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


How a soccer ball is made

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 30, 2009

And not just any soccer ball...the official match ball for the 2010 World Cup.

The future of photography, circa 1944

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 30, 2009

In 1944, Popular Photography magazine asked several people, including photographers Berenice Abbott and László Moholy-Nagy, to speculate about the future of photography.

Their opinions differ. Yet somehow all seem to feel that the second hundred years will see the camera put to use as never before with the amateur often leading the way.

The Noughtie List highlights, pt 4

posted by Jenni Leder Dec 30, 2009

Hey guys, It's Jenni. The Noughtie List is getting quite long, up to 255 at last count. The year is ending in a matter of days, but there is still time to email me anything you have come across. You can find my past highlights here: part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Technology changed alot of things this decade, the "mega-novel" in particular. Time we would have spent reading is now replaced with blogs, tweets, forums and other internet time wasters. This decade is When Lit Blew Into Bits. BTW Jason, this article is heavy in David Foster Wallace prophecy.

What new species of books, then, have proved themselves fit to survive in the attentional ecosystem of the aughts? What kind of novel, if any, can appeal to readers who read with 34 nested browser tabs open simultaneously on their frontal lobes? And, for that matter, what kind of novel gets written by novelists who spend increasing chunks of their own time reading words off screens?

Many books mentioned in this article are on The Millions list of Best Fiction, which goes in depth on why each book was chosen plus excerpts.

Most of you probably don't want to even think about a Decade Of Food after gorging yourself with yummys the past few days. This mini timeline covers food scares, the rise of organic, blogging chefs and people's obsession with cute food. (Thanks, Peter!)

Tuper Tario Tros

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 30, 2009

Super Mario Bros + Tetris = Tuper Tario Tros. (via waxy)

Cost of healthcare

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 29, 2009

This clever graph by National Geographic shows the cost of healthcare compared to life expectancy in a number of countries. The way that the US healthcare expenditure is pictured entirely outside the confines of the graph's scale and legend is a particularly effective design decision. (thx, jim)


posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 29, 2009

One of the most difficult things to get right in movies about aliens or the future is matching the cultural and technological sophistication of a people with their environment and history. In Avatar, the Na?vi are portrayed as a Stone Age tribe, living in relatively small groups and essentially ignorant or uninterested in technology beyond simple knives and bows. But the Na?vi are also very physically capable, obviously very intelligent, aware of their global environment, well-nourished, healthy, omnivorous, adaptive, and even inventive. They have domesticated animals, are troubled by few serious natural predators, can live in different environments, have easy access to many varied natural resources (for sustenance and building/making), and can travel and therefore communicate over long distances (dozens if not hundreds of miles a day on their winged animals).

And most importantly, the Na?vi have regular and intimate access to a moon-sized supercomputer ? a neural net supercomputer at that ? that connects them to every other living thing on their world and have had such access for what could be millennia.

It just doesn?t add up. The Na?vi are too capable and live in an environment that is far too pregnant with technological possibility to be stuck in the Stone Age. Plot-wise it?s convenient for them to be the way they are, but the Na?vi really should have been more technologically advanced than the Earthlings, not only capable of easily repelling any attack from Captain Ironpants but able to keep the mining company from landing on the moon in the first place.

My year in cities 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 29, 2009

Not sure why I'm bothering to do this list for 2009 as I didn't really go anywhere, but here it is for posterity:

Waitsfield, VT*
New York City, NY*
Boston, MA*
Orange, MA*
Springfield, MA
Nantucket, MA

One or more nights were spent in each place. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days. Here are my lists for 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.

The gravity of the solar system

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 29, 2009

Today on xkcd, an illustration showing the gravity wells of our solar system's planets and some of their moons.

Gravity wells

Two of Mars' tiny moons barely have any gravity at all:

You could escape Deimos with a bike and a ramp. A thrown baseball could escape Phobos.

That's great, but you forgot Pluto!

Waiting for 2010

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 28, 2009

The AV Club lists 32 entertainments (books, movies, TV) they are most anticipating in 2010. (thx, judd)

The foods, the Whole Foods, and nothing but the foods

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 28, 2009

This week's issue of the New Yorker has a long profile of John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods.

John Mackey, the co-founder and chief executive of Whole Foods Market, refers to the company as his child-not just his creation but the thing on earth whose difficulties or downfall it pains him most to contemplate. He also sees himself as a "daddy" to his fifty-four thousand employees, who are known as "team members," but they may occasionally consider him to be more like a crazy uncle. To the extent that a child inherits or adopts a parent's traits, Whole Foods is an embodiment of many of Mackey's. A Whole Foods store, in some respects, is like Mackey's mind turned inside out. Certainly, the evolution of the corporation has often traced his own as a man; it has been an incarnation of his dreams and quirks, his contradictions and trespasses, and whatever he happened to be reading and eating, or not eating.

Free to Choose with Milton Friedman

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 28, 2009

There's not a whole lot to do at work this week, right? So how about tucking into all ten hours of a PBS documentary featuring economist Milton Friedman called Free to Choose. Here's part one:

Here's part two and part three...all the rest are available on Google Video (aside from part six for some reason). From Wikipedia, a brief description of the series:

PBS telecast the series, beginning in January 1980; the general format was that of Dr. Friedman visiting and narrating a number of success and failure stories in history, which Dr. Friedman attributes to capitalism or the lack thereof (e.g. Hong Kong is commended for its free markets, while India is excoriated for relying on centralized planning especially for its protection of its traditional textile industry). Following the primary show, Dr. Friedman would engage in discussion with a number of selected persons, such as Donald Rumsfeld (then of G.D. Searle & Company).

Top Vimeo videos of 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 28, 2009

From Vimeo's list of favorite videos of 2009, the music video for Luv Deluxe by Cinnamon Chasers:

Also worth watching is the Tarantino Mixtape, which hovers somewhere between an analysis of the themes in QuentinTarantino's films and a toe-tapping remix of all the great music, visuals, and sounds he uses in them. (via @brainpicker)

Nation's Pride

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 28, 2009

Nation's Pride is a fictional Nazi propaganda film that appeared in Inglourious Basterds. The six-minute clip above was released as a promotion for IB and was shot by Eli Roth, who played the baseball bat-wielding Bear Jew (and is also a director of some repute). (thx, jeffrey)

Updates on previous entries for Dec 24, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 25, 2009

The case of the missing Wired writer orig. from Aug 27, 2009
Orson Welles doesn't like Rosebud orig. from Dec 11, 2009
Media packaging mashups orig. from Apr 22, 2009
Why shoot a gun with a side grip? orig. from Dec 17, 2009
The world's fastest knife orig. from May 18, 2005
NASA is a middle-aged baby boomer dad orig. from Dec 18, 2009
What's the deal with fish oil? orig. from Dec 16, 2009
Selling Wants to buy Haves orig. from Dec 16, 2009
Growing Up Heroes orig. from Dec 21, 2009
A PayPal horror story orig. from Dec 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.

