Entries for January 2009 (February 2009 »    March 2009 »    April 2009 »    Archives)


Dolphins, the chefs of the sea

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 30, 2009

My grandpappy used to say to me, "Them dolphins is smart. The chefs of the sea they are!"** Scientists have observed bottlenose dolphins preparing cuttlefish for consumption.

Considering they can't wield a knife or cleaver, dolphins make impressive butchers. Researchers in Australia recently observed a bottlenose performing a precise series of manoeuvres to kill, gut and bone a cuttlefish. The six-step procedure gets rid of the invertebrate's unappetising ink and hard-to-swallow cuttlebone.

** This is not true.

How to edit a film

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 30, 2009

A short lesson in film editing in the form of a scene from the film Modern Romance, featuring Albert Brooks and Bruno Kirby. The director of the film that comes in about halfway through is real-life producer/director James L. Brooks. (thx, dave)

Christgau's grades

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 30, 2009

When evaluating records, music critic Robert Christgau used grades ranging from A+ to E-.

An A+ record is an organically conceived masterpiece that repays prolonged listening with new excitement and insight. It is unlikely to be marred by more than one merely ordinary cut.


An E- record is an organically conceived masterpiece that repays repeated listening with a sense of horror in the face of the void. It is unlikely to be marred by one listenable cut.

(via 43f)

How to demo software

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 30, 2009

An oldish but still useful post on how to demo software by Joel Spolsky.

The only interesting way to design a demo is to make it a story. You have a protagonist, and the protagonist has a problem, and they use the software, and they... almost solve the problem, but not quite, and then everybody is in suspense, while you tell them some boring stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else, but they're still listening raptly because they're waiting to hear the resolution to the suspenseful story, and then (ah!) you solve the protagonists last problem, and all is well. There is a reason people have been sitting around telling stories around campfires for the last million years or so: people like stories.

As with all advice, Spolsky's rules should be tuned to your purposes but the ideas are solid for anyone who talks to groups of people. (via stamen)

2009, the Year of Panic

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 30, 2009

Bruce Sterling: 2009 Will Be a Year of Panic, a summary of seven factors that we should be concerned about in 2009 and beyond.

Most people in this world have no insurance and ignore building codes. They live in "informal architecture," i.e., slum structures. Barrios. Favelas. Squats. Overcrowded districts of this world that look like a post-Katrina situation all the time. When people are thrown out of their too-expensive, too-coded homes, this is where they will go. Unless they're American, in which case they'll live in their cars. But how can dispossessed Americans pay for their car insurance when they have no fixed address?

(thx, bruce)

Best movie shots, 2008

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 30, 2009

A review of 2008's best cinematographic moments: part one, part two.

This year the challenge was of a different sort. The field was curiously thin. It wasn't that the talent wasn't on display. God knows, a number of the greats were lining up behind the camera this year. But the images weren't as instantly iconic or as viscerally gripping as they were in 2007, which might have left me a bit disappointed on one hand. Then again, it just made searching for my favorites all the more involved and interesting, and I'm happy to offer my findings to you in this space, even if it meant doubling up.

This was one of my favorite "best of" lists from 2007 and I'm glad to see it return this year.

Update: Hmm, all the permalinks on that site appear to be broken. Maybe check back later?

Balance game

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 30, 2009

Perfect Balance is one of those "I'll just play it for a bit" games and then you're all like, wait, it's 2:30am? (via waxy)

Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 30, 2009

Tyler Cowen has updated his Ethnic Dining Guide for the Washington DC area. Even if you don't live in DC, the general remarks section is good advice to keep in mind when dining out.

The better ethnic restaurants tend to have many of their kind in a given geographic area. Single restaurant representations of a cuisine tend to disappoint. Competition increases quality and lowers prices. The presence of many restaurants of a kind in an area creates a pool of educated consumers, trained workers and chefs, and ingredient supplies - all manifestations of increasing returns to scale.

Cowen also wants against ordering ingredients-intensive dishes because of inferior American ingredients.

Avoid dishes that are "ingredients-intensive." Raw ingredients in America - vegetables, butter, bread, meats, etc. - are below world standards. Even most underdeveloped countries have better raw ingredients than we do, at least if you have a U.S. income to spend there, and often even if one doesn't. Ordering the plain steak in Latin America may be a great idea, but it is usually a mistake in Northern Virginia. Opt for dishes with sauces and complex mixes of ingredients. Go for dishes that are "composition-intensive."

Confidence tricks

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2009

Wikipedia's list of confidence tricks page is very entertaining. Consider the pig-in-a-poke:

Pig-in-a-poke originated in the late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce, but apparently rats and cats were not. The con entails a sale of a (suckling) "pig" in a "poke" (bag). The bag ostensibly contains a live healthy little pig, but actually contains a cat (not particularly prized as a source of meat, and at any rate, quite unlikely to grow to be a large hog). If one buys a "pig in a poke" without looking in the bag (a colloquial expression in the English language, meaning "to be a sucker"), the person has bought something of less value than was assumed, and has learned firsthand the lesson caveat emptor.

A trick called the glim-dropper requires a one-eyed accomplice.

One grifter goes into a store and pretends he has lost his glass eye. Everyone looks around, but the eye cannot be found. He declares that he will pay a thousand-dollar reward for the return of his eye, leaving contact information. The next day, an accomplice enters the store and pretends to find the eye. The storekeeper (the intended griftee), thinking of the reward, offers to take it and return it to its owner. The finder insists he will return it himself, and demands the owner's address. Thinking he will lose all chance of the reward, the storekeeper offers a hundred dollars for the eye. The finder bargains him up to $250, and departs. The one-eyed man, of course, can not be found and does not return.

A con called The Ogged contains a very specific example of its use.

A new con trick born in the age of blogs. For this scam, the con artist creates a pseudonymous internet persona and befriends a group of people online who will become his marks. Then the scammer feigns some terrible disease, such as stomach cancer. Finally, the scammer subtly pushes the idea that his online "friends" could pitch in for something to make him feel better, such as a $700 gift certificate to the French Laundry. After the boon is received, the scam artist claims a miraculous recovery or doctor error. Finally, once the gift certificate has been cashed, the con artist claims that he must "go on hiatus" or even quit blogging altogether.

I can't find any evidence that the FL gift certificate incident ever happened or documentation of a trick called "The Ogged" anywhere aside from Wikipedia. Anyone? (via bb)

Update: Several people wrote in about "The Ogged". The inclusion of the term appears to be a joke. A couple of years ago, a blogger named Ogged posted that he had cancer (but not really), he gets a gift certificate to The French Laundry, the cancer comes back, and then it was added to Wikipedia as a joke. (thx, everyone...especially andy)

The luckiest fan in America

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2009

A Philadelphia sports fan with a knack for getting into good seats at the ballgame for free ended up partying with the Phillies in their clubhouse after winning the World Series.

Lionel goes 5'8", 240, and he's got the same shirt and lei as the players, so he looks like a player, which is maybe why he's suddenly in the middle of every hug. And that's about when Chase Utley says to Jimmy Rollins: "Let's go celebrate!" And Lionel says exactly what you'd think he'd say, which is, "I'm with you guys!"

(via memeticians)

Wonderwall techno

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2009

We all had a healthy laugh earlier in the month when someone took the vocal track from Van Halen's Runnin' With The Devil and ran it through Microsoft Songsmith, creating an automatic and unusual musical accompaniment for David Lee Roth's tortured vocals. Since then, people have done this with all sorts of songs and they're all pretty bad. Surprisingly, Wonderwall by Oasis works really well as a techno song. (thx, rob)

Peter Stuyvesant's pear tree

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2009

Peter Stuyvesant was the director-general of the New Netherlands colony from 1647 to 1664, when the Dutch lost it to the British and New Amsterdam became New York. When Stuyvesant arrived in New Amsterdam, he brought a pear tree with him and planted it on his farm, which encompassed much of what is now the East Village. After a trip to Amsterdam following the English takeover of the colony, Stuyvesant returned to his farm in New York, where he lived until his death in 1672.

His pear tree persevered. As Manhattan's grid sprang up around it, the tree remained bearing fruit on the corner of 13th Street and 3rd Avenue. Here's a stereoscopic photo of the tree from the 1860s.

Stuyvesant pear tree

In 1867, over 200 years after the tree was planted, the last known living link to the Dutch rule of Manhattan was felled by a vehicle collision. The NY Times ran a short piece about the death of the tree: Untimely End of the Stuyvesant Pear-Tree.

The well-known pear-tree planted by Gov. Stuyvesant, and which has stood for two centuries, came at last to a sudden demise during the latter part of last week. This old and famous tree stood on the corner of Thirteenth-street and Third-avenue, in a circular enclosure of iron railing, erected, we believe, by Mr. Wainwright, a descendant of the old Dutch Governor. It had its traditions, though it was less renowned than the famous Charter Oak of Connecticut, but like that old tree, it had been made the subject of many a sketch. Its decay was marked year by year in the declining average of its blossoms, but it was not considered beyond bearing before the occurrence of an accident which cleft the ancient trunk in twain. The destruction of this old landmark is stated to have resulted from a collision of vehicles, one of which was thrown against the tree with sufficient force to break it down. Laborers were engaged in removing the limbs and trunk yesterday, which were proclaimed obstructions to travel.

I found one of those many sketches in a book called History of the School of the Collegiate Reformed Dutch Church in the City of New York, from 1633 to 1883.

Stuyvesant pear tree

A plaque now marks the corner where the tree stood and in 2003, a new pear tree was planted in the same spot, hopefully to live for another 200 years.

N.B. From what I can tell from my research, the plaque may be wrong about the date that the tree was planted. It states that Stuyvesant brought the tree back with him after the English took control of New Amsterdam in 1664 whereas most other sources on the matter indicate that Stuyvesant brought the tree with him when he came to assume control of the colony in 1647.

Disney genealogy

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2009

Donald Duck's family tree. Donald's relatives include Gladstone Gander, Hortense McDuck, Lullubelle Loon, Cuthbert Coot, Angus "Pothole" McDuck, and "Dirty" Dingus McDuck. (via ebert)

Update: See also the expanded version. (thx, gloria)

New New Yorkers

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2009

A short piece in the Times about NYC newcomers.

Newcomers suddenly realize either that the city is not working for them or that they are inexorably becoming part of it, or both. They find themselves walking and talking faster.

The subway begins to make sense. Patience is whittled away; sarcasm often ensues. New friends are made, routines established, and city life begins to feel like second nature. In other words, newcomers find themselves becoming New Yorkers.

The yellow line

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2009

A video explaining how the yellow first-down line is drawn on the football field during games. (thx, david)

Little tweaks make big money

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2009

Sometimes all you need is a little text change to save your business a lot of money. Jared Spool once helped a major ecommerce site with their checkout process. The company ended up changing the text of a submit button and making the company an additional $300 million in one year.

The form, intended to make shopping easier, turned out to only help a small percentage of the customers who encountered it. (Even many of those customers weren't helped, since it took just as much effort to update any incorrect information, such as changed addresses or new credit cards.) Instead, the form just prevented sales — a lot of sales.

37signals recently changed how they labelled charges on credit card statements and reduced chargebacks by 30%.

26 years of notes

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2009

Uber-designer Michael Bierut talks about the 85 notebooks that he's carried around over the last 26 years (not all at once, of course).

The notebooks function like a security blanket for me. I can't go into a meeting unless I have my current notebook in my hand, even if I never open it. Because I carry one everywhere, I tend to misplace them a lot. Losing one makes me frantic. Everyone who works with me gets used to me asking, "Have you seen my notebook anywhere?" which I assume gets irritating after a while: sorry. I've left them behind in clients' offices. On one occasion, I left one on the roof of a cab on the upper west side. I ended up walking ten blocks, retracing the taxi's route, until I found it on Broadway at 63rd Street, intact except for some tire marks.

I've tried using notebooks several times over the years, but the habit has never stuck.

A solution to our bee problem

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2009

Scientists are still trying to figure out what's causing CCD, or Colony Collapse Disorder, a plague that's killing off millions of bee across the United States. Among the possible culprits are a virus, increased vulnerability to disease due to breeding, overwork (hives of bees are trucked around the country for months to pollinate crops), increased exposure to all kinds of insecticides, and perhaps even all of the above.

Whatever the cause, Aaron Hirsh says, the way to keep our crops pollinated could be simple: restore habitats for wild bees near crops that need to be pollinated.

As the swift expansion of feral honeybees across the Americas shows, they are not especially picky about their habitat; most anything outside of parking lot or vast monoculture will do. And for native bees, habitat could be restored to suit the needs of whichever species are exceptionally good pollinators of local crops. Bumblebees, for instance, are the best pollinators of Maine blueberries, whereas blue orchard bees work well for California almonds.

Hirsh's idea is reminiscent of Michael Pollan's proposals for decreasing the present monoculture in American agriculture outlined in his recent books.

