Jason Kottke's weblog, home of fine hypertext products
I keep track of every media thing I “consume”, so here are quick reviews of some things I’ve read, seen, heard, and experienced in the past two months. I never wrote a proper report on my trip to Mexico City, so I put some of the highlights in here. I’m in the middle of several things right now. On TV, I’m watching Our Planet, In Search of Greatness, Street Food, Chernobyl, The Clinton Affair, Reconstruction: America After the Civil War, and This Giant Beast That is the Global Economy. I don’t normally watch 19 different things at one time, but life’s felt a little scattered lately. For books, I’m listening to Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond on audiobook and I’m making good progress on Robert Caro’s Working (highly recommended).
The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan. Hard to summarize but there’s certainly something interesting on almost every page. (A-)
Fleabag. Bitingly funny and poignant, a real gem. (A+)
Skyscraper. Die Hard + the Sherlock Holmes story A Scandal in Bohemia + #sponcon for Big Duct Tape. I love a good disaster movie. (B+)
Mexico City. Great food, vegetation everywhere, beautiful architecture, culturally fascinating, super walkable/bikeable/scooterable. I am definitely visiting here again as soon as I can. (A)
Puyol Taco Omakase. Delicious & fun & a great experience, but I’m not sure the food was obviously so much better than some of the best street food I had in Mexico City. I had this same experience in Bangkok years ago…street food is tough to beat when there’s a thriving culture of markets, carts, and stalls. (B+)
The National Museum of Anthropology. One of my new favorite museums in the world. The only thing possibly more impressive than the collection is the architecture of the building. (A+)
Teotihuacán. I had high hopes for this archeological site and I was still blown away by it. (A+)
AirPods. This is my favorite gadget in years, the first real VR/AR device that feels seamless (and not like a Segway for your face). The freedom of wireless headphones feels similar to when I first used a laptop, wifi, and dockless bike share. (A+)
Homecoming. So many things to love about this, but one of my favorites is the shots of the audience watching Beyoncé and the rare moments when she watches them back: “I see you.” And also the way they put a cohesive show together while showcasing individual talents and styles. (A-)
Homecoming: The Live Album. Come on, a marching band playing Beyoncé hits? That this works so well is a small miracle. (A-)
Avengers: Endgame. I liked but didn’t love it. It was like the ST:TNG finale and the Six Feet Under finale mashed together and not done as well. It also seemed too predictable. (B)
Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now that the Thanos narrative arc is complete, this is an underrated installment. (B+)
Casa Luis Barragán. This was like being in someone’s creative mind. The layering of the garden reminded me of Disney’s use of the multiplane camera in the forest scene in Bambi. (B+)
Gelatin Sincronizada Gelitin (NSFW). I was skeptical of this art performance at first — a bunch of half-naked people painting on a moving canvas using paintbrushes coming out of their butts — but it ended up being a really cool thing to experience. (B+)
Game of Thrones. I’m not quite as critical of the final season as everyone else seems to be. Still, it seems like since the show left the cozy confines of George RR Martin’s books, it has struggled at times. (B+)
Wandering Earth. Based on the short story by Liu Cixin (author of the Three Body Problem trilogy), this disaster movie is a little uneven at the start but finishes strong. (B)
Halt and Catch Fire Vol 2. The music was one of the many great things about this show. (A-)
Running from COPS. A podcast about how media and law enforcement in America intersect to great and terrible effect. (B+)
Eating bugs. I tasted crickets, grasshoppers, and grubs at the market: mostly just salty. I had beef tartare and guacamole with grasshoppers on it. They added a nice crunch to the guac. Wouldn’t exactly go out of the way for them, but they weren’t bad. (B)
Panaderia Rosetta. Did I have one of the best pain au chocolat I’ve ever had here? Yes. Yes, I did. Also extremely delicious: everything else I tried. (A-)
Against the Rules. A podcast from Michael Lewis about what’s happening to the concept of fairness in America. The episode about Salvator Mundi, the supposed Leonardo masterpiece, is particularly interesting. (A-)
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth. I have a new appreciation of how much Tolkien did in creating his books: writing, map making, world building, art, constructing languages. (B+)
Frida Kahlo’s Blue House. A striking house with a lush courtyard, but the highlight was seeing Kahlo’s work area much the way she left it when she died. (B+)
Street Food Essentials by Club Tengo Hambre. Mexico City is a huge place with so much to do that I wanted to hit the ground running right away, so I booked this street food tour. Definitely a good idea. We sampled so many different kinds of tacos & gorditas & quesadillas that I lost count. Highlights: huitlacoche quesadillas, al pastor tacos, fresh Oaxaca cheese at the Mercado de San Juan, and the blue corn masa used to make tlacoyos at one of our last stops — probably the best tortilla I’ve ever eaten. (A-)
The Matrix. This came out 20 years ago. I watched it with my 11-yo son the other day and he thought the special effects “held up pretty well”. (A)
Electric scooters. I used the Lime dockless electric scooters for the first time when I was in Mexico City and I loved experience. Easier than a bike and a fun & fast way to get around the city. Cons: the combo of the speed & small wheels can be dangerous and cities generally don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate them yet. (B+)
Paprika. Inventive and visually dazzling. Purportedly an influence on Christopher Nolan’s Inception. (B+)
Oh and just because, here’s a photo I took recently in my backyard that makes it seem like I live in Narnia or The Shire:
Past installments of my media diet are available here.Tags: books food media diet Mexico City movies museums music podcasts restaurants TV video
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am is a documentary film on the legendary Nobel Prize-winning author of Beloved.
