Entries for December 2011 (January 2012 »    February 2012 »    March 2012 »    Archives)

 

Whiskey fungus mysteryDEC 30

A thick black fungus growing near a whiskey distillery warehouse in Ontario prompted mycologist James Scott to track the fungus all the way back to its discovery in France in 1881.

When he arrived at the warehouse, the first thing he noticed (after "the beautiful, sweet, mellow smell of aging Canadian whiskey," he says) was the black stuff. It was everywhere -- on the walls of buildings, on chain-link fences, on metal street signs, as if a battalion of Dickensian chimney sweeps had careened through town. "In the back of the property, there was an old stainless steel fermenter tank," Scott says. "It was lying on its side, and it had this fungus growing all over it. Stainless steel!" The whole point of stainless steel is that things don't grow on it.

Why David Fincher chose his filmsDEC 30

David Fincher explains why he chose to make each of his films.

The Social Network (2010): "You don't get scripts like that every day. You don't get a studio coming to you saying, 'We just fucking love this script. Let's make it into a movie.' So often people are mitigating against the disaster or trying to cover the downside and saying, 'Well, OK, look, the script is great, but...' ['Can you make something out of it?'] Yeah.

I have given Fincher shit about the films he's chosen to make but it turns out that he's better at spotting good material than I am. Go figure. (via @khoi)

The Men Who Shop in BulkDEC 30

Men hate shopping so they buy their favorite shoes/coats/pants/shirts in bulk. Here are interviews with some of those men. Guess who this might be:

I hate to shop. For the last 20 years I only shopped once every two or three years. I would go to the big and tall store and buy only what I could find in 20 minutes, tops - usually a few dozen briefs, T-shirts and sweaters. If there was time left, I would try on a jacket. Nothing needed to be perfect: just fit and be black.

Now I am buying African block-print shirts and pants in a riot of colors and patterns from an African street merchant. I visit him every few weeks to see what's new. I buy 10 or 15 at a time.

Why are movie revenues dropping?DEC 29

Roger Ebert takes a crack at explaining why fewer and fewer people are going to see movies in theaters.

The message I get is that Americans love the movies as much as ever. It's the theaters that are losing their charm. Proof: theaters thrive that police their audiences, show a variety of titles and emphasize value-added features. The rest of the industry can't depend forever on blockbusters to bail it out.

This and the maximizing shareholder value thing seem to be related.

Comet time lapseDEC 29

A short time lapse of Comet Lovejoy appearing in the pre-dawn sky over the Andes. Wait for the last sequence...it's the best one.

Lovejoy was only discovered in Nov 2011 by an amateur astronomer. (via ★interesting)

Maximizing shareholder value is "the dumbest idea in the world"DEC 29

Steve Denning, writing in Forbes:

In today's paradoxical world of maximizing shareholder value, which Jack Welch himself has called "the dumbest idea in the world", the situation is the reverse. CEOs and their top managers have massive incentives to focus most of their attentions on the expectations market, rather than the real job of running the company producing real products and services.

Denning is summarizing the ideas contained in Roger Martin's new book, Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL.

In Fixing the Game, Roger Martin reveals the culprit behind the sorry state of American capitalism: our deep and abiding commitment to the idea that the purpose of the firm is to maximize shareholder value. This theory has led to a massive growth in stock-based compensation for executives and, through this, to a naive and wrongheaded linking of the real market -- the business of designing, making, and selling products and services -- with the expectations market -- the business of trading stocks, options, and complex derivatives. Martin shows how this tight coupling has been engineered and lays out its results: a single-minded focus on the expectations market that will continue driving us from crisis to crisis -- unless we act now.

(thx, david)

Ink and paperDEC 29

A lovely short film by Ben Proudfoot about a letterpress company and a paper company who are scraping by next door to each other in Los Angeles.

Obama/Clinton 2012DEC 28

Writing on his Tumblr blog (!!), former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich makes the case for a Clinton/Biden swap that would lead to an unstoppable Obama/Clinton presidental ticket in 2012.

My political prediction for 2012 (based on absolutely no inside information): Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden swap places. Biden becomes Secretary of State - a position he's apparently coveted for years. And Hillary Clinton, Vice President.

So the Democratic ticket for 2012 is Obama-Clinton.

Why do I say this? Because Obama needs to stir the passions and enthusiasms of a Democratic base that's been disillusioned with his cave-ins to regressive Republicans. Hillary Clinton on the ticket can do that.

(via ★djacobs)

Bruce Davidson, SubwayDEC 28

In an excerpt from the introduction to Subway, his collection of photographs of the NYC subway, Bruce Davidson recalls how he came to start taking photos on the subway in the 1980s.

As I went down the subway stairs, through the turnstile, and onto the darkened station platform, a sinking sense of fear gripped me. I grew alert, and looked around to see who might be standing by, waiting to attack. The subway was dangerous at any time of the day or night, and everyone who rode it knew this and was on guard at all times; a day didn't go by without the newspapers reporting yet another hideous subway crime. Passengers on the platform looked at me, with my expensive camera around my neck, in a way that made me feel like a tourist-or a deranged person.

Solitude and LeadershipDEC 28

In October 2009, William Deresiewicz delivered a lecture at West Point on Solitude and Leadership. In it, he argues that leaders need to spend some time alone with their thoughts and ideas so they know why and where they are leading. It is worth reading in its entirety.

My title must seem like a contradiction. What can solitude have to do with leadership? Solitude means being alone, and leadership necessitates the presence of others-the people you're leading. When we think about leadership in American history we are likely to think of Washington, at the head of an army, or Lincoln, at the head of a nation, or King, at the head of a movement-people with multitudes behind them, looking to them for direction. And when we think of solitude, we are apt to think of Thoreau, a man alone in the woods, keeping a journal and communing with nature in silence.

