Entries for November 2009 (December 2009 »    January 2010 »    February 2010 »    Archives)


Why you should juggle

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 30, 2009

Juggler Scot Nery lists eight reasons why you, as a normal person, should learn how to juggle.

Sometimes it feels like A.D.D. makes you better at stuff, but when it comes down to it, we really need to be able to sit still and focus until something's done. Juggling builds your focus muscles through regular practice and a built-in rewards system.

Here's how to get started.

Design actually within reach

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 30, 2009

Greg Allen finally finished his version of Enzo Mari's 1974 Autoprogettazione dining table made from wood from Ikea's Ivar shelving system. An example of the Mari's original table went at auction a few years ago for $14,000; Allen paid $120 for his Ikea raw materials.

Shaking cocktails

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 30, 2009

Kazuo Uyeda demonstrates his hard shake:

From an article in the NY Times about cocktail shaking:

Mr. Uyeda, who owns a bar named Tender in the Ginza district, is the inventor of a much-debated shaking technique he calls the hard shake, a choreographed set of motions involving a ferocious snapping of the wrists while holding the shaker slanted and twisting it. According to his Web site, this imparts, among other things, greater chill and velvety bubbles that keep the harshness of the alcohol from contacting the tongue, while showering fine particles of ice across the drink's surface.

Original Mario Kart on Wii

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 30, 2009

New on the Wii Virtual Console: Super Mario Kart. Many consider this the finest Kart made.

The CIA magic book

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 30, 2009

The Boston Globe has a slideshow with a few examples from the now-declassified Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception.

CIA shoelaces

Here's the associated article. One could imagine a Mad Men/Bond-style spy show set in the 1960s that would utilize these techniques.

New York destroyed in movies

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 30, 2009

Scenes from several movies that depict New York being destroyed (Day After Tomorrow, Ghostbusters, Independence Day, etc.) accompanied by George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which famously accompanies a similar but less violent montage at the beginning of Woody Allen's Manhattan.


Watch New York get fucking destroyed in the movies!!!

That state dinner couple

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 30, 2009

From Tom Schaller on FiveThirtyEight about the idiots that snuck into a recent White House state dinner.

No, you're not famous; you're infamous. You're situated squarely at the bottom of an already too-deep and increasingly murky barrel of celebrity culture, celebrity journalism, and (un)reality TV, the depths of which are probably making even Andy Warhol cringe in his grave. I want this to be your fifteenth minute. I want your egg timer to ding now, so you can exit our national discourse as swiftly, completely and permanently as possible.

And, you know what? We can do something about it. We can let the producers of whatever crap program agrees to pay these creepy, pathetic, attention-starved goons for the rights to interview That Couple that not only will we tune out that specific broadcast, but we will tune out that program in the future as well. We can compound the effect by identifying the companies that sponsor the airing of the interview, and boycotting their products or services.

As I wrote last year, Just Don't Look. (via @tcarmody)

The parachute physics of hungry whales

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 27, 2009

How did whales get so big eating such tiny creatures? And why aren't they bigger? Carl Zimmer explains.

According to the scientists, this pattern occurs when the whales lunge into a cloud of krill and drop open their jaws. Pleats under the lower jaw open up, engulfing huge amounts of water. The whale slows down because of the drag. It behaves, in other words, a lot like a parachute. [...] It's a lot of water, the scientists have found: in one lunge, a fin whale can momentarily double its weight.

The scaling stuff later on in the article is especially interesting. See also The Biology of B-Movie Monsters.

How geeks measure things

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 27, 2009

1 Warhol equals 15 minutes of fame, So if you've been famous for three years, that's just over 105 kilowarhols. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there's a critical point — varying from celebrity to celebrity — where that person has outstayed their welcome, and uh ... becomes synonymous with a feminine hygiene product (and the bag it came in). In keeping with nuclear physics, I'm happy for this to remain as k=1 (where 'k' is for 'Kanye').

The full list is at Wired.

Back to the land

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 27, 2009

Maira Kalman wonders about the patterns of food consumption in the United States, whether it is democratic or not, and how we might want to change.

Kalman cows

Every one of her essays is outstanding; I can't stop linking to them.

The Matrix in Lego

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 27, 2009

This is amazing: a stop-motion recreation of the Neo-dodges-bullets-on-the-roof scene from The Matrix done entirely in Lego.

Updates on previous entries for Nov 25, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 26, 2009

Dogfighting vs. football in moral calculus orig. from Oct 12, 2009
Media packaging mashups orig. from Apr 22, 2009
Warhol illustrates kids book orig. from Nov 23, 2009
How the H1N1 vaccine is made orig. from Nov 24, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Food in movies

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 25, 2009

Another great video essay from Matt Zoller Seitz: Feast, a tribute to images of food on film.

Cooking, perhaps more than any activity, lets an actor exude absolute physical and intellectual mastery without seeming domineering or smug. Why is that? It's probably because, while cooking is a creative talent that has a certain egotistical component (what good cook isn't proud of his or her skills?), there's something inherently humbling about preparing food for other people. It doesn't matter whether you're a workaday gangster footsoldier giving lessons on how to cook for 20 guys, like Richard Castellano's Clemenza in The Godfather, or a hyper-articulate, super-fussy kitchen philosopher like Tony Shalhoub in Big Night, ("To eat good food is to be close to God..."), when you're cooking, it's ultimately not about you; it's about the people at the table. Their approval and pleasure is the end game.

Crazy Amazon deals for Black Friday

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 25, 2009

In an attempt to make a run at WalMart's $400 billion in annual sales, Amazon is offering a ton of Crazy Eddie-like deals for the holiday shopping season. There's the 6-quart Kitchen Aid stand mixer for $250 (50% off) and the 4GB SD memory card for just $10 but the real deals are on Blu-ray and DVD. There's the 60% off Planet Earth DVDs and Blu-ray that I mentioned earlier, 2001: A Space Odyssey on Blu-ray for $9.50 (!!), $10 for Quantum of Solace (Blu-ray), $8 for Slumdog Millionaire (DVD), 66% off seasons 1-6 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and entire seasons of The Office are up to 75% off.

Oh, and they're also offering $3 in free mp3 downloads if you use the MP34FREE code.

The fall of empires

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 25, 2009

A visualization of the decline of the world's four maritime empires (British, Portuguese, French, Spanish) from 1800 to 2009.

France pretty much just explodes around 1960.

Caster Semenya, something magnificent

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 25, 2009

Ariel Levy did a piece on runner Caster Semenya for the New Yorker this week. Semenya's competition eligibility is up in the air because the IAAF (the worldwide governing body for track and field) can't decide whether she is a woman or a man.

She didn't look like an eighteen-year-old girl, or an eighteen-year-old boy. She looked like something else, something magnificent.

Love that quote.

Understanding vs. listening to customers

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 25, 2009

A fascinating but short case study of Ferran Adrià's restaurant El Bulli from the perspective of an MBA.

There is much about the restaurant that is inefficient, as MBAs are quick to note: Adrià should lower his staff numbers, use cheaper ingredients, improve his supply chain, and increase the restaurant's hours of operation. But "fixing" elBulli turns it into just another restaurant, says Norton: "The things that make it inefficient are part of what makes it so valuable to people."

How to visit the zoo

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 25, 2009

A guide on how to enjoy going to the zoo. Tips include bringing no children, walking, taking your time, and going early or staying late:

Many animals are more interesting at dawn and dusk, so the earlier or later you can arrange your visit, the better. If you ever find yourself in Singapore, don't miss the famous Night Safari. You haven't lived until you've felt your way along a jungle path in utter darkness, rounding a corner and spotting a pack of hyenas in a pool of light twenty yards away, with no apparent fence between you.

(thx, roger)

Updates on previous entries for Nov 24, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 25, 2009

Bell's telegraph killer orig. from Nov 23, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Oodles of blueprints

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 24, 2009

A huge repository of blueprints of cars, trains, ships, weapons, sci-fi vehicles, etc.

Millennium Falcon blueprint

(via quips)

Word of the decade?

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 24, 2009

The American Dialect Society has put its annual call out for nominations for the 2009 word of the year *and* also for the word of the decade.

What is the word or phrase which best characterizes the year or the decade? What expression most reflects the ideas, events, and themes which have occupied the English-speaking world, especially North America? Nominations should be sent to [email protected]. They can also be made in Twitter by using the hashtag #woty09.

Objectified on PBS

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 24, 2009

Set yer DVRs! Starting tonight, watch Objectified (industrial design documentary) on Independent Lens on PBS.

Accidental geography

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 24, 2009

People find likenesses of states, countries, and continents in the oddest places.

How the H1N1 vaccine is made

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 24, 2009

The most striking feature of the H1N1 flu vaccine manufacturing process is the 1,200,000,000 chicken eggs required to make the 3 billion doses of vaccine that may be required worldwide. There are entire chicken farms in the US and around the world dedicated to producing eggs for the purpose of incubating influenza viruses for use in vaccines. No wonder it takes six months from start to finish. But we'll get to that in a minute.

The most commonly used process for manufacturing an influenza vaccine was developed in the 1940s — one of its co-inventors was Jonas Salk, who would go on to develop the polio vaccine — and has remained basically unchanged since then. The process is coordinated by the World Health Organization and begins with the detection of a new virus (or rather one that differs significantly from those already going around); in this instance, the Pandemic H1N1/09 virus. Once the pandemic strain has been identified and isolated, it is mixed with a standard laboratory virus through a technique called genetic reassortment, the purpose of which is to create a hybrid virus (also called the "reference virus strain") with the pandemic strain's surface antigens and the lab strain's core components (which allows the virus to grow really well in chicken eggs). Then the hybrid is tested to make sure that it grows well, is safe, and produces the proper antigen response. This takes about six to nine weeks.

