Entries for June 2013 (July 2013 »    August 2013 »    September 2013 »    Archives)

 

Notes for SherlockJUN 28

[Sherlock season 2 spoilers ahead...] At the end of the second season of the excellent BBC series Sherlock, Holmes jumps off the roof of a building in Smithfield, London. Ever since then, fans of the show have been leaving notes near where he would have landed.

Sherlock Notes

(thx, phil)

The power of failureJUN 27

Malcolm Gladwell on economist Albert Hirschman, who embraced the roles of adversity, anxiety, and failure in creativity and success.

"The Principle of the Hiding Hand," one of Hirschman's many memorable essays, drew on an account of the Troy-Greenfield "folly," and then presented an even more elaborate series of paradoxes. Hirschman had studied the enormous Karnaphuli Paper Mills, in what was then East Pakistan. The mill was built to exploit the vast bamboo forests of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. But not long after the mill came online the bamboo unexpectedly flowered and then died, a phenomenon now known to recur every fifty years or so. Dead bamboo was useless for pulping; it fell apart as it was floated down the river. Because of ignorance and bad planning, a new, multimillion-dollar industrial plant was suddenly without the raw material it needed to function.

But what impressed Hirschman was the response to the crisis. The mill's operators quickly found ways to bring in bamboo from villages throughout East Pakistan, building a new supply chain using the country's many waterways. They started a research program to find faster-growing species of bamboo to replace the dead forests, and planted an experimental tract. They found other kinds of lumber that worked just as well. The result was that the plant was blessed with a far more diversified base of raw materials than had ever been imagined. If bad planning hadn't led to the crisis at the Karnaphuli plant, the mill's operators would never have been forced to be creative. And the plant would not have been nearly as valuable as it became.

"We may be dealing here with a general principle of action," Hirschman wrote, "Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be."

Gladwell's piece is based on Jeremy Adelman's recent biography of Hirschman, Worldly Philosopher.

A 6-year-old kills it on America's Got TalentJUN 27

This is the best thing in the world right now. An adorable 9-year-old kid who plays the drums and his equally adorable 6-year-old sister who sings take the stage on the show America's Got Talent to perform. The judges coo at their kidness and cuteness. And then:

Give it until 1:40 at least...I promise it pays off. I haven't laughed this hard in weeks. (via ★interesting)

A photon's random walkJUN 27

The Sun is so dense at its core that the average photon created by the fusion process takes more than 40,000 years to escape to the surface. !!!

The center of the Sun is extremely dense, and a photon can only travel a tiny distance before running into another hydrogen nucleus. It gets absorbed by that nucleus and the re-emitted in a random direction. If that direction is back towards the center of the Sun, the photon has lost ground! It will get re-absorbed, and then re-emitted, over and over, trillions of times.

This is from 1997, so that figure might have been revised a bit (anyone have updated numbers?) but still, that's incredible. (via hacker news)

Personal pocket spacecraft to the MoonJUN 27

This is incredible: an outfit called Pocket Spacecraft are making paper-thin "spacecraft" the size of CDs, hundreds of which will be placed into a rocket and sent to the Moon. They're funding the project on Kickstarter and you can purchase your very own Moon-bound spacecraft for as little as £199.

You listen to this man every dayJUN 27

From the beginning, all I've ever cared about is things being great. I never cared about when they were done. Because I also feel like I want the music to last forever. And once you release it, you can't go back and fix it, so you really have to get it right. And that takes time.

A chat with Rick Rubin. You may not know the name, but you definitely know the music (and you'll probably never forget the beard).

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Bullet cross-sectionsJUN 26

Sabine Pearlman's photos of bullets split in half reveals there are many ways to make them.

Bullet Cross Sections

Louis Armstrong on keeping up his chopsJUN 26

In 1964, when they were teenagers at New Trier High School near Chicago, Michael Aisner and James Stein interviewed Louis Armstrong backstage at one of his concerts. In his boxers.

You can't take it for granted. Even if we have two, three days off I still have to blow that horn a few hours to keep up the chops. I mean I've been playing 50 years, and that's what I've been doing in order to keep in that groove there.

Aisner also interviewed Muhammed Ali a couple years later.

The Dunham CollectionJUN 26

Lena Dunham shares her fifteen favorite Criterion films, saying she's embarrassed that "so many of these films are in English, but I just love speaking English".

The "troublingly retrograde" YeezusJUN 26

Thoughtful piece from Cord Jefferson on Kanye West's retrograde attitude towards women (and particularly white women) on his recent album, Yeezus.

Kanye West has never advocated raping anyone. His persistent fixation on conquering white women -- the lure of white women, injuring white men via their women, etc. -- is troublingly retrograde for a multimillionaire who some consider to be the harbinger of a neo-Black Power movement. It ultimately gives lie to the fact that Kanye sees himself as "a god," as he claims on Yeezus, or, as he told Jon Caramanica in that winding New York Times interview, that he is "so credible and so influential and so relevant." I've yet to see a black man who is truly confident in his human worth and his power spend time crowing about ejaculating onto white chicks. What's more, what does it yield West in the end? As Kiese Laymon asked the other day: "Do you think the white men who run these corporations you're critiquing really give a fuck about you dissing, fucking, fisting, choking white women?"

I listened to Yeezus a handful of times when it first came out (and loved it, especially the production and beats) but had to stop because of just this issue. There is undoubtably something critical to be said about race and sex in America, but West's hamfisted lyrics definitely aren't it.

Recapturing the FriedmansJUN 26

Back in November, I posted about the effort of the filmmakers of Capturing the Friedmans to prove the innocence of one of the film's subjects, Jesse Friedman. On Monday, a 168-page report released by the Nassau County District Attorney's office found that there was enough evidence to charge and convict Friedman of sexual molestation of minors.

Friedman, his supporters and the makers of the Academy Award-nominated documentary have long maintained he was railroaded into pleading guilty to charges he molested 13 kids in the late 1980s, and were expecting the report to exonerate him.

It did the opposite.

Friedman, they found, was labeled a "psychopathic deviant" by his own shrink, and had actually sexually abused a total of 17 children.

"The District Attorney concludes that Jesse Friedman was not wrongfully convicted," the blistering 172-page report says.

"In fact, by any impartial analysis, the investigation process prompted by Jesse Friedman . . . has only increased confidence in the integrity of Jesse Friedman's guilty plea adjudication as a sex offender."

The panel said it interviewed three of Friedman's now-adult victims. "Each confirmed that he was sexually abused by Jesse Friedman. Each told their separate story, marked by pain and recovery," and "recounted years of shame and humiliation," the report said.

The Washington Post has more. (via @DavidGrann)

How recycled glass bottles are madeJUN 25

Until fairly recently, recycled glass was not made into new glass bottles. But now recycling plants can use optical sorting to separate out colored glass from clear glass so the latter can be used to make new bottles. Here's how the process works.

Don't miss the glass gobs shooting down into the molding machine at around 2:13.

Duct tape surfingJUN 25

Pascale Honore enjoyed watching her sons surf but couldn't participate because she's been a paraplegic for the past 18 years. But then Tyron Swan, a friend of her sons, duct taped her to his back and took her out on his board.

Man, that smile is incredible. What a great video. Pascal and Tyron are trying to raise funds to take their show on the road. Backed. (via ★interesting)

Meta tic-tac-toeJUN 25

Meta Tic Tac Toe

Innovation in tic-tac-toe? A meta version of the game is actually challenging and fun to play if you're not 4 years old.

