Dustin Cohen made a lovely little film about shoemaker Frank Catalfumo, who has been making and repairing shoes in Brooklyn since before World War II.
Frank Catalfumo is a 91 year old shoemaker and repairer in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. He first opened the doors to F&C Shoes in 1945 and continues to work five days a week alongside his son Michael. If you're ever in the area, make sure to stop by the shop and listen to one of Frank's amazing stories about life in Brooklyn back in the day.
Earlier in the week I posted about how climate change is affecting wine. Turns out that coffee is in trouble as well.
But in recent years, keeping the world's coffee drinkers supplied has become increasingly difficult: The spread of a deadly fungus that has been linked to global warming and rising global temperatures in the tropical countries where coffee grows has researchers scrambling to create new varieties of coffee plants that can keep pace with these new threats without reducing quality.
While coffee researchers can do little to prevent climate change, they're hard at work to keep up as Earth braces for temperature increases of several degrees over the next several decades.
"Coffee is the canary in the coal mine for climate change," says Ric Rhinehart, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. "If you can't think about the long term risk for planetary impacts, think about the short term risk for your coffee. Know that a day without coffee is potentially around the corner."
Veniamin Konstantinovich Balika recently used false paperwork to load his 18 wheeler with 42,000 pounds of Muenster cheese worth about $200K. Balika's plan was to sell the cheese to retailers on the east coast.
"There's a black market for everything," said Sissman. "We've seen everything stolen. We've found stolen beer, stolen food, stolen machine parts, but this is the first time, we've found stolen cheese.
I wanted the opinion of an industry professional so I reached out to Aaron Foster, Head Buyer at Murray's Cheese Shop.
I've seen a lot of people wondering how the culprit was planning to unload 40,000 lbs of cheese without raising suspicion. Is there such a thing as a cheddar fence? In my opinion, it really wouldn't be that hard. While the larger retailers and chains -- and, of course, Murray's -- have all become much more conscious of food safety and food security, there remains plenty of retailers who would jump at the chance to buy their product for pennies on the dollar, no questions asked. Literally as I wrote this, I received a vague email with the subject "RE: Special sale - Mega aged WI Cheddar". I'll pass, thanks. Groceries, specialty shops, and bodegas that work with perishables need every edge they can get to scrape by. Think about that next time you order your egg and cheese from the corner store.
And then I couldn't help but find out more about stolen cheese. Cheese theft isn't actually that uncommon. In fact, cheese is the most stolen food item of all with up to 4% of all cheese stolen at some point in it's journey from maker to mouth. A cursory Google search turned up trunks full of stolen cheese in Michigan, 52-year old naked library denizens arrested with knives and stolen cheese, stolen government cheese in 1983(!), stolen cheese spread all over a Hy-Vee men's room, video of brazen cheese wheel thieves, "the crushing authoritarianism of the Crown of England," a cheese thief in Brooklyn, and a shoplifting celebrity chef. (thx, drew)
David Bauer writes about how the year 2000, which used to seem futuristic, seems very distant now.
After a refreshing shower -- pretty much like you remember it from 2013 -- you make yourself comfortable at the breakfast table. You're an early adopter, so you have your laptop right there with you to check the news. While you wait for the computer to start up, you have time to brew some coffee.
Time to check Twitter for the latest...ah well, no Twitter yet. So let's see what your friends are up to over on Face...doesn't exist either. Not even MySpace. Heck, not even Friendster.
The upside is this: You're in for distraction-free news reading. You head over to Newsunlimited.com, the online version of The Guardian, then to The New York Times On The Web. You glance at the newspaper across the table, knowing it provides the better news fix.
I turned 27 in 2000, lived in San Francisco, worked as a web designer, and had been using the web since 1994...and most of the people I knew were similar. We were a bunch of outliers, people with lots of knowledge about and access to technology and the internet. So a lot of what he writes doesn't ring true to me, especially the bit above, and extra especially the newspaper providing "the better news fix".
News sites worked just fine in 2000 and the growing network of weblogs worked even better...they were news and social networks all rolled up into one. Google Maps didn't exist, but Mapquest did. Wikipedia didn't exist, but you could still find information about Ghana through Google and Altavista. I owned a digital camera in 1998 and many people I knew had them in 2000. Napster (and the other P2P networks that sprung up around that time) was an amazing music discovery resource. Sharing relatively large files with friends a la Dropbox was possible because we all had our own web sites and FTPing something to your server so someone else could grab it was simple. Things went viral through weblogs and mailing lists. Travel was easy to book online; Expedia launched in 1996. You could shop for groceries online. You could get almost anything delivered same-day to your door with Kosmo.
So yeah, there were no iPods or wifi-enabled laptops or iPhones or Twitter, but if you were an early adopter who lived in a big US city and spent lots of time online, 2000 isn't as distant as it might seem for everyone else.
Zoe Spawton often photographs a particularly well-dressed man who passes her cafe in Berlin each day. She's documenting the results at What Ali Wore.
Wonderful. Ali used to be a doctor but is now working as a tailor.
Anderson has finished filming his next movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, with the likes of Tilda Swinton, Jude Law, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson. Screen Daily has some plot details:
The Grand Budapest Hotel tells of a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars and his friendship with a young employee who becomes his trusted protégé. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting, the battle for an enormous family fortune and the slow and then sudden upheavals that transformed Europe during the first half of the 20th century.
I'm currently reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (which is excellent) and I'm up to the chapters on prevention, specifically the prevention of lung cancer through reduction of cigarette smoking. I had no idea cigarette smoking was so uncommon in the US as recently as 1870...but we caught up quickly.
In 1870, the per capita consumption in America was less than one cigarette per year. A mere thirty years later, Americans were consuming 3.5 billion cigarettes and 6 billion cigars every year. By 1953, the average annual consumption of cigarettes had reached thirty-five hundred per person. On average, an adult American smoked ten cigarettes every day, an average Englishman twelve, and a Scotsman nearly twenty.
For some context on that 3500/yr per person number (and the unbelievable 7000/yr Scottish rate), the current rate in the US is around 1000/yr and the highest current rate in the world is in Serbia at almost 2900/yr per person.
In some countries, filing taxes is a fast and simple process. But in the U.S., it only seems to get more complex and laborious. There are a lot of reasons we haven't reached simplicity. But as ProPublica points out, "it doesn't help that it's been opposed for years by the company behind the most popular consumer tax software -- Intuit, maker of TurboTax."
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A somewhat surprising list of the least visited countries in the world in that North Korea is not even in the top 15. Somalia, with 500 annual tourists, is #2:
Why so few?
War, lack of a government for many years, violent muslim extremists, sharia law. The reputation of Somalia is extremelly close to rock bottom.
Why you may still want to visit
The government has started to function again. Mogadishu is now relatively safe and businesses are thriving. Turkish Airlines has even opened a direct twice weekly route from Istanbul.
Go to the beach just outside Mogadishu or visit the Bakaara market where you can even buy your own semi-genuine Somalian passport. You may not want to use it anywhere, though. Your travel experience doesn't extend beyond the Bahamas, Paris or Gran Canaria, you say? First of all; Why are you reading this blog post? Secondly, do not go to Somalia!
The author of the list, Gunnar Garfors, has visited 196 of the 198 countries in the world; he's hitting the last two in the next few months: Kiribati and Cape Verde. (via @DavidGrann)
Intricate body calligraphy orig. from Mar 27, 2013
* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.
Wow. In 1978, George Lucus gathered together Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan to go over ideas for a film Lucas had wanted to make about a swashbuckling archeologist, i.e. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Their sessions were recorded and there's a transcript available online.
Lucas - Now, several aspects that we've discussed before: The image of him which is the strongest image is the "Treasure Of Sierra Madre" outfit, which is the khaki pants, he's got the leather jacket, that sort of felt hat, and the pistol and holster with a World War One sort of flap over it. He's going into the jungle carrying his gun. The other thing we've added to him, which may be fun, is a bull whip. That's really his trade mark. That's really what he's good at. He has a pistol, and he's probably very good at that, but at the same time he happens to be very good with a bull whip. It's really more of a hobby than anything else. Maybe he came from Montana, someplace, and he... There are freaks who love bull whips. They just do it all the time. It's a device that hasn't been used in a long time.
Spielberg - You can knock somebody's belt off and the guys pants fall down.
Lucas - You can swing over things, you can...there are so many things you can do with it. I thought he carried it rolled up. It's like a Samurai sword. He carries it back there and you don't even notice it. That way it's not in the way or anything. It's just there whenever he wants it.
Spielberg - At some point in the movie he must use it to get a girl back who's walking out of the room. Wrap her up and she twirls as he pulls her back. She spins into his arms. You have to use it for more things than just saving himself.
Lucas - We'll have to work that part out. In a way it's important that it be a dangerous weapon. It looks sort of like a snake that's coiled up behind him, and any time it strikes it's a real threat.
Kasdan - Except there has to be that moment when he's alone with a can of beer and he just whips it to him.
