there are 27 posts from October 2008

October 31, 2008

the runaway train

Peggy Noonan’s opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Obama and the Runaway Train,” is worth reading.  “Let’s be frank. Something new is happening in America. It is the imminent arrival of a new liberal moment. History happens, it makes its turns, you hold on for dear life. Life moves.”

October 31, 2008

i absolutely agree 100%

CNN’s Marquee Blog on the shifting cast at Saturday Night Live:  “This game of musical chairs could be great for Poehler and SNL — or it could be a disaster.”

October 30, 2008

that porsche sure does corner well

Floyd Norris explains Porsche’s corner strategy on Volkswagen this week, which will likely end up netting them billions of euros. “If this works, Porsche will have made billions from a car company at a time when cars are not selling very well. … If it comes to a question of whether regulators step in, Porsche has the advantage of facing off against short-selling hedge funds. There may not be a less popular group of investors, and their losses would provoke little sympathy.”

And yes, the post title is deliberately bad.

October 30, 2008

quickly quelling dissent

Well that was fast.  In less than a day, Google lifts the white label restriction on its OpenID implementation.  “Instead of having our engineers spend time manually maintaining that list of registered sites, we are now taking another step further and removing that restriction so any site can use the API.”

October 29, 2008

revolving hotel room

File under jealous: Anil and Alaina spent the night in Carsten Höller’s Revolving Hotel Room at the Guggenheim.

October 24, 2008

mini cooper to begin field testing an electric car

I’m sure this has been covered to death on the autoblogs, but I learned about it via Mini USA’s email list: they’re looking for 500 drivers in Southern California, New York and New Jersey to participate in a field trial of the MINI E, “a 100% electric, zero-emission premium vehicle ready for every-day driver use.”

  • Lithium-ion batteries
  • Two-seater only; what’s normally the backseat in a Mini is now full of batteries
  • Zero to 60 in about 8.5 seconds; top speed electronically limited to about 95mph
  • Range of about 150 miles
  • Full recharge draws 28 kilowatt hours, which equates to 5.4 miles / kwh
  • If you pay $0.15 / kwh, that equates to about about $0.03 per mile, which is about one-third the cost per mile of Mini Cooper.[1]

Of course, next to the Pious there couldn’t be a more latte-sippin’ blue state car than an electric Mini, and this one’s only a pilot program, but I’m hopeful we’ll see car makers push more hybrid and electric options…

[1] Spreadsheet here, based on an eyeballed average 30mpg for Coopers on Fuelly buying gas at $3.00 per gallon, which is about where the national average is right now.

October 23, 2008

palin song / different trains

Via Alex Ross at The Rest is Noise comes Palin Song, Henry Hey’s piano accompaniment to Sarah Palin’s interview with Katie Couric. Just press play and give it a minute to sink in…

As Ross points out, listeners who appreciate Palin Song may also appreciate Steve Reich’s Different Trains. (If, like me, you’re too lazy to click through to anything, here’s a relevant snippet from Wikipedia: “In Different Trains, after each melody in the piece is introduced…a recording of the spoken phrase from which the melody derives is played.”)

October 20, 2008

android garage door opener

Brad Fitzpatrick is writing Android apps.

My main Android app I care about is my garage door opener. I have a webserver hooked up [to] my garage door opener, so I can open my garage over the network. Combined with a background process doing wifi scanning, the idea’s that when I’m on my way home, I pull up to my house on my motorcycle and the garage door magically opens and I back into my garage without taking off my helmet/gloves/etc.

If you’ve already hooked up a webserver to your garage door opener you’re waaaaay down the path to madness, so you know, why the hell not build a mobile app to control it?

October 18, 2008

trib endorses obama, four horsemen tap dance down ashland ave.

The Chicago Tribune endorses Barack Obama: “This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.” The comments on the Chicagoist post on the endorsement are worth a skim: “Really, if the four horsemen come tap-dancing down ashland ave. I will not be shocked now.”

October 17, 2008

i'll go out on a limb here...

