Entries for May 2010 (June 2010 »    July 2010 »    August 2010 »    Archives)

 

ClutterpadMAY 28

Big thanks to this week's RSS sponsor, Clutterpad, an feature-rich online project management and collaboration tool. They offer plans for individual users working on one project (which are free, BTW), small organizations with dozens of projects, or corporations with thousands of projects. Clutterpad's feature set includes calendars, to-do lists, chat rooms, in-app messaging, time tracking, and file upload/download. Get started with a one-month free trial today.

What to think about when thinking about sewingMAY 28

Erin McKean on What I Think About When I Think About Sewing:

6. Visualization. Where will I wear this dress? Who will be there? Will I wear it once, or over and over again? Will I blog it?

7. Shoes. Which ones? Do I already own them? Would this dress require shoes that do not, in fact, actually exist? (E.g., every pair of boots I've ever wanted.) Do I have a pair of shoes in a weird color that I need to make a dress to match? Am I looking for an excuse to buy a new pair of shoes in a weird color? (Lather, rinse, repeat for "Coat" and "Bag".)

McKean is perhaps better known as a lexicographer...I like her McKean's Law:

Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling, or typographical error.

Taming Manhattan's trafficMAY 28

In an attempt to eliminate Manhattan's travel inefficiencies and encourage more use of public transportation, Charles Komanoff spent three years creating an Excel spreadsheet (you can download it here) that details "the economic and environmental impact of every single car, bus, truck, taxi, train, subway, bicycle, and pedestrian moving around New York City". Based on that research, he's come up with a plan for changing how transportation is paid for in Manhattan below 60th St. (the CBD or central business district).

It would charge $3 to cars entering the CBD on weekday nights, $6 for most of the day, and $9 during rush hour. The subway fare also varies, but is always less than the $2.25 it is today: $1 at night, rising to $1.50 as day breaks, and peaking at $2 during weekday rush hours. Buses are always free, because the time saved when passengers aren't fumbling for change more than makes up for the lost fare revenue. Komanoff's plan also imposes a 33 percent surcharge on every taxi ride, 10 percent of which would go to the cab driver and the rest to the city.

Komanoff's plan is vastly more sophisticated than a simple bridge toll. Instead of merely punishing drivers, he has built a delicate system of incentives and revenue streams. Just as a musical fugue weaves several melodic lines into a complex yet harmonious whole, Komanoff's policy assembles all the various modes of transportation into a coherent, integrated traffic system.

Report on online newspapers, circa 1981MAY 28

To go along with James Fallows' 1982 report on personal computing, a 1981 TV report about reading newspapers online.

It takes over two hours to recieve the entire text of the newspaper over the phone and with an hourly use charge of five dollars, the new telepaper won't be much competition for the 20-cent street edition.

The report was done back in the days when "Owns Home Computer" was a useful differentiating label.

Owns Home Computer

(via @aliotsy)

New NYC subway mapMAY 28

Next month, the MTA will release a new subway map. The NY Times has a look at the new map.

The new subway map makes Manhattan even bigger, reduces Staten Island and continues to buck the trend of the angular maps once used here and still preferred in many other major cities. Detailed information on bus connections that was added in 1998 has been considerably shortened.

Manhattan will be shown on the map as nearly twice as wide as in real life. Cut back on the chili-cheese fries, my friend!

Grocery shopping with the iPadMAY 28

FreshDirect is an online grocery store that delivers in the NYC area. I needed to do an order this morning, so I downloaded their iPhone app on my iPad and discovered that grocery shopping is one of those things that the iPad is *perfect* for (an it would be more perfect with a native iPad app). You just take the thing into the kitchen with you, rummage through the cabinets & fridge, and add what you need to your FD shopping cart. Then you take the it with you around the rest of the house (the bathroom, the garage, the pantry in the basement) adding needed supplies as you go. It inverts the usual "wander around the grocery store searching for items" shopping practice; instead you wander about the house looking for what you need.

Obviously the iPhone would work for this as well, but a tablet-sized device is generally better at these sorts of tasks: activities where your attention is shifted back and forth between the screen and something else (or shared between two people). The iPhone is a greedy little thing; it's better for tasks that require your full attention on the screen.

The unitasking lifestyleMAY 28

An overstimulated A.J. Jacobs ditches multitasking for a month and does just one thing at a time.

I've got to do something about my desk. This is where most of my crimes against focus occur. There are so many temptations. So many needs to fulfil. Snacks, cups of water, caffeine, curiosity about what Julie's doing. I pop up from my desk once every five minutes.

I decide to engage in some light bondage. I once read about how Odysseus demanded his sailors tie him to the mast so he wouldn't take a swan dive off the starboard side when he heard the alluring singing of the Sirens. So, in an homage, I've tied myself to the chair in front of my computer with a long extension cord. It feels safe, like a seat belt.

Report on personal computers from 1982MAY 27

This James Fallows article from the July 1982 issue of The Atlantic Monthly is a wonderful technological time capsule. Fallows purchased a PC early in the 80s for use as a word processor.

For a while, I was a little worried about what they would come up with, especially after my father-in-law called to ask how important it was that I be able to use both upper- and lower-case letters. But finally, for a total of about $4,000, Optek gave me the machinery I have used happily to this day.

In the early days of personal computing, there were many competing machines, processors, operating systems manufactured by a number of companies. The PC Fallows bought was a crazy-quilt of a machine -- the monitor was made by Ball Corporation (the canning supplies company) and the printer was a converted IBM Selectric typewriter -- and was soon obsolete.

If I had guessed right, my brand, the Processor Technology SOL, would have caught on, and today I'd have the equivalent of a Mercedes-Benz instead of a Hupmobile. I'd be able to buy new programs at the computer store, and I'd be able to plug in to all the over-the-phone services. But I guessed wrong, and I'm left with a specimen of an extinct breed. When I need new programs, I try to write them myself, and when I have a breakdown, I call the neighborhood craftsman, Leland Mull, who lovingly tends the dwindling local population of SOL-20s.

How to enjoy your foodMAY 27

Don't let the title of the article ("How to be a food snob") throw you off; it offers solid advice for anyone who wants to enjoy eating more.

Keep a food diary not of what you eat but what you experience. She says, "There's a pretty big difference between eating and tasting."

What she means is considering and taking note of the entire experience of tasting: The way the food feels in your mouth, what your beer smells like cold and if it's different when it's lukewarm, what you notice with the first piping-hot bite of sauce compared with the last chilled streaks you scrape up before the server takes the plate. Do you feel one sensation more than others as you chew, a citrusy tingle at first, followed by rush of sweet?

(via @tcarmody)

Velcro + iPad = loveMAY 27

Affix Velcro to the back of your iPad and you've got yourself a dashboard GPS map, a TV on the ceiling, an on-stove cooking guide, or a digital picture in your front hallway.

Hypersonic: more super than supersonicMAY 27

The US Air Force, Pratt & Whitney, and Boeing are jointly developing a hypersonic aircraft that can travel faster than existing cruise missiles. It's powered by a crazy-sounding "air-breathing hypersonic engine that has virtually no moving parts" and reached a speed of 3500 mph in a recent test.

"This is truly transformational technology," Brink said. "This engine can be considered the next step in aviation. It's as big of leap as it was when we went from propellers to jet engines."

You can read more about scramjet engines on Wikipedia. (via @bldgblog)

Make your own MondrianMAY 27

Composition with JavaScript is a Piet Mondrian painting with moveable lines and changeable colors so that you can make your own version.

Composition with Javascript is an interactive work made using HTML, CSS, Javascript and jQuery, based on Piet Mondrian's "Composition with Yellow, Red, Black, Blue and Grey" (1920). It allows everybody deconstruct the original painting and form it again in whatever he or she wants. Lines are shiftable (just drag it with your mouse) and colours changeable (click on it). Texture of the painting was preserved for authentic look. One can play with composition, forms and colours, alter the harmony of the piece or even destroy it and compose something pictorial.

Riding on nuclear bombsMAY 27

Slim Pickens riding a nuclear bomb out of the bay doors of his B-52 Bomber in Dr. Strangelove is an iconic cinematic scene. But the imagery of people riding on bombs has been used on comic book covers since the early 1940s:

Bomb Riding

That's some mighty Pickensian hat wavin' by Uncle Sam. (via oobject)

rating: 4.0 stars

The Truman ShowMAY 26

The Truman Show delusion is how some psychiatrists are describing the condition of psychotic patients who believe they are filmed stars of reality TV programs.

Another patient traveled to New York City and showed up at a federal building in downtown Manhattan seeking asylum so he could get off his reality show, Dr. Gold said. The patient reported that he also came to New York to see if the Twin Towers were still standing, because he believed that seeing their destruction on Sept. 11 on television was part of his reality show. If they were still standing, he said, then he would know that the terrorist attack was all part of the script.

