Sailing around on the Connecticut coast this weekend we saw a whole bunch of dark maroon jellyfish hanging out at the surface of the water. They were mostly fist-sized (some as big as one's head) and they were spread out over the bay, like salt and pepper spread sparsely over the top of a bowl of pesto.
We tried to get a few pictures with the underwater camera but, to be honest, they didn't hold a candle in the wind to migrating golden rays
. Those are some sweet pictures.I know it's been pictures-pictures-pictures around here and not a whole lot of content-content-content, but bear with me. Summers have a way of being busy without even being busy, if you know what I mean. They certainly don't encourage more screen time from this guy, anyway, so I'm doing what I can. Suck it.
Lots (and lots) and lots of old New York City photos
That is all. Carry on. Proceed forthwith. Live long and prosper.
We all know I'm a map guy, but old photos are nifty too.. and there are a whole bunch of them over on the Smithsonian flickr photostream
. A fine example? Marie Curie, the famous chemist:
It's interesting to note here that Marie was working with radioactive materials in her research by the turn of the century and was hospitalized with kidney problems in 1911. This photo is over two decades later, taken in the same year as her death, and you can tell she isn't in tip-top shape.
My sister currently works in Paris at the Institut Curie and the building, still to this day, has raised levels of radioactivity.
Over at The Oil Drum
they have an interesting bar graph on cement production by country:
Remember, in China, oil isn't used in cement production. In the "clinker" stage, it's all coal. In the blending stage it's electricity (which is generated 80% from coal in China).
And cement production in China is inefficient. There are hundreds of small plants, both wet and dry processes, and the local environmental impact is severe.
Ramped up Olympic production or not, that'salada cement.
I was curious to see how my wordle word cloud would change with a solid day of posts and, given the previous post, it seemed appropriate:
I need to go to bed now. I need to stop gazing at my navel.
In as much as Slashdot is an information site, it is also a social forum. Digg and Metafilter are two other good examples. Among the various uses of these sorts of sites there is the communal information pool, where reader and content interact. consider this beautifully efficient example of the exchange of information, on Ask Metafilter
Is there a good tasting, long lasting, hard candy that won't kill my mouth?
I'm looking for some kind of hard candy, I guess something similar to a jawbreaker, that I can keep in my mouth for long periods of time (couple of hours at least). I'm not a fan of jawbreakers because of the massive amounts of sugar; it also leaves my mouth feeling soft and overall weird. It doesnt' have to be sweet necessarily, it just has to taste good.
Does candy like this even exist?
So, here we have someone whose life is doing good, or at least okay, cause we know they can afford candy. This isn't some important life matter, but more like one of those little luxuries; why shouldn't one not have candy if one wants candy? (rotten teeth and diabetes aside)
So the hive mind (as they are called) reply back:
Gin Gins hard candies by The Ginger People. You have to really love ginger, though, these suckers are potent. But oh-so-delicious.
Okay, good call, close.. but not quite right.. You could tell the guy was asking for something more .. normal? But there is more:
Werther's Originals are smooooooooooth. You can buy 'em in big bags.
Hmm, yah.. good point, but I always associated them with old people (sorry, I'm personifying).
But lo, - and the links are missing, sorry:
What about lollypops?
The old-fashioned kind are pretty big.
See's Candies lollipops always seem to last forever, and are soo good.
Jawbreakers are too sugary, do you mean in taste or content? Unless it's sugar-free, most hard candy is going to be extremely high sugar. You want it to last several hours; does it need to fit in your mouth? Given a minimum dissolve rate, the candy piece might have to be pretty big to accomplish this.
Hmm... the best I can think of is Barley candy; which is hard to find. According to this story:
"Barley candy, the concoction’s called. It’s harder than most hard candy. Barley alters surface tension. Candy lasts longer. Hours of licking and sucking. In the late eighteen-hundreds, Atlantic Canadian candy makers worked barley candy into moulds—Santas, reindeer, trains. Barley toys, they’re called. Another name for them was clear toys."
This company seems to sell them but I'm sure Google will turn up more.
