New trailer for Fantastic Mr. Fox.
It's always good, before changing something, to stop and wonder if this is a mistake or if the writer did this for a reason. When you've read a piece five or more times, it is tempting to believe that it must be perfect, but you have to stay alert for anything you might have missed. Eternal vigilance!
The best movies of 2009 SEP 30
Too soon for that title? Anyway, Hitfix takes an early look at the Oscar contenders for 2010. Among them, Clint Eastwood's Invictus, Star Trek, Where the Wild Things Are, Malick's The Tree of Life, The Road, Amelia, and The Lovely Bones.
Rachel Sussman has travelled the world to take photographs of the oldest living things in the world. This is actinobacteria from Siberia; it's 400,000 years old.
The Hydrozoan species Turritopsis nutricula is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again. This means that there may be no natural limit to its life span.
Rich Cohen has a really fantastic article about the American history of the automobile and car salesman in the September issue of The Believer.
The history of America is the history of the automobile industry: it starts in fields and garages and ends in boardrooms and dumps; it starts with daredevils and tinkerers and ends with bureaucrats and congressmen; it starts with a sense of here-goes-let's-hope-it-works and ends with help-help-help. We tend to think of it as an American history that opens, as if summoned by the nature of the age, early in the last century, when the big mills and factories were already spewing smoke above Flint and Detroit, but we tend to be wrong. The history of the car is far older and stranger than you might suppose. Its early life is like the knock-around life one of the stars of the '80s lived in the '70s, Stallone before Rocky, say, picking up odd jobs, working the grift, and, of course, porn. The first automobile turned up outside Paris in 1789, when Detroit was an open field. (The hot rod belonged to the Grand Armee before it belonged to Neal and Jack.) It was another of the great innovations that seemed to appear in that age of revolution.
Cohen references one of my favorite pieces from a few years ago, Confessions of a Car Salesman, in which a journalist goes undercover for three months at a pair of Southern California car dealerships. Required reading before purchasing a car.
Cohen's article also reminded me just how many of the American cars on the road today owe their names to the people who actually started these companies and built these cars back in the early days. Ransom Olds, Louis Chevrolet, Walter Chrysler, Horace and John Dodge, Henry Ford, David Buick...some of these read like a joke from The Simpsons. Here's Louis Chevrolet racing a Buick in 1910:
Looking overseas, there's Karl Benz, Michio Suzuki (who didn't actually start out building cars), Wilhelm Maybach, Ferdinand Porsche, and many others. In an interesting reversal of that trend, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (which eventually became part of Daimler-Benz) built a custom sports car for Emil Jellinek, who named it Mercedes after his daughter. Jellinek was so fond of the car that he legally changed his last name to Jellinek-Mercedes and thereafter went by E.J. Mercédès.
The importance of being unimportant AINSLEY DREW · SEP 30
An interesting article in The Brooklyn Rail debates the value of commercialism versus criticism in the art world. Riffing off of an essay called "Frivolity and Unction" from Dave Hickey's book, Air Guitar, writer Shane McAdams opines that art doesn't have to be "important" to be good:
"Art" can be unimportant and still allow for the experience of a work of art to be life-changing. I value the memories I have of listening to baseball games on my grandparents' porch, but Baseball, as a concept, remains entirely unimportant. Such concepts as baseball, art, and Hickey's example of rock and roll, are wholly unimportant except for the experiences they foster and the history to which they contribute.
Blobfish AINSLEY DREW · SEP 30
The Psychrolutes marcidus, aka blobfish, is a fish that adapted to the deep waters off the Australian coast.
Located 800 meters under water (roughly a half-mile down,) the pressure in the mesopelagic zone is 80 times greater than the pressure on sea level. Most fish use gas bladders to remain buoyant, but the pressure that far down would be too great for an average, gas-bladder equipped fish to efficiently survive. The blobfish's advantage is that its body consists of a gelatinous goo that is slightly less dense than water. This allows it to simply float along without expending any energy on swimming. The fish, which resembles a candle that's been burning for way too long, consumes whatever tasty morsels bob by its mouth, choosing to eat what's served to it. The unsightliness of the blobfish probably hasn't caused it to develop a complex, though. It lives in the oceanic equivalent of the sticks, so it doesn't get many visitors.
Update: It appears the blobfish has a bit of a craft-inclined cult following: there's a gentleman who knitted his friend a blobfish bath toy and there also appears to be a stuffed, plush blobfish floating around out there, too.
Bookcase stairs AINSLEY DREW · SEP 30
A couple in London have found the ultimate space-saving solution for a city-dwelling book lover: a staircase bookshelf. UK-based Levitate Architects came up with the page-turning passage as a unique way to augment a loft sleeping space in the attic with discreet storage. If they could create a record crate bathroom, I'd be ready to move in.
Compubeaver AINSLEY DREW · SEP 30
Kasey McMahon decided to combine an interest in taxidermy with her PC. Fearing that the natural world is being replaced by technology, the artist installed a working computer inside of an idle beaver. First, she crafted a computer from the motherboard up, tested it, then hollowed out a stuffed beaver and molded the two together using spandex spray, resin, and fiberglass. After three months of work, the result was Compubeaver, followed up by its accessory, Text-o-Possum, a stuffed possum that's equipped with a laser in its back leg that projects a virtual keyboard. McMahon was generous enough to provide a 29-step guide for the rest of us, in the hope that we'll each case mod a beaver and create our own animal-based data processor. Just imagine using a raccoon laptop at Starbucks. Perhaps that would inspire them to provide free WiFi.
Update: See also installing Linux on a dead badger. (thx, michael)
The baked bean index and other economic indicators orig. from Sep 21, 2009
A little Grace Kelly orig. from Sep 28, 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.
Coming out in middle school SEP 29
Gay and lesbian teens are coming out of the closet earlier and earlier with responses ranging from acceptance to "but you're so young".
Though most adolescents who come out do so in high school, sex researchers and counselors say that middle-school students are increasingly coming out to friends or family or to an adult in school. Just how they're faring in a world that wasn't expecting them -- and that isn't so sure a 12-year-old can know if he's gay -- is a complicated question that defies simple geographical explanations. Though gay kids in the South and in rural areas tend to have a harder time than those on the coasts, I met gay youth who were doing well in socially conservative areas like Tulsa and others in progressive cities who were afraid to come out.
|OS||Now||6 mo||1 yr||1.5 yr||2 yr||2.5 yr||All-time|
The general trends are obvious here. Mac usage among kottke.org readers has risen -- over the past year in particular -- while Windows usage has fallen by the same amount. Forty percent of all kottke.org readers now use a Mac.
The adoption rate of Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) by kottke.org readers is less than that of Daring Fireball readers. Of Mac users who visit kottke.org, 47.4% are on 10.5, 34.4% are on 10.6, 8.1% on 10.4, 4.0% on 10.4 (PPC) and 3.7% on 10.5 (PPC). Among Windows visitors, 61.9% are still using XP compared to 32.6% on Vista.
|Browser||Now||6 mo||1 yr||1.5 yr||2 yr||2.5 yr||All-time|
The numbers for Firefox and IE are falling while Safari and Chrome usage are surging. The Safari nummbers are surprising to me...Safari is not a new browser but its usage by kottke.org readers has increased by more than 60% in the past year. I predict Chrome will surge in the next 12 months to overtake IE.
Two miscellaneous things
1. Google is ruling the search space more than ever. 93.2% of the incoming search traffic to kottke.org comes from Google. That's up from 91.2% a year ago and 83.7% two years ago (!!). Bing is second with 3.4% (MSN and Live combined for 5% two years ago) and Yahoo is a very sad third at 1.5% (they were at 6.9% two years ago).
2. Twitter now accounts for 2.9% of all traffic to kottke.org while Facebook is 0.9%. That's understandable considering I invest a lot of time on Twitter and almost none on Facebook. For reference, StumbleUpon is at 6.5% and incoming Google search traffic is 25.5%.
Cassette tape skeletons AINSLEY DREW · SEP 29
Brian Dettmer began crafting skeletons from cassette tapes after being inspired by the relatively rapid death of analog media. The artist, whose previous work includes meticulous autopsies of books, enjoys deconstructing found objects and transforming them into complex, chimerical sculptures. His plastic bones have resulted in a series of skulls, both human and animal, crafted from tapes consistent with a musical genre, such as rock and metal. Each piece is devoid of any adhesive, and although Dettmer keeps his process a secret, it's rumored that the cassettes are welded together using heat, moulds, and his damp hands. No word yet on how they sound.
Making BLTs from scratch SEP 29
From scratch means: You grow your tomato, you grow your lettuce, you cure your own bacon or pancetta, you bake your own bread (wild yeast preferred and gets higher marks but is not required), you make your own mayo. All other embellishments, creative interpretations of the BLT welcome.
Don't miss the winner's BLT flow chart; he made his own sea salt from sea water.
Snack in a box AINSLEY DREW · SEP 29
An interesting way to hold onto summer would be to engineer a lunchbox that comes with its own outdoor setting. For those who are craftily inclined, this article contains instructions on how to pack more than a sandwich with your mid-day snack, using turf, an image of the outdoors, and some old fashioned ingenuity. With lunch inside the box, nestled among a handmade diorama of the outdoors, complete with a patch of grass, the "Green Space Travel Case" provides a tiny slice of countryside for those confined to a concrete cityscape. Ants and screaming children packed separately.
New species of ghostshark uses its head AINSLEY DREW · SEP 29
A new species of ghostshark was found off the coast of California. The odd-looking creature is a bit of an evolution-born exhibitionist: the males float through the deep with a club-like sex organ protruding from their heads. Scientists are unsure why this is the case, though some speculate that it is to grasp the female during mating. The Eastern Pacific black ghostshark joins the ranks of a special group referred to as "big black chimaeras." This classification is reserved for an ever-growing clique of sea creatures that feature characteristics that aren't found on other living creatures, though one could argue that the males of many species often combine their sex organs and their heads.
Smart structures AINSLEY DREW · SEP 29
There are some architects who theorize that intuitive, adaptable buildings are in our future. These structures might be made of components that adjust to certain variables: a particularly rainy evening, a raucous Super Bowl party on the third floor, or a brutally cold December day. Says German architect Axel Ritter:
Buildings of the future will be able to change colour, size, shape and opacity in reaction to stimuli. Architects will be able to design buildings that change their geometry according to the weight of the people inside.
The use of these reactive materials would alter the relationship between architecture and building behavior. If you're lucky, it might also improve your apartment's laughable square footage.
Thom Yorke has a new band SEP 29
The Radiohead frontman is forming a new band "for fun"...members include long-time Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich and Flea.
In the past couple of weeks i've been getting a band together for fun to play the eraser stuff live and the new songs etc.. to see if it could work! here's a photo.. its me, joey waronker, mauro refosco, flea and nigel godrich.
Robotic pancake sorter SEP 28
This robot can sort pancakes at a rate of over 400 ppm (pancakes per minute).
The action gets going at about 1:15...don't miss the explanation of the pancake buffer shelf about 2/3s of the way through. (via eat me daily)
19th century movie in color SEP 28
Each frame of this 19th century film by the Lumière brothers was hand-colored to create an early color moving picture. The color-shifting effect of the dress looks quite modern.
