This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.
Not always. This is where the Dinkytown hotel was supposed to go. This is the building that might be “historic.”
The City Council denied the permit to build the structure until a study figures out whether the entire business district is in need of preservation. Yes and no. It seems odd to declare everything historic, and by odd I mean “makes little sense, given the diversity of buildings in the area.” The McDonald/’s? No. The Varsity? Yes. The old Bridgeman’s, now a Potbelly? No. The Old College Inn? Yes. One-story commercial structures are part of a neighborhood’s history, and they’re bulwarks against projects that change the character or density of a neighborhood. That may be a reason to keep them, but it doesn’t make the structures historic.
Is there a point at which large projects would fundamentally transform Dinkytown into something it doesn’t want to be, he asked, setting up an answer that won’t placate anyone? Yes. Once the historic survey is done, there will be guidelines, and no one will try to knock down the old Grey’s Drug. But it shouldn’t take a year to walk the blocks and make the proper distinctions. A week, maybe. Two if you can’t find parking.
Here's the Google Street View. Turns out if I put the iframe tag in the first 200 characters of the blog, it has an aneurism.
GOING UP The history of the elevator and the history-making demonstration of Mr. Otis may have been a bit different from what you’ve been told. Before you go to the piece, a warning: it seems to have a slight case of florid academese.
The theatricality of the demonstration (however unimpressed contemporary witnesses may have been) places this contribution to the elevator’s development above the crowd of equally important but less dramatic turning points, such as the first installation of guide rails in a factory or the first construction of a completely enclosed cab. The concentrated format of a public demonstration satisfies the yearning for a clean, unambiguous beginning, a yearning endemic to the historiography of technology. The dramaturgy of the experiment in the Crystal Palace also contributes to this outcome.
You’ve been warned, in other words. It’s still worth a read, and applause for not titling it “Everything You Know About Otis’ Historical Elevator Demonstration is Wrong” or “Another Man Named Otis Invented the Screw Elevator, and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next.”
RETRO It really isn’t, but it is. A poster that helps you choose the right dinosaur for your house. (via DesignTaxi.)
It’s cute, but the style is interesting: very high 80s, if my recollection of the era is correct. More of his work is here, and it’s unlike the poster.
Speaking of things that actually are retro, Collectors Weekly has a gallery of 28 “Cringe-worthy Vintage Product Endorsements." As usual, the horror of the old ads is overstated. Actual cringes felt: perhaps two. Nothing that reaches this level:
(Author’s collection) There’s also an article about 40 Outrageous Vintage Ads Any Woman Would Find Offensive. Mostly BO stuff. One of the comments, eager to unfurl his bright banner of virtue, says: “Wow, it seems as if men in 1930s didn’t have any “B.O.” problem, they all must’ve smelled like fresh linen and daisies!”
Sigh. Yes. Of course.
EDUMACATION NYPost does a story on a school that lets failing students watch online videos instead of showing up for class. Students are offended by the suggestion that there not lerning and right letters to the paper. Result:
Red-faced administrators encouraged a student letter-writing campaign to attack The Post and defend its “blended learning” program. Eighteen kids e-mailed to argue that their alma mater got a bad rap. Almost every letter was filled with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.One student said the online system beats the classroom because “you can digest in the information at your own paste.”
They sound a little old to be eating the stuff.
SPACE What’s wrong with this piece from NASA?
Anxiously awaited follow-up observations with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed the presence of two new moons around the distant planet Pluto. The moons were first discovered by Hubble in May 2005, but the science team probed even deeper into the Pluto system last week to look for additional satellites and to characterize the orbits of the moons.
STOP PLAYING WITH US, NASA. It is or it isn’t. Of course, this NASA page tries to have it both ways, and says it’s a “dwarf planet.” But let’s be consistent. Too many people see it called “planet” and get their hopes up, like little kids who want their parents to get back together.
VotD Location: Russia. A short film called “Comin’ Through.”
That’s just the warm-up. Now, the main feature. NOTE: SKIP to 1:50.
There’s another deal in Ukraine; we’ll see how that goes. Reddit has a before-and-after picture of Kiev’s Independence Square. A detail:
The BBC has more before-and-after shots here.