[Quick definitional pause. Antigen: "An antigen is any substance that causes your immune system to produce antibodies against it. An antigen may be a foreign substance from the environment such as chemicals, bacteria, viruses, or pollen. An antigen may also be formed within the body, as with bacterial toxins or tissue cells." So, when the H1N1 vaccine gets inside your body, the pandemic strain's surface antigens will produce antibodies against it.]

At roughly the same time, a parallel effort to produce what are referred to as reference reagents is undertaken. The deliverable here is a standardized kit provided to vaccine manufacturers so that they can test how much virus they are making and how effective it is. This process serves to standardize vaccine doses across manufacturers and takes four months to complete. WHO notes that this part of the process is "often a bottleneck to the overall timeline for manufacturers to generate the vaccine".

Once the reference virus strain is produced, it is sent to pharmaceutical companies (Novartis, Sanofi Pasteur, etc.) for large-scale production of the vaccine. The companies fine-tune the virus to increase yields and produce seed virus banks that will be used in the bulk production.

And this is where the 1.2 billion chicken eggs come in. A portion of the seed virus is injected into each 9- to 12-day old fertilized egg. The virus incubates in the egg white for two to three days and is then separated from the egg.

Vaccine eggs

For the shot vaccine, the virus is sterilized so that it won't make anyone sick. This is the magic part of the vaccine: it's got the pandemic virus antigens that make your body produce the antibodies to fight the virus but the virus is inactive so it won't make you ill. For the nasal spray vaccine, the virus is left alive and attenuated to survive only in the nose and not the warmer lungs; it'll infect you enough to produce antibodies but not enough to make you sick. Either way, the surface antigens are separated out and purified to produce the active ingredient in the vaccine. Each batch of antigen takes about two weeks to produce. With enough laboratory space and chicken eggs, the companies can crank out an infinite amount of purified antigens, but those resources are limited in practice.

[Side note. You may have noticed that the H1N1 vaccine has been difficult to find in some places around the US. The vaccine manufacturers have said that the Pandemic H1N1/09 virus when combined with the standard laboratory virus does not grow as fast in the eggs as they anticipated. The batches of antigens from each egg have been smaller than expected, up to five or even ten times smaller in some cases. Hence the slow rollout of the vaccine.]

The purified antigen is then tested against the aforementioned reference reagents once they are ready. The antigen is diluted to the required concentration and placed into properly labelled vials or syringes. Further testing is performed to make sure the vaccine won't make anyone ill, to confirm the correct concentration, and for general safety. At this point clinical testing in humans is required in western Europe but not in the United States. Finally, each company's vaccine has to be approved by the appropriate regulatory body in each country — that's the FDA in the case of the US — and then the vaccine is distributed to medical facilities around the country.

Sources and more information: WHO, WHO, WHO, WHO, CDC, Time, Washington Post, The Big Picture, Influenza Report, NPR, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia.

Update: Included in a recent 60 Minutes segment on the H1N1 vaccine is a look at the manufacturing process. (thx, @briandigital)

Quick App Store idea

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 24, 2009

Allow two classes of apps in the App Store: those approved by Apple and those not approved by Apple. The unapproved apps would only be accessed through direct searches (they would not appear in top 10 lists or be featured on the front page), would carry cigarette-grade warnings that it might kill your phone and cause cancer, and maybe Apple would take a slightly larger cut to incentivize developers to get apps approved. Non-approved apps could still be pulled from the store by Apple at any point for blatant violations of Apple's guidelines. That way, if developers want to skirt around all the headaches of Apple's approval process and if users want to gamble on an app to run on their own hardware that Apple won't or can't approve in a timely fashion, they can.

Not that Apple would ever do such a thing.

Fantastic Mr. Fox animation process

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 24, 2009

From Making Of, a further look at how the animation of Fantastic Mr. Fox was coordinated through the use of a custom-built software system that allowed for remote direction.

The best part about the setup is that the software interface for the cameras has a "Live to Wes" button that will stream the live feed from a particular camera to Wes Anderson for immediate viewing.

The Live to Wes button

Updates on previous entries for Nov 23, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 24, 2009

Bell's telegraph killer orig. from Nov 23, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Most memorable meals

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 23, 2009

For her latest GOOP newsletter, Gwynyth Paltrow asks a few friends — Ferran Adria, Nora Ephron, Mario Batali — to recount their most memorable meals.

Scenes from a contest

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 23, 2009

For today's installment of The Big Picture, Alan picked a selection of photos from National Geographic's International Photography Contest. I am a sucker for pictures of waves:

Fan Wave

Photo is by Aaron Feinberg.

Warhol illustrates kids book

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 23, 2009

Scans of the illustrations that Andy Warhol did for a children's story called The Little Red Hen.

Update: Andy Warhol's other children's books.

Planet Earth on sale at Amazon

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 23, 2009

Whoa, Amazon has the BBC version of Planet Earth on sale for ~60% off...$30.49 for the DVD and $40.99 for Blu-ray.

Note: this edition features the original narration by David Attenborough

Sigourney Weaver, I'm really happy for you and I'ma let you finish but David Attenborough was one of the greatest Planet Earth narrators of all time. Of all time! (What, too late?)

Planning for a million years

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 23, 2009

BLDGBLOG has a fascinating interview with geoscientist Abraham Van Luik about how to confine nuclear waste for 1,000,000 years at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada. One of the problems is keeping people away from the site in the far future:

We have looked very closely at what WIPP is doing — the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. They did a study with futurists and other people-sociologists and language specialists. They decided to come up with markers in seven languages, basically like a Rosetta Stone, with the idea that there will always be someone in the world who studies ancient languages, even 10,000 years from now, someone who will be able to resurrect what the meanings of these stelae are. They will basically say, "This is not a place of honor, don't dig here, this is not good material," etc.

Bell's telegraph killer

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 23, 2009

Word is trickling out of Bell Labs that Alexander Graham Bell is developing a device that will supplant the telegraph.

While the technology behind the Telephone is new, the design is reassuringly old-fashioned, reminiscent of a phrenologist's horn or ear-candle in form. We found the experience far more comfortable than the one we had with the Telegraph, though fatigue from magnetic waves is inevitable in the use of each. This is a minor complaint, however, as we could scarcely imagine using such a device for more than a few minutes a day.

Update: Meanwhile, back in the real world, F. Marion Crawford had this to say back in 1896:

The old fashioned novel is really dead, and nothing can revive it nor make anybody care for it again. What is to follow it?...A clever German who is here suggested to me last night that the literature of the future might turn out to be the daily exchange of ideas of men of genius — over the everlasting telephone of course — published every morning for the whole world....

The everlasting telephone!

Updates on previous entries for Nov 22, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 23, 2009

Free Errol! orig. from Nov 20, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Updates on previous entries for Nov 21, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 22, 2009

Free Errol! orig. from Nov 20, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Free Errol!

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 20, 2009

For some dumbcrap reason, the NY Times has redirected Errol Morris' excellent blog about photography and the truth — formerly at http://morris.blogs.nytimes.com — to some new thing called Opinionator. They did the same with Dick Cavett, Olivia Judson, etc. Oh, all the content is still there — here's Morris' stuff — and permalinks redirect, but there are no author-specific RSS feeds. There is only the main feed, which started shoveling a bunch of crap I didn't want to read into my newsreader. Come on Gray Lady, just give me Morris; I don't care about the rest.

Update: The Times blogs are on Wordpress and with WP you can add "/feed" to any URL and get a feed. So here's Morris' feed...which helps you and me but not much of anyone else. (thx, mark)

Update: The Times is working on it. (thx, benjamin)

A blind wine tasting with Robert Parker

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 20, 2009

Robert Parker, the world's foremost wine taster, tasted a bunch of bottles from Bordeaux 2005 (a great year for Bordeaux) and couldn't tell which one was which and ranked them differently than he had before.

Blind tasting removes preconceptions about wines while maintaining the ability to rate wines in a peer group setting. Wednesday night, Parker upended the order of his published ratings of the wines and, in the process, could not correctly identify any of these wines. In print, he awarded L'Eglise Clinet, a Pomerol, a score of 100 points. While he did call it his second favorite wine of the night, it is interesting to note that he could not pick out this wine in the lineup (he thought the actual L'Eglise to be Cos, a wine that is not only from across the river, but from St. Estephe, an appellation known for the extreme tannic structure of the wines). In that same vein, he mistook Lafite, a Paulliac, for Troplong-Mondot, a new wave St. Emilion. Blind tasting can be ruthless in its outcomes.

Jonah Lehrer elaborated on the outcome of the tasting.

When we take a sip of wine, we don't taste the wine first, and the cheapness or redness second. We taste everything all at once, in a single gulp of thiswineisred, or thiswineisexpensive. As a result, the wine "experts" sincerely believed that the white wine was red, or that Lafite was actually Troplong-Mondot. Such mistakes are inevitable: Our brain has been designed to believe itself, wired so that our prejudices feel like facts, our opinions indistinguishable from the actual sensation. If we think a wine is cheap, it will taste cheap. And if we think we are tasting a grand cru, then we will taste a grand cru.

