Rants & Ramblings

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

feb
16
2012

At Work in Syria, Times Correspondent Dies | NYTimes.com

Rick Gladstone writes, “Anthony Shadid, a gifted foreign correspondent whose graceful dispatches for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Associated Press covered nearly two decades of Middle East conflict and turmoil, died, apparently of an asthma attack, on Thursday while on a reporting assignment in Syria.” What a tremendous loss. The Post has a collection of some of his Pulitzer-winning work.

feb
08
2012

Who Pinched My Ride? | OutsideOnline.com

When thieves stole his beloved ­commuter bike on a busy street in broad daylight, Patrick Symmes snapped — and set out on a cross-­country plunge into the heart of ­America’s bike-crime underbelly.”

My Dinner With Clay Shirky, and What I Learned About Friendship | Media Decoder | NYTimes.com

David Carr on online / offline interactions and relationships. “As it turns out, Mr. Shirky became very good at bread eating at a young age, so his mother decided that he should also be good at bread making. We all chewed on the bread as Mr. Shirky told the story of learning how to make bread as a 10-year-old. Now, he could have told that story in a blog post or in an e-mail chain, but it became a very different story because we were tasting what he talked about. The connection in an online conversation may seem real and intimate, but you never get to taste the bread. To people who lead a less-than-wired existence, that may seem like a bit of a ‘duh,’ but I spend so much interacting with people on the Web that I have become a little socially deficient.”

jan
27
2012

Farewell To An Unlikely Hero: Why 'Chuck' Packed Such A Potent Punch | Monkey See | NPR

Linda Holmes writes, “Against overwhelming odds and in spite of eternally low ratings, Chuck’s life and death speaks in surprisingly potent ways to how television is changing. More than anything, Chuck is a story about the rise of the fan … And Chuck fans, in their businesslike enthusiasm, sold themselves as a product.”

jan
20
2012

Watching Them Watching Me | Modern Love | NYTimes.com

Dean E. Murphy writes, “The death of a spouse rewrites the rules of a family in ways I never could have imagined.” Warning: Have Kleenex at the ready.

jan
07
2012

What Does Unesco Recognition Mean, Exactly? | NYTimes.com

Steven Erlanger writes, “Independence Hall is a Unesco site, but not the White House. The Grand Canyon, yes. Niagara Falls, no. Inside the odd politics and big business of World Heritage sites.”

jan
04
2012

Washington’s 40 most essential eats | Going Out Gurus | The Washington Post

In this week’s Weekend section, we fully devoted ourselves to the one resolution we want to stick to: to eat every last glorious thing this city has to offer. To that end, we spent months eliciting reader help in pointing us to Washington’s most necessary eats, the dishes no local should go without consuming at least once (and sometimes, at least once a week).”

jan
03
2012

StreetView Stereographic

Explore Google StreetView via stereographic images. Both awesome and mildly nauseating. Click the “+” sign in the upper left to manipulate the code that produces the images.

dec
30
2011

Get Them to the Debate on Time: Reporters’ Tips | Practical Traveler | NYTimes.com

Following the presidential candidates requires a journalist to be the most savvy of travelers.”

dec
29
2011

'It’s A Wonderful Life' | Scenic Routes | The AV Club

Mike D’Angelo muses about how very dark “It’s a Wonderful Life” gets at its hero’s lowest moments. “[T]his venerable holiday classic isn’t as heartwarming and life-affirming as its joyous ending insists, but rather one of the grimmest, most despairing portraits of middle-class compromise ever produced by Hollywood.”

dec
28
2011

Apple's Hottest New Product Can Be Thrown in the Wash | WSJ.com

Jessica E. Vascallaro and Ian Sherr write, “When thousands of fans line up for Apple Inc.’s opening of its Grand Central Terminal store … many won’t be queuing to ogle iPads. They’ll be there for the T-shirts. Since Apple opened its first stores in 2001, it has handed out tees sporting the new store’s name to the first 1,000 or so people through the door.” I have one from the Pentagon City store opening.

dec
18
2011

The Sketchbook of Susan Kare, the Artist Who Gave Computing a Human Face | NeuroTribes

A look at Susan Kare’s early history with Apple, including some of her gridpaper sketches for the original Mac OS iconography.

