Entries for July 2012 (August 2012 »    September 2012 »    October 2012 »    Archives)

 

Digg relaunchesJUL 31

A mere six weeks after the purchase of "the core assets" of Digg by Betaworks, the first version of the revamped Digg has launched. Here's the front page. I like it, aside from the Pinterestness of the layout, which, when the hell are people going to learn?

670 million people in India without electricityAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 31

On Monday and Tuesday, two separate major power outages left half of India without electricity. By Tuesday afternoon, different reports had power mostly back in many of the affected areas. 670 million people is over twice the population of the United States, and I don't want to imagine the shitstorm unleashed if there ever was a double US power outage.

A lack of coal and a lack of monsoon rains are two of the reasons being blamed for the blackout. Along with the increase in power needed for irrigation, India's hydroelectric capacity has dropped about 20% because of the delayed rains.

Indeed, the New York Times points to a dearth in imported coal as one of the possible causes for triggering the massive blackout. Another potential force that is driving energy demand and limiting supply is this year's monsoon, the annual rainy season that supplies three-quarter's of the country's water. Or, rather, that this year's monsoon never happened. The lack of monsoon rains, says Reuters, has caused energy demand to climb as farmers in northwestern India's heavily producing agricultural regions leaned more heavily on irrigation to water their fields.

Tired TV tropes toppling hypothesizes Heather HavrileskyJUL 31

Writing for The Awl, Heather Havrilesky (who you may remember from Suck) highlights three stereotypical TV characters (The Hapless Dad, The Friend, and The Wise Old Professional) and characters on three current shows (Louie, Girls, and Mad Men) that cut right through that bullshit.

Because on "Girls," not only is The Friend (Hannah, played by Dunham) not all that insecure (relatively speaking), but she also has more swagger and courage and heart than The Hot One (Marnie) and The Other Hot One (Jessa) and The Sort of Hot One (Shoshanna) put together. Instead of whining and weeping snottily into her hands the way The Friend would do on any other television show, Hannah gets naked and refuses to exercise but realizes that she is exactly 13 pounds overweight (this isn't some fantasyland, after all, except for the trust funds and bad Fu Manchus). Hannah has lots of not-very-great sex. She's sometimes timid and confused, sure, but she's brave enough to state her feelings to people directly. She's self-possessed. But most importantly, she is not preoccupied with not being The Hot One. She wears clothing that doesn't compliment her body. She doesn't appear to brush her hair regularly. She doesn't have to, because she doesn't believe that there is some center of the universe located somewhere other than where she is, and she'll only get there if her hair is brushed. No. She can simply exist and do what regular people do: Eat, worry, sleep late, roll her eyes, fall on her face.

I'm gonna come out and say that I really liked Girls, due in large part (I'm realizing now) to Hannah's (and Adam's and Ray's) directness and self-possession.

What the hell is going on with Jonah Lehrer?JUL 31

First there was the self-plagiarism. And now, just a month later, Lehrer was caught fabricating some Bob Dylan quotes for his most recent book and then tried to cover it up.

Mr. Lehrer might have kept his job at The New Yorker if not for the Tablet article, by Michael C. Moynihan, a journalist who is something of an authority on Mr. Dylan.

Reading "Imagine," Mr. Moynihan was stopped by a quote cited by Mr. Lehrer in the first chapter. "It's a hard thing to describe," Mr. Dylan said. "It's just this sense that you got something to say."

After searching for a source, Mr. Moynihan could not verify the authenticity of the quote. Pressed for an explanation, Mr. Lehrer "stonewalled, misled and, eventually, outright lied to me" over several weeks, Mr. Moynihan wrote, first claiming to have been given access by Mr. Dylan's manager to an unreleased interview with the musician. Eventually, Mr. Lehrer confessed that he had made it up.

I've posted about many articles written by Lehrer and even interviewed him after I read Proust Was a Neuroscientist. When this sort of thing happens, you wonder how much else was, shall we say, embellished for effect.

Bathing suits that match book coversJUL 31

Matchbook is a blog of bathing suits that happen to visually match up with book covers. Like so:

Infinite Jest Bikini

(via @nickbilton)

Landing on Mars next week: the Curiosity roverJUL 31

The rest of you can have your Olympics, but the early August event I'm most looking forward to is the arrival on Mars of the Curiosity rover. But NASA has had some problems in the past delivering payloads to Mars, so this is going to be somewhat of a nail-biter. If you haven't seen it, Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror is well worth watching to see the logistical challenge of getting the rover down to the surface.

Curiosity will hopefully land on the surface on Aug 6 at about 1:30 am ET.

Gorillas getting smarterAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 30

For the first time, staff at the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda witnessed gorillas dismantling the types of snares that have killed two juvenile gorillas this year. The staff knew the gorillas could do this, but they'd never seen them. I fully support this type of evolution.

One of the staff members reported he moved to dismantle the snare when a silverback (adult male) in the group grunted at him warning him to stay back. Then two youngsters named Dukore and Rwema and a blackback (teen male) named Tetero ran toward the snare. Together they jumped on the taught branch attached to a rope noose and removed the rope. They then ran over to another nearby snare and destroyed it the same way. Pictures the staff members took show the young gorillas then examining broken sticks used to camouflage the noose on the ground.

Add this to the list of monkeys getting smarter, and realize Planet of the Apes was a documentary from the future sent back in time.

Google Earth Time MachineJUL 30

The Google Earth Time Machine blog uses Google's historical satellite maps to make now-and-then comparisons of interesting places around the world. Like the transformation of this Texas river bend into an oxbow lake over 60+ years:

Google Earth Time Machine 01

Google Earth Time Machine 02

(via stellar)

The inspiration for Heath Ledger's JokerJUL 30

In 1979, singer Tom Waits appeared on The Don Lane Show in Australia. As you will soon be able to see (the action starts at 1:30), his appearance was likely the basis for Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight.

Holy, uh, Batman, Batman!

Chris Marker, RIPJUL 30

Chris Marker, best known as a filmmaker and for his film La jetée, has died aged 91.

Marker's creative use of sound, images and text in his poetic, political and philosophical documentaries made him one of the most inventive of film-makers. They looked forward to what is called "the new documentary", but also looked back to the literary essay in the tradition of Michel de Montaigne. Marker's interests lay in transitional societies - "life in the process of becoming history," as he put it. How do various cultures perceive and sustain themselves and each other in the increasingly intermingled modern world?

La jetée is available in its 28-minute entirety on YouTube and is well worth watching.

Beyond 7 billionAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 28

This past week, the LA Times had a fascinating series about population growth and how our world looks with 7 billion people. There's a bunch of great articles in the series, so go fill up your Instapaper. (In the time it took to write up this post, the world's population increased by 17,000 people which makes me nervous and sweaty.) 2 especially interesting stories from the series:

With population growth, youth prospects fade, fostering violence

About 80% of the world's civil conflicts since the 1970s have occurred in countries with young, fast-growing populations, known as youth bulges, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Population Action International. ... In a sluggish agrarian economy, few young men can find legitimate employment. Their lack of a steady income essentially closes the door to marriage in a society where sex outside of wedlock is forbidden. Tradition requires paying a dowry and staging a wedding celebration, which together cost as much as $5,000 -- three times the average annual household income.

As Iran made contraceptives free, Iranian women made strides:

Without intending to, Iran's clerical leadership helped to foster "the empowerment of Iranian women," said Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, an Iran expert at Virginia Tech. "The mullahs may be winning the battle on the streets, but women are winning the battle inside the family."

Iranian woman have fewer legal rights than men and are limited in which jobs they can hold and what they can wear. But more of them are attending universities and postponing childbirth. In public universities, female students now outnumber males 65% to 35%, leading to calls in parliament for affirmative action for men.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, has sought to reverse the trend toward smaller families. Doubling the country's population of 75 million would enable Iran to threaten the West, he said.

He has denounced the contraceptive program as "a prescription for extinction," called on Iranian girls to marry no later than 16 or 17 and offered bonuses of more than $950 for each child. So far, he has been widely ignored.

English phrases common only to IndiaJUL 27

In response to this question on Quora -- What are some English phrases and terms commonly heard in India but rarely used elsewhere? -- Pushpendra Mohta offers up a story with many examples.

As it turns out, the manager there is also my college batchmate. You can use my connection there. Just give your good name. We were both backbenchers but he was actually rusticated for ragging and bunking. The final straw was when he was caught eve-teasing the dean's daughter. But, he did some jugaad and palm greasing, and got himself a license to manufacture Indian-made foreign liquor. Rags to riches story. Now he is a mover and shaker. For a while he was under the scanner of the IT authorities and they chargesheeted a disproportionate-asset case against him. I think he may have been doing some hawala transactions. The whole official machinery was after him. He tried to file a grievance but there was no redressal mechanism for such cases. Ultimately, he went on an indefinite fast.

My favorite term from the rest of the thread is "prepone", which means to move something ahead in the schedule, i.e. the opposite of postpone. (via @ftrain)

Trailer for Cloud AtlasJUL 27

The Wachowskis (The Matrix movies) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) are teaming up to bring David Mitchell's award-winning novel, Cloud Atlas, to the big screen. It's an ambitious effort given the plot of the book:

The novel consists of six nested stories that take the reader from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant, post-apocalyptic future. Each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or observed) by the main character in the next. All stories but the last are interrupted at some moment, and after the sixth story concludes at the center of the book, the novel "goes back" in time, "closing" each story as the book progresses in terms of pages but regresses in terms of the historical period in which the action takes place. Eventually, readers end where they started, with Adam Ewing in the Pacific Ocean, circa 1850.

Here's an extended trailer of the film:

The trailer is also on Apple's site along with a short commentary by the directors. BTW, the Wachowskis are no longer brothers because Larry had sexual reassignment surgery and is now Lana...the directors' commentary is the first I've seen of her since the switch.

Cautious scientists are talking possible AIDS cureJUL 27

Three people are HIV-free due to bone marrow transplants and that's providing scientists with hope for a possible AIDS cure.

AIDS patients are susceptible to cancers, but they usually stop taking HIV drugs before receiving cancer treatment. "That allows the virus to come back and it infects their donor cells," Kuritzkes said.

About 34 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, globally; 25 million have died from it. While there's no vaccine, cocktails of powerful antiviral drugs called antiretroviral therapy (ART) can keep the virus suppressed and keep patients healthy. No matter how long patients take ART, however, they are never cured. The virus lurks in the body and comes back if the drugs are stopped. Scientists want to flush out these so-called reservoirs and find a way to kill the virus for good.

Brown, and now these two other men, offer some real hope.

