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.

Posts about Outstate

Apple's Self-Driving Car Will Fail

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: February 4, 2015 - 1:31 PM

I have no idea if it will or won't; just wanted to put down a marker for saying something stupid about an Apple product that doesn't exist. FIRST! 

We don't know if they're making one,  but someone took a picture of a black car with cameras, and Apple owns it, so.   As this article notes, Apple doesn’t have the permission to test self-driving cars, but could be working with someone who does. It’s not an absurd idea, but it goes against the stupid “Apple can’t innovate” idea - unless you subscribe to the theory that Apple buying other companies is proof they can’t invent anything. (A reminder: Apple bought the company that came up with an MP3 jukebox, and released it as iTunes. Back in the day when they were innovating EVERYTHING and inventing new products every fortnight.) If they do make a self-driving car, it’ll probably come out a few years after Google’s version, and then we’ll bring the wonderful, joyous world of meaningless flame wars about operating systems to cars. But why read me on the matter when you can enjoy the Macalope? The master of the Apple-Troll Dismantlement.

BOOKS About that “To Kill a Mockingbird” sequel, Jezebel notes:

This news is not without controversy or complications. Harper Lee's sister Alice Lee, who ferociously protected Harper Lee's estate (and person) from unwanted outside attention as a lawyer and advocate for decades, passed away late last year, leaving the intensely private author (who herself is reportedly in ill health) vulnerable to people who may not have her best interests at heart.

And this matters, because:

Tonja Carter, Harper Lee's attorney since Alice Lee retired at the age of 100, acknowledges that the author—who was left forgetful and nearly blind and deaf after a stroke in 2007—often doesn't understand the contracts that she signs. "Lee has a history of signing whatever's put in front of her, apparently sometimes with Carter's advice," Gawker's Michelle Dean reported last July.

PASTTIMES Meet the guy who’s made 45,000 Wikipedia edits to change one phrase! In other words, take an amusing Onion brief, extract the humor, and voila, real life.

OR: Meet the guy who chopped off his nose and had stuff put in his head so he can look like the Red Skull, Captain America’s nemesis. Warning: you will see a guy who chopped off his nose and had stuff put in his head so he can look like the Red Skull.

OR: Meet the guy who made a model of Pompeii with 190K Lego pieces. Sorry, LEGO pieces.

OR: Catch up with the Quaids! Remember them? Key moment:

“Finally, in a bizarre conclusion, Quaid muses: 'So how do we retaliate? Well, I still have a few tricks too.’

He opens his blazer to show a Hawaiian shirt: 'This is the very same shirt that I wore in '94 when I saved the world [in Independence Day] - another act that Rupert Murdoch still hasn't thanked me for. 

As the article notes, it’s possible that Quaid thinks “Independence Day” really happened.

VOTD Happy dancing light poles.

Additional Jell-O, Shaking

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 13, 2015 - 12:12 PM

Perhaps you resolved to get more organized this year. Perhaps you googled strategies for getting things done, and discovered that’s an actual concept. A way of life. GTD. I remember a few years back when GTD consisted of - warning, horrible word coming - “life hacks” that were simple enough. Little tricks and habits you could incorporate in your daily life. I tried a few. They seemed to create needs I did not have before. You start out carrying around index cards with highlighter colors on the top to indicate priority and purpose, and after a week you forget them, or run out of cards, or jot something down on a Post-It, and that’s that. I even tried using Evernote for everything, marveling at the ease at which I could save a webpage, and then realized I have no interest in saving web pages. If I wanted to, well, print to PDF.

Turns out I should have read a book. My Zite feed coughed up a page about GTD and Evernote, and I felt as if I was in a hotel ballroom with a program on my lap listening to a speaker talk about changing my life.

You can do both GTD and Evernote if: You read only chapters 1-3 of GTD, then

implement Evernote as your reference filing system,

don’t forget to install three Evernote add ons,

be well rested when you work (don’t sleep walk)

What? I read on, and discovered that the author wrote a book about GTD, and no doubt teaches seminars about it. There are phrases that mean something for people who’ve read the book, I assume. Such as:

Even unemployed people can’t implement GTD in three days, a week, or even a month. I’ve seen them try. Changing everything at once is too much “shaking the jello.”

Then there’s a YouTube video of Jello, shaking. The author continues:

For example:

Gathering work into a reduced number of inboxes = new jello … shaking.

pre-processing inboxes without doing the work simultaneously = new jello … shaking.

Setting up separate project and reference folders = new jello … shaking.

And in the middle of all this shaking GTD jello, you are becoming tired, overwhelmed while excited, so you are basically sleep walking, while continuing to read and continuing to decide to shake more jello because David Allen has given you hope.

Hope is something you have not had about organizing your work in say, 3 years. Hope at this point, inebriates.

So, you set up an Evernote account, downloaded Evernote, install Evernote, check that Evernote works. Evernote is (sleep walking) working!

Um. I just put everything in Dropbox and clean it out at the end of the day and put the relevant things into relevant folders. As opposed to this “workflow” chart. IT SHAKES MY JELLO. More:

Changing one organizing habit at a time, is a TON of work. 83% of people succumb to JerkBrain/GTD editor/RESISTANCE.

JerkBrain RESISTANCE sounds like a competitor to Anonymous. From the comments:

I read the beginning of GTD. Being on a bicycle means you won’t have the temptation to stop absorbing Allen’s bullion cube

That’s good to know.

TV Let me guess. Octogenarian lechery, set in Europe:

Amazon Studios has announced that it’s signed up Woody Allen to write and direct his first ever television show. The Untitled Woody Allen Project will be a half-hour series.