Patrick Radden Keefe at the New Yorker read through the whole thing and has some highlights and general thoughts.
Over the intervening decades of enormous wealth and success, both Lucas and Spielberg have carefully tended their public images, so there is a voyeuristic thrill to seeing them converse in so unguarded a manner. As the screenwriters Craig Mazin and John August pointed out recently on the Scriptnotes podcast, one delight of reading the transcript is watching Spielberg throw out bad ideas, and then noting how Lucas gently shuts him down. Spielberg, who had sought to direct a Bond movie-and, astonishingly, been rejected-thought that their hero should be an avid gambler. Lucas replied that perhaps they shouldn't overload him with attributes. (Lucas himself had briefly entertained, then mercifully set aside, the notion that his archaeologist might also be a practitioner of kung fu.) There's a good reason we seldom get to spy on these conversations: really good spitballing, like improv comedy, requires a high degree of social disinhibition. So the writers' room, like a therapist's office, must remain inviolable.
Food and beverages where terroir is a big factor will be the first to be affected by climate change. This is already happening in the world of wine...wine production is happening in Denmark, French wines are changing flavors, and some places may become too hot to grow grapes at all.
As new frontiers for grape growing open up, the viability of some traditional production areas is under threat from scorching temperatures and prolonged droughts.
And in between the two extremes, some long-established styles are being transformed. Some whites once renowned for being light and crisp are getting fatter and more floral while medium-bodied reds are morphing into heavyweight bruisers.
Israeli artist Ronit Bigal does intricate calligraphy on the human body and photographs the results.
Update: I read the page wrong...the calligraphy is printed on the photographs to follow the contour of the skin, not on the skin itself. Still cool. (thx, @lorp)
This is an episode of Computer Chronicles from 1995 showing what you could do on the internet.
(via mental floss)
Paris even does rainbows better than the rest of the world. This is a photo of a horizon rainbow taken over the Parisian skyline last week by Bertrand Kulik.
What the heck is going on there? Astronomy Picture of the Day explains:
Why is this horizon so colorful? Because, opposite the Sun, it is raining. What is pictured above is actually just a common rainbow. It's uncommon appearance is caused by the Sun being unusually high in the sky during the rainbow's creation. Since every rainbow's center must be exactly opposite the Sun, a high Sun reflecting off of a distant rain will produce a low rainbow where only the very top is visible -- because the rest of the rainbow is below the horizon.
From the team that brought you Dark Sky, an app that has saved (or at least kept dry) my bacon more times than I can count, comes Forecast, a weather web site that incorporates several of the features that made Dark Sky great. From the announcement:
Rather than cram these things into Dark Sky, we decided to do something grander: create our own full-featured weather service from scratch, complete with 7-day forecasts that cover the whole world, beautiful weather visualizations, and a time machine for exploring the weather in the past and far future. You can access it from all of your devices, whether it be your laptop, iPhone, Android phone, or tablet.
On top of all that, we're providing this data to other developers, in the hopes that a truly independent weather community can thrive in the era of increasing corporate consolidation.
Pentagram's Daniel Weil has designed a new chess set that is currently being used at the World Chess Championship Candidates Tournament in London. The set is beautifully iconic and simple.
The set is available for sale for £200 or with the board for £300.
Vice made a 24-minute documentary film about Cody Wilson, who is designing a semi-automatic weapon that can be printed out on a 3-D printer. You just download the plans, print it out, and there you go.
"Gun control is a fantasy" indeed.
Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and volatile tweeter, is addicted to high-end leather fashion, to the tune of more than $500,000 over the past few years.
The only clothing I ever tried on before buying it was from Gucci. But many of the online purchases were fantastic-the patent leather trench coat from Burberry, a cropped leather jacket from Versace, a brown leather jacket from Ralph Lauren, a studded leather jacket from Cavalli, boots from Jimmy Choo, leather gloves from Ines in Amsterdam and Madova in Florence. I bought dozens of stretch jeans and leather leggings and leather pants that sculpted my lower body the way I wanted, with no room for speculation. I bought dozens of leather gloves that actually did fit like a glove. I bought dozens of boots, some with a flat or low heel that any man can wear, some with five-inch heels that only a man with real balls could wear.
Lisa in general liked the rocker look. But there were times I was too outrageous for her taste, and she began to feel like she was living with a hoarder. The kids liked the flair, maybe, but there were times they seemed embarrassed, or simply stunned. My friends, particularly those from Philadelphia, were appalled and confused and amused. With the exception of Lisa, nobody had any real idea of the extent of my addiction.
Too many of the purchases were sheer compulsiveness multiplying into more compulsion like split atoms. I bought an orange leather motorcycle jacket and matching orange leather pants from Alexander McQueen that made me look, well, very, very orange. The same went for a blue ensemble that made me look, well, very, very blue. I bought dozens upon dozens of leather jackets-bolero-style, waist-length, above the knee, below the knee-in which the gradations of difference were microscopic. I bought a pair of knee-length Stuart Weitzman boots and then two weeks later bought the exact same pair because I had forgotten I bought the first pair. I bought at least a dozen items that cost over $5,000 each but did not fit, the hazard of online purchasing, since sizing by high-end retailers is often like Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I bought items I wore once, or never wore at all, the tags still hanging from the collar. Yet I returned very little: The more the closets in the house filled, the more discerning I became, the more expensive the items, the more I got off on what I had amassed.
Well, this is interesting. Graphene is a substance discovered relatively recently that has a number of unusual properties. In 2004, physicists at the University of Manchester and the Institute for Microelectronics Technology in Russia used ordinary scotch tape to isolate single-layer sheets of graphene. Once isolated, the sheets could be tested for the unusual properties I mentioned. The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for this work.
In 2012, a group of researchers at UCLA discovered they could make single-layer sheets of graphene by coating a DVD with graphite oxide and then "playing" the disc in a plain old DVD drive. And then in a happy accident, they found that graphene has unusually high supercapacitance properties, which could mean that graphene could be used, for example, as a mobile phone battery that lasts all day, charges in a few seconds, and can be thrown into a compost bin after use.
So says education researcher Teresa Belton:
The academic, who has previously studied the impact of television and videos on children's writing, said: "When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased.
"But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them."
It is this sort of thing that stimulates the imagination, she said, while the screen "tends to short circuit that process and the development of creative capacity".
A long piece in this week's New Yorker by Marc Fisher about more alleged sexual abuse at The Horace Mann School, a prep school in the Bronx. Fisher's piece focuses on Robert Berman, an English teacher at the school for many years.
One group of boys stood apart; they insisted on wearing jackets and ties and shades, and they stuck to themselves, reciting poetry and often sneering at the rest of us. A few of them shaved their heads. We called them Bermanites, after their intellectual and sartorial model, an English teacher named Robert Berman: a small, thin, unsmiling man who papered over the windows of his classroom door so that no one could peek through.
Assigned to Berman for tenth-grade English, I took a seat one September morning alongside sixteen or seventeen other boys. We waited in silence as he sat at his desk, chain-smoking Benson & Hedges cigarettes and watching us from behind dark glasses. Finally, Mr. Berman stood up, took a fresh stick of chalk, climbed onto his chair, and reached above the blackboard to draw a horizontal line on the paint. "This," he said, after a theatrical pause, "is Milton." He let his hand fall a few inches, drew another line, and said, "This is Shakespeare." Another line, lower, on the blackboard: "This is Mahler." And, just below, "Here is Browning." Then he took a long drag on his cigarette, dropped the chalk onto the floor, and, using the heel of his black leather loafer, ground it into the wooden floorboards. "And this, gentlemen," he said, "is you."
The next day, I asked to be transferred. I was not alone. By the end of the week, Berman's class had shrunk by about half. The same thing happened every year; his classes often ended up as intimate gatherings of six to eight. Many students found Berman forbidding, but some of the teachers referred to him as a genius. Boys competed to learn tidbits about him. It was said, with little or no evidence, that he was an artist and a sculptor, that he knew Sanskrit, Russian, and Urdu, and that his wife and child had been killed in a horrific car crash. Though he was only in his mid-thirties, a graduate of the University of Michigan, it was rumored that he had been a paleontologist and had taught at Yale. Administrators told students and their parents that Horace Mann was incredibly lucky to have him, however odd he might be. The boys who remained in his classes were often caught up in his love of art, music, and literature, and in his belief that every moment of life should be spent reaching for the transcendence of the Elgin Marbles, of a fresco by Fra Angelico, even of an ordinary sunset. The boys absorbed the lists he made. "Take this down," he'd say. "The ten greatest racehorses of all time." Or, "This is the list of the ten greatest movies ever made-but you won't find 'Lawrence of Arabia' on it, because it's off the charts!" One day, he mounted a rearview mirror on the far wall of the classroom so that he could stare at the portrait of Milton behind his back.
In past few months, I linked to two collections of color photos of Paris taken in the 1910s and 1920s under the direction of Albert Kahn.
