An appreciation of the ShackBurgerJUL 30

From The Message is Medium Rare, an appreciation of the ShackBurger, "a straightforward, honest-to-goodness burger". It includes a review of the typography used by the restaurant:

These three typefaces artfully express the ethos of both the burger and the brand. Neutraface is the bun: sturdy, reliable and architectural. Futura is the patty: basic but bold. Galaxie is the lettuce: wavy, quirky and fresh. To the layperson this comparison may seem like a stretch, but designers know they are purposefully expressive.

How Google's self-driving car sees the roadJUL 09

Chris Umson is the Director of Self-Driving Cars at Google[x] and in March, he gave a talk at TED about the company's self-driving cars. The second half of the presentation is fascinating; Umson shows more than a dozen different traffic scenarios and how the car sees and reacts to each one.

It will be interesting to see how roads, cars, and our behavior will change when self-driving cars hit the streets. Right now, street markings, signage, and automobiles are designed for how human drivers see the world. Computers see the road quite differently, and if Google's take on the self-driving car becomes popular, it would be wise to adopt different standards to help them navigate more smoothly. Maintaining painted lines might be more important, along with eliminating superfluous signage close to the roadway. Maybe human-driven cars would be required to display a special marking alerting self-driving cars to potential hazards.1 Positioning of headlights and taillights might become more standard.

Human drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians will necessarily adapt to self-driving cars as well. Some will take advantage of the cars' politeness. But mostly I suspect that learning to interact with self-driving cars will require a different approach, just as people talk to computers differently than they do to other humans -- think of how you formulate a successful search query, speak to Siri, or, more to the point, manipulate a Wii remote so the sensor dingus on top of your TV can interpret what you're doing.

  1. Although if the car is smart enough to parse the arm motions of a police officer directing traffic, it can probably pick out the relatively inconsistent movement of a human-driven car in a second or two.

Human body hair flow mapsJUL 24

Human Hair Flow Map

In 1902, Dr. Walter Kidd published this map of "human hair streams", showing in which directions hair in various parts of the human body grows.

rating: 4.5 stars

The September IssueMAR 18

I straight-up loved this movie. It's a fascinating look at the creative process of a team with strong leadership operating at a very high level. The trailer is pretty misleading in this respect...the main story in the film has little to do with fashion and should be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever worked with a bunch of people on a project. Others have made the comparison of Anna Wintour with Steve Jobs and it seems apt. At several points in the film, my thoughts drifted to Jobs and Apple; Wintour seems like the same sort of creative leader as Jobs.

Cool furniture alert: the Fibonacci ShelfJUL 29

The Fibonacci Shelf by designer Peng Wang might not be the most functional piece of furniture, but I still want one.

Fibonacci Shelf

Fibonacci Shelf

The design of the shelf is based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, ...), which is related to the Golden Rectangle. When assembled, the Fibonacci Shelf resembles a series of Golden Rectangles partitioned into squares. (via ignant)

Saul Bass' best film title design workJUL 03

Saul Bass designed the opening sequences for dozens of films, including North by Northwest, Psycho, West Side Story, and Goodfellas. Here's a look at some of his best work:

(via art of the title)

The science of Pixar's Inside OutJUL 10

Psychologists Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekman served as scientific consultants during the production of Pixar's Inside Out. Keltner studies the origins of human emotion and Ekman pioneered research of microexpressions. In this NY Times piece, they discuss the science behind the movie.

Those quibbles aside, however, the movie's portrayal of sadness successfully dramatizes two central insights from the science of emotion.

First, emotions organize -- rather than disrupt -- rational thinking. Traditionally, in the history of Western thought, the prevailing view has been that emotions are enemies of rationality and disruptive of cooperative social relations.

...

Second, emotions organize -- rather than disrupt -- our social lives. Studies have found, for example, that emotions structure (not just color) such disparate social interactions as attachment between parents and children, sibling conflicts, flirtations between young courters and negotiations between rivals.

I've thought about Inside Out every day since I saw it. Pixar clearly did their homework on the emotional stuff and it paid off.

Saving the open webJUL 14

In 2008, Hossein Derakhshan was sentenced to 20 years in jail in Iran for blogging and championing the open web. Released and pardoned late last year, Derakhshan is now wondering why the web he went to jail for is dying and why no one is stopping it. Just as things changed in the real world while he was imprisoned:

Around me, I noticed a very different Tehran from the one I'd been used to. An influx of new, shamelessly luxurious condos had replaced the charming little houses I was familiar with. New roads, new highways, hordes of invasive SUVs. Large billboards with advertisements for Swiss-made watches and Korean flat screen TVs. Women in colorful scarves and manteaus, men with dyed hair and beards, and hundreds of charming cafes with hip western music and female staff. They were the kinds of changes that creep up on people; the kind you only really notice once normal life gets taken away from you.

...so too did the web:

The hyperlink was my currency six years ago. Stemming from the idea of the hypertext, the hyperlink provided a diversity and decentralisation that the real world lacked. The hyperlink represented the open, interconnected spirit of the world wide web -- a vision that started with its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee. The hyperlink was a way to abandon centralization -- all the links, lines and hierarchies - and replace them with something more distributed, a system of nodes and networks.

