Thursday, September 30, 2010

Links for Later

1. Maximilian's Triumphal Procession

2. Secretary Gates on the challenges of the all-volunteer military. Not convincing anyone to sign up with talk like that, I think.

3. Dave's eclectic apartment tour

4. Brief Jeff Sharlet interview, includes a response to the recent New Yorker puff piece on C Street

5. Earth-like exoplanet found capable of supporting life

6. Obama in Rolling Stone

7. Matt Taibbi on the Tea Party: "Narcissism"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Among his brief remarks this past Monday night prior to the Lincoln Center screening of Howl starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg, the poet Lou Asekoff, retired director of the Brooklyn College poetry program recalled how Ginsberg once burst into his office to say, “I just blew the guy who knew a guy who blew a guy who knew the rough-hewn tradesman who as a boy lay all night in Whitman’s
So I knew the guy who blew the guy who...Whitman. And I'm less than six degees away from Kevin Bacon.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not Quite Cabinet

And still no Piblokto Madness bed. Zero History from William Gibson featured Cabinet, the best little fictional boutique hotel/private club in London. RL Magazine has the roundup of some real world near-analogs, ranging from a 10,000 pound a year (including 5,000 pound bar tab) club, a Zaha Hadid designed club, and others. So now, you can meet your very own Hubertus Bigend-analog in luxury & weirdness.

Daniel Domscheit -Berg Leaves WikiLeaks

Wired has the chat logs. Looks like some major meltdown over there.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Links for Later

1. Art Crimes, a link list

2. The negative marginal value of a $50,000 mattress over a $20,000 mattress

3. Mark Suster on Angelgate

4. Man kills himself, leaving behind a 1,904-page suicide note

5. Explosions in space that appear to move faster than the speed of light

6. Nick Sullivan's desk at Esquire

7. Visvim store

Images of the Week, Part II

Images of the human connectome.
House stencil.

Sion Gospel.

Images of the Week

Neutrino image of the Sun, taken through the Earth.

Biedermeier secretary from Colombo Mobili. The world's most awesome piece of furniture. Look at it. It's got colonnades and roundels and marquetry and decorations that were most likely modeled on narwhal tusks. I must possess it.

Rollout of the last space shuttle mission. Click to embiggen. (via cousin Steve)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Harlan Ellison is Dying

But is up and moving about the cabin for as long as possible.


This week, either Michael Arrington caught an elite group of Silicon Valley archangels in the process of colluding to fix prices and terms for early stage investments, or merely crashed a casual discussion and get together by a group of friends at a Bin 38. Either way, a lot of highly active investors who were at the meeting are scrambling to do some damage control.

It's stories like this one that make me thankful I'm doing startups out here in the wilds of the Midwest. The egos are a lot smaller and it's possible to just do the work necessary to build businesses. You know, making things to sell and then selling them.

At any rate, someone has made the inevitable Hitler parody about the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


True Knight

Sir Terry Pratchett mines, smelts, forges and decorates his own knightly sword

Alexander McQueen's Funeral

Alexander McQueen's memorial service was held this week. One of the guests was overheard to say that they wished his muse, Isabella Blow, could have been there. Of course, if she could have been there, she wouldn't have had to be there, as her death was likely one of the factors that led to his.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Hypomanic Entrepreneur

Just how crazy should you be to be a great entrepreneur? The answer, as with so many things, is: a little bit.

If you give him $750,000, he says, you can have a stake in what he believes will be a $1-billion-a-year company.

Interested? Before you answer, consider that the man displays many of the symptoms of a person having what psychologists call a hypomanic episode. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual — the occupation’s bible of mental disorders — these symptoms include grandiosity, an elevated and expansive mood, racing thoughts and little need for sleep.

“Elevated” hardly describes this guy. To keep the pace of his thoughts and conversation at manageable levels, he runs on a track every morning until he literally collapses. He can work 96 hours in a row. He plans to live in his office, crashing in a sleeping bag. He describes anything that distracts him and his future colleagues, even for minutes, as “evil.”

...“It’s about degrees,” says John D. Gartner, a psychologist and author of “The Hypomanic Edge.” “If you’re manic, you think you’re Jesus. If you’re hypomanic, you think you are God’s gift to technology investing.”
This theory of the weak version of some disorder resulting in an improved adaptation under specific circumstances fascinates me. Previously, Robert Sapolsky expounded this theory in relation to religion: that people who are schizotypic (weakly schizophrenic) make great shamans, people who have a touch of temporal lobe epilepsy have visions and become hypergraphic, and those with a touch of OCD make great ritualists and priests. Tyler Cowen and others have talked about how Asperger's neurovariants make great tech geeks. This is another neat example here.

