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June 2, 2007

"the solitude"

this is a house built by an English aesthete and bachelor, John Penn, on the grounds of Philadelphia zoo.

an exercise in self-indulgence, but one of the less, uh, anti-social manifestations of such? a young gentleman of privilege, trained in the colonial spirit at cambridge, could have wreaked much more havoc than building himself a house where he could be alone with his literary canon ...
As its name might imply, The Solitude was designed to ensure that Penn could carry on his life undisturbed, in as much privacy as he wished. The doors into the parlor and the library above it were upholstered in green baize (a heavy woolen fabric) to muffle the sound of their closing, and to keep out the noise and bustle of the servants.
... and his servants.

the bedroom:

a painting of the house. if you look closely you can see penn in one of the windows aiming a rifle at the bonnets of those lovelies:

i understand his single-minded pursuit of privacy and solitude. he didn't stay there long, returned to England, and all his stuff was sold. pennsylvania's antiqities are on show here.

everyone in the whole world should have a house of their own, on a slight incline in a fancy park, where they cook their own damn food and wash their own damn clothes, should they want one.

Wired: Why Is DRM-Free Music Tagged With Name and E-Mail?

Wired: Why Is DRM-Free Music Tagged With Name and E-Mail?.

I don’t know — maybe because it is the most effective, least invasive version of copy protection/DRM ever invented? No surprise to anybody who has bought a Pragmatic Programmers ebook.

2008 Trek Madones

Trek launches the 2008 Madones with a brochure site and lots of new technology, including their own bottom bracket, no headsets, seatmast, new carbon designations, and a fuselage approach. Responding to their competitors, like Specialized, Trek is coming out firing with a “we invented carbon bikes” approach and a frame that’s a half-pound lighter

By de-emphasizing specific materials and instead focusing the discussion on our OCLV Carbon process – a process we invented 16 years ago and have been refining ever since - Trek can leverage our manufacturing, engineering, and design expertise to underscore the unique nature of our carbon fiber frames: a difference we’re confident makes for the best carbon fiber frames on the planet.

Just last month, I glowingly reviewed the Specialized Tarmac SL, another bike emphasizing technology. I’ve ridden Madones for years, reviewed them positively, and they’re great, solid, racing bikes, but have relied on 16 year old tube and lugs technology.

Trek is changing the game again.


Report from Charlottesville VA

Am currently in Charlottesville, VA, attending an anniversary event for the college radio station WTJU, where I DJ'd for several years and enjoyed a couple of bracing years of administrative responsibility (as program director). 'TJU is much like WFMU in NY, a free form format with knowledgeable volunteers as jocks. When I was in school it was entirely student run and thus a creatively fertile chaos, but it has since hired a station manager who miraculously is not a micromanager and lets the volunteers continue to shape the content. Charlottesville is beautiful but barely recognizable from my student days for all the growth. It has been touted as a perfect city so of course everyone wants to move there.

Service Scrubber

Most of us face the problem of inertia in almost everything we do. We eat the same foods, watch the same television, take the same walks, go to the same parks, talk to the same people, day in and day out.

And in many ways this is good. But the sheer inertia of our habits can prevent us from realizing how much better things could be with just a little tweaking. Walk a slightly different route one day on the way home from work, and lo and behold, a secret urban garden (my gift to WWDC attendees and SF SoMa workers).

When it comes to computers, I consider myself especially sensitive to the frustrating ways that computers do what I don’t want them to, which is why it’s surprising that it’s taken me this long to install and embrace Service Scrubber, from Many Tricks. The software is free but donations are accepted. I donated, and you will too!

Service Scrubber does one thing well: it gives you power over the (quite likely) sprawling System Services menu on your Mac. Not only does it let you show or hide items, it also lets you remove or change keyboard shortcuts assigned to them. Nifty!

The problem with services is they’re installed passively when you install applications on your Mac. If you’re like me and tend to download and lazily keep around a bunch of applications, your menu will be booming with items you don’t really care about. When I first launched Service Scrubber, I got the unenjoyable spinning rainbow cursor, which was a symptom of it digging through my massive 125 long list of installed services. This was the only user-unfriendly experience I met, and it was quickly made up for. From then on I was in control of everything. And loving it. As I disabled services I would never use, I felt the usefulness of my Mac grow greater with each unchecked box.

Using Service Scrubber to clean up your menu is one thing, but even more significant is the ability to reclaim valuable keyboard shortcuts. As I browse the list of services that I am now disabling, I flash back to the dozens of times I’ve accidentally invoked them. “Grr! Why the heck is the JavaBrowser opening? I don’t even like Java!”

My only criticism of the application is a minor usability issue with the list of services. When an application has provided multiple services, they’re collected in a disclosure group named after the application. But when only one service is listed for a particular application, it shows up in the list by service name. It’s hard to tell at a glance which application these services belong to.

Few utilities scream “necessary” as loudly as Service Scrubber, which is why I’m ashamed it’s taken me this long to overcome my own inertia and to install it. Apple should buy Service Scrubber from Many Tricks and make this part of the standard user experience. Without it, Services are terribly broken.

NYTimes.com: The fixers

A NYTimes.com media feature on the fixed-gear phenomena, includes the King Kog shop, the Kissena Track, scenes from the streets, and how to make $500 a week riding your bike.


Lower East Side Is Under a Groove - New York Times: "With other neighborhood groups, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum has asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to establish a large historic district bordered by East Houston, Canal, Allen and

Essex Streets. Without the old buildings, said Ruth Abram, the museum president, “we risk losing conscience about what it is to be a stranger in the land.”"

del.icio.us bookmark this on del.icio.us - posted by stamen to - more about this bookmark...

Goodbye Jaruzelski

"A rail worker in a coma since he was hit by a train in 1988 has woken up, the television channel Polsat reported as it ran an interview with him. A father of four at the time, he is now making the acquaintance of 11 grandchildren and adapting to a country where the Communists are no longer in power."

June 1, 2007

National Doughnut Day at Serious Eats: It's All Doughnuts, All Day

20070601donutday.jpgAt Serious Eats we take doughnuts, well, seriously. So seriously we are dedicating the site to fresh, hot, and delicious doughnut content all day today, National Doughnut Day. That means original doughnut video; a doughnut glossary; doughnut blog posts, quotes, and photos; a doughnut honor roll that will become your essential guide to doughnuts in the U.S.; doughnut recipes from perhaps the nation's greatest pastry chef, Nancy Silverton; and more. It's all doughnuts, all day here at Serious Eats. So take a bite. The only thing we can't supply is a glass of milk or a cup of coffee for dunking.

When Insults are a Good Thing

Examiner column for June 4.

    It was a typical Monday at Oakton.  I was asking myself:  where did the weekend go? Why do high school classes start at 7:20 a.m.? No one was answering because my colleagues and students were all asking those same questions themselves.

Then Daniela and Liz, two of my twelfth graders, arrived at my desk with smiles on their faces and a package in hand. “We went to see ‘Coriolanus’ this weekend, and it was great. And we brought you these magnets with Shakespearean insults on them!”

Thou smell of mountain goat.

    I read a few of the magnets, and recognized gems I had come across in my Shakespeare studies. But many of these barbs were new to me, and I knew I couldn’t confine them to my refrigerator. “This is the nicest present I’ve ever gotten!” I said as I thanked them. I was touched that they would think of me, and impressed they knew I loved Shakespeare’s wicked tongue.

You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!

    Falstaff, who spoke the above insult, often invented words, but even when we don’t know what his words mean there is a brilliant comic energy. I wonder how many of us are possessed of a “catastrophe”?

Thou art like a toad: ugly and venomous.

    I used to know teachers who Xeroxed a page of these insults and asked their ninth graders to stand and repeat them, in a loud voice, to one another. The whole class would be in stitches within the first few insults, and they got used to all those “thees” and “thous” in the process. The author of “Romeo and Juliet” ceased to be a dull, leaden icon. He had wit.

Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.

    What made this gift special was the sly sense of humor the two girls exhibited in picking the magnets in the first place. We had not looked at language like this when we read “Hamlet,” and generally I am not a champion of insults. But Daniela and Liz saw that these were different.

Thine face is not worth sunburning.

    Why are our insults today so devoid of wit, so demeaning? Rather than poke fun at people, we dismiss them with a four-letter word or a hand gesture. Insults in Shakespeare are creative, charming, as much about the speaker as the intended target. Insults on the street or road are merely about venting.

Out of my sight! Thou dost infect my eyes.

    Daniela and Liz gave me a thoughtful gift, but more importantly reminded me that Shakespeare at his silliest and most outrageous can teach us something about the art of the insult. Next time someone cuts you off in traffic, shout at the top of your lungs:

Thou crusty batch of nature.

    The other driver may not hear you, but your scowl will turn to a smile and improve the rest of your trip.

Video of women depicted in Western art morphing into one...

Video of women depicted in Western art morphing into one another. Belongs in the seamless mesmerization category of videos along with Noah Kalina's everyday and 787 Cliparts. (thx, robin) (link)

Bring back the nightmare of peace and prosperity

A few days before Bush was inaugurated in January 2001, The Onion ran one of the greatest satirical pieces of the decade: “Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that ‘our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over.’”

I thought of that piece yesterday when reading about Rudy Giuliani’s latest attack on Hillary Clinton.

In a potential preview of next fall’s presidential contest, Mr. Giuliani, who is seen as the front-runner for the Republican nomination, directly attacked the leading Democratic candidate, Mrs. Clinton, over a speech she gave Tuesday in New Hampshire bemoaning the return of “robber barons” and promising to pursue “shared prosperity” by increasing taxes on Americans making more than $200,000 a year.

“This would be an astounding, staggering tax increase,” Mr. Giuliani told reporters yesterday after a visit to a restaurant on the edge of California’s Silicon Valley. “She wants to go back to the 1990s…. It would hurt our economy. It would hurt this area dramatically. That kind of tax increase would see a decline in your venture capital. It would see a decline in your ability to focus on new technology.”

First, most of the country would love to go back to the ’90s. Second, as Steve M. explained very well, telling a bunch of venture capitalists in Silicon Valley that a return to the ’90s would be awful demonstrates an almost comedic confusion: “The 1990s? Er, wasn’t that when everyone with a pulse over the age of 13 was a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, or the recipient of a Valley VC’s money? Is it even humanly possible to have had more high-tech entrepreneurial capitalism than we had in the 1990s?”

Memo to the Serious Eats Team

To: everydamnbody@seriouseats.com
From: copydesk@seriouseats.com
Subject: Style Notes: "doughnut" vs. "donut"

Dear Serious Eats Team,

The difference between "doughnut" and "donut" is UGH. And you're gonna hear a lot of "UGH" if I continue to catch you spelling it "donut" under my watch.

Perhaps I have failed to mention, in my role as de facto copy chief of Serious Eats, that our official house dictionary is Merriam-Webster's 11th Edition.

Web lists "doughnut" as the first entry in its definition of this circular and singularly delicious treat. Although "donut" is the second entry, and therefore recognized as a legitimate spelling, it remains a bastardized variant in my eyes.

As John T. Edge says in his book Donuts [UGH!], "donut" appeared in the 1920s, when "the New York–based Doughnut Machine Corporation set its eyes upon foreign markets." To help foster proper pronunciation in different languages, the company introduced the marketing-friendly spelling.

Going forward, please avoid using "donut," "do-nut," "dough-nut" or anything that deviates from "doughnut."

I will add this to the style guide, posthaste.

Your resident curmudgeon,

Nation to Ken Griffey Jr.: We Wish It Were You...

Nation to Ken Griffey Jr.: We Wish It Were You Hitting 765 Home Runs. "They talked about his 1989 Upper Deck rookie card, and how, instead of going down in value with every hamstring injury, it should have skyrocketed in price with his 800th, maybe 900th home run." (link)

Google Gets Its Third Verb

I'm happy for my friends at FeedBurner, who've finally announced their acquisition by the Big G. I do have to confess that this marks the point where I'm officially uncomfortable with the centralized gravitational attraction for brains going on at Google, but today's not the day for belaboring that.

More importantly, Google has done something with this acquisition that hasn't happened since its very first acquisition: They got a new verb.

The generic term for enhancing a feed through the use of a service is to "burn" it, thanks to the efforts of FeedBurner. They've always been straightforward about the term they use to describe the process, and its paid off by becoming the name of the concept. I even think it may have helped keep any other services from being able to entrench themselves in the space.

Google, for its part, has always been a little more circumspect about its status as a verb. There was even an a gentle admonishment from Google's legal team a while ago, asking people to please help the poor Googlers avoid the fate of other brands and products that "that fell victim to those products' very success and, as they became more and more popular, slipped from trademarked status into common usage." Oh no! Not common usage! For what it's worth, I know there was some consternation on the part of a number of Googlers about the silliness of the post, especially since Google itself repeatedly refers to its employees as, yes, Googlers.

But that's neither here nor there. Today, the milestone is that Google acquired a signature so distinctive it takes its place in elite company as part of the language. Congrats to Dick, Eric, Steve, Matt, Brent, and everyone else on the team.

p.s. Can someone else do whatever it is Dick does now, and just let him write for the Official Google Blog full-time? Thanks.

Things that are or will be big.

Inches Too Tall for Tunnel, Rig Plies It Anyway:

It was just six inches. That was what made the difference at 4:40 a.m. yesterday as Gilberto Cantu, a truck driver from Texas, approached the New Jersey entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel in his big rig, loaded with bathtubs, toilets and plumbing fixtures. The truck was 13 feet 6 inches high. The tunnel has a height limit of 13 feet. Six inches can make a big difference.

Venezuela's Counter-Revolution on YouTube
Ars Technica is running a story about RCTV, a Venezuelan television station whose broadcast license was refused renewal by the government. In response, the station turned to YouTube to get its message out. Says Ars, 'El Observador clips have been seen 175,000 times since May 28, and the channel is currently the most-subscribed channel of the week. While putting the station's shows on YouTube is an excellent idea, YouTube still lacks anything near the reach of over-the-air broadcasts. But the use of the site to avoid censorship is growing, and it's not hard to imagine a day in the near future when the site (or sites like it) becomes as essential as local TV stations.

The Buzzfeed Widget:

Via BuzzFeed

Things that are or will be big.

Inches Too Tall for Tunnel, Rig Plies It Anyway:

It was just six inches. That was what made the difference at 4:40 a.m. yesterday as Gilberto Cantu, a truck driver from Texas, approached the New Jersey entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel in his big rig, loaded with bathtubs, toilets and plumbing fixtures. The truck was 13 feet 6 inches high. The tunnel has a height limit of 13 feet. Six inches can make a big difference.

Venezuela's Counter-Revolution on YouTube
Ars Technica is running a story about RCTV, a Venezuelan television station whose broadcast license was refused renewal by the government. In response, the station turned to YouTube to get its message out. Says Ars, 'El Observador clips have been seen 175,000 times since May 28, and the channel is currently the most-subscribed channel of the week. While putting the station's shows on YouTube is an excellent idea, YouTube still lacks anything near the reach of over-the-air broadcasts. But the use of the site to avoid censorship is growing, and it's not hard to imagine a day in the near future when the site (or sites like it) becomes as essential as local TV stations.

The Buzzfeed Widget:

Via BuzzFeed

Gridskipper Maps Los Angeles Donut Havens

Google maps + donuts = this.

Geez, I wonder where this goes?

Geez, I wonder where this goes?
Originally uploaded by schickr.

Fri 01.06.2007 20.11 Image 217

Friday afternoon Apple links, first day of June edition

Today's Friday Apple links include an official Tangerine! 1.2 release, an update to Google Desktop, a rumor about IPTV on the Apple TV, YouTube converting its files to H.264, the hottest new programming technology on earth (ColdFusion... *cough*), and how businesses can use Apple's iWork.


I Welcome Our New Donut Robot Overloads

385 dph ("donuts per hour") is how fast the Belshaw Donut Robot 42 churns out donuts. Derrick bought one of these bad babies on eBay and documented the robotic donut making process for the rest of the world to behold.


This section is best described as the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, as long as 'D' stands for Doughnuts, like in 'Doughnut Day'. The doughnuts climb this ramp relentlessly, pulled along by the doughnut chains. Now, you could be the German defense forces preventing the doughnuts from making a beach head, but no matter how big your belly is, 6.5 donuts per minute are going to eventually overwhelm your defenses. The ones that come after the initial assault pile up in whatever doughnut collection device you have to collect them. I used my turkey roasting pan.

Guess He Really Didn't Want to Take the GWB

2007_06_truckmeasure.jpgWe've seen Port Authority workers measure the heights of trucks to make sure they will fit in either the Holland or Lincoln Tunnel. But yesterday one driver refused to stop and proceeded to drive his 13' 6" truck through the Lincoln Tunnel's 13' high center tube. And what does a truck look like after doing that? Well, check out the photograph from the NY Times, which describes its roof as being peeled back "as if it were a tin can." We'd like to add "A tin can whose sides are also falling down." Truck driver Gilberto Cantu, whose driving four-year driving record has been "spotless," entered the Lincoln Tunnel early yesterday morning from the Weehawken, NJ side. Port Authority officials aren't sure why Cantu didn't stop when warned by "flashing signs and a loudspeaker," as he ripped off some of the inner tube's ceiling tiles (at least they are only decorative) during his 1.5 mile drive . No one was injured, and Cantu was issued a number of violations, "including reckless driving, failure to obey a traffic signal and failure to obey an officer’s command." U.S.A. Logistics' safety director told the Times, "This is going to cost us, and it’s going to cost him," with the possibility of him losing his job. And the Port Authority says that rarely do drivers of too-tall vehicles enter the tunnel and when they do, they usually stop and are backed out. And the Holland Tunnel's height is only 12'6".

