Conrad and the Steam PlantMAY 18

Conrad Milster is the chief engineer at the Pratt Institute, which means he's in charge of the 19th-century steam engines that provide the school's heat and hot water. Dustin Cohen made this lovely short film about Conrad, an oddball who fits right into his life.

On the topic of New York, Conrad says, "It sucks, but it's the Big Apple!" (via acl)

How Richard Stallman does his computingMAY 18

Richard Stallman, the free software activist and author of some of the world's most used and useful software, probably uses his computer and the Internet a lot differently than you do. For starters, ethics and privacy concerns trump his need for convenience.

I am careful in how I use the Internet.

I generally do not connect to web sites from my own machine, aside from a few sites I have some special relationship with. I usually fetch web pages from other sites by sending mail to a program (see git://git.gnu.org/womb/hacks.git) that fetches them, much like wget, and then mails them back to me. Then I look at them using a web browser, unless it is easy to see the text in the HTML page directly. I usually try lynx first, then a graphical browser if the page needs it (using konqueror, which won't fetch from other sites in such a situation).

I occasionally also browse using IceCat via Tor. I think that is enough to prevent my browsing from being connected with me, since I don't identify myself to the sites I visit.

I never pay for anything on the Web. Anything on the net that requires payment, I don't do. (I made an exception for the fees for the stallman.org domain, since that is connected with me anyway.)

I would not mind paying for a copy of an e-book or music recording on the Internet if I could do so anonymously, and it were ethical in other ways (no DRM or EULA). But that option almost never exists. I keep looking for ways to make it happen.

Mining the internet for time lapsesMAY 18

Software from a group at the University of Washington and Google discovers time lapses lurking in photos posted to the internet. For example, their bot found hundreds of photos of a Norwegian glacier on the Web, taken over a span of 10 years. Voila, instant time lapse of a retreating glacier.

First, we cluster 86 million photos into landmarks and popular viewpoints. Then, we sort the photos by date and warp each photo onto a common viewpoint. Finally, we stabilize the appearance of the sequence to compensate for lighting effects and minimize flicker. Our resulting time-lapses show diverse changes in the world's most popular sites, like glaciers shrinking, skyscrapers being constructed, and waterfalls changing course.

This is like a time machine, allowing you to go back 5 or 10 years and position a camera somewhere to take photos every few days or weeks. Pretty clever.

Wife bonuses and the primates of park avenueMAY 18

Primates Of Park Avenue

Wednesday Martin is an anthropologist and author whose upcoming book, Primates of Park Avenue, examines the wealthy stay-at-home moms of Manhattan's Upper East Side like any other primate troop.

After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers' snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns; display rituals; physical adornment, mutilation, and mating practices; extra-pair copulation; and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected.

Martin wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times about her findings called Poor Little Rich Women.

And then there were the wife bonuses.

I was thunderstruck when I heard mention of a "bonus" over coffee. Later I overheard someone who didn't work say she would buy a table at an event once her bonus was set. A woman with a business degree but no job mentioned waiting for her "year-end" to shop for clothing. Further probing revealed that the annual wife bonus was not an uncommon practice in this tribe.

A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband's fund had done but her own performance -- how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a "good" school -- the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don't just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.

Women who didn't get them joked about possible sexual performance metrics. Women who received them usually retreated, demurring when pressed to discuss it further, proof to an anthropologist that a topic is taboo, culturally loaded and dense with meaning.

Please note that Martin's book is a memoir...not an anthropological study, a memoir. I can't wait to see how they turn this one into a movie.

Steve Jobs movie trailerMAY 18

I have been doing a poor job keeping up with my Steve Jobs-related media. I haven't had a chance to pick up the new Becoming Steve Jobs book yet. And I had no idea that the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic was still in the works, much less that Michael Fassbender is playing Jobs and Danny Boyle is directing. Here's the trailer:

The trailer debuted during last night's series finale of Mad Men, which was possibly the most appropriate venue for it. [Slight spoilers...] Draper always had a Jobs-esque sheen to him, although the final scene showed us that, yes, Don Draper actually would like to sell sugar water for the rest of his life.

Bird laughs like a supervillainMAY 15

First the bird laughs like a supervillain, then you start laughing like a supervillain, and pretty soon everyone is laughing like a supervillain.