Stating the obvious: W’s gonna bomb. Oliver Stone jumped the shark with Born on the Fourth of July; people on the right will hate it without seeing it; and even the rabidly liberal probably don’t want to spend their Saturday night reliving the present in a dark room, even if it is Josh Brolin. Best line from the Times review, on Brolin’s performance: “Good as he is, he can’t touch the original.”

Update: I love this line from Dave Winer’s review: “Well, it was a nice movie, but I never really got into the plot. It could be I know too much about the actual story, like having read the book before seeing the movie.”

October 17, 2008

george packer on john mccain

George Packer at, reflecting on a town hall style meeting McCain held in January: “Back then he was witty, he was relaxed, he was appealingly combative, he was generous. For sheer talent at engaging with voters he had it all over both Obama and Clinton. The contrast now is so severe that it makes running for President seem like a personal disaster on the scale of a prolonged nervous breakdown leading to physical and psychological ruin.”

(And the delta between the McCain profiled in David Foster Wallace’s essay-turned-book McCain’s Promise is even more stark…)

October 17, 2008


I really want to see this installation in person.

Audience, conceived by rAndom International, is an installation consisting of around 64 head-size mirror objects. Each object moves its head in a particular way to give it different characteristics of human behaviour. … When members of the audience occupy the space, the mirrors inquisitively follow someone that they find interesting. Having chosen their subject, they all synchronise and turn their heads towards them. Suddenly that person can see their reflection in all of the mirrors.

Words don’t do it justice. Go watch the video on Vimeo and check out this photo set on Flickr.

October 16, 2008

real time capitalism


That’s what I call American ingenuity.

October 16, 2008

andrew sullivan, why i blog

Andrew Sullivan’s long form piece Why I Blog, posted today at, gave me goose bumps.

A blog, therefore, bobs on the surface of the ocean but has its anchorage in waters deeper than those print media is technologically able to exploit. It disempowers the writer to that extent, of course. The blogger can get away with less and afford fewer pretensions of authority. He is—more than any writer of the past—a node among other nodes, connected but unfinished without the links and the comments and the track-backs that make the blogosphere, at its best, a conversation, rather than a production.

This is probably the best long form piece on blogging I’ve ever read.

October 14, 2008

modern art notes on the use of the flag

At Modern Art Notes, Tyler Green is running a series of posts on the use of the American flag in contemporary art.

When I’ve thought of the flag in the last week or two, I’ve remembered a photograph taken by the Rocky Mountain News’ Todd Heisler and a series of photographs that The Memory Hole forced the Pentagon to release under the Freedom of Information Act. In each of these pictures jingoism is replaced with respect. These photographs and the way the flag is present in them don’t roust the dopamine of the rabid right. Instead they command our attention, our awe and our gratitude in a way a thousand lapel pins never will.

First up in the series (after Green) is Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art curator David Rubin on Sam Wiener’s Those Who Fail to Remember the Past are Condemned to Repeat It from 1970. Go read and see.

October 14, 2008

bag of hurt


Quote of the day comes from Steve Jobs, in the post event Q&A. When asked why the (delicious) new laptops don’t support BluRay, Jobs replied with this bon mot, according to MacWorld

BluRay is a bag of hurt,” Jobs says. “The licensing of the technology is so complex that we’re just waiting until things settle down and waiting until BluRay really takes off in the marketplace before we burden our customers with the cost of the licensing and the drives.”

Oh, and seriously, those laptops look delicious, don’t they?

October 10, 2008

latent semantic politics, or red v. blue

Andy Baio and Joshua Schachter today shipped Memeorandum Colors, a Firefox extension and Greasemonkey script that helps you visualize political bias of the sites linked to on Memeorandum.

With the help of founder Joshua Schachter, we used a recommendation algorithm to score every blog on Memeorandum based on their linking activity in the last three months. Then I wrote a Greasemonkey script to pull that information out of Google Spreadsheets, and colorize Memeorandum on-the-fly. Left-leaning blogs are blue and right-leaning blogs are red, with darker colors representing strong biases.