Quote of the Day

To read the newspapers just now is to see Bedlam let loose. Every person in the country of super asinine propensities, everyone who hates social progress and loves deflation, feels that his hour has come, and triumphantly announces how, by refraining from every form of economic activity, we can become prosperous again.


Links for Later

1. iPhone color recognition for the blind

2. Liam Gallagher's clothing line Pretty Green

3. Tavi Gavinson profile

Becoming Green Lantern

An oddly melancholy interview with Ryan Reynolds appears in the forthcoming issue of GQ, in which he describes his motion capture suit as "made of actual woven misery", and which describes his workout system in some detail. I mentioned this article to my personal trainer, who said, "if that's what you really want, there's a lot of work to be done...grilled chicken...tilapia...back to chicken." That's what you eat if you want to be Ryan Reynolds.

His remarkable torso was first developed during rehearsals for Blade: Trinity, the unsatisfying continuation of Wesley Snipes's vampire series. "Everything went so horribly wrong on that set," he remembers, though he still takes some pride in the film's most celebrated linguistic invention ("you cock-juggling thundercunt"). At least Blade: Trinity gave him the body. He worked out for six months beforehand. "It was like a project. I just did everything they told me to."

Right now he has that body again. ­Reynolds is at pains to point out that this isn't his natural, or permanent, way of being, just something he is currently doing for the third time, for Green Lantern, after Blade: Trinity and The Proposal. (Precisely why a New York publishing assistant—his character in The Proposal—should have, or need, this level of muscular definition is unclear, other than that he is the star of a movie that will often find him partially or fully unclothed in Sandra Bullock's company.) "It was a strange sort of sleight-of-hand trick I learned—I could do it again if I needed to and get there faster if I needed to."

On the Green Lantern set, I watch him eat his usual plate of steamed chicken, salmon, broccoli, carrots, and rice. On the kitchen counter of the house he rents in New Orleans is a huge jar of a white powder called Isolyze, primarily whey protein. Wherever he is, he snacks on these orange bars called Zero Impact Pumpkin Supremes—"sort of like a pumpkin made out of cinder block," he quips. It takes his co-star to spell out the full grim reality of his commitment. "If you saw him coming to work at five in the morning, when I could barely open my eyes and he'd been up for two hours in the gym…," says Lively. "If everyone had that discipline, they, too, could have abs of steel."
If you'd rather have his playlist, that's easier. A lot of acoustic guitar-y, happy-sad music, and unsurprisingly, a bunch of his wife's music:

On a whim, I ask to see his most-played list on his iTunes. Top—with 456 plays—is "World Spins Madly On," by the Weepies. The rest of the top ten, all of which have more than 150 plays: Gomez's "See the World," the Be Good Tanyas' "Ootischenia," Magnet's "Duracellia," the Damnwells' "Jesus Could Be Right" and "For My Own Good," and four songs from the National: "Green Gloves," "Start a War," "About Today," and "City Middle." For contrast, I ask him to show me what has had twenty-five plays, a list that includes songs by CocoRosie, the Eels, Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," and three songs by his wife.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hand Dancing

Something cheerful for the weekend. Riverdance power couple Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding (Up and Over It) hand dance to "We No Speak Americano".

(via Coilhouse)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Links for Later

1. Brad "Deling" responds to Todd Henderson with a lecture on relative incomes, expenses and taxation

2. Charles Stross on future shock as a possible source for Tea Party nonsense

3. Review of al Kindi on cryptography

4. Christine O'Donnell dabbled in witchcraft, had a date "on a Satanic altar"--no wonder celibacy looks good by comparison

5. Really good interview with William Gibson on Zero History

6. Pocket notebooks of 20 famous men (via Andrew Sullivan)

7. Does Rwanda make your arm hair grow faster, or are you just more awake?

8. Nietsche reconsidered

9. How many muslims are in al Qaeda?

10. Rush Limbaugh's take on global warming

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Most Important Economic Problems

Yesterday at breakfast, a retired engineering professor asked me what the biggest problem facing my business was: "uncertainty about government policy and taxes" or "uncertainty about business conditions". Like most of the people in the survey graphed above, I've got to say that the problem is slack sales (for our customers--we're actually doing really well, especially considering economic conditions). Healthcare cost increases have, mercifully, begun to stabilize, so that's out of the way, but we need more stimulus.
That is all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Entertaining lunch at a sidewalk cafe in the Short North. A man walked by and asked if I'd like the bag of groceries he was carrying. I said, "no thank you, I'm full."

