Modern-Day John Henry Dies Trying To Out-Spreadsheet Excel 11.0. "Now, 20 rows down, the accounting's hard as granite -- it's the hardest thing an office man can stand, but you keep your pencil sharp, and you keep your pencil working. It's the life of a numbers-crunchin' man."
Fingernails painted with the Six Apart logo. Now, that's a fan.
Boxes and Arrows has an interview with Adam Greenfield on his new book, Everyware. "Increasingly invisible but present everywhere in our lives, [computing] has moved off the desktop and out into everyday life -- affecting almost every one of us, whether we're entirely aware of it or not."
The story of downtown San Francisco's failed Metreon. A mall by any other name is still a mall.
David argues for more variation and serendipity in video games. "...games overcompensate for their lack of variance in game play with over-the-top psychedelic graphics and sound effects. This is not a new problem of course with Pac-man and Super Mario Brothers often held up as classic examples."
Andy unearths an old video game by Penn and Teller called Smoke and Mirrors, which famously features a game in which you drive a bus for 16 straight hours to score a single point. See also Takeshi no Chousenjou, a similarly challenging Japanese game.
Slashlinks FEB 27
Ben Engebreth, a compadre of mine at the Eyebeam OpenLab, has released Slashlinks, a tool for automatically mirroring links from del.icio.us to your personal web site. At first glance it might sound like a simple archiving tool, a way to get your data out of del.icio.us, but what it actually does is reproduces your del.icio.us links on your web site.
Check out Ben's links for an example. If you click on a tag name, you can see that not only the links but the underlying tag structure has been reproduced locally. Once the links are on your site, you can style them how you wish (as Ben has), publish them where you want, etc. And Slashlinks will also keep your local links fresh...if you keep using the publishing tools at del.icio.us to add links, they will automagically show up on your site.
Fox lips the new blond? A slideshow of the glut of blond female news anchors concludes by asking if big puffy "Fox" lips are the next big trend. "When Rita Cosby switched from Fox to MSNBC, a construction crane was called in to move [her lips], which resemble a pair of oily, red eels mating angrily."
eBay bidders..."would you rather pay $10 and have free shipping or pay $5 and pay $6 for shipping?" Most prefer the latter.
Ultimate screenshot collection of Tetris for the Nintendo DS. Metroid + Tetris??!! Awesome.
Olympic snowboarders competed while listening to their iPods. The goal? Effortless concentration. "It enables you to focus on what you're doing without actually focusing, if that makes any sense. You're not over-thinking, and that's the best way to perform the harder tricks and maneuvers."
You want to see the best list of advice ever, one that might save your career or remaining sanity? 9 tips for running more productive meetings.
Kian and Remee are twin daughters born to a UK couple...one is black and one is white. "If a sperm containing all-white genes fuses with a similar egg and a sperm coding for purely black skin fuses with a similar egg, two babies of dramatically different colours will be born. The odds of this happening are... a million to one."
Chris Ware overrated? That's what this illustration fan thinks.
Unknown (relatively speaking) indie rock bands are turning down large sums of money from GM for licensing their music for Hummer ads. "It had to be the worst product you could give a song to. It was a really easy decision. How could we go on after soundtracking Hummer? It's just so evil." (via rw)
For those that like wearing what you're eating, check out Jeremy Scott's food-inspired fashion. Hamburger shirt and french fry pants...yummy. (via culiblog)
In reaction to the South Dakota Senate passing an abortion ban bill, a woman named Molly has posted an abortion manual for the women of South Dakota:
In the 1960s and early 1970s, when abortions were illegal in many places and expensive to get, an organization called Jane stepped up to the plate in the Chicago area. Jane initially hired an abortion doctor, but later they did the abortions themselves. They lost only one patient in 13,000 -- a lower death rate than that of giving live birth. The biggest obstacle they had, though, was the fact that until years into the operation, they thought of abortion as something only a doctor could do, something only the most trained specialist could perform without endangering the life of the woman.
They were deceived -- much like you have probably been deceived. An abortion, especially for an early pregnancy, is a relatively easy procedure to perform. And while I know, women of South Dakota, that you never asked for this, now is the time to learn how it is done. There is no reason you should be beholden to doctors -- especially in a state where doctors have been refusing to perform them, forcing the state's only abortion clinic to fly doctors in from elsewhere.
Don Knotts, 1924-2006 FEB 26
Were you up on the High Line FEB 24
Cheaper airline tickets FEB 23
TechCrunch reports on FlySpy, a site that will help people buy the lowest priced airplane ticket for a given destination:
The way it works is that I give it a departure city and a destination city and optionally a departure date and length of stay. The search result, which returns very quickly, will present me with a graph of flight prices over the next 30 days so that I can quickly look at which days are the cheapest to fly. To book a flight I just click on the point in the graph. Simple.
That's a pretty useful UI innovation (especially if you're able to drill down into individual days to find the lowest fare on that day), but it doesn't help you much if your travel dates are inflexible. The killer airline reservation app that I've been wanting for several years would tell you when to buy your ticket for a particular flight. Airlines update their fares several times a day and hundreds of times over the course of a month. Depending on when you buy, it might cost you $250 or $620 for the same exact ticket.
What this hypothetical app would do is track fare histories and then release forecasts based on those histories. If you want a RT to SFO from JFK on 4/12/06 returning 4/17/06, the site would tell you to buy your ticket three weeks out or when the price hits $298, whichever comes first, but to never wait until the week before, when similar flights begin to sell out.
