* 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 1080 on a skateboard MAR 30
Tom Schaar is the first person to land a 1080 on a skateboard ramp. He's only 12.
It was on a MegaRamp, but still. (thx, meg)
If I hadn't seen it on the official Emmentaler web site, I would have thought this video about cheese producers using geckos to produce better cheese was fake.
Pesky flies buzzing around our cows cause them stress. And this affects the quality of the milk. Which is why we quite simply put a gecko on our cows which gets rid of all these pesky flies -- by eating them. The result is milk that is smoother, and cheese that is smoother too.
Update: sigh This is likely an early April Fools joke or whatever. INTERNET, I THOUGHT WE HAD AGREED THAT APRIL FOOLS IS STUPID AND FOR STUPID PEOPLE AND EVEN IF THAT IS NOT THE CASE TO CONFINE THE STUPIDITY TO ONE DAY, APRIL FIRST, AND NOT DO ANYTHING BEFOREHAND. God, I hate April Fools Day. Fuck you.
LG has begun mass production of flexible e-ink displays.
The new plastic display has a resolution of 1024x768 and is six inches across the diagonal, which is comparable to the Kindle and Nook. Because it's made of plastic and not glass, though, the LG display is half the weight (14g) and 30% thinner (0.7mm) than a comparable, glass e-ink panel. Existing e-book readers need to be thick (and heavy) to protect the glass display, but LG is promising that its display is a lot more rugged. The press release says that the plastic display survives repeated 1.5-meter drop tests and break/scratch tests with a small hammer, and that it's flexible up to 40 degrees from the mid point.
Kurt Vonnegut is just the bee's knees, isn't he? Here's a letter he wrote in 1973 to the head of the school board at Drake High School in North Dakota after the school burned all of its copies of Slaughterhouse-Five in the school's furnace.
If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don't damage children much. They didn't damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us.
If you've never seen the early seasons of The Simpsons, a good way to catch up might be to watch this:
Just a quick hack to experiment what happens if you watch a lot of The Simpsons episodes at the same time. It just took 10 lines of code and a few hours of processing.
About the video:
-Top to bottom: each row shows a season (from season 1 to season 10)
-Left to right: each column shows an episode (from episode 1 to episode 13)
A total of 130 episodes is displayed, framerate is 25fps, thumbnails have been captured at 80x60px
I also enjoyed this minimalist representation of the Simpson family in Lego:
I followed a link to this video from Twitter. "Oh, a small jumping robot," I thought, "I bet it hops over a chair or something." Not even close. Check this out:
Update: I did a quick calculation...if a 6-ft-tall human could jump as high as this robot relative to its height, they could jump 315 feet into the air, high enough to land on the roof of a 30-story building. (If you ignore the scaling issues, that is.)
Railroad company logos MAR 30
A beautiful collection of railroad company logos that show the evolution of logo design from 1845 to 2000.
Meet the real-life Batman MAR 29
Lenny B. Robinson is a Maryland resident who periodically dresses up as Batman, gets into his Batmobile (a black Lamborghini adorned with Batman logos), and goes to visit sick children in hospitals.
On Monday, he pulled up in his black Lambo with yellow Batman symbols on the doors, the floor mats, the headrests -- pretty much everywhere -- and he was dressed in his heavy leather and neoprene uniform that he bought from a professional costume maker.
He carried two large bags of Batman books, rubber Batman symbol bracelets and various other toys up to the front desk, where the check-in attendant asked him his name.
"Batman," he said.
Camera phones were snapping. A man in line said, "That's the guy who got pulled over." Someone asked where Robin was, and Batman replied, "Home studying for the SATs."
The check-in attendant asked for identification. Batman said it was in his Batmobile. The check-in attendant, just doing her job, asked for his real name. "Lenny," he announced. "B, as in Batman. Robinson."
It took Batman approximately 20 minutes to reach the elevators. He stopped to hand out Batman toys to every child he saw, picking them up for pictures, asking them how they were feeling. LaTon Dicks snapped a photo of Batman standing behind her son DeLeon in his wheelchair. She'd recognized the Batmobile on her way in to the hospital. Like everyone else, she'd seen a TV report on him being stopped by the police and protested, "You can't pull over Batman."
More people like this please. (via @benhammersley)
A pair of recent info visualizations look as though they were painted by Vincent van Gogh. Wind Map shows the realtime flow of wind over the United States.
Perpetual Ocean is a NASA animation of ocean currents around the world.
Would be cool to see both of these rendered through Stamen's watercolor filter.
Amazon announced recently that they bought a company named Kiva for $775 million. In cash. Kiva makes robots for fulfillment warehouses, of which Amazon has many. When I heard this news, I was all, robots are cool, but $775 million? But this short video on how the Kiva robots work made me a believer:
Also, pro-tip, it's pronounced ro-butt. (via ★interesting)
Lionel Messi documentary MAR 28
A recent 45-minute documentary on Lionel Messi, which starts with his discovery in Argentina and runs through the end of last season.
It's funny seeing Messi playing as a kid...the style is essentially the same, but in an even smaller package. (via @dens)
Born in a North Korean prison to parents in an arranged "reward marriage", Shin In Geun grew up in the camp and then escaped when he was in his early 20s.
On summer nights, boys would sneak into a nearby orchard to eat unripe pears. When they were caught, the guards would beat them. The guards, though, did not care if Shin and his friends ate rats, frogs, snakes and insects. Eating rats was essential to survival. Their flesh could help prevent pellagra, which was rampant, the result of a lack of protein and niacin in their diet. Prisoners with the disease suffered skin lesions, diarrhoea and dementia. It was a frequent cause of death. Catching rats became a passion for Shin. He would meet his friends in the evening at his primary school, where there was a coal grill to roast them.
This grim tale is an excerpt from a book about the escape, Escape from Camp 14.
Mike Daisey apologizes MAR 28
On his web site, Mike Daisey issues an apology for fabricating parts of the story he told on This American Life and elsewhere about the Chinese factories where Apple makes its products.
It made me reflect upon how lucky I have been to call the theater my home all these years, the only place I can imagine this kind of discourse happening. It made me grateful for the great privilege it has been to be able to call myself a storyteller and to have audiences come and listen to what I have to say, to extend their trust to me. I am sorry I was careless with that trust. For this, I would like to apologize to my audiences.
Twitter has patent for "pull to refresh" orig. from Mar 27, 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.
Allan Benton makes ham, some of the most delicious ham you'll ever taste. In a pair of documentaries, Benton talks about his approach to life, business, and ham. The first is short, just a couple of minutes, and offers a taste of Benton's daily schedule:
And this one is a more straightforward documentary look at Benton and his philosophy of ham.
Benton was interviewed by Esquire in 2009:
It's not the dollar that motivates me so much as the compliment.
and profiled by Gourmet in 2006, in which Benton takes a trip to some of the NYC restaurants using his products:
David Chang of Momofuku, the iconoclastic ramen and small plates bar, is a stalwart. He has been using Allan's bacon and ham since January 2005. When Allan and Sharon arrive, Chang beams. He genuflects. He stands tall by the stove and dishes a soup of cockles in a ham broth. He whisks a ham-skin-scented dashi into a pan of yellow grits, then tops them with a poached egg, crescents of ruby shrimp, and a thatch of crisp chopped bacon. And as Allan and Sharon fold their napkins, Chang exits the galley kitchen and joins them at the counter.
Allan, who has the countenance and intellect of a presidentialera Jimmy Carter, ducks his head and grins. He snags an afterthought of bacon with his chopsticks and drags it through a puddle of yolk. "I had no idea what you were doing with my bacon and ham," he says, his face twisting upward, the corners of his mouth gone vertical. "This is amazing, just amazing, especially for a purebred Tennessee hillbilly."
I get the Benton's ham every time I go to Ssam Bar. You can order hams and bacon from Benton's web site, which, with its odd URL (bentonscountryhams2.com) and default page title ("Network Solutions E-Commerce Web Site - Home"), is just as delightfully old timey as the rotary telephone in Benton's office.
Speaking of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, animator Chuck Jones and his team were said to follow these simple rules when creating the cartoons:
1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going "meep, meep."
2. No outside force can harm the Coyote -- only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. Trains and trucks were the exception from time to time.
3. The Coyote could stop anytime -- if he were not a fanatic.
4. No dialogue ever, except "meep, meep" and yowling in pain.
5. The Road Runner must stay on the road -- for no other reason than that he's a roadrunner.
6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters -- the southwest American desert.
7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy.
9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
10. The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote.
11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Road Runner.
The rules are made only slightly less interesting by their fiction; according to Wikipedia, long-time Jones collaborator Michael Maltese said he'd never heard of the rules.
The 50 greatest cartoons MAR 27
A book written by Jerry Beck in 1994 called The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals does indeed contain a list of the 50 greatest cartoons as chosen by industry professionals. The list is filthy with Warner Bros cartoons, particularly by the recently aforementioned Chuck Jones (four of the top five are by Jones). I don't know how many are available on YouTube, but I tracked down a couple to show my 4-year-old son, Ollie: Duck Amuck and Rabbit of Seville.
