Las Vegas is in for some water troubles. Surprisingly, it’s residential use that’s the problem, not the showy water displays by the casinos.
A text message love affair gone wrong. “How had we managed to speed through all the stages of an actual relationship almost solely via text message? I’d gone from butterflies to doubt to anger at his name on the screen, before we even knew each other.”
Garden State is probably one of those movies that gets better with a second viewing. I liked it alright the first time, enough that I’m willing to give it that second shot.
And on a totally different note, when Zach Braff’s character meets Natalie Portman, she’s wearing a pair of the silver Aiwa headphones that I love and still swear by, even though they are 5 years old and all falling apart. Best pair of cheapo headphones ever.
Comparison of the power law in war. Statistics show that fatalities in modern warfare trend toward non-G7 terrorism patterns rather than those of conventional warfare, independent of context.
American Airlines posts first profit in 5 years by listening to cost-cutting measures suggested by employees. Does this mean we can have our pillows back now?
News flash! 17-yo kid obliterates opponents at video games. Ok, here’s the kicker: he’s blind.
1880s Brooklyn brownstone has swastika patterns as part of the wood flooring. “We turned to the landlord guy and said, ‘You haven’t fixed this?!?!’ He suggested that we could just put furniture over them. All four, in every room. And then he told us that there had been a number of Jews who’d looked at the place and ‘seemed really bothered by it.’”
Mock-up photos of the “East Village” retail complex planned for Las Vegas. There’s even a displaced meatpacking district and Washington Square arch.
Flickr reaches the 1,000,000 member threshhold. I wish Flickr publicized everyone’s number so that I could lord my early-adopter status over everyone in a more quantitative manner.
John Battelle points to news of Google (the author is Nelson Minar) attempting to patent the idea of automating the incorporation of targetted ads into RSS files. Here’s the application on the USPTO site. I’ve got a few questions and concerns:
Is this a joke?
Ok, bad first question since it seems unlikely that Nelson and Google would write up this application just to have a few laughs. So here’s a better question: where’s the prior art on this? The patent was filed on 12/31/2003. I floated the idea of embedding advertising into RSS ads in October 2002 and there was prior art then. But Google’s patent application covers “targeted ads” in a “syndicated, e.g., RSS, presentation format in an automated manner”. Curiously, I believe this is already covered by an older Google patent, filed in 12/2002:
The relevance of advertisements to a user’s interests is improved. In one implementation, the content of a web page is analyzed to determine a list of one or more topics associated with that web page. An advertisement is considered to be relevant to that web page if it is associated with keywords belonging to the list of one or more topics. One or more of these relevant advertisements may be provided for rendering in conjunction with the web page or related web pages.
That’s Google AdSense in a nutshell: inserting targeted ads into web documents in an automated manner. So what is it about RSS/Atom files that make them different than plain old web pages and hence not covered under the 2002 AdSense patent? Nothing. This vocabulary of “feeds” and “syndication” is still misleading. RSS/Atom files, especially as they are described in the 12/2003 patent application, are XML files that sit on a web server waiting for someone with a web browser to come along to read them, just like XHTML files:
So, people access documents written in a markup language that have been published on a Web server with a software application. If this seems familiar to you, it should. It’s called Web browsing and has nothing to do with syndication. RSS readers and newsreaders are just specialized Web browsers…
The 12/2003 application tries to explain the difference between HTML pages and “syndicated content formats” thusly:
Syndicated content, unlike web pages which are normally stored in an HTML format, are often stored and presented in what may be described as a syndicated content format. Syndicated content formats are often XML (eXtended Markup Language) based and include structured representations of content such as news articles, search results, and web log entries. Syndicated content formats are primarily intended for providing syndicated information, e.g., news headlines, weblogs, etc. in a structured format such as a list of items, with another device, e.g., a user device, usually controlling the ultimate presentation format of the items in the list. This is in contrast to HTML which usually includes a fair amount of presentation and formatting information within an HTML document such as a web page.
That’s a pretty weak explanation and sounds a lot like what a web browser (the “user device” that controls the presentation) does with XHTML files (XML-based files without a “fair amount of presentation and formatting information”). It sounds to me like Google already has this covered with their previous patent.
[Long aside: Does the prior art of embedding AdSense ads in XHTML files invalidate this patent? Patents are tricky because they don’t cover ideas, they cover specific implementations of ideas. While the 12/2003 application states that “said syndicated format is an XML compliant format” it also specifies that “said syndicated format is a format for listing items corresponding to a channel, said received information including a listing of at least two items and including for each item, a title and a link”. That is, the XML files they’re talking about have to be RSS/Atom-ish in nature. This doesn’t rule out XHTML files in theory, but it does rule out many of them in practice.
But the really tricky part with these software patents is that the implementations of ideas are written so broadly that they might as well be patents of the ideas themselves. If you look at it that way (the patent-holding companies certainly seem willing to litigate on that basis), Google has already embedded automated, targeted advertising into XML-based files. According to news.com, Google launched their AdSense service in June 2003. When the first AdSense advertisement was embedded in an XHTML file soon after that, well, there’s your prior art on the very thing that Google attempted to patent 6 months later.]
J. Seward Johnson, Jr. recreated a bunch of impressionist paintings as sculptures you can walk around in. Looks very cool…the photos are from a show going on through Aug 7th at the Nassau County Museum of Art.
The science of Lance Armstrong. Between 1992 and 1999, he increased his muscle efficiency by 8 percent, a gain previously thought to be impossible.
Steven Shapin reviews Tom Standage’s A History of the World in 6 Glasses, a “social life of beverages”. Standage is one of my favorite technology/culture writers; he wrote about the telegraph in The Victorian Internet.
Why do you get stuck at O’Hare for hours?. The major airlines’ hubs are too “hubby”; that is, to make all the connecting flights work, they overload the airports with takeoffs at peak times, making several flights a day chronically (and purposely) late.
Latest David Sedaris in the New Yorker. What do you care what it’s about? It’s David Sedaris. Just go read.
Possible future market for Gucci?
