A big thanks to this week’s kottke.org RSS sponsor, Haystack, a new site from 37signals that allows designers to put up a quick portfolio and for those in need of web design help to browse by style, location, or budget. Designers can list themselves for free or pay $99/month for a bigger listing, prime placement, and more portfolio images. There’s no charge for browsing or hiring via Haystack.
I get asked for web designer recommendations all the time and never know what to tell people. I think I’ll just point them to Haystack from now on.
This is the new emerging model — cutting costs, raising prices. It may still fail in the end. But we shouldn’t act as if the online-only crowd has it all figured out. Every month, several million Americans pay to have newspapers and magazines delivered to their homes-a trick most online publications have yet to pull off.
The shrinking circulation while raising prices reminds me of Apple’s strategy in the mobile phone and personal computing space: they have less market share but they make more money on each sale than their competitors by offering a premium product.
The banners, measuring just a few centimetres across, seem to be causing the beleaguered flies a bit of piloting trouble. The weight keeps the flies at a lower altitude and forces them to rest more often, which is a stroke of genius on the part of the marketing creatives: the flies end up at about eye level, and whenever a fly is forced to land and recover, the banner is clearly visible. What’s more, the zig-zagging of the fly naturally attracts the attention because of its rapid movement.
One marketing creative’s stroke of genius is another person’s animal cruelty.
The easy single-handed operation of the iPhone1 is not one of its obvious selling points but is one of those little features that grows on you and becomes nearly indispensable. A portable networked computing and gaming device that can be easily operated with one hand can be used in a surprising variety of situations.
Eating is the most obvious potentially one-handed activity most of us engage in. If you must do something other than just enjoy your food ferchristsake, you can answer emails, read Twitter, or catch up on the latest at nytimes.com while munching on that salad.
People carry things. Coffee, shopping bags, books, bags, babies, small dogs, hot dogs, water bottles, coats, etc. It’s nice to be able to not put all that crap down just to quickly Google for the closest public restroom (aka Starbucks).
It is very occasionally necessary to use the iPhone while driving. No, not for checking your stock portfolio, you asshole. For directions. Glance quickly and keep your thoughts on the road ahead.
My wife spends about five hours a day breastfeeding our daughter and has only one hand available for non-feeding activities. That hand is frequently occupied by her iPhone; it helps her keep abreast (hey’o!) of current events, stay connected with pals through Twitter & email, track feeding/sleeping/diaper changing times, keep notes (she plans meals and grocery “shops” at 3am), and alert her layabout husband via SMS to come and get the damned baby already.
Straphangers in NYC and elsewhere know what a great one-handed device the iPhone is. Riding the subway and reading has never been so easy, especially during rush hour when pointy hardcovers become weaponized. (Getting shived by a hardbound Harry Potter on the 6pm 5 train is no joke.)
Tim Carmody, one of the shopkeeps over at Snarkmarket, recently broke his arm but is getting plenty of use out of his iPhone: “They should have an ad — ‘If you’ve got a broken arm, this is the perfect phone for you!’” Broken arms are uncommon, but plenty of people have more permanent physical conditions necessitating one-handed interaction with the world.
And a list of one-handed computing activities wouldn’t be complete without at least quickly mentioning, well, you know. It rhymes with “whacking off”. I think I’ve said enough.
Two areas where the iPhone really shines in its one-handedness are gaming and typing. One-handed gaming is pretty much impossible with the Nintendo DS or Sony PSP, but the App Store is full of games that require only your thumb for input. I’ve been playing lots of Shake & Spell and Strategery lately. Typing with one hand on the iPhone is almost as easy and fast as with two. You can actually *write* on this thing with one hand; not just SMS messages and tweets but also blog posts, emails, meeting minutes, and the like.
I think it’s fairly easy to dial and answer any cell phone with one hand. It’s the fact that you can almost perfectly use smartphone functions with a single hand that set the iPhone apart. I used to have a Blackberry Bold - it bit the dust around the same time my arm did — and while I really liked a lot of things about the hardware, you really couldn’t use it well with one hand
Your cheerfulness about [being injured or handicapped] varies almost directly with your autonomy — and the iPhone is GREAT at making you feel autonomous. Innovation in interface design isn’t just about creating a cooler experience. It’s about giving more and more people a shot at that experience to begin with.
And this is exactly how I use my iPhone 95% of the time (except I am left-handed).
 This footnote still applies. (Yes, that was a reference to a footnote within another footnote. (And that was a parenthetical within a footnote. (…))) ↩
Update: One-handed iPhone? That’s nothing. Check out this guy using the iPhone with his feet.
I met Keith on the Red line, heading to Cambridge from Boston. We had a nerdy conversation about the new iPhone, which he swears by. He operates his with his feet because a disability limits the dexterity of his hands. He said his kid is nuts for the games on the iPhone, but that he prefers more functional aspects which would be harder for him to use on any other mobile device.
The Strange Maps book is out today. The book is based on the awesome Strange Maps blog, one the very few sites I have to exercise restraint in not linking to every single item posted there. The content of the book is adapted from the site, so of course it’s top shelf.
My only reservation in recommending the book is the design. When I cracked it open, I was expecting full-bleed reproductions of the maps, large enough to really get a detailed look at them. The maps *are* the book, after all. But that’s not the case…only a few of the maps get an entire non-full-bleed page and some of the maps are stuck in the corner of a page of text, like small afterthoughts. The rest of the design is not much better, cheesy at best and distracting at worst. I wasn’t expecting Taschen-grade production values, but something more appropriate to the subject matter would have been nice.
As I take a second look at these neighborhoods, I’ve found vast differences in what was once a uniform typology. Over the past 50 years these Houses have transformed from modest white cubes into a vibrant display of personality and present a rebellion against conformity.
After discovering the recipe for Robie’s Buttermilk Flapjacks in a magazine a year or two ago, my wife has been making them for breakfast most Saturdays and they are, no foolin’, the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten. They are fluffy and moist and delicious. Here’s what you do.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, whisk, set aside:
2 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine salt
Combine the wet ingredients in a second bowl, whisk:
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until just combined. Fry in a pan with butter. Top with maple syrup and devour.
Don’t skimp on the ingredients here. Use real butter and real vanilla extract, but especially real maple syrup and real buttermilk. Depending on where you live/shop, actual buttermilk might be difficult to find. The term “buttermilk” formerly referred to the liquid left behind after churning butter but nowadays refers to a cultured milk product not unlike drinkable yogurt. The only real buttermilk we’ve been able to find (in VT and MA) is Kate’s Real Buttermilk; even at the NYC Greenmarket, the best you can find is cultured buttermilk made with whole milk. At least attempt to avoid most grocery store buttermilk; it’s made from skim milk with added thickeners and such, basically buttermilk without any richness, which is, like, what’s the point? Oh, and no powdered buttermilk either…it messes with the texture too much. The point is, these are buttermilk pancakes and they taste best with the best buttermilk you can get your mitts on.
The five months of furious short-story writing in 1923-24 had left him with a stake of $7,000. In Great Neck, that would only cover two and a half months of expenses. How could he stretch the $7,000 to gain the time to finish Gatsby? Earlier, as he was struggling to save, a friend wrote from France to suggest that Fitz-gerald join the many Americans living well in Europe on the strong American dollar. The friend wrote that it cost one-tenth as much to live in Europe: he had just finished “a meal fit for a king, washed down with champagne, for the absurd sum of sixty-one cents.” Fitzgerald thought, based on the friend’s recommendation, living expenses on the off-season Riviera would be low enough to let him finish Gatsby without any short-story interruptions.
Update: The audio clip used in that commercial might not be Whitman after all. From the inbox:
The Walt Whitman recording that is being used by the Levi’s commercial that you posted on the 28th is actually not Whitman, and is now considered by most audio archivists to be a hoax.
More information about this most interesting recording can be found in Vol. X, No. 3 of Allen Koenigsberg’s Antique Phonograph Monthly magazine from 1992, pages 9-11.
Among things pointed out, one is that the speech on the soundtrack ends with the quote, “Freedom Law and Love,” whereas the original printed version of the poem ends with “Chair’d in the adamant of Time.”
Koenigsberg also points out that Whitman’s last years were chronicled on a daily basis by his personal secretary, and being wheelchair-bound, such a visit for Whitman would have been difficult, unprecedented, and undoubtedly noted.
It seems to me that the best way to instantly raise your standard of living is to live in the past. If you subsist entirely on two-year-old entertainment, and the corresponding two-year-old technology used to power it, you’re cutting your fun budget in half, freeing up that money for more exciting expenditures like parking meters and postage.
Welcome to the Cult of the Somewhat Delayed. Don’t go to first-run movies in the theater; catch them nine months later on Netflix. Get on the waitlist for new books at the library. Buy used, used, used. This approach dovetails nicely with Last Year’s Model.
I was all fired up to make eight from-scratch servings of ramen last night after looking through the Momofuku book, but ulitmately the book is a Trojan horse for enticing people into the restaurants. As in: “Konbu? 5 pounds of meaty pork bones? Fuck that, let’s just go to Noodle Bar.”
Here, Norphel is using what is abundant — stone — to conserve what is precious — water. The idea is simple: Divert the unneeded autumn and winter runoff into a series of large, rock-lined holding ponds. As the days grow colder, the ponds freeze and interconnect into a growing glacier. He has built 10 glaciers across the region. His largest stretched more than a mile before an unusual week of rain wiped it out in 2006.
Norphel says that a good artificial glacier costs about $50,000.
The NY Times has a really sweet story about Thomas Keller and the rekindling of his relationship with his father.
Mr. Keller ate many of the dishes in the book with his father at Ad Hoc. Even after the accident they would go, despite the physical challenges of getting his father out of the house. Ms. Cunningham said she used to worry about how customers might feel watching the famous chef feed his father. “Here he was taking care of his father just like a baby,” she said. “For Thomas, it didn’t make the slightest difference. Whatever he could do to make his dad comfortable he did.”