Andy’s post is worth reading; as he usually does he describes in detail their methodology for crawling Memeorandum, analyzing link relationships using the Singular Value Decomposition method (on top of NumPy, btw) to discover political bias, and then stitching together a Greasemonkey coloring script using Google Docs, its ability to output XML and some simple XMLHttpRequest. Voila, latent semantic politics[1].

What’s incredibly cool is what you see after you install the extension / script.


Memeorandum suddenly became about ten times better for me, because now the discussion links are more interesting than the main stories. The blue and red highlighting make me want to click through to see what a “deep red” blogger is saying about Obama, or a “deep blue” blogger is saying about McCain…and I’m now diving into more interesting conversations.

[1] Hat tip to David Jacobs for that lovely phrase. And I can’t believe I actually said “hat tip.”

October 10, 2008

clifford lidell, secret fever

Via .tiff comes the latest mix(tape) from Clifford Lidell (formerly known as Casio), titled Secret Fever. I’m not anything close to being a connoisseur of mixes, and I’ll admit to loving this one because there’s a decent portion of dad rock embedded within, but I dare you not to love the segment about 16:40 in where he combines Wilco’s Hell is Chrome with Chromeo’s Tenderoni (get it?) and D.I.M.’s Is You.

So very very good. Download and enjoy it this weekend.

October 09, 2008

i can't wait to see how newsrooms use the new photoshop


So the one jaw-droppingly amazing feature in the new version of Photoshop has to be content aware scaling, where you can resize an image without squishing or stretching the important pixels.

You have to see it to believe it, so here are a couple of videos: one from Russell Brown (direct link to a reasonably large mov file, via swissmiss), and one from (YouTube; faster to load but lower res and lower impact); or you can just check out the features page on Adobe’s website.

Personally, I can’t wait to see how newsrooms and photo editors take advantage of this new capability. Just imagine the possibilities…

  • Is that explosion too far away from the guy who just threw the molotov cocktail, and you want both of them in the frame? It’s now easier than ever to move them closer together.
  • Want to highlight the “distance” between two candidates at a debate? Just slide them farther apart!
  • Want to suggest impropriety between a politician and an intern? Easy! Click and drag and they might as well be sharing a cigar.

I love living in the future, don’t you?

October 08, 2008

like cheetoh dust

Fourfour (my new favorite blog) tears Britney’s new song “Womanizer” apart.

This thing stinks worse than Cheeto dust and is just as tenacious. … It’s in my head indefinitely, and though my fingers are spared, I fear that my soul is turning neon orange.

Oh, and if you’re watching America’s Next Top Model without reading fourfour I feel sorry for you.

October 07, 2008


Via Rogers Cadenhead comes and this mock campaign ad from Goodby, Silverstein and Partners:

In his post, Rogers rightly wonders why the national treasure of sarcastic voiceover actors is only put to use only once every four years…

I’ve thought for a while that the world needs an ad agency that specializes in creating attack ads for subjects outside of politics. Our most sarcastic voiceover actors shouldn’t be put on a shelf for three out of every four years. If Madison Avenue can sell the most powerful job in the free world by employing sneering contempt for rivals, there’s no reason the same technique can’t be an effective way to sell things like erectile dysfunction medicine, soft drinks and public-service campaigns.

There’s more ad agency presidential spin at

October 06, 2008

file under 'aggressive aggressive'

An afternoon discussion about the perceived differences between Ike Turner and James Taylor turned up this gem of a paragraph about Taylor on his Wikipedia entry.

In the early 1980s Taylor’s career was again beset by drug problems. Additionally, Taylor’s wife, Carly Simon, was unhappy with his extended absences due to touring, as well as the ongoing drug abuse. After an ultimatum that he spend more time with their children, Taylor responded instead with the 1981 album Dad Loves His Work. He and Simon divorced in 1983.

That last sentence is just pitch perfect.

October 03, 2008

restaurants should do the math for you

So I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this before, because every time I’m out with a group of friends for lunch or dinner I’m reminded of this idea…and then proceed to bore my dining companions with it. But here it is.

Problem: Deciding how much everyone owes for a group meal – especially when there’s a gratuity calculation is involved – is hard. Well, not “eliminating our dependence on foreign oil with nucular energy” hard, but you know, hard in the way that “math” is hard….especially when said mathemeticians have had a few.

