Entries for January 2014 (February 2014 »    March 2014 »    Archives)

 

Naturally occurring retirement communitiesJAN 31

TIL (today I learned) a new phrase from this article in the Times about a showdown between a McDonald's in Queens and a group of elderly Korean patrons: naturally occurring retirement community (NORC).

The demographic term "NORC" was first coined in the 1980s by Michael Hunt, a professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He defined NORCs as neighborhoods and housing developments, originally built for young families, in which 50 percent of the residents are 60 years or older and have aged in place. Over time, this threshold definition has been adjusted by communities and policymakers to reflect local residential patterns.

Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly in an age where government funding of any social program is greeted with derision, NORCs are eligible for funding at local, state, and federal levels to provide support for services for the elderly. For instance, in 2010, there were 27 offical NORCs in NYC.

What counts as a "sizeable elderly population" varies from place to place (and from one level of government to the next), but NORCs are important because once a community meets the respective criteria, it becomes eligible for local, state, and federal funds retroactively to provide that community with the support services elderly populations typically need. These include (but are not limited to): case management and social work services; health care management and prevention programs; education, socialization, and recreational activities; and volunteer opportunities for program participants and the community.

Love this use of funding to support bottom-up behavior. Reminds me of using desire paths to place permanent sidewalks in parks and public spaces.

The best nachos in NYCJAN 31

I was just wondering this the other day...where can you get good nachos in NYC? Serious Eats investigates.

Not only are they delicious (when made right, and we'll get to that), but they practically create their own conversation. Everybody has an opinion on how chunky the guacamole should be. We all have feelings about whether chili or beans make a better topping. Who hasn't considered whether or not they'd ever prefer a fresh jalape~no to a pickled one, and who hasn't considered de-friending a friend who dares to express a preference for fresh over pickled? And then there's the ever-raging debate of cheese sauce vs. melted cheese, a subject you might actually consider not broaching in mixed company.

Breaking MaddenJAN 31

Jon Bois attempted to create the most lopsided game ever in Madden NFL on his Xbox. He beefed up the players on one team (7'0", 440 lbs, good at everything) and put a bunch of scrubs on the other team (5'0", 160 lbs, bad at everything). He started playing and was on pace to score more than 1500 points when...

With just under two minutes left in the first quarter, I was winning 366 to zero. I realized that I was on pace to score 1,500 points in a single game. I had never conceived of such a high score. I'd never even heard anyone talk idly about such a thing. There was absolutely nothing the Broncos could do to slow down my pace. I could score just as surely as someone can point and click. It was great. I wanted to ruin Madden in a way I never had before, and I was doing it.

And then it happened. Before I tell you what happened next, I want to lay out a couple of things: first, I made no actual hacks to this game. I didn't have some special jailbroken Xbox, nor a special copy of Madden, nor anything like that. I bought my Xbox at Target and bought my copy of Madden off Amazon, and that's that. Second, I stake whatever journalistic integrity I have upon the statement that I didn't Photoshop any of this, and that it happened just as I say it did.

This is LOL funny in several places...particularly the GIFs. (via @delfuego)

Tractor square dancingJAN 31

Tractor Square Dancing

Nothing is more American than tractor square dancing.

The act is exactly what it sounds like. Four seated couples maneuver vintage tractors into daisy chains and do-si-dos in front of a live audience. It would be hard to squeeze more nostalgia into a performance that combines made-in-America machines with our "National Folk Dance."

Click through and check out the embedded video...that is some damn fine precision tractor driving.

Realtime map of global ocean currentsJAN 31

Ocean currents map

To go along with his wind map of the Earth, Cameron Beccario has made a world map of global ocean currents with data that updates every five days or so. Not quite realtime, but still, er, current enough.

The art of the rap logoJAN 31

Naughty By Nature

The Art of the Rap Logo is a collection of rap logos from NWA to Snoop Dogg to Def Jam.

Best visual effects Oscar winnersJAN 30

From Star Wars to Life of Pi, this is a video compilation of clips from every movie that's won the Best Visual Effects Oscar since the introduction of the award in 1977.

(via devour)

The Apple-ness of the MacintoshJAN 30

On Daring Fireball, John Gruber reflects on the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh by noting what seems particularly Apple-like about the Mac.

The second aspect of the original Mac that stands out today as Apple-like is putting just enough whimsy into the experience. Most famously, the smiling Mac you saw as the system booted. Had anyone prior even considered a smiling computer? But fundamental to the genius of the smiling Mac is that it didn't come across as silly or corny. Friendly and fun: yes. Goofy: no. Getting that right required that most Apple-y of talents: taste.

And he's spot on in that second footnote about the lack of whimsy in iOS 7. There's nothing funny about those Settings and Safari icons.

A young Neil deGrasse Tyson's letter to Carl SaganJAN 30

In 1976, legendary cosmologist and astronomer Carl Sagan tried to recruit a 17-year-old Neil deGrasse Tyson to Cornell University. In April of that year, Tyson wrote Sagan a letter informing him of his intention to enroll at Harvard instead:

Letter Sagan Tyson

The Viking Missions referred to in the letter were the two probes sent to Mars in the mid-1970s.

Tyson occupies a role in today's society similar to Sagan's in the 1980s as an unofficial public spokesman of the wonderous world of science. Tyson is even hosting an updated version of Sagan's seminal Cosmos series for Fox, which debuts on March 9th. Here's a trailer:

Letter courtesy of The Seth Macfarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive at the Library of Congress, which is chock full of great Sagan stuff. And yeah, that's Seth Macfarlane, creator of Family Guy and much-maligned host of the Oscars. Macfarlane was a big fan of the original Cosmos series and was instrumental in getting the new series made. (via @john_overholt)

Volcano-powered energy sourceJAN 30

A geothermal engineering project in Iceland drilled 1.3 miles into the Earth and unexpectedly hit a pocket of magma. Instead of capping the hole, as was done in a similar instance previously, they decided to see if they could harness the energy of the magma.

"Drilling into magma is a very rare occurrence, and this is only the second known instance anywhere in the world," Elders said. The IDDP and Iceland's National Power Company, which operates the Krafla geothermal power plant nearby, decided to make a substantial investment to investigate the hole further.

This meant cementing a steel casing into the well, leaving a perforated section at the bottom closest to the magma. Heat was allowed to slowly build in the borehole, and eventually superheated steam flowed up through the well for the next two years.

Elders said that the success of the drilling was "amazing, to say the least", adding: "This could lead to a revolution in the energy efficiency of high-temperature geothermal projects in the future."

The well funnelled superheated, high-pressure steam for months at temperatures of over 450°C -- a world record. In comparison, geothermal resources in the UK rarely reach higher than around 60-80°C.

Arcade Fire: Her soundtrack will be releasedJAN 30

In an interview with an Australian radio station, Arcade Fire's Win Butler said that the music on the Her movie soundtrack will see an official release in some form. Here's what Butler said about it:

We're just slow as a band. The music will get out there, it's just, like, a question of if we want to sell it to people or give to people or record other songs or whatever. There are many pieces on the soundtrack that are kind of based on actual songs that we've never really recorded. Yeah, there's a song called Milk and Honey and a song called Dimensions that are, like, lost great Arcade Fire songs. They are actually just things that, like, fit the world of the movie and then we kind of wrote them to the film.

That's good news! Here's the whole interview (they start talking about Her at 15:40):

Fire the negative photon torpedoes!JAN 30

Now this is some top notch investigative journalism. In Star Trek: Voyager, a Starfleet ship is stranded on the other side of the galaxy and the estimated travel time back to Federation space is 75 years. Early on in the show, it's revealed the ship has only 38 photon torpedoes and "no way to replace them after they're gone". But they used many more than that throughout the run of the show:

This is a particularly nerdy and slow-burning example of the Bottomless Magazines trope.

The decline of snowboardingJAN 29

I wasn't aware of this: snowboarding numbers are down across the board...revenue from snowboarders is down, snowboard visits to resorts are down, sales of gear is down, the number of first-timers under 14 years-old is down, etc.

Each February I experience the unrestrained joy of attending the ski and snowboard trade show in Denver. Here's what I see when I walk the snowboard section: Underage snowboarders puking in the corridors after one too many keg stands-at 10 a.m. And overseeing all this fabricated youthfulness? Fifty-year-old white dudes in flat-brim caps, tight jeans, and designer flannel. Chuckleheads. Leveraging snowboarding's rebel cred, they modeled its image on skateboarding and aimed it almost entirely at teenagers.

That worked great for a while. Then snowboarding went mainstream-the X Games, Mountain Dew ads, Shaun White-and, inevitably, it lost a bit of its mojo. The first generation of riders got real jobs and started having kids, and snowboarding's image never matured to accommodate them.

As snowboarding went narrow, skiing went big. Today's skiers can choose to carve turns, launch off the slopestyle jumps, hammer bumps, navigate steeps, tour the backcountry, rip bottomless pow, race in a beer league, or just go skiing like a vacationer from Chicago or Boca Friggin' Raton. It's cool; there's a place for you and a group of likeminded folks who would love to have you. Cooler still if you're a lifelong enthusiast? Dabble in all the above. Skiing isn't golf; there's always some new adventure waiting for you.

But industrialized snowboarding hates diversity.

The weather outside is frightfulJAN 29

Atlanta Snow

It sounds odd that a city would be digging out from a few inches of snow. But Atlanta residents were faced with a whole lot of chaos (and even more traffic) when they were hit with some unusually white weather.

We're talking about kids spending the night their schools, commutes a few miles that took more than ten hours, helicopters searching for stranded drivers, and a call to the National Guard for help.

From InFocus, here's a collection of photos that will give you a good idea of what happens when snowstorm hits a population not accustomed to that kind of weather.

Talking about the weather used to be a euphemism for talking about nothing. Now it can mean talking about everything.

Update: This is the best post I read about the snowfall in the South.

But if you're making light of the situation, or more realistically using it to reinforce your view of the South and the people in it as full of backwards blubberers, you are an asshole. It's hard to remember sometimes, but things are different in places you do not personally live.

When it snows where you live, the salt and the snowplows are out on the streets before you even wake up. When you talk about six inches of snow in your city, you are almost definitely talking about six inches of snow on the median strip and shoulder, and highways that are slick, but clear. I'd take that over two inches of snow and ice on every major road any day.