Update: See also Beekeeping Backwards. (thx, david)

Four hours of baby play packed into two minutes

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2009

Excellent timelapse video of a baby playing with his toys. The camera angle and the way he moves through the room consuming his toys makes it look like an amoeba in a petri dish. (thx, curtis)

Free music on Amazon

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2009

Amazon has hundreds of free mp3s available for download, including tracks by Brian Eno & David Byrne, Ani Difranco, and Reverend Horton Heat. (via the millions)

Quick design tweaks

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2009

As promised, the redesign of this site started last week is still in motion. I've just made a bunch of small tweaks that should make the site more readable for some readers.

- Fonts. In response to a number of font issues (many reports of Whitney acting up, the larger type looking like absolute crap on Windows), I've changed how the stylesheets work. Sadly, that means no more lovely Whitney. :( Mac users will see Myriad Pro Regular backed up by Helvetica and Arial while PC users will see Arial (at a different font-size). In each case, the type is slightly smaller than it was previously. I'm frustrated that these changes need to be made...the state of typography on the web is still horrible.

- Blue zoom border. Oh, it's staying, but it'll work a bit differently. The blue sides will still appear on the screen at all times but the top and bottom bars will scroll with the content. I liked the omnipresent border, but the new scheme will fix the problems with hidden anchor links and hidden in-page search results and allow for more of the screen to be used for reading/scanning. It breaks on short pages (see: the 404 page) and still doesn't work quite right on the iPhone, but those are problems for another day.

- Icons. Updated the favicon and the icon on the iPhone to match the new look/feel.

- Misc. Rounded off the corners on the red title box. Increased the space between the sidebar and the main content column.

Thanks to everyone who offered their suggestions and critiques of the new design, especially those who took the time to send in screenshots of the problems they were having. Feedback is always appreciated.

Dirt is good for you

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2009

Studies indicate that kids who are exposed to bacteria, viruses, worms, and dirt have healthier immune systems.

He said that public health measures like cleaning up contaminated water and food have saved the lives of countless children, but they "also eliminated exposure to many organisms that are probably good for us." "Children raised in an ultraclean environment," he added, "are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits."

One of the decisions we made even before Ollie was born was that he was going to be a dirty kid. We wash our hands often with non-antibacterial soap and water, especially after being on the subway, but otherwise don't worry about it much. I can count on one hand how many times I've used the antibacterial hand sanitizer that seemingly comes bundled with toddlers these days.

Update: See also The Germ-Phobic Mommies.

The words of David Foster Wallace

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2009

The David Foster Wallace Dictionary, Words I Learned From Reading David Foster Wallace, and the Infinite Jest Vocabulary Glossary.

Redesigning the Super Bowl logo

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2009

Some designers take a crack at redesigning the most recent Super Bowl logo. Most are completely impractical, but I thought Aaron Draplin's had a nice throwback style.

Flying over glowing cities

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2009

Timelapse video of a cross country flight at night, flying above clouds glowing with city lights.

My advice to you is to make the video full screen, put in your headphones and enjoy the soothing ride. (via migurski)

More on Candy Land

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2009

Two counterpoints to Steven Johnson's argument that Candy Land is rubbish...the first is from Greg Costikyan, written two months ago.

As such, it is a metaphorical representation of the fundamental ideology of the United States; the past is no constraint on the future, and each individual should strive resolutely for personal advance despite whatever the past may hold. The child born in a log cabin may achieve the presidency, an immigrant boy who grows up in the slums of Brooklyn may become a real-estate magnate, an Ivy-educated scion of wealth may wind up on a bread line, and a double green will speed you to the fore. Though there are winners and losers, initial conditions are no determinant of outcome in the freedom of America.

Tom Armitage references both Johnson and Costikyan in his response, Taking Turns.

Candyland is a great first game; literally, the very first. It teaches turn-taking. It teaches the mores, the manners, the culture of playing boardgames. Later, when a child comes to a game where the rules are more complex, the turn process more intricate, the customs of gameplay are already learned; rather than focusing on learning the social interactions, they can focus on the complexity of the game itself.

Do you talk too much?

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2009

In conversation, try to heed The Traffic Light rule of thumb.

During the first 30 seconds of an utterance, your light is green: your listener is probably paying attention. During the second 30 seconds, your light is yellow — your listener may be starting to wish you'd finish. After the one-minute mark, your light is red: Yes, there are rare times you should "run a red light:" when your listener is obviously fully engaged in your missive. But usually, when an utterance exceeds one minute, with each passing second, you increase the risk of boring your listener and having them think of you as a chatterbox, windbag, or blowhard.

(via lone gunman)

Loathsome people

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2009

The 50 most loathsome people in America for 2008. George W. Bush and Barack Obama both make the list but She Who Shall Not Be Named Ever Again is #1. "You" makes the list at #43 and is my favorite.

You're hopping mad about an auto industry bailout that cost a squirt of piss compared to a Wall Street heist of galactic dimensions, due to a housing crash you somehow have blamed on minorities. It took you six years to figure out what a tool Bush is, but you think Obama will make it all better. You deem it hunky dory that we conduct national policy debates via 8-second clips from "The View." You think God zapped humans into existence a few thousand years ago, although your appendix and wisdom teeth disagree. You like watching vicious assholes insult each other on TV. You support gun rights, because firing one gives you a chubby. You cuddle falsehoods and resent enlightenment. You think the fact that 43% of whites could stomach voting for an incredibly charismatic and eloquent light-skinned black guy who was raised by white people means racism is over. You think progressive taxation is socialism. 1 in 100 of you are in jail, and you think it should be more. You are shallow, inconsiderate, afraid, brand-conscious, sedentary, and totally self-obsessed. You are American

Exhibit A: You're more upset by Miley Cyrus's glamour shots than the fact that you are a grown adult who is upset about Miley Cyrus.

Two Rooms game

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2009

Two Rooms is a simple Flash game, part puzzle and part fast-twitch, in which you move items around in two adjacent rooms in order to get one of your movers to a goal. (via buzzfeed)

David Attenborough gets hate mail?

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2009

David Attenborough, the voice of several thousand hours of nature films, gets hate mail from viewers who believe he should be crediting God for nature's beauty.

Telling the magazine that he was asked why he did not give "credit" to God, Attenborough added: "They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator."

(via cyn-c)

The Places We Live

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2009

The Places We Live features panoramic photos of slums, narrated by the people who live there (through translators). Really really engrossing. To access the stories in the restricting Flash interface, skip the intro, click on a city, and then on one of the households in the upper left corner. There's a book too. (via snarkmarket)

Michael Lewis interviewed

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2009

The Atlantic's new business blog has an interview with Michael Lewis.

A related thing is that there was blind faith in the value of financial innovation. Wall Street dreamed up increasingly complicated things, and they were allowed to do it because it was always assumed that if the market wanted it then it made some positive contribution to society. It's now quite clear that some of these things they dreamed up were instruments of doom and should never have been allowed in the marketplace.

(thx, djacobs)

Bill Cunningham's Inauguration

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2009

Street photographer Bill Cunningham didn't have a ticket to the Inauguration nor did he have an assignment from the NY Times to cover it; he just bought a train ticket, went down on his own, and brought back these photos. Be sure to listen to Cunningham's wonderful narration; he even gets choked up when describing the moment of Obama's swearing-in. I wish all journalism were this professionally personal (if that makes any sense). (via greg.org)

Eye On Springfield

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2009

Eye On Springfield celebrates Simpsons moments from seasons 1-9, when the show was "still funny". If you're around me for more than a few minutes, it's likely you'll hear "freshen ya drink, govenah?" at some point.

Every second counts

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2009

Fun little game from Ze Frank that I hadn't seen before: Every Second Counts. You're challenged to hold the mouse button down for 0.2 seconds, 0.4 seconds, then 0.6, 0.8, and so on. You need to be within 0.1 seconds of the target time to advance to the next time. Because the increments get increasingly smaller in comparison to the overall times, it quickly becomes difficult to gauge how long to hold the button, i.e. 0.4 is twice as long as 0.2 but 3.2 and 3.4 are almost indistinguishable. (It's also difficult because the button is kinda hinky.) I made it to 1.8 seconds...is it even possible to get to 4 or 5 seconds?

I found this via Frank's recent post about differences in scale.

Update: Several readers made it to 4, 5, and even 8 seconds. Most were musicians who have strong sense of timing. I'm also reminded of a story about how Richard Feynman developed his sense of timing to the point where he could keep time in his head even while reading. (thx, everyone)

Funny personals

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2009

Last year we chuckled at the hilariousness of the personal ads in the New York Review of Books and this year we can chuckle at the hilariousness of the personal ads in the London Review of Books.

All humans are 99.9% genetically identical, so don't even think of ending any potential relationship begun here with 'I just don't think we have enough in common'. Science has long since proven that I am the man for you (41, likes to be referred to as 'Wing Commander' in the bedroom).

(thx, john)

Update: See also Harvard Magazine's personals. (thx, greg)

Update: There's an entire book of personals from the London Book Review called They Call Me Naughty Lola that the Guardian writer didn't mention. (thx, rj)

Jump London

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2009

Jump London, a 2003 documentary about parkour, is available in its entirety on Google Video. (thx, sacha)

You mean bored games, right?

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2009

Continuing his argument from Everything Bad is Good for You, Steven Johnson writes about the lameness of most children's board games, including Candy Land.

I'm not big into the "moral message" interpretation of pop culture, but plenty of critics of digital games are, so just for the record: what sort of message does Candy Land send to our kids? (And I'm not just talking about all the implicit advertisements for cane sugar products.) It says you are powerless, that your destiny is entirely determined by the luck of the draw, that the only chance you have of winning the game lies in following the rules, and accepting the cards as they come. Who wants to grow up in that kind of universe?

On the other hand, games of chance allow children of all ages and abilities to play the same games together and experience both winning and losing.

Photos of George W. Bush

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2009

In his latest post for his NY Times blog, Errol Morris talks with three photographers — one each from Reuters, AP, and AFP — and has them select their ten favorite photos of George W. Bush.

He popped out that door, and when the door opened and he came through it, the look on his face was like no look I'd ever seen on George Bush's face in my life. [...] And I said, "If he wasn't just back there behind that door crying, I don't know what that look on his face is." Because he just looks absolutely devastated as he comes through this door after essentially ending his eight year presidency. And it's just really striking. He just looks absolutely devastated.

The interview with the last photographer is the least interesting because he refuses to interpret any of the photographs but his set of photographs includes at least 3 photographs that I had never seen before and that weren't "published extensively in the United States".

Two cardinals, both alike in dignity

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2009

Remarkable photo of a gynandromorphic cardinal with bilateral asymmetry, meaning that the left side of the bird is male and the right side is female...a red/brown split right down the middle.

Gynandromorphic Cardinal

Not Photoshopped, although the phenomenon is more common with butterflies. (thx, jason)

Update: Here's a two-tone lobster caught in Maine in 2006. (thx, nicole & jim)

Mapping the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2009

A zoomable National Geographic map of the Moon from 1969. Richard Furno worked on the map and tells the very long story of how it came about. One of the first images on the page is from a Soviet mission called Luna-3 that took the first photographs of the far side of the Moon. (thx, lynda)

Carts of Darkness

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2009

For those that enjoyed the trailer for Carts of Darkness I posted a couple of months ago, an exciting follow-up: The National Flim Board of Canada has posted the entire film online for anyone to watch.

Murray Siple's feature-length documentary follows a group of homeless men who have combined bottle picking with the extreme sport of racing shopping carts down the steep hills of North Vancouver. This subculture depicts street life as much more than the stereotypes portrayed in mainstream media. The film takes a deep look into the lives of the men who race carts, the adversity they face and the appeal of cart racing despite the risk.

BTW, this is but one film of hundreds of shorts, animated films, and documentaries that the NFB recently put online for viewing.


posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2009

Your next 45 minutes are spoken for: Auditorium. I wish this game went on forever but it's only a demo for an eventual larger game.

Gradual nationalization of healthcare

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2009

From the New Yorker last week, Atul Gawande on how the US should nationalize healthcare. His answer: nationalize slowly, use what's already in place, and don't rebuild the whole system from scratch.

Every industrialized nation in the world except the United States has a national system that guarantees affordable health care for all its citizens. Nearly all have been popular and successful. But each has taken a drastically different form, and the reason has rarely been ideology. Rather, each country has built on its own history, however imperfect, unusual, and untidy.

As usual, Gawande makes a lot of sense. Whatever the solution, we should be doing all we can to avoid something like this from ever happening again:

"When I heard that I was losing my insurance, I was scared," Darling told the Times. Her husband had been laid off from his job, too. "I remember that the bill for my son's delivery in 2005 was about $9,000, and I knew I would never be able to pay that by myself." So she prevailed on her midwife to induce labor while she still had insurance coverage. During labor, Darling began bleeding profusely, and needed a Cesarean section. Mother and baby pulled through. But the insurer denied Darling's claim for coverage. The couple ended up owing more than seventeen thousand dollars.

