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

 

Tooth regeneration gelJUN 30

Scientists have developed a gel that rebuilds teeth. It could replace drilling & filling as the treatment of choice for cavities.

The gel or thin film contains a peptide known as MSH, or melanocyte-stimulating hormone. Previous experiments, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that MSH encourages bone regeneration.

Bone and teeth are fairly similar, so the French scientists reasoned that if the MSH were applied to teeth, it should help healing as well.

To test their theory, the French scientists applied either a film or gel, both of which contained MSH, to cavity-filled mice teeth. After about one month, the cavities had disappeared, said Benkirane-Jessel.

Architecture's most important buildingsJUN 30

From a panel of 52 experts surveyed by Vanity Fair, a list of the 21 most important works of architecture created since 1980. The top three:

1. Frank Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao
2. Renzo Piano's Menil Collection in Houston
3. Peter Zumthor's Thermal Baths in Vals, Switzerland

Here are the complete results of the survey.

The best bad first lines of 2010JUN 30

The winners of the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest have been announced.

An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels.

The winner is a little too obviously horrible for my taste, but I did like the runner-up in the detective category:

As Holmes, who had a nose for danger, quietly fingered the bloody knife and eyed the various body parts strewn along the dark, deserted highway, he placed his ear to the ground and, with his heart in his throat, silently mouthed to his companion, "Arm yourself, Watson, there is an evil hand afoot ahead.

Heady stuff.

Frank Sinatra to George Michael: loosen upJUN 30

After an LA Times interview of George Michael in which the singer talks of his desire step away from the limelight, Frank Sinatra wrote the Times and Michael a letter.

Come on George, Loosen up. Swing, man. Dust off those gossamer wings and fly yourself to the moon of your choice and be grateful to carry the baggage we've all had to carry since those lean nights of sleeping on buses and helping the driver unload the instruments.

And no more of that talk about "the tragedy of fame." The tragedy of fame is when no one shows up and you're singing to the cleaning lady in some empty joint that hasn't seen a paying customer since Saint Swithin's day. And you're nowhere near that; you're top dog on the top rung of a tall ladder called Stardom, which in latin means thanks-to-the-fans who were there when it was lonely.

The letter is much better if read in the voice of Phil Hartman's SNL impersonation of Sinatra. In fact, Hartman did a SNL skit as Sinatra with Dana Carvey as George Michael shortly after this letter was published. Can't find that anywhere online, but I did find one of my all-time favorite SNL skits: the Sinatra Group.

You don't scare me. I got chunks of guys like you in my stool.

Fame in the moviesJUN 30

Razzle Dazzle is a six-part video series on how fame is portrayed in Hollywood films.

Razzle Dazzle is a six-part video essay that looks at how movies have examined the many facets of fame (heroism, infamy, and everything in between) and how they have shaped the audience's perception of what fame offers. Chapter 1, "The Pitch," lays out how movies are just one component of an all-consuming media that is constantly shaping the modern image culture. Subsequent chapters look at certain archetypes -- the Hero, the Fraud, the Parasite, the Maverick -- that have become staples of the media cycle.

Part one and part two are currently available.

CSS3 solar systemJUN 30

Gorgeous CSS3 animation of the solar system. But here's what it looks like in IE (tee hee).

Goodbye, Rubber RoomsJUN 29

Last year, the New Yorker ran a story on NYC's Rubber Rooms, the common name for the rooms which house NYC schoolteachers accused of classroom misconduct.

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

Yesterday, the Rubber Rooms were finally closed down. It seems like a purely cosmetic move; the real problems outlined in the NYer article remain unaddressed. Shouldn't the Times article at least mention that?

This American Life completes missionJUN 29

TAL has done it...completed the documentation of liberal, upper-middle class existence.

In what cultural anthropologists are calling a "colossal achievement" in the study of white-collar professionals, the popular radio show has successfully isolated all 7,442 known characteristics of college graduates who earn between $62,500 and $125,000 per year and feel strongly that something should be done about global warming.

Russian spies caught in United StatesJUN 29

What is this, 1982? A Tom Clancy novel?

Criminal complaints filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Monday read like an old-fashioned cold war thriller: Spies swapping identical orange bags as they brushed past one another in a train station stairway. An identity borrowed from a dead Canadian, forged passports, messages sent by shortwave burst transmission or in invisible ink. A money cache buried for years in a field in upstate New York.

But the network of so-called illegals -- spies operating under false names outside of diplomatic cover -- also used cyber-age technology, according to the charges. They embedded coded texts in ordinary-looking images posted on the Internet, and they communicated by having two agents with laptops containing special software pass casually as messages flashed between them.

Ooh, cyber-age!

Victorian Star Wars portraitsJUN 29

Victorian Chewbacca

Duke Chewbacca, Master Threepio, Sir Boba Fett, and, er, Lord Vader (more or less).

The genius of MessiJUN 29

An ode to Lionel Messi, the best footballer in the world.

Messi simply does things -- little things and big things -- that other players here cannot do. He gets a ball in traffic, is surrounded by two or three defenders, and he somehow keeps the ball close even as they jostle him and kick at the ball. He takes long and hard passes up around his eyes and somehow makes the ball drop softly to his feet, like Keanu Reeves making the bullets fall in "The Matrix." He cuts in and out of traffic -- Barry Sanders only with a soccer ball moving with him -- sprints through openings that seem only theoretical, races around and between defenders who really are running even if it only looks like they are standing still. He really does seem to make the ball disappear and reappear, like it's a Vegas act.

I've watched just enough soccer to realize that despite having scored no goals and having, by FIFA's reckoning, only a single assist, Messi is having a great World Cup. He attracts so much attention on the pitch -- two or three defenders swarmed him on every touch in the Mexico game -- that he should get an assist on nearly every play for opening up the rest of the field for his team. It's one of those things that the new soccer fan (as many Americans are) doesn't catch onto right away. (thx, djacobs)

Updates on previous entries for Jun 28, 2010*JUN 29

Masturbation: a singularly human pursuit orig. from Jun 28, 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.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: first full trailerJUN 28

Also available here if the YT trailer gets yanked.

Steve Carell leaving The OfficeJUN 28

Unless the producers pull a Darrin Stephens, Michael Scott will no longer appear on The Office following the next season.

"I just think it's time," Steve told our Kristina Guerrero. "I want to fulfill my contract. When I first signed on I had a contract for seven seasons, and this coming year is my seventh. I just thought it was time for my character to go."

But according to Steve, The Office could go on without him. "It doesn't certainly mean the end of the show. I think it's just a dynamic change to the show, which could be a good thing, actually. Add some new life and some new energy...I see it as a positive in general for the show."

Carell added:

I didn't see it as a huge thing and I certainly didn't anticipate any sort of hubbub over it.

All together now: that's what she said.

P.S. Tad Friend has a profile of Carell in the New Yorker this week...sadly offline without a subscription.

Masturbation: a singularly human pursuitJUN 28

Among primates, only humans masturbate. Why is that? Perhaps it's our big....brains.

Go on, put this article aside, take a five minute break and put my challenge to the test (don't forget to close your office door if you're reading this at work): Just try to masturbate successfully -- that is, to orgasmic completion -- without casting some erotic representational target in your mind's eye. Instead, clear your mind entirely, or think of, I don't know, an enormous blank canvass hanging in an art gallery. And of course no porn or helpful naked co-workers are permitted for this task either.

How'd it go? Do you see the impossibility of it? This is one of the reasons, incidentally, why I find it so hard to believe that self-proclaimed asexuals who admit to masturbating to orgasm are really and truly asexual. They must be picturing something , and whatever that something is gives away their sexuality.

(via clusterflock)

Update: Apparently the author has never been on YouTube. (thx, all)

The Girl Who Fixed the UmlautJUN 28

Stieg Larsson is back with a previously unreleased Lisbeth Salander short story from his rumored extensive back catalog: The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut.

She tried to remember whether she was speaking to him or not. Probably not. She tried to remember why. No one knew why. It was undoubtedly because she'd been in a bad mood at some point. Lisbeth Salander was entitled to her bad moods on account of her miserable childhood and her tiny breasts, but it was starting to become confusing just how much irritability could be blamed on your slight figure and an abusive father you had once deliberately set on fire and then years later split open the head of with an axe.

Considering the New Yorker's umlaut policy, this is an unusual stone throw.

Time's best blogs of 2010JUN 28

On the list are kottke.org favorites like Hilobrow, The Sartorialist, Shorpy, The Awl, and Roger Ebert's Journal.

The hunt for AIDS cure continuesJUN 28

Scientists are working on two fronts toward a cure for AIDS: 1) neutralizing HIV in the human body so that regular medication is unnecessary, and 2) eradicating all traces of HIV in the body.