When it snows where you live, it is the latest in a string of snowfalls that date back centuries. You own a car with four-wheel-drive for that very purpose. You may even own snow tires. This is great! You are prepared. But waking up in Birmingham to snow is like waking up in New Hampshire to quicksand.

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ROYGBIV is arbitraryJAN 29

In a short video from The Atlantic, science writer Philip Ball explains why Isaac Newton picked ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) for the colors of the spectrum and not 3 or 6 or even 16 other possible colors.

Newton was the first to demonstrate through his famous prism experiments that color is intrinsic to light. As part of those experiments, he also divvied up the spectrum in his own idiosyncratic way, giving us ROYGBIV. Why indigo? Why violet? We don't really know why Newton decided there were two distinct types of purple, but we do know he thought there should be seven fundamental colors.

Ball is the author of Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color, which looks pretty interesting. His mention in the video of the changing perception of color throughout history reminds me of my favorite segment of Radiolab, which covers that very topic.

An ode to the supernovaJAN 29

In a thread about the newly visible supernova in the M82 galaxy, MetaFilter user Ivan Fyodorovich offered up this plain-English explanation of what happens when a star dies and goes supernova. It's a great read.

It will take it just 6 months to burn up its oxygen. Again, when there's not enough oxygen being fused to generate energy to balance the pressure of gravitational contraction, the star begins to shrink, almost doubling the temperature, tripling the density, and causing the silicon (which was produced by the oxygen fusion) to begin fusing, in its own complicated sequence involving the alpha process, with the end result of nickel-56 (which radioactively decays into cobalt-56 and iron-56). This, as before, balances against the gravitational pressure and returns the star to equilibrium.

And now it will take merely 1 day to burn up its silicon. Finally, when there's not enough silicon being fused to generate energy to balance the pressure of gravitational contraction, the star begins to shrink.

This time, however, the core of the star is mostly nickel and iron, and they cannot ordinarily be fused into heavier elements, so as the star shrinks and the temperature and density increase, there is no nuclear fusion ignition of the nickel and iron to counteract the contraction. Here the limit of pressure and density is the electron degeneracy pressure, which is the resistance of electrons being forced to occupy the same energy states, which they can't.

(via @mathowie)

Musicless music videosJAN 29

Mario Wienerroither takes music videos, strips out all the sound, and then foleys back in sound effects based on what people are doing in the video. You'll get the gist after about 6 seconds of this Jamiroquai video:

Great stuff. He's also done Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, Prodigy's Firestarter, and Queen's I Want to Break Free. (via @faketv)

Eau de MacBook ProJAN 29

A "scent solutions" company called Air Aroma made a Macbook Pro unboxing smell for an art exhibition in Melbourne last year.

To replicate the smell a brand new unopened Apple was sent to our fragrance lab in France. From there, professional perfume makers used the scents they observed unboxing the new Apple computer to source fragrance samples. On completion the laptop was sent back to Australia, travelling nearly 50,000kms and returned to our clients together with scent of an Apple Macbook Pro.

(via @buzz)

The 2013 NFL season in 160 secondsJAN 28

If you haven't been watching the NFL at all this season but are planning on tuning into the Super Bowl, this video by ESPN will prepare you by recapping the entire season in under three minutes.

If you want something more specific, try Wikipedia or SB Nation. (via devour)

The forests of AntarcticaJAN 28

There is fossil evidence that Antarctica may have been covered by forests.

The discovery has come in the form of fossilized impressions of wood and leaves in the region of Antarctica's Mount Achernar. Even the stumps of ancient tree trunks have been uncovered, believed to date back to prehistoric times.

It is commonly accepted that during the late Permian and early Triassic periods, as much as 250 million years ago, the whole world would have been far hotter than it is today.

Sarah Feakins, a biogeochemist from the University of Southern California, posits that the Antarctic coast was once lined with beeches and conifers; based on evidence taken from leaf waxes found in sediment cores extracted from the Ross Ice Shelf.

A period of warmer climate around 15 million years ago, known as the Miocene period, could have had areas of the Antarctic resembling the kind of forested tundra seen today in New Zealand or parts of Chile. Chemical study of the leaf wax samples indicates that during the summer months, the coast of Antarctica could have been as warm as 15°F.

(via @daveg)

Skate or nap!JAN 28

Kahlei Stone-Kelly is two. He's still in diapers. And he's a way better skateboarder than you are:

Oh, and barefoot! YouTube is very emasculating sometimes. (via @DavidGrann)

Regular expression crossword puzzleJAN 28

No one can solve this. Not Ken Jennings. Not Marilyn vos Savant. Not Alan Turing. Not Ada Lovelace. Not Watson. Not even Richard Feynman. (Ok, maybe Feynman.)

Regexp Crossword

(via @lhl)

Update: Here's the answer to the puzzle, presumably by some time traveling super-being from the future. (via @grimmelm)

Her life in MiddlemarchJAN 28

Rebecca Mead's new book comes out today, My Life in Middlemarch. The New Yorker has an excerpt adapted from the book about George Eliot's biggest fan, Alexander Main.

My copy of "Wise, Witty, and Tender Sayings," which I bought a few years ago from a secondhand bookseller, is the tenth edition, from 1896, which gives Main an enviably long time on the back-list. When I thumb through its pages of quotations, some of them extending for more than a page, printed in a font size that has me reaching for reading glasses, I am overcome by a dreadful sense of depletion. I can think of no surer way to be put off the work of George Eliot than by trying to read the "Wise, Witty, and Tender Sayings." On any given page is an out-of-context pronouncement -- "iteration, like friction, is likely to generate heat instead of progress" -- or a phrase so recondite that it requires several readings before it can be parsed. Main's book is the nineteenth-century equivalent of the refrigerator magnet.

Listen to the soundtrack for HerJAN 27

According to Spike Jonze, there might not be an official release of the soundtrack for Her (performed by Arcade Fire), but the whole thing is somehow currently on the internet for your listening pleasure:

Update: Win Butler of Arcade Fire now says the Her soundtrack will be released in some form eventually.

The Godfather shooting locationsJAN 27

Great post by Nick Carr on Scouting New York comparing the movie locations in The Godfather to what they look like today.

Because the film is a period piece, The Godfather actually presents a fascinating record of what 1940s-era New York City locations still existed in the early-1970s. Sadly, many of them are now gone. What still remains? Let's take a closer look.

1920s guide to NYC tourist etiquetteJAN 27

Gothamist uncovered a NYC guide book from the 1920s called Valentine's City of New York: A Guide Book. Some of the tips include:

Don't take the recommendation of strangers regarding hotels... Don't get too friendly with plausible strangers.

Don't gape at women smoking cigarettes in restaurants. They are harmless and respectable. They are also "smart."

Don't forget to tip. Tip early and tip often.

(via @DavidGrann)

Hawking backtracks on black holesJAN 27

In an "only Nixon can go to China" moment in physics, Stephen Hawking now says "there are no black holes".

Most physicists foolhardy enough to write a paper claiming that "there are no black holes" -- at least not in the sense we usually imagine -- would probably be dismissed as cranks. But when the call to redefine these cosmic crunchers comes from Stephen Hawking, it's worth taking notice. In a paper posted online, the physicist, based at the University of Cambridge, UK, and one of the creators of modern black-hole theory, does away with the notion of an event horizon, the invisible boundary thought to shroud every black hole, beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape.

In its stead, Hawking's radical proposal is a much more benign "apparent horizon", which only temporarily holds matter and energy prisoner before eventually releasing them, albeit in a more garbled form.

Spoiler alert!JAN 27

Spoiler alert: people have been saying "spoiler alert" since the early 80s but it became a popular term only relatively recently. (Also, spoiler alert on that article...it gives up a major third-season Game of Thrones spoiler right at the top.)

"It feels like it's been part of our collective life since the dawn of time," Matt Zoller Seitz, television critic at New York Magazine and editor-in-chief of rogerebert.com, told BuzzFeed, noting that he despises the phrase. "I just hate it," he said. "It sounds like something a character in Clueless would say."

Despite his dislike of the term, Seitz said he wrestles with the concept professionally and vividly remembers his first spoiler experience.

It was May of 1983 -- Seitz was in eighth grade. Return of the Jedi had just come out, and a friend from school who had read the novelization came up to him.

My favorite early use of the phrase is from Usenet in 1982 about Wrath of Khan:

[SPOILER ALERT]

regarding Spock's parting gesture to McCoy, it wouldn't surprize me if that's how they bring him back (if they do); but then, i have a low opinion of ST's script(s). Spock's farewell to Kirk sounded pretty final to me.

Ha! (via @alexismadrigal)

Ye olde SundanceJAN 24

From photographer Victoria Will, olde tyme tin type portraits of celebrities at Sundance. The one of William H. Macy stopped me in my tracks:

William H Macy Tin Type

Several others are worth a look as well. (via @khoi)

Shooting on the short endsJAN 24

This oral history of Swingers over at Grantland got a little long for me (but if you're a fan, you should definitely read the whole thing), but there are good bits throughout. I particularly liked this part:

Ludwig: Our biggest cost was getting film. Film comes in 1,000-foot loads and 400-foot loads. On a big movie, they'll throw away the end of the film, like the last hundred feet or so.

Liman: We shot most of the movie with these 100-foot short ends. It's a minute of film. Which also meant the actors could get through 60 seconds of a scene and I'd have to call reload.

Wurmfeld: I cultivated a lot of relationships with the people around town selling short ends.

LaLoggia: I called this place in L.A. that does recycled, re-canned short ends and I just begged for the cheapest price we could get. (Many of the short ends came from the movie Twister.)

Liman: The problem with shooting on short ends, though, is that it takes four minutes to reload a conventional camera. I thought to myself: We'll never get through the movie if we shoot a minute, spend four minutes reloading, shoot a minute, spend four minutes reloading. You'll never get any kind of rhythm going. So I decided I would shoot the movie with this documentary 35-millimeter film camera that was not designed to shoot dialogue because it sounds like a sewing machine.

Ludwig: The camera was much louder than a regular camera that you'd use for a feature film. But it's easy to load and very compact. I think it was developed so Godard could have a camera that would fit into his bicycle basket.

Liman: To absorb the sound, I would take my down jacket and put it over the camera and then take the two arms and tie them together underneath the lens. And then my comforter would just get wrapped around the whole thing once. Jon would describe it like he was acting in front of a big, fluffy snowball. But I really think that as insane as that setup was, it created a really safe environment for the actors. Vince really did some extraordinary things, like the scene where he's supposed to be drunk and he jumps up on the table. You know, he had to do that in front of a lot of people and I feel like they looked at me and they were like, Doug is clearly not being self-conscious.

