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

 

Kilian Martin: Altered RouteAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 31

Oh, boy. A new Kilian Martin skate video. Martin's style is really distinctive. The spinning, the two skateboards, the handstands. Lovely stuff.

(via ★interesting)

The collapse of the Tacoma Narrows bridgeMAY 31

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was open for about four months in 1940 before a steady wind set it twisting and ultimately tore the bridge apart.

Damn Interesting has a detailed account of the bridge's short history and demise.

After opening, the new bridge shortly came to be known as "Galloping Gertie," so named by white-knuckled motorists who braved the writhing bridge on windy days. Even in a light breeze, Gertie's undulations were known to produce waves up to ten feet tall. Sometimes these occurrences were brief, and other times they lasted for hours at a time. Numerous travelers shunned the route altogether to avoid becoming seasick, whereas many thrill-seeking souls paid the 75-cent toll to traverse Gertie during her more spirited episodes.

The 99% Invisible podcast devoted a show to the collapse of the bridge.

(via sarah pavis)

The cup of coffee clubAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 31

Rick Paulas has a deep look in the Awl at baseball players who, regardless of how long their professional careers were, only played in one Major League Baseball game. They're in an interesting spot, possessing great enough talent to get them to the pinnacle of their profession but not enough to keep them there (though military service, luck, and injuries also play a role in some cases).

Some players performed poorly in their one game, others did...better.

On the final day of the 1963 regular season, John Paciorek had a hell of a career. The 18-year-old started in right field for the Houston Colt .45s -- two years away from trading in the handgun for the Space Race-influenced "Astros" moniker -- and had a perfect day at the plate: three-for-three, two walks, three RBIs and four runs. Nagging back injuries meant he'd never have a chance to blemish that perfection.

By the math in the article, 5.5% of all major leaguers ever have only played in one game. I can't decide if that's more or less than I would expect.

Howler, a new magazine about soccerMAY 31

This looks promising -- Howler, a quarterly magazine for North American soccer fans started by some experienced big mag editors, designers, and writers. They're looking for $50,000 to get it started on Kickstarter.

Howler is a new magazine about soccer. It's a big, glossy publication that will come out four times a year with distinctive, original writing about American and international soccer, as well as some of the most striking art and design you'll find in any publication being made today. (We know that's a bold claim, but we really believe it's true.) We've been working on Howler for months, and issue one is nearly ready to be printed, shipped, and in your hands by late summer.

I ordered a year's subscription. (via @thessaly)

Ernest Hemingway's standing deskMAY 31

The internet is going through a bit of a thing with standing desks right now, fueled by yesterday's The Wirecutter article about them. One of the most famous standing desk enthusiasts was Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway Standing Desk

The introduction of this 1958 Paris Review interview with Hemingway briefly describes Papa's upright working setup:

A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu -- the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.

Most articles I've seen on standing desks recommend anti-fatigue mats to help with foot pain, but of course Hemingway would go with the hide of an African antelope that he likely killed himself.

Other famous users of standing desks included Winston Churchill, Lewis Carroll, Donald Rumsfeld, Charles Dickens, Otto von Bismarck, Henry Clay, Thomas Jefferson, John Dos Passos, and Virginia Woolf. (thx, megnut)

The unified theory of Quentin Tarantino's movie universeMAY 31

In the past day, I've run across two related theories of how all of Quentin Tarantino's films are part of the same universe: this video and this post on Reddit. They differ slightly but the Reddit one is more interesting...specifically that Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, etc. take place in the aftermath of Inglourious Basterds and its unorthodox ending to World War II.

Because World War 2 ended in a movie theater, everybody lends greater significance to pop culture, hence why seemingly everybody has Abed-level knowledge of movies and TV. Likewise, because America won World War 2 in one concentrated act of hyperviolent slaughter, Americans as a whole are more desensitized to that sort of thing. Hence why Butch is unfazed by killing two people, Mr. White and Mr. Pink take a pragmatic approach to killing in their line of work, Esmerelda the cab driver is obsessed with death, etc.

You can extrapolate this further when you realize that Tarantino's movies are technically two universes - he's gone on record as saying that Kill Bill and From Dusk 'Til Dawn take place in a 'movie movie universe'; that is, they're movies that characters from the Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, and Death Proof universe would go to see in theaters. (Kill Bill, after all, is basically Fox Force Five, right on down to Mia Wallace playing the title role.)

(via ★pieratt & @natebirdman)

NYC wants to ban large sugary drinksMAY 31

Not content to ban cigarettes, educate the public on calorie counts, and grade the city's restaurants, the Bloomberg administration wants to ban the sale of large sugary drinks.

The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces -- about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle -- would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.

The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.

Over my dead fat diabetic body!

Epic Pepys diary rebroadcast to endMAY 30

More than nine years ago, Phil Gyford started publishing The Diary of Samuel Pepys online as a time-shifted blog...perhaps the first of its kind. During that time, each entry in Pepys' diary was published 343 years after Pepys originally wrote them. In time, a popular Twitter account was added. The final entry will be published tomorrow (May 31), which is when Pepys suspended his diary in 1669 due to poor eyesight. Congrats on the run, Phil!

Cause of Pine Mouth still unknownMAY 30

According to a recent study, the cause of Pine Mouth (where eating pine nuts can make food taste horrible for days afterwards) is still unknown. The full text of the study is behind a paywall but The Awl has a short summary of the findings.

Now, a new publication by the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry finds esteemed scientists literally throwing up their hands. They learned a lot about pine nuts and their composition! But nothing useful.

cc: Megnut.

The Wirecutter goes long on standing desksMAY 30

The fantastically obsessive Mark Lukach just spent an outlandish amount of time researching stand-up desks and shared his findings at The Wirecutter. Even if you have no interest in standing on the job, The Wirecutter is worth a visit for their concise and excellent guides on what to buy from headphones to juicers. (via nextdraft)

Note: This post is from Dave Pell's NextDraft email newsletter, hopefully the first of many. Dave and I are going to be trading content back and forth on a more-or-less weekly basis, so keep a lookout for that. If you like what you see, subscribe to NextDraft whydontcha?

Syndicated from NextDraft. Subscribe today or grab the iOS app.

The Jenny McCarthy Body CountMAY 30

The Jenny McCarthy Body Count site tracks the number of vaccine-preventable illnesses and deaths in the US since June 2007.

Jenny McCarthy Body Count

In June 2007 Jenny McCarthy began promoting anti-vaccination rhetoric. Because of her celebrity status she has appeared on several television shows and has published multiple books advising parents not to vaccinate their children. This has led to an increase in the number of vaccine preventable illnesses as well as an increase in the number of vaccine preventable deaths.

I hadn't realized just how much of a nutter McCarthy is...her embrace of pseudoscience runs deep.

Indigo children is a term used to describe children who are believed to possess special, unusual and sometimes supernatural traits or abilities. The term is pseudoscientific. The idea is based on New Age concepts developed in the 1970s by Nancy Ann Tappe and further developed by Jan Tober and Lee Carroll. The concept of indigo children gained popular interest with the publication of a series of books in the late 1990s and the release of several films in the following decade. A variety of books, conferences and related materials have been created surrounding belief in the idea of indigo children and their nature and abilities. The interpretations of these beliefs range from their being the next stage in human evolution, in some cases possessing paranormal abilities such as telepathy, to the belief that they are more empathic and creative than their peers.

Anachronisms that aren't actually anachronisticMAY 30

This thread at Ask MetaFilter contains several examples of English words and phrases that sound current but actually aren't.

"Fly" mentioned above is one of my favorites (though it's considered dated by youngsters today -- they'll basically only use it ironically), but one not mentioned so is "crib" (also a bit dated) which has meant something like "house" or "home" since 1600. OED: "A small habitation, cabin, hovel; a narrow room; fig. a confined space. In N.Z. now esp. a small house at the seaside or at a holiday resort."

I particularly liked this early example of the maternal insult from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus:

Demetrius: "Villain, what hast thou done?"
Aaron: "That which thou canst not undo."
Chiron: "Thou hast undone our mother."
Aaron: "Villain, I have done thy mother."

Interview with a safecrackerMAY 30

From McSweeney's Interviews With People Who Have Interesting or Unusual Jobs series, a brief interview with a professional safecracker.

Q: Do you ever look inside?
A: I NEVER look. It's none of my business. Involving yourself in people's private affairs can lead to being subpoenaed in a lawsuit or criminal trial. Besides, I'd prefer not knowing about a client's drug stash, personal porn, or belly button lint collection.

When I'm done I gather my tools and walk to the truck to write my invoice. Sometimes I'm out of the room before they open it. I don't want to be nearby if there is a booby trap.

Updates on previous entries for May 29, 2012*MAY 30

The view from an old time burger joint orig. from Feb 02, 2012

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

The Pioneer Anomaly has been solvedMAY 29

I missed this last July when the news came out, but since I've been following the Pioneer Anomaly for the past eight years, I wanted to mention it here for closure purposes. First, what the hell is the Pioneer Anomaly?

The Pioneer anomaly or Pioneer effect is the observed deviation from predicted accelerations of the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft after they passed about 20 astronomical units (3×10^9 km; 2×10^9 mi) on their trajectories out of the Solar System. Both Pioneer spacecraft are escaping the Solar System, but are slowing under the influence of the Sun's gravity. Upon very close examination of navigational data, the spacecraft were found to be slowing slightly more than expected. The effect is an extremely small but unexplained acceleration towards the Sun, of 8.74±1.33x10^-10 m/s^2.

A team at JPL has tracked the problem to uneven heat emissions from the probes' fuel source.

For their new analysis, Turyshev et. al. compiled a lot more data than had ever been analyzed before, spanning a much longer period of the Pioneers' flight times. They studied 23 years of data from Pioneer 10 instead of just 11, and 11 years of data from Pioneer 11 instead of 3. As explained in their new paper, the more complete data sets reveal that the spacecraft's anomalous acceleration did indeed seem to decrease with time. In short, the undying force had been dying after all, just like the decaying plutonium.

A more recent paper by the same researchers offers even more support for their theory. Case closed, I say.

Quantum propulsion system for spacecraft inventedMAY 29

Aisha Mustafa, a 19-year-old Egyptian physics student, has invented a promising new quantum propulsion system for spacecraft.