By the time we were finished with Rabbit of Seville, Ollie had literally peed his pants from laughing so hard. I think I'm gonna get the Looney Tunes collection on Blu-ray so we can watch more but I'm a bit afraid of what the hijinks of Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner might do to my boy's pants.
Loren Brichter invented the "pull to refresh" interface mechanism for Tweetie, a Twitter app he eventually sold to Twitter. Apparently he patented the idea sometime before the sale, so Twitter now owns the patent.
Update: A reader pointed out that this is not a patent...it's a patent application that hasn't even been reviewed yet. But it's clearly a novel invention and most likely will be accepted when reviewed. (thx, mike)
The group in charge of the High Line in NYC is considering a permanent installation for the park by Jeff Koons. It is called Train.
Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Love it, make it happen. The NY Times has more.
"We've had a crush on the 'Train' for a while now," Mr. Hammond said in a phone interview on Monday. "To me, it looks very industrial and sculptural. The craftsmanship that went into these industrial engines is quite beautiful."
The sculpture, to be constructed of steel and carbon fiber, would weigh several tons. It would also occasionally spin its wheels, blow a horn and emit steam.
In a statement, Mr. Koons said, "The power and the dynamic of the 'Train' represents the ephemeral energy that runs through the city every day."
The slow-ass neutrino modem MAR 26
With their ability to move seamlessly through walls, rocks, lead shielding, and entire planets, neutrinos would seem like a great choice for a new method of wireless communication. Scientists at Fermilab have demonstrated sending messages via neutrino but the downside is that the slippery particles can also move seamlessly through detectors.
In the Fermilab experiment, the physicists fired a proton beam into a carbon target to produce a shower of particles called pions and kaons that quickly decay into neutrinos. For every pulse of 22.5 trillion protons, the physicists registered an average of 0.81 neutrino with the 170-ton MINERvA detector.
That translates into a data rate of 0.1 bits/second, or just slightly faster than America Online's dialup service circa 1992. (Hey, hey, if you liked that one, perhaps you'll also enjoy my impression of Dana Carvey doing George H.W. Bush.)
Nipples at the Met is a photographic collection of all the nipples on display in the permanent collection at the Met Museum in NYC.
Lionel Messi has scored 234 goals in his short career (he's only 24), making him the top goal scorer in all competitions for FC Barcelona. Here are all of them.
What strikes me about this video, aside from the crappy quality, is that the type of goals Messi scores are not generally what you see from other top scorers. Think of the booming balls of Ronaldo for instance, which may break the sound barrier on their way into the back of the net. Many of Messi's goals often don't look like much. They're chips and slow rollers and even the fast ones aren't that fast. But what's apparent in watching goal after goal of his is that what Messi lacks in pace, he more than makes up with quickness, placement, and timing. It's a bit mesmerising...I can only imagine how it feels as an opposing keeper to watch the same thing happening right in front of you. (via devour)
ps. I also enjoyed reading this piece by Simon Kuper on Barcelona's Secret to Soccer Success.
Barcelona start pressing (hunting for the ball) the instant they lose possession. That is the perfect time to press because the opposing player who has just won the ball is vulnerable. He has had to take his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception, and he has expended energy. That means he is unsighted, and probably tired. He usually needs two or three seconds to regain his vision of the field. So Barcelona try to dispossess him before he can give the ball to a better-placed teammate.
The VISTA telescope in Chile recently took a photo of the sky that contains over 200,000 galaxies. For reference, the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field image shows only about 10,000 galaxies (but sees further back in time, I think).
I've spent years studying all this, and it still sometimes gets to me: just how flipping BIG the Universe is! And this picture is still just a tiny piece of it: it's 1.2 x 1.5 degrees in size, which means it's only 0.004% of the sky! And it's not even complete: more observations of this region are planned, allowing astronomers to see even deeper yet.
Here's a full view of the image that looks sorta unimpressive:
You can download the original 17,000 x 11,000 pixel image here (250 Mb, yo) for the full effect. As a preview, this is several levels of zoom in...just a tiny part of the full image.
Bless me Father Sloan, for I have committed a radical act on the Internet. I have watched this slow motion video of ballet dancers four times and loved, yes, loved the display of precise power and grace contained therein.
And playing a remix of Radiohead's Everything in Its Right Place over the video? I think they made this just for me. (via devour)
Thanks, Aaron MAR 26
Many thanks to Aaron Cohen for holding down the fort here at kottke.org for the past week. You should check out the Mad Men recap he did for last night's episode, complete with an illustration from Chris Piascik (prints and t-shirts available).
You can also find Aaron at the helm of 2012 Boston Bacon and Beer Festival...tickets go on sale soon.
You never really quite appreciate just what a cornucopia of food alternatives exists -- just how many culinary directions you can set off in -- until a few are cut off and you're forced to re-route yourself. That's a lesson that people with celiac disease and with diabetes have learned. It's what vegetarians have long asserted. And it's what gout is teaching me. In diet books, the word "substitution" comes across as some pathetic euphemism for "sacrifice" and "compromise," a positive-spin noun born of negative circumstances. But substitution is indeed a plausible course, and not necessarily a punitive one. At breakfast, oatmeal thickened with a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter can provide the same wicked indulgence that pork sausage does. At dinnertime, chicken prepared with care and ingenuity can go a long way toward replacing lamb, and the right kind of omelet can be wholly satisfying.
James Cameron goes for a swim AARON COHEN · MAR 25
Director James Cameron is now the record holder for deepest solo dive after his submarine, "Deepsea Challenger" made it to the bottom of the Mariana Trench a couple hours ago. The sponsors of the expedition are James Cameron, Rolex, and National Geographic making me think this will turn into a film someday. Another fact which makes it seem like I'm making this all up, which I'm not, is Paul Allen is live-Tweeting the entire thing.
I've been holding on to this really amazing interactive infographic of the Mariana Trench for a long time, and now is the perfect time to share it. The deepest part of the Trench is called Challenger Deep, a name Tolkien certainly would have created if he'd ever finished his pirate adventure.
David Chang and Questlove's fried chicken battle AARON COHEN · MAR 25
4 things I'm interested in: The Roots, David Chang, fried chicken, and Twitter feuds between chefs and musicians, which is why I was so excited to see Questlove of the Roots and David Chang of Momofuku go back and forth last Wednesday. In the past, Questlove has criticized Momofuku's fried chicken game, and now that Questo's in the game himself, Chang feels a competition on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon is in order. The specifics and timing of the throwdown have not been defined, but one thing is clear, in a fried chicken battle between Questlove and David Chang there is at least one winner (wait for it): all of us.
Rules AARON COHEN · MAR 24
In the email Jason sends to guest editors, one of the rules is, "Don't embed any videos of ants trying to mate with their queen as their queen gets bit in the head by a spider." I thought it was an oddly specific rule, but, you know. Today, however, when I came upon a video of ants trying to mate with their queen as their queen gets bit in the head by a spider I felt like maybe you'd want to see it. I'm not going to embed it, because that would be breaking the rules, but here's the link because science. "A more macabre video from the insect kingdom would be hard to find".
PS The rule about not posting pictures of your cat is new as of last night.
(via Mike Davidson)
Pac-Man hiding spot AARON COHEN · MAR 24
Did you know there's a place on Pac-Man where you can hide for a bit and the ghosts won't touch you? I guess I haven't been playing too much Pac-Man lately, but I'd never heard about this. Look, if you've heard about it, keep it to yourself, thank you very much. It's Saturday night, why are you arguing with a blog post about Pac-Man? Lay off.
There are also patterns you can use on each level to easily achieve victory (check out that link for an example of Geocities chic).
Oral History of The Sopranos AARON COHEN · MAR 24
Next month's Vanity Fair has a Saturday worthy longread, an oral history of The Sopranos. It's been about 5 years since the show ended, and for the most part, the major figures have not had much to say about it. There's nothing groundbreaking, but it's good if you were a fan.
JAMES GANDOLFINI: I'm still in love with Edie. And, of course, I love my wife, but I'm in love with Edie. I don't know if I'm in love with Carmela or Edie or both. I'm in love with her.
EDIE FALCO: It was weird to sit down at a table read with the actresses playing Tony's girlfriends. Occasionally I would get a sharp twinge at the back of my neck, because, especially if I'm tired, the emotional lines would bleed into each other and I'd have to kind of keep my bearings and remember, No, no, no, this is your job, and at home you have your life. Even years later, I remember when I saw Jim in God of Carnage on Broadway, and he was Marcia Gay Harden's husband, and I had this "How come I have to be O.K. with this?" kind of feeling.
On the response to the show.
TERENCE WINTER (writer, executive producer): One F.B.I. agent told us early on that on Monday morning they would get to the F.B.I. office and all the agents would talk about The Sopranos. Then they would listen to the wiretaps from that weekend, and it was all Mob guys talking about The Sopranos, having the same conversation about the show, but always from the flip side. We would hear back that real wiseguys used to think that we had somebody on the inside. They couldn't believe how accurate the show was.
