Entries for April 2012 (May 2012 »    June 2012 »    July 2012 »    Archives)

 

Welcome to the NFL, here's your new lifeAPR 30

Former NFL player Nate Jackson writes an open letter to future top NFL draft picks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III about how their lives are going to change.

After negotiating your contracts, you both will surely buy a house in an affluent suburb where no 22-year-old would be happy living. Your new neighbors will be rich as well, facelifted, lipo-sucked, Xanaxed and dripping in diamonds, simply delighted to welcome you to the neighborhood. You will commission an interior decorator, recommended by a neighbor, to furnish your home. This will guarantee it feels nothing like Home. And someday, when all of this is over, you'll walk through and gaze upon the marble columns and the embroidered drapes like artifacts in a museum, wondering why you ever listened to that woman.

A fine companion to this letter from former NFL player Trevor Pryce.

Where to eat in NYC?APR 30

Dozens of books have been written on this topic but for the less obsessive visitor to NYC, Serious Eats' Carey Jones has written an excellent guide to where to eat when you come to NYC. The guide is arranged along a number of different vectors like "on the cheap", "I'll go anywhere", and "five-star chefs, three-star prices". Here's the "with kids" section:

It's sad but true that plenty of New York restaurants will raise an eyebrow if you bring in the kids. But plenty won't! Consider spacious, friendly Coppelia downtown (Latin fare) or Kefi uptown (Greek) for great food that's inexpensive for a sit-down spot and has enough simpler options that there will be something for picky eaters. The next morning, take the kids to Doughnut Plant (if you're willing to sacrifice the notion of a balanced breakfast) for all sorts of flavors they'll stare at wide-eyed. PB-loving kids will love Peanut Butter and Company for lunch, where they can get their favorite sandwich in a dozen ways. Other good options include Shake Shack for burgers or Bark for hot dogs, if you're out in Park Slope.

If you need a snack uptown, the gigantic chocolate chip cookies at Levain should do the trick (take note: these are big enough to share). Kefi's a logical choice nearby for dinner, but if you find yourself downtown, consider Mario Batali's Otto, where parents will appreciate the sophistication and kids will love the huge plates of pasta. (Try to make a reservation as waits can be long, which might not be good with tired kids.)

If there was a "Jason shortlist" category, I would include Ssam Bar, Shake Shack, Gramercy Tavern, Marea, Per Se, Mendy's (chix salad sandwich), Katz's, Ma Peche, Spotted Pig, Fedora, Joseph Leonard, Parm, Despana, Xi'an Famous Foods, Colicchio and Sons, Tia Pol, The Modern Bar Room, Pastis, Patsy's, Morandi, Murray's Cheese Shop, Hill Country Chix, Grey Dog, Nice Green Bo, Peter Luger, Keen's, Artisinal, Bouchon Bakery, Burger Joint, and The Beagle. Ok, not such a short list and I'm sure I forgot some of my favorites. (via @anildash)

Apple should buy Square and FoursquareAPR 30

Huh, this is an interesting idea: Apple should acquire both Foursquare and Square.

To summarize: after the deal, Apple will immediately become a giant payments company, with an installation base that is expected to encompass half of all mobile devices sold. The company will have the best local search abilities, far exceeding any existing recommendation engine. And due to its enormous reach, it will possess a payment system that merchants will line up to support.

Cockney rhyming slang ATMAPR 30

A number of banking machines in London offer Cockney rhyming slang as a language option. Operating the machine is simple...just insert your barrel of lard and punch in your Huckleberry Finn to get your sausage and mash.

Cockney ATM

The company has also been responsible for introducing cash machines which only dispense £5 notes -- fivers as they are colloquially named or Lady Godivas in cockney.

It also allows people to withdraw a pony -- which is £25 to non-cockney folk.

"I was talking to Andrew Bailey, the chief cashier of the Bank of England, and he said they were trying to get more £5 notes into circulation," Mr Delnevo reflects.

He came up with the idea that, rather than putting £5 notes in as one choice, it would be better to have £5-note only cash machines.

"We were getting to the state where we were a £20 note society - handing over £20 for an item which cost £4.50 and handed back enough metal to act as an anchor for the aircraft carrier Ark Royal," he says.

See also ATMs in Latin. (via @nrturner)

The bootlegging veteranAPR 30

Hyman Strachman is one of the biggest bootleggers of Hollywood movies. He's also 92 years old, a WWII veteran, and gives his movies away to American troops serving overseas.

"Big Hy" -- his handle among many loyal customers -- would almost certainly be cast as Hollywood Enemy No. 1 but for a few details. He is actually Hyman Strachman, a 92-year-old, 5-foot-5 World War II veteran trying to stay busy after the death of his wife. And he has sent every one of his copied DVDs, almost 4,000 boxes of them to date, free to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With the United States military presence in those regions dwindling, Big Hy Strachman will live on in many soldiers' hearts as one of the war's more shadowy heroes.

"It's not the right thing to do, but I did it," Mr. Strachman said, acknowledging that his actions violated copyright law.

A tale of two RockefellersAPR 30

New essay from Errol Morris in the NY Times, What's in a Name? In it, he talks about the two Rockefellers that appeared in the newspapers a few years ago...one an imposter and one real.

Clearly, the name was also responsible for the attention he was getting in the newspaper. Clark is not just any impostor; he is a Rockefeller impostor. And as such he becomes more important, more significant. It is as if the name gives him some of the stature and allure of a real Rockefeller. A perfect example of this is the importance given to Clark in both The New York Times and The Boston Globe. He even managed to outshine Barack Obama and Joseph Biden during the week that Obama picked his running mate. Obama and Biden get a little picture at the bottom of the right-hand side of the front page. Clark gets a photo spread -- one big picture and four little ones -- at the top of the left-hand side. He also got more column inches in the newspaper than Clayton, the real Rockefeller. It's impressive.

More of those historic NYC photosAPR 27

Yesterday I linked to the massive trove of photos recently put online by the NYC Department of Records. Alan Taylor from In Focus went through a large chunk of the archive and pulled out some real gems. Great stuff.

Kubrick rides the NYC subwayAPR 27

From the Museum of the City of New York, a collection of photos taken by Stanley Kubrick in 1946 of New York City subway passengers.

Kubrick NYC subway

The museum has in its collection more than 7200 photos taken by Kubrick of NYC while he worked as a photographer for Look Magazine. (via coudal)

Updates on previous entries for Apr 26, 2012*APR 27

Vatican City ATMs use Latin orig. from Apr 26, 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.

Vatican City ATMs use LatinAPR 26

ATMs in the Vatican City have Latin as one of the language options:

Latin ATM

Anyone know what that means? Google Translate spits out a bunch of jibberish... (Photo by Seth Schoen)

Update: Lots of slightly different answers as to what this says, but this email from a Ph.D. candidate in Classics at Columbia is representative of the spread:

Anyhow, a super-literal translation would be something like this:

I ask that you insert [your] card in order that you come to understand the method needing to be used.

But more colloquially, we can do this:

Please insert your card to learn the instructions.

or even (although I'm really getting into sloppy translation territory here):

Please insert your card for instructions.

(thx, charles)

Update: And it may be more accurate to say that Vatican City ATMs previously offered a Latin option. According to @johnke, "they removed the Latin option with a software update sometime in late 2010/early 2011".

Kickstart your underpantsAPR 26

Flint and Tinder is attempting to reintroduce American-made underwear back into US stores with a Kickstarter project. They've raised $39,000+ so far.

The factory I'm working with is family owned and operated. It's over 100 years old. Just before the recession hit, they moved into a larger facility and invested in some of the capital improvements shown in the video (solar power etc.).

At that time they had 300+ employees and were hoping to double or triple in size. When we started this project however, with the economy in free-fall, they were down to just 90.

They've agreed to learn to make this new, high-end brand of American-made underwear. Here's the fun part though: For ever 1000 pair we sell per month, 1 full-time job has to be added back to the assembly line. Hopefully, with your support, it will help them keep the doors open.

Massive collection of old NYC photos put onlineAPR 26

The New York City Department of Records has put a huge portion of the Municipal Archive's collection of photos online, more than 870,000 in all. The server is overwhelmed at times due to heavy usage, the searching/browsing interface is not what you'd call cutting edge, and many of the photos are available in thumbnail size only, but this is still an incredible resource.

Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1914:

Brooklyn Bridge

The unfinished Manhattan Bridge in 1908:

Manhattan Bridge

A pair of men lay dead in an elevator shaft after a failed robbery attempt:

Robbers

Looking east on 42nd Street, circa 1890:

42nd Street in 1890

More of these photos can be seen at The Daily Mail. (thx, miro)

The inflation of everythingAPR 26

Women's clothing sizes are getting larger, you can stay at 6-star hotels, and schools at all levels are giving out As to ever more students. It's the inflation of everything.

Estimates by The Economist suggest that the average British size 14 pair of women's trousers is now more than four inches wider at the waist than it was in the 1970s. In other words, today's size 14 is really what used to be labelled a size 18; a size 10 is really a size 14. (American sizing is different, but the trend is largely the same.) Fashion firms seem to think that women are more likely to spend if they can happily squeeze into a smaller label size. But when three out of four American adults and three out of five Britons are overweight, the danger is that size inflation reduces women's incentive to eat less. Meanwhile, food-portion inflation has also made it harder to fight the flab. Pizzas now come in regular, large and very large. Starbucks coffees are Tall, Grande, Venti or (soon) Trenta. "Small" seems to be a forbidden word.

Inflation is also distorting the travel business. A five-star hotel used to mean the ultimate in luxury, but now six- and seven-star resorts are popping up as new hotels award themselves inflated ratings as a marketing tool. "Deluxe" rooms have been devalued, too: many hotels no longer have "standard" rooms, but instead offer a choice of "deluxe" (the new standard), "luxury", "superior luxury" or "grand superior luxury".

Radio time machineAPR 26

Put in a year and hear popular songs from that year with Radio Time Machine. If you have a Rdio account, you can hear full songs. See also YouTube Time Machine. (via @fchimero)

Updates on previous entries for Apr 25, 2012*APR 26

Obama slow jams the news orig. from Apr 25, 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 art of film and TV title designAPR 25

From PBS Off Book, a quick look at the thinking behind the opening titles for TV shows and movies, including Zombieland, Mad Men, and Se7en.

See also Art of the Title and A Brief History of Title Design. (via devour)

The iPhone, an automobile for your mindAPR 25

Tom Vanderbilt says Americans don't walk as much as they used to; automobile usage has eaten into our perambulation time.

