The 50th LawJUN 23

The 50th Law

Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, which has been influential in both halls of business and hip-hop circles, has written a new book with rapper 50 Cent called The 50th Law. Greene was initially skeptical of 50 Cent as a co-author but was impressed by their initial meeting.

He was in the midst of a power struggle with a rival rapper and he talked quite openly about the strategies he was employing, including mistakes he had made along the way. He analyzed his own actions with detachment, as if he were talking about another person. Over the last few years he had witnessed a lot of nasty maneuvering within the music business, and he seemed to want to discuss this with somebody from the outside. He was not interested in myths but reality. Contrary to his public persona, he had a Zen-like calmness that impressed me.

The main theme of the book is about fear and "the reverse power that you can obtain by overcoming [it]".

We found stories from his own life that would illustrate these ideas, many of them culled from his days as a hustler and even highlighting mistakes along the way that taught him valuable lessons. Later, from my own research, I would bring in examples from other historical figures who exemplified this trait. Many of them would be African Americans--Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Malcolm X, Hurricane Carter, et al--whose fearless quality was forged by their harsh struggles against racism. Others would come from all periods and cultures--the Stoics, Joan of Arc, JFK, Leonardo da Vinci, Mao tse-tung, and so on.

Rare early photographs of PekingNOV 12

Photographer Thomas Child took these images of Peking (now known as Beijing) in the 1870s and 1880s. This is of a Buddhist lama and his student:

Thomas Child

And this one shows travelers on the Silk Road...according to Child, the camels "carry coal and lime into the City from the Western Hills, and merchandise between Peking and Mongolia":

Thomas Child

And this one is the Great Wall:

Thomas Child

Go go gadget cruise shipNOV 12

In 2007, a cruise ship called the Balmoral was brought into the dry docks to be extended. Like, they cut the ship in half and added an entire new section to it, like putting an extra slice of bologna on a sandwich. I totally didn't know this was a thing you could do to a boat. (via @MachinePix)

The million dollar bagNOV 04

A site called SDR Traveller sells ultralight, strong, and discreet bags for traveling to places where such things are necessary. Their most eye-catching item is the 1M Hauly Heist, a bag designed to carry US$1 million in cash that also doubles as a Faraday cage for shielding your electronics from radio frequency tracking.

1m Hauly Heist

From the description on the page for the 1M Hauly (which holds the million bucks without the RF shielding):

In many countries project expenses and payroll for the local crew need to be carried in cash. Whether you're managing a team of thirty working for months at the edge of the grid, or on a solo trip to negotiate a significant cash transaction, the 1M Hauly is designed for discreet, safe carry of up to $1 Million USD in strapped, new or used $100 USD banknotes.

Designed to address the six main issues with carrying significant volume banknotes in field: risk of discovery; risk of damage (especially in high-humidity, monsoon environments); container robustness; carryability; glide; and in-field accounting.

Note that $1 million in $100 bills weights 20.4lbs. The site also sells smaller money pouches (in $10k, $100k, and $400k carrying capacities) as well as a durable duffel. All the bags are made from Cuben Fiber, a material originally used for yacht sails that's four times stronger than Kevlar at only half the weight. (via @craigmod)

The movie that no one will see for 100 yearsNOV 23

Perhaps inspired by the long time scale filmmaking of Richard Linklater's Boyhood, John Malkovich and Robert Rodriguez have teamed up to make a movie that won't be released until 2115. Why? As a promotion for luxury brand Louis XIII Cognac, which is also aged 100 years. According to io9, Louis XIII is sending out 1000 tickets to people whose descendants will be able to see a screening of the film 100 years from now.

I wonder how serious they are about this? To what extent have they futureproofed their media? The io9 piece says the movie is "preserved on film stock" that and an old movie projector sufficient? Have they consulted with MoMA or Danny Hillis?

The Breathing EarthNOV 18

From NASA, an animation of the yearly cycle of the Earth's plant life. The data is taken from satellite measurements (plant density for land and chlorophyll concentration for the ocean) and averaged over several years.

From December to February, during the northern hemisphere winter, plant life in the higher latitudes is minimal and receives little sunlight. However, even in the mid latitudes plants are dormant, shown here with browns and yellows on the land and dark blues in the ocean. By contrast the southern ocean and land masses are at the height of the summer season and plant life is revealed with dark green colors on the land and in the ocean. As the year progresses, the situations reverses, with plant life following the increased sunlight northward, while the southern hemisphere experiences decreased plant activity during its winter.

If you're anything like me, about 2-3 times into the video's cycle, you'll be breathing in tune to the Earth. Oxygen in, carbon dioxide out. Carbon dioxide in, oxygen out. Oxygen in, carbon dioxide out... (via @EricHolthaus)

CRISPR, a cheap and accurate copy/paste for DNANOV 13

Michael Specter has a truly fascinating piece in the New Yorker about CRISPR, a relatively new genetic tool for editing genes that geneticists are very excited about.

With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed the tool to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis. One group has replaced a mutation that causes cataracts; another has destroyed receptors that H.I.V. uses to infiltrate our immune system.

The story has everything: the cheap copy/paste of DNA, easily editable mice, pig Hitler, "destroyer of worlds" overtones, and an incredible tale of science that could actually revolutionize (or ruin, depending on who you talk to) the world. I was shocked at how easy it is to do genetic research nowadays.

