there are 39 posts from August 2009

August 31, 2009

hating v. loving

Scott Berkun on the choice of hating v. loving.

I’m not saying not to express hate. I’m still a hateful bastard now and then. It’s therapeutic, it’s fun and can be a way to bond with someone for the first time – but I’m careful not to not let myself off the hook with hate alone. If I hate something, once I’m done tearing it to shreds, I force myself to look for something with the opposite traits of the thing I hated and show it some love.

August 30, 2009

the color of money

If this is what happens when you finally get through your email, then I’m all for more of this Inbox Zero stuff from Merlin.

Today, I can’t handle currency, eat fresh peas, or walk on grass. Green is the color of my twisted terror, and it paints my dreams in endless verdant coats. Night after night after night.

If you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil it for you. But I can’t help thinking of it as a response to Eggers’ Max at Sea. (And, frankly, a much better response than Choire Sicha and Tom Scocca’s chat transcript riff at The Awl, as much as I loved Choire’s line “Wow, who’s Renata Adler now?” line, since it’s so far inside baseball as to be made of pure cushioned cork center.)

August 30, 2009

on seeing kennedy

Raul Gutierrez on seeing Ted Kennedy at the ocean.

The third time I saw Kennedy in person was a few years later, I had flow to Hyannis Port from from California for a fall wedding. After arriving I escaped the hotel/wedding party for a walk along the shore. It was drizzling and cold, not good walking weather, or good beach weather, but I needed to stretch my legs. The beach was empty save for a solitary figure in the far distance. I wasn’t until I got close that I realized it was Kennedy. He was wearing a windbreaker and staring out to sea, hands in his pockets. He was a big hippopotamus of a man, wind whipping his hair around, but he was calm. He stood there for a very long time. What does a guy with that much incident in his life think about in those moments? Policy? Fending off enemies? Family? His aches and pains? I thought about how in the tiniest way I had been part of the noisy background of his life and how nice it must be for someone like him to look out into the empty ocean without yappy people constantly vying for attention.

via @jenbee

August 29, 2009


Steve Martin, in a bit swiped from 1979’s Comedy is Not Pretty, on Googlephonics: “I listen to it for a couple days I say ‘Hey, this sounds like shit.’”



August 29, 2009

beatles remasters

I had no idea that they were remastering The Beatles…though since it’s timed with the release of The Beatles: Rock Band it makes perfect sense. Leave it to Bob Lefsetz for a couple of choice bits on the remasters. First, on “I Should Have Known Better”:

This remaster is the anti propofol. It’s like Disney imagineers came up with a serum they could inject into corpses to bring people back to life.

And this one on “Tomorrow Never Knows”:

This one track is a metaphor for the whole experience of listening to this boxed set. You’ve got to turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. So you can hear each and every instrument and effect in this track. They built this, the Beatles, George Martin, a host of string players and… There was a vision, which fit no contour in an executive’s brain.

Emphasis mine. Reminds me of the piece by Andrew Bird that I blogged about last year.

I feel like it is a deliberate creative process to hear a sound in my head and then rummage around for the object that makes that sound. Sometimes, as I’ve noted before, the object itself gets assigned a mystical value and must be on a song, though I know most listeners could not care less whether we use a Telefunken mic or a 30-year-old calf skin drum head.

August 28, 2009

in under a minute

TypePad asked me: What are things you can do today because of technology that you couldn’t do five years ago? Here’s a list of things that feel like magic, even though you may take them for granted.

  • Take a picture and have it on the web in under a minute
  • Have an idea share it with the world under a minute
  • Think of a joke and share it with my friends in under a minute
  • Send an update about where I am right now and have a friend show up in under a minute
  • Learn about a band and be listening to them in under a minute
  • Learn about a book and start reading it in under a minute
  • Have one of those frustrating “crap! what was that actor’s name?” moments and then find out who it was in under a minute
  • Etc., etc.

Everything’s amazing, you all should be happy, etc., etc.

Presented by Intel, Sponsors of Tomorrow.

August 28, 2009

i chop it down with the edge of my hand

Forget all the Woodstock commentary, and the Ang Lee movie. Just go watch Jimi in HQ.

(Via Fake Steve, who says “I honor the place where your countercultural spirit and my gleaming, secretive corporate campus become one.”)

August 27, 2009

to do: contemplate light beams slow enough to dodge

I really wish John Scalzi hadn’t used the phrase “Epic FAIL” in the title of his piece about technology and design in Star Wars. Because otherwise it’s fun reading, in a “yeah, I know, it is sad that I’m simultaneously (a) nodding in agreement, (b) finding it funny and (c) picking which bit to blog about” kind of way.

