Bloggers

Back to the Future: Reimagined

Kottke - Friday 23rd October 2020

Back to the Future is 35 years old this year and to celebrate, Universal has cut together eight fan-made animations of action from the film into an abridged version of the beloved movie.

See also a deepfake version of BTTF with Tom Holland as Marty and Robert Downey Jr. as Doc.

Tags: Back to the Future   movies   remix   video
Categories: Bloggers

Is the McDonald’s Ice Cream Machine Broken?

Kottke - Friday 23rd October 2020

Software developer Rashiq Zahid figured out McDonald’s ordering API and built a program that attempts to order ice cream from every single McDonald’s in the US to check if their ice cream machine is working. If your McFlurry or McSundae cannot be added to the shopping cart, the program assumes the ice cream machine is broken. The program runs several times a day and the results are displayed on a map. From The Verge:

Initially, he created an API that attempted to add a McSundae from every McDonald’s location to its cart once every minute. The app figured out what he was up to and blocked him — “It was like, you can’t do this, you look like a bot,” he recalled.

After a night of trial and error, Zahid figured out the magic time frame. Now, his bot attempts to add a McSundae every 30 minutes. If the bot successfully adds the item, it lets McBroken know that the location’s machine is working. If it can’t, the location gets a red dot.

From the current map, it looks like almost 10% of McDonald’s ice cream machines in the US are not working. In NYC, nearly a quarter of McDonald’s restaurants don’t have a working ice cream machine. I’m wondering though: is the assumption that the machine is broken a good one? What if ice cream ingredients are out of stock or some franchises don’t offer ice cream products at all hours? When The Verge wrote their story last night, they reported only 7.5% of national machines and 15.2% of NYC machines were broken. Did 10% of McDonald’s ice cream machines in NYC break in the last 12 hours? Or are they just not selling McSundaes at 10am?

Tags: food   McDonald’s   Rashiq Zahid
Categories: Bloggers

Fantastic 3-D Animation of How Medieval Bridges Were Built

Kottke - Friday 23rd October 2020

The animation above shows how bridges were built in medieval times, well before the advent of backhoes, cranes, and bulldozers powered by steam and gasoline. I could explain what you’re about to see, but you should just watch the video.

The bridge constructed in the video is the real-life Charles Bridge in Prague, which was built over several decades in the 14th and 15th centuries. From Amusing Planet:

Construction of the Charles Bridge started in 1357, under the auspices of King Charles IV, but it was not completed until the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge has 16 arches and 15 pillars, each shielded by ice guards. It’s 512 meters long and nearly 10 meters wide. The balustrade is decorated with 30 statues and statuaries depicting various saints and patron saints, although these were erected much later, between 1683 and 1714. To preserve these statues, they were replaced with replicas during the 1960s. The originals are at Prague’s National Museum.

Until the middle of the 19th century, the Charles Bridge was the only crossing on river Vltava, which made the bridge an important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas.

When I was younger, I remember watching (and loving) a PBS series on the building techniques used to construct the pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge, the Colosseum, and Incan buildings. That the internet is now overflowing with engaging history videos like this bridge video is truly wonderful.

Tags: architecture   how to   Prague   video
Categories: Bloggers

Merriam-Webster’s “Time Traveler” Tracks the First Known Use of Words by Year

Kottke - Thursday 22nd October 2020

The English language, for better or worse, is constantly shifting and changing, with dozens of new and useful words being added to our collective vocabulary each year. With Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler tool, you can browse what new words were first used in years dating all the way back to 1500 (and even earlier). The obvious thing is to look up your birth year, so I did that and then poked around for some other interesting years.

1973 (my birth year): automated teller machine, bikini wax, closed-captioning, gender dysphoria, hot tub, Joe Six-Pack, LCD, reverse engineer, soccer mom, televangelist.

2007 (the year my son was born): Bechdel Test, hashtag, retweet, crowdfunding, DM.

1969: ageism, crystal meth, gangbanger, in vitro fertilization, life coach, point guard, sexual harassment, sport utility vehicle.

1945: A-bomb, cold war, d’oh, game theory, graffiti, name-dropping, passive-aggressive.

1929: antiviral, blue-collar, burp, eyeliner, Marxism-Leninism, penicillin, preteen, QWERTY, Sasquatch, spacecraft.

1865: anti-Muslim, baseball cap, gasoline, pessimistic, potato chip, showerhead.

1776: anthrax, division of labor, killjoy, natural resource, slaveholder, sour cream.

1619: bungled, diagram, libelous, retributive, sarcasm.

1561: aristocracy, curator, index, orgy, random, tarantula, well-being.

1500: cadaver, illness, minion, polite.

