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

 

Water WigsAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 27

Water Wigs is a project from LA artist Tim Tadder, introducing the heads of bald men to water balloons. The Water Wig Club for Men, I'm not only the president...

We just finished shooting a new project we call Water Wigs. The concept is simple and it is another visual exploration of something new and totally different. We found a bunch of awesome bald men and hurled water balloons at their heads, to capture the explosion of water at various intervals. The result a new head of of water hair! We used a laser and sound trigger to capture the right moments for each subject to create just the head of hair that fit best with the face.

Water Wigs

(via dangerous minds)

Neil Armstrong, RIPAUG 25

Neil Armstrong RIP

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, died today at the age of 82.

Although he had been a Navy fighter pilot, a test pilot for NASA's forerunner and an astronaut, Mr. Armstrong never allowed himself to be caught up in the celebrity and glamour of the space program.

"I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer," he said in February 2000 in one a rare public appearance. "And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession."

A sad day; Armstrong was one of my few heroes. In my eyes, Armstrong safely guiding the LEM to the surface of the Moon, at times by the seat of his pants, is among the most impressive and important things ever done by a human being.

Alternate endings to The Dark Knight RisesAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 24

Spoiler alert, don't watch this video if you don't want to know how The Dark Knight Rises doesn't end.

(via ★Interesting)

Sex, lies, and Park SlopeAUG 24

You may have read Amy Sohn's piece in The Awl last month about Park Slope's sexynaughty parents.

When "Girls" hit this spring, I was shocked by how true the show rang to my life -- not my old life as a post-collegiate single girl but my new one, as a married, monogamous, home-owning mother. My generation of moms isn't getting shocking HPV news (we're so old we've cleared it), or having anal sex with near-strangers, or smoking crack in Bushwick. But we're masturbating excessively, cheating on good people, doing coke in newly price-inflated townhouses, and sexting compulsively -- though rarely with our partners. Our children now school-aged, our marriages entering their second decade, we are avoiding the big questions -- Should I quit my job? Have another child? Divorce? -- by behaving like a bunch of crazy twentysomething hipsters. Call us the Regressives.

Jake Dobkin interviewed Sohn about the piece and her new book for Gothamist. Well, he attempted to anyway.

Can I suggest that maybe you're just hanging out with the wrong group of people? I mean, if everyone around you is throwing back Xanax and raw-dogging it just to FEEL SOMETHING and then having unplanned kids because they're too stupid to use birth control, is it possible it's not Park Slope's fault, and rather, it might be hanging around with really immature people?

(via @djacobs)

Chinese noodle-making robotAUG 24

Many of the food robots I've featured on the site look like machines. Not so this Chinese noodle -making robot:

Silvery, pulsing eyes...it looks like something out of a Tom Baker-era Doctor Who serial. Fantastic. (via @leesnelgrove)

Squid's membrane goes insane while listening to Cypress HillAUG 24

The crazy (and possibly high) folks at Backyard Brains hooked an iPod up to a squid in such a way that when the music played, it was converted into electrical impulses that triggered color changes on the squid's skin, thereby creating the world's first cephalo-iPod. Here's a video of the squid's skin pulsing along to Insane in the Membrane by Cypress Hill:

During experiments on the giant axons of the Longfin Inshore Squid (loligo pealei) at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA; we were fascinated by the fast color-changing nature of the squid's skin. Squids (like many other cephalopods) can quickly control pigmented cells called chromatophores to reflect light. The Longfin Inshore has 3 different chromatophore colors: Brown, Red, and Yellow. Each chromatophore has tiny muscles along the circumference of the cell that can contract to reveal the pigment underneath.

(via colossal)

Monkey businessAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 24

Monkey Business

Dang, I really enjoyed this article about a monkey on the loose in Tampa. I think you'll like it, too, if you like sentences such as, "He received death threats from pro-monkey radicals." To keep myself from blockquoting the entire story, I had to put away my Copyandpaster. Did you have any idea there were wild monkeys in Florida?

At his desk, Yates unfolded a map of Tampa Bay. But he found he had to flip the map over, then consult other maps, at different scales, to trace the macaque's entire odyssey. "It's an amazing feat, when you think about his travels," he said. Since 2009, Yates estimates that he has gone after the animal on roughly 100 different occasions. The monkey was his white whale. He claimed to have darted it at least a dozen times, steadily upping the tranquilizer dosage, to no avail. The animal is too wily -- it retreats into the woods and sleeps off the drug. A few times, the monkey stared Yates right in the eye and pulled the dart out.

[...]

This is not the first time that monkeys have incited a minor populist uprising in Florida. The population of wild rhesus macaques in the middle of the state -- the tribe from which, the theory goes, the Mystery Monkey strayed -- was established in the late 1930s by a New Yorker named Colonel Tooey. (Colonel was his first name.) Tooey ran boat tours on the picturesque Silver River, a premier tourist destination. A brazen showman, he wanted to ratchet the scenery up another notch. So he bought a half-dozen macaques and plopped them on a small island. Macaques are strong swimmers; Tooey had no idea. According to local lore, the animals were off the island within minutes.

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

Ayrton Senna's last duel with Alain ProstAUG 23

Alain Prost retired from F1 racing for the final time in 1993, with his last race coming at the Australian Grand Prix in November. He finished second in the race to his fierce rival Ayrton Senna but handily won the World Championship to the runner-up Senna. But the two of them raced for one final time in December of that year...driving go-karts.

Predictably, the pair took it very seriously: four-time world champion Prost having tested extensively before the event; Senna, a three-time title holder, having a kart shipped to Brazil so that he could practise.

Super Mario Bros for the Atari 2600AUG 23

This seems like a Soviet version of Mario:

Get the game here. (via bb)

New logo for MicrosoftAUG 23

After using the same logo for the past 25 years, Microsoft introduces a new logo that echoes their Windows brand.

New Microsoft Logo

The Microsoft brand is about much more than logos or product names. We are lucky to play a role in the lives of more than a billion people every day. The ways people experience our products are our most important "brand impressions". That's why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.

(via df)

Using a plastic bottle to separate eggsAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 22

This video of a woman using a plastic bottle to separate eggs is hypnotic when she transfers the yolk back and forth.

(via @carveslayer)

The documentary crew filming The OfficeAUG 22

The upcoming season of The Office will be the show's last, but we will finally get to see who is behind the camera filming. From the executive producer of the show:

All questions will be answered this year. We are going to see who's behind the documentary and we're going to meet some of them. (Also) a big Jim and Pam year.

Feynman diagram sculptures by Edward TufteAUG 22

Opening on September 15 at Edward Tufte's gallery in Chelsea is All Possible Photons, an exhibit of sculptures by Tufte of Richard Feynman's subatomic particle diagrams.