For the record, here’s the bit I picked.

A tactical nightmare: They’re incredibly loud, especially for firing what are essentially light beams. The fire ordnance is so slow it can be dodged, and it comes out as a streak of light that reveals your position to your enemies. Let’s not even go near the idea of light beams being slow enough to dodge; that’s just something you have let go of, or risk insanity.

So for the weekend it’s either contemplate light beams slow enough to dodge, or unpack the rules of Eschaton. Either way – insanity.

August 24, 2009

vorticism is the same as futurism, but british

Will Gompertz, a director at the Tate Gallery, is putting on a one hour show at the Edinburgh Fringe festival where he gives the entire history of modern art in an hour. With humor, of course, lest anyone in the audience want to slit their wrists with memories of trying to stay awake through endless slide carousels in the dark room of Art History 101.

He published a taste of the show this weekend in the Times; here’s a fantastic three paragraph romp through modern art.

Impressionism — painting outside of a studio with quick, loose brushstrokes to capture an evocative impression of their subject. Van Gogh was an Impressionist but wanted to express how he felt about what he saw so he distorted the subject. This helped to lead to Expressionism practised by artists from Edvard Munch through to Francis Bacon. The Fauves (wild beasts) expressed themselves by painting with bright colours. Jackson Pollock did it by throwing or dripping paint on a canvas. His paintings were abstract — Abstract Expressionism.

Cézanne was very important. He began as an Impressionist but then started to look at a subject from two different perspectives to represent how we see. Picasso and his friend Georges Braque were very impressed and started to paint subjects from lots of different views. This is Cubism. Marcel Duchamp was a Cubist but then changed art for ever. He said the idea is more important than the medium and refused to stick with the limited choice of canvas or stone. So he chose everyday objects and called them art because he had altered their context. This led to Conceptual Art where the idea becomes the medium.

The Dadaists were very cross. They blamed the horrors of the First World War on the Establishment’s reliance on rational and reasoned thought. They radically opposed rational thought and became nihilistic — the punk rock of modern art movements. Dada plus Sigmund Freud equals Surrealism. The Surrealists were fascinated by the unconscious mind, as that’s where they thought truth resided. Piet Mondrian thought he could paint everything he knew, felt and saw by using two lines placed at rectangles and three primary colours. This was called Neo-Plasticism and was inspired by Cubism. So was Futurism, which is Cubism with motion added. Vorticism is the same as Futurism, but British. The Minimalists might represent the real truth because they weren’t trying to represent anything. Performance Art is Dada live.

Of course the jokes are better if you stayed awake through Art History 201.

August 24, 2009

it's hard, and i could use a little help

Chicagoist interviews Traywick Contemporary* artist Ken Fandell. The video they discuss below is one of my favorites of his.

C: Some of your pieces remind me of the myth of Sisyphus — for example, “It’s Hard, and I Could Use a Little Help” (a five-minute video in which the artist tries to assemble tiny human figurines, but ends up with a sticky mess of glue and plastic limbs). Instead of pushing a boulder that keeps rolling back down, you’re trying to make these people and it doesn’t work.

KF: When I had to write art statements, Sisyphus would come up. But a key difference is that Sisyphus would get the boulder to the top, and then the rock would roll back down — and I’m interested in never getting to the top. My work is about the process of going there — in that video, for instance, it’s important that the people are never made; the video mostly shows me trying to assemble them. (That piece took a long time to make.)

* Disclosure: I’m married to the Traywick in Traywick Contemporary. In fact, sometimes people call me “Mr. Traywick.”

August 24, 2009

fallows on the brain

James Fallows, who has a long history of writing about the “personal information management” category, discovers The Brain, a piece of software I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with for more than a decade.

The program has the rare combination of virtues I have previously appreciated in Zoot, Agenda, et al. It is very flexible: there are few hard-wired constraints, and if you decide at any time that you want to change how info is structure or organized, that’s easy to do.

What threw me for a loop, though, was that a screenshot in the piece of David Allen’s brain includes a reference to a former colleague of mine, Jack Griffin, who’s living in Switzerland.

Small world.

August 24, 2009

fallows on mccaughey v. stewart

More from James Fallows. This time on Betsy “Death Panels” McCaughey’s appearance last week on The Daily Show.

