Cocktail Prices

This explains a lot.  New York drinks seem cheap all of a sudden.

via MR.

Spontaneous Human Combustion

Life imitates art.

Being Elmo

Watching him on Jimmy Fallon the other night with Andy Samberg reminded me of what a comic genius "Elmo" is. Kevin Clash, Elmo's puppeteer, is probably the most underrated physical comedian of our time, to say nothing of his wit and impeccable timing.



See also: Elmo and Ricky on Sesame Street, and at Ricky's office. But do not miss these outtakes, which may be one of the funniest things Elmo or Ricky has done.

via Kottke.

Bruce Dan

Photo via NYTimes
You earned your bachelor’s degree in aeronautics from MIT; and a master’s in biomedical engineering from Purdue a year later. You decided to become a doctor, so you went off to Vanderbilt School of Medicine. You did some interesting research, made some contributions to the field of epidemiology, and even won some awards. Later in your career, you went to work for The Journal of the American Medical Association, and even a Chicago TV station as an on-camera medical expert.

You leave behind two parents, three siblings, two children, and one wife - a woman who describes you as "a Renaissance man."

And this is the headline the NYTimes puts over your obituary?

There is No Step Five

This phenomenon has been pointed out before, but I think it's worth mentioning again.

I wanted to add the Ravens' schedule to my calendar, and found one at their website. They were helpful enough to provide installation instructions for both Mac and PC users. Mac users must complete four simple steps, and most Mac users probably don't even need the instructions.  PC users have to follow three steps, but Step 1 contains three sub-steps, and Step 2 contains eleven sub-steps, one of which has nine sub-sub-steps. For what it's worth, Step 3 is extremely simple: "Synchronize your computer with your PDA!"

Bumper sticker soon to be spotted around town:  Daddy, what were PDAs like?

eBay for the Rich and Famous

Chris Vellacott, for Reuters:
In an upstairs room in London's plush St James's district, around 30 people mostly in their 20s chatted politely in fluent English, their accents Russian, Arabic, South Asian and Chinese. After a three-course dinner of salmon and roast lamb, the program began: a role-play in which teams bid in an imaginary auction for various works of art. 
A crew of experts was on hand to advise on the value of the pieces. The bidding gathered pace. Staff took fake phone calls and bid on behalf of "mystery buyers." A young woman shouted encouragement in Arabic. One team bid hard, driving prices far higher than the recommended valuations. At the last minute they pulled out, landing rivals with an exorbitant bill. A large plasma screen showed the real-life bidding going on downstairs. George Stubbs' "Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath" sold for 22.4 million pounds ($35 million), making it the third most valuable Old Master ever sold at auction. 
For the young would-be buyers, the event was one of a series of workshops aimed at grooming them for the responsibilities of inheriting vast wealth. A taster of how to invest in alternatives to stocks and bonds, the session showed how some of their 'high net worth' parents are protecting their wealth from the market ructions of the financial crisis...
It only gets crazier from there.

Worth A Thousand Words

But is there any future in these so-called "electronic books"?

Burning Man

Is this the only collection of Burning Man photos on the Internet that contains no evidence of nudity or cross-dressing?

Kindle News and Observations

Amazon announced three new Kindles today:
  • Kindle is now an ultra-light e-reader with no keyboard or 3G support.
  • Kindle Touch is basically a touchscreen version of Kindle, with optional unlimited 3G.
  • Kindle Fire is a 7-inch tablet running a fork of the Android OS developed by Amazon and designed to be "fresh and easy-to-use," according to Bloomberg.
If Kindle Fire doesn't succeed, then no 7-inch tablet stands a chance for at least another year. But I believe Kindle Fire will succeed. I believe it will be the top-selling non-iPad tablet by December 31st, 2011. Which isn't saying much.

I don't think there will be a ton of competition between Kindle Fire and the iPad - they will not lose many sales to each other - but Kindle Fire is the first non-iPad tablet that I could see someone my parents' age wanting, buying, and actually using.

Until now, as has been noted a thousand times, there has not been a "Tablet Market." There's only been an "iPad Market" and then a bunch of failed efforts to produce iPad-like devices. Kindle Fire will either create a "Kindle Fire Market" or it will be the first entrant into a legitimate Tablet Market. That is, a market for devices that don't have 9-inch screens and run iOS.