This lends the game a strategic element. You can't just focus on the little board. You've got to consider where your move will send your opponent, and where his next move will send you, and so on.

(via waxy)

Exploding actressesJUN 25

This made me Laugh Out Loud for reals...Simone Rovellini doctors clips from movies to make actresses' heads explode. The first clip features Dirty Dancing, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, and Ghost:

And this one features a bunch of Disney princesses:

More videos and animated GIFs on the Exploding Actresses Tumblr. (via @scottlamb)

Video art you can watch onlineJUN 25

Flavorwire has collected 50 notable works of video art that are available to watch online for free, mostly on YouTube and Vimeo. Here's a piece from Chris Burden where he has a friend shoot him in the arm with a .22 rifle.

Other artists represented are Christian Marclay, Cory Arcangel, Marina Abramovic, and Andy Warhol.

A metaphor for the WebJUN 24

This is what it feels like to use the Web sometimes:

Nepal Car 1950

That's from National Geographic's excellent Found blog; Porters transport a car on long poles across a stream in Nepal, January 1950.

Aerial photography pioneer George LawrenceJUN 24

In the early 1900s, photographer George Lawrence built what he called the Lawrence Captive Airship, a series of kites and wires able to hold aloft a camera mounted on a stabilizing mechanism. With his invention, he was able to take aerial photos of cities all over the country -- Brooklyn, Atlantic City, Chicago, Kansas City. You've probably seen his photos of a burnt-out San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.

George Lawrence SF quake

You gotta love anyone whose company motto was "the hitherto impossible in photography is our specialty". (via coudal)

Social networking in ancient Rome and 17th century EnglandJUN 24

Here are pair of articles by Tom Standage, drawn from his forthcoming book on the 2,000-year history of social media, Writing on the Wall. In Share it like Cicero, Standage writes about how Roman authors used social networking to spread and publish their work.

One of the stories I tell in "Writing on the Wall" is about the way the Roman book-trade worked. There were no printing presses, so copying of books, which took the form of multiple papyrus rolls, was done entirely by hand, by scribes, most of whom were slaves. There were no formal publishers either, so Roman authors had to rely on word-of-mouth recommendations and social distribution of their works via their networks of friends and acquaintances.

In the late 1600s, a particularly effective social networking tool arose in England: the coffeehouse.

Like coffee itself, coffeehouses were an import from the Arab world. England's first coffeehouse opened in Oxford in the early 1650s, and hundreds of similar establishments sprang up in London and other cities in the following years. People went to coffeehouses not just to drink coffee, but to read and discuss the latest pamphlets and news-sheets and to catch up on rumor and gossip.

Coffeehouses were also used as post offices. Patrons would visit their favorite coffeehouses several times a day to check for new mail, catch up on the news and talk to other coffee drinkers, both friends and strangers. Some coffeehouses specialized in discussion of particular topics, like science, politics, literature or shipping. As customers moved from one to the other, information circulated with them.

Standage previously wrote about the European coffeehouse in A History of the World in 6 Glasses.

Surviving 12 hours in quicksandJUN 24

Getting stuck in the sand on the edge of a river during a hike doesn't sound like a life-threatening situation, but Rob Tesar would disagree.

The sun started going behind the canyon wall around three o'clock, and the temperature dropped substantially. I would be in the shadows until dark. The woman connected a trash bag filled with my coats to the rope and moved it out to me. The runners came back around 3:40 and we talked about using the Personal Locator Beacon. It was a weird conversation because the situation didn't seem super serious. I was stuck in mud and it was cold, but there was no blood. There was no traumatic injury. At four o'clock we hit the beacon because we didn't know when someone might come. We thought that hypothermia would make this a life or death situation.

I was worried about passing out in the water, so I asked if we could create a system to hold me up. We built a raft using Thermarests and driftwood. and I lay on my belly. Every 15 minutes or so, one of the people with me would say, "Hey Robbie, How did this happen? How old are you? Where are you from?" In between that, I was meditating, Be as calm as possible. Just breathe. When I got cold, they got the MSR stove going and gave me hot water and a meal-sausage, couscous, and cheese.

No Parkinson's with the flip of a switchJUN 24

Andrew Johnson has been diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson's Disease and recently underwent deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery to implant a brain pacemaker that supplies his brain with regular and reliable electrical pulses. In this incredible video, Johnson turns the pacemaker off and you can see the effect that DBS has had on his life.

Understatement of the year at the end of the video. Wow. Johnson writes about his experience with Parkinson's on his site, Young and Shaky. (thx, eamon)

Very Semi-SeriousJUN 21

From filmmakers Leah Wolchok and Davina Pardo comes a documentary about New Yorker cartoons called Very Semi-Serious. They are soliciting funds to finish the film on Kickstarter.

New Yorker Kickstarter

I cold emailed cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, and-to my surprise-he called me right away. So I flew to New York for the New Yorker festival, met all the cartoonists I'd been reading about, and pitched him my idea. An epic film about the past, present and future of cartooning at the New Yorker! The definitive documentary about his beloved craft, his beloved cartoonists, his beloved hair! How could he say no? He said no.

But that was 6 years ago, when I was too young and too nice. Now I'm going gray and getting crabby, and I've recruited the talented New York filmmaker Davina Pardo to produce the film with me. Bob has given us amazing access to the cartoon department and we are deep into production on the film.

Prints of that cartoon are also available.

Tipping should be outlawedJUN 21

Elizabeth Gunnison Dunn offers six reasons why tipping, particularly at restaurants, should be eliminated.

The friendships I've formed with restaurant employees over the years have made me think seriously about why hospitality workers are singled out among America's professionals to endure a pass-the-hat system of compensation. Why should a server's pay depend upon the generosity -- not to mention dubious arithmetic skills -- of people like me?

(via @LonestarTacoNYC, who are starting back up at New Amsterdam Market this weekend)

Single photograph looks like 4 individual photographsAARON COHEN  ·  JUN 21

Photographer Bela Borsodi fastidiously manipulated household items in the photograph below to create an image that looks like 4 photographs. Created as an album cover for the band VLP, I can confirm it's possible to stare at this picture for many minutes.

Bela Borsodi

Here's the photo again from a different angle, and if you're interested, here's a video of the process used to create the image.

Bela Borsodi Off Axis

(via unified pop theory and reddit, thx, alex)

John Hodgman's RagnarokJUN 20

As part of the media company's push for original programming, John Hodgman's comedy special, Ragnarok, is exclusively streaming on Netflix right now.

Deranged Millionaire, John Hodgman, and his infamous moustache dispense their survival guide to the Mayan apocalypse or as he's deemed it "RAGNAROK". With his eccentric list of post-apocalyptic necessities, beef jerky dollars, sperm whales and mayonnaise, John Hodgman entertains the audience in the face of impending doom.