Senior Thesis

Scott Elmegreen, a soon-to-be graduate of Princeton University, wrote two senior theses this year (I barely cranked out one!).  "Wrote" isn't exactly the right word.  One could also say that he "composed" his senior thesis.  But that's not quite right either.  Emlegreen, a music major with a certificate in creative writing, wrote and composed his senior theses, both of which explore the relation between music and the written word.  For his music thesis, Elmegreen wrote a story titled "Flowers Pick Themselves," which tells the tale of Spencer and Adie, two teenagers in love in a world that treats love like a disease.  It's sixteen pages long and includes a music file at the end of each page.  The audio track begins playing the moment the page loads and, with few exceptions, timed well with the pace of my reading (or, arguably, the music set my pace).  As I read and listened to this story, I was thinking about tone, which in literature usually refers to the "mood" that a text conveys.  But it makes sense to return aurality and music to literature.  I imagine that before writing, the modulations of a storyteller's voice, his or her pitch, volume, cadence and pace, set the "tones" of a work.  At a poetry reading, I'm always struck by the voice of a poet and how his or her reading of a work adds something that wasn't visible to me on the written page.  A shift in mood, sometimes.  But live readings also risk presenting a work in a way that destroys it for me.  I remember in high school reading Dorothy Parker's poem "Penelope" and falling in love with its melancholy, lonely mood/tone.  So I was horrified when my English teacher read the poem out loud as a sarcastic, humorous piece.  It was like the poem had split in two.  To this day, I hear echoes of her voice when I read the poem. 

For his second project, Elmegreen wrote a novel titled Reveille, which also features Spencer and Adie.  In this work, the thoughts of some of the protagonists sometimes appear as musical notes.  In the novel, music is visible, textual.  For someone like me, who has a very poor musical background, the musical notes wouldn't "say" anything to me, at least not initially.  That is, I wouldn't be able to read them and I certainly wouldn't be able to translate them into sounds.  This makes me think of a wonderful scene in Milos Forman's Amadeus in which Salieri glances at the unfinished score for the Requiem Mass and hears the music in his head.  When I see a note, I just see it, a dot anchored to space by a vertical line.  But at any rate, the presence or intrusion of a musical score in a novel would create a pause, a moment in which I have a choice as a reader to skip ahead or to try to dig in and try to imagine what is being conveyed by those lines and dots.  In "Flowers Pick Themselves" there is a clearer distinction between music and written language, quite simply because you can hear the music as you are reading.  But here the challenge for me was to listen to the music not as an accompaniment but as this other layer of language that was also very much a part of the text.  At the top of each page there is an image of a rose that fades as you read.  This flower seems to suggest that the visibility of text, on which our reading relies, is  itself tenuous, vulnerable, temporary  Imagine if your favorite story suddenly vanished one day.  Would you be able to recite it by heart?  Or does its existence rely entirely on being a word on a page?

I'm excited to see what Elmegreen does in the future with these and other works.  Another Princeton student, Josh Williams, also wrote a senior thesis that has been getting some buzz. Both Elmegreen and Williams were advised by Joyce Carol Oates, who worked with Jonathan Safran Foer on his creative writing thesis, which became the novel Everything is Illuminated

Virtual Communities and Libraries

There's a petition ALA members can sign to Create a Member Initiative Group within the American Library Association on “Virtual Communities and Libraries.”

This is cool, I think. I don't know almost anything about ALA, and I think it's my new goal this year, to join more library associations. Now that I won't have to spend so much on tuition (though huge thanks! to NYU, NYPL and DC37 for all the tuition reimbursement and scholarships through the years, for both of us-- it's made a tremendous difference), I figure I can attend more conferences & join associations.



in ur society, bein teh mysteerious 0thr! Also LOLFeeds, and LOLBots (aka robot finds kitten?)

Stewart Copeland pans Police reunion show

it's refreshing to see this kind of blunt humility from an established rock star  

Google Reader, Third Impressions

So the promise of offline-ing is getting me to try to switch to reader, again. I stuck with through the night this time, so this might be the switch. (Though in truth my favorite part is I’ve only got 14 feeds in the aggregator so far.)

Couple of quick questions:

  • Am I missing the easy “subscribe to saved blog search” feature? Or do I really need to leave the app to set that up?

  • And where is search? Of course I can search all my read items, right? Where is it?

  • Share is neat. Anybody got a good Reader shared items to del.icio.us script around?

  • And an observation. Seems like it takes significantly longer for new items to show up then in Bloglines (at least for popular feeds). Which is weird, but as I’m trying to let go to the fast-twitch feed reading dependency maybe this will help.


the first, and last, Lolcats-related link I'm ever posting  

My Smoothie Technique is Unstoppable

I have a smoothie for breakfast every morning. I've been making them for years, and I've had a chance to hone the recipe to perfection over that time. I don't measure anything anymore, I just dump stuff into the blender. But I thought I should share my recipe titled My Smoothie Technique is Unstoppable. Here are the basics with approximate measurements:
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 6 oz. vanilla yogurt
  • 1 banana
Throw into a blender and blend. Of course the quality of the smoothie is completely dependent on the quality of the ingredients. Here are my choices for ingredients:

Stahlbush Island Farms Frozen Strawberries, a local Corvallis company, great strawberries. They're not certified organic, but they have a lot of text on the package about no pesticide residue. Frozen strawberries are expensive—especially in the winter—but you can't skimp on these if you want your smoothie to be unstoppable. If I'm having a strawberry emergency and I can't get to the Corvallis Co-op, I'll pick up Safeway Organics strawberries. (But I don't feel as good about it.)

Columbia Gorge Orange Juice, from another local company (Hood River, OR). I used Odwalla Orange Juice for several years until I tried this brighter, happier orange juice. Like Odwalla, this isn't cheap OJ. I buy the 1/2 gallon size at the co-op and it's even a bit more expensive than Odwalla. But remember the goal: unstoppable.

Tillamook Vanilla Bean Yogurt from Tillamook, OR. Yogurt is the real x-factor in this smoothie, and I've tried a bunch. This yogurt has sugar and corn syrup, so it's definitely not "pure" in the healthy, unrefined sugar sense. But it does have live cultures, so I get the beneficial bacteria. This isn't a creamy, European style yogurt—it has some heft to it. So if you don't have Tillamook where you are, you might look for a heftier yogurt to bulk things up. This yogurt also makes the smoothie insanely sweet, and I'm all for that.

Finally, organic bananas. I don't sweat the brand too much, I just pick up what I can find.

My blending technique is probably stoppable, but there is a knack to it. I have a Braun blender, I dump in everything in the order I've listed, and I start at 1. Once the strawberries are chopped up I crank up the speed. It's key that you don't stop the blending process until you're at the consistency you want. Stopping and starting will throw smoothie all over the sides of the blender, wasting precious expensive ingredients.

The quantities I've mentioned here fill up one of my glasses perfectly, sometimes with a little extra. But no bit of smoothie is wasted in my house. I stopped drinking all caffeinated beverages last February, and I find if I don't have this sugar jolt every morning I'll be dragging by ten o'clock, barely able to function. I also try to eat a piece of toast with peanut butter with my smoothie—the protein helps slow the absorption of this massive sugar hit into my blood. Anyway, this smoothie gives me pretty sustained energy in the morning.

In the end I get a smoothie that is the sum of its parts, no one ingredient overpowering the others. Probably more than you wanted to know about my breakfast habits, but I take my smoothies very seriously.

Doughnuts That Last Forever

Have you ever wished that you could hug a doughnut without the fear of smearing glaze/sugar/oil on yourself? I never did until I set my eyes on the adorable plush doughnut that craftsters have created in an attempt to encapsulate the visual essence of doughnut in an emblem of donut-ness that—albeit inedible—leave no sticky residue.


Heidi Kenny of My Paper Crane, home of more adorable anthropomorphic plushes than you could ever imagine, makes five varieties of smiling plush donuts. They also come in handy collectible keychain form.


If you'd rather have a collection of huggable doughnuts that doesn't stare back at you, Sew Dorky makes fourteen types of doughnuts sans facial expressions.


It's also possible to make your own doughnuts if you know your way around a ball of yarn. Leave behind scarves and hats; knit a doknit or crochet a doughnut pincushion instead.

[photo via katbaro's flickr]

Rumor: Apple gearing up for MacBook Pro update in "early June"

Apple is allegedly gearing up to make a major update to the MacBook Pro line very soon. LED backlights and Santa Rosa at WWDC, here we come? Maybe.


Apple spruces up Special Deals section as new Apple Outlet

Apple's "Special Deals" section has a new look, which finally makes it easier to sort through the available refurbs and score a good deal on some otherwise-pricey hardware.


Decisions, Decisions: a nice looking hand-drawn flowchart poster.

Decisions, Decisions: a nice looking hand-drawn flowchart poster. (link)

Some thoughts about the Shacklash

Steve Cuozzo's got some things to say about the Shake Shack in the New York Post, a handful of which I am going to respond to. Burger blogger Adam Kuban responds to the "shacklash" with some valid points. I still [heart] the Shack, but I never go at prime time and I never wait longer than half-an-hour in line. So that's probably why I still [heart] it so much.

comments are open

iTunes is no longer allowing users to burn DRMed songs to mp3. Daring Fireball says: Apparently the problem only occurs when you try to rip to MP3 format, specifically – if you rip from CD back to plain (non-DRM) AAC, it still works just fine. This really sounds like a bug, not a deliberate limitation. We know that they are leaving username and email information in the AAC headers, so it makes perfect sense to me that this would be done intentionally. There's no way Apple let's a bug like this out the door. I like that grey blog, but sometimes Gruber swings way to far in giving Apple the benefit of the doubt.

iTunes is no longer allowing users to burn DRMed songs to mp3.

iTunes is no longer allowing users to burn DRMed songs to mp3.
Daring Fireball says:

Apparently the problem only occurs when you try to rip to MP3 format, specifically – if you rip from CD back to plain (non-DRM) AAC, it still works just fine. This really sounds like a bug, not a deliberate limitation.

We know that they are leaving username and email information in the AAC headers, so it makes perfect sense to me that this would be done intentionally. There's no way Apple let's a bug like this out the door. I like that grey blog, but sometimes Gruber swings way to far in giving Apple the benefit of the doubt.

Sharon Stone Makes a Mockery

Sharon Stone is set to star as the fictional presidential candidate Patricia Hill, a "Hillary Clinton type", in 60-second mock political ad. "It's a farce," Stone's rep told Page Six. The actress is said to be getting a kick out of making fun of the 2008 race and “the manipulative strategies of political communication.”

Here's hoping Sharon spends most of the 60 seconds in a short white skirt, crossing and uncrossing her legs.

Fine Wines Under $10

The hardest thing--but perhaps more sought-after than a Lafite--is a list of good, interesting and affordable wines, for parties or for dinner Sunday to Thursday or even all week long. Here's my latest list, arranged not by preference, but by style, from lightest to fullest in white and red.

Fmr McCain Aide: Campaign Has "Contempt For The Faith-Based Community"

Two former aides hired to spearhead religious outreach for presidential candidate John McCain say that they were virtually ignored by the campaign and that McCain's top campaign strategists are intent on winning votes of religious voters without having to develop serious ties to faith communities. The aides, who were fired in early April after roughly three months on the job, said the campaign staff declined to return scores of their phone calls and E-mail messages, denied them access to leaders of the McCain campaign, and pressed them to collect church directories--a controversial tactic--as the centerpiece of a strategy to woo "values" voters. "In the end, you came away with the strong sense that they had contempt for the faith-based community," says Marlene Elwell, one of those fired staffers. Elwell, a prominent Christian-right activist, was hired by McCain in December 2005 to be national director of his "Americans of Faith" coalition. "The way we were being treated it was as if we had leprosy."

$35 million increase for the NEA


via email, May 23, 2007:

This afternoon the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which sets the initial funding level for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), approved a $35 million increase for the NEA for its FY 2008 spending bill. 

If this funding level is maintained by the Senate and signed into law by President Bush, it will represent the largest increase in NEA history. The agency, currently funded at $124.4 million has only seen increases of under 3% for the last several years.

In his first public action on arts issues as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) invited Americans for the Arts to organize a high profile panel of witnesses to testify at a congressional hearing "Role of the Arts in Creativity and Innovation," in conjunction with Arts Advocacy Day on March 13, 2007. This was the first hearing in over 12 years held on the importance of investing in the arts. [...]

Next Steps:

The FY 2008 Interior Appropriations bill will next go to full committee and then the full House where we will likely need to defend against floor amendments attempting to cut this increase.

We must now also put pressure on the Senate to match this funding level.  Please take two minutes to visit Americans for the Arts E-Advocacy Center to send a letter to your Senators.

The Serious Eats National Doughnut Honor Roll


20070601donutday.jpgWe all love doughnuts, and why not. They’re sweet, they’re doughy, they’re fried, they’re cheap, and they are the ultimate good-bad food. That is, even when they’re bad, they’re still pretty good. And even when they’re not cheap, they are not expensive. The nation’s best and most expensive fancy-pants doughnuts, from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery (with locations in Napa Valley, California; Las Vegas; and New York City), are only $3.50. That, my friends, is an affordable indulgence.

The Traits of a Perfect Doughnut

Basically, all doughnuts are created equal. That is, they are made with the same mid-level ingredients all, with a few exceptions. There have been some attempts at artisanal doughnuts made with high-quality flour, sugar, fruit, and chocolate, but you can count those on one hand. Mostly we judge doughnuts by:

  • Freshness: If they are hot right out of the fryer when we get them, we swoon
  • Lightness: Even the best cake doughnuts shouldn’t be leaden
  • Moistness: This applies to cake doughnuts, which shouldn't make us drink a gallon of milk to wash them down
  • Greasiness: How greaselessly do they fry up? As little oil as possible should permeate the doughnut
  • Balance: The ratio between dough and glaze, toppings, and/or filling
  • Quality: How good are the constituent ingredients?

In the end, we judge doughnuts with our hearts and souls. If a doughnut place is beloved, local, and independent and is frequented by kids, cops, and college students, we declare our undying devotion and loyalty. It’s easy to sing the praises of a doughnut shop if it’s been owned by the same family or even a series of local families for a long time.

Chain doughnuts are easy to hate. They’re the ones putting the beloved mom-and-pop shops out of business, and they’re the ones with the faceless owners. And yet, in certain parts of the country, like Massachusetts, where Dunkin’ Donuts was born, chain doughnuts are the local doughnuts, and the locals swear by them. In a great piece in the Boston Phoenix a few years ago, the writer explains why Bostonians feel such a strong kinship with Dunkin' Donuts: because the chain started in nearby Quincy.

Krispy Kreme was a beloved Southern institution for years (the first was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina) before it swept the nation. Because its golden-brown glazed doughnuts were light, just sweet enough, and hot when the sign told you they were, they were adopted by many communities, mostly because the independent doughnut shops had either gone out of business or concentrated on cake doughnuts. But now, at least in the eyes of many, now that the once molten-hot Krispy Kreme brand has cooled and closed many locations (a victim of the low-carb craze and its own hubris), independents are once again the go-to joints in locales that still have them.

To honor the nation’s doughnuts on National Doughnut Day (Friday, June 1), we have created the Serious Eats Doughnut Honor Roll. We have not tasted all these doughnuts, but the magic of the web has allowed us to survey websites, newspapers, city magazines, and the three patron saints of doughnut lovers everywhere. John T. Edge, author of Donuts: An American Passion, the definitive tome on the cultural and culinary significance of doughnuts might be called our doughnut laureate. He spent a year in search of the best doughnuts in America. Jane and Michael Stern have actually traversed the country for the last 30 years in search of the best doughnuts so that we don’t have to. We owe a lot to these folks, so we must salute them, in part by citing the source of each doughnut recommendation.

At the very beginning of Serious Eats’s weeklong journey through the doughnut world, we conducted a blind taste test of the two major glazed yeast-raised doughnuts available across the U.S.: Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme. They were bought within blocks of the Serious Eats offices. The Krispy Kremes were light, perfectly shaped, and not at all greasy, but they were a tad too sweet. A specimen from the Donut Pub, a local shop we tried just to have another doughnut to taste, was a close second. It had more nooks and crannies and seemed to be glazed with a honey-sugar mixture. The Dunkin' Donut contender was characterless, heavier than the others, and sweeter.

Other doughnuts we had shipped in from Seattle (Top Pot), Portland (Voodoo), Beverly Hills (Frittelli’s), Kansas City (Lamar’s), and Ann Arbor, Michigan (Zingerman’s). Our thanks to the family, friends, and doughnut purveyors who went to the trouble of overnighting doughnuts to us.

