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

 

Another great Bill Murray storyDEC 30

The internet is awash in great Bill Murray stories, but this one might be one of the very best. From the middle of an AV Club interview with Kelly Lynch in October:

AVC: It seems like your sex scene in [Road House] must be one of the most uncomfortable in cinematic history, being up against a rock wall and all.

KL: Oh, I know, but I was padded. [Laughs.] No one knows, so it looks more painful that it was. They really liked everything about the way that scene looked, with the blonde hair against the rocks behind me, but I was like, "Isn't this kind of... mean?" So they put a thin padding under my dress, so you can't see it. But he's still slamming me against the rocks, so I had to be careful not to hit my head. Thank God Patrick was so strong. He could've carried me around that room forever.

By the way, speaking of Bill Murray, every time Road House is on and he or one of his idiot brothers are watching TV -- and they're always watching TV -- one of them calls my husband and says [In a reasonable approximation of Carl Spackler], "Kelly's having sex with Patrick Swayze right now. They're doing it. He's throwing her against the rocks." [Away from the receiver.] What? Oh, my God. Mitch was just walking out the door to the set, and he said that Bill once called him from Russia.

AVC: Sorry, not to dwell on this, but you said that Bill Murray "or one of his idiot brothers" will call. Which brothers are we talking about?

KL: All of them! Joel has called; Brian Doyle has called. They will all call! Any and all of them!

AVC: This was already an awesome story, but now it's even better.

KL: I know, right? I dread it. If I know it's coming on -- and I can tell when it's coming on, because it blows up on Twitter when it is -- I'm just like, "Oh, my God..." And God help me when AMC's doing their Road House marathon, because I know the phone is just going to keep ringing. It doesn't matter if it's 2 or 3 in morning. "Hi, Kelly's having sex with Patrick Swayze right now..."

(via @mathowie)

Plane crash recorded on Russian dash camDEC 30

As we've previously discussed, many Russian vehicles are equipped with dashboard video cameras. The other day, one such dashcam caught a plane crash on video:

See also driving in Russia.

Superheroes and villains in historyDEC 28

For his Super Hero series, Agan Harahap inserts the likes of Superman, Batman, and Darth Vader into historical photos. Here's Spidey helping out during World War II:

Spidey Wwii

And some Stormtroopers paying their respects to Chairman Mao's body:

Mao Stormtroopers

More images from the series are sprinkled throughout this gallery.

Designers pick their favorite book covers of 2012DEC 28

The NY Times asked a bunch of designers for their favorite book cover designs of 2012. Lots of nice work here.

Weaponized smartphones and the Internet of ThingsDEC 28

We've spent the two dozen years putting computers in everything from our bodies to our cars. Now those devices increasingly have wireless connections to the outside world. Throw in a little lax security and the whole world becomes hackable.

Hospital equipment like external defibrillators and fetal monitors can at least be picked up, taken apart, or carted away. Implanted devices -- equipment surgically implanted into the body -- are vastly more difficult to remove but not all that much harder to attack.

You don't even have to know anything about medical devices' software to attack them remotely, Fu says. You simply have to call them repeatedly, waking them up so many times that they exhaust their batteries-a medical version of the online "denial of service" attack, in which botnets overwhelm Web sites with millions of phony messages. On a more complex level, pacemaker-subverter Barnaby Jack has been developing Electric Feel, software that scans for medical devices in crowds, compromising all within range. Although Jack emphasizes that Electric Feel "was created for research purposes, in the wrong hands it could have deadly consequences." (A General Accounting Office report noted in August that Uncle Sam had never systematically analyzed medical devices for their hackability, and recommended that the F.D.A. take action.)

REWORK_: Philip Glass remixedDEC 27

REWORK_ is an album of Philip Glass's music remixed by the likes of Beck, Amon Tobin, and Nosaj Thing. There is also an interactive iOS app that lets you play around and remix your own Glass compositions.

REWORK_ features eleven "music visualizers" that take the remixed tracks and create interactive visuals that range from futuristic three-dimensional landscapes to shattered multicolored crystals, and vibrating sound waves. People can lean back and enjoy REWORK_ end to end, or they can touch and interact with the visualizers to create their own visual remixes.

In addition to the visualizers, the app includes the "Glass Machine" which lets people create music inspired by Philip Glass' early work by simply sliding two discs around side-by-side, almost like turntables. People can select different instruments - from synthesizer to piano, and generate polyrhythmic counterpoints between the two melodies.

The app was made by Scott Snibbe's studio...I fondly recall his Java applets. (BTW, "fondly recall his Java applets" is neither a euphemism nor something that anyone will understand 5-10 years from now.)

Old school BBC sound effectsDEC 27

BBC Research & Development have created a site using the Web Audio API that lets you recreate the sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, stuff you may have heard on a Jon Pertwee-era episode of Dr Who. The Wobbulator is my favorite.

Important author Choire Sicha announces important bookDEC 27

Oh ho, what's this? Choire Sicha's book is available for pre-order on Amazon. It's called Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c.2009 A.D.) in a Large City. I don't know what the book is about beyond that, but Choire wrote a bit about writing and publishing in his non-announcement of it, the book.

The 100 best lists of all timeDEC 27

The New Yorker, with shots across the bows of The Awl and Buzzfeed, offers up a list of the 100 best lists of all time. A sampling:

94. Benjamin Franklin’s “Thirteen Virtues”

90. McDonald’s Big Mac-ingredients commercial

80. Dr. James Naismith’s original 13 Rules of Basket Ball

61. Fortune 500

41. The Dewey Decimal System

19. The Fibonacci Sequence

6. Martin Luther’s "95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences"

1. The Periodic Table of Elements

Spiders making spidersAARON COHEN  ·  DEC 26

super-spider.jpg

Scientists in Peru have discovered what they think may be a new species of spider which uses twigs and dead insects to build decoy spiders to trick predators.

Afterward, Torres returned to the trails near the research center. Only within a roughly 1-square-mile area near the floodplain did Torres find more spider-building spiders -- about 25 of them. "They could be quite locally restricted," he said. "But for all I know, there's millions of them in the forest beyond." The spiders' webs were crafted around face-height, near the trail, and about the width of a stretched-out hand. Some of the decoys placed in the webs looked rather realistic. Others resembled something more like a cartoon octopus.

(thanks, Alex)

Timeline of the far futureDEC 26

The timeline of the far future artice is far from the longest page on Wikipedia, but it might take you several hours to get through because it contains so many enticing detours. What's Pangaea Ultima? Oooh, Roche limit! The Degenerate Era, Poincaré recurrence time, the Big Rip scenario, the cosmic light horizon, the list goes on and on. And the article itself is a trove of fascinating facts and eye-popping phrases. Here are a few of my favorites. (Keep in mind that the universe is only 13.75 billion years old. Unless we're living in a computer simulation.)

50,000 years: "Niagara Falls erodes away the remaining 32 km to Lake Erie and ceases to exist."

1 million years: "Highest estimated time until the red supergiant star Betelgeuse explodes in a supernova. The explosion is expected to be easily visible in daylight."

1.4 million years: "The star Gliese 710 passes as close as 1.1 light years to the Sun before moving away. This may gravitationally perturb members of the Oort cloud; a halo of icy bodies orbiting at the edge of the Solar System. As a consequence, the likelihood of a cometary impact in the inner Solar System will increase."

230 million years: "Beyond this time, the orbits of the planets become impossible to predict."

Timeline Future

800 million years: "Carbon dioxide levels fall to the point at which C4 photosynthesis is no longer possible. Multicellular life dies out."

4 billion years: "Median point by which the Andromeda Galaxy will have collided with the Milky Way, which will thereafter merge to form a galaxy dubbed 'Milkomeda'."

7.9 billion years: "The Sun reaches the tip of the red giant branch, achieving its maximum radius of 256 times the present day value. In the process, Mercury, Venus and possibly Earth are destroyed. During these times, it is possible that Saturn's moon Titan could achieve surface temperatures necessary to support life."

100 billion years: "The Universe's expansion causes all galaxies beyond the Milky Way's Local Group to disappear beyond the cosmic light horizon, removing them from the observable universe."

1 trillion years: "The universe's expansion, assuming a constant dark energy density, multiplies the wavelength of the cosmic microwave background by 10^29, exceeding the scale of the cosmic light horizon and rendering its evidence of the Big Bang undetectable."

1 quadrillion years: "Estimated time until stellar close encounters detach all planets in the Solar System from their orbits. By this point, the Sun will have cooled to five degrees above absolute zero."

10^65 years: "Assuming that protons do not decay, estimated time for rigid objects like rocks to rearrange their atoms and molecules via quantum tunneling. On this timescale all matter is liquid."

10^10^56 years: "Estimated time for random quantum fluctuations to generate a new Big Bang, according to Caroll and Chen."

Read the whole thing, it's worth the effort. (via @daveg)

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

Tyler Cowen is a cheap dateDEC 26

For the Financial Times' Lunch with the FT series, editor John McDermott sits down with Tyler Cowen at an inexpensive Ethiopian restaurant located in a strip mall. Lots of interesting little tidbits throughout.

Cowen is walking-talking-tweeting evidence for his theory. Why, then, apart from an early surge in the 1990s, hasn't the internet led to more measurable economic gains? "My view of the internet is that it is way overrated in what it's done to date but considerably underrated in what it will do." He notes that it took decades for earlier major inventions to have institutions built around them, such as roads for cars and grids for electricity. "If you're an optimist about what has come before, you tend to be a pessimist about what's on the way."

Eminem is a skilled Donkey Kong playerDEC 26

It turns out that Eminem is a pretty good Donkey Kong player.

272,300 is a great score, but 465,800 is no less than world class-close to the top 20 on the Twin Galaxies leaderboard.

Read past the screenshots for some top-notch Donkey Kong Kremlinology about Eminem's playing style. (via @bydanielvictor)

This is a picture of a kittenDEC 21

kitten

Surely that's something we can all agree on. I'll see you sometime next week.

