Entries for November 2012 (December 2012 »    January 2013 »    February 2013 »    Archives)

 

Twitter is a machine for continual self-reinventionNOV 30

Matt Haughey wrote an essay called Why I love Twitter and barely tolerate Facebook.

There's no memory at Twitter: everything is fleeting. Though that concept may seem daunting to some (archivists, I feel your pain), it also means the content in my feed is an endless stream of new information, either comments on what is happening right now or thoughts about the future. One of the reasons I loved the Internet when I first discovered it in the mid-1990s was that it was a clean slate, a place that welcomed all regardless of your past as you wrote your new life story; where you'd only be judged on your words and your art and your photos going forward.

Facebook is mired in the past.

One of my favorite posts on street photographer Scott Schuman's blog, The Sartorialist, consists of two photos of the same woman taken several months apart.

Sartorialist Kara

Schuman asked the woman how she was able to create such a dramatic change:

Actually the line that I think was the most telling but that she said like a throw-away qualifier was "I didn't know anyone in New York when I moved here..."

I think that is such a huge factor. To move to a city where you are not afraid to try something new because all the people that labeled who THEY think you are (parents, childhood friends) are not their to say "that's not you" or "you've changed". Well, maybe that person didn't change but finally became who they really are. I totally relate to this as a fellow Midwesterner even though my changes were not as quick or as dramatic.

I bet if you ask most people what keeps them from being who they really want to be (at least stylistically or maybe even more), the answer would not be money but the fear of peer pressure -- fear of embarrassing themselves in front of a group of people that they might not actually even like anyway.

For a certain type of person, changing oneself might be one of the best ways of feeling free and in control of one's own destiny. And in the social media world, Twitter feels like continually moving to NYC without knowing anyone whereas Facebook feels like you're living in your hometown and hanging with everyone you went to high school with. Twitter's we're-all-here-in-the-moment thing that Matt talks about is what makes it possible for people to continually reinvent themselves on Twitter. You don't have any of that Facebook baggage, the peer pressure from a lifetime of friends, holding you back. You are who your last dozen tweets say you are. And what a feeling of freedom that is.

Gilda Radner's long goodbyeNOV 30

Speaking of Bill Murray (because why would we ever want to stop speaking of him?), this story about the last time he saw Gilda Radner before she died is just so great and sad and wonderful. Makes me wanna laughcry.

The whole Monty Python group was there, most of us from [SNL], a lot of other funny people, and Gilda. Gilda showed up and she'd already had cancer and gone into remission and then had it again, I guess. Anyway she was slim. We hadn't seen her in a long time. And she started doing, "I've got to go," and she was just going to leave, and I was like, "Going to leave?" It felt like she was going to really leave forever.

(via @sampotts)

Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before PhotoshopSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 30

He lost his head

NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art has an exhibit running until January 27, 2013 featuring over 200 photos employing old timey trickery.

For early art photographers, the ultimate creativity lay not in the act of taking a photograph but in the subsequent transformation of the camera image into a hand-crafted picture.

Trailer for Girls season twoNOV 30

I am not ashamed to admit that, to my total surprise, I am looking forward to the second season of Girls more than The Hobbit or the next season of Mad Men. (But perhaps not season three of Game of Thrones. Perhaps.)

New York City summed up in one photoNOV 30

NYC defined

Some dude next you on the subway falls asleep on your arm and you just go on about your business. That's about right. (via gothamist, photo by molossoidea)

The autism advantageNOV 29

In the NY Times, Gareth Cook writes about the advantages some companies have found in employing people with autism.

To his father, Lars seemed less defined by deficits than by his unusual skills. And those skills, like intense focus and careful execution, were exactly the ones that Sonne, who was the technical director at a spinoff of TDC, Denmark's largest telecommunications company, often looked for in his own employees. Sonne did not consider himself an entrepreneurial type, but watching Lars -- and hearing similar stories from parents he met volunteering with an autism organization -- he slowly conceived a business plan: many companies struggle to find workers who can perform specific, often tedious tasks, like data entry or software testing; some autistic people would be exceptionally good at those tasks. So in 2003, Sonne quit his job, mortgaged the family's home, took a two-day accounting course and started a company called Specialisterne, Danish for "the specialists," on the theory that, given the right environment, an autistic adult could not just hold down a job but also be the best person for it.

I particularly liked Tyler Cowen's observations:

Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University (and a regular contributor to The Times), published a much-discussed paper last year that addressed the ways that autistic workers are being drawn into the modern economy. The autistic worker, Cowen wrote, has an unusually wide variation in his or her skills, with higher highs and lower lows. Yet today, he argued, it is increasingly a worker's greatest skill, not his average skill level, that matters. As capitalism has grown more adept at disaggregating tasks, workers can focus on what they do best, and managers are challenged to make room for brilliant, if difficult, outliers. This march toward greater specialization, combined with the pressing need for expertise in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, so-called STEM workers, suggests that the prospects for autistic workers will be on the rise in the coming decades. If the market can forgive people's weaknesses, then they will rise to the level of their natural gifts.

Upstream Color, a new film from Primer directorNOV 29

Well holy shit. In October I wrote that Shane Carruth, the director of the excellent Primer, was working on a new film called A Topiary. It seems like that one's on the shelf for a bit because Carruth is debuting a film at Sundance called Upstream Color. Slashfilm has some details.

A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.

I am totally there. (via @aaroncoleman0)

Woody Allen answers 12 unusual questionsNOV 29

Filmmaker Robert Weide asks Woody Allen 12 questions that he's never been asked before.

I am surprised that he would choose sporting events over movies, but as he says, he's seen 'em all at this point. Weide directed the excellent documentary on Allen, which is available on DVD or streaming at Amazon. (via viewsource)

How to drink Scotch WhiskyNOV 29

Richard Paterson, Whyte & Mackay's master whisky blender, shows us the proper way to enjoy Scotch. It gets a little messy.

Here's another video from the same guy in which he demonstrates what to do when a bartender hands you a Scotch on the rocks. (via the new yorker)

A day without violent crime in NYCNOV 29

According to the NYPD, not single violent crime (shooting, stabbing, murder, etc.) was reported in NYC on Monday, "the first time in recent memory" that has happened.

The rare day occurred on Monday, near the end of a year when the city's murder rate is on target to hit its lowest point since 1960, according to New York Police Department chief spokesman Paul Browne.

Browne said it was "first time in memory" the city's police force had experienced such a peaceful day.

While crime is up 3 percent overall, including a 9 percent surge in grand larceny police attribute to a rash of smart phone thefts, murder is down 23 percent over last year, the NYPD said.

Unfortunately, some are crediting the crappy NYPD stop-and-frisk policy with the drop in violent crime. (via marginal revolution)

MoMA adds video games to permanent collectionNOV 29

MoMA has acquired 14 video games for their permanent collection. Presumably they paid more than MSRP?

We are very proud to announce that MoMA has acquired a selection of 14 video games, the seedbed for an initial wish list of about 40 to be acquired in the near future, as well as for a new category of artworks in MoMA's collection that we hope will grow in the future. This initial group, which we will install for your delight in the Museum's Philip Johnson Galleries in March 2013, features...

The games include Tetris, Passage, The Sims, and Katamari Damacy. No Nintendo games on that list, probably due to ongoing negotiations with Nintendo.

NYC's weather weirdnessNOV 29

In 2006, New York magazine published a piece by Clive Thompson about what climate change is doing to New York's weather.

Nobody really knows what'll happen more than a week in advance, of course. But if we assemble these major climatic trends, a rough snapshot of New York's future begins to emerge.

First off, El Nino will keep our winters reasonably mild and reduce hurricanes in the immediate future, possibly until as late as 2008, because El Ninos usually last for only one or two years.

Meanwhile, the AMO will remain in its warm phase, charging up storms and hurricanes off our shores, for much longer, probably another twenty years. So while El Nino may be driving a temporary reprieve in our nasty weather, once it dissipates, the long-term trend is back to tumultuous hurricane seasons.

The final ingredient in the mix is global warming. In the past century, the average temperature in New York has risen by two degrees, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. Indeed, the computer models reviewed in the "Metropolitan East Coast Climate Assessment" -- a 50-year prediction of New York's changing climate, developed by nasa and Columbia University -- suggest that the city will continue to heat up by as much as one degree by 2010, two degrees by 2020, and accelerate on a gentle curve until we reach as much as nine degrees warmer than now in 2100. It doesn't particularly matter whether you believe the warming is man-made or a natural cycle (most, but not all, climatologists believe the former). The point is, pumping that much extra energy into the system is bound to have some effect.

The impact on our daily life, though, is the big question. A few degrees of warming won't turn New York into a Miami-class shirtsleeves town. The effect will be more subtle: Climate scientists suspect that a warmer climate will produce more weather volatility. It's not that we'll have more rain overall, more snow overall, or more storms overall. But each event will be more intense than before.

"We're more likely to get hotter heat waves," says Mark Cane, a climatologist at Columbia University. "And increased storminess" adds Cullen. Both effects are due to the additional energy that global warming pumps into the "hydrological cycle," the water and energy that circulates through the atmosphere -- and it's water that creates weather.

As they say, "nailed it". The term "global warming" continues to be a misleading when it comes to the effect of the Earth's increasing temperature on our weather; as Thompson notes, it's not that it's just gonna get a little hotter in the summer or a little less snowy in the winter, the weather's gonna get weirder. Which is a problem...it's difficult for society to measure and talk about "weird".

Immortality lessons from the humble jellyfishNOV 28

Looking to live forever? You might want to take a close look at the immortal jellyfish. This death-defying creature ages, but researchers studying the jellyfish found that, instead of dying, it started "to age in reverse, growing younger and younger until it reached its earliest stage of development, at which point it began its life cycle anew." (If beginning the life cycle anew means another trip through junior high, count me out.) From NYT Magazine: Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?

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Warren Buffett: a minimum tax rate for the wealthyNOV 28

In an op-ed for the NY Times, Warren Buffett proposes a minimum tax on high incomes, specifically "30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that". He argues that higher tax rates will not curtail investment activity.

Between 1951 and 1954, when the capital gains rate was 25 percent and marginal rates on dividends reached 91 percent in extreme cases, I sold securities and did pretty well. In the years from 1956 to 1969, the top marginal rate fell modestly, but was still a lofty 70 percent - and the tax rate on capital gains inched up to 27.5 percent. I was managing funds for investors then. Never did anyone mention taxes as a reason to forgo an investment opportunity that I offered.

Under those burdensome rates, moreover, both employment and the gross domestic product (a measure of the nation's economic output) increased at a rapid clip. The middle class and the rich alike gained ground.

(via df)

What sort of town is Richard Scarry's Busytown?NOV 28

From a planning and transportation professional, a deconstruction of Busytown, the fictional town that features in many of Richard Scarry's children's books, including What Do People Do All Day?, Busy, Busy Town, and my personal favorite, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.

Scarry moved to Switzerland in 1968, and if nothing else, Swiss architecture permeates the old town center of What Do People Do All Day. The Town Hall of Busytown on the cover is nothing if not Tudor. There is a small gate through which a small car is driving. Something to note about the vehicles in Busytown is that they are all just the right size for the number of passengers they carry. The Bus on the cover is full, with a hanger-on. The taxi holds one driver in the front and one passenger in the rear. The police officer (Seargant Murphy) is riding a motorcycle. When he has a passenger, the motorcycle always has a sidecar. Similarly, each window in town has someone in it, sometimes more than one person. Of course, this is a busy town, so the activity makes sense. The cover of this includes the grocery store, butcher, and baker (no supermarkets in 1968 Busytown), one block in front of Town Hall. One thing to note about the Butcher is that he is a pig, and clearly butchering sausages.

The self-slaughter and cannibalism of the pigs is documented in Merlin Mann's Scarry Pigs in Peril Flickr set.

Scarry Pig Butcher

See also this examination of What Do People Do All Day?:

Nonetheless, Busytown is a place that works. Literally, in that it appears to enjoy full employment, and also in the sense that it has few obvious social problems. The police force, consisting of Sergeant Murphy, Policeman Louie and their chief, is charged with 'keeping things safe and peaceful' and 'protecting the townspeople from harm', which appears to largely consist of directing traffic, ticketing hoons and apprehending the town's notorious thief, Gorilla Banana [sic].

Now of course one could opine that it's in fact diffuse surveillance and self-surveillance that keep such remarkable order. All those open windows and doors, all that neighbourly cheerfulness, have a slightly sinister edge to them, if you're inclined to look for it, as do the lengths that some of the citizens will go to in order to promote proper behaviour amongst children.

(via @inthefade)

Update: And here's another installment of the Busytown police blotter.

Traffic officer reported busiest traffic jam ever at intersection of Main and Hippopotamus. Gridlock started when a peanut car stalled in the intersection and the elderly cricket driver was unable to restart the vehicle. Officer and several drivers assisted the elderly cricket in moving his vehicle to the side of the road, where it was then struck by an alligator car driven by a female rabbit. Officer reported smelling alcohol in the female rabbit's breath and placed her in handcuffs until backup arrived. Officers then cleared the jam with the aid of two tow trucks.

(thx, elaine)

Digitally targetted firearmsNOV 28

A company called TrackingPoint is developing guns equipped with digital scopes that enable automated precision firing. Here's how it works: you "tag" a target with the digital scope and then only when the gun is aimed directly at the target, it fires. Essentially, it lets you practice pulling the trigger any number of times before the gun actually shoots the target perfectly for you.