If walking is a casualty of modern life the world over -- the historian Joe Moran estimates, for instance, that in the last quarter century in the U.K., the amount of walking has declined by 25 percent -- why then do Americans walk even less than people in other countries? Here we need to look not at pedometers, but at the odometer: We drive more than anyone else in the world. (Hence a joke: In America a pedestrian is someone who has just parked their car.) Statistics on walking are more elusive than those on driving, but from the latter one might infer the former: The National Household Travel Survey shows that the number of vehicle trips a person took and the miles they traveled per day rose from 2.32 trips and 20.64 miles in 1969 to 3.35 and 32.73 in 2001. More time spent driving means less time spent on other activities, including walking. And part of the reason we are driving more is that we are living farther from the places we need to go; to take just one measure, in 1969, roughly half of all children lived a mile or more from their school; by 2001 three out of four did. During that same period, unsurprisingly, the rates of children walking to school dropped from roughly half to approximately 13 percent.

Sherry Turkle says young Americans don't converse as much as they used to; usage of mobile devices like the iPhone and iPod has eaten into our chat time.

A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. He doesn't stop by to talk; he doesn't call. He says that he doesn't want to interrupt them. He says they're "too busy on their e-mail." But then he pauses and corrects himself. "I'm not telling the truth. I'm the one who doesn't want to be interrupted. I think I should. But I'd rather just do things on my BlackBerry."

A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, "Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I'd like to learn how to have a conversation."

In today's workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. A senior partner at a Boston law firm describes a scene in his office. Young associates lay out their suite of technologies: laptops, iPods and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on. "Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits." With the young lawyers in their cockpits, the office is quiet, a quiet that does not ask to be broken.

A cockpit or perhaps the safe bubble of the automobile? Steve Jobs was fond of saying the personal computer was "a bicycle for our mind":

I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn't look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts.

And that's what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it's the most remarkable tool that we've ever come up with, and it's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds."

Perhaps then the iPhone is an automobile for our mind in that it allows us to go anywhere very quickly but isolates us along the way.

ps. This photo that accompanies Vanderbilt's article is kind of amazing:

Walking fail

Totally speechless. I think it's further from my desk to the bathroom here in the office than it is from that house to the bus.

The Descriptive CameraAPR 25

Using a digital camera, Mechanical Turk, and a thermal printer, Matt Richardson's Descriptive Camera outputs descriptions of photos instead of the photos themselves.

Descriptive Printer

After the shutter button is pressed, the photo is sent to Mechanical Turk for processing and the camera waits for the results. A yellow LED indicates that the results are still "developing" in a nod to film-based photo technology. With a HIT price of $1.25, results are returned typically within 6 minutes and sometimes as fast as 3 minutes. The thermal printer outputs the resulting text in the style of a polaroid print.

This seems like a distant cousin of Unphotographable. (via hacker news)

Obama slow jams the newsAPR 25

This might be the coolest thing a sitting President has ever done. Aside from, maybe, freeing the slaves or The New Deal or winning WWII.

Update: And an amazingly depressing excerpt from a speech Obama gave earlier in the day:

But we only finished paying off our student loans -- check this out, all right, I'm the President of the United States -- we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.

Source code for Apollo and Gemini programsAPR 25

An extensive collection gathered from all over the internet of the source code and documentation for NASA's Apollo and Gemini programs. Here's part of the source code for Apollo 11's guidance computer.

And here's an interesting tidbit about the core rope memory used for the Apollo's guidance computer:

Fun fact: the actual programs in the spacecraft were stored in core rope memory, an ancient memory technology made by (literally) weaving a fabric/rope, where the bits were physical rings of ferrite material.

"Core" memory is resistant to cosmic rays. The state of a core bit will not change when bombarded by radiation in Outer Space. Can't say the same of solid state memory.

Woven memory! Also called LOL memory:

Software written by MIT programmers was woven into core rope memory by female workers in factories. Some programmers nicknamed the finished product LOL memory, for Little Old Lady memory.

Matthew Cusick's map collagesAPR 24

I love love love these collages made up of mappy bits from Matthew Cusick.

Matthew Cusick 01

Matthew Cusick 02

Matthew Cusick 03

(thx, mouser)

Launching barrels like rocketsAPR 24

If you mix calcium carbide and water, it produces acetylene. Acetylene is extremely flammable and can launch 55-gallon drums into the air when ignited.

(via ★aaroncohen)

Super Mario Bros, the abridged versionAPR 24

A Super Mario Summary is a abbreviated version of the original Super Mario Bros game in which each of the levels has been squeezed into one screen. For instance, here's World 1-1:

Super Mario Summary

(via waxy)

Restaurant mental health code violationsAPR 23

Paul Simms lists various violations of a hypothetical restaurant mental health code. A couple of favorites:

Solo diner blows out table candle to avoid accidentally setting his newspaper on fire, only to have it relit repeatedly by busboy.

Member of all-white waitstaff barks at member of all-Hispanic busboy staff in way that makes customers feel like those who just stood by and watched in Vichy France.

Lenny Dykstra never grew upAPR 23

Remember this New Yorker profile of Lenny Dykstra's "improbable post-career success story"?

Dykstra ordered a Coke and French fries with ketchup: "And I'm actually going to have that as my meal-might be the oddest order of the day." (Healthy living was never his specialty.) When the Coke arrived, he sent it back, believing it to be Diet. After the fries were delivered, he made a show of extracting a "You're welcome" from the waiter, who had since moved on to another table. "I pay a thousand bucks a night -- actually, three thousand bucks a night -- and people are discourteous," he said, shaking his head. "There's some point in life when you have to grow up."

For many ballplayers, the growing-up point does not arrive until after retirement, when all the freebies vanish and equipment managers and hotel maids can no longer be relied upon for regular laundry service. Dykstra last played in the majors in 1996, at age thirty-three. Improbably, he has since become a successful day trader, and he let me know that he owns both a Maybach ("the best car") and a Gulfstream ("the best jet"). The occasion for our lunch, however, was a new venture: Dykstra is launching a magazine, intended specifically for pro athletes, called The Players Club. An unfortunate number of his former teammates have ended up broke, or divorced, or worse. The week before we met, the ex-Yankee Jim Leyritz, himself twice divorced and underemployed, had hit a woman while driving home from a bar. He never grew up.

"You've got the ten per cent who are going to find their way no matter what," Dykstra said of the athlete population. "And you get the ten per cent that are fuckheads no matter what-- we'll paste an 'L' to 'em." The rest need guidance, and Dykstra, who will write a regular column called "The Game of Life," is prepared to give it. "This will be the world's best magazine," he said.

Since then, Dykstra has declared bankruptcy, divorced from his wife, was sentenced to three years in state prison for grand theft auto (and several other charges), and most recently was sentenced to nine months in jail for assault and indecent exposure. He's also awaiting trial on federal bankruptcy fraud charges.

RIP Facts, 360 B.C.-A.D. 2012APR 23

Columnist Rex Huppke mourns the death of facts in contemporary American society.

To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet. Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of theU.S. House of Representatives are communists.

Facts held on for several days after that assault - brought on without a scrap of evidence or reason - before expiring peacefully at its home in a high school physics book. Facts was 2,372.

"It's very depressing," said Mary Poovey, a professor of English at New York University and author of "A History of the Modern Fact." "I think the thing Americans ought to miss most about facts is the lack of agreement that there are facts. This means we will never reach consensus about anything. Tax policies, presidential candidates. We'll never agree on anything."

New York City guidebook from 1916APR 23

Marc Cenedella found a copy of a 1916 tourist handbook for NYC on Google Books and teased out some of the more interesting bits.

For New Yorkers and visitors of this time, "Old New York" was the time of the American Revolution. The leaders and generals of that earlier time are described as real people. Even if their actions are described in the most glowing and heroic of terms, they come alive in the pages of Rider's New York as they have not yet transcended into the mythical, distant, unrelatable figures they are today.

George Washington, for example, appears time and again in this guide, not as a statue, or a bridge, or a Square, but as a person who "landed" just south of Laight Street, bid farewell to his men in an Address at Fraunces Tavern, or was greeted on kicking-out-the-British Day (Evacuation Day) at Union Square. Same history, different level of intimacy.

Zero to twelve years old in under three minutesAPR 23

Frans Hofmeester filmed his daughter Lotte once a week for the past twelve years and produced this time lapse film. We've seen this kind of thing before (Kalina, etc.) but the use of short snippets of video instead of still photos adds something.

Hofmeester has also filmed his son in the same manner for the past nine years. (thx, david)

The glamorous life of a former professional football playerAPR 23

Trevor Pryce played in the NFL for 14 years and upon retiring learned that fame and money is not much if you're not doing what you love.

"Early retirement" sounds wonderful. It certainly did that cold night in Pittsburgh. I was going to use my time to conquer the world.

Boy, was I wrong. Now I find myself in music chat rooms arguing the validity of Frank Zappa versus the Mars Volta. (If the others only knew Walkingpnumonia was the screen name for a former All-Pro football player and not some Oberlin College student trying to find his place in the world.) I wrote a book. I set sail on the picturesque and calming waters of Bodymore, Murdaland. And when I'm in dire straits, I do what any 8-year-old does; I kick a soccer ball against the garage hoping somebody feels sorry and says, "Hey, want to play?"

With millions of Americans out of work or doing work for which they are overqualified, I consider myself lucky. But starting from scratch can be unsettling. If you're not prepared for it, retirement can become a form of self-imposed exile from the fulfillment and the exhilaration of knowing you did a good job.

Updates on previous entries for Apr 20, 2012*APR 21

Robert Caro has a really long Johnson (biography) orig. from Apr 20, 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.

Mad Men, the BitTorrent episodeAPR 20

This is an episode of Mad Men, incompletely downloaded from BitTorrent.

The video captures an episode of the popular TV show in the act of being shared by thousands of users on bittorent. The video simultaneously acts as a visualisation of bittorrent traffic and the practice of filesharing and is an aesthetically beautiful by product of the bittorrent process as the pieces of the original file are rearranged and reconfigured into a new transitory in-between state.

(via waxy)

Movie mimickingAPR 20

As Allen Fuqua travels around, he looks for movie locations and attempts to duplicate scenes from them. For instance, here's Allen and a friend reenacting a scene from Drive:

Drive Mimic

(thx, stephen)

The 18th century version of InstagramAPR 20

Popular in the 18th century, the Claude glass was a mirror that took the scene behind you and transformed it into something different, much like the filters in Instagram or Hipstamatic promise to do.

Claude glass

The Claude glass was a sort of early pocket lens without the camera and it was held aloft to observe a vista over one's shoulder. The technology was simple: A blackened mirror reduced the tonal values of its reflected landscape, and a slightly convex shape pushed more scenery into a single focal point, reducing a larger vista into a tidy snapshot.

