Entries for February 2012 (March 2012 »    April 2012 »    May 2012 »    Archives)

 

Possible new album from Boards of Canada?!FEB 29

That is the rumor, and a very exciting one indeed.

I'm gonna play some Board of Canada now. I'm a bit of a Boards of Canada evangelist. They're my favorite band, I think. Maybe them and The Beatles. But, they are a band, again, a bit like The Fall. It's like once you get into them, or rather, once something clicks you just wanna hear everything they've released. This track I'm gonna play, it's from their last full album, which is The Campfire Headphase from 2005. They've got a new album coming out soon and I think it's gonna be a double album and I'm so excited, I really am-to hear their new one. Um, I just love them.

(via @jadabumrad)

Ten commandments for con menFEB 29

Con man Victor Lustig shared a list of commandments written for aspiring con men. Among them:

1. Be a patient listener (it is this, not fast talking, that gets a con-man his coups).

8. Never boast. Just let your importance be quietly obvious.

Wes Anderson's Hyundai commercialsFEB 29

Wes Anderson recently directed a pair of television advertisements for Hyundai Motor Group. They are typically Wes Andersonian.

Beginner's guide to developing iOS appsFEB 29

Very much trying not to read the entirety of this beginner's guide to developing iOS apps published by Apple because then I'll be tempted to actually make one.

Has anyone ever been swallowed whole by a whale?FEB 29

Jonah was shallowed by a whale in the Bible, but is there any evidence a man has ever been swallowed whole by a whale and lived, however briefly, to reflect on the experience? Ben Shattuck investigates.

An idea's been floating around for some time that whales more than chewed people -- that they swallowed them, and people might have survived in the stomach. Jonah's story came first, and then there were rumors from the 19th century Yankee Whale Fishery -- whaling ships leaving New York and New England ports for years on the open ocean. I'd like to believe in swallowings, but it's tough. There is no air in the stomach, for one. There are acids. And if we are talking about sperm whales, which we are most of the time, there is the deadly passage through the 30-foot jaws lined with 8-inch teeth.

In the future, everything will be a coffee shopFEB 28

Over at The Speculist, Stephen Gordon argues that with the ever increasing availability of online goods and services, universities, book stores, retail shops, and offices will all shrink to the size of coffee shops.

My Christmas shopping this year was 90% through Amazon Prime. Not having to fight the crowds and having it delivered free of charge to my home is a big plus, but as with the Kindle store, the online retail selection is much better that even the largest retail outlet.

Which is more enjoyable: Starbucks or Walmart? For the sane: Starbucks. So if you can accomplish your Walmart shopping at Starbucks, why do it any other way?

Also, imagine the 3D print shop of the future. You put in your order, probably from your smart phone, and then go pick it up. What does the lobby of such a business look like? Again: a coffee shop.

Ze Frank to do The Show againFEB 27

The Show is the only episodic video thingie I've ever watched and I was sad to see it end in 2007. But Ze Frank is bringing it back and he's funding it via Kickstarter.

Some things will be familiar. My face, my voice, politics, news, science, whatever else is happening in the world, the celebration of the spontaneous... and surprises.

But the core of the original show was never really about what I did. It was about what you did. And I have no idea what is going to happen there. It's risky, unknown and awesome. I will be asking you to make things, to do things, and to surprise me. We will use the world as our playground and I have the technology to back it up. If I don't, I will make it.

Martin Scorsese's film schoolFEB 27

Fast Company recently interviewed Martin Scorsese and jotted down all 85 movies he mentioned.

The Player: "In the years before this movie, the age of the director who had a free hand came to an end. And yet Altman kept experimenting with different kinds of actor, different approaches to narrative, different equipment, until finally he hit it with this movie, which took him off onto a whole other level."

Plastic surgeon pushing iPhone FaceTime faceliftsFEB 27

In Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote that videophone technology wasn't popular due in part to vanity.

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

Now DC-area plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Sigal is offering what he calls the "FaceTime Facelift".

"Patients come in with their iPhones and show me how they look on [Apple's video calling application] FaceTime," says Dr. Sigal. "The angle at which the phone is held, with the caller looking downward into the camera, really captures any heaviness, fullness and sagging of the face and neck. People say 'I never knew I looked like that! I need to do something!' I've started calling it the 'FaceTime Facelift' effect. And we've developed procedures to specifically address it."

(via @timbritton)

Lionel Messi never divesFEB 27

Ever since the World Cup in 2010, I've been watching a fair amount of soccer. Mostly La Liga, Premier League, and Champions League but a smattering of other games here and there. As my affection for the game has grown, I've mostly made my peace with diving. Diving in soccer is the practice of immediately falling to the ground when a foul has been committed against you (or even if one hasn't) in order to get the referee's attention. To Americans who have grown up watching American football and basketball, it is also one of the most ridiculous sights in sports...these manly professional athletes rolling around on the ground with fake injuries and then limping around the pitch for a few seconds before resuming their runs at 100% capacity. I still dislike the players who go down too often, lay it on too thick, or dive from phantom fouls, but much of the time there's only one referee and two assistants for that huge field and you're gonna get held and tackled badly so how else are you going to get that call? You dive.

Except for Lionel Messi. It's not that he never dives (he does) but he stays on his feet more often than not while facing perhaps the most intense pressure in the game. Here's a compilation video of Messi not going down:

In recent years, efforts have been made on various fronts to apply the lessons of Moneyball to soccer. I don't think diving is one of the statistics measured because if it were, it might happen a lot less. Poor tackles and holding usually occur when the player/team with the ball has the advantage. By diving instead of staying on your feet, you usually give away that advantage (unless you're in the box, have Ronaldo on your team taking free kicks, or can somehow hoodwink the ref into giving the other guy a yellow) and that doesn't make any sense to me. If you look at Messi in that video, his desire to stay upright allows him to keep the pressure on the defense in many of those situations, creating scoring opportunities and even points that would otherwise end up as free kicks. It seems to me that Messi's reluctance to dive is not some lofty character trait of his; it's one of the things that makes him such a great player: he never gives up the advantage when he has it.

The reluctant sex lube salesmanFEB 27

Nick Bergus recently posted a link on Facebook to a 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant sold by Amazon -- it's only $1500! Then the post got sponsored and his family and friends started seeing it when they used Facebook, turning Bergus into a pitchman of sorts for an absurd amount of sex lube.

A week later, a friend posts a screen capture and tells me that my post has been showing up next to his news feed as a sponsored story, meaning Amazon is paying Facebook to highlight my link to a giant tub of personal lubricant.

Other people start reporting that they're seeing it, too. A fellow roller derby referee. A former employee of a magazine I still write for. My co-worker's wife. They're not seeing just once, but regularly. Said one friend: "It has shown up as one on mine every single time I log in."

Get used to this...promoted word of mouth is how a lot of advertising will work in the future.

BTW, as with many unusual products on Amazon, the "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed" listing (horse head mask?) and the reviews are worth checking out.

As a Fertility Specialist for Pachyderms, this was exactly what we needed to help rebuild elephant populations all over sub-saharan africa. It's not all just Medications and IVF treatments. Some times you need a loudspeaker, a Barry White CD and a 55 Gallon drum of Lube.