Some random thoughts to support my beliefs:

Girl Fight!

Just a charming story, all around:
Starting this week, 14-year-old Lexi Peters will be stick handling past men twice her size as she plays in the starting lineup for the Buffalo Sabres. Or the Vancouver Canucks. Or any NHL team the 90-pound left-winger chooses. 
Because when video game publisher Electronic Arts releases the latest edition of its popular NHL series on Tuesday, Lexi will be the first female in its virtual hockey roster.
Other highlights:
She sent a typewritten letter to the executives of one the largest video game makers in the world, asking them to add women players. 
She wrote: "It is unfair to women and girl hockey players around the world, many of them who play and enjoy your game. I have created a character of myself, except I have to be represented by a male and that's not fun." 
...The 4 foot 11 teen has played hockey for four years. She and a teammate spent hours creating a whole custom hockey team, modeling the players after their own all-girls team, the Purple Eagles. The best they could do was give the characters long "hockey" hair. 
..."I was so excited," says Lexi. "My dad called my grandpa immediately, who called my Uncle Chris, like a chain reaction."
I've heard the mullet referred to as a Soccer Rocker, but never Hockey Hair.  Must be a Canadian thing.

I Gotta Feelin'

In honor of the release of Wilco's latest album, a video featuring Jeff Tweedy as sort of a Slack-Eyed Pea, which is totally worth five minutes of your time:



Which feeling hits you harder:  appreciation of Tweedy's irony, or pity for the Black-eyed Peas's sincerity?

Also, if the clock in the background is accurate, the video was shot around 8:00.  So, what time did the show start?  Is this a Dinner Theater?

via Paste.

Let's Talk iPhone

Apple just announced a media event on the 4th of October, 10:00am local time, at their headquarters in Cupertino, CA. The topic of this event will the the iPhone.

Therefore, the four icons depicted on the invitation tell you everything you need to know (especially if the clock reads 10, as in "October" as well as "10:00"). When, Where, What/Why. (The "Who" is implied by receipt of the invitation, of course). Brilliant.

Spadiohead II

A friend warned me that some sort of Hipster Mafia may be lobbing a brick through my window for making fun of Thom Yorke. He compared it to expressing doubts in Spring 2008 about Obama's ability to preside over the country.

But it turns out others have noticed the same thing I mentioned and have (presumably) not received retributive responses from Radiohead fans. Yet.

The truth is, I've always considered Thom to be an "oddly handsome man." This is the exact phrase I've used for years. Are we OK now, hipsters?

Incidentally, I Googled "spadiohead" so see if I'd coined a new term. Note Google's estimate of the number of results:  "About 2."  Note also the actual number of results:  Exactly 3. This really undermines my faith in Google's whole enterprise. Are they using "very large values of 2" in their algorithm, and if so what are the implications of this practice?

On Writing

I used to call myself a "Non-practicing Writer." No one ever laughed when said this, so I've always wondered if it was an instance of the Dennis Miller Ratio in action or if it simply wasn't funny. I adapted this designation from a favorite Reality Bites line, and by it I meant that I liked to write but rarely ever got around to actually doing it.

About a year ago, a teacher gave me a very simple tip:  Writers write, and writers are read. This changed everything for me. I thought of this today when I read Seth Godin's post on writing, the gist of which is:
Writer's block isn't hard to cure. 
Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.
The patent implication in almost everything I've written at this site is that I'm figuring things out as I go along. And now, thanks to Seth, I have permission to keep doing what I'm doing. Not bad for a Monday.

Other recent posts have also gotten me thinking about writing, so (hold your breath!) I may visit this again from different angles in the next couple weeks.

NFL Stat of the Day

Over the weekend, the Ravens' new wide receiver Torrey Smith made his first five receptions as an NFL player. The first three were for touchdowns. I can't find any official records for this, but has anyone scored touchdowns on more than their first three receptions? If so, did they do it in the same game or even the same quarter quarter, like Smith? Has anyone (at any point in their career) ever caught more than three consecutive passes for touchdowns?

Spadiohead

Am I the only one who had these two thoughts while watching the SNL season premiere this weekend?