Recently Rue89 sent photographer Audrey Cerdan to recapture some of those old scenes in modern day Paris and knocked up an interface so that you can slide back and forth between the old and current photos. In some of the pairs of photos, pharmacies, tabacs, and boulangeries are in the same places. (thx, christophe)
Technically this photo was taken several years (probably in 1986 or 1987) before Radiohead officially came to be, but it features four out of the five members, back when the group was called On a Friday.
From left to right, Thom Yorke, Phil Selway, Ed O'Brien, and Colin Greenwood. This occasion marked one of the last times that Yorke smiled for a photo. (via buzzfeed)
Daft Punk is coming out with a new album called Random Access Memories. It's out on May 21 but you can preorder on iTunes. Here's a brief ad for the album:
At random and unannounced times throughout the year, actress (and apparently performance artist) Tilda Swinton will be sleeping in a glass box at MoMA.
It's part of an unannounced, surprise performance piece called "The Maybe" that will be taking place on random days all year. A MoMA source told us, "Museum staff doesn't know she's coming until the day of, but she's here today. She'll be there the whole day. All that's in the box is cushions and a water jug."
Clearly some crowdsourced announcement system is needed...perhaps istildaswintonsleepingatmomaornot.tumblr.com? Also, in keeping with the theme of "my kid could do that" in contemporary art, both my kids slept at MoMA in chairs with wheels on them.
Stephen Coles of Typographica says that 2012 was "a strong year" for new typefaces. He asked dozens of designers and font makers to nominate their favorite 2012 typefaces and here's what they had to say.
The independent foundry has also cemented its place as the new foundation of the industry. Most of this year's selections are from very small shops, several of which are entirely new to the market. It's also significant that, in addition to offering their fonts through retailers like FontShop, MyFonts, and the newly revived Fonts.com, most of these indie foundries now sell directly to customers through their own sites. In some cases they have eschewed outside distribution altogether. The "majors" have not simply laid down, however. Monotype, Linotype, Font Bureau, FontFont, and H&FJ are all represented in this year's list, each with releases that are remarkably characteristic of their respective brands.
Twinsters is a project on Kickstarter by a pair of women who look very similar, were both born in South Korea, both born on November 19, 1987, both adopted three months after birth, and have never met. They're raising funds to make a documentary about their first meeting and to test their DNA to see if they are twins.
On February 21, 2013, Samantha, an American actor living in Los Angeles, received a message via Facebook that would drastically change her life. It was from Anaïs, a French fashion design student living in London. Anaïs' friends viewed a KevJumba YouTube video featuring Samantha. They were immediately blown away by the identical appearance of Samantha & Anaïs. After a few light Google stalking sessions, Anaïs & her friends discovered that both girls were born on November 19, 1987 & adopted shortly after. Anaïs knew immediately that it was possible for Samantha to be her biological twin sister & reached out to her through Twitter & Facebook.
We have a rule of no screen time during the week ... On the weekends, they can play. I give them a limit of half an hour and then stop. Enough. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain.
That quote is from a parent who develops apps for kids. The Atlantic's Hanna Rosin went to a developer's conference and what she heard from the parents there might surprise you: The Touch-Screen Generation.
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I really enjoyed this piece by John Siracusa about why Apple should continue to make a high-end personal computer (like the Mac Pro) even though it's not a big seller or hugely profitable. Basically, the Mac Pro is Apple's halo car:
In the automobile industry, there's what's known as a "halo car." Though you may not know the term, you surely know a few examples. The Corvette is GM's halo car. Chrysler has the Viper.
The vast, vast majority of people who buy a Chrysler car get something other than a Viper. The same goes for GM buyers and the Corvette. These cars are expensive to develop and maintain. Due to the low sales volumes, most halo cars do not make money for car makers. When Chrysler was recovering from bankruptcy in 2010, it considered selling the Viper product line.
But car companies continue to make halo cars in part because they are great cars, or at least have the potential to be great cars, and when a car company stops caring about making great cars, they lose their identity and credibility...with consumers, with employees, with investors, and with competitors. Halo cars are the difference between being a car company and being a company that sells cars.
Normally I'm not a big fan of advice like "do what big car companies do", but what Siracusa's piece demontrates is one of the things that's problematic about data: there are important things about business and success that you can't measure. And I would go so far as to say that these unmeasurables are the most important things, the stuff that makes or breaks a business or product or, hell, even a relationship, stuff that you just can't measure quantitatively, no matter how Big your Data is. (via df)
For Homework, their 1997 debut album, Daft Punk drew on a large number of musical influences. Here's two wonderful hours of the music that influenced them.
It does what it says on the tin.
My favorite part is how it shoots the airplane out at the end. "Be gone, good sir, I am quite done with you!" (thx, Alex)
Because of the tea-bag effect, after a point, spirits don't necessarily get better the longer they age. Bottled liquors don't age positively at all which doesn't have anything to do with tea bags.
What distinguishes these two approaches is what Pickerell refers to as "the tea-bag effect": The first time a tea bag (or barrel) is used, there's more flavor to draw out. Resting in brand-new barrels, bourbon needs less time to extract what Pickerell calls "wood goodies" -- it sucks vanilla and caramel flavors, as well as spice-like notes, out of the wood with ease. Many of those same bourbon barrels, once emptied, make their way to Scotland, where they are used to age Scotch whisky. At this point, most of the "wood goodies" have been depleted, so scotch often needs a longer aging time to suck out the remainders. Evaporation plays a role, too: In the dry climate favored by bourbon distillers, liquid evaporates more quickly, and the product becomes concentrated more quickly.
Also, according to the article, the ideal age range for whisk(e)y is as follows:
Rye whiskey: 9-11 years.
Bourbon: 6-10 years.
Scotch: 20 years.
Maybe the most depressing part of this three part series of photographs of Iraq from the past ten years is not the photos of all the horrible things people are capable of doing to each other, not the [God, I can't even think of the right set of rage-adjectives here] faces of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, but the fact that there is a part two to this series that starts in 2003, just after the fucking asinine MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner.
But maybe it was all worth it? To see these happy faces riding an amusement ride? Or these young people able to express themselves? Was it the right thing done the wrong way for the wrong reasons? I dunno. I just don't know.
Feeling totally depressed and sad and useless about this: the NRA wins again.
After Sandy Hook, after twenty children were shot and killed at a place where they should have been safe from all harm, there was some optimism among supporters of gun control: perhaps now, finally, both Democrats and Republicans could see the light -- and the suffering-and revive the assault -- weapons ban. It was a futile hope.
Less than a week after Adam Lanza shot up an elementary school, it was already basically clear that an assault-weapons ban could not pass Congress-that it probably couldn't even get through the Democratic-controlled Senate, never mind the House. So it was hardly a surprise when, three months later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the ban would be removed from a larger gun-control package that is making its way through the upper chamber and given a separate vote that it will not survive. The scale of the defeat suffered by the ban's supporters, though, is shocking. This wasn't a close call; it was a body blow.
I haven't forgotten Sandy Hook. We drive by there every time we go to Vermont. I think about those kids almost every day. Sometimes when I think about them, I close my eyes and see my 5-year-old son cowering in the corner of his classroom as a black-clad figure toting a machine gun bears down on him. And then the tears come. I can't stand that this is what America is; that we trade our children's lives for the opportunity to purchase items specifically invented for killing. I can't stand it. It's pathetic and embarrassing and barbaric.
Kilian Jornet Burgada might be the world's best and most dominating athlete. Or at least he derserves to be in the conversation. Jornet competes in a number of sports but his two main ones are endurance running and ski mountaineering.
His versatility amazes other runners, including Jurek, who today is a friend. Jornet has been able to run the very short mountain races like a vertical kilometer race that's over in a couple of hours, Jurek says -- and then, he adds, Jornet can turn around and win the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California's Sierra mountains, arguably the world's most prestigious ultrarun. (Jurek himself won the Western States seven consecutive times between 1999 and 2005.) It's a little like an Olympic-champion sprinter winning the Boston Marathon.
How is Jornet able to do these things? In part because of his upbringing in the mountains:
Even among top athletes, Jornet is an outlier. Take his VO2 max, a measure of a person's ability to consume oxygen and a factor in determining aerobic endurance. An average male's VO2 max is 45 to 55 ml/kg/min. A college-level 10,000-meter runner's max is typically 60 to 70. Jornet's VO2 max is 89.5 -- one of the highest recorded, according to Daniel Brotons Cuixart, a sports specialist at the University of Barcelona who tested Jornet last fall. Jornet simply has more men in the engine room, shoveling coal. "I've not seen any athletes higher than the low 80s, and we've tested some elite athletes," says Edward Coyle, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin, who has studied the limits of human exercise performance for three decades.