Feynman Tufte

Made from stainless steel and air, the artworks grow out of Richard Feynman's famous diagrams describing Nature's subatomic behavior. Feynman diagrams depict the space-time patterns of particles and waves of quantum electrodynamics. These mathematically derived and empirically verified visualizations represent the space-time paths taken by all subatomic particles in the universe.

The resulting conceptual and cognitive art is both beautiful and true. Along with their art, the stainless steel elements of All Possible Photons actually represent something: the precise activities of Nature at her highest resolution.

"Success is a catalyst for failure"AUG 22

Why don't successful people become really successful? Greg McKeown explains in The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

Why don't successful people and organizations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is due to what I call "the clarity paradox," which can be summed up in four predictable phases:

Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

Typewriter accessory for the iPadAUG 21

I love the mechanical nature of this typewriter accessory for the iPad.

(via df)

A report from the National Hobo ConventionAUG 21

One of the best things that Buzzfeed does is to send Matt Stopera to cultural events around the country to report back about what he found. He recently went to the National Hobo Convention in Britt, IA and his photo essay on the 61 Things [He] Learned At The National Hobo Convention is genuine and interesting.

There is A LOT of hobo pride. Hoboes, former hoboes, tramps, and hoboes-at-heart all strive to spread the culture and history of the hobo. It's what the National Hobo Convention is all about. It was weird going up to people and asking them about being a "hobo." Non-hoboes have been raised to think the word hobo is a derogatory/negative word but it's not.

David Foster Wallace biographyAUG 21

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, D.T. Max's biography of David Foster Wallace, is out next week.

David Foster Wallace was the leading literary light of his era, a man who not only captivated readers with his prose but also mesmerized them with his brilliant mind. In this, the first biography of the writer, D. T. Max sets out to chart Wallace's tormented, anguished and often triumphant battle to succeed as a novelist as he fights off depression and addiction to emerge with his masterpiece, Infinite Jest.

Since his untimely death by suicide at the age of forty-six in 2008, Wallace has become more than the quintessential writer for his time -- he has become a symbol of sincerity and honesty in an inauthentic age. In the end, as Max shows us, what is most interesting about Wallace is not just what he wrote but how he taught us all to live. Written with the cooperation of Wallace's family and friends and with access to hundreds of his unpublished letters, manuscripts, and audio tapes, this portrait of an extraordinarily gifted writer is as fresh as news, as intimate as a love note, as painful as a goodbye.

The Daily Beast has an excerpt of the book. Max also wrote an article about Wallace in 2009 for the New Yorker. (via df)

This door sounds like Miles DavisAUG 21

This door in a Chicago parking garage does a pretty good impression of Miles Davis.

(via ★whileseated)

Historical timeline of computer graphics and animationAUG 21

This timeline of computer graphics from the Big Bang to 2005 is the sort of wonderful thing you used to see on the web all the time but has all-but gone extinct due to Wikipedia. (via @ptak)

A most unusual testAUG 21

Tyler Cowen once gave the following final test to one of his classes:

Tyler [Cowen] once walked into class the day of the final exam and he said. "Here is the exam. Write your own questions. Write your own answers. Harder questions and better answers get more points." Then he walked out.

Love it.

The books of The Royal TenenbaumsAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 21

Back in July, we covered the Criterion Collection release of The Royal Tenenbaums. Recently, Criterion Collection posted a gallery of 9 books and magazines from the movie, which because of said gallery, I want to watch right now.

Old Custer

Everyone knows [X], what this post presupposes is maybe [Y].

See also The Royal Tenenbaum portraits. (thx, alex)

I love thisAUG 20

Solid State

From Simon Walker at Flickr. (via ★glass)

The NextDraft iPhone AppAUG 20

I am pleased to introduce the NextDraft App that will make your iPhone vibrate with awesomeness. You can read this very issue on your iPhone if you install the app now. Be sure to turn notifications on. And let me know what you think. Get the iPhone app here.

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

The little games we playAUG 20

There are all these simple little games that people play using their surroundings: don't step on the cracks, balance beam railroad tracks (or curbs), bicycle slalom, etc.

My game in the car was to use my hand to jump over driveways & telephone poles and swoop down into ditches...just a small flick of the wrist in the wind is all it took. Haven't done that in years. I still occasionally play don't step on the cracks and fight the daily urge to jump and touch. (via ★interesting)

This is your self-portrait on drugsAUG 20

Artist Bryan Lewis Saunders has been making self-portraits of himself every day since 1995. For one particularly interesting sub-series, Saunders drew himself under the influence of all kinds of different drugs (adderall, coke, meth, huffing lighter fluid, etc.). Here he is on absinthe and mushrooms respectively:

Bryan Lewis Saunders

Your phone knows where you'll be tomorrowAUG 20

A team of researchers in the UK have developed a method of predicting where people will be in 24 hours using tracking data from mobile phones.

Studies have shown that most people follow fairly consistent patterns over time, but traditional prediction algorithms have no way of accounting for breaks in the routine.

The researchers solved that problem by combining tracking data from individual participants' phones with tracking data from their friends -- i.e., other people in their mobile phonebooks. By looking at how an individual's movements correlate with those of people they know, the team's algorithm is able to guess when she might be headed, say, downtown for a show on a Sunday afternoon rather than staying uptown for lunch as usual.

Melky Cabrera's fake websiteAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 19

San Francisco Giant Melky Cabrera recently tested positive for a banned substance and received a 50 game penalty per MLB's rules. Prior to receiving the suspension, Cabrera made an attempt, new at least in the world of sports, to get off without punishment.

The New York Daily News has discovered that in an effort to beat the rap on his 50-game suspension, Melky and his "associates" devised a scheme that included purchasing a website for $10,000, making this website appear to sell a fake product and pretending Melky purchased and used the product, unaware that it contained a banned substance. Ohh, this close.

Cabrera offered the website as evidence during his appeal and the scheme devolved into comedy in short order.

Extreme slow motion photography at 1 trillion frames per secondAUG 17

At one trillion frames per second, you can see light move:

Bernard JamesAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 17

Bernard James was this year's second round draft pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers (immediately traded to Dallas). He's also 27, and an Air Force veteran. This is a great story, I hope he has a long career.

Fans attend the NBA draft to boo. They boo Commissioner David Stern. They boo their draft picks. They boo other teams' draft picks. They boo to boo.

They didn't boo Bernard James. They chanted "U-S-A" over and over again.

How tall is the tallest possible building?AUG 17

This morning I was in an elevator with a woman who was listening to her messages on speakerphone. Lucky for me, the ride was only a couple floors. I'm not sure I could've lasted if the elevator ride were, say, a mile long. Atlantic Cities Nate Berg asks the experts: Is there a limit to how tall buildings can get? (We already know there's no limit to poor elevator etiquette.)