I'm alternating between being really impressed by this and really freaked out by the implications. That's technology, I guess. (via @jomc)

NY Times' list of 100 notable books of 2012NOV 28

And so it begins, the end of the year lists. Love 'em or hate 'em, you've got to, um, ... I've got nothing here. You either love them or hate them. Anyway, the NY Times' list of the 100 notable books of the year is predictably solid and Timesish.

BRING UP THE BODIES. By Hilary Mantel. (Macrae/Holt, $28.) Mantel's sequel to "Wolf Hall" traces the fall of Anne Boleyn, and makes the familiar story fascinating and suspenseful again.

BUILDING STORIES. By Chris Ware. (Pantheon, $50.) A big, sturdy box containing hard-bound volumes, pamphlets and a tabloid houses Ware's demanding, melancholy and magnificent graphic novel about the inhabitants of a Chicago building.

I absolutely demolished Bring Up the Bodies over Thanksgiving break and loved it. I haven't had a chance to sit down with Building Stories yet, but that massive and gorgeous collection is a steal at $28 from Amazon. And as far as lists go, another early favorite is Tyler Cowen's list of his favorite non-fiction books of the year. Cowen is a demanding reader and I always find something worth reading there. (via @DavidGrann)

Another unconventional interview with Bill MurrayNOV 28

Dave Itzkoff went to interview Bill Murray for the NY Times on the occasion of the release of his new film, Hyde Park on Hudson, in which Murray plays Franklin D. Roosevelt. Itzkoff was expecting just a normal interview but, due to a scheduling problem, ended up accompanying Murray on stage at an evening appearance and continued the interview in front of members of the Screen Actors Guild.

Mr. Murray, having changed his shirt but still in the blue shorts, leaves the hotel and boards a chauffeured S.U.V., where the conversation continues.

Q. It sounds as if you also wanted to convey Roosevelt's voice as much as his physical presence.

A. We had a discussion about it, and we agreed that you don't want to do an impression. You want to get it in you, and then you want to play -- [The car is suddenly cut off by another vehicle.] That person was insane. [To his driver] Well-avoided, Mustafa. But you can bump her now. She's got it coming.

Freaky realistic optical illusionsNOV 28

When the hand reached in to turn the Rubik's Cube, my brain melted and spilled out of my ear and into a puddle on the floor.

The images used in the video are available for printing out so that you can wig out your friends and kids in person: Rubik's Cube, tape, and shoe. (via colossal)

Ways In Which The Movie 'Cloud Atlas' Has Changed Liam Callanan's LifeNOV 28

In 2004, Liam Callanan published a book called The Cloud Atlas that takes place in Alaska near the end of World War II. Also in 2004, David Mitchell published a book called Cloud Atlas that is told in six stories that unfold, Matryoshka-like, over a period of 200 years. Mitchell's book was recently adapted into a blockbuster film of the same name by the Wachowskis & Tom Tykwer and starring Tom Hanks & Halle Berry, but Callanan has been affected by the movie as well.

1. My website, cloudatlas.com, was hacked by Russians and blacklisted by Google.

2. My novel, The Cloud Atlas, zoomed to a triple-digit Amazon ranking without my having to email-as I did back when my novel was first published-a single parent, aunt, cousin, neighbor, classmate, ex-girlfriend, former teacher or current student and beg them to buy the book instead of "waiting until the library gets a copy," as a friend promised he would.

3. Instead, I get a lot of email, from loads more readers than I used to.

4. Including one at 12:14 a.m. this week from someone who had accidentally checked my book out of the library, and was still reading it.

Callanan's experience aside, I am bummed that Cloud Atlas (the film) did not do better at the box office. It was daring, engaging, and inventive. Not everyone's cup of tea certainly, but not as weird/challenging as everyone thought it might be. (via the awl: weekend companion)

Making Gangnam Style playableAARON COHEN  ·  NOV 28

Polygon visited Harmonix to learn about the process for Gangnam Style to become a part of their Kinect game Dance Central 3. The result is partially a look at the challenges in that process, but also ends up being a good profile of Harmonix. The "cat cow" move was particularly hard to put into the game.

The "cat cow" requires the dancer to get on hands and knees, thrust their hips and swing their head from side to side. It is but one of a handful of ridiculous moves in a dance inspired by playing cowboy and humping things, but throughout the day we will hear from almost everyone we talk to that in spite of how ridiculous it is, it has been hellish to recreate it in the game. A lot of magic has been thrown at solving the problem of the cat cow.

Watch The Mind of a Chef online for freeNOV 27

Friendly reminder: ten episodes of Anthony Bourdain and David Chang's Mind of a Chef are available to view for free on the PBS website. I am through two episodes so far and it's my favorite cooking/food show since The Naked Chef.1 Here's the first episode, all about ramen:

[I removed the embed because it was autoplaying for some unlucky people. You can watch the first episode here.]

The first four episodes will be taken down after Friday so act now.

[1] No joke, those first couple seasons of Oliver's show were really good. It's not the original Iron Chef or anything, but still.

The kottke.org holiday gift guideNOV 27

This flexible ice cube tray that make large ice cubes is literally (literally!) the best thing you can give anyone (anyone!) this holiday season:

Big Ice Cube Tray

First of all, it's $10. Your homemade Old Fashioneds and Whiskey Sours will stay delightfully undiluted with large ice cubes. Your kids will say, "Holy shizzle, look at the size of those fracking ice cubes! Swaggy fresh! {emoji drinking glass} {emoji smiley} {emoji thumbs up}" The Instagramming of your at-home cocktails will get 20% more faving action. The tray is cheaper and probably easier to use than these spherical ice molds (which, admittedly, I had never seen before and do look pretty cool and I think I might have to get them yup just pushed the Add to Cart button so I will let you know how it goes). Your friends will gape in wonder at your seemingly fancy-cocktail-bar-grade at-home cubes and ask you where you got such a wonderful contraption and you can tell them, hey lady I don't ask you about your secrets just drink your drink.

I mean, it's no Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS Digital SLR Camera with EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens or IGI Certified 18k White or Yellow Gold Comfort Fit Round-Cut Diamond Solitaire Engagement Ring (1.25 cttw, H-I Color, SI1-SI2 Clarity), but what is these days really?

Hobo MattersNOV 27

A spoof episode of American Experience on hobos, narrated by John Hodgman.

I posted this a few years ago but ran across it randomly the other day and had to feature it again. See also the Human Planet episode about The Douche.

Hold me closer, blurry dancerNOV 27

A new series of photographs from Shinichi Maruyama shows the nude human form in motion. (Totally SFW.)

Shinichi Maruyama Nude

According to Petapixel, these are not long exposure shots (like these).

Although the photographs look like long-exposure shots, they're actually composite images created by combining ten thousand individual photographs of each dancer. The result is a look in which each model's body is (mostly) lost within the blur of its movement.

You may remember Maruyama from his hand-thrown water sculptures.

The changing face of Bleecker StreetNOV 26

In their book Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, James and Karla Murray are documenting the changing commercial facade of NYC's streets. A recent post on their blog focuses on a strip of Bleecker St between 6th and 7th Avenues in the West Village. This is Murray's old location circa 2001, before they moved across the street into a bigger space, expanded that space, and opened an adjacent restaurant:

Murrays 2001

I moved to the West Village in 2002 and, after a few stops in other neighborhoods around the city, moved back a couple years ago. Walking around the neighborhood these days, I'm amazed at how much has changed in 10 years. Sometimes it seems as though every single store front has turned over in the interim. (via @kathrynyu)

Uncapturing the FriedmansNOV 26

Since Capturing the Friedmans came out in 2003, the filmmakers have been quietly working to prove the innocence of one of the films subjects, interviewing the sexual abuse victims of then 18-year-old Jesse Friedman. What they have found may point to Friedman's innocence.

One of those affected by the case was Arline Epstein, the mother of a child who had attended group therapy along with children who had testified against Jesse. Earlier this year, Arline's son Michael told her that, as a young boy, he had lied to his therapist about being sexually abused. In her testimony, which was featured at Sunday's event, Arline talks about revisiting a file of notes she had kept during the case and finding one that mentioned that during the first round of questioning of the children by police, none of them said they had been abused.

Arline and Michael Epstein are two of the witnesses featured in the video reel of new testimony compiled by Jarecki and Smerling, and both were at Sunday's event. Friedman was overwhelmed by the warm welcome he received from someone, who, as he put it, "for 25 years thought that I'd raped her son."

The evidence the filmmakers have compiled is available on a web site they have set up. (via @DavidGrann)

Freehand lasercuttingSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 26

Joining 3D printers in the personal fabricator realm is this interactive lasercutter called Constructable that has you draw on the wood with a laser pointer where you want it to cut, circumventing the standard process of designing a part on the computer.

The system uses different laser pointers that correspond to different tools, one for rounded corners, one for gears, etc. That way it can interpret your gesture and smooth it out into the correct form.

This probably won't replace all or even most fabrication use cases since the measurements of what you're making are usually important. But for artists, visual thinkers, or people looking for quick and dirty rapid prototyping, this seems like a great new opportunity.

(via product by process)

Cyber Monday!NOV 26

If you're going to buy a really expensive HDMI cable because you think it'll perform better (gold-plated! large-gauge! quad-layer shielding!), this is an excellent choice. Only $8 a foot! Or, you could read this and just get this AmazonBasics one. And then apply the difference to the purchase of a Kindle Paperwhite or The Dark Knight Rises on Blu-ray.

Serfing the webNOV 26

I wondered how long it would be before someone connected Facebook and especially Twitter with the idea of extractive and inclusive economic systems forwarded by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson in Why Nations Fail. The winner, in a delightfully over-the-top fashion, is David Heinemeier Hansson from 37signals.

Twitter started out life as a wonderfully inclusive society. There were very few rules and the ones there were the people loved. Thou shall be brief, retweet to respect. Under this constrained freedom, Twitter prospered and grew rapidly for the joy of all.

Budding entrepreneurs built apps that made life better for everyone. Better, in fact, than many of Twitter's own attempts. They competed for attention on a level playing field and the very best rose to the top. Users saw that this was good and rewarded Twitter with their attention. Twitter grew.

Unfortunately this inclusive world was not meant to last. From the beginning, an extractive time bomb was ticking. One billion dollars worth of eagerness for return. Hundreds and hundreds of hungry mouths to feed in a San Francisco lair.

And thus began Twitter's descent into the extractive.

Chrystia Freeland provided the gist of the book in a NY Times essay earlier in the fall:

Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.

The 2nd American Civil WarAARON COHEN  ·  NOV 26

To answer the question, "If every state of the USA declared war against each other, which would win?" Quora user Jon Davis went way in-depth writing "the accounts of the Second American Civil War, also known as the Wars of Reunification and the American Warring States Period." It's sort of a mix between World War Z (oral histories) and the post on Reddit being turned into a movie (realistic seeming discussion of military action). I am a sucker for this kind of fictionalized future-history stuff.

First came a period of massive migration back to the homelands. Facing the newly invented discrimination that will be created many felt the need to go back to their own people. While the individual states retained all military assets they couldn't control the individuals who fight. A Texas Marine stationed in California, would not fight for California. A soldier in New York would not fight against their home in Virginia and a sailor in Houston would not fight against their home state of Florida. The warriors returned to their home states and the states had to re-consider that when they measured troop strength of their new nations. Ultimately, they measured troop strength by how much of the population would return home.

(via Stellar)

Scientists un-discover an islandSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 26

A group of Australian scientists sailing to research plate tectonics discovered more than they were expecting. Well, less. They sailed right through where an island should have been.

Dr. Maria Seton, our cheif scientist, noticed that on the path that we were taking there was this very unusal island. Essentially it was on all the Google Earth maps and it was on all the weather charts. But when you zoom in on it it was just a black blob. Google had no photos from it. It was just this sort of slit in the Earth.

(via ★interesting-links)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Analyze Stanley Kubrick SARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 23

The author, Tim Dirks, calls it a review but this 12,000 word shot-by-shot, psycho-sexual deconstruction of the movie Dr. Strangelove reads more like the start of a dissertation than something you'd find on Moviefone.

Grumbling, complaining that he always has to think of everything, the boyish crew-cutted Turgidson approaches the phone from the bathroom, first viewed in the wall mirror reflection next to his secretary. Right wing war hawk Turgidson wears an open sports shirt and shorts, slapping his bare gut during the phone conversation. He first finds out that there's nothin' "cookin' on the threat board." Worried about a conspiracy, he advises Puntridge: "You better give Elmo and Charlie a blast, and bump everything up to Condition Red and stand by the blower." Turgidson nonchalantly tells Miss Scott: "I just thought I might mosey over to the War Room for a few minutes," although it is three o'clock in the morning: "The Air Force never sleeps." That will interrupt their sexual plans, however.

Included in the article is a handy chart explaining how each character's name is a sexual reference.

dr-strangelove-chart.jpg

"Turgid."

(via @Coudal)

Feminist video game hackingSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 23

There are very few video games with female heroes because video game publishers don't support them. So what's a father like Mike Hoye to do when he wants his three year old daughter to be able to see herself as the hero in The Legend of Zelda? Rewrite the game.

link-girl2.jpg

It's annoying and awkward, to put it mildly, having to do gender-translation on the fly when Maya asks me to read what it says on the screen. You can pick your character's name, of course - I always stick with Link, being a traditionalist - but all of the dialog insists that Link is a boy, and there's apparently nothing to be done about it.

Well, there wasn't anything to be done about it, certainly not anything easy, but as you might imagine I'm not having my daughter growing up thinking girls don't get to be the hero and rescue their little brothers.