Caricature map of Europe, 1914

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 20, 2009

Keith Thompson Map

Britain is an militaristic lion with a Roman Imperial italic-type helmet. It sits upon a mound of riches gathered from its Empire.

Drawn by Keith Thompson...prints are available if you like. (thx, zoe)

Thompson's maps may have been influenced by this 1870 map of Europe. (thx, mark)

Trabant refresh

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 20, 2009

The Trabant 601, 1963:

Trabant 1963

Wikipedia notes of the Trabant:

For advocates of capitalism it is often cited as an example of the disadvantages of centralized planning as even refueling the car required lifting the hood, filling the tank with gasoline (only 24 litres), then adding two-stroke oil and shaking it back and forth to mix.

Pollution, poor construction, and lack of availability were also issues with the East German auto.

Trabant nT concept car, 2009:

Trabant 2009

Here's the official site; plus more photos. BBC News has an overview of the project:

A German consortium is developing a slick, updated version of the Trabant, communist East Germany's famously unreliable mass-produced car. The new model is electric with solar panels on the roof — in stark contrast to the fume-belching original.

Looks very cool.

Second thoughts about carbon offsets

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 20, 2009

This article in the NY Times fits nicely with my belief that carbon offsets are bullshit.

"The carbon offset has become this magic pill, a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card," Justin Francis, the managing director of Responsible Travel, one of the world's largest green travel companies to embrace environmental sustainability, said in an interview. "It's seductive to the consumer who says, 'It's $4 and I'm carbon-neutral, so I can fly all I want.'" Offsets, he argues, are distracting people from making more significant behavioral changes, like flying less.

(via @daveg)

Idea enemies

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 20, 2009

From advertisements for a Portuguese independent film group, several ideas and their enemies.

Idea enemies

(via heavy backpack)

The uncollected stories of J.D. Salinger

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 20, 2009

Dead Caulfields maintains an unauthorized online collection of the 22 stories written by J.D. Salinger and published in Esquire, The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, etc. These stories have never been collected into a book due to the reclusive author's resistance.

Spanning his literary career between the years 1940-1965, these stories display changes in both the author's style and message. While some are plainly of commercial quality, most are serious works containing an expansive gift of enlightenment and self-examination: that very-satisfying "Salinger moment".

(via @brainpicker)

Jeanne-Claude, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 19, 2009

Jeanne-Claude, one-half of the art duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude, has died at the age of 74. The front page of the couple's web site has a short tribute. I loved The Gates.

Davy Jones' wine cellar

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 19, 2009

Over at Edible Geography, Nicola Twilley collects some information about wine and beer recovered from shipwrecks, some of which has been sold for thousands of dollars per bottle.

It appears the ocean floor, if treated as a single entity, might actually be the world's largest wine cellar — a sunken treasure trove of lost vintages awaiting rediscovery. Like squirrels digging up acorns, wreck-divers and salvage companies stumble upon another forgotten cache every few years.

Drawing is thinking

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 19, 2009

A short video in which Milton Glaser extols the virtues of drawing while drawing.

It is only through drawing that I look at things carefully.

What will the LHC find?

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 19, 2009

With regard to the Large Hadron Collider, the Higgs boson gets all the press but other potential discoveries could be more exciting and easier to detect.

However, if the theorists are right, before it ever finds the Higgs, the LHC will see the first outline of something far bigger: the grand, overarching theory known as supersymmetry. SUSY, as it is endearingly called, is a daring theory that doubles the number of particles needed to explain the world. And it could be just what particle physicists need to set them on the path to fresh enlightenment.

If you haven't been keeping up with particle physics for the past few years (as I haven't), this will bring you up to speed a bit.

Microsoft to patent Tufte's sparklines?

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 19, 2009

Microsoft has filed a patent application for sparklines and Edward Tufte, who came up with the idea for sparklines, is wondering what to do about it. (via waxy)

Spider silk tapestry

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 19, 2009

The American Museum of Natural History is displaying a 11'x4' tapestry made completely of spider silk. It took four years, required more than one million spiders, and cost $500,000 to make.

The task of silking a spider starts with a small machine — designed centuries ago when the first attempts to silk spiders were begun — that holds the spider down.

"The spiders are harnessed ... held down in a delicate way," Godley says, "so you need people to do this who are very tactile so the spiders are not harmed. So there's a chain of about 80 people who go out every morning at four o'clock, collect spiders, we get them in by 10 o'clock. They're in boxes, they're numbered, and then as they get silked, about 20 minutes later, they get released back into nature."

Spider silk tapestry

The vivid yellow is the natural color of the spider's silk. If you can't make it to see the exhibition at the AMNH, check out a video featuring the tapestry. (thx, renee)

Management theory and The Office

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 19, 2009

In The Gervais Principle, Or The Office According to "The Office" and the followup The Gervais Principle II: Posturetalk, Powertalk, Babytalk and Gametalk, Venkatesh Rao dissects and analyzes the American version of The Office to a degree I hadn't thought was possible.

After four years, I've finally figured the show out. The Office is not a random series of cynical gags aimed at momentarily alleviating the existential despair of low-level grunts. It is a fully-realized theory of management that falsifies 83.8% of the business section of the bookstore.

Even if you're only an occasional viewer of the show, this is worth reading through, especially if you work in an office environment. (thx, zach)

All kinds of leaves

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 19, 2009

In his excellent NY Times blog, Christoph Niemann uses leaves to illustrate a forest of ideas.

Niemann Biodiversity

Project Grizzly

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 18, 2009

The National Film Board of Canada has put Project Grizzly online for free viewing.

In this feature-length documentary, Troy James Hurtubise goes face to face with Canada's most deadly land mammal, the grizzly bear. Troy is the creator of what he hopes is a grizzly-proof suit, and he repeatedly tests his armour — and courage — in stunts that are both hair-raising and hilarious.

This is not to be confused with Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man, as the Wikipedia entry for Project Grizzly makes clear:

For the 2005 documentary film by Werner Herzog about late bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell (no suit), see Grizzly Man.

No suit!

Cormac McCarthy interview

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 18, 2009

The WSJ has a conversation with Cormac McCarthy.

Your future gets shorter and you recognize that. In recent years, I have had no desire to do anything but work and be with [my son] John. I hear people talking about going on a vacation or something and I think, what is that about? I have no desire to go on a trip. My perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. That's heaven. That's gold and anything else is just a waste of time.

Before reading this interview, I didn't know much about McCarthy — he's a fellow at the Santa Fe Institute? — but now I think I need to read The Road. (via df)

The versatility of the tuna fish sandwich

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 18, 2009

This photo on Wikipedia of a tuna, olive, and avocado sandwich is used on exactly two pages:

Tuna fish sandwich
2009 flu pandemic vaccine

On the flu vaccine page, the sandwich photo is accompanied by the caption "The vaccine contains less mercury than a typical tuna fish sandwich."

The world's easiest pie crust

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 18, 2009

In today's installment of Cooking with the Awl, Choire Sicha shows us how to make his famous Nonchalant Smoker's E-Z Pie Crust. Baking has never been less precise!

3. Put something more than a teaspoon but something less than a tablespoon of salt in the flour. That is like "three pinches." It doesn't really matter how much! Saltiness offsets sweetness! People, who are animals, like salt!

4. Put about the same amount of sugar in the flour! Give or take! IT DOESN'T MATTER.

Choire also notes at one point that the crust "should look sort of gross".

The last opium den in the world

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 18, 2009

In 2000, Nick Tosches went in search of something that he was told didn't exist anymore: the opium den.

In the early decades of the 20th century, as the drug trade was taken over by the Judeo-Christian coalition that came to control crime, Jewish and Italian names became almost as common as Chinese names in the reports of those arrested for smuggling, selling, and den-running. While the old Chinese opium smokers died off, the new drug lords actively cultivated a market for the opium derivatives, first morphine and then heroin, two 19th-century inventions that offered far greater profit margins than opium itself.


The last known opium den in New York was a second-floor tenement apartment at 295 Broome Street, between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets, at the northeastern edge of Chinatown. It was run by the apartment's tenant, a Chinese immigrant named Lau, who was 57 when the joint got raided and his ass got hauled away. There were a few old pipes and lamps, 10 ounces of opium. And 40 ounces of heroin. The date was June 28, 1957. That was it. The end of the final relic of a bygone day.

DIY chicken plucking machine

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 18, 2009

Not for the squeamish. Or you can build your own. (via eat me daily)

Big but never number one

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 18, 2009

From Box Office Mojo, a list of the top grossing movies in the US that were never #1 at the box office. Topping the list is the sleeper hit of sleeper hits, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Updates on previous entries for Nov 17, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 18, 2009

The masked reviewers of the Michelin Guide orig. from Nov 17, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Y2K, no big deal

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 17, 2009

I contributed a short essay to Newsweek's 2010 project for the Overblown Fears list: Y2K.

Despite the media hype, the biggest story about the Y2K computer bug is that nothing happened. Trains didn't spontaneously derail. McDonald's didn't roll back to turn-of-the-century pricing (no Happy Meals for a ha'penny). And the banks didn't lose all of our money; we'd have to wait another eight years for that.

Farhad Manjoo recently did a 2-part piece on the lessons of Y2K for Slate.

Nathan Myhrvold, cookbook author

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 17, 2009

Nathan Myhrvold, ex-Microsoftie and founder of an invention company called Intellectual Ventures, is also really interested in food, so much so that he's writing a monster cookbook (currently ~1500 pages) about the science of cooking.