And now, we give you ...

The Serious Eats Doughnut Honor Roll

The following list compiles recommendations of doughnuts we have tried ourselves and those that our friends have tried. Where needed, the superscript numerals indicate who recommended what and link to additional information. Legend: 1.) Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood.com. 2.) John T. Edge, author of Donuts: An American Passion, 3.) Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer Prize?winning food critic for the L.A. Weekly.

Le Cave’s Doughnuts1
Address: 1219 S. 6th Avenue, Tucson
Phone: 520-624-2561
Favorites: Glazed, chocolate-frosted, maple-frosted, powdered-sugar, cinnamon-sugar

Spudnut Shoppe2
Address: 810 West Faulkner Street, El Dorado
Phone: 870-863-9914

Bouchon Bakery
Address: 6540 Washington Street, Yountville
Phone: 707-944-1565
Favorites: On weekends only, all three Bouchon Bakeries produce extraordinary jelly doughnuts with house-made jam and equally addictive pastry cream?filled doughnuts topped with a serious dab of chocolate (sometimes these are called Boston cream doughnuts). Yes, they’re $3.50, but they’re worth every penny

Address: 20429 Devonshire Street, Chatsworth
Phone: 818-341-2869
Favorite: Chocolate-covered doughnuts

Donut Man2,3
Address: 915 E. Route 66, Glendora
Phone: 626-335-9111
Favorites: Strawberry doughnuts, French crullers, glazed doughnuts, peach doughnuts

Fritelli's Doughnuts and Coffee3
Address: 350 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
Phone: 310-276-1408
URL: Frittelli.com
Favorites: Allison Winston gives designer doughnuts a good name. For anywhere between one and two bucks, you get doughnuts that are ethereally light, greaseless, and made with high-quality ingredients. The key-lime doughnut is refreshingly tart, and the blueberry buttermilk long John was light and actually tasted like blueberries

Primo's Westdale Doughnuts3
Address: 2918 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles
Phone: 310-478-6930
Favorites: Tart-sweet buttermilk bar, crumb doughnuts

Address: 805 West Manchester Avenue, Inglewood CA
Phone: 310-645-4707
Favorite: Apple fritters

Address: 10948 Weyburn Ave., Los Angeles
Phone: 310-208-8660
Favorite: Peanut butter and fresh banana with chocolate chips

Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts2,3
Address: 6333 W. 3rd Street, Suite 450, Los Angeles Farmers Market
Phone: 323-933-8929
Favorite: Plain cake doughnuts
Notes: Bob’s was also recommended by La Brea Bakery co-founder and serious doughnut fan and doughnut maker Nancy Silverton.

Coffee An
Address: 343 Main Street, Westport
Phone: 203-227-3808
Favorite: Chocolate cake doughnuts

Sunshine Doughnuts
Address: 701 SW 27th Avenue, Miami
Phone: 305-644-9055
Favorite: Glazed yeast doughnuts

Address: 933 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu
Phone: 808-737-5537
Favorites: Malassadas

Champion Malassadas2
Address: 1926 S. Beretania Street, Honolulu
Phone: 808-947-8778
Favorites: Malassadas

Agnes Bake Shop2
Address: 46 Hoolai Street, Kailaua
Phone: 808-262-5367
Favorites: Malassadas

Old Fashioned Donuts
Address: 11248 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago
Phone: 773-995-7420
Favorites: Apple fritters, caramel-maple doughnuts.

Dat Donuts
Address: 8249 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago
Phone: 773-723-1002
Favorites: The Big Dat, a 2-inch-high, 4-inch-wide glazed yeast doughnut

Address: 760 Winchester Road, Lexington
Phone: 859-252-3737
Favorites: Glazed yeast doughnuts

Café du Monde
Address: 800 Decatur Street, New Orleans
Phone: 504-581-2914
Favorites: A beignet is a cloud-like, irregularly shaped pocket of fried dough with enough confectioner’s sugar on it to sustain dry cleaners all over New Orleans

Morning Call
Address: 3325 Severn Ave., Metairie
Phone: 504-885-4068
URL: morningcallcoffeestand.com
Favorites: Another great New Orleans beignet maker that moved to the suburbs many years ago

Fay’s Take-Out and Honey Whip2
Address: 801 Kepler Street, Gretna
Phone: 504-366-9077
Favorites: Donut pies (doughnuts filled with sweet potato purée), king cake doughnuts

Address: 1090 Post Road, Wells
Phone: 207-646-4219
Favorite: Buttercrunch cake doughnuts

Downyflake Donuts
Address: 18 Sparks Avenue, Nantucket
Phone: 508-228-4533
Favorites: The plain, sugar, and chocolate old-fashioned cake doughnuts, which are all good, all simple, and all you have to choose from

Marty’s Donut Land 1
Address: 8 Central Street (Route 133), Ipswich
Phone: 978-356-4580
Favorites: Chocolate, honey dew, honey dipped

Butler’s Colonial House
Address: 461 Sanford Road, Westport
Phone: 508-672-4600
Favorites: Whipped-cream and jam-filled long Johns that are so good they have reduced many a doughnut lover to tears

New Martha Washington Bakery2
Address: 10335 Joseph Campau Street, Hamtramck
Phone: 313-872-1988
Favorites: Paczki (jelly doughnuts)

Zingerman’s Roadhouse
Address: 2501 Jackson Avenue, Ann Arbor
Phone: 734-663-3663
URL: zingermansroadhouse.com
Favorites: Crisp and light cake doughnuts

Shipley Do-Nuts2
Address: 2151 S. Lamar Boulevard, Oxford
Phone: 662-281-8414

Bouchon Bakery
Address: The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino, Venezia Tower, 3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas
Phone: 702-414-6200
Favorites: See above

New York
Bouchon Bakery
Address: 10 Columbus Circle, 3rd Floor, New York City
Phone: 212-823-9366
Favorites: See above

The Donut Pub
Address: 203 W. 14th Street, New York City
Phone: 212-929-0126
Favorite: The Honey Dip

The Doughnut Plant
Address: 379 Grand Street, New York City
Phone: 212-505-3700
Favorite: Tres leches cake doughnuts

North Carolina
Britt’s Doughnuts
Address: #11 Boardwalk, Carolina Beach
Favorite: Dark brown, extra-crunchy, glazed yeast doughnuts
Notes: Open only in spring and summer

Krispy Kreme
Address: All over, but the first was in Winston-Salem
Favorite: Glazed yeast doughnuts

Annie’s 1
Address: 3449 NE 72nd Avenue, Portland
Phone: 503-284-2752
Favorites: Old-fashioned cake doughnuts, raspberry fritters

Voodoo Doughnuts and Wedding Chapel
Address: 2 SW Third Avenue, Portland
Phone: 503-241-4704
Favorite: Bacon-maple doughnuts

Rhode Island
Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowder House2
Address: 889 Oakland Beach Avenue, Warwick
Phone: 401-737-9459
URL: iggysdoughboys.com
Favorite: Doughboys, which are a local Rhode Island specialty. They’re basically square pieces of fried dough rolled in granulated (not confectioners') sugar.

Address: 3661 Quaker Lane, North Kingstown
Phone: 401-295-8036
Favorite: Crullers

Mrs. Murphy’s1
Address: 374 Depot Street, Manchester Center
Phone: 802-362-1874
Favorites: Plain, sour cream

Top Pot1,2
Address: 2124 5th Avenue, Seattle
Phone: 206-728-1966
URL: toppotdoughnuts.com
Favorite: Glazed-ring cake doughnuts

Spudnut Shop2
Address: 228 Williams Boulevard (Uptown Plaza), Richland
Phone: 509-943-3000
URL: www.richland.tri-cityshopping.com/spudnuts

May 31, 2007

What a game! How badly does the NBA want the...

What a game! How badly does the NBA want the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals? Very very. TrueHoop's got more. (link)

Parallels Desktop 3.0 coming soon with 3D graphics support

Parallels Desktop 3.0 has been officially announced, and it's got lots of cool features like 3D graphics support and the ability to select a Windows or Mac application as the default for any file.


Election Year Politics Force Law & Order Changes

2007_05_swftlo.jpgNow that Law & Order has been renewed for four more seasons, shakeups to the cast have been expected. And the most notable one is that Fred Thompson, who plays District Attorney Arthur Branch, is leaving the show to pursue a presidential campaign. We hope the writers work that in! Law & Order producer Dick Wolf said, "I've spoken to Fred today, and although he told me he has not made a firm decision about his political future, he felt that given the creative and scheduling constraints of the upcoming season, he asked to be released from his responsibilities to the show. I will sincerely miss working with him on a regular basis, and I obviously wish him the best of luck with whatever the future holds." Hmm, this sounds more like a brilliant way to leave the Law & Order cast - though having your last episode be the one where you reveal to viewers that you're a lesbian is even better. As for cast changes, the Hollywood Reporters says that Sam Waterston's Executive ADA Jack McCoy might take over as DA (whoa!) and that the detective played by Milena Govich may not come back. God, we miss Jerry Orbach. Our idea: Make McCoy the DA and bring back Paul Robinette, as played by Richard Brooks, as Executive ADA! Our second choice for EADA: Carey Lowell's Jamie Ross.

Games for Change Conference

In case you are in New York in June, the 2007 4th Annual Games for Change Festival will be taking place on June 11 - 12 at Parsons the New School for Design in NYC. Swain and I will both be speaking there.

Called "an early Sundance of video games" for "socially-minded game-makers" the festival will bring together leading non-profit organizations, game scholars, and industry experts to explore real world games with real-world impact. Participants include MoveOn, the MacArthur Foundation, MTV, and the UN, as well as artists and activists of all stripes. This new trend in gaming includes games about poverty, global warming, and Middle East peace. You'll get a chance to learn how these games are made during the daytime panels and presentations, and you can play and vote on the top games during the festival Expo Night, sponsored by Microsoft.

Please find the festival site here:

And press highlights here:

Last.fm Acquired By CBS - Last.fm – the Blog

"This deal with CBS gives us a chance to really make Last.fm shine, and gives us more flexibility than other funding options would for doing all the crazy stuff we’re had scribbled on whiteboards for years."

Miscellaneous Google Things

Mashup makers take note: the Google Maps API now supports driving directions. Google has gone and bought photo-geotagging site Panoramio. At a Developer Day talk, Google's plans for integrating AdSense into its map products. (Disclaimer: I make money from AdSense.)...

Benefits of grass feeding

Argh, swamped today with other things. But here's some information on the benefits of grass feeding animals. "Animals raised on pasture live very low-stress lives. As a result of their superb nutrition and lack of stress, they are superbly healthy."

Also, there are some interesting comments happening in the If we want to save the animals we must eat them post. When I get a moment, I'll share my thoughts. Feel free to pop in with yours.

comments are open

green + seats + munich


Seats in Green - Olympiastadium Munich    seats-scape

Sea of Green 2    München - Olympic Stadium - Green Seats

Photos from SophieMuc, ...like a chimp with coconuts, rp72, *mb**, yan ke and linolo.
See more photos tagged with "green" + "seats" + "munich"
Suggested by Dave Gorman via Flickr Central.

Earlier this month during a debate between the Republican candidates for...

Earlier this month during a debate between the Republican candidates for the US Presidency in 2008, three candidates raised their hands when asked if they didn't believe in evolution. One of the three, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, has an op-ed in the NY Times today that more fully expresses his view. "The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God."
Update: A related op-ed from The Onion: I Believe In Evolution, Except For The Whole Triassic Period. (thx, third) (link)

Enter the Wu Chang Clan. Chang leads a crew of like-minded chefs, each of which he wants to make star in his own right. Hip-hop mastermind RZA did the same with the Wu, helping O.D.B., Ghostface, Method Man, Raekwon, etc., spin off successful solo careers. Serious Eats has arrived.

Enter the Wu Chang Clan. Chang leads a crew of like-minded

Enter the Wu Chang Clan.

Chang leads a crew of like-minded chefs, each of which he wants to make star in his own right. Hip-hop mastermind RZA did the same with the Wu, helping O.D.B., Ghostface, Method Man, Raekwon, etc., spin off successful solo careers.

Serious Eats has arrived.

Nice summary of the Steve Jobs/Bill Gates conversation at the...

Nice summary of the Steve Jobs/Bill Gates conversation at the D: All Things Digital conference. "Asked to give advice for others considering starting their own businesses, Gates explained that in the early days, he and his colleagues never considered the value of the company they were developing. 'It's all about the people and the passion, and it's amazing the business worked out the way it did.'" Here's a briefer summary with context and a transcript and video of the entire interview is available on the conference site. (link)


On Google Gears, I’m definitely in the skeptical What is this “being at work while offline” of which you speak? camp. I wasn’t convinced when Adam Bosworth was singing this song five years ago and I’m still not. Doesn’t mean having programmable persistence in the browser isn’t a good idea, though. Browsers already cache heavily, of course, but not in a way that’s sensitive to the needs of any particular Ajax code. I mean, consider a mapping app; if the computer knows where I am, why shouldn’t the browser pre-populate the cache with a few hundred local map tiles? They don’t change that much. And so on. Gears at least seems pretty lockin-free.

Enter the Wu-Chang Clan

Apropos of almost* nothing, I give you this: David Chang is the RZA of chefs, and Momofuku is his Wu-Tang Clan.

Chang leads a crew of like-minded chefs, each of which he wants to make a star in his own right. Hip-hop mastermind RZA did the same with the Wu, helping O.D.B., Ghostface, Method Man, Raekwon, etc., spin off successful solo careers.

Not buyin' it? Consider the evidence.

20070531wuchang.jpgFirst this, from a recent New York magazine profile:

With the burrito profits he hopes to rake in, Chang plans to spin off more Asian-burrito bars, all in the service of bankrolling the ambitious efforts of his talented colleagues?who otherwise couldn’t afford to open their own restaurants?in a revolutionary kind of culinary collective. "It’s too hard to open up a restaurant now, even if you’re really talented," says Chang, who plans to make his chefs and managers co-owners. “I believe it’s got to be more of a group effort. By doing this, we can attract more talent and change the way things are done."

And then this, from the Wu-Tang's own website:

The 9 members of the Wu-Tang Clan have each released solo albums, as well as performing under several subprojects with other Wu-Tang members, and others outside the Clan. This was the plan from the group's inception; the group would make them each famous enough to launch multiple side projects, and take over the hip-hop community through saturation of like-minded rappers. Though there was some difficulty in finding a record label that would sign the Wu-Tang Clan while still allowing each member to record solo albums with other labels, Loud/RCA finally agreed and the debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, was a popular and critically acclaimed album, though it took some time to gain momentum.

The last sentence of the Wu-Tang material also mirrors the way Chang's own fledgling empire faced an early lack of momentum when the burritos didn't sell as well as planned. (A menu shift and James Beard award have since reinvigorated Chang's Ssäm Bar.)

Also: Vegas is to Chang as Hollywood is to RZA?

Only time will tell if Chang's collective will spin off other stars. Just don't ask me who the O.D.B. of the Wu-Chang Clan would be.

* "Almost" nothing because all my Serious Eats colleagues do is blab about David Chang and Momofuku all day long.

Photograph of Chang from the New York Times; photograph of RZA by Beth Fladung

Papercraft AT-ATs



Do they make robot AT-AT pets yet?

How Democrats Should Talk

By Michael Tomasky

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina
by Frank Rich

The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation
by Drew Westen

Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear
by Dr. Frank Luntz

Washington liberals and Democrats have made many arguments about what they need to do as they try to recover from the low point of their support among the public during the Bush years in 2002 and 2003 and climb toward renewed dominance. Most of these arguments have centered on the big questions of ideology and vision-- whether the times demand a calibrated centrism or a bolder liberalism of big plans and ideas. But other arguments, put forward in many a blog post, have ignored ideology and focused more on the question of tactics.

A Last Supper I Can Get Behind

In this week's Eat for Victory in the Village Voice, Jonathan Gold outlines in mouthwatering detail his last meal, which features a whole prosciutto roasted and rubbed with spices at Hostaria Costachiara in Tuscany.
It has me thinking about hopping the next cheap flight to Florence, which probably won't be until September.

Here's the whole menu:
Antipasti: Roasted eggplants, beautiful peppers, zucchini, little fish in pesto, fresh pecorino, cured anchovies
Slices of the whole roasted prosciutto ($6 surcharge)
Homemade pappardelle with wild boar
Fiorentina-style steaks, grilled in a fireplace, bloody inside and charred on the outside.
Torta della nonna, custard-filled tart with pine nuts.

Offline web app with Google Gears

The blogosphere is already lit up with posts about Google Gears, and for good reason. Solving the offline/local-storage problem for web applications has been a hot topic — it’s one of those glaring voids in the web stack that keeps web applications from replacing desktop applications completely.

So what is Google Gears? It’s an Open Source browser plugin that provides services (via JavaScript) for offline storage, data recovery, and synchronization. And here’s the best part: it works on Mac, Linux, and Windows… on Firefox 1.5+ and IE 6+ (with Safari support in development.) With such a huge support base, combined with the benefit of being a cross-browser solution and being open source, Gears has the right ingredients to become a defacto solution for offline web applications.

