March 4th, 2012
One obstacle the organisers of this year's London Olympic Games haven't had to face (as far as we know) is having to clear up airplane graveyards so that tourists can come and watch the games:
Getting Brazil's overcrowded airports ready to play host to soccer's 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games has run into an unexpected obstacle: airplane cemeteries on the tarmac.
At airfields from the muggy Amazon to bustling São Paulo, weather-stained aircraft missing doors, engines and even the odd nose cone rust away in plain sight. The failed fleet includes everything from weather-beaten Boeing 737s in Rio de Janeiro to a World War II-era Douglas C-47 cargo prop idled in the Amazonian outpost of Tabatinga. It has been sitting there for 16 years. [...]
[Via The Morning News]
March 4th, 2012
[Via swiss miss]
March 4th, 2012
Tristan Louis has a confession to make:
I killed the internet.
It wasn't some thing I had planned but it was the net result of my actions. And I'm going to explain how it happened. [...]
[Via James Fallows]
February 29th, 2012
Bernd Brunner on the long-standing, unstable truce between Istanbul's human population and the city's one hundred thousand stray dogs:
Although dogs formed part of a romantic cityscape, caricatures from the Ottoman period depict them as threats to be stopped, along with cholera, crime, and women in European clothing. Again and again, attempts were made to catch them and remove them from the city. In the late 19th century, Sultan Abdülaziz decreed that the dogs should be rounded up and deported to Hayirsiz, an island of barren, steep cliffs in the Marmara Sea. Sivriada, a tiny island to which Byzantine rulers once banned criminals, made headlines in 1911 when the governor of Istanbul released tens of thousands of dogs there. A yellowed postcard shows hundreds of dogs on the beach; their voices could be heard even at great distances. However, an earthquake that occurred shortly thereafter was taken as a sign of God's displeasure, and the dogs were brought back.
February 28th, 2012
I've seen any number of links over the last few days to The Star Wars Saga: Suggested Viewing Order but only got round to reading it today.
I've got to admit, his argument makes a hell of a lot of sense.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
If you're thinking of introducing a youngling to the Star Wars saga, you owe it to yourself – and to them – to consider what this man says.
Don't let your loved ones' first memories of Star Wars be sullied by the presence of Jar-Jar Binks. Or midichlorians. Or trade disputes. Or Jake Lloyd.
[Via The Tao of Mac]
February 28th, 2012
I spent much more time than I'd intended this evening playing with Old Maps Online, which looks to be another project from the creators of the A Vision of Britain through Time site I linked to a couple of years ago.
The initial map and search interface are more powerful on the new site, but as viewing a particular map usually links out to the site actually holding the map1 the user experience from that point on can be confusing as different sites use somewhat different styles of navigation. However, the biggest and best feature of the new site is that it is global in scope.2
I know it's not the same tactile experience as leafing through an old atlas, but I'll take the convenience, flexibility and scope of the electronic version every time. Definitely a site I'll be exploring a lot.
[Via Flowing Data]
- In many of the cases I looked at, this turns out to be the Vision of Britain site. ↩
- That said, as it turned out I spent most of my time exploring old maps in my area. I've always known that my corner of town was all fields not just in 1832, but only five years before I was born, but it's still fascinating to see graphical evidence of just how recently the town of North Shields expanded inland as it turned into a dormitory suburb of Newcastle. ↩
February 27th, 2012
Whatever his employers are paying Dr. Kaufman to mark essays like this, it's not enough:
First, my professor told me to write a paragraph like a hamburger. Can you believe that? That is not a rhetorical question: my college professor told me that the best paragraphs are structured like a hamburger. But I must follow my muse, Montaigne, and insist that I am not interesting in stabilizing my subject, however slight, in a structure of such déclassé fare, or that if I were, mine would tower above that base alternative in direct proportion to the extent of my genius. My paragraphs will, instead, inform my audience about the manner of their composition, paying special attention not to structure or transitions but to the brilliance that I mustered to tame into interest material others might find trite.