Mustafa invented a way of tapping this quantum effect via what's known as the dynamic Casimir effect. This uses a "moving mirror" cavity, where two very reflective very flat plates are held close together, and then moved slightly to interact with the quantum particle sea. It's horribly technical, but the end result is that Mustafa's use of shaped silicon plates similar to those used in solar power cells results in a net force being delivered. A force, of course, means a push or a pull and in space this equates to a drive or engine.

Prime Burger, a classic Manhattan eatery, closed last weekMAY 29

Earlier in the year I shared a lovely short film about Prime Burger, a midtown Manhattan institution.

For many of the guys that work here, the restaurant is like a second home -- some of them have been slinging burgers, making shakes, and waiting on customers at this location for decades. Opened in 1938, the place hasn't been altered since the early '60s, and it looks all the better for it.

Sadly, as of Saturday, Prime Burger is no more, booted out by the new ownership of their building.

Prime Burger, the 74-year-old coffee shop and restaurant, run for 36 years by the DiMiceli family, is closing. And though Michael DiMiceli spoke hopefully on Friday of finding a new space in which to reinstall Prime Burger's futuristic "Jetsons"-era d'ecor, the family has scarcely had time yet to look or to strike a deal. The small building in which Prime Burger is a tenant was sold recently, and the new owners sent the restaurant packing.

The Isle of Man TT, the most insane motorcycle race in the worldMAY 29

File this one under what fast looks like: motorcycle racers reach speeds in excess of 200 mph as they navigate the tiny curved roads of the Isle of Man during the Isle of Man TT race. The crash at 1:30, which is insane by the way, involves a stone wall, sheep, and was filmed cinematically from a helicopter.

(thx, @garymross)

A short history of image bookmarkingMAY 29

In a pair of articles at GigaOM, David Galbraith shares some lessons from building Wists, a visual bookmarking site that was a precursor to Pinterest. In part one, he describes how the site came about:

I get too much credit for RSS and for Yelp, but the one thing that I can unashamedly claim to have invented is visual bookmarking, and more specifically the "choose images to thumbnail via a bookmarklet" method that Pinterest is based on. It's not much of an "invention" per se. It's a moronically simple thing, but it's the right moronically simple thing. And given that more than one billion dollars rests on the idea, maybe it's worth looking back at its history.

In part two, he talks about the rise of grid sites:

Although a seemingly trivial distinction, grid sites have their distinct advantages and disadvantages over linear ones. They look pretty, but require scanning in two directions. This is not good for news, where you need to understand the timeline at a glance. However, for scanning thumbnails, a grid is particularly efficient. But even then, the success of such image-rich sites as Tumblr made people think that the river worked for everything. I suspect the key UX component of Tumblr's success is the ease of sharing or reblogging. Also, in such a heterogeneous text/image environment, you can't just have a grid.

I disagree strenuously with David about the importance and utility of grids for visual sites...using Pinterest for more than a few seconds makes me want to smash things.

New Sigur Ros albumMAY 29

Sigur Ros is out with a new album today. Pretty good so far.

Watch the Throne 2?!!MAY 25

Kanye and Jay-Z are doing a second album together!

Kanye West's producer Mike Dean, who co-produced part of Jay and 'Ye's Watch the Throne, has confirmed that there will be a Watch the Throne 2! While Dean revealed that a follow up album is definitely in the works, he was unable to give a specific time for its release.

Maybe they'll call it Watch the Throner?

The Keaton Music TypewriterMAY 25

No, it's not a typewriter that plays music. The Keaton Music Typewriter was invented in 1936 for the purpose of printing musical notes on sheet music paper.

Music Typewriter

The Keaton Music Typewriter was first patented in 1936 (14 keys) by Robert H. Keaton from San Francisco, California. Another patent was taken out in 1953 (33 keys) which included improvements to the machine. The machine types on a sheet of paper lying flat under the typing mechanism. There are several Keaton music typewriters thought to be in existence in museums and private collections. It was marketed in the 1950s and sold for around $225. The typewriter made it easier for publishers, educators, and other musicians to produce music copies in quantity. Composers, however, preferred to write the music out by hand.

Scientific secrets?MAY 25

Soon after the US dropped two nuclear bomb on Japan in 1945, a group of physicists at the University of Pennsylvania decided to investigate for themselves how nuclear fission and the bomb might work using non-classified materials. In doing so, they ventured into classified territory and raised questions about the nature of science and secrecy.

To what degree would nuclear research become shackled by the requirements of national security? Would the open circulation of new scientific knowledge cease if that knowledge was relevant to nuclear fission? Those questions were hardly idle speculation: From the fall of 1945 through the summer of 1946, the US Congress was crafting new, unprecedented legislation that would legally define the bounds of open scientific research and even free speech. The idea of restricting open scientific communication "may seem drastic and far-reaching," President Harry S. Truman argued in an October 1945 statement exhorting Congress to rapid action. But, he said, the atomic bomb "involves forces of nature too dangerous to fit into any of our usual concepts."

The former Manhattan Project scientists who founded what would eventually become the Federation of American Scientists were adamantly opposed to keeping nuclear technology a closed field. From early on they argued that there was, as they put it, "no secret to be kept." Attempting to control the spread of nuclear weapons by controlling scientific information would be fruitless: Soviet scientists were just as capable as US scientists when it came to discovering the truths of the physical world. The best that secrecy could hope to do would be to slightly impede the work of another nuclear power. Whatever time was bought by such impediment, they argued, would come at a steep price in US scientific productivity, because science required open lines of communication to flourish.

At the University of Pennsylvania were nine scientists sympathetic to that message. All had been involved with wartime work, but in the area of radar, not the bomb. Because they had not been part of the Manhattan Project in any way, they were under no legal obligation to maintain secrecy; they were simply informed private citizens. In the fall of 1945, they tried to figure out the technical details behind the bomb.

The AOL hotelAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 25

Eric Simons is a 19-year-old entrepreneur who lived for two months in the AOL HQ in Palo Alto. Simons was given a badge while participating in Imagine K12, an education incubator housed at AOL. When the program ended, Simons's badge continued to work. So he stayed, sleeping on one of three couches, showering in the gym, and eating for free in the cafeteria. There's a walled garden joke in here, maybe even a domain squatting joke, too.

For someone with neither money nor an aversion to sleeping on others' couches, the AOL building had plenty of allure. "They had a gym there with showers," Simons said. "I'd take a shower after work. I was like, 'I could totally work here...They have food upstairs, they have every drink on tap. This would be a sweet place to live.'"

It's too bad Simons didn't keep a Tumblr of his two months living at AOL, he'd have a book deal already. (via ★asimone)

Alan Rickman drinks tea dramaticallyMAY 24

Many of you liked the slinky on the treadmill video. This slow-motion video of Alan Rickman drinking tea isn't quite as compelling, but it's not bad either. Wait for the drop around 1:22 before judging.

The original video without the dramatic sound is here. (More info.)

XOXO conferenceMAY 24

My pal Andy Baio is throwing a conference in Portland in September and funding the whole thing on Kickstarter.

XOXO is a celebration of disruptive creativity. We want to take all the independent artists using the Internet to make a living doing what they love -- the makers, craftspeople, musicians, filmmakers, comic book artists, game designers, hardware hackers -- and bring them together with the technologists building the platforms that make it possible. If you have an audience and a good idea, nothing's standing in your way.

It reminds me a bit of what SXSW used to be. I bought a ticket and am hoping to be there. Only 68 tickets remaining so if you want to go, you'd better pull the trigger on the ticket gun.

Ayrton Senna's heel-and-toe braking techniqueMAY 24

There's a driving technique called heel-and-toe where the driver uses all three pedals (brake, clutch, throttle) at once to make deceleration smoother, especially in the turns.

Heel-toe or heel-and-toe double-declutching is used before entry into a turn while a vehicle is under braking, preparing the transmission to be in the optimal range of rpm to accelerate out of the turn. One benefit of downshifting before entering a turn is to eliminate the jolt to the drivetrain, or any other unwanted dynamics. The jolt will not upset the vehicle as badly when going in a straight line, but the same jolt while turning may upset the vehicle enough to cause loss of control if it occurs after the turn has begun. Another benefit is that "heel-and-toeing" allows the driver to downshift at the last moment before entering the turn, after starting braking and the car has slowed, so the engine speed will not be high enough when the lower gear is engaged.

Here is a video of Formula One great Ayrton Senna demonstrating the techique in a Honda NSX. You'll note he's wearing a button-down shirt, dress pants, Italian loafers, and no helmet while burying the speedometer on his way around the track.

It's a bit difficult to understand from the video what Senna is actually doing...this step-by-step video shows the heel-and-toe technique more clearly. (thx, micah)

Subscribe to Jason Kottke on QuarterlyMAY 23

Quarterly is a hybrid of a magazine and an online store...you subscribe to people and receive items in the mail. It's a fun idea and I'm pleased to announce that you can now subscribe to me on Quarterly. Here's what I'm planning on sending out, very generally:

Each day on kottke.org, I attempt to find the interesting in everything. Part of that is casting a wide net and looking for connections between seemingly unrelated things. I hope that -- for instance -- a sports freak can appreciate something about how the human brain works, a book editor is enticed to read about the history of the American automobile industry, or a startup CEO can find business lessons in fashion. In that vein, I'll be sending you things that you didn't know you wanted to see until you saw them.

Price is $25 per quarter with the first mailing shipping in about two months. Sign up!

Skydiver lands safely without parachuteMAY 23

Gary Connery is apparently the first person to skydive out of an aircraft and land on the ground without injury without the use of a parachute.

(via devour)

Ten Olympic events due for a comebackMAY 23

Over at the NY Times Olympics blog, Victor Mather takes a look at a few sports that would be fun to see in the Olympic Games again.

3. Dueling pistol, 1906
No actual duels were fought, alas. Rather, contestants shot at a dummy dressed in a frock coat. Shooting events tend to be rather dull to watch, but they would have a chance with creative thinking like this.

And tandem bike racing!

And don't forget the art competitions.

Six playoff games, four daysAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 23

With the LA Kings, LA Lakers, and LA Clippers all in the playoffs this year, the Staples Center has been pretty busy. Between May 17th and May 20th, there were 6 games. The crew at the Staples Center has to break the arena down between every game, what with all the different teams and sports. Watching the set up is pretty neat, and since no one would watch a four-day-long video, they've been kind enough to share a time lapse. Watch the arena go from Kings to Lakers to Clippers to Lakers to Kings to Clippers. My favorite parts are the pre-game introductions and that they lower the jumbotron every night.

