Auto-widened Seinfeld and The SimpsonsMAY 06

Artist JK Keller has digitally widened1 episodes of The Simpsons and Seinfeld to fit a 16:9 HD aspect ratio. Watching the altered scenes is trippy...the characters and their surroundings randomly expand and contract as the scenes play out.

Keller also HD-ified an episode of the X-Files and slimmed an old episode of Star Trek into a vertical aspect ratio. (via @frank_chimero)

  1. At least I think that's how they were created. The videos were posted without explanation -- aside from their titles "LEaKeD TesT footagE frOM seiNfelD RemaSter In hiGh-defiNiTiON" and "animAtORs rEdraw old SimPsons epIsodeS fOr hdTv" -- so it's hard to say for sure.

Thing ExplainerMAY 13

Thing Explainer

Randall Munroe of xkcd is coming out with a new book called Thing Explainer.

Inspired by his popular comic, "Up Goer Five," THING EXPLAINER is a series of brilliantly -- and simply -- annotated blueprints that explain everything from ballpoint pens to the solar system using line drawings and only the thousand most common English words.

So awesome. I love everything about this. Here's a look at part of one of the blueprints, the Curiosity rover, aka Space Car for the Red World:

Thing Explainer Drawing

Asking "who's the customer?"MAY 07

If you've bought a ticket to an event in the past, oh, 15-20 years, chances are you got it from Ticketmaster. Chances are also pretty good that you think Ticketmaster completely sucks, mostly because of the unavoidable and exorbitant convenience fee they charge. And that probably has you wondering: if everyone who uses the service hates Ticketmaster so much, how are they still in business? Because ticket buyers are not Ticketmaster's customers. Artists and venues are Ticketmaster's real customers and they provide plenty of value to them.

Ticketmaster sells more tickets than anybody else and they're the biggest company in the ticket selling game. That gives them certain financial resources that smaller companies don't have. TM has used this to their advantage by moving the industry toward very aggressive ticketing deals between ticketing companies and their venue clients. This comes in the form of giving more of the service charge per ticket back to the venue (rebates), and in cash to the venue in the form of a signing bonus or advance against future rebates. Venues are businesses too and, thus, they like "free" money in general (signing bonuses), as well as money now (advances) versus the same money later (rebates).

Read that whole Quora answer again...there's nothing in there about TM being helpful for ticket buyers. It turns out asking "who's the customer?" is a great way of thinking about when certain companies or industries do things that aren't aligned with good customer service or user experience.1

Take Apple and Google for instance. Apple sells software and hardware directly to people; that's where the majority of their revenue comes from. Apple's customers are the people who use Apple products. Google gets most of their revenue from putting advertising into the products & services they provide. The people who use Google's products and services are not Google's customers, the advertisers are Google's customers. Google does a better job than Ticketmaster at providing a good user experience, but the dissonance that results between who's paying and who's using gets the company in trouble sometimes. See also Facebook and Twitter, among many others.

Newspapers, magazines, and television networks have dealt with this same issue for decades now.2 They derive large portions of their revenue from advertisers and, in the case of the TV networks, from the cable companies who pay to carry their channels. That results in all sorts of user hostile behavior, from hiding a magazine's table of contents in 20 pages of ads to shrieking online advertising to commercials that are louder than the shows to clunky product placement to trimming scenes from syndicated shows to cram in more commercials. From ABC to Vogue to the New York Times, you're not the customer and it shows.

This might be off-topic (or else the best example of all), but "who's the customer?" got me thinking about who the customers of large public corporations really are: shareholders and potential shareholders. The accepted wisdom of maximizing shareholder value has become an almost moral imperative for large corporations. The needs of their customers, employees, the environment, and the communities in which they're located often take a backseat to keeping happy the big investment banks, mutual funds, and hedge funds who buy their stock. When providing good customer service and experience is viewed by companies as opposite to maximizing shareholder value, that's a big problem for consumers.

Update: I somehow neglected to include the pithy business saying "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product", which originated in a slightly different phrasing on MetaFilter.

Update: One example of how maximizing shareholder value can work against good customer service comes from a paper by a trio of economists. In it, they argue that co-ownership of two or more airlines by the same investor results in higher prices.

In a new paper, Azar and co-authors Martin C. Schmalz and Isabel Tecu have uncovered a smoking gun. To test the hypothesis that institutional investors gain market power that results in higher prices, they examine airline routes. Although we think of airlines as independent companies, they are actually mostly owned by a small group of institutional investors. For example, United's top five shareholders -- all institutional investors -- own 49.5 percent of the firm. Most of United's largest shareholders also are the largest shareholders of Southwest, Delta, and other airlines. The authors show that airline prices are 3 percent to 11 percent higher than they would be if common ownership did not exist. That is money that goes from the pockets of consumers to the pockets of investors.

How exactly might this work? It may be that managers of institutional investors put pressure on the managers of the companies that they own, demanding that they don't try to undercut the prices of their competitors. If a mutual fund owns shares of United and Delta, and United and Delta are the only competitors on certain routes, then the mutual fund benefits if United and Delta refrain from price competition. The managers of United and Delta have no reason to resist such demands, as they, too, as shareholders of their own companies, benefit from the higher profits from price-squeezed passengers. Indeed, it is possible that managers of corporations don't need to be told explicitly to overcharge passengers because they already know that it's in their bosses' interest, and hence their own. Institutional investors can also get the outcomes they want by structuring the compensation of managers in subtle ways. For example, they can reward managers based on the stock price of their own firms -- rather than benchmarking pay against how well they perform compared with industry rivals -- which discourages managers from competing with the rivals.

(via @krylon)

  1. BTW, asking who the customer is doesn't help in every situation where bad service and contempt for the customer rears its ugly head. See cable companies, mobile carriers, and airlines. Companies also have other conflicts of interest that interfere with good customer experience. Apple, for instance, does all kinds of things that aren't necessarily in the best interest of the people buying their products. And as the Ticketmaster example shows, determining a company's true customer isn't just a matter of where the revenue comes from. It's never simple.

  2. This is a potential problem with kottke.org as well. Almost all of my revenue comes from advertising. My high regard for the reader keeps me pretty honest (I hope!), but it's difficult sometimes.

