Entries for January 2010 (February 2010 »    March 2010 »    April 2010 »    Archives)


Updates on previous entries for Jan 29, 2010*

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 30, 2010

Leonardo da Vinci's resume orig. from Jan 29, 2010
NYC timelapse orig. from Jan 15, 2010
The bee orchid orig. from Jan 21, 2010
Living on Craigslist orig. from Jan 21, 2010
Pokemon for the real world orig. from Jan 22, 2010
Bill Cunningham's street photos orig. from Jun 30, 2008
Panoramic video camera orig. from Jan 29, 2010
Map of Netflix nation orig. from Jan 11, 2010
Measuring type orig. from Jan 21, 2010
Feltron Annual Report 2009 orig. from Jan 25, 2010

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

They don't DJ like they used to

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2010

In an interview with DJ magazine, Carl Cox talks about how his DJ setup has changed through the years.

What I am worried about and don't want to fall into, is dependence on too many screens to play a set. It's bad enough having one computer screen. After all, it's all about the performance and the people. I want to be looking at the crowd and them looking at me, interacting with one another. If we start getting dependant on screens it is going to ruin the art of performance.

(via @jessicadeva)

Leonardo da Vinci's resume

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2010

From the Codex Atlanticus, this is a letter that Leonardo da Vinci wrote in 1482 to the Duke of Milan advertising his services as a "skilled contriver of instruments of war". From the translation:

6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.

So, Leonardo was pretty much Q from the Bond films or Lucius Fox from Batman. But the artist was in there as well...at the bottom of his list, stuck in almost as an afterthought:

11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.

Update: If Leonardo was a programmer, his letter might have read something like this:

4. Again, I have kinds of functions; most convenient and easy to ftp; and with these I can spawn lots of data almost resembling a torrent; and with the download of these cause great terror to the competitor, to his great detriment and confusion.

(via @bloomsburypress)

The films from Infinite Jest made real

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2010

Someone sent this to me ages ago and I forgot to post it but luckily I ran across it again this morning: A Failed Entertainment is a show at The LeRoy Neiman Gallery featuring the films of James Incandenza...you know, the ones from the 8-page footnote in Infinite Jest.

Included as a footnote in Wallace's novel is the Complete filmography of James O. Incandenza, a detailed list of over 70 industrial, documentary, conceptual, advertorial, technical, parodic, dramatic non-commercial, and non-dramatic commercial works. The LeRoy Neiman Gallery has commissioned artists and filmmakers to re-create seminal works from Incandenza's filmography.

No word on whether any of the filmmakers made JOI's Infinite Jest...I guess we'll find out if anyone emerges from the opening reception tonight.

Super Bowl art bet

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2010

The Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art have a Super Bowl bet...the loser loans a significant piece of art to the winner for three months. The directors of the two museums trash talked back and forth via email and Twitter before agreeing on the paintings to be loaned.

"Max Anderson must not really believe the Colts can beat the Saints in the Super Bowl. Otherwise why would he bet such an insignificant work as the Ingrid Calame painting? Let's up the ante. The New Orleans Museum of Art will bet the three-month loan of its Renoir painting, Seamstress at Window, circa 1908, which is currently in the big Renoir exhibition in Paris. What will Max wager of equal importance? Go Saints!"

(thx, stuart)

Multi-touch interactions on the iPad

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2010

For all you UI nerds out there, a four-minute video collection of some of the multi-touch gestures and actions on the iPad from Wednesday's event.

Here are the annotations. (via @h_fj)

Panoramic video camera

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2010

Remember those CNN videos of Haiti that I linked to last week? The ones where you could pan around in the scene as the video played? It's probable that CNN used the Yellowbird camera to do them.

The camera uses six cleverly divided lenses in order to capture every possible viewing direction. The data stream generated by the camera is impressive. Through a double glass-fiber connection, a stream of 1200 Mbit per second is captured and saved in an uncompressed format.

Check out the demo. (thx, rakesh)

Update: Or perhaps they used Immersive Media's rig. Their bridge-jumping demo is pretty crazy. They also did some videos for Red Bull of surfing the monster waves at Teahupoo. (thx, carl & kevin)

Tape measure tricks

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2010

Nunchuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills, tape measure skills. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.

The laundromat as a third place

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2010

At a laundromat in Brooklyn, a revolving cast of characters conduct business, people-watch, sell, argue, flirt, and gossip. Oh, and do their laundry.

Every other Saturday, Carlene James climbs into bed at 10 and sets her alarm for 2:30 a.m. She rises without rousing her husband and four kids. By 3, she is at the Clean Rite. She chooses this moment to do her linens. She requires three super-giant washers, and there are exactly three. At this ungodly hour, competition is zero.

She is 36, a school office manager. Her apartment building has its own laundry room, but it's too slow there. "I'm very fussy with my clothes," she said. "I put soap in during both cycles. I'm always here when they're done so no one touches my clothes. I once got in an argument with a guy who said I was taking too many dryers. That's why it's good to come at 3 a.m."

J.D. Salinger, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of Catcher in the Rye, is dead at 91.

Norgay and Hillary not the first up Everest?

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2010

Efforts are underway to find and recover a circa-1924 camera from near the summit of Mount Everest. The camera may contain photographic evidence that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine reached the highest point on Earth almost 30 years before Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953.

From the archives: a panoramic view from the top of Everest. Still wow.

Entire Lost canon on Hulu

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2010

All 101 episodes of Lost are available on Hulu right now (US only). The season premiere is in 5 days...plenty of time to catch up on all ~73 hours of plane-crashing, hippie-communing, smoke-monstering, eye makeup-wearing, nicknaming, time-jumping weirdness.

elBulli to close

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2010

elBulli, the Spanish restaurant routinely named the number one restaurant in the world, will close for two years beginning in 2012.

Adrià and his team will still be working at elBulli, developing ideas and trying to figure out what comes next. But he says the restaurant's current format is finished. "When we come back in 2014, it's not going to be the same," Adrià says.

Harvey Weinstein to Errol Morris: you're boring

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2010

In 1988, Harvey Weinstein sent Errol Morris a letter complaining that the director wasn't properly promoting The Thin Blue Line. The words, he doesn't mince them.

Heard your NPR interview and you were boring. You couldn't have dragged me to see THE THIN BLUE LINE if my life depended on it. It's time you start being a performer and understand the media.

This appears to be the NPR interview in question. (via letters of note)

Howard Zinn, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2010

Howard Zinn, the author of The People's History of the United States, died today. He was 87 years old.

Some stuff about the iPad

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2010

Instapaper's iPhone app is going to be great on this thing.

If you don't like the prices in Apple's iBook Store, just use Amazon's Kindle app on the iPad.