He also seems at one with nature and the mountains more than most people:
Observers and competitors describe him as someone who draws endurance and vitality, Samson-like, from being among high peaks. Runners who have served as pacesetters for him have told me with amazement how, when he was midrace at Lake Tahoe, Jornet didn't run with his head down in focused misery but instead brushed the hairgrass and corn lily that grew along the trail with his fingertips and brought the smell to his nose, as if he were feeding off the scenery. Sometimes in his all-day solitary runs, stopping only to eat berries, he can seem half-feral, more mountain goat than human. He likes to move fast and touch rock and feel wild, he told me; he feels most at ease and performs best when wrapped by the silence and beauty of the mountains. He can't abide cities for more than a few hours. The sea -- its unrelenting horizontality -- scares him. Leading long races like Western States, he's been known to stop and exclaim at a sunrise, or wait for friends to catch up so he can enjoy the mountains with them instead of furthering his lead. "It's almost insulting," Krupicka told me. But it's just Kilian being Kilian, Krupicka said. "He's not rubbing it in anyone's face. He's truly enjoying being out there in the mountains, and he's expressing that."
The new iOS gaming hotness is Ridiculous Fishing. In it, you try to get your hook as deep as you can, then catch as many fish as you can on the way up, and finally shoot as many of the fish as you can with a gun. There are also chainsaws and an in-game Twitter clone called Byrdr. This game is ten times more charming than that Arnold on Green Acres and fun as hell. Highly recommended. If you need an extra nudge, here's the trailer:
This is an Icelandic waterfall called Litlanesfoss and the naturally occurring rock formation is columnar jointed basalt.
The columns form due to stress as the lava cools. The lava contracts as it cools, forming cracks. Once the crack develops it continues to grow. The growth is perpendicular to the surface of the flow. Entablature is probably the result of cooling caused by fresh lava being covered by water. The flood basalts probably damned rivers. When the rivers returned the water seeped down the cracks in the cooling lava and caused rapid cooling from the surface downward. The division of colonnade and entablature is the result of slow cooling from the base upward and rapid cooling from the top downward.
One of the coolest things I have ever seen. Looks totally fake, like they built it for Fractal Falls in Polygon Gorge at Disneyland or something. Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland looks amazing as well. Check out several similar formations from around the world.
Sara Wachter-Boettcher on the relationship between vulnerability and empathy, especially when it comes to making things for other people to use.
[Empathy] means being open -- truly open -- to feeling emotions we may not want to feel. It means allowing another's experiences to gut us. It means ceding control.
Empathy begins with vulnerability. And being vulnerable, especially in our work, is fucking terrifying.
Yesterday, the FBI announced major advances in solving the biggest art heist in history. The break in occurred at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 when a night watchman opened the door to men dressed as police. Works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas, and Manet valued at over $500M were taken and have not been seen since.
"The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence in the years after the theft the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft. With that confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England," Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI, said.
The guard who opened the door, Richard Abath, was looked at pretty closely again last week, though he's not mentioned specifically this week.
There's prior art, but this image toaster is still pretty cool.
Toastagram? Toastr? I foresee BERG putting out a smaller version of this, perhaps printing out the day's news on a small-crumb cocktail bread; they'll call it Little Toaster. (via sly oyster)
Hands On a Hardbody, a 1997 documentary about contestants vying to win a brand-new pickup truck, is now available in digital format for $10 (remastered and DRM-free, no less).
In S.R. Bindler's 1997 cult classic, Hands On a Hardbody, two dozen small-town Texans compete for a brand-new "Hardbody" pickup truck at a local car dealership. The event is a contest of endurance and sleep-deprivation -- whoever can remain standing the longest with one hand on the truck will get to drive it home. Capturing several days of lunacy, laughter, struggle and heartbreak, Hands On a Hardbody is more than a documentary about winning a truck. It is a remarkable study of competition, camaraderie, faith and determination-the ultimate human drama.
For an extra $5, you get 90 minutes of bonus material. The film has been unavailable in any format for years. I still have an original DVD in my squirreled-away DVD collection...it's one of my favorite documentaries. (via @gavinpurcell)
If the advertising parts of Mad Men are your favorite bits of the show, might I recommend Taschen's two-volume Mid-Century Ads (on Amazon).
It's a beautiful set of books, tons of ads from the 50s and 60s presented in large format.
If it's got wheels, extreme sports enthusiasts will do tricks on it. The push scooter your five-year-old rides at the playground is no exception:
If they ever to a Back to the Future reboot, they know who to call for the downtown Hill Valley chase scene. (via @DavidSimkins1)
A Danish TV show called Dumt & Farligt (which translates as Stupid & Dangerous) films all sorts of crazy things at 2500 frames/sec with a super HD camera. You may have seen the first video from last April...here's a follow-up that just came out:
The highlights for me were the bottle of red wine in the microwave and the rocket-powered drying rack from the first video and the bottle of Diet Coke shot with a bullet and gas leak in a camper. The Diet Coke scene is almost cinematic, the way the bottle's clothes are blown off and "arms" flap around as the bottle spins, wobbles, and finally falls to the ground. (via digg)
There are a zillion definitions of simplicity. Here is Christoph Niemann's, which he applied in building his new iOS app, Petting Zoo.
Simplicity is not about making something without ornament, but rather about making something very complex, then slicing elements away, until you reveal the very essence.
Starting on April 4, Upstream Color begins its run at IFC in New York. Star/director Shane Carruth will be in attendance for post-screening Q&As for several of the shows.
McDonald's started out as McDonald's Bar-B-Q in San Bernardino, CA in 1940. Here's a copy of the menu from that time:
The drive-in BBQ restaurant was a great success:
The restaurant had carhops serving guests and would often see 125 cars crowding the lot on weekends. They quickly saw their annual sales topping $200,000 on a regular basis.
But competitors opened similar restaurants and they were selling more hamburgers than barbequed ham so the McDonald brothers closed their place for three months to retool. They reopened as plain old McDonald's, serving cheap fare (like hamburgers) quickly. This is what an early version of the menu looked like:
The original McDonald's served potato chips and pie, which were swapped out for french fries and milkshakes after the first year; that photo must have been taken sometime after the switch. Ray Kroc got involved in 1955 and opened the first McDonald's franchise east of the Mississippi in Des Plaines, Illinois:
The version of the menu currently going around (on Reddit; I found it here) looks like it's from the Kroc era, the arches having been introduced in 1953, shortly before he got involved:
It's interesting to compare these early McDonald's menus to the current menus of places like In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys, especially in comparison with the sprawling McDonald's menu of today:
After reading all these menus, you're probably getting hungry. So here's how to make a hamburger that tastes like an original McDonald's hamburger from 1948 (as well as recipes for a bunch of other McDonald's menu items, from McNuggets to the McRib to the dipping sauces). Enjoy!
Writing for the New Yorker, David Remnick covers the Bolshoi acid attack and the larger ills that afflict the historic ballet company.
At around eleven, Filin, feeling tired and eager to see his wife, steered the Mercedes into a parking lot outside his building and headed for his door. The snow was icy and thick. Filin was reaching for the security buzzer when he heard someone behind him call out his name. Then the voice said, "Tebye privet!" -- literally, "Hello to you!," but more abrupt and menacing, as though someone were relaying an ominous greeting from a third party.
Filin turned and saw a man in front of him. He was neither tall nor short. He wore a woolly hat and a scarf wrapped around his face. His right arm was crooked behind him, as if he were concealing something.
A gun, Filin thought, in that flash of confrontation: He's holding a gun and I am dead. Bolt! But, before he could move, his attacker swung his arm out in front of him. In his hand was a glass jar filled with liquid, and he hurled its contents at Filin's face. A security camera in the parking lot fixed the time at 23:07.
The liquid was sulfuric acid -- the "oil of vitriol," as medieval alchemists called it. Depending on the concentration, it can lay waste to human skin as quickly as in a horror movie. Scientists working with sulfuric acid wear protective goggles; even a small amount in the eyes can destroy the cornea and cause permanent blindness.
Filin was in agony. The burning was immediate and severe. His vision turned to black. He could feel the scalding of his face and scalp, the pain intensifying all the time.
Always good to read Remnick on Russia...he was The Washington Post's Moscow correspondent for a few years in the late 1980s.
You may have heard by now that Google is shutting down Google Reader, their RSS reading service. It'll be gone by July 4. Fortunately you can export your subscriptions and use another service...here are some suggestions from Matt Haughey and Gizmodo. Or you can wait for Digg's reader.
If you want to forego RSS readers altogether but still want to keep up with kottke.org without having to visit the site regularly, try following kottke.org on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.
In 1968, Richard Nixon, then a candidate for President, used backchannel negotiations to scuttle peace talks that may have ended the Vietnam War. Nixon was afraid an end to the war meant an end to his campaign.
By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks -- or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had "blood on his hands".
The war went on for seven more bloody years, most of them under Nixon's watch. Shameful.
Watch as Ludovic Woerth & Jokke Sommer fly through a hole in a building in central Rio de Janeiro that looks not much more than 15 feet wide. Jesus.
