You don't have to be a geek about everything in your life -- or anything, for that matter. But if geekdom is your goal, don't let anyone tell you it's unattainable. You don't have to be there "from the beginning" (whatever that means). You don't have to start when you're a kid. You don't need to be a member of a particular social class, race, sex, or gender.
Geekdom is not a club; it's a destination, open to anyone who wants to put in the time and effort to travel there. And if someone lacks the opportunity to get there, we geeks should help in any way we can. Take a new friend to a meetup or convention. Donate your old games, movies, comics, and toys. Be welcoming. Sharing your enthusiasm is part of being a geek.
You see, I've never been able to get a chocolate chip cookie exactly the way I like. I'm talking chocolate cookies that are barely crisp around the edges with a buttery, toffee-like crunch that transitions into a chewy, moist center that bends like caramel, rich with butter and big pockets of melted chocolate. Cookies with crackly, craggy tops and the complex aroma of butterscotch. And of course, that elusive perfect balance between sweet and salty.
Some have come close, but none have quite hit the mark. And the bigger problem? I was never sure what to change in order to get what I want. Cookies are fickle and the advice out there is conflicting. Does more sugar make for crisper cookies? What about brown versus white? Does it matter how I incorporate the chocolate chips or whether the flour is blended in or folded? How about the butter: cold, warm, or melted?
So many questions to ask and answers to explore! I made it my goal to test each and every element from ingredients to cooking process, leaving no chocolate chip unturned in my quest for the best. 32 pounds of flour, over 100 individual tests, and 1,536 cookies later, I had my answers.
Dang, this is like The Power Broker for baked goods, a cookie magnum opus.
It may not be immediately clear from looking at this map, but my hunch that there's a better way to hunt was right. There isn't one corner of the page where Waldo is always hiding; readers would have already noticed if his patterns were so obvious. What we do see, as highlighted in the map below, is that 53 percent of the time Waldo is hiding within one of two 1.5-inch tall bands, one starting three inches from the bottom of the page and another one starting seven inches from the bottom, stretching across the spread.
The directions for parallel parking (that you get from the DMV, or in your driver's ed course) are actually very precise and if you follow them exactly, you will park your car perfectly every time. You do not need to practice, you just need to fucking follow the directions.
After experimenting on protozoa, rats, and his eight children, Ehret recommended that the international traveler, in the several days before his flight, alternate days of feasting with days of very light eating. Come the flight, the traveler would nibble sparsely until eating a big breakfast at about 7:30 a.m. in his new time zone -- no matter that it was still 1:30 a.m. in the old time zone or that the airline wasn't serving breakfast until 10:00 a.m. His reward would be little or no jet lag.
The diet was adopted by US government agencies and other groups as well as Ronald Reagan, but it difficult to stick to. Recently, researchers in Boston have devised a simpler anti-jet lag remedy:
The international traveler, they counsel, can avoid jet lag by simply not eating for twelve to sixteen hours before breakfast time in the new time zone-at which point, as in Ehret's diet, he should break his fast. Since most of us go twelve to sixteen hours between dinner and breakfast anyway, the abstention is a small hardship.
According to the Harvard team, the fast works because our bodies have, in addition to our circadian clock, a second clock that might be thought of as a food clock or, perhaps better, a master clock. When food is scarce, this master clock suspends the circadian clock and commands the body to sleep much less than normally. Only after the body starts eating again does the master clock switch the circadian clock back on.
Totally trying this the next time I have to travel, although the Advil PM/melatonin combination my doctor suggested worked really well for me on my trip to New Zealand. (via @genmon)
I was poking around on YouTube for "how to" videos (one of my favorite video genres) the other day when I hit a small jackpot: a bunch of How Do They...? videos from the National Film Board of Canada. A favorite shows how chain link fences are made:
This video seems like it was made specifically for kottke.org. In the first half of it, you learn how cranberries are harvested. In the second half, there's gorgeous HD slo-mo footage of wakeskating through a cranberry bog.
A short video about the ingredients that go into every can of Play-Doh:
Sadly, the composition of the amazing fragrance is not revealed, but Wired asked a perfumer about it a couple of years ago:
Hasbro's patent admits to vanilla, but that's just to throw us off the scent. The real formula for this iconic odor is guarded like the crown jewels. After talking with New York perfumer Christopher Brosius, who offers a Play-Doh fragrance, we suspect that it draws from the aromatic flowers of the heliotrope, aka the cherry pie plant.
Steinway & Sons, the celebrated piano making company, recently produced this video of how their grand pianos are constructed. Their process for building pianos has changed so little that they were able pair 1980s factory tour audio from former chairman John Steinway to contemporary footage of their Astoria, NY factory.
You can see how little has changed as you watch this 1929 film of how a Steinway piano was made:
Some of the shots in the two videos are identical, e.g. the men pulling the piano rim out of the mold or choosing spruce for the sounding boards. It interesting to compare these two videos with Wednesday's video of how Telsa sedans are made. Together, the three form a view of the progression of automation in manufacturing. I wonder if the Tesla robots could construct a piano that sounds as good as a Steinway? (via open culture)
Tesla got the factory for a song from Toyota in 2010, spent about a year or so setting up tooling and started producing the Model S sedan in mid-2012. The automaker brings in raw materials by the truckload, including the massive rolls of aluminum that are bent, pressed, and formed to create the car. Those lightweight components are assembled by swarm of red robots in an intricate ballet that is mesmerizing to behold.
Karen Cheng learned to dance in a year. Here's a video of her progress, from just a few days in to her final number:
Here's my secret: I practiced everywhere. At bus stops. In line at the grocery store. At work -- Using the mouse with my right hand and practicing drills with my left hand. You don't have to train hardcore for years to become a dancer. But you must be willing to practice and you better be hungry.