The chef as caretaker, literally feeding a loved one…I don’t see anything unusual about that at all. Isn’t that what all chefs should aspire to? (thx, andy)
Most people won’t instantly jump to buy ebook readers after seeing them in TV commercials or liveblogged keynotes. They need to be experienced in person. (The ability to do this easily will give Barnes & Noble a huge advantage over Amazon.) And they’ll spread via good, old-fashioned, in-person referrals from friends and coworkers.
I want a good e-reader more than anything…I instantly fell for the screen when I saw the Sony Libre a few years ago. I do a *ton* of reading, upwards of 100-150 pages a day when I’m working full-time. About 0.5% of those pages are from books. But the Kindle? I tried it and didn’t like it. The screen is still great…the rest of it didn’t work at all for me. And this is what is frustrating for me…the Kindle seemed right for buying books but not for what I want it for: reading all that other stuff. I know the functionality exists on these devices to read blogs, magazines, newspapers, etc., but they’re marketed as book readers (Arment even calls them “ebook readers” instead of “e-readers”), the user experience is optimized for book reading, and the companies (esp. Amazon and B&N) view them as portable bookstores.
But there are a lot of people — including, significantly, most people over age 40 - who don’t like reading tiny text on bright LCD screens in devices loaded with distractions that die after 5 hours without their electric lifeline.
Agreed. I don’t particularly enjoy reading text on the iPhone; I’d prefer a larger e-ink screen. Instapaper support on the Kindle was almost enough to make me get one…but not quite yet.
Most of Kottke’s problem with ebook readers can be solved in software
The problem isn’t that you can’t route around Amazon’s design decisions with clever hacks, but that Amazon chose to optimize the device for reading (and buying) books. I.e. the software *is* the problem. That is not so easily solved…to do so, Amazon has to address it. And maybe they will. I hope they do.
I’m not including RSS feeds or PDFs in the discussion. RSS feeds aren’t reading: they’re alerting, discovering and filtering.
Off-topic, but this isn’t my experience. I’d say about 30-50% of my reading is done directly in my newsreader…there are plently of blogs out there that aren’t link blogs or Tumblrs.
Ah, risk. It is the idea that fuels the anti-vaccine movement — that parents should be allowed to opt out, because it is their right to evaluate risk for their own children. It is also the idea that underlies the CDC’s vaccination schedule — that the risk to public health is too great to allow individuals, one by one, to make decisions that will impact their communities. (The concept of herd immunity is key here: It holds that, in diseases passed from person to person, it is more difficult to maintain a chain of infection when large numbers of a population are immune.)
Anti-vaccine activists are degenerate idiots who deserve to get polio and live out their days in iron lungs while Child Protective Services takes away their children to be properly raised. Or tetanus. Get lockjaw and shut up and die. What’s the point of living in 21st-century America if not to avoid dying of stupid, easily preventable disease?
Ordinarily I wouldn’t question others’ parenting choices. But the problem is literally one of live or don’t live. While that parent chose not to vaccinate her child for what she likely considers well-founded reasons, she is putting other children at risk. In this instance, the child at risk was my son. He has leukemia.
There’s something very interesting about vaccine scares. These are cultural products. They’re not about evidence. If vaccine scares were about genuine scientific evidence showing that a vaccine caused a disease, then the vaccine scares would happen all around the world at exactly the same time, because information can disseminate itself around the world very rapidly these days. But what you find is that vaccine scares actually respect cultural and national boundaries.
But, wait… Two-thousand was — the last time the Yankees managed to win a championship. And it was awfully close to the last time that that Microsoft managed to produce a version of Windows that anybody cared about. And, hey, both the Yankees and Microsoft have long histories of dominating their professions, and of using that dominance to run up huge payrolls with — let’s be honest here — a near-decade of lackluster results.
Ever since this video blew my mind when I first watched it, I’ve wondered how it was made. Turns out Gondry tested the concept out on a sidewalk with oranges, shoes, videotapes, and drinking glasses. Alas, the making of doesn’t cover the three months of post production required by the finished product, although the video isn’t completely digital as you might expect:
The video is based on DV footage Gondry shot while on vacation in France. They shot the train ride 10 different times during the day to get different light gradients.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal. I’m about to head up to the attic right now to find that wicker fucker, dust it off, and jam it with an insanely ornate assortment of shellacked vegetables.
Sure, fine, make your single-use devices. But all these e-readers — the Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, et al — are all focused on the wrong single use: books. (And in the case of at least the Nook and Kindle, the focus is on buying books from B&N and Amazon. The Kindle is more like a 7-Eleven than a book.) The correct single use is reading. Your device should make it equally easy to read books, magazine articles, newspapers, web sites, RSS feeds, PDFs, etc. And keep in mind, all of these things have images that are integral to the reading experience. We want to read; help us do it.
I haven’t yet run into an argument that has made me want to change my mind. After all, a believing religious person, however brilliant or however good in debate, is compelled to stick fairly closely to a “script” that is known in advance, and known to me, too. However, I have discovered that the so-called Christian right is much less monolithic, and very much more polite and hospitable, than I would once have thought, or than most liberals believe.
Terrence Handley shifted his weight, the weight that had been steadily increasing for the last ten years and showed no sign of diminishing, at least while his wife Marie continued to excel as she did at the design and production of delectable gourmet meat pies, and shuffled his feet restively as he waited.
Health care in Colonial America looked nothing like what we’d consider medicine today, but the debates it triggered were similar. The danger of smallpox and the high cost of its prevention led to divisive questions about who should pay, whether everyone deserved equal access, and if responsibility lay at the feet of the individual, the state, or the nation. Epidemics forced the early republic to wrestle with the question of the federal government’s proper role in regulating the nation’s health.
I am told we cannot trust the government. I believe we must trust it, and work to make it trustworthy. We are told the free enterprise system will sort things out, but it has not. When insurance companies direct millions toward lobbying and advertising against a health care system, every dollar is being withheld from sick people. When it goes to salaries, executive jets, corporate edifices and legislative manipulation, it isn’t going to Amy Caudle.
Like the Lisa, it uses a hand-held “mouse” — a small pointing device which enables the user to select programs, and move data from one part of the screen to another. Also like the Lisa, Macintosh uses a black and white display screen whose resolution is so high that it can quickly draw detailed pictures while at the same time display crisp and readable text.
In addition to being a painter of some repute, Peter Paul Rubens was also a diplomat:
In Master of Shadows, Mark Lamster tells the story of Rubens’s life and brilliantly re-creates the culture, religious conflicts, and political intrigues of his time. Commissions to paint military and political leaders drew Rubens from his Antwerp home to London, Madrid, Paris, and Rome. The Spanish crown, recognizing the value of his easy access to figures of power, enlisted him into diplomatic service. His uncommon intelligence, preternatural charm, and ability to navigate through ever-shifting political winds allowed him to negotiate a long-sought peace treaty between England and Spain even as Europe’s shrewdest statesmen plotted against him.
Moretus was Rubens’s most frequent design client. To save his friend money, Rubens generally did his work for Plantin on holidays, so he would not have to charge Moretus his rather exorbitant day rate (Rubens was notorious for his high prices), and even then he agreed to be paid in books.
The population [of Rome] during the Renaissance was miniscule (yet it was still a global center), when Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel it was considerably smaller than a town like Palo Alto is today (60K); Rome at its nadir was about the size of Google (20K employees); the growth of Rome during the Industrial era is much greater than the rise of Ancient Rome.
David, you should check out The Inheritance of Rome; I’m about 100 pages in and pretty interesting so far. Also, it would be instructive to do the same graph but Rome’s population as a percentage of world population.
This was my present to my nephew for his 3rd birthday. He loves, loves, loves the subway so my sister asked me if I could make a custom map with all the places that mean something to him on the poster.
This short film was made in 1909 and depicts Wilbur Wright flying one of his airplanes around an open field. At 1:38, they attach the camera to the plane and shot what is thought to be the first video footage shot from a powered flying machine.
Then the plane started up again, followed a launching pad and took off: the camera was fixed for the first time on the ground that gave way…and the emotion was there, so great you could almost touch it! The image was as unstable as the cabin of the plane flying at low altitude, flying over the countryside and gradually approaching a town.
They then put the participants, one by one, in a dark anechoic chamber which shields all incoming sounds and deadens any noise made by the participant. The room had a ‘panic button’ to stop the experiment but apparently no-one needed to use it.
“I love the idea of taking the friction out of the art world,” said Mr. Conrad. “A lot of people want to buy nice things, but don’t know how. Jen has built a business from that, which is growing very nicely and has a lot of repeat customers.”
 In light of the new FTC guidelines for disclosure by bloggers2, a few somewhat relevent statements. 1. 20x200 has in the past paid $1200 to sponsor the kottke.org RSS feed. 2. I have linked to 20x200 and Jen Bekman’s gallery several times on kottke.org, for which Jen Bekman has thanked me, which is a good feeling, to be thanked, and perhaps that subconsciously predisposes me towards future linking because who doesn’t like to be thanked? 3. Jen Bekman is a friend. 4. I also know Caterina Fake, Zach Klein, and Scott Heiferman socially; they are a few of 20x200’s angel investors. 5. I am a resident of New York City, in which 20x200 is headquartered. 6. I have purchased art from 20x200 in the past. 7. I may have received a 20x200 print from Jen Bekman herself, either as a straight-up gift or as a promotional item. Honestly, I can’t remember if she gave me anything, what it was, or the circumstances of the giving. 8. I have received 20x200 prints as gifts from others. They are thanked. 9. I know my wife and my wife knows Jen Bekman. 10. I may have unwittingly posed for photos next to 20x200 artwork hanging in my residence or in the residences of others, giving the impression that I am endorsing said artwork. Apologies. 11. I have agreed to, at some point in the future, curating a selection of artworks for 20x200 and then chatting casually with Jen Bekman about my choices, an edited transcript of which will appear on the 20x200 web site. As far as I know, no payment for this service is forthcoming and if it was, I would refuse it politely. 12. Jen Bekman’s dog’s name is Ollie. So is my son’s. ↩
 Why just for bloggers? Do New York Times book, music, and movie reviewers disclose that they received review copies for free? ↩
At 70, writer Charles Bukowski started using a computer — a Macintosh IIsi that his wife gave him for Christmas — and was so taken with it that he never went back to the typewriter.
