January 12, 2009 by Colin
Those wacky geneticists. Sitting in their labs all day using million dollar computers, ultra high power microscopes and all sort of CSI-like technology to mess with the sanctity of life …
When they eventually arrive at an innovative finding, geneticists sometimes let their sense of humour slip into their naming conventions.
Take this extract from Your Inner Fish,
“Just as paleontologists get to name new species, geneticists get to name new genes. The fly geneticists who discovered hedgehog had named it that because the flies with a mutation in the gene had bristles that reminded them of a little hedgehog. Tabin, McMahon and Ingham named the chicken version of the gene Sonic hedgehog, after the Sega Genesis video game”
What seemed funny in a fruit fly, however, can be impolitic or even rude when applied to a human condition, as the New York Times noted a few years ago:
“… Many of those genes were given weird names when first discovered. Scientists have come up with names for genes in fruit flies, for example, that may be mystifying (“faint sausage,” “fear of intimacy”), cute (“tribbles,” “groucho” and “smurf”), or macabre (“sex lethal” and “death executioner Bcl-2.”)
…The human variant of the fruit fly’s “hedgehog” gene … has been linked to a condition known as Holoprosencephaly, which can result in severe brain, skull and facial defects.
“It’s a cute name when you have stupid flies and you call it a ‘turnip,’ ” Dr. Doe said. “When it’s linked to development in humans, it’s not so cute any more.””
You can find a flash version of Sonic Hedgehog here.
January 9, 2009 by Colin
” … Many Amish have dealt with the collision of modern business technology and old world values by keeping their home and work lives completely separate. Though they still drive horses and buggies, remain off the power grid and wear simple, handmade clothing, some are using computers and power tools and talking on cellphones at their jobs.
Mr. Swaffer, of Keim, said that several Amish employees walk around the mill with Bluetooth cellphones in their ears, but the phones are owned by Keim and the workers shut them off when they leave work. “You won’t likely see someone on a horse and buggy talking on a cellphone,” he added. …”
- from a New York Times article on how the Amish are building successful businesses in partnership with non-Amish entrepreneurs.
December 24, 2008 by Colin
“While sales at most stores plummeted last month, the teenage retailer Hot Topic enjoyed a 6.5 percent gain, thanks mostly to brisk sales of gear inspired by “Twilight,” the teenage vampire movie.” (NY Times)
Enjoy MC Lars’ “Hot Topic is not punk rock“
December 22, 2008 by Colin
In the New York Times, a short Style article about No. 6, a boutique run by Karin Bereson and a partner that is influencing “a new post-1980s, post-grunge look developing down in Little Italy.”
“I walked out in a wrap-dress I’d call “June Cleaver Like You’ve Never Seen Her Before.”
“It’s way more than just ‘Hello,’ ” Ms. Bereson remarked.”
December 13, 2008 by Colin
“Disney’s Tomorrowland is deeply, thoroughly, almost furiously unimaginative. This isn’t the fault of the “Disney culture”; it is the fault of our culture. We seem to have entered a deeply unimaginative era.” (PJ O’Rourke in the Atlantic)
Obviously, O’Rourke has some significant issues with the redesign of the venerable park, inflamed by an Associated Press story about the redesign that originally ran in February and confirmed during a visit to Disneyland with his family earlier this year.
This is not a new topic: Tomorrowland was originally built in 1955, rebuilt for the 1967 season, “renewed” in 1998, and new components were unveiled earlier this year.
(flickr is strewn with pictures from all three eras: pre-67, pre-08 and today)
“In updating Tomorrowland these days, where thematic concept has gone off-track – - for the original Disneyland anyway, as Walt had a specific vision for his work and park that should be maintained – - is to discard the idea of utopian modernism.
When Imagineers turn instead to recent trends in fantasy-science-fiction, Hollywood (Star Wars), eco-futurism (agri-future gardens), dark apocalyptic vision (Alien Encounter), cartoon franchise marketing (Buzz Lightyear) or nostalgic pre-modern futurism (Jules Verne, steampunk), it no longer feels like Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland …
Disneyland should always be a complementary platter of Past, Future, Fact and Fantasy, Nostalgia and Challenge in all its angles, a unified timeline with a running theme. The recipe for the future is on the dedication plaque.
Go back? Go forward?
It’s easy to decry a lack of imagination or reliance upon corporate sponsorship on Disney’s part, especially if a portion of your childhood memories are vested in the fantastic and seemingly unattainable technologies first imagined and sold forty years ago.
With the acceleration of personal technology, Disney executives recognized ten years ago that all of Disney’s vaunted imagineers and the displays at Tomorrowland would never be able to outrun the work of millions of nerds, techies and scientists.
