How typefaces get their namesOCT 15

Font Naming

From Tobias Frere-Jones, a short history of how typefaces get their names.

Years ago, I asked one of my mentors what he thought was the hardest part of designing a typeface. I was expecting "the cap S" or "the italic lowercase" or something like that. But he answered without hesitation: the name. Finding the name is the hardest part.

How We Got to Now on TVOCT 15

Speaking of PBS shows, Steven Johnson's How We Got to Now starts on PBS tonight with two back-to-back episodes. The NY Times has a positive review.

The opening episode, for instance, is called "Clean," and it sets the pattern for the five that follow. We tend not to acknowledge just how recent some of the trends and comforts of modern life are, including the luxury of not walking through horse manure and human waste on the way to the post office.

The episode turns back the clock just a century and a half, to a time before our liquid waste stream was largely contained in underground pipes. Mr. Johnson then traces the emergence of the idea that with a little effort, cities and towns could have a cleaner existence, and the concurrent idea that cleanliness would have public health benefits.

But his examination of "the ultraclean revolution," as he calls it, doesn't stop at the construction of sewage and water-purification systems. He extends the thread all the way to the computer revolution, visiting a laboratory where microchips are made.

The show is based on Johnson's book of the same name, which enters the NY Times bestseller list at #4 this week. Also, I keep wanting to call the book/show How We Got to Know, which strikes me as a perfectly appropriate title as well.

Being Mortal, the TV showOCT 15

Atul Gawande's best selling Being Mortal is getting the Frontline treatment on PBS this January. Here's the trailer:

What will it take to run a 2 hour marathon?OCT 15

Sub2 Marathon 01

I am not a runner so I didn't think I would find this exploration into the conditions under which a 2-hour marathon could occur that interesting. I was incorrect.

Between 1990 (the first year in which data was available) and 2011, the average male marathoner ranked in the top 100 that year shrank by 1.3 inches and 7.5 pounds. Smaller runners have less weight to haul around, yes. But they're also better at heat dissipation; thanks to greater skin surface area relative to their weight, they can sustain higher speeds (and thus, greater internal heat production) without overheating and having to slow down. Despite our sub-two runner's short frame, he'll also have disproportionately long legs that help him cover ground and unusually slender calves that require less energy to swing than heavier limbs.

Runners shed heat through their skin, so bigger runners should have an advantage, right? Indeed, a 6' 3" marathoner can dissipate 32 percent more heat than a 5' 3" athlete with the same BMI. But heat generation rises faster in bigger runners because mass increases quicker than skin area. So at the same effort, the 6' 3" guy ends up producing 42 percent more heat than his shorter peer-and overheating sooner.

The piece includes a favorite old chestnut of mine, man vs. horse:

Sub2 Marathon 02

Horses are still much quicker at distance, but humans are still improving.

The abortion choice: not easy, not sorryOCT 15

In the November issue of Elle, Laurie Abraham talks about the fear, pressure, regret, and misconceptions related to how we think about abortion in America, written through the lens of her own experiences.

In several meetings at work in which this essay was discussed, I noticed that none of the other editors in the room, all of them pro-choice, could bring themselves to utter the word abortion; it was "Laurie's pro piece," or her "memoir." I know that my colleagues, many of whom are my friends, were just trying to be kind when they referred to my "reproductive rights" story. The truth is, I felt uncomfortable saying it out loud too. Abortion is a conversational third rail, women's dirtiest dirty laundry, to mix metaphors. Because the other thing about living in a political culture where a single-cell zygote is constantly being called a "person" is that there is a penumbra of shame surrounding abortion. For myself, however, I wonder: Am I really ashamed -- and, if so, what is it exactly that I'm ashamed of?

The book Abraham references throughout, Katha Pollitt's Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights sounds really interesting. (via @atotalmonet)

Soccer match abandoned over drone anticsOCT 14

A Euro 2016 qualifying match between Albania and Serbia was abandoned today after a drone flying a banner with a map of Kosovo and the Albanian flag on it hovered over the pitch.

Tensions increased further when the flag was snared by Serbia's Stefan Mitrovic, who then pulled on the strings connecting it to the drone. He was immediately confronted by Albanian players, and a shoving match ensued.