Ordering the genetic parts required to tailor DNA isn't as easy as buying a pair of shoes from Zappos, but it seems to be headed in that direction. Yan turned on the computer at his lab station and navigated to an order form for a company called Integrated DNA Technologies, which synthesizes biological parts. "It takes orders online, so if I want a particular sequence I can have it here in a day or two," he said. That is not unusual. Researchers can now order online almost any biological component, including DNA, RNA, and the chemicals necessary to use them. One can buy the parts required to assemble a working version of the polio virus (it's been done) or genes that, when put together properly, can make feces smell like wintergreen. In Cambridge, I.D.T. often makes same-day deliveries. Another organization, Addgene, was established, more than a decade ago, as a nonprofit repository that houses tens of thousands of ready-made sequences, including nearly every guide used to edit genes with CRISPR. When researchers at the Broad, and at many other institutions, create a new guide, they typically donate a copy to Addgene.

And CRISPR in particular has quickened the pace. A scientist studying lung cancer mutations said of her research:

"In the past, this would have taken the field a decade, and would have required a consortium," Platt said. "With CRISPR, it took me four months to do it by myself."

Also recommended: Radiolab's podcast on CRISPR from back in June.

Why isn't it faster flying west?NOV 25

Why isn't it super-fast to fly west in an airplane, given that the Earth is spinning at 700-1000 miles per hour relative to its center? This seems like a sorta-variation on the old airplane on a treadmill question, doesn't it?

The What Hurts podcastNOV 06

My pal-in-syndication Dave Pell of Nextdraft has a podcast with Phil Bronstein called What Hurts. Pell writes in today's newsletter:

On my podcast with Phil Bronstein, we focused on the adrenaline culture -- people and journalists so anxious to publish the answer, they have no time for facts or context. The podcast is getting pretty good: Listen on our site, or subscribe to the podcast in your favorite app: What Hurts: The Need for Speed.

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Noel Gallagher gives no fucksNOV 13

This long interview with former Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher is a goldmine of rock star swagger, a master class in not giving a shit, and the dictionary definition of unfiltered. I mean:

Am I aware of a hierarchy? I'm aware that Radiohead have never had a fucking bad review. I reckon if Thom Yorke fucking shit into a light bulb and started blowing it like an empty beer bottle it'd probably get 9 out of 10 in fucking Mojo. I'm aware of that.

I used to put us at number seven. It went The Beatles, the Stones, the Sex Pistols, The Who, The Kinks... who came in at six? I don't know. We were at seven. The Smiths were in there, The Specials. Where would I put us now? I guess I'd probably put us in the top 10. We weren't as great as the greats but we were the best of the rest. We did more than The Stone Roses could fucking even fathom. We're better than The Verve: couldn't fucking keep it together for more than six months at a time. If all the greats are in the top four, we're in the bottom of the top four, we're kind of constantly fighting for fifth, just missing out. Just missing out on the top four, I'd say.

He just has opinions on everything and everyone and says them on the record:

I fucking hate whingeing rock stars. And I hate pop stars who are just... neh. Just nothing, you know? "Oh, yeah, my last selfie got 47-thousand-million likes on Instagram." Yeah, why don't you go fuck off and get a drug habit, you penis?

This one just made me laugh:

My fragrance? Oh it's coming, it's coming. Toe-Rag it's going to be called. And the bottle's going to be a massive toe.

Ahhhhhhh, I can't stop quoting:

I guaran-fucking-tee you this: The Stone Roses never mentioned "career" in any band meetings. Ever. Or Primal Scream, or The Verve. Oasis certainly never mentioned it. I bet it's mentioned a lot by managers and agents now: "Don't do that, it's bad for your career." "What? Fuck off!" Like when we went to the Brits and we'd won all those awards and we didn't play. The head of the Brits said, "This'll ruin your career." Fucking, wow. I say to the guy, "Do you know how high I am? You know who's going to ruin my career? Me, not you. Bell-end. More Champagne. Fuck off."

Ok, that's enough. Just go read the thing.

rating: 4.5 stars

Inglourious BasterdsDEC 18

This is pretty much the point at which I knew I was going to love Inglourious Basterds:

Inglourious Basterds

Although I can sure see why someone might hate it; the film rode that razor's edge all the way through.

Self-healing concreteOCT 29

A group in Wales is testing concrete that can heal itself. Three different techniques are being pursued:

The first technique uses shape-shifting materials, known as shape-memory polymers, to repair large cracks in concrete. When these materials are heated with a small current, they can transform into a different shape that the material has 'memorised'. The researchers believe that these materials can be embedded into concrete and used to close cracks or make them smaller.

In the second technique, researchers will pump both organic and inorganic healing agents through a network of thin tunnels in the concrete to help repair damage.

In the third technique, the team will embed tiny capsules, or lightweight aggregates, containing both bacteria and healing agents into the concrete. It is anticipated that once cracks occur, these capsules will release their cargos and, in the case of the bacteria, the nutrients that will enable them to function and produce calcium carbonate, which the researchers envisage will heal the cracks in the concrete.

Concrete-patching bacteria. Cool! (via @CharlesCMann)

Trippy, freaky animated GIFs from ZollocOCT 30


Operating under the name of Zolloc, Hayden Zezula makes all sorts of cool, creepy, lovely, trippy animated GIFs. This one is my favorite. (via ignant)

Star Wars characters as Greek statuesNOV 11

Travis Durden

From artist Travis Durden, Greek-style faux-marble sculptures of Star Wars characters. I think the one of General Grievous is my favorite. (via colossal)

P.S. Colossal is on a roll lately. Go look.

Living in a thin moist layer on a small wet rockNOV 03

Here's everything you need to know about the Earth, in a snappy 7-minute video. I am trying very hard not to watch the rest of Kurzgesagt's videos this afternoon, but I did make time for this one on the Big Bang -- key quote: "time itself becomes wibbly wobbly" -- and how evolution works.