The dancing was inspired by Loie Fuller, a modern dance pioneer.
A newt that slices and dices AINSLEY DREW · SEP 28
The Spanish ribbed newt has an interesting method of dealing with perceived threats. The creature activates its ribcage like mini switchblades, forcing them through its own skin. Even more remarkable, the newt's highly adapted immune system and collagen-cased bones allow it to heal quickly and without risk of infection, which makes it one job interview away from a position with the X-Men.
I can't get this to work (because I'm in the US?) but the BBC has put up a collection of David Attenborough's favorite moments from his last 30 years of shooting nature documentary videos. More info here.
It has always been my hope that through filmmaking I can bring the wonder of the natural world into people's sitting rooms, inspire people to find out more and to care about the world we share.
A little Grace Kelly SEP 28
I love this shot of a woman in Milan from the Sartorialist.
As Schuman notes, there's a sense of style here that tons of expensive flashy clothes can't compete with.
Update: On the other hand, this sort of thing has its charms.
Subway yearbook? AINSLEY DREW · SEP 28
A recent Improv Everywhere endeavor had a photo booth set up in a New York subway car. They told riders that the MTA had hired them to take photographs of every person who used the subway, and that there would be a yearbook at the end of the year. The result was one interesting, if misinformed, class.
A bite of baby AINSLEY DREW · SEP 28
A farmer in China has grown pears in the shape of babies. Using fiberglass and plastic moulds, Hao Xianzhang has been able to cultivate fruit in the shape of newborns. The popularity likely extends beyond those who catch the literary reference: in the Chinese novel Journey to the West a mythical fruit in the shape of an infant bestows immortality to all who consume it. Xianzhang's pears cost $7 (50 yuan) each, not too pricey for a piece of the eternal. For those who aren't inclined to snack on athanasia, the farmer plans on growing fruit in the shape of other figures, including comedy icon Charlie Chaplin.
Update: Turns out that some sources are calling these "Buddha shaped pears," not baby shaped. Chewing on a deity or consuming your young, either way, it's some peculiar produce.
Yo, Ainsley's back SEP 28
As you may have already noticed, Ainsley Drew is back and will be helping me out here for the next couple of weeks on a part time editorial basis as my wife and I deal with our new houseguest. (I'll be posting stuff as well...just at odd hours.) Welcome, Ainsley!
What's in (or out) of a name AINSLEY DREW · SEP 28
In case you ever wondered why you're cheering for a group of young bears, Northern statesmen, or tiny birds, here's a Venn diagram of baseball team names and their etymology.
Your company? There's an app for that. orig. from Sep 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.
I really like Sophie Blackall's illustrations of missed connections ads from Craiglist and other sites. The style reminds me a bit of Maira Kalman.
If this were on Tumblr, she'd already have a book deal.
Update: About that book thing:
Ms. Blackall's whimsical drawings have also caught the attention of publishers: She says she's currently negotiating a deal to create a book of her illustrations, which would likely land on shelves sometime in the next year to 18 months.
Face control SEP 25
To sort out the uncultured, ill-tempered, and just plain ugly, Moscow clubs use a process called face control (or feis kontrol), a particularly picky version of the typical velvet rope system employed at clubs around the world.
Not that Pasha doesn't take his role seriously. As he sees it, his job, or that of any face control expert, is necessary because Russia is filled with "people who have just made their first million and think they deserve to be in the club, that they should get everything they want." This, of course, is a problem. "But in fact they're just a bunch of miners and day laborers," Pasha said. "They don't have respect or culture."
When Obama poses for photos, he smiles in exactly the same way each time.
And I thought Paris was consistent.
Did Jackson Pollock hide his name in one of his most well-known paintings?
Pollock's possibly writing his name in Mural testifies to an overlooked feature of his works: they have a structure, contrary to the popular notion that they could be done by any 5-year-old with a knack for splatters. In my view, Pollock organized the painting around his name according to a compositional system-vertical markings that serve as the loci of rhythmic spirals-borrowed directly from his mentor, Benton.
Try and find it for yourself.
Is cropping a photo lying? orig. from Sep 17, 2009
The baked bean index and other economic indicators orig. from Sep 21, 2009
Picturing Burj Dubai in midtown Manhattan orig. from Sep 23, 2009
SiteKey sucks orig. from Apr 12, 2007
An abundance of death orig. from Aug 18, 2009
The history of Levi's jeans orig. from Aug 25, 2009
Astronomy Photographer of the Year winners orig. from Sep 10, 2009
The McFarthest Spot orig. from Sep 23, 2009
What a well-placed $20 gets you orig. from Sep 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.
Early photorealism SEP 24
At the end of the 19th century, Henry Harrison created color photographs by painting them on-site.
The weight of a human soul SEP 24
In 1907, Dr. Duncan MacDougall found a bunch of people who were about to die and weighed them as they expired. MacDougall claimed that at the point of death, the bodies became lighter. That lost weight, the doctor assumed, was the escaping soul. He even postulated that the souls of the sluggish in life are slow in death:
The subject was that of a man of larger physical build, with a pronounced sluggish temperament. When life ceased, as the body lay in bed upon the scales, for a full minute there appeared to be no change in weight. The physicians waiting in the room looked into each other's faces silently, shaking their heads in the conviction that out test had failed.
Then suddenly the same thing happened that had occurred in the other cases. There was a sudden diminution in weight, which was soon found to be the same as that of the preceding experiments.
I believe that in this case, that of a phlegmatic man slow of thought and action, that the soul remained suspended in the body after death, during the minute that elapsed before it came to the consciousness of its freedom. There is no other way of accounting for it, and it is what might be expected to happen in a man of the subject's temperament.
The Informant SEP 24
The Informant (Steven Soderbergh, Matt Damon) is out in theaters now. I had no idea it was based on a true story...a genuinely crazy true story of corporate price fixing, FBI informants, and an eager-to-please executive. Kurt Eichenwald wrote a series of article about the case for The New York Times, which he fashioned into a book. This American Life devoted an entire hour to this story back in 2000...it's a fascinating listen.
We hear from Kurt Eichenwald, whose book The Informant is about the price fixing conspiracy at the food company ADM, Archer Daniels Midland, and the executive who cooperated with the FBI in recording over 250 hours of secret video and audio tapes, probably the most remarkable videotapes ever made of an American company in the middle of a criminal act.
Tom Chiarella took a stack of $20 bills with him to New York City just to see what he could get by offering them to the right people at the right time. Turns out, quite a bit. I probably linked to this a few years ago (it's from 2003), but it's worth another look. I just love this kind of thing...probably because I'm too much of a candy ass to ever attempt something similar.
A twenty should not be a ticket so much as a solution. You have a problem, you need something from the back room, you don't want to wait, you whip out the twenty.
I could have stood in line at the airport cabstand for fifteen minutes like every other mook in the world, freezing my balls off, but such is not the way of the twenty-dollar millionaire. I walked straight to the front of the line and offered a woman twenty bucks for her spot. She took it with a shrug. Behind her, people crackled. "Hey! Ho!" they shouted. I knew exactly what that meant. It wasn't good. I needed to get in a cab soon. One of the guys flagging cabs pointed me to the back of the line. That's when I grabbed him by the elbow, pulled him close, and shook his hand, passing the next twenty. I was now down forty dollars for a twenty-dollar cab ride. He tilted his head and nodded to his partner. I peeled another twenty and they let me climb in. As we pulled away, someone in the line threw a half-empty cup of coffee against my window.
A few months later, Chiarella tried the same technique in Salt Lake City, Vegas, and LA.
I pushed around; the ballsier I became, the more success I experienced. I got tablecloths, a personal garlic press, a dozen extra forks in one meal, chopsticks in a steak house. I bought primo parking spaces from people who had just parallel-parked.
Update: Ah, I've also previously linked to this one, from Gourmet in 2000.
It's just after 8 P.M. on a balmy summer Saturday and I'm heading toward one of New York's most overbooked restaurants, Balthazar, where celebrities regularly go to be celebrated and where lay diners like me call a month in advance to try and secure a reservation. I don't have a reservation. I don't have a connection. I don't have a secret phone number. The only things I have are a $20, a $50, and a $100 bill, neatly folded in my pocket.
The McFarthest Spot SEP 23
To get to a McDonald's in the lower 48 United States, it's never more than 145 miles by car. And the McFarthest Spot in the US is in South Dakota.
For maximum McSparseness, we look westward, towards the deepest, darkest holes in our map: the barren deserts of central Nevada, the arid hills of southeastern Oregon, the rugged wilderness of Idaho's Salmon River Mountains, and the conspicuous well of blackness on the high plains of northwestern South Dakota.
Update: The distribution of McDonald's in Australia is a bit more uneven. (thx, kit)
Dopplr acquired by Nokia SEP 23
Wow. (thx, ethan)
Update: And here are some images from Google Earth on what the Manhattan views from Burj Dubai would look like. The Top of the Rock one is crazy.
McSweeney's iPhone app SEP 23
McSweeney's has an iPhone app called Small Chair.
We hereby announce the debut of the Small Chair, a weekly sampler from all branches of the McSweeney's family. One week you might receive a story from the upcoming Quarterly, the next week an interview from the Believer, the next a short film from a future Wholphin. Occasionally, it might be a song, an art portfolio, who knows. Early contributors will include Spike Jonze, Wells Tower, Chris Ware, and Jonathan Ames. This material will not be available online and is pretty sure to be good stuff.
My iPhone usage has been almost exclusively baby-related for the past few days, but I hope to try this app out soon.
Our power hungry electronics SEP 23
If all the gaming consoles in the US formed their own city, that city would use as much power as San Diego, the 9th-largest city in the country.
Kim Jong Il, author SEP 22
The cinema is now one of the main objects on which efforts should be concentrated in order to conduct the revolution in art and literature. The cinema occupies an important place in the overall development of art and literature. As such it is a powerful ideological weapon for the revolution and construction. Therefore, concentrating efforts on the cinema, making breakthroughs and following up success in all areas of art and literature is the basic principle that we must adhere to in revolutionizing art and literature.
On the Art of Opera describes how Kim and his dad, the late Great Leader Kim Il Sung, discovered the husk of a tired art form and gave it a much-needed shot of North Korean communism. Any impartial observer would agree that Kim's aesthetic prescriptions are every bit as crowd-pleasing as his economic policies.
"In conventional operas," Kim writes, "the personalities of the characters were abstract, their acting clumsy, and the flow of the drama tedious, because the singers were forced to sing unnaturally and their acting was neglected." Furthermore, until the arrival of the Kims, "no one interwove dance and story very closely."
And now? "The 'Sea of Blood'-style opera," he observes, "has opened up a new phase in dramaturgy." In case you've been living in a cave, Sea of Blood is North Korea's longest-running production, the Cats of Pyongyang. It has been staged 1,500 times, according to the official Korea News Service, which calls it an "immortal classical masterpiece." Kim claims to have revamped the form by chucking the aria out the window and replacing all solo performance with a cunning Kim innovation: the pangchang, a more satisfying off-stage chorus representing groupthink.