As for the movie itself, for all its popularity and critical success when released, it's little-remembered today. And unfairly so; the "realness" about our increasingly mediated lives remains a hot topic of debate.

A simpler bankMAY 26

BankSimple sounds promising...I hope they are able to deliver.

BankSimple is an easy, intuitive, and social bank for people who appreciate simple online services. Unlike other banks, we don't trap you with confusing products nor do we charge any hidden fees. No overdraft fees. We use sophisticated analytics to help you better manage your finances by providing you an individualized service, catered to your needs and goals.

It's a return to how banks used to make money before they started charging fees for everything: charge more for borrowing than you pay out in savings interest. From the BankSimple FAQ:

We make money from two sources: interchange and interest margin. Interest margin is the revenue earned from lending, less what they pay on deposits. For example a bank may charge a customer 12% to borrow money, but pay 5% interest on a savings account. The difference, less any defaults on the loan, is revenue to the bank. Interchange is a small revenue source that card issuing banks earn whenever that card is used at a store. Typically banks earn less than 1% for each time the card is used to make a purchase. These are both great revenue streams, but banks got greedy and started charging additional fees to bolster their revenue. Our operation is low cost, so we don't need to rely on extraneous fee revenue.

Early Twitter employee Alex Payne recently left to co-found BankSimple. See also Square (which was also co-founded by a Twitter alum).

How to save the news businessMAY 26

There's lots of good stuff in this long James Fallows article about Google's now-intense interest in the health of journalism. In short, Google feels obligated from a business perspective to help serious news organizations put good information online so that people can find it through Google.

There really is no single cause," I was told by Josh Cohen, a former Web-news manager for Reuters who now directs Google's dealings with publishers and broadcasters, at his office in New York. "Rather, you could pick any single cause, and that on its own would be enough to explain the problems-except it's not on its own." The most obvious cause is that classified advertising, traditionally 30 to 40 percent of a newspaper's total revenue, is disappearing in a rush to online sites. "There are a lot of people in the business who think that in the not-too-distant future, the classified share of a paper's revenue will go to zero," Cohen said. "Stop right there. In any business, if you lose a third of your revenue, you're going to be in serious trouble."

Some Sassy scansMAY 26

The Style Rookie gets ahold of a bunch of old issues of Sassy and scans in a couple dozen pages, including a fashion layout featuring Sassy intern Chloë Sevigny.

Sassy Chloe

Sassy seems to be one of those rare magazines that is dearly missed but doesn't really have a modern day analogue. (See also Might and Spy.)

A pixel art documentaryMAY 26

Pixel is a short documentary film exploring the artistic use of pixel-style animation in contemporary video games.

(via waxy)

Twitter is expanding shortened URLsMAY 26

I've recently noticed Twitter's search is finding keyword matches in shortened URLs. So if http://kottke.org/tag/Pixar is hidden behind something like http://bit.ly/r3H8Aq in a tweet, a search for "pixar" will pick it up. Which means that Twitter is unpacking shortened URLs. Which means that they could be displaying original URLs in their interface and pushing them out via the API for use in third-party Twitter apps. URL shorteners still suck, so how about it guys? Or are you not really interested in the long-term health and value of your service? (This will probably never happen, BTW. Twitter and bit.ly are partners and share investors. Plus, people are using shorteners for click tracking and whatnot so we're likely stuck with them. But I still believe that outsourcing the long-term viability of your URLs in exchange for a little bit of information is a devilish deal.)

Monday puzzle time!MAY 25

Here's the entire text of a talk given at math, magic, and puzzle gathering (attendees included Stephen Wolfram and John Horton "Game of Life" Conway) by Gary Foshee:

I have two children. One is a boy born on a Tuesday. What is the probability I have two boys?

The first thing you think is "What has Tuesday got to do with it?" Well, it has everything to do with it.

The key word in the puzzle is "probability", which is not a very well understood term outside of the mathematics community. The full answer is at the end of the article.

Unanswered Lost questionsMAY 25

I am glad that someone compiled a list of all of the unanswered questions that the Lost producers/writers left when the show ended.

I don't really care about the answers to most of these but watching it irritates me that they jerked us around with the Dharma/Others/Walt/4-toed statue crap when it didn't matter at all. Oh, and the fucking numbers and the whole ARG thing. "All of this matters", Jack? Uh, no.

The Big CaptionMAY 25

The Big Caption is a companion site of sorts for The Big Picture "wherein jokes and statments are made using typography". A representative sample:

Big Caption

The children's menu: the death of civilizationMAY 25

A restaurant owner opines on the importance of the dining experience.

Mr. Marzovilla welcomes young children at his restaurant, even discounts their meals on Sunday evenings, and is not above serving a simple appetizer portion of pasta to please little ones. But he has strong opinions about food, and about the messages parents convey to their offspring through what they eat. Children's menus aim too low, he argues -- they're a parenting crutch.

Thanks, Aaron and BuzzfeedMAY 25

That maps post snuck out this morning before I could properly thank Aaron Cohen for for his exemplary handling of kottke.org for the past week++. From what I hear, many of you enjoyed his time here and I'm hoping he'll join us again soon. I'm looking forward to catching up on what he posted.

While I'm thinking about it, I'd like to acknowledge my pals at Buzzfeed for their continued behind-the-scenes support of kottke.org. I've been working out of their Chinatown office for several years; having a desk outside the house makes all the difference for this sole proprietor. They just moved into new offices in Soho (within walking distance of my house!); I haven't been there yet and am looking forward to checking them out today.

Ok, enough Oscar speech crap. Back to work.

Ten maps that changed the worldMAY 25

The head of the map collections department at the British Library shares ten maps that changed the world.

5. Google Earth. Google Earth presents a world in which the area of most concern to you (in this instance, Avebury in Wiltshire) can be at the centre, and which - with mapped content overlaid - can contain whatever you think is important. Almost for the first time, the ability to create an accurate map has been placed in the hands of everyone, and it has transformed the way we view the world.

Updates on previous entries for May 24, 2010*MAY 25

Playable version of Pac Man on Google.com orig. from May 21, 2010

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

Mark Twain's AutobiographyAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 24

Mark Twain's will stipulated that his autobiography remain unpublished for 100 years after his death, the 100th anniversary of which was April 21st. In November, the University of California Press will release the first volume of what's anticipated to be a rip roaring good time.

Although parts of the autobiography have appeared in previous biographies of the author, Hirst said that over half of it had never been published before. Running to half a million words, the trilogy of books will cover Twain's relationship with his secretary Isabel van Kleek Lyon, his religious doubts and his criticisms of Theodore Roosevelt.

More information here.

Nightmare scenarioAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 24

One of the vehicles involved in a deadly car crash in Minnesota today was a truck carrying bees. First responders to the scene faced what was described as a "big black cloud" of bees. Firefighters were spraying the trucks with hoses to subdue the bees because they don't fly in the rain (the bees, not the trucks). I can only imagine a few things worse than this, one of which is an accident involving a truck full of sharks.

The truck that crashed carried upwards of 17 million bees; each of the trucks carried 700 hives, with about 25,000 bees per hive, said Dale Bauer of Bauer Honey Inc. of Fertile, Minn. The bees were being shipped to North Dakota after spending the winter in Mississippi. There was no immediate estimate of how many of the bees escaped.

Apple doesn't want a monopolyAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 24

Last week, Mike Davidson put up a post about Apple discussing the idea that having a ruthless company making great products is a good problem to have (compared to a ruthless company making so-so products). It got picked up by DF, but I flagged it in my RSS because of a section close to the bottom. I haven't seen this theory about Apple discussed before.

What's the best way to avoid becoming a monopoly? Make sure you never get close to 100% market share. What's the best way to temper your market share? Keep prices a bit higher than you could. Keep supply a bit lower than you could. Keep investing in high margin differentiation and not low margin ubiquity...They are fighting hard right now to make sure they are one of the two or three that will continue to be relevant in 5-10 years, but their goal is clearly not to be at 100% or even 90%...It's scary to people because they remember the harm other companies have done when they reached monopoly status, but with Google, Microsoft, Nokia, RIMM, and now HP all keeping the market healthy with different alternatives, there is no excuse for not voting with your feet if you're unhappy. Apple's not going to take over the world because -- if for no other reason -- the laws of the United States won't let them.

Twitter Bans Third-Party AdsAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 24

Via its blog, Twitter has just announced that it is banning third-party ad networks from using the Twitter API to insert ads into a user's stream.

