Archive for March, 2010

Mon 29 Mar 2010 12:01 am   //   Posted in: Mixes, Movies, Music, Videos

Epic Stop Motion Monster Mashup

Here’s a video and a story. First, the video:

Now the story:

Earlier this month, my brother Gerritt and his wife Melanie hosted a party at their house. Gerritt made a playlist of party music, and I suggested we play a movie to serve as “visual noise” for people to talk about and smile at. I went on Netflix queued up the 1963 epic Jason and the Argonauts.


Sun 21 Mar 2010 9:28 pm   //   Posted in: Bicycles, New York is different

My health plan is a new bike

Your favorite bike shop is the one that sold you your last bike. Here’s my new favorite: Sid’s Bikes in Chelsea.

Saturday was the First Sunny Saturday Of The Year, which is an unofficial city holiday in New York. A lot of people, including me, took it as an excuse to go bike shopping. (I’m training for another Bike MS charity ride in May — I’ll start hounding you for contributions next month.)

In my experience, about half the bike shops in New York are run by crooks or assholes. When you find a good shop you stick with it; entering a unfamiliar bike shop can be a scary experience. On Saturday I went to three good shops run by nice bike people, plus Paragon sports, a big sporting goods store with a cycling department. I ended up buying a new road bike from Sid’s.

What influenced my choice? They had a great Cannondale in my budget, first of all. But I could tell they were a high-quality shop because they offered me a helmet when I went out for the test-ride. None of the other shops did. (Two shops sent me out without a helmet; Paragon was so mobbed I couldn’t even find anyone to even help me.) This told me Sid’s takes what they do seriously. It made buying a bike there a really easy decision.

I’m psyched to get some miles on this bike. Hoping for more sunny Saturdays!

Wed 17 Mar 2010 5:38 am   //   Posted in: Planet earth, Travel, Videos

Video: The bats of Austin

Last weekend I attended a conference in Austin, Texas. While I was there, I walked over to the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch the nightly flight of the bats. Here’s a video:

Wed 10 Mar 2010 9:35 pm   //   Posted in: No right to be good, Technology

Good as new

Here’s one of the greatest success stories in technology: The HP 12C financial calculator. It was introduced in 1981 and is still selling. After a generation of seismic advancements in technology, this weird horizontal calculator has kept its edge. It costs $70 and people still buy it.

Name something else battery-powered that hasn’t changed since 1981. I’ve got nothing. Blackberries and iPhones seldom last two years before better ones come out, yet this calculator could bury us all. Now I don’t work in finance and I’m far from an expert in calculators, so I can’t explain in detail what’s so amazing about this device. But I know calculators are a competitive space. This one’s success can’t just be an accident of history or the result of marketing. It’s adoption isn’t a requirement; surely there are other calculators that fit with today’s business conventions.

It could only have survived this long by being good. Good enough to be deeply loved by exactly the right customers. The HP 12C designers nailed it. They achieved something unheard of in technology: perfection. If we’re lucky, once in our lifetimes we’ll work on a team that does that.

Wed 3 Mar 2010 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Books, Music, Videos

Everything I know about “Alice in Wonderland” I learned from Tom Petty

“Alice in Wonderland” has been recycled so many times in so many mediums that every living American probably has some childhood association with the story. Here’s mine: The 1985 music video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Here’s Tom Petty at his coolest:

Tue 2 Mar 2010 6:50 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Robots talking to robots

I’m beginning to wonder how many of the words I see every day are written by robots.

  • There’s stuff like Demand Media’s eHow, where articles are carefully engineered to produce as much incoming search engine traffic as possible for as little expense as possible. It’s about serving customer needs, kind of, but only in so far as a customer is a disembodied server request generated by Google’s software.
  • Facebook ads target us based on demographics, preferences and keywords. These ads make sense in theory, but in practice seem oddly tone-deaf and unambitious, as if they were written by interns, or maybe children. Or algorithms.
  • Twitter is overrun by robots programmed to follow and unfollow people and retweet posts based on predictable user behaviors. It’s so easy to do you wouldn’t believe it.
  • Online display advertising is falling victim to oversupply and automation — a combination that’s driving prices down so fast that even a Huffington Post exec was quoted on the record sounding scared.
  • Blogging has evolved from a fun hobby into a precise science of writing lists optimized for search engines and social media propagation—a.k.a. linkbait. Old-fashioned notions of quality and clarity of writing, design craftsmanship, and copyright ownership have been squeezed out of the equation as too inefficient.

If Internet media is a pure democracy, it follows that content creators must be evaluated by output volume and popularity. If you’re a writer, artist, musician, or filmmaker, this might sound like a dystopian nightmare. I am here to tell you: Do not despair.