(via Quickish)

Movie references from The SimpsonsMAY 23

Movie Simpsons is a Tumblr of scenes from the Simpsons paired with the referenced movie scenes.

Movie Simpsons

It's only just getting going, but 1995 Jason would have killed for this. The first time I watched Citizen Kane and The Godfather, I smacked my forehead with my hand so many times in recognition that it turned red.

Drawings of the LHC in the style of Leonardo da VinciMAY 23

Dr. Sergio Cittolin has worked at CERN for the past 30 years as a research physicist. He has also made several drawings of the Large Hadron Collider in the style of Leonardo da Vinci.

LHC da Vinci

LHC da Vinci

Symmetry magazine profiled Cittolin a few years ago.

As a naturalist, da Vinci probed, prodded, and tested his way to a deeper understanding of how organisms work and why, often dissecting his object of study with this aim. "I thought, why not present the idea of data analysis to the world within the naturalist world of Leonardo?" Cittolin says. In the drawing below, the CMS detector is the organism to be opened; the particles passing through it and the tracks they leave behind are organs exposed for further investigation.

Cittolin brings a sense of humor to his work. For example, after betting CMS colleague Ariella Cattai that he could produce a quality drawing for the cover of the CMS tracker technical proposal by a given deadline, he included in the drawing a secret message in mirror-image writing-which was also a favorite of da Vinci's. The message jokingly demanded a particular reward for his hard work. The completed picture was delivered on time and within a few hours Cattai cleverly spotted and deciphered the message. She promptly presented him with the requested bottle of wine.

(via ★johnpavlus)

Epic video of a Slinky on a treadmillMAY 23

I had no idea a Slinky's adventures on a treadmill could be so dramatic or affecting. The stumble at ~1:43 is the most harrowing scene in film so far in 2012.

(via stellar)

Whiskey on the rocks. Literally!MAY 22

Sipping Stones are small stones that you put into your drink instead of ice. Gives new meaning to "on the rocks"!!! LOL LMAO ROFLCOPTER, etc.

When enjoying a premium spirit, why tarnish the taste with water? Providing a slight chill protects the taste without drowning the quality.

Sipping Stones are made of all natural soapstone, which is non-porous and won't impart any taste or flavor. Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA soapstone is comprised of talc, which will not react to water, alcohol, or other drinks. When used with care, Sipping Stones will not scratch your glassware.

You can get nine of them for $15 from Amazon. Has anyone used these? Are they any good?

An atlas for the blindMAY 22

The Atlas of the United States Printed for the Use of the Blind, published in 1837 before Braille was widely used, used embossed printing of lines, words, and symbols to be finger-readable.

Atlas For The Blind

Without a drop of ink in the book, the text and maps in this extraordinary atlas were embossed heavy paper with letters, lines, and symbols. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first atlas produced for the blind to read without the assistance of a sighted person. Braille was invented by 1825, but was not widely used until later. It represented letters well, but could not represent shapes and cartographic features.

(via @ftrain)

A "Kardashian" as a unit of measure for attentionMAY 22

Ethan Zuckerman proposes measuring attention with a unit of measure called a Kardashian. One Kardashian is equal to the amount of worldwide media attention that Kim Kardashian gets in a day.

I choose the Kardashian as a unit both because I like the mitteleuropean feel of the term -- like the Ohm or the Roentgen -- and because Kardashian is an exemplar of attention disconnected from merit, talent or reason. The Kardashian mentions how much attention is paid, not how much attention is deserved, so naming the unit after someone who is famous for being famous seems appropriate. Should the unit be adopted, I would hope that future scholars will calculate Kardashians using whatever public figure is appropriate at the time for being inappropriately famous.

Example usage: The crisis in Greece received 12 microKardashians of attention today.

How the 30 Rock sausage is madeMAY 22

This long four-part interview of 30 Rock show runner Robert Carlock at the AV Club is, as mentioned, long but worth reading if you're into TV or 30 Rock. Part one covers season one & and part of two, and part two walks us through part of season two & season three.

[Jerry Seinfeld's] people and NBC were talking at a very high level about promoting Bee Movie, and they were encouraging us to use him. We were really eager to do anything we could to continue our life writing the show, in part, at that point, because we'd really fallen in love with writing it. I will never have another opportunity to write for those people again. Writing a half-hour for Alec Baldwin is insane. And to work with Tina. A lot of the things this show has done, like product integration and guest stars, is partly to give NBC the fewest number of excuses possible to get rid of us. If they're saying, "We'll promote you. Have Seinfeld on," and we all love Seinfeld, we'll sit down and try to find a way to do it on our terms-much like product integration, where every time we've done it, we've had the luxury of being able to call it out or mock it or integrate it. This past live show had a couple of P.I. things in it, because that was so much about television that you're able to do it. We were happy to have Jerry come on the show, and he shot 10 pages in a very long day. We usually shoot six or seven pages, so it was a real burden.

Parts three & four to come. (via @khoi)

Updates on previous entries for May 21, 2012*MAY 22

Fantastic time lapse map of Europe, 1000 - 2005 A.D. orig. from May 15, 2012

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

Douche parkingAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 21

I can't tell if the app featured in this video is imaginary or not, but it's a great theoretical solution to the problem of douche parking. Douche parking is basically parking like a douche, and is way more prevalent in Russia than in the US. The Village feels publicly shaming is the best way to deal with douches. Unfortunately, one trait of douches is an inability to be shamed.

(via ★interesting)

Teaser trailer for P.T. Anderson's The MasterMAY 21

The teaser trailer for P.T. Anderson's next film, The Master. Anderson himself cut the trailer -- why don't more director/editors do this?

Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Paul Thomas Anderson (the acclaimed director of, There Will Be Blood, Magnolia and Boogie Nights), this story stars Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) and Academy Award-nominee Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line). Set in America in the years following World War II, a charismatic intellectual (Hoffman) launches a faith-based organization and taps a young drifter (Phoenix) as his right-hand man. But as the faith begins to gain a fervent following, the onetime vagabond finds himself questioning the belief system he has embraced, and his mentor. A truly one-of-a-kind drama, which promises magnetic virtuoso performances, the film marks the fifth collaboration between Anderson and Hoffman, following Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch Drunk Love.

As good as this looks, I'm a wee bit disappointed that this isn't a PT Anderson-directed documentary style film about Doctor Who's nemesis. Wouldn't that be something? (via cigarettes & red vines)

Low-resolution 3D printingMAY 21

Dirk van der Kooij is a designer who uses a low-resoution 3D printer of sorts to print out plastic furniture with plastic recovered from recycled refrigerators.

Images of the finished product are available on his web site as are the chairs themselves, for €840. (via @curiousoctopus)

Aerial photo tour of the Alberta oil sandsMAY 21

Since the companies mining the oil from the sands of Alberta wouldn't provide access to their operations to a reporter, he rented a plane and took a bunch of photos.

Alberta Oil Sands

As Stewart said, "Better than I thought".

The coolest video of yesterday's annular solar eclipseMAY 21

Cory Poole made this video of the annular solar ecplise yesterday using 700 photographs from a telescope with "a very narrow bandpass allowing you to see the chromosphere and not the much brighter photosphere below it."

Cory says: "The filter only allows light that is created when hydrogen atoms go from the 2nd excited state to the 1st excited state." Very cool.

Ridley Scott is doing a Blade Runner sequelMAY 18

In this interview with The Daily Beast, Ridley Scott reveals that he's currently working on a sequel to Blade Runner.

Funny enough, I started my first meetings on the Blade Runner sequel last week. We have a very good take on it. And we'll definitely be featuring a female protagonist.

Alien still hasn't listened to all of Voyager's Golden RecordMAY 18

Eighteen months on, the alien who discovered Voyager's Golden Record still hasn't gotten around to listening to the whole thing.

"The wind, rain, and surf sounds are pretty cool, but I usually sort of zone out when it gets to the crickets chirping, and then I just end up turning it off," said Ellinger, adding that he will sometimes put the record on as background noise when he's cleaning his electro-biological habitat.

Current status of The Onion: still really pretty good.

Opening a beer bottle with a chainsawMAY 18

If you're attempting to enjoy beer and are without your bottle opener but you have your chainsaw, this will come in handy:

Didn't spill a drop! See also opening a beer bottle with a piece of paper, opening a beer bottle with a cigarette lighter, and opening a beer bottle with an iPad power brick.

The NY Times' first restaurant criticMAY 18

Craig Claiborne was the NY Times' first dedicated restaurant critic, providing an example that was soon followed by newspapers everywhere in the US.

Some American writers had nibbled at the idea of professional restaurant criticism before this, including Claiborne, who had written one-off reviews of major new restaurants for The Times. But his first "Directory to Dining," 50 years ago this month, marks the day when the country pulled up a chair and began to chow down. Within a few years, nearly every major newspaper had to have a Craig Claiborne of its own. Reading the critics, eating what they had recommended, and then bragging or complaining about it would become a national pastime.

As the current caretaker of the house that Claiborne built, I lack objectivity on this subject. Still, I believe that without professional critics like him and others to point out what was new and delicious, chefs would not be smiling at us from magazine covers, subway ads and billboards. They would not be invited to the White House, except perhaps for job interviews. Claiborne and his successors told Americans that restaurants mattered. That was an eccentric opinion a half-century ago. It's not anymore.

A few years ago, I wrote about the first restaurant review to appear in the Times in 1859...it's still one of my favorite posts.

The history of the tacoAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 17

In this Smithsonian interview, University of Minnesota history professor Jeffrey Pilcher drops serious knowledge on the history of tacos. Among other bits of taco trivia, Pilcher, author of the forthcoming book Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food, roughly disabuses us of the lie spread by Glen Bell (of Taco Bell) that Bell invented the hard shell.

What made the fast-food taco possible? The fast-food taco is a product of something called the "taco shell," a tortilla that has been pre-fried into that characteristic U-shape. If you read Glen Bell's authorized biography, he says he invented the taco shell in the 1950s, and that it was his technological breakthrough. Mexicans were cooking tacos to order -- fresh -- and Glen Bell, by making then ahead, was able to serve them faster. But when I went into the U.S. patent office records, I found the original patents for making taco shells were awarded in the 1940s to Mexican restaurateurs, not to Glen Bell.