Human immune-system stem cells are transplanted into pups bred from these mice when they are two days old, and over the next few months, those cells mature and diversify into a working immune system. Then the mice are infected with HIV, which attacks the immune cells. But before transplanting the original human cells, the researchers introduce an enzyme that interferes with the gene for a protein the virus needs to stage the attack. This modification makes a small percentage of the mature immune cells highly resistant to HIV, and because the virus kills the cells it can infect, the modified cells are the only ones that survive over time. Thus, the HIV soon runs out of targets. If this strategy works, the virus will quickly become harmless and the mice will effectively be cured.

The worst movies never madeJUN 25

A list of ten movies that weren't made...and a good thing they weren't. Including a Lord of the Rings adaptation with The Beatles.

According to Roy Carr's The Beatles at the Movies, talks were once in the works for a Beatle-zation -- with John Lennon wanting to play Gollum, Paul McCartney Frodo, George Harrison Gandalf, and Ringo Starr Sam. Collaborating with director John Boorman, screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg thought the Beatles should play the four hobbits (and agreed with McCartney that he would be the ideal Frodo).

The mystery of Tobias Wong's deathJUN 25

Artist and designer Tobias Wong killed himself last month. Or did he? Sleep can be a dangerous thing.

Pixar Star WarsJUN 25

Illustrations of Pixar characters drawn as Star Wars characters.

Mellwood WhiskyJUN 25

We just found this old bottle of Mellwood Whisky in Meg's grandparents' pantry. No date or anything on the label. Anyone know anything about it? I suspect it's at least 50 years old...would it still be drinkable or would we go blind?

ThrillerJUN 25

Vanity Fair has an article about Michael Jackson and the shooting of the Thriller video, a point in time when he was at the top of his game but already showing signs of his future troubles.

Jackson faced a critical moment in his personal development: would his new mega-success and wealth spur him to grow, becoming more confident and independent, or to withdraw further into his gilded fantasy world? His "Thriller" friends marveled at his paradoxical qualities: simultaneously sophisticated as an artist, canny to the point of ruthlessness in business dealings, and breathtakingly immature about relationships. "I dealt with Michael as I would have a really gifted child," says Landis, "because that's what he was at that moment. He was emotionally damaged, but so sweet and so talented."

Is this the end of bluefin tuna?JUN 25

Paul Greenberg explores the current state of fishing for bluefin tuna and it's not looking good.

Tuna then are both a real thing and a metaphor. Literally they are one of the last big public supplies of wild fish left in the world. Metaphorically they are the terminus of an idea: that the ocean is an endless resource where new fish can always be found. In the years to come we can treat tuna as a mile marker to zoom past on our way toward annihilating the wild ocean or as a stop sign that compels us to turn back and radically reconsider.

Greenberg has written extensively on this and related topics in his forthcoming book, Four Fish. Humans have primarily selected four mammals (cows, pigs, sheep and goats) and four birds (chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese) to utilize for food, and are now in the process of choosing four fish (cod, salmon, tuna, and bass).

Updates on previous entries for Jun 24, 2010*JUN 25

Kirk/Spock musical slash fiction orig. from Jun 23, 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.

Upcoming sci-fi filmsJUN 24

A list of the 20 most anticipated sci-fi films of 2011. Notable entries include Tarsem Singh's Immortals ("mythic warrior Theseus battles demons and Titans on his way to becoming a legendary Greek hero"), Steven Soderbergh's Contagion ("an international team of doctors is assembled by the Centers for Disease Control to battle an outbreak of a deadly virus"; stars Damon, Paltrow, Winslet, Fishburne, Cotillard, and Law, Jude Law), and Kenneth Branagh's Thor ("superbeing Thor is cast out of the cosmic realm of Asgard and forced to live among humans, where he must find a way to both defend Earth and reclaim his birthright").

Our outboard brainsJUN 24

Scott Adams muses on how humans store information in much of what we build and make: businesses, flower gardens, music.

Everything we create becomes a de facto data storage device and brain accessory. A wall can be a physical storage device for land survey data, it can be a reminder of history, and it can be a trigger of personal memories.

A business is also a way to store data. As a restaurant owner, I was fascinated at how employees came and went, but their best ideas often stayed with the business, especially in the kitchen. The restaurant was like a giant data filter. The bad ideas were tested and deleted while the good ideas stayed, most often without being written down.

When you design a flower garden, its main purpose is to influence people's minds in a positive and peaceful fashion. A flower garden is a brain reprogramming tool. It jacks into any human brain that enters its space and reprograms that brain in a predetermined way. We don't think of it in those terms, but the process is nonetheless deliberate.

(via the browser)

Collective nouns illustratedJUN 24

A really nice collection of prints** of collective nouns. This is a hush of librarians:

Hush Of Librarians

I also like the seemingly empty room of ninjas, but more for the term than the illustration. Several other great ones here, like:

a wunch of bankers
a deutschbag of nazis
a fixie of hipsters (coined here, actually)
a knot of string theorists
an array of geeks

**Wait, what's the collective noun for prints? A charming of prints?

New section of the High LineJUN 24

Fast Company has a sneak preview of what the new section of the High Line park will look like. (thx, damien)

Stanford commencement speech by Atul GawandeJUN 24

Here's what the New Yorker writer and doctor told the graduating class of the Stanford School of Medicine.

Half the words you now routinely use you did not know existed when you started: words like arterial-blood gas, nasogastric tube, microarray, logistic regression, NMDA receptor, velluvial matrix.

O.K., I made that last one up. But the velluvial matrix sounds like something you should know about, doesn't it? And that's the problem. I will let you in on a little secret. You never stop wondering if there is a velluvial matrix you should know about.

Since I graduated from medical school, my family and friends have had their share of medical issues, just as you and your family will. And, inevitably, they turn to the medical graduate in the house for advice and explanation.

I remember one time when a friend came with a question. "You're a doctor now," he said. "So tell me: where exactly is the solar plexus?"

I was stumped. The information was not anywhere in the textbooks.

"I don't know," I finally confessed.

"What kind of doctor are you?" he said.

(via snarkmarket)

Updates on previous entries for Jun 23, 2010*JUN 24

Kirk/Spock musical slash fiction orig. from Jun 23, 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.

New Flickr photo pageJUN 23

Flickr debuts a new photo page today...bigger photos, more navigation options, and a black-background option. It's still in beta tho...go to any Flickr photo and opt-in for a peek.

Sugar daddy dramaJUN 23

Writer tries dating on "seeking sugar daddy" site, unsurprisingly runs into problems.

"How do you see this working?," I asked.

He responded without hesitation: "If I want to go with my girlfriend to St. Barth's for two weeks, she's not going to be left behind because she needs to write copy all day to make 500 bucks to pay her cable bill. A girl, if she's going out a lot with me, cannot be wearing the same thing all the time, so of course I'll buy her her Louboutins and Gucci handbags."

"That makes sense."

"I don't want to feel like I'm paying for company, though. The less she asks for, the more she gets." If his expression could speak, it would have said, "Don't expect cash, bitch."

Original Pac-Man sketchesJUN 23

Toru Iwatani recently showed his original sketches for Pac-Man at a Dutch gaming festival.

Pac-Man sketches

Ancient Roman shipwreck aids in neutrino searchJUN 23

Lead ingots carried by a Roman ship sunk in 50 BC will be used to study the decay of neutrinos. Neutrino experiments are very delicate and need to be shielded from radioactive contamination, including possible contamination from the shielding itself.

This vast stretch of time means that the tiny amount of the radioactive isotope lead-210 originally present in the ingots, just as it exists in any normal lead object, has by now almost completely disappeared.

(via history blog)

Kirk/Spock musical slash fictionJUN 23

This mashup of Star Trek with Kesha's Tik Tok just makes me really really happy.

Turns out there's a whole mess of Kirk/Spock musical slash fiction (mash fiction?) on YouTube...there's Kirk/Spock vs. Lady Gaga's Monster, Kirk/Spock vs. She Blinded Me With Science, Kirk/Spock vs. I Kissed a Boy, Kirk/Spock vs. Jerry Mungo's In the Summertime, Kirk/Spock/McCoy vs. The Beatles' Come Together, Kirk/Spock vs. You Spin Me Round and many more. (via david)

Update: And here is Kirk/Spock vs. Closer by NIN, perhaps the Citizen Kane of Kirk/Spock musical slash fiction:

(thx, mark)

Weak sauce from AppleJUN 23

What the hell do all those shortcut symbols in OS X application menus (⌘, ⌥, ⇧) mean anyway?

I have to think (and experiment) every single time I want to decipher one of these keyboard "shortcuts". Why is it that only the command key (⌘) actually has the symbol printed on the key itself? And what's up with the symbol for the option key (⌥)?

Put 'em on the keyboard, Apple.

Updates on previous entries for Jun 22, 2010*JUN 23

Manute Bol, RIP orig. from Jun 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.