Sex is often a significant part of human relationships, so why shouldn’t films reflect that and depict it more accurately? That’s the question director Michael Winterbottom tries to answer with 9 Songs, and he does so fairly successfully. The film is rated NC-17 and features fairly graphic sex (penetration, oral sex, bodily fluids), which was disappointing at first because I thought Winterbottom was using sex for the same purpose as most directors do (cheap titillation) but the choice made more sense as the movie progressed and, thanks in large part to the two lead actors, contributed greatly to the feeling of relationship in the film.
Wired’s got a “10 years of the web” thing going on in their August 2005 issue. Web nostalgia is sooooo yesterday…
Is Owen Wilson the secret factor to Wes Anderson’s success?. I’m of the opinion that The Life Aquatic didn’t suck, but I can see the point here.
Winners of the 2005 Faux Faulker Contest. Winner: “The Administration and the Fury: If William Faulkner were writing on the Bush White House”.
NY Times on professional miniature golf. I won a mini golf tournament once and even have a trophy to prove it.
Steven Johnson’s open letter to Hillary Clinton regarding her call for a Congressional investigation about the effects of video games on children. “I know a congressional investigation into [the violence and hostility in high school] football won’t play so well with those crucial swing voters, but it makes about as much sense as an investigation into the pressing issue that is Xbox and PlayStation 2.”
The NY Times picks some good bottles of wine for under $10. For those of you who want to move up from the Two Buck Chuck a little.
A citizen’s guide to refusing NYC subway searches. “As innocent citizens become increasingly accustomed to being searched by the police, politicians and police agencies are empowered to further expand the number of places where all are considered guilty until proven innocent.”
NYC taxi agency approves the use of hybrid cars as taxis. Downside: the hybrids have less leg room than the vast Crown Vic.
Scott Berkun on how to learn from your mistakes. “We’re taught in school, in our families, or at work to feel guilty about failure and to do whatever we can to avoid mistakes.”
Yesterday was web nostalgia day on kottke.org, with nearly the entire day’s worth of remaindered links dedicated to blogging old school web memes and information as if I had just seen them for the first time. No reason really, just a bit of fun.
Oh, and something tells me that the Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe email is a fake.
 “Something” being the gigantic amount of email I received yesterday after posting this link. For a good 2 hours or so, an email arrived every two minutes telling me that the cookie thing was a hoax. It was kind of incredible, by far the most feedback I’ve gotten in several months. Boy, you folks don’t think much of me, do you? ;)
Another in Edward Jay Epstein’s series on the business of Hollywood. This one’s about the secret industry reports done by the MPAA that reveal hard-to-come-by statistics about how much Hollywood is making from which businesses.
Venture capitalist Howard Anderson on why he’s leaving the VC game. Rational markets and an over-supply of technology are two of his reasons.
Cello is a graphical WWW browser like Mosaic. “Cello runs under Microsoft Windows on any IBM PC with a 386SX chip or better. While we have run Cello with only 2MB of RAM on a 386SX-16 machine, we think you’ll like it better on a machine with more memory and a faster chip.”
Walter Miller’s Home page is the best personal home page on the WWW. “Yes Im in an abbusive relatonship. Hes in a whelchair but Im still scared of him. I know it sounds dumb. Some of his threats are to rip my lungs out throuhg my anes, then tie them around my head like Micky Mouse ears.”
This animation of a dancing baby is fun to watch. Email this one to your friends!
This one guy tried to get the word “sweatshop” printed on his custom Nike shoes and Nike wouldn’t let him. “The Personal iD on my custom ZOOM XC USA running shoes was the word ‘sweatshop.’ Sweatshop is not: 1) another’s party’s trademark, 2) the name of an athlete, 3) blank, or 4) profanity. I choose the iD because I wanted to remember the toil and labor of the children that made my shoes. Could you please ship them to me immediately.”
The Hot or Not site lets you rate people’s pictures on a scale of 1 to 10. You can even upload your own picture to be rated.
WiReD magazine on the Mosaic WWW browser and how it is “well on its way to becoming the world’s standard interface”. “Mosaic is the celebrated graphical ‘browser’ that allows users to travel through the world of electronic information using a point-and-click interface. Mosaic’s charming appearance encourages users to load their own documents onto the Net, including color photos, sound bites, video clips, and hypertext ‘links’ to other documents. By following the links — click, and the linked document appears — you can travel through the online world along paths of whim and intuition.”
Hahaha! Look at all those hampsters dancing. Be sure to turn up the sound on this one!
A woman who was charged $250 for a cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus gets her revenge by emailing the recipe to everyone she knows. “So here it is, please pass it on to someone or else or run a few copies…I paid for it, so now you can have it for free!!!”
The makers of the WWW browser Mosaic are keeping track of what’s new on the WWW. “Carnegie Mellon has announced their Web server; here’s the ‘Front Door’; here’s the home page. (‘Front door’… interesting metaphor, that.)”
It’s the Really Big Button That Doesn’t Do Anything. When you push it, it really doesn’t do much.
David Filo and Jerry Yang are organizing the entire WWW into a hierarchical category system. They’ve named their site “Yahoo”.
The evolution of book cover design. Using Robert W Chambers’ The King in Yellow as an example.
Announcing the world’s smallest mp3 player: the iPod Flea. Love the Flea collar.
20 hamburgers you must eat before you die. That In-N-Out isn’t on here almost got this link disqualified from posting, but since they don’t seem to have any other chains on here, I’ll let it slide.
Tattoo copyrights and lawsuits. David Beckham is being threatened with a lawsuit by his tattooist should he and his wife “go ahead with a promotional campaign highlighting their body art”.
Butterfly team colors may discourage inter-species mating and pave the way for the development of separate species. “This process, called ‘reinforcement’, prevents closely related species from interbreeding thus driving them further apart genetically and promoting speciation.”
In the past 5 years, I’ve probably been to a theater an average of once every two weeks to see a movie. Even though it costs a small fortune, I almost always get a soda and popcorn (topped with “butter”) to go with the show. Many of the larger chains offer a deal if you purchase a large popcorn and a large drink together. This “Super Combo” costs a lot less than ordering a L popcorn and a L soda separately from the menu but often it will actually cost you less than a L popcorn/M soda, M popcorn/L soda, or even a M popcorn/M soda (?!??). Why such a steep discount when the theaters make so much of their money on concessions? I’ve developed a few theories over the years but would like to hear your thoughts before sharing them.