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

Crazy dancingAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 16

Excuse the dubstep if you must, but Marquese Scott is amazing. Previously.

(via the high definite)

French artists imagine the world in 2000AARON COHEN  ·  AUG 16

Heading into 1900, French artists were asked to create images of what the world would look like in the year 2000 for a series of commemorative postcards. Many thought we'd have personal flying devices, many thought manual work would be automated, and, um, one thought we'd be living underwater riding giant domesticated seahorses.

1900 Predictions

Traditional-style woodblock prints of video game charactersAUG 16

Illustrator Jed Henry takes video game characters and draws them in the style of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Here, for example, is Mario Kart:

Mario Kart Woodblock

If that tickles your fancy, Henry is collaborating with woodblock printmaker David Bull to make actual woodblock prints that are available via Kickstarter.

How to read a Victorian novelAUG 16

The Victorian novel can present a daunting challenge to today's Twitter-addled brains, so Rohan Maitzen has some advice on how to read them.

Now that you're properly equipped, your next challenge is time! You're going to want to read, and read, and read-but modern life sometimes makes that difficult. What's to be done?

Take the book with you everywhere, that's what. Bank line-ups, buses, bathrooms, those precious 8 minutes while the pasta boils - you know what to do! A few pages here, a few pages there, and next thing you know, you're 500 pages in, with only another 200 to go.

Then there's all the time you'll save by not watching television. Remember: the most highly-praised shows in recent years are always compared to ... Victorian novels! Some of them are straight-up based on them! Just read the originals. They are always better.

Downton Abbey season three trailerAUG 15

This is apparently taped off of someone's television so the picture is blurry and the sound is not so good, but you get the gist.

Season three of Downton is set to start airing in the UK in September and in the US in January (for those who don't know what BitTorrent is).

Raiders of the Lost Ark on IMAX!AUG 15

Steven Spielberg is re-releasing Raiders of the Lost Ark in IMAX theaters for a one week engagement in early September.

Mr. Spielberg, who with the sound designer Ben Burtt supervised the conversion of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to Imax, said that no special effects or other visual elements of the film were changed. The audio, he said, had been enhanced for surround sound: "When the boulder is rolling, chasing Indy through the cave, you really feel the boulder in your stomach, the way you do when a marching band passes by, and you're standing right next to it."

All four Jones movies will be out on Blu-ray in mid-September. (via df)

Dr. Seuss, ad man, Mad ManAUG 15

Before Dr. Seuss became famous for his children's books, he made advertisements for the likes of GE, Ford, and Standard Oil.

Dr Seuss Ad

Long before Sam went to extraordinary lengths to peddle discolored breakfast foods to obstinate citizens, Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss, if you please) made his living as an advertising illustrator--and in retrospect, his work is unmistakable.

Seuss became the father of the modern day children's stories not solely through his inventive lexicon molded into clever syntax and anapestic meter, but also through vivid imaginary worlds and the charming characters within them. Take one look at his early creations for brands including GE, Ford, and NBC, and there's no denying the framework of his style that would later turn into the denizens of Whoville, Cat in the Hat and Fox in Socks. And, according to the keepers of the Seuss collection at the UC San Diego Library, the enduring brilliance that is Seuss' legacy can be traced back to a very unlikely source: bug spray.

(via co.create)

The life and death of sports fansAUG 15

Team Spirit is a wonderful short film for ESPN by Errol Morris about the funerals of die-hard sports fans.

I love the Steelers fan laid out in a recliner under a Steelers blanket in front of a television with a Steelers game on as if "he just fell asleep watching the game".

Com TruiseAUG 15

New musical obsession: Com Truise. It's basically all I've listened to over the past two weeks.

While subliminally informed by both parental record collections and hints of faded electronics product design, Haley's Com Truise project isn't just nostalgia capitalization. There are fragments (read: DNA strands) of Joy Division, New Order, and the Cocteau Twins, but it's like you're hearing them through the motherboard of a waterlogged Xbox-demented and modern. He's got a way of making familiar things sound beautifully hand-smeared.

He's on SoundCloud and if you like that, check out a couple of his albums: In Decay and Galactic Melt. Got the rec from Dan Cederholm, who tweeted intriguingly, "Daft Punk's Tron soundtrack was brilliant, yes. I'm voting Com Truise for Tron 3."

Beautiful view of the Perseids meteor showerAUG 15

Perseids Composite

There's nothing like a composite photo of the Perseids meteor shower to hammer home the realization that the Earth is hurtling through space like the Millennium Falcon making the Kessel Run. Photo by David Kingham.

Real life Brewster's MillionsAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 14

In 1985's Brewster's Millions, Richard Pryor played a man who stood to inherit $300 million if he could spend $30 million in a month without telling anyone why. Great movie. They should remake it. It's not a perfect analogy, but billionaire Charles F. Feeney is trying to spend all of his money just the same. In 1982, he used $6 billion of his fortune to fund Atlantic Philanthropies. Feeney was able to run the foundation anonymously for 15 years by utilizing Bermuda's flexible disclosure laws. This also meant he wasn't able to deduct these donations from his taxes.

He's raised his profile lately with the hope of inspiring other rich people to spend their money the same way, and Warren Buffett refers to him as the "spiritual leader" of the effort to encourage billionaires to pledge half their fortune to philanthropy.

When the last of its money has been spent and it closes its doors sometime around 2020, Atlantic Philanthropies will be by far the largest such organization to have voluntarily shut itself down, according to Steven Lawrence, director of research for the Foundation Center. (The much bigger Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to shut down 50 years after its founders die.)

By its end, Atlantic will have invested about $7.5 billion in direct medical care, immigration reform, education, criminal justice advocacy and peace-building initiatives. It was an invisible hand at the end of armed conflicts in South Africa and in Northern Ireland, providing funds to buttress constitutional politics over paramilitary action. It has supported marriage-equality campaigns, death penalty opponents and contributed $25 million to push health care reform.

More like this please. (via @randomantonym)

Companies behaving badlyAUG 14

1. United recently lost a 10-year-old girl (flying as an unaccompanied minor) and didn't care and didn't do much of anything to remedy the situation.

Annie and Perry only discovered that something was wrong a few hours later when the camp called to say that Phoebe was not on the expected plane in Grand Rapids. At the point, both Annie and Perry got on the phone. Annie got someone in India who wouldn't help beyond telling her:

'When I asked how she could have missed it given everything was 100% on time she said, "it does not matter" she is still in Chicago and "I am sure she is fine".'

Annie was then put on hold for 40 minutes when she asked to speak to the supervisor.

2. Matt Fisher's sister was killed in a car accident and not only did her insurance company, Progressive, refuse to pay the value of her insurance policy, their legal team defended the guy who killed his sister in court.