Pilcher's other books include editing The Oxford Handbook of Food History, and writing The Sausage Rebellion: Public Health, Private Enterprise, and Meat in Mexico City, 1890-1917 and Que vivan los tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity. The Sausage Rebellion indeed.

Back on BullseyeMAY 17

Jesse Thorn had me on Bullseye again to talk links. We discussed Benton's ham (see if you can make it past the "we're about to go ham" crack at the beginning) and Senna, one of my favorite films from the past six months.

How to use a paper towelMAY 17

In the spirit of conservation, Joe Smith shows us how to use a paper towel properly.

(via df)

Justin Bieber is a manAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 17

Justin Bieber recently had his 18th birthday so GQ sent Drew Magary to make him a man. It didn't quite go as planned, but here are the 8 best parts of the story.

Harrell is an incredibly nice man who looks like a black version of Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka, so I was happy to sit around and stare at his hair for a while.

If someone asks you if you'd like to punch Justin Bieber in the face, the answer is yes.

His voice is so high, it sounds like a ringtone.

No one can be normal living under the circumstances that constitute daily life for Justin Bieber.

We talk music, and he mentions his love for pre-"Black Album" Metallica--"One," "Fade to Black." "Those are my jams," he says.

"I'm 18 years old and I'm a swaggy adult!" he yells. "Come on, swaggy bros!"

His flow is slower than prostate cancer.

And he surely knows what it's like to be hated by people who've never met you. Unlike Kardashian, though, Bieber is legitimately talented.

The new Vanilla Ice hairdo is puzzling...why would Bieber want to go anywhere near that one-hit wonder flame out mess?

Face flapping photographyMAY 17

Tadao Cern sets people up in front of powerful fans and takes their pictures. Instant fun house:

Tadao Cern

Many more of Cern's photos are available on Facebook. (via colossal)

Skating with shadowsAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 16

I've seen skateboarding dogs, but I've never seen a skateboarding shadow before. The video feels like a dream sequence in a movie, a movie where some evil wizard turns the boys of Dogtown into shadows.

Sorkin to graduates: you're "incredibly well-educated dumb people"MAY 16

Aaron Sorkin recently gave the commencement address at Syracuse University.

Make no mistake about it, you are dumb. You're a group of incredibly well-educated dumb people. I was there. We all were there. You're barely functional. There are some screw-ups headed your way. I wish I could tell you that there was a trick to avoiding the screw-ups, but the screw-ups, they're a-coming for ya. It's a combination of life being unpredictable, and you being super dumb.

But also, this:

Don't ever forget that you're a citizen of this world, and there are things you can do to lift the human spirit, things that are easy, things that are free, things that you can do every day. Civility, respect, kindness, character. You're too good for schadenfreude, you're too good for gossip and snark, you're too good for intolerance -- and since you're walking into the middle of a presidential election, it's worth mentioning that you're too good to think people who disagree with you are your enemy.

Kids review a Skrillex songMAY 16

A bunch of cute kids review Bangarang by Skrillex.

What is dupstep?

I've never heard of that.

Daddy loves dubstep.

A couple of the kids were asked what "the drop" meant:

I think the drop is when you drop being sensible.

When it gets really quiet and then it gets really really really loud. BANG!

(via ★interesting)

A blind man's first experience with echolocationMAY 16

Austin Seraphin, who you may remember from his review of the iPhone, recently learned how to use echolocation to navigate his physical environment in a new way.

We started out in the hallway outside of my condo. They turned an old school into lofts, so the hallways and stairwells look and sound like a school. He had me walk down the hallway without touching the walls by using echolocation. Just to make it clear: echolocation does not normally replace the use of a cane, but for this exercise I did not use a cane. I could hear the hard surfaces, and gradually the walls came into focus. I could actually do it. The walls provided the shoreline, and I could actually see them on either side and keep in the center.

I began to understand that this required a whole new way of thinking. Justin gave constant instruction to help me learn. "Scan left. Scan right. Now scan straight ahead. You have to start thinking like a sighted person." In deed, the muscles in the back of my neck would start to hurt because I did not need to move my head as much before. Now the direction of my gaze actually meant something.

We then journeyed to the stairwell. Now I would really begin to understand what thinking like a sighted person really meant. I scanned left, and saw a set of stairs going up like I had in my loft. I scanned right, and saw a set of stairs going down, which made sense. I scanned up, and saw something extend above and going back. What the hell? It took a minute to realize with Justin's help that I saw the set of steps above me on another stairway. I had never experienced that kind of vivid three dimensional emersion before. My brain flipped.

See also Daniel Kish and Ben Underwood. (via waxy)

The sounds of AronofskyMAY 16

The person who made Wes Anderson From Above and Tarantino From Below has put together a supercut of distinct sounds from Darren Aronofsky's films.

(via ★interesting)

Straight White Male, the game of life's lowest difficulty settingMAY 16

Using a video game metaphor, John Scalzi explains straight white male privilege for those straight white males who get hung up on the word "privilege".

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US -- or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world -- is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let's call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?

Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, "Straight White Male" is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

You can lose playing on the lowest difficulty setting. The lowest difficulty setting is still the easiest setting to win on. The player who plays on the "Gay Minority Female" setting? Hardcore.

Facebook's current valuation in BK WhoppersMAY 16

Facebook's going public in a few days and will finally get a real valuation attached to it. During a 2009 Burger King promotion that doled out free Whoppers for deleting some of your Facebook friends, I estimated Facebook's valuation at about $1.8 billion.

What BK has unwittingly done here is provide a way to determine the valuation of Facebook. Let's assume that the majority of Facebook's value comes from the connections between their users. From Facebook's statistics page, we learn that the site has 150 million users and the average user has 100 friends. Each friendship is requires the assent of both friends so really each user can, on average, only end half of their friendships. The price of a Whopper is approximately $2.40. That means that each user's friendships is worth around 5 Whoppers, or $12. Do the math and:

$12/user X 150M users = $1.8 billion valuation for Facebook

At the time, Facebook's estimated worth was anywhere between $9-15 billion, about an order of magnitude more than the company's 2009 Whopper valuation. According to the company's Key Facts page, Facebook has 901 million monthly active users as of the end of March 2012. Doing the math again:

$12/user X 901M users = $10.8 billion valuation for Facebook

Right now, the price range for the IPO is $34-38 a share which would put the company's overall valuation at $104 billion, the same order of magnitude more than the current Whopper valuation.

Now, I'm no economist, but that's a lot of hamburgers.

Ken Burns talks about storiesMAY 16

In this short film by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason, Ken Burns shares his thoughtful perspective on what makes a good story.

Abraham Lincoln wins the Civil War and then he decides he's got enough time to go to the theatre. That's a good story. When Thomas Jefferson said "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal", he owned a hundred human beings and never saw the hypocrisy, never saw the contradiction, and more importantly never saw fit in his lifetime to free any one of them. That's a good story.

Over at the Atlantic, Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg has an interview with the filmmakers.

Updates on previous entries for May 15, 2012*MAY 16

Dear Leader meets Sim City orig. from Jun 03, 2010
When life gives you graffiti, make money orig. from May 14, 2012
How Pixar almost deleted Toy Story 2 orig. from May 14, 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.

Texas executed an innocent manMAY 15

Antonin Scalia once said that no one had ever been executed in the US for a crime they didn't commit. Well, the Columbia Human Rights Law Review is devoting its entire spring issue to the case of Carlos DeLuna, who was executed by the state of Texas in 1989 for the murder of Wanda Lopez. Their investigation reveals that another Carlos, Carlos Hernandez, actually committed the murder.

Many other glaring discrepancies also stand out in the DeLuna case. He was put on death row largely on the eyewitness testimony of one man, Kevan Baker, who had seen the fight inside the Shamrock and watched the attacker flee the scene.

Yet when Baker was interviewed 20 years later, he said that he hadn't been that sure about the identification as he had trouble telling one Hispanic person apart from another.

Then there was the crime-scene investigation. Detectives failed to carry out or bungled basic forensic procedures that might have revealed information about the killer. No blood samples were collected and tested for the culprit's blood type.

Fingerprinting was so badly handled that no useable fingerprints were taken. None of the items found on the floor of the Shamrock - a cigarette stub, chewing gum, a button, comb and beer cans - were forensically examined for saliva or blood.

There was no scraping of the victim's fingernails for traces of the attacker's skin. When Liebman and his students studied digitally enhanced copies of crime scene photographs, they were amazed to find the footprint from a man's shoe imprinted in a pool of Lopez's blood on the floor - yet no effort was made to measure it.

"There it was," says Liebman. "The murderer had left his calling card at the scene, but it was never used."

Even the murder weapon, the knife, was not properly examined, though it was covered in blood and flesh.

Other photographs show Lopez's blood splattered up to three feet high on the walls of the Shamrock counter. Yet when DeLuna's clothes and shoes were tested for traces of blood, not a single microscopic drop was found. The prosecution said it must have been washed away by the rain.

Awful. See also Cameron Todd Willingham.

How Yahoo killed FlickrMAY 15

From Mat Honan at Gizmodo, an account of how Yahoo bought Flickr and then frittered away all its potential.

Because Flickr wasn't as profitable as some of the other bigger properties, like Yahoo Mail or Yahoo Sports, it wasn't given the resources that were dedicated to other products. That meant it had to spend its resources on integration, rather than innovation. Which made it harder to attract new users, which meant it couldn't make as much money, which meant (full circle) it didn't get more resources. And so it goes.

As a result of being resource-starved, Flickr quit planting the anchors it needed to climb ever higher. It missed the boat on local, on real time, on mobile, and even ultimately on social-the field it pioneered. And so, it never became the Flickr of video; YouTube snagged that ring. It never became the Flickr of people, which was of course Facebook. It remained the Flickr of photos. At least, until Instagram came along.

How to blog anonymouslyMAY 15

From former call girl blogger Belle de Jour, a guide on how to publish online and maintain your anonymity.

You will need an email address to do things like register for blog accounts, Facebook, Twitter, and more. This email will have to be something entirely separate from your "real" email addresses. There are a lot of free options out there, but be aware that sending an email from many of them also sends information in the headers that could help identify you.