In another discovery of culinary heat transfer physics, Dr. Myhrvold said the bulbous shape and black color of Weber grills were wrong. To achieve an even cooking temperature across the cooking grate, the inside of the grill should be vertical and shiny to reflect the heat. That can be fixed by adding an aluminum insert to the grill. "So we have directions for that," Dr. Myhrvold said.

You may remember reading about Myhrvold and IV in Malcolm Gladwell's piece on the nature of invention last year.

Pinball economics

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 17, 2009

This fun little post talks about how the economics of pinball changed as it became more and then less popular.

In 1986, Williams High Speed changed the economics of pinball forever. Pinball developers began to see how they could take advantage of programmable software to monitor, incentivize, and ultimately exploit the players. They had two instruments at their disposal: the score required for a free game, and the match probability. All pinball machines offer a replay to a player who beats some specified score. Pre-1986, the replay score was hard wired into the game unless the operator manually re-programmed the software. High Speed changed all that. It was pre-loaded with an algorithm that adjusted the replay score according to the distribution of scores on the specified machine over a specific time interval.

Electrically conductive steak as art

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 17, 2009

For his piece Steak Filter, Noah Feehan ran a video signal of a steak cooking through the actual steak. The deterioration of the video signal becomes a sign of how done the steak is.

Quite literally, I am plugging composite video into a big steak, which is then cooked. The video signal going through the steak is the image of the steak cooking. Gradually, the steak loses moisture and signal can no longer pass.

The videos don't really show too much, but I love the idea. (via eat me daily)

Movie originality and success

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 17, 2009

Prompted by my post about how few non-adapted/sequel/franchise films there are on the list of the top-grossing films of the 2000s (9 out of 50), kottke.org reader Keith took a look at the Best Picture Oscar nominees for the decade and noticed that the percentage of original properties was actually lower (7 out of 45). From his email:

This leaves 7 that are original. Gladiator, Gosford Park, Lost in Translation, Crash, Babel, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, and Michael Clayton.

You'll note that 7/45 (15.556%) is worse than 9/50 (18%). So it seems that the box office appreciates originality more than the Academy. Take from this what you will. I might suggest that this is a poor way to truly gauge originality, as the top 50 box office grossers of the decade is a pretty high bar (500 million+), and seems to demand some kind of familiarity in order to attract the rapid widespread viewing needed for a big theatrical run. Alternately, it builds into the argument that most creativity is follow-on. I would venture a guess that if we dove deeper, into say, every movie that made at least $100 million in the decade, the ratio of original properties would be a bit more palatable.

Thanks, Keith! Also interesting is a comparison between the top grossing films of the 2000s and those for the 1990s and the 1980s. You don't have to delve too far to see how much has changed. Of the top 15 films in the 1990s, 7 are original properties: Independence Day, The Lion King, Sixth Sense, Armageddon, Home Alone, Ghost, and Twister. For the 1980s, a consensus on the top 10 grossing films is difficult to come by, but using the Wikipedia one yields 5 original properties out of the top 10: ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, and Back to the Future (other lists I saw included Top Gun and Rain Man but also Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (adapted)).

Clearly sequels, adaptations, and franchises ruled in the 2000s much more than in the 1990s or 1980s. But if you go back to the 1970s, only 2 or 3 of 10 top-grossing films are original: Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and perhaps The Sting. So maybe the 2000s were a return to old ways for Hollywood?

The masked reviewers of the Michelin Guide

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 17, 2009

For the first time ever, a Michelin Guide reviewer knowingly sits down to a meal with a journalist, New Yorker writer John Colapinto. The resulting article is pretty interesting; here's my favorite bit:

Le Bernardin was one of only four restaurants in New York (along with Jean Georges, Thomas Keller's Per Se, and the now defunct Alain Ducasse at the Essex House) that earned three stars in the debut issue of the Michelin guide, and it has held on to its three stars ever since. Ripert estimates that revenues increased by eighteen per cent when the first guide came out, but the pressure to hold on to his stars has also escalated.

An 18% increase? Assuming that Le Bernardin was already booked solid before the guide came out and expenses remained constant, that means that the same number of diners generated that increase...presumably Michelin Guide readers spend more on dining than even Le Bernardin regulars do. Margins on Manhattan restaurants, even the fancy ones, generally aren't that large...an 18% increase is insane.

Update: A slight clarification. I fudged the 18% revenue increase into an 18% increase in profits...which isn't the case. But since I'm assuming that the revenue increased was generated by the about same number of customers and that most of the expenses (rent, staff, etc.) stayed the same, the profit margin had to increase by some significant amount (for a Manhattan restaurant). And if those new customers ordered more tasting menus or more expensive bottles of wine, I would assume that the profit margin on those items are higher than average as well. So, my guess is that if you asked Eric Ripert if Le Bernardin's profit margin increased after the Michelin Guide came out, he would answer in the affirmative...but it wouldn't be an 18% increase.

The 100 best quotes from The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 17, 2009

This is really well done. (thx, joris)

Update: The next 100 greatest quotes from The Wire. (thx, charlie)

Keeping Belle de Jour's secret

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 16, 2009

Darren from LinkMachineGo, an old school blogger, guessed Belle de Jour's identity soon after her blog started. How? Pre-Belle, Brooke Magnanti ran an obscure Robotwisdom-style link blog and wrote in a few other online forums and Darren recognized the writing style. Not only didn't Darren tell Magnanti or anyone else, he even set up a clever Googlewhack honeypot to detect people searching for her secret identity and tipped Magnanti off that The Daily Mail was sniffing around.

Vintage sexist ads

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 16, 2009

A "blow in her face and she'll follow you anywhere" ad for Tipalet cigarettes and 11 other vintage sexist ads from Oobject.

Advice for the US from the Byzantine Empire

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 16, 2009

How did the Byzantine Empire stay around so long? A look at the answers might hold some lessons for the present-day United States.

Avoid war by every possible means, in all possible circumstances, but always act as if war might start at any time. Train intensively and be ready for battle at all times — but do not be eager to fight. The highest purpose of combat readiness is to reduce the probability of having to fight.

The poverty trap

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 16, 2009

In the US, when you make under $20,000, there are government subsidies available to help you out. Between $20-40,000 per year, those subsidies are less available, which makes it difficult for people to cross the gap between one and the other.

In fact, until you get past $40,000 a year, any raise or higher paying job you get might actually sink you deeper into poverty.

(via migurski)

God, I love Cate Blanchett

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 16, 2009

Cate Blanchett

Photo by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue, December 2009. (via djacobs)

Sex scandals in the age of Facebook

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 16, 2009

Fascinating and disturbing story about a male student who posed as female online and got several of his male classmates to send him naked pictures of themselves. Which led to extortion and eventual arrest.

In the beginning, when Kayla and Emily asked these boys for naked pictures, the majority of them thought little of saying yes. This exchange was within the range of what kids — lots of kids — consider normal. Online, a boy chats with a girl he's never met. Pants go down. Pictures are sent. And a chain of unpredictable, unknowable consequences is set in motion.

New novel from Nabokov

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 16, 2009

The Times has published an extract of Vladimir Nabokov's supposed-to-be-destroyed final novel, The Original of Laura. The book is out on Tuesday; cover by Chip Kidd.

Megan Fox's toe thumb

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 15, 2009

The cover of this week's NY Times Magazine features Megan Fox.

Megan Fox

If she's so manufactured, shouldn't she do something about that toe thumb of hers? (Sorry Fox fans, once you see the toe thumb, it's impossible to unsee.)

Fantastic Mr. Fox

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2009

In stop motion animation, Wes Anderson has found the perfect medium for telling his special brand of precise yet fanciful tales. I won?t go so far as to say that it?s his best film ? Rushmore will be difficult to dislodge from its perch ? but there are some pretty special moments in Fantastic Mr. Fox.

While the film deviates from Roald Dahl?s book quite a bit ? only the middle third is straight from the book ? the story holds true to the sense of playful mischieviousness evident in Dahl?s books for children. (I especially liked the drugged blueberry bit that Anderson purloined from Danny, the Champion of the World, my favorite Dahl story.) I can?t say for sure whether or not the movie is good for kids, but the two nine-year-old boys sitting next to me in the theater loved it?although they also loved the Tooth Fairy and the Alvin and the Chimpmunks: the Squeakquel trailers, so YMMV.


That's Dr. Belle de Jour

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 15, 2009

London call girl blogger Belle de Jour has outed herself and, surprise, she's a hot nerd.

Her name is Dr Brooke Magnanti. Her specialist areas are developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology. She has a PhD in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science and is now working at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health. She is part of a team researching the effects of exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos on foetuses and infants.

(via waxy)

Updates on previous entries for Nov 13, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 14, 2009

Grand Theft Koyaanisqatsi orig. from Nov 13, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Bird photos

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 13, 2009

Andrew Zuckerman's photos of birds are flat-out incredible.

African Fish Eagle

That handsome fellow is the African Fish Eagle. The images are collected in a book called Bird.

Paste Magazine's best of the decade

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 13, 2009

They've got lists for books, movies, documentaries, video games, memes, comedians, and more.

When URL shorteners fail

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 13, 2009

URL shorteners still suck, but several URL shortening services have agreed to hand over the keys to 301Works in the event that a URL shortening company goes under. 301Works will be administered by Internet Archive.

Participating companies will provide regular backups of their URL mappings to the 301Works.org service. In the event of the closure of a participating organization, technical control of the shortening service domain will be transferred to 301Works.org in order to continue redirecting existing shortened URLs to their intended destinations.

