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July 31, 2010

Too Smart for Git

The worst part about Git is the "Git-SVN Crash Course" tutorial, because it will convince a newcomer that their understanding of how source control works transfers smoothly to Git. If you combine that with the fact that most smart people simply refuse to read documentation and will just mash on the keyboard until it appears to work, it means that teams who are starting out using Git are on the yellow brick road to a world of hurt.

Git follows Linux's philosophy of refusing to protect you from yourself. Much like Linux, Git will sit back and watch you fuck your shit right up, and then laugh at you as you try to get your world back to a state where up is up and down is down. As far as source control goes, not a lot of people are used to this kind of free love.

Milo has been using Git from the get-go, and the git pull/git push with a central repository works well enough when you only have a handful of developers.

This fits with the Subversion worldview that a benevolent central server will never lead you astray. The first time you get some error about not being able to push non-fast-forward commits to origin, you kind of gloss over it, and a git pull fixes you right up. If you understand Git as you understand SVN, you can easily mistake this error for something like "oh, I just have to do a merge because someone else's commits beat me to it". Well, technically that's right, but for the wrong reasons. Using this model, if you think of the developers as different threads sharing the origin repository resource, Git is putting lock on the whole repository, as opposed to individual files. With a lot of threads sharing a coarsely-locked resource, there's always going to be contention. However, in a small enough team, it's workable to think of it this way.

This is where smart people run into trouble. We know in the backs of our minds that something is just a little off about that non-fast-forward-commit error message, but everything looks fine, so why go read about what's going on? I am generally not a fan of reading documentation until I am debugging a problem, because I expect software to behave as it would if I wrote it. Good documentation is condescendingly terse, and Git's documentation is like an art critic who giggles at you. (The description of git-rebase is "Forward-port local commits to the updated upstream head". Oh, fuck off.)

In the last couple of weeks, we started using Gerrit for code reviews, and anyone who was using Git like a translation table for SVN commands just heard the bell ring at the School of Hard Knocks.

Gerrit acts as an intermediary between developers and the origin repository. You send commits to Gerrit and it holds them in purgatory until they are signed off on by another developer. Then, if the commit applies cleanly to the branch, Gerrit applies it. Otherwise, it asks you to upload a merge commit, which is where the fun really starts.

The upside to this system is that it prevents other peoples' git-fuckups from becoming your git-fuckups. The downside is that because commits are held in this transient state, it's very easy to lay a path of destruction through your local repository with rebase and merge if you don't completely grok what's going on. Like old skid marks on a highway, our codebase is peppered with merge commits and cherry-picks that are the only living records of a series of oh-shit moments.

The problem isn't that Git is to hard, it's that smart developers are impatient and have exactly zero tolerance for unexpected behavior in their tools. While Git is the trendy thing right now, perhaps some day you will come across a grizzled developer who is using SVN, and when you ask him why, his answer won't make sense, because it's a Zen thing.

Diary of a Losing Team: Hope

Are Alex Gordon and the Royals finally ready to come out of the rain? Maybe so. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

Tomorrow, I will post an oppressively long story on an American sports legend. Today, a curiously long post on why I’m finally excited about the Royals again.

* * *

I suppose that Rick Ankiel led to my nadir and also to the biggest burst of optimism I’ve had for the Kansas City Royals in a long, long time. So I have him to thank for that. Funny that it would be Ankiel at the center of my latest straw-breaking-camel’s-back moment and also this newfound hope — yes, funny that it would be Ankiel, a player everyone knew was only brought to Kansas City for one of those cynical “You give me a job, I’ll give you a year,” arrangements. But so it goes. With bad baseball teams, you take the good feelings however you can get them.

First the low point … I have to say that from a fan’s perspective I have never disliked a hometown team quite as much as I have disliked this year’s Kansas City Royals. It’s not a personal thing … the players seem nice enough, as far as that goes. It’s not a professional thing either; I would guess after watching KC play game after game that this Royals team has played about as hard as most bad teams do. No harder. But no less hard either.

No, what has bothered me about this team is that there was not even the slightest inkling of hope here. None. Forget the lousy play — you get used to that after a while. The real issue was that these Royals were an old, spent, jaundiced team featuring veteran after veteran who would be gone as soon as possible (but not soon enough for either party). Where were the young players? Where was the energy? Where was 2012 in all this mess? Every night it was Jason Kendall and Rick Ankiel and Jose Guillen and Scott Podsednik and Willie Bloomquist and Bruce Chen and Kyle Farnsworth and Wilson Betemit, on and on … it was a veteran desert out there. This was a team with players who simply had no place else to go. And it was agonizing to watch, day after day, night after night, a slow, painful march to the October grave.

It was bad enough to have to watch the team play poorly. But because these were the Royals, everyone around KC tried to make the best of it. And that was even worse. The Royals television announcers — my friends Ryan Lefebvre and Frank White — really had little choice but to try and celebrate the vague talents of Jason Kendall (“He really controls that swing with two strikes!”) and Yuniesky Betancourt (“He’s been better lately about staying within the strike zone!”) and Scott Podsednik (“His defense in left field has been a real plus!”). I understand why they did that — it’s not like hometown announcers can spend their games bashing local players every night — but as a fan when you watch this sort of thing night after night after night, you begin to wonder if maybe you’re the crazy one. Kendall’s is hitting .213/.270/.243 with two strikes. Betancourt seems to be swinging at more bad pitches than ever before (which is saying something) and is on pace to strike out more than ever (his ability to not strike out had been more or less his only offensive skill). Podsednik, to my eye, is an atrocious left fielder even though he is fast and tries hard and makes a diving play now and again … his minus-14 Dewan plus/minus this year matches what I have seen. I found myself, more often than ever before, grumbling at the television.

But maybe the disconnect simply comes from not caring about these guys. How could anyone really care? The Royals played winning baseball for about 50 or so games … so what? How could you get excited about a team winning because Jose Guillen had his annual hot streak and Jason Kendall blooped in a few hits and Kyle Farnsworth managed to harness his 98-mph fastball long enough to nail down a few sixth and seventh innings? This doesn’t have anything to do with reality, with the future, with hope, with anything. The Royals were clearly just trying to get to the end of September without posting 100 losses. That isn’t exactly inspirational.

Which leads us to Rick Ankiel. I both understood and did not understand why the Royals signed Ankiel before the year before. I understood because Ankiel was a name, and he was willing to come to Kansas City, and he could hit with a bit of power, and he might showcase himself enough to deal, and this is what teams without many options do. I didn’t understand, though, because he wasn’t super-cheap ($3.25 million), he was injury prone, he was getting old, and the Royals already had a handful of guys who could be just as productive. Before the season began, I wrote my prediction for Ankiel: A .240-.250 average, few walks, average defense the Royals will rave about, 15-20 homers if he gets enough at-bats.

He did not get enough at-bats. He only managed 101 plate appearances for the Royals. His average was .261. He only walked seven times. He hit four home runs. Royal free agent signings are, if nothing else, predictable.

But the key part of that Ankiel prediction did not come together until the last few days … when Ankiel finally returned to the lineup after a day-to-day injury that had a lot of days. Suddenly, Ryan and Frank — those guys I count on to give me the pulse of the team — started to rave about Rick Ankiel’s defense in center field. And I mean they RAVED. They talked about how smooth he is, how graceful, how beautifully he goes back on the ball and so on and so on and so on. They talked and talked about how wonderful it is to watch a great outfielder track a ball. This, again, about Rick Ankiel.

And … I grew depressed. I texted a close Royals observer and mentioned my depression: “Rick Ankiel is now Paul Blair out there or something?” He texted back: “I actually think Ankiel is real good in center.”

More depression. I went to lunch with another close Royals observer and mentioned it. He said, “Well, I think Ankiel is definitely above average.”

Even more depression. Maybe I WAS the crazy one. It’s not that I think Ankiel is a bad center fielder … he’s fine. He has a strong arm, of course. He looks pretty good out there. But his lifetime UZR in center field is -13.8. His lifetime Dewan plus/minus in center is minus-18 (though it is plus-4 in limited time this year). He’s FINE. When it comes to being above average — well, in the American League Central there are five teams. I would say he is not as good defensively as Minnesota’s Denard Span, not as good as Chicago’s Alex Rios, not nearly as good as Detroit’s Austin Jackson, and not as good as a healthy Grady Sizemore in Cleveland. Fifth out of five is not above average. He’s fine.

But this is part of what’s hard about following a losing team … fine turns into good, and good turns into special, especially at the end of seasons when there’s nothing else going on. Last year, the Royals had this goofy campaign to get David DeJesus a Gold Glove as a left fielder. I thought it was pointless and ridiculous — left fielders almost never win Gold Gloves, and while DeJesus was a perfectly good left fielder who didn’t make an error, he was certainly not even the best LEFT FIELDER in the league. But you do need something to talk about at the end of lost baseball seasons. DeJesus and the Gold Glove was that something last year. And it looked more and more like Ankiel’s brilliant defense in center field would be 2010′s mirage du jour. The next day, when a ball soared over Ankiel’s head, Ryan said something like: “Wow, you don’t see that often.” Like he was Willie Mays.

Frankly, i wasn’t sure if I could take two more months of people raving about Rick Ankiel’s defense. I realize that, yes, like all Royals fans, I have endured much, much worse lot over the last 14 years. You would think two months of overpraise for Rick Ankiel would be a piece of cake. But, well, maybe I’m just not as young as I used to be.

Thing is … I want to be excited about the Royals again. It has been so long. When Dayton Moore was hired as Royals GM, his clear plan was to build a farm system, to develop young players, to build a young, rising, homegrown team that we could watch succeed and fail and improve and disappoint and surprise and all the fun things that go along with baseball. That was exciting to think about. But it has been four long and dry years since then.

Now, finally, I hear again and again from people all over baseball that the Royals have one of the best minor league systems in baseball. I asked Keith Law to give me three adjectives to describe Royals minor league system — and you know Keith is tough. He offered “Loaded. Exciting. Left-handed.” Sounds about right to me. People tell me that third baseman Mike Moustakas — who hit .347/.413/.687 in Class AA (though the bulk of that in a good-hitting home ballpark) — should compete for a job next spring and is a great talent. They say that first baseman Eric Hosmer is even better … he may even be the best young hitting talent in the minor leagues. John Lamb is left-handed, ferocious and, at three levels, he has a 1.65 ERA and 137 Ks to 33 walks. Mike Montgomery, is left-handed, precise, and has a 2.01 ERA in three minor league seasons. Wil Myers is a 19-year-old catcher hitting .333 with walks and showing a strong arm in the tough Carolina League. And throughout the system there are what Updike called “gems of slightly lesser water,” including my favorite, Kila Ka’aihue, who is hitting .319/.463/.598 in Class AAA.

This sort of exciting future is what baseball fans in Kanas City were promised. And everybody is ready for it. I don’t want to watch a 36-year-old Jason Kendall go a whole season without a triple or a home run (and listen to the endless praise for his grit). I don’t want to watch the ageless Yuniesky Betancourt post a sub-80 OPS+ again. I don’t want to watch 33-year-old Bruce Check gobble innings. And I certainly don’t want to see 31-year-old Rick Ankiel make a decent play in center and get congratulated like his glove is where triples go to die.

So that Ankiel thing was my low point. And then, just as suddenly, hope exploded. Saturday, the Royals traded Rick Ankiel. Not only that: They also traded Kyle Farnsworth. And this was the same week they traded Scott Podsednik. And they also got rid of Alberto Callaspo. And they seem determined to do whatever is necessary to move Jose Guillen.

And finally — FINALLY — you get the sense that the Kansas City Royals are pointed toward the uncertain future. Finally. I’m told the Royals got good return value in the Ankiel-Farnsworth trade to Atlanta … but I don’t really care. I just know they got back young players. Same with the Podsednik deal. Same with the Callaspo deal (though Callaspo was not old … he just never seemed to fit). And suddenly there are players to root for again. Alex Gordon is 26, a former big-time prospect learning a new position and trying to finally get his career going … THAT is a guy to root for. Chris Getz is 26, he plays hard, he seems pretty good at second base … THAT is a guy to root for. Billy Butler is 24 and a natural hitter who is prominent in the Kansas City community … THAT is a guy to root for. Zack Greinke is still only 26. Sean O’Sullivan is 22, Luke Hochevar is 26, Kyle Davies is 26, Blake Wood is 24, Greg Holland is 24 … this might not be the greatest collection of young pitchers, but there’s some talent here, and there seems to be a whole lot more talent on the way, and if any of these guys could develop well … THAT is something to root for. There’s even talk that Kila Ka’aihue will get the call in the next few days.

And it’s like there’s a reason to like this team again … not because as a Kansas City fans you HAVE to like them, but for real reasons. The future — that nebulous future that everyone talked about but never seemed to get any closer — suddenly looks closer.

It’s clear that Dayton Moore and the Royals have been treading water these last few years, trying to keep the big league team from being an embarrassment while building the farm system. That part of the plan hasn’t really worked … the big league team HAS been an embarrassment and, even more than that, no fun to watch. But with this flurry of trades and with hope for more deals and moves, it feels like something substantial has happened. It feels like the Royals are finally ready to stop treading water, finally ready to pull back the curtain on the real play. I’m excited. Genuinely excited. The Royals don’t figure to be much of a team the rest of the year, but I have to tell you: I don’t care about that. I’ll take fewer wins to get a glimpse of the future. I’ll take fewer wins to have a baseball team to enjoy. I’ll take fewer wins to never, ever again hear about the greatness of Rick Ankiel’s defense.

Why you can’t rely on a replica for disaster recovery

A couple of weeks ago one of my colleagues and I worked on a data corruption case that reminded me that sometimes people make unsafe assumptions without knowing it. This one involved SAN snapshotting that was unsafe.

In a nutshell, the client used SAN block-level replication to maintain a standby/failover MySQL system, and there was a failover that didn’t work; both the primary and fallback machine had identically corrupted data files. After running fsck on the replica, the InnoDB data files were entirely deleted.

When we arrived on the scene, there was a data directory with an 800+ GB data file, which we determined had been restored from a SAN snapshot. Accessing this file caused a number of errors, including warnings about accessing data outside of the partition boundaries. We were eventually able to coax the filesystem into truncating the data file back to a size that didn’t contain invalid pointers and could be read without errors on the filesystem level. From InnoDB’s point of view, though, it was still completely corrupted. The “InnoDB file” contained blocks of data that were obviously from other files, such as Python exception logs. The SAN snapshot was useless for practical purposes. (The client decided not to try to extract the data from the corrupted file, which we have specialized tools for doing. It’s an intensive process that costs a little money.)

The problem was that the filesystem was ext2, with no journaling and no consistency guarantees. A snapshot on the SAN is just the same as cutting the power to the machine — the block device is in an inconsistent state. A filesystem that can survive that has to ensure that it writes the data to the block device such that it can bring into a consistent state later. The techniques for doing this include things like ordered writes and meta-data journaling. But ext2 does not know how to do that. The data that’s seen by the SAN is some jumble of blocks that represents the most efficient way to transfer the changed blocks over the interconnect, without regard to logical consistency on the filesystem level.

Two things can help avoid such a disaster: 1) get qualified advice and 2) don’t trust the advice; backups and disaster recovery plans must be tested periodically.

This case illustrates an important point that I repeat often. The danger of using a replica as a backup is that data loss on the primary can affect the replica, too. This is true no matter what type of replication is being used. In this case it’s block-level SAN replication. DRBD would behave just the same way. At a higher level, MySQL replication has the same weakness. If you rely on a MySQL slave for a “backup,” you’ll be out of luck when someone accidentally runs DROP TABLE on your master. That statement will promptly replicate over and drop the table off your “backup.”

I still see people using a replica as a backup, and I know it’s just a matter of time before they lose data. In my experience, the types of errors that will propagate through replication are much more common than those that’ll be isolated to just one machine, such as hardware failures.

Entry posted by Baron Schwartz | No comment

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Custom DTrace Instrument

Jonathan Wight:

I decided to instead use Intruments to probe the application and find out exactly what RGBA colour was being used by UIKit. In modified my project to display the element I wanted to find out the colour of (in my case it was the colour of a UITableView’s section footer label) and then ran the application through Intruments.

state of the map U.S.

The first domestic edition of the annual OpenStreetMap State Of The Map conference is in a few weeks, and I'll be there in Atlanta along with all the funky geography enthusiasts.

Join us!


Narcissists and Creativity

"The research also shows that narcissists can contribute to a team's creative outcomes - but not on their own. 'There is a curvilinear effect - having more narcissists is better for generating creative solutions, but having too many narcissists provides diminishing returns.' In the workplace, for example, 'You want creative tension. Narcissists shake things up - they stimulate competition and provoke controversy.' ... To capitalize on narcissistic talent, colleagues should collaborate with narcissists and encourage them to collaborate with each other. Groups may turn a negative trait into a valuable source of creative tension. It sometimes works best to assign narcissists to pitching ideas, not creating them."

Great quote on the value of being a good client

“Clients who are easy to work with … don’t just get our best work. They also get the lowest invoices, because we can work efficiently and don’t have to fight our way through the process.”

The article is about working with Graphic Designers, but it applies equally well to technology or strategy engagements.

via “10 Secret Code Phrases to Get What You Want from Your Graphic Designer“.

The Process: a Visual Guide to Mass Extinction

I recently completed this new print, entitled "The Process', which is now available in the Justseeds store. It feels like something I've been trying to make for a long time, and the process of creating it was immensely satisfying. It incorporates many visual ideas that have been paddling around in my notebooks for years, looking for a home, and does something more: it provides a framework through which to tell a multiplicity of stories. 06process400.JPG(View larger image)

The point of biodiversity is that it is complicated. Everything alive is leaning on everything else, exerting pressure, withstanding pressure, swaying like limbs in wind. Life in our cities and towns is so simplified, so basic, so free of the beauty and complexity of life that we have essentially lost all relationship to the world of biodiversity. At this point, its complexity and richness just alienates us, in large part because it implies an astronomical quantity of priorities that are at odds with our own. As humans, and especially as humans within this groaning, creaking hulk of industrialized civilization, we exist now only to propagate our ideas about the world. We are no longer a part of the world: the world exists now mostly within the human brain. The upshot of the fact that we have been loosed from the tethers that keep every other living thing swaying smoothly in the breezes and gales of life is our descent into the realms of pure abstraction, pure thought, pure culture. Much as we long for a connection to the real world, for most at this point it is impossible. Why? Because we've upended the gamefield, and everything is up in the air. Places we see as emblems of natural beauty are in fact deeply impoverished, and everywhere all is falling further into tatters. We know no plants, no insects, no animals, and only our specialists and the curious few exhibit any curiosity towards the actual relationships that create the world. Our tragedy is that we constantly misperceive the frayed nature of this world we've made as a thing that is whole, and our children come to see the ash and corpses of their youth as the greenest playground they've ever known: they build their definitions of ecological balance and beauty on that baseline, seldom realizing the damage already done. For thousands of years we have been working our way towards this contemporary frenzy, where all around is the rustle and murmur of human thought and hunger, and everywhere the world of the non-human is in vast retreat.

This print is an attempt to describe the interlocking mechanisms through which human culture has brought forth this era of mass extinction.

chainsaw.JPG a) Deforestation: When forest land is cleared for agriculture, mining, or settlement, species are displaced and ecosystems destroyed. Road-building is the spearhead, opening new territories to floods of destructive human activity. Human development and expansion has fragmented global forests into poor islands of degraded habitat that shed species as they continue to shrink. Although historically driven by the subsistence farming practices of the very poor, deforestation is now largely the fault of resource-extraction corporations.

b) Mountain Gorilla: One of our closest primate relatives, the Mountain Gorillas of Central Africa have seen their habitat whittled to a fraction of its former extent by human encroachment. Poachers target them for their meat, and they fall victim to snares intended for other animals. The encirclement of their habitat by agricultural lands brings them into direct competition with farmers for the food being grown.

macaw.JPG c) Spix’s Macaw: Restricted to an inhospitable semi-arid zone in the Brazilian state of Bahia, the Spix’s Macaw is a large blue parrot that is currently considered extinct in the wild, with about fifty remaining in captivity. The bird’s population was obliterated by trapping for its glorious plumage, coupled with the destruction of the riparian woodlands in which it lived. Invading Africanized bees also competed with the macaws for nesting sites, often stinging birds to death.

shotgun.JPG d) Hunting and Trapping: Guns, steel traps, wire snares, poisoned bait and trip-cages are used all over the world to acquire animals for food and sale. Many trapping methods mutilate and kill animals for whom they aren’t intended; poisons do the same. Demand for bushmeat drives a growing global economy in forest foods, pushing market hunters further into forests in search of scattered remnants of animal populations. The global annihilation of large predators has seriously disrupted and destabilized most of Earth’s ecosystems.

crane.JPG e) Whooping Crane: North America’s tallest bird, the Whooping Crane historically inhabited wetlands, marshes, mudflats and wet prairies throughout the Midwest. The wholesale conversion of those habitats to farmland throughout the twentieth century brought the bird’s population to a low of 15 birds in 1941. The Crane has rebounded slightly since, but its habitat continues to vanish.

pettrade.jpeg f) The Pet Trade: Hundreds of species of birds are trapped out of the world’s forests to feed an apparently bottomless human enthusiasm for caged units of beauty and song; birds also trade as symbols of status, and, in the case of the rarer species, as objects of speculative investment. Mammals are also sought, as well as reptiles, frogs, snakes, spiders and other arthropods, and fish. The pet trade, and its associated trade in animal parts and feathers, has contributed to enormous losses worldwide during the past 150 years.

pangolin.JPG g) Pangolin: Pangolins are tropical anteaters of Africa and Asia, up to three feet long and covered in hard, fingernail-like scales. They are hunted for bushmeat in both regions and are traded in industrial quantities to China for the alleged medicinal properties of the scales: numerous shipping containers packed full of pangolins and other creatures have been intercepted in recent years. Massive deforestation in all parts of their range has caused the numbers of all pangolin species to plummet.

hunger.JPG h) Hunger: At the heart of all human activity lie the two central motivating forces of all biology: the need to reproduce, and the need to feed. In the grim aftermath of the Green Revolution, swollen human populations are being pushed, by poverty and desperation, back and forth between swarming cities and fringe lands. At the edges of society the raw need of hunger brings humans a stark choice when faced with ostensibly protected lands and creatures: poach, or die. Such choices eventually form an economy of their own.

crab.JPG snake.JPG spider.JPG
i) Invasion: The advent of mechanized transport has created a situation on Earth unknown in scope in the entire history of life. The species of the world are being shifted about in incredible quantities, in terms both of the number of individuals and the species themselves. Displaced, and suddenly liberated from both predators and disease, many of them are erupting into new ecosystems like biotic volcanoes. Species have always moved, but in the modern world they move en masse in millions of gallons of bilge-water in supertankers, or mixed in with cargo and superstructure of fleets of commercial airliners, trucks, and freight trains. Intentional introductions of exotic species have had apocalyptic unintended consequences: the trend is towards a universal ecological imbalance. The three invading species depicted here are: 1) the European Green Crab, conquering ocean bottoms worldwide, 2) the Brown Tree Snake, responsible for the destruction of almost all of the native vertebrate species of Guam, 3) The Redback Spider, an Australian relative of the Black Widow, now spreading across Japan.

sifaka.JPG j) Silky Sifaka: In scattered forest fragments on the island of Madagascar, Silky Sifakas cling to a diminished existence. The large, white lemurs suffer from the aftereffects of massive deforestation through illegal logging and swidden farming, and face the added threat of plans for large-scale industrial agriculture. They are not, unlike many other species of lemur, subject to taboos against their consumption; they show up to market smoked, piled in wicker baskets.

k) Palawan Horned Frog: Worldwide, frog populations are falling victim to chytrid fungus, an exotic invader that has already caused several frog extinctions. The Palawan horned frog, its numbers in freefall after the deforestation of its island habitat, has yet to fall victim in large numbers to the fungus, but the leveling of further forestland for mining and crops brings development, roads, humans and the chytrid closer every day.

menhaden.JPG l) Menhaden: This small, bony, intensely oily fish is considered by many to be a keystone species of the Atlantic coast ecosystem of North America. Filter feeders that move in shoals so big that they resemble islands, Menhaden clean the superabundance of algae from estuaries and coastal waters and transform it into oily prey for big populations of predatory fish and scavengers. The exploitation of Menhaden schools for cheap industrial oils and meals has caused many coastal ecosystems to break apart. In the wake of the industrial fishery floats a red tide of uneaten algae that deoxygenates the water and creates dead zones that stretch out into the open ocean.

medicine.JPG m) Traditional Medicines: In South Africa, gamblers smoke the brains of Cape Vultures for inspiration. Enthusiasts of Chinese medicine pay premiums for patent medicines made from Tiger bones, Bear bile, and the horns of the last few Rhinoceroses on the planet. Diminishing wild populations couple with spreading beliefs and new money to create new markets. Well-intentioned suggestions for substitutions to the consumption of rare animal parts for this purpose have led to localized extirpation of the substitutes, such as the Saiga antelope of East Asia, whose horns were touted by western wildlife NGOs as alternatives to rhino horn.

n) Ganges Shark: This six-foot-long freshwater shark inhabits rivers, estuaries and lakes in Northeastern India, surviving mostly on small fish and carrion. The global demand for shark fins and products has driven many shark species to the vanishing point, the Ganges shark no exception to that rule. In the absence of predators such as this and other, larger, fiercer sharks, the ladder of life in the oceans collapses under a thick slime of algae, jellyfish, and bacterial mats.

fishing.JPG o) Overfishing: All life emerged from the ocean, and, in this era of global mass extinction, humans have been intent on hauling as much as possible of the life that remains there onto the land. Industrial fishing techniques such as the purse-seine net and longline have ended fish stocks in fishery after fishery in all of the oceans of the world, and a growing human population clamors unceasingly for more. The nets and lines doom not only schooling fishes, but anything within reach of the net or with an appetite for one of the millions of baited hooks. Fish considered trash a generation ago are now delicacies, because they are essentially all that is left.

Roger Peet, July 2010

Washed Up At 20


From Pulp International where there’s lots more good stuff. e.g. They seem to share my fondness for nuclear bomb photographs

July 30, 2010

Raising Roofs, Crashing Cycles, Playing Pool: Data Structures for Pairwise Interactions

Erickson and Eppstein's paper on calculating the straight skeleton of a polygon.

This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters

VIEW SLIDESHOW: This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters

This week at Serious Eats World Headquarters, editors brought back food souvenirs from France and New Orleans, interns delivered good eats from Flushing, Queens, and we attempted a taste test that had the whole office smelling like fake butter. (Hmm, wonder what.) Check out our week!

Chorizo Hash Browns

From Recipes

I have a thing for hash browns. I love the crisp edges and the deep oniony bite. This recipe adapted from Gourmet tosses in some Spanish chorizo for some extra meatiness, and some smoked paprika to really bring things home. I wouldn't call this thing light by any means, but sometimes I really need something heavy and filling like this.

As with most heavy fried-potato dishes, an egg somehow seems to make sense. Too bad I didn't realize that until I took this picture. But just mentally stick a runny yolk on top and we're all set. Oh, and those little black specks are some deeply caramelized onions. I panicked and worried that they'd taste burned, but instead they were truly sweet and delicious.

The Case for Open Transit Data

Ever find yourself waiting for the next bus, not knowing when it will arrive? Think it would be great if you could check a subway countdown clock from the sidewalk? Or get arrival times on your phone? Giving transit riders better information can make riding the bus or the train more convenient and appealing. And transit agencies are finding that the easiest and least expensive way to do it is by opening data about routes, schedules, and real-time locations to software developers, instead of guarding it like a proprietary secret.

I recently got the chance to dive into the topic of open data with my colleagues at OpenPlans. We went up to Boston to see what transit riders got out of the state transportation department's decision to open up its data. We also talked to New York MTA Chair Jay Walder, City Council Member Gale Brewer, Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase, and Transportation Alternatives director Paul Steely White to paint a full picture of what it would mean if cities shared their transit and transportation data. The information is there, waiting to be put to use to help people plan transit trips, waste less gas driving, or make their streets safer.

The Ghosts of World War II’s Past

Taking old World War II photos, Russian photographer Sergey Larenkov carefully photoshopped them over more recent shots to make the past come alive. See more at My Modern Metropolis.

