Back in a week MAR 29
kottke.org is off this week. I'll see you back here on Monday.
kottke.org is off this week. I'll see you back here on Monday.
Ze Frank is jotting down some notes for past episodes of The Show, the year-long daily video podcast he did five years ago.
this is the first time that I will be watching most of these episodes since they were posted. that's weird. i have that relationship with things i make. do you? this one feels like i was searching for format. the "supreme court calendar" was set up to be a recurring joke on how boring that segment would be... but ultimately i became fascinated with the things I was going to make fun of. Incidentally the .xxx top level domain debate is still raging although the arguments for and against have swapped sides.
This is all before I had made a commitment to what is now the ubiquitous video blog jump cut, but in this episode I'm trying to play around with moving into the camera physically at transition points with a sharp cut. there's something nice about having a physical action to hit at the beginning of a take - takes the pressure off of the words and brings energy into the frame right away. over time the cut became more important to me, and the style became less natural, more surgical (not a bad thing - but worth noting).
Lady Gaga released a country version of her latest single, Born This Way. This isn't a remix or cover...it's an official release by Gaga.
I don't care for country music much, but this really makes me smile. (via ★capndesign)
Due to tougher laws and easier opportunities in other areas of crime, pickpockets have all but vanished from the streets and trains of the US.
The decline of dipping on the rails is extraordinary. Subways were always the happiest hunting grounds for pickpockets, who would work alone or in teams. There were classic skilled canons-organized pickpocket gangs-at the top, targeting wealthier riders, then "bag workers" who went for purses, and "lush workers" who disreputably targeted unconscious drunks. Richard Sinnott, who worked as a New York City transit cop in the 1970s and '80s, also admiringly recalls "fob workers," a subspecies of pickpocket who worked their way through train cars using just their index and middle fingers to extract coins and pieces of paper money-a quarter here, a buck there-from riders' pockets. "They weren't greedy, and they never got caught," says Sinnott. Bit by bit, fob workers could make up to $400 on a single subway trip; then they'd go to Florida in the winter to work the racetracks. Many of the city's pickpockets trained elsewhere, "and if they were any good, they came to New York," Sinnot says, with a touch of pride. "In the subways, we had the best there were."
I'm generally a fan of Slate's compulsive contrarianism, but asking if we should miss pickpocketing is just too much.
David Lynch's hair compares favorably to several works of art, mostly modern, including Starry Night, Water Lilies, and Lichtenstein's Brush Stroke.
Designers are clearly thinking about the way two facing pages work together, whether the stories are related or not. This creates a flow that encourages reading without interruption.
i is composed like a beautiful piece of music. It has the discipline to play only the high notes that matter most. For example, it uses its full bleed capability sparingly. It creates strong impact, even with small things. The surprise of occasional whimsy makes the content inviting.
Movie bar codes orig. from Mar 24, 2011
* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.
Chartwell is a type family you can use to build all kinds of graphs and charts. Stringing letters and numbers together into ligatures, you can make things like this:
Not quite sure how these are done -- it looks like each vertical slice is representative of the colors in a given frame from the film -- but these moviebarcodes provide a good sense of a movie's tone and color. This one is...any guesses?
Here's what playing the original Super Mario Bros would look like from a first-person perspective.
Much of the village on the Thai island of Koh Panyee is actually floating; the island is too rocky to build much of anything on land. So when a group of kids wanted to start a soccer club, they built themselves a floating soccer pitch...which led to some interesting advantages once they started playing against other teams.
The Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility is a tent designed to keep communications secure when the President is out and about.
Designed to withstand eavesdropping, phone tapping and computer hacking, Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities -- also known as SCIFs -- are protected areas where classified conversations can be held.
They can be permanent enclosures within a building, or mobile areas set up when a world leader is on the move, to allow them to view sensitive documents or have secret conversations without any outsiders listening or hacking in.
Looking at the top photo...what about the floor? They don't have to worry about electronic eavesdropping from below? See also Cold War giants in tiny rooms.
Stephan Tillmans' Luminant Point Arrays project is a collection of photographs of tube television screens as they're switched off.
This sense of a private/public self is reinforced in nearly every scene, with the presence of a video camera (during the depositions), laptops and monitors, or other frames within frames (screens, windows, doorways, stairways, hallways) through which we can see other people going about their lives, doing whatever they're doing. (The extras and bit players had a lot of work in this movie.)
And then there's the guy in the white shirt who sits there behind the Winkelvii's lawyer. He turns out to be the videographer, and he gets one big moment when the attorneys call "lunch" and he leaps up to turn off the camera and the monitor. We're always reminded that what we're seeing is being documented. Even the documentation is being documented: the affidavits that have already been filed, the e-mails and texts that were sent, the blog entries, the Harvard Crimson articles entered into evidence... Whenever Mark tries to claim he doesn't remember what he may or may not have said to Erica or the Winkelvii (Armie Hammer), there's always something there to remind him -- often in words he typed and electronically transmitted himself.