The match was abandoned after a lengthy delay. At the recommendation of UEFA, no Albanian fans were allowed into the stadium for the match in Belgrade due to tensions between the two nations. Kosovo, where the population includes both ethnic Serbs and Albanians, declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, a declaration that the Serbians dispute. Nick Ames wrote a soccer-centric take on the tensions between the two nations.

It comes down, really, to Kosovo -- and that is a phrase that can be applied as shorthand for Serbian-Albanian relations as a whole. As Tim Judah writes in his seminal history, The Serbs: "So poisoned is the whole subject of Kosovo that when Albanian or Serbian academics come to discuss its history, especially its modern history, all pretence of impartiality is lost."

Kosovo, situated to the south of Serbia and the north-east of Albania, declared independence in 2008 having previously been part of Serbia. The Serbs still regard it as their own, but it is recognised by 56 percent of UN member states and its ethnic makeup is, depending on which side you refer to, overwhelmingly Albanian. (It's worth noting that figures vary wildly.)

The emotional significance goes as far back as 1389, when the Serbs were defeated by the Ottoman army in the Battle of Kosovo, which took place near its modern-day capital, Pristina. It has been much-mythologised in Serbian history. Far more recently, memories of the 1998-99 Kosovo War -- an appallingly brutal fight for the territory from which it has not really recovered -- still run deep.

FYI: the YouTube embed above was recorded off of a TV...if you're in the US, the ESPN story has better video.

Three cheers for Pig Pen Sedaris!OCT 14

Pig Pen Sedaris

It makes for a charmingly local headline: Area Man Picks Up So Much Roadside Litter, District Council Names Garbage Truck After Him. Except in this case, the Area Man is the famous author and humorist, David Sedaris, whose fame is apparently (and even more charmingly) unknown by the district council and the paper covering the event.

Thrilled to have the vehicle named after him, David 'Pig Pen' Sedaris, said: "When I first moved to Horsham district three years ago I was struck by the area's outstanding natural beauty but I was also struck by all the rubbish that people leave lying around the roads.

"I'm angry at the people who throw these things out their car windows, but I'm just as angry at the people who walk by it every day. I say pick it up yourself. Do it enough and you might one day get a garbage truck named after you. It's an amazing feeling."

Don't know how I missed this story over the summer...a chapter of his next book just wrote itself. The paper followed up with a "holy shit, this dude is famous" piece the next day. (via sedaris' reddit ama)

Update: I had also missed reading Sedaris' piece about his Fitbit, in which he talks about his anti-litter efforts.

I've been cleaning the roads in my area of Sussex for three years now, but before the Fitbit I did it primarily on my bike, and with my bare hands. That was fairly effective, but I wound up missing a lot. On foot, nothing escapes my attention: a potato-chip bag stuffed into the hollow of a tree, an elderly mitten caught in the embrace of a blackberry bush, a mud-coated matchbook at the bottom of a ditch. Then, there's all the obvious stuff: the cans and bottles and great greasy sheets of paper that fish-and-chips comes wrapped in. You can tell where my territory ends and the rest of England begins. It's like going from the rose arbor in Sissinghurst to Fukushima after the tsunami. The difference is staggering.

(via @mmorowitz)

Top 10 slo-mo movie momentsOCT 14

From CineFix, their top ten slow motion sequences of all time.

Includes scenes from The Matrix, Hard Boiled, Reservoir Dogs, and The Shining. But no Wes Anderson!?! *burns down internet* (via @DavidGrann)

What the ball boy sawOCT 14

When he was 17, Eric Kester was a ball boy for the Chicago Bears and saw all the stuff you don't hear about on TV or even on blogs.

I lay awake at night wondering how many lives were irreparably damaged by my most handy ball boy tool: smelling salts. On game days my pockets were always full of these tiny ammonia stimulants that, when sniffed, can trick a brain into a state of alertness. After almost every crowd-pleasing hit, a player would stagger off the field, steady himself the best he could, sometimes vomit a little, and tilt his head to the sky. Then, with eyes squeezed shut in pain, he'd scream "Eric!" and I'd dash over and say, "It's O.K., I'm right here, got just what you need."