A thornier problem than the one FlySpy addresses, but it could save people a lot of money. (This would work for hotels and rental cars as well probably, although I don't think their prices fluctuate as much.)
Oh, what a year FEB 22
One year ago today, I asked the readers of kottke.org to become micropatrons and support my efforts in producing the site for a year. Over the course of three weeks, people generously sent in their financial support, giving me enough to pay my salary for the entire year and not have to bug you about it every few days.
So the year is up and I've been trying to think about what to say on this occasion for, oh, about six months now, but I'm undecided even now. I guess I'll start with the important bit.
I'm not going to be asking for contributions again. Part of it has to do with the reasons outlined at the bottom of this post. I haven't grown traffic enough or developed a sufficient cult of personality to make the subscription model a sustainable one for kottke.org...those things just aren't interesting to me.
The other big reason is that my life has changed a lot in the past year. Growing a new business with a novel (or at least challenging) business model requires lots of time and energy to build the necessary momentum...basically approaching it with a startup mentality: long hours, work on the weekends, less time to spend with family and friends, making work the #1 priority, etc. My (unstated) intention from the beginning was to approach the site as a startup, but along the way life intervened (in a good way) and I couldn't focus on it as much as I wanted to. The site became a normal job, a 9-to-5 affair, which meant that I could keep up with it, but growth was hard to come by.
So what's going to happen with kottke.org? I'm not quite sure at this point. In the short term, it's going to be taking a back seat to some other things going on in my life. Longer term, who knows? I might look for other ways to fund my efforts on the site or maybe it goes back to being more of a hobby. But there will be posts and links and other things here almost daily, just like there have been for almost 8 years now.
And that leaves approximately everything else, if anything, unsaid. If you're curious about something related to the end of the micropatron experiment, send me an email with your question. I'll choose the most interesting and/or representative ones and post my responses to them in a future entry. I'll give special consideration to questions from micropatrons. Or post your thoughts to your blog, send me a link, and I'll compile those as well. And as always, your feedback is appreciated via email. (And sorry in advance if I can't respond to your questions individually, although I'll try my best.)
 Again, thanks to everyone who contributed for their support. In this age of ad-supported media, it means a great deal to me that you felt strongly enough about kottke.org to support it directly. I'd also like to thank Eyebeam, the companies and people who contributed the fund drive gifts, thelist, Jonah, and Meg for their help and support.
 Since everyone and their uncle has been asking, about 1450 micropatrons contributed $39,900 over the past year...99.9% of that coming during the 3 week fund drive.
Who knew David Sedaris' family was so full of art experts? "I don't know if you realize it, but it seems that Picasso is actually Spanish."
Video compilation of the best dunks from the 2006 NBA dunk contest. Andre Iguodala's off-the-back-of-the-backboard and behind-the-back dunks were both very sick and wrong.
NPR report on The Elder Wisdom Circle, a group of seniors who use the combined wisdom of their ages to help people who write in with questions. What a nice idea. I love the response to the first letter..."if she really was serious about you, boy, oh boy, she would be running to the court to get a separation and divorce". Here's the EWC web site. (thx, jeff)
Justin reports on his family's results of a neat project called the Geneographic Project, co-produced by National Geographic and IBM. If you purchase a testing kit, they'll trace the specific genetic markers of your ancestors back to (possibly) our common African root.
The fashion industry doesn't try to control its creativity the way that the music and film industries do. "The fashion world recognizes that creativity cannot be bridled and controlled and that obsessive quests to do so will only diminish its vitality. Other content industries would do well to heed this wisdom."
Debate between Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnik on the health care systems in the US and Canada. "Adam Gopnik and Malcolm Gladwell have both lived in Canada and developed strong feelings about socialized health care -- pro and con."
Modern mathematical proofs are so complex that it's becoming impossible to prove them with absolute certainty. About a 1980 proof, an expert says "twenty-five years later we're still not sure if it's correct or not. We sort of think it is, but no one's ever written down the complete proof". I don't think I heard my math teachers ever say "sort of".
Representation of the London Tube map if the stations were sponsored by products or companies. I love the Pizza Hutney, Upministry of Sound, and iPoddington stops. Rather DFWesque. (via bb)
Benford's Law describes a curious phenomenon about the counterintuitive distribution of numbers in sets of non-random data:
A phenomenological law also called the first digit law, first digit phenomenon, or leading digit phenomenon. Benford's law states that in listings, tables of statistics, etc., the digit 1 tends to occur with probability ~30%, much greater than the expected 11.1% (i.e., one digit out of 9). Benford's law can be observed, for instance, by examining tables of logarithms and noting that the first pages are much more worn and smudged than later pages (Newcomb 1881). While Benford's law unquestionably applies to many situations in the real world, a satisfactory explanation has been given only recently through the work of Hill (1996).
I first heard of Benford's Law in connection with the IRS using it to detect tax fraud. If you're cheating on your taxes, you might fill in amounts of money somewhat at random, the distribution of which would not match that of actual financial data. So if the digit "1" shows up on Al Capone's tax return about 15% of the time (as opposed to the expected 30%), the IRS can reasonably assume they should take a closer look at Mr. Capone's return.
