Rants & Ramblings

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

sep
05
2011

How to Measure a Storm's Fury One Breakfast at a Time | WSJ.com

When a hurricane makes landfall, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency relies on a couple of metrics to assess its destructive power. First, there is the well-known Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. Then there is what he calls the ‘Waffle House Index.’ Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on. Yellow means a limited menu, indicating power from a generator, at best, and low food supplies. Red means the restaurant is closed, a sign of severe damage in the area or unsafe conditions.”

A Hiker’s Plight: How to Help When Water Runs Low | NYTimes.com

Some hikers say that encountering a thirsty stranger can bring a conflict between showing kindness to someone in need and endangering themselves.”

sep
02
2011

U.S. Unemployment: A Historical View | WSJ.com

Track the national unemployment rate since 1948 — the first year in which the government provides data that can reliably be compared with the current rate. Numbers are seasonally adjusted.” Nice heatmap / timeline treatment.

aug
31
2011

Falser Words Were Never Spoken | NYTimes.com

Brian Mortan writes, “In a coffee shop not long ago, I saw a mug with an inscription from Henry David Thoreau: ‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.’ At least it said the words were Thoreau’s. But the attribution seemed a bit suspect. Thoreau, after all, was not known for his liberal use of exclamation points.”

aug
29
2011

Twenty Iconic Male Movie Roles In Which Helen Mirren Would Have Ruled | Monkey See | NPR

One of my favorites from this list: “Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood. I just want you to envision her ripping into the last 20 minutes or so of this movie. You’re welcome.”

aug
28
2011

Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor

My new favorite Tumblr. Love it. A good bit of overdone armor, but not a stupid stiletto heel in the bunch.

Ever wonder where the Windows XP default wallpaper came from? | The Next Web

Nancy Messieh writes, “The man behind the camera is American photographer Charles O’Rear … Bliss, as it turns out, is in California. In Sonoma County to be exact. The photo was taken in 1996, years before Windows XP launched, and before the area was converted into a vineyard.”

aug
25
2011

Don’t Just See, Observe: What Sherlock Holmes Can Teach Us About Mindful Decisions | Scientific American

Maria Konnikova writes, “Every day, countless items, some glanced, or heard, or felt, or smelled only briefly — perhaps without ever registering in our consciousness–affect our minds and play into our decisions. But for the most part, we don’t pay attention; and we fail to realize what it is that is guiding us at any given moment — or fail to note something that would have made a crucial difference to our decision calculus.” (Via brainpicker)

Library's “Living Books” Program Will Loan Human Experts | GOOD

Realizing that bound volumes are far from the only source of knowledge, librarians in Surrey[, British Columbia] will also lend out ‘living books’ — in other words, people. Staff will maintain a list of local residents who have volunteered to share their knowledge of any topic, and other library patrons can make appointments for 30-45-minute conversations.”

The Secrets Hidden Inside Apple's Most Famous Icons | The Atlantic

Nicholas Jackson writes, “The virtual Easter egg has been around for more than three decades now. Coined — as far as anyone can tell — by Atari’s Adventure, which was released in 1979, the virtual Easter egg is a hidden message or in-joke built into a computer program, icon, or video game. Apple has been playing along since the very beginning, building small Easter eggs into many of their most famous icons.”

aug
24
2011

At age 74, will you look as good as Ernestine Shepherd, the oldest competitive female bodybuilder? | The Washington Post

Unlikely … but this is a good story anyway. “Over the past 18 years, Shepherd has completed nine marathons, won two bodybuilding contests. She was listed in the 2010 and 2011 Guinness World Records as the oldest competitive female bodybuilder in the world.”

The Story of Dick Cheney's Heart | WSJ.com

The former vice president opens up about his coronary artery disease, and explains how the march of American medicine saved his life.”

Overdone | Slate Magazine

Farhad Manjoo asks, “Why are restaurant websites so horrifically bad?”

Children With Autism, Connecting via Transit | NYTimes.com

Christine Haughney reports, “Museum officials are using the obsession for trains and buses among children with autism to try to teach them how to connect with other people — and the world.”

aug
22
2011

Rick Perry's Scientific Campaign Method | The Caucus | NYTimes.com

A conversation with the author Sasha Issenberg about how the Texas governor’s campaigns have been shaped by rigorous social science testing.” Really interesting.

aug
21
2011

A Campground Grows in Brooklyn, Bringing a New York Edge to Roughing It | WSJ.com

Barry Newman reports on a National Park Service-administered campground at Floyd Bennet Field, a former airport near Jamaica Bay, that now hosts “41 [camp] sites in the bushes between runways, and six on the tarmac for recreational vehicles.” The new campground is part of Gateway National Recreation Area.

Fauxgo

Fun Tumblr blog collecting logos designed for fictional companies in television / film. (Via Swiss Miss)

aug
18
2011

Independent bookstores add a new chapter | The Washington Post

Neely Tucker reports, “The small, independently owned bookstore is staging a modest rebirth in the midst of a bone-killing economy.” Filed under #thingsthatmakemehappy. I still have yet to visit the One More Page bookstore mentioned in the story, though I’ve followed them on Twitter for months. Must make that happen (because, seriously — books, wine and chocolate?).

aug
17
2011

Comedy Podcast Inside News Corp. Feasts on a Scandal | NYTimes.com

J. David Goodman reports on one of my favorite podcasts, “The Bugle,” which features British comedians John Oliver (of The Daily Show) and Andy Zaltzman. Their podcast is hosted by The Times of London (a News Corp. property) and has mined the News Corp. / News of the World scandal for many a laugh.