"Why are we prohibiting these kinds of ads? First, third party ad networks are not necessarily looking to preserve the unique user experience Twitter has created. They may optimize for either market share or short-term revenue at the expense of the long-term health of the Twitter platform. For example, a third party ad network may seek to maximize ad impressions and click through rates even if it leads to a net decrease in Twitter use due to user dissatisfaction.

In other exciting news, Britney Spears has passed Ashton Kutcher as the most followed user on Twitter, so there's that.

Buddy Rich rantAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 24

The Metheny vs Kenny G post from the other day reminded me of my OTHER favorite piece of music history on the internet: yelling at his band. I think rant #3 is my favorite, followed closely by rant #2. Click through for audio AND transcripts, but be warned the audio is entirely NSFW unless you work in a place where angry drummers cussing out trombonists and bass players is appropriate. Then it's completely SFW.

Experimental rolling housingAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 24

If you've ever wanted to live in a rolling house that doesn't take up much space and even has space on the outside for advertising, get thee to the U of Karlsruhe (non-German link here).

This cyclindrical design is a modular protype that provides flexible space within a minimum housing unit. Three different sections are dedicated to different functional needs: there's a bed and table in section, an exercise cylinder, and a kitchen with a sink.

1274297030-741-750-500-528x352

Traditional media's adoption of social mediaAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 22

Think about the following platforms and when the first traditional media activity/participation occurred in that platform's history: Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Chatroulette. It was a shorter and shorter period for each platform.*

Let's call this the adoption half-life. It's a bastardization of Moore's Law, but the level of adoption required for a social platform to be covered as The Next Big Thing in social platforms will continue to decrease until NBT status is bestowed upon a platform used only by those in the media.

I'd been writing a post about this that wasn't coming out the way I wanted, so I shelved it until I saw The Onion's take on last fall's New York Times' take on Foursquare. Then I decided to jam 2 posts together.

The Onion sums this all up way more succinctly:

Aging, scared newspapermen throw themselves at the latest mobile technology trend in a humiliatingly futile attempt to remain relevant.

For his part, Foursquare founder, Dennis Crowley, had this to say:

Um, The Onion poking fun of @foursquare (and me). This is the greatest moment of my entire life.

*If someone has a LexisNexis account and can find the first mention of these platforms, I'd be grateful, but since this is the internet, I don't need sources, mirite?

Updates on previous entries for May 21, 2010*MAY 22

World's largest inflatable airship orig. from May 20, 2010
MetaFilter thread prevents human trafficking case orig. from May 21, 2010
How do you pronounce Zooey? orig. from May 21, 2010

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

Lost finale roundupAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 21

I get giddy around big television events. The Lost finale this weekend certainly qualifies and a big question is, "Will fans of the show be satisfied with how it ends?" From Seinfeld to the Sopranos (for different reasons), series finales have a history of being disappointing. In this way, it's almost easier when a show is canceled because then we get to blame the network as opposed to the writers. That said, I want to be satisfied Sunday. LOTS of other people are talking about Lost this week. Here's what some of them are saying:

Doc Jensen

I'm ready for the final chapter, ready to see how it sums up the season and brings the series to a close. I'm ready to watch meaning (which, to be clear, is different than answers)... But will the meaning leave us in despair, or take us into happily ever after?

TV Guide Magazine

What makes Lost so special is that it never spelled things out for us the way a normal TV show does. It defies formula in a medium that regularly rewards it. Lost asked us to get lost within the show and to be satisfied with being lost for most of its run. TV almost never operates that way.

NYTimes.com:

The show had one good season, its first. It was very, very good ...but none of the seasons since have approached that level, and the current sixth season, rushed, muddled and dull, has been the weakest.

NPR

To me, some of the trick of Lost has been that some things are important and some things aren't...And that doesn't bother me at all, because that's part of constructing a convincing universe.

Newsweek.com

I'm not saying there aren't major mysteries of Lost that I don't want solved...But I've accepted at this point that the running tally of questions I've had about the show will likely never be answered...I don't want them to be. Why? Because the answers would probably suck.

3 Lost Links: Lost Re-Enacted By Cats and I'll Never Be Lost Again, a hip hop homage, and this from the National Post.

Slate Magazine

Or perhaps the message will be that we should all find meaning in one another, instead of in some mystical riddle. (A swipe at religion? An affirmation of personal agency? A meta-critique of fans who take the show waaaay too seriously?)

The Atlantic

It's all going to come down to this: is this a story about fate or choice? All along, many clues left us thinking it was a matter of fate: the numbers, the crazy mainland connections, Jacob's touch...

Jezebel

The show really had a lot of ground to cover this season in order to satisfy its loyal fans, but I think we all knew deep down that we'd never really know everything. Still, we were thrown several bones of juicy Island lure...

io9

If you think of Lost as being one big novel...then the stuff that happened in Chapter Five ought to be meaningful in the final chapter. There ought to be a sense that everything was leading towards this ending...

NYMag

Nothing that was key in the early seasons...is even in play. Even the ambiguities of "Across the Sea" now seem like attempts to shade the battle between mustache-twirling, murderous Smokey and his limp, Jesus-y antagonist.

Sepinwall

And now we see that the writers have saved the explanation of the sideways universe for the finale. Even with all that extra time to play with, that seems like an awful lot to squeeze into the finale...I still find myself oddly trusting that they know what they're doing with this finale.

TIME

Inevitably, any answers we get from this point on will satisfy some people and not others.

The Watcher

Did their deaths have meaning or were they just more victims of the seemingly endless battle between the Man in Black/Smockey and Jacob? This episode started the process of claiming that their deaths did indeed have meaning...

The Boston Globe

For a drama that traffics in philosophy, religious allegory, physics, and literary references from Jane Austen to Kurt Vonnegut, "Lost'' has a decidedly B-movie feel. After the remarkably cinematic 2004 pilot episode, set immediately after the Oceanic 815 plane crash, the adventure has been pretty schlocky.

Zap2it

With only two and a half hours to go, there's simply no way for the show to answer every lingering mystery still up for discussion. I'm not entirely sure that's a bug as a much as a feature.

WSJ.com

If we give the writers a little grace and extend some patience, the suspense leading up to the finale of this television show could teach us something about faith in general.

Defamer

We propped up the show with our eyeballs, our blog posts, our participation in those agonizing summertime internet Easter egg hunts. They created the whole thing, out of nothing...Let them end it their way.

LATimes.com

For years series were canceled and disappeared without ceremony, but nowadays...it is more usual to aim for some sort of closure. (Just as it's become more common, in life, to think we need it.)

KansasCity.com

If we were to do a poll on which of the three retiring shows will have the longest and strongest afterlife, I'd bet the winner would be "Lost." Of course, the poll would be conducted on the Internet, which is sagging under the load of commentary...

Best Week Ever

What They Died For Better Not Be That Stupid Light

PopMatters

Now I'm just holding on for whatever may come. As long as it isn't a snow globe in an autistic child's hand, I'll be okay.

USATODAY.com

Fates will be decided, questions will be answered, and one of TV's greatest series...will come to its conclusion. Not since The Fugitive, one suspects, has a series finale been greeted with such anticipation, and such dread.

MetaFilter thread prevents human trafficking caseAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 21

This MetaFilter thread from Wednesday/Thursday is a gripping/crazy/thrilling real-time look at an internet community coming together to prevent two Russian women from getting trafficked into a likely life of unpaid prostitution. It's impossible to describe appropriately and I suggest you read through all the way. THIS is why they made the internet.

On Wednesday afternoon, a friend of one of the women (himself in the process of driving from Wyoming to LA) posted a message to MetaFilter asking for help. The women started in DC and took a bus to New York where they were supposed to get hostessing jobs at a bar on Coney Island. By the time the two women got on the bus, they were refusing to communicate with their friend anymore, but luckily took a call from another community member who convinced them to party with her instead. Just wow.

Update:: Some more details about the woman that convinced the girls not to go to the club. MeFi members have sent $3,500 to her to help the women. (via @ryansholin)

How do you pronounce Zooey?AARON COHEN  ·  MAY 21

I just read J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, and in discussing it, I got to wondering about the pronunciation of Zooey. I couldn't find any record of Salinger discussing the pronunciation, so no one really knows how it's supposed to sound. This Live Journal post has a few comments from people certain it rhymes with showy. It also has a few comments from people certain it rhymes with dewy. MetaFilter was also non-conclusive. Is it possible the internet doesn't know?

Actress Zooey Deschanel is named after the book title, but pronounces her name Zoe. However, when asked about Salinger's pronunciation, Deschanel said "I don't really care what Salinger says about my name. It's my name." So let's take her with a grain of salt.

For my money, I'm going with Zooey as in Zoo-y. If you want an analytical reason why, I'll go with doubting the meticulous Salinger would have used the word "Phooey" in the book if the pronunciation was Zoe. If you find certain evidence otherwise, let me know.

