A Good Day

It took almost 19 years, but someone finally figured out the actual date of Ice Cube's now-famous "Good Day." (Caution - this is post-NWA Ice Cube, not Are We There Yet? / Are We Done Yet? / Are We There Yet? (TV Series) Ice Cube, so: swears.)

Spoiler alert: it's January 20, 1992.

UPDATE: Ice Cube, through his publicist, will neither confirm nor deny.

UPDATE #2: Or is it November 30, 1988?

Feel the Burn

MetaFilter alerts us to the fact that in 1988 the National Aerobics Championships were hosted by Alan Thicke. I don't know what's weirder: that a National Aerobics Championship was broadcast on prime-time television, that Alan Thicke hosted said broadcast, that the whole thing was sponsored by Crystal Light, or that all three still exist today.

Burgled in Philly

I saw this story pop up a few places last week, and couldn't deduce the plot based on the summary, so I put off reading it. I'm glad I found five minutes over the weekend to read it, though:
When John Davidson's apartment gets robbed, he learns that the easiest way to get his stuff back is to have one drug dealer lie to another drug dealer while he lies to the police.

The Coastline of Britain

I was aware of this phenomenon, but had never seen it applied metaphorically like this before.

A very interesting way of considering any complex project, not just software development.

via Marco Arment.

What Does 'Conservation' Mean?

It seems to me that if you're keeping a species from extinction, you're helping to conserve the species. If you contribute to a process through which there are X members of a species alive in 1970 and 1,000X members (or more) in 2010, you're helping to conserve the species.

In other words, hunting can save an endangered species. But not for long, it seems.

I learned more economics lessons from this 13-minute video than from half a semester of Econ 101.


snaffle - | ˈsnafəl | - v. tr. 1. intercept and hold (something that has been thrown, propelled, or dropped).

As in, "His speedy reaction to snaffle a stray ball with an outstretched hand drew rapturous applause from the crowd." Comparisons to Ricky Ponting are only slightly over-wrought.


If it's not too late for Typographica to post their "favorite typefaces [that's 'fonts' to normal people] of 2011," then it can't be too late for me to put up my favorite new music of last year.

There are two ways to define "new music." One is "music released this year," and the other is "music I 'discovered' [like Columbus 'discovered' America] this year." I think the latter is more important, since I'm often "discovering" music that I should've known about awhile ago. Usually through a car commercial or movie trailer.

And don't you sit there judging me, pretending you knew who Nick Drake was before 2000.

There are also two ways of identifying "favorites." I could go by the numbers: create a smart playlist of everything I added in 2011, and sort it by play count. This way is honest and true, because it reflects how many times I actually listened to an album or song, but it scares me. Before I even look, I know that I'm going to be embarassed by the number of times I listened to Ke$ha. Any number >1 is probably unacceptable in polite society, but I'm OK with the fact that I like her songs. I'm just afraid to find out how much I like them. The other way to define favorites is by feel: spend 15 minutes in silence, meditating on the music I heard last year, and see which albums and songs percolate into my consciousness. There are three reasons this approach would fail, though:
  1. I'm terrible at coming up with lists off the top of my head.
So, this list is going to be a hybrid: music that was released, or that I came across for the first time, in 2011 sorted by a combination of play count and my sense that X years from now it's going to stand out as memorable or important. So, without further ado or excuse-making, here was My Favorite New Music of 2011:


You can picture it in your mind: Every Groupon Email You've Ever Received.

Rental Car Keys

If Jerry Seinfeld already covered this in the 1980's, please forgive me. If not, just read it in his voice for maximum effect.
D'jya ever notice how rental car companies always give you the most awkward, cumbersome keychains with these weird plastic ID tags? What's that about, huh? I mean, are we supposed to use the tag to find our car in the Disney parking lot? "I know we were in Pluto, and it says here it was a Midnight Blue Dodge Stratus, but I can't seem to find...excuse me, Mr. security guard, could you help me find this car? Apparently the VIN is HGT890...followed by the chemical symbol for Boron..." 
And what's the deal with this weird plastic-coated wire that holds the keys together? Have you ever tried to cut one of these wires? They could be used as a tow-rope in an emergency, if only they were a few feet longer. 
And can someone please tell me why they give me two identical keys to the car, secured together with this min-tow-rope keychain? Can't they keep track of the spare key themselves? Why tease me with the prospect of sharing the car with someone, only to make it impossible because of this bullet-proof cable they've connected the keys with. Is there some clause hidden deep in the rental agreement that lays out the fees associated with these keys? "Lost key: $50; Lost both keys: $150; Both keys returned, but tow-rope severed in order to maximize the utility of actually having two keys: $250; Both keys returned, tow-rope in tact, but plastic ID tag missing: you just bought yourself a Midnight Blue Dodge Stratus, sir."
I'm glad to have that off my chest.