Home Alone, the Twitter version

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 24, 2009

Follow the McCallister clan on Twitter as they fly to Paris and discover that they left their son Kevin at home, alone.

An attempt to tell the narrative of John Hughes' classic Chistmas movie through the medium of Twitter as if its happening in real time.

This is pretty crazy/elaborate...they're updating 22 separate Twitter accounts, one for each main character.

Original plans for the Eiffel Tower

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 23, 2009

A dozen or so scans of the original plans for the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower plans

The Noughtie List highlights, pt 3

posted by Jenni Leder Dec 23, 2009

It's Jenni and I have some more favorites off The Noughtie List. I'm still accepting any "best of the 2000s" lists you happen to find, just email me. If you missed any past highlights, check out part 1 and part 2.

New York Magazine invited a select few to design covers for the 00's issue. In the end, they chose one for the newsstand, one for subscribers and now have all the submissions online to view. The gallery includes photos showing the creative process of Todd St. John, who built a wooden sculpture of 00's for the subscription cover.

Horror movies are generally not that great, but this list reminded me there are some worth having potential nightmares over. (Thanks Jon!) Anyone who hasn't seen the number one movie, should definitely watch it. For those with Netflix, it's available to stream instantly. If you're looking for something more themed for this week's festivities, AMC has a list of the best holiday movies.

Christian Annyas lists movie title stills of the 2000s in his very thorough collection. It made me realize how many movies still opt for the black screen with white type. Which in turn made me more curious about the art of the title sequence.

Jim Lehrer's rules of journalism

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 23, 2009

He listed them during the last broadcast of the The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

And, finally, I am not in the entertainment business.

(via df)

A PayPal horror story

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 23, 2009

Use PayPal for your small business? Maybe you shouldn't.

Money in your PayPal account will be held for 180 days. After 180 days, we'll email you information on how to receive your funds. We regret any inconvenience this may cause.

Nice. PayPal can unilaterally decide you're being fraudulent and keep your money for six months while they collect the interest on it. Holy fucking conflict of interest, Batman! Are banks just naturally customer hostile?

Update: Feedback from several people: PayPal is not a bank and therefore they can do (and do do) anything they want.

Stereotyping people by their favorite author

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 22, 2009

For example:

Haruki Murakami: People who like good music.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: People who can start a fire.
Dave Eggers: Guys who are in the third coolest frat of a private college.

The full list is here; it says I'm "confirmed 90's literati". Which is LOL. If I'm an -ati of anything, it is definitely not liter-, 90s or otherwise.

Darth Vader opens Wall Street

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 22, 2009

Darth Vader and a number of Storm Troopers from the Star Wars Saga rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

(via @kngofwrld)

The physics of space battles

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 22, 2009

The logistics of fighting wars in space is a little different than the movies have lead us to believe.

For the same reason that we have Space Shuttle launch delays, we'll be able to tell exactly what trajectories our enemies could take between planets: the launch window. At any given point in time, there are only so many routes from here to Mars that will leave our imperialist forces enough fuel and energy to put down the colonists' revolt.

Tiny gingerbread architecture

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 22, 2009

These little gingerbread houses that can perch on the rim of your hot chocolate mug are pretty cool:

Tiny gingerbread house

Make some! (via matt)

Updates on previous entries for Dec 21, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 22, 2009

Gimme Friction Baby orig. from Dec 09, 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.

Growing Up Heroes

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 21, 2009

The Growing Up Heroes blog is collecting photos of little kids wearing superhero costumes. (thx, jasons)

Update: See also I Used To Be Younger.

Skiing the Air Force Memorial

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 21, 2009

There was so much snow in the DC area this weekend that Rob Story decided to make fresh tracks down the slope of the Air Force Memorial.

I suck at online basketball too

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 21, 2009

A simple but oddly compelling multiplayer basketball game...after each shot, you're shown how you're doing against everyone else (~1000 players when I was playing). (via waxy)

Best stories of the past 4.5 billion years

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 21, 2009

Now that it's the end of 2009, The Onion is taking the opportunity to present their top ten stories of the past 4.5 billions years. #5 is Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World:

"I do not understand," reads an ancient line of pictographs depicting the sun, the moon, water, and a Sumerian who appears to be scratching his head. "A booming voice is saying, 'Let there be light,' but there is already light. It is saying, 'Let the earth bring forth grass,' but I am already standing on grass."

"Everything is here already," the pictograph continues. "We do not need more stars."

I also like The Ones We Lost:

Some of the world's most beloved people have died over the past 4.5 billion years. Here are a few...

World-changing music

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 18, 2009

To ponder over the weekend: twenty pieces of music that changed the world. #11 on the list is Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive. (via @bobulate)

Gladwell v. Simmons III

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 18, 2009

New idea for a biweekly sports magazine: Simmons & Gladwell. Two writers, off the cuff, no polish...the whole magazine is one big long rambling smartypants messy conversation. Or maybe it's an email list where subscribers are CC'd on their emails in real-time. Anyway, in the meantime here's the third conversation between Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell (mostly) about sports. Here's Simmons on why the NBA is so good right now:

When you consider the influx of foreigners, the extended shelf lives of quality careers, the medicine/health strides, the positive impact of the rookie salary scale, the successful drug policy and the equally successful one-year waiting period for high schoolers, for the first time since the early '90s, you can make a case that the NBA finally has enough talent to stock every one of its teams. Recently, I watched my Celtics almost lose to Memphis and found myself thinking, "Wait a second ... is Memphis secretly good, or did my wife spike my drink?" And they're 10-14. Really, there are only two hopeless teams right now: Minnesota and New Jersey. Every other team has enough talent to beat any other team on any given night.

And Christ, Gladwell has never seen Boogie Nights? Maybe he's a hack after all.

NASA is a middle-aged baby boomer dad

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 18, 2009

Born in the 1950s, raised on comic book dreams of exploring deep space in a rocket ship, NASA showed a lot of promise as youngster. As NASA grew up, everyone told it to be realistic, focus on practical things closer to home: Velcro, Tang, pens that work upside down. Sure, it was taking care of its responsibilities, but its dreams faded away. Where did the last three decades go?

That's from Modcult.

Update: See also Ron Planet. (thx, craig)

Lines that defined the decade

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 18, 2009

Jenni, I don't want to step on your toes here, but I'm hoping that Scott Lamb's excellent One-Liners of the Decade — from "Wassap!" to "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" to "I drink your milkshake" — ends up on the Noughtie List.

Best media errors and corrections of 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 18, 2009

Regret the Error presents its annual list of media errors and corrections. These are two of my favorites:

An article on Aug. 2 about older alumni who have been helped by university career counselors referred imprecisely to comments by a 1990 graduate of Lehigh University who lost his job in February when his company was downsized, and a correction in this space last Sunday misspelled his surname. As the article correctly noted, he is David Monson, not Munson, and he was speaking generally — not about himself — when he said that newly unemployed people sometimes mope around the house in sweatpants.