America's most popular tastes mapMAY 21

Foursquare Tastes Map

From a Foursquare and Mapbox collaboration, a map of the most popular tastes in each US state.

Every state in the U.S. has a unique flavor, from Chicken Cheesesteak to Chinese Chicken Salad. Foursquare analyzed the data to pinpoint which food or drink is most disproportionately popular in each destination, and worked with Mapbox to create the dynamic map.

Louisiana is crawfish, Vermont is maple syrup, and Texas is breakfast tacos. I love that Nevada is bottle service. All that state wants is to get you drunk in the least fiscally responsible way possible.

A tour of Antartica by droneAPR 28

This 8-minute video of a drone's eye tour of the coast of Antarctica is just flat-out gorgeous.

(via devour)

A filtered lifeMAY 08

ESPN's Kate Fagan with Split Image, a look at depression and suicide in the age of social media.

On Instagram, Madison Holleran's life looked ideal: Star athlete, bright student, beloved friend. But the photos hid the reality of someone struggling to go on.

(Life's never as good as it looks on Facebook or as bad as it sounds on Twitter.)

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

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the TV seriesAPR 29

Ever since I read Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell just after it came out, I've wondered when someone was going to do a movie or miniseries adaptation. Well, BBC has stepped up with a seven-part series that debuts on BBC One in May and on BBC America "this summer". Here's a trailer:

Set at the beginning of the 19th-century, England no longer believes in practical magic. The reclusive Mr Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey stuns the city of York when he causes the statues of York Cathedral to speak and move. With a little persuasion and help from his man of business Childermass, he goes to London to help the government in the war against Napoleon. It is there Norrell summons a fairy to bring Lady Pole back from the dead, opening a whole can of worms...

That trailer was a little too trailery for my taste (if you know what I mean), but I'm excited nonetheless. (via ★interesting)

Movie intro megamixMAY 22

A cleverly constructed mashup of all the major Hollywood studio intros -- MGM's roaring lion, Disney's castle, Paramount's flying stars, Miramax's skyline -- into one mega-intro.

(via @pieratt)

Handdrawn logosMAY 08

Seb Lester can somehow freehand draw the logos for the NY Times, Honda, Ferrari, Coca-Cola, and many more.

Watching the video, I didn't even notice any tracing...it's all freehand. Keep up with Lester's drawings on his Instagram account.

Design service just for restaurant websitesMAY 28

This is smart: a startup design service called BentoBox just for designing restaurant websites. Entrepreneur magazine recently profiled the service.

The site conveys important information -- location, hours and a phone number are featured prominently, as are frequently asked questions -- in a visually appealing way that expresses the restaurant's high-end yet relaxed atmosphere while also making you hungry.

This is what a restaurant website should do -- namely, serve as an extension of its brick-and-mortar presence -- and yet so many miss the mark, says Krystle Mobayeni. For years, Mobayeni ran her own web design agency. Clients included Rent the Runway, Sailor Jerry, the School of the Visual Arts, plus a few restaurants, such as David Chang's Momofuku. While companies in other industries usually had a good handle on their web presence, Mobayeni noticed that the restaurants were struggling. There wasn't a good platform that anticipated their needs and gave them an easy way to present themselves on the web, and so often, their sites suffered for it.

The number has been steadily dwindling the last few years, but it's surprising how many restaurant sites are still Flash, don't work on mobile, and make you work to find the location and opening hours. Some examples of Bento's work: Parm, Fedora, and The Meatball Shop. Damn, now I'm hungry. (via @adamkuban)

Eminem's Lose Yourself in ASLMAY 29

Oh, this is my favorite thing of the month: Shelby Mitchusson performing Eminem's Lose Yourself in American Sign Language.

Great song and a great performance. Em, sign this woman up for your next tour! (via devour)

Strange MapsOCT 29

Strange Maps

The Strange Maps book is out today. The book is based on the awesome Strange Maps blog, one the very few sites I have to exercise restraint in not linking to every single item posted there. The content of the book is adapted from the site, so of course it's top shelf.

My only reservation in recommending the book is the design. When I cracked it open, I was expecting full-bleed reproductions of the maps, large enough to really get a detailed look at them. The maps *are* the book, after all. But that's not the case...only a few of the maps get an entire non-full-bleed page and some of the maps are stuck in the corner of a page of text, like small afterthoughts. The rest of the design is not much better, cheesy at best and distracting at worst. I wasn't expecting Taschen-grade production values, but something more appropriate to the subject matter would have been nice.

Kickstarter and failureMAY 07

From James Grimmelmann, a short smart piece on the nature of Kickstarter, riffing off the recent piece in the NY Times about a high-profile failed KS project. He argues that "Kickstarter is a tool for managing risk", for shifting part of the inevitable risk of creative projects from the creator to the backers.

The Kickstarter model shifts some of this creative risk onto backers. By fronting the money, they climb in the boat with the creator. Ideally, they make a rational calculation about how much they're willing to lose if sinks. (Kickstarter's required disclosures are supposed to help backers make this decision.) And ideally also, the unique personal appeal of the project gives them a good reason to take on that risk. (Kickstarter's required video and other personalizing touches are supposed to help create this solidarity.)

Grimmelmann's is the most useful description of Kickstarter I've ever heard. Without risk (i.e. a real possibility of failure), creative projects aren't creative enough. This is part of the reason that Kickstarter is not a store.

Bird laughs like a supervillainMAY 15

First the bird laughs like a supervillain, then you start laughing like a supervillain, and pretty soon everyone is laughing like a supervillain.

This is the new goats yelling like people, which I still watch about once a week and it always makes me laugh until I'm crying. (via ★interesting)

A timeline of human history, from 4004 BC to 1881MAY 11

From the David Rumsey Map Collection, a remarkable timeline/history of the world from 4004 BC to 1881 called Adams' Synchronological Chart. This is just a small bit of it:

Adams Synchronological Chart

According to Rumsey's site, the full timeline is more than 22 feet long. (via @john_overholt)

Update: A replica of this chart is available on Amazon in a few different iterations...I'm going to give this one a try. Apparently the charts are popular in Sunday schools and such because the timeline uses the Ussher chronology where the Earth is only 6000 years old.