Ragdoll Cannon 3JUN 22

Got sucked into this game for more than a few minutes: Ragdoll Cannon 3. (via buzzfeed)

Quiet iPhone wallpaperJUN 22

Add my voice to those saying that the default wallpaper choices for iOS 4 are too busy and high contrast. So, I've made an iPhone wallpaper called Tranquil that will hopefully help with this problem.

tranquil iPhone

On the iPhone, just tap and hold on the wallpaper image until the "Save Image" dialog appears. Enjoy!

Creating a sick systemJUN 22

Really disturbing piece about how to make someone dependent on you...i.e. "creating a sick system". Here are the four basic rules:

1. Keep them too busy to think.
2. Keep them tired.
3. Keep them emotionally involved.
4. Reward intermittently.

Then the author provides a number of techniques you can use to achieve those goals. Like:

Keep real rewards distant. The rewards in "Things will be better when..." are usually nonrewards -- things will go back to being what they should be when the magical thing happens. Real rewards -- happiness, prosperity, career advancement, a new house, children -- are far in the distance. They look like they're on the schedule, but there's nothing in the To Do column. For example, everything will be better when we move to our own house in the country... but there's nothing in savings for the house, no plan to save, no house picked out, not even a region of the country settled upon.

2010 gadgets redesigned for 1977JUN 22

1977 iPod

[I would] grab all the modern technology I could find, take it to the late 70's, superficially redesign it all to blend in, start a consumer electronics company to unleash it upon the world, then sit back as I rake in billions, trillions, or even millions of dollars.

Fantastic. Much more here. (via df)

A four-year-old plays Grand Theft AutoJUN 22

He spends much of the time arresting criminals, taking people to the hospital in an ambulance, and putting out fires.

At this point my son was familiar with the game's mechanics and hopped into the ambulance. As he put the crime fighting behind him, he wondered aloud if it was possible to take people to the hospital. I instruct him to press R3, and then he was off to save a few lives. He was having a blast racing from point to point, picking up people in need, and then speeding off to Las Venturas Hospital. During one of his life saving adventures, he passed a fire house with a big, red, shiny fire truck parked out front. He didn't want to let his passengers down, so he took them to the hospital and then asked if I could guide him back to the fire truck.

What is a Jeopardy playing supercomputer?JUN 22

After pretty much solving chess with Deep Blue, IBM is building a computer called Watson to beat human opponents at Jeopardy. It's not quite at Ken Jennings' level, but it's holding its own versus lesser humans.

Deep Blue was able to play chess well because the game is perfectly logical, with fairly simple rules; it can be reduced easily to math, which computers handle superbly. But the rules of language are much trickier. At the time, the very best question-answering systems -- some created by software firms, some by university researchers -- could sort through news articles on their own and answer questions about the content, but they understood only questions stated in very simple language ("What is the capital of Russia?"); in government-run competitions, the top systems answered correctly only about 70 percent of the time, and many were far worse. "Jeopardy!" with its witty, punning questions, seemed beyond their capabilities. What's more, winning on "Jeopardy!" requires finding an answer in a few seconds. The top question-answering machines often spent longer, even entire minutes, doing the same thing.

Muybridge, but not by MuybridgeJUN 21

Possible clues have emerged that Eadweard Muybridge may not have taken all the photographs attributed to him.

Naef explains why he thinks that stereographs attributed to Muybridge were in fact taken by Watkins, who sold the negatives to Muybridge. Muybridge then printed and sold them under his own name. "I think from what I've seen and knowing what I know about Muybridge - and I'm not an expert on Watkins by any mean and Weston is - I think yes Muybridge published pictures by other people," Brookman said. "Some by Watkins potentially, but I think Muybridge was also a photographer and a significant photographer."

Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes has a three-part interview with photography curator Weston Naef about why he thinks this is so. Part one is here. (No word yet on why Muybridge has so many unnecessary letters in his name.)

Errol Morris' next filmJUN 21

Speaking of Errol Morris, it seems that his next film will be out this fall and is a documentary about Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming, rapist of Mormons, and dog cloning enthusiast.

According to our sources, it seems Morris has just finished up a brand new documentary, "Tabloid" aka "A Very Special Love Story" (the title is not yet final) about Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming, who, in the late seventies, abducted Kirk Anderson, a Mormon missionary in England, chained him to a bed and forced him to have sex with her. But that's hardly the weirdest thing about McKinney or the case. After jumping bail, she was eventually sentenced in absentia to one year in prison, due to the fact that Britain, at the time, didn't really have rape laws against men in the books. She was later accused of stalking her victim -- who had since married and had children -- during the 1980s and in 2008, she gained more media attention after taking her dog to Korea to be cloned.

Manute Bol, RIPJUN 21

Former NBA player, shot blocker extraordinaire, and humanitarian Manute Bol died over the weekend at age 47. He died of a rare skin condition caused by a medication he took while in Africa.

"You know, a lot of people feel sorry for him, because he's so tall and awkward," Charles Barkley, a former 76ers teammate, once said. "But I'll tell you this -- if everyone in the world was a Manute Bol, it's a world I'd want to live in."

According to Language Log, Bol may also have originated the phrase "my bad".

Ken Arneson emailed me to say that he heard the phrase was first used by the Sudanese immigrant basketball player Manute Bol, believed to have been a native speaker of Dinka (a very interesting and thoroughly un-Indo-Europeanlike language of the Nilo-Saharan superfamily). Says Arneson, "I first heard the phrase here in the Bay Area when Bol joined the Golden State Warriors in 1988, when several Warriors players started using the phrase." And Ben Zimmer's rummaging in the newspaper files down in the basement of Language Log Plaza produced a couple of early 1989 quotes that confirm this convincingly:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 10, 1989: When he [Manute Bol] throws a bad pass, he'll say, "My bad" instead of "My fault," and now all the other players say the same thing.

USA Today, Jan. 27, 1989: After making a bad pass, instead of saying "my fault," Manute Bol says, "my bad." Now all the other Warriors say it too.

Update: As a recent post on Language Log notes, several people picked up on this and kinda sorta got rid of the "may have" and the story became that Bol absolutely coined the phrase "my bad". Unfortunately, the evidence doesn't support that theory (although it doesn't entirely disprove it either). The internet is so proficient at twisting the original meaning of things as they propagate that Telephone should really be called Internet.

Kubrick vs. Scorsese, a tributeJUN 21

Warning: this video contains spoilers, violence, and cinematic greatness.

Many friends after seeing my video "Tarantino vs Coen Brothers" requested me to do a new video duel of directors, so I decided to do now a tribute to my two favorite directors, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese, were 25 days re-watching 34 films, selected more than 500 scenes, and a hard work editing.

Tarantino vs. Coen Brothers is here; and here's Scorsese on Kubrick, in which I was delighted to learn that Scorsese thinks, as I do, that Eyes Wide Shut is underrated.

The unknown unknownsJUN 21

Errol Morris is back with a new piece on his NY Times blog about how the holes in people's knowledge affect their actions.

If I were given carte blanche to write about any topic I could, it would be about how much our ignorance, in general, shapes our lives in ways we do not know about. Put simply, people tend to do what they know and fail to do that which they have no conception of. In that way, ignorance profoundly channels the course we take in life. And unknown unknowns constitute a grand swath of everybody's field of ignorance.

This is part one of a five-part series in which we hear from David Dunning about the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

When people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.

Seminal webzine archives back onlineJUN 21

After nine years offline, FEED Magazine republishes its archives.

Welcome to the archives of the web magazine FEED. Launched in May of 1995, it was among a handful of "webzines"--as they were once called--in existence then. FEED tried to re-imagine how we would read and write in the digital age even as we dedicated ourselves to the craft of writing, a craft we were perfecting as green writers and editors ourselves.

We also convinced a handful of published authors to contribute. Hence, FEED was billed as the first Web-only magazine to feature "established writers." But its ultimate legacy may be the collection of writers who published some of their earliest work at FEED, and who then went on to luminous careers: the novelist Sam Lipsyte, Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox, media theorist Clay Shirky, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, Talkingpointmemo's Josh Marshall, and many others.

One of the pieces that FEED published was an early look at weblogs by Julian Dibbell. (You have no idea how much it bruised a certain naive blogger not to have been mentioned in that article. Perhaps there's been a certain "I'll show 'em" element to this person's blog ever since. Or so I've heard.)

Mail trainsJUN 21

This is the third part of a 1936 documentary film about a mail train traveling from London to Scotland. Be sure to watch the mail exchange process that starts about 50 seconds in.

The train doesn't even slow down to exchange the mail...the outgoing mailbags are hung low and snared by a net near the track and incoming mailbags are collected up high using a similar net.

Mail train

Drive-through fast food should work more like this. (via sveinn)

Vortex cannon!JUN 18

The vortex cannon creates "a 200 mile-an-hour cloud"...basically an air blast that can knock stuff over at a distance.

Awesome! (thx, brandon)

You're either repetitive, bored, or urgentJUN 18

Google breaks down mobile device users into three categories: repetitive now, bored now, and urgent now.