There's more – so much more – and it Just Keeps Getting Better.
February 24th, 2012
"Euthanasia Coaster" is a hypothetic euthanasia machine in the form of a roller coaster, engineered to humanely – with elegance and euphoria – take the life of a human being. Riding the coaster's track, the rider is subjected to a series of intensive motion elements that induce various unique experiences: from euphoria to thrill, and from tunnel vision to loss of consciousness, and, eventually, death. Thanks to the marriage of the advanced cross-disciplinary research in space medicine, mechanical engineering, material technologies and, of course, gravity, the fatal journey is made pleasing, elegant and meaningful. [...]
February 22nd, 2012
We watched the Laboratory's receptionist turn on the many educational exhibits that lined the foyer's walls. The receptionist was a tall, thin girl — icy, pale. At her crisp touch, lights twinkled, wheels turned, flasks bubbled, bells rang.
"Magic," declared Miss Pefko.
"I'm sorry to hear a member of the Laboratory family using that brackish, medieval word," said Dr. Breed. "Every one of those exhibits explains itself. They're designed so as not to be mystifying. They're the very antithesis of magic."
"The very what of magic?"
"The exact opposite of magic."
"You couldn't prove it by me."
Dr. Reed looked just a little peeved. "Well," he said, "we don't want to mystify. At least give us credit for that."
Come to that, the rest of jfruh's comment – made in the context of a discussion of the nature of geekiness – is absolutely spot-on, and well worth quoting:
To me, part of the nature of geekiness that I've always liked (and liked in myself, so I suppose I defend it as part of my self-image) is wanting to know how things work. People started using computers in the '70s and '80s not because of what they could do (they really couldn't do much), but to see how they worked, and to see what they (the hobbyists) could make them do.
The attitude that "Computers are geeky, iPhones are computers, I love my iPhone, therefore I'm a geek," when paired with "my iPhone is magic!" strikes me as almost a little cargo-culty. The Franzen quote may have been wrenched out of context, but the fact that you like to play with your iPhone doesn't make you a geek any more than the fact that you like to drive makes you a motorhead (or whatever the term was for people who liked to tinker with their car engines, back when that was a thing).
For me, one of the hardest things to get my head around in the early/mid 1990s as work colleagues/fellow students/friends and relatives started using first PCs and then the internet in their day to day lives was that they didn't particularly want to know why the computer did things the way it did (or why it didn't do things the way they'd thought it would.) They just wanted to know what button to press to get to the next step, and didn't much care about why pressing that button got them out of the corner they'd trapped themselves in.
I can let it go now (mostly), but I'm still conscious that I look at this stuff differently to most of the people I deal with.1
- Just don't get me started on people who go to web pages by typing the URL into Bing and clicking on the top result! ↩
February 22nd, 2012
February 21st, 2012
February 20th, 2012
Real Life Goldeneye 64. I've never even played the game but I still found this video hilarious.
I'm reliably informed that there are several in-jokes and references that take it to a higher level if you misspent multiple hours in your youth trying to get Natalya out of there alive.
February 20th, 2012
Adrian Hon would like us to consider his modest proposal:
Imagine you're a new parent at 30 years old and you've just published a bestselling new novel. Under the current system, if you lived to 70 years old and your descendants all had children at the age of 30, the copyright in your book – and thus the proceeds – would provide for your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.
But what, I ask, about your great-great-great-grandchildren? What do they get? [...]
(What they deserve?)
Seriously, it's not a new rebuttal but it's rather nicely done. The satire-blindness exhibited by multiple commenters makes for entertaining, if depressing, reading.
[Via Waxy.org links]
February 19th, 2012
John Naughton's article charging that Graphic designers are ruining the web isn't entirely fair to graphic designers. In fact, to my mind it's a rare example of Naughton being almost completely wrong.
It's only occasionally a case of designers trying to design prettier pages and increasing the size and number of files required to produce their desired look; more often, the root of the problem is the desire of publishers to embed a couple of dozen separate objects on a page, many of them being links to social networking sites or pointers to other parts of the site you're on. And, of course, adverts. Lots of adverts.