And wow, the hivemind comes through. An obvious candy lover with knowledge pipes in with a great response giving a very thorough and complete answer. Including a dissolve rate discussion!
Barley candy, indeed. I'd like to believe that's a little part of our economy working in some way: information as currency. Above and beyond a site like Metafilter's ad revenue as an economic entity, there is something outside of that (or in it?) that consists of an information economy (and not in the buzzword sense, but a more literal sense). I would like to believe this higher or more subtle form of an economy is efficient in ways that we haven't even thought of yet, because it's part of what makes a village a village and a tribe a tribe; there is a cultural economy. When the whole world can chime in on the internet, the cultural economy just gets much more dense and active, like in a high volume bull market. And that's just it: The web as a phenomenon, or a more abstract "product" (imagine the physicality of "the framework that enables the online economy" - both real and figurative).. well, information is to oil as the web is to an oil rig. Except the oil rig framework (or what makes the internet work) is essentially ethereal, and therefore infinite. And the oil, well.. that's the information, which is infinite in its own right.
There may be costs in (admittedly significant) energy and hardware, but "Software" has a fungibleness about it that fungible doesn't even know about yet, making it far more malleable than any commodity in the real world. Limited only by our own ability to innovate.
So what's so special
about this "economy"? Well, for starters it hasn't really seen its version of a bear market - even when the real economy was in a bear market due, in a large extent, to the .com bubble: or, the very internet itself. Ironic?
I claim this to be true with this basic fact: most anyone reading this sentence right now must, in all likelihood, admit to themselves that they have progressively used the web more: from before the .com bubble, to now. Again, that may be naive, but think of the internet as some abstract mall, an "information mall".. where web-surfers are mall patrons. In that metaphor, the economy of that mall is pretty damn large.
So should we be at all surprised that a company like Google comes along and grows into a giant behemouth in the blink of an eye? Not really. I'm not saying I could have picked Google back in the day, but it was only a matter of time before some
company really got a stranglehold on what the web is, and used it to their economic advantage. Google did that, and that's why their growth has seemed, at times, almost impossible: Google's economy is
the web economy, and it's getting rich off of it. Not just in real dollar terms either, but in information. How much is almost impossible to tell, because we can't even have an idea what the full economic value of information is at this point - our caveman-like SQL databases and simple data-mining techniques will seem quaint some day.
So, Microsoft did it with operating systems, and Nike did it with sneaker fashion. Where there is a market, there is a way. The question is, does our ever-increasing technological innovation dictate a shorter lifetime of a company's worth at it's peak. Does Google last like Microsoft has? IBM?? Since 1896 they've been around and really are still a powerhouse, even with the ups and downs along the way.
Nevertheless, I expect the information economy still has a lot of room to grow, no matter what stock prices might be or how many people are unemployed.. everybody still needs some global advice about hard candy; you still check your email. And there are a lot of people doing a whole lot of things, too. Even on Ask Metafilter hard candy isn't even the tip of the iceberg. If you're the sort of person that has an old Time-Life DIY fixit guide or a "bathroom reader" near your toilet, you're probably the kind of person that would like Ask Metafilter.
Considering my recent post You Won't Read This
on user reading habits online, here comes a pertinent article, How we read online.
(or, as they headline it: Lazy Bastards
Nielsen champions the idea of information foraging. Humans are informavores. On the Internet, we hunt for facts.
Which, basically means we don't stick around long if the writer can't keep your attention. They just made a cute new word, as we are wont to do, using previous, more physical science vocabulary (which could send me on a whole other question-answer discussion on where our words come from, and why - but I won't). It is not news, this inattention we have, but it is interesting. Reading on:
Also, I'm probably forcing you to scroll at this point. Losing some incredible percentage of readers. Bye. Have fun on Facebook..
.. What about the physical process of reading on a screen? How does that compare to paper?
When you look at early research, it's fascinating to see that even in the days of green phosphorus monitors, studies found that there wasn't a huge difference in speed and comprehension between reading on-screen and reading on paper. Paper was the clear winner only when test subjects were asked to skim the text.
So our content is more cluttered and busy now, with banner ads and side columns and AdWords..
Nielsen holds that on-screen reading is 25 percent slower than reading on paper.