Cats and olives AARON COHEN · MAR 24
This is James, and he goes bonkers for olives. I had grand plans to pollute Kottke.org with a Friday night cat fact post about how 'olives have similar properties to catnip, and here's the science behind those properties'. Due to a dearth of accomplished cat scientists, however, I wasn't able to find any scientific basis for why some cats respond so strongly to olives. I mean, I looked at Google AND Bing, and this was the closest I got to what I was looking for. It begs the question*, given the overwhelming popularity of cats on the Internet, why are there not more experienced cat scientists producing well-trafficked cat science blogs? Hopefully this will change soon. In the meantime, at least you got a peek at James.
*One of my goals for this week was to misuse the phrase 'begs the question'. Nailed it.
Robert Howsare's Drawing Apparatus AARON COHEN · MAR 23
Robert Howsare's Drawing Apparatus attaches a Sharpie to records spinning on a record player at different revolutions. It's a good thing this video is only 1 minute 45 seconds, because I could watch it for at least 17 minutes and 6 seconds, and really who has the time?
Phil Taylor is my new favorite Brown AARON COHEN · MAR 23
Phil Taylor is a 335 pound defensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns. He is also an expert airplane troll. Seriously, some of you out there, and you know who you are, could learn a thing or two.
Click through to see the rest of the Tweets and Phil's row mate looking miserable.
Axon AARON COHEN · MAR 23
Oh, have plans this weekend? Cancel them. There are neurons to build and Axon will help you build them. I think zombies might like this game, too, because it's all about brainzzz.
(via Noah Gray)
Mad Men coming AARON COHEN · MAR 23
Season 5 of Mad Men starts on Sunday. It's been on hiatus for 12 years, and it might be hard to remember season 4 without some of the Mad Men related info linked below. With such a long break, there's been quite a bit of Mad Men news floating around. In order to cut it down a little, most of this stuff is from the last week or so. Don't try to eat it all in one sitting you'll get a stomach ache and have to sleep off your hangover on your office couch.
-Although, Matthew Weiner has asked reviewers with advanced copies of Sunday's premier not to discuss key details in their previews, such as the year this season takes place, Weiner is changing a song featured in the episode because it wasn't released until 6 months after the episode takes place. 'Look of Love' was released at the beginning of 1967 placing the episode in, or around, the summer of 1966. This is about a year after Season 4 ended. Maybe this is subterfuge?
-George Lois is still mad.
-Newsweek recently had an issue celebrating the return of Mad Men where the ads were all retro. Here are all those ads.
-The psychotherapist who consulted on Mad Men's development talks about why the characters feel so real.
Imagine if Mad Men was a Nintendo game...
Is it possible to run a marathon without training? AARON COHEN · MAR 23
And then -- it was mile 23 or 24 I think -- my forearms started cramping. I didn't even think I was using forearms. And then the crusty dried salt caking onto my face somehow got under my contacts. And my thighs had started chafing so I had to curl my shorts up inside themselves. So, in a few miles, I had gone from a runner, to a powerwalker, to this squinting blind torture victim.
Dangerously Delicious AARON COHEN · MAR 23
Aziz Ansari has released his latest comedy special as a $5 direct download from his website. I love this model. Love it. Love it. The $5 price point is so cheap. You can't get anything for $5 anymore. How do you suppose this fits into the constant GIVEMEMYGAMEOFTHRONESSOIDONTHAVETOPIRATEIT discussion? A discussion which boils down mostly to, IDONTLIKEHOWMUCHITCOSTS. (I didn't realize how much of a zealot I was about this until I was typing in call caps.)
Anyway, good on Aziz for making his special so affordable. Aziz and Louis CK are the Fugazi of comedians.
In support of the release, Ansari was on Reddit for an IAmA.
Personally, I bought the special because a Die Hard reboot with Aziz in the lead would mean a lot to me.
GQ: So you're not planning on releasing a Fast and the Furious-type action movie like this?
Aziz Ansari: That would be great. It would be great if this was so successful that I could make the money to buy the rights to Die Hard and then reboot it with me in the lead role. That would be tremendous. If enough people buy this, maybe we can do that next.
Here's the preview of the special, which you might want to watch with headphones if you're at work.
Korean tourism videos AARON COHEN · MAR 22
I can't remember where I found these, or even how long they've been in my tab attic, but these tourism videos for Seoul featuring an expert boomeranger (boomerangist?) and an expert balancer are fantastic web fodder.
Geometric pornography app rejected by Apple AARON COHEN · MAR 22
I don't want to get into a discussion about whether Apple should be rejecting apps based on morality or what not, but there's no debating the fact this app created by Luciano Foglia features the filthiest behavior any of these geometric shapes have ever been involved in. I watched it and then I needed a shower. And now I'm uncomfortable around the kitchen floor tiles.
Michael K Williams to star as Ol' Dirty Bastard in ODB movie AARON COHEN · MAR 22
OK, Internet, shut it down. We've had enough for the day. I recognize this news will be relevant and interesting to only a small percent of the Kottke population, but to those people, it is extremely and earthshatteringly relevant. Personally, my ears started ringing while reading the headline. Michael K Williams, best known for his role as Omar on The Wire, will play Ol' Dirty Bastard in an upcoming movie.
Titled Dirty White Boy, the film focuses on the offbeat friendship between the Wu-Tang Clan co-founder and Jarred Weisfeld, a 22-year-old VH1 production assistant who through a lot of hustle (and the occasional lie) talked his way into becoming the rapper's manager when Jones was serving a three-year stint in prison in the early 2000s.
5 foot penguins AARON COHEN · MAR 22
Scientists recently reconstructed the first model of the prehistoric Kairuku penguin, a species of penguin discovered 30 years ago, but not put back together until now. The Kairuku was over 5 feet tall, had slender hands, and lived for over 25 million years. To contrast, the Emperor penguin, the biggest of the penguin species, is usually around three and a half feet tall.
On a personal note, I think people should fake fear these guys as much as they fake fear clowns. A 5 foot penguin? Come on.
RIP bagel pioneer Murray Lender AARON COHEN · MAR 22
Murray Lender, the man behind the company credited with introducing most Americans to bagels has passed away. Lender, born in 1930, helped turn his father's Connecticut bakery into a national bagel powerhouse, turning out 2.75 million Lender's Bagels a day, while never forgetting his roots. A Connecticut friend mentioned Lender's used to drop off green bagels for school children on St Patrick's Day.
For you bagel purists, Murray told the AP in 1986, "Taste is a very subjective matter. It's clear and simple: We make 2 3/4 million bagels a day. Obviously an awful lot of people are happy with it." Coincidentally, Consumer Reports' May issue features a bagel breakdown which honors Lender's Bagels as one of the best. This has not gone over well in New York.
Regardless of your feelings on Lender's Bagels, we probably wouldn't even be having the bagel argument without Murray Lender.
Look at your fish AARON COHEN · MAR 22
Robin Sloan has a new app, Fish: a tap essay, discussing the difference between liking something on the Internet and loving something on the Internet. It's thoughtful and well done. And it's something you ought to check out if you spend a lot of time on sites like this one. One way or another, you'll have an opinion, the essay demands it, and Internet that makes you think is the best kind.
In the essay, Robin mentions the difference for him between what he likes and what he loves is if he keeps going back to it. Writing up this post, the last sentence of the first paragraph specifically, I think I might have realized for the first time that for me, the difference between a Tweet or post that I like or fave or star, or whatever, and one I love is if it makes me think. I might not ever visit that URL again, but I'll think about it later. Again and again, maybe. I love that. Since I'm simple, I sometimes also love, vs like, remarkable animal videos.
For her project My Pie Town, Debbie Grossman modified Depression-era photos to depict all-female families.
Joan Myers' biography of Doris Caudill (Doris is in many of the pictures), Pie Town Woman, describes her husband, Faro, as less than helpful on the homestead. I had downloaded a portrait of Doris and Faro from the Library of Congress website, and because it was so high-resolution, it occurred to me that I had enough pixels to work with that I could alter the image. I removed Faro, and I loved the opportunity to look at Doris on her own and imagine a different life for her. I thought it would be fun to remake the whole town in a way that reflected my own family, and I imagined a Pie Town filled with women.
The main reason for doing so was to give us the unusual experience of getting to see a contemporary idea of family (female married couples as parents, for example) as if it were historical. But I am also very interested in using Photoshop to create imaginary or impossible images-this is something I have done in other work as well.
John Lyke at Sugarbush AARON COHEN · MAR 21
Chris sent me this crazy technical snowboard video of John Lyke riding the rail at Sugarbush. I like it. I like that it says it's inspired by the film Drive. More snowboard videos of awesome tricks should be inspired by the film Drive.
Is there a definitive explanation as to why skate/BMX/snowboarding videos usually start with a couple scenes of someone falling down? I have a theory, but curious what you think. Let me know.
Ferran AdriÃ 's Wikipedia of food AARON COHEN · MAR 21
Though no launch date is mentioned, LaBullipedia is intended to be a "Wikipedia of high cooking with free access to all of its content". AdriÃ has talked about this idea before, but brought it up again recently during a speech at the just launched Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival.
One might find a recipe for asparagus soup. But not only will this recipe grace the site but recipes for soup made from white asparagus. Then a description of what asparagus is, the types of asparagus, the history of asparagus, other ways to cook with asparagus -- pretty much anything you could ever want to know about this vegetable will be on the site. AdriÃ didn't, however, mention when LaBullipedia will launch.