Dr. Timothy Henrich and colleagues at Brigham and Women's Hospital launched a search about a year ago for HIV patients with leukemia or lymphoma who had received bone marrow stem cell transplants. Bone marrow is the body's source of immune system cells that HIV infects and it's a likely place to look for HIV's reservoirs.

"If you took an HIV patient getting treated for various cancers, you can check the effect on the viral reservoirs of various cancer treatments," Kuritzkes, who works with Henrich, said. They found the two patients by asking colleagues at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston which, like Brigham and Women's, is associated with Harvard Medical School.

Both men had endured multiple rounds of treatment for lymphoma, both had stem cell treatments and both had stayed on their HIV drugs throughout. "They went through the transplants on therapy," Kuritzkes said.

It turns out that was key.

"We found that immediately before the transplant and after the transplant, HIV DNA was in the cells. As the patients' cells were replaced by the donor cells, the HIV DNA disappeared," Kuritzkes said. The donor cells, it appears, killed off and replaced the infected cells. And the HIV drugs protected the donor cells while they did it.

The two men have been HIV-free for two years and three-and-a-half years, respectively. Another man who benefited from a bone marrow transplant from a donor whose immune cells resist HIV infection has been free of HIV for five years. (via @gavinpurcell)

2001: A Summer BlockbusterJUL 27

A trailer for 2001: A Space Odyssey cut to make the movie seem like a big summer blockbuster.

How to rescue baby bears trapped in a dumpsterJUL 27

Some bear cubs climbed into a trash dumpster but were unable to get back out. Until, that is, the bravest person I have ever seen arrives on the scene.

(via @beep)

Fargo documentaryJUL 27

Minnesota Nice is a 25-minute documentary about the Coen brothers' Fargo.

(via ★interesting)

The invention of lunchJUL 27

Nicola Twilley of Edible Geography interviews Laura Shapiro and Rebecca Federman, curators of the NYPL's Lunch Hour NYC exhibition, about how lunch became a meal and what the city had to do with it.

Sliced wrapped bread first appeared in 1930, and that became the sandwich standard right away. They had the slicing technology before then, but they didn't have the wrapping technology and the two had to go together.

Before sliced bread, the lunch literature is full of advice on social distinctions and the thickness of bread in sandwiches. You slice it very thick and you leave the crusts on if you're giving them to workers, but for ladies, it should be extremely, extremely thin. Women's magazines actually published directions on how to get your bread slices thin enough for a ladies lunch. You butter the cut side of the loaf first, and then slice as close to the butter as you possibly can.

The most boring culture on EarthJUL 26

The Baining, an indiginous group of Papua New Guinea, shun play and basically don't do anything but work.

According to Fajans, the Baining eschew everything that they see as "natural" and value activities and products that come from "work," which they view as the opposite of play. Work, to them, is effort expended to overcome or resist the natural. To behave naturally is to them tantamount to behaving as an animal. The Baining say, "We are human because we work." The tasks that make them human, in their view, are those of turning natural products (plants, animals, and babies) into human products (crops, livestock, and civilized human beings) through effortful work (cultivation, domestication, and disciplined childrearing).

The Baining believe, quite correctly, that play is the natural activity of children, and precisely for that reason they do what they can to discourage or prevent it. They refer to children's play as "splashing in the mud," an activity of pigs, not appropriate for humans. They do not allow infants to crawl and explore on their own. When one tries to do so an adult picks it up and restrains it. Beyond infancy, children are encouraged or coerced to spend their days working and are often punished -- sometimes by such harsh means as shoving the child's hand into the fire -- for playing. On those occasions when Fajans did get an adult to talk about his or her childhood, the narrative was typically about the challenge of embracing work and overcoming the shameful desire to play. Part of the reason the Baining are reluctant to talk about themselves, apparently, derives from their strong sense of shame about their natural drives and desires.

But maybe Americans are becoming more boring as our children's freedom to explore is curtailed:

In some ways, I fear, we today are trying to emulate the Baining as we increasingly deprive children of opportunities to play and explore freely and, instead, force them to spend ever more time working in school and participating in adult-directed activities outside of school.

Immediately after reading about the Baining, I read this article by Trent Wolbe about his use of Adderall and was struck by a similar theme of a lack of playful creativity.

A subtler but probably much more profound effect permeates my cycle of Adderall use. I'd stopped eating. I'd stopped sleeping. I'd stopped getting horny. I'd stopped getting distracted by habits that I normally reveled in, which all seemed good. One day, about five months in, I noticed that I had stopped paying attention to music. My pleasure receptors, which in their normal state constantly cry out for sex, french fries, naps, and Katy Perry, had all become blunted. As a DJ that last thirst was something that sustained me not only spiritually but financially, and its void scared me almost as much as my flaccid penis. If I wasn't the California Gurl-obsessed snack addict I knew, then what the fuck was I?

(via @juliandibbell/)

Bob Ross remixed and autotunedAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 26

The second in a series of remixed PBS icons is out with a super positive Bob Ross track, again by Symphony of Science's John Boswell. You may recall the brilliant Mr. Rogers remix from June. "Relax. Let it flow." and "Believe you can do it because you can do it."

And here are a couple profiles of Ross: Orlando Sentinel, 1990, and NY Times, 2001. Additionally, this NY Times, 1991 profile talks about how he didn't sell his paintings despite how prolific he was.

Mr. Ross, who said he has produced nearly 30,000 paintings (the prolific Picasso did not match that record), does not sell his paintings or show his work in galleries; he has only had one retrospective -- at the Minnetrista Cultural Center in Muncie, a town that boasts of the artist as an honorary native son. Mr. Ross said he had no desire for a major exhibit. "There are thousands of very, very talented artists who will never be known, even after they are dead," he said. "Most painters want recognition, especially by their peers. I achieved that a long time ago with TV. I don't need any more."

Web browsers I have known, 1994-2012JUL 26

I'm switching to a new default web browser today (i.e. the browser I use the most on my computer) and that put me in a reminiscing mood. So here are some screenshots of all of the browsers I've used as my default for the past 18 years.

Using NCSA Mosaic to surf the World Wide Web for the very first time in the basement physics lab at college was as close to a religious experience as I've ever had. It was a thunderbolt that completely changed my life.

NCSA Mosaic

When Marc Andreessen left NCSA and formed a company to build web browsers, it was clear that their browser was the future. The first version was called Mosaic Netscape:

Mosaic Netscape

NCSA didn't appreciate the new company's use of the Mosaic name so they changed it to Netscape Navigator. This is a screenshot of Netscape 3, still my favorite web browser.

Netscape Navigator 3.0

I continued to use Netscape 3 even after the release of Netscape 4, which was a such pile of junk that I eventually decamped for the sweaty embrace of Gates and Ballmer. You may not remember, but IE 4 was a pretty good browser. Microsoft won the browser wars, in part, because their browser was better than the other guy's.

IE for Windows

I used IE on Windows until I bought a iBook in 2002. The default browser for OS X was IE for Mac:

IE for Mac

From IE for Mac, I moved to Chimera. I loved Chimera...it was fast and was the first browser I used that supported tabbed browsing.

Chimera for OS X

Chimera soon changed its name to Camino for legal reasons and I switched along with them.

Camino for OS X

Eventually, the team and resources for Camino dried up, the release schedule slowed down, and the other browser makers caught up. At this point, I can't quite remember what I switched to. I might have gone to Firebird (which was renamed Firefox), but I probably just went straight to Safari.

Safari

I used Safari for a long time until switching to Firefox a couple of years ago.

Firefox

And today I'm making Chrome my main browser. I'll still use Safari and Firefox for some stuff but links will open up on Chrome by default.

Chrome

Chrome will probably be my last default browser on a non-mobile computer. Many of you use Mobile Safari much more than any desktop web browser; I'm not quite there but will be soon enough.

The best of Ralph WiggumJUL 26

A selection of good Ralph Wiggum moments from The Simpsons.

Pretty good, except that they missed "I'm Idaho", "This tastes like burning", and "Oh boy, sleep! That's where I'm a viking!" (via @erikmal)

Weep you girlsAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 26

A big list of Pompeian graffiti proves that the writing in bathroom stalls and tourist attractions hasn't changed much in a few millennia. You know, there's a lot of, "Antiochus hung out here with his girlfriend Cithera." There's some, "To the one defecating here. Beware of the curse. If you look down on this curse, may you have an angry Jupiter for an enemy." And then my absolute favorite, "Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men's behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!" (via @cordjefferson)

Power plantsAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 25

This short documentary describes how the theft of scientific material from a Dutch lab resulted in the people in an Indian slum using fungus to provide enough electricity to heat and light an entire building. The fungus was originally stolen from a lab in Amsterdam with the intent to bring a new type of narcotic to market. Researchers discovered the fungus grows so quickly it can be used "like a giant potato clock."

The reason you haven't heard anything about this is it's just a theory of Tobias Revell. I was all set to buy it until that last picture of a mushroom on a roof. (via dens)

What is Buzzfeed up to anyway?JUL 25

Chris Dixon has posted, with permission, a letter that Jonah Peretti recently wrote to the employees of and investors in Buzzfeed outlining the company's strategy. If you're at all curious about the future of media on the web, it is an interesting read.

Most publishers build their site by stapling together products made by other companies. They get their CMS from one company, their analytics package from another, their ad tech from another, their related content widgets are powered by another, sometimes even their writers are contractors who don't work for the company. This is why so many publisher sites look the same and also why they can be so amazingly complex and hard to navigate. They are Frankenstein products bolted together by a tech team that integrates other people's products instead of building their own.

At BuzzFeed we take the exact opposite approach. We manage our own servers, we built our CMS from scratch, we created our own realtime stats system, we have our own data science team, we invented own ad products and our own post formats, and all these products are brought to life by our own editorial team and our own creative services team. We are what you call a "vertically integrated product" which is rare in web publishing. We take responsibility for the technology, the advertising, and the content and that allows us to make a much better product where everything works together.

It is hard to build vertically integrated products because you have to get good at several things instead of just one. This is why for years Microsoft was seen as the smart company for focusing on just one layer and Apple was seen as dumb for trying to do everything. But now Apple is more than twice (!) as valuable as Microsoft and the industry is starting to accept that you need to control every layer to make a really excellent product. Even Microsoft and Google has started to make their own hardware after years of insisting that software is what matters.

BuzzFeed is one of the very few publishers with the resources, talent, and focus to build the whole enchilada. And nothing is tastier than a homemade enchilada.

Jonah also recently offered some unsolicited advice to Marissa Meyer about how to think about media at Yahoo.

