Entries for October 2010 (November 2010 »    December 2010 »    January 2011 »    Archives)

 

Paris vs New YorkOCT 29

The Paris vs New York blog presents a series of illustrated comparisons between the two cities: macaroons vs. cupcakes, baguette vs bagel, and espresso vs American coffee:

Paris vs New York

The state of iPad magazinesOCT 29

Fresh off several years as Design Director of nytimes.com, Khoi Vinh gives his opinion of the current batch of iPad magazine apps. I think he's right on.

My opinion about iPad-based magazines is that they run counter to how people use tablets today and, unless something changes, will remain at odds with the way people will use tablets as the medium matures. They're bloated, user-unfriendly and map to a tired pattern of mass media brands trying vainly to establish beachheads on new platforms without really understanding the platforms at all.

The fact of the matter is that the mode of reading that a magazine represents is a mode that people are decreasingly interested in, that is making less and less sense as we forge further into this century, and that makes almost no sense on a tablet. As usual, these publishers require users to dive into environments that only negligibly acknowledge the world outside of their brand, if at all - a problem that's abetted and exacerbated by the full-screen, single-window posture of all iPad software. In a media world that looks increasingly like the busy downtown heart of a city - with innumerable activities, events and alternative sources of distraction around you - these apps demand that you confine yourself to a remote, suburban cul-de-sac.

The first vending machineOCT 29

When would you guess the world's first vending machine was invented? Probably 1880 or thereabouts. Not a bad guess:

It was not until the early 1880s that the first commercial coin-operated vending machines were introduced for public use. These vending machines were found in London and dispensed post cards. Around the same time, Richard Carlisle, an English publisher and bookshop owner, invented a vending machine that dispensed books. Vending machines finally made their United States debut in 1888 when the Thomas Adams Gum Company installed machines on subway platforms in New York City that vended Tutti-Frutti gum.

But as with so many other things, the Greeks got there first. A holy water-dispensing vending machine was described by Hero of Alexandria in the first-century A.D.:

A person puts a coin in a slot at the top of a box. The coin hits a metal lever, like a balance beam. On the other end of the beam is a string tied to a plug that stops a container of liquid. As the beam tilts from the weight of the coin, the string lifts the plug and dispenses the desired drink until the coin drops off the beam.

Airport security: the Dick-Measuring Device or molestation?OCT 29

Jeffrey Goldberg on the TSA's new security theater measures, including pat-downs that are so humiliating and uncomfortable that people won't mind using the scanning machine that shows them naked.

I asked him if he was looking forward to conducting the full-on pat-downs. "Nobody's going to do it," he said, "once they find out that we're going to do."

In other words, people, when faced with a choice, will inevitably choose the Dick-Measuring Device over molestation? "That's what we're hoping for. We're trying to get everyone into the machine." He called over a colleague. "Tell him what you call the back-scatter," he said. "The Dick-Measuring Device," I said. "That's the truth," the other officer responded.

The pat-down at BWI was fairly vigorous, by the usual tame standards of the TSA, but it was nothing like the one I received the next day at T.F. Green in Providence. Apparently, I was the very first passenger to ask to opt-out of back-scatter imaging. Several TSA officers heard me choose the pat-down, and they reacted in a way meant to make the ordinary passenger feel very badly about his decision. One officer said to a colleague who was obviously going to be assigned to me, "Get new gloves, man, you're going to need them where you're going."

The agent snapped on his blue gloves, and patiently explained exactly where he was going to touch me. I felt like a sophomore at Oberlin.

Big orange ballOCT 29

What is this, do you think? Electron microscope photo of pollen? Infrared tennis ball? Mars? The inside of a baseball?

Hydrogen Sun

It's actually a photo of the Sun taken at the H-alpha wavelength by an amateur astronomer.

Even more parkour on a skateboardOCT 29

I know, I know, shut up already with the parkour and the skateboarding but this is worth watching:

The blooper reel at the beginning is entertaining (MOTHERFRICKER!), but final trick is the best one. (thx, cary)

The perfect poached eggOCT 28

Kenji Lopez-Alt learns the secret to the perfectly poached eggs at Maialino. They basically use the Momofuku slow-poach technique and then finish in a simmering water bath.

The Super Mario Bros infinite 1-upOCT 28

In a recent interview for the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Mario's baby daddy Shigeru Miyamoto revealed that the infinite 1-up trick was included in the game on purpose but that the minus world was a bug.

"We did code the game so that a trick like that would be possible," Miyamoto revealed. "We tested it out extensively to figure out how possible pulling the trick off should be and came up with how it is now, but people turned out to be a lot better at pulling the trick off for ages on end than we thought." What about the famed Minus World? "That's a bug, yes, but it's not like it crashes the game, so it's really kind of a feature, too!"

Explain the internet to a 19th century British street urchinOCT 28

If you ever find yourself time travelling back to Victorian England, here's a handy flowchart that will help you explain the internet to the youth of the era.

Internet urchin flowchart

Robot beanbag hand can grip anythingOCT 28

I am unclear on exactly how this works, but it does work amazingly well.

The gripper uses the same phenomenon that makes a vacuum -- packed bag of ground coffee so firm; in fact, ground coffee worked very well in the device. But the researchers found a new use for this everyday phenomenon: They placed the elastic bag against a surface and then removed the air from the bag, solidifying the ground coffee inside and forming a tight grip. When air is returned to the bag, the grip relaxes.

(thx, phil)

Complexity and the fall of RomeOCT 28

In Jospeh Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies, the author argues that the fall of Rome happened because "the usual method of dealing with social problems by increasing the complexity of society [became] too costly or beyond the ability of that society". Basically when Rome stopped expanding its territory, the fallback was relying solely on agriculture, a relatively low-margin affair.

The distances, now no longer adjacent to easily accessible coastline, were making the cost of conquest prohibitive. More to the point, the enemies Rome faced as it grew larger were vast empires themselves and were more than capable of defeating the Roman legions.

It was at this point that Rome had reached a turning point: no longer would conquest be a significant source of revenue for the empire, for the cost of further expansion yielded no benefits greater than incurred costs. Conjointly, garrisoning its extensive border with its professional army was becoming more burdensome, and more and more Rome came to rely on mercenary troops from Iberia and Germania.

The result of these factors meant that the Roman Empire began to experience severe fiscal problems as it tried to maintain a level of social complexity that was beyond the marginal yields of it's agricultural surplus and had been dependent upon continuous territorial expansion and conquest.

Hopefully I don't have to draw you a picture of how this relates to large bureaucratic companies.

Avatar sequelsOCT 27

James Cameron has announced that there will be not one but two sequels to Avatar, scheduled for 2014 and 2015.

Tiny catapult for throwing pies at beesOCT 27

First there was the mini cannon. Now someone has built a tiny catapult to hurl 3mm-wide pies at bees and other insects. No, seriously! Here's the slow motion evidence:

(thx, liz)

People are awesomeOCT 27

A bunch of people doing amazing things on bikes, on skates, on skis, in wheelchairs, on skateboards, throwing balls, kicking balls, hitting balls, flipping over, and sliding around.

Maybe you've figured this out much quicker than I have, but I realized recently that one of the "topics" I cover here on kottke.org is "people are awesome" and "look at all the amazing things we can do that we've never done before". And it's not just videos like the one above where people perform physical feats of obvious novelty and amazement. It's also kids from the projects making the cover of Fortune magazine, scientists building a tiny sun in California, inventing 3-D printers for human tissue, making wonderfully creative design and objects, drilling through entire mountain ranges with massive drills, quietly but completely changing how people think about space and time, writing books that inspire people to be more awesome, landing on the Moon, and so on and so on. (via devour, which is also awesome)

Sterling's GoldOCT 27

On Mad Men this season, Roger Sterling writes a book called Sterling's Gold. And behold, that book is available for pre-order on Amazon in the real world.