Links for Later

1. The Untamed Prince

2. Technomads

3. Diary of a returning soldier

4. Freakangels on the difficulty of communicating without temporal anchors

5. Jeffrey Steingarten tries to avoid becoming a coffee nerd

6. YouTube time travel

7. James Franco interviewed

8. Frank Lloyd Wright house up for sale, used as set for Blade Runner, Angel, others

9. Celebrities with unusual features

10. TSA bullying travelers into 'optional' full body scanners

11. Black Hotels (and goldmines) for money laundering (via Felix Salmon)

12. American economic inequality growing

13. "Who's funding these radical Christians?"

14. Adam Smith by Nicholas Phillipson (via marginal revolution)

15. "At the bookstore later in the day, my son stood in front of the Sci Fi section and said, in a very loud voice: 'Mom, this is my new gender.' I bit back 'genre,' which is something I also try to do when I am alone."

16. The shaving cycle of men

17. Why Chesterton doesn't make any sense in his Christian apologetics

18. Spontaneous badassery (via linkmachinego)

19. B vitamins protect against senile dementia, brain shrinkage in early stages

20. Shakespeare's face recreated in 3-D from death mask

The Courts get Two out of Three Right

But that still only adds up to 50%. While judges wisely issued a stay on DADT and dropped a stay on stem cell funding, they still fell down on the big decision: the appeals court ruling to allow the state secrets defense to utterly trump the right to bring suit against the government.

Why is this such a big deal? Andrew Sullivan:

The case yesterday is particularly egregious because it forbade a day in court for torture victims even if only non-classified evidence was used. Think of that for a minute. It shreds any argument that national security is in any way at stake here. It's definitionally not protection of any state secret if all that is relied upon is evidence that is not secret. And so this doctrine has been invoked by Obama not to protect national security but to protect war criminals from the law. There is no other possible interpretation.

The Bush executive is therefore now a part of the American system of government, a system that increasingly bears no resemblance to the constitutional limits allegedly placed upon it, and with a judiciary so co-opted by the executive it came up with this ruling yesterday. Obama, more than anyone, now bears responsibility for that. We had a chance to draw a line. We had a chance to do the right thing. But Obama has vigorously denied us the chance even for minimal accountability for war crimes that smell to heaven.

And this leviathan moves on, its budget never declining, its reach never lessening, its power now emboldened by the knowledge that this republic will never check it, never inspect it, never hold its miscreants responsible for anything, unless they are wretched scapegoats merely following orders from the unassailable above them.

And this means almost certainly that torture will return. The GOP base loves it, as long as it is done against people with dark skin and funny names in places they can look away from. And they know now something they didn't know in 2008. They will always get away with it. Even a liberal Democrat will protect you for ever with a golden shield that creates two classes of people in this country: one above the law - even a law as profound as that against torture - and those outside the government obliged to obey it.

This knowledge tells me one thing. If we are to recover as a nation under law rather under a prince, it will not be through the channels of the two major parties or through any president acceptable to the mainstream of either party. It will require a citizenry so enraged and protective of its core liberties against this security Leviathan that it compels dismantling this machinery and exposing it to the light of day - not recklessly, not abruptly, but by close examination, judicial review, press inquiry, protest. There are legitimate trade-offs between national security and liberty. But the protection of war criminals where no secrets are at stake except the scandal of torture itself is not one of them. Alas, there are few such citizens around. And, most tragic of all, those who say they care about liberty above all - the tea-partiers who invoke the founders - seem only too willing to surrender every liberty for the prize of a security against a threat we cannot even measure, and to bow down before a new king (and probably warrior-queen) rather than elect a new president.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Old School Printing

Interview and video essay with Nick Sambrato of Mama's Sauce letterpress printing business. He displays a surprising nonchalance at the frequency with which printing presses snip off the printers' fingers--less surprising in light of the fact that he's clearly having the time of his life in this business. A finger is a small sacrifice for finding your bliss.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Story of Isaac

Story Of Isaac † † Haunted House MIX by Story of Isaac

A witch house compilation from fr4nk3nst31n

(via Warren Ellis)

Francis Crick

Of the Nobel prize winners I've talked to, some were in the category of "smart people who got lucky" and some were in the category of "people much smarter than the smartest people you've ever met". Francis Crick was one of the latter. He was a big thinker. You got the impression talking to him that if it hadn't been the structure of DNA it would have been some other huge thing. Toward the end of his life, he spent a lot of time thinking about the relationship of consciousness to the underlying biological process. I wish he'd had more time to work on the problem.

