Monday, September 30, 2013

Valerie Inertie: From a practise session [Video]

Just watching Inertie overcome inertia (my poor attempt at pun) made me giddy. Incredible performance with a hula hoop.

Things to worry and not worry about [Letter]

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a letter to his daughter Frances in August 1933, about the things to worry and not worry about.
All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. 
Things to worry about:  Worry about courage  Worry about cleanliness Worry about efficiency Worry about horsemanship…

The Internet of Things vs Access Framing - Bob Frankston [Article]

Bob advocates ambient connectivity:
If we want to see the weather on our wrist device we can’t just have it connect. Instead it must relay through another connected device and the providers are trying to set rules for how you can share a connection.

Dean Zimmer: Drummer wanted - the story of a handicapable drummer [Video]

Dean Zimmer is a handi-capable drummer living in Southern California.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Second Waltz: Andre Rieu [Video]

Begin the day with music! Mostly links around music today.
André Rieu performing Shostakovich' "The Second Waltz" live in Maastricht, The Netherlands.

I'll rap your head with a ratchet - [Letters of note]

Steve Albini recorded Nirvana's best-selling album In Utero over 20 years. This letter was written by Steve to the band just after their agreement  on his involvement.
I would like to be paid like a plumber: I do the job and you pay me what it's worth. The record company will expect me to ask for a point or a point and a half. If we assume three million sales, that works out to 400,000 dollars or so. There's no fucking way I would ever take that much money. I wouldn't be able to sleep. 

Sounds of the guitar - how much difference the wood makes [Video]

Larry Barnwell of the Martin Guitar Company demonstrates two vintage 1944 Martin acoustic guitars: D18 vs D28.

I've no idea what this is about, but it's awesome [Video]

Some catchy music and some interesting instruments from Russia. Leningrad - Fish

Friday, September 27, 2013

Mom's an incredible musician [Video]

Keeping time is an art, and being a master of precision, or a percussionist, takes time & training. This mom shows off her skills. Kickass drummer! Have a great weekend!

Don't feel bad that I'm gone [Letters of note]

Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, wrote two letters - one to his children & the other to family & friends - to be opened in the event of his death. "Don't feel bad when I'm gone"

That bank note may be more valuable than you realise [Article]

The serial numbers on bank notes are the fascination of an online community of enthusiasts who will willingly pay an order of magnitude of the note's face value. Check out this article & pay more attention to the numbers on your bank notes - they may be worth more than you think! Check out for a comprehensive list of wanted numbers..

Paul McCartney demonstrates the mellotron [Video]

Had never seen (or heard of) the mellotron before. And got more than I bargained for! Paul McCartney at Abbey Road

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another Tim Blais Project - Bohemian Gravity [Video]

Learn the String Theory (or least enjoy it) in the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Rolling in the Higgs - Tim Blais' nerdy venture [Video/Link]

A Capella Science project - the Higgs Boson explained in the tune of Adele's Rolling in the Deep, Worthy of your time.

What is Citizenship? [Long reads]

In a lead essay in Cato-Unbound, Pascal Emmanuel Gobry made the case for compulsory military service. The response essays were scathing in their opposition - read Jason Kuznicki, Zach Maurin & Jacob Hornberger. In a follow-up essay, Gobry uses the analogy of a member of a family to explain the relationship that a citizen has to the state.

Change - Yoshida Brothers & Monkey Majik [Music]

Change, more East meets West. The instrument the Yoshida Brothers are playing is called the Shamisen

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Octobass - a 12 foot bass [Video]

The 12-foot tall Octobass plays so low, it's lowest string when played fully open is barely in the human hearing registry. To play it, a musician must stand on a stool and use leavers to fret the notes. It resides at the new Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the only one in North America. Watch

Authentic John Cleese article? Not so, but hilarious nonetheless [Article]

Discovered this satire piece, wrongly attributed to John Cleese.
Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be alright, Mate." Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and "The barbie is cancelled." So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.

