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

 

Charlie Chaplin's TronNOV 30

Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times + Tron =

(via migurski)

The best of Barry SandersNOV 30

I may or may not have just spent 30 minutes watching Barry Sanders highlights on YouTube.

Probably my all-time favorite NFL player.

Google BeatboxNOV 30

The latest big thing from Google: beatboxing. Just go to this page on Google Translate and press "Listen". I laughed out loud. (via prosthetic knowledge)

Cave of Forgotten DreamsNOV 30

Werner Herzog's new film is in 3-D; it's a documentary about the 30,000-year-old drawings recently discovered in the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave in southern France.

Herzog gained extraordinary permission to film the caves using lights that emit no heat. But Herzog being Herzog, this is no simple act of documentation. He initially resisted shooting in 3D, then embraced the process, and now it's hard to imagine the film any other way. Just as Lascaux left Picasso in awe, the works at Chauvet are breathtaking in their artistry. The 3D format proves essential in communicating the contoured surfaces on which the charcoal figures are drawn. Beyond the walls, Herzog uses 3D to render the cave's stalagmites like a crystal cathedral and to capture stunning aerial shots of the nearby Pont-d'Arc natural bridge. His probing questions for the cave specialists also plunge deep; for instance: "What constitutes humanness?"

Herzog pursued the film after reading Judith Thurman's 2008 piece about the cave drawings in the New Yorker.

Has NASA discovered extraterrestrial life?NOV 29

Here's a curious press release from NASA:

NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

I did a little research on the news conference participants and found:

1. Pamela Conrad (a geobiologist) was the primary author of a 2009 paper on geology and life on Mars

2. Felisa Wolfe-Simon (an oceanographer) has written extensively on photosynthesis using arsenic recently (she worked on the team mentioned in this article)

3. Steven Benner (a biologist) is on the "Titan Team" at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; they're looking at Titan (Saturn's largest moon) as an early-Earth-like chemical environment. This is likely related to the Cassini mission.

4. James Elser (an ecologist) is involved with a NASA-funded astrobiology program called Follow the Elements, which emphasizes looking at the chemistry of environments where life evolves (and not just looking at water or carbon or oxygen).

So, if I had to guess at what NASA is going to reveal on Thursday, I'd say that they've discovered arsenic on Titan and maybe even detected chemical evidence of bacteria utilizing it for photosynthesis (by following the elements). Or something like that. (thx, sippey)

Update: According to Alexis Madrigal, the answer to the hyperbolic question in the headline is "no".

I'm sad to quell some of the @kottke-induced excitement about possible extraterrestrial life. I've seen the Science paper. It's not that.

Darth SpatulaNOV 29

It's real and it's spectacular.

Darth Spatula

Whether the mission is baking cookies or flipping pancakes, young Padawan cooks will love using our official Star Wars spatula featuring the fearsome Darth Vader.

And that's not all! Williams Sonoma sells all sorts of Star Wars-themed cooking gear:

Galactic Empire™ Cupcake Decorating Kit - "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Jedi Kitchen Council devised a powerful new way to spread fun through the galaxy. Jedi Master pastry chefs created this extraordinary collection of tools..."

Sandwich Cutters with Vintage-Style Tin - "Transform your Jedi's favorite sandwiches into high-energy fuel for lunches, snacks and parties with Millennium Falcon™ and Darth Vader's TIE fighter™ sandwich cutters. Created by the Jedi Kitchen Council to celebrate the Rebel Alliance's victory over the evil Empire, these cutters are fun and easy to use -- just press and cut." [The "Vintage-Style Tin" is actually, how you say, a metal lunchbox.]

Pancake Molds - "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a Jedi Kitchen Master used the Force to create three pancake molds in honor of his favorite galactic hero and villains: Yoda, Darth Vader and a stormtrooper. Use these molds to add whimsy and fun to your next pancake breakfast." [The Vader pancake looks a lot like Hannibal Lector in his mask.]

What, no Jar-Jar Binks Home Preserves Kit? (thx, meg)

My movie release scheduleNOV 29

Harry Potter 7, pt 1 (Nov 19)
Black Swan (Dec 3)
Tron Legacy (Dec 17)
True Grit (Dec 22)
Somewhere (Dec 22)

I'll be lucky to catch one of these in the theater.

How Kanye makes his musical sausageNOV 29

Interesting piece on how Kanye West's latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, got made. Lots of good creative process bits, like this extensive quote from Kanye kollaborator Q-Tip:

"I'd never worked the way Kanye was working in Hawaii. Everybody's opinions mattered and counted. You would walk in, and there's Consequence and Pusha T and everybody is sitting in there and he's playing music and everyone is weighing in. It was like music by committee. [Laughs.] It was fresh that everybody cared like that. I have my people that listen to my stuff-I think everybody does-but his thing is much more like, if the delivery guy comes in the studio and Kanye likes him and they strike up a conversation, he'll go, 'Check this out, tell me what you think.' Which speaks volumes about who he is and how he sees and views people. Every person has a voice and an idea, so he's sincerely looking to hear what you have to say-good, bad, or whatever.

"In art, whether it was Michelangelo or Rembrandt or all these dudes, they'll sketch something, but their hands may not necessarily touch the paint. Damien Hirst may conceptualize it, but there's a whole crew of people who are putting it together, like workers. His hand doesn't have to touch the canvas, but his thought does. With Kanye, when he has his beats or his rhymes, he offers them to the committee and we're all invited to dissect, strip, or add on to what he's already started. By the end of the sessions, you see how he integrates and transforms everyone's contributions, so the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. He's a real wizard at it. What he does is alchemy, really."

BTW, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is still on sale at Amazon for $3.99.

Intense training the key to long life?NOV 29

Scientists are studying older athletes, like 91-year-old track star Olga Kotelko, to see how their bodies react to exercise. There is emerging evidence that a key to staying healthier longer is not just exercise but intense training.

You don't have to be an athlete to notice how ruthlessly age hunts and how programmed the toll seems to be. We start losing wind in our 40s and muscle tone in our 50s. Things go downhill slowly until around age 75, when something alarming tends to happen.

"There's a slide I show in my physical-activity-and-aging class," Taivassalo says. "You see a shirtless fellow holding barbells, but I cover his face. I ask the students how old they think he is. I mean, he could be 25. He's just ripped. Turns out he's 67. And then in the next slide there's the same man at 78, in the same pose. It's very clear he's lost almost half of his muscle mass, even though he's continued to work out. So there's something going on." But no one knows exactly what. Muscle fibers ought in theory to keep responding to training. But they don't. Something is applying the brakes.

And then there is Olga Kotelko, who further complicates the picture, but in a scientifically productive way. She seems not to be aging all that quickly. "Given her rather impressive retention of muscle mass," says Russ Hepple, a University of Calgary physiologist and an expert in aging muscle, "one would guess that she has some kind of resistance." In investigating that resistance, the researchers are hoping to better understand how to stall the natural processes of aging.

Michael Jordan advises LeBron JamesNOV 29

Cleveland's response to LeBron James' boner of a Nike commercial has more heart, but this mash-up of the LeBron commercial with a previous Michael Jordan Nike commercial is an absolute masterpiece.

The Feed: a new iPad newsreaderNOV 26

The Feed is a new (free!) newsreader app for the iPad that syncs with Google Reader. I've been using Reeder and it's been good, but I'm not a big fan of the one-at-a-time display; I prefer the River of News approach. The Feed combines the River of News approach with a nice simple design...a lovely design, IMO. Here's how one of the app's developers put it:

The basic idea is similar in layout to Google Reader, as we both like it. You have your news items in a long scrollable canvas. A set of arrow buttons let you quickly jump from one article to the next. Articles are marked as read as you scroll past them.

Here's a good review. Download it at iTunes.

TGI Friday's, the first singles barNOV 26

Over at Edible Geography, Nicola Twilley has a fascinating interview with Alan Stillman, the founder of TGI Friday's and Smith & Wollensky. Stillman started Friday's because, essentially, he was interested in meeting girls.

I wanted T.G.I. Friday's to feel like a neighbourhood, corner bar, where you could get a good hamburger, good french fries, and feel comfortable. At the time, it was a sophisticated hamburger and french fry place -- apparently, I invented the idea of serving burgers on a toasted English muffin -- but the principle involved was to make people feel that they were going to someone's apartment for a cocktail party.

The food eventually played a larger role than I imagined it would, because a lot of the girls didn't have enough money to stretch from one paycheque to the other, so I became the purveyor of free hamburgers at the end of the month.