There is something about seeing your words on a screen before you that makes you send the word with a better bite, sighted in closer to the target. I know a computer can’t make a writer but I think it makes a writer better. Simplicity in writing and simplicity in getting it down, hot and real. When this computer is in the shop and I go back to the electric, it’s like trying to break rock with a hammer. Of course, the essence of writing is there but you have to wait on it, it doesn’t leap from the gut as quickly, you begin to trail your thoughts — your thoughts are ahead of your fingers which are trying to catch up. It causes a block of sorts indeed.
Are the problems that have plagued the Large Hadron Collider and previous high-energy efforts (SSC, I’m looking at you here) a result of the Higgs boson travelling back from the future to meddle in its own discovery? A pair of scientists think it’s a possibility.
“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”
This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”
In his newest multipart essay for the NY Times, Errol Morris examines evidence of photo manipulations by the photographers of the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression, including Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, and Dorothea Lange. Were they dispassionate observers of American life in the 1930s or employees after a certain type of story?
If one can imagine the political animosity that would have been generated if, as part of the current stimulus package, President Obama introduced a national documentary photography program, then it is possible to understand the opposition that the F.S.A. faced. Fiscal conservatives did not want to see their hard-earned tax dollars spent on relief, let alone a government photography program, of all things.
Emigre has released a sans serif companion for Mrs Eaves, Mr Eaves.
Mr Eaves was based on the proportions of Mrs Eaves, but Licko took some liberty with its design. One of the main concerns was to avoid creating a typeface that looked like it simply had its serifs cut off. And while it matches Mrs Eaves in weight, color, and armature, Mr Eaves stands as its own typeface with many unique characteristics.
Very handsome. I’ve always liked the attitude and flourishes of Emigre’s typefaces. (via quips)
Down the hall from the high-speed video lab is the room where they do three-dimensional motion analysis using infrared cameras: “It’s the same system they use in some of the latest blockbusters, like Spider-Man or Lord Of The Rings.” The changing positions of markers that reflect infrared light are triangulated by the cameras, so the movements of the razor and the shaver’s arm can be recreated in a virtual 3D space on a computer. “The way in which you hold that handle and you rotate that handle, if you watch men do it, it’s quite amazing. You think they could all be cheerleaders,” Stewart says. High-speed infrared cameras, running at around 2,000 frames a second, are also used to measure skin deformation and strain. A similar technique is used in the car and aeroplane industries, though Gillette have patented it for shaving research. Next door, sensors in a specially adapted razor measure the forces different men put on it while shaving.
Upon tasting it, my immediate thoughts are mayo, ketchup, a little yellow mustard, a hint of garlic and paprika, perhaps a touch of cayenne pepper, and an elusive sour quality that I can’t quite pinpoint. It’s definitely not just vinegar or lemon juice, nor is does it have the cloying sweetness of relish. Pickle juice? Cornichon? Some other type of vinegar? I can’t figure it out. This was going to take a little more effort.
Totally doing this for dinner one of these nights. We’ll probably cheat on the ground beef…we’ve got some Pat LaFrieda patties stockpiled in the freezer.
Phil Greenspun’s finance buddy explains how JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs made $6.8 billion in profit last quarter. Basically they borrowed money from the US Govt at 0% and then bought bonds from the US Govt that paid 2-3%.
What kind of bonds are they buying? Are they investing the money in American business? “No, they are mostly buying Treasuries.” So the money is just being shuffled from one Federal bank account to another, with each Wall Street bank skimming off $1 billion per month for itself? “Pretty much.”
Then there is the miraculous Hamm, playing the lead character, Don Draper. Here is an actor who at once projects sexual mastery and ironic intelligence, poise and vulnerability. That alchemy has created the greatest male stars, from Gable to Grant to Bogart to McQueen to Clooney, because it wins for them both the desire of women and the fondness of men.
For my money, Jones is just as good at Hamm in portraying her character’s multitudes.
Again, the data is from Google Analytics and only includes URLs that were directly accessed…no search or referral traffic. Compare those to the most liked posts in the kottke.org RSS feed from roughly the same period of time, data courtesy of Google Reader:
This only includes posts from the past week so the older stuff isn’t represented. Interesting differences. The stuff with images or videos tends to do better with likes on Google Reader than just text. If Google Reader had an API, you could use that and the Analytics API to make a pretty decent “here’s what’s popular on the site” sidebar thingie a la the NY Times and most other publications.
If your ex-spouse has run off and taken your children abroad, and the international legal system is failing to bring them back, what are you to do? One option is to call Gus Zamora, a former Army ranger who will, for a hefty fee, get your children back. Operating in a moral gray area beyond the reach of any clear-cut legal jurisdiction, Zamora claims to have returned 54 children to left-behind parents. Here’s the story of number 55.
The thing is, truth is always at the center of Morris’ films, as you’d expect of a documentary filmmaker, but he also acknowledges that truth is a complicated thing; he’s always toying with questions of truth and fiction. Morris’ films aren’t about The Truth; they’re about our personal, private truths, as well as the lies and rationalizations we create for our actions. So fiction and lies and manipulation are also at the center of Morris’ films. Fiction is as much the spine of his work as truth.
As well, for reference, the director would send short films of himself enacting certain scenes. “It’s kind of embarrassing,” Anderson said, laughing. “For most of these things, the performance is just a few seconds. Somebody hearing a noise and looking at their watch. The simplest way to relate how to do it is to make these little movies.”
Hiding at the very end of the listing is a pasta shape called Marille, which is unusual in that a) it’s a recent shape, b) its designer is known, and c) it is no longer available. Marille’s designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro, previously had designed some of the most distinctive cars in the world and in 1999 was named Car Designer of the Century. (via @nicolatwilley)
Called San Francisco Panorama, the editors say it is, in large part, homage to an institution that they feel, contrary to conventional wisdom, still has a lot of life in it. Their experience in publishing literary fiction is something of a model.
“People have been saying the short story is dying for a lot longer than they’ve been saying newspapers are dying,” Jordan Bass, managing editor of the quarterly, said in an interview on Tuesday. “But you can still put out a great short-story magazine that people want to grab. The same is true for newspapers.”
The Rogue Film School is about a way of life. It is about a climate, the excitement that makes film possible. It will be about poetry, films, music, images, literature. The focus of the seminars will be a dialogue with Werner Herzog, in which the participants will have their voice with their projects, their questions, their aspirations.
“We had this brand new PDP-l,” Steve Russell recalls. “It was the first minicomputer, ridiculously inexpensive for its time. And it was just sitting there. It had a console typewriter that worked right, which was rare, and a paper tape reader and a cathode ray tube display, [There had been CRT displays before, but primarily in the Air Defense System.] Somebody had built some little pattern-generating programs which made interesting patterns like a kaleidoscope. Not a very good demonstration. Here was this display that could do all sorts of good things! So we started talking about it, figuring what would be interesting displays. We decided that probably you could make a two-Dimensional maneuvering sort of thing, and decided that naturally the obvious thing to do was spaceships.”
The tulip, by gratifying our desire for a certain kind of beauty, has gotten us to take it from its origins in Central Asia and disperse it around the world. Marijuana, by gratifying our desire to change consciousness, has gotten people to risk their lives, their freedom, in order to grow more of it and plant more of it. The potato, by gratifying our desire for control, control over nature so that we can feed ourselves has gotten itself out of South America and expanded its range far beyond where it was 500 years ago. And the apple, by gratifying our desire for sweetness begins in the forests of Kazakhstan and is now the universal fruit. These are great winners in the dance of domestication.
That’s the name of Ohio-based artist Richard Whitehurst’s latest work.
The artist plans to place himself in a room, the only entrance or exit being a 22 ft long plywood tunnel constructed by Whitehurst himself. Then he says that for the duration of the gallery’s opening (from 7:00 p.m. to midnight) he will rape anyone who travels through the tunnel into that room.
Whitehurst prototyped the idea with a previous project called The Punch-You-In-The-Face Tunnel.
As it turns out, I ended up breaking the nose of the third person to crawl through the tunnel, an aspiring model. She went to the hospital and eventually sued me. Her modeling career was put on hold. The civil case was long and drawn out and the matter still hasn’t been resolved. To this day she still has unpaid medical bills. The point of this long aside is that all this took place two years ago, and I’m still having an impact on this young lady’s life, something not many other artists could claim about their work.
Rape seemed like the next logical step.
Me? I would have built The Tickle Tunnel. I guess that’s why I’m not an artist. (via mxml)
Update: Oh, hell, it’s fake. (thx, dozens of people who aren’t saps like I am)
The Referendum is a phenomenon typical of (but not limited to) midlife, whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start judging their peers’ differing choices with reactions ranging from envy to contempt. The Referendum can subtly poison formerly close and uncomplicated relationships, creating tensions between the married and the single, the childless and parents, careerists and the stay-at-home.
This article resonated with me to an uncomfortable degree, especially this line from a James Salter novel:
For whatever we do, even whatever we do not do prevents us from doing its opposite. Acts demolish their alternatives, that is the paradox.
Vivian Maier was a street photographer from the 1950s-70s in Chicago whose extensive body of work (40,000 negatives) was recently discovered at an auction. This blog is presenting that work to the public for (I think) the first time.
The other X factor in recognition is a curatorial champion. Bellocq had Friedlander. Atget had Abbot. Disfarmer had Miller. Without their discoverers, these photographers might still be anonymous. For Maier it’s been John Maloof. An interesting mental experiment is to wonder what would’ve happened had Maier posted her own photos on a blog while still alive. Would they have the same impact? Or would they just be another series of old images from some self-promoting has-been?
Under such conditions, the tide of amateurism cannot but recede until there will be left only the mechanical device and the professional executant. Singing will no longer be a fine accomplishment; vocal exercises so important a factor in the curriculum of physical culture will be out of vogue. Then what of the national throat? Will it not weaken? What of the national chest? Will it not shrink?
I thought about his rant this week as the nation’s largest carriers reported first-quarter earnings. Or, more accurately, first-quarter losses. Except for AirTran and JetBlue, they all lost money. The legacy airlines — Delta/Northwest, American, United, Continental and US Airways — lost a lot of money. Collectively about $1.9 billion, in fact. Their revenue plummeted, too.