Lovely watercolor maps AARON COHEN · MAR 21
Well, now, this is gorgeous. Stamen Design overlaid watercolor textures on OpenStreetMap map tiles to show you what it would look like if your favorite watercolorist designed Google Maps.
It's fun to scroll and scroll. (via @tomcoates)
The fabulous Mimic Octopus AARON COHEN · MAR 21
The Mimic Octopus is a species of octopus
invented, discovered in 1998 off the coast of Sulawesi. Despite the video evidence to the contrary, I assume this cephalopod to be a hoax or some kind of viral marketing campaign. The Mimic Octopus protects itself from predators by mimicking other water creatures like poison sole and sea snakes. Incidentally, Poison Sole is the name of the fake death metal band I just started in my head with some of America's finest bloggers.
The Mimic Octopus has been documented mimicking 15 different species, and think about all the other species he mimics when we're not looking. Watch this video and giggle at around 1:20 when the Mimic Octopus runs across the ocean floor "looking something like a furry turkey with human legs".
Using satellites to find ancient civilizations AARON COHEN · MAR 21
Any old archaeologist can find ancient cities by looking for evidence of buildings etc, but it takes a next level Indiana Jones to use satellites. A group of archaeologists are doing just that, finding "14,000 settlement sites spanning eight millennia in 23,000 square kilometres of northeastern Syria".
The satellite-based method relies on the fact that human activity leaves a distinctive signature on the soil, called anthrosols. Formed from organic waste and decayed mud-brick architecture, anthrosols are imbued with higher levels of organic matter and have a finer texture and lighter appearance than undisturbed soil -- resulting in reflective properties that can be seen by satellites.
Menze trained software to detect the characteristic wavelengths of known anthrosols in images spanning 50 years of seasonal differences. This automation was key. "You could do this with the naked eye using Google Earth to look for sites, but this method takes the subjectivity out of it by defining spectral characteristics that bounce off of archaeological sites," says Ur.
Someone asked on Stack Overflow how one might go about finding Waldo using Mathematica and someone replied with a solution.
Barack Obama and sign language AARON COHEN · MAR 21
Last week after an event at Prince Georges Community College in Maryland, a deaf audience member named Stephon used American Sign Language to tell President Obama, 'I am proud of you,' and as you can see in the video, President Obama signed back, 'Thank you'. Hearing the crowd's response to this was pretty neat, and imagine what it must have felt like to be the audience member. To be clear, this type of engagement/recognition would be cool from any president.
The moment I will never forget was when he looked at me. He gave me a chance to talk to him. It was like he was waiting for me to say something. I took the moment and signed "I am proud of you," and his response was "Thank u" in sign language back! Oh my gosh! I was like wow! He understood me after I said I was proud of him. It was so amazing...I was just speechless.
Turn the volume down. Signing is at about :30 seconds.
(Hat tip anildash)
Rodney Mullen free style skating AARON COHEN · MAR 20
Here's Kevin Staab, Tony Hawk, and Greg Smith watching a 1983 video of free style skateboarder Rodney Mullen. "Look at him just creating modern street skating, right there". "Yeah, he goes through this run twice. I've seen this video before." The 1983 version of Tony Hawk makes an appearance at around 3:50 trying to figure out how to ride 2 boards.
Happy birthday, Big Bird AARON COHEN · MAR 20
Today being the first day of Spring, it is also Big Bird's birthday. To celebrate, the Sesame Street blog posted an interview with Big Bird creator, Caroll Spinney, who shared anecdotes from BB's life. Interestingly, Big Bird used to celebrate his 4th birthday, but since he learned how to read, he now celebrates his 6th birthday. And has for quite some time. Dude never seems to age.
Since he couldn't read or write, he was 4-years-old. By the end, he was writing little poems and stuff, so then he had to be six so he could read. He's turning six and he always turns six. His birthday came about on a calendar on the early days of the show. Someone decided he should have a birthday and I decided it should be the first day of spring.
Then Spinney brought everyone's good cheer down a notch by talking about Mr. Hooper.
They said, "Don't' you understand? Mr. Hooper has died." And I said, "Yes, well when is he coming back?" They said, "Don't you understand? Mr. Hooper is never coming back," and quickly everyone is moved to tears. It was probably the most sensitive show we have ever done. When we finished there were tears on all the actors' faces. When I came out of the suit, I had to have a towel because I had been crying.
Lastly, aside from never aging in 40+ years of birthdays, it must be weird to have a birthday on a calendar date that has changed over time. Remember when the first day of Spring was March 21st?
(via Dan Lewis who you might want to check out if you like learning a new thing everyday)
Wince-inducing colloquialisms AARON COHEN · MAR 20
Deadspin's Drew Magary recently retook the SAT as a 35 year old and wrote about it. Read the whole piece to see how he did.
But there was only one way to find out if I truly am dumber than I was 18 years ago. I had to take the SAT one more time, cold. With no preparation of any sort. And I had to do it under the exact same conditions as before: using bubble sheets, a No. 2 pencil, a standard calculator (I sold my TI-81 graphing calculator after I graduated. OOPS!). And I had to do it in the time allotted. So that's exactly what I did. I went to the College Board and printed out a sample test, then sat down and took it from beginning to end. Here now is what transpired.
The test hasn't changed too much since Magary took it the first time in 1993, though they have added a writing section and increased to 2400 the max score. Magary describes the disadvantages of taking the test after not having been in a classroom for years, and points out that all of the things that were wrong with the SAT are still wrong. To wit, the reading comprehension examples are still boring.
Jesus, that's the worst thing ever written. It's like a failed submission to The Atlantic. I bet Gregg Easterbrook has read whatever novel this comes from 50 times over and made copious notes in the margins. Would it have killed them to throw in a passage WORTH reading? Like a section from The Dirt? "When Nikki Sixx nailed that guy's ear to the floor, it was a sign that he was A.) angry, B.) surprised, C.) melancholy, D.) Batman, E.) all of the above." It wouldn't kill them to at least try to entertain kids while giving this test. It shouldn't have to be a deadly march through bland subject after bland subject. It could be humanized. It could even be lively in the right hands.
I just went looking for additional examples of taking the SAT as an adult, and apparently the experience so scarred all of us that I wasn't able to find any one else who has written about it. Not surprising.
The silence of Mike Daisey MAR 20
The long periods of silence by Mike Daisey were among the most compelling parts of the most recent episode of This American Life...you know the one. Michael Sippey edited together the silences into one glorious clip, the best audio of silence since Cage.
Reading the transcript of the Retraction episode of This American Life is one thing; listening to it is another. The most interesting bits were the silences, not only because Daisey is so clearly uncomfortable answering the questions, but also because we've been trained as radio listeners to abhor silence -- it makes *us* incredibly uncomfortable.
A book containing David Foster Wallace's previously uncollected nonfiction is due out in November.
Beloved for his epic agony, brilliantly discerning eye, and hilarious and constantly self-questioning tone, David Foster Wallace was heralded by both critics and fans as the voice of a generation. BOTH FLESH AND NOT gathers 15 essays never published in book form, including "Federer Both Flesh and Not," considered by many to be his nonfiction masterpiece; "The (As it Were) Seminal Importance of Terminator 2," which deftly dissects James Cameron's blockbuster; and "Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young," an examination of television's effect on a new generation of writers.
There are also several books about Wallace and his writings coming out over the next few months.
One Tiny Hand AARON COHEN · MAR 20
3 recent links tangentially related to The Wire AARON COHEN · MAR 20
We likes The Wire. We likes reading about The Wire.
1. Aaron Bady, of The New Inquiry, earns a 'tie-today's-story-to-The-Wire' badge by thoughtfully comparing the recent revelations about Mike Daisey's one man show to Jimmy McNulty serial killer creation in Season 5. People as a whole don't end up looking too hot when Bady is done with us.
After all, Jimmy McNulty's problem is not only that he's an unscrupulous narcissist, but that he combines that quality with a streak of good intentions, a kind of idealism and desire to do some version of the right thing. Cynics and fatalists wouldn't fall into this trap, because they've never expected the world to be different, or never imagined that they could change it.
(via e-migo @djacobs who accurately referred to the above piece of deep analysis + Apple + The Wire as #kottkebait)
2. David Simon, creator of The Wire, recently penned a story worth reading for The Baltimore Sun about the recent health issues of Baltimore cop Gene Cassidy. Cassidy was shot twice in the head, and the investigation and prosecution of this shooting is the basis for Simon's 1991 'Homicide'.
But grocery stores have not rebounded in the same way. Before the storm, there were 30 in New Orleans; today, there are 21. Most that have reopened are in wealthier neighborhoods: a Tulane University survey in 2007, the latest data available, found that nearly 60 percent of low-income residents had to travel more than three miles to reach a supermarket, though only 58 percent owned a car.
Bonus: Last week Omar Little was crowned The Wire's best character in Grantland's tournament. Jason is reportedly disconsolate. Even though he didn't make the tournament, my allegiance was to Slim Charles for that one scene. You know the one.