When I started blogging, I set up an email address for the blog with Hotmail. Don't do this. Someone quickly pointed out the headers revealed where I worked (a very large place with lots of people and even more computers, but still more information than I was comfortable with). They suggested I use Hushmail instead, which I still use. Hushmail has a free option (though the inbox allocation is modest), strips out headers, and worked for me.

(thx, fred)

Fantastic time lapse map of Europe, 1000 - 2005 A.D.MAY 15

This time lapse covers more than 1000 years and shows the shifting national borders of Europe.

There's also a slowed-down version that shows the year and some annotation of events. (via ★interesting)

Update: The originals got taken down but the company responsible for the historical mapping software put up similar versions that I've embedded/linked above. But the new versions are worse and not quite so fantastic. Why is that always the case? (thx, andrew)

Sabotage! You know, for kidsMAY 15

As a tribute to Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, James Winters and his family made this parody of the video Sabotage with kids playing all the roles.

Charming, although I might have gone with squirt guns instead of the more realistic item.

(via @moth)

Another use for recordsAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 14

You know those Dude Perfect guys who have admirably made a job out of their ability to make viral basketball trick shots? Here are some guys doing it with vinyl LPs.

(via Dangerous Minds)

When life gives you graffiti, make moneyMAY 14

Last week, graffiti "artist" Kidult painted the word ART in pink paint all over the Marc Jacobs store in Soho. The store's staff cleaned it up, but not before snapping a photo of it and dubbing it Art by Art Jacobs. And then, in an awesome twist, Marc Jacobs put the photo on a tshirt and offered it for sale: $689 or $9 less if you want it signed by the "artist". The Observer's Foster Kamer has the story.

Jacobs, in this situation, has made one hell of a commentary about the absurd commoditization that some street art has yielded, and how easily ostensibly subversive art can actually be subverted, facile as it so often is, and it may be the best take on the matter since Exit Through The Gift Shop.

I'm going to pay for those quotation marks with lots of email and tweets, aren't I?

Update: Kidult has answered back with a tshirt of his own that pictures the "artist" tagging the store. $10.

Moonshiners' cow shoesMAY 14

Cow Shoes

This is one of a pair of cow shoes worn by moonshiners during Prohibition to hide their tracks from prohibition agents. From a 1922 edition of The Evening Independent:

A new method of evading prohibition agents was revealed here today by A.L. Allen, state prohibition enforcement director, who displayed what he called a "cow shoe" as the latest thing front the haunts of moonshiners.

The cow shoe is a strip of metal to which is tacked a wooden block carved to resemble the hoof of a cow, which may be strapped to the human foot. A man shod with a pair of them would leave a trail resembling that of a cow.

The shoe found was picked up near Port Tampa where a still was located some time ago. It will be sent to the prohibition department at Washington. Officers believe the inventor got his idea from a Sherlock Holmes story in which the villain shod his horse with shoes the imprint of which resembled those of a cow's hoof.

I think I saw a woman wearing a pair of these on 6th Ave last week. (via nyer photo booth)

100 ideas that changed graphic designMAY 14

From Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne, a book about 100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design. Maria Popova has a preview at The Atlantic.

From how rub-on lettering democratized design by fueling the DIY movement and engaging people who knew nothing about typography to how the concept of the "teenager" was invented after World War II as a new market for advertisers, many of the ideas are mother-of-invention parables. Together, they converge into a cohesive meditation on the fundamental mechanism of graphic design -- to draw a narrative with a point of view, and then construct that narrative through the design process and experience.

Hunting for anachronisms in Mad Men and Downton AbbeyMAY 14

Prochronism analyzes word usage in shows like Mad Men and Downton Abbey to hunt down anachronisms...like "a callback for" and "pay phone" from a recent episode of Mad Men.

Prochronism

The big one from the charts: Megan gets "a callback for" an audition. This is, the data says, a candidate for the worst anachronism of the season. The word "callback" is about 100x more common by the 1990s, and "callback for" is even worse. The OED doesn't have any examples of a theater-oriented use of "callback" until the 1970s; although I bet one could find some examples somewhere earlier in the New York theater scene, that may not save it. It wouldn't really suite Megan's generally dilettantish attitude towards the theater, or the office staff's lack of knowledge of it, for them to be so au courant. "call-back" and "call back" don't seem much more likely.

(via waxy)

How Pixar almost deleted Toy Story 2MAY 14

Taken from the Studio Stories series included on the Blu-ray versions of Toy Story 1 & 2, here's a short story about how Toy Story 2 was almost erased before the film could be rendered for theaters.

Woody's hat disappeared. And then his boots disappeared. And then as we kept checking, he disappeared entirely. Woody's gone.

(via tested)

Update: Over at Quora, Oren Jacob (the guy in the video) explains in more detail what happened.

First, it wasn't multiple terabytes of information. Neither all the rendered frames, nor all the data necessary to render those frames in animation, model, shaders, set, and lighting data files was that size back then.

A week prior to driving across the bridge in a last ditch attempt to recover the show (depicted pretty accurately in the video above) we had restored the film from backups within 48 hours of the /bin/rm -r -f *, run some validation tests, rendered frames, somehow got good pictures back and no errors, and invited the crew back to start working. It took another several days of the entire crew working on that initial restoral to really understand that the restoral was, in fact, incomplete and corrupt. Ack. At that point, we sent everyone home again and had the come-to-Jesus meeting where we all collectively realized that our backup software wasn't dishing up errors properly (a full disk situation was masking them, if my memory serves), our validation software also wasn't dishing up errors properly (that was written very hastily, and without a clean state to start from, was missing several important error conditions), and several other factors were compounding our lack of concrete, verifiable information.

The only prospect then was to roll back about 2 months to the last full backup that we thought might work. In that meeting, Galyn mentioned she might have a copy at her house. So we went home to get that machine, and you can watch the video for how that went...

Kodak's secret nuclear reactorMAY 14

Up until 2007, Kodak operated a small nuclear reactor that contained 3.5 pounds of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium.

The Democrat and Chronicle learned of the facility when an employee happened to mention it to a reporter a few months ago.

The recent silence was by design. Detailed information about nuclear power plants and other entities with radioactive material has been restricted since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Nuclear non-proliferation experts express surprise that an industrial manufacturer like Eastman Kodak had had weapons-grade uranium, especially in a post-9/11 world.

"I've never heard of it at Kodak," said Miles Pomper, senior research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington. "It's such an odd situation because private companies just don't have this material."

(via @kdawson)

How a bicycle is madeMAY 11

From British Council film, a short film from 1945 that shows how a bicycle is designed and manufactured.

(via stellar)

The best rejected New Yorker coversMAY 11

Blown Covers is a new book that details the illustrations that never made it to the front cover of the New Yorker. At Imprint, Michael Silverberg interviews Françoise Mouly, the book's author and the New Yorker's art editor since 1993, and shares some of best rejected covers. I like this one by Christoph Niemann showing the attempted return of the Statue of Liberty to France:

Statue Return

"Think of me as your priest," she told one of them. Mouly, who cofounded the avant-garde comics anthology RAW with her husband, Art Spiegelman, asks the artists she works with -- Barry Blitt, Christoph Niemann, Ana Juan, R. Crumb -- not to hold back anything in their cover sketches. If that means the occasional pedophilia gag or Holocaust joke finds its way to her desk, she's fine with that. Tasteless humor and failed setups are an essential part of the process. "Sometimes something is too provocative or too sexist or too racist," Mouly says, "but it will inspire a line of thinking that will help develop an image that is publishable."

A history of buttermilkMAY 11

Turns out that "real" buttermilk, aka the byproduct of making butter, hasn't been common for almost a century...today it's been almost entirely replaced by cultured buttermilk.

So how did that buttermilk, the original buttermilk, turn into the thick, sour, yogurty beverage I sampled at Threadgill's? The confusion surrounding this drink dates back to the 18th century or before. Until the age of refrigeration, milk soured quickly in the kitchen, and most butter ended up being made from the slightly spoiled stuff. As a result, some historical sources use the word buttermilk in the Laura Ingalls Wilder sense, to describe the byproduct of butter-making; others use it to describe butter-making's standard ingredient at the time-milk that had gone sour from sitting around too long. To make matters more confusing, the butter-byproduct kind of buttermilk could be either "sour," if you started out with the off milk that was itself sometimes called buttermilk, or "sweet," if you started out with fresh cream (like Laura's mom did). So, prior to the 20th century, buttermilk could refer to at least three different categories of beverage: regular old milk that had gone sour; the sour byproduct of churning sour milk or cream into butter; and the "sweet" byproduct of churning fresh milk or cream into butter.

We occasionally get the real stuff for making the world's best pancakes and it definitely makes a difference.

Walt Disney's Taxi DriverMAY 11

Taxi Driver reimagineered to portray Travis Bickle as obsessed with Mickey Mouse.

(via waxy)

Photo of MGM's stable of movie stars in 1943MAY 10

A group photograph of MGM's stars and starlets under contract, taken for the studio's 20th anniversary in 1943.

MGM 1943

The full-size photo is available at Mlkshk or at Wikipedia for stargazing. Here's who's in the photo:

Front Row: James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, Lucille Ball, Hedy Lamarr, Katharine Hepburn, Louis B Mayer, Greer Garson, Irene Dunne, Susan Peters, Ginny Simms, Lionel Barrymore

Second Row: Harry James, Brian Donlevy, Red Skelton, Mickey Rooney, William Powell, Wallace Beery, Spencer Tracy, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Taylor, Pierre Aumont, Lewis Stone, Gene Kelly, Jackie Jenkins

Third Row: Tommy Dorsey, George Murphy, Jean Rogers, James Craig, Donna Reed, Van Johnson, Fay Bainter, Marsha Hunt, Ruth Hussey, Marjorie Main, Robert Benchley

Fourth Row: Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Keenan Wynn, Diana Lewis, Marilyn Maxwell, Esther Williams, Ann Richards, Marta Linden, Lee Bowman, Richard Carlson, Mary Astor

Fifth Row: Blanche Ring, Sara Haden, Fay Holden, Bert Lahr, Frances Gifford, June Allyson, Richard Whorf, Frances Rafferty, Spring Byington, Connie Gilchrist, Gladys Cooper

Sixth Row:

Ben Blue, Chill Wills, Keye Luke, Barry Nelson, Desi Arnaz, Henry O'Neill, Bob Crosby, Rags Ragland

Puffin CloudsMAY 10

Not sure if these are straight photos or digital composites or whatever, but I like the images from Paul Octavious' Puffin Clouds series.