This isn't a story about dancing, though. It's about having a dream and not knowing how to get there -- but starting anyway. Maybe you're a musician dreaming of writing an original song. You're an entrepreneur dying to start your first venture. You're an athlete but you just haven't left the chair yet.
The interesting thing is, Cheng basically did the same thing in her professional life as well.
I decided to become a designer, but I had no design skills. I thought about going back to school for design, but the time and money commitment was too big a risk for a career choice I wasn't totally sure of.
So I taught myself -- everyday I would do my day job in record time and rush home to learn design. Super talented people go to RISD for 4 years and learn design properly. I hacked together my piecemeal design education in 6 months -- there was no way I was ready to become a designer. But I was so ready to leave Microsoft. So I started the job search and got rejected a few times. Then I got the job at Exec.
The first few weeks were rough. Everyday I sat in front of my computer trying my damnedest and thinking it wasn't good enough. But everyday I got a little bit better.
Last month, we posted a video of Tim Knoll doing ridiculous and panic-inducing circus style tricks on his bike. In the video below, he explains how he does the bike limbo, riding under several semi trucks in a row. Just because he tells you how to do it, does not mean you should try it. In fact, it is the expressed opinion of this blog you should not try it. However, if you do try it and you do feel yourself falling -- which you will, because let's be honest -- don't try to lift your head up. Just fall, because as Knoll says, "scrapes are better than stitches."
Until fairly recently, recycled glass was not made into new glass bottles. But now recycling plants can use optical sorting to separate out colored glass from clear glass so the latter can be used to make new bottles. Here's how the process works.
Don't miss the glass gobs shooting down into the molding machine at around 2:13.
Remember that the only representation of you, no matter what your station, is you -- your presentation, your demeanor. You simply must attend. Stand when someone enters the room, especially if you are lowly and he is the boss, and even if the reverse is true. Look them in the eye. Ask yourself: Does anybody need an introduction? If so, before you say one word about business, introduce them to others with pleasure in your voice. If you can't muster enthusiasm for the people you happen upon in life, then you cannot be gracious. Remember, true graciousness demands that you have time for others.
Alex Cornell has constructed a handy infographic to help you decide where to sit at a restaurant or dinner party table.
7 Person Rectangle: It's very easy to get screwed in this scenario. While it may appear like you can sit anywhere except the ends, this is not so. You are at risk of sitting next to the lonely end-seat, which requires you to speak soley to that person for the duration of the meal.
If your car is ever stolen, your first calls should be to every cab company in the city. You offer a $50 reward to the driver who finds it AND a $50 reward to the dispatcher on duty when the car is found. The latter is to encourage dispatchers on shift to continually remind drivers of your stolen car. Of course you should call the police too but first things first. There are a lot more cabs than cops so cabbies will find it first -- and they're more frequently going in places cops typically don't go, like apartment and motel complex parking lots, back alleys etc. Lastly, once the car is found, a swarm of cabs will descend and surround it because cabbies, like anyone else, love excitement and want to catch bad guys.
Yesterday I was pairing the socks from the clean laundry, and figured out the way I was doing it is not very efficient. I was doing a naive search -- picking one sock and "iterating" the pile in order to find its pair. This requires iterating over n/2 * n/4 = n^2/8 socks on average.
As a computer scientist I was thinking what I could do? sorting (according to size/color/...) of course came into mind to achieve O(NlogN) solution.
And everyone gets it wrong. The correct answer is actually:
1) Throw all your socks out.
2) Go to Uniqlo and buy 15 identical pairs of black socks.
3) When you want to wear socks, pick any two out of the drawer.
4) When you notice your socks are wearing out, goto step 1.
So as a parent, you're left with the question not just of how to talk to your child about tragedy, but of whether you're talking to your child for your child -- or for yourself. There's the question of what to say, but also when, and if, you should say it. "If you're feeling panicked, and like there's no place safe in the world, then that's a good time to step back and get those thoughts in order," Dr. Rappaport suggested. "But if we try to wait until we've fully come to terms with something like this, then we'll never be able to talk. In fact, we'd never be able to get out of bed in the morning."
So far, I've found advice from Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. Any child psychologists reading today? Can you point me towards some other (possibly better) sources? Email me here: email@example.com. I will collect the best resources and post here.
1/2 meat + 1/2 meat = 3/2 meat. Forgetting is natural, like Chipotle meat, so let me remind you that when you add fractions you only add the top part, when the bottom part is the same number. Therefore, when you're asked what type of meat, and you say "half chicken and half steak", it should equal one serving of meat. But it never does. Because a scoop of meat is kinda just a scoop of meat, and nobody in Chipotle management has yet introduced new "half" scoops with which to more precisely address this perfectly legal request. So use it. IMPORTANT: Unlike with the beans, you should make your position on the half meats clear from the beginning, otherwise they charge you for "extra meat."
Now that you're properly equipped, your next challenge is time! You're going to want to read, and read, and read-but modern life sometimes makes that difficult. What's to be done?
Take the book with you everywhere, that's what. Bank line-ups, buses, bathrooms, those precious 8 minutes while the pasta boils - you know what to do! A few pages here, a few pages there, and next thing you know, you're 500 pages in, with only another 200 to go.
Then there's all the time you'll save by not watching television. Remember: the most highly-praised shows in recent years are always compared to ... Victorian novels! Some of them are straight-up based on them! Just read the originals. They are always better.
You will need an email address to do things like register for blog accounts, Facebook, Twitter, and more. This email will have to be something entirely separate from your "real" email addresses. There are a lot of free options out there, but be aware that sending an email from many of them also sends information in the headers that could help identify you.
When I started blogging, I set up an email address for the blog with Hotmail. Don't do this. Someone quickly pointed out the headers revealed where I worked (a very large place with lots of people and even more computers, but still more information than I was comfortable with). They suggested I use Hushmail instead, which I still use. Hushmail has a free option (though the inbox allocation is modest), strips out headers, and worked for me.
