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Updated: 2017-07-20T22:41:41Z

 



Why is the upcoming total solar eclipse such a big deal?

2017-07-20T22:41:41Z

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Well, the short answer is that they don’t happen all that often and when they do, they’ve visible from only a small bit of Earth. Joss Fong elaborates in a video for Vox.

The next total solar eclipse to visit the US will be in 2024. If an eclipse happens to come to your town, you’re lucky. Any given location will see a total solar eclipse only once in more than 300 years, on average. The vast majority of us will have to travel to an eclipse path if we want to see a total eclipse in our lifetimes.

I’m off to Nebraska in August to meet up with some friends and see the eclipse. (And that 2024 eclipse Fong mentions? The path of totality goes right over my damn house. Woooo!) But no matter where you are in North America, you can enjoy the eclipse…just make sure you buy some safety glasses (and other supplies) if you want to look directly at the Sun. (via @veganstraightedge)

Tags: 2017 solar eclipse   astronomy   Joss Fong   science   Sun   video



Your world just keeps expanding (if you want it to)

2017-07-20T20:45:37Z

Today is the 48th anniversary of the Moon landing, but it’s also my pal Mike Monteiro’s birthday. He wrote a really moving essay on what turning 50 means to him, and how he’s expanded his personal definition of “us” and “we” along the way, moving from his family, to his immigrant community, to a group of punk art school outcasts, to a wider and wider world full of people who are more similar than different.

When we arrived in the United States in 1970, we settled in Philadelphia because it was the home of a lot of Portuguese immigrants from the small town my parents (and I guess me) came from. And so the we grew from a family unit to a community of immigrants who looked out for each other. We shopped at a Portuguese grocery store because they gave us credit. We rented from a Portuguese landlord because he wasn’t concerned about a rental history. And my parents worked for Portuguese businesses because we didn’t come here to steal jobs, but to create them.

This same community also looked out for each other. When there was trouble, we were there. When someone was laid off a construction job for the winter, we cooked and delivered meals. When someone’s son ended up in jail, we found bail. And when someone’s relative wanted to immigrate, we lined up jobs and moved money to the right bank accounts to prove solvency.

But as anyone who has ever grown up in an immigrant community knows, we also demands a them. They were not us. And they didn’t see us as them either. And at the risk of airing immigrant dirty laundry in public, I can attest that immigrant communities can be racist as fuck. We hated blacks. We hated Puerto Ricans. (It wasn’t too long ago I had to ask my mom to stop talking about “lazy Puerto Ricans” in front of her half-Puerto Rican grandchildren.) We hated Jews. In our eagerness to show Americans we belonged, we adopted their racism. (We also brought some of our own with us.)

I cried about three times reading this. Happy birthday, Mike.

Tags: crying at work   Mike Monteiro



Live TV coverage of Apollo 11 landing and moon walk

2017-07-20T19:11:12Z

48 years ago today, the lunar module from the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon. Later that same day, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out of the module, set foot on the surface, and went for a walk. And the entire world watched them do it. Live. For the 40th anniversary of the landing in 2009, I put together a page where you can watch the original CBS News coverage of Walter Cronkite reporting on the Moon landing and the first Moon walk, synced to the present-day time. Just open this page in your browser and the coverage will start playing at the proper time. Here’s the schedule (all times EDT): 4:10:30 pm: Moon landing broadcast starts 4:17:40 pm: Lunar module lands on the Moon 4:20:15 pm: Break in coverage 10:51:27 pm: Moon walk broadcast starts 10:56:15 pm: First step on Moon 11:51:30 pm: Nixon speaks to the Eagle crew 12:00:30 am: Broadcast end (on July 21) Here’s what I wrote when I launched the project: If you’ve never seen this coverage, I urge you to watch at least the landing segment (~10 min.) and the first 10-20 minutes of the Moon walk. I hope that with the old time TV display and poor YouTube quality, you get a small sense of how someone 40 years ago might have experienced it. I’ve watched the whole thing a couple of times while putting this together and I’m struck by two things: 1) how it’s almost more amazing that hundreds of millions of people watched the first Moon walk *live* on TV than it is that they got to the Moon in the first place, and 2) that pretty much the sole purpose of the Apollo 11 Moon walk was to photograph it and broadcast it live back to Earth. This is one of my favorite projects I’ve ever done, and it almost didn’t happen this year. I woke up this morning assuming it was just going to work again, just like it had the previous 8 years, but a bit of testing revealed that YouTube had discontinued the API I was using to display and time the videos. I wasn’t sure I had the JavaScript chops to fix it in time for the big show this afternoon. Luckily, I was able to solicit some help on Twitter and as the internet continues to be absolutely amazing, Geoff Stearns fixed the problem. As he said in his tweet, Stearns works for Google and wrote the YouTube API that had been discontinued, which is a bit like Marshall McLuhan popping out from behind a poster in Annie Hall, but instead of saying “you know nothing of my work”, he says “I’m gonna fix this up real quick”. Reader, it took him 14 minutes from saying “I’ll help” to posting the solution, and I’d bet half of that time was spent running to the fridge for a LaCroix and selecting the proper coding playlist on Spotify. So big thanks to Geoff for making this happen today! And thanks also to Brian Seward, who landed a solution in my inbox a bit after Geoff’s. Oh, and no more Flash! So it’ll work on any modern browser with no plugins. But I tested it on my phone and it still doesn’t seem to work properly there…the video loads but doesn’t autoplay. Something to improve for next year! Tags: Apollo   Apollo 11   Moon   space   TV   Walter Cronkite [...]