ON 17 July 2008 in our front page article "Ron the Lash" we falsely reported that whilst recovering from an operation to his ankle Cristiano Ronaldo had "gone on a bender" at a Hollywood nightclub where he splashed out pounds 10,000 on champagne and vodka and threw his crutches to the ground and tried to dance on his uninjured foot. We now accept that Cristiano did not "go on a bender", did not drink any alcohol that evening, did not spend pounds 10,000 on alcohol, nor throw his crutches to the floor or try to dance.

(via df)

Why the Phantom Menace sucks

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 18, 2009

I confess that I only had time this morning to watch the first 10 minutes, but from that viewing I can safely conclude that this is the best 70-minute video critique of The Phantom Menace that exists in the world. If the first 20 seconds don't get you, stick around until "protagonist". Or don't take my word for it; here's Lost's Damon Lindelof's reaction:

Your life is about to change. This is astounding film making. Watch ALL of it.

Part the first:

After watching the last 3-4 minutes of this first segment, I wanted to give Lucas a hug because I feel so bad for the guy for failing in public in such a huge way. (thx, scott)

Inglourious Basterds

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 18, 2009

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

Inglourious Basterds

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

Enhance your hyperspace

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 17, 2009

A bunch of clips from movies and TV that show people enhancing things on computer screens:

And a more artful collection of hyperspace scenes from movies:

Both are via Andy, Mr. Supercuts himself.

Iron Man 2 trailer

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 17, 2009

Oooooooooh. Ram Jam! Ram Jam! Ram Jam!

Top 10 astronomy photos of 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 17, 2009

One of the better lists out there: the top astronomy photos of the year. From the list, this is a more detailed view of the Martian landscape than we're used to seeing:

Martian landscape

My personal favorite, the photos taken by the LRO of Apollo 11's landing site, made the list as well.

The future of magazines, maybe, pt 2

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 17, 2009

Magazine publishers Bonnier and BERG, a London design consultancy, have collaborated on a digital magazine prototype called Mag+. The conceptual device is impressive in its restraint and its truth to form and function.

We find that the graphical page-turning metaphors that you see quite frequently in web-based e-magazine readers are not terribly believable, and they don't feel very honest to the form of the screen. [...] Scrolling systems are more appropriate to what we're dealing with.

Sing it, brother! Also of note is the way that the video takes the conventional "let me talk over some graphics" screencast and presents it in a much more compelling way.

3-D effect in CSS

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 17, 2009

Roman Cortes took Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas and applied a pseudo 3-D parallax effect to it using only CSS. Awesome. Now redo The Kid Stays in the Picture entirely in CSS.

The sun never sets on Shake Shack

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 17, 2009

The Shake Shack is turning into Danny Meyer's accidental fast food empire.

"A hamburger stand is a very democratizing amenity," he said. "We hope that each new Shake Shack can become both a citizen of, and mirror of, their communities."

The Known Universe

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 17, 2009

The Known Universe zooms out from Tibet to the limits of the observable universe. Dim the lights, full-screen it in HD, and you're in for a treat.

Like Powers of Ten, except astronomically accurate. It's not a dramatization, it's a map; the positioning data was pulled from Hayden Planetarium's Digital Universe Atlas, which is available for free download.

Since 1998, the American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium have engaged in the three-dimensional mapping of the Universe. This cosmic cartography brings a new perspective to our place in the Universe and will redefine your sense of home. The Digital Universe Atlas is distributed to you via packages that contain our data products, like the Milky Way Atlas and the Extragalactic Atlas, and requires free software allowing you to explore the atlas by flying through it on your computer.

Why shoot a gun with a side grip?

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 17, 2009

Because that's how they did it in Menace II Society.

Journalists and gun experts point to the 1993 Hughes brothers film Menace II Society, which depicts the side grip in its opening scene, as the movie that popularized the style. Although the directors claim to have witnessed a side grip robbery in Detroit in 1987, there are few reports of street gangs using the technique until after the movie came out.

But the side grip can also be practical:

During the first half of the 20th century, soldiers used the side grip for the express purpose of endangering throngs of people. Some automatic weapons from this era —like the Mauser C96 or the grease gun — fired so quickly or with such dramatic recoil that soldiers found it impossible to aim anything but the first shot. Soldiers began tilting the weapons, so that the recoil sent the gun reeling in a horizontal rather than vertical arc, enabling them to spray bullets into an onrushing enemy battalion instead of over their heads.

But mostly it just looks cool.

Update: TV Tropes has an entire page dedicated to the Gangsta Style shooting technique. (thx, grant)

Updates on previous entries for Dec 16, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 17, 2009

Selling Wants to buy Haves orig. from Dec 16, 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.

Selling Wants to buy Haves

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 16, 2009

I love this project: a couple of NYC artists do paintings of items that they want and sell the art to buy the items.

Each painting shows one thing we want, and sells for the price of the real item. So you can buy A Slice of Pepperoni for $3.00 or Dinner at Nobu for $152.00. When the painting sells we use the money to go out and buy that thing.

Wants For Sale

The other half of the project is the documentation of the purchase/enjoyment of the item; here's the outcome of "Custom Adidas". (via clusterflock)

Update: C.J. Cubitt reminded me of J.S.G. Boggs, an artist who draws realistic-looking money and trades it for goods and services...the goods, receipt, and any change become the artwork. Here's one of his hand-drawn bills:

Boggs dollar

Update: Dorothy Gambrell of Cat and Girl solicits donations and then draws the stuff she buys. (thx, sean & seth)

Update: The same artists also do Needs for Sale...the sales benefit charities.

What's the deal with fish oil?

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 16, 2009

So says the first line of Paul Greenberg's story on fish oil. Which is weird for me because I had been wondering this very thing in my bathroom the other day while staring at my wife's bottle of omega-3 pills.

Nearly every fish a fish eater likes to eat eats menhaden. Bluefin tuna, striped bass, redfish and bluefish are just a few of the diners at the menhaden buffet. All of these fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids but are unable themselves to synthesize them. The omega-3s they have come from menhaden.

Menhaden are also top-notch algae eaters and, no surprise, overfished. (via djacobs)

Update: Bad Science questions whether fish oil is actually beneficial. (thx, phil)

The Noughtie List highlights, pt 2

posted by Jenni Leder Dec 16, 2009

Hi there again, it's Jenni. You may have noticed some slight changes to the list. We've made it easier to tell whether something has been recently added to the list; there is a red asterisk next to links less than three days old. Also, if you are curious, there is a counter that says how many links are listed. Nice.

Last week I highlighted defining the decade. This week I'm going to jump around the list a bit and highlight some of the cool finds that have come in through the inbox and my research.

One of the things to have come out of this decade is great TV shows. The quality of these shows were often better than movies. This decade is when TV became art.

But as this decade began, it had already begun to dawn on viewers that television was something that you could not just merely enjoy and then discard but brood over and analyze, that could challenge and elevate, not just entertain.

It feels like there was more music than ever produced and which albums, groups, and songs made the biggest impact is hard to choose. The lists vary dramatically about the number one album of the decade. Simon Reynolds dissects this musically fragmented decade.