I don't think there was anything else like it at the time. Before T.G.I. Friday's, four single twenty-five year-old girls were not going out on Friday nights, in public and with each other, to have a good time. They went to people's apartments for cocktail parties or they might go to a real restaurant for a date or for somebody's birthday, but they weren't going out with each other to a bar for a casual dinner and drinks because there was no such place for them to go.

Animated films for grown-upsNOV 26

Writing for The Morning News, Matthew Baldwin shares some of his favorite animated films for adults, including some of my favorites: The Iron Giant, Spirited Away (and Princess Mononoke), and Wall-E.

Half a decade later I walked into a theater, for reasons I cannot recall, to see Princess Mononoke. It was a revelation-somehow, in my absence, animated films had gotten all grow'd up. There were no songs or dance numbers, the plot was complex and disturbing, and the running time of two hours -- not to mention some shockingly violent scenes -- was far from kid-friendly.

The subtext of Princess Mononoke is one of environmental protectionism-the same theme that Pocahantas wore on its sleeve. Had I had seen the former film in 1995, instead of the latter, I probably never would have left the fold.

Mad Men seasons 1-3 for only $10 eachNOV 25

Holy cow! Amazon has the first three seasons of Mad Men on sale for $9.99 each, DVDs or Blu-ray.

Oh, and I also noticed Kitchen-Aid's professional 6-quart mixer on sale for $250 after rebate...that's 50% off the regular price.

Watch Star Trek online for freeNOV 24

As it isn't an official thing, I don't quite know how this works, but you can go to Watch Trek and watch any episode of any Star Trek series from the original series to Enterprise. The quality is pretty good too.

Stem cells to aid the blindNOV 24

Clinical trials are about to begin where embryonic stem cells will be injected into the eyes of people with Stargardt's macular degeneration.

Robert Lanza, the company's chief scientific officer, said that the first patient could receive the stem cell transplants early in the new year and although the trial is designed primarily to assess safety, the first signs of visual improvement may be apparent within weeks. "Talking to the clinicians, we could see something in six weeks, that's when we think we may see some improvements. It really depends on individual patients but that's a reasonable time frame when something may start to happen," Dr Lanza said.

National Geographic 2010 photography contestNOV 24

The Big Picture has a selection of photos from this year's National Geographic photography contest. It was difficult to pick a favorite, but I'll go with this one:

Single tree

White Castle burger stuffingNOV 24

For tomorrow, a turkey stuffing recipe that uses White Castle hamburgers. I'd really like to try this some year, but there's no way my wife would go for it. Come on, it's from scratch! (Well, except for the burgers...)

Lying phrasesNOV 23

There are some phrases -- like "I hate to say it", "with all due respect", and "it's not about the money, but..." -- that sound honest but signify that the speaker is actually lying.

The point of a but-head is to preemptively deny a charge that has yet to be made, with a kind of "best offense is a good defense" strategy. This technique has a distinguished relative in classical rhetoric: the device of procatalepsis, in which the speaker brings up and immediately refutes the anticipated objections of his or her hearer. When someone says "I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, but..." they are maneuvering to keep you from saying "I don't believe you -- you're just trying to hurt my feelings."

See also the non-apology apology.

Cookie Monster wants to host SNLNOV 23

Here's his audition video:

Fantastic idea...I would love to see a Saturday Night Live with Sesame Street characters. Hey, if 30 Rock is really The Muppet Show...

Gotham, a history of NYCNOV 23

Ever since Meg brought it home one day several years ago, I've wanted to read Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. But despite the Pulitzer, I never got around to it because the physical book weighs in at 6.1 pounds and 1424 pages. Oof. On a whim the other day, I checked to see if it was available for the Kindle and, lo, here it is. In addition to the much lighter load, the free sample is extremely generous...it's nearly 100 pages and takes you all the way up to the 1680s. Great book so far.

Map of the world rearranged by populationNOV 23

If all the countries in the world swapped geographic positions based on population, then you'd have something that looked a bit like this:

World map by population

Take the world's largest country: Russia. It would be taken over by its Asian neighbour and rival China, the country with the world's largest population. Overcrowded China would not just occupy underpopulated Siberia - a long-time Russian fear - but also fan out all the way across the Urals to Russia's westernmost borders. China would thus become a major European power. Russia itself would be relegated to Kazakhstan, which still is the largest landlocked country in the world, but with few hopes of a role on the world stage commensurate with Russia's clout, which in no small part derives from its sheer size.

Canada, the world's second-largest country, would be transformed into an Arctic, or at least quite chilly version of India, the country with the world's second-largest population. The country would no longer be a thinly populated northern afterthought of the US. The billion Indians north of the Great Lakes would make Canada a very distinct, very powerful global player.

The full map is here. Interestingly, four countries stay in the same positions: the US, Ireland, Yemen, and Brazil.

David Hockney's iPad drawings on display in ParisNOV 23

The Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent Foundation in Paris is currently displaying an exhibition of David Hockney's iPhone and iPad drawings. The exhibition is on display through Jan 30, 2011.

Hockney iPad

Hockney uses the Brushes app to create his digital paintings and even has his suits made with a pocket just for the iPad:

He picks up his iPad and slips it into his jacket pocket. All his suits have been made with a deep inside pocket so that he can put a sketchbook in it: now the iPad fits there just as snugly. Even his tux has the pocket, he tells me.

Arcade Fire's The Suburbs music video by Spike JonzeNOV 22

Kinect hackingNOV 22

When Microsoft released the Kinect, they unwittingly provided a bunch of data hackers with a new toy. Open-source drivers were created (with Microsoft's blessing) so that you can hook a Kinect up to a PC and do stuff like this:

That's Robert Hodgin manipulating his Kinect data in realtime with Cinder, which is like Processing (but for C++). Here's one with him and his cat.

Birds, still angryNOV 22

A nice Angry Birds illustration:

Angry Birds Illo

See also the Angry Birds peace treaty.

Pretty Hate Machine remasteredNOV 22

The remastered version of NIN's Pretty Hate Machine is out today. You can get the CD or vinyl at Amazon or mp3s at iTunes.

How not to cheat your way through collegeNOV 22

Using statistical analysis, University of Central Florida professor Richard Quinn determined that dozens of students had cheated on a test, told them in a lecture (video below), and over 200 students confessed after the lecture.

I don't want to have to explain to your parents why you didn't graduate, so I went to the Dean and I made a deal. The deal is you can either wait it out and hope that we don't identify you, or you can identify yourself to your lab instructor and you can complete the rest of the course and the grade you get in the course is the grade you earned in the course.

Hacker double agentNOV 22

While assisting the Secret Service in bringing down a cybercrime ring called Shadowcrew, Albert Gonzalez was, unbeknowst to the agents he was working with, involved with a much larger scheme to steal credit card information on a massive scale. Despite making millions of dollars hacking into the databases of large companies, Gonzalez preferred living at home with his parents for three reasons:

1. he loved his mother's cooking
2. he loved playing with his nephew
3. he could more easily launder money through his parents' home-equity line of credit

When they pieced together how Gonzalez organized these heists later, federal prosecutors had to admire his ingenuity. "It's like driving to the building next to the bank to tunnel into the bank," Seth Kosto, an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey who worked on the case, told me. When I asked how Gonzalez rated among criminal hackers, he replied: "As a leader? Unparalleled. Unparalleled in his ability to coordinate contacts and continents and expertise. Unparalleled in that he didn't just get a hack done -- he got a hack done, he got the exfiltration of the data done, he got the laundering of the funds done. He was a five-tool player."

Spielberg's Abe Lincoln movieNOV 19

It's called Lincoln and will be a collection of the talents of Steven Spielberg (director), Daniel Day-Lewis (plays Lincoln), Doris Kearns Goodwin (wrote the book), and Tony Kushner (screenplay).

It is anticipated that the film will focus on the political collision of Lincoln and the powerful men of his cabinet on the road to abolition and the end of the Civil War.

A full orchestra plays John Cage's 4'33"NOV 19

Here's video of a full orchestral performance of John Cage's famous 4'33" composition, in which none of the performers plays his or her instrument; it's four minutes and thirty-three seconds of ambient noise.

You're not going to think it's worth it, but watch the whole performance. (thx, liz)

On the merits of premature ejaculationNOV 19

Evolutionary speaking, premature ejaculation may not be such a bad thing after all.