Navigating a white, male world wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t even interesting. I was more interesting than they were, and I wasn’t afraid to show it.
The film opens in theaters June 21.Tags: movies Toni Morrison Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am trailers video
Tales From Weirdland has a collection of posts that feature concept drawings from several Studio Ghibli movies like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Castle in the Sky. I poked around a little and found artwork & concept drawings from Princess Mononoke, The Wind Rises, and Porco Rosso. Hand dawn and it all just pops off the screen. Wonderful.
Looks like a lot of this is available in book form as well: The Art of Spirited Away, The Art of Princess Mononoke, The Art of Howl’s Moving Castle, etc.Tags: art Hayao Miyazaki Howl’s Moving Castle movies Porco Rosso Princess Mononoke Spirited Away Studio Ghibli The Wind Rises
A few McDonald’s restaurants in Sweden started putting beehives on their rooftops to help save dwindling bee populations and it turned into a national sustainability effort.
More franchisees around the country are joining the cause and have also started replacing the grass around their restaurants with flowers and plants that are important for the wellbeing of wild bees.
To promote the idea, McDonald’s constructed what might be their smallest restaurant, actually a fully functioning beehive just for the bees:
Totes adorbzzzz.Tags: bees food McDonald’s video
LJ Rich has synesthesia and perfect pitch and wrote about what that feels like for her personally.
Now, I’d like you to imagine you’re chatting with your conversation partner. But instead of speaking and hearing the words alone, each syllable they utter has a note, sometimes more than one. They speak in tunes and I can sing back their melody. Once I know them a little bit, I can play along to their words as they speak them, accompanying them on the piano as if they’re singing an operatic recitative. They drop a glass on the floor, it plays a particular melody as it hits the tiles. I’ll play that melody back — on a piano, on anything. I can accompany that melody with harmony, chords — or perhaps compose a variation on that melody - develop it into a stupendous symphony filled with strings, or play it back in the style of Chopin, Debussy or Bob Marley. That car horn beeps an F major chord, this kettle’s in A flat, some bedside lights get thrown out because they are out of tune with other appliances. I can play along to every song on the radio whether or not I’ve heard it before, the chord progressions as open to me as if I had the sheet music in front of me. I can play other songs with the same chords and fit them with the song being played. Those bath taps squeak in E, this person sneezes in E flat. That printer’s in D mostly. The microwave is in the same key as the washing machine.
I have a friend with perfect pitch and one of the first times we hung out together, the horn on a tugboat sounded and she said, “C sharp”. I looked puzzled so she explained, and then I peppered her with questions about all the other sounds around us. It was like watching a superhero do their thing.
But with great power sometimes comes great irritation. From a NY Times article about Rich:
Tags: audio LJ Rich synesthesia
LJ said she had been a “weird prodigy kid.” For her, perfect pitch had been a nightmare. The whole world seemed out of tune. But then teachers introduced her to Indian ragas, Gamelan music and compositions with quarter tones, unfamiliar modes and atonal structures. As her musical horizons expanded, her anxiety dissipated. (She remains exceedingly sensitive to pitch, though. Her refrigerator, for example, hums in A flat. Working from home, I hear my fridge running 12 hours a day. Blindfolded, I’m not sure I could pick the thing out of a lineup of three other refrigerators.)
Pavel Dobryakov has built a nifty little fluid dynamics simulator in WebGl that runs in any modern browser, including on mobile devices. You can drag around on the screen with your mouse or finger and produce colorful swirling patterns like these:
iOS and Android apps are also available. (via @EdwardDixon3)Tags: Pavel Dobryakov
For Wired’s series Technique Critique, former CIA Chief of Disguise Jonna Mendez looks at several TV shows and movies to rate how good their spy scenes are.
Mendez gives high marks to characters from Alias and The Americans for effective use of disguises and low marks to The Bourne Identity and Homeland. In relation to Philip’s disguises on The Americans, she discusses the concept of the little gray man, the CIA’s goal for its agents to look like harmless middle-aged men, something she also mentioned in this Washington Post piece:
Rhys makes the case, however, for disappearing under nothing more than a knit cap and a pair of glasses, a scruffy mustache and a messy wig. He becomes the consummate little gray man, invisible, the one nobody can remember was even on the elevator.
Mendez also talks about the three cover identities that CIA agents were not allowed to use: clergy, media figures, and Peace Corps volunteer. She previously did this video with Wired about how the CIA used disguises.Tags: CIA espionage Jonna Mendez movies The Americans TV video
Artist and former advertising art director Alvaro Naddeo does these wonderful paintings of old iconic junk from our branded past repurposed into absurdist structures and vehicles, like Junkyard Wars through the lens of Warhol. It’s tough to explain, so just feast thine eyes on a couple of examples:
Ok, that was more than a couple. But there are so many more on his website and Instagram (including work-in-progress stuff)…check them out!
Naddeo recently shared his process for making these paintings with Colossal:
Naddeo tells Colossal that he starts with a loose sketch by hand. He then uses 3D software to help define a plausible shape for his imagined constructions, and creates a reference composition in Photoshop. After years of practice, Naddeo shares that he is able to recreate the texture, color, and shadows of various building materials like brick and concrete from memory. He uses reference photos to help flesh out small detail items, which are similarly rendered in watercolor.