And a Kima update, too. Sonja Sohn recently spoke with NPR about ReWired for Change, a nonprofit she founded with Pierce and Michael K. Williams that attempts to cut down on crime with arts and mentoring programs.
This will do AARON COHEN · MAR 19
1:22 of Trey Jones riding around on a roof. And off a roof. And Misfits.
Liquid ASCII AARON COHEN · MAR 19
If it's not Scottish, it's carp AARON COHEN · MAR 19
Asian carp were imported decades ago by catfish farmers to clean out the catfish pens. These carp escaped in the great catfish escape of 1983 (previous clause is more "truth" than "fact"), and don't have enough natural predators to prevent them from multiplying rapidly. The carp are spreading so quickly, President Obama recently allocated over $50 million to eradicate them. No one in the US really noticed this move. Chinese internet users, on the other hand, memed the story out in a variety of different ways.
To understand why Chinese netizens have taken such an interest in the story, it's absolutely essential to know that the most popular dinner-table fish in seafood-crazy China is carp, bar none...Add the fact that Chinese covet wild carp -- an expensive treat compared to cheaper, more common farmed carp -- and poetry ensues.
I like the use of the word 'poetry' to describe Internet explosions.
The Free Universal Construction Kit AARON COHEN · MAR 19
The challenge facing children of the last half generation of how to connect their LEGO pieces to their Lincoln Logs to their K'Nex has been solved by The Free Universal Construction Kit and access to a 3D printer. (Did they choose the name for the acronym?) Apparently Construx have fallen so out of favor the Kit does not wish to connect them with pieces of other species. They should have made the list on the strength of this theme song alone.
Old man says: We never had this problem when playing with wooden blocks.
Back for more AARON COHEN · MAR 19
Hello, it's Aaron Cohen from Unlikely Words. Jason is out and about this week studying [Redacted] and relaxing. While knowledge and relaxation washes over him, he asked me to pitch in a couple posts. Jason will still be posting now and then, though, so fear not if you've disagreed with me in the past. (Actually, due to the recent site design, you'll only be able to tell which posts are mine if you really enjoy them or if they're 11PM EST BMX video posts.)
We're all in this together, so if you see anything wonderful, let me know.
Chirp Clock finds tweets containing the current time and displays them on the site.
Nearly every second, a user on Twitter tweets about what time it is. It could be groaning about waking up, to telling a friend when to meet, to an automated train scheduler altering when the next one is coming. By searching Twitter for the current time we get a tiny glimpse of how active and far reaching the social network is.
This American Life retracts Apple/Foxconn story orig. from Mar 16, 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.
This video shows a fourth grader trying a bigger ski jump for the first time. If you're a parent, I defy you to not tear up at least once while viewing. Oh, and the audio is essential.
#cryingatwork (via devour)
Maybe Facebook *is* good for society: teens aren't acting as crazy during Spring Break because they don't want to get caught doing inappropriate things on camera.
They are so afraid everyone is going to take their picture and put it online.
You don't want to have to defend yourself later, so you don't do it.
But spring break [in Key West] has been Facebooked into greater respectability.
"At the beach yesterday, I would put my beer can down, out of the picture every time," Ms. Sawyer said. "I do worry about Facebook. I just know I need a job eventually."
"Oh, no," she recoiled. "I'm friends with my mom on Facebook."
Facebook: Society's Self-Surveillance Network™. (via @gavinpurcell)
This American Life is retracting their popular episode about Apple and their Foxconn factories, claiming that part of the story was fabricated.
Ira also talks with Mike Daisey about why he misled This American Life during the fact-checking process. And we end the show separating fact from fiction, when it comes to Apple's manufacturing practices in China.
The audio is not available on the site yet (because the show hasn't aired yet?), and the audio for the retracted show is no longer available on their site (but you can listen to it here). Mike Daisey, the performer of the retracted piece, responds on his web site:
What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic -- not a theatrical -- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations.
I have difficult news. We've learned that Mike Daisey's story about Apple in China - which we broadcast in January - contained significant fabrications. We're retracting the story because we can't vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey's acclaimed one-man show "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.
Jump rope POV video MAR 16
Here's what jumping rope looks like from the rope's perspective:
Eating a flower gives you the power to spit fireballs. Bullets have faces. Stars make you invincible. In addtion to being video game, maybe Super Mario Bros is a surrealist masterpiece.
The guts of the new iPad MAR 15
The folks from iFixit were first in line in Melbourne, Australia to get one of the new iPads. And then they immediately took it apart. Here's what it looks like, all broken down like a hog:
Amazingly, there's almost nothing to it...it's mostly battery and screen. My kids have toys that contain more components. Makes you realize that a not-insignificant part of Apple's success is essentially 3-D puzzle solving with chips, batteries, screens, and antennas as the pieces. John Gruber calls it "a remarkable engineering accomplishment" on the part of Apple, noting:
Apple doesn't make new devices which get worse battery life than the version they're replacing, but they also don't make new devices that are thicker and heavier. LTE networking -- and, I strongly suspect, the retina display -- consume more power than do the 3G networking and non-retina display of the iPad 2. A three-way tug-of-war: 4G/LTE networking, battery life, thinness/weight. Something had to give. Thinness and weight lost: the iPad 3 gets 4G/LTE, battery life remains unchanged, and to achieve both of these Apple included a physically bigger battery, which in turn results in a new iPad that is slightly thicker (0.6 mm) and heavier (roughly 0.1 pounds/50 grams, depending on the model).
50 grams and six-tenths of a millimeter are minor compromises, but compromises they are, and they betray Apple's priorities: better to make the iPad slightly thicker and heavier than have battery life slightly suffer. And keep in mind that the new iPad 3 remains far thinner and lighter than the original iPad.
A seemingly innocuous question: What do all the controls in an airplane cockpit do? When he saw this question posted to Quora, pilot Tim Morgan posted a 9000-word essay on how modern airplanes work, including, yes, what all those little cockpit dials and knobs do.
Every airplane is different. Unlike learning to drive a car, you can't just hop from one plane to another. A pilot needs familiarization (and in some cases, a whole new type of license) to fly a different kind of plane. Some are piston-powered; some are jet-powered. Some have electrically-driven controls; some are hydraulically-driven. Some have emergency oxygen; some don't. And so on. All the switches, dials, and knobs in the cockpit control the various aircraft systems, and every aircraft has different systems.
Megan Garber wrote a behind-the-scenes piece about Morgan's answer for The Atlantic.
Morgan says, "I took the time to go over it again and verify that everything was correct. I used an operations manual from a 737 simulator to check my facts." And "in the end it was a very personally rewarding experience, because I had had the operations manual lying around and had been meaning to really study it, and now I finally had my excuse."
So answering the Quora question was as much about learning as it was about sharing. And as for Morgan's overall motivation? "I can tell you with certainty that it is related to my pathological interest in aircraft," he says, "and in general a love to write and share knowledge."
You've likely seen other videos taken from cameras attached to the Space Shuttle and its boosters, but this is one is exceptional in two regards: it's in HD and the sound has been remastered by Skywalker Sound.
Watch, and more importantly, listen to the whole thing...at the very end, you can see the second booster land a few hundred yards away from the first one. Who knew that being in space sounds like being trapped with a whale underwater in a tin pail? (via ★mouser)
Driverless cars is the type of innovation that may have unanticipated consequences. Sure, you can read Twitter while you're being spirited around by your robotic car, but driverless cars may also end private car ownership. And what will intersections look like when used exclusively by driverless cars? Perhaps a little like this:
"There would be an intersection manager," Stone says, "an autonomous agent directing traffic at a much finer-grain scale than just a red light for one direction and a green light for another direction."
Because of this, we won't need traffic lights at all (or stop signs, for that matter). Traffic will constantly flow, and at a rate that would probably unnerve the average human driver.
I wonder how people will abuse or have fun with driverless cars. Driver- and passenger-less car joyrides? Will they be hackable and if so, dangerous?
Tron dance party MAR 15
A dance crew performs while wearing Tron-like outfits in total darkness. It's like a wearable laser light show.
For her yearly month-long project at Slate, Annie Lowrey wanted to learn how to code. She picked Ruby and became interested in the story of _why, the mysterious Ruby hacker who disappeared suddenly in 2009. In a long article at Slate, Lowrey shares her experience learning to program and, oh, by the way, tracks down _why. Sort of.
The pickaxe book first shows you how to install Ruby on your computer. (That leads to a strange ontological question: Is a programming language a program? Basically, yes. You can download it from the Internet so that your computer will know how to speak it.)
Then the pickaxe book moves on to stuff like this: "Ruby is a genuine object-oriented language. Everything you manipulate is an object, and the results of those manipulations are themselves objects. However, many languages make the same claim, and their users often have a different interpretation of what object-oriented means and a different terminology for the concepts they employ."
Programming manual, or Derrida? As I pressed on, it got little better. Nearly every page required aggressive Googling, followed by dull confusion. The vocabulary alone proved huge and complex. Strings! Arrays! Objects! Variables! Interactive shells! I kind of got it, I would promise myself. But the next morning, I had retained nothing. Ruby remained little more than Greek to me.