This is the "guy in the white shirt" shot:
I only saw this movie for the first time about three weeks ago, but it's stuck in my brain...I keep coming back to it. As Emerson notes (or at least strongly hints at), the story might be specifically about Facebook, but the rest of the film is more generally about the connection and alienation of being online, of being human in a hyperconnected age. Same kind of thing Caterina was getting at in her Fear of Missing Out essay, I think.
The Daily Mail has a profile of Apple's lead designer, Jony Ive...some bits in there that I hadn't read before, including this strange anecdote about a bad meeting that may have led to Ive's departure to Apple:
'We lost a great talent,' says Grinyer. 'We virtually created our own consultancy, Tangerine, just so that we could employ Jony (as Ive prefers to be called). And if I had to put my finger on why and where we lost him it would have to have been one day at Ideal Standard in Hull.
'Tangerine had a consultancy contract with the bathroom-fittings company to design a toilet. I was there when Jony made an excellent presentation to this guy who was wearing a red nose because it was Comic Relief day. This clown then decided to throw his weight around and pulled apart Jony's design. It was ridiculous. Britain lost Jony Ive then and there.'
There's currently no deal in place for the show, which probably means we won't get to see the next season until late 2011 or early 2012 (instead of this summer).
People involved in the talks suggested this week that one or both deals may be imminent, but that may not be enough to ensure a summer start. Todd Gold, the editor in chief of XfinityTV.com, Comcast's television news site, said it was becoming clear that the show was "right on the cusp of going one way or the other."
"By now, the writing staff should be humming along, maybe about a month or more into work for a summer premiere," he said. "Unless Weiner is secretly manufacturing outlines in preparation of some crazy all-night writing sessions with his staff, it might be time for fans to grow concerned."
A montage of spoilers from 71 different films, including The Usual Suspects, Citizen Kane, The 400 Blows, Inception, and The Graduate.
Here's an infographic that shows feature films with four or more Harry Potter wizards in them.
i was watching sense & sensibility in the back of my neighbour's minivan while on a stakeout the other night and realized that professors snape, trelawney, and umbridge had each somehow apparated into the cast. my neighbour (who is a former hogwarts alumna) pointed out that cornelius fudge and madam pomfrey were also in it. was this a record for the most harry potter wizards in a non-harry potter film?
Close but nine Potter wizards is the record...can you guess which movie before clicking through?
This is the first part of a four-part interview with Chris Ware, in which he discusses comics, working, and family. Ware on becoming a father:
Yeah, it kind of fixed every mental problem that I had within an hour. So I highly recommend it if anybody out there is thinking of having children, you should really, I mean, it's the only reason we're here, and if you have any doubts in your mind about yourself or where your life is going, it'll be answered easily and almost instantaneously. It's a clich'e to say, but it also immediately sets you aside from yourself and you're no longer the star of your own mind, which is really not a very good state of mind to be in. Unfortunately, in my country it is one that seems to be encouraged until about the age of 60 or something, now. I really think the main export of America is this sort of fountain of youth that we somehow manage to tap into, like with pop music -- it's not out of the question to see 50-year-old men still dressing like teenagers and I just feel like, "What happened?" It's like we won World War II and now we can be idiots for the rest of time.
Here's a collection of video and stills from most of the movie title sequences created by Saul Bass.
"PROJECTIONISTS - PULL CURTAIN BEFORE TITLES".
This is the text of a note that was stuck on the cans when the reels of film for "The Man With the Golden Arm" arrived at US movie theatres in 1955. Until then the credits were referred to as 'popcorn time.' Audiences resented them and projectionists only pulled back the curtains to reveal the screen once they'd finished. Saul Bass' powerful title sequence for "The Man With the Golden Arm" changed the way directors and designers would treat the opening titles.
Lovely Japan-themed New Yorker cover this week by Christoph Niemann.
They text, they email, they IM, but increasingly the phone call is too intrusive of a communication option for many.
"I literally never use the phone," Jonathan Adler, the interior designer, told me. (Alas, by phone, but it had to be.) "Sometimes I call my mother on the way to work because she'll be happy to chitty chat. But I just can't think of anyone else who'd want to talk to me." Then again, he doesn't want to be called, either. "I've learned not to press 'ignore' on my cellphone because then people know that you're there."
"I remember when I was growing up, the rule was, 'Don't call anyone after 10 p.m.,'" Mr. Adler said. "Now the rule is, 'Don't call anyone. Ever.'"
As a long-time hater of the phone call, this is good news.
Watch closely for the Noah Durden character...
Yo dawg I heard you like to play DOS games on your Mac so, uh, here's some software to do that.
Boxer plays MS-DOS games on your Mac. It's based on the robust DOSBox emulator, with a lot of magic sprinkled on top. Run DOS programs from Finder. Wrap your games into tidy gameboxes that launch like Mac apps. Painlessly install games from CD-then bundle the CD with your game so you don't even need it in the drive.