WINTER On a lighter note, here’s a shot of my backyard yesterday morning, and today.
The chair is like the Sphinx, which was buried up to its head for hundreds of years.
TECH Only 12 iPod chargers left! After that you’ll have to look elsewhere for things that pop, sizzle, and burst into flames. A sample review:
This is a cheap imitation copy received just two days after the airing of a BBC documentary following trading standards where people's houses were nearly burned down by such items. This is not something that is a rip off and makes no effort to disguise the fact, this is a completely fake product with the exact same design and copied part numbers, CE logo etc from the genuine article.
More quotes: “Our youngest son plugged one in on the day they arrived. The plug exploded in the socket and blew all our electricity.” And: “Had the product for just over a year and it exploded, with black soot all round the socket.” And: “t is totally unsafe. It blew up in my face the first time I tried to use it.it threw the charging cable across the floor.” You can understand if the thing was made by CDCK, or Cheap Dangerous Chinese Knockoff Ltd., but the Amazon page says it’s from Apple. Which it isn’t.
There’s also the mater of melty power supplies, Daily Dot takes a look at the situation, and asks why Amazon allows these things to be sold. Caveat Emptor doesn’t seem to capture it.
ART You could call it the rise and fall of Dutch Industrial Safety Posters. Via Coudal, which titled their link “Don’t Spit on a Nun!”
This is one of the least horrifying ones.
Not to hoover up all their links, but here’s another: “The Museum of the City of New York and Queens Museum have embarked on an 18-month project to make their collections from the 1939/40 and 1964/65 New York World’s Fairs accessible.” Every other site about the World’s Fair might as well close their doors; this sounds like the motherlode collection.
Reminder: bookmark Coudal so you don’t need anyone else to remind you how much cool stuff they have.
There were a small group of people concerned that crashing Galileo into Jupiter, with its Plutonium thermal reactor, might cause a cascade reaction that would ignite Jupiter into a second star in the Solar System.
Yipes. Not a situation where you wanted to say “I told you so.”
Elsewhere in speculative news: Did an orbital probe relay a message from a civilization living on the sixth planet in a binary star system, and communicate important message to a man via a pink beam that came out of a woman’s necklace?
No. Then again, is it really that much of a stretch to say the probe may have influenced one of the greatest sci-fi writers of the 20th century?
Yes. But it’s a fun read. The Black Knight Bracewell Probe, the decoded message, and Philip K. Dick.
But a Vulcan visiting the Star Wars universe? That totally happened.
EULA There’s a new genre in online legalese: casual, friendly, and comprehensible. Imagine that. I got an email from Dropbox: “We’re adding an arbitration section to our updated Terms of Service. Arbitration is a quick and efficient way to resolve disputes, and it provides an alternative to things like state or federal courts where the process could take months or even years.” Interesting. It had a link to the new terms, and wondering if it was as breezy and helpful as Tumblr’s Terms & Conditions, I actually read it. You have to admit you don’t see things like this often:
Sharing Your Stuff
Our Services let you share Your Stuff with others, so please think carefully about what you share.
It’s the word “stuff” that stuck out. Apparently that passed muster with the lawyers. Lest your think that everything’s totally cool, there’s this:
No Refunds. You may cancel your Dropbox Paid Account at any time but you won't be issued a refund.
Good luck taking that one to arbitration.
A few things floating around on a wintry Thursday.
TECH Have a mental image of the people who come up with tech that lets you call the police under an assumed name and fake number, and send cops to someone’s house as a joke, or harassment? Compare with the real thing.
Elsewhere in technology: Your room key in your phone? Oh, sure, why not.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts has begun a pilot program in two of its major hotel locations in Manhattan and Silicon Valley, which does away with keycards altogether by allowing guests to enter their rooms using just their smartphones.
Eventually the room keycard will disappear, another piece of venerable urban detritus replaced by its virtual analogue. The old “drop in any mailbox” keys are rare these days, replaced by the thin plastic cards the front desk can deactivate if you were a jerk on check-in and need a little comeuppance. (I believe that happened to me once, and I wasn’t even being a jerk, unless “polite-but-firm” is somehow beyond the pale. The more you read blogs written by anonymous hotel employees, the more you suspect they hate everyone on general principle.)