Cocktail enthusiast Martin Doudoroff explains how to make an Old Fashioned without using any of the "various bad ideas" (e.g. "There is no slice of orange in an Old Fashioned") that have crept in over the years.
Sugar (and the scant water it is dissolved in) mellows the spirit of the drink. Not much is required, just a little, as the quality of today's spirits is so much higher than it typically was when the Old Fashioned was born. A little splash of simple syrup generally suffices. Gum syrup, rich simple syrup, demerara syrup, brown sugar syrup, sugar cane syrup (the variety filtered of molasses solids) all are great choices. Agave syrup or other neutral diet-sensitive sweeteners may suffice.
Honey, maple syrup, molasses or other strongly-flavored sweeteners do not belong in an Old Fashioned, which is not to say you cannot or should not create nice variations on the Old Fashioned with them.
If not for the photos, I would not have believed this story: a woman duct-taped a bunch of food to her body in order to attract raccoons. No, really:
Just before entering coon HQ, duct-tape your bounty of trash food all over yourself. Raccoons' propensity to enjoy garbage-can snacks, coupled with their shitty attitude and distinct facial markings, makes them the crust punks of the animal kingdom (without the heroin problem and terrible taste in music). And just like crusties, they'll approach without warning and snatch a turkey sub right out of your hands, so you can only imagine how appetizing you're going to look with two-week-old baguettes for arms.
One comestible raccoons seem to find yucky, however, is broccoli. Use their aversion to your aesthetic and protective advantage by surrounding danger zones (i.e., your junk) with appropriate amounts of the leafy green stuff.
Hey Edith, Kreayshawn is nothing...join me in waving your cane at this girl in the food suit. The kids today, really.
The fastest method is one of Steffen's own design: boarding alternating rows at the same time, starting with the window seats. The secret, he says, is that it leaves passengers elbow room to stow their luggage at the same time.
Even random boarding is faster than the back-to-front boarding the airlines currently use. (via jcn)
I'd been wondering if a video like this existed, but I'd never been able to find it before. "Most of us probably take our rolls of toilet paper for granted." I like seeing how the cardboard tubes are made.
Are officials troubling you for fingerprints? "There's a nongreasy glue, like a mucilage," he said, that is more or less invisible once applied. "You put it on your thumb. You roll your thumb over your heel. Now, you've got a heel print on your thumb for no one who exists."
A few things became clear as soon as their replies came in. First of all, I'll have to throttle back my use of Twitter and Facebook to get this writing done (and I may never rev up my idle Quora account after all.) Secondly, scheduling intervals of regular exercise and renewal amid the hours of writing will be essential.
I'm talking about those rugged paper bags of hardwood charcoal that are bound at the top with a zipper-like string seam that looks as if it was made to cleanly unravel. Sometimes it doesn't and then you can yank and yank to no avail. And even when it does there seems to be some magic involved, like the gods of charcoal are smiling down on you.
Service journalism at its finest...now I won't have to tug on the string like an uncomprehending chimp and then just rip the bag. Ok fine, fail to rip the bag because I'm not strong enough and go inside and get the scissors and cut it. Like a fancy gentleman.
I cobbled together this set up out of the desire to properly archive my design work. Next thing I knew I started getting paid for it, and it became an integral part of my work. I am simply listing my equipment and a little bit about what I know to get some designers started in figuring out the best way to shoot their own work.
Jason Fried reveals how he got good at making money. I am not a full-fledged member of the Church of 37signals, but one of my favorite lessons from them is that a business needs to practice how to make money in order to get good at it...it's not something that you just turn on when monetizing mode strikes.
So here's a great way to practice making money: Buy and sell the same thing over and over on Craigslist or eBay. Seriously.
Go buy something on Craigslist or eBay. Find something that's a bit of a commodity, so you know there's always plenty of supply and demand. An iPod is a good test. Buy it, and then immediately resell it. Then buy it again. Each time, try selling it for more than you paid for it. See how far you can push it. See how much profit you can make off 10 transactions.
Start tweaking the headline. Then start fiddling with the product description. Vary the photographs. Take some pictures of the thing for sale; use other photos with other items, or people, in them. Shoot really high-quality shots, and also post crappy ones from your cell-phone camera. Try every variation you can think of.
Before we can figure out how to improve our end results, it's important to understand exactly what's going on when an onion browns. First, the onions begin by sweating. As they slowly heat up, moisture from their interior (they are roughly 75% water by weight) begins to evaporate, forcing its way out of the onion's cells, and causing them to rupture in the process. This breakdown of the cells is what causes onions to soften during the initial stages of cooking.
Maybe it's because I have an oddly intense interest in croissants, but I found this 10-minute video about how to make them fascinating. Watch at least until the 1 kg sheet of butter is placed on the dough to be folded over several times.
Spoiler: they turn out great, which was unexpected because so often croissants are more bready and dry than flakey and moist, even in France. (thx, aaron)
Let the design team be the design experts. Your job is to be the business expert. Ask them how their design solutions meet your business goals. If you trust your design team, and they can explain how their recommendations map to those goals, you're fine. If you neither trust them, nor can they defend their choices it's time to get a new design team.
This should be printed out and nailed into the forehead of every designer and their clients a la Luther's Ninety-Five Theses, you know, for easy reference.
I don't want to have to explain to your parents why you didn't graduate, so I went to the Dean and I made a deal. The deal is you can either wait it out and hope that we don't identify you, or you can identify yourself to your lab instructor and you can complete the rest of the course and the grade you get in the course is the grade you earned in the course.
If you've got a Mac, the "droid" sound that Android phones make -- yep, the one from the commercials -- can be produced in the following manner:
1. Open Terminal.app
2. Type say -v "Cellos" "droid" at the prompt
3. Experiment: say -v "Cellos" "droid. sucks."
4. Or say -v "Cellos" "droid want to be iphone when droid grow up"
5. And finally, say "i am trying to unlock the mysteries of the universe, like how the big bang happened and where all the lost socks go after being in the dryer that really makes me mad"
Over at Serious Eats, Kenji Lopez-Alt assures us that while you can't make restaurant-quality Neapolitan pizza at home, you can come damn close. Best thing is, his technique doesn't involve lining your oven with bricks and is actually as easy as making regular pizza at home.