Favreau: There was never enough time and never enough film.

Liman: Every day we'd panic because I was shooting more film than I thought I was gonna shoot and we didn't have enough film and we didn't have any money.

LaLoggia: I used to hide film in the trunk of my car because Doug could not help himself. He just wanted to shoot, shoot, shoot, so we would lie to him and say that we were out of film.

Whatever it takes, baby.

More hilarious bad lip reading of NFL playersJAN 24

The first installment was a classic, but this second video of NFL players and coaches overdubbed with alternate dialogue is pretty great as well.

(via devour)

The Macintosh is 30 years old todayJAN 24

Apple is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh with a special subsite.

Incredible that the Mac is still around; the 90s were a dire time for Apple and it's amazing to see the current fantastic iMacs and Macbooks that came after some epically bad mid-90s machines. Here's Steve Jobs introducing the original Mac in 1984 (a snippet of the full introduction video):

Steven Levy writes about covering the introduction of the Mac for Rolling Stone.

First, I met the machine. From the instant the woman running the demo switched on that strange-looking contraption (inspired in part by the Cuisinart food processor), I knew the Macintosh would change millions of lives, including my own. To understand that, you must realize how much 1984 really was not like 2014. Until that point, personal computers were locked in an esoteric realm of codes and commands. They looked unfriendly, with the letters of text growing in sickly phosphorescence. Even the simplest tasks required memorizing the proper intonations, then executing several exacting steps.

But the Macintosh was friendly. It opened with a smile. Words appeared with the clarity of text on a printed page - and for the first time, ordinary people had the power to format text as professional printers did. Selecting and moving text was made dramatically easier by the then-quaint mouse accompanying the keyboard. You could draw on it. This humble shoebox-sized machine had a simplicity that instantly empowered you.

Here's the piece Levy wrote for Rolling Stone.

If you have had any prior experience with personal computers, what you might expect to see is some sort of opaque code, called a "prompt," consisting of phosphorescent green or white letters on a murky background. What you see with Macintosh is the Finder. On a pleasant, light background (you can later change the background to any of a number of patterns, if you like), little pictures called "icons" appear, representing choices available to you. A word-processing program might be represented by a pen, while the program that lets you draw pictures might have a paintbrush icon. A file would represent stored documents - book reports, letters, legal briefs and so forth. To see a particular file, you'd move the mouse, which would, in turn, move the cursor to the file you wanted. You'd tap a button on the mouse twice, and the contents of the file would appear on the screen: dark on light, just like a piece of paper.

Levy has also appended a never-seen-before transcript of his interview with Steve Jobs onto the Kindle version of Insanely Great, a book Levy wrote about the Mac.

Dave Winer participated on a panel of developers on launch day.

The rollout on January 24th was like a college graduation ceremony. There were the fratboys, the insiders, the football players, and developers played a role too. We praised their product, their achievement, and they showed off our work. Apple took a serious stake in the success of software on their platform. They also had strong opinions about how our software should work, which in hindsight were almost all good ideas. The idea of user interface standards were at the time controversial. Today, you'll get no argument from me. It's better to have one way to do things, than have two or more, no matter how much better the new ones are.

That day, I was on a panel of developers, talking to the press about the new machine. We were all gushing, all excited to be there. I still get goosebumps thinking about it today.

MacOS System 1.1 emulator. (via @gruber)

iFixit did a teardown of the 128K Macintosh.

Jason Snell interviewed several Apple execs about the 30th anniversary for MacWorld. (via df)

What's clear when you talk to Apple's executives is that the company believes that people don't have to choose between a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone. Instead, Apple believes that every one of its products has particular strengths for particular tasks, and that people should be able to switch among them with ease. This is why the Mac is still relevant, 30 years on-because sometimes a device with a keyboard and a trackpad is the best tool for the job.

"It's not an either/or," Schiller said. "It's a world where you're going to have a phone, a tablet, a computer, you don't have to choose. And so what's more important is how you seamlessly move between them all.... It's not like this is a laptop person and that's a tablet person. It doesn't have to be that way."

Snell previously interviewed Steve Jobs on the 20th anniversary of the Mac, which includes an essay that Jobs wrote for the very first issue of Macworld in 1984:

The Macintosh is the future of Apple Computer. And it's being done by a bunch of people who are incredibly talented but who in most organizations would be working three levels below the impact of the decisions they're making in the organization. It's one of those things that you know won't last forever. The group might stay together maybe for one more iteration of the product, and then they'll go their separate ways. For a very special moment, all of us have come together to make this new product. We feel this may be the best thing we'll ever do with our lives.

Here's a look inside that first MacWorld issue.

As always, Folklore.org is an amazing source for stories about the Mac told by the folks who were there.

Susan Kare designed the icons, the interface elements, and fonts for the original Macintosh. Have a look at her Apple portfolio or buy some prints of the original Mac icons.

Stephen Fry recounts his experience with the Mac, including the little tidbit that he and Douglas Adams bought the first two Macs in Europe (as far as he knows).

I like to claim that I bought the second Macintosh computer ever sold in Europe in that January, 30 years ago. My friend and hero Douglas Adams was in the queue ahead of me. For all I know someone somewhere had bought one ten minutes earlier, but these were the first two that the only shop selling them in London had in stock on the 24th January 1984, so I'm sticking to my story.

Review of the Mac in the NY Times from 1984.

The Next Web has an interview with Daniel Kottke (no relation) and Randy Wigginton on programming the original Mac.

TNW: When you look at today's Macs, as well as the iPhone and the iPad, do you see how it traces back to that original genesis?

Randy: It was more of a philosophy - let's bring the theoretical into now - and the focus was on the user, not on the programmer. Before then it had always been let's make it so programmers can do stuff and produce programs.

Here, it was all about the user, and the programmers had to work their asses off to make it easy for the user to do what they wanted. It was the principle of least surprise. We never wanted [the Macintosh] to do something that people were shocked at. These are things that we just take for granted now. The whole undo paradigm? It didn't exist before that.

Like Daniel says, it's definitely the case that there were academic and business places with similar technology, but they had never attempted to reach a mass market.

Daniel: I'm just struck by the parallel now, thinking about what the Mac did. The paradigm before the Mac in terms of Apple products was command-line commands in the Apple II and the Apple III. In the open source world of Linux, I'm messing around with Raspberry Pis now, and it terrifies me, because I think, "This is not ready for the consumer," but then I think about Android, which is built on top of Linux. So the Macintosh did for the Apple II paradigm what Android has done for Linux.

A week after Jobs unveiled the Mac at the Apple shareholders meeting, he did the whole thing again at a meeting of the Boston Computer Society. Time has the recently unearthed video of the event.

Steve McQueen interviews Kanye WestJAN 24

I always forget about Interview magazine but I really shouldn't because a) Warhol and b) they consistently pair interesting people together for interviews. Case in point: director Steve McQueen (Shame, 12 Years a Slave, not Bullitt) interviews Kanye West for the Feb 2014 issue.

MCQUEEN: You've been on the scene as an artist now for 10 years, which is impressive, given the level of interest and artistry that you've managed to sustain in your work. In the process, you've become incredibly influential. So you talk about doing all of these other things, which is great, but there's really no amount of money that could make you more influential than you are now. So my question is: What are you going to do with all of the influence that you have right now?

WEST: Well, influence isn't my definition of success-it's a by-product of my creativity. I just want to create more. I would be fine with making less money. I actually spend the majority of my money attempting to create more things. Not buying things or solidifying myself or trying to make my house bigger, or trying to show people how many Louis Vuitton bags I can get, or buying my way to a good seat at the table. My definition of success, again, is getting my ideas out there.

Thanks to Jonathan at The Candler Blog for the pointer; he also notes Glenn Kenny's super-apt comment:

Clearly the problem with most Kanye West interviews up until now has been the interviewer.

There's a new supernova in townJAN 23

A supernova erupted recently1 in galaxy M82, a mere 11.4 million light years away from Earth, which means that it was close enough to be discovered by someone using an ordinary telescope in London and may be visible with binoculars sometime in the next two weeks.

M82's proximity means that there are many existing images of it, pre-explosion, including some from the Hubble Space Telescope. Cao and others will comb through those images, looking for what lay in the region before. It will not be easy: M82 is filled with dust. But the light the supernova shines on the dust could teach astronomers something about the host galaxy, too. One team is already looking for radioactive elements, such as nickel, that theories predict form in such supernova, says Shri Kulkarni, an astronomer at California Institute of Technology. "Dust has its own charms."

[1] Ok, it didn't erupt recently. M82 is 11.4 million light years away, so the supernova happened 11.4 million years ago and the light is just now reaching us here on Earth.

Lufthansa heist crooks nabbedJAN 23

Whenever we needed money, we'd rob the airport. To us, it was better than Citibank.

So said Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in GoodFellas. Now, more than twenty-five years after the Lufthansa heist that was fictionalized in Martin Scorsese's movie, the FBI has arrested five mobsters in connection with that crime and a list of other jobs that "reads like a greatest hits collection of the Mafia: armored truck heists, murder, attempted murder, extortion and bookmaking."

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RomantimaticJAN 23

My pal Greg Knauss has freed his first iOS app into the wild. Romantimatic (App Store) is an app that reminds you to do one simple thing: send your significant other a "I'm thinking of you" note.

We live in a world where it's easier to communicate with another human being than ever before - a world that also places relentless demands on our time and attention.

Even with the amazing technology we have in our pockets, we can fly through the day without remember-ing to send a simple "I love you" to the most important person in our lives.

Perfect implementation of sweethearting/glancing for the iOS age.

Update: Unsurprisingly, Greg had gotten quite a bit of a negative response to Romantimatic. I love his response.

I knew there would be some have-we-come-to-this tut-tutting. I mean, I'm not that oblivious. You attach software to the expression of romantic love, and some people are going to see it as cynical. We've wrapped code around almost everything in our lives, but deeply felt emotion is still supposed to be start-to-finish analog. You don't put your anniversary on a calendar, because it means you're a bad person who doesn't care.

Except it doesn't. It means you want to remember it. Your calendar is a tool and it helps you do the things you want to do. I see Romantimatic in the same light. If you're not good at something and want to get better at it, a tool can help. Tools make things faster and easier and more reliable.

See also this guy writing data mining software to find love on OK Cupid.