Has your cool neighborhood stopped being cool? Or have you?NOV 11

Ada Calhoun, author of St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America's Hippest Street, writes about the ever-changing neighborhoods in NYC.

I think there's more to these "the city is dead now" complaints than money. People have pronounced St. Marks Place dead many times over the past centuries -- when it became poor, and then again when it became rich, and then again when it returned to being poor, and so on. My theory is that the neighborhood hasn't stopped being cool because it's too expensive now; it stops being cool for each generation the second we stop feeling cool there. Any claim to objectivity is clouded by one's former glory.

Are cats domesticated?OCT 27

Some recent science suggests that perhaps cats aren't as domesticated as some other animals like dogs, sheep, or horses.

It appears that, following the advent of agriculture, wildcats in the Near East and Asia likely began to congregate near farms and grain stores, where mice and rats were abundant. People tolerated the volunteer exterminators, and wildcats became increasingly comfortable with people. Whether this affiliation began five or ten millennia ago, the evidence suggests that cats have not been part of our domestic domain for nearly as long as dogs, which have been our companions for perhaps forty thousand years.

After all, true house cats are only 60-ish years old, dating roughly to the invention of kitty litter.

Or, as one of my favorite short talks (by Kevin Slavin) suggests, perhaps it is humans who have been domesticated by a protozoan parasite that lives within cats, which, when transmitted to humans, makes us want to share funny cat GIFs online.

Taking a neural net out for a walkNOV 23

Kyle McDonald hooked a neural network program up to a webcam and had it try to analyze what it was seeing in realtime as he walked around Amsterdam. See also a neural network tries to identify objects in Star Trek:TNG intro. (via @mbostock)

Ed Fairburn's map portraitsNOV 09

Ed Fairburn

Ed Fairburn

Colossal notes that artist Ed Fairburn has produced a bunch of new work (previously). Love these.

A photo of the iceberg that sank the TitanicOCT 28

Did you know that there's an alleged photograph of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic? I did not. This is the sonovabitch right here:

Titanic iceberg

The picture was taken the morning of April 15th, 1912, by M. Linoenewald, Chief Steward of the German liner Prinz Adalbert a few miles south of where the Titanic had gone down taking 1,517 souls with her just hours earlier. The news of the disaster hadn't reached the liner yet, but the Chief Steward noticed red paint on the iceberg and took the photo out of interest.

In a statement by Linoenewald and three other crew members, they said "on one side red paint was plainly visible, which has the appearance of having been made by the scraping of a vessel on the iceberg".

But a photo of another iceberg with a red gash was taken by the captain of a ship searching for bodies in the vicinity a few weeks later. So maybe this is the bastard:

Titanic iceberg

Anyway, ship-sinker or not, a copy of the first photo recently sold at auction for £21000.

How Facebook is Stealing Billions of ViewsNOV 10

Kurzgesagt's newest video is about all the stolen video content on Facebook and the social network's continued indifference to and profit from content creators, particularly small and independent creators.

Facebook just announced 8 billion video views per day. This number is made out of lies, cheating and worst of all: theft. All of this is wildly known but the media giant Facebook is pretending everything is fine, while damaging independent creators in the process. How does this work?

Hank Green wrote an essay in August called Theft, Lies, and Facebook Video.

According to a recent report from Ogilvy and Tubular Labs, of the 1000 most popular Facebook videos of Q1 2015, 725 were stolen re-uploads. Just these 725 "freebooted" videos were responsible for around 17 BILLION views last quarter. This is not insignificant, it's the vast majority of Facebook's high volume traffic. And no wonder, when embedding a YouTube video on your company's Facebook page is a sure way to see it die a sudden death, we shouldn't be surprised when they rip it off YouTube and upload it natively. Facebook's algorithms encourage this theft.

What is Facebook doing about it?

They'll take the video down a couple days after you let them know. Y'know, once it's received 99.9% of the views it will ever receive.

A final test of relativityNOV 27

A European Space Agency probe will be launched into space early next month to help test the last major prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity: the existence of gravitational waves.

Gravitational waves are thought to be hurled across space when stars start throwing their weight around, for example, when they collapse into black holes or when pairs of super-dense neutron stars start to spin closer and closer to each other. These processes put massive strains on the fabric of space-time, pushing and stretching it so that ripples of gravitational energy radiate across the universe. These are gravitational waves.

The Lisa Pathfinder probe won't measure gravitational waves directly, but will test equipment that will be used for the final detector.

LISA Pathfinder will pave the way for future missions by testing in flight the very concept of gravitational wave detection: it will put two test masses in a near-perfect gravitational free-fall and control and measure their motion with unprecedented accuracy. LISA Pathfinder will use the latest technology to minimise the extra forces on the test masses, and to take measurements. The inertial sensors, the laser metrology system, the drag-free control system and an ultra-precise micro-propulsion system make this a highly unusual mission.

(via @daveg)

True religionNOV 10

Tyler Cowen on Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson and our selective preference for some religious beliefs over others.

Loyal MR readers will know that I am myself a non-believer. But what I find strangest of all is not Ben Carson's pyramids beliefs, but rather the notion that we should selectively pick on some religious claims rather than others. The notion that it is fine to believe something about a deity or deities, or a divine book, as long as you do not take that said belief very seriously and treat it only as a social affiliation or an ornamental badge of honor.

To the non-believer, the Scientologist's belief in thetans and the vengeful sky god of Christianity are both equally implausible.

