Ziplines!

In our 140-character culture, it's hard to see how this video couldn't have been made a little shorter, and I didn't watch every minute of it. Nevertheless: fascinating.



via MetaFilter.

Zuckerberg’s Share

A friend and I were discussing this over the weekend, and we agreed with John Gruber's take:
[T]hat Zuckerberg was able to hold onto so much stock and an astounding majority of the voting rights is proof that his success is no fluke. The guy must be a badass at the negotiating table.
The kid is 27. For years he's sat across the table from some of the most powerful and successful potential investors in the world, and he has managed to preserve total control over his company. How could they all fail so consistently to gain control along with their ownership stakes, and how could he succeed so persistently in keeping both? Badass.

Swim Suits in Feburary

You could fill a book with the First World Problems highlighted by The Sartorialist, but this one's rich even by Scott Shuman's standards:
About a year ago I did a post called Why can’t I buy gloves right now? which I’ve been thinking about lately while riding my bike in the cold to Fall shows. I talked about how the delivery of goods to fashion stores each season (like Barneys or Saks) never really seems to be at the right time. 
The problem is on cold days like these, when it’s freezing cold in February, I can’t find a pair of gloves because stores are full of swim suits and spring merchandise...
I judge the irony of this particular post by my original mis-reading of its title. At first glance, I thought it was Why Are There No Swimsuits in February. I assumed that Scott was off to some sunny island and couldn't find a stylish pair of trunks for the trip. The story wrote itself in my head: Woe betide the poor fashionista, who must depart for Turks and Caicos packing last year's board shorts! Did they even wear board shorts last year, or was that 2010? How has my life come to this!?

But the real story was just as entertaining and revealing. I maintain that he could've bought gloves on February 16, 2010 (the date of his original lament). He just couldn't have gotten the sort of profound and awe-inspiring accoutrements he was after on that particularly dreary day in Manhattan. I'd wager that his jaunt that day took him past a dozen or more folding tables heaped with the kind of machine-knit acrylic gloves, scarves, and hats that never go out of style in suburbia; he just decided he'd rather be cold and complain.

In related news, on that same cold day two winters ago, a homeless guy without gloves or a website to call his own wondered aloud to an unusually well-dressed street photographer passing by, why can't I buy lunch right now?

We're Sick of This!

After 11 years and five students with cystic fibrosis, Elkridge Elementary holds last fundraiser to help fight disease.

So, if you have CF, don't go enrolling in Elkridge Elementary and expect any handouts! Sell some lemonade. Have a bake sale. Whatever you want, but you're on your own.

For Two?

When you study art history as closely as I have, you learn - much to your surprise - that many of the greats got their start in exactly this way.

“Bacon Alphabet” by Henry Hargreaves

Just what it sounds like, but (sadly) uncooked.

'...meaning, someone who designs fonts...'

Is this a fan letter, an unsolicited job application, or just a public display of nit-pickery? All three?
A number of scenes had subtitles or captions. All of these were set in the font Verdana. There are two problems with Verdana.
via Kottke.

9:42 AM

At Apple, nothing's arbitrary.

Wartime Golf Rules

In perhaps the greatest-ever example of "A Good Walk Spoiled," Shaun Usher reports:
As the Battle of Britain began to take hold in 1940, a bomb fell on an outbuilding belonging to Richmond Golf Club in Surrey, England. As a result, the club — rather than halt future rounds of golf — issued an incredible list of temporary golf rules to all members that took into account the potentially life-threatening conditions on the course.
The list is impossible to edit for favorites:

Temporary Rules, 1940
  1. Players are asked to collect Bomb and Shrapnel splinters to save these causing damage to the mowing machines.
  2. In competitions, during gunfire, or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
  3. The positions of known delayed-action bombs are marked by red flags placed at reasonably, but not guaranteed safe distance therefrom.
  4. Shrapnel/and/or bomb splinters on the Fairways, or in Bunkers within a club’s length of a ball may be moved without penalty, and no penalty shall be incurred if a ball is thereby caused to move accidentally.
  5. A ball moved by enemy action may be replaced, or if lost or destroyed, a ball may be dropped not nearer the hole without penalty.
  6. A ball lying in a crater may be lifted and dropped not nearer the hole, preserving the line to the hole without penalty.
  7. A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place. Penalty, one stroke.