For more details, check out:

Congrats to the Google Gears team!

Congrats to the Google Gears team!.

That must have been a long road — if you look around you can find traces of development leading back to 2005.

Do modern computers make us more productive?

1986 Mac Plus vs. 2007 AMD Dual Core "When we compare strictly common, everyday, basic user tasks between the Mac Plus and the AMD we find remarkable similarities in overall speed, thus it can be stated that for the majority of simple office uses, the massive advances in technology in the past two decades have brought zero advance in productivity." Factor in the internet, and the technological advances have brought me negative productivity.

Steve and Bill reminisce at D: All Things Digital

In a joint interview, the two iconic figures mostly reminisce about the early days of Silicon Valley like an old, married couple.


green + seats + munich

Help! My friend got made out with last night!

The sheer size and pattern of this nearly tips it over into NSFW category. Ow. Ew.


Grammar Nazis

I can't help it - I am a grammar nazi. Luckily I have a verbal filter so I don't correct every mistake that attacks my aural and visual senses but rest assured the misuses torture me. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my dad used to correct our grammar in mid-speech or I simply feel there's something lovely about speaking and writing in a grammatically correct way.

This is hilarious - back of a Finesse shampoo bottle!


* via BuzzFeed!

When Affordable Housing Gets Expensive

Uptown Flavor notes that the Daily News is tracking cases where the city's public housing falls too quickly into disrepair:

Most people know that homeownership is expensive. You pay for everything from the closing costs to water bills to fixing a leaky faucet. When the costs of repairs are directly connected to poor workmanship by the contractors then whose pocket should the money come out of?

As part of a continuing series in the Daily News, homes that were shoddily built using HPD subsidies are exposed. Some would shrug it off and say, “sell it and move on.” It’s not quite that simple for homeowners like Lt. Delgado from Harlem. Delgado has only owned his home for 3 years and he has suffered extensive water damage due to poor construction of the home. If he were to bail out now, the city would require him to pay back about $100,000 in subsidies.

This news item is like the NYC housing trifecta: gentrification, rent control/subsidized housing and the ineptitude (possible corruption?) of the city's administration.

When Affordable Housing Gets Expensive

Uptown Flavor notes that the Daily News is tracking cases where the city's public housing falls too quickly into disrepair:

Most people know that homeownership is expensive. You pay for everything from the closing costs to water bills to fixing a leaky faucet. When the costs of repairs are directly connected to poor workmanship by the contractors then whose pocket should the money come out of?

As part of a continuing series in the Daily News, homes that were shoddily built using HPD subsidies are exposed. Some would shrug it off and say, “sell it and move on.” It’s not quite that simple for homeowners like Lt. Delgado from Harlem. Delgado has only owned his home for 3 years and he has suffered extensive water damage due to poor construction of the home. If he were to bail out now, the city would require him to pay back about $100,000 in subsidies.

This news item is like the NYC housing trifecta: gentrification, rent control/subsidized housing and the ineptitude (possible corruption?) of the city's administration.

Viacom feeling jealous? It wants in on an Apple TV deal too

YouTube on the Apple TV isn't enough. Viacom has come out and said that it too wants to strike a deal with Apple to provide Apple TV content.


line rider wonder

Watch this is wonder... [Line Rider] was originally created by Boštjan Cadež, a Slovenian university student, in September of 2006. It almost immediately gathered a cult following and became the seventh quickest gaining keyword in Google. Since that time, the ‘toy’ has generated over 16 million views. Fans quickly noticed that they could create tracks, set them to music, and share them over YouTube.com. Currently, there are over 11,000 shared videos with many more to come. It's beauty is its simplicity. You just get lost in wonder.

Quote of the Morning

“I could give two [bleeps] about them. They’re so lame, I can’t even believe that’s a real job. I can’t imagine they even pay taxes.”

---Jessica Alba, who just tripled the number of photographers outside her house, on what she thinks of the paparazzi.

More Summer Reading

More Summer Reading:

Pass the Sushi, Dad

David Kamp struck a chord with parents everywhere with his De Gustibus column on the numbing ubiquity of chicken fingers on kids' menus. My favorite line: "I came to the realization that America is in the grips of a nefarious chicken-finger pandemic, in which a blandly tasty foodstuff has somehow become the de facto official nibble of our young."

My son is twenty now, and though he ate his share of chicken fingers growing up, he was always a reasonably adventurous eater. However, he wasn't one of those weird, obnoxious foodie, "trophy" kids who ordered sardines, anchovies, and foie gras with impunity. Restaurants serve chicken fingers to kids because they offer parents the path of least resistance. But every ethnic cuisine I know has alternative kid-friendly dishes that aren't in Kamp's words, palate-deadening.

Here's a partial list of what Will liked growing up:
1. Pasta with butter and cheese. Let's face it. Kids and parents love noodles in any form.
2. Dumplings, any kind of dumplings. They could be steamed, fried or boiled.
3. Pizza or any kind of melted cheese on warm bread.
4. Chow fun, no vegetables. See number 1.
5. Chicken Satay at Thai restaurants.
6. Sushi, especially maki made with crab stick and/or vegetables.
7. Anything with bacon in it

All tasty, reasonably cheap, and nutritionally sound when eaten in moderation. I'd be curious to know what other parents, aunts, and uncles have found. We can compile the list of Serious Eats-approved kids menu items for parents to access any time.


So, now that all the non-DRMed songs from the iTunes store will have your name embedded in them after download, how long until every illegally downloaded song's ID3 tags have "mbainwol@riaa.org" in the metadata?

Microsoft's Surface.

I mean really. Close your mouth. Pick up your jaw. It's not like you hadn't seen the earlier iterations of this technology before! Remember Jun Rekimoto and Jeff Han's work? Props to all the technologists for giving us the good...

May 30, 2007

The Death of Alexa's Toolbar

What do each of these graphs have in common? It appears that they all show a decline in people who use the Alexa Toolbar.






I still have never met an Alexa toolbar user. Do you know of one?

Rocketboom was static for awhile and has been on a steady upward incline all year. Why is Alexa showing a sharp downward trend?

I just spent about an hour searching the net on Alexa and all I could find were stories of people telling others to instal the toolbar so they could increase their own ranking. I did find that Vista considers Alexa malware and there is no planned support for Firefox or Safari.

Technorati is based on actual links:

top ten wishes from 35,000 feet

If there's anything more ill-advised than blog posts from airport terminals, it has to be blog posts from actual airplanes.  Nevertheless, here goes -- my top ten wishes from 35,000 feet on a Wednesday afternoon.

1. I wish this plane had wifi.  I've heard there's nothing like pinging friends from 35,000 feet to tell them that you're pinging them from 35,000 feet.

2. I wish this plane had a screen in the seatback in front of me showing one of those neat real time maps.  But instead of showing progress at the state or nation-state level, it would show progress at street or near-street level, so that instead of having that "Wow, this flight is taking forever" feeling, you could have that "Holy shit we're going incredibly fast" feeling.  It almost goes without saying that this Holy Shit Map(tm) should be toggle-able between map, satellite and hybrid modes.

3. I wish that my non-existent seatback screen could also be used as a secondary monitor for my laptop, because then I could drag my non-existent IM conversations to that screen and focus my attention on this blog post, leaving my friends wondering if my network connection had gone dead due to excessive cloud cover.

4. I wish that this seat had more legroom.  Actually, that's a lie.  I wish that this seat had more armroom, so that I could stretch out to type instead of sitting here contributing to my neverending parade of hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and back pains.

5. I wish I had Google right now, because I may have just coined the term "armroom" and I have no way to find out.

6. Speaking of armroom, I wish the guy next to me would realize that that armrest there between us is actually MINE, and that he should get his goddamn arm off of it already because he's cramping my mad blogging-from-35,000-feet skillz.

7. I wish this plane had an armrest-powered community jukebox.  I mean, Channel 9 is cool...if you're into pilots and air traffic controllers.  Instead I want to listen in on what that guy with the big headphones is bopping his head to over there in Seat 12D, or what the mother is using to to drown out her tweener kids back in 32F, or what the guy with $800 shoes in 2B is using to passive-aggressively ignore his so obviously botoxed traveling companion.  Frankly, if it were up to me, to even plug your ears into an iPod you'd need to allow others on the plane to jack into what's shuffling through your 1 or 2 or 30 or 60 gigs. 

8. And then it wouldn't it be nice if your seatback display would let you know that the person over there in 22C likes your musical selections and wishes to become your friend on Facebook or your professional contact on LinkedIn or your neighbor on Vox?  And wouldn't it be nice if you could cancel-or-allow directly from said seatback display?

9. I wish this plane had a better inflight movie than the "Diane Keaton at 60" vehicle they're showing right now on the barely visible string of CRTs hanging above the aisle.  (Not that there's anything wrong with Diane Keaton at 60, mind you.) Of course, if I had that non-existent seatback display, then maybe I could order up something interesting.  Like that documentary about Arial Helvetica.

10. But if I had one wish, it would be for the woman in front of me to bring her seat to the fully upright and locked position, so as not to crush my laptop display.  After all, it's the only display I've got right now.

If someone at a meeting unexpectedly says, You're all doing a

If someone at a meeting unexpectedly says, You're all doing a great job, and not to worry." Should you worry?

Oakland's 2007 Current Slumlord List

"Below is the latest list of BLIGHTED PROPERTIES in Oakland, so far during 2007. The slumlords that own these particular properties failed to respond to efforts to get them to clean up their mess, and the City of Oakland was forced to pay for the cleanup work to minimize the blight at these locations."

iPhone tidbits from the D: All Things Digital Conference

In his session at the D: All Things Digital Conference, Steve Jobs revealed a few interesting bits of information about the iPhone such as ship date and third-party apps.


Team Bike Hugger on the Podium

Suz Weldon racing for Wines of Washington and sponsored by Team Bike Hugger takes 2nd in the time trial at Mt Hood.

Bike Hugger Photostream

Wiimbledon is a Wii Tennis tournament taking place in Brooklyn...

Wiimbledon is a Wii Tennis tournament taking place in Brooklyn in late June. I'd come kick your ass, but I have plans that day. (link)



"my grandpa was a good man.
he was a farmer for the majority of his life.
he survived stomach cancer for 17 years.
and finally gave in to lung cancer age 85.
he was a fantastic cyclist.
and a very opinionated man.
he made machines out of old white goods motors and pulleys to do everyday tasks.
his dogs were loyal, well behaved, helpful, caring creatures.
his fruit, vegetables, wheat and milk were incredibly delicious.
his meat and fish divine.
my kids never got to meet him.
but one day, i'll tell them all about their great grandpa.
one day.
hi grandpa!  is your next life as good as your last one?"

Photo and words from sighmon.

The Best of Sean Connery part 2

We've all seen it, but it's worth watching over and over.

The Best of Sean Connery part 2

knowhow Adobe and del.icio.us work together?

Knowhow Adobe Illustrator is one of my favorite design tools, and as part of the redesign of del.icio.us I’ve been using it in a number of interesting ways. For example, I’ve written JavaScript code to pull in and parse del.icio.us RSS feeds then automatically render my latest designs in Illustrator using real data. This allows us to rapidly iterate on the design well before anyone has to write any real code.

So I was very interested when the Adobe Illustrator team came to visit us a few months ago. It turns out that Illustrator users are constantly making excellent online descriptions of their tips, techniques, and tutorials, and Adobe wanted a good way to collect and share these with other users online and within Illustrator. So why not use del.icio.us?

Adobe’s first step was to set up a del.icio.us account and start collecting the best bookmarks on Illustrator they could find.  They then integrated del.icio.us into Illustrator CS3 as part of their “knowhow” palette, thereby allowing users to tap directly into Adobe’s bookmarks.

To try it out within Illustrator CS3, select the “Window” menu then “Adobe Labs” > “knowhow”. From the “knowhow” panel you can see contextual help for the tool you are using and search the Internet for more help.  You will then notice that one of the tabs has the del.icio.us logo on it, which points you to the bookmarks Adobe has collected.  Alternatively, if you don't have CS3, you can also try out the “knowhow” palette on Adobe Labs or http://knowhow.adobe.com or of course you can always see all their bookmarks at http://del.icio.us/knowhow.

If you have found or have created any Web pages that you think other Illustrator users would find useful, simply tag them “for:knowhow” and the Adobe team will review and add them to their collection for all Illustrator users to enjoy.

29 hours of code

Posted by Andrew Bowers, Developer Programs

Google Code, that is. Google Developer Day has officially kicked off in Sydney, Australia, beginning our 29-hour marathon of developer activities around the world. Approximately 5,000 developers will join us today in ten countries to talk about Google's developer products, ask questions, and share their thoughts with Google engineers. For those who can't make it, we're webcasting the sessions from London and California live, and posting recorded sessions from all locations on the website.

A deep dive into technical sessions, free food, swag -- what more could a developer ask for? Well, a few new products would be a good start, and that's what we're providing.

First up is Google Gears, an open source browser extension for enabling offline web applications. Now developers will be able to create web applications that don't need a constant Internet connection to work. Users, meanwhile, can interact with Gears-enabled websites anywhere, whether they're on the couch or on an airplane. With this early release, we hope the community will provide feedback and move towards an industry standard for offline web applications. Read more on the new Gears blog.

An experimental product debuting today is the Google Mashup Editor, an online editor that enables developers to create, test, and deploy mashups and simple web applications from within a browser. Now developers can turn out those weekend projects more quickly. We've also launched a new blog where you can learn more about the Google Mashup Editor and get the latest news.

Finally, we released Google Mapplets yesterday at the Where 2.0 conference. Mapplets are mini-applications that any developer can build on top of Google Maps so that users can easily discover the creative genius and usefulness of the mashup development community. You'll find more about Mapplets here. And we're also quite excited about the interest that has been shown in Google Web Toolkit (GWT). Since its launch last May, there have been over 1 million downloads. You can read more on the GWT blog.

Between Developer Day, the product launches, and GWT's activity, we hope to keep developers around the world busy for a while. But if you run out of things to build, you can always find more ideas on Google Code.

A Star Wars / Boogie Nights trailer mashup. (via <a...

A Star Wars / Boogie Nights trailer mashup. (via cyn-c) (link)

Code is our enemy

"Code has three lifetime performance curves: Code that is consistent over time. The MD5 function is just great and it always does what we want. We act like all code is like this but most of the interesting parts of the system really aren't. Code that will get worse over time, or will inevitably cause a problem in the future. Code that gets better over time."

outside.in just launched a new maps feature that shows the...

outside.in just launched a new maps feature that shows the physical locations that people are blogging about. Here's the last few months of places I've talked about on kottke.org. I like the pie charts that show how exclusive a place is to a particular blog. (Disclosure: I'm an advisor to outside.in.) (link)

Where Graffiti, Joy Division and School Property Meet

2007_05_silence2a.jpg Over the weekend, we posted a link to a photograph Gammablog took of an open letter from the Cornelia Connelly Center school to whomever scrawled "Don't Walk Away In Silence" with spray paint on an outside wall. 2007_05_silence.jpg The school painted over the graffiti and then the graffiti returned. So they posted a letter, "Dear Political Graffiti Artist":
While it's hard to disagree with your message, we wonder if you realize that you've written it on our local school. We serve the families of this local community, and teach our girls to stand up for their rights, and the rights of others -- so you are preaching to the choir. More importantly, we want our students to have the beautiful school they deserve, so now we'll have to pay, once again, to have this wall re-painted. We fundraise the majority of our budget to make a high quality eduction affordable to the families of our community. We could have used the money we'll spend on this wall for a school trip to reward our extremely hard working teachers or even to provide supplies to low-income students; instead we must now spend it on paint and labor to cover your graffiti. It would mean a great deal to us if you would follow your own suggestion, not walk away in silence from your actions, and come to our school to offer your help in re-painting the wall. The students of the Lower East Side deserve that.
It turned out the line was a tribute to Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division, from his song Atmosphere. But then a new letter appeared (photographed at top and below; full text is after the jump) from the Cornelia Connelly Center, a middle school that serves students from low-income families: 2007_05_silence2.jpg Someone anonymously left $100 for the re-painting, and someone else had put a photo of Ian Curtis next to the graffiti. The school's director Connie Bush told AMNY, "I mean look at me. Forgive me, but do I really look like someone who knows who Joy Division is?" But she appreciated the donation and added that it had been a good lesson for the students, "The message is one we want our girls to hear -- to take action, to speak up." We were looking the Cornelia Connelly Center's website, and it looks like they accept donations via NYC Charities, too. Photographs by [~~Walter~~] on Flickr

A picture's worth a thousand clicks

Posted by John Hanke, Director for Maps, Earth and Local

I am pleased to tell you that we've agreed to purchase Panoramio, a website based in Spain that links millions of photos with the exact geographical location where they were taken. (Our FAQ has all the details.)

Panoramio is a community photos website that enables digital photographers to geo-locate, store and organize their photographs -- and to view those photographs in Google Earth. Other users can search and browse Panoramio photos and suggest edits to the metadata associated with the photos. Panoramio also offers an API that enables web developers to embed Panoramio functionality into their websites.

