Tuesday, February 28, 2012

UX Update

Paris is famous for having a large number of movie theaters. I'm more impressed by the number of underground ones I hear about. Underground as in covert, and underground as in literally subterranean. We've previously linked to stories about Parisian urban exploration group UX, and this month, Jon Lackman has a fascinating interview with them, published in Wired, in which, among other things, they are sued for surreptitiously restoring a 19th century clock belonging to the Pantheon:
As soon as it was done, in late summer 2006, UX told the Pantheon about the successful operation. They figured the administration would happily take credit for the restoration itself and that the staff would take over the job of maintaining the clock. They notified the director, Bernard Jeannot, by phone, then offered to elaborate in person. Four of them came—two men and two women, including Kunstmann and the restoration group’s leader, a woman in her forties who works as a photographer—and were startled when Jeannot refused to believe their story. They were even more shocked when, after they showed him their workshop (“I think I need to sit down,” he murmured), the administration later decided to sue UX, at one point seeking up to a year of jail time and 48,300 euros in damages. Jeannot’s then-deputy, Pascal Monnet, is now the Pantheon’s director, and he has gone so far as to hire a clockmaker to restore the clock to its previous condition by resabotaging it. But the clockmaker refused to do more than disengage a part—the escape wheel, the very part that had been sabotaged the first time. UX slipped in shortly thereafter to take the wheel into its own possession, for safekeeping, in the hope that someday a more enlightened administration will welcome its return.

Meanwhile, the government lost its lawsuit. It filed another, which it also lost. There is no law in France, it turns out, against the improvement of clocks. In court, one prosecutor characterized her own government’s charges against Untergunther as “stupid.” But the clock is still immobile today, its hands frozen at 10:51.

Links for Later 2-28-12

  1. Predictions about Pakistan, ranging from the disturbing to the deeply disturbing.
  2. What James Altucher learned from watching Shark Tank.
  3. How to synthesize the nasal decongestant pseudephedrine from crystal meth, and other apocryphal science.
  4. The case against the case against contraception
  5. Varanasi
  6. Davos
  7. Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) speaks about the Prometheus mission at TED 2023
  8. Notes on R Programming

Ruben Block - Sweet Dreams

Eurythmics cover, performed (one and a half times) on DWDD.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

John Green and Ransom Riggs went to Kenyon, became friends, and twelve years later are on the top of the bestseller list at the same time. Kenyon alumni everywhere are cheering and gnashing our teeth in envy like Oscar nominees who went up against Meryl Streep for best actress.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Quote of the Day

Nothing Scales Like Stupidity: Yes, that would be the smart thing to do, but it won't scale. The stupid approach is better because it scales.

Links for Later 2-21-12

  1. Get Started with iOS Programming
  2. The $1000 home recording studio
  3. Tycho (aka Scott Hansen, ISO50)'s recording studio, interview
  4. Jonathan Coulton made $500k last year without a record label
  5. There is no critical period: Neuroplasticity and the late in life guitarist
  6. Building libraries in Indonesia
  7. Trent Reznor's winning business model

Monday, February 20, 2012

Macoto Murayama's Flowers

Dissected, drawn, and reassembled using architectural design software, Macoto Murayama's flowers are things of beauty and a wonder to behold.

(via BLDGBLOG and The Scientist)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to Write a Novel, by Nick Alderton, and the more advanced How to Write a Great Novel, as recommended by N. Gaiman.

Sandman One

Dave Mckean's construction for the cover of Sandman issue #1, from an off-angle. Amazing to see how this was put together.

(via Empire of Dust)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Litany of Tarski

If the box contains a diamond,
I desire to believe that the box contains a diamond;
If the box does not contain a diamond,
I desire to believe that the box does not contain a diamond;
Let me not become attached to beliefs I may not want.
(via lesswrong

The Litany of Gendlin

What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn't make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.
And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn't there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.
(via lesswrong)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

John Fugelsang tells the story of how his parents broke the habit and got married. Read the whole story in this NPR slideshow.

