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

 

Bob Burnquist does amazing things on a MegaRampJUL 31

I dunno, this may be the most bonkers skate video you've ever seen. It starts a bit slow but stick with it: Bob Burnquist shows us what he can do on his backyard MegaRamp.

This video is also a fantastic demonstration of the principle of Chekhov's helicopter, which states that if you see a helicopter sitting next to a MegaRamp in the first two minutes of a skate video, a skater must absolutely drop in to the MegaRamp from the helicopter in the last part of the video. (thx, dusty)

Posters of famous movie carsJUL 31

The CarsAndFilms Etsy shop sells posters featuring famous cars from films.

Cars And Films

(via cup of jo)

The Saturn V rocket, simplifiedJUL 31

Randall Munroe of XKCD drew the Saturn V rocket (aka Up Goer Five) annotated using only the 1000 most common English words.

Up Goer Five

See also Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity In Words of Four Letters or Less.

Richard Feynman and The Connection MachineJUL 31

I will read stories about Richard Feynman all day long and this one is no exception. Danny Hillis remembers his friend and colleague in this piece originally written for Physics Today (original here).

Richard arrived in Boston the day after the company was incorporated. We had been busy raising the money, finding a place to rent, issuing stock, etc. We set up in an old mansion just outside of the city, and when Richard showed up we were still recovering from the shock of having the first few million dollars in the bank. No one had thought about anything technical for several months. We were arguing about what the name of the company should be when Richard walked in, saluted, and said, "Richard Feynman reporting for duty. OK, boss, what's my assignment?" The assembled group of not-quite-graduated MIT students was astounded.

After a hurried private discussion ("I don't know, you hired him..."), we informed Richard that his assignment would be to advise on the application of parallel processing to scientific problems.

"That sounds like a bunch of baloney," he said. "Give me something real to do."

So we sent him out to buy some office supplies. While he was gone, we decided that the part of the machine that we were most worried about was the router that delivered messages from one processor to another. We were not sure that our design was going to work. When Richard returned from buying pencils, we gave him the assignment of analyzing the router.

For more Hillis, I recommend Pattern on the Stone and for more Feynman, you can't go wrong with Gleick's Genius.

Updates on previous entries for Jul 30, 2013*JUL 31

Zeitoun rewrite? orig. from Jul 30, 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.

Zeitoun rewrite?JUL 30

In 2009, Dave Eggers published a book called Zeitoun, the story of a man and his family experiencing Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Through the story of one man's experience after Hurricane Katrina, Eggers draws an indelible picture of Bush-era crisis management. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, decides to stay in New Orleans and protect his property while his family flees. After the levees break, he uses a small canoe to rescue people, before being arrested by an armed squad and swept powerlessly into a vortex of bureaucratic brutality. When a guard accuses him of being a member of Al Qaeda, he sees that race and culture may explain his predicament.

The story has taken an unexpected turn since its publication. The protagonist of the story, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, is currently on trial for the attempted first-degree murder of his wife.

Zeitoun made an offer: $20,000 to kill his ex-wife, Kathy, according to Pugh's testimony. Zeitoun instructed Pugh, who was to be released soon from jail, to call Kathy Zeitoun -- Zeitoun allegedly wrote her phone number on an envelope, which was introduced as evidence -- and ask to see one of the family's rental properties. When she took him to a certain property in Algiers, he could kill her there, he allegedly said. Zeitoun also allegedly told Pugh to buy a "throwaway phone" and take pictures to confirm she was dead.

(via digg)

Update: Zeitoun was found not guilty.

Abdulrahman Zeitoun was found not guilty Tuesday of trying to hire a hitman to kill his wife.

The verdict came from Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo. Zeitoun, 55, had waived his right to a jury trial. He had been charged with solicitation of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder of his ex-wife. He was acquitted on both counts.

(thx, mike)

Museum HackJUL 30

Museum Hack is offering non-traditional tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Join this "Museum Hack" tour to turn one of New York's most spectacular cultural institutions into a totally unique experience. We will show you the very best and most intriguing that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has on display.

This is not a boring art history lecture. What we offer is a fun, group-oriented VIP tour experience. You will be entertained... and learn a bit along the way. We strive to offer a brand new view of the Met, one that you wouldn't get by simply visiting the museum on your own.

Great idea. Museum Hack grew out of a smaller effort to Hack the Met.

List of Stanley Kubrick's favorite moviesJUL 30

Compiled from a bunch of different sources, here's an attempt at an exhaustive list of movies that Stanley Kubrick liked. Among them:

Citizen Kane
The Godfather
Metropolis
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Harold and Maude
Close Encounters of the Third Kind

By far the weirdest entry on the list is White Men Can't Jump. Then again, Terrence Malick loves Zoolander and David Foster Wallace once listed a Tom Clancy novel as a favorite. (via @DavidGrann)

UK egg nerds and the men who hunt themJUL 30

This story about obsessive egg collectors in the UK and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds investigators who track them is as strange and wonderful as it sounds.

On the table next to him was an embossed photo album titled "Egg Collectors and Their Associates." Under one photograph of a group of men around a picnic table, someone had written, "Who are these guys?" Most egg collectors don't seem interested in selling or even trading eggs, only in possessing them. "They're not normal criminals," Shorrock said. Thomas estimated that there were about fifty active collectors left. "We know who they are," he added.

Between them, Thomas and Shorrock had been inside many of the collectors' homes, some of them several times. It was like one big family, almost. Daniel Lingham, whose home contained thirty-six hundred eggs, broke into tears when Thomas and the police arrived in 2004. "Thank God you've come," he said. "I can't stop." In 2006, when Colin Watson, an infamous collector, fell to his death from a tree while attempting to reach a sparrow-hawk nest, a Jourdain Society member called the R.S.P.B. as a courtesy. (The headline in the London Daily Mirror read "nest in peace.") Another time, during a raid on a collector's house, Shorrock found a piece of paper with his own name and address on it; he subsequently moved.

Gary Shteyngart, Glasshole touristJUL 29

Doug knows a movie producer who recently got Glass and said, 'This is as close as I'll ever get to being a rock star.' When the velvet-rope hostess at the of-the-moment Wythe Hotel bar in Williamsburg stops to take a photo of me with her iPhone, I know exactly what the producer meant. This is the most I will ever be loved by strangers.

Author Gary Shteyngart spends some time wearing Google Glass and shares the experience (as only he can) in The New Yorker: Confessions of a Google Glass Explorer:

I hear that in San Francisco the term 'Glassholes' is already current, but in New York I am a conquering hero.

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Toyota donates efficiency to non-profitJUL 29

In 2011, Toyota offered to donate their celebrated business management process to The Food Bank for New York City. After some initial skepticism, the donation has "proved transformative" for the Food Bank.

"They make cars; I run a kitchen," said Daryl Foriest, director of distribution at the Food Bank's pantry and soup kitchen in Harlem. "This won't work."

When Toyota insisted it would, Mr. Foriest presented the company with a challenge.

"The line of people waiting to eat is too long," Mr. Foriest said. "Make the line shorter."

Toyota's engineers went to work. The kitchen, which can seat 50 people, typically opened for dinner at 4 p.m., and when all the chairs were filled, a line would form outside. Mr. Foriest would wait for enough space to open up to allow 10 people in. The average wait time could be up to an hour and a half.