As Andy notes, no Tinyurl.

Out to sea

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 13, 2009

I couldn't resist reading the entire story immediately after reading the synopsis:

Swept out to sea by a riptide, a father and his 12-year-old son struggle to stay alive miles from shore. As night falls, with no rescue imminent, the dad comes to a devastating realization: If they remain together, they'll drown together.

That was a really difficult story to read. I love the ocean but it also scares the absolute shit out of me.

Photo of Apollo 11's landing site

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 13, 2009

Speaking of the Moon, the LRO snapped a new picture of Apollo 11 landing site from its orbital perch 50km above the surface.

Apollo 11 LRO


Water on the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 13, 2009

NASA announced that it has found pretty hard evidence of significant amounts of water on the Moon.

"We are ecstatic," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Multiple lines of evidence show water was present in both the high angle vapor plume and the ejecta curtain created by the LCROSS Centaur impact. The concentration and distribution of water and other substances requires further analysis, but it is safe to say Cabeus holds water."

I don't have to tell you about the implications here. Just think of how much you could sell authentic Moon bottled water for.

Grand Theft Koyaanisqatsi

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 13, 2009

A timelapse video of 15-days of game play in Grand Theft Auto IV. Sadly not set to the music of Philip Glass. (thx, rob)

Update: An early teaser video for GTA IV featured Philip Glass' music as well as some timelapse footage. (thx, michael)

Slow-poached eggs

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 13, 2009

I mentioned on Twitter last week that I made slow-poached eggs using a technique from the Momofuku book. A few folks asked about a recipe so here are the details:

Fill your largest pot with water and put it over super low heat on the stove. Put something in the bottom of the pot to keep the eggs off the bottom...you want them to be heated by the water, not the flame underneath. Use a thermometer to heat the water to 140-145°F and slip the whole eggs in (no cracking). Let the eggs sit in there for 40-45 minutes, maintaining the temperature the whole time. I found that turning the heat on for 30-45 seconds every 10 minutes or so was enough to keep the temperature in the proper range.

To serve, crack the eggs and discard any clear whites. If you're not serving them immediately, chill the whole eggs in an ice bath and store in the fridge. To reheat, run under hot water for a minute or two.

This takes a little longer than making poached eggs in the traditional way, but you can do several eggs at once (like dozens if you have a big enough pot), this technique is less messy and fussy, and results in a poached eggs with a super-creamy white. The whites on my first batch were a little too runny for my taste, so I'm going to try a slightly higher temperature next time to (hopefully) achieve something between soft boiled and poached.

That's it. There's a lot more context and advice in the Momofuku book (which is excellent and includes a technique for frying your slow-poached eggs); I'd suggest picking up a copy if you're interested.

The 2000s according to Wikipedia

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 13, 2009

Wikipedia gets into the 2000s roundup game with a main article and a number of topic-based summaries, including fashion, film, and sports. From the fashion page:

In hip hop, the throwback jersey and baggy pants (popular in the '90s to 2004) look was replaced with the more "grown man" look which was highly popularized by Kanye West around the year 2005.

If you say so. More interesting is the chart of the 20 highest grossing movies from the film page (the top 3 each grossed $1 billion+ worldwide):

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
3. The Dark Knight
4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
8. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
9. Shrek 2
10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
11. Spider-Man 3
12. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
13. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
14. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
15. Finding Nemo
16. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
17. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
18. Spider-Man
19. Shrek the Third
20. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Only one movie on the list was made from an original screenplay: Finding Nemo...the rest are all sequels or adapted from books, TV shows, amusement park rides, etc. Out of the top 50, only nine are not franchise films.

Updates on previous entries for Nov 12, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 13, 2009

Pollution in China orig. from Nov 05, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

The internet isn't killing anything

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 12, 2009

Russell Davies says the internet isn't killing anything.

Something That's Growing Is Not The Same As Something That's Big.

Something That's Declining Is Not The Same As Something That's Small.

Correlation is not causation.

Slow motion water drops

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 12, 2009

When you shoot video of water drops falling into a puddle in super slow motion, it turns out that they bounce in really interesting ways.

(via 3qd)

A perpetual loop of seduction

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 12, 2009

The landing page for Natalie Daoust's Tokyo Girls project (sorry no direct link because of Flash) presents you with a grid of 45 small animated photos of women performing stripteases.

Natalie Daoust

It is kinda mesmerizing. NSFW. (via swissmiss)

Conductive ink

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 12, 2009

Bare is a skin-safe conductive ink that you can paint on your body to create "custom electronic circuitry".

This innovative material allows users to interact with electronics through gesture, movement, and touch. Bare can be applied with a brush, stamp or spray and is non-toxic and temporary. Application areas include dance, music, computer interfaces, communication and medical devices. Bare is an intuitive and non-invasive technology which will allow users to bridge the gap between electronics and the body.


posted by Jason Kottke Nov 12, 2009


Litl is a new netbook that seems to aiming for the same ballpark as the hypothetical Apple netbook. The interface is sort of iPhone-like, all apps run in a browser, and everything lives in the cloud (the device has no hard drive). Pentagram did the identity and assisted on the user interface for Litl.

The Litl webbook can be used in two configurations: like a traditional laptop, with full keyboard, used to surf the Web; or flipped upright, like an easel or picture frame, for broadcast of photo and video. The laptop configuration has been conceived as a "lean forward" mode, for active participation; the easel configuration conceived as "lean back," for watching.

$700 though...that may be a bit much for too little; a 12-inch MacBook is only $300 more.

From Wassap! to Obama, a decade in review

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 12, 2009

As part of Newsweek's extensive 2010 project (more on that next week), they've produced a 7-minute video showing the highlights from the past decade.

Wassup! Wassup! What a decade. (thx, jr)

How to play the piano like Philip Glass

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 12, 2009

(via merlin)

Harry Beck's US Interstate map

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 12, 2009

Map of the US Interstate system in the style of the London Tube map.

US Interstate Tube map

Go large for detail. (via coudal)

Updates on previous entries for Nov 11, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 12, 2009

Did Texas execute an innocent man? orig. from Sep 03, 2009
Pollution in China orig. from Nov 05, 2009
One-handed computing with the iPhone orig. from Oct 29, 2009
The fall of the Iron Curtain in pictures orig. from Nov 09, 2009
Have you seen this fractal? orig. from Nov 03, 2009
A Single Man trailer orig. from Nov 10, 2009
Book cover handbags orig. from Nov 10, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Once common, now disappearing

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 11, 2009

From a book called Obsolete, a list of things that were once common but not so much anymore: blind dates, mix tapes, getting lost, porn magazines, looking old, operators, camera film, hitchhiking, body hair, writing letters, basketball players in short shorts, privacy, cash, and, yes, books.

New NFL helmet designs

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 11, 2009

Ken Carbone redesigned three of the crappiest NFL helmets, those of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins, and New England Patriots.

Among the weakest designs are the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose visually complicated logos become a graphic mess when televised and, I imagine, even if you're sitting on the fifty-yard line. At the very the bottom of the list are the New England Patriots. The Patriots' helmet is plastered with their logo, which comes dangerously close to looking like a wind-swept John Kerry dressed up like a Minute Man.

New Pats helmet
(thx, jason)

Soviet commercial advertising posters

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 11, 2009

There are some tsarist Russia posters in the collection as well. (via do)

The Store You Made

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 11, 2009

Whenever I link to something at Amazon on kottke.org, there's an affiliate code associated with the link. When I log into my account, I can access a listing of what people bought1. The interesting bit is that everything someone buys after clicking through to Amazon counts and is listed, even items I didn't link to directly. These purchased-but-unlinked-to items form a sort of store created by kottke.org readers of their own accord.

Let's call it The Store You Made. In the first installment of what may become a semi-regular feature, I'm highlighting some of the more interesting items sold in The Store You Made this week. You might be interested in what your fellow readers are buying.

Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction: Build Implements of Spitball Warfare

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson.

Bill Simmons' The Book of Basketball is getting difficult to find, except at Amazon.

DJ Hero with turntable. I really want to get this. Is it any good? Or should I just get a set of real turntables?

All seven volumes of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles. Here's volume one.

VHS isn't dead yet...someone bought a copy of From Star Wars to Jedi - Making of a Saga on videotape. Dad?

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for PS3. My brother-in-law worked on this game. It is getting great reviews.

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.

Alfred Hitchcock - The Masterpiece Collection is a DVD box set of fourteen of Hitchcock's films. And ooh, North By Northwest on Blu-ray.

The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts. Someone wrote a biography of Chris Farley?

Three people bought Apple's new Magic Mouse.

Two 1 TB Seagate external hard drives were purchased for just over $100 each. Memory is so cheap these days; there's no excuse not to get yourself a backup drive.

A 61-key electronic keyboard.

A 4-port Tardis USB hub. Awesome. Oh and:

When you connect or disconnect a device, the blue light on top flashes and the dematerialization vworp, vworp sound starts sawing away at your lugholes.


Note: kottke.org recieves a small percentage of the purchase price for each item purchased through the Amazon links above. If you're not into that, you may search for the item on Amazon directly or find it elsewhere using Google.

[1] Amazon does not reveal which customers purchased what items to their associates...just that a purchase was made. So I have absolutely no idea who bought that diamond engagement ring last year (congratulations!) or that 3-pack of underwear last week (congratulations!).