And speaking of Jesus, another pair of wingsuiters flew under the arms of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio a few years ago. (via @rands)
LightSail Energy, headed up by 25-year-old Danielle Fong, is developing technology to store energy as compressed air.
A stumbling block to increasing our reliance on electricity from cleaner energy sources such as solar panels and wind farms has always been figuring out how to efficiently store the energy for use when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining. Danielle Fong could make clean energy significantly more practical on a large scale by introducing a novel way to use tanks of compressed air for energy storage. "It could radically reorient the economics of renewable energy," she says.
The idea of using compressed air to store energy is not new. Electricity from solar panels or wind turbines can turn a motor that's used to compress the air in a large tank, and the air pressure can then be converted into power to drive a generator when the power is needed. The problem is that during compression the air reaches temperatures of almost 1,000 ^0C. That means energy is lost in the form of heat, and storage in conventional steel vessels becomes impractical.
Fong stumbled on a possible solution while skimming through a nearly century-old book: water spray is great at cooling air. She asked, why not spray water into the air while compressing it, so that the air stays cool? To make the process practical, she developed a technique for separating the heated water from the compressed air and diverting the water into a tank, so the heat can be recaptured to minimize energy loss. The process is about as efficient as the best batteries: for every 10 kilowatt-hours of electricity that goes into the system, seven kilowatt-hours can be used when needed.
Fong sounds like an impressive person; she dropped out of middle school at 12 to attend college, graduating five years later with degrees in physics and computer science.
Artist Phillip Stearns makes blankets and tapestries out of glitch art. Some of the source images are taken from intentionally short-circuited digital cameras.
All items are woven in the US and cost $200 and up (plus shipping).
Excerpted from a book called The Art of Making Magazines, a piece on how fact-checking works at the New Yorker.
So that was the old New Yorker. The biggest difference between David Remnick's New Yorker today and the Shawn New Yorker is timeliness. During the Shawn years, book reviews ran months, even years out of sync with publication dates. Writers wrote about major issues without any concern for news pegs or what was going on in the outside world. That was the way people thought, and it was really the way the whole editorial staff was tuned.
All this changed when Tina Brown arrived. Whereas before, editorial schedules were predictable for weeks or a month in advance, under Tina we began getting 8,000-, 10,000-, 12,000-word pieces in on a Thursday that were to close the following Wednesday. But something else changed in a way that is more important. Prior to Tina, the magazine really had been writer-driven, and I think this is why they gave the writers so much liberty. They wanted the writers to develop their own, often eccentric, interests.
Under Tina, writing concepts began to originate in editors' meetings, and assignments were given out to writers who were essentially told what to write. And a lot of what the editors wanted was designed to be timely and of the moment and tended to change from day to day. So the result was that we were working on pieces that were really much more controversial and much less well-formulated than anything we had dealt with previously, and often we would put teams of checkers to work on these pieces and checking and editing could go on all night.
A nascent trend on YouTube is to take contemporary dramas and imagine what their 1995-style opening credits sequences might look like. The first one appears to be this Walking Dead one, followed by Breaking Bad, which is the best of the bunch:
The Game of Thrones one is pretty great as well:
These seem to be a variation on the recut trailers meme, e.g. The Shining as a romantic comedy or Toy Story as a horror film. (via @aaroncoleman0)
Andy Marx shares the story of how a lunch with his grandfather, Groucho, and a few of his grandfather's guests ended up helping save every episode of the seminal 50s TV show You Bet Your Life.
No longer out of the limelight, my grandfather was enjoying his status as a cultural icon now that such classic Marx Brothers films as "Duck Soup" and "A Night at the Opera" had been discovered by a whole new generation eager for something to go with the free-wheeling attitudes and politics of the late '60s and early '70s. Groucho and his brothers fit the bill perfectly and my grandfather was more than happy to oblige his new-found fans, many of them Hollywood celebrities. Among my favorite celebrity sightings at my grandfather's house in those days were Alice Cooper and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.
This particular day, my grandfather asked me to be ready to accompany him on the piano, since he planned to sing for the invited guests: Jack Nicholson, Elliot Gould and the great French mime, Marcel Marceau. As I said, you never knew who would arrive for lunch with Groucho.
(also via df)
Gabriele Galimberti takes photos of kids with their most prized possessions.
But how they play can reveal a lot. "The richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn't want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them," says the Italian, who would often join in with a child's games before arranging the toys and taking the photograph. "In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn't really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside."
This reminds me of Peter Menzel's photos of what families from different parts of the world eat in a typical week. (via df)
From Joshua Hammer at Smithsonian magazine, an update on the so-called "uncontacted" tribes of people living deep in the Amazon rain forest and what's being done to help them stay isolated.
After two hours, we docked at a pier at the Maloca Barú, a traditional longhouse belonging to the 30,000-strong Ticuna tribe, whose acculturation into the modern world has been fraught with difficulties. A dozen tourists sat on benches, while three elderly Indian women in traditional costume put on a desultory dance. "You have to sell yourself, make an exhibition of yourself. It's not good," Matapi muttered. Ticuna vendors beckoned us to tables covered with necklaces and other trinkets. In the 1960s, Colombia began luring the Ticuna from the jungle with schools and health clinics thrown up along the Amazon. But the population proved too large to sustain its subsistence agriculture-based economy, and "it was inevitable that they turned to tourism," Franco said.
Not all Ticunas have embraced this way of life. In the nearby riverside settlement of Nazareth, the Ticuna voted in 2011 to ban tourism. Leaders cited the garbage left behind, the indignity of having cameras shoved in their faces, the prying questions of outsiders into the most secret aspects of Indian culture and heritage, and the uneven distribution of profits. "What we earn here is very little," one Ticuna leader in Nazareth told the Agence France-Presse. "Tourists come here, they buy a few things, a few artisanal goods, and they go. It is the travel agencies that make the good money." Foreigners can visit Nazareth on an invitation-only basis; guards armed with sticks chase away everyone else.
Aside from 2005's installment, I have a copy of every Feltron Annual Report ever produced and I am eagerly awaiting the 2012 version.
Order yours here.
Photographer Rebecca Martinez photographs reborn dolls and the people who collect/care for them.
Babies create strong emotions for the bearer, holder, and observer. I have discovered this holds true even when it is known the baby is not real.
I am photographing dolls that are created to look and feel like living babies. They are constructed and weighted to feel like infants, which includes a head that must be supported while in one's arms. They are the most powerful objects I have ever worked with, I am struck by the strong and palpable emotional reactions they produce. They provoke the dominant biological instinct to nurture and the entire spectrum of human behavior.
Some of the collectors care for their reborn dolls as if they were their own children:
Many of the women involved have an especially strong passion for the stage of mothering babies and this is a method to keep this stage permanently in their lives. There is a wide range of personal stories and motivations for being involved in this community. Some create or collect these dolls because they cannot continue to give birth to living babies, or have lost a child, or cannot have one of their own. Some women admire the art form and are doll collectors, others create nurseries in their homes and integrate the babies as part of their families and lives.
Sometimes, women who have lost a newborn have commissioned artists to make a reborn doll that looks exactly like their deceased baby. Modeled after photographs of the real infant, these dolls are called portrait babies.
This looks beautiful: A Map of the World is a collection of maps by illustrators and storytellers. I've featured at least a few of the maps in the book here on kottke.org. Here's a sample:
You can see more of the maps in the book on the publisher's web site. (via raul, who says "This book is insanely beautiful. Buy it if you love maps. It will make you happy.")
In the pages of Sidereus Nuncius, Galileo described the four large moons of Jupiter in a series of 64 sketches which looked a lot like ASCII art in the text:
Using an online tool for computing the positions of Jupiter's moons, Ernie Wright compared Galileo's sketches to the moons' actual motions.
Click through for an animated GIF of all the comparisons. Not bad for the telescopic state of the art in 1610. For a taste of how celestial objects actually appeared when viewed through Galileo's telescope, check out this video starting around 7:30. (thx, john)
A fascinating piece by Nathaniel Rich about deep water diving. I had no idea that people building marine oil wells live for weeks at a time at depths of 1000 feet.
Not everybody is cut out for the job. A diver cannot be claustrophobic or antisocial, because he must spend much of his time in a tiny sealed capsule with several other divers. He must be well-disciplined and perceptive, for he is likely to encounter a variety of unexpected hazards on the job. Many divers are military veterans, or have worked as roofers or mechanics. "The best are those who have a great deal of confidence in themselves and their abilities," one former diver, Phil Newsum, told me. "You have to be willing to adapt to any situation. Philosophically, when you go out on a dive job, you're expecting something is going to go wrong."
Often, because of the depth, the job is performed in the dark, with only a headlamp to light the way. Divers have told me stories of sudden encounters with manta rays, bull sharks, and wolf eels, which can grow eight feet long and have baleful, recessed eyes, a shovel-shaped snout, and a wide, snaggletoothed mouth. One diver sent me a video, filmed from a camera in the diver's helmet, of an enormous turtle that was playing a game of trying to bite off the diver's feet and hands every few minutes. The diver finally sent the animal swimming away by pressing a power drill to its head. Someone else sent me a photograph of a diver riding a speckled whale shark, as if on a rodeo bronco.