So given these basic biological facts, and assuming that ejaculation is not so premature that it occurs prior to intromission and sperm cells find themselves awkwardly outside of a woman's reproductive tract flopping about like fish out of water, what, exactly, is so "premature" about premature ejaculation? In fact, all else being equal, in the ancestral past, wouldn't there likely have been some reproductive advantages to ejaculating as quickly as possible during intravaginal intercourse-such as, oh, I don't know, inseminating as many females as possible in as short a time frame as possible? or allowing our ancestors to focus on other adaptive behaviors aside from sex? or perhaps, under surreptitious mating conditions, doing the deed quickly and expeditiously without causing a big scene?

Still, for recreational sex, it blows. (As it were.)

Movie introductionsNOV 19

A video of 250 people introducing themselves in movies.

(via devour)

The case of the vanishing blondeNOV 19

A woman in Florida turns up raped and beaten in a ditch and can't remember who attacked her. The security tapes at her hotel show that she didn't leave her room that evening. What follows is a good ole fashioned detective story with a tenacious private detective getting to the bottom of the story.

He had a fixed policy. He told potential employers up front, "I'll find out what happened. I'm not going to shade things to assist your client, but I will find out what the truth is." Brennan liked it when the information he uncovered helped his clients, but that wasn't a priority. Winning lawsuits wasn't the goal. What excited him was the mystery.

The job in this case was straightforward. Find out who raped and beat this young woman and dumped her in the weeds. Had the attack even happened at the hotel, or had she slipped out and met her assailant or assailants someplace else? Was she just a simple victim, or was she being used by some kind of Eastern European syndicate? Was she a prostitute? Was she somehow implicated? There were many questions and few answers.

When science goes backwardNOV 18

John Horgan argues that in some areas, science and technology are moving in the wrong direction. Among those areas are space colonization, the origin of life, and ending infectious disease.

Decades ago antibiotics, vaccines, pesticides, water chlorination and other public health measures were vanquishing diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, polio, whooping cough, tuberculosis and smallpox, particularly in First World nations. In The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance (Penguin, 1995), the journalist Laurie Garrett noted that in 1967 U.S. Surgeon General William Stewart said that it was "time to close the books on infectious diseases" (Garrett's words) and shift resources toward non-infectious killers such as cancer and heart disease. The global eradication of smallpox in 1979 seemed to fulfill Stewart's vision. Hopes for the end of infectious disease were soon crushed, however, by the emergence of AIDS, mutant flu viruses and antibiotic-resistant forms of old killers such as tuberculosis.

Mutations in genes and text not dissimilarNOV 18

In a post called Mutated Manuscripts: The Evolution of Genes and Texts, Sam Arbesman compares genetic mutations with textual mutations caused by humans.

While fun to chronicle such similarities, these similarities can also be exploited in the same way. Mutational differences between DNA sequences can be used to understand the evolutionary history of a population, or even a group of species. And so too with variants of the same manuscript. A famous example of this is from a 1998 research article in the journal Nature that quantitatively studied the differences between the 80 surviving versions of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. By subjecting the variants to a battery of genetic analyses, the researchers were able to better understand the contents of the ancestral version, Chaucer's own copy!

Super Grandma!NOV 18

Photographer Sacha Goldberger has his depressed grandmother pose for a series of outlandish superhero photos. The result was very theraputic for the 91-year-old woman.

Granny Superhero

Initially, she did not understand why all these people wrote to congratulate her. Then, little by little, she realized that her story conveyed a message of hope and joy. In all those pictures, she posed with the utmost enthusiasm. Now, after the set, Goldberger shares that his grandmother has never shown even a trace of depression.

(via mathowie)

Kubrick explains 2001NOV 18

One of the more common reactions to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is "wait, what the hell happened exactly?" In a 1969 interview with Joseph Gelmis, Kubrick explained the plot in a very straightforward manner:

You begin with an artifact left on earth four million years ago by extraterrestrial explorers who observed the behavior of the man-apes of the time and decided to influence their evolutionary progression. Then you have a second artifact buried deep on the lunar surface and programmed to signal word of man's first baby steps into the universe -- a kind of cosmic burglar alarm. And finally there's a third artifact placed in orbit around Jupiter and waiting for the time when man has reached the outer rim of his own solar system.

When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a force field or star gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he's placed in a human zoo approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination. In a timeless state, his life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, if you like, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man's evolutionary destiny.

That is what happens on the film's simplest level. Since an encounter with an advanced interstellar intelligence would be incomprehensible within our present earthbound frames of reference, reactions to it will have elements of philosophy and metaphysics that have nothing to do with the bare plot outline itself.

P.S. Kubrick also stated that HAL was not gay -- "HAL was a 'straight' computer". (via prosthetic knowledge)

Tyler Cowen's book picks for 2010NOV 18

Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen picks some of his favorite books of the year. Cowen has never steered me wrong with a book recommendation (even in recommending his own books). Of the most interest to me this year are Siddhartha Mukherjee's Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (which I've seen rave reviews for all over the place) and Diarmaid MacCulloch's Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years.

Hard-Coding Bias in Google "Algorithmic" Search ResultsNOV 17

Have you noticed that when you search Google for the answer to a mathematical calculation, the only result it lists is Google's own? I mean, just look at this obvious result tampering:

Google Bias

This "hard-coding" of calculation answers as the top search result goes against the company's supposed policy promising completely algorithmic and unbiased results. How are other mathematical calculation sites supposed to compete against the Mountain View search and math giant? What if 45 times 12 isn't actually 540? (I checked the calculation on Wolfram Alpha several times and on my iPhone calcuator and 540 appears to be correct. For now.)

And this isn't even Google's most egregious transgression. As Eric Meyer points out, Google is blocking private correspondence between private parties. That means that grandmothers aren't getting necessary information about erectile disfunction, people aren't finding out where they can play Texas Hold 'Em online, and the queries of Nigerian foreign ministers are going unanswered. There are millions of dollars sitting in a bank somewhere and all they need is a loan to get it out! Google! This. Is. Un. Acce. Ptable!

P.S. I think this "research" is obvious and the conclusions are misleading and biased. But then I don't have Ph.D. from Harvard, so what do I know?

The Hour, Britain's Mad Men?NOV 17

Dominic West, who starred as McNutty in The Wire, will play the lead character in a six-part BBC series called The Hour. The show is set in the 1950s and will air next year.

The Hour follows the launch of a topical news show in London set against the backdrop of a mysterious murder. West will play Hector Madden, the programme's upper-crust, charismatic front man.

The series is being called the UK version of Mad Men:

The only place with better retro fashion than New York in the 1960s is London in the 1950s.

(via unlikely words)

Kindle and Kinect ChristmasNOV 17

Since the introduction of the iPhone, Apple has ruled the December holidays. Under the tree, by the menorah, and around the Festivus pole has appeared a steady stream of iPods, iPhones, iTunes gift cards, iPod touches, and even MacBooks. Apple has sold tons of devices in the final quarter of the last three years and, with the iPad added to the lineup, will likely do so again this year.

But I think two companies who will do even better than Apple in December this year.

The first is Amazon**. The cheapest Kindle is now only $139 (and the one with free 3G is $50 more). They are going to sell a metric crapload of these things this Christmas. And even if they don't, they're going to sell 50 million metric shitloads of Kindle books because you don't even need a Kindle to read Kindle books...Amazon has readers for the iPad (which is way better than Apple's iBooks app IMO), iPhone, Android devices, Blackberry, WinPhone 7, Windows, and OS X. I never would have predicted it, but I am a firm convert to Kindle books...and I don't even have a Kindle. The killer feature here is Amazon's multi-platform support. I *love* reading books on the iPad at home but when I'm out and about, if I've got my iPhone in my pocket, I can read a book. The best book is the one that's always with you.

This one is more of a guess, but the other company that will do well this holiday season is Microsoft. I know, right? But have you seen this Kinect thing? It's an add-on for Xbox 360 that takes everything people loved about the Wii and Wii Fit and makes it easier, more natural, and more powerful. Basically you hook this bar up to your Xbox 360 and it tracks your motion around the room. You're the controller. Here's a snippet from David Pogue's positive review:

The Wii, by tracking the position of its remote control, was amazing for its time (2006). It's a natural for games in which you swing one hand -- bowling, tennis, golf. But the Kinect blows open a whole universe of new, whole-body simulations -- volleyball, obstacle courses, dancing, flying.

It doesn't merely recognize that someone is there; it recognizes your face and body. In some games, you can jump in to take a buddy's place; the game instantly notices the change and signs you in under your own name. If you leave the room, it pauses the game automatically.

There's a crazy, magical, omigosh rush the first time you try the Kinect. It's an experience you've never had before.

The Kinect is available at Amazon (hey, there they are again...) bundled with Xbox 360 for $300 and separately for $150.

Danny MacAskill rides againNOV 17

Danny MacAskill, the fantastic Scottish trials cyclist, is back a new video packed with gravity- and death-defying stunts.

