design

Diane Arbus: Family on the Lawn One Sunday in Westchester, N. Y

Saw this photo taken by Diane Arbus in ~1968 at the Whitney a month and a half ago and did a triple take. It has Mad Men / Matthew Weiner inspiration written all over it: squint a little, and you can see Betty, Bobby, and Don, surrounded by litter, cigarettes, and disdain.

Susanna Hertrich's Risk Perception Art

Susanna Hertrich:

A reflection on common fears in societies where anxieties have become a lifestyle choice (2010 - ongoing).

Regarding the piece above:

Public dread and actual deaths caused by most common sources of energy. Based on a longterm study by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

via @darbyjack

Steven Levy: "The Invention of the Perfect Cup of Coffee"

Photo by Jason Henry

A short and fun interview between Steven Levy and Alan Adler, inventor of the Aerobie and the Aeropress.

Levy:

So I recently ventured to the small suite towards the back of a tiny industrial complex near 101 in Palo Alto, the home of the Aerobie company and its unsung master maker, Alan Adler. At 75, he is still at it, the canonical independent inventor, digging in file drawers for blueprints, shuffling to a storage space to locate an early version of his long-flying disk, lining up AeroPress prototypes like the iconic illustration of Darwin’s vision of the evolution of man. Across the room is his granddaughter, who does his PR. If the Maker Movement needs someone to put on its postage stamp, Adler would be perfect.

Levy & Adler:

You didn’t go to college?

No, but but I taught college. I taught at Stanford for many years. I taught a course in sensors and also mentored mechanical engineering students and I still lecture there.

I certainly had the ability [as a student] but I didn’t always have the discipline to do all the work. I recall one incident in plane geometry class where I submitted a very unusual proof and the teacher asked me to do the proof on the blackboard for the rest of the class, which I did. And she looked sort of stunned. I realized afterward that she thought that my father must have done that proof, which he couldn’t do actually. My grades were about average. I was eager to get out and earn a living and be on my own.

Kowloon Walled City, the Evening Star Building, Chris Ware, and Mattias Adolfsson

There's been a (lucky) stream of artwork flying around the internet. From Spoon and Tamago, this incredible cross section of life in Kowloon's Walled City: That reminded me of Mattias Adolfsson, whose illustrations are full of detail and whimsy: And then, today, Kottke linked to yet another illustrated cross section of a building -- this time Washington DC's Evening Star: He and others have pointed out that this looks comfortable amongst the works of Chris Ware, albeit a bit before his time. I highly recommend clicking on the above images to embiggen.

BBC's Your life on earth

Put in a few facts about yourself — birthdate, gender and heights — and get an assortment of facts about how the world has changed since your arrival.

Some of mine:

  • Population has increased by ~2.8 billion; life expectancy is 8 years longer than when I was born
  • BBC projects Oil and Coal will run out by the time I’m 80. They estimate gas supplies will continue beyond my life, but not my children’s.

If you were born 4 years ago:

  • Population has increased ~327 million — 10 million more than the US!
  • While you’re on average (in the US) 3.3 ft tall, a coastal redwood would have grown ~5ft.

Kind of fun. I’d be interested to know a bit more about their data projections. They do offer a little bit of information, at least, about where the data came from.

via kottke

Grand Budapest Hotel Visual Effects Reel

Pretty cool little reel. Lots of nice little touches. Shows a pretty deft touch at utilizing VFX to augment, not overwhelm, some great scenes. Unfortunately not embeddable. Watch it on Vimeo.

From @ihnatko

A Klubeck here, a Klubeck there

Continuing the trend of Wes Anderson related posts, I noticed the following in Fantastic Mr. Fox:

and we know about this in The Grand Budapest Hotel:

What (or who) the hell is a Klubeck? Screen Forever tells us that Rich Klubeck is a Partner at United Talent Agency… and that one of his clients is Wes Anderson:

Rich Klubeck is a Partner in the Motion Picture Group at United Talent Agency in Los Angeles where he has worked since 2003. Rich’s clients include Joel and Ethan Coen, Wes Anderson, Angelina Jolie, Ewan McGregor, Uma Thurman, Mike White, Scott Z. Burns, Drake Doremus, Lynn Shelton, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Paolo Sorrentino, Nicole Holofcener, Craig Gillespie, David Mackenzie, Miranda July, David Michod, Mike Mills, Dror Moreh, Sam Gold, Sergio Sanchez, Ziad Doueiri, and Fatih Akin. He also represents leading video developer and publisher Electronic Arts.

Behind the Scenes: The Grand Budapest Hotel Miniatures

A collection of shots of the miniatures from the film as they were being created. The details are pretty incredible.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Beth and I went and saw Wes Anderson’s newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, at our customary and preferred pre-noon showtime. In attendance were a healthy set of other 30 somethings and a substantial number of significantly older clientele. I love Anderson’s films without reserve. This one did not disappoint; in fact, it has stuck with me in peculiar ways.

The film is typically quirky, beautiful, and flagrantly not of this reality: set in a made-up eastern European country, it takes place slightly before a large conflict that draws from both the first and second world wars. The external, wide shots of the hotel and many of the sets are clearly models — though exquisitely detailed ones. The story floats through history, moving us back in time somewhat quickly. At the beginning, a young woman visits a statue of a dead author, paying tribute as the snow falls around her in a somewhat drab courtyard. She holds a book - The Grand Budapest Hotel - by ‘The Author.’ We see a picture of him on the back cover, than cut to him behind a desk, alive and recounting how he came to the story of the hotel and its owner (and seemingly breaking the fourth wall as he describes storytelling). These scenes are all shot in a typical, modern aspect ratio. We cut to the past, where Jude Law plays a younger version of The Author. The aspect ratio changes and Law becomes the narrator. We learn a little about the hotel, a quieted place of fading glory, ornamentation discarded for brute utilitarianism; and of its proprietor, Zero Mustafa. Zero recounts how he came to the hotel as a lobby boy, and we shift further back in time. F. Murray Abraham, who plays the older Zero, takes over as narrator. Zero, now played by Tony Revolori, is a refugee from an unnamed somewhere. The casting is smart — in no human world does Revolori grow into Abraham, but both convey otherness and outsider. We meet his flirtatious, bisexual, at times well-mannered and at times flagrantly vulgur mentor M. Gustave, portrayed with brilliant aplomb by Ralph Fiennes. The aspect ratio changes again — this time dramatically, to one slightly taller than wide. A striking, uncommon effect. The combination of shifting aspect ratios and narrators helps the viewer organize the periods of the film, but also confuses. A neat way of depicting the manic and wily sands of memory, transposing and mixing up bits and pieces of recalled experience.

The story goes off the rails from there — in fun and memorable ways. There’s a thug who removes some of another character’s fingers, a love story between a savant baker and Zero, a prison break, incredible sets and many, many familiar faces. To describe any of it in detail would be tantamount to pilfering little bits of delight. Like all Anderson films, there’s subtle humor, detail, and insane exposition.

So why’s it bugging me? I’m not sure. Anderson doesn’t address the obscenities of history directly, but lightly and from glancing angles. This pisses people off (not me), especially those who think Anderson’s films are superficial nods to aesthetes. There are palpable senses of loss and longing: for older Zero, an understandable one; an equivalent saudade for Gustave, who by wily strength of charm maintains his bizarre interpretation of old-world decorum and propriety at the Hotel. He lives by a code, as it were, and watches the world crumble around him.

The melancholy extends to the connection between Zero and Gustave, to the Hotel and the world it represented, and to a perceived brightness of a forgone time. It permeates throughout the film and ultimately gives way to an acknowledgement of passing. If Anderson’s worlds of whimsy are creations of joy, then the drab scenes set in the ‘present’ of the film (mid-80s) and in the recent past of Law’s Author seem to come from a muted woe daubed with signs of former glory.

That last bit sounds remarkably abysmal — it’s not, at all. I’m keen for a repeat viewing. The film’s a delight and the best I’ve seen in quite a while.

Beer in NYT: 1) Glaser on Modern Beer Art and 2) The Brothers behind Mikkeller and Evil Twin

The NYT has two interesting beer-related articles available online from the forthcoming (in print) NYT Magazine. The first is about the Bjergso brothers, two beer brewing mavens:

The number of phantom brewers is growing, and Mikkel, who got into the game in 2006, views this with a mixture of magnanimity and trendsetter’s pride. But he pays particularly close attention to one Brooklyn-based phantom brewery, because it is owned by his identical twin, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso. Jeppe started his brewery four years after Mikkeller began and, in an act of winking provocation, named the outfit Evil Twin. It is a smaller operation than Mikkeller, but similarly well regarded among connoisseurs. (Jeppe used to help Noma curate its beer selection.) The Bjergso brothers have opposite temperaments: Mikkel is reserved; Jeppe is an extrovert. And they are not on good terms, despite — or rather, because of — their shared infatuation with beer. They haven’t spoken to each other in more than a year.