No 3G? No contracts? (Might be saving this for last/later.)

I'm looking on the photos of this thing and there doesn't seem to be a camera, video or otherwise.

The iPad appears to be a device that you use sitting down. Can you type on it while holding it standing up?

Ok, there's 3G. $15/mo for 250 MB of data. $30/mo for "unlimited".

iPad is unlocked. International SIM cards "will just work".

Price: $500. Boom. That's for the low-end model with no 3G.

Ooh, keyboard dock. If they could outfit that with a hinge and some sort of latching device, I wonder what that kind of thing would look like? (Will the keyboard work with the iPhone — er, iPad nano — as well?)

Will there be an iBook Reader/Store app for the iPhone?

Oh, from earlier: Jobs repositioned Apple as a "mobile devices company".

Right at the end, Jobs showed a street sign marking the intersection of "Technology" and "Liberal Arts". I guess that means that kottke.org is now in direct competition with Apple, Inc. YOU'RE GOING DOWN, STEVE!

Kurt Anderson:

Watching AAPL's share price live: the moment Jobs announced the iPad's base price ($499), Apple's market cap increased by $5 billion.

The iPad page is up on Apple's web site. Nothing on the store yet.

The iPad makes the Kindle look like it's from the 1980s.

Amazon's stock price is up...it dipped a bit when the iPad's price was announced but recovered shortly after. I have heard more than a few people say that the Kindle is "dead". But one minus in the iPad column is that readability in the outdoors is not going to be so good...the iPhone in the sunshine might as well be a stone for how useful it is.

If you watch the video on Apple's site, there are now (at least) three different keyboard interactions people need to know to use Apple products. There's 10-fingered touch typing on analog keyboards, thumb typing on the iPhone keyboard, and (about 2:30 into the video) the really odd 4-fingered no-thumbs way of typing on the iPad.

Thinking ahead to the iPad 2, they'll add a video camera, right? What else?

Whoa, the zooming on the Google Maps apps (@ 3:45 in the video) looks incredible. The page flipping animation in the iBooks app though? Super cheesy. It's like in the early days of cars where they built them to look like horse-drawn carriages. Can't we just scroll?

The orientation on the keyboard dock is wrong...it should be horizontal, not vertical.

Gruber gleefully reports that there's no Flash on the iPad. Which is a genuine bummer because this thing is perfect for playing all the (free!) addictive Flash games that I so love.

iPad is not a good name. Too close to iPod for one thing. But mainly just blah.

If the iPhone is any indication, this thing is going to be great for kids. Ollie likes playing games and looking at videos on the iPhone but the larger screen size of the iPad allows for more collaborative play...one kid + one adult or two kids using it together. The iPhone is for solitary use; the iPad can be collaborative (or at least collective). Later: Sippey calls the iPad the family computer:

It looks like a great machine to travel from the living room to the kitchen to the kids room to the bedroom. We'll search the web on it, read the news on it, the kids will do email on it, play Brushes and Bejeweled on it, and it'll be the perfect complement to the Sunday afternoon TV football ritual. We'll use it to control the music in the house, and do some quick bet-settling during dinner. I'm sure we'll eventually enjoy some multiplayer "board" games on it, or read a book on it, or watch a TV show on it. And the kids will argue with each other over who gets it next. (Dad will.)

Henri Cartier-Bresson retrospective at MoMA

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2010

Upcoming at MoMA: a retrospective of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

For more than twenty-five years, he was the keenest observer of the global theater of human affairs — and one of the great portraitists of the twentieth century. MoMA's retrospective, the first in the United States in three decades, surveys Cartier-Bresson's entire career, with a presentation of about three hundred photographs, mostly arranged thematically and supplemented with periodicals and books.

After MoMA, the exhibition will visit Chicago, SF, and Atlanta. Quite excited for this one.

Apple "Moses Tablet" unveiling

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2010

As usual, several media outlets will bring you breathless coverage of Apple's shiny new thing, in this case, some sort of tablet-y device/service. The event starts at 1pm ET; you can follow along on Ars Technica,
Engadget, gdgt, NY Times' Bits blog, or Gizmodo (which is often irritating).

The crash of Flight 815 in realtime

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2010

We're about a week away so this synchronized view of the crash of Flight 815 in realtime is a good amuse bouche for the season six premiere of Lost.

Gridiron time

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2010

Actual football played in a 60-min NFL game: about 11 minutes.

So what do the networks do with the other 174 minutes in a typical broadcast? Not surprisingly, commercials take up about an hour. As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time, excluding commercials, is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps.

Stop motion thanks

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2010

The National Board of Review gave Wes Anderson a Special Filmmaking Achievement award for Fantastic Mr. Fox; Anderson accepted the award in the medium of stop motion animation.

A history of the world in 100 objects

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2010

I feel like I've linked to this before but in case I haven't: the BBC and The British Museum are collaborating on a radio series (and more) called A History of the World.

At the heart of the project is the BBC Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 objects. 100 programmes, written and narrated by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, and focusing on 100 objects from the British Museum's collection. The programmes will travel through two million years from the earliest object in the collection to retell the history of humanity through the objects we have made. Each week will be tied to a particular theme, such as 'after the ice age' or 'the beginning of science and literature'.

More Apple tablet photos

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2010

I don't know if these two photos depict the rumored Apple tablet or not, but I *do know* I want 5000 words from Errol Morris that attempt to answer these two seemingly related questions in an attempt to determine their authenticity:

1. Which photo was taken first?
2. Why was the tablet moved between photos?

Interview with a book pirate

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2010

The Millions has an interview with someone who engages in book piracy; he scans books, runs them through an OCR program, proofs the output, and then uploads them to Usenet and torrent sites.

In truth, I think it is clear that morally, the act of pirating a product is, in fact, the moral equivalent of stealing... although that nagging question of what the person who has been stolen from is missing still lingers. Realistically and financially, however, I feel the impact of e-piracy is overrated, at least in terms of ebooks.

Ebert's favorite films of the 2000s

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2010

Even though it's on The Naughtie List, I missed Roger Ebert's list of the best films of the decade. It's an interesting list; several items on there that you didn't see on a lot of other lists.

Best extended movie takes

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2010

Mike Le has collected 20 great extended takes from a variety of movies, including no-brainers like The Shining and The Player but also some you may not have noticed before. (via @sippey)

Motoi Yamamoto's salt labyrinths

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 25, 2010

Artist Motoi Yamamoto creates intricate large scale mazes using salt. I love this one, an installation at the Sumter County Gallery of Art in South Carolina:

Motoi Yamamoto

His Utsusemi installations are worth checking out as well.

The fake colors of Hubble photography

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 25, 2010

Those wildly colorful Hubble telescope photos...how do they get them to look like that?