I had a special screening of this with my three-year-old son this morning before I came into the office; he gave it two thumbs up. Way up! (via @mathowie)

Amazingly bad soccerNOV 17

In the 90th minute of a quarterfinal match between Qatar and Uzbekistan in the 2010 Asian Games, you'll see the worst ever play by a goalie and then it gets even worse.

Do animals think?NOV 17

And if so, then what? Do animals feel? Do they have souls? This article is a nice overview of what we know about the thoughts and feelings of non-human animals.

But one by one, the berms we've built between ourselves and the beasts are being washed away. Humans are the only animals that use tools, we used to say. But what about the birds and apes that we now know do as well? Humans are the only ones who are empathic and generous, then. But what about the monkeys that practice charity and the elephants that mourn their dead? Humans are the only ones who experience joy and a knowledge of the future. But what about the U.K. study just last month showing that pigs raised in comfortable environments exhibit optimism, moving expectantly toward a new sound instead of retreating warily from it? And as for humans as the only beasts with language? Kanzi himself could tell you that's not true.

All of that is forcing us to look at animals in a new way. With his 1975 book Animal Liberation, bioethicist Peter Singer of Princeton University launched what became known as the animal-rights movement. The ability to suffer, he argued, is a great cross-species leveler, and we should not inflict pain on or cause fear in an animal that we wouldn't want to experience ourselves. This idea has never met with universal agreement, but new studies are giving it more legitimacy than ever. It's not enough to study an animal's brain, scientists now say; we need to know its mind.

Playing catch with doughNOV 16

I love this video of a guy rolling out dough and tossing it several feet to another man over and over and over again...and even over a passing waiter.

Preventing tuberculosis deaths in IndiaNOV 16

In the New Yorker, Michael Specter reports on tuberculosis, the world's deadliest infectious disease -- worldwide, more than 5000 people die from it every day. In India, misdiagnosis and improper treatment result in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths a month and even new genetic screening machines might not help matters.

Since late 2009, the hospital has had one unique asset: a piece of equipment called a P.C.R., which can multiply tiny samples of DNA and analyze them. The device is not as fast as the GeneXpert, but it can examine the genetics of virtually any organism, including tuberculosis. The hospital's machine, which was purchased with money from a government research grant, has never been used. "The hospital has had this for months," Mannan said. "But nobody knows how it works." We were standing at the door of the virology lab, where the new P.C.R. Cobas TaqMan 48, made by Roche and sold for roughly fifty thousand dollars, was resting on a shelf, still wrapped in its shipping material.

How could that be? I was staring at a machine that could alter, even save, the lives of scores of the people who were sitting nearby in the gathering heat. Mannan said nothing, though his anger was palpable.

[...] "It's a nice lab," Mannan said when we left. "Beautiful, actually. But if the doctors used it properly that would interfere with their private practice."

I asked what he meant.

"It is simple," he said. "If patients are treated at the hospital, they won't need to pay for anything else."

How to cheat your way through collegeNOV 16

From The Chronicle of Higher Education, a fascinating piece by a person who makes his living writing essays for college and graduate students.

In the past year, I've written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won't find my name on a single paper.

I've written toward a master's degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I've worked on bachelor's degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I've written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I've attended three dozen online universities. I've completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.

You've never heard of me, but there's a good chance that you've read some of my work. I'm a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can't detect, that you can't defend against, that you may not even know exists.

His kind of service attracts three types of student:

From my experience, three demographic groups seek out my services: the English-as-second-language student; the hopelessly deficient student; and the lazy rich kid.

For the last, colleges are a perfect launching ground-they are built to reward the rich and to forgive them their laziness. Let's be honest: The successful among us are not always the best and the brightest, and certainly not the most ethical. My favorite customers are those with an unlimited supply of money and no shortage of instructions on how they would like to see their work executed. While the deficient student will generally not know how to ask for what he wants until he doesn't get it, the lazy rich student will know exactly what he wants. He is poised for a life of paying others and telling them what to do. Indeed, he is acquiring all the skills he needs to stay on top.

In the Nightclub by One-Half of One DollarNOV 16

A translation of 50 Cent's hit single In Da Club into the Queen's English.

When I arrive in my Mercedes-Benz
I find the nightclub is full of actors
Basically, a lot of different people want to have sex with me
And I mean A LOT
I fear change
Xzibit is preparing a marijuana cigarette
I am very good at interpretive dance
Gunshot injuries have had no effect on my gait

(via @dansays)

Finger skatingNOV 16

It is more amazing that people can do crazy things on skateboards or that some of those same crazy things can be done on tiny skateboards using your fingers?

The OpenTable monopolyNOV 16

Incanto owner Mark Pastore explains why his restaurant isn't on Opentable. His analysis is that Opentable is too expensive and monopolistic to offer much in the way of value to restaurants.

The recurring themes were the opinion that OpenTable took home a disproportionate (relative to other vendors) chunk of the restaurants' revenues each month and the feeling of being trapped in the service, it was too expensive to keep, but letting it go could be harmful. The GM of one very well known New York restaurant group, which spends thousands of dollars on OpenTable each month, put it to me this way, "OpenTable is out for itself, the worst business partner I have ever worked with in all my years in restaurants. If I could find a way to eliminate it from my restaurants I would." Another high-profile, 3.5-star San Francisco restaurateur told me he feels held hostage by OpenTable. For the past several years, his payments to them have been substantially more than he has himself earned from 80-hour workweeks at his restaurant. But he believes that if he stops offering it, his customers will revolt and many would stop coming to his restaurant. So he keeps paying, but carries a grudge and wishes for something better.

Startup opportunity? (via @amandahesser)

What's that Typekit font?NOV 15

Matt Jacobs has made a bookmarklet that you can use to find out which Typekit fonts a given site uses. Useful!

The subway announcement ladyNOV 15

A profile of the woman who does the announcements -- the ones you can actually understand -- for the NYC subway. Since becoming "the voice", she hasn't actually ridden the subway.

On the telephone, her voice does not have quite as much oomph as it does on the subway. "My husband says he doesn't hear the nice voice as often as he'd like," she said.

But the nice voice cannot be disobeyed. Before 9/11, when they lived in Louisville, Ky., he drove to the airport to pick up her. He was early. He parked right in front of the terminal. He could hear her on the public-address system, saying no one was supposed to park there.

A traffic officer came along and said he had to follow the voice's orders.

Her husband said, "I don't listen to that voice at home; I'm not going to listen to it here."

High on ecommerceNOV 15

One of the fun things about having an Amazon Associates account for kottke.org is that I can see what my readers are ordering on the site. (Amazon only shows the items ordered, not the associated names or anything like that. I have no idea who ordered what.) As one might expect, you folks buy lots of cameras and books and hard drives and movies but also paper towels, sweatpants, soap, and guitar strings.

So anyway, I was browsing around the other day when I noticed that someone had bought a bunch of Whip-It! whipped cream chargers. Four 50-packs for around $115. "Whoa!" I exclaimed to my wife, "Someone out there really likes whipped cream!"

Readers, I could almost hear the eyeroll as my wife explained to this naive bumpkin that people use these canisters of compressed nitrous oxide to get high. So whoever you are, thank you for the novel experience of learning a new Urban Dictionary term from my wife.

Wes Anderson's next filmNOV 15

It'll be called Moon Rise Kingdom, it's set in the 1960s, and check out this cast:

I'm told that Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton are all in talks to star in Moon Rise Kingdom, a script that Anderson wrote with Roman Coppola and which Anderson will direct late next spring.

Tilda + Wes? Major swoon.

Star Wars weatherNOV 15

What's the weather like on Dagobah, Alderaan, or Hoth? Find out with these handy OS X Dashboard widgets.

Hoth weather

Edward Tufte selling his multi-million dollar libraryNOV 15

Edward Tufte is selling about 200 rare books from his working library, which includes copies of Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius and Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Here's the catalog at Christie's. Tufte explains why he's selling:

My library was always working library, with the rare books beside my computer as I was writing. But in the last few years, the books were viewed only when a visitor requested a look at the Galileo, Playfair, or Picasso books, or when I took a nostalgic look in the library. Furthermore, the important books in my library are the unread books. My introduction to the Christie's catalog explains exactly what I'm thinking about in doing the auction. In particular, note the second to last paragraph. And I am in excellent health, delighted with new adventures in Washington, DC and New York City, and fortunate to be a working and exhibiting artist.