Leadership is what you are here to learn-the qualities of character and mind that will make you fit to command a platoon, and beyond that, perhaps, a company, a battalion, or, if you leave the military, a corporation, a foundation, a department of government. Solitude is what you have the least of here, especially as plebes. You don't even have privacy, the opportunity simply to be physically alone, never mind solitude, the ability to be alone with your thoughts. And yet I submit to you that solitude is one of the most important necessities of true leadership. This lecture will be an attempt to explain why.

Updates on previous entries for Dec 23, 2011*DEC 24

The internet's Go Daddy issues orig. from Dec 22, 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.

Foie gras without gavageDEC 23

On last week's This American Life podcast, chef Dan Barber shared the story of Eduardo Sousa, who is producing foie gras in Spain by natural means (i.e. not through force-feeding). Barber also gave a talk about this at Taste3 a few years ago.

Altair 8800 kitsDEC 23

You can still get build-your-own kits for the Altair 8800, one of the first personal computers ever sold.

Altair Kit

What a beaut. (via @pomeranian99)

The internet's Go Daddy issuesDEC 22

Earlier on Twitter I posted:

Seeing who still has domains to transfer away from Go Daddy is the internet's walk of shame.

Several people asked what the problem was with Go Daddy, so here goes. (Note: I've never used Go Daddy for anything...just passing along information here.) Go Daddy is a domain registrar and also sells web hosting, simple web sites, and a bunch of other stuff. Some don't like Go Daddy for the following reasons:

The sexist advertising. The company uses scantily clad women to sell domain names and whatnot.

Go Daddy's founder, Bob Parsons, goes to Africa every year to kill elephants who he says are ruining crops. Others say he's a rich idiot American who likes shooting elephants for fun.

Most recently, Go Daddy came out in support of SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which will give copyright holders greater latitude in shutting down web sites accused of infringement. Opponents of the bill say that it can be used to shut down entire swaths of the web (YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.) due to potentially infringing material. Here's a post that lays out why SOPA is bad for the internet.

You can read about these and other complaints against the company on Wikipedia. If any or all of these reasons resonate with you, here's a step-by-step guide for migrating your domains away from Go Daddy.

Update: A couple other reasons you might want to avoid Go Daddy:

In 2005, founder Bob Parsons suggested that the interrogation methods at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp weren't that bad compared to methods in the Middle East. (via @dtetto)

Several people suggested that the number one reason not to use Go Daddy is the bad web site and poor customer service.

Update: According to Boing Boing, Go Daddy has withdrawn their support for SOPA. (via @joffley)

Airport security: "so much inconvenience for so little benefit at such a staggering cost"DEC 22

Charles Mann visits the airport with security expert Bruce Schneier and a fake boarding pass. What he finds is a lot of security theater and not much security.

"The only useful airport security measures since 9/11," he says, "were locking and reinforcing the cockpit doors, so terrorists can't break in, positive baggage matching" -- ensuring that people can't put luggage on planes, and then not board them -- "and teaching the passengers to fight back. The rest is security theater."

(via df)

Best table tennis shots of 2011DEC 22

If I made New Year's resolutions, one of them would be to play more table tennis. (via stellar)

Louis C.K.'s giant pool of moneyDEC 22

Louis C.K. recently put out a self-produced comedy album that he sold exclusively from his web site for only $5. The album has sold 200,000 copies, grossing him $1,000,000. He's keeping a bit less than a quarter of that, a quarter is going towards recouping production costs, but the rest is going to charity and for bonuses for his employees.

I've never had a million dollars all of a sudden. and since we're all sharing this experience and since it's really your money, I wanted to let you know what I'm doing with it. People are paying attention to what's going on with this thing. So I guess I want to set an example of what you can do if you all of a sudden have a million dollars that people just gave to you directly because you told jokes.

What a wonderful thing.

Slow motion magnetsDEC 22

If you drop a bunch of neodymium magnets down through a thick-walled copper pipe, an effect called eddy current braking will slow the magnets' fall even though there's no direct magnetic attraction between the copper and the magnets.

Science! (via make)

The NYC subway exits into a Brooklyn townhouseDEC 22

Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG took some photos yesterday of a curious townhouse in Brooklyn Heights.

Fake Subway Townhouse

Curious in that the facade is 100% NYC rowhouse but it's actually a secret subway exit. Here it is one Google Maps.

How Martin Luther's message went viralDEC 21

This is a fascinating article from The Economist about how Lutheranism spread through 16th century social networks & media.

The media environment that Luther had shown himself so adept at managing had much in common with today's online ecosystem of blogs, social networks and discussion threads. It was a decentralised system whose participants took care of distribution, deciding collectively which messages to amplify through sharing and recommendation. Modern media theorists refer to participants in such systems as a "networked public", rather than an "audience", since they do more than just consume information. Luther would pass the text of a new pamphlet to a friendly printer (no money changed hands) and then wait for it to ripple through the network of printing centres across Germany.

Unlike larger books, which took weeks or months to produce, a pamphlet could be printed in a day or two. Copies of the initial edition, which cost about the same as a chicken, would first spread throughout the town where it was printed. Luther's sympathisers recommended it to their friends. Booksellers promoted it and itinerant colporteurs hawked it. Travelling merchants, traders and preachers would then carry copies to other towns, and if they sparked sufficient interest, local printers would quickly produce their own editions, in batches of 1,000 or so, in the hope of cashing in on the buzz. A popular pamphlet would thus spread quickly without its author's involvement.