New personal annual report from Nicholas FeltonFEB 27

Nicholas Felton just released his most recent personal annual report: The 2010/2011 Feltron Biennial Report.

Feltron 2011

Ordered. I believe I have the entire set (aside from the exceedingly rare 2005 edition).

Bolivia's wheelchair riotsFEB 27

A group of disabled activists travelled 560 miles to La Paz, Bolivia to demand state benefits and protest discrimination. They were met by riot police.

Bolivia Wheelchair Riots

Inventing on principleFEB 24

Very interesting talk by Bret Victor on the power and effectiveness of organizing your work around a guiding principle. Victor's principle is "creators need an immediate connection to what they create" and he shows some really cool ways he's exploring that idea.

(via waxy)

Inside the HindenburgFEB 24

I caught most of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (which might be my favorite Indy movie...I know, the blasphemy!) on TV the other night and was surprised to see how much the movie zeppelin's interior resembles the interior of the Hindenburg.

Hindenburg interiors

They did their homework, I guess. Also of note regarding the Hindenburg: the ship was originally designed to use helium but was retooled to use extremely flammable hydrogen when the US banned exports of then-rare helium to Germany.

Despite the danger of using flammable hydrogen, no alternative gases that could provide sufficient lift could be produced in adequate quantities. One beneficial side effect of employing hydrogen was that more passenger cabins could be added. The Germans' long history of flying hydrogen-filled passenger airships without a single injury or fatality engendered a widely held belief they had mastered the safe use of hydrogen. The Hindenburg's first season performance appeared to demonstrate this.

(thx, @katiealender & someone else whose name I misplaced)

The rollercoaster of compassionate deathFEB 24

The Euthanasia Coaster is designed to thrill the hell out of its passengers just before it kills them.

Death Coaster

Each inversion would have a smaller diameter than the one before in order to inflict 10 g to passengers while the train loses speed. After a sharp right-hand turn the train would enter a straight, where unloading of bodies and loading of passengers could take place.

The Euthanasia Coaster would kill its passengers through prolonged cerebral hypoxia, or insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain. The ride's seven inversions would inflict 10 g on its passengers for 60 seconds -- causing g-force related symptoms starting with gray out through tunnel vision to black out and eventually g-LOC, g-force induced loss of consciousness. Depending on the tolerance of an individual passenger to g-forces, the first or second inversion would cause cerebral anoxia, rendering the passengers brain dead. Subsequent inversions would serve as insurance against unintentional survival of passengers.

More information on the project is here.

The music of Daft Punk revisited on vintage video game systemsFEB 24

Daft Punk already sort of sounds like they make their music using vintage video game systems but Da Chip is what that would actually sound like. Better than I expected. (via @shauninman)

Film footage of 1903 college football gameFEB 23

This is the oldest surviving clip of an American football game, in which we see Princeton and Yale battle in 1903.

The game footage starts at around 2:00. It resembles the current game of football in name only...before the forward pass, yards and points were difficult to come by and the game seems more like rugby or 11-on-11 wrestling. (via sly oyster)

Skateboarding in NYC in the 1960sFEB 23

Bill Eppridge photographed all sorts of people skateboarding in NYC in the '60s.

Skate NYC 60s

Life magazine's best picturesFEB 23

Taken by some of the world's most iconic photographers, a selection of the best photographs ever published in Life magazine from 1936 to 1972. Here's a photo of Mickey Mantle from 1965:

Mantle

The caption reads:

In one of the most eloquent photographs ever made of a great athlete in decline, Yankee star Mickey Mantle flings his batting helmet away in disgust after another terrible at-bat near the end of his storied, injury-plagued career.

Mantle was only 33 when that photo was taken but he'd already had 13 extremely productive seasons under his belt and his last four seasons from '65 to '68 were not nearly as good.

The real Downton AbbeyFEB 23

Downton Abbey (the house) on Downton Abbey (the TV show) is played by Highclere Castle, the county seat of the Earl of Carnarvon. Over on the Paris Review site, Meredith Blake has a brief history of the family that currently lives there.

Downton Abbey fans will note the striking parallels between Almina's life and that of her fictional counterpart, Lady Cora Crawley. This is hardly an accident: Lady Carnarvon and her husband, the eighth Earl of Carnarvon, affectionately known as Geordie, have been friends with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes for more than a decade. Though Lady Carnarvon calls Fellowes a "genius," she's too involved with the show to call herself a fan. "It's too much of a bloody muddle," she says.

Time traveling neutrinos oopsie daisyFEB 22

Remember those time traveling neutrinos that they found in Italy? It is likely that a faulty connection between the GPS and the computer collecting data is to blame for the time travel illusion.

According to sources familiar with the experiment, the 60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos' flight and an electronic card in a computer. After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed.

Neutrinos? More like Nintendo...they forgot to blow in the cartridge. (via @tcarmody)

How to make an Old FashionedFEB 22

Cocktail enthusiast Martin Doudoroff explains how to make an Old Fashioned without using any of the "various bad ideas" (e.g. "There is no slice of orange in an Old Fashioned") that have crept in over the years.

Sugar (and the scant water it is dissolved in) mellows the spirit of the drink. Not much is required, just a little, as the quality of today's spirits is so much higher than it typically was when the Old Fashioned was born. A little splash of simple syrup generally suffices. Gum syrup, rich simple syrup, demerara syrup, brown sugar syrup, sugar cane syrup (the variety filtered of molasses solids) all are great choices. Agave syrup or other neutral diet-sensitive sweeteners may suffice.

Honey, maple syrup, molasses or other strongly-flavored sweeteners do not belong in an Old Fashioned, which is not to say you cannot or should not create nice variations on the Old Fashioned with them.

(via ★kathryn)

All the World Press Photo Contest winnersFEB 22

Buzzfeed has a collection of every World Press Photo Contest winner from 1955 to the present. Some amazing photos but in general they do not paint a very kind picture of humanity.

Blog skisFEB 22

Atomic sells a ski called the Blog.

The Blog is ideal for freeskiers who refuse to compromise on airs and tricks in the backcountry.

(via meg)

Shake Shack gets the NY Times treatmentFEB 21

The Shake Shack gets a lukewarm one-star review from Pete Wells at the NY Times...the main problem was consistency.

How the burger could change lives I never divined, but on occasion it was magnificent, as beefy and flavorful as the outer quarter-inch of a Peter Luger porterhouse.

More often, though, the meat was cooked to the color of wet newsprint, inside and out, and salted so meekly that eating it was as satisfying as hearing a friend talk about a burger his cousin ate.

Even when the burgers were great, they could be great in one of two distinct ways. In the classic Shake Shack patty, a tower of ground beef is flattened against a searing griddle with a metal press and made to stay there, spitting and hissing, until one surface turns all brown and crunchy. A patty handled this way takes command of a Shackburger, standing up to its tangy sauce, its crisp lettuce, its wheels of plum tomato.

Sometimes, though, the grill cook hadn't had the energy needed for smashing and searing. Instead the patty was tall, soft and melting, so pink inside that its juices began to soak the bun at the first bite. Good as this version was, it was anomalous.

The Shack Burger is still my favorite hamburger and sitting in Madison Square Park eating one on a warm night with friends -- hell, even waiting in line for 45 minutes catching up -- is one of my favorite NYC activities.