(via Ars Technica)

Your new TV ruins moviesSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 23

In a rant as informative as it is funny, filmmaker Stu Maschwitz explains why your TV ruins movies & tells you what presets to use, what settings to disable, and why you shouldn't buy a TV in a store.

TVs are designed to do one thing above all: sell. To do so, they must fight for attention on brightly-lit showroom floors. Manufacturers accomplish this in much the same way that transvestite hookers in San Francisco's Tenderloin district do--by showing you everything they've got, turned up to eleven. You want brightness? We'll scald your retinas. You want sharpness? We'll draw a black outline around everything for you. [...]

These days, any TV you are likely to buy, will, by default, have technology enabled that completely changes the emotional quality of the movies you watch. This is a cinematic disaster.

(via @rcjohnso)

Amazon Random ShopperSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 23

Anyone who gets a thrill at receiving little brown boxes in the mail will be intrigued by the the bot built by developer Darius Kazemi.

I've had an idea for a long time now. It's inspired by one of my favorite feelings: when you order something on Amazon, and it's put on backorder, and then you forget you ordered it, and a year later it arrives--and it's like a gift you bought yourself.

Well, I thought: what if I just wrote a program to buy stuff for me? The first iteration of this was going to be a program that bought me stuff that I probably would like.

But then I decided that was too boring. How about I build something that buys me things completely at random? Something that just... fills my life with crap? How would these purchases make me feel? Would they actually be any less meaningful than the crap I buy myself on a regular basis anyway?

He got his first bot-ordered shipment last week and... the machines may already know too much.

All in all, this was a sort of creepy shipment. It sent me a book by someone who's known for charting and modeling the human mind, and sent me some music that is extremely mechanical and almost random.

Stories from kottke.org readers on connecting with people onlineSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 22

Since Thanksgiving is all about remembering what and who we're thankful for I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering and sharing stories from readers about how kottke.org, and the internet generally, connected them with people. Thank you so much to everyone who shared their stories.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Heather Armstrong:

Jason's blog was the first I ever read and what inspired me to start my own in February 2001. I was really stupid back then (as opposed to now? SHUSH) and wrote a lot of what I thought were funny stories about my family that were in fact kind of horrific. A few months into it I wrote Jason an email asking for advice and he responded! He was like, "Hi. You're kind of funny. But your family is totally going to find your website, you know this, right?" My mom didn't know how to turn on a computer at the time, so I just laughed and laughed, and then they all found my website the day after I wrote a scathing diatribe against the religion my parents had raised me in. The whole family exploded.

Jason, he is wise.

Then he linked to my site. My traffic tripled. That was the first bump in visitors I ever saw. Now my website supports my family and two employees.

When I visit New York I try to stop in and say hi to Jason and Meg and their two beautiful kids.

M. Lederman:

Around twenty years ago, I was sitting at my home desk looking at my first ever personal computer. This was a particularly sad time in my life and the thoughts running through my head were leaning towards the end of things rather than beginnings. I happened to click on a story about web communication and one click led to another and I ended up at a telnet chat site called, "Spacebar". There were but a few people there as it was after midnight here in Texas, and one with a name of, "shena" happened to be in the same chat room as I was. I sent shena a chat request which was ignored and thought I was doing something wrong, then I sent the message, "do you want to chat or are you just lurking" and shena began a conversation with me that lasted a few hours. We made plans to chat the next day and then the day after.

Shena turned out to be a lovely girl living in Australia who chatted with me for about two years on a daily basis before one Christmas holiday when I called her to wish her a happy holiday. Now twenty years have gone by and we have grown to know each other very well, chatting nearly daily sometimes for many hours and sharing each others very different lives. I consider her my closest friend and confidant and now cannot imagine a life without her in it. We've shared so many important moments in each of our lives growing closer with each new communication invention from telnet chat and email, to ICQ then AIM, VOIP phone calls to Skype where we can talk and see each others reactions to our statements. If technology had given me just this without all the rest I would have been satisfied so without the Internet I would not have this lovely lady in my life.

Atanas Entchev:

I remember exactly how and when I found kottke.org. It was Saturday, February 12, 2005. I had a Flickr meetup with several Flickr friends for the opening of The Gates in NYC's Central Park. My Flickr friend Gene Han (whom I had known from Flickr for a while, but never met in person until then) told me about kottke.org. The rest is history.

Last week Jason wrote a post about My American Lemonade -- my book about my family's 18-year (and counting) US immigration ordeal. I am looking for a publisher, and Jason's post has already resulted in several inquiries. Connecting people.

Tony Williams:

My tale of people connecting starts many years ago in the nineties.

There is a six year age difference between my brother and I and I was 12 when he went away to University, first in Canberra (I was living in Sydney) and then overseas in Rochester, New York before he finally settled in Boston. We had never been close but when we both had access to email in 1991 we started a correspondence that created a real relationship that we had never had before. It got to the point where we would correspond at least once a week or so.

On top of this I have the usual tale of finding long lost friends via social media. One friend I hadn't seen since we both lived in Newcastle, NSW when I was 12 who now lives in Los Angeles, we hadn't been in contact in almost forty years until I found him on LinkedIn.

I recently had coffee with a bloke I hadn't seen in thirty nine years who found me on Facebook.

Tracie Lee:

I read your post and i was like, OMG kottke.org was my people connector and led to my work life for the past five years. I've been following kottke.org since 2003, maybe? at least. I'm definitely more of a lurker. In 2007 Jason posted about a job at Serious Eats and I applied. I didn't get the job, but through Alaina (the general manager) I was introduced to David Jacobs and John Emerson. Long story short, I started working at their company (Apperceptive) and then Six Apart, and consequently met everyone IRL (Jason, Meg, David, Adriana, Alaina, Anil) and became friends with them. All because I answered a job posting on Jason's site! And to come full circle I've been working on Serious Eats for the past two years as their designer.

The internet is an amazing place for sure.

Amanda Dicken:

My people connection started way back in 1997, when I moved from Ohio to Florida in the middle of my junior year of high school. My parents felt terrible about it, and tried to make me feel better by installing AOL to the brand new computer they had bought to put in my new bedroom (they were REALLY trying to make me feel better). I had just made friends with a girl named Becky, who sat in front of me in our homeroom. She was one of the first people I met and had a lot in common with. One day when I told her I had AOL, she said she also had it, and had made friends with a lot of people online. She got my screenname, and that night, Instant Messaged me and gave my screen name to two guys she frequently talked to, Chad and Tim. She had met them through a couple "topic" chat rooms on AOL. She met Chad through a comic chat room, Tim through another one I can't remember. She told me they were a ton of fun to talk to, and would cheer me up. So I started talking to both Tim (from Seattle) and Chad (from North Carolina), both around my same age. Over the years, I lost contact with Becky, but kept in great contact with Tim and Chad, talking on the phone every so often with both of them throughout all of college (I graduated in 2002).

In late 2003, Chad asked me if I was planning on staying in FL, which I wasn't sure at the time. He was looking to move to Raleigh to look for a career in the technology field he had studied in college, needed to find a place and a roommate, and thought I would be perfect. So, I flew up to NC in January 2004, had a great time, and we started dating soon after. He found us a great place in Raleigh, flew down to FL to get me, drove back up here with me and we've been together ever since. We bought our first house together a couple years ago nearer to his family after we got our careers settled, and couldn't be happier. Tim is still a good friend of mine, although we don't talk as much as we used to. I've also never met him in person, as strange as that is. Chad and I found out a few years ago that Becky had moved to Charlotte, NC! Small world. We travel down to FL to visit my fam about twice a year.

Anyway, that was my fun story I wanted to share! Every time we're watching TV and see a commercial for one of those dating sites, I always say we made dating online cool before it was acceptably cool to do so.

John Edwards:

I used to write regularly for SeriousEats.com which does an annual cookie swap at the holidays. At that event a few years ago, I met Ollie Kottke, Jason's son. He was standing by one of the cookie tables, and I said "Hey guy, how's it going?" He did what most toddlers would do: looked at me with a fearful stare for a moment, then ran to his mother and wrapped his arms around her leg. I was introduced to Meg, Ollie's mom and Jason's wife, and I think I gave her a fist bump, because my hands were covered in chocolate. They told me she helped get Serious Eats off of the ground, and that her husband was a famous internet guy. I continued to munch my cookies.

Through Serious Eats, I met Adam Kuban, the founder of Slice. He would always comment on my posts on Serious Eats, and say constructive, positive things about my work. We traded tweets (and still do) and he often favorites my random musings, something I must say is a tremendous confidence boost. Honestly, receiving the "Adam Kuban favorited your tweet" email is a sheer pleasure. He was one of the most delightful and encouraging people I've ever met on the internet, even though in person he can appear grumpy.

In August of last year, Adam Kuban tweeted something about having Stellar invites. I had seen @yo_stellar mentioned many times on Twitter, but I didn't know what it was. I visited stellar.io, and was intrigued by what I found. I read about it, Jason, and kottke.org.

I told Adam I wanted an invite to Stellar, and he gave me one. I evangelized Stellar to my coworkers at a tech startup. You know, the type of people who like internet things. One of them and I started regularly favoriting things to fill our Stellar feeds. We also became daily readers of kottke.org, and traded links to things we found.

In March/April, I decided to leave my job. I didn't know what I wanted to do next, so I asked myself "what would I do if I didn't have to do anything?" The first thought in my mind was "work as a developer on Stellar. Like an intern."

So I cold-emailed Jason. I tried to be as nice as possible, and I explained why I wanted to work on Stellar. Bear in mind, I had never met him, I had never seen him, I had never spoken with him. He was just this person tangentially in the Serious Eats world that I kept hearing about. Surprisingly, he agreed to meet me, saying he'd been thinking about having a Stellar intern, but wasn't sure what that person would do.

Surprisingly, about a week later, an email popped into my box accepting me as an intern, and showing me the basic steps of how to get a version of Stellar running on my local machine.

Jason is a laid-back guy, and it has been fun to work with him.

Lauren von Gogh:

I found out about kottke.org through Jon Bernad. It is his favorite website. I'm not sure how he first came across it. I met Jon through the internet. He had one post on a really bad blog he had made with a brown and beige background and curly writing. It offered a free Birthright Trip for someone who had never been to L.A. before and who had never met Jon. I emailed him from Johannesburg, where I live, sharing some anecdotes about my life that would hopefully put me in line for the trip. I didn't hear anything back from him, and forgot about it completely.

9 months later I received an email congratulating me, telling me I had been chosen! Birthright Trip transformed to Leap Trip, which started on February 29th. I flew to Washington D.C., where Jon grew up. We met at the airport for the first time, without ever having been in direct contact with each other. We stayed with his dad for a couple of nights and then his mom, before driving the car his dad gave him across the country, back to L.A. where he lives now.

The idea of driving across the USA was so wild, and something I'd never expected to have done in my life. To meet a complete stranger, and then drive across the country together isn't something I could've ever dreamed up. That this complete stranger was not a psychopath, but rather the most enthusiastic, generous and mysterious character I've ever met, was a bonus. It was a life changing experience.

I flew out of L.A. on April 1st after spending two weeks there and the two weeks before passing through D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Knoxville, Boaz (Alabama), New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Marfa, and the White Sands National Park.

I completely fell in love with L.A. and actually went back for the summer. And Jon and I still speak every day

Allen Knutson:

Before the World Wide Web, there was a thing called USENET. You can get a small sense of its sensibilities here.

I was highly active on the newsgroup rec.juggling; indeed in '92 or '93 I was its biggest loudmouth (somebody was keeping track on a yearly basis). When I decided I wanted to go to the 1993 European Juggling Convention, and before that to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I put out a "Can I sleep on your couch?" to thousands of people I didn't know, but who apparently felt knew me. Some said yes, and I got to stay in a house of young jugglers *with net access* (no small thing then!).

Erin Kelley:

I met my best friend Isaac Watson via Livejournal in 2005. We both needed roommates and upon meeting clicked in a way that I've experienced with so few people. I introduced Isaac to Google Reader and to Kottke... or did he introduce me? I don't know but we bonded over sending each other different Kottke posts that we'd each already read in our own feeds. The intersection of our interests--the Liberal Arts 2.0 concept--curated on the site allowed us many hours of discussion and exploration of the interests we share . And after I moved away, Isaac and I used the shared links feature in Google Reader too. The discontinuation of that feature was very unfortunate.

Reid Young:

I made my first webpage in middle school (1997) about a video game called EarthBound. Within a few years it had grown into a small online community, so I convinced my parents to let me hold a 'convention'. Four friends from the site traveled to my family's farm in Indiana to hang out for a weekend, and virtually every aspect of my life has been subsequently shaped by that website/community.

The conventions grew quickly, and within a few years became a yearly weeklong group vacation. In 2004 I married an awesome girl who attended that first convention (our first child is due in January). In 2008 I teamed up with a bunch of other friends from the community to start a business making merchandise inspired by old video games (like/including EarthBound). I now work with nearly a dozen friends and family, virtually all of whom are EarthBound fans I met through that website.

Hamza El-Falah:

I too don't remember how I was connected with Kottke, but most likely it was a result of some cross-linkage between his site and Daring Fireball, my two most frequented sites.

Kottke turned me on to clusterflock via their first iPhone Giveaway. I thought it was a really cool idea: everyone pitch in a few bucks, and if they made enough money to pay for an iPhone, one of the contributors would get it. I was a student at the time the first iPhone was being released and couldn't afford a $500 phone, so I figured either I'd get an iPhone for next to nothing, or at least help someone else get one. Win-win.