The Man Who Got Us to 'Like' Everything | WSJ.com

Geoffrey A. Fowler reports, “A product designer for Facebook Inc. since 2005, [Soleio] Cuervo is part of the team that introduced the thumbs-up Like button to the site. Now Like is the main signal of approval on the world’s most popular social network and has spread to more than 2.5 million other websites.”

aug
16
2011

The Social Economics of a Facebook Birthday | Opinionator | NYTimes.com

Virginia Heffernan on “why the social network is the best thing that’s ever happened to birthdays.” Personally, while the wave of birthday greetings is nice, I find it overwhelming, which is why I turned my birthday off on Facebook this year. The day was mostly under the radar, with a few greetings from family and close friends — and I was quite happy with that.

The White Mouse | Obit of the Day

Returning to France, [Nancy] Wake helped organize Resistance groups and using her London contacts supplied them with weapons. Wake led raids of German weapons caches, blew up bridges, and derailed trains. She even killed a man bare-handed. ‘She is the most feminine woman I know until the fighting starts — then she is like five men,’ said one member of the French Resistance. She was so difficult to catch that the Gestapo referred to her as ‘The White Mouse.’” I know nothing of this woman beyond the obituary, but I’d like to know more. What an amazing story.

aug
15
2011

Grizzlies Return, With Strings Attached | NYTimes.com

Jim Robbins reports, “Along the Rocky Mountain Front, the grizzly bear population has been thriving, and expanding its range to human habitats.”

Iconic images illuminate a life | The Washington Post

An 18-year-old Mike Mitchell was at the Beatles’ first U.S. concert, snapping pictures with his 35mm Nikon with no flash. Those photos, which recently sold at auction, show a love of light and shadow that is reflected in his later work.” This series of concert photos was shot in 1964, but something about it — the shadow/light, or maybe the way certain shots are composed? — feels very modern.

aug
11
2011

The Many Failures and Few Successes of Zany Iceberg Towing Schemes | The Atlantic

I had no idea this was a thing. Alexis Madrigal writes, “Every few years for the past couple centuries, even before the large-scale cultivation of marijuana, this idea occurs to someone: What if we towed an iceberg from the poles, where there are no people, to some dry, populous place and then melted it into freshwater?

aug
08
2011

Time With A Newborn: Maternity Leave Policies Around The World | NPR

Sweden and Norway have among the best parental leave in the world — more than a year paid for the mother and father combined. Contrast that with Tunisia, which only gives women 30 days to recover from childbirth. And the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate that parents of newborns get paid leave. See how generous each country is.” Full Story

How Star Trek artists imagined the iPad … 23 years ago | Ars Technica

Chris Foresman writes, “One interesting characteristic of Star Trek: The Next Generation — one that separated it from the original series and most of the early films — was its widespread use of smooth, flat, touch-based control panels throughout the Enterprise-D. This touch interface was also used for numerous portable devices known as PADDs, or Personal Access Display Devices. These mobile computing terminals bear a striking resemblance to Apple’s iPad — a mobile computing device largely defined by its smooth, flat touchscreen interface.”

Why S. & P.’s Ratings Are Substandard and Porous | Five Thirty Eight | NYTimes.com

Interesting statistical analysis from Nate Silver about S&P’s recent track record.

aug
07
2011

Friendly Workplace Linked to Longer Life | NYTimes.com

Anahad O’Connor reports, “Over all, people who believed they had little or no emotional support in the workplace were 2.4 times as likely to die during the course of the study compared with the workers who developed stronger bonds with their peers in other cubicles.”

aug
04
2011

10 questions to help you write better headlines | Poynter

Useful tips from Matt Thompson.

aug
03
2011

The Smithsonian Life List: 43 Places to See Before You Die | Smithsonian Magazine

From wonders of the world to thrills for adventure seekers, we’ve compiled a list of sites that any true world traveler cannot miss.” I’ve only been to four: Grand Canyon, Uffizi, Venice and White Sands. Must get cracking! :)

How to Build a Newsroom Time Machine | Journoterrorist

The staff of Florida Atlantic University’s student paper produces its last summer issue using pre-computer tech. (Via Rachel)

jul
20
2011

Americanisms: 50 of your most noted examples | BBC News Magazine

The Magazine’s recent piece on Americanisms entering the language in the UK prompted thousands of you to e-mail examples.” Some of these pet peeves are just funny, others are just bad grammar.

The Fresh Air Interview: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings | NPR

Great interview / in-studio performance with two of my favorite folk singers. “Welch and Rawlings perform an in-studio concert featuring several songs from The Harrow and the Harvest, and talk about many of the lyrics they’ve written over the years.”

jul
19
2011

A real-time, geotagged Flickr map? Here’s how. | 10,000 Words

This is ridiculously, embarrassingly easy. Awesome. “When reporters are in the field with their smartphones and they have a story to tell where both photo and location are vital, a stream of Flickr photos imported into a Google Map will do the trick.”