Film footage of the Hindenburg disasterFEB 21

This footage from the British Pathe archive shows the Hindenburg flying peacefully around and then cuts to the mighty airship in flames as it hits the ground.

(via devour)

1811 Dictionary in the Vulgar TongueFEB 21

From Project Gutenberg, Francis Grose's Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue was published in 1811 and gives the reader a full account of the slang, swears, and insults used at the time.

FLOGGING CULLY. A debilitated lecher, commonly an old one.

COLD PIG. To give cold pig is a punishment inflicted on sluggards who lie too long in bed: it consists in pulling off all the bed clothes from them, and throwing cold water upon them.

TWIDDLE-DIDDLES. Testicles.

TWIDDLE POOP. An effeminate looking fellow.

ROUND ROBIN. A mode of signing remonstrances practised by sailors on board the king's ships, wherein their names are written in a circle, so that it cannot be discovered who first signed it, or was, in other words, the ringleader.

A modern copy is available on Amazon.

Rap music business lessonsFEB 21

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ben Horowitz frequently turns to rap music for business wisdom.

Much of rap is about business, whether the drug business, the music industry or work ethic, said Adam Bradley, an associate professor specializing in African-American literature at the University of Colorado at Boulder who wrote "Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop" and co-edited "The Anthology of Rap."

"It comes out of the fact that rap is such a direct mode of expression, maybe more so than any other music lyric, because of the emphasis on language, of words above melody or harmony," Mr. Bradley said.

People think of rap lyrics as being only about money, women, status and cocaine, he said, but more pervasive themes are leadership, collaboration and the vulnerability beneath the swagger -- all relevant in business.

Reminds me of this line by Jonah Peretti:

"Remember, you're not selling out," Jonah Peretti, a co-founder of the Huffington Post, told Denton. "You're blowing up. Think in terms of hip-hop, not indie rock."

New Sleigh Bells out todayFEB 21

Sleigh Bells' new album, Reign of Terror, is out today. It got an 8.2 over at Pitchfork if you care about such things.

Downton Abbey paper dollsFEB 20

If you're currently experiencing Downton Abbey withdrawals, try these awesome printable Downton paper dolls.

Downton cutouts

Couples pose for clothes-switching photosFEB 20

Photographer Hana Pesut takes photos of couples wearing each other's clothes.

Switch clothes

(via @JamesJM)

How much would the Death Star cost to build?FEB 20

Over at the Centives economic blog, they figured out how much it would cost to build the Death Star in 2012 dollars. Spoiler: A lot. It would cost a lot.

We began by looking at how big the Death Star is. The first one is reported to be 140km in diameter and it sure looks like it's made of steel. But how much steel? We decided to model the Death Star as having a similar density in steel as a modern warship. After all, they're both essentially floating weapons platforms so that seems reasonable.

(via marginalrevolution)

Martin Amis' guide to old-school video gamesFEB 17

Martin Amis, one of the greatest living British novelists, published a guide to video games in 1982 called Invasion of the Space Invaders: An Addict's Guide to Battle Tactics, Big Scores and the Best Machines. It has an introduction by Steven Spielberg and Amis has barely acknowledged its existence since its publication.

It's a deeply strange artifact: an A4-sized, full color glossy affair, abundantly illustrated with captioned photographs, screen shots, and lavish illustrations of exploding space ships and lunar landscapes. It boasts a perfunctory introduction by Steven Spielberg ("read this book and learn from young Martin's horrific odyssey round the world's arcades before you too become a video-junkie"), complete with full-page portrait of the Hollywood Boy Wonder leaning awkwardly against an arcade machine like some sort of geeky, high-waisted Fonz. We're not even into the text proper, and already its cup runneth over with 100-proof WTF.

How to design a movie posterFEB 17

Travis Pitts outlines the six rules of modern movie poster design. Here are three examples:

Poster design rules

Best viewed large for easy reading of fine print.

The world's best designed newspapersFEB 17

The Society for News Design recently posted their picks for the best designed newspapers in the world.

Snowboarding in an LED suitFEB 17

I needed a little beauty this morning and this certainly fit the bill...a snowboarder covered in LED lights shreds in the dark.

(thx, finn)

Is your cat making you crazy?FEB 16

There is increasing evidence that a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which many humans have gotten from cat feces, can rewire our brains and modify human behavior in unexpected ways.

The parasite, which is excreted by cats in their feces, is called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or Toxo for short) and is the microbe that causes toxoplasmosis-the reason pregnant women are told to avoid cats' litter boxes. Since the 1920s, doctors have recognized that a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, in some cases resulting in severe brain damage or death. T. gondii is also a major threat to people with weakened immunity: in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before good antiretroviral drugs were developed, it was to blame for the dementia that afflicted many patients at the disease's end stage. Healthy children and adults, however, usually experience nothing worse than brief flu-like symptoms before quickly fighting off the protozoan, which thereafter lies dormant inside brain cells-or at least that's the standard medical wisdom.

But if Flegr is right, the "latent" parasite may be quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that's not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, says Flegr, "Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year."

Doctors firing families who refuse vaccinesFEB 16

Some pediatricians are asking families who refuse to vaccinate their children to leave their practices.

For Allan LaReau of Kalamazoo, Mich., and his 11 colleagues at Bronson Rambling Road Pediatrics, who chose in 2010 to stop working with vaccine-refusing families, a major factor was the concern that unimmunized children could pose a danger in the waiting room to infants or sick children who haven't yet been fully vaccinated.

In one case, an unvaccinated child came in with a high fever and Dr. LaReau feared the patient might have meningitis, a contagious, potentially deadly infection of the brain and spinal cord for which a vaccine commonly is given. "I lost a lot more sleep than I usually do" worrying about the situation, he said.

"You feel badly about losing a nice family from the practice," added Dr. LaReau, but families who refused to vaccinate their kids were told that "this is going to be a difficult relationship without this core part of pediatrics." Some families chose to go elsewhere while others agreed to have their kids inoculated.

Short term mobile phone storage for NYC studentsFEB 16

Cell phone check truck

Mobile phones are banned in NYC public schools so a company called Pure Loyalty parks trucks outside of several schools so that students can check their phones, iPods, and other devices for the duration of the school day.

Pure Loyalty LLC is the originator in electronic device storage. We put student safety first and work together with school safety to make sure that phones are checked in and out in a timely fashion for students to go straight to class and then home after school.

Each student is given a security card to ensure that their device is only returned to them!!!! If a student with a security card loses their ticket, not to worry. We have a system in place that secures their phone. Each student is given a FREE security card. Replacement cards are $1.

(photo by Jesse Chan-Norris)

The super phone mini tablet hot mess from SamsungFEB 16

Samsung is releasing the Galaxy Note this weekend, an odd product that's falls somewhere between a huge phone and a small tablet. It comes with a stylus. I loved this review of it: Samsung's super-sized Galaxy Note changed my life.

Galaxy Note Lamp

Afraid of the dark? Not with a Galaxy Note by your side. Samsung's full-figured phone filled in for my nightstand lamp and ensured the sun never set in my apartment. And I could swear I'm slightly tanner.

