Friday, April 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

(via Ben)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Solar Beat

Whitevinyl's Solar Beat makes the music of the spheres. The web app uses the planetary years to build a set of sonic loops. As the guys say on Coolhunting, it's worth waiting the 248 earth years to hear Pluto chime.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Links for Later

Mark Thoma curates an article on Harvard's symposium on "Solving the Social Sciences' Hard Problems".

Mark Suster on why you should never hire a job hopper.

Paul Dix on why Mark Suster is wrong. As a job hopper myself, I tend to go with Paul on this one.

NYT on the Novogratzes, stars of my new favorite show, 9 on Design.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Future Is Now, Vol LXXX: Laser Mass Spec Imaging

This is some really exciting stuff: take a confocal laser and scan a tissue slice, blasting off samples of its constituent molecules, and then shove those samples through a mass spec. Generate a fully 2D realized image of the chemical peaks coming off the sample, process the image in false color, based on whatever post-hoc data you'd like to suggest.

Crazy hot.

Signs of Protest

(two from Andrew 1, 2)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

If you walk around with the idea that there are some people who are so gifted – they have these wonderful things in their head but you’re not one of them, you’re just a normal sort of person, you could never do anything like that – then you live a different kind of life. You could have another kind of like, where you say, well, I know that things come from nothing very much and start from unpromising beginnings. And I’m an unpromising beginning, and I could start something.

-Brian Eno
(Brian Eno, via Geeta Dyal, via Jones, via Warren)
Corrolary to this: I get a lot of my best results by asking, How can I find some Trouble today?

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Image: NASA, Solar Dynamics Observatory
Far ultraviolet false color image of the sun.

Palin: "Obama's Handling of Icelandic Volcano Helps the Terrorists"

A report from the Tea Party Lawyers' Association Dinner.

What do we really know about those Icelanders, with their volcanic weapons of mass airplane delayal anyway, also?

The Last Hitler Parody Video

In which the copyfight takes an ugly turn.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Post-Kick Ass World

After you get home from seeing the excellent Kick Ass and decide to become a home brew superhero, maybe you need a place to kick it, like these guys. Impressive design work. I mean, I've got a Green Lantern shirt that every geek loves, but where do you find a spandex costume designer for something like this? It's also cool that there's now a sub-sub-culture for everyone.

Quote of the Day

The architects of the bailout have been trying to cure insolvency by treating it as illiquidity.

The SEC may be trying to cure unethical behavior by treating it as illegality.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Elderly Gay Couple Robbed, Imprisoned by County Officials

This makes me spitting mad:
Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health.

One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other, placing the men in separate nursing homes. Ignoring Clay’s significant role in Harold’s life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold’s “roommate.” The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold’s bank accounts to pay for his care.

What happened next is even more chilling: without authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold’s possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold's lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord.

Three months after he was hospitalized, Harold died in the nursing home. Because of the county’s actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years. Compounding this tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell, because he has been unable to recover any of his property.

Who did those officials think they were to do such a thing? Disgusting. Dan Savage has more.

Update: Sonoma County responds with allegations of domestic abuse.

Here Be Dragons?

Cryptomundo takes a look at dragon sitings over the past few hundred years, and wonders if there could be large cryptid reptiles in the British Isles, or if it's all just made up.
Some dragon sightings are much closer to home. In the early 19th century folklorist Mary Trevelyan interviewed many elderly people living in the Glamorgan area of Wales. They recounted memories from their youth (early 19th century) of a race of winged serpents said to inhabit the forest around Penllyne Castle. They had crested heads and feathery wings. The serpents were brightly coloured and sparkled as if covered with jewels. They rested coiled on the ground but if threatened would attack by swooping down at their aggressors.The snakes killed poultry and were described as “the terrors of farmyards and coverts” many were shot for their depreditations of livestock. One woman recalled that her grandfather shot one after it attacked him. Its skin had hung for years on the wall at his farm. Tragically it was discarded after his death. This would make any modern day cryptozoologist wince.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Every Painting in MOMA

The quick tour of MOMA, April 10, 2010, photographed by chrspck. Solid selection of mid-20th work, unsurprisingly.