Advertising pioneer and visionary Roger Sterling, Jr., served with distinction in the Navy during World War II, and joined Sterling Cooper Advertising as a junior account executive in 1947. He worked his way up to managing partner before leaving to found his own agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, in 1963.

During his long and illustrious career, Sterling has come into contact with all the luminaries and would-be luminaries of the advertising world, and he has acquired quite a reputation among his colleagues for his quips, barbs, and witticisms.

Taken as a whole, Roger Sterling's pithy comments and observations amount to a unique window on the advertising world -- a world that few among us are privileged to witness first-hand -- as well as a commentary on life in New York City in the middle of the twentieth century.

Who knows what the book will actually be, and I thought it was a hoax at first, but Grove Press is putting this thing out so who knows.

Long readsOCT 27

Nice, the @longreads Twitter account now has a web site serving as a repository of all the long-form journalism it links to. You can filter by article length and time-to-read.

Jay-Z's empireOCT 26

If this profile of Jay-Z in the WSJ is any indication, the guy doesn't seem to have any problems anymore.

In his office, by a coffee table stacked with art books (Damien Hirst, Ed Ruscha), his Forbes magazine and a humidor, he perches on the edge of a chair with his fingers tucked into his pockets. He says he'll always rap about variations on the same themes: drug hustling, business boasts, luxury hopscotching from Gucci to Louis Vuitton to the new Dior suit he says is a perfect fit. They're all narrative devices:

"I'm just describing a scene, but the crux of the story is the message. Almost like a movie. Setting: South of France. This is what's happening. This guy from out the projects who didn't graduate from high school is now living this sort of life. And this is how he got here."

Charlie Chaplin's time travellerOCT 26

Mesmerizing Zapruder-esque footage that seems to show a woman talking on a mobile phone at the 1928 premiere of a Charlie Chaplin film at Mann's Chinese Theatre.

According to this guy, the simplest explanation is that the woman is a time traveller. Stick that in your Occam's razor and shave it! (via geekologie)

Bieber, Gaga, and Netflix: Internet heavyweightsOCT 26

Justin Bieber uses 3% of Twitter's infrastructure. Netflix Instant accounts for 20% of all non-mobile internet usage in the US during prime time. Now David Galbraith has done some back-of-the-envelope calculations that show Lady Gaga racking up a big bandwidth bill for Google:

My rough estimate: Lady Gaga has cost Google 10 petabytes in bandwidth same as 10,000 text messages for everyone on earth. If Lady Gaga's Google bandwidth was charged at what ATT charges for SMS, it would have cost: 10.5 trillion dollars.

The rate for SMS messaging is obscene but the real money is in ink cartridges, right? Apparently not. HP's basic black inkjet cartridge is available at Amazon for the astounding price of $29 and will print 495 pages. Assuming 250 words per page and six characters per word (five char/word + one space), 10 petabytes of text messages would cost only $503 billion to print out (excluding paper costs, which would add ~$89 billion to the total). Who knew that texting was more expensive than inkjet printing by a factor of 20?

The physics of everyday lifeOCT 26

Christoph Niemann hits another one out of the park with an illustrated look at the how physics governs everything we do in life.

Niemann's laws of physics

I loved his idea for calorie-neutral foods:

All you need is to freeze a pint of ice cream to -3706 F. The energy it will take your system to bring the ice cream up to a digestible temperature is roughly 1,000 calories, neatly burning away all those carbohydrates from the fat and sugar. The only snag is the Third Law of Thermodynamics, which says it's impossible to go below -459 F. Bummer.

New male sartorial technology messes shit upOCT 26

Mary HK Choi observes that NYC's men have suddenly learned how to dress and now she can't tell who's who anymore, socioeconomically speaking.

I can't figure out how old anyone is. I can't figure out how gay anyone is. On silent subway morning commutes there are no tells. The brogues, desert boots and quickstrike high-tops not only have me manic-fantasy-banging every well-dressed dude on the F BECAUSE IT IS ALL SO GODDAMN GOOD but the fact that so many are suddenly well shod plus the prevalence of hard-bottoms straight CRIPPLES my ability to tell how rich anyone is. And that is fucking my game up major. Aaaaaaaaaand everyone's watch is now the old timey Timex from J.Crew for $150 so yeah, 360 IDK. Plus, also, seriously, there must have been some clandestine colloquium workshop situation where all the dudes in all the land shucked to skivvies and got sized for their perfect pair of Uniqlo jeans and nobody said "no homo," not even one time, because, Hi, y'all all look fantastic FUCK YOU.

Sicha and pals are Awl in (and other puns)OCT 25

Nice little piece by David Carr in the NY Times about The Awl, a small batch blogging concern owned and operated by Choire Sicha, Alex Balk, and David Cho.

"My friends keep talking to me about how they want to start a Web site, but they need to get some backing, and I look at them and ask them what they are waiting for," Mr. Sicha said. "All it takes is some WordPress and a lot of typing. Sure, I went broke trying to start it, it trashed my life and I work all the time, but other than that, it wasn't that hard to figure out."

Mini cannon will explode your tiny mindOCT 25

Consider your day incomplete until you have witnessed the awesome power of this homemade mini cannon.

Cute boom! See also part one, which features the cannon being packed with gunpowder. (via devour)

Sherlock!OCT 25

The BBC aired a new adaptation of Sherlock Holmes this summer called, simply, Sherlock. The three 90-minute episodes are set in the present day (which could have been cheesy but isn't) and make for some really good television. American audiences can find all three episodes on Masterpiece Mystery on PBS starting this week:

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement, The Last Enemy) in the title role, Martin Freeman (The Office, UK) as Dr. John Watson and Rupert Graves (God on Trial, The Forsyte Saga) as Inspector Lestrade, Sherlock premieres on Masterpiece mystery! on Sundays, October 24, 31, and November 7, 2010 at 9pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

In with three criminally clever whodunits, A Study in Pink (October 24), The Blind Banker (October 31) and The Great Game (November 7), consulting detective Sherlock Holmes teams up with former army doctor John Watson to solve a dizzying array of crimes with his signature deductive reasoning. From the writers of Doctor Who, Sherlock is co-created and written by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat.

Worth seeking out, especially if you get PBS in HD (here's the opening title sequence). If you miss it, the series is also available on Blu-ray and DVD on Nov 9.

Tony Wilson's headstoneOCT 25

Tony Wilson's headstone

A beautiful tribute designed by Peter Saville and Ben Kelly, friends and collaborators of Wilson's.

Shakespeare in the original pronunciationOCT 25

Quite a bit is known about how English was spoken back when Shakespeare wrote his plays but productions of his plays using the original pronunciation (OP) are quite rare. Now a University of Kansas theater professor and his students are putting on a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the OP.

"American audiences will hear an accent and style surprisingly like their own in its informality and strong r-colored vowels," Meier said. "The original pronunciation performance strongly contrasts with the notions of precise and polished delivery created by John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and their colleagues from the 20th century British theater."

Meier said audiences will hear word play and rhymes that "haven't worked for several hundred years (love/prove, eyes/qualities, etc.) magically restored, as Bottom, Puck and company wind the language clock back to 1595."

"The audience will hear rough and surprisingly vernacular diction, they will hear echoes of Irish, New England and Cockney that survive to this day as 'dialect fossils.' And they will be delighted by how very understandable the language is, despite the intervening centuries."

Here's a sample of what to expect:

(via the history blog)

Di Fara pizza documentaryOCT 25

Inspiring short documentary about Dom DeMarco, owner/operator of, some say, the best pizzeria in NYC.

DeMarco doesn't measure any of the ingredients for the dough; he just eyeballs it and can tell when the dough is right.

Back to the McIntoshOCT 22

New York magazine has compiled a visual list of 28 varieties of apple grow in NY state, including many you may not have heard of before. The lumpy Calville Blanc d'Hiver, anyone?

This amazing apple has three times the vitamin C of other apples and nearly half as much vitamin C as an orange. Use Calville Blanc d'Hiver apples for fresh eating out of hand, or baked in any cooked apple desert. It also makes a sprightly apple juice and hard cider. This apple is the French choice for tarte aux pommes and unlike its rival, the legendary English Bramley, Calville Blanc holds its shape when cooked.