As it happens, I was so tired of the Guardian's site cramming the articles I read into less than half of my browser's window and surrounding it with extraneous crap that I read Naughton's article using the wonderful Instapaper Text bookmarklet: much better. The Readability Bookmarklets do a similar job, and with the bonus that a share of your monthly subscription1 can be claimed by the publisher, providing them with at least some income to compensate them for the income they wouldn't have got from the ads you didn't see.2
February 19th, 2012
One more sport I'm perfectly happy never to have tried: volcano-boarding…
British journalist John Kay, chief reporter at The Sun, once summarized his personal M.O. as "If you don't go, you don't know." It's stuck with me ever since and is precisely what's brought me to Cerro Negro – the only place in the world you can do volcano-boarding, our guide said. The sport was created in 2005 by an Australian sand-boarder named Darryn Webb, who first tried mattresses, boogie boards and a mini-bar fridge before settling on the makeshift toboggan. Trips now run daily from the hostel Darryn also founded, called Bigfoot, where just $28 buys you a seat in the back of a flatbed truck, the use of a homemade board, and on this day the upbeat guidance of a man named Anthony, who is squat and muscly and so agile he can pop out of a hatch in our truck's cab, swing his body around as we jounce along some seriously unpaved roads, and land casually in the truck's rollicking bed. He looks like the sort of person who can handle tobogganing down an active volcano, while the 20 of us who will actually undertake the challenge look hot and tired and more like Janes than Tarzans.
February 19th, 2012
My first reaction was that at £25 a time it'll be right at home sharing a bag with the expensive ultralight laptops which inspired the designer to create the original design. On second thoughts, when I contemplate the size of the clunky old1 mains USB adapter I have stashed in my desk drawer at work in case my iPod Touch needs a mid-day charge, I can clearly see the appeal. £25 is a wee bit pricey, though; at £10 it'd be well worth the money.
I hope they sell them by the thousand, so they can go on to expand the range. I especially want to see the compact 3-way adapter that featured in the original video.
[Via, once again, The Null Device]
- How old? I think I may have got it with my first iPod, an iPod Colour 60GB model. Mid/late 2005, maybe? ↩
February 18th, 2012
- A link to Geoff Ryman's short story, The Film-makers of Mars; and,
- An epic comment by It's Raining Florence Henderson alluding to the early negative buzz on the film in a novel way:
We was comin' back from the planet Barsoom… just delivered a bomb. The John Carter bomb. Two hundred and fifty million dollars went into the drink. Disney went down in 12 days. Didn't see the first suit for about a half an hour. Marketing hack. Fresh MBA. You know how you know that when you're in the water, Chief? You tell by looking from the hair product to the PDA. What we didn't know, was our movie had been so underrated, no distress signal had been sent. They didn't even list us as a flop for a month before release. Very first light, Chief, suits come cruisin', so we formed ourselves into tight focus groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like you see in the calendar named "The Battle of Heaven's Gate" and the idea was: suit comes to the nearest man, that man he starts pointin' and hollerin' and deflectin' and sometimes the suit will go away… but sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that suit he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a suit… he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living… until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The ledgers turn red, and despite all the pointin' and hollerin' , they all come in and they… rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred million. I don't know how many suits, maybe a thousand. I know how many dollars, they averaged six hundred thousand an hour. On Thursday morning, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Key grip. I thought he was retired. I reached over to congratulate him. He sobbed, totally under water just like a kinda dead fish. Upended. Well, he'd been vested just that afternoon. Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a venture capitalist saw us. He swung in low and he saw us… he was a young gun, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat Happy Meal toy contract comes down and tries to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened… waitin' for the residuals. I'll never work CGI again. So, Two hundred and fifty million dollars went into production; 316 dollars come out and the suits took the rest. Anyway, we delivered a bomb.
February 18th, 2012
- I predict that we'll see at least one TV advert aping this film's visual style within 3 months. ↩