A prime example of Robin Sloan’s concept of the flip-flop.Tags: advertising Alvaro Naddeo art remix Robin Sloan
Playdate is a new handheld gaming system from Panic, the makers of FTP software. Hold on, what?! From the press release:
Playdate is both very familiar, and totally new. It’s yellow, and fits perfectly in a pocket. It has a black-and-white screen with high reflectivity, a crystal-clear image, and no backlight. And of course, it has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C, and a headphone jack. But it also has a crank. Yes, a crank: a cute, rotating analog controller that flips out from the side. It’s literally revolutionary.
The crank made me laugh out loud — in delight, mind you. Who puts a hand-crank on the side of a handheld video game console?! A very playful Nintendo-esque touch, designed in collaboration with Teenage Engineering. There’s more info, including photos of their first prototype, in this Twitter thread.
The old school tech blogging community1 is fired up about this thing in a way I’ve not seen for years. John Gruber writes on Daring Fireball:
The idea of a new upstart, a company the size of Panic — with only software experience at that — jumping into the hardware game with a brand new platform harkens back to the ’80s and ’90s. But even back then, a company like, say, General Magic or Palm, was VC-backed and aspired to be a titan. To be the next Atari or Commodore or Apple.
In today’s world all the new computing devices and platforms come from huge companies. Apple of course. All the well-known Android handset makers building off an OS provided by Google. Sony. Nintendo.
Panic is almost cheating in a way because they’re tiny. The Playdate platform isn’t competing with the state of the art. It’s not a retro platform, per se, but while it has an obviously nostalgic charm it is competing only on its own terms. Its only goal is to be fun.
And from Anil Dash, Putting the Soul in Console:
I’d been given a hint a while ago that something like this was coming, but the final execution is even more delightful than I’d imagined it might be. (That crank!) More importantly, it’s captured the imagination of so many, and seems like the kind of thing that could inspire a new generation of creative people to think, “Hey, maybe good tech is something we can make ourselves.” I’ve seen it happen on Glitch, and now I see it happening around Playdate after just a few hours.
That idea, that maybe things like our gaming devices or the websites we visit should be created by people we know and like, instead of giant faceless companies, seems more essential than ever. We would never settle for replacing all of our made-with-love, locally-grown, mom’s recipe home cooking with factory-farmed fast food, even if sometimes convenience demands we consume the latter. And we shouldn’t compromise any less on making sure that some of the time we spend playing games with each other, and delighting in the promise of technology, comes from people who’ve been diligently working for years to make well-sourced, organically grown, made-with-love technology.
Playdate starts shipping in early 2020. Supplies are probably going to be limited, so if you’re interested in getting one, you should hop on their mailing list.
I.e. the folks who write about technology (software, gadgets) because they love it, not the folks who write about technology (IPOs, funding rounds) because it makes them money and gives them power.↩
Design firm Pentagram has brought in a new partner to their New York office, information designer Giorgia Lupi, who joins heavy hitters like Michael Bierut, Paula Scher, and Eddie Opera. I remain fascinated with how Pentagram operates:
Established in 1972, the firm has a collectivist attitude and adheres to a longstanding constitution, which exists in its original form with only small modifications. It spreads profits and decision-making power equally among its self-governed partners — all designers — irrespective of seniority or how much business they brought in during a given year. There’s no CEO. The partners do collaborate with one another, often across disciplines, but essentially operate their own studios, though the local offices meet on a weekly basis and the entire group convenes twice a year. These all-partner meetings, chaired by one of the partners on a rotating basis, are about sharing work with the group and discussing business dynamics, Pentagram’s publishing program, its website, and trends in the industry.
The process for bringing in a new partner can take years from start to finish and requires the unanimous consent of the rest of the partners:
“One vote against and it’s over, truly,” says Miller. “We’ve seen it happen.”
I’ve often thought about if a collective structure could work for independent content sites. I wouldn’t want to sell kottke.org to anyone, but the idea of sharing resources and infrastructure with a couple dozen similar sites is appealing. You could collect the sites into a membership bundle; hire dedicated staff for customer support, ad sales, & devops; do cross-promotion, syndicate the content via a meta-site, and generally help small indie sites punch above their weight. This is what The Deck could have evolved into, I suppose. Aw well.Tags: business design Giorgia Lupi Pentagram
This wonderful site presents animations of 507 mechanical movements first published in a book by Henry T. Brown in 1868, the full title of which is:
Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements: Embracing All Those Which Are Most Important in Dynamics, Hydraulics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Steam Engines, Mill and Other Gearing, Presses, Horology, and Miscellaneous Machinery; and Including Many Movements Never Before Published and Several of Which Have Only Recently Come Into Use
The site is a work-in-progress…not all of the movements have been animated yet. This short video shows movement #123:
You can buy a paperback version of the original book or browse/download the entire thing at the Internet Archive.
See also this great explanation of differential gears and especially Ralph Steiner’s 1930 short film Mechanical Principles, in which we see many of the mechanisms from Brown’s book actually working:
Warning: if you start Steiner’s film, you’ll probably end up watching the whole thing…it’s mesmerizing, particularly when the gears come in around ~2:30.Tags: books Henry T. Brown Ralph Steiner video
The Bit Player is a documentary film about Claude Shannon, the underrated “Father of Information Theory”, whose work, more than anyone else’s, laid the foundation for the information age in which we find ourselves currently immersed.
