A Letter of Note

"…say Freddy? Will that be great or not."


Since 2001, law has required pig farmers in the European Union to provide some form of entertainment to their livestock as a way of keeping them in good emotional health[!!! -ed.], which in turn helps curb aggression and anxiety. Often, toys and other materials are placed inside the sties for animals to interact with, but perhaps unsurprisingly, some farmers have found it quite difficult to turn their pigpens into playpens.

With that in mind, designers from Utrecht School of the Arts and Wageningen University in the Netherlands ventured to create new ways to make swine swoon -- resulting in a project called Playing with Pigs. But with a shortage of literature on entertaining pigs, developers soon found themselves experts in the field.
via MetaFilter

Downhill. Fast.

This video is impressive, but it's the audio that really makes it. I've never heard such enthusiastic commentary in all my life. But I've never heard these two guys, either, so maybe they're always this way. Turn it up.

via The Science of Sport (the whole post is worth checking out), via MetaFilter.

Free Ideas III

Twea: tea for Hipsters

Business plan:
  1. Buy some Lipton Tea leaves, ideally in bulk through a direct-from-the-factory discount program.
  2. Package the tea in organic, recycled, hand-letterpressed, small-batch, sustainable teabags and boxes. If you can claim that the teabags are produced sustainably and/or help employ single mothers in the developing world using capital infused through an experimental microfinance program, all the better.
  3. Profit!

BlackBerry Stampede

I swear I thought this was an Onion headline when I saw it:

BlackBerry Bold 9790: Several Faint In Crush As Thousands Line Up To Get New Phone

Yelping with Cormac

I added Yelping with Cormac to my RSS feed awhile ago, but hadn't read any posts until last night. Why did I wait so long?

Olive Garden, Apple Store, and Whole Foods are my favorites so far.

Shanghai, Then and Now

Let's set the over/under on these pictures at 50 years apart. What do you take?

The whole post is worth scrolling through.

Does This Count?

via the Daily Mail
"Do one thing every day that scares you."
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Does "watching other people do things that scare you" count?

What if it's so scary you can't bear to watch for more than a minute? I mean, WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT?!

And with this post, I introduce a new tag, which I'll try to apply retroactively as well as to future posts: WOTEDTSY: Watch One Thing Every Day That Scares You.

So, They DO Know!

"‘Yes we know it’s Christmas’ say African musicians as they finally record a response to Band Aid"

I share Chris Blattman's disappointment that this story is not real; and I thank him for the pointer:
Speaking at the launch of the single, whose proceeds will go towards teaching discipline, literacy and contraception at British schools, composer and singer Boomtown Gundane said that for years he had been irked by Geldof's assumption that hungry Africans were also stupid.

"Or was he just saying that Africans were stupid? Of course we knew it was Christmas."


Who says science and Christianity can't live happily together?

via xkcd.com

Death to Pennies

I would suggest (as the narrator does) that we rip this Band-Aid off fast by abolishing the Nickel and maybe even the Dime while we're at it.

via Everyone, awhile ago.

An Unspecified Medical Issue

Attorneys for John Edwards asked again Thursday to delay his criminal trial, saying the former presidential candidate and U.S. senator has an unspecified medical issue. 
In June, the Justice Department charged Edwards with conspiracy, issuing false statements and violating campaign contribution laws. He has pleaded not guilty. 
In September, the trial was delayed until January 30 after Edwards' attorneys said he needed more time, in part due to his position as the sole caretaker of his two youngest children, ages 11 and 13, after his wife, Elizabeth, passed away in December 2010.
I hope he doesn't have cancer. After all that poor man has been through these past few years, I really hope he doesn't have cancer.

iPhone Case

To whom it may concern: if your smartphone case is also a bottle opener, then I think it's fair to assume you're addicted to either the phone, the drink, or both.