Since I installed Movable Type 3.15 back in March 2005, I have been using its "post to the future" option pretty regularly to post my remaindered links...and have been using it almost exclusively for the last few months. That means I'm saving the entries in draft, manually changing the dates and times, and then setting the entries to post at some point in the future. For example, an entry with a timestamp like "2006-02-20 22:19:09" when I wrote the draft might get changed to something like "2006-02-21 08:41:09" for future posting at around 8:41 am the next morning. The point is, I'm choosing basically random numbers for the timestamps of my remaindered links, particularly for the hours and minutes digits. I'm "cheating"...committing post timestamp fraud.
That got me thinking...can I use the distribution of numbers in these post timestamps to detect my cheating? Hoping that I could (or this would be a lot of work wasted), I whipped up a MT template that produced two long strings of numbers: 1) one of all the hours and minutes digits from the post timestamps from May 2005 to the present (i.e. the cheating period), 2) and one of all the hours and minutes digits from Dec 2002 - Jan 2005 (i.e. the control group). Then I used a PHP script to count the numbers in each string, dumped the results into Excel, and graphed the two distributions together. And here's what they look like, followed by a table of the values used to produce the chart:
As expected, 1 & 2 show up less than they should during the cheating period, but not overly so. The real fingerprint of the crime lies with the 8s. The number 8 shows up during the cheating period ~64% more than expected. After thinking about it for awhile, I came up with an explanation for the abundance of 8s. I often schedule posts between 8am-9am so that there's stuff on the site for the early-morning browse and I usually finish off the day with something between 6pm-7pm (18:00 - 19:00). Not exactly the glaring evidence I was expecting, but you can still tell.
The obvious next question is, can this technqiue be utilized for anything useful? How about detecting comment, trackback. or ping spam? I imagine IPs and timestamps from these types of spam are forged to at least some extent. The difficulties are getting enough data to be statistically significant (one forged timestamp isn't enough to tell anything) and having "clean" data to compare it against. In my case, I knew when and where to look for the cheating...it's unclear if someone who didn't know about the timestamp tampering would have been able to detect it. I bet companies with services that deal with huge amounts of spam (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, TypePad, Technorati) could use this technique to filter out the unwanted emails, comments, trackbacks, or pings...although there's probably better methods for doing so.
 I've been doing this to achieve a more regular publishing schedule for kottke.org. I typically do a lot of work in the evening and at night and instead of posting all the links in a bunch from 10pm to 1am, I space them out over the course of the next day. Not a big deal because increasing few of the links I feature are time-sensitive and it's better for readers who check back several times a day for updates...they've always got a little something new to read.
 You'll also notice that the distributions don't quite follow Benford's Law either. Because of the constraints on which digits can appear in timestamps (e.g. you can never have a timestamp of 71:95), some digits appear proportionally more or less than they would in statistical data. Here's the distribution of digits of every possible time from 00:00 to 23:59:
1 - 25.33
2 - 17.49
3 - 12.27
4 - 10.97
5 - 10.97
6 - 5.74
7 - 5.74
8 - 5.74
9 - 5.74
Killing female fetuses in the womb is becoming more of a problem in Punjab, India. "In the last one year in [Dhanduha village], against 12 boys only three girls were born, and in the last five years, 34 baby boys were born as against only 18 girls. A sex ratio of just 529:1000!" (via 3qd)
Fun analysis of a moviegoer's six years of ticket stubs. You can see the ticket prices rise over the years, but what's really interesting is the correspondence between the ticket price and his opinion of the movie...he ended up paying more for the movies he really liked.
Edward Burtynsky and World Changing have collaborated on a video using his photographs to depict humanity's impact on the planet. Burtynsky has pledged $50,000 from his 2005 TED Prize (as has the Sapling Foundation) to match donations to World Changing. More information on the TED blog.
Some elderly Americans are foregoing retirement homes in favor of living permanently on cruise ships, in part because they are cheaper and the service is better. (thx cathy)
Decent article about blogs (a rarity these days) from the Financial Times. "Each blogger was his, or her, own printing press, spontaneously exercising their freedom to criticise. Which is great. But along the way, opinion became the new pornography on the internet."
Favorite new word (this week): snowclone, a description of "a type of formula-based cliche which uses an old idiom in a new context". Like "____ is the new ____", "____, now more than ever", or "all your ____ are belong to us". (via anil)
George W. Bush makes a guest post on Design Observer: "I don't know much about designing rugs. So I [...] delegated. That's one of the things you do in decision-making."
Pride and Prejudice FEB 20
As far as I'm concerned, Will Ferrell et al., Jon Stewart, or the Farrelly brothers have nothing on Jane Austen when it comes to humor (or would that be humour?). And this latest film adaptation of Pride & Prejudice sticks closely to the book and strikes just the right tone. The book, of course, has lots more goodies in it, but as an abridged version the film couldn't be better. Also, since it was published back in 1813, P&P is in the public domain and can be read online for free.
Exciting new Web 2.0 product: JusFlam is "the social network for people who enjoy Jesus, and flames, and rotating stuff". The beta seems to be down at the moment...it's throwing a "due to overwhelming server load, that is due to underwhelming development methodologies and system architecture, due to limited resources, due to limited business direction, due to giving away a complex web service for free with no feasible plan for revenue generation besides 'getting bought by google or maybe yahoo', we are unable to process your request at this time" error.
This guy has had enough of the pre-exit receipt checking at Best Buy (you're under no legal obligation to comply) but is hassled by Best Buy employees about seeing his receipt all the way out to the parking lot.
Rob at Cockeyed is building a photographic height/weight grid, effectively a catalog of people's body types. Description and call for entries here.