In a blockbuster paper in 1948, Claude Shannon introduced the notion of a “bit” and laid the foundation for the information age. His ideas ripple through nearly every aspect of modern life, influencing such diverse fields as communication, computing, cryptography, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, cosmology, linguistics, and genetics.
The film is directed by Mark Levinson, a former particle physicist, who also directed the excellent Particle Fever (about the search for the Higgs boson). The Bit Player premieres later this month at the World Science Festival in NYC and presumably will be out in theaters sometime after that.Tags: Claude Shannon Mark Levinson movies The Bit Player
I am here for any metaphor linking the internet and Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem trilogy. Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler writes that netizens are retreating from the public square of the internet, resulting in many private & isolated worlds that don’t communicate with each other, a la the dark forest condition in Liu’s books.
Tags: books Liu Cixin The Three-Body Problem Yancey Strickler
Dark forests like newsletters and podcasts are growing areas of activity. As are other dark forests, like Slack channels, private Instagrams, invite-only message boards, text groups, Snapchat, WeChat, and on and on. This is where Facebook is pivoting with Groups (and trying to redefine what the word “privacy” means in the process).
These are all spaces where depressurized conversation is possible because of their non-indexed, non-optimized, and non-gamified environments. The cultures of those spaces have more in common with the physical world than the internet.
It turns out that the fourth track off of Philip Glass’ soundtrack for Koyaanisqatsi matches up pretty well to the dancers in this clip from Soul Train.
I don’t know whether to like this or hate it. Actually, I think I love it. See also Soul Train dancers backed by Daft Punk. (via @tedgioia)Tags: Koyaanisqatsi movies music Philip Glass remix Soul Train video
An 1119-page collection of papers known as the Codex Atlanticus has been completely digitized and put online to explore. The codex showcases Leonardo’s impressive range of interests and abilities, from flying machines to anatomy to weaponry to astronomy to engineering.
Several more of Leonardo’s notebooks have been put online as well…I’ve listed all of them in this post about the Codex Forster. (via open culture)Tags: books Leonardo da Vinci
An intriguing insight from Khoi Vinh in his short review of the third John Wick movie:
This is what usually happens: a film creates a compelling fantasy world and fans clamor for more. So sequels build that world out, they show more of its mechanics, its people, its history. But “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” demonstrates one little acknowledged principle of escalated world building: the inevitable outcome is bureaucracy.
Things that were at first only suggested become explicit, mysteries are explained, and idiosyncrasies metastasize into red tape. Suddenly filmmakers find themselves in a position where building the world becomes its own motivation.
See also Why the Writing in Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Feels Off. (via @capndesign)Tags: John Wick Khoi Vinh movies
In 1960, David Latimer put some compost, water, and plant seeds into a large glass jar and sealed it up. And it’s been growing like that ever since, save for when Latimer opened the bottle to water it in 1972.
It’s easy to take nature and evolution for granted but think about how marvelous this is. Over billions of years, an ecosystem evolved on Earth that can sustain itself basically forever using light from the Sun.
Tags: David Latimer science
The plant creates energy from the sunlight via photosynthesis, using up carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the bottle. When parts of the plant die, bacteria in the soil use the oxygen to break down these dead parts, releasing carbon dioxide and completing the circle. The water cycle is similarly self-refueling: whatever water the plant takes in through its roots ultimately transpires out of its leaves, condenses on the inside of the bottle, and drips back into the soil.
The Downton Abbey movie is nearly upon us (it’s out in Sept) and the first full-length trailer is here. The action picks up a couple of years after the TV show ended and concerns the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the estate. I’ve embedded the UK trailer above — it’s better than the American trailer even though it gives away a bit more of the plot. Plus, in the UK version you get to see the deployment of Carson in the Battle of the Head Butlers. Carson’s glance of disdained indifference toward the royal butler might be the most spine-tingling battle moment since Aragon uttered “for Frodo” and charged headlong into the hordes of Mordor.
Update: Some real talk from Robert Bennett about the escapist fantasy of Downton Abbey:
really the point of the entire show was to let middle american viewers dabble in the lavish lives and costumes of the edwardian .001% without feeling bad about what made that lifestyle possible
anything that threatened that “safari in the aristocracy” aspect — be it the realism of class warfare, or the actual, historical evolutions of the era that would have upended everything that happened — was quickly neutered and turned into quaint fluff.
Still excited for the movie though. Butler Battle 2019!!Tags: Downton Abbey movies Robert Bennett trailers TV video
Reagan Ray has collected a bunch of classic logos from American airlines, from the big ones (Delta, United) to small regional airlines (Pennsylvania Central, Cardiff and Peacock) to those no longer with us (Pan Am, TWA, Northwest). I sent him the logo for my dad’s old airline, Blue Line Air Express…I hope it makes it in!
See also Reagan’s collections of record label logos, 80s action figure logos, American car logos, VHS distributor logos, and railway logos. Careful, you might spend all day on these… (via @mrgan)
Update: Ray was kind enough to add Blue Line into the mix! Thank you!Tags: design flying logos Reagan Ray
Remember trials rider Danny MacAskill, who I’ve been covering on kottke.org for over ten years somehow?! In his newest video, he turns babysitting a friend’s young daughter into a death-defying cycling adventure…an oddly tender death-defying cycling adventure somehow.