Planet Earth, narrated by kidsAPR 20

This is great...BBC America made this promo of kids narrating the Planet Earth nature documentary in place of David Attenborough.

(via boing boing)

Robert Caro has a really long Johnson (biography)APR 20

Charles McGrath recently profiled author Robert Caro for the NY Times Magazine. Caro has been working on a multivolume biography of Lyndon Johnson since 1976...the fourth book in the series is out next month.

The idea of power, or of powerful people, seems to repel him as much as it fascinates. And yet Caro has spent virtually his whole adult life studying power and what can be done with it, first in the case of Robert Moses, the great developer and urban planner, and then in the case of Lyndon Johnson, whose biography he has been writing for close to 40 years. Caro can tell you exactly how Moses heedlessly rammed the Cross Bronx Expressway through a middle-class neighborhood, displacing thousands of families, and exactly how Johnson stole the Texas Senate election of 1948, winning by 87 spurious votes. These stories still fill him with outrage but also with something like wonder, the two emotions that sustain him in what amounts to a solitary, Dickensian occupation with long hours and few holidays.

If you're a subscriber and haven't gotten to it yet, the excerpt of Caro's book in the New Yorker is very much worth reading; it covers Johnson's activities on the day Kennedy was assassinated.

As Lyndon Johnson's car made its slow way down the canyon of buildings, what lay ahead of him on that motorcade could, in a way, have been seen by someone observing his life as a foretaste of what might lie ahead if he remained Vice-President: five years of trailing behind another man, humiliated, almost ignored, and powerless. The Vice-Presidency, "filled with trips... chauffeurs, men saluting, people clapping... in the end it is nothing," as he later put it. He had traded in the power of the Senate Majority Leader, the most powerful Majority Leader in history, for the limbo of the Vice-Presidency because he had felt that at the end might be the Presidency.

Update: Esquire also has a long profile of Caro in next month's issue. (thx, aaron)

A history of The Huffington PostAPR 19

A long and thorough history of The Huffington Post from Michael Shapiro at Columbia Journalism Review. HuffPo cofounder Jonah Peretti calls it "the best article that will ever be written about the creation of the Huffington Post".

In the course of a few hours, Peretti would watch with wonderment as Arianna Huffington eased herself from setting to setting, all the while making the person she was talking with feel like the most interesting and important person in the world, hanging on every word, never shifting her attention to check one of three BlackBerries. "I loved being a gatherer," Huffington would later say. "I don't really think you can make gathering mistakes."

Peretti saw this talent through a different prism. "Arianna," he says, "can make weak ties into strong ties."

He returned to New York to discover that Lerer was already a few steps ahead of him. He wanted to talk about the venture the three of them would embark upon. "I remember him saying things like, 'We don't want to build a big website,'" Peretti would recall. "'We want to build an influential site.'"

Sort of related: there's an interesting article to be written about Google's relationship with blogs. Early on, blogs provided Google's Pagerank algorithm with plenty of links to rank (I would argue that without blogs and the personal web, Pagerank simply wouldn't have worked...businesses didn't link to anyone but themselves at that time) and then a few years later, with Huffington Post leading the charge, blogs filled Google with all sorts of crap and nonsense that made it less useful.

On Bullseye with Jesse ThornAPR 19

I was pleased to make an appearance on the most recent episode of Jesse Thorn's pop culture radio show, Bullseye. I shared a couple of my favorite links from the past month, both of which worked pretty well for the radio. The whole show is available here or you can just listen to my segment:

Covering LolitaAPR 19

The results of a competition to design a better cover for Nabokov's Lolita are being packaged into a book due out in June.

Among the problems Nabokov's Lolita poses for the book designer, probably the thorniest is the popular misconception of the title character. She's chronically miscast as a teenage sexpot-just witness the dozens of soft-core covers over the years. "We are talking about a novel which has child rape at its core," says John Bertram, an architect and blogger who, three years ago, sponsored a Lolita cover competition asking designers to do better.

Now the contest is being turned into a book, due out in June and coedited by Yuri Leving, with essays on historical cover treatments along with new versions by 60 well-known designers, two-thirds of them women: Barbara deWilde, Jessica Helfand, Peter Mendelsund, and Jennifer Daniel, to name a few. They don't shy away from frank sexuality, but they add layers of darkness and complication. And like Jamie Keenan's cover -- a claustrophobic room that morphs into a girl in her underwear -- they provoke without asking readers to abdicate their responsibility.

Of the covers shown, Peter Mendelsund's is a favorite:

Lo Lee Ta

An American in Paris 2.0APR 19

GQ has an excerpt of Rosecrans Baldwin's new book about the eighteen months he and his wife spent in Paris.

Bruno sat under a machine shaped like a palm tree that sucked up smoke. He lit a cigarette, unpopped a shirt button nonchalantly, ordered Sancerre, and began talking over my head. After fifteen minutes, I understood that he'd worked on the infant-nutrition project for eleven months, ever since he'd joined the agency. They'd gone through four copywriters in the same amount of time; I was number five.

Bruno said, Reservoir Dogs, did I know this film?

"Bien sur," I said, adding, "Mr. Pink?"

"Okay, good," Bruno said in English. "Then, Mr. Pink... do not be this. Do not be saying in the office, 'Fuck, fuck, fuck.'"

Evidently Bruno had overheard me swearing. He wanted me to know that cursing wasn't cool in Parisian office culture. It seemed to weigh on Bruno, speaking English like that, correcting my behavior. As though envisioning trials to come.

The book is called Paris, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down and is due out soooon.

101 spectacular nonfiction storiesAPR 19

Conor Friedersdorf has published his annual list of the best nonfiction writing from the past year.

Each year, I keep a running list of the most exceptional nonfiction that I encounter while publishing my twice-weekly newsletter The Best of Journalism. Along with my curating work for Byliner, this hoovering of great stories affords me the opportunity to read as many impressive narratives as any single person possibly can. The annual result is my Best of Journalism List, now in its fourth year. I could not, of course, read every worthy piece published during the year. But everything that follows deserves wider attention.

How to get a part in a Woody Allen filmAPR 19

Journalist William Zinsser played a bit part in Stardust Memories, one of Woody Allen's early films. He'd interviewed Allen early in the director's career, ran into him in NYC, and got a call a week later from his assistant.

"Bill, honey?" said a young woman's voice. "This is Sandra from Woody Allen's office. Woody wondered if you'd like to be in his new movie."

That was something new in phone calls. I had never done any acting or dreamed any theatrical dreams. But who didn't want to be in a Woody Allen movie? I knew that he often cast ordinary people in small roles. What small plum did he have for me? I hesitated for a decently modest moment and then told Sandra I'd like to do it.

"Good," she said. "Woody will be very pleased." She said that someone else would be calling me with further details.

(via @coudal)

The lost years of Steve JobsAPR 18

Brent Schlender interviewed Steve Jobs many times over the past 25 years and recently rediscovered the audio tapes of those interviews. What he found was in those years between his departure from Apple in 1985 to his return in 1996, Jobs learned how to become a better businessman and arguably a better person.

The lessons are powerful: Jobs matured as a manager and a boss; learned how to make the most of partnerships; found a way to turn his native stubbornness into a productive perseverance. He became a corporate architect, coming to appreciate the scaffolding of a business just as much as the skeletons of real buildings, which always fascinated him. He mastered the art of negotiation by immersing himself in Hollywood, and learned how to successfully manage creative talent, namely the artists at Pixar. Perhaps most important, he developed an astonishing adaptability that was critical to the hit-after-hit-after-hit climb of Apple's last decade. All this, during a time many remember as his most disappointing.

The discussion of the lessons he took from Pixar and put into Apple was especially interesting.

And just as he had at Pixar, he aligned the company behind those projects. In a way that had never been done before at a technology company--but that looked a lot like an animation studio bent on delivering one great movie a year--Jobs created the organizational strength to deliver one hit after another, each an extension of Apple's position as the consumer's digital hub, each as strong as its predecessor. If there's anything that parallels Apple's decade-long string of hits--iMac, PowerBook, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, to list just the blockbusters--it's Pixar's string of winners, including Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, WALL-E, and Up. These insanely great products could have come only from insanely great companies, and that's what Jobs had learned to build.

Slow motion stupidityAPR 18

Shot with a Phantom Flex at 2500 frames per second, this video shows stupid things happening in super slow motion, including Coke bottle & chainsaw and flour and candle. And lots of fireworks.

I was completely unprepared for what happened with the microwave and the bottle of red wine. (via devour)

Blurbs for saleAPR 18

Adam Mansbach will blurb your novel, but it's gonna cost you. Here's part of his price list:

You live in one of the following neighborhoods: Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Williamsburg. (+$150)

You claim to be friends with a friend of mine, but that friend of mine hates you. (+$100)

The word after the gerund in your two-word title is a proper noun masquerading as a regular noun, i.e. "Losing Ground," a novel about a man named Peter Ground. (+$250)

Your novel is a retelling of another novel from the perspective of a minor character, a piece of furniture, or a magical being who did not appear in the original. (+$275)

I literally LOL'd (LLOL?) at the last line. (via the blurb-worthy @tadfriend)

Planet Earth screening outside in ManhattanAPR 18

Rooftop Films is screening the first episode of Planet Earth (the Attenborough-narrated version) outside along the East River this Saturday, followed by the premiere of The Making of Planet Earth. Check here for times, location, etc.

Twitter introduces the Innovator's Patent AgreementAPR 18

Twitter has developed something called the Innovator's Patent Agreement, which is an agreement between the company and its employees that their patents won't be used in offensive lawsuits (as opposed to defensive lawsuits).

The IPA is a new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers. It is a commitment from Twitter to our employees that patents can only be used for defensive purposes. We will not use the patents from employees' inventions in offensive litigation without their permission. What's more, this control flows with the patents, so if we sold them to others, they could only use them as the inventor intended.

This is a significant departure from the current state of affairs in the industry. Typically, engineers and designers sign an agreement with their company that irrevocably gives that company any patents filed related to the employee's work. The company then has control over the patents and can use them however they want, which may include selling them to others who can also use them however they want. With the IPA, employees can be assured that their patents will be used only as a shield rather than as a weapon.

Red Hat has had a similar policy in place for many years.

Infinite SpockAPR 17

Infinite Spock

It's viewscreens all the way down. (via george takei)

Monet's ultraviolet visionAPR 17

In a review of the Color Uncovered iPad app, Carl Zimmer highlights something I hadn't heard before: Claude Monet could see in ultraviolet.