Fun read, especially for beer aficionados.

A second, equally fun piece has Milton Glaser’s thoughts on some modern beer branding and labels.

“I have a theory that most of design, in general, is the creation of affection,” says Milton Glaser, the 84-year-old graphic-design legend, who created the I ♥ NY logo. When it comes to craft beer, Glaser, who also designed the Brooklyn Brewery identity, believes that it comes down to creating a label that looks quirkily amateurish — if not downright unprofessional. “The one thing you don’t want to look like is Budweiser,” Glaser says. “This creates a paradox: How do you deliberately create the illusion of not knowing what you’re doing when you actually do?” As he notes below, some companies do it better than others.

Behind Bars: The secret vocabulary of New York's finest drinking establishments.

This is a gem. The hidden language of bars. Completely beautiful nonsense. Intriguing little microclimates of language — some which seem to exist between bars, and some within.

BOOMERANGS

A specially prepared drink that is sealed (say, with plastic wrap or a rubber glove) and dispatched as a gift to a nearby bar. Of dubious legality, BOOMERANGS are a way of ‘having a drink’ with industry friends during work. BOOMERANGS are often shuttled from bar to bar by regulars, who are thereby identified as guests of quality.

NINJA

[I] One who sneaks out, leaving his friends to pay. [2] A cool and composed drinker.

WARREN BUFFET

Wealthy client, not spending.

A family tree... for bourbon

This is relatively old news in the world of the internet... but it's still a pretty awesome visualization. The story's full of interesting facts. For instance:

The distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana is known colloquially as LDI, but is now part of MGP, a food conglomerate that specializes in bioplastics, industrial proteins, and starches for use in salad dressings,energy bars, imitation cheese, and fruit fillings. One of the products made in the Indiana facility is a rye whiskey with a mash bill of 95 percent rye, 5 percent malt barley. Most rye whiskeys are no more than 70 percent rye. According to author Chuck Cowdery, this particular whiskey was developed by Seagram's as a flavoring agent for blended whiskeys like Seagram's 7. When Seagram's disintegrated due to mismanagement in the 1990s, the whiskey, then in the process of aging, was sold to other distilleries in the fire sale of assets, as one salvage company after the next tried to determine what to do with the distillery and its excess inventory. This is how one generic whiskey became known by more than a dozen names, including Templeton Rye, Redemption Rye, Bulleit Rye, Willet, Smooth Ambler, and George Dickel Rye, among others. The companies that own each of these brands have purchased LDI rye whiskey and now bottle it under their own labels, adjusting the proof and length of aging in order to create their own differentiations.

What the what.

"CASTELLO CAVALCANTI" by Wes Anderson

Christmas in early November. Enjoy!

Beauty of Mathematics

Pretty awesome little video from a French video production and graphic design firm. Not entirely sure about the veracity of the math or the visualizations… but that’s perhaps missing the forest for the trees.

Best viewed fullscreen.

via Colossal

Michael Chabon's introduction to The Wes Anderson Collection

This beautiful tome arrived today. The New Yorker summarizes it best:

Were it only for the text of his introductory essays and extended interviews with Wes Anderson, Matt Zoller Seitz’s book “The Wes Anderson Collection,” which discusses all seven of Anderson’s feature films in copious detail, would be an indispensable resource, as well as a delight….

But the text isn’t all there is to it: the book is entirely in the Andersonian spirit—it’s a beautiful object, not a coffee-table book (except in size) but one that’s designed and thought out to its slightest detail, with its amazingly wide and deep offering of visual documentation. (Far be it from me to diminish the images and artifacts by calling them “illustrations.”) Still photographs from the set, frame enlargements, storyboards, influences (from “Peanuts” to Holbein to Welles), references (record covers, school insignias), and memorabilia (newspaper clippings, casting snapshots) are matched with informative and discursive captions that play like stage whispers, and all are brought together with taste, insight, and joyful celebration.

The introduction by Michael Chabon praises Anderson as much as it reflects on aging and growth:

The world is so big, so complicated, so replete with marvels and surprises that it takes years for most people to begin to notice that it is, also, irretrievably broken. We call this period of research “childhood.”

There follows a program of renewed inquiry, often involuntary, into the nature and effects of mortality, entropy, heartbreak, violence, failure, cowardice, duplicity, cruelty, and grief; the researcher learns their histories, and their bitter lessons, by heart. Along the way, he or she discovers that the world has been broken for as long as anyone can remember, and struggles to reconcile this fact with the ache of cosmic nostalgia that arises, from time to time, in the researcher’s heart: an intimation of vanished glory, of lost wholeness, a memory of the world unbroken. We call the moment at which this ache first arises “adolescence.” The feeling haunts people all their lives.

Everyone, sooner or later, gets a thorough schooling in brokenness. The question becomes: What to do with the pieces? Some people hunker down atop the local pile of ruins and make do, Bedouin tending their goats in the shade of shattered giants. Others set about breaking what remains of the world into bits ever smaller and more jagged, kicking through the rubble like kids running through piles of leaves. And some people, passing among the scattered pieces of that great overturned jigsaw puzzle, start to pick up a piece here, a piece there, with a vague yet irresistible notion that perhaps something might be done about putting the thing back together again.

Two difficulties with this latter scheme at once present themselves. First of all, we have only ever glimpsed, as if through half-closed lids, the picture on the lid of the jigsaw puzzle box. Second, no matter how diligent we have been about picking up pieces along the way, we will never have anywhere near enough of them to finish the job. The most we can hope to accomplish with our handful of salvaged bits—the bittersweet harvest of observation and experience—is to build a little world of our own. A scale model of that mysterious original, unbroken, half—remembered. Of course the worlds we build out of our store of fragments can be only approximations, partial and inaccurate. As representations of the vanished whole that haunts us, they must be accounted failures. And yet in that very failure, in their gaps and inaccuracies, they may yet be faithful maps, accurate scale models, of this beautiful and broken world. We call these scale models “works of art.”

“The ache of cosmic nostalgia.” “The bittersweet harvest of observation and experience.”

Goddamn.

Read the whole thing.

Pitchfork's Keep the Things You Forgot: An Elliot Smith Oral History

Elliott Smith died ten years ago yesterday (Oct 21, 2003). I hadn’t listened to his music in quite a while, though played through a number of his tracks last night. They hold up — and pretty promptly sent me back a decade. Pitchfork has created a well-designed, well-written, thorough ‘oral history’ of his music.

What follows is not an oral history of his life, but of his music; specifically, his solo career. The lines between life and music are tangled, of course, in ways that aren’t neatly prizable, and darker stories eventually creep into the frame at the edges. But the arc traced here begins with the emergence of That Voice: the flowering of his talent, the development of the intimate, inscrutable folk-pop he would mine for the rest of his career. That discovery dovetails with the dissolution of his first band, the loud-rocking Heatmiser. In some ways the development of the former triggered the latter. The story told here begins at this hinge point, as Smith begins exploring the possibilities of his fiercely intimate four-track solo recordings that would pull him away from Heatmiser and, eventually, into the national spotlight.

For those who knew him personally, the task of speaking for Elliott Smith wavers between privilege and burden. Many of the 18 people who spoke to me—bandmates, producers, managers, friends—emerged hesitantly, stepping gingerly over their own profound misgivings, issuing grave caveats. They’d been burned before, they warned me. They swore they’d never speak again. The story of their self-imposed silence, and their individual choices to break it or hold it, runs in powerful counterpoint to Smith’s own story. Some of the singer’s closest associates have simply declined to go on record: Having been prodded multiple times, they have understandably snapped shut. Some are speaking now for the first time. The combination of profound ambivalence and fierce conviction in their voices, as they opened themselves up, was chastening.

The Atlantic’s got a nice list of remembrances, some of which are new or new to the internet.

Using RAW to visualize Global Burden of Disease Data

RAW is a really impressive and easy-to-use data visualization tool created by Density Design. I created the following plot in about five minutes from existing GBD data (of DALYs in India for women of all ages).