Blogs gave form to that spirit of decentralization: They were windows into lives you'd rarely know much about; bridges that connected different lives to each other and thereby changed them. Blogs were cafes where people exchanged diverse ideas on any and every topic you could possibly be interested in. They were Tehran's taxicabs writ large.

Since I got out of jail, though, I've realized how much the hyperlink has been devalued, almost made obsolete.

(via @anildash)

The 50th LawJUN 23

The 50th Law

Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, which has been influential in both halls of business and hip-hop circles, has written a new book with rapper 50 Cent called The 50th Law. Greene was initially skeptical of 50 Cent as a co-author but was impressed by their initial meeting.

He was in the midst of a power struggle with a rival rapper and he talked quite openly about the strategies he was employing, including mistakes he had made along the way. He analyzed his own actions with detachment, as if he were talking about another person. Over the last few years he had witnessed a lot of nasty maneuvering within the music business, and he seemed to want to discuss this with somebody from the outside. He was not interested in myths but reality. Contrary to his public persona, he had a Zen-like calmness that impressed me.

The main theme of the book is about fear and "the reverse power that you can obtain by overcoming [it]".

We found stories from his own life that would illustrate these ideas, many of them culled from his days as a hustler and even highlighting mistakes along the way that taught him valuable lessons. Later, from my own research, I would bring in examples from other historical figures who exemplified this trait. Many of them would be African Americans--Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Malcolm X, Hurricane Carter, et al--whose fearless quality was forged by their harsh struggles against racism. Others would come from all periods and cultures--the Stoics, Joan of Arc, JFK, Leonardo da Vinci, Mao tse-tung, and so on.

Every Kramer entrance on SeinfeldJUL 17

That's it. That's the joke.

A 1968 computer art contestJUL 06

Computer Art 1968

From the August 1968 issue of Computers and Automation magazine, the results of their Sixth Annual Computer Art Contest (flip to page 8).

Computer Art 1968

Computer Art 1968

It's also worth paging through the rest of the magazine just for the ads.

Update: Looks like The Verge saw this post and did a followup on the history of the Computer Art Contest.

In any given issue, Computers and Automation devoted equal time to the latest methods of database storage and grand questions about the future of their "great instrument," but the Computer Art Contest was soon a regular event. A look back through old issues of the journal (available at Internet Archive) shows how the fledgling discipline of computer art rapidly evolved. At the time, computers were specialized tools, most commonly used by individuals working in research labs, academia, or the military -- and this heritage shows. Both the first and second prizes for the inaugural 1963 competition went to designs generated at the same military lab.

New York City in motion, 25 years agoJUL 22

This video was shot in NYC on July 18, 1990, mostly in Times Square and Central Park.

The first 30 seconds of the video (stumbling drunk, trash digger, overheating car) is pretty much a perfect representation of how NYC felt to many at the time. A squeegee man can also been seen at work near the end of the video.

What it's like to be face blindJUL 13

Prosopagnosia is a disorder where you're unable to recognize faces. Neurologist Oliver Sacks and artist Chuck Close are both face-blind. This is a really interesting interview with a woman who suffers from prosopagnosia so completely that she cannot recognize her own daughter or even herself (sometimes).

The researchers concluded that I'm profoundly face-blind. One thing I find very difficult to get across is that it's not as if I can't recognize anybody at all -- it's that it can take me up to five minutes before I can figure out who they are. I have to wait for the signs. The other thing I have discovered is that there is a specific expression people have when they see somebody they know.

I call it the "I know you face" -- it's sort of a surprised micro expression. I'm convinced that it's completely involuntary. It looks a little like surprise. The eyebrows go up, and usually the mouth opens like they're about to say something. When I see it, I say hello, and then when I start interacting with them, I'll remember who they are. That's just one of a whole set of observational skills I've developed. Another is when I'm meeting somebody in public, I'll arrive early so they'll approach me.

I'm always looking for visual hooks. My daughter has a particular thing she does with her mouth. If there's several people who could be her, I look for the mouth thing. If she's nervous, or she's irritated, one side of her mouth goes up. She's done it since she was a baby. She doesn't like having her photograph taken, so when I look at a group photo, I look for the kid with the smirk and I know it's my daughter.

But her face-blindness is sometimes an advantage:

I'm also a very good listener because the tone of voice and body language are what I always pay attention to. I'm good at calming people down, because I can tell when they're starting to freak out.

And she's also less quick to notice things like race or gender:

When I worked at a homeless shelter, I was often praised for the way I interacted with my African-American clients. I couldn't figure out what I was doing differently from the other white workers, but I was allowed into their circle and they bonded with me. When we lived in Louisiana, I was always being asked by African-American women if my husband was black.

When I was tested at Dartmouth, I scored low on unconscious racism. Apparently babies show a preference for their own race at about nine months because that's when they start being able to recognize faces. My head doesn't do this.