1) It's good to see David Spade back for an appearance!

2) But when did he become the lead singer of Radiohead?

Barefoot Running

I've never liked running.

I've often hated it.

I've always assumed it's too punishing a form of exercise to be worth doing, and that a lifestyle built around it would be riddled with constant injury and long-term damage to every moving part in my body.

Then, a month or so ago, I read Christopher MacDougall's five-year-old article in Men's Health entitled The Men Who Live Forever. I was intrigued. A few days later, I put on the thinnest-soled shoes in the house and went out for a 2.5-mile run on my tip-toes. My calves ached beyond description for the next four days.

I did some research and discovered a couple of critical errors in my form and method.

And now, as far as I can tell, I'm hooked.

I bought a pair of New Balance MT20s. I bought Michael Sandler's Barefoot Running and read it the day it arrived. I bought the book on which MacDougall's article is based: Born to Run. I discovered sites like birthdayshoes.com, chirunning.com, and runbare.com and concluded that we need a general corollary to Rule 34: for any conceivable topic, product, lifestyle, or area of interest, there is an online community devoted to discussing the matter in excruciating detail. (See also: straight razor shaving.)

I've been running barefoot (i.e., soft, tender skin on the hard, abrasive roads) for a couple weeks now. Within a few more weeks, I expect my feet to be strong and tough enough to go out in my MT20s for 3-5 miles every other day. I hope by winter to be running a few miles every day. And all without injury or long-term damage! Theoretically.

For what it's worth, Barefoot Running is a good book, but could be condensed from 320 pages to about 25 if you only need technique and training plans. Most of the book is philosophical and borderline religious. This might provide good motivational underpinnings for some people, but I just wanted to know how to get in good form and build up safely to good distances. The book does provide practical instruction in this area, and so far it's been helpful for me.

I will probably revisit this topic from time to time, but for now I wanted to get the above information recorded for future reference, and for anyone else who might find it helpful. I've become fairly zealous about this, and it will be more convenient to send friends a link to this post than to essentially re-write it every few days. I wish I'd had an outlet like this website when I discovered Eat to Live. That would've saved everyone I know a lot of patient listening and patronizing head-nodding.

Overheard in the Diner

This morning I sat at the counter and overheard the following exchange from the booth behind me:
Guy 1:  I mean, the problem is when people find out they have cancer, they get depressed, then they get chemo, then they get sick and die.
Guy 2:  That's not how it works, man.
Guy 1:  No, think about it...if I never knew I had cancer, I'd never get sick and die.
Guy 2:  No, because cancer winds up attacking your whole body and killing you.
Guy 1:  [I think I heard this part correctly] Well, right now, it's only in my throat.
On a semi-related note, 50/50 looks really good to me.  I might even see it in a theater.

Fired

Call me lazy, but I would love to reach a place in my career where I could get hired as CEO after being fired from my previous job, only to be fired as CEO and handed a $25 million consolation prize on my way out the door.

Wasted Headlines

Reuters:  Some lawmakers doubt ex-SEC lawyer broke the law

In unrelated-but-equally-true news, a Mad-Lib headline:  Some [plural noun] doubt ex-[singular noun] [verb, past tense]

Impressions

This bird is an incredible impersonator. (via Kottke)

But can he do Freddie Mercury? (via The Loop)

I close my eyes, and can discern no difference between this dude in his attic and the erstwhile lead singer of Queen.  Between the bird and the dude, Marc Martel wins this round.

And I love these two top comments at YouTube:


German Aid

photo via In Focus
Breaking news from Munich: thirsty citizens are finally receiving the first wave of a UN Aid Package that was recently tapped for their survival.

You can see more pictures of this yearly relief effort at In Focus.

Netpix

With all the recent chatter about Netflix's decision to split itself in two, I'm surprised that no one has referenced this Onion classic:
LOS GATOS, CA—With millions of images to choose from, the new online service Netpix—which allows users to receive up to three pictures at a time for a monthly fee—has quickly become the most popular photograph-rental company in the country. 
Launched in April, the new service offers a wide array of photos and genres, including pictures of sunsets, images of friends sitting around picnic tables, grisly crime scene photos, the complete works of Ansel Adams, snapshots of Carol and her dog, and recent portraits from Tanya Kohler's baby shower at the Treehouse restaurant in Manchester, NH. 
"It's so convenient. You get a photo in your mailbox, look at it for a while, and then drop it in the prepaid envelope and send it back," Houston resident Jonathan Collins said. "I'll never look at pictures the same way again." (continued...)