Lo-and-behold, I was chosen as one of the winners! I was so excited. I actually received $500 in my PayPal account. Crazy. I was already a fan of Apple, but this cemented my love and I've purchased every damn iPhone every year since. :)

Merinda Brayfield:

Around about 2005 I learned of this thing called National Novel Writing Month. Through that I found the chat room and it became a second home, at least for a while. Among the people I met in this chat room, a few of us met up sometime later when a bunch of us happened to be in Hawaii at the same time. And, even more important I met the gal who is now my roommate, who moved halfway across the country in the hopes of finding a job and did within three weeks after a year of searching. She's now lived with hubby and I for a year, and we don't mind her staying.

Colter McCorkindale:

It all started with an album cover, really: "Electric Pocket Radio" by The Incredible Moses Leroy. I was killing time at Barnes & Noble so I took a listen. I loved it so much that I bought it and a few days later decided to start a page for them on Orkut (remember Orkut?). The only other person who joined was a girl in Indiana named Jamie. We became very close friends despite the fact that I lived in Arkansas. We sent each other CDs and zips of mp3s and my favorite disc of the bunch was for a band called Spiraling. By then she and I had moved over to MySpace, and we connected with Spiraling. I pestered a local club owner to give them a gig, and eventually they came through town and played some shows. I took them to a house party and we became friends; they'd stay over at my house. Eventually I got them hooked up with a gig opening for Switchfoot at the annual Arkansas Riverfest.

In 2006, I went to New York City for a short vacation, and caught up with the Spiraling guys (they're from NJ and Brooklyn). I went to a Halloween party at the bass player's apartment. Somebody said they thought I was from NYC, and that got me thinking that I could be. I figured I could give it a try, since I have friends in the area and by that time Facebook was on the ascendant, so I could stay in touch with everybody in Arkansas. And my music collection was so digital by then I could take my massive music collection with me. So I moved to NYC in 2008. I thought maybe I would be a temp for a year and hate it and go home, but that was 5 years ago. I have a great job in web project management at a major credit card company, one that allows me to work remotely from Arkansas whenever I want so I've been going back and forth.

From an album cover to a girl to a band to a city and back again. Thanks, Internet.

Samantha Port:

For about six years now, I've been a big fan of the musician Amanda Palmer. About a year into my obsession with her, I realized she was using Twitter a lot, so I opened an account to follow her. One Friday night, she made a joke about her and her fans all being active and chatting with each other being the Losers Of Friday Night On Their Computers. This VERY quickly turned into the hashtag #LOFNOTC, a T-shirt design was drawn up using Sharpie and they started presales that night, and it formed a large group of her fans under the #LOFNOTC tag who continued to get together every Friday night whether or not she was involved, not just chatting over Twitter but even opening up video chat rooms on Tinychat. I became a part of this group, which, over time, lost numbers, but grew even more tightly knit because of it.

The people I met through #LOFNOTC introduced me to other interests and, in turn, other people. Through my friend Katy, I found a fantastic Sherlock Holmes roleplay all done on Twitter (@SHolmesEsq and @MyDearestWatson, if anyone is curious), and through them, I met other people. There are dozens of people I am proud to call friends who I never would have met if it were not for Amanda Palmer and her accidental creation. The last time I got to speak to her in person (she tries to do meet-and-greets after every single show), I thanked her for creating #LOFNOTC and bringing all these wonderful people into my life. Sadly I've lost most contact with a lot of them over the past couple of years, but I still am rather close with quite a few of them and of course to the people I've met through them. It's hard to stay close with an entire group of 30+ people for so long. All of them, and her as well, have changed me for the better. I simply wouldn't be who I am today without those experiences.

Eno Sarris:

I'm a former educational publishing editor who used to spend way too much of his time on google reader reading about baseball. I ended up befriending a particularly awesome little corner of the formerly superlative google reader social circle, one that was often referred to as the Google Mafia or the Sharebros more self-deprecatingly. Mostly headed by Jonah Keri (now of Grantland.com on ESPN), the group shared the most interesting writing, inspiring me to work harder on my then-hobby of baseball writing. I also grew closer to many of the people in that group, often when using the formerly sweet social functions of google reader sharing -- I argued and shot the shit over kottke posts when I should have been creating three-word sentences with rhyming words. Since those days, I've left my comfortable job and struck out into freelance sports writing, and with the help of many of those sharebros, I've managed to cobble together a (more personally rewarding, if not quite financially lucrative) living. I hope I'm living up to those standards that would have gotten me a share among the mafia back in those days. Without sites like twitter, breaking into the scene wouldn't have been possible, and back in the pre-twitter days, many of the obstacles to becoming a sports writer would have (once again) sent me in the wrong direction. Lowered boundaries to access, easier networking, and more rewarding content -- that's how the internets (and kottke and twitter and the old google reader specifically) have helped connect me to a better job.

Joseph Kelly:

I'm sure your response bag must contain stories from Craigslist. [ED: Surprisingly no! Cause I've also made some great friends through CL.] I've found no greater tool in the United States for solving your needs that also threads you to some other side of the Universe to connect with random new people.

Several years ago I decided to start building websites for other people. I would hunt the Gigs section for projects and first met Abe. Abe wanted to build a website, Abe's Apartments, to provide an easy online listing service for apartment seekers in Austin. I couldn't build him what what he wanted and told him as much. Years later my business partner would help him out. Abe and I connected over shared experiences and outlook on travel and have become great friends.

Another time I wasn't qualified to build the website for a Craigslist ad, I interviewed to design the web content management system for the Center for Non Linear Dynamics in the Physics school at UT Austin. Two of the grad students who interviewed me would go on to cofound our company, Infochimps, where the 3 of us have been partners for nearly 4 years. They are some of my best friends and we consider it a great irony that after I interviewed to build them a website they spent the next 3 years building our original site at infochimps.com.

At some point one of my cofounders would build for Abe the prototype of Abe's Apartments. In the end we got all our needs met and are connected, thanks to Craigslist.

Michael Botsko:

In 2011 I started a Minecraft server so that my son and a few coworkers could play with me and eventually I decided to open it to the public, just to see what happened. I expected to find a few parent/kid groups at most.

Although I've recently decided to stop the server for many reasons, this little server grew into a behemoth with between 350-500 players every single day, over 18,000 in about 18 months. It's just blown my mind how many countries, timezones, and cultures were represented on the server and even though it's all digital and still mainly anonymous, many of our players made some really good friends.

The sheer volume of responses with people saying how great a job I had done, how this server had such a large impact on their lives, was fairly overwhelming.

Ben Capozzi:

Last year at this time, I was in education teaching art + design. There was a great piece I thought students would respond to 'An Open Letter to Graphic Design Students: Don't Follow the Web, Follow Your Heart' by one Timothy O Goodman. The piece was great, and lead me to another piece by him, New York vs California.

I decided to reach out to Tim on Twitter and via his site's email address to see if he would share a meal with us in the city the following March when I would be bringing a small group of students with me to NYC for our 3rd annual 'Design Junket' where we introduce students to creative professionals across several disciplines.

Tim's not only talented, he's super friendly and said 'yes' to my request. We took him to lunch to dine finely on the rooftop of Eataly, where he patiently and enthusiastically sat among 10 students from high school and community college for about an hour and a half.

The internet (and generous community support) made that possible. That trip always changes students' perspectives and shows them how big and wonderful the planet is. You can live in rural Virginia and arrange a lunch in NYC with a world class professional. That's pretty cool.

Alicia Yang:

As a junior in high school, social media has really been an interesting "people connector." Because I moved from the East to the West coast after freshman year, I like having friends from both areas in one place on facebook. All of my AP classes have facebook groups, which makes it easy to collaborate and ask questions (without risk of cheating, since nobody is going to use a public forum to cheat). Because I go to a huge high school now, sometimes I meet people once at a party or something and really connect with them, but I rarely get to see them around school. For these kind of acquaintances, facebook is enough to connect with each other. However, social media isn't that great for actually forging close relationships or having real conversations. Specifically for twitter, which I think is a great medium for sharing ideas and thoughts, I feel like it's not really a people connector since tweeting is more talking at people than to people.

I found kottke.org on a list of blogs to follow in Time magazine. It hasn't really helped me connect with people (haha, I don't really talk to people about, say, kottke and Time because typical high school students aren't really into this kind of thing) but it introduced me to David Foster Wallace and Infinite Jest, which is definitely one of my favorite books now. :]

Bill Connell:

There's a saying that Facebook is for finding old friends, and Twitter is for finding new ones, and it has definitely worked that way for me. Last night is the perfect example of this: i went to a friends house for dinner and drinks, and the 4 other people there were all folks the host knew initially through Twitter. I got to meet a local journalist, an elementary teacher at a controversial charter school, and an entrepreneur starting up a new brand of Akvavit, all fun and interesting folks. I initially met the host when a mutual Twitter friend had invited us both to a meetup several months ago to celebrate a new work venture he was starting. This year i have been on bike rides and happy hours and fish frys and housewarming parties for people i never would have met without Twitter because our circles in real live wouldn't otherwise overlap.

Brian McNely:

Just saw your post on Kottke (via Reader). A colleague and I actually wrote an article about lightweight blogging + Reader + Twitter as a people connector for extending undergraduate classrooms back in 2010.

It was cowritten by me (in Indiana at the time), a colleague (in New Jersey at the time), two undergraduate students at my institution (one was an enrolled student, one wasn't), and a community member and contributor to the class (located in Kansas City, and unaffiliated with any of us in any way, save for connections through Reader and Twitter, and a shared interested in the things we mutually shared).

I don't spend a lot of time lamenting the loss of Reader's social features (companies create these things, we use them for free, and sometimes they go in a different direction--meh), but I do have to say that it was probably my favorite SNS ever (and I've been adopting and studying how people use SNSs since 2007).

My mom, Susan Pavis, emailed me a story that had slipped my mind & goes a ways to explaining why I'm so interested in this stuff:

This story shows that nothing is ever gone from the internet. My daughter (the now famous Sarah Pavis [ED: ugh! mom...]) was doing a project on earthquakes when she was in the 4th or 5th grade. One of the components of the project was to survey people on the topic. Living on the east coast we had never been in nor knew anyone who had experienced an earthquake. The Kobe Japan earthquake in 1995 had just occurred. We used a couple of different earthquake newsgroups (yes, there was more than one newsgroup devoted to earthquakes) to post a survey with some basic questions. This was cutting edge back then and she even got props from her teachers that she had used a 'new medium' to gather her information. We had a wonderful response from people from all over the world. I was very impressed that so many people responded to the survey - we even received a couple of responses from people in Kobe. My email was used to have people send back their completed survey. I can remember after about 10 years still getting email responses to the survey!!!

And in a surprising twist, requesting people connections reconnected me with someone I haven't seen in years: my childhood neighbor, Liam Aiello.

I've been reading kottke for some years now, so perhaps you can imagine my surprise when your name appeared in my feed. Sarah Pavis, guest editor? Didn't she grow up in Middletown CT? If so, what a fine coincidence.

My name is Liam, and I grew up on the same street. There were a handful of us, as I recall: all approximately the same age, terrible delinquents and ne'er-do-wells, riding our bikes from driveway to driveway. It's good to learn that a kid from the crime-ridden favelas of Wesleyan Hills overcame so much - and rose to such Internet heights! Well played, Sarah.

Truly, we who grew up on Connecticut cul-de-sacs should be celebrated for our rags to riches stories.

Thanks again to everyone who emailed!

XOXO,
Sarah Pavis

P.S. Sorry for murdering the kottke.org homepage with this crazy long post.

300 singing turkeysSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 21

Over at The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer reflects on the cultural role turkeys play in our Thanksgiving celebrations, specifically the presidential turkey pardon, by way of a 1970's artistic experiment.

There's even a better -- a more festive, convivial -- way to humanize them while still celebrating Thanksgiving with them.

That way, of course, is singing with them. Singing with turkeys.

In November 1973, the Berkeley, California-based public radio station KPFA sent a young avant garde musician to a local turkey farm. Jim Nollman was just out of college, and, acccording to the Smithsonian, he had heard "that wild male turkeys can gobble on cue -- especially in response to loud or high-pitched sounds." Nollman's goal was to harness this to artistic, or at least aural, ends.

And he did.

Check out the full article on The Atlantic for the explanation of Jim Nollman's Doctor Dolittle-ing of the turkeys.

The trick to the process is riding the shared musical energy without aggravating the turkeys.

Mini cheeseburger kit takes the "fast" and "food" out of fast foodSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 21

While I'm not sure I'd call it food, what this kit produces is apparently edible. According to the YouTube notes:

No artificial colours. No preservatives. 96 calories.

...Yum

(thx @chrisoverzero)

Giant balloon will protect us from floods, terrorismSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 21

While NYC's subways flooded during Sandy, officials saw the storm coming and were able to shut down, pump, and reopen the system in an orderly fashion. But are there any structures in place for if we don't have days or hours of notice that subways might flood?

The idea is a simple one: rather than retrofitting tunnels with metal floodgates or other expensive structures, the project aims to use a relatively cheap inflatable plug to hold back floodwaters. [...]

Work on the plug began in 2007, after Ever J. Barbero, a West Virginia professor whose specialty is the use of advanced materials in engineering, was contacted by a Homeland Security official looking for outside-the-box ideas on ways to keep a subway system from flooding if an underwater tunnel were breached -- by a terrorist bomb, for example.