The Hubble Space Telescope turns 25APR 27

The Hubble Space Telescope was deployed into space on April 25, 1990 and began snapping images of the sky shortly thereafter. Phil Plait, the NY Times, NPR, and How We Get To Next have chosen some of their favorite Hubble images, and Taschen published a coffee table book of Hubble images called Expanding Universe.

Hubble 25

Hubble 25

Hubble 25

Hubble 25

Hubble 25

I still find it incredible that we have a telescope orbiting the Earth. Happy birthday, Hubble. Here's to many more.

Octobass!MAY 14

The octobass is a string instrument that's almost twice the size of a bass, so big that it makes a cello look like a violin. Only a few of these instruments exist and The Musical Instrument Museum made a video showing theirs in action:

(via cynical-c)

The Artists' and Writers' CookbookMAY 06

Artists and Writers Cookbook

Published in 1961 with an introduction by Alice B Toklas, The Artists' and Writers' Cookbook features recipes and wisdom from dozens of writers and artists, including Harper Lee, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Pearl Buck, Upton Sinclair, John Keats, and Burl Ives. Lee shared her recipe for crackling cornbread:

First, catch your pig. Then ship it to the abattoir nearest you. Bake what they send back. Remove the solid fat and throw the rest away. Fry fat, drain off liquid grease, and combine the residue (called "cracklings") with:

1 ½ cups water-ground white meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk

Bake in very hot oven until brown (about 15 minutes).

Result: one pan crackling bread serving 6. Total cost: about $250, depending upon size of pig. Some historians say this recipe alone fell the Confederacy.

And Marcel Duchamp offers up a preparation of steak tartare:

Let me begin by saying, ma chere, that Steak Tartare, alias Bitteck Tartare, also known as Steck Tartare, is in no way related to tartar sauce. The steak to which I refer originated with the Cossacks in Siberia, and it can be prepared on horseback, at swift gallop, if conditions make this a necessity.

Indications: Chop one half pound (per person) of the very best beef obtainable, and shape carefully with artistry into a bird's nest. Place on porcelain plate of a solid color -- ivory is the best setting -- so that no pattern will disturb the distribution of ingredients. In hollow center of nest, permit two egg yolks to recline. Like a wreath surrounding the nest of chopped meat, arrange on border of plate in small, separate bouquets:

Chopped raw white onion
Bright green capers
Curled silvers of anchovy
Fresh parsley, chopped fine
Black olives minutely chopped in company with yellow celery leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Each guest, with his plate before him, lifts his fork and blends the ingredients with the egg yolks and meat. In center of table: Russian pumpernickel bread, sweet butter, and bottles of vin rosé.

Not to be outdone, MoMA published their own artists' cookbook in 1977, featuring contributions from Louise Bourgeois, Christo, Salvador Dali, Willem De Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. Here's Warhol's recipe:

Andy Warhol doesn't eat anything out of a can anymore. For years, when he cooked for himself, it was Heinz or Campbell's tomato soup and a ham sandwich. He also lived on candy, chocolate, and "anything with red dye #2 in it." Now, though he still loves junk food, McDonald's hamburgers and French fries are something "you just dream for."

The emphasis is on health, staying thin and eating "simple American food, nothing complicated, no salt or butter." In fact, he says, "I like to go to bad restaurants, because then I don't have to eat. Airplane food is the best food -- it's simple, they throw it away so quickly and it's so bad you don't have to eat it."

Campbell's Milk of Tomato Soup
A 10 3/4-ounce can Campbell's condensed tomato soup
2 cans milk
In a saucepan bring soup and two cans milk to boil; stir. Serve.

Freddie Gray and unrest in BaltimoreAPR 28

After a night of riots in Baltimore, schools are closed, games have been postponed, at least a thousand National Guard soldiers are roaming the streets, and America is left once again to ponder issues of race, inequality, law enforcement, and civic unrest.

InFocus: Images of unrest in Baltimore.

WaPo's Michael A. Fletcher on the murder, drugs, and poverty that plague Freddie Gray's Baltimore:

Most of these problems are confined to the pockmarked neighborhoods of narrow rowhomes and public housing projects on the city's east and west sides. They exist in the lives of the other Baltimore of renovated waterfront homes, tree-lined streets, sparkling waterfront views, rollicking bars and ethnic restaurants mainly through news reports. The two worlds bump up against one another only on occasion.

Vox: In Freddie Gray's Baltimore neighborhood, half of the residents don't have jobs.

Last night my mom wondered aloud why we still don't seem to know many of the details when it comes to Gray's death. Well mom, the answer is LEOBoR, or the law enforcement officers bill of rights. From The Marshall Project: Blue Shield.

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

Amazon drops gendered categories for toysMAY 05

According to a friend of someone on Amazon's taxonomy team, Amazon has removed the gender taxonomy of toys and games. Here's the before and after:

Amazon Gender Toys

That's not to say you still can't shop for boys and girls toys on Amazon (jeez, those pages bum me out), but taking it out of the standard list of categories is a nice first step.

Now, how about you do something about this Amazon Mom thing? What's wrong with Amazon Family?

An animated history of 20th century hairstylesAPR 23

From The Atlantic, a history of hairstyles from 1900 to the present.

Hairstyles featured include the Gibson Girl, bob, conk, pompadour, beehive, Jheri curl, and hi-top fade.

The full-sized Lego carAPR 27

Raul Oaida built a full-sized car out of half-a-million Lego pieces that actually drives. The 256-cylinder engine is powered by compressed air. Top speed is 20 mph.

This is a stunning and insanely clever achievement. My favorite part, aside from that 256-cylinder engine, is the windshield built out of two dozen tiny Lego windshields. (via devour)

Mining the internet for time lapsesMAY 18

Software from a group at the University of Washington and Google discovers time lapses lurking in photos posted to the internet. For example, their bot found hundreds of photos of a Norwegian glacier on the Web, taken over a span of 10 years. Voila, instant time lapse of a retreating glacier.

First, we cluster 86 million photos into landmarks and popular viewpoints. Then, we sort the photos by date and warp each photo onto a common viewpoint. Finally, we stabilize the appearance of the sequence to compensate for lighting effects and minimize flicker. Our resulting time-lapses show diverse changes in the world's most popular sites, like glaciers shrinking, skyscrapers being constructed, and waterfalls changing course.