Spontaneous Order

You're gonna think this isn't worth 12 minutes of your time, and I don't know what your time is worth, so I can't guarantee it is. But it probably is.
The Great Boatlift of 9/11 became the largest sea evacuation in history. Larger than the evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II, where 339,000 British and French soldiers were rescued over the course of nine days. On 9/11, nearly five hundred thousand civilians were rescued from Manhattan by boat. It took less than nine hours.

Quinary Effects

I'm not saying there would be no unexpected results or unintended consequences of shuttering the NFL, but on the other hand you can't argue that Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier failed to think things through.

Favorite quotes:
Heck, just getting rid of fantasy football probably saves American companies hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
and:
To the extent that fans replace football with another sport (instead of meth or oxy), high-octane basketball is the natural substitute.

EYE FLIRTATION

I really could've used a chart like this as a high school freshman. Then again, I didn't go to high school in 1890's New Zealand.

Free Idea - Backward in Time

xkcd #1017
Randall Munroe has outdone himself. Today's xkcd is a fascinating exercise in backwards time travel, and it even links to a spreadsheet so you can tweak the variables as you like.

How long before someone takes this to the next logical step and builds a little web app to scroll through time automatically, pulling "On This Day" data from Wikipedia?

I'd love to sit down at the beginning of a 1-hour meeting, enter today's date and my birthdate, start the timer, and watch the historical events of my lifetime scroll by.

It can't be that hard, can it?

For a smart person, I mean.

Make 'Em An Offer They Can Refuse

For your Valentine's Day entertainment, Paul Kafasis deconstructs Pizza Hut's recent "Tie the Knot" engagement package:
There's certainly a set of people willing to spend $10,000 on a proposal. It's likely there's also a set of people who would propose with chain restaurant pizza. Still, it's disheartening to think that the intersection of those two sets may not simply be zero. Thankfully, it's simultaneously hilarious.
I enjoyed Seth Myers' take on this during Saturday's Weekend Update:
For Valentine's Day, Pizza Hut is offering a $10,000 engagement package, which includes limo service, a ruby engagement ring, a $10 dinner box, and - hopefully - ninety-seven hundred dollars in cash."
Also notable, from the same broadcast: "Red Lobster - where people are sentenced to dinner."

via Marco Arment.

Kosher Meat and Gehry

Would this be the first Frank Gehry-designed grocery store in the world?

I used to work in the building, which (if Wikipedia is correct) was one of Gehry's very first projects. You know...back when his buildings made sense to normal people? When they couldn't be confused with the wreckage left in the wake of a devastating tornado?

I've heard a lot of nightmare stories about what a hassle it is to work and mingle in some of his most celebrated recent buildings; to say nothing of how said buildings seem to have trouble coping with the immutable laws of physics. But I can offer first-hand testimony to the power of his work in those early days. There were times when I was miserable at that job, and days when I wanted to be anywhere else on earth, and then I'd step out of my office into this transcendently beautiful building and my heart would be cheered a bit. I've been much happier in other jobs, and I'm happiest now that my "job" is running a business, but I've never been more encouraged simply by being in a particular building.

'12345'

While we're talking passwords, here's another one from recent news:
The attack took place overnight Sunday and the target was the mail server of the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs. Some 78 inboxes of Assad's aides and advisers were hacked and the password that some used was "12345". Among those whose email was exposed were the Minister of Presidential Affairs Mansour Fadlallah Azzam and Assad's media adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban.

Dog Locker Update

I've received a few notes from readers concerning last month's post on the Scandinavian Dog Lockers (is that what "hundf√∂rvaring" means?). I can't vouch for my correspondents' authority on the subject, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt because their names sound sufficiently Nordic.

Here's what I've learned:
  1. The original post to which I linked was written in Swedish, although the Dog Lockers are found on Norwegian sidewalks. In Oslo, to be exact.
  2. They are Dog Lockers.
  3. Many people commented on the Swedish website, registering their contempt for the storing of canines in lockers. Evidently, threatening e-mails were also sent.
  4. I've never been so glad that I don't allow comments on my site.
  5. According to a stateside Swede who translated one Norwegian commenter's remarks for me, the cages have cooling fans, and they get automatically sanitized nightly. No word on whether it's even possible to ever really sanitize the stench of dog-fear and regret out of a stainless steel crate.
  6. According to that same insightful Swede, it is not uncommon in his home country for people to leave their dog in front of a store while they're inside shopping. Incredibly, babies are not infrequently left out front as well. I presume the babies are in a stroller in such cases, not lashed to a post by a leather lead. 
So, how long until we see baby lockers on the sidewalks of Oslo? Or perhaps people are already surreptitiously stashing their tots in the Dog Lockers. Would the outrage over baby lockers be more or less than over the dogs?

