Glen Meets Van

Every story is more charming when told by the Irish.



"Nice voice, nice songs, blah, blah, blah..."

How to Drive Dogs Crazy

How to Drive Girls Crazy

Why does there always seem to be an inverse proportion between a man's creative genius and his ability to maintain a sane family life?

Exhibit #421453, from an otherwise charming little letter sent by F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter while she was away at camp:
I think of you, and always pleasantly; but if you call me "Pappy" again I am going to take the White Cat out and beat his bottom hard, six times for every time you are impertinent. Do you react to that?
Then, later:
P.S. My come-back to your calling me Pappy is christening you by the word Egg, which implies that you belong to a very rudimentary state of life and that I could break you up and crack you open at my will and I think it would be a word that would hang on if I ever told it to your contemporaries. "Egg Fitzgerald." How would you like that to go through life with — "Eggie Fitzgerald" or "Bad Egg Fitzgerald" or any form that might occur to fertile minds? Try it once more and I swear to God I will hang it on you and it will be up to you to shake it off. Why borrow trouble?
Or was he just being playful?

The Million Little Barbs Of "Lighten Up"

This is eye-opening, and makes me sad.


UPDATED to link to the correct page. Thanks to several readers who alerted me to the problem.

Maddie on Things

The latest addition to my RSS feed's "Visual Snacks" category is Maddie on Things. It's just a Tumblr of charming photos of a Coonhound* perched precariously - sometimes almost impossibly - on various things.

The pictures generally fall into two categories: beautifully composed photographs that WHOA! happen to have a slender dog balanced somewhere in the frame (these pictures would be remarkable even without the dog); and less-remarkable compositions in which the point seems to be, "Can you believe a dog can do this? Who's a good girl?! MADDIE'S A GOOD GIRL!!"

An example of the former:


And the latter:


*Can we still call it a "coonhound"? The jury's still out, but it seems its days are numbered.

The Redditor

Sign of the times: a monthly 'zine condensing reddit.com's most popular and interesting items into a very long, gorgeous PDF. In other words, a technology that has subverted its predecessor is now being re-published in that subverted format to make the subverting technology more accessible.



This solves a very real problem for me: I can't handle the volume or velocity of information on reddit (same with Twitter), but I know that there's a lot of interesting stuff going on there. If someone else has the time and talent to filter through it all and turn it into something beautiful, I'm in. I might even pay $1 a month to read it. Can it be long before this shows up in Newsstand?

On My Calendar

The Only Place: Best Coast, out May 15th 2012.

In the meantime, this is scratching the itch for $4.

Thank Yous

Annoyingly presented in slideshow format, but worth flipping through nonetheless. All gleaned from Letters of Note, so if you frequent that site you may have already seen it all.

From my favortie:
In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.
I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.

Courage

Children and grownups everywhere should watch this once a week. Her shadow at the end captures her joy perfectly.



via Kottke.

Thank You!

Does Barack Obama understand sign language? I'm not convinced. I suspect that he just reflexively (and, I would argue, wisely) smiled, nodded, and gave a "Thank You" sign.

Think about it: in that context, what could someone possibly be signing to which a signed "Thank You" would not be a perfectly appropriate response? And even if the audience member was hurling ASL insults at the President, I think "Thank You" would be the least-bad response he could muster in spoken or signed communication.

If President Obama speaks sign language, that's impressive. If he doesn't, and acted this quickly and smoothly on his feet, that's even more impressive. For the record, though, and not to take anything away from President Obama here, every middle- to upper-middle class over-achieving American who's raised kids in the last 20 or so years knows a handful of sign language (Please, Thank You, More, Milk, etc.), so merely knowing "Thank You" is actually the least impressive part of the video.

The Need for Steed

Quick: Is this picture from The Onion of for real?

via Gizmodo.
It's for real! But shouldn't there be a form-fitting hood to eliminate the ears' drag coefficient?

E.W.

How to respond to fan mail. My favorite:
(e) Humble aspirations of would-be writers. If attractive a letter of discouragement. If unattractive a post-card.
And, remember kids: it's pronounced "Eev-lyn."  Also, she's a man.