And do you know what most of them wanted to talk about? You guessed it. The baskets of ancillary revenue they’re harvesting by charging us fees for checking bags, choosing coach seats or whatever. Forget that their houses are burning down. They found a tap in the bathtub with some water leaking out, so they’re thrilled.
If you were to travel 2000 years into the past, how useful would you be in jumpstarting technological advancements? This 10 question quiz will help you figure out your technological usefulness.
I got a 6/10, which is probably more than I deserved…the invention of “new” technologies is not multiple choice. I wouldn’t have the faintest clue where to begin in actually making concrete or steel from scratch. (via ettagirl)
Update: Phew, I’ll just wear this shirt when I go back. (thx, runyon)
What I love about the approach is that it’s showing us a complicated, virtuoso performance, but making it really clear and accessible at the same time. It’s entertaining, but it’s also an exercise in demystification — which of course is exactly the opposite objective of every music video, ever. Their purpose has been to mystify, to masquerade, to mythologize in real-time.
After doing the script, working with the actors, and supervise the set design, Wes Anderson directed Fantastic Mr. Fox over email. He also didn’t want to use many contemporary stop-motion animation techniques. Both of these decisions ruffled some feathers.
“It’s not the most pleasant thing to force somebody to do it the way they don’t want to do it,” Anderson said. “In Tristan’s case, what I was telling him was, ‘You can’t use the techniques that you’ve learned to use. I’m going to make your life more difficult by demanding a certain approach.’
“The simple reality is,” Anderson continued, “the movie would not be the way I wanted it if I just did it the way people were accustomed to doing it. I realized this is an opportunity to do something nobody’s ever seen before. I want to see it. I don’t want afterward to say, ‘I could have gone further with this.’”
Every seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook. He explains the often overlooked value of time off and shows the innovative projects inspired by his time in Bali.
Due to all the Throwback tweets, Facebook fan pages, videos, blog posts, pics & pleas, Pepsi Throwback is coming back!! Starting December 28th Pepsi and Mountain Dew Throwback will be available again for 8 weeks with the same formula and natural sugar, but this time with an even more rad vintage look!
The really amazing part — nope, not the instant bullet liquification (!!!) — is how quickly other things happen after the bullet hits something. Glass seems to crack almost instantly, even at a million fps, making the bullets seem pokey in comparison.
I remember, every season, multiple occasions where I’d hit someone so hard that my eyes went cross-eyed, and they wouldn’t come uncrossed for a full series of plays. You are just out there, trying to hit the guy in the middle, because there are three of them. You don’t remember much. There are the cases where you hit a guy and you’d get into a collision where everything goes off. You’re dazed. And there are the others where you are involved in a big, long drive. You start on your own five-yard line, and drive all the way down the field-fifteen, eighteen plays in a row sometimes. Every play: collision, collision, collision. By the time you get to the other end of the field, you’re seeing spots. You feel like you are going to black out. Literally, these white explosions-boom, boom, boom-lights getting dimmer and brighter, dimmer and brighter.
Update: From Stephen Fatsis, a list of improvements for the NFL players union to consider to protect the health of the players.
N.F.L. players often get excellent medical treatment, but the primary goal is to return them to the field as quickly as possible. Players are often complicit in playing down the extent of their injuries. Fearful of losing their jobs — there are no guaranteed contracts in the N.F.L. — they return to the huddle still hurt.
Let’s say you run a multibillion-dollar football league. And let’s say the scientific community — starting with one young pathologist in Pittsburgh and growing into a chorus of neuroscientists across the country — comes to you and says concussions are making your players crazy, crazy enough to kill themselves, and here, in these slices of brain tissue, is the proof. Do you join these scientists and try to solve the problem, or do you use your power to discredit them?
Goodell faced his harshest criticism from Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, who called for Congress to revoke the league’s antitrust exemption because of its failure to care adequately for injured former players. “I believe you are an $8 billion organization that has failed in your responsibility to the players,” Waters said. “We all know it’s a dangerous sport. Players are always going to get injured. The only question is, are you going to pay for it? I know that you dearly want to hold on to your profits. I think it’s the responsibility of Congress to look at your antitrust exemption and take it away.”
In Kashiwa, Japan, there was briefly an unusual cafe where you recieve whatever the person in front of you ordered…and you’re ordering for the person behind you.
The Ogori cafe was an unforgettable travel moment, and an idea that has stuck with me: It was a complete surprise in our day. It encouraged communication between total strangers or, in this case, members of the Kashiwa community and a couple of weird guys from Oregon. It forced one to “let go”, just for a brief moment, of the total control we’re so used to exerting through commerce. It led you to taste something new, that you might not normally have ordered. It was a delight.
In recent years, the gifts on offer have grown increasingly extravagant and ridiculous: a modern Zeppelin for $10 million, a 3-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus for your back yard for $1 million, and a private concert with Elton John for $1.5 million. (via girlhacker)
Used to be, back in my day, that new Popes were elected by a conclave of cardinals holed up in the Sistine Chapel burning unsuccessful ballots with a chemical compound that produces black smoke until a two-thirds majority is achieved, at which point the ballots are pierced with a needle and thread and burned, producing white smoke that the assembled masses take as a sign that the cardinals have chosen, and the Pope-elect is asked if he wants to be the Pope and, if so, what his Pope-name will be and then he chooses his papal garments from a selection of small, medium, and large — *not* tall, grande, and venti as you might expect, that being Italy and all — dons a ring, and is announced to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.
The classic rescue pose gets perverted into a monstrous abduction — and possibly worse! — scenario, all the better to get movie audiences, especially impressionable teens and thrill-seekers, into the seats. Beautiful women apparently were in constant danger from a steady stream of robots, aliens, mummies, and the occasional mutant human who were ready to snatch these lovelies up, once they had fainted dead away, of course.
It’s true. There’s well-documented evidence that between the 1930s and the 1960s, monsters were picking up women like they were moonlighting at a firehouse. This has morphed into the horror movie poster of today, which usually features a grouping of the young, attractive cast from the bust up, half-shrouded in shadows and looking perturbed.
Nikolai Sutyagin decided to build himself a home befitting the owner of a lumber and construction company. This resident of Archanglesk, Russia, built a regular Izba, or wooden country dwelling, that was the standard two stories, because anything higher is considered a fire hazard by law. Once complete, he began to add to the roof bit by bit, using leftover lumber from his company. Eventually his home teetered at an unbelievable 12-15 stories, tall enough to view the White Sea from the top. Though Nikolai ran into some trouble with an embezzling employee and jail time for beating up said employee, he and his family are rumored to still dwell in the timber tower, which looks like something out of an Edward Gorey etching.
As black holes evaporate, they release Hawking radiation. Named after the legendary Stephen, who first argued for its existence in 1974, Hawking radiation emitted is measured by the mass, angular momentum, and charge of the black hole. Hawking radiation has been predicted to be part of the eventual catalyst for the heat death of the universe, and recent findings suggest that it’s possibly closer than astronomers originally calculated. Don’t max out your credit cards or adopt a Twinkie diet just yet. Scientists believe that it takes roughly 10^102 years for a supermassive black hole to evaporate, and chances are that global warming, war, or Twinkies will have done in humanity long before then.
The worm is consumed by the snail, and begins its development in the snail digestive tract. Once it grows and matures, it moves into the snail’s optical tentacles, where it will pulsate and writhe as an example of aggressive mimicry, turning the tentacle into a dead-ringer for a caterpillar larvae, and making the snail a visible snack to a passing bird. The worm’s dance is also deadly because it renders the snail insensitive to light, making it incapable of shielding itself from predators. After the bird eats the infected snail, the worm matures fully inside the bird’s digestive tract, there it reproduces and lays eggs. Once the bird excretes the Leucochloridium larva, it is consumed by snails, thus continuing its life cycle.
If a breaking ball crosses the plate at a point between a batter’s knees and the midpoint between his shoulders and pants, it’s a strike, no matter what the anachronism behind the plate thinks he sees. In eighteendicketysix, a human being was state-of-the-art technology for making these decisions. Now, you can get better information — we do get better information — by using better technology. Championships should be decided by the players and by what actually happened, not by what somebody thinks happened.
A group of ravens is referred to as a congress or an unkindness. The most famous unkindness of six ravens at the Tower of London are employees, kept on staff at the expense of the British government. There are claims that the ravens were decreed to be kept by King Charles II to prevent disaster, or that they had been placed near the Tower in order to dramatize execution proceedings. These days they’re kept around for tourists, and they are fed well (for ravens) on a diet consisting of raw meat, bird formula biscuits soaked in blood, whole rabbit, eggs once a week, and occasional pieces of fried bread.
Ravens are fairly vicious by nature, so the Tower’s Ravenmaster must bond with them over a period of six weeks when they are fledglings. These birds are so vital to the Tower’s image that several fledglings are kept as understudies for the six working birds as they die, even though the average raven lifespan is twenty-five years. The current raven roster at the Tower consists of Gwylum, Thor, Hugin, Munin, Branwen, Bran, Gundulf, Baldrick, Fleur, and Colin.
Update: The legend is that the decree from King Charles II stemmed from the prophecy that if the ravens are removed from the tower, the monarchy will fall. It is believed that John Flamsteed, who was a prominent astronomical observer, complained to the king that ravens were getting in the way of his observations at the Royal Observatory, which was located in the northeastern section of the White Tower. King Charles’ solution to the complaint was to order all of the ravens killed. It was then that a mysterious oracle informed the king that if the ravens left the Tower of London, the White Tower would topple and the whole of England would be plagued by disaster. Superstitious, King Charles ordered that at least six ravens should be kept at the Tower at all times, and he moved the Observatory to Greenwich. It’s rumored that this decree still stands today.
George Saunders (aka The Principal Researcher or PR) travelled to Fresno, California and set up a tent in a tent city (aka The Study Area) for the purposes of observing the inhabitants and reporting back for GQ. This story is a pain in the ass to read (28 pages with no “single page” option) but it’s worth wading through for Saunders’ observations.