I’m starting to think Lego is evil | Dan Sinker

Dan Sinker laments the current state of the Lego product line, dominated by movie tie-in model kits. “The reality is that the unisex, open-ended, building and imaginative creation sets that my peers normally associate with Lego are gone.”

dec
15
2011

Long-Term Unemployment: How Do You Compare? | NPR

We’re running a series about the long-term unemployed and underemployed this week, based on an NPR / Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Today, we rolled out an interactive that allows users to compare themselves against poll respondents on certain questions. On the geeky tech side, I put this together entirely with HTML/CSS/jQuery (look, Ma, no Flash!). Took a little longer than Flash would have, but it was a good learning exercise. (Just forgive my horrible jumble of code.)

dec
12
2011

A Not-So-Straight Story | Opinionator | NYTimes.com

Frank Jacobs writes, “The American-Canadian border, famously said to run straight across the 49th parallel for hundreds of miles, is neither straight nor along the 49th parallel.”

On Composing for Kermit the Frog | NYTimes.com

Frogs can sing, penguins can’t and other lessons that Bret McKenzie, of the musical-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, learned while writing music for the Muppets.” I highly recommend the video that accompanies this story, in which Bret and Kermit perform “Life’s a Happy Song” from the new Muppets movie.

dec
10
2011

Primary Calendar Shake-Up | WSJ.com

With conventional wisdom pressuring candidates to score victories on early-voting states, Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida and South Carolina have moved their caucuses and primaries earlier in recent election cycles. See how recent presidential primary calendars compare.”

Vowels Control Your Brain | Krulwich Wonders… | NPR

Robert Krulwich writes, “When comparing words across language groups, says Stanford linguistics professor Dan Jurafsky, a curious pattern shows up: Words with front vowels (“I” and “E”) tend to represent small, thin, light things. Back vowels (“O” “U” and some “A”s ) show up in fat, heavy things.”

dec
09
2011

What Countries Are Doing To Tackle Climate Change | NPR

Many top emitters have set their own goals, but it’s not always clear how they can meet them.” Worked with Andrew Prince on this chart, which accompanies our coverage of the U.N. climate summit in South Africa. Nothing particularly challenging technically about how this one’s set up — just HTML / CSS — but I was happy with how it came out.

dec
07
2011

Can Eurozone Countries Actually Follow Their Own Rules This Time? | Planet Money | NPR

When the euro was set up in the late 1990s, the Stability and Growth Pact clearly spelled out limits for deficits and debt. But nearly everyone broke those rules, including France and Germany. Now that European leaders are trying to create new rules, the question is — how will they enforce them?” Simple HTML tables, with tabs to flip between. I think Jess Jiang’s shading idea worked really well.

How Twitter's Trending Algorithm Picks Its Topics | NPR

Laura Sydell reports, “Sometimes a topic that seems hot, like Occupy Wall Street, doesn’t appear on trending lists, leading some activists to accuse Twitter of censorship. But the secret algorithmic formula prefers stories of the moment to enduring hashtags, so it ignores topics that are popular over a long period of time.” I worked on the chart that accompanies this story. Flot graphing library for jQuery again.

dec
05
2011

Top 10 reasons why Darth Vader was an amazing project manager | GeekWire

Brandon Koeller writes, “From a certain perspective his mass murder, brutal oppression, and frequent deception to serve his own ends makes him seem like a pretty bad guy. But if you look past all that to his action, you will find a very capable and effective project manager.”

dec
02
2011

Looking At Unemployment By Age, Education And Duration | Planet Money | NPR

Caitlin Kenney reports, “Unemployment has reached its lowest level since March of 2009, according to this morning’s jobs report.” More fun with Flot jQuery charts.

Truth, Jawlines And The American Way: The Changing Face Of Superman | NPR

Our comics blogger looks at the changing face of the Man of Steel, from his original smirk through his bad haircuts and flirtation with the ‘80s up to his newest incarnation.”

nov
28
2011

'New York is Not a City of Alleys': A Film Location Scout's Pet Peeves | The Atlantic Cities

Nick Carr, a New York City location scout, explains why ‘Ghostbusters’ captured the city so well and what annoys him the most about certain directors.”

How the U.S. Postal Service Fell Apart | Time

Josh Sanburn on the past and present of the U.S. Postal Service. “Even today, the USPS’s methods to deliver our mail are just as remarkable. Want to send a letter to the Havasupai Indian Reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon? The postal service will take it there by mule. Need to mail a package to the Alaskan wilderness? The USPS can get it there by parachute or snowmobile. (It used sled dogs until 1963.) Have to mail something along Alabama’s Magnolia River? The USPS has boats that travel from dock to dock. It has even sent mail via pneumatic tubes, missiles and hovercraft. And somehow, it’s still just 44 cents to get a letter anywhere (well, 45 cents starting Jan. 22).” (Via Christina)

nov
23
2011

'Brinicle' ice finger of death filmed in Antarctic | BBC News

Ella Davies reports, “A bizarre underwater ‘icicle of death’ is captured on camera for the first time by BBC filmmakers.” Fantastic time-lapse video. (Via @supergraphic)