And the bit on news ballads is especially interesting:

The news ballad, like the pamphlet, was a relatively new form of media. It set a poetic and often exaggerated description of contemporary events to a familiar tune so that it could be easily learned, sung and taught to others. News ballads were often "contrafacta" that deliberately mashed up a pious melody with secular or even profane lyrics. They were distributed in the form of printed lyric sheets, with a note to indicate which tune they should be sung to. Once learned they could spread even among the illiterate through the practice of communal singing.

Auto-tune the News anyone? And I thought this sounded an awful lot like Tom Standage (The Economist doesn't use bylines)...turns out this article was adapted from a chapter of his upcoming book on the history of social media.

Craziest possible mountain biking videoDEC 21

Three guys ride on tiny paths next to steep rock faces and over narrow wooden bridges. I could only manage watching a minute of this...I almost threw up in fear.

(via ★interesting)

Pretty LightsDEC 21

Been grooving on Pretty Lights lately. I recommend downloading one of several EPs from his site (for free + suggested donation) or getting disc two of Filling Up the City Skies.

And if you were a Chicago Bulls fan in the 90s, don't miss his remix of the Bulls intro music in the Unreleased 2010 Remixes collection (find it on the downloads page).

Amazon's long-term thinkingDEC 21

Amazon is somewhat of an unusual company for American investors because it focuses on the long-term (10- 20-year timelines) instead of the short-term (quarterly earnings).

"If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you're competing against a lot of people," Mr. Bezos told reporter Steve Levy last month in an interview in Wired. "But if you're willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you're now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that. Just by lengthening the time horizon, you can engage in endeavors that you could never otherwise pursue. At Amazon we like things to work in five to seven years. We're willing to plant seeds, let them grow-and we're very stubborn."

Like Apple, Amazon is one of those large market cap growth stocks that investors don't really know what to do with. Both stocks are still undervalued compared to much of the rest of the market, IMO.

Updates on previous entries for Dec 20, 2011*DEC 21

First trailer for The Hobbit orig. from Dec 20, 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.

First trailer for The HobbitDEC 20

Apple's got the exclusive first trailer for The Hobbit. I am irrationally excited about this movie!

Update: And here's a YouTube embed...I'm sure this won't last too long though.

(thx, david)

Shufflin' grandpaDEC 20

One of my favorite things on the internet is footage of old styles of dancing set to contemporary music. Like this:

See also Daft Punk Charleston and Russian dancing (w/ Run DMC). (via ★dunstan)

The woman who took on Glasgow's gangsDEC 20

Up until very recently, Glasgow's gang culture made the city one of the most violent in western Europe. Then a program led by Karyn McCluskey turned the city in a better direction.

The unit's big moment, McCluskey says, was understanding that violence works "like an infectious disease. It's passed on. You can catch it. You might live and die in a square mile. Your life is not predictable or manageable. You may have alcoholic parents, suffer domestic violence. Nobody cares about you. You're incapable of empathy: hard-wired for violence."

They coined a phrase: recreational violence. "There's also the thrill, the sensation-seeking," McCluskey says. "You look at their faces on the CCTV, they're loving it. They're young guys just not equipped to make good decisions for themselves, caught up in the gang dynamic."

So, if they see themselves as a group, treat them as a group, reasoned McCluskey. She went to the United States and met a man called David Kennedy, whose model for tackling gang violence had worked in Boston since the late 1990s. In the jargon, it's known as a "focused deterrence strategy", harnessing a multitude of different agencies plus resources from within the community. McCluskey set about bringing it to Glasgow.

Since late 2008, the program has cut the rate of violent offending by 46%. John Seabrook wrote about David Kennedy and his program for the New Yorker in 2009. (via @jcn)

The year in volcanoesDEC 19

In Focus collected 30+ photos of 2011's volcanic activity.

Volcano 2011

What The F*** is Michael Jordan Wearing?DEC 19

I like Mike but his wardrobe is pure WTF. Like these jeans:

Jordan's jeans

This is sort of the opposite of the NBA fashion nerds.

Driverless cars will redefine public transportationDEC 19

In a short essay about The Unintended Effects of Driverless Cars (like the kind being tested by Google), Koushik Dutta guesses at what they might mean for the future of transportation.

Currently, a car spends 96% of its time idle. Compare that with planes which spend almost their entire lifetime in operation/airborne. Idle planes aren't making money, and they need to recoup their hefty $120M price tag. There is an unforgiving economic incentive to make sure it is always in use.

The proliferation of driverless cars will have a similar effect. Cars will spend less time idle: why would a household buy 2 (or even 3) cars, when they only need 1? Ride to work, then send the car home to your spouse. Need to go grocery shopping, but your kid also needs a ride to a soccer game? No problem, a driverless car can handle that.

Most people don't need cars most of the time but pay for the convenience of having one nearby when they do. Schedule-able on-demand driverless cars could eliminate that need, with the added bonus of expanding effortlessly to fit current capacity (e.g. imagine a family of four needing to go in four different directions at four different times...just schedule four Hertz Driverless pickups from your phone). Of course, people said similarish things about the Segway...

Kim Jong-il deadDEC 19

The North Korean leader died two days ago and now no one knows who's in charge or what's going to happen, which is pretty much par for the course for North Korea.

Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader who realized his family's dream of turning his starving, isolated country into a nuclear-weapons power even as it sank further into despotism, died on Saturday of a heart attack while traveling on his train, according to an announcement Monday by the country's state-run media.

Whatever else might be said about him, Kim sure liked to look at things.

Exact nonsenseDEC 16

From Penn Jillette's book, God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales:

There is no god and that's the simple truth. If every trace of any single religion died out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.

(via mlkshk)

The rise of the NBA nerdDEC 16

Carlton Wade

NBA players, especially the younger ones, are dressing like nerds.