'Maine is always thinking of something'

A charming and hilarious letter from E.B. White to the ASPCA, in response to their accusation that he was "harboring an unlicensed animal."
...She wears her metal license tag but I must say I don't particularly care for it, as it is in the shape of a hydrant, which seems to me a feeble gag, besides being pointless in the case of a female. It is hard to believe that any state in the Union would circulate a gag like that and make people pay money for it, but Maine is always thinking of something...

Hallmarks

"The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well."

The Illusion of an Optical Illusion

Stare at the dot long enough, and you'll eventually lose your mind!

via MetaFilter.

iOS Address Book Access

Marco Arment has an insightful look at how much unfettered access iOS apps have to users' address books. This is not just a creepy breach-of-trust issue. I have numerous clients (and I'm sure a few readers) who store username/password combinations in their address book. Until I discovered 1Password a few years ago, I was guilty of something similar.

Speaking of password security: Apple's password for a Foxconn account was apparently "foxconn2"...Really, Apple!? If you can't use a more secure password than that, then how on earth are we going to convince the rest of the world to do it?

Meals with Friends

New Rules for the 21st Century.

See also: A Time to Talk.

Put a Lid on It

"You came into the ER drinking gin from a jam jar," but probably not with one of these attached to it. A clever idea, though, and now noted for this year's SJC v. Navy croquet match.

via Kottke.

'Done is better than perfect'

Mark Zuckerberg:
The word "hacker" has an unfairly negative connotation from being portrayed in the media as people who break into computers. In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done. Like most things, it can be used for good or bad, but the vast majority of hackers I've met tend to be idealistic people who want to have a positive impact on the world.

The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it — often in the face of people who say it's impossible or are content with the status quo.

Hackers try to build the best services over the long term by quickly releasing and learning from smaller iterations rather than trying to get everything right all at once. To support this, we have built a testing framework that at any given time can try out thousands of versions of Facebook. We have the words "Done is better than perfect" painted on our walls to remind ourselves to always keep shipping.

Hacking is also an inherently hands-on and active discipline. Instead of debating for days whether a new idea is possible or what the best way to build something is, hackers would rather just prototype something and see what works. There's a hacker mantra that you'll hear a lot around Facebook offices: "Code wins arguments."

Jay-Z and Warren Buffett

It's so nice to see a wealthy, elderly white man being patronized for once.

Bon Iver

Bon Iver performed a couple songs on SNL last weekend. The first was my favorite song from one of my favorite albums of 2011. The second was the best 80's songs of the 21st century (so far), and also a personal favorite.

Justin Vernon performed both songs from atop a riser. It's obscured by the oriental rug, but it's there. Probably 6 inches high. Drum Risers everywhere, but has anyone used a Lead Singer Riser before? I can't recall seeing one. Vernon does't strike me as a particularly short or egomaniacal man, so I'd love to know his reasons for exalting himself like this.

Jeopardy(!)

TwisedSifter catalogs a dozen awesome moments in Jeopardy! history. Many of the videos are worth watching, but in case you're in a hurry I'm gonna just jump to my favorite.

One rarely sees someone so simultaneously nerdy and cool.

Whiskey Sidecar

We are now deep into Brown Liquor Season, and this year I was determined to develop a perfect whiskey sidecar recipe for home use.

By "home use," I mean there will be a tradeoff between simplicity and fidelity to the Platonic Form. At a nice bar, you'd expect to see Cointreau or maybe Grand Marnier involved, along with simple syrup and some mix of citrus juices that were hand-squeezed earlier in the day. At home, though, prep time and fresh ingredients are a luxury I can't always afford.