Hedgehog Launch 2 SEP 22
PS. In case you missed it on Friday, all the fun Flash games I post have their own page now: addictive Flash games. There it is, your whole day. Waiting to be ruined.
Weird neck exercise machine SEP 22
My wife almost wet her pants at this part of a TV ad for the Neckline Slimmer. This odd little device reminds me a bit of the eye exercises that Speed Reader did on The Great Space Coaster. (Congrats if you get that reference.)
Minna Kottke SEP 21
Hello everyone. I'd like you to meet Ollie's little sister, Minna Kottke.
Big yawn! She was born at home (on purpose!) early this morning; mother and baby are resting comfortably. I am weakened by an unrelated sickness but proud and happy. Ollie can't stop talking about her. "Minna! Minna!" He's going to be a great big brother.
So, things are going to be a little slow around here for a bit, especially the rest of this week. Starting next Monday, I'll be joined by a part-time guest editor for a couple weeks. But more on that later. Now: sleep.
On Reddit, an informal Q&A with a $30 million lottery winner about how the money has changed his life.
I went to the lottery's website after finding the ticket and realized that I had won. I freaked out ran up to my apartment's door and locked all the locks. It was completely irrational.
A bunch of odd economic indicators that I have read about recently. The use of the 2nd Street Tunnel in Los Angeles in car commercials:
According to FilmL.A., the nonprofit organization that coordinates on-location shooting in the city, no permits have been issued in 2009 for car commercials. Although commercial production in the city is flagging anyway -- down 34% in the first quarter -- the 100% drop in tunnel permits suggests "very tough times in the car business," FilmL.A. spokesman Todd Lindgren said.
The reinstatement of the £90 lingerie-and-blouse allowance at London law firm Clifford Chance:
Inevitably dubbed the "90 nicker knicker allowance", this may or may not be the most reliable indicator yet that the credit crunch is over. (Business is apparently so hectic that the firm has also installed sleeping pods.)
And from this article, several others, including:
The baked bean index -- my colleague Anthony Reuben noted in the spring how the value of sales of baked beans -- a classic recession food -- had risen 21.6% in April compared with the same month last year. Could a reverse signal the start of a recovery?
The number of people signing up to dating agencies offering extra-marital affairs, on the basis that demand goes up either in times of excessive confidence -- "I won't get caught"; or depression -- "I don't care". (Sex had to figure somewhere.)
(via schott's vocab log)
Update: The 90-pound knicker allowance is bollocks. (thx, cheryl)
Update: How about the closing speed of car salesmen around a prospective buyer?
Here's an indicator economists should study as they study GDP: speed with which, upon entering a store, you are surrounded by salesmen. (I would record both gather-rate-in fractions of a second-and density.) I was approached by the first salesman as I came in the door, picked up another as I went by the reception desk, picked up a third as I skirted a Buick Enclave. I looked back when I reached the Corvettes. There must have been ten salesmen back there and more coming, spilling out of offices and break rooms like police cruisers appearing from side streets to chase Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit. We moved in a buzzing cloud around the Corvette. From a distance, we would have made a fine subject for a painting in the National Gallery: Salesmen and Commission; or, Depression and Its Discontents. When I stood and stared and pretended to think, they stood back and stared and pretended to think. "You know, it's not so expensive if you realize you're buying it over the course of three years."
Update: And a bunch more from Time's Cheapskate blog.
Paragraphs I love SEP 21
This is Adrian Bejan on how the current offensive explosion in NFL scoring can be thought of in terms of a river's effect on its basin.
Over time, a river relentlessly wears away its banks and, as a result, water flows faster and faster toward its mouth. When obstacles fall in its way, say, a tree, or a boulder-or in the case of an NFL offense, beefy linebackers like the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Lewis or the Chicago Bears' Brian Urlacher-it will figure out how to wear those away, too. "The game is a flow system, a river basin of bodies that are milling around trying to find the most effective and easiest way to move," says Prof. Bejan. "Over time you will end up with the right way to play the game, with the patterns that are the most efficient."
The mighty placebo effect SEP 21
To the alarm of the big pharmaceutical companies, the placebo effect appears to be getting stronger. The reasons are many and interesting.
It's not only trials of new drugs that are crossing the futility boundary. Some products that have been on the market for decades, like Prozac, are faltering in more recent follow-up tests. In many cases, these are the compounds that, in the late '90s, made Big Pharma more profitable than Big Oil. But if these same drugs were vetted now, the FDA might not approve some of them. Two comprehensive analyses of antidepressant trials have uncovered a dramatic increase in placebo response since the 1980s. One estimated that the so-called effect size (a measure of statistical significance) in placebo groups had nearly doubled over that time.
Shields of Gemland SEP 18
BTW, I've collected a bunch of the fun Flash games I post occasionally into a tag of their own: addictive Flash games. Hundreds of hours of fun, all on one page.
The Zappos movement SEP 18
From last week's New Yorker, a snapshot of the cult of Zappos just before the Amazon acquisition. I found it somewhat odd that the CEO, Tony Hsieh, doesn't particularly care about the products his company sells:
"I've never been into shoes -- and I'm still not," he said. Zappos has begun to expand from shoes, as Amazon did from its base of books, into other categories of merchandise: handbags, clothes. "Kitchenware, housewares, whatever," Hsieh said. But he's not really interested in those things, either. "I much prefer experiences to stuff," he said.
Hsieh also doesn't downplay the cultish aspects of the company either (unintentionally or not):
Though he has become increasingly visible as the face of Zappos and spends almost all his time proselytizing its culture, Hsieh resists the idea that he is powerful, or that the perpetuation of the brand rests on his shoulders. "For any company or movement or religion or whatever, if there's one person that personifies it then that puts that company or vision at risk, if the person, say, dies," he said. "What's gonna happen to Apple if something happens with Steve Jobs? That's why it needs to be about a movement, not about a person or even a specific company."
Editing Dan Brown SEP 18
Brian Joseph Davis takes a crack at editing some passages from the first two chapters of The Da Vinci Code.
Maybe using the adverb "slowly" seven times in your first 10 pages is the secret to good writing. That would make it 11,428,571 copies sold for every "slowly."
See also Dan Brown's worst sentences.
Captain Bezu Fache carried himself like an angry ox, with his wide shoulders thrown back and his chin tucked hard into his chest. His dark hair was slicked back with oil, accentuating an arrow-like widow's peak that divided his jutting brow and preceded him like the prow of a battleship. As he advanced, his dark eyes seemed to scorch the earth before him, radiating a fiery clarity that forecast his reputation for unblinking severity in all matters.
When the usual methods of getting your child to do something fail, perhaps try the exact opposite approach instead.
They direct the parents to temporarily back off almost entirely: to stop asking their child to do the desired behavior and say it's OK not to do it at all, stop offering praise or other rewards for doing it, and mask their attitude of engaged enthusiasm or frustrated rage with an appearance of bland disinterest in whether the child does it or not. What happens next, frequently, is that within a day or two the child starts doing the behavior with no prompting from parents or anyone else.
The explanation of why this technique works is pretty interesting. We've tried it a bit recently with Ollie and his extreme disinterest in brushing his teeth and we're seeing some promising results, although I imagine this works better with slightly older kids.
Hamburger style guide SEP 18
A Hamburger Today presents a guide to all the different styles of hamburgers and cheeseburgers out there, including sliders, the pub burger, and guberburgers (a regional burger featuring melted peanut butter).
Oh, Nixon SEP 18
From the comments about this photo on If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger:
Fred: As amusing as that picture is, Tricky was many things, but not a Dope.
Greg: Fred, you're right of course but unfortunately there wasn't an eighth dwarf named "Shifty."
Foliage map SEP 18
Foliage map for New York and New England. You can register as a "Foliage Ambassador" on the site to report on the progress in your area.
I highly recommend you use Google Chrome to play JSNES. Thanks to its high performance canvas element, and a clever optimisation by Connor Dunn, it runs at full speed on modern computers. Mac builds are also available. Otherwise, it just about runs on Firefox 3.5 or Safari 4, but it's hardly playable.
We've come a long way from the days of the 5K Awards.
kottke.org on Twitter SEP 17
The new official Twitter account for kottke.org is now @kottke. If you want kottke.org updates to appear in your Twitter stream, just follow:
The old account, @kottkedotorg, will continue to post updates for a few more days and then will go silent. HUGE 72 pt. thanks to John Resig (@jeresig), who scooped up @kottke some time ago to protect it from a spammer takeover and generously handed the keys over to me this morning. So many people have wrongly referenced @kottke in the past few months that it's a relief to have it.
Two other things.
1. I have also been posting little extra links to Twitter -- like this and this -- stuff that doesn't really fit on the site for whatever reason. I'll eventually pull those links back into the flow here, but the only way to get them for now is to follow @kottke.
2. You may have noticed that at the end of each kottke.org post, there is now a "Post to Twitter" link. I have long resisted adding Digg This or Tumblr That or Stumble What or Jam This In Your Facebook links to posts, but increasingly people are sharing links and information on Twitter instead of on their blogs so I'm going where the action is. At least as an experiment. So, if you like something, click the link and tell your followers about it.
The Guardian lists the best 50 foods to eat and where to get them. I've had a few of these (ravioli at Babbo, pork at Gramercy, pho at Pho 24, pastrami at Katz's, etc.) but, sucker that I am for such things, I particularly enjoyed reading about the Turkish olive oil available at an electrical supply shop in London:
At his electrical supply shop in London's Clerkenwell, Mehmet Murat sells wonderful, intensely fruity oil from his family's olive groves in Cyprus and south-west Turkey. Now he imports more than a 1,000 litres per year. His lemon-flavoured oil is good enough to drink on its own.
Climate change tasting menu SEP 17
New Scientist reports that Czech beer tastes worse than it used to due to climate change.
Climatologist Martin Mozny of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute and colleagues say that the quality of Saaz hops -- the delicate variety used to make pilsner lager -- has been decreasing in recent years. They say the culprit is climate change in the form of increased air temperature.
Nicola Twilley proposes a Climate Change Tasting Menu that highlights food and drink demonstrating the effects of human activities on climate.
The starter would feature new products that have only recently been cultivated locally, thanks to climate change -- Devon olive oil perhaps, accompanied by a nice glass of Kent rosé. The main course might be controversial: test-tube grown imitation meats and vegetables that recreate the flavour and mouthfeel of species that are already lost or threatened with extinction by climate change.
Barack Obama, Jedi Knight SEP 17
The President recently hosted a rally at The White House in support of Chicago's bid to hold the 2016 Summer Olympics. Some members of the Olympic fencing team were there. Obama was given a plastic sword. Photos were taken. Photoshop (with an assist from me) did the rest.
Here's our President attacking an unseen Sith Lord or perhaps someone condemned by a death panel:
And having finished them off to the delight of the assembled, a victory pose.
In the late 90s, it was easy to get good pot in Idaho...just drive across the border to Canada and pick some up. Nate Norman decided to take advantage of that situation and became an unlikely drug kingpin.
