.

There are literally dozens of great ideas on these 128 slides...a must-read for anyone who wants their business to grow and last for more than a few years.

Built-in human expiration datesAUG 05

The Gompertz Law of human mortality is fascinating:

What do you think are the odds that you will die during the next year? Try to put a number to it -- 1 in 100? 1 in 10,000? Whatever it is, it will be twice as large 8 years from now. This startling fact was first noticed by the British actuary Benjamin Gompertz in 1825 and is now called the "Gompertz Law of human mortality." Your probability of dying during a given year doubles every 8 years. For me, a 25-year-old American, the probability of dying during the next year is a fairly miniscule 0.03% -- about 1 in 3,000. When I'm 33 it will be about 1 in 1,500, when I'm 42 it will be about 1 in 750, and so on. By the time I reach age 100 (and I do plan on it) the probability of living to 101 will only be about 50%. This is seriously fast growth -- my mortality rate is increasing exponentially with age.

Read the whole thing...it's not that long and is super interesting. (via mr)

New NY Times restaurant criticAUG 05

The NY Times has named their replacement for outgoing restaurant critic Frank Bruni: current Times editor Sam Sifton. This is good news for me...I look a bit like Sifton; if I'm mistaken for him and incur favorable treatment at restaurants because of it, I won't complain.

Update: Many many updates on Sifton and his appointment: from the Times itself on the transition, on restaurant critics and anonymity, and on Sifton's preparation for the gig (more here); Ed Levine thinks Sifton is going to be good; and Eater has a dossier on Sifton.

The seven vices of highly creative people AUG 05

Habits are fine, but do you have the imperfections necessary for true creativity?

VICE THREE: PUT GAMBLING FIRST
Gambling is at the heart of every worthwhile accomplishment in life. Consequently, vice three is essential for the success of your creativity. Instinctively, the highly creative person knows that nothing matters except the throw of the dice. As the French say, "There are two great pleasures in gambling: that of winning and that of losing." Or, in the words of Mark Twain, "There are two times in a man's life when he should [gamble]: when he can't afford it and when he can." These are vital lessons.

Cicadas matingAUG 05

Watch as David Attenborough signals his interest in mating with a male cicada. Scientists think that cicadas have 13- or 17-year mating cycles because, being prime numbers, those periods are not divisible by those periods of potential predators. From Stephen J. Gould:

Many potential predators have 2-5-year life cycles. Such cycles are not set by the availability of cicadas (for they peak too often in years of nonemergence), but cicadas might be eagerly harvested when the cycles coincide. Consider a predator with a life-cycle of five years: if cicadas emerged every 15 years, each bloom would be hit by the predator. By cycling at a large prime number, cicadas minimize the number of coincidences (every 5 x 17, or 85 years, in this case). Thirteen- and 17-year cycles cannot be tracked by any smaller number.

It's a bit more complicated than that, but Gould's argument covers the basics. (thx, @mwilkie)

Do you do bad things at work?AUG 05

That was the question asked over on Clusterflock, with the following anecdote offered as a starter:

I increased [my boss's] sugar intake by one spoon at a time and generally left a couple of days in between changes. I kept going until I was bored. I guess part of me wanted her to notice, but she never did. Not even the amount of sugar we were getting through. Anyway, I eventually got her up to 23 spoons of sugar in a cup of tea -- yeah, 23! She never said a word and always finished the cup.

Reminds me of some of the stuff that Jim does to Dwight on The Office. At my first job out of college, some coworkers of mine and I found a Mac OS extension that decreased the size of the screen by a pixel or two each time the computer booted. I don't think we ever installed it on anyone's computer; just imagining the reaction was good enough.

Some of my favorite booksAUG 04

The Week asked me to choose a selection of my favorite books for this week's issue. I'll take any opportunity to recommend Tom Standage's The Victorian Internet.

Even though it's a history of the telegraph, this book is always relevant. The rise of the 1830s communication device continues to be a fantastic metaphor for each new Internet technology that comes along, from e-mail to IM to Facebook to Twitter.

Paris is BurningAUG 04

Smashing Telly found the entirety of a documentary called Paris is Burning on YouTube.

This is a documentary about vogueing, and the extremely refined and detailed aesthetic sensibilities it reflects, shot in New York City around Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, and Harlem in the mid- to late-80s. The city has changed in dramatic ways since then, to say the least. The characters of the film are complete outsiders with, at the same time, a deep understanding of the world they are outside of.

Check out a recent example of vogue dancing.

How people spend their timeAUG 04

Great interactive graphic from the Times depicting how people spend their time.

Balloons gatherAUG 04

Man and nature conspire to create something that looks straight out of a Pixar film.