The Best or Worst Hockey Game Ever

I'm not much of a sports fan, but this caught my attention:
The Worst Hockey Game Ever
On Nov. 9, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay Did Literally Nothing for Long Stretches; 'Horrible'
Tyler Cowen calls it "the best and deepest game of hockey ever. Seriously." and I have insufficient data to disagree with him (is this ever not the case?). I probably would not have enjoyed watching the game, but Mike Sielski's account of it is fascinating:
Twenty-seven seconds after the puck was dropped, as the Flyers took possession in their own end, things got weird. Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds passed the puck backward to defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who slid it over to fellow defender Braydon Coburn in the right faceoff circle. There Coburn just leaned on his stick, with the puck at rest behind the blade. 
The aim of this tactic, Laviolette said in an interview later, was to force Tampa to drop the defensive style it had used to such great effect before. By having Coburn stand still, Laviolette hoped to draw the Tampa forward at the top of the 1-3-1 alignment out to challenge the puck-carrier—thereby taking Tampa's defense out of the trap. 
What Laviolette didn't anticipate is that the Lightning's forward, Martin St. Louis, would never go anywhere near Coburn. Instead, he stayed in the circle in the middle of the ice in his proper spot. 
After watching Coburn do nothing for close to 30 seconds, referees Rob Martell and Chris Rooney blew their whistles to stop play, then told Laviolette that his players have to keep the puck in motion. The crowd began to boo.
The article and the Lightning fans blame the Flyers for the slow pace of play, but that seems unfair to me. The Flyers brought an unorthodox game plan in an effort to dismantle a defensive strategy that had given them trouble in the past. Whether their game was strictly "hockey" or not is up for debate, but they evidently played by the rules. On the other side of the puck, the Lightning stubbornly refused to break out of the defensive set that so stumped the Flyers in the past. Both teams stuck to their guns; neither wanted to bend or compromise merely to get the game moving. 

Why not blame both teams equally? Would the game have been reported differently if it were played in Philly? Would the booing have still happened, and if so could it have been attributed to the defensive strategy rather than the home-team offense?

10,000 Watts

This is hilarious:
Behringer, a maker of professional audio and music equipment, is launching the world's loudest -- and largest -- iPhone dock. The iNuke Boom is 4 feet tall, 8 feet wide, weighs 700 pounds, and costs $29,999.
The photo reminds me of Phil Hartmann perched atop 2.5 million bowls of oat bran at the end of the classic Super Colon Blow commercial.

via MacRumors.


I'm sure it's always hard to be an atheist here in America, but probably never more so that at Christmas the end of the calendar year. And maybe at the official unveiling of particularly significant memorials.

And while we're on the subject, now might be a nice time to revisit Ricky Gervais' essay from last Christmas.

(Incidentally, according to Google Analytics, I get a small number of referrals from the keyword search "bloviator ricky gervais" every week. Does anyone know how or why this would be? Also, I get a few hits for "she & him christmas album tracklist" and I'm inexplicably at the top of the list for that search.)

Night and Day and Night

Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-Il died over the weekend. The timing is unfortunate, since Havel will no-doubt fail to get the attention he deserves and Kim will mostly get the wrong kind.

Havel shed light on a dark regime, and helped kindle a raging fire of freedom from a couple tiny sparks.

Kim (literally) did just about the opposite.

"North Korea is Dark" via globalsecurity.org

The 40 Most Memorable Tweets Of 2011

Is this the new template for the "Year in Review" concept?

How many 3rd-tier cities' last remaining newspapers are going to reprints this verbatim during the week between Christmas and New Year's? I'll set the over/under at 13.

Siri Translates

It hurts to watch, but I can't look away. (Caution: adult themes and swears.)


I've never seen a more concise summary of my current feeling about politicians than this Onion headline:
Man Whose Every Move Is Calculated For Personal Gain Represents 750,000 Constituents

1% from the 1%

I'd like to say I stopped reading this story after the opening clause ("A day after three Connecticut asset managers claimed the largest Powerball jackpot in the state's history..."), but that would be a lie. The truth is, it's a charming little tale of riches-to-even-more-riches. And they've given $1 million of their $100 million to charity!

I'll highlight one of my favorite passages and let the jokes tell themselves:
"Everybody is extremely excited -- these numbers are huge," said the trio's attorney, Jason Kurland. "This is going to benefit many people."

Jobs 2.0


You finally got [done reading] the latest and greatest [book about the world's most brilliant] tech gadget [creator], and now they announce they're coming out with an even better one next year. It's not even Christmas yet, and your gift is already obsolete!

Bacon Neck

Not long ago Hanes identified (or invented) a new problem apparently plaguing men throughout the first world. They even performed a public service by highlighting this problem with a clever and memorable ad.