The photo of it hanging on the wall like a TV got a genuine LOL from me. (via gruber)

Apple to fix iOS address book accessFEB 16

Apple is going to modify their iOS software to force apps to prompt for address book access. From John Paczkowski at AllThingsD:

"Apps that collect or transmit a user's contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines*," Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told AllThingsD. "We're working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release."

This is good news.

OS X Mountain LionFEB 16

Hang on folks, things are going to get a little Apple bloggy around here this morning. First is the news of Apple's new operating system for the Mac, OS X Mountain Lion. Gruber has the details:

What do I think so far, Schiller asks. It all seems rather obvious now that I've seen it - and I mean obvious in a good way. I remain convinced that iCloud is exactly what Steve Jobs said it was: the cornerstone of everything Apple does for the next decade. So of course it makes sense to bring iCloud to the Mac in a big way. Simplified document storage, iMessage, Notification Center, synced Notes and Reminders -- all of these things are part of iCloud. It's all a step toward making your Mac just another device managed in your iCloud account. Look at your iPad and think about the features it has that would work well, for a lot of people, if they were on the Mac. That's Mountain Lion -- and probably a good way to predict the future of the continuing parallel evolution of iOS and OS X.

Updates on previous entries for Feb 15, 2012*FEB 16

You can buy stuff from Ikea on Amazon! orig. from Feb 15, 2012
iOS apps and your address book orig. from Feb 15, 2012

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

PBS documentary on Bill ClintonFEB 15

American Experience is airing a four-hour documentary on Bill Clinton starting on Feb 20.

Clinton follows the president across his two terms as he confronted some of the key forces that would shape the future, including partisan political warfare and domestic and international terrorism, and as he struggled with uneven success to define the role of American power in a post-Cold War world. Most memorably, it explores how Clinton's conflicted character made history, even as it enraged his enemies and confounded his friends.

The first twelve minutes of the film is available to watch on the PBS web site right now.

Charles Dickens liked to walkFEB 15

Like up to 20 miles in a single day.

Dickens was from childhood an avid, even compulsive, walker. He once wrote. "I think I must be the descendant, at no great distance, of some irreclaimable tramp." Scarcely a day went by that Dickens didn't flee his desk and take to the streets of London and its suburbs. He routinely walked as many as 20 miles a day, and once set out at 2 a.m. to walk from his house in London to his country residence in Gad's Hill, Kent, 30 miles away. As several of his walking companions described it, he had a distinctive "swinging" gait. And, like many a serious runner of today, he "made a practice of increasing his speed when ascending a hill," according to his friend Marcus Stone.

Dickens's walks served him in two ways. On one level, they were fact-finding missions during which he recorded with his keen eye the teeming urban landscapes whose descriptions were his stock-in-trade. A letter from Paris to a family friend, the Reverend Edward Tagart, begins innocently enough, "I have been seeing Paris." But what follows is a foot tour of the city that is characteristically Dickensian: "Wandering into Hospitals, Prisons, Dead-houses, Operas, Theatres, Concert-rooms, Burial-grounds, Palaces and Wine Shops. In my unoccupied fortnight of each month, every description of gaudy and ghastly sight has been passing before me in rapid Panorama."

The man's Fitbit stats would have been something to behold.

Dickens Fitbit stats

You can buy stuff from Ikea on Amazon!FEB 15

One of the frustrations people have with Ikea is that you can't order online from them (at least in the US). You have to go to the store or hire someone to go to the store for you. Not sure when they started doing this, but you can now buy a bunch of Ikea products from Amazon...some items even have free shipping if you're a Prime user.

Unfortunately, they don't sell the meatballs but they do carry the Swedish meatball sauce and lingonberry jam. (via @alexandrak)

Update: Hmm, it seems you can shop online at Ikea...but the shipping and handling costs are insane ($129 to ship a $299 chair). Also of note if you hadn't already guessed...the products on Amazon are often more expensive than they are at Ikea. Mark up!

Update: Further clarification in case it's unclear...Ikea is not selling this stuff on Amazon, it's all third-party resellers. So caveat emptor and all that (and that goes triple for eBay). Ikea wants you in the store, not shopping online.

Basement excavation using scale model construction equipmentFEB 15

A Canadian man has been digging out his basement with scale-model RC construction equipment since 1997.

Yes, you read that right -- he's been digging out his basement for 15 years -- with nothing but little R/C tractors, diggers and even a miniature rock crusher! Amazing.

At an average rate of eight or nine cubic feet of earth moved each year, the process has been absolutely glacial. But what do you expect when every morning he drives his little excavator on its transport truck down to the basement, unloads it, and then uses it to dig out the basement walls.

Then Joe uses the excavators to load R/C trucks and they work their way up a spiral ramp to the basement window where the soil gets dumped outside.

Then, once it's outside, he uses bulldozers to consolidate the pile of excavated dirt.

iOS apps and your address bookFEB 15

Details are finally starting to trickle out about how various iOS apps use the address book data on your phone. The Verge and Venture Beat both have good article on the subject. What they're finding is nowhere near the 13/15 ratio that Dustin Curtis reported last week but Curtis has also said:

Second, for obvious reasons, I promised the developers I reached out to that I would never reveal who they are. Many of them have, since last week, changed their practices.

What I like about The Verge and VB articles is that they both end with Apple's role in all this. In a future release, Apple should make sure that rogue parties can't do stuff like this. If you're going to have a store where every app has to be approved for the good of the end users and the integrity of the system, this is *exactly* the type of thing they should be concerned with.

Update: Insider did some digging as well.

Henry Miller's writing commandmentsFEB 14

From Henry Miller on Writing, his 11 commandments:

1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to "Black Spring."
3. Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
5. When you can't create you can work.
6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
8. Don't be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
9. Discard the Program when you feel like it -- but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

(via lists of note)

Niggas in Paris at MidnightFEB 14

This is so perfectly in the kottke.org wheelhouse that I can't even tell if it's any good or not: a mashup of Jay-Z and Kanye's Niggas in Paris and Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.

(via ★davidfg)

The Rape of ProserpinaFEB 14

Il Ratto di Proserpina (The Rape of Proserpina) is an amazing sculpture by Bernini. It depicts Pluto abducting Proserpina to take her to the underworld. The overall composition is great but the devil (ahem) is in the details. For example, check out how Pluto's hands grip into the marble flesh:

Rape Of Proserpina

Wonderful. Bernini completed this piece in 1622 when he was just 23 years old. (via stable transit)

Voices of History's Last-Known SurvivorsFEB 14

That's the subtitle of a book released in 2010 called The Last Leaf by Stuart Lutz. In the book are dozens of interviews with "last survivors or final eyewitness of historically important events", including the last living pitcher to give up a home run to Babe Ruth in 1927, the last man alive to work with Thomas Edison, and the last American WWI soldier.

When we read about famous historical events, we may wonder about the firsthand experiences of the people directly involved. What insights could be gained if we could talk to someone who remembered the Civil War, or the battle to win the vote for women, or Thomas Edison's struggles to create the first electric light bulb? Amazingly, many of these experiences are still preserved in living memory by the final survivors of important, world-changing events. In this unique oral history book, author and historic document specialist Stuart Lutz records the stories told to him personally by people who witnessed many of history's most famous events.

See also human wormholes and the Great Span.

