Playlist from Gateway to Joy with Donna on WFMU, from May 30, 2019
May 30, 2019 09:53 PM
The BFI and the Royal Astronomical Society have recently rediscovered and restored a film taken in 1900 of a total solar eclipse. Here’s the minute-long film on YouTube:
The film was taken by British magician turned pioneering filmmaker Nevil Maskelyne on an expedition by the British Astronomical Association to North Carolina on 28 May, 1900. This was Maskelyne’s second attempt to capture a solar eclipse. In 1898 he travelled to India to photograph an eclipse where succeeded but the film can was stolen on his return journey home. It was not an easy feat to film. Maskelyne had to make a special telescopic adapter for his camera to capture the event. This is the only film by Maskelyne that we know to have survived.
The Royal Astronomy Society will be showing the film tomorrow May 31 at their HQ in London as part of their celebration of the centenary of the 1919 eclipse; free tickets available here.
See also my account of going to see the 2017 solar eclipse, one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. (via @UnlikelyWorlds)Tags: astronomy Nevil Maskelyne Sun video
by Jason Kottke at May 30, 2019 06:43 PM
The first trailer for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Netflix’s long-awaited prequel to Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, is finally here. From Vanity Fair:
The new series, which takes place years before the events of the original film, follows three creatures, called Gelfling, who discover the horrifying secret behind the power of a group of villainous critters called the Skeksis. The heroes — Taron Egerton’s Rian, Anya Taylor-Joy’s Brea, and Nathalie Emmanuel’s Deet — embark on an epic journey to ignite the fires of rebellion and save their world, which, at the time of the film, is dying, with sickness spreading across the land as the Skeksis control the powerful Crystal of Truth.
As you can see from the trailer, the series uses puppets and not CGI characters, just like the original. The 10-part series debuts on Netflix on August 30. In the meantime, the original 1982 movie is available on Netflix right now.Tags: Jim Henson movies The Dark Crystal trailers TV video
by Jason Kottke at May 30, 2019 05:34 PM
The results of recently analyzed find from the Green River Formation in the western US were published yesterday show the fossilized remains of an entire school of 257 fish. Beyond the fact that a whole school of fish was somehow frozen in time together 50 million years ago, what’s so remarkable is this discovery provides evidence of the social behavior of a now-extinct animal.
We found traces of two rules for social interaction similar to those used by extant fishes: repulsion from close individuals and attraction towards neighbours at a distance. Moreover, the fossilized fish showed group-level structures in the form of oblong shape and high polarization, both of which we successfully reproduced in simulations incorporating the inferred behavioural rules. Although it remains unclear how the fish shoal’s structure was preserved in the fossil, these findings suggest that fishes have been forming shoals by combining sets of simple behavioural rules since at least the Eocene. Our study highlights the possibility of exploring the social communication of extinct animals, which has been thought to leave no fossil record.
Read more about the analysis in Science News.Tags: fish paleontology science
by Jason Kottke at May 30, 2019 04:23 PM
In the 1890s and 1900s, the Biograph Company sent film crews around the world to capture moving images to bring them to audiences that, up until this point, had no access to seeing what life was like outside of their own locales. This footage was acquired by MoMA in 1939 but not analyzed until recently.
This footage is astoundingly crisp and clear — one of the highlights is a short clip of Queen Victoria shot on a visit to Ireland in 1900, just a year before her death. In a shot starting at 1:45, the queen is seen sitting in a carriage, exchanging greetings with well-wishers, and wearing a pair of now-trendy tiny sunglasses.
In the moving image, you get so much more — even in something as brief as this — of the personality, the presence of this woman. This is the embodiment of the British Empire, here she is, an immediate connection with a figure that everyone would have known. She’d certainly been photographed but only when you see her like this, when she’s moving, when she’s alive, when she’s in the middle of a scene, do you get the sense of being in the same world with her and really connecting to that living being that was Queen Victoria.
The film images are so incredibly clear because Biograph shot them in 68mm at 30fps, aka “the IMAX of the 1890s”.
To avoid violating Edison’s motion picture patents, Biograph cameras from 1895-1902 used a large-format film, measuring 2-23/32 inches (68 mm) wide, with an image area of 2x2½ inches, four times that of Edison’s 35mm format. The camera used friction feed instead of Edison’s sprocket feed to guide the film to the aperture. The camera itself punched a sprocket hole on each side of the frame as the film was exposed at 30 frames per second. A patent case victory in March 1902 allowed Biograph and other producers and distributors to use the less expensive 35 mm format without an Edison license, although Biograph did not completely phase out 68 mm production until autumn of 1903.
Compare the Victoria clip above with one shot by British Pathé around the same time:
More than a century after the invention of moving images, I think we still somehow underestimate the power and impact of the connection of film & video. Even now, we thrill when we open up Instagram, TikTok, or Snapchat and “get the sense of being in the same world” (or even the same room) with people from around the world, living lives very different from our own. We may not experience the impact that early film audiences must have felt seeing their monarch in motion for the first time, but every video clip we see today is still a minor miracle, a time machine that brings far flung places, past & future, into our presence at the push of a button.Tags: MoMA Queen Victoria video
by Jason Kottke at May 30, 2019 01:51 PM
When I wrote about App-pocalypse Now in 2014, I implied the future still belonged to the web. And it does. But it's also true that the web has changed a lot in the last 10 years, much less the last 20 or 30.
Websites have gotten a lot … fatter.
To channel a famous motivational speaker, I could go out there tonight, with the materials you’ve got, and rewrite the sites I showed you at the start of this talk to make them load in under a second. In two hours.
Can you? Can you?
Of course you can! It’s not hard! We knew how to make small websites in 2002. It’s not like the secret has been lost to history, like Greek fire or Damascus steel.
But we face pressure to make these sites bloated.
I bet if you went to a client and presented a 200 kilobyte site template, you’d be fired. Even if it looked great and somehow included all the tracking and ads and social media crap they insisted on putting in. It’s just so far out of the realm of the imaginable at this point.
The whole article is essential; you should stop what you're doing and read it now if you haven't already. But if you don't have time, here's the key point:
This is a screenshot from an NPR article discussing the rising use of ad blockers. The page is 12 megabytes in size in a stock web browser. The same article with basic ad blocking turned on is 1 megabyte.
That's right, through the simple act of running an ad blocker, you've reduced that website's payload by twelve times. Twelve! That's like the most effective exercise program ever!
Even the traditional advice to keep websites lean and mean for mobile no longer applies because new mobile devices, at least on the Apple side, are faster than most existing desktops and laptops.
Despite claims to the contrary, the bad guy isn't web bloat, per se. The bad guy is advertising. Unlimited, unfettered ad "tech" has creeped into everything and subsumed the web.
Personally I don't even want to run ad blockers, and I didn't for a long time – but it's increasingly difficult to avoid running an ad blocker unless you want a clunky, substandard web experience. There's a reason the most popular browser plugins are inevitably ad blockers, isn't there? Just ask Google:
So it's all the more surprising to learn that Google is suddenly clamping down hard on adblockers in Chrome. Here's what the author of uBlock Origin, an ad blocking plugin for Chrome, has to say about today's announcement:
In order for Google Chrome to reach its current user base, it had to support content blockers — these are the top most popular extensions for any browser. Google strategy has been to find the optimal point between the two goals of growing the user base of Google Chrome and preventing content blockers from harming its business.
The blocking ability of the webRequest API caused Google to yield control of content blocking to content blockers. Now that Google Chrome is the dominant browser, it is in a better position to shift the optimal point between the two goals which benefits Google's primary business.
The deprecation of the blocking ability of the webRequest API is to gain back this control, and to further instrument and report how web pages are filtered, since the exact filters which are applied to web pages are useful information which will be collectable by Google Chrome.
The ad blockers themselves are arguably just as complicit. Eye/o GmbH owns AdBlock and uBlock, employs 150 people, and in 2016 they had 50 million euros in revenue, of which about 50% was profit. Google's paid "Acceptable Ads" program is a way to funnel money into adblockers to, uh, encourage them to display certain ads. With money. Lots … and lots … of money. 🤑
We simultaneously have a very real web obesity crisis, and a looming crackdown on ad blockers, seemingly the only viable weight loss program for websites. What's a poor web citizen to do? Well, there is one thing you can do to escape the need for browser-based adblockers, at least on your home network. Install and configure Pi-Hole.