The NY Times has an interactive look at how the Manhattan grid came to be.
In 1811, John Randel created a proposed street grid of Manhattan. Compare his map, along with other historic information, to modern-day Manhattan.
With the assistance of a nuclear reactor operator, Randall Munroe came up with this handy radiation dose infographic. Doses recorded near the Fukushima plant compare to those from a single mammogram or dental x-ray. A note on how to use this chart:
If you're basing radiation safety procedures on an internet PNG image and things go wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself.
This article by Josh Kurp in The Awl is fascinating but really *really* hard to read in spots. Seriously, it's really disturbing in spots...consider yourself forewarned.
This is what happened: A little over ten years ago, on March 9, 2001, 39-year-old Meiwes, a computer technician living in the German village of Wustefeld, brought home, had sex with and killed 44-year-old Brandes, a Berlin man who lived about 250 miles away. Meiwes then ate 44 pounds of his flesh over a period of ten months. While that may sound like murder, there's something else that should be mentioned: Brandes wanted it all to happen.
When actress Anne Hathaway is in the news, shares of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway seem to go up in price.
Companies are trying to "correlate everything against everything," he explained, and if they find something that they think will work time and again, they'll try it out. The interesting, thing, though, is that it's all statistics, removed from the real world. It's not as if a hedge fund's computers would spit the trading strategy as a sentence: "When Hathway news increases, buy Berkshire Hathaway." In fact, traders won't always know why their algorithms are doing what they're doing. They just see that it's found some correlation and it's betting on Buffet's company.
Oregon Trail is one of the most-played video games in history, and certainly one of the most popular educational games. Here's the history of how the game was developed.
Forty years and ten iterations later, the Oregon Trail has sold over 65 million copies worldwide, becoming the most widely distributed educational game of all time. Market research done in 2006 found that almost 45 percent of parents with young children knew Oregon Trail, despite the fact that it largely disappeared from the market in the late '90s.
A recent frenzy of nostalgia over the game has yielded everything from popular T-shirts ("You have died of dysentery") to band tour promotions ("Fall Out Boy Trail") to humorous references on popular websites ("Digg has broken an axle").
"It's hard to think of another game that endured for so long and yet has still been so successful," says Jon-Paul Dyson, director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at the Strong. "For generations of computer users, it was their introduction to gaming, and to computer use itself."
This extra is the acting equivalent of the Wilhelm Scream...he shows up just about everywhere.
The first season of Downton Abbey, which I highly recommend, is available to watch online for free in two places: on Amazon (for Amazon Prime subscribers) and at Netflix Watch Instantly (for subscribers).
Or will be soon...they announced some of the details today.
On NYTimes.com, you can view 20 articles each month at no charge (including slide shows, videos and other features). After 20 articles, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber, with full access to our site.
Cheapest plan is about $180/year and the most expensive is $420/yr. Access is free to paper subscribers.
Designer Jessica Walsh shares the photo setup she uses to document her work.
I cobbled together this set up out of the desire to properly archive my design work. Next thing I knew I started getting paid for it, and it became an integral part of my work. I am simply listing my equipment and a little bit about what I know to get some designers started in figuring out the best way to shoot their own work.
You can see the gorgeous results in her portfolio.
From the excellent blog The Art of the Title Sequence, a short video called A Brief History of Title Design.
The video page has a full listing of the movies from which the opening title sequences are pulled.
Nate Dogg died yesterday; he was 41 years old.
With his deep, melodic voice and smooth soul rumble, Dogg was one of the key elements in the rise of the West Coast G-Funk sound pioneered by Death Row Records in the early 1990s. Though overshadowed by such peers as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Warren G, Nate was a critical participant in a number of major left-coast gangsta hits, including G's "Regulate" and Dre's iconic solo debut, 1992's The Chronic.
That's the title of an article written by Michael Lewis in 1989.
A big quake has hit Tokyo roughly every 70 years for four centuries: 1923, 1853, 1782, 1703, 1633.
Caterina Fake on the fear and hope that underlies social media.
FOMO -Fear of Missing Out- is a great motivator of human behavior, and I think a crucial key to understanding social software, and why it works the way it does. Many people have studied the game mechanics that keep people collecting things (points, trophies, check-ins, mayorships, kudos). Others have studied how the neurochemistry that keeps us checking Facebook every five minutes is similar to the neurochemistry fueling addiction. Social media has made us even more aware of the things we are missing out on. You're home alone, but watching your friends status updates tell of a great party happening somewhere. You are aware of more parties than ever before. And, like gym memberships, adding Bergman movies to your Netflix queue and piling up unread copies of the New Yorker, watching these feeds gives you a sense that you're participating, not missing out, even when you are.
The last paragraph nutshells why I love the web so much. (via @bryce)
Weatherspark is an impressive collection of weather data, graphs, and tools.