One at a Time [UPDATED]

I'm posting this in the evening to spare you the embarrassment of a sobbing, teary breakdown at your office.  You can thank me three and a half minutes from now:

Changing faces with a smile - Operation Smile

I've been a fan of Smile Train for years, and I know nothing about Operation Smile, but I'm unspeakably grateful for the work these people are doing.


UPDATE:

A reader writes to ask: "Did you not see this article a while back?"  I did not.  What I always loved about Smile Train was their high deeds-to-dollars ratio, and the fact that they addressed a fairly straight-forward problem with a direct, measurable, and indisputable solution.  The NYTimes story I've just linked to, which is more than half a year old, casts some doubt on the whole enterprise.  This is sad.

Japan Six Months Later

Inconceivable. Be sure to click the pictures that have before/after comparisons.

Gervais

This could be really entertaining.  Like Roy and HG, but for an awards show instead of something important like an interstate rugby rivalry.

Cold River

How not to select a new bottle of gin:
  1. Go into the store to pick up your preferred brand.
  2. Allow yourself to be distracted by the adjacent, hitherto unseen, bottle on a nearby shelf.
  3. Lean in to read the label.
  4. "Gin...I like gin.  Maine...I love Maine!  How could this go wrong?"
  5. Pay money; take chances.
  6. Go home and discover the unique flavor of Regret+Tonic with a lime!
From the Cold River website:
Cold River Gin is produced using alcohol made from Maine potatoes and a secret blend of seven traditional botanicals: juniper berries, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, orris root, angelica root and cardamom. The recipe is dates [sic] back to the early days of British gin.
They lost me at potatoes, and I never tasted the botanicals.  Among my fellow tasters, the most favorable adjective used to describe it was drinkable.

Public Service

I just watched the most wonderful video.  Everyone knows half a dozen or more people who need to see it.    As a public service to my loyal readers, I am embedding the video in a post which I've back-dated to a couple months ago, and you can find it here:

Weird Al Video

Now, to use this opportunity to your greatest advantage, simply click the link above, and forward it to all your friends who need to hear this urgent message.  If you really want to get tricky, format the e-mail in such a way as to make it look like you received it from a friend, who got it from a friend, whose best friend's aunt's sister's uncle's nephew saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night...

Two Daughters

What are the odds that two daughters of prominent Democrat politicians die within a day of each other, both at the age of 51?

Eleanor Mondale Poling and Kara Kennedy Allen, RIP.

I don't mean to be morbid, but things like this often happen in threes.  How old is Amy Carter, and who is guarding her life right now?  Whew...she's only 43, and still very much alive.  She's actually living a much quieter life than her father, which is nice.

A Shaved Llama. That is all.


via Twisted Sifter.

Google Doodle

Today's Google Doodle is either brought to you by a cabal of orange growers' associations (holy crap, there's one in Maine!) or it's a celebration of yet another scientist you've probably never heard of.

Rock and/or Roll

An interesting summary of the distinctive sounds and noises that shaped rock and roll.  I never noticed this before, but "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks has a really odd relationship between the power-chord guitar part and the drum part.  When the drums come in, the guitar part seems to shift but doesn't.  Sort of an audio illusion, I guess.  I have it on good authority that it starts on the "and of four," which I guess explains the phenomenon.  Or, would explain it if I understood these things.

Libya

I'm a couple weeks late with this, but: The Onion nails it.  Twice.

(Caution:  immediate barrage of swears at the other end of those links.)

Is There a Hearing Aid Price Bubble? [UPDATED]

According to this post, hearing aids are overpriced and inexplicably getting more expensive.

I suspect that two factors are at work here, and the post touches briefly on one of them: an inefficient market with an arguably unnecessary party to most transactions.  As with many healthcare expenditures, there is a provider, a recipient, and then at least one third party to the transaction who either pays some or all of the cost or provides approval for the transaction based on some external criteria.  This third party will always distort real market conditions, most often increasing the retail price of a good or service.

