Derek Low used a ton of his frequent flyer miles to book passage from Singapore to NYC in Singapore Airlines' better-than-first-class Suites Class and wrote all about it. Suites Class = private cabin, double bed, caviar, foie gras, lounging beforehand in "The Private Room", Dom Pérignon, Givenchy pajamas, etc. etc.
In the Suites, you don't just lie on a seat that has gone flat. Instead, you step aside while the Singapore Airlines flight attendants transform your Suite into a bedroom, with a plush mattress on top of a full-sized bed. When the adjacent suite is empty, the dividing partition can be brought down to create a double bed.
In Focus has a look at some of the early entries in National Geographic's annual photography contest. Good stuff as usual.
Photo by Mehmet Karaca. Love the way the mantis's tail mimics the branch it's standing on.
As a writer, designer, and, hell, as a human being, I value simplicity over most other considerations. But I also have a soft spot for dense hyper-detailed illustrations in the style of Mattias Adolfsson.
Many more examples of Adolfsson's work is on Flickr. Reminds me of a pair of books I love reading with the kids: Mark Alan Stamaty's Who Needs Donuts? and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry. The illustrations in these books are nearly infinite; the kids and I have read Cars and Trucks probably more than 70 times and almost every time through, we find something new.
Every year, evolutionary biologist and professor David Barash gives his students The Talk about how evolution and religion do and do not get along.
It's irresponsible to teach biology without evolution, and yet many students worry about reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science. Just as many Americans don't grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a "theory," but the underpinning of all biological science, a substantial minority of my students are troubled to discover that their beliefs conflict with the course material.
Until recently, I had pretty much ignored such discomfort, assuming that it was their problem, not mine. Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without molecules, or physics without mass and energy. But instead of students' growing more comfortable with the tension between evolution and religion over time, the opposite seems to have happened. Thus, The Talk.
This is the sort of thing Barash talks about:
The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.
Eleanor Lutz has a degree in molecular biology, works as a designer, and loves to combine the two interests by making these wonderful information graphics on her site, Tabletop Whale. Her most recent post is an animated graphic showing how several animals (birds, bats, insects) move their wings while flying.
I love love love Lutz's animated chart of North American butterflies. So playful!
There are only four posts on the site so far, but she's done other stuff as well; this woodcut map for instance. Prints are available...I'm getting one of the butterflies for sure.
After writing Design is a Job and noticing no one had written a book for clients who hired designers, Mike Monteiro of Mule Design decided to write one: You're My Favorite Client.
Whether you're a designer or not, you make design decisions every day.
Successful design projects require equal participation from both the client and the design team. Yet, for most people who buy design, the process remains a mystery.
In his follow-up to Design Is a Job, Mike Monteiro demystifies the design process and helps you prepare for your role. Ensure you're asking the right questions, giving effective feedback, and hiring designers who will challenge you to make your product the best it can be.
Monteiro recently wrote 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Client Presentations and gave an interview to fellow designer Khoi Vinh.
I've been doing the primary research for this book for 20 years. I deal with clients every day and I see what works and doesn't work and I've screwed up more times than I'd like to think about. But every lesson in that book is field tested. This book has zero percent theory in it. It was written on a factory floor.
The soundtrack for David Fincher's adaptation of Gone Girl is out and as with his last two films (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), the music is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Whenever the words "Reznor", "Fincher", "Atticus", and "soundtrack" get into a sentence together, you know it's good news for your earholes. (via @arainert)
ps. Speaking of Fincher, he spoke to Disney about directing a Star Wars movie and had an interesting take on the original trilogy:
I always thought of Star Wars as the story of two slaves [C-3PO and R2-D2] who go from owner to owner, witnessing their masters' folly, the ultimate folly of man.
I somehow didn't know or forgot that PT Anderson was doing a movie based on Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice. It turns out he totally is and here's the first trailer:
That looks entirely goofy and good.
Mad food scientist Dave Arnold, lately of high-tech NYC bar Booker & Dax, is coming out with a book called Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail.
Years of rigorous experimentation and study -- botched attempts and inspired solutions -- have yielded the recipes and techniques found in these pages. Featuring more than 120 recipes and nearly 450 color photographs, Liquid Intelligence begins with the simple -- how ice forms and how to make crystal-clear cubes in your own freezer -- and then progresses into advanced techniques like clarifying cloudy lime juice with enzymes, nitro-muddling fresh basil to prevent browning, and infusing vodka with coffee, orange, or peppercorns.
Practical tips for preparing drinks by the pitcher, making homemade sodas, and building a specialized bar in your own home are exactly what drink enthusiasts need to know. For devotees seeking the cutting edge, chapters on liquid nitrogen, chitosan/gellan washing, and the applications of a centrifuge expand the boundaries of traditional cocktail craft.
I don't know how many cocktail books the world can handle but even with The Bar Book, Death & Co., The PDT Cocktail Book, and Bitters, my personal library still has space on the shelf for more. (via @kathrynyu)
Bill Rankin of radicalcartography picks his five favorite maps. The historical meanderings of the Mississippi River map from an Army Corps of Engineers report is a favorite of mine too:
This video of a giant red leech devouring an earthworm twice its own length is the most disturbing nature footage I've ever seen.
Damn nature, you scary!
How do you pick just 10 essays for a list of the best essays since 1950? You exclude any New Journalism, non-American writers, and even so, it must have been difficult. Here's Robert Atwan's full list and a few of his choices:
Susan Sontag, "Notes on 'Camp'"
David Foster Wallace, "Consider the Lobster"
Annie Dillard, "Total Eclipse"
John McPhee, "The Search for Marvin Gardens"
Many of the essays are available online...ladies and gentlemen, start your Instapapers.