Balloon Sunrise

Worth viewing large. (via flickr blog)

Our three SunsAUG 04

In early July, a photographer took a picture of what appears to be three Suns rising over Gdansk Bay in Poland.

Triple Sunrise

The photographer insists that the effect was not created by the camera and was visible to the naked eye. The early consensus in the forums is that the photo was taken through a double-paned window.

PixelAUG 04

I could have played Pixel all day but my mouse hand fell off.

High speed robotic handsAUG 04

Wow. I had no idea that robots could move that quickly. (via justin blanton)

Another Alien movie?AUG 03

Not sure what the proper response to this news is.

Twentieth Century Fox is resuscitating its "Alien" franchise. The studio has hired Jon Spaihts to write a prequel that has Ridley Scott attached to return as director. Spaihts got the job after pitching the studio and Scott Free, which will produce the film.

The film is set up to be a prequel to the groundbreaking 1979 film that Scott directed. It will precede that film, in which the crew of a commercial towing ship returning to Earth is awakened and sent to respond to a distress signal from a nearby planetoid. The crew discovers too late that the signal generated by an empty ship was meant to warn them.

Yes!? No!? What? Uh-uh. Zzzz. Great! Not again. That's it man, game over man, game over!

Twitter = tunnel is in oreAUG 03

Regarding the previous post on Twitter and the telegraph, eagle-eyed kottke.org reader Mark spotted this gem on page 401 of the telegraphic code book:

Twitter Telegraph

I heard that "tunnel is in ore" was @jack's first name for the service; that it was shortened to Twitter makes a lot of sense now. (thx, mark)

Twitter and the telegraphAUG 03

Ben Schott on the similarities between the telegraph and Twitter:

The 140-character limit of Twitter posts was guided by the 160-character limit established by the developers of SMS. However, there is nothing new about new technology imposing restrictions on articulation. During the late 19th-century telegraphy boom, some carriers charged extra for words longer than 15 characters and for messages longer than 10 words. Thus, the cheapest telegram was often limited to 150 characters.

Schott also shares about 100 words from The Anglo-American Telegraphic Code, a code book that reduced long phrases into single words in order to cut down on telegraphic transmission costs. The full book is available for reading on Google and it includes over 27,000 code words on 460 pages!

Twitter Telegraph

50 essential filmsAUG 03

Roger Ebert annotates the top 10 from The Spectator's list of 50 Essential Films.

1. The Night of the Hunter, Laughton
2. Apocalypse Now, Coppola
3. Sunrise, Murnau
4. Black Narcissus, Powell & Pressburger
5. L'avventura, Antonioni
6. The Searchers, Ford
7. The Magnificent Ambersons, Welles
8. The Seventh Seal , Bergman
9. L'atalante, Vigo
10. Rio Bravo, Hawks

Lots of notable titles missing...and only a couple post-1980s films make the list.

Design Observer redesignAUG 03

Lovely redesign for Design Observer, which is also expanding in scope.

U.S. Attorney dismissed by Bush to get old job backAUG 03

Daniel Bogden, one of the seven US Attorneys dismissed by the Bush Administration in 2006, has been nominated by the Obama Administration to serve in his former capacity in Nevada. (thx, david)

Love, love won't tear us apartAUG 03

From the Modern Love column in the NY Times this week, the story of a woman who was told by her husband that he never loved her and wanted a divorce. But she wouldn't let him leave.

Although it may sound ridiculous to say "Don't take it personally" when your husband tells you he no longer loves you, sometimes that's exactly what you have to do.

(thx, meg)

The Hot Waitress IndexAUG 03

To the ever growing list of odd economic indicators (sushi, lipstick, Coca-Cola), we can now add the hotness of your waitress.

The indicator I prefer is the Hot Waitress Index: The hotter the waitresses, the weaker the economy. In flush times, there is a robust market for hotness. Selling everything from condos to premium vodka is enhanced by proximity to pretty young people (of both sexes) who get paid for providing this service. That leaves more-punishing work, like waiting tables, to those with less striking genetic gifts. But not anymore.

The same article also mentions the Overeducated Cabbie Index, the Squeegee Man Apparition Index, and the Speed at Which Contractors Return Calls Index.

Update: A possible related metric: the quality of street musicians.

Update: Yet another economic indicator: men's underwear.

"It's a prolonged purchase," said Marshal Cohen, senior analyst with the consumer research firm NPD Group. "It's like trying to drive your car an extra 10,000 miles."

Pre-order new version of OS X: only $29AUG 03

The next version of OS X (code named Snow Leopard) is available for pre-order at Amazon...for only $29 for Leopard (10.5) users. The family pack for five users is only $49. If you're upgrading from an older version of OS X, the Mac Box Set for $169 is your best bet. (via daringfireball)

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