Late in his life, Claude Monet developed cataracts. As his lenses degraded, they blocked parts of the visible spectrum, and the colors he perceived grew muddy. Monet's cataracts left him struggling to paint; he complained to friends that he felt as if he saw everything in a fog. After years of failed treatments, he agreed at age 82 to have the lens of his left eye completely removed. Light could now stream through the opening unimpeded. Monet could now see familiar colors again. And he could also see colors he had never seen before. Monet began to see -- and to paint -- in ultraviolet.

The condition is called aphakia.

Visualization of shipping routes from 1750 to 1855APR 17

This video is a visualization of the how ships moved goods and people around the world from the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century.

Here's more on how it was done.

This shows mostly Spanish, Dutch, and English routes -- they are surprisingly constant over the period (although some empires drop in and out of the record), but the individual voyages are fun. And there are some macro patterns -- the move of British trade towards India, the effect of the American Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and so on.

There are times in the video when a single nation dominates all of the shipping traffic...the British in the early 1800s and the Dutch from the mid 1830s on.

The celebrity marriage duration equationAPR 17

In 2006, Garth Sundem and John Tierney published an equation in the NY Times that attempted to predict celebrity marriage crackups using a few metrics: age, fame, sexiness, etc. The pair recently modified the equation based on the evidence of the last five years and surprisingly, the equation is simpler.

What went right with them -- and wrong with our equation? Garth, a self-professed "uber-geek," has crunched the numbers and discovered a better way to gauge the toxic effects of celebrity. Whereas the old equation measured fame by counting the millions of Google hits, the new equation uses a ratio of two other measures: the number of mentions in The Times divided by mentions in The National Enquirer.

"This is a major improvement in the equation," Garth says. "It turns out that overall fame doesn't matter as much as the flavor of the fame. It's tabloid fame that dooms you. Sure, Katie Holmes had about 160 Enquirer hits, but she had more than twice as many NYT hits. A high NYT/ENQ ratio also explains why Chelsea Clinton and Kate Middleton have better chances than the Kardashian sisters."

Garth's new analysis shows that it's the wife's fame that really matters. While the husband's NYT/ENQ ratio is mildly predictive, the effect is so much weaker than the wife's that it's not included in the new equation. Nor are some variables from the old equation, like the number of previous marriages and the age gap between husband and wife.

Movie recommendations and the time-shifted selfAPR 16

Remember the Netflix Prize, the $1 million challenge cooked up by Netflix to improve their movie recommendation engine by 10%? Turns out they never implemented the winning algorithm, in part because their movie streaming service changed the game.

One of the reasons our focus in the recommendation algorithms has changed is because Netflix as a whole has changed dramatically in the last few years. Netflix launched an instant streaming service in 2007, one year after the Netflix Prize began. Streaming has not only changed the way our members interact with the service, but also the type of data available to use in our algorithms. For DVDs our goal is to help people fill their queue with titles to receive in the mail over the coming days and weeks; selection is distant in time from viewing, people select carefully because exchanging a DVD for another takes more than a day, and we get no feedback during viewing. For streaming members are looking for something great to watch right now; they can sample a few videos before settling on one, they can consume several in one session, and we can observe viewing statistics such as whether a video was watched fully or only partially.

(via waxy)

The last film in the Up series?APR 16

The latest installment of the Up Series of documentary films is due out in the UK in May. The films have followed the development of fourteen British children since 1964 with a new film appearing every seven years...the participants are now 56. A few details about the new film are revealed in this interview with one of the participants.

One of the issues that Apted reflects on in 56 Up is the way Britain has changed. "Michael asked us about how education had changed, because people are borrowing money to go to university now," Mr Hitchon said. "In our day, none of us paid for our education. England's also changed a lot. For instance, no one is farming the Dales any more and there are all these multimillion-pound houses. I don't know what England's like any more. I've been away for 30 years."

Apted also revisits the theme of success. "If you're still hanging in there and swinging punches then you're a success," said Mr Hitchon. "Does that apply to me? Sure, why not? I'm working all the time to solve problems that I think are important. I'm hanging in there despite the fact that it doesn't all go the way you hope."

This may be the last film in the series...director Michael Apted will be 78 when the next film is due and he's unwilling to pass it off to someone else to finish. (thx, raynor)

Primer available in full-length on YouTubeAPR 16

Primer is one of my favorite films of the past ten years and is available on YouTube in its entirety.

Valve Software's usual approach to building a creative businessAPR 16

Michael Abrash discusses how he came to work for Valve Software (he coauthored Quake with John Carmack back in the day) and, more interestingly, what Valve is like as a company.

The idea that a 10-person company of 20-somethings in Mesquite, Texas, could get its software on more computers than the largest software company in the world told him that something fundamental had changed about the nature of productivity. When he looked into the history of the organization, he found that hierarchical management had been invented for military purposes, where it was perfectly suited to getting 1,000 men to march over a hill to get shot at. When the Industrial Revolution came along, hierarchical management was again a good fit, since the objective was to treat each person as a component, doing exactly the same thing over and over.

The success of Doom made it obvious that this was no longer the case. There was now little value in doing the same thing even twice; almost all the value was in performing a valuable creative act for the first time. Once Doom had been released, any of thousands of programmers and artists could create something similar (and many did), but none of those had anywhere near the same impact. Similarly, if you're a programmer, you're probably perfectly capable of writing Facebook or the Google search engine or Twitter or a browser, and you certainly could churn out Tetris or Angry Birds or Words with Friends or Farmville or any of hundreds of enormously successful programs. There's little value in doing so, though, and that's the point - in the Internet age, software has close to zero cost of replication and massive network effects, so there's a positive feedback spiral that means that the first mover dominates.

If most of the value is now in the initial creative act, there's little benefit to traditional hierarchical organization that's designed to deliver the same thing over and over, making only incremental changes over time. What matters is being first and bootstrapping your product into a positive feedback spiral with a constant stream of creative innovation. Hierarchical management doesn't help with that, because it bottlenecks innovation through the people at the top of the hierarchy, and there's no reason to expect that those people would be particularly creative about coming up with new products that are dramatically different from existing ones - quite the opposite, in fact. So Valve was designed as a company that would attract the sort of people capable of taking the initial creative step, leave them free to do creative work, and make them want to stay. Consequently, Valve has no formal management or hierarchy at all.

I wonder if Tim Cook's recent visit to Valve is less about collaboration on specific products and more about Apple's curiosity about their process. (Probably not, but fun to think about.)

Girls Gone Slightly Less Wholesome: Amish spring breakAPR 16

Pinecraft, Florida is a popular spring vacation destination for Amish and Mennonites, a place where they can let their hair down by using cellphones and electricity.

Walking around Pinecraft is like entering an idyllic time warp. White bungalows and honeybell orange trees line streets named after Amish families: Kaufman, Schrock, Yoder. The local Laundromat keeps lines outside to hang clothes to dry. (You have to bring your own pins.) And the techiest piece of equipment at the post office is a calculator. The Sarasota county government plans to designate the village, which spreads out over 178 acres, as a cultural heritage district.

Many travelers I spoke to jokingly call it the "Amish Las Vegas," riffing off the clich'e that what happens in Pinecraft stays in Pinecraft. Cellphone and cameras, normally off-limits to Amish, occasionally make appearances, and almost everyone uses electricity in their rental homes. Three-wheeled bicycles, instead of horses and buggies, are ubiquitous.

"When you come down here, you can pitch religion a little bit and let loose," said Amanda Yoder, 19, from Missouri. "What I'm wearing right now, I wouldn't at home," she said, gesturing at sunglasses with sparkly rhinestones and bikini strings peeking out of a tight black tank top. On the outskirts of the village, she boarded public bus No. 11 with six other sunburned teenagers. They were bound for Siesta Key, a quartz-sand beach about eight miles away.

Happy tenth birthday, waxy.org!APR 16

One of my favorite blogs in the whole wide world turned ten years old the other day...waxy.org is one of the handful of sites I visit manually every day. Creator Andy Baio talked about the milestone and shared some of his favorite posts from the past ten years.

Most of the interest in writing online's shifted to microblogging, but not everything belongs in 140 characters and it's all so impermanent. Twitter's great, but it's not a replacement for a permanent home that belongs to you.

And since there are fewer and fewer individuals doing long-form writing these days, relative to the growing potential audience, it's getting easier to get attention than ever if you actually have something original to say.

Carving out a space for yourself online, somewhere where you can express yourself and share your work, is still one of the best possible investments you can make with your time. It's why, after ten years, my first response to anyone just getting started online is to start, and maintain, a blog.

My favorite part is how Andy casually mentions he has a complete archive of The WELL. Ten more years!

First episode of HBO's Girls on YouTubeAPR 16

The first episode of Girls, an eagerly awaited HBO series by executive producer Judd Apatow and writer/director Lena Dunham, is available for free on YouTube (HBO disabled embedding for some dumb reason). HBO plans to do this with Veep next week as well.

The 40-year cycle of pop cultural nostalgiaAPR 16

In the new issue of the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik talks about pop culture's 40-year cycle of nostalgia.

So it seems time to pronounce a rule about American popular culture: the Golden Forty-Year Rule. The prime site of nostalgia is always whatever happened, or is thought to have happened, in the decade between forty and fifty years past. (And the particular force of nostalgia, one should bear in mind, is not simply that it is a good setting for a story but that it is a good setting for you.)

If you combine this with Kurt Andersen's recent piece about the slowing rate of change of pop culture, perhaps there's another lesson here other than Gopnik's assertion that we'll be nostalgic for the Obama age 40 years from now. Maybe we've reached Peak Nostalgia and in an effort to find more and more nostalgia for an ever-increasing audience, culturemakers are mining more from those eras outside of the appointed 40-year era and as a result, pop culture is feeling more timeless, echoing all eras, until it becomes a culture that can't draw upon anything but itself.

And if not, I'm looking forward to the return of 70s-style moviemaking in the coming decade.

Jon Stewart doesn't stand for anythingAPR 13

Is Tom Junod's long piece in Esquire a takedown of Jon Stewart? Or just a thorough examination of the messiness of being an ambitious public figure these days? I couldn't tell. But if you're a Stewart fan or Daily Show viewer, Junod's piece is well worth a read.