Free Idea: Powers of Tech

I was driving to work this morning thinking about pixels. There are well over a million pixels in any "HD" display, whether it's an iDevice, a computer screen, or a flat panel TV; and I suspect that there's more technology in each pixel than...what? It's the end of this sentence that has me stumped.

Is there more tech (R&D, manufacturing processes, patents, etc.) in a single pixel than the Titanic? Apollo  XIII? I don't know, but I'd like to.

And the display is rarely the most technically sophisticated component of any given device.

This animated scale of the universe got me thinking about the Eames's Powers of Ten and the many derivative works it inspired.

Can the Internet please get to work on a video of some sort that explores the immense breadth and depth of complexity inside any given gadget?

Thanks in advance.

Living The Life

A free ice cream cone to my first reader who can watch this video in its entirety.

I couldn't come close. I watched enough to learn that there is some (apparently enviable) ontological state called "De Life" (although "De" seems to be pronounced with the rare "soft D" so it actually sounds like the word traditionally spelled t-h-e), and that the man in this video (whoever he is...something to do with casinos?) seems convinced that he is "Livin" in said state. He is not content to remain alone in this conviction, though. He wants, nay needs, to convince us on this point too. Consider me convinced.

Definition of terms would be helpful, though: does he ever identify the distinguishing characteristics of this so-called life? As I said, I couldn't watch long enough to find out; but what little I did see was not promising.



McSweeney’s List: Honest Spotify Playlists

Brilliant. (Caution: swears.)

My favorite: "The New People are Early for Brunch Quick Just Type in Miles Davis"

We're All Fat II

A few comments after this clip:



  1. That olde-timey newscaster voice can make almost anything sound hilarious, even something so sad as this.
  2. I thought we were finally going to see a story about fat people that didn't involve Americans, until the pot-shot at 1:25.
  3. What was the setting of this video? As it progresses, we seem to go from a living room to a soundstage to a bizarre coliseum in which old people tease the obese with chocolate bars. Was this a thing in 1935?
  4. The child's name is Leslie Downes. I did a cursory "where is he now" search, but found nothing notable. In the process, though, I remembered a character with a similar name from a very old TMBG song, which led to an afternoon stroll down memory lane.
See also, last week's story. This is not a series.

via Kottke.

Why They Left

James Whittaker, Why I left Google:
As it turned out, sharing was not broken. Sharing was working fine and dandy, Google just wasn't part of it. People were sharing all around us and seemed quite happy. A user exodus from Facebook never materialized. I couldn't even get my own teenage daughter to look at Google+ twice, "social isn't a product," she told me after I gave her a demo, "social is people and the people are on Facebook." Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn't invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation. The fact that no one came to Google's party became the elephant in the room.
Greg Smith, Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs:
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

xkcd: Drawing Stars

I found this surprisingly funny. Such a simple concept, so cleverly executed.


And I'm not to proud to admit that I found Monday's comic utterly inscrutableeven after reading the explanation and subsequent comments. Perhaps that was the point..

(Cargo) Hold Your Horses

How does a horse get to the 2012 Olympics in England? Practice. And a wide-body cargo plane.

This article has many of the details of the fascinating shipping process, but tactfully side-steps the price. I suppose the combination of Horse People + Olympic-caliber Athletes + International Travel makes for a proverbial trifecta case of "if you have to ask...you can't afford it," but still - it would've been nice if they'd given us a ballpark.

A friend of mine who dropped out of college to train horses, but never got much farther in his apprenticeship than scrubbing their haunches and withers and whatnots with warm soapy water, guessed $5-10K, but this seems low to me.

Anyone have first-hand knowledge in this matter? Drop me a line, and I'll send you a gift card for a free salt lick from Southern States.

NPR Story via Marginal Revolution.

1.3 Billion Little Pieces

Mike Daisey made it up.

Coverage: This American Life (the Oprah to Daisey's James Frey), John Gruber (and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here!…not bad for a Friday night!), Ben BrooksRob SchmitzDan Frommer.