Comments for this thread are open for a bit. I swear you guys, I'm going to be moderating, and if there's any trouble, I'll turn this comment section right around.

Update:
Via Jeremy Stahl in the comments, a disappointing end to the argument.

School vending machines getting healthierAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 21

Changes in regulations governing school vending machines by states like New York and California are making healthy options more prominent. This is a good thing.

This spring the Alliance for a Healthier Generation reported an 88 percent decrease in beverage calories shipped to schools from the first half of 2004-05 to 2009-10, mostly due to calorie reformulations and reduced container sizes.

(via Carrie Becker)

Playable version of Pac Man on Google.comAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 21

Please go to Google.com. The Pac Man homage logo is a playable version of Pac Man. PLAYABLE! Hitting "Insert Coin" lets you play...another game. Holy crap. I think this is why they made the internet.

tumblr_l2rzfsLG171qzniqdo1_500

(via Agent M Loves Tacos)

Update:
Google has made their Pac Man game permanent. (Thanks, APIK)

Write the futureAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 21

If this doesn't make you feel a little tingly, you're probably going to want to go on vacation from June 11 - July 11.

The 50 Greatest Hip Hop Samples Of All TimeAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 21

This breaks a few of the rules on my list of Rules for Lists, but I'm a sucker for hip hop samples.

(via waxy)

Biking in UtrechtAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 20

I couldn't tell exactly what I loved about that skateboarding video the other night, but I figured out it reminded me of the Danny MacAskill video from last year that you really should have seen by now. I went fruitlessly looking for a bike video that might have the same feeling and then this showed up in my feed this morning and I figured it could be what takes you through the night (play your favorite song while watching).

I've watched it 3 times and I still can't figure out how those left turns into our face work.

(via nevver)

Star on planet violence on the riseAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 20

A new Hubble discovery was announced today and it's not for the faint of heart. At least, that is, if you care deeply about mysterious exoplanets 600 light years away.

WASP-12b is orbiting a sun-like yellow dwarf star 600 light-years away and it has such a tight orbit (of only 1.1 days) that it is being roasted to nearly 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit. This superheated state has caused the doomed exoplanet to puff up to nearly twice the size of Jupiter.

WASP-12b is in trouble and there's no Willis/Affleck/Bay mission planned to save it. That said, it's going to take about another 10 million years for WASP-12b to be totally eaten, so it has time to cross a few things off its bucket list.

Duck You Sucker: An Intro to Spaghetti WesternsAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 20

Today's entry in the A.V. Club's Gateways to Geekery series is Spaghetti Westerns. Want to get into Spaghetti Westerns, but feeling a little sheepish (If God didn't want them sheared, he wouldn't have made them sheep) about not knowing where to start? Gateways to Geekery suggests A Fistful of Dollars.

It's an adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's cynical samurai masterpiece Yojimbo, which was itself inspired by Dashiell Hammett's noir classic Red Harvest. And thus, an American TV actor became a movie star playing a cowboy for an Italian director working in Spain looking to a Japanese interpretation of an American crime novel for inspiration. It really is a small world after all, or at least a world pop culture helped make smaller.

You might also be interested in the Gateways to Geekery take on David Foster Wallace.

(via oh yes, radishes)

World's largest inflatable airshipAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 20

Earlier this week at the Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery, Alabama, there was a successful test to inflate the world's largest inflatable airship. It worked! Click the link to watch a video of the giant blimp being inflated. For my money, I'd like the biggest airship in the world to be able to carry more than 2,000 pounds, but I know practically nothing about current airship technology.

Bullet580

PS, if you're in the area, the Garrett Coliseum is having a Quarter Horse Show this weekend.

Update: Sean sent in an email to help explain the 2K payload of the Bullet 580. To start, the Bullet 580 is a blimp, as opposed to rigid airships like the Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg (which could carry about 550K pounds). Further, "The 2,000 lb lifting capacity mentioned is the E-Green 580's lifting capacity at 20,000 feet. The lifting capacity of the E-Green 580 at 2,500 feet, the normal operating altitude for most blimp activities, is 15,000 lbs."

Pat Metheny on Kenny GAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 20

Pat Metheny really hates Kenny G. Maybe you're thinking to yourself, "I don't like either of those fellows, why would I care about this?" And then you'll click through and you'll see why I think you should care. It's a 15 paragraph character destruction that, since it's now on the web, must be considered one of the top flames of all time. If you didn't think it was possible to gut someone with words, click through. If I were to pull out a quote for you, it'd be from the 9th paragraph, but it uses some words I'm not sure I'm allowed to use. Actually, I probably am allowed, but they're very mean and I don't want to damage Jason's chances of selling ads to Kenny G one day.


*UW readers might recognize this from a couple years ago, but it's one of my favorite parts of the internet, so I figured I'd share it here.

Kevin Costner's 'Ocean Therapy' to be used in GulfAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 20

Kevin Costner's ocean cleaning invention, "Ocean Therapy", has been OK'd by British Petroleum for testing in clean up of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. BP will be testing 6 of the $24 million dollar vacuum barges in hopes of mitigating the impact of the spill. Costner is donating the technology.

In other news... wait, what?!

(via folkinz)

Paris art heistAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 20

A masked bandit broke into the Paris Museum of Modern Art last night and stole 5 paintings. Included in the grab were a Picasso and a Matisse.

Here is the list of paintings and what they look like:
''Le pigeon aux petits-pois'' (The Pigeon with the Peas) by Pablo Picasso
''La Pastorale'' (Pastoral) by Henri Matisse
'L'olivier pres de l'Estaque'' (Olive Tree near Estaque) by Georges Braque
'La femme a l'eventail'' (Woman with a Fan) by Amedeo Modigliani
''Nature-mort aux chandeliers'' (Still Life with Chandeliers) by Fernand Leger

(via @jkottke)

Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis excerptAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 20

Esquire has an excerpt of the new Bret Easton Ellis book, Imperial Bedrooms, which is a sequel to Less Than Zero. It reads almost exactly as you would expect it to read, by which I mean the prose feels very familiar.

J.P. Morgan chooses England to win World CupAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 19

If I was a fan of England, this wouldn't make me feel too confident. J.P. Morgan's quant team used FIFA Ranking, historical results, and something called "J.P. Morgan Team Strength Indicator" to predict the winner of the 2010 World Cup. Their results:

Ultimately our Model indicates Brazil as being the strongest team taking part in the tournament. However, due to the fixture schedule our Model predicts the following final outcome: 3rd: Netherlands, 2nd: Spain, World Cup Winners: England. Alternatively, we point out that the 3 favourite teams (from market prices recorded on 30 April of 3.9-to-1 for Spain, 5-to-1 for Brazil and 5.4-to-1 for England) represent a 52.5% probability of winning the World Cup.

If you're more of a UBS (wo)man, they have it as (1) Brazil, (2) Germany, (3) Italy.

Restaurant chain opens pay what you can cafeAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 19

Panera Bread Co converted one of their St. Louis locations into a cafe without prices. I love this model, but I feel like it probably works better with one of a kind products (art, music, movies, books) that are likely to have passionate fans. I hope it works, though. Ron Shaich Panera's chairman had this to say:

I'm trying to find out what human nature is all about. My hope is that we can eventually do this in every community where there's a Panera.

(via @cdefazio)

Bart Simpson's blackboardAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 19

Recently, Mat Williams hand wrote 288 of the lines Bart Simpson writes on the blackboard to open every episode. He used 20 white markers over 2 days to complete the work on the 22m long blackboard at Work Club, a London based ad agency. Clicking here will allow you to zoom in on any part of the blackboard, while clicking here will allow you to watch a video of Mat skateboarding through London and writing on the blackboard in a Bart Simpson mask.

Incidentally, there have been 463 episodes, and Bart doesn't write on the chalk board in the opening to all of them. To read a list of all the openings, go here. To SEE a list of all the openings, go here. There's an electrical outlet in front of Bart's knee in every season except season 1 and season 21. This might only be interesting to me.

(via nerdcore + thedailywh.at)

Kevin Garnett explains Lost to Big Baby DavisAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 19

This is the best thing I've seen this week.

Plus, posting it gives me an opportunity to link to one of my favorite photographs of all time. Big Baby Davis is by far my favorite basketball player.

(via @grahamenglish)

The cost of soda and fruitAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 19

In an article about the lobbying effort against a proposed soda tax in the District of Columbia, this nugget:

We're drinking more soda for several reasons. Above all, the inflation-adjusted price has fallen 34 percent since the late 1970s, largely because it can be manufactured more cheaply than in the past. Meanwhile, the average real cost of fruits and vegetables has risen more than 30 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

PS: Alternate titles for this post include:
"What's that got to do with the price of soda in DC?" (Too obscure?)
"This is why you're fat." (Too mean?)
"Ur doing it wrong." (What is this, the internet?)