This is the new goats yelling like people, which I still watch about once a week and it always makes me laugh until I'm crying. (via ★interesting)

Slow motion candle magicMAY 15

If you hold a lit match an inch or two over the smoking wick of a recently extinguished candle, the candle will light again. If you record that happening with a high speed camera and then slow it way down, it gives you some clues to how that happens:

Hint: wax is a candle's fuel and smoke is wax vapor... (via digg)

What's the most beautiful paragraph or sentence you've ever read?MAY 15

From Reddit, dozens of people share their favorite lines from literature, from Nabokov to Milne to Dante. Here are a few of my favorites:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh?" he whispered. "Yes, Piglet?" "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you." -- A.A. Milne

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there -- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. -- Carl Sagan

Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was. -- Joseph Heller

'Happy,' I muttered, trying to pin the word down. But it is one of those words, like Love, that I have never quite understood. Most people who deal in words don't have much faith in them and I am no exception - especially the big ones like Happy and Love and Honest and Strong. They are too elusive and far too relative when you compare them to sharp, mean little words like Punk and Cheap and Phony. I feel at home with these, because they're scrawny and easy to pin, but the big ones are tough and it takes either a priest or a fool to use them with any confidence. -- Hunter S. Thompson

If you need more, try your luck with these. (via @eqx1979)

Football commentary cheat sheetsMAY 15

Nick Barnes is a football commentator for BBC Radio Newcastle. For each match he does, Barnes dedicates two pages in his notebook for pre-match notes, lineups, player stats, match stats, and dozens of other little tidbits.

Nick Barnes

Nick Barnes

Wonderful folk infographics. NBC commentator Arlo White also shared his pre-match notes. Both men say they barely use the notes during the match...by the time the notes are done, they know the stuff. (via @dens)

Trophy ScarvesMAY 15

For his project Trophy Scarves, artist Nate Hill photographed himself "[wearing] white women for status and power".

Trophy Scarves

Hill says "it's a satire on black men who like to see white women as status symbols". NSFW (some nudity)...or you can view censored pics on Instagram.

Octobass!MAY 14

The octobass is a string instrument that's almost twice the size of a bass, so big that it makes a cello look like a violin. Only a few of these instruments exist and The Musical Instrument Museum made a video showing theirs in action:

(via cynical-c)

Gay Talese's address bookMAY 14

Writer Gay Talese talks about his address book, in which he has written the names and phone numbers of almost everyone he's ever had "an encounter" with over the past 50 years.

(via submitted for your perusal)

Only Fish Fall From the SkyMAY 14

Only Fish Fall From The Sky

From illustrator Leif Parsons, a new children's book called Only Fish Fall From the Sky.

A dreamworld where it rains fish instead of water, people dance through dinner, and children sleep with tigers -- welcome to the imagination of author/artist Leif Parsons, whose detailed dreamscapes make ONLY FISH FALL FROM THE SKY a charming bedtime book sure to fascinate preschoolers and young readers.

Khoi Vinh says:

The pages are exquisitely, elaborately packed with unexpected details that kids (and adults) can pore over for hours.

Instant order...this sounds like my favorite kind of kid's book, like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs crossed with Richard Scarry or something.

RIP Mr. Burns, Smithers, and Ned FlandersMAY 14

Mr Burns Dead

Harry Shearer, who voices dozens of characters on The Simpsons including Mr. Burns, Smithers, and Ned Flanders, announced on Twitter that he will be leaving the show. A few things:

1. The Simpsons is still on?

2. Shearer also voices Principal Skinner, Otto, Lenny, McBain, Reverend Lovejoy, Kent Brockman, Scratchy, Dr Hibbert, and dozens of smaller characters.

3. Will they replace him? Or just not use those characters anymore? How can you do the show without Burns, Smithers, Flanders, and Skinner? But if they sound different, how can you do the show with them?

Perfect cubes of foodMAY 13

Perfect Food Cubes

From the design shop of Lernert & Sander, a poster of almost a hundred different foods cut into perfect little cubes. No CGI involved, it's actually food. No idea how they got some of those foods to hang together...particularly the onion, cabbage, and leek. (via colossal)

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