Air Pollution ? Household air pollution from solid fuels 14,430,417Dietary/Physical ? Dietary risks 14,139,801Dietary risks ? Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 12,251,100Undernutrition ? Iron deficiency 10,145,794Undernutrition ? Childhood underweight 10,112,321Physiological ? High blood pressure 9,598,107Iron deficiency ? Nutritional deficiencies 9,245,200High blood pressure ? Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 9,236,250Childhood underweight ? Diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseases 7,993,580Air Pollution ? Ambient particulate matter pollution 6,963,544Physiological ? High fasting plasma glucose 6,839,755Tobacco ? Tobacco smoking 6,456,925Undernutrition ? Suboptimal breastfeeding 5,430,200Suboptimal breastfeeding ? Diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseases 5,430,200Household air pollution from solid fuels ? Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 4,939,660Sexual abuse ? Intimate partner violence 4,907,625Dietary/Physical ? Physical inactivity and low physical activity 4,684,952Household air pollution from solid fuels ? Chronic respiratory diseases 4,629,250Household air pollution from solid fuels ? Diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseases 4,242,530Ambient particulate matter pollution ? Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 4,051,780High fasting plasma glucose ? Diabetes, urogenital, blood, and endocrine diseases 3,758,890Physical inactivity and low physical activity ? Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 3,212,120Intimate partner violence ? Self-harm and interpersonal violence 3,066,340Alcohol & Drugs ? Alcohol use 3,020,381Tobacco smoking ? Chronic respiratory diseases 2,767,440WatSan ? Unimproved sanitation 2,691,430Unimproved sanitation ? Diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseases 2,691,430High fasting plasma glucose ? Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 2,527,440Physiological ? High body-mass index 2,517,676Occupational risks ? Occupational risks 2,341,920Physiological ? High total cholesterol 2,308,860High total cholesterol ? Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 2,308,860Childhood underweight ? Nutritional deficiencies 2,096,190Tobacco smoking ? Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 1,914,150Ambient particulate matter pollution ? Diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseases 1,721,660Intimate partner violence ? Mental and behavioral disorders 1,577,950Other Env ? Lead exposure 1,397,538Sexual abuse ? Childhood sexual abuse 1,374,294Lead exposure ? Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 1,345,890Tobacco smoking ? Diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseases 1,282,190Alcohol & Drugs ? Drug use 1,210,892High body-mass index ? Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 1,197,470Undernutrition ? Vitamin A deficiency 1,185,772Vitamin A deficiency ? Diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseases 1,178,350Undernutrition ? Zinc deficiency 1,126,100Zinc deficiency ? Diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseases 1,126,100Dietary risks ? Neoplasms 1,101,710Ambient particulate matter pollution ? Chronic respiratory diseases 1,099,640Occupational risks ? Chronic respiratory diseases 1,008,390Physical inactivity and low physical activity ? Diabetes, urogenital, blood, and endocrine diseases 990,530Drug use ? Mental and behavioral disorders 986,262Iron deficiency ? Maternal disorders 900,594High body-mass index ? Diabetes, urogenital, blood, and endocrine diseases 896,822Occupational risks ? Musculoskeletal disorders 775,941Alcohol use ? Mental and behavioral disorders 718,838Childhood sexual abuse ? Mental and behavioral disorders 716,375Dietary risks ? Diabetes, urogenital, blood, and endocrine diseases 707,042Childhood sexual abuse ? Self-harm and interpersonal violence 657,919Alcohol use ? Cirrhosis of the liver 617,146WatSan ? Unimproved water source 604,815Unimproved water source ? Diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseases 604,815Alcohol use ? Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 576,253High fasting plasma glucose ? HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis 553,425Air Pollution ? Ambient ozone pollution 548,650Ambient ozone pollution ? Chronic respiratory diseases 548,650Physical inactivity and low physical activity ? Neoplasms 482,302Household air pollution from solid fuels ? Other non-communicable diseases 443,135Tobacco smoking ? Neoplasms 418,225High blood pressure ? Diabetes, urogenital, blood, and endocrine diseases 361,857Physiological ? Low bone mineral density 301,652Low bone mineral density ? Unintentional injuries other than transport injuries 301,652High body-mass index ? Musculoskeletal disorders 268,266Occupational risks ? Unintentional injuries other than transport injuries 265,035Intimate partner violence ? Maternal disorders 263,335Alcohol use ? HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis 225,666Occupational risks ? Other non-communicable diseases 205,120Alcohol use ? Unintentional injuries other than transport injuries 199,629Drug use ? Self-harm and interpersonal violence 176,098Household air pollution from solid fuels ? Neoplasms 175,842Alcohol use ? Neoplasms 168,593Alcohol use ? Transport injuries 166,825High body-mass index ? Neoplasms 155,118Alcohol use ? Diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseases 144,849Alcohol use ? Self-harm and interpersonal violence 134,200Ambient particulate matter pollution ? Neoplasms 90,464Dietary risks ? Musculoskeletal disorders 79,949Occupational risks ? Transport injuries 68,973Tobacco smoking ? HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis 53,020Lead exposure ? Diabetes, urogenital, blood, and endocrine diseases 48,752Other Env ? Residential radon 46,637Residential radon ? Neoplasms 46,637Drug use ? HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis 41,603Alcohol use ? Diabetes, urogenital, blood, and endocrine diseases 34,055Alcohol use ? Neurological disorders 30,366Childhood underweight ? Neglected tropical diseases and malaria 22,551Tobacco smoking ? Diabetes, urogenital, blood, and endocrine diseases 21,900Occupational risks ? Neoplasms 18,461Vitamin A deficiency ? Nutritional deficiencies 7,422Drug use ? Cirrhosis of the liver 4,606Alcohol use ? Digestive diseases (except cirrhosis) 3,961Lead exposure ? Mental and behavioral disorders 2,896Drug use ? Other communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional disorders 1,687Drug use ? Neoplasms 635Alcohol & Drugs 4,231,273Alcohol & DrugsAlcohol use 3,020,381Alcohol useDrug use 1,210,892Drug useAir Pollution 21,942,611Air PollutionAmbient ozone pollution 548,650Ambient ozone pollutionAmbient particulate matter pollution 6,963,544Ambient particulate matter pollutionHousehold air pollution from solid fuels 14,430,417Household air pollution from solid fuelsSexual abuse 6,281,919Sexual abuseChildhood sexual abuse 1,374,294Childhood sexual abuseIntimate partner violence 4,907,625Intimate partner violenceUndernutrition 28,000,186UndernutritionChildhood underweight 10,112,321Childhood underweightIron deficiency 10,145,794Iron deficiencySuboptimal breastfeeding 5,430,200Suboptimal breastfeedingVitamin A deficiency 1,185,772Vitamin A deficiencyZinc deficiency 1,126,100Zinc deficiencyDietary/Physical 18,824,753Dietary/PhysicalDietary risks 14,139,801Dietary risksPhysical inactivity and low physical activity 4,684,952Physical inactivity and low physical activityPhysiological 21,566,050PhysiologicalHigh blood pressure 9,598,107High blood pressureHigh body-mass index 2,517,676High body-mass indexHigh fasting plasma glucose 6,839,755High fasting plasma glucoseHigh total cholesterol 2,308,860High total cholesterolLow bone mineral density 301,652Low bone mineral densityOther Env 1,444,175Other EnvLead exposure 1,397,538Lead exposureResidential radon 46,637Residential radonOccupational risks 2,341,920Occupational risksOccupational risks 2,341,920Occupational risksTobacco 6,456,925TobaccoTobacco smoking 6,456,925Tobacco smokingWatSan 3,296,245WatSanUnimproved sanitation 2,691,430Unimproved sanitationUnimproved water source 604,815Unimproved water sourceCardiovascular and circulatory diseases 43,560,973Cardiovascular and circulatory diseasesCirrhosis of the liver 621,752Cirrhosis of the liverDiabetes, urogenital, blood, and endocrine diseases 6,819,848Diabetes, urogenital, blood, and endocrine diseasesDiarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseases 26,415,704Diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and other common infectious diseasesDigestive diseases (except cirrhosis) 3,961Digestive diseases (except cirrhosis)HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis 873,714HIV/AIDS and tuberculosisMental and behavioral disorders 4,002,321Mental and behavioral disordersNeoplasms 2,657,986NeoplasmsNeurological disorders 30,366Neurological disordersSelf-harm and interpersonal violence 4,034,557Self-harm and interpersonal violenceTransport injuries 235,798Transport injuriesUnintentional injuries other than transport injuries 766,316Unintentional injuries other than transport injuriesChronic respiratory diseases 10,053,370Chronic respiratory diseasesNeglected tropical diseases and malaria 22,551Neglected tropical diseases and malariaNutritional deficiencies 11,348,812Nutritional deficienciesMusculoskeletal disorders 1,124,156Musculoskeletal disordersOther communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional disorders 1,687Other communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional disordersOther non-communicable diseases 648,255Other non-communicable diseasesMaternal disorders 1,163,929Maternal disorders

The first column contains risk categories as defined by the comparative risk assessment of the 2010 Global Burden of Disease. The second column contains individual risk factors (each of which fits into an aforementioned risk category). The final column shows attributable DALYs by cause. Some color would help differentiate the different risks and causes, but the basic picture is clear if you spend a few minutes with the graph. Women in India, according to the 2010 GBD, predominantly lose healthy life years from CVD, chronic respiratory diseases, nutritional deficiencies, and infectious disease. A fair amount of this is attributable to air pollution.