Most Improved

You hear "Trophy Wife" and assume the trophy was for First Place, right? I did too, until now.

Cat Burglar

This scares me as both an acrophobic office-worker and a person who naturally assumes that 5th-story windows are inaccessible without a fire truck.

All's Fare?

I got an e-mail yesterday from Southwest stating that they're complying with the Department of Transportation's new "Full Fare Advertising" rule. I assume they have no choice in the matter, but it's nice to know they're doing their part there.

I was surprised to learn that, even before this rule, quoted fares included a 7.5%(!) federal excise tax. Now, all the little fees that the government has devised for taxing air travel will be rolled into the quoted fare, rather than tacked on to the total after an itinerary is chosen. For a domestic, non-stop, round-trip flight, these fees amount to $31.80. For international travel, the fees can approach $100.

These new fare rules fall under the DOT's "Passenger Protections Regulations," but what exactly is the DOT trying to protect passengers from? If anyone can offer an explanation as to how we're being protected from anything other than "knowing just how much the federal government makes from commercial air travel," I would love to hear it.

I think we can all agree that a government must tax its citizens in order to function. Hell, even Grover Norquist admits this now. But we should also agree that every decision on how, where, and how much to tax people is an extension of policy preferences or positions. We can tax fuel by the gallon, but we should admit that this is a brutally regressive tax, and is on some level (since there's no direct injection, dollar-for-dollar of gas taxes into road and infrastructure maintenance) intended to curb consumption at the margin and capitalize on the inelasticity of demand for fuel.

I have no problem with taxing fuel, and I have no problem with taxing commercial air travel. I would just like transparency restored to the transactions.

I resent the government's efforts to hide their fees inside the retail price. Why not let airlines list all the taxes on separate line-items so travelers can see exactly how much of their money is not going to the airline? Why not let gas stations post pre-tax prices on their signs, so motorists can feel a little sticker shock every time they fill up?

And I realize that even the above suggestion is rooted in a policy preference. The preference in this case is: Let's remind everyone that government costs us all something. There's no such thing as a free lunch, and there's no such thing as a tax-free government.

The Elements of Style

As a word nerd, I wanted this to be a lot funnier than it is. I think the idea is great, the lyrics are good, and the execution is disappointing at best.

On a related note, I post for future reference:  The Elements of Style, linkable by rule.

Underweight Gerbil

This is not a funny story, but it raises a funny question:
Forty dead animals were discovered Monday, Jan. 16 in an east Columbia home whose owner police believe might have been affiliated with a nonprofit animal rescue group. Four other animals were found alive but in poor condition. 
Howard County police were called to the 9600 block of Lambeth Court at about 2:30 p.m. after a property manager reported that odors were coming from a town house, according to department spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn[...] 
The four animals that were still alive — two cats, a bearded dragon lizard and a gerbil — appeared to be dehydrated and underweight, Llewellen said.
It's a good thing the cops arrived in time to save a few animals, but how qualified can the average policeman be to determine that a gerbil is underweight? Doesn't every gerbil seem underweight?

And, since Dave Barry's not pointing this stuff out anymore, I'll mention that Underweight Gerbil would be a good name for a band.

UPDATE: This is what an underweight gerbil looks like.

It Worked

David Hart Dyke is a captain who managed not to stumble overboard into a lifeboat.
Intense heat had melted his anti-flash gloves into his hands and wrists, so he picked out pieces of rubber from his flesh and tore away folds of skin that hung loose. Otherwise, there was little he could do but watch his crew abandon ship. "It was all remarkably orderly and calm," he wrote in Four Weeks in May, his account of the Coventry's last voyage. "I never discovered who gave the general order to abandon ship. Perhaps no one did. But people very sensibly just carried on and did it. It was the only thing to do. I presume I had been considered a casualty and no longer fit to command the ship or give any orders."

A Parable

On the heels of yesterday's post about Y-Combinator's request for submissions we get this, which isn't about ferns, dales, or trains on rails:

The story of Fernforest and Petro Dale

Don't Ask...

Don't Ask, Don't Tell was repealed in the US last year. Meanwhile, in Africa, the protests rage on.