After cooking for around a minute and a half, the bottom crust achieved the perfect degree of char-even better than what I was getting on the stone. Interestingly enough, the pan was actually cooler than the stone I was using, maxing out at around 450 degrees. So how does a 450 degree pan brown better and faster than a 550 degree stone? It's a matter of heat capacity and density.
The heat capacity of a material is directly related to the amount of energy that a given mass of material holds at a given temperature. Even though stone has almost twice the heat capacity than steel (.2 kcal/kg C vs. .1 kcal/kg C), it loses in two ways: it is far less dense than steel, and it has a much lower rate of heat conduction than steel. The pizza cooking in a skillet is not just getting energy from the pan-it's getting energy from the burner below the pan as it gets rapidly conducted through the metal.
It's a clear demonstration of how when cooking foods, what matters it the amount of energy transferred, not just the temperature you cook at. The two are often directly related, but not always.
I have said it before but will repeat: I love Kenji's nerdiness about the science combined with the ability to come up with the solution that's easiest for non-nerds to appreciate and implement. It is a rare and wonderful thing to observe.
If you are at first lonely, be patient. If you've not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren't okay with it, then just wait. You'll find it's fine to be alone once you're embracing it.
We could start with the acceptable places, the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library. Where you can stall and read the paper, where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there. Where you can browse the stacks and smell the books. You're not supposed to talk much anyway so it's safe there.
14. I don't care if the restaurant is pouring Chateau Latour into Minnie Mouse mugs, don't walk into a restaurant carrying your own wine glasses. It's more pretentious than wearing a monocle and spats.
Somehow it became NSFW day here at kottke.org. So we're rolling with it, in the hay. Here's the Tron version of the Kama Sutra. It is so very NSFW even though everyone stays fully clothed in glowing blue garments.
The beer-like way of serving champagne was found to impact its concentration of dissolved CO2 significantly less. Moreover, the higher the champagne temperature is, the higher its loss of dissolved CO2 during the pouring process, which finally constitutes the first analytical proof that low temperatures prolong the drink's chill and helps it to retain its effervescence during the pouring process.
If you are filming a Girls Gone Wild video or are in the late stages of a wedding reception, pouring champagne directly into a person's mouth is also an effective bubble-preservation technique. (via @matthiasrascher)
According to the In-N-Out nutrition guideline, replacing the Spread with ketchup results in a decrease of 80 calories per sandwich. I know that ketchup has about 15 calories per tablespoon, so If we estimate that an average sandwich has about 2 tablespoons of sauce on it (that's the amount that's inside a single packet), then we can calculate that the Spread has got about 55 calories per tablespoon (110 calories in two tablespoons of Spread minus 30 calories in 2 tablespoons of ketchup = 80 calories difference in the sandwich). With me so far?
It just so happens that relish has about the same caloric density as ketchup (15 calories per tablespoon), and that mayonnaise has a caloric density of 80 calories per tablespoon. Using all of this information and a bit of 7th grade algebra, I was able to quickly calculate that the composition of the Spread is roughly 62 percent mayo, and 38 percent ketchup/relish blend.
A two part (one, two) series on using psychological techniques to improve your creativity.
Interviews with 22 Nobel Laureates in physiology, chemistry, medicine and physics as well as Pulitzer Prize winning writers and other artists has found a surprising similarity in their creative processes (Rothenberg, 1996).
Called 'Janusian thinking' after the many-faced Roman god Janus, it involves conceiving of multiple simultaneous opposites. Integrative ideas emerge from juxtapositions, which are usually not obvious in the final product, theory or artwork.
Physicist Niels Bohr may have used Janusian thinking to conceive the principle of complementarity in quantum theory (that light can be analysed as either a wave or a particle, but never simultaneously as both).
1. Keep them too busy to think.
2. Keep them tired.
3. Keep them emotionally involved.
4. Reward intermittently.
Then the author provides a number of techniques you can use to achieve those goals. Like:
Keep real rewards distant. The rewards in "Things will be better when..." are usually nonrewards -- things will go back to being what they should be when the magical thing happens. Real rewards -- happiness, prosperity, career advancement, a new house, children -- are far in the distance. They look like they're on the schedule, but there's nothing in the To Do column. For example, everything will be better when we move to our own house in the country... but there's nothing in savings for the house, no plan to save, no house picked out, not even a region of the country settled upon.
Can't get enough of the Leidenfrost effect? I know! Me either! In addition to helping with nonstick cooking, the L. effect also allows you to stick your hand into an 850° pot of molten lead without injury.
Skip to 1:55 for the good stuff. Bananas! Absolutely bananas! Oh, and this also works for liquid nitrogen as well. (thx, kyle)
This blog post and accompanying videos show you how to preheat your frying pan to the precise temperature at which your food won't stick. It involves waiting until a small splash of water in the pan forms a single mercury-like ball that floats (literally!) around the pan. Too hot and the water will disperse into smaller balls; too cold and it'll just boil off instantly.
The water "hovering" over the stainless steel pan like mercury happens due to the phenomenon known as the Leidenfrost effect. You can read more about it on wikipedia, but the basic idea is this: at a certain temperature known as the Leidenfrost point (roughly around 320F for water, but varying with surface and pressure), when the water droplet hits the hot pan, the bottom part of the water vaporizes immediately on contact. The resulting gas actually suspends the water above it and creates a pocket of water vapor that slows further heat transfer between the pan and the water. Thus it evaporates more slowly than it would at lower temperatures. At the proper temperature, a similar effect happens with the food you place in the pan, preventing the food from sticking.