My pal Judith lost her camera on vacation in Hawaii and tried to make the best of the situation by starting a project using other people's Flickr photos to reconstruct a trip journal. Now, a family has found her camera but won't give it back to her because they don't want to take it away from the 9 yo kid that found it. "We can't tell him that he has to give it up. Also we had to spend a lot of money to get a charger and a memory card". The dishonesty displayed here is maddening.
You're Safired! FEB 19
Wes Felter calls for the ass fact-checking of William Safire over the latter's article in the NY Times about blog jargon and he's not wrong. Wes correctly notes the etymology of "weblog" and "blog" and hopefully the people responsible for things like the AP Style Guide, English dictionaries, and influential columns like On Language will, at some point, do the 20 minutes of research necessary to convince them and the unwashed journalist masses that "blog" is not and was never short for "web log".
Safire also gets tripped up on where the word "blogosphere" came from. While William Quick's usage in 2002 popularized the term, Brad Graham first used the term in 1999.
Check out all of the chrome in the new version of Outlook. Good grief. Even the veracity of the emailer's claim is questionable.
Beautiful people commit less crime. "Other studies have shown that unattractive men and women are less likely to be hired, and that they earn less money, than the better-looking. Such inferior circumstances may steer some to crime, Mocan and Tekin suggest."
A 1904 photograph by Edward Steichen was recently sold at auction for more than $2.9 million, the most anyone's ever paid for a photo at auction. (via consc)
My favorite Winter Olympics coverage is this correspondence being posted several times daily to Slate. If this is what the NBC coverage was like, it might actually be entertaining.
The secret to Web 2.0: what do Flickr, Ning, Kiko, Vimeo, Shadows, YouTube, Furl, NewsGator, Shutterfly, Mefeedia, Feedster, Planzo, Zazzle, Tailrank, Yakalike, Qoop, Lulu, Blish, Flagr, FireAnt, Odeo, Measure Map, EVDB, Gather, Oyogi, Last.fm... FEB 17
...Jotspot, Frappr, Yedda, Writeboard, Kanoodle, Memeorandum, SuprGlu, 43 Things, Findory, Clipmarks, Wayfaring, AllPeers, Zoozio, Ziggs, Wink, Reddit, Digg, Gumshoo, Ta-da List, Wikipedia, Pubsub, Ookles, YubNub, Bloop, FeedBurner, Bloglines, Gabbr, Gcast, Blinkx, Openomy, Riffs, Myspace, Pandora, LookLater, 30 Boxes, Rollyo, Squishr, Plazes, Noodly, Wondir, Protopage, Blummy, Jots, Vizu, Del.icio.us, Tagyu, Writely, Simpy, Gtalkr, Truveo, EgoSurf, Mozy, Quimble, Basecamp, Squidoo, NewsVine, Clipfire, Lookster, Netvibes, Facebook, Goowy, Yelp, Magnolia, Technorati, Gmail, Feedmarker, Mercora, StumbleUpon, and SpinSpy all have in common?
They're all web sites. The truth was staring us right in the face all this time.
ps. Damn Movable Type and its restriction on the number of characters I can put in the title of a post. varchar(255) my ass.
People are changing how they spend their money, opting for buying experiences rather than things. "Just as we moved from a goods to a service economy, now we are shifting from a service to an experience economy." (thx, malatron)
Gold medal winning mogulist Dale Begg-Smith, described during the Olympic telecast as a successful entrepreneur, was actually a bigwig at a spyware company. Business aside, his final run wasn't good enough to warrant the gold. (via /.)
Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery is set to open in the Time Warner Center on March 6. They're going to "serve various breads, pastries, and cookies of the highest quality" as well as "sandwiches, salads, soups, and even hand-made chocolates".
Some big brands like Coke, McDonald's, and Disney are growing more unpopular with "global teens". "What applies to young people is 'Did it break? And did my friends say it was cool?' [It's an] opinion process that goes on through IMs and text-messaging, and it applies to everything from movies to cargo pants." (thx, stan)
How to choose steak at the supermarket. "If the words 'chuck' or 'round' are in the name of the steak, it will need to be marinated and then slowly cooked in liquid to be tender."
"If I were told that I had FEB 16
"If I were told that I had one last meal before I died and then I was given the choice between a super chic 15 course degustation meal cooked by Thomas Keller, Tetsuya Wakuda, Ferran Adria and Joel Robuchon and a perfect cheeseburger, the choice would be easy. I'd pick the burger without a moment's hesitation."
The Remembering Site is a place to create and share personal histories. The questions the site asks when recording your rememberances are quite extensive (here's a sample biography/history)...what a great way to record the details of your life for your family and loved ones.
The Brokeback Mountain humor industry is in full swing these days, but I thought this one was pretty funny: Weekly Grocery Lists for Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, Summer 1962. (via lia)
Not fit to print FEB 15
Earlier today I posted a link to Frank Bruni's new food blog over at the NY Times. At the same time, I added a comment to this post about how restaurant reservations work here in NYC. I went back to see if there was any further conversation and my comment had been deleted (or had otherwise disappeared). Not such a good start. I've resubmitted the comment...we'll see how long it lasts.
A look at the special Valentine's Day dinner that White Castle offered yesterday. Tablecloths (well, not cloth exactly), candles, menus with a scripty font, table service, and a crystal candy dish. Awesome. More photos on Flickr.
Local competition FEB 15
Church of the Customer takes a look at how a Northern California restaurant called Cyrus competes with The French Laundry in attracting local customers, particularly those from wineries with big expense accounts for entertaining clients:
1. Match your competitor's exceptional quality.
The food at both restaurants was cooked perfectly and beautifully presented. Both delivered flawless service. By matching the quality of its better-known competitor, Cyrus removes the primary barriers of opposition.