RFS 9: Kill Hollywood

Paul Buchheit suggests the end is already nigh:
If movies and TV were growing rapidly, that growth would take up all their attention. When a striker is fouled in the penalty area, he doesn't stop as long as he still has control of the ball; it's only when he's beaten that he turns to appeal to the ref. SOPA shows Hollywood is beaten. And yet the audiences to be captured from movies and TV are still huge. There is a lot of potential energy to be liberated there.[...]

It would be great if what people did instead of watching shows was exercise more and spend more time with their friends and families. Maybe they will. All other things being equal, we'd prefer to hear about ideas like that. But all other things are decidedly not equal. Whatever people are going to do for fun in 20 years is probably predetermined. Winning is more a matter of discovering it than making it happen. In this respect at least, you can't push history off its course. You can, however, accelerate it.
His entire request for submissions is brief, and worth reading.

Whitney is Hilarious

This is hilarious:

via MR.


Every line of this news report is solid comic gold. Here's a sample:
…well, the latest projections, based on the Jigga-Man's career trajectory suggest that we're headed for disaster. He's already gone from ghetto anthems to Frank Sinatra-style ballads, which seem to indicate we could be looking at unprecedented levels of cheesiness…a lot of people just don't want to believe the possibility they might be caught listening to saccharine rhymes about the joys of fatherhood from the man who once put out bangers like "Money, Cash, Ho's"

Who Are These 'Taxpayers' You Speak Of?

Tyler Cowen points out this interesting proposal from a group of students at UC Riverside:
Instead of paying tuition - currently at $12,192, not including mandatory fees, room, board or books - the "UC Student Investment Proposal" would require that students commit to paying 5 percent of their annual income for 20 years after graduating.
At the very end of the article, we get this fun pair of paragraphs:
"I'm against it," said Jessica Greenstreet, a politics and theater major at UC Santa Cruz who was not at the meeting. "Public education is a public good, and should be paid for by the public, through taxes." 
In fact, Greenstreet's tuition is paid for through the GI Bill because her father was a Marine.
ZING! But not really, since the GI Bill isn't funded directly by GI's but by taxes paid by taxpayers (only some of whom are GI's, and one of whom, presumably, was her father).

Greenstreet doesn't seem to realize that, were this plan to go into effect, she could be among the benevolent hoards of taxpayers blessed with the opportunity to provide more "public goods" through tax dollars. She would be directly funding her own education, using skills that her education helped provide. So, you'd think this plan is a win-win for her. But I'm guessing that when Greenstreet said "taxpayers," she really meant "other taxpayers."

By the way, does Greenstreet major in "politics and theater," or are they two separate majors? And what's the difference between the politics major and the theater major at UCSC?

Graduates of one program are prepared for a life spent pretending to be someone they're not, neurotically attempting to please everyone they meet, and ultimately blowing tons of other people's money on lavish productions that may or may not provide any long-term social good; graduates of the other program become actors.

Nice Job, Einstein

Fascinating account of the self-proclaimed Prohibition Agent #1, by Karen Abbott at the Smithsonian Magazine:
Izzy and Moe proved just as savvy as their targets, busting an average of 100 joints per week, Moe always playing the straight man to Izzy's clown. One night the duo, dressed as tuxedo-clad violinists, sauntered into a Manhattan cabaret, sat down and asked a waiter for some "real stuff." The waiter consulted with the proprietor, who thought he recognized the musicians as performers from a nightclub down the street.

"Hello, Jake," he called to Izzy. "Glad to see you. Enjoyed your music many a time." He told the waiter to serve the musicians anything they wanted.

Moments later, the proprietor approached their table and asked if they might play "something by Strauss" for the room.
“No,” Izzy replied, “but I’ll play you the ‘Revenue Agent’s March.’” He flashed his badge, and the proprietor suffered a heart attack on the spot.


photo lifted from henricks-tankegangar.com
I do not speak or read Swedish, nor do I even know if this is Swedish, but based on the pictures I'm led to believe that the Swedes (or some people who deploy both the "å" and "ö" symbols in an apparently un-ironic manner)  are now storing their dogs in lockers.

On snowy streets.

Can this be true? I can imagine this working once per dog, but what canine with more than an ounce of self-respect would suffer the indignity of being stuffed into one of these boxes after they've learned what's about to happen?

And who cleans these dog lockers? Are they air-conditioned in the summer? What problem are these things designed to solve? I picture the Scandinavians as a rather cooperative and peaceful bunch, but are they abnormally prone to pet theft?