The colors in Hubble images, which are assigned for various reasons, aren't always what we'd see if we were able to visit the imaged objects in a spacecraft. We often use color as a tool, whether it is to enhance an object's detail or to visualize what ordinarily could never be seen by the human eye.

See also this informative Reddit thread.

Feltron Annual Report 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 25, 2010

You know it, you love it, the Feltron Annual Report for 2009. This year, he asked people who knew him to report data.

Update: Here's a nice interview with Felton about the report.

Opening sequence for Sherlock Holmes

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 25, 2010

The Art of the Title Sequence highlights the impressive Sherlock Holmes opening credits, including an interview with the designer.

Zoomable paper map of London

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 25, 2010

Map^2 is a zoomable paper street map of London...to zoom in, you fold down the quadrant of the map you're interested in.

Zoomable paper map

(thx, peter)

Werner Herzog reads Curious George

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 25, 2010

The accent isn't perfect (Herzog's distinctive voice is difficult to impersonate well) but there are some great lines in this.

Updates on previous entries for Jan 22, 2010*

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2010

These are not the fonts you are looking for orig. from Jun 21, 2007

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

Video panoramas

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2010

This is a pretty amazing effect: CNN is doing panoramic videos that allow the user to pan around while the video plays. Watching and panning feel as though you're actually walking around in the scene holding the camera. (thx, jed)

Pokemon for the real world

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2010

Kids can remember hundreds of Pokemon characters but very few animals. The solution? The Phylomon Project is an open source initiative aiming to make Pokemon-type cards for actual animals.

Update: Xeko is an "eco-adventure game" that features Pokemon-like cards for hundreds of real animals. (thx, josh)

Modern writing speeds

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2010

Phil Gyford recently compared the speeds of six different writing input devices: the handwriting recognition of the Apple Newton, the graffiti on the Palm V, the small QWERTY keyboard on a Palm Treo, the iPhone's software keyboard, pen & paper, and a full-size QWERTY keyboard. Surprisingly, the iPhone keyboard came in second. (via df)

Popeye admits to spinach use

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2010

Some breaking news that I missed the other day: Popeye admits to spinach use.

Popeye finally came clean Monday, admitting he used spinach when he delivered a savage and unlikely beating to romantic rival Bluto in 1998. Popeye said in a statement sent to The Associated Press on Monday that he used spinach on and off for nearly a decade. "I wish I had never touched spinach," Popeye said in a statement. "It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never sailed during the spinach era."


How wolves became dogs

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2010

In an excerpt from his recent book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins writes about how wolves evolved into dogs first through self-domestication and then through domestication by humans.

We can imagine wild wolves scavenging on a rubbish tip on the edge of a village. Most of them, fearful of men throwing stones and spears, have a very long flight distance. They sprint for the safety of the forest as soon as a human appears in the distance. But a few individuals, by genetic chance, happen to have a slightly shorter flight distance than the average. Their readiness to take slight risks — they are brave, shall we say, but not foolhardy — gains them more food than their more risk-averse rivals. As the generations go by, natural selection favours a shorter and shorter flight distance, until just before it reaches the point where the wolves really are endangered by stonethrowing humans. The optimum flight distance has shifted because of the newly available food source.

(via @linklog)


posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2010

Pictogrid starts off deceptively simple but is difficult to stop playing after a few rounds. (via buzzfeed)

David Foster Wallace tributes

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2010

The latest issue of Five Dials, a free PDF-only literary magazine published by Hamish Hamilton, features reprints of tributes to David Foster Wallace given by his family and friends shortly after his death in late 2008. Included are tributes by Zadie Smith, Amy Wallace-Havens (DFW's sister), George Saunders, and Don DeLillo. The introduction is from A Supposedly Fun Thing:

Finally, know that an unshot skeet's movement against the vast lapis lazuli dome of the open ocean's sky is sun-like — i.e. orange and parabolic and right-to-left — and that its disappearance into the sea is edge-first and splashless and sad.

Note: if you enjoyed this issue of Five Dials, please sign up for their mailing list. (thx, david)

Measuring type

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2010

Clever idea: you can measure the amount of ink required to print different typefaces simply by writing them out with ballpoint pens. The pens themselves become the usage graph:

Ink pen graph

Update: You can also use this technique to represent which colors you draw with most often.

Mother's History of Birds

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2010

A touching (but not sentimental) short documentary about the filmmaker's mother and her birds.

The history of typography in the OED

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2010

Over at Bygone Bureau, Nick Martens puts on his palaeotypography hat and plunges into the Oxford English Dictionary to learn about the history of typography.

To beat fat, 1683, "If a Press-man Takes too much Inck with his Balls, he Beats Fat."

Predicting Olympic medal counts

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2010

Economics professor Daniel Johnson makes accurate Olympic medal predictions using a handful of indicators that are unrelated to sports.

His forecast model predicts a country's Olympic performance using per-capita income (the economic output per person), the nation's population, its political structure, its climate and the home-field advantage for hosting the Games or living nearby. "It's just pure economics," Johnson says. "I know nothing about the athletes. And even if I did, I didn't include it."

For the upcoming 2010 games in Vancouver, Johnson predicts that Canada, the US, Norway, Austria, and Sweden will end up with the most medals. (thx, brandon)

Update: Johnson's predictions were a bit off.

Living on Craigslist

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2010

Jason Paul lives off of Craigslist and is documenting the whole thing on his blog.

What does that mean exactly? I have made some ground rules that I will be living by over the year. Here they are:

- I will start with $2,500 that I've saved during college
- I will have a car, a phone, a computer and cameras to document the trip
- I am not allowed to live out of my car
- I am not allowed to live with someone I know for longer than a week at the beginning of each city
- I am allowed one large bag containing clothes and a few staple foods
- I am not allowed to initiate contact with someone unless it is through an online interaction

This means, put simply, I will find jobs, housing, friends, food and other necessities entirely via Craigslist.

Update: Craigslist Joe is a documentary film with the same premise. (thx, dennis)

Fine crappy foods

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2010

This video deftly skewers the food industry's current fixations, including This-Is-Why-You're-Fat-grade hamburgers, fancy TV dinners, and junk food masquerading as wholesome:

We take the finest ingredients and put them in a bowl with salt and butter.

And "hide your salad" describes my salad dressing technique perfectly...it ends up more like ranch soup, really.

The bee orchid

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2010

A species of orchid from Israel that looks and smells like a female bee tricks male long-horned bees into pollinating them.

Update: Michael Pollan recently discussed orchids in a piece for National Geographic.

Update: There was a scene in Adaptation about the bee orchid. (thx, charley)

Myths of the Revolutionary War

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 21, 2010

Seven myths about the history of the American Revolutionary War, including "Great Britain Could Never Have Won The War" and "General Washington Was A Brilliant Tactician And Strategist".