Advertise with Design You Trust! - DYT on Twitter - Facebook

Made me laugh (old guy with a …

Made me laugh (old guy with a beard style) to see a “small code” contest where 10k is considered small http://10k.aneventapart.com/

Complaint Box: Person Writes About Dismembering Lovely Birds

ROOSTYToday's Times's "Complaint Box" is given over to one Louise Dreier, the recent beneficiary of a master’s degree in urban planning from Columbia. Her topic? "It's time New York regarded pigeons as the major nuisance they are—they're simply rats with wings." 1. Okay, I guess they already did airplane food? And 2. Yes I know we are at war with the birds, but the pigeons were not a combatant—they were an ally. And: 3. This weird bias against Columbidae must stop. Those of us who have read Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird know that this trash-talking and, yup, CASUAL RACISM about the feral rock dove results not only in terrible cliches but also in anti-bird violence and, sure, I know I am sounding awfully PETA-crazy right now. But, c'mon. Live a little! That this person (whose Columbia work, nobly investigating street harassment, uncovered the shocking results that "a male companion makes women feel safest" on the street) gets to write about throwing water balloons at pigeon nests and how she contemplates tearing off pigeon legs? Petty, crude and bizarre. I'd love to see her boring, birdless, Sim City plans for her urban-planned version of New York. Then I will have some awesome birds take a crap on them. (Photo by ZeroOne from Flickr.)

Steven Alan's Guide To The Hamptons


Here at Refinery, Steven Alan is kinda our best friend. He's super chill, thoughtful, and stylish with an attitude that's as laid-back as his timeless duds. What many don't know about the NY King of Casual Cool is that he's a big deal in the Hamptons, too. With his plaid shirts, perfect cotton blazers, and a whole lot of pleated shorts, Alan's our go-to guy when it comes to dressing for a BBQ in MTK or a clam-bake on Shelter Island. So, how psyched are you that Steven is sharing his insider secrets on all the Hamps' spots—from a clandestine art gallery to a fisherman's hangout, going out East may never be the same again.

Here are Steven's six favorite stops:

1.Silas Marder Gallery: "The Marder family have a nursery and tree farm. They've opened up a great contemporary art gallery in a converted barn on the property for exhibits. They also screen classic films every Friday night and hold seasonal garden lectures all summer long."
Silas Marder Gallery, 120 Snake Hollow Road; Bridgehampton; 631-702-2306.

2. Iacono Farms: "This is where I buy chicken and eggs in the Hamptons. All of their poultry is free-range, which definitely makes it taste best."
Iacono Farms, 106 Long Lane; East Hampton; 631-324-1107.

3.Round Swamp Farm: "It has a great market in East Hampton. It's a family farm that has been in the same family for 250 years. They've also got the best pies in the Hamptons—recommend the Strawberry-Rhubarb."
Round Swamp Farm, 184 Three Mile Harbor Road; East Hampton; 631-324-1107.

4. Bob Melet Mercantile: "Bob's got a great Montauk Outpost. This is one of the best curated vintage stores around."
Bob Melet Mercantile, 102 Industrial Road; Montauk; 631-668-9080.

5. The Fish Farm: "They make the best lobster sandwich I've ever had."
The Fish Farm, 429 Cranberry Gold Road; Amagansett; 631-267-3341.

6. The Dock: "A place on the harbor in Montauk where locals and the fishermen go to eat. I like this place because it's no-nonsense, unpretentious, and has great food."
The Dock, at Montauk Harbor; Montauk; 631-668-9778.

R29 GIVEAWAY: Are you at the beach yet? Make some waves with this pair of Steven Alan 100% cotton Beach Blanket ($48 each), in funky Americana stripes that will look just as good on your bed as on the sand. When the article gets 100 likes on Facebook, we'll choose a winner randomly from the peeps that gave it the thumbs up!

Steven Alan BAZAAR, 52 Newtown Lane (between Barns Lane and Park Place); East Hampton; 631-604-1726.

1953 Topps Alvin Dark

Here's the first of my card show pickups. I'm going to show 'em all off over the nest few weeks, possibly days if I am desperate for cheap posts. This card here is one of the very, very few true common cards I needed from the low numbered set. I'm quickly getting to the point where the only cards I need are high numbers and superstars. Mickey and Yogi and Mays, oh my! I would have bet money that I had this card already because I've seen this picture a thousand times in eBay auctions and Archives cards. If it wasn't on the wantist I would have passed it up. Always carry a want list! And keep it current!

Alvin was one of the first old-time players I had ever heard of. I read Peanuts paperback books like mad when I was a kid and one of the Sunday strips showed the locker room of the San Francisco Giants (Sparky's favorite team) in the throwaway panel. The names on the top of the locker included Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Alvin Dark. I knew exactly who Mays and McCovey were but didn't know about Alvin Dark. From that point on, I figured he was another superstar like the Willies. Turns out he was the manager, which is a different kind of superstar.

The Food Lab: Make Crisp, Juicy Carnitas—Without a Bucket of Lard

It's time for another round of The Food Lab. Got a suggestion for an upcoming topic? Email Kenji here, and he'll do his best to answer your queries in a future post. Become a fan of The Food Lab on Facebook or Twitter for play-by-plays on future kitchen tests and recipe experiments.


Moist, crispy Carnitas. [Photographs: Kenji Alt]

Carnitas. The undisputed king of the taco cart. The Mexican answer to American pulled pork, at their best they should be moist, juicy, and ultra-porky with the rich, tender texture of a French confit, and riddled with plenty of well-browned crisp edges. The most famous version of the dish comes from Michoacán, in central Mexico. Delicately flavored with a hint of orange, onion, and occasionally some warm herbs spices like cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, or oregano, all it needs is a squeeze of lime, some chopped onion and cilantro, and simple hot salsa to form a snack of unrivaled deliciousness.

The best part is that they couldn't be easier to make. All you have to do is take whole pork shoulders, chop them up and season them, then dump them into your five-gallon vat of hot lard in order to slowly break down the collagen and connective tissue. Then all that's left to do is shred it, crisp it, and toss it into tacos and you've got some comidas fit for el rey. The more batches of carnitas you make, the tastier they become, as the fat picks up flavor from every previous batch.

But what's that you say? You don't have a five-gallon vat of lard kept at a steady 200°F in your kitchen? Oddly enough, neither do I.

Of course, there are ways to work around it. The best is to buy just as much lard as you need—say a quart or two—and do a small-scale version of the real deal by placing the seasoned pork chunks in a Dutch oven, covering with the hot fat, and cooking it slowly on the stove top. The texture comes out perfectly, though the flavor suffers a bit, as rather than adding flavor to the pork, the brand new lard actually strips flavor away. Without the benefit of cooking multiple batches the way a real taqueria can, your carnitas will never be as good as the real deal.

Not to mention that you end up with an extra quart or two of flavored lard to store until the next time you make carnitas. Maybe that's not a problem for people like Chichi, who seem to have an unlimited capacity to find novel uses for lard, but what are the rest of us to do?

Shedding the Fat

There are pretty much two things that happen when you cook a fatty, connective tissue-laden cut of meat like a pork shoulder in low temperature fat (which I define as under 250°F):

  • Connective tissue breaks down. Beginning at around 176°F, the proteins that make up the connective tissue (mostly collagen) will slowly break down and convert to gelatin. Unlike collagen, which forms tough, fibrous strands, gelatin will not coagulate at serving temperature, instead acting to thicken liquids, allowing them to lubricate muscle fibers, and giving food a luscious mouthfeel. But the breakdown process takes time. At 176°, it can take upwards of 8 to 12 hours, whereas at 200° or so, this time can be reduced to closer to 3 hours.
  • Muscle proteins contract, expelling moisture. Muscle fibers begin to contract at around 140°, squeezing liquid out of their ends. They contract tighter and tighter as the temperature gets higher, until eventually the liquid is almost completely expelled. Unlike collagen breakdown—which is time dependent—the amount of liquid expelled from muscle fibers is related pretty much only to the temperature they are heated to.

So the key to great carnitas (and French confit, for that matter) is to heat the meat to a specific temperature, and try and keep it there long enough for the collagen to break down, while minimizing the amount of moisture lost. The large quantity of fat helps to accomplish this in a few ways.

First off, it coats the food, making it more difficult for water to escape. The fact that fat is hydrophobic (it repels water) helps it perform this function even better. Secondly, it acts as a temperature buffer. A large quantity of oil will heat and cool very slowly, helping to deliver a more even, consistent temperature. Finally, it helps deliver fat-soluble flavor molecules, like the oils in orange zest or bay leaves.

N.B. A lot of you may be asking: Doesn't the fat actually penetrate into the meat and make it juicier? This idea has been pretty conclusively proven false, and is easy to prove to yourself: Weigh the fat in a pan before and after slow-cooking meat in it. The mass will actually increase, indicating that the meat is actually losing fat, not gaining it.

So the question is, is there a way to achieve all of those goals without resorting to buying a separate container of lard?

Watered Down

Lots of home recipe for carnitas attempt to solve this problem by replacing the lard with a liquid, usually a combination of stock and orange juice. I decided to give this method a go, comparing it side-by-side with the traditional. The pork on the left was cooked in lard, while the one on the right was braised in stock. Both batches were cooked in the same oven, at the same temperature (both of them came up to around 208°F during the cooking process).


The difference is not immediately obvious, but the stock-cooked pork on the right shows some telltale signs of dryness: It shreds into fine threads rather than moist chunks, and the top edges shows a flat, matte-like finish rather than the moist gloss of the fat-based version.

Tasting the samples confirmed what my eyes told me: The stock-based version was definitely dry and overcooked.

So how could two pieces of pork, cooked for the same amount of time at the same temperature have cooked to different degrees? A lot of it has to do with the hydrophobic property of the oil I already mentioned—it helps keep the liquid inside the meat. The other reason has to do with heat capacity—the amount of heat that is required to change the temperature of a body by a given amount. Water has a heat capacity of about 4 kilojoules per kilogram degree Kelvin, meaning that in order to raise one kilogram of water by one degree, you need 4 kilojoules of energy (for the record, that's 1/302,000 the amount of energy you'd need to provide per second in order to send a DeLorean back to the future). Oil, on the other hand, has a heat capacity of about half that amount.

Here's what it boils down to: Given a set mass of oil and water at the same temperature, the oil will have about half the amount of energy as the water. Since the density of oil and water are nearly identical (oil clocks in at about 91 percent the density of water), foods cooking in a given volume of oil at a specific temperature will cook more slowly than food cooking in water at the exact same temperature.

No wonder the stock-braised pork was coming out dryer than the oil-cooked version: Oil is a much better temperature buffer than water. To get moist and tender pork, my cooking medium would need to have a relatively high proportion of fat to water.

A Tight Fit

A new question entered my mind: Why do I need all the liquid in the first place? Is it possible that the only reason many home recipes use a lot of liquid is to emulate the real deal? Just because using lots of oil makes sense in a taqueria setting, does it necessarily mean that it makes sense in my own kitchen?

Here's what I was thinking: Rather than have my pork pieces swimming in a lot of fat, why not just cook them in a much small container, fitting them together tightly enough that they'll cook in their own fat as it renders out? As long as I'm careful with the temperature, it should have enough fat in it naturally to cook plenty slow, right?

I seasoned up another batch of pork and rather than placing it in a Dutch oven on the stove top to heat, I placed it directly in a casserole dish—the smallest one I could find that I could squeeze the pork into and added just enough oil to cover the top surface and prevent it from drying out—about a quarter cup. After tightly covering it with foil, I placed it directly into a 275° oven to slowly heat up. It reached 208° after about an hour, and held there until I pulled it out two hours later (a total of three hours). Here's what I got:


Looking pretty good.

Before I even tasted it, I wanted to make sure that my theory about fat ratio in the cooking liquid held, so I drained the pork in a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl to figure out exactly how much fat and liquid were expelled in the cooking process.


Turns out that the ratio of the cooking medium was about 60 percent fat and 40 percent water-based liquid—much better than the nearly 90 percent water-based liquid I'd had in the stock-braised version! And the proof was in the pork: This batch was every bit as tender as the batch I'd cooked in lard.

What's more, it was actually even more flavorful than the lard-cooked version. With completely fresh lard, a lot of the flavor of the pork and the seasonings gets diluted. Only by repeatedly using the same batch of lard over many many batches will it actually become flavorful enough to enhance the flavor of the carnitas. By not adding any extra liquid and very little extra fat, all the flavor of the pork and seasoning stays right where it belongs: in the pork.

In order to further maximize flavor, I skimmed off the excess fat and added it back to the meat, which I shredded into large-ish chunks. The liquid I reserved to use as the base for a quick and easy tomatillo-based salsa. Look ma, no waste!

Tacklin' Cracklin'

The final step: crisping the edges. Many lard-based recipes call for deep frying the pork pieces in the rendered lard. I could do that for obvious reasons. Cooking them in a dry skillet on the stove top works pretty well—they've got enough fat that they'll crisp up without burning or sticking. It does require you to cook in batches and lend a lot of attention to the pan however.

By far the easiest method is to simply shred the pork, put it right back in the casserole dish, and throw it under the broiler. After it develops a nice crust, I like to stir it back in and broil it again, to double up on the crispy bits.


The best part of this method is that it allows you to crisp up a small portion of carnitas in the toaster oven, or to do a full party-sized batch in the regular broiler.

Since the meat is well seasoned and quite fatty, it also lasts quite a long time and freezes well: You can store it in the fridge for at least three days before the final crisping step, or in the freezer for several months. If you freeze it in the right shape (wide and flat), you can even broil it directly from the freezer with no real loss in quality. I wish I could say the same about my cat.


And oh, ok. Here's Dumpling coming out of a canon. This shot was not faked at all. Those are not his feet hanging out behind the canon. I swear.


Continue here for our No-Waste Tacos de Carnitas with Salsa Verde»

Follow Kenji on Facebook or Twitter. About the author: After graduating from MIT, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt spent many years as a chef, recipe developer, writer, and editor in Boston. He now lives in New York with his wife, where he runs a private chef business, KA Cuisine, and runs the collaborative blog GoodEater.org about sustainable food enjoyment.

jean nouvel: one central park

'one central park' by jean nouvel
image courtesy atelier jean nouvel

earlier this month 'one central park' designed by french architect jean nouvel received approval.
plans were unveiled for the project back in 2008, but has faced goverment planning issues.

located on the site of a former brewery in sydney city, the 600 million AUD project is comprised
of two towers which are 16 and 33 storeys high, above a six level retail and recreation podium.
the 250,000 square meter development, managed by frasers property, will contain a number
of architect designed buildings, a new urban park, and the retention and reuse of over 32 heritage
items currently existing on site.
for the project nouvel collaborated with french artist and botanist patrick blanc, incorporating
over a dozen vertical gardens across the facades of the towers. garden boxes and vertical wires
incorporated into the loggias will wrap the towers in plant life, extending the central parkland
at the heart of the new precinct into this very green building.

'one central park'’s eastern tower features a dramatic heliostat installation, extending from
the upper levels on a monumental cantilever. the heliostat incorporates an innovative system
of fixed and motorized mirrored panels designed to capture sunlight and redirect it into the retail
atrium and onto the landscaped terraces. at night the heliostat’s integrated lighting - designed
by lighting artist yann kersale - will theatrically and colourfully illuminate the towers.

the project will be accompanied by a 274 AUD million commercial development of 10 to
15 storeys, designed by british architects foster + partners, as well as a new underground carpark.

construction has been underway on the main park and new roads since march 2010.
'one central park' will begin construction in december this year.

the heliostat installation - captures sunlight
image courtesy atelier jean nouvel

image courtesy atelier jean nouvel

the towers facing broadway st, sydney
image courtesy atelier jean nouvel

image courtesy atelier jean nouvel

image courtesy atelier jean nouvel

aerial view of 'one central park'

model of 'one central park'
image via the messiah

model of 'one central park'
image via the messiah

model of 'one central park'
image via the messiah

model of 'one central park'
image via the messiah

model of 'one central park'
image via the messiah

model of 'one central park'
image via the messiah

floor plan

the towers to face broadway
image © designboom

the construction site - july 2010
image © designboom

excavation work in progress
image © designboom

construction in 2008

clearing of the site in 2008



american artist lockwasher creates robot sculptures using found objects. while his initial
interest started with building ray guns, he soon began making these robotic characters
after accumulating an overwhelming amount of 'garbage' in his garage.

detail of legs made from vintage shoe stretcher

'BR2D2' uses a 4.7 liter keg and measures in over at 16 inches tall.

detail of flashlight 'eye'




derived from disney's 'meet the robinsons' movie, 'doris' is made from an all
aluminum horn mute 'hat',  a series of bicycle reflector arms,  cantilever bike brakes
and a microscope lens.

'doris' detail

'rocking racquet rover'
12' x 17' x 8'

the main components of the 'rock racquet rover' are: steel thermos, wooden tennis racquet,
measuring cup and spoon, flashlight housing, vegetable steamer parts and an all aluminum
garlic press.

'rocking racquet rover' side view

'robo pup'

complete with a secret stash compartment, 'robo pup' is designed with wooden shoes,
a pivoting electric fan motor head, ears composed of an aluminum dental impression tray
and a tail made from the finial of an old lamp.

'robo pup'

'mobile phone man'

'lancer robot'

the main body of the 'lancer' robot uses an ANSCO lancer camera made in west germany
in the 1950s, which offers twelve exposures in 127 film.

left: mix master robot
right: stilko robot

'lunch box rod'

'stereo god' sketch

'mobile phone' man sketch

'lunch box rod' sketch

'robo god' sketch

via awesomer

lockwasher: robot sculptures


american artist lockwasher creates robot sculptures using found objects. while his initial
interest started with building ray guns, he soon began making these robotic characters
after accumulating an overwhelming amount of 'garbage' in his garage.

detail of legs made from vintage shoe stretcher

'BR2D2' uses a 4.7 liter keg and measures in over at 16 inches tall.

detail of flashlight 'eye'




derived from disney's 'meet the robinsons' movie, 'doris' is made from an all
aluminum horn mute 'hat',  a series of bicycle reflector arms,  cantilever bike brakes
and a microscope lens.

'doris' detail

'rocking racquet rover'
12' x 17' x 8'

the main components of the 'rock racquet rover' are: steel thermos, wooden tennis racquet,
measuring cup and spoon, flashlight housing, vegetable steamer parts and an all aluminum
garlic press.

'rocking racquet rover' side view

'robo pup'

complete with a secret stash compartment, 'robo pup' is designed with wooden shoes,
a pivoting electric fan motor head, ears composed of an aluminum dental impression tray
and a tail made from the finial of an old lamp.

'robo pup'

'mobile phone man'

'lancer robot'

the main body of the 'lancer' robot uses an ANSCO lancer camera made in west germany
in the 1950s, which offers twelve exposures in 127 film.

left: mix master robot
right: stilko robot

'lunch box rod'

'stereo god' sketch

'mobile phone' man sketch

'lunch box rod' sketch

'robo god' sketch

via awesomer

July 29, 2010

Newly Born Baby Lemurs

Baby Lemurs are so cute, it's hard to believe they're real! These adorable critters were born at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on June 7, 2010 and already seem to have minds of their own!

View List ›


by Wislawa Szymborska, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh, Stanislaw Baranczak

So long as that woman from the Rijksmuseum
in painted quiet and concentration
keeps pouring milk day after day
from the pitcher to the bowl
the World hasn’t earned
the world’s end.

'The Food Movement, Rising': An Exchange

by Ellen Finkelpearl, Joel Berg, Kevin Morgan, reply by Michael Pollan

To the Editors:

Michael Pollan inadvertently reveals the dangers of the local food movement when he extols its multiple benefits [“The Food Movement, Rising,” NYR, June 10]. In an otherwise excellent article, he claims that “the local food movement wants to decentralize the global economy, if not secede from it altogether.” As it stands, this argument carries two political dangers.

First, it comes perilously close to equating local food systems ...

Serious Eats Recipes

Anytime I need a good, solid recipe, I turn to Serious Eats. Their recipes are always carefully chosen, nitpicked over, and written with a serious love for food. They’re never afraid to experiment, whether they’re making something they’ve invented themselves or a dish that we’ve all made at home a hundred times before. The important thing is that they test, and retest—Alton Brown and Cook’s Illustrated style—to make sure their readers get the best possible recipe.

But the best thing about Serious Eats is that they keep it real. Their style of writing makes recipes, even ones that take hours slaving in the kitchen, approachable to cooks of all levels. Their articles, all accompanied by photos taken outside of a studio, show glorious result at the end, but only after going through the same failure after failure that we’ve all experienced at home. Their directions are honest, and unlike most food bloggers that only harp about the joys of cooking with ramps and organic eggs, they’re totally OK testing supermarket kettle chip brands or recreating the In-N-Out Double Double burger, Animal Style. Needless to say, Serious Eats rocks my world.

Serious Eats started out with a strong focus on food writing, and occasionally added on recipes to their articles. As time went on, more and more readers turned to Serious Eats as a resource for recipes, but had a difficult time finding them. So, they called us up to help them build a recipes section from the ground up, as well as redesign their individual recipe pages.


As a big Serious Eats fan, I couldn’t be more excited about the new Recipes section that launched this week.


You can now browse recipes by type and ingredient, but unlike traditional recipe sites, you can also browse by column, which is essential for Serious Eats readers.


There’s nothing that gets people to cook more than seeing a nice big picture of a juicy meal, so we put a big rotating image section right up there at the top of the page.


There’s even a How-To section for cooking. (Told you - they keep it real. Want to know how to boil water? They have that too.)


Reminiscent of mom’s old recipe file, clicking on “Browse by Category” pulls down an index card where you can check off the types of recipes you’re looking for.


Anyone who likes cooking loves sharing it even more. So we made sharing really, really easy. You can share any recipe that you’re reading, or post your own in the Talk section.


Then there’s the brand new recipe page. The old recipe pages took on the same format as the articles, but now they get their own, specially styled pages.


We took in consideration that laptops, phones, and iPads are commonplace in kitchens nowadays, so we made sure that each section is clearly marked, easy to read, and easy to follow on any device. If you get lost, there’s bookmarks to help keep your place—just like what you do with post-its in a cookbook.


There’s also the ability to select and print out comments, which is useful if other readers added in extra ingredients or tips to the recipe.

Check out the new recipes section »

The Beats: Pictures of a Legend

by Edmund White

Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg
an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., May 2–September 6, 2010

Allen Ginsberg’s snapshots of friends—the subject of the exhibition at the National Gallery, Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg—are fascinating since few of them are well-known and they often show their subjects in their youth—a fresh-faced, toothy, nerdy Ginsberg, for instance, long before he became the bearded guru, and a melancholy, poetic William Burroughs before he became the saurian undertaker seen in familiar portraits. There’s even a shadowy nude of Burroughs in bed during the period when he and Ginsberg were lovers.

A Brief History of Kanye West's Twitter

INSANE IN THE...So last night professional crazy person Kanye West opened up a Twitter account after performing a mysterious and confusing (but kind of awesome) a capella performance at Facebook HQ. If you were lucky enough to start following him last night you either stayed up late into the night waiting for his next insane, misspelled (but again kind of awesome) Tweet or awoke this morning to a torrent of craziness. So, without further introduction (or parentheses) here's our guide for understanding the unhinged tweet-rantings of Kanye West.

"Up early in the morning taking meetings in Silicone Valley" 11:17 AM Jul 28th

And we're off, word misspelled, but it's not really too insane right?

"Lol I spelled Silicon wrong ( I guess I was still thinking about the other type of silicone ITS A PROCESS!! : )" 12:05 PM Jul 28th

Ok, that smiley is a bit strange, but nothing like his capslocked blog posts, maybe Kanye West has calmed down a bit. Who doesn't get confused about the difference between silicon and silicone? He dates a lot of models.

Between 12:53 PM Jul 28th and about 22 hours ago West made shout outs to various celebrities like Jimmy Fallon and Perez Hilton, did a shoutout to Pitchfork, usual stuff. He tweets here and there about how cool twitter is; around yesterday afternoon it really looked like he was all better from the kooky thoughts that made him yell Taylor Swift and cry on television. Last night it looked like we were in the clear America—we got our college dropout back!

And then about 13 hours ago he started posting about goblets…

I copped this to eat cereal out of     turning the crib real ... on Twitpic

And he kept posting about goblets…

This what I'm on on Twitpic

Oh, here's another goblet picture…

I'm into these type of glasses    this is a new decade i... on Twitpic

And then after that, as the night rolled into the early morning he pretty much just stopped making any sense whatsoever.

About 13 hours ago he tweeted "I feel the glow" and from then on it was a mish-mash of insanity with tweets like "SWAGGER ON 200,000 THOUSAND TRILLION!!!" (I don't think that's a number…), "Dating models I had to learn to like small dogs and cigarettes," "Classical music is tight yo," "William Tell" Overture by Andre' Rieu … Maybach music!!!," and then about 2 hours ago West tweeted "I specifically ordered persian rugs with cherub imagery!!! What do I have to do to get a simple persian rug with cherub imagery uuuuugh."

And then there's this. Which we can get behind!

this J.Press tie is the greatest tie of all tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime!!!!!!!!! Kool Aid smile!!!! It's the small things that mean so muchThu Jul 29 19:34:44 via webKanye West

So, there you have it, a simple and easy to follow timeline on the rising insanity of Kanye West's twitter account. There's probably a good chance it's only going to get more insane from here, so be sure and start following him now, it can't be long before he tops Hayley Williams and twitpics his penis wearing shutter shades "accidentally."

You Too Can Read the Missing ESPN LeBron James Story

LEBRONJust thought it was important to further propagate the link to the story on LeBron James that got disappeared from ESPN. It may be true, as ESPN says, that it was "accidentally published"! We have no opinion. But everyone else sure does.

Top Chef Pea Scandal

"Think about it: There are three possibilities, right? 1) Alex may indeed knowingly have stolen Ed’s pea puree and used it; 2) Alex may have made his own pea puree and been wrongly maligned by his co-contestants; or, 3) Alex unwittingly may have mistaken Ed’s pea puree for his own and taken Ed’s, but truly believing that he was using his own. In two of the three possibilities, Alex did not intentionally commit any wrongdoing."
—Tom Colicchio does a terrific job of explaining why I don't watch "Top Chef" "Pea-Gate," which has rocked the "Top Chef"-watching world.

Bloops: Cliff Lee’s amazing streak of IP and walks

B-R Blog reader David sent us this link to some research he did for the Freedom Card Board, regarding an ongoing Cliff Lee streak:

"Since 1920, there have only been 4 pitchers who have tossed at least 8 innings, while walking one or none, for 8 straight games:

Fergie Jenkins in 1974
Mort Cooper in 1942
Red Lucas in 1932

Here is Lee's current streak: http://www.baseball-reference.com/playe ... 04-211-sum

Jon Matlack did it for 8 straight STARTS in 1978, but had two relief appearances tucked in: http://www.baseball-reference.com/playe ... 20,222,sum
Similarly, Robin Roberts did it for 8 straight STARTS in 1952, but had one relief appearance during the streak: http://www.baseball-reference.com/playe ... 76,177,sum
And again, Wilbur Cooper had an 8 START streak in 1924 that was interrupted by a relief appearance: http://www.baseball-reference.com/playe ... 60,461,sum

Mort Cooper's streak was actually 10 straight starts, but like Matlack, Roberts, and Wilbur Cooper, he had a relief appearance (between the 2nd and 3rd starts)."

Good work!

Why Isn’t Traffic Reduction a Top Public Health Concern?

Earlier this week, Ken Archer at Greater Greater Washington posted this revealing graphic showing the relationship between the amount of driving we do in the United States and the death toll on our roads. Even as conventional traffic safety techniques have made driving less deadly, the rise in miles driven knocked back those improvements. It wasn't until our collective mileage flattened out that safety gains could be fully realized. Thousands of lives were saved when the growth in driving came to a halt.

So it should seem obvious that policy discussions of the risk posed by traffic should prioritize measures to reduce driving and encourage travel by other means, but, as Archer notes, public health authorities tend not to attack the problem that way:

Traffic is the leading cause of death among children worldwide and the leading cause of death among 1-34 year olds in the United States. So, why isn't traffic considered the top threat to public health by the CDC, WHO and federal, state and local governments?

Why don't officials approach traffic reduction with the same urgency that they approach, say, tobacco or malnutrition? The answer can be found in the CDC's publications on injury prevention...

The CDC, NIH and other agencies focus on traffic safety as the preventable cause of death, not traffic itself. WHO's recommendations for addressing traffic fatalities are "speed, alcohol, seat-belts and child restraints, helmets, and visibility." [Editor's note: The WHO and CDC have also issued reports recommending traffic reduction strategies.] The flaw in this exclusive focus on traffic safety is that increased safety only matters when vehicle miles traveled (VMT) are kept static or reduced. Instead, safety improvements that reduce fatalities per VMT have been offset by rising VMT...