When I first saw the ad, I laughed at the poor guys who'd be foolish enough to obsess over their wrinkly-collared undershirts. But, much like George Costanza's jingle, the message embedded itself into my sub-conscious.

On a recent morning, to bring things full-circle, I found myself pulling an old t-shirt from the bottom of my drawer - a Hanes t-shirt, mind you! - and looking with supreme dissatisfaction at its ripply collar. How can I go out in public wearing this?

So now I need to upgrade all my non-bacon-neck Hanes t-shirts? To new bacon-neck-proof Hanes t-shirts? Diabolical geniuses!

It's Cold

I think this is my new favorite rendition of my favorite wintertime song. (via Chris Blattman.)

In related news, I'm sad to say I was disappointed by She & Him's version. The twist was clever (has anyone done it this way before? I can't find it if they have.), but Zooey's performance came off as really awkward. And I know that awkwardness is supposed to be part of her charm, but there's a threshold beyond which I start to feel nervous for her and in this song she crosses that line.

I still love her with Leon Redbone, though.


Consistent with U.S. kids' 2010 wish lists, the Apple iPad is the most desired consumer electronic among kids ages 6-12 for holiday 2011. In fact, the iPad increases its stronghold, with nearly half (44%) of kids expressing interest in the product, up from 31 percent in 2010.
"Ages 6-12" is a pretty broad cohort, but don't these little monsters know we're in a recession? And how did Nielsen conduct this poll? Did they call or text the kids' iPhones? Perhaps pre-teens with cell phones should be forgiven for possessing enough sense of entitlement to expect a $500 gadget for Christmas.

Huck and Gus - I know neither of you can read yet, but mark my words: unless you've just earned a full scholarship to Yale, then you can expect to get a lump of coal the year you have the nerve to ask for (and, I assume, expect to receive) a $500 Christmas present.

Get Rich Quick!

Follow the Louis C.K. model, and you too can get rich in five easy steps:
  1. Have a talent. Preferably a marketable one. 
  2. Work really hard, within an established industry, for a long time and become famous based on your talent. Ideally, become one of the best people around at doing what you do. 
  3. Use your own money* to put on a show that exhibits your talent, essentially by-passing the established industry that helped make you famous. 
  4. Sell that show to a lot of people in a really short period of time. Sell it cheap, because your costs are relatively low and they're all sunk
  5. Profit! 
It remains to be seen whether this will be the catalyst for disrupting the media industry's existing business model as Dan Frommer (and others, I'm sure) have suggested, but it's an interesting experiment and I'm happy for Louis C.K. My guess is that this will do no more to put HBO and Comedy Central out of business than Radiohead did to drive record companies into obsolescence.

UPDATE: Louis C.K. took questions on reddit recently, and the exchange is well worth reading. (Caution: between the questions, answers, and comments, there's a 100% chance of adult themes.)

*This model assumes you've already been getting rich slowly for awhile, and therefore have your own money. If this assumption is false, then you might need another model.

How Come You're Not Rich?

Megan McCardle asks a great question: If Everyone Else is Such an Idiot, How Come You're Not Rich? and then explores some possible answers. Her thoughts are well worth reading.

I especially love her restraint; I get the sense that if she really wanted to tear into the topic she could hurt a lot of feelings:
If you've found it maybe not quite that easy to make a pile of money by outguessing all these benighted fools, then perhaps you should consider the possibility that they aren't quite as stupid as you are making them sound when you sniffily ask "Why don't they just . . . ?


Lots and lots of dots. Not only is the work of art beautiful, the video about the making of the work of art is beautifully done too.

Yahoo Serious Festival

T. Franklin Williams, Early Geriatric Specialist, Dies at 90

So, did he limit his studies to the first couple years of geriatricity?

Or did he arrive at old-age sooner than most? Would this be better described as premature geriatriculation?

Maybe he studied geriatrics when he himself was a relatively young age, or when the field was just beginning to take off.

All of the above?

Ice Cube, Design Aficionado

Click this. Read, watch, prepare to have your perspective changed. There's at least one person, place, or thing in the video that you'll never see the same way again.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

What Walker Percy did for bourbon drinking, and Michael P. Foley did for tobacco smoking, Jason Peters has just done for the martini.