Okay, so we get to the point. The computer screen - or at least the modern one that has a browser open with web content on it - is a worse
tool for reading. Paper is good, screens baaaad. Or, at the very least, the designs of modern webpages may just be horrible in their own right.
First, we all love paper. But, let's be honest. Modern print media is, almost by definition, cluttered and disorienting. Newspapers, magazines.. they're all filled we progressively small globs of content surrounded by more flash. Nevertheless, ads have been in newspaper probably since there were newspapers. This is nothing new.
Yes, you must scroll on a webpage and the chance of loosing a reader due to that hassle may be great. But think about how many times you've gotten to the end of a front page article, where it said "turn to page A4" and you just didn't think it was worth it. Think about flipping through a Maxim magazine (shudder).. how much attention do you have then?
So is Maxim's design a product of the burgeoning online empire of fast-fast-go-go, or is it more a result of a general trend in culture and fashion (not of the clothing variety, per se). An interesting question, for sure, but who can say one way or another? In either case, this is a form of paper
content that probably breeds poor comprehension and difficulty in securing the reader for an entire article, just like in the online world.
So what's really different here? Well, it's obvious. When you are reading the New York Times
, you're reading the New York Times
. You don't have a pile of 10 newspapers in front of you, randomly reading articles from each. When you buy the New York Times, the New York Times owns
you for the duration. If your eyes wander, if you don't finish the end of an article, that's okay.. because what you're going to next is still
the New York Times. In it's hay day, when it was the
formative technology for disseminating information, ad revenue was a boon.
In the online world of content, if someone is skipping the end of your article (and possibly skipping an ad click or two) they are leaving
and they are not
coming back. This makes generating ad revenue that much more difficult.
In the end, this is not really any different than the paper situation, if you get away from the capitalist dogma - we all know money weaves this mighty web. The practical side of things is really closer than it would appear: maxim is a real drag to read, as is the subtle tediousness of surfing the web: the constant need to skim due to the immense amount of crap
out there. The only thing different is that you know all
of maxim is crap, whereas you have a hope that you might glean a few gems off the web every day. The comprehension and readability side of things is really quite similar. I would even argue that a mouse and keyboard is more pleasant and low impact than trying to flip the pages of a newspaper.
Regardless, the studies show a difference, so there is advice for the online editor:
Here's [Nielsen's] advice in a column titled "Long vs. Short Articles as Content Strategy": "A good editor should be able to cut 40 percent of the word count while removing only 30 percent of an article's value. After all, the cuts should target the least valuable information."
Yet I can hardly imagine an editor in print media ever thinking this was a bad idea, either. Even Ben Franklin once wrote in a letter, "Sorry for the length of this letter, I didn't have time for a short one."
If you want to beat the Internet, you're not going to do it by blogging (since even OK thinkers occasionally write a great blog post) but by offering a comprehensive take on a subject (thus saving the reader time from searching many sites) and supplying original thinking (offering trusted insight that cannot be easily duplicated by the nonexpert).
I think this is great advice, and exactly my approach to this site in recent years. I may not always be comprehensive, but I try to gather related information, and sprinkle it with some original (hopefully worthwhile) commentary.
And one last point before I shut up:
We'll do more and more reading on screens, but they won't replace paper — never mind what your friend with a Kindle tells you. Rather, paper seems to be the new Prozac. A balm for the distracted mind. It's contained, offline, tactile. William Powers writes about this elegantly in his essay "Hamlet's BlackBerry: Why Paper Is Eternal." He describes the white stuff as "a still point, an anchor for the consciousness."
It's a nice thought, but this is - cue another overarching prediction - probably not true. While I don't think paper will fully disappear from society I do suspect it will dwindle and, at some point, dwindle rapidly. I make this prediction not based on environmental concerns or resource limitations, but just on the pure technology of things. Paper just won't be as convenient.
But before I get any lash-outs from you paper lovers out there, don't get me wrong. I love paper too.. but there are numerous things that I and many people love that have gone by the wayside. Such is the march of progress.On the off chance the author of "How we read online" ends up at this post some day, I'd like to assure him: I read the whole article, to the very last word.
