Bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase 'self-assembly furniture'

July 12th, 2013

If you're quick, $13,999 could buy you a limited edition Quartz Armchair:

Quartz armchair

It is not often that we come across furniture items inspired by mathematical series. However, the Quartz Armchair (the collaborative effort of CTRL ZAK and Davide Barzaghi) changes our perception of furniture with its juxtaposition of a two-dimensional beech wood structure and the three-dimensional, 'volumetric' padding. These padding elements are comprised of uniform shapes of pentagons and hexagons, while being upholstered in natural fibers. As a result, the overall system of the armchair presents itself as a micro-habitat, with the remarkable fusion of natural wood, aluminum and geometric bearing.

[Via jwz]

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'… if you had said something like that to Steve Jobs, he would have taken your head off with a dull knife.'

July 11th, 2013

Former Palm and Apple executive Michael Mace has written a perceptive exploration of the question of Why Google Does the Things it Does:

"What does Google want?"

A favorite pastime among people who watch the tech industry is trying to figure out why Google does things. The […] topic also comes up regularly in conversations with my Silicon Valley friends.

It's a puzzle because Google doesn't seem to respond to the rules and logic used by the rest of the business world. It passes up what look like obvious opportunities, invests heavily in things that look like black holes, and proudly announces product cancellations that the rest of us would view as an embarrassment. […]

But in Google's case, I think its actions do make sense – even the deeply weird stuff like the purchase of Motorola. The issue, I believe, is that Google follows a different set of rules than most other companies. Apple uses "Think Different" as its slogan, but in many ways Google is the company that truly thinks differently. It's not just marching to a different drummer; sometimes I think it hears an entirely different orchestra. […]

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If your suffering leads to our suffering, you may be liable for damages.

July 11th, 2013

Terms And Conditions May Apply:

6) In Exchange for These Services

a. In exchange for visiting this website, you have agreed to publish a post stating that you have visited this website on Facebook. Failure to do so may result in legal action.

b. Furthermore, and with the same applicable penalties, you have also agreed to watch the film "Terms and Conditions May Apply", in any or all of the following mediums: Theatrical, VOD, SVOD, DVD, airplane, cruise ship, hotel, or building wall.

Clause 6a. will in future be known as the Jay-Z clause.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Numbers don't lie

July 7th, 2013

Statistic of the day:

Parachuting for charity: is it worth the money? A 5-year audit of parachute injuries in Tayside and the cost to the NHS.

Authors Lee CT, et al.

Injury. 1999 May;30(4):283-7.

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Perth Royal Infirmary, Scotland, UK.


All parachute injuries from two local parachute centres over a 5-year period were analysed. Of 174 patients with injuries of varying severity, 94% were first-time charity-parachutists. The injury rate in charity-parachutists was 11% at an average cost of 3751 Pounds per casualty. Sixty-three percent of casualties who were charity-parachutists required hospital admission, representing a serious injury rate of 7%, at an average cost of 5781 Pounds per patient. The amount raised per person for charity was 30 Pounds. Each pound raised for charity cost the NHS 13.75 Pounds in return. Parachuting for charity costs more money than it raises, carries a high risk of serious personal injury and places a significant burden on health resources.

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

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Pretty pictures

July 7th, 2013

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2,500 tons of awesome

July 6th, 2013

Every time I watch Trailer #3 for Pacific Rim I end up with a big, goofy grin on my face.

What can I say? There's just something about that scene towards the end of the trailer where a giant robot strides purposefully down a city street, dragging behind it a large ship that it plans to use as a club in order to knock seven bells out of the giant monster approaching from the other end of the street just gets me every time.

I don't for a single moment imagine that Pacific Rim is going to be nominated for any Oscars for acting, or for the screenplay, or even for Guillermo del Toro's direction. I do firmly believe that Pacific Rim is going to provide more fun per minute spent in the cinema than anything else I see this summer.1

  1. Elysium might come close, but I suspect that'll be a different, more grim and depressing sort of fun as we watch the 1% of the 1% employ as much force as they can buy in order to keep everyone else out of the ultimate gated community.

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'The problem is mass media doesn't have time for small stories'

July 3rd, 2013

David Hepworth says that when it comes to journalism the genius is in the details:

I met a bloke about five years ago who was a TV producer with an interest in music. He said something which made an impression. "All the macro stuff's done. The future is micro, if only you could find a way to pay for it."