This is extremely inexpensive time travel. Almost every year is a gold mine (1605!) of terms that are seemingly out of time, either too early or too late. Careful, you might lose several hours to this. (thx, megan)

Tags: language   time travel
Categories: Bloggers

The Japanese Sustainable Forestry Technique Called Daisugi (Platform Cedar)

Kottke - Thursday 22nd October 2020

Daisugi is a sustainable forestry technique that originated in Kyoto in the 14th or 15th century. The tops of Kitayama cedar trees are carefully pruned so that a stand of very straight branches grow straight up from a main platform. From Spoon & Tamago:

The technique was developed in Kyoto as a means of solving a seedling shortage and was used to create a sustainable harvest of timber from a single tree. Done right, the technique can prevent deforestation and result in perfectly round and straight timber known as taruki, which are used in the roofs of Japanese teahouses.

The technique is not really used in forestry anymore, but daisugi are popular as garden trees and bonsai. There are lots of terrible videos about daisugi on YouTube, so I’d recommend watching this one from NHK about how Kitayama cedars are pruned & harvested, what the wood is used for, and a short segment on daisugi near the end.

Tags: Japan   trees
Categories: Bloggers

Watch a NASA Spacecraft Touch Down On an Asteroid to Collect a Sample

Kottke - Thursday 22nd October 2020

On Tuesday, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touched down on an asteroid called Bennu for about six seconds in order to collect a mineral sample to bring back to Earth.

The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security - Regolith Explorer spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid, called Bennu (formerly 1999 RQ36), and bring at least a 2.1-ounce sample back to Earth for study. The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

The video above is a time lapse sequence of the touch down, sampling, and subsequent take off.

These images were captured over approximately a five-minute period. The imaging sequence begins at about 82 feet (25 meters) above the surface, and runs through the back-away maneuver, with the last image in the sequence taken at approximately 43 feet (13 meters) in altitude — about 35 seconds after backing away. The sequence was created using 82 SamCam images, with 1.25 seconds between frames.

Tags: NASA   OSIRIS-REx   space   video
Categories: Bloggers

America’s Nuclear Sponge

Kottke - Thursday 22nd October 2020

The “nuclear sponge” is a colorfully named Cold War-era concept whereby stationing a massive collection of ICBMs in sparsely populated areas of the United States would serve to “soak up” a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, drawing fire away from populated targets like NYC, Chicago, and Seattle.

Before the development of nuclear-armed submarines that can hide their locations at sea, ICBMs were the crux of American nuclear strategy. Today, however, their only purpose is to draw fire away from other targets (like New York and San Francisco) in the (suicidal and thus highly unlikely) event of a first strike by Russia. The Air Force does not plan to launch the missiles in a war, but to have them draw a nuclear attack to the Upper Midwest.

We’re not making this up — that’s what former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress.

Here’s what the nuclear sponge looks like, courtesy of the National Park Service (areas in black have been decommissioned):

The amazing/crazy thing is that the sponge is not only still an active strategy, but the Pentagon is planning on replacing the sponge arsenal with new missiles at a cost of $95.8 billion.

Tags: atomic bomb   Cold War   USA   war
Categories: Bloggers

“Reverse Toonification” of Pixar Characters

Kottke - Wednesday 21st October 2020

Using an AI-based framework called Pixel2Style2Pixel and searching for faces in a dataset harvested from Flickr, Nathan Shipley made some more photorealistic faces for Pixar characters.

In response to a reader suggestion, Shipley fed the generated image for Dash back into the system and this happened:

I cannot tell where these images should live in the uncanny valley. You can see some similar experiments from Shipley here: a more realistic version of Miles from Spider-Verse, images of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera “reverse engineered” from paintings, and an image generated from a Rembrandt self-portrait.

Tags: artificial intelligence   movies   Nathan Shipley   Pixar   remix   The Incredibles
Categories: Bloggers

“My Mustache, My Self”

Kottke - Wednesday 21st October 2020

This is a superb essay by Wesley Morris where he starts off talking about his quarantine mustache but ends up considering where he fits in on the broadening spectrum of Blackness, from Carlton Banks to Malcolm X.

My friend had identified a mighty American tradition and placed my face within it. Any time 20th-century Black people found themselves entangled in racialized peril, anytime the roots of racism pushed up some new, hideous weed, a thoughtful-looking, solemn-seeming, crisply attired gentleman would be photographed entering a courthouse or seated somewhere (a library, a living room) alongside the wronged and imperiled. He was probably a lawyer, and he was likely to have been mustached.

Tags: Wesley Morris
Categories: Bloggers

An Interface for Exploring Ed Ruscha’s Sunset Boulevard Street Views

Kottke - Wednesday 21st October 2020

Since 1965, American artist Ed Ruscha has been taking photos all along the length of Sunset Boulevard in LA. The Getty has made those photos available on the Getty Research Institute website and Stamen Design built this fantastic interface called 12 Sunsets for virtually cruising up and down the street.

This is so much fun to play with! You can use the mouse or arrow keys to drive, the spacebar to flip to the other side of the street, and you can change or add years to the display. It’s really interesting to add a bunch of different years to the display and then motor up and down the street to see what’s changed over the decades. It’s the perfect interface for this art.