Wondering what to do during a boring meeting? Learn to "desk drum" [Video]

Two University of Washington students improvise.

On attending an Ig Nobel ceremony & after-party [Article]

Scientific research that makes people laugh, then think finds its way into the annals of the Improbable Research, eventually competing for the Ig Nobel awards each year. Carmen Nobel visited this year and writes about it:
The requisite small-talk name-dropping bests that of most cocktail parties. Overheard conversation snippets at this year’s party include, “I don’t know if you remember him, but he studied penguin poo under pressure,” and “Oh, right, she played Star Wars movies to locusts."

Monday, September 23, 2013

What time to shut down? [Article]

I fail very often at this, even when I try real hard.  A zen habit?
In our lives immersed in technology, we rarely shut everything off.
We turn on when we wake up, and are on our devices until we go to sleep. And every hour in between.

Wealth Advice that should be obvious [Article]

Simple advice. Advice that is usually forgotten in the race for more. Read on.

The Gallery of Minds - words & photos of modern day philosphers [Images]

Philosophy’s distinguishing value, in the words of Robin Jeshion,
For me, it resides not so much in the big questions’ multifarious answers, themselves, nor, alas, in wisdom attained through the exacting process of answering them, but rather in how it invariably reminds us how little we really do know. Philosophy is, or should be, humbling — and is, for this, ennobling.

Kishi Bashi - Another one man orchestra [Video]

Found this music beautiful. Violinist Kishi Bashi.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The art (and philosophy) of eating [Article]

So true. And so forgotten.
what does it mean to eat well? Is eating well a great but lost art?
[from the @philosophy_muse]

The Ultimate Useless Machine - [Video]

The box that does absolutely nothing useful - except it is a great way to learn how to program. Jason Alleman shows off his Ultimate LEGO machine.

You mustn't worry about Santa Claus [Letters of Note]

Michelle Rochon overheard her parents discuss the possibility of Russian nuclear tests over the North Pole. She decided to write to the President of the US about it. She was 8 years old. Her letter got a response from JFK.

A One-man Orchestra of the imagination [Video]

Musical innovator Andrew Bird winds together his trademark violin technique with xylophone, vocals and sophisticated electronic looping. Add in his uncanny ability to whistle anything, and he becomes a riveting one-man orchestra.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Moustache [Video]

Some fun with facial hair. Beware.

The Excel Artist - 75 year old who produces Art from Spreadsheets [Article]

He's 73 years old and an artist. His tools are patience, imagination & a spreadsheet. Read on about Tatsuo Horiuchi. Bonus for the geeks - downloadable spreadsheets with his artwork!

BAIKAL ICE live sound [Video]

Ice Percussion. On Baikal Lake. 4 percussionists in tune with nature. Watch. Be mesmerized.

Culture is not about aesthetics. Punk rock is now enforced by law. [Article]

David Gerard educates the enforcers:
Record companies complain the Internet will destroy music. Musicians complain that they can’t make a living any more. The unsympathetic public, feeling the squeeze themselves, tell them to get a proper job.
The problem isn’t piracy — it’s competition.
There is too much music and too many musicians, and the amateurs are often good enough for the public

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On manners, privacy & evolution [Link]

Doc Searls has a very interesting post on his blog on manners, privacy & evolution. Definitely worth a read.

Overcoming the social costs of being different. [Article]

Leo Babauta shares what makes him different, how being different is hard, & the strategies he has to deal with the social costs of being different:
Being different means you stand out, which is a good thing in a world where everyone is trying to blend in. It means you’re interesting, because you’re different. It means you are less restricted by what’s comfortable, able to explore new ground, not afraid of things because you don’t know about them. It means you’re learning more than most people. 

What have we learned? asks Charlie Stross [Article]

I somehow missed this article by Charlie on September 11, 2013:
Today is September 11th, 2013.
Twelve years ago today, a cell of angry, highly committed, and (by the standards of their peers) extremely well trained young men executed the simultaneous hijacking of four airliners, and used them to mount a suicide attack on those they perceived as their enemies.
What have we learned from this?
The comments at the bottom of the article are enlightening.