To make this plot, I opened a CSV, copied its contents, pasted into a text field at RAW, and then used its simple, elegant GUI to generate the code for the plot. The options are a little limited now (would like to add some color, shift label positions around, etc). If I really wanted to make those changes, I could edit the code and do it manually. A really impressive showcase of what can be done in the browser and definitely worth checking out and keeping an eye on.

Shiny Server on WebFaction

Update: WebFaction released today a one-click installed for node.js, obviating Step 2 below. Leaving it in here for posterity.

Shiny “makes it super simple for R users like you to turn analyses into interactive web applications that anyone can use.” It’s a powerful tool with a relatively simple syntax. It’s great for local apps — but I wanted to set up a web-based app that others could access and that wasn’t beholden to Shiny and RStudio’s excellent beta server platform.

I host this site and a few others at WebFaction — an awesome service with little to no downtime, fast servers, and relatively flexible restrictions. Getting Shiny up and running on WebFaction required a little work.

Step 1: SSH into WebFaction. Follow the instructions on their website for your specific server(s).

Step 2: Make a source directory. Download and install node.js.

mkdir src
cd src
wget 'http://nodejs.org/dist/v0.10.20/node-v0.10.20.tar.gz'
tar -xzf node-v0.10.20.tar.gz
cd node-v0.10.20
python2.7 configure --prefix=$HOME
make PYTHON=python2.7
make PYTHON=python2.7 install

export NODE_PATH="$HOME/lib/node_modules:$NODE_PATH"
echo 'export NODE_PATH="$HOME/lib/node_modules:$NODE_PATH"' >> $HOME/.bashrc 

Step 3: Download and install R.

#install R
wget 'http://cran.us.r-project.org/src/base/R-3/R-3.0.2.tar.gz'
tar -xzf R-3.0.2.tar.gz
cd R-3.0.2
./configure --prefix $HOME
make
make install

Step 4: Make a temp/tmp/temporary director.

cd $HOME
mkdir tmp
chmod 777 tmp
TMPDIR=$HOME/tmp
export TMPDIR

Step 5: Download Shiny from source and install using NPM.

git clone https://github.com/rstudio/shiny-server.git
npm install -g shiny-server/

installing from NPM directly did not work — Shiny would not launch. I believe this is because you’re not allowed root access on WebFaction shared accounts.

Step 6: Launch R and install whatever packages you need.

install.packages('ggplot2')
install.packages('data.table')
devtools::install_github("ShinyDash", "trestletech")
devtools::install_github("shiny-incubator", "rstudio")

Step 7: Want plots to work? In your Shiny app’s global.R file, set

options(bitmapType = 'cairo')

Next up: a cron job to keep a Shiny instance running or to restart it if it goes down… and putting Shiny behind some light authentication to prevent pre-release apps from general consumption.

The Best American Infographics 2013

The Best American Infographics 2013 came in yesterday. It’s chock-full of goodness and inspiring visual displays of data. Some are nonsensical, some are dense and shocking. They’re all pretty engaging and the collection appears well-curated. Wired has a number of the selected graphics online.

The book’s introduction was written by David Byrne. I’ll add a link to the essay if it appears online. In the meantime, my favorite bit follows.

The very best of these, in my opinion, engender and facilitate an insight by visual means - allow us to grasp some relationship quickly and easily that otherwise would take many pages and illustrations and tables to convey. Insight seems to happen most often when data sets are crossed in the design of the piece - when we can quickly see the effects on something over time, for example, or view how factors like income, race, geography, or diet might affect other data. When that happens, there’s an instant “Aha!” - we can see how income affects or at least correlates with, for example, folks’ levels of education. Or, less expectedly, we might, for example, see how rainfall seems to have a profound effect on consumption of hard liquor (I made that part up). What we can get in this medium is the instant revelation of a pattern that wasn’t noticeable before.

One would hope that we could educate ourselves to be able to spot the evil infographics that are being used to manipulate us, or that are being used to hide important patterns and information. Ideally, an educated consumer of infographics might develop some sort of infographic bullshit detector that would beep when told how the trickle-down economic effect justifies fracking, for example. It’s not easy, as one can be seduced relatively easily by colors, diagrams and funny writing.

This Charming Charlie

One part Peanuts comic strip, one part Smiths lyrics. One hundred percent hilarious. See more here.

And now, some whimsy: Beer Labels in Motion

Happy Towel Day

Today is Towel Day, in honor of Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Last Chance to See, the Dirk Gently series, etc. Why Towels?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Treehouses by Takashi Kobayashi, Japan

I’ve got a long obsession with (1) tree houses and (2) Japan. This short story and related photographs takes those two interests and smashes them together with vigor.

From designboom:

takashi kobayashi is a self-taught designer that has brought treehouse vernacular to the japanese landscape. the carpenter and architect of 120 houses throughout japan, his prolificness is borne of a deep-seated investment in the creation of a new architectural tradition in his country added to the hefty, overall aim of each project- to erode the boundary between man and nature. using reclaimed wood, the designer and his collective treehouse people have developed methods since the first building in 1993 for the arboreal structures balanced on living boughs and limbs that avoid stunting the growth of the tree.

forecast.io

Beautiful new service from the creators of Dark Sky. A number of cool things about it, including its beautiful visualizations and use of data from around the globe. Particularly, the developers note:

We’ve gathered hour-by-hour observations from tens of thousands of ground stations world-wide, in some places going back a hundred years. We expose it as a sort of “time machine” that lets you explore the past weather at any given location. We’ve also used the data to develop statistical forecasts for any day in the future. For example, say you have an outdoor family reunion in 6 months: with the time machine, you can see what the likely temperature and precipitation will be at the exact day and hour.

Their API sounds good, too, though I haven’t taken the plunge on that yet.

Now that we’ve developed a general-purpose weather API, we’re trying to compete with the other weather APIs available around the Internet. We’ve found those APIs to be difficult and clunky to use, so we’ve tried to make our API as streamlined as possible: you can sign up for a developer account without needing a credit card, and start making requests right away—you can worry about payment information when your app is ready. Additionally, we’ve lowered our prices so that we’re competitive with the other data providers out there.

Via DF

Tokyo Metro Posters

Back in 2008, the Tokyo Metro system launched a three-year-long campaign aimed at reminding subway passengers to mind their manners while riding the trains. It featured the slogan “Please do it at home” or “Please do it again” alongside an illustration of the featured manner or rule. All posters are written in Japanese and English, some featuring hilariously outrageous and sometimes confusing activities that make you wonder, “Do people actually do that on a train?!”.

Via The Loop

the Eames timeline

As part of an effort to save the Eames House and come up with a 250 year plan, the Eames Foundation is selling 500 copies each of 4 limited edition prints at 75 USD each. The prints are interesting and well-designed.

They’ve also got a great timeline up of the Eames’ achievements. Pretty cool and definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the Eames and their work.

Courier Prime: It's Courier, just better

John August:

Since the beginning, screenplays have been written in Courier. Its uniformity allows filmmakers to make handy comparisons and estimates, such as 1 page = 1 minute of screen time.

But there’s no reason Courier has to look terrible. We set out to make the best damn Courier ever.

We call it Courier Prime.

Re-envisioned for the 21st century and beyond. Real italics, a nice-looking bold. Optimized for screen and print. Typography geeks, rejoice. Free!

Courier Prime was designed by Alan Dague-Greene for John August and Quote-Unquote Apps.

Via Daring Fireball

Amazing, old-fashioned movie theater photographed by NYC Scout

Photo courtesy NYC Scout

To quote Dr. Peter Venkman: I guess they just don’t make them like they use to, huh?

NYC Scout has an amazing set of photographs from the old Loew’s Valencia Theatre in Queens. According to Cinema Treasures, the theater opened originally in early 1929 and was the first of five “wonder theatres” that Loew’s built in NYC. It had over 3,500 seats. It closed in 1977 and has since served as the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People church.

The NYT has a couple articles about the other wonder theatres. Pretty fascinating stuff. Nice to see that one of them is well maintained and lives on. Hard to imagine going to a show or a movie in such an opulent setting. A far cry from today’s theater experience.

Thanks Anoop.

The Bakken Oil Shale Field

Nice, keen catch from Dr. Drang:

Look north and slightly east of Denver. See that big, somewhat diffuse patch of light? Here’s a zoomed-in view of that area with a few cities labeled to help you get your bearings.

Even if you didn’t know that this lit-up patch was in a generally empty area, covering western North Dakota and parts of eastern Montana and southern Saskatchewan, you could guess that it’s not a population center; despite its size, there’s no bright center to it.

The lights are from the oil shale fields spread out over the Williston Basin. It’s one thing to read about the boom in oil shale, it’s quite another to see such graphic evidence.

As a point of reference, here’s EIA map of 2011 oil shale plays in N. America.