Heeeeere's a trailer:

Feel feel feel feel feel, feel the heatJUN 20

Mary Roach travels to the state of Nagaland in India, where some of the world's hottest chili peppers grow, to observe a chili-eating competition, in which contestants see who can eat the most insanely hot chilis in 20 seconds. This guy is dealing with the after effects of competing (perhaps on a vision quest):

Chili Contestant

The event itself is surprisingly low-key. The mood is one of stoic grimness. No one is screaming in pain. No one will be scarred by the heat. That's not how capsaicin works. It only feels hot. The human tongue has pain receptors that respond to a certain intensity of temperature or acid. These nerve fibers send a signal to the brain, which it forwards to your conscious self in the form of a burning sensation. Capsaicin lowers the threshold at which this happens. It registers "hot" at room temperature. "It trips the alarm," says Bruce Bryant, a senior researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. "It says, 'Get this out of your mouth right now!'" The chili pepper tricks you into setting it free.

The whole affair is beginning to seem like an anticlimax when I look up from my notes to see Pu Zozam headed my way. I have seen people stagger in movies, but never for real directly in my sightline. Zozam's legs buckle as he tries to keep walking. He goes down onto one knee and collapses sideways onto the floor. He rolls onto his back, arms splayed and palms up. He's making sounds that are hard to transcribe. Mostly vowels.

This story gives me the chance to alert you to one of my favorite units of measure, the Scoville scale, a "measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers". As the article states, the chili used in the contest has been measured at 1,000,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). As a comparison, Sriracha sauce is about 1000-2000 SHU, jalapenos register 3,500-8,000 SHU, and habanero is about 100,000-350,000 SHU. (via coudal)

The quickening pace of modern life?JUN 20

Ah, the good old days, when people used to talk to each other in public rather than looking at their phones or listening to headphones all the time. Except that's not been the case for awhile as XKCD demonstrates with a series of quotes from various publications dating back to 1871. This is from William Smith's Morley: Ancient and Modern published in 1886.

With the advent of cheap newspapers and superior means of locomotion... the dreamy quiet old days are over... for men now live think and work at express speed. They have their Mercury or Post laid on their breakfast table in the early morning, and if they are too hurried to snatch from it the news during that meal, they carry it off, to be sulkily read as they travel... leaving them no time to talk with the friend who may share the compartment with them... the hurry and bustle of modern life... lacks the quiet and repose of the period when our forefathers, the day's work done, took their ease...

In 1946, a young Stanley Kubrick worked as a photographer for Look magazine and took this shot of NYC subway commuters reading newspapers:

Kubrick Subway Newspapers

The more things change, etc. More of Kubrick's subway photography can be found here.

The making of Digg ReaderJUN 20

Writing for Wired, Matt Homan Mat Honan on Betaworks' race to build a replacement for Google Reader in just 90 days. If you are interested in a 35,000-ft view on how Web-based software is built, read this.

McLaughlin saw a blog post in the Fall of 2012 speculating that Google Reader, choked of resources, was shutting down. He sent a teasing note to a friend at Google offering to "take it off their hands." To his surprise, he got a serious reply. Google, his friend replied, had concluded that it couldn't sell the name, user data, or code base (which would only run on their servers) and so there was nothing to actually buy.

The following February, McLaughlin, now full-time at Digg, bumped into this same pal at a TED conference. The friend warned him to act fast if he really did want to develop a Reader. "He said 'I'm not telling you anything, but we're not going to keep this thing around forever and maybe you want to have something ready by the end of the year."

But instead of year's end Google announced plans to shutter Google Reader on July 1. That same night, Digg put up a blog post announcing that it was going to build a replacement. The Internet went crazy.

Loved seeing ye olde kottke.org represented in the Digg Reader mockups, and I'm looking forward to checking out the service when it launches.

Hollywood Star ChartsJUN 20

New prints in the Dorothy shop: these really cool Hollywood Star Charts, available in Golden Age and Modern Day editions.

Hollywood Star Chart

The Modern Day version of our Hollywood Star Chart features constellations named after some of the most culturally significant films to have appeared on the silver screen since 1960 - present day. The stars that make up the clusters are the Hollywood stars that appeared in them.

The chart is based on the night sky over New York on June 16th 1960 -- the date of the first showing of Hitchcock's 'Psycho' at the DeMille Theater. With its new approach to storytelling, characterisation and violence it is seen as a key movie in the start of the post-classical era of Hollywood.

The 108 films featured include those chosen for preservation in the US National Film Registry due to their cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance; Academy Award winners; and a few personal favourites. Films include Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, The Exorcist, The Godfather, Chinatown, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction and Avatar.

You may remember Dorothy from their movie name maps.

Watch the skiesJUN 20

Coudal Partners travelled to rural Nevada to capture this 6 hour and 21 minute real time film of the night sky.

Click through to YouTube to watch it in the original 4K resolution, which is much better than even 1080p. They produced the video in conjunction with the Night Sky edition of their Field Notes notebooks.

The Homeric social networkJUN 19

The structure of the social network among characters in Homer's Odyssey indicates the story is at least partially based on actual events.

In analysing the Odyssey, they identified 342 unique characters and over 1700 relations between them.

Having constructed the social network, Miranda and co then examined its structure. "Odyssey's social network is small world, highly clustered, slightly hierarchical and resilient to random attacks," they say.

What's interesting about this conclusion is that these same characteristics all crop up in social networks in the real world. Miranda and co say this is good evidence that the Odyssey is based, at least in part, on a real social network and so must be a mixture of myth and fact.

The world's smallest museumJUN 19

Museum is the world's smallest museum, located in a small walk-in closet-sized space in Cortlandt Alley between Franklin St & White St in NYC. Collectors Weekly talked with one of the museum's founders.

In the current season, there's a collection of toothpaste tubes from around the world. There's a collection of mutilated U.S. currencies, money that's counterfeit or real money that's been scrawled on. There's a collection from Alvin Goldstein, who was the founder and editor of Screw magazine, who shared with us personal belongings that have stayed with him throughout the narrative of his life. There's a collection of Disney-themed children's bulletproof backpacks. They're things that touch upon something that's happening in society, things that comment on where we're at and how we're thinking and what we're doing.

Caffeine can cramp creativityJUN 19

"Sparks shoot all the way up to the brain" while "ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages."

That's how Balzac described the effects of drinking coffee (and it's tough to question his expertise on the topic as he famously downed the equivalent of 50 cups a day). We know caffeine can make us more energetic and increase our ability to concentrate. But does it also prevent the "wandering, unfocussed mind" that leads to creativity? From the New Yorker's Maria Konnikova: How Caffeine Can Cramp Creativity.

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How the other half livedJUN 19

Jacob Riis came to NYC in 1870 at the age of 21. He had $40 in his pocket, which he quickly spent. Unemployed, he lived for a time in the city's notorious slums before working his way up the social and economic ladder to become one of New York's strongest advocates for reform. Riis also took early advantage of flash photography to steer his camera into the city's darkest corners -- tenements, dark alleys, sweatshops, opium dens, beer halls -- and emerged with photographs that helped shift public opinion on NYC's poverty and slums.

Jacob Riis

Collections of Riis' photography can be viewed at Museum Syndicate and the Museum of the City of New York. Riis included many of his photographs in a book he published in 1890 called How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York. (via petapixel)

Massive snake opens doorJUN 18

Watch as a giant albino python opens a door and comes right on in, thank you very much.

Bored of being in a dark room, she flips on the light, opens the door and bails. This particular episode takes place at 1am. This is why we keep doors locked with her around. We don't need her harassing the neighbors.

Maybe don't watch this if you want to sleep tonight. (via @daveg)

Portraits of grandmas and their foodJUN 18

Photographer Gabriele Galimberti travelled around the world (Morocco, Philippines, Italy, India) to get these shots of grandmothers and the foods they cook.