(via mr)

Modernizing the NYC subway's ancient technologiesJUL 29

This video from the MTA shows some of the vintage technologies that are still in use to control many of the NYC's subway lines and how they are upgrading (ve. ry. slow. ly.) to safer and more reliable computerized systems. Some of control systems are more than 80 years old.

Whoa, after watching that, I'm shocked that the trains ever get anywhere at all. (via the kid should see this)

rating: 1.0 stars

Room 237SEP 25

John Gruber's tweet last night reminded me I'd never written up a review for Room 237, the documentary about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Gruber writes:

Broke down and watched "Room 237". It was bad. Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people.

Just watch "The Shining" again instead.

I agree. I watched it earlier this year and disliked the film so much, I didn't even finish it, which is rare for me. As I hinted at on Twitter, I'm exposed to enough anti-vaccine, anti-evolution, anti-anthropogenic climate change, anti-science, and religious fundamentalist "theories" in my day-to-day reading that are genuinely harmful to humanity that an examination of how the minds of conspiracy theory crackpots take the smallest little details and weave them into fantastical stories that make no sense is not how I want to spend my time.

As if to underscore my dislike of the film, the following arrived in my inbox shortly after I watched it.

To: Jason Kottke <jason@kottke.org>
Prospective Story: Re: Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"

i'm not good at salesmanship so i'll get right to the point. i've solved the mystery of room 237 in stanley kubrick's 'the shining' i'm shopping this information to various media sources. here's the deal:

*** the price is $13,000.00

*** i'm aware of the documentaries, the scholarly analyses and the terrabytes of web space dedicated to the topic

*** nobody has gottten it right

*** i guarantee satisfaction

*** there's no risk. either you think the solution to the greatest cinematic mystery of all time is worth 13k or you don't. all i require beforehand is a conditional agreement protecting me from ip theft

*** i remain anonymous. once the transaction is complete the information is yours. i don't care who receives credit or what you do with it

it's been over 30 years. this information should be public. YOU can be the first.

i look forward to your response

Putting on my tin foil hat for a minute, DONT YOU SHEEPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS? That someone is watching what I'm watching! How did this person know I had just watched Room 237?! I bet it's the NSA! Or something! They are watching for people with large audiences to plant lies about Kubrick to deflect attention away from the faked Moon landing! For some reason! THIS IS THE PROOF WEVE BEEN WAITING FOR!??

Yep: "Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people."

How Buildings LearnJUL 20

In the mid-90s, Stewart Brand published a fantastic book called How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built.

Buildings have often been studies whole in space, but never before have they been studied whole in time. How Buildings Learn is a masterful new synthesis that proposes that buildings adapt best when constantly refined and reshaped by their occupants, and that architects can mature from being artists of space to becoming artists of time.

From the connected farmhouses of New England to I.M. Pei's Media Lab, from "satisficing" to "form follows funding," from the evolution of bungalows to the invention of Santa Fe Style, from Low Road military surplus buildings to a High Road English classic like Chatsworth-this is a far-ranging survey of unexplored essential territory.

In 1997, Brand and the BBC did a six-part TV series based on the book. Brand has put the series on his YouTube channel; here's the first part to get you going:

(via open culture)

Colorado's success in curbing teen pregnanciesJUL 06

Colorado has spent the last six years conducting a real life test to see if they could reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions. As the NYT's Sabrina Tavernise explains, the results were stunning.

If we want to reduce poverty, one of the simplest, fastest and cheapest things we could do would be to make sure that as few people as possible become parents before they actually want to.

Syndicated from NextDraft. Subscribe today or grab the iOS app.

Jon Stewart, political heavyweightJUL 28

Jon Stewart visited the White House. And Obama visited The Daily Show. That gives you some idea of the influence -- on both sides of the aisle -- Jon Stewart has built up over his tenure.

Jon Stewart slipped unnoticed into the White House in the midst of the October 2011 budget fight, summoned to an Oval Office coffee with President Barack Obama that he jokingly told his escort felt like being called into the principal's office.

Syndicated from NextDraft. Subscribe today or grab the iOS app.

Put Harriet Tubman on the $20 billJUL 15

Harriet Tubman

Adding her voice to a chorus of others, Amy Davidson makes a great case for putting Harriet Tubman on the US $20 bill and kicking Andrew Jackson to the curb.

On September 17, 1849, Araminta, who now called herself Harriet, ran away to freedom, along with two of her brothers. Their owner, Eliza Brodess-Pattison's granddaughter-in-law-had been making moves to sell them, and the fear was that the family would be broken up. Brodess put an ad in the local newspaper, offering a hundred-dollar reward each for "Minty," Harry, and Ben. (The only extant copy of the ad was found in 2003, in a dumpster.) Almost immediately, Tubman began making trips back to Maryland, organizing the escapes of relatives, friends, and scores of other slaves, often just ahead of armed men pursuing them. On one trip, she discovered that her husband, John Tubman, who was free himself, was living with another woman; he had no interest in going north. He is a man who seems not to have known Tubman's worth.