In their tandem press conferences, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, of the Miami Heat, alternate impeccably tailored suits with cardigans over shirts and ties. They wear gingham and plaid and velvet, bow ties and sweater vests, suspenders, and thick black glasses they don't need. Their colors conflict. Their patterns clash. Clothes that once stood as an open invitation to bullies looking for something to hang on the back of a bathroom door are what James now wears to rap alongside Lil Wayne. Clothes that once signified whiteness, squareness, suburbanness, sissyness, in the minds of some NBA players no longer do.

If you happen to be someone who looks at Durant, James, or Amar'e Stoudemire's Foot Locker commercials -- in which he stalks along a perilously lit basketball court wearing a letterman's cardigan, a skinny tie, and giant black glasses (his are prescription) -- and wonders how the NBA got this way, how it turned into Happy Days, you're really wondering the same thing about the rest of mainstream black culture. When did everything turn upside down? Who relaxed the rules? Is it really safe to look like Carlton Banks?

See also Kanye West and his entourage circa 2009. (thx, sveinn)

Studio Ghibli films at IFCDEC 16

Starting today and continuing for the next four weeks, IFC Center in NYC is showing a "comprehensive retrospective" of films (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro) made by Studio Ghibli. Most of the films are new 35mm prints and some will be screened in dubbed and subtitled Japanese versions.

Oh, and IFC is also doing midnight showings of Raiders of the Lost Ark this month.

RIP Christopher HitchensDEC 16

Critic and writer Christopher Hitchens died last night at the age of 62 from complications of esophageal cancer.

"My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends," he wrote in the June 2011 issue. He died in their presence, too, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. May his 62 years of living, well, so livingly console the many of us who will miss him dearly.

Although I suspect there will be posthumous writings to come, Hitchens' final piece for Vanity Fair, published in the January 2012 issue, is a rumination on pain and death.

Before I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a year and a half ago, I rather jauntily told the readers of my memoirs that when faced with extinction I wanted to be fully conscious and awake, in order to "do" death in the active and not the passive sense. And I do, still, try to nurture that little flame of curiosity and defiance: willing to play out the string to the end and wishing to be spared nothing that properly belongs to a life span. However, one thing that grave illness does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings. And there's one that I find I am not saying with quite the same conviction as I once used to: In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that "Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

Cristiano Ronaldo's dazzle shoesDEC 15

Nike has designed a soccer shoe for Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo that uses a striped pattern on one side of the shoe designed to confuse opponents as to which way Ronaldo might be moving his feet.

Dazzle Shoes

The cleats look remarkably different from each side of Ronaldo. From the right, they have a clean look with pinstripes. From the left, though, there are thick stripes with a red accent line. Furthermore, the asymmetrical design makes a defender's judgment that much harder, as the visual effect of Ronaldo turning his foot in one direction may not come across exactly the same as reality.

Reminds me of the dazzle camouflage used on military ships in WWI and WWII.

Original NY Times review of Orwell's 1984DEC 15

Published just a few days after what would become George Orwell's most well-known novel in 1949, here's what the New York Times had to say about Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In the excesses of satire one may take a certain comfort. They provide a distance from the human condition as we meet it in our daily life that preserves our habitual refuge in sloth or blindness or self-righteousness. Mr. Orwell's earlier book, Animal Farm, is such a work. Its characters are animals, and its content is therefore fabulous, and its horror, shading into comedy, remains in the generalized realm of intellect, from which our feelings need fear no onslaught. But ''Nineteen Eighty-four'' is a work of pure horror, and its horror is crushingly immediate.

Steve Jobs: Billion Dollar HippyDEC 15

Get it while you can: an hour-long BBC documentary about Steve Jobs with on-camera interviews with Woz, Stephen Fry, Tim Berners-Lee, John Sculley and many others.

(thx, jteve)

Why Quantum of Solace wasn't so goodDEC 14

Daniel Craig, star of the two most recent Bond films, in an interview with Time Out London:

Q: It seems that the script is sometimes an after-thought on huge productions.

A: 'Yes and you swear that you'll never get involved with shit like that, and it happens. On "Quantum", we were fucked. We had the bare bones of a script and then there was a writers' strike and there was nothing we could do. We couldn't employ a writer to finish it. I say to myself, "Never again", but who knows? There was me trying to rewrite scenes - and a writer I am not.'

Q: You had to rewrite scenes yourself?

A: 'Me and the director [Marc Forster] were the ones allowed to do it. The rules were that you couldn't employ anyone as a writer, but the actor and director could work on scenes together. We were stuffed. We got away with it, but only just. It was never meant to be as much of a sequel as it was, but it ended up being a sequel, starting where the last one finished.'

I wonder how many other movies that happened with? io9 and Screenrant speculated on this very question after the strike ended. (via df)

Caveman iPhoneDEC 14

From Jennifer Daniel, a caveman phone:

Caveman Phone

Lizard squashes ants in touchscreen gameDEC 14

An increasingly frustrated lizard plays a game called Ant Crusher on an Android phone. He's pretty good, but is no less hungry than before he started.

(via stellar)

A Year in ReadingDEC 14

The Millions presents their annual A Year in Reading for 2011, where they ask a bunch of people their favorite reads of the year.

With this in mind, for an eighth year, we asked some of our favorite writers, thinkers, and readers to look back, reflect, and share. Their charge was to name, from all the books they read this year, the one(s) that meant the most to them, regardless of publication date. Grouped together, these ruminations, cheers, squibs, and essays will be a chronicle of reading and good books from every era. We hope you find in them seeds that will help make your year in reading in 2012 a fruitful one.

Contributors include Duff McKagan, Mayim Bialik, Jennifer Egan, Colum McCann, and Rosecrans Baldwin.

