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How Did Roman Aqueducts Work?

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 18, 2022

I had always heard that the engineering of Roman aqueducts was impressive, but as this video demonstrates, I didn’t know the half of it. The stuff about how precise the descending slope of the aqueducts were over several hundred miles is just incredible. (via open culture)

Michelin Star Onions

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2022

I don’t know why I thought that chefs at really high-end restaurants cut onions the same way I do at home (except perhaps more carefully), but it turns out that they absolutely do not. The rationale behind the fussiness makes sense: the pieces need to be small enough to “melt away” when you’re making sauces. (via digg)

Impressive Drone Fly-Through Video of a New Tesla Factory

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2022

This drone fly-through of Tesla’s new factory in Berlin is amazing. I’ve never seen anything quite like this — the drone flies through the robotic machinery in between cycles of stamping out parts and also through the cars as they are being assembled. A uniquely effective how-things-are-made video.

The Return of Primitive Technology

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2022

After an absence of more than two years, John Plant has returned to the wilderness to build a thatched workshop. Plant is the sole proprietor behind the Primitive Technology YouTube channel, where he uploads deftly-edited videos of himself silently crafting tools, huts, weapons, and other Stone Age technologies in the forests of North Queensland, Australia. About the hut, he writes:

I built a thatched workshop as an area to do future projects in out of the rain and weather. The structure was a 4 x 4 m square covered with a gabled thatched roof where the lowest point was 2 m above the ground and the highest point was 4 m. This is the largest hut I’ve built to date taking 5 weeks to build. The structure sheds rain quite well and being open and without walls allows smoke to exit without issue.

If you’re unfamiliar with Plant, his videos are really well-done and quite meditative to watch. In a 2016 post, I wrote:

The way he shoots & edits these videos is so good…packing, what, dozens or even hundreds of years of technological evolution into a minute or two of wordless video.

So yeah, check these out if you have some time today to sit still and observe someone doing something they love. (via @nielsmann)

An Unbelievably Tiny RC Car

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 15, 2022

YouTuber diorama111 took a 1/87 scale model car — about the size of a Jolly Rancher — and converted it into an incredibly small RC car that’s controlled via Bluetooth and even has working headlights, tail lights, and turn signals. It’s rechargeable too — the charging light turns green when the battery is full. (via @willhains)

How Cascatelli, the Hot New Pasta Shape, Is Made

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2022

Back in March 2021, I wrote about cascatelli, the new pasta shape invented by Dan Pashman. Eater recently visited the Sfoglini factory to see how cascatelli (and all of their other pastas) are made. Interesting tidbit from the video: Sfoglini originally thought they would sell 5000 boxes and be done, but cascatelli is now the company’s third-best-selling pasta with no signs of slowing down. (thx, david)

How to Build the Perfect Medieval Castle

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 03, 2021

Castles across Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages were all pretty different, but by looking at the trends over a period of several centuries, you can determine how to build the perfect castle.

We trace the origins of the castle in the feudal system that emerged in France c.900 CE, and look at the early motte-and-bailey castle, used by the Normans to subjugate England and Wales in the 11th century. We then look at how castle’s became stronger and more sophisticated, with the addition of stone curtain walls, massive keeps, towers (square, round and D-shaped), as well as powerful gatehouses, barbicans, machicolations and moats.

(FYI: The sponsorship in this video for a medieval role-playing game is a little annoying but easily skippable and ultimately doesn’t detract from how interesting & educational the video is.)

How Bowling Balls Are Made

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2021

I have been a fan of how things are made videos since my Mister Rogers and Sesame Street days, so I was not expecting to be so surprised watching the video above about how bowling balls are made. It’s a ball — how complicated could it be? Well, it turns out that modern bowling balls contain an asymmetric weight block in the middle that looks a little like a car’s starter. Weird, right?

As I started to wonder why it would be advantageous to include such a lopsided core in a ball you want to roll predictably down a lane, I noticed YouTube’s algorithm doing its job in recommending that I watch Veritasium’s recent video on How Hidden Technology Transformed Bowling, which totally explains the wonky weight block thing:

The weight blocks are wonky in a precise way. They’re designed to cause the ball to contact the lane over more of the surface of the ball, giving it more traction once it hits the unoiled part of the lane, which is desirable for expert bowlers looking for a wicked hook. So cool! (thx, mick)

Update: Brendan Koerner wrote a piece for Wired several months ago about Mo Pinel, who revolutionized bowling with the asymmetric cores described in the video above.