(via @burritojustice)

Final call for reader submissionsSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 21

I'd like to do a round-up of fellow Kottke readers sharing your stories of how the internet (and maybe kottke.org, specifically) has been a people connector for you.

Email me at s.e.pavis@gmail.com by this evening if you'd like to share your story. Or email me if you just want to whinge about Google Reader, I'm always up for that.

I've gotten a bunch of great stories the past two days. Thank you so much to everyone who's responded so far! I look forward to replying to all your emails tonight as I compile the post for tomorrow.

What would realistic space battles look like?SARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 21

This impressive 7,000 word essay written by user Memphet'ran on the appropriately named Spacebattles.com forum attempts to answer that question.

There are only a handful of engines that allow a combination of high thrust and low mass ratio. The most promising are Orion nuclear pulse propulsion and the nuclear salt water rocket. Some nuclear thermal designs also have thrust high enough to possibly be useful, although only for a small ship. The user "RJP" on Spacebattles also suggested something called a fission fragment drive which works by throwing high-velocity fuel fragments out the back of the ship, but other sites I've researched suggest it would be a low-thrust high-ISP [in-space propulsion] system more suitable to an explorer than a warship. Orion works by the (seemingly insane, but actually quite effective) method of throwing nuclear bombs behind the spacecraft and having it ride the blasts. The hot gasses from the detonations hit a heavy pusher plate at the back of the ship and drive it forward. NSWR [nuclear salt water rocket] is similar, but it instead uses a solution of fissionables in salt water that spontaneously explodes as it leaves the rocket nozzle. Both systems cleverly shift the propulsive reaction outside the spacecraft, eliminating the need to deal with most of the heat it produces and allowing it to be made much more energetic.

And previously on kottke.org:

For the same reason that we have Space Shuttle launch delays, we'll be able to tell exactly what trajectories our enemies could take between planets: the launch window. At any given point in time, there are only so many routes from here to Mars that will leave our imperialist forces enough fuel and energy to put down the colonists' revolt.

If you've got a hankering to go hands on, the video games EVE and FTL approach realistic space battles in their own ways.

(via @BenKuckera)

72 year old man models teen-girl clothesSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 21

The shocking thing about this 72 year old grandfather modeling teen-girl clothes: he rocks it.

72-year-old-model.jpg

Liu Xianping, has been posing for his granddaughter's female fashion store on Tmall and has become an Internet sensation. Though most of the clothes Liu has been modeling for are more of the tiny, sweet and cute teen girl style with rosy shades, laces and ribbons, the 72-year-old totally pulled things off. His signature piece so far seems to be color tights and thigh stockings. Liu's confidence in front of the camera and his long pair of skinny legs are the envy of many girls. Netizen Satsuki sighed: "He has such a good figure, especially those legs!"

I simultaneously love that he's doing this with his granddaughter and hate that women, myself included, are coveting the spindly legs of a 72 year old man. (via @mulegirl)

Updates on previous entries for Nov 20, 2012*NOV 21

The International Journal of Indexing orig. from Nov 20, 2012

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

The Man Who Charged Himself With MurderNOV 20

"The man stepped toward him, caught [Trevell] Coleman's eye, and grabbed for the gun. Startled, Coleman squeezed off three shots. The man winced, but didn't make a sound." That was seventeen years ago. Trevell Coleman never knew what happened to the person he shot, but he wanted to find out. From NY Mag: The Man Who Charged Himself with Murder.

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Brecht VandenbrouckeSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 20

life-doc.jpg

I first stumbled across Brecht's paintings months ago on Stellar. I still love them and think about them frequently. They'll probably stay lodged in my brain til I scrape together enough cash to buy one. I wish he offered prints.

More of his work can be viewed on Flickr and purchased through the Ship of Fools gallery.

And if you're a Stellar user who wants to see more art, I recommend following John Martz.

What does 20th century Mondrian art have in common with 21st century video game music?SARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 20

Whether video games are art is a discussion that's been raging online for years. Adding to the discussion today, Richard Rosenbaum at Overthinking It connects chiptunes (sometimes called 8-bit music or just, generically, video game music) to Mondrian art, Roy Lichtenstein, and Scott Pilgrim.

overthinking-size.jpg

Both Mondrian and chiptune composers used geometric shapes and "digitalness" to evoke a new kind of reaction to art; when previously much of art was representational, both chiptunes and De Stijl subverted attempt to appear "organic" and chose instead to represent a more idealized version of reality ("ideal" in the Platonic sense). In both cases, the end result is a synthetic-seeming artifact that nevertheless is a more authentic expression of what underlies reality on a level we don't normally appreciate - for Mondrian, this was the spiritual perfection of straight lines and primary colours; for chiptunes, it was the squares and triangles that combine in nature into the round sounds we hear every day.

A postscript: If you've listened to chiptunes and feel they aren't for you, don't swear off video game music entirely. Like art, it's wide ranging. Jim Guthrie's work is about as far as you can get from 8 bit music & his album for the game Sword & Sworcery is a personal favorite of mine.

And if you do like video game music and are looking for more, there's a sale on at gamemusicbundle.com now.

The international meteorite marketSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 20

Reading this Naked Scientists article about the black market for meteorites I can picture it as the basis for Indiana Jones 5. All that's missing is someone shouting "it belongs in a museum" and then punching a Nazi.

"Meteorite science is where biology was 200 years ago with people saying, 'Oh, here's a strange, long-necked beast, I wonder if it's related to the turtle.'" Yet scientists don't necessarily get first dibs on meteorites that plummet to earth. "There is a market out there that treats these [meteorites] as collectibles and curios, almost as though they were fine art or ancient artifacts," Dr. Harvey explains. [...]


Making sure that meteorites are acquired legally has proven particularly difficult in North Africa, where it's often difficult to determine the provenance of specimens for sale. "The skill level that some collectors have to get stones out of Africa rivals that of drug dealers," says Dr. Harvey. "It's clear that meteorites are so valuable to these collectors that they're more than happy to get them and worry about the cost in terms of legality later on."

Newly discovered Hitchcock film is available to watch nowSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 20

A film print titled "(Twin Sisters) with Betty Compson" sat in canisters the New Zealand Film Archive until the National Film Preservation Foundation's Leslie Anne Lewis examined the print and caught sight of some intriguing frames.

the-white-shadow-1924.jpg

The White Shadow (1924) is Alfred Hitchcock's earliest known surviving film, with 2 caveats: only 3 reels of the total 6 have been discovered & Hitchcock wrote the script and edited the film but did not direct it.

So how Hitchcock is it?

Yes, there is a staircase. No there isn't a blonde. No, Hitchcock doesn't make a cameo appearance (a practice that commenced three years later, in the third feature he directed, "The Lodger"). What's most Hitchcock about it is what drives the movie: doubling, impersonation, and mistaken identity.

Hopefully The White Shadow will have a similar fate to Metropolis; now that people know there are missing reels out there, they'll be on the lookout for them.

The White Shadow is available to stream on the National Film Preservation Foundation website through January 15th, 2013.

(via Open Culture)

The International Journal of IndexingSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 20

"The index of a book. Sometimes it's, uh, not great, you know? But like, eh."

That about sums up my thoughts, and I'm guessing most people's thoughts, about the indexes of books.

But not everyone. No, for the Society of Indexers, book indexes are a topic that holds endless fascination. And I do mean endless.

The Prime Minister of the UK wrote to the Society of Indexers at the society's founding back in freaking 1958.

I can scarcely conceal from you the fact that I am at present somewhat occupied with other matters, so that I cannot say all that comes into my mind and memory on the subject of indexing.

Nice dodge, Mr. Prime Minister.

One of the longest running features of the society's publication, The Indexer, is its reviews of indexes which are snippets culled from book reviews that pertain to the book's index.

Finally, the four-page single-level index is a joke. In a book entitled Satan, what possible use is the entry 'Satan' with 84 undifferentiated page numbers, or 'Devil' with 102, or 'demon' with 79, out of a total of 190 text pages? You'd think a scholar would know the importance of a good index.

The reviews of indexes are only a small part of the publication. They also regularly publish articles that meditate on what it means to be an index, defend indexing, and a look at the history of indexing societies.

I really hope the Society of Indexers is actually a front for some creepy Eyes Wide Shut sex cult because the possibility that people have been earnestly compiling and discussing indexes for 54 years is too depressing to contemplate.

The complete December 2012 issue of The Indexer isn't available online, but you can buy it for only $17.89. For 52 pages of reviews and discussions of indexes? A bargain.

If everyone buys it and leaves reviews about the index of the book of reviews of indexes, I can review your index reviews and combine them into a review of reviews of reviews of indexes in index form that-- HELP PLZ SEND ORIGINAL CONTENT ASAP I'M DYING OF RECURSIVE CURATION ASPHYXIATION.

(via @ftrain)

UPDATE: The Society of Indexers are not a creepy sex cult and are in fact a serious society as is proved by them having a twitter account.

Jason told me to stay away from politics but he never mentioned the partisan kerfuffle I'd encounter by taking a cheeky view of indexes.

For all the fans of indexes, here's a short story in index form written by J. G. Ballard which was originally published in The Paris Review. (thx mylesnyc)

I'll go back to engineering with my indices and leave the indexers their indexes.

XOXO,
Sarah

Inner-City Wizard SchoolSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 19

The comedy duo Key & Peele in a sketch that's Hogwarts meets The Wire.

Other great sketches of theirs: dubstep, civil war reenactors, "I'm retired", and dungeons & dragons.

Key & Peele also have a fun, meta YouTube series where they critique their own show, in character. If you're wondering more about the duo, there's a good interview with them on Marc Maron's WTF podcast. (last two links both a bit NSFW)

A radio show run by psychiatric patientsSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 19

You'd think a radio show broadcasting from inside a psychiatric hospital would be either illegal, demeaning, extorting, or just plain weird, but Buenos Aires' Radio Colifata ("The Crazy Lady") is, by all accounts, endearing.

"Green cows run wild," he says, "milk and milk and milk spilling. Green organs spill. Intestines spill." An interned leans over and whispers to me, "That's Dr. Vazquez. He is the only one allowed to interrupt the program. He worked as a surgeon here. His wife, a nurse, lives here too." Doctor Vasquez leaves and his wife, who wears her nurse's uniform, runs after him. Maria returns to her poem.

(via @robertashley)

Paul, the artistic robotSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 19

A painter who lost his passion for art after going into treatment for a mental health issue, Patrick Tresset, sought to recapture his creativity by creating a robot who could draw in his style.

tresset.png

"When we draw, the difficulty is not in making the lines. The difficulty is in the perception of the subject and the perception of the drawing in progress." But sometimes, it may help to make it seem that the robot has difficulty in making the lines--Tresset has found that people feel more empathy for the machines when they make human-esque mistakes like crooked or tilted lines. (He calls this "clumsy robotics.") Humans are inclined to want to identify with robots, especially those with faces: Give a person a bot, and he or she will probably name it. But why is that connection important in robots that draw? Tresset believes that if the person being sketched feels something for the machine wielding the pen, he or she will find the 30-minute sketching process "more touching." Plus, if the sitter assigns a personality to the robot, it might alter the human's emotional response to the final product.

It's an interesting feedback loop the robot creates: mechanically induced faults and artificial humanity create empathy in the subject which translates to that genuine emotion being captured by the robot in the sketch.

Thanksgiving FAQSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 19

J. Kenji López-Alt does a long Thanksgiving Q&A on Serious Eats answering all those questions you'll be babbling in your kitchen around 2 pm this Thursday.

He addresses classic conundrums:

If turkey is roasted well in advance of guests arriving, or there is a delay, what's the best way to re-heat? To what temperature?

If tented with foil and left in a warm place, a turkey should stay warm for at least a couple hours--at least internally. The real danger is the skin getting soggy and the surfaces getting cold. The best way to fix this? Just pop it in a 550°F oven for 7 to 15 minutes until the skin is crisp and piping hot again. The rest should take care of itself.

As well as more contemporary considerations:

I have a vegan cousin coming to visit this year. Could you suggest any vegan dishes that I could serve that the rest of the family would be able to enjoy as well?

I really love my Vegan Chili made with real dried chilies and chickpeas, and I'd serve a vegan marinated kale salad with sumac onions to anyone, regardless of the carnivorosity.

For a more "holiday"-like approach, how about a stuffed delicata squash? You can totally leave off the parmesan from the breadcrumbs and still make out with a fantastic main course.

Check out all of Kenji's answers to 50 different Thanksgiving questions over on Serious Eats.

Also on Serious Eats: the ultimate turducken. I made a turducken for Thanksgiving 3 years ago and, considering how much I manhandled it, it came out more delicious than it had any right to be. Duck fat covers a multitude of sins.

I, for one, welcome our toddler operated robot arachnid overlordsSARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 19

For me the best part of this video starts at 2:00 when the toddler wants to put his (her? I'm not great a telling the genders of Norwegian toddlers) toy car on top of the sexy robot/terrifyingly fast insect death machine, then you see at 2:28 the toddler immitating the robot and picking up their remote control for their toy car. Like father, like child.

Through a browser, darklySARAH PAVIS  ·  NOV 19

I don't remember how I found kottke.org. (This is Sarah Pavis, btw. Hi!)

I know I must have found it at least 4 years ago because it introduced me to almost everyone cool I've met on the internet in those years since. Everyone like Jason, Aaron, Deron, and Tim. (Theoretically I should be able to at least ballpark it based on what the kottke.org site design was at the time, but I'm a dirty RSS freeloader.) All I know is kottke.org was my portal to all the coolest stuff and, more importantly, the coolest people on the internet.

