Rants & Ramblings

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

links

aug
10
2012

The Mystery of 221B Baker Street | Design Decoded | Smithsonian Magazine

The mystery of 221B Baker Street is not one of secret passages or hidden symbols. Rather, it could be described as a sort of existential spatial riddle: how can a space that is not a space be where it is not? According to Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson lived at 221B Baker Street from 1881 to 1904. But 221B Baker street did not exist in 1881, nor did it exist in 1887 when A Study in Scarlet was published and Baker Street house numbers only extended into the 100s. It was a purely fictional address — emphasis on was. Time marches on, Baker Streets are renumbered, and 221Bs are revealed.”

aug
06
2012

How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking | Wired

Mat Honan writes, “In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. Here’s the story of exactly how my hackers created havoc by exploiting Apple and Amazon security flaws.”

aug
02
2012

How to Boost Your Medal Count in Seven Easy Steps | Grantland

Economists Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier on the economics of Olympic success, including a country’s population, comparative advantage, level of government investment and more.

jul
29
2012

Spanx on Steroids: How Speedo Created the New Record-Breaking Swimsuit | Smithsonian

Jim Morrison writes, “Ultimately, Speedo decided to rebuild not only the suit, but create a ‘racing system’ that it claims combines the suit and the goggles and cap working in synergy to reduce drag and improve performance.”

jul
20
2012

Stabbed By A Stranger, A College Student’s Long Road Back | Common Health | WBUR

Annie Ropeik, a former NPR intern who was randomly stabbed on her way to work two years ago, writes about her ongoing recovery.

jul
16
2012

Census 2011: the changing shape of England and Wales, visualised | Data Store | guardian.co.uk

An interesting way to compare UK Census 2011 results by gender and region, from the British government’s Office of National Statistics. I’m not totally enamored of the interface, but it’s an interesting approach.

may
30
2012

Sizing Up The American Dream | NPR

I worked with April Fehling and Tanya Ballard Brown on an infographic about some of the typical components of the “American dream” — part of our series “American Dreams: Then And Now.” View the Project »

may
08
2012

Not Just a Jump, but Levitation | Lens | NYTimes.com

Kerri MacDonald writes, “Natsumi Hayashi does not call the photos she posts on Yowayowa Camera Woman Diary “jump shots.” A jump, she says, is composed of many movements. And those who go up must come down. No, Yowayowa Camera Woman is not jumping. She’s levitating.”

The frequent fliers who flew too much | Los Angeles Times

Ken Bensinger writes, “Many years after selling lifetime passes for unlimited first-class travel, American Airlines began scrutinizing the costs — and the customers.”

Waves of Grain | Slate

Nadia Arumugam writes, “How did Japan come to be a wheat-obsessed nation that needs gimmicks like the Gopan to eat rice disguised as wheat flour? The story of Japan’s conversion from rice to wheat involves a long, relentless campaign by the best propagandists in the business—the U.S. government, of course.”

The California Taco Trail: 'How Mexican Food Conquered America' | The Salt | NPR

Once upon a time, tacos were a Mexican snack. Now they’re an all-American institution. Gustavo Arellano leads us across Southern California in search of the roots of the American taco.”

apr
22
2012

Who Made That Pie Chart? | NYTimes.com

Hilary Greenbaum and Dana Rubinstein write, “William Playfair — a businessman, engineer and economics writer from Scotland — created the first known pie chart in 1801.”

apr
19
2012

Penguins Rocket Away from Danger Aboard Supercavitating Bubble Jets | Gizmodo

Andrew Tarantola writes, “Turns out, not being eaten by a leopard seal is excellent motivation. It’s what spurred penguins to develop an ingenious method of cutting down their drag—by wrapping themselves in a shawl of bubbles.”

apr
09
2012

Why Are Chocolate Easter Bunnies Hollow? | Food & Think | Smithsonian

Amanda Bensen tracks down the history of the hollow chocolate Easter bunny, while musing, “Isn’t it cruel to disappoint kids, who bite into what looks like solid chocolate and are confronted with emptiness?”

apr
02
2012

You’re Listening To A Music Instrument Made Of Jell-O | Co.Design

Mark Wilson writes, “Noisy Jelly is a project by Raphaël Pluvinage and Marianne Cauvard, two students at L’Ensci Les Ateliers. They experiment with agar agar jellies, placed upon sensors that convert their vibrations into music with the help of arduino processing.” I love this, and I want my own kit.

mar
28
2012

In Japan, 'Sliced-Up Actors' Are A Dying Breed | NPR

Anthony Kuhn reports, “[Seizo Fukumoto] has been killed on screen more than 50,000 times — more than once in some films.”

mar
27
2012

Dot-dash-diss: The gentleman hacker's 1903 lulz | New Scientist

Paul Marks writes, “A century ago, one of the world’s first hackers used Morse code insults to disrupt a public demo of Marconi’s wireless telegraph.”

mar
23
2012

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)

mar
18
2012

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.”

mar
13
2012

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.”

mar
02
2012

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.”

feb
28
2012

Back from Yet Another Globetrotting Adventure, Indiana Jones Checks His Mail and Discovers That His Bid for Tenure Has Been Denied | McSweeney's Internet Tendency

Andy Bryan writes, “Moreover, no one on the committee can identify who or what instilled Dr. Jones with the belief that an archaeologist’s tool kit should consist solely of a bullwhip and a revolver.”

feb
23
2012

How Waiters Read Your Table | WSJ.com

Sarah Nassauer writes, “Called ‘having eyes’ for a table, or ‘feeling’ or ‘reading’ the table by restaurant workers, it’s how the best waiters know what type of service you prefer before you tell them. From fine dining to inexpensive chains, restaurants are working to make service more individualized as the standard script (‘I’m so-and-so and I will be your server tonight’) is sounding dated.”