Toyota made three changes. They eliminated the 10-at-a-time system, allowing diners to flow in one by one as soon as a chair was free. Next, a waiting area was set up inside where people lined up closer to where they would pick up food trays. Finally, an employee was assigned the sole duty of spotting empty seats so they could be filled quickly. The average wait time dropped to 18 minutes and more people were fed.

Fast ideas vs slow ideasJUL 29

Using a pair of medical innovations as an example, Atul Gawande writes about why different kinds of innovations spread at different speeds and how you might be able to speed up the "slow ideas".

This has been the pattern of many important but stalled ideas. They attack problems that are big but, to most people, invisible; and making them work can be tedious, if not outright painful. The global destruction wrought by a warming climate, the health damage from our over-sugared modern diet, the economic and social disaster of our trillion dollars in unpaid student debt-these things worsen imperceptibly every day. Meanwhile, the carbolic-acid remedies to them, all requiring individual sacrifice of one kind or another, struggle to get anywhere.

The global problem of death in childbirth is a pressing example. Every year, three hundred thousand mothers and more than six million children die around the time of birth, largely in poorer countries. Most of these deaths are due to events that occur during or shortly after delivery. A mother may hemorrhage. She or her baby may suffer an infection. Many babies can't take their first breath without assistance, and newborns, especially those born small, have trouble regulating their body temperature after birth. Simple, lifesaving solutions have been known for decades. They just haven't spread.

If you're interested, Gawande wrote extensively on anesthesia and antiseptics in The New England Journal of Medicine.

In America, the cheese is deadJUL 29

Market researcher Clotaire Rapaille was interviewed for an episode of Frontline on advertising and marketing back in 2003. I like what he had to say about the differences in how the French and Americans think about cheese.

For example, if I know that in America the cheese is dead, which means is pasteurized, which means legally dead and scientifically dead, and we don't want any cheese that is alive, then I have to put that up front. I have to say this cheese is safe, is pasteurized, is wrapped up in plastic. I know that plastic is a body bag. You can put it in the fridge. I know the fridge is the morgue; that's where you put the dead bodies. And so once you know that, this is the way you market cheese in America.

I started working with a French company in America, and they were trying to sell French cheese to the Americans. And they didn't understand, because in France the cheese is alive, which means that you can buy it young, mature or old, and that's why you have to read the age of the cheese when you go to buy the cheese. So you smell, you touch, you poke. If you need cheese for today, you want to buy a mature cheese. If you want cheese for next week, you buy a young cheese. And when you buy young cheese for next week, you go home, [but] you never put the cheese in the refrigerator, because you don't put your cat in the refrigerator. It's the same; it's alive. We are very afraid of getting sick with cheese. By the way, more French people die eating cheese than Americans die. But the priority is different; the logic of emotion is different. The French like the taste before safety. Americans want safety before the taste.

(via @pieratt)

The turbo caterpillar treadmillJUL 29

These caterpillars in the Amazon rain forest travel together in kind of a treadmill formation, with the whole group able to travel faster than any individual caterpillar.

Here's the explanation. And I've got a thing for treadmills, I guess: here's the plane on a treadmill problem, Slinky on a treadmill, and a Japanese game show featuring treadmills. (via @stevenstrogatz)

Circular NYC subway mapJUL 29

A very pretty but almost completely useless circular map of the NYC subway.

Radial NYC Subway Map

There's a London Tube version too.

Hand drawn map of Midtown Manhattan from 1890JUL 26

From 1890, a hand-drawn map of Midtown Manhattan "from 34th Street to 59th Street and from 1st Avenue to 6th Avenue".

1890 Midtown Manhattan Map

And you shall know us by the locations of our StarbucksJUL 26

Quiz: Can you name these cities just by looking at their Starbucks locations? Here's a fairly easy one:

NYC Starbucks map

Waltz Around SaturnJUL 25

Fabio Di Donato made this fantastic short film about Saturn using hundreds of thousands of images taken by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft.

I love the editing technique employed here...the film feels like a silent short from the 1920s but also very contemporary. (via ★interesting)

ISS in transitJUL 25

Romanian photographer Maximilian Teodorescu recently caught the International Space Station in transit across the Sun.

ISS Sun

Teodorescu has also taken photos of the ISS in transit across the Moon.

ISS Moon

These photos make the ISS seem tiny and huge all at the same time. And be sure to click through on the links to see the full-sized photos.

Time lapse of old photo restorationJUL 25

Nice peek into the process of Photoshopping an old photo to make it look new again:

(via @DavidGrann)

Experiments in SpeedJUL 25

100 Mph Bike

Bike frame builder Tom Donhou, inspired by the home-built cars of yore ripping it up on the salt flats of Utah, wanted to see if he could build a bike in his shop that would do 100 mph. This video documents his quest.

I love everything about this video, but especially the pace car. (via ★interesting)

The robot that does parkourJUL 25

Meet RHex. He's a robot built by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and he can do parkour.

They just have to get him jumping as high as the Sand Flea and they'll have something. (via digg)

Updates on previous entries for Jul 24, 2013*JUL 25

Parkour on a bicycle orig. from Apr 21, 2009

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

Cover by Peter MendelsundJUL 24

Details are scarce and publication is months away, but hotshot book designer Peter Mendelsund is coming out with a book called Cover. I bet it will contain a collection of his covers. Or will be about covers. Or something. But I love book covers so whatever it is, I am covered.

A frog with an umbrellaJUL 24

Frog With An Umbrella

A frog using a leaf as an umbrella in a rain storm. Shot by Penkdix Palme.

An audio time machine for your phoneJUL 24

Related to constant photography is an Phone app called Heard that buffers five minutes of audio, allowing you the option to save if anything interesting happens. (thx, andy)

A video for Danny MacAskillJUL 24

Five-year-old Jack is trials rider Danny MacAskill's biggest fan. (Don't know who MacAskill is? Start here.) Inspired by his hero, Jack made a video of himself riding his bike around and doing some tricks.

Oh man, there's water coming out of my face now. #cryingatwork (thx, meg)

Cosmos: A Spacetime OdysseyJUL 24

Been waiting for this one for awhile: a three-minute trailer for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a sequel to Carl Sagan's Cosmos.

The show will be hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and is being produced by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) and Sagan's widow Ann Druyan. If MacFarlane's involvement raises some eyebrows, it shouldn't: he came up with the idea of rebooting the series and is apparently a big space nerd and fan of the original series. (via devour)

Trailer for GravityJUL 24

The latest trailer for Gravity, starring Bullock and Clooney and directed by Alfonso Cuarón (who directed Children of Men).

Holy God, this looks terrifying. Can't wait. (via ★interesting)

How to tie your shoesJUL 24

HJSqMVU

He's a witch! Burn him! See also how to fold a shirt in two seconds. (via ★interesting)

Slow motion video of an AK47 being shot underwaterAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 23

Here's slow motion video from Smarter Every Day of what it looks like when an AK47 is shot underwater. Not only is the slow motion footage beautiful (best shots at 2:40, 4:30, 7:20), the science behind why the bubbles do what they do is explained. Science! Previously.