 The proper way to butter movie popcorn is to fill the bag half full, apply butter, fill the rest of the bag and apply more butter. This results in fairly even application of butter to kernel throughout the bag. Due to a lack of focus on service and an increasing number of theaters moving to DIY butter application, it’s getting more and more difficult to buy a good bag of buttered popcorn at the movies.
Yahoo! buys Konfabulator. This could be huge. Aside from the Flickr purchase, this is the first move by Yahoo! that gives them something that Google needs but doesn’t have. (More on this soon.)
Larry Brown wanted Stephon Marbury off the Olympic team in Athens. Marbury is the most overrated player in the NBA…there ain’t no “Marbury” in “team”. I wouldn’t have him on my team even if he played for free.
“So You Want to Write a Book?”. O’Reilly Media’s guide for new authors.
Now that our favorite movies and old TV shows are so easy to find, will we still enjoy them?. I’ve been watching some old favorites from the 80s…I should have kept them there.
The group of Comanche Indians from the Lawton area were selected for special duty in the U.S. Army to provide the Allies with a language that the Germans could not decipher.
Eater is a new NYC food/restaurant blog. Looks a bit too gossipy for my taste, but that’s me.
Ugh, riders on the NYC subway are going to have their bags randomly searched by the NYPD. “People who do not submit to a search will be allowed to leave, but will not be permitted into the subway station.” What the fuck?!?
Ben Saunders is a little bit crazy. He does stuff like ski solo from Russia to Canada via the North Pole just for the heck of it. When I was last in London, I called him up to make dinner plans and he apologized if he seemed a “little” tired because he’d been out for a “bit” of a run this morning. That short run turned out to be 20 miles. (At dinner that evening, Ben and his training partner, Tony, ate everything on the table short of the cutlery.)
Here’s the plan. The first return journey to the South Pole on foot and the longest unsupported polar journey in history. In October next year, Tony Haile and I will set out from Scott’s hut, on the shores of McMurdo Sound on a 1,800-mile, four-month round trip, from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. No dogs, no vehicles, no kites, no resupplies. We’re calling it SOUTH.
The great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen made the only return journey, using dogs, 93 years ago. His rival Captain Scott died on his return from the Pole just 11 miles from the relative safety of his largest depot. Since then every expedition has either been flown out from the Pole or used dogs, kites or vehicles. Many people have blamed Scott’s failure on his reliance on human power, and many experts still believe an entirely human-powered journey of this magnitude to be impossible. We think otherwise.
Expeditions of this sort are generally funded by large corporations who give money in exchange for advertising and sponsorship opportunities. On his last expedition to the North Pole, Ben blogged (and photoblogged) daily using a PDA & satellite phone and was cheered along by the thousands who read and commented on the journey. So for SOUTH, Ben and Tony are doing something a little different…they are seeking financial support from private individuals (and companies/groups/etc.). For a donation of $100, you can “own a mile” of the expedition, which means you get a listing on the site, a listing on the front page when your mile of the expedition is completed, your name enscribed on one of the expedition sleds, and your name on a flag planted at the South Pole. Ben and Tony are great guys and I would love to see them succeed, so give them a hand if you can.
More explosions in London on the tube and buses. Only detonators were used; minor injuries and damages.
Why children love Roald Dahl’s stories — and many adults don’t. Danny, The Champion of the World is my favorite Dahl book and I’ve read most of the others as well.
As a designer, who owns your portfolio?. I’ve never had any problems with this, but I’ve heard some pretty bad stories about other people’s troubles.
A Japanese bank is putting a slot machine in their ATMs; get three 7s and the fee is waived. All they need is the sound effects from Super Mario 2 and I’m so there!
Robotics research suggests that Lucy walked upright like humans. Lucy, discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia, is a 3.2 million year old Australopithecus afarensis skeleton.
Slideshow of historic photography from the archives of ICP and the George Eastman Collection. Lots of photos from both collections are set to be available online in 2006 at photomuse.org.
The sexing up of the female on-camera meteorologists at the Weather Channel. From a SVP at TWC: “When you compare The Weather Channel women on camera to the weather women on camera around the country, we got the best. I mean, thatâs what we set out to do. And damn it, we’ve done a good job.”
Does the Shitty Tipper Database seem wrong to anyone else? I’m all for underpaid service staff venting and attempting to raise public awareness about bad tipping (which, in the absence of poor service, amounts to an unjust pay-cut determined completely by some random idiot customer). But since when is anything under 17% considered shitty? $0 on a $125 bill, that’s shitty. 15% (on the pre-tax amount, I might add) is still the industry standard, no matter how much it sucks to get exactly the minimum for adequate service.
More importantly, what gives these people the right to take someone’s full name off of a credit card (procured on the job, BTW) and put it up on the web because of some completely subjective gauge of service provided? If I’m eating somewhere, my expectation is that my credit card is being used only for payment and not for any personal use by the employees of the restaurant. If I don’t leave someone what they think was deserved, they should catch me on the way out and ask me about it. Perhaps I forgot or miscalculated. Or maybe the service was a bit off in my mind. If I left no tip, I probably talked to the manager about why I did so and they’ll be hearing about it from them. But to be all passive aggressive and get my name from my CC and post it on some internet message board…that suggests to me that maybe they didn’t deserve a good tip in the first place.
Jerry Rice and Sean Landeta are the only NFL players featured in Tecmo Bowl that are still active. And there are only 14 active players left in Tecmo Super Bowl.
As We May Think by Vannevar Bush. This influential essay that introduces Bush’s Memex concept was published 60 years ago this month.
The BBC is running a series this week on “digital citizens”: “people whose creativity has been transformed in the digital age”. The blogging feature is on Dooce; there’s also one about podcasting and digital filmmaking.
Another take on why movie theater revenues are declining. The ads suck, the movies suck, ringing cell phones suck, and you can watch your Netflix at home on your widescreen TV. Again, no mention of piracy.
The folks at Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack go above and beyond the call of duty. When a birthday party shows up after an erroneously posted closing time, the manager has food sent over for them from the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park. Amazing service.
The importance of narrative in science. “Science and stories are not only compatible, they’re inseparable, as shown by Einstein’s classic 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect”.