2. Allow your customers to customize.
The French Laundry offers three prix-fixe menus of nine courses each. Cyrus allows its customers to choose their number of courses and the dishes.
Local competition still matters. You usually think of restaurants like The French Laundry as competing on a national or international level. Over the years, Keller's flagship has made several short lists of the best restaurants in the world. But as this article demonstrates, having to compete for the same pool of local customers can drive competitors to achieve a high level of excellence, higher perhaps than they would have achieved without that competition, and that excellence could lead to wider recognition. Even companies like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Amazon who compete on a global level and don't interact with their customers face-to-face still have to vie with each other for local resources, particularly employees.
Christopher Hitchens takes Garrison Keillor to task for slamming Bernard-Henri Levy's take on the US, American Vertigo. I'm patiently waiting for someone to take on Hitchens on Keillor on Levy on America.
Presenting the Bible's Book of Genesis in rap songs. For instance, the song for Genesis 21 -- which tells the story of Isaac and Ishmael -- is Big Poppa by Notorious B.I.G.
Marc Andreessen is annoyed by his customers coming to visit the office (the nerve!) so a few of his customers are using his software to organize and pay him a visit tomorrow. My long-held opinion: Marc Andreessen = putz.
CNN International redesigned their on-screen graphics. You can see the definite influence of lo-fi web design here...those screens look like a web site. I'd love to see these in action.
Update: A UK firm called Kemistry did the work.
Camino, a web browser for the Mac, finally goes 1.0. It seems like 5 years have passed since I switched away from Camino. I loved it then and I'd switch back in a second if had the features of and was being developed to the extent of Firefox or Safari. (via df)
Interview with David Remnick about the revitalization of the New Yorker and what exactly it is that makes that magazine unique. "My principle in the magazine - and I am not being arrogant - is that I don't lose sleep trying to figure what the reader wants. I don't do surveys. I don't check the mood of the consumers. I do what I want, what interests me and a small group of editors that influences the way of the magazine." (thx, george)
Keynoting(!) at SXSW 2006 FEB 14
Through an improbable series of clerical errors, I am scheduled to participate in a "keynote conversation" about professional blogging with Heather Armstrong at SXSW in Austin, Texas next month. Armstrong, so the story goes, got fired for blogging at work and was rewarded with a loving husband, cutie-pie daughter, photogenic dog, several television appearances, hundreds of media mentions, and a new job -- talking about poop all day -- that supports her entire family. And so but by the way, she's also headlining the entire SXSW Festival along with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Neil Young. Which makes me approximately chopped liver. When I told Meg about the headlining thing, she said, "boy, that conversation had better be good". Pressure's on, Heather.
To sum up, a piece of chopped liver will be having a chat with a nice lady from Utah next month about blogging for groceries. Should be fun.
How to fold a fitted sheet perfectly. We've been having a bit of a problem with this in our household lately, so this is helpful.
DFL is a blog highlighting the last place finishers in Olympic events. Eddie the Eagle should be the site's mascot.
Why online text-only communication is so problematic: interpretation of tone in email is successful only about half the time but we think we're 90% successful. No word on how emoticons affect interpretation success. ;) ;)
"Inside C" logos are those where the second letter of a word (usually an "o") is tucked inside the initial capital C. Examples: Coca-Cola, Carnation, and Coffee-Mate.
"A goldfish gets its bowl drained of its water, then the water gets replaced by Mountain Dew and the goldfish dies. The Mountain Dew is then drained and replaced with water. The goldfish is still dead, but is ressurected with a 9 volt battery." Wha?
Skiing videos FEB 13
I did some skiing last week up in Vermont and took some videos with my phone on the slopes. The quality isn't great, but hopefully you'll get the gist.
A short clip of me skiing through the trees:
Riding the chair lift:
And one of me skiing behind Meg:
The motion in the last one reminds me of Quake...like I'm chasing after her with a railgun or something.
Interview with the BBC's David Frost on his move to Al Jazeera International, a new 24-hour news station. I don't get why Solomon is so rude in these interviews, particularly when her able subjects handle her "tough" questions with such ease.
Gamers show a "similar pattern of high performance in resisting irrelevant impulses" as bilingual people. "Maybe those kids who play video games and who are also bilingual will be the best of older adults at filtering out distractions." (via sjb)
Time-lapse animated GIF of the Million Dollar Homepage...watch it fill up.
The Song Tapper: "search for music by tapping the rhythm of the song's melody". This works amazingly well.
"In the late 20th Century, the northern hemisphere experienced its most widespread warmth for 1,200 years". "The last 100 years is more striking than either [the Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age]."
Now that I've closed the comments on the question of the airplane and the conveyor belt, I'm still getting emails calling me an idiot for thinking that the plane will take off. Having believed that after first hearing the question and formulating several reasons reinforcing my belief, I can sympathize with that POV, but that doesn't change the fact that I was initially wrong and that if you believe the plane won't take off, you're wrong too.
The only thing is, I'm not sure how to prove it to you if you don't understand the problem and the physics involved. I guess I could urge you to read the question and answer again carefully. I could tell you that not only does the conveyor belt not keep the plane stationary with respect to the ground but it *can't* keep that plane stationary with respect to the ground and once you know that, of course it'll take off. My pal Mouser has a Ph.d in Physics from MIT and he says the plane will take off:
The airplane would take off normally, with the wheels spinning twice as fast as normal and a *slight* reduction in acceleration due to added friction.