(via @ceberle)

Clement to star in Men in Black 3AARON COHEN  ·  MAY 19

Can I get tickets for this now?

Flight of the Conchords star Jemaine Clement has been set to play the villainous Yaz in Men in Black III, the sequel that is being fast-tracked by Columbia Pictures. Will Smith stars with Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin, and Barry Sonnenfeld directs.

(via @unclegrambo)

Conning HarvardAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 19

When Adam Wheeler got into trouble at Bowdoin, he transferred to Harvard, saying he was an MIT student. When trouble started at Harvard, he attempted to transfer to Yale and Brown. Along the way, he came very close to getting Harvard to endorse his application for a Fulbright Scholarship.

After two years of blending into campus life and racking up academic prizes and tens of thousands of dollars in grants and scholarships, Wheeler allegedly upped the ante: The 23-year-old senior applied for the prestigious Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships last fall using falsified credentials, including a fake transcript and work he plagiarized from a Harvard professor, said investigators.

If you're going to con a college, you've got to aim high, I always say.

Not exactly DogtownAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 18

I haven't watched a skateboarding video all the way through in years. I can't tell if it's the music or the whimsical pace of the tricks. In any case, let this one take you through the rest of the night.

(via whatevs.net)

I'm Not Unemployed. I'm NSFW.AARON COHEN  ·  MAY 18

Jason said not to turn his site into "a dang T Shirt blog while I'm gone"*, but certainly he wouldn't mind 2 T Shirt posts in a day, right? I hope not. This new shirt by R. Stevens of Diesel Sweeties fame is perfect for all your out of work friends. Or maybe it's perfect for you? Click through to see.

*Not actually. All conversations between Jason and I quoted this week are imaginary.

(via Laughing Squid)

The Best Missed Dunk of All TimeAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 18

Shannon Brown of the LA Lakers missed a dunk in spectacular fashion last night.

This Vince Carter dunk wasn't from as far away, but it did go in.

Magazine magic trickAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 18

Bon Apetit and other high end food magazines expected to gain from Gourmet's demise 6 months ago, in both subscribers and advertising pages. In an amazing disappearing act, achievable only by the magazine industry, Gourmet's subscribers and advertisers have mostly disappeared.

Bon Appetit's circulation was forecast to bloom as it absorbed former readers of Gourmet, and other magazines began eyeing Gourmet's list of more than 900,000 subscribers...The Gourmet readership and ad base seem to have largely vanished.

Bieber is the reasonAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 18

My friend Chris Piascik has done a daily drawing every day for over 2 years. Some really good stuff. It's almost always a crazy squiggly monster of some sort or intricately hand-drawn typography.

He also loves The Misfits. A couple months ago, he mixed The Misfits' Crimson Ghost logo with a cat to get Cattitude. I thought the Crimson Ghost would go well with Justin Bieber, too, and have been asking Chris to do it for weeks. He finally did, and oh man, he might be making it a T Shirt, as well. 10 points if you get the reference in the title of this post.

Bieberzig

Star on the runAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 18

Today's wild space story is brought to us by Bad Astronomy:

We have a stellar cluster with thousands of times the Sun's mass embedded in a nebula furiously cranking out newborn stars. A lot of them are near the physical upper limit of how big a star can get. The whole thing is only a couple of million years old, a fraction of the galaxy's lifespan. One beefy star with 90 times the Sun's mass got too close to some other stars, which summarily flung it out of the cluster at high speed, fast enough to cross the distance from the Earth to the Moon in an hour (it took Apollo three days). The star is barreling through the flotsam in that galaxy, its violent stellar wind carving out a bubble of gas that points right back to the scene of the crime, nearly 4 quadrillion kilometers and a million years behind it.

Click through to see the pictures and read a more thorough write up.
PS: 70% of the reason I linked to this is because of the title, "Rampaging cannonball star is rampaging."

Fake pilot flies passengers for thirteen yearsAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 18

Thomas Salme turned himself from maintenance engineer into 737 pilot with several hours of flight simulation and some basic license forgery skills. He flew for 13 years without problem until he was busted in the cockpit at Schipol airport with 101 passengers aboard.

The documents look different everywhere in Europe. An Italian airline doesn't know what a Swedish license looks like. And you can forge all the IDs you need.

(via @mdisalvo)

Foucault's pendulum damagedAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 17

Earlier today I posted about one of the world's puzzle pieces being put into place, and now word of one of the world's pieces popping out of place. Last week, the wire supporting Foucault pendulum's snapped, and was damaged beyond repair.

(via @daveg)

George Lucas' letter to Lost producersAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 17

With Lost ending its 6 season run this week, George Lucas sent a congratulatory letter to executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.

When 'Star Wars' first came out, I didn't know where it was going either. The trick is to pretend you've planned the whole thing out in advance.

Boltzmann equation solvedAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 17

I don't know what it means, but I always get excited when a longstanding equation is solved. It's as if another puzzle piece of how the world works has been snapped into place... What, too sappy?

Pennsylvania mathematicians have found solutions to a 140-year-old, 7-dimensional equation that were not known to exist for more than a century despite its widespread use in modeling the behavior of gases.

Television stimulus neededAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 17

NBC announced on Friday that Law and Order would be canceled after 20 years.* As the New York Times ably put it, "the wheels of TV justice will soon grind to a halt." City officials estimate that the show pumped about $1 billion into the New York City economy. And won't someone think of the actors.

Several casting directors for theater, film and television estimated on Friday that the majority of actors' resumes that came across their desks included "Law & Order" credits. Some actors who worked chiefly in New York theater, drawing weekly salaries of $500 to $1,500 for their stage roles, supplemented those paychecks by playing judges, jurors and police officers on "Law & Order." Pay for those jobs ranged from a few hundred dollars to $1,000 or so a week for only a few moments of screen time.

*They also announced that Heroes would be canceled, but I didn't know that was still on.

How come forks have four tines?AARON COHEN  ·  MAY 17

In a Guardian excerpt from the forthcoming At Home by Bill Bryson, some mysteries of the home are revealed. My favorite was why forks have four tines. Incidentally, eating forks were introduced by Thomas Coryate who also introduced the umbrella

Eating forks were thought comically dainty and unmanly - and dangerous, too, come to that. Since they had only two sharp tines, the scope for spearing one's lip or tongue was great, particularly if one's aim was impaired by wine and jollity. Manufacturers experimented with additional numbers of tines - sometimes as many as six - before settling, late in the 19th century, on four as the number with which people seemed most comfortable. Why four should induce the optimum sense of security isn't easy to say, but it does seem to be a fundamental fact of flatware psychology.

(via jkottke) (Ironic, huh?)

Herzog and Kinski sitting in a treeAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 17

Mysterious German actor Klaus Kinski didn't LOVE Werner Herzog, but, uh, they worked well together.

Herzog is a miserable, hateful, malevolent, avaricious, money-hungry, nasty, sadistic, treacherous, blackmailing, cowardly, thoroughly dishonest creep. His so-called 'talent' consists of nothing but tormenting helpless creatures and, if necessary, torturing them to death or simply murdering them. He doesn't care about anyone or anything except his wretched career as a so-called filmmaker. Driven by a pathological addiction to sensationalism, he creates the most senseless difficulties and dangers, risking other people's safety and even their lives -just so he can eventually say that he, Herzog, has beaten seemingly unbeatable odds.

For his part, Herzog wasn't quite into Kinski either.

Incredible. I didn't know how to calm him down, and then I had an inspiration. I went to my hut, where, for months I had hidden a piece of chocolate. We would almost have killed one another for something like that. I went back to him, going right into his face and ate the chocolate. All of a sudden he was quiet. This was utterly beyond him.

Click through because there are about 10 more paragraphs of vitriol just like this.

(via Newsweek)

Hello everyone!AARON COHEN  ·  MAY 17

Thanks for the intro, Jason. I'm thrilled to steer the SS Kottke and excited to share my internet with you guys for a week. Things that might come up: television, movies, books, music, lists, food, the televisionmoviesbooksmusic industry (and its issues), etc. Mostly etc, actually.

I'd like to start the week on a better note, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the passing of Black Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio and Chipwich creator Richard Lamotta.

Guest editor: Aaron CohenMAY 16

I'm off for the next week or so, and Aaron Cohen is going to be filling in for me while I'm gone. Aaron is the proprietor of Unlikely Words and you may have seen his work in the form of his monster 2008 election round up post, Everything Don Draper Said in Season Three of Mad Men, and Everything Locke Said in Season Five of Lost (which was published on Esquire's site). Welcome Aaron.