Grandma Food

Each pair of photographs includes a recipe for making the pictured dish. Galimberti's other projects are very much worth checking out as well. (via @youngna)

A history of color photographyJUN 18

From Luminous Lint, a brief but comprehensive history of color photography.

To understand what is happening in color photography today it is beneficial to know what has been previously accomplished. The quest for color photography can be traced to Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre's 1839 public announcement of his daguerreotype process, which produced a finely detailed, one-of-a-kind, direct-positive photographic image through the action of light on a silver-coated copper plate. Daguerreotypes astonished and delighted, but nevertheless people complained that the images lacked color. As we see the world in color, others immediately began to seek ways to overcome this deficiency and the first colored photographs made their appearance that same year. The color was applied by hand, directly on the daguerreotype's surface. Since then scores of improvements and new processes have been patented for commercial use.

This is a photograph made by Louis Ducos du Hauron sometime between 1869-1879, a particularly early example of a vivid color photographic print that wasn't colored by hand.

Rooster Ducos Du Hauron

See many other examples of early color photography in the kottke.org archives. (via @ptak)

Watch this idiot run on hot flowing lavaJUN 18

This might be the dumbest thing on YouTube, which is saying quite a lot.

Or maybe not...maybe running up flowing lava isn't the worst thing you can do with your life and limbs.

Advanced Alien Civilization Discovers Uninhabitable PlanetJUN 17

Scientists from an advanced alien society have discovered a potentially remarkable planet that turns out to be "completely hostile to life".

"Theoretically, this place ought to be perfect," leading Terxus astrobiologist Dr. Srin Xanarth said of the reportedly blighted planet located at the edge of a spiral arm in the Milky Way galaxy. "When our long-range satellites first picked it up, we honestly thought we'd hit the jackpot. We just assumed it would be a lush, green world filled with abundant natural resources. But unfortunately, its damaged biosphere makes it wholly unsuitable for living creatures of any kind."

"It's basically a dead planet," she added. "We give it another 200 years, tops."

The alien researchers stated that the dramatically warming atmosphere of RP-26 contains alarming amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, as well as an ozone layer that-for reasons they cannot begin to fathom-has been allowed to develop a gaping hole. They also noted the presence of melting polar icecaps, floods, and enough pollutants to poison "every last drop of the planet's fresh water, if you can even call it that."

You finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!

Seinfeld theme slowed downJUN 17

If you slow down the Seinfeld theme by 1200%, it sounds like the soundtrack to a bad 80s sci-fi movie.

You may also enjoy Justin Bieber at 800% slower.

To the ends of the EarthJUN 17

Alan Taylor recently investigated where Google Maps' Street View coverage ends -- "whether blocked by geographic features, international borders, or simply the lack of any further road" -- and compiled a photographic look at the ends of the road.

Lava Road

(via @faketv)

Secret to ancient Roman concrete discoveredJUN 17

We're used to thinking that technology progresses. Stuff gets better. But that's not the case with concrete...the Romans made concrete that's superior to the stuff we have now and scientists recently found out why it's so good.

The secret to Roman concrete lies in its unique mineral formulation and production technique. As the researchers explain in a press release outlining their findings, "The Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock. For underwater structures, lime and volcanic ash were mixed to form mortar, and this mortar and volcanic tuff were packed into wooden forms. The seawater instantly triggered a hot chemical reaction. The lime was hydrated -- incorporating water molecules into its structure -- and reacted with the ash to cement the whole mixture together."

The Portland cement formula crucially lacks the lyme and volcanic ash mixture. As a result, it doesn't bind quite as well when compared with the Roman concrete, researchers found. It is this inferior binding property that explains why structures made of Portland cement tend to weaken and crack after a few decades of use, Jackson says.

Bad British baseball commentaryJUN 17

Ok, it's no NFL bad lip reading but this fake commentary by a British broadcaster of a baseball game is still pretty hilarious.

He runs in to bowl...Mork and Mindy, that's going for six! No! Caught by the chap in the pajamas with the glove that makes everything easier. And they all scuttle off for a nap.

The worst charities in AmericaJUN 14

The Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting spent a year investigating bad charities and this is what they found.

The worst charity in America operates from a metal warehouse behind a gas station in Holiday.

Every year, Kids Wish Network raises millions of dollars in donations in the name of dying children and their families.

Every year, it spends less than 3 cents on the dollar helping kids.

Most of the rest gets diverted to enrich the charity's operators and the for-profit companies Kids Wish hires to drum up donations.

In the past decade alone, Kids Wish has channeled nearly $110 million donated for sick children to its corporate solicitors. An additional $4.8 million has gone to pay the charity's founder and his own consulting firms.

No charity in the nation has siphoned more money away from the needy over a longer period of time.

But Kids Wish is not an isolated case, a yearlong investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

Using state and federal records, the Times and CIR identified nearly 6,000 charities that have chosen to pay for-profit companies to raise their donations.

Then reporters took an unprecedented look back to zero in on the 50 worst -- based on the money they diverted to boiler room operators and other solicitors over a decade.

These nonprofits adopt popular causes or mimic well-known charity names that fool donors. Then they rake in cash, year after year.

The nation's 50 worst charities have paid their solicitors nearly $1 billion over the past 10 years that could have gone to charitable works.

Despicable. And a reminder that before you give, you should check on a site like Charity Navigator or GiveWell for organizations where a sizable portion of your contribution is going to the actual cause. For instance, the aforementioned Kids Wish charity currently has a "donor advisory" notice on their Charity Navigator page. (via @ptak)

Classical statues dressed up as hipstersJUN 14

Photographer Léo Caillard makes images of classical statues dressed up as hipsters.

Hipster Statuary 01

Hipster Statuary 02

(via ★thoughtbrain)

The BeastlesJUN 14

DJ BC took the Beastie Boys and mashed them up with The Beatles.

He did more than 40 songs...get them all here. (via ★glass)

All of the riversJUN 13

Perhaps inspired by All Streets, Ben Fry's map of all the streets in the US, Nelson Minar built a US map out of all the rivers in the country.

All Rivers

All Rivers detail

Minar put all the data and files he used up on Github so you can make your own version.

PRISM in the 18th centuryJUN 13

Paul Revere network

There's been a lot of discussion recently about government programs like PRISM and how, according to defenders of such surveillance, they "only" collect metadata related to communications and not the content of the communication. In a clever article, Kieran Healy uses only the membership lists of various Boston-area organizations in the late 1770s to find out quite a lot about who might be the leaders of the nascent revolutionary cell. Even with this simple analysis, Paul Revere's name pops out of the data.

The analytical engine has arranged everyone neatly, picking out clusters of individuals and also showing both peripheral individuals and-more intriguingly-people who seem to bridge various groups in ways that might perhaps be relevant to national security. Look at that person right in the middle there. Zoom in if you wish. He seems to bridge several groups in an unusual (though perhaps not unique) way. His name is Paul Revere.

Once again, I remind you that I know nothing of Mr Revere, or his conversations, or his habits or beliefs, his writings (if he has any) or his personal life. All I know is this bit of metadata, based on membership in some organizations. And yet my analytical engine, on the basis of absolutely the most elementary of operations in Social Networke Analysis, seems to have picked him out of our 254 names as being of unusual interest.