Are we serious about public health? The sooner we start demanding honesty about the causes of the top killer of children here and abroad the better, because during the 2 minutes you spent reading this article, another child died in a traffic collision.

One agency that has focused attention on traffic as a public safety threat, Archer notes, is the New York City Department of Health, which recently released a report indicating that the city's robust transit system is a big reason why traffic-related child deaths are relatively low -- one-third the national average.

Elsewhere on the Network: Cap'n Transit on transit funding kludges. (What's a kludge? You'll just have to follow the link.) M-Bike notes another milestone for Michigan's complete streets bill. And Straight Outta Suburbia critiques Los Angeles's minimum parking requirements.

Reading up on the future of books

Over on Twitter, Tim Carmody is burning it up with links and retweets, mainly about the Kindle, Amazon, Google, Apple, and the future of books and media. Lots of good stuff there.

Tags: books   Tim Carmody

BBEdit 9.5.1 out now

Filed under:

You lousy kids, with your iPhones and iPads and iGadgets! Back in my day, we worked on real computers, with real keyboards, and mice with one button, and we liked it! BBEdit is a relative relic of that age -- when text ruled the Earth, BBEdit ruled text. And the old Mac app is still being updated. The latest version 9.5.1, adds in a couple of dozen fixes, and reverts some of the capitalization rules to the way it worked in a previous version. There are still some die-hards who swear by BBEdit for coding or editing text, and because of its power and versatility, it's $125 for an initial purchase. The upgrade to 9.5.1 by current users is, of course, free.

Nowadays, you've got your drag-and-drop and your touchscreens and your gestural controls, but BBEdit is one of the best apps that does what your computer used to be best at: editing text quickly and well.

TUAWBBEdit 9.5.1 out now originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Thu, 29 Jul 2010 10:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Keynote Wireframe Toolkit

Keynote lovers, take notice. There's a community of designers who love wireframing in Apple's presentation software, and Travis Isaacs has created a set of clean, Mac OS style user interface components to suit your needs in Keynote.

The toolkit provides all of the foundational design elements you need to quickly create wireframes in Keynote. Version 2 includes: Form elements and buttons; Navigation elements, such as menus, tabs, bread crumbs, accordions, carousels, and fly-outs; Stylish tables; iOS elements, including buttons, menus, toolbars, alerts, keyboards; 960 grid system templates; Text style guide; Image and video place holders; ad units; Alerts and messages; Annotations for capturing interactivity; and Progress bars.

We're proud to announce that you can now purchase Travis' Keynote Wireframe Toolkit in the Konigi store.

Rickie Weeks Mashing

Scouring the WAR leader board for major league second basemen reveals a surprising name directly behind Robinson Cano. Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks, a perennial breakout pick whose career has been sidetracked by injury, ranks as the second-most valuable player at the keystone spot this season. Granted, Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia would likely place higher if not for injuries of their own. But to his credit, Weeks has already hit the four win mark before the calendar turns to August.

The second overall pick in the 2003 draft, Weeks walloped minor league pitching to the tune of a .289/.404/.493 line. He worked the count, packed a punch and showed lightning-quick wrists with a bat waggle reminiscent of Gary Sheffield. With that profile, Baseball America ranked Weeks as a top-10 prospect prior to the 2004 and 2005 seasons. “Weeks,” Baseball America gushed back in ’04, “has surprising pop for his size, as well as tremendous speed and quickness on the base paths, a combination that has many scouts comparing him to a young Joe Morgan.”

Comparing any young second baseman to Morgan, a guy with 108 career WAR and a 146 wRC+, is totally unfair. Still, Weeks was supposed to emerge as an up-the-middle force for the Brewers in short order. To say that the Southern University product had been a disappointment prior to 2010 wouldn’t be totally fair, but he never had that monster season that scouts envisioned.

Weeks was a league-average hitter (100 wRC+) in 2005, but rated poorly in the field and had just 0.3 WAR in 96 games played. The next year, he had a 108 wRC+, but again cost the club plenty of runs in the field and had 0.9 WAR in 95 games. Weeks’ season ended in late July, as he underwent surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right wrist. 2007 looked like a nice step forward — despite a DL stint for right wrist tendinitis and a brief, punitive demotion to Triple-A Nashville, he put up a 124 wRC+ and 3.1 WAR in 118 games, with less damage being done with the glove. Instead, his 2008 season was merely decent — a 105 wRC+ and 2.1 WAR in 129 games.

Last year, Weeks got off to a superb start. In 162 plate appearances, he had a 126 wRC+ on the power of a .245 ISO. Through just 37 games, Weeks racked up 1.4 WAR. And then, another injury — his season came to a halt in mid-May as he had a procedure to repair a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist.

So far in 2010, though, Weeks has remained in the lineup and has been at his best. In 487 PA, he’s batting .276/.376/.492, with a 140 wRC+. The 27-year-old holds a .216 ISO and has popped 22 home runs. With those quick, powerful wrists, Weeks’ homers have traveled faster and farther than most other batters. According to Hit Tracker Online, the average speed off the bat on Weeks’ big flies is 106.1 MPH, compared to the 103.3 MPH major league average. The “standard distance” on his dingers is 406.2 feet, while the MLB average is 393.5 feet. Standard distance, per Hit Tracker Online, “factors out the influence of wind, temperature and altitude, and is thus the best way of comparing home runs hit under a variety of different conditions.”

Weeks may regress somewhat at the plate — his rest-of-season ZiPS projection calls for a .364 wOBA, while his current mark is .381 — and he’s never going to be confused with a Gold Glover in the field (career -8.2 UZR/150). But a healthy Weeks has been a bright spot during an otherwise bleak season for the Brew Crew.

Human power

My hat goes off to the good people of Central Steel Supply in Somervilla, MA, USA. You can make a small order of, say, 6 hot-rolled sheets of 12" x 24" steel, and not only will they take the order, they won't even bat an eye when you rock up on a bicycle to carry those 60 pounds of steel off under human power. Cheers!

This Is Why Biking Is Good For Your Legs, NYC

Doc Gooden Retires As a Met Sunday

We moved into Loge13 in 1985. This is how we remember Doc Gooden. Invincible. Nearly flawless every time out. People dancing in the upper deck pasting "K" after "K" to the rafters.

Doc and Darryl were my childhood heroes. We were convinced in later years, we'd look back at them as the Mantle and Whitey of our generation. Heck, the first time I ever went to Cooperstown was Gooden's rookie year, a few weeks after his All-Star game debut. And Gooden was already enshrined, as the youngest pitcher to ever strike out the side in the mid-summer classic.

But we all know what happened. Fast forward 25 years later and the Mets are going to enshrine Strawberry, Gooden and Frank Cashen in the Mets hall of fame this Sunday.

Also, the Mets are signing Doc to a one-day contract this weekend. When it expires, he will retire as a Met. There's a nice interview with Gooden in the Bergen Record. Check it out after the jump...


Dwight Gooden is keeping busy, a phone in his ear as he sits at a table signing autographs for Little Leaguers. He's in a hotel on this day, just days after he was signing autographs in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Keeping busy keeps the mind off of other things. There are the obvious things, the stories that still litter the police blotter section of the newspapers nearly as often as he used to fill up the sports pages. But there are additional thoughts that gnaw at him, things that you can't help but think about. In Cooperstown, he saw players - peers - honored and not one had more raw talent than Gooden. But he's not honored there and likely never will be.

For Gooden, Sunday's induction into the Mets' Hall of Fame is as good as it will get and it is a long time coming. But he is well aware that he made the path much longer on his own. Even as his troubles have surfaced - although he insists that the stories have another side - the Franklin Lakes arrest in March for allegedly driving under the influence of drugs and child endangerment or the recent claims by his wife that he had cut her out financially - and people close to him say it is not what it appears.

"A lot of stuff off the field I've been involved in -- it's my fault," Gooden said. "But I have a good heart. Fans know I'm a good person. That makes me feel good. Stuff that [came] out recently, false allegations with my wife, people look at the past and think, 'Oh yeah, sure,' but I haven't been found guilty of anything. Now I want to be happy, see my kids grow up. The person they talk about now, that's not me. They know my heart."

There always is someone to speak up for Gooden, those who know him insisting that a good heart beats beneath the sordid stories. And if Cooperstown never opens its doors to him, the Mets have.

He will sign a one-day contract Saturday at the Mets' Hall of Fame charity luncheon, allowing him to retire a Met - something he said he always wanted.

The drug problems that detoured his career ended his time with the Mets after 11 seasons. Suspended during the 1994 season and for all of the '95 season, Gooden wanted to return, but said there was no coming home at the time.

"When I came back in 1996 I wanted to sign with the Mets, but they didn't think it was appropriate," Gooden said. "Every time I signed with another team I tried."

But Gooden knows it's his fault. The cocaine and alcohol troubles broke hearts in the Mets' organization, where he had grown up. But once he was done playing, the door was opened by the Mets and Gooden resisted. He said other than coming to play with another team, he never stepped foot in Shea Stadium from 1994 until the close of the stadium.

"I was upset with myself, everything that took place," Gooden said. "I didn't know how I'd be accepted. I felt I let fans down, the organization down. I hadn't been back since '94. It just never worked out. At Shea Goodbye, I was iffy whether I could go. Now, I see what I've been missing all the time. I wish I spent more time there."

The door was opened again when Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon called him and told him he was going to be inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame, the induction to take place Sunday afternoon at Citi Field, going in with Darryl Strawberry, Davey Johnson and Frank Cashen. Maybe once Gooden wouldn't have felt ready to be a part of that, but now he is cherishing the opportunity.

"Even with the numbers I had, it still doesn't seem real," Gooden said. "It's definitely a closing to my career. Obviously, the stuff off the field shortened my career, but this gives me a lot of closure, makes you feel you did do enough.

"The biggest thing is I get to share it with the fans that meant so much to me. Coming back for Shea Goodbye, the ovation was overwhelming. I get teary-eyed thinking about it."

Tax-deductible tickets for the luncheon are available at 1-(718)-803-4074 and www.Mets.com/HallofFame

Designing ‘Mad Men’

by Martin Filler

Frank Ockenfels 3

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks)

A major theme in literature is a wistful regard for life as it was lived some forty or fifty years earlier, typified by Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (1920), which looked back at upper-class mores in 1870s New York. Similarly, the five-decade postmillennial perspective afforded through the rear-view mirror of Mad Men—the critically acclaimed and cultishly followed cable-television drama series that first aired on AMC in 2007 and began its fourth season on July 25—bridges an equivalent time span, long enough to feel historical yet still within living memory of many.

For those of us who came to cultural awareness during the Kennedy years—the purview of Mad Men during its first three seasons, with the present cycle beginning in 1964—Mad Men offers anything but a comforting wallow in nostalgia. The series, which focuses on the fictive Madison Avenue advertising firm Sterling Cooper (later Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce), derives its thrilling power from the dark and seamlessly unified vision of its creator, executive producer, and head writer, Matthew Weiner, an auteur with few peers in the history of his medium.

In the first episode of the new cycle, for example, time marches inexorably onward in the small but significant ways that used to be of considerable import, most noticeably those seasonal adjustments of skirt length, figure silhouette, and hairstyle that women followed with far more conformity than they do today. Yet Mad Men’s extraordinary fidelity departs from conventional period recreations in one crucial respect. As the series’ production designer, Dan Bishop, has explained:

[Weiner] wanted to make sure it wasn’t a textbook study of mid-century modern America—as Matt specifically pointed out, look around your own house, does everything exist from 2007 or do you actually have stuff lying around from the ‘80s?…People didn’t adopt the modern ideas any faster then than they do now.

Frank Ockenfels 3

Lane Pryce (Jared Harris), Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Don Draper (Jon Hamm)

Among many things that make Mad Men so intriguing is its broad definition of what constitutes design. For example, its cunningly detailed, not-quite-couture female costuming—the B.H. Wragge-style coat-and-dress ensembles, the Koret handbags, the Coro costume jewelry—makes the female characters (especially the spectacularly curvaceous Christina Hendricks as the office manager, Joan Holloway) seem as if they have stepped straight out of the Sunday New York Times during the twilight of Lester Markel. But the clothing’s impact is accentuated by the way in which these good, serviceable outfits are seen on more than one occasion, as would have been done by working girls on a budget in those days before such disposable-chic stores as H&M.

Equally fanatical attention is paid to interior design. The offices of Sterling Cooper were done up in the spacious, late International Style corporate mode epitomized by the boxy glass-and-steel skyscrapers that rose along Park Avenue after World War II. (The first was Lever House of 1950–1952 by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.)

Authentically, Sterling Cooper’s executives occupy private offices on the periphery of the structure, with the open-plan secretarial pool closer to the building’s core. The women’s workspace is illuminated not by windows, but rather by dropped ceilings that conceal fluorescent lighting above an overhead gridwork of translucent plastic panels. (The new offices of the fledgling breakaway agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, seen for the first time in season four, are decorated in the same mid-century modern style as the partners’ former digs, though the current spaces are rather more cramped, a subtle signifier of the firm’s still uncertain financial footing.) In a technique pioneered by the master cinematographer Gregg Toland for Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941), Weiner assumes an uncommonly low camera angle to include ceilings in his shots, and thereby gives a greater sense of verisimilitude by incorporating one of the most characteristic design elements of the upscale postwar office.

The offices of Sterling Cooper

Such High Modernist interiors were already being satirized when they were almost new. Edward G. Boyle’s exuberantly cartoonish set designs for the film adaptation of Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows’s musical comedy hit How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967) present a perky, pastel-colored flip-side to Weiner’s relentlessly moody vision. Not that Mad Men’s creator is immune to knowing winks. In one of the show’s most inspired casting coups, the part of Bertram Cooper, the ad agency’s co-founder, is played by Robert Morse (now 79), who, as a brash young man, starred in both the Broadway and Hollywood versions of How to Succeed.

Then there are the countless small touches that can leave older viewers gasping with a shock of recognition over the most quotidian but long-forgotten activities. At the end of one Sterling Cooper workday, secretaries proudly swoosh beige vinyl typewriter covers over their coveted IBM Selectrics (the “golfball” model introduced in 1961, with its spherical type component that allowed interchangeable fonts).

Weiner’s perfectionism has of course challenged some aficionados to ferret out anachronisms. Though there have been none of the wristwatch-with-toga bloopers beloved by film buffs in Biblical epics, a few slips—in word usage and occasionally in soundtrack music—have been noted on several fan websites the show has engendered. An amusing if only fitfully provocative new book, Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s Mad Men Unbuttoned, is likely to become a trivia-lover’s bible, as well as recommended reading for the inevitable college media-studies courses on this pop-cultural phenomenon.

Weiner’s instinct for design appears closely reflected in the brilliant role assignments by his casting directors, Laura Schiff and Carrie Audino. How else can one begin to describe the series’ principal protagonists, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Betty Draper (January Jones), except in terms of their dazzling good looks, which so effectively distract us from their underlying weirdness? It’s not as though beauty has become any less useful an aid to career advancement since the 1960s, but Weiner brings this truth home time and again in the physical presentation of his actors.

Thus, apart from the Drapers, the lodestar of Mad Men is the mesmerizing secretary-turned-copywriter Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), whose striking cosmetic makeover in this latest season could well presage her further rise in a world where appearances may not be everything, but nearly so. This Brooklyn-bred character is based in part on the trailblazing copywriter Shirley Polykoff, creator of the smash 1956 “Does She … Or Doesn’t She?” campaign for Clairol hair dye, which definitively proved that the ad game was no longer a boys-only club.

As such, Moss’s Olson has emerged as one of Mad Men’s most consistently fascinating personalities, not only because of her dogged proto-feminist gumption, but also because of her repeated willingness to sacrifice the personal to the professional. She never gives the slightest indication that she will live to regret either her cold-eyed decisions—including secretly bearing, and then giving up for adoption, a baby after she was impregnated by her slimy married co-worker, Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)—or her remorseless business-is-business ethos.

If Mad Men has one recurrent weakness, it is an annoying recourse to topical tragedies of those troubled times—seemingly gratuitous references that have included self-immolating Vietnamese Buddhist monks; the four black schoolgirls killed in the Birmingham church bombing; and the assassination of Medgar Evers, all of which occurred in 1963. Particularly offensive in the fourth-season opener was a brief, almost decorative invocation of Andrew Goodman one of three young civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi during the “Freedom Summer” of 1964. Goodman’s sacrifice surely deserves to be remembered, honored, and memorialized, but not as a throwaway line to vouchsafe Weiner’s liberal bona fides. Such missteps apart, by peeling back the surface layers from that not-so-distant past, Matthew Weiner is performing one of the most instructive—not to say diverting and entertaining—sleights of hand in the modern theater of memory.

SimpleGeo - Joe Stump Interview

I had a chat with Joe Stump to talk about SimpleGeo, Cassandra, and Digg. Joe also talks about why the cloud is cheaper, even when you get to a bigger scale.


I've watched a few webpulp interviews and they've been pretty good.

Resourced: Justseeds Portfolio 2010

RESOURCED Justseeds Print Portfolio 2010 $250 RESOURCED is the Justseeds portfolio for 2010. It focuses on resource extraction and climate issues. 26 artist prints, with screenprinted cover and front sheet, as well as a booklet with additional information (which also has a screenprinted cover): For centuries now, industries have been mining the globe in search of raw materials that can be converted into profitable commodities, displacing innumerable communities and leaving in their wake toxic, hazardous, and ecologically devastated environments. While consumers experiment with greener lifestyles, the majority of the globe’s population is left to deal with the ecological fallout of industrial and technological “progress.” These are inequalities that only stand to increase as climate change and the unending capitalist pursuit of natural resources produce even more precarious ecologies. Already, thousands upon thousands of species are extinct or endangered, and millions upon millions of people have been thrust off of their land and into ecologically, politically, and economically hazardous conditions. This is an “exhibition in a book,” a teaching tool, a collection of reproducible graphics for activists and organizers, and a dialogue starter for community spaces, schools, conferences, and galleries. It can be used to help ask important questions about our environment: • Who benefits from the extraction of natural resources and who pays the costs? • Are there viable possibilities for alternative energy sources? • Is it possible to distribute energy more equitably? • What does resistance to Western and corporate climate policies look like? • What role can workers in resource and energy sectors play in this resistance? • How does environmental devastation effect different communities along race and class lines? The artists with prints in the portfolio are: Amor y Resistencia Santiago Armengod Armsrock Kevin Caplicki Tom Civil Alejandra Delfin Design Action Collective Molly Fair Thea Gahr Gaia Jesse Goldstein Nicolas Lampert Josh MacPhee Juan Martinez Colin Matthes Keisuke Narita Roger Peet Jesse Purcell Favianna Rodriguez Erik Ruin Shaun Slifer Chris Stain Meredith Stern Mary Tremonte Pete Yahnke Bec Young Many of the artists worked with grassroots environmental organizations, who have each received a portfolio to use in their organizing. International customers: This item will only ship via Express Mail. print portfolio 27 printed sheets and printed cover, 19"x25" (screenprints and block prints) 16 page booklet with screenprinted cover edition of 125, each one is numbered 17resourced_400.jpg

July 28, 2010

The Ultimate Explanation Of Inception

Cobb being distracted.JPG
the object circled in red is a distraction
(spoilers; you may want to start with this intro post first.)

I'll start at the end: the top will fall.

Take a moment.  How do you feel?  You're probably not satisfied, whether you agree or not. There's no relief to it, no "aha!" moment, no catharsis.  That's because the top doesn't matter.  You are looking at the wrong thing.

To explain how this can be known, you have to consider three metaphors that Nolan makes explicit.


First, the labyrinth:

inception title shot.JPGOh, look, a maze.  And Ariadne auditions for Cobb by drawing mazes, and builds model mazes; and of course her name is neck deep in the metaphor of the maze.

But then nowhere in the movie is there an actual or metaphorical maze.  Arthur says they need a maze to better hide from the projections, but they don't actually do this, right?  When Ariadne draws her mazes for Cobb, he rejects the square mazes and is satisfied/stumped only by the circular classical labyrinth.

And anyway, mythological Ariadne didn't construct the Minotaur's labyrinth-- Daedalus constructed it for her-- she merely showed Theseus how to get out of it.  But she didn't need to: a classical labyrinth doesn't have multiple dead ends; it is a single winding path that leads either in or out.


But Theseus, like the audience, upon being shoved inside wouldn't have known the form of the labyrinth-- dead ends or single path?  So to be able to find the Minotaur, he needed to know which way to go, and Daedalus told him: downwards is the only way forwards.


And so it becomes clear:  it's not an actual maze, it's a labyrinth, which brings us to the second metaphor: the paradoxical staircase.

A single path, that ends up back on itself.

penrose stairs.jpg

The staircase defies geometry because it is fixed in a single perspective.  If you alter that perspective, then the illusion is revealed.

Hence, Arthur and Ariadne can walk around and around the stairs passing the woman who had dropped her papers; and Arthur could sneak up on his attacker by going down the stairwell.  When the perspective changed, then Ariadne and Arthur had to stop walking; then  the surprised attacker could be pushed off a ledge. 

But each of those times required a choice by Arthur to "see" the staircase from another perspective.  Seeing it from a different perspective changed the reality.

Cobb's not trapped in a maze, he's trapped in a paradoxical staircase, covering the same ground over and over.  He doesn't need Ariadne to lead him out; he needs her to clue him into another perspective.


The third metaphor seems to be the wedding ring.  When he's in a dream, he wears a ring; when he is in real life  there is no ring.  So easy?  Then why did Cobb insist on using the top-- something that Mal had touched and hence defeats the purpose of a totem?  Why not just look at his ring?  Well, give it a try yourself:

cobb with gun.jpgcobb at table and bar.jpg
cobb and ariadne.jpg

Pay close attention to how difficult it is to see Cobb's left hand.  Right hands abound; left hands are hidden in pockets, under tables, in shadows.  Now that I've said it, you'll be astonished at how obviously deliberate it is that DiCaprio is hiding his left hand from us--  except at certain moments.  Nolan is actively frustrating your attempts at determining whether it's a dream or not.

Why so many long gun battles and fight scenes?  Can't they just dream of being at the safe or past the bad guys?  No. That's how we signify (male) conflict in movies; on the way to catharsis, you have to fight. 

All of this is the expression of the third metaphor, which is really the theme of the movie: resistance.

cobb and arthur.jpgI said I only want to be shot from the right


Does Inception remind you of The Matrix The Matrix brothers wanted you to reference Baudrillard's idea of a simulated reality substituting for "real" reality.  However, their execution was flawed.

The Matrix is a great movie but a poor expression of Baudrillard's philosophy. The Matrix is quite straightforward, there's no confusion, no paradox: you're either in the Matrix, or you're in the real world.  You may not know you're in the Matrix, but that doesn't change the fact that you are, or are not, in it.

A true Baudrillard Matrix would be a single fake world that became so real that you no longer needed the original.  The whole world becomes a fake; there is no recourse to the real world.  You'll know it happened when you look at a copy of something, the original of which you have had no actual knowledge, and say, "oh, that's so authentic."

The dream does not have an external reference, it is not an illusion of reality, but a simulation not based on anything real. Cobb is specific about this when teaching dream architecture to Ariadne-don't use memories (which reference reality).   What becomes real for Cobb and every other dreamer is the simulation. The dreamer merges their memory of reality with the architect's imagination into the symbolic. Only death is beyond the scope of the simulation-- and even that, levels deep, was a real possibility.  Other than that the simulation becomes the reality. Fischer never reconciled with his dad, but Eames set him up to dream that he did, and upon waking behaves as if he did. He was shown a simulation of a reconciliation and merged into it his memories and wishes.  Is that not real?

Cobb had the same catharsis.  He dreamt-- four levels down-- a catharsis with his wife that never actually happened "in real life."  But that doesn't matter, not for Cobb or his kids.

What makes the film so perplexing is precisely the ambiguity necessary to get across the point about simulation. If the narrative clearly identified totems, who was dreaming, and how many levels down we were, it would be clear to us the audience the difference between  simulation and reality.  But that's not the point of the narrative, indeed, it tries to frustrate that inclination.  The point is catharsis.


The problem with making the distinction "dream vs. not dream" is that it fails to get you off the staircase.  It's debatable, but probably likely, that Cobb was on the phone with his kids in real life, and dreaming when with Ariadne in the cafe.  But why should we believe that he's wanted for his wife's murder? And that a Japanese tycoon can alter a gigantic criminal justice bureaucracy with a ten second phone call?  It's more plausible that "the police want to get me" is a projection of his guilt; I can't go home...I can't face my kids... Looked at from this perspective, what's dream and what's not is irrelevant to Cobb.  If it matters to you, that's your own baggage.

You want to know what's real?  His wife is still dead.  That's real, very real, everything else in the world, no matter how real, is less real than that.  But they had their time together, (however brief and incomplete it may have been in real life, however sudden and savage and wrong was her death.)

It's time to let her go. 

What's keeping you on the staircase is the fear that getting off the staircase means you'll never see her again.


In the warehouse, Cobb explains that Mal was possessed "by the idea that their world wasn't real."  Adriadne tries to comfort him: "you're not responsible for the idea that killed her."  But of course he thinks he was.  He implanted that idea into her head in their 50 year dream life, she lay on the tracks with him so they could die/wake up, but that idea stuck into her real life-- so she jumped from a building.  That event gave him his guilt.  It is irrelevant whether her jumping happened in a dream or in real life-- he still carried a guilt around with him.

The top isn't the totem, and the wedding ring isn't his totem.  The totem is his guilt-- "this is my fault."  It is his origin.  It is his inception.

He incepted himself.


Miscellany: many trains, Kyoto, freight train in the street, Cobb and Mal's suicide train, the train underneath the moving bridge which Yusuf drives off. Train is a common metaphor for thought, one track mind, train of thought, get back on track.

Water: stream of consciousness, put under, sleep deeply.  Symbol of the unconscious: fear death by water.


If you're busy looking for what's dream and what's not, you're just trapped running the staircase.  You need to change the perspective.

Cobb has Fischer hostage in the warehouse; he tosses Eames disguised as Browning next to him and says, "you have one hour!" (to figure out "the combination" to the safe.)  Exactly one hour later (yes, I timed it), Fischer and the real Browning escape from the submerged van and swim to the shore, where Fischer proclaims he will break up the company.  Yay, the plan worked, inception worked. 

But if that dream time matches our (the audience's) real time, then are we dreaming?

Inception is also an allegory of filmmaking or narrative construction. It's a movie about it's own making.  It describes how the simulation (movie) is constructed and manipulated so as to become the reality.

So change the perspective.  Forget about the top, forget about the ring, look elsewhere.  The children are wearing black shoes throughout the movie, until the final scene where they are wearing white sneakers.

black then white shoes.jpgBut be careful, that doesn't tell you what's dream and what's not, it tells you that they have changed.  That's what's important.  It may be a dream or it may be real, but they are now different-- they aren't a memory

Others have observed that in imdb, the children are played by two pairs of actors, two years apart.  In a movie about narrative structure, are we supposed to ignore the structure of that movie?


("We have to buy out the cabin... and the first class flight attendant."  I know just the gal; and I'll throw in a kid, for free.)

So either he is truly awake at the end and about two years have passed since Mal's death; or he's still asleep, but has moved past staricasing memories and moved into new dreamspace.  It doesn't matter to Cobb.

What matters isn't whether the top stopped spinning; what matters is that Cobb didn't bother to find out.


(special thanks to pastabagel for his perspective)


[ by way of ]

[ by way of ]

Chewbacca On A Squirrel Fighting Nazis

Sort of self-explanatory, isn’t it? The “craziest request ever” handled by Deviantart’s gamefan84. As seen by Kotaku reader Morris, via Boing Boing.

Best celebration ever in football

I favorited a YouTube video: When Halldor Orri scores a great goal he decides to go fishing and catch on his mate Johann Laxdal or Johann the salmon. The game was Stjarnan against Fylkir in the top league in Iceland and the goal was the winning goal in extra time.

No Great Work of Art Can Be "Spoiled"

You get itNow that we've done the history of "Spoiler Alert," let's discuss appropriate and/or civically obligatory uses.

The (previously, of course) definitive guide to spoiler alert usage was written by Awl contributor Dan Kois for New York magazine's Vulture blog in 2008. The whole guide is worth reading, as is the accompanying manifesto calling for a return to a "water cooler culture," in which people who really care about a show or book or movie make an effort to read or watch it as soon as they can, so they can then discuss it with their co-workers (or whomever) in person.

Spoilers, in this account, are allowed after a brief but reasonable interval that allows for anyone who truly cares to watch or read the show or movie or book in question. Spoilers are allowed in the text of articles more quickly than in headlines, because people can simply choose not to read articles for a few days to avoid spoilers, if they must, but it can be hard to miss a headline.