When I was a kid, I read a lot of biographies1 on people like Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, and the Wright brothers. My favorite, which I read at least three times, was Ann Petry's Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad. Tubman is one of history's greatest badasses. Put her on the damn bill.

  1. Our local public library had a series of biographies for kids...I wish I could remember what these books were. I did a little research just now but nothing came up. I remember them being small (hardcovers but the size of paperbacks), no dust jackets, and plainly titled (e.g. "Abraham Lincoln"). There were around 50 titles and must have been 20-30 years old when I read them in the early 80s. I devoured them as a kid and would love to pass them along to my kids.

That little bird, getting his wingsJUL 20

Former convicts Roby So and Carlos Cervantes pick up inmates on the day they get released from prison to help ease their reentry into society.

By now, Carlos and Roby -- officially, A.R.C.'s Ride Home Program -- have done about three dozen pickups, either together or individually, waking up long before dawn and driving for hours toward prison towns deep in the desert or up the coast. Then they spend all day with the guy (so far they've picked up only men), taking him to eat, buying him some clothes, advising him, swapping stories, dialing his family on their cellphones or astonishing him by magically calling up Facebook pictures of nieces and nephews he's never met -- or just sitting quietly, to let him depressurize. The conversation with those shellshocked total strangers doesn't always flow, Roby told me. It helps to have a wingman.

"The first day is everything," Carlos says -- a barrage of insignificant-seeming experiences with potentially big consequences. Consider, for example, a friend of his and Roby's: Julio Acosta, who was paroled in 2013 after 23 years inside. Acosta describes stopping for breakfast near the prison that first morning as if it were a horrifying fever dream: He kept looking around the restaurant for a sniper, as in the chow hall in prison, and couldn't stop gawking at the metal knives and forks, "like an Aztec looking at Cortez's helmet," he says. It wasn't until he got up from the booth and walked to the men's room, and a man came out the door and said, "How you doin'?" and Acosta said, "Fine," that Acosta began to feel, even slightly, like a legitimate part of the environment around him. He'd accomplished something. He'd made a treacherous trip across an International House of Pancakes. He'd peed.

"It's a Unix system, I know this"JUL 22

Jurassic Park OS

Hold onto your butts, gang... I just found out, via Pixar's Michael B. Johnson, that the 3D file manager that Lex uses in Jurassic Park -- "It's a Unix system, I know this" -- was a real thing. FSN (File System Navigator) was a demo tool for Silicon Graphics' IRIX operating system that you could download from their web site.

P.S. In that same thread, Johnson shares that his office was the inspiration for Dennis Nedry's work area.

Wes Anderson color palettesJUL 08

Color palettes derived from Wes Anderson movies.

Wes Anderson Palettes

Wes Anderson Palettes

Young Han Solo movie announcedJUL 07

Disney is proceeding at full steam in delivering more Star Wars to your eyeballs. Today they announced that Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, the duo behind The Lego Movie, will direct a movie about a young Han Solo.

The screenplay is written by Lawrence Kasdan and Jon Kasdan. The story focuses on how young Han Solo became the smuggler, thief, and scoundrel whom Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi first encountered in the cantina at Mos Eisley.

Release date is May 2018. As Princess Leia once said, "Disney, I hope you know what you're doing."

New subatomic particle: the pentaquark!JUL 14

CERN's LHC (Large Hadron Collider) has discovered a new subatomic particle, the pentaquark.

"The pentaquark is not just any new particle," said LHCb spokesperson Guy Wilkinson. "It represents a way to aggregate quarks, namely the fundamental constituents of ordinary protons and neutrons, in a pattern that has never been observed before in over fifty years of experimental searches. Studying its properties may allow us to understand better how ordinary matter, the protons and neutrons from which we're all made, is constituted."

Here's the paper, with more than 680 authors. Between New Horizons zipping past Pluto earlier today (look at this pic!) and this, what a day for science.

The Evolution of GodMAY 11

The Evolution of God

Robert Wright has a new book out soon called The Evolution of God. Andrew Sullivan has a review.

From primitive animists to the legends of the first gods, battling like irrational cloud-inhabiting humans over the cosmos, Wright tells the story of how war and trade, technology and human interaction slowly exposed humans to the gods of others. How this awareness led to the Jewish innovation of a hidden and universal God, how the cosmopolitan early Christians, in order to market their doctrines more successfully, universalised and sanitised this Jewish God in turn, and how Islam equally included a civilising universalism despite its doctrinal rigidity and founding violence.

Last month's issue of The Atlantic contained an excerpt.

For all the advances and wonders of our global era, Christians, Jews, and Muslims seem ever more locked in mortal combat. But history suggests a happier outcome for the Peoples of the Book. As technological evolution has brought communities, nations, and faiths into closer contact, it is the prophets of tolerance and love that have prospered, along with the religions they represent. Is globalization, in fact, God's will?

I loved two of Wright's previous books, The Moral Animal and especially Nonzero. (via marginal revolution)

Copy and paste, but for DNAJUL 22

No hunger. No pollution. No disease. Wired's Amy Maxmen welcomes you to the age of copy and paste DNA editing and the end of life as we know it.