In Maryland, you may not sue an insurance company when they refuse to fork over your money. Instead, what they had to do was sue the guy who killed my sister, establish his negligence in court, and then leverage that decision to force Progressive to pay the policy.

Now my parents don't harbor much venom for the guy who killed my sister. It was an accident, and kicking that guy around won't bring Katie back. But kicking that guy around was the only way to get Progressive to pay. So they filed a civil suit against the other driver in hopes that, rather than going to court, Progressive would settle. Progressive did not. Progressive made a series of offers (never higher than 1/3 the amount they owe) and then let it go to a trial.

At the trial, the guy who killed my sister was defended by Progressive's legal team.

If you are insured by Progressive, and they owe you money, they will defend your killer in court in order to not pay you your policy.

(via @cshirky & @hchamp)

Little Printer now available for pre-orderAUG 14

BERG is now taking pre-orders for Little Printer, their cloud-enabled desktop newspaper press.

Little Printer lives in your home, bringing you news, puzzles and gossip from friends. Use your smartphone to set up subscriptions and Little Printer will gather them together to create a timely, beautiful miniature newspaper.

£199.00+shipping in the UK/EU, $259.00+shipping in the US/Canada. They begin shipping in mid-October.

Updates on previous entries for Aug 13, 2012*AUG 14

An appreciation of 10 years of Daring Fireball orig. from Aug 13, 2012
Did Caster Semenya deliberately throw the 800 meters? orig. from Aug 13, 2012
Women at the Olympics 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.

Hitting the sweet spot between overparenting and underparentingAUG 13

Madeline Levine on what many feel is the optimal style of parenting.

Parental involvement has a long and rich history of being studied. Decades of studies, many of them by Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child's autonomy. These "authoritative parents" appear to hit the sweet spot of parental involvement and generally raise children who do better academically, psychologically and socially than children whose parents are either permissive and less involved, or controlling and more involved. Why is this particular parenting style so successful, and what does it tell us about overparenting?

Watch a plane crash from inside the cockpitAUG 13

This is a view of a small plane crashing into some trees from inside the cockpit (two of the passengers were filming with GoPro cameras). Although everyone survived, the pilot got pretty banged and bloodied so viewer beware.

After flying up into the mountains for a morning hike in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness we were planning on flying to a small mountain town for dinner. Due to warming temperatures there was an increase in density altitude and we had a hard time getting adequate lift. After taking off we hit an air pocket that made us rapidly loose altitude, pushing us down into the trees.

The plane just takes an amazingly long time to get off the ground...shouldn't that have been a clue to the pilot that something wasn't right? But the most fascinating part of the video is after the crash and they find the camera again and start filming themselves and each other...it's just surreal, especially the part where one of them checks the pilot. (via ★mouser)

An appreciation of 10 years of Daring FireballAUG 13

Daring Fireball turns 10 years old today and Robinson Meyer has an appreciation at The Atlantic.

Gruber's best when he's writing about perfection, excellence and what it takes to achieve either. He can describe eight iPhone Twitter clients, or the software limitations of the iPad, and evince a common sense of aesthetic. His voice can be muscular and rigorous. The man's clearly animated by a hatred of everything he knows to be BS.

I share Meyer's assertion that Apple's "engorge[ment] as a company" has slightly flattened the site's tires, but Daring Fireball remains my favorite blog, a spot it has held for several years now.

Now here's a look at how DF's design has changed over the years, presented in animated GIF form:

Daring Fireball, 10 Years

Update: I love this analysis of DF's content over the years, especially the visualization of the shift in interest from desktop to mobile.

Magical heart rate monitor iPhone appAUG 13

Using just the camera on your iPhone, the Cardiio app can accurately measure your heart rate. Here's how it works:

Every time your heart beats, more blood is pumped into your face. This slight increase in blood volume causes more light to be absorbed, and hence less light is reflected from your face. Using sophisticated software, your iPhone's front camera can track these tiny changes in reflected light that are not visible to the human eye and calculate your heart beat!

This video shows this process in action (with a short explanatory intro of the mathematical technique):

That is flat-out amazing. (via @delfuego)

Did Caster Semenya deliberately throw the 800 meters?AUG 13

From Slate, some speculation that Caster Semenya sandbagged the 800 meter final in order to avoid further gender-related scrutiny.

After the race, track and field aficionados questioned her tactics. The BBC's David Ornstein said it appeared that Semenya "had more left in the tank." His story quoted BBC commentator Kelly Holmes, who won this event in the 2004 Olympics, suggesting that Semenya hadn't made her best effort: "She looked very strong, she didn't look like she went up a gear, she wasn't grimacing at all. I don't know if her head was in it, when she crossed the line she didn't look affected." Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Layden tweeted that Semenya "seemed oddly disengaged most of race and not tired at end."

I watched the race and Semenya's finish was odd...she made her move super-late and was moving at a tremendous pace when she crossed the line. Had she worked her way up to the front before the final turn, she may have beaten the field by several lengths.

Update: Here is a more nuanced analysis of Semenya's effort in the 800 meter final.

Perhaps there is nothing to her performance other than that she runs a more even pace than her rivals.

A comparison between her semi-final and this race is interesting in this regard. In that semi, she went through 400m in just over 58 seconds, 600m in about 1:28 and then closed the final 200m in 29.5s, looking like she had something in reserve.

Tonight, she went through 400m in 57.69s, then through 600m in about 1:27.1, and then closed in a touch over 30 seconds. My point is, her performance in the final was slightly faster at every stage than the semi, until she closed slower over the final 200m. To finish SLOWER than she did in the semi implies that she has little reserve and that she is closer to the limit than she looks. She wasn't actually that fast over the final 200m, it's just that everyone else was very slow!

(via @andrewsmit)

This? No. Hell no. No no no.AUG 12

No. No no no. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no. NO NO NO NO! No. No no. No no no no no no. No. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.

Some will spend $795 on Gucci backpacks or $1,090 on leopard print puffy coats from Lanvin.

Sasha Charnin Morrison, fashion director at Us Weekly, admits that some of the clothes are outrageously prices. But, she says, things like $200 Gucci sneakers make her kids happy.

"They're a walking billboard of you. They're a reflection of who you are, so if you are someone highly stylized, then you want to make sure your kids are the best-dressed kids out there," she says.

No no no no no no no no no. No. No no no no no no no no no. Fuck you.

Beck's next album to released as sheet musicAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 10

In a move that harkens back to composers of old, Beck's next album, 'Song Reader' will be released in December as sheet music of 20 unreleased and unrecorded songs.

The sheet music will come with full colour art works for each song as well as a hardcover carrying case. Two of the 20 songs are instrumentals. The 'album' features the tracks 'Do We? We Do' and 'Don't Act Like Your Heart Isn't Hard'. The idea behind the release is for fans to play the songs and 'bring them to life' themselves.