To Tien Wang, McKinlay's OkCupid hacking is a funny story to tell. But all the math and coding is merely prologue to their story together. The real hacking in a relationship comes after you meet. "People are much more complicated than their profiles," she says. "So the way we met was kind of superficial, but everything that happened after is not superficial at all. It's been cultivated through a lot of work."

"It's not like, we matched and therefore we have a great relationship," McKinlay agrees. "It was just a mechanism to put us in the same room. I was able to use OkCupid to find someone."

Mate-in-one chess puzzlesJAN 23

Mate In One

I played chess with my dad growing up, but actually learning how to play (studying openings, notation, etc.) seemed daunting and at cross purposes with what I liked about the game. So I stopped playing sometime in college and never really picked it up again. But I've maintained a non-playing interest in the game and have even been playing a little bit recently again, teaching my son how to play. The other day I ran across mate-in-one puzzles (iOS app), which seem more my speed.

The search for absolute silenceJAN 23

Mostly because of jet aircraft, there are very few places in the world free of man-made noise.

For the past 30 years, Hempton has made it his mission to discover what he calls the last great quiet places, areas that clock in at audible human noise-free intervals of 15 minutes or more. He only counts areas of around 3,100 square kilometres (1,200 square miles) or larger -- enough to create a sound buffer around a central point of absolute quiet. Over the years, his list has shrunk as he returns to a previously quiet spot, only to find it now polluted by noise. Still, he says 12 such quiet places exist in the US, with more found around the world. A spot in the Hoh Rainforest in Washington is one, as are places in Grasslands National Park in Canada, Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and Haleakala National Park in Hawaii. The others, however, he keeps confidential.

(via @bobulate)

What do we know about Bob Dylan?JAN 23

Tom Junod writes about Bob Dylan and what we know and don't know about him and what that says about our ability to know anything about anyone. Maaaaan. *toke*

Bob Dylan is either the most public private man in the world or the most private public one. He has a reputation for being silent and reclusive; he is neither. He has been giving interviews-albeit contentious ones-for as long as he's been making music, and he's been making music for more than fifty years. He's seventy-two years old. He's written one volume of an autobiography and is under contract to write two more. He's hosted his own radio show. He exhibits his paintings and his sculpture in galleries and museums around the world. Ten years ago, he cowrote and starred in a movie, Masked and Anonymous, that was about his own masked anonymity. He is reportedly working on another studio recording, his thirty-sixth, and year after year and night after night he still gets on stage to sing songs unequaled in both their candor and circumspection. Though famous as a man who won't talk, Dylan is and always has been a man who won't shut up.

Anxious about anxietyJAN 23

I hope that by posting this article about anxiety here, I will feel less anxious about having to read it for tips on how to reduce my extremely high levels of current stress and anxiety.

It doesn't solve the riddle, either, but that's not Stossel's fault. It's because anxiety of the kind he is afflicted with is not a riddle. It's an illness. There is therefore nothing, except in the medical sense, to solve. That's not what Stossel wants to believe, though. He has an idea that more is at stake. He thinks that there is a metaphysics of anxiety. "To grapple with and understand anxiety," he says, "is, in some sense, to grapple with and understand the human condition."

Hmm, it's not working.

Wear your font favoritesJAN 22

Finally! A Japanese company called Type is selling eyeglasses that evoke the Helvetica and Garamond typefaces. It's like webfonts for your face.

Font Glasses

I joke, but those Helvetica Black Regulars look pretty nice. I wonder what some of the older Raygun-inspired GarageFonts typefaces would look like as glasses? (via the verge)

How to season a cast iron panJAN 22

Sheryl Canter extensively researched the best way to season a cast iron pan and here is what she recommends you do. (Because science.)

I've read dozens of Web pages on how to season cast iron, and there is no consensus in the advice. Some say vegetable oils leave a sticky surface and to only use lard. Some say animal fat gives a surface that is too soft and to only use vegetable oils. Some say corn oil is the only fat to use, or Crisco, or olive oil. Some recommend bacon drippings since lard is no longer readily available. Some say you must use a saturated fat -- that is, a fat that is solid at room temperature, whether it's animal or vegetable (palm oil, coconut oil, Crisco, lard). Some say never use butter. Some say butter is fine. Some swear by Pam (spray-on canola oil with additives). Some say the additives in Pam leave a residue at high temperatures and pure canola oil is best. Some say it doesn't matter what oil you use.

They are all wrong. It does matter what oil you use, and the oil that gives the best results is not in this list. So what is it? Here are some hints: What oil do artists mix with pigment for a high quality oil paint that dries hard and glassy on the canvas? What oil is commonly used by woodturners to give their sculptures a protective, soft-sheen finish? It's the same oil. Now what is the food-grade equivalent of this oil?

The oil used by artists and woodturners is linseed oil. The food-grade equivalent is called flaxseed oil. This oil is ideal for seasoning cast iron for the same reason it's an ideal base for oil paint and wood finishes. It's a "drying oil", which means it can transform into a hard, tough film. This doesn't happen through "drying" in the sense of losing moisture through evaporation. The term is actually a misnomer. The transformation is through a chemical process called "polymerization".

Those before and after photos are hard to argue with. (via @akuban)

Update: Canter wrote a bit more about seasoning and added an extra step to the process. (via @_Atticus)

Ten World War I mythsJAN 22

Historian Dan Snow collects and debunks ten myths about World War I. Including:

7. Tactics on the Western Front remained unchanged despite repeated failure
Never have tactics and technology changed so radically in four years of fighting. It was a time of extraordinary innovation. In 1914 generals on horseback galloped across battlefields as men in cloth caps charged the enemy without the necessary covering fire. Both sides were overwhelmingly armed with rifles. Four years later, steel-helmeted combat teams dashed forward protected by a curtain of artillery shells.

They were now armed with flame throwers, portable machine-guns and grenades fired from rifles. Above, planes, that in 1914 would have appeared unimaginably sophisticated, duelled in the skies, some carrying experimental wireless radio sets, reporting real-time reconnaissance.

Huge artillery pieces fired with pinpoint accuracy - using only aerial photos and maths they could score a hit on the first shot. Tanks had gone from the drawing board to the battlefield in just two years, also changing war forever.

(via @daveg)

"It's toasted"JAN 22

Looks like Don Draper may have contributed to Lucky Strike's recent sales increase.

While the claim that Mad Men could have driven a nearly 50% (representing an additional 10 billion cigarettes) increase in Lucky Strike sounds like typical advertising puffery, it's hard to pin down another driver. Lucky Strike did launch new flavors, update packaging and launch "capsule" cigarettes in the five years since Mad Men premiered, but so too did its competitors. The only new country the brand entered was Turkey -- and that wasn't until 2011. Even if one excluded all capsule (2010- ) and "All Natural" (2011-) cigarette sales (which would have been predominantly cannibalized, rather than net new), Lucky Strike would still have grown 12% between 2007 and 2012, five times faster than the industry overall and eight times British American Tobacco (the owner of Lucky Strike). Could it really have been Don Draper?

Sales of Canadian Club whiskey have turned around since Mad Men started as well. (via nextdraft)

Famous punctuation marks in literatureJAN 21

Kathryn Schulz went looking for those rare moments in literature where "punctuation pops its head up over the prose" and found five noteworthy uses. For instance, a period at the end of Primo Levi's The Periodic Table (spoilers?):

"It is that which at this instant, issuing out of a labyrinthine tangle of yeses and nos, makes my hand run along a certain path on the paper, mark it with these volutes that are signs: a double snap, up and down, between two levels of energy, guides this hand of mine to impress on the paper this dot, here, this one."

And Nabokov's Lolita made the list, but I expected this bit:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

rather than:

"My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three..."

(via df)

Peter FreuchenJAN 21

This photo has been going around the internet the past few days:

Peter Freuchen

That's Peter Freuchen and his wife Dagmar Freuchen-Gale, in a photo taken by Irving Penn. Freuchen is a top candidate for the Most Interesting Man in the World. Standing six feet seven inches, Freuchen was an arctic explorer, journalist, author, and anthropologist. He participated in several arctic journeys (including a 1000-mile dogsled trip across Greenland), starred in an Oscar-winning film, wrote more than a dozen books (novels and nonfiction, including his Famous Book of the Eskimos), had a peg leg (he lost his leg to frostbite in 1926; he amputated his gangrenous toes himself), was involved in the Danish resistance against Germany, was imprisoned and sentenced to death by the Nazis before escaping to Sweden, studied to be a doctor at university, his first wife was Inuit and his second was a Danish margarine heiress, became friends with Jean Harlow and Mae West, once escaped from a blizzard shelter by cutting his way out of it with a knife fashioned from his own feces, and, last but certainly not least, won $64,000 on The $64,000 Question. An anecdote about Freuchen, courtesy of Frank Chimero:

It was so cold that even inside his cabin, even with the small coal stove, the moisture in his breath condensed into ice on the walls and ceiling. He kept breathing. The house got smaller and smaller. Early on, he wrote, two men could not pass without brushing elbows. Eventually after he was alone and the coal -- "the one factor that had kept the house from growing in upon me" -- was gone, he threw out the stove to make more room inside. (He still had a spirit lamp for light and boiling water.) Before winter and his task ended and relief came, he was living inside an ice cave made of his own breath that hardly left him room to stretch out to sleep. Peter Freuchen, six foot seven, lived inside the cave of his breath.

I mean, come on! His third wife, Dagmar Freuchen-Gale, was no slouch either. She was a teacher, artist, editor, expert on world cuisine, and a top fashion illustrator. Here's a cover she illustrated for Vogue in 1947:

Dagmar Gale Vogue

Update: Here's some footage of Freuchen's appearance on the $64,000 Question:

His appearance begins at around the 5-minute mark. (via @maxlovesyou)

Say hello to Big MapleJAN 21

Scientists at the University of Vermont's Proctor Maple Research Center have made an interesting discovery. It seems that the sap used to produce maple syrup doesn't flow from the tops of trees, it gets sucked up from the trees' roots. Which means that maple syrup makers can use saplings instead of fully grown maple trees to produce syrup.

They realized that their discovery meant sugarmakers could use saplings, densely planted in open fields, to harvest sap. In other words, it is possible that maple syrup could now be produced as a row crop like every other commercial crop in North America.