Sparrow Mail for iOS

I've always been happy with Apple's Mail.app for OS X, so I wasn't all that interested in Sparrow for Mac. But for $3, Sparrow for iOS is a no-brainer. The built-in iOS Mail app is OK, but I think it could be improved in a few small but important ways. Sparrow seems to get most of the improvements out of the box, and they'll hopefully be more agile than Apple in addressing feature requests as they mature.

It's too soon to say that one is hands-down better than the other: Apple is constrained by a need to meet the top needs of 100+ million iOS users, whereas Sparrow has the counter-intuitive advantage of a very small install base made up primarily of nerds. Apple needs to constantly choose what (if anything) to add to their elegantly simple mail program so that everyone from Tech Writers to Grandfathers can use it easily. Sparrow is trying to fill a small but growing niche, and really only needs to make themselves (and a million or so people like them, eventually) happy with the product.

Things I love about Sparrow:
  • Different signature for each account(!!!). Why has Apple not gotten to this yet?
  • Reply to a message, then - without leaving the reply panel - decide to Reply All with one tap. If you're really indecisive, you can easily toggle back to Reply
  • Easy (i.e. 1 tap vs. 2…first world problems) to mark a message Unread
  • Really easy navigation to system folders (Sent Mail, All Mail, Spam, etc.) vs. Apple's Mail

Things I'd love to see in future releases:
  • Push, of course. This ball is in Apple's court, not Sparrow's, and hopefully Apple will make a way to grant approval soon.
  • TextExpander integration. With this, I would probably ditch the built-in Mail app for good.
  • Ability to "de-thread" messages so that they fill the Inbox chronologically, not grouped by conversation
  • Corollary to above: ability to flip from one message to next without navigating back to the inbox. (Or am I missing this in the current version?) Reeder has spoiled me on this, and again - I don't know why Apple hasn't done it yet. I can't tell you how often I've come into Mail after 10-15 minutes in Reeder, and found myself trying to flip from the end of one message to the beginning of the next. I typically try two or three times before I remember that it's not possible. (See: Insanity, Einstein's definition of.)
I may update this post as I think of other items for the above categories, so stay tuned!

Windows 8


The good newstech support companies are about to get really busy.

The bad news: they're going to be busy supporting Windows 8.

To be fair, as commenter Doguhan points out on the original post, "Majority of the people didn't discover the Start button on their own, they've been instructed to use it. Windows 8 needs only one instruction: the corners are hot spots." It's probably wildly optimistic to say that Windows 8 (or any OS, for that matter) needs only one instruction, but I'll grant his point. Nevertheless, the day the average person upgrades to Window 8 will be a day fraught with confusion and frustration.

Truth in Advertising

"Just Like Church," indeed.
The Miller Family is planning to move to North Carolina this summer, so we're starting to look at real estate on the Internet. There's no shortage of exaggeration in any form of advertising, of course, but it seems like real estate brochures and listings are particularly rife with it.

Perhaps the best way to counteract this tendency is to go contrarian and just tell it like it is:
A Most Unusual Property. It Looks Like The Previous Owners Had A Vision - Just Not Sure What It Was! There's Lots of Space, Fancy Deck And Pergola (With A View of Wendover Avenue), And Ginormous Space That Appears To Have Once Been A Hair Salon ["...or was it a two car garage? Hard to say!" -ed.]. And Wait Till You See The Upstairs Bathroom. Talk About Easy Access ;) Then There's The Room On The Main Floor That Has A Vaulted Ceiling And Stained Glass Window. Just Like Church!

Paul Graham: Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas

I started my Free Ideas series because I'd come to the conclusion that ideas have a near-zero value unless they are followed by action, perseverance, and some sort of actual product or service.

What I should've said was that seemingly good ideas have these traits. The really valuable ideas (which do still need to be followed by action, etc. in order to have their value realized) are the ones that seem utterly frightening, foolish, or confounding to most people. Paul Graham makes this case convincingly.