Rose Callahan photographs gentlemen with "exceptional personal style" for her blog, The Dandy Portraits.
She's collected some of her best shots into a book, I Am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman. See also the great dude battles of the 1880s. (via slate)
One of the last interviews David Foster Wallace gave was with Bryan Garner, a lawyer and lexicographer who became friendly with Wallace due to their mutual love of language. That hour-long interview is reproduced in Quack This Way: David Foster Wallace & Bryan A. Garner Talk Language and Writing.
David Foster Wallace was at the center of late-20th-century American literature, Bryan A. Garner at that of legal scholarship and lexicography. It was language that drew them together. The wide-ranging interview reproduced here memorializes 67 minutes of their second and final evening together, in February 2006. It was DFW's last long interview, and the only one devoted exclusively to language and writing.
It was Wallace's piece featuring Garner in Harper's, Tense Present, that cemented him as a favorite writer of mine, even before I tackled Infinite Jest. Wallace later expanded the essay to 62 pages in Consider the Lobster and Other Essays.
TBD Catalog is a catalog from the near future, filled with imagined goods you might see in a SkyMall or IKEA catalog in 2024. Or as they put it, "the catalog of the near future's normal ordinary everyday".
This is not your near future of superlative Silicon Valley exuberance where you happily 3D-print a perfect set of lease-licensed Opinel steak knives or blissfully commute to work in your fascistically sleek Google-powered, chem-battery fueled autonomous vehicles. Nor is this the abysmal near future where you huddle in the smoldering foxholes of apocalyptic ruin. TBD Catalog runs through the middle. It is neither extreme. It is a design fiction about a normal, ordinary everyday near future. TBD Catalog is a design fiction because it makes implications without making predictions. TBD Catalog is a design fiction because it sparks conversations about the near future. It serves to design-develop prototypes and shape embryonic concepts in order to discard them, make them better, reconsider what we may take for granted.
From the brains of Bruce Sterling, James Bridle, Aaron Straup Cope, and a dozen others, you can order yours here. And holy cow, I'm getting one of these Bounty Hunter Coaches Jackets too. (Looking good, @darthjulian)
There's an incredible 16-second sequence in this video of clouds, starting at around 10 seconds in. It looks as though the sky is a roiling ocean wave about to crash on the beach. I've watched it approximately 90 times so far today.
It's worth making the video fullscreen and pumping it up to the max quality (2160p!) to see it properly. (via colossal)
Just dropped: a new album from Radiohead's Thom Yorke called Tomorrow's Modern Boxes. The album is being distributed on BitTorrent; one song and a video are free with the rest of the album costing $6 to d/l. On Twitter, Yorke says: "I am trying something new, don't know how it will go. but here it is:)" (via @naveen)
After the Civil War, the economic recovery of the southern United States hinged on trade with the North and moving goods westward via the railroad. But there was a problem. Tracks in the South had been built with a gauge (or track width) of 5 feet but the majority of tracks in the North had a 4-foot 9-inch gauge (more or less). So after much planning, over a concentrated two-day period in the summer of 1886, the width of thousands of miles of railroad track (and the wheels on thousands of rail cars) in the South was reduced by three inches.
Only one rail would be moved in on the day of the change, so inside spikes were hammered into place at the new gauge width well in advance of the change, leaving only the need for a few blows of the sledgehammer once the rail was placed. As May 31 drew near, some spikes were pulled from the rail that was to be moved in order to reduce as much as possible the time required to release the rail from its old position.
Rolling stock, too, was being prepared for rapid conversion. Contemporary accounts indicate that dish shaped wheels were provided on new locomotives so that on the day of the change, reversing the position of the wheel on the axle would make the locomotive conform to the new gauge. On some equipment, axles were machined to the new gauge and a special ring positioned inside the wheel to hold it to the 5-foot width until the day of the gauge change. Then the wheel was pulled, the ring removed, and the wheel replaced.
To shorten the axles of rolling stock and motive power that could not be prepared in advance, lathes and crews were stationed at various points throughout the South to accomplish the work concurrently with the change in track gauge.
And you thought deploying software was difficult.
Update: In their book Information Rules, Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian point out that sometimes having different standards from the norm is a good thing.
As things turned out, having different gauges was advantageous to the South, since the North could not easily use railroad to move its troops to battle in southern territory during the Civil War. Noting this example, the Finns were careful to ensure that their railroads used a gauge different from the Russian railroads! The rest of Europe adopted a standard gauge, which made things easy for Hitler during World War II: a significant fraction of German troop movements in Europe were accomplished by rail.
They also describe the efforts that the South went through to support the stronger standard of the North without switching over:
In 1862, Congress specified the standard gauge for the transcontinental railroads. By this date, the southern states had seceded, leaving no one to push for the 5-foot gauge. After the war, the southern railroads found themselves increasingly in the minority. For the next twenty years, they relied on various imperfect means of interconnection with the North and West: cars with a sliding wheel base, hoists to lift cars from one wheel base to another, and, most commonly, a third rail.
At home, I have a drawer full of sliding wheel bases and third rails in the form of Euro-to-US & Asia-to-US power adapters.
Alex Wellerstein took all of the badge photos of the people who worked on the atomic bomb project during World War II at Los Alamos and made a huge image out of them.
I just finished reading Genius, James Gleick's excellent biography of Richard Feynman. Here's Feynman (left) and his friend Klaus Fuchs, whose car he used to borrow on the weekends to visit his ailing wife in Albuquerque.
After the war, Fuchs was revealed to be a Soviet spy. If you're at all interested in the Manhattan Project and the espionage surrounding it and somehow have not read Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun, do so now...they are two of my all-time favorite books. (via greg.org)
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