Furthermore, the rules vary for different media: you should give people a few extra hours to watch a TV show, a few days to see a movie, and a few months to read a book. Reality shows can be spoiled immediately upon conclusion, as they are essentially sporting events. Operas are never, under any circumstances, to be spoiled. (I'm pretty sure that last one is a joke.)

All of which is well and good and probably necessary to lay out on a blog such as Vulture where people are writing about shows and movies and books and the reactions thereto several times every weekday. And the accompanying manifesto really is terrific; you should read it (after you finish this; or at least come right back).

But the guidelines, I regret to say, are flawed. They are both too severe and not severe enough. That is because they ignore a crucial factor: artistic ambition.

That probably sounds snobbish, and I suspect (though Dan is welcome to correct me) that an aversion to snobbishness is at least partly responsible for this oversight—just as an assumption of snobbishness is probably the reason Ron Rosenbaum also failed to make this distinction (in his own pro-spoiler blog post from 2006, cited by Kois in his manifesto). Put simply, a truly ambitious and successful work of narrative art is spoiler-proof. If a show or movie or book is really, truly great, you can watch it again and again and again, well after you know what's going to happen, and the aesthetic pleasure you derive therefrom will not diminish. It may even increase. This is an essential part of the work's greatness.

Consider this: Alfred Hitchcock knew as much about creating suspense as perhaps any narrative artist of the past century; and when he made what is, hands down, his most artistically ambitious movie, Vertigo, he went out of his way to spoil the mystery halfway through. Vertigo is the story of one woman pretending to be another in an effort to deceive a man, and Hitchcock easily could have preserved the mystery of that woman's identity until the end of the film.

But the pleasures and satisfactions of Vertigo don't depend on not knowing a basic aspect of the plot. They derive from the movie's brilliant illustration of love and desire and the ways we idealize and romanticize particular human beings and then become disappointed or even disgusted by their simple, physical humanity. It's the best thing Hitchcock ever did, and knowing who is actually who doesn't change that.

On the other hand you have The Usual Suspects, which, after you have learned the identity of Keyser Soze, really isn't very good.

(By the way: Hitchcock's deliberate avoidance of narrative suspense in Vertigo is one of the reasons it is better than the truly excellent but not greatest-ever-made film Citizen Kane—no matter what some fancy poll says—which employs the narrative crutch of withheld knowledge and then bestows that knowledge in a corny and not very satisfactory way at the end.)

So if you're discussing something like The Usual Suspects, you should not try not to reveal the ending unless absolutely necessary (even now), and, if you must, a warning is in order. If you're talking about, say, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the rules are different. It's actually more okay to spoil something the better it is—and this rule comes with good cultural consequences: should we really spend that much time talking about The Usual Suspects? Let's talk about the things that can't be spoiled, no matter how many plot points we give away.

Your own artistic ambitions as a critic are relevant here, too: if you're writing a blog post you consider more or less ephemeral, then, what, you can't be bothered to throw in the silly but really rather simple phrase "spoiler alert"? But if you're aiming for something more lasting, then yeah, it's not really fair for readers to get mad at you for not using what is honestly kind of an embarrassing cliche. Editors can follow this principle as well: is your publication for the next three days or "forever"? Edit accordingly. Readers could then approach a publication with the appropriate degree of caution.

With that established, the other question: Why is imperviousness to spoilers an essential aspect of truly great narrative art? I'm not really sure. I have a theory, though, one that is at present about quarter-baked at best and will probably sound even more pretentious than everything I've written so far (which, considering the repeated use of the phrase "narrative art" and the appearance of both "thereto"and "therefrom" is, I imagine, saying something). I think it has to do with life and death and the way the former leads inevitably to the latter. That is: Life is not a mystery. We know how it ends. And if a work of art can be "spoiled" when we know the ending, it can't really have that much to say about life, can it?

David Haglund is the managing editor of PEN America and has recently written for Bookforum, Slate and The National. He is on the board of the National Book Critics Circle.


Win on Playstation Madden NFL 11 and new virtual Obama will toast your victory at the White House.

Madden NFL - White House - Video game - American football - Sports

ESPN NY: Santana’s July has nothing on Gooden

Posted in Link


44 innings pitched, 24 hits allowed, 39 strikeouts, nine walks, and a 0.00 ERA.

Wow.  Nothing but Wow.

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Using Blocks in iOS 4

iOS 4 introduces one new feature that will fundamentally change the way you program in general: blocks. Blocks are an extension to the C language and thus fully supported in Objective-C. If you’re coming from a programming language such as Ruby, Python, or Lisp, then you know the power of blocks. Simply put, blocks let you encapsulate chunks of code and pass them around like any other object. It’s a different style of programming that you’ll want to become familiar with to take advantage of new APIs in iOS 4.

Let’s start by taking a look at two examples of where you might use blocks in iOS 4: view animations and enumeration.

Blocks By Example

As our first example, suppose we’re creating a card game and we want to animate sliding a card from the dealer’s hand to a player’s position. Fortunately, the UIKit framework does all the heavy lifting when it comes to performing animations. What gets animated, however, is specific to your application. You specify what will be animated in a block, and toss it over to the animateWithDuration:animations: method, like so:

[UIView animateWithDuration:2.0
    animations:^ {
        self.cardView.alpha = 1.0;
        self.cardView.frame = CGRectMake(176.0, 258.0, 72.0, 96.0);
        self.cardView.transform = CGAffineTransformMakeRotation(M_PI);

When this animation block is run, our card view will animate in three ways: change its alpha to fade in the card, change its position to the lower-right of the frame (the player’s position), and rotate itself 180 degrees (to give the dealer style points).

Our second example of blocks is to enumerate over a collection of cards and print the name and index of each card. You could use a for loop for this, but in iOS 4 the NSArray class has a handy enumerateObjectsUsingBlock: method that takes a block. Here’s how to use it:

NSArray *cards = 
    [NSArray arrayWithObjects:@"Jack", @"Queen", @"King", @"Ace", nil];

[cards enumerateObjectsUsingBlock:^(id object, NSUInteger index, BOOL *stop) {
    NSLog(@"%@ card at index %d", object, index);

As we’ll explore a bit more later, this block takes three parameters: the current element in the array, its index, and a flag to signal whether enumeration should stop (which we’ve ignored). The enumerateObjectsUsingBlock: method calls the block once for each element in the array and supplies the parameters.

So the upshot of using blocks in your Mac and iOS apps is that they allow you to attach arbitrary code to Apple-provided methods. Although similar in concept to delegation, passing short inline blocks of code to methods is often more convenient and elegant.

That’s a good start, but it’s important to understand what’s going on. Whenever I’m learning anything new, I like to break it down into its simplest elements, get comfortable with how they work, and then (hopefully) put everything back together again. That way I feel confident with the code I write and can quickly debug any problems. So let’s step back for a minute and learn how to declare and call basic blocks.

Block Basics

A block is simply a chunk of executable code. For example, here’s a block that prints the current date and time:

^ {
    NSDate *date = [NSDate date];
    NSLog(@"The date and time is %@", date);

The caret (^) introduces a block literal and the curly braces enclose statements that make up the body of the block. You can think of a block as being similar to an anonymous function.

So if it’s anonymous, how exactly do we use this block? The most common way to use a block is to pass it to a method that in turn calls the block. We saw how to do that earlier with animations and enumeration. The other way to use a block is to assign it to a block variable and call the block directly. Here’s how to assign our block to a block variable called now:

void (^now)(void) = ^ {
    NSDate *date = [NSDate date];
    NSLog(@"The date and time is %@", date);

Here’s where things get funky. The syntax for declaring a block variable takes some getting used to. If you’ve used function pointers, block variables will look familiar. On the right-hand side of the assignment we have our block literal (nothing new there). On the left-hand side of the assignment we’ve declared a block variable called now.

Block Syntax

The name of the block variable is always preceded by a ^ and in parentheses. Block variables have an associated type. In this case, the now variable can reference any block that returns no value (the first void) and takes no parameters (the void in parentheses). Our block conforms to this type, so we can safely assign it to the now variable.

Once we have a block variable in scope, calling the block is just like calling a function. Here’s how we call our block:


You could declare the block variable in a C function or Objective-C method, for example, and then call it in the same scope. When the block executes, it prints the current date and time. So far, so good.

Blocks Are Closures

If that’s all there was to blocks, they’d be just like functions. But it turns out that blocks are more than just chunks of executable code. Blocks also capture their surrounding state. That is, blocks are closures: they close around variables that are in scope at the time the block is declared. To illustrate, let’s change the previous example around a bit by moving the initialization of the date outside the block:

NSDate *date = [NSDate date];

void (^now)(void) = ^ {
    NSLog(@"The date and time is %@", date);


When you call this block the first time, it behaves exactly like the previous version: it prints the current date and time. But there’s a significant difference here. It becomes evident when we change the date and then call the block again:


 date = [NSDate date];

Even though we’ve changed the date variable referenced by the block, when the block is called it still prints the original date and time. It’s as if time stood still when the block was declared. And that’s effectively what happens. As execution passes over the point where the block is declared, the block takes a (read-only) snapshot of all the variables in scope that the block uses. You can think of the value of the date variable as being frozen inside the block. Therefore, whenever the block is called—immediately, 5 seconds later, or just before the app quits—it always prints the original date and time.

Now, the fact that blocks are closures is not particularly interesting in this example. After all, you could have just passed the date as a parameter to the block (more on that next). But closures become really useful when you start passing blocks around to methods because the captured state goes along for the ride.

Block Parameters

Just like functions, blocks can take parameters and return values. Say, for example, we want a block that takes a given number and returns the result of tripling that number. Here’s the block literal:

^(int number) {
    return number * 3;

Assigning this block to a block variable called triple looks like this:

int (^triple)(int) = ^(int number) {
    return number * 3;

Again, the tricky part is getting comfortable with the block variable syntax on the left-hand side of the assignment. Let’s break it down from left to right.

Block Syntax

The first int is the return type. Then in parentheses comes the caret introducing the block variable called triple. Finally we have a list of parameter types in parentheses (one int in this case). The block literal on the right-hand side of the assignment conforms to this type. Note, however, that as a matter of convenience there’s no need to declare the return type of the block literal. The compiler can infer it from the return statement.

To call the block, you need to pass the number to be tripled and (ideally) do something with the return value, like so:

int result = triple(2);

By way of comparison, here’s how you would declare and create a block that takes two int parameters, multiplies them together, and returns the result as an int value:

int (^multiply)(int, int) = ^(int x, int y) {
    return x * y;

And here’s how you’d call this block:

int result = multiply(2, 3);

Declaring block variables gave us an opportunity to explore block types and how to call blocks. The block variable looks like a function pointer and calling the block is similar to calling a function. But unlike function pointers, blocks are actually Objective-C objects. And that means we can pass them around like other objects.

Methods Can Take Blocks

Now, in practice blocks are most useful when you pass them as parameters to methods that in turn call the block. And when you’re passing a block to a method, it’s usually more convenient to use inline blocks rather than assigning the block to a typed variable and then passing it to the method. For instance, we used inline blocks in the animation and enumeration examples we saw earlier.

Apple has added methods to their framework that take blocks, and you can write APIs that take blocks, too. For example, suppose we want to create a Worker class method that takes a block and repeatedly calls it a given number of times, passing in the repeat count each time. Here’s how we might call that method with an inline block that triples each number (1 through 10):

[Worker repeat:10 withBlock:^(int number) {
    return number * 3;

The method could handle any block that takes a single int parameter and returns an int result. Want to double all the numbers? Just give the method a different block.

Your Turn

OK, so how would you implement the repeat:withBlock: method above to accept and call a passed block? Give it some thought, and we’ll tackle it in the next installment. In the meantime, practice using blocks by calling the enumerateKeysAndObjectsUsingBlock: method with a block that prints the keys and values of this NSDictionary:

NSDictionary *cards = 
    [NSDictionary dictionaryWithObjectsAndKeys:@"Queen",  @"card", 
                                               @"Hearts", @"suit", 
                                               @"10",     @"value", nil];

Have fun, and stay tuned for more on blocks…

What to search when you’re expecting

This is part of our summer series of new Search Stories. Look for the label Search Stories and subscribe to the series. -Ed.

Having been a new dad for six months now, I’ve quickly come to learn two valuable parenting lessons. First, being a father is truly a full-time job—and second, sleep is completely overrated. Whether buying the latest bottles, binkies, blankets and bibs, or just blogging about the whole magical journey, becoming a father has been the most invigorating and moving experience of my lifetime.

This week, I’m excited to help introduce our latest search story, New Baby. The video really captures the joys (and costs!) of becoming a new parent. I’d like to share my heart-felt compassion with new dads everywhere (and of course, my wife and the other mothers out there who are the true heroes.) We will all rest when they head off to college—in the meantime, enjoy!

Posted by Murali Viswanathan, Product Manager

No Oven Required: My Peanut Butter Cup Runneth Over


[Photograph: pinkpucca on Flickr]

My head is a scary place, Serious Eaters. One of the curses of being an excessively verbal person is that I have a constant internal monologue. I've been told that the average person just reaches for a can of coffee grinds in the morning. But as soon as I get out of bed, the nattering in my head starts:

"I love this French Roast. It's so dark and smoky! But maybe I shouldn't be drinking coffee. After all, it's better not to really NEED coffee in the morning. Of course, I'm not really addicted. It's just one cup. And some studies say coffee is good for you. Or was that green tea? Maybe I should buy green tea and laundry detergent this afternoon. Or should I wait until after dinner when the market is less crowded? Ooh! I forgot to switch on NPR."

I verbalize everything in my head. I am like the poster child for someone who does not "think in pictures." I have made many a yoga teacher lose Enlightenment in frustration trying to help me "empty the mind of distractions."

Eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups over the years has spurred such philosophical meditations as...

Why is the peanut butter inside a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup like no other substance on earth? The Reese's peanut butter you buy in jar is nothing like the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Why is that sweet, gritty peanut butter so addictive?

Recently, I discovered a recipe for peanut butter bars or cups that attempted to replicate that same texture. The solution to that gritty, peanut buttery texture was finely processed graham cracker crumbs. (With a bit of effort, crumbling and then smashing the crackers also works, if you don't have a food processor).

Of course, this isn't a diet food or health food, but if you use a good, natural, or organic brand of graham crackers, you can theoretically reduce some of the less healthy aspects of eating a commercial candy bar. At least, that's how I rationalized making these addictive things. I also tried saltine crumbs, and while not as perfect a replica of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, it offered an intriguing, less sugary taste than the cookies. In the original version of the recipe, some commentators also used the crumbs of nonsugary cereals.

A Passing Thought

I now have in my possession a pocket-sized computer which, when I speak a question to it (“Who is the author of Kraken?” “Who was the fourteenth president of the Unites States?” “What is the name of John Scalzi’s cat?”) provides me an answer in just a few seconds. If I take a picture of something, the same pocket computer will analyze the photo and tell me what I’m looking at. Oh, and it makes phone calls, too. Among other things.

None of that is the cool part. The cool part is, when I speak a question to my pocket computer and it gives me a bad answer, I get annoyed. Because here in the future, when I talk to my pocket computer, I expect it to get the answer right the first time.

I think I’ve said before that one of the neat things about getting older is that you really do become aware just how much things change. To be more specific about it, as you get older, at some point you cross an arbitrary line and are aware that you are now living in the future. I’m not precisely sure when it was I crossed my own arbitrary Future Line, but I’ll tell you what, I’m well past it now.

That is all. Carry on.

'Kids,' 15 Years Later

TWO KIDSKids, a film about a bunch of hard-living New York City kids, premiered 15 years ago today. The film still seems to define an era of New York City—the pre-Giuliani 90s; a golden era for hip hop, skateboarding and indie rock. New York City was the coolest city in the world, and by extension, its kids were the coolest in the world.

Director Larry Clark, 52 at the time, set out to capture on film the variety of depravity of youth on which he'd fixated throughout his long career in photography. He enlisted the help of 18-year-old writer Harmony Korine, as well as a bunch of East Village skater kids and a certain up-and-coming Sassy magazine intern to create a race-against-the-clock story, set before a background of teenage decadence and HIV.

The plot seems inconsequential compared to some of the set pieces: the opening shots of the ‘Virgin Surgeon’ Telly deflowering an impossibly young looking girl; Caspar beating a man twice his age with his skateboard; Harold Hunter slapping his penis between his thighs in a public pool. It was crude, yet compelling—Kids felt authentic and thus gained importance because of its perceived authenticity. The lives these 13-to-17-year-olds lived seemed real. Janet Maslin of the then particularly dreary New York Times called it a “wake up call to the world"—this was then touted in the trailer.

When I saw the film, I was around the same age as the kids in it. There was a stark contrast between my life and "theirs." (That this film was actually a work of fiction was easy to forget.) These kids were the "real deal." I clearly was not. New York City was a playground for them, full of drink, drugs and sex. My life, in suburban London, was the definition of leafy, and my social life revolved largely around the Nintendo 64. I wore glasses and I couldn’t skateboard. In fact, no one I knew could really skateboard. I was sold on the New York City exported by the film.

Ten years later I now live in New York, and I barely recognize it from the film. There are no skateboarders in Washington Square Park, just NYU students. The East Village is full of bars with beer pong tables in the back, Ivy educations and Japanese restaurants. I still don't know anyone who skateboards.

It seems that in many ways the city seems to have forgotten the film, just as many of those involved in the film also seem happy to forget it. Some might expect some sort of celebration of the 15th anniversary of the film, but few seem to be talking. (Larry Clark's agent did not respond to inquiries.) Harmony Korine has moved away from the realism of that film's concept and execution, settling most recently on a bizarre faux-realism in his faux-documentary Trash Humpers. “It was not a movie I was dying to tell," he has said of Kids. And our Sassy intern, Chloe Sevigny, has since said that she can’t bear to watch the film, and that she doesn’t like the movie much.

Perhaps the movie holds unhappy memories for some. While two members of the cast, Sevigny and Rosario Dawson, found significant success after, another two died young—Justin Pierce killed himself in a Las Vegas hotel room and Harold Hunter died of a drug overdose in the same East Village project housing that he grew up in (friends and family later donated money to pay for a funeral). It’s evident that despite being in an important film, few members of the cast were able to convert their bad beginnings into a good career.

One man who hasn’t moved on as much appears to be Clark. “With "Kids" I thought I got it right,” he told Salon in 2001, “I worked hard on the film. I hung out with Kids all the time. I got the idea and the story for the film from hanging out with Kids.” His later, progressively less successful films, such as Bully and Wassup Rockers, deal with extremely similar themes. His current project, Savage Innocent, sits in classic Clark territory—a teen running away from an abusive home (his remake of Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa, apparently to star Mickey Rourke, appears to be on hiatus). Clark’s intentions are, as ever, difficult to dicipher. Is he some kind of permanent teenager, celebrating the life he lives, or is he ultimately cynical, selling teenage self-abuse to voyeurs around the world?

Fifteen years on, the cast, city and audience of Kids might have moved on, but the film itself remains troubling. It walks a tightrope between exploitation and art. Clark still seems completely comfortable with that, both in film and in photography. Kids portrayed a city that I never knew—and what's most worrisome is to think that maybe, just maybe, it never existed, except to be sold to me.

Adam Taylor is a journalist-type living in Brooklyn. He is English and sorry about that.

Are you there God particle? It's me, Fermilab.

By further isolating where the Higgs boson isn't, scientists are finally closing in on the discovery of the so-called God particle...or proving that it doesn't exist at all.

Its mass -- in the units preferred by physicists -- is not in the range between 158 billion and 175 billion electron volts, according to a talk by Ben Kilminster of Fermilab at the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Paris.

Tags: Higgs boson   physics   science

I enjoyed searching for the perfect animated gif to accompany this post. :)
Recipes are upgraded!

I enjoyed searching for the perfect animated gif to accompany this post. :)
Recipes are upgraded!

DefCon Ninja Party Badge Sneak Peek

Defcon Ninja Eecue 001 Ninja Badge

Defcon Ninja Eecue 006 Last Year

DefCon Ninja Party Badge Sneak Peek @ Wired.com

A hacker group known as the Ninjas has created what may be the best DefCon badge ever. The badge allows wireless ninja battle between badge holders. Unlike the official badge, attendees can’t buy this one: it’s free.

DefCon, the world’s largest hacker convention, is more than just a group of hackers getting together to exchange the latest exploit code and hacking techniques. It’s a time for hackers who may only see one another once a year, to socialize face to face. One of the most exclusive venues for fraternizing at DefCon is the Ninja party. To attend the party attendees have to know one of the Ninjas and they have to give them a badge.

St7565 Lrg-1

Our friend Amanda “w0z” helped design the badge and the LCD on the badge is the same one we carry in our shop!

Nick van Woert’s sculptures

Blue 5861D
Enjoying Nick van Woert’s works via NOTCOT.


Colbert, on the WikiLeaks revelations: "Innocent people have died, Pakistan is not the most trustworthy partner, and Afghanistan is a tough place to wage a war. This information and more is also available on my new website, 'ObviLeaks.'" Watch.

Afghanistan - Pakistan - Wikileaks - War in Afghanistan - Asia

Marvin Gaye sings American National Anthem

I liked a YouTube video: Marvin Gaye sings the american national anthem at 1983 NBA All Star Game. Enjoy.

Teams of Physicists Closing in on the ‘God Particle’

Shared by sippey
2012 is gonna be a hell of a year.
The data from two separate experiments at Fermilab narrow the range in which the Higgs boson, if it exists, must be hiding.

How Safe is Ballpark and Stadium Food?

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" reviewed health department inspection reports for food and beverage outlets at all 107 North American arenas and stadiums that were home to Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association teams in 2009. At 30 of the venues (28 percent), more than half of the concession stands or restaurants had been cited for at least one "critical" or "major" health violation. Such violations pose a risk for foodborne illnesses that can make someone sick, or, in extreme cases, become fatal.
ScoreboardGourmet surely sees the theoretical value in inspections but the public needs to understand there are many different categories of violation, some not particularly severe. The public also needs to understand that home kitchens are generally way more ripe for problems than restaurant kitchens. Really. That said, this article nicely points out inconsistencies in inspections reporting (inspecting Chicago ballparks on non-game days). And, let's also remember the grossness of all food that been in someone else's hands. Oh yes I'm talking about you, local supermarket deli guy who never changes his gloves.

Check out the story by ESPN's Paula Lavigne: What's Lurking in Your Stadium Food?

The Coolest NYC Store We Never Knew About!


When it comes to New York shopping, we were certain that we knew pretty much everything. So, we're a tad embarrassed to confess that this cutting-edge Nolita boutique completely took us by surprise during a weekend jaunt down Elizabeth Street. The name: Babel Fair, a little NYC shop that packs a mondo punch with hard-to-find clothing, accessories, and treasures that speed up our heart-rate to dangerous levels. The boutique was founded in October by Erica Kiang, a world traveler (hence the reference to the infamous Tower of Babel), who spends a good chunk of her year exploring foreign fashion in far-flung locales. The result is a carefully curated shop of wonders stocked with a laundry list of designers that aren't carried anywhere else in the city. Look for zipper-detailed frocks from Spain's El Delgado Buil and loud print scarves from Brazilian brand Alessa, plus Japanese denim, Argentinean leather, French chocolate, and custom-made acrylic nails from Hong Kong. Plus, the interior is pretty worldly, too—we're loving the crate-like tables, screaming yellow boxes, and the upside-down mural of artsy, iconic buildings. If you haven't checked it out, we urge you to do so—you'll walk out feeling like your style passport got a whole lot more stamps.

Ms. Kiang was nice enough to give us the inside scoop on her five favorite items available in the store right now:

1. El Delgado Buil Leather Scarf with Zip Pockets ($249): "Keep your hands free with this best-selling leather scarf by Spanish line El Delgado Buil---a chic combination of a scarf and a wallet!"

2. El Delgado Buil Chiffon Striped Skirt ($299): "This flirty chiffon skirt is subtly sexy with transparent stripes that reveal a glimpse of boy shorts underneath."

3. Striped Romper by Danish brand Gestuz ($159): "Gestuz hit the nail on the head with this edgy romper that has a slinky Blade Runner feel."

4. "R75" Binary Code Watch by Japan's Tokyo Flash ($249): "We still can't read the R75 binary code watch, yet it's our favorite accessory. Go figure."

5. Morrine Comte Marant Ruffle Vest ($249), & Bow-Tie Necklace ($49) : "This vest and necklace feel like a cool version of Gossip Girl . How could that be a bad thing?"

Like always, we've managed to pull some strings! The Babel Fair team has agreed to give y'all 25% off in-store purchases until August 4! After a week's worth of discounted shopping at this Nolita gem, we're sure that this boutique will become one of your fast-favorites, too. Don't forget to say Refinery29 at checkout!

Babel Fair; 260 Elizabeth Street (between East Houston and Prince streets); 646-360-3685

Serious Heat: Santa Fe-Style Green Chile Pancakes

From Recipes

It was at the Nashville breakfast joint Pancake Pantry where I was introduced to pancake perfection--the Village Smithy COLO Sante Fe Cornmeal Pancakes. They take stone-ground cornmeal pancakes and fill them with cheddar cheese chunks, crispy bacon and roasted green chiles. Just a drizzle of maple syrup over the top adds a sticky sweetness, but the main garnish for me was a swirl of salsa and sour cream. For a gal who prefers savory over sweet, these hit all the right notes complete with the spiciness I desire from the green chiles and salsa.

So when I set out to recreate the recipe at home, I wanted the chunks of Sante Fe goodness like I had found in the Pancake Pantry batch inside a cornmeal pancake. I found success with a Bon Appétit recipe for cornmeal buttermilk pancakes. One important thing to keep in mind is to not overmix the batter because the pancakes can get dense. It's better to leave a few clumps in the batter for an overall lighter pancake.

Sometimes when adding ingredients into pancakes, they can fall to the bottom of the batter. To combat that, I individually added the filling ingredients while the pancakes were cooking, like this:


So first, pour the batter into the pan, and while that side of the pancake cooks, add in the ingredients. For these Santa Fe-inspired pancakes, use diced green chiles, bacon chunks, sliced scallions, diced jalapenos, and cheddar cheese slices. The end result is a spectacular pancake creation worthy of any brunch.

Node and Scaling in the Small vs Scaling in the Large

In a system of no significant scale, basically anything works.

The power of today’s hardware is such that, for example, you can build a web application that supports thousands of users using one of the slowest available programming languages, brutally inefficient datastore access and storage patterns, zero caching, no sensible distribution of work, no attention to locality, etc. etc. Basically, you can apply every available anti-pattern and still come out the other end with a workable system, simply because the hardware can move faster than your bad decision-making.

via al3x.net

Google BigTable Paper Summarized

The slides below summarizing the Google BigTable paper are the result of a NOSQLSummer meeting in Tokyo. Nice!

Update: I just realized that the company that hosted this meeting, Gemini Mobile Technologies, is the same that announced yesterday the new key-value store Hibari

Presentation: Getting Started with MongoDB and Node.js

The main point behind Grant Goodale’s presentation is that MongoDB and Node.js are great together:

  • both understand Javascript and JSON
  • both are fast

Alex Payne (ex-Twitter, BankSimple) has a very interesting post about Node.js:

If you look at who’s flocking to Node, it’s largely web developers who have been working in dynamic languages with what we could politely call limited performance characteristics. Adding Node to their architectures means that these developers have gone from having essentially no concurrency story and very constrained runtime performance to having some semi-sane concurrency story – one rigidly enforced by the Node framework – running on a virtual machine with comparatively respectable performance. They slice off a painful bit of their application that’s suited to asynchrony, rewrite it in Node, and move on.

That’s awesome. That kind of outcome definitely meets Node’s secondary stated goal of “less-than-expert programmers” being “able to develop fast systems”. However, it has very little to do with scaling in the larger, more widely-understood sense of the term.


Pardon our Dust While We Upgrade

underconstruction3.gifWe're making some upgrades behind the scenes today that'll allow us to bring some new, cool features to the site that we think you'll like. Beginning this morning at 5:00 a.m. ET, all community features will be disabled (commenting, favoriting, and new submissions to Talk and Photograzing). We expect the upgrade to take approximately 3 hours and as soon as it is complete, community features will be restored. Thanks for your patience!

UPDATE:: Upgrade was completed as of ~8:00 a.m. ET. Thanks!

July 27, 2010

Hitchcock with Kim Novak on the set of Vertigo (1958). [via]

Hitchcock with Kim Novak on the set of Vertigo (1958). [via]

Tribbles Infest Alamo Drafthouse’s New Star Trek...