This trio of tributes to life's simple pleasures is utterly beyond description. I'm tempted to elaborate on each essay; but nothing I could say would be enough, and anything at all would be too much.

Best. Raincheck. Ever.

The following is not a paid promotion.

I hate shopping, but I love buying stuff at Bonobos. Their pants fit perfectly, and they're well-made. The (discontinued) polo shirts I got from them a couple summers ago are my all-time favorites. Their suits look impressive, and if I needed a suit more than three times a year I'd probably own one of theirs.

Bonobos offers free shipping both ways on every order, so I routinely buy the same item in two or more sizes then send back the ones that don't fit. And sometimes, I send the whole order back. This is my kind of shopping!

But how is their business model sustainable? It has the feel of a late-90's internet venture: we lose money on every transaction, so we'll have to make money on volume! I think the answer is that the company is staffed by customer service superstars. They know that if they can delight every customer every time, then within a few years they'll have a choir of enthusiastic evangelists singing their praises.

I've called customer service a few times over the years, and I always leave the conversation feeling like I made a new friend who's empowered to give me free things or discounts.

Ever since Cyber Monday, Bonobos has been having some technical difficulties. Obviously, this is an inopportune time of year for an e-commerce site to start crashing. I love the way they've handled the crisis, though. In addition to the very candid aforelinked Quora article, they posted the image above on their homepage during outages, along with this apology:
Bonobos.com is experiencing technical issues that prevent us from offering the service level you deserve. We're truly sorry for that. Instead of asking you to spend time today wrangling with a broken website, we're offering a rain check on our Cyber Monday discounts. When we get things sorted, we'll shoot you an email offering the same great discounts.
I can't imagine a better way to handle the situation. Well, except maybe with a personal apology from the CEO.

Kids on Fire

As I continue to write up my long-overdue and now-stale thoughts on the Kindle Fire (an anxious world awaits!), please enjoy this entertaining story about one of the hazards of letting kids play with Fire:
Because Kindle Fire is one of the hottest products this holiday season, R. J. Hottovy, director of Global Consumer Equity Research for Morningstar, says he expects that consumers will look past the security issue.

"It will probably triumph over any concerns on that end," he says.
See also: Toddler Mode for iOS.

Is It Legal to Shoot Them?

Four really calm guys in a boat. One really calm great white shark circling the boat. (Caution: swears.)

I, Cheeseburger

First, they came for the pencils, and I did not listen because I use pens.

Then, they came for the toasters, and I ignored them because dry bread always scratches the roof of my mouth and I don't like to eat it.

Now, they're here for the cheeseburgers, and I think I'm finally starting to get the picture: the allocation of scarce resources with alternative uses is really, really difficult to manage without the spontaneous order and wisdom found in the free (though often tacit or altogether unseen) cooperation of thousands and thousands of people.

No one person, no cartel of exceedingly smart people, no government (even of, by, and for the people), can replace or improve upon the choreography and creativity of the people.

Irving Franklin

There's room for a range of quality within any publication, and I'm not saying everything the NYTimes produces has to be worthy of a Pulitzer; but this obituary seems a little flat to me. More than one sentence feels like it could've been extracted from the first draft of a middle schooler's book report. Like this, the second-to-last sentence in the piece:
Irving Franklin was particularly pleased about his batting gloves because the name of his company was so easy to see when television cameras closed in on a hitter.
I will say, to the writer's credit, that the last sentence is worth the slog it takes to get there.


We know that Apple has their reasons for every conceivable choice they make. No detail or decision is arbitrary.

When a clock or watch is displayed in advertising or some other prominent setting, it is always set to 10:10 and either :00 or :30 seconds. I know I've seen exceptions to this, but I think those have either been similarly symmetrical or else attributable to carelessness (1:50 is probably the second-most common time).

Why did Apple set the clock face for their iOS Clock icon to 10:15:00? Has it always been that way? I don't recall noticing before now.

Bacon-Infused Old-fashioned

They had me at bacon-infused, and while I think of bourbon as tending to make anything better; they nearly lost me there. I don't remember seeing this on the menu last time I visited. I shall have to go again soon.

Side-note: this is my first post to incorporate both the "Bacon" and "Whiskey" tags, although we've seen a "Bacon" and "Gin" post before.