Washington also failed to see the potential of a campaign against the British in Virginia in 1780 and 1781, prompting Comte de Rochambeau, commander of the French Army in America, to write despairingly that the American general "did not conceive the affair of the south to be such urgency." Indeed, Rochambeau, who took action without Washington's knowledge, conceived the Virginia campaign that resulted in the war's decisive encounter, the siege of Yorktown in the autumn of 1781.

Nirvana covers Seasons in the Sun

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2010

Cobain with the vocals and the drumming. (thx, jon)

Why Antarctica isn't melting much

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2010

Antarctic ice isn't melting as much as predicted because the overall global warming trend and the Antarctic hole in the ozone are at cross purposes with each other. Temporarily.

As the ozone hole heals in the coming decades, the winds will weaken, the continent will become much warmer in summer — and melting will increase.

How cooking made us human

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2010

Not all calories are created equal, says Harvard biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham...humans get many more calories from cooked food than from raw.

Cooked food is more digestible than raw food. And not just by a little, but by a lot. Learn how to control fire, use it to cook your food, and you free up extra energy — plus time that would otherwise be spent masticating. Spend that time hunting, and your metabolic equation gets even better.

I'm sure this is well known within the raw food community but I had no idea. There's more in a talk Wrangham did in Seattle and his book, Catching Fire.

The neverending lightning storm

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2010

Since at least 1595, a lightning storm has flashed above Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela with remarkable regularity.

It's still unknown exactly why this area — and this area alone — should produce such regular lightning. One theory holds that ionized methane gas rising from the Catatumbo bogs is meeting with storm clouds coming down from the Andes, helping to create the perfect conditions for a lightning storm.

With a total of roughly 1.2 million lightning discharges per year, the Relampago del Catatumbo is thought to be the world's greatest producer of ozone. As the lightning rips through the air, it produces nitrogen oxide, which is later converted by sunlight into ozone, which ends up in a protective layer high above the planet.

I learned about this storm from the description of a course that Geoff Manaugh is teaching at Columbia about...what would you call it...geoarchitecture?

The studio will be divided into three groups — one designing glaciers, one designing islands, one designing storms. Each group will mix vernacular, non-fossil fuel-based building technologies with what sounds like science fiction in order to explore the fine line between architectural design and the amplified cultivation of natural processes.

Obama: Daddy of the United States of America

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2010

Tom Junod says that the key to understanding how Obama governs is to look at how you'd imagine he might raise Sasha and Malia. Specifically, Junod compares the President's community organization roots with the parenting technique of positive discipline.

You don't have to win, we were told at the positive-discipline workshop. Your child is not damaged, morally, if your child wins, if the battle is withdrawn, or, better yet, never joined. Our culture has viewed parenthood in terms of decisive moments, but it's better to view it in terms of development, as a continual process, and to be in it for the long haul. Nothing lies like the moment of truth, and if there's no powerlessness, then there are fewer power struggles. If your child has a problem with authority, it's likely that you have a problem with authority, or your lack of it. The answer is to return it to your child in the form of choices, while you set an example. Your example is your authority. Positive discipline does not mean no discipline; it means that discipline is a matter of teaching mutual respect, rather than making your child suffer. "Children do better when they feel better, not worse," is what it says on my kitchen cabinet, and so when faced with intransigence, parents have to respond by stating their expectations, repeating the rules, and then giving their children the love and support they need to follow them. Always try to include, rather than isolate; avoid labels; don't negotiate, but don't escalate, either. If your children are not doing well, either take them out of the situation or remove yourself. You — and they — can always try again.

It is a philosophy that could have been minted by Cass Sunstein, the White House advisor who is developing ways to "nudge" citizens to make the right choices without them being aware of the manipulation. It could serve as a precis for how Obama has dealt with Joe Wilson, not to mention Skip Gates and Sergeant Jim Crowley, not to mention Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was never threatened but rather told to "think carefully" while answering the protests of the Iranian presidential election with the truncheon and the gallows. One could almost hear Obama saying, "Use your words, Mahmoud. Use your words."

The piece is interesting throughout, but I particularly liked this observation:

Barack Obama, then, is not the agent of change; he's the fulfillment of a change that is already occurring culture-wide, in every place but politics. That's why the Republicans fear him so much; why, while waiting for him to fail, they just come off as the political party for people who want to hit their kids.

Snack nation

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2010

Americans are cramming their kids full of snacks and that may not necessarily be a good thing.

Between 1977 and 2002, the percent of the American population eating three or more snacks a day increased to 42 percent from 11 percent.

Also, this is a great use of quotation marks:

Kara Nielsen, a "trendologist" at the Center for Culinary Development, a brand development company in San Francisco, cites the proliferation of activities, from soccer to chess club to tutoring sessions, that now fill children's afternoons.

That's actually not a "real" "job", is it? (via @megnut)

Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 20, 2010

In 1961, surgeon Leonid Rogozov was the only physician stationed on an isolated 12-man Soviet base in Antarctica when he developed appendicitis. He had to remove his appendix himself.

"I didn't permit myself to think about anything other than the task at hand. It was necessary to steel myself, steel myself firmly and grit my teeth. In the event that I lost consciousness, I'd given Sasha Artemev a syringe and shown him how to give me an injection. I chose a position half sitting. I explained to Zinovy Teplinsky how to hold the mirror. My poor assistants! At the last minute I looked over at them: they stood there in their surgical whites, whiter than white themselves. I was scared too. But when I picked up the needle with the novocaine and gave myself the first injection, somehow I automatically switched into operating mode, and from that point on I didn't notice anything else.

Anticipating cries of "photos or it didn't happen", his assistants documented the scene: here's Rogozov operating on himself (and another).

Beatles infographics

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2010

The most interesting of several infographics related to The Beatles is the first one depicting the declining rate of collaboration within the band gleaned from songwriting credit data.

Beatles Collab Infoviz

(thx, bryan)

Andy Warhol's MTV show

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2010

Of course Andy Warhol made a TV show for MTV called Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes.

The whole thing is a perfect snapshot of everything to love and hate about the 1980s: the art bull market, Manhattan, fashion's hardworking LGBT backbone, and the nature of celebrity in the dawn of the fractured and streaming media world we live in now.

The link above has pointers to downloads of footage from three shows. (via fimoculous)

Color photo of The Beatles in 1957

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2010

The Beatles in 1957

Well, not so much The Beatles as The Quarrymen, a band formed by John Lennon and some schoolmates that was the precursor to The Beatles. (via @brainpicker)

Crayola's Law

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2010

Since their introduction in 1903, the number of available Crayola crayon colors has doubled every 28 years.