Yet more best longreads of 2011DEC 14

These are from the Longreads Tumblr. You'll never want for 3000-word reading material ever again.

Updates on previous entries for Dec 13, 2011*DEC 14

Vocal fry orig. from Dec 13, 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.

More best longreads of 2011DEC 13

Longform has their top picks of 2011 up too.

Best longreads of 2011DEC 13

Load up yer Instapaper for the holidays: Give Me Something To Read's favorite longreads of 2011.

Vocal fryDEC 13

College-age women end sentences in the lowest vocal register, a creaky vibration called vocal fry, possibly to broadcast themselves as part of a social group.

Vocal fry...great term! Here's a demo of how the effect is used in singing.

Update: About a minute into this clip from Louie, there's a great example of vocal fry used by "college-age women [to] end sentences":

(via @dalton)

Camera shooting at a trillion frames/sec can see photons moveDEC 13

At the beginning of this video, Ramesh Raskar, associate professor at the MIT Media Lab, announces calmly:

We have built a virtual slow-motion camera where we can see photons, or light particles, moving through space.

Yeah, no biggie.

Mo methane, mo problemsDEC 13

Russian scientists are seeing dramatically increased levels of methane coming from melting permafrost in the East Siberian Ice Shelf. If enough methane is released, that could really put a foot on the gas pedal with this whole global warming thing.

"Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing," Dr Semiletov said. "I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them."

Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.

Elephants and human evolutionDEC 13

Elephants were the "perfect food package" for pre-human hominids (they were slow with a good fat-to-protein ratio) and their extinction in the Middle East (and Africa) caused those hominids to evolve to be more like modern humans.

When elephants began to die out, Homo erectus "needed to hunt many smaller, more evasive animals. Energy requirements increased, but with plant and protein intake limited, the source had to come from fat. He had to become calculated about hunting," Ben-Dor says, noting that this change is evident in the physical appearance of modern humans, lighter than Homo erectus and with larger brains.

(via @daveg)

Updates on previous entries for Dec 12, 2011*DEC 13

Rare Steve Jobs speech from 1980 orig. from Dec 12, 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.

Nerd girlfriendDEC 12

Dress like your favorite nerdy folk: Nerd Girlfriend is a companion site to the excellent Nerd Boyfriend.

Google Street View first-person shooterDEC 12

There's no gameplay asside from firing the gun and moving around, but it's still disturbing to walk around within Google Street View with an assault rifle. (thx, job)

Game of Thrones season two teaserDEC 12

When this came on right before the season finale of Boardwalk Empire, I shushed my talking wife so hard I nearly threw out my back.

April! April is coming!

Rare Steve Jobs speech from 1980DEC 12

Video of a Steve Jobs speech circa 1980. This was just recently donated and presented by the Computer History Museum.

(via @itscolossal)

Update: Well, that didn't last long..the Vimeo embed ist kaputt. But it's still available on the Computer History Museum's site. Perhaps we can persuade them to throw it up on their YouTube channel?

Sherlock returns in JanuaryDEC 12

The second season of Sherlock returns to the BBC on January 1st with A Scandal In Belgravia:

In episode one of this new series, compromising photographs and a case of blackmail threaten the very heart of the British establishment but, for Sherlock and John, the game is on in more ways than one as they find themselves battling international terrorism, rogue CIA agents and a secret conspiracy involving the British government. But this case will cast a darker shadow over their lives than they could ever imagine, as the great detective begins a long duel of wits with an antagonist as cold and ruthless and brilliant as himself: to Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler will always be THE woman.

The series will likely show in the US on TV at some point after that or via torrent quite a bit sooner.

Emoji version of Niggas in ParisDEC 09

Thanks to Aziz Ansari and Matthew Shawver, there is now an emoji version of Kanye and Jay-Z's Niggas in Paris.

Emoji Kanye Jay-Z

(via @beaucolburn)

Water-powered jet pack lets you swim like a dolphinDEC 09

Literally, this literally had my mouth literally hanging open this afternoon. Literally.

Some thoughts:

1. It's finally the future...our jet packs are here.

2. Waterworld reboot as superhero movie a la Iron Man.

3. Literally.

(via ★warrenellis)

Pulp Fiction in chronological orderDEC 09

I can't imagine this is going to be up for much longer, so grab it while you can: Pulp Fiction presented in chronological order.

(via ★interesting)

Ten things about new TwitterDEC 09

Some good thoughts about the new version of Twitter from Dan Frommer.

This is the beginning of Jack Dorsey's real vision for Twitter combined with Dick Costolo's vision for a real-time social advertising product. The main components: writing and Tweets, obviously; having conversations with other people; discovering what's happening in the world through Twitter; and seeing a promoted message from brands here and there.

Updates on previous entries for Dec 8, 2011*DEC 09

Ice Cube opines on Charles and Ray Eames orig. from Dec 08, 2011
Shigeru Miyamoto to step down at Nintendo orig. from Dec 07, 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.

Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter on PBSDEC 08

Speaking of the Eames, the recent documentry on the pair is going to be on American Masters on PBS.

American Masters presents the first film made about America's most important and influential designers, Charles and Ray Eames, since their deaths in 1978 and 1988, respectively -- and the only film that explores the link between their artistic collaboration and sometimes tortured marriage. Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey's definitive documentary delves into the private world the Eameses created in their Renaissance-style, Venice Beach, California studio, where design history was born. Narrated by James Franco, Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter premieres nationally Monday, December 19 from 10-11:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on PBS (check local listings) as the 25th anniversary season finale of American Masters.

Ice Cube opines on Charles and Ray EamesDEC 08

Before Ice Cube became a rapper, he studied architectural drafting at the Phoenix Institute of Technology, so he has some interesting things to say in this short appreciation of Charles and Ray Eames.