More and more good-to-excellent music is getting produced but that very fact is thwarting the emergence of the great, smothering it. The bigger the spread, the more "we" are spread. And the less impact any given record can have.

I was told by readers (thanks Matt & Eric) that Greg Wyshynski aka Puck Daddy has a great collection of hockey Top 10, including the 10 best hockey games. But my favorite is the 10 best hockey fights, which includes video. Enjoy.

Most exciting film scripts of 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 16, 2009

The Black List is the collection of scripts that got movie executives most excited in 2009. Here's #1:

1. The Muppet Man By Christopher Weekes
What it's about: The life and times of the late Jim Henson, the man behind Sesame Street and The Muppets.

What it's like: The Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon, but with puppets. This moving story depicts the life of a creative genius, with occasional surreal appearances by the likes of Kermit and Miss Piggy.

(via subtraction)

2009's best new blogs

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 16, 2009

Bygone Bureau asks a bunch of folks: what was your favorite new blog of 2009?

I.D. Magazine no more

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 16, 2009

I.D. Magazine folds after 55 years of publication ; the design world mourns. The staff didn't even know it was coming.

Robin Hood trailer

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 15, 2009

Robin Hood with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, directed by Ridley Scott? I'll take five.

Step by step

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 15, 2009

If you're Dan Bricklin, co-inventor of the spreadsheet, how do you go about learning a new programming environment? Just like everyone else:

In mid-September I purchased a shiny new 24" Apple iMac and an iPhone 3GS. I signed up for the Apple iPhone Developer Program. I bought some books and started doing the tutorials, step by step. I came up with the idea for an app I needed and built a prototype, then plunged in and started creating a full app that would be good for others, too.

Personally, I find this really inspiring.

Lovely chocolate

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 15, 2009

Mary And Matt

One of many from Mary and Matt. It's a stacked bar chart *and* candy. (via youngna)

How Porsches are made: by hand

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 15, 2009

Here's the first part in a series of five videos from the 1960s that show how Porsches are made:

A Continuous Lean has the other four parts.

The enormity of Zimbabwe's inflation

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 15, 2009

There are at least 2 crazy passages in this article about the amount of inflation in Zimbabwe over the past 30 years.

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, the former Rhodesia, was a quadrillion times worse than it was in Weimar Germany.

In grade school, quadrillion was always an exaggeration but not here:

The cumulative devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar was such that a stack of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (26 zeros) two dollar bills (if they were printed) in the peak hyperinflation would have be needed to equal in value what a single original Zimbabwe two-dollar bill of 1978 had been worth. Such a pile of bills literally would be light years high, stretching from the Earth to the Andromeda Galaxy.

Andromeda Galaxy! It's our nearest galactic neighbor but still 2,500,000 light-years away. (via daveg)

Guitar Hero with 21,268 Christmas lights

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 14, 2009

This is possibly the most American thing I've ever seen:

Such ingenuity combined with such conspicuous waste. (via waxy)

Fire and Knives

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 14, 2009

I really like the cover on the first issue of Fire & Knives, a subscription-only food magazine based in the UK.

Fire And Knives

(via eat me daily)

The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 14, 2009

One of my favorite end-of-the-year lists is Foreign Policy's The Top Ten Stories You Missed; here's this year's installment. A Hotline for China and India caught my eye.

"Hotlines" between world leaders, like the legendary Moscow-Washington "red telephone" devised after the Cuban missile crisis, are designed to prevent misunderstandings or miscommunications between nuclear powers from escalating into a nuclear conflict. China and the United States have one. So do India and Pakistan. This year, the leaders of India and China agreed to set one up between New Delhi and Beijing, highlighting concerns that a worsening border dispute could quickly become the first major conflict of the multipolar era.

The making of an Eames fiberglass chair

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 14, 2009

From 1970, this video shows how Eames fiberglass shell chairs were made.

Greg Allen says:

The idea of design has been so thoroughly associated with computers in my mind, I'd forgotten the essential sculptural processes it used to involve: carving, modelmaking, molding, pouring... How design and art ever stayed separate in those days, I cannot imagine.

Ansel Adams' Lost Los Angeles

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 14, 2009

While looking for something else at the Los Angeles Public Library, Gerard Van der Leun stumbled across some 1940s photos of LA taken by Ansel Adams. They had not been seen for a long while.

So I would conclude that with the LAPL material we are getting a rare chance to look at photographs a great photographer chose not to show the world. Obviously none of these images even touches upon the vast and central work that establish Adams as one of the greatest American photographers, but they do provide an interesting footnote to what Ansel Adams saw and thought worthy of photographing while ambling about Los Angeles during the opening months of World War II.

Warzone Tower Defense

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 14, 2009

Let's get your Monday started off on the wrong foot: Warzone Tower Defense. A worthy alternative to Desktop Tower Defense. (thx, shay)

Updates on previous entries for Dec 11, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 12, 2009

Imagining Earth with Saturn's rings orig. from Dec 09, 2009
Media packaging mashups orig. from Apr 22, 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 ham sandwich theorem

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 11, 2009

The ham sandwich theorem is sometimes called ham and cheese sandwich theorem, the pancake theorem, and the Stone-Tukey theorem but not the sandwich theorem.

The ham sandwich theorem is also sometimes referred to as the "ham and cheese sandwich theorem", again referring to the special case when n = 3 and the three objects are

1. a chunk of ham,
2. a slice of cheese, and
3. two slices of bread (treated as a single disconnected object).

The theorem then states that it is possible to slice the ham and cheese sandwich in half such that each half contains the same amount of bread, cheese, and ham. It is possible to treat the two slices of bread as a single object, because the theorem only requires that the portion on each side of the plane vary continuously as the plane moves through 3-space.

No idea how this is related to the I Cut You Choose conundrum.

Jared Diamond: Will big business save the Earth?

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 11, 2009

Jared Diamond has come to believe that some large multinational companies (like Chevron, Wal-Mart, and Coca-Cola) are "among the world's strongest positive forces for environmental sustainability".

The embrace of environmental concerns by chief executives has accelerated recently for several reasons. Lower consumption of environmental resources saves money in the short run. Maintaining sustainable resource levels and not polluting saves money in the long run. And a clean image — one attained by, say, avoiding oil spills and other environmental disasters — reduces criticism from employees, consumers and government.

Lucas wanted David Lynch to direct Return of the Jedi

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 11, 2009

In this video, Lynch describes a visit with George Lucas and why he turned down Lucas' offer to direct Return of the Jedi.

So, he took me upstairs and he showed me these things called Wookiees. And now this headache is getting stronger.

Iron Maiden mp3 compressed 666 times

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 11, 2009

An oldie but goodie from Cory Arcangel: an mp3 of Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast compressed 666 times. (via lined and unlined)

Global thinkers recommend books

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 11, 2009

Foreign Policy asked their list of Top Global Thinkers to recommend some books; here's what they had to say.