Pinel toured Faball’s factory and examined a freshly made core that the company used in its Hammer brand. It had a symmetrical and unexciting shape — the center looked like a lemon, and there were two convex caps of equal size on either side. In a moment that has now passed into ball-design legend, Pinel grabbed the core, which was still soft because the polyester had yet to cure, and sliced off the ends with a palette knife. Then he smooshed the caps back on into positions that were slightly askew, so that the contraption now looked like a Y-wing fighter from Star Wars.

The ball that contained this revamped core, the Hammer 3D Offset, would become Pinel’s signature achievement. “That ball sold like hotcakes for three years, where the average life span of a ball was about six months,” says Del Warren, a former ball designer who now works as a coach in Florida. “They literally couldn’t build enough of them.” In addition to flaring like few other balls on the market, the 3D Offset was idiot-proof: The core was designed in such a way that it would be hard for a pro shop to muck up its action by drilling a customer’s finger holes incorrectly, an innovation that made bowlers less nervous about plunking down $200 for a ball.

(via @danhwylie)

How to Make a Bespoke Savile Row Suit

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 11, 2021

As part of an online course on fashion and design, MoMA visited the Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard to learn how they go about making one of their bespoke suits.

Behind a drawn curtain, a master cutter takes an initial series of 27 measurements: 20 for the jacket, 7 for the trousers. From these measurements, the cutter fashions a pattern in heavy brown paper. At the cutter’s table, the cloth is cut in using heavy shears, and the many pieces of fabric are rolled for each garment into tiny packages, which await the tailors.

See also $399 Suit Vs $7900 Suit. And you can check out the rest of the MoMA’s online course Fashion as Design in this YouTube playlist.

Learn How Roller Skates Are Made

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2021

the boot part of the roller skate being sewn by a machine

a roller skate in the process of getting its wheels put on

A few weeks ago, the New York Times for Kids section (aka the best section of the newspaper) showed us How to Build Roller Skates.

Among the most sought-after skates are Moxi’s Lolly Skates, rainbow-colored old-school four-wheelers made in Red Wing, Minn. Riedell, the 100-person company that makes the skates, is on track to make almost 80,000 pairs of roller skates this year, about four times as many as before the pandemic.

I poked around YouTube and found a couple of videos about how the skates are made as well:

You can buy your very own pair of Riedell skates direct from the company or from Amazon.

See also Say “No” to Crack and Say “Yes” to Roller Skating!, Dancing on Roller Skates with James Brown’s Style, and The Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink. (via the prepared)

Nomad Architecture: Pitching a Yurt in the Arctic Winter

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2021

Every few days, Nenet reindeer herders in the Siberian Arctic break camp and erect their tents (called chums) in a new location. This video documents how they do it.

The Nenet reindeer herders need to move their tent every few days throughout most of the year. Every time they migrate they must pack the whole tent away, drag it across the tundra on sledges, and erect it again in a fresh place, sometimes in temperatures of minus thirty degrees. Survival depends on working together as a team.

After staying in the wooded taiga for two months they start to migrate north following the ancient paths of migrating reindeer (caribou). In four months they will travel up to 1200km and must pack and move every three to five days to keep up with their herd. They must reach their summer quarters before the snows melt and flood great rivers with icy waters too cold and deep for the calves, born along the way, to cross.

See also How to Build an Igloo. (via the kid should see this)

How to Cut & Serve Every Different Kind of Cheese

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2021

Join cheesemonger Anne Saxelby as she shows us how to cut, serve, store, and accompany more than two dozen cheeses that cover the entire spectrum of cheese-dom, from Parmigiano-Reggiano to Cheddar to Roquefort to Burrata. This video is like a private cooking class with a very thoughtful & knowledgable host — and it made me incredibly hungry. A good pairing might be Saxelby’s recent book, The New Rules of Cheese.

But….. at the first mention of the word “fridge”, I could not help but think of this classic interview with French marketing consultant Clotaire Rapaille: In America, the Cheese Is Dead.

For example, if I know that in America the cheese is dead, which means is pasteurized, which means legally dead and scientifically dead, and we don’t want any cheese that is alive, then I have to put that up front. I have to say this cheese is safe, is pasteurized, is wrapped up in plastic. I know that plastic is a body bag. You can put it in the fridge. I know the fridge is the morgue; that’s where you put the dead bodies. And so once you know that, this is the way you market cheese in America.