Chess960, a more random form of chess invented by Bobby Fischer, is growing in popularity. Sounds really interesting.
I generally don’t feed the trolls, but this John Dvorak column on Creative Commons is laughably bad. It is summer…maybe the interns whipped this one up for him.
Don Watson and Clive Thompson on the assembly-lining of thought and discourse via modern jargon. “That’s the true malaise of modern jargon: It forces people to treat any subject as if it were always a managerial problem of inputs and outputs.”
I missed this April article in New Scientist about Google’s plans to rank news stories according to quality and credibility of the sources:
Now Google, whose name has become synonymous with internet searching, plans to build a database that will compare the track record and credibility of all news sources around the world, and adjust the ranking of any search results accordingly.
The database will be built by continually monitoring the number of stories from all news sources, along with average story length, number with bylines, and number of the bureaux cited, along with how long they have been in business. Google’s database will also keep track of the number of staff a news source employs, the volume of internet traffic to its website and the number of countries accessing the site.
Google will take all these parameters, weight them according to formulae it is constructing, and distil them down to create a single value. This number will then be used to rank the results of any news search.
The second paragraph of the story mentions that this system has been patented by Google, but I don’t see how it’s much different than what PageRank does or what Metacritic has been doing with film, game, and book reviews:
This overall score, or METASCORE, is a weighted average of the individual critic scores. Why a weighted average? When selecting our source publications, we noticed that some critics consistently write better (more detailed, more insightful, more articulate) reviews than others. In addition, some critics and/or publications typically have more prestige and weight in the industry than others. To reflect these factors, we have assigned weights to each publication (and, in the case of film, to individual critics as well), thus making some publications count more in the METASCORE calculations than others.
I wonder if these systems will eventually let their users tweak the credibility algorithms to their liking. For instance, it won’t take long for conservatives to start complaining about the liberal bias of Google News. In the case of Metacritic, I’d like them to ignore Anthony Lane’s rating when he writes about summer blockbusters and put greater emphasis on whatever Ebert has to say. In the meantime, I’m readying my patent applications for RecipeRank, PhotoRank, ModernFurnitureRank, SoftDrinkRank, and, oooh, PatentRank. I’m sure they’re brilliantly unique enough to be recognized by the US Patent Office as new inventions.
Another use for Google Maps: getting out of traffic tickets in the courtroom. Many traffic cases are decided in favor of the state because of a lack of information on the part of the defendant…you’d be surprised at how good a chance you have of fighting a ticket if you show up armed with good information.
Philip Stewart has constructed an alternate version of the periodic table of elements in the form of a “chemical galaxy”. “The intention is not to replace the familiar table, but to complement it and at the same time to stimulate the imagination and to evoke wonder at the order underlying the universe.”
Ever wonder what the world’s best palindrome is?. “My girlfriend has a freaking weird name: Eman Driewgnikaerfasahdneirflrigym.”
Antarctic base will be built on skis. The movable station “will prevent the possibility of the base drifting out into the ocean on the back of an iceberg that has ‘calved’ off the shelf”.
This might well be called the year of memory. Already, I’m able to click on the icon that marks the Find function on my little pocket Treo. Can’t think of a friend’s last name? I enter “Myrna,” and in a second the screen invites me to choose Davis, Greenberg or Lewis. Can’t remember the name of a book by Jonathan Spence? This time, it’s Google to the rescue: three clicks gives the answer: “The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci.” And that’s just the start.
Apple has just released Tiger, its latest operating system, which includes Spotlight. Just as Google searches the World Wide Web, this new feature uses a word or phrase to find a document inside your computer. Microsoft is at work on a new operating system, Longhorn, with similar capability. Such powerful assists to memory raise a question never before conceivable: Why struggle to remember anything?
I’ve been increasingly aware of this phenomenon with my own memory. Emails are forgotten seconds after they’re read; Mail.app will keep track of those. If I’m having lunch with a friend and they bring up something I’ve posted to kottke.org recently, it often takes me several seconds to remember posting it…my weblog (my outboard brain) is where I put things that I want to “remember”. I’ve never been able to remember people’s names worth a damn, but until recently, I knew hundreds of URLs. Now my newsreader keeps track of those for me. I know 3 phone numbers by heart: mine, Meg’s, and that of my childhood home (where my dad still resides); the rest are in my cell phone. Birthdays and special occasions are in iCal…I know a few friends’ birthdays and when the 4th of July is, but that’s about it. And Google remembers everything else.
I’m sure with all that storage space in my brain freed up for other things, I’m able to do so much more with my limited mental faculties. If only I could remember…
Apple unleashed a rash of Slashdottings when they turned on podcast support in iTunes. “It’s very bizarre. The only reason why I found this funny was because I have unlimited bandwidth in my server package. If I were some of the others who got caught unaware, I would probably be apoplectic.”
Racial disparities in tipping taxi drivers. African-American drivers were tipped 1/3 less than white drivers and African-American passengers tipped 50% less than white passengers.
More philosopher ratings, this time from Crispin Sartwell. “jacques derrida: there’s something to be said for the deconstructuive method, a tool which i’ve been known to throw around myself. otherwise, this is so, so, so full of shit. obviously, it’s intentionally obscurantist, which is i guess supposed to be part of the profound game of defamiliarizing language etc. fuck you.’
FontHunt is a typographic scavenger hunt taking place in NYC the week of July 21. Doesn’t get much geekier (or cooler) than this, folks.
Couple fires their nanny because they were uncomfortable about her blog and then write about it in the NY Times. And the nanny fires back on her blog.
Pokernomics: Steven Levitt is researching the economics of poker. If you send him statistics from your online games, he’ll share the results with you.