It is amazing how having a huge homepage can be a curse. People start fighting over existing traffic instead of trying to make awesome new things that are exciting enough to attract their own audience. Marissa Mayer should exclude homepage traffic from all metrics used to evaluate performance - that would be the single biggest thing she could do to turn around the company.

Taking that a step further, good performance should result in homepage placement, not the other way around.

A note of disclosure: I was/sorta still am an advisor to Buzzfeed (and work from the BF office), although nothing I ever offered in the way of advice has contributed significantly to Buzzfeed's current success. I also enjoy enchiladas.

Matt Groening's hellish ordeal is overJUL 25

After 30+ years, Matt Groening is done drawing his Life in Hell comic strip.

"Life in Hell" actually earned Groening his big break in Hollywood. It started running in Wet Magazine in 1978, then moved to the now-defunct LA Reader, where Groening worked. The strip eventually made its way to LA Weekly. Its popularity grew, amassing a client list of more than 250 papers, when producer Polly Platt noticed "Life in Hell" and showed it to actor/producer James L. Brooks.

Brooks contacted Groening and wanted him to develop a series of "bumpers" based on "Life in Hell" for "The Tracey Ullman Show." Groening was a bit apprehensive at the thought of handing over the rights to his characters, so he created the Simpsons to fill the slot.

Life in Hell was perhaps the first alternative thing I was aware of as a kid. I used to go with my dad to Minneapolis on business trips and I always grabbed a City Pages while walking the skyway...Life in Hell was on the back page (or close to it).

What cricket looks like to AmericansJUL 25

You may remember a small chunk of this video from its brief appearance in Get Him to the Greek...happy to find the whole thing.

Six policies economists love that politicians hateJUL 25

A list of economic policies that, according to economists, would benefit the economy but would never fly for political reasons.

Four: Eliminate all income and payroll taxes. All of them. For everyone. Taxes discourage whatever you're taxing, but we like income, so why tax it? Payroll taxes discourage creating jobs. Not such a good idea. Instead, impose a consumption tax, designed to be progressive to protect lower-income households.

Five: Tax carbon emissions. Yes, that means higher gasoline prices. It's a kind of consumption tax, and can be structured to make sure it doesn't disproportionately harm lower-income Americans. More, it's taxing something that's bad, which gives people an incentive to stop polluting.

Updates on previous entries for Jul 24, 2012*JUL 25

Get the old Twitter timeline back (with @replies!) orig. from Jul 23, 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.

Perfume that smells like a freshly printed bookJUL 24

Paper Passion is a perfume that smells like a book.

This is an opportunity to celebrate all the gloriosensuality of books, at a time when many in the industry are turning against them. The idea is that is should relax you, like when you read a book, to a level of meditation and concentration. Paper Passion has evolved into something quite beautiful and unique. To wear the smell of a book is something very chic. Books are players in the intellectual world, but also in the world of luxury.

Gloriosensuality! (via @jjg)

MoCAT: the Musuem of Contemporary Art TrashJUL 24

NYC Sanitation Department employee Nelson Molina has curated a makeshift museum of trash gathered by Molina and other sanitation workers over the past 20 years.

Mr. Molina, 58, a lifelong New Yorker and a sanitation worker since 1981, began collecting pictures and trinkets along his route about 20 years ago, he said, to brighten up his corner of the garage locker room. Gradually, his colleagues on East 99th Street began to contribute, gathering up discarded gems they thought he might enjoy. As the collection grew, word spread, and workers from other boroughs started to drop off contributions from time to time. Next, building superintendents along Mr. Molina's route started putting things aside they thought he could use.

Today, he estimates he has close to 1,000 pieces in his collection, arranged with great thoughtfulness, and even humor, in an enormous open room against cream-colored brick. (He painted the walls, mixing together beige, ivory, white and every other light-colored paint he and his colleagues could find, he explained, so that the pictures would pop.)

NYC locations of Annie Hall, then and nowJUL 24

Scouting NY takes a look at some filming locations used by Woody Allen for Annie Hall to see how they've changed in the past 36 years.

Annie Hall Then Now

The most unexpected thing about looking at old photos of NYC is how many fewer trees there were than there are now. (via ★spavis)

Can I interest you in a 24-horsepower Yoda?JUL 24

Ignoring the prequels (of course), how much power does Yoda put out when he's using the Force? It's perhaps less than you'd realize.

Yoda's greatest display of raw power in the original trilogy came when he lifted Luke's X-Wing from the swamp. As far as physically moving objects around goes, this was easily the biggest expenditure of energy through the Force we saw from anyone in the trilogy.

The energy it takes to lift an object to height h is equal to the object's mass times the force of gravity times the height it's lifted. The X-Wing scene lets us use this to put a lower limit on Yoda's peak power output.

First we need to know how heavy the ship was. The X-Wing's mass has never been canonically established, but its length has-16 meters. An F-22 is 19 meters long and weighs 19,700 lbs, so scaling down from this gives an estimate for the X-Wing of about 12,000 lbs (5 metric tons).

Sympathetic magicAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 24

Lapham's Quarterly has a (not so) brief history of superstition, which introduced me to the phrase 'sympathetic magic'. I also like the quotation bolded below.

For all its erudition and analysis, The Golden Bough has for more than a century helped cement the idea that magic is inappropriate, wrongheaded thought. Yet what separates magic from religion or science is not its methodology -- Frazer himself notes that it "is therefore a truism, almost a tautology, to say that all magic is necessarily false and barren; for were it ever to become true and fruitful, it would no longer be magic but science" -- it's that ordinary people can do it, transforming their lives with the ambitious power of everyday thought.

Disdain for sympathetic magic, particularly for its simplicity and its universal application, can be traced back two millennia before Frazer and his peers. In the Laws, Plato's Athenian Stranger complains of the gullibility of the citizenry, lamenting that "it would be a labor lost to bring conviction to minds beset with such suspicions of each other, to tell them, if they should perchance see a manikin of wax set up in a doorway, or at the crossroads, or at the grave of a parent, to think nothing of such things, as nothing is known of them for certain." Even aware of the fallaciousness of such belief, Plato seemed hesitant to ignore it altogether, and the Laws goes on to advise that while white magic is perfectly acceptable, any professional diviner or prophet suspected of "doing mischief by the practice of spells, charms, incantations, or other such sorceries" be put to death, while an amateur practitioner should pay a fine.

Updates on previous entries for Jul 23, 2012*JUL 24

Turn your Twitter stream into your friends' linkblog orig. from Jul 23, 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.

Get the old Twitter timeline back (with @replies!)JUL 23

Earlier today I shared a quick way to read a links-only version of your Twitter stream using Twitter's new "people you follow" search filter. More than three years ago, Twitter removed @replies to people you don't follow from people's streams... e.g. if I follow Jack Dorsey on Twitter and you don't, you won't see my "@jack That's great, congrats!" tweet in your stream. With the "people you follow" search filter, you now have the option of seeing all those @replies again: just do a search for some gibberish with the not operator in front of it. (But obviously not that gibberish because then you'll miss tweets with that link in it. Get yer own gibberish!)

Two things that I wished worked that don't: -@ and -# for searches that exclude @replies and #hastags.

Update: Andy Baio reminds me that you can filter out @replies and #hashtags with "-filter:replies" and "-filter:hashtags". Which makes things a bit more interesting. Using the "people you follow" filter in combination with other filters, you can see your Twitter stream in all sorts of different ways:

- Only links
- Only links excluding Foursquare, Instagram, or whatever...
- Without links
- Without links and @replies (which is kind of an amazingly old school way to read Twitter)

You can also use it to read your stream with certain terms excluded...say if you didn't want to read anything about the Presidential candidates, SXSW, Rupert Murdoch, the Yankees, or Gawker. I know other tools let you filter tweets in your stream in different ways, but this is the first time Twitter allows people to do it on their site, even if it is through the back door.

A brief history of sliced breadJUL 23

We often describe inventions as being the best thing since sliced bread, but most of us don't know much about that particular slice of history. Otto Rohwedder created the first commercial bread-slicer and the Chillicothe Baking Company put it to use in 1928. A local reporter explained that, "one realizes instantly that here is a refinement that will receive a hearty and permanent welcome." Here's a brief history of sliced bread.

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Map made from movie namesJUL 23

Design firm Dorothy has created a map where all the features are movie-themed: Jurassic Park, Shutter Island, Howards End, the Soylent Green...that sort of thing.

Film Map

See also their song map.

Turn your Twitter stream into your friends' linkblogJUL 23

A few weeks ago, Twitter added an option to search the tweets of only the people you follow. This is useful for several different reasons (try searching for [recent pop culture key phrase] to see what I mean) but for those who use Twitter primarily to find cool links to read/watch, it's an unexpected gift. To view your Twitter stream filtered to include only tweets containing links, just do a search for "http". Simple but powerful.

ps. Who knows if they're interested in this or not, but by a) making their entire archive available to search and b) allowing people to limit their search to their friends + 1-2 degrees of separation, Twitter could significantly better the search experience offered by Google et al in maybe 25-30% of all search cases. This is what Google is attempting to do with Google+ but Twitter could beat them to the punch.

Update: The search above, while quick, is also dirty in that it will include non-link tweets like "My favorite protocol is HTTP". The official Twitter way to is to use "filter:links", which will avoid that problem.

You can also filter out the links from your Twitter stream by negating the http search (this no longer works...), but you'll have to wade through all the @replies.

Why isn't the sky blue?JUL 23

This segment of the most recent episode of Radiolab about color is super interesting. It seems that people haven't always seen colors in the same way we do today.

What is the color of honey, and "faces pale with fear"? If you're Homer--one of the most influential poets in human history--that color is green. And the sea is "wine-dark," just like oxen...though sheep are violet. Which all sounds...well, really off. Producer Tim Howard introduces us to linguist Guy Deutscher, and the story of William Gladstone (a British Prime Minister back in the 1800s, and a huge Homer-ophile). Gladstone conducted an exhaustive study of every color reference in The Odyssey and The Iliad. And he found something startling: No blue! Tim pays a visit to the New York Public Library, where a book of German philosophy from the late 19th Century helps reveal a pattern: across all cultures, words for colors appear in stages. And blue always comes last.

It's worth listening to the whole thing...the bit at the end with the linguist's daughter and the color of the sky is especially cool.

Miles Davis' blind listening testJUL 23

As part of an interview by Down Beat Magazine in 1964, Miles Davis listened to a bunch of unknown music in a blind listening test and offered his opinions.

What am I supposed to say to that? That's ridiculous. You see the way they can fuck up music? It's a mismatch. They don't complement each other. Max and Mingus can play together, by themselves. Mingus is a hell of a bass player, and Max is a hell of a drummer. But Duke can't play with them, and they can't play with Duke.