I've talked about the amazing Raspberry Pi before in the context of classic game emulation, but this is another brilliant use for a Pi.
Here's why it's so cool. If you disable the DHCP server on your router, and let the Pi-Hole become your primary DHCP server, you get automatic DNS based blocking of ads for every single device on your network. It's kind of scary how powerful DNS can be, isn't it?
My Pi-Hole took me about 1 hour to set up, start to finish. All you need is
I do recommend the 3b+ because it has native gigabit ethernet and a bit more muscle. But literally any Raspberry Pi you can find laying around will work, though I'd strongly advise you to pick one with a wired ethernet port since it'll be your DNS server.
I'm not going to write a whole Pi-Hole installation guide, because there are lots of great ones out there already. It's not difficult, and there's a slick web GUI waiting for you once you complete initial setup. For your initial testing, pick any IP address you like on your network that won't conflict with anything active. Once you're happy with the basic setup and web interface:
Once you do this, all your network devices will start to grab their DHCP leases from your Pi-Hole, which will also tell them to route all their DNS requests through the Pi-Hole, and that's when the ✨ magic ✨ happens!
All those DNS requests from all the devices on your network will be checked against the ad blacklists; anything matching is quickly and silently discarded before it ever reaches your browser.
(The Pi-Hole also acts as a caching DNS server, so repeated DNS requests will be serviced rapidly from your local network, too.)
If you're worried about stability or reliability, you can easily add a cheap battery backed USB plug, or even a second backup Pi-Hole as your secondary DNS provider if you prefer belt and suspenders protection. Switching back to plain boring old vanilla DNS is as easy as unplugging the Pi and flicking the DHCP server setting in your router back on.
At this point if you're interested (and you should be!), just give it a try. If you're looking for more information, the project has an excellent forum full of FAQs and roadmaps.
You can even vote for your favorite upcoming features!
I avoided the Pi-Hole project for a while because I didn't need it, and I'd honestly rather jump in later when things are more mature.
With the latest Chrome crackdown on ad blockers, now is the time, and I'm impressed how simple and easy Pi-Hole is to run. Just find a quiet place to plug it in, spend an hour configuring it, and promptly proceed to forget about it forever as you enjoy a lifetime subscription to a glorious web ad instant weight loss program across every single device on your network with (almost) zero effort!
Finally, an exercise program I can believe in.
by Jeff Atwood at May 30, 2019 11:04 AM
First You Make the Maps is a survey of mapping technology by Elizabeth Della Zazzera showing how, starting at the end of the Middle Ages, better maps facilitated the European discovery of the Americas, the explosion of global trade, the enslavement of Africans, and the colonization by Europeans of much of the world.
While geographically accurate maps had existed before, the Age of Exploration saw the emergence of a sustained tradition of topographic surveying. Maps were being made specifically to guide travelers. Technology progressed quickly through the centuries, helping explorers and traders find their way to new imperial outposts — at least sometimes. On other occasions, hiccups in cartographic reasoning led their users even farther astray.
(via @ktguru)Tags: design Elizabeth Della Zazzera maps
by Jason Kottke at May 29, 2019 09:21 PM
Scott Wade turns the dirty windows of cars into mobile art. Here’s a look at Wade in action:Tags: art cars Scott Wade video
by Jason Kottke at May 29, 2019 06:39 PM
Artist Shawn Feeney worked as a forensic artist for a few years and was inspired by that experience to produce BFF, a project where he combined the faces of pairs of friends into composite portraits, and then pairs of those composites into composite drawings, and so on until a single composite remained from 128 initial faces. Here are two of the quarterfinalist brackets:
And in this video, you get a closer look at the complete bracket and how the lineage of each starting drawing develops through the generations:
This reminds me of the software-averaged faces of people from different countries around the world and also Jason Salavon’s work like the combination of all the couch gags from The Simpsons and Every Playboy Centerfold (SFW).Tags: art Jason Salavon Shawn Feeney
by Jason Kottke at May 29, 2019 04:22 PM
The story goes that modern chaos theory was birthed by Edward Lorenz’s paper about his experiments with weather simulation on a computer. The computing power helped Lorenz nail down hidden patterns that had been hinted at by computer-less researchers for decades. But the early tenets of chaos theory were not the only things that were hidden. The women who wrote the programs that enabled Lorenz’s breakthroughs haven’t received their proper due.
But in fact, Lorenz was not the one running the machine. There’s another story, one that has gone untold for half a century. A year and a half ago, an MIT scientist happened across a name he had never heard before and started to investigate. The trail he ended up following took him into the MIT archives, through the stacks of the Library of Congress, and across three states and five decades to find information about the women who, today, would have been listed as co-authors on that seminal paper. And that material, shared with Quanta, provides a fuller, fairer account of the birth of chaos.
The two women who programmed the computer for Lorenz were Ellen Gille (née Fetter) and Margaret Hamilton. Yes, that Margaret Hamilton, whose already impressive career starts to look downright bonkers when you add in her contributions to chaos theory.Tags: chaos theory computing Edward Lorenz Ellen Gille Margaret Hamilton mathematics science
by Jason Kottke at May 29, 2019 02:02 PM
When the Leafs or Blue Jays play a home game, Doug Tuira doesn’t watch to see if Auston Matthews will score an overtime winner or Roberto Osuna will close out the ninth inning.
The Metrolinx Control Centre manager instead keeps an eye on the events so that he knows when they end, because that’s when the real game begins for Toronto-area transit agencies.
Whether it’s a Blue Jays, Leafs, Raptors, or Toronto FC game, tens of thousands of fans need to get home at the same time. Lots of them take transit — compared to other North American cities — there are very few parking lots around Toronto stadiums, and the Air Canada Centre and Rogers Centre enjoy perfect transit scores of 100. Moving all those people in an orderly manner is a challenge, and that’s where Tuira comes in.
Although the Blue Jays can draw the biggest crowds, up to 50,000 for sellouts, they aren’t the biggest challenge on a consistent basis. That distinction belongs to TFC, says Tuira, who happens to hold season tickets to the team’s home games.
“We have a lot of crowding with TFC,” he says, adding that from a ridership perspective it’s comparable to a Blue Jays game.
Emily Assuncao, the TTC manager for closures and diversions, agrees that moving TFC fans is especially difficult, but she notes a different reason.
“The fans are different,” she says.
Asked what makes them unique, she adds, “They’re a little more rowdy.”
Beyond the temperament of the fans, Tuira says the transit infrastructure at Exhibition Place isn’t as elaborate as Union Station, which makes it more challenging to get almost 30,000 spectators home.
When fans go home all at once, they can outnumber platform capacity, which creates a safety issue.
“There’s only one real exit out,” he says of the Exhibition GO station tunnel, which can take up to 20 minutes to traverse after games. Metrolinx is working on a solution, which could involve widening the at-capacity tunnel, but that’s a long-term project. In the meantime, the challenge is to ensure fans exit in an orderly, safe, and speedy fashion.
That’s not an easy task, but there’s a few tricks transit agencies rely on to accomplish the goal. The first is to provide more frequent service around the time that games end. That means GO trains leave every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes. The TTC doesn’t do the same for games at the Air Canada Centre — the Yonge-University-Spadina line is already at capacity — but they add vehicles to serve TFC’s BMO Field when necessary.
For other events, like Toronto’s many marathons, Metrolinx says it adds about 10 buses to help meet demand. These are easier to manage, Tuira said, because runners cross the finish line at various times, meaning that there’s not a crush of would-be transit riders all at once. For the same reason, Tuira says it’s actually easier to manage the post-TFC crowd during the CNE, because lots of fans stay at the site to ride Ferris wheels, watch SuperDogs, and whack moles, leaving in waves.
But for the most part, pro sports games tend to have their fans leave all at once, creating big challenges. It’s especially true after weekday sports games, when fans are more likely to go home right away rather than grabbing a drink with friends. Weekday Blue Jay sellouts are the worst for post-game transit planning, said Tuira.
When fans go home all at once, they can outnumber platform capacity, which creates a safety issue. To help alleviate this problem, GO lines up multiple trains at the predicted finish time for the game, so that one is always available after the next. As soon as one train leaves, the next one arrives and opens its doors as soon as possible. This has the effect of turning the train into a “floating platform” as fans fill the vehicle seats rather than waiting in limited platform space.