(via Americablog)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why Digital Piracy is Lending, Not Theft

Neil Gaiman tweeted a link to this article, which reiterates and expands on a point that Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Lessig, and many, many others have made before: people who download free copies of your books are typically finding something that they would not otherwise have found, and they end up buying your content if they like it. This means that "piracy" really looks a lot more like lending and/or advertising than it does like theft. In the embedded clip, Gaiman points out that when his publisher offered the digital version of one of his books for free, sales of the physical copies of the book went up by 300% the next month. That's a heck of a lift.

Mitt Romney, Super Consultant

I'm a consultant, many of my friends are consultants, and, as Reason Magazine notes, Mitt Romney is a consultant by experience and temperament, with all of the positives and negatives that implies. He's a really smart, flexible thinker with effective problem-solving skills, but he's also detached from the emotional and economic consequences of his decisions. For a good example, consider Romney's plan to balance the budget and set government spending at 17% of GDP, which would require greater than 50% cuts in domestic programs.

There's a certain narrowness of focus required to practice consulting at the highest level, because the client wants a particular problem solved, not the most interesting or beneficial problem solved. Plus, with today's GOP, he's got a basket case for a client; in the course of trying to make the base happy, he's going to have to be willing to do a lot of really foolish, damaging things to America.
If flip-flopping is Romney’s greatest weakness, his business experience is probably his greatest strength. But can the two be separated? Consultants don’t have ideology; they have strategy. Their job is to take their current client’s side, whatever it is, and put a good polish on it while restoring whatever’s underneath.

Think about what Romney actually did while running Bain Capital. Stephen Kaplan, the Chicago business professor, argues that he should get credit just for having run something. But former Bain Capital partner Eric Kriss, who also worked with Romney in the Massachusetts governor’s office, has warned people not to read too much into the gig. “Mitt ran a private equity firm, not a cement company,” Kriss told The New York Times in 2007. “He was not a businessman in the sense of running a company. He was a great presenter, a great spokesman, and a great salesman.”

Those who have worked with Romney cite his flexibility as a virtue. “He’s spent his entire life in a world that’s constantly changing, where he has had to modify his thinking in order to address problems,” says Scott Meadow, his friend and former business partner. “I think it demonstrates something that I’ve always seen: an ability to adapt and change, and a willingness to accept that his thinking evolves. And not being afraid to change his mind and go in a different direction because that seems like the appropriate thing to do.” Meadow says Romney is “loyal to success,” whatever form it takes. “He’s flexible because he’s had to be,” Meadow says.
More: How Mormon Economics Shape the GOP,

Wade Davis' Writer's Cave

Travis Price Architects built Wade Davis an enviable office, featuring its own library dome, The Kiva of Knowledge. You probably know Wade Davis as the author of The Serpent and the Rainbow and other books, or as National Geographic's Explorer in Residence.

Wade Davis has one of the most coveted jobs in America – Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. A cross between your favorite professor and a modern day Marco Polo, he spends of his time with his fingers in the dirt, traversing the globe as an anthropologist, ethnobotanist, photographer, and writer. When he’s home in Washington, he escapes to put pen to paper in his Travis Price-designed study, overflowing with books, manuscripts, artifacts, and inspiration.

“Travis did a studio on M Street in Georgetown for me,” Davis says, noting that in his current home, zoning prohibited a detached building. While many need light-filled rooms for inspiration, he wanted to avoid large windows opening onto a residential neighborhood and sought a cave-like atmosphere to disappear into his work. Subtle light was brought in by other means when the architect built a dome above his client’s desk (which Price describes as similar to the rotunda of the oracle’s temple at Delphi) and filled it with the books he uses the most. Davis whimsically calls the space his “Navajo kiva of knowledge.”

(via boingboing & bookshelf)

Previously: Best Thing of the Week: Wade Davis and the shit knife

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Links for Later 2-9-12

  1. How to deal with digital piracy (hint: better, cheaper products) (via Bruce Schneier)
  2. Prop8 repeal wins at appellate level
  3. Profile of Maggie Gallagher
  4. Obama and the contraceptives decision
  5. Egypt's Parliament getting off to a lively start
  6. Obama is the most "moderate" Democratic President since WWII, still ticks off Repubs
  7. Tau protein spreading in Alzheimer's. I don't know about this one, so more research, please.
  8. Svante Paabo strikes again: Human ancestor's genome sequenced from fossilized remain
  9. Why Chicago is great for startups