The dangers of travel writing to the selfMAY 14

David Farley wrote a travel article for the New York Times about the eccentric small town of Calcata, Italy. When he went back, he found that the article had changed the character of the town for him.

The problem went beyond some of the local artists' anger about not making it into the article. Some were angry that I included their arch-enemies. Others were angry that they were in it but not quoted. I had once loved living in Calcata, a fortress town where dinner parties on the square would often erupt in singing and joint smoking; where you could walk 50 feet and eat at an amazing restaurant; where you could make the intimate square your living room. But now, after the article came out, I felt like a persona non grata for at least half of the place. I hated that I was hated.

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the InternetMAY 14

From 1999, the late great Douglas Adams on How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet. You might worry that Adams' piece is out of date, but it's one those evergreen bits of wisdom that will apply right up until human consciousness is absorbed into the digital cloud.

So people complain that there's a lot of rubbish online, or that it's dominated by Americans, or that you can't necessarily trust what you read on the web. Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can't 'trust' what people tell you on the web anymore than you can 'trust' what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do. For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can't easily answer back -- like newspapers, television or granite. Hence 'carved in stone.' What should concern us is not that we can't take what we read on the internet on trust -- of course you can't, it's just people talking -- but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV -- a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no 'them' out there. It's just an awful lot of 'us'.

San Francisco artists' soapbox derby, 1975MAY 14

In 1975, a bunch of artists competed in a soapbox derby in San Francisco. It is "far out, man".

The banana is the fastest fruit I could think of.

Giant fish photographed in tiny French lakeMAY 14

French photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta captures the hour- long battle between a 15kg (33lb) carp and his brother at a small lake near Montpellier in southern France.

This photo looks totally fake. Nice job by the photographer for being in the right place with the right camera and the right lens. (via dens)

The other iPhone networkMAY 14

As our devices converge, the infrastructure necessary to support them grows and grows. The iPhone costs $200, fits in a pocket, and relies on "a vast array of infrastructures, data ecologies, and device networks" to function...from the mines where the indium for the touchscreen is mined to the cell towers that allow you to locate that coffee shop in Brooklyn.

Until we see that the iPhone is as thoroughly entangled into a network of landscapes as any more obviously geological infrastructure (the highway, both imposing carefully limited slopes across every topography it encounters and grinding/crushing/re-laying igneous material onto those slopes) or industrial product (the car, fueled by condensed and liquefied geology), we will consistently misunderstand it.

See also I, Pencil and this neat Harry Beckian map of the iPhone's connections and capabilities. (via lone gunman)

TV as social mediaMAY 14

Although you might think otherwise, people tend to watch TV live, even when recording shows for later viewing on DVRs is an option. The pull of communal activity for the human social animal is strong.

Like all social activities, television-watching demands compromise. People may have strong ideas about what they want to watch, but what they really want to do is watch together. So the great majority of them first see "what is on" -- that is, what is being broadcast at that moment. Restricted choice makes it easier to agree on what to watch. If nothing appeals, they move on to the programmes stored in a DVR. On the very rare occasions when they find nothing there, they will look for an on-demand video.

Foul troubleMAY 13

Q. When should NBA coaches take players out of games because of fouls? A. A lot less than they actually do.

Conventional wisdom seems to regard foul management as a risk vs. safety decision. You will constantly hear something like, "a big decision here, whether to risk putting Duncan back in with 4 fouls." This is completely the wrong lens for the problem, since the "risky"* strategy is, with the caveats mentioned, all upside! Coaches dramatically underrate the "risk" of falling behind, or losing a lead, by sitting a star for too long. To make it as stark as possible, observe that the coach is voluntarily imposing the penalty that he is trying to avoid, namely his player being taken out of the game! The most egregious cases are when a player sits even though his team is significantly behind. I almost feel as though the coach prefers the certainty of losing to the "risk" of the player fouling out.

(via mr)

The best summer blockbusters everMAY 13

The full list has 30 films on it.

Jail findsMAY 13

Letters, drawings, and other scribblings found in the library of a county jail, including this sketch of Cameron Diaz.

Cameron Diaz Jail

(thx, erin)

MadonnaspeakMAY 13

Madonna uses a surprising number of cliches and figures of speech in this interview (conducted by Gus Van Sant).

his Girl Friday
talks the talk
walks the walk
lots of ways to skin the cat
he's got a fire under his ass
a bee in his bonnet
a trip down memory lane
turn my lemons into lemonade
clotheshorses
so far, so good
reinvent the wheel

The interview itself may not be worth looking at unless you're already a Madonna, GVS, or cliche fan.

smug archiveMAY 13

Crazy Uncle Joe is hosting an archive of Leslie Harpold's webzine, smug. (If you don't understand any of that, get off my damn lawn, you kids!)

The iPhone as a controller for iPad gamesMAY 12

Padracer is a racing game for the iPad where you use your iPhone as the steering wheel.

Available at the iTunes Store. Don't forget the free controller app for your phone as well. (via object of my obsession)

The art of worldly wisdomMAY 12

Charles Munger, who works with Warren Buffett as Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, gave a talk at USC Business School in 1994 that is very much worth reading. Although the main point of Munger's talk is how to pick stocks, he spends much of the time talking about "the art of worldly wisdom"...basically what you need to know to be a functional human being who can make informed decisions.

I have a name for people who went to the extreme efficient market theory-which is "bonkers". It was an intellectually consistent theory that enabled them to do pretty mathematics. So I understand its seductiveness to people with large mathematical gifts. It just had a difficulty in that the fundamental assumption did not tie properly to reality. [...]

The model I like -- to sort of simplify the notion of what goes on in a market for common stocks -- is the pari-mutuel system at the racetrack. If you stop to think about it, a pari-mutuel system is a market. Everybody goes there and bets and the odds change based on what's bet. That's what happens in the stock market.

Any damn fool can see that a horse carrying a light weight with a wonderful win rate and a good post position etc., etc. is way more likely to win than a horse with a terrible record and extra weight and so on and so on. But if you look at the odds, the bad horse pays 100 to 1, whereas the good horse pays 3 to 2. Then it's not clear which is statistically the best bet using the mathematics of Fermat and Pascal. The prices have changed in such a way that it's very hard to beat the system.

(via the browser)

Laser-mapping Mayan ruinsMAY 12

A team of archeologists used aircraft-mounted LIDAR (a laser-based distance measuring system) to map the Mayan ruins of Caracol
. The imaging revealed more of the ruins in four days than on-the-ground teams have been able to do in the past 25 years.

The Chases, who are professors of anthropology at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, had determined from earlier surveys that Caracol extended over a wide area in its heyday, between A.D. 550 and 900. From a ceremonial center of palaces and broad plazas, it stretched out to industrial zones and poor neighborhoods and beyond to suburbs of substantial houses, markets and terraced fields and reservoirs. This picture of urban sprawl led the Chases to estimate the city's population at its peak at more than 115,000. But some archaeologists doubted the evidence warranted such expansive interpretations.

"Now we have a totality of data and see the entire landscape," Dr. Arlen Chase said of the laser findings. "We know the size of the site, its boundaries, and this confirms our population estimates, and we see all this terracing and begin to know how the people fed themselves."

World Cup! World Cup! World Cup!MAY 12

World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup!

Starts one month from yesterday. Can. Not. Wait. And it seems as though the TV coverage might be decent in the US as well:

Yesterday ESPN also confirmed that:

1. All 64 matches will be broadcast live.
2. In high definition.
3. On either ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC.

Of those 64 matches, 52 will be simulcast online at ESPN360.com. Which means many many Americans with be able to either secretly or not so secretly watch games at work 100% legally and in high quality (although the service is only available via certain internet providers).

Some of the games will also be broadcast in 3D, which...I don't even know what to say about that.

The SR-71 flight manualMAY 12

Some parts of it are still classified but most of it is available to read online.

Moon script preceded Braille systemMAY 11

A raised lettering system and alphabet developed by William Moon in the mid-1800s was based more closely on the Roman alphabet than the Braille alphabet.

Moon script

Frustrated by the quality of the embossed reading systems he tried, and eager to improve worldwide literacy and access to the Bible, he set about developing his own system based on roman lettering. Moon's system was easy to master, particularly for those who had learned to read before they lost their sight, and it became very successful.

Roundtable about Lipsky's DFW bookMAY 11

Over at New York magazine, the Vulture Reading Room is reading/reviewing David Lipsky's Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, an almost straight-up transcript of a 5-day Rolling Stone interview with David Foster Wallace in 1996. Participating are D.T. Max (author of a forthcoming DFW biography), Sam Anderson (New York mag book critic), Laura Miller (Salon book critic), Garth Risk Hallberg (from The Millions), and me (blogger, dad, slacker).