Now, the Crown may have suspected Revere of anti-Royalist leanings without this analysis. But with the analysis, they all but know. Get Revere and a few other highly connected nodes into jail on some trumped-up charges and, voila, maybe the American Revolution never happens or is quickly quashed. Revere and the American Revolution is an extreme example of what Moxie Marlinspike is getting at in We Should All Have Something To Hide: that breaking the law is sometimes how society moves forward.

Over the past year, there have been a number of headline-grabbing legal changes in the US, such as the legalization of marijuana in CO and WA, as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage in a growing number of US states.

As a majority of people in these states apparently favor these changes, advocates for the US democratic process cite these legal victories as examples of how the system can provide real freedoms to those who engage with it through lawful means. And it's true, the bills did pass.

What's often overlooked, however, is that these legal victories would probably not have been possible without the ability to break the law.

The state of Minnesota, for instance, legalized same-sex marriage this year, but sodomy laws had effectively made homosexuality itself completely illegal in that state until 2001. Likewise, before the recent changes making marijuana legal for personal use in WA and CO, it was obviously not legal for personal use.

Imagine if there were an alternate dystopian reality where law enforcement was 100% effective, such that any potential law offenders knew they would be immediately identified, apprehended, and jailed. If perfect law enforcement had been a reality in MN, CO, and WA since their founding in the 1850s, it seems quite unlikely that these recent changes would have ever come to pass. How could people have decided that marijuana should be legal, if nobody had ever used it? How could states decide that same sex marriage should be permitted, if nobody had ever seen or participated in a same sex relationship?

Supreme Court: human genes not patentableJUN 13

In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court ruled today that human genes cannot be patented.

The case involved Myriad Genetics Inc., which holds patents related to two genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, that can indicate whether a woman has a heightened risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said the genes Myriad isolated are products of nature, which aren't eligible for patents.

The high court's ruling was a win for a coalition of cancer patients, medical groups and geneticists who filed a lawsuit in 2009 challenging Myriad's patents. Thanks to those patents, the Salt Lake City company has been the exclusive U.S. commercial provider of genetic tests for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

The challengers argued the patents have allowed Myriad to dictate the type and terms of genetic screening available for the diseases, while also dissuading research by other laboratories.

Fuck yes. A defect in her BRCA1 gene is what caused Angelina Jolie to recently have a preventive double mastectomy. (via @tylercowen)

Physicists on moneyJUN 13

Some countries, the cool ones, put physicists and other scientists on their money. Here's Niels Bohr on the Danish 500 kroner note:

Niels Bohr Currency

Even the US sneaks onto the cool list with Ben Franklin on the $100.

Seven myths about cooking steakJUN 12

For the Food Lab, Kenji Lopez-Alt debunks some old wives' tales related to cooking steak.

Myth #2: "Sear your meat over high heat to lock in juices."

The Theory: Searing the surface of a cut piece of meat will precipitate the formation of an impenetrable barrier, allowing your meat to retain more juices as it cooks.

The Reality: Searing produces no such barrier-liquid can still pass freely in and out of the surface of a seared steak. To prove this, I cooked two steaks to the exact same internal temperature (130^0F). One steak I seared first over hot coals and finished over the cooler side of the grill. The second steak I started on the cooler side, let it come to about ten degrees below its final target temperature, then finished it by giving it a sear over the hot side of a grill. If there is any truth to the searing story, then the steak that was seared first should retain more moisture.

What I found is actually the exact opposite: the steak that is cooked gently first and finished with a sear will not only develop a deeper, darker crust (due to slightly drier outer layers-see Myth #1), but it also cooks more evenly from center to edge, thus limiting the amount of overcooked meat and producing a finished product that is juicier and more flavorful.

If you're serious about home-cooked steak, the "Further Reading" section at the bottom of this piece is your new best friend.

Send in the dronesJUN 12

Andrew Blum writes about James Bridle and the New Aesthetic movement for Vanity Fair.

Suddenly everyone who thinks it's a movement either wants to be part of it or wants to destroy it," Bridle reflected one recent afternoon, sitting behind a makeshift desk in his new, windowless studio in a converted factory in the Cambridge Heath neighborhood of London. "Bruce describing it as a movement locks it into an existing idea of historical processes, but there's no such thing as avant-gardes anymore. That's such a ridiculous idea. That's an art-historical construct that just doesn't apply anymore. But it leads to that idea of there being avant-garde figures that are ahead of everything else. But there's not. It's just me, looking at this stuff, and going, 'Have you seen this? Have you actually seen it? Have you really paid attention and thought this stuff through? Because I'm trying to, and it's amazing!'"

More on the New Aesthetic here.

David Letterman really really likes drumsJUN 12

Are those your drums? The Late Show host likes drums so much that when musical guests finish up their sets on the show, Letterman often asks the drummer about them.

(via @hodgman)

Get Lucky reimagined for every decade since the 1920sJUN 12

This is great...Daft Punk's Get Lucky as it would have sounded in every decade from the 1920s to the 2020s.

This is what singles should be from now on...you get the original song, a 30s jazz version of the song, a 1800s classical version, an 80s new wave version, and so on.

Kanye West is a confident gentlemanJUN 12

Jon Caramanica talks with Kanye West about his work, his past, his impending child, and all sorts of other things in the NY Times. I started pulling interesting quotes but stopped when I realized that I was copy/pasting like 96% of the article. So, you only get two:

I sat down with a clothing guy that I won't mention, but hopefully if he reads this article, he knows it's him and knows that out of respect, I didn't mention his name: this guy, he questioned me before I left his office:, "If you've done this, this, and this, why haven't you gone further in fashion?" And I say, "I'm learning." But ultimately, this guy that was talking to me doesn't make Christmas presents, meaning that nobody was asking for his [stuff] as a Christmas present. If you don't make Christmas presents, meaning making something that's so emotionally connected to people, don't talk to me.

And I don't want to ruin the amazing last few paragraphs, but I just had to include this:

I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it's like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.

Hand-drawn map of Greenwich Village from 1925JUN 11

From a 1925 issue of Quill magazine, a map of NYC's Greenwich Village hand-drawn by Robert Edwards.

Greenwich Village 1925

The view from the outsideJUN 11

What if journalists from foreign countries wrote about the US the way US newspapers and magazines cover events in foreign countries?

On a recent visit to the United States by GlobalPost, signs of the increased security apparatus could be found everywhere.

At all national airports, passengers are now forced to undergo full-body scans before boarding any flights. Small cameras are perched on many street corners, recording the movements and actions of the public. And incessant warnings on public transportation systems encourage citizens to report any "suspicious activity" to authorities.

Several American villagers interviewed for this story said the ubiquitous government marketing campaign called, "If you see something, say something," does little to make them feel safer and, in fact, only contributes to a growing mistrust among the general population.

"I've deleted my Facebook account, stopped using email, or visiting websites that might be considered anti-regime," a resident of the northern city of Boston, a tough-as-nails town synonymous with rebellion, told GlobalPost. It was in Boston that an American militia first rose up against the British empire. "But my phone? How can I stop using my phone? This has gone too far."

Tools for thinkingJUN 11

An excerpt from Daniel Dennett's new book, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, outlines seven of Dennett's tools for thinking. His second tool is "respect your opponent":

The best antidote I know for this tendency to caricature one's opponent is a list of rules promulgated many years ago by social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport.