Holy Guacamole

On Attribution

Marco's not a curator.

Now: to whom, and by what mechanism, should I attribute my "discovery" of this recent tempest in a teapot? 

Gruber got me thinking about all this last Summer, and I think his observations hold up. The upshot is: don't mislead your readers, and don't steal other peoples' work. To ensure the former, make attribution as clear and simple as possible so your readers to understand what you're reporting and where you got your information. To ensure the latter, don't obfuscate links or via's or hat-tips in some convoluted way.

I consider myself a collector and disseminator of internet ephemera. A guy who points out interesting things. A Jason Kottke for sub-urbane suburbanites. I make no pretense of offering anything profound or even important in any lasting sense. I will occasionally offering some supplementary commentary when I think I have something funny or clever or insightful to add, but that's about it.

But before I click "publish" I always ask myself: am I contributing something of value to my readers' lives? Or is this a net drain on the world's scarce resources of time and attention? I've deleted many, many posts after having written and scheduled them for publication because I ultimately decided the answers to these questions were wrong.

KONY 2012

I rely on only one person to keep me abreast of the international aid and development economics world; and since that one person is on an extended "vacation" (the word means different things to different people, obviously) in southeast Asia, I arrived late to this party:

KONY 2010: he's the worst.

In these days of domestic political strife where you either love one candidate and hate the other, or you honestly can't tell the difference between any of them, it's nice when someone stands out from the pack as demonstrably worse than anyone else walking planet earth today.

But I guess the meta-story has evolved beyond whether or not Kony is a bad man; it's now about whether or not the #KONY2012 campaign is a bad idea.

If, like me, you're a fairly cynical person who's seen and heard it all before, you owe it to yourself to take 30 minutes and watch the video. I will admit that my eyes welled up several times. No tears actually streaked down my face, mind you, but I had to be careful not to blink once or twice in order to avoid such a catastrophe.

If, unlike me, you find yourself constantly striving to do something, anything on behalf of every group of people who ever faced a disadvantage in this world, often without even evaluating your actions or efforts to determine whether your somethings and anythings  are helping or harming their recipients, then you owe it to yourself (and the world) to read Chris Blattman's off-the-cuff remarks. And then take 30 minutes to watch the video. And then, just to be safe, you might want to read this round-up of opinions on the campaign (via Blattman). Suffice to say: nothing's simple here.

I have nothing substantive to add to the debate and discussion, but I'd like to point out how brilliantly executed the whole campaign is. With over 100-million views in less than a week, the video's message is surely getting out there. And the 20/12 strategy of targeting 20 people with cultural capital and 12 global policy power-brokers is genius. The whole campaign may be misguided, patronizing, insulting, or outright harmful to the people of Uganda, but you have to admit: they got people's attention.

On top of all this, in a tiny flourish of detail, I note that they merged the GOP Elephant and DNC Donkey into a peaceful white dove. Has anyone made this visual connection before them? If so, I'd never seen it.

This Wendell Berry quote a friend sent me the other day is apt:
I would rather go before the government with two men who have a competent understanding of an issue, and who therefore deserve a hearing, than with two thousand who are vaguely dissatisfied.
Competent Understanding is in short supply these days, all around the world and especially here at Grandiloquent Bloviator. With patience and perseverance, though, we can keep taking tiny steps toward achieving it.

Undercover Billionaire

Sara Blakely Joins The Rich List Thanks To Spanx
Blakely has strong views about her wealth. "I feel like money makes you more of who you already are," she says from behind a mirrored desk in her plush Atlanta office, stirring a bowl of take-out soup and exhausted from a sleepless, flu-ridden night. "If you're an asshole, you become a bigger asshole. If you're nice, you become nicer. Money is fun to make, fun to spend and fun to give away." Most fun: anonymously buying dinner for an entire restaurant crowd at her favorite Japanese steak house in Atlanta...

Taser-Tackle-Soccer

I played lacrosse from grade school through the first half of high school, and then again in college for a couple years. I switched from Attack to Goalie right around the time I realized that I really don't like getting hit by big dudes wielding metal sticks.