Fictional names for British towns generated by a neural net

2017-07-20T17:59:38Z

Dan Hon recently trained a neural net to generate a list of fictional British placenames. The process is fairly simple…you train a program on a real list of placenames and it “brainstorms” new names based on patterns it found in the training list. As Hon says, “the results were predictable”…and often hilarious. Here are some of my favorites from his list:

Heaton on Westom
Brumlington
Stoke of Inch
Batchington Crunnerton
Salt, Earth
Wallow Manworth
Crisklethe’s Chorn
Ponkham Bark
Buchlingtomptop
Broad Romble
Fuckley

See also auto-generated maps of fantasy worlds.

Tags: artificial intelligence   Don Hon   language



Mad Women

2017-07-20T16:09:37Z

On the 10th anniversary of the premiere of Mad Men, Caroline Framke wrote about how the the women on the show changed a great deal (in contrast to the men).

When we first meet Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway, they’re secretaries who know they’re smart, but are also staring down an endless row of grinning frat-guy superiors and trying to be realistic about their chances of success beyond their assigned desks. Betty Draper is barely a blip on the radar, only appearing in the final minutes of the episode as the twist of Don’s suburban life. And while Peggy’s storyline in season one develops into an obvious parallel to Don’s as she reveals a knack for advertising, Joan was never supposed to become the powerhouse she became down the line. In fact, as per creator Matthew Weiner, Joan’s original purpose was just to be a “courtesan” who taught people the ways of the office. Eventually, all three women reveal rich inner lives their male counterparts never bothered to consider were there, and create the kind of lives they once assumed they never could have.

I rewatched the entire run of Mad Men a few months ago and what moves the show from “really good” territory to “all-time great” territory is the emphasis on the women. As Framke notes, Don Draper pretty much ends up where he starts off while the real hero’s journey in the show is undertaken by Betty, Joan, and especially Peggy. Had they stayed on the sidelines, the show would have been far less interesting.

Tags: Caroline Framke   Mad Men   TV



Beating cancer is a team sport

2017-07-20T13:48:14Z

Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer. The tumor has been removed and McCain is recovering at home with his family. I wish Senator McCain well and hope for a speedy recovery. In the wake of his diagnosis, many of those expressing support for McCain reference his considerable personal strength in his fight against cancer. President Obama said: John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John. McCain’s daughter Meghan references his toughness and fearlessness in a statement released yesterday. Vice-President Joe Biden expressed similar sentiments on Twitter: John and I have been friends for 40 years. He’s gotten through so much difficulty with so much grace. He is strong — and he will beat this. This is the right thing to say to those going through something like this, and hearing this encouragement and having the will & energy to meet this challenge will undoubtably increase McCain’s chances of survival. But what Biden said next is perhaps more relevant: Incredible progress in cancer research and treatment in just the last year offers new promise and new hope. You can win this fight, John. As with polio, smallpox, measles, and countless other diseases before it, beating cancer is not something an individual can do. Being afflicted with cancer is the individual’s burden to bear but society’s responsibility to cure. In his excellent biography of cancer from 2011, The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee talks about the progress we’ve made on cancer: Incremental advances can add up to transformative changes. In 2005, an avalanche of papers cascading through the scientific literature converged on a remarkably consistent message — the national physiognomy of cancer had subtly but fundamentally changed. The mortality for nearly every major form of cancer — lung, breast, colon, and prostate — had continuously dropped for fifteen straight years. There had been no single, drastic turn but rather a steady and powerful attrition: mortality had declined by about 1 percent every year. The rate might sound modest, but its cumulative effect was remarkable: between 1990 and 2005, the cancer-specific death rate had dropped nearly 15 percent, a decline unprecedented in the history of the disease. The empire of cancer was still indubitably vast — more than half a million American men and women died of cancer in 2005 — but it was losing power, fraying at its borders. What precipitated this steady decline? There was no single answer but rather a multitude. For lung cancer, the driver of decline was primarily prevention — a slow attrition in smoking sparked off by the Doll-Hill and Wynder-Graham studies, fueled by the surgeon general’s report, and brought to its full boil by a combination of political activism (the FTC action on warning labels), inventive litigation (the Banzhaf and Cipollone cases), medical advocacy, and countermarketing (the antitobacco advertisements). For colon and cervical cancer, the declines were almost certainly due to the successes of secondary prevention — cancer screening. Colon cancers were detected at earlier and earlier stages in their evolution, often in the premalignant state, and treated with relatively minor surgeries. Cervical cancer screening using Papanicolaou’s smearing technique was being offered at primary-care centers throughout the nation, and as with colon cancer, premalignant lesions were excised using relatively minor surgeries. For leukemia, lymphoma, and testicular cancer, in contrast, the declining numbers reflected the successes of chemotherapeutic treatment. In childhood ALL, cure rates of 80 percent were routinely being achieved. Hodgkin’s disease was similarly curable, an[...]



Darkest Hour

2017-07-19T21:09:58Z

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Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, a historical drama about the legendary Prime Minister’s efforts to lead Great Britain to victory in World War II.

A thrilling and inspiring true story begins at the precipice of World War II as, within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill (Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman) must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical King, and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.

Before watching John Lithgow playing him in The Crown, I’d thought Churchill was too much of his own character to be played by a well-known actor, but Lithgow was amazing…and it looks as though Gary Oldman, looking every bit his surname, will be similarly outstanding.

Tags: Darkest Hour   movies   trailers   video



Become a member of kottke.org today

2017-07-19T20:08:01Z

Hello! Jason Kottke here. If you’re a regular reader of this RSS feed, please consider supporting my efforts on kottke.org by becoming a member today. The revenue from memberships is critical to keeping one of the best independent websites running at its full capacity. There are several membership options to choose from; you can check them out here or read about why I’m doing this here.

And if you’re already a member, thank you! You are the best.