Now, how are you going to give a thing like that some stars? Record companies should be kicked in the ass. Somebody should take a picket sign and picket the record company.

Live TV coverage of Apollo 11 landing and moon walkJUL 20

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module landed on the surface of the Moon 43 years ago today. For the 40th anniversary of the landing in 2009, I put together a page where you can watch the original CBS News coverage of Walter Cronkite reporting on the Moon landing and the first Moon walk, synced to the present-day time. I've updated the page to work again this year: just open this page in your browser and the coverage will start playing at the proper time. Here's the schedule:

Moon landing broacast start: 4:10:30 pm EDT on July 20
Moon landing shown: 4:17:40 pm EDT
Moon landing broadcast end: 4:20:15 pm EDT
{break}
Moon walk broadcast start: 10:51:27 pm EDT
First step on Moon: 10:56:15 pm EDT
Nixon speaks to the Eagle crew: approx 11:51:30 pm EDT
Moon walk broadcast end: 12:00:30 pm EDT on July 21

Here's a post I wrote when I launched the project.

If you've never seen this coverage, I urge you to watch at least the landing segment (~10 min.) and the first 10-20 minutes of the Moon walk. I hope that with the old time TV display and poor YouTube quality, you get a small sense of how someone 40 years ago might have experienced it. I've watched the whole thing a couple of times while putting this together and I'm struck by two things: 1) how it's almost more amazing that hundreds of millions of people watched the first Moon walk *live* on TV than it is that they got to the Moon in the first place, and 2) that pretty much the sole purpose of the Apollo 11 Moon walk was to photograph it and broadcast it live back to Earth.

Thanks to Dave Schumaker for the reminder.

At least a dozen dead in Denver theater shootingJUL 20

A gunman opened fire at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado last night...at least 12 people are dead with more than 50 injured.

It was not the Denver area's first mass killing. In 1999, two students shot 12 classmates and a teacher in Columbine High School in suburban Denver before killing themselves. Two days ago in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a gunman opened fire on a crowded bar with an assault rifle, wounding 17.

"The Dark Knight Rises" is rated PG-13 and there were many children at the sold-out show, including some in costumes, at the Century 16 Movie Theaters at the Aurora Town Center. One of the dead was a 3-month-old child, the Denver Post reported.

Horrible, horrible, horrible.

Updates on previous entries for Jul 19, 2012*JUL 20

Wes Anderson's next film: The Grand Budapest Hotel orig. from Jul 19, 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.

Language X is essentially language Y under conditions ZJUL 19

A large collection of expressions compiled by John Cowan in which languages are explained in terms of other languages. Like so:

English is essentially a half dozen other languages locked in a small room. They fight.

Icelandic is essentially Norwegian spoken with an American accent.

English is what you get from Normans trying to pick up Saxon girls.

Spanish is what happened when Moors tried to learn Latin and said "screw it."

Dutch is English spelt funny and spoken in a Klingon accent.

English is essentially French converted to 7-bit ASCII.

(thx, rasmus)

At war with the Magic Kingdom?AARON COHEN  ·  JUL 19

Remember when a Reddit thread about an imaginary military situation was turned into a movie? I think this could be Quora's chance. The top answer by USMC Sergeant Jon Davis is filled with detailed charts and seems like it might work. The extreme dissonance that results from mixing Disney World landmarks with descriptions of military maneuvers is delicious.

The next phase would be the first two infantry companies sneaking in through the wooded area in the Southeast between Tomorrowland and Mainstreet, USA. Their primary targets are the train station and entrance to the park (to prevent enemy escape or reinforcements.) The Tomorrowland company's objective is to secure the square and and buildings, as well as any advanced technologies it may hold. Marines and soldiers are advised to not use the teleporters. They're a trap. They will only kill your unit and replace him with an evil alien. Their main attack route will be through the stage. Also important is that troops remember to take all underground entry points and gas them to prevent surprise attacks from the tunnels.

(via ★dens)

The Royal Tenenbaums on Criterion Collection Blu-rayJUL 19

Speaking of Wes Anderson, The Criterion Collection is releasing The Royal Tenenbaums on Blu-ray in August (pre-order at Amazon). In this age of watching streaming movies on small screens, there are still many that are better in HD with surround sound. (via @moth)

Women at the OlympicsJUL 19

Nevermind that Marissa Mayer is a pregnant CEO...Malaysian air rifle shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi is set to compete at the London Olympics while eight months pregnant. Shooting with a potentially moving/kicking baby on board can't be easy.

The International Olympic Committee does not keep records on the number of pregnant athletes, but a search of news reports suggests that only three other pregnant women have competed in the Olympics, all of them in the Winter Games. And Nur Suryani looks likely to set the record for the most heavily pregnant competitor in Olympic history.

Shooting may be less strenuous on a pregnant body than many other sports, but it is also a sport in which fortunes can hinge on fractions of millimeters, with breathing, balance and concentration considered paramount.

Nur Suryani has a solution when she steps onto the rifle range in London: "I will talk to her, say, 'Mum is going to shoot just for a while. Can you just be calm?"'

But just when you are thinking "yay ladies", consider that when the Japanese soccer teams flew to Europe on the same flight, the men sat in business class while the women were seated in coach.

It was precisely a year ago that the Japanese women's soccer team won the World Cup, beating the United States in the final and giving a boost to the spirits of a nation that had been battered by an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear disaster.

But when they flew to Europe on Sunday along with the men's team, the women were in coach seats while the men were up in business class. The Japanese Football Association said the teams had left Tokyo together on the same Japan Airlines flight.

"I guess it should have been the other way around," Homare Sawa, the leading player on the women's team, told Japanese reporters this week. "Even just in terms of age, we are senior."

And don't even get started on Saudi Arabia and many other Middle Eastern countries. Recent "progress" aside, these countries are still sickeningly misogynistic regarding athletics.

Update: Taibi ended up finishing 34th out of 56 in the qualifying round.

Wes Anderson's next film: The Grand Budapest HotelJUL 19

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Johnny Depp will be in Wes Anderson's next movie.

No details regarding the film's plot or Depp's character have been revealed, but the project is said to be titled The Grand Budapest Hotel and will mark Texas-born Anderson's first time shooting in Europe.

A bunch of Anderson regulars are also rumored to be involved: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, and Willem Dafoe. IMDB has it listed as Untitled Wes Anderson Project, described as "a European story", and Owen Wilson is the only listed cast member.

Update: I am reminded, via Twitter, that Anderson has done several projects in Europe. The Life Aquatic was filmed in Italy, Hotel Chevalier was filmed in Paris, and Fantastic Mr. Fox was produced in the UK. Anderson lives in Paris full-time now, I believe, so I would expect that many of his projects moving forward will be filmed/set there.

The strongest man in the worldAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 19

The New Yorker profiles Brian Shaw, a competitor in Strongest Man competitions, and indirectly convinces me Strongest (Wo)Man should be an Olympic event.

Strength like Shaw's is hard to explain. Yes, he has big muscles, and strength tends to vary in proportion to muscle mass. But exceptions are easy to find. Pound for pound, the strongest girl in the world may be Naomi Kutin, a ten-year-old from Fair Lawn, New Jersey, who weighs only ninety-nine pounds but can squat and deadlift more than twice that much. John Brzenk, perhaps the greatest arm wrestler of all time, is famous for pinning opponents twice his size -- his nickname is the Giant Crusher. And I remember, as a boy, being a little puzzled by the fact that the best weight lifter in the world -- Vasily Alexeyev, a Russian, who broke eighty world records and won gold medals at the Munich and the Montreal Olympics--looked like the neighborhood plumber. Shaggy shoulders, flaccid arms, pendulous gut: what made him so strong?

"Power is strength divided by time," John Ivy, a physiologist at the University of Texas, told me. "The person that can generate the force the fastest will be the most powerful." This depends in part on what you were born with: the best weight lifters have muscles with far more fast-twitch fibres, which provide explosive strength, than slow-twitch fibres, which provide endurance. How and where those muscles are attached also matters: the longer the lever, the stronger the limb. But the biggest variable is what's known as "recruitment": how many fibres can you activate at once? A muscle is like a slave galley, with countless rowers pulling separately toward the same goal. Synchronizing that effort requires years of training and the right "neural hookup," Ivy said. Those who master it can lift far above their weight. Max Sick, a great early-nineteenth-century German strongman, had such complete muscle control that he could make the various groups twitch in time to music. He was only five feet four and a hundred and forty-five pounds, yet he could take a man forty pounds heavier, press him in the air sixteen times with one hand, and hold a mug of beer in the other without spilling it.

I also liked this part. "The best female lifters can toss the equivalent of two very large men above their heads in a single motion. It's the closest that humans come to being superheroes, and these women acted accordingly."

Bodybuilders' WorldAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 18

Belgian photographer Kurt Stallaert's "Bodybuilders' World" is a project showing a world where children are more ripped than you. It's creepy as hell imagining these kids lifting weights every day since they were born.

Kurt Stallaert 01

Kurt Stallaert 02

More examples here and here. (via ★scottwilliams)

17 tips to make your life easierJUL 18

For some reason, I am a huge sucker for this type of stuff...some of these are really clever! Aren't they?

3. Expanding Frosting
When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.

10. Reducing Static Cling
Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and - ta da! - static is gone.

Well, aren't they? (via a cup of jo)

Injectable oxygenJUL 18

A team in Boston is working on a method for injecting oxygen straight into a person's bloodstream, which is faster than the more traditional method (you know, breathing).

Researchers led by Harvard Medical School's John N. Kheir engineered tiny, gas-filled microparticles, which were about three micrometers in size and invisible to the naked eye. They used a device called a sonicator, which uses high-intensity sound waves, to produce a foamy liquid solution with microparticles that consist of a single layer of lipids that trap a tiny pocket of oxygen gas. They then injected the resulting mixture directly into the bloodstream of rabbits that were severely oxygen-deprived.

Within seconds, infusions of the microparticles restored the blood oxygen saturation of these mammals to near-normal levels. When the rabbits' windpipes were completely blocked, the solution kept them alive for 15 minutes without a single breath and reduced the likelihood of cardiac arrest and organ injury.

More here and here.

Mr. Wizard is a dickJUL 18

I laughed pretty hard at this video of Mr. Wizard being kinda jerky to the kids on his show.

(via ★interesting)

The Lego Wire AARON COHEN  ·  JUL 18

Marissa Mayer has only been CEO at Yahoo! for a day and she's already creating viral content like a stop motion Lego version of The Wire. Imagine what we'll get when she's been there a week.