David Foster Wallace's interviews were always show-stoppers: erudite, casual, funny, passionate, and deeply self-aware -- like he wasn't just answering the questions at hand but also interviewing himself, and his interviewer, and the entire genre of interviews. Last month, David Lipsky published essentially the Platonic ideal of the form: the book-length Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself -- a sort of DFW version of a DFW interview.

Errol Morris on the postmodernity of the electric chairMAY 11

Errol Morris recently gave the commencement address at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism; here's the transcript.

It has become fashionable nowadays to speak of the subjectivity or the relativity of truth. I find such talk ridiculous at best. Let's go back to Randall Dale Adams. He found himself within days of being executed in "Old Sparky," the electric chair in Walls Unit, Huntsville Texas.

There is nothing post-modern about the electric chair. It takes a living human being and turns him into a piece of meat. Imagine you -- you the young journalists of tomorrow -- being strapped into an electric chair for a crime you didn't commit. Would you take comfort from a witness telling you that it really doesn't make any difference whether you are guilty or innocent? That there is no truth? "I think you're guilty; you think you're innocent. Can't we work it all out?"

Anand is world chess champMAY 11

Viswanathan Anand defended his title as world chess champion by beating Veselin Topalov in the final game of their 12-game match today.

The match between Anand and Topalov was hard fought, partly because Topalov invoked a rule for the contest that forbids the players from offering draws to each other. The rule, named after the city where the match was being played, insured that there would be no short draws. As the match wore on and fatigue took a toll, both players began to make mistakes with greater frequency.

"Anand" was briefly a global Trending Topic on Twitter this afternoon, which was unexpected and nice.

Penmanship of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuriesMAY 11

From Google Books. Here's a sample page:

Old school penmanship

(via ministry of type)

Marina Abramovic's frequent companionMAY 11

MoMA intern Julia Kaganskiy did an interview with Paco Blancas, who you might recognize as the man who has sat with Marina Abramović at MoMA more than a dozen times.

Abramovic sitter

Maybe it's just an image that pops while I'm connected with Marina. Let's say it's an image of someone I love deeply, and then this creates the emotion, the tears just come out. Most of the time it's tears of joy. You're just being and thinking about somebody or something that's important in your life. And then just acknowledging this person or situation and moving on into being present because yeah, the tears come, but I don't want to cry for the entire sitting. I want to move on and continue to be with Marina, to be present.

Hardcore nudity in Babies documentaryMAY 10

Kids in Mind reviews movies with a finer tooth comb than G/PG/PG-13/etc. -- it's basically "won't somebody please think of the children" for movies. Babies, the documentary that follows four infants through the first years of their lives, didn't do so well in the Sex/Nudity department.

Children of various ages, from newborns to toddlers, are seen in various states of undress, including unobscured views of both male and female genitals.

This was filed under Violence/Gore:

An infant's bare buttocks are seen with what appears to be fecal matter; a woman lifts up the child and in the process gets fecal matter on her leg, which she wipes off with a corncob. A stream of urine is seen coming from a baby and landing on a table.

The corncob scene will HAUNT YOUR DREAMS. The site's two "perfect" scores are worth reading too: Crank: High Voltage and Halloween. (via lowindustrial)

Kill the memeMAY 10

So says Joe Randazzo, editor of The Onion.

Once an "enjoyable thing" becomes a "meme," we stop enjoying the thing for its own sake, but consume and regurgitate our enjoyment of it as a symbol of hipness, as if to say: "I am aware of this thing's popularity -- therefore I, too, exist!"

Computer mice disturb sleeping manMAY 10

(via today and tomorrow)

Cursed TreasureMAY 10

This tower defense game is really really addictive. Like don't start if you want to get something done today. (via buzzfeed)

New Yorker profile of Chatroulette creatorMAY 10

The New Yorker reporter caught up with him as he moved from Moscow to the US...he's currently living in Palo Alto.

The best way to talk to Ternovskiy is through some kind of digital intermediary. Shy and evasive in person, he fills with a wry swagger when he is just a stream of text. "They have no business no money blablablabla," he typed to me one afternoon, feigning phlegmatic unconcern with the financial woes of an advertiser he'd been negotiating with-his only one. Like much of his generation, Ternovskiy has an online persona far more developed than his real one.

Red families vs. blue familiesMAY 10

In red America, families form adults; in blue America, adults form families.

Quite a statement. It sums up the how the red- and blue-state families approach marriage, childbirth, and divorce. The red-state approach worked well until our society changed.

New norms arise for this environment, norms geared to prevent premature family formation. The new paradigm prizes responsible childbearing and child-rearing far above the traditional linkage of sex, marriage, and procreation. Instead of emphasizing abstinence until marriage, it enjoins: Don't form a family until after you have finished your education and are equipped for responsibility. In other words, adults form families. Family life marks the end of the transition to adulthood, not the beginning.

How to build a time machineMAY 07

According to Stephen Hawking, there are three good ways to do it.

If we want to travel into the future, we just need to go fast. Really fast. And I think the only way we're ever likely to do that is by going into space. The fastest manned vehicle in history was Apollo 10. It reached 25,000mph. But to travel in time we'll have to go more than 2,000 times faster. And to do that we'd need a much bigger ship, a truly enormous machine. The ship would have to be big enough to carry a huge amount of fuel, enough to accelerate it to nearly the speed of light. Getting to just beneath the cosmic speed limit would require six whole years at full power.

They're making a Dark Crystal sequelMAY 07

It's called Power of the Dark Crystal.

Set hundreds of years after the events of the first movie, when the world has once again fallen into darkness, "Power of the Dark Crystal" follows the adventures of a mysterious girl made of fire who, together with a Gelfling outcast, steals a shard of the legendary crystal in an attempt to reignite the dying sun that exists at the center of the planet.

It couldn't possibly be better than the original:

Metropolis, the director's cutMAY 07

A complete copy of the classic film Metropolis has been found in Argentina.

Made at a time of hyperinflation in Germany, "Metropolis" offered a grandiose version -- of a father and son fighting for the soul of a futuristic city -- that nearly bankrupted the studio that commissioned it, UFA. After lukewarm reviews and initial box office results in Europe, Paramount Pictures, the American partner brought in toward the end of the shoot, took control of the film and made drastic excisions, arguing that Lang's cut was too complicated and unwieldy for American audiences to understand.

Film Forum in NYC is showing the complete film starting tonight (through May 20).

Reverse the lens trickMAY 07

If you want to take macro photos without splashing the cash for a new lens, flip your existing lens around. Examples here. (via flickr blog)

World's largest beaver damMAY 07

Located in Canada's Wood Buffalo National Park, the largest beaver dam in the world is more than half a mile long. That's over twice as long as the Hoover Dam. Damn, those beavers have been busy. [ST]

The mysteries of sleepMAY 06

D.T. Max on the Secrets of Sleep for National Geographic.

An animal must lie still for a great stretch of time, during which it is easy prey for predators. What can possibly be the payback for such risk? "If sleep doesn't serve an absolutely vital function," the renowned sleep researcher Allan Rechtschaffen once said, "it is the greatest mistake evolution ever made." [...]

At Stanford University I visited William Dement, the retired dean of sleep studies, a co-discoverer of REM sleep, and co-founder of the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center. I asked him to tell me what he knew, after 50 years of research, about the reason we sleep. "As far as I know," he answered, "the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy."

And this fatal familial insomnia sounds like a horrible disease:

The main symptom of FFI, as the disease is often called, is the inability to sleep. First the ability to nap disappears, then the ability to get a full night's sleep, until the patient cannot sleep at all. The syndrome usually strikes when the sufferer is in his or her 50s, ordinarily lasts about a year, and, as the name indicates, always ends in death.

Decoupling with the iPadMAY 06

This is exactly why I bought an iPad:

In this profession, it's critical to have a break-out area where you can think without the computer looking over your shoulder; where you can do your most valuable work without the siren song of an IDE. For the same reason that getting up and even walking to the bathroom can provide new perspective on a heretofore intractable problem, it's in your own best professional interests to do as much of your work as possible before you handcuff yourself to your desk each day.

And:

The potential of iPad is to decouple as many tasks as possible from my work environment -- and to keep me away from that environment when I'm doing things that don't actually require me to be there other than to use a computer.

I do a lot of reading and light writing for this site and I'm hoping that the iPad will allow me to do that somewhere that's not my desk. At least for a few hours a week. (via jb)

Lost DFW profileMAY 06

A 1996 profile of David Foster Wallace from Details magazine. An early mainstream magazine interview with Wallace about Infinite Jest, it hasn't been seen since its initial publication. Craig Fehrman dug it up in the Yale Library.