The "repetitive now" user is someone checking for the same piece of information over and over again, like checking the same stock quotes or weather. Google uses cookies to help cater to mobile users who check and recheck the same data points.

The "bored now" are users who have time on their hands. People on trains or waiting in airports or sitting in cafes. Mobile users in this behavior group look a lot more like casual Web surfers, but mobile phones don't offer the robust user input of a desktop, so the applications have to be tailored.

The "urgent now" is a request to find something specific fast, like the location of a bakery or directions to the airport. Since a lot of these questions are location-aware, Google tries to build location into the mobile versions of these queries.

This works for general web users as well. Blogs do well when they appeal to repetitive now and bored now users, but the really effective ones target all three types at once. Somehow this is related to stock and flow.

Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmerJUN 18

Charles Babbage built one of the first mechanical calculating machines but Ada Lovelace was the first to show how the machine's arithmetic function could be abstracted to produce things other than numbers: language, graphics, or music.

There are several other Information Pioneers shorts available on Vimeo, including profiles of Tim Berners-Lee, Alan Turing, and Hedy Lamarr.

Athens' modern Olympic ruinsJUN 18

Many of the stadiums and venues from the 2004 Athens Olympics are now lying abandoned, unused since the Games and symbolic of the disfunctional Greek economy.

Softball has no following in Greece, and the construction of a permanent softball stadium hasn't changed that. [...] Greeks like sports, but they like smoking more.

A city "winning" the right to host the Olympic Games seems like buying a pig in a poke.

Making a tiny star on Earth?JUN 18

Not content with movie stars, California wants its own actual stellar object. The LIFE project at the NIF (National Ignition Facility) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory aims to create a tiny star with intense laser power. How intense? The facility increases the power of the laser beam a quadrillion times before it reaches its target:

The National Ignition Facility, located at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is the world's largest laser system... 192 huge laser beams in a massive building, all focused down at the last moment at a 2 millimeter ball containing frozen hydrogen gas. The goal is to achieve fusion... getting more energy out than was used to create it. It's never been done before under controlled conditions, just in nuclear weapons and in stars. We expect to do it within the next 2-3 years. The purpose is threefold: to create an almost limitless supply of safe, carbon-free, proliferation-free electricity; examine new regimes of astrophysics as well as basic science; and study the inner-workings of the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons to ensure they remain safe, secure and reliable without the need for underground testing.

Wow. The fusion will produce high-energy neutrons, which will bombard a material capable of converting their energy into heat, which in turn will make steam and eventually electricity. But it gets even better:

In addition, the LIFE engine design can be "charged" with fission fuel. The resulting fission reactions will produce additional energy that can be harvested for electricity production. Moreover, by using depleted uranium or spent nuclear fuel from existing nuclear power plants in the blanket, a LIFE engine will be capable of burning the by-products of the current nuclear fuel cycle. Because the fusion neutrons are produced independently of the fission process, the fission fuel could be used without reprocessing. In this way, LIFE may be able to consume nuclear waste as fuel, mitigate against further nuclear proliferation, and provide long-term sustainability of carbon-free energy. A LIFE engine, via pure fusion or through the combination of fusion and fission, will generate the steady heat required to drive turbines for generating from 1,000 to 2,500 MW of safe, environmentally attractive electric power 24 hours a day for decades.

Also, free unicorns for everyone!

Menus of oldJUN 18

From a collection of old menus from Colorado, the 1892 menu from a Denver restaurant called The Boston Bakery and Lunch Room (For Ladies and Gents).

1892 Menu

Porterhouse steak with mushrooms: 70 cents. This particular menu also contains a sort of customer bill of rights: an explanation of how waiters should treat customers and how the restaurant will catch you if you try to skip out on your check.

Now, we want your trade, and we do not care whether your check is 5¢ or $5; you will be rightly treated and correctly waited upon, or we will know the reason why, if you will only report any neglect to the head waiter or to us before leaving your seat.

The waiters are instructed to be civil and polite to every one, whether they are so to them or not, for even should the customer use bad manners, the waiter must not.

Have no conversation with the customer, except what is strictly necessary.

Give everyone a napkin who asks for it.

p>Give each one a glass of water as soon as seated.

Be as quick and quiet as possible.

Place the orders down quietly; don't slam them down.

Give each customer a check as son as you serve the order and see that it is kept in sight. Very few beats come in here, but experience has taught us that there are some. We will give any waiter $2.00 who will give us information that will enable us or the head waiter to detect any one in the act of Check Beating.

We want to call the customer's attention to the fact that when we are looking at your checks and orders, it is as much to see that you are rightly served and not over-checked as that your not under-checked. Most would understand this but some might not.

See also the NYPL menu collection. (thx, micah)

Napkin sketch view of online mapsJUN 18

Bing Maps has a neat napkin sketch view.

Bing Sketch Map

Sticky rice mortarJUN 17

Chinese masons used to make mortar using sticky rice. The practice originated at least 1500 years ago.

The secret ingredient that makes the mortar so strong and durable is amylopectin, a type of polysaccharide, or complex carbohydrate, found in rice and other starchy foods, the scientists determined. The mortar's potency is so impressive that it can still be used today as a suitable restoration mortar for ancient masonry.

(via history blog)

Making of the Moscow Metro mapJUN 17

A lovely visual look at redesigning the map for the Moscow Metro. (thx, matt)

Skyscraper Subway is a moveable feastJUN 17

A new Subway has recently opened in Manhattan...hanging on the outside of the 27th floor of the skeleton of 1 World Trade Center. The Subway will move upwards as the building is constructed and it is hoped that construction workers will dine there instead of heading off-site for long lunches via a slow hoist.

"I don't think the veggies will be a big seller," said Mr. Schragger, who owns four other Subways in Manhattan. "I imagine most of the guys will want protein. Philly Cheesesteaks and the Feast."

Philly Cheesesteaks and the Feast would be a great name for a band.

Toy Story + The Wire mashupJUN 17

Woody = McNulty, Buzz = Stringer, and Mr. Potato Head = Bunk. (via stevey)

Altered United StatesJUN 17

Michael Crawford monkeys around with a map of the US. This piece is called Los Angeles Getting More Annoying as We Speak:

Altered States

I also liked his alteration to a Chuck Close portrait: Rauschenberg Minus Nebraska.

The ten most disturbing scientific discoveriesJUN 17

Number three on this Smithsonian Magazine list is "There have been mass extinctions in the past, and we're probably in one now."

Today, according to many biologists, we're in the midst of a sixth great extinction. Mastodons may have been some of the earliest victims. As humans moved from continent to continent, large animals that had thrived for millions of years began to disappear-mastodons in North America, giant kangaroos in Australia, dwarf elephants in Europe. Whatever the cause of this early wave of extinctions, humans are driving modern extinctions by hunting, destroying habitat, introducing invasive species and inadvertently spreading diseases.

Why Zappos sold to AmazonJUN 16

Zappos' CEO Tony Hsieh on why he sold his company to Amazon. Bascially most of Zappos' board of directors didn't approve of Hsieh's focus on employee and customer happiness at the short term expense of profits.

I left Seattle pretty sure that Amazon would be a better partner for Zappos than our current board of directors or any other outside investor. Our board wanted an immediate exit; we wanted to build an enduring company that would spread happiness. With Amazon, it seemed that Zappos could continue to build its culture, brand, and business. We would be free to be ourselves.

(via the browser)

The 101 best sandwiches in NYCJUN 16

I've only had a few of these...I am clearly not exercising my sandwich muscles enough these days. (Although the Brazilian sandwich at Project Sandwich has been treating me well lately.)

A 2 Live Crew cover video (sorta)JUN 16

I have no idea who the singer is or what this music video is about, but I kinda can't stop watching it.

And hey, look, an informative YouTube comment:

I'm gonna take a stab at interpreting the plot of this video. The child is dying and as some sort of make a wish type thing he's wants to be a warlord, have an entourage if hot ladies and meet 2 live crew (which I'm guessing the police man and business man have set up, with 4 stand-ins but they are nervous about him realizing its not actually them) ... but he buys it, and when he fulfills the three wishes cosmic energy leaves his body and all that glorious trippy shit happens at the end.

NSFW if looking at a live version of 2 Live Crew's As Nasty As They Wanna Be album cover is frowned upon in your place of employ.

Brontosaurus, RIPJUN 16

Did you know the Brontosaurus isn't actually a dinosaur?

The question of the popular Brontosaurus name verses the technically-correct Apatosaurus name came to a head in 1989 when the U.S. Post Office decided to release a set of four stamps illustrating "dinosaurs." One in the series was a picture of a large sauropod labeled Brontosaurus. This upset some dinosaur enthusiasts who accused the Postal Service of promoting scientific illiteracy, an ironic accusation given the number of museums that had the animal mislabeled for decades. While there was a hue and cry over the Brontosaurus name, few even mentioned the other, more glaring error, which was the inclusion of a Pteranodon (a flying reptile) in a set of dinosaur stamps. By definition dinosaurs do not have wings.

