Posters for imagined movie sequelsNOV 14

Iron Giants Poster

I am loving these posters for non-existent movie sequels, but the names might be even better. A sampling:

Fight Club: The 2nd Rule
Bigger Trouble in Little China
Spaceballs III: The Search for Spaceballs II
Titanic 2: Above Zero

Prints are available for all of these. (via @cabel)

Cooking the Alinea cookbookNOV 14

Allen Hemberger cooked his way through one of the most complex cookbooks out there, the Alinea cookbook. Aside from the chefs who work in the kitchen there, Hemberger's probably the only person to have made every single recipe. These recipes aren't easy; look at the last one he prepared...he even struggled to find the correct ingredients.

Should I be disturbed or thankful that I've never been that passionate about anything ever?

Let's Just Say It: Women Matter More Than Fetuses DoNOV 14

In The New Republic, Rebecca Traister says when talking about abortion, the rights of the mother should trump those of the fetus.

To me, abortion belongs to the same category as the early Cesarean I will need to undergo because of previous surgeries. That is to say, it is a crucial medical option, a cornerstone in women's reproductive health care. And during pregnancy, should some medical, economic, or emotional circumstance have caused my fate to be weighed against that of my baby, I believe that my rights, my health, my consciousness, and my obligations to others -- including to my toddler daughter -- outweigh the rights of the unborn human inside me.

(via @mulegirl)

New App FridayNOV 14

Ok, so New App Friday isn't a thing, but it is today! Three apps from pals launched yesterday:

From the crew at Tinybop comes Homes, an app for kids that lets them explore houses from around the world. Their previous apps, Plants and The Human Body, are favorites in our home.

Neven Mrgan and Matt Comi have been working on Space Age for several years and it shows...this game is immaculate. The soundtrack, by Cabel Sasser, is worth a listen on its own.

Wildcard is billed as a better and faster way to use the Web for on your phone. I haven't played with it too much yet, but it seems a lot like RSS for mobile (if that makes any sense). UX was done by Khoi Vinh.

Seeing so many people I know really knocking it out of the iOS park makes me think I should build an app of my own.

The Simpsons and their mathematical secretsNOV 13

Simpsons Math

Acclaimed science and math writer Simon Singh has written a book on the mathematics of The Simpsons, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets. Boing Boing has an excerpt.

The principles of rubber sheet geometry can be extended into three dimensions, which explains the quip that a topologist is someone who cannot tell the difference between a doughnut and a coffee cup. In other words, a coffee cup has just one hole, created by the handle, and a doughnut has just one hole, in its middle. Hence, a coffee cup made of a rubbery clay could be stretched and twisted into the shape of a doughnut. This makes them homeomorphic.

By contrast, a doughnut cannot be transformed into a sphere, because a sphere lacks any holes, and no amount of stretching, squeezing, and twisting can remove the hole that is integral to a doughnut. Indeed, it is a proven mathematical theorem that a doughnut is topologically distinct from a sphere. Nevertheless, Homer's blackboard scribbling seems to achieve the impossible, because the diagrams show the successful transformation of a doughnut into a sphere. How?

Although cutting is forbidden in topology, Homer has decided that nibbling and biting are acceptable. After all, the initial object is a doughnut, so who could resist nibbling? Taking enough nibbles out of the doughnut turns it into a banana shape, which can then be reshaped into a sphere by standard stretching, squeezing, and twisting. Mainstream topologists might not be thrilled to see one of their cherished theorems going up in smoke, but a doughnut and a sphere are identical according to Homer's personal rules of topology. Perhaps the correct term is not homeomorphic, but rather Homermorphic.

The United States of IgnoranceNOV 13

According to a recent survey1 of citizens in 14 countries, the United States ranks second in the amount of ignorance about things like teenage birth rates, unemployment rates, and immigration. Only Italians were more clueless. You can take a version of the test yourself and then view the results (results for the US only). Some of the more notable results:

- Americans guessed that the unemployment rate is 32%, instead of the actual rate of 6%.

- While 1% of the US population identifies as Muslim, Americans guessed 15%. 15!

- 70% of Americans guessed the US murder rate was rising. It has decreased by more than half since 1992.

- Americans guessed that almost 24% of girls aged 15-19 give birth each year. Actually, 3.1%.

Then again, what do Americans hear about constantly on the news? Unemployment, Muslims & immigration, murder, and teen pregnancy. It's little wonder the guesses on those are so high.

  1. As you know, survey results are to be taken with a grain of salt.

The truth about cast ironNOV 13

At Serious Eats, Kenji López-Alt sets the record straight about some misconceptions people have about cast iron pans.

The Theory: Seasoning is a thin layer of oil that coats the inside of your skillet. Soap is designed to remove oil, therefore soap will damage your seasoning.