Tribbles Infest Alamo Drafthouse’s New Star Trek Posters.

Limited edition awesomeness by Olly Moss. There’s also a great Uhura one.

IBM's Rendition of the World Factbook as an Interactive Dashboard

Next to its sexy visualization for-the-masses called Many Eyes, data-crazy IBM has some more serious clientèle to cater for. Its "ILOG Elixir development team" shows off the data rendering capabilities of Adobe Flex through the online demonstration World Factbook Dashboard [ibm.com]. The heavily stylized application contains various gauges, 3D column and pie charts, a radar chart, a treemap and a world map view, which are all coordinated and synced through some very smooth animated effects. The different views also allow for the dynamic, user-driven scaling of the color legend, while countries can be compared by those in their immediate neighborhood.

Exploring such data-rich dashboards seem to provide me with a weird sensation I cannot put my finger on. Is it information-interaction-overload? Is it visual aesthetics? Or a mismatch in intended target audience? Why is this (personal) impression so different from, let's say, the recent World Bank Data Dashboard? I am not sure...

More information about this dashboard is available here. For those interested, there is also a similar real-time dashboard showing web statistics here.

See also:
. OECD Explorer
. The World Bank Open Data
. Gapminder Desktop
. CO2 Scorecard

It's been ten years!

It has been ten years since LtU was launched. When I launched it I had no idea if anyone will read the site, let alone if people contribute new stories. The result exceeded my wildest hopes.

I got into the habit of writing a few words every year, a kind of "state of lambda" post. Somehow, this feels inappropriate for the ten year anniversary. I will possibly post something about last year later this week, but let's take a moment to celebrate our first ten years.

There are a lot of things that can be said, and a few things that perhaps should be said. I personally will say little. The thread is open.

For my part, I just want to thank all those how contributed to LtU over the years, whether by submitting new stories, by participating in the discussion, or with help with administrative and hosting issues. Some, of course, helped with any and all tasks.

It is great to see that some members that have been with LtU from its early years are still here. Some members that left have come back, and those that decided to move on to other things are still part of the ethos of LtU, as well as the archives, as we move towards the future.

Get Caught Up on your Training in Viridian City

Once you battle your way through Kanto to Viridian City you will find a Trainer House there where you can battle other top trainers. You can battle the trainers there once every day and for every victory you can earn 1 battle point. You can enter any pokemon that you like and use any hold items you want. Your pokémon can be any level you like, but they are maxed out at level 50. Your items, status and HP will be refreshed and replenished before each battle.

The initial trainer there is Ace trainer Cal. He only has three pokémon, but he shows you the potential of how strong the Johto starters can be be with some proper breeding and training.

Meganium ♀ lvl 50, holding a Sitrus Berry

  • LeechSeed
  • Toxic
  • Protect
  • Energy Ball

This pokémon is built defensively and it takes more than one super-effective attack to bring it down. If you don’t, it will slowly sap away your HP.

Typhlosion ♀ level 50, holding a Salac Berry

  • Eruption
  • Flamethrower
  • Substitute
  • Focus Blast

Typhlosion likes to come in on Fire or Ice attacks against Meganium and replenish its substitutes if Leech Seed is in effect.

Feralgatr ♀ level 50, holding a Lum Berry

  • Dragon Dance
  • Waterfall
  • Ice Punch
  • Crunch

Feralgatr provides the physical attack and is built sturdy. It often takes two Dragon Dances to outspeed some of the faster pokémon, but if you let it gather up steam it can roll over your entire team.

When you upload a pokémon to your pokéwalker the information of the team you are currently playing is loaded onto the pokéwalker also. When two pokéwalkers are connected, you not only receive a gift in both pokéwalkers, but the information of your team is also exchanged. Gifts, items you find, pokémon that you have caught and watts can be deposited to any game whether or not it matches the pokéwalker. When you receive the gift, the trainers info and team show up in the Viridian Training House where you can battle them every day. You can even battle yourself with the team you had when you exchanged gifts, if their gift is deposited in your game.
You can have as many as ten opposing trainers in the Training Hall. Remember you can only exchange gifts with another trainer’s pokéwalker 10 times, so try to meet as many fellow trainers as you can to rack up extra battle points every day.

Solve the Mystery of the Enigma Stone

From July 31 until August 27, 2010 HeartGold and SoulSilver owners can download a special Mystery Gift over the Nintendo Wi-Fi. It is an Enigma Stone. Its not much on its own, but if you take it to the Pewter Museum where they reanimate fossils that you have found, they will reveal that it is actually Soul Dew.

Soul Dew is a rare item that when held by Latios or Latias will raise both their Special Attack and their Special Defense one level (50%). After exchanging your Enigmas Stone for Soul Dew, Steven Stone will appear in Pewter City and reveal that Soul Dew is believed to be the incarnation of Latios and Latias. Once you leave you will be challenged by them depending on the version you are playing.

For SoulSilver, you will challenged by Latias. She will be at level 40 and know the following moves:

Heartgold users will be challenged by Latios. He also will be at level 40 and know these moves:

Unlike previous pokémon games, HeartGold and SoulSilver have the Mystery Gift box visible on the opening screen to start the game. Just scroll down below the CONNECT TO POKéWALKER box, click on the MYSTERY GIFT box, click RECEIVE GIFT and click GET VIA NINTENDO WFC.
You must have:

  • A HeartGold or SoulSilver game and a DS
  • Obtained the pokedex from Prof. Elm
  • Room for the wonder card (can’t have more than three)
  • A wireless connection setup (use the box below MYSTERY GIFT to establish your connection settings)

Meche-ing with Sasquatch

It’s unbecoming to just re-run an old blog post … but really I cannot add much to this. You may have heard (but probably not) that Kansas City Royals starter Gil Meche will have shoulder surgery and is out for the season.

Meche had been rumored to be involved in potentially the most tragic baseball trade in the history of the world, a trade that might have involved Ollie Perez, Jeff Francoeur, Jose Guillen and Kyle Farnsworth. You should have to get a special dispensation from the Pope before making a trade involving all those guys.

Now, obviously, that won’t happen. Meche is gone for the year and while approaching 32 with another year at $12 million left on his $55 million contract … well, there’s no telling where this will go. He has not been himself since the middle of last year. You usually cannot pinpoint disasters to one specific moment in time, but in this case you can pretty much pinpoint Meche’s moment to the time he threw 132 pitches in a shutout against Arizona. Right after that game, Meche’s arm began to feel dead. He insisted — INSISTED — that the 132 pitches had nothing to do with the deadness of his arm. But, he had two dreadful starts, then took a couple of extra days off to deal with it. Tendinitis? Muscle fatigue? He then returned to pitch against Minnesota in a game where everyone said he would be watched closely and kept on a conservative pitch count.

What followed was epic. Well, here’s the material stuff from the blog post I wrote on July 2nd, one day after that start. The post was called “Stupid Is …”

* * *

All of which takes us back to Wednesday. Gil Meche was pitching, and you may or may not know that Meche has been battling with a balky back and a dead arm this year. Even so, he has made 17 starts — he leads the American League in starts — because he has become what baseball people like to call a warrior.

Unfortunately, the warrior had been terrible his previous two outings — terrible, in fact, ever since (then Royals manager) Trey Hillman left him in to throw 132 pitches in a shutout against Arizona. I want to make clear here that this is NOT about pitch counts. Bill James and I wrote some about pitch counts already, and we both said that we are skeptical about the way teams use pitch counts now and we’re open to Nolan Ryan’s plan to extend pitchers. You could argue — pretty persuasively, I imagine — that having a pitcher who has been dealing with a stiff back throw 132 pitch might not be the wisest move ever. But hey, Meche is a grown-up, he insisted on staying in there, he finished the job, I would not second guess it.

BUT then that familiar pattern emerged one more time. Meche struggled badly his next start. And he struggled badly again his next time out. His velocity was down. He felt lousy on the mound. The Royals said he had a bit of “dead arm,” which I’m pretty sure is not a modern medical term. To be blunt, that sounds like something John McGraw would have said. You had to wonder if the Royals planned to treat the “dead arm” with leeches and by drowning a witch.

But OK, hey, dead arm, and Meche (who also downplayed things — guy’s a WARRIOR) said that maybe there was a little “built up tendinitis” and some “fatigue.” He decided to take a couple of days off — not even pick up a baseball. Sounded like a wise thing to do. At first, there was some doubt if he would even make his Wednesday start, and frankly I have NO IDEA why the Royals would even let him make his Wednesday start. Skip a start, make sure he’s OK, I mean it’s not like the Royals are in the heat of a pennant race here.

But OK, Meche said he felt good after his two days off. And as Hillman said: “He’ll know with his experience.” Meche said he wanted to go Wednesday … OK, let him go. “No reservations,” Trey Hillman said. Pitching coach Bob McClure, a sensible soul, was a bit more cautious.

“I would say we’ll probably monitor how many pitches we’re going to let him throw,” McClure said.

Well, sure. Of course. I mean, you wouldn’t let a guy with a dead arm and bad back throw a lot of pitches. That’s OBVIOUS, no? Meche went out and, good to see, his stuff looked pretty good. He was throwing in the low-to-mid 90s again. His curveball looked pretty sharp. He did walk five guys in five innings, and he did labor, and he did throw 99 pitches in those five innings which I think is probably a few more than you would want him to throw. But hey, he only allowed one earned run and the Royals were in the game and Meche seemed to be back on track … Mission accomplished.

Only then … Gil Meche walked out the mound to start the sixth inning.

I wanted to rub my eyes, you know, the way they do in the movies when they see a ghost or really beautiful woman. I looked back at my computer — yep, he’d thrown 99 pitches. I retraced my steps: Yes, Meche did say he had a dead arm, yes there was some stiff back issues, yes everyone said the Royals were going to be cautious, yes, check … and then I looked back on the screen and there was Meche, or at least some guy with Meche’s name on his jersey, on the mound. What? Gil Meche has two-and-a-half years left on his $55 million contract. Gil Meche was the Royals opening day starter. Gil Meche is absolutely one of the critical players if the Royals are EVER going to dig out of this hole …

It couldn’t be. Nobody would send Gil Meche out there. Nobody would do that. Nobody would do that. Nobody would do …

On the second pitch of the inning (101st pitch overall) Carlos Gomez cracked a vicious double down the left-field line. Well, in a way, that was good. Carlos Gomez does not hit many vicious doubles … surely now Hillman would come and take Meche out and end this preposterous …

No. Meche stayed out there. He struck out Nick Punto. He got Denard Span to fly out on the first pitch of an at-bat (yay Denard!). So Meche had 105 pitches and might get out of this without it being a total disaster.

No sir. Matt Tolbert then worked Meche for an eight-pitch at-bat which led to a walk. Meche was now up to 113 pitches with two of the best lefty hitters in the American League — Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau — coming up. Well, yes, that was a disaster, but at least now Meche would get taken out of the game and …

No. Meche stayed in to face Joe Mauer. It leads to one of the great questions of philosophy: At what point does idiotic become criminal? Jamie Quirk, who was color commentator on television, talked about how Meche wanted to stay out there. Well OF COURSE Meche wanted to stay out there, but that’s why you have a MANAGER, someone who MANAGES to walk out to the mound and say, “Great effort Gil, but you know, I had to be insane to let you pitch the sixth inning in the first place, I have to get you out of here now.”

But Meche stayed out there. He got ahead of Mauer 0-2, then threw a ball, then Mauer singled, scoring a run. Meche was up to 117 pitches now. Hillman finally went to the mound. We had driven past the lunacy exit about four miles back … we were now in lawsuit territory. Could there be any explanation — ANY explanation — for pitching your wounded Opening Day starter 117 pitches?

Wait for it.

No, wait for it.

Hillman walked back to the dugout and left Meche in the game to face Morneau.

I don’t know. Maybe at some point, when you’re SO FAR down the wrong road, you just go: “What the hell, might as well keep going and hope we run into something good.” Maybe it would have been more damaging to have Meche throw 117 pitches and then pull him before the inning was done. I don’t know. I really don’t know. We are in such la-la land here, there can be no logical questions … these are like “How would you wash a unicorn?” questions. I do know that Meche threw four more pitches and did get Morneau to fly out to right.

And the final tally: Gil Meche, who four days earlier was not sure he was going to start, who three days earlier was going to be watched closely, who one day earlier was talking about how he hoped he had his velocity back … threw 121 pitches. The explanation afterward seemed to be that Meche wanted to … and his stuff was good. Or something.

* * *

Postscript: Since that day, Gil Meche is 2-6, 7.18 ERA, 51 walks, 49 strikeouts, 17 home runs and one season-ending shoulder surgery. Trey Hillman has been fired. And the Royals … well, there’s just not a whole lot to add, is there?

Spoils From Paris

My advice, if you really want it, is to marry someone who takes frequent trips to Paris so you’ll never be short of french chocolate treats.

Five Random Bullpen Tidbits

All gathered from this Baseball-Reference page.

5. Seattle relievers have collectively entered 69 games when their team held the lead. That would be individual games, not team games. Meaning, simply, the Mariners have not necessarily held the lead in 69 separate games at the point when a reliever entered. That does not seem like a ridiculous number until you look at the second lowest total in the league, which happens to be Arizona’s pen at 90 games. That’s right, the Mariners are 21 games behind the second worst team in the majors.

4. Baltimore has had 111 relief stints of multiple innings pitched. That’s the most in the league by 15. Charlie Manuel, meanwhile, has only asked a member his pen to go multiple innings at a time on 46 occasions, a league low, although Houston and Arizona (of all teams) are not too far off.

3. Jerry Manuel’s Mets lead the league in number of appearances that have come on zero days rest. This isn’t much in the way of news for Mets’ fans. Pedro Feliciano takes fewer days off than the postal service (26 times he’s worked on zero days rest). It’s happened 93 times in total for New York, 89 for Cincy, then no other team is over 80, with Tampa Bay, Colorado, Atlanta, and Houston all sitting at 75 or more.

2. The Padres’ bullpen has allowed the fewest inherited runners to score. That’s not too much of a surprise (in part because the Friars’ relievers enter with a runner on base the least of any team in the league). What is a surprise is that Cleveland’s pen ranks second. That despite a 4.53 FIP (fourth worst in baseball).

1. Last, but not least. Three members of the Pirates’ relief corp are amongst the four pitchers who enter most often when their team is down. Javier Lopez (33 down, 14 ahead/tied), D.J. Carrasco (27 down, 17 ahead/tied), and Evan Meek (26 down, 20 ahead tied) are only interrupted by Matt Albers (29 down, 12 ahead/tied). Fifth belongs to the guy I wrote about earlier, Kanekoa Texeira (26 down, 6 head/tied).

Comment of the Day: Food Trends You Wish For?

Comment of the Day"I'm hoping that Mad Men will make day time office drinking into the next big fad. 3 seasons have passed and my boss still frowns on drinking at work."exflexitarian, on "Poll: Do You Care About Cupcakes?"

Comedy MVPs

Bill Simmons recently compiled a list of the MVPs of comedy from 1975 to the present. Here's a portion of the list:

1989: Dana Carvey
1990: Billy Crystal
1991: Jerry Seinfeld
1992: Jerry Seinfeld, Mike Myers (tie)
1993: Mike Myers
1994: Jim Carrey
1995: Chris Farley
1996: Chris Rock

Unlikely Words has the full list and you can go to Simmons' site to read the list with annotations. Such as:

1982-84: Eddie Murphy
The best three-year run anyone has had. Like Bird's three straight MVPs. And by the way, "Beverly Hills Cop" is still the No. 1 comedy of all time if you use adjusted gross numbers.

Tags: best of   Bill Simmons   lists

The History and Use of "Spoiler Alert"

Stanley spoiled, viewers boiledIn her July 14 article about the premiere of the fourth season of "Mad Men," Alessandra Stanley neglected to include a phrase that precedes potentially revealing facts in film and TV reviews: “spoiler alert.” Fans read ahead and the damage was done. A certain string of words made moot a device key to the operation of the “Mad Men” universe—the ignorance on the part of the audience of how much time has lapsed between the previous season and the current one—and she did not give readers the choice of whether or not they wanted to know before the episode aired. The information was placed casually in the middle of a sentence—and so, for some, the fun of the anticipation had been ruined, and something would be taken away from the original viewing experience. Betrayal! Stanley had broken the unspoken agreement.

The outrage was widespread. Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, told the Hollywood Reporter that he was “shocked” and that  “A lot of people told me they were blindsided by [the Stanley article].” Writing for Variety, Brian Lowry called out Stanley for “ignoring their plea to avoid spoilers—without so much as a word of warning.” New York magazine placed “Alessandra Stanley spoils pretty much everything in the 'Mad Men' season premiere” far on the “despicable” side of its Approval Matrix.

These past two weeks have seen the “spoiler alert” construction hit zeitgeist heights, thanks to the reaction pieces about “Mad Men” and Inception, two projects defined by a massive effort to keep their plots a secret. Both hedged their bets on the fact that people would be more interested the less they knew, pushing writers toward frequent use of the “spoiler alert” tag if they had been privy to these works before—and even some time after—their public release. In his Times article about the reaction to Inception, A.O. Scott said, “The discourse is marked by the ritualistic incantation of two words that may at this point be redundant: spoiler alert.”

In a Washington Post article from Dec. 6, 1994 about “the branching fibers of the Internet,” Amy E. Schwartz claims that, despite “the Net's still-sparse cultural possibilities” a new language was being born on the few threads that then existed. “On movie buffs' discussion lists, for instance, there is wide use of the term 'spoiler alert,' which is a warning inserted before any comment that would give away a film's ending." The Usenet archives compiled on the Google Groups page reveals that nerds were bandying about the phrase as early as June 8 1982, when a commenter placed "[SPOILER ALERT]" before mentioning a detail about Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The movie had been released just four days earlier, so he assumed many had not yet seen it.

By the time the Internet began writing at length about “Survivor” in 2000, it was commonplace to warn readers of the spoilers that gave away information about who was going to get kicked off the island. Roger Ebert issued something of a referendum on the practice of “spoiling” movies for viewers in a 2005 article, detailing his anger with critics who give too much away and explaining his decision to issue “spoiler warnings” in his reviews after seeing them used online.

Now, with every blog writing a weekly recap of every show—shows that are more often than not TiVO’d or DVR’d and watched the next day—the phrase “spoiler alert” is inescapable. It’s even approaching redundancy, as Scott suggested—yes, we know that your "True Blood" post will give away all those incredibly important plot points essential to your enjoyment of that masterwork of television. You don’t have to tell us anymore.

Except… for when you do. We absorb an immense amount of information each day, and there's no way to clear out an entire bundle of RSS feeds without coming across something—an article, or a tweet, an email, anything—that gives away a key element of a TV show or movie you've been planning to see. We're not going to watch every show when it airs, so when we come across the recaps in a dozen blogs, we need some heads up if something's going to be spilled. So put in those two words, even if they seem redundant. Because if you do—spoiler alert!—it might save someone's Sunday night.

The PBJ-Cream Cone

"If you're a fan of toast, PB&J, and structurally stable treats, this has your name all over it."


[Photographs: Grathio Labs]

Behold the PBJ-Cream Cone, the genius creation by Steve of Grathio Labs. It's a toasted bread cone lined with peanut butter and topped with a scoop of strawberry ice cream. You're already thinking, why didn't I think of this before?! Don't worry, you know now and you'll make one as soon as humanly possibly.

All you need is an oven, white bread (it shouldn't break when forming the cone, nor be too air pocket-y, or you'll run into ice cream spillage), peanut butter (creamy or crunchy is fine) and strawberry ice cream. The biggest challenge is cone-forming. Steve recommends rolling a piece of paper into a cone shape and securing it with paper clips, then using this as a mold for your bread and baking the cones off at 250°F for about 15 minutes.

Then comes the magical interior peanut butter layer ("be sure you get in the bottom and fill any holes") and the strawberry ice cream scoopage on top. If you're a fan of toast, PB&J, and structurally stable treats, this has your name all over it.
More instructions here »

Stan The Man


Lots of pieces in the works including something on Hall of Fame weekend, the aftermath in Cleveland and one of the great American sports heroes of the last half century. In the meantime, though, I thought you might enjoy a look at this week’s special edition of Sports Illustrated … with my story on Stan The Man Musial.

Note: about FanGraphs Live in NYC

Posted in Facebook

Www.google.com 2010-7-26 17-25On Saturday, August 7, I will be speaking at the first-ever FanGraphs Live in New York City.

I will be talking about the Mets on a panel early in the day, but I am looking most forward to sitting alongside New York Magazine’s Will Leitch, Alex Speier from WEEI, the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman, and Jonah Keri of Bloomberg Sports, to talk about the Changing Face of Media.

To learn about attending this event, go here.

Leave a Comment



Tiny Cartridge details an unsettling bootleg edition of the game Pokémon:

After selecting your starter, if you looked at your Pokémon, you had in addition to Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle another Pokémon -- "GHOST". It had one attack -- "Curse". ...

When the move "Curse" was used in battle, the screen would cut to black. The cry of the defending Pokémon would be heard, but it was distorted, played at a much lower pitch than normal. The battle screen would then reappear, and the defending Pokémon would be gone.

You could also select Curse [on a rival Trainer]. If you did, upon returning to the overworld, the trainer's sprite would be gone. After leaving and reentering the area, the spot that the trainer had been would be replaced with a tombstone...

That's not all, either. The author of the hack didn't just leave it at that, but considered the implications for the game's narrative. [Tiny Cartridge via @brandonnn]

Drink your Friend’s to Improve your Own

If there’s one thing helps you improve your coffee service more than anything else, it’s tasting everyone else’s coffee. Regularly, as often as possible. Tasting nothing but your own product develops predilection for what you’re serving, and it becomes impossible to be objective. Of course you think your coffee tastes great! That’s all you drink! via shotzombies.com True for everything - not just coffee!

Equipment: The Due Buoi Wide Spatula (My New Favorite Tool)

Each week J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (KA Cuisine and GoodEater.org) drops by with a list of tools or a tool you might want to stock your kitchen with—if you haven't already. Kenji also writes The Food Lab column here on SE. You can fan The Food Lab on Facebook for play-by-plays on his future kitchen tests and recipe experiments.—The Mgmt.


My new favorite toy. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Normally my equipment posts focus on comparing a few of the top contenders for a single product. This week, instead I'm going to present you with my new spatula. I love my new Due Buoi Wide Spatula ($36) almost as much as I love the beautiful smashed burgers I'm going to create with it. If you are partial to smashed burgers or do a lot of heavy-duty grill or griddle work, I'd suggest you add one of these to your arsenal immediately.

Ever since I saw the Feedbag's video of Randy Garutti demonstrating the proper smashing technique for a Shack Burger, I've been on a quest for a spatula worthy of wielding on my meat. I've finally found it.

My new spatula is exceedingly sexy, in that mostly platonic inanimate metallic object kind of way. It's got a business-end that's 5 inches long, a generous girth of 3.9 inches at the front, and a hefty weight of 7.76 ounces (220 grams). It's a size that can't be beat; just large enough to successfully smash a ball of beef into a 4-inch patty or flip a couple portions worth of browning home fries, without being so large that it doesn't fit into a small skillet.


The blade and handle are formed out of a single piece of cast stainless steel, which clocks in at a thickness of .04 inches (1 mm, or approximately 18 gauge). This is important. A thinner, more flexible spatula would create an unevenly shaped smashed patty, failing to maximize contact between the beef and the hot pan. It also means you can do things like lift whole turkeys or rib roasts with reckless abandon.

The head is offset from the handle at 34.504 degrees (.602 radians)—a value that has been precisely and scientifically calculated to the third decimal place by some of the greatest mathematicians of our time to be the optimal angle for pressing into a skillet without burning your knuckles.

By flipping the spatula over, its keen and sturdy front edge substitutes handily for a paint scraper, allowing you to ensure that every last bit of flavorful crisp crust stays firmly attached to your burger or steak, instead of the pan.


The handle is made from tough, durable polycarbonate* and features a full tang, for optimal strength and balance. This baby's gonna last a lifetime.

And there's a musical bonus: When struck daintily against the cutting board, the Due Buoi Wide Spatula vibrates at precisely 587.33 hertz (really!), with an outstanding overtone series of a quality and timbre even Stradivarius would be proud to apply his famous varnish to.

It's the very thing during that all-too-common situation when I desperately need to tune the fourth string of my guitar while applying cheese to my burger.


I found my spatula at Williams-Sonoma for a surprisingly not-that-marked-up-price. Outside of retail locations, I've only seen it on offer from the Due Buoi website itself for $36.

Great discoveries like these make me really excited to get into the kitchen. Finding this was almost as good as the time when I was 25 years old and discovered that there was a Beatles song that I'd never heard.**

Anyone else got a simple kitchen tool that really gets them going?

*Polycarbonate handles are great for "branding": using the edge of a really hot metal pan to melt an identifying mark into the handle to prevent anyone with slightly sticky fingers from claiming it as their own. It's a trick that comes in handy in restaurant kitchens.

**The song was "It's All Too Much," and I'm comfortable saying that it's the most obscure officially released Beatles track, as it was only released on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album, which never even entered the charts. It was out or print for years until the 1987 re-issue on CD, and even then difficult to find until the 1999 re-reissue that coincided with the DVD release of the re-mastered version of the film.

Follow Kenji on Facebook or Twitter. About the author: After graduating from MIT, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt spent many years as a chef, recipe developer, writer, and editor in Boston. He now lives in New York with his wife, where he runs a private chef business, KA Cuisine, and runs the collaborative blog GoodEater.org about sustainable food enjoyment.

What The iPad Says About Who You Are

Rich people thingAre you a "selfish elite" or an "independent geek"? It all depends on your attitude toward the iPad!

Consumer research firm MyType conducted the study, in which opinions of 20,000 people were analyzed between March and May. The firm’s conclusion was that iPad owners tend to be wealthy, sophisticated, highly educated and disproportionately interested in business and finance, while they scored terribly in the areas of altruism and kindness. In other words, “selfish elites.”

They are six times more likely to be “wealthy, well-educated, power-hungry, over-achieving, sophisticated, unkind and non-altruistic 30-50 year olds,” MyType’s Tim Koelkebeck told Wired.com.

Those most likely to criticize the iPad, on the other hand, don’t even own one. This group tends tend to be “self-directed young people who look down on conformity and are interested in videogames, computers, electronics, science and the internet,” Koelkebeck said.

There is also the possibility that you're not brainwashed enough to shell out for whatever new shiny device they crap out at the Steve Jobs factory, but it's always easier to go with a binary division. So "selfish elite" or "independent geek" it is!

Apple's new battery charger is deceptively cool

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Rounding out the list of hardware updates from Apple this morning is a battery charger. Before you dismiss it (as I initially did) as just a battery charger, consider the following.

First, Apple is pushing its green aspects. For example, the charger is smart enough to pull less power once the batteries are fully charged. In fact, Apple claims that it has the lowest standby power usage than any similar charger on the market (more on that in a minute). Also, Apple notes that the 6 batteries that ship with it are able to hold a long charge over hundreds of charges. Expect to get 10 years of use out of them, Apple says. The idea is that users will pull less power from the grid and use fewer batteries with Apple's charger.

Also consider that this is another step towards Apple's making "the whole widget." For example, you can now buy a computer, mouse, keyboard, Magic Trackpad, batteries and battery charger all from Apple. Who says Steve's a control freak?

Finally, let's compare it to a charger I currently own, the Engergizer Rechargeable 15 Minute Charger. When I say "own," I mean "despise." Yes, it charges batteries in 15 minutes, and they'll hold that charge for almost as long! It's also huge (it uses one socket and covers the other) and heats up like an iron forge. For $32 it ships with 4 batteries, compared to the 6 Apple gives you for $29.

Yes, it's a battery charger. But it's also been infused with Apple magic.

TUAWApple's new battery charger is deceptively cool originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Tue, 27 Jul 2010 11:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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"Many of us have sat through count less meetings, listen­ing to pun dits make wild gen er al isa..."

Many of us have sat through count less meetings, listen­ing to pun dits make wild gen er al isa tions and call it wisdom: mainly that the citizens of these fine four coun tries desire our products, services, and culture like a man in the desert wants water. This is especially true about the internet and China. The Chinese wait ing for X, or the Chinese will do Y online being almost as good for the morale of Western industri­alists as the x-hundred-million New Consumers Yearning for Your Product story. Taking Facebook to China is told like we’re taking Levis into East Germany.

Of course, it’s nonsense. The Chinese internet is just as mature and sophisticated — if not more so — than it is in the West. We just don’t have the reporting to know it, or per haps the will to under stand, say, the size of QQ or RenRen.