I totally had no idea this had happened...I must have been brainwashed by all those hours of the Flintstones I watched as a child. (via unlikely words)

Goal of the Century: Maradona vs MessiJUN 16

Split-screen view comparing Diego Maradona's 1986 Goal of the Century with a very similar goal by current Argentinian star Lionel Messi.

Georges Seurat's paletteJUN 16

Seurat's palette

You can see his paintings right there on the palette. (via the telegraph)

SomewhereJUN 15

Somewhere is an upcoming film from Sofia Coppola; here's the trailer.

Writer/director Sofia Coppola reunites with the film company with which she made the Academy Award-winning hit "Lost in Translation." Her new film is an intimate story set in contemporary Los Angeles; Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a bad-boy actor stumbling through a life of excess at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood. With an unexpected visit from his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning), Johnny is forced to look at the questions we must all confront.

As one of the few people who enjoyed Marie Antoinette, I'm of course looking forward to this. (via df)

Social status and nightclub bouncersJUN 15

A professor from the Kellogg School of Management wondered: what rules do the bouncers at exclusive night clubs use to filter some clientele into the club and leave others out in the cold?

Bouncers weighed each cue differently. Social network mattered most, gender followed. For example, a young woman in jeans stood a higher chance of entrance than a well-dressed man. And an elegantly dressed black man stood little chance of getting in unless he knew someone special.

The shortest possible game of MonopolyJUN 15

Here are two people playing the world's shortest Monopoly game (21 seconds long):

The four turns required are detailed here.

Rent a white guyJUN 15

Chinese companies are temporarily hiring white men to pose as fake businessmen.

One friend, an American who works in film, was paid to represent a Canadian company and give a speech espousing a low-carbon future. Another was flown to Shanghai to act as a seasonal-gifts buyer. Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image -- particularly, the image of connection -- that Chinese companies crave. My Chinese-language tutor, at first aghast about how much we were getting paid, put it this way: "Having foreigners in nice suits gives the company face."

(thx, goob)

Criterion Collection box artJUN 15

Pierrot Le Fou

Great, great design.

SEO titles for classic booksJUN 15

From Mike Lacher over at McSweeney's, some classic works of literature retitled to boost website traffic. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle becomes 6 Shockingly Evil Things The Turn-Of-The-Century Meatpacking Industry Doesn't Want You To Know and Orwell's Animal Farm becomes 7 Awesome Ways Barnyard Animals Are Like Communism. See also book titles if they were written today. (via waxy)

Toddler mode for the iPadJUN 14

Peter Merholz says there should be a toddler mode for the iPad (and probably iPhone as well).

You know how iPhone and iPad have "airplane mode", which turns off all connectivity? Right under that, I want "Toddler Mode". When switched on, you'll get a dialog letting you know you are entering Toddler Mode, and an explanation of how to get out. Unlike Airplane Mode, you can't get out of Toddler Mode through settings, because there's no way Toddler Mode should allow access to the settings panel. I haven't figured out the best way out of Toddler Mode, but I'm thinking a quick triple-click on the home button, followed by a swipe, should work.

The problem with toddler mode is that the capabilities of kids change very quickly at that age. For instance, the home button is only a problem for a short time. My almost-3-yo son Ollie pretty quickly figured out that if he wanted to keep doing what he was doing, he had to lay off the home button. Now he knows exactly what it does: gets him back to the screen where he can pick a new activity. He also has no problem finding his apps...he knows exactly which of those icons mean fun and which do not.

(BTW, if you're an interface/interaction designer and you haven't watched a preschooler using a touchscreen device, you really should. It's fascinating how quickly they learn some things and just can't get the hang of other things. It's a really eye-opening experience.)

DNA copying for everyoneJUN 14

The OpenPCR project is trying to raise $6,000 on Kickstarter to design and build a DNA Xerox machine that costs less than $400, thereby enabling DNA hacking in one's garage.

In 1983, Kary Mullis first developed PCR, for which he later received a Nobel Prize. But the tool is still expensive, even though the technology is almost 30 years old. If computing grew at the same pace, we would all still be paying $2,000+ for a 1 MHz Apple II computer. Innovation in biotech needs a kick start!

PCR machines currently cost $4-10,000. (via modcult)

The flipper bridgeJUN 14

In Hong Kong, cars drive on the left while in the rest of China, they drive on the right. If you're building a bridge between the two, you've got to come up with a clever way to switch lanes without disruption or accident. Behold, the flipper:

Flipper bridge

The only way that could be more cool is if one of the lanes went into a tunnel under the water or corkscrewed over the other lane in a rollercoaster/Mario Kart fashion. Lots more on the NL Architects site.

How to stick your hand into molten leadJUN 14

Can't get enough of the Leidenfrost effect? I know! Me either! In addition to helping with nonstick cooking, the L. effect also allows you to stick your hand into an 850° pot of molten lead without injury.

Skip to 1:55 for the good stuff. Bananas! Absolutely bananas! Oh, and this also works for liquid nitrogen as well. (thx, kyle)

A short history of maize in MexicoJUN 14

The manner in which tortillas and other bread are made in Mexico has had far-reaching societal effects.

Of course, there are trade-offs. Bimbo is not as good as a bolillo. A machine-made tortilla is not anything like a homemade tortilla -- it's not even in the same universe.

Mexican women that I have talked to are very explicit about this trade-off. They know it doesn't taste as good; they don't care. Because if they want to have time, if they want to work, if they want to send their kids to school, then taste is less important than having that bit of extra money, and moving into the middle class. They have very self-consciously made this decision. In the last ten years, the number of women working in Mexico has gone up from about thirty-three percent to nearly fifty percent. One reason for that-it's not the only reason, but it is a very important reason-is that we've had a revolution in the processing of maize for tortillas.

How to preheat a frying panJUN 14

This blog post and accompanying videos show you how to preheat your frying pan to the precise temperature at which your food won't stick. It involves waiting until a small splash of water in the pan forms a single mercury-like ball that floats (literally!) around the pan. Too hot and the water will disperse into smaller balls; too cold and it'll just boil off instantly.

The water "hovering" over the stainless steel pan like mercury happens due to the phenomenon known as the Leidenfrost effect. You can read more about it on wikipedia, but the basic idea is this: at a certain temperature known as the Leidenfrost point (roughly around 320F for water, but varying with surface and pressure), when the water droplet hits the hot pan, the bottom part of the water vaporizes immediately on contact. The resulting gas actually suspends the water above it and creates a pocket of water vapor that slows further heat transfer between the pan and the water. Thus it evaporates more slowly than it would at lower temperatures. At the proper temperature, a similar effect happens with the food you place in the pan, preventing the food from sticking.

This is possibly the best kitchen tip I've ever heard. (thx, jim)

Parental leave and masculinityJUN 14

In Sweden, generous parental leave laws for fathers are changing how society views both men and women.

Companies have come to expect employees to take leave irrespective of gender, and not to penalize fathers at promotion time. Women's paychecks are benefiting and the shift in fathers' roles is perceived as playing a part in lower divorce rates and increasing joint custody of children.

In perhaps the most striking example of social engineering, a new definition of masculinity is emerging.

"Many men no longer want to be identified just by their jobs," said Bengt Westerberg, who long opposed quotas but as deputy prime minister phased in a first month of paternity leave in 1995. "Many women now expect their husbands to take at least some time off with the children."

Birgitta Ohlsson, European affairs minister, put it this way: "Machos with dinosaur values don't make the top-10 lists of attractive men in women's magazines anymore."

Actual family values.

The customer support nightmareJUN 11

A cartoon from The Oatmeal on Why I'd rather be punched in the testicles than call customer service.

A human being! You eventually reach a real live person! Not a robot! They're made of carbon! They have things like body hair and a pituitary gland! Holy mother of crap this is exciting!

I've got $400. Where can I go?JUN 11

Kayak's Explore feature is a fantastic tool for flexible vacationers on a budget. You enter your home airport, ticket price range, roughly when you want to travel, and it shows you a map of where you can fly for that much money. You can optionally specific your destination's average temperature, spoken languages, available activities, and flight time.

North Korea: now even worseJUN 11

The NY Times interviewed eight North Koreans who recently left their country about the increasingly dire conditions there. It seems impossible, but the November currency devaluation has made life worse for what was already essentially a country of slaves.

His daughter tried to comfort him. "Father, I will keep this pair of pants until I die!" she pledged. He told her the cutting board would be her wedding gift.

"At that moment, I really wanted to kill myself," he said. He gestured toward the safe-house window and beyond toward nighttime Yanji, brightly lighted and humming with traffic. "It is not like here," he said. "Here, it is not a big deal to make money. There, it is suffering and suffering; sacrificing and sacrificing."