By the time I realized that I also don't like being hit by a hard rubber ball travelling at nearly 100 mph, it was too late: I'd made the team. I think the two years off in high school helped me get ready for a couple more seasons in college, in much the way that a woman will sometimes give birth to a second, third, etc., child. The passage of time dims the pain and highlights the pleasantness.

All this is a long way of introducing an observation: I would probably be really bad at Ultimate Tak Ball.



via Kottke.

March Madness Madness

It's that special time of year in America, where the sports-crazed go well and truly insane and the sports-ambivalent learn to at least feign an interest in college basketball. I was never a member of the former group, and find myself increasingly aligned with the latter. Last week, I wondered on several occasions (but never bothered to check) whether the NCAA tournament was starting this weekend or next. I assumed that I'd have heard about it if it were imminent, but kept thinking: heard from where? Turns out the tournament did not start last weekend, a fact that was confirmed by a female co-worker at a lunch meeting last Friday. Or, what - for all I knew until then - might've been Day Two of the Big Dance.

As one lawyer said to another in The Social Network: Cy...

All the above notwithstanding, there's a >80% chance that I'll plunk down $3.99 for this app this week on purely principled grounds. The principle in this case: If your 20-year-old self knew that your practically-40-year-old self could watch every game in the the tournament on a wafer-thin screen he held in one hand, for less than $4, how could you let your younger self down by not doing it?

Pottery

I got two A's in college. One was for an independent study (when you design the course, you damn-well better get a good grade!) and the other was in Ceramics (an A+!).

Robots!

We're living in the future, people!

Invisible Car

Even in the second decade of the 21st century, it's not uncommon to see an old $5,000 Honda Civic outfitted with more than $5,000 in "performance" modifications: massive spoiler, low-profile tires on 20-inch rims, high-flow exhaust system, etc.

It's much less common to see a $50,000+ car outfitted in a cloak of invisibility, so it's probably worth taking note when one drives by.

Rick Warren: "We're all fat."

I submit that this article could be published word-for-word in The Onion, and no one would know the difference.

We've got a hilarious premise:
"On that particular day, I was baptizing 858 people," Warren told his congregation last fall. "That took me literally four hours."
"As I'm baptizing 858 people, along around 500, I thought this ... 'We're all fat.' "
Of course, since he's Rick Warren, he sees this as an opportunity for spiritual and community growth. He calls in a couple contributors and one Dr. All-Star to form the supporting cast:
Warren recruited three doctors to develop the plan: Daniel Amen[!!! -ed.], a psychiatrist; Mark Hyman, a family doctor; and Mehmet Oz, a TV host and cardiac surgeon.
Add a few hilarious, if slightly puerile, pull quotes:
"The secret sauce of Saddleback is we do this as a community," said Amen, one of the medical contributors. "It's very different than most health plans where you do it with yourself or your wife. You get to do this with a whole community."
And I think we've basically got a story for next week's issue. If anything, the article needs a better closing paragraph. I mean, The Onion would never resort to something this cheesy and formulaic:
Warren often repeats the same phrases when discussing the Daniel Plan. "The Father made your body, Jesus paid for your body, the Spirit lives in your body. You better take care of it."

Dollar Shave Club Dot Com

At first, this idea struck me as something akin to lightbulbs.com. After watching the two-minute promo, though, I want to sign up for blades, invest in the company, and go to work for them! Of course, I expect them to be out of business within a year, but we could have a lot of fun 'til then.



See also: F&*# Everything, We're Doing Five Blades.

via Steve D.

Press On

Calvin Coolidge:
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is filled with educated derelicts. Persistence & determination are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and will forever solve the problems of the human race.

Singular

(Penn and) Teller

Teller reveals his secrets.
A magician's data sample spans centuries, and his experiments have been replicated often enough to constitute near-certainty. Neuroscientists—well intentioned as they are—are gathering soil samples from the foot of a mountain that magicians have mapped and mined for centuries.

Donuts

Social Media Explained using donuts. Google+ is my favorite.