The Reality: Seasoning is actually not a thin layer of oil, it's a thin layer of polymerized oil, a key distinction. In a properly seasoned cast iron pan, one that has been rubbed with oil and heated repeatedly, the oil has already broken down into a plastic-like substance that has bonded to the surface of the metal. This is what gives well-seasoned cast iron its non-stick properties, and as the material is no longer actually an oil, the surfactants in dish soap should not affect it. Go ahead and soap it up and scrub it out.

I have two cast iron pans, including this skillet I use almost exclusively for making the world's best pancakes. Although, after hearing from Kenji that vintage cast iron pans can be slight better than modern pans, I might seek a replacement on Etsy. See also how to season a cast iron pan.

What book changed your mind?NOV 12

Changing your mind about something significant as an adult can be very difficult. For many, ideas are identity, and the particular set of ideas you currently possess got you where you are today, so why switch it up? The Chronicle Review recently asked a group of scholars which non-fiction book "profoundly altered the way they regard themselves, their work, the world". Law professor William Ian Miller had this to say:

No nonfiction books in the past 30 years have transformed me. Some have taught me things, made me hold their authors in deep respect (Bartlett, Bynum). Some have moved me greatly (some of the better soldier memoirs). But knocked me off my horse on the way to Damascus? Nope.

I am 68; if you had asked me the question about a self-transforming book when I was 19, I would have had to say just about half of the ones I read. You could say these books changed my mind, but my mind was pretty much a tabula rasa when I was in my first year of college. Rather they made my mind.

The Great WarNOV 12

The Great War is a video documentary series on YouTube that covers World War I. The series will air each week over the next four years with each 6-10 minute episode covering a week's worth of the war 100 years after it happened.

What an ambitious project. They're currently up to week 15 of the war, when the Ottoman Empire enters the fray. (via @garymross)

David Foster Wallace's greatest hitsNOV 12

The David Foster Wallace Reader is a collection of Wallace's best, funniest, and most celebrated writing.

Where do you begin with a writer as original and brilliant as David Foster Wallace? Here -- with a carefully considered selection of his extraordinary body of work, chosen by a range of great writers, critics, and those who worked with him most closely. This volume presents his most dazzling, funniest, and most heartbreaking work -- essays like his famous cruise-ship piece, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," excerpts from his novels The Broom of the System, Infinite Jest, and The Pale King, and legendary stories like "The Depressed Person."

Wallace's explorations of morality, self-consciousness, addiction, sports, love, and the many other subjects that occupied him are represented here in both fiction and nonfiction. Collected for the first time are Wallace's first published story, "The View from Planet Trillaphon as Seen In Relation to the Bad Thing" and a selection of his work as a writing instructor, including reading lists, grammar guides, and general guidelines for his students.

If you've somehow been waiting to dig into Wallace's writing but didn't know where to start, this is where you start.

China and US agree to climate change planNOV 12

The US and China, the two largest carbon polluters in the world, have struck an accord on climate change.

As part of the agreement, Mr. Obama announced that the United States would emit 26 percent to 28 percent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005. That is double the pace of reduction it targeted for the period from 2005 to 2020.

China's pledge to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner, is even more remarkable. To reach that goal, Mr. Xi pledged that so-called clean energy sources, like solar power and windmills, would account for 20 percent of China's total energy production by 2030.

Here's the official statement from the White House. The NY Times calls the agreement "ambitious" and a "landmark", but Tyler Cowen says:

People, the China emissions "deal" isn't much more than a press release...

But James Fallows, who has written extensively on China recently, is more positive.

The United States and China have apparently agreed to do what anyone who has thought seriously about climate has been hoping for, for years. As the No. 1 (now China) and No. 2 carbon emitters in the world, and as the No. 1 (still the U.S.) and No. 2 economies, they've agreed to new carbon-reduction targets that are more ambitious than most people would have expected.

Revisiting Stephen GlassNOV 11

In 1998, it was revealed that The New Republic writer Stephen Glass had fabricated many of the stories he had written for the magazine. Sixteen years down the road, Hanna Rosin, a colleague and friend from the New Republic days, writes about confronting and reconnecting with Glass about his lies and betrayal.

Once we knew what he'd done, I tried to call Steve, but he never called back. He just went missing, like the kids on the milk cartons. It was weird. People often ask me if I felt "betrayed," but really I was deeply unsettled, like I'd woken up in the wrong room. I wondered whether Steve had lied to me about personal things, too. I wondered how, even after he'd been caught, he could bring himself to recruit me to defend him, knowing I'd be risking my job to do so. I wondered how I could spend more time with a person during the week than I spent with my husband and not suspect a thing. (And I didn't. It came as a total surprise). And I wondered what else I didn't know about people. Could my brother be a drug addict? Did my best friend actually hate me?