Medieval pet namesAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 23

Did they even keep pets in Medieval times? Of course they did, we've all seen Game of Thrones (what). Anyway, yes, and not only were dogs and cats domesticated in the Middle Ages, they were even given names! So crazy. Dogs had names like Bo, Nameles, and Hemmerli (Little Hammer). Cats had Tibert and Gyb.

Other names for cats included Mite, who prowled around Beaulieu Abbey in the 13th century, and Belaud, a grey cat belonging to Joachim du Bellay in the 16th century. Isabella d'Este also owned a cat named Martino. Old Irish legal texts refer to several individual cats and names them: Meone (little meow); Cruibne (little paws); Breone (little flame, perhaps an orange cat), and Glas nenta (nettle grey). An Irish poem from the ninth century describes how a monk owned a cat named Pangur Bán, which meant 'fuller white'.

The art of stealing basesAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 23

Baseball has changed significantly since the mid-eighties base stealing heyday of Vince Coleman, Ricky Henderson, Tim Raines, and Willie "Mays" Hayes. Beginning in the mid-90s, steroids and sluggers shifted the game away from speed and defense towards home runs, which resulted in a significant reduction in the number of stolen bases. Since 2003, however, stolen bases have been making a comeback and while the numbers aren't approaching the base stealing glory of the mid-eighties, we're getting closer to the base stealing diminished glory of the mid-nineties. Jonah Keri uses hard g gifs in his baseball writing as well as anyone, and here's a gif driven conversation with Coco Crisp about the art of base stealing.

With that in mind, I set out to find one of those master thieves and have him walk us through every step of the base-stealing process. Oakland's Coco Crisp was happy to oblige. Poring over a series of videos one early morning in Phoenix, Crisp described the cues he picks up from individual pitchers and the weaknesses he can exploit. Moreover, he explained how a player entering his 12th major league season can be a better base stealer now than when he was younger and much faster. Crisp's career high in single-season steals came in his age-31 season in 2011, when he swiped 49. Despite nagging injury troubles, Crisp has been ludicrously efficient on the base paths over the past three years, stealing 120 bases and getting caught just 16 times (88.2 percent success rate).

Skating with styleAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 23

We are truly in a golden era of skateboarding videos (again). The easy access to relatively good camera equipment on one side, and easy video distribution via the web on the other, have created a perfect storm in the last 4 or 5 years of gorgeous, highly stylized skateboarding videos. What am I saying, skateboarding videos have always been awesome.

Divers almost eaten by whales. AARON COHEN  ·  JUL 23

Normally the 'danger in the water' beat focuses on sharks, but here's a video of two divers almost getting eaten by two humpback whales. The impatient among you may skip ahead to about :30. The whales would have you believe this was accidental. Youtube commenter tom bill said this was his "number 1 fear," and I have to say, I spend more than my share of time thinking about things going wrong in the ocean. However, the idea I might be accidentally eaten by whales never even occurred to me, which means I've got some more thinking to do.

(via reddit)

Paramount Studio location map of CaliforniaJUL 22

Published in 1927 in a publication called The Motion Picture Industry as a Basis for Bond Financing, this map shows what locations in California look like other places from around the world.

CA Movie Locations

(via flickr)

The making of a Steinway grand pianoJUL 19

Steinway & Sons, the celebrated piano making company, recently produced this video of how their grand pianos are constructed. Their process for building pianos has changed so little that they were able pair 1980s factory tour audio from former chairman John Steinway to contemporary footage of their Astoria, NY factory.

You can see how little has changed as you watch this 1929 film of how a Steinway piano was made:

Some of the shots in the two videos are identical, e.g. the men pulling the piano rim out of the mold or choosing spruce for the sounding boards. It interesting to compare these two videos with Wednesday's video of how Telsa sedans are made. Together, the three form a view of the progression of automation in manufacturing. I wonder if the Tesla robots could construct a piano that sounds as good as a Steinway? (via open culture)

Fake bungie jumpJUL 19

This is the perfect Friday thing: a man is tricked into thinking he's bungee jumping at his bachelor party while actually standing in front of a kiddie pool.

I laughed entirely too hard at this. (via ★interesting)

Golf Ball Innards or Bowl of Gelato?JUL 19

Today's fun game is: Golf Ball Innards or Bowl of Gelato? Let's get started. Is this a creamy bowl of lemon-lime pistachio gelato or the inside of a golf ball?

Golf Ball Innards

Ok, that was an easy one. How about this one...is this half of a crazy-ass golf ball or a delicious bowl of watermelon bubble gum gelato?

Golf Ball Innards

It's gotta be gelato, right? Ok, last one: gelato or cross section of a golf ball from a project called Interior Designs by photographer James Friedman?

Golf Ball Innards

Yum, I can almost taste the blueberries through the screen. Well, that's all the time we have today, folks. You've been a great group of contestants, and we hope to see you next week on Golf Ball Innards or Bowl of Gelato? (via edible geography)

Changing a flat while drivingJUL 18

Changing a tire on a car while driving on two wheels is apparently a bit of a thing in Saudi Arabia. Here are a couple of examples:

If you want to try this at home (don't), here's how you get a car up on two wheels (don't).

Pitch drop caught on video for first timeJUL 18

After running since 1944, the pitch drop experiment at Trinity College Dublin has finally yielded results: a drop has been caught falling on camera.

Pitch is an extremely viscous substance, about 2 million times more viscous than honey. Drops take 7-13 years to form and less than a second to fall. A similar experiment has been running at University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia since 1927...their next drop is expected to fall sometime later this year.

Total death-defying fireworks crazinessJUL 18

Thomas Prior's photographs from the National Pyrotechnic Festival in Tultepec, Mexico are pretty much exhibit A in why your parents didn't want you and your idiot friends to play with fireworks.

Crazy Fireworks 1

Crazy Fireworks 2

(via wired)

Try to hit 1:00JUL 18

Play the one-second stopwatch game...it took me 62 tries to hit 1:00 exactly. We used to play this in school with an actual digital watch. We also had a version where we'd see how fast we could start and stop the timer. Good wholesome times...we weren't rotting our brains with Candy Crush or Angry Birds Star Wars or social studies. (thx, nick)

How the Tesla Model S is madeJUL 17

A nice video from Wired that shows how Tesla's sedan is made.

Tesla got the factory for a song from Toyota in 2010, spent about a year or so setting up tooling and started producing the Model S sedan in mid-2012. The automaker brings in raw materials by the truckload, including the massive rolls of aluminum that are bent, pressed, and formed to create the car. Those lightweight components are assembled by swarm of red robots in an intricate ballet that is mesmerizing to behold.

(via ★interesting)

Leisure activites in China's factory townsAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 17

In one of the most unlikely career moves of all time, Stefon has successfully made the jump from Weekend Update to the venerable pages of The Grey Lady. His first story is a look at leisure time activities in the towns outside of China's tech factories.

The hottest nightclub in this factory town is a neon-encrusted dive down the road from the industrial park where iPhones are made 24 hours a day. Tucked behind an open construction site, "Through the Summer," as the nightspot is known, had it all on a recent Saturday night -- plastic whistles, fruit plates, a toddler with a mohawk, counterfeit light sabers and a bawdy comedian who imbibed beer through his nose.

Feeding the Tour de France ridersJUL 17

Hannah Grant, a chef who used to work for highly influential Noma (among other places), is now the chef for the Saxo-Tinkoff cycling team currently competing in the Tour de France. She cooks for the entire team out of a food truck.