Genome editing started with just a few big labs putting in lots of effort, trying something 1,000 times for one or two successes. Now it's something that someone with a BS and a couple thousand dollars' worth of equipment can do. What was impractical is now almost everyday. That's a big deal.

[I recently listened to Radiolab's show on Crispr. Recommended. -jkottke]

Syndicated from NextDraft. Subscribe today or grab the iOS app.

Amazon Prime Day deals?JUL 15

Today is Amazon Prime Day, a totally manufactured holiday invented to sell you stuff you don't need...no, not like those other totally manufactured holidays -- Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas -- invented to sell you stuff you don't need. Ok anyway, the deals are out but people are yawning about them a bit. But there are some nice bargains to be had, if you're in the market (and are an Amazon Prime member): Kindle (for $49) (all gone!), Herschel backpacks, $10 credit for buying Amazon gift card multipacks, and get a free $30 gift card if you order $75 or more in Amazon Home Services. I'm eyeing that Kindle a little -- my son is agitating for a hand-me-down of my current one -- but wish it were a Paperwhite instead. Is the Paperwhite really worth the extra $70?

Update: Oh and coincidentally, the 55-gallon drum of lube is on sale today too for $1360, 46% off the usual price. There's only three left though, so hurry!

The origin of sci-fi movie soundsJUL 24

From Aaron Reese at Hopes&Fears, a piece on sci-fi movie sound effects. It's chock full of interesting tidbits, like where King Kong's chest-beating sound came from:

Initial attempts hitting a fixed kettle drum with paddled-drumsticks didn't work, with Spivak saying the sound wasn't "fleshy" enough. An experiment beating the floor failed as well. So Spivak decided to beat one of his assistant's chests with drumsticks instead, saying "If wood will not take the place of flesh, then let's use flesh." Sure enough, this was the sound used for production.

The stabbing noise in Psycho is a knife plunging into a melon:

In a recording studio, prop man [Bob] Bone auditioned the melons for Hitchcock, who sat listening with his eyes closed. When the table was littered with shredded fruit, Hitchcock opened his eyes, and intoned simply: "Casaba."

And my favorite, from Terminator 2:

In Robert Patrick's T-1000 prison break scene, the robot phases through the cell bars with a slurpy metallic sound. Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom revealed the effect was achieved by a simple solution from the sound of dog food being slowly sucked out of the can.

See also a short video tribute to the sounds of Star Wars.

The top 10 most beautiful movies of all timeJUL 23

Ok, so narrowing down all of the beautifully shot movies in the world to a list of just 10 is absurd, but to their credit, the gang at Cinefix manage to mention more than 50 or 60 movies in their top 10 review. If you've only seen even a few of these, you're doing well.

Manhattan, Citizen Kane, The Fall, 2001, Hero, The Tree of Life. Damn.

The Art of the Opening ShotJUL 09

The opening scenes from dozens of movies, including 2001, There Will Be Blood, Lost in Translation, Seven Samurai, and Star Wars.

(via devour)

Reviving a 17th century masterpieceJUL 17

The Met recently cleaned and repaired a 1660 painting by Charles Le Brun called Everhard Jabach and His Family. It took ten months of painstaking work, as this video shows:

Colossal has some before-and-after shots of the painting.

Slow motion lightningJUL 22

Slow motion video of a South Dakota lightning storm shot at 2000 fps.

I love the little tendrils "sent out" by the clouds before a big strike happens. It's like nature is searching for the optimal path for the energy to travel and then BAM!

Pixar: The Design of StoryJUL 27

Design Pixar

Pixar: The Design of Story is an upcoming exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum here in NYC.

Through concept art from films such as Toy Story, Wall-E, Up, Brave, The Incredibles and Cars, among others, the exhibition will focus on Pixar's process of iteration, collaboration and research, and is organized into three key design principles: story, believability and appeal. The exhibition will be on view in the museum's immersive Process Lab -- an interactive space that was launched with the transformed Cooper Hewitt in December 2014 -- whose rotating exhibitions engage visitors with activities that focus on the design process, emphasizing the role of experimentation in design thinking and making.

More details are available in the press release. Definitely going to check this out and take the kids.

Green Eggs and HamFEB 20

Green Eggs and Ham

After writing The Cat in the Hat in 1955 using only 223 words, Dr. Seuss bet his publisher that he could write a book using only 50 words. Seuss collected on the wager in 1960 with the publication of Green Eggs and Ham. Here are the 50 distinct words used in the book:

a am and anywhere are be boat box car could dark do eat eggs fox goat good green ham here house I if in let like may me mouse not on or rain Sam say see so thank that the them there they train tree try will with would you

From a programming perspective, one of the fun things about Green Eggs and Ham is because the text contains so little information repeated in a cumulative tale, the story could be more efficiently represented as an algorithm. A simple loop would take the place of the following excerpt:

I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam I am.

But I don't know...foreach ($items as $value) doesn't quite have the same sense of poetry as the original Seuss.