- Ben Hammersley on Tricia Wang’s Neo-Informationalism

Catching razor clams

I've dug/raked for my fair share of shellfish (oysters, steamers, littlenecks and mussels) but I'd never harvested razor clams. I've seen their shells all over the beaches, but until a few years ago never realized people ate them. Then I had them roasted with butter and garlic at St. John's in London and fell in love! While reading my new Forgotten Skills of Cooking I learned a simple way to catch razor clams: pour salt in their hole and watch them wriggle out! That's crazy! I can't wait to try it! Also if anyone knows a good source for buying razor clams in New York City, please let me know. I want to start eating them more regularly. via www.megnut.com I also want to try this!

Boarding Pass/Fail

This project has been up for quite a while but I’m only coming across it now: Tyler Thompson undertakes a hypothetical redesign of flight boarding passes. His original proposal is quite interesting, but what’s even better is the round-robin of alternative designs proposed by readers. Some of them are quite smart. My favorite is this “human boarding pass” from Graphicology.

See the whole lot of them here.

Teams of Physicists Closing in on the ‘God Particle’

The data from two separate experiments at Fermilab narrow the range in which the Higgs boson, if it exists, must be hiding.

The best magazine articles

Kevin Kelly is compiling a list of really good magazine articles. Lots of good Instapaper chum there already.

Tags: best of   Kevin Kelly   magazines

Changes to Maris and Mantle’s Batting Totals

Lyle Spatz, chair of the SABR Records Committee has allowed me to reprint this note that he wrote about the recently made changes to Maris and Mantle's 1961 season totals.

We'll have more to say on this in the future, but the basic gist of our policy when making changes of this is that our main desire is to present history accurately. Baseball stats and how they have been collected are inherently fallible. When there is very strong evidence that a change should be made. We will make the change. Please read Lyle's note below to gain some insight how this process works.


Fifteen years ago, in the April 1995 newsletter, I ran an article detailing Ron Rakowski’s discovery that Roger Maris was mistakenly credited with an extra run batted in 1961. This was extremely significant because Maris won the RBI championship that season by one over Jim Gentile, 142 to 141. Rocky Colavito had 140.

Working with Retrosheet, Rakowski analyzed newspaper accounts and box scores for every game that year, along with the official daily records and score sheets that he obtained from various teams and sportswriters.

The error occurred on July 5 in a game against Cleveland at Yankee Stadium. Tony Kubek (who had struck out but reached when John Romano couldn't hold the third strike) was at first with no one out when Maris singled to right. Right fielder Willie Kirkland threw to third baseman Bubba Phillips in an unsuccessful attempt to get Kubek at third. Phillips then tried to catch Maris who had rounded first, but his throw went into the seats. The umpires waved Kubek home and sent Maris to third. It was an unearned run with no RBI given. Maris later hit a solo homer in the seventh, but the official scorer reported two RBI's to the league office.

The following sources show Maris with just one RBI on July 5, 1961: The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The New York Journal American, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and The Sporting News. Also play-by-play sheets from the Indians and Yankees and score sheets from Dick Young of the Daily News and Harold Rosenthal of the New York Herald Tribune.

Ron also discovered that Mickey Mantle was incorrectly credited with a run scored that same year. Ron's first discovery meant that Maris now shares the 1961 RBI lead with Baltimore's Jim Gentile, each with 141. However, his newest find makes Maris the league leader in runs scored with 132. He had been tied with Mantle.

Ron discovered the error occurred in the second game of a doubleheader against Cleveland at Yankee Stadium on September 10. Mantle's "official sheet" shows him with two runs scored in this game, when he actually scored only one--a third inning solo home run. In his other three at bats, Mantle walked in the first (left stranded at third base), struck out in the fifth, and grounded to third in the seventh. The run mistakenly given to Mantle actually belongs to Bill Skowron, whom the "official sheet" shows with no runs-scored. Skowron singled in the sixth inning, and scored on Clete Boyer's double.

Ron confirmed the above by checking the score sheets of New York sportswriters, Dick Young, Phil Pepe and Leonard Koppett, as well as the Yankees' team scores sheet and the.. Associated Press.. box score. As a result, give Mantle 131 runs-scored in 1961 and Skowron gets 77.

I am pleased to see that Retrosheet, Baseball-Reference, Baseball Almanac, and the Elias Sports Bureau all recognize these numbers.

I know there are people who object to these types of corrections, even when they are done to rectify an obvious error such as a faulty computation or putting a number in a wrong column. This is especially true when the correction changes a league leader in a particular category. For those of you that do (I hope there aren't too many on the Records Committee) let me restate an obvious truth. Mickey Mantle was one of the game's great players. Does finishing his career with 1,676 runs scored rather than 1,677 make him any less a great player. Will anybody's assessment of Mantle's place in history be changed by the fact that he did not lead the league in runs scored in 1961? I don't think so.

We should try to get the numbers as accurate as we can, but we must also, as Neil Postman, a Professor at NYU and critic of technology run wild, said, "free ourselves from the belief in the power of numbers and not regard calculation as an adequate substitute for judgment, or precision as a synonym for truth."

Lyle Spatz, Chairman SABR Baseball Records Committee

Drink your Friend’s to Improve your Own

If there’s one thing helps you improve your coffee service more than anything else, it’s tasting everyone else’s coffee. Regularly, as often as possible. Tasting nothing but your own product develops predilection for what you’re serving, and it becomes impossible to be objective. Of course you think your coffee tastes great! That’s all you drink! And when you’re knee-deep in daily operations, that sadly becomes the norm. Guess what? Someone else is serving something better, and you should taste it!

[Photo via Waxy on Flickr]

Related posts:

  1. Coffee as a Health Drink? – New York Times
  2. The £7,500 Coffee Mug You Can’t Drink From
  3. Abraço Soon to Be Roasting Coffee in Greenpoint — Grub Street: New York Magazine's Food and Restaurant Blog

Sizing Up Mark Cuban; Potential Owner Of The Rangers

We’re happy to announce that Maury Brown, owner of the Business of Sports Network, will be writing for us here every Tuesday. Please welcome Maury to the crew.

Well, this is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Tom Hicks. The Texas Rangers, mired in Chapter 11 bankruptcy when Hicks Sports Group defaulted on $525 million in loans, is about ready to go up for auction on Aug 4th. To place this in perspective, the last time this happened (it was also the first time) in MLB was with the Baltimore Orioles in 1993. Then, owner Eli Jacobs, had the club in bankruptcy and Judge Cornelius Blackshear held an auction that eventually came down to a group led by Peter Angelos and one by Jeffrey Loria. Angelos won the auction for $173 million over Loria, which, at the time, caused fans of the team in the courtroom to erupt into applause.

We all now know how that has tuned out with Angelos at the helm, which brings us back to the auction of Rangers.

Determining whether an owner will be good or bad is always a matter for history to decide. Looking to the past to try and predict the future is, at best, a tenuous endeavor. But, when Mark Cuban is one of those possibly in play to own the Rangers, you can assume he’d be something other than the normally placid owners that make up MLB’s ownership lodge at the moment. Cuban makes everyone stand up and notice. On Monday, Cuban’s lawyer Clifton Jessup told the chief restructuring officer in the Rangers case that by today, the Mavericks owner would  make a determination as to whether to continue possibly pursuing the purchase of the club.

In other words, much like Cuban in the NBA, you never know what you might get.

Cuban is, more or less, trying to land an MLB club through the backdoor with the bankruptcy court more concerned about satisfying creditors than what the league would do if the sale were outside of Chapter 11. He’s not exactly the personality type that fits Bud Selig’s ownership profile; he’s one who has a taste for getting fined by the NBA for comments regarding the quality of referees. His outspoken ways were partially to blame for knocking him down when the Chicago Cubs were up for sale (although funding was more at issue before the sale got into the final bidding phase). His 2002 infamous quote to the Dallas Morning News in which he said, “Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen. His interest is not in the integrity of the game or improving the officiating” landed a then league-record $500,000 fine. To add to David Stern’s heartburn, when Dairy Queen got up in arms about his statement, Cuban apologized and then worked a shift at DQ to show he wasn’t above working there.

While a case can be made that controversial owners the likes of Charlie Finley or Ted Turner are ancient history, the fact remains that Selig has the league focused on growing MLB’s business instead of chasing maverick owners around, and has gone after getting the balance of power somewhat back in their court from the MLBPA. When you’re distracted with owners getting in trouble, it’s hard to focus on what’s in front of you. Cuban has a history of being a distraction.

Which is why Cuban has most likely married himself up with investor Jeff Beck and partner Dennis Gilbert. Gilbert, along with Roland Hemond and scouts Dave Yoakum of the White Sox and Harry Minor of the Mets, created the Professional Scouts Foundation in January 2003. Having Beck as the lead in a bidding group gives the perception that Cuban wishes to play nice and “help” another group, but it’s hard to imagine Cuban playing the part of “the background guy.” One could speculate that Cuban would simply bide his time, if the group won the auction, and slowly buy out majority ownership stake.

But is having Cuban as a majority owner such a bad thing? Would he be the same as he is as an owner in the NBA? It’s hard saying as owning the Mavericks and owning the Texas Rangers is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison.

What is known is that since he bought the majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks from Ross Perot, Jr. in 2000 he has made them relevant in a market consumed by all things Dallas Cowboys.  In the most recent Forbes NBA valuations, the Mavericks ranked 7th most valuable at $446 million. According to the USA Today NBA salary database, for the 2008-09 season (the most recent available), Cuban’s Mavericks ranked third in overall player payroll at $93,215,017 behind only the Raptors and Knicks. That spending has translated into Forbes showing the Mavericks running at an operating loss of $17.4 million. Playing to win can mean losing at the bottom line, which is bad for investors (and something Bud Selig would prefer not to see), but shows that he’s a passionate owner willing to put his money where his mouth is to field a contender. To place this in baseball perspective, the Rangers are shown to have a 2010 Opening Day payroll of $55,250,544, ranked as 27th out of 30 in the league. The most recent Forbes rankings for MLB has the Rangers as the 12th most valuable club in MLB at $451 million, up 11 percent from last year.

So, if Cuban is willing to open up his wallet to help make the Mavericks win, so, he too, will do the same for the Rangers, right? Not so fast.

One of Cuban’s biggest assets with the Mavericks is American Airline Center, of which he currently owns 50 percent. The facility has been a cash cow in terms of non-NBA related revenues, and that has placed American Airlines Center’s value of somewhere in the mid-$200 millions for Cuban. Those revenues have helped drive pouring money back into the Mavericks.

While winning this year has seen sellout games during the recent homestand against the Angels, the Rangers rank 15th in attendance at an average paid attendance of 28,326. The Ballpark at Arlington is not part of the auction process, and indeed, the lease transfer for the ballpark is up in the air as JPMorgan Chase has filed a lawsuit claiming the Rangers fraudulently transferred the lease during the bankruptcy process. If Cuban were to win the auction for the Rangers, chances are that he will not be the “next Steinbrenner” and would likely run player payroll above where it is now, but nowhere near the top of MLB’s player payroll ranking.

Cuban also has interest in other sports endeavors investing in the fledgling United Football League in 2010. The investment was done to get his foot in the door with HDNet, of which Cuban is Chairman. HDNet will broadcast ten regular season games for the UFL this year. According to the SportsBusiness Journal, the UFL lost roughly $30 million in its debut year, $6 million more than the league’s founders projected. Cuban could possibly look to swing some kind of broadcast deal for the Rangers for HDNet, although it’s uncertain how that would cannibalize the current deal with FOX Sports Southwest where ratings have been robust. Still, it’s a possible consideration for Cuban to try and eek out more revenues through the Rangers to his main business holding, HDNet.

But, the real question becomes, does Cuban get in through the backdoor by outbidding the group led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan? The league has backed the Greenberg/Ryan group pretty much from the beginning as they see transitioning as a smooth ride, whike a Beck/Cuban group would be riddled with question marks.

At the center of those questions is Nolan Ryan. Ryan, a fan and league favorite, has been sitting in the position of president with the Rangers during this whole debacle. It’s unclear whether Ryan would want to be in a group with Beck and Cuban, or whether Ryan would be fired to get Dennis Gilbert in the picture.

Which adds to MLB’s claims that the Greenberg/Ryan group would be a better transitional fit for the Rangers, who are sitting pretty atop the AL West and charging toward the playoffs, a promised land they haven’t been in in over a decade. Clearly, Ryan has his Hall of Fame pitching background to stand on, but he also owns the Corpus Christi Hooks, which play in the Class AA Texas League, and the Round Rock Express, a Class AAA team in the Pacific Coast League. Chuck Greenberg, whom Ryan sought out when the Rangers came up for sale, helped work out the bankruptcy sale of the Pittsburgh Penguins to Mario Lemieux. He’s also  owned the Double-A Eastern League’s Altoona Curve and been president and managing partner of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, which has seen recent attendance records. The two are portrayed as a symbiotic pairing with Ryan knowing a lot about baseball matters and has a good understanding of business, which Greenberg understands running baseball clubs with a solid business background.

So, there’s a case to be made that Cuban isn’t good for any group looking to gain access to the Rangers, as MLB might not approve any ownership group he’s in. But here’s the thing: having Cuban in the auction mix is actually good for the process.

Judge Michael Lynn, who is overseeing the bankruptcy case, has said that even if the Greenberg/Ryan group were to win at auction, he might overrule if he determines that there wasn’t a fair process in the sale. Cuban would assist in making the process “fair” by adding capital into the mix, and likely helping push the Beck group into a competitive position. In a backwards sense, Cuban would then help Greenberg/Ryan, if they have the muster to be competitive. Winning out over other competitive bidders would blunt talks that the process was unfair, and Lynn would then easily be able to approve a Greenberg/Ryan sale, if, as mentioned, the group is in it to win, and by all accounts, they are.

In the end, what Mark Cuban brings is a series of question marks. He’s questionable to MLB. He might, or might not, be a good MLB owner for fans. He might, or might not, stay out of trouble with the league. What is known is this: Cuban, or just about any other owner, for that matter, would be better than Tom Hicks, arguably the most hated man in baseball at the moment. At least fans, who either love or hate Cuban, can find middle ground in that.


There was once a man whose girlfriend left him to pursue a career in making love and relationships with other men. He spent many of the weeks after the breakup curled up in a meat shaped ball, crying out her name and banging his fists on his head. He was in a bad way.

A month had passed and still he spent most of his time in the ball of pain and punches, but with the arrival of his birthday he decided that he could take no more. He stood up, stretched out his legs and marched to the living room where a birthday party was being held in his honour.

The party was in full swing and as he gazed upon the faces of his friends and family he realised that there was no need to be sad anymore. There was life before his girlfriend and there would be life again without her.

Sadly, the man's best friend (not a dog) had made a bold attempt at humour when choosing the birthday cake. Instead of the typical cake design of Eric Cantona or Thomas the Tank Engine, the man's friend decided to have the cake iced in a way that replicated the exact face of the man's lost love.

When confronted with this dessert of tragic horror, the man did not cry. He put on a brave face, a face filled with a false smile. Oh, how everyone laughed. "Classic Barry!" the man heard someone yell.

As the words to Happy Birthday began to come to a close, the man became sadder than ever before in his life. His first instinct to return to the ball of pain and punches was quickly replaced by a desire to stand up perfectly straight. Forever. He would become a living statue, free from the troubles of life.

However, after some minutes of silence passed, people started to become concerned. He had remained motionless since the final "to youuuuuu" and the candles were burned down to almost nothing. The melted wax on the girl's icing based face looked like the rainbow filled tears of a clown. Upon noticing this, the man became consumed by the thought that maybe wherever she was, his former lover was just as sad as he was.

The crowd began to chant "Blow out the candles!" and "Make a wish!" both out of worry for the man's mental state and their own desire for cake. Their cries gave him the courage to leave his frozen state. He leaned forward and began to blow out the thirty-one candles, wishing that the only girl he'd ever loved was with him again.

Within a millionth of a second of the last candle being extinguished, a terrible shriek sounded from within the deep layers of the sponge, possibly from the cream, maybe from the jam. Five fingers shot out from the side, followed swiftly by a wrist and an arm. The man jumped back in terror, because his initial thought that Barry had got him one of those strippers in a cake. The man had long lived in fear of being confronted by a stripper at a birthday party and having to recieve a lapdance in front of his parents and cousins as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do. Although he soon dismissed the idea of there being a naked woman inside his cake, because of simple mathematics. The cake was only six inches tall and twelve inches wide. There was no room for a woman in there, clothed or otherwise.

What the cake contained was far more sinister than a stripper. As the minutes passed more limbs began to hatch from the coconut flaked walls. After a drawn out struggle, two fully formed woman's legs emerged, allowing the cake to stand. After the legs came the to torso and the neck. Stood before the man, with the body of a woman and the face of a cake was the woman who had broken the man's heart.

The room became a giant collective gasp as she began to speak. "I'm sorry I left you, David." she said. "It was a mistake." David didn't know what to say. Was this really the girl he'd sworn to love forever? The last time he'd seen her she'd had a human head, with real hair and three dimensions. This woman with a body of flesh, but a flat cartoon face resting on a square bed of marzipan couldn't really be her, could it?

"Is it really you?" he asked.

"I don't know what you mean." she replied.

"Was it really a mistake?" he asked, checking her naked body for the familiar marks and scars that he'd seen a million times before. They were all there.

"Yes." she said "I shouldn't have left." That was all he needed to hear. David took her by the hand and led her to his bedroom, stopping to kiss her artificially coloured face, which left a massive tongue sized hole in her cheek. Once in the room he pushed her onto the bed and locked the door.

An hour later, the man walked back to the living room, where the entire party had remained paused since the moment he left. His face was covered with jam and his hair was filled with sponge.

"She's dead." he wept.

[Python-Dev] Thoughts fresh after EuroPython

- After seeing Raymond's talk about monocle (search for it on PyPI) I am getting excited again about PEP 380 (yield from, return values from generators). Having read the PEP on the plane back home I didn't see anything wrong with it, so it could just be accepted in its current form. Implementation will still have to wait for Python 3.3 because of the moratorium. (Although I wouldn't mind making an exception to get it into 3.2.)

via mail.python.org

While I think the moratorium is a stupid idea to begin with, the fact that he's willing to make an exception shows something about his character—he's not Stalin. I suppose that's good, but let's get rid of the moratorium, and then you don't have this issue! Stop being fucking afraid to evolve!

(side note: ooh, two uses of 'fucking' to show anger in 1 day—sorry for showing emotion)

Redesigning the New York City subway map

Note: The field of data visualization is much broader than most people conceive of it, and exploring this breadth was one of our primary goals in compiling the projects described in "Beautiful Visualization." In the following excerpt, KickMap designer Eddie Jabbour explains the complexity he faced and the trade-offs he made while reinventing one of the most iconic maps in the world.

What follows is Eddie Jabbour's story, as told to Julie Steele:

Maps are one of the most basic data visualizations that we have; we've been making them for millennia. But we still haven't perfected them as a tool for understanding complex systems -- and with 26 lines and 468 stations across five boroughs, the New York City subway system certainly is complex. The KickMap is the result of my quest to design a more effective subway map, and ultimately to encourage increased ridership.

The need for a better tool

I was born in Queens and raised in Brooklyn. The first subway map I saw was my father's, circa 1960. It made a vivid impression on me because it intimidated me. I saw a gray New York with red, green, and black lines running all over it like a grid (see Figure 5-1), and hundreds of station names attached (1). It reminded me of a complex electrical diagram that I couldn't understand; it looked very "adult-serious" and even a little scary. I hoped I'd never have to deal with it.

The 1958 New York City Subway map designed by George Salomon
Figure 5-1. The 1958 New York City Subway map designed by George Salomon. 1958 New York City Subway Map © MTA New York City transit. Used with permission.

London calling

In college I majored in design, and I spent half a year studying at the University of London. I was all on my own in a huge city I had never been to before. I quickly learned that the London Underground was the way to get around and that the "Tube map" was the key to understanding it. That map (which of course is the acclaimed Beck map seen in Figure 5-2) was brilliantly friendly: simple, bright, functionally colorful, designed to help users easily understand connections between lines, and physically tiny. Folded, it fit easily into my pocket, to be whipped out at a second's notice for immediate reference (which I did often!).

Harry Beck's map of the London Underground
Figure 5-2. Harry Beck's map of the London Underground makes a complex system appear simple and elegant. 1933 London tube Map © TFL from the London transport Museum collection. Used with permission.

London was a medieval city, and therefore its street pattern is random. You cross a crooked intersection and the name of the street you're on changes. There's no numbered grid to provide a frame of reference (like in New York), and moving through the city can be a disorienting experience. The genius of the Beck map is that it makes order out of this random complexity, with the River Thames as the only visual (and geographic) point of reference to the aboveground world. And for that reason, the map's layout is iconic: when you think of London, you probably think of that Tube map. But even as a design student, I didn't think much about the form of it at the time -- it was just so simple and easy to use that travel felt effortless.

The combination of that effective little map and my unlimited monthly "Go As You Please" pass allowed me to use the Underground daily to explore London. I went anywhere and everywhere with ease and got the most that I could out of that great city. The Tube map imparted information so quickly and clearly that it became an indispensable tool and an integral part of my experience. It made me feel that London was "mine" after only a couple of weeks of living there. What a fantastic and empowering feeling!

In fact, I formed such a warm attachment to that valuable tool that at the end of my stay, just before I left the city, I went to my local Underground station and got a brand new Tube map, and when I returned home to New York I had it framed.

New York blues

When you come back to your own city after six months away, you look at everything with new eyes. When I got back to New York, I saw our subway map -- really saw it -- for the first time since I was a kid. And I thought, compared to London's, our subway map is poorly designed.

I remember thinking that the New York subway map was the opposite of the Beck map: huge in size, unruly in look, cluttered, and very nonintuitive. I realized that this map was in many ways a barrier to using our great subway system -- the opposite of the Tube map, whose simplicity was a key to understanding and using the Underground.

Even as a designer, however, if I ever thought of creating my own subway map I must have quickly dismissed the idea. This was in the late 1970s, and I'm not a T-square kind of guy. The amount of discipline and mechanical time it would have required for anyone but an experienced draftsman to undertake such an endeavor was unthinkable in that precomputer era.

The map's deficiencies left my mind as I pursued my design career. Like most New Yorkers, I used the subway map rarely and never carried it. This was in part because of its size: it was as large as a foldout road map. If I needed the map's information to get to a new location, I would tear out the relevant six-inch square portion from a free map in the station and throw the rest of it in the trash! I often saw tourists struggling with the physical map and felt bad for them, remembering my great experience as a student in London.

Better tools allow for better tools

Now, fast-forward to one night years later when I was taking an out-of-town client to dinner at a downtown restaurant. As we waited for the train, he confided to me that New York's subway intimidated him. I was surprised: the crime and grime of the 1970s-1990s were virtually gone from the system, and I was proud of our shiny new air-conditioned cars and clean stations. But in our conversation on the way downtown, I realized that his fear lay in not being able to decipher the complexity of the system: all the lines and connections. That's when I realized that the problem for him, too, was the map. My client was very well traveled and urbane; if he found the system intimidating, then there really was something wrong with the communicator of that system -- the map.

At that moment the subway map re-entered my consciousness, and it hasn't left since. It was 2002. I had my own design agency and my own staff, each of us with our own computer loaded with a copy of the greatest and most elegant graphic design tool available. I realized that now, just one person using a graphic design program like Adobe Illustrator had the power to create his own subway map! And I challenged myself to do something about the map.

Size is only one factor

When I decided to try making a new map as a weekend project (ha!), the first thing I considered was the size. Since the New York City subway system has about twice as many stations as London's, I decided to give myself twice as much space as the Tube map takes. (Even doubling the size of the Tube map, the result was about one-fifth the size of the existing New York subway map.)

First, I took a paper version of the official Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) map (a version of which is shown in Figure 5-3), cut it up with scissors, and put it back together in a more efficient way (literally with Scotch tape), just to see the possibilities. I was encouraged as I managed to reduce the area by more then half. Gone were the 56 bus pop-up boxes and other nonsubway information! Then came the laborious task of creating an actual map. I entered all the station names and lines into an Illustrator document, and in two months, voilá! I had my very own smaller map! I folded it and easily put it in my wallet, and I carried it around and showed it to all my friends. They liked its size, but of course nobody wanted to actually use it, because it still had many of the major design issues that made the MTA map difficult to use.

The 2004 version of the MTA New York City subway map, based on a design by Michael Hertz.
Figure 5-3. The 2004 version of the MTA New York City subway map, based on a design by Michael Hertz. Besides its visual complexity, incomplete information missing on the map itself forces the the user to rely on the complex charts in the lower right section -- right where sitting people block its view in the subway cars -- and in the stations where this information, displayed on large posters, is also difficult to read since it is often less than 18 inches off the ground. New York City Subway Map © Metropolitan transportation authority. Used with permission.

It was one thing to reduce the size, but another thing to realize that the way the data was presented was not the best way to present it. So I asked myself: how would I present all this data?

To answer this question, I had to ask a few more:

  • What maps came before this map?
  • Were there any previous conceptions that were discarded but perhaps still relevant?
  • What was it about New York City and its subway that historically made it so difficult to map clearly and efficiently?

Looking back to look forward

I did a research dive, and I started buying old transit maps on eBay. I studied subway maps, New York City street maps, and transit maps from all over the world that I had collected on my travels. I filtered through all the design approaches and eclectically took as much as I could from ideas that had already been implemented (some brilliantly).

Of course, in addition to the map designed by George Salomon that had been my father's subway map, I studied carefully the map designed by Massimo Vignelli (see Figure 5-4), which the MTA used from 1972 until 1979, when it was replaced by the Tauranac-Hertz MTA map (which, 30 years later, still prevails). Vignelli's map appealed to me immediately because, although big, it took obvious inspiration from Beck's Tube map, with its 90- and 45-degree angles, explicit station connections, and the use of color to denote individual lines. There were also some smart aspects of the current MTA map that I wanted to keep, despite finding it on the whole unwieldy because there is so much information crammed onto it. In addition, I borrowed liberally from other past efforts that had been discarded or forgotten.

The 1972 MTA New York City subway map designed by Massimo Vignelli.
Figure 5-4. The 1972 MTA New York City subway map designed by Massimo Vignelli. Confusingly distorted geography for style's sake -- yet a stunning design icon. 1972 New York City Subway Map © MTA New York City Transit. Used with permission.

New York's unique complexity

As I conducted my research, I started to realize that New York City had its own unique set of challenges that made its subway system impossible to accurately and clearly map using just a diagrammatic method, as other cities like London, Paris, and Tokyo had done. It was also clear that a pure topographic mapping approach wouldn't work, either; New York's unique geography and its gridiron street system both have an impact on mapping its subway system.

There are four significant and conflicting aspects of the New York City subway system that make it impossible to successfully map with either a strict diagrammatic or topographic format:

  • The narrow geography of the principal thoroughfare, Manhattan Island, which has 17 separate subway lines running up and down Midtown alone in a width of six city blocks.
  • The "cut and cover" method used to construct subway tunnels and elevated lines that follow the city's gridiron street patterns. Because New York City's subway generally follows its gridded street routes, there is a strong psychological link between the subway and the aboveground topography that is not found in a medieval city like London.
  • The unique system of many of the subway lines running local, then express, then local again along their routes.
  • Its formative history, with the current system evolving from three separate and competing subway systems (the IRT, BMT, and IND) that were poorly coordinated to work as a whole system. (The chaotic tangle of these three competing routes, as they meander and fight their way through the dense street plans of lower Manhattan, downtown Brooklyn, and Long Island City, is the most difficult part of the system to map clearly and accurately.)

The KickMap, shown in Figure 5-5, is based on a combination of ideas I selectively borrowed from many earlier maps (some dating back to the 19th century) and my own innovations. I believe that this unique combination makes my map easier to use than most of the preceding efforts. In the following sections, I'll discuss my inspirations and innovations in more detail.

The KickMap as it was released in 2007
Figure 5-5. The KickMap as it was released in 2007.

Geography is about relationships

Most of the boroughs -- Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and to some extent, the Bronx -- already have a grid on top of the subway system because of the way the streets were planned. This makes the aboveground geography not only an intuitive starting point, but also an integral part of the user's experience. Knowing your location -- take 42nd Street and 7th Avenue as an example -- places you in the grid, which makes it easy to judge distances and locations. This is why the numerous geographical errors that appear in New York City subway maps (like the Vignelli map infamously placing the 50th Street and Broadway stop west of 8th Avenue instead of east) are so glaring and easy to spot.