America's exceptional exclusionismNOV 17

There is much to say about the recent events in Syria, Beirut, and Paris, but, closer to home the news, that more than half of the governors of US states say they would refuse to help Syrian refugees seems like a new low in good old fashioned American xenophobia and stupidity.

By late Monday, states refusing Syrian refugees included Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

As @drwave put it, "what a bunch of assholes". In linking to this piece, The Islamic State wants you to hate refugees, Dave Pell from NextDraft notes:

From everything I've read, taking a strong anti-refugee position is closer to collaborating with ISIS than standing up to it.

Having your racist aunt call for closing our doors to innocent people fleeing terrorism and death on her Facebook page is one thing, but to see dozens of elected officials and Presidential candidates calling openly and proudly for it, I just don't know what to say. I was going to say that it's unprecedented, but this sort of thing is deeply embedded into the fabric of America, from slavery to the Jim Crow laws to our treatment of Native Americans to the Japanese internment camps during WWII. Have we learned nothing?

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Mark Twain's "new fangled writing machine"OCT 29

Mark Twain Typewriter

From the still-excellent Letters of Note, a scan of Mark Twain's first correspondence typed on the Remington typewriter he bought in 1874. The note, written to his brother, expressed Twain's hope that the machine would allow him to write more quickly in the near future.

I love that the first line is just a bunch of gibberish -- "BJUYT KIOP N LKJHGFDSA:QWERTYUIOP:_-98VX5432QW RT". Twain (or his two-year-old daughter Susie) likely was just testing out the keys and instead of wasting the paper, started his correspondence below.

In a dictation taken in 1904, Twain recalled seeing and then buying the typewriter.

Nasby and I saw the machine through a window, and went in to look at it. The salesman explained it to us, showed us samples of its work, and said it could do fifty-seven words a minute -- a statement which we frankly confessed that we did not believe. So he put his type-girl to work, and we timed her by the watch. She actually did the fifty-seven in sixty seconds. We were partly convinced, but said it probably couldn't happen again. But it did. We timed the girl over and over again -- with the same result always: she won out. She did her work on narrow slips of paper, and we pocketed them as fast as she turned them out, to show as curiosities. The price of the machine was $125. I bought one, and we went away very much excited.

At the hotel we got out our slips and were a little disappointed to find that they all contained the same words. The girl had economized time and labor by using a formula which she knew by heart. However, we argued -- safely enough -- that the first type-girl must naturally take rank with the first billiard-player: neither of them could be expected to get out of the game any more than a third or a half of what was in it. If the machine survived -- if it survived -- experts would come to the front, by-and-by, who would double this girl's output without a doubt. They would do a hundred words a minute -- my talking-speed on the platform. That score has long ago been beaten.

Update: In the letter, Twain states he paid $125 for the typewriter, which, according to this inflation calculator, is about $2600 in 2014 dollars, or a couple hundred dollars more than the starting price of the 27-inch 5K iMac. I would love to see the first letter written by Twain on one of those. (via @spsheridan)

Prime-time soap operas are backOCT 30

Goodbye anti-heros, hello soap operas. Margaret Lyons writes about the increasing popularity of prime-time soap operas like Scandal, Empire, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, and House of Cards.

Game of Thrones' Outstanding Drama win at the Emmys this year indicates a new era of perceived legitimacy for its genre, and I'm not talking about fantasy: GOT completely operates as a soap. All the scheming and vindictiveness would be perfectly at home on Melrose Place; the disguises, acceptance of the paranormal, and the absence and reemergence of obscure characters can all be found on Passions. (Cersei Lannister and Alexis Carrington would have plenty to talk about.) Soap is not a dirty word, and shows like GOT are helping reposition soapiness as a desirable attribute, not a vice.

I've had this theory for awhile that for fans of dramas, all but the very best are indistinguishable from soap operas by season three. As a viewer, you get so caught up in the "what's gonna happen", you stop caring so much about how it's happening, if the show is even any good, or what higher-level themes the producers might be expressing. And the show's producers feel the need to top themselves with each season, and so the stakes get higher, the plot gets more implausible, the characters get bigger, and themes are increasingly marginalized. This happened, in varying degrees, with Lost, Homeland, Six Feet Under, Boardwalk Empire, Girls, and House of Cards. Even Mad Men and Breaking Bad veered in and out of soap opera territory, but the shows were so good that they never completely went there. And let's not even talk about season 5 of The Wire.

A 5-minute history of the war in Syria and the rise of ISISNOV 17

From Vox, a quick video summary of the war in Syria and the rise of ISIS.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which has claimed responsibility for Friday's terror attacks in Paris, has its origins in Iraq, but the group as we know it today is in many ways a product of Syria's civil war. That war is much bigger than ISIS, but it is crucial for understanding so much that has happened in the past year, from terror attacks to the refugee crisis. And to understand the war, you need to understand how it began and how it unfolded.

See also Syria's civil war: a brief history.

rating: 4.5 stars

Annie HallFEB 09

A young-ish Christopher Walken appears in Annie Hall but his name is misspelled in the credits as "Christopher Wlaken". Were this 1990, I might have invented a eastern European backstory for Wlaken, who, perhaps, Americanized his name sometime after appearing in the film. But as we live in the future, a cool hunk of glass and metal from my pocket told me -- before the credits even finished rolling -- that the actor was born Ronald Walken in Astoria, Queens.

The future isn't any fun sometimes.

Cool atmospheric phenomenon: fallstreak holeNOV 09

fallstreak hole

This is one of the freakiest atmospheric happenings I have ever seen: a fallstreak hole from Victoria, Aus.