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

1. Attempt to re-express your target's position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your target says: "Thanks, I wish I'd thought of putting it that way."

2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

The awful truth about joggingJUN 11

Tired of all the lies, Allison Robicelli finally discovers the awful truth about jogging.

I despise everything about running. I hate the New York City Marathon, which bisects my neighborhood every year, making my commute to work or any theoretical trips to the emergency room completely impossible. I hate people who are constantly posting about running over on Facebook, casually humblebragging about how they fit in a "quickie 5K" between picking up the dry cleaning and the children. I hate 5Ks, even though, where I live, they usually conclude with free beer and six-foot-long heroes (Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: Turning Everything into an Excuse for Day-Drinking Since 1853). I hate "fun runs" because, seriously, fuck you.

Play-companies and the value of a hard day's workJUN 11

James Somers, writer and web developer, ponders the value of the work that he does.

I have a friend who's a mechanical engineer. He used to build airplane engines for General Electric, and now he's trying to develop a smarter pill bottle to improve compliance for AIDS and cancer patients. He works out of a start-up 'incubator', in an office space shared with dozens of web companies. He doesn't have a lot of patience for them. 'I'm fucking sick of it,' he told me, 'all they talk about is colours.'

Web start-up companies are like play-companies. They stand in relation to real companies the way those cute little make-believe baking stations stand in relation to kitchens.

Take Doormates, a failed start-up founded in 2011 by two recent graduates from Columbia University whose mission was to allow users 'to join or create private networks for buildings with access restricted to only building residents'. For that they, too, raised $350,000. You wonder whether anyone asked: 'Do strangers living in the same building actually want to commune? Might this problem not be better solved by a plate of sandwiches?' (The founders have since moved on to 'Mommy Nearest', an iPhone app that points out mom-friendly locations around New York.)

A lot of the stuff going on just isn't very ambitious. 'The thing about the advertising model is that it gets people thinking small, lean,' wrote Alexis Madrigal in an essay about start-ups in The Atlantic last year. 'Get four college kids in a room, fuel them with pizza, and see what thing they can crank out that their friends might like. Yay! Great! But you know what? They keep tossing out products that look pretty much like what you'd get if you took a homogenous group of young guys in any other endeavour: Cheap, fun, and about as worldchanging as creating a new variation on beer pong.'

Updates on previous entries for Jun 10, 2013*JUN 11

You commit three felonies a day orig. from Jun 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.

Trailer for season two of Comedians In Cars Getting CoffeeJUN 10

People love Jerry Seinfeld so much that we will watch him driving cars and drinking coffee with other comedians. Wait, that actually sounds fantastic!

All the season one episodes are available on YouTube, featuring Ricky Gervais, Alec Baldwin, Michael Richards, and Larry David. (via devour)

About an hour of Christian Marclay's The ClockJUN 10

Here are a few clips from Christian Marclay's The Clock that have been surreptitiously filmed and uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo.

The clips are crappy bootlegs that cut off part of the screen, but I still totally get sucked in after 30 seconds of each clip.

How to invent things: edit your messJUN 10

In an essay that covers similar ground to Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From, David Galbraith offers an interesting perspective on maximizing your creative potential.

I remember the very instant that I learned to be creative, to 'invent' things, to do things in an interesting and unusual way, and it happened by accident, literally.

I created mess around myself, the kind of chaos that would be very dangerous in an operating theater but which is synonymous with artists' studios, and in that mess I edited the accidents. By increasing the amount of mess I had freed things up and increased the possibilities, I had maximised the adjacent possible and was able to create the appearance of inventing new things by editing the mistakes which appeared novel and interesting.

The adjacent possible is one of those ideas that, once you hear it, you want to apply to everything around you.

You commit three felonies a dayJUN 10

In a book called Three Felonies A Day, Boston civil rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate says that everyone in the US commits felonies everyday and if the government takes a dislike to you for any reason, they'll dig in and find a felony you're guilty of.

The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague. In Three Felonies a Day, Harvey A. Silverglate reveals how federal criminal laws have become dangerously disconnected from the English common law tradition and how prosecutors can pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior. The volume of federal crimes in recent decades has increased well beyond the statute books and into the morass of the Code of Federal Regulations, handing federal prosecutors an additional trove of vague and exceedingly complex and technical prohibitions to stick on their hapless targets. The dangers spelled out in Three Felonies a Day do not apply solely to "white collar criminals," state and local politicians, and professionals. No social class or profession is safe from this troubling form of social control by the executive branch, and nothing less than the integrity of our constitutional democracy hangs in the balance.

In response to a question about what happens to big company CEOs who refuse to go along with government surveillance requests, John Gilmore offers a case study in what Silverglate is talking about.

We know what happened in the case of QWest before 9/11. They contacted the CEO/Chairman asking to wiretap all the customers. After he consulted with Legal, he refused. As a result, NSA canceled a bunch of unrelated billion dollar contracts that QWest was the top bidder for. And then the DoJ targeted him and prosecuted him and put him in prison for insider trading -- on the theory that he knew of anticipated income from secret programs that QWest was planning for the government, while the public didn't because it was classified and he couldn't legally tell them, and then he bought or sold QWest stock knowing those things.

This CEO's name is Joseph P. Nacchio and TODAY he's still serving a trumped-up 6-year federal prison sentence today for quietly refusing an NSA demand to massively wiretap his customers.

You combine this with the uber-surveillance allegedly being undertaken by the NSA and other governmental agencies and you've got a system for more or less automatically accusing any US citizen of a felony. Free society, LOL ROFLcopter.

Update: For the past two years, the Wall Street Journal has been "examining the vastly expanding federal criminal law book and its consequences". (thx, jesse)

National Insecurity AgencyJUN 10

By now, you've likely heard of Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked secret documents to the press regarding that agency's electronic surveillance activities. From Glenn Greenwald's excellent coverage for The Guardian, here are a few of the most interesting passages from interviews with Snowden.

From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.

--

Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. "I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in." He added: "My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."

He has had "a very comfortable life" that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."

--

"All my options are bad," he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

"Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets," he said.

"We have got a CIA station just up the road -- the consulate here in Hong Kong -- and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be."

--

He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he "watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in", and as a result, "I got hardened."

The primary lesson from this experience was that "you can't wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act."

--

"I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest," he said. "There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is."

And from a second piece with a straight-up interview:

Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?

A: "The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

"I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things ... I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under."

--

Q: What do the leaked documents reveal?

A: "That the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America. I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinised most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians."

--

Q: What is your reaction to Obama denouncing the leaks on Friday while welcoming a debate on the balance between security and openness?

A: "My immediate reaction was he was having difficulty in defending it himself. He was trying to defend the unjustifiable and he knew it."

--

Q: Washington-based foreign affairs analyst Steve Clemons said he overheard at the capital's Dulles airport four men discussing an intelligence conference they had just attended. Speaking about the leaks, one of them said, according to Clemons, that both the reporter and leaker should be "disappeared". How do you feel about that?

A: "Someone responding to the story said 'real spies do not speak like that'. Well, I am a spy and that is how they talk. Whenever we had a debate in the office on how to handle crimes, they do not defend due process - they defend decisive action. They say it is better to kick someone out of a plane than let these people have a day in court. It is an authoritarian mindset in general."