How Facebook decides what to show youOCT 22

Thomas Weber attempted to reverse engineer the algorithm that Facebook uses for its "Top News" feed and learned some very interesting things about what Facebook chooses what to show (and not show) their users.

1. Facebook's Bias Against Newcomers. If there's one thing our experiment made all too clear, it's that following 500 million people into a party means that a lot of the beer and pretzels are already long gone. Poor Phil spent his first week shouting his updates, posted several times a day, yet most of his ready-made "friends" never noticed a peep on their news feeds. His invisibility was especially acute among those with lengthy, well-established lists of friends. Phil's perpetual conversation with the ether only stopped when we instructed our volunteers to interact with him. A dynamic which leads to...

2. Facebook's Catch-22: To get exposure on Facebook, you need friends to interact with your updates in certain ways (more on that below). But you aren't likely to have friends interacting with your updates if you don't have exposure in the first place. (Memo to Facebook newcomers: Try to get a few friends to click like crazy on your items.)

This bit at the end is particularly interesting:

All the while, Facebook, like Google, continues to redefine "what's important to you" as "what's important to other people." In that framework, the serendipitous belongs to those who connect directly with their friends in the real world-or at least take the time to skip their news feed and go visit their friends' pages directly once in a while.

NYC subway photos, 1917-presentOCT 22

Slideshow of almost 100 years of photography of the NYC subway system by the NY Times.

NYC Subway 1940

The caption for the photo above reads:

1940: In a view north from 106th Street, only the supports of the old Ninth Avenue elevated line remained as the push to go underground continued.

Gorgeous Black Swan movie postersOCT 22

Black Swan movie poster

That one is the best of the lot, but the others are great as well. (via matt)

Parkour on rollerbladesOCT 22

This is Mathieu Ledoux doing things on rollerblades that you ain't ever seen before.

See also yesterday's parkour on a skateboard, parkour on a bike, parkour with ladders, proto parkour, and just plain old parkour. (thx, @eastofwabansia and sam)

The Hobbit is moving forwardOCT 22

Alright, the film adaptation of The Hobbit is moving forward. After Guillermo Del Toro stepped down as director a few months ago, I heard that Jackson was set to direct and that's what's happening. They've also cast the perfect Bilbo: Martin Freeman. Freeman was Tim on The Office, Arthur Dent in the Hitchhiker's movie, and John Watson in the excellent new Sherlock series.

Prime ministers I have knownOCT 21

Unless you're from the UK (or watched Spitting Image and all sorts of other British comedies on PBS as an impressionable youth in Wisconsin), the observations of Parliamentary sketchwriter Simon Hoggart about the prime ministers he has covered might be too inside baseball, but I couldn't help sharing this Thatcher anecdote about her unwitting skill with double entendre:

But Thatcher saved the best of all for her victory tour of the Falkland Islands. She was taken to inspect a large field gun, basically a ride-on lawnmower with a barrel several feet long. It was on a bluff, overlooking a plain on which another Argentine invasion might one day materialise. She admired the weapon, and the soldier manning it asked if she would like to fire a round.

"But mightn't it jerk me off?" she replied. Chris Moncrieff of the Press Association, who was covering the visit, recorded the manful struggle of the soldier to keep his face, indeed his whole body, straight.

Actually, all the Thatcher stories are quite good. (thx, tom)

Glitch paintingsOCT 21

Andy Denzler does these great paintings that look as though they're highly compressed JPEGs with encoding issues.

Andy Denzler

Zach Galifianakis swimsuit calendarOCT 21

Vanity Fair photo shoot? Check.
Zach Galifianakis? Check.
Red ladies bathing suit? Sweet Jesus.

Zach Galifianakis swimsuit calendar

Butter greases the cognitive skidsOCT 21

After Seth Roberts started eating half a stick of butter every day, his speed in solving simple arithmetic problems increased by 30 milliseconds. Flaxseed oil also seemed to help.

This isn't animal fat versus no animal fat. Before I was eating lots of butter, I was eating lots of pork fat. It's one type of animal fat versus another type. Nor is it another example of modern processing = unhealthy. Compared to pork fat, butter is recent.

But watching the video of the talk, it's unclear what's actually being measured here...it could be that the butter is making his fingers faster at pushing the buttons. Or look at the graph...might a single line that indicates steady improvement over the course of the year also fit the data?

Parkour on a skateboard?OCT 21

Ok, not quite, and Richie Jackson doesn't look much like a typical skateboarder -- more like a hippie hipster pirate -- but his skills on a board are amazing.

Watch at least until he goes over the rail while the board goes under it. This reminds me a bit of the stuff that Danny MacAskill does on a bicycle. (thx, ross)

Finding the resolution of the universeOCT 21

Researchers at Fermilab are building a holometer, the most precise clock ever, which will attempt to determine if the 3-D aspect of the universe is a hologram.

Black hole physics, in which space and time become compressed, provides a basis for math showing that the third dimension may not exist at all. In this two-dimensional cartoon of a universe, what we perceive as a third dimension would actually be a projection of time intertwined with depth. If this is true, the illusion can only be maintained until equipment becomes sensitive enough to find its limits. "You can't perceive it because nothing ever travels faster than light," says Hogan. "This holographic view is how the universe would look if you sat on a photon."

The pain of pokerOCT 20

Jay Caspian Kang has a gambling problem.

Twelve thousand dollars lay wadded up in the glove compartment. I was trying to decide if I had what it took to drive home. To help delay a decision, I remember turning the radio to a Dodgers game. I don't know how long I sat there listening to Vin Scully sing his nasally song of balls and strikes, which, even in the age of digital radio, still sounds as if it is being transmitted through a tin of victory cabbage. I remember thinking some nostalgic, self-pitying thoughts about my younger days. I forced myself to say out loud, "You are a degenerate gambler," but doing so only made me giggle. I opened the glove box, pocketed the cash, and walked back through the sliding doors of the Commerce Casino, back to my table in the Crazy Asian 400 No-Limit Game and to the eight friends at my table who had kindly managed to save my seat.

Some time later, I drove home. All the money, of course, was gone. As I drove home through the network of highways that tie up a concrete bow just east of downtown Los Angeles, I felt no compulsion to slam the Outback into a guardrail. In fact, losing almost all the money I had in the world in six hours stirred up only a cold, scraped-out feeling of knowing-the calm that freezes out your brain when you watch someone younger make the same mistakes you made at their age. Staring out at the empty skyscrapers, I tried to figure out what might be the right reaction to losing $12,000. At the 7-Eleven on Venice and Sepulveda, I bought a bottle of Nyquil, drank half of it in the parking lot and drove the rest of the way home in a warm, creeping fog.

An appreciation of the animated GIFOCT 20

Unlike 8-tracks and laserdiscs, animated GIFs won't die.

One such function becomes clear after just a few minutes spent poking around Senor GIF. Many of the GIFs on display at the site are built around the payoff moments of Did you see that?-style viral videos. These GIFs are structured like jokes, with the barest minimum of set-up: A man on a bicycle coasts miraculously through a violent three-car accident; two dolphins arc graciously from the ocean's surface -- until a clumsy third dolphin arcs directly into the second; a man pushes a stalled van off of train tracks right before a train blasts past. There is an appealing economy to these GIFs. They get to the point instantaneously, and at the exact moment when one feels the impulse to rewind and watch the climax again, the loop restarts right where it should. In the two minutes it might take me to load a viral video and watch it in full, I can watch the money shots of 15 different viral videos. Yes, we're talking about decadent levels of impatience, inanity, and time-wasting here, but GIFs allow us to waste less time online -- or, rather, to waste it more efficiently.

Animated GIFs = long photographs.

The value of a dollarOCT 20

For his The Value of a Dollar project, Jonathan Blaustein took photographs of the amount of food he could purchase for a dollar.

