April 2013 Archives

Dustin Curtis: "The future is extremely hard to see through the lens of the present."

Dustin Curtis recounts at his blog early meetings with the founders of Pinterest and Vine and their prototypes of now-thriving visions:

… my first reaction to their earliest attempts wasn’t to give them the benefit of the doubt-it was to immediately find problems and then dismiss their ideas.

The future is extremely hard to see through the lens of the present. It’s very easy to unconsciously dismiss the first versions of something as frivolous or useless. Or as stupid ideas.

How to be gracious

Tom Chiarella writes an amazing little piece on grace.

…graciousness reflects a state of being; it emanates from your inventory of self. Start with what you already possess. You, for instance, have a job. Live up to that.

When wandering the world, forget your business cards. Don’t look for more contacts. Instead, observe. Say hello to the people you see every day, but don’t make a fetish out of it. Stay interested in others. Be generous in your attentions but not showy. Don’t wink, snap your fingers, high-five, or shout, though laugh with those who do. It bears repeating: Look around. Remember names. Remember where people were born.

On the street, in the lobby, square your shoulders to people you meet. Make a handshake matter — eye contact, good grip, elbow erring toward a right angle. Do not pump the hand, unless the other person is insistent on just that. Then pump the hell out of their hand. Smile. If you can’t smile, you can’t be gracious. You aren’t some dopey English butler. You are you.

Remember that the only representation of you, no matter what your station, is you — your presentation, your demeanor. You simply must attend. Stand when someone enters the room, especially if you are lowly and he is the boss, and even if the reverse is true. Look them in the eye. Ask yourself: Does anybody need an introduction? If so, before you say one word about business, introduce them to others with pleasure in your voice. If you can’t muster enthusiasm for the people you happen upon in life, then you cannot be gracious. Remember, true graciousness demands that you have time for others.

So listen. Be attentive to what people say. Respond, without interruption. You always have time. You own the time in which you live. You grant it to others without obligation. That is the gift of being gracious. The return — the payback, if you will — is the reputation you will quickly earn, the curiosity of others, the sense that people want to be in the room with you. The gracious man does not dwell on himself, but you can be confident that your reputation precedes you in everything you do and lingers long after you are finished. People will mark you for it. You will see it in their eyes. People trust the gracious man to care. The return comes in kind.

Via kottke.

66 Behind the Scenes Pics from The Empire Strikes Back

there is so much amiss in this photograph.

I don’t know if this is a curated collection or just a fan finding every behind the scenes image he can from ESB… but it doesn’t matter. The pictures are amazing. Enjoy.

via Daring Fireball

Wired's 20th Anniversary

Wired Magazine is 20 years old. They write:

In his very first editor’s letter, Louis Rossetto wrote, “There are a lot of magazines about technology. WIRED is not one of them. WIRED is about the most powerful people on the planet today: the Digital Generation.” On this, our 20th anniversary, the time has come to reflect on this generation of leaders, thinkers, and makers. These people, their companies, and their ideas have shaped the future we live in today. Below, we’ve gathered stories for, by, and about the people who have shaped the planet’s past 20 years—and will continue driving the next.

I remember when it came out, distinctly marking me as old. I also vividly remember being excited when that iconic, thick, heavy slab arrived in the mail - for years in Louisiana and then throughout college. They’ve got a number of good features looking back, including a nice historical piece; a piece by Jason Kottke about kottke.org; and a fun, old picture of Steve Jobs, captioned simply “Remembering a Legend” (attached below).

They also interviewed Bill Gates, a different kind of legend, who had some great quips throughout his interview.

20 years ago we had the idea that information could become available at your fingertips. We got that done. Now everyone takes it for granted that you can look up movie reviews, track locations, and order stuff online. I wish there was a way we could take it away from people for a day so they could remember what it was like without it.

We need a malaria epidemic in the blogging community! Either that or we need people who have seen the malaria epidemic to start blogging. Seriously, we have two communities that don’t intersect with each other. One is about a billion and a half people—families, children—who live in malaria-prone areas. The others are living pretty nice lives, and it’s great. If the malaria epidemic was nearby, this stuff would be very prominent.

People doing innovative work in technology are making a huge contribution—they don’t have to feel bad about it. But if they make enough money, they should give some of it away to causes that they personally develop a connection to. If they can have an awareness about global poverty and disease, that’d be great. Twenty years ago, I didn’t have much awareness about those things. But in 1993, Melinda and I took a trip to Africa and made the decision to focus mostly on global health.

Miranda rights and the public safety exception

The bombings during the Boston Marathon were horrendous and terrifying. There’s no excuse for these types of behaviors and the folks behind the bombings should be (and have been) chased with the full weight of our considerable outrage. But, that said, in the end, the sole living suspect is a naturalized American citizen… and should be treated as such. The ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero puts it best (emphasis mine):

“The ACLU shares the public’s relief that the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has been apprehended,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “Every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights. The public safety exception should be read narrowly. It applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule. Additionally, every criminal defendant has a right to be brought before a judge and to have access to counsel. We must not waver from our tried-and-true justice system, even in the most difficult of times. Denial of rights is un-American and will only make it harder to obtain fair convictions.

Slate has a nice description of the public exception and attempts to expand exceptions under Holder.