He said he lay awake night after night afterward, fixated on the navy track suit his daughter had coveted. She had said it put her thick winter sweater and plain trousers to shame. He had put her off because the cheapest ones were nearly $15. When she brought it up once too often, he had cursed and shouted, "People in this house need to eat first!"

"I cannot describe how terrible I feel that I didn't buy that for her," he said, his voice trembling.

Kim Jong-il: putting the dick in dictator since 1994.

Cool Safari extensionsJUN 11

Safari 5 supports extensions now...here are some I've downloaded so far:

SafariRestore automatically restores your previous browsing session. That Safari still doesn't do this by default is beyond ridiculous.

YouTube5 converts YouTube videos to their HTML5 video tag equivalents. It says it only works on youtube.com right now, but it works great on the kottke.org as well. (See underwater base jump, e.g.)

NoMoreiTunes stops Safari from opening iTunes when you visit an iTunes Store link. Again, Safari's default behavior is not optimal here.

I got all these from the Safari Extensions Tumblr, which is a bit overwhelming. I wish they'd curate a bit more instead of letting everything through. To that end, are you using any good extensions people should know about? Do tell.

David Foster Wallace commencement address audioJUN 11

In 2005, David Foster Wallace gave the commencement address at Kenyon College. After a transcript of the speech was posted online (the original was taken down...a copy is available here), it became something of a high-brow viral sensation and was eventually packaged into book form.

The original audio recording (i.e. as read by Wallace on the Kenyon podium) has just been released on Audible.com and is also available through iTunes and on Amazon (this is the cheapest option). Note: there is also an audiobook version of the speech read by Wallace's sister...but I think the original is the best bet. It's a fantastic speech. (via howling fantods)

The pine nut dietJUN 11

My wife ate some pine nuts a few days ago and has had a weird metallic taste in her mouth ever since.

Monday for lunch I ate the leftovers, including a bunch of whole pine nuts that had fallen to the bottom of the dish. By Tuesday evening I had a weird taste in the back of my throat, so weird that when I when I woke up during the night, I couldn't get back to sleep.

The taste was so bad that she doesn't really feel like eating anything. That got me thinking: the pine nut diet. When you need to drop some pounds, eat a few of the offending pine nuts and boom!, eat as much as you want...as long as you can stand the taste.

P.S. Meg's back to blogging over at Megnut.

Can the human eye see individual pixels on iPhone 4?JUN 10

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy takes on Steve Jobs' claim that iPhone 4's pixels are too small for the human eye to see individually. I have confidence in Plait's conclusions:

I know a thing or two about resolution as well, having spent a few years calibrating a camera on board Hubble.

He may as well have pulled Marshall McLuhan out from behind a movie poster.

Real-world Minority Report computer interfaceJUN 10

John Underkoffler was one of the science advisors for Minority Report. After doing that, he helped build a computer with an interface very much like the ones in the movie...you know, where Tom Cruise flings stuff around on a screen with his hands. In this TED talk, Underkoffler demonstrates the system.

The whole thing is worth watching but skip to 5:20 (or even 6:30) if you want to see some crazy ass shit go down. (via lonelysandwich)

Twitter changes their URL shortening strategyJUN 10

From the Twitter blog:

When this is rolled out more broadly to users this summer, all links shared on Twitter.com or third-party apps will be wrapped with a t.co URL.

All links? Does that include bit.ly, tinyurl.com, flic.kr, 4sq.com, amzn.to, etc.? I'm obviously happy that they're taking steps to get these largely unnecessary link middlemen out of the picture but some people are going to be pissed if they're unshortening all links automatically.

Oh, and as far as how the feature will work, I like Blake Eskin's suggestion:

Since @ and # work so well, why isn't there one character to tell you here comes a link, replacing http:// ?

How about %? Or maybe //? So instead of "Check out http://kottke.org" it'd be something like "Check out %kottke.org" or "Check out //kottke.org".

How to write a Malcolm Gladwell bookJUN 10

There are seven main features of a Malcolm Gladwell book.

5. Give things names and remember Douglas Adams' rule of capital letters. Capital letters make things important. For example, in The Tipping Point, Gladwell conjures up the following important concepts: The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and The Power of Context. In Outliers, there's The Matthew Effect and The 10,000-Hour Rule.

And totally unrelated but related, here's an awesome photo of a 14-year-old Gladwell running the 1500 meters. (thx, nick)

David Remnick interviewedJUN 10

Robert Birnbaum interviews David Remnick.

But I remember, one week after getting [the New Yorker editor job], in the almost absurd way I got it, I had to go to San Francisco, and I was at dinner and some guy came up to me. He had been in the Midwest and lived in San Francisco and he came up to the table where we were having dinner and grabbed my arm in a way that was slightly alarming and his message to me was, "Don't fuck this up!"

The whole thing is great.

Lego versions of famous photosJUN 10

I've probably posted these before but they're still neat: iconic photographs recreated in Lego.

Cartier Bresson Lego

The original version of the above can be seen here. (via @matthiasrascher)

Perspectives of PovertyJUN 09

Frustrated with the carefully chosen photos of Africans "dressed in rags, smothered in flies, with [looks] of desperation" used to symbolize poverty by development organizations, Duncan McNicholl has started a photography project in which he takes two photos of a person: one in a typical poverty pose and the other with the person "looking their very finest".

The truth is that the development sector, just like any other business, needs revenue to survive. Too frequently, this quest for funding uses these kind of dehumanizing images to draw pity, charity, and eventually donations from a largely unsuspecting public. I found it outrageous that such an incomplete and often inaccurate story was being so widely perpetuated by the organizations on the ground -- the very ones with the ability and the responsibility to communicate the realities of rural Africa accurately.

Wee Fiat 1970s concept carJUN 09

Fiat City Car

Isn't that the cutest little thing? The City Car was a concept car with an electric engine designed by Fiat in 1972. I say build the sucker...what a beautiful machine. They could call it the Fiat Squee!!

The Dictionary of Obscure SorrowsJUN 09

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a collection of imagined definitions for useful contemporary phrases. My two favorite recent entries are the McFly effect:

n. the phenomenon of observing your parents interact with people they grew up with, which reboots their personalities into youth mode, reverting to a time before the last save point, when they were still dreamers and rascals cooling their heels in the wilderness, waiting terrified and eager to meet you for the first time

and especially contact high-five:

n. an innocuous touch by someone just doing their job -- a barber, yoga instructor or friendly waitress -- that you enjoy more than you'd like to admit, a feeling of connection so stupefyingly simple that it cheapens the power of the written word, so that by the year 2025, aspiring novelists would be better off just giving people a hug.

(thx, john)

Typographic World Cup tshirtsJUN 09

I love these World Cup soccer shirts...here's the Brazilian one:

Brazil soccer shirt

Another one for the list.

Locals vs. touristsJUN 09

Locals and Tourists is a set of maps showing where people take photos in various cities around the world. The results are broken down into tourist photos and photos taken by locals. Here's NYC:

NYC photo takers

Blue points on the map are pictures taken by locals (people who have taken pictures in this city dated over a range of a month or more). Red points are pictures taken by tourists (people who seem to be a local of a different city and who took pictures in this city for less than a month).

Updates on previous entries for Jun 8, 2010*JUN 09

The case of the recurring TV newspaper orig. from Jun 07, 2010
Dear Leader meets Sim City orig. from Jun 03, 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.

A diet of the mindJUN 08

Alain de Botton thinks we require the occasional information diet.

The obsession with current events is relentless. We are made to feel that at any point, somewhere on the globe, something may occur to sweep away old certainties -- something that, if we failed to learn about it instantaneously, could leave us wholly unable to comprehend ourselves or our fellows. We are continuously challenged to discover new works of culture -- and, in the process, we don't allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds.

Crazy underwater base jumpJUN 08

Guillaume Nery is a world champion free diver; here he is "jumping" from the top of Dean's Blue Hole and falling towards the bottom. No tanks or anything.

Insane. According to the info on YouTube, Nery's jump was filmed by free diver Julie Gautier, who was also holding her breath the whole time. Insaner!

High-brow World Cup blogJUN 08

The New Republic has started up their World Cup blog again.

This spring, we recruited Aleksandar Hemon to write a monthly column about soccer and encouraged him to write without pandering to a broad audience. And that's the same spirit that we've embraced for this enterprise. Our cast of bloggers is filled with many eminent novelists and journalists (and a Deputy Mayor of New York City). They will write about the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of this tournament, I'm sure. But they will also write about tactics and players and coaches. They have a green light to be as wonky as they want.

Jobs' keynote praise gets RSS reader pulled from App StoreJUN 08

Steve Jobs praised an iPad RSS reader called Pulse in his keynote yesterday. Then the NY Times complained about the app and Apple pulled it from the store later in the day.