One dollar bread

From an interview at the NY Times' Lens blog:

It was a cheeseburger that initially encouraged Mr. Blaustein, 36, to pursue his project, "The Value of a Dollar." When the economy was in the midst of its downward spiral, he visited a fast-food chain in New Mexico, where he lives. "On one menu they had a cheeseburger for a dollar," he said. What caught his eye, though, was another menu, which featured a double cheeseburger for the same price. That additional piece of meat, and the extra slice of cheese, somehow didn't change the price.

Memorable movie quotes extinct?OCT 20

Writing for the NY Times, Michael Cieply argues that the golden age of quotable movie lines is over. The likes of "go ahead, make my day", "you had me at hello", and "you talking to me?" are becoming more rare...Cieply's most recent example was Daniel Plainview's "I drink your milkshake" from There Will Be Blood and even that wasn't that widespread.

I have a poor memory for movie quotes, but what about the Joker's "Why so serious?" in the Dark Knight, Jack Twist's "I wish I knew how to quit you" in Brokeback Mountain, and the "fucking Merlot" line in Sideways?

Gangsta lorem ipsumOCT 20

For all your dummy text needs, the Snoop Double Dizzle version of lorem ipsum:

Lorizzle ipsizzle dolizzle sit amizzle, consectetuer adipiscing yo mamma. Nullam sapien velizzle, its fo rizzle volutpizzle, suscipit for sure, brizzle vizzle, its fo rizzle. Pellentesque we gonna chung tortizzle. Sed eros. Stuff fizzle dolor dapibus turpizzle tempizzle shizznit. pellentesque nibh et turpizzle. Vestibulum izzle tortor. Gangsta mammasay mammasa mamma oo sa rhoncus fo shizzle. Izzle the bizzle habitasse bow wow wow dictumst. Dang dapibizzle. I'm in the shizzle we gonna chung urna, pretizzle eu, mattis mah nizzle, eleifend phat, nunc. Stuff suscipizzle. Integer sempizzle velit sizzle mofo.

Useful, funny, racist, or just culturally insensitive...you decide!

You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologizeOCT 20

Remember the whole thing Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill with the pubic hair on the can of Coke and the Supreme Court hearings and all that? Me neither. But Clarence Thomas' wife does; she left a voicemail on Anita Hill's work phone asking her to apologize for what she did to her husband.

"Good morning Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas," it said. "I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband." Ms. Thomas went on: "So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. O.K., have a good day."

That's either really passive aggressive, straight-up batshit insane, or the oxycontin talking. Ms. Thomas referred to the call as "extending an olive branch", which I guess is true if she meant that the branch was stripped of leaves and the end sharpened to a point.

The Great Egg RaceOCT 19

The Great Egg Race was a late-70s/early-80s BBC TV show that was a kind of Junkyard Wars on a smaller and more nerdy scale. The first episode shows a number of people attempting to build small egg carrying cars powered by rubber band.

I love this stuff. I had a physics teacher in high school who presented us with a number of these challenges throughout the school year. There was the strong toothpick bridge (someone basically cheated and made a glue bridge with embedded toothpicks) and the rolling object (it had to go down a short ramp and stop on a mark about 10 feet away), but my favorites were the mouse trap-powered car and the egg drop.

The winning mouse trap car was made with a lot of assistance from the student's father, who owned a machine shop. It was light but solid with precisely machined plastic wheels and a precisely machined axle and travelled probably twice as far as any of the other cars, which were generally built with whatever crappy off-the-shelf components could be scrounged from the local five-and-dime. I spent three satisfying late nights building my car and came in pretty close to last.

The egg drop challenge involved constructing a landing pad no taller than 12 inches for an unboiled egg. Competitors dropped their eggs from successively greater heights until the egg broke. The two winning landing pads were successful at the greatest height that our small school could muster...out a window at the top of the football field stands, probably about 35 or 40 feet tall. One was a huge box full of wool and other soft materials that could have successfully cushioned an egg dropped from the top of the Sears Tower. The other winner was a tupperware bowl full of stale popcorn that your humble blogger grabbed off the counter the morning of the challenge after completely forgetting about it over the weekend. No one was more surprised than I to discover that popcorn is an ideal egg cushioning material...not that I let on. :)

JK Rowling's plot spreadsheetOCT 19

JK Rowling's spreadsheet

Rowling's writing process visualized. Looks like this page is from The Order of the Phoenix. (via famulan)

A boring drill builds an exciting tunnelOCT 19

This is the massive drill that was used to bore a 35-mile-long tunnel underneath the Alps from mid-Switzerland to near the Italian border:

Big drill

Boring operations in the east tunnel were completed on 15 October 2010 in a cut-through ceremony broadcast live on Swiss TV. When it opens for traffic in late 2017, the tunnel will cut the 3.5-hour travel time from Zurich to Milan by an hour and from Zurich to Lugano to 1 hour 40 minutes.

Bridge demolitionOCT 19

Today is the day for time lapse construction videos...this one shows the demolition of a bridge in Toronto.

It takes a minute or so to get going, but after that it's like ants picking a tree branch bare. (thx, james)

A crack in the trackOCT 19

Nice time lapse of a construction crew replacing some train tracks in San Francisco.

Andy Warhol on Coca-ColaOCT 18

This is one of my favorite quotes from anyone; it's from Warhol's 1975 book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol.

What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

Somali piracy and anarchyOCT 18

From The New York Review of Books, an overview of the bleak Somali pirate situation.

There's no doubt that in Somalia, crime pays-it's about the only industry that does. There is even a functioning pirate stock exchange in Xarardheere, where locals buy "shares" in seventy-two individual pirate "companies" and get a respectable return if the company is successful. Most of the money, though, is frittered away. Boyah, who personally has made hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions, asked me for cigarettes when I met him. When I asked what happened to all his cash, he explained: "When someone who never had money suddenly gets money, it just goes." He also said that because of the extended network of relatives and clansmen, "it's not like three people split a million bucks. It's more like three hundred."

The pirates used to be fisherman who moved from defending their fishing territory by boarding foreign ships to collect "fines" to more lucrative full-blown piracy. (thx, tom)

Lots of big machines to make a tiny SunOCT 18

The Big Picture has a selection of photos of the National Ignition Facility which I've written about previously.

"Creating a miniature star on Earth" is the goal of the National Ignition Facility (NIF), home to the world's largest and highest-energy laser in Livermore, California. On September 29th, 2010, the NIF completed its first integrated ignition experiment, where it focused its 192 lasers on a small cylinder housing a tiny frozen capsule containing hydrogen fuel, briefly bombarding it with 1 megajoule of laser energy. The experiment was the latest in a series of tests leading to a hoped-for "ignition", where the nuclei of the atoms of the fuel inside the target capsule are made to fuse together releasing tremendous energy -- potentially more energy than was put in to start the initial reaction, becoming a valuable power source.

The NIF and the LHC are this generation's Apollo program.

Snow White design languageOCT 18

The ventilation stripes used on Apple products from 1984 to 1990 were part of a design language developed by Frog Design called Snow White.

The Snow White design language was an industrial design language developed by Frog Design, founded by Hartmut Esslinger. It was used by Apple Computer from 1984 to 1990. It is characterised by vertical and horizontal stripes acting as decoration and occasionally ventilation, as well as creating the illusion of the computer enclosure being smaller than it actually is.

The complete MetropolisOCT 18

If you're in NYC, they're showing the restored version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (including 25 minutes of recently discovered footage) at the Ziegfeld on West 54th from Oct 22 - Nov 4.

If you're not in NYC, the complete Metropolis is out on Blu-ray and DVD on Nov 16.

Updates on previous entries for Oct 16, 2010*OCT 17

Benoit Mandelbrot, RIP orig. from Oct 15, 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.

Benoit Mandelbrot, RIPOCT 15

Nothing in the news media yet, but many folks on Twitter and colleague Nassim Taleb are reporting that the father of fractal geometry is dead at age 85. We're not there yet, but someday Mandelbrot's name will be mentioned in the same breath as Einstein's as a genius who fundamentally shifted our perception of how the world works.