Those of you already using Google Earth have no doubt noticed Panoramio's striking images documenting settings from all over the world, like moonscapes in Croatia, dramatic sunsets in Australia, and innovative architecture in the United Arab Emirates.

We've been working with Panoramio for some time -- its photos have been a default layer in Google Earth since the beginning of the year. This layer will remain in place as our teams work together toward further integrating this amazing content, generated by many, into our mapping technologies.

Steve Jobs at All Things Digital

Steve Jobs and Walt Mossberg
Just finished watching Walt Mossberg interview Steve Jobs. It was a lot of fun. Both of them were very funny. At one point, Walt asked Steve how many copies of iTunes there were out there compared to the number of iPods. Steve said several times. Since there are 100 million iPods, that there were something like 300 million. They discussed that some people say it is the most popular software product on Windows. Steve said that he received cards and stuff from people saying it was their favorite Windows application. Walt asked him how it felt and Steve said, "It's like sending a glass of iced water to someone in Hell." (Quoted from memory. Might not be exact.)

Steve will be back on stage with Bill Gates later. That should be fun. ;-)

Steve showed the iTV with YouTube in it. He talked a lot about the iPhone and explained that it runs basically a full copy of OS X and Safari minus the "data" such as images and sounds and some UI tweaks. Brian Dear asked why iPhone isn't open and when/if it will be. Steve said it's a hard problem and that they're working on it.

Comment - TrackBack

Heritage meat statistics

OK, it was a short day looking at heritage and heirloom links, so maybe I'll keep this going tomorrow, since I didn't really have time to dive into veggies at all really, nor enough time to dig into the meat (ha ha ha) of this issue. For those wondering what the big deal is, or why diversity matters, I'll leave you with this information from Sustainable Table:

In the US, a few main breeds dominate the livestock industry:

  • 83 percent of dairy cows are Holsteins, and five main breeds comprise almost all of the dairy herds in the US.
  • 60 percent of beef cattle are of the Angus, Hereford or Simmental breeds.
  • 75 percent of pigs in the US come from only 3 main breeds.
  • Over 60 percent of sheep come from only four breeds, and 40 percent are Suffolk-breed sheep.

More sobering information: "Within the past 15 years, 190 breeds of farm animals have gone extinct worldwide, and there are currently 1,500 others at risk of becoming extinct. In the past five years alone, 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have become extinct."

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vimeo counter

This portion of the vimeo user profile page makes me happy:

The Serious Eats Doughnut Glossary

What's been unexpectedly interesting to me in all the doughnut reading and tasting we've been doing in preparation for National Doughnut Day (June 1) has been all the attendant terminology. So when Serious Eats overlord Ed Levine suggested I compile a doughnut glossary, I jumped in. With all the geographical differences and regional nomenclature, the task was almost as difficult as picking a perfect dozen. But here is a doughnut glossary of sorts. Consider it a work in progress, to be amended with suggestions from readers of all regions.


doughnut: First things first, a doughnut is a sweet deep-fried piece of ring-shape dough or batter. Though technically not doughnuts, those that are flattened spheres injected with jam, jelly, or custard are known as filled doughnuts. After frying, doughnuts may be embellished with any number of toppings, including glazed icing, powdered or granulated sugar, sprinkles, sugar and cinnamon, etc. Note: The variant spelling of donut appeared in the 1920s, according to doughnut scholar John T. Edge in his book Donuts, when "the New York?based Doughnut Machine Corporation set its eyes upon foreign markets." To help foster proper pronunciation in different languages, the company introduced this spelling.

cakedonut.jpgcake doughnuts: A doughnut made of a special cake batter leavened with baking powder, baking soda, or a combination of the two?not with yeast. (See yeast-raised doughnuts, below)

cruller: A twisted cake doughnut, most often round in shape, but can also appear as a long, twisted doughnut (particularly in the U.S. Northeast).

donutholes.jpgdoughnut holes: Small spheres of dough, typically one inch in diameter, fried and then glazed with icing, or rolled in a powdered topping, the most common of which are powdered sugar, a cinnamon?granulated sugar mixture, or sprinkles. The spheres may be formed from the dough punched out of the center of a ring-shape doughnut (hence the name) or may come from dough made expressly for doughnut-hole production.

frenchcruller.jpgFrench cruller: A cruller made of choux pastry.

old-fashioned: There are many variations, but what all seem to have in common is that they are cake doughnuts with a minimum of embellishment, if any. An interesting regional variation is the sort of double-ring old-fashioned that seems to be popular in the Northwest.

berliner.jpgBerliner: Predominately German. A yeasted, marmalade- or jelly-filled doughnut topped with icing or powdered or granulated sugar.

Bismarck: Just another name for a Berliner (see above).

Long John: A long, almost rectangular, filled doughnut, often iced.

twist: A ring-shape yeast-raised doughnut twisted around itself, resulting in a long cylindrical doughnut. Depending on the number and tightness of twists, there may or may not be recognizable holes at either end of a twist.

yeast-raised doughnuts: A doughnut that uses yeast as the leavener in its batter. Yeast-raised doughnuts are lighter and airier and contain a bit more oil than their cake-doughnut counterparts. Think: Krispy Kreme's original glazed doughnut.

If you have any regional variations you'd like us to include, please, as always, comment away!

i'm kenyatta cheese. who the hell are you? - part 3.

Facebook doesn't think I'm for real:

I tried registering a couple of times and got an error message suggesting that "kenyatta cheese" wasn't a "legitimate name."

Hooray for ethnocentrism!

While the comedy inherent in having a last name like "Cheese" makes this particular instance of q=facebook+%22legitimate+name%22 really funny, I can see how someone telling you that your real name isn't legit can be yet another way of making you feel left out.

Commercial turkeys have lost their ability to fly

Modern commercial turkey varieties have also lost much of their natural ability to forage for food, fly, walk normally, and to escape predators. Wikipedia has lots of information about domesticated turkeys.

comments are open

The $100 billion dollar Apple

On the eve of the iPhone launch, AAPL hits an all-time high with no limit in sight.


If we want to save the animals we must eat them

fountain_prairie_highland_.jpgIf we want to save them, we must eat them! "Just as the Bald Eagle and Panda Bear are on the brink of extinction in the wild, so are numerous varieties of livestock like Bourbon Red turkeys, Red Wattle pigs, Tunis sheep, Barred-Plymouth Rock chickens and Iroquois corn flour...Heritage Foods USA exists to help accomplish this goal by selling foods from small farms to consumers and wholesale accounts." You can buy Six-Spotted Berkshire pork, heritage turkeys, French Dewlap Toulouse Geese, American Kobe Beef, and even bison. It's strange to think that in order to save nearly extinct species we need to eat them, but if there's no market for these varieties, no one will farm them.

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Manhattanhenge Tonight?

marcus_woollen_sunset.jpg It is time once again for the first Manhattanhenge sunset of 2007. Or not. amNY is saying that tonight's sunset will be perfectly aligned with the east-west grid of Manhattan streets. However, NewYorkology received the dates from Neil deGrasse Tyson's office at the Hayden Planetarium and they are saying Manhattanhenge doesn't occur until tomorrow night. deGrasse Tyson is the astrophysicist who coined the term Manhattanhenge. Viewing the phenomenon is best from the east side, which takes advantage of the long fetch of streets, from 14th Street and above. But, remember, staring at the sun, even a setting sun, is not a smart thing to do. Tonight will likely be the better day to view the sunset as clear skies are expected all day. There's a big disconnect in the Weather Service and AccuWeather forecasts for the next few days. The big picture is a backdoor cold front is sinking down through New England. The Weather Service thinks the front will stall to our south, then reverse direction and head back our way as a warm front. AccuWeather is saying the front won't stall and return. The different interpretations mean warm, unsettled conditions if the National Weather Service is correct or mostly sunny, cooler weather if AccuWeather is indeed accu. Gothamist's money, and we're not betting a lot, is on the Weather Service. The forecasts return to agreement by the weekend. Saturday's high will be in the 80s and Sunday's will be in the upper 70s, with a good chance of showers both days. Manhattanhenge sunset along 42nd St. from Queens by Marcus Woollen on Flickr

Street View robots.txt

User-Agent: GoogleVan Disallow: bedroom

Meant to post about this last week, but going on right...

Meant to post about this last week, but going on right now in NYC: Postopolis. "Postopolis! is a five-day event of near-continuous conversation about architecture, urbanism, landscape, and design. Four bloggers, from four different cities, will host a series of live discussions, interviews, slideshows, panels, talks, and other presentations, and fuse the informal energy and interdisciplinary approach of the architectural blogosphere with the immediacy of face to face interaction." More about the event from City of Sound and BLDGBLOG. (link)

Seed Savers saves and shares heirloom seeds

cranberry_bean.jpgSeed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. It was started by a couple after the wife received seeds from her grandfather "that his parents brought from Bavaria when they immigrated to St. Lucas, Iowa in the 1870s." The seeds were for Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory and German Pink Tomato. You can learn more about their organization and order seeds for all kinds of stuff. Just check out the lists of eating beans they've got for sale. Wonderful. [thanks Jason!]

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Pimp My Code, Part 14: Be Inflexible!

I ask you, grasshopper, which is better: flexible code or tiny code?

"Ah," you exclaim, "Learned master, it is a trick question: code which is tiny yet flexible is best!"

WRONG! Tiny code is always best. Now you must carry water up the hill for the rest of the day.


What can we learn from this simple tale? Well, one thing is, I'm not very good at writing stories. But is there something deeper?

When I first started coding, way, long ago (on a PDP-11, which was essentially when I'd get eleven Pterodactyl Dinosaurs to sit down and do some Processing for me), I thought code should be flexible at all costs. If I were creating, say, a program to write a one-line message to the screens of other people logged in to the same machine, I'd write it, say, so you could plug in other kinds of screen-manipulation packages besides curses(3). Even though, you know, none would be invented until "time sharing" was something you did with condos, not processors.

The fundamental nature of coding is that our task, as programmers, is to recognize that every decision we make is a trade-off. To be a master programmer is to understand the nature of these trade-offs, and be conscious of them in everything we write.

You've probably seen some variant of this, but I'll show you my version. In coding, you have many dimensions in which you can rate code:

- Brevity of code
- Featurefulness
- Speed of execution
- Time spent coding
- Robustness
- Flexibility

Now, remember, these dimensions are all in opposition to one another. You can spend a three days writing a routine which is really beautiful AND fast, so you've gotten two of your dimensions up, but you've spent THREE DAYS, so the "time spent coding" dimension is WAY down.

So, when is this worth it? How do we make these decisions?

The answer turns out to be very sane, very simple, and also the one nobody, ever, listens to:

"START WITH BREVITY. Increase the other dimensions AS REQUIRED BY TESTING."


In Delicious Library 2 we have a feature where we will automatically find the libraries of your friends if they have published them. Of course, with any matching system, the trick is, how do you know this is really *my* friend named "Mike Lee", and not one of the other 17 million "Mike Lee"s around the world (that whore).

So, I came up with a basic algorithm for pulling all Delicious Libraries by the owner's name first, then disambiguating within those afterwards. One of my programmers said, "Well, what happens if we get 1,000 hits for John Smith?"

And my reply, not at all tongue-in-cheek, was, "Well, then we would be very, very rich." Seriously, if 1,000 John Smiths had registered our program, think of how many customers we'd have total: millions. Multiply that by $40, and one possible response to the problem of "too many John Smiths" would be: "Who cares, let's all move to Tahiti and spend the rest of our lives on the beach sipping rum."

I kid! Mostly. My point is, we'll have PLENTY of warning and PLENTY of resources when 1,000 John Smiths start to plague us. Note that both of these are necessary -- if I were, say, deploying just some website, and I didn't make money based on the number of people using the site, I'd be a lot more worried about it blowing up before I was ready -- there would be no guarantee that I'd have the time or resources needed to handle the problem.

In this particular case, there is a slightly slower (execution time) way to do the search that would eliminate the 1,000 John Smith problem, which I will do the day it starts to become a problem. Then I'll push a free update, and my customers will never know that it could have been an issue.

But note that, even though I *know* how to solve this problem (and increase the flexibility dimension), I'm not going to solve it now. Why? Because (a) this would kill my code brevity, (b) it would make the program run slower for everyone in the meantime, (c) it would introduce more instability, and (d) it would take a bunch of time to program and debug, so I couldn't do other, cool features.

This is really key: there's a solution out there that I know is more flexible -- many people would instantly consider this the "best" solution, and consider everything else a hack. My point, which I'll say again and again, is that there are MANY dimensions with which to evaluate any solution to a problem, and flexibility is NOT paramount.


When most people learn objective languages, the first thing they do is go ape. I mean, they create superclasses that have one method, which is stubbed out, and twenty children classes, each of which varies by one line of code. They fall so in love with objects that they think everything needs to be its OWN TYPE of object.

Often this is done in the name of flexibility. "Look, I have this abstract superclass which currently does the drawing for all my buttons, but you could subclass it to, say, draw 3D text!"

There is a related ailment, which is the "complete class" syndrome. Many programmers, when they create a new class, add a ton of features to that class to make it "complete" -- that is, they try to anticipate everyone who may ever use this class, and they add methods that those hypothetical users may want.

Let's say, for instance, Apple didn't have an NSArray class. So, you write your own. Great! I support you. Now, in your program you need to add objects to the end of the array and remove them from the end of the array. Ok, write those methods. But, wait, you say. Maybe I should add some more methods? Get an object from any index? Insert at the beginning? Why don't I make this more flexible, you say? NO! NO NO NO!

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "What's wrong with flexibility?" Strangely, I was about to tell you. The problem is YOU ARE NOT A LIBRARY PROGRAMMER. YOU WRITE APPLICATIONS. (Note to Ali Ozer: IGNORE THIS SECTION.)

If you find yourself writing a class for your "library," then:

(a) You're not writing your application, which is where you make your money,
(b) You're writing something that you're hoping Apple will someday replace, which is a sucker's game,
(c) You're writing code you are going to have to test SEPARATELY from your app, because BY DEFINITION you've added functionality you didn't need,
(d) You're never going to really know which methods in your library work and which ones don't (eg, which ones are used in shipping programs) because you don't have user base that a company like Apple does (and witness how buggy even their under-used frameworks are),
(e) You're writing code that is going to need documenting (or some other way to comprehend it), so you're requiring yourself and everyone at your company to understand not JUST all of Apple's APIs (which are, at least, SOMETIMES documented) but also yours, and, possibly worst of all,
(f) You are attempting to predict how your application's needs will change in the future, and spending time NOW on your guess, instead of shipping the damn application, getting feedback, and THEN making changes.

Let's look more closely at (f). It's the same old thing again, isn't it? "Don't optimize your code until after you time it" becomes "Don't make your code more flexible until after you have a plan for what your app."


Here are some concrete rules I enforce at Delicious Monster, now:

- We don't add code to a class unless we actually are calling that code.

- We don't make a superclass of class 'a' until AFTER we write another class 'b' that shares code with 'a' AND WORKS. Eg, first you copy your code over, and get it working, THEN you look at what's common between 'a' and 'b', and THEN you can make an abstract superclass 'c' for both of them.

- We don't make a class flexible enough to be used multiple places in the program until AFTER we have another place we need to use it.

- We don't move a class into our company-wide "Shared" repository unless it's actually used by two programs.


So, next time your boss tells you to "be more flexible," tell him Wil Shipley says you shouldn't. He'll probably give you a raise!

? Last 100 posts, part 8

Here are some updates on some of the topics, links, ideas, posts, people, etc. that have appeared on kottke.org recently (previous installment is here):

The Celluloid Skyline exhibition at Grand Central is well worth checking out...I was up there this past weekend. Pentagram collaborated with Saunders on the exhibit and wrote up a brief piece on how it came together.

My short post on Nina Planck's reaction to the recent "death by veganism", as she calls it, of a baby boy is a good reminder that I don't always agree with the things I link to. My only criteria for posting a link is that it's interesting, whether I think it's right or wrong or am still trying to form an opinion about it. Anyway, I got lots of mail about this one, much of it that said that the parents' veganism was beside the point -- which the prosecutors and jury in the subsequent criminal case agreed with (thx, matt) -- and that a headline like "Death By Stupidity" was probably more appropriate. After all, you don't see "Death by Omnivorism" headlines every time a baby with a more traditional diet dies of starvation.

Debra from Culiblog pointed out that contrary to Planck's assertion that "there are no vegan societies", the Jainists practice vegetarianism and veganism. On the other side of the aisle, meat fan Michael Ruhlman chastised Planck for going too easy on vegans, saying that "Veganism is a colossal arrogance, a refusal to admit to our own nature, a denial of our humanity. Sometimes it kills people. And it's not very much fun, besides." You can imagine the discussion that generated...although it was nothing like the 300+ comment thread on MetaFilter.

My opinion of Cars improved with a second viewing.