One of the issues I have with some previous versions of the New York subway map is that I have a hard time believing that the designers ever actually rode the subway as an integral part of their lives in the city. There's a disconnect between many of the decisions they made and the reality of the subway. As part of my design process, I rode the lines and exited the stations at every major intersection with which I was unfamiliar. There is a strong relationship in New York between the aboveground and the belowground, and since subway riders don't cease to exist when they leave the subway, it's important for the map to express this relationship as clearly as possible. Otherwise, the result is an uncomfortable feeling of disorientation.

Include the essentials

Consider the L line in Brooklyn. As a passenger on the train, you're jostled around as you travel and you don't really notice that the line is curving or turning corners along major streets and intersections. But when you get out at the Graham Avenue station, for instance, it's obvious that Metropolitan Avenue and Bushwick Avenue are two major thoroughfares that intersect each other at a right angle. Why wouldn't that show up on the map? If you didn't know how the streets intersected and you just saw a sign for one or the other as you came out of the subway, it would be very difficult to figure out what was going on.

On the Vignelli map, this portion of the L is depicted as a straight line (see Figure 5-6[a]). The Hertz map (Figure 5-6[c]) shows both Metropolitan and Bushwick Avenues, but the line resembles nothing so much as a wet noodle as it half-heartedly depicts the route. I chose to carefully draw a stylized but accurate line describing the path as it runs along each major avenue there, believing this to be the best approach because it is the most helpful to riders (Figure 5-6[b]).

A portion of the L line in Brooklyn as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the Tauranac-Hertz map.
Figure 5-6. A portion of the L line in Brooklyn as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the Tauranac-Hertz map.

Conversely, I sometimes made stylistic simplifications to the geography in order to help riders. For example, Queens Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in Queens, was originally five different farm roads, and as a result it jigs and jogs a bit as it makes its way from the Queensboro Bridge east across the borough. Recent maps didn't capture its relationship to the subway because they either ignored it entirely (as in the Vignelli map, shown in Figure 5-7[a]) or obscured it (as in the current MTA map, shown in Figure 5-7[c]).

On my map, I styled Queens Boulevard as a straight line; see Figure 5-7(b). I chose to do this so that users could easily see its path and identify the "trade-off" subway lines that travel along it -- where one subway line runs along the road and then veers off and another line takes its place. In this case, the 7 line runs along Queens Boulevard until it veers off along Roosevelt Avenue, and the R/V/G/E/F lines come down from Broadway and pick up its path east. My stylized approach uses logic to better convey the subway's relationship to the streets of Queens, which is not clearly apparent on either the Vignelli map or the current MTA map.

The trade-off along Queens Boulevard as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the current MTA map.
Figure 5-7. The trade-off along Queens Boulevard as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the current MTA map.

Another "trade-off" I felt it was important to show clearly is at 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan, where the 4/5/6 line jogs over from Park Avenue to Lexington Avenue (see Figure 5-8). A would-be rider walking along in Midtown or Murray Hill needs to know which street to go to for a subway entrance. The Vignelli map obscures the shift by treating it as a straight line, relying on text to convey the road switch, and once again the current MTA map is at best vague and noodley. In my map, it's clear which way the user should go.

A portion of the 4/5/6 line in Manhattan as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the current MTA map.
Figure 5-8. A portion of the 4/5/6 line in Manhattan as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the current MTA map.

Leave out the clutter

While I felt that it was important to show certain shapes aboveground, I also felt that it was important to leave out certain pieces of belowground information. There are several places where the subway tunnels cross and overlap each other beneath the surface. This may be important information for city workers or utility companies trying to make repairs, but for the average commuter, showing these interactions just creates visual noise. I tried to reduce that noise by cleanly separating the lines on the map so they don't overlap. Consider the different depictions of the 4 line and the 5 line in the Bronx (Figure 5-9); sure, the MTA's paths may be accurate, but they're also confusing, and riders don't really need to see those particular details to understand where they're going.

The 4 line and the 5 line as depicted by (a) the KickMap and (b) the current MTA map.
Figure 5-9. The 4 line and the 5 line as depicted by (a) the KickMap and (b) the current MTA map.

Coloring Inside the lines

The belowground geography is important, but it's more vital for the users to understand which belowground lines will take them where they want to go.

In 1967, the MTA moved past the tricolor theme used on the Salomon and earlier maps and began to use individual colors to illustrate individual lines. However, this shift didn't help simplify the system. It essentially had 26 lines assigned 26 random colors, which didn't really tell the user anything beyond illustrating the continuity of a given route. Vignelli's map (Figure 5-10[a]) continued with this color system.

The Tauranac-Hertz (current MTA) map attempted to simplify things by collapsing multiple subway lines onto one graphic line, but this actually made understanding the subway system more complicated, as now you had to read the text next to each and every station to learn whether a specific line stopped there or not; see Figure 5-10(c). What it did get right was that it color-coded sets of subway lines that use the same track -- for example, the A/C/E lines are all blue, and the 4/5/6 lines are all green. If you look at the "trunk" lines that run north and south through Manhattan, the colors move from blue to red to orange to yellow to green, creating a spectrum effect. These colors are memorable and help riders discern which lines will take them in the general direction they want to go.

In my map, I preserved the best elements of both approaches; see Figure 5-10(b). I reused the spectral colors on the trunk lines, highlighting an elegance and reality inherent in the system that Tauranac-Hertz understood, but kept it clear by representing each route with its own graphic line. Technically, I did what Vignelli did in that I used 26 distinct colors, but I grouped them in six or seven families of color and used different shades for each line in a given family: the A/C/E lines use shades of blue, the 4/5/6 lines use shades of green, and so on.

The Manhattan trunk lines as depicted by (a) the current MTA map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the Vignelli map.

Figure 5-10. The Manhattan "trunk" lines as depicted by (a) the current MTA map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the Vignelli map.

I also made use of line IDs and colors for the station dots (2). The crucial idea here was that the map should be quickly scannable, rather than just readable. At each station where a line stops, I placed the name of that line inside a dot: this way, users can easily see exactly which trains stop at which stations without having to read a list of lines next to each station name. Use of different colored dots enables users to tell at a glance whether the train always stops there or has special conditions, such as weekday/weekend or peak hour/off-peak hour restrictions.

Finally, there are about 80 stations in the city where, if you've missed your stop, you can't just get out and conveniently switch direction. I highlighted these locations by placing a small red square next to the station name, indicating to riders who need to turn around which stations to avoid if they don't want to have to leave the station, cross the street, and re-enter the station on the opposite side. The current MTA map shows all the heliports in the city but doesn't provide users with this simple but important piece of subway information -- a perfect example of its confused priorities.

I believe that taken together, these decisions highlight the innovations that make the KickMap more useable than those that came before it.

Sweat the small stuff

Those decisions were easy for me, but other choices were more difficult. Which geographic features did I really need to keep? What angles should I use? How much bus and ferry information should I include?

So, after creating my first comprehensive map that met my initial challenges (Figure 5-5), I decided to refine it and incorporate all of my learning. I was excited.

Try it on

In the car industry, it is common to build what is called a test mule, which is a prototype or preproduction car into which every possible experimental feature is crammed; that prototype then undergoes a series of drivability tests to determine what should be removed (because it's not essential or doesn't work quite right). I did the same thing with my map: I created a version (shown in Figure 5-11) into which I put every feature that I might possibly want. Illustrator's layers feature really came in handy here; I put a lot in this map that I ultimately turned off or toned down.

A test mule for the KickMap.
Figure 5-11. My version of a test mule for the map: I put lots of information in and then edited it down.

The mule map allowed me to evaluate a variety of trade-offs, such as:

The street grid -- I wanted to present the structure of the streets without interfering with the subway info wherever I could. You'll notice that the mule map includes a lot more streets and street names than the final design.

Beaches -- I thought green spaces were important, and that New Yorkers should be able to find their way to beaches by subway rather than by car. My mule map included municipal swimming pools as well, but ultimately I decided to remove them.

Coastline features -- It was important that real people -- like, say, my mom -- could easily use this map, and she couldn't care less about certain geographic details (like Steinway Creek or Wallabout Bay) that I included in the mule map. That was a reason to simplify and stylize. But I also wanted to make something any map geek or lover of New York City (like me!) could appreciate. So, there were instances where I let my passion take over. I decided to pay homage to certain subway feats, so I included features like the Gowanus Canal, which the Smith/9th Street station crosses and has to clear (at 91 feet, it's the highest elevated station in the system).

Angular design -- In the final design I standardized a lot of the angles, but I broke that standardization if I had to for clarity's sake. I wasn't a slave to the angles. Stylization is fine, but my goal was to take the stylization and make it work so that riders can always understand what's going on aboveground. I also decided to consistently place station names on the horizontal for easier reading, like on the London Tube map, instead of cramming them in at arbitrary angles.

Bridges and tunnels -- One of my goals for this project was to come up with a tool that would encourage people to take the subway instead of a car. For this reason, I decided to leave out all the car bridges and tunnels (except for the iconic Brooklyn Bridge). I wanted to keep the experience of navigating the subway as clean and easy as possible, without the temptation of using a car, to encourage users to keep riding.

Many of these choices were influenced by the following principle.

Users are only human

There are certain New York icons that help orient the rider and are reassuring. To the extent that they represent something familiar, maps can be quite emotional. So, I saw preserving such icons as a way to build friendliness into this tool. I did not design a geographically precise topographical map; I designed a map that is emotionally and geographically accurate in a relational sense -- Manhattan looks like Manhattan, Central Park is green, the Hudson River is blue, and the subway stations are positionally accurate in relation to one another and the streets (Delancey Street is shown east of the Bowery, etc.).

For the same humanistic reason, I included certain celebrated landmarks -- the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge. And I didn't just include them with nametags; I actually included their familiar shapes, as was done on subway maps back in the 1930s (3).

A city of neighborhoods

When I travel on the subway to see my mom, I'm not going to see her at the 95th Street subway station; I'm going to see her at her home, which is in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. This is an important aspect of New York: it is a city made up of neighborhoods, and native New Yorkers think of the city in those terms. That's our frame of reference: we travel from, say, Washington Heights to Bay Ridge.

The current MTA subway map includes some neighborhood names, but they are just dark blue words that compete with the station names and do little to describe the areas. There's no hierarchy of information. By color-coding the neighborhoods -- which has been done on maps of the city since at least the 1840s -- in an unobtrusive way (using pastel tones) and writing their labels in white text so they wouldn't visually interfere with the black text of the station names, I was able to provide layers of information without compromising the clarity and functionality of the subway map.

Again, these elements were literally created in separate digital layers in Illustrator. This allowed me to turn the neighborhoods on and off to determine what really needed to be there and to make several variations of the subway map with and without them.

One size does not fit all

I believe that separating functions is an important key to any useful visualization or tool.

Another benefit of the layered approach was that it allowed me to custom-tailor the map to the user interface later. The KickMap is available as iPhone and iPad applications, and in that context, the map's detail automatically changes as the user zooms in or out. Besides the apps, commuters still read subway maps in many different contexts: there is the foldout printed version, the huge ones they hang in the stations, the ones they post in the train cars (right behind the seats so that you have to peer past someone's ear to read them), and the one that is posted online. Currently, you get basically the same map in each place, but that shouldn't be the case: in each context, a slightly different version, optimized just for that specific environment, should be available.

Each version should have its own design, tailored to the context in which it appears. The big maps that hang in the stations, for instance, should show you the neighborhoods, but the one in the subway car that riders reference to make quick decisions, like whether to get off at the next station, need not. And why does the map in the subway car have to give you all that bus information?

Contexts aren't just physical, either. After 11:00 pm in New York, 26 routes reduce to 19. So, in addition to the main day/evening KickMap, I made the night map shown in Figure 5-12. Instead of relying on a text-heavy, hard-to-read chart at the bottom of a one-size-fits-all map to determine when a certain route is available, a night map should be available to riders (not only on their iPhones, but also in the subway cars).

The night version of the KickMap shows only the lines that run between 11:00 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
Figure 5-12. The night version of the KickMap shows only the lines that run between 11:00 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

When it came to making a night map, I simplified the day/evening version and took out most of the street and neighborhood information, as it seemed redundant.

Also, I do love the simple and elegant aesthetic of Beck's Underground map, and keeping the night map's form simple pays homage to it!


Ultimately, I do think the KickMap accomplished most of my goals: to make the subway lines and their connections as clear as possible for easier navigation, and to provide users with a clear representation of where they are once they exit a station so that the subway feels familiar and welcoming to all.

My main goal, however, was to get my map out there into the hands of subway riders. After the MTA rejected my design, I found an alternative way to distribute it, via Apple's iTunes -- two apps, one free and one paid, for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

All of the choices I made were aimed at trying to make the user experience as seamless and pleasant as possible. Clearly I'm striking a chord, as over 250,000 people (and counting) have now downloaded copies of the KickMap from iTunes. That's really great but I still want the KickMap -- or something superior -- to replace the current one in the subway system. I want people to be comfortable and even happy when using our unbeatable 24-hour subway system. It is a complex system, but if people know how easy it can be -- if the map becomes a friend (4) instead of an obstacle -- ridership will increase. Ultimately, that benefits not only the system itself, but also all of us who live, work, visit, and breathe here.



1. I now know that map was an early version of the Salomon map. Years later, when I was doing research for the creation of the KickMap, I got to appreciate the beauty of the design of this map.

2. This was a big aha moment in my process.

3. I wanted to put the Empire State Building in there, but it would have cluttered up Midtown, and my goal all along was that it really had to be a simple and functional subway map!

4. I think many people are passionate about the subway map as a great symbol of New York. The map shows the subway as kind of a dynamic capillary system nourishing the city. This is true not only conceptually but also historically: the subway was built to "nourish" new residential areas with cheap transportation to and from the central business districts so the City could continue to grow and thrive.

Matt Garza’s no-hitter

Click through for a few tidbits about Garza's no-hitter.

Sorry I don't have more time to write this. Real life is getting in the way.

Garza's gem doesn't quite qualify as the best Game Score for a Rays pitcher, but it's close:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc
1 James Shields 2008-05-09 TBR LAA W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 0 8 0 92 61 93
2 Ryan Rupe 1999-05-23 TBD ANA L 0-4 GS-9 9.0 1 0 0 0 8 0 86 59 93
3 Matt Garza 2010-07-26 TBR DET W 5-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 0 0 0 1 6 0 120 80 92
4 Jeff Niemann 2009-06-03 TBR KCR W 9-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 2 0 0 1 9 0 100 69 91
5 Scott Kazmir 2006-07-03 TBD BOS W 3-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 2 0 0 2 10 0 120 84 91
6 Matt Garza 2008-08-15 TBR TEX W 7-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 2 0 0 2 9 0 119 78 90
7 Matt Garza 2008-06-26 TBR FLA W 6-1 CG 9 ,W 9.0 1 1 1 1 10 1 108 76 90
8 Joe Kennedy 2003-05-02 TBD DET W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 1 6 0 106 72 90
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/27/2010.

He now owns 3 of the 8 scores in the 90s for the franchise. I'm happy to see the late Joe Kennedy's name come up on a leader board.

The game was the 26th shutout for the Rays:

Garza is one of just a handful of pitchers to do it more than once. Also, am I the only person who forgot that Bobby Witt pitched for the Rays?

Random thought: has any other pitcher ever had a no-hitter and a save in the same season?

July 26, 2010

Matt Garza No Hits Detroit

The Rays finally learned what it’s like on the good side of the no hitter today. Matt Garza faced the minimum tonight against the Detroit Tigers, walking only one batter. Garza added six strikeouts as well, and finished the job in 120 pitches.

To be sure, this Detroit Tigers lineup is not the lineup that was 31 runs above average entering this season. Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, and Brandon Inge were out, replaced by Will Rhymes, Don Kelly, and Ryan Raburn. Ordonez is a well above average hitter, and Guillen and Inge have performed around average this season. Tonight was Rhymes’s third major league game. Raburn has struggled mightily this year but is projected around average. Kelly has also struggled mightily, but his struggles, according to ZiPS, are more indicative of his true talent. This lineup is demonstrably worse, but the presence of players like Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, and Johnny Damon still signify some firepower in the Tigers’ lineup.

That said, no hitting any major league lineup is impressive, and we can’t ignore the fact that the Tigers lineup just might contain the best hitter in the American League. How did Garza do it? His four-seam fastball was utterly dominant. He threw a whopping 96 four-seamers out of his 120 pitches. Sixty-seven of these four-seamers went for strikes and ten of those 67 went for swinging strikes, both of which are fantastic numbers. The Tigers just couldn’t put good wood on the fastball. The pitch type linear weights over at Brooks Baseball have Garza’s flour-seamer at a staggering 6 runs above average tonight. That mark would rank 33rd among all pitchers in baseball over the course of the whole season; Garza’s fastball was 3.5 runs above average entering the game.

Games like tonight are the reason that Tampa Bay was willing to deal a top prospect like Delmon Young for Matt Garza. Garza’s performance immediately goes down as the most memorable performance by a Rays’ pitcher, and this performance on a national stage will make sure that anybody who wasn’t paying attention to the Rays before is paying attention now.

Nuts & Bolts: Database Servers

As a part of our ongoing Nuts & Bolts series I asked for questions from readers about the kinds of things they’d like to see covered. One of the topics that came up several times was how we manage our database servers.

All of our applications, with the exception of Basecamp, follow a pretty similar model: We take a pair of Dell R710 servers, load them up with memory and disks, and setup a master/slave pair of MySQL servers. We use the excellent Percona Server for all of our MySQL instances and couldn’t be happier with it.

Here’s an example of one of our MySQL servers. In this case, the Highrise master database server:

  • Dell R710
  • 2 x Intel Xeon E5530 Processors
  • 96GB RAM
  • 6×146GB 15,000 RPM SAS drives

For the disk configuration we take the first two drives and put them into a RAID1 volume that is shared between the root filesystem and MySQL binary logs. The remaining drives are placed into a RAID10 volume which is used for the InnoDB data files.

We only use RAID controllers that have a battery backup for the cache, disable read-ahead caching, and turn on write-back caching. With this setup we’re able to configure MySQL to immediately flush all writes to the disk rather than relying on the operating system to periodically write the data to the drives. In reality, the writes will be staged to the controller’s cache, but with the battery backup we are protected from unexpected power outages which could otherwise cause data loss. In addition, since the controller is caching the writes in memory, it can optimize the order and number of writes that it makes to the physical disks to dramatically improve performance.

As far as MySQL configuration is concerned, our configuration is pretty standard. The most important tips are to maximize the InnoDB buffer pool and make sure that you have a BBU enabled RAID card for writes. There are other important configuration options, but if you do those two things you’re probably 75% of the way to having a performant MySQL server.

Here are some of the most important configuration options in the Highrise MySQL config file:

sync_binlog = 1
innodb_flush_log_at_trx_commit = 1
innodb_flush_method = O_DIRECT
innodb_buffer_pool_size = 80G

I’m not going to talk much about backups other than to say you should be using XtraBackup, also from our friends at Percona. It is far and away the best way to do backups of MySQL.

For Basecamp, we take a somewhat different path. We are on record about our feelings about sharding. We prefer to use hardware to scale our databases as long as we can, in order to defer the complexity that is involved in partitioning them as long as possible—with any luck, indefinitely.

With that in mind, we went looking for an option to host the Basecamp database, which is becoming a monster. As of this writing, the database is 325GB and handles several thousand queries per second at peak times. At Rackspace, we ran this database on a Dell R900 server with 128GB of RAM and 15×15,000 RPM SAS drives in a Dell MD3000 storage array.

We considered building a similar configuration in the new datacenter, but were concerned that we were hitting the limits of I/O performance with this type of configuration. We could add additional storage arrays or even consider SAN options, but SSD storage seemed like a much better long term answer.

We explored a variety of options from commodity SSD drives to PCI-express based flash memory cards. In the end, we decided to purchase a pair of MySQL appliances produced by Schooner Information Technology. They produce a pretty awesome appliance that is packed with a pair of Intel Nehalem processors, 64GB of RAM, 4×300GB SAS drives, 8 x Intel X25-E SSD drives. Beyond the hardware, Schooner has done considerable work optimizing the I/O path from InnoDB all the way down through the system device drivers. The appliances went into production a few weeks ago and the performance has been great.

I sat down with Jeremy Cole of Schooner a few weeks ago and recorded a couple of videos that go into considerably more detail about our evaluation process and some thoughts on MySQL scaling. You can check them out here and here.

The Real Sim City

High tea

Real Sim city 3000 NYC

A close up of the Planned City.

Photos from -hndrk-, xergunit and Roger Schultz.

IKEA Jerker Do-It-Yourself Treadmill Desk

The muscle soreness I'm experiencing today after walking around Comic-Con all weekend made me realize: I've got to incorporate more standing and walking into my daily routine. Maybe a treadmill desk? There are some expensive desks made to fit over a treadmill (sold separately), but someone on Hacker News modified an IKEA Jerker desk to do the job. The discontinued but beloved model of desk, which I already own, plus one of those utilitarian wire shelving units gives you a wide monitor stand with plenty of component/wire storage and keyboard and mouse room. Click on the image to see the whole setup. It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it looks really tempting to try. The owner says:

Coding while walking works fine for me. As far as the mechanics, it's not hard to walk and type at the same time. 2MPH isn't very fast. I can't draw with the mouse while walking, so the occasional graphics work has to be done standing. Mentally, the consistent motion sometimes helps with flow, sometimes not. It's hard to tell, but switching between walking and standing seems to be enough for me to support the various required mental states. I've been doing this for about two months now, and while I have no hard data, I've done what I consider to be some of my best and most creative work ever in the last two weeks, so worst-case the walking isn't too great an obstacle to my coding. And this is indeed a huge improvement for my back over both sitting and standing.

I pace while I think, so this whole walking-while-typing thing is something I'd love to try. For now, I may just adjust my Jerker tabletop to standing position, and try that for awhile, before making the treadmill investment.
My Treadmill Desk [Hacker News]

Settling Scores with MLB At Bat

MLB At BatOne of my favorite uses for my increasingly useful iPad is to keep current with The New York Yankees, an activity made possible — and enjoyable — with the outstanding MLB At Bat app. For baseball fans like myself who have canceled their cable service and therefore have little access to regular gameday broadcasts, paying just a fraction of the cost of a ballpark ticket once for an app that gives this kind of access for the full season is a bargain: it offers of course a full box score, an excellent complement of statistics, play-by-play summaries, radio simulcasting and, most importantly for me, a healthy trove of after-the-fact video.

The Mornings After

My habit is to fire up MLB At Bat the morning after a game, having tried as best I can to avoid any news of the outcome, and then to watch the “condensed game” feature, an abridged video that edits down all of the essential plays of the game into a 15- or 20-minute recap. It’s probably true that the condensed game format confirms that worst accusation of baseball skeptics — that the sport is unreasonably poky and boring — but I prefer to think of it as a more thorough elaboration on the sort of mercilessly incomplete highlights reel most people see on Sports Center.

The only major complaint I have (of course I had to have one) is how difficult the MLB At Bat interface makes it to avoid finding out the final score before I get to watch the condensed game. By default, the app presents the box score upon launch, which makes the final score the most prominent bit of data on the whole screen. The only route to the condensed video is through this box score interface, by clicking on the “Highlights” tab, which unhelpfully sits directly above the score.

MLB At Bat Box Score

With a bit of agility, I can sometimes work around this unfortunate juxtaposition. I’ve resorted to physically tilting the iPad at such an extreme angle that the score is difficult to read while somehow finding the “Highlights” tab, and I’ve also covered up the offending parts of the interface with a sheet of paper. But I often accidentally catch glimpse of that final score nevertheless. A more elegant solution would be welcome.

Successful Victims

Whether Major League Baseball feels this is a problem is another matter. As a device for the efficient consumption of MLB content, the iPad is so satisfying that I miss my cable television subscription — and paying fees that ultimately make their way back to the franchises and the league — even less than I did before. Though the app is a success, it doesn’t necessarily contribute to the longterm health of their business.

It’s often said that sports is one of the last remaining tent poles of broadcast television, that the live nature of its unfolding events can’t be substituted by time-delayed alternatives like file sharing and on-demand video. Sports probably saves millions of pay TV subscriptions a year, but in some ways, MLB At Bat neutralizes at least some of that value proposition. It’s so successful, it undercuts itself, which is the familiar quandary of sadly too many content creators.

On the other hand, here’s a counter-argument. In this year when I’m struggling with raising an infant child and preoccupied with figuring out my next means of employment, when my time and attention are more severely limited than ever, MLB At Bat may be helping to sustain an interest in the sport that might otherwise have faltered. Maybe MLB buys into that kind of reasoning, that any attention they can command is likely to be incremental, rather than decremental, in the long run. If that’s the case, it would be much appreciated if they could make it easier for me to avoid spoiling the final score of these games while I’m using their product.

Hrm. This could be interesting.

Hrm. This could be interesting.

Pre-paid plan options for smartphone travellers

If you're going on an overseas trip and want to use your phone (with data) while you're there, check out this new wiki on what plans are available in several countries. I hope this develops into a solid resource...I never know where to look for this stuff before I go. (via dj)

Tags: telephony   travel

Medieval multitasking

A look at medieval manuscripts reveals that they were hypertextual, written by multiple authors, and read/shared/discussed in groups. You know, less like the book circa 1990 and more like the current web.

The function of these images in illuminated manuscripts has no small bearing on the hypertext analogy. These "miniatures" (so named not because they were small-often they were not-but because they used red ink, or vermillion, the Latin word for which is minium) did not generally function as illustrations of something in the written text, but in reference to something beyond it. The patron of the volume might be shown receiving the completed book or supervising its writing. Or, a scene related to a saint might accompany a biblical text read on that saint's day in the liturgical calendar without otherwise having anything to do with the scripture passage. Of particular delight to us today, much of the marginalia in illuminated books expressed the opinions and feelings of the illuminator about all manner of things-his demanding wife, the debauched monks in his neighborhood, or his own bacchanalian exploits.

Tags: books

Introducing Google Apps for Government

Today we’re excited to announce a new edition of Google Apps. Designed with guidance from customers like the federal government, the City of Los Angeles and the City of Orlando, Google Apps for Government includes the same great Google applications that people know and love, with specific measures to address the policy and security needs of the public sector.

We’re also pleased to announce that Google Apps is the first suite of cloud computing applications to receive Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification and accreditation from the U.S. government. The FISMA law applies to all information systems in use by U.S. federal government agencies to help ensure they’re secure. The federal government’s General Services Administration has reviewed the documentation of our security controls and issued an authorization to operate, the official confirmation of our FISMA certification and accreditation. This review makes it easier for federal agencies to compare our security features to those of their existing systems; most agencies we have worked with have found that Google Apps provides at least equivalent, if not better, security than they have today. This means government customers can move to the cloud with confidence.

Take Berkeley Lab, a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. It’s managed by the University of California and conducts unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Berkeley researchers collaborate with scientists around the world, so emailing version upon version of documents among collaborators and trying to juggle disparate files is difficult. Berkeley Lab researchers have been using Google Apps to share documents that live in the cloud, and can view and edit documents and spreadsheets simultaneously knowing they are always working from the latest information. (Read more from Berkeley Lab’s Chief Information Officer on the Enterprise blog.)

And we’re not stopping with FISMA certification. Google Apps for Government will continue to evolve to meet unique government requirements. Google Apps for Government stores Gmail and Calendar data in a segregated system located in the continental United States, exclusively for our government customers. Other applications will follow in the near future. The suite is a “community cloud”—as defined by the National Institute for Science and Technology—to support the needs of our government customers. Google Apps for Government is available now to any federal, state or local government in the United States.

With reviews of our security controls in place, government agencies can more easily take advantage of all the benefits of one of the world’s best cloud computing systems. Google’s cloud offers higher reliability, best-in-class disaster recovery and access to a steady stream of innovation—all of which can provide substantial improvements over existing systems in addition to significant cost savings. And with no hardware or software to install and maintain, Google Apps for Government allows agencies to redeploy resources to technology projects core to their mission of serving the public. This new edition should give governments an even stronger case for making the move to the cloud.

Posted by Kripa Krishnan, Technical Program Manager, Google Apps for Government

Top 21 Points About Our Trip to Japan

If you know me in almost any venue outside of this blog, you’re aware I was in Japan for the last couple weeks with Jori. No surprise, the trip was awesome. I’ve got a bunch of blog posts about various aspects of the trip and a ton of photo editing in the works, but here’s a quick rundown (in no particular order).