Is that enough to convince you?
 This situation reminds me of Richard Dawkins' and Jerry Coyne's assertion that "one side can be wrong".
 The motion of the conveyor belt does nothing to affect the movement of the plane when the plane is in motion...it doesn't matter if it's moving forward, backward, at 2 MPH, or at 400 MPH. If the plane were on castors that could spin freely from side to side as well as front to back, that treadmill could be spinning 100 MPH to the left and the plane would take off.
 Well, almost nothing. The friction of the turning wheels will slow things down a bit, but not enough to not make the plane take off. After all, the main function of the wheels of a plane is to provide a near-frictionless interface with the ground (or whatever the plane happens to be taking off from).
Syriana FEB 10
In his review of Syriana, Ebert calls it a "hyperlink movie" [warning, some spoilers]:
A recent blog item coined a term like "hyperlink movie" to describe plots like this. (I would quote the exact term, but irony of ironies, I've lost the link.) The term describes movies in which the characters inhabit separate stories, but we gradually discover how those in one story are connected to those in another. "Syriana" was written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for best screenplay adaptation for "Traffic," another hyperlink movie. A lot of Altman films like "Nashville" and "Short Cuts" use the technique. Also, recently, "Crash" and "Nine Lives."
In a hyperlink movie the motives of one character may have to be reinterpreted after we meet another one. Consider the Matt Damon character. His family is invited to a party at the luxurious Spanish villa of the Gulf oil sheik whose sons are Nasir and Meshal. At the party, Damon's son dies by accident. The sheik awards Damon's firm a $100 million contract. "How much for my other son?" he asks. This is a brutal line of dialogue and creates a moment trembling with tension. Later, Damon's wife (Amanda Peet) accuses him of trading on the life of his son. Well, he did take the deal. Should he have turned it down because his son died in an accident? What are Damon's real motives, anyway?
The blog item Ebert is referring to could be Mark Bernstein's post about Adaptation from January 2003:
Adaptation is strange, curious, improbable little film. It belongs in the all-time hypertext film festival. Interesting double-feature with Wonder Boys. Fascinating double-feature with Mullholland Drive. Ebert, like everyone else, loved it.
Update: In a review of Cape of Good Hope published subsequent to that of Syriana, Ebert reveals the source of the "hyperlink movie":
The movie belongs to a genre that has been named "hyperlink cinema" by the critic Alissa Quart, in Film Comment. She suggests the structure was invented by Robert Altman, and Altman certainly brought it into modern times and made it particularly useful for showing interlocking stories in a world where lives seem to crash into each other heedlessly. "Crash," indeed, is an example of the genre, as are Altman's "The Player" and "Short Cuts," and such films as "Traffic," "Syriana," "City of God," "Amores Perros" and "Nine Lives."
Quart's article isn't online, but here's a bit of it:
In fact, Happy Endings could serve as proof for the currently fashionable theory that we shouldn't worry that our web-based, video-game-loving culture is dumbing us down. Watching Happy Endings, you too can conclude, as some of our brightest young pundits have, that multi-task entertainment actually makes us sharper. If this is true, the new genre Happy Endings belongs to--hyperlink cinema--could be the most IQ-enhancing of all. Happy Endings, which Roos also scripted, joins his The Opposite of Sex (98) in the hyperlink canon, alongside the likes of Magnolia, Time Code, and, most recently, Crash (with a special mention for TV's 24). Of them all, Happy Endings is best in show...The best thing about Happy Endings is that, like hyperlinking itself, it's irremediably relativist. Information, character and action co-exist without hierarchy. And we are always one click away from a new life, a new story, and new meaning, all equally captivating but no better or worse than what we have just left behind.
ABC (owned by Disney) traded former Monday Night Football announcer Al Michaels to NBC for, in part, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a cartoon character created by Walt Disney in 1927, pre-Mickey.
This article on how Google and eBay are poorly designed seems really wrongheaded to me, although it may just be that essays that use the word "suckass" and mistake style for design will fail to convince me of anything.
How do you find extra-solar planets? "I think the techniques employed by planet-hunters are pretty cool so the following is a brief primer on how the techniques work and the pros and cons of each."
This question posed to Cecil at The Straight Dope has occupied most of my day today:
Here's the original problem essentially as it was posed to us: "A plane is standing on a runway that can move (some sort of band conveyer). The plane moves in one direction, while the conveyer moves in the opposite direction. This conveyer has a control system that tracks the plane speed and tunes the speed of the conveyer to be exactly the same (but in the opposite direction). Can the plane take off?"
I'll give you a few moments to think about that before discussing the answer...
Cecil says that the obvious answer -- that the plane does not take off because it remains stationary relative to the ground and the air -- is wrong. The plane, he says, can take off:
But of course cars and planes don't work the same way. A car's wheels are its means of propulsion--they push the road backwards (relatively speaking), and the car moves forward. In contrast, a plane's wheels aren't motorized; their purpose is to reduce friction during takeoff (and add it, by braking, when landing). What gets a plane moving are its propellers or jet turbines, which shove the air backward and thereby impel the plane forward. What the wheels, conveyor belt, etc, are up to is largely irrelevant. Let me repeat: Once the pilot fires up the engines, the plane moves forward at pretty much the usual speed relative to the ground--and more importantly the air--regardless of how fast the conveyor belt is moving backward. This generates lift on the wings, and the plane takes off. All the conveyor belt does is, as you correctly conclude, make the plane's wheels spin madly.