Update: The NY Times has confirmation from Mandelbrot's family. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer.

Bill Simmons' "moss Vikings" postmortemOCT 15

Last week, Bill Simmons accidentally tweeted about a possible trade that would send American footballer Randy Moss from the Patriots to the Vikings and got the entire sports world whipped up into a frenzy. His explanation of what actually happened provides an interesting glimpse into how sports media sausage is made.

The first thing you need to know: I don't like breaking stories or the pressure that accompanies it. Sweating out those last few minutes before the moment of truth. Hoping you're right even though you're thinking, "I know I'm right. I have to be right. This is right. (Pause.) Am I right?" Wondering deep down, "I hope my source isn't betraying me," then rehashing every interaction you've ever had with that person. My stomach just isn't built for it. If I had Marc Stein's job, I'd be chain-smoking Lucky Strikes like Don Draper.

At the same time, I know a few Guys Who Know Things at this point. Whenever I stumble into relevant information -- it doesn't happen that often -- my first goal is always to assimilate that material into my column (as long as it's not time-sensitive). Sometimes I redirect the information to an ESPN colleague. Sometimes I keep it in my back pocket and wait for more details. It's a delicate balance. I have never totally figured out what to do.

Steve Jobs and "the bicycle for the mind"OCT 15

I enjoyed this extensive interview with John Sculley about his time at Apple (he was CEO from 83-93) because of 1) his insight into Steve Jobs' way of thinking, 2) his willingness to talk about his mistakes, and 3) his insights about business in general...he gives Jobs a lot of credit but Sculley is clearly no slouch. Some high points:

[Jobs] felt that the computer was going to change the world and it was going to become what he called "the bicycle for the mind."

On the small size of teams actually building products:

Normally you will only see a handful of software engineers who are building an operating system. People think that it must be hundreds and hundreds working on an operating system. It really isn't. It's really just a small team of people. Think of it like the atelier of an artist.

Sculley was president of Pepsi before coming to Apple:

We did some research and we discovered that when people were going to serve soft drinks to a friend in their home, if they had Coca Cola in the fridge, they would go out to the kitchen, open the fridge, take out the Coke bottle, bring it out, put it on the table and pour a glass in front of their guests.

If it was a Pepsi, they would go out in to the kitchen, take it out of the fridge, open it, and pour it in a glass in the kitchen, and only bring the glass out. The point was people were embarrassed to have someone know that they were serving Pepsi. Maybe they would think it was Coke because Coke had a better perception. It was a better necktie. Steve was fascinated by that.

On why he should not have been hired as Apple's CEO:

The reason why I said it was a mistake to have hired me as CEO was Steve always wanted to be CEO. It would have been much more honest if the board had said, "Let's figure out a way for him to be CEO. You could focus on the stuff that you bring and he focuses on the stuff he brings."

Remember, he was the chairman of the board, the largest shareholder and he ran the Macintosh division, so he was above me and below me.

After Jobs left, Sculley tried to run the company as Jobs would have:

All the design ideas were clearly Steve's. The one who should really be given credit for all that stuff while I was there is really Steve. [...] Unfortunately, I wasn't as good at it as he was.

And finally, Sculley and Jobs probably haven't spoken since Jobs left the company:

He won't talk to me, so I don't know.

Jobs is pulling a page from the Don Draper playbook here. In season two, Don tells mental hospital patient Peggy:

Peggy listen to me, get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.

Maybe Jobs is still pissed at Sculley and holds a grudge or whatever, but it seems more likely that looking backwards is something that Jobs simply doesn't do. Move forward, Steve.

What's prison like?OCT 15

This is a fascinating post made by a man who has just gotten out of prison after serving two years for armed robbery. This is a bit rough in spots, so reader beware.

I joked to my cell mate on the first day that at least the GFC [global financial crisis] couldn't fuck us inside. He'd been done for assaulting a cop when his house got taken by the bank. But within months 'GFC Nigger' became the standard reply to any query as to how black market prices were suddenly going through the roof. The price of a deck of smokes tripled. There was an actual economic reason about this. I went away in Michigan, where a lot of people lost their houses, mostly poor people already. When they had to move away from the prison, it meant they couldn't bring their loved ones as much contraband group, which meant the price of what there was sky rocketed. And the worse things got, the more the people who worked in the store would wonk and take home with them, which meant stocks ran low which fucked us even further.

Bet you didn't read about that one in the Wall Street Journal.

Some over at MetaFilter think this is fake, so grain of salt and all that. (via waxy)

Sunflower SeedsOCT 15

The newest exhibition in The Tate Modern's cavernous Turbine Room is Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds:

Sunflower Seeds

The room is filled with millions of handcrafted ceramic sunflower seeds:

Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall's vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.

Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China's most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the 'Made in China' phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today.

For the first couple of days, people could walk around on the tiny sculptures (as you can see on Flickr), but health concerns prompted the museum to put a stop to that. Still pretty cool, but this remains my favorite Turbine Hall exhibition. (via hilobrow)

NYC non-profits need designersOCT 15

DesigNYC connects non-profits with designers; they've just announced their second call for project submissions and designers:

We're proud to announce the second call for submissions for project ideas and design collaborators. DesigNYC will select the most compelling projects and match them with design leaders across the fields of architectural, landscape, interior, lighting, and communication design.

Our projects focus on the themes of well-being and sustainable communities -- creating solutions that address a range of social and environmental issues impacting the city, including affordable housing, sustainable development, social justice, human health, green space, urban farming, local food systems, youth leadership, and more.

Designers and non-profits can sign up here.

And the Pursuit of HappinessOCT 15

Maira Kalman's lovely illustrated NY Times blog about American democracy is now available in book form.

Massively multiplayer ScrabbleOCT 14

Scrabb.ly is a massively multiplayer game of Scrabble...everyone plays on one gigantic board. It's insane how large the board is. (thx, zach)

After 600 years, a clock comes aliveOCT 14

If you liked the video mapping on the IAC building, this one might be even better. For the 600th anniversary of the construction of the tower clock in Prague, The Macula projected a really great video on the tower...watch at least through the brick stacking animation.

Inception Blu-ray/DVD pre-orderOCT 14

Inception is available for pre-order at Amazon in Blu-ray and DVD formats. Release date is December 7th.

Sometimes the best camera is a gunOCT 14

Love this. In 1936, a 16-year-old Dutch girl played a shooting gallery game at the fair: hit the target and a camera takes a photo, which the girl receives as a prize. Almost every year between then and now, Ria van Dijk shot the target and got her prize.

Ria Van Dijk

Van Dijk is now 88 and still shooting.

Tips for the near futureOCT 14

Douglas Coupland's list of 45 tips for the next 10 years is excellent; even the stuff that seems wrong makes you think. Some of my favorite bits:

In the same way you can never go backward to a slower computer, you can never go backward to a lessened state of connectedness.

You may well burn out on the effort of being an individual. You've become a notch in the Internet's belt. Don't try to delude yourself that you're a romantic lone individual. To the new order, you're just a node. There is no escape.

It will become harder to view your life as "a story". The way we define our sense of self will continue to morph via new ways of socializing. The notion of your life needing to be a story will seem slightly corny and dated. Your life becomes however many friends you have online.

You'll spend a lot of time shopping online from your jail cell. Over-criminalization of the populace, paired with the triumph of shopping as a dominant cultural activity, will create a world where the two poles of society are shopping and jail.

Much of this list seems Cowen-esque, particularly this for some reason: "musical appreciation will shed all age barriers".

Gliese 581g, we hardly knew yeOCT 13

That habitable exoplanet discovery? Maybe not.

Astronomer Francesco Pepe of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, who spoke Oct. 11 at an International Astronomical Union symposium on planetary systems, reported a new analysis using only HARPS data, but adding an extra 60 data points to the observations published in 2008. He and his colleagues could find no trace of the planet.