1920s footage of London, in color

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 11, 2009

If you liked the film of the 1905 streetcar ride down Market Street in San Francisco, you might enjoy this 1927 film of various sites around London, including several down-the-street shots. Oh, and it's in color. In the 1920s.

This clip is from a larger film called The Open Road by Claude Friese-Greene. He shot the film with a process his father William had developed called Biocolour.

William began the development of an additive colour film process called Biocolour. This process produced the illusion of true colour by exposing each alternate frame of ordinary black-and-white film stock through a two different coloured filters. Each alternate frame of the monochrome print was then stained red or green. Although the projection of Biocolour prints did provide a tolerable illusion of true colour, it suffered from noticeable flickering and red-and-green fringing when the subject was in rapid motion. In an attempt to overcome the colour fringing problem, a faster-than-usual frame rate was used.

(via @jamesjm)

Amazing Matt Meola surfing video

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 11, 2009

This video was offline so soon after I posted it and is so crazy that I thought it deserved more than an update to the old post. So here it is again. Watch it, watch it, watch it. (thx, tomek)

Updates on previous entries for Nov 10, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 11, 2009

The fall of the Iron Curtain in pictures orig. from Nov 09, 2009
Donald Barthelme's recommended reading orig. from Nov 10, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Donald Barthelme's recommended reading

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 10, 2009

A syllabus compiled by American author Donald Barthelme composed of 81 books.

If the list's books are skewed toward Barthelme's particular obsessions — one of the entries is "Beckett entire" — this is only to its credit. Most are novels. All but two of the books, Knut Hamsun's Hunger and Flaubert's Letters (numbers 15, 40), were written in the twentieth century, most in the past thirty years. And all have that dizzying sense of otherness and surprise common to great books, an affluence of vitality.

Update: Phil Gyford copied the list into plain old text.

Book cover handbags

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 10, 2009

Olympia Le-Tan makes handbags — actually hand-embroidered rectangular box clutches — that look like book covers.

Olympia Le Tan

Update: Rebound Designs makes handbags made out of real books. Here's Pride and Prejudice. (thx, pj)

Typekit is live

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 10, 2009

Typekit launched today (details here).

This will change the way you design websites. Add a line of code to your pages and choose from hundreds of fonts. Simple, bulletproof, standards compliant, accessible, and totally legal.

I haven't had a chance to play around with this yet, but hope to soon. And hey, you can use Silkscreen with Typekit.

SuperFreakonomics not so super

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 10, 2009

In a New Yorker book review this week, Elizabeth Kolbert tears Levitt and Dubner a new one over the geoengineering chapter of SuperFreakonomics, calling the pair's thinking on the issue "horseshit".

Given their emphasis on cold, hard numbers, it's noteworthy that Levitt and Dubner ignore what are, by now, whole libraries' worth of data on global warming. Indeed, just about everything they have to say on the topic is, factually speaking, wrong. Among the many matters they misrepresent are: the significance of carbon emissions as a climate-forcing agent, the mechanics of climate modelling, the temperature record of the past decade, and the climate history of the past several hundred thousand years.

Maps without labels quiz

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 10, 2009

From The Morning News, a collection of maps without labels or legend...can you guess what each map represents?

How to avoid an untimely death

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 10, 2009

Number one on the list is "drive the biggest vehicle you can afford to drive". And #10:

If anyone tries to force you into your car or car trunk at gun point, don't cooperate. Fight and scream all you can even if you risk getting shot in the parking lot. If you get in the car, you will most likely die (or worse).

The author calls this "Black Swan avoidance". (via lone gunman)

A Single Man trailer

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 10, 2009

The trailer for Tom Ford's directorial debut, A Single Man, is gorgeous. No talking, just a simple ticking clock and images.

Reminds me of the trailer for A Clockwork Orange, only slower. Movie looks great too. (via fimoculous)

Update: Here's the first version of the trailer, before it was de-gayed. (thx, brian)

Updates on previous entries for Nov 9, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 10, 2009

The fall of the Iron Curtain in pictures orig. from Nov 09, 2009
Mirrors turning to look at you orig. from Oct 20, 2008
Watching them swim orig. from Jul 22, 2009
Restaurant server don'ts orig. from Oct 30, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.


posted by Jason Kottke Nov 09, 2009

AccidentSketch is a free web app that helps you to draw your car accident in order to assist with insurance claims, etc. Doesn't work in Safari for some reason.

Top movies of the 2000s

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 09, 2009

From The Times in the UK, the top 100 films of the decade. Before you look, see if you can figure out which one of the following is not in the top 5:

Grizzly Man
No Country for Old Men
Team America: World Police
There Will Be Blood

I've seen 58 out of the 100.

Criterion Collection missteps

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 09, 2009

Vice has a list of the ten most dubious films included in the Criterion Collection...they call them little fuck-ups.

3. The Rock - Director Michael Bay, 1996
Ugh. That's right. I failed to mention up top that there are not one, but two Michael Bay films in the Criterion Collection. It's the kind of shock-inducing information you need delivered in increments. If they wanted to include an Alcatraz movie, uh, why not Escape from Alcatraz? Perhaps Criterion felt they needed a couple of signature "explosion" films to represent the genre. But given that logic, why not throw in Every Which Way but Loose to represent the "truck driver with an orangutan sidekick" genre too?

Also, Michael Bay is doing a remake of Hitchcock's The Birds? What? WHAT??

Market Street, 1905

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 09, 2009

Man, lots of good stuff today. This is a film of a trip down Market Street in San Francisco taken in 1905 from the front of a streetcar. The array of driving styles and vehicles on display here is dazzling. (via justin blanton)

Update: The film is actually from 1906, filmed four days before the deadly earthquake. Here's the whole thing on YouTube:

A section of this film from later in 1906 offers a post-earthquake view of the same trip down Market Street (from 2:23 to 5:55).

Video mixtape

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 09, 2009

Somehow Ricardo Autobahn has constructed a coherent mix-video song from all sorts of movie and TV clips. It's just flat-out awesome; watch it:

See also Christian Marclay. (via fimoculous)

The Hood Internet Mixtape Vol Four

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 09, 2009

Just out. Haven't listened yet (downloading now) but if the last three are any indication, this is gonna be a great Monday for listenin'. Sample tracks:

5. Lil Wayne (feat. Babyface) vs Royksopp - Comfortable Up Here
15. Michael Jackson vs Ratatat - Billie "Wildcat" Jean
19. R. Kelly (feat. Keri Hilson) vs Sally Shapiro - Number One Christmas
31. Ghostface Killah vs Beirut - Save Me Concubine


Wes Anderson at NYPL tonight

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 09, 2009

Somehow not sold out yet: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach talk about The Fantastic Mr. Fox at the 42nd St. NYPL tonight. Tickets here.

The fall of the Iron Curtain in pictures

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 09, 2009

I'm sure there will be many of these published today. Send me more if you run across any and I'll add them to the list.

Photos by Peter Turnley taken in Romania, Berlin, Czechoslovakia, Soviet Union, and Hungary, most of them in late 1989.

Update: Pictures from a Vanished Country by Magnum's Thomas Hoepker.

Earlier this year I realized we would celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I went back into my archive and discovered that I had boxes full of negatives that I had never seen before, taken in East Germany over the past 50 years. It was a treasure which had to be unearthed.

(thx, bojan)

Update: The Berlin Wall: Rise and Fall, photos from Life magazine.

Mediabistro has collected video of how the news was reported on American television.

Update: The Big Picture weighs in: The Berlin Wall, 20 years gone.

The NY Times asked their readers to submit photos of the Wall: The View From the Wall.

The Times also has some nice split-screen photos of before and after the Wall fell. (thx, mau)

Photos from Poland in the 1980s. (thx, tomek)

From the WSJ: Wall's Rise and Fall. (thx, paul)


posted by Jason Kottke Nov 09, 2009

In the opening scene of the season finale of Mad Men last night, Betty Draper goes to visit Roger Sterling in a freshly mowed hay field wearing a huge white wedding dress and gets shot in the head with a rifle by an off-screen Jane. She was aiming for Roger, but the first bullet missed and he hit the deck like a good soldier. As the second bullet entered the back of Betty's head, the camera swung around 180-degrees in a Matrix-like way and we see the bullet exit her neck about two inches below the ear. A ray of light shines through the hole as the bullet exits, as if Betty is made of pure light.

And then I woke up. I haven't seen the actual episode yet. (Friends, don't let friends eat late Vietnamese dinners.)

Updates on previous entries for Nov 6, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 07, 2009

The Higgs boson and the Enchantment Under the Sea dance orig. from Oct 21, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

The Masters of Professional Studies in Branding program at SVA

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 06, 2009

I would like to thank this week's RSS sponsor, The Masters of Professional Studies in Branding at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. This is a new graduate degree program that will begin in fall 2010 focused on the study of "the art and science of branding". More details about the program are available here and here.

They are having an open house tomorrow (that's Saturday) at SVC in Chelsea from 2-4pm. If you're interested in attending, contact either J'aime Cohen or Debbie Millman for details.

Sesame Street, a disappointment?

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 06, 2009

From 1971, a critique of Sesame Street from The Atlantic.

Nonetheless, and in spite of all its successes, I feel very strongly that Sesame Street has aimed too low, has misunderstood the problem it is trying to cure, and will be a disappointment in the long run. I also feel that it has misunderstood the nature and underestimated the opportunities of its chief subject, the three R's, and its medium, television; and therefore, that even what it sets out to do in the short run it does not do nearly as well as it might.

