The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesAUG 12

Here's the trailer for the third and final movie in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy:

The Hobbit was initially supposed to be just two films but Jackson decided to split the second film into two. From Wikipedia:

According to Jackson, the third film would contain the Battle of the Five Armies and make extensive use of the appendices that Tolkien wrote to expand the story of Middle-Earth (published in the back of The Return of the King).

The second movie was better than the first so I'm looking forward to this one. But then again, I'm totally in the tank for Jackson's take on Middle Earth (I did the Weta Digital tour when I was in New Zealand) so I would see it even if the first two movies sucked.

SuperintelligenceAUG 12

Nick Bostrom has been thinking deeply about the philosophical implications of machine intelligence. You might recognize his name from previous kottke.org posts about the underestimation of human extinction and the possibility that we're living in a computer simulation, that sort of cheery stuff. He's collected some of his thoughts in a book called Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Here's how Wikipedia summarizes it:

The book argues that if machine brains surpass human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could replace humans as the dominant lifeform on Earth. Sufficiently intelligent machines could improve their own capabilities faster than human computer scientists. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on humans than on the actions of the gorillas themselves, so would the fate of humanity depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence. Absent careful pre-planning, the most likely outcome would be catastrophe.

Technological smartypants Elon Musk gave Bostrom's book an alarming shout-out on Twitter the other day. A succinct summary of Bostrom's argument from Musk:

Hope we're not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable

Eep. I'm still hoping for a Her-style outcome for superintelligence...the machines just get bored with people and leave.

The Hateful EightAUG 12

Tarantino Hateful Eight

So, a few months ago Quentin Tarantino scrapped plans to make what was supposed to be his next film, The Hateful Eight, after the script leaked. Which struck me as weird and petty, but Hollywood in general seems weird and petty to me. Turns out that Tarantino's gonna do the movie after all.

During the Comic-Con panel, one of the audience members point blank asked Tarantino if he'll be making the script as his next feature, following recent word that it could be heating back up again. Tarantino hemmed and hawed for a bit -- before finally committing: "Yeah -- We're going to be doing The Hateful Eight." So there you have it: The Hateful Eight will be the next Quentin Tarantino feature.

The photo at the top is the first official poster for the film.

Monument Valley soundtrackAUG 12

If you've played Monument Valley, a game so purty it won an Apple Design Award, you know the music is one of the best features of the game. Well, the original soundtrack for the game is now available for streaming on Rdio and Spotify.

The soundtrack is also available to own on Amazon or iTunes.

(Oh, and while we're at it, let's take a moment to witness how nutty app pricing is. Monument Valley costs $3.99. The soundtrack, which is a just a part of the overall game, costs $8.99 at Amazon. And that makes sense how?)

Robin Williams, RIPAUG 11

Actor Robin Williams was found dead in his home today of an apparent suicide. He was 63. I have been thinking a lot about this scene from Dead Poets Society lately:

A Spacecraft For AllAUG 11

Spacecraft For All

Oh man, this is great. A Spacecraft For All is an interactive video about the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, in which a group of scientists working out of an old McDonald's crowdfunded an effort to communicate with a nearly forgotten satellite launched by NASA in 1978 to observe the Sun and chase a comet. After the intro, click on "See the Journey"...it's well worth your time if you're at all interested in space or science.

For instance, did you know there exists several points between the Earth and the Sun at which a satellite can orbit around, enabling spacecraft to stay more or less in the same spot for observation purposes? So cool!

Hood Internet Mixtape Vol. 8AUG 11

New mixtape from The Hood Internet, the eighth in a hopefully infinite series. You know what to do.

Hobbit human updateAUG 11

The latest word on Homo floresiensis, the potential new species of hobbit-like humans discovered ten years ago in Indonesia, concerns a pair of papers which argue the single specimen found is actually a regular human with Down syndrome.

Now, the debate has reignited with two new papers published this week by a team of researchers from Penn State and other institutions. In one of those papers, they argue that the Flores skull is not a new species, but instead represents an ancient person with Down syndrome.

The researchers also point out, in the second paper, that the original report on the bones seemed to have exaggerated the skull's diminutive size. Cranial measurements and features, along with shorter thigh bones, the team found, all correspond with modern manifestations of Down syndrome. "The difference is significant, and the revised figure falls in the range predicted for a modern human with Down syndrome from the same geographic region," they say in a statement.

(via @daveg)

Animated GIFs of human x-raysAUG 11

From Cameron Drake, a collection of animated GIFs of human x-rays, featuring the hand, elbow, shoulder, knee, and ankle. Imagine this, except in motion:

x-ray GIF

Here's how Drake made them. (via bb)

The hyperlapse algorithmAUG 11

Microsoft has developed software to transform shaky time lapse videos into impressively smooth hyperlapse movies. Take a look at a couple of examples.