Orson Welles doesn't like Rosebud

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 11, 2009

I'm ashamed of Rosebud. I think it's a rather tawdry device. It's the thing I like least in Kane. It's kind of a dollar book Freudian gag. It doesn't stand up very well.

Even calmly answering interview questions and sipping on tea from fine china, Welles is an imposing presence. (via clusterflock)

Update: Here's the first part of the full 50-minute CBC interview from which the snippet above was pulled. Part two, part three, part four, part five, and part six. (thx, blake)

Updates on previous entries for Dec 10, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 11, 2009

Gorgeous maps and infographics by Stefanie Posavec orig. from Apr 07, 2008
Complete DVD set of The Wire on sale for $82 orig. from Jan 22, 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.

Origami documentary

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 10, 2009

Between the Folds is a documentary about people who really really like origami.

Between the Folds chronicles the stories of ten fine artists and intrepid theoretical scientists who have abandoned careers and scoffed at hard-earned graduate degrees — all to forge unconventional lives as modern-day paperfolders.

Kevin Kelly gave it a rave review on True Films and it's showing on PBS's Independent Lens this month.

The year in ideas, 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 10, 2009

The NY Times Magazine has published their Year in Ideas issue for 2009. Lots of good stuff in there. Before I got sidetracked with family obligations (Minna!), I planned on pitching the magazine's editors a couple of ideas I noticed this year:

The Neverending Wake. We got a preview of what death in the celebrity age (more) is going be like when a cluster of notable people passed away this summer. How will we think about death when someone we know or admire dies every day for the rest of our lives?

Machine Gun Photography. Just as the introduction of the machine gun fundamentally changed warfare, so the affordable high-resolution digital video camera will change photography. Now you don't have to wait for exactly the right moment for the perfect shot; just take 10 minutes of HD video and find the best shots later. Photography was always really about the editing anyway, right?

The future is Amish

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 10, 2009

Kevin Kelly on defining ourselves by technology we don't use:

I'm interested in how people personally decide to refuse a technology. I'm interested in that process, because I think that will happen more and more as the number of technologies keep increasing. The only way we can sort our identity is by not using technology. We're used to be that you define yourself by what you use now. You define yourself by what you don't use.

"Tis not polite to say, English, but we told thee so." See also. (via lined and unlined)

The People Speak

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 10, 2009

Loosely based on Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, The People Speak is a show that features well-known actors reading famous speeches and letters from American history.

Using dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries and speeches of everyday Americans, The People Speak gives voice to those who spoke up for social change throughout U.S. history, forging a nation from the bottom up with their insistence on equality and justice.

The show starts airing this Sunday but many of the performances are already available online.

Tube typography

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 10, 2009

A lengthy discussion of the typeface for the London Underground, both the old version by Edward Johnston as well as the refresh.

"We continue to make subtle changes" Ashworth admits, "but we're very wary about doing too much and are always happy to roll back changes if they end up not feeling 'right.'

"The most recent major change was to the numbers 1 and 4 earlier this year. Not a lot of people noticed until a poster appeared advertising engineering work on the 14th of February — then I got A LOT of emails."

Soap opera as performance art

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 10, 2009

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, actor James Franco explains what he's doing on General Hospital.

I have been obsessed with performance art for over a decade-ever since the Mexican performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Pena came to visit my class at Cal Arts summer school. I finally took the plunge and experimented with the form myself when I signed on to appear on 20 episodes of "General Hospital" as the bad-boy artist "Franco, just Franco." I disrupted the audience's suspension of disbelief, because no matter how far I got into the character, I was going to be perceived as something that doesn't belong to the incredibly stylized world of soap operas. Everyone watching would see an actor they recognized, a real person in a made-up world.

I've always liked Franco...he plays potheads but seems to have larger ambitions for himself:

James Franco is an actor who appeared in "Milk" and the "Spiderman" movies. He is currently enrolled in NYU's MFA filmmaking program and Columbia's MFA program for fiction writing.

(via sippey)

There's going to be a floodie floodie

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 10, 2009

Five million years ago, a flood filled the Mediterranean Sea in only two years.

In a period ranging from a few months to two years, the scientists say that 90% of the water was transferred into the basin. "This extremely abrupt flood may have involved peak rates of sea level rise in the Mediterranean of more than 10m per day," he and his colleagues wrote in the Nature paper.

Flexing of the Manhattan Bridge

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 09, 2009

Watch as one of Manhattan's main arteries pulses with the entering and exiting subway trains.

Do I really look like a guy with a plan?

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 09, 2009

Career advice from Charlie Hoehn:

Therein lies the best career advice I could possibly dispense: just DO things. Chase after the things that interest you and make you happy. Stop acting like you have a set path, because you don't. No one does. You shouldn't be trying to check off the boxes of life; they aren't real and they were created by other people, not you. There is no explicit path I'm following, and I'm not walking in anyone else's footsteps. I'm making it up as I go.

Imagining Earth with Saturn's rings

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 09, 2009

This video of what Earth would look like with Saturnine rings is pretty ho-hum, yeah, there's a shot from orbit of the Earth with Saturn's rings around it, and then BAM! here's what it would look like at night in NYC:

Earth with Saturn's Rings

The view from Ecuador is pretty great too.

Update: Greg Allen wants an iPhone app that adds in Saturn's rings to any shot you take with the camera.

With the combination of GPS and orientation data that's baked in to so many digital photographs, it should be possible to create a filter — I hear the kids call them apps now — that automatically inserts properly positioned Saturn rings into any sky you want.

An augmented reality app would be nice too.

The Noughtie List highlights, pt 1

posted by Jenni Leder Dec 09, 2009

Hey guys, it's Jenni, the curator for The Noughties List.

First, I would like to thank everyone who have already submitted some great links. And please, don't be shy with emailing links or any other suggestions for me. For my first post I wanted highlight defining the decade.

During the decade, people spent their time trying to name it. From what I gather, most English speaking countries have decided on "Noughties." The US on the other hand, can't seem to make it's mind on what to call the decade, but many consider this The Worst Decade Ever .

When end of a decade approaches, everyone takes a moment to look back at those 10 years. There were many "oh ya.." moments for things I forgot about. Last August, Kottke posted Momus' "one man's view" on the decade. It's worth a read if you haven't read it, or read it again cause it's really well thought out. And lastly, an opinion of the 2000s by those who were born in 2000.

Hubble goes deep

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 09, 2009

In 2004, the Hubble Space Telescope took an image called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field; basically astronomers pointed the Hubble toward an "empty" part of space and took a long-exposure shot in the visible spectrum. What they found were thousands of far away galaxies from early in the development of the universe. Now the Hubble has peered even deeper into the universe in near-infrared and captured this image:

Hubble IR Deep Field

Each one of those little specks is an entire galaxy, some only 600 million years old. Here's a zoomed-in section:

Hubble IR Deep Field

Gimme Friction Baby

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 09, 2009

GFB is a game and it's totally safe for work unless you want to actually get something done today. From a review at Jay is Games:

There is a certain paradigm shift that must occur when playing this game for the first time before the light goes on and the player 'gets it'. I believe this is due to a sort of cognitive bias we have as gamers: when firing a turret we expect things to explode... and to go fast.