HK's old Kai Tak airport [Video]

Planes landing at Hong Kong's  old Kai Tak airport.

Monday, September 16, 2013

When you improvise, anything becomes possible [Article]

John-Paul Flintoff clarifies in the School of Life:
 an improviser doesn't sit waiting for the perfect moment to arrive. An improviser takes whatever is available, and makes the best use of it. Where others may see only unpromising materials and situations, an improviser sees abundant possibilities. 
But those possibilities can only be realised if we train ourselves to accept what we have been given, and to tap into our natural creativity. 

More reading material: FBI's declassified "The Vault" [Links]

Not every FBI investigation begins with a suspicion that the luminary in question is up to no good. In many cases, cultural figures received threats (usually extortion-related) from mysterious parties and called in the FBI to, well, investigate. As with any tool in human hands, nations can use their investigation organizations for good, or for, shall we say, more ambiguous purposes. Whatever their aims, they do produce fascinating reading. [via Open Culture]

George Formby - When I'm clearning windows [VIdeo]

Blast from the past - George Formby's When I'm cleaning windows.

How does a satellite stay in orbit [Video]

A very nicely explained video about how satellites stay in orbit. Very handy for those questions the 7-year old has started throwing at me. :)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Letter from Fred [Video]

A touching story of a 95-year-old man who wrote a song for his wife of 75 years.

Reading material: 30 Essays & stories by David F Wallace [Link]

OpenCulture has collected links to about 30 essays & short stories by the exceptional writer David Forster Wallace. Gold.

And in case you missed this, here's DFW giving the commencement speech at Kenyon College titled "This is Water."

John Cleese on Creativity [Video]

Cleese speaking at the 2009 World Creativity Forum in Germany. And if you enjoyed that, here's another talk, a tad longer

"We do not get our ideas from our laptops!"

Would you be okay with a law requiring fingerprint scanners on all future phones & a phase-out of cash and physical credit cards over time? [Article]

Scott Adams' take on the future of government & society.
Imagine if the government required fingerprint scanners on any new phone sold after a certain date. And then imagine the government requiring phone companies to phase out service to any cell phone that doesn't have a fingerprint sensor.
Now imagine that your phone becomes your only wallet and only means of paying for stuff. That seems likely at some point. The government won't print cash forever, and credit cards are redundant with your phone.
What would that world look like?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Beth Hart - Bang Bang Boom Boom [Music]

Listen. Turn the volume up. Enjoy.

A playlist here.

The Octogenarian who outsmarted & outlived a lawyer [Article]

This could read as a fiction story - but it isn't. A real life story from 1995.
Andre-Francois Raffray thought he had a great deal 30 years ago: He would pay a 90-year-old woman 2,500 francs (about $500) a month until she died, then move into her grand apartment in a town Vincent van Gogh once roamed.

Congratulations, You Found a Photo of My Daughter Online [Article]

Slate reporter Amy Webb explains the pitfalls of sharing personal information online using her own recent experience:
...when we share even innocent images information about our kids, we endanger their future anonymity and expose them to data monitoring by governments and private corporations that we can’t control...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Just a neat photo

Just passing through [Article]

Eighty per cent of the human brain is water – most cells are mostly water.
So it’s not true that your ideas don’t hold water.
It’s more accurate to say that water holds your ideas.
read more here.

Nothing is ours, except time [Letters of note]

Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca advises his friend Lucilus Junior on the value of time.
 While we are postponing, life speeds by. Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except time. 
I needed to hear this today.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Failure is an option - where would we be without it? [Article]

Famous Failures. Worth pondering over.
"What would be the point of doing anything? I think failure gives it what gives success its meaning."