Torpedo outfitted with HD camera swims with dolphinsAUG 10

Sometimes you're out fishing for tuna and messing around with a torpedo with a GoPro camera on the end of it and a pod of dolphins comes along and you get swimming-with-dolphin shots that you haven't even seen even from Planet Earth.

Takes a bit to get going...the good stuff starts around 1:40. (via @Colossal)

Evolution of the uneven bars in women's gymnasticsAUG 10

The uneven parallel bars event has changed a lot over the years. For one thing, the bars used to be a lot closer together. And obviously the routines have gotten a lot harder.

Some of those moves in the 60s and 70s were sweet though. More grace and less raw power. (thx, doug)

Updates on previous entries for Aug 9, 2012*AUG 10

The rise of the high-speed trading bots and "quote spam" orig. from Aug 08, 2012
Jim Thorpe, greatest Olympian* ever? orig. from Aug 09, 2012
Do fonts affect people's opinions? orig. from Aug 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.

2012 Isle of Man TTAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 09

The first 30 seconds of this video are exactly what you want from a motorcycle race video. No, no, there's no motorcycle crash scenes that involve a stone wall, sheep, and a helicopter, but it's a good look back at this year's race. These guys go fast.

(via stellar)

Photo of a massive Arctic cycloneAUG 09

Where have I seen this before, a massive long-lasting Arctic storm that looks a lot like a hurricane? Oh right, The Day After Tomorrow.

Arctic Storm

The storm had an unusually low central pressure area. Paul A. Newman, chief scientist for Atmospheric Sciences at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., estimates that there have only been about eight storms of similar strength during the month of August in the last 34 years of satellite records. "It's an uncommon event, especially because it's occurring in the summer. Polar lows are more usual in the winter," Newman said.

Arctic storms such as this one can have a large impact on the sea ice, causing it to melt rapidly through many mechanisms, such as tearing off large swaths of ice and pushing them to warmer sites, churning the ice and making it slushier, or lifting warmer waters from the depths of the Arctic Ocean.

I love The Day After Tomorrow. I know it's a cheeseball disaster movie (which is pretty much why I love it) but it's also looking more than a little prescient. Well, as prescient as a cheeseball disaster movie can be anyway. In the Washington Post the other day, prominent climatologist James Hansen wrote that human-driven climate change is responsible for an increase in extreme weather.

My projections about increasing global temperature have been proved true. But I failed to fully explore how quickly that average rise would drive an increase in extreme weather.

In a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures, which will be published Monday, my colleagues and I have revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present.

This is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened. Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.

In many ways, the phrase "global warming" is grossly misleading. "Oh," we think, "it's gonna be a couple degrees warmer in NYC in 20 years than it is now." But the Earth's climate is a chaotic non-linear system, which means that a sudden shift of a degree or two -- and when you're talking about something as big as the Earth, a degree over several decades is sudden -- pushes things out of balance here and there in unpredictable ways. So it's not just that it's getting hotter, it's that you've got droughts in places where you didn't have them before, severe floods in other places, unusually hot summers, and even places that are cooler than normal, all of which disrupts the animal and plant life that won't be able to acclimate to the new reality fast enough.

But pretty Arctic cyclone though, right?

TextMate 2 goes open sourceAUG 09

TextMate creator Allan Odgaard has posted the code for TextMate 2 on GitHub.

I've always wanted to allow end-users to tinker with their environment, my ability to do this is what got me excited about programming in the first place, and it is why I created the bundles concept, but there are limits to how much a bundle can do, and with the still growing user base, I think the best move forward is to open source the program.

TextMate 2 is out in alpha and as a TextMate 1 user that would like to upgrade to a stable 2.0 version, I am skeptical that this is a good move in that direction.

Why does Mars Curiosity have such a small camera?AUG 09

The main imaging cameras on the Mars Curiosity rover have only 2-megapixel sensors with 8 GB of flash memory -- compare that to a maxed-out iPhone 4S with an 8-megapixel sensor and 64 GB of flash memory (not to mention 30-fps 1080p video). Planning timeframes and communications bandwidth contributed to the chosen camera size.

'There's a popular belief that projects like this are going to be very advanced but there are things that mitigate against that. These designs were proposed in 2004, and you don't get to propose one specification and then go off and develop something else. 2MP with 8GB of flash [memory] didn't sound too bad in 2004. But it doesn't compare well to what you get in an iPhone today.'

The cameras were also supposed to be outfitted with zoom lenses but that part of the project was scrapped.

The physics of cats always landing on their feetAUG 09

In this slow-motion video, you can see how cats rotate themselves in the air while conserving angular momentum.

This is an interesting companion to yesterday's owl rotation video. (via @stevenstrogatz)

Do fonts affect people's opinions?AUG 09

You may remember a short piece by Errol Morris in the Times a few weeks ago that was more of a quiz than a essay. Well, the quiz turned out to be a smokescreen for how people's opinions change when the text is set in different typefaces.

Each Times participant read the passage in one of six randomly assigned fonts - Baskerville, Computer Modern, Georgia, Helvetica, Comic Sans and Trebuchet. The questions, ostensibly about optimism or pessimism, provided data about the influence of fonts on our beliefs.

The test consisted of comparing the responses and determining whether font choice influenced our perception of the truth of the passage.

The results pointed to a small but noticeable effect in the authority of each font.

DAVID DUNNING: Baskerville seems to be the king of fonts. What I did is I pushed and pulled at the data and threw nasty criteria at it. But it is clear in the data that Baskerville is different from the other fonts in terms of the response it is soliciting. Now, it may seem small but it is impressive.

ERROL MORRIS: I am completely surprised by this. If you asked me in advance, I would have guessed Georgia or Computer Modern, something that has the imprimatur of, I don't know, truth - truthiness.

DAVID DUNNING: The word that comes to my mind is gravitas. There are some fonts that are informal - Comic Sans, obviously - and other fonts that are a little bit more tuxedo. It seems to me that Georgia is slightly tuxedo. Computer Modern is a little bit more tuxedo and Baskerville has just a tad more starchiness. I would have expected that if you are going to have a winner in Baskerville, you are also going to have a winner in Computer Modern. But we did not. And there can be a number of explanations for that. Maybe there is a slight difference in how they are rendered in PCs or laptops that causes the starch in Computer Modern to be a little softer than the starch in Baskerville.

ERROL MORRIS: Starchiness?

DAVID DUNNING: Fonts have different personalities. It seems to me that one thing you can say about Baskerville is that it feels more formal or looks more formal. So that may give it a push in terms of its level of authority. This is, of course, speculation. I don't really know. What one would do with, when you get surprising results is you now have to think about, O.K., what do we do to take that back-ended speculation and support it with data?

Update: Pentagram's Michael Bierut weighs in on Morris' article.