Despite these challenges, the Metrolinx employee says crowd control can be easier to manage at sporting events compared to major concerts. Although the City levies fines when shows go beyond permitted times, pop stars and rock stars tend to thumb their nose at licensing and standards bylaws, an attitude that makes for better shows but tougher to schedule transit service. Aged rockers Guns N’ Roses was a recent culprit, he says.
Assuncao says that planning for events plays an important part in smooth transit delivery. She explains that the TTC has monthly meetings with various groups — Toronto Police Services and City Planning among them — to discuss upcoming challenges. That includes run-of-the mill pro games, one-off events like the Invictus Games that took place in fall 2017, and the annual Honda Indy.
“As soon as an annual event is done we debrief,” she says, saying that the transit agency wants to immediately find out what worked and what didn’t.
Tuira says that the Pan Am Games in 2016 was an especially big job, and planning began over a year in advance. But it had a significant legacy in that it improved the agency’s capacity to address transit crowding after games.
“From a preparation perspective there was an expectation that we had to step up our game,” says Tuira.
The TTC also plans for certain contingencies. They know what to do when or if TFC, which led the league in the regular season, wins the championship.
And while they don’t have special plans for the World Cup, there’s a protocol if a team with enthusiastic local support reaches the finals and triumphs. If, say, Portugal wins the coveted World Cup in the summer of 2018, then Little Portugal in the west end will see streetcar diversions for as long as revellers feel the need to express their passion.
Asked about the ultimate Toronto sports event, and what planning exists for it — because it will definitely happen, right? — Tuira laughs.
“If the Leafs were to ever win the Stanley Cup it would be pandemonium downtown.”
But he doesn’t think it would necessarily be a transit problem — no one would want to go anywhere.”
top photo by Wylie Poon; bottom photo by Moodycamera Photography
This story originally appeared in Spacing’s winter 2018 issue.
The post Game day transit planning appeared first on Spacing Toronto.
by David Hains at May 29, 2019 11:00 AM
Annie Lowrey writing for The Atlantic last summer, How America Treats Its Own Children.
This is a country that professes to care about children at their youngest and most fragile. But here, for every 100,000 live births, 28 women die in childbirth or shortly thereafter, compared with 11 in Canada. This ratio has more than doubled since 1990, despite the medical advances made in those decades, where it has gone down in other high-income countries. Black women are three times as likely to die giving birth or shortly after birth as white women. Black women in the United States die having a child at roughly the same rate as women in Mongolia.
It is a country that professes to care for babies. But in the United States, the infant death rate is twice as high as in similarly wealthy countries. Premature birth and low birth weight are common ailments, with lifelong and even intergenerational effects.
This is a country that attempts to support low-income mothers with tax benefits, food stamps, health insurance, and the Women, Infants, and Children program. Still, it spends less of its gross domestic product on family benefits than all other OECD countries, save for Mexico and Turkey, which are far, far less wealthy. It spends less than half as much as Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.
Higher rates of incarceration, lack of access to medical care, little or no parental leave for child birth, poor education, low government spending on children…the list goes on and on. Wealthy and middle-class parents can afford to provide many of these things for their children, but if you’re poor, forget about it. This is shameful…America’s “every person for themselves” ethos should not extend to our children.Tags: Annie Lowrey politics USA
by Jason Kottke at May 28, 2019 10:39 PM
In Britain, the birthplace of the industrial revolution, no coal has been used to produce power for the last 11 days. This is an arresting chart of how quickly the country’s reliance on coal has been reduced:
Britain is setting new records for going without coal-powered energy. In the latest milestone, it has gone for more than eight days without using coal to generate electricity — the longest such period since 1882.
The coal-free run comes just two years after the National Grid first ran without coal power for 24 hours.
Phasing out the heavily polluting fuel is a key step in the transition towards a net-zero carbon economy and essential to averting catastrophic climate change.
Britain still derives ~50% of its power from natural gas, but this is a very hopeful chart. “Gradually then suddenly” works against us in dealing with climate change but it also could work in our favor.Tags: energy global warming infoviz UK
by Jason Kottke at May 28, 2019 08:02 PM
This video is so far up my alley that I’m now charging it rent. (For parking in the alley. Yeah, I don’t know how metaphors work.) Anyway, this 20-minute film is a collection of photography of street scenes, from the very first photo ever taken of a person in 1838 (by Louis Daguerre) to a crowded market in Glasgow in 1869 to a ghostly Norwegian street scene in 1882 to NYC’s Mulberry St in 1900 to a newsie selling newspapers about the Titanic disaster in 1912 to more modern scenes, presented chronologically one photo per year. Along the way, you see the development of history, fashion, and technology — the people in the photos get crisper and clearer as shutters quicken and film improves.
My only complaint is that many of the photos after 1900 and into the 40s & 50s have been artificially colored…and distractingly so. Why not just feature the original B&W versions? Believe me, I understand the appeal & impact of seeing the past in color, but these colorized versions greatly detract from the historical value of this video. (via aeon)Tags: photography video
by Jason Kottke at May 28, 2019 06:07 PM
Author: Michael Batty (MIT Press, 2018)
Given the state of the world, it is fair to say that the future of cities is intimately intertwined with the future of the planet. The distinctions between the built and natural environments have quickly melted away, with our settlements—and the complex systems that support them—affecting the globe in ways beyond our comprehension. This awareness has developed as a result of the exponential growth in data about the world around us and, given the complexity of the issue, few credible people are currently willing to seriously forecast what the future of the city will be. Enter Michael Batty, whose recent Inventing Future Cities embraces the unpredictability of cities and instead investigates what we need to know about cities past and present, in order to invent them in the future.
As the current Chair of the UCL’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis and the award-winning author of Cities and Complexity and The New Science of Cities, Batty’s work around the nature and workings of cities speaks for itself. Mentored by the renowned Sir Peter Hall, he is of a tradition of great thinkers—including Constantinos Doxiadis, Nikos Salingaros and, more recently, Geoffrey West—whose work focuses on a rigorous, scientific approach to the understanding and planning of cities. Batty’s specific interests connect complexity theory, networks, flows, and their relationship to the functioning of cities.
Those who follow Batty’s body of work know that his previous books were not for the faint of heart and well beyond the general reader interested in learning about cities, despite the allure of their titles. Inventing Future Cities deviates from this expert-focused pattern, providing an engaging, accessible read on urban complexity, key principles underlying the creation of cities, contemporary urban research and their implications on how cities can be “invented” in the coming decades. This is done across 8 succinct, interconnected chapters that weave together to form a compelling argument.
The first chapter—Predictability, Complexity and Inventing the Future—acts as an introduction, laying the foundation and overarching argument for the book: that the complex nature of cities and urban systems makes them ultimately unpredictable and that cities are acts of dynamic invention. To do so, Batty concisely discusses the uncertain nature of both short- and long-term predictions as it pertains to complex systems, followed by a brief summary of the emergence of complexity theory (connecting it to the wonderful insights of Jane Jacobs) and the notion of gradual, bottom-up adaptations. This serves to hone Batty’s approach to focus on processes over artifacts, invention over prediction…or, in his words, “inventive processes….’inventing’ rather than inventions per se.”
This chapter also importantly introduces the 5 principles Batty believes apply to all cities across time: ones that are further examined and reappear a number of times over the course of the book:
Although it is easy to get into the minutia of proving these principles, Batty does so very casually, shying away from his more common mathematical approach. These, in turn, provide the framework from which future speculations on the city must spring, Batty argues. The rest of the book explores each in more detail and their implications on thinking about the city.
The journey begins with a necessary speculation on the growth and transformation of the world population over the course of the next century, particularly in light of the progression from a non-urban to urban living we are witnessing currently. This is the focus of the second chapter—The Great Transition—where Batty highlights issues such as demographic shifts and the ongoing rapid globalization, as well as the distribution and the potential number of cities. Naturally, Zipf’s Law is discussed as a “convenient approximation” for the distribution of city sizes. Given the nature of the content, this chapter is the most data- and graph-heavy of the book, but not overwhelmingly so.