There were a couple of moments in last night's Quiet Word evening […] when I saw what he meant. […]

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Curta Calculators

July 3rd, 2013

Fact of the day: the world's first pocket calculator was designed by a concentration camp inmate.

Curt Herzstark's fate seemed to be sealed in 1943 when the Nazis sent him to Buchenwald concentration camp. But then Herzstark, the son of a Jewish industrialist, received the unexpected opportunity to become an Aryan.

"Look, Herzstark," one of the camp commandants said to him, "we know that you are working on a calculating machine. We will permit you to make drawings. If the thing is worth its salt, we'll give it to the Führer after the final victory. He'll certainly make you an Aryan for that."

The engineer had made a pact with the devil. Night after night, after daily forced labor in the camp, Herzstark made detailed design plans for the world's smallest mechanical calculating machine. He was given special rations as motivation, and he eventually survived the concentration camp. […]

I'd seen a CURTA Calculator before, but I didn't know the story behind it.

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Rocks and Hard Places

June 30th, 2013

Airborne: Rocks and Hard Places from Luc Busquin. Epic is the word.

Sierra Madre Oriental, near Monterrey, Mexico

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Back to front

June 29th, 2013

Women use compact mirrors in packed crowd to catch sight of the queen in London, June 1966. I love the range of expressions at play across the faces of the women as they peer and squint at their mirror.

Presumably the modern equivalent would involve their hoisting a mobile phone above the crowd.1

[Via swissmiss]

  1. Of course, it's inherently less challenging to capture an image in those circumstances when using a smartphone, what with your getting to face forward while you're doing it. Not to mention getting to record the whole thing for review and editing later.

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Are we having fun yet?

June 26th, 2013

John Lanchester has written yet another piece on the ongoing banking crisis, this time on The Biggest Scandal of All. The essay is mostly about the mis-selling of Payment Protection Insurance and what that scandal reveals about how the big banks think of their customers, but along the way Lanchester reminds us of just how badly the banking sector has behaved recently:

[…] The first of the big British banks to be publicly busted was Standard Chartered […] In August 2012, the New York State Department of Financial Services […] accused the bank of running a scheme to deal, illegally under US law, with the Iranian government. The regulator said that the bank had been operating the scheme/scam for a decade and had used it to hide more than $250 billion in deals. The bank's response was unequivocal: 'Standard Chartered strongly rejects the position and portrayal of facts made by the New York State Department of Financial Services.' It turned out that, once translated out of bank-speak, this meant 'we did it.' In September the bank paid $340 million to the DFS in settlement, then in December another $227 million to the DoJ and $100 million to the US Federal Reserve, and accepted a 'deferred prosecution arrangement' in which the authorities said they wouldn't prosecute the bank if it abided by the conditions made in the settlement agreements.

Standard Chartered had odd body language through all this. Rather than looking guilty, they behaved as if they were severely pissed off. 'The settlements,' they said, 'are the product of an extensive internal investigation that led the bank voluntarily to report its findings concerning past sanctions compliance to these US authorities, and nearly three years of intensive co-operation with regulators and prosecutors.' They also said that the US Treasury had found that only $133 million in deals between 2001 and 2007 were in violation of sanctions. But if they only did $133 million in deals, how come they were willing to pay $667 million, two-thirds of a billion dollars, in fines? Was there a subtext here, a notion that these were American laws, expressing an American preoccupation with the Axis of Evil, and that for a British bank to have violated them was, how to put it, not quite so serious as all that? On 5 March this year, the chairman of the bank, Sir John Peace, said the following clunky thing: 'We had no wilful act to avoid sanctions; you know, mistakes are made – clerical errors – and we talked about, last year, a number of transactions which clearly were clerical errors or mistakes that were made.' This made the regulators furious, and in Sir John's next statement on the subject, 16 days later, he said that he and the bank retracted 'the comment I made as both legally and factually incorrect. To be clear, Standard Chartered unequivocally acknowledges and accepts responsibility, on behalf of the bank and its employees, for past knowing and wilful criminal conduct in violating US economic sanctions, laws and regulations.' This was described in the FT as 'the most abject apology that City pundits can remember hearing from a banker in recent times', and their story reporting it contained a link to the Clash playing 'I fought the law.' The DoJ made it clear that without the retraction, the bank would have been prosecuted. Standard Chartered's behaviour reminded me of the defining moment from the great sitcom Arrested Development, where the family patriarch, played by Jeffrey Tambor, explains to his son why he is facing prison: 'There's a good chance that I may have committed some [pause] light [pause] treason.'