Stay tuned after the main action for a short making-of feature (no children were harmed, etc. etc.) in which we see Daisy riding a bike of her own!Tags: cycling Danny MacAskill sports video
Liberty Crumbling is sand sculptor Damon Langlois’ version of the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, which won first prize at 2019 Texas SandFest. (via colossal)Tags: Abraham Lincoln art Damon Langlois
Meet Vincent LeVine. He’s the subject of “My Dad, the Facebook Addict”, a short documentary by his son Dylan. He started off using Facebook normally, keeping up with the news and chatting with friends, but evolved into a fierce meme warrior stocked with a “nuclear arsenal” of memes at the ready to destroy anyone who wants to come at him.
I can have a meme war with anybody and destroy them. And I’ve done it! People actually bail at the end and go, “Who is this guy? He’s got like every meme ever produced on the internet! He can knock us out with his memes!” And I do, I have tons of memes, I just keep memeing them to death until they just surrender because they just can’t do it anymore. They don’t have the memes that I have.
Vincent is very entertaining and it was difficult to not just quote all of his lines in the video. You can check out his Facebook account for yourself or watch his technique for hygienically blowing out birthday cake candles.Tags: Dylan LeVine Facebook video Vincent LeVine
An exhibition called Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy just opened at the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA. It features more than 50 vehicles from sci-fi and fantasy films like Blade Runner, Iron Man, Mad Max: Fury Road, Black Panther, Minority Report, Star Wars, Speed Racer, Back to the Future, and Tron: Legacy. The exhibition runs through March 2020.Tags: cars movies museums
The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden is restoring a painting by Johannes Vermeer after it was “conclusively determined” that part of it was painted over after Vermeer died.
For more than 250 years now, the famous painting by Johannes Vermeer featuring a profile depiction of a girl intently reading a letter in front of a light-coloured empty wall has held a firm place among the masterpieces in the Dresden Gemäldegalerie. This picture, which dates to around 1657/59, is regarded as one of the earliest interior paintings by Vermeer with a solitary figure. Previous x-ray examinations indicated that a picture of a naked Cupid in the painting had been overpainted. Today, new laboratory tests have conclusively determined that the overpainting was not by Vermeer’s hand. On this basis, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister decided in the course of the current restoration of the work to remove the overpaint.
The restoration of Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window is not totally complete, here’s what it looks like now:
And what it looked like before the restoration started:
The partially restored painting will be on display at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden until June 16, after which they will take another year to complete the painstaking restoration.Tags: art Johannes Vermeer
If you could somehow fold a piece of paper in half 103 times, the paper would be as thick as the observable universe.
Such is the power (*cough*) of exponential growth, but of course you’d never get anywhere close to that many folds. The theoretical limit for folding paper was long thought to be seven or eight folds. You can see why watching this hydraulic press attempt the 7th fold…the paper basically turns to dust.
But in 2002, high school student Britney Gallivan proved that you could fold a piece of paper 12 times. Here’s Gallivan explaining the math involved and where the limits come in when folding:
(thx, porter)Tags: Britney Gallivan mathematics video
Many species of migratory birds, like the Canada goose in North America, fly in a v-formation. Scientists have long suspected that there was some energy-saving advantage to flying in formation and a 2014 study provides evidence to that effect.
By comparing the birds’ flight data to computer simulations, Portugal found that the ibises are apparently drafting — catching an uprush of air from the wingtip of the bird ahead. “Furthermore, when they’re in that position, they time wing beats perfectly,” he says. “So they don’t just sit there passively hoping to get some of the good air from the bird in front.”
They actually flap along the perfect sweet spot. Portugal thinks there’s a very good reason why the ibises do this. Previous studies have shown that flying is hard work.
“When we get exercising, our heart rate gets up to around 180 beats per minute on a good day,” Portugal says. “When birds are flying, it goes up to 400 beats per minute.”
You can read the paper published by the researchers in Nature. (via the kid should see this)Tags: birds science video
Frans Blok has created an incredibly detailed inverse map of the world, where all the current landmasses have been turned into water and oceans, lakes, and rivers converted into land.
Not only the coast lines are reversed in this world. Also, the relief is consistently the opposite of reality. So the deepest parts of the oceans are in the Tibetan and Himalayan troughs in the southern part of the Asian Ocean. And the highest peaks, around eleven kilometer, are found in the Mariana Mountains in the west of the continent Pacifica.
Prints of Blok’s map are available here.
See also Vladislav Gerasimov’s inverted world map.
Tags: Frans Blok maps remix
John Driscoll is the CEO of a healthcare company called CareCentrix. In an opinion piece in The Guardian, he wrote about the success of a plan his company implemented where they froze the salaries of the top 20 executives and gave significant raises to entry-level workers, from the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr to $15/hr. Driscoll explains why the company decided to do this:
Assuming nothing went wrong, and assuming that our employees were living with another wage earner or working another part-time job, $7.25 hourly wage might be sufficient.
The reality is that for many of us, things do go wrong, and I had emails from my new teammates to prove it.
One was from a customer service representative — a young mother with a family, who had lost her apartment in a fire and did not have enough money for diapers. Another email soon followed — this employee had missed a few bills and was living out of her car with her child.