Having doubled their initial investment in roughly a day, Nate and Topher quickly planned a second run. This time, they bought two pounds. Before they knew it, they had gone from struggling to put gas in their cars to running a major pot enterprise that was bringing in thousands of dollars a day. "Within a few weeks I went from selling eighths to quarter pounds," says Scuzz, who could pass for a pro snowboarder with his goatee and wraparound shades. "Our plan was to make 3 million and get out. When you crunch the numbers, that's nothing. We figured out we could do it in fourteen months. But when you're making twenty or thirty grand a week, why the fuck would you stop?"
It doesn't even spoil the story to tell you that it all came crashing down, as these things inevitably do.
Is cropping a photo lying? SEP 17
David Hume Kennerly took a photo of Dick Cheney and his family cooking a meal. Cheney is in the foreground on the right side of the frame, cutting some meat while some other family members chat and bustle in the background. Newsweek used the photo in their magazine, only they cropped out the family and just showed the former VP stabbing a bloody piece of meat with a knife to illustrate a Cheney quote about CIA interrogation methods. Kennerly cried foul.
The meat on the cutting board wasn't the only thing butchered. In fact, Newsweek chose to crop out two-thirds of the original photograph, which showed Mrs. Cheney, both of their daughters, and one of their grandchildren, who were also in the kitchen, getting ready for a simple family dinner.
However, Newsweek's objective in running the cropped version was to illustrate its editorial point of view, which could only have been done by shifting the content of the image so that readers just saw what the editors wanted them to see. This radical alteration is photo fakery. Newsweek's choice to run my picture as a political cartoon not only embarrassed and humiliated me and ridiculed the subject of the picture, but it ultimately denigrated my profession.
This is hardly photo fakery. Crops aren't lies. Full-frame photos aren't the truth. Kennerley himself could have easily taken that exact picture in the moment. A spokesman for Newsweek defended the magazine's action:
Yes, the picture has been cropped, an accepted practice of photographers, editors and designers since the invention of the medium. We cropped the photograph using editorial judgment to show the most interesting part of it. Is it a picture of the former vice president cutting meat? Yes, it is. Has it been altered? No. Did we use the image to make an editorial point -- in this case, about the former vice president's red-blooded, steak-eating, full-throated defense of his views and values? Yes, we did.
Given Cheney's reputation, the cropped photo of him is not an outlandish or biased depiction of the man...in fact, it's a pretty good visual metaphor of the former VP. If there's one thing that both Cheney's supporters and detractors can agree on, it's that he's a "red-blooded, steak-eating, full-throated [defender] of his views and values".
I wonder what Errol Morris and Ricky Jay would make of this?
Update: Or maybe it is. (thx, frank)
Bananas and antibananas SEP 16
This interview with physicist Murray Gell-Mann contains several great moments, but I particularly liked the answer he gave when asked about how great his colleagues were:
I don't put people on pedestals very much, especially not physicists. Feynman [who won a 1965 Nobel for his work in particle physics] was pretty good, although not as good as he thought he was. He was too self-absorbed and spent a huge amount of energy generating anecdotes about himself. Fermi [who developed the first nuclear reactor] was good, but again with limitations-every now and then he was wrong. I didn't know anybody without some limitations in my field of theoretical physics.
I read one such anecdote involving Gell-Mann in a book some years ago:
Richard Feynman, Gell-Mann's chief competitor for the title of the World's Smartest Man but a stranger to pretension, once encountered Gell-Mann in the hall outside their offices at Caltech and asked him where he had been on a recent trip; "Moon-TRAY-ALGH!" Gell-Mann responded in a French accent so thick that he sounded as if he were strangling. Feynman -- who, like Gell-Mann, was born in New York City -- had no idea what he was talking about. "Don't you think," he asked Gell-Mann, when at length he had ascertained that Gell-Mann was saying "Montreal," "that the purpose of language is communication?"
Few technology and device-making companies probably realize it, but they are in direct competition with Apple (or soon will be). How did this happen? Well, the iPhone1 does a lot of useful things pretty well, well enough that it is replacing several specialized devices that do one or two things really well. Space in backpacks, pockets, and purses is a finite resource, as is money (obviously). As a result, many are opting to carry only the iPhone with them when they might have toted several devices around. Here is a short list of devices with capabilities duplicated to some degree by the iPhone:
Mobile phone - All the stuff any mobile phone does: phone calls, texting, voicemail.
PDA - The iPhone meets all of the basic PDA needs: address book, calendar, to-dos, notes, and easy data syncing.
iPod - The iPhone is a full-featured music-playing device. And with 32 GB of storage, the 3GS can handle a huge chunk of even the largest music collection.
Point and shoot camera - While not as full-featured as something like a PowerShot, the camera on the iPhone 3GS has a 3-megapxiel lens with both auto and manual focus, shoots in low-light, does macro, and can shoot video. Plus, it's easy to instantly publish your photos online using the iPhone's networking capabilities and automatically tag your photos with your location.
Personal computer - With the increased speed of the iPhone 3GS, the 3G and wifi networking, a real web browser, and the wide array of available apps at the App Store, many people find themselves leaving the laptops at home and using the iPhone as their main computer when they are out and about.
Nintendo DS or PSP - There are thousands of games available at the App Store and if the folks in my office and on the NYC subway are any indication, people are using their iPhones as serious on-the-go gaming machines.
GPS - With geolocation by GPS, wifi, or cell tower, the Google Maps app, and the built-in compass, the iPhone is a powerful wayfinding device. Apps can provide turn by turn directions, current traffic conditions, satellite and photographic street views, transit information, and you can search for addresses and businesses.
Flip video camera - The iPhone 3GS doesn't shoot in HD (yet), but the video capabilities on the phone are quite good, especially the on-phone editing and easy sharing.
Compass - Serious hikers and campers wouldn't want to rely on a battery-powered device as their only compass, but the built-in compass on the iPhone 3GS is perfect for casual wayfinding.
Watch - I use the clock on my iPhone more often than any other function. By far.
Portable DVD player - Widescreen video looks great on the iPhone, you can d/l videos and TV shows from the iTunes Store, and with apps like Handbrake, it's easy to rip DVDs for viewing on the iPhone.
Kindle - Amazon's Kindle app for the iPhone is surprisingly usable. And unlike Amazon's hardware, the iPhone can run many ebook readers that handle several different formats.
With all the apps available at the App Store, the list goes on: pedometer, tape recorder, heart monitor, calculator, remote control, USB key, and on and on. Electronic devices aren't even the whole story. I used to carry a folding map of Manhattan (and the subway) with me wherever I went but not anymore. With Safari, Instapaper, and Amazon's Kindle app, books and magazines aren't necessary to provide on-the-go reading material.
Once someone has an iPhone, it is going to be tough to persuade them that they also need to spend money on and carry around a dedicated GPS device, point-and-shoot camera, or tape recorder unless they have an unusual need. But the real problem for other device manufacturers is that all of these iPhone features -- particularly the always-on internet connectivity; the email, HTTP, and SMS capabilities; and the GPS/location features -- can work in concert with each other to actually make better versions of the devices listed above. Like a GPS that automatically takes photos of where you are and posts them to a Flickr gallery or a video camera that'll email videos to your mom or a portable gaming machine with access to thousands of free games over your mobile's phone network. We tend to forget that the iPhone is still from the future in a way that most of the other devices on the list above aren't. It will take time for device makers to make up that difference.
If these manufacturers don't know they are in competition with the iPhone, Apple sure does. At their Rock & Roll event last week, MacWorld quotes Phil Schiller as saying:
iPod touch is also a great game machine. No multi-touch interface on other devices, games are expensive, there's no app store, and there's no iPod built in. Plus it's easier to buy stuff because of the App Store on the device. Chart of game and entertainment titles available on PSP, Nintendo DS, and iPhone OS. PSP: 607. Nintendo DS: 3680. iPhone: 21,178.
The same applies to the iPhone. At the same event, Steve Jobs commented that with the new iPod nano, you essentially get a $149 Flip video camera thrown in for free:
We're going to start off with an 8GB unit, and we're going to lower the price from $149 to free. This is the new Apple, isn't it? (laughter) How are we going to do that. We're going to build a video camera into the new iPod nano. On the back of each unit is a video camera and a microphone, and there's a speaker inside as well. Built into every iPod nano is now an awesome video camera. And yet we've still retained its incredibly small size.
In discussing the Kindle with David Pogue, Jobs even knocks the idea of specialized devices:
"I'm sure there will always be dedicated devices, and they may have a few advantages in doing just one thing," he said. "But I think the general-purpose devices will win the day. Because I think people just probably aren't willing to pay for a dedicated device."
In terms of this competition, the iPhone at this point in its lifetime2 is analogous to the internet in the late 1990s. The internet was pretty obviously in competition with a few obvious industries at that point -- like meatspace book stores -- but caught (and is still catching) others off guard: cable TV, movie companies, music companies, FedEx/USPS/UPS, movie theaters, desktop software makers, book publishers, magazine publishers, shoe/apparel stores, newspaper publishers, video game console makers, libraries, grocery stores, real estate agents, etc. etc....basically any organization offering entertainment or information. The internet is still the ultimate "there's an app for that" engine; it duplicated some of the capabilities of and drew attention away from so many products and services that these businesses offered. Some of these companies are dying -- slowly or otherwise -- while others were able to adapt and adopt quickly enough to survive and even thrive. It'll be interesting to see which of the iPhone's competitors will be able to do the same.
 In this essay, I'm using "the iPhone" as a convenient shorthand for "any of a number of devices and smartphones that offer similar functionality to the iPhone, including but not limited to the Palm Pre, Android phones, Blackberry Storm, and iPod Touch". Similar arguments apply, to varying degrees, to these devices and their manufacturers but are especially relevant to the iPhone and Apple; hence, the shorthand. If you don't read this footnote, adequately absorb its message, and send me email to the effect of "the iPhone sux because Apple and AT&T are monopolistic robber barons", I reserve the right to punch you in the face while yelling I WASN'T JUST TALKING ABOUT THE IPHONE YOU JACKASS. ↩
 You've got to wonder when Apple is going to change the name of the iPhone. The phone part of the device increasingly seems like an afterthought, not the main attraction. The main benefit of the device is that it does everything. How do you choose a name for the device that has everything? Hell if I know. But as far as the timing goes, I'd guess that the name change will happen with next year's introduction of the new model. The current progression of names -- iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS -- has nowhere else to go (iPhone 3GS Plus isn't Apple's style). ↩
Update: The console makers are worried about mobile phone gaming platforms.
Among the questions voiced by video game executives: How can Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft keep consumers hooked on game-only consoles, like the Wii or even the PlayStation Portable, when Apple offers games on popular, everyday devices that double as cellphones and music players?
And how can game developers and the makers of big consoles persuade consumers to buy the latest shoot'em-ups for $30 or more, when Apple's App store is full of games, created by developers around the world and approved by Apple, that cost as little as 99 cents -- or even are free?
Tommy Ton of Jak & Jil Blog caught the lineup of models before they walked the runway for Thom Browne.
This photo alone could be the springboard for an entire novel.
PIG 05049 by Christien Meindertsma recently won the 2009 Index Award in the Play category. This book looks amazing.