They was doing mashups before mashups even existed. It's not about the pieces, it's how the pieces work together. You know, taking something that already exist and making it something special. You know, kinda like sampling.

(via ★interesting)

Update: The NY Times has an interview with Ice Cube about the video.

Q: How are your drafting skills these days?

A: You don't want to live in nothing I draw. I got a certificate. For a year. In '88. I don't think I picked up a T-square since.

Shigeru Miyamoto to step down at NintendoDEC 07

Miyamoto, who is responsible for creating or overseeing the creation of Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, and many other games, is stepping down from his role as manager of Nintendo's Entertainment Analysis and Development branch to work with a smaller team on smaller games with much shorter timelines.

"What I really want to do is be in the forefront of game development once again myself," Miyamoto said. "Probably working on a smaller project with even younger developers. Or I might be interested in making something that I can make myself, by myself. Something really small."

Miyamoto was profiled in the New Yorker last December. (via @shauninman)

Update: Nintendo says it was a misunderstanding.

"This is absolutely not true," said a spokeswoman for Nintendo. "There seems to have been a misunderstanding. He has said all along that he wants to train the younger generation. "He has no intention of stepping down. Please do not be concerned."

Higgs boson found?DEC 07

Rumor has it that the LHC at CERN has found the Higgs boson. The news runs contrary to some earlier speculation.

The teams are sworn to secrecy, but various physics blogs, and the canteens at Cern, are alive with talk of a possible sighting of the Higgs, and with a mass inline with what many physicists would expect.

Since the Higgs' nickname is the God particle, does this count as the Second Coming? (@gavinpurcell)

Apple Store in Grand CentralDEC 07

Gothamist has some photos of the new Apple Store in NYC's Grand Central Terminal.

Apple Store Grand Central

The company was obviously under tight constraints as to what they could do with the store (they would have loved to encase the whole thing in plexiglass probably), but from the looks of things, they did a marvelous job. There's so little styling -- the whole store is just tables and screens mostly -- that it looks like the Apple Store not only belongs there, but that it's been there forever, like Grand Central was designed with the Apple Store in mind. If you walk around Grand Central, not a lot of the other retail locations can say that, if any. (photo by katie sokoler)

Sci-fi children's booksDEC 07

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, a list of science fiction books for the little ones.

Very Deadly Bounty Hunter

The new Pixar film, it's coming from inside the brain!DEC 07

In a recent appearance on Charlie Rose, John Lasseter revealed the rough premise of an upcoming-but-untitled Pixar film:

Pete Docter, from Monsters, Inc. and Up, is doing a new film that takes place inside of a girl's mind and it is about her emotions as characters, and that is unlike anything you've ever seen.

With Brave and now this, it looks like Pixar is finally taking their lack of female lead characters seriously.

The year in photosDEC 07

In Focus delivers part one of an eventual three-part look at 2011 in photography. 2011 was a remarkably eventful year.

Japan Tsunami

Here's part two. See also Buzzfeed's list of the 45 most powerful images of 2011.

Moar Hood Internet!DEC 07

Woo, a new compilation from The Hood Internet just "dropped". I am picking it up right now. (Am I doing this right? Yo?) Anyway, free music that's good! Clicky clicky.

H&M using computer generated fashion modelsDEC 06

If you were thinking that all of H&M's clothing models are looking pretty much the same these days, that's because the bodies are computer generated with heads pasted on in post-production.

But man, isn't looking at the four identical bodies with different heads so uncanny? Duly noted that H&M made one of the fake bodies black. You can't say that the fictional, Photoshopped, mismatched-head future of catalog modeling isn't racially diverse.

Ten things everyone should know about timeDEC 06

From Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance, a list of facts and very strong opinions about the nature of time.

4. You live in the past. About 80 milliseconds in the past, to be precise. Use one hand to touch your nose, and the other to touch one of your feet, at exactly the same time. You will experience them as simultaneous acts. But that's mysterious - clearly it takes more time for the signal to travel up your nerves from your feet to your brain than from your nose. The reconciliation is simple: our conscious experience takes time to assemble, and your brain waits for all the relevant input before it experiences the "now." Experiments have shown that the lag between things happening and us experiencing them is about 80 milliseconds.

5. Your memory isn't as good as you think. When you remember an event in the past, your brain uses a very similar technique to imagining the future. The process is less like "replaying a video" than "putting on a play from a script." If the script is wrong for whatever reason, you can have a false memory that is just as vivid as a true one. Eyewitness testimony, it turns out, is one of the least reliable forms of evidence allowed into courtrooms.

Nigel Richards, Scrabble's Bobby FischerDEC 06

In an outtake from his 2001 book Word Freak, author Stefan Fatsis introduces us to Nigel Richards, perhaps the best Scrabble player in the world.

If Nigel has a weakness, it's that his wide-open, high-scoring style often leaves him vulnerable to counterattack by opponents who also have prodigious word knowledge. And Nigel is regarded as having a less-than-proficient endgame, which is variously attributed to his lack of interest in strategic play or his reluctance to study board positions. Indeed, Nigel doesn't record his racks, doesn't review games, rarely kibitzes about particular plays. The other top experts, particularly the Americans, talk disdainfully about this gap in Nigel's ability, how it makes him an incomplete player. Naturally, Nigel doesn't care.

According to Wikipedia, Richards has continued his winning ways since 2001...he's a two-time World Championship winner and has won the U.S. National Scrabble Championship three out of the last four years.

Stanley Kubrick shoots New YorkDEC 06

Before he made movies, Stanley Kubrick was a photographer for Look magazine. Here are a selection of Kubrick's photos of New York City life in the 1940s, even then displaying his keen cinematic eye.