This is like a time machine, allowing you to go back 5 or 10 years and position a camera somewhere to take photos every few days or weeks. Pretty clever.

How Osama bin Laden really diedMAY 10

Seymour Hersh, writing for the London Review of Books, says that the American account of how Osama bin Laden was located, captured, and killed is not entirely true. In particular, he alleges that bin Laden was being held in Pakistan since 2006 and that members of the Pakistani military knew of and supported the raid.

It's been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama's first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan's army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration's account. The White House's story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida's operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

And the plan all along was to kill bin Laden...the Pakistanis insisted on it.

It was clear to all by this point, the retired official said, that bin Laden would not survive: 'Pasha told us at a meeting in April that he could not risk leaving bin Laden in the compound now that we know he's there. Too many people in the Pakistani chain of command know about the mission. He and Kayani had to tell the whole story to the directors of the air defence command and to a few local commanders.

'Of course the guys knew the target was bin Laden and he was there under Pakistani control,' the retired official said. 'Otherwise, they would not have done the mission without air cover. It was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.' A former Seal commander, who has led and participated in dozens of similar missions over the past decade, assured me that 'we were not going to keep bin Laden alive - to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we're doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We've come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, "Let's face it. We're going to commit a murder."' The White House's initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration's targeted assassination programme. The US has consistently maintained, despite widely reported remarks by people involved with the mission, that bin Laden would have been taken alive if he had immediately surrendered.

Hersh is a regular contributor to the New Yorker -- he broke the Abu Ghraib story in the pages of the magazine -- so I wonder why this story didn't appear there? Perhaps because it goes against the grain of their own reporting on the subject?

Update: Max Fisher writes in Vox that Hersh's story has many problems -- inconsistencies and thin sourcing to start -- and is indicative of Hersh's "slide off the rails" from investigative journalism to conspiracy theories.

On Sunday, the legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh finally released a story that he has been rumored to have been working on for years: the truth about the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to Hersh's 10,000-word story in the London Review of Books, the official history of bin Laden's death -- in which the US tracked him to a compound in Abottabad, Pakistan; killed him a secret raid that infuriated Pakistan; and then buried him at sea --- is a lie.

Hersh's story is amazing to read, alleging a vast American-Pakistani conspiracy to stage the raid and even to fake high-level diplomatic incidents as a sort of cover. But his allegations are largely supported only by two sources, neither of whom has direct knowledge of what happened, both of whom are retired, and one of whom is anonymous. The story is riven with internal contradictions and inconsistencies.

The story simply does not hold up to scrutiny -- and, sadly, is in line with Hersh's recent turn away from the investigative reporting that made him famous into unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

The single source for most of the juiciest details in the piece was the most glaring issue. My Spidey Sense started tingling as I read the latter third...it sounded like Hersh was quoting some dude in a bar who "had a friend who told me this story". I wonder how much of this was fact-checked and corroborated?

And on Hersh's affiliation with the New Yorker, they repeatedly rejected the story:

(Indeed, when I first heard about Hersh's bin Laden story a few years from a New Yorker editor -- the magazine, the editor said, had rejected it repeatedly, to the point of creating bad blood between Hersh and editor-in-chief David Remnick -- this was the version Hersh was said to favor.)

If you look at Hersh's page at the NYer, his contributions have dropped off. His only piece in the past two years was a revisiting of his earlier reporting on My Lai. (via @tskjockey)

Update: From Gabriel Sherman at New York Magazine, Why Seymour Hersh's 'Alternative' bin Laden History Did Not Appear in The New Yorker.

When I spoke to Hersh earlier today, it was clear that there is tension. Hersh told me that he published the piece in the LRB because Remnick was not interested in having him write a magazine piece on the bin Laden raid. Hersh explained that, days after the May 2, 2011 SEAL operation, he told Remnick that his intelligence sources were saying Obama's account was fiction. "I knew right away that there were problems with the story," Hersh told me. "I just happen to have sources. I'm sorry, but I do." Hersh told Remnick he wanted to write a piece for the magazine.

"David said, 'Do a blog,'" Hersh recalled. "I said, 'I don't want to do a blog.' It's about money. I get paid a lot more writing a piece for The New Yorker [magazine] ... I'm old and cranky." (Remnick declined to comment).

Through reporting of its own, NBC News has confirmed parts of Hersh's story.

The NBC News sources who confirm that a Pakistani intelligence official became a "walk in" asset include the special operations officer and a CIA officer who had served in Pakistan. These two sources and a third source, a very senior former U.S. intelligence official, also say that elements of the ISI were aware of bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad. The former official was emphatic about the ISI's awareness, saying twice, "They knew."

R.J. Hillhouse claims she should get credit for breaking this story because of two pieces she wrote in 2011, using information from "clearly different" sources.

Amazon finally fixes the Kindle's text justificationMAY 27

Our national full-justification of text nightmare is over...Amazon has finally ditched fully justified text on the Kindle.

But the new app finally gives the boot to the hideous absolute justification of text that the Kindle's been rocking since 2007. The new layout engine justifies text more like print typesetting. Even if you max out the font size on the new Kindle app, it will keep the spacing between words even, intelligently hyphenating words and spreading them between lines as need may be.

The layout engine also contains some beautiful new kerning options. They're subtle, but once you see them, you can't unsee them: for example, the way that the top and bottom of a drop cap on the Kindle now perfectly lines up with the tops and bottoms of its neighboring lines. Like I said, it's a small detail, but one that even Apple's iBooks and Google Play Books doesn't manage to quite get right.

Huzzah! The company is still working through a backlog of converting titles to the new layout, so give it some time if the changes aren't showing up. (via nextdraft)

Berlin in 1945MAY 04

Seven minutes of color film footage of Berlin in 1945, right after the end of World War II. Lots of bombed out buildings, soldiers, bicycles, rebuilding, and people going about their daily business.

Be sure to watch all the way to the end...there's an incredible aerial shot of the Brandenburg Gate and the Unter den Linden that shows the scale of damage done to the city's buildings. More of that aerial footage here. (via devour)

Augmented handsMAY 06

Augmented Hand

Augmented Hand Series is an interactive software system created by Golan Levin, Chris Sugrue, and Kyle McDonald. You stick your hand in and on the screen you see your hand with an extra thumb, one fewer knuckle in each finger, fingers with springs in them, variable sized fingers, and the ultra freaky Breathing Palm.