Apple’s diseconomies of scale and the next iPhone

2017-07-19T19:01:34Z

Apple is the biggest company in the world and they sell one of history’s most successful consumer products. As the total human population of Earth becomes a limiting factor in the iPhone’s continued sales growth (see also Facebook), they are perhaps running into problems designing a desirable product that they need to produce 200 million times over the course of a year.

This is one of those areas where Apple may be the victim of its own success. The iPhone is so popular a product that Apple can’t include any technology or source any part if it can’t be made more than 200 million times a year. If the supplier of a cutting-edge part Apple wants can only provide the company with 50 million per year, it simply can’t be used in the iPhone. Apple sells too many, too fast.

A Daring Fireball reader put it this way:

People commonly think that scale is an unambiguously good thing in production, but the tremendous scale at which Apple operates shows this not to be the case. Annual iPhone production is so large that Apple is likely experiencing diseconomies of scale, a phenomenon one doesn’t often hear about. What significant, break-through technology can a company practically introduce to 300 million new devices in a year?

Diseconomies of scale is a real thing, btw. John Gruber has been arguing that Apple’s way around this is to produce a more expensive iPhone ($1000-1200) with exceptional components and features that the company simply can’t produce at a scale of 200 million/year. Rene Ritchie describes this iPhone++ strategy as “bringing tomorrow’s iPhone to market today”. Gruber compares it to the Honda Prelude, quoting from the Edmunds description of the car:

Honda established itself in America with the Civic and Accord — both good, solid but basic cars. But big profits in the automotive world don’t come from basic cars that sell for commodity prices. Those profits come from cars that get consumers so excited that they’ll pay a premium price just to have one. The Prelude was Honda’s first attempt at an exciting car.

The Prelude was Honda’s technological leading edge. Features that are now expected from Honda, like the double-wishbone suspension under the Accord, fuel injection, and VTEC electronic variable valve timing system showed up first on the Prelude before migrating across the Honda line (though VTEC first showed up on the 1990 Acura NSX).

Keen observations all around and it will be interesting to see if Apple can benefit from this strategy.

Tags: Apple   business   economics   iPhone   John Gruber   Rene Richie   telephony



A bird magically floats because of a camera frame rate trick

2017-07-19T17:24:15Z

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You know when you’re watching a fan or a wheel or something else quickly spinning and it seems to stop spinning and even looks like it’s spinning backwards? And you blink your eyes and remind yourself you’re not on drugs and haven’t been drinking heavily but it’s still somehow simultaneously spinning and not? This optical illusion occurs most commonly with video cameras (but can also occur looking through your normal eyeballs) when the frame rate of the camera matches some multiple of the rate of the thing being filmed, as with this magically levitating helicopter.

Since each frame has to ensure the blade is in the same position as the last it therefore needs to be in sync with the rpm of the rotar blades. Shutter speed then needs to be fast enough to freeze the blade without too much motion blur within each frame.

Here the rotor has five blades, now lets say the rpm of the rotor is 300. That means, per rotation, a blade is in a specific spot on five counts. That gives us an effective rpm of 1500. 1500rpm / 60secs = 25.

Therefore shooting at 25fps will ensure the rotor blades are shot in the same position every frame. Each frame then has to be shot at a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the blade for minimal motion blur.

In the video above, a home security camera catches a bird flying with a wing speed matching the frame rate of the camera, which makes it look like the bird is just magically hanging in the air, like some sort of avian wizard.

Tags: photography   video



Radiohead hid an old school computer program on their new album

2017-07-19T15:14:36Z

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As if you already didn’t know that Radiohead are a bunch of big ole nerds, there’s an easter egg on a cassette tape included in the Boxed Edition of OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017. At the end of the tape recording, there are some blips and bleeps, which Maciej Korsan interpreted correctly as a program for an old computer system.

As a kid I was an owner of the Commodore 64. I remember that all my friends already were the PC users but my parents declined to buy me one for a long time. So I sticked to my old the tape-based computer listening to it’s blips and waiting for the game to load. Over 20 years later I was sitting in front of my MacBook, listening to the digitalised version of the tape my favourite band just released and then I’ve heard a familiar sound… ‘This must be an old computer program, probably C64 one’ I thought.

The program turned out to run on the ZX Spectrum, a computer the lads would likely have encountered as kids.

Tags: computing   music   Radiohead   video



An alphabet made from classic rock band logos

2017-07-18T21:59:15Z

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Dorothy has designed a pair of posters of alphabets fashioned from rock band logos: one for classic rock and one for alternative rock. How many of the band names do you know? Me? Fewer than I would like.

These reminded me of Evan Roth’s Graffiti Taxonomy prints.

Tags: design   music



Awaken, a documentary full of arresting imagery

2017-07-18T20:11:08Z

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This might be the most beautiful three minutes of your day. Director Tom Lowe is making a feature-length documentary “exploring humanity’s relationship with technology and the natural world” called Awaken. This trailer is stuffed with some of the most arresting imagery I’ve seen in a long time. Perhaps most striking is the moving time lapse footage, which was shot from a helicopter using equipment of Lowe’s own design…I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it before.

Awaken will be out next year and, unsurprisingly, is being executive produced by Terrence Malick (Voyage of Time) and Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi, etc.).

Tags: Awaken   movies   time lapse   Tom Lowe   trailers   video



Free diving the world’s deepest indoor swimming pool

2017-07-18T18:00:06Z

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Watch as champion free diver Guillaume Néry dives to the bottom of the world’s deepest indoor pool (131 feet deep!) while holding his breath. The dive was filmed by Julie Gautier, who was also holding her breath while working.1

And about that pool…it’s part of the Hotel Terme Millepini in Italy. From Wikipedia:

Y-40 “The Deep Joy” pool first opened on 5 June 2014 and was designed by architect Emanuele Boaretto. It is 40 metres (131 ft) deep, making it the deepest pool in the world. It contains 4,300 cubic metres (1,136,000 US gal) of thermal water kept at a temperature of 32-34 °C (90-93 °F). The pool features underwater caves and a suspended, transparent, underwater tunnel for guests to walk through. It includes platforms at various depths, ranging from 1.3 metres (4.3 ft) to 12 metres (39 ft), before the walls of the pool narrow into a well-like funnel which plunges straight down to 40 metres (131 ft). The hotel offers tickets to freedive and scuba dive.