Audible guffaws at, "What's up his ass?" "No one likes our season, that's what." (via @jonahkeri)

Updates on previous entries for Jul 17, 2012*JUL 18

Jesse Owens' favorite Olympic memory orig. from Jul 17, 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.

Where inspiration comes fromJUL 17

From the 99% Invisible podcast, the story of how Charles Dickens' pet bird (eventually) inspired Geico's caveman commercials. I loved this.

If you liked it too, you might consider backing their Kickstarter campaign raising funds to produce their third season.

Jesse Owens' favorite Olympic memoryJUL 17

Jesse Owens' medal-winning exploits against the Aryan backdrop of the 1936 Olympics are well known, but I had never heard the story of his friendship with his German rival in the long jump. Owens explained in a 1960 Reader's Digest piece:

Walking a few yards from the pit, I kicked disgustedly at the dirt. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to look into the friendly blue eyes of the tall German broad jumper. He had easily qualified for the finals on his first attempt. He offered me a firm handshake.

"Jesse Owens, I'm Luz Long. I don't think we've met." He spoke English well, though with a German twist to it.

"Glad to meet you," I said. Then, trying to hide my nervousness, I added, "How are you?"

"I'm fine. The question is: How are you?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Something must be eating you," he said-proud the way foreigners are when they've mastered a bit of American slang. "You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed."

"Believe me, I know it," I told him -- and it felt good to say that to someone.

Here's a video of Owens competing in Berlin:

Update: Or perhaps Owens fabricated the story? (thx, @jessakka)

Christian Marclay's The Clock on display now in NYCJUL 17

For the next two weeks, Christian Marclay's 24-hour supercut of clocks from movies will be on display at Lincoln Center. The Clock shows Tue-Thu from 8am to 10pm and continuously over the weekend.

The Clock is a spectacular and hypnotic 24-hour work of video art by renowned artist Christian Marclay. Marclay has brought together thousands of clips from the entire history of cinema, from silent films to the present, each featuring an exact time on a clock, on a watch, or in dialogue. The resulting collage tells the accurate time at any given moment, making it both a work of art and literally a working timepiece: a cinematic memento mori.

Admission is free, the space air-conditioned, and the couches only slightly uncomfortable. Seating capacity is 96, so the venue is posting updates on Twitter about how long the line is. I popped in earlier today expecting to wait 20 minutes or more and walked right in...quicker than the Shake Shack. I think the MoMA is supposed to be showing it in the next year or two and that is sure to be a complete mob scene so this is your chance to check it out with relative ease.

Earlier this year, Daniel Zalewski profiled Marclay for the New Yorker about how the artist created the film.

Marclay had a dangerous thought: "Wow, wouldn't it be great to find clips with clocks for every minute of all twenty-four hours?" Marclay has an algorithmic mind, and, as with Sol LeWitt's work, many of his best pieces have originated with a conceit as straightfoward as a recipe. The resulting collage, he realized, would be weirdly functional; the fragments, properly synched, would tell the time as well as a Rolex. And, because he'd be poaching from a vast number of films, the result would offer an unorthodox anthology of cinema.

There were darker resonances, too. People went to the movies to lose track of time; this video would pound viewers with an awareness of how long they'd been languishing in the dark. It would evoke the laziest of modern pleasures-channel surfing-except that the time wasted would be painfully underlined.

Finding Nemo 2 on at Pixar?JUL 17

Andrew Stanton is working on a sequel to Finding Nemo. Holy cussing cuss!

I've been hearing for months that he would come aboard to direct the sequel to Disney-based Pixar's Finding Nemo, with the idea that Disney would give him another shot behind the camera on a live-action film. I'm told he's now officially come aboard the Finding Nemo sequel and has a concept the studio loves.

The Chickens and the BullsJUL 17

Writing for Slate, William McGowan tells the story of the Chickens and the Bulls, an extensive and brazen extortion ring that targetting prominent homosexuals (admirals, Congressmen, entertainers, etc.) and the NYPD & FBI investigators and prosecutors who put the kibosh on the whole thing with minimal exposure to the victims.

Though now almost forgotten, the case of "the Chickens and the Bulls" as the NYPD called it (or "Operation Homex," to the FBI), still stands as the most far-flung, most organized, and most brazen example of homosexual extortion in the nation's history. And while the Stonewall riot in June 1969 is considered by many to be the pivotal moment in gay civil rights, this case represents an important crux too, marking the first time that the law enforcement establishment actually worked on behalf of victimized gay men, instead of locking them up or shrugging.

The coda of the case is surprising...one of the members of the extortion ring became one of the gay movement's most powerful leaders.

Boston Symphony Orchestra auditionAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 17

Mike Tetreault recently let Boston Magazine follow along while he prepared to audition for the Boston Symphony Orchestra resulting in an interesting look into the BSO and the life of an elite orchestra musician. There's even a surprise appearance from Steve Blass Disease.

At 33, Tetreault was putting in 100-hour weeks on a patchwork of gigs he'd pieced together -- simultaneously serving as the music director at the Galilee Baptist Church in Denver; teaching at the University of Colorado; and working various gigs with the Boulder Philharmonic, the Fort Collins Symphony, the Colorado Ballet, the Colorado Symphony, and Opera Colorado. Yes, he was doing what he loved for a living, but when he added it all up, it was barely a living at all. He'd made $55,000 the previous year, pretty good -- until you factored in all the hours, and the fact that the salary had to support two since his wife, Rachel, had been laid off in 2010 from a communications job with the Colorado Symphony. The couple was living in a 625-square-foot one-bedroom apartment.

(via stellar)

Piranha scissorsAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 16

If you can't take the heat, stay out of the Amazon or something.

(via ★Stellar Interesting)

Marissa Mayer is Yahoo's new CEOJUL 16

But can she turn the company around? This is a super interesting move.

Marissa Mayer, one of the top executives at Google, will be the next C.E.O. of Yahoo, making her one of the most prominent women in Silicon Valley and corporate America.

The appointment of Ms. Mayer, who was employee No. 20 at Google and was one of the few public faces of the company, is considered a surprising coup for Yahoo, which has struggled in recent years to attract top flight talent in its battle with competitors like Google and Facebook.

Infinite Jest tour of BostonJUL 16

Infinite Boston is a photo tour of some of the Boston locations that inspired locations in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.

In July of what might have been Year of Glad, one year ago this week, I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts with the express purpose of visiting as many of the landmarks and lesser known precincts that appear in, or provide inspiration for, the late David Foster Wallace's 1996 novel Infinite Jest as I could manage on a Thursday-Sunday trip. My reasons for doing so will become apparent at a later date, but for now I am pleased to present what I am calling "Infinite Boston": a ruminative travelogue and photographic tour of some fifty or so of these locations, comprising one entry each non-holiday weekday, from now until sometime in early autumn.

It's hard making friends as an adultJUL 16

The NY Times has a piece about the challenge of making new friends in your 30s and 40s.

In studies of peer groups, Laura L. Carstensen, a psychology professor who is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in California, observed that people tended to interact with fewer people as they moved toward midlife, but that they grew closer to the friends they already had.

Basically, she suggests, this is because people have an internal alarm clock that goes off at big life events, like turning 30. It reminds them that time horizons are shrinking, so it is a point to pull back on exploration and concentrate on the here and now. "You tend to focus on what is most emotionally important to you," she said, "so you're not interested in going to that cocktail party, you're interested in spending time with your kids."

As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added.

Buy less but pay moreJUL 16

Allen Tucker writes about how people should pay more for the goods and services they buy. I especially liked this bit on tipping:

No one cares about $5 unless it's a tip or part of a meal. This is so weird to me. No one haggles over $5 on the price of a car, but it seems that everyone needs a tip calculator to determine if they should pay 21.50 or $22.00 for a meal.

I usually eat at the same few restaurants all the time. They're maybe 10% more expensive, usually locally owned, and the food doesn't come out of a frozen pre-made bag before being tossed in the oven. I never tip less than 20%, and I'm not an asshole....at restaurants.

I always get great service. The staff who isn't even waiting on me comes over to say hi. They know what I'm going to order, and if I forget something, they know it.

This doesn't happen at Applebee's or McD's.

Overpaying in small ways is often not financially significant to you, but it seems like a lot to someone else. Over tipping makes $2 or $5 seem like a lot of money. This multiplies the value of your money.

I wrote about buying higher quality items a few years ago.

My wife and I are ardent upgraders. I rarely buy anything anymore but the things I do buy are usually better versions of things I already have. As things break or wear out, we've been replacing them with items that are nicer to use/wear/whatever and will last a whole lot longer than the cheaper stuff.

Hilarious grand jury testimonyJUL 16

David House testified in front of a grand jury about his potential association with Bradley Manning. On the advice of his lawyer, he took the fifth on every question except his name and birthdate.

PM: Mr. House, are you involved with the Bradley Manning Support Network?
DH: I invoke.
PM: Did you respond in the affirmative when asked by the FBI if you had heard of known WikiLeaks associate Jacob Appelbaum?
PM: I would like to state for the record that Mr. House is not answering the question and is instead taking notes.
DH: I invoke.
PM: Do you intend to answer any of my questions, aside from your date of birth and your name?
DH: I invoke.
PM: Is that because of the phalanx of attorneys present here today?
Court Stenographer: I'm sorry, the what of attorneys?
PM: Phalanx... the phalanx of attorneys.
DH: As to the phalanx of attorneys, I invoke.

I had no idea grand jury testimony could be so amusing. I love that House offers to help with the presentation display when the DOJ attorneys are having trouble making the image bigger.

I love this animated GIFJUL 13

Finger 360

And there are many more similar ones here. (via colossal)

Interview with Jose Antonio VargasJUL 13

It's been more than a year since the NY Times Magazine published Jose Antonio Vargas' My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant to much fanfare.

But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don't ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.

Buzzfeed's Michael Hastings just published an extensive update on Vargas about what has happened to him since the publication of that piece.

In the aftermath of the bombshell piece, Washington State revoked his driver's license. An online petition popped up, demanding he be deported, and he received threats. He also received a torrent of scathing criticism from his peers in journalism, questioning his character and his motives. Some at the Washington Post, which had originally killed the story, began a whisper campaign against him, suggesting he couldn't be trusted. He lost a number of friends and colleagues, including some he'd looked up to and admired.

Although Vargas has written about his experience as an undocumented worker, he's been reluctant to publicly talk about the impact his decision had on his place in the media world, the fallout from his controversial move, and how he'd been treated by fellow members of the press. In an extensive interview with BuzzFeed, he agreed to open up about these issues for the first time-from the surprising support from high profile fans like Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and yes, Aaron Sorkin-to what his friends say he viewed as a betrayal from the Washington Post, a newspaper that he called his home for five years.