Portraits of gun owners in their homesDEC 18

In 2007, Kyle Cassidy published a book called Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes. He asked his subjects a simple question: Why do you own a gun?

Cassidy traveled over 20,000 miles, crisscrossing the country to meet with gun owners in their homes. Cassidy's photo essays create a powerful, thought provoking and sometimes startling view of gun ownership in the U.S. These "everyman" portraits, and the accompanying views of gun owners, fashion a riveting and provocative hardcover book.

From book's web site, a sampling of images and answers:

Kyle Cassidy 01

Paul: My family had guns the whole time I was a kid. then i went off and joined the army and went away and come back. I have guns now largely for the same reason I have fire extinguishers in the house and spare tires in the car. I'm a self reliant kind of guy. and there could come a time when I need to protect my family and i'm a self reliant kind of guy.

Beth: I have one for self protection. I was raised to never rely on anyone else to protect me or watch my back. It took me a year to pick out one that I liked.

Kyle Cassidy 02

Bashir: I just think it's a good thing to have

Kyle Cassidy 03

Joe: The first time I was introduced to guns was when I was 5 years old; hunting with my dad, grandfather and uncle. I remember my dad shooting a ringneck pheasant and a rabbit. I carried those two animals until I thought my arms were going to fall off. As a little guy, that made a great impression on me. I've hunted all of my life; in Pennsylvania, Idaho, Colorado and Maine. I have a tremendous respect for life, especially wildlife. It never ceases to amaze me how much satisfaction I get from just simply being in the Great Outdoors, whether I make a kill or not.

(via virtual memories)

Mixed messages from Bloomberg on gun controlDEC 18

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been one the most powerful voices calling for increased gun control in the wake of the Newtown shootings...see here and here. But earlier this year, NYC sold spent shell casings to an ammunition dealer.

In June, the City of New York sold 28,000 pounds of spent shell casings to a an ammunition dealer in Georgia, where they were to be reloaded with bullets. Anyone with $15 can buy a bag of 50, no questions asked, under Georgia law. As The New York Times reported, the city has previously sold shell casings -- which are collected at the police target shooting range -- to scrap metal dealers, but in this case the highest bidder was the ammunition store.

The city destroys guns but sells spent casing to be recycled. When challenged on this point, Bloomberg got testy:

Then one of the most experienced and professional of New York television reporters, Mary Murphy of WPIX, asked Mr. Bloomberg if the city was going to change its policy and not sell shell casings to ammunition dealers. Mr. Bloomberg set forth into a minisermon about how it was an act of integrity.

"This is the public's money that we are stewards of, and deliberately deciding to sell things at lower prices than the marketplace commands makes no sense at all, and if you think about it, would create chaos and corruption like you've never seen," he said.

Ms. Murphy pressed on: "Does it send the wrong message though?"

The mayor scolded her as if she were an errant schoolgirl.

"Miss, Miss," Mr. Bloomberg said. "Either you want to ask a question and I give you an answer, or please come to the next press conference and stand in the back."

Hmm.

Senator Moynihan's bullet taxDEC 18

In an editorial for the NY Times in 1993 called Guns Don't Kill People. Bullets Do., US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan described a bill he introduced in the Senate which would have levied a 10,000% tax on hollow-point bullets.

"So far this year, 342 New Yorkers have been killed by stray bullets. And in the past few days, two young women were shot in their pregnant bellies." A. M. Rosenthal wrote that on this page last Tuesday, the day of the Long Island shooting. By Thursday there were 11 more homicides. If we are to stop it, or come anywhere close, we have to get hold of the ammunition.

On Nov. 3, I introduced a bill that would levy a 10,000 percent tax on Winchester hollow-tipped "Black Talon" bullets, specifically designed to rip flesh. (Colin Ferguson, the suspect in the Long Island shootings, had some 40 of them.)

The tax would effectively raise the price of Black Talons from $20 a box to $2,000. On Nov. 22, 19 days after my bill was introduced, Winchester announced that it would cease sale of Black Talons to the public. Which suggests that the munitions manufacturers are more responsive than the automobile companies were a generation ago. It is also important to note that in 1986 Congress banned the Teflon-coated "cop killer" bullet, which penetrates police body armor. The Swedes are now making a new kind of armor-piercing round. We got that banned in the Senate version of this year's crime bill without a murmur.

The Long Island shootings Moynihan refers to resulted in the deaths of six people and the injury of nineteen more. (via @Rebeccamead_NYC)

Men wearing boys coatsDEC 18

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter written to Samuel Kercheval in 1816, had this to say about the law and human progress:

I am certainly not an advocate for for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

(via df)

"Gun safety", not "gun control"DEC 18

James Fallows suggests talking about "gun safety" and not "gun control".

I will henceforth and only talk about "gun safety" as a goal for America, as opposed to "gun control." I have no abstract interest in "controlling" someone else's ability to own a gun. I have a very powerful, direct, and legitimate interest in the consequences of others' gun ownership -- namely that we change America's outlier status as site of most of the world's mass shootings. No reasonable gun-owner can disagree with steps to make gun use safer and more responsible. This also shifts the discussion to the realm of the incremental, the feasible, and the effective.

The shifting meaning of the Second AmendmentDEC 18

Ezra Klein asked Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional scholar, about the Second Amendment. Amar responded with two artworks that illustrate how the meaning of the Second Amendment has shifted over the years.

In a nutshell, almost everything ordinary Americans think they know about the Bill of Rights, including the phrase 'Bill of Rights,' comes from the Reconstruction period. Not once did the Founders refer to these early amendments as a bill of rights. We read everything through the prism of the 14th amendment -- including the right to bear and keep arms.

The Fourteenth Amendment has a lot of parts, among them the definition of citizenship, Civil War debt, due process, and equal protection. Amar wrote more about the interplay between the 2nd and 14th Amendments for Slate in 2008.

But the 14th Amendment did not specifically enumerate these sacred privileges and immunities. Instead, like the Ninth, the 14th invited interpreters to pay close attention to fundamental rights that Americans had affirmed through their lived experience-in state bills of rights and in other canonical texts such as the Declaration of Independence and landmark civil rights legislation. And when it came to guns, a companion statute to the 14th Amendment, enacted by Congress in 1866, declared that "laws ... concerning personal liberty [and] personal security ... including the constitutional right to bear arms, shall be secured to and enjoyed by all the citizens." Here, in sharp contrast to founding-era legal texts, the "bear arms" phrase was decisively severed from the military context. Women as well as men could claim a "personal" right to protect their "personal liberty" and "personal security" in their homes. The Reconstruction-era Congress clearly understood that Southern blacks might need guns in their homes to protect themselves from private violence in places where they could not rely on local constables to keep their neighborhoods safe. When guns were outlawed, only outlaw Klansmen would have guns, to paraphrase a modern NRA slogan. In this critical chapter in the history of American liberty, we find additional evidence of an individual right to have a gun in one's home, regardless of the original meaning of the Second Amendment.

Gun trends explain US gun cultureDEC 18

Emily Badger highlights some trends in gun ownership, gun violence, and public opinion related to gun control over the past several decades.

A handful of charts paint a remarkable picture of some key shifts over the past 30 or 40 years. During that time, gun violence nationally has declined significantly even as aberrant mass shootings have grown less so; public sentiment for regulating the weapons has fallen steeply, too. Mother Jones has estimated that we're approaching a demographic reality where our population of firearms will outpace our population of people. But hard data on the total number of civilian-owned guns in America is hard to come by, and so much of what we know on the topic is based upon what gun owners themselves say in surveys.

Chris Rock: we need bullet controlDEC 18

In a clip from an old stand-up routine, Chris Rock advocates for bullet control.

I think all bullets should cost $5,000.

(via @joffley)

Regulate the bulletsDEC 18

Philip Bump for The Atlantic:

But there are two things that are needed for a gun to work: the gun and the ammunition. Limiting guns may be hopeless. So why don't we focus on the bullets?

People have made their own guns for a long time. A ZIP gun, a crude device used in prisons and by street gangs, can be cobbled together with only a little more effort than Defense Distributed's plastic offering. A gun can be made from any number of common household objects. But making bullets is much, much trickier. A bullet needs much more specific consideration of materials and weight and requires something that is much harder to come by: a propellant. You can make your own gunpowder, of course, but refining the process to create effective munitions is as tricky as building a simple bomb. Doable, but dangerous.

Two gun control suggestionsDEC 18

Eliot Spitzer has a pair of suggestions related to gun control: pressure the owners of gun companies and regulate the sale of bullets.

There may be too many guns to rid the streets of guns, but there are not that many bullets, especially in the calibers needed for the types of weapons used in these shootings. Let's create a regime that makes sale of bullets to anybody not licensed to carry a gun illegal, makes resale illegal, micro-stamps bullets so they can be traced. No Second Amendment issues here.

There is some movement on the first issue already. Cerberus, a private equity firm that owns a large gun company, is selling the company because of pressure from their investors.

The private equity firm said it had made the investments in gun manufacturers on behalf of its clients, which include pension funds and other institutional investors. Cerberus added that it was the role of legislators to shape the country's gun policy.

"We believe that this decision allows us to meet our obligations to the investors whose interests we are entrusted to protect without being drawn into the national debate that is more properly pursued by those with the formal charter and public responsibility to do so," Cerberus said.

This is where the phrase "passing the buck" comes from.

Mayor Bloomberg demands action from DC on gunsDEC 17

Today NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg urged the President and Congress to take action on gun violence. Here are three of his six specific suggestions:

Pass the legislation of Fix Gun Checks Act that would require a criminal background check for all gun sales including all private sales and online sales

Ban deadly, military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which were previously banned under the now expired Federal assault weapons ban

Pass legislation to make gun trafficking a felony

What of gun control when guns are 3-D printable?DEC 17

From Devin Coldewey at Techcrunch, a look at how technology might disrupt the arms industry. Is a plan for a 3-D printable gun a gun? And if so, how do you control the movement of those pre-guns?