After all, the internet is a people connector. At least that's what Dan Harmon, creator of Community and XOXO speaker, called it.

While I wish I could remember specifically how I found kottke.org, I do vividly remember being newly graduated from college, having moved halfway across the country to a city where I knew no one, sat in an office at a new job, and being unable to get on Gmail. Unable to talk with my friends. (This was 2006, pre-smartphones.) Feeling bereft, I stumbled upon Google Reader and after a short learning curve ("What the hell is RSS?") I soon had an easy way to at least find interesting stuff to occupy me on slow days. Google Reader's best feature, though, was the shared linkblogs which allowed you to exchange interesting articles with friends directly in Google Reader. For me these were like little messages in a bottle that I would toss back to the east coast, messages that were mostly cat pics and political rants.

Unfortunately, Google lobotomized Reader last year with the advent of Google Plus, shattering those fragile social networks. Google valued the connector more than the people it was connecting. (Any other Google Reader castaways out there? I'm trying NewsBlur now.)

Long story short: kottke.org led me to clusterflock.org when one day a clusterflock post showed up in my RSS feed that called my name. Literally. Turns out that Google Reader linkblog I was using as a lifeline to my friends back home was being read by other people including cflock's Andrew Simone. After following Andrew and Tim on Twitter for awhile, I joined clusterflock as a contributor along with Garrett Miller. A few months ago, unbeknownst to each other, Garrett and I both bought tickets to XOXO, and when my housing accommodations fell through Garrett offered to let me crash with him, even though we'd never met. Thankfully, neither of us turned out to be axe-murdering rapists. And as a bonus to not dying, I got to meet a bunch of awesome people, including Jason. Hooray for the internet!

Do you have any cool stories about how the internet has been a people connector for you? Extra credit if you include how you found kottke.org and/or how kottke.org connected you with other people.

Email me at s.e.pavis@gmail.com by Wednesday night, and I'll do a roundup post on Thursday of your stories.

Guest editor: Sarah PavisNOV 18

I am in [PARtially undIscloSed location] for vacation this week so I've asked Sarah Pavis to fill in. Her Tumblr says she's "a mechanical engineer & writer living in Chicago" and when I met her briefly at XOXO in September she didn't seem like a dishonest person so I believe that she actually is those things. Sarah has also done some writing for Buzzfeed and some tweeting for herself. She's also active on Stellar, which is where I noticed that she had a good eye for whatever the hell it is I do here, an eye that spotted this video, which goes from sexy robot to terrifyingly fast insect death machine in about 45 seconds.

Anyway, welcome Sarah!

The antimonopolist origins of Monopoly differ from Hasbro's official storyNOV 16

According to Hasbro, Monopoly was invented by Charles Darrow in 1933 and sold to Parker Brothers soon after. But that's not quite the whole story.

The game's true origins, however, go unmentioned in the official literature. Three decades before Darrow's patent, in 1903, a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created a proto-Monopoly as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to "own" land. In his book Progress and Poverty (1879), George called private land ownership an "erroneous and destructive principle" and argued that land should be held in common, with members of society acting collectively as "the general landlord."

Magie called her invention The Landlord's Game, and when it was released in 1906 it looked remarkably similar to what we know today as Monopoly.

But it was Monopoly with a significant twist:

The game's most expensive properties to buy, and those most remunerative to own, were New York City's Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Wall Street. In place of Monopoly's "Go!" was a box marked "Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages." The Landlord Game's chief entertainment was the same as in Monopoly: competitors were to be saddled with debt and ultimately reduced to financial ruin, and only one person, the supermonopolist, would stand tall in the end. The players could, however, vote to do something not officially allowed in Monopoly: cooperate. Under this alternative rule set, they would pay land rent not to a property's title holder but into a common pot-the rent effectively socialized so that, as Magie later wrote, "Prosperity is achieved."

With a lengthy section on the philosophy underpinning the original version of the game, this is more interesting than an article about a board game has the right to be.

Britain has invaded all but 22 countriesNOV 16

Of the current 200 nations in the world, the British have invaded all but 22 of them. The lucky 22 include Sweden, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Bolivia, and Belarus. The full analysis is available in Laycock's book, All the Countries We've Ever Invaded.

Stuart Laycock, the author, has worked his way around the globe, through each country alphabetically, researching its history to establish whether, at any point, they have experienced an incursion by Britain.

Only a comparatively small proportion of the total in Mr Laycock's list of invaded states actually formed an official part of the empire.

The remainder have been included because the British were found to have achieved some sort of military presence in the territory -- however transitory -- either through force, the threat of force, negotiation or payment.

Incursions by British pirates, privateers or armed explorers have also been included, provided they were operating with the approval of their government.

The US currently has military personnel stationed in all but 43 countries.

For instance, as of Sept. 30, 2011, there were 53,766 military personnel in Germany, 39,222 in Japan, 10,801 in Italy and 9,382 in the United Kingdom. That makes sense. But wait, scanning the list, you also see nine troops in Mali, eight in Barbados, seven in Laos, six in Lithuania, five in Lebanon, four in Moldova, three in Mongolia, two in Suriname and one in Gabon.

But the presence in most of those countries is due to diplomatic usage of military personnel. (thx, aaron)

Arresting collection of Vietnam War photographyNOV 16

A little late for Veteran's Day, but this is a great collection of photography from Vietnam. These two stick out for me (both photos by Horst Faas):

Vietnam War 01

Vietnam War 02

Some images NSFW and may be disturbing, etc. (via @Colossal)

County-by-county voting maps for the past 112 yearsNOV 16

The Blaze has a collection of county-by-county election maps for every US Presidential election since 1900.

1932 Election Map

The video at the bottom is worth watching to witness the shift between a north/south divided country to a urban/rural divided country over the past 20 years.

PainlessAARON COHEN  ·  NOV 16

Ashlyn Blocker does not feel pain, a condition called 'Congenital insensitivity to pain.' Although she can feel pressure, and warm or cool, she can't feel extreme heat or cold. In this profile in the NY Times Magazine, though, she seems like a relatively well-adjusted 13 year-old girl, which is a credit to her and her parents. Pretty fascinating story.

Tara and John weren't completely comfortable leaving Ashlyn alone in the kitchen, but it was something they felt they had to do, a concession to her growing independence. They made a point of telling stories about how responsible she is, but every one came with a companion anecdote that was painful to hear. There was the time she burned the flesh off the palms of her hands when she was 2. John was using a pressure-washer in the driveway and left its motor running; in the moments that they took their eyes off her, Ashlyn walked over and put her hands on the muffler. When she lifted them up the skin was seared away. There was the one about the fire ants that swarmed her in the backyard, biting her over a hundred times while she looked at them and yelled: "Bugs! Bugs!" There was the time she broke her ankle and ran around on it for two days before her parents realized something was wrong. They told these stories as casually as they talked about Tristen's softball games or their son Dereck's golf skills, but it was clear they were still struggling after all these years with how to keep Ashlyn safe.

[...]

"It is an extraordinary disorder," Woods said. "Boys die at a younger age because of more risky behavior. It's quite interesting, because it makes you realize pain is there for a number of reasons, and one of them is to use your body correctly without damaging it and modulating what you do."

Your passwords can no longer protect youNOV 16

"You have a secret that can ruin your life." That's according to Mat Honan, and he should know. Several months ago he saw much of his online life hacked and deleted in an instant. In this Wired cover story (that includes some valuable tips for protecting yourself online), Honan breaks the news that "no matter how complex, no matter how unique, your passwords can no longer protect you."

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Homemade soccer ballsNOV 15

Photographer Jessica Hilltout has documented the game of soccer/football/futbol around the world, from the secondhand footwear to the improvised goals to the makeshift balls:

Jessica Hilltout

My American LemonadeNOV 15

In October 2011, after 20 years of living legally in the United States, Atanas Entchev and his 21-year-old son were detained by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, given orange jumpsuits to wear, and held for 65 days. Entchev is writing a book about his experience called My American Lemonade.

Day after day from my bunk, I listened to the immigration stories of my roommates. We all had one. Mine involved over 20 years of countless dollars spent on lawyers who would help me navigate the paperwork and court dates necessary for immigration, based on my request for political asylum. Meanwhile I strived to be tops in my field, starting with a presidential certificate from George H. W. Bush and receiving an Outstanding Professor designation from INS, ICE's predecessor agency. I started my own company, paid taxes, and raised two children here. But that obviously wasn't enough. I had failed at giving me and my family what we wanted most: U.S. citizenship. I dug deep, used what my family had taught me about resolve and hope, and thought a lot about my past to remind myself why I'd left Bulgaria. Why I'd bothered. The irony was especially palpable to me lying in that bunk, recalling the moment I knew for sure I must leave.

Entchev is one of kottke.org's most thoughtful readers...he's been sending email, links, and typo corrections regularly for more than four years now. From what I understand, he's completed a book proposal consisting of the first three chapters and is looking for an agent. If you can help him out in that regard, drop him a line.

Hairy peopleNOV 15

Sicilian artist Valerio Carrubba takes portraits and modifies them with MOAR HAIR!

Valerio Carrubba

(thx, david)

Time for some new economic rules?NOV 15

From before the election, which seems like it was several months ago already, a piece from Clayton Christensen about how investors and companies should shift their thinking about allocating capital. Christensen's gist is that efficiency is creating pools of excess capital which is not being reinvested into the types of industry that create jobs.

The Fed has been injecting more and more capital into the economy because -- at least in theory -- capital fuels capitalism. And yet cash hoards in the billions are sitting unused on the pristine balance sheets of Fortune 500 corporations. Billions in capital is also sitting inert and uninvested at private equity funds.

Capitalists seem almost uninterested in capitalism, even as entrepreneurs eager to start companies find that they can't get financing. Businesses and investors sound like the Ancient Mariner, who complained of "Water, water everywhere -- nor any drop to drink."

It's a paradox, and at its nexus is what I'll call the Doctrine of New Finance, which is taught with increasingly religious zeal by economists, and at times even by business professors like me who have failed to challenge it. This doctrine embraces measures of profitability that guide capitalists away from investments that can create real economic growth.

Read all the way to end; Christensen offers some suggestions for shifting capital allocation.

These birds teach their baby chicks a secret family passwordNOV 15

Fairy wrens have a cuckoo problem. Specifically, cuckoos lay their eggs in the nest of the fairy wrens and, if undetected, they would end up raising the baby cuckoos to the potential detriment of their own children. But what the fairy wren mother does is after laying her eggs, she sings a unique song to the eggs until they hatch. Having learned the song while in-egg, the hatched baby wrens sing back part of the song to get fed.

She kept 15 nests under constant audio surveillance, and discovered that fairy-wrens call to their unhatched chicks, using a two-second trill with 19 separate elements to it. They call once every four minutes while sitting on their eggs, starting on the 9th day of incubation and carrying on for a week until the eggs hatch.

When Colombelli-Negrel recorded the chicks after they hatched, she heard that their begging call included a single unique note lifted from mum's incubation call. This note varies a lot between different fairy-wren broods. It's their version of a surname, a signature of identity that unites a family. The females even teach these calls to their partners, by using them in their own begging calls when the males return to the nest with food.

These signature calls aren't innate. The chicks' calls more precisely matched those of their mother if she sang more frequently while she was incubating. And when Colombelli-Negrel swapped some eggs between different clutches, she found that the chicks made signature calls that matches those of their foster parents rather than those of their biological ones. It's something they learn while still in their eggs.

(via bruce schneier)

A soccer ball for everyoneNOV 14

Frustrated by the lack of durability of traditional soccer balls and encouraged by an investment by Sting, Tim Jahnigen invented and is selling a more durable ball made out of hard foam.

Tim Jahnigen has always followed his heart, whether as a carpenter, a chef, a lyricist or now as an entrepreneur. So in 2006, when he saw a documentary about children in Darfur who found solace playing soccer with balls made out of garbage and string, he was inspired to do something about it.

The children, he learned, used trash because the balls donated by relief agencies and sporting goods companies quickly ripped or deflated on the rocky dirt that doubled as soccer fields. Kicking a ball around provided such joy in otherwise stressful and trying conditions that the children would play with practically anything that approximated a ball.

"The only thing that sustained these kids is play," said Mr. Jahnigen of Berkeley, Calif. "Yet the millions of balls that are donated go flat within 24 hours."

You can buy one online and for every ball that you buy, one will be donated to a community in need.

How Capote got Brando to spill his gutsNOV 14

One of my favorite magazine pieces is Truman Capote's long profile of Marlon Brando from the Nov 9, 1957 issue of the New Yorker.

He hung up, and said, "Nice guy. He wants to be a director-eventually. I was saying something, though. We were talking about friends. Do you know how I make a friend?" He leaned a little toward me, as though he had an amusing secret to impart. "I go about it very gently. I circle around and around. I circle. Then, gradually, I come nearer. Then I reach out and touch them -- ah, so gently..." His fingers stretched forward like insect feelers and grazed my arm. "Then," he said, one eye half shut, the other, à la Rasputin, mesmerically wide and shining, "I draw back. Wait awhile. Make them wonder. At just the right moment, I move in again. Touch them. Circle." Now his hand, broad and blunt-fingered, travelled in a rotating pattern, as though it held a rope with which he was binding an invisible presence. "They don't know what's happening. Before they realize it, they're all entangled, involved. I have them. And suddenly, sometimes, I'm all they have. A lot of them, you see, are people who don't fit anywhere; they're not accepted, they've been hurt, crippled one way or another. But I want to help them, and they can focus on me; I'm the duke. Sort of the duke of my domain."