First of all, I set the menu. I mean, they can request stuff, the riders, if they want. I'll note it and I'll do it if it's possible. But, obviously, then there's rules to how to assemble the menu. Today's a rest day, so we do a low-carb lunch for them. They're not going so far, they just want to keep their legs going, so we don't want to fill them up too much. And we don't want to go too hard on the carbs so they don't gain weight.

Then we have a philosophy of using lots of vegetables, proteins, and cold-pressed fats, and then we use a lot of gluten-free alternatives. So we try to encourage the riders to try other things than just pasta and bread. I do gluten-free breads as well.

It's all to minimize all the little things that can stop you from performing 100 percent, that promote injuries, stomach problems, all those things. So that's a big difference (from cooking in a restaurant), because I have to follow all those rules. I can't just cook whatever I think is amazing. It has to be within those guidelines.

Then I take it as my personal job to take these guidelines and then make an incredible product from it, so they don't feel like they're missing out on things. It shouldn't be a punishment to travel with a kitchen truck and a chef who cooks you food that's good for you.

Grant's cooking seems to be paying off for the team...Saxo-Tinkoff currently has two riders in the top five and is in second place overall in the team classification. (via @sampotts)

Questlove: Trayvon Martin and I Ain't ShitJUL 16

The Roots' Questlove has some powerful thoughts on the Trayvon Martin verdict:

I'm in scenarios all the time in which primitive, exotic-looking me -- six-foot-two, 300 pounds, uncivilized Afro, for starters -- finds himself in places where people who look like me aren't normally found. I mean, what can I do? I have to be somewhere on Earth, correct? In the beginning -- let's say 2002, when the gates of "Hey, Ahmir, would you like to come to [swanky elitist place]?" opened -- I'd say "no," mostly because it's been hammered in my DNA to not "rock the boat," which means not making "certain people" feel uncomfortable.

I mean, that is a crazy way to live. Seriously, imagine a life in which you think of other people's safety and comfort first, before your own. You're programmed and taught that from the gate. It's like the opposite of entitlement.

Reading about this case and the reaction to it has been a series of gut punches this week.

Jenny McCarthy's dangerous viewsJUL 16

From The New Yorker: Jenny McCarthy's Dangerous Views. She's been hired as a new host on The View. Some worry that we'll be hearing a lot more about her anti-vaccine postions. Of course, if you are making life-decisions based on the views of people on The View, you might want to consider the host who thought the world might be flat.

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The aggressively low-key Jack HandeyJUL 16

Even as a religious watcher of SNL in high school and into college, I had no idea Jack Handey was a real person until much later. So this profile of him comes in handy (ahem).

This idea -- the notion of real jokes and the existence of pure comedy -- came up again and again when I asked other writers about Handey. It seemed as if to them Handey is not just writing jokes but trying to achieve some kind of Platonic ideal of the joke form. "There is purity to his comedy," Semple said. "His references are all grandmas and Martians and cowboys. It's so completely free from topical references and pop culture that I feel like everyone who's gonna make a Honey Boo Boo joke should do some penance and read Jack Handey."

"For a lot of us, he was our favorite writer, and the one we were most in awe of," said James Downey, who wrote for "S.N.L." "When I was head writer there, my policy was just to let him do his thing and to make sure that nothing got in the way of him creating."

"He was the purest writer," Franken said. "It was pure humor, it wasn't topical at all. It was Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer."

Handey's first novel is out today: The Stench of Honolulu. (via df)

Vladimir Putin is a hipsterJUL 16

Vladimir Zizzou

Adam Raymond argues that Russian president Vladimir Putin is becoming a hipster.

He wears statement sunglasses that are neither practical nor all that good looking.

He also wears comically oversized headphones.

He accessorizes with rare items in order to one-up his friends. In one case, he may have even stole a Super Bowl ring -- from the owner of the New England Patriots.

(via @TomJunod)

Screaming volcanoesJUL 16

Volcanoes "scream" before they erupt. And they also have a heartbeat of sorts. Listen to these surprisingly intense sounds emitted by a volcano in Alaska before it erupted. The first recording condenses 10 minutes of audio into 10 seconds, so you can hear the pre-eruption scream:

The second recording is of 10 hours of pre-eruption mini earthquakes condensed into one minute of audio.

The pause right before the eruption is Mother Nature dropping the beat. (via @DavidGrann)

Regex crossword puzzlesJUL 16

This is a surprisingly helpful activity for learning about regular expressions. (via @bdeskin)

After "Lunch atop a Skyscraper", a napJUL 15

Lunch atop a Skyscraper

That's the iconic "Lunch atop a Skyscraper" photo taken in 1932 during the construction of the RCA Building (aka 30 Rock) in NYC. Eleven construction workers eating lunch on a steel girder 840 feet in the air. The shot was a PR stunt to drum up excitement around the near completion of the new skyscraper...no one even knows for sure who took the photo because it was likely a multiple photographer situation. On the same day the lunch photo was taken, some of the same men were photographed taking a nap on the same girder:

Nap atop a Skyscraper

Yuck, an expose about NYC's public school lunchesJUL 15

Fourth-grader Zachary Maxwell is making a short documentary film about the lunch program at his New York City public school. It's called Yuck.

In the fall of 2011, fourth grader Zachary Maxwell began asking his parents if he could start packing and bringing his own lunch to school. Unfortunately, they kept insisting that he take advantage of the hot lunch being served at the school. After all, the online menu sounded delicious and the NYC Department of Education (DOE) website assured parents that the meals were nutritious. Zachary wanted to convince his parents that the online menu did not accurately represent what was really being served at his school.

Here's a short clip in which Zachary compares the special salads concocted by celebrity chefs Rachael Ray and Ellie Krieger for use in NYC public schools to the sad reality.

This is awesome. I mean, the lunches aren't awesome, but Zachary is.

This American Life newbies: where to start?JUL 12

The 500th episode of This American Life airs this weekend, and to celebrate, David Haglund picked 10 episodes you should listen to if you've never heard the show before.

Driving the Lowari PassJUL 12

On one of the world's most dangerous roads, Pakistani drivers deliver supplies 150 miles into northwestern Pakistan. In 2011, Al Jazeera English made this 25-minute documentary that followed one of the trucks across the Lowari Pass. I didn't think I was going to watch the whole thing, but it turned out to be worth the time.

Kuwait's booming Instagram economyJUL 12

In Kuwait, people sell all sorts of stuff on Instagram, using the service as a visually oriented mobile storefront instead of using a web site or something like eBay. From an interview with artist/musician Fatima Al Qadiri:

BR: Kuwait is a crazy mix: a super-affluent country, yet basically a welfare state, though with a super neo-liberal consumer economy.

FQ: We consume vast amounts of everything. Instagram businesses are a big thing in Kuwait.

BR: What's an Instagram business?

FQ: If you have an Instagram account, you can slap a price tag on anything, take a picture of it, and sell it. For instance, you could take this can of San Pellegrino, paint it pink, put a heart on it, call it yours, and declare it for sale. Even my grandmother has an Instagram business! She sells dried fruit. A friend's cousin is selling weird potted plants that use Astroturf. People are creating, you know, hacked products.