05049 was an actual pig, raised and slaughtered on a commercial farm in the Netherlands. Rotterdam designer Christien Meindertsma was shocked to discover that she could document 185 products contributed to by the animal.
Meindertsma's design includes the publication of her book, PIG 05049, which charts and pictures each of the products supported by the animal. The surprise is in the fact that elements of production contributed to by pig farming include not only predictable foodstuffs -- pork chops and bacon -- but far less expected non-food items: ammunition, train brakes, automobile paint, soap and washing powder, bone china, cigarettes.
The caption on the page reads:
Fatty acids derived from pork bone fat are used as a hardening agent in crayons and also gives them their distinctive smell.
Crayons smell like pig bone fat. I don't think I'll use crayons ever again without thinking of that little factoid.
Then: The Bible
Now: A Million Little Signs and Wonders
Then: The Sun Also Rises
Now: Drink, Bullfight, Mope
Then: Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica
Now: Why Do Apples Fall Down and Not Up? Answers From The Cutting Edge of Physics
Then: Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus
Now: Frankenstein: Wrath of the Supercorpse
Then: Declaration of Independence
Now: The Pursuit of Happiness: How to get control of your continent and have fun doing it!
Then: The Oxford English Dictionary
Now: Word Up! 300,000 proven ways to express yourself in speech and writing
Then: To Kill A Mockingbird
Now: To Kill A Mockingbird (A Novel)
Then: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
Now: A Novel: A Novel: A Novel: A Novel: A Novel: A Novel: A Novel: A Novel: A Novel: A Novel
Then: Cry, the Beloved Country
Now: Black. White.
Then: Little Women
Now: Concord 01742
Then: The Hobbit
Then: The Art of War
Now: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Strategy Guide
Many of the entries took old fiction titles and converted them to contemporary non-fiction titles -- e.g. Cinderella becomes How to Escape Being Bullied Without Once Standing Up for Yourself -- which wasn't really the point of the exercise but entertaining nonetheless.
Oh and if anyone wants to whip up book covers for any of these, feel free.
Assuming you're not in a big lecture hall and the professor shuts the door at the start of class, how long does it take for you and your classmates to deplete the oxygen enough to feel it?
Here's a taste of the reasoning behind the answer:
So one person needs about 2lb of oxygen a day, or .9 kg. But how many liters is that? Oxygen has a molar mass of 16 grams, so oxygen gas, or O2, has a mass of 32 grams per mole. One mole of gas at standard pressure and temperature takes up 22.4 liters.
A commenter over on Fine Structure notes that CO2 is more of a problem than oxygen.
I don't know if they brought this up on physicsbuzz yet, but lack of oxygen isn't really uncomfortable (though it can kill you). Increase in CO2 is what triggers the apparent need to breath. I am pretty sure the minimum partial pressure of O2 is around 0.16 bar. Actually, that is the min recommended, I don't know if that is the pass-out limit.
Hyperforeignism SEP 15
Hyperforeignism is the mispronunciation of words borrowed from foreign languages...but it's actually a sort of an over-pronunciation, so correct that it's circled back around to incorrect again.
The noun octopus is often made plural in English as octopi, originally from the mistaken belief that all Latin nouns ending in -us take -i to form their plural. However, this is only correct for Latin masculine nouns of the second declension. For Latin fourth-declension nouns, such as manus, the singular and plural forms both end in -us. For third declension nouns such as octopus, the plural is less regular. The noun octopus in Latin is a third-declension noun borrowed from the Greek. Although octopuses is generally considered correct in modern English, its plural in Latin is actually octopodes.
An easier example of this is prix fixe. The common mispronunciation is something like "pricks ficks" but the hyperforeign version is "pree fee", which is how one might presume the French would pronounce it. The correct pronunciation is actually "pree ficks". See also gyros. (via clusterflock)
The perfect city SEP 15
Based on his world travels and city biking, David Byrne imagines his ideal city.
If a city doesn't have sufficient density, as in L.A., then strange things happen. It's human nature for us to look at one another -- we're social animals after all. But when the urban situation causes the distance between us to increase and our interactions to be less frequent we have to use novel means to attract attention: big hair, skimpy clothes and plastic surgery. We become walking billboards.
Should you vaccinate your kids against the swine flu this winter? Will it even work against the H1N1 virus? Or will it even be available? Maybe we should be focused on a much simplier solution: keeping our hands clean.
Using soap and water or a sanitizer virtually eliminated the presence of the [H1N1] virus [in an Australian study].
Update: I've gotten a few emails so a clarification: vaccines are obviously not bad. Vaccinate your kids against the H1N1 virus when a vaccine becomes available if you feel that's the right thing to do. It's just that in the United States people often emphasize the quick fix over something that can be effective but requires a change in behavior. Much of what you hear about the damn swine flu is people being infected, the deaths, the coming vaccine, and how to protect our precious children from THE KILLER VIRUS THAT KILLS PEOPLE SO LET'S PANIC!! I thought it was important to call out something common sensical, unsexy, and effective like hand washing.
Update: I give up. Don't wash your hands. It is completely ineffective and has never saved anyone from anything. Get vaccinated and stay inside. When you do go outside, wear a surgical mask and try not to go near other people.
David Foster Wallace may eventually become more well-known for his non-fiction, not the novels he struggled so mightily to perfect.
Because if this is the way it all shakes out, DFW, instead of having to ride the stock exchange of literary taste in dead white male novelists, will find himself in a distinguished little nook of odd artists who labored to produce highbrow work -- but who sort of ass-backwardsly won permanent and inarguable fame in lower-browed fields.
Some quick examples include C.S. Lewis ("Chronicles of Narnia"), A.A. Milne ("Winnie the Pooh"), and Roald Dahl ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"), who considered themselves, respectively, a theologian, playwright, and fiction writer, but who ended up as brilliant children's fabulists. There's Theodore Geisel, who chose a silly pen name like "Dr. Seuss" because he wanted to reserve his given name for the Great American Novel he had in him. One Arthur Sullivan composed the music for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" among other bombasts, but is chiefly remembered nowadays, along with his impish partner Gilbert, for his musically innovative spoof operas.
The dolphin issue changed how tuna fisherman fish...but the new method is actually worse for marine life overall.
By trying to help dolphins, groups like Greenpeace caused one of the worst marine ecological disasters of all time. Few other fisheries are as bad for groups like sharks and sea turtles as the purse seine fishery, and none are as large in scale.
(via the browser)
Captive electricity orig. from Sep 14, 2009
Buried city on Governors Island orig. from Sep 14, 2009
A Life Well Wasted podcast orig. from Sep 11, 2009
Hack 2 Work, tips for designers orig. from Sep 09, 2009
In 1954, New York City forcibly evacuated a town on Governors Island and, for whatever reason, buried under several feet of dirt. Recently, while building a park, the buried town was discovered and now they are excavating it.
According to one of the archaeologists that was on site to answer questions, there was a single factory in town during the 1900's, which manufactured snow (remember, it was the 1950's, and year-round snow was difficult to come by back then).
Update: Oh, poop. This is some sort of art thing or something. I should not be posting things at 10:45pm. Calling it a night.
Update: Scouting New York explains why he played it straight in the article above.
What I Learned Today has an excerpt from an article by William Falk of The Week (not online) that suggests, tongue in cheek (I think), that the red parts of the USA should secede from the blue USA.
In a new nation fashioned out of the current red states -- call it, for the sake of argument, Limbaughland -- the federal tax rate would be cut to 10%, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security would be abolished, abortion would be illegal, gays would be closeted again, and Christianity would be the official state religion. Anyone could buy any kind of gun, no questions asked. In the current blue states, which we will call ObamaNation, the federal tax rate would top out at 90%; all employers would institute quota systems for minorities, women and less-abled persons; and you'd get your health care form a single-payer system like Canada's. Fast food and guns would be banned, while gay marriage and marijuana would be legal.
Realize that some premium options exist as decoys -- that is, they are there only to make the less expensive options look more appealing, because they're easy to compare. Don't make binding decisions solely based on how easy it is to compare two side-by-side options from the same vendor. Try comparing all the alternatives, even those from other vendors.
Captive electricity SEP 14
Hiroshi Sugimoto uses a 400,000-volt Van De Graaff generator to apply an electrical charge directly onto his film.
See also Peter Miller's Polariod experiments.
Update: Robert Buelteman uses electricity to take photos of flowers.
Letters of Note SEP 14
Letters of Note is a blog that publishes important, unusual, and memorable letters.
Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and even emails. Scans/photos where possible. Fakes will be sneered at. Updated weekdays.
Here's a letter from Winston Churchill to his wife to be delivered in the event of his death in WWI and the Lindbergh baby kidnapping ransom note. Fantastic idea for a blog and well done too. Subscribed. (thx, felicia)
A great idea...this one in my favorite:
Then: The Gospel of Matthew
Now: 40 Days and a Mule: How One Man Quit His Job and Became the Boss
I've opened up the comments...let's hear your best re-titlings. (via waxy)
Parasites are fascinating SEP 14
The newest episode of Radiolab is about parasites. It features what is one of my favorite links from the past few years: the story of Jasper Lawrence's quest to infect himself with hookworm in order to cure his asthma (also available here).
Based upon what I read, and what I learned about the hookworms I decided that I was going to try and infest myself with hookworms in an attempt to cure my asthma. I was not willing to wait ten or more years for the drug companies to bring a drug to market. It was obvious to me that hookworms, for a healthy adult with a good diet, are quite benign. This account details my experiences, how I went about it, and the things I have done since infestation to calibrate my level of infestation so that in the end I was able to cure my asthma and hay fever with hookworms. These same techniques are of course applicable to any hookworm infestation, whether you want to control asthma, hay fever, colitis, Crohn's disease or IBD.
Lawrence even sells hookworms to others so that they won't have to travel to a third world country to contract them.
How to win at Scrabble SEP 14
How to win at Scrabble if you're perhaps not that good at the words thing.
Scrabble isn't a game of who can get the best 6 letter words. It's a game of points and squeezing 2 letter terms into corners. Mehal Shah takes us through clean and sometimes dirty ways to win at Scrabble.
This is the most ridiculously implausible tennis shot you'll ever see.
Federer says "it was the greatest shot I ever hit in my life".
Letters to Obama orig. from Apr 20, 2009
2009 NFL TV maps SEP 11
If you want to know what football games are going to be on TV in your part of the country on Sunday, check out these maps every week.
Mathematics at the movies SEP 11
Sam Arbesman highlights the use of mathematics in movies, including game theory (The Dark Knight), epidemiology (zombie movies), and balance theory (Reservoir Dogs).
If you and someone else hate the same third person, but like each other, balance theory says you're golden -- all three can persist without changing their opinions. On the other hand, if all three of you despise the others, it's an unstable triad, as well as a wildly common plot point for crime movies. While there are numerous resolutions -- one person changes his preference toward another, a relationship tie is cut -- another route back to stability, albeit a messy one, is the gunning down of at least one person.
Arbesman has some videos and stills on his web site from the movies mentioned in the article as well as the relevant mathematical materials.