Welcome to the new UC (brand)

The University of California system undertook a substantial rebranding effort, highlighted in the video above. It is a dramatic shift - and without a doubt feels more modern. The impetus for the change as described by Vanessa Kanan Correa follows:

Previously, the UC system only used its seal as its primary visual identifier, where it was abused with impunity. We feel it is an important component of the university’s visual ecosystem. But it is a non-distinctive symbol which serves an important bureaucratic function. Now we limit its use to formal systemwide communications, diplomas, official regental and presidential communications, and other official documents. Many of our campuses, and other universities across the country have limited use of their official seals in similar ways.

From this perspective, this is less of a rebranding exercise, but instead the creation of a coherent, consistent, and relevant brand identity where before there was none.

Jury’s out on whether that’s a good thing or not — or how much it will actually impact design choices at each of the separate UC campuses. Probably minimally, at least initially.

The typographic choices are pretty safe — modern, but not too showy or strong. The designers chose Kievet, a sans-serif humanist typeface in the vein of Source Sans or Droid Sans. Kievet has a number of weights and a corresponding web font.

The initial work on FF Kievit began in 1995, as part of a school project. The concept was finished several years later for a corporate client of Method Inc., a design firm in San Francisco. The openness of the characters and their proportions makes it an ideal typeface for use in small print. The clarity of classic sans serif faces (Frutiger and Univers) and the humanistic characteristics of old styles (Garamond and Granjon) were the inspiration for this contemporary design that is equally at home in a headline or a body of text.

The new UC badge itself I’m not particularly fond of. It took me five or ten looks to realize they’re trying to make the background approximate a U through use of negative space. And that C is really, really round. I’ll grant that it looks really modern and catchy — as does the rebrand of the University’s “let there be light” tagline. The problem - and my fear - is that you want to go for a timeless design for properties like this and not capitulate to what’s trendy now. The whole thing looks hip and cool — and could feel dated in six wee little months. We’ll see what happens.

Dieter Rams: Less and More Interview

This video is a couple of years old but was recently featured at The Atlantic. For those who don’t know, Rams was the influential product designer at Braun whose simple, minimal designs have widely influenced modern industrial design. In the mid-80s, Rams articulated a set of 10 design principles focusing on utility, aesthetic simplicity, and understandability. In the short video, Rams is quirky, thoughtful, and intriguing. Read more about his ten principles for good design here.

Steve Jobs's Parable of the Stones

But what I’ve always felt is that a team of people doing something they really believe in is like… When I was a young kid there was a widowed man that lived up the street. He was in his eighties. He was a little scary looking. And I got to know him a little bit. I think he may have paid me to mow his lawn or something.

And one day he said to me, “come on into my garage, I want to show you something.” And he pulled out this dusty old rock tumbler. It was a motor and a coffee can and a little band between them. And he said, “Come on with me.” We went out into the back and we got just some rocks. Some regular old ugly rocks. And we put them in the can with a little bit of liquid and a little bit of grit powder, and we closed the can up and he turned this motor on and he said, “Come back tomorrow.”

And this can was making a racket as the stones went around.

And I came back the next day, and we opened the can. And we took out these amazingly beautiful polished rocks. The same common stones that had gone in — and through rubbing against each other like this, creating a little bit of friction, creating a little bit of noise — had come out these beautiful polished rocks.

That’s always been in my mind as a metaphor for a team working really hard on something they’re passionate about. It’s that through the team, through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together, they polish each other and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these really beautiful stones.

The Internet, a series of tubes.

Google’s data center doors flung open earlier this week. And, somehow, it looks remarkably like Ted Stevens’ often-teased quotation about the internet being nothing but “a series of tubes.”

click here to see many more photos from Google’s data centers

Obviously, that’s not the whole of it. The tubes, the languages, the infrastructure all come together, a weird amalgamation of technologies that gives rise to our internet, a sum that transcends the somewhat mundane parts. Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, said the following in an interview with Terry Gross:

The Internet is absolutely made of tubes. What else could it be made of? It’s many other things — these protocols and languages and machines and a whole set of fantastically complex layers and layers of computing power that feeds the Internet every day. But if you think of the world in physical terms, and you’re trying to be as reductive as possible and try to understand what this is, there’s no way around it — these are tubes. And from the very first moment, from the basement of a building in Milwaukee to Facebook’s high-tech, brand-new data center, and along the ceiling and the walls, are these steel conduits. But I know a tube when I see one.

A couple of days ago, Wired published a piece by Steven Levy about Google’s data centers. Levy was one of the first non-essential Google staff to visit the center, and his report is pretty astonishing. Google’s built a lot of their own infrastructure in an attempt to meet two important standards — speed and energy efficiency.

All of these innovations helped Google achieve unprecedented energy savings. The standard measurement of data center efficiency is called power usage effectiveness, or PUE. A perfect number is 1.0, meaning all the power drawn by the facility is put to use. Experts considered 2.0—indicating half the power is wasted—to be a reasonable number for a data center. Google was getting an unprecedented 1.2.

For years Google didn’t share what it was up to. “Our core advantage really was a massive computer network, more massive than probably anyone else’s in the world,” says Jim Reese, who helped set up the company’s servers. “We realized that it might not be in our best interest to let our competitors know.”

Make no mistake, though: The green that motivates Google involves presidential portraiture. “Of course we love to save energy,” Hölzle says. “But take something like Gmail. We would lose a fair amount of money on Gmail if we did our data centers and servers the conventional way. Because of our efficiency, we can make the cost small enough that we can give it away for free.”

thanks to Charlotte K. for sharing Levy’s article + the photos

Davey Johnson's Long Exposure Fireworks

Never seen anything like this before. Really cool stuff. Via Colossal. See more of his long-exposure photographs here.

Air Quality in London During the Olympics

Earlier this week, a few British newspapers ran stories about the implications of poor air quality in London and the impact it may have on athlete’s performance. The articles were a bit scant on details, but hinted at dangers for vulnerable populations and an increased risk of exercise-induced asthma during certain times of the day, especially for athletes. They cited London Air, a site that is tracking a number of important pollutants at sites throughout London.

They’ve got a remarkable amount of relatively easily accessible data on their site, and a special subsection catered towards visitors to London for the 2012 games. They’ve also created (in collaboration with the Environmental Health group at King’s College) free location-aware smartphone apps for Android and iOS that are impressive, easy to use, and comprehensive.

Click here to see a map of PM10 concentrations around London and visit their site for more information.

The AP story has been picked up by the Washington Post.

Designboom: House of Cedar by Suga Atelier

Via Designboom:

Japanese practice suga atelier has sent images of their recently completed project ‘house of cedar’, a residence in osaka, japan. oriented towards the north to overlook a sloping bank of earth and river, a glass facade secured with a rectilinear pattern of aluminum mullions reveals two interior stories. the squared exterior is interrupted with a fold which creates a reveal between the structure and ground plane. placed along the eastern elevation, the line runs through the main entry portal which continues the crease through metal door.

A different type of treehouse. See more pictures.

52tiger.net: Brief history of the iPad: Prologue

Dave Caolo has decided to tackle the ‘history’ of the iPad, including its mechanical and intellectual forebearers (he goes all the way back to 1888, amazingly). Seems like an interesting and clever undertaking and one motivated by some startling facts:

Today the iPad is so popular that it’s easy to overlook that it’s only three years old. Apple has updated it just twice. Here’s a little perspective to reinforce the iPad’s tender age:

  • When J. K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, there was no iPad.

  • When President Barak Obama was inaugurated as America’s 44th president, there was no iPad.

  • In 2004 when the Boston Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino and won the World Series for the first time in 86 years, there was no iPad. Nor did it exist three years later, when they won the championship again.

Hard to imagine that the device is only three years old. At least in the US, it has become something of an iconic, cultural touchstone.

Read Dave’s piece and check back for updates as he moves us through the development of iPad.

We are nature

These are stunning, multiple exposure shots created on a modern Nikon camera by Christoffer Relander. See more.

From Twitter to Graph: Plotting the US Embassy's Air Quality Monitor in Beijing

There’s been a lot of dingus kerfuffle around the US Embassy monitoring air quality in Beijing and posting the results to Twitter at @BeijingAir. I personally like this kind of thing — its almost as though the government is acting as an environmental activist with infinite clout, stirring up problems by bringing known issues to light.

I thought, in passing, that it would be fun to pull the data stream from Twitter, parse it, and graph it. The embassy updates the data hourly; I figured I could make a call to Twitter’s API, without the need for any hacky AJAX refreshing. When people view the post, it’ll show the most recent two hundred tweets, representing 200 hours of data. Perhaps there’d be a need/interest to backup more to a database, but I was running out of steam - turns out that this undertaking wasn’t as easy as one would have hoped.