I dug up a few examples: Manga Box is an Instagram storefront selling manga (contact via WhatsApp to buy), Sondos Makeup advertises makeup services (WhatsApp for appts.), sheeps_sell sells sheep, and store & more is an account selling women's fashion items. There was even an Insta-Business Expo held in April about Instagram businesses.

The Entrepreneurship and Business Club of the American University of Kuwait is holding an "INSTA BUSINESS EXPO" which will consist of all your favorite and newest popular entrepreneurs that grew their businesses through Instagram. Not only that, there will be guest speakers by Entrepreneurs that made it through Instagram as well!

(via @cmchap)

Human-powered helicopter wins $250,000 Sikorsky prizeJUL 11

Back in October, I wrote a post about the race to win the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition. To win the $250,000 Sikorsky prize, a human-powered helicopter must fly for 60 seconds, reach a momentary altitude of 3 meters, and stay within a 10 meter square. Last month, after 33 years of collective human effort, someone finally won the prize:

Wow, that helicopter is amazing! Popular Mechanics has more on the winning flight.

Reichert knew that the challenge was to keep supplying enough power through his legs to keep the craft from descending too quickly. On two previous flights in which he'd flirted with the three-meter mark, Reichert had descended too abruptly and fallen afoul of a phenomenon called vortex ring state, in which a helicopter essentially gets sucked down by its own downwash. Both times Atlas had been wrecked. This time, Reichert spent the balance of the flight easing the craft down gently to the ground. "You're so focused on having the body do a very precise thing," he told Pop Mech. "If you lay off the power even a little bit, or make any sharp control movement, you can crash."

(via hn)

The era of constant photographyJUL 11

Photographer Clayton Cubitt and Rex Sorgatz have both written essays about how photography is becoming something more than just standing in front of something and snapping a photo of it with a camera. Here's Cubitt's On the Constant Moment.

So the Decisive Moment itself was merely a form of performance art that the limits of technology forced photographers to engage in. One photographer. One lens. One camera. One angle. One moment. Once you miss it, it is gone forever. Future generations will lament all the decisive moments we lost to these limitations, just as we lament the absence of photographs from pre-photographic eras. But these limitations (the missed moments) were never central to what makes photography an art (the curation of time,) and as the evolution of technology created them, so too is it on the verge of liberating us from them.

And Sorgatz's The Case of the Trombone and the Mysterious Disappearing Camera.

Photography was once an act of intent, the pushing of a button to record a moment. But photography is becoming an accident, the curatorial attention given to captured images.

Slightly different takes, but both are sniffing around the same issue: photography not as capturing a moment in realtime but sometime later, during the editing process. As I wrote a few years ago riffing on a Megan Fox photo shoot, I side more with Cubitt's take:

As resolution rises & prices fall on video cameras and hard drive space, memory, and video editing capabilities increase on PCs, I suspect that in 5-10 years, photography will largely involve pointing video cameras at things and finding the best images in the editing phase. Professional photographers already take hundreds or thousands of shots during the course of a shoot like this, so it's not such a huge shift for them. The photographer's exact set of duties has always been malleable; the recent shift from film processing in the darkroom to the digital darkroom is only the most recent example.

What's interesting about the hot video/photo mobile apps of the moment, Vine, Instagram, and Snapchat, is that, if you believe what Cubitt and Sorgatz are saying, they follow the more outdated definition of photography. You hold the camera in front of something, take a video or photo of that moment, and post it. If you missed it, it's gone forever. What if these apps worked the other way around: you "take" the photo or video from footage previously (or even constantly) gathered by your phone?

To post something to Instagram, you have the app take 100 photos in 10-15 seconds and then select your photo by scrubbing through them to find the best moment. Same with Snapchat. Vine would work similarly...your phone takes 20-30 seconds of video and you use Vine's already simple editing process to select your perfect six seconds. This is similar to one of my favorite technology-driven techniques from the past few years:

In order to get the jaw-dropping slow-motion footage of great white sharks jumping out of the ocean, the filmmakers for Planet Earth used a high-speed camera with continuous buffering...that is, the camera only kept a few seconds of video at a time and dumped the rest. When the shark jumped, the cameraman would push a button to save the buffer.

Only an after-the-fact camera is able to capture moments like great whites jumping out of the water:

And it would make it much easier to capture moments like your kid's first steps, a friend's quick smile, or a skateboarder's ollie. I suspect that once somebody makes an easy-to-use and popular app that works this way, it will be difficult to go back to doing it the old way.

How to talk to little girlsJUL 11

For the love of Christ, engage them about something other than their physical appearance. Do this:

"Maya," I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, "very nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you too," she said, in that trained, polite, talking-to-adults good girl voice.

"Hey, what are you reading?" I asked, a twinkle in my eyes. I love books. I'm nuts for them. I let that show.

Her eyes got bigger, and the practiced, polite facial expression gave way to genuine excitement over this topic. She paused, though, a little shy of me, a stranger.

"I LOVE books," I said. "Do you?"

Most kids do.

"YES," she said. "And I can read them all by myself now!"

Do not do this:

"Maya, you're so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!"

People do the "OMG, you're so cute!" thing with Minna all the time and it bugs the shit out of me. (I mean, I get it, she's cute. But come on.) It also completely shuts her down because she suddenly feels so self-conscious about herself and her appearance...which has led to her to be more cautious about new people and wary of cameras, the ultimate unblinking eye of cuteness collection. And this is a very chatty, social, and engaging kid we're talking about here, but the "you're so cute" conversation opener twists her up into a preztel of self-consciousness that's so unlike her usual self.

Are viral cat videos actually viral?JUL 11

Or rather, protozoan? Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite which is transmitted from rodents to cats through a crafty mechanism...it makes mice attracted to the smell of cat urine. Mouse goes near cat, cat eats mouse, T. gondii has a new host. From cats, the parasite can jump into humans, where it may be responsible for all sorts of nastiness:

Well, the behavioral influence plays out in a number of strange ways. Toxoplasma infection in humans has been associated with everything from slowed reaction times to a fondness toward cat urine -- to more extreme behaviors such as depression and even schizophrenia. And here's the kicker: Two different research groups have independently shown that Toxo-infected individuals are three to four times as likely of being killed in car accidents due to reckless driving.

And maybe makes us want to invent networking technology and share cool links? In this five-minute talk, Kevin Slavin cleverly connects viral media with T. gondii:

That video was so good, I watched the whole thing twice.

A man and his talking houseJUL 11

Tom Coates has outfitted his house with technology that allows him to control the lights, heat, etc. but also gives him all sorts of feedback directed to an iPhone app and a public Twitter feed. Derek Powazek interviewed Coates about his setup.

I also have a WeMo motion sensor in my sitting room that looks for movement. When it notices some movement, it posts an @-reply to me on Twitter, so I get notified wherever I am pretty much immediately. It asks me if I'm in the Sitting Room. I often find myself replying to the house. It feels rude not to.

If I'm not in the house and I get a message like this, then I can check on who is in my house by using my Dropcam. This is a little off-the-shelf product that costs about $200. I can, again, view the video feed from it on my iPhone. If it's dark, I can turn on night vision, or (of course) I can just turn on the lights from anywhere using my WeMo set-up.