WeatherSpark is a new type of weather website, with interactive weather graphs that allow you to pan and zoom through the entire history of any weather station on earth.
Get multiple forecasts for the current location, overlaid on records and averages to put it all in context.
There is no 3-D CGI involved in this amazing Saturn fly-by video...it's made from thousands of hi-res photographs taken by the Cassini orbiter.
Wait for the full-frame full-color video starting at around 1:00. (thx, sam)
Gelf Magazine has an NCAA tournament bracket for those who hate filling out brackets: one devised by baseball stats master Bill James. Here's the quickie explanation:
Sign up for your Bracketless Bracket using your Facebook ID. Instead of picking the winner of each game, all you have to do is pick your favorite team from each seed line. You pick exactly one team -- no more, no less -- from each seed number. You like both Kansas and Ohio State? Too bad. Pick one. Every time your team on the one-seed line wins a game at any point in the tournament, you get 100 points. Every time your 2-seed wins, you get 110 points. You get the picture; if your 16 seed wins a game, you get 250 points.
Great idea...the best part about this is that you get to pick all sorts of underdogs.
Matt Haughey's SXSW talk, Real World Moderation: Lessons from 11 Years of Community, was quite well received so he posted a version he recorded at home to Vimeo.
After 11 years of running MetaFilter.com, I (and the other moderators) have been through just about everything, and we've built dozens of custom tools to weed out garbage, spammers, and scammers from the site.
I'll cover how to identify and solve problems including identity, trolling, sockpuppets, and other nefarious community issues, show off custom tools we've developed for MetaFilter, and show you how to incorporate them into your own community sites.
On Jeopardy today, a contestant named Ethan responded incorrectly to a $1000 clue with "What is kottke.org?"
The best part is how disgusted the viewer is..."Are you freaking kidding me? Oh jeeezz..." Ethan, if you're out there and if there was actually such an item, I would totally send you a kottke.org tote bag for working in a reference to kottke.org on a show that has such a storied past on the site. What a lovely 13th birthday present. (thx, justin)
This bookmarklet will let you play Katamari Damacy on any web site. Activating it will display a ball on your screen that will roll up all the images and words on the screen. Try it right now on kottke.org. Works best in Firefox and Chrome. (thx, yotam)
Inventables is an online store that sells "materials that designers, artists, and inventors use to develop new products and push the boundaries of what's possible". That's a pretty tame description for the craziest collection of stuff I've ever seen...it's like a Home Depot from the future. For instance: Suction Cup Tape, Heat-Shielding Gel ("temporarily protects surfaces in temperatures up to 7500 °F"), Translucent Concrete, and Rubber Glass ("looks like glass, breaks like glass, but feels like rubber"). (thx, pete)
And in celebration, this is my new favorite fact about pi: we have calculated pi out to over 6.4 billion digits but only 39 of them are needed to calculate the circumference of a circle as big as the universe "with a precision comparable to the radius of a hydrogen atom". (via @santheo)
I haven't been keeping up with the Japan nuclear power plant situation as much as I want, but I wanted to pass along a few interesting articles. Over at Boing Boing, Maggie Koerth-Baker wrote a widely linked piece about how nuclear power plants work:
For the vast majority of people, nuclear power is a black box technology. Radioactive stuff goes in. Electricity (and nuclear waste) comes out. Somewhere in there, we're aware that explosions and meltdowns can happen. Ninety-nine percent of the time, that set of information is enough to get by on. But, then, an emergency like this happens and, suddenly, keeping up-to-date on the news feels like you've walked in on the middle of a movie. Nobody pauses to catch you up on all the stuff you missed.
As I write this, it's still not clear how bad, or how big, the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant will be. I don't know enough to speculate on that. I'm not sure anyone does. But I can give you a clearer picture of what's inside the black box. That way, whatever happens at Fukushima, you'll understand why it's happening, and what it means.
MrReid, a physics teacher, writes about the situation at Fukushima:
Even with the release of steam, the pressure and temperature inside Unit 1 continued to increase. The high temperatures inside the reactor caused the protective zirconium cladding on the uranium fuel rods to react with steam inside the reactor to form zirconium oxide and hydrogen. This hydrogen leaked into the building that surrounded the reactor and ignited, damaging the surrounding building but without damaging the reactor vessel itself. Because the reactor vessel has not been compromised, the release of radiation should be minimal. It appears that a very similar situation has occurred at Unit 3 and that hydrogen is again responsible for the explosion seen there.
And this piece is a more meta take on the situation, What the Media Doesn't Get About Meltdowns.
Of immediate concern is the prospect of a so-called "meltdown" at one or more of the Japanese reactors. But part of the problem in understanding the potential dangers is continued indiscriminate use, by experts and the media, of this inherently frightening term without explanation or perspective. There are varying degrees of melting or meltdown of the nuclear fuel rods in a given reactor; but there are also multiple safety systems, or containment barriers, in a given plant's design that are intended to keep radioactive materials from escaping into the general environment in the event of a partial or complete meltdown of the reactor core. Finally, there are the steps taken by a plant's operators to try to bring the nuclear emergency under control before these containment barriers are breached.