However, this game is anything but fast. The gameplay forces the player to slow down, think first, and to plan each shot carefully. Each game therefore becomes a careful placement of orbs rather than a quick-fire session to arrive at the end result. The slower pace gives way to excitement as an orb inches ever so close to that fearsome dotted line, and strategy emerges as the key ingredient to an award winning recipe. Those who don't experience the paradigm shift may never appreciate the subtlety and the genius of this very simple gameplay design.

There's also a version for the iPhone called Orbital.

Update: Here's a Java version with rotation.

Updates on previous entries for Dec 8, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 09, 2009

The 100 best quotes from The Wire orig. from Nov 17, 2009
National borders become natural borders orig. from Dec 01, 2009
When work is a game orig. from Dec 08, 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.

How con artists exploit human behavior

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 08, 2009

An extensive analysis of the seven principles of human behavior that con artists exploit (with many examples of cons). Or check out the Cliffs Notes version.

The Time principle: When you are under time pressure to make an important choice, you use a different decision strategy. Hustlers steer you towards a strategy involving less reasoning.


posted by Jason Kottke Dec 08, 2009

People throw away thousands of losing tickets at off-track betting parlors every day. Except that some of those losing tickets are actually winners. This is where the stoopers come in.

For the past 10 years, Jesus Leonardo has been cleaning up at an OTB parlor in Midtown Manhattan, cashing in, by his own count, nearly half a million dollars' worth of winning tickets from wagers on thoroughbred races across the country. "It is literally found money," he said on a recent night from his private winner's circle. He spends more than 10 hours a day there, feeding thousands of discarded betting slips through a ticket scanner in a never-ending search for someone else's lost treasure.

Milky Way chromoscope

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 08, 2009

Chromoscope provides views of the Milky Way galaxy in x-ray, visible, microwave, and several other EM wavelengths. This is the view in far infrared:

Milky Way in far IR

Brilliant frequent flyer miles scheme

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 08, 2009

At least with the cheese and pudding, you were actually buying perishable non-returnable products. But hundreds of travelers recently discovered the mother of all frequent flyer schemes: buying legal-tender $1 coins from the US Mint with free shipping and paying for them with miles-offering credit cards. Take the coins to the bank, use them to pay off the credit card, and keep the miles. Brilliant.

One FlyerTalker, identified by his online moniker, Mr. Pickles, claims to have bought $800,000 in coins. [...] He earned enough miles to put him over two million total at AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, giving him lifetime platinum-elite status — early availability of upgrades for life and other perks on American and its partners around the world. He also pumped miles into his account at UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and points into his Starwood Preferred Guest program account.

(via mr)

When work is a game

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 08, 2009

Dennis Crowley notes that Target is turning checking people out into a game for their cashiers in order to speed things up.

Girl running the checkout [...] said the whole thing "makes work feel like a game".

Update: A Target employee chimed in with more information in the comments here.

How to buy on eBay

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 08, 2009

If I ever wanted to buy anything on eBay, I would probably use this advice.

I am continually amazed at how many people incrementally bid up an item they want six days before an auction is over. It's like watching someone walk around with a switch unknown to him flipped permanently to stupid.

Updates on previous entries for Dec 7, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 08, 2009

Jane Austen, emailer orig. from Dec 04, 2009
OK Go, WTF orig. from Dec 01, 2009
The 100 best quotes from The Wire 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.

iPhone app for cooking with ratios

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 07, 2009

Michael Ruhlman is turning his Ratio cookbook into an iPhone app.

The best-selling cookbook [...] is soon to be an iPhone app that will help you calculate amounts of ingredients in all the fundamental culinary preparations. When you know a ratio, you don't know a recipe, you know 1,000. And this application does all the calculating for you.

Nice move...an iPhone app is perhaps a better expression of the subject matter than a book.

Hating a book by its cover

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 07, 2009

Sometimes a book cover is so bad that it keeps you from reading the words within, even if those words are some of the best Twain ever wrote.

The cover of the Signet Classic [version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn] was a drawing of a ruddy-cheeked scamp, buck teeth prominent, clutching an apple, with a perky little newsboy tam cocked at a saucy Depression-era angle. Here Huck bore an alarming similarity to both Jerry Mathers of "Leave It to Beaver" and Britney Spears. Revolting. So once again my efforts to polish off this peerless classic were stymied. I could never get more than a few pages into the book before the illustration on the cover made me sick.

Detainee 063

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 07, 2009

Detainee 063 is the interrogation log of Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani; each entry is posted to the site seven years after it was recorded (a la The Diary of Samuel Pepys).

Over the course of the fifty days, Al-Qahtani, Detainee 063, is questioned by teams of interrogators working in shifts, typically for twenty hours a day. While individual entries of the log are sometimes brutal and unpleasant to read, what is particularly disturbing about the treatment Al-Qahtani receives is its relentlessness. By publishing the log in real time, this site is intended as a kind of re-enactment — to show how mistreatment which might not appear immediately as terrible as, for example, waterboarding, can nonetheless come to amount to nothing short of torture, how by being prolonged and unceasing it can become unbearable.

(thx, ben)

Portraits of power

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 07, 2009

At a United Nations meeting in September, New Yorker staff photographer Platon took photos of as many world leaders as her could get his hands on. Here's a slideshow of the results.

What did the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ask the photographer before the shutter clicked? "Platon," he said, "make me look good."

Introducing the Noughtie List

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 07, 2009

As several of you guessed, the December project I mentioned the other day is a collection of lists and articles that summarize the past ten years, i.e. the decade, i.e. the 2000s, i.e. TEN YEARS, MAN, TEN!! We call it the Noughtie List.

The list is curated by Jenni Leder, an art director and fellow internet enthusiast from Dallas, TX. She would love to hear your Noughtie List suggestions, feedback, comments, etc. via email. Jenni will be posting some of her favorite finds to the front page from time to time as well.

A special thanks to Rex Sorgatz for letting us borrow the idea; his list of 2009 lists is well underway and worth a look for those who are only slightly nostalgic.

Parallel universes

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 07, 2009

Playing on a moving subway train adds an extra level of difficulty to accelerometer-based iPhone games. Not only do you have to contend with the in-game physics, you also need to compensate for the real-life accelerations, twists, and turns of the train. The effect pretty much tears your brain in half.

New fiction from David Foster Wallace

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 07, 2009

In this week's issue, the New Yorker has a new piece of fiction by David Foster Wallace. It's another excerpt from The Pale King.

Once when I was a little boy I received as a gift a toy cement mixer. It was made of wood except for its wheels — axles — which, as I remember, were thin metal rods. I'm ninety per cent sure it was a Christmas gift. I liked it the same way a boy that age likes toy dump trucks, ambulances, tractor-trailers, and whatnot. There are little boys who like trains and little boys who like vehicles — I liked the latter.