In a natural forest, which varies in maple density, an average 60 to 100 taps per acre will yield 40 to 50 gallons of syrup. According to the researchers' calculations, an acre of what is now called "the plantation method" could sustain 5,800 saplings with taps yielding 400 gallons of syrup per acre. If the method is realized, producing maple syrup on a commercial scale may no longer be restricted to those with forest land; it could require just 50 acres of arable land instead of 500 acres of forest. Furthermore, any region with the right climate for growing maples would be able to start up maple "farms". The natural forest would become redundant.

(via @youngna)

Bird contrailsJAN 21

Artist Dennis Hlynsky films birds in flight and then uses After Effects to make their flight paths visible, like the contrails of high-flying jets.

That's only one of several videos...there are more at The Colossal and on Vimeo. Nice example of time merge media. (via colossal)

Eyes on the PrizeJAN 20

The landmark civil rights TV series Eyes on the Prize is available on YouTube. Here's the first part:

I watched it a few years ago and cannot recommend it more highly.

Using nothing more than archival film footage, on-camera interviews, period music, and a narrator's voiceover, the stories of Emmitt Till, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the desegregation of southern schools riveted me to the couch like few viewing experiences have. As compelling as the history of the civil rights movement in America is, the production of the film deserves some of the credit for its power. To hear the stories of these momentous events told by the participants themselves, without embellishment, is quite extraordinary.

That YT link likely won't last, so check it out on DVD or at Amazon Instant Video. (via @tcarmody)

Remnick goes long on Obama againJAN 19

Some light weekend reading: the New Yorker's David Remnick checks in on how the Obama Presidency is going, five years in.

When Obama leaves the White House, on January 20, 2017, he will write a memoir. "Now, that's a slam dunk," the former Obama adviser David Axelrod told me. Andrew Wylie, a leading literary agent, said he thought that publishers would pay between seventeen and twenty million dollars for the book-the most ever for a work of nonfiction-and around twelve million for Michelle Obama's memoirs. (The First Lady has already started work on hers.) Obama's best friend, Marty Nesbitt, a Chicago businessman, told me that, important as the memoir might be to Obama's legacy and to his finances, "I don't see him locked up in a room writing all the time. His capacity to crank stuff out is amazing. When he was writing his second book, he would say, 'I'm gonna get up at seven and write this chapter-and at nine we'll play golf.' I would think no, it's going to be a lot later, but he would knock on my door at nine and say, 'Let's go.'" Nesbitt thinks that Obama will work on issues such as human rights, education, and "health and wellness." "He was a local community organizer when he was young," he said. "At the back end of his career, I see him as an international and national community organizer."

Remnick also wrote about Obama's first campaign back in 2008.

Barack Obama could not run his campaign for the Presidency based on political accomplishment or on the heroic service of his youth. His record was too slight. His Democratic and Republican opponents were right: he ran largely on language, on the expression of a country's potential and the self-expression of a complicated man who could reflect and lead that country. And a powerful thematic undercurrent of his oratory and prose was race. Not race as invoked by his predecessors in electoral politics or in the civil-rights movement, not race as an insistence on tribe or on redress; rather, Obama made his biracial ancestry a metaphor for his ambition to create a broad coalition of support, to rally Americans behind a narrative of moral and political progress. He was not its hero, but he just might be its culmination.

A rare connectionJAN 18

John Schneider

Photographer Jeremy Cowart writes about a rare time he made a real connection with one of his celebrity subjects. It happened during a shoot with the cast of The Haves and the Have Nots, a show on Oprah's network. As usual with shoots like this, Cowart only got a few minutes with each subject, time to shoot but not much else. But then John Schneider pulled him aside.

Once we wrapped up his session, Tika walked off set and John came to me and whispered in my ear "Hey can you sneak a few more portraits of me?" and I said "sure of course". He said "there's something going on and I just need a photo."

So I grabbed my camera again and John walked back on set.

He immediately began weeping. Legitimately crying. He was so good at impressions that I thought this was another impression and I thought "wow, what an acting talent."

(via @gavinpurcell)

I am Bill Murray, AMAJAN 18

Bill Murray does the Ask Me Anything thing over at Reddit and I think it's even better than Seinfeld's.

Q: If you could go back in time and have a conversation with one person, who would it be and why?

A: That's a grand question, golly.

I kind of like scientists, in a funny way. Albert Einstein was a pretty cool guy. The thing about Einstein was that he was a theoretical physicist, so they were all theories. He was just a smart guy. I'm kind of interested in genetics though. I think I would have liked to have met Gregor Mendel.

Because he was a monk who just sort of figured this stuff out on his own. That's a higher mind, that's a mind that's connected. They have a vision, and they just sort of see it because they are so connected intellectually and mechanically and spiritually, they can access a higher mind. Mendel was a guy so long ago that I don't necessarily know very much about him, but I know that Einstein did his work in the mountains in Switzerland. I think the altitude had an effect on the way they spoke and thought.

But I would like to know about Mendel, because i remember going to the Philippines and thinking "this is like Mendel's garden" because it had been invaded by so many different countries over the years, and you could see the children shared the genetic traits of all their invaders over the years, and it made for this beautiful varietal garden.

Zach King, the amazing Vine magicianJAN 17

It's amazing the amount of creativity you can pack into just 6 seconds of video. Many of these left me scratching my head as to how they were done (assuming they weren't shot with Vine).

Frere-Jones sues HoeflerJAN 17

Oh, wow. Tobias Frere-Jones is suing his business partner Jonathan Hoefler over ownership of world-reknowned type foundry Hoefler & Frere-Jones.

Type designer Tobias Frere-Jones claims he has been cheated out of his half of the company by his business partner, Jonathan Hoefler. In a blistering lawsuit filed today in New York City, Frere-Jones says he was duped into transferring ownership of several fonts, including the world-famous Whitney, to Hoefler & Frere-Jones (HFJ) on the understanding that he would own 50% of the company.

"In the most profound treachery and sustained exploitation of friendship, trust and confidence, Hoefler accepted all of the benefits provided by Frere-Jones while repeatedly promising Frere-Jones that he would give him the agreed equity, only to refuse to do so when finally demanded," the suit claims.

The full complaint is here. A descendant of Whitney (Whitney ScreenSmart) is what you're reading right now and I was an early beta tester of H&FJ's webfont service. This is gobsmacking news...I have no idea what to think about it. What a sad and strange situation. (via @khoi)

Update: H&FJ has released a statement from their general counsel:

Last week, designer Tobias Frere-Jones, a longtime employee of The Hoefler Type Foundry, Inc. (d/b/a "Hoefler & Frere-Jones"), decided to leave the company. With Tobias's departure, the company founded by Jonathan Hoefler in 1989 will become known as Hoefler & Co.

Classic paintings brought to life by subtle motionJAN 16

Rino Stefano Tagliafierro took more than 100 paintings (from the likes of Reubens, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Vermeer) and set them in motion to music to form a slow motion oil painted dreamland.

Lots of boobs, butts, penises, and even the occasional hint of sexual gesture in this one -- the motion sometimes fills in the blanks on all of those frolicking nymph-type paintings, making them seem to modern eyes even more sexist and outdated than the static paintings. There are some definite porny moments, is what I'm saying. So yeah, probably NSFW.

And for those looking to supplement their GIF collections, this page contains links to an animated GIF for each painting represented in the video. (via digg)

World map of vaccine-preventable outbreaksJAN 16

World map of vaccine-preventable outbreaks

From the Council on Foreign Relations, a world map showing outbreaks of diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. (via @jopearl)

How to be a geekJAN 16

John Siracusa shares how he became an Apple geek, an RC car geek, and a huge U2 geek.

You don't have to be a geek about everything in your life -- or anything, for that matter. But if geekdom is your goal, don't let anyone tell you it's unattainable. You don't have to be there "from the beginning" (whatever that means). You don't have to start when you're a kid. You don't need to be a member of a particular social class, race, sex, or gender.

Geekdom is not a club; it's a destination, open to anyone who wants to put in the time and effort to travel there. And if someone lacks the opportunity to get there, we geeks should help in any way we can. Take a new friend to a meetup or convention. Donate your old games, movies, comics, and toys. Be welcoming. Sharing your enthusiasm is part of being a geek.

Bad British NFL commentaryJAN 16

From the clueless British announcer who brought you this bad baseball commentary ("No! Caught by the chap in the pajamas with the glove that makes everything easier. And they all scuttle off for a nap.") comes some hilariously misinformed NFL game commentary.

Alabama's fullback has a handkerchief in his back pocket. He must have a cold but he's pressing on regardless. That's stoicism for you.

The sum of all positive integersJAN 16

What do you think you get if you add 1+2+3+4+5+... all the way on up to infinity? Probably a massively huge number, right? Nope. You get a small negative number:

This is, by a wide margin, the most noodle-bending counterintuitive thing I have ever seen. Mathematician Leonard Euler actually proved this result in 1735, but the result was only made rigorous later and now physicists have been seeing this result actually show up in nature. Amazing. (thx, chris)

Update: Of course (of course!) the actual truth seems more complicated, hinging on what "sum" means mathematically, etc. (via @cenedella)

Update: As usual, Phil Plait sorts things out on this complicated situation. (via @theory)

Fear and DesireJAN 16

Well lookie here, a restored full-length version of Stanley Kubrick's very first film, 1953's Fear and Desire, has popped up on YouTube:

Kubrick famously disliked his first film. From a 1994 episode of All Things Considered:

D'Arcy: But Stanley Kubrick hates the film and to keep it off the screen he threatened Film Forum with copyright violations, even though Fear and Desire is in the public domain. Through a Warner Brothers' publicist, Kubrick called his first feature 'a bumbling amateur film exercise'.

Goldstein: Kubrick had Warner Brothers send a letter out to all the press in town saying that the picture was boring and pretentious and of course, that only drew more attention to it. So it now, now it really is a must see, because now it's the picture Kubrick wants to suppress. So that makes it even sexier as a box office attraction. So I think he's increased our attendance four-fold.

(via @SebastianNebel)

Hoop Dreams is 20 years oldJAN 15

Hoop Dreams is a tremendous documentary that will be re-screened at Sundance this year, two decades after its initial release. Here's an oral history of the making of the film.

Basketball fanatics Steve James, Frederick Marx, and Peter Gilbert originally set out to make Hoop Dreams as a half-hour doc for PBS that would focus on the culture surrounding streetball. But as quickly as they got on the blacktop, they left it. The dreams of their subjects, Arthur Agee and William Gates, were too grand for just the playground, and instantly, the filmmakers were immersed in the young men's lives, showcasing both the good and bad.