If we as a country, and indeed we as a global community, are going to seriously address the question of gun control, we need to address the issue of fabricated weapons and weapon plans, or else the discussion will be moot. This is because the proliferation of 3D printed weaponry changes both the definition of "gun" and of what it means to "control" it.

Gun violence in the US since FridayDEC 17

This morning at 11am, Ken Layne collected a number of incidents of gun violence that have occurred in the US since the Newtown shootings on Friday. They include:

In Mississippi, one man is dead and two are injured (including the dead man's father) "after an argument over a man 'doing donuts' -- or spinning his truck in circles -- in a field."

Two police officers were shot dead in Kansas on Sunday morning. They were investigating a "suspicious vehicle."

A 42-year-old destitute maniac fired 50 rounds at the Fashion Island luxury mall in Newport Beach, California, on Saturday evening. No one was injured.

Layne also noted "this is not a comprehensive list of the U.S. gun violence over the past 48 hours".

How not to talk to kids about school shootingsDEC 17

There are plenty of resources available to help parents talk to their kids about violence against children, but don't feel like you have to.

So as a parent, you're left with the question not just of how to talk to your child about tragedy, but of whether you're talking to your child for your child -- or for yourself. There's the question of what to say, but also when, and if, you should say it. "If you're feeling panicked, and like there's no place safe in the world, then that's a good time to step back and get those thoughts in order," Dr. Rappaport suggested. "But if we try to wait until we've fully come to terms with something like this, then we'll never be able to talk. In fact, we'd never be able to get out of bed in the morning."

28th Amendment ratifiedDEC 17

The US has ratified a new amendment to the Constitution, the 28th such alteration. The Onion has the scoop:

"The provisions of the 28th Amendment will fully protect the right of all individuals to spend every waking moment utterly terrified at the thought of a deranged stranger with a semiautomatic combat rifle gunning them down," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), explaining that the measure also permits Americans to suffer panic attacks anytime their loved ones go to work, school, malls, or virtually any other public location.

As I said on Friday, The Onion is perhaps our most emotionally honest media source.

An armed society is the opposite of a civil societyDEC 17

From Stone, the NY Times' blog of philosophers writing about current events, a post by Firmin DeBrabander about what sort of society (polite? uncivil? safe?) an armed society is.

Arendt offers two points that are salient to our thinking about guns: for one, they insert a hierarchy of some kind, but fundamental nonetheless, and thereby undermine equality. But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name -- that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.'s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly -- not make any sudden, unexpected moves -- and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

(via @TomJunod)

The results of tougher gun laws in AustraliaDEC 17

A 2006 paper that appeared in Injury Prevention analyzed the possible results of the 1996 gun law reforms in Australia. The most striking result: in the 18 years before tougher laws were passed, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia...and none in the 10.5 years afterwards.

Results: In the 18 years before the gun law reforms, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia, and none in the 10.5 years afterwards. Declines in firearm-related deaths before the law reforms accelerated after the reforms for total firearm deaths (p = 0.04), firearm suicides (p = 0.007) and firearm homicides (p = 0.15), but not for the smallest category of unintentional firearm deaths, which increased. No evidence of substitution effect for suicides or homicides was observed. The rates per 100 000 of total firearm deaths, firearm homicides and firearm suicides all at least doubled their existing rates of decline after the revised gun laws.

Conclusions: Australia's 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides.

What is our national threshold for shame?DEC 17

Jon Lee Anderson asks, in reference to mass shootings, "What does it take for a society to be sickened by its own behavior and to change its attitudes?"

When will we Americans realize that our society is an unacceptably violent one, that this is how the rest of the world sees us, and that much of that violence is associated with guns? Will it be the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Where is our threshold for self-awareness?

Ten pro-gun arguments and why they are wrongDEC 17

Paul Waldman from The American Prospect outlines ten arguments that gun advocates typically make and why they are wrong.

6. The Constitution says I have a right to own guns.
Yes it does, but for some reason gun advocates think that the right to bear arms is the only constitutional right that is virtually without limit. You have the right to practice your religion, but not if your religion involves human sacrifice. You have the right to free speech, but you can still be prosecuted for incitement or conspiracy, and you can be sued for libel. Every right is subject to limitation when it begins to threaten others, and the Supreme Court has affirmed that even though there is an individual right to gun ownership, the government can put reasonable restrictions on that right.

And we all know that if this shooter turns out to have a Muslim name, plenty of Americans, including plenty of gun owners, will be more than happy to give up all kinds of rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Have the government read my email? Have my cell phone company turn over my call records? Check which books I'm taking out of the library? Make me take my shoes off before getting on a plane, just because some idiot tried to blow up his sneakers? Sure, do what you've got to do. But don't make it harder to buy thousands of rounds of ammunition, because if we couldn't do that we'd no longer be free.

We're sacrificing America's children to "our great god Gun"DEC 17

When God said in the Bible "you shall have no other gods before me", one of the gods he was referring to was Moloch, an Ammonite god worshipped by the Phoenicians and Canaanites who was associated with the sacrifice of children by his followers. In a short essay for The New York Review of Books, Gary Wills singles out the gun as America's Moloch.

Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains-"besmeared with blood" and "parents' tears." They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily-sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children's lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

How to make gun control happenDEC 17

What will it take for the US government to enact tougher gun control laws? Even with the Newtown shootings as impetus, it will be a politically difficult row to hoe.

What does it take? If a congresswoman in a coma isn't sufficient grounds to reevaluate the role that firearms play in our national life, is a schoolhouse full of dead children? I desperately want to believe that it is, and yet I'm not sure that I do. By this time next week, most of the people who are, today, signing petitions and demanding gun control will have moved on to other things. If you want to understand why the gun debate can occasionally feel rigged, this is the answer: the issue is characterized by a conspicuous asymmetry of fervor. The N.R.A. has only four million members -- a number that is probably dwarfed by the segment of the U.S. population that feels uneasy about the unbridled proliferation of firearms. But the pro-gun constituency is ardent and organized, while the gun control crowd is diffuse and easily distracted. In the 2012 election cycle, N.R.A. spending on lobbying outranked spending by gun control groups by a factor of ten to one.

What that means in practice is that in the aftermath of contemporary gun tragedies, we don't see new gun legislation. What we do see is a spike in gun sales. After the shooting last summer in Aurora, Colorado, gun sales went up. After the Giffords shooting, there was a surge in purchases of the very Glock semiautomatic that wounded her. Certainly, the firearm industry and lobby will confront some bad P.R. in the coming weeks, but they can likely find succor in an uptick in business. Following the Newtown shooting, Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners for America, suggested that these massacres might be avoided in the future, if only more teachers were armed.

Living the gun lifeDEC 17

From the August 2010 issue of Harper's, Dan Baum writes about his experience as a gun owner and concealed weapon carrier. This article is excellent.

I got hooked on guns forty-nine years ago as a fat kid at summer camp -- the one thing I could do was lie on my belly and shoot a .22 rifle -- and I've collected, shot, and hunted with guns my entire adult life. But I also grew up into a fairly typical liberal Democrat, with a circle of friends politely appalled at my fixation on firearms. For as long as I've been voting, I've reflexively supported waiting periods, background checks, the assault-rifle ban, and other gun-control measures. None interfered with my enjoyment of firearms, and none seemed to me the first step toward tyranny. As the concealed-carry laws changed across the land, I naturally sided with those who argued that arming the populace would turn fender benders into gunfights. The prospect of millions more gun-carrying Americans left me reliably horrified.

At the same time, though, I was a little jealous of those getting permits. Taking my guns from the safe was a rare treat; the sensual pleasure of handling guns is a big part of the habit. Elegantly designed and exquisitely manufactured, they are deeply satisfying to manipulate, even without shooting. I normally got to play with mine only a few times a year, during hunting season and on one or two trips to the range. The people with carry permits, though, were handling their guns all the time. They were developing an enviable competence and familiarity with them. They were living the gun life. Finally, last year, under the guise of "wanting to learn what this is all about," but really wanting to live the gun life myself, I began the process of getting a carry permit. All that was required was a background check, fingerprints, and certification that I'd passed an approved handgun class.

Obama's poor record on gun controlDEC 17

Despite promises leading up to the 2008 Presidential election of strengthening the nation's gun control laws, President Obama has done nothing but offer condolences to those affected by mass shootings.

There has been no shortage of sorrow-filled words from Barack Obama following each of the tragic mass killings that have afflicted his presidency.

Obama described the wounding of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and deaths of six other people, including a young girl, in Tucson, Arizona, last year as a "tragedy for our entire country" and called for a "national dialogue" on how Americans treat each other.

He struck much the same theme in July following the killing of 12 people at a Colorado cinema. A month later, Obama called for "soul searching" on how to reduce violence after a white supremacist murdered six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

The searing awfulness of Newtown on Friday saw the president in tears, declaring: "We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years.

"We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics," he said.

Although Obama didn't mention gun control, that is what he was widely assumed to be talking about.

But critics say that the president, for all his sorrowful words after each mass killing, has not only visibly failed to address gun control, he has quietly acquiesced in a slew of national, state and local laws in recent years that have generally made it easier to buy and carry weapons.

Obama's speech at Newtown prayer vigilDEC 17

President Obama pledged to use "whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this" in his speech last night at a prayer vigil in Newtown, CT.

A full transcript of the speech is available.

And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do, one child even trying to encourage a grownup by saying, "I know karate, so it's OK; I'll lead the way out."

As a community, you've inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you've looked out for each other. You've cared for one another. And you've loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered, and with time and God's grace, that love will see you through.

But we as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. You know, someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.

With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice, and every parent knows there's nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet we also know that with that child's very first step and each step after that, they are separating from us, that we won't -- that we can't always be there for them.

They will suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments, and we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. And we know we can't do this by ourselves.

It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can't do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.

And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we're counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we're all parents, that they are all our children.

This is our first task, caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we're meeting our obligations?

Can we honestly say that we're doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

Can we claim, as a nation, that we're all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?

Can we say that we're truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I've been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer's no. We're not doing enough. And we will have to change. Since I've been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we've hugged survivors, the fourth time we've consoled the families of victims.