(thx, keenan)

Arrested Development, the entire series for $29

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 07, 2009

74% off at Amazon today only. US only, sorry.

Vogue Italia does Twitter fashion shoot

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 07, 2009

The December 2009 issue of Vogue Italia has a spread of photos taken by Steven Meisel presented in the style of Twitpic.

Twitpic Vogue

That's Viktoriya Sasonkina; also represented are Karlie Kloss, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and Gisele Bundchen.

Jane Austen, emailer

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 04, 2009

In London during Jane Austen's lifetime, mail didn't move at such a snail's pace.

Austen wrote more than 3,000 letters, many to her sister Cassandra. They corresponded constantly, starting new letters to each other the minute they finished the last one and sharing the minutia of their lives. From reading Austen's novels, I'd always assumed that people in her era spent a long time waiting for the mail. But the show mentions that during Austen's life, mail in London and environs was delivered six times a day. Sometimes, a letter sent in the morning was delivered the same evening. Which makes snail mail sound a lot more like email or twitttering.

Update: Two related links: The Twitter-like postcard culture of Edwardian Britain and from 1912, A History of Inland Transport and Communication in England by Edwin A. Pratt. (thx, liz & martin)

15 failed predictions about the future

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 04, 2009

The list includes this dandy by the awesomely named Dr. Dionysys Larder:

Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.

(via long now)

Quiet your text editor

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 04, 2009

Ommwriter is an interesting simple text editor.

With multiple windows and applications all vying for our attention, we have sadly adapted our working habits to that of the computer and not the other way around. Ommwriter is a humble attempt to recapture what technology has snatched away from us today: our capacity to concentrate.

Watch the demo video for a taste. A beta version is available for the Mac.

Who Lives Here?

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 04, 2009

Who Lives Here? is an interactive map of New York City that shows income levels in the various neighborhoods of the city. (thx, tom)

Unassisted home births

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 04, 2009

Whoa, I had no idea that giving birth at home without a doctor or midwife was a thing that people were doing now.

After giving birth to her first baby in the hospital, Schoenborn, 31, chose to have her next four children at home — by herself. Although her husband was in the house during the births, he didn't help with the deliveries.

"My hospital births were very managed," says Schoenborn. "I wanted privacy and to be free of internal exams. I wanted to give birth in an upright position and they want you to lie down. I feel birth is an instinctive process and in the hospital they treat women like they're broken and birth like an illness."

David Foster Wallace grammar challenge

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 04, 2009

From a nonfiction workshop taught by David Foster Wallace at Pomona College, a 10-question grammar worksheet that is titled:


Here are the answers and explanations. I think I got 0/10 and am preparing my lawsuit.

Two-Headed Boy

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 04, 2009

Video of Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel singing Two-Headed Boy at the Knitting Factory in NYC on March 7, 1998.


Ken Auletta's media maxims

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 04, 2009

From a chapter cut from his book about Google, 25 media maxims from Ken Auletta.

2. Passion Wins
5. A Team Culture is Vital
6. Treat Engineers as Kings
15. Don't Think of The Web as Another Distribution Platform
19. Paradox: The Web Forges Both Niche and Large Communities

Google DNS

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 03, 2009

Google announced their public DNS server today. I'm using it right now. There's been a bunch of speculation as to why Google is offering this service for free but the reason is pretty simple: they want to speed up people's Google search results. In 2006, Google VP Marissa Mayer told the audience at the Web 2.0 conference that slowing a user's search experience down even a fraction of a second results in fewer searches and less customer satisfaction.

Marissa ran an experiment where Google increased the number of search results to thirty. Traffic and revenue from Google searchers in the experimental group dropped by 20%.

Ouch. Why? Why, when users had asked for this, did they seem to hate it?

After a bit of looking, Marissa explained that they found an uncontrolled variable. The page with 10 results took .4 seconds to generate. The page with 30 results took .9 seconds.

Half a second delay caused a 20% drop in traffic. Half a second delay killed user satisfaction.

Former Amazon employee Greg Linden backs up Mayer's claim:

This conclusion may be surprising — people notice a half second delay? — but we had a similar experience at Amazon.com. In A/B tests, we tried delaying the page in increments of 100 milliseconds and found that even very small delays would result in substantial and costly drops in revenue.

The rise and fall of Design Within Reach

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 03, 2009

Lawsuits, bad management, and knockoffs, oh my! From Fast Company:

Discontent has steadily grown among formerly stalwart DWR supporters. New York-based textile designer Sandy Chilewich, whose rugs and mats are stocked by DWR ($280 to $600), says she's considering pulling her business and has been talking with other DWR designers about banding together to "tell them we don't approve." Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles and Ray Eames and the guardian of their legacy, says, "DWR has been a great ambassador for the Eames story and DWR hasn't carried knockoff Eames product, but I think one needs to look beyond that. In the long run, we don't see our authentic product being sold next to knockoff products of any kind."

Fantasy geopolitics

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 03, 2009

I can't remember if it was Bill Simmons or my friend David who wanted a fantasy league for everything, but Sam Arbesman has come up with some ideas about a fantasy league of nations.

How does it work? First, you draft your countries. There are about 200 countries in the world, so in a league of 10 players, each player chooses 15 countries. To keep things fair, there are distribution requirements: There must be at least two countries from each of North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, and at least one country from each of South America and Oceania. This will prevent a team from loading up on certain areas of the planet. (Another option is to include a GDP cap.)

The future of magazines, maybe

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 03, 2009

Nice concept for a Sports Illustrated e-reader interface.

Web app celebs

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 03, 2009

I started a bit of stupid fun on Twitter: #webappcelebs. Some of my favorites so far:

Pablo Picasa
Favrd Flav
Eddie Van Hahlo
Bit.ly Houston
daniel craigslist
Paul Reubens on Rails
Keira Writely
Google Lou Reader
Gwyneth Paypaltrow
Sid Del.ico.us (also: Benicio Del.ico.us)
Opera Winfrey
AIM Judy Dench
Wilford Brizzly
Eartha Typekitt

And I can't find it, but I swear I saw someone do Lucy Hululiu, which seems so much funnier that just Lucy HuLiu for some reason.


posted by Jason Kottke Dec 03, 2009

Continuity is an ingenious little Flash game that is one part side-scroller and one part magic square puzzle. (thx, carl)

Big cities, little states

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 03, 2009

New-ish thing from fake is the new real: outlines of the 100 most populous areas in the US. Some are cities and some are states.

The fifty largest metro areas (in blue), disaggregated from their states (in orange). Each has been scaled and sorted according to population.

By themselves, the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago metros are the three most populous areas in the US. (via snarkmarket)

Galileo's moon drawings

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 03, 2009

Galileo's moons

From an analysis of when and where these drawings were done.

Cities, before and after

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 03, 2009

Oobject has a collection of before-and-after photographs of cities, most of which have been hit by bombs (economic or otherwise): Hiroshima, Dubai, Warsaw.