Apple Tablet photo

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2010

Just a reminder that a docked Apple Tablet was spotted in the wild almost two years ago:

iPhone Mega

On the moon without being on the moon

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2010

Vincent Fournier has made a series of photos of astronauts training and of the interiors of the Chinese, Russian and US space agencies.

Vincent Fournier

Looks alien, doesn't it?

Stock and flow

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2010

Robin Sloan writes about stock and flow as "the master metaphor for media today".

Flow is the feed. It's the posts and the tweets. It's the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist. Stock is the durable stuff. It's the content you produce that's as interesting in two months (or two years?) as it is today. It's what people discover via search. It's what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.

Nail on the head. Although I think you can also consider something like "trust" to be stock as well, in which case you can use quality flow to build up stock.

Bubble Tanks Tower Defense

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2010

I didn't think much of this one at first (yet another tower defense game, right?) but the megatower wrinkle helps make Bubble Tanks Tower Defense almost unputdownable.

Oh, and there's a level with unlimited money to spend on towers and upgrades to defend against unlimited enemies (it's the last board in the top row). I built up the board as much as I could and let it run overnight. After 10 hours or so, the game got to level 2758 before all 20 lives were gone.

Back to the Future, 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2010

If Back to the Future were made today, Marty would have travelled back in time to 1980. See also timeline twins.


posted by Jason Kottke Jan 18, 2010

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

If you travelled back in time to 1963 and told everyone that in 2009 the President of the United States is a black man, perhaps only Martin Luther King Jr. would have believed you.

The sounds of ice

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2010

Whoa, the cracking, expansion, and contraction of lake ice sounds like the blasters on a Star Wars ship. (via waxy)

After enough erosion you get tourists

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2010

Paul Ford is asked if there is an afterlife and he replies with a thoughtful non-answer answer.

Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking couldn't throw away her dead husband's shoes, for fear that he'd need them when he returned. After my grandfather died I used to fantasize that I could call him and he would answer. "Hey buddy," he'd say. "I was just thinking of you." But they changed the area code for that part of Pennsylvania, from 215 to 610, sold the house, and got rid of his clothes.

Guys with swords, sometimes cutting stuff

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2010

I don't know what this is, but it's funny and (via @sfj)

The dark side of Marvin Harrison

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2010

Did former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison shoot a North Philly drug dealer and later have him murdered?

The cops also thought it was wrong to drop the case just because a piece-of-shit famous person might be guilty of shooting a piece-of-shit unfamous person in a piece-of-shit part of the city. If prosecutors required every witness to have a pristine record, one detective says, "most of the cases in the city wouldn't be solved." None of the cops doubted for a second that if Harrison was a plumber or a UPS driver instead of a famous athlete, he'd have long since been arrested.

First person Tetris

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2010

Completely trippy version of Tetris where pushing the rotate button ROTATES THE WHOLE WORLD. (thx, ryan)

NYC timelapse

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2010

Watch the moon rise, planes land, smokestacks smoke, traffic pulse, and the sun rise.

Update: Coates posted an HD version of the same video.

Update: Here's another NYC timelapse, this one by Dale Short. He also made a timelapse of the construction of the Cooper Union Academic Building:

This is two and a half years of construction at about 4 frames per day up until May 24, 2009.

Ssam Bar

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2010

Call it overrated if you'd like, but Ssam Bar is still the only place in NYC (or perhaps the world) where you can eat, using chopsticks, German-inspired cuisine served to you by a native Spanish speaker while drinking a glass of sparkling red wine and listening to 90s hip-hop in a restaurant conceived by an American junior golf champion from Virginia whose parents were from Korea.

Rotating the dishes

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2010

And this is what I sometimes worry about: do I put them back on top of the stack? Do I put the bowls back in the empty front spot on the shelf? Because if I do that, then guess which dishes are going to get reached for the next time? That's right, the same ones.

I think about this every time I put our dishes back in the cupboard. I assumed it was just me and that I was crazy.

Convincing a death-row murderer not to die

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2010

I was drawn into Longo's life through the most improbable of circumstances — after the murders, while on the lam in Mexico, he took on my identity, even though we'd never met. Starting from this bizarre connection, using charm and guile and a steady stoking of my journalist's natural curiosity (he was innocent, he was framed, he had proof, he would show me), he soon became deeply enmeshed in my own life. In the first year, we exchanged more than a thousand pages of handwritten letters. I wrote a book about him.

After I started a family of my own, I didn't communicate with Longo anymore. But I was not disentangled from him. I remained haunted by Longo, by what he'd done; nearly every day, as I held my own kids, images of his crime — a child locked in a suitcase, or falling from a bridge, or fighting for air — would flit through my mind and I'd flinch, as if I'd brushed against a hot burner on the stove.

This a brutal read, fascinating in places (especially the economics of death row part) but I have a hard time wrapping my head around what this guy did and how he feels about it.

kottke.org = Chicken McNugget Value Meal

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2010

A bunch of web sites described as food.

Websites as food

Fast food is not exactly what I'm going for here, but McNuggets are tasty so I'll take it. (thx, nora)

Top secret vaccine chicken farms

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2010

The eggs for the swine flu vaccine are produced by dozens of farms classified by the US government as part of our country's "critical infrastructure".

To ensure it had enough eggs to meet pandemic-level demand, the government invested more than $44 million in the program over five years; more than 35 farms are now involved in this feathered Manhattan Project. No signs advertise the farms' involvement in the program, and visits from the outside world are discouraged. The government won't disclose where the farms are located, and the farmers are told to keep quiet about their work — not even the neighbors are to know.

These don't exactly sound like free-range operations:

After nine months of service, [the chickens] are typically euthanized because they can no longer lay "optimal eggs," Mr. Robinson said. "They've served their government," he said.

(thx, micah)

American Pixels

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2010

American Pixels

American Pixels is a project by Joerg Colberg that uses jpeg compression algorithms to create compelling images. From the technical notes:

ajpeg is a new image compression algorithm where the focus is not on making its compression efficient but, rather, on making its result interesting. As computer technology has evolved to make artificial images look ever more real - so that the latest generation of shooter and war games will look as realistic as possible - ajpeg is intended to go the opposite way: Instead of creating an image artificially with the intent of making it look as photo-realistic as possible, it takes an image captured from life and transforms it into something that looks real and not real at the same time.

The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, live in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2010

Working quickly, the DMTheatrics theater company has put together a stage performance of The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski beginning March 18 in NYC. The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, if you don't remember, is the what-if-Shakespeare-wrote-it version of The Big Lebowski that I linked to last week.

Interview with an anonymous Facebook employee

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2010

All sorts of goodies come up during the interview, including master passwords, keeping data after it has been deleted, and the the ubersmart Facebook engineers that you can't talk to "on a normal level".