Birds can detect the magnetic field of the Earth, which gives them an incredible sense of direction. Curiously, this sense of direction doesn't work in darkness. This led scientists to discover that some birds can actually see the directions overlaid on their normal vision, like a heads-up display.
According to the new model, when a photon of light from the Sun is absorbed by a special molecule in the bird's eye, it can cause an electron to be kicked from its normal state into an alternative location a few nanometres away. Until the electron eventually relaxes back, it creates an 'electric dipole field' which can augment the bird's vision - for example altering colours or brightness.
Crucially, the alignment of the molecule compared to the Earth's magnetic field controls the time it takes for the electron to relax back, and so controls the strength of the effect on the bird's vision.
There are many such molecules spread throughout the eye, with different orientations. So from the patterns on top of its vision, and the change of these patterns as it moves its head, the bird learns about the direction of Earth's magnetic field.
The first episode of the second season of Put This On is out (as funded on Kickstarter). The episode takes place in NYC and features a segment on Lo Heads, a subculture of Polo Ralph Lauren enthusiasts.
With roots in 1980s street gangs, these Polo Ralph Lauren enthusiasts have made "aspirational apparel" a lifestyle. They once had to boost their Polo from stores and fight to keep it on the streets. Today, their culture is worldwide, promulgated by hip-hop. Their hero is Ralph Lauren -- a working class New Yorker who understood that the fantastical power of style can be transformative. Dallas Penn from The Internets Celebrities, a dedicated Lo Head (and former member of the Decepts crew) with a collection of over 1000 pieces of Polo apparel takes us on a tour of this remarkable fashion subculture.
How to draw Bugs Bunny MAR 14
Watch as legendary animator Chuck Jones draws Bugs Bunny, one of the many characters he helped create during his long career.
It's amazing how the drawing looks nothing like a rabbit and then with a few quick strokes, he draws those cheeks and, boom, there's Bugs. You can also watch Jones draw Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, Pepe le Pew, and Daffy Duck. These are fascinating. (via ★interesting)
There seems to be something in the air. Within the last day or so, three ex-employees have written about why their feelings have changed about three formerly beloved companies. James Whittaker recently left Google:
The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus. [...] Suddenly, 20% meant half-assed. Google Labs was shut down. App Engine fees were raised. APIs that had been free for years were deprecated or provided for a fee. As the trappings of entrepreneurship were dismantled, derisive talk of the "old Google" and its feeble attempts at competing with Facebook surfaced to justify a "new Google" that promised "more wood behind fewer arrows."
The days of old Google hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future was gone. The new Google knew beyond doubt what the future should look like. Employees had gotten it wrong and corporate intervention would set it right again.
The whole thing is worth a read, what with damning phrases like "social isn't a product, social is people and the people are on Facebook" sprinkled liberally about.
In the NY Times this morning, Greg Smith writes that it's his last day at Goldman Sachs after almost 12 years at the firm.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world's largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs's success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients' trust for 143 years. It wasn't just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
There's that saying: "If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold." Google's product has always been the people using their products and it sounds like Goldman has made a sizable shift in that direction.
Andy Baio hasn't worked for Yahoo for several years, but after the company announced they were filing a patent-infringement lawsuit against Facebook, Baio wrote of his displeasure about the move at Wired.
Yahoo's lawsuit against Facebook is an insult to the talented engineers who filed patents with the understanding they wouldn't be used for evil. Betraying that trust won't be forgotten, but I doubt it matters anymore. Nobody I know wants to work for a company like that.
I'm embarrassed by the patents I filed, but I've learned from my mistake. I'll never file a software patent again, and I urge you to do the same.
For years, Yahoo was mostly harmless. Management foibles and executive shuffles only hurt shareholders and employee morale. But in the last few years, the company's incompetence has begun to hurt the rest of us. First, with the wholesale destruction of internet history, and now by attacking younger, smarter companies.
Yahoo tried and failed, over and over again, to build a social network that people would love and use. Unable to innovate, Yahoo is falling back to the last resort of a desperate, dying company: litigation as a business model.
Yahoo seems to be in a different stage in its lifecycle than Google or Goldman. In the mid-to-late 2000s, they tried what Google is trying now and failed and now, as Baio notes, they are trying everything they can to survive, like the T-1000 writhing in the molten steel at the end of Terminator 2. Perhaps a harbinger of things to come for Google and Goldman?
Rhett Allain from Wired asked and then answered, "could you build a scale Lego model of the Death Star?" Using the scale of the Lego people as a guide, Allain estimated that the Lego Death Star would be much taller than the world's tallest buildings and weigh more than 2 billions tons. My favorite bit: a visual of what the Lego Death Star would look like in low earth orbit. "That's no moon" indeed. (via @educurate)
In an afterword written for a new edition of his 2001 book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser laments that little has changed but is heartened that people are at least aware of and talking about the problem now. The Daily Beast has the full afterword:
Every day about 65 million people eat at a McDonald's restaurant somewhere in the world, more than ever before. The annual revenues of America's fast-food industry, adjusted for inflation, have risen by about 20 percent since 2001. The number of fast-food ads aimed at American children has greatly increased as well. The typical preschooler now sees about three fast-food ads on television every day. The typical teenager sees about five. The endless barrage of ads, toys, contests, and marketing gimmicks has fueled not only fast-food sales, but also a wide range of diet-related illnesses. About two thirds of the adults in the United States are obese or overweight. The obesity rate among preschoolers has doubled in the past 30 years. The rate among children aged 6 to 11 has tripled. And by some odd coincidence, the annual cost of the nation's obesity epidemic -- about $168 billion, as calculated by researchers at Emory University -- is the same as the amount of money Americans spent on fast food in 2011.
In a 1935 piece for Esquire magazine entitled Remembering Shooting-Flying: A Key West Letter, Ernest Hemingway listed seventeen books that were among his favorites. They were so dear to him that he would rather read any of them for the first time again than have a yearly income of a million dollars. (That's about $16.5 million/year in today's dollars.) Here's the actual passage from the article:
When you have been lucky in your life you find that just about the time the best of the books run out (and I would rather read again for the first time Anna Karenina, Far Away and Long Ago, Buddenbrooks, Wuthering Heights, Madame Bovary, War and Peace, A Sportsman's Sketches, The Brothers Karamozov, Hail and Farewell, Huckleberry Finn, Winesburg, Ohio, La Reine Margot, La Maison Tellier, Le Rouge et le Noire, La Chartreuse de Parme, Dubliners, Yeats's Autobiographies and a few others than have an assured income of a million dollars a year) you have a lot of damned fine things that you can remember. Then when the time is over in which you have done the things that you can now remember, and while you are doing other things, you find you can read the books again, and, always, there are a few, a very few, good new ones. Last year there was La Condition Humaine by Andre Malraux. It was translated, I do not know how well, as Man's Fate, and sometimes it is as good as Stendhal and that is something no prose writer has been in France for over fifty years.
But this is supposed to be about shooting, not about books, although some of the best shooting I remember was in Tolstoi and I have often wondered how the snipe fly in Russia now and whether shooting pheasants is counter-revolutionary. When you have loved three things all your life, from the earliest you can remember; to fish, to shoot and, later, to read; and when, all your life, the necessity to write has been your master, you learn to remember and, when you think back, you remember more fishing and shooting and reading than anything else and that is a pleasure.
The world's heaviest baby MAR 13
Ten Stone Baby is a British Pathe newsreel from 1935 that shows three-year-old Leslie Downes, a child so heavy that he is unable to walk. The video quickly turns surreal with the chipper atta-boy tone of the announcer playing while the boy scrambles for a chocolate bar that someone is dangling over his head.
Not sure what, but this is a metaphor for something.
Casey Neistat tries to steal his own bike in several locations around NYC and finds it's pretty easy...even if you're doing so right in front of a police station.
I recently spent a couple of days conducting a bike theft experiment, which I first tried with my brother Van in 2005. I locked my own bike up and then proceeded to steal it, using brazen means -- like a giant crowbar -- in audacious locations, including directly in front of a police station. I wanted to find out whether onlookers or the cops would intervene. What you see here in my film are the results.
Exploding iceberg MAR 13
The people who shot this video claim the iceberg exploded but it looks more like the collapsing ice caused the air and water to shoot out of that hole suddenly. Still cool though.
How Ya Livin' Biggie Smalls? MAR 12
Friday was the 15th anniversary of the death of The Notorious B.I.G. The Fader has a look back at the life of Biggie, as told through pictures of the places he went and the people he knew.
I started working with Big in '91. I was 21, he was 15. I met him through a friend of mine. They hustled together on Bedford and Quincy. People in the neighborhood knew him as the hottest rapper around. Everybody that stepped in his path, he ate 'em up. He earned that stripe from that one battle he had on Bedford and Quincy. I was the one that was playing the music. This man used to live right upstairs from the pool room. Every day in the summer we'd play the music out. It just so happened that Big came around, so we brought the grill out, we brought the music out. They got on the mic and went at it. It went on from there. Cars stopped, it got real crowded out there. We rocked it 'til 12, one o'clock that night. It was a good look. Everybody that came at his back, he took out.
Biggie would have turned 40 this year.