Whether or not a typeface can do any or all of those things, I do agree the landscape has changed. Once upon a time, regular people didn't even know the names of typefaces. Then, with the invention of the personal computer, people started learning. They had their opinions and they had their favorites. But until now, type was a still matter of taste. Going forward, if someone wants to tell the truth, he or she will know exactly what typeface to use. Of course, the truth is the truth no matter what typeface it's in. How long before people realize that Baskerville is even more useful if you want to lie?

Jim Thorpe, greatest Olympian* ever?AUG 09

Smithsonian Magazine has a good argument on why Jim Thorpe should be considered amongst the greatest Olympians even though his records and medals are not officially acknowledged by the IOC.

A week later the three-day decathlon competition began in a pouring rain. Thorpe opened the event by splashing down the track in the 100-meter dash in 11.2 seconds-a time not equaled at the Olympics until 1948.

On the second day, Thorpe's shoes were missing. Warner hastily put together a mismatched pair in time for the high jump, which Thorpe won. Later that afternoon came one of his favorite events, the 110-meter hurdles. Thorpe blistered the track in 15.6 seconds, again quicker than Bob Mathias would run it in '48.

On the final day of competition, Thorpe placed third and fourth in the events in which he was most inexperienced, the pole vault and javelin. Then came the very last event, the 1,500-meter run. The metric mile was a leg-burning monster that came after nine other events over two days. And he was still in mismatched shoes.

Thorpe left cinders in the faces of his competitors. He ran it in 4 minutes 40.1 seconds. Faster than anyone in 1948. Faster than anyone in 1952. Faster than anyone in 1960 -- when he would have beaten Rafer Johnson by nine seconds. No Olympic decathlete, in fact, could beat Thorpe's time until 1972. As Neely Tucker of the Washington Post pointed out, even today's reigning gold medalist in the decathlon, Bryan Clay, would beat Thorpe by only a second.

Update: I misstated what the Smithsonian article actually said about Thorpe's official status according to the IOC. Here's what the article says:

It's commonly believed that Thorpe at last received Olympic justice in October of 1982 when the IOC bowed to years of public pressure and delivered two replica medals to his family, announcing, "The name of James Thorpe will be added to the list of athletes who were crowned Olympic champions at the 1912 Games." What's less commonly known is that the IOC appended this small, mean sentence: "However, the official report for these Games will not be modified."

In other words, the IOC refused even to acknowledge Thorpe's results in the 15 events he competed in. To this day the Olympic record does not mention them. The IOC also refused to demote Wieslander and the other runners-up from their elevated medal status. Wieslander's results stand as the official winning tally. Thorpe was merely a co-champion, with no numerical evidence of his overwhelming superiority. This is no small thing. It made Thorpe an asterisk, not a champion. It was lip service, not restitution.

Thorpe's family got his medals and is listed on the Olypmic web site. But as the article says, it does nothing to recognize just how dominant Thorpe was in the decathalon and pentathalon. In the decathalon, Thorpe led from the second event on and beat his nearest competitor Hugo Wieslander by almost 700 points. (For his part, Wieslander refused to accept the gold medal retroactively awarded to him because of Thorpe's disqualification.) His victory in the pentathlon was even more lopsided...in an event where fewer points are better, the second-place competitor earned three times as many points as Thorpe. (thx, gary)

Updates on previous entries for Aug 8, 2012*AUG 09

Starbucks to accept Square payments orig. from Aug 08, 2012

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

This owl will not move his headAUG 08

If you move an owl's body around in any direction, its head will remain remarkably still.

See also the eerie stillness of chicken heads. (via stellar)

The rise of the high-speed trading bots and "quote spam"AUG 08

Technology Review has an animated GIF originally posted by Nanex Research that shows the activity generated by trading bots on US exchanges. It's pretty quiet for a couple years and then starts going nuts.

Algorithmic trading lets financial firms to spot and exploit market patterns at lightning speeds. This can bring a tidy profit, but it also puts computers in charge of making decisions that can cost a company millions, and that may have an unpredictable effect on the rest of the market.

If I'm reading the original source correctly, it seems like the vast majority of the activity is not trades but quotes -- Nanex calls it "quote spam". Basically the bots are asking for prices on stocks/options/etc. over and over again, looking for price advantages that they can then exploit via trades. The quote spam is swamping the communications systems:

Quote spam has exploded with no signs of stopping, while trade frequency has stalled and is actually lower than it was years ago. Each day is plotted in a separate color over the course of a trading day (9:30 to 16:00 Eastern): older data uses colors towards the violet end of the spectrum, recent data towards the red end of the spectrum. The gaps you see between color groups on the quote chart (left-side) is when system capacity was upgraded to handle the increase in traffic, and quote spam jumped to fill the new capacity that very same day.

(via @cory_arcangel)

Update: Quote spam is not about asking for prices, it's about sending out millions of buy/sell offers hoping for a small percentage to reply...just like email spam. (thx, @falfa)

Hit me on my burnerAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 08

Burner is a new iPhone app that will give you a disposable, short term cell phone number to give to randos at the bar, weirdos on Craigslist, and Marlos on the corner.

Disposable cell numbers certainly seem like they might be used for nefarious activities, but founder & CEO Greg Cohn said these numbers can be used for any number of purposes in the era when a cell number is so closely tied a person's identity.

(thanks, Alex)

Lights controlled by eye blinksAUG 08

Neat project from Michal Kohút: glasses that turn the lights off whenever the person wearing them blinks.

The lights in the room are temporarily turned off whenever the person wearing the glasses blinks. It all happens so fast that the person wearing the glasses does not even notice the change.

(via @essl)

Starbucks to accept Square paymentsAUG 08

I hope this will make saying "put it on Jason" a lot less awkward.

When Starbucks builds the Square Directory into their apps and in-store Digital Network, it gives Square new visibility, driving more customers to opt-in to Square. And with nearly 7,000 Starbucks stores soon accepting Square, these new payers will be able to find your business (including coffeehouses) and pay with their name, building community and creating value.

Update: Dan Frommer has more on how Square's partnership with Starbucks will work.

Starbucks isn't doing anything radical with its cashier / point of sale design / philosophy yet. There won't be any pre-ordering drinks a block away, or paying anywhere in the cafe like you can at an Apple Store. Schultz says Starbucks has tried some of that and it's "highly complicated."

Updates on previous entries for Aug 7, 2012*AUG 08

Some boats in a race orig. from Aug 06, 2012

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

The view of Scientology from the insideAUG 07

Tony Ortega has a long interview in the Village Voice with John Brousseau, who was a 32-year member of the Church of Scientology until he left in 2010.

In some ways, Brousseau's tale is one of the most remarkable to come out of the secretive organization, and one that parallels so much of Scientology's own development and controversies.