He also dropped the name of his next book: Seeing Around, which will likely be about landscape architecture. (thx, brian)

Seeing into the futureNOV 12

Psychology professor Daryl Bem ran some common psychology experiments backwards and detected statistically significant results that could indicate that people somehow can, uh, see into the future.

In one experiment, students were shown a list of words and then asked to recall words from it, after which they were told to type words that were randomly selected from the same list. Spookily, the students were better at recalling words that they would later type.

In another study, Bem adapted research on "priming" -- the effect of a subliminally presented word on a person's response to an image. For instance, if someone is momentarily flashed the word "ugly", it will take them longer to decide that a picture of a kitten is pleasant than if "beautiful" had been flashed. Running the experiment back-to-front, Bem found that the priming effect seemed to work backwards in time as well as forwards.

(via mr)

Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran FoerNOV 12

Jonathan Safran Foer's new book is called Tree of Codes and he constructed it by taking his favorite book, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, and cut out words to form a completely new story.

Tree Of Codes

It's a rare novel that's blurbed by Olafur Eliasson:

[A]n extraordinary journey that activates the layers of time and space involved in the handling of a book and its heap of words. Jonathan Safran Foer deftly deploys sculptural means to craft a truly compelling story. In our world of screens, he welds narrative, materiality, and our reading experience into a book that remembers it actually has a body.

Vanity Fair has an interview with Foer on how he came up with the book...I'm guessing it might not have a Kindle version. See also The Jefferson Bible.

How to edit a magazineNOV 12

From The Atlantic, twelve timeless rules for making a good publication.

3. Don't over-edit. You will often estrange an author by too elaborate a revision, and furthermore, take away from the magazine the variety of style that keeps it fresh.

7. A sound editor never has a three-months' full supply in his cupboard. When you over-buy, you narrow your future choice.

The economics of SeinfeldNOV 12

Dozens of scenes from Seinfeld used to explain economic concepts. For instance, in an episode from season five:

George thinks he has been offered a job, but the man offering it to him got interrupted in the middle of the offer, and will be on vacation for the next week. George, unsure whether an offer has actually been extended, decides that his best strategy is to show up. If the job was indeed his, this is the right move. But even if the job is not, he believes that the benefits outweigh the costs.

Economic concepts touched on: cost-benefit analysis, dominant strategy, and game theory. (via what i learned today)

Wheel of Fortune puzzle solved in one letterNOV 12

Caitlin Burke solved a Wheel of Fortune puzzle after only guessing a single letter...and she didn't even really need that.

From a blog post by Chris Jones, who previously wrote about the guy who aced The Price is Right.

But something about Burke's moment -- the mean-girl giggles in the audience when she asked to solve the puzzle; Sajak's speechlessness after she did -- better captured the imagination. People watching her clip as it crackled across the Internet responded the same way the stunned contestant standing next to her did. Like that poor guy named Rick, they looked at her, and back at the puzzle, back at her, and back at the puzzle, trying to figure it out: How did she do that?

"There are a million things I'm not good at," she told me on Tuesday. "But Wheel of Fortune, I can do."

Updates on previous entries for Nov 11, 2010*NOV 12

Skateboarding in Kabul orig. from Nov 11, 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.

Big cocktail ice cubes at homeNOV 11

Many of the fancy-dan cocktail bars serve their drinks with huge ice cubes so that even slow sippers don't have to deal with over-watery cocktails (less surface area = slower melting). If you want to do the same thing at home, get yourself the impressively named Tovolo King Cube tray; it'll churn out an infinite number of 2-inch cubes for about $8. (via american drink)

Speaking of ice cubes:

Ice Cube soda fountain

The Romans invented the Swiss Army Knife?NOV 11

Fashioned sometime in the third century A.D., this Roman multi-tool was made for eating.

Roman Multitool

Like the common Swiss tool, the Roman version has a lot of foldaway implements stowed inside: a knife, spike, pick, fork and a spatula. Unlike the modern-day equivalent, the Roman Army Knife has a useful spoon on the end, making it likely that this iron and silver artifact, found in somewhere in the Mediterranean countries, was meant for eating with.

A history of the paper bagNOV 11

Prompted by someone challenging the attribution of a paper bag in a recent exhibition, MoMA tracks down who invented the brown paper bag.

It was slightly later that a woman named Margaret Knight, working for another company, the Columbia Paper Bag Company of Springfield, MA, designed a machine that could produce flat/square-bottomed paper bags, a great improvement on the earlier, structurally weaker envelope-style bag design. As a result, it is Knight who is more widely recognized as the inventor of the paper bag in the general form of the one shown in Counter Space. She's also believed to be the first woman to achieve a U.S. patent.

First election mapNOV 11

Matthew Ericson tracked down the first national election map published in the NY Times; it showed William McKinley's victory over William Jennings Bryan.

1896 Election Map

The speed with which the results made it into print boggles the mind given the technology of the day (especially considering that in the last few elections in the 2000s, with all of the technology available to us, there have been a number of states that we haven't been able to call in the Wednesday paper).

(thx, tyson)

Skateboarding in KabulNOV 11

A nice short documentary on the fledgling skateboarding culture in Kabul, Afghanistan.

(via matt)

Update: The video on Vimeo was erased for some reason, so I switched the embed to one at YouTube.

Also, the Kabul skatepark profiled in the video is looking for donations of equipment (paging @tonyhawk, @tonyhawk to the front counter, please) and money and/or assistance with shipping (shipping to Afghanistan is challenging). They're also selling these fetching Skateistan t-shirts (and tote bags) in a variety of styles and colors.

Alphabetical list of Foursquare badgesNOV 11

...and how to get them.

Epic Swarm badge: Check in to a venue that has at least 1,000 people checked in. Yes, if you are number 950, you will get the badges when person number 1,000 checks in.

For sale: baby foreskins, never used.NOV 10

Hospitals routinely sell foreskins collected from newborn circumcisions to companies for thousands of dollars. These companies use them for 1) making expensive skin cream, 2) cosmetic testing, and 3) skin grafts for burn victims.

So with those foreskins, or more accurately, the fibroblasts from the cells of the foreskin, collagen can be lab-created, and where do you put collagen? On your face! Penis wrinkle cream, anyone? Oprah's beloved SkinMedica product? Yup! Foreskins! One foreskin can be used for decades to grow thousands of fibroblasts.

(via mr)

Downtown from behindNOV 10

If you crossed The Sartorialist with The Selby and put the whole thing on a bike, you'd get Downtown From Behind, a collection of photographs of creative people biking the streets of downtown Manhattan, shot from behind.

Downtown From Behind

Liquid magicNOV 10

Under certain circumstances, you can mix liquids of different colors, then unmix them, and not violate the second law of thermodynamics.

(via fine structure)

The art of the animated gifNOV 10

On the whole, animated gifs aren't subtle. But these are.

Margie

Good good stuff. The isolation of movement is wonderfully effective.

The value of a Hogwarts educationNOV 10

Here's an interesting theory from Sam Arbesman: the wizards from the Harry Potter books aren't that bright because their education neglects the basics.

As near as I can tell, if you grow up in the magical world (as opposed to be Muggle-born, for example), you do not go to school at all until the age of eleven. In fact, it's entirely unclear to me how the children of the wizarding world learn to read and write. There is a reason Hermione seems much more intelligent than Ron Weasley. It's because Ron is very likely completely uneducated.

My take is that wizards are jocks, not nerds; Hogwarts is not so much a secondary school as a sports academy. What's odd about that is that quidditch is an extracurricular...

Koopa Soupa and Ganon LoafNOV 09

Meat cut diagrams for some of your favorite Nintendo characters.

Koopa Supper

Prints are available.

311 is not a jokeNOV 09

Steven Johnson on what NYC and other cites are learning from services like 311.

But the service also helps city leaders detect patterns that might otherwise have escaped notice. After the first survey of 311 complaints ranked excessive noise as the number one source of irritation among residents, the Bloomberg administration instituted a series of noise-abatement programs, going after the offenders whom callers complained about most often (that means you, Mister Softee). Similarly, clusters of public-drinking complaints in certain neighborhoods have led to crackdowns on illegal social clubs. Some of the discoveries have been subtle but brilliant. For example, officials now know that the first warm day of spring will bring a surge in use of the city's chlorofluorocarbon recycling programs. The connection is logical once you think about it: The hot weather inspires people to upgrade their air conditioners, and they don't want to just leave the old, Freon-filled units out on the street.

The 311 system has proved useful not just at detecting reliable patterns but also at providing insights when the normal patterns are disrupted. Clusters of calls about food-borne illness or sanitary problems from the same restaurant now trigger a rapid response from the city's health department.