By the big plant in my Sitting Room, I have a Twine. This is a slightly odd little product from a company called Supermechanical. They were a Kickstarter project. It's essentially a little battery-powered box with a couple of inbuilt sensors in it and a port for plugging in a few others. I use it for capturing the temperature of my house, vibration, and whether or not the plant has been watered recently. I have the temperature set up so that it tweets when the house crosses a threshold - allowing it to narrate when it gets too hot or too cold. I have the vibration sensor set up to shout at me if there's an earthquake, but often it just gets confused when someone slams down on the sofa too hard.

Keeping to the beatJUL 11

A study by researchers in Sweden indicates that the heartbeats of singers in a choir quickly synchronize.

Using pulse monitors attached to the singers' ears, the researchers measured the changes in the choir members' heart rates as they navigated the intricate harmonies of a Swedish hymn. When the choir began to sing, their heart rates slowed down.

"When you sing the phrases, it is a form of guided breathing," says musicologist Bjorn Vickhoff of the Sahlgrenska Academy who led the project. "You exhale on the phrases and breathe in between the phrases. When you exhale, the heart slows down."

But what really struck him was that it took almost no time at all for the singers' heart rates to become synchronized. The readout from the pulse monitors starts as a jumble of jagged lines, but quickly becomes a series of uniform peaks. The heart rates fall into a shared rhythm guided by the song's tempo.

(via @stevenstrogatz)

The economics of Trading PlacesJUL 11

A recent episode of Planet Money explores what the movie Trading Places can teach us about financial markets.

On today's show, we talk to commodities traders to answer one of the most important questions in finance: What actually happens at the end of Trading Places?

We know something crazy happens on the trading floor. We know that Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd get rich and the Duke brothers lose everything. But how does it all happen? And could it happen in the real world?

Also on the show: The "Eddie Murphy Rule" that wound up in the the big financial overhaul law Congress passed in 2010.

One of my favorite movie moments is Eddie Murphy's breaking of the fourth wall in this Trading Places scene:

Anagram map of the London UndergroundJUL 10

Otter Bends, Queer Spank, Frog Innard, and Lob Horn are some of the stations on the anagram map of the London Underground.

Anagram London Tube Map

How to learn how to dance in a yearJUL 10

Karen Cheng learned to dance in a year. Here's a video of her progress, from just a few days in to her final number:

Here's my secret: I practiced everywhere. At bus stops. In line at the grocery store. At work -- Using the mouse with my right hand and practicing drills with my left hand. You don't have to train hardcore for years to become a dancer. But you must be willing to practice and you better be hungry.

This isn't a story about dancing, though. It's about having a dream and not knowing how to get there -- but starting anyway. Maybe you're a musician dreaming of writing an original song. You're an entrepreneur dying to start your first venture. You're an athlete but you just haven't left the chair yet.

The interesting thing is, Cheng basically did the same thing in her professional life as well.

I decided to become a designer, but I had no design skills. I thought about going back to school for design, but the time and money commitment was too big a risk for a career choice I wasn't totally sure of.

So I taught myself -- everyday I would do my day job in record time and rush home to learn design. Super talented people go to RISD for 4 years and learn design properly. I hacked together my piecemeal design education in 6 months -- there was no way I was ready to become a designer. But I was so ready to leave Microsoft. So I started the job search and got rejected a few times. Then I got the job at Exec.

The first few weeks were rough. Everyday I sat in front of my computer trying my damnedest and thinking it wasn't good enough. But everyday I got a little bit better.

(via hacker news)

Dre by BeetsJUL 10

Jason Polan draws Dr. Dre using beet juice.

Dre By Beets

Polan is a favorite...his other art is very much worth checking out.

Waiting in line, as American as apple pie?JUL 09

In a waterpark parable about contemporary American politics, Tom Junod asks: "Are we a nation of line-cutters, or are we the line?"

But here's the thing about waiting in line at Whitewater, here's the lesson that you learn from the spectacle of America in the raw: It works. When my daughter gapes and marvels, I tell her that human beings come in all shapes and sizes, and it's an explanation that seems to satisfy her because it's inescapable. When I hear the censorious voice in my head saying that the woman in front of me shouldn't be wearing that bikini, I go on to draw the only conclusion that the evidence all around me permits: that no one should, and that therefore everyone can. Going to Whitewater is like bathing in the Ganges, with chlorine and funnel cakes -- and also with the elemental difference that not everyone is poor, lowly, untouchable, an outcast. Rather, everyone is quite simply American, and so the line slouches and stumbles forward, the very definition of a mixed blessing -- a blessing mixed black and white, rich and poor, slovenly and buff, and so on down the line. It can be slow going, it can be frustrating, but people have no choice to make the best of it, so they talk to one another, they gripe amusingly, they laugh, they compromise, they endure, and they scream when they finally go down a water slide whose initial pitch approaches 90 degrees. No one cuts, or tries to; the line works because for all its inherent and exhibitionistic imperfections it keeps its promise of equal access, and, by God, it moves.

See also paying to get through airport security faster (TSA Pre, etc.).

Face MashupsJUL 09

YouTuber Chase creates short videos where the faces of celebrities are swapped for other celebrity faces. The results are weird and often hilarious. The best one is probably the most recent video of Natalie Portman and Will Ferrell:

This quick Nicholson/Cruise clip from A Few Good Men is pretty good too:

Co.Create did an interview with the creator.

"When picking the celebrities, I am mainly considering two things. Their relevance and popularity, as well as the availability of unique, high-quality footage in which the actor is looking mostly towards the camera," Chase says. "Mashing up footage in which the characters are constantly looking side to side is much more difficult and usually results in a less convincing final product." He adds. "There have a been a few After Effects sessions that ended up in the recycle bin because of this."

(via @daveg)

Motorcyclist rescues coffee cupJUL 09

Watch as a motorcyclist rescues a coffee cup from the bumper of a SUV and returns it to the driver.

I love the little celebration move right at the end. (via digg)

Behind the scenes of The WireJUL 09

Adapted from Brett Martin's Difficult Men, this piece in Slate gives a glimpse of what it was like on the set of The Wire.

In the isolated hothouse of Baltimore, immersed in the world of the streets, the cast of The Wire showed a bizarre tendency to mirror its onscreen characters in ways that took a toll on its members' outside lives: Lance Reddick, who played the ramrod-straight Lieutenant Cedric Daniels, tormented by McNulty's lack of discipline, had a similarly testy relationship with West, who would fool around and try to make Reddick crack up during his camera takes. Gilliam and Lombardozzi, much like Herc and Carver, would spend the bulk of Seasons 2 and 3 exiled to the periphery of the action, stewing on stakeout in second-unit production and eventually lobbying to be released from their contracts.

Oh, McNutty. (thx, sam)

Getting the right fitJUL 08

Gentlemen, this is how clothes should fit.

A suit jacket's length -- like a good lawyer -- should cover your ass.

(via ★interesting)

Mozart had weird earsJUL 08

Here's a watercolor drawing by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of his ear compared to an ordinary ear1:

Mozart's Ear

"Mozart Ear" has become a medical catch-all term for deformed ears (for instance). Deformed or not2, the ear clearly didn't have any negative effect on his musical ear. (via @DavidGrann)

[1] The note accompanying the drawing at Harvard's Houghton Library reads:

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791. Mein Ohr [und] ein gewöhnliches Ohr [My ear and an ordinary ear] : drawing, [n.p., n.d.] Water-color drawing; [n.p, n.d] 1 drawing : watercolor on paper

The "mein" is crossed out and "Mozart" is written in its place in another hand. With this is Fr. Jelinck's A.D.s., Salzburg, 1879 Sept. 19, certifying that this is by Mozart.