A history of printing

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2009

The Printed Picture is an exhibition of physical specimens made using all the different ways that type and image can be printed on paper, metal, glass, etc, with a special emphasis on dozens of photography techniques, from albumen prints to dagguereotypes to color photography. On view at MoMA until June 1.

NYC Polaroid film cache

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 25, 2009

I know that Polaroid announced last year that they were ceasing production of their instant film and that people have begun to hoard film as it becomes more difficult to find. To NYC hoarders: there are 30-40 10-packs of Polaroid 600 film at the CVS on the corner of Nassau and Fulton. Didn't catch the price but they're at the photo processing counter past the registers. Or you could just wait it out.

Steven Soderbergh interview

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2009

A longish interview with Steven Soderbergh about his Che movie and filmmaking in general. The first question is about how all his movies are related.

The good news is that I don't have to know if there's a link. Wells had a great quote once where some critic asked him a similar question. He said, "I'm the bird, and you're the ornithologist." I don't really sit down and think on a macro level how or if these things are connected. They obviously are in the sense that I wanted to make them. And so there must be something in them that I'm drawn to.

Soderbergh also talks about following your interest when choosing projects and not worrying so much about the money.

Yeah. And I'm a big believer that if there's something you really want to do, don't walk away because of the deal. I see it happen a lot. I see people walk away from things because they didn't get the deal they wanted.

Archimedes developed calculus?

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2009

According to a Greek text that was overwritten with Christian prayers, Archimedes worked out some of the principles of calculus over 1900 years before Newton and Leibniz. He called it The Method.

In The Method, Archimedes was working out a way to compute the areas and volumes of objects with curved surfaces, which was also one of the problems that motivated Newton and Leibniz. Ancient mathematicians had long struggled to "square the circle" by calculating its exact area. That problem turned out to be impossible using only a straightedge and compass, the only tools the ancient Greeks allowed themselves. Nevertheless, Archimedes worked out ways of computing the areas of many other curved regions.

Much more is explained in the book The Archimedes Codex. The entire text is available for free on Google Books (you might need this). (via long now)

Black triangles

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2009

All the dev team had after month of effort was a black triangle on a screen...but it was more than that.

Afterwards, we came to refer to certain types of accomplishments as "black triangles." These are important accomplishments that take a lot of effort to achieve, but upon completion you don't have much to show for it — only that more work can now proceed. It takes someone who really knows the guts of what you are doing to appreciate a black triangle.

When working on complex projects, the black triangle moment is always the high point for me; it's when success occurs. Before you've got a framework built, there's significant doubt about how the project will turn out, if can even be done. After you get that first little result through the whole maze and it's clear how the whole thing will work, the rest becomes almost inevitable. (via migurski)

Updated: Actress Jenna Fischer wrote about hard-to-explain milestones in acting.

I remember one year my proudest moment was at an audition for a really slutty bar maid on a new TV show. It was written for a Pam Anderson type. I thought, "I can never pull this off. I just don't have the sex appeal. I feel stupid. No one is going to take me seriously." But, I committed to the role and gave the best audition I could. I didn't get the job. I didn't get a callback. But I conquered my rambling, fear-driven brain and went balls out on the audition anyway. That was a huge milestone for me — but hard to explain at Christmas.

(via pageslap)

Lost in location awareness

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2009

For a few weeks, journalist Mat Honan used every piece of software he could get his hands on to broadcast his location and activities to the world, his friends, and nearby strangers.

To test whether I was being paranoid, I ran a little experiment. On a sunny Saturday, I spotted a woman in Golden Gate Park taking a photo with a 3G iPhone. Because iPhones embed geodata into photos that users upload to Flickr or Picasa, iPhone shots can be automatically placed on a map. At home I searched the Flickr map, and score — a shot from today. I clicked through to the user's photostream and determined it was the woman I had seen earlier. After adjusting the settings so that only her shots appeared on the map, I saw a cluster of images in one location. Clicking on them revealed photos of an apartment interior — a bedroom, a kitchen, a filthy living room. Now I know where she lives.

(via waxy)

Old whitehouse.gov down the memory hole

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2009

Greg Allen raises a good point regarding the new White House web site: why did the old site get completely erased?

It seems problematic to me that the entire official web presence of the Bush administration, as tainted and manipulative or enraging as you may think it is, just gets wiped clean from the web like that. People need to remember, reference, discuss, and link to that publicly owned, previously published information; it shouldn't be tossed to the curb like a dead plant or buried in the National Archive backup tape repository.

Perhaps there needs to be a simple directory structure put in place, something like:


The files for each President's site would live under the associated directory and would never need to be taken down to make room for new files. Of course, maintaining all that, and the different systems and platforms potentially used by each administration would be a total PITA.

Update: Here are the Clinton whitehouse.gov archive and the George W. Bush whitehouse.gov archive. Nice but they don't address the broken links issue and snapshots don't capture any dynamic functions (like search, for instance). Also, shouldn't every page on the site function like a wiki so you can go back and see the history at any time? Quite a few people suggested using subdomains (e.g. 43.whitehouse.gov) instead of directories to keep everything straight; I concur. (thx, arnold & kate)

Pirating the 2009 Oscars

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2009

Andy Baio has published his annual report on how many Oscar nominated films are available online in pirated versions. A: Almost all of them.

Out of 26 nominated films, an incredible 23 films are already available in DVD quality on nomination day, ripped either from the screeners or the retail DVDs. This is the highest percentage since I started tracking.

Beatles songs ranked

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2009

A list like this could spark endless debate: a ranking of all the songs by The Beatles, from #185 (Revolution 9) to #1 (A Day In The Life).

To novice Beatles fans, I warn you not to believe the hype about "Revolution 9." I've listened to it many times over the years, waiting for the light in my head to switch on so I could unlock its mysteries. All I've ever gotten out of it is the vague feeling that immediately after listening to it, something is going to rise out from under my bed and butcher me in my sleep.

Each choice is extensively annotated and defended; start here if you want to work your way through them all.

An actual long photo

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2009

Simon Hoegsberg has taken a photo that's 100 meters long. It's actually several dozen photos stitched together into one big one. A good idea nicely executed. (thx, everyone)

Physics doesn't apply to much of the universe

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2009

In response to John Brockman's Edge Annual Question for 2009:

What will change everything? What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?

Stuart Kauffman says that we'll come to believe that much of the universe cannot be explained by or reduced to the fundamental laws of physics.

Let me point to the Adjacent Possible of the biosphere. Once there were lung fish, swim bladders were in the Adjacent Possible of the biosphere. Before there were multicelled organisms, the swim bladder was not in the Adjacent Possible of the biosphere. Something wonderful is happening right in front of us: When the swim bladder arose it was of selective advantage in its context. It changed what was Actual in the biosphere, which in turn created a new Adjacent Possible of the biosphere. The biosphere self consistently co-constructs itself into its every changing, unstatable Adjacent Possible.

If the becoming of the swim bladder is partially lawless, it certainly is not entailed by the fundamental laws of physics, so cannot be deduced from physics. Then its existence in the non-ergodic universe requires an explanation that cannot be had by that missing entailment. The universe is open.

(via david galbraith)

I just saw It's a Wonderful LifeHacker

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2009

Web/movie mashups. My favorites:

Harry Potterybarn.com
Il Huffington Postino
Slumdog Millionaire Dollar Homepage
Behind Enemy Bloglines
Schindler's Craigslist
Charlotte's WebCrawler
Freecreditreport.com Willy

And while not strictly adhering to the form, I also chuckled at "Bone Thugs & eHarmony". The best I could come up with for kottke.org is Girls Gone Wild: Kottke West, which is not so good.

Update: Duh, I totally forgot about Koyaaniskottke. Also: kottke.orgazmo, The Kottke Horror Picture Show, and Kottke Balboa. (thx, andy & charley)


posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2009

Irate gentleman: "Are you in charge here?"
The Doctor: "No, but I have a lot of ideas."

That's the Fourth Doctor in The Horror of Fang Rock. However, it should be noted that aside from The Doctor and Leela, everyone else featured in the episode died.

Books that "Changed the World"

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2009

Now available at your local library or bookstore, all sorts of things that Changed the World, including:

Mikhail Gorbachev
The dot
William Shatner
A geological map of England and Wales
The color mauve
The Beatles 1964 and 1965 tours

Layer Tennis returns

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2009

Layer Tennis, the online Photoshop/Flash battle series, is gearing up for another season, starting on Feb 13th and running for twelve weeks. At the end of it all, there will be a single elimination championship tournament. Sign up for season tickets to keep informed and to be able to vote on the outcomes of matches.

Brother Mouzone implicated in Notorious B.I.G.'s killing?

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2009

When The Notorious B.I.G. was shot dead in Los Angeles, a composite sketch of the shooter done shortly after the killing depicts a clean-cut black man in a suit and bow tie. Was Biggie's killer the partial basis for Brother Mouzone, the bow-tied hitman from The Wire?

Biggie Mouzone

At least until I hear from Mr. Mouzone's lawyer, I say: case closed! (thx, alex)

Make a sweater from your pet's fur

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2009

You can now get sweaters made from your dog's fur or a handbag made from your cat's fur...or hats, mittens, etc.

Twittering Star Trek folks

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2009

Geordi La Forge, Data, and Wesley Crusher are all on Twitter. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, WORF?

The best Mac ever

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2009

I love stuff like this: what is the best Mac ever? Now, I'm no McIntosh expurt like Herr Gruber, but the best Mac ever has to be one of their notebooks...an iBook or Powerbook or MacBook Pro.

Complete DVD set of The Wire on sale for $82

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2009

The complete series of The Wire on DVD (all five seasons) is on sale today only at Amazon for $82. That's a whopping 67% off the recommended retail of $250. (thx, doug)

Update: The box set is back to its regular Amazon price of $135 (still pretty good).

Update: Amazon lowered the price on the box set a bit...it's now $124.99, a full 50% off the list price.

Update: As of 12/10/09, they lowered the price to $99 again. (thx, martin)

Liveblogging the Lost season five premiere

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2009

After catching up with seasons 1-4 of the series over the past few months, this is the first episode of Lost that I will be seeing live. Exciting! To commemorate, I'll be liveblogging the first episode of season five, set to begin here in about 10 minutes. Don't worry, spoilers will be minimal. Check back frequently for updates.

11:55 pm Ah, there we go. Just under an hour.

11:06 pm Come on Wikipedia...it's six minutes after the show ended and you haven't updated the pages for the new episodes yet.

10:56 pm Yes, by all means, don't show her face. Christ.

10:55 pm Wait, was that the Tardis?

10:54 pm Hurley can always eat.

10:53 pm Sayid is a vampire. Didn't see that one coming. Cheap attempt to capitalize on Twilight, True Blood, and Let the Right One In vampire maina.

10:50 pm "You've got more issues that Life magazine." TV is so bad.

10:47 pm I made a mistake earlier. Locke is not a Cylon, he's a replicant.

10:44 pm Well, Hurley, when you put it like that, it all just seems really absurd.

10:43 pm "If the news thinks you've done something, then everyone does."

10:40 pm Dharma, Dharma, Dharma, Dharma, Dharma, Dharma, Dharma.

10:32 pm Ooh, Time Elves! They were riding the Smoke Monster!

10:28 pm I was just thinking...someone needs to kill Neil. Then someone did! And that fire to fire thing just after the water to water transition? Nice. Now do earth and wind.

10:23 pm Wait, was that Lt. Daniels?

10:22 pm Get your own I Love My Shih Tzu t-shirt. It *is* all about shirts. (Here's another one!)

10:15 pm Caviar sandwich!

10:13 pm Hurley is in the background of every shot. Spot him if you can.

10:10 pm Water to water cut scene? Brilliance reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And now it's Weekend At Sayid's!

10:08 pm Wait, who the hell is Neil?! (No, seriously.)

10:06 pm Intense shampoo? Fuck you.

10:02 pm Boooo! Not her. Boo. No more advice from dead people.

10:00 pm I'm really tired of these initial shots of headless people. Pan up, for God's sake.

9:58 pm SFJ: "9:54 PM: This is impossible to spoil. We are going in circles." You got that right. (For those of you unfamiliar with TV lingo, that's called a crossover, folks.)

9:50 pm She's dead, right?

9:49 pm Why is Sawyer so angry all the time?

9:45 pm Weird Capital One commercial totally rips off Nintendo. Lawsuit.

9:44 pm I liked this series the first time I saw it...when it was called Star Trek: The Next Generation.

9:43 pm Oh right, it's not supposed to make sense. Look, there's someone who we know is dead! (Or do we? (Yes, we do. (Or do we? (Etc.))))

9:42 pm How does he still have the compass? Why doesn't he just give Richard a big hug and drag him along?

9:40 pm Compasses point north.

9:38 pm Tune in next week for "Name! That! Time!" (I can name that time in 2 scenes, Bob.)

9:31 pm Watch out for the knives!!! Oops, too late.

9:26 pm God, I hope this means we get to see Nikki and Paolo again!

9:24 pm Wait, I have to do this for *two hours*?

9:21 pm SFJ is also liveblogging. He says, "IT IS ON."