How to Make a Netflix-Style Documentary

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2021

In this short video, YouTuber Paul E.T. shows how you can make a Netflix-style true crime documentary about anything. Even stolen toast. The equipment needs are pretty minimal - a good camera, a couple of lenses, some lighting, and a decent mic. The magic is in the editing. (via my son’s insistence that I click on this while browsing YouTube on the TV last night)

How Cast Iron Pans Are Made

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 02, 2021

For his video series for Eater, Daniel Geneen took a tour of the Lodge Cast Iron factory in South Pittsburg, Tennessee to see how cast iron skillets are made.

While all of this is happening, molds for pans are being made out of fine, pliable sand that’s compressed in massive machines. The ladles pour the molten metal into these molds. Once the metal is poured and cooled, the sand molds get placed into a shake-out machine that shakes the sand away from the pan, and then into an enormous drum to shake off the rest. The pans are finally put on a giant conveyor belt to be sorted and inspected. Any pans that are not up to muster get thrown back into the original scrap heap to be melted down again and remade into another pan.

In comparison, here’s how Borough Furnace makes their cast iron pans by hand in their much smaller workshop:

Very similar process, down to the sand molds, just on a much smaller and more hands-on scale.

How to Draw Yourself as a Peanuts Character

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2021

In this video, The Snoopy Show storyboard artist Krista Porter and Apple’s Anthony Jackson show us how to draw yourself as a Peanuts character. Once you get past all of the Apple synergy stuff (Pages! Pencil! Apple TV+!), this is actually pretty neat and you can obviously do it with any device/app or even pencil & paper. They’ve even included a PDF of drawing references to make it easier.

different faces drawn for Peanuts comic strip characters

See also Watch Charles Schulz Draw Charlie Brown — it takes him about 35 seconds. (via print)

The World’s Greatest Card Trick Can’t Be Taught

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2021

World-renowned magician David Berglas, now 94 years old, does a card trick that’s so effortlessly simple and dazzling that no one has figured it out and Berglas himself says it cannot be taught.

The trick is a version of a classic plot of magic, called Any Card at Any Number. These tricks are called ACAAN in the business.

ACAAN has been around since the 1700s, and every iteration unfolds in roughly the same way: A spectator is asked to name any card in a deck — let’s say the nine of clubs. Another is asked to name any number between one and 52 — let’s say 31.

The cards are dealt face up, one by one. The 31st card revealed is, of course, the nine of clubs. Cue the gasps.

There are hundreds of ACAAN variations, and you’d be hard pressed to find a professional card magician without at least one in his or her repertoire. (A Buddha-like maestro in Spain, Dani DaOrtiz, knows about 60.) There are ACAANs in which the card-choosing spectator writes down the named card in secrecy; ACAANs in which the spectator shuffles the deck; ACAANs in which every other card turns out to be blank.

For all their differences, every ACAAN has one feature in common: At some point, the magician touches the cards. The touch might be imperceptible, it might appear entirely innocent. But the cards are always touched.

With one exception: David Berglas’s ACAAN. He would place the cards on a table and he didn’t handle them again until after the revelation and during the applause. There was no sleight of hand, no hint of shenanigans. It was both effortless and boggling.

Of course, his unwillingness to reveal how the trick works or even that he is unable to show someone else how to do it could be part of the trick. But in recent years, Berglas has pulled back the curtain on most of his other tricks, like the time he made a grand piano vanish into thin air, explained by Berglas himself in a YouTube video:

But not this card trick, as the author of the Times’ piece discovers. A delightful read.

Update: Part of the reason I love publishing posts like this (about magic and unknowable tricks) is that I know I’m gonna get some great feedback. In 2011, Richard Kaufman wrote a book called The Berglas Effects with the participation of Berglas himself in which his version of ACAAN is explained at length. Here’s Kaufman himself remarking on the Times story:

The writer is under the odd impression that “The Berglas Effect” has never been explained and is not explained in my book. There are 75 pages devoted to it.

So…huh. I wonder what the book says about the trick? (thx, bill)

How to Take the Perfect Nap

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2021

As someone who is mostly unable to nap, I’ve always felt a twinge of envy towards those who can shut their eyes, drift off for 20 minutes, and awake refreshed & raring to go. Maybe I’ll have better luck after watching this TED-Ed lesson by sleep researcher Sara Mednick (author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life.), which explains when and how long you should nap for optimal results. (via open culture)

How to Draw a Self-Portrait in 11 Levels of Increasing Complexity

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2021

In this video, artist TM Davy demonstrates how to draw a self-portrait in 11 levels of increasing complexity. As he notes early on, this isn’t so much about the mechanics of art as the levels of thinking that go into creating a portrait. Davy defines complexity as “the layers of thinking that help us to build observational truths that are necessary for a picture that somehow feels right”.