Tags: art   Ed Ruscha   infoviz   Los Angeles   maps   photography   Stamen
Categories: Bloggers

The NYPL’s Essential Reads on Feminism

Kottke - Wednesday 21st October 2020

To mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that made some women eligible to vote in the United States, the New York Public Library is sharing its picks for Essential Reads on Feminism.

The list includes first-hand accounts and histories of the suffrage movement that chronicle both its successes and its limitations — particularly for women of color — as well as contemporary essays on how feminism intersects with race, class, education, and LGBTQ+ activism. From personal memoirs to historical overviews, featuring writing by seminal figures and lesser-known pioneers, the list traces the development of the feminist ideas that have powered the campaign for gender equality, in all its complexity and boldness. While far from complete, the list nevertheless provides a starting point for learning about the history of feminism and for exploring the issues and challenges that many women face today.

They’ve split the list into three main sections according to reader age: kids, teens, and adults. I’m going to highlight a few of the selections from each list here.

For kids:

Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Browne. “Black Girl Magic is a journey from girlhood to womanhood and an invitation to readers to find magic in themselves.”

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo. My daughter tells me about the women she’s read about in this book all the time.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers. “We are all here for a purpose. We are more than enough. We just need to believe it.”

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai. “Nobel Peace Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author Malala Yousafzai’s first picture book, inspired by her own childhood.”

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood. “Fresh, accessible, and inspiring, Shaking Things Up introduces fourteen revolutionary young women — each paired with a noteworthy female artist — to the next generation of activists, trail-blazers, and rabble-rousers.”

For teens:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. “Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself.”

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall. “Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists is an indispensable resource for people of all genders interested in the fight for a more liberated future.”

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. “Filled with compassionate guidance and advice, it gets right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century, and starts a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today.”

Modern Herstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History by Blair Imani. “An inspiring and radical celebration of 70 women, girls, and gender nonbinary people who have changed — and are still changing — the world, from the Civil Rights Movement and Stonewall riots through Black Lives Matter and beyond.”

Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill. “Rethinking Normal is a coming-of-age story about transcending physical appearances and redefining the parameters of ‘normalcy’ to embody one’s true self.”

For adults:

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. “A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.”

Beyoncé in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism by Omise’eke Tinsley. “In Beyoncé in Formation, Tinsley now takes her rich observations beyond the classroom, using the blockbuster album and video Lemonade as a soundtrack for vital new-millennium narratives.”

A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry & Kali Nicole Gross. “A vibrant and empowering history that emphasizes the perspectives and stories of African American women to show how they are — and have always been — instrumental in shaping our country.”

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. “The Combahee River Collective, a path-breaking group of radical black feminists, was one of the most important organizations to develop out of the antiracist and women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s.”

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. “The antidote to mansplaining.”

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness.”

Again, you can access NYPL’s lists here.

Tags: books   feminism   lists   NYPL
Categories: Bloggers

NYC’s New Digital Subway Map

Kottke - Tuesday 20th October 2020

New York City has a new digital subway map that reflects the current status of the subway lines. And you can even see the trains moving, right on the map. (Finally!!) Visually, the new map combines the styles of two past maps, each beloved in their own way.1 Fast Company explains:

The first map is that by Massimo Vignelli, who simplified the snaking subway system into a clean diagram which traded geographic literality for graphical clarity. This elegant simplification turns the confounding subway into a logical system. But the main Vignelli map was scorned by New Yorkers because it wasn’t an actual map, and it was quickly replaced (though a permutation actually lives on as the MTA’s Weekender diagram, which signals weekend services). Meanwhile, the primary map the MTA uses today was created by Unimark International and Michael Hertz Associates. It’s more geographically accurate, but it actually condenses information that was in the Vignelli map. For example, it combines individual train lines such as the C, D, and E lines into singular trunks.

Here’s a video from filmmaker Gary Huswit that shows how the team came up with the new map:

Zooming the map in and out, you see different levels of detail, just like with Google or Apple Maps. I like it — a good combination of form and function.2

  1. I know as a lover of simplicity, beautiful design, and whatnot, I’m supposed to love the Vignelli map, but I never have. The Hertz map fits the utility of the NYC subway so much better.

  1. Although I will say that the website in Chrome absolutely hammered the processor on my computer. It’s probably smoother on mobile?

Tags: Gary Huswit   maps   Massimo Vignelli   Michael Hertz   NYC   subway   video
Categories: Bloggers

It’s Reflective Fjord Season

Kottke - Tuesday 20th October 2020

This image-stabilized video of Tomasz Furmanek kayaking through the fjords of western Norway is almost obscenely beautiful. I want to go to there. (Really dislike the music though…this would have been so much better just with the ambient noise of the boat and paddle slipping through the water. Like this video.)

Tags: Tomasz Furmanek   video
Categories: Bloggers

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