Both of these pieces are very much worth reading in entirety. Also worth a read is Timothy Lee's piece for The Washington Post, Has the US become the type of nation from which you have to seek asylum?

Four decades ago, Daniel Ellsberg surrendered to federal authorities to face charges of violating the Espionage Act. During his trial, he was allowed to go free on bail, giving him a chance to explain his actions to the media. His case was eventually thrown out after it was revealed that the government had wiretapped him illegally.

Bradley Manning, a soldier who released classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, has had a very different experience. Manning was held for three years without trial, including 11 months when he was held in de facto solitary confinement. During some of this period, he was forced to sleep naked at night, allegedly as a way to prevent him from committing suicide. The United Nations' special rapporteur on torture has condemned this as "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 16 of the convention against torture."

Updates on previous entries for Jun 7, 2013*JUN 08

Maps of US linguistic patterns orig. from Jun 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.

VesperJUN 07

I have not had a chance to check it out yet1, but any iOS app built by a team of John Gruber, Brent Simmons, and Dave Wiskus has to be worth a look. They released Vesper yesterday:

Vesper is a simple and elegant tool for collecting notes, ideas, things to do — anything you want to remember. Use tags to group related items into playlist-like collections. Vesper imposes no system; organize and curate your notes whatever way comes naturally to you. Eschewing complications, Vesper's focus is on how it feels to use it.

Available at the App Store for $4.99.

[1] Busy, busy week...sorry for the slightly slow pace around here the past few days. I haven't even had the chance to download and play the new Kingdom Rush yet.

The last of the 16-bit heroesJUN 07

When Grant Hill and Jason Kidd retired from the NBA this week, they were the last players who appeared in the NBA Jam video game from 1994. There are still three active NHL players who appeared in the classic NHL '94: Teemu Selanne, Roman Hamrlik, and Jaromir Jagr. Kotaku's Owen Good takes a look at which athletes were the last men standing from 8-bit and 16-bit sports video games.

Landeta, whose last game was in 2005, is the last man on the Tecmo Bowl roster to appear in an NFL game, beating out the Raiders' Tim Brown, the 49ers' Jerry Rice and Minnesota's Rich Gannon, all of whom retired in 2004.

Ethan Hawke answers some questionsJUN 07

Actor/writer/director Ethan Hawke did a well-received AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit yesterday. A few highlights follow. On privacy and family:

My kids and I always have a debate about if the positives outweigh the negatives. Great seats to the Nicks game vs. being hounded for autographs at halftime. Every give has a take. For me, the blessings far outweigh the curses. I consider it a kind of luxury tax. For my family, I think it's more difficult; they don't get to work with Denzel Washington and Sidney Lumet, but they still have the paparazzi.

On Nicolas Cage:

I'm kind of obsessed with Nic Cage. I just found out about /r/onetruegod too. He's the only actor since Marlon Brando that's actually done anything new with the art of acting; he's successfully taken us away from an obsession with naturalism into a kind of presentation style of acting that I imagine was popular with the old troubadours. If I could erase his bottom half bad movies, and only keep his top half movies, he would blow everyone else out of the water. He's put a little too much water in his beer, but he is still one of the great actors of our time. And working with him was an absolute pleasure. In fact, one of my favorite scenes I've ever done is the last scene in LORD OF WAR.

On hobbies and work:

No... I'm so lucky, so much of what I would do as a hobby I do for my professional life. I love what I do. And I get to shake it up by directing in a movie, acting in a movie, directing a play, writing a book, acting in a play - i've found a way over the years to continue to shake up my job so it remains interesting to me. I'm one of the handful of people who doesn't want a hobby because I'd rather be doing my job.

And on the one thing he would change in his life:

I don't want to say. You know, the things that we want to change about our lives are things we don't want everybody to know, and one of the most difficult things for me was having to learn in front of the public that having a reputation is a double-edged sword. It prevents me from making a first impression. I feel like I haven't made a first impression on anyone in 20 years. There are many things about my life and my behavior that I wish I could change, situations I wish I could have handled better, relationships I could have healed, but unfortunately the earth seems to turn one way and all we can do is try to learn.

Hawke lives in my neighborhood and I see him every once in awhile on the street and at the playground. That "I haven't made a first impression on anyone in 20 years" makes me want to give him a hug the next time I see him.

Photo of the original Sesame Street castJUN 06

The first season of Sesame Street aired in 1969-1970 and this photo of the cast dates from then:

Original Sesame Street Cast

The giveaway is Oscar the Grouch's orange fur...it would switch to green for the second season. Here's the first 15 minutes of the first episode:

And here's part 2, part 3, and part 4.

Sesame Street is insane, BTW. They aired 130 60-minute episodes over six months for that first season and over its 43 seasons, the show has averaged 100 episodes per season. A truly amazing combination of quantity and quality.

Maps of US linguistic patternsJUN 06

Joshua Katz has been studying American dialects and has made more than 120 maps of some of the differences in American speech. Here are a few examples:

Us Dialects Map 1
 

Us Dialects Map 2
 

Us Dialects Map 3

(thx, everyone)

Update: As he notes on the site, Katz's maps are based on the research and work of Bert Vaux...Vaux's maps of the same data can be found here. (thx, molly, margaret, & nicholas)

Updates on previous entries for Jun 5, 2013*JUN 06

The recipe for the cronut orig. from Jun 04, 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 Kingdom Rush game for iPad: FrontiersJUN 06

The makers of Kingdom Rush, probably my all-time favorite iOS game, are out with a brand-new game: Kingdom Rush Frontiers.

Kingdom Rush Frontiers

I will see you all in a few days. Tell my wife and kids I love them. ("thx", @mykeatkinson)

All the news that's fit to sewJUN 05

For her Sewn News project, artist Lauren DiCioccio embroiders photographs from the New York Times.

Sewn news

(via beautiful decay)

The Excel spreadsheet artistJUN 05

Shortly before his retirement at 60, Tatsuo Horiuchi picked up a copy of Microsoft Excel and started making art with it. His art does not look anything like you'd expect Excel art to look:

Excel art

Updates on previous entries for Jun 4, 2013*JUN 05

Turn your Twitter stream into your friends' linkblog orig. from Jul 23, 2012

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

The recipe for the cronutJUN 04

Cronut

Cronuts are donuts made from croissant dough and they are all the rage here in NYC. They were invented by chef Dominique Ansel and they are only available in limited quantities at his bakery in Soho. Apparently people start lining up for them at 6am and all 200 of the world's daily supply of cronuts are gone within minutes of opening. Naturally, a black market has sprung up, with cronuts selling on Craigslist for upwards of $25/item:

Cronut Craigslist

Kevin Roose has some ideas for Ansel about expanding the reach of the cronut, but in the meantime, Edd Kimber replicated the treat at home with a quickie croissant dough.

Since I wont be in New York any time soon I thought I would see if I could replicate them at home, and you know what? They are pretty damn good! Now the dough I'm using isnt a proper croissant dough, its my quick dough made with just 20 minutes active work which, compared to traditional croissant dough is a snap to make.

Update: Pillsbury has gotten into the act as well with a cronut recipe that uses their crescent dough.

The last ice minerJUN 04

Baltazar Ushca is the last ice miner of Ecuador's Mt. Chimborazo. Dozens of men, including Ushca's brothers, used to mine Chimborazo's glacial ice but commercial ice production has rendered the arduous process obsolete.