Discover's chat bot conversation reminded a reader of this old interview with the Ask Jeeves search engine (thx david). Back in 2002, I interviewed ELLEGirl magazine's AIMbot:

jkottke: Do you do anything to celebrate or recognize the changing of seasons?
ELLEgirlBuddy: do you do anything to celebrate or recognize the changing of seasons? that's a tough choice.
jkottke: yes, to celebrate or merely recognize. that is a toughie.
ELLEgirlBuddy: yes to celebrate or merely recognize that is a toughie? i dunno.
jkottke: you seem like an actual 13 year old girl.
ELLEgirlBuddy: i haven't really made a decision 'bout that.
jkottke: growing up is tough, isn't it?
ELLEgirlBuddy: i dunno.

And whoever posted the chat bot story to Digg (5696 Diggs and counting!) used the exact wording from my original post. You're welcome!

Prime, David Burke's quarter-million-dollar Black Angus bull, has his own web site. (thx, brian)

Regarding Alex Reisner's excellent baseball statistics web site and, in particular, the pennant race graphs, here's another interesting visualization of the pennant races...you can see the teams race to the end of the year like horses. (thx, scott)

Re: my post on better living through self-deception, I've heard that pregnant women tend to forget the pain of childbirth, perhaps because "endorphins reduce the amount of information trauma victims can store". Also related tangetially is this article on research into lying and laughing, which includes this simple test to see if you're a good liar:

Are you a good liar? Most people think that they are, but in reality there are big differences in how well we can pull the wool over the eyes of others. There is a very simple test that can help determine your ability to lie. Using the first finger of your dominant hand, draw a capital letter Q on your forehead.

Some people draw the letter Q in such a way that they themselves can read it. That is, they place the tail of the Q on the right-hand side of their forehead. Other people draw the letter in a way that can be read by someone facing them, with the tail of the Q on the left side of their forehead. This quick test provides a rough measure of a concept known as "self-monitoring". High self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be seen by someone facing them. Low self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be read by themselves.

High self-monitors tend to be concerned with how other people see them. They are happy being the centre of attention, can easily adapt their behaviour to suit the situation in which they find themselves, and are skilled at manipulating the way in which others see them. As a result, they tend to be good at lying. In contrast, low self-monitors come across as being the "same person" in different situations. Their behaviour is guided more by their inner feelings and values, and they are less aware of their impact on those around them. They also tend to lie less in life, and so not be so skilled at deceit.

The skyscraper with one floor isn't exactly a new idea. Rem Koolhaas won a competition to build two libraries in France with one spiraling floor in 1992 (thx, mike). Of course, there's the Guggenheim in NYC and many parking garages.

After posting a brief piece on Baltimore last week, I discovered that several of my readers are current or former residents of Charm City...or at least have an interest in it. Armin sent along the Renaming Baltimore project...possible names are Domino, Maryland and Lessismore. A Baltimore Sun article on the Baltimore Youth Lacrosse League published shortly after my post also referenced the idea of "Two Baltimores. Two cities in one." The Wire's many juxtapositions of the "old" and "new" Baltimore are evident to viewers of the series. Meanwhile, Mobtown Shank took a look at the crime statistics for Baltimore and noted that crime has actually decreased more than 40% from 1999 to 2005. (thx, fred)

Cognitive Daily took an informal poll and found that fewer than half the respondants worked a standard 8-5 Mon-Fri schedule. Maybe that's why the streets and coffeeshops aren't empty during the workday.

(Comment on this)

KRS-One on Can't Stop Won't Stop

Back from being underwater swimming with the honu and hanging with fam far away from all the madness.

Just closing up the loop begun last week on KRS-One and Can't Stop Won't Stop.

Here's an interview published last week where KRS-One outlines his problems with my book generally and particularly with the section I did on "Stop The Violence". I'll leave it to yall to read my argument in the book and KRS's argument and determine what you think.

Most debates are good debates. They reflect people taking this shit seriously, which is the most important thing at the end of the day.

Listen. Lots of folks act like Can't Stop Won't Stop is it. Like, you read it and it's done. Don't need to know nothing else. But that was never my intention.

That's why I've always been insistent on being humble about my own contribution to hip-hop scholarship. People think it's cute or just Asian of me to deflect praise sometimes. It's not an act. I recognize the fact that people sometimes place a burden on this book that I just don't want.

Can't Stop Won't Stop was and is never meant to be the last word on anything. It's meant to be a small contribution to the larger wave of thinking about the hip-hop generation (not just rap music).

If it's the first word for some of yall, that's great--now go on and get you some more. Lots more. One perspective--even if, like mine, it's filtered through hundreds of other people's perspectives--is never enough.

KRS's criticism is on point in one sense: I wasn't able to speak to everyone I wanted to--Grandmaster Caz and the Cold Crush were at the top of the list, as well as many other b-boys, b-girls, graf writers and other pioneers, especially women pioneers.

Should I have waited to do so before releasing the book? In the best of all possible worlds, yes. Could I have waited to do so? For many personal reasons that you will never know...No.

Luckily some of the information that KRS cites is lacking in CSWS (and lots more that is just as crucial) is already out there. Let's big up Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn's Yes Yes Y'All: The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip-Hop's First Decade and Cristina Veran's essay in Hip Hop Divas as just two of the major undersung contributions to the field, not to mention Steven Hager's Adventures in the Counterculture: From Hip Hop to High Times (originally printed in a now stupidly expensive, out-of-print paperback called Hip Hop: The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music, and Graffiti).

(BTW that piece he says about H. Rap is on point too--it's all there in CSWS, just not as explicit as he lays it out in the interview. In fact, you can check p. 186 to see how Whipper Whip flipped the script.)

But the bottom line--not to sound redundant, because this is all in the Prelude, and it undergirds the entire Total Chaos project as well--is that if we all take this as seriously as we should, there ought to be many many other perspectives other than mine under consideration. Period.

If there's gonna be disagreement and arguing about this one is better than that, hey that's human.

I respect KRS's perspective--and he shaped this book and my thinking more than he may ever know, just check the essay I did for Classic Material. Nothing more need be said.

I did say I got a strong enough ego to try to step on. And in the end, it ain't about me, it's all about building this...

Holla if you like, KRS.

San Francisco Chronicle Food Section: Around the Horn

This week's San Francisco Chronicle Food Section offers the usual round-up of openings and closings in the local restaurant world. The hot up-and-coming cuisine? No surprise. Hamburgers. Not one, but two new burger joints are slated to open in downtown San Francisco. A third, from Fleur de Lys superstar Hubert Keller, is hinted at (and hoped for). Apparently, beef is now officially what's for lunch.

Next up: A tongue-in-cheek face-off between Mexican and American Coca-Cola, sipped from wine glasses, pinkies extended. Of course, Bay Area multiculturalism prevented the Chron staff from picking a clear winner, although they did laud MexiCoke for its "finer mousse of bubbles and straightforward sugar flavor."

Lastly, a big feature on Los Gatos chef David Kinch's relationship with Love Apple Farm, which starts out as a typical farmer-restaurateur affaire de coeur and ends up with some very kinky sounding rituals. It's a pretty fascinating read, and I'll confess that, at first blush the biodynamics movement sounds pretty, um, wacky. Still, if it churns out yummy vegetables, I'm all for it. Read the sidebar ("What is biodynamic farming?"), check out the photos (mmm, cow horns), and let me know what you think.

Here's a snippet:

...other formulas include those injected into compost. One consists of dried chamomile flowers stuffed into intestines (natural sausage casings) and buried underground for six months. A yarrow compost preparation consists of dried yarrow blossoms stuffed into the bladder of a deer, hung from a tree for six months then buried underground for another six months. Oak bark preparation, also used in compost, must be placed in the skull of a domesticated horned animal and buried for six months before it is used.

AT&T stores expect to receive less than 40 iPhones apiece

Financial services firm WR Hambrecht + Co says that according to their survey of AT&T retail stores, most expect to receive a very small number of iPhones upon launch. Get ready for an iPhone stampede, Henrico County style!


Sun Ra: Disco 3000

Highly recommended if you can scarf it up:

Sun Ra and his Arkestra
Disco 3000
Saturn CMIJ 78
Saturn Gemini CMIJ 78

Side A:
Disco 3000 (incl. Space is the Place) (Ra)

Side B:
Third Planet (Ra)
Friendly Galaxy (Ra)
Dance of the Cosmo-Aliens (Ra)

Ra--p, org, Crumar Mainman drum box, etc; Michael Ray--tp, voc; John Gilmore--ts, voc; Luqman Ali--d, voc. Italy, 1/78. Side B live. [Stahl and rlc]

A review found online by Paul C.:

Recorded in Italy in 1978 DISCO 3000 stands apart by being a quartet record as well as being from a brief period when Sun Ra was noodling [please, this is not noodling] with the Crumar Mainman keyboard. Playing organ and Moog along with the Mainman's rickey-tickey pre-programmed beats [please, this is not rickey-tickey], DISCO 3000 has a sound unique in the Sun Ra catalog (not counting the equally rare contemporaneous releases MEDIA DREAM & SOUND MIRROR). With the Arkestra stripped down to just Ra, John Gilmore on sax, Michael Ray on electronically manipulated trumpet and drummer Luqman Ali DISCO 3000 gives the listener an excellent chance to hear some of these important sidemen step to the forefront and shine. This impossibly rare release from the Saturn catalog has just recently been resurrected in a small deluxe vinyl pressing from the Italian label Art Yard.

"Dance of the Cosmo-Aliens" is very Can-like--stunning.

FeedBurner Is Acquired by Google

This is hardly a surprise since rumors of this deal have been all over the blog world for the better part of the past month. But it is true that FeedBurner has been acquired by Google. The price has not been disclosed, but the return to Union Square Ventures was close to three times our invested capital in less than 18 months.

The financial return on this investment, like many of our investments, pales in comparison to the returns we’ve gained both personally and professionally though our involvement with FeedBurner.

According to FeedBurner founder and CEO Dick Costolo, I was one of the first hundred people to use FeedBurner’s service when it launched in early 2004. I was hooked instantly. The whole thing about blogs and feeds was new to me. I understood that people could subscribe to my blog and receive updates every time I posted through the use of a feed. But I had no idea how many people were actually doing that. And I wanted to know.

So I started running my feed through FeedBurner. The insights I got from my FeedBurner dashboard allowed me to quickly understand who was reading what. I was able to see my readership grow, and I was able to see what topics were of the most interest.

About a year after I started using FeedBurner, they started offering the ability to run ads in feeds. That’s when I understood where this was all going. It hit me that content was not going to live on a single page anymore. It was going to be syndicated all over the web using feed technology and that the ads would be syndicated along with the content. That led to our early insights into the distributed media landscape that we now find ourselves in the midst of.

By late 2005, it was obvious that we needed to be invested in FeedBurner. There were already a very solid group of VC investors including Portage, DFJ, Mobius, and Sutter Hill involved in FeedBurner. But we convinced FeedBurner and the other investors that Union Square Ventures could add value, and they let us invest.

I think we’ve added significant value to FeedBurner, and it’s been mutual. FeedBurner has helped a number of our portfolio companies as well. Along the way, we’ve gotten to know the entire founding team really well and a number of the senior management team too. FeedBurner is one of those companies you can’t help but like and root for. They have a sense of humor, they have a sense of responsibility for their service, and they understand how to play nice in the Internet ecosystem.

Now they will be part of Google. It’s a good match. For all of FeedBurner’s success, monetizing the feeds has been a struggle. The inventory they manage always seems to grow so much faster than the advertising they sell. Their self service advertising system never really took off, and that made it even harder to monetize all the inventory they manage.

Google is the king of monetization and has a self service advertising system that is the envy of everyone in the advertising business. FeedBurner fits like a glove into the Google advertising system, adding feeds to the growing number of places an advertiser can reach audiences through the AdWords system.

It always seems to be bittersweet when a portfolio company is sold. We’ll miss the daily emails from Dick and his team. We’ll miss the ability to engage in the strategic development of the company. And we’ll miss being on the inside of a company central to the development of the distributed media model.

But it’s important to remember that starting companies and building businesses is ultimately about making money. We were able to do that because of the insights and hard work of the founders and managers of FeedBurner. We’d like to thank them and congratulate them on a job well done.


It's early morning, and I'm walking through the Southwest Florida International Airport, doing my best to ignore the piped in Muzak.  But the task becomes impossible when a watered down version of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" comes on.  It's astonishing, but it is actually possible to water that song down.

I know there are a myriad of complicated licensing and performance rights issues that have brought us to the point where early morning travelers catch themselves singing "Don't go changing to try to please me" in time with an anonymous female song stylist.  But because I'm generally boring and single-tracked, I'm sitting here wondering what the online equivalent to Muzak is. F8? Widgets? RSS Readers? The mobile web? My Yahoo? The entire AOL experience?  When we add value do we water down? You've gotta believe that the people programming the Muzak channels believe they're doing Good Work, just like you.

Note to self: blog posts from airport terminals always seem like a good idea.

May 29, 2007

Progressive Multiples

"This paper describes a communication-minded visualization called progressive multiples that supports both the forensic analysis and presentation of multidimensional event data. We combine ideas from progressive disclosure, which reveals data to the user on demand, and small multiples, which allows users to compare many images at once."

What I've been working on at Stamen

"I'm just back from the Where 2.0 conference in San Jose where Shawn and I tumbled through a 15 minute summary of Stamen and our last few months of work: starting with Mappr, MoveOn and Cabspotting, through Mike's Oakland Crime visualisations, leading to Modest Maps, INdigital telecom and finally launching Trulia Hindsight..."

Made some long overdue changes to the sidebar on the...

Made some long overdue changes to the sidebar on the front page, including an even longer overdue update of the "sites I've enjoyed recently". I used to use that list for my daily browse but it fell into decay when I started reading sites in RSS. Now the list is a random sampling of sites from the current reading list in my newsreader. If things look a little weird, you may need to refresh the stylesheet (do a Shift-reload on the home page). (link)

Quote of the Night: Lindsay's Official Statement

"Lindsay admitted herself to an intensive medical rehabilitation facility on Memorial Day. Because this is a medical matter, it is our hope that the press will appreciate the seriousness of the situation and respect the privacy of Lindsay as well as the other patients receiving treatment at the facility."
-- Lindsay Lohan's spokesperson

Okay, so we here at the Blabber are going to layoff la Lohan until she's out of rehab and back in fighting shape. Get well soon, Lindsay! Our job wouldn't be half as fun without ya.

Barack Obama sketch


A doodle by Senator Barack Obama sold for over $2000 on eBay today. The drawing, featuring fellow senators Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein, and Edward Kennedy, was sold as part of the National Doodle Day initiative. National Doodle Day sells celebrity sketches to raise funds for The Neurofibromatosis Association and epilipsy research.

Nice stuff. I’d say he captured Kennedy’s jaws rather convincingly. Now, can he capture the popular vote? Oop - we’d better stay away from politics here.

Check out the entire National Doodle Day gallery here.

Some highlights include:

  • This Snowman by Raymond Briggs
  • Dog by Neil Hannon (of Divine Comedy)
  • Whacky Animals by Piper Anderson-Klotz (Gillian Anderson’s daughter)
  • A dress by Bruce Oldfield (fashion designer - I really dig this one)
  • Nude Woman - appropriately enough - by Samantha Fox
  • This Donkey by Paul Gribble

(By the way, what’s with the Eastendersstars” who were too lazy to even draw anything. I like Eastenders as the next bloke, but c’mon - it’s a good cause).

Oh, and another wonderful Paul Gribble sketch - this time a train.

Map of Manhattan made up of the countries of origin...

Map of Manhattan made up of the countries of origin of its residents. (via strange maps) (link)

GeoPress for Movable Type

Still with Where 2.0. GeoPressMT, a Movable Type version of the GeoPress plugin, previously WordPress only (see previous entry), was also announced today. It enables embedding geographic information in posts (especially their RSS feeds) and adding maps....

Cindy Sheehan: Why I Am Leaving the Democratic Party

Cindy Sheehan's letter of resignation from the Democratic Party.

trulia hindsight

Trulia Hindsight launched today. I can't claim credit for the gorgeous time interface, but I can say that this is the second reasonably high-profile project that uses Modest Maps as its tile display engine.

Affordable Paris


Food & Wine's Jane Sigal, who really knows her stuff when it comes to eating in Paris (she worked for Patricia Wells for years), chimed in with a terrific list of reasonably priced places to eat in Paris two years ago. I somehow missed this list when it came out in the magazine, so I was happy when it reappeared on the F&W website. Who else is a good go-to person for Paris eating?

Blogger extraordinaire David Lebovitz, of course. We're going to be featuring Dave's nifty new book, The Perfect Scoop, in a future Cook the Book.

Birds aren't mammals but are milk fed

Milk-fed chickens? But a bird’s not a mammal. Adding powdered milk to chicken feed produces a "richer flavor" and "softer, more tender flesh," depending on the breed of the bird.