Defining Cities speaks to the challenges in attempting to define the city as a physical entity and describes cities as hierarchical clusters that exist across scales. In doing so, he quickly touches upon Christopher Alexander’s critical insights of the ‘semi-lattice’ structure of a city outlined in his seminal essay “The City is Not A Tree”, the transition from ancient ‘polis’ to the modern ‘megalopolis’ as well as the Glaeser’s paradox, outlined above. Also important in this chapter is his explanation of the 3 standard criteria for defining cities, since one in particular—the measure of interactions (material and people flows and linkages) between populations—is critical to his greater argument.
As the title of the next chapter suggests, Form Follows Function—Or Does It? delves into the physical form of cities, arguing that the growth of new communications technologies has led to a sharp divorce between urban form and function. To do so, he quickly charts the evolutionary form patterns of cities from pre-history to present. Johann Heinrich von Thünen’s Standard Model is described within this context, as is more in-depth focus on the impacts of flows introduced in the previous chapter. The chapter ends with an interesting analysis of the how people have defined the ’optimal city’ over time.
The latter discussion around flows builds up to The Pulse of the City that more thoroughly explores of different ‘pulses’ that define the modern city—that is, temporal cycles and flows that have come to light as a result of new digital information. Although the influence of social media is described briefly, Batty focuses on transportation and mobility dynamics. This leads to a brief speculation on how flows will affect the future city and the importance of understanding urban networks as we move forward.
Outward, Inward, and Upward: Suburbs to Skyscrapers is named after the 3 types of urban growth and development outlined within the chapter. Beginning with an important elaboration of H.G. Wells’ proposition on urban growth and the distribution of populations in response to transportation type. The rest of the chapter is dedicated to an interesting examination of the dynamics behind the 3 types of growth—outward (sprawl), inward (urban renewal) and upward (skyscrapers)—in more detail. It ends with Batty reinforcing the limitations of focusing on physical form as indicative of the many forces shaping cities: stating that many invisible processes (for example, new communication technologies) are greatly influencing our current urban environments and will continue to do so in the future.
The Sixth Kondratieff: The Age of the Smart City refers to theory of economic/technological cycles put forth by Russian economist Nikolai Kondratieff whereby waves of technological innovation get shorter and more intense over time. So much so that they are now beginning to coalesce and force cities to evolve accordingly. Tobler’s first law of geography is detailed within this context, as Batty describes the change in space and time driven by changing technologies across history. Naturally, the chapter includes discussion around the rise of Smart Cities and the “Information Revolution”.
More importantly, however, this chapter also marks the point where all the principles begin to consolidate and readers start getting a clearer picture of the implications of their interaction: something that is more fully explored in the final chapter, The Inventive Century, within which Batty argues for the city as a product of human inventiveness, describing how the 5 principles can be used to speculate on how we might invent future cities. As described earlier in the book, the focus is on process: away from the explicitly physical towards invisible patterns. The implication on social structure and inequality is touched upon, as is a brief look at the implication of climate change and population migration. Purposefully, and in keeping with Batty’s larger argument, he shies away from proclaiming a general theory or explicit solutions.
Overall, Inventing Future Cities was a thoroughly enjoyable, wonderfully accessible deviation from Michael Batty’s typical form. This is not to take away from the validity and importance of his prior works. However, by distilling his vast knowledge and expertise to the point where general readers can easily engage it, he has drastically increased the range of his important voice—something many intelligent and worth scholars on the urban environment fail to achieve. As such, I would dare to say it is his most important book to-date…a must-read for anybody and everybody invested in the future of our cities.
For more information on Inventing Future Cities visit the MIT Press website.
Erick Villagomez is one of the founding editors at Spacing Vancouver and the author of The Laws of Settlements: 54 Laws Underlying Settlements across Scale and Culture. He is also an educator, independent researcher and designer with personal and professional interests in the urban landscapes. His private practice – Metis Design|Build – is an innovative practice dedicated to a collaborative and ecologically responsible approach to the design and construction of places. You can see more of his artwork on his Visual Thoughts Tumblr and follow him on his instagram account: @e_vill1.
The post Book Review – Inventing Future Cities appeared first on Spacing National.
by Erick Villagomez at May 28, 2019 05:00 PM
Hear ye, hear ye! The third book in Hilary Mantel’s excellent Thomas Cromwell trilogy has been announced. The Mirror & the Light picks up where the previous book left off, with (spoilers!) the execution of Anne Boleyn, and covers the final years of Cromwell’s life.
England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves.
Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to the breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?
I loved both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and am really looking forward this one coming out next March. Preorder now!Tags: books Hilary Mantel The Mirror & the Light Thomas Cromwell
by Jason Kottke at May 28, 2019 03:53 PM
In the latest issue of his newsletter, Rex Sorgatz proposes a name for the growing collection of media about the recent past: the Historical Cinematic Universe (HCU for short, name after the MCU, naturally).
By my estimation, the uptick started in movies, with a surge in reality-based Oscar-bait like Spotlight, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Post, The Social Network, and the films of Adam McKay, especially Vice and The Big Short. More recently, and more significantly, the trend has spilled into scripted television, with such ambitious projects as HBO’s Brexit movie, Paramount’s Waco miniseries, Netflix’s Unabomber series, USA’s Tupac / Biggie miniseries, Hulu’s 9/11 series, Buzzfeed’s 1968 series, and, of course, HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries, which is the best show on TV right now. (A+ rec!)
With the influx of scripted historical reinterpretation, traditional documentaries have broadened their scope, expanding into binge experiences. The boomlet is most obvious in those esteemed investigations from HBO, such as Leaving Neverland and The Jinx. But this vim for verisimilitude has spread to unexpected locales, like Lifetime, with Surviving R. Kelly, and A&E, with The Clinton Affair, my personal favorite of this genre. Each of these historical investigations have yielded massive cultural influence.
I am a huge fan of the HCU, particularly of podcasts like Slow Burn and an excellent documentary he doesn’t mention, OJ: Made in America. As Sorgatz notes, Slow Burn creator Leon Neyfakh just launched a new podcast called Fiasco, the first season of which is about the 2000 Bush/Gore election.1 The podcast is only available via subscription, but you can listen to the first episode on the website.
Update: In this video, Patrick Willems talks about accidental cinematic universes, like the one about the US space program, which combines films like The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, Hidden Figures, and First Man into one overarching narrative. Or the British WWII cinematic universe that includes movies like The King’s Speech, Darkest Hour, and Dunkirk.
Which I have been thinking about a lot recently — it is recent history’s biggest counterfactual. Imagine a world where Al Gore became President in 2001. The US taking climate change seriously back then would have made a huge difference. No using 9/11 to sharply escalate our meddling & deadly presence in the Middle East. Perhaps no financial crisis in 2008. Perhaps no Roberts or Alito on the Supreme Court. Sigh.↩
by Jason Kottke at May 28, 2019 01:43 PM
We spent the weekend in Point Reyes, which is so beautiful it almost defies photography. The California Field Atlas describes it as an authentic Pleistocene-era prairie by the sea. Philip K. Dick was also moved by:
this wild moor-like plateau that dropped off at the ocean’s edge, one of the most desolate parts of the United States, with weather unlike that of any other part of California.
The giant camels and mastodon that roamed here in the Ice Age are gone, but if you look closely, there’s a herd of not-quite-extinct tule elk grazing out on this headland.
Jeremy was enchanted by the Marconi RCA wireless station, the first and last of its kind. Now that we are home, he’s in his office playing with software-defined radios and emitting atmospheric bursts and Morse code. For my part, I loved the dairy ranches, and imagined myself quitting tech to become a simple farmer, a man of the people, at one with the land.
Of course I am not the first to indulge this fantasy. It forms the substance of Dick’s Confessions of a Crap Artist, Daniel Gumbiner’s The Boatbuilder, and even Summer Brennan’s The Oyster War. All three are at pains to point out that no matter how lovely the place is, it can’t help you escape who you are.
West Marin has dangled before the white mind like a lure for almost five hundred years. In 1579, the pirate Francis Drake in his galleon full of stolen Spanish treasure christened it Nova Albion and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth I. The visitor center on Drakes Beach notes that people in South America used his name to frighten their children, so that’s nice.