Twenty years after the film premiered at Sundance and was awarded the festival's Audience Award, it's grown into an iconic work. Its snub in the Best Documentary category at the 67th Academy Awards in 1995 led to changes in the voting process. NBA players treat the movie as their own life story. It's been added to the Library Of Congress' National Film Registry. And when looking back on the film's 15th anniversary, Roger Ebert declared it "the great American documentary."

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Tour of a Colombian cocaine labJAN 15

As the government has cracked down on the large drug labs located in jungles, the Colombian drug cartels have begun to decentralize their operations, operating small labs in city apartments and cooking batches in microwaves. Here's a look at one of those apartment labs, which includes an interview with a dealer and a look at the smuggling technique du jour.

It turns out that the latest trend in Colombia's cocaine trade is moving processing out of the huge plants in the jungle to small, mobile and disposable urban labs. In this new, decentralized world of cocaine production, two men with some buckets, a handful of microwave ovens and only the most basic knowledge of chemistry can take naturally growing coca leaves and turn them into 100 percent pure cocaine powder. And here's the craziest part...they show us how they do it.

(via digg)

The story behind the artisanal toast trendJAN 15

This is undoubtably the best story you'll ever read about the Bay Area's latest food craze: $4 artisanal toast.

Trouble's owner, and the apparent originator of San Francisco's toast craze, is a slight, blue-eyed, 34-year-old woman with freckles tattooed on her cheeks named Giulietta Carrelli. She has a good toast story: She grew up in a rough neighborhood of Cleveland in the '80s and '90s in a big immigrant family, her father a tailor from Italy, her mother an ex-nun. The family didn't eat much standard American food. But cinnamon toast, made in a pinch, was the exception. "We never had pie," Carrelli says. "Our American comfort food was cinnamon toast."

The other main players on Trouble's menu are coffee, young Thai coconuts served with a straw and a spoon for digging out the meat, and shots of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice called "Yoko." It's a strange lineup, but each item has specific meaning to Carrelli. Toast, she says, represents comfort. Coffee represents speed and communication. And coconuts represent survival-because it's possible, Carrelli says, to survive on coconuts provided you also have a source of vitamin C. Hence the Yoko. (Carrelli tested this theory by living mainly on coconuts and grapefruit juice for three years, "unless someone took me out to dinner.")

Fancy $4 toast seems like something to chuckle at or cluck your tongue about, but this story takes an unexpected left turn about halfway through and is well worth the read.

A pair of Boston eventsJAN 15

Aaron Cohen, a frequent contributor to kottke.org famous for his late-night (and, I would assume, drunken) extreme sports posts, is putting on a pair of events in Boston in February. The first is Up Up Down Down, a mini-conference on side projects. Which is such a great idea for a conference.

The second event is Whiskey Rebellion, "a showcase of American brown spirits". The tasting list includes more than 75 whiskies and bourbons. This one is sold out (unsurprisingly) but there appears to be a waiting list. My schedule for that weekend is up in the air, but I hope I can make it to one or both of these.

A computer learns how to walkJAN 15

From a presentation at SIGGRAPH Asia 2013, a demonstration of a program that learns how to walk by evolving the orientation of its muscles.

Love these kinds of things. I remember another video like this that went around a few months ago...but instead of bipeds, it was a a shambling collection of cubes that learned how to move around. Anyone have a link?

Update: Ah, here's that other video; I posted it back in April. (thx, @_DavidSmith)

The British Library's Flickr wunderkammerJAN 15

Mammoth Skeleton

The British Library has a million images up at Flickr. 1,019,998 to be precise. And it appears that most (all?) of the images are copyright-free. An amazing resource.

80 maps that explain the worldJAN 15

From the Washington Post, an interesting collection of 80 maps (in two parts: one and two) that explain the world and how it works. One of my favorites is this map of actual European discoveries of land previously unknown by humans.

Actual Euro Discv

Antarctica is all stripey on that map and I realized I didn't know who had first clapped their peepers on the only continent discovered in the last millennia, so I did some reading on the subject. From the Holy Book of Wikipedia:

The first land south of the parallel 60° south latitude was discovered by the Englishman William Smith, who sighted Livingston Island on 19 February 1819. A few months later Smith returned to explore the other islands of the South Shetlands archipelago, landed on King George Island, and claimed the new territories for Britain.

In the meantime, the Spanish Navy ship San Telmo sank in September 1819 when trying to cross Cape Horn. Parts of her wreckage were found months later by sealers on the north coast of Livingston Island (South Shetlands). It is unknown if some survivor managed to be the first setting foot on these Antarctic islands.

The first confirmed sighting of mainland Antarctica cannot be accurately attributed to one single person. It can, however, be narrowed down to three individuals. According to various sources, three men all sighted the ice shelf or the continent within days or months of each other: von Bellingshausen, a captain in the Russian Imperial Navy; Edward Bransfield, a captain in the British navy; and Nathaniel Palmer, an American sealer out of Stonington, Connecticut. It is certain that the expedition, led by von Bellingshausen and Lazarev on the ships Vostok and Mirny, reached a point within 32 km (20 mi) from Princess Martha Coast and recorded the sight of an ice shelf at 69°21′28″S 2°14′50″W that became known as the Fimbul ice shelf. On 30 January 1820, Bransfield sighted Trinity Peninsula, the northernmost point of the Antarctic mainland, while Palmer sighted the mainland in the area south of Trinity Peninsula in November 1820. Von Bellingshausen's expedition also discovered Peter I Island and Alexander I Island, the first islands to be discovered south of the circle.

(via @daveg)

The green Flying TomatoJAN 14

Video of Shaun White snowboarding at age 10:

Photographing the TubeJAN 14

For the past 40 years, Bob Mazzer has been taking photographs of the London Underground and its passengers.

Bob Mazzer

Bob Mazzer

Portraits of Rikers Island inmatesJAN 14

Pencil portraits of young men and women incarcerated on Rikers Island by Ricardo Cortés.

Ricardo Cortes

Cortés wrote an essay about the portraits and his experience at Rikers.

The grossest irony is that increasing levels of imprisonment may exacerbate the very problems it is intended to solve. Imagine a drug-dealer, a check forger, a prostitute or a burglar who comes to Rikers. They're often leaving family behind, possibly as the primary breadwinner, breaking up a critical support network and causing measurable damage to spouses, siblings, parents and especially children. They're losing a job during their incarceration, thus falling further behind in bills, rent, and ultimately housing. They're being released after their stay with little treatment or prospects for a new job; their completed sentence may stain their record such that it's even harder to find employment. And they're back on the street with the same personal struggles of addiction, domestic abuse, health issues and difficulty in finding sustainable housing and legal employment. It's not hard to guess what happens next.

(via @jessicalustig)

Every clickJAN 13

Korean artist group Shinseungback Kimyonghun made a video of every time they clicked their mouse. It's mesmerizing.

A view from a ski jumpJAN 13

Ride along with Anders Jacobsen as he takes flight off the end of a ski jump in Lillehammer, Norway.

Very nice, but this fourth grader's first time on a bigger ramp is by far my favorite ski jump video of all time.

How to make a fake bagJAN 13

David Munson, CEO of Saddleback Leather, gives some advice to those who want to rip off his high quality leather bags...basically how to save money by cutting corners, using cheaper leather, etc.

Games of Thrones season four trailerJAN 13

Like Twitter, HBO's Game of Thrones started out with 140 characters but now most of them are dead so I have no idea what this season is going to be about. But dragons!

On the intelligence of football playersJAN 10

Michael Lewis made the case in The Blind Side that football players are the smartest in sports because the game is complex and moves fast. For the New Yorker, Nicholas Dawidoff takes a look at what makes a football player smart.

The Redskins' London Fletcher is undersized and thirty-eight years old, but he's been able to play for so long because he is a defensive Peyton Manning: seeing the game so lucidly, yelling out the offensive play about to unfold, changing alignments before the snap, organizing the field in real time. Similarly, Lavonte David, who has been with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two years, is just two hundred and thirty-four pounds -- ten to fifteen pounds lighter than most at his position -- the Wonderlic scores out on the Internet for him are not especially high, and, like all players, he makes the occasional boneheaded play. But he possesses dedicated study habits and a football clairvoyance that, come Sunday, finds him ignoring the blocking flow only at the one moment during a game when the offense runs the ball away from it.

The Hall of Fame Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Alan Page weighed two hundred and forty-five pounds, the dimension of a modern fullback. Even so, Page was terrifying. His forty-yard-dash time wasn't anything special, either, but he says that he could run down faster opponents because he always had sense where he was in relation to the blur of bodies around him-he could "understand the situation." Page is now an Associate Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. "Being a football player requires you to take your emotional self to places that most people shouldn't go," he said. "You wouldn't want to get to know the person who was in my head on a football field. I likely see some of these people in my current job -- those who can't control that person -- and they do not very nice things."

I asked him, "You could control that person on a field?"

"Most of the time," Page said.

The safety, standing at the rear of the defense, must compensate for the mistakes of others; football intelligence matters more at this position than any other on the defense. At five-eight, a hundred and eighty-eight pounds, the Bills safety Jim Leonhard, a nine-year veteran, is among the smallest and also the slowest starting defensive backs in the game. And yet, watching him on film, he appears to teleport to the ball. Leonhard's name seems to enter any conversation about football intelligence; he knows every teammate's responsibilities in every call, and understands the game as twenty-two intersecting vectors. "He'd walk off the bus and you'd think he was the equipment manager," Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "He's still in the league because he's the quarterback of the defense."

The Making of Raiders of the Lost ArkJAN 10

This is wonderful: an hour-long PBS documentary from 1981 on the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Lots of behind the scenes footage, interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ford, etc.

I love how delighted Spielberg is after the idol exchange scene.

Wes Anderson slow motion supercutJAN 09

No one uses slow motion more consistently than Wes Anderson; all his films except Fantastic Mr. Fox use the technique. Here are all the slow-mo scenes from his films strung together:

(via devour)

How does the snow-diving fox hunt?JAN 09

First of all, how cute are these foxes jumping up and diving down into the snow after mice?