The exchange is significant, because it demonstrates that there is indeed a way to “handle” Jon Stewart. You simply have to ignore what he says, interrupt and talk over him, and keep asserting that you’re right. You even can try to usurp his role as host by mugging at the audience and rolling your eyes in a shared “there he goes again!” joke with the viewers.

In retrospect, this is the crucial weakness that in their different ways both Bill Kristol and Jim Cramer revealed in their appearances on the show. They listened to Stewart and – even Kristol!!?! – revealed through their bearing that they recognized there was such a thing as being caught in an inconsistency or presented with an inconvenient fact. McCaughey did none of that. She is just making it up, as anyone who has followed her work over the decades will know. She was not even minimally prepared for her appearance on the show, flipping aimlessly through the giant briefing book (of legislative clauses) she brought on stage. But  she didn’t let it bother her. The exchange demonstrated that if the guest reveals no self-awareness or does not accept the premise of factual challenge, Stewart can’t get in his normal licks. Future guests will study this show.

Emphasis mine. Her appearance is an amazing thing to watch.

August 21, 2009

unicode heaven

With apologies to Rex, here’s your new favorite site for the next five minutes: Unicode table for you, from Paul Ford.

There may already be something like it out there, but I couldn’t find anything quite like it, and I keep spending time poking around Unicode on Wikipedia and various other sites and finding it hard to get a sense of the whole range of options available.

This is my favorite, “heavy teardrop-spoked pinwheel”:

In exchange for the gift Paul gave the web with this page, you should go vote up his panel (well, Zeldman’s panel, actually) at SxSW. The gift economy at work!

August 20, 2009

who liked this?

Dear Lazyweb,

Please give me a way – a multi-tiered web application with a full JSON rest-based API, a little bookmarklet, a desktop widget, an iPhone app, a small little whatchmacallit, whatever, it doesn’t matter – to pull a list of the people who have “Liked” a particular article in Google Reader. It will be much easier to build a canonical list of idiots really smart people that way.

Thanks in advance!

Your pal,

PS – You’re still out there, right? You haven’t moved to Facebook or something have you? Do I need to start writing letters to “Dear LazyFacebook”? Or “Dear LazyTwitter?” Because that would be a drag.

PPS – Yep, I actually signed it “Your pal.” Admit it, you miss him too.

August 20, 2009

perfectly groomed

Via today and tomorrow comes Brian Jobe’s Tuft v. Turf. From the artist’s statement: “I channel energy into meticulous organization and establish a sense of order through the assemblage of objects.” I just think it looks great.

August 20, 2009

i am sad about this, too

From Sasha Frere-Jones at the New Yorker, on the sentiment analysis of tweets re. the death of the Michael Jackson.

It is reassuring that people are using “sad” correctly, though the paper reveals a less felicitous trend: thousands of people think that Michael is spelled “Micheal.” A study reveals that my degree of sadness surrounding this misspelling is 98.9%. (This was a double-blind study using an n of 1.)

In my own personal experience, I’ve discovered that many many people spell Michael “S-I-P-P-E-Y”, which is weird.

August 20, 2009

every dog loves food

What I love most about this bit is the guy auditioning for the dog food commercial.

August 20, 2009

blame it on the app store

Today’s question of the day on TypePad is right up my alley: What are your fitness goals? What is helping or preventing you from accomplishing them?

I love food, I love television, and I love reclining on sofas. Add those three things together, and at the ripe old age of almost-41, I find myself about 20 pounds over fighting weight, and have recently started to do something about it. I’m trying to be more mindful of what (and how much) I eat, get to gym a few times a week, and be more active during the day…even if it means just grabbing a walk around the block.

I’ve been following the advice of the geeks I love and tracking my progress – I keep a (private) Google spreadsheet to track weight, and a (private) your.flowingdata account to keep track of days where I dragged my ass to the gym. These two data points are good, but I’d love a better solution to keep track of the third – what I’m eating.

There are dozens of iPhone apps that promise to help you log what you eat and count calories. I’ve tried the LiveStrong app, LoseIt and DailyBurn, and while all three of them have their nice tracking capabilities and their slick UI touches, the food catalogs in all of these apps are just awful. Let’s say I have a slice of toast and a peach for breakfast (mmm, summer). Toast – that’s easy. But search for “peach” and your results screen is full of canned and preprocessed food – canned peaches in syrup, canned peaches in water, peach Yoplait yogurt, a peach-flavored breakfast bar, etc. I realize this is how most of America eats, but this catalog just doesn’t work for anyone who’s eating real food.