Now look at him. It's seven years later, and he's aged like a president. He's been graying for years, but now he's gone gray, and a transformation seems to have taken place. He's forty-eight years old. He has a wife and two young kids whose lives he worries about missing because he stays so late and works so hard. Last year, when he did that thing, that Jon Stewart thing, that rally in Washington, D. C., he looked like he was starting to, like, fill out -- his suit looked a little small on him as he made his big valedictory speech -- but now he's gaunt, and his face is sort of bladelike, collecting itself around the charcoal axis of his eyes, nose, and mouth. Still, he's jacked. The whole studio is. You don't have any choice at The Daily Show. For one thing, the music gets louder and louder as you wait before finally reminding you where Stewart's from with a climactic rendition of Born to Run. For another, there's a tummler, a warm-up guy who bounds around telling you that you might laugh to yourself while watching Jon Stewart at home, you might smile and chuckle at the apercus, you might silently congratulate yourself for getting the jokes, but you're not at home anymore, and here you have a responsibility -- you're the laugh track. "Do you want to be on TV! Do you want to meet Jon Stewart! Then you better get loud..."

And now here he is. The man did stand-up for years, and in the studio you can actually see it on him, because whereas on television he clings to his desk like it's an iron lung (former writers say that you know a bit is doomed if it requires him to get up from behind it), here he actually stands up and goes out to the audience to answer questions. And he's a kibitzer -- it's not Plato's Symposium, folks. The first question is "What's your daily routine?" and Stewart answers as he's been answering since Destiny's Child was together: "Jazzercise." The second question is "Which one of the animals on my T-shirt would you like to be?" and Stewart responds with a question of his own: "Is there a correct answer to that?" And even when a young woman with short hair and glasses and a faded cause on her T-shirt asks if "our greatest media critic" has actually had an impact on the way the media does business, he instantaneously cocks his chin, sucks in his cheeks, and narrows his eyes until he looks like a wizened version of the man whose image is emblazoned on the wall outside; then he deepens his voice confidentially and says, "Well, look who's carrying the NPR tote bag." Of course, he denies having an impact -- "the satirist depends on shame, and everyone knows that our culture has become shameless" -- but when somebody calls out, "But you killed Crossfire!" he says, "No, I didn't. Crossfire was already dead..."

And there it is again, that denial of power upon which his power depends. It's strange, isn't it: One of the fastest and most instinctive wits in America feeling it necessary to go on explaining himself again and again; a man who lives to clarify resorting to loophole; the irrepressible truth-teller insisting on something that not one person of the two hundred watching his show in the studio -- never mind the millions who will watch on television -- can possibly believe.

Architectural stationery vignettesAPR 13

Lovely type and illustration on these architectural stationery vignettes collected by BibliOdyssey.

Arch Stationary

The images in this post all come from Columbia University's very large assortment of commercial stationery (featuring architectural illustrations): the Biggert Collection.

The vast majority of the images below have been cropped, cleaned and variously doctored for display purposes, with an intent towards highlighting the range of letterform/font and design layouts. The underlying documents are invoices (most), letters, postcards, shipping records and related business and advertising letterhead ephemera from the mid-1800s to the 1930s.

See also the Sanborn fire insurance maps.

The Art of RapAPR 13

Directed by Ice-T, Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap is a documentary about the birth and evolution of rap and hip hop music.

Ice-T takes us on an intimate journey into the heart and soul of hip-hop with the legends of rap music. This performance documentary goes beyond the stardom and the bling to explore what goes on inside the minds, and erupts from the lips, of the grandmasters of rap. Recognized as the godfather of Gangsta rap, Ice-T is granted unparalleled access to the personal lives of the masters of this artform that he credits for saving his life. Interspersed with the performers' insightful, touching, and often funny revelations are classic raps, freestyle rhymes, and never before heard a cappellas straight from the mouths of the creators. What emerges is a better understanding of, and a tribute to, an original American art form that brought poetry to a new generation.

(via @gavinpurcell)

Joe Eszterhas' crazy letter to Mel GibsonAPR 13

Joe Eszterhas was working with Mel Gibson on a script for a movie called The Maccabees, aka "a Jewish Braveheart". Eszterhas came to believe that Gibson was only pretending to do the film to soften Gibson's anti-semitic image. Feeling betrayed, Eszterhas wrote a letter to Gibson that is just flat out amazing and crazy.

I've come to the conclusion that the reason you won't make "The Maccabees" is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews.

[...]

Let me remind you of some of the things you said which appalled me. You continually called Jews "Hebes", "oven-dodgers" and "Jewboys." It seemed that most times when we discussed someone, you asked "He's a Hebe, isn't he?" or "Is he a Hebe?" You said that most "gatekeepers" of American companies were "Hebes" who "controlled their bosses".

And that's not even close to the craziest bits of the letter. If even 10% of this is true, let's hope this is the last we hear of Mel Gibson. (via @jakedobkin)

Newark mayor Cory Booker is a superheroAPR 13

Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, fought off his security detail and ran into a burning house to rescue a trapped woman.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker was taken to a hospital Thursday night for treatment of smoke inhalation he suffered trying to rescue his next-door neighbors from their burning house.

"I just grabbed her and whipped her out of the bed," Booker said in recounting the fire. Booker told The Star-Ledger he also suffered second-degree burns on his hand.

Two years ago, Booker helped shovel his constituents' driveways after a huge snowstorm. Who is this guy, Batman?

Are octopuses intelligent?APR 12

They appear to be, although not in a way that we think of as intelligence sometimes. Fascinating article.

Octopuses have the largest brains of any invertebrate. Athena's is the size of a walnut -- as big as the brain of the famous African gray parrot, Alex, who learned to use more than one hundred spoken words meaningfully. That's proportionally bigger than the brains of most of the largest dinosaurs.

Another measure of intelligence: you can count neurons. The common octopus has about 130 million of them in its brain. A human has 100 billion. But this is where things get weird. Three-fifths of an octopus's neurons are not in the brain; they're in its arms.

"It is as if each arm has a mind of its own," says Peter Godfrey-Smith, a diver, professor of philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and an admirer of octopuses. For example, researchers who cut off an octopus's arm (which the octopus can regrow) discovered that not only does the arm crawl away on its own, but if the arm meets a food item, it seizes it -- and tries to pass it to where the mouth would be if the arm were still connected to its body.

"Meeting an octopus," writes Godfrey-Smith, "is like meeting an intelligent alien." Their intelligence sometimes even involves changing colors and shapes. One video online shows a mimic octopus alternately morphing into a flatfish, several sea snakes, and a lionfish by changing color, altering the texture of its skin, and shifting the position of its body. Another video shows an octopus materializing from a clump of algae. Its skin exactly matches the algae from which it seems to bloom-until it swims away.

How iPads are madeAPR 12

Reporting for Marketplace, Rob Schmitz shows how iPads are made by Foxconn workers in Shenzhen.

(via daring fireball)

The Intelligent Encyclopedia from 1982APR 12

In 1982, Bob Stein, Alan Kay, and Glenn Keane came up with several illustrated scenarios for a concept called the Intelligent Encyclopedia, a ubiquitous always-on electronic encyclopedia.

Intelligent Encyclopedia

The most interesting thing for me today about these images is that although we foresaw that people would be accessing information wirelessly (notice the little antenna on the device in the "tide pool" image), we completely missed the most important aspect of the network -- that it was going to connect people to other people.

This hits a lot closer to the mark than many futuristic scenarios I've seen. What's interesting is that many of the panels shown would have seemed off target just two years ago before the introduction of the iPad and certainly five years ago before the iPhone. (via @steveportigal)

The Invention of the American Football HelmetAPR 12

I don't think this has anything to do with the actual invention of the football helmet, so consider this a more hilarious alternate history. Watch as the inventor of a new type of safer helmet gets kicked in the head, repeatedly bonked in the noggin with a baseball bat, and runs himself into a wall, over and over again.

(via ★dunstan)

The museum of Soviet arcade machinesAPR 11

From what I can tell, the Museum of Soviet arcade machines is an actual physical museum in Moscow but you can also play one of the games (called Morskoi Boi) online. The museum has around 40 machines, about half of which are playable, including Repka, Safary, Vozdushniy Boi, Duplet, and Snezhnaya Koroleva.

Soviet Arcade

In defense of SkrillexAPR 11

Stereogum writer Tom Breihan saw a Skrillex show at SXSW and loved it. In fact, it was his favorite act. His takeaway was that the Skrillex many people deride as a one-trick WUB WUB WUB pony on the basis of his albums is an extremely effective and talented live DJ.

But what I found was one of the more dynamic sets I heard during all of SXSW. Skrillex, see, knows what he's doing. He does what great DJs do: He layers sounds and ideas on top of each other, building tension and releasing it, moving fluidly from one thing to the next. Parts sounded like the sort of early-'90s hardcore techno that was popular with people who wore lots and lots of smiley faces. Other parts sounded like the sort of dark, broody late-'90s breakbeat techno that was popular with scary white guys with dreads. There was also a lot of robotic one-drop reggae in there. Early on, Skrillex played a big chunk of Damian Marley's "Welcome To Jamrock" unmolested. Later, he dug out Ini Kamoze's "World-A-Music," the song that Marley sampled on "Jamrock." All of it fit in seamlessly. None of it was built around bass-drops.

The visual style of The WireAPR 11

In this video, Erlend Lavik compares the relatively spare visual style of The Wire with that of other TV programs.

(via @uxprinciples)

When Keith Richards met Mick JaggerAPR 11

Letters of Note has a letter written by an 18-year-old Keith Richards to his aunt about meeting Mick Jagger for the first time since they were childhood friends.

Anyways the guy on the station, he is called Mick Jagger and all the chicks and the boys meet every Saturday morning in the 'Carousel' some juke-joint well one morning in Jan I was walking past and decided to look him up. Everybody's all over me I get invited to about 10 parties. Beside that Mick is the greatest R&B singer this side of the Atlantic and I don't mean maybe. I play guitar (electric) Chuck style we got us a bass player and drummer and rhythm-guitar and we practice 2 or 3 nights a week. SWINGIN'.

The Stones played their first show three months after the letter was written. (via ★thoughtbrain)

Facebook and Instagram as company townsAPR 11

One of the more thought-provoking pieces on Instagram's billion dollar sale to Facebook is Matt Webb's Instagram as an island economy. In it, he thinks about Instagram as a closed economy:

What is the labour encoded in Instagram? It's easy to see. Every "user" of Instagram is a worker. There are some people who produce photos -- this is valuable, it means there is something for people to look it. There are some people who only produce comments or "likes," the virtual society equivalent of apes picking lice off other apes. This is valuable, because people like recognition and are more likely to produce photos. All workers are also marketers -- some highly effective and some not at all. And there's a general intellect which has been developed, a kind of community expertise and teaching of this expertise to produce photographs which are good at producing the valuable, attractive likes and comments (i.e., photographs which are especially pretty and provocative), and a somewhat competitive culture to become a better marketer.