Brought up an atheist, he has twice failed to pass throguh the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, the first step toward becoming a Catholic. The last time, he made the mistake of referring to "the cult of personality surrounding Jesus." That didn't go over big with the priest, who correctly suspected Wallace might have a bit too much skepticism to make a fully obedient Catholic. "I'm a typical American," says Wallace. "Half of me is dying to give myself away, and the other half is continually rebelling."

Hackers, 25 years laterMAY 06

For the 25th anniversary of his book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, Steven Levy talks to a few of the book's subjects (Bill Gates, Richard Stallman, Steve Wozniak) about how they've changed and what hacking means today.

On the one hand, information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable," [Stewart Brand] said. "On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other." His words neatly encapsulate the tension that has since defined the hacker movement -- a sometimes pitched battle between geeky idealism and icy-hearted commerce.

The Nevermind baby works for the Obama poster guyMAY 05

The baby pictured here:

Nirvana Nevermind

now works for Shepard Fairey, the artist who did the iconic Obama HOPE posters.

Yo dawg, I herd you like pop culture, so I put some pop culture in your pop culture so your brain can fucking explode from all the popular you've cultured. (via mediabistro)

Horse names from The WireMAY 05

Some of my favorites are Prezbo, My Name is My Name, Hamsterdam, Always Boris, Fuzzy Dunlop, and Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit. Glaring omissions? Hit Me on My Burner, Snot Boogie, and Pack o' Newports. The full list. (thx, tash & nathan)

Super Mario Bros, 2010 versionMAY 05

What if Super Mario Bros had been designed as a typical circa-2010 networked game? It might look a little something like this:

Super Mario Bros 2010

The site's a little slow right now...check back later if you can't get the page to load. (via waxy)

Color photographs from a lost worldMAY 05

Albert Kahn was a French banker and philanthropist who financed an extensive photography project in the early 1900s. His photographers traveled all around the world, eventually amassing a collection 72,000 color photos.

Albert Kahn

Albert Kahn

Kahn's project is the subject of a 9-part BBC documentary that's showing on Ovation this week. All the episodes repeat on Saturday starting at noon. (via constant siege)

Operation MincemeatMAY 05

Malcolm Gladwell tells us about Operation Mincemeat, a caper undertaken by British intelligence to fool the Hitler and the Nazis into thinking the Allied invasion of mainland Europe would come from through Greece and not Sicily.

It did not take long for word of the downed officer to make its way to German intelligence agents in the region. Spain was a neutral country, but much of its military was pro-German, and the Nazis found an officer in the Spanish general staff who was willing to help. A thin metal rod was inserted into the envelope; the documents were then wound around it and slid out through a gap, without disturbing the envelope's seals. What the officer discovered was astounding. Major Martin was a courier, carrying a personal letter from Lieutenant General Archibald Nye, the vice-chief of the Imperial General Staff, in London, to General Harold Alexander, the senior British officer under Eisenhower in Tunisia. Nye's letter spelled out what Allied intentions were in southern Europe. American and British forces planned to cross the Mediterranean from their positions in North Africa, and launch an attack on German-held Greece and Sardinia. Hitler transferred a Panzer division from France to the Peloponnese, in Greece, and the German military command sent an urgent message to the head of its forces in the region: "The measures to be taken in Sardinia and the Peloponnese have priority over any others."

The science of AvatarMAY 04

James Cameron spoke about the science of Avatar at Caltech last month; Discovery has a summary.

"We tried to make it not completely fanciful," Cameron told the crowd, which filled the auditorium. "If it was too outlandish, there would be a believability gap." So while Pandora features floating mountains, that might not be so far-fetched, Cameron said, considering Earth has developed high-speed "bullet" trains that levitate on magnetic fields. Of course, the "reality-based" scenario did have its limits. "We figured that to actually lift mountains, the magnetic field would have to be strong enough to rip the hemoglobin out of your blood," says Cameron. "But we decided not to go there."

No word on whether he addressed the Na'vi's lack of technological advancement.

The fastest gun in the worldMAY 04

There are so many really fantastic things about this video and its subject, Bob Munden. To start: look at how fast he can shoot his gun and re-holster it! I've seen it 20 times and I still can't believe it.

The only thing that rivals Munden's quickness with a gun is his confidence.

BM: Fast-draw is the fastest thing a human being does. Nodody does anything faster than what I do with guns.

Q: Can you give a comparison with something that would come close but is not as fast?

BM: Speed of light. Which is far beyond it. There is nothing next to it.

Shades of Ali. (Or as Munden might put it, in Ali, we can see shades of Munden.) To date, he has not shot himself in the crotch, which seems to me to be a minor miracle. (thx, dan)

Luxury brands' sites don't work on the iPadMAY 04

The websites of the top 10 luxury brands don't work that well on the iPad...most throw up a splash page prompting you to download Flash. This is what Cartier's site looks like:

Cartier iPad

If I were Anna Wintour, I would be screaming at these companies to fix these sites. They reflect poorly on an industry that's all about effortless style, appearance, confidence, and never, ever having a hair out of place (unless that's the look you're going for). This? This is like they've got no pants on -- and not in a good way. That goes double for restaurant sites.

Tim O'Reilly profileMAY 04

Inc. Magazine has a nice profile of Tim O'Reilly. Tim's business philosophy is refreshing.

O'Reilly says he sometimes wonders what would have happened if he had raised venture capital and given his company a chance to get really big. But he sounds more amused by this question than truly troubled by it. "Money is like gasoline during a road trip," he says. "You don't want to run out of gas on your trip, but you're not doing a tour of gas stations. You have to pay attention to money, but it shouldn't be about the money."

Redrawn European mapMAY 04

The Economist redraws the map of Europe with some countries in new places.

In Britain's place should come Poland, which has suffered quite enough in its location between Russia and Germany and deserves a chance to enjoy the bracing winds of the North Atlantic and the security of sea water between it and any potential invaders.

What's next for the Alinea team?MAY 04

Grant Achatz, Nick Kokonas, and his team are opening a restaurant called Next:

No reservations...you have to buy tickets, like for a play or a ballgame.

Your tickets will be fully inclusive of all charges, including service. Ticket price will depend on which seating you buy -- Saturday at 8 PM will be more expensive than Wednesday at 9:30 PM. This will allow us to offer an amazing experience at a very reasonable price. We will also offer an annual subscription to all four menus at a discount with preferred seating.

The menu changes four times a year and each menu will be influenced by a particular place and time (Paris 1912, Hong Kong 2036). A Mad Men-era NYC menu please?

Stunning papergraphicsMAY 03

Yulia Brodskaya makes elaborate typographic creations entirely out of paper. She calls them PAPERgraphics.

Yulia Brodskaya

This is like Si Scott in 3-D.

Popular Kindle passagesMAY 03

Amazon has opened slightly their data kimono with a look at the most highlighted passages by Kindle users. The results aren't that interesting (to me) because the bestsellers dominate: some Gladwell, Dan Brown, etc. To make it more useful, they should weigh the results by sales and cram some social in there: the most highlighted passages by my friends = gold.

The new Chanel (grocery) bagMAY 03

The hot new Chanel bag this season is a brown paper bag.

Chanel Paper Bag

As one of the commenters says, "fake it until you make it".

Amazon Associates adds Kindle booksMAY 03

Amazon has finally added the ability to earn affiliates fees with Kindle books. From the press release

Amazon is excited to announce that effective May 1, 2010, you can earn advertising fees on Kindle books. With over 500,000 books, including 105 of 112 New York Times Best Sellers, Kindle books represent another great way to earn money advertising Amazon products. Advertising fees range from 4 to 8.5%.

Freakonomics documentary reviewMAY 03

Indiewire has a review of the Freakonomics documentary that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival the other day.

Taking his central cue from Levitt's conviction that "incentives matter," executive producer Seth Gordon ("The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters") directs several introductory segments featuring Levitt (the economist) and Dubner (the journalist) breaking down the book's main assertions, aided by playful 2-D animation. The first of these sequences borrows from an early chapter in the source material, taking on self-interested real estate agents to explain the authors' intention of parsing the motives behind many phenomena often taken for granted. While Gordon's fluffy treatment of his chatty subjects suggests the potential for a "This American Life"-type television series, the individual short films embody their claims with a variety of methods.

Magnolia Pictures acquired the North American rights to the film so we should be seeing it in theaters later in the year.

My new favorite New YorkerMAY 02

A Times Square tshirt vendor alerted police to an oddly parked truck near his stand. A bomb squad found a crudely built bomb inside the truck.

When asked if he was proud of his actions, he said: "Of course, man. I'm a veteran. What do you think?" The vendor said that he had served during the Vietnam War and had been selling wares on the street for about 20 years. "I don't have too much of a choice, nobody's giving me a job," he said.

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