The Pulse News Reader app, makes commercial use of the NYTimes.com and Boston.com RSS feeds, in violation of their Terms of Use*. Thus, the use of our content is unlicensed. The app also frames the NYTimes.com and Boston.com websites in violation of their respective Terms of Use.

Four things:

1. Why is there a comma after "The Pulse News Reader app" in the laywer's note to Apple?
2. The very same NY Times ran a positive review of the very same Pulse a few days ago. Doh!
3. Seems like all the Pulse guys need to do is unbundle the NY Times feeds and open the actual nytimes.com pages into a generic browser window and all is good.
4. I wonder why the Times et al. haven't complained about Instapaper yet. It might not technically infringe on copyright, but magazines and newspapers can't be too happy about an app that strips out all the advertising from their articles...as much as we would all be sad to see it go.

Scientists implant transistor in living cellJUN 08

The man/machine union marches ever closer.

Scientists have embedded a nano-sized transistor inside a cell-like membrane and powered it using the cell's own fuel. The research could lead to new types of man-machine interactions where embedded devices could relay information about the inner workings of disease-related proteins inside the cell membrane, and eventually lead to new ways to read, and even influence, brain or nerve cells.

When I first saw the headline, I thought that it said "embedded a nano-sized transistor radio"...now that would be something. (via jb)

Updates on previous entries for Jun 7, 2010*JUN 08

Guillermo Del Toro steps down as The Hobbit director orig. from Jun 07, 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.

David Foster Wallace on iPhone 4's FaceTimeJUN 07

The recently announced iPhone 4 includes a feature called FaceTime; it's wifi videophone functionality. In Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote that within the reality of the book, videophones enjoyed enormous initial popularity but then after a few months, most people gave it up. Why the switch back to voice?

The answer, in a kind of trivalent nutshell, is: (1) emotional stress, (2) physical vanity, and (3) a certain queer kind of self-obliterating logic in the microeconomics of consumer high-tech.

First, the stress:

Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation [...] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet -- and this was the retrospectively marvelous part -- even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end's attention might be similarly divided.

[...] Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener's expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges. Those caller who out of unconscious habit succumbed to fuguelike doodling or pants-crease-adjustment now came off looking extra rude, absentminded, or childishly self-absorbed. Callers who even more unconsciously blemish-scanned or nostril explored looked up to find horrified expressions on the video-faces at the other end. All of which resulted in videophonic stress.

And then vanity:

And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn't. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair-checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.

Those are only excerpts...you can read more on pp. 144-151 of Infinite Jest. Eventually, in the world of the book, people began wearing "form-fitting polybutylene masks" when talking on the videophone before even that became too much.

The case of the recurring TV newspaperJUN 07

The exact same newspaper has shown up in different TV shows -- Six Feet Under, Married With Children, That 70s Show, etc. -- for several years now. Does anyone have the backstory on this?

Update: Slate's Brow Beat blog has the backstory:

Production companies use prop newspapers instead of real ones because getting clearance from an actual publication is usually more work than it's worth in potential fees and bureaucracy. (There are exceptions. When Tony Soprano picked up his paper each morning, it was always the Newark Star Ledger.) Rather than battle the legal department at the New York Times for that perfunctory breakfast shot, prop masters buy a stack of Earl Hays fake papers, which cost just $15 each. Sometimes if they have some left over they'll recycle them for another job.

Guillermo Del Toro steps down as The Hobbit directorJUN 07

The news is a few days old but I just heard about it: Guillermo Del Toro will no longer be directing The Hobbit. Sounds like the movie was taking too long and he wanted to have time to work on other projects.

"Guillermo is co-writing the Hobbit screenplays with Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and myself, and happily our writing partnership will continue for several more months, until the scripts are fine tuned and polished" says Jackson. "New Line and Warner Bros will sit down with us this week, to ensure a smooth and uneventful transition, as we secure a new director for the Hobbit. We do not anticipate any delay or disruption to ongoing pre-production work".

Obviously Jackson should just direct the damn thing.

Update: Hmm, I just heard from a small bird that Jackson is pretty much set to direct...just finalizing the deal with the studio. On the other hand, Jackson's manager says that the director is committed to other directing projects. So I guess we'll see what happens.

Massive Flow Of Bullshit Continues To Gush From BP HeadquartersJUN 07

The Onion reports:

As the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico entered its eighth week Wednesday, fears continued to grow that the massive flow of bullshit still gushing from the headquarters of oil giant BP could prove catastrophic if nothing is done to contain it. The toxic bullshit, which began to spew from the mouths of BP executives shortly after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April, has completely devastated the Gulf region, delaying cleanup efforts, affecting thousands of jobs, and endangering the lives of all nearby wildlife.

See also BPGlobalPR on Twitter.

Safety is our primary concern. Well, profits, then safety. Oh, no- profits, image, then safety, but still- it's right up there.

This weekend only! Come to bp to top off your tank and we will top off your tummy with some free $10 blackened shrimp! #bpcares

Steven Johnson's new book on innovationJUN 07

Steven Johnson announces his new book: Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History Of Innovation.

I look at human environments that have been unusually generative: the architecture of successful science labs, the information networks of the Web or the Enlightenment-era postal system, the public spaces of metropolitan cities, even the notebooks of great thinkers. But I also look at natural environments that have been biologically innovative: the coral reef and the rain forest, or the chemical soups that first gave birth to life's good idea.

Sounds great.

Steve Jobs' keynote at WWDCJUN 07

At 1pm ET, Steve Jobs is scheduled to take the stage at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference and announce some new stuff. Rumored so far: iPhone 4.0, some kind of magic trackpad, Safari 5, and a new version of AppleTV.

Follow the keynote here in image+text format: Engadget, gdgt, Ars Technica, and the NY Times' Bits blog.

Self-delusionJUN 07

You Are Not So Smart is a blog about self-delusion. There are recent entries on the Dunning-Krueger effect, fanboyism and brand loyalty, and the misinformation effect.

The Misconception: Memories are played back like recordings.

The Truth: Memories are constructed anew each time from whatever information is currently available, which makes things like eyewitness testimony unreliable.

(via mr)

Origami alphabetsJUN 07

This is the origami alphabet:

origami alphabet

When a piece of paper is folded according to these directions, a 3-D extrusion of the alphabet will result. The alphabet's creators have also devised an alphabet made by the hinged dissection of a square.

Keanu Reeves is a really nice guyJUN 04

This link seems perfectly suited to Friday afternoon: it's a bunch of people sharing stories about how nice Keanu Reeves is.

Back in the late 90s and fresh out of college I got my first job as an assistant prop designer on the set of Chain Reaction (Keanu was a supporting actor with Morgan Freeman). EVERY DAY for the last few weeks of filming, Keanu treated the stage hands and "grunt workers" (including myself) by taking us out for free breakfast and lunch. He was genuinely a very nice guy to work with.

And this:

A friend of mine told me that she was once stranded on the side of a highway outside LA when her jalopy broke down. She had no cell phone (that was before most people had cell phones) and no way to call for help. Then a nice black porsche pulls over and as you can guess, it was Keanu. He tried to help her jump start the car and when it didn't work, he called AAA for her. When they towed her car, he offered her to drive her home, which she accepted. He drove about 50 miles out of his destination just to drive her home.

Askers vs. GuessersJUN 04

Some people ask for what they want even if they think the answer might be no and other people don't ask for anything unless they know the answer will be yes. When those two types of people interact, look out.

An Asker won't think it's rude to request two weeks in your spare room, but a Guess culture person will hear it as presumptuous and resent the agony involved in saying no. Your boss, asking for a project to be finished early, may be an overdemanding boor -- or just an Asker, who's assuming you might decline. If you're a Guesser, you'll hear it as an expectation. This is a spectrum, not a dichotomy, and it explains cross-cultural awkwardnesses, too: Brits and Americans get discombobulated doing business in Japan, because it's a Guess culture, yet experience Russians as rude, because they're diehard Askers.

A catalog of natureJUN 04

NMNH backroom

That's from behind the scenes at the National Museum of Natural History in DC.

Pictory: New York CityJUN 04

Pictory has a slideshow up of New York City photos. Design by Nicholas Felton, photos curated by Josh Haner of the New York Times Lens blog.

Searching for JesusJUN 04

From a recent issue of the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik surveys a recent selection of books about who Jesus was.

The American scholar Bart Ehrman has been explaining the scholars' truths for more than a decade now, in a series of sincere, quiet, and successful books. Ehrman is one of those best-selling authors like Richard Dawkins and Robert Ludlum and Peter Mayle, who write the same book over and over -- but the basic template is so good that the new version is always worth reading. In his latest installment, "Jesus, Interrupted", Ehrman once again shares with his readers the not entirely good news he found a quarter century ago when, after a fundamentalist youth, he went to graduate school: that all the Gospels were written decades after Jesus' death; that all were written in Greek, which Jesus and the apostles didn't speak and couldn't write (if they could read and write at all); and that they were written as testaments of faith, not chronicles of biography, shaped to fit a prophecy rather than report a profile.