The New Yorker recently ran a feature on how a couple of mathematicians helped The Met photograph a part of The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries. That same week, they ran from their extensive archives a 1992 profile of the same mathematicians, brothers David and Gregory Chudnovsky. The Chudnovskys were then engaged in calculating as many digits of pi as they could using a homemade supercomputer housed in their Manhattan apartment. There’s some speculation that director Darren Aronfsky based his 1998 film, Pi, on the Chudnovskys and after reading the above article, there’s little doubt that’s exactly what he did:
They wonder whether the digits contain a hidden rule, an as yet unseen architecture, close to the mind of God. A subtle and fantastic order may appear in the digits of pi way out there somewhere; no one knows. No one has ever proved, for example, that pi does not turn into nothing but nines and zeros, spattered to infinity in some peculiar arrangement. If we were to explore the digits of pi far enough, they might resolve into a breathtaking numerical pattern, as knotty as “The Book of Kells,” and it might mean something. It might be a small but interesting message from God, hidden in the crypt of the circle, awaiting notice by a mathematician.
The Chudnovsky article also reminds me of Contact by Carl Sagan in which pi is prominently featured as well.
According to Wolfram Research’s Mathworld, the current world record for the calculation of digits in pi is 1241100000000 digits, held by Japanese computer scientists Kanada, Ushio and Kuroda. Kanada is named in the article as the Chudnovskys main competitor at the time.
(Oh, and as for patterns hidden in pi, we’ve already found one. It’s called the circle. Just because humans discovered circles first and pi later shouldn’t mean that the latter is derived from the former.)
A list of films ordered by uses of the work fuck. A movie called Nil By Mouth has 470 uses; that’s 3.67 uses per minute.
BBC Radio 4 poll results for Greatest Philosopher Ever!!. 1. Karl “Boom Boom” Marx; 2. David “The Kid” Hume; 3. Ludwig “Van” Wittgenstein; 4. Friedrich “Freddie” Nietzsche; 5. Plato “Johnson”
Twelve Sequels to Dances With Wolves That, Due to Monetary Constraints, Were Never Produced. “Runs Into at Safeway and Has Some Explaining to Do to Wolves”.
An unauthorized electronic version of the new Harry Potter book is now available online. Rowling won’t do an e-book version of the Potter books, but one made its way onto the web about 12 hours after the hardcover was released in stores.
When the Fortune article on the Netscape IPO came out, I wondered why Jamie Zawinski wasn’t in it…figured it was something like this. “The article is out now, and I see my instinct was exactly correct: it’s not accomplishments or culture or technology, it’s just about price tags. And to this day, every time I read Mike Homer’s name my stomach clenches up.”
Los Alamos From Below: Reminiscences 1943-1945, by Richard Feynman. Today marks the 60th anniversary of the first atomic bomb test which bomb Feynman helped build.
Here’s a list of reasons that Hollywood is in trouble, with nary a mention of the piracy bogeyman. “These trends do not appear reversible in the short run. It is not just that this year’s movies mostly stink.”
Molecular gastronomist Ferran Adria of El Bulli has his own Lay’s potato chips in Spain. “Having eaten the entire bag, we can now report that they were noticably better than your average potato chips; the crispiness was just a little grainier than usual, if that makes sense, and the flavor more pleasant.”
The Harry Potter book series as allegory for 1930s Europe. Voldemort as Hitler, Dumbledore as Churchill, and Potter as FDR’s America?
Whoa, each key on this keyboard is a little computer screen. I’d love to use the typeface of my choosing for my keyboard.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently purchased a painting called Madonna and Child by Duccio di Buoninsegna. The Met paid $50 million for the early Renaissance piece, more than they’ve paid for any single acquisition to date. The New Yorker has the story of how they came to own the last Duccio in private hands. In the article, Calvin Tomkins explains the reason for the painting’s importance:
Small as it is, the painting has a powerful presence. It captures the eye from a distance, and commands, up close, something like complete attention. Holding the Christ child in her left arm, the Virgin looks beyond him with melancholy tenderness, while the child reaches out a tiny hand to brush aside her veil. Centuries of Byzantine rigidity and impersonal, hieratic forms are also brushed aside in this intimate gesture. We are at the beginning of what we think of as Western art; elements of the Byzantine style still linger—in the gold background, the Virgin’s boneless and elongated fingers, and the child’s unchildlike features—but the colors of their clothing are so miraculously preserved, and the sense of human interaction is so convincing, that the two figures seem to exist in a real space, and in real time. Candle burn marks on the frame, which is original, testify to the picture’s use as a private devotional image. It is dated circa 1300.
I had the good fortune to stumble across the Duccio at the Met a few weeks ago (I was there for the Diane Arbus exhibition and passed it by accident on the way to another part of the musuem). What struck me at the time was a certain oddity of the piece…almost like it wasn’t what they’d said it was but magical all the same. I know Jack about art, but after reading more about Madonna and Child, it probably seemed odd to me because it’s a transitional piece, not quite Renaissance but not quite Byzantine either. The piece is a thin slice of a phase transition that had barely begun, a moment frozen from when the artists of the day were collectively working out how a Renaissance painting would eventually differ from earlier European styles and represent the wider cultural changes then occurring. Marco Grassi writes in The New Criteron:
More importantly, the artist places the Virgin at a slight angle to the viewer, behind a fictive parapet. She gazes away from the Child into the distance while He playfully grasps at Her veil. One must realize that every aspect of this composition represents a departure from pre-existing convention. With these subtle changes, Duccio consciously developed an image of sublime tenderness and poignant humanity, almost a visual echo of the spiritual renewal that St. Francis of Assisi had wrought only a few decades earlier.
 I wish I’d taken an art history class in college, but my 18-yo self wasn’t that interested.
Atom 1.0. The Atom format finally goes 1.0.
Here’s a story that mentions that Slashdot commenter that outsourced his job. “About a year ago I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him $12,000 out of the $67,000 I get. He’s happy to have the work. I’m happy that I have to work only 90 minutes a day just supervising the code. My employer thinks I’m telecommuting. Now I’m considering getting a second job and doing the same thing.”
Each agent will be capable of various simple tasks, like moving around and building simple structures, but will also have the ability to communicate and cooperate with its cohabitants. Though simple interaction, the researchers hope to watch these characters create their very own society from scratch.
Harry Potter and Willy Wonka are going head to head this weekend. Something tells me that Harry’s gonna win.
Personal outsourcing is becoming more commonplace. Reminds me of the guy on Slashdot who outsourced his work-at-home job to an Indian programmer.
40 things that only happen in the movies. “All beds have special L-shaped sheets that reach to armpit level on a woman but only up to the waist of the man lying beside her.”