And from Vice, the story of former NFL running back Gerald Willhite:

Memory loss is just one of the problems that plague Gerald Willhite, 55. Frustration, depression, headaches, body pain, swollen joints, and a disassociative identity disorder are other reminders of his seven-season (1982-88) career with the Denver Broncos, during which he said he sustained at least eight concussions.

"I think we were misled," Willhite said from Sacramento. "We knew what we signed up for, but we didn't know the magnitude of what was waiting for us later."

When Willhite read about the symptoms of some former players who were taking legal action against the NFL, he thought "Crap, I got the same issues." He decided to join the lawsuit that claimed the league had withheld information about brain injuries and concussions. He feels that the $765 million settlement, announced last summer and earmarked for the more than 4,000 players in the lawsuit, is like a "Band-Aid put on a gash."

Still haven't watched any NFL this year. (via @arainert)

The Public Radio

If you were to design the simplest possible radio, what features would you need to keep to still call your device a radio? In making The Public Radio, Brooklynites Zach Dunham and Spencer Wright kept only four features: an FM tuner, an antenna, a speaker, and a volume knob. No alarm function, no AM band, and no changing stations; The Public Radio ships tuned to your favorite radio station, the one you listen to 95% of the time anyway.

For an enclosure for this minimum viable radio, they went with something cheap, off-the-shelf, and très Brooklyn: a 250 mL mason jar. The pair used the jar when testing speakers on prototypes and decided to keep it as part of the radio's simple aesthetic. If you don't like the jar it ships with, you can replace it with something a little more your style -- a vintage blue wide-mouth quart Ball mason jar perhaps?

The Public Radio comes fully assembled, but it's also available in two additional DIY configurations: as a high-res download of the design files for those who want to fabricate their own from scratch and a fun Maker Kit option with all the necessary components you get to solder together. Order your Public Radio today on Kickstarter!

Norway's new pixel moneyOCT 14

This is the design that Norway has chosen for their banknotes starting in 2017:

Norway Pixel Banknote

From now on, I'm paying for everything with kroner. (via co.design)

OMG Bob BurnquistOCT 14

I've posted quite a few skateboarding videos here over the years and they all have their share of amazing tricks, but the shit Bob Burnquist pulls on his massive backyard MegaRamp in this video is crazy/incredible. My mouth dropped open at least four times while watching. I rewatched the trick at 2:50 about 10 times and still can't believe it's not from a video game. (via @bryce)

Teeny tiny FedererOCT 10

Possible captions for this photo: Honey, I Shrunk the Federer. Federer just drank some of Alice's Drink Me potion. Pocket Roger. Yao Ming is a very large man.

Tiny Federer

The reading level of Presidential speechesOCT 10

Using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, Vocativ analyzed more than 600 speeches from all the American Presidents for ease of comprehension. What they found was a trend toward simpler language as speeches needed to appeal to a wider range of people, not just super-educated white men.

President Reading Level

I think President Obama, no more or less than President Bush, tries to pack a lot of nuance and subtext into language that is as plain and straightforward as possible. While President Bush was often inarticulate off the cuff, Bush's speeches were underestimated. There was a crisp formality to a lot of his best speeches, particularly the ones he delivered shortly after Sept. 11.

Definitely click through for their analysis of the data.

2014 Nobel Peace PrizeOCT 10

Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, who shares this year's Nobel Peace Prize with India's Kailash Satyarthi, had to wait until the end of the school day before making her first public statement. "This is not the end ... I want to see every child going to school and getting an education." Kailash Satyarthi, who has been marching and working on behalf of children for three decades, echoed the sentiment: "A lot of work still remains but I will see the end of child labor in my lifetime." One recipient is 17, one is 60. Both fight for the human rights of children. Both have regularly risked their lives for the cause. And both want the award to improve relations between their countries, starting with their decision to invite the prime ministers of India and Pakistan to attend the prize ceremony.

The New Yorker: "Both of these people deserved the award individually. The combination of the two laureates gives it a nuanced character -- and a different kind of power than if it had gone to either of them alone."

+ Malala celebrated her sixteenth birthday by giving a remarkable speech at the UN.

+ "In the paper we read she is favorite for the Nobel Peace Prize. My son is astonished. 'How can she win?' he asks. 'She's always fighting with her brother!'" Christina Lamb in The Sunday Times: My year with Malala.

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