Making of: CG for Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 06, 2009

There was a short CG special effects sequence in Star Wars (the Death Star explanation at the Rebel briefing); here's how it was made.

How an American soldier is made

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 06, 2009

The Denver Post followed high school graduate Ian Fischer as he enlisted in the Army, went through training, left for Iraq, and returned home; the photos tell quite a story.

The Zeitoun movie

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 06, 2009

The movie rights to Dave Eggers' Zeitoun have been purchased by Jonathan Demme, who wants to make an animated movie out of it.

I don't read books anymore

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 06, 2009

That's not precisely true, but my book reading is down to a trickle of what it used to be. Most of my reading happens online for kottke.org and when I'm through with all that, the last thing I want to do is tuck into a book, no matter how good it is. But what I really haven't been doing is talking about the books I've read or am interested in reading if I had the time. Oh, there have been a few mentioned on the site recently, but there are many more1 stacked on the bedside table, on the shelf next to where I put my keys, and in the "to shelve" pile near the bookshelves that have gone unmentioned.

I know there are a few of you who are interested in what I've been reading, if only to avoid the same titles, so I'm going to do a series of collective mini-reviews of every single book that has crossed my desk recently (where recently is loosely defined as the past four years or so). Here's the first batch.

Create Your Own Economy by Tyler Cowen. I wanted to give this a full and proper review and perhaps still will, but right around the time I finished reading it was the shipping date for the second version of a project my wife and I were working on, Create Your Own Dependent Child. So this capsule will have to do. CYOE is an odd book consisting of two intertwining defenses: 1) of the internet in general and blogs/Twitter/Facebook in particular (one of the best defenses of the internet I've read, in fact), and 2) of autism, the main point being that a person on the autistic spectrum is not disabled or even differently abled but in many cases is better equipped to handle increasingly common situations in contemporary culture. I found Cowen's interrelation of these two topics fascinating. This book is from out of left field in the best possible sense. Recommended.

Master of Shadows by Mark Lamster. Before Mark told me he was writing this book, I had no idea that Peter Paul Rubens was diplomat as well as a painter. I might give this one a whirl after I finish my tour of the Dark Ages.

Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins. Google sent me this book as a promotion of their Sidewiki thing. The book arrived with a bookmark in it that basically said "what if you could do this to any web page in the world?" I used Sidewiki for about 3 minutes and never went back. Mr. Collins book will likely remain unread and eventually find its way to Housing Works to find a better home than I can provide.

Extreme Fear by Jeff Wise. This book is due out in December; Wise sent me a copy after reading this post, one of many on the site about relaxed concentration and deliberate practice. If you enjoy when I write about these things, you may want to check out this book.

Lost and Found edited by Thomas Beller. This is a collection of essays and stories about specific places in New York City drawn from Beller's web site, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood.

Lost and Found, Volume II of the series, is a mosaic of voices, drawing on the diverse experiences of such New Yorkers as a frequent patron of Manhattan sex clubs, a diamond dealer on 47th Street, and a doorman on the Upper East Side. The book features many exciting new voices (Said Sayrafiezadeh, Rachel Sherman, Bryan Charles) alongside work by well-known writers, including Phillip Lopate, Jonathan Ames, Alicia Erian, Madison Smartt Bell, and Edmund White.

Bailout Nation by Barry Ritholtz. The subtitle of the book is "How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy" and it came out in May. It's well-reviewed; the NY Times, WSJ, and the Freakonomics guys gave it favorable ratings. My son calls it his "pig book" for the porcine version of the Wall Street Bull on the dust jacket. Ritholtz blogs about economic and financial matters at The Big Picture.

SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. The sequel to the blockbuster economics book has only been out a couple of weeks but is already generating a lot of controversy. I'm keen to read this one and do a proper review; it looks like a fast read and, with all apologies to Mr. Rubens, might be next on the list.

Ok, that's enough for now. More soon.

[1] This is probably a good spot to mention that some of the books above (spacially speaking...or below, temporally speaking) have been purchased by me and some have been sent to me by the author or author's publishing company or author's publicist. In most cases, especially with books I've had for more than a few weeks, I honestly can't remember where I got them from, so I can't imagine it matters much w/r/t to my "review". How about this: if it seems relevent in a particular case, I'll mention it.

From the Babe to Matsui

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 06, 2009

Larry Granillo explores how the Yankees' World Series victories have been covered by the New York Times through the years.

Hacking the senses

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 06, 2009

Researchers have been able to create new human senses of a sort...and to cross-pollinate two different senses in order to, for example, see with your tongue.

With Arnoldussen behind me carrying the laptop, I walked around the Wicab offices. I managed to avoid most walls and desks, scanning my head from side to side slowly to give myself a wider field of view, like radar. Thinking back on it, I don't remember the feeling of the electrodes on my tongue at all during my walkabout. What I remember are pictures: high-contrast images of cubicle walls and office doors, as though I'd seen them with my eyes.

I am reminded of magnetic fingers and the boy who sees through echolocation. I wouldn't mind a sense of maps that worked via smell...follow the cinnamon scent to your destination or some such.

Best music of the 2000s

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 06, 2009

From Largehearted Boy, a roundup of lists of best music of the 2000s.

Updates on previous entries for Nov 5, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 06, 2009

Temporarily recreating the Berlin Wall orig. from Nov 05, 2009
Cartoon girls I wanna nail orig. from Feb 07, 2008
The evolution of skateboarding orig. from Nov 04, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Denver to Singapore in 5 minutes

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 05, 2009

Timelapse video of a trip from Denver to Singapore and back again.

I made a time lapse video of a weekend trip I did to singapore by hanging a point and shoot around my neck, taking a snapshot every couple minutes/hours.

Marble styrofoam skull

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 05, 2009

Fabio Viale makes unusual marble sculptures, like this skull that looks like it's made out of styrofoam.

Fabio Viale

(via this is that)

Princess Leia and stunt double sunbathing on Tatooine

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 05, 2009

This did unsurprisingly well when I posted it to Twitter, so I've archived it here for posterity. This is Carrie Fischer and her stunt double taking a nap under the Tatooine suns during the filming of Jedi.

Tatooine sunsbathing

Temporarily recreating the Berlin Wall

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 05, 2009

Berliners! Artist Martin Butler is trying to find 33,000 people to recreate the Berlin Wall for the 20th anniversary of the Wall's fall.

The idea is to form on the 9th of november 2009 — the night the Wall fell 20 years ago — a line of people that will recreate the Berlin Wall with their physical presence, marking the path where the wall once stood. Thousands of people will form a human chain that will make its way on the 9th of november around 8.15pm. This action will last for approximately 15 minutes.

If you want to be a part of the piece, sign up on the web site. (thx, søren)

Update: A U2 concert at the Brandenburg Gate has run into some trouble after — and I swear I am not making this up — a huge wall has been constructed to keep non-ticket holders out of the concert. (thx, john)

New ocean!

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 05, 2009

A 35-mile-long rift in Ethiopia will eventually become a new ocean.

Using newly gathered seismic data from 2005, researchers reconstructed the event to show the rift tore open along its entire 35-mile length in just days. Dabbahu, a volcano at the northern end of the rift, erupted first, then magma pushed up through the middle of the rift area and began "unzipping" the rift in both directions, the researchers explained in a statement today.

We should name it Billy. (via clusterflock)

Something different is afoot at the Circle K

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 05, 2009

Paho Mann takes photos of Circle K convenience stores that have since transformed into other businesses.

Former Circle K

The slow individualization of re-inhabited Circle Ks caused by years of choices and actions caught my attention. These buildings do not show a linear progression of the corporatization and homogenization of suburbia, but rather serve as evidence of a more circular system — a system driven by a delicate negation between same and different, between complicated sets of actions and choices that shape our built environment.

(via do)

Pollution in China

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 05, 2009

How bad is the pollution in China? James Fallows reports.

The Chinese government does not report, and may not even measure, what other countries consider the most dangerous form of air pollution: PM2.5, the smallest particulate matter, tiny enough to work its way deep into the alveoli. Instead, Chinese reports cover only the grosser PM10 particulates, which are less dangerous but more unsightly, because they make the air dark and turn your handkerchief black if you blow your nose. (Spitting on the street: routine in China. Blowing your nose into a handkerchief: something no cultured person would do.) These unauthorized PM2.5 readings, sent out on a Twitter stream (BeijingAir), show the pollution in Beijing routinely to be in the "Very Unhealthy" or "Hazardous" range, not seen in U.S. cities in decades. I've heard from friends about persistent coughs and blood tests that show traces of heavy metals. "I encourage people with children not to consider extended tours in China," a Western-trained doctor said. "Those little lungs."

Update: Here are some pretty compelling photos of Chinese pollution. (thx, kurt)

Update: Stephen Voss has a set of Chinese pollution photos along with an accompanying story.

Updates on previous entries for Nov 4, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 05, 2009

Levi's (sponsored by America) orig. from Oct 28, 2009
NYC subway prewalking aid orig. from Jul 07, 2009
Amazing surfing video of Matt Meola orig. from Nov 04, 2009
Worst cut to commercial ever orig. from Nov 02, 2009
Killer vaccines and the killers who kill with them orig. from Oct 27, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Details on the new(spaper) issue of McSweeney's

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 04, 2009

The press release for the upcoming newspaper issue of McSweeney's is chock full of images from the paper...it looks great. Pre-order here.

Game Boy emulator in Javascript

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 04, 2009

Neat. Tetris on the Game Boy is still like a comfy chair after all these years. Runs best in Google Chrome. See also the Javascript Nintendo emulator.