In a piece for Columbia Journalism Review, Douglas McCollam details how Capote got access to the reclusive star when he was filming Sayonara in Japan.

Logan had no intention of subjecting his own cast and crew to the same withering scrutiny. In particular, he was concerned about what might happen if Capote gained access to his mercurial leading man. Though Brando was notoriously press-shy, and Logan doubted Capote's ability to crack the star's enigmatic exterior, he wasn't taking any chances. He and William Goetz, Sayonara's producer, had both written to The New Yorker stating that they would not cooperate for the piece and, furthermore, that if Capote did journey to Japan he would be barred from the set. Nevertheless, Capote had come.

As Logan later recounted, his reaction to Capote's sudden appearance was visceral. He came up behind Capote, and without saying a word, picked the writer up and transported him across the lobby, depositing him outside the front door of the hotel. "Now come on, Josh!" Capote cried. "I'm not going to write anything bad."

Logan went immediately upstairs to Brando's room to deliver a warning: "Don't let yourself be left alone with Truman. He's after you." His warning would go unheeded. Recalling his reaction to Capote, Logan later wrote, "I had a sickening feeling that what little Truman wanted, little Truman would get."

Alexis Madrigal wrote about Capote's Brando piece for the first installment of Nieman Storyboard's Why's This So Good series about classic pieces of narrative nonfiction.

Kurt Cobain's favorite albumsNOV 14

From Kurt Cobain's journals, a handwritten list of the late Nirvana frontman's 50 favorite albums, including those from Sonic Youth (duh), Pixies (double duh), and Mazzy Star.

Cobain Top 50

The 1996 Presidential campaign website for Dole/KempNOV 14

The campaign website for Dole/Kemp '96 is still available on the web. The entire front page at its actual size fits in this image...man, screens used to be tiny.

Dole Kemp 96

The Clinton/Gore '96 site no longer seems to be available (cg96.org is a parked domain, covered with ads), but 4president.us has some archived screenshots and a press release of some remarks by Al Gore on the site's launch. We've come a long way since then.

This is the first thing you see when you go to our home page, and it has a couple of innovative features for those of you who are familiar with the Internet and the World Wide Web. It's not very common to have this kind of ticker with a changing message at the bottom constantly moving or to have a server pushing new pictures onto the page with regularity right to your own computer.

Anyway, this is the first thing that you see, and then we go to the main menu. Since 1992, Bill Clinton has been working tirelessly to insure that America forges ahead and leads the world in the information age. He has brought technology into our classrooms and libraries, he signed the historic telecommunications reform bill to make sure that all of our cabinet agencies are online. Together, not long after we got into the White House, we became the very first President and Vice-President to have e-mail addresses and to set up a White House Website. I hope all of you have had the opportunity to visit the White House Website.

4president.us also has screenshots from other campaign sites that year, including those of Steve Forbes and Pat Buchanan. (via @kdawson)

Meet the people who want voluntary amputationsNOV 14

Matter, a new publication that raised funds on Kickstarter, has launched and their first story is fantastic. Do No Harm by Anil Ananthaswamy profiles those suffering from Body Integrity Identity Disorder...people who believe that one or more of their limbs don't belong to them and want them amputated.

Sitting at home in a small, somewhat rural American town not too far from the ocean, Patrick recalled the day his wife found out about his obsession. It was during the mid-'90s. As with almost all BIID sufferers, Patrick was fascinated with amputees, so he began downloading pictures of them off the Internet and printing them out. One day his wife was sitting in front of their computer, while Patrick sat in a wingback chair. She noticed a pile of printouts. They were images of men, but "completely clothed, no nudes or anything like that." It was an awkward moment. "She was thinking that maybe I was gay," Patrick recalls. "I must have been crimson." Patrick asked her to take a closer look. She did, and soon realised that the men were all amputees.

Patrick told his wife that he had felt odd about his leg since he was four years old, a feeling that eventually grew into an all-consuming desire to be rid of it. It was a shock: they had been married for decades, and the revelation that he had been hiding something was hard to take. But his confession also brought relief. For more than four decades he had suffered alone. Growing up in small-town America, with conservative parents, in an era when "people didn't believe in going and seeing mental health professionals," Patrick was mystified by what he felt.

The last third of the piece, in which Ananthaswamy accompanies a BIID sufferer to have an amputation in Asia, was really difficult to read...powerful stuff. The piece is 99 cents for web/ePub/Kindle versions.

Princess Bride lines as play by playAARON COHEN  ·  NOV 13

Last week, the hosts of NFL Kick Off on ESPN, Trey Wingo, Mark Sclereth, and Tedy Bruschi, jammed as many Princess Bride references as they could into their half hour show. Jack Moore collected them. Genuine guffaw at "There will be no survivors" from around :45.

(thx, Alex)

The Dust Bowl by Ken BurnsNOV 13

The Dust Bowl is a four-hour documentary by Ken Burns airing on PBS starting this weekend.

The Dust Bowl chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the "Great Plow-Up," followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. Vivid interviews with twenty-six survivors of those hard times, combined with dramatic photographs and seldom seen movie footage, bring to life stories of incredible human suffering and equally incredible human perseverance. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us -- a lesson we ignore at our peril.

You can watch the first five minutes of the film on the PBS site.

Scheming boxesNOV 13

Scheming Boxes

Photo by @blawndee. This might be the best instance of pareidolia I've ever seen.

Tesla Model S wins 2013 Motor Trend Car of the YearNOV 13

Motor Trend chose the Tesla Model S as its 2013 Car of the Year, the first time their top prize has gone to an electric car.

The 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year is one of the quickest American four-doors ever built. It drives like a sports car, eager and agile and instantly responsive. But it's also as smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce, can carry almost as much stuff as a Chevy Equinox, and is more efficient than a Toyota Prius. Oh, and it'll sashay up to the valet at a luxury hotel like a supermodel working a Paris catwalk. By any measure, the Tesla Model S is a truly remarkable automobile, perhaps the most accomplished all-new luxury car since the original Lexus LS 400. That's why it's our 2013 Car of the Year.

The magazine went on to say that "the Tesla Model S is simply a damned good car you happen to plug in to refuel". This is how environmentally friendly products win, by being better than the less green products they replace.

Make your favorite songs infiniteNOV 13

The Infinite Jukebox analyzes the self-similarity of music to create neverending and everchanging versions of songs.

The app works by sending your uploaded track over to The Echo Nest, where it is decomposed into individual beats. Each beat is then analyzed and matched to other similar sounding beats in the song. This information is used to create a detailed song graph of paths though similar sounding beats. As the song is played, when the next beat has similar sounding beats there's a chance that we will branch to a completely different part of the song. Since the branching is to a very similar sounding beat in the song, you (in theory) won't notice the jump. This process of branching to similar sounding beats can continue forever, giving you an infinitely long version of the song.

Love this idea. How could I not with disclaimers like this?

you can get stuck in a strange attractor at the end of Karma Police for instance

Try it out with Call Me Maybe, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, or Little Fluffy Clouds. (via waxy)

Why doesn't MTV play music videos anymore?AARON COHEN  ·  NOV 12

You'll be sorry you asked.

Real-time visualization of Facebook users unliking Mitt RomneyAARON COHEN  ·  NOV 12

Kent Brewster's Who Likes Mitt allows you to watch Mitt Romney's Facebook fans unlike him in real time. Before the election, I wondered how either candidate would utilize their social media platforms in the event of their loss, as both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama had several million followers on Twitter and Facebook. We'll have quite some time to see the answer because at the current and unsustainable rate of abandonment, Mitt's last follower will unlike him in just over 3 years. *181 Facebook fans left Mitt while this post was written. (via ★akuban)

Update: Now, with graphs! (thx, @colossal)

Venice is floodedNOV 12

Again. Venice is flooded again. The flooding happens so often that it's pretty much business as usual:

Venice Flood

Except that this is a pretty serious long-term issue for Venice. The flooding is called acqua alta and according to a city guide, the current mark of 149 cm means that almost 70% of the city is flooded. And six of the top fifteen high water marks were recorded within the past 10 years.

But a project is underway to ease the flooding: a series of gates intended to protect the city called the MOSE Project.

Remnick to Obama: focus on climate changeNOV 12

The New Yorker's David Remnick urges President Obama to address climate change during his second term in a Kennedy-esque "we choose to go to the Moon" fashion.

Barack Obama can take pride in having fought off a formidable array of deep-pocketed revanchists. As President, however, he is faced with an infinitely larger challenge, one that went unmentioned in the debates but that poses a graver threat than any "fiscal cliff." Ever since 1988, when NASA's James Hansen, a leading climate scientist, testified before the Senate, the public has been exposed to the issue of global warming. More recently, the consequences have come into painfully sharp focus. In 2010, the Pentagon declared, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, that changes in the global climate are increasing the frequency and the intensity of cyclones, droughts, floods, and other radical weather events, and that the effects may destabilize governments; spark mass migrations, famine, and pandemics; and prompt military conflict in particularly vulnerable areas of the world, including the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. The Pentagon, that bastion of woolly radicals, did what the many denialists in the House of Representatives refuse to do: accept the basic science.

The economic impact of weather events that are almost certainly related to the warming of the earth -- the European heat wave of 2003 (which left fifty thousand people dead), the Russian heat waves and forest fires of 2010, the droughts last year in Texas and Oklahoma, and the preelection natural catastrophe known as Sandy -- has been immense. The German insurer Munich Re estimates that the cost of weather-related calamities in North America over the past three decades amounts to thirty-four billion dollars a year. Governor Andrew Cuomo, of New York, has said that Sandy will cost his state alone thirty-three billion. Harder to measure is the human toll around the world-the lives and communities disrupted and destroyed.

A letter to Nate Silver from an 11-year-old fanNOV 12

For the New Yorker, Paul Rudnick imagines a love letter written to Nate Silver by an 11-year-old girl.

I know that you're openly gay but that's fine because we can just hang out and you can say things like "I think that Harry from One Direction is 73% cuter than Louis although Louis is 21.8% funnier than Harry and my model predicts that they would both really like you, Emma, even though they both look 100% like Kristen Stewart, only less rugged." And I could tell you that if you were choosing a boyfriend for yourself Anderson Cooper would be 85.7% smarter and more sardonic than Ricky Martin, but Ricky would be 23% more mature because he has twins by a surrogate, although Anderson does have a more comprehensive wardrobe of election-year eyeglass frames.

How hot dogs are made againAARON COHEN  ·  NOV 10

The last Kottke.org post about how hot dogs are made was almost 4 years ago, and that video doesn't event work anymore and I say Saturday is the day to learn stuff anyway.
Two things about this video:
1) The scene of hot dogs shooting out of the hot dog maker and into the pile of hot dogs is mesmerizing. Virtually every 'How x is made' video has a similarly awesome shot.
2) These dudes make almost 2.5 million hot dogs per shift, which... Well, there are far, far, far more hot dogs being made in this country everyday than any of us realize.

(via ★andre)

Sixteen-part PBS travel/food show with David ChangNOV 10

How had I not heard about this before now? The Mind of a Chef is a PBS consisting of sixteen half-hour shows that follows David Chang through his world of food. As far as I can tell, this series is basically the TV version of Lucky Peach. Episode one is about ramen:

In the series premiere, David dissects the roots of his passion for ramen dishes and tsukemen on a trip to Japan. Learn the history of this famous noodle as David visits a ramen factory, has a bowl of the original tsukemen, and examines how alkalinity makes noodles chewier and less prone to dissolving in broth.

Check out an excerpt here, in which Chang reveals how he used to eat instant ramen noodles right out of the bag with the pork flavor powder sprinkled on top. The series starts this weekend...check your local listings, as they say. (via ny times)

The alarming lack of hospitals in lower ManhattanNOV 09

Ever since St. Vincent's closed in 2010 (I walk past it every morning taking my son to school and they are ripping the shit out of the building to turn it into condos), lower Manhattan has been short more than a few hospital beds. In the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, Manhattan has been left with zero high-level trauma centers south of 68th Street.

Now, the nearest Level One trauma centers for residents of lower Manhattan aren't all that close: New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center is on the Upper East Side at East 68th Street and St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital is on the Upper West Side.

Officials say there's no reason to think that, for now, trauma victims in lower Manhattan will be any worse off than those in other parts of the city. The response speed is still acceptable, they say. And if a trauma victim is in an immediately life-threatening situation, such as a traumatic cardiac arrest, ambulances bring them to the closest hospital, regardless of whether it's a trauma center.

But the fear is that there won't be enough surge capacity at other hospitals if there is a major disaster, or that overworked staff at other hospitals will grow fatigued under the load and patient care could suffer.

Well, I'm sure the free market will sort all of this out. (via @Atul_Gawande)

Philip Roth has retiredNOV 09

Last month, celebrated author Philip Roth quietly announced his retirement to a French magazine and no one in the US noticed until Salon picked up on it today.

In an interview with a French publication called Les Inrocks last month -- which does not appear to have been reported in the United States -- Roth, 78, said he has not written anything new in the last three years, and that he will not write another novel.

"To tell you the truth, I'm done," Roth told the magazine, in the most definitive statement he has ever made about his future plans. "'Nemesis' will be my last book."