Solution: Restaurant checks should do the math for you, in a simple and straightforward way.

Imagine a restaurant check that looked like this:

Subtotal: $210.00

Tip: _______

Total: _______

**A 20% tip would be $42, for a total of $252. I counted 4 people in your party, which would come to $63 per person.


Look, simple math! Isn’t this what the future’s supposed to be, fancy calculating machines doing the hard work for us? (And I’m not talking about that tip calculator iPhone app you paid $0.99 for.)

Two more things to note…

  • There’s no need to get too clever, and attempt to provide an exact accounting per diner based on what they order. This is already clever enough.
  • There’s potential upside for restaurants and their staff. Take the example above, where the tab with a 20% tip comes to $63 per person. Which means that some will inevitably just round that up to the bills they have on hand. If all four diners here leave $65 instead of $63, that’s an extra $8 in gratuity, raising the tip from 20% to almost 24%).

OK then, got that idea out of my head. Now when I’m out with folks I can annoy them not only with the story, but also with the tagline “And oh! I blogged about this…didn’t you read that post?”

October 02, 2008

good ol' charlie brown

Today, October 2, is “Peanuts day,” since it marks the anniversary of the date of the first Peanuts cartoon in 1950., the official online home of all things Peanuts, has the first Peanuts comic strip. Being a conscientious blogger, I won’t just swipe and reprint it here – you really should click on through.

What I love about that first strip is how true to form it is in terms of tone; sure the characters and their voices evolved over the years, but even the first one is spot on. (You can also learn at that it took less than a year for Charlie Brown to first be called a blockhead.) My kids are getting into Peanuts now, and I need to put some of the Peanuts box sets on my wishlist for Christmas, so they can spend extended periods of time soaking up “the strip’s still-surprising balance of exuberance and misery.”[1]

[1] That line’s from the review of the Schulz and Peanuts biography. And you know what? I actually like most reviews.

October 01, 2008

the second annual blogger challenge

I’ve written before about and the incredible job they do connecting donors and teachers to help address the inequitable distribution of resources in our nation’s public schools.

Last year’s blogger challenge helped impact more than 75,000 students in high need public schools. This year DonorsChoose is looking to blow that number out of the water with the 2008 Bloggers Challenge. Some of my favorite blogs are participating – including Finslippy, Fred Wilson and the Silicon Valley Moms Blog -- helping support specific teacher-driven projects in schools around the country.

This year I’m putting my weight behind Mena Trott’s Nested and Dollarshort Challenge which is a great collection of projects focused on arts, crafts and writing in early education. (And made it easy for me to show my support since they support the TypePad Widget API for posting their widgets straight to my sidebar.)

Here’s where to learn more, create your own challenge or support your favorite blogger!

October 01, 2008

palin's impact on couric

Leaving no stone unturned, the Times covers the effect that the Sarah Palin interviews are having on Katie Couric’s ratings. Short story, not much effect at all.

But the week was still considered, by executives from both CBS and its rivals, to be among the best Ms. Couric has experienced since she joined the newscast two years ago. Jon Klein, the president of CNN’s domestic operations, said, “It was brand-building for a woman who is still one of the very best journalists out there.”

N.B.: that brand building primarily took place on YouTube, where each of those clips is racking up hundreds of thousands, if not millions of views…

October 01, 2008

grant achatz on creativity

From his intro to the Alinea Cookbook.

People like to think the creative process is romantic. The artist drifts to sleep at night, to be awakened by the subliminal echoes of his or her next brilliant idea. The truth, for me at least, is that creativity is primarily the result of hard work and study. The light bulb goes off unexpectedly at times, a consequence of associating everything I see, smell, hear and touch to food. … The smell of a woman’s perfume leads me to construct a dish around the emotionally powerful aspect of scent. And the accidental shattering of a wineglass makes me wonder how I can make raspberry that fragile. But more often, the new dishes I come up with are the product of methodology rather than inspiration.

More on the cookbook itself soon.