Coke is using 500,000 liters of water/day in India despite water shortages. Coke is threatening to sue a photographer who put up a billboard critical of that water usage.
The CollegeHumor guys get a movie deal with Paramount. Casting ideas? Freddie Prinze Jr. as Zach Klein, Jake Gyllenhaal as Ricky Van Veen?
Long article from Fortune on the 10th anniversary of Netscape’s IPO. Features interviews with several of the key players.
PBS will be offering an online-only show called NerdTV starting this fall. The series will feature “PBS technology columnist and industry insider Robert X. Cringely’s interviews with personalities from the ever-changing world of technology”.
More than 100 quick and easy healthy foods. “An excellent list of healthy foods which need less than 30 minutes of preparation and cooking times”.
Misleading article on how to look like a Unix guru. I thought this was going to contain advice on maintaining a long, gray beard and such.
A few months ago, Parade Magazine ran an article by Norman Mailer in which he answered the question: if you could do one thing to change America for the better, what would it be? His answer: ban television commericials because the constant interruptions by TV ads were interfereing with our children’s ability to concentrate and thus to read and succeed in school and in the world.
I’m not sure Mailer chose the best problem to focus on here (if the “constant interruption” thing is even an issue…look at how long kids stay glued to the television), but I believe he’s on the right track in focusing on education. In choosing an answer to this question that would make the most impact, it seems prudent to focus on answers that satisfy two requirements:
1. Get ‘em early. Kids are the most malleable members of a society and much significant change starts with the younger generations. Anything that impacts education will likely have a large eventual effect.
2. Choose a course of action with significant emergent behavior and a positive feedback cycle…basically a cascade effect. Find the best place to punch a tiny hole in the dam so the whole thing eventually bursts.
Nothing I have come up with so far satisfies those criteria and you’re collectively supposed to be much smarter than I am, so I’m asking you: if you could do one thing to change America for the better, what would it be (and why)?
Summer reading list from Edge. I think I would have rather seen a list of recommendations from Edge members rather than their books. Gee, Dawkins writing on evolution? Didn’t see that coming…
Television documentaries are slow, repetetive, and information-poor. The Brian Greene series on string theory had the same problem.
Charley Rosen’s picks for all-time best NBA shooting guards. Not surprisingly, Jordan tops the list.
Table of contents for The Complete Norton Anthology of Emily Dickinson, Post-Zoloft Prescription. Includes “Oh, the ice cubes are melting” and “Today’s a good day for stuff”.
First Pullover is a new blog about footwear design and development. The editor works as a product manager for Hummel, a Danish shoe company.
Video Games Live is presenting a series of concerts featuring music from video games. Last week, the Los Angeles Philharmonic played in front of around 10,000 people.
The World Series of Poker……….Robots. Robots make anything cooler.
The Space Shuttle is set to return to space today. Looks like you can watch a live video stream of the launch onthe web.
Greg Allen keeps winning free Diet Coke but is having trouble redeeming the prizes. “Coke put me in this situation where I feel like a wronged, government-cheese-stealing welfare queen, whose resentment builds with the fresh taunt of each unredeemable winning lid I find”.
Ephermeral cities (SF, Paris, Berlin, NYC) provide alternative lifestyles to “nonfamilies and the nomadic rich”. “To retain an important role in the future, a city needs upwardly mobile people whose families and businesses identify them with a place. A great city is more about clean and workable neighborhoods, thriving business districts, and functioning schools than massive cultural buildings or hipster lofts.”
Makers of the PulpFiction newsreader for OS X sold to illumineX. Congrats to Erik and the team…sounds like a much needed rest.
Male and female fire ants maintain their own independent gene pools. “The sperm of the male ant appears to be able to destroy the female DNA within a fertilized egg, giving birth to a male that is a clone of its father. Meanwhile the female queens make clones of themselves to carry on the royal female line.”
Comparison of Costco’s labor practices with those of Wal-Mart. “While Wal-Mart pays an average of $9.68 an hour, the average hourly wage of employees of [Costco] is $16.”
Companies are using mapping and demographics tools and software to more efficiently site their stores. “Retailers take the annual sales of a store, then zero in on the surrounding area. The numbers can be crunched down to the spending habits of seperate groups in the same block, providing insight into what appeals to different ages, ethnic, and gender groups.”
Is anyone in Hollywood making movies we’ll actually watch in 50 years?. And who are the actors and actresses doing so?
For reasons which are kind of interesting in a weird way (but won’t get into right now), I’ve changed the movie ratings around these parts from a 100-point scale to a 5-star scale.
And as long as we’re talking movies, I’ve gotten several emails over the past few months to the effect of: “you moron, how can you possibly justify giving the same rating to Casablanca as you gave to Barbershop?” The answer is that I’m not a movie critic (my review of Me and You and Everyone We Know didn’t even have anything to do with the actual movie) and my ratings are almost entirely subjective, except when they’re somewhat more objective. The subjective/objective ratio depends on the movie and my mood and which star is in the house of which planet and/or Greek god and hence is not to be trusted at all, unless you’re a regular reader of my “reviews” and have gotten a sense over many months just what makes me like or dislike particular movies. Also, it’s just a stupid rating. You know, for fun. Relax.
 Ever wondered why movie ratings assigned by critics are usually on 4 or 5-point scales and not on, say, 100-point scales? Yeah, me neither. But after using the 100-point scale for over a year, I may have discovered part of the reason. 100 is just way too many points. How can there be any tangible difference between a 75 movie and a 76 movie? And when you start looking the whole list of ~220 movies ordered by rank on a 100-point scale, it gets even worse…why are the 15 movies rated 91 better than the 8 movies rated 90? From the standpoint of the rater, thinking about those one or two point differences is a big waste of energy (it gets worse with time as you try to “fit” a particular movie into the ever-lengthening ranked list) and it just confuses the reader anyway.
Also, the stars look nicer.
 Aggregated ratings (a la Metacritic) are an exception.
 I got the star from Zapf Dingbats (the capital H character at 16px). Astute readers will notice the similarity with the iTunes song rating stars, which is not altogether unintentional.
Profile of filmmaker Michael Winterbottom. Winterbottom directed the excellent 24 Hour Party People and the upcoming 9 Songs.