There are also the workers who build the factory -- the behaviour-structuring instrument/forum which is Instagram itself, both its infrastructure and it's "interface:" the production lines on the factory floor, and the factory store. However these workers are only playing a role. Really they are owners.

All of those workers (the factory workers) receive a wage. They have not organised, so the wage is low, but it's there. It's invisible.

Like all good producers, the workers are also consumers. They immediately spend their entire wage, and their wages is only good in Instagram-town. What they buy is the likes and comments of the photos they produce (what? You think it's free? Of course it's not free, it feels good so you have to pay for it. And you did, by being a producer), and access to the public spaces of Instagram-town to communicate with other consumers. It's not the first time that factory workers have been housed in factory homes and spent their money in factory stores.

Although he doesn't use the term explictly, Webb is talking about a company town. Interestingly, Paul Bausch used this term in reference to Facebook a few weeks ago in a discussion about blogging:

The whole idea of [blog] comments is based on the assumption that most people reading won't have their own platform to respond with. So you need to provide some temporary shanty town for these folks to take up residence for a day or two. And then if you're like Matt -- hanging out in dozens of shanty towns -- you need some sort of communication mechanism to tie them together. That sucks.

So what's an alternative? Facebook is sort of the alternative right now: company town.

Back to Webb, he says that making actual money with Instagram will be easy:

I will say that it's simple to make money out of Instagram. People are already producing and consuming, so it's a small step to introduce the dollar into this.

I'm not so sure about this...it's too easy for people to pick up and move out of Instagram-town for other virtual towns, thereby creating a ghost town and a massively devalued economy. After all, the same real-world economic forces that allowed a dozen people to build a billion dollar service in two years means a dozen other people can build someplace other than Instagram for people to hang out in, spending their virtual Other-town dollars.

Also worth a read on Facebook/Instagram: Paul Ford's piece for New York Magazine.

Facebook, a company with a potential market cap worth five or six moon landings, is spending one of its many billions of dollars to buy Instagram, a tiny company dedicated to helping Thai beauty queens share photos of their fingernails. Many people have critical opinions on this subject, ranging from "this will ruin Instagram" to "$1 billion is too much." And for many Instagram users it's discomfiting to see a giant company they distrust purchase a tiny company they adore - like if Coldplay acquired Dirty Projectors, or a Gang of Four reunion was sponsored by Foxconn.

So what's going on here?

First, to understand this deal it's important to understand Facebook. Unfortunately everything about Facebook defies logic. In terms of user experience (insider jargon: "UX"), Facebook is like an NYPD police van crashing into an IKEA, forever - a chaotic mess of products designed to burrow into every facet of your life.

Caine's ArcadeAPR 10

Caine is nine years old, lives in LA, and built his own arcade out of cardboard boxes in the back of his father's auto parts store.

You've go to watch until at least 3:10 when he explains how to check the validity of the "Fun Pass" using the calculators located on the front of each game. So so so good! (via ★interesting)

Music awakens closed mindsAPR 10

Alive Inside is a documentary that follows social worker Dan Cohen as he discovers that music can "awaken" people suffering from degenerative memory loss (Alzheimer's, etc.). Here's a clip in which a man goes from a near-coma state to talking about his favorite songs after listening to music for awhile on headphones.

(via ★swissmiss)

Design is a JobAPR 10

Out today: Mike Monteiro's Design is a Job. The book is an important reminder that how effective you are as a designer depends on many things aside from what you can do in Photoshop or InDesign. You need to build a stable environment for yourself (and your employees) to do your best work: you need to get clients, know how to talk to them, set up a stable and sustainable business, collaborate with others, etc. etc. For a taste of what the book has to offer, A List Apart has an excerpt of the second chapter, Getting Clients.

The biggest lie in this book would be if I told you I don't worry about where the next client is coming from. I could tell you that once you build up enough of a portfolio, or garner enough experience, or achieve a certain level of notoriety in the industry, this won't be a concern anymore. I could tell you I sleep soundly, not bolting out of bed at 4 a.m. to run laps around the local high school track. I could tell you that I never worry about enough presents under the tree. I could tell you these things, but I'd be lying. And I don't want to lie to you. Getting clients is the most petrifying and scary thing I can think of in the world. I'd rather wrestle lady Bengal tigers in heat with meat strapped to my genitals than look for new clients.

If putting in the work to get the kind of work you want to do sounds too daunting, then close this book right now. Walk away. Rethink your life choices and take up a less stressful craft, like cleaning out cobra pits. Do it. No one will think less of you. Cover yourself in sackcloth and pray to your god for penance.

Go!

Rare photographs of the TitanicAPR 10

I was under the impression that not many photographs of the Titanic existed...especially those taken on the ship. But amateur photographer Francis Browne was aboard the Titanic from Southampton to Cobh, Ireland and captured many images of the ship's interior, exterior, and voyage. The photos were widely known in the aftermath of the sinking but have been little seen since then.

Browne took this as he was boarding the ship:

Titanic 01

The infamous deck chairs:

Titanic 02

Browne traveled on a first class ticket...this is a view of some passengers on the second class promenade:

Titanic 03

This was taken shortly after the ship dropped anchor in Cobh. Browne obviously did not take this photo because he was still aboard the ship...he acquired it from a photography friend after the fact:

Titanic 04

And this is one of the last photos taken of Titanic before Bob Ballard and his team found the wreckage in the mid-80s:

Titanic 05

These photos will be a big blow to the remaining folks who believe that the Titanic was fictional:

Titanic is real

Updates on previous entries for Apr 9, 2012*APR 10

What does a music conductor do? orig. from Apr 09, 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.

Tips for traveling the worldAPR 09

From Jodi at Legal Nomads, a list of 21 practical tips she's gleaned from traveling the world for the past four years. One tip is to take oranges with you on public transportation:

I started bringing a bag of oranges with me for long bus rides, primarily because they quench thirst and smell delicious. I quickly learned that many Thai and Burmese busgoers sniff the peels to stave off nausea, and that kids love oranges. Really: kids LOVE oranges. So for those who want to bring something for the bus ride but rightfully worry about giving sweets to kids, oranges are your friend. You will win over the parents, make the kids happy, occupy your hours and eventually get fed by everyone on the bus. Trust me. You should always have a bag of oranges on hand, the smaller the orange the better.

She also lists the five things she always carries with her while traveling...one of which, unusually, is a doorstop. I'm guessing that's for keeping people out of rooms without door locks?

New episode of A Show with Ze FrankAPR 09

I did not know how much I had missed A Show with Ze Frank until I just watched the first episode of the new series:

I just caught myself waving my hands in the air. Sing it, Brother Ze.

Let's destroy Mercury and build a Dyson sphereAPR 09

George Dvorsky argues that if we wanted to, humanity could get a Dyson sphere up and running in a few decades.

The Dyson sphere, also referred to as a Dyson shell, is the brainchild of the physicist and astronomer Freeman Dyson. In 1959 he put out a two page paper titled, "Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation" in which he described a way for an advanced civilization to utilize all of the energy radiated by their sun. This hypothetical megastructure, as envisaged by Dyson, would be the size of a planetary orbit and consist of a shell of solar collectors (or habitats) around the star. With this model, all (or at least a significant amount) of the energy would hit a receiving surface where it can be used. He speculated that such structures would be the logical consequence of the long-term survival and escalating energy needs of a technological civilization.

Needless to say, the amount of energy that could be extracted in this way is mind-boggling. According to Anders Sandberg, an expert on exploratory engineering, a Dyson sphere in our solar system with a radius of one AU would have a surface area of at least 2.72x1017 km2, which is around 600 million times the surface area of the Earth. The sun has an energy output of around 4x1026 W, of which most would be available to do useful work.

The downside: we'd have to part with Mercury to do it.

And yes, you read that right: we're going to have to mine materials from Mercury. Actually, we'll likely have to take the whole planet apart. The Dyson sphere will require a horrendous amount of material-so much so, in fact, that, should we want to completely envelope the sun, we are going to have to disassemble not just Mercury, but Venus, some of the outer planets, and any nearby asteroids as well.

At Forbes, Alex Knapp explains why Dvorsky's scheme and timeline might not work.

I emailed Astronomer Phil Plait about this project, who told me in no uncertain terms that the project doesn't make sense.

"Dismantling Mercury, just to start, will take 2 x 10^30 Joules, or an amount of energy 100 billion times the US annual energy consumption," he said. "[Dvorsky] kinda glosses over that point. And how long until his solar collectors gather that much energy back, and we're in the black?"

What does a music conductor do?APR 09

Alan Gilbert is the music director of the New York Philharmonic and in this video, he talks about what a conductor does. I've been to the Philharmonic a few times in the past year and have wondered about the role of the conductor...specifically, is he actually doing anything up there to affect the music being played in realtime and could the orchestra play without him? The conductor obviously has a huge role in shaping the piece in rehearsal, but it seems like his presence on stage during the performance itself might be more performance than utility. But that's just a guess.

Update: I got an informative response about this from professional classical musician Chris Brody:

You're absolutely right that one of the main things an orchestra conductor does is to prepare the orchestra in rehearsal for the way he/she wants the piece to sound in performance. A lot of stuff is conveyed in that way that the conductor then won't need to attempt to convey in real time during the performance. And furthermore, as you suspect, conductors are often in some sense kind of "dancing" for the audience during performances, in ways that are strictly superfluous to making the musicians play correctly, though sometimes an enjoyable part of the concert experience.

In order for a concert performance to come off correctly, someone has to take responsibility for giving what musicians call "cues"-concrete gestures that enable everyone to know when to start playing. In chamber music (classical music played in small groups), one of the players will do this, usually with an exaggerated, rhythmically timed gesture that connotes "taking a breath to start playing right NOW" or "preparing my bow to play the string right NOW", and so on. In fact, there are entire smallish orchestras, like the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, that play with no conductor, because members of the ensemble give cues when they are needed.

In larger (orchestral) settings, it is convenient to have a conductor to give cues instead. Of course, there are some pieces that are played with metronomic strictness, and the conductor in fact will have fairly little to do during those performances. You might have noticed that pieces from the Baroque and Classical periods are usually quite strict in time, and it is no coincidence that there was no such thing as a professional conductor until the nineteenth century-music prior to that was usually quite playable with the first-chair violinist ("concertmaster") or the keyboardist giving a few cues as needed. (Conductors were occasionally used prior to the nineteenth century, but not so much that it was anyone's entire job.)

Some pieces, by contrast, have a lot of changes of tempo, or a lot of starting and stopping. In cases like that, a conductor is really an indispensable part of having a performance come off non-disastrously! Furthermore, a lot of pieces are written in a complicated enough texture or rhythm that the musicians cannot necessarily hear what the beat is all the time, and need some visual help to stay together (this is especially true of very slow music, and of a lot of twentieth-century music).