Newsum, who is now the director of an industry group called the Association of Diving Contractors International (ADCI), estimates that only three of every fifteen people who graduate from commercial diving school are able to withstand the rigor of the profession for a full career. Many are enticed by the high salaries, but few can endure the job's physical and psychological toll. Those who stick it out tend to do so out of a passion for the job's eccentricities.
The life of a commercial diver is somewhat less stable than that of a traveling salesman or mercenary soldier. He does not make his own schedule and has little control over his own fate, which is one reason why divers between jobs have a reputation for, as Newsum puts it, "living hard." The diver never knows when his next job will come, but as soon as he gets called for an assignment, he must head directly to the nearest port or helicopter pad. A successful diver will work offshore about 160 days a year, cumulatively. A job might last a day, or two months. Work is most consistent, at least in the Gulf of Mexico, in the warmer months, from late March through November, but hurricane season falls within that period. Hurricanes are a mixed blessing-they disrupt ongoing jobs, but they create new ones.
Alex Cornell has constructed a handy infographic to help you decide where to sit at a restaurant or dinner party table.
7 Person Rectangle: It's very easy to get screwed in this scenario. While it may appear like you can sit anywhere except the ends, this is not so. You are at risk of sitting next to the lonely end-seat, which requires you to speak soley to that person for the duration of the meal.
Mark Tipple takes underwater photos of people swimming under crashing waves, which happens to be my favorite genre of surfing photography.
Prints are available. (via @DavidGrann)
This story by Kevin Guilfoile about his aging father (who worked for the Pirates and the Baseball Hall of Fame) and the mystery of what happened to the bat that Roberto Clemente got his 3,000th hit with is one of my favorite things that I've read over the past few months.
[My father's] personality is present, if his memories are a jumble. He is still funny, and surprisingly quick with one-liners to crack up the staff at the facility where he lives. He is exceedingly polite, same as he ever was. He is good at faking a casual conversation, especially on the phone. But if you sit and talk with him for a long time, he gets very anxious. He starts tapping his forehead with his fingers. "Shouldn't we be going?" he'll say. You tell him there's no place we need to be, but 30 seconds later he'll ask again, "Shouldn't we be going?"
What happens to memories when they're collapsed inside time like this? They don't exactly disappear, they just become impossible to unpack. And so my father, who loved stories so much -- who loved to tell them, who loved to hear them -- can no longer comprehend them. The structure of any story, after all, is that this happened and then that happened, and he can't make sense of any sequence.
That is the real hell of this disease. His own identity has become a puzzle he can't solve.
Objects have stories, too. Puzzles that need to be solved. Like a pair of baseball bats, for instance, that each passed through Roberto Clemente's hands before they passed through my father's. One hung on my bedroom wall throughout my childhood. The other is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
These objects never forget, but they never tell their stories, either.
Without a little bit of luck, we'd never hear them.
Or more than a little luck:
My father has lots of old baseball bats given to him by players he worked with over the years. He has Mickey Mantle bats from his years with the Yankees, and Willie Stargell and Dave Parker bats from his days with the Pirates. The one I always loved best was an Adirondack model with R CLEMENTE embossed in modest block letters, instead of the usual signature burned into the barrel. On the bottom of the knob, Roberto had written a tiny "37" in ballpoint pen, presumably to indicate its weight: 37 ounces. It also had a series of scrapes around the middle where someone had scratched off the trademark stripe that encircled all Adirondack bats. Former Pirates GM Joe Brown gave my dad this bat several years after Roberto died. For much of my childhood it hung on the wall of my bedroom, on a long rack with about a dozen other game-used bats.
My dad had been working at the Hall of Fame for more than a decade when, in 1993, his old friend Tony Bartirome, a one-time Pirates infielder who had become their longtime trainer, came to Cooperstown for a visit. Tony and his wife went to dinner with my folks and then came back to our house to chat. The only way to go to the first-floor washroom in that house was through my old bedroom, and on a trip there, Tony noticed that Adirondack of Clemente's hanging on the wall.
Tony carried it into the living room. He said to Dad, "Where did you get this bat?" My dad told him that Joe Brown had given him the bat as a gift, sometime in the late '70s. "Bill," Tony said. "This is the bat Roberto used to get his 3,000th hit."
My father was confused by this. "That's impossible," he told Tony. "The day he hit 3,000 I went down to the clubhouse, and Roberto himself handed me the bat he used. I sent it to the Hall of Fame. I walk by it every day."
"Well," Tony said. "I have a story to tell you."
It's a wonderful story, read the whole thing. Or get the book: the story is excerpted from Guilfoile's A Drive into the Gap, available here or for the Kindle.
It's science fiction for now, but two companies are betting that mining asteroids for minerals will be possible in the near future.
The potential bonanza is, well, astronomical. A single 500-metre metal-rich asteroid might contain the equivalent of all the platinum-group metals mined to date. Icy bodies could provide water to sustain astronauts or be processed into rocket fuel for future missions to Mars.
Linus Edwards proposes building a museum comprised of exacting recreations of famous sets from movies.
Thinking about the specifics of this museum, the sets would either be actual sets from the movie (if they still existed), or meticulously recreated sets. The recreated sets would have to be very exacting, and basically made to look indistinguishable from the real thing. I realize that even if you had an actual set, many of them are missing things, like ceilings or fourth walls. Those pieces would all be recreated to match the rest of the set and create an entire room. The key would be every room you enter would be a complete 360 degree environment, and you would feel as if you actually were in the movie.
I imagine a person walking from set to set, at one moment in a 40s noir movie, and the next in an 80s comedy. It would be a surreal place to visit, as you would enter into these various worlds you've spent your entire life watching. Each room's set would be lighted to match exactly how it looked on film, and there would be ambient sound playing in the background matched to the reality of the place. So a set of a New York City apartment would have genuine street sounds, while a set of a space ship might have the hum of the ship's engine. All the sounds will be taken directly from the movie if at all possible.
Some of Edwards' proposed sets include the 7 1/2 floor office from Being John Malkovich, Ferris' bedroom from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Vito Corleone's office from The Godfather.
Possible fossils found in meteorite fragments? orig. from Mar 11, 2013
Petition the White House to eliminate daylight saving time orig. from Mar 10, 2013
* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.
New York Day is a film by Samuel Orr that crams a whole NYC day into about three and a half minutes.
Orr is using Kickstarter to raise funds to make a longer version (~20 min.) of the film. (via @dhmeyer)
This is a clip from Samsara, a 2011 film directed by Ron Fricke, who was the director of photography for Koyaanisqatsi. The chicken picker machine hoovering up chickens and depositing them into drawers is one of the most dystopian things I've ever seen.
The whole film doesn't look this depressing, but this short clip really gives full visual meaning to the mass production of food. (via @colossal)
Well, here's something potentially interesting: researchers at Cardiff University think they have found fossils in meteorite fragments from Sri Lanka.
The most startling claims, however, are based on electron microscope images of structures within the stones (see above). Wallis and co say that one image shows a complex, thick-walled, carbon-rich microfossil about 100 micrometres across that bares similarities with a group of largely extinct marine dinoflagellate algae.
They say another image shows well-preserved flagella that are 2 micrometres in diameter and 100 micrometres long. By terrestrial standards, that's extremely long and thin, which Wallis and co interpret as evidence of formation in a low-gravity, low-pressure environment.
Gotta take this with a massive grain of salt, but it will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
Update: One of the authors of this study holds some unusual views about life on Earth.
On May 24, 2003 The Lancet published a letter from Wickramasinghe, jointly signed by Milton Wainwright and Jayant Narlikar, in which they hypothesized that the virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) could be extraterrestrial in origin and not originated from chickens.
Wickramasinghe and his mentor Fred Hoyle have also used their data to argue in favor of cosmic ancestry, and against evolution.
Like I said, big grain of salt. (thx, onno)
While ice climbing in Wales, Mark Roberts gets hit by some ice and falls more than 100 feet...and his helmet cam caught the whole thing.
He was not seriously injured but that fall went on for way longer than I expected. (via @DavidGrann)
National Geographic has launched a new Tumblr site that features the less-celebrated-but-still-awesome parts of its vast photographic archive. I want this car:
(via the verge)
Ask anyone with young children what they think of daylight saving time and you'll probably get a stabbing in the eye. It just totally fucks your world for two+ weeks a year with zero benefit. This petition needs 100,000 digital signatures for the White House to issue an official response to it. Sign it or I might get stabby.
Update: I honestly don't care which time we keep (DST or standard time), as long as the biannual time switching nonsense stops.