(via @CharlesCMann)

Wes Anderson's Star WarsNOV 09

Finally, the answer to the question "what if Wes Anderson directed Star Wars"

(via devour)

Stay small or go big?NOV 09

Emeril Lagasse made an appearance on Treme on Sunday. I watched a clip of his scene a few days ago and have been thinking about it on and off ever since. In the scene written by Anthony Bourdain, Emeril takes a fellow chef to the building that used to house Uglesich's, a small-but-beloved New Orleans restaurant that closed back in 2005. The chef is having misgivings about expanding her business, particularly about all the non-cooking things you have to do, and Emeril explains that the way the owners of Uglesich's did it was one way forward:

You see, they kept it small, just one spot, just a few tables. There'd be a line around the corner by 10 am. You see, they made a choice. Anthony and Gail made a choice to stay on Baronne Street and keep their hands on what they were serving. They cooked, everyday they cooked, until they could cook no more.

But there's also another way to approach your business:

The other choice is that you can build something big but keep it the way that you wanna keep it. Take those ideas and try to execute them to the highest level. You got a lotta people around you, right? You're the captain of the ship. Or what I should say is that you're the ship. And all these people that look up to you and wanna be around you, they're living in the ship. And they're saying, "Oh, the ship is doing good. Oh, the ship is going to some interesting places. Oh, this ship isn't going down just like all the other fucking ships I've been on." [...] You've got a chance to do your restaurant and to take care of these people. Just do it.

kottke.org has always been a one-person thing. Sure, Aaron posts here regularly now and I have guest editors on occasion, but for the most part, I keep my ass in the chair and my hands on what I am serving. I've always resisted attempts at expanding the site because, I have reasoned, that would mean that the site wouldn't be exactly what I wanted it to be. And people come here for exactly what I want it to be. Doing the site with other people involved has always seemed unnatural. It would be selling out...that's how I've thought about it, as opposed to blowing up.

But Emeril's "until they could cook no more" and "you're the ship"...that got to me. I am a ship. I don't have employees but I have a family that relies on the income from my business and someday, when I am unable to do this work or people stop reading blogs or all online advertising moves to Facebook or Twitter, what happens then? Don't I owe it to myself and to them to build something that's going to last beyond my interest and ability to sit in a chair finding interesting things for people to look at? Or is it enough to just work by yourself and produce the best work you can?

Or can you do both? John Gruber's Daring Fireball remains a one-man operation...as far as I know, he's never even had an intern. I don't have any inside knowledge of DF's finances, but from the RSS sponsorship rate and the rate for sponsoring Gruber's podcast, my conservative estimate is that DF grosses around $650,000 per year. And with a single employee/owner and relatively low expenses, a large amount of that is profit. So maybe that route is possible?

I don't have any answers to these questions, but man, it's got me thinking. Emeril got me thinking...who saw that coming? Bam!

The People's Bailout: Occupy is forgiving personal debtNOV 09

Occupy Wall Street continues to show that it's more than just a simple protest movement. They have been doing amazing work with Hurricane Sandy relief and now there's Rolling Jubilee. Here's how Rolling Jubilee works:

OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you're a debt broker, once you own someone's debt you can do whatever you want with it - traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We're playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)

This is a simple, powerful way to help folks in need -- to free them from heavy debt loads so they can focus on being productive, happy and healthy. As you can see from our test run, the return on investment approaches 30:1. That's a crazy bargain!

This has my vote for idea of the year. Well, until the debt sellers catch on and either raise the price due to demand or refuse to sell to untrusted brokers.

Portraits of vanishing glaciersNOV 08

Photographer James Balog (the guy behind a new documentary called Chasing Ice) spent years taking pictures of the melting glaciers. In a variety of ways, these photos are quite incredible.

James Balog Glacier

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George Lucas profile from 1979NOV 08

From the March 1979 issue of The Atlantic, a profile of George Lucas, who at the time was only two years removed from creating a cultural movement.

Star Wars was manufactured. When a competent corporation prepares a new product, it does market research. George Lucas did precisely that. When he says that the film was written for toys ("I love them, I'm really into that"), he also means he had merchandising in mind, all the sideshow goods that go with a really successful film. He thought of T-shirts and transfers, records, models, kits, and dolls. His enthusiasm for the comic strips was real and unforced; he had a gallery selling comic-book art in New York.

From the start, Lucas was determined to control the selling of the film, and of its by-products. "Normally you just sign a standard contract with a studio," he says, "but we wanted merchandising, sequels, all those things. I didn't ask for another $1 million -- just the merchandising rights. And Fox thought that was a fair trade." Lucasfilm Ltd., the production company George Lucas set up in July 1971, "already had a merchandising department as big as Twentieth Century-Fox has. And it was better. When I was doing the film deal, I had already hired the guy to handle that stuff."

This article is like a time capsule of how the movie business used to work. Empire Strikes Back was a year away from release and there was no specific mention of it in the article. Star Wars opened in only 25 theaters and made only $9 million in the first two months. Those numbers don't quite match those from Box Office Mojo but they are close enough, especially when you note that the film's biggest grossing weekend was 43 weeks after the initial release.

Lucas, if you hadn't heard, is donating the majority of the $4 billion he got from Disney for Lucasfilm to various charitable foundations.

Sad conservative clownsNOV 08

Now's probably a good time to remind you of this Flickr set of prominent Republicans Photoshopped to look like clowns.

Romney Ryan Clowns

Before you accuse me of crass and childish partisanship, I will also take this opportunity to urge you to stop what you're doing to "express your hatred, shame, and outright disgust with anyone you know who voted Democrat", boycott businesses that accept EBT, and allow your dog to crap on Democrat lawns.

The relentless march of liberalismNOV 08

This year's election reminded me of a piece that Anil Dash wrote almost ten years ago on our culture's tendency towards liberalism. It's my favorite thing he's ever written and is one of the few pieces of writing that instantly shifted my thinking in a significant way.

Our ideas are winning, you see. When Reagan ordered the bombing of Libya in 1986, he didn't make sure to urge Americans to have tolerance for people of Libyan descent living among us. But a scant 15 years later, President Bush made repeated calls for tolerance towards muslims in this country, not just out of what I see as his genuine motivation to do what was right, but also because the tenor of public discourse has changed that rapidly due to the tolerant influence of liberal philosophy. Gay marriage is still a big point of debate, but the presence of openly gay characters in mass media has changed in the same decade and a half from being scandalous to being clich'ed. It will be the burden of the next generation to hold the today's conservatives to their record of homophobia, but it's only a matter of time until that happens.

George W. Bush put out a message from the White House in honor of Kwanzaa. We're winning.

It's probably that sense of a slow, inexorable loss that makes conservatives terrified, causing them to respond with a desperate clinging to the past that only serves to further doom their cause. The best solutions, of course, lie in the future.

Tuesday's election -- an event that included reelecting a mixed-race President, legalizing marijuana in some states, legalizing same-sex marriage in some states, electing women to the Senate in record numbers, the election of the first openly gay Senator, and the defeat of many hard-line social conservatives -- serves as a reminder that the country continues to move in a more liberal direction.

Colorizing historical photosNOV 06

Early color photography is a particular interest of mine, so Sanna Dullaway's efforts to colorize historical photos, including those of Abraham Lincoln, Thích Quảng Đức, and Anne Frank, are an intriguing twist on the theme.

Colorized Thich Quang Duc

Jehovah's Witnesses to the deaf: no masturbation in da clubNOV 06

Some genius paired 50 Cent's In Da Club with a video put out by the Jehovah's Witnesses to encourage deaf people not to masturbate. This is probably inappropriate or deafist or whatever, but it also provided me with a much-needed tears-rolling-down face laugh the other day.

(via stellar)

Our hearts grow smarterNOV 06

David Brooks argues that over time, people (especially men) have become more emotionally intelligent and that this shift might be responsible for a significant portion of our cultural progress.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the researchers didn't pay much attention to the men's relationships. Instead, following the intellectual fashions of the day, they paid a lot of attention to the men's physiognomy. Did they have a "masculine" body type? Did they show signs of vigorous genetic endowments?

But as this study -- the Grant Study -- progressed, the power of relationships became clear. The men who grew up in homes with warm parents were much more likely to become first lieutenants and majors in World War II. The men who grew up in cold, barren homes were much more likely to finish the war as privates.

Body type was useless as a predictor of how the men would fare in life. So was birth order or political affiliation. Even social class had a limited effect. But having a warm childhood was powerful. As George Vaillant, the study director, sums it up in "Triumphs of Experience," his most recent summary of the research, "It was the capacity for intimate relationships that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men's lives."

(via @stevenbjohnson)

VotedNOV 06

It's been a tough few weeks here in NYC. Sandy. Power outages. Food and gas shortages. The hurricane aftermath. Those two kids murdered by their nanny. The NYPD officer who was planning to kill and cook women. The election has been weighing heavily on my heart, more heavily than I realized. The Presidential campaign has been difficult for me to follow...so little substance and so so so much sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I've been pretty apathetic about politics in the past and I'll never be the type of person to proselytize for one candidate over another (well, not too much anyway) but I would have waited in line for 12 hours today in order to cast my vote. Voting this morning1 felt like the first hopeful thing that's happened in quite awhile.

[1] For Obama/Biden, I don't mind telling you, not least because of the Republican Party's contempt for the rights of the majority of the population, aka our wives, daughters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, etc.

Posting suspended until further noticeNOV 02

Publishing on kottke.org is suspended until further notice. The situation in New York and New Jersey is still dire** so posting stupid crap seems frivolous and posting about the Sandy aftermath seems exploitive. Information is not what people need right now; people need flashlights, candles, drinking water, safety, food, access to emergency medical care, a warm place to sleep, etc.

Anyway, we'll be back in a few days hopefully.

** I say "still dire" because I think the perception among people not in the NY/NJ area is one of "oh, the storm has passed, the flooding is subsiding, and everything is getting back to normal". But that's not what I'm hearing. What I'm hearing is that there are large areas that have been without power for 4-5 days, people are running out of food and gas, food and gas deliveries are not happening, etc. Things are getting worse (or certainly have the potential to get worse), not better, especially for those without the resources to care about which cool restaurants are open or how much an iPhone car service is gouging its customers or which Midtown office they're gonna work on their startup from.

Long road to the majorsAARON COHEN  ·  NOV 02

The stories of long time minor leaguers overcoming obstacles to make it to the big leagues are always heartwarming and Tigers pitcher Phil Coke's story is no different. Minor league players are payed poorly, spend days on buses, and most players never make it. Coke, who pitched fantastically in the 2012 postseason until giving up the winning run in the last game of the World Series, had an interesting road to the majors, as well. He's got an interesting take on why MLB teams, most of which are swimming in money, make it so hard for minor leaguers.

"It's part of the psychological effort to find out how mentally tough you really are," Coke said. "Can you still perform when the rent's due and you're out of money? It's a crazy schedule too, one you've never played before. You're playing every day. You go from not knowing what a weekend is to not knowing what day it is at all. You're in a town for two to four days, then off on these very, very long bus trips. Your choices are read a book, sleep your face off, or banter and talk with teammates. You figure out who the sleepers are and who are the ones who pull all-nighters. I was drawn to those people. But being away from family, friends, having a life, it's really tough."

Holland's glow in the dark roadsAARON COHEN  ·  NOV 01

The roads in The Netherlands are getting a boost. Starting in 2013, experimental designs that glow in the dark will be installed on a couple hundred meters of road. The design, which uses a special powder that 'charges' in the sun and can glow for about 10 hours. Other concepts involve powders that display different designs based on weather, which could be used to remind drivers of icy conditions.

The Smart Highway by Studio Roosegaarde and infrastructure management group Heijmans won Best Future Concept at the Dutch Design Awards, and has already gone beyond pure concept. The studio has developed a photo-luminising powder that will replace road markings -- it charges up in sunlight, giving it up to ten hours of glow-in-the-dark time come nightfall. "It's like the glow in the dark paint you and I had when we were children," designer Roosegaarde explained, "but we teamed up with a paint manufacture and pushed the development. Now, it's almost radioactive".

[...]

The idea is to not only use more sustainable methods of illuminating major roads, thus making them safer and more efficient, but to rethink the design of highways at the same time as we continue to rethink vehicle design. As Studio Roosegaarde sees it, connected cars and internal navigation systems linked up to the traffic news represent just one half of our future road management systems -- roads need to fill their end of the bargain and become intelligent, useful drivers of information too.

From the diary of Jim Henson: Imagination IllustratedNOV 01

Here's a look at a new book based on the diary of Jim Henson called Imagination Illustrated. Here's the foreword by his daughter Lisa and the first few pages:

Love this idea, BTW...embeddable book excerpts. More like this, please. Actually, if I were Amazon I would make Kindle previews embeddable with a big old "buy the full book at Amazon" button on the last page of the excerpt and tie it in with the Associates Program. Apparently they did offer this once upon a time but not anymore.

Eleanor the cheetah supermomAARON COHEN  ·  NOV 01

Cheetahs in the wild are declining. By some estimates, there are only 10,000 left outside of captivity. Cheetahs have a lot working against them, including the fact they can't roar. One lady cheetah, however, is doing her part.

There are a rare few, however, that somehow manage to beat the odds and enjoy astonishing success in raising cubs, some even fostering the offspring of other females. Superb hunters and wise in the ways of the bush, these supermoms manage to make a kill nearly every day while keeping their brood safe on the wide-open stage of the African grasslands, beneath the very noses of lions and hyenas. One such supermom, a seven-year-old named Eleanor, is known to have mothered at least 10 percent of all the adult cheetahs in the southern Serengeti.

(via @mikenizza)

Archives    October 2012 »    September 2012 »    August 2012 »

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