Other People

When I owned and rode a motorcycle, my biggest fear was always other people...it's impossible to know or predict what they're going to do, assuming they even see you. This guy does not seem overly burdened by that fear.

The Uncanny Valley of the Shadow of Death

Yuriko Nagano, writing for New Scientist:
It might just look like a large fluffy toy. But Babyloid, Japan's latest therapeutic robot baby, is also designed to help ease depression among older people by keeping them company.
Towards the middle of its round, silicone face are two black dots that act as blinking eyes and a small slit that poses as a mouth and can produce a smile. The cheeks have LED lights embedded and turn red to signify when Babyloid is contented. Blue LED tears are produced when it is unhappy.
How depressed or senile must a person be in order to take comfort from an LED-lit furry robot?

On Her Toes, On His Head

You're telling me that at 2:25 there's not a rope around her ankle suspending her from the rafters?

via Kottke, whose post title I could neither improve upon nor bring myself to steal.


The Wikimedia Foundation will be staging a 24-hour protest against SOPA beginning at 05:00 UTC on Wednesday, January 18. Their flagship site, http://en.wikipedia.org, will be blacked-out during that time period. You can read all about it here.

I predict a ton of homework and research papers will not be turned in on Thursday.

John Edwards Update

Late last year, we learned that John Edwards was suffering from an "unspecified medical issue" that might prevent him from standing trial in a criminal case pending against him. We all crossed our fingers and hoped that it wasn't cancer.

Well, it's not cancer. It's a broken heart. The poor dear.

Super Grover

Say what you will about the power-brokers of the right, but is anyone on the left willing to offer such wry and self-effacing participation in a farce like this?

Scandalous Photos Reveal Grover Norquist Carried On Secret Affair With Taxes For Years
Norquist's alleged improprieties come in the wake of similar scandals that have plagued the Republican Party, most notably last week's discovery of a laptop belonging to Newt Gingrich that contained thousands of raunchy big government videos.
There's even a press conference, in which Norquist confesses to a broad range of daliances:
…and in 2010, at the height of my misconduct, while in Paris, I strongly flirted with a European-style Value-Added Tax.
I've always admired Grover's wit and well-honed sense of humor, but never more so than now.

Also: has The Onion produced anything else like this, starring a real public figure playing him/herself? If so, I missed it.

Whooping Cranes

The headline looks ripped from the front page of The Onion:

Whooping cranes are cleared for takeoff after getting FAA exemption

but the story is actually an example of human ingenuity at its best:
Operation Migration is an organization that assists whooping cranes hatched in captivity, from their first steps through their first migratory trip south. To help the whooping cranes become true wild animals when they start to live on their own, the organization practices "isolation rearing," in which all people who come into contact with the birds must wear a costume that looks like a whooping crane. 
In this case, both the pilot and the plane are outfitted to look like the endangered bird.
There's a sub-plot here, though:
Back in December, in Franklin County, Alabama -- approximately 693 miles into a 1,285-mile journey from Wisconsin to Florida -- the flight of the nine endangered birds was halted and they were put in a pen until further notice. 
The issue at hand was a Federal Aviation Administration regulation that forbids paying pilots who fly the small ultralight aircraft used to guide the birds. Specifically, "sport pilot aircraft" cannot be used for commercial purposes, and when the pilots are compensated that makes it commercial, according to FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford.
And a solution to this vexing problem:
Joe Duff, co-founder and CEO of Operation Migration, the group leading the crane effort, says its pilots are full-time employees who get compensated for working with the birds seven days a week -- working on many different job responsibilities -- and that the flying is done on a volunteer basis.
So, we can all rest easy tonight. The FAA is hard at work protecting our skies from paid volunteers, and the good pilots of Operation Migration are generously volunteering their time without pay.


Outnumbered 1000:1, and the bastards still come out on top:

For an alternate soundtrack, play this song by The Hold Steady while you watch.

via Jason Kottke.

Never Hurts to Ask

I like to urge designers to always ask themselves: "Does this logo look like a penis?" The answer has to be a resounding "No". If there is just a slight hesitation, then it probably does look like a penis.

'Madness' is Right

Every Thing On It

I was raised on Shel Silverstein and "Free to Be...You and Me."

I try to maintain an above-average awareness of the things transpiring in the world around me.

So, how did I manage to miss the publication of this book last September?


While I continue to refine my magnum opus on barefoot running, I thought I'd pass along this interesting resource I just stumbled across:

Stem Ancestral Footwear's Complete Guide to the Foot. Be sure to click thorough, as this is a multi-page resource.