This is possibly the best kitchen tip I've ever heard. (thx, jim)
5. Give things names and remember Douglas Adams' rule of capital letters. Capital letters make things important. For example, in The Tipping Point, Gladwell conjures up the following important concepts: The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and The Power of Context. In Outliers, there's The Matthew Effect and The 10,000-Hour Rule.
It involves finagling some uncooked frozen fries from a local McDonald's under the ruse of a scavenger hunt. Kenji Lopez-Alt explains.
I've been literally giddy with the quality of the fries that have been coming out of my kitchen for the last two days. My wife won't hear the end of it. Even my puppy is wondering why his owner keeps exclaiming "Holy s**t that's good!" every half hour from the kitchen. I've cooked over 43 batches of fries in the last three days, and I'm happy to report that I've finally found a way to consistently reach crisp, golden Nirvana.
Here's the full recipe/instructions. BTW, Kenji's series of posts on Serious Eats is one of the best things going on the web right now (you might remember his sous-vide in a beer cooler hack). Passionate down-to-earth writing about cooking and food backed by some serious skills and scientific knowledge...it's really fun to read.
Keep a food diary not of what you eat but what you experience. She says, "There's a pretty big difference between eating and tasting."
What she means is considering and taking note of the entire experience of tasting: The way the food feels in your mouth, what your beer smells like cold and if it's different when it's lukewarm, what you notice with the first piping-hot bite of sauce compared with the last chilled streaks you scrape up before the server takes the plate. Do you feel one sensation more than others as you chew, a citrusy tingle at first, followed by rush of sweet?
You will get caught, either by a US spy satellite (as in the case of North Korea), a disgruntled defector (as in the case of Iraq), or even an indigenous human rights group (as in the case of Iran). So what should you do if you get caught? First and foremost, do not overreact. Deny. Should the evidence become too powerful, then, change tack. Create a distraction. Argue that the uranium particles found in your country were purposely scattered by a hostile nation. Challenge the credibility of the information provided to the IAEA. Bring up Israel again.
With traditional cookery, when you are exposing your meat to temperatures much hotter than their final desired temperature (say, cooking a steak to 130°F in a 550°F skillet), timing is crucial. The center of your steak is getting hotter and hotter, and it's your job as cook to take it off the flame at precisely the moment that it reaches the desired final temperature. Miss that precise moment, and dinner is ruined.
The beauty of sous-vide cooking is that since you are cooking your steak in a 130°F water bath to begin with, there is absolutely no chance your meat will ever get above that temperature. Guests are an hour late? No problem -- leave the steaks in the water bath, and they'll be exactly the same an hour later.
The Guardian asked a bunch of writers to share their tips for writing fiction. The responses appear in twoparts. Elmore Leonard:
Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said"... he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".
Here's Philip Pullman's response in full:
My main rule is to say no to things like this, which tempt me away from my proper work.
I am an expert. I have sliced off thumb tips and fingernails. I have shaved paper-thin wafers of my knuckle and buried a breaking/cimeter knife an inch and a half into my forearm. If it weren't for the stainless steel chainmail "butcher bra" that Josh from Fleisher's bought me for Christmas last year, I might not be alive to write this essay, having perhaps bled out from one of the many horrible chest wounds averted by its Mithril magic.
I've posted about hikaru dorodango a couple times before but they're always worth another look. Dorodango start out as sloppy mud balls but through careful shaping and polishing with dirt and sand, they end up perfectly round and shiny. Here is a particularly beautiful and unusual example, made from some yellow soil in New Mexico:
That totally looks like leather! Here is a more traditional (and shiny!) example:
The idea of design has been so thoroughly associated with computers in my mind, I'd forgotten the essential sculptural processes it used to involve: carving, modelmaking, molding, pouring... How design and art ever stayed separate in those days, I cannot imagine.
If I ever wanted to buy anything on eBay, I would probably use this advice.
I am continually amazed at how many people incrementally bid up an item they want six days before an auction is over. It's like watching someone walk around with a switch unknown to him flipped permanently to stupid.
To find out whether someone's smart, I just have a casual conversation with them. I do everything I can to take off any pressure off: I meet at a cafe, I make it clear it's not an interview, I do my best to be casual and friendly. Under no circumstances do I ask them any standard "interview questions" -- I just chat with them like I would with someone I met at a party. (If you ask people at parties to name their greatest strengths and weaknesses or to estimate the number of piano tuners in Chicago, you've got bigger problems.) I think it's pretty easy to tell whether someone's smart in casual conversation. I constantly make judgments about whether people I meet are smart, just like I constantly make judgments about whether people I see are attractive.
Many animals are more interesting at dawn and dusk, so the earlier or later you can arrange your visit, the better. If you ever find yourself in Singapore, don't miss the famous Night Safari. You haven't lived until you've felt your way along a jungle path in utter darkness, rounding a corner and spotting a pack of hyenas in a pool of light twenty yards away, with no apparent fence between you.
The most striking feature of the H1N1 flu vaccine manufacturing process is the 1,200,000,000 chicken eggs required to make the 3 billion doses of vaccine that may be required worldwide. There are entire chicken farms in the US and around the world dedicated to producing eggs for the purpose of incubating influenza viruses for use in vaccines. No wonder it takes six months from start to finish. But we'll get to that in a minute.
The most commonly used process for manufacturing an influenza vaccine was developed in the 1940s -- one of its co-inventors was Jonas Salk, who would go on to develop the polio vaccine -- and has remained basically unchanged since then. The process is coordinated by the World Health Organization and begins with the detection of a new virus (or rather one that differs significantly from those already going around); in this instance, the Pandemic H1N1/09 virus. Once the pandemic strain has been identified and isolated, it is mixed with a standard laboratory virus through a technique called genetic reassortment, the purpose of which is to create a hybrid virus (also called the "reference virus strain") with the pandemic strain's surface antigens and the lab strain's core components (which allows the virus to grow really well in chicken eggs). Then the hybrid is tested to make sure that it grows well, is safe, and produces the proper antigen response. This takes about six to nine weeks.