I have no idea how I ever got subscribed to it (automatically?) nor can I find a way on Quora's site to subscribe to it, but my favorite weekly email newsletter by far is my Quora Weekly Digest. Wren Lanier wrote an appreciation of their weekly email last January:
And yet every week, without fail, the most interesting email that lands in my Inbox is the Quora Weekly Digest. It's a simple email, just 5 Quora questions along with the first hundred words of the "best" answer. But what makes the Quora Weekly Digest so awesome is that those 5 questions were chosen just for me, and every week at least one of them teaches me something I didn't even know I wanted to learn.
Topics covered in this week's newsletter include "Could a professional fighter survive an encounter with a fully grown healthy gorilla determined to kill him, without feigning death?", "What is the smartest thing a child has ever said?", and "What can humans learn about fighting/self defense strategy from the other animals and beings?"
You've likely seen the graph of the Earth's average global temperature over the past 2000 years...it's mostly a straight line until you get to the industrial revolution and then it shoots up. It looks like a hockey stick. In a study published today in Science, that graph has been extended back 11,300 years and you can really see the scope of the abrupt temperature change.
From a summary of the report at TPM:
The decade of 1900 to 1910 was one of the coolest in the past 11,300 years - cooler than 95 percent of the other years, the marine fossil data suggest. Yet 100 years later, the decade of 2000 to 2010 was one of the warmest, said study lead author Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University. Global thermometer records only go back to 1880, and those show the last decade was the hottest for this more recent time period.
"In 100 years, we've gone from the cold end of the spectrum to the warm end of the spectrum," Marcott said. "We've never seen something this rapid. Even in the ice age the global temperature never changed this quickly."
Using fossils from all over the world, Marcott presents the longest continuous record of Earth's average temperature. One of his co-authors last year used the same method to look even farther back. This study fills in the crucial post-ice age time during early human civilization.
Marcott's data indicates that it took 4,000 years for the world to warm about 1.25 degrees from the end of the ice age to about 7,000 years ago. The same fossil-based data suggest a similar level of warming occurring in just one generation: from the 1920s to the 1940s. Actual thermometer records don't show the rise from the 1920s to the 1940s was quite that big and Marcott said for such recent time periods it is better to use actual thermometer readings than his proxies.
Paul Frampton is a 69-year-old theoretical particle physicist who has co-authored papers with Nobel laureates. In late 2011, the absentminded professor met a Czech bikini model online. Over email and Yahoo chat, they became romantically involved and she sent him a plane ticket to come meet her at a photo shoot in Bolivia. Then she asked him to bring a bag of hers with him on his flight.
While in Bolivia, Frampton corresponded with an old friend, John Dixon, a physicist and lawyer who lives in Ontario. When Frampton explained what he was up to, Dixon became alarmed. His warnings to Frampton were unequivocal, Dixon told me not long ago, still clearly upset: "I said: 'Well, inside that suitcase sewn into the lining will be cocaine. You're in big trouble.' Paul said, 'I'll be careful, I'll make sure there isn't cocaine in there and if there is, I'll ask them to remove it.' I thought they were probably going to kidnap him and torture him to get his money. I didn't know he didn't have money. I said, 'Well, you're going to be killed, Paul, so whom should I contact when you disappear?' And he said, 'You can contact my brother and my former wife.' " Frampton later told me that he shrugged off Dixon's warnings about drugs as melodramatic, adding that he rarely pays attention to the opinions of others.
On the evening of Jan. 20, nine days after he arrived in Bolivia, a man Frampton describes as Hispanic but whom he didn't get a good look at handed him a bag out on the dark street in front of his hotel. Frampton was expecting to be given an Hermès or a Louis Vuitton, but the bag was an utterly commonplace black cloth suitcase with wheels. Once he was back in his room, he opened it. It was empty. He wrote to Milani, asking why this particular suitcase was so important. She told him it had "sentimental value." The next morning, he filled it with his dirty laundry and headed to the airport.
Crazy story. (via @stevenstrogatz)
The Flint and Tinder folks are back with another Kickstarter campaign and this time they are selling a hooded sweatshirt with a ten-year warranty. It's a premuim-quality sweatshirt, made entirely in the USA, and if rips or comes apart at the seams in the next ten years, just send it to them and they will mend it and send it back.
The Flint and Tinder team overheard a conversation in a factory we were visiting. Someone was talking about using coarse thread with delicate fabric. Doing this accelerates the process of wearing holes into a garment as it goes through the dryer time and time again.
It's a common trick of the trade. It's one of several techniques companies secretly use to ensure that if you like what you've bought, you'll be forced to replace it soon.
In the manufacturing industry, this is known as "planned obsolescence."
It doesn't have to be this way though -- far from it. Eager to prove a point, send a message, and make a sweatshirt that could last a lifetime (the way your favorite sweatshirt should), we set out to make a premium piece that's so well constructed customers would rather have it mended (free of charge, of course) than replaced.
9 minutes and thirty nine seconds of Ron Swanson dancing to Daft Punk. Years from now this video could be the basis of a religion.
Soon after Jake Mohan and his wife bought a house, something went wrong with the plumbing. And then something went right with the plumbing.
Rick called his friend Tom, a plumber. If I'd thought Rick was eccentric, I hadn't seen anything yet. Tom was the Kramer to his Seinfeld. Leather-skinned and gray-mustached, Tom swaggered into the house, took one look at me, and asked me if I was a model. I still hadn't had any coffee, so I wasn't sure if I was suffering auditory hallucinations. "A model?"
"Yeah, you look like you could be a model."
I told him I was a teacher, possibly the furthest thing from a model. "Well, you might have a second calling, brother."
Ordinarily I might have been flattered, but I was disoriented and increasingly angry that our perfect new house was anything but, its actual guts in a state of delinquent disarray. Rick and Tom set about looking at the shoddy plumbing work, shaking their heads and clucking their tongues (the phrases "crap work" and "lipstick on a pig" were uttered). Not only was the cleanout valve worthless, but the downstairs bathroom's waste line, which runs directly from the toilet, was routed directly into the cleanout valve.
Broadcasters are starting to experiment with using footage taken from cameras worn by in-game referees. Here's footage from a rugby ref's vantage point:
And from a hockey ref:
PRIDE Fighting Championships has been using ref cams since at least 2004. Also: roller derby, girls high school basketball, and paintball. (thx, david)
Poignant video profile of Ralph Baer, the inventor of the Magnavox Odyssey, the first home console gaming system. He's still inventing at age 90.
From Dave Gilson at Mother Jones, a fact-checking of ten arguments used by the gun lobby.
Myth #5: Keeping a gun at home makes you safer.
Fact-check: Owning a gun has been linked to higher risks of homicide, suicide, and accidental death by gun.
For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
43% of homes with guns and kids have at least one unlocked firearm.
In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger.
Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality is opening two Shake Shacks and a Blue Smoke in Delta's new Terminal 4 at JFK airport.
Facebook has so many features that at least one of them has to be useful, right? Here's the page on Facebook that just shows you links shared by the people you follow. No tweets, no photos, no jingoistic rants from distant cousins. Just the links. (And if you like links on Facebook, you should like kottke.org on Facebook.)
Lego Stephen Hawking kit orig. from Mar 06, 2013
* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.
Whenever I start to feel sick, I hit the Internet and start searching for more information about my symptoms. When a doctor writes me a prescription and I start feeling something unexpected, I search the web for side effects. And I'm not the only one whose first instinct is to turn my head and search. So many of us have adopted this behavior that researchers are gathering valuable information by studying our search queries and "have for the first time been able to detect evidence of unreported prescription drug side effects before they were found by the Food and Drug Administration's warning system."
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Rand Paul has had the floor to the Senate for 10 hours now, filibustering against the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. You can watch here. What's a filibuster?
A filibuster in the United States Senate usually refers to any dilatory or obstructive tactics used to prevent a measure from being brought to a vote. The most common form of filibuster occurs when a senator attempts to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a bill by extending the debate on the measure, but other dilatory tactics exist. The rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless "three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn" (usually 60 out of 100 senators) brings debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII.
What's Paul upset about? Drones:
Paul said that all presidents must honor the Fifth Amendment. "No American should ever be killed in their house without warrant and some kind of aggressive behavior by them," Paul said on the Senate floor. "To be bombed in your sleep? There's nothing American about that . . . [Obama] says trust him because he hasn't done it yet. He says he doesn't intend to do so, but he might. Mr. President, that's not good enough . . . so I've come here to speak for as long as I can to draw attention to something that I find to really be very disturbing."
"I will not sit quietly and let him shred the Constitution," Paul added."No person will be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process," he said, quoting the Fifth Amendment.
I have written about Obama's continued use of drones before.
Matt Kahn is reading every bestselling novel from each of the past 100 years.
For this blog I plan, among other things, to read and review every novel to reach the number one spot on Publishers Weekly annual bestsellers list, starting in 1913. Beyond just a book review, I'm going to provide some information on the authors and the time at which these books were written in an attempt to figure out just what made these particular books popular at that particular time.
A few things. The Silmarillion?! Was the top selling book in 1977? John Grisham appears on the list 11 different times; the guy is a machine. And it's interesting to see when popularity and critical acclaim part ways, when the Roths, le Carrés, and E.L. Doctorows give way to the Clancys, Grishams, and Dan Browns.