  • The iPad is the ultimate long-flight gadget. There are very few flights that will outlast the iPad’s battery.
  • How to Train Your Dragon is a fun movie.
  • The most basic of sushi spots in Tokyo is about as good as the best sushi spots in NYC.
  • Baseball in Japan is a ton of fun to watch. The coordinated cheering is impressive, to say the least.
  • It is motherfucking hot there in the summer. Last week, one day in Tokyo it was 101 Fahrenheit without the 90% humidity. It severely limited what we could get done in a day.
  • 3G is available everywhere and getting the cheapest package of international data is worth it ($25 for 20mb), but plan on just using it for maps and email if you want to stay within your limit.
  • The Mori Art Museum was awesome again. One of my favorite museums I’ve ever been to. See the Sensing Nature exhibit if you’ll be in Japan between now and November.
  • Hiroshima-style Okonomyoki was more delicious than the Tokyo version.
  • Kamikochi, in the Japan Alps, was incredibly beautiful.
  • The train ride from Nagoya to Takayama was awesome. Try to sit in the very first car as you can see straight out the front.
  • The Ghibli Museum was great the second time.
  • If you like art or beautiful spaces, pick up Art Space Tokyo before you go.
  • I think I actually lost weight on this trip because we walked so much.
  • The best, and only in my findings, place to get green tea flavored Kit-Kats (yes, they are good) is at Narita Airport. Don’t bother looking around elsewhere.
  • Kyoto’s International Manga Museum was worth a visit, but would be far better if we could read Japanese.
  • Eating at a 545 year-old noodle shop in Kyoto was awesome.
  • Ramen with noodles hand-pulled immediately before consumption is also awesome.
  • Japan is expensive, but the food doesn’t have to be. Lunch and dinner probably averaged out to $13 per person per meal.
  • Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum didn’t blow me away, but it was certainly depressing. It was like Holocaust Museum Lite.
  • People don’t really speak English, but at train stations they speak Train English and at restaurants they speak Food English, so you should be okay. Most hotels have someone who speaks a decent amount of English, especially if you found the place in a guidebook.
  • The country is incredibly homogenous. Walking to the subway in NYC this morning, it was a shock to see such a variety of colors and shapes as people passed me.

I’m sure I’ve got more in me, but I wanted to get out a quick list, lest I procrastinate.

Quote: Darryl Strawberry says Mets are Not Feared

“They’ve got to get a little bit more fire in their belly… I see them going through the motions… I think that is what they are really missing, the attitude, the swagger about being in New York, and representing New York. Other teams don’t fear them. There’s no fear. They’ve got to get to that point where other teams fear them, whatever it takes. Teams feared us when they came to the ballpark… They say it’s a different time now. It’s not a different time. It’s baseball; it’s still the same game… If nobody fears you, they are going to beat all over you and they are going to laugh at you, and that’s what teams do to the Mets now… I care about the organization.  I like the manager.  I care about them winning, but nobody is going to give it to them.  They need to understand that: You’ve got to go out and you’ve got to take it.”

~ Darryl Strawberry, among other statements, quoted by the New York Post

I am pretty positive Strawberry made basically the exact-same statement last summer… and maybe even the summer before that.

2010 Tour de France - part II

The 2010 Tour de France cycling race is now over, with Spain's Alberto Contador claiming his third win in Paris yesterday. Andy Schleck of Luxembourg finished 39 seconds back, and seven-time tour winner Lance Armstrong finished 23rd in his final Tour de France. This 97th running of the iconic race started in Rotterdam with 198 riders in 22 teams of nine, and finished yesterday, 3,642 km (2,263 mi) later in Paris, France on the Champs-Elysees. Collected here are a handful of images from the second half of the race - see part I for earlier photos. (41 photos total)

The pack ride past sunflowers during the 184.5 km 14th stage of the 2010 Tour de France between Revel and Ax-Trois-Domaines, southern France in the Pyrenees region on July 18, 2010. (JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

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Lance Armstrong - Paris - Andy Schleck - Tour de France - Luxembourg

Long Form * Instapaper

Originally posted in Cool Tools

Longer than a newspaper item but shorter than a book, a magazine article is the ideal length for my attention span. I'd rather spend an hour with a great magazine article rather than read a book any day. Ditto for hopscotching through shallow blogs and newspaper bits. But there are fewer print publications running long form journalism. Ironically, a new website, called Long Form, points to the best long form articles appearing anywhere in print, and also collects the great magazine articles from the past. Long Form fits perfectly into a small ecosystem whereby you can read these great pieces of writing on a Kindle, iPad, or phone. I've found the easy-reading portable screens of these tablet devices fit a 1 to 2-hour window perfectly.

Here is how this system works. The Long Form website lists great magazine articles just published as well as past hits from the archives. You mark the articles you want to read, which are then downloaded to your tablet via Instapaper, another website, which has an iPad app and Kindle connection. You can then read the articles, without ads, at your leisure on your gadget. The whole migration is seamless and unconscious.
I mentioned this was an ecosystem. You can also select pieces to read on your tablet or phone directly at Instapaper, which does not specialize in long forms but also includes short pieces. Instapaper's sister site, Give Me Something To Read, like Long Form, makes reader selections of the best magazine articles. On both sites you hit a button "Read Later" to move it to your reading device. In fact you can mark any web page to be "read later" from an Instapaper button on your menu bar and it will move it to your tablet, phone, or even RSS feed. And you can send to Instapaper (and therefore to your reading device) any item from your Twitter stream or social apps like Delicious or Digg, Reddit, etc. to be read later on your Kindle or iPad (or computer screen).

However, I prefer to read long form factuals, and so I keep returning to Long Form to find the gems. I particularly enjoy classic great magazine pieces that I missed over the years. In fact, I realized that I've never seen a list of the best magazine articles ever, but see no reason not to make one now. If you have a nomination for one of the top 100 magazine articles of all time, please send it to me (with a link if possible). I'll share what I accumulate on this page here.

-- KK

Long Form


Give Me Something To Read

Games can make you well

When Jane McGonigal got a concussion last year, her recovery was taking longer than expected and she got discouraged. Then she decided to make her recovery process into a game called SuperBetter.

SuperBetter is a superhero-themed game that turns getting better in multi-player adventure. It's designed to help anyone recovering from an injury, or coping with a chronic condition, get better, sooner - with more fun, and with less pain and misery, along the way.

The game starts with five missions. You're encouraged to do at least one mission a day, so that you've successfully completed them all in less than a week. Of course, you can move through them even faster if you feel up to it.

McGonigal recently gave a short talk about SuperBetter:

and has plans to make a SuperBetter game guide so that anyone can play. (via mr)

Tags: games   Jane McGonigal   medicine

Migrating from Cassandra to MongoDB or What Can be Learned Here?

Migrating from Cassandra to MongoDB or What Can be Learned Here?:

The story here is simple: hit a crazy ☞ bug in Cassandra (remember all these tools are really young), they needed their data before a fix was available (keep in mind that some are using these NoSQL solutions in production), migration to MongoDB (while in production, you’ll do whatever it takes to minimize downtime):

Data migration

At some point we started to have some stability issues with Cassandra. All nodes would go into an infinite loop, running GC and trying to compact the data files – occasionally falling off the cluster. We were unable to solve the problem, except that restarting and then compacting a node usually settled it down for a while. Other people had reported similar problems. Last couple of weeks our Cassandra nodes always ate all the resources they were given, slowing down Flowdock.

Anyways, I think there’s a lesson here: all NoSQL databases should start providing a data export tool.

Second week's winner

Mr. Bob Macy, who’s just up the road in Lancaster, PA, was last week’s winner of the Eames House Block contest.

Be sure to register each week by Thursday to put your name in the hat.

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

My Dan Haren analysis is up for Insiders, and I’ve got another post up on Omar Vizquel’s Hall of Fame case with some other notes and links.

Who actually wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare? Is it possible that an uneducated moneylender and son of a Stratford glover could write over thirty plays that display the knowledge of a world traveler and the vocabulary of an alumnus of Oxford or Cambridge? This question has interested critics and scholars for two centuries, a story recounted in Columbia professor James Shapiro’s book Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, a thorough and surprisingly balanced look at the controversy and the cases for the two major alternative candidates, Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere.

Shapiro explains in the introduction that he believes that the plays attributed to Shakespeare were, in fact, written by the glover’s son, but he presents the cases for Bacon and de Vere thoroughly and fairly – I might even say a little drily – before providing his rebuttals to each. He also lays out the arguments for Shakespeare and explanations why the doubts about his authorship are likely unfounded, based on erroneous assumptions about Shakespeare’s life and the times in which he lived. Even though I’m only somewhat familiar with Shakespeare’s works – I’ve only read three of his plays and have seen stage or film adaptations of three others (including the impeccable Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing) – I didn’t find that a handicap in reading or enjoying the story, which lays out a little like a mystery and a little like a psychological study of the people who so readily embrace conspiracy theories about why Shakespeare’s name appears on 33 plays and dozens of sonnets that he didn’t actually write. Along the way, Shapiro tells the story of the American Delia Bacon, of no apparent relation to Francis, whose support of her namesake became the monomaniacal focus of her life; of Sigmund Freud’s own obsession with the authorship question and belief that the Stratford man didn’t write his plays; and of the fact that Shakespeare collaborated with other playwrights on at least five of his plays, a point that poses many problems for proponents of alternative candidates.

One of the funniest parts of the case for Edward de Vere is the inconvenient truth that he died in 1604, yet as many of nine of Shakespeare’s plays didn’t appear until after that date, one of many problems with so-called “Oxfordian theory” (de Vere was the Earl of Oxford) that Shapiro says de Vere’s supporters handwave away or spin in a way that supports their man. There’s even a corollary to Oxfordian theory that has de Vere as both the son of Queen Elizabeth and her lover, and the two as the parents of the Earl of Southampton, which brings to my mind the funny image of a bunch of Elizabethan-era Britons running around with tin foil hats over their powdered wigs.

Despite Shapiro’s embrace of the glover’s son as the man behind the quill, he does acknowledge some of the aspects of the case that have led to the rise of alternative theories. There’s a lack of documentation of Shakespeare’s life; his books and manuscripts are gone, and much of what we do have about his life pertains to his work as a moneylender and investor. His plays have a worldly quality that he himself seems to have lacked, although that objection may arise from our own tendency to assume his world was far more like ours than it actually was. Difficulty reconciling what we do know of Shakespeare the man with what we see in his works has led to the search for other candidates, but Shapiro slyly demonstrates that such sentiments arise from conscious or subconscious class prejudices – how could an uneducated man, the son of a working-class father, have written such beautiful, erudite plays and poems?

Shapiro does mention some of the other proposed candidates for authorship of the play, but there are over fifty and the number seems to keep growing, so he focuses on the two with the strongest cases and most devoted followings. The argument for Bacon has lost steam over the last fifty years or so, and I found the lengthy explanation to get a little dry in spots, but the case for de Vere is more complex and unintentionally fun while also allowing Shapiro to delve more into the psychology of his supporters and the way that changes in how information is disseminated have allowed fringe theories to prosper, such as the “fairness” rules in media and the rise of sites like Wikipedia, where expert opinions and amateur opinions sit side by side without extra weight on the former. (For a funny, uneven, but thought-provoking polemic on this very subject, check out Andrew Keen’s 2007 book, The Cult of the Amateur.) I entered this book with no knowledge of the authorship question beyond the question’s existence, but Shapiro sets up the cases for Bacon and de Vere and knocks them down in a way that I imagine would make it hard for those candidates’ proponents to recover without adding another layer of foil to their headgear. He does veer a little too deeply into explanations of “textual analysis,” which seems like extremely dangerous ground that leaves the door open for almost any interpretation the interpreter likes, but as someone who enjoys analyzing meaning and metaphor in literature I found the explanation of how attempts to identify Shakespeare’s works as inherently autobiographical led scholars down the slippery slope into thinking that space aliens from Phobos wrote them sobering. It won’t change anyone’s enjoyment of the plays, but Contested Will is an intelligent look at one of literature’s most enduring controversies.

New 'Mad Men,' New 'Footnotes of Mad Men'

New 'Mad Men,' New 'Footnotes of Mad Men'

Ron Livingston in the new Keyboard Cat Biopic

The cutest thing on the internet

While her daughter Mila sleeps, Adele Enersen imagines what she might be dreaming and makes it real:

Mila Daydream 01

Mila Daydream 02

So, so, so great. (via mathowie)

Judging Books by Their Covers: 16

traven_thecarreta02_germ.jpgIn the decade from 1931 to 1940, B. Traven published a series of six books known as his Jungle Novels: Government (1931), The Carreta (aka The Cart) (1931), March to the Monteria (aka March To Caobaland) (1933), Trozas (1936), The Rebellion of the Hanged (1936), and A General from the Jungle (1940). The Jungle novels are a series of interconnected stories about the struggles of the Indigenous in Chiapas at the end of the 19th Century, and how their rebellion starts the Mexican Revolution. This week let's take a look at the first three novels:

I've found 4 covers for the first novel, Government. Here is an early German edition, and the currently available trade paperback published by Ivan R. Dee (with its requisite Diego Rivera painting on the cover):


And a couple 60s/70s paperbacks. You'll notice as I go through these that beyond the early editions, most publishers started producing the whole series with a common cover design. The one on the left is an early Hill & Wang (1975) cover schema I believe, with the expressionistic monotone watercolors. All of the books in the series on the right (Allison & Busby, UK, 1980 or so) have that same stencil font and over-the-top, hyper-realistic romance novel meets Mexican Revolution illustrations:


I found a little bit more diversity in The Carreta covers. Here's a Mexican edition with an even more over-the-top romance novel-type cover and an airy Italian version. I quite like the German paperback edition at the top of this article, with its stylized and blocked out figure and cart and sparse use of color.


The Hill & Wang and Ivan R. Dee cover styles:


And an early German hardcover and what I think is a UK edition. Neither that stunning, especially the UK one, with it's awkward mix of photo-illustration, dull type, orange color, and pre-Columbian hieroglyph...


The third book in the series is March to the Monteria (or mahogany land). The cover on the left is quite strange, seems like Dell was aiming for the Westerns market, but they went a little too far, it looks like a book about a rodeo! On the right is a German paperback, and one of my favorite cover illustrations in the whole Traven series. Next week you'll see some more of these!:


The Hill & Wang and Ivan R. Dee cover styles:


And finally, on the left another '70s English language cover design series (an earlier Hill & Wang paperback I think). They all have these black and white multi-image illustrations on the cover which don't quite click for me, a little too much Edgar Allan Poe and not enough B. Traven. On the right a edition that is either Spanish or Mexican, I'm not sure. The cover is interesting, reminds of a film poster, but maybe that is the arm shape which seems like it was taken from the credits of an Alfred Hitchcock film...


Send In The Clowns

I'm not sure how I came across this dress, but I'm glad I did:


It's hard to see, but those are little clowns. In some kind of Escher castle. Why? I don't know. 

If you want to inspire a WTF? from everyone who stands close enough to you to see the clowns, you can find this dress at MissMucho's Etsy shop

(And yes, I know about this.)

July 25, 2010

Alec Wilkinson: Wynton Marsalis’s tribute to Louis Armstrong.

Around three-fifteen on a recent afternoon, the trombone player and music producer Delfeayo Marsalis sat in the control room of a studio in the West Fifties and said to his brother Wynton and eleven other musicians, “We’re rolling, this is Take 68.” The musicians were . . .

dnalounge update

DNA Lounge update, wherein our store gets fancier.

In last Sunday's episode of Mad Men, Grandpa Gene ate ice cream right out of the container and salted each spoonful before putting it in his mouth. via kottke.org It's fun to read all of Jason's Mad Men posts in one place.

The Atomic Albom

This is kind of insider sportswriting talk and so it almost certainly is of no interest to you. But, for personal reasons, I thought it would put it out there anyway.

In the last week or so, some people I respect and admire have taken some hard shots at Detroit sports columnist and best-selling author Mitch Albom. I thought those columns and posts were fair, as far as that goes, and entertaining without reservation. But I’m probably not the best person to judge. Albom has been awfully cold to me personally. I’ve heard horror story after horror story about the way he has treated people. And, like most of my journalism friends, I’ve had an issue with some of the things he has done as a sportswriter.

Still, it just feels like a part of the story isn’t being told. Let’s reset the story first. Mitch Albom, you certainly know, is a longtime sports columnist at the Detroit Free Press. Before he became famous for writing Tuesdays With Morrie and the gift books that followed, before he became a regular on Sports Reporters and various other TV outlets, before he got his own nationally syndicated radio show, he was just a sports hack like the rest of us. Well, not quite like the rest of us. His bio makes the strong point that Albom won the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) Award for best columnist an unprecedented 13 times.*

*His bio also would brag that he was the only multiple-time winner of the award years and years after that stopped being true. The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke, the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins have both won the award multiple times … and later, yes, sadly I did too. I suppose that speaks a bit to the issue I’ve had with Mitch Albom’s public persona … he has never seemed content simply being the best. He never seemed generous with his success.

This leads us to the latest deal. A couple of weeks ago, the APSE gave Albom its highest honor — the Red Smith Award. The award was named for the Patron Saint of Sports Writing, the legendary Red Smith, who in many ways invented the modern sports column. Red wrote his daily columns (and in those days it was DAILY) with the lightest touch, the driest humor, the most powerful force. He was an original, and virtually impossible to replicate. And he said it was easy — all he had to do was go to the typewriter and open a vein.

But the Red Smith Award is not a writing award — it is supposed to go to people who have made a “major contribution to sports journalism.” And so, under normal circumstances, people outside sportswriting — and, frankly, most people inside sportswriting — pay no attention to the Red Smith Award. It has been given through the years to editors and writers, giants in the business, many who are most or less unknown outside the business — Dave Smith, George Solomon, Van McKenzie, Joe McGuff, Si Burick and so on.

The award was more publicized this time around because Albom is the most widely known sportswriter in years, certainly since the heavy syndication days of Jim Murray or Dick Young or Red Smith or Grantland Rice. Those four and others were probably bigger inside sports, but none of them had Albom’s appeal outside the realm of sportswriting. Damon Runyon might be a better comparison from a fame standpoint (but certainly not from a style standpoint).

The choice of Albom as Red Smith Award Winner was both obvious and controversial — obvious because he is the most celebrated and awarded sportswriter of his time and controversial because Albom had a well-publicized ethical dustup a few years ago. He wrote a column a day before Michigan State’s Final Four game as if the game had already been played, imagining a few details about former Michigan State stars Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson in the crowd that turned out to not be true (such as the detail that they were actually at the game — it turned out they were not). The column led to Albom’s brief suspension (and the suspension of various editors) and a lengthy investigation by the newspaper which turned up a bit of smoke but no fire. Albom returned to the paper, offered a tepid apology, and people in the business argued a lot about what it all meant.

At the Red Smith Award ceremony, Albom made no mention of his suspension but did once again take his opportunity to declare his superiority … telling his sportswriting brethren that cockiness is a dangerous thing, that you have to serve the reader and not your ego, that people will be jealous of you if you have success, that it’s important to be humble enough to admit a mistake. He also went to great lengths to praise himself for rising above other sportswriters, for avoiding them and their mediocrity in the various hospitality rooms across America. He says his purity emboldened his work but he has paid for it with sportswriters’ disdain and petty jealousies. Albom has many talents and gifts but self-awareness may not be one of them.

After the speech, several people could not hold back. One of them, Red Smith Award winner Dave Kindred, is one of my all-time heroes in the business and one of the classiest men I know. For Dave to “raise a little hell,” as his lede suggests, tells you how strongly he feels about this. Another Facebook friend, Charlie Pierce, is simply one of the great writers — in and out of sports — of our generation. A third, my longtime Kansas City Star columnist colleague and the nationally renowned writer Jason Whitlock, came forward with crushing words about Albom and the newspaper industry in general. The gifted Tommy Craggs over at Deadspin wrote perhaps the most pulverizing bit of all. I do not dispute what they wrote, not do I argue with their conclusions, nor do I deny getting a shameful bit of joy out of Albom getting a bit of comeuppance.

But … as time has gone by I have simply not been able to shake the thought that part of the story has been missing. I wrote a column a few years back saying how disappointed I was after the Michigan State thing because Albom had been a real sportswriting hero of mine. And it seems to me that while disappointment in Albom’s various shortcomings is part of the overall story, it’s too easy to forget the hero part. Mitch Albom inspired me to become a sportswriter. Mitch Albom inspired many of my friends to become sportswriters. He has been a remarkable sportswriting force … he is one of the most influential sportswriters in the history of American newspapers.

Albom, I think, redefined what a sports column could look like. He took sports columns out of their 800- or 1,000-word box and turned them into major events, into sweeping dramas and touching portraits and rousing reprisals of games. He was a musician before he was a writer, and his writing has long had a musical feel. Repeated phrases. Lyrical sentences. He had range too. Albom could write funny, he could write opinion, he could write slice of life. I think a lot of what you see in sportswriting — in newspapers, in magazines, on the Internet — is touched by Albom’s style.

The sad story of loss in sports — what Albom and his editors would later call the “Dreams deferred” series — became his calling card. The stories probably lost some of their freshness when he gave the series an actual name like “Dreams Deferred.” But forget that. Those stories of people in Detroit who fell short, who had hope stolen from them, who disappeared in the big city, who were devastated by life’s bad breaks, who fought back from oblivion, those stories felt breathtakingly new and alive when he told them. He was writing about the little guy, carrying on the tradition of some of sports journalism’s greats — of W.C. Heinz and Pete Axthelm and Bill Nack among others — but he added his own verve and melody. In those days, the greatest thing a young sports newspaper writer could imagine being was Mitch Albom.

He helped give Detroit an identity too, the way Jim Murray helped give Los Angeles an identity, the way Furman Bisher helped give Atlanta an identity, the way Leigh Montville helped give Boston an identity, the way Ed Pope and my friend Dan Le Batard helped give Miami an identity, the way Jason helped give Kansas City an identity, the way my friend Ron Green helped give Charlotte an identity, the way Jimmy Cannon and Mike Lupica and my friend Mike Vaccaro among many others helped give New York an identity. Albom never left Detroit — not physically and not emotionally either — and for that he became a voice for the city, a voice that transcended sports.

All this is not to downplay what people are saying about him — I think those general points hit home — but to help try and paint a more complete picture. Some of the best journalists I know went into this business to be like Mitch Albom. We took from him, among other things, the value of telling a story and the joy that comes from celebrating and commemorating where you live. He made it seem like the greatest thing you could do was become a big city newspaper columnist.

There’s no real percentage in writing these words about Mitch Albom, someone I don’t really like, someone whose work and attitude irks my journalism friends to no end, someone who has inspired more horror stories than just about anyone I know. But I feel like I should say this anyway. Because Mitch Albom, with his passion and words, gave me something to pursue, a goal that was better than anything I ever would have come up with on my own. I don’t know how many kids at 20 or 21 know what they want to become … I just know that I had no idea. Then I read Leigh Montville and Frank Deford and Mike Lupica and Jim Murray and Mike Downey and Dave Kindred and Bill Nack and Buzz Bissinger and Gary Smith and Scott Raab and, yes, definitely, Mitch Albom. I would print out his columns and read them again and again and again.

Then, suddenly, I knew what was possible. It’s the greatest gift a stranger ever gave me. Mitch Albom did that for a lot of young sportswriters. I can’t tell you if that gift outweighs all the other stuff. I can only tell that it does for me.


Two years ago, a copy of Take Ivy sold for $1500 on Ebay. The book is legendary (and, much discussed when I was in the Creative Department at kate spade). And now you can get a reprinted copy in English here. *[Speaking of, this week I'm dropping off my sister-in-law at Columbia to start grad school. Exciting. Illustrations from "IVY Illustrated".]


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sometimes jeff jarvis is just dead on.
Why Conde's new structure is tantamount to its abandoning a diet of Madison Avenue and Seventh Avenue in favor of a parking meter.

Happenings in GCC-land

Ian Lance Taylor is working on split stacks. This will permit the stacks of gccgo goroutines, which are mapped to native threads, to start small and grow as needed. This will of course be usable from C as well, and should be welcome news for the millions-of-threads!!!1! faction.

Tom Tromey is working on making GCC an incremental compiler: GCC will run as a server and maintain a model of the user's program. When a translation unit is recompiled, GCC will re-compile the minimum necessary. One of the goals is to make GCC a backend for IDEs that do stuff like autocompletion based on the program model (Interview, paper from GCC Summit).

People from Intel and others are working on transactional memory. Sections of code can be marked as atomic, and their temporary changes will be saved in thread-local storage. The semantics will make it appear as if transactions were protected by a single global lock.

It's a great time to be writing a Lisp->C compiler! :)

Terminal Tips and Tricks for Mac OS X

Great collection of command-line tips from Super User.

This Week in Recipes


[Photo credit: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

In-N-Out: Our J. Kenji Lopez-Alt takes on the legendary California chain's Double-Double, Animal Style and writes near-perfect burger recipe.

Just Like the Movie: French in a Flash columnist Kerry Saretsky writes up a spicy and refreshing summertime ratatouille recipe.

Green Giant: What's more Seriously Asian than yardlong green beans? Chichi Wang explains her green bean recipes and offers a recipe for green beans with kabocha and coconut milk as well as Sichuan dry-fried green beans.

Easy Cheesy: Katrina Vahedi walks us through how to make whey ricotta.

Sunday Morning Pancakes: Pancakes, made gluten-free, aren't so tricky when you're using Elizabeth Barbone's gluten-free pancake recipe.

Local pay as you go SIM cards with data

As previously mentioned I am thoroughly addicted to my iPhone. This manifests itself especially when abroad. During trips the need for information about transport, places and activities is even greater then usual. Unfortunately this greater need is efficiently suppressed by extreme roaming costs, that is, unless you get a local pay as you go SIM card with decent data rates.

Finding good rates abroad is usually tricky if you don't know the local market and/or language. Scanning through various mobile phone forums can sometimes help but it is time consuming and stale information is commonplace.

To help resolve this issue I have put together a small wiki with information about sensible pay as you go data plans divided up by country. So far there's only information about UK, US and Sweden in there but I welcome everyone to add more.

Check it out

Action Streams Plugin for Movable Type 5 and 4

Did you notice that Action Streams and Community Action Streams plugins have been updated ? Now they work both with Movable Type 5 and Movable Type 4.

Action Streams plugin collects your actions on third party web services into your Movable Type web sites. Using it, you can easily aggregate your contents from various services such as Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and also you can write your own recipe to pull the data from millions of websites.

Please download the latest version from Six Apart's GitHub repositry,

and follow the steps in the documentation.

Please enjoy !

Add Other Profiles for Action Streams

Nicknames you’ll no longer see

I’ve had this post half-finished for about a year now.  I believe it was part of a box of cards I received from my brother, but I can’t be certain anymore and I have no idea why I never finished it.  With posting time so light, this may be the best chance you get for something new over the course of the next few days.  Enjoy.

Slowly but surely the gaps in my late 70′s hockey sets are filling in.  Anything before the 76/77 set is a bit of a wasteland, which is too bad since I love the 72/73 and 73/74 sets.  If I ever got my focus down, I could probably nail those down, too.  But there’s just so many sets to chase, so instead I’m like a dog with four tails – over eager to catch them all or to warn out to chase any of them.

All of this is too bad, since it keeps me out of touch with the history of former Ranger greats. Before receiving this card, for example, I’d never heard of Don Murdoch, who for some reason earned the nickname “Murder” from the fans.  Sadly, it was another vice that ruined Murdoch’s career. 

In 1977, Murdoch was found with 4.8 grams of cocaine in a Toronto airport.  The courts fined him $400 and gave him a suspended sentence, but the league came down harder and suspended him for the entire 78/79 season.  The suspension was lifted early after Murdoch proved he was clean, but this coupled with injuries would keep him from realizing the potential he showed at the beginning of his career.

And what a beginning it was, too.  After two 80 goal season in the WCJHL, Murdoch scored 8 goals in his first 3 NHL games for the Rangers, and was well on his way to establish the rookie record when an ankle injury slowed him down.  His quick success made him a celebrity, and he was often seen in bars soaking up both praise and alcohol from his fans.  That, in turn helped lead to his chemical dependence.

While Murdoch’s career didn’t turn out as he hoped, he was able to use his disappointment to his advantage as a scout:

When I was scouting and recruiting, I ran into kids I was going to talk to that I knew they had off-ice problems. I used to go tell them, `Listen, you better get it together or this is where you’re going to be.’ They would say, `What the hell does this guy know?’ I would tell them my story. Once I told them my story, that I should have played 15 years in the NHL but my career was cut short because I didn’t focus, I can see the look in their eyes like, `holy cow, this guy is the real deal right here.’

While Murdoch never “made it” as a hockey player, it’s nice to see that he’s using his mistakes to help keep younger kids from following his path.

But I still don’t get the nickname “Murder.” I am pretty sure you’ll never see anyone in sports with that nickname again.

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