Aside from this, when ensembles don't need help staying together, the conductor will do a lot of gesturing to elicit slight changes in dynamic level, expressive character, and so on, from the musicians. Very good ensembles, when working with a conductor they respect, will absolutely respond in real time to these gestures. Less good ensembles will often not be able to do so and will mostly watch the conductor for cues. Also, ultra-elite ensembles are sometimes known to ignore the conductor during performances if they think he/she isn't adding much value (a dirty secret of professional musicians!), or of course if they do not have confidence in the conductor's ability to keep them together.

A couple more things that might interest you. Basic conducting is done via the use of "patterns" that correspond to certain time signatures. When a conductor conducts music in 3/4 (3 beats per measure), there will be 3 precise places that the baton is expected to be during the measure, and the musicians can always look up and follow that pattern. (The basic patterns are shown in this video.) If you watch, let's say, a high-school band, you will see the conductor use these patterns very strictly and literally. In orchestral conducting, two things are different. First, the musicians don't need much help keeping time, so the patterns are either heavily modified or abandoned entirely-although you can often see downbeats and things if you look for them. Second, orchestral conductors conduct WAY ahead of the beat the musicians are actually playing. This helps the musicians respond in real time to the conductor's instructions. From the audience's perspective, therefore, it can be nearly impossible to see the connection between what the conductor is doing and what you're hearing from the musicians-they're probably substantially out of sync.

Looks like I have a lot more to look for the next time I go to the symphony. (thx, chris!)

Geoff SlatteryAARON COHEN  ·  APR 08

The first 10 seconds of Geoff Slattery's This is United are the best, but the rest is pretty good, too. Haven't seen that before.

Pep Ventosa's The Collective SnapshotAARON COHEN  ·  APR 06

The Collective Snapshot is a photographic series by Spanish photographer Pep Ventosa which blends "together dozens of snapshots to create an abstraction of the places we've been and the things we've seen." He layers multiple pictures from several angles to create one image familiar and foreign at the same time.

Pep Ventosa

His 'Reconstructed Works' aren't bad either. And, oh, look at these carousels. (via My Modern Met)

Movie stars in their first rolesAPR 06

A collection of scenes featuring movie stars before they were stars...like Nicolas Cage in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Renee Zellweger in Dazed and Confused.

They missed one of my favorites...James Earl Jones as Lieutenant Zogg in Dr. Strangelove. (via devour)

The real Google GlassesAPR 06

Since Google released the video for their augmented reality glasses the other day, people have been busy making videos that show a more realistic (or cynical) portrayal of how the glasses might work. Here are a couple of the better ones. First a version of the glasses with Google ads:

And this one gives new meaning to the phrase "banner blindness":

While not specifically about Google Glasses, this concept video by Keiichi Matsuda is also worth a look:

I will also direct your attention to the second episode of Black Mirror, a UK drama series by Charlie Brooker.

A satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a sarcastic version of a future reality. In this world, everyone must cycle on exercise bikes, arranged in cells, in order to power their surroundings and generate currency for themselves called Merits. Everyone is dressed in a grey tracksuit and has a "doppel", a virtual avatar inspired by Miis and Xbox 360 Avatars that people can customise with clothes, for a fee of merits. Everyday activities are constantly interrupted by advertisements that cannot be skipped or ignored without financial penalty.

(via jake & stellar)

Original pitch video for The Muppet ShowAPR 06

Jim Henson made this pitch video to sell The Muppet Show to CBS. It starts a bit slow but stick with it.

There's also a scene with Kermit right at the end which unfortunately didn't make it into the clip.

After Leo's powerful speech, Kermit appears from off-screen against a CBS logo and shrugs, "What the hell was that all about?"

And just because, here's the opening theme song of The Muppet Show. (via @gavinpurcell)

Updates on previous entries for Apr 5, 2012*APR 06

Arsenic and old poultry orig. from Apr 05, 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.

Might as well face it, you're addicted to gamesAPR 05

Judging from the sheer number of you who sent in this link, it might be the kottke.orgest link in the history of the internet. In it, Sam Anderson goes long for the NY Times Magazine on casual games (like Angry Birds, Tetris, Bejeweled, etc.).

In 2009, 25 years after the invention of Tetris, a nearly bankrupt Finnish company called Rovio hit upon a similarly perfect fusion of game and device: Angry Birds. The game involves launching peevish birds at green pigs hiding inside flimsy structures. Its basic mechanism - using your index finger to pull back a slingshot, over and over and over and over and over and over and over - was the perfect use of the new technology of the touch screen: simple enough to lure a suddenly immense new market of casual gamers, satisfying enough to hook them.

Within months, Angry Birds became the most popular game on the iPhone, then spread across every other available platform. Today it has been downloaded, in its various forms, more than 700 million times. It has also inspired a disturbingly robust merchandising empire: films, T-shirts, novelty slippers, even plans for Angry Birds "activity parks" featuring play equipment for kids. For months, a sign outside my local auto-repair shop promised, "Free Angry Birds pen with service." The game's latest iteration, Angry Birds Space, appeared a couple weeks ago with a promotional push from Wal-Mart, T-Mobile, National Geographic Books, MTV and NASA. (There was an announcement on the International Space Station.) Angry Birds, it seems, is our Tetris: the string of digital prayer beads that our entire culture can twiddle in moments of rapture or anxiety - economic, political or existential.

But the real lily gilder here is that you can play Asteroids right on the article page...you can shoot almost everything off the page aside from the article itself -- ads, comments, navigation, etc. This in-article game is based on this JavaScript hack that will let you play Asteroids on any old web page. Pretty cool. (thx, everyone)

Gotta spend money to make moneyAPR 05

Uniqlo, Costco, and Trader Joe's are among the large retailers that are making more money by hiring more retail employees, which runs counter to the conventional wisdom.

The big challenge for any retailer is to make sure that the people coming into the store actually buy stuff, and research suggests that not scrimping on payroll is crucial. In a study published at the Wharton School, Marshall Fisher, Jayanth Krishnan, and Serguei Netessine looked at detailed sales data from a retailer with more than five hundred stores, and found that every dollar in additional payroll led to somewhere between four and twenty-eight dollars in new sales. Stores that were understaffed to begin with benefitted more, stores that were close to fully staffed benefitted less, but, in all cases, spending more on workers led to higher sales. A study last year of a big apparel chain found that increasing the number of people working in stores led to a significant increase in sales at those stores.

(thx, david)

Arsenic and old poultryAPR 05

Nicholas Kristof on factory farmed chicken...farmers load the birds up with caffeine, Tylenol, Benadryl, Prozac, and arsenic. Yes, arsenic. The poison.

Poultry-growing literature has recommended Benadryl to reduce anxiety among chickens, apparently because stressed chickens have tougher meat and grow more slowly. Tylenol and Prozac presumably serve the same purpose.

Researchers found that most feather-meal samples contained caffeine. It turns out that chickens are sometimes fed coffee pulp and green tea powder to keep them awake so that they can spend more time eating. (Is that why they need the Benadryl, to calm them down?)

And yet foie gras is the big problem. Right. Sadly, I imagine that hogs aren't treated any differently.

Update: The National Chicken Council has released a statement about this study.

Chickens in the United States produced for meat are not given "arsenic" as an additive in chicken feed, or any of the other compounds mentioned in this study. Some flocks used to be given feed that contained a product called Roxarsone, which is a molecule that includes organic (carbon-rich, pentavalent) arsenic - not the inorganic, trivalent form that is considered a poison. This product was removed from the market last year, it is no longer manufactured and it is no longer used in raising chickens in the United States. Regardless, as the study's authors point out: "There's no evidence that such low levels of arsenic harm either chickens or the people eating them."

In fact, organic arsenic is a naturally occurring element in our environment that is widely distributed within the earth's crust. It is not surprising that in this study arsenic was detected on bird's feathers because it is naturally present in the air, soil and water.

I'll just quickly note a couple of things about this. This bit -- "the top priority for America's chicken farmers and processors is to raise healthy, top quality birds" -- is pretty hilarious. But it's the National Chicken Council...what are they gonna say? Also note they did not specifically deny giving chickens caffeine and the active ingredients in Prozac, Tylenol, and Benadryl.

kottke.org redesign by the numbersAPR 05

A month ago, I launched a redesign of kottke.org. While there are still a few issues to iron out1, I am overall very happy with it so far.

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.

Aside from those three things, one of my unstated goals with the redesign was to increase the number of people reading kottke.org2 and I had a hunch that the focus on simplicity, sharing, the reading experience would do just that. Using Google Analytics and a couple of other sources, I compared the traffic stats from the past 30 days (I didn't include the day of launch because that was an outlier day, traffic-wise) to that of the previous 30 days. Here are some of the results. (Except where noted, when I say "traffic", I mean visits.)

- Overall traffic to kottke.org was up 14%. And February was a pretty good month itself so that's a nice bump.

- As I hoped, the two areas that saw the most improvement were mobile and referral traffic. Mobile was the lowest-hanging fruit I addressed with the redesign...kottke.org's previous mobile experience sucked. It's better now. And the focus on sharing boosted referral traffic.

- Mobile traffic now accounts for 19% of kottke.org's traffic and increased by 25% over the past 30 days. iPad usage in particular shot up 40% and iPad users are spending longer on the site than they previously were. iPhone and iPod touch traffic both showed double digit percentage increases as well.

- Referral traffic now accounts for 45% of kottke.org's traffic and increased by 28% over the past 30 days. Most of this increase come from social network sharing. Traffic from Facebook increased by 45%, Facebook mobile was up 43%, Twitter increased by 6% (I already did Twitter sharing pretty well before, so not a huge jump here), and Tumblr referrals went up 125%.

- That big Tumblr increase was due to kottke.org's new Tumblr blog. Having kottke.org posts be properly rebloggable is paying off. In addition, it's got over 800 followers that are reading along in the dashboard. I'd like to see that number increase, but I'd probably need to engage a bit more on Tumblr for that to happen.

- For reference, kottke.org's Twitter account added 1000 followers over the same period, about 20% more than the previous month.

- One of the small changes I made was to stop using post titles for posting to Twitter. I had hoped that using more descriptive text would make the tweets more easily retweetable...look at this tweet for example and compare to the title of the post it links to. This hasn't really happened, which is surprising and disappointing.

- I also removed the links to the tag pages (like this and this) from the front page. I had a hunch that very few people were using those links compared to the real estate they took up and the traffic numbers bear that out...traffic to tag pages decreased only 3%.