In his journey towards complexity in portraiture, he starts with the “solar head” (basically a smiley face) and moves to individually identifying features, depicting simple volume & proportion, and the more complex geometry of the human face. From there, observation becomes increasingly important — he uses variations on “looking” or “observing” many times in his explanation — as he covers contours, light & shadow, chiaroscuro, and color.

See also Tony Hawk on the 21 Levels of Complexity of Skateboard Tricks and A Demonstration of 16 Levels of Piano Playing Complexity.

‘Meet Some Of The Last Papyrus Makers In Egypt Keeping A 5,000-Year-Old Craft Alive’

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2021

In the village of Al-Qaramous, Egypt, local businesses and artisans are carrying on a papyrus-making process that dates back 5000 years, updated with some modern techniques to speed up the process and improve the product.

The Rules of Dozens of Sports Explained in Short Videos

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2021

On his YouTube channel, Ninh Ly has created almost 100 short videos that clearly and simply explain the rules of all kinds of different sports. Basketball? Explained. Cricket? Explained. (I feel like I finally understand cricket!) Snooker? Explained. Jai Alai? Explained. Curling? Explained. Quidditch?! Explained! The rules of some sports are more complex than others and the explanations move along at a pretty good clip, so decreasing the playback speed (click on the gear at the bottom of the video player) is advised.

This will be essential when the next Olympic Games roll around and everyone gets intensely interested in the rules of handball, fencing, and badminton for two weeks. (via open culture)

How to Safely Remove Bees for Relocation

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2021

This video of beekeeper Erika Thompson removing a hive of bees from the floor of an old shed was absolutely riveting! I loved every minute of it. Working without a beekeeping suit or even gloves, Thompson begins by locating the hive with a thermal imager, cuts open the floor, and gently lifts up the flooring to reveal the hive. After transferring the hive’s honeycomb to a new box hive, she cajoles the bees into their new home through the use of smoke, relocating the queen, and even scooping them in there with her bare hand. She ends the video with “and it was another great day of saving the bees” and that’s 100% right.

You can watch more videos by Thompson on YouTube, including this longer one of her removing bees from a camper. You can also check out her work on Instagram or read about how she started her company, Texas Beeworks.

“I didn’t become a beekeeper because I wanted to sell honey, and I think that’s what separates me from a lot of other beekeepers,” she says. “Whatever way you’re inspired by bees or to keep bees I think is wonderful. But in full transparency … I’d rather focus on creating more bees than having them produce more honey.”

Her videos have been going viral on TikTok lately, which led to an appearance on the Today Show, where she explained why she was working without protective gear.

“Most honey bees are very gentle. They’re docile and they don’t want to sting you. I’ve been doing this for a long time and over the years I’ve learned to read the bees’ behavior and these were just very calm, gentle bees. They were also very cooperative and got into their new hive. This was just one case where I could work without gear and it was safer for me and the bees.”

(via austin kleon)

Update: Pro tip: always have an extra queen on hand, just in case — it might just help you have another great day of saving the bees. (via @lauraolin)

Stone Lithography

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2021

Well, add stone lithography to the list of cool hobbies I will do once I’m done sitting in this chair watching videos about things like stone lithography.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec revolutionised the world of graphic design with his striking posters at the end of the nineteenth century. This was in some ways due to his innovative approach to stone lithography to create his colourful designs.

If you think this video is too brief, you can check out this longer one. (via the kid should see this)

Fried Egg Friday

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2021

Hi! This is a fried egg blog now. A couple of weeks ago, I shared how master chef Jacques Pépin fries an egg: as gently as the summer breeze on the cheek of a butterfly. That post resulted in several tweets and emails from people saying they had tried it and become instant converts. But like the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to fry an egg. A few years back, José Andrés showed Stephen Colbert how to make Spanish fried eggs:

I have to say…witnessing this technique (which is similar to those used in Asian cooking) blew my dang socks off. My favorite dinner for the past several months has been avocado toast and the key, IMO, is a crispy fried egg on top. I’ve slowly been upping the heat and amount of oil I use when frying, but Andrés has empowered me to go for broke next time with full power and deep oil. Can’t wait. (thx, @Erik_Naught_6)

Watch Two Korean Master Potters at Work

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 11, 2021

After the salt harvesting video I posted this afternoon, I got on a mini-roll watching videos from Eater’s Handmade series — specifically two Korean pottery videos. In the first video, master craftsman Yu Myeong Sik from the Kwangjuyo Group demonstrates how to make incredibly beautiful and delicate handmade bowls:

While in this one, Heo Jin Kyu shows how he makes huge pots used for fermenting kimchi called onggi:

As you might expect from the finished products, there are striking differences in their respective processes, but the level of craftsmanship and respect for traditional materials & practices are very similar.