That’s pretty cool.

  1. What’s that phrase? Behind every successful man is a woman who is holding her breath even longer while filming a video?

Tags: free diving   Guillaume Nery   Julie Gautier   video



Wolf trees

2017-07-18T15:52:20Z

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I took this photo of a wolf tree over the weekend. When thick forests were cleared for pasture and farming by settlers to colonial America, single trees were sometimes left by design or accident. In the absence of competition for light and space, these trees were free to branch out and not just up. They grew tall and thick, providing shade for people & animals and some cover for predators like wolves. Being the lone tree in an area, wolf trees were often struck by lightning or afflicted by pests that had nowhere else to go, contributing to their grizzled appearance.

In some cases, they grew alone like this for hundreds of years. Then, as farming moved to other places in the country, the pastures slowly turned back into forests, the new trees growing tall and straight with an old survivor in their midst. Wolf trees often look like they’re dead or dying, partially because of their age and all the damage they’ve taken over the years but also because the newer trees are crowding them out, restricting their sunlight and space. But they still function as a vital part of the forest, providing a central spot and ample living space for forest animals, particularly birds.

More reading on wolf trees, including the possible etymology of the phrase: Wolf Trees: Elders of the Eastern Forest, the Public Land Journal, and What’s up with the “Wolf Tree” at Red Rocks Park? (specifically about the tree in my photo, which might date from the 1700s). I’ll leave any possible metaphorical meaning of the wolf tree as an exercise to the reader.

Tags: this is a metaphor for something



Hummingbirds flying in slow motion

2017-07-18T14:08:46Z

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National Geographic photographer Anand Varma recently took some slow motion videos of hummingbirds in flight. Incredible footage. It always amazes me how still their heads and bodies are while their wings beat furiously. Here’s National Geographic’s feature on using high-speed cameras to uncover the secrets of hummingbird flight.

World’s smallest birds is just one of several distinctions that hummingbird species claim. They’re the only birds that can hover in still air for 30 seconds or more. They’re the only birds with a “reverse gear”-that is, they can truly fly backward. And they’re the record holders for the fastest metabolic rate of any vertebrate on the planet: A 2013 University of Toronto study concluded that if hummingbirds were the size of an average human, they’d need to drink more than one 12-ounce can of soda for every minute they’re hovering, because they burn sugar so fast. Small wonder that these birds will wage aerial dogfights to control a prime patch of nectar-laden flowers.

Fun facts: some hummingbirds can beat their wings 100 times in a second and can sip nectar 15 times per second. I also like the locals’ name for the Cuban bee hummingbird, the world’s smallest bird: zunzuncito (little buzz buzz).

Tags: Anand Varma   photography   slow motion   video



The winners of the 2016 50 Books/50 Covers competition

2017-07-17T21:06:32Z

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Design Observer and the AIGA have announced their selections for the 50 best designed books and 50 best designed book covers for 2016. You can browse the entire selection in the AIGA archive. Lovely to see Aaron James Draplin’s Pretty Much Everything, Koya Bound, and the Hamilton book on the list. Oh and I love this cover for The Poser.

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Tags: best of   best of 2016   books   design   lists



One tree, one year

2017-07-17T19:15:58Z

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In a film shot by Bruno D’Amicis & Umberto Esposito, a normal tree in a forest is kept under observation for an entire year. A surprising number of animals were seen in that time, including boars, wolves, foxes, badgers, deer, and bears.

Four seasons unfolding around a crossroad of smells, signals and messages left behind by the extraordinary wildlife of the Apennines. What you see here is just a small part of this incredible experience.

In the past two years, we have understood that in the vastness of the forest each tree is unique. There are trees where to lay your eggs or where to find a safe cover; trees on which to look for food or, simply, to scratch your back and thus leave behind a trace of your passage. Who knows how many of such trees are around…

A quiet reminder that the world goes on without us.

Tags: Bruno D’Amicis   Umberto Esposito   video



A collection of free coloring books from libraries and museums

2017-07-17T14:03:54Z

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A bunch of libraries and museums have banded together for the Color Our Collections campaign, offering up free coloring books that let you color artworks from their collections. Participating institutions include the NYPL, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the Smithsonian, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford.

Tags: books   libraries   museums



Throwback: LA roller rink still has a weekly organ night

2017-07-14T18:49:28Z

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Lisa Whiteman has a lovely story and photos about the Moonlight Rollerway, a roller rink near LA that still hosts a weekly night of skating with live organ accompaniment. One of the skaters, Lillian Tomasino, is 86 years old and has been coming to the Moonlight to skate since it opened in the 50s.

Lillian has now outlived two of her long-term skating partners. Frank, with whom she had skated since the ’80s, passed away in 2012, and Dave, whom she had known since they were teenagers, died in late 2016. Although these days skating can cause Lillian significant pain, she has no intention of hanging up her skates anytime soon. After her spinal surgery in October 2016, she was back on her skates within six weeks. “My friends talk about [me skating at my age], and they think it’s great. I don’t give up too easy. As long as I can do it, and I can get out in public. That’s the main thing — ‘cos I’m at home a lot. The senior centers are too tame for me.”