This drove me crazy: how did we get to the point where one of our employees had to apologetically ask for financial support so she and her family could put a roof over their heads?
While some of our elected officials congratulated us for creating jobs, I felt that we were failing some of our employees, and the communities we were based in. The more our executive team parsed through the requests for assistance, the more we all became uncomfortable with the mismatch between what we asked of our employees and what we provided to them in turn.
And the real kick in the groin about the plan? It wasn’t even that tough to implement!
I challenged the chief financial officer to see how deeply we would have to freeze wages in order to reach our goal of a base rate of $15 per hour.
The answer was that we did not have to go very deep. Over the last few decades executive salaries have skyrocketed. That translates into accelerated wage growth in the highest tiers of executives throughout American business, and it affects every company.
What that meant for our company was that if we just froze the wages of our most senior team — less than 20 executives - we could radically increase the wages and improve the lives of nearly 500 of our teammates.
The conversation with our executives was straightforward. We were in the midst of a turnaround. We were demanding much from every corner of the company. Small financial sacrifices from those at the top could be life changing for those at the bottom of our wage scale. We needed to do it to build a real sense of Team CareCentrix. They agreed.
And it worked really well. Duh. It drives me bananas that more companies don’t see the benefit of doing this versus implementing compensation policies that serve only to line the pockets of the people in char— oh waaaaait, it actually makes perfect sense why this is happening. The shareholders of these companies should start calling bullshit on that sort of behavior with more regularity though.
See also the founder of Richer Sounds retiring and transferring 60% of his company to its employees, with workers also receiving £1,000 for every year they’ve worked for the company.Tags: business economics John Driscoll
A robot built by a pair of engineering students at MIT can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 0.38 seconds (which happens to be 19 minutes and 59.22 seconds shorter than my fastest time):
0.38 seconds is over in an almost literal flash, so the video helpfully shows this feat at 0.25x speed and 0.03x speed. I bet when they were testing this, they witness some spectacular cube explosions. (via @tedgioia)Tags: robots Rubik’s Cube video
In this NASA promotional film from 1977, Star Trek star Nichelle Nichols takes a tour of the Johnson Space Center with Apollo 12 astronaut Al Bean and urges viewers, especially women and people of color, to sign up to be astronauts on NASA’s Space Shuttle program.
As one of the first black women to play a lead role on television, Nichols was a role model for women and people of color, particularly those interested in science, space, and engineering. When she was she thinking of quitting Star Trek, Nichols met Martin Luther King Jr. at a NAACP fundraiser and he talked her into staying on the show. She recalled King telling her:
Do you not understand what God has given you? … You have the first important non-traditional role, non-stereotypical role. … You cannot abdicate your position. You are changing the minds of people across the world, because for the first time, through you, we see ourselves and what can be.
So when NASA came calling, Nichols used her position well:
She relayed her response to NASA with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, “I am going to bring you so many qualified women and minority astronaut applicants for this position that if you don’t choose one… everybody in the newspapers across the country will know about it.”
Nichols credited Star Trek with the success of her recruiting efforts. “Suddenly the people who were responding were the bigger Trekkers you ever saw. They truly believed what I said… it was a very successful endeavor. It changed the face of the astronaut corp forever.”
Among the recruits drawn to NASA by Nichols’ efforts were Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, Ronald McNair & Judith Resnick, who both died in the Challenger accident, Guion Bluford, the first African-American in space, and Mae Jemison, who was the first black woman in space. The diversity of the latest batch of NASA astronauts-in-training is a testament to Nichols’ and NASA’s joint efforts as well. (via open culture)Tags: Martin Luther King NASA Nichelle Nichols space Space Shuttle Star Trek TV video
From Hiroshi Kondo, a mesmerizing short film called Multiverse of the motorbike-jammed streets of Taiwan. Right around the 50 second mark, Kondo starts to use a clever time lapse technique to highlight individuality within the bustling mass of traffic. It’s a really cool effect and reminded me of this clip art animation by Oliver Laric. (via colossal)Tags: Hiroshi Kondo Taiwan time lapse video
24-year-old NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has led the Milwaukee Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals this year, but as a child in Greece, he lived the life of a stateless undocumented immigrant.
Until recently, even the children of African immigrants who were born here found it difficult to secure legal residency, let alone citizenship. Their stateless status denied them national health care, Civil Service jobs and access to sports leagues. Antetokounmpo only gained Greek citizenship six years ago — just as he was about to go to New York for the N.B.A. draft.
“He was given Greek citizenship in order to prevent him from traveling to New York as a Nigerian,” said Nikos Odubitan, the founder of Generation 2.0, an advocacy group that helps second-generation immigrants gain legal status in Greece.
Danny Chau went to Milwaukee to speak with refugees from places like Syria and Myanmar about their lives, their struggles, and their awareness of Antetokounmpo’s story: Giannis Through the Eyes of Milwaukee Refugees.
Kasim serves as a medical interpreter at Aurora Health Care, Wisconsin’s largest home care organization. I walk past the Aurora pharmacy several times during my stay; above one of the entrance gates hand a vinyl FEAR THE DEER banner. I ask Kasim about the Bucks, about what he knows of the professional sports franchise that has brought new life to much of the city this season. For refugees like Kasim, they may as well be from another planet.