According to Peter Sciretta at Slashfilm, Topher Grace has made an 85-minute cut of Star Wars episodes I, II, and III where Jar Jar appears only briefly, midichlorians are not mentioned, and Jake Lloyd is not seen or heard from.
Whats most shocking is that with only 85 minutes of footage, Topher was able to completely tell the main narrative of Anakin Skywalker's road from Jedi to the Sith. While I know the missing pieces and could even fill in the blanks in my head as the film raced past, none of those points were really needed. Whats better is that the character motivations are even more clear and identifiable, a real character arc not bogged down by podraces, galactic senates, Jar Jar Binks, politics or most of the needless parts of the Star Wars prequels. It not only clarifies the story, but makes the film a lot more action-packed.
Sadly, it was a one-time screening for friends. (via ★interesting links)
Homeless people have been enlisted to roam the streets wearing T-shirts that say "I am a 4G hotspot." Passersby can pay what they wish to get online via the 4G-to-Wi-Fi device that the person is carrying. It is a neat idea on a practical level, but also a little dystopian. When the infrastructure fails us... we turn human beings into infrastructure?
The Tournament of Books, The Morning News' annual fiction competition, has begun. If you like books and the NCAA basketball tournament, this is pretty much your thing.
This is your classic "boy meets girl, boy and girl go back to her place, and he breaks his penis having sex" story. It also might be the best medical love story you'll read all month.
Somehow the conversation turns to Margaret Thatcher. Somehow Margaret Thatcher becomes a recurring topic. Somehow Margaret Thatcher becomes our go-to sexual depressant. Somehow Margaret Thatcher ends up sitting naked on a suburban fence, legs swinging and twirling a top hat. Occasionally Reagan makes an appearance, too. There's a lot of glitter involved. I invoke the former Prime Minister whenever I need to cool off. For emergency purposes only.
Also from The Awl, A Treasury of the World's Worst Online Dating Stories. Warning, contains doozies.
The Spanx billionaire MAR 09
Sara Blakely is one of the few women who has joined the Forbes Billionaires list without help from a spouse or an inheritance. She came up with the idea for Spanx and spent two years and $5000 developing it and the $1 billion company it would become.
Blakely, then 27, moved to Atlanta, set aside her entire $5,000 savings and spent the next two years meticulously planning the launch of her product while working nine to five at Danka. She spent seven nights straight at the Georgia Tech library researching every hosiery patent ever filed. She visited craft stores like Michaels to find the right fabrics. She sought out hosiery mills in the Yellow Pages and started cold calling, only to be told no repeatedly. Immune to rejection thanks to years selling door-to-door, she decided just to show up. At the Acme-McCrary hosiery factory in Asheboro, N.C., she was turned away, only to receive a call from the manager two weeks later. He had daughters, he told her, who wouldn't let him pass up her invention.
François Vautier installed an ant colony in his scanner and scanned it each week for five years. This is the resulting time lapse video:
Five years ago, I installed an ant colony inside my old scanner that allowed me to scan in high definition this ever evolving microcosm (animal, vegetable and mineral). The resulting clip is a close-up examination of how these tiny beings live in this unique ant farm. I observed how decay and corrosion slowly but surely invaded the internal organs of the scanner. Nature gradually takes hold of this completely synthetic environment.
Over at McSweeney's, River Clegg writes about how happy he will be when he buys the next thing coming out soon.
It's really cool. They just started making it and not many people have one yet. It does all sorts of stuff and can fit in my pocket, but it can also get bigger than that if I want it to. Plus it's made by a company I trust to put out things that will make me happy.
(Not that I wouldn't consider buying this thing even if it weren't made by a familiar company-that's how cool this thing is-but the fact that I know and trust the company makes it even better.)
iHave no iDea what he might be referring to. (★interesting links)
Martian twister MAR 08
On a recent pass, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught this dust devil dancing its way across the surface of Mars.
The active dust devil displays a delicate arc produced by a westerly breeze partway up its height. The dust plume is about 30 yards or meters in diameter.
The image was taken during the time of Martian year when that planet is farthest from the sun. Just as on Earth, winds on Mars are powered by solar heating. Exposure to the sun's rays declines during this season, yet even now, dust devils act relentlessly to clean the surface of freshly deposited dust, a little at a time.
Dust devils occur on Earth as well as on Mars. They are spinning columns of air, made visible by the dust they pull off the ground. Unlike a tornado, a dust devil typically forms on a clear day when the ground is heated by the sun, warming the air just above the ground. As heated air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler air above it, the air may begin to rotate, if conditions are just right.
This is the Buzludzha monument in Bulgaria, built in 1981 in honor of Communism. After Bulgaria turned away from Communism in 1989, it fell to ruin.
I first heard about the Buzludzha monument (pronounced Buz'ol'ja) last summer when I was attending a photo festival in Bulgaria. Alongside me judging a photography competition was Alexander Ivanov, a Bulgarian photographer who had gained national notoriety after spending the last 10 years shooting 'Bulgaria from the Air'. Back then he showed me some pictures of what looked to me like a cross between a flying saucer and Doctor Evil's hideout perched atop a glorious mountain range.
Holga digital camera concept MAR 07
The Holga is a cheap toy camera with a simple lens that takes pictures prized by some for their happy accidents (light leaks, distortions, etc.). The Holga D is a concept that translates the Holga experience to digital.
From the front it may look like just another digital camera, may be a bit minimal, but the backside is surprising, as it does not have a display!
Even though Holga D is a digital camera, in order to achieve its simplicity, it reduces the feature set to absolute minimum.
Even the display is not there! So your photographs remain mysterious until you download the images. This makes the experience quite similar to the good old film based cameras.
(via buzzfeed fwd)
MOAR Higgs boson evidence MAR 07
The NY Times is reporting that a data bump "smells like the Higgs boson". The odor is emanating not from CERN in Europe but from Fermilab near Chicago, where their Tevatron still flings some pretty fast particles.
"Based on the current Tevatron data and results compiled through December 2011 by other experiments, this is the strongest hint of the existence of a Higgs boson," said the report, which will be presented on Wednesday by Wade Fisher of Michigan State University to a physics conference in La Thuile, Italy.
None of these results, either singly or collectively, are strong enough for scientists to claim victory. But the recent run of reports has encouraged them to think that the elusive particle, which is the key to mass and diversity in the universe, is within sight, perhaps as soon as this summer.
Update: The Tevatron is no longer flinging, having been shut down in 2011 due to budget cuts. Which makes the Higgs discovery a little bittersweet, to say the least. (thx, miles)
Space always seems so far away and much of it actually is. But space is actually quite close to where we are all sitting right now. The Kármán line, the commonly accepted boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and space, is only 62 miles above sea level.
The line was named after Theodore von Kármán, (1881-1963) a Hungarian-American engineer and physicist who was active primarily in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics. He first calculated that around this altitude the Earth's atmosphere becomes too thin for aeronautical purposes (because any vehicle at this altitude would have to travel faster than orbital velocity in order to derive sufficient aerodynamic lift from the atmosphere to support itself). Also, there is an abrupt increase in atmospheric temperature and interaction with solar radiation.
A distance of 62 miles can covered by a car on the interstate in less than an hour. Stable Earth orbits are achievable at only 100 miles above the Earth, with the ISS and Space Shuttles usually orbiting at a height of ~200 miles. To show how small a distance that really is, I made the following image...the orange line in the upper left represents 200 miles away from the surface.
Despite my half-hearted and shameless plea on Twitter for an invite to Apple's product announcement, I am sitting at my desk in NYC today, sucking on lemons. Lemonade tastes better, so to that end I will be blogging the liveblogs blogging the announcement. Blog, bloggy, blog, blogggggggggggggg. Bla. Guh.
The thing starts at 1pm ET, so come back then for the only mostly dead Apple liveblog set in Hoefler & Frere-Jones' lovely Whitney ScreenSmart typeface. Can you beat that, Gizmodo or GDGT or Ars Technica or Engadget or The Verge or Macworld?
As a teaser, I'd like to offer the world's worst prediction for today's event: Apple announces the iPhone 5. Could you imagine though? After Apple declined the version number bump with the introduction of the 4S, what would a device need to do to warrant it? A fusion energy source? Teleportation? A camera that sees into the future? My money's on a built-in quadrotor system so that your phone could autonomously run errands for you or spy on your enemies.
Update: Notes will appear here, newest at the top.
The event is over. Thanks for joining me. I miss "one more thing". :(
So Apple has now used "iPod classic" and "new iPad" for product names. Uh, New Coke?
They are keeping the iPad 2 on sale. $399 for 16 GB Wifi model.
They *still* haven't told us the name of the new iPad. Is it just iPad? No 3 or 2S or HD or whatever?
John Gruber: "iPhoto looks brilliant."
The Colts released Peyton Manning. This doesn't make sense to me.
iPhoto for iPad. Photo editing, effects, photo-beaming, and "photo journals". $4.99, available today.
iMovie for iPad looks nice...edit 1080p video right on the camera. The trend in devices has always been towards smaller...will the capabilities of the iPad-sized touchscreen make them bigger again?
Henry Birdseye: "I'm waiting for a keynote where Apple says, 'We don't have a new, magical iPad for you. The magic was inside you all along. Now go outside.'"