Whoa, good job America. You must be doing something
right to have so many people in prison
(more map fun).
Now, even you can make your own word cloud in a snap-flash blink-of-a-second with Wordle
. Paste in some text or upload a file and, voilà, out pops a cloud based on word counts and such. I tried it with all the posts on the front page of this here blog thingy, and this is what I got:
I would call it Oh, The Things That You Will See... on the Internet
A pig afraid of the mud, or: a pig in her rubbers.
Also, old, demented, feeble folk still
go down: She was 82. He was 95. They had dementia. They fell in love. And then they started having sex.
Predicting electoral votes with prediction markets
shouldn't seem like a huge stretch. We're human, so we love to gamble on just about anything and, as per, we like to think that how we gamble is larger in part based on how things turn out. What's the point in gambling if your team doesn't win, right? Well, that's what someone has done here. The cool part? See the results mapped out, and compare them over time by changing the date (for the last few weeks anyway). Somebody else needs to a) gather more data, and b) string it all together in an animation or video and then
it would be really
The house in this picture is located here
Curt Schilling has a blog, apparently. I either knew this and forgot, or it's news to me. Regardless, he wrote about his floor seats to the Lakers/Celtics game on Sunday night
.. It is pretty well written, with some interesting insight into those foul-mouthed NBA players:
These guys talk MAJOR trash on the floor, and the great part is that most of the times I’ve seen it the guy on the receiving end usually doesn’t respond much, if at all, and just plays the game, schooling the guy who feels like he needs to talk to make his game better.
Thanks to Tony
for reminding me that Curt blogs.
The Boston Globe has a recently new feature on their website called The Big Picture
(archive link at bottom), which chronicles recent news items with large, rich, high-resolution pictures and short captions for each. Of the few complaints I have with online newspaper and network news sites (bad ad placement, signup requirement, horrible search) one of the biggest is that the pictures associated with articles are rarely worth looking at their 200 pixels. Come on guys, take a photo out of the Boston Globe picture book folks; people like big pictures. Huzzah.
I like maps.. especially old or inaccurate ones, if only because they give you an idea on where the mapmaker was coming from. What was their perspective? What was important to them? How horribly off the mark were they?
Along those veins, the University of San Diego's History Department has a ton of old maps
. Like this 1851 bird's eye view of Manhattan
. Compare that to just 19 years later: New York in 1870
. Of note is what appears to be a fully completed Brooklyn Bridge in the map of 1870, despite the fact that construction only began
in 1870 and was not completed till 1883, thirteen years later. Interestingly, "approximately" 27 people lost their lives during its thirteen year construction according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, a newspaper of the time. Yet soon after it's completion, on May 30th 1883, a rumor that the bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede which crushed and killed twelve people - almost half of the deaths the construction cost.
One week after the opening, on May 30, a rumor that the Bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede which crushed and killed twelve people.
I thought I had written about the colorful history of the making of the Brooklyn Bridge at one point before, but I can't seem to find the post. Oh well, you'll have to suffer with a picture instead: references provided by, you guessed it, Wikipedia's Brooklyn Bridge page.
We all know that combustion engines aren't efficient. In fact, despite the myriad technologies that we've developed over the decades to improve them, they still only operate in the 20% to 30%
efficieny range. That means that for every gallon of fuel you use in your car, 70% to 80%
of the energy is lost to heat and friction and the little fairies that live in your vents. Wikipedia tells us
Most steel engines have a thermodynamic limit of at most 37%. Even when aided with turbochargers and stock efficiency aids most engines retain an average efficiency of about 20%
Four fifths of the fuel you buy is meaningless. You may be paying $4 a gallon for fuel, but you're really paying $20 a gallon of "usable" fuel.
As if that wasn't bad enough, you can see it in other large industries, like energy. If we listened in high school than we know that powerlines aren't 100% efficient and if lose of heat energy happens in combustion engines than surely burning coal, oil, or gas will have some lose as well. That's true to a large extent, nicely summarized in this NYTimes graphic
:67% of the energy in our fuels is lost, out the door, out the window, into the bright, hot, wet American summer.