“I heard of this, but again, because of the situations, we are a bit away from the sports,” Kasim says. “We don’t have any chance. But now, I come here, I’m working at the community center, at the same time fulfilling other responsibilities, so time is pretty busy. So I don’t get the time to self-care.” Kasim, often solemn and deliberate in his speech, couldn’t help but let out a smile, having essentially wrapped the term “self-care” in sonic air quotes.
I tell him about Giannis.
He lives here in Milwaukee?
About how he’s one of the best basketball players in the world.
He’s from here or he came here with his parents?
About how, as a child, he, too, had no official claim to the home he had always known. About how he would peddle sunglasses, DVDs, and whatever else he could to make 200 or 300 euros a month for his family. And how his status as an undocumented person meant knowing that at any moment, police could ask his parents for their documentation, and that they could be sent back to Nigeria in an instant.
(via @sampotts)Tags: basketball Giannis Antetokounmpo NBA sports
Diane Munday, an 86-year-old women’s rights activist, recalls what illegal abortion had been like in the UK in the 1960s.
“Women would drink bleach to try to induce miscarriage. They would have very hot baths, or move heavy furniture, or try to do it themselves with a needle or a crochet hook,” says Munday.
As a result, an underground network of backstreet abortionists ran quietly across the country. Some of them, says Munday, became involved by force. It was not unknown for women who had carried out abortions for their close friends and family to be blackmailed by desperate pregnant women who threatened to report them to the police if they didn’t help them, too. Like women who had abortions, those who carried out the procedure illegally could be sent to prison.
“These people were unskilled. Some might have had a bit of nursing experience or had worked in a hospital, or carried out procedures for a friend or daughter,” says Munday.
Munday became active in the campaign to legalize abortion in the UK after she had one herself following giving birth to three children in less than four years.
See also Harrowing Illegal Abortion Stories from Before Roe v. Wade.Tags: abortion Diane Munday medicine
Black Mirror is back for a fifth season on Netflix starting June 5. The season will consist only of three episodes and will star, among others, Miley Cyrus, Topher Grace, Andrew Scott, and Anthony Mackie. Here’s the trailer:
I have to admit that I haven’t watched all of season 4 yet…or Bandersnatch. Living in an episode of Black Mirror isn’t exactly conducive to wanting to watch Black Mirror.Tags: Black Mirror trailers TV video
Merriam-Webster asked 11 authors how they came up with their single-word book titles. Here’s A.S. Byatt talking about Possession:
The book began with a word — the title — Possession. Earlier novels have begun with characters, or themes, but Possession began when I was watching the great Canadian Coleridge scholar, Kathleen Coburn, working in the British Museum and thought — “she cannot have had a thought that was not his thought for the last 30 or 40 years.” And then I thought — “and what I know about him is mediated through her - she edited all his notebooks, checked the sources of the quotations, etc.”
And then I thought, “I could write a novel called Possession about the relationship between a dead poet and a living scholar.” And the word possession would have all sorts of senses — daemonism, ownership, obsession……
And Jeffrey Eugenides on Middlesex:
A good title tells you what the book’s about. It reminds you, when you lose heart, why you started writing it in the first place. I saw an interview with Francis Ford Coppola once where he said that he likes to boil down his films into one word. For The Godfather, the word was “succession.” Whenever Coppola decided something, even a small thing like a costume detail, he reminded himself of his theme in order to make everything cohere, from the storyline right down to the gangsters’ hats.
With two of my novels, The Virgin Suicides and The Marriage Plot, I knew the titles before I even started writing. I wasn’t so lucky with Middlesex. For years I had a terrible working title for that book, so bad I won’t even mention it here.
(via @john_overholt)Tags: books language lists
Judith Love Cohen was, at various times in her fascinating life, an engineer who worked on the Pioneer, Apollo, and Hubble missions, an author & publisher of books about women in STEM and environmentalism in the 90s, a ballet dancer with the New York Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, an advocate for better treatment of women in the workplace, and actor Jack Black’s mother. From an obituary written by her son Neil Siegel after her death in 2016:
My mother usually considered her work on the Apollo program to be the highlight of her career. When disaster struck the Apollo 13 mission, it was the Abort-Guidance System that brought the astronauts home safely. Judy was there when the Apollo 13 astronauts paid a “thank you” [visit] to the TRW facility in Redondo Beach.
She finished her engineering career running the systems engineering for the science ground facility of the Hubble Space Telescope.
During her engineering career, she was a vigorous and tireless advocate of better treatment for women in the workplace. Many things that today we consider routine — the posting of job openings inside of a company so that anyone could apply, formal job descriptions for every position, and so forth - were her creations. She had a profound impact on equality in the workforce.
Here’s Cohen pictured with an early Pioneer spacecraft in 1959:
Frustrated with the lack of female role models for girls interested in science, math, and technology, she retired from engineering to write and publish a series of books. From a 1999 LA Times profile:
The 11-book series features female professionals such as a paleontologist, Egyptologist and marine biologist. Cohen’s first book in 1991, “You Can Be a Woman Engineer,” traces her arc from a girl who had never heard of female engineers to a woman who led a team of engineers on the design for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
“You only think about things when you see people doing it. Most girls know now they can be lawyers” from TV shows like “Ally McBeal” and female lawyers in the news, Cohen said. “They know that they can work in an emergency room — they’ve seen ‘ER.’ But I don’t recall that anyone has seen scientists on a large scale, except for a few paleontologists in ‘Jurassic Park.’”