Kubrick, New York, 1940s

Prints are available. (thx, mark)

How the potato changed the worldDEC 06

In recent years, authors have claimed that many seemingly boring things have changed the world but a particularly strong case can be made for the potato and Charles C. Mann makes it.

The effects of this transformation were so striking that any general history of Europe without an entry in its index for S. tuberosum should be ignored. Hunger was a familiar presence in 17th- and 18th-century Europe. Cities were provisioned reasonably well in most years, their granaries carefully monitored, but country people teetered on a precipice. France, the historian Fernand Braudel once calculated, had 40 nationwide famines between 1500 and 1800, more than one per decade. This appalling figure is an underestimate, he wrote, "because it omits the hundreds and hundreds of local famines." France was not exceptional; England had 17 national and big regional famines between 1523 and 1623. The continent simply could not reliably feed itself.

The potato changed all that. Every year, many farmers left fallow as much as half of their grain land, to rest the soil and fight weeds (which were plowed under in summer). Now smallholders could grow potatoes on the fallow land, controlling weeds by hoeing. Because potatoes were so productive, the effective result, in terms of calories, was to double Europe's food supply.

Mann talks more about the potato in his excellent 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.

Jonathan Hoefler on webfontsDEC 05

An excellent 26-minute talk by Jonathan Hoefler of the Hoefler & Frere-Jones about how they think about designing typefaces and webfonts in particular.

Today, as webfonts are buoyed by a wave of early-adopter enthusiasm, they're marred by a similar unevenness in quality, and it's not just a matter of browsers and rasterizers, or the eternal shortage of good fonts and preponderance of bad ones. There are compelling questions about what it means to be fitted to the technology, how foundries can offer designers an expressive medium (and readers a rich one), and what it means for typography to be visually, mechanically, and culturally appropriate to the web. This is an exploration of this side of web fonts, and a discussion of where the needs of designers meet the needs of readers.

I love Typekit, but I am very much looking forward to switching Stellar over to Whitney or somesuch when H&FJ's webfonts are released (if the price and performance are right).

How to ripen a bananaDEC 05

Over at Edible Geography, Nicola Twilley documents the banana ripening process at a facility in the Bronx.

During our visit, Paul Rosenblatt told us that he aims to ripen fruit in five days at 62 degrees, but, to schedule fruit readiness in accordance with supply and demand, he can push a room in four days at 64 degrees, or extend the process to seven days at 58 degrees.

"The energy coming off a box of ripening bananas could heat a small apartment," Rosenblatt explains, which means that heavy-duty refrigeration is required to keep each room temperature-controlled to within a half a degree. In the past, Banana Distributors of New York has even experimented with heating parts of the building on captured heat from the ripening process.

To add to the complexity, customers can choose from different degrees of ripeness, ranging from 1 (all green) to 7 (all yellow with brown sugar spots). Banana Distributors of New York proudly promise that they have "Every Color, Every Day," although Rosenblatt gets nervous if he has more than 2000 boxes of any particular shade.

I, CheeseburgerDEC 05

In thinking about making meals completely from scratch, Waldo Jaquith realizes that making a simple cheeseburger would have been nearly impossible before the twentieth century.

Tomatoes are in season in the late summer. Lettuce is in season in in the fall. Mammals are slaughtered in early winter. The process of making such a burger would take nearly a year, and would inherently involve omitting some core cheeseburger ingredients. It would be wildly expensive-requiring a trio of cows-and demand many acres of land. There's just no sense in it.

A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors-in all likelihood, a couple of dozen-and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh.

(via stellar)

Insomnia drugs waking people from comasDEC 05

This has been happening for awhile but I hadn't heard about it before: some coma patients are being awoken by Ativan and Ambien and paradoxically so...both are sedative drugs used for treating insomnia.

The first report of a zolpidem [aka Ambien] awakening came from South Africa, in 1999. A patient named Louis Viljoen, who, three years before, was declared vegetative after he was hit by a truck, had taken to clawing at his mattress during the night. Thinking he was suffering from insomnia, his family doctor suggested zolpidem to help him sleep. But 20 minutes after his mother ground the tablet up and fed it to him through a straw, Viljoen began to stir. His eyes, which normally wandered the room, vacant and unfocused, flickered with the light of consciousness. And then he began to talk (his first words were "Hello, Mummy"), and move (he could control his limbs and facial muscles). A few hours later he became unresponsive. But the next day, and for many days after that, zolpidem revived him, a few hours at a time.

Here was a case worthy of Hollywood: three years was well past the point at which doctors would expect any sort of spontaneous recovery. Viljoen awoke with the ability to speak in complete sentences. Not only did he recognize his mother, but he also recognized the voices of people who had spoken to him only when he was apparently vegetative. He remembered nothing of the mysterious realm he kept receding back into. When doctors asked him what it was like to slip away, he said he felt no changes at all. But he could recall conversations from the previous day's awakening, along with bits and pieces of his former life: his favorite rugby team, specific matches he attended, players that he rooted for and against. As time passed, his cognition improved. He could laugh at jokes, and his awakenings stretched from a few hours to entire days. Eventually, he no longer needed zolpidem.

(thx, meg)

Reznor's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack out soonDEC 02

Trent Reznor's and Atticus Ross' soundtrack for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is in the can and will be released in one week. For now, you can pre-order the soundtrack or download a free six-song sampler. Reznor and Ross won an Oscar for their The Social Network soundtrack.

Yeti crab is bacteria farmerDEC 02

A recently discovered species of crab grows gardens of bacteria on its claws on which to feed.