That's enough for now...I very rarely dig into the traffic stats so it's difficult to stop when I do. That and it's rewarding when you redesign something and it actually works out the way you thought it was going to.

[1] Like this weird Safari bug that results in overlapping link text. Many people have reported this but it only happens sporadically (and usually goes away with a refresh) and I can't reproduce it or find any other sites/designers who are having the same issue. Oh, and it seems like it only happens on OS X Lion. I have no idea if it's the web fonts or something in my CSS. Anyone have any ideas?

[2] Not for $$$ reasons, although that is certainly a consideration. No, it's more that I believe there are literally millions of people out there who are not reading kottke.org that would love it. I put a lot of myself into the site, I'm proud of it, and I want people to see it. That's pretty much it. Oh, and I would also like the unlimited power that comes with millions of readers. evil cackle and cat stroking noises And the money. even more cat stroking noises And the chicks. expensive champagne cork popping noises And my kids' love and respect. surprisingly loud whining noise that you can't even believe came from someone less than 40 inches tall oh come on you just watched Wallace and Gromit for the past hour and you want more orange juice jesus come on give it a rest and now there's a surprisingly loud whining noise coming from a 38-year-old man that should know better...

Money, Power and Wall StreetAPR 05

Frontline is doing a four-hour show about the world financial crisis, which, according to many people featured on the program, is ongoing.

Since 2008, Wall Street and Washington have fought against the tide of the fiercest financial crisis since the Great Depression. What have they wrought? In a special four-hour investigation, FRONTLINE tells the inside story of the struggles to rescue and repair a shattered economy, exploring key decisions, missed opportunities, and the unprecedented and uneasy partnership between government leaders and titans of finance that affects the fortunes of millions of people around the world.

The program airs on April 24th.

Bloody funny game: Happy WheelsAPR 04

Don't know why exactly, but I am loving the hell out of Happy Wheels. The game is pretty simple -- it's a cross between CycloManiacs, Line Rider, and Jackass -- you ride on a bike or Segway or mobility scooter through a course avoiding obstacles and trying to reach the end. Which is fun enough except that when you hit something hard, you body flies apart and blood sprays all over the place. Hilariously. Like this Skate 3 video, which is also inexplicably gut-busting. (via mlkshk)

Google GlassesAPR 04

Google has shared a bit about their augmented reality glasses project (more at the NY Times).

A video released by Google on Wednesday, which can be seen below, showed potential uses for Project Glass. A man wanders around the streets of New York City, communicating with friends, seeing maps and information, and snapping pictures. It concludes with him video-chatting with a girlfriend as the sun sets over the city. All of this is seen through the augmented-reality glasses.

The glasses look a little strange, like Geordi La Forge's visor...they might go over a little better if they looked more Warby Parkerish.

OMG American history LOLAPR 04

Perez Hamilton is a site covering American history through the lens of gossip blogger Perez Hilton. It's up to the 1690s now...here's an account of Leisler's Rebellion from 1691:

During all the drama between the Boston revolt, New England and New France going to war and King James II being overthrown, German-American Jacob Leisler seized control of New York and ruled it against the wishes of the new King William III. In response, KWIII sent a new governor to NY, but he didn't get there for a couple years because he was lazy delayed by bad weather.

After an awkward stand-off resulting in words along the lines of, "You're not governor, I am!" and, "No, bitch, NY is mine!" Jacob Leisler was finally arrested by the REAL governor and sentenced to death.

This is riDICKulous. You can't just steal New York and expect to get away with it!!!!

If it was THAT easy, don't you think we'd have stolen it loooong ago?? Where else can you get the best food and fashion in America??!

Turn your iPhone into a toy carAPR 04

Makego is an interesting iPhone app...it turns your phone into a toy vehicle. This short video explains:

Makego turns your iPhone / iPod Touch into a toy vehicle. It encourages fun, open ended collaborative play between parent and child. Combining creativity and imagination with the virtual world on screen. Select your vehicle within Makego, then interact with the drivers and their world through animations and sound. This release has 3 vehicles to play with: a race car, ice-cream truck, and river boat.

I could easily see building a neat case out of paper and having Ollie and Minna playing with it. I could also see Ollie taking the race car over a big jump and smashing it into another car and oh shit the screen is cracked. The Lego case option is cool though...just slap some wheels on it and away you go.

Updates on previous entries for Apr 3, 2012*APR 04

How to win at blackjack orig. from Apr 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.

Canada is getting rid of the pennyAARON COHEN  ·  APR 03

In a move certain to impact jokes about Canadian stereotypes for years to come, our neighbors to the north are jettisoning the penny. One hopes the United States co-opts this move, because it will be as good for us as Michael J. Fox, Wayne Gretzky, and poutine.

Here is noted penny adversary CPG Grey with more information on the move.

Cool Flash game: ConstellationsAPR 03

Been a few months since we've had one of these. Constellations is a simple game where you shoot jellyfish at stars and shoo fish out of the way. What, I was just playing that for 30 minutes? Oof.

When you get excited, the clothes turn transparentAPR 03

The Intimacy 2.0 fashion garments become see-through when the wearer's heart rate increases.

I think my pants are broken. They should be fully transparent at the moment... (via ★warrenellis)

Ten photographers to ignoreAPR 03

If you're an aspiring photographer, here are ten photographers that you should ignore, presumably so that you can develop your own voice and style instead.

Robert Frank was a one-man revolution. Before him pictures for the most part were pretty and clean and pre-visualized, and shot from a tripod. Frank came along and tore a new A-hole in that aesthetic. Fortunately he had something to replace it with: a strong personal vision. Most young photographers who follow in his footsteps don't. They mistake grain, guts, and verve with substance. Sorry folks, but hitting three out of four doesn't count. I know it took cajones to shoot that cowboy bar at 1 am pushing your film to 3200, but that doesn't keep your photo from being boring. Time to shoot something you care about, and don't try to convince me it's flags or the underclass.

This follows a list of "harmful" novels for aspiring writers.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
Mark Twain made the American vernacular a literary language; Salinger tried to do the same for the American adolescent whine. We who read Catcher as teenagers in the 1950s and '60s at once considered ourselves free to babble on paper just the way we did over coffee and cigarettes. It was certainly easier than learning how to write a straightforward sentence expressing something more than teen angst.

I wonder if there might be a similar list for designers or artists?

Richard Feynman, No Ordinary GeniusAPR 03

Now available in its entirety on YouTube, a 95-minute documentary on physicist Richard Feynman called No Ordinary Genius.

The excellent film on Andrew Wiles' search for the solution to Fermat's Last Theorem is available as well (watch the first two minutes and you'll be hooked).

Time lapse of Hitchcock's Rear WindowAPR 03

This is expertly done...a panoramic time lapse view out the rear window in Rear Window, stitched together from scenes in the film.

More information on how it was made. (via ★interesting)

American girls pose with their American Girl dollsAPR 02

Ilona Szwarc made a series of portraits of American girls with their American Girl dolls.

American Girls

Kinect Star Wars dance partyAPR 02

Kinect Star Wars has a Galactic Dance Off mode where you can "dance to modern songs remixed with Star Wars lyrics". After watching 30 seconds of this, you may not be able to get "I'm Han Solo" out of your head. It features dance moves like "The Speeder", "Chewie Hug", and "Trash Compactor".

Kind of amazing, but not surprising, that the Star Wars universe has come to this. As one YouTube commenter noted:

I just felt the death of Star Wars. It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

Here are some of the lyrics:

I'm feeling like a star,
you can't stop my shine
I'm loving Cloud City,
my head's in the sky

I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,
I'm Han Solo.
I'm Han Solo. Solo.

Yeah, I'm feeling good tonight,
Finally feeling free and it feels so right, oh.
Time to do the things I like,
Gonna see a Princess, everything's all right, oh.

No Jabba to answer to,
Ain't a fixture in the palace zoo, no.
And since that carbonite's off me
I'm livin' life now that I'm free, yeah.

Told me to get myself together
Now I got myself together, yeah.
Now I made it through the weather,
Better days are gonna get better.

I'm so happy the carbonite is gone.
I'm movin' on.
I'm so happy that it's over now.
The pain is gone.

I'm putting on my shades
to cover up my eyes
I'm jumpin' in my ride,
I'm heading out tonight

I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,
I'm Han Solo.
I'm Han Solo. Solo.

I'm picking up my blaster,
put it on my side.
I'm jumpin' in my Falcon
Wookie at my side.

I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,
I'm Han Solo.
I'm Han Solo. Solo.

It's at this point that Lando comes on and gets jiggy. Amazing. (via ★ironicsans)

How to win at blackjackAPR 02

Over the course of a few months last year, blackjack player Don Johnson took three Atlantic City casinos for $15 million. And he didn't do it by counting cards...he used the same techniques one might use when buying a used car.

Johnson is very good at gambling, mainly because he's less willing to gamble than most. He does not just walk into a casino and start playing, which is what roughly 99 percent of customers do. This is, in his words, tantamount to "blindly throwing away money." The rules of the game are set to give the house a significant advantage. That doesn't mean you can't win playing by the standard house rules; people do win on occasion. But the vast majority of players lose, and the longer they play, the more they lose.

Allan Benton said it and so did Robb Stark to Jamie Lanister (and I'm totally paraphrasing here): If I do it your way, you're going to win. We're not going to do it your way. (via daring fireball)

Update: Kid Dynamite asserts that the article got it wrong about the math involved.

No. That's not right at all. You're failing to use their discount against them: you're getting no value from it if you keep playing when you're "far enough ahead" !!! Let me put it this way: pretend you're up a million, and you're betting $ 50k a hand. let's just pretend that each hand is 50/50 win/lose (it's not, but indulge me for simplicity's sake). So each additional hand has no positive expected value for you (nor any negative expected value).

However, if you pick up your million dollar win, walk across the street to the other casino who will give you a 20% rebate on your losses for the session, and start to lose - say you lose $ 1MM now - you're MUCH better off. You only have to pay $ 800k to the new casino (they rebate 20% of the million dollar loss), but you won a million at the first casino - you're still up two hundred grand. On the other hand, if you stayed at the first casino and proceeded to lose back your million in winnings, you're now flat - because it's all the same session so you don't get the benefit of the loss rebate. Capiche?

And so the question still remains: how did Johnson do it? (thx, @harryh)

Full contact marathon runningAPR 02

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer officially entered the Boston Marathon, which was an all-male event at the time. Two miles in, race officials caught their mistake and one of them tried to remove her from the course. Switzer's boyfriend intervened on her behalf:

Kathrine Switzer

She finished the race but was later disqualified. (via mlkshk)

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