Impressive demonstration of Ruby on Rails. “How to build a blog engine in 15 minutes with Ruby on Rails”.
Apple announces the Harper’s Special Edition iPod. “Number of media legends who came together to create this exciting new Apple product: 2. Chance that literary-minded American consumers will find this new iPod impossible to resist: 1 in 1.”
Paul’s really personal Google News. “Paul comes late to work, again”.
How to find your dream job. Advice from four people, including chef Tom Colicchio, on finding that once-in-a-lifetime job.
Spin magazine’s recent list of the best albums from the last twenty years (as well as MSNBC’s alternate list) got me thinking about what my favorites list from that era might look like. Since I’m not Spin and my musical opinion doesn’t carry any weight, I felt free to list what I like, influenced me, continue to find enjoyable, and will still listen to in the future instead of what’s actually good…whatever good means.
In rough chronological order and briefly annotated:
Conclusions: I seem to like all sorts of music, but the common thread is the mainstream-ness of these albums; they’re typically the most popular examples of a particular genre, style, or time period. Gangsta rap wasn’t that mainstream at the time, but The Chronic went multi-platinum. Nevermind was grunge for the mainstream, and The Downward Spiral was one of the few industrial albums to make it big. The same for Rave ‘Til Dawn, Daft Punk, DJ Shadow, Smashing Pumpkins, and Sigur Ros, if to a lesser extent.
Fun little Flash game, kind of a chain reaction Missile Command. My high score so far is 133 (49 on an individual screen). You?
Age Maps. “Two photographs of the same person, from different periods of time (child and adult) are spliced together.” Very cool effect.
Explanation of NASA’s launch countdown. T-20 minutes doesn’t necessarily mean there’s 20 minutes until launch.
“Right and left wing blogs are both crap”. “The left is full of crop circle paranoids. The right is full of stupid angry people. The sheer volume of information in both does manage to strip things to bare bones facts, but not by virtue of intelligence, just volume - like a colony of bacteria feeding on a corpse.”
Looks like Karl Rove was Matt Cooper’s source about Valerie Plame. But he may not have known her name or that she was undercover at the time.
How to be more charismatic. “Don’t despair if you haven’t got these qualities because you can learn them. Professor Wiseman estimates charisma is 50% innate and 50% trained.”
The illegality of “Rio funk” music has driven it deep into the slums of Rio De Janeiro, controlled by the drug lords. “Funk songs used to pay homage to those who had died, but now it is fashionable to name-check those still alive. Juca is often asked by drug soldiers to write lyrics that include their names.”
Steve makes prison wine out of moldy bread, ketchup, grape juice, raisins, garbage bags, and tube socks. “It’s hard to believe this started out as a bag of fruit snacks and grape juice. Yet somehow these ingredients went from sweet and child-like to harsh and alcoholic quicker than Lindsay Lohan.”
Regular readers know that I love me some showering** so this news comes as a bit of a shock:
Taking regular showers could pose a health risk and even result in permanent brain damage, it has been claimed. Scientists believe that breathing in small amounts of manganese dissolved in the water may harm the nervous system. The damage may occur even at levels of the naturally occurring metal normally considered safe, say the US researchers. Although manganese levels in public water supplies are monitored, regulators have not considered the long-term effects of inhaling vaporised manganese while showering, they claim.
Inhalation of vaporised manganese…maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling off my game lately.
** Further reading on kottke.org about showers & showering:
Danny Way, a pioneer in distance and height skateboard jumping, will be attempting to jump the Great Wall of China on a skateboard tomorrow. He’ll trying to break a couple records along the way as well: height out of a skateboard ramp and speed on a skateboard.
The large number of surveillance cameras in London may help identify the bombing suspects. “In all, there are at least 500,000 cameras in the city, and one study showed that in a single day a person could expect to be filmed 300 times.”
Daniel Gross on why the financial markets reacted to the London bombings as they did. Stocks dropped (but not too much), oil fell sharply, and transportation and insurance stocks took a bigger hit than most.
Google, Hearst, and Goldman Sachs invest $100 million in company that delivers broadband over conventional power lines. I had no idea such a thing was being done. This could be huge for rural areas in the US and abroad.
Some changes coming to Sesame Street. “After destroying several garbage cans due to rage issues, Oscar receives a more modern plastic garbage container. Sadly though, the new receptacle has an air-tight lock designed to keep a newly homeless Ernie out. Oscar suffocates and the neighbourhood must now figure out how to properly mourn someone they didn’t really like.”
Despite the flurry of remaindered links yesterday morning about the London transport bombings, yesterday was a pretty slow day on kottke.org. Because of the time difference between New York and London, news about the bombings became more scarce around noon ET when the London workday was ending and I decided not to post about anything else for the remainder of the day. Today, I’m resuming the usual flow of frivolous links and commentary around here, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for news from London as well.
A Letter to the Terrorists, From London. “We’re going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we’re going to work. And we’re going down the pub.”
The Guardian’s NewsBlog has pretty good coverage of the London bombing. “Four explosions are confirmed. One on a tube train between Aldgate and Liverpool Street, one on a bus, one in the tube at King’s Cross, another at Edgware Road.”
A series of explosions in London this morning during rush hour; at least 2 dead and 160 wounded. The explosions were coordinated and officials have shut down the tube and central bus service.
A list of mini golf holes based on movies. “Raiders of the Lost Ark: You must putt the ball precisely into the idol’s head, or a 15-foot-high, 1-ton golf ball comes rolling after you.”
Some film directors’ top ten movies lists. Directors Michael Mann, Sam Mendes, Cameron Crowe, Quentin Tarantino, and others choose their favorite films.
As I was walking home this evening, a little girl was riding her bike in the middle of the street. She still had the training wheels on as she wobbled and struggled to peddle. It reminded me of when I was little and how badly I wanted a bicycle but couldn’t get one. My parents wouldn’t let me have a bike until I was 12; my mom was too afraid I’d hurt myself. I’d pass the bike section in the store and just look, having given up asking my parents about it long ago. I eventually did get one after much pleading and begging. Amazingly, getting my driver’s license at 16 and the subsequent borrowing of the family car passed without incident.