"This new device has more memory and higher screen resolution than an Xbox 360 or PS3." Your company? There's an app for that.
The blurry photos taken at the event by the various livebloggers aren't really doing justice to the new iPad's retina display. That looks....great?
The stock market is reacting violently to Apple's news...AAPL is up over 0.06% on the news. Whoa!
App demos. Zzzzzzzz..... Give us more things we can say in words. Words!!
Robin Sloan is in the future, live-tweeting the iPad 8 launch. "Cook listing all the ways people use iPads today: reading, faceblasting, watching 3DHD, drone control, genome browsing, etc. Boring..."
New iPad starts at $499 and it costs the same as the iPad 2 does now. Pre-orders available today, shipping on March 16.
Mike Monteiro: "I bet Schiller looks awesome in HD. You can SEE the individual meals!"
4G LTE. Whatever that means. Fast mobile network I guess. Lots of megaflops per hectare or something. Weird bit of acronym soup from Apple who usually eschews such nonsense.
You can talk to the iPad and it will write down what you said. Not quite Siri I guess?
New iPad will have the same camera as the iPhone 4S. With 1080p video recording.
And they are announcing the newest version of this iPad, which shall remain nameless for now (slide says "The new iPad"). It has a retina display. (Surprise!)
Apparently Apple makes a product called the iPad. Interesting.
iCloud will sync movies. iTunes supports 1080p. New Apple TV (just a box, not a whole TV...at least not yet). $99, available March 16.
iOS 5.1 will be out today.
The Art of the Title has an interview with David Fincher, creative director Tim Miller, and designer Neil Kellerhouse about the opening title sequence of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
We were exploring things like, 'How shiny should the skin be? How visceral and uncomfortable can we make it? How abstract can we get? Is that a flower? Is it a vagina?' -- that sort of thing.
During David's visits to the studio we would brace for impact, because he has a reputation for being incredibly picky. The first time I met him, I asked one of his friends, 'How picky is David?' And he said, 'You've heard of pixel fuckers? Well David breaks each pixel down to its separate RGB components and fucks them one at a time.' So there was some fear every time we would send something in, but 99% of the time we were just told to keep going.
Flesh and blood cheetahs are the fastest land animals, capable of traveling at more than 70 mph for shorts periods of time. This robotic cheetah can only do 18 mph but could probably go forever and ever until everything on the Earth has been caught and consumed by its steely jaws.
For reference, Usain Bolt's average speed over 100 meters is ~23 mph, so at least he's safe...for a little while. (via ★interesting)
Update: Another team working at MIT has built a robotic cheetah that can leap over obstacles on the run.
No word on how the team working on the robotic cheetah that can rip bloody human flesh from the bone is coming along.
I swear this is totally not made up: Ultimate Tak Ball is an indoor sport wherein you try to deposit a large soccer ball into a goal while the other team tries to stop you with stun guns. As in, you're running along and then the defender tasers you:
The violin maker MAR 06
Short video profile of Sam Zygmuntowicz, a Brooklyn violin maker.
I like the robotic violin player that appears around 2:15, presumably used to test a violin's sound characteristics. (via ★interesting)
When Stefani Germanotta was working as a waitress in the West Village in the summer of 2005 (anyone know where?), her coworker Malgorzata Saniewska shot a series of photos of her at Germanotta's parents' apartment.
A year or two later, Germanotta became Lady Gaga.
You've seen the now-famous Keep Calm and Carry On poster and its many many variations, but did you know that this British WWII poster was never distributed to the public and was discovered only recently in an English book shop?
That is the question that Grantland is attempting to answer with a NCAA-style tournament bracket.
Did we mention that our esteemed editor-in-chief hung out with President Obama last week? Because that totally happened. Just two regular guys, discussing Linsanity, Blake Griffin's jump shot, what it's like to pitch a baseball while wearing a bulletproof vest, and -- as the conversation wound down -- The Wire. Asked to name the greatest Wire character of all time (let it never be said that Grantland does not ask the tough questions!), the Commander in Chief didn't hesitate: "It's gotta be Omar, right? I mean, that guy is unbelievable, right?"
With respect to the President, Omar is the most overrated character on The Wire. I mean, I love Omar. I do. He is everyone's favorite character and easy to love because he's one of the show's most manufactured characters. Gay, doesn't swear, strong sense of morals, robs drug dealers, respected/feared by all...come on, all that doesn't just get rolled up into one person like that. The Wire aspires to be more than just mere television, but when Omar is on the screen, it's difficult for me to take the show as seriously as it wants me to.
People who are struck by lightning are sometimes left with tattoo-like markings called Lichtenberg figures or lightning flowers. This guy was out tending to his garden when he was struck and left tattooed, Potter-like.
Victorian Star Trek MAR 05
Your favorite Star Trek characters, all daguerreotyped up.
By the same guy, I also really like this Reservoir Dogs take:
If you're actually reading this on the site and not in RSS (guys, come on in from the cold, don't be shy), you'll already have noticed that I changed the "look and feel" of the site. In doing the design, I focused on three things: simplicity, the reading/viewing experience, and sharing.
Simplicity. kottke.org has always been relatively spare, but this time around I left in only what was necessary. Posts have a title, a publish date, text, and some sharing buttons (more on those in a bit). Tags got pushed to the individual archive page and posts are uncredited (just like the Economist!). In the sidebar that appears on every page, there are three navigation links (home, about, and archives), other ways to follow the site (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), and an ad and job board posting, to pay the bills. There isn't even really a title on the page...that's what the <title> is for, right? Gone also is the blue border, which I liked but was always a bit of a pain in the ass.
Reading/viewing experience. I made the reading column wider (640px) for bigger photos & video embeds and increased the type size for easier reading. But the biggest and most exciting change is using Whitney ScreenSmart for the display font, provided by Hoefler & Frere-Jones' long-awaited web font service, which is currently in private beta. Whitney SSm is designed especially for display in web browsers and really pushes the site's design & readability to a higher level. Many thanks to Jonathan and his web fonts team for letting me kick their tires. I believe that kottke.org is one of only two sites on the entire Internet currently using H&FJ's web fonts...the other is by some guy who currently lives in a white house near Maryland. Barnaby something...
The reading experience on mobile devices has also been improved. The text was formerly too small to read, the blue border was a pain in the ass (especially since the upgrade to iOS 5 on the iPhone & iPad changed how the border was displayed when zoomed), and the mobile version was poorly advertised. The site now uses the same HTML and CSS to serve appropriate versions to different browsers on different hardware using some very rudimentary responsive design techniques. Whitney ScreenSmart helps out here too...it looks freaking AMAZING on the iPhone 4S's retina display. Really, you should go look. And then zoom in a bunch on some text. Crazy, right?
Sharing. I've always thought of kottke.org as a place where people come to find interesting things to read and look at, and design has always been crafted with that as the priority. A few months ago, I read an interview with Jonah Peretti about what BuzzFeed is up to and he said something that stuck with me: people don't just come to BuzzFeed to look at things, they come to find stuff to share with their friends. As I thought about it, I realized that's true of kottke.org as well...and I haven't been doing a good enough job of making it easy for people to do.
So this new design has a few more sharing options. Accompanying each post is a Twitter tweet button and a Facebook like button. Links to posts are pushed out to Twitter, Facebook, and RSS where they can be easily shared with friends, followers, and spambots. I've also created a mirror of kottke.org on Tumblr so you can read and share posts right in your dashboard. I've chosen just these few options because I don't want a pile of sharing crap attached to each post and I know that kottke.org readers actually use and like Twitter, Tumblr, and even Facebook.
So that's it. I hope you like it. Not every page on the site has the new design yet, but I'm getting there. For reference, here's what the site has looked like in the past. Comments, questions, criticisms, and bug reports are always welcome.
Well, not quite. But the specifications are quite impressive:
The headline specifications are a new 22.3 Megapixel full-frame sensor with 100-25600 ISO sensitivity (expandable to 102,400 ISO), 1080p video at 24, 25 or 30fps and 720p at 50 or 60fps, a 61-point AF system (with 41 cross-type sensors), 6fps continuous shooting, a viewfinder with 100% coverage, 3.2in screen with 1040k resolution, 63-zone iCFL metering, three, five or seven frame bracketing, a new three-frame HDR mode, microphone and headphone jacks and twin memory card slots, one for Compact Flash, the other for SD; the control layout has also been adjusted and the build slightly improved. So while the resolution and video specs remain similar to its predecessor, the continuous shooting speed, AF system, viewfinder, screen and build are all improved, and again there's the bonus of twin card slots.
DP Review and the Verge also have reviews and it's available for preorder on Amazon for, whoa, $3500 (the kit lens is $800 more)..
Eugene Atget at MoMA MAR 01
ps. And Cindy Sherman!
What you may have heard: This new kind of camera from Lytro allows you to take pictures without worrying about focusing until after the photos have been taken.
What's totally cool that I didn't know until this morning when I followed a link to Heather Champ's Lytro photos: you can focus and refocus the photos on Lytro's web site as much as you want. What a fun thing! Try it out with Heather's photos or Lytro's default picture gallery.