The Coast Miwok survive and now form part of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. Still, anthropologist Betty Goerke calculates that between genocide, epidemic, and aggressive zoning laws designed to maintain high property values, there are fewer people living in Point Reyes today than there were in Drake’s time. It’s a pretend wilderness, like Yosemite and Kur-ring-gai. I’m indebted to its original custodians for how it heals my sore heart.
by rachel at May 27, 2019 10:17 PM
“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”― Rumi
I’m opening up two spots for my 1-on-1 coaching service, which is aimed for those who would like to start changing their lives, shifting their patterns, and starting true transformation.
I’m looking for people who:
Is that you? What is meaningful to you? Who do you care deeply about? What change do you want to create in the world?
We’ll start with a free call, to get to know each other, and see if it’s the right fit. You won’t be under any obligation after the call. Then I’ll send you a proposal, and if you sign on, we’ll commit to training together.
Then we’ll meet twice a month, on video call, and dive into your patterns, what’s holding you back, what you want to create, and how you can train to shift those patterns. We’ll work flexibly, but with commitment and accountability.
I’ll give you practices/assignments to do between calls — this is where the real change takes place. You’ll log your training, and I’ll give you feedback on your log so that you can adjust the training if needed.
Then we’ll see what magic happens.
Ready to train with me?
Apply here today for one of the two spots.
Here’s a testimonial from one of my recent clients:
“I had the usual goals to start with (more mindfulness, more discipline, less procrastination – you name it) which I have been aiming at – and missing – for a long time. Leo’s kind and extremely open approach made me feel safe and capable of sharing honestly my wins and failures. During our work together, Leo helped me to flank the obstacles that was resisting my futile head-on attacks. Due to the coaching experience, I am more capable of picking the right battles, distinguishing the important from irrelevant and accepting discomfort as a natural part of the journey.”— Ales Balcar, trainer for Amazon.com
by zenhabits at May 27, 2019 01:00 PM
Chaos drives disruption and disruption triggers innovation.
In general we should capture any failure as an asset full of learning value. Capturing chaos to drive innovation is the same principle writ large. Never let a good crisis go to waste. Be ready, have the experimental results, have the thinking already done.
by skeptic at May 25, 2019 11:38 PM
“It’s okay,” Alejandro said. “You’re not trying to show who you are, you’re just trying to make the thing.”
by rachel at May 25, 2019 09:22 PM
I keep track of every media thing I “consume”, so here are quick reviews of some things I’ve read, seen, heard, and experienced in the past two months. I never wrote a proper report on my trip to Mexico City, so I put some of the highlights in here. I’m in the middle of several things right now. On TV, I’m watching Our Planet, In Search of Greatness, Street Food, Chernobyl, The Clinton Affair, Reconstruction: America After the Civil War, and This Giant Beast That is the Global Economy. I don’t normally watch 19 different things at one time, but life’s felt a little scattered lately. For books, I’m listening to Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond on audiobook and I’m making good progress on Robert Caro’s Working (highly recommended).
The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan. Hard to summarize but there’s certainly something interesting on almost every page. (A-)
Fleabag. Bitingly funny and poignant, a real gem. (A+)
Skyscraper. Die Hard + the Sherlock Holmes story A Scandal in Bohemia + #sponcon for Big Duct Tape. I love a good disaster movie. (B+)
Mexico City. Great food, vegetation everywhere, beautiful architecture, culturally fascinating, super walkable/bikeable/scooterable. I am definitely visiting here again as soon as I can. (A)
Puyol Taco Omakase. Delicious & fun & a great experience, but I’m not sure the food was obviously so much better than some of the best street food I had in Mexico City. I had this same experience in Bangkok years ago…street food is tough to beat when there’s a thriving culture of markets, carts, and stalls. (B+)
The National Museum of Anthropology. One of my new favorite museums in the world. The only thing possibly more impressive than the collection is the architecture of the building. (A+)
Teotihuacán. I had high hopes for this archeological site and I was still blown away by it. (A+)
AirPods. This is my favorite gadget in years, the first real VR/AR device that feels seamless (and not like a Segway for your face). The freedom of wireless headphones feels similar to when I first used a laptop, wifi, and dockless bike share. (A+)
Homecoming. So many things to love about this, but one of my favorites is the shots of the audience watching Beyoncé and the rare moments when she watches them back: “I see you.” And also the way they put a cohesive show together while showcasing individual talents and styles. (A-)
Homecoming: The Live Album. Come on, a marching band playing Beyoncé hits? That this works so well is a small miracle. (A-)
Avengers: Endgame. I liked but didn’t love it. It was like the ST:TNG finale and the Six Feet Under finale mashed together and not done as well. It also seemed too predictable. (B)
Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now that the Thanos narrative arc is complete, this is an underrated installment. (B+)
Casa Luis Barragán. This was like being in someone’s creative mind. The layering of the garden reminded me of Disney’s use of the multiplane camera in the forest scene in Bambi. (B+)
Gelatin Sincronizada Gelitin (NSFW). I was skeptical of this art performance at first — a bunch of half-naked people painting on a moving canvas using paintbrushes coming out of their butts — but it ended up being a really cool thing to experience. (B+)
Game of Thrones. I’m not quite as critical of the final season as everyone else seems to be. Still, it seems like since the show left the cozy confines of George RR Martin’s books, it has struggled at times. (B+)
Wandering Earth. Based on the short story by Liu Cixin (author of the Three Body Problem trilogy), this disaster movie is a little uneven at the start but finishes strong. (B)
Halt and Catch Fire Vol 2. The music was one of the many great things about this show. (A-)
Running from COPS. A podcast about how media and law enforcement in America intersect to great and terrible effect. (B+)
Eating bugs. I tasted crickets, grasshoppers, and grubs at the market: mostly just salty. I had beef tartare and guacamole with grasshoppers on it. They added a nice crunch to the guac. Wouldn’t exactly go out of the way for them, but they weren’t bad. (B)
Panaderia Rosetta. Did I have one of the best pain au chocolat I’ve ever had here? Yes. Yes, I did. Also extremely delicious: everything else I tried. (A-)
Against the Rules. A podcast from Michael Lewis about what’s happening to the concept of fairness in America. The episode about Salvator Mundi, the supposed Leonardo masterpiece, is particularly interesting. (A-)
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth. I have a new appreciation of how much Tolkien did in creating his books: writing, map making, world building, art, constructing languages. (B+)
Frida Kahlo’s Blue House. A striking house with a lush courtyard, but the highlight was seeing Kahlo’s work area much the way she left it when she died. (B+)
Street Food Essentials by Club Tengo Hambre. Mexico City is a huge place with so much to do that I wanted to hit the ground running right away, so I booked this street food tour. Definitely a good idea. We sampled so many different kinds of tacos & gorditas & quesadillas that I lost count. Highlights: huitlacoche quesadillas, al pastor tacos, fresh Oaxaca cheese at the Mercado de San Juan, and the blue corn masa used to make tlacoyos at one of our last stops — probably the best tortilla I’ve ever eaten. (A-)
The Matrix. This came out 20 years ago. I watched it with my 11-yo son the other day and he thought the special effects “held up pretty well”. (A)
Electric scooters. I used the Lime dockless electric scooters for the first time when I was in Mexico City and I loved experience. Easier than a bike and a fun & fast way to get around the city. Cons: the combo of the speed & small wheels can be dangerous and cities generally don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate them yet. (B+)
Paprika. Inventive and visually dazzling. Purportedly an influence on Christopher Nolan’s Inception. (B+)
Oh and just because, here’s a photo I took recently in my backyard that makes it seem like I live in Narnia or The Shire:
Past installments of my media diet are available here.Tags: books food media diet Mexico City movies museums music podcasts restaurants TV video
by Jason Kottke at May 24, 2019 08:33 PM
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am is a documentary film on the legendary Nobel Prize-winning author of Beloved.
Navigating a white, male world wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t even interesting. I was more interesting than they were, and I wasn’t afraid to show it.
The film opens in theaters June 21.Tags: movies Toni Morrison Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am trailers video
by Jason Kottke at May 24, 2019 06:11 PM
Tales From Weirdland has a collection of posts that feature concept drawings from several Studio Ghibli movies like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Castle in the Sky. I poked around a little and found artwork & concept drawings from Princess Mononoke, The Wind Rises, and Porco Rosso. Hand dawn and it all just pops off the screen. Wonderful.