Tags: Lillian Tomasino   Lisa Whiteman   photography



Marching band plays Daft Punk at Bastille Day parade

2017-07-14T15:55:23Z

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At the Bastille Day parade in Paris, with Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron looking on, a marching band played a medley of hits from Daft Punk. Macron gets it pretty quickly while Trump looks confidently clueless as usual.

Tags: Daft Punk   Donald Trump   Emmanuel Macron   music   Paris   video



The United States of Food Puns

2017-07-14T15:41:23Z

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Each of the 50 US states made of food and named accordingly, e.g. Arkanslaw, Pretzelvania, Tunassee, Mississippeas. Maps? Food? Language? How many more of my boxes could this project possibly check? Oh, this was a kid’s idea and his dad went over the top in helping him achieve it? CHECK.

Oh, and to teach the kid about capitalism, of course there are t-shirts and posters available.

Tags: food   language   maps   USA



Where do ideas come from?

2017-07-14T13:47:48Z

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In this video, creators like David Lynch, Susan Orlean, Tracy Clayton, and Chuck Close share their thoughts on the creative process and where new ideas come from. For some, inspiration strikes. For others, new ideas come from copying someone else’s old ideas imperfectly. For artist Chuck Close, ideas are generated through the process of working:

I always said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” Every great idea came out of work. Everything. If you sit around and wait for a bolt of lightning to hit you in the skull, you may never get a good idea.

Tags: Chuck Close   ideas   video



The top 10 movie crimes of all time

2017-07-13T20:41:01Z

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From the always entertaining and informative Cinefix, a list of the best crimes depicted in movies. The list is broken down by the typical elements of a cinematic crime: the motive, the team, the plan, the getaway, the cover-up, and so on. The video features Dog Day Afternoon, Ocean’s Eleven, Chinatown, Se7en, and Reservoir Dogs. Would loved to have seen a tiny mention of Bottle Rocket in there, but nope!

Tags: best of   lists   movies   video



Magical realist transportation

2017-07-13T18:17:58Z

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Argentine filmmaker Fernando Livschitz recently made a short film called Perspective, featuring dream-like scenes of altered forms of transportation like shortened planes & buses and invisible bicycles. I really liked one of Livschitz’s previous films, Rush Hour. (via colossal)

Tags: Fernando Livschitz   video



Startup idea generator: find spreadsheet tasks and build something better

2017-07-13T15:57:25Z

Need an idea for a viable startup company? Try this:

1) Pick an industry
2) Ask someone in that industry what they use spreadsheets for
3) Build something better

To which I would add:

4) Charge for it

You could even modify #2 slightly and replace “spreadsheets” with “email”…Slack did that generally and is reaping the benefits.

This reminds me of Marc Hedlund’s advice for entrepreneurs from 2007:

One of my favorite business model suggestions for entrepreneurs is, find an old UNIX command that hasn’t yet been implemented on the web, and fix that. talk and finger became ICQ, LISTSERV became Yahoo! Groups, ls became (the original) Yahoo!, find and grep became Google, rn became Bloglines, pine became Gmail, mount is becoming S3, and bash is becoming Yahoo! Pipes. I didn’t get until tonight that Twitter is wall for the web. I love that.

To which I added:

A slightly related way of thinking about how to choose web projects is to take something that everyone does with their friends and make it public and permanent. (Permanent as in permalinked.)

Tags: business   Marc Hedlund



The distribution of letters in English words

2017-07-13T13:50:40Z

David Taylor analyzed a corpus of English words to see where each letter of the alphabet fell and graphed the results.

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No surprise that “q” and “j” are found mostly at the beginnings of words and “y” and “d” at the ends. More interesting are the few letters with more even distribution throughout words, like “l”, “r”, and even “o”. Note that this analysis is based on a corpus of words in use, not on a dictionary:

I used a corpus rather than a dictionary so that the visualization would be weighted towards true usage. In other words, the most common word in English, “the” influences the graphs far more than, for example, “theocratic”.

Taylor explained his methodology in a second geekier post. (via @tedgioia)

Tags: David Taylor   infoviz   language



An appreciation and reevaluation of Contact, 20 years after its theatrical release

2017-07-12T19:50:02Z

Contact, based on Carl Sagan’s book of the same name, is on its face a movie about science vs. religion. On the 20th anniversary of its release, Germain Lussier rewatched the film and came away with a different impression: director Robert Zemeckis wanted viewers to think about our relationship to media and technology. Once Ellie and her team discover the signal from Vega, seemingly every scene in the film features a monitor or some kind of television-related paraphernalia. Whether that’s unpacking a TV to unveil the Olympic footage, people watching news reports on CNN, a terrorist videotaping himself, or multiple scenes in the screen-filled Mission Control, Contact is filled with monitors, forcing both the characters and the audience to watch them. Full scenes of the film are made up of fuzzy TV footage. There are numerous press conferences on TV. The selection of the Machine representative unfolds via the news. Ellie’s interactions with Hadden are almost entirely done over a monitor. Even in scenes where the camera is in a room with the characters, Zemeckis often films them watching TV, or simply puts TV monitors in the frame to constantly remind us they’re there. But that’s not it. People video chat regularly, which was not common in 1997. The terrorist attack on the Machine is first discovered on a TV monitor and subsequently played out there too. Then, finally, what’s the smoking gun of Ellie’s whole trip at the end of the movie? Eighteen hours of video footage. I could go on and on with examples where Contact uses television and monitors, but once you start seeing the film’s obsession with video, it’s almost comical how often it’s used. Which poses the obvious question, “Why?” In this light, the organized religion & organized science depicted in the film are just other forms of mediated experience, separate from the personal experience of seeing something with your own eyes. Contact is one of my favorite movies — I watch it every 12-18 months or so — and this makes me appreciate it all the more. And I had forgotten how good the trailer was: width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hN4WQYm6KPw?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> It’s dead simple: that amazingly resonant Vega signal sound over a series of quickly cut scenes that tells the story in miniature. Surely this belongs on best movie trailers lists as much as any of these. Oh, and while I’m not generally a fan of reboots, I would love to see what Denis Villeneuve could do with Sagan’s story. I’m also not crazy about Jodie Foster — I find her less and less tolerable as Arroway with each viewing — so it would be cool to see another actress in the role. Arrival’s Amy Adams is almost too on the nose…how about Lupita Nyong’o, ?Emma Watson, Janelle Monáe, Brie Larson, or Emma Stone? Tags: books   Carl Sagan   Contact   Germain Lussier   movies   religion   Robert Zemeckis   science   trailers   video [...]