It also creates this sense of false precision; instead of the app that lets me track the 182 calorie breakfast bar, the 15 calorie cup of coffee and the 373 calorie Lean Cuisine frozen dinner, how about the app that lets me keep track of things like “I had a big, unhealthy lunch” (I highly recommend the fried cheese sandwich at Hotel Utah, by the way), or “I ate like a rabbit for dinner.”

Anyway. What was the question? What’s preventing me from accomplishing my fitness goals? Clearly it’s the App Store.

Presented by Intel, Sponsors of Tomorrow.

August 18, 2009

this machine will make you want a cup of wilkins coffee

Courtesy of The Footnotes of Mad Men (via kottke) comes this wickedly disturbing set of commercials directed by Jim Henson for Wilkins Coffee.

Lots of info about the spots at the Muppet Wiki[1], including this great quote from Senator John Marshall Butler (R-MD) from a 1959 press release criticizing the quality of broadcast television…

About the only clever advertising on the air today is ‘Wilkins and Wontkins’. It pleases rather than irritates television audiences, and I am happy to learn that this series is bringing increased sales to the sponsor.

The gun to the head is a nice touch.

[1] Seriously, I love the web.

August 18, 2009

the $24 million question

Now in the Instapaper queue: New York Magazine’s promise to answer the unanswerable: How Could This Happen to Annie Leibovitz?

August 18, 2009

remember when every family's first stop was online?

So you know that piece in the New York Times earlier this month that claimed that more and more families are waking up and immediately jumping online? The one that posited that…

After six to eight hours of network deprivation — also known as sleep — people are increasingly waking up and lunging for cellphones and laptops, sometimes even before swinging their legs to the floor and tending to more biologically urgent activities.

Um, not so much. The NYTPicker (subscribed!) called out Brad Stone for using a shallow set of well-connected sources, and now Clark Hoyt, the Times’ own public editor is taking Stone to task.

The Gudes’ story was fascinating, but the reporter, Brad Stone, did not find them by chance. Stone and Karl Gude used to work together at Newsweek, though both said they had not talked in 10 years. Then there was a source identified only as “Gabrielle Glaser of Montclair, N.J.” She is a freelance writer who has been published 54 times in The Times and is married to Stephen Engelberg, a former Times reporter and editor.

Three other sources were all media-savvy veterans. Naomi Baron, a professor at American University, has been quoted seven times in other Times articles and has written once for the Op-Ed page. James Steyer has been quoted 13 times and is the co-founder of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that deals with children and entertainment issues. Liz Perle, identified only as “a mother in San Francisco,” is the other co-founder of Common Sense Media and is its editor in chief.

Something tells me Mr. Hoyt isn’t the most popular guy around the newsroom.

August 17, 2009

that's a technical term

From Cult of Mac comes this nugget about Apple’s cloud computing plans.

“Apple is planning about 500,000 square feet of data center space in a single building,” says Rich Miller, editor of Data Center Knowledge. “That would place it among the largest data centers in the world… This would qualify as a big-ass data center.”

Emphasis mine.

August 17, 2009

msnbc acquires everyblock

Very smart way for MSNBC to get into local. I’m hoping this gives the EB team the resources they need to expand their platform to actually include every block.

August 12, 2009

wouldn't it be great to be a rock star?

Via Noam’s blog from way back when, a clip from the Arcade Fire documentary Miroir Noir.

Like Noam, I was at this show at the Greek and it’s amazing to see this from the band’s perspective.

August 12, 2009

recommended things

If you’re not reading Things Magazine, you should be. Every post is dense, link-ridden and informative.

August 12, 2009

only one will make it out alive

Huxley v. Orwell, death match!

August 12, 2009

getting past the endless arms race

Via comes this great post from Jeff Howard at Design for Service about the endless arms race of quality v. customer expectations…

I pretty much expect FedEx never to lose my package. In fact, I expect overnight delivery to anywhere in the world. How crazy is that? It’s taken fewer than 30 years for something magical to become a commonplace.

At what point do we hit the wall with services? Are they ever actually good enough, or is it an endless arms race against mediocrity and commoditization?

Howard’s proposed solution – unpredictability and “random acts of kindness” – makes sense to me, esp. when looking at service design through the lens of brains-as-pattern-recognition machines. If the brain doesn’t recognize the pattern, it pays attention. (Jeff Hawkins’ book On Intelligence should be required reading for product and service designers, IMHO.) The challenge is finding just the right pattern breaker that pleasantly surprises and is cost- and operationally-effective to deliver.