The bristles that cover the crab's claws and body are coated in gardens of symbiotic bacteria, which derive energy from the inorganic gases of the seeps. The crab eats the bacteria, using comb-like mouthparts to harvest them from its bristles. [...] Thurber thinks that K. puravida waves its claws to actively farm its bacterial gardens: movements stir up the water around the bacteria, ensuring that fresh supplies of oxygen and sulphide wash over them and helping them to grow. "This 'dance' is extraordinary and comical," says Van Dover. "We've never seen this strategy before."

(via @noahwg)

Philip Glass speaks at Occupy Wall StreetDEC 02

Occupy Wall Street went up to protest at Lincoln Center last night during a performance of Philip Glass' opera Satyagraha. New Yorker music critic Alex Ross was there and captured the protest on video, which included Glass himself reading the closing lines from the opera, amplified to the crowd by the people's mic. It is an amazing scene.

When the Satyagraha listeners emerged from the Met, police directed them to leave via side exits, but protesters began encouraging them to disregard the police, walk down the steps, and listen to Glass speak. Hesitantly at first, then in a wave, they did so. The composer proceeded to recite the closing lines of Satyagraha, which come from the Bhagavad-Gita (after 3:00 in the video above): "When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into being, age after age, and take visible shape, and move, a man among men, for the protection of good, thrusting back evil and setting virtue on her seat again." True to form, he said it several times, with the "human microphone" repeating after him. Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson were in attendance, and at one point Reed helped someone crawl over the barricade that had been set up along the sidewalk.

(via stellar)

What the NFL won't show youDEC 02

The NFL regards the "All-22" footage of their games -- the zoomed-out view of the game that includes the movements of all 22 players on the field -- as proprietary and releases it to very few people. But it's difficult to fully understand the game without it.

For decades, NFL TV broadcasts have relied most heavily on one view: the shot from a sideline camera that follows the progress of the ball. Anyone who wants to analyze the game, however, prefers to see the pulled-back camera angle known as the "All 22."

While this shot makes the players look like stick figures, it allows students of the game to see things that are invisible to TV watchers: like what routes the receivers ran, how the defense aligned itself and who made blocks past the line of scrimmage.

By distributing this footage only to NFL teams, and rationing it out carefully to its TV partners and on its web site, the NFL has created a paradox. The most-watched sport in the U.S. is also arguably the least understood. "I don't think you can get a full understanding without watching the entirety of the game," says former head coach Bill Parcells. The zoomed-in footage on TV broadcasts, he says, only shows a "fragment" of what happens on the field.

Update: The NFL is making the All-22 footage from next season's games available on its website for $70. (thx, stef)

Art competitions at the OlympicsDEC 01

The Olympic Games used to include competitions in painting, sculpture, literature, architecture, and music.

From 1912 to 1948 rules of the art competition varied, but the core of the rules remained the same. All of the entered works had to be inspired by sport, and had to be original (that is, not be published before the competition). Like in the athletic events at the Olympics, gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded to the highest ranked artists, although not all medals were awarded in each competition. On a few occasions, in fact, no medals were presented at all.

(via @itscolossal)

The seven deadly sins of Star WarsDEC 01

Adam Koford drew an illustration of the seven deadly sins at Jabba's palace on Tatooine:

Star Wars Deadly Sins

That got me thinking...what were George Lucas' seven sins related to the Star Wars movies? Here's my crack at an answer:

1. Greedo shoots first. The obvious #1. In the original theatrical release, Han shot Greedo without any return fire. In subsequent releases, the sequence was sanitized by Lucas for younger viewers: Greedo shoots at Han first and Han kills him in retaliation.

2. Jar Jar Binks. Or perhaps this should be #1?

3. Digital Jabba talking to Han outside the Falcon in Episode IV (and many of the other digital alterations Lucas made starting in 1997). Fake fake fake.

4. Young Anakin. Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen were both horrible.

5. Ewoks. Not as bad as Jar Jar, but...man. You know, for kids.

6. Natalie Portman. She can be a really good actress but needs strong direction. Guess who sucks at directing actors? Lucas!

7. Midiclorians. No one needed a scientific explanation of The Force. Just do a bunch of hand-waving about "the Force is strong with this one" and leave it at that.

Did I miss anything big? (I mean, aside from Episodes I-III?)

Give a man a bank and he can rob the worldDEC 01

Over the past two days, I've seen this clever riff on the "give a man a fish" parable pop up over and over again on various social sites, primarily Twitter and Stellar:

Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he can rob the world.

The earliest instance of this text I could find on Twitter was posted by @Bonoboism on Nov 28. Because it was an @reply, the original post was not widely retweeted but over the next day or so, it was posted by dozens of other people without attribution and some of those knock-off posts got hundreds and even thousands of retweets. Without looking too hard, I found tweets by @ilegal, @MrsSelfDestrukt, @owenderby, @sickipediabot, @HipstaGangsta, @ladydebidebz, @tickly, and @yourrhighness_. Tweets like this have a tendency to get appropriated by others without attribution...the temptation to appear that pithy is just too great, I guess.

People and their fish twinsDEC 01

Ted Sabarese shot a photo series of people and the fish they look like.

Ted Sabarese

(via ★swissmiss)

Archives    November 2011 »    October 2011 »    September 2011 »

kottke.org

Front page
About + contact
Site archives

Subscribe

Follow kottke.org on Twitter

Follow kottke.org on Tumblr

Like kottke.org on Facebook

Subscribe to the RSS feed

Advertisement

Ads by The Deck

Support kottke.org shop at Amazon

And more at Amazon.com

Looking for work?

More at We Work Remotely

Kottke @ Quarterly

Subscribe to Quarterly and get a real-life mailing from Jason every three months.

 

Enginehosting

Hosting provided EngineHosting