After reading the question this morning and discussing it with Meg for, oh, about 3 hours on and off, I was convinced that Cecil was wrong. There's no way that plane could take off. The conveyor belt keeps pace with the speed of the plane, which means the plane remains stationary from the POV of an observer on the ground, and therefore cannot lift off.
Then I read Cecil's answer again this evening and I've changed my mind; I'm fairly certain he's right. For a sufficiently long conveyor belt, that plane is taking off. It doesn't matter what the conveyor belt is doing because the airplane's energy is acting on the air, not the belt. I had better luck simplifying the problem like so: imagine instead of a plane, you've got a rocket with wheels sitting on that belt. When that rocket fires, it's eventually going to rocket off the end of that belt...which means that it doesn't remain stationary to the ground and if it had wings, it would fly.
What do you think? Can that plane take off?
Update: Well, that got out of control in a hurry...almost 300 comments in about 16 hours. I had to delete a bunch of trolling comments and it's not productive to keep going, so I closed it. Thanks for the, er, discussion and remember, the plane takes off. :)
Scientists find "lost world" of undiscovered animals in the Foja Mountains of western New Guinea. "Their finds included more than 20 new frogs, 4 butterflies and a number of plants, including 5 new palms and rhododendrons with the largest flowers on record."
Blockbuster films are getting more expensive and accounting for less of Hollywood's box office take...is Hollywood's emphasis on big movies nearing its end? I've always thought it was dumb that the movie industry put so many of its eggs in so few baskets. (ps. Chris Anderson's Long Tail book is available for preorder on Amazon.)
CEO pay and perks can be a FEB 08
CEO pay and perks can be a good indicator of how healthy a business is, so it makes sense that investors are interested in just exactly how much chief executives make. "We shouldn't expect to see a dent in executive compensation anytime soon. But in the long run companies that don't balance pay with performance tend to suffer where it matters most -- in the stock market."
Charity Navigator evaluates and rates charities so you can see how well your donation will be used. There's room for improvement, but it's a good idea.
Skiing the online slopes FEB 07
Since I've been skiing a little bit recently (for the first time in years), I decided to check out what was happening online in the skiing world. Specifically I wondered if there were any ski blogs out there and if the many ski magazines offer online archives of their content.
Just like every other topic under the sun, skiing is well covered in blog land; no chance for fresh tracks here. A couple of quick searches uncovered blogs about backcountry skiing, New England skiing, ski adventures from around the country, skiing products and fashion, Colorado skiing, an attempt to ski 120 days of powder, Euro-centric skiing, and even a skiing videoblog.
Most of the skiing blogs I found focus on their respective author's adventures on the slopes. If someone wanted to start a skiing meta-blog (blogging not just skiing adventures but other skiing-related topics and pointing to other people's adventures), would there be enough good information out there to point to? The magazine racks of ski country convenience stores are filled with all kinds of periodicals about skiing...how much of that content is online? From what I can tell, the skiing magazines do offer content on their sites, but not necessarily from the pages of their print magazines. Both SKI Magazine and Skiing Magazine have archived print articles on their sites, but only from June 2005 and earlier. Both have other resources like forums, skiing news, resort details, videos, and online-only features. Neither site is organized particularly well for quick information perusal and retrieval. Skipressworld offers PDF versions of their entire print magazine online, including the current issue. Powder magazine has some online archives as well as online-only features like videos and message boards.
And so on...Google News is currently featuring over 10,000 articles about skiing (although much of that is due to the impending Winter Olympics), Flickr has thousands of skiing photos, and nearly all the ski areas an resorts have web sites on which you can check the current conditions, the lines at the chairlift via webcams, and trail maps. Killington is even doing podcasts.
So there's lots of skiing info out there. I know there must be a few skiers among the kottke.org readership...what are your favorite skiing sites and resources online?
Mashup sport: chessboxing. "The basic idea in chessboxing is to combine the no.1 thinking sport and the no.1 fighting sport into a hybrid that demands the most of its competitors - both mentally and physically. In a chessboxing fight two opponents play alternating rounds of chess and boxing. The contest starts with a round of chess, followed by a boxing round, followed by another round of chess and so on." More from the LA Times and the Guardian.
The world's coolest parasite; it makes zombie cockroaches! When it wants to lay its eggs, the Ampulex compressa wasp stuns a cockroach, numbs its brain, steers it back to its nest, lays an egg inside it, and eventually a larvae forms, it lunches on the cockroach's insides, and then hatches fully grown. Just...wow. (thx, tien)
On Chinatowns. "Like many crowded Asian cities, Chinatown has mastered the art of the vertical, inspired by languages that can be written up and down, not just side to side."
If you like to eat (and have FEB 07
De-Touch lets you step through how photos of models are retouched for publication. Announcement here. Made with Processing, source code is available.
Malcolm Gladwell on "power law problems" like homelessness, auto pollution, and bad cops. These problems have solutions which focus on the small number of hard-core cases, like the 5% of Denver vehicles that account for 55% of the city's automobile pollution.
Sorry to hit you with this on a Monday morning because the falling sand game is really addicting so you might not get any work done today. Sorry in advance.
Esther Dyson: Google is blind evolution, Yahoo is intelligent design. I'm not sure that's the right metaphor to use if you want to put Yahoo on the same level as Google.