Harvesting Salt From a Very Salty Lake

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 11, 2021

In this video, Eater visits Lake Retba in Senegal to watch how they harvest salt from the lake. As you’ll see, the process differs from harvesting sea salt. Lake Retba is so salty — Wikipedia has it listed as the world’s second most saline body of water, more than 10X saltier than the ocean — that salt crystals naturally form at the surface of the lake and then fall to the lake bed. Harvesting it then becomes a matter of collecting it from the bottom and the lake naturally replenishes the supply every 45 days or so.

Hey, Let’s Watch Jacques P├ępin Fry Eggs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2021

Fried eggs are something almost everyone, regardless of culinary prowess, can cook. Even so, in the hands of a master chef like Jacques Pépin, even this simple dish can be improved upon. For starters, he uses waaaay more butter in the pan than most people probably do. And there’s water involved? The finished product looks amazing.

After you’re done watching that, you should check out Pépin making scrambled eggs:

And then finally, here’s Pépin making omelettes two ways (country/”American-style” and classic French):

Love that backhand plating technique!

How to Take a Walk During a Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2021

With tongue in cheek, Jon Methven writes about what it’s like to take a walk during the pandemic.

My knapsack is full. I’ve stowed backup masks should I encounter any maskless pandemic denialists. I have Band-Aids, cotton balls and large-wound bandages, in case my run-in with the anti-maskers goes awry. I packed five gallons of backup sanitizer and a refill funnel. I have nine factory-sealed packages of antiseptic wipes. I packed face shields and oral swabs and disposable thermometers in case I need to self-test. I have a rolling oxygen tank. This jaunt is just what I need to unwind.

At least now people without kids know what it’s like leaving the house with a toddler.

How to Self-Rescue If You Fall Through Thin Ice

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2020

In this video, Kenton Whitman explains how to survive a fall through ice on a frozen lake or river.

The explanation could have been tighter and more engaging, but it gets really interesting around the 6:40 mark when Whitman ventures out onto some ice and falls through it to demonstrate the self-rescue technique (and he’s not wearing a wetsuit). Watching him relax to mitigate the cold shock response in realtime is spellbinding. His calmness really drives home that if you don’t panic and think clearly, you actually have a lot of time and energy to get yourself out of trouble. From the Four Phases of Cold Water Immersion:

While it varies with water temperature and body mass, it can take 30 minutes or more for most adults to become even mildly hypothermic in ice water. Knowing this is vitally important in a survival situation, since people would be far less likely to panic if they knew that hypothermia would not occur quickly and that they have some time to make good decisions and actions to save themselves.

Oh and don’t miss when Whitman gets back into the water so that you can see him climb out from another camera angle. Don’t try this at home, kids.

The Art of Traditional Japanese Wood Joinery

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 15, 2020

This video is three minutes and nine seconds of pure precision — welcome to the world of Japanese wood joinery. Carpenter Dylan Iwakuni wordlessly demonstrates taking two or more pieces of wood and (improbably, impossibly) making them one. Seriously, I am gobsmacked at how exactly these bits of wood fit together.

If you enjoyed that, you may want to check out another of Iwakuni’s videos, Making the “Impossible Joint”.

(via colossal & the kid should see this)

A Marvelous Marble Machine for Making Music

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2020

For the past four years, Martin Molin of the “folktronica” band Wintergatan has been building a marble machine that the band can use to make music. He’s documenting the entire build on YouTube in a long series of videos (149 and counting). The most recent videos show Molin’s test of the machine with thousands of marbles and his tweaking to get things juuuust right. In the one above, he makes several adjustments from failures observed from his last test and then runs 30,000 marbles through the machine.

These videos are long, so you’d be forgiven for skipping to the end just to see the machine in action, but Molin is really enthusiastic — obsessed in the best way — and is great at showing his work. People really digging into things, especially tangible mechanical things, and bringing us along for the ride is always interesting. (thx, sippey)