Thirteen years ago, I wrote the first entry for kottke.org. There was never a plan for the site...I just never stopped. And amazingly, I've been doing the site as my full-time job for over six years now. Crazy. See also from 2008, kottke.org designs through the years.
Apologies in advance for the Charlie Sheen mention, but Alec Baldwin's advice to Sheen (and, belatedly, Conan) is golden.
Conan has moved on and his great talent is undiminished by his difficult experiences. I had wanted to say to him back then what I will now offer to Charlie. You can't win. Really. You can't. When executives at studios and networks move up to the highest ranks, they are given a book. The book is called How to Handle Actors. And one principle held dear in that book is that no actor is greater than the show itself when the show is a hit. And, in that regard, they are often right. Add to that the fact that the actor who is torturing their diseased egos is a drug addled, porn star-squiring, near Joycean Internet ranter, and they really want you to go.
Reminds me of Frank Sinatra's letter to George Michael.
Come on George, Loosen up. Swing, man, Dust off those gossamer wings and fly yourself to the moon of your choice and be grateful to carry the baggage we've all had to carry since those lean nights of sleeping on buses and helping the driver unload the instruments.
Al-Jazeera's coverage of the Japanese earthquake orig. from Mar 11, 2011
* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.
From the NY Times, Japan's Strict Building Codes Saved Lives:
Had any other populous country suffered the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that shook Japan on Friday, tens of thousands of people might already be counted among the dead. So far, Japan's death toll is in the hundreds, although it is certain to rise somewhat.
Over the years, Japan has spent billions of dollars developing the most advanced technology against earthquakes and tsunamis. The Japanese, who regularly experience smaller earthquakes and have lived through major ones, know how to react to quakes and tsunamis because of regular drills -- unlike Southeast Asians, many of whom died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami because they lingered near the coast despite clear warnings to flee.
Note: the title of the post is a reference to a tweet by Dave Ewing:
The headline you won't see: "Millions saved in Japan by good engineering and government building codes". But it's the truth.
Google has built a quick little app for people trying to locate friends and family in Japan. There are two options: 1) "I'm looking for someone" and 2) "I have information about someone".
Over at The Atlantic's In Focus blog, Alan Taylor is compiling a selection of photos of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. You've seen many of these on other sites, but not at these sizes (1280 pixels wide).
If you haven't already heard, Al-Jazeera had (and continues to have) some of the best coverage of earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Here's a clip from earlier showing the tsunami rushing through a populated area.
Contrast with CNN, which was apparently home to giggles and Godzilla jokes as the quake was being reported. In the last three or four big events in the world, Al-Jazeera has had the best coverage...is this a changing of the guard?
Update: Mediaite investigates and finds no evidence that a Godzilla reference or giggling occurred on CNN last night.
We did find an example of an American in Japan that made a reference that it was like a "monster movie" (which is included below) but Church handles herself completely appropriately.
Update: Mediaite found a video of the CNN broadcast in question where the anchor chuckles at something her interviewee says. And her whole tone sounds a bit more chipper than it ought to. The sing-song anchor voice might suffice when reporting non-news filler but fails when watching video of dozens of homes (possibly with people in them!) being swept along by a massive wave of water. (via @somebadideas)
Two videos of the tsunami triggered by the 8.9 magnitude eathquake that struck Japan. Both are from Sendai:
The quake is one of the most powerful ever to hit Japan.
The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake had a magnitude of 8.9, and occurred at about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo and at a revised depth of about 17 miles. The Japanese Meteorological Agency said the quake had a magnitude of 8.8, which would make it among the biggest in a century.
The quake occurred at 2:46 p.m. Tokyo time and hit off Honshu, Japan's most populous island. The quake was so powerful that buildings in central Tokyo, designed to withstand major earthquakes, swayed.
Well, from political life anyway.
For years, the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, has spoken of his desire to cede political authority, or "retire," as he has sometimes put it. But in Thursday's speech he made it official, announcing that he would propose the change during the session of the Tibetan Parliament in exile that begins next week in Dharamsala, India.
"My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility," he said, according to a prepared text of his speech. "It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run."
Retired perhaps, but still tweeting.
Marco pushed an update to Instapaper today: Instapaper 3.0. And oh, say, this is interesting:
Nobody knew when or why to use Stars, so I've renamed them to Likes to clarify their purpose. Generally, you should Like articles that you think are interesting and that you might recommend to others. [...] You can now browse your friends' Liked items to find great articles to read.
Felicia Pearson, who played Snoop on The Wire, was arrested today on drug charges.
Felicia "Snoop" Pearson had served a prison sentence for murder and returned to drug dealing on the streets of East Baltimore, before a visit to the set of "The Wire" led to a star turn on the show and offered a new chance to change her life.