Not discussed in the article is an assertion by my pal David that exclusive access to 311 data gives incumbent politicians -- like, say, Michael Bloomberg -- a distinct advantage when it comes to getting reelected. For instance, when campaigning on a neighborhood level, the incumbent can look at the 311 data for each neighborhood and tailor their message appropriately, e.g. promising to help combat noise in a neighborhood with lots of noise complaints or fix the streets in a neighborhood with lots of calls about potholes.

Dueling Michael Caine impressionsNOV 09

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon try to one-up each other's Michael Caine impressions. Brydon's is superior but Coogan's "broken voice" is pretty great as well.

(thx, finn)

A suck.com reunionNOV 09

Proposed SXSW panel: a suck.com reunion organized by Ana Marie Cox, aka Ann O'Tate.

While its sarcasm traits set Suck apart from the great majority of (painfully earnest) West Coast-based technology "ezines", Suck's lasting legacy is only partially based on the words it contained. Rather, Suck changed forever the way people think about writing for the web -- they perfected, if not invented, the practice of embedding links not as explanatory reference points but as commentary in and of themselves. Suck imploded rather unspectacularly, but its journey offers lessons: From purchase by a deep-pocket media company (Wired) to a quick-hit book project, to its ultimately deadly jump into crowd-generated content. Is that a cycle most indie projects are doomed to complete? For a publication devoted to debunking Panglossian outlooks on the mediasphere, a shocking number of Suck alumni have turned up, closing on two decades later, as influential, even aspirational, figures in their own right, with careers based on bridging the still-extant (if narrowing) gap between old and new media.

As I told a friend a few months ago, if someone launched a site with Suck's voice and spirit today, it would *kill*. (The Awl comes pretty close.)

Zenyatta's last raceNOV 09

With a record of 19-0, Zenyatta was a favorite to win the Breeders' Cup Classic. As her jockey eased her into the top of the stretch, she was dead last. Right where she wanted to be.

Her owners, Jerry and Ann Moss; her trainer, John Shirreffs; and for that matter anyone who had watched and loved the great racemare Zenyatta knew that the real running -- the edge-of-the-seat-drama -- really didn't start until she turned for home. Nineteen times before, Zenyatta had looked desperate and in trouble at the top of the stretch. Nineteen times before, she had found a gear to rocket past her rivals in the final strides.

So when jockey Mike Smith cornered the big girl and squared her shoulders toward the finish line in dead last, the more than 72,000 people here at Churchill Downs rose to their feet and held their breath. Zenyatta not only had 11 horses to pass, she also had a dozen or so lengths to make up.

And here's video of the race, just in case you thought that story was too good to be true.

(via big picture)

Banksy Halloween costumeNOV 09

This might be the best Halloween costume I've ever seen: a real-life version of Banksy's Flower Thrower stencil.

Banksy Halloween costume

Photo finishersNOV 08

The NY Times has a photo slideshow of some NYC marathon participants right after they crossed the finish line yesterday. Why don't any of them look exhausted?

A movie about LinotypeNOV 08

Here's a teaser trailer:

From the film's website:

Linotype: The Film is a feature-length documentary film centered around the Linotype typecasting machine invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler. Called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" by Thomas Edison, the Linotype revolutionized printing and society, but very few people know about the inventor or his fascinating machine.

The Linotype completely transformed the communication of information similarly to how the internet is now changing it all again. Although these machines were revolutionary, technology began to supersede the Linotype and they were scrapped and melted-down by the thousands. Today, very few machines are still in existence.

(via df)

LHC generates a mini Big BangNOV 08

By smashing together lead ions instead of protons, researchers at the Large Hadron Collider have produced a "mini-Big Bang".

The collisions obtained were able to generate the highest temperatures and densities ever produced in an experiment. "This process took place in a safe, controlled environment, generating incredibly hot and dense sub-atomic fireballs with temperatures of over ten trillion degrees, a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun.

"At these temperatures even protons and neutrons, which make up the nuclei of atoms, melt resulting in a hot dense soup of quarks and gluons known as a quark-gluon plasma." Quarks and gluons are sub-atomic particles -- some of the building blocks of matter. In the state known as quark-gluon plasma, they are freed of their attraction to one another. This plasma is believed to have existed just after the Big Bang.

Seawater antennasNOV 08

The US Navy is looking for a way to replace bulky antennas on warships with antennas made from seawater.

What they came up with is little more than an electromagnetic ring and a water pump. The ring, called a current probe, creates a magnetic field through which the pump shoots a steam of seawater (the salt is a key ingredient, as the tech relies on the magnetic induction properties of sodium chloride). By controlling the height and width of the, the operator can manipulate the frequency at which the antenna transmits and receives. An 80-foot-high stream can transmit and receive anywhere from 2 to 400 mHz, though much smaller streams can be used for varying other frequencies, ranging from HF through VHF to UHF.

Wow. (via bldgblog)

Is Courtney Love getting her life together?NOV 08

On Monday night, at a screening of the movie "Due Date," Courtney Love told a reporter from Style.com that she was trying to take better care of herself.

Or, perhaps not:

Shortly after 8 p.m., Ms. Love burst into the room with the Marchesa dress slung on one arm and the noted German Neo-Expressionist artist Anselm Kiefer on the other. She was entirely naked and leaning on Mr. Kiefer for support. She made one lap around the room, walking in front of a photographer, an assistant, a hairstylist and me. She pulled over her head a transparent lace dress that covered up nothing, and demanded my assistance -- "Not you," she said to Mr. Kiefer, who was bent over trying to help her -- to stuff her feet into a pair of black Givenchy heels that were zipped up the back and tied with delicate laces in the front. Then she applied a slash of red lipstick in the vicinity of her mouth.

"I really must get out of here," Mr. Kiefer said.

"Just a minute," Ms. Love said, as she pushed her feet, shoes and all, through a pair of pink knickers that she said cost $4,000. She grabbed a trench coat, walked through the hotel lobby with her breasts exposed to an assortment of prominent fashion figures, including Stefano Pilati, the Yves Saint Laurent designer, and then exited the hotel.

Like Ms. Love, this profile of her is anything but boring.

Cleveland to LeBron: you should shove itNOV 08

Nike made a rare misstep with LeBron's recent "What should I do?" commercial, but Cleveland's video response is fantastic.

FoursquarathonNOV 06

If you're running the NYC marathon tomorrow, have an iPhone, and are a Foursquare user, 4SQ CEO Dennis Crowley has the low-down on how to track your progress throughout the race by auto-checking-in to 4SQ at all the mile markers.

I'm going to use Mayor Maker tomorrow during the NYC Marathon to auto check me in to every mile marker as I run past them. I'll be running w/ my iPhone in my pocket (with GPS turned on). Every time I run over a mile checkpoint, Mayor Maker will send that checkin to foursquare and foursquare will send it back out to Facebook and Twitter. Cool, right?

Web design using gridsNOV 05

Khoi Vinh has a new book coming out next month called Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design.

"Ordering Disorder" is an overview of all of my thoughts on using the typographic grid in the practice of Web design. The first part of the book covers the theories behind grid design, the historical underpinnings of the grid, how they're relevant (and occasionally irrelevant) to the work of Web designers -- and a bit of my personal experience coming to grips with grids as a tool.

The second part of the book, which makes up its bulk, walks readers through the design of a full Web site from scratch, over the course of four projects.

Vinh did the art direction for the book himself, so it's bound to be purty (and grid-y). The perfect early holiday gift for the web designer in your life.

Algorithmic friendship and other modern phenomenaNOV 05

Susan Orlean catalogs the different kinds of online "friends" one might have.

The friend you sort of know, because you have friends in common and have maybe attended the same events -- not together, but you've both ended up there because you know a lot of the same people. You perhaps would not have thought to invite this person to a small party, and yet you do include him in your wider sense of your social circle -- and you now communicate with him via social media more than you ever did before such a thing existed, and you now have a surprising intimacy after years of static, unenergetic just-sort-of-knowing one another (formerly known as "an acquaintance").

Kubrick directs The Beatles in Lord of the Rings?NOV 05

Possibly the worst idea in the world: a movie version of Lord of the Rings starring The Beatles (with Lennon as Gollum) and directed by Stanley Kubrick. According to Peter Jackson, this was a possibility but JRR said hells no.

According to Peter Jackson, who knows a little something about making Lord of the Rings movies, John Lennon was the Beatle most keen on LOTR back in the '60s -- and he wanted to play Gollum, while Paul McCartney would play Frodo, Ringo Starr would take on Sam and George Harrison would beard it up for Gandalf. And he approached a pre-2001 Stanley Kubrick to direct.