People Get Ready - The Impressions [Music]

Just a song that caught my attention - a 1965 single by The Impressions, called People Get Ready

Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.[Article]

Another incisive thought from +JP Rangaswami, commenting on his experience of the Clay Shirky principle:
Ignore. Ridicule. Fight. Lose. That’s what happens to the institutions that seek to preserve the problems for which they were created.

What happens if you don't sleep? [Article]

Dr. Matthew Walker is a sleep researcher, who says the question of why we sleep remains "that archetypal mystery"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Welcome to the Panopticon - [Article]

Charlie Stross welcomes you to it:
Don't jaywalk, chew gum in public, smoke, exceed the speed limit, stand in front of fire exit routes, or wear clothing that violates the city dress code (passed on the nod in 1892, and never repealed because everybody knew nobody would enforce it and it would take up valuable legislative time). You won't be able to watch those old DVD's of 'Friends' you copied during the naughty oughties because if you stick them in your player it'll call the copyright police on you. You'd better not spend too much time at the bar, or your insurance premiums will rocket and your boss might ask you to undergo therapy. You might be able to read a library book or play a round of a computer game, but your computer will be counting the words you read and monitoring your pulse so that it can bill you for the excitement it has delivered.
And don't think you can escape by going and living in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. It is in the nature of every police state that the most heinous offense of all is attempting to escape from it. And after all, if you're innocent, why are you trying to hide?

Thinking is knowing is thinking [Article]

Nicholas Carr quotes psychologist Daniel Willingham:
It’s hard for many people to conceive of thinking processes as intertwined with knowledge. Most people believe that thinking processes are akin to those of a calculator. A calculator has available a set of procedures  (addition, multiplication, and so on) that can manipulate numbers, and those procedures can be applied to any set of numbers. The data (the numbers) and the operations that manipulate the data are separate. Thus, if you learn a new thinking operation (for example, how to critically analyze historical documents), it seems like that operation should be applicable to all historical documents, just as a fancier calculator that computes sines can do so for all numbers.
 During the K – 12 years, developing a solid store of knowledge is essential to learning how to think. There’s still no substitute for a well-furnished mind.

Phillip Phillips with the kids choir [Video]

Just a neat song with a bunch of kids. Listen to Gone Gone Gone

The real reason women are opting out of Wall Street [Article]

Margo Epprecht explains, quoting a woman who she admired in her first job:
“The business has changed,”... “It is not as intellectually challenging as it used to be. It’s more like cage fighting. Long-term investment today means a month; mathematicians convince themselves they can quantify risk in their arcane products that no one can understand; and fee structures are out of line with investor returns. No wonder people are cynical about Wall Street.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

The philosophy of creating your own currency [Article]

Brett Scott's article, "So you want to invent your own currency" makes for fascinating reading.
If money is an object, it must be an enchanted one, charged up with value by a subtle cultural process. Why else would anyone exchange a box of coffee for a rectangle of paper? Shopkeepers accept the paper because they believe that it has abstract value — because, in turn, they believe that others believe it, too. The value is circular, predicated on each person believing that others believe in it. You hand over your money and claim something from the shopkeeper, almost as if the coffee were owed to you. Then they take the claim that was previously yours and use it to claim something from someone else. We all trust each other to value money — but this still means that every monetary transaction is a leap of faith. And faith has to be carefully maintained.

Why teach (and study) English? [Article]

Adam Gopnik explains why should English majors exist:
 Why should English majors exist? Well, there really are no whys to such things, anymore than there are to why we wear clothes or paint good pictures or live in more than hovels and huts or send flowers to our beloved on their birthday. No sane person proposes or has ever proposed an entirely utilitarian, production-oriented view of human purpose. We cannot merely produce goods and services as efficiently as we can, sell them to each other as cheaply as possible, and die. Some idea of symbolic purpose, of pleasure-seeking rather than rent seeking, of Doing Something Else, is essential to human existence. That’s why we pass out tax breaks to churches, zoning remissions to parks, subsidize new ballparks and point to the density of theatres and galleries as signs of urban life, to be encouraged if at all possible.