[Quick definitional pause. Antigen: "An antigen is any substance that causes your immune system to produce antibodies against it. An antigen may be a foreign substance from the environment such as chemicals, bacteria, viruses, or pollen. An antigen may also be formed within the body, as with bacterial toxins or tissue cells." So, when the H1N1 vaccine gets inside your body, the pandemic strain's surface antigens will produce antibodies against it.]
At roughly the same time, a parallel effort to produce what are referred to as reference reagents is undertaken. The deliverable here is a standardized kit provided to vaccine manufacturers so that they can test how much virus they are making and how effective it is. This process serves to standardize vaccine doses across manufacturers and takes four months to complete. WHO notes that this part of the process is "often a bottleneck to the overall timeline for manufacturers to generate the vaccine".
Once the reference virus strain is produced, it is sent to pharmaceutical companies (Novartis, Sanofi Pasteur, etc.) for large-scale production of the vaccine. The companies fine-tune the virus to increase yields and produce seed virus banks that will be used in the bulk production.
And this is where the 1.2 billion chicken eggs come in. A portion of the seed virus is injected into each 9- to 12-day old fertilized egg. The virus incubates in the egg white for two to three days and is then separated from the egg.
For the shot vaccine, the virus is sterilized so that it won't make anyone sick. This is the magic part of the vaccine: it's got the pandemic virus antigens that make your body produce the antibodies to fight the virus but the virus is inactive so it won't make you ill. For the nasal spray vaccine, the virus is left alive and attenuated to survive only in the nose and not the warmer lungs; it'll infect you enough to produce antibodies but not enough to make you sick. Either way, the surface antigens are separated out and purified to produce the active ingredient in the vaccine. Each batch of antigen takes about two weeks to produce. With enough laboratory space and chicken eggs, the companies can crank out an infinite amount of purified antigens, but those resources are limited in practice.
[Side note. You may have noticed that the H1N1 vaccine has been difficult to find in some places around the US. The vaccine manufacturers have said that the Pandemic H1N1/09 virus when combined with the standard laboratory virus does not grow as fast in the eggs as they anticipated. The batches of antigens from each egg have been smaller than expected, up to five or even ten times smaller in some cases. Hence the slow rollout of the vaccine.]
The purified antigen is then tested against the aforementioned reference reagents once they are ready. The antigen is diluted to the required concentration and placed into properly labelled vials or syringes. Further testing is performed to make sure the vaccine won't make anyone ill, to confirm the correct concentration, and for general safety. At this point clinical testing in humans is required in western Europe but not in the United States. Finally, each company's vaccine has to be approved by the appropriate regulatory body in each country -- that's the FDA in the case of the US -- and then the vaccine is distributed to medical facilities around the country.
3. Put something more than a teaspoon but something less than a tablespoon of salt in the flour. That is like "three pinches." It doesn't really matter how much! Saltiness offsets sweetness! People, who are animals, like salt!
4. Put about the same amount of sugar in the flour! Give or take! IT DOESN'T MATTER.
Choire also notes at one point that the crust "should look sort of gross".
Upon tasting it, my immediate thoughts are mayo, ketchup, a little yellow mustard, a hint of garlic and paprika, perhaps a touch of cayenne pepper, and an elusive sour quality that I can't quite pinpoint. It's definitely not just vinegar or lemon juice, nor is does it have the cloying sweetness of relish. Pickle juice? Cornichon? Some other type of vinegar? I can't figure it out. This was going to take a little more effort.
Totally doing this for dinner one of these nights. We'll probably cheat on the ground beef...we've got some Pat LaFrieda patties stockpiled in the freezer.
A quick how-to summary of the daring and thus-far successful robbery of a Stockholm cash depot by helicopter last week. Sounds like something out of a movie. From the CNN report, this is the best part:
Swedish police couldn't pursue the thieves because a bag marked "bomb" had been placed outside the police heliport, and officers had to deal with the bag before they could enter the heliport. It is unclear whether the bag contained a bomb.
Unclear? Really? I'm surprised the bag didn't say ACME on the side of it.
When the food arrives, does your client salt and pepper the food before he or she tastes it? If so, this is a clear sign that your client is potentially closed-minded, not open to new ideas, or set in his or her ways. If your client first tastes the food, and then adds salt or pepper, tremendous. This suggests your client has opinions, and is not afraid to exercise them-but only after the voice of the "creator" (in this case the chef) has been fairly given a chance first.
Like all con games, this one is based on the illusion that the sucker has the advantage. In this case, it's the conviction that this kind of client always has that it's your job to do as they say. Little do they realize that your final allegiance is not to them, but to the quality of the work, something that you cannot in good conscience permit them to jeopardize with their lack of taste.
The lighting-designer version of this is to tell the director that yes, you can make the lights brighter, but you'll need to turn off the power for a few minutes while you change some of the wiring. Turn everything off, wait fifteen minutes while the director's eyes adjust to the dark, then turn everything back on. It sure does look brighter now, doesn't it?
Restaurants may be the only place on earth where the last impression is the most important. Admit it: Your opinion can be swayed, or at least rescued, by excellent desserts. Similarly, it's true for the house, and if you make a strong exit, they'll remember you next time on the way in. So, in addition to the aforementioned good tip, this means a few things: When you sense the restaurant wants the table back, give it to them (once you're a Regular, you'll have the corner booth for as long as you need it). Thank your server by name if he or she is in earshot when you get up to leave.
As noted in the comments, it's best not to try all of these at once, but this is pretty solid advice.
A few weeks ago, I wrote the foreword for Infinite Summer, a summer-long collective read of Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace's big-ass novel and one of my favorite books. That piece was actually my second draft. My first attempt was a list of advice on reading the novel...the submission of which prompted InfSum's dungeon master, Matthew Baldwin, to write back with a frowny face and a pointer to this piece published -- unbeknownst to me (I have the Time Machine backups to prove it!) -- the day before I submitted my draft.