[2] It's stated elsewhere that the ear is actually that of Mozart's son, which would be slightly more plausible than Mozart drawing his own ear.

Paradise Island Playlist by The Hood InternetJUL 08

I still can't get enough of their latest Mixtape and here comes another one. The Hood Internet has done a 54-minute mix for Frank & Oak. You can listen to it below, on Soundcloud, or download by liking Frank & Oak on Facebook.

I'm 27 minutes in and so far so good.

All in the familyJUL 08

Did you know that there are new human beings? Like, not just new human babies but new species of humans? And not just new species of humans, but new species of humans who lived at the same time as, and even possibly bred with, modern humans, aka us? (Helloooooo, mesofacts.)

If you've read kottke.org over the years, you've likely heard of Homo floresiensis (aka Flores man, aka Hobbits), a species whose remains were discovered in present-day Indonesia in 2003. Homo floresiensis lived 95,000 to 13,000 years ago and stood about three feet high.

In this month's National Geographic, Jamie Shreeve tells the story of the 2010 discovery of the Denisovans, hominids who lived in modern-day Russia as late as 40,000 years ago. Only a handful of bone fragments and teeth have been recovered, but DNA and other evidence suggests that Denisovans, Neanderthals, and modern humans lived together in the same place and interbred.

By the time of the Denisova symposium, Pääbo and his colleagues had published first drafts of the entire Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes. Reading so many more pages allowed Pääbo and his colleagues, including David Reich at Harvard University and Montgomery Slatkin at the University of California, Berkeley, to discover that human genomes today actually contain a small but significant amount of Neanderthal code -- on average about 2.5 percent. The Neanderthals still may have been swept into extinction by the strange, high-browed new people who followed them out of Africa, but not before some commingling that left a little Neanderthal in most of us, 50,000 years later. Only one group of modern humans escaped that influence: Africans, because the commingling happened outside that continent.

Although the Denisovans' genome showed that they were more closely related to the Neanderthals, they too had left their mark on us. But the geographic pattern of that legacy was odd. When the researchers compared the Denisovan genome with those of various modern human populations, they found no trace of it in Russia or nearby China, or anywhere else, for that matter -- except in the genomes of New Guineans, other people from islands in Melanesia, and Australian Aborigines. On average their genomes are about 5 percent Denisovan. Negritos in the Philippines have as much as 2.5 percent.

In 2012, evidence emerged of a possible new human species, the Red Deer Cave people, who lived in what is now southern China.

The Red Deer Cave dwellers' unusual features included a flat face, a broad nose, a jutting jaw that lacked a chin, large molar teeth, a rounded braincase with prominent brow ridges, and thick skull bones, the researchers say.

Their brains were "moderate in size," Curnoe added.

Despite this seemingly primitive human design, radiocarbon dating of charcoal from the fossil deposits suggests the Red Deer Cave people lived just 14,500 to 11,500 years ago, the team says-a time by which all other human species, such as Neanderthals, are thought to have died out.

As with the other potential new human species, and as is proper in science, there is some skepticism about the Red Deer Cave people.

The team's suggestion that the Red Deer Cave people are somehow evolutionarily unique is receiving a skeptical reception from other scientists.

Physical anthropologist Erik Trinkaus described the findings as "an unfortunate overinterpretation and misinterpretation of robust early modern humans, probably with affinities to modern Melanesians"-indigenous peoples of Pacific islands stretching from New Guinea to Fiji (map).

"There is nothing extraordinary" about the newly announced fossil human, added Trinkaus, of Washington University in St. Louis, via email.

Philipp Gunz, of Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, isn't convinced by the study team's interpretation either.

"I would be surprised if it really was a new human group that was previously undiscovered," said, Gunz, also a physical anthropologist.

A friendship with Charles MansonJUL 05

Denise Noe wrote an article in 2004 about how Charles Manson was more pathetic than mesmerizing or messianic. She sent the article to Manson and the two became pen/phone pals.

Over the past two years, we have spoken many times. Talking with him was spooky at first but soon lost that eerie sense. Describing our conversations can be difficult as his diction consists of a motley mix of allegory, parable, hyperbole, fantasy, and metaphor. He habitually jumps from subject to subject and from one mode to another. Many listeners would call his conversations "crazy." My take is that he is not psychotic but deliberately refuses to humor his listeners by settling down to a subject or mode when he talks. He enjoys free-associating.

His often muses about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. They are probably the two most famous American presidents with one tied to the country's founding and the other to its continued unity despite its Civil War. For reasons I don't quite understand, Manson tends to be positive on Washington and negative on Lincoln.

Part of the reason he tends to talk in a kind of free floating manner may be the particular effect on him of so much time behind bars. It has necessitated a lot of time spent simply in his own head. He is locked down rather tightly, primarily for his own protection. He told me that he is allowed to play his guitar in his cell. He has always enjoyed music although the Beatles obsession is probably just myth. The music he makes tends to be country and folk with some rock flavor and shows little Beatles influence.

He also spends quite a bit of time watching television.

A menagerie of mechanical animalsJUL 05

Mechanical Dragon

From Diego Mazzeo, illustrations of a bunch of different mechanical animals, including a whale, horses, elephants, flamingos, giraffes, a griffin, and a dragon.

Updates on previous entries for Jul 3, 2013*JUL 04

Douglas Engelbart, RIP orig. from Jul 03, 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.

Douglas Engelbart, RIPJUL 03

Douglas Engelbart died at his home in California yesterday at the age of 88. Engelbart invented the mouse, among other things. In 1968, Engelbart gave what was later called The Mother of All Demos, in which he demonstrated "the computer mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext, word processing, hypermedia, object addressing and dynamic file linking, bootstrapping, and a collaborative real-time editor".

Not bad for a single demo. Truly one of the giants of our age.

Update: Bret Victor urges us to remember Engelbart not for the technology he created but for his vision of how people could collaborate and create together using technology.

The least important question you can ask about Engelbart is, "What did he build?" By asking that question, you put yourself in a position to admire him, to stand in awe his achievements, to worship him as a hero. But worship isn't useful to anyone. Not you, not him.

The most important question you can ask about Engelbart is, "What world was he trying to create?" By asking that question, you put yourself in a position to create that world yourself.

(thx, andy)

How to bike limboAARON COHEN  ·  JUL 03

Last month, we posted a video of Tim Knoll doing ridiculous and panic-inducing circus style tricks on his bike. In the video below, he explains how he does the bike limbo, riding under several semi trucks in a row. Just because he tells you how to do it, does not mean you should try it. In fact, it is the expressed opinion of this blog you should not try it. However, if you do try it and you do feel yourself falling -- which you will, because let's be honest -- don't try to lift your head up. Just fall, because as Knoll says, "scrapes are better than stitches."

(via ls)

There's a HIV morning-after pill?JUL 03

Yes, and there's also $20 over-the-counter test for HIV that gives results in 20 minutes.