Essential skills you didn't learn in collegeOCT 13

Wired has a go at defining liberal arts 2.0.

It's the 21st century. Knowing how to read a novel, craft an essay, and derive the slope of a tangent isn't enough anymore. You need to know how to swing through the data deluge, optimize your prose for Twitter, and expose statistics that lie.

Is this what they meant by dancing about architecture?OCT 13

Last Saturday, the IAC building in Chelsea became the screen for a giant video art project.

Photos of the rescued Chilean minersOCT 13

The Big Picture has a selection of photos of the rescue of the Chilean miners. Here's some video of the first few miners being rescued:

As I write, 17 of the 33 miners have been rescued.

The physics of Angry BirdsOCT 13

Using motion tracking software, Rhett Allain finds out if the flight of the slingshotted Angry Birds adheres to the laws of physics.

The only force acting on the bird (if the bird is not moving too fast) would be the gravitational force from the Earth. This is where I see lots of intro-student mistakes. They tend to want to put some force in the horizontal direction because the bird is moving that way. DON'T do that. That is what Aristotle would have you believe, but you don't want to be in his club. There is no horizontal force in this case -- no air resistance.

He also determines the height of the red bird: about 2.3 feet tall. The big red bird must be at least double that.

Four things about Mr. SnuffleupagusOCT 13

1. His full name is Aloysius Snuffleupagus.

2. For more than 14 years, Big Bird was the only character on Seasame Street who could see Snuffy...he was BB's imaginary friend.

3. Some of the grownups on the show came to believe Big Bird about the existence of Mr. Snuffleupagus and he was revealed to them in November 1985:

4. Snuffy's reveal came about because of some high-profile sexual abuse cases:

In an interview on a Canadian telethon that was hosted by Bob McGrath, Snuffy's performer, Martin P. Robinson, revealed that Snuffy was finally introduced to the main human cast mainly due to a string of high profile and sometimes graphic stories of pedophilia and sexual abuse of children that had been aired on shows such as 60 Minutes and 20/20. The writers felt that by having the adults refuse to believe Big Bird despite the fact that he was telling the truth, they were scaring children into thinking that their parents would not believe them if they had been sexually abused and that they would just be better off remaining silent.

(via @h_fj)

When strengths become weaknessesOCT 13

Using Blockbuster and Netflix (and Redbox) as an example, James Surowiecki writes about how big incumbent companies can lose out to smaller upstarts.

The problem -- in Blockbuster's case, at least -- was that the very features that people thought were strengths turned out to be weaknesses. Blockbuster's huge investment, both literally and psychologically, in traditional stores made it slow to recognize the Web's importance: in 2002, it was still calling the Net a "niche" market. And it wasn't just the Net. Blockbuster was late on everything -- online rentals, Redbox-style kiosks, streaming video. There was a time when customers had few alternatives, so they tolerated the chain's limited stock, exorbitant late fees (Blockbuster collected about half a billion dollars a year in late fees), and absence of good advice about what to watch. But, once Netflix came along, it became clear that you could have tremendous variety, keep movies as long as you liked, and, thanks to the Netflix recommendation engine, actually get some serviceable advice. (Places like Netflix and Amazon have demonstrated the great irony that computer algorithms can provide a more personalized and engaging customer experience than many physical stores.) Then Redbox delivered the coup de grace, offering new Hollywood releases for just a dollar.

From Scott McCloud, here's Blockbuster's new logo.

Updates on previous entries for Oct 12, 2010*OCT 13

Powers of Ten orig. from Jun 09, 2006

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

Food myths debunkedOCT 12

Kenji Lopez-Alt busts six stubborn food myths.

4. Searing "Locks In" Juices. This is the oldest one in the book, and still gets repeated-by many highly respected cookbook authors and chefs!-to this day. It's been conclusively proven false many times, including in our own post on How to Cook a Perfect Prime Rib, where we found that when roasting a standing roast, it in fact lost 1.68% more juice if it was seared before roasting rather than after! The same is true for pork roasts, steaks, hamburgers, chicken cutlets, you name it.

The details are not detailsOCT 12

A tour of the level of detail that goes into Hoefler & Frere-Jones' fonts.

In the middle of Gotham, our family of 66 sans serifs, there is a hushed but surprising moment: a fraction whose numerator has a serif. So important was this detail that we decided to offer it as an option for all the other fractions, a decision that ultimately required more than 400 new drawings. Why?

As you'll read below, it's something that we added because we felt it mattered. Even if it helped only a small number of designers solve a subtle and esoteric problem, we couldn't rest knowing that an unsettling typographic moment might otherwise lie in wait. We've always believed that a good typeface is the product of thousands of decisions like these, so we invite you to join us on a behind-the-scenes look at some of the invisible details that go into every font from H&FJ.

Aspirational.

Old WeatherOCT 12

Using journals kept aboard ships and the sweat of volunteers (that's *you*), Old Weather is attempting to compile a more accurate look at our planet's recent climate.

Help scientists recover worldwide weather observations made by Royal Navy ships around the time of World War I. These transcriptions will contribute to climate model projections and improve a database of weather extremes. Historians will use your work to track past ship movements and the stories of the people on board.

The making of The Empire Strikes BackOCT 12

Vanity Fair has excerpts (photos mostly) of a new book on the making of The Empire Strikes Back.

Vader Luke Mattresses

This is right before Luke fell to his death sleep. (via df)

Powers of TenOCT 12

There's finally a stable copy of Charles and Ray Eames' seminal Powers of Ten video available online, courtesy of the Eames Office YouTube account.

Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only a s a speck of light among many others. Returning to Earth with breathtaking speed, we move inward -- into the hand of the sleeping picnicker -- with ten times more magnification every ten seconds. Our journey ends inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell.

Core77 and Eames Office are holding a competition to see who can make the best 2-minute video response to Powers of Ten.

He-Man on HuluOCT 12

A bunch of old episodes of He-Man on Hulu! Wow, were these episodes this bad and slow when I was a kid?

The world is full of interesting thingsOCT 12

Ok, so this should keep you busy for the next 24 hours: a slideshow created by Google of "interesting things" on the "creative internet". You may have seen some of this before, but there's lots of good stuff in there.

AKA Dick Nenton, Floods, Tricky NickyOCT 11

The New Yorker goes long on Gawker Media founder Nick Denton. I loved the mid-article string of quotes from Nick's friends, admirers, and enemies:

"He's not, like, a sociopath, but you kind of have to watch what you're doing around him," Ricky Van Veen, the C.E.O. of the Web site College Humor, told me.

"The villain public persona is not a hundred-per-cent true," A. J. Daulerio, the editor-in-chief of Deadspin, Gawker Media's sports blog, said. "It's probably eighty-per-cent true."

"He has fun when people say horrible things about him," the blog guru Anil Dash said.

"I can't lie to make him worse than he is, but he's pretty bad," Ian Spiegelman, a former Gawker writer, said.

"Other people's emotions are alien to him," Choire Sicha, another Gawker alumnus, said.

Chipotle: no more ad agenciesOCT 08

Chipotle has ditched their ad agency.

Last November, Chipotle made the decision to go it alone and bring advertising in-house. After spending at least six months selecting Butler Shine from a group of 27 agencies, Mr. Crumpacker said it didn't make sense to take the time to pick another agency. "By the time we picked one and got them up to speed it would have been a year," he said. "The only reasonable thing to do was to do it ourselves."

The chain is shifting away from traditional advertising anyway, Mr. Crumpacker added, noting that advertising, generally, is becoming less important to Chipotle. Not to mention that Chipotle's co-CEO, Steve Ells, isn't exactly supportive of advertising. "For Chipotle, I guess I'd say [advertising] is not less important to our CEO, because he never thought it was that important," Mr. Crumpacker said. "He's asked me [whether] should we do advertising at all."

Geographical time spiralOCT 08

Lovely timeline of the progression of life on Earth.