Anyway, here's that first draft on how to read Infinite Jest:
1. If you haven't already, buy the book, get it from your local library, or download to your Kindle. I got my copy in 2001 at a local San Francisco bookstore; I bought it used along with a used copy of Don DeLillo's Underworld (which I started but never finished). I was upset at something that day and purchased the books as a sort of Fuck You to whatever it was that was pissing me off. "Oh yeah? Well, I'm gonna read both of these huge books. Fuck You!" Best $10.80 I ever spent.
2. Warning! This book contains several footnotes. Hundreds, in fact. They run on, at a very small point size, for almost 100 pages at the conclusion of the main text. One of the footnotes, which contains the complete filmography of a fictional filmmaker, goes for more than 8 pages and itself has 6 footnotes. Every single oh-my-God-this-thing-is-a-doorstop review of IJ since 1996 has trumpeted this fact so you're probably already up to speed re: the footnotes but I didn't want you to be caught unawares or pants down.
3. You're going to want to but don't skip the footnotes. They are important. Yes, even the filmography one.
4. Physically, Infinite Jest is a large book: 2.2 inches thick and, according to Amazon.com, has a shipping weight of 3.2 pounds. Some readers have found it useful to rip the book in half for easier reading on the subway or on the beach. If you do this, you also need to tear the footnotes from the back half and tape them to front half. This technique has the side effect of giving you the appearance of A Very Serious Reader of Infinite Jest, which will either keep onlookers' questions to a minimum or maximum, depending on the onlooker.
5. If you opt not to destroy your copy of IJ, you should use the three bookmark method. One bookmark for where you are in the main text, another for your current footnote location, and a third for page 223, which lists the years covered by the novel in chonological order, from the Year of the Whopper (which corresponds to 2002) to the Year of Glad (2010). To say that IJ skips around quite a bit chronologically is an understatement, so keeping the timeline straight is important.
7. Get a copy of Greg Carlisle's Elegant Complexity, *the* reference book for Infinite Jest. Reading EC's notes for each IJ section after you finish will greatly increase your understanding and enjoyment of the book. Here's an informative review of the guide. As a bonus: "The book is 99% spoiler-free for first-time readers of Infinite Jest."
8. Finally, you may have heard or read that Wallace committed suicide last year. He was 46 and left a wife and dogs and at least one unpublished novel and a vast literary legacy. This will be difficult, but try not to think too much about the suicide and Wallace's life-long struggle with depression while reading Infinite Jest. The book is undoubtably autobiographical in some aspects -- tennis: check; addiction: check; depression: check; grammar: check -- but a strict reading of IJ as a window into Wallace's troubled soul is a disservice to its thematic richness.
The great thing about Infinite Jest is that it begins at the end, so even though you're only a few pages in at this point, you already know how the whole thing is going to end. So get to it, it'll be easier than you think. I wish you way more than luck.
Frank Ahearn used to be a private investigator but now uses his PI experience to charge up to $30,000 to help people disappear.
There are three key steps to disappearing. First, destroy old information about yourself. Call your video store or electricity company and replace your old, correct phone number with a new, invented one. Introduce spelling mistakes into your utility bills. Create a PO Box for your mail. Don't use your credit cards and the like.
Then, create bogus information to fool private investigators who might be looking for you. Go to one city and apply for an apartment. Rent a car in another one.
The next, final step is the most important one. Move from point A to point B. Create a dummy company to pay your bills. Only use prepaid mobile phones and change them every month. It is nearly impossible to find out where you are unless you make a mistake.
1. A detailed examination of the Star Trek franchise which shows that the film by JJ Abrams is merely the latest in a long series of successful reboots.
2. A list of rules to follow to successfully reboot a franchise, whether it's Star Trek or Bond or Batman.
Don't abuse the audience goodwill. Remember, you sell the audience on your story based on certain expectations. Break that unspoken contract and you're in trouble. No one bought a ticket for Spider-Man 3 thinking they were going to get a romance with musical comedy interludes, yet that's what it felt like we got.
If you're doing a new version of a beloved old property, that means you need to figure out what it was people liked and make damn sure it's in there. That doesn't mean you have to do it the same way every time, you just have to do it. James Bond movies have been retooled a number of times, but we never lose the license to kill, the exquisite stunt work, the Bond theme music, or the cool cars and hot girls. There's about a million miles of difference between Moonraker and Casino Royale, but they're both recognizably Bond movies and they were both successful, because they met the baseline audience expectation of what a James Bond movie would give them.
The most common reason for bad lecturing isn't phobia; it's that professors don't value the craft enough to hone their skills. Use such individuals as negative role models. Think of the most boring lecturer you've ever encountered. Do the opposite!
5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragon of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.
25. No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible spot.
I'm told a rule of thumb for potato harvests is 10 pounds per pound of seed. I got 25 pounds for my one pound, so I guess I shouldn't be too disappointed about the results of my first year planting potatoes. Still it's nowhere near the 60 pound average that Greg Lutovsky's customer's experienced. In hindsight I think I got lazy in hilling my potato plants as they were growing. Sometimes I would let them get to be 8 or so inches tall and jungle-like before dumping more dirt in and covering the stems.
7. Do you feel protons decaying? Grand Unification may be occurring near your vital organs. However, this may be caused by far less elegant X bosons -- the poor man's Higgs, as it were. We shall not deal with these "country cousins" here. Still, you must not use electroweak force in this situation. You must at least attempt to curb the force of your nuclei to delay Grand Unification. You would be wise to begin a preventive training regimen for your nuclei right away -- Fermion My Wayward Son (Bloomsbury, 1996) contains the internationally accepted techniques.