While it’s certainly more convenient, it’s a pity: those keycards are nice mementos of trips past, and can be interesting examples of branding design. A screenshot of the hotel’s door-opening app isn’t quite the same.
Note: in 30 years, there will be hundreds of keycards in antique stores, as the hoarders - er, collectors die off and the survivors sell the shoebox full of useless stuff to someone who’ll take it off their hands.
HISTORY NPR reports on the explorations of the oldest Roman temple ever found, and note how early the Romans were terraforming their domain.
It’s discoveries like these, Ammerman says, that debunk the idealized image of ancient Rome — the immutable and eternal city — as a place that never changed.
I suppose it does, but I don’t know anyone who thought it never changed. Obviously it’s changed. A lot. Anyway, that’s the quote from NPR. Let’s see what Gizmodo did with the story:
This discovery is an important one. It debunks the myth that ancient Rome never changed—when in reality, it was a dynamic, transformative city very, very early on.
Apparently the myth was so strong, so prevalent, that the Giz writer felt compelled to mention this as well. Or, as Tom Lehrer put it: Paraphrase! Disguise the source text with a wordy haze!
CARTOONS The head of Filmation has died. He gave us this, which had Ted Baxter shouting authoritatively:
And, of course, this. The most famous upside-down theme of my childhood; this is the theme in a parallel universe.
I remember waiting for that show with such great expectations, and being somewhat dismayed that the animation consisted of people leaning into the frame at strange angles.
By the way, that’s from a fan-made remake of the animated series. The appetite of some for these things I do not understand, but I’m the guy who posts old pictures of boring restaurant interiors, so never mind. (via Cartoon Brew.)
Off to the Boat Show; see you around.
“Resort Wear” starts showing up in stores around now, right? Some people are thinking about trips to warm climes, perhaps on a cruise ship. Make sure it’s not the ghost shop carrying mad starving cannibal rats. The Independent:
A ghost ship carrying nothing but disease-ridden rats could be about to make land on Britain’s shore, experts have warned. The Lyubov Orlova cruise liner has been drifting across the north Atlantic for the better part of a year, and salvage hunters say there is a strong chance it is heading this way. Built in Yugoslavia in 1976, the unlucky vessel was abandoned in a Canadian harbour after its owners were embroiled in a debt scandal and failed to pay the crew.
The ship is named after “the first recognized star of Soviet cinema.” She appeared in Stalin’s favorite film, as well as an early musical called “Jolly Fellows.” You can tell it’s a Soviet film right away:
Oh, those guys! They're hilarious.
Here’s a few minutes from the movie. Don't know the Russian term for “laff riot.”
The film was famous enough to require revivals and restoration. It was colorized as well, and this before / after comparison gives you an interesting perspective. You don’t see much color footage of the USSR in the 30s.
BRING OUT YER DEAD Slate’s history blog has a piece on London’s “bills of mortality,” now available online. People died off peculiar things back then. Fistula I understand, but I wonder what sort of medical skill went into distinguishing between Flox and Flux:
A lot of plague deaths were chalked up to other causes, such as:
Good thing to show your teen: yes, you can die from griping. And I can die from grief, so don’t give me any. This may be my favorite:
Brilliant work, Mr. Scribe. “How did he die?” “Suddenly.” “Well, I’ll put that down as the cause, then.” “Surfeit is also a mystery, but there’s no mystery about the last one. Cause of death: TEETH. So floss already. As for the real worry of the times:
That’s in a week. But you could be taken away for something else. Like gas:
I'd rather go from Rising of the Lights; sounds quite transcendent.
Better than expiring of a Sore Legge.
Sure. Right. Or, look at it this way: If you were part of the alien conspiracy, how would you discredit anyone who attempted to reveal your secret plans for humanity? Simple. Reveal the plans yourself, with a few details changed. That’s the only thing that explains this.
Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden revealed documents providing incontrovertible proof that an alien/extraterrestrial intelligence agenda is driving US domestic and international policy, and has been doing so since at least 1945, some media reports said. A stunning Federal Security Services (FSB) report on the nearly two million highly classified top-secret documents obtained from the United States Department of Defense (DOD) run National Security Agency-Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) by the American ex-patriot Edward Snowden states that this information is providing “incontrovertible proof” that an “alien/extraterrestrial intelligence agenda” is driving US domestic and international policy, and has been doing so since at least 1945, Whatdoesitmean.com reported.
You’re wondering if these were the same aliens in charge of the Nazi weapons program; congrats. Same guys.
Of the many explosive revelations in this FSB report, the one most concerning to Russian authorities are the Snowden’s documents “confirming” that the “Tall Whites” are the same extraterrestrial alien race behind the stunning rise of Nazi Germany during the 1930’s.
Well, that explains David Bowie, but it doesn’t understand why the Nazis lost.
Snowden’s documents further confirm, this report says, the “Tall Whites” (Nordic) meetings in 1954 with US President Dwight D. Eisenhower where the “secret regime” currently ruling over America was established.
Why would the aliens back Hitler? The article notes that they’re Tall White Nordic Aliens, so that might explain things, but again, what’s the point? Conquest? Or is this what advanced civilizations do when simulated entertainment gets boring? Think about it: we imagine “Independence Day” scenarios where the aliens show up to steal our resources, “Predator” scenarios where they come to hunt for sport. But what if some aliens come to amuse themselves by pitting groups against each in long-term strategic games? That’s right: the world is being run by alien nerds who are playing their version of Dungeons and Dragons.
SCIENCE! The latest view of the universe is astonishing:
Just a corner of the sky, and it teems with galaxies. Slate’s Bad Astronomer explains what you’re looking at. (Hint: the beginning of creation.)
Wonder who’s home. Seems unlikely they'd come here to help someone annex Poland.
To show how far we’ve come, here’s a 1955 Kodak ad that shows the wonders of the universe:
That white speck is the entire Andromeda Galaxy! Captured with a Brownie! What astonishing -
No, sorry, that was dust on the scanner. Anyway, If there’s someone out there, why haven’t we heard from them? Perhaps we have. A Top Ten piece that ended up in my Zite app feed reminded me of the Wow! signal, a radio signal that may have been extraterrestrial in origin. I didn’t know this:
In 2012, on the 35th anniversary of the Wow! signal, Arecibo Observatory beamed a response from humanity, containing 10,000 Twitter messages, in the direction from which the signal originated. In the response, Arecibo scientists have attempted to increase the chances of intelligent life receiving and decoding the celebrity videos and crowd-sourced Tweets by attaching a repeating sequence header to each message that will let the recipient know that the messages are intentional and from another intelligent life form.
Not if there’s any YOLO SWAG in there.
If you’re wondering what the #1 historical mystery might be - greater than the signal from aliens: “The Identity of the Babushka Lady” who was present at the JFK assassination.
Greatest mystery in history. Yep. Hands down.
ARCHITORTURE This came as a surprise: Portland hates its Municipal Building, and wants to tear it down. Atlantic Cities:
One of Portland, Oregon's most important buildings is also one of its most detested. Now facing a $95 million renovation, some city commissioners are calling for its demolition. The Portland Building, a 15-story municipal structure downtown, is the work of Michael Graves. A designer, Graves is more often admired for his household products than his edifices. But the 31-year-old Portland Building is one of America's first significant pieces of postmodern architecture. At the time it was built, it was seen as a refreshing rejection of modernism. It won an AIA award in 1983.
It looks cartoony now; most of the early post-modern stuff looks a bit absurd, models exaggerated to preposterous dimensions. The glassy examples look flabby, and the ones that incorporated Ironic Classical Quotations look like something a giant child made out of building blocks. Far be it from me to tell another city what they should preserve - especially if it’s hated by two key groups, those who walk past it and those who have to go inside, but it was a groundbreaking idea. Can’t find a public domain photo, so you’ll just have to go here if you can’t place it off the top of your head.
VIDEO OF THE DAY “Hey, Ron.”
As they say: wait for it.
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