A brief history of the American pawn shopFEB 13

Wendy Woloson on pawn shops, which are currently getting the reality TV treatment.

According to the National Pawnbrokers Association, a trade group, there are now more than 30 million pawnshop customers per year. The value of the average loan in 2009 was $100, up 20 percent from the previous year. About 80 percent of pawners pay off their loans and redeem their collateral, though redemptions are on the decline.

(via ★whitneymcn)

How professional football might end (sooner than you think)FEB 13

Writing for Grantland, economists Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier imagine how the NFL might end due to the increasing visibility of head injuries.

This slow death march could easily take 10 to 15 years. Imagine the timeline. A couple more college players -- or worse, high schoolers -- commit suicide with autopsies showing CTE. A jury makes a huge award of $20 million to a family. A class-action suit shapes up with real legs, the NFL keeps changing its rules, but it turns out that less than concussion levels of constant head contact still produce CTE. Technological solutions (new helmets, pads) are tried and they fail to solve the problem. Soon high schools decide it isn't worth it. The Ivy League quits football, then California shuts down its participation, busting up the Pac-12. Then the Big Ten calls it quits, followed by the East Coast schools. Now it's mainly a regional sport in the southeast and Texas/Oklahoma. The socioeconomic picture of a football player becomes more homogeneous: poor, weak home life, poorly educated. Ford and Chevy pull their advertising, as does IBM and eventually the beer companies.

Is this how soccer finally conquers America? Not that soccer doesn't have its own concussion-related problems.

Peter Sellers covers The BeatlesFEB 13

Peter Sellers did four different spoken word versions of The Beatles' She Loves You: as Dr. Strangelove, with a Cockney accent, with an Irish accent, and with an upper crust English accent (my fave):

Yeah, Sellers is pretty good with accents. (via ★bump)

Possible Neanderthal cave paintings discoveredFEB 13

Charcoal remains found near six cave paintings in Spain have been carbon dated to between 43,500 and 42,300 years old. The paint has yet to be tested, but the drawings could be from the same period.

The next step is to date the paint pigments. If they are confirmed as being of similar age, this raises the real possibility that the paintings were the handiwork of Neanderthals -- an "academic bombshell", says Sanchidrian, because all other cave paintings are thought to have been produced by modern humans.

Neanderthals are in the frame for the paintings since they are thought to have remained in the south and west of the Iberian peninsula until approximately 37,000 years ago -- 5000 years after they had been replaced or assimilated by modern humans elsewhere in their European heartland.

World Press Photos of the Year, 2012FEB 13

A list of all the winners of the 2012 World Press Photo Photo Contest. I'm not particularly fond of the overall winner but there's lots of great photography here.

The ice speaksFEB 13

Turn up the sound for this one, a short video shot in Odessa, Ukraine of ice creaking and squeaking really really loudly.

It sounds like a pod of dolphins trying to mate with Skrillex. (via ★acoleman)

DIY sperm donors and the virgin fatherFEB 10

Trent Arsenault is a computer security engineer, a 35-year-old virgin, and also the father of fifteen children (and counting). Arsenault non-anonymously donates his sperm for free to couples who need it to have children.

After a woman from his hometown posted repeatedly to say she couldn't find a donor, Trent knew she was the one. "I thought, I'm probably not going to hurt anyone. The worst that can happen is someone will waste their time with me." He met the woman, a 37-year-old lesbian schoolteacher, and her partner, in December 2006 at a nearby Barnes & Noble, where the couple's 3-year-old adopted daughter played while they questioned Trent for two hours. They liked that he'd been raised Christian and worked in technology. The recipient provided a donor contract, drafted by a lesbian-run law firm, negating both his paternal rights and responsibilities. The couple gave him a box of Ziploc food containers from Wal-Mart and scheduled a first appointment. On that day, they texted Trent when they were twenty minutes from his house, and he set to work on the "recovery," as it's known. When they rang his bell, he handed over a Ziploc. Two weeks later, they sent Trent another text, with good news. After a year of fruitless trips to a sperm bank, the recipient had gotten pregnant on Trent's first try.

(thx, patrick)

Painting with sound: a 3-D take on Jackson PollockFEB 10

You may remember Martin Klimas from his photos of shattering figurines (which I love).

Martin Klimas

His latest project involves arranging paint just above massive speakers, turning the sound up, and photographing the results. This is Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians":

Martin Klimas

I wonder what dubstep looks like? (via @pomeranian99)

Downton Abbey Valentine's Day cardsFEB 10

For the Anna to your Bates, the Matthew Crawley to your Lady Mary, or the cutting comeback to your Dowager Countess, a selection of Downton Abbey-themed Valentine's Day cards.

Downton Valentine

Composite sketches of literary charactersFEB 10

The Composites blog takes descriptions of literary characters and runs them through police composite sketch software to produce composite sketches. This is Humbert Humbert from Nabokov's Lolita:

Humbert Humbert

Gloomy good looks...Clean-cut jaw, muscular hand, deep sonorous voice...broad shoulder...I was, and still am, despite mes malheurs, an exceptionally handsome male; slow-moving, tall, with soft dark hair and a gloomy but all the more seductive cast of demeanor.

And here's Emma Bovary from Flaubert's Madame Bovary:

Emmy Bovary

Her eyelids seemed chiseled expressly for her long amorous looks in which the pupil disappeared, while a strong inspiration expanded her delicate nostrils and raised the fleshy corner of her lips, shaded in the light by a little black down.

This is one of those "why didn't I think of this?" projects...well done. (via ★timcarmody)

Made in Japan, perfectlyFEB 10

The long recession in Japan has led to a curious result: the Japanese are no longer just importing American and European goods and services...they're perfecting their own take on everything from cocktails and cusine to fashion and hotels.

Imagine going into an espresso bar, as I did in Tokyo, ordering a single shot, and being told that it's not on offer. The counter at No. 8 Bear Pond may feature the shiniest, spiffiest, newest La Marzocco, as well as a Rube Goldberg-esque water-filtration system, but the menu, which lists lattes and Americanos, makes no mention of espresso or cappuccino.

"My boss won't let me make espressos," says the barista. "I need a year more, maybe two, before he's ready to let customers drink my shots undiluted by milk. And I'll need another whole year of practice after that if I want to be able to froth milk for cappuccinos."

Only after 18 years as a barista in New York did his boss, the cafe's owner, feel qualified to return home to show off his coffee-making skills. Now, at Bear Pond's main branch, he stops making espressos at an early hour each day, claiming that the spike on the power grid after that time precludes drawing the voltage required for optimal pressure.

The scale of the UniverseFEB 09

The Scale of the Universe 2 is an interactive Powers of Ten that takes you from the Planck length all the way up to the size of the observable Universe. That's more than 60 orders of magnitude! Also interesting that the smallest things (Planck length, strings, branes) are millions of times smaller compared to human scale than the observable Universe is larger. Plenty of room at the bottom indeed.

Banksy + Tom Hanks = HanksyFEB 09

The Awl has an interview with a street artist named Hanksy, who takes images from Banksy and incorporates Tom Hanks into the mix. WIIIILLLSONNNN!!

Hanksy

I've come across comments or stories written about Hanksy saying I'm directly ripping off Banksy's style. Like, "Where does this guy get off, stealing Banksy's work?" They are completely missing the point. It's a satire. My goal was never to make a profit. It came about and there was a genuine excitement around the people at the gallery and the community in general.