But her past kept creeping back - she was a witness to a murder and was arrested after she refused to testify -- and subsequent film and television offers were hard to come by.
Now, Pearson, 30, has been accused of playing a part in a large-scale drug organization, whose members were arrested in raids Thursday throughout Baltimore and surrounding counties, as well as in three other states.
Oobject has a interesting collection of insane asylum plans, many of which take their cue from Victorian asylums.
The Kirkbride plan consists of an enormous a symmetrical staggered wing, like a bird made out of lego. Men are on the left and women on the right in wings that radiate from the main entrance for increasingly violent or incurable patients. Early mental institutions where patients had to pay for their own incarceration would also vary in class (rich to poor) on the y axis. The staggering of the wings ensured the flow of air through each, purging them of diseased vapors perhaps, such was the Victorian obsession with fresh air, from outdoor Tuberculosis wards to seaside promenades and piers.
For the past several months, I've been working on a new web app/site called Stellar. Stellar helps you discover and keep track of your favorite things online. If you like playing around on Twitter or Flickr, you'll probably enjoy Stellar. There are a few dozen people using Stellar right now and some of them seem pretty enthusiastic about it, so I'm encouraged to open the site up a bit more. As of just this minute, you'll be able to do a few things with Stellar:
1. View people's fave pages. For example here are my faves, Meg Hourihan's faves, Dennis Crowley's faves, Matt Haughey's faves, Ainsley Drew's faves, Heather Armstrong's faves, Anil Dash's faves, etc. You can find others by browsing around the site a bit. You can also look at the "best of" pages, a person's items faved by others...here are my items faved by others.
2. Sign up to reserve your preferred username and request an invite to the beta. FYI: I'm letting people in reeeeally sloooowly so even if you sign up right away it might be awhile before you get in.
3. Current Stellar users will each have a few site invites to give away.
And that's about it for now. You'll be hearing more about Stellar in the next few days/week/months here on kottke.org, but you can also follow the Stellar Twitter account for updates. Thanks.
If you a flick a web app past the bottom or top of the page, the page itself gets elastically tugged away from the URL bar or the button bar (or the bottom/top of the screen if it's in full-screen mode).
This behavior is another giveaway that your app isn't native, and it's rarely the behavior you want in a native app.
One big advantage of native apps that cannot be addressed by HTML/CSS/JS is the browser interface itself. The Gmail web interface is fantastic, but every time I open a link in my email, the browser goes through its elaborate new window opening process. And then when I want to go back to my email, I have to touch the windows button, close the current window, and then click back on the mail window. The whole process is too inefficient and slow compared to the same process in a native app: no starting browser animation process and one touch to get back to what you're doing. If Apple addressed this issue -- say by making it possible for a web app to "open" a sub-browser with different open/close interactions instead of a full-fledged new window -- using web apps would be less of a pain in the ass.
I love Boggle, so Swipe Four is right up my alley...it's sort of Boggle in reverse. You build up the board letter by letter in an attempt to maximize points. There's a playable online demo and it's only 99 cents on the App Store.
The New Republic compared the Qaddafi family with Arrested Developments Bluth family and found some similarities.
Mohammed Qaddafi and Gob Bluth are both the oldest sons of tyrannical fathers, and both stand in the shadows of their younger, more favored brothers. The sibling rivalry can get intense -- Mohammed's feud with younger brother Mutassim over a Coca-Cola plant ended only after a worker had been injured and a cousin had been stuffed into a car trunk, while Michael and Gob's dueling banana stands ended with the fire department being called twice.
This year's The Morning News Tournament of Books kicks off today with Franzen's Freedom vs. Teddy Wayne's Kapitoil. I'm glad to be spending this year's tournament on the sidelines...reading and choosing are both exhausting.
Indian lunar orbiter Chandrayaan-1 has discovered a large cave on the Moon. Aside from the hey, cool, there's a cave on the Moon factor, the other big feature of the cave is its constant and temperate temperature.
Temperatures on the moon swing wildly, from a maximum of 262 degrees Fahrenheit to a minimum of -292. The cave holds steady at a (relatively) comfortable -4, since the moon's weather can't penetrate its 40-foot-thick wall. It could also protect astronauts from "hazardous radiations, micro-meteoritic impacts," and dust storms, according to paper published by the journal Current Science.
For their latest mission, Improv Everywhere got someone who looked very much like King Philip IV of Spain to sign autographs in front of a Velázquez painting of the monarch.
Polar explorer Ben Saunders is off again on another expedition. This time, he's trying to break the North Pole speed record, but he's doing it solo and unsupported.
In 2005 a guided team using dog sleds and several air-drops of food reached the Pole in 36 days, 22 hours, and in 2010 a Canadian team reached the Pole on foot in 41 days, 18 hours with one resupply flight. Ben is travelling alone and on foot, and will have no support en route.
Ben's had rotten luck on his last two attempts (broken equipment and spoiled food); here's hoping this time goes a lot better.