Surprising science: a mere taste of beer triggers joy

From Surprising Science, a blog at smithsonianmag.com:

Scientists have long known that part of the reason alcohol induces pleasure is that intoxication leads to the release of dopamine, which is associated with the use of other drugs (as well as sleep and sex) and acts as a reward for the brain. But new research suggests that, for some people, intoxication isn’t necessary: Simply the taste of beer alone can provoke a release of the neurotransmitter within minutes.

A group of researchers led by David Kareken of Indiana University came to the finding, published today in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, by giving tiny amounts of beer to 49 adult men and tracking changes in their brain chemistry with a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, which measures levels of various molecules in the brain. They chose participants with varying levels of typical alcohol consumption—from heavy drinkers to near-teetotalers—and even tested them with the beer they reported that they drank most frequently. Because they used an automated system to spray just 15 milliliters (about half an ounce) of beer on each participant’s tongue over the course of 15 minutes, they could be sure that any changes in brain chemistry wouldn’t be due to intoxication.

Paul Gipe: "For the Amount Spent on the Iraq War the US Could be Generating 40% to 60% of its Electricity with Renewable Energy"

David Roberts at Grist pointed to this article today. Striking.

If we had invested the $3.9 trillion that the war in Iraq will ultimately cost, we would generate nearly 40% of our electricity with new renewables. Combined with the 10% of supply from existing hydroelectricity, the US could have surpassed 50% of total renewables in supply.

However, this is a conservative estimate. If we include the reasonable assumptions suggested by Robert Freehling, the contribution by renewables would be even greater.

Freehling’s assumptions raise to as much as 60% the nation’s lost potential contribution by new renewables to US electricity supply by going to war in Iraq. With the addition of existing hydroelectric generation, the opportunity to develop as much as 70% of our nation’s electricity with renewable energy was lost.

And unlike the war in Iraq, which is an expense, the development of renewable energy instead of war would have been an investment in infrastructure at home that would have paid dividends to American citizens for decades to come.

A new track from The National: Demons

Characteristically awesome.

The band’s sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me is out May 20/21.

Jason Molina, of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co, Dead

I stumbled upon a Jason Molina and Songs: Ohia fansite while a junior in college. I liked his music then, and still do, a great deal. Molina had been quiescent for a few years, dealing with his health and alcoholism. A note had surfaced suggesting he was okay, on the mend. Unfortunately, he passed away on March 18.

There are a number of nice tributes out to him on the interwebs. I particularly appreciated this one, from Stephen Thompson at NPR music, who wrote:

I got to meet Molina once, back in 2005. I’d heard stories that he could be prickly and unapproachable, to the point where I hesitated to say hello, but decided to suck it up as an act of selfishness; I just couldn’t resist the chance to tell him how much I’d come to love his music. The man was sweet and warm to the point where, when we parted, he reached into his bag and handed me a sheet of paper. He’d been scribbling some strange drawings — a little reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr’s album covers, but primitive and drawn in black pen — on the back of loose paperwork while bored on tour, and figured I might like one as a keepsake. He was right.

That sheepish generosity, coming from someone whose relationship with the world could be so difficult, stuck with me, and always will.

Paste Reveals "Top of the Hops" Winner

I was a little harsh of some of the selections along the way, but the exercise is fun. The winner is the Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA, which Paste describes as “simply the best IPA in America.” Not sure I agree, but it is a damn fine beer.

Sixty-four IPAs began Paste’s Top of the Hops IPA Challenge, but there can only be one winner. After blind-tasting 60 pairs of American India Pale Ales through four rounds, four beers still had a shot at the Championship.

All 64 beers met our initial criteria—an IPA from an American brewery that was available year-round and maxed out at 7.5% ABV (meaning no Imperial or Double IPAs). Each round had seven judges, including Paste’s beer-loving staff, musicians we invited in to participate and Atlanta-area beer experts like CNN beer writer Nate Berrong, Kraig Torres of Hop City and Eddie Holley of Ale Yeah!, two of Atlanta’s best craft beer stores.

It’s been a fun project, especially in these final rounds where all four beers were simply exquisite.

Whuck: Alec Baldwin interviews Thom Yorke on Here's The Thing

This shouldn’t work, but Baldwin nails it. Listen below or read the transcript here.

Air Pollution Linked to 1.2 Million Premature Deaths in China

As Kirk pointed out in an email this morning, the NYT missed half of the problem. He wrote:

Remarkable narrow vision to fail even to mention that household air pollution has about an equal impact in the country. Even though the GBD study shows both on the same graphs, journalists and policy makers see one, but not the other. These is also an estimated 0.2 million overlap, what we call secondhand cookfire smoke, which is the portion of outdoor air due to cooking fuels in the country. If you account that to household air pollution, than the total impact of household air pollution is greater than that from outdoor air pollution due to all other sources combined (1.2 million premature deaths compared to 1.0 million).

Our work has been showing — in India and in China — that outdoor air pollution isn’t just an urban problem; it is simply measured most commonly (and thus identified most easily) in urban areas. We’re working to quantify that contribution and to make the case that cleaning up households can help clean up ambient air — in urban and rural areas.

Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) and the Northern Lights

Pretty amazing time-lapse photography from Babak Tafreshi, a science journalist, photographer, and astronomy communicator. Captured on March 20 in northern Norway.

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