9:19 pm Locke is a Cylon.

9:12 pm First commercial is 12 minutes in (Frost/Nixon trailer). Only 12 minutes? Also, I love the Lost titles...short and to the point.

9:09 pm "I guess we'll never know." You got that right, pal. You never even explained about the polar bear!

9:07 pm Jack and Ben in a hotel room together? Is Lost doing its own slash fiction now?

8:53 pm This clip show is a bummer. The show's producers are way too conscious of how the audience perceives the show.

World of Goo soundtrack

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2009

The folks behind the awesome World of Goo game have released an unofficial official soundtrack from the game. (via waxy)

Regarding meetings

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2009

As a general rule, meetings make individuals perform below their capacity and skill levels. This doesn't mean we should always avoid face-to-face meetings - but it is certain that every organization has too many meetings, and far too many poorly designed ones.

Reid Hastie, behavioral scientist

The mystery of the Obama Hope photo

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2009

For all of the talk that Shepard Fairey is just a plagiarist, I think that the clearest indication that his art is above board and adding something new to the world is that until a few days ago, no one knew who had taken the photo of Obama that became the basis of the iconic Hope poster, not even Fairey or the photographer who took it.

Reuters are understandably somewhat put out on their own and Young's behalf, but like it or not, Fairey's use of the picture are well within the parameters of "fair use". His transformative use of the image - both in flipping and re-orienting it, adding jacket and tie and the "O" Obama logo, and converting it to his block print style make it consistent with all legal precedents for use.

Update: But, but ,but, not so fast. It looks like Tom Gralish has found the actual photo that Fairey used; it was taken by AP's Mannie Garcia at a National Press Club event in April 2006. (thx, ryan)

The T-Mobile Dance

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2009

Go on, see if this T-Mobile commercial doesn't make you smile. They did a good job in making it look organic and building to greater and greater coordination. Great commercial...it shows exactly what mobile phones are for.

Update: Here's a short movie of the filming on Flickr by someone who just happened to be there. (thx, matt)

Get Your War On is off

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2009

With Bush out of office, David Rees ends his popular and hilarious cartoon, Get Your War On.

How to revive dry Play-Doh

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2009

There are differing views on how to revive Play-Doh that has been left out of the canister overnight. First, the DIY version:

Using a kitchen or bathroom sink, rinse the Play Doh for 10-15 seconds. Knead the dough for 30 seconds...

And then there's the corporate version:

If the PLAY-DOH compound has started to dry out or if the colors have become messy and mixed, remember: PLAY-DOH compound is inexpensive and easy to buy. Nothing beats a fresh can!

When in doubt, shop!

Two more seasons of Mad Men

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2009

The creator of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, has signed a deal with his distribution company to do the show for at least two more years.

Pact will keep Weiner at the helm of "Mad Men" for the next two seasons. It also covers TV development and includes a component for Weiner to develop a feature project for Lionsgate. There's no specific idea on the table for the feature, but it won't be "Mad Men" on the bigscreen, Weiner and Lionsgate execs said.

Praise be. (via fimoculous)

Life on Mars?

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2009

Not so fast. Not sure how I missed this last week, but scientists have discovered large quantities of methane in Mars' atmosphere, and indication that the planet is active "geologically or biologically".

The origin of methane could either be geologic where water reacts with hot rock and produces methane gas which escapes through pores in the planet's surface in a process called serpentinization. Or it could be evidence of biology under the surface, where the methane generated by microbes could accumulate and then escape through the rocks.

McCain: Obama's newest advisor?

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2009

I love this...Barack Obama has been asking John McCain for his advice over the past few weeks.

Over the last three months, Mr. Obama has quietly consulted Mr. McCain about many of the new administration's potential nominees to top national security jobs and about other issues — in one case relaying back a contender's answers to questions Mr. McCain had suggested.

McCain, though it was his own fault (or that of his handlers), didn't represent himself well during the presidential campaign and it's nice to see that the very able Senator isn't being sidelined because of it. Also, it's quite savvy of Obama to seek out his support. He's essentially buying McCain stock at a low point and will presumably leverage that purchase when that stock inevitably rises.

Update: A letter to the Times editor notes that there is a precedent for the Obama/McCain connection: FDR and Wendell Willkie after the 1940 election.

After Franklin D. Roosevelt won the 1940 election, he invited his opponent, the Republican Wendell L. Willkie, to meet with him in the White House. "You know, he is a very good fellow," F.D.R. said afterward to his secretary of labor, Frances Perkins. "He has lots of talent. I want to use him somehow."

(thx, phil)

Boxxy and Boxee

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2009


Boxxy, Boxee, Boxxy, Boxee, Boxxy, Boxee, Boxxy, Boxee, Boxxy.


The country's new robots.txt file

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2009

Here's a small and nerdy measure of the huge change in the executive branch of the US government today. Here's the robots.txt file from whitehouse.gov yesterday:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin
Disallow: /search
Disallow: /query.html
Disallow: /omb/search
Disallow: /omb/query.html
Disallow: /expectmore/search
Disallow: /expectmore/query.html
Disallow: /results/search
Disallow: /results/query.html
Disallow: /earmarks/search
Disallow: /earmarks/query.html
Disallow: /help
Disallow: /360pics/text
Disallow: /911/911day/text
Disallow: /911/heroes/text

And it goes on like that for almost 2400 lines! Here's the new Obamafied robots.txt file:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /includes/

That's it! BTW, the robots.txt file tells search engines what to include and not include in their indexes. (thx, ian)

Update: Nearly four months later, the White House's robots.txt file is still short...only four lines.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /includes/
Disallow: /search/
Disallow: /omb/search/

New White House site

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2009

Several readers have noted that The White House Site has already been refreshed to the now-familiar Obama look-and-feel. It's even got a blog on the front page. Will there be a Twitter account? The Wikipedians have been busy too: Obama is listed as the current President on the President of the United States page.

Update: Oh, and all of the third-party content on the WH site is licensed under Creative Commons. Wow.

Update: Oh, there's a Twitter account. Pair with THE_REAL_SHAQ for maximum fun! (thx, brian)

Update: This appears to be the official WH Twitter account, former updated by the Bush administration but now helmed by the Obama folks.

Obama off by one

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2009

Obama made a small error in the first part of his inaugural speech. He said:

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

Because of Grover Cleveland's two non-consecutive terms, there have been 44 Presidents but only 43 people have held the office and taken the oath. I'm surprised his speechwriters didn't catch that little detail. Of course, I think of Al Gore as an ex-President so maybe that's where it came from.

Text of all the inaugural addresses

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2009

Bartleby has the text from all of the Presidential inaugural addresses, from George Washington to the Shrub. (Don't forget to watch the inauguration online!)

Presidential inauguration videos, 1901-2005

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2009

A MetaFilter user has tracked down video for all of the Presidential inauguration ceremonies for the past 100 years. Here's McKinley's from 1901, Teddy Roosevelt (1905), JFK (1961), and Reagan (1981).

Star Wars yoga

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2009

Star Wars yoga. Poses include Reclined Jabba, Speeder Bike, and Saber One.

Regarding the new design

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2009

The design of kottke.org has been mostly the same since 2000...a garish yellow/green bar across the top and small black text on a white background everywhere else. (See the progression of designs since 1998.) People absolutely hated that color when I first introduced it1, but it stuck around — mostly out of laziness — and that pukey yellow became the most visible brand element of the site.

Two days ago, I refreshed the design of the site and, as you may have noticed, no more yellow/green. The other big changes are: bigger text set in a new font, a blue "zoom" border around the page, and the addition of titles to the short posts.

(A brief nuts and bolts interlude... For most of you, the site will look like this. If you've got Myriad Pro on your machine — it comes free with Acrobat Reader and Adobe CS — it'll look like this...this is the "intended" look. And if you're a fancypants designer with Whitney installed, you'll get this rarified view, which I did mostly for me. On IE6, the site will be legible and usable but somewhat unstyled. If you're not seeing something that looks like one of the above screenshots — if the text is in all caps, for instance — please drop me a line with a link to a screenshot and your browser information. Thanks!)

The blue "zoom" border is the biggest visual change, and it's an homage to what is still my favorite kottke.org design, the yellow zoom from 1999. I like that kottke.org is one of the few weblogs out there that can reach back almost ten years for a past design element; the site has history. In a way, that border is saying "kottke.org has been around for ten years and it's gonna be around for twenty more". At least that's how I think about it.

I've already gotten lots of feedback from readers, mostly via Twitter and email. There were a few technical issues that I've hopefully ironed out — e.g. it should work better on the iPhone now — and a couple which might take a bit longer, like the border messing with the page-at-a-time scrolling method. Some people like the changes, but mostly people don't like the new design, really dislike the blue, and generally want the old site back. This is exactly the reaction I expected, and it's heartening to learn that the old design struck such a chord with people. All I'm asking is that you give it a little time.

My suspicion is that as you get used to it, the new text size won't seem so weird and that blue border will likely disappear into the background of your attention, just as that hideous yellow/green did. A month from now, your conscious mind won't even see the blue — chalk it up to something akin to banner blindness...brand blindness maybe? — but your subconscious will register it and you'll just know where you are, safe and sound right here at good ol' kottke.org. And if that doesn't work, we'll tweak and move some things around. Design is a process, not a result, and we'll get it to a good place eventually, even if it takes twenty years.

[1] I wish I had access to my email from back then...everyone hated it and wanted the old design back. Before landing on the yellow/green color, I tried the golden yellow from the previous design, a blue very much like the blue in the current border, and then red. I think each color was live on the site for a few days and my intention was to just keep switching it around. But then I got bored and just left the yellow/green. Gold star to anyone who remembers that short phase of the site.

Watch the inauguration online

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2009

Chances are that if you're not in Washington DC or staying home from work tomorrow, you're going to be at your desk or otherwise out and about for the inauguration of Barack Obama. Fear not, you'll have plenty of viewing options:

Official Presidential Inaugural site
Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies site
The networks: NBC, ABC, CBS.

Or watch right here on kottke.org, courtesy of Hulu. Or not. The Hulu video is on autoplay, which is *really* annoying. Sorry about that. What the hell, Hulu?!

Per the schedule, the swearing-in ceremony will start at 11:30 am ET, which will include Obama's inaugural address. After the address, Obama "will escort outgoing President George W. Bush to a departure ceremony", which ceremony I hope involves a kick in the ass and a slamming door. Then there's a luncheon at the Capitol and a parade to the White House that traditionally starts around 2:30 pm.

Flight 1549 simulation

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2009

The BBC did a flight simulation of US Airways flight 1549 that shows what the water approach looked like from the cockpit. (thx, david)

Brief Interviews clip

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2009

Here's a clip from John Krasinski's new film, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. (thx, bill)

Video footage of Hudson River plane crash

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 18, 2009

I'm still fascinated by the water landing of US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River late last week. Here are a few more things I've seen related to it over the last couple of days.

First the videos. Someone visiting the Bronx Zoo caught the plane on video, flying low in the sky just after the bird strike. A Coast Guard video monitoring station got a shot of the plane just after it splashed down...you can see the spray from the impact flying in from the left of the video just after the 2:00 mark.

Soon after the plane hits, the camera zooms in and you can see just how quickly people get out and onto the wings. And then this video shows it most clearly:

Look how low and level and steady Sully guided that thing in! Amazing!

The NY Times has a couple of good pieces in their extensive crash coverage. I loved reading what various passengers had to say about the crash, lots of little moments of heroism in there.

The life raft attached to the plane was upside down in the river, just out of reach. Mr. Wentzell turned and found another passenger, Carl Bazarian, an investment banker from Florida who, at 62, was twice his age. Mr. Wentzell grabbed the wrist of Mr. Bazarian, who grabbed a third man who held onto the plane. Mr. Wentzell then leaned out to flip the raft. "Carl was Iron Man that day," Mr. Wentzell said. "We got the raft stabilized and we got on." A man went into the water, and the door salesman and the banker hauled him aboard. He curled in a fetal position, freezing.

The Times also comes through with the 3-D flight graphic I asked for the other day but they upped the ante with a seating chart of the plane where you can click on certain passengers' seats to read their thoughts. Mark Hood in seat 2A described the landing:

When we touched down, it was like a log ride at Six Flags. It was that smooth.

The whole thing is still so amazing. Looking at the underside of the plane as they lifted it from the water last night, you can see the damage to the bottom of the plane and just how close they all were to being flung all over the place or sinking quickly or a number of other different outcomes.

Video game physics

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 16, 2009

An examination of gravity in the Super Mario Bros series.

We determined that, generally speaking, the gravity in each Mario game, as game hardware has increased, is getting closer to the true value of gravity on earth of 9.8 m/s^2. However, gravity, even on the newest consoles, is still extreme.

In Super Mario 2, Mario experiences a g-force of 11 each time he falls from a ledge, a force that would cause mere humans to black out. In Madden 2006, the game's fastest cornerbacks can run the 40 in 2.6 seconds. (via waxy)

How to get out of a car without showing your knickers

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 16, 2009

Good advice for Hollywood starlets, pop singers, and socialites: a video on how to get out of a car without showing your knickers. Slightly NSFW.