What's your time perspective?JUN 04

A fascinating 10-minute animated talk by Philip Zimbardo about the different "time zones" or "time perspectives" that people can have and how the different zones affect people's world views.

The six different time zones are:

- Past positive: focus is on the "good old days", past successes, nostalgia, etc.
- Past negative: focus on regret, failure, all the things that went wrong
- Present hedonistic: living in the moment for pleasure and avoiding pain, seek novelty and sensation
- Present fatalism: life is governed by outside forces, "it doesn't pay to plan"
- Future: focus is on learning to work rather than play
- Transcendental Future: life begins after the death of the mortal body

Find out which time zone you're in by taking this survey.

Fun fact: Zimbardo conducted the famous Stanford prison experiment in 1971. (thx, sean)

How to make McDonald's fries at homeJUN 03

It involves finagling some uncooked frozen fries from a local McDonald's under the ruse of a scavenger hunt. Kenji Lopez-Alt explains.

I've been literally giddy with the quality of the fries that have been coming out of my kitchen for the last two days. My wife won't hear the end of it. Even my puppy is wondering why his owner keeps exclaiming "Holy s**t that's good!" every half hour from the kitchen. I've cooked over 43 batches of fries in the last three days, and I'm happy to report that I've finally found a way to consistently reach crisp, golden Nirvana.

Here's the full recipe/instructions. BTW, Kenji's series of posts on Serious Eats is one of the best things going on the web right now (you might remember his sous-vide in a beer cooler hack). Passionate down-to-earth writing about cooking and food backed by some serious skills and scientific knowledge...it's really fun to read.

Video of a man exposed to total vacuumJUN 03

Remember the boiling tongue water story from yesterday's post about how long a human can last in the vacuum of space? Here's the video of that depressurization event, with the participants taking about it:

(thx, brad)

Treats, Sleigh BellsJUN 03

I am love love loving Treats, the debut album from Sleigh Bells, a Brooklyn-based duo consisting of a hardcore guitar player and a pop vocalist slash Bronx schoolteacher. You've likely heard all about them from Stereogum ("their tracks ram together many sonic worlds") or Pitchfork ("discordant Brooklyn dancepop duo") but in case I'm your main source for new music, now you have something novel to listen to this afternoon.

FiveThirtyEight goes to the NY TimesJUN 03

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight is licensing its content to the NY Times for the next three years.

In the near future, the blog will "re-launch" under a NYTimes.com domain. It will retain its own identity (akin to other Times blogs like DealBook), but will be organized under the News:Politics section. Once this occurs, content will no longer be posted at FiveThirtyEight.com on an ongoing basis, and the blog will re-direct to the new URL. In addition, I will be contributing content to the print edition of the New York Times, and to the Sunday Magazine.

The Times' own Media Decoder blog notes that the deal is similar in structure to the arrangement Freakonomics enjoys at the newspaper: more of a rental than a purchase. I believe Andrew Sullivan has had similar deals at the various publications at which he's blogged. (thx, nevan)

Complete DVD set of The Wire, $90JUN 03

If you haven't seen The Wire by now, maybe you're never going to. But if you finally want to give it a try, Amazon has the entire series on DVD for $90 (that's almost 65% off, today only). (via @sportsguy33)

Dear Leader meets Sim CityJUN 03

A 22-yo architecture student from The Philippines has "beaten" Sim City 3000 by building a city with the largest possible population that sustains itself for 50,000 years. The city, called Magnasanti, is not somewhere you would want to live.

There are a lot of other problems in the city hidden under the illusion of order and greatness: Suffocating air pollution, high unemployment, no fire stations, schools, or hospitals, a regimented lifestyle -- this is the price that these sims pay for living in the city with the highest population. It's a sick and twisted goal to strive towards. The ironic thing about it is the sims in Magnasanti tolerate it. They don't rebel, or cause revolutions and social chaos. No one considers challenging the system by physical means since a hyper-efficient police state keeps them in line. They have all been successfully dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going for thousands of years. 50,000 years to be exact. They are all imprisoned in space and time.

Update: In 1922, Le Corbusier designed an "ideal" city with 3 million inhabitants. (thx, diana)

Music for spaceflightsJUN 02

From NASA, an extensive listing of the "wake-up" music heard by astronauts on their missions in space. For Apollo 17's first wake-up call on the Moon, they played Wagner's The Ride of the Valkyries while the second Space Shuttle mission crew got stuck with "Pigs in Space comedy routine #1 by The Muppets". (via girlhacker)

Three Sons of God walk into the loony bin...JUN 02

In the late 1950s, psychologist Milton Rokeach took three patients who believed they were Jesus Christ and made them live with each other for two years.

The early meetings were stormy. "You oughta worship me, I'll tell you that!" one of the Christs yelled. "I will not worship you! You're a creature! You better live your own life and wake up to the facts!" another snapped back. "No two men are Jesus Christs. ... I am the Good Lord!" the third interjected, barely concealing his anger.

Flash player written in JavascriptJUN 02

That's right...it's called Smokescreen. In the future, everything will be rewritten into Javascript. (via df)

Floral bees nestsJUN 02

Cutest thing you'll see all day: these Turkish bees use flower petals to build colorful little nests that look like flowers themselves.

Bee petal nest

Looks like something straight out of Martha Stewart Living.

How long can a human live unprotected in space?JUN 02

The answer, straight from NASA.

At NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center (now renamed Johnson Space Center) we had a test subject accidentally exposed to a near vacuum (less than 1 psi) in an incident involving a leaking space suit in a vacuum chamber back in '65. He remained conscious for about 14 seconds, which is about the time it takes for O2 deprived blood to go from the lungs to the brain. The suit probably did not reach a hard vacuum, and we began repressurizing the chamber within 15 seconds. The subject regained consciousness at around 15,000 feet equivalent altitude. The subject later reported that he could feel and hear the air leaking out, and his last conscious memory was of the water on his tongue beginning to boil.

Boiling tongue water! (via acts of volition)

The climbing excavatorJUN 02

Watch as this massive piece of machinery climbs up a steel post that must be 60 or 80 feet tall.

The good stuff starts around 2:45.

Tetris Tetris everywhereJUN 01

A selection of photos of objects that look like Tetris pieces.

Tetris Everywhere

(via flickr blog)

Criminal ISO other criminalsJUN 01

From a book called Codes of the Underworld, the first chapter on "Criminal Credentials"...or the problems criminals face in finding collaborators and weeding out undercover law inforcement.

"On the street," wrote FBI special agent Joseph Pistone, who infiltrated the Colombo and later the Bonanno mafia families of New York under the name of Donnie Brasco, "everybody is suspicious of everybody else until you prove yourself." If someone says, "I am ready to deal with you, pal," or sports some item of clothing that conventionally indicates he is a criminal, such as a pair of dark glasses, these signals are hardly sufficient to prove that he is a criminal. As a professional thief put it, "language is not in itself a sufficient means of determining whether a person is trustworthy, for some people in the underworld are stool pigeons and some outsiders learn some of the language." Proving oneself requires tougher tests than cheap talk.

The whole thing is worth a read.

Caring for your online introvertJUN 01

Fellow introvert Joanne McNeil on Jonathan Rauch's classic article on introverts and what introversion might mean on the internet.

Social media drains me like a large party might. I just deactivated Facebook. And I don't @ much on Twitter. Too often it feels like the "fog of [an extrovert's] 98-percent-content-free talk," as Rauch put it.

The Big Short is out on KindleJUN 01

The Big Short by Michael Lewis is finally out for the Kindle (well, it came out two weeks ago, about a month after the hardcover). You might remember the hubbub about the lack of a Kindle version.

Anyway, the book is excellent; I read it pretty much nonstop until finished. Lewis cleverly recasts the story of one of the biggest financial disasters in American history as a heroic tale. Heroic!

OffMapsJUN 01

If you're travelling abroad with the iPhone and understandably wish to avoid AT&T's ridiculously high data roaming charges when trying to find the train station in a new city, I would highly recommend OffMaps.

OffMaps lets you take your maps offline. It is the ideal companion for any iPhone and iPod Touch user, who wants to access maps when travelling abroad (and avoid data roaming charges) and who wants to have fast access to maps at all times. This app (and the icon) just has to be on the right hand side of Apple's built-in maps app.

OffMaps uses OpenStreetMap that include a lot more information than simple road maps: from ATMs and train stations to restaurants and pubs! You choose which areas to download instead of buying a new app for every city you want to visit.

I used it for a week in Paris and it worked great; the GPS and compass both still work when data is off so locating yourself isn't a problem. Just download the proper maps before you leave for your trip and you're good to go.

The magic levitating topJUN 01

When this magnetic top is set spinning over another magnet, it levitates. No superconduction necessary.

(via @ebertchicago)

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