How to safely enjoy the 2017 solar eclipse, a buyer’s guide for normal people

2017-07-12T17:03:37Z

On August 21, 2017 across the entire United States, the Moon will move in front of the Sun, partially blocking it from our view. For those on the path of totality, the Moon will entirely block out the Sun for more than 2 minutes. I’ve been looking forward to seeing a total solar eclipse since I was a little kid, so I’ve been doing a lot of research on what to buy to enjoy the eclipse safely. Here’s what I’ve come up with. I’ve oriented this guide toward the enthusiastic beginner, someone who’s excited about experiencing the wonder of the eclipse with their friends & family but isn’t interested in expensive specialty gear or photography (like me!). And, again, since you will be able to see this eclipse from everywhere in North America to some degree, this guide applies to anyone in the US/Canada/Mexico. In planning for eclipse viewing, please check out NASA’s safety notes for more information. Make sure that whatever you buy, it’s properly rated for naked eye solar viewing. Looking directly at the Sun without a proper filter can cause permanent damage, particularly through binoculars, a camera lens, or a telescope. Note: If you’re going to get eclipse supplies, now is the time. Some of this stuff will probably be very difficult to find (or very expensive) as we approach August 21 — for instance, shipping estimates on Amazon for some of the glasses are mid-August already. Solar eclipse glasses are essential. Right up until the Sun goes completely behind the Moon (if you’re on the path of totality), you will want to look at the crescent-shaped Sun and you’ll need certified safety glasses to do so. Regular sunglasses will not work! Do not even. A 10-pack of glasses with cardboard frames is only $16. For something a little sturdier, go with glasses with plastic frames like this 3-pack for $15. If those choices aren’t available, there are dozens of options…find some in stock that ship soon. Note: If you have young kids, splurge for the plastic framed glasses…my testing indicates the cardboard ones don’t stay on smaller heads that well. Make a pinhole viewer. A pinhole viewer will let you see the shape of the eclipsed Sun without having to look directly at it. This Exploratorium guide should get you started. All you need in terms of supplies you probably have lying around at home: aluminum foil, paper, cardboard, etc. I suspect Kelli Anderson’s This Book is a Camera ($27) might also work if you play with the exposure times? Apply good sunscreen. You’ve got your eye protection down, now for the rest of yourself. The eclipse is happening in the middle of the day in much of the country, in what you hope will be complete sunshine, so bring some sunscreen. The Sweethome recommends this SPF 70 Coppertone for $9. Wear a cap. Stay in the shade. Bonus for shading yourself under trees: the gaps between the leaves will form little pinhole lenses and you’ll see really cool patterns: A nice pair of binoculars. If you’re in the path of totality, you might want a pair of binoculars to look more closely at the totally eclipsed Sun (after checking that it’s safe!!). I’m guessing you don’t want to buy a pair of specialty astronomy b[...]



This guy has an A+ Sports Announcers Voice

2017-07-12T15:42:54Z

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Bob Menery is an actor who has a perfect voice for sports announcing. Not only is his voice expressive, but he’s got the cadence and patter down as well.

This video is going a little viral right now. I couldn’t track down Menery’s original upload, but I did find a little-seen video he did four years ago, messing around with the same voice in his car:

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See also the homeless man with a golden voice.

Tags: audio   Bob Menery   sports   video



How Eminem was discovered by Dr. Dre

2017-07-12T13:26:30Z

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In an extended clip from the HBO series The Defiant Ones, this is the story of how a white rapper from Detroit and rap’s best producer got together to start one of the decade’s signature musical collaborations. It’s evident from how Eminem and Dre tell the story that their first session in the studio was like falling in love…you only click like that with something a few times in a lifetime and then you spend the rest of your life trying to get back to that feeling.

This isn’t an official clip from HBO (they uploaded a much shorter segment) but after seeing it, I am definitely watching the whole series.

Tags: Dr. Dre   Eminem   The Defiant Ones   TV   video



time for sushi

2017-07-11T21:19:07Z

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I love that the internet still has its pockets of weirdness. You might remember this video from a few years ago of a floppy guy going to the store…it’s one of my favorite YouTube videos ever.

Well, it looks like that video’s creator, David Lewandowski, got himself a faster computer because his latest video features several hundred floppy naked dudes and gals rendered into street scenes and other places (I won’t spoil the surprise).

Note: this is vaguely NSFW but not really…it’s mannequin nudity, essentially.