A grid of logos of Web 2.0 companies. These names sound like a bunch of companies that make children's toys (which when you think about it, isn't too far from the truth).
Update: Original here.
Anil on the conservatism of liberalism (by way of explaining why Craigslist is taking away everyone else's classifieds business). "A complete unwillingness to be critical, an almost astoundingly low set of criteria for acceptance -- these aren't the traits that encourage a community or a culture to improve."
It's fashion week in NYC next week and the last couple of years, Slate asked fashion expert Josh Patner to provide answers to some frequently asked questions about fashion shows (more here).
In an age of media fragmentation, here are ten cultural events that are still shared collective experiences among US citizens, including the Super Bowl, Harry Potter, and The Da Vinci Code.
Some people are so addicted to email, work, and their Crackberries that they're upgrading their bathrooms with features like TV mirrors and waterproof computers. Grab the folding chairs....it's intervention time!
Millions FEB 03
After recommendations from a couple of readers, I checked out Millions a couple of weeks ago. The film was directed by Danny Boyle, who did Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, and is a children's film. You might think this odd, but as Ebert notes,
...[the filmmakers'] delight in the film is so manifest. But they are serious filmmakers who do not know how to talk down to an audience, and although "Millions" uses special effects and materializing saints, it's a film about real ideas, real issues and real kids. It's not sanitized brainless eye candy. Like all great family movies, it plays equally well for adults -- maybe better, since we know how unusual it is.
Reminds me a bit of Brad Bird's The Iron Giant. Both are kids movies that most parents didn't take their kids to, but really should have because they have a substance and soul that most other kids movies lack. And they're perfectly good films for adults as well. But relatively few saw either of them, which is a shame.
Regarding my question about the first superhero back in October, Peter Coogan sent word about his upcoming book, Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre. "An exhaustive and entertaining study of the superhero genre, this volume traces the roots of the superhero in mythology, science fiction, and the pulps, and follows the superhero's development to its current renaissance in film, literature, and graphic novels."
Why do hotels sometimes charge for internet access and sometimes don't? My take is that most hotels figure that it's mostly business travelers that use the internet and therefore it's the guests' companies who are footing the bill and since it's a business necessity for them, the companies pay, no matter what the daily rate. Which sucks for those of us who like a little internet on vacation or want to keep our small business expenditures down.
Alternative photography (pinhole cameras, daguerreotypes, gum bichromate prints) is making a small comeback in the midst of the digital photography revolution. Here's some of Adam Lubroth's work and an exhibition in Austin, TX of "historical photographic approaches in the digital age".
Now that Oscar season is in full-on in-your-face mode, check out this list of the critics' favorite films for 2005. Love the info design on the summary at the bottom.
Responses to People on the 6 Train That Hopefully Convey My Feelings in a Polite Way. "Thank you for so gently cupping my ass when we came to a stop."
Update: The author of this list has a blog with some quick-witted observations of NYC. (thx, robert)
Business 2.0 imagines Google's future: as The Media, as The Internet, its death, and as God.
Cool composite photo of playing in the snow. Take a look at the large size for the full effect.
Larry Ellison spends tens of millions of dollars in borrowed money every year, which is worrying his accountant, who wants him to diversify by selling some of his Oracle stock.
"Preliminary construction" will begin on the High Line Park in mid-February. Protective fences will be put up south of 20th Street, so it might be your last chance to see the High Line as it is and once was. Here are some photos I took of the High Line from a February 2004 excursion. (via gmist)
Andreas Pavel was the inventor of the portable music player (aka Walkman). "I was in the woods in St. Moritz, in the mountains. The snow was falling down. I pressed the button, and suddenly we were floating. It was an incredible feeling, to realize that I now had the means to multiply the aesthetic potential of any situation."
I can't believe that paying the NFL $330 million for being able to use trademarked terms like "Super Bowl" and "Pittsburgh Steelers" in advertising is worth it, particularly when you can use euphemisms like "The Big Game" for absolutely free.
The Onion moved to NYC from Wisconsin five years ago. Lessons learned? "If your life is going nowhere, don't try, and it'll all work out."
Things Meg said while we were watching Spiderman 2 the other day. She has a small problem with the suspension of disbelief sometimes.
- This is some sort of fake New York. Why would that pizza place be delivering 40 blocks away? And those pizzas are totally getting ruined the way he's flinging them around like that.
- Why is he waiting for her across the street?
- This is a small New York City; everybody knows everybody else. She hooks up with the newspaper guy's astronaut son all the way from that crappy house in the Bronx.
- What's he doing? Don't throw that suit away. He can't afford to get a new one later. Just put it away in a drawer somewhere.
- He's just going to stand there and do nothing? Lack of a superhero suit does not preclude good samaritanism.
- I love Aunt May's cool mid-century modern furniture.
- You'd think that somebody would have called the fire department before now.
- Those are vanilla cake crumbs. That's not chocolate cake. This movie is infuriating.
- If those falls were real, he'd be dead! Peter Parker's an idiot.
- He's got loser hair. And look at those arms! What, is he bench pressing Space Shuttles? You don't need arms that big to be an astronaut.
- She has droopy boobs. What, they can't afford to get her a bra?
- Ooh, a phony El. Now it's like we're in Chicago.
- Isn't that a letter opener? Who keeps a dagger on their desk?
These are the times that try men's souls.
Phil Greenspun on retiring young. "Retirement forces you to stop thinking that it is your job that holds you back. For most people the depressing truth is that they aren't that organized, disciplined, or motivated."