(via prosthetic knowledge)

Only Fish Fall From the SkyMAY 14

Only Fish Fall From The Sky

From illustrator Leif Parsons, a new children's book called Only Fish Fall From the Sky.

A dreamworld where it rains fish instead of water, people dance through dinner, and children sleep with tigers -- welcome to the imagination of author/artist Leif Parsons, whose detailed dreamscapes make ONLY FISH FALL FROM THE SKY a charming bedtime book sure to fascinate preschoolers and young readers.

Khoi Vinh says:

The pages are exquisitely, elaborately packed with unexpected details that kids (and adults) can pore over for hours.

Instant order...this sounds like my favorite kind of kid's book, like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs crossed with Richard Scarry or something.

Conrad and the Steam PlantMAY 18

Conrad Milster is the chief engineer at the Pratt Institute, which means he's in charge of the 19th-century steam engines that provide the school's heat and hot water. Dustin Cohen made this lovely short film about Conrad, an oddball who fits right into his life.

On the topic of New York, Conrad says, "It sucks, but it's the Big Apple!" (via acl)

Football commentary cheat sheetsMAY 15

Nick Barnes is a football commentator for BBC Radio Newcastle. For each match he does, Barnes dedicates two pages in his notebook for pre-match notes, lineups, player stats, match stats, and dozens of other little tidbits.

Nick Barnes

Nick Barnes

Wonderful folk infographics. NBC commentator Arlo White also shared his pre-match notes. Both men say they barely use the notes during the match...by the time the notes are done, they know the stuff. (via @dens)

Jessica Hische's secrets revealed!MAY 21

Jessica Hische

One of my favorite designers, Jessica Hische (she did the film titles for Moonrise Kingdom), is coming out with a new book in September called In Progress: See Inside a Lettering Artist's Sketchbook and Process, from Pencil to Vector.

This show-all romp through design-world darling Jessica Hische's sketchbook reveals the creative and technical process behind making award-winning hand lettering. See everything, from Hische's rough sketches to her polished finals for major clients such as Wes Anderson, NPR, and Starbucks. The result is a well of inspiration and brass tacks information for designers who want to sketch distinctive letterforms and hone their skills.

Hische made a video offering a quick tour of the book:

A video posted by @jessicahische on

Looks great!

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.

Wife bonuses and the Primates of Park AvenueMAY 18

Primates Of Park Avenue

Wednesday Martin is an anthropologist and author whose upcoming book, Primates of Park Avenue, examines the wealthy stay-at-home moms of Manhattan's Upper East Side like any other primate troop.

After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers' snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns; display rituals; physical adornment, mutilation, and mating practices; extra-pair copulation; and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected.

Martin wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times about her findings called Poor Little Rich Women.

And then there were the wife bonuses.

I was thunderstruck when I heard mention of a "bonus" over coffee. Later I overheard someone who didn't work say she would buy a table at an event once her bonus was set. A woman with a business degree but no job mentioned waiting for her "year-end" to shop for clothing. Further probing revealed that the annual wife bonus was not an uncommon practice in this tribe.

A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband's fund had done but her own performance -- how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a "good" school -- the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don't just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.

Women who didn't get them joked about possible sexual performance metrics. Women who received them usually retreated, demurring when pressed to discuss it further, proof to an anthropologist that a topic is taboo, culturally loaded and dense with meaning.

Please note that Martin's book is a memoir...not an anthropological study, a memoir. I can't wait to see how they turn this one into a movie.

Update: Polly Phillips in the NY Post: I get a wife bonus and I deserve it, so STFU.

These pricey pairs of designer footwear will join a lineup of Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Diane Von Furstenburg and Rupert Sanderson heels and a closet crammed with handbags from Prada, Chanel and Anya Hindmarch. Every single one was bought with one of my annual bonuses -- the nod from a happy boss for a job well done.

But, in this case, the boss in question is my husband, Al. The role he's rewarding me for is my work as a stay-at-home wife and mother. And the luxury labels are purchased with the "wife bonus" -- 20 percent of his own company bonus -- that I'm proud to receive for putting his career before my own, and keeping our lives together.

After all, he readily admits that, without me staying at home with our 19-month-old daughter, Lala -- not to mention the support and understanding I offer when his work intrudes on our home life -- he couldn't do his job. And he also knows that if we hadn't followed his career abroad, I might still be doing very well in my own.

Weird thing #1: Phillips refers to her husband as her boss. No ironic scarequotes. He's the boss. Which seems to be a point in favor of Martin's thesis of a lack of empowerment.

Weird thing #2: Why the hell call it a "wife bonus" if their income is completely shared and they each get 20% of the end-of-year bonus? I mean, it seems completely reasonable and equitable that they each get some mad money to spend however they want on above-and-beyond items. Why load that arrangement down with the icky "wife bonus"?

Digital deformationsMAY 05

Using professional-grade visual effects combo Arnold and Maya, Lee Griggs makes art. Like these Deformations:

Lee Griggs

Lee Griggs

And Abstract Portraits:

Lee Griggs

(via ignant)

Informal entrepreneurship and The Misfit EconomyMAY 26

Misfit Economy

The Misfit Economy looks intriguing; the subtitle is "Lessons in Creativity from Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters and Other Informal Entrepreneurs".

Who are the greatest innovators in the world? You're probably thinking Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford. The usual suspects.

This book isn't about them. It's about people you've never heard of. It's about people who are just as innovative, entrepreneurial, and visionary as the Jobses, Edisons, and Fords of the world, except they're not in Silicon Valley. They're in the street markets of Sao Paulo and Guangzhou, the rubbish dumps of Lagos, the flooded coastal towns of Thailand. They are pirates, slum dwellers, computer hackers, dissidents, and inner city gang members.

Across the globe, diverse innovators operating in the black, grey, and informal economies are developing solutions to a myriad of challenges. Far from being "deviant entrepreneurs" that pose threats to our social and economic stability, these innovators display remarkable ingenuity, pioneering original methods and practices that we can learn from and apply to move formal markets.