Sometimes it seemed unimaginable that such poverty could exist in America and that the residents accepted it so passively. Why didn’t the place explode? Other times — when, for example, the PR had been out driving around the pleasant neighborhoods of Fresno — the Study Area seemed like a tiny blip on the radar, the necessary detritus of an insanely affluent country. The presence of 300 losers in a city of winners seemed not like a crisis, but rather a reasonable embodiment of Christ’s admonition that the poor would always be with us.
The Study Area presented a unique and vexing case: With all basic needs (food, shelter, laundry, etc.) met, did all suffering vanish? Based on the observations made during the Study, it did not. The well-fed homeless of Fresno, it was observed, suffered considerably.
They suffered with feeling inadequate and left behind. They spent considerable time and energy telling and retelling the story of their lives, as if looking for the place where things had gone astray. They were lonely and seemed to long for the better things in life: ease, property, companionship. Perhaps not surprisingly, this longing sometimes manifested as anger; also impatience, derision, a tendency to gossip ungenerously. In this the Study Area was similar to any other human community, but with the endemic poverty serving as a kind of process accelerator.
Seven new species of phosphorescent mushrooms have been discovered, bringing the grand total of documented glowing fungi species to 71. The new discoveries join the ranks of the other luminous mushrooms that produce light as a result of a chemical reaction. Although easily noticeable at night, phosphorescent mushrooms glow all day long. Ten new fungi species were documented between 2002 and 2006, which is surprising considering how difficult it is to write in the dark.
The ancient Roman vomitorium, or vomitoria, were supposedly places where diners could go and void their stomachs during a meal, in order to make room for more delicacies. There are even detailed descriptions of the rooms, stating that they had large slabs or pillars to lean over that would better facilitate voiding the stomach. Though it might come as a disappointment to preteen boys studying Latin, the vomitorium of such lore is a myth. A true vomitoria is actually a well-designed passage within an ampitheater that allowed large numbers of Romans to file in and out of large spaces quickly. The root of the word, vomere, translates to “spew out,” which makes sense when applied to hurried exits.
One of the finalists in the Roca’s bathroom-related design contest, Jump the gap, was Spanish design studio Yonoh’s “box.” It’s a self-contained, customizable modular bathroom that features enough room for a toilet, wash-basin, shower, seat, two shelves, a towel rack, and a section for extra space and storage. All of the faucets are electronic, with displays indicating the temperature and the amount of water consumed. This “box” requires hookups for water and electricity, and after water is used by the sink or the shower, it’s stored in a conservation-friendly water tank where it supplies the toilet. It remains to be seen if the eco-friendly “box” will compete with other cubic commodes. Regardless, it’s quite a leap from the Port-a-Potty.
“[Michelle] is representative of how we have evolved and who we are,” said Edward Ball, a historian who discovered that he had black relatives — the descendants of his white slave-owning ancestors — when he researched his memoir, “Slaves in the Family.”
“We are not separate tribes of Latinos and whites and blacks in America,” Mr. Ball said. “We’ve all mingled, and we have done so for generations.”
I wonder how much of this Obama was aware of before being contacted by the Times for comment (she declined):
The findings — uncovered by Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist, and The New York Times — substantiate what Mrs. Obama has called longstanding family rumors about a white forbear.
For those of you who are both creepy and crafty, a website specializing in Halloween prop projects and related antics has documented how they created a set of severed, twitching legs. There’s even a video of the finished product in action. It’s how a pair of pants can scare the pants off of partygoers.
Dijon mustard is to yellow mustard as a Rolls Royce is to your Honda. A 454 gram bottle sells for $6.99, and that is 5 cents per serving.
He adds up exactly how much homemade sandwiches cost based on the amount of ingredients and their correlating prices. The results are revealing: 98 cents for a processed turkey sandwich, 48 1/2 cents for a grilled cheese, and 64 cents for a pb&j. If you’d like to figure out how much bread you’ll need for your picnic, try out Cockerham’s sandwich calculator. For more dizzying and delicious equations, cut the corners off the drool-inducing Scanwiches.
Scientists discovered that it’s likely that some individuals with high testosterone actually perceive other people’s anger as a reward. Researchers tested the subjects’ testosterone levels and assigned them “learning tasks” where images of faces were subliminally flashed in response to their performance. Participants who had higher testosterone levels responded better to angry faces than to neutral ones, even though the faces were on screen too briefly to identify. Michelle Wirth, who led the study, explained how this can possibly be correlated to other testing methods:
“Better learning of a task associated with anger faces indicates that the anger faces were rewarding, as in a rat that learns to press a lever in order to receive a tasty treat. In that sense, anger faces seemed to be rewarding for high-testosterone people, but aversive for low-testosterone people.”
So the next time it seems like that person is trying to piss you off, reward them with a knuckle sandwich.
There is a whole group of asteroids named after rock stars. Each member of Rush has a minor planet. Fantasia, Hammurabi, and Jerrylewis are all out there. While Goldfinger is not named after the Bond film (it’s named after an astronomer), Vespa is named after the motor scooter. Here is where we find the asteroid named Qwerty, and even an asteroid named ASCII.
While the author was on his mission to get Mr. Plimpton’s name on a piece of space real estate, he discovered some of the intricacies of naming objects up there. For example, the moons of Uranus have all been named after characters from works by Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. Also, those “name a star” advertisements on the radio are bunk. Although you get a certificate claiming your star has been named, the monikers aren’t recognized by the International Astronomical Union, the one organization that has authority in the matter.
We agreed that a lot of what we then considered “working hard” was actually “freaking out”. Freaking out included panicking, working on things just to be working on something, not knowing what we were doing, fearing failure, worrying about things we needn’t have worried about, thinking about fund raising rather than product building, building too many features, getting distracted by competitors, being at the office since just being there seemed productive even if it wasn’t — and other time-consuming activities. This time around we have eliminated a lot of freaking out time. We seem to be working less hard this time, even making it home in time for dinner.
I would likely give the same advice, but I wonder if it’s actually true. Perhaps working hard/freaking out was exactly what was needed at the time, whether or not it seems efficient or correct in retrospect. You need to travel that road so you can find a better way the second time around.
A video clip of what fashion designers in the 1930s predicted that people would be wearing in the year 2000. While the predictions for the women only accurately depict Lady GaGa’s wardrobe, the designers of the past were slightly closer to the mark when it came to men’s fashion:
“He’ll be fitted with a radio, telephone, and containers for coins, keys, and candy for cuties.”
By which they must have meant credit cards.
Update: FASHION magazine responded to this video. It turns out that it was eerily accurate, with designs like Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs parading futuristic wares that are perfectly current.
Update: I’ve seen many references to Photosketch saying that it has to be fake (here’s a sampling). But it’s pretty obviously real. For one thing, here’s the source code; try it out (Windows only). It was presented at SIGGRAPH Asia 2009; here’s the listing of papers presented. The authors all have web pages on university sites and have published work using similar techniques and technology (Ping Tan and Ariel Shamir for example). And is what it does really that unbelievable? At the most basic level Photosketch is just find me a man that’s sorta shaped like this, a dog that looks like this, and paste them together with a background that looks like this. That the results are so impressive (especially for a demo) is a testament to the team’s execution and attention to the small details. Even if it turns out to be an elaborate hoax, I have no doubt that someone could actually build a working version of Photosketch…I mean, look at TinEye and Photosynth.
In 2001, Tim Hawkinson created Uberorgan for the gallery at MassMOCA.
Several bus-size biomorphic balloons, each with its horn tuned to a different note in the octave, make up a walk-in self-playing organ. A 200 foot-long scroll of dots and dashes encodes a musical score of old hymns, pop classics, and improvisational ditties. This score is deciphered by the organ’s brain - a bank of light sensitive switches - and then reinterpreted by a series of switches and relays that translate the original patterns into non-repeating variations of the score.
Part sculpture, part giant musical instrument, Hawkinson’s installation was a loose interpretation of the human body’s organ systems. Uberorgan conducted itself for five minutes every hour, on the hour. The exhibition traveled from MassMOCA to the Getty Center in Los Angeles, where it graced the museum’s entrance hall during the exhibit of Hawkinson’s work called Zoopsia, a name that means “visual hallucinations of animals.”
You can hear a minute long sample of the Uberorgan on the Getty Center website. To me it sounds like a duet between a three-year-old jamming out on a bass saxophone and an elephant in a good mood.
Update: Tim Hawkinson and the Uberorgan are featured the Art:21 episode,”Time.” Seeing and hearing the piece, even on the small screen, is impressive, and Hawkinson explains how he came about creating such a voluminous, volume-driven work of art. (thx, cliff)
Just in time for Halloween: a new study theorizes that eating too many Pez will land children in the pen. Researchers believe that using candy as a reward for a chore such as homework drives children to have difficulty handling anything but immediate gratification. The dopamine release that is caused by consuming sugar, and the inherent “addiction” that it causes, can lead to impulsive behavior when treats are withheld from kids. It’s the inability to successfully cope with delayed gratification that has doctors concerned, since rash behavior in children can be linked to criminal acts and violence in adults. The British study, which followed 17,000 children over four decades, found that, by the age of 34, 69% of daily candy eaters were apprehended for violent acts. Perhaps it’s the prevalence of penny candies that leads people to the penitentiary.
Update: It’s all in the subtleties. The article reads:
“The October 2009 study revealed that 69 per cent of those with a criminal record of violence consumed candy daily as children.”
This means that it can be inferred that those who have committed crime had sweet teeth as kids, but not that children who eat candy every day will therefore be predisposed to criminal behavior. Moreover, there are so many variables and unobserved factors that if you eliminated the sugary rewards, it wouldn’t necessarily mean a correlated drop in crime. It isn’t the candy that’s causing the trouble, it’s just that trouble-making and candy seem to be bedfellows. So much for trick or treat. (thx, neil and scott)
An article in Forbes postulates which countries billionaires could purchase, factoring in their estimated worth and the countries’ GDPs. On the list: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Lucas, Zambia, Haiti, and Belize.