Tuesday Blog Wrap

Sandy Koufax. Photo by horsepj.
Promoting "Brooklyn Best" Festival [BH Blog]
Mo' Banks: Bay Ridge, Park Slope [Racked]
Williamsburg State Park Opens [Brownstoner]
Wooden Board Art in Dumbo [Dumbo NYC]
Coney Island History Project [Gothamist]
Wollman Rink Pool [Across the Park]

Tenants Crying Over Stuy Town Spying

2007_05_stuytownday.jpg With the $5.4 billion purchase of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village apartment complex by Tishman-Speyer, some longtime rent-stabilized tenants have been worried about whether they will be able to stay. Well, now tenants are complaining that Tishman-Speyer has been spying on them. Some residents have received non-renewal letters, with Tishman-Speyer explaining that since the tenants do not use their Stuy Town-Peter Cooper apartment as a primary residence, then their lease can be over. The AP details some of the residents' complaints:
"It's like they're spying on us!" said Jeanette Besosa, who works at the United Nations. Besosa was accused of keeping residences in Florida, Pennsylvania and Manhattan's Washington Heights; she's now assembling a thick binder of records demonstrating the Pennsylvania home is a weekend retreat, the Washington Heights townhouse an investment property, and the Florida address her son's rented college apartment. Suzanne Ryan said the company ordered her family out of Peter Cooper Village by the end of May after discovering that she and her husband owned a Long Island beachfront house. "Its a little Cape. We had fixed it up ourselves," Ryan said. But the family used it sporadically as a summer beach house, she said, and their residence was in the city where her two children attend Catholic school.
Hmm, there's nothing like digging through public records and credit application databases! Tishman-Speyer's response to the allegations is "If residents feel a notice has been sent in error, there is a process in place to address each case individually ... We only send notices when we believe there is true cause." We foresee a lot of tenants' rights lawyers getting a lot of work in the near future. There's definitely a moral question about holding a rent-stabilized apartment while having other investments or properties, but that's not the point in this case. Spying on tenants is nothing new, especially when the possibility of raising rent is at stake. And the rent increases for market-rate tenants have been pretty insane. Update: A tipster sends Curbed a link to some possible renderings of future Stuy-Town. Photograph of Stuyvesant Town Oval by Marianne O'Leary on Flickr

Found: Indian mangoes in New York

For any New Yorkers seeking Indian mangoes, I went out to Jackson Heights this weekend and found them for sale by the case at Patel Brothers (37-27 74th St.). They aren't out with the other produce, so you'll have to ask for them. They're $30/case.


see also: Twitter is all about love and belong [via

George Washington&#39;s Blog: Structural Engineers Question Collapse of the World Trade Center

Well worth a look.

Very best Italian is Mercato, Red Hook, NY

The Vetri web site smartly advertises that quote, along with one attributed to Mario Batali that says Vetri is “possibly the best Italian restaurant on the East Coast.” (I love the way these sorts of quotes are all essentially the same, with tweaked qualifiers and altered geographic parameters.)

"The Fertile Territory Beyond Our Own," by Frank Bruni, Diners Journal, May 23, 2007

The very best Italian is Mercato in Red Hook, NY... the chef is Francesco Buitoni, a six generation member of the famous Italian pasta family ... born in New York City ... but his parents are from Rome, Italy ... definitely worth a detour from the Taconic State Parkway ... delicious pasta and risotto dishes...

Mercato, 61 East Market Street, Red Hook, NY, 845-758-5879

"The Chef's Voice: Francesco Buitoni of Mercato Tivolio," AboutTown, Spring 2005

Post by Peter

Source Code: Programming Eyebeam Style

Adding to this post.

Here’s the lowdown on “Source Code” opening this thursday at Eyebeam:

The first in a series of three retrospective exhibitions celebrating Eyebeam’s contributions to the art and tech field

Eyebeam is pleased to announce a special exhibition of 14 projects from 10 years of residencies, fellowships and commissions in Eyebeam’s labs. The pieces featured have developed since their life at Eyebeam and/or will be reactivated with events, performances, and workshops demonstrating and sharing the process of their creation.


The noteworthy lineup of artists, technologists, hackers and programmers in Source Code demonstrates diverse and vibrant genres of creative exploration that defy easy categorization. The artists and collectives participating in the exhibition are: Cory Arcangel, Carrie Dashow, eteam, Nina Katchadourian, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, MediaShed, neuroTransmitter, Steve Lambert, Alex Galloway and artists using Galloway’s Carnivore client — a surveillance tool for data network that serves that data to various creative interfaces called “clients” to make their work: Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Golan Levin, MTAA and Mark Napier.

More at ArtCal

Chip bag origami instructions

How to close a bag of chips without a clip. Handy video and instructions to perform chip bag origami so your snacks stay fresh without one of those clips. [via Lifehacker]

A fleet of rubber duckies lost off of a container...

A fleet of rubber duckies lost off of a container ship in the North Pacific in 1992 have helped scientists map ocean currents. Some of the ducks became periodically trapped in ice packs in the Arctic Ocean, slowly journeying to the Atlantic Ocean and even to the shores of Massachusetts. (thx, adriana) (link)

Infrared Grills For The Masses

Infrared grills are headed to the mass market thanks to the expiration of a key patent. Infrared burners have the advantage of extremely high temperatures (up to 900 degrees farenheit), which can be adjusted quickly. Previously costing as much as $5,000, major gas-grill manufacturers are introducing models in the $500 to $1,000 range.

[via Slashdot]

Subway Cars May Go Longer and Faster

2007_05_crowdtrain.jpgWith subway ridership at a new high in decades and many more riders on the way if the city's forecasts are true, the MTA has been thinking of ways to increase subway capacity. And Howard Roberts, president of the NYC Transit Authority which operates the subways and buses, says that one solution could be to extend subway platform and add two more train cars to the existing ten. Roberts told NY1's Bobby Cuza that trying to extend platforms might be cheaper than building more tunnels: "What we have to do is cost those things, and then compare that to what it's going to cost to drill through solid rock" - it costs $2 billion per mile to build a new tunnel! One more thing the NYCTA should look at - how long will it take to extend the platforms. That sort of sounds like more weekend and late night service shutdowns and diversions. Another idea mentioned by Roberts is increasing the speed of the trains. The Post reports that "a 10- 20-mph increase is not out of the question." And while the NYCTA is looking at dealing with overcrowding on the L line by running more trains, the subway's signaling system (which the Post calls "outmoded") prohibits trains from running close together. Photograph of a crowded train by H2dez59 on Flickr

A "story map" distributed to guests of a wedding that...

A "story map" distributed to guests of a wedding that shows the possible occupational, relational, and recreational relationships between guests to be used as a conversational cheat-sheet. Reminiscent of Mark Lombardi's network maps. Better larger. (via gulfstream) (link)

Tuesday Links

Prospect Park Lake: Best Place in State to Catch Largemouth Bass [NY Times]
Photos from Ft. Greene Set of Famke Janssen's '100 Feet' [Cinematical]
To Sell Bklyn, Marty Took Free Trip on Cruise Ship [NY Times]
Bklyn Sisters Bonded by Stray Bullets [NYDN]
W'burg-Greenpt Park Opens, Looks 'Parched' [NY Times]
Dangerous Manhole Explosion in Bklyn [Gothamist]
Photo: Famke Janssen, by Daniel A. Norman.

The BLDGBLOG book will likely be as interesting as the...

The BLDGBLOG book will likely be as interesting as the BLDGBLOG blog. Topics will include "plate tectonics and J.G. Ballard to geomagnetic harddrives and undiscovered New York bedrooms, by way of offshore oil derricks, airborne utopias, wind power, inflatable cathedrals, statue disease, science fiction and the city, pedestrianization schemes, architecture and the near-death experience, Scottish archaeology, green roofs..." (link)

Poll of the Day: Grade Britney's Look

Ah -- nothing like the first day back to work after a long weekend, when I can go through all the bad Britney photos and post a couple. Seriously -- the girl outdoes herself constantly with bad outfits and hairdon'ts. (Click on the jump for a rear view of the giant stain on her butt.) But what do you think?

PS: And don't you think Brit’s breathing a h-u-g-e sigh of relief that Lindsay Lohan and Mischa Barton stole the spotlight over the weekend? There's a little less attention on the Britster, who seems like an angel compared to the other two.


Sheldon Brown's Online Cycling Encyclopedia


Whether you're looking to convert your road bike into a fixed gear or want to learn how a derailer functions, this site has all the info you could ever want -- a giant glossary, bits of cycling history and plenty of specific instructions and photos.



I started doing home adjustments to my BMX when I was eight years old. Always got hand-me-downs because I couldn't afford the best parts, and sending my bike to a shop would have been more expensive than the parts. These days I am always working on a bike -- either getting new bikes or always on the search to complete a vintage group of components.

Even with my experience, I've been using Sheldon's site religiously for the last year and half, basically every week. When I purchased my first Italian frame last year, I needed the correct measurement for the bottom bracket, but had no idea where to find a figure I could trust. My friend recommended Sheldon's site. Since then, his site has helped me purchase, repair and build two road bikes (my Gios Torino and a Tom Ritchey built Palo Alto). And I just picked up a Tommasini that will also need a complete overhaul (I am currently on a vintage Italian kick). When I first saw some Gios Torinos on Craigslist, I went to the site to get the lowdown for purchasing. I needed to know what the value is or isn't, if the bike is rare or not and what to look for, and also signs of a knock off.

I've seen, in the process, just how precise Sheldon's attention to detail is. I had no idea that there was English and Italian threading. I learned that Italian is 36 mm X 24 tpi and English is 1.370" X 24 tpi. Sheldon has a chart that gives you the measurements for every BB out there, anything from French to Swiss. And I totally didn't listen to his tip on Italian threaded bottom brackets and paid the price. He notes how Italian BB's tend to work their way out while riding. I experienced that on my commute home from work one day and ended up eating it right in front of a huge crowd. I wound up pulling out my crank and rethreading it with a tiny bit of lock tight, just as he recommends. Since then, no troubles whatsoever.

Even if you have no interest in working on your bike or going deeper than the basics of maintenance, this site can really boost your understanding of how a bike works (it has in my case) and even how to ride. There are great tips for beginners, including articles like "Everything You Wanted To Know About Shifting Your Bicycle's Gears, But Were Afraid To Ask."

-- Benjamin Gaffney

Sheldon Brown's Online Cycling Encyclopedia
Available from Sheldon Brown

[Interesting side note: Sheldon Brown wrote a monthly column on maintenance and repairs for Bicycling Magazine in the late '70s and '80s; he's reprinted many of them on his site -- sl]

The Graffiti Project - Video of Week One

You can learn more about the project here.

Closeup videos of the sun. The bottom one is especially...

Closeup videos of the sun. The bottom one is especially mesmerizing. (link)

I Had a Kinder, Gentler Memorial Day Food Adventure: How Was Yours?

We drove back home from Cape Cod on Sunday, and my rental car wasn't due back until Tuesday, so I found myself with a car and a window of opportunity for a little food adventure on Memorial Day afternoon. My son, Will, and I decided to grab a slice at Sal & Carmine's, the fine pizzeria on 102nd and Broadway that doesn't deliver. We walked in, I checked out the slice pie on the counter, and I knew all was right with the world.

A Sal & Carmine's pie is irregularly shaped. It is not round, exactly. It has little notches or indentations around its edges. The crust itself is extremely thin, but it has enough lift to be crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. The cheese is nothing fancy, the sauce is canned, but all I can tell you is that a Sal & Carmine's slice is still a salty, crunchy, cheesy delight, one of the best the city has to offer. It is certainly a top five slice in Manhattan, and is in contention to be a top ten slice city-wide.

Since we were already up on 102nd and Broadway, Absolute Bagels (at 107th Street and Broadway) practically reached out and grabbed me with a set of oversized tongs. I ordered a dozen minis and six regular bagels. I tore off a piece of each as I left the shop, and two bites later I knew that the Thongkriengs, the Thai family that owns Absolute, are still at the top of their game. I had written about them in the New York Times a few years before, when I discovered that many Thai bagel bakers were carrying on old-world boil and baking bagelmaking traditions. The mini bagels, especially, were spot on, chewy outside, tender on the inside, kind of like a Sal & Carmine's slice. Makes sense. Bagels and pizza are both bread forms, and all great bread shares these same crunchy, tender characteristics.

Of course, once we were in Absolute Bagel territory, the superlative fried chicken at Rack & Soul, courtesy of one of city's best fried chicken makers, Charles Gabriel, was just two blocks away. But I resisted, as I wanted to show my son my newfound self-control.

I dropped my son off with the bagels and made my way up Amsterdam Avenue to buy a rotisserie chicken at Pio Pio for dinner. A whole chicken cut up is $8, which seems reasonable considering it's coming out of a restaurant kitchen. The skin was crunchy and salty, the green sauce very spicy, and if the white meat hadn't been dry, Pio Pio's chicken would have been perfect.

I called my wife and offered to pick her up at her mom's on the East Side. This, of course, gave me an opportunity to try some sorbet at Eli's Manhattan. Eli's makes very good ice cream and sorbet at typically stratospheric Eli Zabar prices, and yet he is rarely cited in New York ice cream articles. I had a small cup of half apricot and half grapefruit, and, while the grapefruit was a little too sweet, it still had plenty of citrus tang. The apricot was stellar, made from ripe apricots (which are in season now) and little else. It was $4 for a small cup, which is in Grom-like territory (Grom's small cup is $4.25), but there was no line and it was certainly in the same league, quality-wise.

I then attempted to return the car. One of the Hertz guys came into the office where I was handing in my contract to tell me that Hertz was going to charge me $100 to clean up the dog hair my beagle, Brass, had left all over the seats. He pointed to a sign informing me and every other Hertz customer of this new, week-old policy. I still had a few hours to return the car, so I told them I was taking the car back and would clean it myself. I was outraged, though I must admit Brass had been shedding like crazy all over Hertz cars for years.

Of course I had no DustBuster at our apartment, so I took the car out of the Hertz garage and headed to the housewares department at Zabar's. There I found a $19.95 car DustBuster. Who knew they made such a thing? The added bonus of buying the DustBuster at Zabar's? I got to try the tart frozen yogurt called Z something. It's Zabar's answer to Pinkberry, and, at $2.50 for a large cup, it was a good deal. I ordered a small strawberry, and though it didn't have much strawberry flavor, it was plenty creamy and nice and tart. The DustBuster plugged right into the car's lighter slot, and five minutes later there was no sign of Brass in the car.

I returned the car to Hertz, feeling triumphant (I had saved $80) and full. Not a bad way to end a Memorial Day weekend.

Sal and Carmine's
Address: 2671 Broadway (b/n 101 and 102nd streets) New York NY 10025
Phone: 212-663-7651

Absolute Bagels
Address: 2788 Broadway (b/n 107th and 108th streets) New York NY 10025
Phone: 212-932-2052

Pio Pio
Address: 702 Amsterdam Ave. (at 92nd Street) New York NY 10025
Phone: 212-665-3000

Eli's Marketplace
Address: 1411 Third Avenue (b/n 80th and 81st streets) New York NY 10025

Address: 2245 Broadway (b/n 80th and 81st streets) New York NY 10024
Phone: 212-787-2000

Virtual insanity

Wired and The New York Times have just each published an article about the use of virtual reality to simulate the experiences of schizophrenic psychosis. This is a PR success for its creator, Janssen-Cilag Pharmaceuticals, but its hardly news, as they've been showing the system since 2000.

The system originally had the appalling name 'Paved With Fear' and was unveiled in September 2000.

The company, who manufacture the antipsychotic drug risperidone (aka Risperdal), toured the world with the 'Paved with Fear' truck.

The rig allows users to put on the VR goggles and explore a virtual world, while the software is programmed to simulate hallucination-like experiences - abusive voices, visual scences transforming into sinister images and so on.

It was covered in 2002 by an NPR radio show, that has some audio and images from the simulation.

In one simulation, a schizophrenic has auditory and visual hallucinations while trying to refill a prescription, and sees the word "poison" on a bottle of pills.

Its not often you meet psychotic patients who hallucinate drug company PR, but Janssen seem to think that refusing their product is a sign of madness.

The system has been taken around the world and show to police, psychiatrists and families of people with mental illness.

The system has since been rebranded with the less stigmatising name 'Virtual Hallucinations' and continues to make the headlines, despite the fact that many other people have used VR to simulate psychosis.

I wrote an article in 2004 about some of the systems and talked to their creators, and got some feedback from a programmer and a psychologist who have experienced psychosis themselves.

They concluded that while VR simulations might be a useful simulation of the perceptual disturbance in psychosis, it also involves distortions of meaning and thinking that can't be captured.

The systems covered in the artucle were based on experiences taken from patient interviews and were made independently.

Psychiatrist Dr Peter Yellowless recently published a paper on the system he developed, and one system has been built in online virtual word Second Life. There are instructions online so you can try it yourself.

Link to NYT article 'A Virtual Reality That's Best Escaped'.
Link to 2004 article on using VR for psychosis simulation and research.
Link to summary of Yellowlees' paper on psychosis simulation.
Link to instructions for Second Life simulation.

May 28, 2007

7 Days Till Tokyo

So I’ve just got one week left to get everything together for my big trip to Japan. My travel bike is fully decked out for touring now….except for the gearing.