The best reporting on guns in AmericaDEC 14

From Pro Publica back in July, the best reporting on guns in America.

In the wake of last week's shooting in Aurora, Colo., we've taken a step back and laid out the best pieces we could find about guns. They're roughly organized by articles on rights, trafficking and regulation.

The blueprint for media coverage of mass killingsDEC 14

From a few years ago, Charlie Brooker's Newswipe takes on the media's reaction to mass killings, similar to what Roger Ebert was getting at.

(thx, daniel)

Remnick to Obama: take action on gun controlDEC 14

The New Yorker's editor in chief David Remnick strongly urges President Obama to take decisive action on gun control.

Barack Obama has been in our field of vision for a long time now, and, more than any major politician of recent memory, he hides in plain sight. He is who he is. He may strike the unsympathetic as curiously remote or arrogant or removed; he certainly strikes his admirers as a man of real intelligence and dignity. But he is who he is. He is no phony. And so there is absolutely no reason to believe that his deep, raw emotion today following the horrific slaughter in Connecticut-his tears, the prolonged catch in his voice-was anything but genuine. But this was a slaughter-a slaughter like so many before it-and emotion is hardly all that is needed. What is needed is gun control-strict, comprehensive gun control that places the values of public safety and security before the values of deer hunting and a perverse ahistorical reading of the Second Amendment. Obama told the nation that he reacted to the shootings in Newtown "as a parent," and that is understandable, but what we need most is for him to act as a President, liberated at last from the constraints of elections and their dirty compromises-a President who dares to change the national debate and the legislative agenda on guns.

The Onion, often the most emotionally honest media sourceDEC 14

The Onion takes on the CT school shootings in a series of articles. First, there's Fuck Everything, Nation Reports:

Following the fatal shooting this morning at a Connecticut elementary school that left at least 27 dead, including 20 small children, sources across the nation shook their heads, stifled a sob in their voices, and reported fuck everything. Just fuck it all to hell.

All of it, sources added.

"I'm sorry, but fuck it, I can't handle this-I just can't handle it anymore," said Deborah McEllis, who added that "no, no, no, no, no, this isn't happening, this can't be real." "Seriously, what the hell is this? What's even going on anymore? Why do things like this keep happening?"

From Right To Own Handheld Device That Shoots Deadly Metal Pellets At High Speed Worth All Of This:

"It's my God-given right and a founding principle of this country that I be able to own a [piece of metal that launches other smaller pieces of metal great distances, one after the other], and if a few deaths here and there is the price we have to pay for that freedom, then so be it," said Lawrence Crane of nearby Danbury, CT, who is such a staunch advocate of the portable deadly-pellet-flinging apparatuses that he keeps multiple versions of such mechanisms in his home, often carries one with him, and is a member of a club whose sole purpose is to celebrate these assembled steel things and the small bits of metal they send flying.

And Report: It Okay To Spend Rest Of Day Curled In Fetal Position Under Desk:

Following reports of a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children dead, sources just confirmed that it is totally fine to spend the entire rest of today curled up in the fetal position underneath your desk. Early reports also indicated that sitting on the floor while holding your knees to your chest and slowly rocking back and forth is not only acceptable, but, sources said, absolutely understandable.

Mayor Bloomberg: we need political leadership regarding gun violenceDEC 14

A statement from NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg on today's events:

With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it's still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership -- not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.

Roger Ebert on the media's coverage of school shootingsDEC 14

From his review of Gus Van Sant's Elephant, a fictionalized account of a Columbine-like school shooting, here's Roger Ebert on the media's behavior while reporting these kinds of events.

Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. "Wouldn't you say," she asked, "that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?" No, I said, I wouldn't say that. "But what about 'Basketball Diaries'?" she asked. "Doesn't that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?" The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it's unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.

The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. "Events like this," I said, "if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn't have messed with me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory."

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of "explaining" them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

Kids and guns in the USADEC 14

Back in 2007, Gary Younge wrote an article for the Guardian about nine children who were killed with guns in one day in the US.

In many respects, then, Gerardo's death set the scene for just another day in America. Over the following 24 hours, on this day picked at random, another eight children would lose their lives. Gerardo was the eldest; the youngest was two. Eight were black and one was Hispanic. They died in housing estates, suburbs and malls, at parties and on porches, in areas of average income and of above-average poverty. They were shot by a relative, friend, unknown assassin, a pizza delivery man, an off-duty police officer and by accident. It was Thanksgiving, the biggest travelling weekend of the year, when people are returning home after joining their families for the holiday. By the time the day was over, nine families were one member short.

How to talk to kids about school massacresDEC 14

So far, I've found advice from Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. Any child psychologists reading today? Can you point me towards some other (possibly better) sources? Email me here: jason@kottke.org. I will collect the best resources and post here.

In keeping with the very contemporary-seeming "advice from children's television" vibe, here's Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton on talking with our children about the elementary school shootings.

Dr. Brené Brown shared several resources:

- Talking to children about violence from the National Association of School Psychologists

- Resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics

- Talking To Your Children About Violence Against Kids from the University of Minnesota

- Talking To Children About Death from Hospicenet.org

- Explaining the News to Our Kids from Common Sense Media

Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Talking to Kids About Tragedy by James Hamblin, MD at the Atlantic.

Tips for Talking to Children About the Shooting from the NY Times.

The NRA is winning the war on gunsDEC 14

And it's not because they have guns. They've got money and political influence.

While the NRA wins court fights, laws allowing more guns in more public places continue to spread, often for reasons that defy logic. For example, take the reasoning offered by Alabama state Sen. Roger Bedford, a Democrat, when explaining to Bloomberg earlier this week why he introduced a bill that would allow people to keep their guns in their cars in the workplace parking lot. "This provides safety and protection for workers who oftentimes travel 20 to 50 miles to their jobs," Bedford said. What does this mean? If there's a workplace shooting, people need to be able to have their guns in the parking lot to turn the place into a true shootout? Or does he just mean that maybe people need to be able to shoot to kill while driving down the highway on the way to work?

Facts about guns and mass shootings in the USDEC 14

More facts about guns in America from Ezra Klein, beginning with the sad fact that "shooting sprees are not rare in the United States".

If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation's security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.

Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. But that's unacceptable. As others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn't "too soon." It's much too late.

It's a Smith and Wesson ChristmasDEC 14

This past Black Friday was reportedly "the largest gun sales day in recorded history".

How do we prevent school massacres?DEC 14

Josh Marshall at TPM asks: how do we fix this?

I don't want to hear about these tragedies being rooted in evil or the human heart. We know the human heart is a substandard product. The brain frequently malfunctions. It's offensive to put this forward as part of a discussion about policy as opposed to theodicy and meditation. We know that the vast, vast proportion of gun owners use them legally and safely. We also know that gun deaths are rare in many other countries quite similar to the USA for the simple reason they don't have so many friggin' guns all over the place. This is obvious. And guns just make it easy to kill a lot of people really quickly. Freely available body armor helps too.

The United States of GunsDEC 14

From the New Yorker back in April, Jill Lepore wrote about the history of guns in America.

There are nearly three hundred million privately owned firearms in the United States: a hundred and six million handguns, a hundred and five million rifles, and eighty-three million shotguns. That works out to about one gun for every American. The gun that T. J. Lane brought to Chardon High School belonged to his uncle, who had bought it in 2010, at a gun shop. Both of Lane's parents had been arrested on charges of domestic violence over the years. Lane found the gun in his grandfather's barn.

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.

The right day to talk about gunsDEC 14

Writing for the New Yorker, Alex Koppelman says that today is the right day to talk about guns.

Carney's response was a predictable one. This is the way that we deal with such incidents in the U.S.-we acknowledge them; we are briefly shocked by them; then we term it impolite to discuss their implications, and to argue about them. At some point, we will have to stop putting it off, stop pretending that doing so is the proper, respectful thing. It's not either. It's cowardice.

It is cowardice, too, the way that Carney and President Obama and their fellow-Democrats talk about gun control, when they finally decide the time is right. They avoid the issue as much as possible, then mouth platitudes, or promise to pass only the most popular of measures, like the assault-weapons ban. And then they do nothing to follow through.

Mr. Rogers on helping kids deal with tragic news eventsDEC 14

Mr Rogers' advice on how to talk to children about tragic news events is worth a read for parents and, well, everyone really.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in this world.

Japan is a land without guns (and shooting deaths)DEC 14

Max Fisher on firearm ownership in Japan.

But what about the country at the other end of the spectrum? What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world's least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller? In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.

Almost no one in Japan owns a gun. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country's infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgo guns; the few exceptions tend to become big national news stories.

Six facts about guns and gun controlDEC 14

In the aftermath of the Aurora, CO shootings, Ezra Klein wrote six facts about guns, violence, and gun control.

1. America is an unusually violent country. But we're not as violent as we used to be.

5. States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.

Studies: more guns, more homicideDEC 14

The Harvard Injury Control Research Center has reviewed the literature and the results are clear: more guns = more homicide.

Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

The web we lostDEC 14

A nice post from Anil Dash about the web of yesteryear and all the nice things we used to have.

When you see interesting data mash-ups today, they are often still using Flickr photos because Instagram's meager metadata sucks, and the app is only reluctantly on the web at all. We get excuses about why we can't search for old tweets or our own relevant Facebook content, though we got more comprehensive results from a Technorati search that was cobbled together on the feeble software platforms of its era. We get bullshit turf battles like Tumblr not being able to find your Twitter friends or Facebook not letting Instagram photos show up on Twitter because of giant companies pursuing their agendas instead of collaborating in a way that would serve users. And we get a generation of entrepreneurs encouraged to make more narrow-minded, web-hostile products like these because it continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy, instead of letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves on top of the web itself.

The open web is an amazing thing, way way way better than Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and all the apps on my phone put together. The thing that really irritates me and deeply disappoints me about Twitter specifically is that the people who started that company and those who now run it know this. They know exactly what Anil is talking about. They railed against big companies trying to control the web back in the day. And they don't care anymore? Are they just out for themselves and the money? Has the Valley really shifted so significantly from Brand to Rand?