Parenthood is indescribableJUL 08

Mario Koran writes about how tough it can be to be a parent (particularly a single parent) and the impossibility of describing parenthood to someone without kids. This all rings true to me, especially this bit:

I also learned that being a dad means living in constant fear. Due to dumb, random chance, or a second's negligence, my entire world could implode at any moment. She could be electrocuted, shot, run-over, kidnapped or poisoned. She could get leukemia. It's all there, just waiting to happen. Each week, the fear seems to grow.

During the day, I keep these emotions contained in wire mesh. I can see the feelings. I know they're there, behind the wire. But I ignore them. I focus on work. At night, that wire mesh falls away. It's just my wife and Lucia and me, singing Twinkle Twinkle or ABCs -- or Twinkle Twinkle to the tune of ABCs. Some nights, after we tick off the lights and everything's quiet, I feel so much I suddenly realize I'm crying.

Elsewhere, danah boyd on "the irrational cloud of fear". Even Steve Jobs, not the best parent in the world, said that having kids is like having "your heart running around outside your body". Not every parent feels this way, but if you are prone to anxiety, that pretty much covers it.

In search of the longest NYC subway rideJUL 10

Longest Subway Trip

The WNYC Data News Team is looking for the longest possible NYC subway ride. The MTA says the longest direct trip is 38 miles, but WNYC found one that's 148 miles, requiring 45 transfers. They're running a little competition to see who can find a longer ride...check the rules for more details (short version: you can repeat stations but not track segments). This is basically a variant of the travelling salesman problem, yes? Anyone care to take a crack at it? (via @ryandawidjan)

Muji's minimalist white toasterJUL 24

I think I'm a little bit in love with Muji's white toaster, designed -- along with a few other new items -- by Naoto Fukasawa.

Muji Toaster

Fukasawa also designed Muji's wall-mounted CD player. The toaster is only available at select stores in the US for now, but can be found in the UK and Europe in a few months. Or buy it now on eBay. (via @daveg)

Highlighting Hollywood's race problemJUL 09

On his YouTube channel, Dylan Marron is cutting down films to only include dialogue spoken by persons of color. Under those conditions, Moonrise Kingdom is 10 seconds long. Her is about 40 seconds. Noah is 0 seconds.

(via @riondotnu)

The Dissolve dissolvesJUL 08

Bummer, film site The Dissolve has shut down. They burned bright for a short time.

For the past two years-well, two years this Friday -- it's been our pleasure to put up this site, a site founded on and driven by a love for movies, alongside a company with passion and talent for creating thoughtful, important work. Sadly, because of the various challenges inherent in launching a freestanding website in a crowded publishing environment, financial and otherwise, today is the last day we will be doing that. We've had this opportunity thanks to Pitchfork, which has been incredibly supportive of our vision. We couldn't have asked for a better partner.

I've linked to a few of their things over the past few months, and the quality was always high. Tony Zhou has collected a few of his favorite pieces from the site.

Trailer for the Sherlock Christmas specialJUL 11

With the pace of the excellent Sherlock series slowing down a bit because of scheduling (Cumberbatch, Freeman, Moffat, and Gatiss are increasingly busy), they still somehow found time to shoot a Christmas special that will air in December 2015. Here's a short teaser scene:

Self-destructing mosquitosJUL 16

A company called Oxitec has genetically modified mosquito eggs so that the mosquitos born from them pass along a gene to their offspring that prohibits the mosquitos from reaching sexual maturity and mating. They release the mosquitos into the wild, they mate with the local population of mosquitos, and those born from those matings will die before mating themselves. Voila! Pest control.

Oxitec has conducted trials with its modified mosquito in dengue-ridden regions of Panama, Brazil, Malaysia, and the Cayman Islands. The results show population suppression rates above 90 percent-far greater than the typical 30 percent achieved with insecticides.

The company is currently planning a trial in Florida using this technique to curb an influx of mosquito-borne illness.

Designers' summer reading picksJUL 24

Wired asked a bunch of noted designers -- Paola Antonelli, John Maeda, Jessica Walsh, Milton Glaser, etc. -- for their summer reading picks. Among their selections were Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, An Engineer Imagines by Peter Rice, The Success and Failure of Picasso by John Berger, and Just Enough Research by Erika Hall.

I can't believe it's not newspaperJUL 06

Randall Rosenthal makes amazingly realistic wooden sculptures of everyday objects like newspapers, legal pads, baseball cards, and kitchen scenes. He carves each of his sculptures out of a single block of wood. So, this is carved entirely out of wood:

Randall Rosenthal wooden sculpture

And so is this:

Randall Rosenthal wooden sculpture

And this too:

Randall Rosenthal wooden sculpture

And here's a look at that last sculpture in progress:

Randall Rosenthal wooden sculpture

(via @pieratt)

Understanding Art: Cezanne's The Large BathersJUL 20

Paul Cezanne's The Large Bathers is the subject of the second video in The Nerdwriter's series, Understanding Art. (The first was on Jacques-Louis David's The Death of Socrates.)