The awesome Lego Stephen Hawking model I posted a few years ago is available from Amazon as a kit!
Update: Or, if you have a massive trove of bricks, here are the instructions to build your own. (via @nickmelville)
Your endurance challenge for today: see how much of this video of the final round of the 2012 O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship you can watch before flinging your computing device across the room.
For bonus points, see if you can get through some of the comments...they are PUNishing. (Gah, I've been infected.)
Dazed and Confused came out in 1993 and Esquire asked a number of writers for their thoughts on the film. Here's Tom Junod:
But the movie caught, like no other piece of art I'm aware of, what really was at play in 1976 -- that weed was the solvent that, for one blessed moment, managed to cut through the most rigid social stratifications in existence, which are the social stratifications of high school. The class of '76 wasn't just one big party; it was a big democratic party, and a glimpse of how things could be different. But it didn't last, or else we were too stoned to care, and Dazed and Confused captures that feeling as well. For a long time, I felt that the greatest cultural failure of my generation was its refusal to accept punk rock and admit it to the rock and roll pantheon -- that we decided we'd rather listen to Boston than the Clash. Now I think its greatest failure is its refusal to see itself in the mirror of Dazed and Confused.
I love Dazed and Confused...it's one of those films where I will watch it anywhere anytime with anyone on any device. The Austin Film Society is doing an anniversary screening and cast reunion tonight. Wiley Wiggens, who played Mitch, is going with his wife, who has never seen the film before.
The vortex view of planetary motion around the Sun orig. from Mar 01, 2013
* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.
This is a clip from the BBC series Edwardian Farm that shows how rope was made in the olden days.
The entire series is available to watch online.
NYC Past has hundreds of large format historical photos of New York City. Like this one:
I'm not through all 49 pages yet, but I am getting pretty close.
Christoph Niemann of Abstract City and I Lego NY fame has released an iPad app for kids called Petting Zoo.
Christoph Niemann's first interactive picture book. Swipe and tap the 21 animals and be surprised at how they react. This app combines the charm of hand made animations and Niemann's wry humor with state of the art technology. What would an elephant in your bathroom do? Can a dog breakdance?
Four little thumbs-up in my household for this one.
Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett recently released his annual letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway for the 2012 fiscal year. In his estimation, Berkshire didn't have such a good year.
When the partnership I ran took control of Berkshire in 1965, I could never have dreamed that a year in which we had a gain of $24.1 billion would be subpar, in terms of the comparison we present on the facing page.
But subpar it was. For the ninth time in 48 years, Berkshire's percentage increase in book value was less than the S&P's percentage gain (a calculation that includes dividends as well as price appreciation). In eight of those nine years, it should be noted, the S&P had a gain of 15% or more. We do better when the wind is in our face.
Perhaps with Anne Hathaway's Oscar win in February, they'll have a better year this year.
In the spirit of I, Pencil, here's how a can of Coke makes its way from the bauxite mines of Australia and the forests of Sri Lanka to your local grocery store shelf.
Coca-Cola is made from a syrup produced by the Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta. The main ingredient in the formula used in the United States is a type of sugar substitute called high-fructose corn syrup 55, so named because it is 55 per cent fructose or "fruit sugar", and 42 per cent glucose or "simple sugar" -- the same ratio of fructose to glucose as natural honey. HFCS is made by grinding wet corn until it becomes cornstarch. The cornstarch is mixed with an enzyme secreted by a rod-shaped bacterium called Bacillus and an enzyme secreted by a mold called Aspergillus. This process creates the glucose. A third enzyme, also derived from bacteria, is then used to turn some of the glucose into fructose.
Weird day (fuck, weird week) but this totally totally made it. Some genius took Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe and mashed it up with Nine Inch Nails' Head Like a Hole.:
Totesally amazingballs. Way way better than I expected. (via the verge)
Here's a video that shows how scientists believe the human face has changed over the past 7 million years:
In case you missed it a few months ago on PBS, the excellent The Mind of a Chef is out in downloadable form on iTunes and at Amazon. The first episode is available for free on the PBS site for try-before-you-buy purposes.
A baby in Mississippi may have been cured of HIV by an early treatment of standard HIV drugs.
After starting on treatment, the baby's immune system responded and tests showed diminishing levels of the virus until it was undetectable 29 days after birth. Ten months later, when the baby returned to the hospital (her mother stopped bringing her, without explanation) the researchers tested her again for HIV and found no sign of the virus. It appeared she had been functionally cured.
Grantland's 30 for 30 short documentary series continues with a piece on the most famous and valuable baseball card in the world, the T206 Honus Wagner.
I don't want to stand in the way of all science, but I am completely on board with the banning of all research into the creation of a dancing dog robot that throws cinder blocks with ease. Oops, I am too late. And now this is happening.
This place isn't too far from me in Boston, so if anyone wants to meet up for a little Terminator 2 style future saving, let me know.
The vortex view of planetary motion around the Sun orig. from Mar 01, 2013
* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.
Deborah Shapiro and her husband Rolf spent more than a year in the Antarctic. For nine of those months, the couple was in total solitude. So what do people want to know about their explorations?
It never ceases to amaze us, but the most common question Rolf and I got after our winter-over, when we spent 15 months on the Antarctic Peninsula, nine of which were in total solitude, was: Why didn't you two kill each other?
At least they didn't have to argue about who got the remote control.
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Bradford Evans at Splitsider compiled some of the best stuff from Louis C.K.'s interviews, appearances, and comedy shows into one awesome list of wit and wisdom. Two my favorites:
Farts are -- I just refuse to be snobbish about certain shit with comedy. You know, farts come out of your ass and they make a fucking trumpet sound. That shit smelling gas comes out of your ass and it makes a toot sound. What the fuck is not funny about that? It's perfect, it's a perfect joke. It has all the elements.
Out of the people that ever were, almost all of them are dead. There are way more dead people, and you're all gonna die and then you're gonna be dead for way longer than you're alive. Like that's mostly what you're ever gonna be. You're just dead people that didn't die yet.
People say 'my phone sucks.' No it doesn't! The shittiest cellphone in the world is a miracle. Your life sucks. Around the phone."
For Polygon, Simon Parkin writes about how Barcade came about and where it's going.
Younger gamers are, in a sense, both the secret to Barcade's success and its great ongoing threat. More than players like Chien and the older pros, Barcade attracts young local patrons typical of the Brooklyn bar scene. For many of these visitors the classic arcade hits of the 1980s were released long before they were born, familiar to them primarily as cultural icons rather than living memories.
"When we opened in 2004, some of these games weren't even 20 years old," says Kermizian. "But now, eight years on, we find the ideal period of nostalgia keeps shifting on us as our customers are a little bit younger. So we've started to go with some early '90s games. You know, we've put Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in two of the three arcade locations and that's our number one most popular game now. People just go crazy playing that."
On a good night a single Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles machine will see its coin tray filled. "At the end of the night we just dump a bucket of quarters out of the machine, around 50 bucks worth."
All these years on, with prices unadjusted for inflation, the aging arcade still offers a viable business. But time continues to be the greatest menace to the arcade, even in the midst of this repackaged revival. For many, this parade of curios whose bleeps and flashes provide an atmospheric link to the past long gone is little more than a hands-on exhibit, where Space Invaders' and Pac-Man's iconography is not forgotten but made fashionable. But fashions are transient. How long can the business model sustain?
Late in his life, just after the invention of the metronome and after completely losing his hearing, Beethoven went back and adjusted the tempos of his symphonies to much faster than you might expect. Radiolab investigates.
Since the Sun moves relative to the other stars around it at about 45,000 miles/hr, if you change the frame of reference from the Sun to the surrounding stellar system, you get planetary motion that looks something like this:
I would take this video with a grain of salt though, especially when it says things like "the Sun is like a comet, dragging the planets in its wake"...the planets don't lag behind the Sun. Better to think of the thing as a conceptual schematic: resembling reality but not really accurate. (via @pieratt)
Update: There's a new version of the video that addresses some of the concerns raised about the first video:
Update: Phil Plait from Bad Astronomy has posted a pretty thorough takedown of this video.
However, there's a problem with it: It's wrong. And not just superficially; it's deeply wrong, based on a very wrong premise. While there are some useful visualizations in it, I caution people to take it with a galaxy-sized grain of salt.
File this one under crying at work: a man finds a newborn on a subway platform and he and his partner adopt him and then blub blub blub, I'm sorry I have to go there's something in both my eyes and my nose.
Three months later, Danny appeared in family court to give an account of finding the baby. Suddenly, the judge asked, "Would you be interested in adopting this baby?" The question stunned everyone in the courtroom, everyone except for Danny, who answered, simply, "Yes."
"But I know it's not that easy," he said.
"Well, it can be," assured the judge before barking off orders to commence with making him and, by extension, me, parents-to-be.
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