Update: A valid point to make here is that a billionaire’s income isn’t an accurate measure of their ability to “purchase” a country based on their GDP, especially if you think of the GDP as the equivalent of rental income. For instance, if a person’s net worth is $9 billion, which is equivalent to the Bahamas’ GDP, that doesn’t mean the billionaire could buy the islands. He or she could only rent it for a year, theoretically. Then again, the idea of countries being up for sale, and individuals purchasing (or renting) them, is a somewhat silly premise. (thx, ian)
Update: Perhaps purchasing countries isn’t such a silly premise after all. In 2003, the entire principality of Liechtenstein was up for rent. The tiny country, which borders Switzerland and Austria, attempted a “rent-a-state” program sponsored by Xnet. The idea was to draw attention to the tourist-friendly charms of Liechtenstein by essentially “renting” the country’s hotels, restaurants, and sports stadiums en masse. (thx, colin)
Outside magazine recently asked a handful of nature photographers to discuss the most difficult shots they ever captured. Philipp Engelhorn selected a photograph taken on the frozen tundra of China:
Winters in northern Xinjiang, China, rival those in Siberia: Forty below zero is normal. We’d gone in the fall to find an eagle hunter and make a handshake deal to follow him. But when we actually showed up two months later, he told us he never expected us to return and had no time for us. So we did the worst thing ever and set out by horse-drawn sleigh across the frozen countryside to find an eagle hunter.
The images that accompany the article are incredible and make most day jobs look like an all-day pancake buffet.
The city looked even more spectacular from below. Open markets, store-lined streets, apartment complexes looking out over six story canyons carved into the earth; there was even a full scale amusement park-something long since banned above ground due to a series of weather-related accidents (the spontaneous freezing of gears, toddler-sized cyclones)-there were, in short, several areas obviously above-ground grade and legitimate, simple extensions of the city and catering to the well-intentioned classes. It was quite a surprise, Helen wasn’t sure what she’d expected. Darker streets, perhaps. And filth. But it all looked very similar to what was happening topside, only without the weather.
Busy seemed to read her mind. “There’s actually a major shift takin’ place,” he said thoughtfully. “We’ve been watching it for about a year now, but of course no one’s talking about it.”
Helen staggered around beneath the mirage in the wavy patterns people make while walking looking up. “You mean about how underground there’s no…” She tried, stupidly, to think of something delicate. “There’s no…”
“Bad guys?” Busy grinned. “Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but yeah, something like that.” He shuffled around, made his own wavy lines. “Yep. The city is actually flipping itself over.” The city churned above them like a maggoty carcass; they spun slowly beneath it like flies.
“Let me guess: the weather.”
“You got it, Miss H. Or at least that’s what everybody around here thinks.”
“Right. Well you’d assume.”
But it didn’t take too long to discover that the reversal, if one was indeed underway, was incomplete. Her eyes just hadn’t adjusted. It was like a first glance at the patch of picnic grass, when all you see is green, before you see the ants and the insects and all the little movements that together conspire to create an illusion of stasis, to lull you into sitting, laying out your food. Helen looked closer and longer and finally she found what, without having fully articulated it to herself, she’d been looking for: a bum bumming change on a street full of trash; a man being beaten outside a bar, broken glass from the window he’d been thrown through alive like sparks on the ground around him. Flashing lights, in several parts of the burrowing city, indicating alarms. Indicating crime. Busy came up beside her and they watched, together, as a woman’s purse was pulled from her arm with such force that she crumpled onto the sidewalk, banging down first on her knees and then full forward, arms splayed out to either side having been too weak to break her fall.
“Ouch,” Busy said.
As the purse snatcher ran Helen followed along with a middle finger posed to flick, and when he paused at a corner a high-gloss, manicured fingernail the size of a two story building plowed through him.
“Atta girl,” Busy said. The thief chose a direction and kept running. “Wanna see where we’re going?”
“Oh, right.” She’d almost forgotten. “Of course.”
“Well then!” Busy the dandy tour guide. “Well if I could, ah, direct madam’s attention to the far side of the room.” He did a little awkward jig and offered his arm with faux-gentlemanly suggestion.
Did he think, I found myself wondering at the time, that he had a chance with Helen? There were times when it seemed like he was distinctly trying to win Helen’s affection, to flirt. I bristled. There was no way in hell that Helen would stoop to that level, was there? She may have been below ground, but she was above its symbolic import. This man was just a means to an end. I comforted myself with small thoughts.
The unlikely pair walked the length of the city to Georgetown-once the industrial district and now the most fashionable part of town, teeming with glamorous tight-skinned items. The swirling mass swelled and swirled above them like an enormous upset stomach, and Rocket, still on their heels, nipped and yapped at its ironic bowels-those basements of the basements of the basements whose placement might normally indicate extreme old age, but which were instead the most recent additions to this backwards, unplanned project. They stopped in front of an above ground building no more than 10 stories. It was a classic post-modern job, with all the utilities on the outside: plumbing, ventilation, electric, all coursing down the unpolished metal structure like strangling vines. It was atrocious, really, but obviously expensive. The first floor of the building was home to a club called The Gamble, and a long line of people waiting to get in crowded the sidewalk out front.
“I thought we were going to visit the Muslim first,” said Helen, half-hoping that another decision had been made, that a decision had been made for her.
“Yep,” said Busy. He was absently staring at the people in front of the club. They were too small to see faces, but as Helen’s attention was drawn back to the crowd she realized that it wasn’t a typical club scene. Everyone was in sweatpants and sweaters, casual bags that turned their lithe bodies into lumps. A limo pulled up to the curb and a couple emerged from the vehicle in what looked like bathrobes, bumped through the crowd, and disappeared inside The Gamble.
“What is this,” Helen asked, “some kind of slumber party?”
“REMO,” said Busy dully.
Helen stared. “REMO,” she repeated.
“Yeah, these fuckin’ people,” he said, “these rich people just sit around and do REMO all night and, well, put it this way: ain’t no point in looking good if nobody’s looking, right? Plus, if you’re squirming around on the floor, or whatever you decide to do when you get remotional, you don’t wanna be wearing your Sunday best.”
“So this is a club where people just come to-“
“But I thought REMO was-“
“But so how do they-“
“Helen, dollface, you really gotta ask that?”
Helen felt dumb. In a city where cops visit a car-jacking operation just so they’ll be able to deny it for a high personal Buzz yield, what’s a little harmless REMO abuse among the rich?
They stared longer at the line. The people didn’t seem to be interacting at all, just standing there patiently. No one was let in.
“So why ‘The Gamble’?”
“And you’re sure this is where the Muslim lives.”
“I double checked. I really don’t know the deal, Miss H. We’ll just hafta go take a look.”
Rocket brushed up against Helen’s leg, and whined.
“Besides,” Busy continued, “it looks like your friend here’s either hungry or needs to be let out, or both.” He bent down and gave Rocket a rough but loving rub. “That right, Rocket? You ready to go?” The dog’s tail went to work. “Yes you are. Yes you are.” He stood back up. “First thing we gotta do,” he said as he started back for the lift that had brought them to the room’s lower level, “is go meet Blain.” Helen followed close behind. “He’s been looking into that warrant of yours so we know what we’re up against.”
“I’m really grateful,” began Helen, but Busy raised his hand without looking back.
“Helen, there ain’t no use being grateful. Like I said, if there weren’t something in it for me, I wouldn’t be doing it.”
“Right,” she said.
Helen couldn’t help but wonder if this, like the fake-not-fake fear of heights, wasn’t another instance of Busy trying to please his wife with extra Buzz production on the side, but she didn’t question it too far. Helpful or selfish, some friendly fate was obviously shining favorably on her small adventure, and she didn’t want to tempt or tease it. She’d come here on the strength of forces outside herself, and she’d come peacefully, releasing herself into the situation’s momentum with either trust, resignation, or both. To begin struggling now would upset the rhythm of her journey, would jinx it. She followed Busy back into and down the hallway, not wondering whether he’d led her that way before, just watching his interaction with Rocket, the muted movements of the two seeming almost abstract without sound. Their playful shapes had little rhythm, tumbled together and apart unpredictably, their collisions alternately slowing them down and speeding them up. She thought of the broiling image of Seattle she’d seen, and of the transition Busy claimed was taking place. Would people truly sacrifice the sky for safety, she wondered? Would they give up sunsets for their fear of storms? She had to admit that she didn’t find it altogether unpleasant underground. The stillness was profound. Words that when spoken above ground would scatter like they’d been waiting to be released were down here content to hang about one’s own head, or fall softly to the floor. Everything seemed more personal, intentional. If above ground was a handshake, being underground was a hug. Helen thought of her house, the metal shutters on the windows. She realized that she could barely picture it from the outside. She’d memorized the roof from above, satellite imagery having replaced her own ground-level view some time ago, but what it looked like from, say, the side, or the backyard, was a mystery. She seemed to recall a red front door. But it could just as well have been brown. It was a fucking door.
They’d been walking for perhaps five minutes when Busy stopped at a spot midway down a completely bare hallway, and pushed his fingers into the wall. Helen watched the tendons on the top of his hand dance under visible veins, and he glanced up at her, smiled, and stood back, brushing his arm well into the wall until it disappeared to just above his elbow.
“After you,” he mouthed.
Not quite used to this, Helen bent down, locked a finger around Rocket’s collar, then closed her eyes as she stepped through the wall. When she opened them she was standing in a large, open room with a hardwood floor filled with people sitting behind big wooden desks. It was nothing like any of the other rooms she’d seen in the shop, and in fact unlike any room she’d seen for years. It reminded her of high school, a little, the large columns throughout the room holding up a ceiling much higher than she could see reason for. The desks had each their own area, complete with a rolling chair on one side, a stationary chair on the other, a floor lamp, and a coat rack. There were green metal machines in the middle of each desk that looked like typewriters, but smaller, each one with a long thin arm that ran front to back. The people at the desks were rapidly typing into the machines, and at odd intervals pulling the handle toward them and letting it spring back to its rest position. Helen took her earplugs out, letting the racket of keys enter, and gazed across the open space, trying to take it in, until her eyes found what was undoubtedly the strangest thing about the room. The wall opposite her was home to a series of floor to ceiling windows so big she hadn’t noticed them at first. She could see that out beyond them was another wall of windows she couldn’t see beyond. Helen bent down to take out Rocket’s earplugs and turned up to Busy with a look of huh?