I'm pretty sure the interviewer, EA Hanks, is Tom's daughter and she got her dad on the record about Hanksy:

Regarding your work, Tom Hanks sends the message, "I don't know who Hanksy is, but I enjoy his (her?) comments via the semi-chaos of artistic expression."

But the T.HANKS trash can remains my favorite Tom Hanks street art:

t.hanks

Updates on previous entries for Feb 8, 2012*FEB 09

More on iPhone address book privacy orig. from Feb 08, 2012
One athlete plays for your soul orig. from Feb 07, 2012

* 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 on iPhone address book privacyFEB 08

Yesterday, developer Arun Thampi noticed that the Path iPhone app uploads a user's address book to their server without asking the user first. And by address book, I mean all the phone numbers and addresses and email addresses of everyone in your phone's address book just gets sent off to Path. And not only that, Path stored that information on its server. To their credit, Path apologized and deleted the data from their server.

But this is a larger problem than just Path. In a post from earlier today, Dustin Curtis reveals the dirty little secret of iPhone developers everywhere.

It's not really a secret, per se, but there's a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user's entire address book, without their permission, to remote servers and then store it for future reference. It's common practice, and many companies likely have your address book stored in their database. Obviously, there are lots of awesome things apps can do with this data to vastly improve user experience. But it is also a breach of trust and an invasion of privacy.

I did a quick survey of 15 developers of popular iOS apps, and 13 of them told me they have a contacts database with millons of records. One company's database has Mark Zuckerberg's cell phone number, Larry Ellison's home phone number and Bill Gates' cell phone number. This data is not meant to be public, and people have an expectation of privacy with respect to their contacts.

13 out of 15! Zuckerberg's cell phone number! Maybe I'm being old-fashioned here, but this seems unequivocally wrong. Any app, from Angry Birds to Fart App 3000, can just grab the information in your address book without asking? Hell. No. And Curtis is right in calling Apple out about this...apps should not have access to address book information without explicitly asking. But now that the horse is out of the barn, this "quiet understanding" needs to be met with some noisy investigation. What happened to Path needs to happen to all the other apps that are storing our data. There's an opportunity here for some enterprising data journalist to follow Thampi's lead: investigate what other apps are grabbing address book data and then ask the responsible developers the same questions that were put to Path.

Update: I am aware of this very confusing display of data from the Wall Street Journal. It indicates that of the ~50 iPhone apps surveyed, only three (Angry Birds, Facebook, and TextPlus 4) transmit address book data to a server. That's not exactly the widespread problem that Curtis describes (the data sets are likely different)...it would be nice to see the net cast a bit wider.

Update: Oh, and that WSJ survey is two years old. (thx, @marcprecipice)

Where's the social networking on Star Trek?FEB 08

Cat Valente remarks on the old-fashionedness on display in Star Trek DS9, particularly in regard to what the characters do and don't do with their free time, infinite bandwidth, extreme connectedness, and lack of scarcity.

Nobody sits around and plays Farmville. Nobody gets embroiled in a flame war concerning the portrayal of Klingons in human vids or just sits and watches vids with their feet up. Nope. The brave men and women of the future read (super old) books, talk to each other face to face, and even in their VR fantasies practice for things they will have to do in real life or, admittedly quite realistically, have space holosex. There is no WoW. There are no video games at all unless they are evil ones from Risa that will suck out your brains.

Because of this, and because of the lack of a social network, it is possible to be alone in the Star Trek world in a way which I would have to deliberately take action to achieve in my world. Even when we are alone, most of us check a number of communication vectors and leave them live--Twitter, email, text messages, Facebook, our blogs, Reddit, news feeds. We are a baby hivemind spinning our training wheels. To be alone as profoundly (to me) as Sisko, Kira, and the rest often are, I would have to make a decision to shut down all of those streams.

Those who think The Onion is real journalismFEB 08

The Literally Unbelievable blog is collecting examples from Facebook of people who think stories from The Onion are real.

Onion Is Truth

(via ★swissmiss)

Self-deportationFEB 08

The bulk of the Jan 27th episode of This American Life was about Alabama's tough new immigration laws.

Last Summer, Alabama passed HB56, the most sweeping immigration bill in the country. It's an example of a strategy called "attrition through enforcement" or, more colloquially, "self-deportation" -- making life so hard on undocumented immigrants that they choose to leave the country. But as reporter Jack Hitt found, the new law has had lots of other unintended consequences.

The models for American GothicFEB 08

In 1930, Iowa artist Grant Wood painted American Gothic. The models he used for the painting were his sister Nan Wood Graham and his dentist, Byron McKeeby. Here they are next to the painting:

American Gothic models

Wood made the painting after spotting a small house in Eldon, Iowa:

American Gothic house

Updates on previous entries for Feb 7, 2012*FEB 08

One athlete plays for your soul orig. from Feb 07, 2012

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

Apple's first designerFEB 07

Speaking of Apple, here's a profile of Jerry Manock, who worked for Apple from 1977 to 1984 and designed the case for the Apple II and helped design the Macintosh. Manock was Jobs' first Jony Ive.

The whole basis of the class I've taught at UVM for 21 years is ... integrated product development, which means concurrently looking at all of these things: the aesthetics, the engineering, the marketing ... which is what we were doing at Apple. Not necessarily purposefully, but everybody was just thrown together... I would walk through the software place and look around and see what people were doing ... walk through the marketing area. I had my drawings all on the walls, so anybody could come up. There was a red pencil hanging there. I'd say, "If you see something you don't like, or is a problem -- I don't care whether it's a janitor or Steve -- write the correction, circle it, put your phone there and I'll call you and we'll talk about it."

(thx, mike)

Your not-so-secret iPhone address bookFEB 07

I take this to mean that any iPhone app can download your address book to their servers? What. The. Hell! Apple?

Upon inspecting closer, I noticed that my entire address book (including full names, emails and phone numbers) was being sent as a plist to Path. Now I don't remember having given permission to Path to access my address book and send its contents to its servers, so I created a completely new "Path" and repeated the experiment and I got the same result - my address book was in Path's hands.

One athlete plays for your soulFEB 07

A fun question from Joe Posnanski: if you had to choose one athlete to play on your behalf for your soul, who would you choose?

So, here's the game: The Jon Lovitz Devil has consigned you to an eternity of being stuck in traffic in a wheezing Ford Escort without air conditioning, and the only radio station plays Michael Bolton 24 hours a day. But you have one chance to escape your fate. You get to choose one athlete, at his or her peak, and one sport. Ever. And if that athlete wins, you get a whole different eternity, with chocolate-covered strawberries, DirecTV and a deck that overlooks the ocean.

Ah, but there is one catch. You get to pick the athlete and sport. But the Jon Lovitz Devil gets to pick the terms.

In other words, you might choose Tiger Woods circa 2000 and golf. That's fine. But the JLD can then choose Ben Hogan and say that the match will be played at Merion with a U.S. Open setup.

You might choose Mike Tyson in his overpowering youth. But the JLD can then choose a young and almost unhittable Ali and a big ring.

You might choose John Elway and one final football drive. But the JLD can then say he has to drive 80 yards in three minutes against the 1985 Chicago Bears defense in the Soldier Field wind.