The other factor that springs to mind is regulation.  Hearing aids are regulated by the FCC; but they're also considered a medical device, and as such they're regulated by the FDA.  Getting a product through one labyrinthine regulatory approval process is a costly, time-consuming nightmare.  I can only assume that getting two agencies to green-light a device must hellish.

Story via Slashdot.


The Money Value of Time

I was a business major in college, but not a good one.

Once, a classmate off-handedly explained a decision he'd made with the rationale that he "knew what his time was worth." I was speechless.  How did he know?  And what was it worth?  This guy was cranking away at a couple businesses halfway through undergrad.  His older brother once described him as seeing the world in "green and white."  Still, he knew something important then, and I suspect he's capitalized on that knowledge for a long time.

My guess is that 99% of us undervalue our time in dollar terms, mostly because we never do calculations like this one.

Longform.org's Guide to the Death Penalty

I'm a longform.org devotee, and their weekly guides for Slate.com are typically excellent.  This recent collection comes up short, though:
While most of Europe and much of the rest of the world have abandoned the death penalty, support for capital punishment in the United States has endured with remarkable consistency, even in the face of wrongful convictions. Here's a look at the death penalty in America through the eyes of those closest to it: the legislators, the judges, the juries, the lawyers, and, of course, the condemned.
Seems like there's one very obvious perspective missing from this list.

Big Ben

Ben Roethlisberger (whose name I just spelled by typing "rothl" into Google and letting auto-complete do the rest) had a really rough start to his season, but he can celebrate this:  according to the Onion Sports Network, Ben just "made it through the entire off-season without raping anyone."  Little victories.

J.D. Power Rankings

Apple's iPhone tops the list, and no one else is even close.

You could argue that HTC is a not-too-distant second, but they didn't score five-stars in any category while Apple earned five in all the categories.

No one but Apple and HTC scored more than three stars in any category.  Staggering.

Story via MacRumors, screenshot from J.D. Power's report.

Radically Different

The cottage industry built around Apple rumors is a fun one to follow.  It's often insightful, but even more often it's just silly.  Take this example:
Citing an anonymous source within the Cupertino-based company's Asian supply chain, hit-or-miss macotakara.jp claims Apple with the help of its component suppliers is gearing up to introduce Macs that are "absolutely different from current products," possibly by the "end of this year."
What exactly was the point of publishing this story?  Its sole purpose seems to be so that if almost anything comes out between now and December 31 the author (Katie Marsal) can point to her report and say See?!  I told you!

She & Him Christmas Album Tracklist

photo via pastemagazine.com
I consider myself somewhat of an aficionado of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" renditions.  I liked Zooey's duet with Will Ferrel in Elf; and I love her recording with Leon Redbone on the soundtrack.  Zooey + M. Ward should be an instant classic.
The Christmas Waltz
Christmas Day
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Christmas Wish
Sleigh Ride
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Silver Bells
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Blue Christmas
Little Saint Nick
The Christmas Song
On a semi-related note, the pilot for The New Girl wasn't as horrible as I expected it to be.  I mean, it probably won't get picked up for a full season, but there's a slim chance it won't completely suck while it lasts.  Which is nice.

Tracklist and photo via Paste.

Too Late?

The Onion:
NEW YORK—The makers of Laffy Taffy, a chewy fruit-flavored candy known for the lighthearted jokes printed on each wrapper, announced Tuesday they would pay tribute to the victims of 9/11 by sponsoring every single cobblestone at the World Trade Center memorial...
Any joke can be made universally offensive by appending the question, “Too soon?” to its end.

Toddler Mode for iOS

Chris Blattman linked to this gizmo recently, and it got me thinking again about how badly iOS needs a "Toddler Mode."

The current "Restrictions" controls are premised on the idea that the device belongs primarily or entirely to someone for whom you want to limit access in a semi-permanent way.  And once you finish adjusting all 16 of the restrict-able options, you'd better stick with those settings for awhile, because disabling Restrictions, reverts all settings back to their default.

It should take no more than 15 seconds to go from "Daddy, can I draw on your iPad?" to fully locked-down Toddler Mode.