It is believed that the introduction of large numbers of tiny ice crystals into the cloud layer sets off this domino effect of evaporation which creates the hole. The ice crystals can be formed by passing aircraft which often have a large reduction in pressure behind the wing- or propeller-tips. This cools the air very quickly, and can produce a ribbon of ice crystals trailing in the aircraft's wake. These ice crystals find themselves surrounded by droplets, grow quickly by the Bergeron process, causing the droplets to evaporate and creating a hole with brush-like streaks of ice crystals below it.

More photos of this particular hole can be found here.

A comparison of movie posters and the scenes that inspired themOCT 27

From Candice Drouet, a short video with side-by-side comparisons of scenes from movies and the movie posters inspired by them.

The secret to Zara's successNOV 09

A quick but fascinating look at the fast fashion retailer Zara.

Fashion used to be sold in four seasons. Zara wants you to buy for one-hundred-and-four. New clothes arrive in every store twice a week -- days known by fans as "Z Days" -- and fuel the need to turn over your wardrobe.

The brand's global distribution centre, also in Spain, moves 2.5 million items per week. Nothing remains warehoused longer than 72 hours.

The integration and feedback incorporated into their system is impressive. The knockoffs, not so much. Lots of parallels to Facebook here, not the least of which is both companies' founders are among the richest people in the world.

Adele's isolated vocals from SNLNOV 23

At the risk of turning this into an Adele fan site, here are the isolated vocals for her performance of "Hello" for Saturday Night Live. They are raw and flawless and real and everything pop music isn't these days.

Update: That YouTube video got yanked, but I found the vocals on Soundcloud. We'll see how long that'll last.

Update: Welp, that lasted about 10 minutes. Digg has embedded their own video. How fast will that one disappear?

Noma: My Perfect StormNOV 20

Noma: My Perfect Storm is a feature-length documentary about chef René Redzepi and his Copenhagen restaurant Noma, which is currently ranked #3 in the world.

How did Redzepi manage to revolutionize the entire world of gastronomy, inventing the alphabet and vocabulary that would infuse newfound pedigree to Nordic cuisine and establish a new edible world while radically changing the image of the modern chef? His story has the feel of a classic fairy tale: the ugly duckling transformed into a majestic swan, who now reigns over the realm of modern gourmet cuisine.

The film is out Dec 18 in theaters, on Amazon, iTunes, etc.

Don't sneakNOV 20

Charles Haggerty is a promising candidate for the best and most chill dad of all time. In the late 1950s, in a much less progressive era, he had a talk with his son, who would come to realize later in life that he (the son) was gay, about the responsibility you have to your true self.

Don't sneak. Because if you sneak like you did today, it means you think you doing the wrong thing. And if you run around spending your whole life thinking that you're doing the wrong thing, then you'll ruin your immortal soul.

Reader, I don't often say things like "that stopped me dead in my tracks" because life doesn't work like that most of the time, but that last bit, about ruining your soul, did just that. A fantastic reminder of to thine own self be true. (via cup of jo)

Brilliant visualization of the Pythagorean TheoremOCT 26

Everyone knows that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. What this video presupposes is, fuck yeah math!

The Final Four of EverythingAPR 28

The Final Four of Everything

In a post on his great blog, The Year in Pictures, James Danziger discusses some of the photography featured in a forthcoming book, The Final Four of Everything, including Danziger's own selections for Iconic American Photographs. The Final Four of Everything seems to be a sequel of sorts to The Enlightened Bracketologist by the same authors...or perhaps just the same book with a much better title.

Later That Same LifeNOV 10

In 1977, when Stoney Emshwiller was 18 years old, he recorded himself interviewing his older self. This year, Emshwiller sat down to answer those questions. The result is wonderful. He's raising funds to turn the interview into a longer film which he describes as "My Dinner with Andre but with a touch of Birdman". (via bb)

Update: I had forgotten this link from 3 years ago where 12 year old Jeremiah McDonald from 1992 interviews 32 year old Jeremiah McDonald. (thx, robert)

Conversations with and photos of everyday North KoreansNOV 11

North Korea

North Korea

Harvard graduate student Christopher Carothers recently travelled to North Korea and, because he was an American white man who spoke Korean, he was able to talk with some everyday North Koreans. The conversations he had make for fascinating reading.

Our tour group visited a local high school in a city north of Pyongyang. The students were disappointed when none of us could name three female North Korean heroes from their revolutionary history.

I didn't mind their patriotism, and their curiosity was refreshing. But when asked how I liked Pyongyang, what could I say? Usually I just said polite things and was rewarded with beaming faces. But was I being fair to these young adults? Doesn't intercultural exchange require some basic honesty? I told Jong Ho that I liked Korean people and appreciated how clean and grand their capital was.

"However," I went on gingerly, "I have to admit that Pyongyang is a poor city and out of touch with the modern age. Even a poor provincial capital in China wouldn't be envious."

He took this in for a minute and looked thoughtful.

"It's okay," he said with a smile, "I'm very glad to meet you."

Carothers chatted with his tour guide about politics:

"Who will be the next leader of America?" she asked. I explained about our two parties and gave her my best guess.

"But even if the party switches from Democratic to what are they called, Republicans, relations with Korea are always so tense. Why? Why does a big country like America continue to provoke a small country like Korea? No one wants war. We always say we are ready for war, but no one wants war. I don't understand politics."

"What American provocations do you mean?" I asked, curious. "Didn't the Great Marshal Kim Jong Un threaten to turn Seoul into a sea of flames?"

"Well, he's responding to American military exercises. Always with the military exercises with the South."

"I think, uh, many countries do military exercises," I tried to explain. "Some are defensive. Honestly, many Asian countries including South Korea are concerned about China's growth and the North getting nuclear weapons and so have asked to work with the U.S."