Looks like a lot of this is available in book form as well: The Art of Spirited Away, The Art of Princess Mononoke, The Art of Howl’s Moving Castle, etc.Tags: art Hayao Miyazaki Howl’s Moving Castle movies Porco Rosso Princess Mononoke Spirited Away Studio Ghibli The Wind Rises
by Jason Kottke at May 24, 2019 04:02 PM
A few McDonald’s restaurants in Sweden started putting beehives on their rooftops to help save dwindling bee populations and it turned into a national sustainability effort.
More franchisees around the country are joining the cause and have also started replacing the grass around their restaurants with flowers and plants that are important for the wellbeing of wild bees.
To promote the idea, McDonald’s constructed what might be their smallest restaurant, actually a fully functioning beehive just for the bees:
Totes adorbzzzz.Tags: bees food McDonald’s video
by Jason Kottke at May 24, 2019 01:37 PM
Playlist from Gateway to Joy with Donna on WFMU, from May 23, 2019
May 23, 2019 10:00 PM
LJ Rich has synesthesia and perfect pitch and wrote about what that feels like for her personally.
Now, I’d like you to imagine you’re chatting with your conversation partner. But instead of speaking and hearing the words alone, each syllable they utter has a note, sometimes more than one. They speak in tunes and I can sing back their melody. Once I know them a little bit, I can play along to their words as they speak them, accompanying them on the piano as if they’re singing an operatic recitative. They drop a glass on the floor, it plays a particular melody as it hits the tiles. I’ll play that melody back — on a piano, on anything. I can accompany that melody with harmony, chords — or perhaps compose a variation on that melody - develop it into a stupendous symphony filled with strings, or play it back in the style of Chopin, Debussy or Bob Marley. That car horn beeps an F major chord, this kettle’s in A flat, some bedside lights get thrown out because they are out of tune with other appliances. I can play along to every song on the radio whether or not I’ve heard it before, the chord progressions as open to me as if I had the sheet music in front of me. I can play other songs with the same chords and fit them with the song being played. Those bath taps squeak in E, this person sneezes in E flat. That printer’s in D mostly. The microwave is in the same key as the washing machine.
I have a friend with perfect pitch and one of the first times we hung out together, the horn on a tugboat sounded and she said, “C sharp”. I looked puzzled so she explained, and then I peppered her with questions about all the other sounds around us. It was like watching a superhero do their thing.
But with great power sometimes comes great irritation. From a NY Times article about Rich:
Tags: audio LJ Rich synesthesia
LJ said she had been a “weird prodigy kid.” For her, perfect pitch had been a nightmare. The whole world seemed out of tune. But then teachers introduced her to Indian ragas, Gamelan music and compositions with quarter tones, unfamiliar modes and atonal structures. As her musical horizons expanded, her anxiety dissipated. (She remains exceedingly sensitive to pitch, though. Her refrigerator, for example, hums in A flat. Working from home, I hear my fridge running 12 hours a day. Blindfolded, I’m not sure I could pick the thing out of a lineup of three other refrigerators.)
by Jason Kottke at May 23, 2019 09:56 PM
The gun can’t handle its own power.
by rachel at May 23, 2019 09:21 PM
Pavel Dobryakov has built a nifty little fluid dynamics simulator in WebGl that runs in any modern browser, including on mobile devices. You can drag around on the screen with your mouse or finger and produce colorful swirling patterns like these:
iOS and Android apps are also available. (via @EdwardDixon3)Tags: Pavel Dobryakov
by Jason Kottke at May 23, 2019 08:04 PM
For Wired’s series Technique Critique, former CIA Chief of Disguise Jonna Mendez looks at several TV shows and movies to rate how good their spy scenes are.
Mendez gives high marks to characters from Alias and The Americans for effective use of disguises and low marks to The Bourne Identity and Homeland. In relation to Philip’s disguises on The Americans, she discusses the concept of the little gray man, the CIA’s goal for its agents to look like harmless middle-aged men, something she also mentioned in this Washington Post piece:
Rhys makes the case, however, for disappearing under nothing more than a knit cap and a pair of glasses, a scruffy mustache and a messy wig. He becomes the consummate little gray man, invisible, the one nobody can remember was even on the elevator.
Mendez also talks about the three cover identities that CIA agents were not allowed to use: clergy, media figures, and Peace Corps volunteer. She previously did this video with Wired about how the CIA used disguises.Tags: CIA espionage Jonna Mendez movies The Americans TV video
by Jason Kottke at May 23, 2019 06:01 PM
Artist and former advertising art director Alvaro Naddeo does these wonderful paintings of old iconic junk from our branded past repurposed into absurdist structures and vehicles, like Junkyard Wars through the lens of Warhol. It’s tough to explain, so just feast thine eyes on a couple of examples:
Ok, that was more than a couple. But there are so many more on his website and Instagram (including work-in-progress stuff)…check them out!
Naddeo recently shared his process for making these paintings with Colossal:
Naddeo tells Colossal that he starts with a loose sketch by hand. He then uses 3D software to help define a plausible shape for his imagined constructions, and creates a reference composition in Photoshop. After years of practice, Naddeo shares that he is able to recreate the texture, color, and shadows of various building materials like brick and concrete from memory. He uses reference photos to help flesh out small detail items, which are similarly rendered in watercolor.
A prime example of Robin Sloan’s concept of the flip-flop.Tags: advertising Alvaro Naddeo art remix Robin Sloan
by Jason Kottke at May 23, 2019 03:54 PM
Playdate is a new handheld gaming system from Panic, the makers of FTP software. Hold on, what?! From the press release:
Playdate is both very familiar, and totally new. It’s yellow, and fits perfectly in a pocket. It has a black-and-white screen with high reflectivity, a crystal-clear image, and no backlight. And of course, it has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C, and a headphone jack. But it also has a crank. Yes, a crank: a cute, rotating analog controller that flips out from the side. It’s literally revolutionary.
The crank made me laugh out loud — in delight, mind you. Who puts a hand-crank on the side of a handheld video game console?! A very playful Nintendo-esque touch, designed in collaboration with Teenage Engineering. There’s more info, including photos of their first prototype, in this Twitter thread.
The old school tech blogging community1 is fired up about this thing in a way I’ve not seen for years. John Gruber writes on Daring Fireball:
The idea of a new upstart, a company the size of Panic — with only software experience at that — jumping into the hardware game with a brand new platform harkens back to the ’80s and ’90s. But even back then, a company like, say, General Magic or Palm, was VC-backed and aspired to be a titan. To be the next Atari or Commodore or Apple.
In today’s world all the new computing devices and platforms come from huge companies. Apple of course. All the well-known Android handset makers building off an OS provided by Google. Sony. Nintendo.
Panic is almost cheating in a way because they’re tiny. The Playdate platform isn’t competing with the state of the art. It’s not a retro platform, per se, but while it has an obviously nostalgic charm it is competing only on its own terms. Its only goal is to be fun.
And from Anil Dash, Putting the Soul in Console:
I’d been given a hint a while ago that something like this was coming, but the final execution is even more delightful than I’d imagined it might be. (That crank!) More importantly, it’s captured the imagination of so many, and seems like the kind of thing that could inspire a new generation of creative people to think, “Hey, maybe good tech is something we can make ourselves.” I’ve seen it happen on Glitch, and now I see it happening around Playdate after just a few hours.
That idea, that maybe things like our gaming devices or the websites we visit should be created by people we know and like, instead of giant faceless companies, seems more essential than ever. We would never settle for replacing all of our made-with-love, locally-grown, mom’s recipe home cooking with factory-farmed fast food, even if sometimes convenience demands we consume the latter. And we shouldn’t compromise any less on making sure that some of the time we spend playing games with each other, and delighting in the promise of technology, comes from people who’ve been diligently working for years to make well-sourced, organically grown, made-with-love technology.
Playdate starts shipping in early 2020. Supplies are probably going to be limited, so if you’re interested in getting one, you should hop on their mailing list.
I.e. the folks who write about technology (software, gadgets) because they love it, not the folks who write about technology (IPOs, funding rounds) because it makes them money and gives them power.↩
by Jason Kottke at May 23, 2019 01:42 PM
My family & I flew back to California after nine months of being in Guam, and boy are our arms tired! OK, our entire bodies are tired, and our brains — we’re suffering from jet lag and feeling tired during the day.