Read more about the project on the Microsoft Research site.

Help wantedAUG 11

[We're all adults here (or reasonably mature humans anyway) so I rarely feel the need to warn you about what you might be getting yourself into, link-wise, but this article is REALLY disturbing in spots. If you have young children especially, you might want to take a pass on this. -jason]

From Luke Malone on Medium, a story about a support group of pedophiles who haven't and don't want to act on those impulses, You're 16. You're a Pedophile. You Don't Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that most pedophiles first notice an attraction toward children when they themselves are between 11 and 16, mirroring that of any other sexual awakening. It can be a confusing time for any of us, but imagine realizing that you're attracted to little kids. How do these young men and women negotiate that with no viable role models or support network? There is no It Gets Better for pedophiles. Are they all fated to end up as child molesters? Or is it possible for them to live a life without hurting children at all?

You may have heard a version of Malone's story on This American Life earlier this year. Over at The Awl, Choire Sicha talked with Malone about his reporting of the story and how it came about.

People would eventually find out what I was working on, and the questions would come thick and fast: How did you find them? How can you stomach it? Why are you defending pedophiles? It was really telling about a person if they asked that last one. I get it, pedophiles get a bad rap and in many cases rightly so. But I found myself trying to convince people that there are plenty who don't want to act and really want help not acting on their attractions. Which, side bar, would be a big ask of anyone. Imagine if you were told at 16 that you could never have sex in a way that was appealing to you, Okay, thanks, bye! There's obviously a reason for that, but it makes no sense not to help them out. Anyway, most of my friends got it but a few were like, "Okay, but at the end of the day you have to put the kids first." I would reply that talk of preventive therapy was putting both teenage pedophiles, who are essentially kids themselves by the way, and their potential victims first. It's win win. But they'd think about it for a minute and reply, "Yeah, I get it, but we have to put the children first." It was all very Helen Lovejoy.

[DRUGDE SIREN BUT FOR STEAK]AUG 11

According to testing by the folks at America's Test Kitchen, you should not be thawing out your frozen steaks before you cook them. Mind. Blown. Into. Tiny. Pieces. Sweep. Me. Up. Pls.

Conventional wisdom holds that frozen steaks should be thawed before cooking, but we wondered if steaks could be cooked straight from the freezer. Cook's Illustrated Senior Editor Dan Souza explains our cooking experiments.

They also apparently more-or-less deep fry their steak? Is that a thing that we should be doing? (via digg)

JungleAUG 10

This morning's jam is by Jungle.

Enter PyongyangAUG 09

Many videos and photo projects promise a glimpse of life inside North Korea "as you've never seen it", but I believe this video by JT Singh and Rob Whitworth actually delivers the goods. It's one of those 3-minute time lapse portraits of a city that are in vogue, with the North Korean capital Pyongyang as its subject.

Time lapse videos are interesting because they show movement over long periods of time. The Western conception of North Korea is of a place frozen in time, so the time lapse view is highly instructive. (thx, jeff)

Update: Sam Potts, who travelled to Pyongyang and North Korea in 2012 and took these photos, finds this "deeply fake as filmmaking". From his Twitter acct:

Re the time lapse of Pyongyang video, it feels deeply fake as filmmaking, to me. Thus I mistrust it as a document of what real PY is like. You don't see any of the details to that reveal, even in PY, how very poor a country it is. Some of those buses didn't have tail lights. They had blocks of wood painted red to look like tail lights. And the library computers are incredibly poor quality.

Gizmodo's Alissa Walker also noted the propaganda-ish nature of the video. At the very least, the video is a dual reminder of the limitations of time lapse video in showing the whole story and of how manipulative attractively packaged media can be.

Down with Clipboard PeopleAUG 09

In the latest installment of his excellent series Ask A Native New Yorker, Jake Dobkin tackles the question of how to react to those people holding clipboards asking if you have a minute for the environment or gay rights or whatever. The short answer is ignore them with "EXTREME PREJUDICE".

This is because Clipboard People are grifters, who, in the name of various causes (Gay Rights, the Environment), have only a single aim: to get your credit card number authorized for recurring payments to a "charity." In fact, the majority of that money does not go to the charity, but goes to pay the salary of the Clipboarder, and the evil canvas organizations that employ them. Even worse, the Clipboarders are themselves exploited-often young idealists from less vicious places, they are brought to New York on the promise of helping a charity they believe in, only to find out they've been dragooned into a commission-based predatory marketing scheme.

Well, good because that's what I've been doing (for other reasons). Instead, give to an efficient charity listed on Charity Navigator.

Microsoft.com celebrates 20th anniversaryAUG 08

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Microsoft home page, the company has recreated that old page here. More here, including screenshots of subsequent designs.