“Nicholas Negroponte, [former] director of the media laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of whose sponsors is Disney, thinks that the company has realized that the future, as it unfolds today, is no longer good entertainment.
”The story line just doesn’t carry with it the same sort of punch as going off to the Moon,” he said. ”Things like highly personalized information services and computer agents that do things for you just don’t make a good story.” (NY Times, February 1997)
*”Technical Difficulties” hed lifted from a Wired article about the rationalization of the Imagineering team.
December 8, 2008 by Colin
Ooooh, lingonberry. You tart little condiment. Most people know you from the lunchtime special at the regional IKEA, but you’ve become a shorthand reference for nearly anything Scandinavian (witness this article from the NYT: “Death Metal Sweetened by a Taste of Lingonberry“).
In my cupboard, I have two varieties of lingonberry jam: one from IKEA, one from President’s Choice. I bought one, and the other came in a nice little holiday gift package courtesy of PC as part of an effort to promote their 25th Anniversary Insider’s Guide.
Would you like the results of the taste test?
IKEA: round distinguishable berries, slightly sweet taste (more sugar, according to the nutritional label), bouncy and firm jelly.
President’s Choice: slightly mushier berries, a touch of saltiness (borne out by the nutritional label), and a less firm consistency.
Both are easily spreadable, make a nice contrast to meatballs or potatoes. I’d have to say the IKEA lingonberries look better as an individual dollop, simply because of the berry size and condition (how’s that for obsessive? I’ve spent a lot of time at IKEA).
Lingonberry, open faced sandwiches and a bewildering array of pickled herring may be the culinary markers that fix Sweden in our minds, but the Swedish government has far greater designs:
“Perhaps Sweden isn’t the first country that comes to mind today when you think of food and food tourism. And that’s what the Government wants to do something about. As the Government sees it, Sweden has every chance of becoming Europe’s leading food nation.” (Sweden: the new food nation, August 2008)
December 2, 2008 by Colin
As the NYTimes notes in its obituary, Bill Drake introduced innovations in radio formatting that now seem commonplace. A profile first run in Time Magazine’s August 23, 1968 edition gives us an idea of how ground-breaking his innovations truly were:
“Once new jocks are hired, they are drilled for a couple of months in the Drake style. The big idea is to unclutter and speed up the pace. The next recording is introduced during the fadeout of the last one. Singing station identifications, which sometimes run at oratorio length elsewhere, are chopped to H seconds on Drake stations. Commercials are reduced to 13 minutes, 40 seconds an hour—about one-third less than the U.S. average. Newscasts are scheduled at unconventional times, such as 20 minutes after the hour. Thus, when the competition is carrying news, Drake-trained deejays run a “music sweep” (three or four recordings back-to-back) to lure away dial switchers.”
“Should he hear a disk jockey he doesn’t dig, Drake gets on the blower (he has 21 phones around the house, including one in each of the five bathrooms).“When that phone rings,” says one old jock, “you know it’s death time, man.”
“Sometimes he will go unannounced to the town of one of his clients and just check into a motel, dial-hop around the radio, and then decide how to beat the competition. For example, the program director of Memphis’ WHBQ says that his Drake-ordered strategy is to go for “the schoolteacher who lets her hair down, forgets the Mantovani, and swings a little.” (Time Magazine)
November 29, 2008 by Colin
On the occasion of Claude Levi-Strauss’ 100th birthday, a quote about the great anthropologist:
“Roger-Pol Droit, a philosopher who read from “Tristes Tropiques,” said that he “would have loved a text from Lévi-Strauss today saying, ‘I hate birthdays and commemorations,’ just as he began ‘Tristes Tropiques’ saying, ‘I hate traveling and explorers.’ “
“This is all about the effort of making him into a myth,” Mr. Droit continued, “because that is what we do in our time.” (NYTimes)
September 26, 2008 by Colin
The anarchist ice cream truck, equipped by the Center for Tactical Magic. Now making its rounds in New York, it is equipped to supply activists in case of confrontation with security forces.
” … The ice cream inventory is limited, because cabinets are used to store rolls of film for documenting police action, Ibuprofen for billy-club headaches and rain ponchos in case of fire hoses and water cannons. There were pepper spray treatment kits and the counter-weapon of choice: water balloons. There is an ample supply of work gloves.
“These are for throwing tear-gas canisters back at police so you don’t burn your hands,” explained the driver, Aaron Gach, 34, who wore a skinny bow tie and black-and-white saddle shoes, and a uniform with “Art” on the name tag and the words “Tactical Ice Cream Unit” on his white captain’s hat. He was not wearing his usual big fake mustache …” (New York Times)
The truck is also equipped with 12 video cameras to produce an independent record of any confrontations, and an audio/video transmission facility.