Cloud Bikers

(via @itscolossal)

The business lessons of PatagoniaMAY 10

A profile of Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia and an unlikely business guru.

Then he looked at everything Patagonia made, shipped or processed, and resolved to do it all more responsibly. He changed materials, switching in 1996 from conventional to organic cotton-despite the fact that it initially tripled his supply costs-because it was less harmful to the environment. He created fleece jackets made entirely from recycled soda bottles. He vowed to create products durable enough and timeless enough that people could replace them less often, reducing waste. He put "The Footprint Chronicles" up on Patagonia's website, exhaustively cataloging the environmental damage done by his own company. He now takes responsibility for every item Patagonia has ever made -- promising either to replace it if the customer is dissatisfied, repair it (for a reasonable fee), help resell it (Patagonia facilitates exchanges of used clothes on its website), or recycle it when at last it's no longer wearable.

Posting this partially for my wife, who is a life-long Patagonia customer.

If rock bands were sandwichesMAY 10

At McSweeney's, John Peck whips up some bandwiches.

Bjork: Sliced narwhal, mustard, whole wheat bread.

Grateful Dead: Lemon verbena sorbet, peanut butter, clarified hemp butter, deep-fried brownie bites, M&Ms, stale focaccia.

Sex Pistols: Deep-fried Frank Sinatra LP, Russian mustard, spackle, tacks, stale rye bread.

John Cage: Silence, warmth, indirect sunlight, the memory of lettuce, the idea of bread.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Bacon-double cheeseburger, mescaline pesto, sourdough bread.

What is a hipster?MAY 09

Lorena Galliot came to NYC from France and didn't know what a hipster was. So she took to the streets of Williamsburg to find out.

(thx, phillip)

Paris, USAMAY 09

Having recently published a book about Paris, France, Rosecrans Baldwin visited a number of towns named Paris around the US to see how Americans perceive the French here in 2012. Here's part one of his report.

The survey has eight questions ranging from general opinions to particular trivia. For example, "Whose side was France on during the American Revolutionary War?"

Sixty-six percent of respondents get it right: our side. Twenty percent are wrong. Incorrect answers include "the British," "England," "the opposite side," and, oddly, "the French." Other responses: "History was not my class in school -- I hate it," and "I am averse." My favorite comes from a gas station attendant in Lexington, Ky., who writes: "I refuse to answer the rest of this survey. I love the French language. I have had many French friends."

One guy in a parking lot outside a Dallas strip club says, "This has got to be a trick question." And there's another person, at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, who will ask me, "You mean our American Revolutionary War?" Which appears to be a general concern -- of the 55 people, at least 10 ask me to which American Revolution I am referring. Two people say, "But we didn't have a revolution."

The Morning News is serializing the other parts of this story all this month but you can get the whole thing right now on the Kindle.

Salts of the earthMAY 09

From Food52, a round-up of ten different kinds of salt you might run across in recipes, including table salt, fleur de sel, and Himalayan salt.

Hand-mined from ancient sea salt deposits from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan, Himalayan salt is rich in minerals and believed to be one of the purest salts available -- hence its frequent use in spa treatments. It ranges in color from pure white to shades of pink and deep red. Hand cut into slabs, Himalayan salt is frequently used as a surface for serving food. Due to their ability to hold a specific temperature for an extended period of time, these slabs can be used for anything from serving cold ice cream to cooking fish, meats, and vegetables. Himalayan salt can also be used as a cooking or finishing salt. Or use it to rim the edge of a glass for a warm-weather cocktail.

How Mark Zuckerberg became a good CEOMAY 09

Writing for New York magazine, Henry Blodget explains how a young startup founder and college dropout became the CEO of a soon-to-be $100 billion company.

When talking about Zuckerberg's most valuable personality trait, a colleague jokingly invokes the famous Stanford marshmallow tests, in which researchers found a correlation between a young child's ability to delay gratification -- devour one treat right away, or wait and be rewarded with two -- with high achievement later in life. If Zuckerberg had been one of the Stanford scientists' subjects, the colleague jokes, Facebook would never have been created: He'd still be sitting in a room somewhere, not eating marshmallows.

Updates on previous entries for May 8, 2012*MAY 09

Abraham Lincoln invented Facebook orig. from May 08, 2012
Yogurt gives mice bigger balls orig. from May 07, 2012

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

Abraham Lincoln invented FacebookMAY 08

[Ed note: read the update below...this is likely definitely a hoax.] Intrigued by a possible connection between PT Barnum and Abe Lincoln, Nate St. Pierre travelled to the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL. Once there, he stumbled upon something called The Springfield Gazette, a personal newspaper made by Lincoln that is eerily similar to Facebook.

The whole Springfield Gazette was one sheet of paper, and it was all about Lincoln. Only him. Other people only came into the document in conjunction with how he experienced life at that moment. If you look at the Gazette picture above, you can see his portrait in the upper left-hand corner. See how the column of text under him is cut off on the left side? Stupid scanned picture, I know, ugh. But just to the left of his picture, and above that column of text, is a little box. And in that box you see three things: his name, his address, and his profession (attorney).

The first column underneath his picture contains a bunch of short blurbs about what's going on in his life at the moment - work he recently did, some books the family bought, and the new games his boys made up. In the next three columns he shares a quote he likes, two poems, and a short story about the Pilgrim Fathers. I don't know where he got them, but they're obviously copied from somewhere. In the last three columns he tells the story of his day at the circus and tiny little story about his current life on the prairie.

Put all that together on one page and tell me what it looks like to you. Profile picture. Personal information. Status updates. Copied and shared material. A few longer posts. Looks like something we see every day, doesn't it?

Lincoln even tried to patent the idea.

Lincoln was requesting a patent for "The Gazette," a system to "keep People aware of Others in the Town." He laid out a plan where every town would have its own Gazette, named after the town itself. He listed the Springfield Gazette as his Visual Appendix, an example of the system he was talking about. Lincoln was proposing that each town build a centrally located collection of documents where "every Man may have his own page, where he might discuss his Family, his Work, and his Various Endeavors."

He went on to propose that "each Man may decide if he shall make his page Available to the entire Town, or only to those with whom he has established Family or Friendship." Evidently there was to be someone overseeing this collection of documents, and he would somehow know which pages anyone could look at, and which ones only certain people could see (it wasn't quite clear in the application). Lincoln stated that these documents could be updated "at any time deemed Fit or Necessary," so that anyone in town could know what was going on in their friends' lives "without being Present in Body."

Man, I hope this isn't a hoax...it's almost too perfect. Also, queue Jesse Eisenberg saying "Abe, if you had invented Facebook, you would have invented Facebook". (via @gavinpurcell)

Update: Ok, I'm willing to call hoax on this one based on two things. 1) The first non-engraved photograph reproduced in a newspaper was in 1880, 35 years after the Springfield Gazette was alledgedly produced. 2) The Library of Congress says that the photograph pictured in the Gazette was taken in 1846 or 1847, a year or two after the publication date. That and the low-res "I couldn't take proper photos of them" images pretty much convinces me.

Update: And the proof...the original Springfield Gazette sans Lincoln. (via @zempf)

George Wright, arrested after 40 years on the runAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 08

On the Friday after Thanksgiving in 1962, George Wright and another man walked into a gas station in NJ with the intention of robbing its owner, Walter Patterson. After a scuffle, Wright's associate shot Patterson, wounding him severely enough he would die two days later. Ten years later, after escaping from jail, Wright helped hijack an airplane with 86 passengers, ransomed the passengers for $1 million, flew to Algeria, and disappeared for 40 years. Last year he was arrested in Portugal.

This profile in GQ by Michael Finkel is sympathetic, but fascinating. Wright is described as a positive member of the community, a man rehabilitated, which is supposed to be the purpose of prison. And yet, he's never paid for his crimes. If pressed, I'd have to say I agree with how it ended up playing out.

During my flight back from Portugal, I try to sort out how I feel about Wright. I'm troubled, of course, by the gas-station crime--even if it wasn't his gun that fired, he still let an innocent man die. He never called for help. Still, he was a teenager at the time. You can no longer use youthful rashness as an excuse when you're 29, brandishing a loaded weapon on an airplane and holding more than ninety people hostage. That incident could've easily ended in disaster. Wright is fortunate it did not. And I am not entirely sure there aren't other crimes--crimes for which Wright wasn't caught. He may still have secrets inside him. We'll never know.

(via Long Reads)

The Hood Internet: The Mixtape Volume SixMAY 08

Wooooo! The Hood Internet has just released the sixth installment of their Mixtape series. You can listen to the whole thing here:

or download it here. Their five previous Mixtapes are some of the most-played music in my collection...I'm listening to volume five right now actually.

Mugshots from the 1920sMAY 08

A collection of vintage mugshots from the 1920s. Crime used to be a lot more civilized.

1920s mugshot

(thx, david)

Paul's Boutique would be impossible todayMAY 08

Matt Yglesias argues that because of the way copyright is viewed by the public and interpreted by lawmakers and the courts, making an album like The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique would be nearly impossible today.

The death on Friday of Adam Yauch, best known as the Beastie Boys' MCA, surely sent many of us back to old albums we may not have heard for a while. And anyone who threw on Paul's Boutique, the Boys' best album, was surely struck by the sense that they don't make records like that anymore. That's not just because tastes and styles have changed. The entire album is based on lavish sampling of other recordings. "Shake Your Rump," which leads Slate's #MCATracks playlist, features samples of 14 songs by 12 separate artists. In all, the album is thought to have as many as 300 total samples. The sampling gave Paul's Boutique a sound that remains almost as distinctive today as it was when it was released in 1989.

Perhaps the main reason-and certainly the saddest reason-that it still sounds distinctive is that a rapidly shifting legal and economic landscape made it essentially impossible to repeat.

Got to have goalsAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 07

If you watch to the end, Gabe Brooks bunny hops over a soccer goal. A small one, but still, how high is the highest soccer goal you've ever bunny hopped over?