The entire essay is, as you may have gathered, well worth a read.

(A couple of generations from now historians are going to be writing books wondering why the streets of the western world weren't lined with the corpses of bank executives hanging from lamp posts. With any luck the answer will be that they were too busy serving long jail sentences. I'm not going to hold my breath.)

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Hot Corners

June 25th, 2013

I really wish I'd known about this hint for Mac OS X users about five years ago: I shudder to think now much time I've wasted over the years backing out of accidentally triggered trips to Mission Control.

[Anyone …] who uses Hot Corners (which OS X refers to interchangeably as Active Screen Corners) triggers those mouse-controlled shortcuts accidentally sometimes. The solution is this: When you're choosing a Hot Corner setting from one of the drop-down menus, hold down your preferred modifier key or keys. You'll see the options change from, say, Mission Control to Option Mission Control" instead.

From then on, your corner will only work when you're also holding down the modifier key(s) you specified. Now, trips to the Apple menu won't trigger your Hot Corner shortcut – unless you're pressing your selected modifier key, too.

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Exploding Actresses

June 25th, 2013

I defy you not to laugh out loud at least once during Exploding Actresses 02:

As MetaFilter commenter MrVisible observed:

I have the sneaking suspicion I've just stumbled on yet another obscure fetish…
posted by MrVisible at 3:55 AM on June 25


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Icelandic lava tubes

June 23rd, 2013

Photographs of Icelandic lava tubes, looking like the setting for a particularly gloopy science fiction/horror film.

Raufarholshellir lava tube cave

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Monsters University: the Aftermath

June 23rd, 2013

Kieran Healy gives us an academic's take on Monsters University (plus a plot for the inevitable third movie):

Monsters University, the prequel to Monsters, Inc, opened this weekend. I brought the kids to see it. As a faculty member at what is generally thought of as America's most monstrous university, I was naturally interested in seeing how higher education worked in Monstropolis. What sort of pedagogical techniques are in vogue there? Is the flipped classroom all the rage? What's the structure of the curriculum? These are natural questions to ask of a children's movie about imaginary creatures. Do I have to say there will be spoilers? Of course there will be spoilers. […] As it turned out, while my initial focus was on aspects of everyday campus life at MU, my considered reaction is that, as an institution, Monsters University is doomed. […]

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Inter-species communication

June 22nd, 2013

Girl meets manatee at Seaworld, Orlando:

Greetings, Earthling

[Via fucktum, via FFFFOUND!]

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The Sorcerer's Apprentice

June 22nd, 2013

For some reason I find this wonky electrical pylon immensely appealing:

Artists have reimagined a power pylon as an electrified dancing silhouette for a summer exhibition in Germany's Ruhr region. Through an optical illusion the art work "Zauberlehrling" (sorcerer's apprentice), by the art collective Inges Idee, seems to dance as the viewer approaches.


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Evolution of Get Lucky

June 16th, 2013

I've been seeing links to Evolution of Get Lucky pop up all over the place for days now, but not being a big fan of the track1 I hadn't followed them. I really should have: this is fantastic:

For the record, I give the 40s, 70s and (especially) the 80s versions very high marks.

  1. I like Daft Punk just fine, it's just that this one track didn't grab me.

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June 16th, 2013

Alex Hern reckons that #guardiancoffee is the future:

Journalism is dead. Come on, we all know it. The only problem is that it's also kinda useful.

[Via Martin Belam]

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Three Beards

June 16th, 2013

Poet Donald Hall shares the story of his Three Beards:


In my life I have grown three beards, covering many of my adult faces. My present hairiness is monumental, and I intend to carry it into the grave. (I must avoid chemotherapy.) A woman has instigated each beard, the original bush requested by my first wife, Kirby. Why did she want it? Maybe she was tired of the same old face. Or maybe she thought a beard would be raffish; I did. In the fifties, no one wore beards. In Eisenhower's day, as in the time of the Founding Fathers, all chins were smooth, while during the Civil War beards were as common as sepsis. Both my New Hampshire great-grandfathers wore facial hair, the Copperhead who fought in the war and the sheep farmer too old for combat. By the time I was sentient, in the nineteen-thirties, only my eccentric cousin Freeman was bearded, and even he shaved once a summer. Every September he endured a fortnight of scratchiness. […]

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