James Gulliver Hancock is attempting to draw every building in NYC. Here are a few buildings on Rivington:
See also Every Person In New York.
This thing is going to look amazing in full 1080p. Available for pre-order on Amazon for $84.
Tiny Wings is a nifty one-tap game featuring a flying bird...the graphics are really lovely and feel almost handmade.
A.A. Gill has a hilarious and epic review of L'Ami Louis in Paris, which he dubs "the worst restaurant in the world".
What you actually find when you arrive at L'Ami Louis is singularly unprepossessing. It's a long, dark corridor with luggage racks stretching the length of the room. It gives you the feeling of being in a second-class railway carriage in the Balkans. It's painted a shiny, distressed dung brown. The cramped tables are set with labially pink cloths, which give it a colonic appeal and the awkward sense that you might be a suppository. In the middle of the room is a stubby stove that also looks vaguely proctological.
Errol Morris is back with his first NY Times blog post since last summer. Don't quite know where he's going with it yet, but it features an ashtray thrown at Morris' head by Thomas Kuhn, father of the paradigm shift and poor marksman.
I had written a paper on James Clerk Maxwell's displacement current for Kuhn's seminar on 19th century electricity and magnetism. The paper might have been 30 or so double-spaced pages. Kuhn's reply, typed on unlined yellow paper, was 30 pages, single-spaced, with Courier marching all the way from the left to the right side of the paper. No margins. He was angry, really angry.
Jason Fried reveals how he got good at making money. I am not a full-fledged member of the Church of 37signals, but one of my favorite lessons from them is that a business needs to practice how to make money in order to get good at it...it's not something that you just turn on when monetizing mode strikes.
So here's a great way to practice making money: Buy and sell the same thing over and over on Craigslist or eBay. Seriously.
Go buy something on Craigslist or eBay. Find something that's a bit of a commodity, so you know there's always plenty of supply and demand. An iPod is a good test. Buy it, and then immediately resell it. Then buy it again. Each time, try selling it for more than you paid for it. See how far you can push it. See how much profit you can make off 10 transactions.
Start tweaking the headline. Then start fiddling with the product description. Vary the photographs. Take some pictures of the thing for sale; use other photos with other items, or people, in them. Shoot really high-quality shots, and also post crappy ones from your cell-phone camera. Try every variation you can think of.
magCulture has a pre-release look at the new NY Times Magazine.
Redesigns are always interesting, and non more so than when a title as significant and influential as the NYT makes changes. Duplessis has worked with new editor Hugo Lindgren (ex-Bloomberg Business Week and New York magazine) to provide a new vision for the title, researching the magazine's archive and becoming fascinated by its 60s and 70s incarnations.
Kenji from Serious Eats went to In-N-Out, found a willing employee accomplice ("Awesome! I've been waiting for this day ever since I started working here!"), and proceeded to order one of everything off of the menu, the well-known secret menu, and the not-so-well-known super secret menu.
That should make you feel better about yourself when you tuck into the meat and cheese fest known as the Flying Dutchman -- the ultimate Atkins-friendly menu item. Two slices of cheese melted between two burger patties. No rabbit food, no wimpy buns, just pure protein and fat. Want to kick up the manliness by yet another factor? Ask for a Flying Dutchman Animal Style and they'll add a scoop of diced onions to the cheese. Pickles and spread will come on the side, so you'll have to add them yourself. "I wish we could add the spread and pickles for you, but it's just too messy for the cooks," explained an apologetic Thomas. The result definitely wins the award for messiest menu item of all time.
Everybody's wrong about something...or probably about most things. Here's a collection of well-known and respected people and publications and the things they were wrong about. A sampling:
When the Paris Exhibition closes electric light will close with it and no more be heard of.
- Erasmus Wilson (1878) Professor at Oxford University
Radio has no future.
- Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), British mathematician and physicist, ca. 1897.
The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty -- a fad.
- Advice from a president of the Michigan Savings Bank to Henry Ford's lawyer Horace Rackham. Rackham ignored the advice and invested $5000 in Ford stock, selling it later for $12.5 million.
That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.
- Scientific American, Jan. 2, 1909.
There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.
- Albert Einstein, 1932.
If a small experiment conducted in London is any indication, a cost effective way to help the homeless may be to simply give them money.
One asked for a new pair of trainers and a television; another for a caravan on a travellers' site in Suffolk, which was duly bought for him. Of the 13 people who engaged with the scheme, 11 have moved off the streets. The outlay averaged £794 ($1,277) per person (on top of the project's staff costs). None wanted their money spent on drink, drugs or bets. Several said they co-operated because they were offered control over their lives rather than being "bullied" into hostels. Howard Sinclair of Broadway explains: "We just said, 'It's your life and up to you to do what you want with it, but we are here to help if you want.'"
£794 per person may sound high but not compared to the estimated £26,000 annually spent on each homeless person by the state.