Online PR dos and don'ts

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2010

Lindsay Robertson's list of guidelines for how PR people should interact with bloggers is spot on, especially the "pick eight sites" advice:

She picked the eight blogs that covered her client's subject, TV, that she liked the most on a personal level, read them religiously, and only sent them only the content she thought each blog would be into. While the rest of the publicists in her company were sending out mass emails to everyone, hoping to get bites from Perez Hilton, Gawker, HuffPo, or wherever, this publicist focused on a lower traffic tier with the (correct) understanding that these days, content filters up as much as it filters down, and often the smaller sites, with their ability to dig deeper into the internet and be more nimble, act as farm teams for the larger ones. A site can be enormously influential without having crazy eyeballs, because all eyeballs are not equal.

A lost Amazonian civilization

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2010

David Grann, the author of The Lost City of Z (which my wife scooped up off the bookshelf the other day and has barely put down since), reports on some new findings that indicate that there was a large civilization that lived in the jungles of the upper Amazon basin.

The latest discovery proves that we are only at the outset of this archeological revolution — one that is exploding our perceptions about what the Amazon and the Americas looked like before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Parssinen and the other authors of the study in Antiquity write, "This hitherto unknown people constructed earthworks of precise geometric plan connected by straight orthogonal roads... The earthworks are shaped as perfect circles, rectangles and composite figures sculpted in the clay rich soils of Amazonia."

See also 1491.

Me and you and ours

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2010

From the Wikipedia page about the .me domain, the top-level domain for Montenegro:

The dot-ME top level domain replaced the dot-YU (Yugoslavia) domain previously used by Serbia and Montenegro. In addition to declaring .me independent of .yu, a new .rs domain was deployed for Serbian use.

Lemme get this straight...when me was subtracted from you, what's left over is ours?

Programming lessons

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 13, 2010

A programmer lists 20 lessons learned in the past 20 years.

5. You are not the best at programming. Live with it. — I always thought that I knew so much about programming, but there is always someone out there better than you. Always. Learn from them.

(via @h_fj)

Interactive map of the Nazi invasion of the USSR

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2010

An amazingly extensive Flash presentation of the eastern front in Europe during World War II. It takes a while for the Flash to load because of all the resources but well worth the wait if you're at all interested in WWII. (thx, reis)

Conan O'Brien's statement regarding The Tonight Show

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2010

Pay attention, here's how you write a statement.

1. Address it to "People of Earth".
2. Write it like a person wrote it, not like a robot wrote it.
3. Oh, just go read it.

I think companies should hire comedy writers to write their press releases. Why not, right? They already produce our most trusted news sources.

Where the streets have your name

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2010

Stephen Von Worley wrote a nifty little web app for looking up US streets that share your (or your kid's or your spouse's) name. For instance, here are all the streets named Ollie and the streets named Meghan.

World's strongest man dead at 104

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2010

I doubt I'll live to 104 and my obituary won't begin like this:

Joe Rollino once lifted 475 pounds. He used neither his arms nor his legs but, reportedly, his teeth.

Rollino wasn't even felled by old age. He was killed by a minivan — a fucking Windstar! — while crossing the street in Brooklyn. Here's the deceased circa 1915 at age 10, already displaying a winning form:

Joe Rollino

Rest in peace, Joe.

The Morning News' 2010 Tournament of Books

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2010

The Morning News just announced the judges and books for their 2010 Tournament of Books — "the one and only March Madness battle royale of literary excellence" — and I am terrified to report that I will be one of the judges and therefore responsible for evaluating the writing (in public!) of some truly excellent authors like Nicholson Baker, Barbara Kingsolver, and the awesomely named Apostolos Doxiadis.

Fly Hard

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2010

If you liked Hedgehog Launch, you'll also like Fly Hard.

Unchopping a tree

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2010

From Maya Lin, a short video about deforestation.

The unchopped tree bit in the last minute is particularly beautiful.

2000 / 2010

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 11, 2010

Rachel Loshak is posting two photos a day on her A Year in the Day - 2010 blog; one taken in 2000 and one taken in 2010. The juxtaposition, as they say in the art world, is interesting. (via @ironicsans)

Carl Sagan's apple pie

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 11, 2010

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, first you must invent the universe.

That's Carl Sagan in Cosmos. Here's the recipe for Carl's apple pie.

Hoshi Saga

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 11, 2010

New Super Mario Bros Wii may be difficult, but the simple Hoshi Saga had me tearing my hair out way more than Bowser's minions.

And call your hairdresser because there is also Hoshi Saga 2, Hoshi Saga 3, and Hoshi Saga Ringo. (via buzzfeed)

The Office intern's photo blog

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 11, 2010

Ryan (the intern) from The Office has a photo blog.

Yes, acceptance is a theme of this photo, as well as all my photos; even the photos I take that capture isolationism have a theme of acceptance, a lack of acceptance. It is the ultimate compliment that this photo not only captured my soul, but yours as well.

Interesting letterhead

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 11, 2010

From the same folks who brought us the excellent Letters of Note comes Letterheady, a collection of interesting letterheads. Includes letterhead from Albert Einstein, Adolf Hitler, and my favorite: Robot Salesmen Ltd.

Robot Salesmen Ltd.

William S. Burroughs' stuff

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 11, 2010

The apartment that American writer William S. Burroughs inhabited while he lived in New York has been preserved since his death in 1997. Photographer Peter Ross took some photos of some of the contents, including a worn pair of shoes, some nunchucks, and a book called Medical Implications of Karate Blows.

Well, I bet I'll go through half a dozen iPhones in the time it would have taken Burroughs to resole those shoes. That makes me feel greedy, wasteful, and self-indulgent. Maybe I'd be better off keeping the modern world out. Maybe we all would. Let's all just grab our nunchucks, put on our shoes and hat and walk the streets of Manhattan.

Map of Netflix nation

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 11, 2010

Fascinating map of Netflix rental patterns for NYC, Atlanta, Miami, and nine other US cities. I wonder if you could predict voting patterns according to where people rent Paul Blart: Mall Cop or Frost/Nixon. I wonder what the map for Napoleon Dynamite looks like?

Update: Here's how the Times' graphic was made.

Most of the interesting trends occurred on a local scale — stark differences between the South Bronx and Lower Manhattan, for example, or the east and west sides of D.C. — and weren't particularly telling at a national scale. (We actually generated U.S. maps in PDF form that showed all 35,000 or so ZIPs, but when we flipped through them, with a few exceptions, we found the nationwide patterns weren't nearly as interesting as the close-in views.)

For the weekend

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 10, 2010

If you didn't get a chance to check this out earlier in the week, a friendly reminder: my 100 favorite links of 2009, culled from the archives of kottke.org. Good for killing several hours.