So, without further ado, here’s approximately the latest week of PM2.5 data from Beijing. The lower line — in red — is the PM2.5 concentration; the upper line — in green — is the air quality index (AQI). The dotted, light-grey line is the US EPA 24h PM2.5 standard. Note that Beijing is rarely, if ever, below that designation. I’ll do my best to explain what each of those lines represents below. But now, the graph:

PM2.5 is defined by the US EPA as follows:

Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter are called “fine” particles. These particles are so small they can be detected only with an electron microscope. Sources of fine particles include all types of combustion, including motor vehicles, power plants, residential wood burning, forest fires, agricultural burning, and some industrial processes.

Exposure to particles of this size has been implicated in a wide range of health effects. Like other chemical exposures, at a first approximation the intensity of the health effect depends on the duration of exposure, the concentration of particles in the environment, and an individual’s proximity to the source. There’s increasing evidence that any exposure above very low levels — the types we rarely see anywhere on Earth these days — are bad for health and can exacerbate heart and lung disease, asthma, bronchitis, and the like.

The Air Quality Index (or AQI) is a summary measure that

tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health. Ground-level ozone and airborne particles are the two pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health in this country.

Finally, the US EPA standard is pretty straightforward. For the US, there are not supposed to be 24-hour average PM levels above the 35µg/m3. Of course, as we can expect, not every locale in the country can meet this standard.

Back to China.

It’d be interesting to add some summary statistics and look at variation between weekdays and weekends — I’m working on that now. I’m also trying to find an accessible data source from China to plot along with the US data. Some comparison would be good, especially after China began posting its own data not too long ago.

The previous (and awesome) work that inspired this undertaking was done by China Air Daily. They’ve got some amazing visuals of the air pollution. One is attached below; I recommend checking out their site for more great stuff.

Pantone Skin Tones: humanæ

An ongoing project by artist Angelica Dass.

Humanae inventory is chromatic, a project that reflects on the colors beyond the borders of our codes by referencing the PANTONE ® color system.

The project conducts a series of portraits whose background is dyed the exact shade extracted from a sample of 11x11 pixels from the very face of the people portrayed. The ultimate aim is to record and catalog, through a scientific measurement, all possible human skin tones.

Pretty cool stuff. Definitely worth seeing the whole collection. In a similar vein to the work of Pierre David.

From Wal-Mart to Library

From PSFK, a great story about the decision in McAllen, Texas to turn an abandoned Wal-Mart into an award-winning library.

In the Monitor, a local newspaper, Dave Hendricks wrote:

A massive canopy, the kind often found at fancy hotels and Las Vegas casinos, shades the building’s main entrance. Towering above the canopy is a translucent tower of glazed glass, which will glow with color-changing lights at night. Stucco walls now soften the building’s boxy exterior, replacing the retail giant’s signature blue with shades of brown.

“The only comparison to Walmart is the size of the building,” said library Director Jose Gamez, who donned a hard hat and safety vest Wednesday to show off the library-to-be.

Inside, walls have divided the cavernous, 123,000-square-foot space into conference rooms, computer labs and room for more than 300,000 books. Both a coffee shop and copy center will operate inside the new library.

I like the idea of transforming familiar, well-known centers of commerce into vibrant, educational meeting grounds. It helps, I think, that they were extremely forward thinking both in the physical / UX design of the space and the selection of books, technology, and amenities within the building. Seems like a good template for future libraries — a confluence of traditional library services with the amenities of big-box bookstores that draw people in. The McAllen library seems to go one step farther, elevating both the interior and exterior to the level of art - a place that needs to be experienced.

The gamble (of around 25 million USD) seems to have paid off. According to a later story by Hendricks, 2000 people lined up for the grand opening of the 129,000 square feet library, which claims to be the largest single floor library in the US. 48,000 visitors roamed the space in December, with ~1600 new registrants and 8000 account updates.

The library has posted quite a few videos about the process and some amazing pictures of the transformation of the abandoned space into a library.

Matthew Cusick's Map Art

Matthew-Cusick_203.jpg

Impressive collages made entirely from bits and pieces of various maps. No painting done on top of the maps, though some minimal inking to bring out certain contrasts. I’m struck by the tones and the obvious deliberation that went into the placement. There’s also something intriguing about deconstructing the geographies of maps to create new visuals.

Matthew Cusick, the artist, in an interview with My Modern Met

I found that maps have all the properties of a brushstroke: nuance, density, line, movement, and color. Their palette is deliberate and symbolic, acting as a cognitive mechanism to help us internalize the external. And furthermore, since each map fragment is an index of a specific place and time, I could combine fragments from different maps and construct geographical timelines within my paintings.

I never paint on the maps. I let the maps be themselves and they establish the palette for me. Sometimes there will be an underpainting that is revealed when I scrape off maps that aren’t working. These areas are never planned though, just happy accidents. I do often paint the sky of a composition a single flat color.

If I need to manipulate the values of the maps in order to achieve richer darks, I use ink, mostly walnut ink that I make myself. This way I am not really adding a new medium to the map, only increasing one that is already there—the ink.

Murakami Bingo

Brilliance from artist Grant Snider. From his blog, notes

I’ve spent the last few years devouring the books of Haruki Murakami. Twelve novels, three short story collections, and one memoir later, I came up with this comic. If you have yet to experience the genius of Murakami, keep this Bingo card handy as you delve into his work. I recommend starting with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, or Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

Stamen Maps

Stamen design creates some amazing maps and variations of existing map tiles. They’re a design firm based in SF. Two of their most intriguing maps are Toner and Watercolor.

San Francisco

London

Luzinterruptus: Light "Interventions" in Madrid

Pretty fascinating social commentary / artwork by a group in Spain. They subvert various issues at local to international scales — nuclear power / waste, environmental degradation, loss of a local swimming pool to development — using simple, community-engaged art projects. The results are striking. A few of my favorites are posted below — but check out their website for more details of their work.

via colossal

Yayoi Kusama: the Obliteration Room

Before: After:

Really cool concept. Take everyday furnishing, strip them of all color, and turn them into a canvas for kids (of all ages). Give the attendees to the exhibit little round stickers of varying sizes and colors and let them go to town and “obliterate” the room.

Obliterate, invigorate.

The obliteration room 2011 revisits the popular interactive children’s project developed by Yayoi Kusama for the Queensland Art Gallery’s ‘APT 2002: Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’. In this reworked and enlarged installation, an Australian domestic environment is recreated in the gallery space, complete with locally sourced furniture and ornamentation, all of which has been painted completely white. While this may suggest an everyday topography drained of all colour and specificity, it also functions as a blank canvas to be invigorated — or, in Kusama’s vocabulary, ‘obliterated’ — through the application, to every available surface, of brightly coloured stickers in the shape of dots.

As with many of Kusama’s installations, the work is disarmingly simple in its elemental composition; however, it brilliantly exploits the framework of its presentation. The white room is gradually obliterated over the course of the exhibition, the space changing measurably with the passage of time as the dots accumulate as a result of thousands and thousands of collaborators.

Perfection: Xaver Xylophon's "FOR HIRE! BANGALORE RICKSHAW"

This short animation captures the cadence of local travel in India perfectly. It nails those conflicting sensations of monotony, adventure, and relief.

Green, yellow, black. They are the blood in the veins of Bangalore: the 450,000 rickshaws and their drivers. Knocked together from bits and pieces, decorated, ready for the junk heap or carefully maintained like antique cars, the vehicles are as charismatic as their owners, who brave the monstrous traffic of this metropolis daringly, sleepy, chattering or stoic, making sure the passanger’s trip from A to B will be full of memorable experiences.

Based on days of riding around in rickshaws and drawings made locally, this animation captures the tough workaday life of a rickshaw driver, seen through the eyes of a European visitor.

Result of a one month trip to Bangalore, India as part of the project “The Law of the Market” at the University of Arts Berlin Weißensee, 2011

Star Wars: The Baroque Version from Mattias Adolfsson

In the vein of Kottke’s excellent post today of Star Wars as reimagined by someone channeling Dr. Seuss, I present another awesome reframing — this time, in a baroque style. Click here to see the full set.

James Nizam: The Lighthouse

A few weeks ago, The Morning News featured photographs from James Nizam of Vancouver. They referred to an article in Canadian Art that described Nizam’s process in more detail.

The large black and white photographs depict the transformation of darkened rooms into uncanny light sculptures that intersect elegant geometry with math-class daydreaming. Bridling sunlight into streamlined rays via perforated and sliced walls, and with the aid of artificial fog to intensify the slants of light, Nizam creates imagery that might bend our perception of photography.

The majority of works in the exhibition were created in a darkened studio space where small mirrors were fastened to ball joints for easy pivoting, perfect for manipulating the light streaming through holes in the walls. The logistics were no small feat; Nizam sometimes had as little as five minutes of perfect sunlight in which to create his images. And the process of waiting for those brief periods no doubt felt like déjà vu for a photographer who has spent plenty of time in dim rooms watching dust dancing in sunlight.