Sea kittens!

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 16, 2009

Somehow not from The Onion: PETA is trying rebrand fish as "sea kittens".

We're going to start by retiring the old name for good. When your name can also be used as a verb that means driving a hook through your head, it's time for a serious image makeover. And who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?

I guess that's not any worse than Chicken of the Sea. (via design observer)

Documentaries about advertising and Vogue at Sundance

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 16, 2009

I pulled out a couple of interesting-sounding documentaries from this preview of this year's Sundance Film Festival. The first is Art & Copy, a documentary about advertising that seems well-timed on the heels of Mad Men.

Come to think of it, it's amazing that nobody's made a major documentary about the advertising business before. Are some phenomena just so powerful and ubiquitous we stop thinking about them? Now acclaimed doc-maker Doug Pray goes inside the ever-revolutionary world of post-'60s advertising, profiling such legendary figures as [Dan] Wieden ("Just do it"), Hal Riney ("It's morning in America") and Cliff Freeman ("Where's the beef?") and inquiring where the boundaries lie between art, salesmanship and brainwashing.

Somewhat related to that is The September Issue, which follows the creation of Vogue magazine's September issue. You know, the one packed with hundreds of pages of advertising.

You-are-there documentarian R.J. Cutler ("The War Room," etc.) takes us inside the creation of Vogue's annual and enormous September issue, which possesses quasi-biblical status in the fashion world. Granted full access to editorial meetings, photo shoots and Fashion Week events by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Cutler spent nine months at Vogue, documenting a monumental process that more closely resembles a political campaign or a sports team's season than the publication of a single magazine.

And while not a documentary, there's excitement and trepidation surrounding John Krasinski's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, a adaptation of a book by the same name by David Foster Wallace.

One tiny apartment, dozens of rooms

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 16, 2009

Hong Kong architect Gary Chang has renovated his tiny apartment four times since he's owned it. The most recent renovation is called "The Domestic Transformer".

The wall units, which are suspended from steel tracks bolted into the ceiling, seem to float an inch above the reflective black granite floor. As they are shifted around, the apartment becomes all manner of spaces — kitchen, library, laundry room, dressing room, a lounge with a hammock, an enclosed dining area and a wet bar.

Chang's Suitcase House uses many of the same principles as his apartment.

Things Our Friends Have Written On The Internet 2008

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 16, 2009

Things Our Friends Have Written On The Internet 2008 is a newspaper compiled and printed by a pair of fellows from the UK that is just that...a bunch of stuff that they liked reading on the web last year. I *love* this. And hate it (a little bit).

The hate part first. TOFHWOTI is almost precisely the thing I've been wanting to do for years now...take the very best of the best links of the year and bundle them up into a printed artifact of some sort. So seeing it done first and so expertly was a bit of a punch in the nose. Of course, ideas are so cheap and plentiful these days that "I thought of it first" has no value without follow through, something that my schedule for the past few years hasn't allowed for. This year, *for sure*, dammit! (I'm also pissed that I didn't get around to ordering a copy for myself until this morning and found that they're all sold out! Gah! Like I said, no time.)

But damn, is that thing beautiful or what? You don't even need the physical artifact to see that much. The simple but playful design is just right. Getting it printed super-cheap on newsprint fits nicely with the concept and content. All the little details are accounted for; I wouldn't change a thing. More like this, please.

Draft Sully for Secretary of Transportation

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 16, 2009

Now available for sale on CafePress in men's and women's sizes:

Draft Sully t-shirt

The mayor gave Sully the key to the city for landing the airplane safely into the Hudson River but surely he deserves more...like a job in the Obama administration as the Secretary of Transportation (no offense to Mr. LaHood).

The metal that remembers

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 16, 2009

Video of Nitinol wire, a shape memory alloy which returns to a pre-determined shape when heated.

Simple film poster remakes

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 16, 2009

Some nice and simple redesigns of movie posters by Olly Moss, who is also responsible for the classic movie spoilers tshirt at Threadless. (via quips)

On Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 16, 2009

A comment via email from my dad, himself a pilot, about yesterday's Hudson River plane crash:

This pilot ran out of altitude and airspeed but not ideas. He did a great job of flying, and as a CAPTAIN, he has shown why he wears the four bars!!!

This is an example of quiet professionalism, training, skill, and bravery. Our craft usually goes unnoticed many times a day, but today, we saw our best work!!!

I remember once going to collect my dad after he'd landed his plane in a farmer's field in an emergency. Of course, it was a much smaller plane — they're a lot easier to land without engines and glide well. That and he was accustomed to landing amongst the corn and hay...we had a grass strip cut out of the field behind our house that he used all the time.

A wonderful meal

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2009

The story of a fantastic meal eaten in Venice.

The owner came out; he was a short but large man, balding, and he wore a rather soiled white apron. Teel asked him if he made a fish soup. The man paused, and then asked how long they could wait for it. Rick and Teel told him — as long as it took, they were in no hurry. [...] The owner returned in about half an hour with a huge fish overlapping both sides of the basket, which also contained a mass of greens and several bags of clams and shrimp and other things.

Hudson River plane crash

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2009

A US Airways plane bound for Charlotte just crashed into the Hudson River after aborting its takeoff from LaGuardia Airport. It's still sitting in the river, slowly sinking with people standing on the wings being rescued by ferries. Photos on Flickr.

Plane Crash

Update: Ferry rescue swarm. Very close-up photo of people standing on the wings waiting for rescue by Janis Krums.

Update: Here's a screenshot from a flight tracker showing the altitude of the flight....1800, 2800, 3200, 2000, 1600, 1200, 1300, 400, 300... The flight tracker has since taken the data offline.

Update: Reports are that everyone is OK. !!! Here's a nautical chart of the area in question showing the dept to be around 50 feet.

Update: Some media coverage at NY Times, CNN, and Gothamist. From the CNN article:

The plane approached the water at a gradual angle and made a big splash, according to a witness watching from an office building. "It wasn't going particularly fast. It was a slow contact with the water that it made," said the witness, Ben Vonklemperer. "It appeared not to have landing gear engaged. This was bigger than a puddle-jumper or sea plane. It was a silver aircraft and it basically just hit the water," Vonklemperer added.

Update: They're saying it's a bird strike...sounds like a bird got sucked into an engine? Here's another photo of people standing on the wings, waiting for rescue.

Update: Looks like they got everyone off and that the plane is sitting quite a bit lower in the water.

Plane Crash

Gothamist reports that the plane is being towed to Chelsea Piers.

Update: The NY Times has this helpful map:

Plane Crash Map

Also, an office mate (from Buzzfeed) just got back from checking out the plane and he said by the time he got to the river, the plane had past Christopher St. and when he left, it was pretty close to Canal St. and "moving amazingly fast". (thx, scott)

Update: Another Flickr set of the plane floating in the river.

Update: Maybe this is what the crash looked like?

Wikipedia notes that water landings where everyone survives aren't all that unusual, although this seems like a larger plane than most of the others noted.

In 1963, an Aeroflot Tupolev 124 ditched into the River Neva after running out of fuel. The aircraft floated and was towed to shore by a tugboat which it had nearly hit as it came down on the water. The tug rushed to the floating aircraft and pulled it with its passengers near to the shore where the passengers disembarked onto the tug; all 52 on board escaped without injuries. Survival rate was 100%

The flight details on FlightAware are back up. (thx, jesse)

Update: Here's a brief video of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 which crashed in the Indian Ocean after being hijacked and running out of fuel.

125 out of 175 passengers died.

Update: On the always-timely MetaFilter, a bird strike researcher has some interesting things to say.

The first recorded birdstrike happened in 1908 to Orville Wright, no more than a few months after the first powered planeflights.

Surely years and not months... (thx, mike)

A live shot on the TV just now (6:00pm) reveals that the plane is now down at the Battery and they look like they're trying to secure it or haul it out of the water (likely the former).

Update: A blogger at i'm not sayin, i'm just sayin mapped the plane's location leading up to the crash using the info from FlightAware. Does anyone want to bang out a quick 3-D version in Google Earth that shows altitude as well?

Balloon animal coitus

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2009

This is NSFW if very squeaky balloon animal sex is not safe to view at your workplace. Unsafe perhaps, but hilarious. (via siege, also NSFW)

LittleSis, a facebook for powerful Americans

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2009

LittleSis (clever name!) bills itself as an "involuntary facebook of powerful Americans, collaboratively edited by people like you". It's intended to be a resource for anyone who wants to know more about politicians, CEOs, etc., especially:

...investigative journalists, social scientists, political opposition researchers, social justice activists, public interest attorneys, business intelligence types, [and] amateur dirt diggers at the fringes, posting their findings to blogs, message boards, email lists, zines, and elsewhere.

Like Facebook, the site has a particular emphasis on how all these people are connected: politically, financially, socially. The best way to see what it's all about is to check out some profiles: Barack Obama, Michael Bloomberg, and the list of the 400 richest Americans.

Obama's personal annual report

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2009

Dopplr is doing 2008 personal annual reports for all their users that shows "data, visualisations and factoids" about their 2008 travel. They've also done one for Barack Obama on his behalf that you can download for free. Obama took a whopping 234 trips in 2008 and traveled 92% of the distance to the moon!

The most gerrymandered Congressional districts

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2009

Slate has a slideshow of the most gerrymandered Congressional districts in the US. Gerrymandering is the practice of redistributing electoral boundaries in order to achieve a political advantage, often without regard to geography.

The Earth from above

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2009

Another excellent offering from The Big Picture: photos of the Earth from NASA's The Earth Observatory. Even if you don't care for cliches, some of these will literally drop your jaw.

Useless superpowers

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2009

Fun new blog on Superuseless Superpowers. So far, they've got 13th Bullet Bulletproof (aka Eventual Kevlar Skin), Achieving 99% Opacity (aka The Slightly Invisible Man), and Ultra Short-Range Teleportation:

This unamazing power lets you teleport up to one inch away. When done in rapid succession, it gives that old-timey stop action feel. It can also really push your "popping & locking" routine to the next level.

Update: David O'Doherty possesses Very Mild Superpowers. (thx, tom)

The Selby

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2009

Every few weeks, I visit The Selby, an online collection of "photographs, paintings and videos by Todd Selby of interesting people in creative spaces", and spend way too much time clicking around, even on stuff that I've already seen. There are many magazines and sites — Dwell, Domino, Apartment Therapy, etc. — that run photographs of people and the spaces they live in, but those on The Selby feel more intimate and true to life; you get the feeling that Selby knows most of the people he features. Two of my favorite photos are Dustin Yellin and his huge printing machine:

The Selby

and this lovely photo of Celestine Cooney and Harry Malt.

Update: Timely New York magazine interview with Todd Selby about The Selby.

Work on stuff that matters

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2009

Tim O'Reilly's advice: work on stuff that matters.

The most successful companies treat success as a byproduct of achieving their real goal, which is always something bigger and more important than they are.

The best part about Tim's advice is that it works in boom times *and* in a recession. I have some notes jotted down for this whole post that I'm probably not going to write about how to take advantage of the recession — yes, advantage...the gist: buy low! — and one of the main points is: recessions are temporary so take the long view and keep trying to do what is most important to you, i.e. stuff that matters.

Photo cliches blog

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2009

Photo Cliches is a blog dedicated to collecting, uh, cliched photos. Current categories include people groping statues, people pretending to have fake penises, and my personal favorite: people doing the thumbs-up Lynndie England pose. You may also be interested in the Charlie's Angels pose Flickr pool. (thx, phil)

Bill Cunningham and Greta Garbo

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2009

Here are a pair of articles from 2002 on street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, who currently plys his trade for the NY Times. (I love Cunningham's On the Street dispatches.) The first is Bill on Bill, where the photographer recalls how he got interested in fashion and photography.

As a kid, I photographed people at ski resorts — you know, when you got on the snow train and went up to New Hampshire. And I did parties. I worked as a stock boy at Bonwit Teller in Boston, where my family lived, and there was a very interesting woman, an executive, at Bonwit's. She was sensitive and aware, and she said, "I see you outside at lunchtime watching people." And I said, "Oh, yeah, that's my hobby." She said, "If you think what they're wearing is wrong, why don't you redo them in your mind's eye." That was really the first professional direction I received.

The second article is a collection of recollections of Cunningham from some of the people he has photographed.

He taught me how to tell a story with pictures and that it didn't always involve the best image. I'd say to him, "But isn't this a better photo?" And he'd say, "Yes, child, but this photo tells the story better." For him, it wasn't about the aesthetics of photography. It was about storytelling.

Both articles mention that Cunningham got his first street photography into the Times when he shot a photo of the famously reclusive Greta Garbo walking on Fifth Avenue. I couldn't find Cunningham's Garbo photo anywhere online so I tracked down the Times article and found only this poor scan:

Greta Garbo

Here's another shot Cunningham made that same day which didn't end up in the paper (Garbo's got her hand over her face). Interestingly, street photos of Garbo were not particularly rare. Here are a selection from the 1980s, including several that feature Garbo in similar clothing. Many of them were taken by creepy paparazzo Ted Leyson, who stalked Garbo for more than 10 years in NYC. Leyson took what is believed to be the last photo of Garbo before she died in 1990.