A song out of a comment - [Video]

A comment on a reddit posting was inspiration behind this song

Parents' Harsh Words Might Make Teen Behaviors Worse

According to a study by the University of Pittsburgh,
The parents who used more harsh words when the child was 13 were more likely to see increases in their teenager's conduct problems when asked again a year later. And the children who faced high levels of harsh verbal discipline were more likely to have symptoms of depression at age 14.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pricing the priceless child [Article]

When it comes to pricing a human life, the answer seems simple. Human life is precious, unquantifiable, priceless. In practice, however, court cases, insurance claims, and victim funds often demand a monetary value for a lost life. Read "The Price of a Child"

As the author says,
Children are our future, but it’s only recently that they’ve been valued as such.

An ad for home insurance - [video]

I couldn't make much of this ad except the tagline - but then again, I don't make much of any ads that purport to sell anything at all. Apparently, this centers on the emotional side of insuring things that matter in the home.

I think Mr. George Carlin said it far better, but is anyone listening?

Why kids around the world can't read [Article]

This western-world view at why kids in developing countries can't read.
Of the world’s population, about 7 out of 10 live in a country where pretty much every child completes primary school. The proportion of secondary-school-aged kids who are in classes has climbed from about half to two-thirds over the past 15 years. The trouble is, a lot of those enrolled appear to be learning very little. In India only a little more than a quarter of the children who complete primary school can read a simple passage, perform division, tell time, and handle money—all skills that should be mastered by the end of second grade. And while eighth-grade enrollment increased to 87 percent from 82 percent of school-aged children in the country from 2006 to 2011, the fraction of enrolled children who could do long division fell to 57 percent from 70 percent—suggesting that despite more of them going to school, fewer kids actually learned basic math over that time.
Sure, but what about access to food, electricity, rest/sleep, books, teachers, housing etc.. ? Realities on the ground don't usually make their way into these explanations - the pat answer from most armchair economists seems to be "if you can't afford it, don't have kids".

Turns Out Your Kids Really Did Love That Music You Played [Article]

Young adults have strong positive memories of the music their parents loved when they were the same age, a study finds. That flies in the face of the cultural stereotype that children reject their parents' taste in music.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What do you mean [Cuts from the movies]

What do you mean, what do you mean?

An interview with THE MAN [Article]

Put this aside for the weekend if you have to, but read it now if you can. Especially if you are an employee.
 I run a solid business, and I don’t think I’m going to run out of employees or customers any time soon, so I’ll spare you the company-spokesman runaround — no, I don’t take responsibility for the state of their lives and I don’t see why I should. Particularly when they don’t take much responsibility for their lives themselves.
This might be fiction, but it might not. Consider it, & make up your mind.

I forgot my phone [Video]

Poignant. Our connected devices are making us more disconnected. I forgot my phone.

Lenny Kravitz Overhears High School Kids Playing His Music and Surprises Them by Joining In [Video]

"One day Lenny Kravitz was sitting with some friends on a terrace in New Orleans when he heard a familiar sound. A group of high school students from a baptist church in Texas was performing Kravitz’s hit “Fly Away” on the steps across Decatur Street from Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

Kravitz decided he wanted to join in. One of his friends went down and asked the group’s director if that would be alright. He said yes, it would. So when the famous musician arrived, the group started playing the song again from the top. "

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Our shared condition - consciousness: A talk by John Searle [Video]

Philosopher John Searle lays out the case for studying human consciousness -- and systematically shoots down some of the common objections to taking it seriously. As we learn more about the brain processes that cause awareness, accepting that consciousness is a biological phenomenon is an important first step. And no, he says, consciousness is not a massive computer simulation. Worth a listen.

How to make perfect coffee [Article]

The coffee-holic in me was drawn to this article like a moth to a flame - and with possibly the same result :)  These guys explain the art of coffee making, & the chemistry involved with panache. 

How musicians treat drummers sometimes [Video]

Another instrument, I guess.