"The U.S. has many nuclear weapons. Isn't it ... hypocritical?"

"Maybe. But should a country that can't provide electricity properly in its capital really have nuclear weapons?"

"I see," she said quietly.

The whole thing is well worth a read. Some of the photos accompanying the article were taken by Christian Petersen-Clausen, who also recently visited North Korea as a tourist. (The photos at the top of this post were taken by Petersen-Clausen as well.) Keegan Hamilton interviewed him about his photos at Vice.

He said one surprise from the trip was that many North Koreans seemed "pretty damn aware" of life in the outside world. He saw people in Pyongyang using smartphones, which are connected to the country's propaganda-filled "intranet" and blocked from calling foreign countries, but says he was told it was relatively easy for people to procure Chinese or South Korean SIM cards. Foreign media, smuggled into the country on USB sticks, was also reportedly common.

"They watch Chinese and South Korean soap operas, they see the cars, the fashion, everything," he said. "It's basically rubbed in their faces how poor they are, while at the same time they can't talk about that."

Transforming cities with paper cutoutsOCT 27

Rich Mccor 01

Rich Mccor 02

Rich McCor's photography features paper cutouts added to real-life scenes. The Lego Arc de Triomphe made me almost squeal with glee when I saw it this morning. Reminds me of Christoph Niemann's stuff.

Massive data analysis of NYC taxi and Uber dataNOV 18

Todd Schneider used a couple publicly available data sets (NYC taxis, Uber) to explore various aspects of how New Yorkers move about the city. Some of the findings include the rise of Uber:

Let's add Uber into the mix. I live in Brooklyn, and although I sometimes take taxis, an anecdotal review of my credit card statements suggests that I take about four times as many Ubers as I do taxis. It turns out I'm not alone: between June 2014 and June 2015, the number of Uber pickups in Brooklyn grew by 525%! As of June 2015, the most recent data available when I wrote this, Uber accounts for more than twice as many pickups in Brooklyn compared to yellow taxis, and is rapidly approaching the popularity of green taxis.

...the plausibility of Die Hard III's taxi ride to stop a subway bombing:

In Die Hard: With a Vengeance, John McClane (Willis) and Zeus Carver (Jackson) have to make it from 72nd and Broadway to the Wall Street 2/3 subway station during morning rush hour in less than 30 minutes, or else a bomb will go off. They commandeer a taxi, drive it frantically through Central Park, tailgate an ambulance, and just barely make it in time (of course the bomb goes off anyway...). Thanks to the TLC's publicly available data, we can finally address audience concerns about the realism of this sequence.

...where "bridge and tunnel" folks go for fun in Manhattan:

The most popular destinations for B&T trips are in Murray Hill, the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and Midtown.

...the growth of north Williamsburg nightlife:

Taxi Uber Data

...the privacy implications of releasing taxi data publicly:

For example, I don't know who owns one of theses beautiful oceanfront homes on East Hampton's exclusive Further Lane (exact address redacted to protect the innocent). But I do know the exact Brooklyn Heights location and time from which someone (not necessarily the owner) hailed a cab, rode 106.6 miles, and paid a $400 fare with a credit card, including a $110.50 tip.

as well as average travel times to the city's airports, where investment bankers live, and how many people pay with cash vs. credit cards. Read the whole thing and if you want to play around with the data yourself, Schneider posted all of his scripts and knowhow on Github.

Thermonuclear ArtNOV 03

In a nod to our nation's recreational drug users, NASA has created this 30-minute ultra high-resolution look at our Sun, assembled from thousands of photographs taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which snaps a 16-megapixel image of the Sun every few seconds. Duuuuuuuude...

11 years of Saturn photos from the Cassini probeNOV 20

The Cassini probe, launched from Earth in 1997 (six months before I started publishing, has been taking photos of Saturn and its moons for 11 years now. The Wall Street Journal has a great feature that shows exactly what the probe has been looking at all that time. (Note: the video above features flashing images, so beware if that sort of thing is harmful to you.)

rating: 1.0 stars

Room 237SEP 25

John Gruber's tweet last night reminded me I'd never written up a review for Room 237, the documentary about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Gruber writes:

Broke down and watched "Room 237". It was bad. Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people.

Just watch "The Shining" again instead.

I agree. I watched it earlier this year and disliked the film so much, I didn't even finish it, which is rare for me. As I hinted at on Twitter, I'm exposed to enough anti-vaccine, anti-evolution, anti-anthropogenic climate change, anti-science, and religious fundamentalist "theories" in my day-to-day reading that are genuinely harmful to humanity that an examination of how the minds of conspiracy theory crackpots take the smallest little details and weave them into fantastical stories that make no sense is not how I want to spend my time.

As if to underscore my dislike of the film, the following arrived in my inbox shortly after I watched it.

To: Jason Kottke <>
Prospective Story: Re: Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"

i'm not good at salesmanship so i'll get right to the point. i've solved the mystery of room 237 in stanley kubrick's 'the shining' i'm shopping this information to various media sources. here's the deal:

*** the price is $13,000.00

*** i'm aware of the documentaries, the scholarly analyses and the terrabytes of web space dedicated to the topic

*** nobody has gottten it right

*** i guarantee satisfaction

*** there's no risk. either you think the solution to the greatest cinematic mystery of all time is worth 13k or you don't. all i require beforehand is a conditional agreement protecting me from ip theft

*** i remain anonymous. once the transaction is complete the information is yours. i don't care who receives credit or what you do with it

it's been over 30 years. this information should be public. YOU can be the first.

i look forward to your response

Putting on my tin foil hat for a minute, DONT YOU SHEEPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS? That someone is watching what I'm watching! How did this person know I had just watched Room 237?! I bet it's the NSA! Or something! They are watching for people with large audiences to plant lies about Kubrick to deflect attention away from the faked Moon landing! For some reason! THIS IS THE PROOF WEVE BEEN WAITING FOR!??