The Knowledge of LondonNOV 11

Great piece about The Knowledge, the collection of geographical information that all London taxi drivers must learn before becoming a cabbie.

The guidebook issued to prospective cabbies by London Taxi and Private Hire (LTPH), which oversees the test, summarizes the task like this:

To achieve the required standard to be licensed as an "All London" taxi driver you will need a thorough knowledge, primarily, of the area within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. You will need to know: all the streets; housing estates; parks and open spaces; government offices and departments; financial and commercial centres; diplomatic premises; town halls; registry offices; hospitals; places of worship; sports stadiums and leisure centres; airline offices; stations; hotels; clubs; theatres; cinemas; museums; art galleries; schools; colleges and universities; police stations and headquarters buildings; civil, criminal and coroner's courts; prisons; and places of interest to tourists. In fact, anywhere a taxi passenger might ask to be taken.

If anything, this description understates the case. The six-mile radius from Charing Cross, the putative center-point of London marked by an equestrian statue of King Charles I, takes in some 25,000 streets. London cabbies need to know all of those streets, and how to drive them -- the direction they run, which are one-way, which are dead ends, where to enter and exit traffic circles, and so on. But cabbies also need to know everything on the streets. Examiners may ask a would-be cabby to identify the location of any restaurant in London. Any pub, any shop, any landmark, no matter how small or obscure -- all are fair game. Test-takers have been asked to name the whereabouts of flower stands, of laundromats, of commemorative plaques. One taxi driver told me that he was asked the location of a statue, just a foot tall, depicting two mice sharing a piece of cheese. It's on the facade of a building in Philpot Lane, on the corner of Eastcheap, not far from London Bridge.

The goal is to install a complete map of London in the brain of every licensed taxi driver. And indeed, according to neuroscientist Eleanor Maguire, the part of the brain responsible for memory becomes physically bigger as The Knowledge is absorbed.

Seeing, for a Knowledge candidate, is everything -- at its heart, the Knowledge is an elaborate exercise in visualization. When McCabe called-over, he closed his eyes and toggled between views: picturing the city at street level, the roads rolling out in front of him as if in a movie, then pulling the camera back to take in the bird's eye perspective, scanning the London map. Knowledge boys speak of a Eureka moment when, after months or years of doggedly assembling the London puzzle, the fuzziness recedes and the city snaps into focus, the great morass of streets suddenly appearing as an intelligible whole. McCabe was startled not just by that macroview, but by the minute details he was able to retain. "I can pull a tiny little art studio just from the color of the door, and where it's got a lamppost outside. Your brain just remembers silly things, you know?"

I could go on and on...I loved this piece. Don't miss the video of a prospective cabbie calling out the route he would use to go from Rotherhithe Station to the Natural History Museum, entirely from memory without looking at a map. Compare with Google's driving directions.

Update: View From the Mirror is a blog written by a London cabbie, which includes his experience training for The Knowledge. (thx, bryan)

We're landing on a cometNOV 11

Comet Landing

A European Space Agency landing craft the size of a washing machine is scheduled to land on a comet tomorrow, November 12, 2014. How cool is that?

Never before has a space mission put a lander on a comet. But the European Space Agency (ESA) plans to change that. Its Rosetta craft has been orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since August and is set to release the washing-machine-sized lander, Philae, on 12 November. This would set in motion a nail-biting seven-hour fall designed to deliver Philae to a landing site called Agilkia on the comet's surface. Philae is programmed to beam data and images back to Earth to help scientists to understand comets, including whether these conglomerations of ice, rock and dust supplied our planet with water and other building blocks of life when they smashed into it billions of years ago.

You can watch the landing live (or here too)...touch down on the comet's surface is scheduled for 11:03 AM EST. Here's a full rundown of the events on landing day. Good luck, Philae!

Update: Randall Munroe of XKCD is live drawing the landing.

Everybody sextsNOV 11

Jenna Wortham talked to a bunch of people about intimate texts they send and concludes that Everybody Sexts.

I think that everybody sexts. Not everyone sends nude photos, of course, for a variety of reasons. But many people I've talked to define a sext as anything sent with sexual intent, be it a suggestive Gchat exchange, a racy photo, a suggestive Snapchat, or even those aqua-blue droplets of sweat emoji.

I asked people I knew -- and many I didn't -- to talk to me about sexts and the stories behind them, the risks, perceived and real, and why they did it, knowing that they could be shared beyond their control. Lastly, I asked them to share a nude that they had sent to someone. And so many people did, without hesitation, or requiring anything in exchange. I was floored by their openness, and the expanse of human emotions and experiences on display. What I discovered, mainly, is that sexting - like anything else done on our phones - was mostly just meant to be fun, for fun, grown folks doing what grown folks do.

NSFW.

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