Tags: David Lewandowski   video



The stories behind the 100 most iconic props in movie history

2017-07-11T18:31:56Z

Thrillist has a great feature on 100 of the best props in movie history and how the directors, production designers, and artists found, chose, designed, bought, borrowed, or stole them to be a part of their films. About the plastic bag from American Beauty: “It was a very low-budget movie. A tiny budget, and I had a tiny portion of the tiny budget. When I talked to Sam [Mendes, director] about the shopping bag, he was very specific about it not having markings on it. No store name, no ‘thank you, have a nice day’ — he wanted a plain, white plastic bag. “Back in 1998, it was the early days for internet shopping. Now I do most of my prop shopping online, but back then it was yellow pages and finding things. I made calls to various manufacturers but the only way I could get one unmarked plastic bag was to buy 5,000 unmarked plastic bags. Even though it didn’t seem like a lot at the time, it was still in the range of $500. Which with my $17,000 budget or about that, I couldn’t afford it. “The bag was always going to be filmed separately. Sam was going to take the video camera [that Wes Bentley used] and go out with the special effects guys with lawn blowers. It wasn’t slotted in the schedule. So I started my prep and I said, I’ll figure the bag out later. I’ll figure the bag out later. I’ll figure the bag out later. Towards the end of my prep, my assistant and I were in downtown LA and we’re buying all sorts of stuff from all sorts of stores for all the characters. We came back to my house, and we’re unloading my car, and we’re piling all these bags on to the table, and right in the middle of the pile, is this white plastic bag with no markings. And I’m like, THAT’S THE BAG. We didn’t know where it came from — we’d been to 55 different places. The receipts just say ‘item number whatever.’ I have no idea where that bag came from, but it came to me. It came from the prop gods who knew I’d never find one otherwise.” The cup of water in Jurassic Park: “I was at work and Steven [Spielberg] calls into the office. He goes, ‘I’m in the car, I’m playing Earth, Wind & Fire, and my mirror is shaking. That’s what we need to do. I want to shake the mirror and I want to do something with the water.’ The mirror shaking was really very easy — put a little vibrating motor in it that shook it. The water was a another story. It was very difficult thing to do. You couldn’t do it. I had everyone working on it. Finally, messing around with a guitar one night, I set a glass and started playing notes on a guitar and got to a right frequency, a right note, and it did exactly what I wanted it to do.” Oh, and the red stapler from Office Space! “I wanted the stapler to stand out in the cubicle and the color scheme in the cubicles was sort of gray and blue-green, so I had them make it red. It was just a regular off-the-shelf Swingline stapler. They didn’t make them in red back then, so I had them paint it red and then put the Swingline logo on the side. “Since S[...]



Eclipse maps of the US, from 2000 BC to 100 years into the future

2017-07-11T15:40:47Z

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The Washington Post has a cool series of maps related to the total solar eclipse happening in August. The one above is a one-shot view of what the Sun will look like across the US on August 21 and there are other maps with captions like “The last eclipse over these areas occurred before Columbus’s arrival in 1492” and “Total solar eclipse paths over the continental U.S. since 2000 B.C.”

In the last 100 years, some areas have been in the paths of multiple eclipses: New England, for example, saw four. (During its World Series dry spell from 1918 to 2004, the greater Boston area alone saw two.)

Others weren’t so lucky. Just 200 miles away in New York, construction on the Empire State Building had not started yet the last time the city saw a total solar eclipse (1925). San Diego had a population of less than 100,000 the last time it was eclipsed (1923), and Chicago hasn’t seen a total eclipse at all in the last 100 years. An area near Tucson has the longest dry spell in the Lower 48: The last total solar eclipse it saw was in the year 797.

The U.S. mainland has averaged about seven total solar eclipses per century since 2000 B.C. Some areas have seen as many as 25 eclipses, while others, such as spots west of Minneapolis, have seen only four in the last four millennia.

Tags: 2017 solar eclipse   maps   Sun   USA



2017 Amazon Prime Day deals

2017-07-11T01:14:01Z

Prime Day, a holiday1 invented by Amazon to sell more stuff and sign up Prime members, is upon us once more. I know you don’t need more stuff, but if you do, there are some good deals to be had.

Many of the Echo/Alexa devices are available at their lowest prices ever. The flagship Echo is $90 (50% off), the Dot is $35, and the Tap is $80. (I actually have no idea what those last two things are.) The Dash Wand (which I have and have used sparingly so far…the kids use it mainly to hear jokes) is back in stock and is still essentially free (it’s $20 with a $20 credit after activation).

Amazon is also offering special deals for items ordered with Alexa devices, I guess to get people used to ordering with their voice from their electronic butlers?

The Kindle Paperwhite, still my favorite gadget, is $30 off.

Use the code PRIMEBOOKS17 to get $5 off book purchases over $15.

Exploding Kittens is $14, the 23andMe DNA testing kit is 50% off, this 4TB external hard drive is $110, and these All-Clad cookware sets are 40% off at checkout (All-Clad is amazing).

Update: Everyone’s favorite pressure cooker is on sale: the 8-qt Instant Pot is $90 (30% off).

  1. You laugh at me calling this a holiday, but someday Prime Day will be a bank holiday and members will have the day off. As my pal Matt Webb tweeted recently: “It’s 2047. Amazon Prime membership is now paid as a percentage of your income and includes healthcare”.

Tags: Amazon



Letters & Liquors

2017-07-10T22:04:27Z

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For his Letters & Liquors site, Matthew Wyne is profiling more than 50 classic cocktails accompanied by a type-driven design specific to each drink’s era.

As a graphic designer, my specialty is lettering, and the spirits world is replete with lettering styles. This blog is an attempt to merge my knowledge of cocktail history with the developments in lettering that accompanied it. There will be 52 cocktails in all, one for each week of 2017, and each one will be represented by a piece of lettering inspired by the design of that era. I have selected these drinks specifically because they tell the story of why people drank what they did when they did.