The best 300 albums of the past 30 yearsMAY 19

For the 30th anniversary of Spin, the editors compiled a list of the 300 best albums released in the past 30 years. The top 20 includes albums by Nirvana, Pixies, Bjork, Radiohead, Beastie Boys, and DJ Shadow. The #1 album is........ nevermind, you should go find out for yourself. (via @jblanton)

1491, the TV seriesAPR 23

1491 TV

Charles Mann's 1491 is one of my all-time favorite books. I mean, if this description doesn't stir you:

Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man's first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only thought we knew.

On Twitter yesterday, Mann shared that a documentary series was being made based on the book. The eight-part series is being commissioned by Canada's APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) and Barbara Hager, who is of Cree/Metis heritage, will write, direct, and produce.

This is fantastic news. I hope this gets US distribution at some point, even if it's online-only.

rating: 4.5 stars

The September IssueMAR 18

I straight-up loved this movie. It's a fascinating look at the creative process of a team with strong leadership operating at a very high level. The trailer is pretty misleading in this respect...the main story in the film has little to do with fashion and should be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever worked with a bunch of people on a project. Others have made the comparison of Anna Wintour with Steve Jobs and it seems apt. At several points in the film, my thoughts drifted to Jobs and Apple; Wintour seems like the same sort of creative leader as Jobs.

Pitfall Jack BlackMAY 12

I remember this commercial for Pitfall! but I had no idea Jack Black was in it.

I learned about this from a short profile of Black by Tad Friend, in which the pair hit up Barcade in Chelsea.

He played Punch-Out, Atari Basketball, Donkey Kong, and Lunar Lander, increasingly nimble on the joystick. "It's all bringing back some foggy déjà vus," he said. Inside the Discs of Tron cabinet, the black light lit up his checked shirt. "Dude, this!" he said. He commenced making his avatar leap from platform to platform, as he sought to "de-rez" his opponent by throwing disks at him. At every level-completed chime, Black snapped his fingers and did a little dance. "He's one tough cookie -- you gotta get him with a ricochet," he said, manhandling the controls. "Taste it! Oh, God -- why? Why?" Regally, he entered "JA" atop the roll of honor.

ScreentendoMAY 26

Screentendo is an OS X application that converts a selection of your computer screen into a playable Super Mario Bros game. Here's a demo using the Google logo:

The source code is here if you want to try it out. (via prosthetic knowledge)

How Richard Stallman does his computingMAY 18

Richard Stallman, the free software activist and author of some of the world's most used and useful software, probably uses his computer and the Internet a lot differently than you do. For starters, ethics and privacy concerns trump his need for convenience.

I am careful in how I use the Internet.

I generally do not connect to web sites from my own machine, aside from a few sites I have some special relationship with. I usually fetch web pages from other sites by sending mail to a program (see git://git.gnu.org/womb/hacks.git) that fetches them, much like wget, and then mails them back to me. Then I look at them using a web browser, unless it is easy to see the text in the HTML page directly. I usually try lynx first, then a graphical browser if the page needs it (using konqueror, which won't fetch from other sites in such a situation).

I occasionally also browse using IceCat via Tor. I think that is enough to prevent my browsing from being connected with me, since I don't identify myself to the sites I visit.

I never pay for anything on the Web. Anything on the net that requires payment, I don't do. (I made an exception for the fees for the stallman.org domain, since that is connected with me anyway.)

I would not mind paying for a copy of an e-book or music recording on the Internet if I could do so anonymously, and it were ethical in other ways (no DRM or EULA). But that option almost never exists. I keep looking for ways to make it happen.

Mad Max vs. Buster KeatonMAY 29

Turns out, if you take Junkie XL's soundtrack to Mad Max: Fury Road and pair it with a train chase scene from Buster Keaton's silent film masterpiece The General, it works pretty well.

Gay Talese's address bookMAY 14

Writer Gay Talese talks about his address book, in which he has written the names and phone numbers of almost everyone he's ever had "an encounter" with over the past 50 years.

(via submitted for your perusal)

Mapping photos of old NYCMAY 21

OldNYC offers a map view of old photos of New York City, drawn from the collection at the New York Public Library. This is fantastic, like a historical Google Street View. For instance, there used to be a huge theater on the corner of 7th Avenue and Christopher St, circa 1929:

7th Ave Chirstopher St 1930

If I didn't have a thing to do this afternoon, I would spend all day exploring this. So so good. (via @mccanner)

Some weekend reading from David Foster WallaceMAY 22

The Atlantic has republished and reformatted Host by David Foster Wallace on their website. Originally published in 2005, Host was a profile of talk radio host John Ziegler and contained several layers of footnotes, which are beautifully handled in this new online version.

The Nick Berg beheading and its Internet video compose what is known around KFI as a "Monster," meaning a story that has both high news value and tremendous emotional voltage. As is SOP in political talk radio, the emotions most readily accessed are anger, outrage, indignation, fear, despair, disgust, contempt, and a certain kind of apocalyptic glee, all of which the Nick Berg thing's got in spades. Mr. Ziegler, whose program is in only its fourth month at KFI, has been fortunate in that 2004 has already been chock-full of Monsters -- Saddam's detention, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the Scott Peterson murder trial, the Greg Haidl gang-rape trial, and preliminary hearings in the rape trial of Kobe Bryant. But tonight is the most angry, indignant, disgusted, and impassioned that Mr. Z.'s gotten on-air so far, and the consensus in Airmix is that it's resulting in some absolutely first-rate talk radio.

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary1 of Wallace's commencement speech at Kenyon College, among the finest ever given IMO.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

That speech is also available as a short book, This Is Water. If you read both of those things and hunger for more, luckily there is so much much more.

  1. I've got nothing to say here...I just really couldn't do a post about DFW without footnoting something. Still miss you, big guy.

rating: 4.5 stars

ArgoFEB 20

Argo Poster

That's a movie poster for Argo, the fake movie that the CIA "made" as a cover for getting six American diplomats out of Iran in 1980. Ben Affleck's Argo, which cements the former prettyboy actor's status as one of the best young American directors, is somewhat loosely based on The Master of Disguise, a book written by the guy Affleck plays in Argo, and a 2007 Wired magazine article by Joshuah Bearman called The Great Escape. Argo is up for several Oscars and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Update: Here's a CIA report written by Mendez about the caper. And I'm listening to the soundtrack right now.