A second season of Black MirrorJUL 12

The UK's Channel 4 is bringing back Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror for a second season of three episodes.

He said: 'British drama seems particularly obsessed with murder and the past, often together. Black Mirror is a rare modern look at where society and individuals could be headed, given the all-pervasive deluge of social media and technology.'

The first series prompted 322 complaints over a story in which a Prime Minister was blackmailed into having sex with a pig live on TV.

Brooker said: 'Half of the things in the first run of Black Mirror seem to be on the verge of coming true. They've got prisoners in Brazilian prisons pedalling on exercise bikes to reduce their sentences (not entirely dissimilar to the episode 15 Million Merits) and Google Glass looks like copyright infringement as far as The Entire History of You is concerned.

3-D printed shoes that could help sprinters shatter recordsJUL 12

For his final project at the Royal College of Art in London, Luc Fusaro outlined a process for building custom-fitting sprinting shoes that weigh just 96 grams.

Laser Sintered Shoes

The shoes are fabricated using a selective laser sintering process that uses precise 3-D scans of an athlete's foot to achieve maximum fit. The really tantalizing (but unfortunately uncited) bit about Fusaro's design is that by fitting shoes to a sprinter's feet so precisely, significant performance improvements might result:

Scientific investigations have shown that tuning the mechanical properties of a sprint shoe to the physical abilities of an athlete can improve performance by up to 3.5%.

For 100-meter world record holder Usain Bolt, a performance improvement of 3.5% could lower his world record to 9.24...just by wearing different shoes. That seems insane but Speedo's LZR Racer suit that was responsible for dozens of world records falling in 2008 were shown to lower racing times by 1.9 to 2.2 percent so that sort of improvement is certainly possible. (via @curiousoctopus)

Camille Seaman's sky monsters and frozen seafarersJUL 12

Yesterday In Focus featured new work from photographer Camille Seaman: storm clouds in the skies of the Midwest.

Camille Seaman Storm

Nice cumulonimbus mammatus in #s 4, 14, and 16. And by coincidence, the NY Times Lens blog also featured Seaman's work yesterday, an earlier project that entailed shooting portraits of icebergs.

Camille Seaman Iceberg

I like Seaman's portraiture approach to things like clouds and icebergs:

"They are like humans in that each one reacts to its environment and its circumstances in its own way," Camille Seaman, 42, said. "I've come across icebergs that were very stalwart and just refused to dissolve or break up. And there were others -- massive, massive icebergs -- that were like 'I can't take it anymore' and in front of my eyes would just dissolve into the sea. There's so many unique personalities. There's a sadness to them."

The naughty 2012 Olympics logoJUL 12

With the Olympics about two weeks away, consider this a final you-can't-unsee-it reminder that the 2012 London Olympics logo looks like Lisa Simpson performing oral sex.

2012 Olympic Logo Lisa Simpson

It's not as bad as some of the others on this list (oh, that Mon-Sat logo), but it's still exceptionally unforgettable. Enjoy the wall-to-wall Olympic coverage for the next two weeks!

11 things about phantom vibrationsJUL 12

Feel it, feel it, feel the vibration? Ever have that feeling that something is vibrating in your pocket but when you reach for your phone, nothing is there? If you have experienced such bad vibes, you're by no means alone. From The Atlantic, here are 11 things you need to know about phantom vibrations. Even if the vibrations are imagined, your carrier will still probably figure out a way to charge you for the call.

89 percent of the undergrad participants in this current study had felt phantom vibrations. In the two other studies on this in the literature -- a 2007 doctoral thesis, which surveyed the general population, and a 2010 survey of staff at a Massachusetts hospital -- majorities of participants experienced phantom vibrations.

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Are you an optimist or a pessimist?JUL 12

Errol Morris has a new essay on the New York Times site this week and it's surprisingly short. And it's actually not an essay but a two-question quiz based on this short passage by David Deutsch:

If a one kilometer asteroid had approached the Earth on a collision course at any time in human history before the early twenty-first century, it would have killed at least a substantial proportion of all humans. In that respect, as in many others, we live in an era of unprecedented safety: the twenty-first century is the first ever moment when we have known how to defend ourselves from such impacts, which occur once every 250,000 years or so.

It doesn't seem like much and Morris is being coy about it, but I've been assured that something interesting will come of it if enough people take it. So take it!

Updates on previous entries for Jul 11, 2012*JUL 12

God mode in-app purchase for iOS games orig. from Jul 11, 2012
Building Stories, new Chris Ware graphic novel! orig. from Jul 10, 2012
The history of Twitter's @reply orig. from Jul 10, 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.

"It's a big ass shark!"AARON COHEN  ·  JUL 11

Go ahead and cross off 'fishing off the front porch' from the list of enjoyable summertime activities. If you're impatient, skip to about :38.

Heck, we may as well round out the shark beat with a report of a baby shark for sale on the subway today, and a crazy picture of a shark stalking a kayak off the coast of Cape Cod this past weekend.

(hat tip @anildash)

The relativistic baseballJUL 11

XKCD is answering "hypothetical questions with physics" once a week and the first installment is just flat-out delightful: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

The ideas of aerodynamics don't apply here. Normally, air would flow around anything moving through it. But the air molecules in front of this ball don't have time to be jostled out of the way. The ball smacks into them hard that the atoms in the air molecules actually fuse with the atoms in the ball's surface. Each collision releases a burst of gamma rays and scattered particles.

These gamma rays and debris expand outward in a bubble centered on the pitcher's mound. They start to tear apart the molecules in the air, ripping the electrons from the nuclei and turning the air in the stadium into an expanding bubble of incandescent plasma. The wall of this bubble approaches the batter at about the speed of light-only slightly ahead of the ball itself.

All science writing should (and probably could!) be this entertaining. (via @delfuego)

Carl Sagan's reading listJUL 11

From a collection of his papers recently acquired by The Library of Congress, a 1954 reading list from physicist Carl Sagan. Huxley, Plato, Shakespeare, and the Bible are all on there among many others. If I understand mathematics properly, and I think I do, using the associative property, if you read all these books, you will become as smart and cool as Carl Sagan was. Or is it the transitive property?

God mode in-app purchase for iOS gamesJUL 11

Free idea for iOS game devs: for just about any iOS game I've played for the more than 60 minutes, I would pay dearly (like $10-15) for a God-mode option that let you play the game infinitely long without dying. The type of God mode would depend on the game. For Tiny Wings, it would be as simple as removing the sunset. For Ski Safari, ditch the avalanche. For Kingdom Rush, God mode might be something like starting any level with unlimited gold and unlimited enemies. (For KR, I would probably pay $30 for an unlimited mode.) And perhaps God mode purchase option only unlocks after a certain amount of gameplay. It wouldn't work for any game...e.g. I can't think of what God mode for Angry Birds would be like. But for a certain type of game, God mode would be a great way for experts to explore more of the games they love.

Update: Several people of Twitter mentioned The Mighty Eagle as Angry Birds' God mode, which is close. A couple of others also suggested unlimited birds of your choosing on every level...good idea!

Rubber bands explode watermelonJUL 11

If you put enough rubber bands around a watermelon, it will explode.

(via serious eats)

Updates on previous entries for Jul 10, 2012*JUL 11

Clam stealing salt from a table orig. from Jul 09, 2012

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

Ken Block and Harry MainAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 10

Two for you tonight. First up, Ken Block visits all your favorite San Francisco landmarks in his latest Gymkhana video. It's a bit spooky how there's hardly anyone on the streets, but don't let that stop you from enjoying Block doing figure eights in between moving trolleys.

Then watch BMX maniac Harry Main do gorgeous and dangerous things on a bicycle.

(via Chris)

Building Stories, new Chris Ware graphic novel!JUL 10

Ware Building Stories

Chris Ware is coming out with a new graphic novel called Building Stories, which has appeared in bits and pieces in other places.

Building Stories imagines the inhabitants of a three-story Chicago apartment building: a 30-something woman who has yet to find someone with whom to spend the rest of her life; a couple, possibly married, who wonder if they can bear each other's company another minute; and the building's landlady, an elderly woman who has lived alone for decades. Taking advantage of the absolute latest advances in wood pulp technology, Building Stories is a book with no deliberate beginning nor end, the scope, ambition, artistry and emotional prevarication beyond anything yet seen from this artist or in this medium, probably for good reason.

(via @mrgan)

Update: Building Stories is actually a boxed set of small volumes. Photos and more at Comics Beat. (thx, @thebrd)

When they used to display people in zoosJUL 10

In 1880, the top attraction at a zoo in Hamburg, Germany was an Inuit family who performed seal hunts and other Eskimo-like activities for huge crowds.

At the Hagenbeck Tiergarten -- a private zoo in Hamburg -- the Inuit were the top attraction. The crowds likely viewed them as primitives, inferior to the cultured men and women of the Old World. "Who knows what these children of the roughest North may be thinking about their highly educated European fellow humans," wrote one German newspaperman. He was right about one thing: The Germans had no idea. Even as they gawked at the Inuit, the Inuit were peering back at them -- and taking notes.

Abraham Ulrikab was, in fact, more accomplished than most of the people paying to stare at him. Raised at a mission in Hebron, Labrador, he was 35 years old, spoke three languages, dabbled in cartography, and played a mean fiddle. He was also a church-going Christian who, in his real life, had long since abandoned the sealskin boots and parka that were his costume at the zoo. Since he could read and write, he kept a diary, documenting his experience as a human exhibit.

As with many other interactions between Europeans and native North Americans, this zoo experiment ended quickly and very badly. (thx, eva)

Andy Warhol eating a hamburgerJUL 10

This is a five-minute video of Andy Warhol eating a Burger King hamburger accompanied by Heinz ketchup.

The scene is part of a film done by Jorgen Leth called 66 scenes from america.

Leth had his assistant buy some burgers and directly advised him to buy some in halfway neutral packaging as Leth was afraid that Warhol might reject some brands (Warhol always had an obsession with some of his favorite brands).

So Andy Warhol finally did arrive at the studio, of course along with his bodyguards, and when he saw the selection of burgers the assistant had brought he asked "Where is the McDonald's?" and Leth -- slightly in panic -- was immediately like "I thought you would maybe not like to identify..." and Warhol answered "no that is the most beautiful". Leth offered to let his assistant quickly run to McDonald's but Warhol refused like "No, never mind, I will take the Burger King."