How good is Albert Pujols? SEP 11
Really very good and has a shot at being among the best of all time. Post-1901, he's #1 on the list of most HRs in the first 9 seasons of a player's career and is in the top 20 all-time in batting average amongst all players with 4000+ plate appearances. Longevity will tell the tale, particularly if (birthers, take note!) Pujols is older than he claims. (thx, david)
A Life Well Wasted podcast SEP 11
A Life Well Wasted is a well-produced podcast about "video games and the people who love them", sort of a gaming version of Radiolab or This American Life. Each episode is accompanied by a limited edition poster designed by the awesome Olly Moss.
Update: The Bygone Bureau has an interview with A Life Well Wasted's creator, Robert Ashley.
Winners in the Michael Jackson Monument Design Competition have been announced. Evan Roth, a noted Michael Jackson enthusiast, came in first. I like the second place entry only slightly more:
A gold-plated wind turbine powers an interactively-lit dance floor and speaker system. Michael Jackson's music plays day and night for the fans that congregate in these remote sand flats.
The case of the missing Wired writer orig. from Aug 27, 2009
Li-Sun Exotic Mushroom Farm grows their mushrooms in a disused railway tunnel just outside of Sydney, Australia; the varieties grown there have been bred specifically for growing in the tunnel..."they are species designed for architecture".
He keeps his mushroom cultures in test-tubes filled with boiled potato and agar, and initially incubates the spawn on rye or wheat grains in clear plastic bags sealed with sponge anti-mould filters before transferring it to jars, black bin bags, or plastic-wrapped logs; (middle) Shimeji and (bottom) pink oyster mushrooms cropping on racks inside the tunnel. Dr. Arrold came up with the simple but clever idea of growing mushrooms in black bin bags with holes cut in them. Previously, mushrooms were typically grown inside clear plastic bags. The equal exposure to light meant that the mushrooms fruited all over, which made it harder to harvest without missing some
Before and after photos from the Hubble telescope, which recently underwent spaceLASIK to extend the life and capabilities of the prolific telescope.
Hemingway kicks a can SEP 10
An analysis (with statistics) of why the express lane at the grocery store isn't always the fastest option.
You attract more people holding fewer total items, but as the data shows above, when you add one person to the line, you're adding 48 extra seconds to the line length (that's "tender time" added to "other time") without even considering the items in her cart. Meanwhile, an extra item only costs you an extra 2.8 seconds. Therefore, you'd rather add 17 more items to the line than one extra person!
Great, now I have to haul my abacus to the supermarket to determine which line to stand in. (via mr)
Michael Jordan is set for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend and in honor of the best player ever, ESPN is counting down with video of his 23 most memorable moments.
The Royal Observatory has announced the winners of its Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest.
I had no idea that images this sharp and detailed could be taken with non-pro ground telescopes...particularly these shots of the Horsehead Nebula and the surface of the Moon. More winners listed here.
Update: Jonathan Crowe notes that the gear used to take these photos isn't cheap.
The winner's photo of the Horsehead Nebula (mpastro2001 also had a second photo in the top five) used a 12 1/2" Ritchey-Chretien telescope ($21,500) and an SBIG STL11000 camera ($7,195 and up) with an AO-L adaptive optics accessory ($1,795) on a Paramount ME mount ($14,500). Total cost for just the equipment mentioned here: $44,990.
Novak Djokovic, the clown prince of tennis, did his impression of John McEnroe after a victory at the US Open the other day and McEnroe came down from the booth to do his best Djokovic impression.
How Typekit serves fonts SEP 09
Jeff Veen has a look at how Typekit protects fonts served through the service.
Those Base64 encoded strings are then placed right into the CSS file. And even better than that, the fonts are split up into multiple files and recombined using the CSS font stack. Pretty clever stuff.
Maira Kalman interview SEP 09
At Bygone Bureau, Kevin Nguyen speaks with Maira Kalman about her recent work, especially her And the Pursuit of Happiness blog on the NY Times site.
In these situations I'm tackling such big subjects; the only way I can handle that is to give you a snapshot of what I'm seeing and feeling at the moment. I also like to go into a lot of different subjects and to digress, so it gives that kind of snapshot outlook. I can jump around from thing to thing, and hopefully, it'll all make sense.
No people, just waves SEP 09
Jonah Lehrer profiles Clay Marzo, a top surfer who also happens to be on the autism spectrum, which has been useful in focusing his attention on surfer but is also a challenge.
It's like everyone else has a bucket for dealing with people and I only got a cup. When my cup gets too full, then I shut down.
What is conservatism? SEP 09
Tyler Cowen takes a crack at defining American conservatism.
Fiscal conservatism is part and parcel of conservatism per se. A state wrecked by debt is a state due to perish or fall into decay. This is a lesson from history. States must "save up their powder" for true crises and it is a kind of narcissistic arrogation to think that the personal failures of particular individuals -- often those with weak values -- meet this standard.
Cowen did the same for progressivism a few weeks ago.
Progressive policies offer more scope for individualism and some kinds of freedom. Greater security gives people a greater chance to develop themselves as individuals in important spheres of life, not just money-making and risk protection and winning relative status games.
This week's most read posts SEP 09
Who knows if this will become a regular thing or not (it seems like a perfect candidate for a special weekly RSS feed or email), but here are the top 25 most read posts on kottke.org in the past week.
Vol Libre, an amazing CG film from 1980
The Apple upgrade problem
Parkour on a bicycle
The Hot Waitress Index
13 things that science doesn't have the answers for
Museum of Animal Perspectives
Did Texas execute an innocent man?
The sling shot man
The most beautiful suicide
What does "being an adult" mean?
Some are for you, some are for me, but more are for me
Early color photography
The speed of information travel, 1798 - 2009
Quentin Tarantino's top 20 movies
Guitar Hero 5 playlist
Single Serving Sites
Auto-Tune the News (feat. T-Pain)
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
100 years of special effects
Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii
1984, a fine year for movies
1965 Ikea catalog
The data is from Google Analytics and includes posts with lots of search and referral traffic...filtering those out would probably be a more accurate indication of what regular readers found interesting.
Hack 2 Work is a series of tips and tricks for designers from Core77. Looks good so far. Check out Liz Danzico's How to Learn About Your Clients From Their Table Manners (to be taken with a grain of salt, I'm sure):
When the food arrives, does your client salt and pepper the food before he or she tastes it? If so, this is a clear sign that your client is potentially closed-minded, not open to new ideas, or set in his or her ways. If your client first tastes the food, and then adds salt or pepper, tremendous. This suggests your client has opinions, and is not afraid to exercise them-but only after the voice of the "creator" (in this case the chef) has been fairly given a chance first.
and How to Make Your Client's Logo Bigger Without Making Their Logo Bigger from Michael Bierut:
Like all con games, this one is based on the illusion that the sucker has the advantage. In this case, it's the conviction that this kind of client always has that it's your job to do as they say. Little do they realize that your final allegiance is not to them, but to the quality of the work, something that you cannot in good conscience permit them to jeopardize with their lack of taste.
Update: James Grimmelmann shares his similar tip for lighting designers:
The lighting-designer version of this is to tell the director that yes, you can make the lights brighter, but you'll need to turn off the power for a few minutes while you change some of the wiring. Turn everything off, wait fifteen minutes while the director's eyes adjust to the dark, then turn everything back on. It sure does look brighter now, doesn't it?
Remastered Beatles albums SEP 09
Today's the day: those meticulously remastered Beatles albums are available today. The Beatles version of Rock Band is out as well.
Small batch businesses SEP 09
A few weeks ago, Matt Linderman asked the readers of 37signals' Signal vs. Noise blog for suggestions for a word or phrase to describe a certain type of small, focused company.
Sometimes I'm looking for a word to describe a certain kind of company. One that's small and cares about quality and is trying to do something great for a few customers instead of trying to mass produce crap in order to maximize profit. A company like Coudal Partners or Zingerman's.
Boutique was deemed too pretentious...small, indie, and QOQ didn't cut it either. Readers offered up craftsman, artisan, bespoke, cloudless, studio, atelier, long tail, agile, bonsai company, mom and pop, small scale, specialty, anatomic, big heart, GTD business, dojo, haus, temple, coterie, and disco business, but none of those seems quite right.
I've had this question rolling around in the back of my mind since Matt posted it and this morning, a potential answer came to me: small batch. As in: "37signals is a small batch business." The term is most commonly applied to bourbon whiskey:
A small batch bourbon is made for the true connoisseur, every sip a testament to the work and love that has gone into each handcrafted bottle.
but can also be used to describe small quantities of high quality products such as other spirits, baked goods, coffee, beer, and wine. When starting a small company that makes high quality web sites (Wikirank) and apps (Typekit), some friends of mine in San Francisco even picked the phrase for their company's name: Small Batch, Inc.
Al Franken draws map of USA SEP 08
According to the nation's largest food manufacturers, among the Smart Choices that shoppers can make at the supermarket are Fruit Loops, Fudgsicle bars, Cocoa Krispies, Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, and Hellmann's mayonnaise. Nutritionists are understandably upset.
"These are horrible choices," said Walter C. Willett, chairman of the nutrition department of the Harvard School of Public Health. He said the criteria used by the Smart Choices Program were seriously flawed, allowing less healthy products, like sweet cereals and heavily salted packaged meals, to win its seal of approval. "It's a blatant failure of this system and it makes it, I'm afraid, not credible," Mr. Willett said.
Nutrition professor Marion Nestle added:
The object of this is to make highly processed foods appear as healthful as unprocessed foods, which they are not.
Is there a term for this...perhaps something akin to greenwashing? Faux-ganic?
So, I finally got the T-Pain iPhone app working.
Introducing the first iPhone app to give you Auto-Tune in the palm of your hand. You can sing along to T-Pain's hits or create your own. You can record and share your genius with the world.
It didn't work too well with my voice so I tried it on Ollie. Here's Ollie singing his ABCs in Auto-Tune:
Stick around until the end...it's the best part.
Salting ice cream SEP 08
In last Sunday's episode of Mad Men, Grandpa Gene ate ice cream right out of the container and salted each spoonful before putting it in his mouth.
It was an odd sight...salt isn't normally the first thing you think of as an ice cream topping. After the episode, Rex Sorgatz tweeted:
WHO THE FUCK SALTS THEIR ICE CREAM?
Salt has its own flavor when it's concentrated (if you salt foods too much or eat some all by itself) but used judiciously, salt takes the natural flavor of food and enhances the intensity. To use another dairy product as an example, fresh mozzarella tastes pretty good on its own but throw a little salt on top and it's mozzarella++. Salt makes ok food taste good and good food taste great. Along with butter, salt is the restaurant world's secret weapon; chefs likely use way more salt than you do when you cook at home. It's one of the reasons why restaurant food is so good.
But back to the ice cream. As food scientist Harold McGee writes, salt probably won't make ice cream taste sweeter but will make it taste ice creamier, particularly if the ice cream is of low quality, as the store-bought variety might have been in 1963.