He and [Scientology leader David] Miscavige were brothers in law. They were both young cameramen working for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard during his movie-making phase. Brousseau was Hubbard's personal chauffeur and helped maintain the cloak of secrecy when Hubbard vanished for good. He watched Miscavige transform Scientology and turn its base into a prison camp. He worked for Tom Cruise, which included serving in the household with Cruise and Katie Holmes. And having worked closely with both Cruise and Miscavige, he has choice things to say about the nature of their relationship.

Here's part two of the interview.

RIP DeAndre McCulloughAUG 07

David Simon remembers his friend DeAndre McCullough, who died last week. You might remember him as Lamar (Brother Mouzone's assistant) from The Wire and was also profiled by Simon and Edward Burns in The Corner.

At fifteen, he was selling drugs on the corners of Fayette Street, but that doesn't begin to explain who he was. For the boys of Franklin Square -- too many of them at any rate -- slinging was little more than an adolescent adventure, an inevitable right of passage. And whatever sinister vision you might conjure of a street corner drug trafficker, try to remember that a fifteen-year-old slinger is, well, fifteen years old.

He was funny. He could step back from himself and mock his own stances -- "hard work," he would say when I would catch him on a drug corner, "hard work being a black man in America." And then he would catch my eye and laugh knowingly at his presumption. His imitations of white-authority voices -- social workers, police officers, juvenile masters, teachers, reporters -- were never less than pinpoint, playful savagery. The price of being a white man on Fayette Street and getting to know DeAndre McCullough was to have your from-the-other-America pontifications pulled and scalpeled apart by a manchild with an uncanny ear for hypocrisy and cant.

(via @mrgan)

The Healthcare FactoryAUG 06

The Cheesecake Factory has a hundred and sixty restaurants that each feature more than three hundred menu items that are served up to cool eighty million customers a year. Whether you're a fan of the Cheesecake Factory or not, there's no denying that -- like many major chains that enjoy the benefits of scale -- their product is consistent, the prices remain under control, and their efficiency is impressive. The New Yorker's always excellent Atul Gawande wonders: What can hospitals learn about quality from the Cheesecake Factory?

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

Some boats in a raceAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 06

Francis Higgins took it upon himself to provide amazing color commentary to the Olympic sailing race. This is the honey badger of Olympic commentary.

(via ★Interesting)

Update: The IOC has removed this video because they hate awesome stuff.

Update: There are copies of the video located here and here. But for how long? (thx, darren & john)

Tickets for The Who accepted 33 years laterAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 06

In 1979, 11 peopled died in a stampede before a stop on The Who's Quadrephenia tour in Cincinnati when not enough doors were opened to let in the crowd. Providence mayor Buddy Cianci canceled a concert two weeks later at the Providence Civic Center, and The Who hasn't ever been back to Providence. Last week, the GM of the PCC, now called the Dunkin' Donuts Center announced he'd accept unrefunded tickets for The Who's February, 2013 concert.

Tuesday, as the Providence Journal reports, "the patience and tenacity of 10 Who fans was rewarded ... at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, where they traded in 14 tickets to the band's canceled 1979 Providence performance in exchange for tickets to their February 2013 show at the Dunk." The ProJo has video. Fan Ed McConnell says he knew exactly where his two '79 tickets were: one was in a cigar box in a closet and the other one "was stuck on a cork bulletin board in my parent's house in my brother's old bedroom."

About 10 fans exchanged their tickets, including one fan who had waited in line for 3 days to get tickets in 1978. (via Josh)

PS: Songs by The Who considered of puntastic entry in this post include the following: Going Mobile, I Can See for Miles, I Can't Explain, I've Been Away, Long Live Rock, My Generation, The Kids Are Alright, and Who Are You?

Only surviving film footage of Mark TwainAUG 06

It was shot by Thomas Edison in 1909 about a year before Twain's death.

(via the atlantic)

People you didn't know were on SeinfeldAUG 03

If you're anything like me, you take things like 34 People You Probably Didn't Know Were On Seinfeld as a challenge. It's been awhile, but I've seen every episode of that show (most of them at least twice) so I thought this would be easy but I totally had forgotten or didn't realize that Jon Favreau, Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Denise Richards, and James Spader were on the show. Guess I'm not the Seinfeld fan I thought I was.

Sight & Sound's 50 greatest films of all timeAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 03

Every decade since 1952, Sight & Sound has polled film professionals to determine the greatest films of all time. Citizen Kane is always the winner, except for the first year. This year, however, S&S expanded the number of contributors dramatically and included online critics as well resulting in Citizen Kane's unseating. They've released the list of top 50 films now, and will release a top 100 in about a month.

About a year ago, the Sight & Sound team met to consider how we could best approach the poll this time. Given the dominance of electronic media, what became immediately apparent was that we would have to abandon the somewhat elitist exclusivity with which contributors to the poll had been chosen in the past and reach out to a much wider international group of commentators than before. We were also keen to include among them many critics who had established their careers online rather than purely in print.

To that end we approached more than 1,000 critics, programmers, academics, distributors, writers and other cinephiles, and received (in time for the deadline) precisely 846 top-ten lists that between them mention a total of 2,045 different films.

I (Aaron) have seen 4 of the movies in the top 50 because I am, apparently, a Luddite philistine. Topping the list this year is Vertigo.

After half a century of monopolising the top spot, Citizen Kane was beginning to look smugly inviolable. Call it Schadenfreude, but let's rejoice that this now conventional and ritualised symbol of 'the greatest' has finally been taken down a peg. The accession of Vertigo is hardly in the nature of a coup d'etat. Tying for 11th place in 1972, Hitchcock's masterpiece steadily inched up the poll over the next three decades, and by 2002 was clearly the heir apparent. Still, even ardent Wellesians should feel gratified at the modest revolution - if only for the proof that film canons (and the versions of history they legitimate) are not completely fossilised.

There's also a directors' list of top 10 films. (via @chrissandoval)

What if every Olympic sport was photographed like beach volleyball?AARON COHEN  ·  AUG 03

Nate Jones was disappointed about how women's Olympic beach volleyball has been photographed at the Olympics so he decided to show us what other sports look like through the lens of women's Olympic beach volleyball photographer's lens. The results are hilarious.

Olympic Butt Photography

(via ★mathowie)

The Mars OlympicsAUG 02

On Twitter right now, Neil deGrasse Tyson is imagining how various Olympic events would work on Mars.

Women's Beach Volleyball on Mars: No protective ozone layer there. Solar UV would irradiate all exposed legs, buns, & tummies

Gymnastics: On Mars, with only 38% of Earth's gravity, the Vault & other spring-assisted leaps would resemble circus cannons.

(via @jaycer17)

Homemade Olympic highlightsAUG 02

The WSJ is producing some homemade highlight videos of important Olympic events, sort of like what one of the Tenenbaum children might conjure up.