I couldn't believe classes like this even existed. In the last forty-eight hours, I'd learned to hotwire a car, pick locks, conceal my identity, and escape from handcuffs, flexi-cuffs, ducttape, rope, and nearly every other type of restraint.
The course was Urban Escape and Evasion, which offered the type of instruction I'd been looking for to balance my wilderness knowledge. The objective of the class was to learn to survive in a city as a fugitive. Most of the students were soldiers and contractors who'd either been in Iraq or were about to go, and wanted to know how to safely get back to the Green Zone if trapped behind enemy lines.
Like Ferris' Four Hour Work Week, Emergency sounds both exhilarating and preposterous. I wonder if these folks might have been helped by such a book.
A Primer for Kicking Ass
Being the Result of One Man's Fed-upped-ness With 'How to Write' Books Not Actually Showing You How to Write
By James Tanner. Reprinted with permission.
0. Begin with an idea, a string of ideas.
Ex: Mario had help with his movie. He did a lot of the work himself.
1. Use them in a compound sentence:
It's obvious someone helped with the script, But...Mario did the puppet work, And...It was his shoes on the pedal.
2. Add rhythm with a dependent clause:
It's obvious someone helped with the script, but Mario did the puppet work, and it was, without question, his shoes on the pedal.
3. Elaborate using a complete sentence as interrupting modifier:
It's obvious someone helped with the script, but Mario did the puppet work — his arms are perfect for the puppets — and it was, without question, his shoes on the pedal.
4. Append an absolute construction or two:
It's obvious someone helped with the script, but Mario did the puppet work — his arms are perfect for the puppets — and it was, without question, his shoes on the pedal, the camera mounted on a tripod, mops moved out of frame.
5. Paralell-o-rize your structure (turn one noun into two):
It's obvious someone helped with the script, but Mario did the choreography and the puppet work — his arms and fingers are perfect for the puppets — and it was, without question, his shoes on the pedal, the camera mounted on a tripod, mops and buckets moved out of frame.
STOP HERE IF YOU ARE A MINIMALIST, WRITING COACH, OR JAMES WOOD
6. Adjectival phrases: lots of them. (Note: apprx. 50% will include the word 'little'):
It's obvious someone helped with the script, but Mario did the choreography and most of the puppet work — his little S-shaped arms and curved fingers are perfect for the standard big-headed political puppets — and it was, without question, his little square shoes on the pedal, the camera mounted on a tripod, mops and dull-gray janitorial buckets moved out of frame.
7. Throw in an adverb or two (never more than one third the number of adjectives):
It's obvious someone helped with the script, but Mario did the choreography and most of the puppet work personally — his little S-shaped arms and curved fingers are perfect for the standard big-headed political puppets — and it was, without question, his little square shoes on the pedal, the camera mounted on a tripod, mops and dull-gray janitorial buckets carefully moved out of frame.
8. Elaboration — mostly unnecessary. Here you'll turn nouns phrases into longer noun phrases; verbs phrases into longer verb phrases. This is largely a matter of synonyms and prepositions. Don't be afraid to be vague! Ideally, these elaborations will contribute to voice — for example, 'had a hand in' is longer than 'helped', but still kinda voice-y — but that's just gravy. The goal here is word count.
It's obvious someone else had a hand in the screenplay, but Mario did the choreography and most of the puppet-work personally — his little S-shaped arms and curved fingers are perfect for the forward curve from body to snout of a standard big-headed political puppet — and it was, without question, Mario's little square shoes on the pedal, the camera mounted on a tripod across the over lit closet, mops and dull-gray janitorial buckets carefully moved out past the frame's borders on either side of the little velvet stage.
STOP HERE IF YOU ARE NOT WRITING PARODY
9. Give it that Wallace shine. Replace common words with their oddly specific, scientific-y counterparts. (Ex: 'curved fingers' into 'falcate digits'). If you can turn a noun into a brand name, do it. (Ex: 'shoes' into 'Hush Puppies,' 'camera' into 'Bolex'). Finally, go crazy with the possessives. Who wants a tripod when they could have a 'tunnel's locked lab's tripod'? Ahem:
It's obvious someone else had a hand in the screenplay, but Mario did the choreography and most of the puppet-work personally — his little S-shaped arms and falcate digits are perfect for the forward curve from body to snout of a standard big-headed political puppet — and it was, without question, Mario's little square Hush Puppies on the H^4's operant foot-treadle, the Bolex itself mounted on one of the tunnel's locked lab's Husky-VI TL tripods across the over lit closet, mops and dull-gray janitorial buckets carefully moved out past the frame's borders on either side of the little velvet stage.
10. Practice. Take one sentence — any sentence — and Wallacize it. Turn ten boring words into a hundred good ones.
Ex: "John wanted to play ball, but he sat on the couch."
Or did John _________________________________ ?
[Ed note: I saw this on a mailing list a few weeks ago, really liked it, and asked permission to reprint it here. Thanks for sharing, James.]
Eating Contest: 8. If you are not chewing, you should be swallowing, communicating, and running. Yell "Fire!" Why "Fire"? Cops will come with the Fire Department, sirens often scare off the sea gulls, or at least cause then to lose concentration and will.... and who is going to summon help if you yell "Hot Dog," "Ketchup" or "Worchestire?"
Bodyguard Carrying Contest: 16. Don't drop your guard.
Suppose your remote car door opener does not have the range to reach your car across the parking lot. Hold the metal key part of your key fob against your chin, then push the unlock button. The trick turns your head into an antenna, says Tim Pozar, a Silicon Valley radio engineer.
Mr. Pozar explains, "You are capacitively coupling the fob to your head. With all the fluids in your head it ends up being a nice conductor. Not a great one, but it works." Using your head can extend the key's wireless range by a few car lengths.
Regarding the solution for too much camera flash (tape a piece of paper over the flash), I've also seen people hold a spoon in front of the flash and bounce it off of the ceiling or a nearby wall.