This isn’t necessarily a problem — jet lag is to be expected, after all — but tiredness can affect everything in your life. I find myself less able to do work, more overwhelmed when I’m behind on email and messages, less able to keep up with healthy habits, more likely to eat junk food, and in worse moods.
Being tired can have such huge effects on us. And many people are tired much of the time, from being overworked and underslept.
So what can we do? Well, there are the usual methods of trying to get better sleep, like better sleep hygiene, setting a consistent bedtime and wake time, and so forth. These are highly recommended.
But what do you do today, when you’re still tired? What can you do tomorrow if you’re tired then too?
Here’s how I try to practice in the middle of the tiredness, which is sometimes unavoidable.
That’s my mindful method, and I am imperfect at it. I violate every single one of these. But I try to practice, and when I do, it’s always wonderful.
by zenhabits at May 23, 2019 12:57 PM
Design firm Pentagram has brought in a new partner to their New York office, information designer Giorgia Lupi, who joins heavy hitters like Michael Bierut, Paula Scher, and Eddie Opera. I remain fascinated with how Pentagram operates:
Established in 1972, the firm has a collectivist attitude and adheres to a longstanding constitution, which exists in its original form with only small modifications. It spreads profits and decision-making power equally among its self-governed partners — all designers — irrespective of seniority or how much business they brought in during a given year. There’s no CEO. The partners do collaborate with one another, often across disciplines, but essentially operate their own studios, though the local offices meet on a weekly basis and the entire group convenes twice a year. These all-partner meetings, chaired by one of the partners on a rotating basis, are about sharing work with the group and discussing business dynamics, Pentagram’s publishing program, its website, and trends in the industry.
The process for bringing in a new partner can take years from start to finish and requires the unanimous consent of the rest of the partners:
“One vote against and it’s over, truly,” says Miller. “We’ve seen it happen.”
I’ve often thought about if a collective structure could work for independent content sites. I wouldn’t want to sell kottke.org to anyone, but the idea of sharing resources and infrastructure with a couple dozen similar sites is appealing. You could collect the sites into a membership bundle; hire dedicated staff for customer support, ad sales, & devops; do cross-promotion, syndicate the content via a meta-site, and generally help small indie sites punch above their weight. This is what The Deck could have evolved into, I suppose. Aw well.Tags: business design Giorgia Lupi Pentagram
by Jason Kottke at May 22, 2019 09:29 PM
This wonderful site presents animations of 507 mechanical movements first published in a book by Henry T. Brown in 1868, the full title of which is:
Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements: Embracing All Those Which Are Most Important in Dynamics, Hydraulics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Steam Engines, Mill and Other Gearing, Presses, Horology, and Miscellaneous Machinery; and Including Many Movements Never Before Published and Several of Which Have Only Recently Come Into Use
The site is a work-in-progress…not all of the movements have been animated yet. This short video shows movement #123:
You can buy a paperback version of the original book or browse/download the entire thing at the Internet Archive.
See also this great explanation of differential gears and especially Ralph Steiner’s 1930 short film Mechanical Principles, in which we see many of the mechanisms from Brown’s book actually working:
Warning: if you start Steiner’s film, you’ll probably end up watching the whole thing…it’s mesmerizing, particularly when the gears come in around ~2:30.Tags: books Henry T. Brown Ralph Steiner video
by Jason Kottke at May 22, 2019 07:11 PM
The Bit Player is a documentary film about Claude Shannon, the underrated “Father of Information Theory”, whose work, more than anyone else’s, laid the foundation for the information age in which we find ourselves currently immersed.
In a blockbuster paper in 1948, Claude Shannon introduced the notion of a “bit” and laid the foundation for the information age. His ideas ripple through nearly every aspect of modern life, influencing such diverse fields as communication, computing, cryptography, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, cosmology, linguistics, and genetics.
The film is directed by Mark Levinson, a former particle physicist, who also directed the excellent Particle Fever (about the search for the Higgs boson). The Bit Player premieres later this month at the World Science Festival in NYC and presumably will be out in theaters sometime after that.Tags: Claude Shannon Mark Levinson movies The Bit Player
by Jason Kottke at May 22, 2019 05:15 PM
I am here for any metaphor linking the internet and Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem trilogy. Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler writes that netizens are retreating from the public square of the internet, resulting in many private & isolated worlds that don’t communicate with each other, a la the dark forest condition in Liu’s books.
Tags: books Liu Cixin The Three-Body Problem Yancey Strickler
Dark forests like newsletters and podcasts are growing areas of activity. As are other dark forests, like Slack channels, private Instagrams, invite-only message boards, text groups, Snapchat, WeChat, and on and on. This is where Facebook is pivoting with Groups (and trying to redefine what the word “privacy” means in the process).
These are all spaces where depressurized conversation is possible because of their non-indexed, non-optimized, and non-gamified environments. The cultures of those spaces have more in common with the physical world than the internet.
by Jason Kottke at May 22, 2019 03:20 PM
It turns out that the fourth track off of Philip Glass’ soundtrack for Koyaanisqatsi matches up pretty well to the dancers in this clip from Soul Train.
I don’t know whether to like this or hate it. Actually, I think I love it. See also Soul Train dancers backed by Daft Punk. (via @tedgioia)Tags: Koyaanisqatsi movies music Philip Glass remix Soul Train video
by Jason Kottke at May 22, 2019 01:29 PM
An 1119-page collection of papers known as the Codex Atlanticus has been completely digitized and put online to explore. The codex showcases Leonardo’s impressive range of interests and abilities, from flying machines to anatomy to weaponry to astronomy to engineering.
Several more of Leonardo’s notebooks have been put online as well…I’ve listed all of them in this post about the Codex Forster. (via open culture)Tags: books Leonardo da Vinci
by Jason Kottke at May 21, 2019 09:17 PM
An intriguing insight from Khoi Vinh in his short review of the third John Wick movie:
This is what usually happens: a film creates a compelling fantasy world and fans clamor for more. So sequels build that world out, they show more of its mechanics, its people, its history. But “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” demonstrates one little acknowledged principle of escalated world building: the inevitable outcome is bureaucracy.
Things that were at first only suggested become explicit, mysteries are explained, and idiosyncrasies metastasize into red tape. Suddenly filmmakers find themselves in a position where building the world becomes its own motivation.
See also Why the Writing in Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Feels Off. (via @capndesign)Tags: John Wick Khoi Vinh movies
by Jason Kottke at May 21, 2019 07:39 PM
In 1960, David Latimer put some compost, water, and plant seeds into a large glass jar and sealed it up. And it’s been growing like that ever since, save for when Latimer opened the bottle to water it in 1972.
It’s easy to take nature and evolution for granted but think about how marvelous this is. Over billions of years, an ecosystem evolved on Earth that can sustain itself basically forever using light from the Sun.
Tags: David Latimer science
The plant creates energy from the sunlight via photosynthesis, using up carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the bottle. When parts of the plant die, bacteria in the soil use the oxygen to break down these dead parts, releasing carbon dioxide and completing the circle. The water cycle is similarly self-refueling: whatever water the plant takes in through its roots ultimately transpires out of its leaves, condenses on the inside of the bottle, and drips back into the soil.
by Jason Kottke at May 21, 2019 05:42 PM
The Downton Abbey movie is nearly upon us (it’s out in Sept) and the first full-length trailer is here. The action picks up a couple of years after the TV show ended and concerns the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the estate. I’ve embedded the UK trailer above — it’s better than the American trailer even though it gives away a bit more of the plot. Plus, in the UK version you get to see the deployment of Carson in the Battle of the Head Butlers. Carson’s glance of disdained indifference toward the royal butler might be the most spine-tingling battle moment since Aragon uttered “for Frodo” and charged headlong into the hordes of Mordor.
Update: Some real talk from Robert Bennett about the escapist fantasy of Downton Abbey:
really the point of the entire show was to let middle american viewers dabble in the lavish lives and costumes of the edwardian .001% without feeling bad about what made that lifestyle possible
anything that threatened that “safari in the aristocracy” aspect — be it the realism of class warfare, or the actual, historical evolutions of the era that would have upended everything that happened — was quickly neutered and turned into quaint fluff.
