Rants & Ramblings

random commentary about culture, media, politics, technology and whatnot.


The First Google Maps War | Opinionator | NYTimes.com

Frank Jacobs on “how a simple online map almost caused a violent conflict in Central America.” (Via Alberto Cairo)


As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.

— Marginalia by monks working on illuminated manuscripts (source)


Birthday Stationary


Last month I spent a rare Friday afternoon in the Pyramid Atlantic letterpress studio, printing two sets of stationary as a birthday gift for my mom, along with a set of thank you cards for myself. (I’d originally intended the thank you cards to be holiday cards … and then time got away from me.)

Some shots from the printing:

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I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter | NYTimes.com

By Julia Moskin. “Tales from the ink-stained (and grease-covered) wretches who actually produce most of the words attributed to chefs in cookbooks.”

MREs get a new kick with caffeinated jerky and Zapplesauce | The Washington Post

Christian Davenport writes, “After a decade of war, military food scientists have been hard at work at a little-known research facility outside Boston transforming the field ration — known as the Meal, Ready to Eat, and perhaps the most complained about food in the world — into something not just good-tasting but full of energy-enhancing ingredients.”


Photo of the Day: In Bloom

I love this time of year.

The cherry blossoms (and tulip trees, and all the other trees that bloom this time of year) have popped a bit earlier than expected this year, perhaps due to our unseasonably warm weather. Even though the blossoms’ appearance also signals the start of tourist season, this is still my favorite time of year here in D.C.

This photo was taken at Arlington’s Long Bridge Park, on the north side of Crystal City.


The Science of Cherry Blossoms, Illustrated

I love this video of the Washington Post’s Patterson Clark speed-sketching the phases of cherry blossom blooming.

(If you can’t see the video above, it’s available on washingtonpost.com.)


Twitter analysis gets elections half right | USA Today

Scott Martin quotes Rebecca MacDonald of search analytics firm Attensity: “The fact that people are talking about candidates on Twitter doesn’t necessarily correlate to those people going out and voting.” (Via Derek Willis)

'West Wing' Babies | Vanity Fair

Juli Weiner writes, “Just as ‘All the President’s Men’ made newspapers seem cool—imagine!—and propelled legions of baby-boomers into journalism, so Aaron Sorkin’s ‘The West Wing’ has inspired a new generation with its vision of a Washington brimming with lofty ideals. Six years after the series finale, the Sorkinization of politics is still under way.”

Williamsburg and Jamestown


At the end of January, after a particularly trying week, Rob and I decided to skip town for the weekend, packing up the bikes (the weather was unseasonably warm) and heading down to Williamsburg.

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Penguin Cam

Streaming video by Ustream

The live Penguin Cam at SeaWorld San Diego is my favorite thing ever this week. These awkward little (and not-so-little) guys are so fun to watch.

(Note: I usually watch the feed with the sound off. All the squawking can get a little loud.)

Soup Dumplings in Philly

Philly Chinatown

A few weeks ago, Rob and I drove up to Philadelphia (about 2½ hours away) to celebrate our friend Rachel’s birthday. She wanted to have lunch at Dim Sum Garden, a vaguely divey dumpling eatery under a bridge near Reading Terminal Market known for its soup dumplings (steamed dumplings with meat and broth inside). We’d all heard of soup dumplings, but this was our first chance to actually have the dish. And they were delicious.

Soup dumplings!

CHOW has a good video on where xiao long bao come from and how they’re made.

Tiny Desk Concert: Laura Gibson

Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson of NPR’s All Songs Considered say they got the idea for Tiny Desk Concerts when they went to see singer Laura Gibson perform a few years ago. The patrons at the bar were loud, drowning …

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SND Best of Digital Design 2012

NPR received four nods in this year’s contest:

Congratulations to my colleagues and all the winners!


Japan Earthquake: Before and After | In Focus | The Atlantic

Alan Taylor writes, “In just over two weeks, Japan will be observing the one-year anniversary of the disastrous magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck its east coast in March of 2011. The destruction was unprecedented and the loss of life and property were staggering — more than 15,800 are confirmed dead, with another 3,300 still listed as missing nearly a year later. Photographers documented the many faces of this tragedy and have now returned to give us a look at the difference a year can make, re-shooting places that were photographed during and immediately after the quake. Collected here are 20 of these pairings. They are interactive: Starting with number 2, click the images to view a fading before/after comparison.”

How The Guardian Might Cover 'Three Little Pigs'

Clever new ad campaign from The Guardian (UK):

If you can’t see the video above, it’s available on theguardian.co.uk.

(Via seemingly everyone I follow on Twitter)

Intense rockhopper penguin stare

New Year's in Chicago

For Christmas this year, Rob promised me penguins — and he delivered, booking tickets for Chicago (and Shedd Aquarium) for New Year’s weekend. It was a short but productive trip, in which we were able to catch up with some …

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Elephants and Whales on the London Tube | The Atlantic Cities

Animals on the Underground is an ongoing project that casts the London Underground as a wild menagerie of elusive animals, who disappear in and out the thicket of abstract lines which comprise the map of the Tube.”