August 12, 2009

europe? there's an app for that

On VentureBlog, David Hornik posts about swapping travel books for his iPhone:

While in Paris, I could count on the iPhone to answer two questions reliably: 1) where am I? and 2) how old is that? While that may not seem like much, I would say it accounts for more than 50% of inquiries while traveling around Europe.

August 12, 2009

but which one's red and which one's blue?

Ze asks the best questions; today’s is about lifespan. The answers are fascinating.

August 11, 2009

hammer time

Unlike Chekhov’s gun, it’s pretty clear from moment one what that hammer is there for.

August 11, 2009


Ahhh, I like this.

BlockChalk is the voice of your neighborhood.  You can use it to talk to anyone, about anything.  It’s like a virtual graffiti wall, a community bulletin board, and a poster-covered lightpost, all rolled into one.  Using the GPS in your iPhone, it shows you messages that other people have left at the place you’re standing, and it lets you leave your own messages, too.  It’s anonymous unless you decide to share more.  You can even privately reply to other users while still remaining anonymous.


August 10, 2009

my oh my

The New York Times runs one of those multi-author think pieces on the meaning of Woodstock (here’s a quick sample: “Woodstock represented one of the periodic bursts of utopianism in American culture…”) and the very first commenter, Ms. Peebles, quickly lays waste to the whole thing.

My oh my. Let’s just all pick every little thing apart about Woodstock. Let’s make it the kicking off point for all that came after it…commercializim, fair right wing politics…right on down to Charles Manson. Hey, he had long hair! It MUST have been Woodstock!

I like her spelling of commercializim.

August 07, 2009

they shipped that

I’m loving Andre’s posts about switching from an iPhone to a Google phone, especially the highly opinionated bits like this one about Twidroid, the really awfully-named Twitter client for Android.

There is a “delete” option for every tweet, not just my own, but every tweet. When you push that option you are told, “You may not delete another users (sic) status”. They shipped that.

August 07, 2009

please yourself

Alison Byrne Fields’ post about being pen pals with John Hughes is amazing. I loved this bit that she quoted from one his letters to her, responding to news that her English teacher didn’t appreciate her writing…

As for your English teacher…Do you like the way you write? Please yourself. I’m rather fond of writing. I actually regard it as fun. Do it frequently and see if you can’t find the fun in it that I do.

As the kids say, [this is good].

August 07, 2009

performance anxiety

“I was frightened to death for the first three years.”

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, from a 2006 interview, reflecting on his first few years on the nation’s highest court, via the New York Times.

August 07, 2009

danny sullivan on bartz's retconning

Who better to take apart Carol Bartz’s retconning (Yahoo has “never been a search company”) than Danny Sullivan:

Search was Yahoo’s origin story. To say Yahoo was never a search engine is like saying Superman wasn’t originally from Krypton or that Spider-Man was never bitten by a spider.

Yes, at first Yahoo’s search was powered by human editors, rather than machines. By 1999, the majority of search engines out there used human editors as the basis of their search. When machine-based search took over, Yahoo shifted along to that eventually, spending plenty for its own technology.

August 05, 2009

summer in new york

Enjoying a few days in New York, where the weather can most accurately be described as “August in New York.” In addition to the usual meetings and discussions, I’ve discovered that there is a DeLillo fan in the Six Apart New York office (which is good), and scientifically proved that the flavor of a piece of Dubble Bubble lasts exactly 4 minutes and 1.9 seconds. Productive trip so far.

August 03, 2009

things on speed

Worth reading in full, things magazine on speed and futurism.

Our fetishism of speed is increasingly detached from the physical realm - we crave the speed of download delivery, instant communication, mobile blogging, latency-free servers, intercontinental video calling, swift screen rotation, and instant messaging. The physical manifestations of speed still exist, of course, but are being slowly stigmatised.

Relatedly, I miss Leslie, who probably would have had a lot to say on this subject.

August 03, 2009

people around the game

There are few things that feel  better than crushing a 90 mph fastball or throwing a runner out at the plate from the outfield , but the majority of things I miss the most didn’t happen between the lines.


My friend (and colleague at Six Apart) David Tokheim played outfield in the Phillies organization in the early ’90s, and has a great post up today about all the things / people that are outside of the game proper that he misses. Speaking of which, I could use some “Clubbies.”

“Clubbies are there to make your experience comfortable with food, supplies, hook-ups and anything you could possible need. I’ll never forget Pauly or Harry from Clearwater in their Philly accent saying 100 times a day, ‘you good…you good?’”