(via @davidfg)

Double trainbow! What does it mean?AUG 02

Listen to this guy absolutely lose his shit while taking video of these two vintage trains. I've never heard someone so excited about anything before.

Fun fact: US train enthusiasts are sometime called "foamers". (via @LTBelcher, who also came up with the genius "double trainbow" phrase)

The graphing calculator storyAUG 02

This is an oldie but a goodie. Ron Avitzur was working for Apple as a contractor in 1993 when the project he was working on (a graphing calculator) was cancelled and his contract subseuently ended. However, Avitzur really wanted to finish what he started he kept on going into Apple to work on this calculator.

There was one last pressing question: How could we get this thing included with the system software when the new machines shipped? The thought that we might fail to do this terrified me far more than the possibility of criminal prosecution for trespass. All the sweat that Greg and I had put in, all the clandestine aid from the friends, acquaintances, and strangers on whom I had shamelessly imposed, all the donations of time, expertise, hardware, soft drinks, and junk food would be wasted.

Once again, my sanity was saved by the kindness of a stranger. At 2:00 one morning, a visitor appeared in my office: the engineer responsible for making the PowerPC system disk master. He explained things this way: "Apple is a hardware company. There are factories far away building Apple computers. One of the final steps of their assembly line is to copy all of the system software from the 'Golden Master' hard disk onto each computer's hard disk. I create the Golden Master and FedEx it to the manufacturing plant. In a very real and pragmatic sense, I decide what software does and does not ship." He told me that if I gave him our software the day before the production run began, it could appear on the Golden Master disk. Then, before anyone realized it was there, thirty thousand units with our software on the disks would be boxed in a warehouse. (In retrospect, he may have been joking. But we didn't know that, so it allowed us to move forward with confidence.)

Once we had a plausible way to ship, Apple became the ideal work environment. Every engineer we knew was willing to help us. We got resources that would never have been available to us had we been on the payroll. For example, at that time only about two hundred PowerPC chips existed in the world. Most of those at Apple were being used by the hardware design engineers. Only a few dozen coveted PowerPC machines were even available in System Software for people working on the operating system. We had two. Engineers would come to our offices at midnight and practically slip machines under the door. One said, "Officially, this machine doesn't exist, you didn't get it from me, and I don't know you. Make sure it doesn't leave the building."

Avitzur told this story at Google in 2006. (via mental floss)

Men throwing rocks with the other handAUG 02

There's something about this video of men throwing rocks with their opposite hand. Maybe it's the French music?

(via ★dunstan)

Updates on previous entries for Aug 1, 2012*AUG 02

Imagining Earth with Saturn's rings orig. from Dec 09, 2009

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

Companies perform better with women on boardAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 01

A report from the Credit Suisse Research Institute shows that companies that have women on their boards of directors out perform companies with all male boards in a number of different metrics. The report looked at 2300 companies with a market cap of over $10 billion, and found that stocks of companies with women on the board outpaced companies without by 26%. These companies also had net income growth of 14% vs 10%.

"Companies with women on boards really outperformed when the downturn came through in 2008," Mary Curtis, director of thematic equity research at Credit Suisse in Johannesburg and an author of the report, said in a telephone interview. "Stocks of companies with women on boards tend to be a little more risk averse and have on average a little less debt, which seems to be one of the key reasons why they've outperformed so strongly in this particular period."

(via @alexmleo)

Spoiler alertAARON COHEN  ·  AUG 01

Spoilers have been talked about a bunch lately with NBC broadcasting most of the Olympic events on tape delay in the US. Whether or not this is a problem (it's not, get over it), it turns out most people enjoy books and movies more if they've been spoiled. Do you hate when the trailer for a film gives away all the best parts? Further in the article, a film trailer maker mentions that trailers that give away more details test better.

The paper, published in the September issue of Psychological Science, presents the results of a series of experiments conducted by Jonathan D. Leavitt and Nicholas J. S. Christenfeld. The authors asked a large group of undergraduates to read classic short stories in three categories: literary works (such as Raymond Carver's "The Calm"), mysteries (Agatha Christie's "A Chess Problem"), and ironic-twist tales (Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"). Each student read one story in its original form, one with separate introductory material that laid out everything that was about to happen, and one with that same material simply incorporated as part of the text. Even surprise endings were given away.

Curiously, the test subjects favored the spoiled stories, sometimes significantly so. Even more paradoxically, it was the genres that seem to depend on surprise the most -- mysteries and ironic-twist stories -- that readers liked best when they already knew the ending.

"It seemed like a simple thing to demonstrate that if you completely ruin a story before people get into it, they're not going to like it," says Leavitt. "And we just couldn't demonstrate that."

The view from Earth of different planets replacing the MoonAUG 01

What if Mars orbited the Earth at the same distance as the Moon...what would that look like? How about Neptune? Or Jupiter? Like this:

See also what the Earth would look like with Saturn's rings. (via @stevenstrogatz)

A banking system in India run by kidsAUG 01

The Children's Development Khazana is a bank staffed and patronized exclusively by children. It started in New Delhi in 2001 and has since opened up more than 200 branches in half-a-dozen countries.

The branches are run almost entirely by and for the children, with account holders electing two volunteer managers from the group every six months.

"Children who make money by begging or selling drugs are not allowed to open an account. This bank is only for children who believe in hard work," said Karan, a 14-year-old "manager".

During the day, Karan earns a pittance washing up at wedding banquets or other events. In the evening, he sits at his desk to collect money from his friends, update their pass books and close the bank.

"Some account holders want to withdraw their money. I ask them why and give it to them if other children approve. Everyone earns five per cent interest on their savings."

More healthcare for womenAUG 01

Sandra Fluke writes that the portion of Affordable Care Act that guarantees women access to preventative health services went into effect today.

Women across the country have reason to celebrate tonight. Why? Because on Wednesday, the law that provides American women with access to preventive health services, including birth control, at no cost-no co-pay, no increase in premium, no deductible-goes into effect.

Under the law, women are guaranteed "a free annual well-woman visit" (including screenings for domestic violence and HIV), DNA screenings for HPV every three years, free screenings for gestational diabetes for pregnant women, and no-cost contraception. Sometimes it almost feels like we're not living in the Stone Age here in the US. Almost:

But they do need to find out when their next insurance plan year begins, and make sure their plan qualifies. That's because -- with the exception of women who access their insurance through certain religiously-affiliated non-profits and schools, who unfortunately must wait another year for contraception coverage -- this policy takes effect August 1. But each woman's insurance plan will implement these benefits with the next new plan year after today. So if a woman's insurance plan year begins on September 15, she's eligible for these services beginning September 15.

Archives    July 2012 »    June 2012 »    May 2012 »

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