Also, it appears that the rocks and grass aren't separated from the ice before it goes into the blender?

Kim Jong-il's sushi chefJUN 04

Kenji Fujimoto spent more than a decade as Kim Jong-il's personal chef and his children's nanny. This is his amazing story.

At a lavish Wonsan guesthouse, Fujimoto prepared sushi for a group of executives who would be arriving on a yacht. Executive is Fujimoto's euphemism for generals, party officials, or high-level bureaucrats. In other words, Kim Jong-il's personal entourage. Andguesthouse is code for a series of palaces decorated with cold marble, silver-braided bedspreads, ice purple paintings of kimilsungia blossoms, and ceilings airbrushed with the cran-apple mist of sunset, as if Liberace's jet had crashed into Lenin's tomb.

At two in the morning, the boat finally docked. Fujimoto began serving sushi for men who obviously had been through a long party already. He would come to realize these parties tended to be stacked one atop another, sometimes four in a row, spreading out over days.

All the men wore military uniforms except for one imperious fellow in a casual sports tracksuit. This man was curious about the fish. He asked Fujimoto about the marbled, fleshy cuts he was preparing.

"That's toro," Fujimoto told him.

For the rest of the night, this man kept calling out, "Toro, one more!"

The next day, Fujimoto was talking to the mamasan of his hotel. She was holding a newspaper, the official Rodong Sinmun, and on the front page was a photo of the man in the tracksuit. Fujimoto told her this was the man he'd just served dinner.

"She started trembling," Fujimoto said of the moment he realized the man's true identity. "Then I started trembling."

The man in the tracksuit invited Fujimoto back to make more sushi. Fujimoto didn't speak Korean, so he had a government-appointed interpreter with him at all times. At the end of the evening, a valet handed the interpreter an envelope.

"From Jang-gun-nim," the valet said.

Perhaps the reason Fujimoto hadn't known he'd been serving Kim Jong-il was because "no one ever called him by his real name," Fujimoto said. "Never."

101 best written TV showsJUN 04

The Writers Guild of America recently selected their list of the 101 best written TV series of all time. Here are the top 20:

1 The Sopranos
2 Seinfeld
3 The Twilight Zone
4 All in the Family
5 M*A*S*H
6 The Mary Tyler Moore Show
7 Mad Men
8 Cheers
9 The Wire
10 The West Wing
11 The Simpsons
12 I Love Lucy
13 Breaking Bad
14 The Dick Van Dyke Show
15 Hill Street Blues
16 Arrested Development
17 The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
18 Six Feet Under
19 Taxi
20 The Larry Sanders Show

The full list is here in PDF form. Lost above Deadwood? And Homicide? And several other more? Maybe they ignored everything after the first couple seasons?

Alternative energy costs are droppingJUN 03

Solar power is expensive, right? Actually, the high cost of alternative energy is a good example of a mesofact. As this graph shows, the cost of producing photovoltaic cells has dropped two orders of magnitude over the past 35 years, bringing costs within range of fossil fuel energy production.

Solar Costs Dropping

The underlying cause of this disruption is a phenomenon that solar's supporters call Swanson's law, in imitation of Moore's law of transistor cost. Moore's law suggests that the size of transistors (and also their cost) halves every 18 months or so. Swanson's law, named after Richard Swanson, the founder of SunPower, a big American solar-cell manufacturer, suggests that the cost of the photovoltaic cells needed to generate solar power falls by 20% with each doubling of global manufacturing capacity. The upshot (see chart) is that the modules used to make solar-power plants now cost less than a dollar per watt of capacity. Power-station construction costs can add $4 to that, but these, too, are falling as builders work out how to do the job better. And running a solar power station is cheap because the fuel is free.

Coal-fired plants, for comparison, cost about $3 a watt to build in the United States, and natural-gas plants cost $1. But that is before the fuel to run them is bought. In sunny regions such as California, then, photovoltaic power could already compete without subsidy with the more expensive parts of the traditional power market, such as the natural-gas-fired "peaker" plants kept on stand-by to meet surges in demand. Moreover, technological developments that have been proved in the laboratory but have not yet moved into the factory mean Swanson's law still has many years to run.

Charlemagne for everyone!JUN 03

We are all mostly related to each other. But weirder still, you're just about as related to the stranger next to you as to your great×12 grandparents.

Now, there's another important implication of genomic ancestry studies: Most of the people you are descended from are no more genetically related to you than strangers are. Or to put it another way, your genealogical family tree, which includes all the history of your family going back thousands of years, is much larger than your genetic family tree-the people whom genome sequencing would pinpoint as related to you. 99.9 percent of your genome is the same as that of every other human being (apart from the x and y chromosomes), and that .1 percent of variation in each person gets thinned out pretty quickly across the generations, as each child gets half of each of her parents' genomes, passes on half to each of her children, and so on. Geneticist Luke Jostins did a nice mathematical analysis and estimated that you have only about a 12 percent chance of being genetically related to an ancestor 10 generations ago; by the time you get to a 14-generation ancestor, the probability is nearly zero.

What is happening in Istanbul?JUN 03

Small protests in Istanbul over the past few days have erupted into what's becoming a typical scene across the world: authoritarian governments attempting to crack down on a citizenry agitating for increased freedom.

No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.

But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray. They chased the crowds out of the park.

In the evening the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.

Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.

They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:

The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.

They gathered and marched. Police chased them with pepper spray and tear gas and drove their tanks over people who offered the police food in return. Two young people were run over by the panzers and were killed.

To keep up with events in Turkey, try Occupy Gezi's Tumblr and Facebook page.

The Big FundamentalJUN 03

Lovely piece by Joe Posnanski about Tim Duncan, who at the age of 37 and in his 16th NBA season, finds himself in the Finals again seeking his fifth NBA championship.

Duncan almost certainly would have been the first pick in the draft after his sophomore year, but he came back to Wake Forest. He would have been the first pick in the draft after his junior year, for sure -- and just about everyone thought he would go out -- but once more he went back to Wake Forest to complete his senior year. Odom says that they were in the car after Duncan's junior year and heading to the airport for the Wooden Award ceremony (Duncan did not win it until his senior year). He told Duncan, "You will get a lot of questions there about why you're coming back to Wake Forest."

Duncan, typically, looked out the window and did not say anything.

"No, Tim, this is important," Odom said. "Let's pretend I'm one of those reporters? Was it a hard decision to come back to Wake Forest?"

Duncan kept looking out the window, but he said: "No. It wasn't hard."

Odom: "It wasn't? You didn't agonize over leaving millions of dollars on the table?"

Duncan said: "I didn't agonize. I just thought, why should I try to do today what I will be better prepared to do a year from now."

Odom looked over at the best player he would ever coach, and he wondered: "What kind of college junior thinks like that? Who has that sort of confidence, that sort of patience, that sort of inner peace? And then Duncan said the words that Odom thinks about almost every day."

He said: "You know something coach? The NBA can do a lot for me. It really can. But there's one thing it can't do. The NBA can never make me 20 years old again."

In 2003, Duncan was 27 years old and the MVP of the NBA and the Spurs won their second championship. Ten years later, at 37, his statistics (per 36 minutes) are remarkably similar:

2002-2003: 21.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.7 blocks, 0.6 steals.
2012-2013: 21.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 3.2 blocks, 0.9 steals.

Archives    May 2013 »    April 2013 »    March 2013 »

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