Yep: "Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people."

Bezos' rocket achieves controlled landing back on EarthNOV 24

A rocket built by Blue Origin, an aerospace company backed by Jeff Bezos, recently reached space and executed a controlled landing back on Earth, which allows it to be used again. Bezos himself joined Twitter1 this morning to announce the news. Elon Musk, whose SpaceX company has been trying (and failing) to do something similar lately, congratulated Bezos and his team on Twitter2 but also threw a little shade on BO's efforts to reach "space" vs. SpaceX's efforts to reach "orbit".

It is, however, important to clear up the difference between "space" and "orbit", as described well by Getting to space needs ~Mach 3, but GTO orbit requires ~Mach 30. The energy needed is the square, i.e. 9 units for space and 900 for orbit.

Welcome to Twitter, Jeff.

  1. I like his bio: "Amazon, Blue Origin, Washington Post".

  2. Musk's bio reads: "Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity & PayPal". Oh, these boys and their toys.

Forecasting awesome sunsetsNOV 24


A team of three Pennsylvania meteorologists is now providing a coast-to-coast sunset quality forecast.

The team behind SunsetWx has already published a thorough methodology of its algorithm and a case study of successfully predicted "vivid" sunsets its first day of forecasting last week. Basically, the model blends high-resolution forecasts of humidity, pressure changes, and clouds at various levels of the atmosphere, weighting wispy upper-level clouds the strongest and penalizing for thick, low-level clouds or average clear sky evenings.

They totally called Sunday's bonkers NYC sunset, so maybe they're worth a follow. Sunset photo by @AirlineFlyer.

Thomas Edison's last breathNOV 13

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were great friends. When Edison died, arrangements were made for a test tube containing his last breath to be delivered to Ford. The test tube now resides in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.

How do you pick the 50 best restaurants in the world?NOV 05

From the New Yorker Food Issue,1Lauren Collins examines how the World's 50 Best Restaurants list comes together. I haven't eaten at any of these sorts of restaurants in years (for a lot of reasons), and this bit gets to part of the reason why:

The restaurants in the upper reaches of the list tend to fall into a certain mode. They are all the same place, Giles Coren once conjectured in the London Times, "only the face changes, like Doctor Who." Just as there is Oscar bait, there is 50 Best bait. "It's opening up in Beijing," David Chang said, imagining the archetypal 50 Best restaurant. "It's a Chinese restaurant by a guy who worked for Adrià, Redzepi, and Keller. He cooks over fire. Everything is a story of his terroir. He has his own farm and hand-dives for his own sea urchins." Hearing about 50 Best winners, and having eaten at a few of them, I started to think of them as icebreaker restaurants -- places that create moments, that give you prompts. This can be exhilarating, or it can be infantilizing. It is the dining experience as Cards Against Humanity.

  1. Not to be confused with the NY Times' Food Issue, which was out this past weekend.

Chi-raq trailerNOV 03

Have you noticed that non-mainstream films are increasingly being produced/financed/released through Amazon, HBO, and Netflix and not the big studios? The latest example is Spike Lee's new joint, Chi-raq. Set among the gang violence in modern-day Chicago, the film is an adaptation of an ancient Greek play by Aristophanes called Lysistrata.

Originally performed in classical Athens in 411 BC, it is a comic account of one woman's extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata persuades the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace -- a strategy, however, that inflames the battle between the sexes. The play is notable for being an early exposé of sexual relations in a male-dominated society.

Even with all the big names attached -- Lee, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson, Wesley Snipes, John Cusack -- I wonder if a movie with a predominantly African-American cast, strong women characters, and based on an Aristophanes play would get greenlit at a major studio these days.

This Bridge Will Not Be GrayOCT 30

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

From Dave Eggers and Tucker Nichols comes This Bridge Will Not Be Gray (at Amazon), a children's book about how the Golden Gate Bridge came to be painted orange.

In this book, fellow bridge-lovers Dave Eggers and Tucker Nichols tell the story of how it happened -- how a bridge that some people wanted to be red and white, and some people wanted to be yellow and black, and most people wanted simply to be gray, instead became, thanks to the vision and stick-to-itiveness of a few peculiar architects, one of the most memorable man-made objects ever created.

The kids and I sat down with the book last week and they loved it. The pages on the design of the bridge prompted a discussion about Art Deco, with detours to Google Images to look at photos of the bridge,1 The Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building. The next day, on the walk to school, we strolled past the Walker Tower, a 1929 building designed by Ralph Thomas Walker, one of the foremost architects of the 20th century. We were running a little early, so I stopped and asked the kids to take a look and think about what the building reminded them of. "Art Deco" came the reply almost immediately.

I'm really gonna miss reading to my kids -- Ollie mostly reads by himself now and Minna is getting close -- but I hope that we're able to keep exploring the world through books together. NYC is a tough place to live sometimes, but being able to read about something in a book, even about a bridge in far-away San Francisco, and then go outside the next day to observe a prime example of what we were just reading is such a unique and wonderful experience.

  1. We also looked at several photos of the bridge under construction, including this one of a construction worker standing on some wires near one of the towers without much separating him and the water below. I've heard about this gentlemen from the kids several times since. Like, "remember that guy standing on the wires when the Golden Gate Bridge was being built? I bet he isn't scared of spiders."