A Very Murray ChristmasMAY 22

Netflix will air a Christmas special starring Bill Murray and directed by Sofia Coppola. That is an amazing collection of proper nouns all together in the same sentence.

Written by Sofia Coppola, Bill Murray and Mitch Glazer and directed by Sofia Coppola, A Very Murray Christmas is described as an homage to the classic variety show featuring Bill Murray playing himself, as he worries no one will show up to his TV show due to a terrible snow storm in New York City. Through luck and perseverance, guests arrive at the Carlyle hotel to help him; dancing and singing in holiday spirit.

(via several kind people)

The Remarkable Apple ComputerMAY 06

Early Apple Article

From 1977, is this the first news article written about Apple Computer? Sheila Craven wrote about the fledgeling computer maker in the second issue of Kilobaud, The Small Computer Magazine.

"My interview with the two Steves took place while they were still in the folks' garage," Craven tells Business Insider. She remembers it this way:

"I flew up from LA, and the two Steves picked me up in a red Chevy Luv Truck, tossed my suitcase in the back, and put me between them in the front seat. We went someplace for lunch, and talked about their plans.

Of course, Steve Jobs did all the talking. After lunch we drove to his parents home in Palo Alto-never went inside the house-straight to the garage. On a workbench sat a PC board. above the workbench on a shelf sat a TV set where wires dangled from it to the PC board.

The whole time Steve Jobs was talking, explaining, outlining future plans for marketing and development, he was just about dancing on his tippy toes in his tennies. Then Woz sat at the workbench, initiating the operating system (I suppose) to demonstrate a program. Woz was pretty quiet. I got that he was the engineering brain power, and Jobs was the idea guy.

One of the things Jobs told me was that they would make certain there would be an Apple in every classroom and on every desk, because if kids grew up using and knowing the Apple, they would continue to buy Apples and so would their kids. The computers would be donated by Apple Computer. I understand that when that article came out, orders starting pouring in, and Apple Computer was seriously launched."

The glass is already brokenAPR 24

"You see this goblet?" asks Achaan Chaa, the Thai meditation master. "For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, 'Of course.' When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious."

From Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective by Mark Epstein.

America's bias against the common goodMAY 19

In The Plot Against Trains, Adam Gopnik muses about how infrastructure in America has become dilapidated in part because we (or at least much of we) believe little good can come from the government.

What an ideology does is give you reasons not to pursue your own apparent rational interest -- and this cuts both ways, including both wealthy people in New York who, out of social conviction, vote for politicians who are more likely to raise their taxes, and poor people in the South who vote for those devoted to cutting taxes on incomes they can never hope to earn. There is no such thing as false consciousness. There are simply beliefs that make us sacrifice one piece of self-evident interest for some other, larger principle.

What we have, uniquely in America, is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced, not because the state goods might not be good but because they would distract us from the larger principle that no ultimate good can be found in the state. Ride a fast train to Washington today and you'll start thinking about national health insurance tomorrow.

The ideology of individual autonomy is, for good or ill, so powerful that it demands cars where trains would save lives, just as it places assault weapons in private hands, despite the toll they take in human lives. Trains have to be resisted, even if it means more pollution and massive inefficiency and falling ever further behind in the amenities of life -- what Olmsted called our "commonplace civilization."

The way he brings it back to trains at the end is lovely:

A train is a small society, headed somewhere more or less on time, more or less together, more or less sharing the same window, with a common view and a singular destination.

Well, except when you're on that Snowpiercer train. Although in the end (spoiler!), Curtis brought the train's segregated society back to "a common view and a singular destination" by crashing it and killing (almost) everyone on it. Hopefully America isn't headed toward the same end.

A titanium rainbowMAY 12

Here's a video of a titanium bar being anodized...it cycles through several different colors before settling on a pinkish hue.

Ok neat, but why does it do that? Anodizing is an adjustment of the oxide levels on the surface of the titanium. The colors are caused by the interference of the light traveling through the oxide and reflecting off the shiny metal surface underneath...different thicknesses produce different colors.1 As the voltage is applied to the metal, more and more oxide builds up, producing the color cycling even shown. Pretty cool!

  1. I don't think the color is due to Raleigh scattering, but it's definitely a similar principle.

Create Your Own EconomyAPR 22

Create Your Own Economy

I don't think he's talked about it on his site yet, but Tyler Cowen has a new book coming out called Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World.

As economist Tyler Cowen boldly shows in Create Your Own Economy, the way we think now is changing more rapidly than it has in a very long time. Not since the Industrial Revolution has a man-made creation -- in this case, the World Wide Web -- so greatly influenced the way our minds work and our human potential. Cowen argues brilliantly that we are breaking down cultural information into ever-smaller tidbits, ordering and reordering them in our minds (and our computers) to meet our own specific needs.

Create Your Own Economy explains why the coming world of Web 3.0 is good for us; why social networking sites such as Facebook are so necessary; what's so great about "Tweeting" and texting; how education will get better; and why politics, literature, and philosophy will become richer. This is a revolutionary guide to life in the new world.

I never properly reviewed Cowen's last book (sorry!), but I found it as enlightening and entertaining as Marginal Revolution is. (via david archer)

Minimal mapsMAY 13

A project by Michael Pecirno, Minimal Maps is a collection of US maps that each depict only a single subject with high-resolution data, from deciduous forest cover to cornfields. Here's where grass grows in the US:

Grasslands Map

Very little grassland coverage in New England...that's surprising. Prints are available.

QuerklesMAY 27

Querkles

This looks cool...Thomas Pavitte has reinvented the paint-by-numbers with Querkles. Instead of simple numbered areas to fill in, Querkles cleverly uses overlapping circles that you fill in with different shading techniques or colors to reveal hidden faces. Here's a short demo of how it works:

Pavitte has two different books available: Querkles and Querkles Masterpiece, featuring famous faces from the art world. See also coloring books for adults.

Star Wars x Star Trek: The Carbonite ManeuverMAY 12

From an alternate universe in 1985, a Star Wars crossover with Star Trek that never happened in which Lord Vader has the Genesis Device.

Paging JJ Abrams. Mr. Abrams to the white courtesy phone please. (via @khoi)

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.