It’s an interesting and provocative project, but it makes a lot of assumptions (and perhaps overstatements) about the extent of confrontation between activist organizations and security forces. It operates in the United States, not Germany, after all.
August 30, 2008 by Colin
Russell Brand, a British comedian, will be hosting the MTV VMAs this year. He has quite a colourful past, which he isn’t careful to hide:
” … In the ensuing years, Mr. Brand writes, he was treated at Focus Counseling Services in Suffolk, England, for his drug problem, and at the KeyStone Center in Chester, Pa., for a sexual addiction. (A representative for KeyStone said it did not release the names of former patients; a spokesman for Focus said “it would be churlish to deny” that Mr. Brand had been treated there.) …” (New York Times)
August 26, 2008 by Colin
John McEnroe. Older, still passionate about tennis and opinionated. A wonderful profile in the NY Times magazine.
McEnroe is also the first to admit that “I’m not mellow, I’m mellower,” which means, says his wife, “he’s an affectionate guy, a happy guy and man can he get freaking angry.” This is to say that McEnroe’s encounters with meter maids and state troopers take more out of him than they do most people. “He never goes off on meter maids,” Smyth says. “He just ices them. It’s the worst. You don’t want that wind blowing your way.” When can’t he hold back? “Traffic jams,” she says thinly.
August 13, 2008 by Colin
- “When writing songs, he said, he keeps copious notes on yellow legal pads and lugs the paperwork around in dozens of shopping bags.”
- He has played the XL Center in Hartford sixteen times.
Shopping bags? Really? Publix? Can you date and geolocate his songs based on the bags?
June 19, 2008 by Colin
Airlines, in a desperate attempt to remain profitable, are considering incremental charges and fees for services once considered routine. Like checking your bags before boarding your flight.
” … J. Scott Kirby, president of US Airways, said that passengers would prefer to pay for the features they actually used. Historically, he said, all passengers paid for checking bags even when they did not bring luggage, because a charge for transporting them was built into the ticket price.
Now, he said, “those who want the infrastructure to check bags, will check bags; those that don’t, won’t pay for them.” (NYT)
I hope airlines are building in the infrastructure for passengers who will choose to carry-on their luggage. Faced with an economic disincentive, passengers are bound to opt for the haul and stow – which may be a problem considering most airlines are also moving to smaller regional and commuter jets on most domestic flights.
June 19, 2008 by Colin
Paul Otlet. He dreamed of an international network of electronic tools, documents and indexing more than seventy years ago. He dared dream of a network of information linked through symbolic code – at a time when most people could barely figure out a municipal transit schedule. He thought of the hyperlink fifty years before anyone could really make it work.
And then he convinced a government to fund his work. THAT is impressive. Do you know how hard it is to convince bureaucrats to give money to your visionary yet obsessive project? Especially if your project skews towards the crazy side of the innovative/crazy scale?
A brief history of Otlet and his Mundaneum can be found in the New York Times:
“… Although Otlet’s proto-Web relied on a patchwork of analog technologies like index cards and telegraph machines, it nonetheless anticipated the hyperlinked structure of today’s Web. “This was a Steampunk version of hypertext,” said Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired, who is writing a book about the future of technology.
Otlet’s vision hinged on the idea of a networked machine that joined documents using symbolic links. While that notion may seem obvious today, in 1934 it marked a conceptual breakthrough. “The hyperlink is one of the most underappreciated inventions of the last century,” Mr. Kelly said. “It will go down with radio in the pantheon of great inventions.”
Mathew Ingram has some pointers as well.
May 30, 2008 by Colin
DARINKA CHASE (beehive-coiffed hostess who has worked at the restaurant for more than two decades): In the front hallway there was a cigarette machine and a pay phone. That was the time. There was no Internet. There was a cigarette machine and a pay phone, O.K.?”
That’s just one quote from many in the NYT’s eulogy for Florent, “an anomalously egalitarian enclave beloved in equal measure by celebrities on the A list and hedonists on the edge, and a prism through which certain aspects of the city’s evolution could be seen with unusual clarity” – as Frank Bruni put it last week.
FLORENT MORELLET: My father had a major show at the Brooklyn Museum, a retrospective, in February of ’85, and I organized a huge party for him, which actually to this day is the yardstick of what should never happen again at the Brooklyn Museum. But for that party I put up a major mailing list of 3,000 names.
“The yardstick of what should never happen again” There are so many situations where I could see using that phrase. It could almost be a life motto, a goal to set when beginning a project to make sure you push your work to its most creative and ground-breaking.More of Florent’s quirky ads, fliers and promo material are available on its website.