Over on TrueHoop, Henry Abbott notes something interesting about Ray Allen’s just-signed contract with the Seattle Sonics:
Though the average yearly salary of the contract is $16 million, the starting salary for Allen has not yet been worked out. Allen’s side has given the Sonics the freedom to structure the deal however they choose in order to allow the team to surround Allen with talent, possibly by re-signing some of their own free agents or entering the free-agent market and signing top quality players.
Although I’m sure it freaks out the agents and laywers, that concession gives Ray Allen and the Sonics a much better shot at success.
I’ve always wondered why so-called “franchise” players on pro teams in leagues with salary caps (particularly in the NBA, where the number of players per team is so small) don’t do this type of thing more often. Well, besides the fact that their agents, who presumably work on commission, won’t let them. You get a guy like Kevin Garnett, who wants to win multiple championships, give him $3-4 million less per year than he could get on the open market (so he’s still making millions per year and much more in endorsements) on the condition that the #2-5 guys on the squad are also making below market level by a mil or two, and then spend that money on the bench or on a #3 guy who would be a #2 guy anywhere else in the league. Garnett wins championships, everyone on the team wins championships, everyone’s endorsements go up, the team makes more money, and the profile of everyone involved is raised (higher profile = increased future earnings potential). Of course it would never work, but what if it did?
Wage Slaves: a look inside video game sweatshops. Low-paid workers “farm” gold and other trickets in virtual worlds and make their employers thousands of dollars a month.
How to solve the separation of church and state problem in the US. “Offer greater latitude for religious speech and symbols in public debate, but also impose a stricter ban on state financing of religious institutions and activities”.
The shape of a mobile world. The main purpose of the Personal World Map is to give awareness of your actual position in the world in relation to other places by taking into account the “effort” you need to get to a certain destination.
Animated geographic history of the United States. This is pretty cool.
40,000 year-old human footprints found in Mexico. Humans are thought to have come to the Americas only 11,000 years ago.
Eyebeam is looking for R&D Fellows for their new OpenLab. “The ideal fellow has experience creating innovative creative technology projects, a love of collaborative development, and a desire to distribute his or her work as widely as possible. We encourage artists, hackers, designers and engineers to apply.”
Photomosaic version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The image is made up of over 210,000 individual photographs.
It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur. Hardware is cheap, software is cheap, labor is cheap, and advertising is cheap.
“Lord of the Bings” cherry advertisement in supermarket. “One bing to rule them all” and in the parfait bind them?
Jorn Barger, homeless in SF?. Barger denies this version of the story; he’s the editor of the still-excellent Robotwisdom.
Jet Set Lara, the newest callgirl blogger. Maybe this one’s actually real?
Leather master Tom Cruise. “Owning one leather jacket: cool. Owning eleven (and counting) different leather jackets: not so cool.”
Kobayashi wins 5th straight Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. Sonya “Black Widow” Thomas placed second with 37 dogs, setting an American record.
When I was young boy, knee-high to a 5 1/4-inch disk drive (you know, one of those that went “thhpt-thhpt-thhpt-thhpt” when you tried to read the drive without closing the door), my dad would bundle my sister and I into the car/truck/motor home and we’d tour this country of ours. Twice to Texas, once to California/Oregon/Washington, once to Louisiana/Mississippi/Alabama/Georgia/Florida, once to Virginia/D.C., and just about everywhere between northern WI and our destinations. We’d sleep in the car, at campgrounds, in the motor home, and in cheap motels.
One time at a Texas rest stop, my sister slept in the back seat while my dad and I crashed on the hood of the car because all the fire ants precluded any tent-pitching. A state trooper woke us up at the crack of dawn and chatted with my dad at length; I’m sure he thought my sister and I had been abducted by this guy with the crazy eyebrows, buck-knife on the dashboard, and old beater Chevy Nova. Good times.
By the time I reached high school, I had already visited most of the states in the US. In my 20s, job responsibilities and vacation took care of most of the rest, including Hawaii and Alaska, two of the toughest to get to. This past weekend, with the addition of New Hampshire and Vermont (delightful places each), I can say that I have now visited all fifty US states.
It’s a fun (and unintended) accomplishment, but the US is such a large place that it doesn’t necessarily mean that much. I lived in California for two years, but have spent less than 24 hours in LA, the second largest city in the US. My five days in Anchorage (with a day-trip to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula) covers a tiny part of the Alaskan vastness. Never been to Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Omaha, Memphis, Phoenix, Denver, or Atlanta, except for their airports. My first-hand knowledge of New York State doesn’t extend much past Inwood Park in northern Manhattan.
Still, I have been to a lot of different places in the US, mostly due to those trips I took with my dad as a kid. As I was closing in on the last few states, it was a race of sorts with my dad. He’d been stuck on 49 for years, never having made it to Maine. Dad, thanks for all those trips and this wanderlust that I seem to have inherited from you but you gotta know…I beat you! Woo! :)
Blog of Joseph Duncan, who’s being held for murder and kidnapping in Idaho. “My intent is to harm society as much as I can, then die.”
In celebration of its 125th anniversary, Science magazine has a list of the 125 biggest questions facing science over the next 25 years. “How did cooperative behavior evolve?”; “Do deeper principles underlie quantum uncertainty and nonlocality?”; “What is the universe made of?”
The Scoville Scale measures the spicyness of peppers. The hottest pepper ever recorded was a Habenero at 577,000 Scoville units, over a hundred times hotter than a jalapeno.
Sandra Day O’Connor resigns from the Supreme Court. Good news for conservatives, I guess.
Reimagined covers of romance novels. My favorites are “For the Love of Scottie McMullet” and “Lord of the Tube Socks”.
Crosswalk button hacks thing a hoax from BBspot joke site. Shoulda known it sounded too [something] to be true.
Podcast subscriptions through iTunes top 1 million in the first 48 hours. Also, “podcasting is like cappuccino”…read on for the punchline.
Jeff Veen’s The Art and Science of Web Design is 5 years old. To celebrate, he’s made a proof of the entire book available for download.
The difficulty of pre-ordering the new Harry Potter book online. If the book is ordered online, how much after the midnight release will the book be delivered? Next day or wait until after the weekend?