Two recent developments could make these conversations less awkward, or even render them moot. But they also raise troubling questions about promiscuity and responsibility that are reminiscent of debates from the 1980s.

The first development was the approval, last summer, by the Food and Drug Administration of an over-the-counter rapid-response at-home H.I.V. test kit. The test, called OraQuick and available nationwide since October, gives results 20 minutes after a cheek swab. The second is the increasing availability of PEP and of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.

PEP - the medication I am taking - has been called the H.I.V. morning-after pill, and PrEP, to follow the analogy, is akin to birth control. A study in the British medical journal The Lancet this month found that drug-injecting addicts who took PrEP were half as likely to become infected with H.I.V. as those who did not; other studies have shown that the drug reduces transmission of the virus from mother to child, and transmission among both gay men and heterosexuals.

William Shakespeare's Star WarsJUL 03

What if William Shakespeare wrote Star Wars?

Shakespeare Star Wars

Boing Boing has an excerpt.

Hot IPO: a pasta restaurantJUL 02

What has been the hottest IPO of the year so far? Some new-fangled technology perhaps? Or maybe a trend-setting company from one of the coasts set to take their product offering national and then global? Nope, it was a Denver-based, pasta-centric restaurant chain called Noodles & Co. The company's IPO bucked a lot of trends (including, it seems, the war on flour). Here's The Daily Beast on how a pasta chain punked Wall Street.

[That's Dave Pell's take from Nextdraft, but I have to weigh in here. I've eaten at Noodles & Co many times. I ate there last week, actually. The restaurants do well because the service is friendly & responsive, your order comes out quickly, and the food is remarkably good for the money you pay (like at Chipotle). No one would ever mistake the Pad Thai or Japanese Pan Noodles for the authentic thing, but they are both delicious. I like the Steak Stroganoff so much that I crave it even when surrounded by the amazing and varied food choices of NYC. No idea if Noodles & Co would do well in Manhattan, but they'd definitely have one customer. -jkottke]

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Photographic communication and our experiencing selvesJUL 02

Due to the increasing ubiquity of connected cameras, writes Nick Bilton in the NY Times, photography is shifting away from documentation to communication.

Photos, once slices of a moment in the past -- sunsets, meetings with friends, the family vacation -- are fast becoming an entirely new type of dialogue. The cutting-edge crowd is learning that communicating with a simple image, be it a picture of what's for dinner or a street sign that slyly indicates to a friend, "Hey, I'm waiting for you," is easier than bothering with words, even in a world of hyper-abbreviated Twitter posts and texts.

"This is a watershed time where we are moving away from photography as a way of recording and storing a past moment," said Robin Kelsey, a professor of photography at Harvard, and we are "turning photography into a communication medium."

Dave Pell worries that the realtime availability of all these photos is getting in the way of our experiencing selves.

Maybe it was a bad angle. Maybe I didn't get his good side. Maybe he just didn't have that surfer vibe. Whatever it was, the photo wasn't all that cool. Given time to reflect (even the few days I used to get between my own childhood birthdays and my mom picking up a set of 4x6 prints at the local pharmacy), my son probably would've developed a version of that day that had him riding a giant a wave, looking like a cross between Laird Hamilton and Eddie Vedder. Instead, he pretty much looked like a landlocked three year-old on a beach-bound surfboard who was suffering from a rare -- but particularly punishing -- bad hair day.

The instant my son looked at the image, his imagination-driven perception of himself was replaced by a digital reproduction of the moment he had just experienced. He had a few seconds, not nearly long enough, to create is own internal version of what that moment looked -- and by extension felt -- like.

Near death, near life experienceJUL 02

For his first piece written as a staff writer for GQ in 1995, the magazine's editor urged Andrew Corsello to write about the time he almost died of a mysterious liver failure.

Wednesday, August 31, the next day. Sicker, bewildered. In my office chair quaking with exertion, like a car with its accelerator and brake simultaneously floored. My breathing's all wrong-the sharp, uneven gasps of an overworked dog. When I lumber off to the can, the urine is purple and oily looking. At three minutes after one, Doc Mike calls with the blood results. "Stop whatever you're doing," he orders. "Get in here now."

Corsello won the 2007 National Magazine Award for his story, The Other Side of Hate.

The Sun telescopeJUL 02

Turning the Sun into a giant radio telescope through gravitational lensing will take some work, but it is possible.

An Italian space scientist, Claudio Maccone, believes that gravitational lensing could be used for something even more extraordinary: searching for radio signals from alien civilizations. Maccone wants to use the sun as a gravitational lens to make an extraordinarily sensitive radio telescope. He did not invent the idea, which he calls FOCAL, but he has studied it more deeply than anyone else. A radio telescope at a gravitational focal point of the sun would be incredibly sensitive. (Unlike an optical lens, a gravitational lens actually has many focal points that lie along a straight line, called a focal line; imagine a line running through an observer, the center of the lens, and the target.) For one particular frequency that has been proposed as a channel for interstellar communication, a telescope would amplify the signal by a factor of 1.3 quadrillion.

Interactive map of the Battle of GettysburgJUL 02

Smithsonian.com has a neat interactive map that shows how the Battle of Gettysburg played out in the Civil War. For best results, do one run through zoomed out a little and then another run-through to at a closer zoom level to see the details. (via digg)

Intellectual jokesJUL 01

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution picks up on a Reddit thread that asks "What's the most intellectual joke you know?" I've always been fond of this one:

Q: What does the "B" in Benoit B. Mandelbrot stand for?
A: Benoit B. Mandelbrot.

And this one:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Phillip Glass

Two of the current favorites in the Reddit thread are:

Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress, "I'd like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream." The waitress replies, "I'm sorry, Monsieur, but we're out of cream. How about with no milk?"

And:

It's hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.

Whitney, Gotham, etc. now available as web fontsJUL 01

It was just me and Barack, but now Hoefler & Frere-Jones' web fonts are available to all.

GlasJUL 01

Glas is a short documentary film by Bert Haanstra about glass making. It won the 1959 Oscar for best documentary (short subject).

Many delightful moments in this film, but my favorite part is watching the glass blowers' hands while they work. (thx, arjan)

Bionic men and women walk among usJUL 01

For The Verge, Russell Brandom writes about the increasing use of neural implants to control the symptoms of a variety of diseases, from depression to Parkinson's to dystonia.

The results are as reliable as flipping a light switch, but even after decades of testing, no one knows exactly why it works. Dr. Kaplitt, the surgeon who installed Rebecca Serdans' implant, explains it by likening the brain to a collection of electrical circuits. A disorder like dystonia is a failure of those circuits. When you install a brain stimulation device, "it's presumably blocking abnormal information from getting from one part of the brain to another, or normalizing that information." But Kaplitt is the first to acknowledge that this is just a theory. "The mechanism by which brain stimulation works is still somewhat unclear and controversial."

But the lingering questions haven't slowed down research. There are already patents that would use brain stimulation implants to enhance memory or prevent stuttering, to cure anorexia or bring a person to orgasm. Experimental studies use the device to treat Alzheimer's disease and drug addiction. Those circuits aren't as well understood as the circuits governing movement disorders, but the principle is no different. Once you've got a line into the circuitry of the brain, Parkinson's is just the beginning.

Last week I featured a video of a man with Parkinson's who has a brain pacemaker that allows him to function normally.

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