Busy gave the room an important look. “This is where we do the math,” he said heavily.
“Oh,” said Helen, “the math. I was wondering where that was done.”
Everywhere people sat and stood, walked across the room, descended a staircase to one side and brushed past others coming up. The people behind the desks-mostly men-accepted paperwork from people they barely glanced at, and handed them back small tabs-receipts?-which were taken, pocketed, and packed back down the stairs. The stream of people was constant, the number high, and the process seemingly quite efficient. No one sat for long. No one waited. Business was good.
“It’s also the legitimate side of the business,” Busy added.
“So these people are…”
“Just normal folks that need a good, old-fashioned accountant.”
They began walking down the side of the room and Helen saw that Blain was walking toward them. He appeared more relaxed than he’d been the last time she’d seen him, but he still wore a stern look that made Helen hope he wasn’t bearing any more bad news.
Blain started speaking just on the inside of earshot, his low but loud voice crawling under the high-pitched jitter of the adding machines. “We’re all set,” he began. He didn’t look at Helen. “You wanna…”
“Yeah,” said Busy.
“Then let’s go to the, ah,” Blain turned to Helen, “you got your mask?”
“Yes,” she said. She felt her bag for the object. “Yes,” she repeated.
Blain looked at her a moment, then turned and led them farther along the wall.
“So what can you tell us about Helen’s little legal problem?” Busy asked as they walked.
Helen stared out the enormous windows and tried to remind herself that she was still underground. It was light outside, though it was obviously not sunlight. It had a bluish tint which, though bright, had no warmth.
“Well, not much,” Blain said.
“Meaning, I guess, that there was either some sloppy paperwork behind the order, or someone doesn’t want people to know who’s behind it.”
“So everyone’s just following orders, in other words.”
Blain paused and looked back at Busy. “Guess so.”
“Good news is,” Blain continued, “it’s just a normal warrant, looks like. Nothing weird.”
“So the cops’ll-“
“Yeah, they won’t give a shit.”
They started to make for the middle of the room where the stairs were.
“Helen,” Busy said. He was walking behind her and to the side. She turned her head in acknowledgement. “I’m wondering if you want to bring Rocket along with you or not.” He let the statement sit for a second. “He’d be perfectly safe here with us if you wanna leave him.”
“Huh,” she said. Helen hadn’t even thought about the option of leaving Rocket. She’d assumed he’d come along. She thought about it as Blain guided them toward the stairs, and down. The lower level was a fraction of the size of the floor they’d been on, and looked more like a waiting room. There were couches along either wall, empty, and directly before them two large revolving doors that spun with people coming and going, fake palms to either side. She followed him to the foot of the stairs, Rocket at her feet and Busy close behind. She watched as the dog trotted around the room, sniffing things and glancing back to her after visiting each corner like a bomb-dog saying all clear. She didn’t want to leave Rocket anywhere.
“Rocket’s with me,” she said, turning to Busy and looking him in the eye.
Busy nodded. “Fair enough,” he said. “It’s just that-“
“You’re gonna halfta keep him on a leash,” Blain said.
Helen looked at Rocket, who wasn’t paying any attention.
“I don’t have one,” she said.
“Well then we’ll have to lend you one,” Busy bent in, warm.
It was clear which was the good cop. She wasn’t sure what Blain had against her, and frankly I don’t think it had anything to do with Helen. I think it was just a matter of inconvenience. Blain went along with this with a tired acceptance; he knew it would cause more trouble to fight it but he wasn’t therefore going to expend any more energy than necessary on the project, and was rather on the hunt for a good, sound reason to abandon it.
“You gonna let her use yours?” Blain asked.
“Yes,” Busy said, flatly.
“What about him?
“He’ll be okay is what he’ll be.” Busy turned to Helen. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a coiled line with a leather handle. He handed it to her. “Helen, what’s going to happen here is that Blain’s going to-“
“Blain?” Helen said, despite herself. She knew immediately that she shouldn’t have said it, that she sounded startled and upset.
“Helen, it’s okay,” Busy said. “Blain knows where you’re going, and he’ll take you there. He’s knows this city better than anyone I know.”
“Of course,” Helen avoided eye contact with Blain, but nodded in what she hoped was a humble way.
“I’ve got to take care of some things, but I’ll be meeting you out front of The Gamble in an hour or so and we’ll see if this Asseem’s the guy you’re looking for.”
Helen forced herself to look at Blain, who was looking at her dully. “Okay,” she said.
Though I had of course no way to know for certain, I liked hearing that Busy would meet back up with them. Blain’s apparent distaste for the whole errand made me itch. I’d never tracked anyone underground before, and if Blain short-cut them through any unpleasantness I was in for a long shift. Besides, the paperwork involved after even the most routine intervention is unbelievable.
Sometimes I wish I could drop the “job” part of watchjob, and just watch. No connection, no responsibility, nothing but me and Helen.
They took one step closer to the revolving doors, and Busy leaned down to give Rocket another rub. It was good to see Busy and Rocket get along. Helen considered it the most reliable sign that he was, in fact, on their side. How could he let anything happen to Rocket?
“You’re gonna want to put that mask on now, Helen,” Blain said.
She looked over at him and straight into the blank almond eyes of an AS-Mask, the forehead just beginning to disappear above his hairline. She nodded, and reached into her bag, pulling hers out too. She looked at Rocket.
“Rocket doesn’t like them,” she said, not expecting anything to change because of it.
Busy was still crouching beside the animal, and gave him a small squeeze. “He’ll get used to it, won’t you boy. Won’t you.” He nodded for her to put it on. “Yes you will. Yes you will.” Rocket’s tail wagged and he let out a brief, encouraging bark.
“It’s okay, Rocket,” she said in her most dog-optimistic tone. She grabbed the AS-Mask with both hands, and put it up to her face.
Borsch, sticky rice with sweet bean paste, duck cassoulet, and tvorog (Russian cottage cheese and nuts) are just a smattering of the culinary variety served up in space. On board the Discovery Space Shuttle, the various offerings reflect the amalgamation of nations that make up the ships temporary inhabitants. Recent Discovery visitor Danny Olivas brought a little American fare to the deck, perfecting the zero-g breakfast burrito. If you’re looking to spice up your food between the stars, be warned: salt and pepper are only available in liquid form.
Update: Nuts aren’t an essential ingredient of tvorog, and it’s actually not cottage cheese at all. The thickened dairy treat is a relative of German quark, and is consumed throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Its add-ins vary depending on location, but vanilla and fruit are popular additives in both the Netherlands and Germany.
Yu Hun Kim’s reading tray prevents coffee stains and crumb-filled spines. Part of a series called “Aids for Multi-Tasking,” the transparent, acrylic tray covers your magazine or book and features an indentation for your coffee mug. Imagine covering the surface in food and gradually eating your way through an article. But how do you turn a page?
Flying in the shape of a “v” allows geese to have an equal field of vision while conserving energy, using wingtip vortices to decrease any drag in flight. The bird in the front is working the hardest, but when the leader grows weary it rotates to a position farther back and allows another feathered pilot to take its place. This formation is so successful in conserving energy that birds who fly in “v” formations have been recorded to have lower heart rates than those who do not. If one of the birds flies out of formation, they will feel the increase in drag nudging them back into position. Perhaps most impressive, if a bird in the formation falls ill or is shot, two other birds will accompany it on the descent, aiding and protecting the injured bird until it either recovers or dies. The two helpful geese will then rejoin the formation.
We catch back up with the people we met in 2008, to see how they’ve fared over the last 18 months. We talk to Clarence Nathan, who in 2008 received a half million dollar loan that he said he wouldn’t have given himself; Jim Finkel, a Wall Street finance guy, who put together and managed complicated mortgage-based financial securities; Richard Campbell, the Marine who was facing foreclosure; and Glen Pizzolorusso, the mortgage company sales manager who led the life of a b-list celebrity.
One major problem dictionary editors face in defining sexual terms is deciding how explicit to be. Defining coitus as “an act of sexual intercourse” but leaving sexual intercourse undefined, for example (on the grounds that a reader could figure it out from the definitions of sexual and intercourse), would be a problem, not only because it makes the reader do too much page-flipping but also because the definitions probably still won’t be sufficiently clear.
The rest of the article, by Jesse Sheidlower, the editor-at-large of the Oxford English Dictionary, is deliciously vulgar and informative so be wary if you’re easily offended and don’t like information.
8-Bit Trip is the result of two brothers spending 1,500 hours moving LEGO bricks and taking pictures. An homage to 1980s video-games, it’s considered by many to be the greatest among the micro-genre of LEGO music videos, sometimes known as brickfilms. Originally made famous by director Michel Gondry for his work with the White Stripes, these block-by-block masterpieces are now being put to more use than just trippy visuals for killer beats, recently there was a LEGO PSA for bicyclists, warning against the dangers of running red lights.
Dave Nunley is a food phobic in the UK who has primarily subsisted on grated cheddar cheese since birth. Although he’s eating up to three times the amount of fat recommended for the average diet, he seems to be in fairly good health, save for a vitamin B deficiency.
This isn’t as uncommon as you might think. Unlike fad diets that eschew one corner of the food pyramid for another, food phobia is an actual fear-based aversion to a particular kind of vittle, either due to taste, association, or texture. The disorder, which psychologists believe has links to obsessive compulsive disorder, can lead to nutritional deficits, a compromised immune system, and a lot of awkwardness at dinner parties. Orthorexia, a similar condition, is an obsession with healthful eating that can at times become so severe that it leads to anorexia, but food phobics find their meals dominated by their fear. Ironically, legendary egg-shaped director Alfred Hitchcock was an admitted ovophobe, and was “revolted” by eggs.
Update: It seems the Brits have cornered the market on uncovering food phobias. The show Freaky Eaters on BBC Three documents individuals with such severely restricted eating that they avoid certain food groups altogether. The show aims to help each person overcome their aversions and adopt a healthy diet.