Oliver Sacks on Francis Crick

in the New York Review of Books:

It was not until May of 1986 that I met Francis Crick, at a conference in San Diego. There was a big crowd, full of neuroscientists, but when it was time to sit down for dinner, Crick singled me out, seized me by the shoulders, sat me down next to him, and said, “Tell me stories!” I have no memory of what we ate, or anything else about the dinner, only that I told him stories about many of my patients, and that each one set off bursts of hypotheses, theories, suggestions for investigation in his mind. Writing to Crick a few days later, I said that the experience was “a little like sitting next to an intellectual nuclear reactor…. I never had a feeling of such incandescence.
and in an interview by Steve Silberman:

Silberman: A vision researcher I know online, Mark Changizi, told me he had lunch with you at Caltech in 2005, when you were writing the chapter of your book on “Stereo Sue.” He said that you asked him if he considers himself a naturalist. “Although that’s not a term I readily use,” he said to me in email, “I realize that I am indeed a naturalist, as the fundamental premise of my research concerns understanding our biology in the context of the natural evolutionary environment.” But Mark is still not sure what you meant by asking him that question.

Sacks: I don’t think I meant anything quite as lofty as this. What I meant was that although I love general principles, I am no great shakes at extracting them myself. I feel that I’m sort of collecting specimens and observing phenomena. In this way, I’m like Wallace or Bates, but not like Darwin. Darwin of course was a fabulous collector, but his son says that he seemed to be charged with theorizing power, so that everything immediately generated a hypothesis. Crick was also like that.

Silberman: Didn’t Darwin himself say something about how his mind had become a “machine” for generating hypotheses?

Sacks: Yes, yes, exactly. There’s a peculiar passage in Darwin’s autobiography where he says how, when he was young, he took great delight in poetry, and painting, and music. But now, he said, his mind had become a sort of machine for extracting general laws from large collections of facts.

When I met Crick at a neuroscience meeting in 1987, he seized me by the shoulders at dinner, sat me down next to him, and said, “Tell me stories.” In particular, he wanted to hear stories of visual disorders. You probably saw the piece I wrote about Crick in the New York Review of Books. Crick was a theoretician who felt starved of the data that he needed. Some of this data would come from experimental work, but some of it would come from observations like mine, which look at experiments of nature, in a sense. It’s similar with Ramachandran, though he is more active and ingenious at devising experiments.

Quote of the Day

Let me speak plainly. After my long experience, after my patience and forbearance, I have surely the right to protest against the untruth (would that I could apply to it any other word!) that evangelical religion, or any other religion in a violent form, is a wholesome or valuable or desirable adjunct to human life. It divides heart from heart. It sets up a vain, chimerical ideal, in the barren pursuit of which all the tender, indulgent affections, all the genial play of life, all the exquisite pleasures and soft resignations of the body, all that enlarges and calms the soul, are exchanged for what is harsh and void and negative, It encourages a stern and ignorant spirit of condemnation; it throws altogether out of gear the healthy movement of the conscience; it invents virtues which are sterile and cruel; it invents sins which are no sins at all, but which darken the heaven of innocent joy with futile clouds of remorse.

Quote of the Day

Let me speak plainly. After my long experience, after my patience and forbearance, I have surely the right to protest against the untruth (would that I could apply to it any other word!) that evangelical religion, or any other religion in a violent form, is a wholesome or valuable or desirable adjunct to human life. It divides heart from heart. It sets up a vain, chimerical ideal, in the barren pursuit of which all the tender, indulgent affections, all the genial play of life, all the exquisite pleasures and soft resignations of the body, all that enlarges and calms the soul, are exchanged for what is harsh and void and negative, It encourages a stern and ignorant spirit of condemnation; it throws altogether out of gear the healthy movement of the conscience; it invents virtues which are sterile and cruel; it invents sins which are no sins at all, but which darken the heaven of innocent joy with futile clouds of remorse.

Khameleon808: Apple Tree

Eye kicks from a hundred of your favorite movies edited over the top of some crunchy tracks. We live in a very strange age for the visual arts.

Fullscreen viewing is mandatory.

(via Dangerous Minds)

House Porn 14: Martin Gee

Sarah Rainwater of Apartment Therapy Boston found these photographs by Simon Upton of Martin Gee's very blue apartment. The apartment is decorated as a man's house should be: with collections of strange scientific apparatus, religious paraphenalia, vintage military clothing and architectural building blocks. I am positively agog with envy.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Library Porn

Book collectors Louis & Sue Ainworth found themselves with a house overrun with books, and decided to buy the house next door to house their library. After a gut rehab, they attached the two houses by an atrium that attaches at both floors. Note the extra space available for their future collection.

Bonus: another book collector builds an apartment size set of sinuous shelves to house an extensive art & book collection.