Geographic time spiral

It's work clicking through to see the larger image. (via @moleitau)

Secretariat: a tremendous machineOCT 08

The movie Secretariat opens today, but I think you'll agree that however good the movie is, Secretariat the horse was far better. Here's his famous Usain Bolt-like victory in the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths.

It's unbelievable how far ahead he is at the end of the race.

Infinite Jest infographicOCT 08

This infographic attempts to explain all the interpersonal connections in Infinite Jest. (via personal report)

NFL TV maps for 2010 seasonOCT 08

I'm a little late this year, but the 2010 NFL maps site has been up and humming for four weeks now. The site displays what games are going to be on TV in different parts of the country.

Crazy volcano footageOCT 08

You will never see anyone closer to a volcano than this.

There were also several comments urging Frodo to throw The Ring in. Oh, YouTube. (via clusterflock)

The Pale King available for pre-orderOCT 07

David Foster Wallace's final novel, The Pale King, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, IL, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Foster Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has.

THE PALE KING remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace's death, but it is a deeply intriguing and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions--questions of life's meaning and of the ultimate value of work and family--through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace's unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for a writer who dared to take on the most daunting subjects the human spirit can imagine.

Kindle users, don't forget to click on the "I'd like to read this book on Kindle" link just under the cover image. (thx, robert)

Craigslist TVOCT 07

Earlier this year, Craigslist started an online TV program about the users of the their site. For each episode, they choose an interesting CL post and basically tape the results. The newest episode is about a woman who wanted to give away an accordian...but each prospective taker had to audition in front of the whole group at dinner.

This is one of those ideas that seems so obvious in retrospect that you wonder why it took so long to happen.

The Wire MonopolyOCT 07

A version of Monopoly based on The Wire.

Wire Monopoly

(via @tcarmody)

A short film about desksOCT 07

From Imaginary Forces, a short documentary about the desks of creative people.

We talked to experts Alice Twemlow, Eric Abrahamson, Massimo Vignelli, David Miller, Kurt Andersen, Soren Kjaer, Alfred Stadler, Jennifer Lai, and Ben Bajorek and creates an historical and relevant film about the relationship between the worker and the desk and how this reflects on personality and habits.

I too love Massimo Vignelli's desk.

Massimo Vignelli's desk

Magazines to Apple: iPad subscriptions, pleaseOCT 07

Last week I complained about the New Yorker app costing $4.99 an issue even for print magazine subscribers. Magazine publishers, including the Conde Nast, are complaining about it as well...to Apple.

The launch highlights the mounting pressure on Apple Inc. to give publishers a way to sell their magazines more than one digital issue at a time. Executives from the New Yorker and its publisher, Conde Nast, say the true value of apps like the New Yorker's can't be realized until readers are allowed to purchase subscriptions.

"It is important to the New Yorker that we have offerings that allow long-term relationships with the consumers," said Conde Nast President Bob Sauerberg. "Obviously, we don't have that in place for the moment with Apple. We are very keen to do that."

For some people, work is personalOCT 07

From Ben Pieratt's blog, In praise of quitting your job.

I think it comes down to the fact that, for some people, work is personal. Personal in the same way that singing or playing the piano or painting is personal.

As a creative person, you've been given the ability to build things from nothing by way of hard work over long periods of time. Creation is a deeply personal and rewarding activity, which means that your Work should also be deeply personal and rewarding. If it's not, then something is amiss.

Creation is entirely dependent on ownership.

Ownership not as a percentage of equity, but as a measure of your ability to change things for the better. To build and grow and fail and learn. This is no small thing. Creativity is the manifestation of lateral thinking, and without tangible results, it becomes stunted. We have to see the fruits of our labors, good or bad, or there's no motivation to proceed, nothing to learn from to inform the next decision. States of approval and decisions-by-committee and constant compromises are third-party interruptions of an internal dialog that needs to come to its own conclusions.

It's decorative gourd season, motherfuckersOCT 06

Your annual autumnal public service announcement: "Welcome to autumn, fuckheads."

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal. I'm about to head up to the attic right now to find that wicker fucker, dust it off, and jam it with an insanely ornate assortment of shellacked vegetables. When my guests come over it's gonna be like, BLAMMO! Check out my shellacked decorative vegetables, assholes. Guess what season it is -- fucking fall. There's a nip in the air and my house is full of mutant fucking squash.

When it dropsOCT 06

When it drops helps you keep track of when new music, movies, DVDs, books, and video games are released.

World's tallest buildings, circa 1884OCT 06

Before peeking ahead, quick quiz: as 1884 came to a close, what was the tallest building in the world? It's the one in the middle of this beautiful diagram of The Principal High Buildings of the Old World from Cram's Unrivaled Family Atlas of the World:

Principal High Buildings

That's right, the Washington Monument was the tallest building in the world for about five years before the Eiffel Tower, at almost double the height of the Washington Monument, took over the top spot for more than 40 years. (via modcult)

Drinks on the goOCT 06

What do people drink on trains?

On Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road, beer is the best seller by far, accounting for more than half of all drink purchases. Budweiser and its calorie-conscious cousin, Bud Light, make up about 45 percent.

Vodka is far more popular than other spirits, making up half of all hard liquor sales. (One bartender, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing her job, confided that her stockbroker customers "all drink vodka," while construction workers "are all about the beer.") Gin and scotch are a distant second and third.

What do people drink on planes?

While much has been made online about ginger ale's unexpected aerial dominance (apparently one in ten drinks ordered in economy on American Airlines is a ginger ale, compared to its puny three percent terrestrial market share), there seems not to be a sustained geographical analysis of the beverage consumption patterns on different routes and airlines -- or even different seat positions. Do window-seat people disproportionately favour vegetable juice, for example, or is that just the case on the routes I've been flying?

And what do people drink with goats? Would you, could you, with a goat? Oop, sorry, things got a little Seussical there.

Map of online communitiesOCT 06

XKCD has updated their map of online communities.

XKCD map of online communities

I like the Sea of Zero (0) Comments. (via waxy)

How procrastination worksOCT 06

From James Surowiecki, a very interesting piece about procrastination and related phenomena.

A similar phenomenon is at work in an experiment run by a group including the economist George Loewenstein, in which people were asked to pick one movie to watch that night and one to watch at a later date. Not surprisingly, for the movie they wanted to watch immediately, people tended to pick lowbrow comedies and blockbusters, but when asked what movie they wanted to watch later they were more likely to pick serious, important films. The problem, of course, is that when the time comes to watch the serious movie, another frothy one will often seem more appealing. This is why Netflix queues are filled with movies that never get watched: our responsible selves put "Hotel Rwanda" and "The Seventh Seal" in our queue, but when the time comes we end up in front of a rerun of "The Hangover."

The lesson of these experiments is not that people are shortsighted or shallow but that their preferences aren't consistent over time. We want to watch the Bergman masterpiece, to give ourselves enough time to write the report properly, to set aside money for retirement. But our desires shift as the long run becomes the short run.

I was going to post about this yesterday but...you know.

On mechanically separated chickenOCT 05

And as long as we're on the subject of factory food, this post has been making the rounds lately.

Chicken paste

Say hello to mechanically separated chicken. It's what all fast-food chicken is made from-things like chicken nuggets and patties. Also, the processed frozen chicken in the stores is made from it.

Basically, the entire chicken is smashed and pressed through a sieve -- bones, eyes, guts, and all. it comes out looking like this.

There's more: because it's crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. Then, because it tastes gross, it will be reflavored artificially. Then, because it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color.

1. That stuff might not even be chicken. But even if it is:

2. The entire chicken is not ground up to make that paste; the bones and such are removed.

3. The meat is not "soaked" in ammonia. Ammonia is not an approved food additive. (However, a South Dakota processing plant had been injecting ammonia into their hamburger "meat" with USDA approval, but that approval has since been withdrawn.)

I wish the person who wrote the original entry would correct it because I'm tired of seeing it popping up everywhere. The truth is strange enough without having to say that chicken nuggets contain eyeballs, bones, and large quantities of ammonia.