If the cast of The Wire was a football team

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2009

The Ravens are looking good in the playoffs but Mark Lamster imagines a football team made up of characters from The Wire. The most inspired choices:

Offensive Coordinator: Lester Freamon
FB: Thomas Hauk
MLB: Wee-Bey Brice
MLB: Cheese Wagstaff
Kicker: Ziggy Sobotka
Fan club president: Roland Pryzbylewski

Recession is maybe not so bad

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2009

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis compares the current recession against some past recessions and, so far at least, it doesn't look too bad. However...

This page does not provide forecasts, and the information should not be interpreted as such.

(via mr)

How to illustrations

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2009

A nice and growing collection of "how to" illustrations. (via design observer)

Assembling Ikea groceries into meals

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2009

Serious Eats contributor Michele Humes buys some groceries at Ikea and prepares some unexpected dishes from them, including canapés made from Swedish flatbread, crab paste, and lumpfish caviar. Don't know why, but it never occurred to me to make spaghetti and meatballs using Ikea meatballs. (thx, david)

Bernstein conducts Shostakovich with YouTube vocals

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2009

Leonard Bernstein conducts Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 while comments from YouTube commenters are read. (via the rest is noise)

Missed conception

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2009

Sperm travels up a dark tunnel and then...saying more would ruin the ending. Just watch:

I seriously LOL'd at the reveal. Slightly NSFW, I guess. (via house next door)

Update: The video was down earlier for some reason but now it's back up.

2008's television reviewed

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2009

I didn't watch a lot of TV last year but Todd VanDerWerff's review of 2008's television season makes me feel like I did.

I mean, not ALL television was bleak — Mad Men ignored the industry-wide memo and gave us one of the best seasons of television ever, while Lost and Battlestar Galactica each hit new creative highs — but the fact that The Wire and The Shield both wrapped up, with BSG and Lost soon to follow, made things SEEM that much bleaker.

I especially liked his definition of "socks folding TV":

A good socks-folding show is one that you can sort of pay attention to and enjoy. It's generally well-crafted, but not especially ambitious.

My all-time fave socks folding show is Star Trek: TNG. Even if you fold only when Troi is chattering away pointlessly, you can get a whole basket of clothes done before the second commercial.

The Flash preloader museum

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2009

Pretty Loaded is an online museum of Flash preloaders. The site itself uses a Flash preloader and, oops, the universe just exploded. I could watch this all day.

Abandoned in Harlem

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2009

Even in Manhattan, abandoned buildings can still be found. Jake Dobkin took some photos of an abandoned school in Harlem.

This building looked like it had been empty for twenty years. Trees were growing out of the floors and poking out of dozens of holes in the roof. All the windows were gone, and the floors that weren't covered with snow were thick with dust and the skeletons of dead pigeons. There wasn't any evidence of human habitation — no footprints, homeless encampments, or graffiti.

He also found an abandoned ballroom, also in Harlem.

Update: Whoops, looks like Bluejake got swamped. I removed the links so the server can recover...here are the photos on Flickr instead.

Facebook's valuation and the network effect

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2009

My inbox is divided about the valuation of Facebook calculated using Burger King Whopper Sacrifice promotion (unfriend 10 people to get a Whopper). The majority say that even if you prevented people from refriending those they unfriended for a Whopper, a value of 12 cents for each friend link is too high and that most links are worth much less than that. That is, Facebook is awash in junk friendships of little value.

A smaller contingent is arguing that Burger King would have to pay much more to break some friendships and that Facebook's valuation is therefore higher than the straight calculation indicates. For instance, getting Johnny Shoegazer to unfriend that girl he likes might take a considerable sum of money. I agree that Facebook is worth more than $1.8 billion in Whoppers but not because some individual links are more valuable than others...it's about groups and networks of links. You might be able to get someone to part with 10 "junk" friends for $2.40 but could you pay them $22 more to essentially shut down their Facebook account for good? I don't think so. It's going to cost much more than that...and for some intense users of the site, the "buyout" amount might be surprisingly high. (I'd probably accept $24 to close my Facebook account. But I pay nothing to use Twitter and ~$25 a year for Flickr and it might take several hundred or even thousands of dollars to entice me to permanently close either of those accounts...I get so much value from them.)

The reason for this seems like it might have something to do with Metcalfe's Law:

Metcalfe's law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n^2). [...] Metcalfe's law characterizes many of the network effects of communication technologies and networks such as the Internet, social networking, and the World Wide Web. It is related to the fact that the number of unique connections in a network of a number of nodes (n) can be expressed mathematically as the triangular number n(n - 1)/2, which is proportional to n^2 asymptotically.

Or for our economic purposes, the network effect:

In economics and business, a network effect (also called network externality) is the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other users. The classic example is the telephone. The more people own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner. This creates a positive externality because a user may purchase their phone without intending to create value for other users, but does so in any case.

As Facebook accumulates users and friendship links, the service becomes more and more valuable for each user. In Whoppernomics terms, Facebook may well be worth the $15 billion that the Microsoft deal suggested, but there are obviously problems for Facebook in thinking about their value in this way. How do they extract that value from their users? Getting a user to accept a $500 buyout for their Facebook account is different than Facebook asking that user to pay $500 to keep using their account even though the monetary value of the account is the same in either case. What Facebook is betting on is that each user will put up with hundreds of dollars worth of distractions (in the form of advertising and promotions) from their primary goal on the site (i.e. connecting with friends). Also, as Friendster and MySpace and every other social networking site has learned, membership in these services is not exclusive and users may eventually find more value in some other network with (temporarily) less distraction.

Again, assuming that we're not taking this too seriously.

Personal annual report, 2008

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2009

Nicholas Felton is back with his 2008 personal Annual Report. Always worth a look.

Remember, it's airbrushed

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2009

"Don't forget..." is a street art project that consists of Photoshop palettes pasted over heavily airbrushed advertising in a metro station in Berlin. (thx, phil)

60 Noses

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2009

A neat poster of 60 Noses by Shawn Feeney.

A collection of sixty female and male noses, arranged chronologically from people ages 16 - 90. The original pencil drawings (based on arrest photos) are faithfully reproduced on beautifully textured, 100% cotton Hahnemühle paper.

Feeney drew the noses while working as a forensic artist.

Aquarium design

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2009

Photos from the 2008 International Aquatic Plant Layout Contest...AKA fancily decorated aquariums. (thx, dustin)

Chaos without energy

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2009

The opening title sequence for Tarsem Singh's The Fall.

It is hard to define...I wanted chaos without energy.

Takes a bit to get going but is lovely throughout. (via capn design)

Porsche's financial hack

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2009

I mentioned the Porsche/VW financial incident briefly in October, but this is an excellent layman's explanation of what happened.

Porsche's move took three years of careful maneuvering. It was darkly brilliant, a wealth transfer ingeniously conceived like few we've ever seen. Betting the right way, Porsche roiled the financial markets and took the hedge funds for a fortune.

(via capn design)

Update: Not so fast there, Porsche. Bloomberg says that the company may not have the money necessary to exercise those options and realize $24.3 billion in profits.

Update (10/2014): In a stunning reversal, VW ended up buying Porsche instead of the other way around. Here's the whole story.

1996 interview with the Obamas

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2009

The New Yorker has a too-short excerpt of an interview with Barack and Michelle Obama done in 1996 as part of a "photography project on couples in America".

There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career, although it's unclear. There is a little tension with that. I'm very wary of politics. I think he's too much of a good guy for the kind of brutality, the skepticism.

Update: Le Monde ran a more extensive excerpt of this same interview in French...ABC News had it translated into English. (thx, marshall & stacy)

Malt joy and ginger despair

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2009

For whatever reason, Bono writing a series of op-ed columns for the NY Times seemed like a bad idea. But I really enjoyed reading his first effort about the new year and Frank Sinatra. The advice is probably a little trite but you can't say that Bono doesn't have a way with words...the piece is more poetry or lyric than prose.

I think about this now, in this new year. The Big Bang of pop music telling me it's all about the moment, a fresh canvas and never overworking the paint. I wonder what he would have thought of the time it's taken me and my bandmates to finish albums, he with his famous impatience for directors, producers — anyone, really — fussing about. I'm sure he's right. Fully inhabiting the moment during that tiny dot of time after you've pressed "record" is what makes it eternal. If, like Frank, you sing it like you'll never sing it again. If, like Frank, you sing it like you never have before.

(thx, mau)


posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2009

Funny surname/subject collision from the Times over the weekend: Cocaine and White Teens by Charles M. Blow.

Update: See also nominative determinism and aptronym.

An aptronym is a name aptly suited to its owner.

I knew I'd posted something about this previously. (thx, mark)

Songsmith, meet David Lee Roth

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2009

Songsmith is a piece of software by Microsoft Research that automatically creates a musical accompaniment to a singer's voice. (The intro video is priceless.) A MetaFilter member took David Lee Roth's vocal track from Runnin' With The Devil and put it through Songsmith...the results are pretty great. (thx, shay)

Travel deals for New Yorkers

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2009

Jauntsetter does a useful weekly roundup of travels deals specifically for New Yorkers. This week's selection includes cheap fares to Cancun and Europe.

Willard Wigan, micro sculptor

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2009

Video of Willard Wigan's work. Wigan makes exceptionally tiny sculptures that fit on pin-heads or within eyes of needles. He once lost a sculpture of Alice in Wonderland:

I think I inhaled her.

Some of the parts of his sculptures are no bigger than human blood cells and to steady his hands, he works in between the beats of his heart.

The stillness of it is very important — you have to control the whole nervous system, you have to work between the heartbeat — the pulse of your finger can destroy the work.

(thx, alex)

Heavy metal band name chart

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2009

According to this extensive chart, names of heavy metal bands fit into five main categories: death, deadly things, animals, religion, and badass misspellings. (thx, janelle)

Stephen Voss

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2009

I'd like to thank this week's kottke.org RSS sponsor, Stephen Voss. Voss is a freelance photographer based in Washington DC who has traveled around the world shooting for magazines, organizations, and — if you read between the lines on his bio page — for himself. He's shot Obama, the destroyed churches of New Orleans, the Fleet Foxes, Alan Greenspan, and in China. I could say more, but Voss' portfolio speaks for itself. If your company or organization has a project that would benefit from Voss' services, get in touch.

Infinite Jest Tour of Boston

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2009

A photo tour of the Boston-area locations mentioned in Infinite Jest. From the photographer:

Perhaps most interestingly, although "Enfield" is not a real town, it seems to substitute for Chestnut Hill. We found a school at the top of one of the larger hills in Chestnut Hill, which we believe is the location for ETA.

Perhaps someday there will be IJ walking tours of Boston that same way there are Ulysses -based tours of Dublin or Sex and the City tours of NYC.

Facebook's valuation (in Whoppers)

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2009

Burger King recently introduced a Facebook app called Whopper Sacrifice that allows users to delete ten of their friends in exchange for a Whopper sandwich. Watch the app in action.

What BK has unwittingly done here is provide a way to determine the valuation of Facebook. Let's assume that the majority of Facebook's value comes from the connections between their users. From Facebook's statistics page, we learn that the site has 150 million users and the average user has 100 friends. Each friendship is requires the assent of both friends so really each user can, on average, only end half of their friendships. The price of a Whopper is approximately $2.40. That means that each user's friendships is worth around 5 Whoppers, or $12. Do the math and:

$12/user X 150M users = $1.8 billion valuation for Facebook

That's considerably less than the $15 billion valuation assigned to Facebook when Microsoft invested in the company in October 2007 and the lower valuations being tossed about in recent months.

P.S. Other assumptions for the sake of argument: every user is eligible for the Whopper promotion (it's actually only valid in the US), you can sell all of your friends for multiple burgers (actually limit one per customer), and the "average user has 100 friends" means that Facebook users average 100 friends apiece (no idea what the reality is...if they're using the median instead of the mean then that number could be higher or lower). Oh, and it's also assumed that no one should take this too seriously.

Update: I'm getting some email saying that Facebook friendships require the assent of both parties. Is that the way it works for the BK thing? If I am friends with Mary and I unfriend her through the Whopper Sacrifice app, is she then unable to unfriend me to help get her burger? If so, then the $3.6 billion valuation drops to $1.8 billion because each unfriending event takes care of 2 friend connections, not just one. Anyone? Note: we are already taking this too seriously!

Update: Ok, it looks like unfriending on Facebook takes out two friendship connections, not just one. So that drops each user's share to $12 and the valuation to $1.8 billion. D. Final answer, Regis. (thx, everyone)

Bad critics, Blu-ray, and unseen movies

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2009

A trio of movie-related links: Criticwatch runs down the movie critic whores of the year, DVD Beaver picks the Blu-rays of the year, and the best movies that you perhaps didn't see in 2008.