Watch as some guy upgrades his computer through every version of Windows, from 1985's Windows 1.0 to the present-day Windows 7.
In 1981, Ray Towler was convicted of rape, kidnapping, and felonious assault of two young children and sentenced to life in prison. Twenty-nine years later, in 2010, DNA evidence proves he didn't commit the crime and Towler is released from prison.
So many choices. Which car insurance. Which cereal. Which deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, shampoo. Rows and rows of products. Varieties, sizes, colors. Which is cheaper? Which is better? What's the best buy? Which gum to chew? When he went into prison there were, like, two kinds of chewing gum. Now there are a zillion. One of the small gifts he gives himself is trying all the gums. "I can spoil myself a little so long as I stay within my means," he says. Papaya juice! Kiwi and strawberry nectar! Green tea! Arnold Palmer -- he was a golfer when Towler went down. Now he is a drink, sweet and so incredibly thirst quenching.
He loves work. He got out May 5 and started working June 21. Hell, I've been vacationing for thirty years. He wears a smock and pushes a mail cart. He stops at all the cubicles, greets everyone with his friendly smile. Ray even loves commuting to work, especially now, in his new car, a black Ford Focus. He's like a sixteen-year-old who can finally drive himself to school. It costs almost the same to park as it does to take the train.
File this one under "crying at work".
Here's how you do it well, courtesy of Zappos (of course). Yesterday I tweeted:
I think my wife is having an affair with someone named "Zappos". He sends her a package at least every third day. I am on to you, Mr Zappos!
Almost immediately, Zappos' customer service Twitter account replied:
@jkottke I'm sorry sir, but our relationship with your wife is strictly professional.
Great, right? A company that gets the joke and participates meaningfully in an actual conversation with a full awareness of the context.
Here's how not to do it, courtesy of United Airlines. Mena Trott, a co-founder of Six Apart, had her flight to NYC randomly cancelled on Monday night by "a robot". (They actually blamed it on a robot!) In a series of three tweets, Mena voiced her displeasure:
Thanks @unitedairlines for randomly canceling my miles booked ticket for tonight, taking the miles & not letting me rebook for lack of miles
And then hanging up on me after I waited for an hour! I hate you @unitedairlines
Apparently the automated voice recognition system can't tell what I'm saying through my tears @unitedairlines #IhateYouSoMuch
Reply from @unitedairlines? Nothing. But then while on her rebooked flight the next morning, Mena tweets sarcastically:
Thanks to @unitedairlines I can finally watch that Frasier episode I missed in 1994.
And unbelievably, @unitedairlines replied, pouring burning acid into Mena's obviously still-tender wound:
@dollarshort "...I hear the blues a-callin', Tossed salad and scrambled eggs.."
That is some serious customer service tone deafness right there. It would be easy to blame whatever social media jockey they've got manning the Twitter account for the faux pas, but obviously United customer communication problems run deeper (and originate higher up the pay scale) than that.
Color photographs of Ernest Shackleton's 1914 Antarctic expedition by Frank Hurley.
Early in 1915, their ship 'Endurance' became inexorably trapped in the Antarctic ice. Hurley managed to salvage the photographic plates by diving into mushy ice-water inside the sinking ship in October 1915.
Totally depressing article about how Hollywood movies suck worse than ever and "the potential death of the great American art form".
For the studios, a good new idea has become just too scary a road to travel. Inception, they will tell you, is an exceptional movie. And movies that need to be exceptional to succeed are bad business. "The scab you're picking at is called execution," says legendary producer Scott Rudin (The Social Network, True Grit). "Studios are hardwired not to bet on execution, and the terrible thing is, they're right. Because in terms of execution, most movies disappoint."
With that in mind, let's look ahead to what's on the menu for this year: four adaptations of comic books. One prequel to an adaptation of a comic book. One sequel to a sequel to a movie based on a toy. One sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a movie based on an amusement-park ride. One prequel to a remake. Two sequels to cartoons. One sequel to a comedy. An adaptation of a children's book. An adaptation of a Saturday-morning cartoon. One sequel with a 4 in the title. Two sequels with a 5 in the title. One sequel that, if it were inclined to use numbers, would have to have a 7 1/2 in the title.
Warren Buffett's annual letters to Berkshire Hathaway's shareholders are always interesting to read; here's the letter for the 2010 fiscal year.
The latest issue of the New Yorker has a new excerpt from David Foster Wallace's The Pale King.
Every whole person has ambitions, objectives, initiatives, goals. This one particular boy's goal was to be able to press his lips to every square inch of his own body.
His arms to the shoulders and most of his legs beneath the knee were child's play. After these areas of his body, however, the difficulty increased with the abruptness of a coastal shelf. The boy came to understand that unimaginable challenges lay ahead of him. He was six.
Except that it's not really new...Wallace did a reading of it back in 2000; the audio is available here. A comparison of the transcript of that reading and the "finished" version published in the NYer can be found here. (thx, @mattbucher)
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