Trailer for Charlie Kaufman's AnomalisaNOV 03

Seven years after his directorial debut with the fantastic Synecdoche, New York comes Charlie Kaufman's second movie as a director, a stop-motion animated film called Anomalisa. The film successfully raised funds on Kickstarter and will be out in select theaters in December.

Let's get rid of the pennyNOV 24

This week on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver rails against the penny. This seems like such an obvious thing, that we should stop using pennies, but I bet if the government ever moved to ban pennies, it would set off a firestorm of protest.

Adele shows up to Adele impersonator contest in disguiseNOV 21

This is all sorts of charming. BBC held an Adele impersonator contest and arranged for Adele to compete in disguise as a woman named Jenny. I love the looks on the women's faces when they realize what's going on.

See also Jewel's undercover karaoke and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis surprising a bus full of passengers with a performance.

Stop faking food allergiesOCT 28

But for the love of Julia Child and the sake of every other soul in the restaurant, particularly the underpaid line cooks sweating their way through another Saturday night shift, please, please stop describing your food preferences as an allergy.

Neil Swidey on why food allergy fakers need to stop.

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The undefeated SouthNOV 04

In the New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann writes about "the Southernization of American politics". In 1865, the United States won the Civil War against the South, but the current US has been significantly shaped by the ideals, politics, and values of the South.

In order to become the richest and most powerful country in the world, the United States had to include the South, and its inclusion has always come at a price. The Constitution (with its three-fifths compromise and others) awkwardly registered the contradiction between its democratic rhetoric and the foundational presence of slavery in the thirteen original states. The 1803 Louisiana Purchase-by which the U.S. acquired more slaveholding territory in the name of national expansion-set off the dynamic that led to the Civil War. The United States has declined every opportunity to let the South go its own way; in return, the South has effectively awarded itself a big say in the nation's affairs.

(via @jimray)

Man records entire Vegas vacation with his GoPro pointed the wrong wayNOV 18

Evan Griffin let his dad use his GoPro camera on his vacation to Las Vegas, but Papa Griffin didn't know which end was which, so he shot the entire trip with the camera pointed at himself. A video selfie tour of Vegas. Hilarious.

ProtopiperNOV 06

The Protopiper is a hand-held fabrication device that turns tape into hollow tubes for prototyping large objects at 1:1 scale like cabinets, couches, microwaves, or whatever else you wish.

The key idea behind the device is that it forms adhesive tape into tubes as its main building material, rather than extruded plastic or photo-polymer lines. Since the resulting tubes are hollow they offer excellent strength-to-weight ratio, and thus scale well to large structures.

Love's like a low-tech 3D printer. (via prosthetic knowledge)

Only two people born in the 1800s are still alive todayNOV 17

The two oldest living people in the world, American Susannah Mushatt Jones and Italian Emma Morano-Martinuzzi, were both born in 1899, making them the last living human links to the 1800s. The USA Today profiled both women back in June. Here are the oldest people in the world right now:

Susannah Mushatt Jones; 6 July 1899; 116 years, 134 days
Emma Morano-Martinuzzi; 29 November 1899; 115 years, 353 days
Violet Brown; 10 March 1900; 115 years, 252 days
Nabi Tajima; 4 August 1900; 115 years, 105 days
Kiyoko Ishiguro; 4 March 1901; 114 years, 258 days

Since it includes the entire year of 1900, the 19th century has four total survivors. A couple more years and our living connection to that era will be gone.

The origin storyOCT 30

From 1996, a Wired article by Josh Quittner about Suck, Carl Steadman and Joey Anuff's now-legendary website.

Who at HotWired noticed the look of dread and tension on the faces of Carl and Joey when Suck secretly launched like a torpedo on August 28, 1995? Carl tied his desktop machine at HotWired into his server, which was hidden in plain sight among the array of hardware, so he could watch as people logged in to Suck that first day. This is the coldly accurate terror of the new medium: Carl could tell at any second not only how many people were logged in to his server, but in some cases, who they were.

On that first day, a hundred people found Suck -- not a bad turnout considering the Boys told only their friends. Naturally, their friends told their friends, and good news travels like a sweet breeze across the Web.

This was critical since Carl had set some ambitious goals: he wanted 1,000 hits by the end of the week, he wanted to be more successful than any HotWired channel by the end of two months, and he wanted to be the Cool Site of the Day within three months.

Suck made each benchmark.

Some notes: 1) Suck was one of the handful of sites that inspired me to start publishing online. Thank you, Carl & Joey. 2) I loved the site so much that I build a parody of it called Sock. They linked to it soon after it went up and I DIED. Can't link to it because 0sil8, my site from that era, isn't online right now. 3) I applied for an internship at Hotwired in early 1996. Never heard back. What an alternate timeline that would have been. 4) Reading this made me sad. I love the Web so much, like more than is probably sane and healthy for a non-human entity, but nearly every other good thing in my life has happened because of it. And that Web is going quickly, if not already gone. All good things... and all that, but it still fucking wrecks me.

This machine automagically turns trees into logsNOV 16

This, friends, is the Eco Log 590D, which cuts down trees and turns them into logs with the quiet efficiency of Homer Simpson eating donuts.

While the Eco Log 590D is terrifying in its methodical nature, for true tree-killing malevolence, there's still no beating the DAH Forestry Mulcher. I mean, when Skynet finally goes online, forget the almost-cuddly-in-comparison Terminator...if the machines truly want to wipe all organic matter from the Earth, they'll probably build a bunch of nihilist robotic People Mulchers. (via digg)

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