Ol' Dirty Bastard's FBI fileAARON COHEN  ·  DEC 14

Earlier in the year, Rich Jones at Gun.io filed a Freedom of Information request for Ol' Dirty Bastard's FBI file. It appears Wu-Tang may not actually be for the children. Here are the parts Jones noted.

"The WTC is heavily involved in the sale of drugs, illegal guns, weapons possession, murder, carjacking and other types of violent crime." [p5]
Connections to the murder of Robert "Pooh" Johnson and Jerome "Boo Boo" Estrella. [p6]
Connection to murder of Ishamael "Hoody" Kourma. [p13]
A shoot-out with the NYPD. [p15]
Arrest for felony possession of body armour. [p16]
Connections to the Bloods Gang. [p17]
Found in possession of large bags full of paper currency. [p40]
Details of his being robbed and shot while staying in the Kingston projects. [p45]

But also, Wu-Tang Flan, creator unknown.

wu-tang-flan.jpg

Updates on previous entries for Dec 13, 2012*DEC 14

A visit to E.B. White's house orig. from Dec 12, 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 best tablet: the iPad miniDEC 13

The staff at Wirecutter say the iPad mini is the best tablet out there.

The iPad mini is the best tablet to get and lets be honest, it's way better than the full sized iPad for nearly everyone. I'd even go so far as to say that the full sized iPad is plain obscene after using the mini.

I'm embarrassed to say this because I've been part of the problem by not talking enough about the heft. But the truth is that we've all been overlooking the iPad's weight because everything else was good about it. It's not anyone's fault-it's physics and trade offs that make a 10-inch tablet weigh this much when its made of these materials with a battery life this long. It was the best tablet for most, because it was the only one to get with iOS and its amazing library of apps and great hardware. But I can't say the heft is ok anymore. You didn't hold it like a magazine, which is the dream of a tablet, because it weighed as much as coffee tablet book or a small telephone book. You can agree or disagree, but it's indisputable that the mini is a better hold because you don't have to grip it like a steering wheel or like an underpowered circus strongman. And what good is a mobile gadget if its hard to carry and hold?

After using one for just under a week now, I completely agree. When it gets a retina screen in the next iteration or two, it'll be perfect. (via @robinsloan)

Climate change slows skiing downDEC 13

Climate change, already on the hook for potentially killing spaghetti, will have a big impact on downhill skiing and snowboarding in the United States.

Under certain warming forecasts, more than half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast will not be able to maintain a 100-day season by 2039, according to a study to be published next year by Daniel Scott, director of the Interdisciplinary Center on Climate Change at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

By then, no ski area in Connecticut or Massachusetts is likely to be economically viable, Mr. Scott said. Only 7 of 18 resorts in New Hampshire and 8 of 14 in Maine will be. New York's 36 ski areas, most of them in the western part of the state, will have shrunk to 9.

Just screaming and paintingDEC 13

I have a lot more respect for painters now. Who knew it was such an intense sensory workout?

This is taken from a longer video piece with less screaming that will be on display at the Walker Art Center in 2013.

Inspired by Bob Ross-style instructional television programs, the Seoul-based artist says "the theme of this video is the existential nature of contemporary art (and culture) as well as of artists." Characteristic of Beom's deadpan humor, the narrator's demonstration shows how to apply paint while engaged in "a long scream that sounds like when you're hurt"; "a scream induced by psychological pain"; and "a more pained, wronged, and regretful scream."

(via ★spavis)

Thorium, a relatively safe and abundant nuclear power source?DEC 13

Peter Reinhardt writes about the energy prospects of thorium, a naturally occurring radioactive element that's much more abundant on Earth than uranium.

The important point is that thorium is ridiculously more abundant than uranium. And abundance matters when we're talking about providing energy to the world. In fact, there's so much thorium on Earth that the easily extractable reserves in the United States (10% of the world's) could supposedly power the entire United States at current energy levels for the next 10,000 years. It's not exactly renewable, but it's a much longer lifeline than oil. And it can be mined safely within US borders: most of the US reserves are concentrated in a 25 square-kilometer pileup of mountains straddling the border of Idaho and Montana.

(via hn)

How every episode of Law and Order endedDEC 13

The gang at Overthinking It have analyzed the endings of all 456 episodes of Law & Order (guilty, not guilty, plea bargain, etc.).

"Implied win" refers to episodes in which you don't see a plea bargain or Guilty verdict, but it's pretty clear that's the way things are headed. For instance, if the killer's wife tearfully agrees to testify against him and then the episode ends, it's an "implied win." We don't know the outcome, but we are led to believe it's going to be some flavor of Justice. (The rare cases where the result was completely unclear went into the Other category.)

Over the entire run of the show, more than a third of all the episodes ended in Guilty verdicts, while another third ended in plea bargains. 80% of episodes ended in solid wins: either Guilty verdicts, plea bargains, or implied victories. That's not too shabby, considering that the actual NYPD has a homicide clearance rate of about 50%. (Although you have to figure Law & Order isn't meant to represent every case these detectives investigated; in 20 seasons, I don't think there was a single murder that didn't result in an arrest.)

They also looked at all of the red and yellow alerts on Star Trek:TNG.

Google Maps for iOSDEC 13

Your Apple Maps nightmare is over. Google has (finally!) released an iOS app for Google Maps.

A visit to E.B. White's houseDEC 12

A lovely piece by Mira Ptacin about a visit to E.B. White's home in Maine.

It's late September and my husband and I are in North Brooklin, Maine, walking down a plain gravel path towards the cedar shake writing shed of someone who hasn't invited us: Elwyn Brooks White, better known to some as the late essayist E. B. White, and to those who still don't know, the man who wrote the classic children's books "Charlotte's Web" and "Stuart Little." With each step away from the old brown barn and to the shed, we see living relics from White's world: A lush emerald garden. His old chicken chopping block. A tall apple tree doubling as a raccoon lookout. The sterling pond, large brown geese skirting its brim. And then, as if it was just a shed, his writing studio appears.

(via @robinsloan)

Update: Last year, Blake Eskin visited the farm on behalf of the New Yorker.

Flickr releases new iPhone appDEC 12

Flickr released a new version of their iPhone app today (App Store) and it appears to be a dramatic improvement over their old offering.

We know that some of your best photo moments happen on the fly, so we've made it easier to get the perfect shot when inspiration hits. Once you get the shot, there's a built-in editor to quickly correct, crop, or enhance it with one of the new high res filters.

I haven't had a chance to check it out in detail yet, but from everything I'm hearing, people are jazzed about it.

Best media errors and corrections of 2012DEC 12

This is one of my favorite annual lists: Regret the Error's best (and worst) media errors and corrections. Here, for example, is the correction of the year from the Economist:

Correction: An earlier version of this article claimed that journalists at Bloomberg Businessweek could be disciplined for sipping a spritzer at work. This is not true. Sorry. We must have been drunk on the job.

And this one, from The Atlantic:

This post originally referred to Jennifer Grey as "Ferris Bueller's sister." As commenters have pointed out, her role alongside Swayze in Dirty Dancing is clearly the more relevant. We regret putting Baby in a corner.

And from Slate:

In an April 30 "TV Club," Julia Turner misstated when Sally Draper ate the fish in Mad Men. It was before she saw the blow job.

The Atlantic has a similar list that casts a wider net outside of news media.

Bo Jackson's quarter-long runAARON COHEN  ·  DEC 12

In this video, Bo Jackson's historic quarter-long run against the Patriots is recreated on Tecmo Super Bowl almost exactly. I tried to figure out how many yards he actually ran, but I can't count that high or fast. Apparently a Tecmo quarter lasts about 1:54 when the clock is allowed to run.

See also, You Don't Know Bo, the just aired ESPN 30 for 30 documentary. (via @sportsguy33)

Where does all the wine come from in Game of Thrones?DEC 12

You need predictable and changing seasons to grow grapes and the Game of Thrones world features long unpredictable seasons...so where does all that wine come from?

The seasons in George RR Martin's medieval fantasy are a random, unpredictable mess. They could last anywhere from a few months to a decade and there's no way to forecast them. As the story opens, the characters are near the end of a long, ten-year summer. They also worry about the coming winter, which will cause mass starvation if it also lasts years on end. This wonky climate is an irreplaceable part of Game of Thrones. Westeros would not be remotely the same without it.

But grapevines have a life cycle that depends on regular seasons. In winter, grapevines are dormant. Come spring they sprout leaves. As summer begins, they flower and tiny little grapes appear. Throughout the summer the grapes fill up with water, sugar and acid. The grapes are finally ready for picking in early autumn, then go back to sleep in winter. This cycle is why wineries can rely on a yearly grape yield. Obviously, in Westeros, something must be different about how grapes work.

(via bb)

What your favorite Nintendo game says about youDEC 12

Let's see, my favorite game was probably the original Legend of Zelda, so:

You have carried a piece of string cheese behind your ear for a whole day.

Not the whole day, but certainly longer than was socially or hygienically acceptable. (via @tcarmody)

Climate change and the end of pastaDEC 12

The supposed debate among scientists over climate change has melted faster than the polar ice caps. National Science Board member James Lawrence Powell looked at all the related peer-reviewed scientific papers over the last several years. Twenty-four of those articles rejected the notion of climate change. Out of 14,000.

So let this be clear: There is no scientific controversy over this. Climate change denial is purely, 100 percent made-up political and corporate-sponsored crap.

It's still easy for many of us to ignore the issue of climate change, but every now and then a headline makes us take notice. This one did it for me: The End of Pasta.

But if humans want to keep eating pasta, we will have to take much more aggressive action against global warming. Pasta is made from wheat, and a large, growing body of scientific studies and real-world observations suggest that wheat will be hit especially hard as temperatures rise and storms and drought intensify in the years ahead.

A ProPublica Investigation: Poisoning the Well: How the feds let industry pollute the nation's underground water supply.

Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation's drinking water.

In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.

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

New trailer for the new Superman movieDEC 11

So this is the new trailer for the new Superman movie (Man of Steel), which should not be confused with the old trailer for the new Superman movie or with a trailer from the old new Superman movie or with a trailer from the old Superman movie.

What I am confused about is whether this trailer is any good. On one hand, it seems really really good but also really crappy at the same time. Tell me what to feel, Superman!

"My parents adopted a murderer"DEC 11

Amity Bitzel recently disowned her father and somehow the worst thing he did to her and her sister as kids was not adopting a double murderer after his release from prison.

In 1984, in the quiet and modestly affluent suburb of Cape St. Clair, Maryland, a 17-year-old boy named Larry Swartz murdered both of his adoptive parents. In 1993, after serving nine years of his 12-year sentence, Larry was released from prison and came to live with us.

An unbelievable story. (via @doreeshafrir's best 2012 Longreads)

Do we live in a computer simulation?DEC 11

In 2003, British philosopher Nick Bostrom suggested that we might live in a computer simulation. From the abstract of Bostrom's paper:

This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a "posthuman" stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.

The gist appears to be that if The Matrix is possible, someone has probably already invented it and we're in it. Which, you know, whoa.

But researchers believe they have devised a test to check if we're living in a computer simulation.

However, Savage said, there are signatures of resource constraints in present-day simulations that are likely to exist as well in simulations in the distant future, including the imprint of an underlying lattice if one is used to model the space-time continuum.

The supercomputers performing lattice quantum chromodynamics calculations essentially divide space-time into a four-dimensional grid. That allows researchers to examine what is called the strong force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature and the one that binds subatomic particles called quarks and gluons together into neutrons and protons at the core of atoms.

"If you make the simulations big enough, something like our universe should emerge," Savage said. Then it would be a matter of looking for a "signature" in our universe that has an analog in the current small-scale simulations.

If it turns out we're all really living in an episode of St. Elsewhere, I'm going to be really bummed. (via @CharlesCMann)

Louis C.K.'s Proust questionnaireDEC 11

Vanity Fair regularly runs a celebrity questionnaire in the pages of its magazine and for January they got Louis C.K. to do it. Somehow. Because he really didn't like doing it.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Not ever having to fill out this questionnaire.

What is your greatest fear?
You think I'm going to tell you that? You think I'm going to let you print my greatest fear in a national magazine? No sir. I will not, sir.

Hand drawn map of NYCDEC 10

Illustrator Jenni Sparks has made an awesome hand drawn map of New York City.

Jenni Sparks Map

Prints are available.

The Kobe AssistDEC 10

The trouble with using statistics to improve the performance of sports teams is the difficulty in choosing what stats to track. Kirk Goldsberry makes that case that we should be tracking a new statistic called the Kobe Assist, which is actually a good kind of missed shot.

Kobe was wide-open; he caught the ball and shot without hesitation. He missed, and despite the great screen by Howard and the great playmaking by Nash, this beautiful basketball sequence was seemingly fruitless. Nash would not get his assist.

However, while Nash was busy playmaking and while Kobe was busy jump shooting, Dwight Howard had taken about seven steps toward his happy place -- the restricted area -- fought off the gigantic DeMarcus Cousins, and gained optimal rebounding position. Kobe's miss ricocheted upward from the rim before descending back down into the hands of Howard, who quickly put the ball in the basket; the Staples crowd went wild (in the dark). Did Kobe just miss a shot or did he just inadvertently set up Dwight Howard for an easy score? Are some of Kobe's missed shots actually good for the Lakers? Are some of his misses kind of like assists?

Novak Djokovic buys all the donkey cheese in the worldDEC 10

While you ponder what that might be a euphemism for, I'll just tell you that in actual fact tennis player Novak Djokovic has purchased the entire 2013 supply of cheese made from donkey milk. Only £800 per kilo.

Wimbledon winner and world No 1 Novak, 25, wants the donkey's milk cheese to supply a new chain of restaurants in his Serbian homeland. The delicacy, known as pule, is made in Zasavica, Serbia, and is described as similar to Spanish manchego. Donkey milk is said to be very healthy for humans as it has anti-allergen properties and is low fat.

(via @tylercowen)

The vast coldscape of AmericaDEC 10

Writing for Cabinet, Nicola Twilley explores the coldscape, the collective artifically refrigerated space humans dedicate to preserving food.

More than three-quarters of the food consumed in the United States today is processed, packaged, shipped, stored, and sold under artificial refrigeration. The shiny, humming stainless steel box in your kitchen is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak -- a tiny fragment of the vast global network of temperature-controlled storage and distribution warehouses cumulatively capable of hosting uncounted billions of cubic feet of chilled flesh, fish, or fruit. Add to that an equally vast and immeasurable volume of thermally controlled space in the form of shipping containers, wine cellars, floating fish factories, international seed banks, meat-aging lockers, and livestock semen storage, and it becomes clear that the evolving architecture of coldspace is as ubiquitous as it is varied, as essential as it is overlooked.

Hawaiian mega-tsunamis with 1000 ft wavesDEC 07

Scientists have found evidence of mega-tsunamis hitting the Hawaiian islands that were more than 1000 feet high. The tsunamis are caused by landslides from collapsing volcanos but don't occur very often (every 100,000 years).

There are at least 15 giant landslides that have slid off the Hawaiian Islands in the past 4 million years, with the most recent happening only 100,000 years ago, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. One block of rock that slid off Oahu is the size of Manhattan.

How to hack ChipotleDEC 07

This article on getting the most out of your burrito-scarfing experience at Chipotle by William Hudson at Thought Catalog was better than I thought it could be.

1/2 meat + 1/2 meat = 3/2 meat. Forgetting is natural, like Chipotle meat, so let me remind you that when you add fractions you only add the top part, when the bottom part is the same number. Therefore, when you're asked what type of meat, and you say "half chicken and half steak", it should equal one serving of meat. But it never does. Because a scoop of meat is kinda just a scoop of meat, and nobody in Chipotle management has yet introduced new "half" scoops with which to more precisely address this perfectly legal request. So use it. IMPORTANT: Unlike with the beans, you should make your position on the half meats clear from the beginning, otherwise they charge you for "extra meat."

These options should all have names like the In-N-Out secret menu items: the Blinko, the Meat and a Half, the Jimmy Stewart's Bathtub, etc. (via digg)

The 50 greatest hip-hop songsDEC 07

Rolling Stone asked a panel of experts (Busta Rhymes, Questlove, Rick Rubin, etc.) to vote on the best hip-songs ever produced. Here's the list of their top 50 picks. Dre and Snoop's Nuthin' But a "G" Thang comes in at #6.

Climbing to Number Two on the singles chart in early 1993, "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" made Dr. Dre the undisputed flag bearer of West Coast rap, while also ushering that genre into the pop mainstream. The song's secret weapon was a relatively unknown pup named Snoop Doggy Dogg, whose verses are packed with effortless quotables. The song also introduced Dre's masterful "G-Funk" style of production, which updated George Clinton's legacy with slow, rubbery funk and layered synth hooks. "We made records during the crack era, where everything was hyped up, sped up and zoned out," Chuck D explained. "Dre came with ' "G" Thang' and slowed the whole genre down. He took hip-hop from the crack era to the weed era."

Listen to the entire list on Spotify. (via @gavinpurcell)

The Star War$ and £ego universeDEC 07

Now that I have a 5-year-old, I pay attention to things like Star Wars branded Lego sets. And they are a rip off. Why are these little plastic bricks so expensive? The cheapest set I can find is $7, most of the minifigs are more expensive than that, many sets are a few hundred dollars, and the most expensive sets are the price of a used car: there's a Lego Star Destroyer for $1600 and a Lego Millenium Falcon for $3400.

Now get off my lawn!

Update: Ah, the Star Destroyer and Millenium Falcon are discontinued and collectable, that's why they are thousands of dollars. Original prices were $300-500. It's so difficult to tell these things on Amazon when you're old and crotchety and and and wait, where are my pants? (thx, everyone)

Update: Why are Legos so expensive? Because each brick has to fit perfectly with every other brick ever made. (thx, @johnhutch)

Oral History of Freaks and GeeksAARON COHEN  ·  DEC 07

Really great and long oral history of Freaks and Geeks in the January issue of Vanity Fair, a show that aired for one season on NBC in 1999, but has since developed a cult following. A following helped, no doubt, by the emergence of stars like James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segal, along with the show's co-creaters Paul Feig, and, well, Judd Apatow.

PAUL FEIG: We did our infamous two weeks with the writers locking ourselves in a room and telling personal stories. I wrote a list of questions for everybody to answer: "What was the best thing that happened to you in high school? What was the worst thing that happened to you in high school? Who were you in love with and why?"

JUDD APATOW: "What was your worst drug experience? Who was your first girlfriend? What's the first sexual thing you ever did? What's the most humiliating thing that ever happened to you during high school?"

PAUL FEIG: That's where most of our stories came from. Weirder stuff happens to people in real life than it does on TV. It was a personal show for me and I wanted it to be personal for everybody else.

While we're on Freaks and Geeks, why not read the above article while listening to Freaks and Geeks Complete, a Rdio playlist by Joel Robinson with all the songs featured on the series.

While we're on oral histories, Tim Carmody posits "we are living in a golden age of oral histories." Agreed.

While we're on Judd Apatow, take a look at Gallery1988's 'A Tribute to Judd Apatow,' an art show inspired by the Apatow's TV shows and movies.

Updates on previous entries for Dec 6, 2012*DEC 07

Apple to make computers in USA again orig. from Dec 06, 2012

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

The Wire, illustratedDEC 06

Illustrator Dennis Culver is offering for sale a poster of 50+ characters from The Wire.

The Wire Illustrated

You've obviously got your Omar and String, but you've also got Butchie and Lamarr and Horseface. $25 for the poster...that's about 50 cents a character!

The New York Times CompendiumDEC 06

The New York Times Research & Development Lab has built an app called Compendium that lets people create collections of NY Times articles and photos.