Google and the amazing touch-sensitive dreampantsMAY 29

Google just announced Project Jacquard, an effort to introduce interactivity into textiles. Swipe your sofa cushion to change the channel on your TV,1 tap a special "knock" on your collar to unlock your front door, or control your party's playlist with a few taps of your pants.

  1. Perhaps this is what Steve Jobs meant when he said of the Apple TV, "I finally cracked it"?

NYC's nail salon sweatshopsMAY 07

From Sarah Nir at the NY Times, an investigation into the world of NYC nail salons, where workers need to pay a fee to get a job, are underpaid, subjected to abuse, and are crammed into one-bedroom apartments with several other workers.

Qing Lin, 47, a manicurist who has worked on the Upper East Side for the last 10 years, still gets emotional when recounting the time a splash of nail polish remover marred a customer's patent Prada sandals. When the woman demanded compensation, the $270 her boss pressed into the woman's hand came out of the manicurist's pay. Ms. Lin was asked not to return.

"I am worth less than a shoe," she said.

Prepare to be infuriated over and over as you read this.

The typical cost of a manicure in the city helps explain the abysmal pay. A survey of more than 105 Manhattan salons by The Times found an average price of about $10.50. The countrywide average is almost double that, according to a 2014 survey by Nails Magazine, an industry publication.

With fees so low, someone must inevitably pay the price.

"You can be assured, if you go to a place with rock-bottom prices, that chances are the workers wages' are being stolen," said Nicole Hallett, a lecturer at Yale Law School who has worked on wage theft cases in salons. "The costs are borne by the low-wage workers who are doing your nails."

In a Q&A about the investigation, Nir shares how she became interested in nail salons:

About four years ago, I was at a 24-hour spa in Koreatown. It's one of the Vogue top-secret best-bet salons -- a really unusual place. It was my birthday, and I treated myself to a pedicure at 10 AM. And I said to the woman, "It's so crazy that this is a 24-hour salon. Who works the night shift?" And she says, "I work the night shift." And I said, "Well, it's daytime. Who works the day shift? What do you mean?"

And she said, "I work six days a week, 24 hours a day, I live in a barracks above the salon, and on the seventh day, I go home to sleep in my bedroom in Flushing, and then I come right back to work."

And I was like, This woman's in prison. People had to shake her to keep her awake. And then she would do a treatment. I just thought it was crazy.

I don't see how you can go to a NYC nail salon after reading this article. Even Nir's tips about being a socially conscious nail salon customer aren't much help.

Update: Part 2 of Nir's series on nail salons is out. It's about the health hazards faced by nail salon workers, including lung disease, miscarriages, and cancer. One woman even lost her fingerprints.

Similar stories of illness and tragedy abound at nail salons across the country, of children born slow or "special," of miscarriages and cancers, of coughs that will not go away and painful skin afflictions. The stories have become so common that older manicurists warn women of child-bearing age away from the business, with its potent brew of polishes, solvents, hardeners and glues that nail workers handle daily.

A growing body of medical research shows a link between the chemicals that make nail and beauty products useful -- the ingredients that make them chip-resistant and pliable, quick to dry and brightly colored, for example -- and serious health problems.

Whatever the threat the typical customer enjoying her weekly French tips might face, it is a different order of magnitude, advocates say, for manicurists who handle the chemicals and breathe their fumes for hours on end, day after day.

The prevalence of respiratory and skin ailments among nail salon workers is widely acknowledged. More uncertain, however, is their risk for direr medical issues. Some of the chemicals in nail products are known to cause cancer; others have been linked to abnormal fetal development, miscarriages and other harm to reproductive health.

Update: Governor Cuomo has set up a task force to conduct investigations into the city's nail salons.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered emergency measures on Sunday to combat the wage theft and health hazards faced by the thousands of people who work in New York State's nail salon industry.

Effective immediately, he said in a statement, a new, multiagency task force will conduct salon-by-salon investigations, institute new rules that salons must follow to protect manicurists from the potentially dangerous chemicals found in nail products, and begin a six-language education campaign to inform them of their rights.

Nail salons that do not comply with orders to pay workers back wages, or are unlicensed, will be shut down. The new rules come in response to a New York Times investigation of nail salons -- first published online last week -- that detailed the widespread exploitation of manicurists, many of whom have illnesses that some scientists and health advocates say are caused by the chemicals with which they work.

This is good news...as long as it results in real positive changes and doesn't just get a bunch of salon workers deported.

Update: The Times continues its nail salon coverage with an interview with Sister Feng, a Chinese social media star who worked as a manicurist in NYC for four years.

Q. The Times reported that some immigrant manicurists said their bosses would withhold tips and verbally or physically abuse them. Did you ever experience this?

A. There were times when my tips were withheld. But as long as I thought my wages weren't out of line with my labor, I wouldn't go to my boss and ask for the tips. In nail salons run by Chinese, being verbally abused was commonplace, so I changed workplaces often. But it never happened in salons run by Koreans. I was never physically beaten.

(via mr)

Dooce is retiringAPR 24

After many years of blogging professionally at Dooce, Heather Armstrong is stepping down to focus on speaking and brand consultation. She's planning to write for fun again.

But what makes this livelihood glaringly different are not only the constant creative strains of churning out new and entertaining content -- content we cannot delegate to anyone else because our audiences read our stories for our particular voice and perspective -- but also the security systems we've had to set up as an increasingly more diverse group of people throw rocks at our houses with the intention of causing damage: passersby, rubbernecks, stalkers, even journalists. We have separate security systems for those who take every word and decision we share and deliberately misinterpret it, disfigure it to the point of it being wholly unrecognizable, and then broadcast to us and to their own audiences that they have diagnosed us with a personality disorder.

"Living online" for us looks completely different now than it did when we all set out to build this community, and the emotional and physical toll of it is rapidly becoming a health hazard.

There's a lot in what Heather wrote that resonates with me. (See also Amateur Gourmet, Dylan Byers, and Marco Arment.) Two or three years ago, I thought I would do my site professionally for the rest of my life, or at least a good long while. The way things are going, in another year or two, I'm not sure that's even going to be an option. The short window of time in which individuals could support themselves by blogging is closing rapidly. There's a lot more I could say about that, but for now, I'll offer my best wishes to Heather in her new endeavors. Dooce is dead, long live Dooce.

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