Nobody falls up mountainsNOV 05

Four boarding school friends (the charmer, the looker, the student, and the joker) attempted to scale Mont Blanc and only two came back alive. Two of the four had previously scaled Everest at 19 (without sherpas) and followed that up by travelling from the North Pole to the South Pole using only manpower and natural power. So what went wrong on Mont Blanc?

They spent their first two days with an emphasis on safety measures. Lebon and Atkinson were well advised of Mont Blanc's singular reputation. Any seasoned climber, when contemplating the world's most dangerous mountains, looks first to the Himalayas -- to Annapurna, K2, Nanga Parbat. These monsters are as forbidding as they come, and therefore have the highest fatality rates. Four out of 10 climbers who ascend Annapurna die there.

Mont Blanc comes in somewhere after Everest, the Matterhorn, and Denali, in Alaska, but in sheer numbers it kills more climbers than the whole lot of them combined. It is the Siren of major mountains; gracious and popular, it is summited by 20,000 climbers a year -- pretty much anyone can climb the thing, if not safely. But it lures overly ambitious suitors too high or deep, then brutalizes them.

Overlapping digital mosaicsNOV 05

Mosaic collages like this one -- where each "pixel" is a tiny self-contained image -- are fairly common but I haven't seen too many like these before:

Digital Collage

Lovely effect; they're fun to look at zoomed in or out. (via matt)

Conjoined twins...with a twistNOV 05

Tatiana and Krista Hogan are conjoined twins who not only share a bit each other's skulls but also parts of their brains. So are they two people with two brains & personalities or one person with one brain and two (split) personalities?

Adding to the conundrum, of course, are their linked brains, and the mysterious hints of what passes between them. The family regularly sees evidence of it. The way their heads are joined, they have markedly different fields of view. One child will look at a toy or a cup. The other can reach across and grab it, even though her own eyes couldn't possibly see its location. "They share thoughts, too," says Louise. "Nobody will be saying anything," adds Simms, "and Tati will just pipe up and say, 'Stop that!' And she'll smack her sister." While their verbal development is delayed, it continues to get better. Their sentences are two or three words at most so far, and their enunciation is at first difficult to understand. Both the family, and researchers, anxiously await the children's explanation for what they are experiencing.

1899 trip across the Brooklyn Bridge filmed by EdisonNOV 05

This was filmed in 1899 from a train crossing the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan by Edison Manufacturing Co.

The film sold for $22.50 in the Edison films catalog.

100 portraitsNOV 04

One hundred photos from one hundred photographers, including those from Noah Kalina, David Maisel, Zoe Strauss, Phillip Toledano, etc. (via kalina)

Not in LoveNOV 04

In heavy rotation in iTunes this week: Crystal Castles' "Not in Love" featuring vocals by Robert Smith of The Cure.

A gay HalloweenNOV 04

Here's the story from a blogger at Nerdy Apple Bottom: her five-year-old son dressed up as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween and mom & boy get shit from some of the other moms at their church preschool, thinking that the boy's gonna catch The Gay for dressing up like a girl. The mom's not having any of it:

But here's the point, it is none of your damn business. If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to 'make' him gay then you are an idiot. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off.

Right on. Without really thinking about it this year, we dressed my son in a "girlie" costume (he was a butterfly, at his request, and not a knight or robot or Batman like most of the other three-year-olds I saw) and our daughter was a Frenchman. Not an eyebrow was raised, which is unsurprising as lower Manhattan is pretty much ground zero for It Gets Better. (via @choire)

Building the Empire State BuildingNOV 04

New York, the documentary film by Ric Burns, contains a great segment on the Empire State Building that is available on YouTube in three parts.

The first two parts are particularly interesting, especially the construction stuff that starts around the five minute mark of part one. Oh, and don't miss the steelworkers throwing red hot rivets around to each other...that starts right near the end of part one and continues into part two. Some other highlights:

- The original Waldorf-Astoria hotel was torn down (with no small amount of glee from the ESB's developers) to make room for the new skyscraper. The hotel was built by William Waldorf Astor, heir to the forture created by his father and grandfather (John Jacob Astor & John Jacob Astor III), on the site of his father's mansion. WW Astor's cousin, John Jacob Astor IV, went down on the Titanic and the Senate hearings into the disaster were held at the hotel.

- The steel beams were custom forged in Pittsburgh and shipped immediately to the building site...some arrived still hot to the touch from the furnaces.

- At the peak of construction, the workers were adding 4-5 stories a week. During one 22-day stretch, 22 new floors were erected. From start to finish, the entire building took an astonishing 13 months to build, about the same amount of time recently taken by the MTA to fix the right side of the stairs of the Christopher St subway station entrance.

- The building didn't become profitable until 1950.

(thx, lily)

The anthropology of trashNOV 04

An interesting interview with the anthropologist-in-residence of the NYC Department of Sanitation.

The money set aside for street cleaning was going into the pockets of the Tweed and Tammany politicians. Eventually, it got to be that it was so dirty for so long, no one thought that it could be any different. Imagine, on your own block, that you can't cross the street, even at the corner, without paying a street kid with a broom to clear a path for you, because the streets were layered in this sludge of manure, rotting vegetables, ash, broken up furniture, debris of all kind. It was called "corporation pudding" after the city government. And it was deep -- in some cases knee-deep.

Goalkeeper faster than speeding locomotiveNOV 04

Watch how quickly this goalie gets back to defend his own goal.

He's moving so comically fast compared to the other players on the pitch that it reminds me of the not-so-special effect of Clark Kent racing the train in Superman. (via unlikely words)

How the phone book changed the worldNOV 03

Greg Beato on how the seemingly humble phone book "signaled the coming shift from an industrial economy to an information-based one".

The phone itself was a pretty big deal, of course, helping intimacy transcend proximity. But phone books provided a crucial element to the system: intrusiveness. In the beginning of 1880, Shea writes, there were 30,000 telephone subscribers in the U.S. At the end of the year, that number had grown to 50,000, and because of phone books, each one of them was exposed to the others as never before. While many American cities had been compiling databases of their inhabitants well before the phone was invented, listing names, occupations, and addresses, individuals remained fairly insulated from each other. Contacting someone might require a letter of introduction, a facility for charming butlers or secretaries, a long walk.

Phone books eroded these barriers. They were the first step in our long journey toward the pandemic self-surveillance of Facebook. "Hey strangers!" anyone who appeared in their pages ordained. "Here's how to reach me whenever you feel like it, even though I have no idea who you are."

AC/DC's Thunderstruck on the bagpipesNOV 03

The only way this could be better is with Brian Johnson's vocals stitched in there.

Kim Jong-il's special titlesNOV 03

Wikipedia has a list of all the ridiculous titles that have been used in the North Korean media to refer to Dickhead-in-Chief Kim Jong-il. A sampling:

Superior Person
Sun of Communist Future
Highest Incarnation of the Revolutionary Comradely Love
Beloved and Respected General
Invincible and Iron-Willed Commander
World's Leader of The 21st century
Glorious General, Who Descended From Heaven

(via @matthiasrascher)

Super There Will Be BloodNOV 03

The Super Nintendo version of There Will Be Blood:

This is pitch perfect. What really puts this video over the top are the sound effects ("milkshake!") and that it doesn't go on too long.

Greatest movie drug scenesNOV 03

Without even looking, you could probably guess that scenes from Pulp Fiction and Requiem for a Dream would make a list of film's greatest drug scenes. But there are 28 other worthy scenes on there as well.

Dress like Carl SaganNOV 02

Nerd Boyfriend, a site that details the sartorial choices of desirable nerds, shows us where to buy the outfit Carl Sagan wore in Cosmos.

Muji iPhone and iPad appsNOV 02

The Japanese no-brand retailer Muji is taking an interesting approach to their iPhone and iPad apps. Instead of just having a product catalog/store app (although they have that too), they're also offering apps that are very much like the products they offer in their real-world stores. There's a simple calendaring app that syncs with Google Calendar, a notebook app for sketching and note-taking, and an app called Muji to Go that combines a bunch of different functions that travellers might need (weather, currency exchange, power socket guide).

Living in a Photoshop worldNOV 02

If only real life had Photoshop.

Dodging the burnt toast was a fave moment.

What's it like on the International Space Station?NOV 02

For one thing, sleeping is more troublesome than you'd think, considering the remote location:

The onslaught of apparent days and nights would play havoc with astronauts' body clocks, so a shutters-down and bedtime schedule is imposed by mission controllers. Each of the crew has a closet-like cabin where they can hook a sleeping bag to the wall and settle down for the night. Some strap pillows to their heads to make it feel more like lying down. The lights don't go out completely, though. People dozing in orbit see streaks and bursts of bright colour caused by high-energy cosmic rays painlessly slamming into their retinas. Fans and air filters add to the distractions, so some astronauts wear ear plugs to block out the constant hum.