Amazing surfing video of Matt Meola

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 04, 2009

It is difficult to watch this video of Matt Meola surfing and not think of the evolution of skateboarding, particularly the transition between freestyle skating and the invention of vert in the empty swimming pools of southern California. Most of the stuff he does looks impossible. (via matt's a.whole)

Update: Gah, the video has been pulled offline for some reason. Here's another one, not quite as good. You can also try YouTube.

IMG is everything

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 04, 2009

Mark Pilgrim explores the question: why do we have an IMG element in HTML?

Why not an element? Or an element? Why not a hyperlink with an include attribute, or some combination of rel values? Why an element?

What Pilgrim doesn't touch on was how that IMG tag drove adoption of Mosaic. Having images embedded right into web pages was like Dorothy stepping out of her house and into the lush color of Oz. (via waxy)

What do kids call Lego pieces?

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 04, 2009

Giles Turnbull convened a kiddie focus group and asked them what they call all the different Lego pieces.

Every family, it seems, has its own set of words for describing particular Lego pieces. No one uses the official names. "Dad, please could you pass me that Brick 2x2?" No. In our house, it'll always be: "Dad, please could you pass me that four-er?"

Don't miss the chart at the end.

The evolution of skateboarding

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 04, 2009

The 1965 Skateboard Championships:

Del Mar Nationals, 1975:

The Bones Brigade Video Show, 1984:

Tony Hawk at X-Games, 1996:

Big Air competition at X-Games, 2008:

(thx, brian)

Update: The first video got removed from Vimeo...found a replacement on Google Video.

Updates on previous entries for Nov 3, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 04, 2009

Books have stalled orig. from Nov 03, 2009
The Botany of Desire documentary orig. from Oct 14, 2009
Natural nuclear reactors orig. from Nov 03, 2009

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Have you seen this fractal?

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 03, 2009

Circle gasket

Unknown fractal. It's sort of like a Sierpinski gasket but with circles. (via migurski)

Update: Turns out that this fractal is "the orbit of a circle under a Kleinian group generated by two Mobius transformations". (thx, david)

Dressing like a grownup

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 03, 2009

The first episode of a new web series "about dressing like a grownup" called Put This On is about denim. Denim like a jean. Put This On is hosted by Jesse Thorn of The Sound of Young America and Adam Lisagor, the web's loneliest sandwich.

There and back again

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 03, 2009

A wonderful character interaction map of the Lord of the Rings trilogy drawn by Randall Munroe. Here's just a little part of it:

xkcd LOTR

Books have stalled

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 03, 2009

This is a curious exchange between "book mechanic" Michael Turner and interviewer Brian Joseph Davis. Turner says:

We are living at a time when, for the writer, the book is too little.

And then Davis replies, in part:

[The book] is stalled out, in terms of technology, at 1500 AD, and sociologically at around 1930.

The sociological stalling of the book around 1930...I have no idea what that means. Could someone more steeped in book culture explain what that might mean? (via ettagirl)

Update: Henrietta Walmark asked Davis what he meant by his "sociological stalling" remark. Here's what he said:

Literature in book form, and discussion around it, was the mark of education, of the gentry and petit bourgeois. Literature in book form never really found a place in mass produced, post WW2 middle class culture.

That's pretty much the consensus of my inbox as well...TV and radio took over as the cultural currency around then.

Natural nuclear reactors

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 03, 2009

Several naturally occurring nuclear reactors have been discovered in Gabon, Africa. Groundwater flooding deposits of uranium ore made the reaction possible.

The natural nuclear reactor formed when a uranium-rich mineral deposit became inundated with groundwater that acted as a neutron moderator, and a nuclear chain reaction took place. The heat generated from the nuclear fission caused the groundwater to boil away, which slowed or stopped the reaction. After cooling of the mineral deposit, short-lived fission product poisons decayed, the water returned and the reaction started again. These fission reactions were sustained for hundreds of thousands of years, until a chain reaction could no longer be supported. Fission of uranium normally produces five known isotopes of the fission-product gas xenon; all five have been found trapped in the remnants of the natural reactor, in varying concentrations. The concentrations of xenon isotopes, found trapped in mineral formations 2 billion years later, make it possible to calculate the specific time intervals of reactor operation: approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes

Nice try Fermi, but Mother Nature got there first.

BTW, despite reading The Making of the Atomic Bomb (twice!), I can't recall hearing this pair of anecdotes before:

Due to a mistranslation, Soviet reports on Enrico Fermi claimed that his work was performed in a converted "pumpkin field" instead of a "squash court", squash being an offshoot of hard racquets.

When the first self-sustained nuclear chain reaction was achieved, a coded phone call was made by one of the physicists, Arthur Compton, to James Conant, chairman of the National Defense Research Committee. The conversation was in impromptu code:

Compton: The Italian navigator has landed in the New World.
Conant: How were the natives?
Compton: Very friendly.

Pumpkin field, tube alloy, the Italian navigator, the Manhattan Project...the building of the atomic bomb had no shortage of fanciful language.

Update: BLDGBLOG did a post on fossil reactors recently, which is probably where I got the link above in the first place.

The history of inoculation

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 03, 2009

The process of inoculation against diseases like smallpox has been known for at least 1200 years. An 8th-century Indian book contains a how-to chapter on smallpox inoculations. Chinese use of the technique dates back to the first millennium as well. The technique was imported to Europe via the Ottoman Empire in 1721 and reached America at about the same time.

The practice is documented in America as early as 1721, when Zabdiel Boylston, at the urging of Cotton Mather, successfully inoculated two slaves and his own son. Mather, a prominent Boston minister, had heard a description of the African practice of inoculation from his Sudanese slave, Onesimus, in 1706, but had been previously unable to convince local physicians to attempt the procedure. Following this initial success, Boylston began performing inoculations throughout Boston, despite much controversy and at least one attempt upon his life. The effectiveness of the procedure was proven when, of the nearly three hundred people Boylston inoculated during the outbreak, only six died, whereas the mortality rate among those who contracted the disease naturally was one in six.

In a criticism of inoculation that would not seem so out of place regarding vaccination today, Voltaire takes his countrymen to task for not inoculating their children.

It is inadvertently affirmed in the Christian countries of Europe that the English are fools and madmen. Fools, because they give their children the small-pox to prevent their catching it; and madmen, because they wantonly communicate a certain and dreadful distemper to their children, merely to prevent an uncertain evil. The English, on the other side, call the rest of the Europeans cowardly and unnatural. Cowardly, because they are afraid of putting their children to a little pain; unnatural, because they expose them to die one time or other of the small-pox. But that the reader may be able to judge whether the English or those who differ from them in opinion are in the right, here follows the history of the famed innoculation, which is mentioned with so much dread in France.

Bedtime stories via webcam

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 03, 2009

A Story Before Bed allows you to record yourself reading a bedtime story to a faraway child...maybe you're away from home on business or a grandparent who lives in another state or just working late. When storytime rolls around, the child sees the book onscreen plus a video of you reading it to them. Slick.

Mark Twain, illuminated

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 03, 2009

From a 1895 article called Tesla's Osillator and Other Inventions, a photo of Mark Twain with one of Tesla's marvelous contraptions.

Twain in Tesla's lab

In search of Cuban cigars

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 02, 2009

A pair of intrepid Americans go in search of authentic Cuban cigars in Cuba. It took them awhile to find them.

Revolutionary Cuba embraces an icon of the world's captains of capital. The United States outlaws that icon because it's commie-made, raising its price on the free market and increasing its value to the very state the embargo is meant to undermine. So the nations seesaw their supposedly opposing ideologies on the famed habanero. Perhaps, we thought, we could find a Cuban who'd tell us what Cubans made of these paradoxes, preferably over a smoke.

Worst cut to commercial ever

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 02, 2009

I was watching The Perfect Storm on The Weather Channel the other night and witnessed the worst cut to commercial in the history of television.

If you're not familiar with the film, this is *the* scene in the movie, the climax...when this huge wave overwhelms the Andrea Gail and all souls are lost at sea. Bravo, Weather Channel. Next time, have somebody view the movie before you chop it up randomly for ads.

Update: This one might be worse. With about two minutes remaining in extra time of a 0-0 match between Everton and Liverpool, ITV cut away to commercial and back just in time...to see the players celebrating the winning goal. I think "wankers!" is the appropriate response here.

This cut to commercial during Battlestar Galactica (spoilers! or so I'm told) is pretty bad as well. (thx, michael & gerald)

Butchering a side of beef

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 02, 2009

Video of a butcher breaking down a substantial piece of beef.

Meat Appreciation: A NYC Restaurant Honors the Whole Animal from SkeeterNYC on Vimeo.

Meet Shanna Pacifico, the chef de cuisine & butcher at Back Forty restaurant in New York City. She helped devise a sustainable meat program that brings in whole animals to make up their menu, where everything gets used and nothing goes to waste.

NSFV (not safe for vegetarians). (via serious eats)

Summing up the 2000s

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 02, 2009

The blog You Aught To Remember is counting down all the of the memorable people, ideas, and trends of the 2000s. Some recent entries include the demotion of Pluto, World of Warcraft, the Red Sox winning the World Series, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Cartoon skeletons

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 02, 2009

Michael Paulus is offering new versions of his cartoon skeleton sketches at his Etsy store.

Michael Paulus

I've got a previous version of his Hello Kitty...love it.

Archives    October 2009 »    September 2009 »    August 2009 »