(via Andrew)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Restructuring Prep for Your Capital Raise

Mark Suster, entrepreneur and VC, calls this process by its true and better name: "cleaning up your own shite". It's amazing how many prohibitive terms and conditions find their way into early rounds. A lot of otherwise solid companies find themselves unexpectedly up against the wall because of this problem, and the more experience (read: more rounds) the company has under its belt, the worse this gets. If this is you, go check out his article.
Sometimes I check my own blog to see if I've put up anything interesting since the last time I was online.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Albert Hirschman

Albert Hirschman tured 94 today. Discussion of Exit, Voice and Loyalty, an extended meditation on repairable economic missteps.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Response to the Transplant List

The Transplant List thought experiment works the other way, too. Someone once asked me about the Bucket of Warm Spit List, or the List of People You Wouldn't Piss on if They Were on Fire List. YMMV.

The Transplant List

A method for thinking about how rich you are in relationships. I used this today with my freshman bio class, following a discussion of the ethics of organ transplant criteria:

I want you to think of a number of people for each of these questions, the number of people you'd put on the list, and then I want you to think about who they are and why they're there.
  1. The Blood List: This list contains everyone who you'd donate a pint of blood to, if they needed it. How many people could call you up and ask for a pint of blood, which costs you a pinprick, an hour of your time and a recoverable amount of blood?
  2. The Bone Marrow List: To get the bone marrow, the doctors are going to take a large needle and drive it through your pelvic bone, twenty five times on each side. You'll be sedated, but you'll no doubt be sore for a while. How big is this list? Shorter than the Blood List, to be sure. Who's dropped off?
  3. The Kidney List: A shorter list still. You don't really need two kidneys, but you're not going to get another one in this lifetime. How many people would cause you to jump in the car to get tested for a match? Most people are down to immediate family and dear friends at this point.
  4. The Heart List: You find out that this person needs a heart transplant, and you start scheming up ways to become brain dead so they can have yours. How many people are on this list? One? Two? In your whole life, is there anyone?

Whose lists are you on? Who would give up a piece of themselves to save your life? At the risk of sounding maudlin and cheap, go find someone on your list, or someone who has you on theirs, and do something kind for them today.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Quote of the Day

I wonder whether a bitter enemy would be jealous if he discovered that I hated someone else.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Collapse of Complex Business Models

Clay Shirky writes a hell of an essay on the difficulties involved in doing things just a bit more simply, and why Big Media won't be pulling out of its death spiral any day soon, with side trips to 1990's AT&T and the fall of the Maya.
Diller, Brill, and Murdoch seem be stating a simple fact—we will have to pay them—but this fact is not in fact a fact. Instead, it is a choice, one its proponents often decline to spell out in full, because, spelled out in full, it would read something like this:

“Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use, or else we will have to stop making content in the costly and complex way we have grown accustomed to making it. And we don’t know how to do that.”

Friday, April 02, 2010


Samuel R. Delany's novel returns as a play. And what a play it would have to be to live up to the book:

Buildings burn, then repair themselves, then burn again. The smoke clears, occasionally, to reveal celestial impossibilities: two moons, a giant swollen sun. To top it off, this craziness trickles down to us through the consciousness of a character who is, himself, very likely crazy: a disoriented outsider who arrives in Bellona with no memory of his name, wearing only one sandal, and who proceeds to spend most of his time either having graphic sex with fellow refugees or writing inscrutable poems in a notebook—a notebook that also happens to contain actual passages of Dhalgren itself. The book forms a Finnegans Wake–style loop—its opening and closing sentences feed into one another—so the whole thing just keeps going and going forever. It’s like Gertrude Stein: Beyond Thunderdome. It seems to have been written by an insane person in a tantric blurt of automatic writing.

When I mention this to Delany, he is pleased. It is, he says, exactly the effect he was going for. And yet, he tells me, the actual writing process was deliberate and precise. “I wrote out hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of sentences at the top of notebook pages,” he remembers. “Then I would work my way down the page, revising the sentence, again and again. When I got to the bottom I’d copy the sentence out to see if I wanted it. Then I’d put them back together again. It was a very long, slow process.” It took him five years—not long by epic-novel standards, but a lifetime for an author who once wrote a book in eleven days to fund a trip to Europe.

Can We Know What We Know?

There's a really interesting debate on the nature of scientific knowledge and the impact on efficacy of knowledge under theistic vs. evolutionary worldviews going on across several web sites, collected here.