Top 100 science stories of 2008

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2009

Discover has a list of the top 100 science stories of 2008 (scroll a bit for the whole list). Post-oil, LHC, ice on Mars, cheap genomes, quantum spookiness, etc.

The Hood Internet Mixtape Volume Three

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2009

I'm really enjoying The Hood Internet's third mixtape. They take pop, indie rock, & rap songs and mash them up. For instance:

Jay-Z (feat. Lil Wayne) vs Xiu Xiu
Flo Rida (feat. T-Pain) vs Hot Chip
T-Pain (feat. Chris Brown) vs TV On The Radio
Lil Kim (feat. Missy Elliott) vs MGMT

Their version of R. Kelly's I'm a Flirt mashed with Broken Social Scene from their first mixtape was one of my favorite songs of 2007, far superior to the original IMO.

Mixtape vol. 3 track listing and downloads here.

Chronically Indigent Resent Influx of Nouveau Poor

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2009

Sign o' the times: Chronically Indigent Resent Influx of Nouveau Poor.

"Panhandling and recycling are hard enough without extra competition," Mr. Baxter continued. "Damn it — if too many people give blood, my income is gonna drop even more."

(via clusterflock)

TiltShiftMaker, make your own tilt-shift photo

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2009

The TiltShiftMaker site lets you make your own fake tilt-shift photo (you know, the ones that make everything look miniature). Just upload a photo or choose one from the web, adjust a few parameters, and you're all set...no Photoshop needed. Here's one I did of Ollie in Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern (larger). (via chris glass)

Famous poet zombies

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2009

I can't decide if this is creepy or cool: a bunch of videos of dead poets reading their poems. The effect is achieved by warping photos to make it look like their mouths are moving. Here's Poe reading The Raven and Robert Frost doing The Road Not Taken.

Dreams of sprouts

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2009

Natalie Portman dreams about brussels sprouts. The first comment is: "i love you please marry me".

The Elements of Spam

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2009

With apologies to Strunk and White, The Elements of Spam.

1. Form the possessive of nouns by adding 's, just an apostrophe, just an s, a semicolon, a w, an ampersand, a 9, or anything.

Janeane Garofalo interview

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2009

Gothamist posted an interview with Janeane Garofalo yesterday. I was struck by Garofalo's answer to a question about her acting career slipping away after the 90s.

Oh yeah, of course. It ended around 2000. I had a lot of work in the '90s. And then for females especially, as you get older — I'm 44 — it's really difficult for a 44-year-old woman to get acting work. That's just the nature of the beast. And because it's an elective profession, it's hard to complain about it because nobody makes you do it. Also I did a lot of mediocre stuff towards the end of the '90s and then sort of the novelty wore off. And then I left acting to work at Air America for two-and-a-half years.

When I decided to go back into acting, it wasn't very easy. "I took two-and-a-half years off, but I'd like to work again. Please hire me." It sort of doesn't work like that. So I'm just sort of grateful anytime someone wants to hire me. And TV seems to be one of the only places where older women can seek employment. Unless you sort of get lucky. There's a saying: "you're always just one part away from being back at work in film" for women especially. So I'm just waiting for someone to give me the green light, "Oh, let's hire Janeane again!" I think I'm on the "has been" list until I'm not. It's like a game of Red Rover and somebody says "come over." Or you can create your own work, but I'm not really a screenwriter. I don't really feel like I have the story to tell. It would just be creating content for the sake of creating content.

An interviewer wouldn't dare ask that question of some other actors and if they did, may have received a defensive or angry answer. Garofalo answered it honestly, which is why we like her so much.

The Book Cover Archive

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2009

The Book Cover Archive is a new site dedicated to the "appreciation and categorization of excellence in book cover design". They just launched but the site already includes 800 covers.

Obama campaign art exhibition

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2009

The Danziger Projects gallery in New York is running an exhibition called Can & Did, a collection of art, graphics, and photography from the Obama campaign. The opening party is on Inauguration night (Jan 20) and it runs through the end of February. All details in the press release.

The Noises Rest

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2009

The You Look Nice Today ensemble talk about how to make sound effects for the silent film industry.

The Wire, rapped up

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2009

A five-minute rap video that summarizes all five seasons of The Wire.

Police chief, yeah, his rank is proper
'Cause of the window, he starts a war with Frank Sobotka.

MIA's Paper Planes is still my favorite Wire-inspired song, but this is pretty sweet. (thx, about 2000 people)

America's subprime reading problem

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2009

A proposed bailout for the publishing industry:

The role of the ratings agencies cannot be overlooked in creating this crisis. The Pulitzer, Booker and National Book Foundation committees continued to award top ratings to these novels, even as unread copies piled up all over America.

These unreadable novels are clogging up our literary system, and undermining the strength of our otherwise sound literary institutions. As a result, Americans' personal libraries are threatened, and the ability of readers to borrow, and of libraries to lend, has been disrupted.

(via erasing)

Books coming out in 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2009

The Millions has a rundown of some of the most anticipated books of the coming year, stating that "2009 may be a great year for books". News to me: along with the film that he and Spike Jonze co-wrote, Dave Eggers is doing a novel based on Where the Wild Things Are.

The Wild Things novelization, Sendak says, was all Eggers's idea. A plan had always been in place to have some kind of book come out to "add to the noise of the movie," he says, but at first it wasn't clear what the book would actually be. Once tie-in talk began in earnest, Sendak, who had grown close to Eggers during work on the screenplay, began a campaign to have Eggers do it, and Eggers stepped up and agreed, broaching the idea of the novel.

Milky Way tube map

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2009

A map of the Milky Way done in the style of the London tube map.

I was re-reading Carl Sagan's novel Contact recently, essentially a series of arguments about SETI wrapped into a story, and he alludes to some sort of cosmic Grand Central Station. That, coupled with my longtime interest in transit maps, got me thinking about all of this.

The height of Burj Dubai

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2009

Nobody knows how tall Burj Dubai is going to be when completed later this year, only that it will be the world's tallest building by a comfortable margin. Of the mystery height, the builder has only this to say:

If you put the Empire State Building on top of the Sears Tower then it's reasonable to say you'll be in the neighbourhood.

SkyscraperPage.com says it'll top out around 2650 feet...that's 550 feet shorter than the ESB + Sears but still more than half a mile. (via things magazine)

$2000 vibrator

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2009

Can I interest madame in a $2000 vibrator?

The base of the vibrator is encircled with a stunning "eternity" band of 28 round-cut black diamonds.


People Who Deserve It

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2009

People Who Deserve It is a blog listing people who have earned a punch in the face, including Office Food Thief, Traveler With Giant Backpack On Subway, Loser Who Pisses on Toilet Seat, and Sexual Innuendo T-Shirt Guy. My NYC pedestrian-related submissions: Cab Driver Who Honks Excessively From Three Cars Back Just As the Light Turns Green and Bike Messenger with Whistle. (thx, casey)

Ze Frank blogs about participation

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2009

Ze Frank has started a blog of notes and advice about fostering online participation. Lots of good stuff so far.

Usually there will be a few contributions that are outliers in technical merit and scale. There is a temptation to reward these contributions by drawing specific attention to them while the project is running. This can sometimes have the effect of damping the project as a whole, since potential contributors will measure their work against an artificially high standard. Alternatively, only displaying the most recent contribution allows the tonality of the project to be at the whim of the last contributor.

Instead of only focusing on technical ability, draw attention to qualities that can be expressed by anyone: simplicity, individuality, and humanity. Allow there to be a feeling of "Hey, I could do that too".

(via snarkmarket)

Dotter Dotter

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2009

Dotter Dotter features 3-D representations of 2-D games like Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, and Excitebike.


(via clusterflock)

The deep connection between marshmallows and babies

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2009

Is everything connected with everything else? Not everyone thinks so. But that not everyone doesn't include Benjamin Cohen. In I Dream in Malcolm Gladwell, Cohen draws an unlikely parallel between marshmallow melting and the science of pediatric nutrition.

In an age when children are born nearly every day in America, and most of them to parents who have had intercourse sometime during the year prior, physicians have become troubled that once the children are born, they seem to lack the ability to feed themselves. The two researchers have been working for years on a study that may provide insight to the problem. Infants, their studies are showing, aren't very smart. Like melting marshmallows, it appears that breastfeeding is an unusual process difficult to understand. In this case, W- and S- believe, that process may involve both breasts and milk.

It all sounds so obvious when he puts it that way.

TinEye image search

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2009

TinEye is an image search engine. You give it an image and it'll find it on the web for you. If it works — I didn't get to try it too much because it was down — this is great for chasing down attribution and finding other pix by the same photographer and such. (via master kalina)

3-2-1 Contact!

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2009

Opening theme to 3-2-1 Contact. This was the soundtrack to my tween and early teen years.

Transparent brilliance

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2009

Michael Paterniti penned a lovely eulogy for Bobby Fischer, the former chess champion who died last year.

This was the beauty of Bobby Fischer's mind, even then. The boy made very clean, simple lines out of very complex problems, and when the trap was sprung, his style of chess became so transparent you could instantly recognize its brilliance: efficient, organic, wildly responsive and creative.

Also worth a look is a short 1957 profile of Fischer in the New Yorker, written a few weeks after he won the US title at 14. (via snarkmarket)

Upgrading grand pianos

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2009

A company called Fandrich & Sons buys cheap grand pianos mass-produced in China, upgrades them so that they sound more like expensive hand-made European pianos, and sells them for a reasonable price.

With his higher-end grands — which the Fandrichs named "HGS" for "Holy Grail Scale" — they start with pianos built in China. He and his workers gut the piano, replacing the hammers, felt and bass strings with German and American parts. They reinforce the underbelly of the piano by installing short ribs — spruce beams between the existing main ribs.

Using a computer program designed in-house, the keys are reweighted across the board to eliminate friction and even out the response. The reweighting gives the Fandrich pianos their signature touch, one that some players have described as buttery, effortless.

In automotive terms, the Fandrichs are "trying to upgrade a Hyundai to run like a Bentley, for the price of a Honda". (via girlhacker)

Good and hopeless at the same time

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2009

Benoit Denizet-Lewis is a recovering sex addict. As part of his rehab process, he wrote a note from the addict inside of his head:

I will make Benoit lie and manipulate and chase sex every hour of every day, until he can't feel anything anymore, until everything good and decent about him is removed. He needs me. His life is boring when I'm not in charge. I control him. I keep him numb so he can function. I make him feel good, and I make him feel worthless. The minute he steps out of this stupid rehab, I'll start whispering in his ear. That's all it takes — whispers. I win. I ALWAYS win.

Pig farming hacks

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2009

A Canadian pig farmer came up with an interesting solution for herding pigs. Instead of using heavy wooden "chase boards" to guide the pigs, she used a length of fabric of the same color, allowing a single person to do a job once done by many.

Where we are and where we're going

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2009

Compare and contrast: a map of the center of the world's population (currently located in the northern part of south Asia) and a global accessibility map, which shows the travel time to major cities. (via lone gunman & stamen)

2008 is best sports year ever

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2009

Sports Illustrated named 2008 the best year ever in sports. In my best links post, I said that three 2008 sporting events stuck out in my mind but this article reminded me of one more: Jason Lezak's amazing anchor leg in the 4x100 freestyle.

Post-Ice Age ruins in Lake Michigan

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2009

Is there a mini Stonehenge under the waters of Lake Michigan?

In a surprisingly under-reported story from 2007, Mark Holley, a professor of underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan University College, discovered a series of stones - some of them arranged in a circle and one of which seemed to show carvings of a mastodon — 40-feet beneath the surface waters of Lake Michigan. If verified, the carvings could be as much as 10,000 years old — coincident with the post-Ice Age presence of both humans and mastodons in the upper midwest.

Abandoned London

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2009

Photographs of an abandoned London. Turns out that the streets of London on Christmas morning are extraordinarily empty. Details here. (thx, peter)

Best special effects shots

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2009

A wide-ranging and carefully considered list of the top 50 special effects shots in movies. The Matrix bullet-time effect doesn't make this list because:

An effect extraordinarily limited in what can usefully be done with it, it has nonetheless been flogged to death in the 10 years since The Matrix.

The Burly Brawl from the second Matrix movie thankfully didn't make the list either, likely because the whole thing looks like a cartoonish video game (and not in a good way). The only quibble I can think of: maybe Titanic should have been on there somewhere? (via fimoculous)

Update: Titanic actually made the worst effects list. (thx, rob)

Photos of The Wire soundstage

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2009

Photos of the abandoned soundstage for The Wire.

So I found out yesterday that the soundstage for "The Wire" still existed. I wasted no time in visiting it and was there almost less than 24 hours. It's one of my favorite TV shows ever and I had to see this before everyone ruined it. The building is also scheduled for demolition and they are going to build a super market on it.

(thx, hurty)

Trailer for Objectified

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2009

The trailer for Objectified, a new documentary film about industrial design by Gary Hustwit, who also made Helvetica.