How bacon is madeOCT 05

This was a lot more boring than I expected for such a magical food...way fewer rainbows and unicorns than I would have thought. (via devour)

David Simon's original pitch for The WireOCT 05

David Simon was just awarded one of the MacArthur Foundation's $500,000 genius grants, so I thought it would be interesting to revisit Simon's original pitch of The Wire to HBO (PDF).

But more than an exercise is realism for its own sake, the verisimilitude of The Wire exists to serve something larger. In the first story-arc, the episodes begin what would seem to be the straight-forward, albeit protracted, pursuit of a violent drug crew that controls a high-rise housing project. But within a brief span of time, the officers who undertake the pursuit are forced to acknowledge truths about their department, their role, the drug war and the city as a whole. In the end, the cost to all sides begins to suggest not so much the dogged police pursuit of the bad guys, but rather a Greek tragedy. At the end of thirteen episodes, the reward for the viewer -- who has been lured all this way by a well-constructed police show -- is not the simple gratification of hearing handcuffs click. Instead, the conclusion is something that Euripides or O'Neill might recognize: an America, at every level at war with itself.

From my original post on this in April 2009 (which also contains links to three episode scripts):

The list of main characters contains a few surprises. McNulty was originally going to be named McCardle, Aaron Barksdale became Avon Barksdale, and the Stringer Bell character changed quite a bit.

Stringy Bell just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

Uncovered 1906 San Francisco earthquake footageOCT 05

The video is 17 minutes long; the first 6 minutes is a long drive during which you don't see a whole lot of intact buildings...and many stretches with no buildings at all. See also a 1905 streetcar trip down Market Street. (via devour)

Facebook soon bigger than Google?OCT 05

In a piece at the normally unlinkable TechCrunch, Adam Rifkin argues that Facebook could be bigger than Google (revenue-wise) in five years. Rifkin makes a compelling argument.

Facebook Advertising does not directly compete with the text advertisements of Google's AdWords and AdSense. Instead Facebook is siphoning from Madison Avenue TV ad spend dollars. Television advertising represented $60 billion in 2009, or roughly one out of every two dollars spent on advertising in the U.S.; the main challenge marketers have with the Internet till recently has been that there aren't too many places where they can reach almost everybody with one single ad spend. Facebook fixes that problem.

Johnson and Kelly on ideasOCT 04

Kevin Kelly and Steven Johnson talk about their new books, What Technology Wants (Kelly) and Where Good Ideas Come From (Johnson).

Kelly: The musician Brian Eno invented a wonderful word to describe this phenomenon: scenius. We normally think of innovators as independent geniuses, but Eno's point is that innovation comes from social scenes,from passionate and connected groups of people.

Johnson: At the end of my book, I try to look at that phenomenon systematically. I took roughly 200 crucial innovations from the post-Gutenberg era and figured out how many of them came from individual entrepreneurs or private companies and how many from collaborative networks working outside the market. It turns out that the lone genius entrepreneur has always been a rarity-there's far more innovation coming out of open, nonmarket networks than we tend to assume.

Kelly: Really, we should think of ideas as connections,in our brains and among people. Ideas aren't self-contained things; they're more like ecologies and networks. They travel in clusters.

Johnson and Kelly will be conversing with each other further at the New York Public Library in mid-October.

Hunter S. Thompson's unusual job requestOCT 04

In 1958, Hunter S. Thompson sent a job request to the editor of the Vancouver Sun. Like much of Thompson's writing, it was unconventional.

By the time you get this letter, I'll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun. Unless it looks totally worthless, I'll let my offer stand. And don't think that my arrogance is unintentional: it's just that I'd rather offend you now than after I started working for you.

I didn't make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he'd tell you that I'm "not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person." (That's a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.)

Nothing beats having good references.

Found photo animationsOCT 04

Cassandra Jones takes photographs she finds online and stiches them together to form animations like this Eadweard Muybridge homage:

Really nice. Jones' other work is worth a look as well. (via heading east)

Mad Men reading listOCT 04

The NYPL blog has compiled a list of books ripped from the scenes of Mad Men.

Some of the titles are featured prominently in the series and others are mentioned in passing. Remember the book Sally read with her grandfather at bedtime? The book on Japanese culture the agency was told to read? The scandalous book the ladies passed between each other in secret? You can find all these and more!

(via mad men unbuttoned)

Liz Lemon flashback collectionOCT 04

I wonder if they'll ever do a flashback where Liz is heavier (as Fey once was).

Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and DemocraticOCT 01

...aka WEIRD. The majority of the subjects in behavioral science testing are WEIRD people, who make up only a small percentage of the global population. You can see where this would be a problem.

In the "ultimatum game", for example, people are given $100 and told to offer some of it to someone else; if the other person accepts, each keeps their portion, but if they reject the offer, nobody gets anything. On average, Americans offer just under half, which seems to say much about human notions of fairness, or the fear of making an insultingly low offer. But many cultures behave differently; the Machiguenga of Peru prefer to keep more cash or, if on the other side of the deal, to accept whatever is offered. Another example: speakers of the Mayan language of Tzeltal are among several more likely to describe things as east or west of each other, not on the left or right. Academics would bristle, the researchers note, if journals were renamed with titles such as Journal of Personality and Social Psychology of American Undergraduate Psychology Students. But perhaps they should be.

(via russell davies)

Tips for travelling with kidsOCT 01

A great list of tips, tricks, and advice for travelling with kids.

18. Don't do too much BUT don't do too little either. I think the biggest mistake parents traveling with kids make is doing too little not too much. Get out there. Enjoy. Experience. Wear the kids out and get them tired.

(thx, meg)

Joseph Leonard, one year inOCT 01

Eater has an interview with Gabe Stulman and Jim McDuffee, proprietors of Joseph Leonard, on how the first year of their West Village restaurant went. Watching the chefs make such good food out of such a small kitchen an impressive spectacle.

The limitations that we have are, I think, severe. We don't have a freezer, anywhere. We don't have ice cream or sorbet, we don't have anything that needs to be frozen, it's all fresh, fresh, fresh. We've got refrigerators touching each other over there. We've got ten burners, two ovens, a fryer and a salamander. That's what most people have as a prep kitchen. It's really impressive when I look at how we've got five seafood entrees, five meat entrees, thirteen appetizers, all done with these varying, beautiful techniques and preparations. I tip my hat to everything that Jim and the team in the kitchen have been able to pull off.

It took awhile for my wife and I to warm up to it, but Joe Leo is our go-to neighborhood restaurant now. On our one child-free night out a week, we generally end up there.

Google lateris nescisOCT 01

Google Translate now does Latin. (Did I save Latin?) Let's see what it does with lorem ipsum:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer ultricies mi nec elit pretium porta. Ut pellentesque mollis magna et molestie. In elementum nulla vel augue tempor non ultrices mauris semper. Vestibulum nulla augue, volutpat at bibendum id, interdum ut ante. Pellentesque vestibulum erat suscipit nisl placerat pharetra. Maecenas a metus eros, non feugiat metus. Phasellus fermentum felis eu leo sagittis pellentesque. Mauris quis felis eu nibh bibendum dignissim vel et tortor. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Quisque a ante eget erat accumsan volutpat. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nunc pretium iaculis diam, non ullamcorper urna viverra quis. Mauris egestas lorem eu magna tempus egestas. Sed ac lorem ac quam lacinia rutrum sed a metus. Ut diam sem, elementum rutrum dapibus ut, dictum nec turpis. Fusce tempor, arcu quis bibendum porta, massa leo scelerisque eros, nec convallis lacus lorem in nunc. Vestibulum fringilla dictum scelerisque. Donec eget elit ac magna placerat suscipit. Morbi tempor nisl eu est ultrices vehicula.

translates to:

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How ink is madeOCT 01

I could watch viscous liquids pouring all day long. (via devour)

Portrait of a housing bustOCT 01

From the Big Picture, a selection of aerial photos of houses and housing developments in southwest Florida.

Florida housing

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