The effect is striking. Highly recommend checking out more of his work at Nizam’s website and at TMN. More on the specific process used to create these images is available here.

Flickr Blog: Japanese Manhole Covers

Flickr’s blog recently featured a set of Japanese manhole covers from MRSY’s photostream. There’s also a pretty expansive group featuring similar shots.

courtesy MRSY

A little about Japanese manhole covers, from Remo Camerota, author of Drainspotting:

In the 1980s cities began making customized manhole covers. Today nearly 95 percent of the 1,780 municipalities in Japan sport their own specially designed manhole covers. Designs range from images that evoke a region’s cultural identity, from flora and fauna, to landmarks and local festivals, to fanciful images dreamed up by school children.

NYT Magazine: 32 Innovations that Will Change Your Tomorrow

Mixed feeling about this article — entirely Western-focused. Looks bad in the context of solving bigger global problem through innovation. In NYTs defense, though, they do title the article with “your tomorrow” which points toward their base, who probably aren’t as concerned with water, sanitation, household energy, and other blights of the bottom billion.

All that aside, this bit is really nice and broadly applicable.

We tend to rewrite the histories of technological innovation, making myths about a guy who had a great idea that changed the world. In reality, though, innovation isn’t the goal; it’s everything that gets you there. It’s bad financial decisions and blueprints for machines that weren’t built until decades later. It’s the important leaps forward that synthesize lots of ideas, and it’s the belly-up failures that teach us what not to do.

When we ignore how innovation actually works, we make it hard to see what’s happening right in front of us today. If you don’t know that the incandescent light was a failure before it was a success, it’s easy to write off some modern energy innovations — like solar panels — because they haven’t hit the big time fast enough.

Worse, the fairy-tale view of history implies that innovation has an end. It doesn’t. What we want and what we need keeps changing. The incandescent light was a 19th-century failure and a 20th- century success. Now it’s a failure again, edged out by new technologies, like LEDs, that were, themselves, failures for many years.

That’s what this issue is about: all the little failures, trivialities and not-quite-solved mysteries that make the successes possible. This is what innovation looks like. It’s messy, and it’s awesome.

Via kottke.org.

From Flickr to Photoswipe: A Brief Tutorial

I recently revamped my photos page. I wanted an interactive, cross-device gallery to display the photos. In the past, I had been using jbgallery, a slick tool that used jQuery. I was having a bit of a hard time getting it to work the way I wanted and it was a little laggy on iOS and Android devices, so I decided to part ways with it. I don't want to speak poorly of it -- it works very well and the developer is friendly, happy to chat, and works to improve his library constantly. It's a nice tool, but wasn't what I was looking for in the end.

Photoswipe looked rad and performed pretty well on my iOS devices (an iPhone 4 and a 2012 iPad with Retina Display). I decided to give it a whirl.

I had some priorities. I wanted it to connect it with a specific flickr set using JSON; I was hoping to have the javascript recognize whether or not someone was on a retina display and choose which flickr image to pull accordingly; and I wanted it to adapt nicely across screen sizes and devices. Here's how it works, for those interested.

First, and Foremost: I stand on the shoulders of others -- Brian Cray, for an insightful post on detecting retina displays with javascript, and Viget.com, for introducing me to using javascript to interact with flickr JSON feeds many moons ago. The function below is modeled on Viget's original tutorial. And, of course, huge thanks to Photoswipe, for their amazing, free set of scripts/css/html.

This is my first tutorial related to this kind of stuff - take it with a grain of salt. And let me know if there are blatant errors or better ways to do things.

Into the body of your webpage, you'll need to put the code pointing to the flickr call. Place this wisely -- it'll play an important role in making all of your photos appear in the proper place. As placement is a bit context specific, we won't go into details here. Play around with it or view the source on photographs if you have initial questions.

	
<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript" src="http://api.flickr.com/services/rest/?method=flickr.photosets.getPhotos&api_key=[YOUR APRI KEY]&photoset_id=[YOUR PHOTOSET ID]&format=json&extras=original_format"></script>
	

Just doing that isn't enough -- remember, we requested the returned information in JSON, which we need to handle. Thankfully, javascript can make short work of that JSON for you.

Open your favorite text editor and create a new file. Paste the following into it. Create a reference to it in your photo gallery page. We'll go through it in more detail below.

	
function jsonFlickrApi(rsp) {

//detect retina
var retina = window.devicePixelRatio > 1 ? true : false;

//makes sure everything's ok
if (rsp.stat != "ok"){
return;
}
 	
//count number of responses
var num = rsp.photoset.photo.length;
 	
//variables "r" + "s" contain 
//markup generated by below loop
//r=retina, s=standard
var r = "";
var s = "";

//this loop runs through every item and creates HTML that will display nicely on your page
for (var i=0; i < num; i++) {
photo = rsp.photoset.photo[i];

//create url for retina (o=original, bt=big thumb) and standard (st=standard thumb,
//so= flickr "large")
o_url = "http://farm"+ photo.farm +".staticflickr.com/"+ photo.server +"/"+ 
photo.id +"_"+ photo.originalsecret +"_o.jpg";
  	
bt_url = "http://farm"+ photo.farm +".static.flickr.com/"+ photo.server +"/"+ 
photo.id +"_"+ photo.secret +"_q.jpg";
  	
st_url = "http://farm"+ photo.farm +".static.flickr.com/"+ photo.server +"/"+ 
photo.id +"_"+ photo.secret +"_s.jpg";
  	
so_url = "http://farm"+ photo.farm +".static.flickr.com/"+ photo.server +"/"+ 
photo.id +"_"+ photo.secret +"_b.jpg";
  	
r += "<li><a href='"+ o_url +"'><img alt='"+ photo.title +"' src='"+ bt_url 
  	+"' title='Click to view "+ photo.title +" full size'/></a></li>";
s += "<li><a href='"+ so_url +"'><img alt='"+ photo.title +"' src='"+ st_url 
  	+"' title='Click to view "+ photo.title +" full size'/></a></li>";
}

//should be self explanatory
if (retina){
q = '<div id="MainContent"><ul id="Gallery" class="gallery">'+ r +' </ul></div>'
}
else{
q = '<div id="MainContent"><ul id="Gallery" class="gallery">'+ s +' </ul></div>'
}

//this tells the JavaScript to write everything in variable q onto the page
document.writeln(q); 
}
		

Our first line defines our function. Ce n'est rien.

Our next couple of lines set a newly defined variable -- retina -- to see if the Pixel Ratio > 1.

Our next four lines check that we're getting an okay JSON response from flickr. If it's not okay, things are going to halt. This could be due to a poorly formed request, a lack of API key, etc.

Next, we're going to get the number of responses (photos) pulled from our response. This will be important later. We're also going to define a couple of empty variables that we'll use later.

Now comes a bit of a headache. The comment explains how we're choosing a number of different photo sizes and building URLs to access them. Flickr recently revised its API, so for more information / to keep this thing up to date check out the official documentation.

We basically choose a large square image for the thumbnail for retina displays and a smaller one for non-retina displays; similarly, we choose a large image for retina displays and a smaller one for non-retina displays. This introduces a bit of an issue -- if a user is on Edge with a retina display, the image will load slooooowly. There are ways around this, but its a bit too much for me to deal with.

The next bits -- r+= and s+= -- build list items for each image. This chunk should be filled with code relevant to the layout of your page. If you're not using PhotoSwipe, you can adapt this to whatever you need it to be. Just be sure to keep track of the quotation marks.

If we have a retina display, we embed the retina images; otherwise, we embed the standard images.

And we're off! I made a number of other small tweaks to the PhotoSwipe JS to make it work the way I wanted. But, overall, this covers the gist of it. Download a copy of the script here.

Jason Snell / Macworld: Tim Cook at All Things D

Jason Snell did an amazing job covering Tim Cook’s interview with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at this year’s All Things D conference. My favorite bits from Tim are below - secretive on products, opening up on all the other important stuff.

Tim: We’re going to double down on secrecy on products. I’m serious. However, there’s going to be other things where we’re going to be the most transparent company on the world. Like social change. Supplier responsibility. What we’re doing for the environment. We think that transparency is important in these areas, and if we are, other people will copy us.

In the past we did an annual report and that was our method of transparency. Did we do more than others? I think most people would say yes. Our actions were clearly much more. But our communication was once per year. Now we’re putting out monthly reports. We want everyone to know what we’re doing, and we hope people copy us.

Kara: Assess the China situation. You have many critics, not just fictional ones.

Tim: We decided over a decade ago that there were things we could do better than anyone else, and those things we could do ourselves. And other things, other people could do those better than we can… manufacturing was one of those. The operational expertise and engineering and supply chain mgt, Apple does all of that. But manufacturing, we said, you know, other people can do that as well as we can.