(via bon appetit)

The history of Twitter's @replyJUL 10

Evan Henshaw digs through some ancient tweets to find the first usage of the now-ubiquitous @reply on Twitter.

The @reply was created on Thanksgiving day, November 23rd, 2006. One wonders if this was the first case of geeks using twitter to avoid their family on thanksgiving.

See also the first use of hashtags on Twitter. It's funny that so many of the things that make Twitter compelling weren't actually invented by Twitter but by the users and developers.

Update: Garrett Murray finds an even earlier usage.

The great dude battles of the 1880sJUL 10

King Of The Dudes

E. Berry Wall was a dude. But not just any dude. In 1888, he was declared "King of the Dudes" in a competition against another gentleman, one Robert Hilliard.

Wall became famous after meeting Blakely Hall, a reporter hungry for good copy. Thereafter, every week or so, Hall's articles publicizing Wall's adventures in clothing appeared in newspapers across the country. Then one of Hall's competitors set up a rival, actor Robert "Bob" Hilliard, another flashy dresser. Thus began the Battle of the Dudes, in which each sought to eclipse the other in sartorial extremes. According to the Times, Wall finally won when, during the Great Blizzard of 1888, he strode into the Hoffman House bar clad in gleaming boots of black patent leather that went to his hips. (Nonetheless, some social historians claim Hilliard won with the high boots, supposedly part of his Western gambler's costume from a play in which he was then appearing).

But it was Wall who won a later sartorial marathon:

Wall won another contest in Saratoga when daredevil financier John "Bet-A-Million" Gates wagered that he could not wear 40 changes of clothes between breakfast and dinner. On the appointed day, Wall repeatedly appeared at the racetrack in one flashy ensemble after another until, exhausted but victorious, he at last entered the ballroom of the United States Hotel in faultless evening attire to wild applause.

I wonder how Wall would have done against the likes of Kanye and his entourage? (via @mrgan)

Note: Illustration by Chris Piascik...prints & more are available.

Double FeatureAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 10

NY Magazine has recent interviews with two of the bigger American filmmakers in the last couple decades, Spike Lee and Oliver Stone.

Will Leitch talks to Spike Lee about about movies, Brooklyn, and Barack & Michelle:

When he was sizing Michelle up, this fine woman, he said, "How am I going to impress her?" I always kid him, good thing he didn't choose motherfucking Driving Miss Daisy or she would have dumped his ass right there.

And then in an interview by Matt Zoller Seitz, Oliver Stone talks about process:

It's very intense, and ultimately very painful. I've actually done some acting, but I'm not talking about that. I'm using acting as a metaphor. For me, filmmaking is like acting, in the way that it takes over you. It becomes part of you. The role, the lines, the personality of the character -- it's all in you. It's in your dreams. You think about the character without meaning to, in your sleep. I compare the process to acting because of that quality of immersion, that attempt to internalize the material and become the story. If the attempt is successful, the result is a good or at least an interesting film. But once it's done, it's over, and the actor goes back to being himself.

Clam stealing salt from a tableAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 09

Can't trust a clam farther than you can throw it, especially when salt is concerned, apparently.

Actually, I'm not sure if this video proves anything (what would happen if there was sugar on the table, or brownie crumbs, or cinnamon?) but it is pretty awesome. (via ★asimone)

Update: Just in case there's any confusion, the clam is not eating the salt as the video title claims. That's the clam's foot, out to survey its surroundings.

Rocketless launchesJUL 09

I love McLean Fahnestock's series of modified photos of rocket launches without the rockets:

Rocketless Launch

Fahnestock also did the video of all 135 Space Shuttle launches at once.

Game of Thrones with lightsabersJUL 09

How do you improve upon Game of Thrones? Maybe by adding lightsabers to the duel of Jamie Lannister and Ned Stark?

(via nextdraft)

Pantone colors of human fleshJUL 09

Artist Angelica Dass pairs photographs of people with the Pantone colors of their skin colors.

Humanae

More of the project can be found on her Tumblr. (via designboom)

How CNN and Fox screwed up the Supreme Court Obamacare decisionJUL 09

You may not believe me, but this postmortem by SCOTUSblog's Tom Goldstein of how the media covered the Supreme Court's decision regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is super fascinating. It's impeccably sourced, straighforward, and surprisingly compelling.

The Court's own technical staff prepares to load the opinion on to the Court's website. In years past, the Court would have emailed copies of the decision to the Solicitor General and the parties' lawyers once it was announced. But now it relies only on its website, where opinions are released approximately two minutes later. The week before, the Court declined our request that it distribute this opinion to the press by email; it has complete faith in the exceptional effort it has made to ensure that the website will not fail.

But it does. At this moment, the website is the subject of perhaps greater demand than any other site on the Internet -- ever. It is the one and only place where anyone in the country not at the building -- including not just the public, but press editors and the White House -- can get the ruling. And millions of people are now on the site anxiously looking for the decision. They multiply the burden of their individual visits many times over -- hitting refresh again, and again, and again. In the face of the crushing demand, the Court cannot publish its own decision.

The opinion will not appear on the website for a half-hour. So everyone in the country not personally at 1 First St., NE in Washington, DC is completely dependent on the press to get the decision right.

Reading it, the thing that struck me most is that these huge media machines still operate mostly on an individual basis. One person read the ruling for CNN, told one person in the control room, and then millions and millions of people heard that (mis)information just a few seconds later on CNN, on Twitter, and even in the Oval Office.

All 135 Space Shuttle launches at onceJUL 06

This is a video showing all 135 launches of the various Space Shuttle at once.

Turn up your sound. I've seen this done with episodes of the Simpsons and Star Trek, but this is way better. The fade out on the tiny Challenger square is surprisingly affecting. Created by McLean Fahnestock.

Tiny Wings 2.0JUL 06

Uh oh, this is bad news for my productivity after this Thursday...Andreas Illiger is set to release the sequel to the mega-fun Tiny Wings on July 12th. In the meantime, watch the adorable handmade trailer:

2012, the year of heatJUL 06

If I could package a cool breeze into a newsletter, I'd do it. Because a lot of you are hot. How hot? In towns across the U.S., 942 temperature records have already been broken this month. In June, 3,282 temperature records were broken. And since the beginning of the year, 23,283 daily high records have been set. These two maps tell the pretty amazing story of the 2012, the year of the heat.

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New York Times critic pans book's plot because of misreadAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 06

Author Patrick Somerville recently received the bittersweet honor of a "soggy" review in the New York Times of his new book, The Bright River. As he read the review, however, he realized the critic, Janet Maslin, had misunderstood a critical plot point in the book's prologue, thus coloring her understanding of the entire novel. Somerville wrote about this experience in Salon. The best part is since the character in his book has an email address, the New York Times used that address to fact-check the review (after it had been published), addressing the question to the character.

Dear Mr. Hanson,

Given the vagaries of fictional life, I understand that you might not be able to answer this question, which has come up after one of our readers read the review of "This Bright River" that we published. But - in the prologue, are you the person who is hit on the head?

-Ed Marks, Culture Desk

Somerville responds in character leading to my favorite part, a bit into the back and forth: "But that is just my opinion, and I am not real."

*This post wouldn't be complete without a general warning to authors to make sure your prologue does not convey important plot details in a manner potentially confusing to NYT reviewers. (via @alexanderchee)

Man interviewed by 12 year old selfAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 06

I passed this over several times before actually watching. I'm glad I did because it's quite charming, and if you haven't seen it, you'll love it. 12 year old Jeremiah McDonald from 1992 interviews 32 year old Jeremiah McDonald.

Frazil ice: nature's SlusheeJUL 06

Frazil ice is a Slushee-like mixture of ice and supercooled water that behaves a lot like lava or flowing cement. Here's a short video about frazil ice in Yosemite...it starts off a bit slow but gets good around 1:30.

Hipsters don't know what the Higgs boson isJUL 05

Motherboard journeyed out onto the streets of Williamsburg to see if the hipster on the street knew what the Higgs boson was. And he/she did not.

If you're in that same boat, take a few minutes to learn about what the Higgs is. (via @alexismadrigal)

Old man schools some young'uns at basketballJUL 05

A guy playing pickup ball pulls his Uncle Drew out of the crowd to take the place of an injured player and the old man still has some gas in his tank.

(via df)

Def Leppard re-recording back catalog to screw UniversalAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 05

In a dispute with Universal over compensation for digital downloads, Def Leppard is taking the extreme and fairly metal step of re-recording their entire back catalog so they can do what they want with the songs. Earlier, they recorded what they're calling "Forgeries" of 'Pour Some Sugar on Me' and 'Rock of Ages' to coincide with the movie release of Rock of Ages.

While the business side seems cut and dried, Elliott says the creative part of recreating songs that date back 25 years or more is not. "You just don't go in and say, 'Hey guys, let's record it,' and it's done in three minutes," Elliott notes. "We had to study those songs, I mean down to the umpteenth degree of detail, and make complete forgeries of them. Time-wise it probably took as long to do as the originals, but because of the technology it actually got done quicker as we got going. But trying to find all those sounds...like where am I gonna find a 22-year-old voice? I had to sing myself into a certain throat shape to be able to sing that way again. It was really hard work, but it was challenging, and we did have a good laugh over it here and there."

(via @lsrmichael)

The fall and rise of the baguetteJUL 05

The baguette is one of the foods most commonly associated with France, so it's surprising that for a long time, the French baguette was uncommonly bad. Samuel Fromartz travelled to Paris to apprentice with a baker and discovered how the baguette got its groove back.

"For years I had watched the sensorial quality of French bread palpably deteriorate," he told me. The decline first set in, he said, when bakers switched from levain to commercial yeast in order to shorten the bread-making process. Yeast could work as an acceptable substitute for levain, but instead of relying on minute amounts of yeast and letting the dough ferment over 24 hours- as Delmontel does with his baguettes-bakers added more yeast and cut the rise period to as little as one hour, "suppressing the first fermentation that is the source of all taste," Kaplan said.

The situation worsened in the 1950s, when bakers started using intensive kneading machines that satisfied consumer desire for an ever-whiter crumb. They started sprinkling in additives such as vitamin C to spike fermentation, and heaps of salt to mask the absence of flavor. In short, while pursuing the promises of modernity-efficiency, speed, and whiter bread-what French bakers lost was the one indispensable ingredient: time.

"For me, bread was a crucial dimension of what the French proudly call their 'cultural exception,'" or national identity, said Kaplan. "They did not seem to be aware that they were putting it in grave peril." By the 1980s, the French ate less and less bread. Boulangeries folded; those that remained competed with supermarkets, which baked frozen baguettes and sold them as loss leaders.