And, in case someone at Stem is paying attention: I'd be happy to review a pair of Primal Origins (size 42 or 43) here on my site!

Ink and Paper

This ten minute film has something for cynics, hipsters, and economists alike. Highly recommended! Just don't stop to wonder how the paper guy can pay his phone bill and rent, but has to borrow electricity. Or where he gets the working capital to replace stock.

via Jason Kottke.



Guns Don't Save People...

"He was pretty frantic," Willden said Andersen, who was yelling for help. "Once we heard 'kids', it kind of changed things a little bit." 
Willden tried to open a window or door, but neither would budge. So he took out his handgun and shot out a window. By that time, other men had arrived and they all worked to prop up the car while others grabbed for the kids.

Scotch in a Can, Again

I'm rarely ahead of a trend, and I never like to miss an opportunity for self-promotion, so: how did I manage to get a one-year jump on this one? And why do none of the sites currently pushing the story (see below) link to the original post at American Drink, as I did, which broke the "news" 12 months ago?

Scotch In A Can: A Cautious EndorsementScotch Whisky From A Can?Scotch as scotch ‘can’Scotch In A Can: Whisky Maker Scottish Spirits Adds Aluminum Siding To LiquorWill Scotch in a Can Get the Four Loko Treatment?Pop a Scotch for me, will ya?

iOS Multitasking

Fraser Spiers:
There is one iOS "tip" that I keep hearing and it is wrong. Worse, I keep hearing it from supposedly authoritative sources. I have even heard it from the lips of Apple "Geniuses" in stores.
Here is the advice - and remember it is wrong:
All those apps in the multitasking bar on your iOS device are currently active and slowing it down, filling the device's memory or using up your battery. To maximise performance and battery life, you should kill them all manually.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. There are caveats to this but anyone dispensing the advice above is clearly uninformed enough that they will certainly not be aware of these subtleties.
What puzzles me most is, in my limited personal experience, this is the only (or at least the only memorable) "tip" that friends and colleagues have gotten from an Apple Store employee. I can't think of another thing that someone showed me on their iPhone, iPad, or Mac and then said "yeah, the guy at the Apple Store told me to do this."

Spiers article via John Gruber.

Mental Exercise

Close your eyes and picture Yo Yo Ma on the floor of a bathroom with a wombat.

Is your mental image anything like this?

Did you think I was being metaphorical?

via Reddit.

Ice Fishing

How long did it take you to figure out what's going on in this video? What tipped you off?

via MetaFilter.

What to Watch

An alternate subtitle to this site could be Hey, look at that!, and yet I've never made any TV show recommendations. I just assume that I watch most of the stuff other people watch, and I don't watch the stuff that other people don't watch. But then I go away with some friends for New Years and discover that they've never seen an episode of my current favorite show. 

If you already TiVo everything NBC airs on Thursday nights (but stop when Whitney comes on), along with Modern Family, Happy Endings, and New Girl, here are two more shows you may like:
Party Down: a short-lived, but hilarious, show that takes place behind the scenes of a Hollywood catering company. The cast is built around Adam Scott (the new guy in Parks and Rec who isn't Rob Lowe), and Lizzy Caplan, but there are also bigger stars with smaller roles and smaller stars making substantial contributions. All episodes are streaming on Netflix. Stand-outs include "Steve Guttenberg's Birthday," which may finally erase any lingering memories you have of the Police Academy or Three Men and a Baby franchises, and "Cole Landry's Draft Day." 
The League: ostensibly about five dudes in a fantasy football league, but as one of the actors (was it Paul Scheer?) said to Conan O'Brien, "you don't have to like fantasy football to get into this show, you just have to hate your friends." The entire cast is quite good, but Jon LaJoie stands out as holy-crap-where-has-this-guy-been-all-his-life? good. An attorney friend of mine called Nick Kroll a more convincing lawyer than any real lawyer she knows.
As a middle-class white male age 25-40, I'm probably legally obligated to have an opinion on The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad; but the truth is I've never seen a single episode of any of these three shows. This admission may nullify the recommendations I've just made, which is why I left it for the end of the post.

Glass Multitouch Keyboard

Hey - let's take the thing people hate most about tablet computers, maybe the only thing some people dislike about the iPad, and build an entire product around it! Even better - let's make it "invisible" (in the "Wonder Woman's Jet" sense of the word) to maximize the disorienting effects of using it!

If we put it on Kickstarter, it'll sell, right?