Jeremy Sycip came through with the new fork with lowrider mounts, as well as powdercoating the Tubus Duo rack and the fork to match the frame. TOuring wasn’t on my mind when I designed this bike. The bike is basically a track bike with 130mm rear spacing and a derailleur hanger to make it a road race bike. The fork allows me to load up the front with panniers since the rear drop outs don’t have eyelets.

I have to say that I like the weight distribution with the bags on the front rather than the rear like my Davidson road bike. Part of it has to be the lower center of gravity for the front racks.

As pictured, the bike has Ortlieb Sport-packer Classic panniers on the fork mount, an Ortlieb Ultimate 5 handlebar bag and an Ortlieb Bike Box 3 on the custom Davidson titanium seat post rack. I don’t think Bill is eager to make more of these racks, but it works awesome.

I road the bike on Bainbridge Island as a shake-down run, and I don’t think that the compact double crank with a 12-27 cassette is going to be low enough. Much as I hate triples, I’ll be re-kitting the bike with Tiagra triple cranks and derailleurs hooked to the current right DA sti and Suntour downtube shifter.


Notes From The Brick House

Today I quit my job at Brickhouse, Yahoo's internal startup incubator, where I had been working as a backend developer since January. I'm grateful to my friends and colleagues at Yahoo for giving me this chance to work on interesting projects (particularly upcoming.org and Pipes) and, like Jonah inside the whale, to experience what it's like to inhabit one of these Web giants (dark and fishy).

The unvarying reason for leaving any tech job is to ‘pursue opportunities elsewhere’, and this where I need help:

I'm a Perl and JavaScript developer looking for contract work in the San Francisco area. I can design Web applications, help with scaling and integration, build search and recommendations engines, and deliver working code on deadline without a lot of supervision.

These self-promotional themes are fully rehearsed in my resume; please contact me at maciej@ceglowski.com to talk turkey.

As an added bonus request, a Beijing collaborator of mine has returned to the Bay Area and the two of us are looking for a sliver of San Francisco office space where we could work quietly on some open source projects. We're low-overhead, willing to offer consulting services as barter, and the projects are cool enough (spraypaintable search interface for online maps, Flash as a client-side search engine) to liven up anyone's workspace. All we require is two chairs, a table and a Web connection.

Thanks for bearing with the biannual jobseeking post!

Nature Shots

Heres a couple nature shots I took over the past few weeks in Golden Gate Park and Yosemite. Enjoy.

Hot for Features

A recent article in the New Yorker by James “Wisdom of Crowds” Surowiecki notes that consumers love features on their devices:

[A]lthough consumers find overloaded gadgets unmanageable, they also find them attractive. It turns out that when we look at a new product in a store we tend to think that the more features there are, the better. It’s only once we get the product home and try to use it that we realize the virtues of simplicity.

Don Norman a few months back also examined this phenomenon:

Why do we deliberately build things that confuse the people who use them?

Answer: Because the people want the features. Because simplicity is a myth whose time has past, if it ever existed.

Make it simple and people won’t buy. Given a choice, they will take the item that does more. Features win over simplicity, even when people realize that it is accompanied by more complexity. You do it too, I bet. Haven’t you ever compared two products side by side, comparing the features of each, preferring the one that did more? Why shame on you, you are behaving, well, behaving like a normal person.

Norman, after some harsh (and probably unwarranted) criticism, added an addendum to this piece (which is longer than the initial article!) in which he says, “[P]eople are not willing to pay for a system that looks simpler because it looks less capable. Hence the fully automatic system that still contains lots of buttons and knobs.” He also points to an article by Joel Spolsky that echoes his point.

Norman’s solution is this:

[Make] the actual complexity low, the real simplicity high. That’s an exciting design challenge: make it look powerful while also making it easy to use.

While Norman (why do I want to call him Don?) has a point, I think there might be one other thing to think about: don’t play in the features game at all. Because let’s face it: most features are commodities that will likely be replicated eventually. Instead, it is about the connection between the features that will create both product loyalty and product desire. That connection is much harder to reproduce. That is where design (and not engineering) comes in. First to create an strategy for which features should be included (or at least emphasized) and then a design to stitch those features together in a useful, usable, and pleasing way.

The iPod didn’t beat out other MP3 players because it had the most memory. Indeed, no one buys any Apple product for the feature set (or if they do, they are pretty silly–you can get a comparable PC for considerably cheaper). People buy Apple products because of how well the features fit together, not for the feature set alone.

Or take the Wii. Look at its packaging. It’s not eating the Playstation 3’s lunch because its features are better (they aren’t). It sidestepped the feature war and provided a better gaming experience. Yes, the graphics suck and it’s pretty primitive, but that doesn’t matter because the features they do have are better put together and more fun than those of the PS3 (at least currently).

The marketing of Apple’s products and the Wii both reflect this circumventing of specs. And we see this all the time in other industries. Do you think the Scion sells customers on its horsepower? W Hotels on the square footage of their rooms? Like Norman says, people want to feel that they are getting something–some value–for their money. In lieu of anything other feeling–desire, joy, playfulness, luxury, etc.–people will turn to power, possibly out of fear. (”It’s ugly as hell but at least this thing will work. I hope.”) Rather than, as Norman puts it elsewhere, helping a product work better because it is attractive, people instead pray their overcomplicated gadget at least works well. The feature list makes them–us–feel more comfortable with our decision so that we hopefully won’t regret it in the future (as the descriptive theory of decision making tells us).

Instead of the engineering specs, design and marketing have to work together to figure out what the story of the product is, how all the features fit together into a unified product that can be sold and enjoyed. We don’t need to sell simplicity any more than we should sell complexity. We need to sell–and design–products that are useful, usable, and desirable. And that customers perceive as all those things (that’s where marketing comes in). We don’t have to get caught in the quicksand of features; we have the ropes to pull ourselves out if we only have the courage and discipline to use them.

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databases and spreadsheets (or, every nail looks like a thumb)

Dear Lazyweb,

At the club, we keep most of our records in a Filemaker Pro 6 database: stuff like attendance and cash register totals for each night.

(And when I say "most" I mean "except that a bunch of our data lives in QuickBooks instead, for some reason that none of my employees has ever been able to explain to me in a way that I understand.")

Anyway, something about this Filemaker situation is so hellaciously complicated that it's like pulling teeth to get any kind of sensible reporting out of it. I don't know if this is a property of Filemaker itself, or the database schema we are using, or just that nobody here knows how to use the damned thing.

It strikes me that all we need here is a spreadsheet: one axis is "date", and the other axis is a bunch of keywords and values associated with that date (e.g., "register-1", "box-office".) Then some simple computed fields (e.g., "total=A+B+C"), and a bunch of different views onto that grid (e.g., show a report of all dates where "event-name" is "Foo", with some columns totaled or averaged or whatnot.)

Surely the sensible thing to do here is for me to extract this data into some kind of tab-delimited text file; import that into a simple spreadsheet; and throw Filemaker away, right?

So my questions are:

  • Is this, in fact, a sane line of thought?
  • How do I extract this shit?
  • What's a simple, free-or-very-cheap spreadsheet for OSX that will suck less than Filemaker?

I don't even know if I'm asking the right questions here, because I don't actually use this software; my employees do. But when I ask them for different kinds of reporting, it takes way too much work for them to deliver it, and when I ask questions like "if this is so hard, why are we using Filemaker instead of something else?", I just get blank stares.

Google is the crossword puzzler's best friend. Several of the <a...

Google is the crossword puzzler's best friend. Several of the top 100 searches on a given day are for crossword clues. This was more apparent a few days ago but it looks like they've started to filter the crossword terms out. More here. (thx, peggy & jonah) (link)

i'm a goodie, and kind of an oldie

Whenever I am out by myself, without children or even my old man, who knows me too well, I feel young. I feel exactly the way I felt when I was seventeen. I am completely unaware of any distance traversed to get from my current self to my remembered self, and I can pretend that we are the same only smarter, more competent, less concerned with boys. These are good times, whether wandering around a museum or cruising the aisles of the grocery store.

I was at Whole Foods the other night, which I still call Fresh Fields, which I've also heard referred to as Whole Paycheck, which is right on the money, when I had one of those bizarre self-realizations that can only happen while standing alone in the check-out aisle of the grocery store at night. The guy helping me bag my groceries was very friendly, kind of chatty in an easy-going way, probably because it was almost closing time. I remember that feeling from my days at Baskin-Robbins. Depending on how the rest of the shift had gone, the last customer was either my newest best bud who got a little more than that 4.2 ounces or the walking nightmare who got some bad juju with his double banana-split.

I asked bagger guy if he'd had a good night, and he told me he'd entertained himself by singing along with the oldies that played over the loud speakers.

"Oh yeah," I said, remembering my duet with Cher on Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves in the frozen foods aisle.

"Yeah," he said "There's this one oldie... I don't know who sings it... It goes "If you're lost, you can look and you will find me...""

"What?!" I practically yelled. Who was this person who considered Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time an oldie? "How old are you? That's not an oldie, that's from the eighties."

"Oh yeah," he said, backing away somewhat. "I love the eighties." He said it in this way, this outsider's way of being fascinated with something of which they know absolutely nothing, that brought me right back to my current self. I was suddenly acutely aware of how much had passed between then and now.

"You need some help getting this to your car?" he asked.

"No, thanks," I said. "I got it."

Riding the crosstown bus, thinking of you...

Riding the crosstown bus, thinking of you...
Originally uploaded by yatta

... And by "you" I mean "streamlining & automating our transcode workflow."

Is Apple done with the iMac?

More than any machine, the original iMac can be said to have single-handedly turned Apple's fortunes around -- making once-'beleaguered' Apple Computer simple, cool, and fun again. Besides bringing Apple much-needed mindshare, the iMac brought in scads of cash for Apple before the iPod was even a glimmer in Ives' eyes.

Thus, it would shock many to hear that Apple is, in fact, planning to retire the iMac this year.

Of course, they're not. That would be stupid. Still, I bet I could get a ton of other rumor sites to pick this up as "news" if I kept going with it.

MIT's behavioral analysis game comes to Intel Macs

MIT is performing some behavioral research in the form of a computer game in order to algorithmically generate another computer game. That game is now available for Mac users, too.


The Raw Story | Report: Cheney aide clearing path to bomb Iran

A report published today reveals a growing game of tug-of-war between President Bush and his No. 2 regarding the US approach towards Iran. Vice President Dick Cheney believes the US should not be pursuing a diplomatic path with Iran, and a senior aide to the vice president has been meeting with national security think tanks and consultants in Washington to "help establish the policy and political pathway to bombing Iran," Steve Clemons reported Thursday on his blog, The Washington Note.

Expeditions in Feminism and Computing

Tim Bray says:
In the keynote, I griped about the all-male audience. I’m sorry, I’m not going to shut up about this: it is irritating, disturbing, and unacceptable that probably less than 100 of the 1600 attendees were women. It’s probably pretty lame of me to say “unacceptable†when I have exactly zero good ideas about how to fix it. I talked to a random selection of attendees; two women said “thank you for saying that†and a bunch of men said “yeah, it sucks, what can be done?â€

Geeks, you know, they’re admittedly obsessive about computers, but once you get past that they’re on average a pretty eclectic, amusing, and warm-hearted bunch. And in recent years I haven’t met a single one who wasn’t upset about the missing gender. If a booming female Voice From On High spoke out, saying, “Do this and we’ll rejoin your profession†, well I bet a lot of us would do whatever it was. But failing that, in the meantime the problem isn’t getting better.

The people who study such things tell us that there is a long chain of influences, from Kindergarten to the first day on the job, that discourage women from working in computing. Like the chain of intermediaries who drive up the price of a latte and drive down the wage of coffee-bean growers, no one step along the chain is the Decisive Step, yet from end to end, something goes wrong.

It's a fact of our culture—our broader culture, not just the profession's—that there is some kind of mismatch between "womanhood" and "computing" (as well as other technical professions).

These professions would be healthier and happier if they were more equitably populated with women; and in principle, it seems wrong there should be a field to which women seem to have almost no "access." But I also wonder whether, in an ideal world, a world free of gender pressures toward or away from a field, women would choose this kind of work. Programming, for example, certainly has its pleasures: the challenges, the elegance of a good solution, the need for creativity and the satisfaction of a working system; on the other hand, it tends to be solitary work, and it can call for a lot of pedantic knowledge—and to some kinds of feminists, these are patriarchal traits, not "women's ways of knowing."

It is likely that the commonly accepted stereotype of women's thinking as emotional, intuitive, and personalized has contributed to the devaluation of women's minds and contributions, partiularly in Western technologically oriented cultures, which value rationalism and objectivity. It is generally assumed that intuitive knowledge is more primitive, therefore less valuable, than so-called objective modes of knowing. . . .

Feminists are beginning to articulate the values of the female world and to
reshape the disciplines to include the woman's voice, while continuing to press
for the right of women to participate as equals in the male world.

Women's Ways of Knowing, Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, Tarule

I'm interested to know more about how that perspective relates to the idea that women should participate more in computing professions.

May 27, 2007

Memorial Day

My grandpa in the Navy, 1944That's my Grandpa in a photo from April 1944, on or very close to his wedding day. He had just turned 24, and the photo was taken shortly before he left for sea during WWII.

I was thinking about him today, Memorial Day, as I thought about veterans in general. His ship, the USS Wasatch (AGC-9), was the flagship of the 7th Fleet, stationed in the South Pacific. Being the flagship meant that admirals used the ship as their command post, as Admiral Kinkaid did to command the naval forces of the 7th Fleet during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle of all time. This log of movements chronicles the Wasatch from its departure at Norfolk, VA June 27, 1944 until its return to San Diego, CA November 28, 1945. I also found a more detailed description of the Wasatch's action in the South Pacific as I was looking for information.

I didn't know much about my grandfather's war experience -- he never talks about it, not when I was little, not now. But in less than an hour poking around online, I was able to uncover more than I ever knew about where he'd been and the battles in which his ship had been involved. And for the first Memorial Day in a long time, I actually did some good hard thinking and reading about the sacrifices men and women have made throughout history to ensure, "that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." To my grandpa, and veterans everywhere, thank you.

Originally published May 27, 2002

oakland crime maps VII: public indexes redux

Earlier this month, I described a way of publishing a database in a RESTful, static form. Since then I've been tweaking the data into a more presentable state, which I'll describe in this post.

Also I promise that next time, there'll actually be something to look at beyond of me noodling with computer pseudo-science.

When I first opened up the Oakland crime index, I published data in two forms: data about crime was stored in day/type resources, e.g. May 3rd murders or Jan 1st robberies, while binary-search indexes on the case number, latitude, and longitude were published with pointers to the day/type resources. As I've experimented with code to consume the data and kicked these ideas around with others, a few obvious changes had to be made:

First, the separate b-trees on latitude and longitude had to go. Location is 2-dimensional, and requires an appropriate index to fit. I had initially expected to use r-trees but found that quadtrees, a special case, made the most sense. These are closest in spirit to the b-tree, and unlike the r-tree each sub-index does not overlap with any other.

Second, space and time are intricately related, so spatiotemporal index was an obvious next step. I chose an oct-tree of latitude, longitude, and time. Again, this is a simple extension of the b-tree, and provides for simple answers like "show all crimes that are within a mile of a given point, for the following dates..."

Third, I was being too literal with the indexes, insisting that traversing the trees should ultimately lead back to a link to a specific day/type listing. Although this is how a real database index might work, in the context of an index served over HTTP, a large number of transactions can be avoided by just dropping the actual data right into the index. To understand what this means, compare the CSS-styled output of the various indexes to the HTML source: the complete data for each crime is stashed in a display: none block right in the appropriate node.

Finally, my initial implementation used the binary tree lingo "left" and "right" to mark the branches in each index. I've replaced this with more obvious "before", "after", "north", "south", "east", and "west" for greater ease of human-readability and consumption.

I'm still hosting the data on Amazon's S3, but a recent billing change is making me re-think the wisdom of doing this:

New Pricing (effective June 1st, 2007): $0.01 per 1,000 PUT or LIST requests, $0.01 per 10,000 GET and all other requests.


In one week, S3 is going to go from a sensible storage/hosting platform for data consisting of many tiny resources, to one optimized for data consisting of fewer, chunkier resources; think movies instead of tiles. I can see the logic behind this: S3's processing overhead for serving a million 1KB requests must be substantial compared to serving a thousand 1MB requests. Still, it makes my strategy of publishing these indexes as large collections of tiny files, many of which will never be accessed, start to seem a bit problematic.

The obvious answer is to stash them on the filesystem, which I plan to do. However, there is one feature of S3 that I'm going to miss: when publishing data to their servers, any HTTP header starting with "X-AMZ-Meta-" got to ride along as metadata, allowing me to easily implement a variant of mark and sweep garbage collection when posting updates to the indexes. This made it tremendously easy to simulate atomic updates by keeping the entire index tree around for at least 5 minutes after a replacement tree was put in place, a benefit for slow clients.

When I move the index to a non-S3 location before my Amazon-imposed June 1st deadline, I will no longer have the benefit of per-resource metadata to work with.

For next time: code to consume this, code to show it.


"Lets you turn any command line script or AppleScript into a system service, accessed from the Services menu."


will this show up?

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