Still excited for the movie though. Butler Battle 2019!!Tags: Downton Abbey movies Robert Bennett trailers TV video
by Jason Kottke at May 21, 2019 02:36 PM
Reagan Ray has collected a bunch of classic logos from American airlines, from the big ones (Delta, United) to small regional airlines (Pennsylvania Central, Cardiff and Peacock) to those no longer with us (Pan Am, TWA, Northwest). I sent him the logo for my dad’s old airline, Blue Line Air Express…I hope it makes it in!
See also Reagan’s collections of record label logos, 80s action figure logos, American car logos, VHS distributor logos, and railway logos. Careful, you might spend all day on these… (via @mrgan)
Update: Ray was kind enough to add Blue Line into the mix! Thank you!Tags: design flying logos Reagan Ray
by Jason Kottke at May 20, 2019 08:30 PM
Remember trials rider Danny MacAskill, who I’ve been covering on kottke.org for over ten years somehow?! In his newest video, he turns babysitting a friend’s young daughter into a death-defying cycling adventure…an oddly tender death-defying cycling adventure somehow.
Stay tuned after the main action for a short making-of feature (no children were harmed, etc. etc.) in which we see Daisy riding a bike of her own!Tags: cycling Danny MacAskill sports video
by Jason Kottke at May 20, 2019 06:24 PM
Liberty Crumbling is sand sculptor Damon Langlois’ version of the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, which won first prize at 2019 Texas SandFest. (via colossal)Tags: Abraham Lincoln art Damon Langlois
by Jason Kottke at May 20, 2019 04:22 PM
Meet Vincent LeVine. He’s the subject of “My Dad, the Facebook Addict”, a short documentary by his son Dylan. He started off using Facebook normally, keeping up with the news and chatting with friends, but evolved into a fierce meme warrior stocked with a “nuclear arsenal” of memes at the ready to destroy anyone who wants to come at him.
I can have a meme war with anybody and destroy them. And I’ve done it! People actually bail at the end and go, “Who is this guy? He’s got like every meme ever produced on the internet! He can knock us out with his memes!” And I do, I have tons of memes, I just keep memeing them to death until they just surrender because they just can’t do it anymore. They don’t have the memes that I have.
Vincent is very entertaining and it was difficult to not just quote all of his lines in the video. You can check out his Facebook account for yourself or watch his technique for hygienically blowing out birthday cake candles.Tags: Dylan LeVine Facebook video Vincent LeVine
by Jason Kottke at May 20, 2019 02:34 PM
When I was pregnant I craved bitter greens, and this craving has never entirely left me. Last night I ate, with great focus, a plate of shaved brussels sprouts. Last week I told a colleague the story of how I broke my leg. I left part of it out; nevertheless, he said: “You sound bitter.” I am.
The evangelical church in which I spent my teens is highly critical of bitterness. So is society at large. I’m beginning to understand the ways in which this serves political ends. Bitterness is the perception of injustice. God knows we are treated unfairly, but God forbid we should be angry about it.
Burnout is cumulative, like concussion. After I was fired, I never wanted to work in the tech industry again. Now that I have returned (as if there were any other industry; as if academia, journalism, publishing, teaching weren’t equally soul-destructive) I can feel the limits of my capacity to endure, just as I feel the limited range of motion in my ankle. There are leaps of faith I could make in the past I won’t be able to make again, and not only because I am ageing. I have lost the faith that made such leaps possible.
In its place I have my bitterness: the astringency of medicinal herbs, that can heal, or poison. Knowledge that exists beyond the imagination of the church and society at large. Witchcraft.
by rachel at May 17, 2019 09:18 PM
An exhibition called Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy just opened at the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA. It features more than 50 vehicles from sci-fi and fantasy films like Blade Runner, Iron Man, Mad Max: Fury Road, Black Panther, Minority Report, Star Wars, Speed Racer, Back to the Future, and Tron: Legacy. The exhibition runs through March 2020.Tags: cars movies museums
by Jason Kottke at May 17, 2019 07:01 PM
The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden is restoring a painting by Johannes Vermeer after it was “conclusively determined” that part of it was painted over after Vermeer died.
For more than 250 years now, the famous painting by Johannes Vermeer featuring a profile depiction of a girl intently reading a letter in front of a light-coloured empty wall has held a firm place among the masterpieces in the Dresden Gemäldegalerie. This picture, which dates to around 1657/59, is regarded as one of the earliest interior paintings by Vermeer with a solitary figure. Previous x-ray examinations indicated that a picture of a naked Cupid in the painting had been overpainted. Today, new laboratory tests have conclusively determined that the overpainting was not by Vermeer’s hand. On this basis, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister decided in the course of the current restoration of the work to remove the overpaint.
The restoration of Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window is not totally complete, here’s what it looks like now:
And what it looked like before the restoration started:
The partially restored painting will be on display at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden until June 16, after which they will take another year to complete the painstaking restoration.Tags: art Johannes Vermeer
by Jason Kottke at May 17, 2019 04:55 PM
If you could somehow fold a piece of paper in half 103 times, the paper would be as thick as the observable universe.
Such is the power (*cough*) of exponential growth, but of course you’d never get anywhere close to that many folds. The theoretical limit for folding paper was long thought to be seven or eight folds. You can see why watching this hydraulic press attempt the 7th fold…the paper basically turns to dust.
But in 2002, high school student Britney Gallivan proved that you could fold a piece of paper 12 times. Here’s Gallivan explaining the math involved and where the limits come in when folding:
(thx, porter)Tags: Britney Gallivan mathematics video
by Jason Kottke at May 17, 2019 03:03 PM
Many species of migratory birds, like the Canada goose in North America, fly in a v-formation. Scientists have long suspected that there was some energy-saving advantage to flying in formation and a 2014 study provides evidence to that effect.
By comparing the birds’ flight data to computer simulations, Portugal found that the ibises are apparently drafting — catching an uprush of air from the wingtip of the bird ahead. “Furthermore, when they’re in that position, they time wing beats perfectly,” he says. “So they don’t just sit there passively hoping to get some of the good air from the bird in front.”
They actually flap along the perfect sweet spot. Portugal thinks there’s a very good reason why the ibises do this. Previous studies have shown that flying is hard work.
“When we get exercising, our heart rate gets up to around 180 beats per minute on a good day,” Portugal says. “When birds are flying, it goes up to 400 beats per minute.”
You can read the paper published by the researchers in Nature. (via the kid should see this)Tags: birds science video
by Jason Kottke at May 16, 2019 09:48 PM
Frans Blok has created an incredibly detailed inverse map of the world, where all the current landmasses have been turned into water and oceans, lakes, and rivers converted into land.
Not only the coast lines are reversed in this world. Also, the relief is consistently the opposite of reality. So the deepest parts of the oceans are in the Tibetan and Himalayan troughs in the southern part of the Asian Ocean. And the highest peaks, around eleven kilometer, are found in the Mariana Mountains in the west of the continent Pacifica.
Prints of Blok’s map are available here.
See also Vladislav Gerasimov’s inverted world map.
Tags: Frans Blok maps remix
by Jason Kottke at May 16, 2019 07:23 PM
Today (16th May) is the IT Skeptic's 13th Birthday! This blog went live on this day in 2006.
This is blog post 1389.
When I dig back in the archives there is much that is embarrassing, that I'd love to rewrite (or bury).
And much that isn't so relevant any more.
But there are some I'm still pretty pleased with from the deep past.
by skeptic at May 16, 2019 03:33 AM
It’s easy at first to respond to crisis, but this crisis is dragging on and on.
by rachel at May 13, 2019 09:18 PM
Produce! Get results! Make money! Make friends! Make changes! Or you will die of despair.
by rachel at May 09, 2019 01:14 AM
Why, then, did I feel so bitter? Partly because bitter was my default state of being
by rachel at May 08, 2019 01:13 AM
The Bringing Back the Natives garden tour in the East Bay.
Maidenhair and blue-eyed grass. Some of the gardens tumbled down the sides of canyons, but our favorite was this, around a cottage on a flat block. Goals.
Manzanitas, poppies and sages. It was so kind of the gardeners to welcome us into their earthly paradise.
by rachel at May 06, 2019 01:16 AM
…if we’re willing, we can pick out any number of statements from any number of books and find them comforting.
by rachel at April 24, 2019 01:11 AM
California is just a made-up word, like Rivendell, Narnia or Oz.
by rachel at April 24, 2019 01:10 AM
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by Penelope Trunk at April 22, 2019 04:19 AM
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