The business of engineering healthier foodsJUL 05

Corby Kummer investigates how breakfast cereals are made and how the big food companies are working to make them healthier. As he discovers, it's a tricky business.

The area of experimentation that most caught my interest uses enzymes to break down whole grains and cereals into easier-to-digest powders that can be sneaked into foods like cake mixes and light breads in which whole grains would be unpalatably heavy, and into foods where you'd never expect to find them: soups, sauces, puddings and creamy fillings that already have starch in some form. "Why not whole-grains starch?" asked Monica Fischer, head of the food science and technology department. Breaking down the grains can also create sweetness, which raises the possibility of substituting whole grains for sugar in certain products. I saw packages of two Peruvian cereal drinks: Ecco and Nesquik, both marked "con cereales Andinos" (containing Andean cereals), including corn, quinoa and amaranth. Those and other grains from affiliates in South America and Abidjan, Ivory Coast, are being studied to understand how and whether they can be extruded into pasta and noodles and used in place of northern European wheat.

Because the research is basic, Nestle doesn't know yet which of its hundreds of food businesses will apply its findings-the actual testing of products takes place in 300 "application groups" around the world. But Nestle already buys locally grown grains in the U.S. and Canada and will likely increase the percentage. Not long from now we might find Stouffer's turkey tetrazzini with whole grains in both the noodles and the sauce; one of those cereal drinks on a local supermarket shelf; amaranth in a health drink; and more fiber and whole grains in Purina pet food, a big part of Nestle business. (Nestle won't talk about its future marketing plans.) Or whole-grain Kit Kats, which Nestle has already marketed in England. Or Buitoni quinoa fusilli, which the rising number of gluten-intolerant people will certainly welcome. But will Ecuadoreans?

The research I saw at the world's largest and sixth-largest food companies will, of course, come at a price. Processing, even to restore a food's natural ingredients or not remove them in the first place, always adds to a food's cost. Another potential threat of the new food research is that these products could co-opt traditional markets, like the ones for quinoa and amaranth, and begin to erase native foods, which can be made for a fraction of the cost and have been shown for millennia to be healthful and practical. And there are plenty of other costs I'm leaving out: the treatment of labor, the environmental costs of packaging and transport, the general destruction of small businesses as large corporations grab local markets with lower prices and often bad-for-you food, deceptive claims and advertising, the checkered political history of all these companies.

The Tampon King of IndiaAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 05

Years ago, Arunachalam Muruganantham saw his wife collecting dirty rags to use for her period and thought there might be a better way. Now the sanitary napkins he invented in response are made and sold all over rural India, often by women.

The conversation spurred Mr Muruganantham into a frenzy of invention to try and produce an affordable napkin for women such as his wife. Such was his dedication, bordering on obsession, that he once wore a football bladder of animal blood to trial a prototype. He was forced from his home by villagers who thought his methods had become too perverse after he started collecting used napkins from medical students and storing them in his home. He was even abandoned - albeit temporarily - by his wife and mother, who believed he had gone mad.

(via @mulegirl)

How colors get their namesAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 04

On this day full of red, white, and blue in the US, it's interesting to note that, in a large number of languages, when colors start getting their own words, red is usually the first color defined after black and white (or light and dark), and that blue and green are often not defined individually, at least at first. Those facts and more in this super long/interesting article about color and language and how colors got their names and and and...just read it already. Here's part 2.

The figure above is really telling a story. What it says is this. If a language has just two color terms, they will be a light and a dark shade - blacks and whites. Add a third color, and it's going to be red. Add another, and it will be either green or yellow - you need five colors to have both. And when you get to six colors, the green splits into two, and you now have a blue. What we're seeing here is a deeply trodden road that most languages seem to follow, towards greater visual discernment (92 of their 98 languages seemed to follow this basic route).

Also note the Wikipedia entry for "distinguishing blue from green in language." (via The Millions)

CERN finds the Higgs bosonJUL 04

Or, to put it in the cautious words of science, researchers have observed a "particle consistent with long-sought Higgs boson".

"We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of 5 sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV. The outstanding performance of the LHC and ATLAS and the huge efforts of many people have brought us to this exciting stage," said ATLAS experiment spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti, "but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication."

"The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we're seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it's the heaviest boson ever found," said CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela. "The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks."

How sure are they that they've found the Higgs? Brian Cox notes on Twitter:

5 sigma is the usual particle physics threshold for discovery. It roughly means that you're 99.9999% sure

Biggest Teahupoo EverAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 03

"The French Navy labeled this day a double code red prohibiting and threatening to arrest anyone that entered the water."

(via ★colossal)

A brief history of moneyJUL 03

Writing for IEEE Spectrum, New Yorker staff writer James Surowiecki writes about the development and evolution of money, from that of tribal societies to today's highly abstracted currencies.

It's really in the seventh century B.C.E., when the small kingdom of Lydia introduced the world's first standardized metal coins, that you start to see money being used in a recognizable way. Located in what is now Turkey, Lydia sat on the cusp between the Mediterranean and the Near East, and commerce with foreign travelers was common. And that, it turns out, is just the kind of situation in which money is quite useful.

To understand why, imagine doing a trade in the absence of money-that is, through barter. (Let's leave aside the fact that no society has ever relied solely or even largely on barter; it's still an instructive concept.) The chief problem with barter is what economist William Stanley Jevons called the "double coincidence of wants." Say you have a bunch of bananas and would like a pair of shoes; it's not enough to find someone who has some shoes or someone who wants some bananas. To make the trade, you need to find someone who has shoes he's willing to trade and wants bananas. That's a tough task.

With a common currency, though, the task becomes easy: You just sell your bananas to someone in exchange for money, with which you then buy shoes from someone else. And if, as in Lydia, you have foreigners from whom you'd like to buy or to whom you'd like to sell, having a common medium of exchange is obviously valuable. That is, money is especially useful when dealing with people you don't know and may never see again.

In this same vein, this reply on Reddit to "Where has all the money in the world gone?" is also worth a read.

The thing to remember is that all throughout, from the initial trade to this central-banking system, all of this money is debt. It is IOUs, except instead of being an IOU that says "Kancho_Ninja will give one bushel of apples to the bearer of this bond in October", it says "Anyone in town will give you anything worth one bushel of apples in trade."

The money is not an actual thing that you can eat or wear or build a house with, it's an IOU that is redeemable anywhere, for anything, from anyone. It is a promise to pay equivalent value at some time in the future, except the holder of the money can call on anybody at all to fulfill that promise -- they don't have to go back to the original promiser.

Wes Anderson's best commercialsJUL 03

Adweek has a list of some of the best commercials Wes Anderson has made. It's tough to beat his two-minute spot for American Express.

"Can I get my snack?"

"You're eating it."

Bill Clinton playing M83AARON COHEN  ·  JUL 03

Well, everyone knows Clinton played sax on the Arsenio Hall Show. What this video presupposes is... maybe he played M83.

Watch at :30 to see the hand claps sync. (★Interesting)

Count Robert de La RochefoucauldAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 02

This obituary of Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld has 4 or 5 paragraphs similar to the one below.

En route to his execution in Auxerre, La Rochefoucauld made a break, leaping from the back of the truck carrying him to his doom, and dodging the bullets fired by his two guards. Sprinting through the empty streets, he found himself in front of the Gestapo's headquarters, where a chauffeur was pacing near a limousine bearing the swastika flag. Spotting the key in the ignition, La Rochefoucauld jumped in and roared off, following the Route Nationale past the prison he had left an hour earlier.

(via Stellar)

Two facts about biomassAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 02

Fact 1: Of the 287 million tons that make up the global adult biomass, 18.5 million tons can be attributed to overweight or obese people. 32% of the world's excess biomass due to obesity is in the US, and the energy used to maintain that obesity could be used to feed 7.7 million people. Although the data used for this report is from 2005, it's still startling. (via @@jamie_bear)

Fact 2: "The total biomass of all the world's livestock is almost exactly twice that of humanity itself." (thanks, jon)

Cicero's Web, a prehistory of social mediaJUL 02

One of my favorite books about technology is Tom Standage's The Victorian Internet, a history of the telegraph told through the lens/mirror of the Internet.

For many people, the Internet is the epitome of cutting-edge technology. But in the nineteenth century, the first online communications network was already in place -- the telegraph. And at the time, it was just as perplexing, controversial, and revolutionary as the Internet is today.

The Victorian Internet tells the story of the telegraph's creation and remarkable impact, and of the visionaries, oddballs, and eccentrics who pioneered it. With the invention of the telegraph, the world of communications was forever changed. The telegraph gave rise to creative business practices and new forms of crime. Romances blossomed over its wires. And attitudes toward everything from news gathering to war had to be completely rethought. The saga of the telegraph offers many parallels to that of the Internet in our own time, and is a remarkable episode in the history of technology.

Standage is currently at work on a book called Cicero's Web that draws similar parallels between contemporary online social media and things like Luther's 95 Theses and "the Facebook of the Tudor court". He recently posted an excerpt from the book about 17th century English coffeehouses.

Enthusiasm for coffeehouses was not universal, however, and some observers regarded them as a worrying development. They grumbled that Christians had taken to a Muslim drink instead of traditional English beer, and fretted that the livelihoods of tavern-keepers might be threatened. But most of all they lamented that coffeehouses were distracting people who ought to be doing useful work, rather than networking and sharing trivia with their acquaintances.

When coffee became popular in Oxford and the coffeehouses selling it began to multiply, the university authorities objected, fearing that coffeehouses were promoting idleness and diverting students from their studies. Anthony Wood, an Oxford antiquarian, was among those who denounced the enthusiasm for the new drink. "Why doth solid and serious learning decline, and few or none follow it now in the university?" he asked. "Answer: Because of coffee-houses, where they spend all their time."

Sounds familiar, no?

Edward Burtynsky has a droneJUL 02

In an interview with Nicola Twilley and Geoff Manaugh, photographer Edward Burtynsky talks about his use of film and drones, his current big project photographing water, and the challenges of finding ways to photograph the ubiquitous.

I'd say, actually, that I've been careful not to frame the work in an activist or political kind of way. That would be too restrictive in terms of how the work can be used in society and how it can be interpreted. I see the work as being a bit like a Rorschach test. If you see an oil field and you see industrial heroism, then perhaps you're some kind of entrepreneur in the oil business and you're thinking, "That's great! That's money being made there!" But, if you're somebody from Greenpeace or whatever, you're going to see it very differently. Humans can really reveal themselves through what they choose to see as the most important or meaningful detail in an image.

Burtynsky is a favorite around these parts.

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