The question Posnanski is essentially asking is: who is the most dominant athlete of all time across any sport? But not quite that question...Babe Ruth was quite the slugger in his day, but he might not fare so well against modern pitching. Same with Wilt, Jim Thorpe, Babe Didrikson, or even Gretzky. The game played is a factor as well. Aside from variants such as speed chess and Chess960, chess is chess and the board is the board...home field, wind, and teammates aren't really a factor. (Is chess a sport though? If so, I might take Kasparov against anyone.)

But the answer is probably someone not from one of the major sports and certainly not from a team sport. The comments of the article mention wrestler Aleksandr Karelin, wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer, and Secretariat. And I know that there are athletes in other sports who are equally as dominant. Even so, I might go with 2009 World Championships Usain Bolt in the 100 meter dash. He's the fastest ever by a wide margin, he's current, and it's an individual sport. Of course, under the current one-and-done disqualification rules, he might be in trouble. Or if you could choose Jordan specifically playing 1-on-1...he would beat anyone -- Wade, Kobe, LeBron -- on any crappy hoop or shitty playing surface anywhere. (via ★djacobs)

Update: I knew I'd covered some of this same territory before but just couldn't find it. From back in August:

Speaking of sports, Grantland, and Federer, Bill Simmons said of Lionel Messi earlier this year that "he's better at soccer than anyone else is at anything". That's a pretty short list but got me wondering, if you expanded the criteria slightly, who else might join Messi on the "better at their sport than almost anyone else is at anything at some point in the past 5-6 years". Off the top of my head, possible candidates include Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Lindsey Vonn, Tiger Woods, Marta, Shaun White, Jimmie Johnson, and Annika Sörenstam. I don't know much about hockey, but maybe Alex Ovechkin? No basketball, baseball, or football players on that list; Michael Jordan and Barry Bonds are the most recent candidates in basketball and baseball (please, don't give me any of that LeBron crap) and I can't think of any football player over the past 20 years who might fit the bill. Barry Sanders maybe? His team never won a lot of games and didn't win championships, but man he was a genius runner.

I received several suggestions from readers about additions to that list, among them were surfer Kelly Slater, rally driver Sébastien Loeb, motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi, and cricketer Don Bradman.

The lessons of Steve JobsFEB 07

At the end of this month Jeff Atwood is leaving Stack Exchange, a company he cofounded with Joel Spolsky. In a post on his blog, he explains why:

Startup life is hard on families. We just welcomed two new members into our family, and running as fast as you can isn't sustainible for parents of multiple small children. The death of Steve Jobs, and his subsequent posthumous biography, highlighted the risks for a lot of folks. [...] Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange have been wildly successful, but I finally realized that success at the cost of my children is not success. It is failure.

In his post, Jeff points to a similar post by another entrepreneur, Brad Wardell.

In the last several years, the company has been successful enough to generate a substantial amount of capital. And with it, I have been fortunate to bring in people with great talent. And so I started thinking of all the amazing things we would do. I would put in crazy hours to do it, of course, but we would go and do amazing things.

Then Steve Jobs died.

And suddenly I realized something. What is the objective here? My oldest child just turned 15. My other two are no longer little either. And I have been missing out on them.

And another from Eric Karjaluoto:

For a long time, work was my only thing. I worked evenings, weekends, and Christmas. At those rare times when I wasn't at work in body, I was there in spirit, unable to speak or think of much else. I wanted so badly to climb the mountain that I stopped asking why I was doing it.

I admire [Jobs] for the mountains he climbed. At the same time, I wonder if he missed the whole point, becoming the John Henry of our time. He won the race, but at what cost?

Me? I may turn out to be a failure in business, but I refuse to fail my kids.

This mirrors my main reaction to Jobs' death and Isaacson's book as well. I wasn't working 80 hours a week or leading a growing company or even spending very little time with my kids but I was pushing pretty hard on Stellar, pushing it towards a potential future of insane working hours, intense stress, and a whole lot less time with my family (and selfishly, less time for myself). Since Jobs died, I've been pushing a little less hard in that direction.

Four is hardly a trend but it is interesting that the death and biography of the greatest businessman of our generation -- someone who was responsible for so many world-changing products and ideas, who shaped our world through sheer force of will & imagination, etc. etc. -- is inspiring some people to turn away from the lifestyle & choices that made Jobs so successful & inspiring in the public sphere and to attempt the path that Jobs did not.

A list of medieval occupationsFEB 06

What jobs did people do in medieval Europe? Here's a list, broken down by category. Criminals had jobs too:

silk-snatcher - one who steals bonnets

stewsman - probably a brothel keeper - "since the words stew and stewholder both mean a bawd, I'm guessing that a stewsman would be a brothel-keeper as well. Whether bawdry counts as a criminal activity varies at different times and places."

thimblerigger - a professional sharper who runs a thimblerig (a game in which a pea is ostensibly hidden under a thimble and players guess which thimble it is under)

(via @zachklein)

Best movie posters of 2011FEB 06

From MUBI notebook, a selection of great movies posters from 2011, including Chris Ware's lovely one for Uncle Boonmee.

Uncle Boonmee

(via dooce)

How to parent like the FrenchFEB 06

Adapted from her upcoming book Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, Pamela Druckerman shares why French parents are superior in this WSJ article.

The French, I found, seem to have a whole different framework for raising kids. When I asked French parents how they disciplined their children, it took them a few beats just to understand what I meant. "Ah, you mean how do we educate them?" they asked. "Discipline," I soon realized, is a narrow, seldom-used notion that deals with punishment. Whereas "educating" (which has nothing to do with school) is something they imagined themselves to be doing all the time.

One of the keys to this education is the simple act of learning how to wait. It is why the French babies I meet mostly sleep through the night from two or three months old. Their parents don't pick them up the second they start crying, allowing the babies to learn how to fall back asleep. It is also why French toddlers will sit happily at a restaurant. Rather than snacking all day like American children, they mostly have to wait until mealtime to eat. (French kids consistently have three meals a day and one snack around 4 p.m.)

We have a French pediatrician who advised us to do almost exactly what is in this article and we've had pretty good success with it. It's not all roses (kids are kids after all) and a lot of work, especially for the first couple of years, because you have to be consistent and steady and firm (but also flexible) and I know I haven't always done a great job, but the dividends have been totally worth it so far.

Koyaanisqatsi in five minutesFEB 06

Wyatt Hodgson took Koyaanisqatsi and sped it up 1552% so you can watch the whole movie in about five minutes.

Reggio uses time lapse in the film to great effect -- you notice different things at different playback speeds -- and Hodgson's clever use of the same technique reveals the overall structure of the film much more than watching it in realtime...but the emotion of the film is completely removed. (via the candler blog)

What time does the Puppy Bowl start?FEB 05

First of all, it's not Puppybowl. It's two words: Puppy Bowl. And it starts at 3pm ET. More information here.

p.s. The Super Bowl starts at 6:30pm ET, more or less.

The mile-high club: airline on airline lovin'FEB 03

I love the cover of the most recent Bloomberg Businessweek:

Airplane Sex

Here's a peek at how the design process works at the magazine.