The Large Bathers is part of a series of similar paintings by Cezanne. The one used in the video is housed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art:

Cezanne Bathers

Other pieces include those from (top to bottom) The National Gallery, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Barnes Foundation:

Cezanne Bathers

Cezanne Bathers

Cezanne Bathers

Why medieval painting babies were uglyJUL 28

I had no idea Ol' Dirty Bastard and medieval paintings had something in common. One of ODB's AKAs was also the reason why babies in medieval paintings looked like ugly middle-aged men: Big Baby Jesus.

I mean, this baby looks like he wants to tell you that a boat is just a money pit.

This is the best-ever photo of Pluto. Tomorrow's will be better.JUL 08

Pluto is so far away that we haven't even been able to get a good look at it, not even with the crazy-powerful Hubble telescope. But with NASA's New Horizons mission closing in on our solar system' ninth planet,1 we are getting a better and better view of Pluto every day.1Here's the latest, from just a few hours ago:

Pluto Closeup

New Horizons will reach its closest approach to Pluto in just under 6 days, on July 14. The probe will pass within 7,800 miles of the surface...I can't wait to find out what that day's photos look like.

Update: You don't even need to wait until tomorrow for that better image...here's one that NASA released just a short while ago. Tune in tomorrow for an even better view.

Pluto closeup

  1. Oh yeah, I'm not letting this one go.

  2. New Horizons' imaging capability of Pluto surpassed Hubble's on May 15, 2015. So every picture since then has been better than what we've had previously.

Screen addiction (or why Grandma's sad)JUL 07

Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children, from Jane Brody in the NY Times:

Parents, grateful for ways to calm disruptive children and keep them from interrupting their own screen activities, seem to be unaware of the potential harm from so much time spent in the virtual world.

In reply, John Hermann writing at The Awl:

The grandparent who is persuaded that screens are not destroying human interaction, but are instead new tools for enabling fresh and flawed and modes of human interaction, is left facing a grimmer reality. Your grandchildren don't look up from their phones because the experiences and friendships they enjoy there seem more interesting than what's in front of them (you). Those experiences, from the outside, seem insultingly lame: text notifications, Emoji, selfies of other bratty little kids you've never met. But they're urgent and real. What's different is that they're also right here, always, even when you thought you had an attentional claim. The moments of social captivity that gave parents power, or that gave grandparents precious access, are now compromised. The TV doesn't turn off. The friends never go home. The grandkids can do the things they really want to be doing whenever they want, even while they're sitting five feet away from grandma, alone, in a moving soundproof pod.

As a writer for screens, someone who spends a tremendous amount of time each day staring at screens, and an involved parent of two grade-schoolers, this is precisely where my professional and personal lives meet, so I've done a bit of thinking about this recently. Here's what I've come up with and am attempting to actually believe:

People on smartphones are not anti-social. They're super-social. Phones allow people to be with the people they love the most all the time, which is the way humans probably used to be, until technology allowed for greater freedom of movement around the globe. People spending time on their phones in the presence of others aren't necessarily rude because rudeness is a social contract about appropriate behavior and, as Hermann points out, social norms can vary widely between age groups. Playing Minecraft all day isn't necessarily a waste of time. The real world and the virtual world each have their own strengths and weaknesses, so it's wise to spend time in both.

Biker lifts parked car out of bike laneJUL 28

How many times have you seen a car parked in the bike lane and wanted to somehow move it out of the way? Well, this very large cyclist felt that way and lifted this small car right out of his way.

I would love to see someone do this to an NYPD cruiser.1

  1. It's a total cliche, but right now in NYC, I can almost guarantee there are 2 or 3 NYPD cars parked in the bike lane outside a Dunkin Donuts. I see this at least twice a week, just randomly walking around.

How to make a Hattori Hanzo sword from Kill BillJUL 21

Man at Arms is a YouTube show in which real-life weapons from movies and TV shows are recreated. Recently they made the Bride's Hattori Hanzo sword from Kill Bill. They started from scratch by building a furnace from before the Edo period (before 1603) to smelt the iron ore.

I know zero about swords, but it looks like these guys really did their homework in making as close to a traditional katana blade as they could. (via devour)

The top 10 best running gags on Arrested DevelopmentJUL 21

Still, where did the lighter fluid come from?

Sister is my new mother, Mother.

I'm afraid I just blue myself.

I'm about halfway through season two of Arrested Development again on Netflix and it might be the best show ever on television. I'm not even kidding.

Update: NPR has been obsessively cataloging the show's running gags here. Holy shit, the extensive foreshadowing of Buster losing his hand! This show is amazing. (via @Nick__Vance)

Thom Yorke sings a pre-Radiohead version of High and DryJUL 27

While the members of On A Friday, the band that later became Radiohead, were on a break as they attended college, Thom Yorke was a member of a band called Headless Chickens. This is a video of a circa-1989 performance by the band of "High and Dry", a song that later on Radiohead's second album, The Bends, released in 1995.