Scandalous: fake cheese used at fancy restaurant

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 02, 2009

But it's not what you think. At Le Bernardin, one of the highest calibre restaurants in NYC, Eric Ripert and his chefs use "cheap, fake Swiss cheese full of artificial flavors" as a baseline to normalize everyone's palates so that sauces can be judged fairly in the kitchen.

In terms of flavor, that cheese tastes identical all year long...so it give us a reference, and we can judge fairly.

Cheese. Is there anything it can't do?

How to revive dry Play-Doh

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 02, 2009

I tried the messy, tiring, and time-consuming kneading method and the not quite effective leave-it-damp-in-the-container method. After months of tinkering, I have discovered the best and easiest way to restore dry Play-Doh to its perfect state (besides Hasbro's former suggestion that you buy a new can). Here's what you do:

1. Break the hard Play-Doh up into pieces the size of shelled peas and put them into a one-quart Ziploc bag.

2. Sprinkle some water in, enough to get all the pieces damp but not enough to leave a lot of excess water. Seal the bag.

3. After a few minutes, smoosh all of the Play-Doh into one corner of the bag. Let it sit this way overnight.

4. Open the bag in the morning and hand the Play-Doh to a delighted toddler. It's as good as new! (And then rinse the bag for reuse.)

If you liked this, you may enjoy some of my other household hints: how to unshrink a wool sweater, how to make tator tot hotdish, how to make the world's best pancakes, and how to slow-poach eggs. Look out, Heloise!


posted by Jason Kottke Dec 02, 2009

Ampersandwich t-shirt. Ha!

Dubai, goodbye

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 02, 2009

Photos of Dubai in decline are the new photos of Detroit in decline.

Lady Gaga + typeface = awesome

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 02, 2009

Jesus, this is nerdy (and hilarious): a Lady Gaga parody about a typeface.

(via @caterina)

Updates on previous entries for Dec 1, 2009*

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 02, 2009

Seeking someone for a December project orig. from Dec 01, 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.

Films that inspired directors

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 01, 2009

From a book called Screen Epiphanies, a few directors (Danny Boyle, Mira Nair, Martin Scorsese, etc.) share the films that first inspired them. Here's Lars von Trier on Kubrick's Barry Lyndon:

Watching Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon is a pleasure, like eating a very good soup. It is very stylised and then suddenly comes some emotion [when the child falls off the horse]. There is not a lot of emotion. There are a lot of moods and some fantastic photography, really like these old paintings.

Thank God he didn't have a computer. If he had a computer at that time, you wouldn't care, but you know he has been waiting three weeks for this mountain fog or whatever. It is overwhelming with the boy, because it is suddenly this emotional thing. The character Barry Lyndon is not very emotional. In fact, he is the opposite. He is an opportunist.

I saw the film when it came out. I was in my early twenties. The first time I saw it, I slept. It was on too late and it is a very, very long film. What is interesting is that Nicole Kidman told me Kubrick hated long films. If you have seen Barry Lyndon, the last scene of the film, where she is writing out a cheque for him, is extremely long. It goes on and on and on, but it's beautiful.

The good thing is that Kubrick always sets his standards. Barry Lyndon to me is a masterpiece. He casts in a very strange way, Kubrick. It is a very strange cast. But that is how the film should be, of course. This thing that he liked short films was very surprising. And he liked Krzysztof Kieslowski very much. He was crazy about Kieslowski.

I don't know if Kubrick saw any of my films, but I know Tarkovsky watched the first film I did and hated it! That is how it is supposed to be.

"The first time I saw it, I slept" will be my go-to answer for lots of things from now forward.

National borders become natural borders

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 01, 2009

Because of fences, differing policies, or different cultures, national borders also mark habitat boundaries for animals and plants. More at Edible Geography.

For example, the antlion surplus in Israel can be traced back to the fact that the Dorcas gazelle is a protected species there, while across the border in Jordan, it can legally be hunted. Jordanian antlions are thus disadvantaged, with fewer gazelles available to serve "as 'environmental engineers' of a sort" and to "break the earth's dry surface," enabling antlions to dig their funnels.

Meanwhile, the more industrial form of agriculture practised on the Israeli side has encouraged the growth of a red fox population, which makes local gerbils nervous; across the border, Jordan's nomadic shepherding and traditional farming techniques mean that the red fox is far less common, "so that Jordanian gerbils can allow themselves to be more carefree."

Update: As this satellite view shows, the US-Canada border quite literally forms a line that cuts through the landscape. I had no idea this fenceless border was so visible. (thx, jonathan)

Seeking someone for a December project

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 01, 2009

I am looking for an intern-type person to work on a project to commence almost immediately and lasting until the end of the year. Basically I have an idea for a thing and I don't have the time to do it, so I'm looking for someone who wants to own the project and I'll just be the publisher/overseeing editor/moral support. You need to know how to organize, write fluent English in short bursts, *love* lists, have good "hey, this is cool" spotting instincts, and be generally comfortable with using web publishing tools. PHP skills would be a huge plus. Time involved will vary but will be a few hours a day to start (first 3-5 days) and probably less than an hour a day afterwards, probably something that could be done in the evening if you have a dayjob but are really interested. You can be located anywhere in the world, although if you're in NYC, I'll buy you a cup of coffee and we can talk about the project in person.

I can't offer to pay because while it's a fun idea, it's not necessarily a lucrative idea, but you'll get full credit on the site multiple times and pretty much free reign to do what you'd like within the initial parameters of the project.

Seriously interested? Send me an email (no attachments!) with any information you feel I need to know about you and your abilities/talents/interest level. Thanks!

Update: Wow, what a response! Thanks to everyone who responded for taking the time to reply, but I've got enough to choose from for now. I wish I had projects for everybody, you're a talented and motivated group!


posted by Jason Kottke Dec 01, 2009

A delightfully low-tech but colorful music video from OK Go. Looks like it was shot it one take.

You may remember OK Go from their famous treadmill video. (thx, mike)

Update: Here's how they made the video. (thx, everyone)

The H1N1 vaccine manufacturing process

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 01, 2009

If you missed it last week in the Thanksgiving flurry, here's my post on how the H1N1 vaccine is made.

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.

The history of computer

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 01, 2009

A bunch of historic documents in computer science.

How to hire programmers

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 01, 2009

How Aaron Swartz hires programmers.

To find out whether someone's smart, I just have a casual conversation with them. I do everything I can to take off any pressure off: I meet at a cafe, I make it clear it's not an interview, I do my best to be casual and friendly. Under no circumstances do I ask them any standard "interview questions" — I just chat with them like I would with someone I met at a party. (If you ask people at parties to name their greatest strengths and weaknesses or to estimate the number of piano tuners in Chicago, you've got bigger problems.) I think it's pretty easy to tell whether someone's smart in casual conversation. I constantly make judgments about whether people I meet are smart, just like I constantly make judgments about whether people I see are attractive.

(via df)

A world flag

posted by Jason Kottke Dec 01, 2009

What the world needs is a great flag, a flag of pure bliss. Here's one of the intermediate steps to the finished product; it's an average of all the world's countries' flags weighted by population.

Average World Flag

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