Historic explosions depicted in cauliflowerFEB 03

I love these cauliflower explosions done by Brock Davis...you can find them in his Food Stuff set on Flickr. Here's the Challenger explosion in cauliflower:

Cauliflower Space Shuttle

(via @josephholmes)

Charlotte's Web audiobook read by E.B. WhiteFEB 03

Did you know that the Charlotte's Web audiobook is read by E.B. White himself? He died in 1985 and must have recorded it before then. My wife and son listened to it on a long car trip this weekend and was declared "soooo good".

Short Errol Morris film about competitive eatingFEB 03

The NY Times has a short documentary film by Errol Morris on El Wingador, a five-time winner of the Wing Bowl. My favorite line from the film, uttered by an off-camera Morris:

Wait a second. That's cannibalism!

Though his several wins came early on in the competition's history, El Wingador is still competing in the Wing Bowl. In the 2012 competition, held today, El Wingador came in third while Takeru Kobayashi completely demolished the competition in his first attempt, eating 337 wings in the process.

Updates on previous entries for Feb 2, 2012*FEB 03

What happened to the former slave that wrote his old master? orig. from Feb 02, 2012
The view from an old time burger joint orig. from Feb 02, 2012

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

The view from an old time burger jointFEB 02

From the This Must Be the Place series, a lovely short film about the Prime Burger Restaurant in midtown Manhattan. The restaurant opened in 1938 and one of the servers, Artie, has been there since 1952.

For many of the guys that work here, the restaurant is like a second home -- some of them have been slinging burgers, making shakes, and waiting on customers at this location for decades. Opened in 1938, the place hasn't been altered since the early '60s, and it looks all the better for it. Here the waiters and workers of Prime Burger discuss their views on their chosen profession, and the unique nature of the place itself.

(via @daveg)

Update: Over at Serious Eats, Ed Levine gives some advice on how to order properly at Prime Burger.

So why the need to order right? Because to keep up with the fast food chains, the DiMicelis started par-broiling their burgers. Par-broiling produces a less juicy burger. So when you order at Prime Burger specify you want your burger ($5.25 for a hamburger, $5.95 for a cheeseburger) made from scratch, and that you're willing to wait the extra few minutes.

What happened to the former slave that wrote his old master?FEB 02

You know that letter from former slave Jourdon Anderson to his old master that's been going around? First of all, it's good and you should read it.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you.

David Galbraith poked around a bit and found a record of Anderson still living in Ohio at the time of the 1900 census as "Jordan Anderson". Here's the relevant bit of the census form:

Jordan Anderson

At the time, Anderson and his wife Mandy were in their 70s and had been married for 52 years. Mandy had borne 11 children, six of whom were still living (Anderson's letter, written in 1865, references five children, two of whom were "brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters"...not sure if they had died or not). The three children living with them in 1900 were all in their 20s, born several years after the letter was written.

There's also a record of Anderson from the 1880 census, this time as "Jordon Anderson". The birth year listed is different (1830 vs 1825) but the family relations are the same. This census lists two older children, William and Andrew, the eldest of whom was born right around the time of Jordan and Mandy's emancipation. Anderson's occupation is listed as "coachman".

I also found a record in the April 19, 1905 issue of the Dayton Daily Journal of Anderson's death. He was 79 years old.

Update: Ok, a bit more digging, with the help of an ancestry.com trial membership.

The 1870 census shows Anderson living in Ohio with Mandy, four children (Jane, Felix, William, and Andrew).

Jordan Anderson

Jane is mentioned in the letter...is Felix the "Grundy" mentioned? There was a Felix Grundy who served as a US Senator from Anderson's home state of Tennessee in the 1830s who has a Tennessee county named after him...perhaps that's where the nickname came from? Also listed in the household is Percella Mcgregor, Mandy's mother.

And ho, what's this? From the 1920 Census, here's a record of who was living at 60 Burns Ave in Montgomery County, Ohio, the former address of Jordan Anderson:

Jordan Anderson

Three families lived together at that address: Valentine and Abagail Anderson, who were both listed on the 1900 census form; Charles Johnson and his wife Eva, the same Eva listed as Jordan's daughter on the 1900 census form; and Samuel Stewart and his wife Scharlet, who is the same age as the Lottie listed on the 1900 census form. Everyone in the household is listed as being able to read and write, just as Jordan wished for them in his letter:

The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Amazing. Ancestry.com provides a lot more information about the family...here's a peek at the family tree:

Jordan Anderson family tree

Looks like Lottie lived until 1944, Eva died in 1937, and Jane in 1939. Oh and it looks like Felix is the Grundy mentioned in the letter. I'm sure there's lots more. For now, I'm going to try to alert the "owner" of the Jordan Anderson family tree to the existence of the letter...we'll see if they are related!

Update: The letter has already been added to the ancestry.com database by the tree's owner.

Early copy of Mona Lisa foundFEB 02

Mona Lisa

Restorers at the Prado Museum in Madrid, working on what they thought was a 16th or 17th century replica of the Mona Lisa, have discovered that the painting was actually done by a student of Leonardo's at the same time as the original.

Museum experts are in the process of stripping away a cover of black over-paint which, when fully removed, will reveal the youthfulness of the subject they say. The final area of over-paint will come off in the next few days.

The original "Mona Lisa" hangs in the Louvre but the sitter looks older than her years as the varnish is cracked. The painting is so fragile that restoration or cleaning is deemed too risky. The Prado version, however, will show the sitter as she was: a young woman in her early 20s.

Super Bowl preview for non-football fansFEB 02

Just like they did last year, The Rumpus shares some of the stories of the players participating in the Super Bowl in a way that isn't as syrupy as Bob Costas.

For instance, there's Mark Herzlich, a former top NFL prospect who was diagnosed with bone cancer while in college, took a year off to beat the disease, returned to the game, and then went undrafted by every NFL team. As a last-ditch, he auditioned for training camp. By November, about two years after undergoing chemotherapy, Mark was a starting linebacker for the Giants.

There's five-foot-seven Danny Woodhead of the Patriots, a player considered too small even for Division I college football, who went to the only place that wanted him, a little school in Nebraska called Chadron State, where he worked his ass off, and by the time he graduated, he was college football's all-time leading rusher. He's still so anonymous that he worked at a sporting goods store on a day off last year and pretty much no one recognized him. Now he's a running back for a team in the goddamned Super Bowl.

Updates on previous entries for Feb 1, 2012*FEB 02

Washing machine self-destructs orig. from Aug 31, 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.

Gears and other mechanical thingsFEB 01

This is a 1930 short film from avant-garde filmmaker Ralph Steiner that shows dozens of gears and other machinery at work.

(thx, matthew)

Through destruction, a washing machine achieves transcendenceFEB 01

You've seen one washing machine self-destruction video, you've seen them all, right? Maybe not. Back in August, I posted this short video of a washer destroying itself (with some help from a brick) but this longer video is mesmerizing and almost poignant at times.

At times, it seems as though the washer is attempting to turn into the Picasso version of itself, a Cubist sculpture manifesting itself over time. (via @aaroncoleman0)

Updates on previous entries for Jan 31, 2012*FEB 01

Ice Cube's "Good Day" located orig. from Jan 30, 2012

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

Archives    January 2012 »    December 2011 »    November 2011 »

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