100 things we didn't know last year for 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2010

One of my favorite end-of-the-year lists: the BBC's 100 things we didn't know last year. For instance, the English Channel froze from Dover to Calais in 1673. Thanks, Little Ice Age.

Biosphere 2 in decline

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2010

Photographer Noah Sheldon took a series of photos of Biosphere 2 in Arizona. BLDGBLOG has more info.

The largest sealed environment ever created, constructed at a cost of $200 million, and now falling somewhere between David Gissen's idea of subnature — wherein the slow power of vegetative life is unleashed "as a transgressive animated force against buildings" — and a bioclimatically inspired Dubai, Biosphere 2 even included its own one million-gallon artificial sea.

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2010

What if The Big Lebowski had been written by Shakespeare?

It was of consequence, I should think; verily, it tied the room together, gather'd its qualities as the sweet lovers' spring grass doth the morning dew or the rough scythe the first of autumn harvests. It sat between the four sides of the room, making substance of a square, respecting each wall in equal harmony, in geometer's cap; a great reckoning in a little room. Verily, it transform'd the room from the space between four walls presented, to the harbour of a man's monarchy.

Yep, it's the entire screenplay. The Knave abideth, indeed. (thx, conor)

The rise of the punter

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2010

Are NFL punters the most valuable defensive players on their teams? Punters think so...and so do an increasing number of coaches and teams.

Steve Spagnuolo, who was the Giants' defensive coordinator before becoming head coach of the Rams last January, was one coach who appreciated what [Giants punter Jeff] Feagles could do. "I used to tell Jeff he was our most valuable player on defense," Spagnuolo says. "He didn't worry about his yardage or net punt average. All he worried about was putting our defense in the best position. He's a tremendous directional punter. He was always trying to back the offense inside the 10, and nobody did it better."

And of course I love this quote by Feagles:

The punter's mind is a lot more powerful than his leg.

We're at dinner right now

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2010

Due to a medical condition, Roger Ebert doesn't eat or drink anymore. He doesn't miss tasting food or drink, only the more social aspects of dining.

What I miss is the society. Lunch and dinner are the two occasions when we most easily meet with friends and family. They're the first way we experience places far from home. Where we sit to regard the passing parade. How we learn indirectly of other cultures. When we feel good together. Meals are when we get a lot of our talking done — probably most of our recreational talking. That's what I miss.

As Ben Trott says, the last paragraph is the killer.

Endless Migration

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2010

Endless Migration is a fun Flash game where you control a flock of geese while dogding airplanes and weather systems. (thx, neil)

Final edition

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2010

Twilight of the American newspaper tells the story of San Francisco and its newspapers. And in that tale, a glimpse that we might be losing our sense of place along with the newspaper.

We will end up with one and a half cities in America — Washington, D.C., and American Idol. We will all live in Washington, D.C., where the conversation is a droning, never advancing, debate between "conservatives" and "liberals." We will not read about newlyweds. We will not read about the death of salesmen. We will not read about prize Holsteins or new novels. We are a nation dismantling the structures of intellectual property and all critical apparatus. We are without professional book reviewers and art critics and essays about what it might mean that our local newspaper has died. We are a nation of Amazon reader responses (Moby Dick is "not a really good piece of fiction" — Feb. 14, 2009, by Donald J. Bingle, Saint Charles, Ill. — two stars out of five). We are without obituaries, but the famous will achieve immortality by a Wikipedia entry.

The Avon Barksdale Story

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2010

Here's the trailer for The Avon Barksdale Story, a documentary about the real-life Baltimore gangster than inspired the Avon Barksdale character on The Wire.

Barksdale's real name, Nathan Avon Barksdale, and his nickname, "Bodie," were both used in the series as composite characters. Avon Barksdale was The Wire's first season's central character. The storyline focused on the Barksdale clan and their ruthless hold on Baltimore's underworld and the intense efforts of law enforcement to stop them. Barksdale was a real crime figure in Baltimore.

(thx, mark)

Rating the pundits: 2009 NFL preseason predictions

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2010

How accurate are all those preseason predictions about how the coming NFL season will unfold?

ESPN Ranking OffsetsIn an effort to find out, I collected a number of preseason "team power rankings" two days before the 2009 NFL regular season started in September. These ranking lists are compiled by columnists and pundits from media outlets like Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, The Sporting News, and ESPN. In addition, I collected a fan-voted ranking from Yahoo Sports and the preseason Vegas odds to win the Super Bowl. As a baseline of sorts, I've also included the ranking for how the teams finished in the 2008 season.

Each team ranking from each list was compared to the final 2009 regular season standings (taken from this tentative 2010 draft order) by calculating the offset between the estimated rank to the team's actual finish. For instance, ESPN put the Steelers in the #1 slot but they actually finished 15th in the league...so ESPN's offset for the Steelers is 14. For each list, the offsets for all 32 teams were added up and divided by 32 to get the average number of places that the list was off by. See ESPN's list at right for example; you can see that each team ranking in the list was off by an average of about 6.3 places.

Here are the offset averages for each list (from best to worst):

Media outlet Offset ave. (# of places)
CBS Sports 5.6
The Sporting News 5.6
USA Today 5.6
Vegas odds 5.8
Yahoo Sports 5.9
Sports Illustrated 5.9
ESPN 6.3
Fox Sports 6.4
2008 finish 7.3

The good news is that all of the pundits beat the baseline ranking of last season's final standings. But they didn't beat it by that much...only 1.7 places in the best case. A few other observations:

- All the lists were pretty much the same. Last place Fox Sports and first place CBS Sports differ by less than one place in their rankings. The Steelers and Patriots were one and two on every list and the bottom five were pretty consistent as well. All the pundits said basically the same thing; no one had an edge or angle the others didn't.

- Nearly everyone was very wrong about the Steelers, Giants, Titans, Jets, Bengals, and Saints...and to a lesser extent, the Redskins, Bears, Vikings, and Packers. CBS Sports made the fewest big mistakes; their offset for the Bengals was only 4 places. The biggest mistakes were Fox Sports' choice and the Vegas ranking of the Bengals to finish 28th (offset: 19).

- Among the top teams, the Colts, Eagles, and Patriots more or less fulfilled the hopes of the pundits; only Fox Sports and Sports Illustrated missed the mark on one of these teams (the Colts by 9 places).

- The two "wisdom of the crowds" lists, Yahoo Sports and the Vegas list, ended up in the middle, better than some but not as good as some others. I suspect that there was not enough independent information out there for the crowd to make a good collective choice; those two lists looked pretty much like the pundits' lists.