Twitter's conscience-in-residence moves on [Article]

Alex Macgillvray, the key figure responsible for Twitter's aggressively pro-free speech position, has announced he is to leave the company. May be of interest to some.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Climate Name Change - the Video

This petition to name storms after climate change deniers, has a great video making their point. Top creative points.
Since 1954, the World Meteorological Organization has been naming extreme storms after people. As scientific evidence shows that climate change is creating increasingly frequent and devastating storms, and with climate scientists declaring these extreme weather events as the new normal, we propose a new naming system. A system that names extreme storms caused by climate change, after the policy makers who deny climate change and obstruct climate policy.

The free coffee test, or Lefkowitz’s Law of Corporate Financial Health HT @DMarti

Why is it that removing small perks for employees like free soda tends to lead to an exodus of talent? After all, a can of soda costs what, fifty cents? Maybe a dollar? And yet when management decides to stop bearing that small expense, people have a habit of packing up and leaving, which seems like a big move to make over the price of a can of soda. Jason LEfkowitz has a theory
The financial health of a company can be inferred from the quality, variety and cost to the employee of the snacks and beverages it offers its employees.

How Technology is destroying jobs [article]

MIT Sloan School of Management's Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfree predict that impressive advances in technology have ominous consequences for jobs:
 They believe that rapid technological change has been destroying jobs faster than it is creating them, contributing to the stagnation of median income and the growth of inequality in the United States. And, they suspect, something similar is happening in other technologically advanced countries.

Stephen Cave: Anti-death behaviour [Interview]

Philosopher Stephen Cave in conversation with Susie Neilson:
Thinking less about yourself, more about other people and other causes, so your own death doesn’t seem as important to you, because these other causes and people will live on. Those other things will help you come to terms with death.
Read more

Monday, September 2, 2013

My dear son: [Letters of note]

A letter from novelist & screenwriter John D Swain to his son as he leaves home to Yale University.
I think I had never realized before that I was getting old. 

Charlie Stross on Syria [Article]

Sane voices are rather hard to find when everyone wants vengeance - whether warranted or not. Charles Stross explains.
proposals in the UK and USA to carry out bombing strikes against the Assad regime in Syria are not only criminal (in the absence of a firm UN Security Council ruling on the matter), they're stupid. One such imperial adventure might be an accident, two might be a coincidence, but embarking on a third one within a decade of the blood-spattered fiasco that was Iraq and the traumatic counter-insurgency occupation that was Afghanistan should be grounds for incarcerating any western politician proposing it in an institution for the criminally insane.

Luxury is just another drug. [Article]

Luxury is best appreciated as a strong and interesting contrast to, rather than the fabric of, your daily life.
Some thoughts on luxury as a drug, from Mr. Money Moustache.

My next read: The Tender Bar [Link]

When you read a book review that reads like this, it is hard not to pick up the book!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Cost of Privacy - [Article]

Privacy is a good thing, right?  asks Scott Adams.

The Debate over intervention in Syria [Article]

George Packer articulates a typical conversation around the US intervention in Syria. Worth your time.

“An opera of breasts”: But I really did love putting the stories in Playboy! [Article]

Amy Grace Loyd was hired to be the literary editor of Playboy magazine - " Saul Bellow, Nabokov, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Ursula Le Guin, Joyce Carol Oates – all were repeat contributors to Playboy" (no I didn't know that either!). She writes about her experience in this neatly written article.
Hefner may be an anachronism to many, but he’s also an iconoclast of a distinctly American variety.  My time there made me a better editor, probably a better and certainly a more resilient person; and even when I knew I had no place there anymore, as the editorial direction changed and the New York offices and then, only a few years later, the Chicago offices closed, I didn’t regret a day of it. I still don’t. I was able to do things there as an editor that I’ll never be able to do anywhere else.

A look at Isaac Asimov's predictions from 1964, 50 years later [Article]

Asimov wasn't the only person to peer into the future and get it right. But take a look at what he predicted, in 1964:
“[M]ankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014.”