Renaissance painting shows how watermelons looked before selective breedingJUL 29

A painting of fruit done by Giovanni Stanchi sometime in the mid 1600s shows that the watermelon has changed somewhat in the intervening 350 years.

Renaissance watermelon

That's because over time, we've bred watermelons to have the bright red color we recognize today. That fleshy interior is actually the watermelon's placenta, which holds the seeds. Before it was fully domesticated, that placenta lacked the high amounts of lycopene that give it the red color. Through hundreds of years of domestication, we've modified smaller watermelons with a white interior into the larger, lycopene-loaded versions we know today.

(via @robinsloan)

A guide to Don DeLillo's booksJUL 03

This list ranking Don DeLillo's novels into categories ranging from "Classic" to "Avoid" from 2007 excludes his two most recent novels, but if you have little exposure to the author, it's a good place to start.

White Noise. DeLillo's breakthrough success, arguably still his quintessential masterpiece, and the funniest and most sustained example of his talent. Jack Gladney, professor of Hitler Studies, struggles with information overload, simulated disasters, an "airborne toxic event," the most photographed barn in America, and a drug that neutralizes the fear of death. If you're going to like DeLillo, this is the book that will make it happen.

Confession: aside from attempting to tackle Underworld1 more than 10 years ago, I have not read any DeLillo. I should probably fix that? (via @davidgrann)

  1. I bought my copy of Underworld at a San Francisco used book store at the same time I bought Infinite Jest. Like I said, Underworld didn't do it for me, but reading IJ became an odd sort of turning point in my life.

Maps of the United States of SwearingJUL 30

Most everyone in the United States swears, but the specific words used vary by region. For example, "fuck" is popular in California but not so much in Oklahoma, which is the "crap" epicenter of America. "Motherfucker" is unusually popular in Maine, as is "shit" in the Southeast, "douche" in Iowa, and "fuckboy" in Jersey.

United States of Swearing

United States of Swearing

United States of Swearing

rating: 4.0 stars

The Truman ShowMAY 26

The Truman Show delusion is how some psychiatrists are describing the condition of psychotic patients who believe they are filmed stars of reality TV programs.

Another patient traveled to New York City and showed up at a federal building in downtown Manhattan seeking asylum so he could get off his reality show, Dr. Gold said. The patient reported that he also came to New York to see if the Twin Towers were still standing, because he believed that seeing their destruction on Sept. 11 on television was part of his reality show. If they were still standing, he said, then he would know that the terrorist attack was all part of the script.

As for the movie itself, for all its popularity and critical success when released, it's little-remembered today. And unfairly so; the "realness" about our increasingly mediated lives remains a hot topic of debate.

Remaster of The Iron Giant coming out in theatersJUL 08

Iron Giant

The Iron Giant has been remastered and burnished with a pair of extra scenes for a re-release in US theaters scheduled for the end of September.

Warner Bros. and Fathom Events are teaming up to bring The Iron Giant back to life. The beloved 1999 animated film is being remastered and augmented with new footage, and it's coming to select American theatres as what the studio's calling the "Signature Edition" on September 30th. There'll also be an encore presentation in select theatres a few days later on October 4th.

The movie earned a respectable $23 million at the box office and critical acclaim, but failed to recoup its $70 million production budget. After reading a bunch of positive reviews, including one from my cinematic divining rod Roger Ebert, I was one of the brave few souls to see The Iron Giant in the theater. Hope to catch it again in September. (via @anildash)

The four shades of introversionJUL 17

According to a model developed by psychologist Jonathan Cheek and his colleagues, there are actually four types of introversion: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained.

Social: Social introversion is the closest to the commonly held understanding of introversion, in that it's a preference for socializing with small groups instead of large ones. Or sometimes, it's a preference for no group at all -- solitude is often preferable for those who score high in social introversion. "They prefer to stay home with a book or a computer, or to stick to small gatherings with close friends, as opposed to attending large parties with many strangers," Cheek said. But it's different from shyness, in that there's no anxiety driving the preference for solitude or small groups.

I took the quiz at the bottom of the article and I'm a mix of roughly equal parts social, restrained, and anxious introversion with a dash of thinking.

A musical journey away from EarthJUL 14

Lightyear FM

Taking inspiration from the opening sequence of Contact, lightyear.fm is a musical journey away from the Earth. As you get farther out (say, 10 light years away, just past star Ross 154 in the constellation of Sagittarius), you hear music that was broadcast on the radio at that time (Gold Digger by Kanye West).

Radio broadcasts leave Earth at the speed of light. Scroll away from Earth and hear how far the biggest hits of the past have travelled. The farther away you get, the longer the waves take to travel there -- and the older the music you'll hear.

This is the coolest.

Ultimate commentary on Raiders of the Lost ArkJUL 23

If you are a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark -- and who isn't? -- then this is your holy grail: a feature-length commentary on the movie by Jamie Benning that includes seemingly every tidbit related to the film, including deleted scenes, audio commentary from the cast and crew, behind the scenes video, and much more. An incredible resource in understanding the film.

Benning has also done similarly excellent commentaries for Jaws, Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. (via @drwave)

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