Compendium invites readers of The New York Times like you to use articles, imagery, videos, and quotations to tell your own stories using New York Times content. Each collection has a description that you can use to introduce the collection as a whole, and each item in your collection has a place for you to describe what was important, interesting, or funny about it. Once created, you can share your collection or link to it from anywhere. Compendium is also a great place to discover and explore interesting stories through a wide variety of collections created by our readers, editors, and reporters.

Some examples: Jenna Wortham's favorite reads of 2012, a drone-related collection, and the best/worst dining reviews.

Visualizing the Rolling Stones toursAARON COHEN  ·  DEC 06

The Rolling Stones have been touring for almost 50 years, starting with a British tour in 1963, and this tool allows you to visualize their travels. It's really cool. The craziest part to me is how dramatically the length of their tours has increased since they started out. Their first tour in 1963 (actually one of their longer tours early in their career) was about 28 shows over the course of a month. Their last tour in 2005 had about a gabillion shows over two years and grossed $528 million.

visualizing-the-rolling-stones.png

On a personal note, I read "The Rolling Stones" several times on this page and still spent parts of two days looking at it and thinking it was The Beatles tour visualization. Twice. I read "The Rolling Stones," thought it was The Beatles, corrected myself, and then thought it was The Beatles again. (via @pbump)

AOL's history as told by NY Times crossword cluesSARAH PAVIS  ·  DEC 06

Over on Quartz, Zach Seward takes a neat look at the 14 year rise and fall of AOL through the zeitgeist-y lens of clues for that short, double vowel word being used in the New York Times crossword.

Mar. 29, 1998: Netcom competitor
Jun. 17, 1998: Chat room inits.
Oct. 4, 1998: Part of some E-mail addresses

(via ★faketv)

"Made in the USA" is back, babyDEC 06

Earlier this morning in a post about Apple manufacturing their products in the US, I wrote "look for this "made in the USA" thing to turn into a trend". Well, Made in the USA is already emerging as a trend in the media. On Tuesday, Farhad Manjoo wrote about American Giant, a company who makes the world's best hoodie entirely in the US for a decent price.

For one thing, Winthrop had figured out a way to do what most people in the apparel industry consider impossible: He's making clothes entirely in the United States, and he's doing so at costs that aren't prohibitive. American Apparel does something similar, of course, but not especially profitably, and its clothes are very low quality. Winthrop, on the other hand, has found a way to make apparel that harks back to the industry's heyday, when clothes used to be made to last. "I grew up with a sweatshirt that my father had given me from the U.S. Navy back in the '50s, and it's still in my closet," he told me. "It was this fantastic, classic American-made garment -- it looks better today than it did 35, 40 years ago, because like an old pair of denim, it has taken on a very personal quality over the years."

The Atlantic has a pair of articles in their December issue, Charles Fishman's The Insourcing Boom:

Yet this year, something curious and hopeful has begun to happen, something that cannot be explained merely by the ebbing of the Great Recession, and with it the cyclical return of recently laid-off workers. On February 10, [General Electric's Appliance Park in Louisville, KY] opened an all-new assembly line in Building 2 -- largely dormant for 14 years -- to make cutting-edge, low-energy water heaters. It was the first new assembly line at Appliance Park in 55 years -- and the water heaters it began making had previously been made for GE in a Chinese contract factory.

On March 20, just 39 days later, Appliance Park opened a second new assembly line, this one in Building 5, to make new high-tech French-door refrigerators. The top-end model can sense the size of the container you place beneath its purified-water spigot, and shuts the spigot off automatically when the container is full. These refrigerators are the latest versions of a style that for years has been made in Mexico.

Another assembly line is under construction in Building 3, to make a new stainless-steel dishwasher starting in early 2013. Building 1 is getting an assembly line to make the trendy front-loading washers and matching dryers Americans are enamored of; GE has never before made those in the United States. And Appliance Park already has new plastics-manufacturing facilities to make parts for these appliances, including simple items like the plastic-coated wire racks that go in the dishwashers.

and James Fallows' Mr. China Comes to America:

What I saw at these Chinese sites was surprisingly different from what I'd seen on previous factory tours, reflecting the political, economic, technological, and especially social pressures that are roiling China now. In conjunction with significant changes in the American business and technological landscape that I recently saw in San Francisco, these changes portend better possibilities for American manufacturers and American job growth than at any other time since Rust Belt desolation and the hollowing-out of the American working class came to seem the grim inevitabilities of the globalized industrial age.

For the first time in memory, I've heard "product people" sound optimistic about hardware projects they want to launch and facilities they want to build not just in Asia but also in the United States. When I visited factories in the upper Midwest for magazine stories in the early 1980s, "manufacturing in America" was already becoming synonymous with "Rust Belt" and "sunset industry." Ambitious, well-educated people who had a choice were already headed for cleaner, faster-growing possibilities -- in consulting, finance, software, biotech, anything but things. At the start of the '80s, about one American worker in five had a job in the manufacturing sector. Now it's about one in 10.

Add to that all of the activity on Etsy and the many manufactured-goods projects on Kickstarter that are going "Made in the USA" (like Flint & Tinder underwear (buy now!)) and yeah, this is definitely a thing.

As noted by Fishman in his piece, one of the reasons US manufacturing is competitive again is the low price of natural gas. From a piece in SupplyChainDigest in October:

Several industries, noticeable chemicals and fertilizers, use lots of natural gas. Fracking and other unconventional techniques have already unlocked huge supplies of natural gas, which is why natural gas prices in the US are at historic lows and much lower than the rest of the world.

Right now, nat gas prices are under $3.00 per thousand cubic, down dramatically from about three times that in 2008 and even higher in 2006. Meanwhile, natural gas prices are about $10.00 right now in Europe and $15.00 in parts of Asia.

Much of the growing natural gas reserves come from the Marcellus shale formation that runs through Western New York and Pennsylvania, Southeast Ohio, and most of West Virginia. North Dakota in the upper Midwest also is developing into a major supplier of both oil and natural gas.

So basically, energy in the US is cheap right now and will likely remain cheap for years to come because hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking aka that thing that people say makes their water taste bad, among other issues) has unlocked vast and previously unavailable reserves of oil and natural gas that will take years to fully exploit. A recent report by the International Energy Agency suggests that the US is on track to become the world's biggest oil producer by 2020 (passing both Saudi Arabia and Russia) and could be "all but self-sufficient" in energy by 2030.

By about 2020, the United States will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer and put North America as a whole on track to become a net exporter of oil as soon as 2030, according to a report from the International Energy Agency.

The change would dramatically alter the face of global oil markets, placing the U.S., which currently imports about 45 percent of the oil it uses and about 20 percent of its total energy needs, in a position of unexpected power. The nation likely will become "all but self-sufficient" in energy by 2030, representing "a dramatic reversal of the trend seen in most other energy-importing countries," the IEA survey says.

So yay for "Made in the USA" but all this cheap energy could wreak havoc on the environment, hinder development of greener alternatives to fossil fuels (the only way green will win is to compete on price), and "artificially" prop up a US economy that otherwise might be stagnating. (thx, @rfburton, @JordanRVance, @technorav)

Trailer for Star Trek into DarknessDEC 06

Here's the "official teaser" trailer for J.J. Abrams' Trek reboot, Star Trek into Darkness.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the villain...maybe Khan or maybe someone else. I just hope there's more to this than explosions and yelling.

Apple to make computers in USA againDEC 06

According to CEO Tim Cook, Apple will start making some of its computers entirely in the US.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced one of the existing Mac lines will be manufactured exclusively in the United States next year. Mac fans will have to wait to see which Mac line it will be because Apple, widely known for its secrecy, left it vague. Cook's announcement may or may not confirm recent rumors in the blogosphere sparked by iMacs inscribed in the back with "Assembled in USA."

Well, those iMac pretty clearly state they are assembled in the US. And look for this "made in the USA" thing to turn into a trend...I think companies are finding that making stuff in the US is not as expensive as everyone thinks it is.

Update: BusinessWeek has a long interview with Cook about US manufacturing, among many other topics.

It's not known well that the engine for the iPhone and iPad is made in the U.S., and many of these are also exported-the engine, the processor. The glass is made in Kentucky. And next year we are going to bring some production to the U.S. on the Mac. We've been working on this for a long time, and we were getting closer to it. It will happen in 2013. We're really proud of it. We could have quickly maybe done just assembly, but it's broader because we wanted to do something more substantial. So we'll literally invest over $100 million. This doesn't mean that Apple will do it ourselves, but we'll be working with people, and we'll be investing our money.

The hurry-up marching bandDEC 05

As the pace of play-calling in college football has sped up, college marching bands have had to adjust as well.

What followed was something like the movie scene where every non-essential part on the plane is removed in order to make it light enough to take off from the short, improvised runway. First to go were any tunes longer than 30 seconds. Then, after the 2009 season in which Kelly became Oregon's head coach, Wiltshire ditched the flipbook on which the songs were written in favor of hand signals. "By the time I flipped a page," he says, "it was already too late." Knowing he had to serve two masters -- playing faster while still engaging the audience -- Wiltshire hit upon a new idea: theme music. Now whenever one of Oregon's star players gets a first down, the band plays the first five chords of a recognizable song: the "Hawaii Five-O" theme for quarterback Marcus Mariota (because he's originally from Hawaii); "Mambo No. 5" for De'Anthony Thomas (because his nickname is "the Black Mamba"); and the "Superman" theme for Kenjon Barner (because he's really good).

The valuable and sad Zapruder filmDEC 05

Alex Pasternack goes long on the Zapruder film for Motherboard.

Dan Rather, a very young Dan Rather, whose career was about to be minted, was CBS's Dallas bureau chief at the time. He called New York, asked for Don Hewitt, and told him that "a guy named Zapruder was supposed to have film of the assassination and was going to put it up for sale." Exactly how interested was Walter Cronkite's evening news program? Hewitt, the show's executive producer-and the long-time producer of 60 Minutes-insisted it was very interested, and quickly decided the best approach would require a bit of, well, courage.