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, physicist Barbara Wilson, 50, said she never knew of any female scientists while growing up in the Midwest. At age 10, she started reading science fiction books for inspiration, but none of them featured women. In school, counselors dismissed the idea of her becoming a scientist, saying she should consider jobs that “women are more likely to be good at.” Books like Cohen’s would have provided the validation she sought, said Wilson, JPL’s chief technologist.
“It was really difficult psychologically and emotionally to be better than all the boys in math and science,” she said. “[The books] really would have helped encourage my feeling good about myself, that this was the direction I wanted to go. I didn’t see role models. I didn’t get encouragement other than at home.”
It’s difficult to imagine a better role model than Cohen…she obviously loved engineering and her work. When her son Jack Black was born, she barely hit the pause button:
Her fourth child, Jack, was born a few years later. She actually went to her office on the day that Jack was born. When it was time to go to the hospital, she took with her a computer printout of the problem she was working on. Later that day, she called her boss and told him that she had solved the problem. And… oh, yes, the baby was born, too.
If anyone from the NY Times is reading, I think Cohen would make a good subject for the Overlooked series. (via history cool kids)Tags: Apollo books Jack Black Judith Love Cohen Neil Siegel science
In the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver discusses the Green New Deal and carbon pricing. Oliver invited beloved children’s science educator Bill Nye to help him explain a few things and Nye delivered a short but passionate speech about what’s at stake in the political battle over climate change:
I’ve got an experiment for you. Safety glasses on. By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on earth could go up another four to eight degrees. What I’m saying is: the planet’s on fucking fire!
There are a lot of things we could do to put it out. Are any of them free? No, of course not. Nothing’s free you idiots! Grow the fuck up, you’re not children anymore. I didn’t mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12. But you’re adults now and this is an actual crisis, got it? Safety glasses off, motherfuckers.
The entire segment is worth watching (particularly if you haven’t been keeping up on what the Green New Deal actually is) but Nye’s closing remarks are at ~18:30 for the impatient.Tags: Bill Nye global warming John Oliver politics video
The author and popular historian David McCullough has a new book out called The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West. I don’t really know where to start with that title (heroic? ideal?) but in her Slate review, Rebecca Onion says that McCullough’s brand of Manifest Destiny-laden American history furthers “the lie that the ‘frontier’ was an empty Eden waiting for American expansion”.
This poem embodies another “pioneer attitude” — the idea that the land was prehistoric, suspended in stasis, before the arrival of white people, and needed to be properly brought into production by the kind of work only “stalwart” settlers could do. This idea, repeated over centuries, aided Manifest Destiny, even as Native settlements like the Miami town of Kekionga boasted cornfields, gardens, and cattle herds. McCullough is approvingly repeating one of the founding myths that justified stealing land from Native tribes — and it doesn’t seem like he even knows it.
Harvard historian Joyce Chaplin agrees in a NY Times book review:
Tags: books David McCullough Joyce Chaplin Rebecca Onion The Pioneers USA
And whatever praise Manasseh Cutler and his supporters might deserve, their designated Eden had an original sin: dispossession of the region’s native inhabitants — paradise lost, indeed. McCullough plays down the violence that displaced the Indians, including the actual Ohio people. He adopts settlers’ prejudiced language about “savages” and “wilderness,” words that denied Indians’ humanity and active use of their land. He also states that the Ohio Territory was “unsettled.” No, it had people in it, as he slightly admits in a paragraph on how the Indians “considered” the land to be theirs. That paragraph begins, however, with a description of the Northwest Territory as “teeming with wolves, bears, wild boars, panthers, rattlesnakes and the even more deadly copperheads,” as if the native people were comparably wild and venomous, to be hunted down, beaten back, exterminated.
This drink from Chinese coffee chain Mellower Coffee is called Sweet Little Rain. A puff of cotton candy is suspended over a steaming cup of Americano. The heat from the coffee melts the cotton candy, which drips into the cup and sweetens the coffee. It is both a little bit of genius and unabashedly constructed for creating the perfect Instagram moment.Tags: coffee food
In the spire of a Swedish church built around the end of the 12th century, eight large rafters (that are in spectacularly good shape considering they’re 800 years old) appear to be fashioned from the same tree using a technique that had not been documented before. So, using only medieval woodworking tools and techniques, a team set out to prove that those rafters could have been made in that way.
The woodworkers’ search for a proper tree to use (starting at ~2:55) brings to mind the recent kerfuffle over the replacement beams for the Notre Dame.
Finding a suitable tree for this experiment is not necessarily easy. Where do you find a tall, straight, even pine tree with no branches for at least 13 meters off the ground?
They eventually found a 195-year-old tree with 11 meters of no branches.
The pace of this video is so leisurely that it feels almost meditative at times, watching this massive log slowly yield to the woodworkers’ effort and ingenuity. Recommended if you’re feeling stressed about the pace of the world.
See also How Tree Trunks Are Cut to Produce Lumber with Different Shapes, Grains, and Uses and Watch As a Master Woodworker Turns a Giant Log into an Elegant Dugout Canoe. (via bb)Tags: how to video
Page created: Fri, May 24, 2019 - 09:06 PM GMT