I'm not sure that salt makes sugar taste sweeter, but it fills out the flavor of foods, sweets included. It's an important component of taste in our foods, so if it's missing in a given dish, the dish will taste less complete or balanced. Salt also increase the volatility of some aromatic substances in food, and it enhances our perception of some aromas, so it can make the overall flavor of a food seem more intense.
So that's why the fuck someone might want to salt their ice cream.
In the United States, Lego's biggest market and the biggest toy market in the world, games with themes like "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" were among the reasons Lego sales jumped 32 percent last year, well above the global pace. But experts like Dr. Jonathan Sinowitz, a New York psychologist who also runs a psychological services company, Diagnostics, wonders at what price these sales come.
"What Lego loses is what makes it so special," he says. "When you have a less structured, less themed set, kids have the ability to start from scratch. When you have kids playing out Indiana Jones, they're playing out Hollywood's imagination, not their own."
Even toy analysts who admire the company and its recent success acknowledge a broad shift. "I would like to see more open-ended play like when we were kids," says Gerrick Johnson, a toy analyst at BMO Capital Markets in New York. "The vast majority is theme-based, and when you go into Toys "R" Us, you'd really be challenged to find a simple box of bricks."
Man, when even the financial analysts are saying that you need more open-ended play toys, you've really gone off the rails.
 Attention Lego pedants: I know I'm supposed to call them LEGO® plastic stacking bricks or some crap like that but Legos is just so much easier. ↩
Update: A convincing counterpoint:
I bought a pile of the standard bricks and -- as an experiment -- this Star Wars kit to see how ridiculous the pieces were. On the box, it appears to be made of all-kinds of single-use bits. Building it told a different story. The feet of the walker turn out to be the same part as the bodies of the Droids. Some of the joints are re-purposed guns. There are dozens of little clever things so that as you follow the instructions, there is moment after moment of discovery. "Oh, I can do THAT with that part?"
No more Etech conference SEP 08
O'Reilly is discontinuing their Emerging Technology Conference.
Since its inception, ETech has been a vibrant gathering of the alpha geek tribe, bringing together some of the most innovative people and projects across the technology community. So it's with regret that O'Reilly Media has made the difficult decision to discontinue ETech in 2010.
I think I went to Etech twice or maybe three times. The first time was mind-blowing but the second year had many of the same speakers and was generally disappointing. I've heard very positive things about it in recent years...sad to see it go. (via waxy)
Circular reasoning SEP 08
From the NY Times, an interactive circular trivia puzzle, where the answer to each question depends on the one before it. To get started, you've got to find a question that you can answer without the hint from the previous question's answer.
Paul Krugman writes in How Did Economists Get it So Wrong? (where the "it" is the 2008 recession):
As I see it, the economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth. Until the Great Depression, most economists clung to a vision of capitalism as a perfect or nearly perfect system. That vision wasn't sustainable in the face of mass unemployment, but as memories of the Depression faded, economists fell back in love with the old, idealized vision of an economy in which rational individuals interact in perfect markets, this time gussied up with fancy equations. The renewed romance with the idealized market was, to be sure, partly a response to shifting political winds, partly a response to financial incentives. But while sabbaticals at the Hoover Institution and job opportunities on Wall Street are nothing to sneeze at, the central cause of the profession's failure was the desire for an all-encompassing, intellectually elegant approach that also gave economists a chance to show off their mathematical prowess.
Unfortunately, this romanticized and sanitized vision of the economy led most economists to ignore all the things that can go wrong. They turned a blind eye to the limitations of human rationality that often lead to bubbles and busts; to the problems of institutions that run amok; to the imperfections of markets - especially financial markets - that can cause the economy's operating system to undergo sudden, unpredictable crashes; and to the dangers created when regulators don't believe in regulation.
He goes on to describe the history of macroeconomics (in brief) and how the current theories are flawed. Very interesting long read.
What the Dog Saw is a collection of his writing from The New Yorker. Here's an annotated table of contents with links to all the articles and the dates on which they originally appeared in the magazine:
The Pitchman - Ron Popeil and the conquest of the American kitchen. (Oct 30, 2000)
The Ketchup Conundrum - Mustard now comes in dozens of different varieties. Why has ketchup stayed the same? (Sept 6, 2004)
Blowing Up - How Nassim Taleb turned the inevitability of disaster into an investment strategy. (Apr 22, 2002)
True Colors - Hair dye and the hidden history of postwar America. (Mar 22, 1999)
John Rock's Error - What the inventor of the birth control pill didn't know about women's health. (Mar 13, 2000)
What the Dog Saw - Cesar Millan and the movements of mastery. (May 22, 2006)
Open Secrets - Enron, intelligence and the perils of too much information. (Jan 8, 2007)
Million Dollar Murray - Why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage. (Feb 13, 2006)
The Picture Problem - Mammography, air power, and the limits of looking. (Dec 13, 2004)
Something Borrowed - Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life? (Nov 22, 2004)
Connecting the Dots - The paradoxes of intelligence reform. (Mar 10, 2003)
The Art of Failure - Why some people choke and others panic. (August 21, 2000)
Blowup - Who can be blamed for a disaster like the Challenger explosion? No one, and we'd better get used to it. (Jan 22, 1996)
Most Likely to Succeed - How do we hire when we can't tell who's right for the job. (Dec 15, 2008)
Dangerous Minds - Criminal profiling made easy. (Nov 12, 2007)
The Talent Myth - Are smart people over-rated? (Jul 22, 2002)
Late Bloomers - Why do we equate genius with precocity? (Oct 20, 2008)
The New Boy Network - What do job interviews really tell us? (May 29, 2000)
Troublemakers - What pit bulls can teach us about crime. (Feb 6, 2006)
Some really great stuff in there. Even though it's all available online for free, this is a sure airport bestseller for years to come. (thx, kyösti)
Did Texas execute an innocent man? orig. from Sep 03, 2009
Edward Rondthaler orig. from Aug 31, 2009
Some are for you, some are for me, but more are for me orig. from Aug 25, 2009
13 things that science doesn't have the answers for orig. from Mar 29, 2005
Early color photography orig. from Sep 04, 2009
In addition to its utility in organizing the World Wide Web, researchers say that Google's PageRank algorithm is useful in studying food webs, "the complex networks of who eats whom in an ecosystem".
Dr Allesina, of the University of Chicago's department of ecology and Evolution, told BBC News: "First of all we had to reverse the definition of the algorithm. "In PageRank, a web page is important if important pages point to it. In our approach a species is important if it points to important species."
The researchers compared the performance of PageRank and found it comparable to that of much more complex computational biology algorithms.
The solar superstorm of 1859 SEP 04
A massive solar flare on September 1, 1859 "caused the most potent disruption of Earth's ionosphere in recorded history".
Within hours, telegraph wires in both the United States and Europe spontaneously shorted out, causing numerous fires, while the Northern Lights, solar-induced phenomena more closely associated with regions near Earth's North Pole, were documented as far south as Rome, Havana and Hawaii, with similar effects at the South Pole.
(via the browser)
Early color photography SEP 04
The color photography of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, who plied his trade in Russia in the early 1900s, is making the rounds online again. It's always worth a look. Prokudin-Gorskii made color photographs using a clever filtering system years before color photography would be widely available. As a result, his work goes on the list of things that seem contemporary but really aren't.
Spike Jonze gets the NYT Magazine treatment this weekend with a piece on his career and Where the Wild Things Are.
"It's in the visual language of, like, some sort of fantasy film, and it is a fantasy film to some degree," he acknowledged, "but the tone of it is its own tone. We wanted it all to feel true to a 9-year-old and not have some big movie speech where a 9-year-old is suddenly reciting the wisdom of the sage." He hadn't set out to make a children's movie, he said, so much as to accurately depict childhood. "Everything we did, all the decisions that we made, were to try to capture the feeling of what it is to be 9."
It's difficult to draw a conclusion from this article other than Wild Things is going to bomb but be really good.
This game has crummy graphics... UNTIL YOU UPGRADE THE GRAPHICS ENGINE! And no sound? UNTIL YOU BUY IT IN THE SHOP! And no mute button!? You guessed it, this game requires you to buy that as well!
Which seems a bit lame but then when you get into it a bit, it's a little less lame but the game is totally easy and it just takes some time to get through it and get everything. I guess what I'm trying to say is: I finished it.
Fire ant lifeboat SEP 04
Watch as some fire ants built a lifeboat (out of themselves!) after the Amazon floods.
If I'm ever in a vegetative state after an accident or anything, just cue up a bunch of BBC nature videos and I'll be good.
The sling shot man SEP 03
Rufus hit the big-time when he was invited to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. After a bit of small-talk, Johnny asked, " I understand you're going to demonstrate your skill... is that right?" Rufus replied, "Sure! I'd rather shoot the beanshooter than shoot the bull." Soon Rufus was shooting a corncob from Johnny's hand.
(via reference library)
Rochus Misch, now 92, recollects that he was in Adolf Hitler's bunker when the German dictator committed suicide.
"Then Bormann ordered Hitler's door to be opened. I saw Hitler slumped with his head on the table. Eva Braun was lying on the sofa, with her head towards him. Her knees were drawn tightly up to her chest. She was wearing a dark blue dress with white frills. I will never forget it.
As reported previously, colony collapse disorder seems to have multiple causes. In the NY Times' Room for Debate blog, several scientists and other bee experts offer their commentary on what we currently know about CCD and what's being done about it.
Meanwhile, individual beekeeping operations have been damaged, some beyond repair because of this malady. Others have been able to recover. The overall picture is, however, not quite as bleak as the press and the blogosphere might lead you to imagine. Colony numbers in the U.S. show the resiliency of American beekeepers.
100 years of special effects SEP 03
A wonderfully concise video tour of how special effects in film have evolved since 1900.
A journalist gets assaulted, seemingly at random, while riding his bike. Knocked unconscious during the incident, he tries to piece together what happened, and more importantly, why.
"When I looked at your face, I could see there was some serious thought behind doing this," he said. "It ain't like he just knocked you off your bike. He performed some very serious damage." There was no provocation, no robbery, no familiarity between attacker and attacked. McCoy argued that it would be far more foolhardy to randomly attack a black man, because "you hit the wrong guy and it might be somebody's dad or uncle or it might even be the chief who is riding a bike, and ain't no police bein' called. It's an ambulance being called for your ass. "It's a bitter pill, but I'm gonna tell you. It was all racial."
Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood doesn't think that the supposed low sound quality of MP3s is something to get worked up about.
We had a few complaints that the MP3s of our last record wasn't encoded at a high enough rate. Some even suggested we should have used FLACs, but if you even know what one of those is, and have strong opinions on them, you're already lost to the world of high fidelity and have probably spent far too much money on your speaker-stands.
This conversation with Greenwood is part of a new series by Sasha Frere-Jones' on the sound quality of recorded music.
It took Auto-Tune the News only eight episodes to get T-Pain on board.
Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted of intentionally starting a fire that killed his three children, sentenced to death, and after many failed appeals, executed by lethal injection. Now it appears that the investigators who made determination of arson were acting more like forensic mystics than forensic scientists in making their decision. The state of Texas may have executed an innocent man.