In terms of "Web design," the notion, much less the phrase, didn't really exist.

"There wasn't much for authoring tools," Ingalls says. "There was this thing called HTML that almost nobody knew." Information that was submitted for the new Microsoft.com website often came to Ingalls via 3-1/2-inch floppy disks.

"Steve Heaney and I put together PERL scripts that handled a lot of these daily publishing duties for us," he says. "For a while, we ran the site like a newspaper, where we published content twice a day. And if you missed the cutoff for the publishing deadline, you didn't get it published until the next running of the presses, or however you want to term it."

Interestingly, Microsoft doesn't seem to know exactly when the page first went live:

Based on the findings, it appears the website was launched during the time between HTML/1.0 (June 1993) and HTML/2.0 (Dec 1994).

I made a brief search of the NCSA What's New Archive, where a web site for Microsoft should have been noted, and found nothing between June 1993 and September 1994. This piece written in 1999 about the beginnings of Microsoft's site says the page launched in April 1994. I searched some early Usenet groups to no avail. Anyone have a more accurate date? (via waxy)

Running the lungs out of your bodyAUG 08

A wonderful interview with Werner Herzog on soccer, his wonderful fatherless upbringing, the nature of reality, and, of course, Mel Brooks.

I told Mel, "Mel, you know what, I have seen an extraordinary film. Something you must see. You must see. It's only at midnight screenings at the Nuart Theater. And it's a film by -- I don't know his name, I think it's Lynch. And he made a film Eraserhead and you must see the film." And Mel keeps grinning and grinning and lets me talk about the movie and he says, "Yes, his name is really David Lynch, do you like to meet him?" I said, "In principle, yes." He says, "Come with me," and two doors down the corridor is David Lynch in pre-production on The Elephant Man! Which Mel Brooks produced! And the bastard sits there and lets me talk and talk and talk and grins and chuckles. And I had no idea [and kept thinking], Why does he chuckle all the time when I talk about the film? But that was how I love Mel Brooks.

Game FinallyendedAUG 07

When Stewart Butterfield's first game company wasn't going all that well, he and his team decided to focus on one of the game's features that enabled players to share images. Before long, Flickr had taken over the web, and in some ways, launched a new era of social media. So Stewart went back to his original passion. And his next game flopped. So he focused on an internal communication tool his team had built to better work on the game. That became a new product called Slack. And Slack could be huge. In Wired, Mat Honan does an excellent job tracing the career of Stewart Butterfield, and in doing so, paints a very accurate portrait of the evolution of the start-up world: The most fascinating profile you'll ever read about a guy and his boring startup.

Syndicated from NextDraft. Subscribe today or grab the iOS app.

The last blockbuster syndromeAUG 07

Using Motorola, Nokia, and Nintendo as examples, Tero Kuittinen explains how dominant tech companies are lulled into "a comfy trip to the grave" by huge but ultimately short-lived successes before new paradigms take over.

For years, Nintendo has believed it could reject smartphone and tablet apps, yet still flourish. The reason for this delusion is familiar -- it's the toxic Last Blockbuster Syndrome that doomed the consumer electronics divisions of Motorola in 2004 and Nokia in 2007. Often at the start of a massive trend shift in consumer electronics, dominant dinosaurs get one massive hit built on a nearly obsolete paradigm, and that allows them to be lulled into a comfy trip to the grave.

The best example from the past few years is when Motorola, Nokia, and RIM were flying high with their phone products when the iPhone came along and changed the game.

StalkedAUG 07

A harrowing piece by novelist Helen DeWitt about being stalked by her neighbor.

E turned up next morning at six because his fire had gone out. I said I had to go for my walk. He went home. When I got back I found a pane of glass on the dresser; there was a gap in its normal home in the side door. E: 'I was cold and you weren't there. But yeah, yeah, I know that was wrong. Don't worry, I'll fix it.'

This was clearly something I could report to the police. It seemed harsh to lock someone up for social cluelessness, but I was spooked. I packed my bags and left for a motel within the hour. Then I found a room on Craigslist that was available until the end of January. I was desperate to finish a book.

E's landlord: 'You're a very attractive woman. He can't help himself. I'm sorry you can't live on your property.'

It's a big leap from 'you know I love her' to baseball bat by the bed. I read the Vermont law on trespass on 28 December 2012 and it appeared to confirm my sense of the social norm. Entering a property when forbidden to do so, or remaining on a property after being asked to leave, carries a maximum sentence of three months and/or a $500 fine. It's not a heavy sentence, but the law is beautifully genderblind: I have the same right to occupy my property undisturbed as my uncle the ex-marine. I believed I could exercise this right and attempted to do so. This was the first step on the slippery slope to the baseball bat.

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