- The teams who turned out to be bad were easier to pick than the good teams. The bottom five picks on each list were typically off by 3-5 places while the top five were off by more like 8-12 places (esp the Steelers and the Giants). Not sure why this is. Perhaps badness is easier to see than goodness. Or it's easier for a good-looking team to go bad than it is for bad-looking team to do better.

For the curious, here's the full Google Docs spreadsheet of numbers for all of the lists.

Methodology and notes: 1) I made an assumption about all these power ranking lists: that what the pundits were really picking is the final regular season ranking. That isn't precisely true but close enough for our purposes. 2) I have no idea what the statistical error is here. 3) The 2010 draft order list isn't a perfect ranking of how the teams finished, but it is close enough. 4) Using the final regular season records as the determining factor of rank is problematic because of the playoffs. By the end of the season, some teams aren't trying to win every game because they've either made the playoffs or haven't. So some teams might be a little bit better or worse than their records indicate. 5) The Vegas odds list was a rankng of the odds of each team making the Super Bowl, not the odds for the teams' final records. But close enough. 6) The Sports Illustrated list was from before the 2009 pre-season started; I couldn't find an SI list from right before the regular season. Still, it looked a lot like the other lists and did middlingly well.

The Noughtie List highlights, pt 5

posted by Jenni Leder Jan 07, 2010

It's Jenni, the curator of The Noughtie List. This is my last segment of highlights, but you can still email me if you find anything interesting to add. You can find my past highlights here: part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.

If you don't have time to check out the 350+ lists, I've put together a smaller creme de la creme collection that I haven't included in my past highlights.

The Spotted Pig's smoked haddock chowder recipe!!

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2010

If I had to choose my all-time favorite restaurant dishes, the smoked haddock chowder from The Spotted Pig would definitely be on there, possibly in the top five. Years after I asked Ed Levine of Serious Eats if he could get the recipe, he finally posts the recipe for me.

When infusing the haddock, think of making a cup of tea. You want to pull all the smoky flavors out into the cream. This will result in a deeply rich soup. Once you make this you will never go back to another chowder.

Thank you Ed and April! (I'm really holding back on the exclamation points here; I'm almost irrationally excited to cook this for dinner tomorrow night...if I can find smoked haddock somewhere in NYC...)

Fashion waste

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2010

It is winter. A third of the city is poor. And unworn clothing is being destroyed nightly.

That's the NY Times writing about H&M and Wal-Mart cutting up and then dumping unwanted inventory on the streets of Manhattan.

The 100 best links of 2009

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2010

For each of the past six years, I've collected my favorite stuff posted to kottke.org into a "best links of the year" list. 2009's list — the original 100 kottke.org posts containing those links, in random order — covers such topics as healthcare spending, Amish hackers, gaussian goats, surfing videos, fun Flash games, Pete Campbell dancing, Rwandan genocide, and something called the McGangBang, as well as the usual array of dazzling video, photos, and art featured on kottke.org in the past year. Kiss the rest of your day goodbye!

Past best-of lists: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

P.S. kottke.org's Person of the Year: Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger III.

Updates on previous entries for Jan 5, 2010*

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2010

Paris, 1962 orig. from Jan 04, 2010

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

Victorian infographics

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2010

This one is my favorite of the bunch.

2010 book preview

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2010

The Millions previews the most anticipated books of 2010.

Modern fossils

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2010

Artist Christopher Locke makes fossil sculptures of extinct technology, including cassette tapes, rotary telephones, and boom boxes.

Atari fossil

The orchid hypothesis

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2010

David Dobbs tells us about a new theory in genetics called the orchid hypothesis that suggests that the genes that underlie some of the most troubling human behaviors — violence, depression, anxiety — can, in combination with the right environment, also be responsible for our best behaviors.

Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care. So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind's phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success. With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail — but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society's most creative, successful, and happy people.

From start to finish, this is one of the most interesting things I've read in weeks.

Planet Styrofoam

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2010

The Kepler space telescope has found a planet with the density of Styrofoam.

Best blogs of '09

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2010

Worth checking out: Rex Sorgatz's list of the 30 best blogs of 2009.

Brad Graham, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 04, 2010

Old-school blogger Brad Graham was recently found dead at his home. More at MetaFilter, where a commenter says that he'd been ill for some time.

Pixar's conservatism

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 04, 2010

Pixar, social conservatives?

There is something conservative about much of Pixar's output, but when I say conservative, I mean a small "c" conservative that sees the world along the same lines as Edmund Burke: "A disposition to preserve." I'm going to call this "social conservatism," by which I don't mean the religious or moral conservatism of modern political discourse, but a conservatism that is interested in preserving traditional social features — in particular, the idea of "family" — but which sees such preservation as ultimately futile. The family will dissolve, eventually, and so we must do what we can to keep it going as long as possible. It is a worldview based not on progression but on loss.

Rest in peace?

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 04, 2010

This episode of This American Life about murder will put you in a weird mood. For instance, you might find yourself about to cry in the dairy aisle at the supermarket (not that such a thing happened to me, nosirreebob).

Act Two. The Good Son. - A story about a mother who wants to commit suicide and a son who dutifully helps her do it-even though his mother is a happy, healthy, independent person. How did they manage to pull it off? Practice, practice, practice.

Paris, 1962

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 04, 2010

Images from Paris cafes and nightlife in 1962, the same week Yves St. Laurent's runway show vaulted Dior to new heights. Many scenes around Les Halles (which no longer exists as it did then).

From the collection, a photo of some Les Halles butchers enjoying a drink at Au Pied de Cochon:

Au Pied De Cochon 1962

Update: As Wikipedia notes, Saint Laurent's fabled show took place in 1958; Dior was gone from Dior by '62. Not sure whether the caption is wrong or the photos are really from 1958. (thx, alex)

Errol Morris: Interviews

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 04, 2010

A new book of conversations with Errol Morris done throughout his career. The tables have turned!

By George

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 04, 2010

Maira Kalman takes on George Washington in the final installment of her excellent And the Pursuit of Happiness blog. The blog's entries will be collected into a book due out in October 2010.

Updates on previous entries for Jan 2, 2010*

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 03, 2010

Useless superpowers orig. from Jan 15, 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.

Updates on previous entries for Jan 1, 2010*

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 02, 2010

Amazing surfing video of Matt Meola orig. from Nov 04, 2009
Dogfighting vs. football in moral calculus orig. from Oct 12, 2009
Did Texas execute an innocent man? orig. from Sep 03, 2009
Missed connections, illustrated orig. from Sep 25, 2009
Watching them swim orig. from Jul 22, 2009
No one knows how to make a pencil orig. from Jul 09, 2009
Almost freezing to death orig. from Jun 04, 2009
The causes of increased healthcare spending in the US orig. from May 28, 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.

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