The Best Links 2008

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2009

This is the fifth annual selection of my favorite things I've linked to on kottke.org. This year's list includes games, photography, top-notch journalism, time-related material, architecture, design, and even politics, about 100 links in all. The format of the list is a bit different this year. Sprinkled amongst the usual high quality links are collections of links which fit into accidental categories that sprang up while going over the material, including my picks for the sites/blogs of the year. Enjoy.

Passage is a game that takes 5-minutes to play which possesses a poignancy that you wouldn't expect from such a simple game.

Beautiful slow-motion skateboarding with explosions. Directed by Spike Jonze. See also this video of slow-mo skateboarding tricks filmed with an ultra high resolution camera.

An extensive history of visual communication, from cave paintings on up to the present-day computer.

The NY Times published a stacked graph of movie box office receipts from 1986 to Feb 2008. More about stacked graphs.

Sites/blogs of the year: The growing cache of vintage photos from museums and other public institutions on The Commons project on Flickr barely edges out excellently edited superb photography of The Big Picture for the site of the year.

On the final episode of St. Elsewhere, it was revealed that an autistic child named Tommy Westphall had dreamt the whole show. Since St. Elsewhere had a number of connections to other shows, it turns out that a surprising number of other popular TV programs all took place in Tommy's mind too.

Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris article on Sabrina Harmon, one of the camera-wielding US soldiers at Abu Ghraib.

From The Onion: Pornography-Desensitized Populace Demands New Orifice To Look At and Researchers Discover Massive Asshole In Blogosphere.

Big Dog is a large robotic dog that can walk in snow and cannot be knocked down, even when kicked.

A 2104 messageboard about time travel reveals that you can't just go and kill Hitler whenever you'd like.

Maps of the Apollo 11 moon walks superimposed on a soccer pitch and a baseball diamond. They sure didn't walk very far.

This peeping shrubbery photo taken at a wedding by Mindy Meyers still makes me laugh.

David Attenborough narrates while two leopard slugs mate while hanging off of a tree branch.

An obituary recounting the almost unbelievable life of Charles Fawcett, actor, filmmaker, and adventurer.

Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: Backed by two huge and clueless media conglomerates, Hulu was never supposed to succeed but NBC and Fox managed to create a simple and compelling site for watching TV and movies online.

Matthew Dent's awesome designs for the new UK coinage.

Sentence Drawings and other literary visualizations from Stefanie Posavec.

2008 video for Something Good by The Utah Saints. Don't know why, but this makes me smile.

Elevators and stories about elevators, including an account of Nicholas White, who was trapped in an elevator for 41 hours. Includes security camera footage of White's ordeal.

The interesting and extensively documented story behind that famous photo of Elvis Presley with Richard Nixon.

A map of all the streets in the lower 48 United States by Ben Fry.

An account of when Dateline NBC's To Catch a Predator segment goes wrong and someone dies.

The financial mess of 2008: Early in the year before the full extent of the chaos was known, n+1 had a lengthy interview with a hedge fund manager and followed up with him a couple months later. This American Life aired two radio programs that did an excellent job of explaining what caused the crisis: The Giant Pool of Money and Another Frightening Show about the Economy. After much of the smoke had cleared, former bond salesman and current bestselling author Michael Lewis sums up what happened in The End of Wall Street's Boom.

City of Shadows, timelapse photos of people in St. Petersburg taken by Alexey Titarenko. Particularly this one.

Stunning photos of the electrified plume of the Chaitén volcano in Chile. Some bigger photos at The Big Picture.

John Resig ported the Processing visual programming language to JavaScript.

Photos of a wedding and then an earthquake in Sichuan, China.

A retrospective of the NYC restaurant Florent by Frank Bruni for the NY Times doubles as a history of Manhattan's ebbs and flows over the past 20 years.

US political election logos from 1960 to 2008.

Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: It technically launched in 2007, but this was the year that many people realized that Amazon's MP3 store finally made it easier and more convenient to search for and buy DRM-free music than getting it for free and illegally elsewhere (Bittorrent, etc.). And I haven't bought a single mp3 on iTunes since Amazon's MP3 store opened.

Unbeknownst to the family who hired him to renovate their house, architect Eric Clough hid a puzzle in their apartment that remained unsolved for more than a year.

Atul Gawande writes about itching in the New Yorker. Really, really interesting.

Urban prankster Remi Gaillard kicks soccer balls into all sorts of unlikely goals, such as garbage cans, drive-thru windows, and police station entrances. The AC/DC soundtrack makes it perfect.

The covers for the books in Volume III of Penguin's Great Ideas series, most notably the brilliant cover for The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

A classic text on the economics of POW camps in Europe during WWII.

A 1985 BBC documentary about the painter Francis Bacon. Entertaining and enlightening even if you don't care about painting.

Sports: Three 2008 sports happenings stick out for me. 1. The epic Federer/Nadal final at Wimbledon. It was almost 5 hours long (not including the rain delay) and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. 2. Usain Bolt winning both the 100m and 200m in world record time at the Beijing Olympics. Bolt celebrating so early before crossing the finish in the 100m was impressive but the margin of victory in the 200m was an astounding athletic feat. 3. The Michael Phelps / Milorad Cavic photo finish in the men's 100m butterfly final provoked much discussion and some of the only excitement on the way to Phelps winning a record eight golds at the Beijing games.

Christopher Hitchens writes about being waterboarded. Here's the video of his experience.

This Lego version of Stephen Hawking is uncanny.

A selection of thirty stunning satellite photos of the Earth that appear abstract.

David Carr recounts his time as a single parent and crackhead in Minneapolis.

Dorothy Gambrell documents a trip around the world, part of which happened aboard a cargo ship. Read from the bottom and keep clicking "Next Entries".

Things which aren't so much links as products:The Apple keyboard is the best keyboard ever made. RjDj is an iPhone app that samples sounds from your immediate environment and plays them back to you with music.

On June 19th, the Mars Phoenix Lander twittered that it had discovered evidence of ice on Mars.

Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats showcases vintage photography in categories such as The Cool Hall of Fame, The Heretofore Unmentioned, and When Legends Gather.

Frédéric Bourdin is a French con man who made his way to the United States posing as an abducted teenager even though he was in his mid-20s at the time.

Brain researcher Jill Boyte Taylor tells the audience at TED about the time she had a massive stroke and how the experience informed her later research.

Bill Sizemore, a long-time observer of Pat Robertson's activities, pens a lengthy profile of the fundamentalist Christian for VQR.

Lenny "Nails" Dykstra, former Met and Philly, is faring well in the business world and remains highly entertaining.

Fantastic Contraption, an incredibly addictive Flash game where you build machines out of seemingly simple parts to solve increasingly difficult puzzles.

Switched at Birth tells the tale of two girls who were swapped for one another at the hospital and didn't find out more than 40 years later even though one of the mothers knew the whole time. See also The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar.

Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: Roger Ebert's blog demonstrates that he might be a better cultural commentator than film critic. Either way, he's never been better.

Some well-meaning kids show off their unintentionally hilarious science project posters.

Dyna Moe's excellent illustrated moments from Mad Men.

Merlin Mann wants to do Better.

Improv Everywhere used a Jumbotron, dozens of crazy fans, color programs, mascots, NBC sportscaster Jim Gray, and the Goodyear blimp to make a typical Little League game between the Lugnuts and Mudcats into The Best Game Ever.

Dan Hill explains extensively about the process for designing the web site for Monocle magazine.

Footage from a 1975 CBS News report about the final flight out of Da Nang near the end of the Vietnam War.

The literal version of A Ha's Take On Me video.

R.I.P. David Foster Wallace: Wallace gave what I think is his final interview to the WSJ's Christopher Farley about Wallace's book about John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign. After Wallace died, I collected a number of online remembrances. David Lipsky's The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace for Rolling Stone and McSweeney's reprint of a 1987 profile of Wallace both capture who Wallace was and how much he gave of himself to his family, friends, and the world.

Test your visual geometric accuracy with the eyeballing game.

Michael Pollan's letter to the next President of the United States: "we need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine".

Filip Dujardin stitches together parts of different photographs of buildings to make pictures of new and sometimes crazy & impossible buildings. This one of those "I wish I'd thought of that" projects.

A segment from the This American Life TV show about a Chicago restaurant called The Wieners Circle which turns into a sexually and racially charged free-for-all on weekend nights, much to the delight of the patrons, the heavily tipped workers, and the owners.

Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: The Art of the Title blog obsesses over the increasingly elaborate and celebrated craft of movie title sequences.

Steward Brand posted the entirety of How Buildings Learn online. The 1997 BBC documentary was based on Brand's excellent book of the same name.

Charles Mann on the Earth's soil for National Geographic Magazine.

Google's archive of millions of photographs from Life magazine.

Barack Obama (and the other guy): Since meeting him more than four years ago, photojournalist Callie Shell has taken a number of great photos of Obama. Just after the election, Newsweek posted an epic seven-part series about the Obama, McCain, and Clinton campaigns resulting from a year of behind-the-scenes reporting. David Remnick weighed in on Obama and race in America. And a March 2008 interview with rapper DMX reveals that he has no idea who Barack Obama is. "The n***a's name is Barack. Barack? N***a named Barack Obama. What the fuck, man?! Is he serious? That ain't his fuckin' name."

An exploration of the link between the 2008 Presidential election results and the rich loamy soils left by the shallow seas of the late Cretaceous period some 85 million years ago.

The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway.

Video showing how to build an igloo, a must-see for those interested in architecture.

William Langewiesche tells the story of the midair collision in Brazil that resulted in the deaths of 154 people on Gol Flight 1907 in September 2006.

Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: I couldn't leave this one off. Christoph Niemann doesn't post to his NY Times blog very often, but each entry is a gem. I love his kids' obsession with the NYC subway.

Vanity Fair constructs several menus for George W. Bush's final days in the White House. Includes such dishes as Gored hearts of Palm Beach, with hanging chad; Deep-fried Halliburton, in Saddam Hoisin Sauce; and New Orleans flounder.

If you're still information deprived after all that, you can check out the lists from 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2004.

Steve Jobs: still fine and ornery

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2009

A short letter from Steve Jobs reveals that he's receiving treatment for a health problem and will continue as Apple's CEO in full capacity for the foreseeable future. I love the last line:

So now I've said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.

The End of the Financial World as We Know It

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2009

In an Op-Ed piece for the NY Times called The End of the Financial World as We Know It, Michael Lewis and David Einhorn explore what checks and balances should have been in place to prevent the US financial markets from running themselves into the ground in search of perpetual short-term gain.

Our financial catastrophe, like Bernard Madoff's pyramid scheme, required all sorts of important, plugged-in people to sacrifice our collective long-term interests for short-term gain. The pressure to do this in today's financial markets is immense. Obviously the greater the market pressure to excel in the short term, the greater the need for pressure from outside the market to consider the longer term. But that's the problem: there is no longer any serious pressure from outside the market. The tyranny of the short term has extended itself with frightening ease into the entities that were meant to, one way or another, discipline Wall Street, and force it to consider its enlightened self-interest.

Here's part 2, in which Lewis and Einhorn propose some possible remedies.

A conceptual drill

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2009

Video of an ineffective concrete drill.

Each worm/worm gear pair reduces the speed of the motor by 1/50th. Since there are 12 pairs of gears, the final speed reduction is calculated by (1/50)12. The implications are quite large. With the motor turning around 200 revolutions per minute, it will take well over two trillion years before the final gear makes but one turn.

Favorite posts of 2008

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 02, 2009

As an appetizer before my annual best links of the year post (coming Monday, I hope), I put together a list of kottke.org posts from 2008 that I liked the most and that may be worth a look if you missed them the first time around.

In January, I liveblogged the Mythbusters episode about the airplane on the conveyor belt. I still get email telling me that the plane won't take off.

Time merge media is a collection of video and photographic works which display multiple time periods at once.

A collection of single serving sites, single-page sites like Barack Obama Is My New Bicycle, Khaaan!, and Is Lost A Repeat?

A liveblog of the Oscars written without actually watching them.

A post about the end of The Wire.

In March, kottke.org turned 10 years old and I collected a bunch of the previous designs together.

One of my all-time favorite threads on kottke.org: saying words wrong on purpose.

My favorite graph which doubles as a picture of my son.

Stanley Kubrick, Pablo Ferro, and Arthur Lipsett.

A photo of Ollie attempting to walk in Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern.

A collection of early movie reviews, including one by Maxim Gorky from 1896.

Survival tips for the Middle Ages, another great thread about how a contemporary person might fend for themselves in 1000 AD.

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is a book printed in 1499 but which looks quite contemporary.

The most beautiful suicide, a photo of Evelyn Hale taken by Robert Wiles a few minutes after she jumped from the Empire State Building

A pair of posts about the Metropolitan Life Tower: the tower's past and future and an unusual death that occurred in the building shortly after it opened.

A collection of election maps from the 2008 US Presidential election.

Timeline twins.

And finally, the opening space scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey with chickens from The Muppet Show clucking the Blue Danube waltz.

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