I'm looking for something simple like what Peter Merholz suggested awhile back.  I would add that once you're in Toddler Mode, a triple-tap of the Home button should bring up your standard 4-digit PIN interface, allowing you to return to normal mode immediately (i.e., you don't have to navigate back to the Settings page to turn it off).

I guess I'll take this opportunity to re-iterate my only previous iOS feature request:  triple-tapping the "Screen Lock" button should set the device to immediately require a PIN (as opposed to waiting 5 minutes as I currently have mine set).  This would be my default behavior on holidays and vacations immediately before setting down my iPad to go to the bathroom.  We could call it "Nosy Niece Mode."  Not that my nieces are nosy, but alliteration trumps accuracy here.

Strange Mercy

St. Vincent's new album.  Out today, and $4 from amazon.com.

NFL Stat of the Day [UPDATED]

Kid Dynamite has his favorite.

Mine is this:  According to yesterday's broadcast team, Joe Flacco has the all-time NFL record for postseason away-game wins.*  Can you guess the number?

Bartz

Not long after being fired as Yahoo!'s CEO, Carol Bartz resigned from the board.  As I read the article (screenshot below), I was encouraged to see that she's already found work as a spokesperson for Zurich.


'80s Bands

Another great "What your favorite ___ band says about you" list from John Peck and McSweeney's. I hope he keeps on going through the '00s.
Ratt: You have accidentally snorted a line of Cascade.
WASP: You have snorted several lines of Cascade on purpose.
Stryper: You think Stryper is WASP.

Yahoo! + AOL

Brett Pulley and Douglas MacMillan, for Bloomberg:
Yahoo is unlikely to be interested in a deal for AOL at this time given the company’s losses and declining revenue, according to one person familiar with the matter. AOL’s market value is about $1.6 billion, while Yahoo’s is about $18.2 billion. 
It's a bit of sloppy writing, but ironic.  Given which company's losses and declining revenue?  The antecedent is important for clarity's sake, but ultimately it probably doesn't matter...both companies are in pretty bad shape, and neither would likely serve the other well as a flotation device.  On the other hand, they probably deserve each other.

Really Fast II

GT cars are really fast.  But F1 cars are really, really, really fast.

Strange Mercy

Stream Strange Mercy now.

Buy it in a week.

Hair Loss

I rarely remember my dreams, and when I do they never seem worth remembering. But a week or so ago I had a very vivid, very memorable dream that I was going bald. I don't understand how the whole space-time continuum works in Dreamland, but in the course of this one night I went from a little bald spot at the back of my head to being so bald I just took a pair of clippers and did away with what little remained.  In my waking life I don't think I'd care one way or another if I lost my hair;  but in my dream it was a terrifying disaster.

That said, I'm inclined to believe the results of this recent study.

Princeton!

You are a plumber by trade.  You've worked 12+ hour days for most of your adult life to provide for your loving wife and the five kids you raised together.  At every turn, the two of you sacrificed and saved so those kids could have better opportunities than you had at their age.  You did your best to instill in them a sense of responsibility, a work ethic, a thirst for knowledge.  You thrilled when your eldest kid got his acceptance letter last spring.  Princeton!  The IVY LEAGUE!  It's starting to feel like all your hard work and sacrifice was worth it.

Now, how pissed are you to learn that he's enrolled in Scrabble Class his first semester on campus?!  Does it matter that he got into the class only by seeking his department's permission and passing a rigorous pre-class interview?

Happy Pigs

As if I needed another excuse to eat carnitas burrito bowls at Chipotle.



Johnny Kelly's animation is like a beautiful, visual polemic.

via AdWeek.

Web Surfing At Work

Rachel Emma Silverman, writing for WSJ:
According to a new study, Web browsing can actually refresh tired workers and enhance their productivity, compared to other activities such as making personal calls, texts or emails, let alone working straight through with no rest at all. 
The study, "Impact of Cyberloafing on Psychological Engagement," by Don J.Q. Chen and Vivien K.G Lim of the National University of Singapore, was presented last week in San Antonio, Texas, at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, an association of management scholars.
Of course, the survey was conducted online between 9am and 5pm on a Monday, so the sample set may be skewed a bit.