Burning billsAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 07

Remember the Ice T line, "So much cash gotta keep it in Hefty bags?" These Florida brothers, illicit pill mill operators the both of them, had so much cash they had to keep it in Hefty bags, yes, but they also had so much cash they burned the $1 bills as punishment for not being $5, $10, or $20 bills. Business tip: If you have so much money you are literally burning cash, you need to take another look at operations. Chris and Jeff George are now in jail after their prescription pill empire was shut down by prosecutors.

The cash piled up despite the brothers' free-spending ways. Jeff George bought a monster truck, multiple Lamborghinis and a Mercedes Saks 5th Avenue Edition. There were only five of those cars made, and George liked his so much that when he totaled it, he bought himself another, according to a friend.

Jeff George assembled a small navy, including a 36-foot racing vessel, a 39-foot sports boat and two yachts, 38 and 55 feet in length. He also bought the shopping plaza housing his favorite strip club. The purchases were a convenient way to launder money, according to the indictment.

At the end of the article, it says the physicians associated with the Georges' operation were among the top purchasers of oxycodone, and that their demise "played a major role in reversing both local and national trends of rapidly increasing painkiller abuse." I would love to see numbers backing that, as well as the impact on pharmaceutical company profits.

(via @delfuego)

Magazine publishers turning against appsAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 07

In a thoughtful piece, Jason Pontin discusses the evolving sense among magazine publishers that native apps might not be as amazing for them as originally thought. To my nose, there is the faintest whiff of sour grapes (really just a whiff), that readers did not respond as expected, and that Apple took a cut of sales. For the most part, though, the challenges illustrated in this piece are challenges faced by anyone trying to sell content. What's the best way to use new technology to build and sustain an audience?

Pontin's solution for now?

Last fall, we moved all the editorial in our apps, including the magazine, into a simple RSS feed in a river of news. We dumped the digital replica. Now we're redesigning Technologyreview.com, which we made entirely free for use, and we'll follow the Financial Times in using HTML5, so that a reader will see Web pages optimized for any device, whether a desktop or laptop computer, a tablet, or a smart phone. Then we'll kill our apps, too.

In describing the costs associated with creating the app, Pontin uses the phrase, "untold expense of spirit," which is just a gorgeous bit of writing.

Yogurt gives mice bigger ballsAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 07

In studying yogurt's effects on obesity in mice, a team of MIT scientists discovered several unanticipated results. Basically, yogurt turned these mice into Kanye. Science is weird.

Mouse Swagger

First, the scientists noticed that the yogurt-eating mice were incredibly shiny. Using both traditional histology techniques and cosmetic rating scales, the researchers showed that these animals had 10 times the active follicle density of other mice, resulting in luxuriantly silky fur.

Then the researchers spotted something particular about the males: they projected their testes outward, which endowed them with a certain "mouse swagger," Erdman says. On measuring the males, they found that the testicles of the yogurt consumers were about 5 percent heavier than those of mice fed typical diets alone and around 15 percent heavier than those of junk-eating males.

More important, that masculinity pays off. In mating experiments, yogurt-eating males inseminated their partners faster and produced more offspring than control mice. Conversely, females that ate the yogurt diets gave birth to larger litters and weaned those pups with greater success. Reflecting on their unpublished results, Erdman and Alm think that the probiotic microbes in the yogurt help to make the animals leaner and healthier, which indirectly improves sexual machismo.

'Mouse swagger'

Update: Illustration by Chris Piascik.

The Politics of Competitive Board Gaming Amongst FriendsAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 07

This 10 minute film charmed the hell out of me a couple weeks ago.

Not all YOU can flyAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 07

Throughout it's its history, American Airlines has offered a variety of all-you-can-fly passes allowing unlimited first-class travel for life. Several people bought these passes, and actually used them, and when American started realizing how much the top users of AAirpass were costing the airline, American looked for ways to revoke the passes.

In one 25-day span this year, Joyce flew round trip to London 16 times, flights that would retail for more than $125,000. He didn't pay a dime.

In July 2004, for example, Rothstein flew 18 times, visiting Nova Scotia, New York, Miami, London, Los Angeles, Maine, Denver and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., some of them several times over. The complexity of such itineraries would stump most travelers; happily for AAirpass holders, American provided elite agents able to solve the toughest booking puzzles.

(via @mikeindustries)

MCAAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 05

I was away from the computer for most of yesterday, which is a good thing, because I don't think I would have been able to handle people on Twitter even lightheartedly joking about MCA passing away yesterday. I don't know if that happened, and I doubt I'll go look for it. (PS, this is Aaron writing.)

My connection to the Beastie Boys hasn't been as strong in the last...ten years or so, but before that, I cared about them as much as any band I've loved, I'm talking top 5 ever. My fandom path was out of order: Licensed to Ill to Check Your Head to Paul's Boutique, because PB was over my head when it came out. I remember 7 of us leaving high school early, squeezing into one of those boxy Volvo sedans, to go to Newbury Comics to buy Ill Communication. The 7 of us each buying our own CD. I remember being in charge of getting tickets for friends to the Beastie Boys/Roots show in Worcester in 10th Grade, not getting a ticket for Ally, and Ally not speaking to me for 2 full years. I remember sitting up in the stands for that show until pretty much everyone jumped down onto the floor past the helpless guards. I remember being super angry at a friend whose puppy bit a hole in my Check Yo Head shirt in 8th grade, thinking I wouldn't be able to wear it anymore. I remember this shirt being my first tshirt ever to fall apart, to literally wear out, from being worn too much 15 years later.

The thing that always fascinated me about the Beastie Boys was their transformation from punk rockers to party rappers to the less easily described, but amazing, place where they ended up.

Here are some other remembrances from around the web:

-A very good Sasha Frere-Jones in the New Yorker:

And this is the Yauch people remember: a man who could say he was sorry and not feel lessened by it; a man living within the principles of Buddhism and committed to broadening awareness of the political situation in Tibet; and a genuinely quiet person who had become more likely to make a joke at his own expense than anyone else's. Yauch's is one of the voices that can signify hip-hop within three syllables--rough, low, and strained. He got a lot done with that voice.>

-Amos Barshad in Grantland:

Yauch was the leader. A small part of that was aesthetics; the premature graying hair, the permanent rasp. But it was also evident that the morality tale of the Beastie Boys -- three genius New York City smartasses who grew out of Budweiser-crushing caricatures into three endlessly curious, wholeheartedly decent adults -- was best represented by Yauch.

-The obituary on BeastieBoys.com does a good job rounding up the Beasties myriad credits:

With fellow members Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Adrock" Horovitz, Beastie Boys would go on to sell over 40 million records, release four #1 albums-including the first hip hop album ever to top the Billboard 200, the band's 1986 debut full length, Licensed To Ill-win three Grammys, and the MTV Video Vanguard Lifetime Achievement award. Last month Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with Diamond and Horovitz reading an acceptance speech on behalf of Yauch, who was unable to attend.

-Molly Ringwald: "Being on tour with the Beastie Boys & Run DMC in the 80s. Guys were all stand-up gentlemen, tho I'm sure they feared I was the band's Yoko."

-MCA in a 2008 interview about his film company, Oscilloscope Pictures: "Yeah, I could see doing this for a long time."

-All of Twitter's trending topics were Beastie Boys related for a time yesterday.

-From a good round up of musicians responding to the news, Chuck D:

Last night, I took a 14 hour flight to Sydney, Australia from LA, embarking on PE's 80th tour in 25 years. I just landed to 65 texts with the news. Adam and the Boys put us on out first tour 25 years and 79 tours ago. They were essential to our beginning, middle and today. Adam especially was unbelievable in our support from then 'til now, even allowing me to induct them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I consider myself a strong man and my father says be prepared to lose many in your post-50 path of life. Still, I'm a bit teary-eyed leaving this plane.

-Plus Andrew WK, "MCA PARTY HARD FOREVER." and Ghostface Killah, "My condolences to Adam "MCA" Yauch Family & the Beastie Boys. My brothers & I felt that pain before as well. Sad Day."

-170 Beastie Boys references explained.

-A memory from David Jacobs:

I drove a lot of famous musicians and speakers to & from the Cleveland airport over my college career, but I literally lost my head driving Adam Yauch down 480 back to Oberlin. The rented minivan we were driving was swerving in traffic so much that Adam reached from the back seat and put his hands on my shoulders: "It's OK! Drive man, drive!"

-Anil Dash, "One of the most profound things the Beasties and MCA did was show us how people can evolve, from silly boys to serious artists."

-Questlove:

The Beastie Boys were kind enough to spread the love to us on their second go round in 95. (86?s license to ill was brilliant albeit perceived novelty masterpiece, their followups 89?s paul's boutique & 91?s check your head were necessary sacrifice/build destroy exercises that RARELY work in entertainment (they traded in quick fast teen bop stardom in for rebuilding a credible fan base that would prove loyal til the very end). so once again they defied the odds in 94 with ill communication and wound up back where they started from: Stadiums.

This could go on and on, but this is what I read this morning, via most of the folks I follow on Stellar.

Information Graphics, a new book from TaschenMAY 04

This looks like an interesting new book from Taschen, Information Graphics (buy at Amazon).

Our everyday lives are filled with a massive flow of information that we must interpret in order to understand the world we live in. Considering this complex variety of data floating around us, sometimes the best -- or even only -- way to communicate is visually. This unique book presents a fascinating historical perspective on the subject, highlighting the work of the masters of the profession who have created a number of breakthroughs that have changed the way we communicate. Information Graphics has been conceived and designed not just for designers or graphics professionals, but for anyone interested in the history and practice of communicating visually.

The in-depth introductory section, illustrated with over 60 images (each accompanied by an explanatory caption), features essays by Sandra Rendgen, Paolo Ciuccarelli, Richard Saul Wurman, and Simon Rogers; looking back all the way to primitive cave paintings as a means of communication, this introductory section gives readers an excellent overview of the subject. The second part of the book is entirely dedicated to contemporary works by the current most renowned professionals, presenting 200 graphics projects, with over 400 examples -- each with a fact sheet and an explanation of methods and objectives -- divided into chapters by the subjects Location, Time, Category, and Hierarchy.

Dubstep tap dancingAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 04

"TapTronic is a progressive fusion of Irish dance and electronic music." Dancing starts at 40 seconds.