So. Cute. Here's Robert Krulwich on what they're up to:

Think about this ... an ordinary fox can stalk a mole, mouse, vole or shrew from a distance of 25 feet, which means its food is making a barely audible rustling sound, hiding almost two car lengths away. And yet our fox hurls itself into the air -- in an arc determined by the fox, the speed and trajectory of the scurrying mouse, any breezes, the thickness of the ground cover, the depth of the snow -- and somehow (how? how?), it can land straight on top of the mouse, pinning it with its forepaws or grabbing the mouse's head with its teeth.

Look at those ears and how the fox moves his head around to zero in on the mouse's location...reminds me of the pre-radar acoustic location devices (sometimes called war tubas) used in the early 20th century to detect approaching aircraft:

War Tuba

Let slip the tubas of war! Aaaaanyway, as the acoustic location device gave way to the more effective radar, so too is the fox more successful at hunting when he is pointed northeast -- a kind of magnetic radar, if you will. Fascinating.

Bret Victor's 2013 reading listJAN 09

From Bret Victor, a reading list of meaty material from the past year. His Reading Tip #1 in the sidebar is how I'd like my ideal self to read:

It's tempting to judge what you read:

I agree with these statements, and I disagree with those.

However, a great thinker who has spent decades on an unusual line of thought cannot induce their context into your head in a few pages. It's almost certainly the case that you don't fully understand their statements.

Instead, you can say:

I have now learned that there exists a worldview in which all of these statements are consistent.

And if it feels worthwhile, you can make a genuine effort to understand that entire worldview. You don't have to adopt it. Just make it available to yourself, so you can make connections to it when it's needed.

Fantastic tip.

Every fancy cocktail menu everJAN 09

Often, cocktail menus are a little ridiculous.

Cocktail Menu

I am totally going to order some drinks like these at my usual fancy but still cool bar pub speakeasy tonight!

Emoji rebus puzzlesJAN 09

Rebus And Emoji

Using pictures to represent words dates back to Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese pictographs. But in the 1500s in France, a particular format of picture writing called the rebus was invented. A rebus is a word puzzle which uses pictures to represent words (or parts of words). The rebus became very popular in Europe and elsewhere. Here's a French rebus from 1592:

French Rebus

Alice in Wonderland's author, Lewis Carroll, was fond of rebuses...here's the first page of a letter he wrote in 1869:

Lewis Carroll Rebus

Compare the rebus with the use of emoji on mobile devices and social media, like this emoji version of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song:

Emoji Rebus

The speech accent archiveJAN 09

George Mason University's speech accent archive collects English speech samples from all over the world. Each speaker is asked to say the same snippet of text:

Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.

NYC diners in the 90sJAN 08

From photographer Greg Alessandrini, a collection of photos of diners in New York City taken in the 1990s. I was pleased to see a shot of Jones Diner, which I ate at several months before moving to NYC:

Jones Diner

It closed shortly before we moved and I never got to eat there again. At the time, word was some condos were being built on the site, but it took ten years for construction to start. What a waste.

BTW, the rest of Alessandrini's site is well worth a look...hundreds and possibly thousands of photographs of NYC from the 80s and 90s. (via @UnlikelyWorlds)

Studs Terkel interviews Bob DylanJAN 08

In 1963, Studs Terkel interviewed a 21-year-old Bob Dylan, before he was famous.

In the spring of 1963 Studs Terkel introduced Chicago radio listeners to an up-and-coming musician, not yet 22 years old, "a young folk poet who you might say looks like Huckleberry Finn, if he lived in the 20th century. His name is Bob Dylan."

Dylan had just finished recording the songs for his second album, "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan", when he traveled from New York to Chicago to play a gig at a little place partly owned by his manager, Albert Grossman, called "The Bear Club". The next day he went to the WFMT studios for the hour-long appearance on "The Studs Terkel Program".

Dangerous Minds has more detail about the interview.

Bob Dylan is a notoriously tough person to interview and that's definitely the case here, even this early in his life as a public persona. On the other hand, Terkel is a veteran interviewer, one of the best ever, and he seems genuinely impressed with the young man who was just 21 at the time and had but one record of mainly covers under his belt. Terkel does a good job of keeping things on track as he expertly gets out of the way and listens while gleaning what he can from his subject. It's an interesting match-up.

Dylan seems at least fairly straightforward about his musical influences. He talks about seeing Woody Guthrie with his uncle when he was ten years old (Is this just mythology? Who knows?), and he mentions Big Joe Williams and Pete Seeger a few times.

Much of the rest is a little trickier. Terkel has to almost beg Dylan to play what turns out to be an earnest, driving version of "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall." Dylan tells Terkel that he'd rather the interviewer "take it off the disc," but relents and does the tune anyways.

(via @mkonnikova)

Muhly on BeyonceJAN 07

Nico Muhly is a young and celebrated classical music composer. His review of Beyonce's new album is a pretty lyrical composition itself.

This is a beautiful song. On the video, there is a long introduction with piano and strings. Use real strings, please, Beyoncé. The piano might be real but it sounds like the most expensive fake piano on the market. One would love to think that this is a comment on the artificiality of beauty -- we've become accustomed to an expensive fake in favor of the built-in and beautiful imperfections of reality -- but I doubt that was the reason for this particular oversight. Bey: call me; you know where I stay.

(via @fchimero)

Bill Cunningham exhibitionJAN 07

Cunningham Facades Subway

In March, the New York Historical Society is mounting an exhibition of photographer Bill Cunningham's project, Façades.

Scouring the city's thrift stores, auction houses, and street fairs for vintage clothing, and scouting sites on his bicycle, Cunningham generated a photographic essay entitled Façades, which paired models -- in particular his muse, fellow photographer Editta Sherman -- in period costumes with historic settings.

Jerry Seinfeld will give you an answerJAN 07

Jerry Seinfeld did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) at Reddit yesterday. His answers are real, and they're spectacular.

Q: Where did the idea of, in Seinfeld, your character being a comedian for a profession, but be the straight man for your friends, come from? I always thought that juxtapositioning for the show was genius.

A: Very good observation and analysis on your part, Baxter. You are truly exhibiting a good comedic eye. The reason I would play straight was it was funnier for the scene. And very few people have ever remarked on this, because it was a conscious choice of mine, only because I knew it would make the show better, and I didn't care who was funny as long as somebody was funny and that the show was funny. So you have hit upon one of the great secret weapons of the Seinfeld series, was that I had no issue with that.

I have seen every episode of the show at least twice and never realized this. Gold, Jerry! Gold!

ps. Favorite episode of Seinfeld? Aside from the nearly perfect The Contest, I'll go with The Marine Biologist. If I ever decide to be an actor, my audition tape will be me telling George's whale rescue story:

(via @gavinpurcell)

What happens when you don't get vaccinatedJAN 07

Amy Parker grew up with super health-conscious parents who provided her with a healthy diet and active lifestyle. But they also didn't vaccinate her and she was sick all the time as a kid.

As healthy as my lifestyle seemed, I contracted measles, mumps, rubella, a type of viral meningitis, scarlatina, whooping cough, yearly tonsillitis, and chickenpox. In my 20s I got precancerous HPV and spent six months of my life wondering how I was going to tell my two children under the age of 7 that Mummy might have cancer before it was safely removed.

This is the part that really gets to me: Parker wasn't vaccinated but was given so many antibiotics for her childhood illnesses that she became immune to them! [Hair-tearing-out noise]

My two vaccinated children, on the other hand, have rarely been ill, have had antibiotics maybe twice in their lives, if that. Not like their mum. I got so many illnesses requiring treatment with antibiotics that I developed a resistance to them, which led me to be hospitalized with penicillin-resistant quinsy at age 21 -- you know, that old-fashioned disease that supposedly killed Queen Elizabeth I and that was almost wiped out through use of antibiotics.

Update: Slate has corrected the passage above, taking out the part about Parker's resistance to antibiotics. It now reads:

My two vaccinated children, on the other hand, have rarely been ill, have had antibiotics maybe twice in their lives, if that. Not like their mum. I got many illnesses requiring treatment with antibiotics. I developed penicillin-resistant quinsy at age 21 -- you know, that old-fashioned disease that supposedly killed Queen Elizabeth I and that was almost wiped out through use of antibiotics.

People do not develop antibiotic resistance, microorganisms do. I regret the idiotic error and tearing out my hair. (thx @chrismize)

Scenes from a strokeJAN 06

Diana Hardeman is 30, healthy, and has no history of past medical issues. A few days before Christmas, she had a stroke.

My right arm seemed no longer a part of my body. I couldn't control it; it was limp at my side, like the worst dead arm you can imagine, but completely out of nowhere. My boyfriend was just coming to check on what time we are leaving and I exited the bathroom, slumped on the ground, and told him what was going on. Except I didn't. I couldn't. What I was saying in my head came out as gibberish. I could not get words out of my mouth. I felt stupid, even laughing at myself, saying, "It's ok, it's ok" to him, thinking it might just go away. But then the reminder that something was wrong set in again. In a whisper, I finally got out the words "call my dad." He did. My parents happened to be right outside and my father, a physician, ran up the stairs to find us. When he saw me stuttering and holding my dead arm, he called for an ambulance. By now I was crying, perhaps in hysterics, as the numbness had seeped from my arm to my whole right side. I then calmed, stopped tying to speak, as it was frustrating and pointless, and looked into my boyfriend's eyes saying to him with mine, I may not walk again. I may die, somewhat acquiescing to whatever it was that was happening to me. I caught myself, though, and thought, No, that can't happen, I gotta fight it, and kicked off my boots to try to move legs and focused my mind on, well, not dying.

Hardeman also posted the original unedited version of her story written during recovery. Its less-than-flowing prose bears the mark of a semi-functioning arm and brain.

In case you don't know me, Hi. Im Diana. I'm a 30 year old lady. Itallerthan your average girl, thinner tha your average girl, and and active than your average girl. Yeah I run an ice crea business for a living, but like to thing I'm healthier than your average girl too. No priorn medical history. Nothing.

 my first ever ride in an ambulance was uneventful - the hops;ital is a 5 minute drive from my folks' house. By now I had somehow regained some ability to sspeak and answered the EMT's incessant questionsining. still stuumbling over my words, even laughin at my mstakes.

Found this via the Kickstarter for Hardeman's ice cream company.

Update: The NY Times just covered torn arteries, which was the cause of Hardeman's stroke.

The best and worst media errors and corrections in 2013JAN 06

I know we're past the point of saying "happy new year" and lingering on last year, but this is my favorite annual best of list: Regret the Error's The best and worst media errors and corrections in 2013. This correction from Marie Claire is pretty good:

In our July issue we wrongly described Tina Cutler as a journalist. In fact she is a practitioner of vibrational energy medicine.