Unsurprisingly, falling asleep can take some getting used to. Just as you are nodding off, you can feel as though you've fallen off a 10-storey building. People who look half asleep will suddenly throw their heads back with a start and fling out their arms. It gets easier with time. One Russian crew member is renowned for doing without a sleeping bag and falling asleep wherever he ends the day. Anyone still awake after bedtime would see his snoozing form drift by, slowly bouncing off the walls, his course set by the air currents that gently pushed and pulled him.

Whoa! The whole thing is worth a read.

Civil War blogNOV 02

Disunion is a new NY Times blog that will be covering the events of the Civil War in "real-time" as it happened 150 years ago. From one of the first posts about the last ordinary day:

[November 1, 1860] was an ordinary day in America: one of the last such days for a very long time to come.

In dusty San Antonio, Colonel Robert E. Lee of the U.S. Army had just submitted a long report to Washington about recent skirmishes against marauding Comanches and Mexican banditti. In Louisiana, William Tecumseh Sherman was in the midst of a tedious week interviewing teenage applicants to the military academy where he served as superintendent. In Galena, Ill., passers-by might have seen a man in a shabby military greatcoat and slouch hat trudging to work that Thursday morning, as he did every weekday. He was Ulysses Grant, a middle-aged shop clerk in his family's leather-goods store.

Great idea. The Times started publishing in 1851 so their archives should have a ton of stuff related to the war. (via df)

Where to voteNOV 02

Curious as to where you might vote today? Find your fucking polling location. Pairs well with What the fuck has Obama done so far?

Michael Jordan's final shotNOV 01

After the Chicago Bulls won their final championship of the Michael Jordan era, David Halberstam wrote this fantastic article for the New Yorker about Jordan's final season, final game, and final shot, a jumper over the sprawling body of Bryon Russell.

The crowd, Jordan remembered, got very quiet. That was, he said later, the moment for him. The moment, he explained, was what all Phil Jackson's Zen Buddhism stuff, as he called it, was about: how to focus and concentrate and be ready for that critical point in a game, so that when it arrived you knew exactly what you wanted to do and how to do it, as if you had already lived through it. When it happened, you were supposed to be in control, use the moment, and not panic and let the moment use you. Jackson liked the analogy of a cat waiting for a mouse, patiently biding its time, until the mouse, utterly unaware, finally came forth.

The play at that instant, Jordan said, seemed to unfold very slowly, and he saw everything with great clarity, as Jackson had wanted him to: the way the Utah defense was setting up, and what his teammates were doing. He knew exactly what he was going to do. "I never doubted myself," Jordan said later. "I never doubted the whole game."

When NBA history is written, my guess is that no one will be able to top what Michael Jordan accomplished on the court (Bill Russell, possibly, aside). He was a fantastic athlete and possessed the focus and discipline to make the most of his physical gifts (by which I mean he had the pathological need to completely and totally dismantle everyone else on the court: opponents, teammates, officials, etc.). Basketball is full of mostly-one-or-the-other players: Larry Bird, for example, was not particularly physically gifted but more than made up for it in discipline and Shaq is an amazing athlete but lacked a certain focus at times. Oh, you'll say, but what about: 1. LeBron (might be more talented than Jordan but is missing the necessary clinical insanity that Jordan had) or 2. Kobe (slightly less talented and driven, but might make up for it with longevity).

But to be fair, the shot against Russell was not the final shot of Jordan's career. After that article was written, in 1998, Jordan returned to the NBA for two lackluster seasons with the Washington Wizards. His last NBA shot was a free throw in the final two minutes of a meaningless 107-87 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Acting on the orders of his coach Larry Brown, Sixers guard Eric Snow fouled Jordan so that Jordan could score some points and leave the game on a high note. The Wizards fouled shortly after and Jordan left to a standing ovation. The intensity that propelled Jordan to such great heights early in his career also drove him to retire too early (twice!) and then come back after it was too late to put an odd sort of question mark on an exclamation point of a career. (via jb)

The power of empty spaceNOV 01

In Singapore, many apartment buildings have empty open-air ground floors called "void decks" that get put to a variety of uses: day-care, weddings, bicycle parking, small stores, etc.

More than 80% of Singapore's population lives in public housing, in buildings designed to government specifications. And Singapore's government ensures that every apartment building mirrors the country's ethnic mix, with Chinese, Malays, and Indians living as neighbors in proportion to their share of the population -- 77%, 14%, and 8% respectively. The void deck ensures that everyone gets to know each other, and each other's cultures. As the Times puts it, its pleasures are actually "part of Singapore's strictly enforced social policies aimed at ensuring harmony among the races in a region often torn by religious and ethnic strife."

Bill Murray as other Wes Anderson charactersNOV 01

Man, what if Spike Jonze had made Being Bill Murray instead? Casey Weldon did a series of paintings of Bill Murray as characters from Wes Anderson's movies...but non-Murray characters like Max Fischer, Margot Tenenbaum, and the Baumer.

Bill Murray Tenebaums

Prints are available. And these were a part of a show called Bad Dads, consisting of art inspired by various Anderson films. Again, prints are available.

The city as idea incubatorNOV 01

Steven Johnson on why New York has become a growing hub for technology startup companies.

As a diverse city that supports countless industries and maverick interests, New York excels at creating those eclectic networks. Subcultures and small businesses generate ideas and skills that inevitably diffuse through society, influencing other groups. As the sociologist Claude Fischer put it in an influential essay on subcultures published in 1975, "The larger the town, the more likely it is to contain, in meaningful numbers and unity, drug addicts, radicals, intellectuals, 'swingers', health-food faddists, or whatever; and the more likely they are to influence (as well as offend) the conventional center of the society."

The world's most famous brainNOV 01

Lovely long piece in the November issue of Esquire about the brain of Henry Molaison, who you may have previously heard of as Patient H.M., aka the man who lacked the ability to remember anything for more than a couple of minutes. His brain has now been sliced into thin slices in an effort to construct a map of the human brain accurate to neuron-level.

Corkin first met Henry at Brenda Milner's lab in Montreal in 1962, and over the years, as the mining of his mind has continued, she's witnessed firsthand how Henry continues to give up riches, broadening our understanding of how memory works. But she's also keenly aware of Henry's enduring mysteries, has documented things about him that nobody can quite explain, not yet.

For example, Henry's inability to recall postoperative episodes, an amnesia that was once thought to be complete, has revealed itself over the years to have some puzzling exceptions. Certain things have managed, somehow, to make their way through, to stick and become memories. Henry knows a president was assassinated in Dallas, though Kennedy's motorcade didn't leave Love Field until more than a decade after Henry left my grandfather's operating room. Henry can hear the incomplete name of an icon -- "Bob Dy ..." -- and complete it, even though in 1953 Robert Zimmerman was just a twelve-year-old chafing against the dead-end monotony of small-town Minnesota. Henry can tell you that Archie Bunker's son-in-law is named Meathead.

How is this possible?

The piece is written by the grandson of the doctor who removed a portion of Molaison's brain in an effort to cure his epilepsy.

NYC what ifs: merging Manhattan and BrooklynNOV 01

In 1916, Kennard Thomson, consulting engineer and urban planner for New York City, wrote an article for Popular Mechanics in which he advocated (among other things) filling in the East River to merge Manhattan with Brooklyn.

Brookhattan

Strange Maps explains:

By Dr Thomson's estimates, enlarging New York according to his plans would cost more than digging the Panama Canal - but the returns would quickly repay the debt incurred and make New York the richest city in the world. He then goes on to describe how he would reclaim all that land. The plan's larger outlines: move the East River east, and build coffer dams from the Battery at Manhattan's southern tip to within a mile of Staten Island, on the other side of the Upper Bay, and the area in between them filled up with sand. This would enlarge Manhattan to an island several times its present size.

Proximity and easy access to the new Battery would increase the total land value of Staten Island from $50 million to $500 million. "This would help pay the expenses of the project," Dr Thomson suggests.

The project would also add large areas of land to Staten Island itself, to Sandy Hook on the Jersey shore just south of there and create a new island somewhere in between. The East River, separating Manhattan from Queens and Brooklyn, would be filled and replaced by a new canal east of there, slicing through Long Island from Flushing to Jamaica Bays.

Archives    October 2010 »    September 2010 »    August 2010 »

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