(via The Daily What)

"We can't send email more than 500 miles"MAY 04

Still one of my favorite internet things: The case of the 500-mile email.

I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago when I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.

"We're having a problem sending email out of the department."

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"We can't send mail more than 500 miles," the chairman explained.

I choked on my latte. "Come again?"

"We can't send mail farther than 500 miles from here," he repeated. "A little bit more, actually. Call it 520 miles. But no farther."

"Um... Email really doesn't work that way, generally," I said, trying to keep panic out of my voice. One doesn't display panic when speaking to a department chairman, even of a relatively impoverished department like statistics. "What makes you think you can't send mail more than 500 miles?"

"It's not what I *think*," the chairman replied testily. "You see, when we first noticed this happening, a few days ago--"

"You waited a few DAYS?" I interrupted, a tremor tinging my voice. "And you couldn't send email this whole time?"

"We could send email. Just not more than--"

"--500 miles, yes," I finished for him, "I got that. But why didn't you call earlier?"

"Well, we hadn't collected enough data to be sure of what was going on until just now." Right. This is the chairman of *statistics*. "Anyway, I asked one of the geostatisticians to look into it--"

"Geostatisticians..."

"--yes, and she's produced a map showing the radius within which we can send email to be slightly more than 500 miles. There are a number of destinations within that radius that we can't reach, either, or reach sporadically, but we can never email farther than this radius."

Here's a FAQ that addresses some of the questions the more technically inclined among you may have about this story.

Death by chocolate and other dangerous dessertsMAY 04

Death By Chocolate

From illustrator Gemma Correll. Check out the rest of her stuff, including gangsta wrap and emotional baggage.

Slow motion skatingAARON COHEN  ·  MAY 04

There's angles/close ups in this video I've never seen in a skate video before.

A practical guide to graphics for scientists and engineersMAY 03

This looks like a potentially interesting book from Felice Frankel: Visual Strategies (at Amazon).

Visual Strategies

Any scientist or engineer who communicates research results will immediately recognize this practical handbook as an indispensable tool. The guide sets out clear strategies and offers abundant examples to assist researchers-even those with no previous design training-with creating effective visual graphics for use in multiple contexts, including journal submissions, grant proposals, conference posters, or presentations.

Visual communicator Felice Frankel and systems biologist Angela DePace, along with experts in various fields, demonstrate how small changes can vastly improve the success of a graphic image. They dissect individual graphics, show why some work while others don't, and suggest specific improvements. The book includes analyses of graphics that have appeared in such journals as Science, Nature, Annual Reviews, Cell, PNAS, and the New England Journal of Medicine, as well as an insightful personal conversation with designer Stefan Sagmeister and narratives by prominent researchers and animators.

Stephen Hawking reviews A Brief History of Time movieMAY 03

From twenty years ago, Stephen Hawking reviews the film version of A Brief History of Time.

I have been fortunate in the director of the film, Errol Morris. He is a man of integrity, with a feeling for the issues. It would have been all too easy to have someone who would have concentrated on the more sensational aspects of my private life, and my medical condition, and who would have treated the science in a superficial way. A friend of mine, who has had several television programmes based on his work, was envious of how the scientific ideas came through on the film.

(via @errolmorris)

The iPhone: maybe the best thing for the blind since BrailleMAY 03

For some visually impaired folks, the iPhone has been nothing short of revolutionary.

For the visually impaired community, the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 seemed at first like a disaster -- the standard-bearer of a new generation of smartphones was based on touch screens that had no physical differentiation. It was a flat piece of glass. But soon enough, word started to spread: The iPhone came with a built-in accessibility feature. Still, members of the community were hesitant.

But no more. For its fans and advocates in the visually-impaired community, the iPhone has turned out to be one of the most revolutionary developments since the invention of Braille. That the iPhone and its world of apps have transformed the lives of its visually impaired users may seem counter-intuitive -- but their impact is striking.

See also Austin Seraphin's account of the first week he spent using an iPhone.

The other night, however, a very amazing thing happened. I downloaded an app called Color Identifier. It uses the iPhone's camera, and speaks names of colors. It must use a table, because each color has an identifier made up of 6 hexadecimal digits. This puts the total at 16777216 colors, and I believe it. Some of them have very surreal names, such as Atomic Orange, Cosmic, Hippie Green, Opium, and Black-White. These names in combination with what feels like a rise in serotonin levels makes for a very psychedelic experience.

I have never experienced this before in my life. I can see some light and color, but just in blurs, and objects don't really have a color, just light sources. When I first tried it at three o'clock in the morning, I couldn't figure out why it just reported black. After realizing that the screen curtain also disables the camera, I turned it off, but it still have very dark colors. Then I remembered that you actually need light to see, and it probably couldn't see much at night. I thought about light sources, and my interview I did for Get Lamp. First, I saw one of my beautiful salt lamps in its various shades of orange, another with its pink and rose colors, and the third kind in glowing pink and red.. I felt stunned.

(via NextDraft)

What's the deal with Game of Thrones' unpredictable winters?MAY 03

George Dvorsky details five possible scientific explanations for Westeros' seasons of unpredictable length. A "wobbly planetary tilt" is one possible reason:

In the episode "The Kingsroad," we learn that Westeros has at least one moon. It's very possible, therefore, that they have a very small or distant moon, that is causing a variable tilt in their planet's rotational axis.

It's interesting to note that, according to legend, Westeros used to have two moons, but "one wandered too close to the sun and it cracked from the heat" pouring out a thousand thousand dragons. Well, dragons aside, it's conceivable that some kind of cataclysmic celestial event could have wiped out their second moon, which would have thrown their planet's rotational axis out of whack.

Is poor cockpit design to blame in the Air France 447 crash?MAY 02

In June 2009, an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro disappeared without a trace. The disappearance turned crash and the questions started: how did a state-of-the-art plane go down so suddenly and who was to blame? The plane's black boxes were finally recovered after two years of searching and there's a case to be made that the design of the cockpit controls may be at least partially responsible for the crash.

The official report by French accident investigators is due in a month and seems likely to echo provisional verdicts suggesting human error. There is no doubt that at least one of AF447's pilots made a fatal and sustained mistake, and the airline must bear responsibility for the actions of its crew. It will be a grievous blow for Air France, perhaps more damaging than the Concorde disaster of July 2000.

But there is another, worrying implication that the Telegraph can disclose for the first time: that the errors committed by the pilot doing the flying were not corrected by his more experienced colleagues because they did not know he was behaving in a manner bound to induce a stall. And the reason for that fatal lack of awareness lies partly in the design of the control stick - the "side stick" - used in all Airbus cockpits.

Stephen King: tax me, for fuck's sake!MAY 02

Stephen King is rich, wants to pay more federal taxes, and is pretty pissed off about it.

Mitt Romney has said, in effect, "I'm rich and I don't apologize for it." Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want -- those who aren't blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money -- is for you to acknowledge that you couldn't have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it's not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It's un-fucking-American is what it is. I don't want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that -- sorry, kiddies-you're on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay -- not to give, not to "cut a check and shut up," in Governor Christie's words, but to pay -- in the same proportion. That's called stepping up and not whining about it. That's called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn't cost their beloved rich folks any money.

The truth about caramelized onionsMAY 02

Tom Scocca wonders why recipe writers don't tell the truth about how long caramelizing onions really takes.

Onions do not caramelize in five or 10 minutes. They never have, they never will-yet recipe writers have never stopped pretending that they will. I went on Twitter and said so, rudely, using CAPS LOCK. A chorus of frustrated cooks responded in kind ("That's on some bullshit. You want caramelized onions? Stir for 45 minutes").

As long as I've been cooking, I've been reading various versions of this lie, over and over. Here's Madhur Jaffrey, from her otherwise reliable Indian Cooking, explaining how to do the onions for rogan josh: "Stir and fry for about 5 minutes or until the onions turn a medium-brown colour." The Boston Globe, on preparing pearl onions for coq au vin: "Add the onions and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until golden." The Washington Post, on potato-green bean soup: "Add the onion and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown."

Current iOS game obsession: Ski SafariMAY 02

Ski Safari is an iOS game that's kind of a cross between Tiny Wings and CycloManiacs...which is to say that I love love love it. Here's my high score, about which I'm very ashamed and proud at the same time:

Ski Safari High Score

(via @gavinpurcell)

Process blog for the NY Times Graphics deptMAY 01

chartsandthings is a behind-the-scenes look at how the infographic sausage is made at the NY Times.

What would the realists do?MAY 01

Stephen Walt wonders how US policy might have been different over the past 20 years if realists (as opposed to the neocons or liberal interventionists) had been in charge.

#2: No "Global War on Terror." If realists had been in charge after 9/11, they would have launched a focused effort to destroy al Qaeda. Realists backed the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and a realist approach to the post-9/11 threat environment would have focused laser-like on al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that were a direct threat to the United States. But realists would have treated them like criminals rather than as "enemy combatants" and would not have identified all terrorist groups as enemies of the United States. And as noted above, realists would not have included "rogue states" like Iran, Iraq, and North Korea (the infamous "axis of evil") in the broader "war on terror." Needless to say, with realists in charge, the infamous 2002 National Security Strategy calling for preventive war would never have been written.

Basketball has 13 positions, not just 5MAY 01

Muthu Alagappan used topological data analysis to group NBA players into thirteen different player types, including Role-Playing Ball-Handler, Paint Protector, All-NBA 1st Team, and One-of-a-Kind.

13 basketball positions

Ebert's greatest films of all timeMAY 01

For Sight & Sound magazine, Roger Ebert came up with his picks for ten best films ever.

"Citizen Kane" speaks for itself. "2001: A Space Odyssey" is likewise a stand-along monument, a great visionary leap, unsurpassed in its vision of man and the universe. It was a statement that came at a time which now looks something like the peak of humanity's technological optimism. Many would choose "Taxi Driver" as Scorsese's greatest film, but I believe "Raging Bull" is his best and most personal, a film he says in some ways saved his life. It is the greatest cinematic expression of the torture of jealousy -- his "Othello."

(via df)

A real-life Robinson CrusoeMAY 01

86-year-old Brendon Grimshaw has lived alone on a tiny island in the Seychelles since 1962. He bought it for £8000 and has spent those years introducing trees and 120 giant tortoises back to the island.

(via ★interesting-links)

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