And some quality historical truthiness from The Huffington Post:

An earlier version of this story indicated that the Berlin Wall was built by Nazi Germany. In fact, it was built by the Communists during the Cold War.

And Slate, get your Girls on some more in 2014 please:

This review misspelled basically everyone's name. It's Hannah Horvath, not Hannah Hovrath; Marnie is played by Allison Williams, not Alison Williams; and Ray is played by Alex Karpovsky, not Zosia Mamet.

Searching Twitter for signs of time travelJAN 06

A pair of scientists recently searched the internet for evidence of time travel.

Here, three implementations of Internet searches for time travelers are described, all seeking a prescient mention of information not previously available. The first search covered prescient content placed on the Internet, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific terms in tweets on Twitter. The second search examined prescient inquiries submitted to a search engine, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific search terms submitted to a popular astronomy web site. The third search involved a request for a direct Internet communication, either by email or tweet, pre-dating to the time of the inquiry. Given practical verifiability concerns, only time travelers from the future were investigated.

Spoiler: they didn't find any. (via @CharlesCMann)

Cool Tools book a sleeper hitJAN 06

David Carr writes about the surprising success of Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools book, which is based on his long-running website of the same name.

But last year, he had what sounded to me like a dumb idea. Mr. Kelly edits and owns Cool Tools, a website that writes about neat stuff and makes small money off referral revenue from Amazon when people proceed to buy some of those things. He decided to edit the thousands of reviews that had accrued over the last 10 years into a self-published print catalog -- also called "Cool Tools" -- which he would then sell for $39.99.

So, to review, his idea was to manufacture a floppy 472-page catalog that would weigh 4.5 pounds, full of buying advice that had already appeared free on the web, essentially turning weightless pixels into bulky bundles of atoms. To make it happen, he crowdsourced designs from all over the world, found a printer in China and then arranged for shipping and distribution. It all seemed a little quixotic and, well, beside the point.

Except the first printing of 10,000 copies, just in time for Christmas, sold out immediately, a second printing of 12,000 will go on sale at Amazon next week and a third printing of 20,000 copies is underway. So, not so dumb after all.

I haven't had a chance to dig too deeply into my copy yet, but my six-year-old sat down with it a few weeks ago and had about a million questions per page for me. Which seems a like a positive sign.

Entrepreneurs and con artistsJAN 06

James Surowiecki writes about the similarities between confidence games and American entrepreneurial spirit.

It seems that con artists, for all their vices, represent many of the virtues that Americans aspire to. Con artists are independent and typically self-made. They don't have to kowtow to a boss -- no small thing in a country in which people have always longed to strike out on their own. They succeed or fail based on their wits. They exemplify, in short, the complicated nature of American capitalism, which, as McDougall argues, has depended on people being hustlers in both the positive and the negative sense. The American economy wasn't built just on good ideas and hard work. It was also built on hope and hype.

The six-second horror filmJAN 03

Dear God, watch this moustache explode into -- well, you'll see -- and you'll never have to watch it again. You'll see it every time you close your eyes.

Tavi interviews LordeJAN 03

We may not have our jetpacks and hover cars, but our future-now has given us Tavi Gevinson interviewing Lorde and that's just as good.

Tavi: On that note, you have a very unique way of looking at the suburb where you live, which I think you've called "the Bubble." When did you realize the suburbs could be a source of inspiration?

Lorde: Well...this sounds so lame, but I grew up reading your blog, man! [Laughs]

Tavi: Oh no! "Ugh, that's so LAME, shut up!"

Lorde: [Laughs] But no, I think there is something really cool about that whole Virgin Suicides vibe of making even the bad parts bearable. I hate high school so much, but there's something kind of cool about walking around on the coldest day listening to "Lindisfarne" by James Blake or something and feeling like something has happened, even though it's the worst thing ever. The album The Suburbs by Arcade Fire was influential to me in that as way well. I just think that record is really beautiful and nostalgic and so well-written. It's a super-direct way of talking about what it's like to grow up [in the suburbs], and I think that's quite lovely.

You're asking about stuff I'm not used to talking about in interviews, so I don't have a stock way of driving the question.

Tavi: OK, then: "Do you feel 17?"

Lorde: AGHHHH! What do you even say to that, honestly?

Tavi: It's kind of a trap, because if you say yes you're shitting on their question by making it seem obvious, but if you say no you seem like you think you're older and better.

Lorde: I always get these weird people being like, "Oh, she's growing up way too fast, she looks 30." Oh, god.

Tavi: People always say that. I remember -- not to be all Mother Hen --

Lorde: No, go for it!

Tavi: I remember when people started paying attention to what I was doing, and it was like, "She should be getting knocked up like all the other kids her age!" It's like, you complain when you think teenagers are stupid, and then when they try to do something, you're all, "Oh, they're growing up too fast, they don't know what's good for them."

Lorde: It seems like a double standard to me. And there's another part of it which I find really strange, which is that so many interviewers, even ones that I consider really intelligent and good writers, will do the, like, "Oh, you're not taking your clothes off like Miley Cyrus and all these girls" thing, which to me is just the weirdest thing to say to someone. But then people will say, "She's always talking about being bored, that's petulant," which I feel like is kind of taking the piss out of teenage emotions-just, like, making light of how teenagers feel. When people react that way about things that every teenager experiences, how can you expect to make anything good?

Goodbye cameras, hello networked lensesJAN 03

Craig Mod, writing for the New Yorker, says goodbye to cameras as photography transitions to the use of "networked lenses".

After two and a half years, the GF1 was replaced by the slightly improved Panasonic GX1, which I brought on the six-day Kumano Kodo hike in October. During the trip, I alternated between shooting with it and an iPhone 5. After importing the results into Lightroom, Adobe's photo-development software, it was difficult to distinguish the GX1's photos from the iPhone 5's. (That's not even the latest iPhone; Austin Mann's superlative results make it clear that the iPhone 5S operates on an even higher level.) Of course, zooming in and poking around the photos revealed differences: the iPhone 5 doesn't capture as much highlight detail as the GX1, or handle low light as well, or withstand intense editing, such as drastic changes in exposure. But it seems clear that in a couple of years, with an iPhone 6S in our pockets, it will be nearly impossible to justify taking a dedicated camera on trips like the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage.

And indeed, the mid-tier Japanese camera makers (Panasonic, Fujifilm and Olympus) are struggling to find their way in the networked lens era. A few years ago, I wrote a post called "Your company? There's an app for that." about how smartphones were not only going to make certain devices obsolete, but drive entire companies and industries out of business. This bit, about cameras, seems almost quaint now:

Point and shoot camera -- While not as full-featured as something like a PowerShot, the camera on the iPhone 3GS has a 3-megapxiel lens with both auto and manual focus, shoots in low-light, does macro, and can shoot video. Plus, it's easy to instantly publish your photos online using the iPhone's networking capabilities and automatically tag your photos with your location.

The best camera is the one you have with you the one with built-in posting to Facebook.

Fear and loathing near the South PoleJAN 02

70 days ago, Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere set out from the edge of Antarctica, bound south. Their goal was to ski, alone and unsupported, to the South Pole and back along the route Captain Robert Falcon Scott travelled in 1912. I've been following their blog every day since then, and they were making the whole thing -- skiing 19 miles/day in -30° white-outs hauling 300 lbs. and blogging about it the whole way -- seem easy somehow. They reached the Pole the day after Christmas were hauling ass (and sled) back toward the coast.

But their seemingly steady progress hid a potentially life-threatening truth: they needed to be skiing more miles a day in order to travel quickly enough to not exhaust their food supply. They'd been missing their mileage goals and in an attempt to catch up, weren't sleeping and eating as much as they should have been. Things could have gone very wrong at this point, but luckily Ben and Tarka came out ok.

Our depot was still 74km away and we had barely more than half a day's food to reach it; eight energy bars each, half a breakfast and half an evening meal. 16km into the following day Tarka started to slow again as he led, before stopping entirely and waving me forward to talk. "I feel really weak in the legs again", he said. "OK. What do you want to do?" I answered snappily, before realising this was on me. I came here to be challenged and tested, to give my all to the hardest task I have ever set myself and to the biggest dream I have ever had. And here was the crux. This was the moment that mattered, not standing by the Pole having my photograph taken, but standing next to my friend, in a howling gale, miles away from anyone or anything. "Let's put the tent up", I said, "I've got an idea".

Adventure is never about battling the environment or elements or whatever. It's always a struggle with the self. And as this battle reached a fevered pitch, Ben and Tarka were not found wanting. Calling for resupply, and thereby giving up on one of the major goals of this expedition 10 years in the making, was probably the hardest thing Ben has ever had to do in his entire life. But he did it, for his family, his loved ones, and his teammate. Ben, Tarka, I'm proud of you. Thank you for letting us follow along on your journey, for showing us what is humanly possible, and for the reminder that pushing the boundaries is never about how far you can tow a sled but about what you do when confronted with the no-win scenario: beating yourself.

Nabisco scientists discover unstable Quadriscuit crackerJAN 02

Inspired by the escalating blade count of the razor industry, Nabisco has developed a new snack called the Quadriscuit.

"At the moment, this hyperwafer can only exist for six milliseconds in a precisely calibrated field of magnetic energy, positrons, roasted garlic, and beta particles," lab chief Dr. Paul Ellison told reporters at a press conference outside Nabisco's $200 million seven-whole-grain accelerator.

The last line of the piece made me LOL for real. (thx, meg)

NY Times: clemency for SnowdenJAN 02

The editorial board of the NY Times is urging clemency for Edward Snowden.

Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.

A shot of creativityJAN 02

Drew Dernavich submitted a cartoon to the New Yorker in 2007 and it was rejected. He refined and simplified the concept and the result ran in a recent issue. Here's how Dernavich achieved this result:

My approach was to say "whatever," move on to the next thing, forget completely that I had ever done this cartoon in the first place, go to sleep, get up the next day and drink coffee, eat and drink as I usually do, work at some stuff, work at some other stuff, get up earlier some days and later some days, do social things every once in a while...

And it goes on like that for awhile until concluding:

...and then wake up one day and then think "hey - I have a funny idea about warning shots that's better than the one I had several years ago."

Csikszentmihalyi aside, this might be the truest description of the creative process ever written. Shit just takes time and creative people make time. (via @Atul_Gawande)

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