I really don’t like Wyne’s use of “she” as a cocktail’s pronoun, but everything else about this is great. (via df)

Tags: cocktails   design   Matthew Wyne



Three synched performances of Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead

2017-07-10T17:48:32Z

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Radiohead has performed Fake Plastic Trees at the Glastonbury Festival three times: in 1997, 2003, and 2017. This video synchs all three performances into one, with the audio switching between the three. (via web curios)

Tags: music   Radiohead   remix   video



Short answers to hard questions about climate change

2017-07-10T15:40:19Z

From Justin Gillis at the NY Times, some succinct answers to frequently asked questions about climate change, including:

Is there anything I can do about climate change?
Will reducing meat in my diet really help the climate?
Will a technology breakthrough help us?
Why do people question the science of climate change?
Is crazy weather tied to climate change?

And “How much is the planet warming up?”:

As of early 2017, the Earth had warmed by roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit, or more than 1 degree Celsius, since 1880, when records began at a global scale. That figure includes the surface of the ocean. The warming is greater over land, and greater still in the Arctic and parts of Antarctica.

The number may sound low. We experience much larger temperature swings in our day-to-day lives from weather systems and from the changing of seasons. But when you average across the entire planet and over months or years, the temperature differences get far smaller — the variation at the surface of the Earth from one year to the next is measured in fractions of a degree. So a rise of 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century is actually high.

I think part of the problem, at least for Americans, is that the temperature numbers typically bandied about — the magic number of two degrees above pre-industrial levels — are in Celcius, not Fahrenheit. That 2°C is 3.6°F…the entire Earth warming up by 3.6°F is a tremendous amount of heat.

Tags: global warming   Justin Gillis



Climate change: a plausible worst-case scenario for humanity

2017-07-10T13:31:49Z

After talking with dozens of climatologists and related researchers, David Wallace-Wells writes about what will happen to the Earth and human civilization without taking “aggressive action” on slowing climate change. It is a sobering piece. Since 1980, the planet has experienced a 50-fold increase in the number of places experiencing dangerous or extreme heat; a bigger increase is to come. The five warmest summers in Europe since 1500 have all occurred since 2002, and soon, the IPCC warns, simply being outdoors that time of year will be unhealthy for much of the globe. Even if we meet the Paris goals of two degrees warming, cities like Karachi and Kolkata will become close to uninhabitable, annually encountering deadly heat waves like those that crippled them in 2015. At four degrees, the deadly European heat wave of 2003, which killed as many as 2,000 people a day, will be a normal summer. At six, according to an assessment focused only on effects within the U.S. from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, summer labor of any kind would become impossible in the lower Mississippi Valley, and everybody in the country east of the Rockies would be under more heat stress than anyone, anywhere, in the world today. As Joseph Romm has put it in his authoritative primer Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know, heat stress in New York City would exceed that of present-day Bahrain, one of the planet’s hottest spots, and the temperature in Bahrain “would induce hyperthermia in even sleeping humans.” The high-end IPCC estimate, remember, is two degrees warmer still. Carbon is not only warming the atmosphere, it’s also polluting it. Our lungs need oxygen, but that is only a fraction of what we breathe. The fraction of carbon dioxide is growing: It just crossed 400 parts per million, and high-end estimates extrapolating from current trends suggest it will hit 1,000 ppm by 2100. At that concentration, compared to the air we breathe now, human cognitive ability declines by 21 percent. Our climate is supposed to move slowly, in concert with many other slow moving things like ecosystems, evolution, global economies, politics, and civilizations. When the pace of climate change quickens? A lot of those slow moving things are going to break. Heat, drought, famine, coastal flooding, pollution, disease, war, forced migration, economic collapse…humanity will survive, but the worst case scenario is not pretty. And of course, the most vulnerable among us — the poor, young children, the elderly, pregnant women, the disabled, and the otherwise disadvantaged — will undergo the most suffering. Update: And once again, addressing climate change isn’t about saving the planet, it’s about preserving humanity and preventing human suffering. As Seth Michaels tweeted: “‘the planet’ will be fine. the patterns and structures that determine where we live, what we eat, how we get along? *that’s* what’s at stake”[...]



A 2017 summer reading list from TED speakers

2017-07-07T20:33:23Z

Back in May I shared a list of books that TED speakers had mentioned on Twitter. That list was a little uneven because a mention isn’t necessarily a recommendation and some speakers aren’t on Twitter while others tweet books constantly. This list of 101 books to dive into this summer compiled by TED is much more cohesive and useful. Among the picks that sounded interesting: Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will by Judith Schalansky. The Atlas of Remote Islands, Judith Schalansky’s beautiful and deeply personal account of the islands that have held a place in her heart throughout her lifelong love of cartography, has captured the imaginations of readers everywhere. Using historic events and scientific reports as a springboard, she creates a story around each island: fantastical, inscrutable stories, mixtures of fact and imagination that produce worlds for the reader to explore. The More They Disappear by Jesse Donaldson. There’s a lot of talk about the opioid crisis these days, but what’s missing from the statistics is the human story, the understanding of why people are making the choices they do. This novel, which focuses on Kentucky in the 1990s, gave me that understanding. After I finished it — which didn’t take long because I couldn’t put it down — I felt like I had physically been transported to that time and place. Placing Outer Space: An Earthly Ethnography of Other Worlds by Lisa Messeri. In Placing Outer Space Lisa Messeri traces how the place-making practices of planetary scientists transform the void of space into a cosmos filled with worlds that can be known and explored. Making planets into places is central to the daily practices and professional identities of the astronomers, geologists, and computer scientists Messeri studies. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky. Due to my work filming with former jihadis, I’ve become very interested in understanding more about human interaction. Behave explores human nature, from the firing of a synapse all the way to the broader effects of culture. Based on a wide and multidisciplinary knowledge of science, this book provides a fascinating exploration of humanity, which might give us some important information on how we can work towards a better future for us all. The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone. I recently reread this children’s classic. It’s surprisingly relevant now, and shows us the irrational fears we can have of various groups. Tags: books   lists   TED [...]