"In my desire to get a hold of what was probably the most dramatic piece of news footage ever shot," Hewett wrote, "I told Rather to go to Zapruder's house, sock him in the jaw, take his film to our affiliate in Dallas, copy it onto videotape, and let the CBS lawyers decide whether it could be sold or whether it was in the public domain. And then take the film back to Zapruder's house and give it back to him. That way, the only thing they could get him for was assault because he would have returned Zapruder's property. Rather said, 'Great idea. I'll do it.'

The best photos of 2012DEC 05

Ali Bull Runners

My favorite end-of-the-year lists are always the photos. Here are a few that have made their way online so far; I'll be updating this list throughout the month so send me your lists.

2012: The Year in Photos from In Focus: Alan Taylor is still my favorite picker of photos. Here's part two.

Best Photos of the Year 2012 from Reuters: Almost a hundred photos, heavy on hard news.

The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2012 from Buzzfeed: A wide-ranging selection of photos designed to tug at the heartstrings. See also The Best Animal Photos of 2012.

Pictures of the Year 2012 from AFP (Agence France-Presse): Not an official list but a nice selection of AFP photos nonetheless.

2012: The year in pictures from CNN: A good selection from the cable network.

Year in Photos 2012 from the Wall Street Journal: A massive selection of photos organized by month, region, category, and rating.

The best photographs of 2012 from The Guardian: Photographs and interviews with the photographers who took them.

Photos Of The Year 2012 from the Associated Press: Photos are great but the way they're displayed isn't.

2012 Year in Pictures from The Big Picture: About 150 images chosen from a number of different sources. Here's part two and part three.

Russians are dashboard-cam crazyDEC 05

As we saw yesterday in this compilation, a lot of vehicular bad behavior is caught on camera. Marina Galperina explored why Russians get into so many traffic accidents and where all the video footage comes from.

Dash-cam footage is the only real way to substantiate your claims in the court of law. Forget witnesses. Hit and runs are very common and insurance companies notoriously specialize in denying claims. Two-way insurance coverage is very expensive and almost completely unavailable for vehicles over ten years old-the drivers can only get basic liability. Get into a minor or major accident and expect the other party to lie to the police or better yet, flee after rear-ending you. Since your insurance won't pay unless the offender is found and sued, you'll see dash-cam videos of post hit and run pursuits for plate numbers.

And sometimes drivers back up or bump their pre-dented car into yours. It used to be a mob thing, with the accident-staging specialists working in groups. After the "accident," the offending driver -- often an elderly lady -- is confronted by a crowd of "witnesses," psychologically pressured and intimidated to pay up cash on the spot. Since the Age of the Dash-cam, hustle has withered from a flourishing enterprise to a dying trade, mainly thriving in the provinces where dash-cams are less prevalent.

Here's a video compilation of scam attempts foiled by cameras. (thx, andrew & sam)

The object of the dayDEC 05

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum has a relatively new Object of the Day feature. Recent items include an abacus image by Paul Rand, an 18th-century version of bingo, and a Tiffany lamp.

Driving in RussiaDEC 04

This video is 13 minutes of traffic accidents in Russia and totally amazing.

Question #1: Why did I end up watching all 13 minutes of this video? A: Because it's one literally unbelievable thing after another.

Question #2: Was that a jet? A: Yes! And a helicopter.

Question #3: Why does everyone in Russia record their drives? A: Because this sort of thing happens all the time?

Question #4: I didn't know a powerline could flip a car over. A: Not a question, but yeah, WTF!?

Question #5: Have you ever seen so many tires fall off of cars before? A: No. No I haven't.

Teaser trailer for Shane Carruth's Upstream ColorDEC 04

Just the other day, the news broke that Primer's Shane Carruth had made a new movie and it was premiering at Sundance in January. Now there's a teaser trailer.

Trend alert: small internet publicationsDEC 04

For the longest time, the web was all like "blog blog blog blog" and we were like "fave fave fave like like like" but a bunch of recent publications and publishing systems seem to be breaking out of that mode. Craig Mod calls it Subcompact Publishing. Not sure I like the name, but I dig his gist. Here are a few examples I've seen:

Evening Edition: A daily roundup of the news brought to you by Mule Design.

29th Street Publishing: They're building a platform to make publishing Newsstand apps as easy as publishing a blog. Example pubs: The Awl's Weekend Companion and V as in Victor.

NextDraft: From Dave Pell, a culture-centric newsletter available via email and for iPad/iPhone.

Brief: "Technology news worth caring about", compiled daily by Richard Dunlop-Walters.

The Magazine: A bi-weekly iOS magazine for tech/internet lovers published by Marco Arment.

MATTER: An outlet for long-form journalism founded by Jim Giles and Bobbie Johnson.

Tapestry: A platform for making tappable iOS publications from Betaworks.

Color photography of Paris from 1914DEC 04

Albert Kahn sent photographers all over the world in the early 1900s and amassed over 72,000 color photos in the process. Here are a few shots of his from Paris on the eve of World War I.

Albert Kahn Paris

That photo is of the entrance to the Passage du Caire at the corner of Rue d'Alexandrie and Rue Sainte-Foy in the 2nd arrondissement. Here's what it looks like today:

Passage Du Caire

This season, Boardwalk Empire got greatDEC 04

My wife and I have been watching Boardwalk Empire for the past three seasons and it's seemed at times like we were the only ones. Writing for Grantland, Carles argues that the show got great this season and I totally agree. (Warning: tons of spoilers.)

Basically, I spent the first two seasons of Boardwalk Empire trying to figure out whether or not I even enjoyed the show. It featured premium producers, directors, writers, and actors, but it never felt like you were watching the show of the moment. Boardwalk Empire has been popular enough to get renewed regularly (it will be back for a fourth season next year), but it's been difficult to come to a consensus on whether or not it has been a fulfilling experience. There's a gap between high-end critical acclaim and casual fans. The uninitiated never get it. 'It's boring,' they say. 'It's trying to be something it isn't.' And maybe they were right. Fortunately, Season 3 has changed everything.

The show's tough to recommend to people because it's such a slow starter (compared to something like Breaking Bad or Homeland or whatever), but I'm happy we stuck with it.

The mathematics of elevatorsDEC 03

As a mathematician who works at Otis elevators, Theresa Christy can tell you pretty much everything you want to know about humans and elevators (except why some functional adults still haven't gotten the message that you let people out before you get in). How long are we willing to wait? How many of us will safely fit into an elevator? And does that close doors button really do anything? The WSJ on: The Ups and Downs of Making Elevators Go.

The challenges she deals with depend on the place. At a hotel in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, she has to make sure that the elevators can clear a building quickly enough to get most people out five times a day for prayer.

In Japan, riders immediately want to know which car will serve them -- indicated by a light and the sound of a gong -- even if the elevator won't arrive for 30 seconds. That way, people can line up in front of the correct elevator.

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Country cover of Snoop Dogg's Gin and JuiceDEC 03

Revisiting a classic today: a cover of Snoop Dogg's Gin and Juice by The Gourds.

The inside story of PongDEC 03

On the 40th anniversary of the seminal game's invention, Chris Stokel-Walker looks back at the history of Pong and why it was such a big deal for the gaming industry.

On Nov. 29, 1972, a crude table-tennis arcade game in a garish orange cabinet was delivered to bars and pizza parlors around California, and a multi-billion-dollar industry was born. Here's how that happened, direct from the freaks and geeks who invented a culture and paved the way for today's tech moguls.

Whisky cures blindness in vodka-poisoned manAARON COHEN  ·  DEC 03

Denis Duthie was recently struck blind by vodka reacting poorly to his diabetes medication. Doctors in his native New Zealand thought he might have formaldehyde poisoning, which you can get from drinking methanol. The cure? More cowbell, er, ethanol. Since the hospital didn't have enough medical ethanol for treatment, a nurse went to the liquor store for Johnnie Walker Black, which was then dripped directly into Duthie's stomach.

It worked because the ethanol competed with the methanol and prevented it from being metabolised into harmful formaldehyde, which can cause blindness.

"There are two potential ways of doing it: one is to give intravenous ethanol through a drip, but that is not available in all hospitals. There is also nothing wrong with supplying that alcohol via the gastro-intestinal tract, which is what they've chosen to do in this circumstance, and that's a well established treatment. If the patient's awake they can just drink it."

Science! No word on if Duthie had been eyeballing, butt-chugging, or using vodka tampons before going blind. (via @jamie_bear)

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell TV adaptationDEC 03

The BBC is making a 6-part miniseries out of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

For those unfamiliar with the book, it's a sweeping fantasy novel set during the Napoleonic Wars where two magicians have emerged in Britain. As well as telling the story of their rivalry, it also details an amazing alternate history where the North of England was the dominion of a magical overlord known as the Raven King, and pulls in many notable historical characters.

Can't wait...I loved JS&MN.

Busy day at the airportDEC 03

Cy Kuckenbaker compressed five hours of landing planes into 30 seconds of video.

I love this. A great example of time merge media. (via colossal, which has been killing it lately)

Tuna farming in JapanAARON COHEN  ·  DEC 01

Bluefin tuna are being caught faster than they can reproduce, which is terrible news for bluefin tuna and people who like to eat them (but seriously for the tuna). These fish are awesome, and I didn't know farming tuna was possible, but it is, with a few caveats. Bluefin in captivity don't procreate unless they're shot with a hormone-tipped spear gun (really). Also, the fish the bluefin are fed still have to come from somewhere, so calling farm raised fish sustainable is something of a misnomer. More sustainable though. I loved this video from Perennial Plate looking at a Japanese tuna farmer. The farmer seems so happy (but does not consider himself a conservationist).

You also ought to spend some time looking at the Perennial Plate back catalog of videos. Lots of gems in there. (via The Atlantic)

Updates on previous entries for Nov 30, 2012*DEC 01

What sort of town is Richard Scarry's Busytown? orig. from Nov 28, 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.

Archives    November 2012 »    October 2012 »    September 2012 »

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