Herewith is my recipe for the season, which hits the sweet spot of minimal ingredients, relatively quick prep, and (most importantly) a good, balanced taste:
  1. Add 2 oz. hot tap water to an empty pint glass.
  2. Stir in a tablespoon (as in, the larger of the two spoons in your flatware set - not a perfectly level, scientifically calibrated measuring spoonful) of sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add 3 oz. Maker's Mark to the glass, and stir.
  4. Add the juice of 1/4 lemon, stir again.
  5. Fill the glass with enough ice to cover the liquid and stir one last time.
  6. Strain into a tumbler or rocks glass, ideally over a big hunk of ice.
  7. Tell the kids to pipe down, and Enjoy!
A friend pointed out that this is really just an Old Fashioned without the bitters. Maybe so, and I can't seem to find a good reference that identifies the distinguishing characteristics of a sidecar, but I like it.

Pollution

You can never predict what someone's going to get worked up about just by looking at them.

What would you guess this guy's beef is with America?


(Caution: copious F-bombs, including in the video title.)

Jourdan Anderson

When I saw this letter, I was thrilled but skeptical. It's really, really good; but is it too good to be true?

When noted economist Chris Blattman mentioned it, my skepticism waned considerably. Surely a man with as finely-tuned a Crap Detector as Dr. Blattman's wouldn't be taken in by a clever internet hoax. Right?

Then Jason Kottke gathered some evidence supporting the existence of a man named Jourdan Anderson, if not the notion that Anderson personally penned (or dictated, as the story goes) the original letter. This lends credibility to the narrative.

Next, I found some insight from that old bastion of fact-finding reliability: The Snopes Message Board. (Remember when Snopes was the first place you went to disprove something like this?) Amongst the chatter, a theme emerges that's been hitherto under-emphasized: the letter is authentic, inasmuch as it was published in a couple newspapers in 1865, but these accounts are ambiguous as to whether Anderson had a collaborator.

It doesn't matter to me whether Anderson himself wrote the letter with a quill and ink and his own five fingers, or mentioned a few broad ideas to be transcribed by the Ken Burns of his day. The important points are:
  1. The letter was most certainly written and widely published in the 1860's. 
  2. There was a man named Jourdan Anderson, who lived in Ohio after being freed from slavery. 
  3. The now-famous letter was written, at least in part, by this man.
Incidentally, this letter was mentioned at MetaFilter in October, 2000 and again in April, 2010.

The Embarrassment of Riches

A fascinating pre-recession tale. I'd love to read an update:
Once Potential increases, Desire ratchets up to retain its competitive advantage. You have to maintain canned-tuna tastes on a caviar budget in a credit-card abusing culture. Almost no one pulls that trick off, except for the janitors and secretaries you occasionally read about in the obituaries, who had quietly accumulated a million dollars' worth of the crumbs that had fallen their way during 30 years of minimum-wage work. They remained poor in their souls even as they became materially wealthy. For the rest of us, each of us is a tightly wound spring, poised and just waiting for the winning lottery ticket to pay the bill on a dream life already purchased on credit. For this reason, a substantial minority of American lottery winners end up not only poor but downright broke or bankrupt a few years later. One lottery winner I read about bought a roundtrip ticket to wealth and returned home to poverty and a trailer smaller than the one she had started in.

The Invention of Plaid

Run, Homer, Run.

Free Idea - iMac Space Heater

Detailed Schematic
I believe that the temperature of our feet has a significant impact on our core body temperature. If you're hot in the summer, try soaking your bare feet in a bowl of ice water and then see what you think of my little theory. Are you cold in the winter? Your hands may be cold, and your head may be cold, but I guarantee your feet are cold too.

This is why I lie awake at night dreaming of in-floor radiant heat. But I digress.

During my working hours, my computer blows hot air out a vent at the top, probably raising the ambient temperature of the room a few degrees. This is nice, but how hard would it be to harness this heat and blow it on my feet instead of up towards the ceiling?

I picture a clear, plastic shroud that snaps around the top corners of an iMac, like one of those vent covers your grandmother used, but much more elegant, and probably hand-extruded in Brooklyn. Perhaps magnets are involved. Combine this shroud with a length of flexible tubing, and a small USB-powered booster fan, and I think this is a winning idea. The tube snakes under the desk with the rest of the cables (and, for that matter, could serve as a cable organizer), and exits at or near the feet.

I've provided the idea and the detailed schematic. Now get to work, Internet!