Walt: Is that still true?

Tim: I think it’s still true. We went through a lot of effort in taking overtime down. It’s hard, it’s complex. Some people want to work a lot. Some people want to work a whole lot because they want to move and work for a year or two and bring back as much money as they can to their village. We took a position to say we want to bring this down. We’re measuring working hours for 700,000 people. I don’t know who else is doing this. And we’re reporting it. It’s almost like the labor report that the U.S. puts out.

Walt: There’s been a lot of attention in the last month to revival of manufacturing in the US, WSJ today had a piece about wages in US being relatively attractive. You used to have factories in the US. Do you ever see the possibility? You’re a huge company, the most influential company in tech. One of the most in any industry. Will there be an Apple product ever made in the US?

Tim: I want there to be. This isn’t well known, but the engine for the iPhone and the iPad are built in the US, not just for the US but the world. The glass for your iPhone is made in a plant in Kentucky, not just for the US but other markets outside the US. so I think there are things that can be done in the US, not just for the US, but exported for the world

People focus on the final assembly, because that’s the part where people look at it and say that’s an iPhone, they don’t think of all the parts underneath that add significant value. So on assembly, could it be done in the US? I hope so some day. The tool and die maker skill in the US began to go down in the 60s and 70s. How many tool and die makers do you know now? We couldn’t fill a room. In China you’d need several cities.

So there has to be a fundamental change in the education system, to bring back some of this. But there are things that we can do. The semiconductor industry is fantastic in the US. The Corning deal with glass in Kentucky, this is fantastic. So we will do as many of these as we can do.

And we will use the whole of our influence [so] that we can do it.

Coda 2 and Diet Coda

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Coda 2 and Diet Coda (for the iPad. Great, great name), from the gurus at Panic, are coming out this week! So exciting. Check out the aforelinked pages.

Hemingway in the Paris Review

Hemingway, responding to a question about “the function of [his] art” from an interview published in the Paris Review.

From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of. But what about all the reasons that no one knows?

Seems true for all creative endeavors. Really enjoying the interviews series at the Paris Review.

Composit by Aanand Prasad

I wrote about Pep Ventosa's composite photographs a little while ago. Pretty amazing stuff. Aanand Prasad, a London based developer and designed, created a little tool to create something similar sourcing photos by keyword from Flickr. This is highly recommended -- really neat. The photos aren't as resolved as those created by Pep, but the effect is startling for some words. I tried a few different keywords, but really enjoyed how Dalai Lama (below) turned out. A few others that are pretty neat:

Steve Jobs | Moon | Rose (macro)

DalaiLama.jpg

Iteration

This thing looks different, as the handful of regular readers will notice. Perhaps not dramatically so, but I wanted to focus on the writing and the imagery and strip away all the other cruft.

So, some changes. The overall scaffolding for the page has changed a little; the sidebar is a little smaller and the main column's a bit bigger. The font has changed to one available through Adobe TypeKit - Franklin Gothic URW. I'm happy with how it renders on a computer and absolutely thrilled with how it looks on retina-calibre devices. It has a number of weights, obviating the need for multiple fonts on the site. Until HF&J launches their web font offerings, I'll be sticking with this.

A lot of the cutesy stuff -- rotating photos, quips, the date, twitter feeds -- and some more pragmatic stuff -- google ads, etc -- have been removed to decrease page load times. While the ads were generating a little revenue, it wasn't enough on a monthly basis to justify their ugliness. The photos still rotate, just on a per visit / refresh basis.

The sidebar's been tidied up. I liked having links to things I read over there, but they didn't need to clutter the viewing experience for readers on every single page. So perhaps they'll return in the future in a subsection.

Finally, a work in progress: the site looks different on an iPhone or Android device than it does on a computer or iPad using some CSS rules. I'll be refining the mobile view for a bit longer. Again, the emphasis will be on the readability of the site. I envision the mobile version even further stripped down (no sidebar) to accommodate the small reading space.

Enjoy + feedback always welcome.

Jony Ive on Design at Apple

An interview with the London Evening Standard.

What is more difficult is when you are intrigued by an opportunity. That, I think, really exercises the skills of a designer. It's not a problem you're aware of, nobody has articulated a need. But you start asking questions: what if we do this, combine it with that, would that be useful? This creates opportunities that could replace entire categories of device rather than tactically responding to an individual problem. That's the real challenge and very exciting.

Our goal is to create simple objects, objects that you can't imagine any other way. Get it right and you become closer and more focused on the object. For instance, the iPhoto app we created for the new iPad completely consumes you and you forget you are using an iPad.

In my opinion, this is what sets Apple apart. The design has evolved to a point that the product nearly melts away. The hardware that creates the experience has been reduced to the bare minimum. Apple makes the trick seems simple - but, in fact, it is next to impossible. Vision, iteration, and refinement - repeated over and over - has yielded the most intuitive and best technology products we've ever seen.

Edits

Amazing new creation by Ian Coyle (a Portland based badass).

Short narratives in film and photography. A quarterly publication.

This inaugural issue is a personal retrospective on the ideas of exploration and home.

(via Daring Fireball)

Command Line Hijinks using Share Monitor in Final Cut Pro X

FCP X has been causing headaches for folks all over the webosphere. Unfortunate, because its pretty slick, especially if we consider it a 1.0 release.

One particular area of headache for me has been scripting the new Batch Monitor replacement -- Share Monitor. Turns out its not terribly difficult to interact with Share Monitor using the command line.

Fire up terminal.

Copy and paste the following:

/Applications/Compressor.app/Contents/PlugIns/Compressor/CompressorKit.bundle/Contents/EmbeddedApps/Share\ Monitor.app/Contents/MacOS/Share\ Monitor -help

Read, experiment, enjoy.

Household Energy & Health Photo Database

Took on a fun, work related assignment to create a fast, easy-to-use photo database for our research group. We work in a variety of places and many of the researchers have been at it for quite a while. As a result, they have deep, rich photo collections. We receive some photo requests from the press and fellow researchers, but often have a hard time locating appropriate photographs to share with others. The goal of the site, located here, is to let people go to the site, read an image agreement, and view and download photos related to our work.

Seems reasonably straightforward, but actually making all the pieces come together was challenging. There's the front end, which requires little user interaction and is pretty straightforward. The backend, however, requires that people be able to easily upload and edit photos. To ensure that individuals are properly credited for their shots, the backend script watermarks the image with the text input into the 'name' field and some generic text. Each photo is then processed into a thumbnail by the server to ensure that the page loads relatively quickly.

Leverages PHP5, MySQL, jQuery, and HTML/CSS.

Things broke badly.

The site went down again this morning as a result of transitioning to a new drive running OS X Server 10.6. The recovery wasn't as bad as in the past -- four or five hours -- but wasn't fun, either.

But we're back - with a new fixed position navigation bar and a few other new tricks.

iTunes UI idiocy & insanity ::updated::

iTunes10buttons.png

What the hell is this?

This post began by berating the UI gurus at Apple for breaking their own rules and messing with standard UI elements -- in this case, the close / minimize / maximize window buttons. At left, as you can see, the window buttons are in a non-standard orientation in a size that looks like some of the modals used in inspector UIs -- but not the standard window buttone size. As I began to dig in deeper, though, it became apparent there are many subtle and many not-so-subtle changes. Its all a little weird.

The icons in the side bar are now monochromatic; the sidebar itself is more muted. I generally think this is a bad thing. As others have pointed out, there's some familiarity with the old color scheme -- the new one, with its total lack of color, ignores that.

The new "Show" And "Hide" for SHARED and PLAYLISTS is weird. Why not standard system widgets? Why a strange, AJAX-y, seemingly hackish replacement?

What's up with the weird checkboxes next to songs? These look comic-ish. I don't detect enough contrast between the checkbox and the back of the window. Again, these seem to be non-standard UI elements.

Up top, in the clickable/sortable area with column titles -- what are those new dividers between elements? I understand the intention of the effect -- I think it just fails.

The striping of rows seems more subtle, to the point of being gone unless I alter the viewing angle on my MBP to something absurd.

These are retrograde moves. They are not refined or consistent. Using iTunes as a UI testing ground has always struck me as an odd move -- the software goes out to more people than the OS reaches. Having an extremely polished product that constructively and accurately reflects upon the OS would be beneficial -- the whole 'halo' concept. This should be your best product with the best possible experience.

And the icon. Oh, the icon.

We're back.

Not yet better than ever. Updates soon. The server died, taking with it all previous back-ups, templates, and changes. I’ve learned my lesson and am backing up to a few different places regularly. We’re working on getting this up to speed before the next great adventure begins [at Berkeley].

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snarglr is written & maintained by ajay pillarisetti



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