In recent years, though, questions have mounted over whether the system is fail-safe. Since 1976, more than a hundred and thirty people on death row have been exonerated. DNA testing, which was developed in the eighties, saved seventeen of them, but the technique can be used only in rare instances. Barry Scheck, a co-founder of the Innocence Project, which has used DNA testing to exonerate prisoners, estimates that about eighty per cent of felonies do not involve biological evidence.
In 2000, after thirteen people on death row in Illinois were exonerated, George Ryan, who was then governor of the state, suspended the death penalty. Though he had been a longtime advocate of capital punishment, he declared that he could no longer support a system that has "come so close to the ultimate nightmare-the state's taking of innocent life." Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has said that the "execution of a legally and factually innocent person would be a constitutionally intolerable event."
Update: John Jackson, the prosecutor in the Willingham case, has written an op-ed piece for the Cosicana Daily Sun in which he defends the court's guilty verdict, despite what he calls an "undeniably flawed forensic report".
The Willingham case was charged as a multiple child murder, and not an arson-murder to achieve capital status. I am convinced that in the absence of any arson testimony, the outcome of the trial would have been unchanged, a fact that did not escape the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
David Grann, the author of the New Yorker article referenced above, responds briefly to Jackson's assertions.
But even if he refused to take a polygraph after he was arrested, polygraphs are notoriously unreliable, and are not admissible in a court of law. [...] As a result, defense attorneys routinely do not let their clients take polygraphs. [...] The idea that a lie-detector test (or the refusal to take one) could be considered evidence cuts to the core of the problems in the Willingham case: a reliance on unreliable and unsound scientific techniques.
Jackson's belief that Willingham should have (whether he would have is another story) been convicted even in the absence of evidence of arson borders on parody and would be funny if it weren't so obscene coming, as it does, from a sitting judge. If it's not arson, how do you have a murder? If the fire killed the kids and he didn't set the fire, how is he responsible? It's fucking absurd.
Update: From the Texas Department of Criminal Justice web site, the last statement of Cameron Todd Willingham:
Yeah. The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man - convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do. From God's dust I came and to dust I will return - so the earth shall become my throne. I gotta go, road dog. I love you Gabby. [Remaining portion of statement omitted due to profanity.]
Update: More evidence emerges of Willingham's innocence: a jailhouse informant admits to lying on the stand in exchange for a reduced sentence and money.
Since Willingham was executed in 2004, officials have continued to defend the account of the informer, Johnny E. Webb, even as a series of scientific experts have discredited the forensic evidence that Willingham might have deliberately set the house fire in which his toddlers were killed.
But now new evidence has revived questions about Willingham's guilt: In taped interviews, Webb, who has previously both recanted and affirmed his testimony, gives his first detailed account of how he lied on the witness stand in return for efforts by the former prosecutor, John H. Jackson, to reduce Webb's prison sentence for robbery and to arrange thousands of dollars in support from a wealthy Corsicana rancher. Newly uncovered letters and court files show that Jackson worked diligently to intercede for Webb after his testimony and to coordinate with the rancher, Charles S. Pearce Jr., to keep the mercurial informer in line.
A Continuous Lean recommends Anthony Bourdain's Disappearing Manhattan episode of No Reservations...with the pertinent YouTube embeds.
Fuck, it's worth a watch even if you have seen it ten times. Eisenberg's, Manganaro Foods, Keens, Le Veau d'Or, this show is like my NYC gastro-playbook. Watch it, love it, live it.
James Thurber on editing SEP 02
Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counseling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, "How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?" and avoid "How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?"
That's James Thurber in a 1959 memo to The New Yorker.
The Apple upgrade problem SEP 02
I recently upgraded to a new MacBook Pro from a two-year-old version of the same model (more or less). It's sturdier, faster, has a more functional trackpad, and has a much larger hard drive than the previous model, making it well worth the ~$2700 purchase price because I use my computer for more hours in a year than I sleep. Three weeks ago, my first-generation iPhone broke and rather than pay for a straight-up replacement, I upgraded to a new iPhone 3G (and promised AT&T my spare kidney in the process). Again, totally worth it...the speed and video camera alone were worth the upgrade. On Monday, I upgraded the OS on my MBP to
OS X 10.5 Service Pack 1 Snow Leopard. Not sure whether it was worth it at this point or not, but it was only $29 and promised much.
The upgrade process in each case was painless. To set up the MBP, I just connected it to my Time Machine drive and was up and running about an hour later with all my apps and preferences intact. The iPhone took even less time than that and everything from my old phone was magically there. Snow Leopard took 45 minutes and, aside from a couple of Mail.app and Safari plug-ins I use, everything was just as before.1 Past upgrades of Apple computers and iPods have gone similarly well.
Which is where the potential difficulty for Apple comes in. From a superficial perspective, my old MBP and new MBP felt exactly the same...same OS, same desktop wallpaper, same Dock, all my same files in their same folders, etc. Same deal with the iPhone except moreso...the iPhone is almost entirely software and that was nearly identical. And re: Snow Leopard, I haven't noticed any changes at all aside from the aforementioned absent plug-ins.
So, just having paid thousands of dollars for new hardware and software, I have what feels like my same old stuff.
Deep down, when I stop to think about it, I know (or have otherwise convinced myself) that these purchases were worth it and that Apple's ease of upgrade works almost exactly how it should. But my gut tells me that I've been ripped off. The "newness" cognitive jolt humans get is almost entirely absent. I don't know if Apple is aware of this (I'd guess yes) and don't know if it even matters to them (because, like I said, this is the way that it should work...and look at those sales figures), but it's got to be having some small effect. People want to feel, emotionally speaking, that their money is well-spent and impeccable branding, funny commericals, and the sense of belonging to a hip lifestyle that Apple tries to engender in its customers can only go so far. [Apple Tablet, this is your cue.]
 Merlin Mann's upgrade did not go well. Not only did Merlin not get the "newness" cognitive jolt, his new stuff worked worse than his old stuff. Although, Merlin, upgrading five (five!) computers while "writing a book on deadline" probably wasn't the best idea. ↩
All you really need to know about this movie is that it's called The Men Who Stare at Goats.
P.S. Jeff Bridges.
P.P.S. George Clooney.
Miles Fisher SEP 02
 We don't really need to put a spoilers disclaimer on the appearance of marijuana in a TV show set in the latter part of the early 60s, do we? A: no. ↩
I've noticed that when people speak of the mindset associated with "being an adult", they are referring to either A) the setting aside of childish ways; or B) a rebellion against the lack of freedom of childhood. Basically opposite approaches: responsible adulthood and irresponsible adulthood.
The A people feel that being an adult means eating healthfully, being financially responsible, dressing to meet the expectations of others, flossing regularly, servicing your vehicle regularly, etc.
Folks who take the B approach feel that adulthood means that you can eat candy for breakfast, drink too much, fail to keep careful track of your finances, stay up late, play hours of video games a day, skip dental cleanings for three years, order the steak instead of the salad, etc. [Note: This isn't to say that these people are irresponsible to the point of being lawless, although that is sometimes the case. It just means that when it comes to actions that have an impact primarily on themselves, they don't always make the "best" long-term choices.]
There are likely a whole host of personality traits and such that can be determined to varying degrees of accuracy based upon a person's answer to this question (even if it's "sorta A and sorta B"): emotional maturity, political party affiliation, age, gender, intro/extroversion, Myers-Briggs personality type, marital status, and so on.
So which type of adult are you?
Has 3-D already failed? SEP 02
With the announcement of releasing Avatar only in 3-D, James Cameron was supposed to cram 3-D down the throats of theater owners, movie goers, and everyone else. Except that didn't quite happen and Avatar is being released in 2-D as well. Kristin Thompson sees other cracks in the plan for 3-D's future domination of cinema.
One of the main arguments always rolled out in favor of conversion is that theaters can charge more for 3-D screenings. Proportionately, theaters that show a film in 3-D will take in more at the box-office because they charge in the range of $3 more per ticket than do theaters offering the same title in a flat version.
But what happens when, say, half the films playing at any given time in a city are in 3-D? Will moviegoers decide that the $3 isn't really worth it? Even now, would they pay $3 extra to see The Proposal or Julie & Julia in 3-D? The kinds of films that seem as if they call out for 3-D are far from being the only kinds people want to see. Films like these already make money on their own, unassisted by fancy technology.
Thompson briefly mentions Pixar as well, saying that they don't seem too keen on 3-D (or at least not as keen as Cameron or Katzenberg). But the zeal with which the 3-D-ness of Up was promoted was tacky and not at all typical of Pixar, a company that spent the last twenty years insisting that their films were not about the technology but about the same things that the makers of live action films were concerned with...real moviemaking stuff. To trumpet this 3-D technology that doesn't enhance films in anything other than a superficial sense seems like a step backwards for them.
Acceleration SEP 02
Who won the recession? SEP 01
Vanity Fair has released their 2009 list of the "top 100 Information Age powers"...Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and the Google triumvirate make up the top five. Only 12 women made the list, most of them coupled with a man. A similar list from Business Insider has a better name: The 25 Who Won the Recession. I thought this recession business was supposed to kill the influence of the financial sector...funny how that never happens.
Cultivated serendipity SEP 01
Tom Scocca writes about the rise of books filled with useless information.
In a world where useful and important answers come looking for you, it is the idea of unimportance that is the primary selling point of the miscellanies. The books promise to guide the reader somewhere older and slower, to create a little world in which information can serve as amusement rather than currency. A carefully done miscellany appears random, but it achieves a sort of quiet intellectual bustle, set apart from the roar of the daily info-chaos. The miscellanies are information as art, and art for art's sake.
A New York TImes video explains Roger Federer's footwork and how it helps him be so effective and efficient on the court. Bonus: the creepy CG version of Federer makes him seem like even more of a robot. (via clusterflock)
Michael Stillwell pulled an interesting chart out of a book called A Farewell to Alms. It's a table of the speed of important news reaching London. For instance, in 1805 the news of the Battle of Trafalgar took 17 days to travel the 1100 miles to London; that's a speed of 2.7 mph. By 1891 when the Nobi earthquake occurred in Japan, it only took the news one day to travel 5916 miles, a speed of 246 mph.
Nowadays an email or a Twitter update can travel halfway around the world nearly instantaneously. The 2008 Sichaun earthquake occurred 5100 miles from London with the first Twitter update in English occurring about 7 minutes after the quake started. Assuming the message was read a minute later by someone in London, that's 38,250 mph. Had the Twitter updater been right at the epicenter and able to send a Twitter message 30 seconds after the quake started and was read a minute later in London, that's 204,000 mph. Five orders of magnitude improvement in 200 years...not too shabby.
If you can figure out what words are gonna trend on Twitter, you can use the pretweeting site to buy and sell words to make fake money.
Make a (virtual) profit by buying and selling words on twitter. Predict what's going to be hot and buy it up before it hits twitter, and you'll make a killing once people start talking about it.
1984, a fine year for movies SEP 01
Beverly Hills Cop
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
The Karate Kid
Revenge of the Nerds
The Killing Fields
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Once Upon a Time in America
This Is Spinal Tap
That's a pretty good year. My God, the pop culture references.
The Hot Waitress Index orig. from Aug 03, 2009