Update: Another British export is the website Adult Picky Eaters, which aims to provide a forum and self-help information for those struggling with food issues. The author also documents her struggle with picky eating, and the comments on the site are pretty revealing.
The ball used contains a beeping device that is loud enough to aid in sightless location. The six players on the field are helped by a sighted pitcher, who announces “pitch” or “ball” as they toss to a sighted catcher. Batters are allowed four strikes and one pass, but the fourth swing must be a clear, defined miss. The game has six innings, the standard three outs per inning, and two bases, not three. Baseball’s traditional tile-like bases are replaced with padded cylinders that stand four feet tall and give off a distinct buzz once activated. The batter doesn’t know which base will be activated, but must run to whichever sounds, tackling the base before defense has a chance to field the ball. If the runner makes it in time, a run is scored. Two sighted “spotters” also play the field and call out which direction the ball has headed using a system based on numbers assigned to each outfielder. Spotters can only announce one number, and the outfielders must communicate with each other to locate the ball. Cheering is discouraged because it interferes with play.
Update: A recent article from the Wall Street Journal documented the West Coast Dogs and their quest to win the World Series of beep baseball.
A skier with a video camera on his helmet gets caught in an avalanche and then, four and a half minutes later, gets rescued. The good stuff starts around one minute in.
This was a decent sized avalanche. 1,500 feet the dude fell in a little over 20 seconds. The crown was about 1 - 1.5m. The chute that he got sucked through to the skier’s right was flanked on either side by cliff bands that were about 30m tall. He luckily didn’t break any bones and obviously didn’t hit anything on the run out.
I had always assumed — and this is likely based almost entirely on an episode of The Simpsons — that you had options when buried by an avalanche…like digging yourself out or at least being able to move. Not so says the Utah Avalanche Center FAQ:
It doesn’t matter which way is up. You can’t dig yourself out of avalanche debris. It’s like you are buried in concrete. Your friends must dig you out.
The FAQ contains a story by the director of the UAC about surviving an avalanche of his own; he confirms the concrete-like hardness of post-avalanche snow.
But after a long while, after I was about to pass out from lack of air, the avalanche began to slow down and the tumbling finally stopped. I was on the surface and I could breathe again. But as I bobbed along on the soft, moving blanket of snow, which had slowed from about 50 miles per hour to around 30, I discovered that my body was quite a bit denser than avalanche debris and it tended to sink if it wasn’t swimming hard. […] Eventually, the swimming worked, and when the avalanche finally came to a stop I found myself buried only to my waist, breathing hard, very wet and very cold.
I remembered from the avalanche books that debris instantly sets up like concrete as soon as it comes to a stop but its one of those facts that you don’t entirely believe. But sure enough, everything below the snow surface was like a body cast. Barehanded, (the first thing an avalanche does is rip off your hat and mittens) I chipped away at the rock-hard snow with my shovel for a good 5 minutes before I could finally work my legs free.
Nothing like a little science on the Moon, I always say.
Astronaut David Scott in 1971, from the Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Journal. Scott was part of the Apollo 15 crew, and applied Galileo’s findings about gravity and mass by testing a falcon feather and a hammer. The film, shown in countless high school physics classes, is the nerdy, oft-neglected cousin of Neil Armstrong’s space paces.
A new study concludes that babies and dogs do not have an advanced ability to read social cues, but that wolves do. Using a hiding-and-finding game, scientists at University of Iowa and Indiana University have concluded that babies and dogs are distracted by social cues such as adults’ facial expressions and vocal interactions, and that they don’t have a unique or enhanced ability to recall where an object is hidden simply based on social cues alone. Wolves, and older babies, performed better in the study, and were more capable of remembering where the object was hidden. Professor John Spencer, who was at the helm of the research, understands that this could be a difficult fact for parents and pet owners to accept.
“In our view, this is something to celebrate — that we can bring social cognition together with basic cognitive processes. The downside, of course, is that infants, and by analogy dogs, don’t have a special mind-reading ability. For some people, that’s an unpleasant pill to swallow.”
The study was in direct response to one from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences last year, which had found that babies were quite apt at object recall based when the experimenters interacted with them. The oppositional findings raise an interesting question when it comes to our newest arrivals’ cleverness. It remains to be seen how good wolves are at Memory.
Internet, meet Ardi, the newest member of the human branch of the primate family tree.
Or rather, the oldest. Discovered in Ethiopia in 1994, Ardi is a 4.4 million-year-old partial skeleton of a female Ardipithecus ramidus.
The fossil puts to rest the notion, popular since Darwin’s time, that a chimpanzee-like missing link — resembling something between humans and today’s apes — would eventually be found at the root of the human family tree. Indeed, the new evidence suggests that the study of chimpanzee anatomy and behavior — long used to infer the nature of the earliest human ancestors — is largely irrelevant to understanding our beginnings.
Ardi instead shows an unexpected mix of advanced characteristics and of primitive traits seen in much older apes that were unlike chimps or gorillas. As such, the skeleton offers a window on what the last common ancestor of humans and living apes might have been like.
This is a major discovery; Science is devoting a special issue to the find with 11 detailed peer-review papers and general summaries. I expect we’ll be hearing more about this in the coming weeks as all that science filters through the lay media. (thx, jeff)
Here’s the abstract of a new paper seeking to explain Superman’s powers.
Since Time immemorial, man has sought to explain the powers of Kal-El, a.k.a. Superman. Siegel et al. Supposed that His mighty strength stems from His origin on another planet whose density and as a result, gravity, was much higher than our own. Natural selection on the planet of krypton would therefore endow Kal El with more efficient muscles and higher bone density; explaining, to first order, Superman’s extraordinary powers. Though concise, this theory has proved inaccurate. It is now clear that Superman is actually flying rather than just jumping really high; and His freeze-breath, x-ray vision, and heat vision also have no account in Seigel’s theory.
In this paper we propose a new unfied theory for the source of Superman’s powers; that is to say, all of Superman’s extraordinary powers are manifestation of one supernatural ability, rather than a host. It is our opinion that all of Superman’s recognized powers can be unified if His power is the ability to manipulate, from atomic to kilometer length scales, the inertia of His own and any matter with which He is in contact.
Livermush is a combination of pig scraps and cornmeal, and inhabits some culinary purgatory between meatloaf and corndog. Brought to the South in the 1700s by resourceful German immigrants who migrated from the Northern colonies, true livermush contains at least 30% pig parts and uses cornmeal as the binding ingredient. It is often fried like a patty and served in sandwich form, with mayo, lettuce, and tomato. Many people confuse livermush with liver pudding, and although the distinction between the two is somewhat vague, it’s generally accepted that liver mush is the meal to the west of the Yadkin River, while liver pudding is the staple snack of the east.
Once a cornerstone of North Carolinian cuisine, there are signs that this “working man’s staple” is dropping off menus. It appears that only five commercial producers are still churning out the meat mixture all of them family-owned and operated, all of them in North Carolina. Jerry Hunter, a livermush manufacturer in the town of Marion, laments the recent downturn.
“We’re still running a fairly good volume, but a whole lot of us wish we could see better times. It’s not just livermush. All of us is struggling to stay in existence.”
Not everyone is forgetting about livermush. Areas like Marion have begun hosting livermush festivals, hoping to create a resurgence. Perhaps it just needs a few high-profile sponsors to bolster its gustatory delights. To start, the wife of former Cleveland Indians first baseman Jim Thome was asked what he was going to miss most after being acquired by Philadelphia, and she answered, “Livermush.”
Update: Liver lovers rejoice, various forms similar to the ‘mush are alive and well. Goetta is a German ground meat and oat loaf that is also referred to as “Cincinnati caviar,” due to its popularity in the area.
Update: And Mr. Thorme hopefully discovered the Philadelphia equivalent of livermush, known as scrapple. A mixture of pork bits and cornmeal, this combination is enhanced with flour, buckwheat, and spices.
Update: In Northwest Ohio they have a livermush-like mixture that’s sold in brick form. It’s called grits, though it’s different from the corn-based breakfast porridge that’s also known as southern, or hominy, grits.
A quick how-to summary of the daring and thus-far successful robbery of a Stockholm cash depot by helicopter last week. Sounds like something out of a movie. From the CNN report, this is the best part:
Swedish police couldn’t pursue the thieves because a bag marked “bomb” had been placed outside the police heliport, and officers had to deal with the bag before they could enter the heliport. It is unclear whether the bag contained a bomb.
Unclear? Really? I’m surprised the bag didn’t say ACME on the side of it.
The art of Sandhi Schimmel Gold is junk. The artist uses junk mail to create semi-mosaic’ed handmade portraits. Using advertising ephemera and all kinds of textures and colors, she’s constructed representations of Frank Sinatra, Kurt Vonnegut, Jackie O, and Audrey Hepburn, among others. She combines painting with collage to render faces that are unbelievably detailed and realistic. If you want to see what Schimmel would do with your visage you can commission a piece. I’d like to see my neighbor’s mug constructed from of all of his Cabela’s catalogs that find themselves in my mailbox.
A tree in Baltimore recently was bestowed with its sweater for the colder months. Local knitters constructed a garment specifically for the tree, with the only restriction being that they had to use white, green, and purple yarn. The latest sweater replaces last year’s style, which was removed for the dog days.
“We actually made a little bikini for it for the summer, but it fell apart.”
The sweater tree is an example of a growing urban phenomenon called yarn bombing, aka yarnstorming or graffiti knitting. Yarn bombing is believed to have its roots in Texas, where it was invented as a way for knitters to creatively utilize their unfinished knitting projects. Common targets are telephone poles, trees, and banisters, but in Mexico City, yarn bombers aimed their knitting needles at a more ambitious endeavor: a yarn-covered bus.
Update: It appears that yarnbombing has reached the streets of Dunsborough, a fairly rural area of Western Australia. Wrapped, a collective of knitters between the ages of 8 and 87, has taken over the streets with their purled pieces. In September, the group got together and crafted wraps, pom-poms, and finger knittings that are being placed on signs, trees, and poles by a group of “knitting taggers” during the month of October. Their goal is to promote knitting events in the area, and to make a difference in the community by spreading woolly good will. The sweater swaths have tags affixed that direct the viewer to their website where they outline the project.