Imagine it’s 1985, and you just read that B. Dalton’s was producing a movie. This would make no sense. They sold books. But news like this isn’t surprising any more. If Amazon announced they were going into the airline business, people would nod and move along. After all, Virgin started out as a record label.

Allen also has a new collection of old stand-up routines coming out. According to the WSJ yesterday, he declined to be interviewed about the project, but other people say he has trouble listening to his old work, because it gives him pain. What doesn’t? Can you name any other public person known for humor who seems as joyless as Allen?

Here’s a clip from British TV, from his earlier, funnier days. As the alien said.

Internet Power! (1995)

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 12, 2015 - 12:38 PM

Zero degrees right now. Or, as they call it in Oymyakon, tropical:

People here regularly consume frozen meat, keep their cars running 24/7 and must warm the ground with a bonfire for several days before burying their dead.

Pictures are here. Why do they live there? I don’t know. If every house had a FOR SALE sign, it might be the depressed property market. Another claimant for the “preposterously cold city” title is Verkhoyansk, which was in the news a few years ago: “In January 2012, the town was attacked by a pack of about 400 wolves. According to biologists, the attack was due to a mass migration caused by a shortage in the wolves' natural food sources, in particular blue hares.”

It might be cold now, but at least when we say “the wolves are bad this year” we’re talking about basketball.

Related: what’s the difference between absolute zero and absolute hot? The BBC explains.

INTERNET POWER! The early days of the internet aren’t well represented. Aside from the Wayback Machine, where can you find the early, i.e. ugly days? On VHS tapes telling people how to Internet. Andy Baio is doing good work here. Necessary work. FastCompany Design:

The tapes are artifacts of an extinct Internet, providing insights into the way we saw the web 20 years ago, and perspective on what it has grown into today.

Here’s part 1 of Internet Power! from 1995.

I haven’t watched the entire thing yet, but I hope there’s a kid with a spiky haircut who is learning how to be a CyberpunkThere was such a word, you know. Billy Idol even made an album based on the idea, even though his persona didn’t seem intelligent enough to make the distinction between the CPU and the monitor, let alone “hack” it to “gain access” to other computers. People were talking about these things before the web, before browsers. It’s an odd period. On one hand, this was futuristic . . .

On the other hand, it wasn’t futuristic at all. Everything looksd like a school brochure put together with Windows dingbats.

As you might expect, nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake is kicking in:

Ironically, this "early web" aesthetic has been popping up everywhere over the past few years, adhering to the popular theory that nostalgia comes in 20 year cycles. You'll find it in fashion, music, and even homages by web designers themselves, who yearn for the simplicity of '90s web design and the anything-is-possible feeling of the pre-corporatized Internet.

The simplicity of 90s web design. True enough, in the sense that a musical composition limited to three notes is simple. Speaking of three notes:

Baio tried to recreate a common feature of the early era of personal websites: the embeddable, autoplaying MIDI file. These were extremely popular on early personal web pages.

That’s one way of putting it, yes. So were GIFs of flaming skulls and rotating “under construction” banners. Or this guy.

No one who put those up ever finished the page.

Spider-Man has a huge robot in Japan

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 9, 2015 - 12:16 PM

It’s important to nap. The science is settled. BBC:

In a study published last year, researchers found that both nocturnal and daytime sleeping improved memory consolidation for unrelated word pairs – like ‘pepper’ and ‘elbow’ – suggesting it can help if you’re trying to learn tricky-to-remember concepts.

So if someone bursts into you sleeping chamber and shouts WHERE’S THE PEPPER? you will snap awake and grab your elbow 40% faster than non-nappers. The story also says that tiny little catnaps here and there aren’t as effective as a good solid block of sleep - which should be obvious to everyone who has nodded off for a few minutes on a plane only to wake up when your chin suddenly hits your sternum. By the way, the article is called "How to Nap like a Pro." There's a secret the experts don't want you to know! Well, no. The article doesn't mention white or brown noise, which is crucial. Pink noise less so. Too hissy. 

SPACE At the Hubble’s website, anyone looking for the largest possible recent shot of Andromeda will find a Caution icon on the page and the following text: “FILE DOWNLOAD WARNING: You are attempting to access an image with an extremely high resolution. Please read on before downloading any of these images or return to other image format options.

This page is accessible only if you click the “highest quality resolution options” on the main page for the image. It’s the High-Definition Panoramic View of the Andromeda Galaxy, and contains a few sizes. This is “small.”

Hubble M31 PHAT Mosaic

Bad Astronomer has more, and if this sort of thing interests you, well, there will be goosebumps.

Avoid the comments unless you’re curious how long it takes before a discussion of distant galaxies turns into a political flame war. (Hint: not long.)

TONIGHT WE’RE GOING TO ROCK YOU TONIGHT This site has the 20 minute pitch for the Spinal Tap movie. You’re thinking that 20 minutes is too impossibly long. But it’s split into two ten-minute segments! Sorry, ten minutes is too long. Okay, how about three minutes of their first ever appearance, in 1979? It’s not a song from the movie.

What? THREE MINUTES IS TOO LONG? I understand. So, courtesy of a thread on io9 about Spiderman . . . this.

Of course Japanese Spiderman had a giant transforming robot. Not sure about the lyrics, though. Eyes sparkle with a flash of anger? How could you tell?

Griswold Lore

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 2, 2014 - 2:03 PM

CLAAAARK? It’s time for seasonal clickbait lists, so you’ll get “10 Creepy Santas Whose Laps We Want Nothing To Do With” and the like. (More unpleasant Santas here, by the way.) Mental Floss also has 27 facts about “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” that could have been molded into an essay, but it’s easier to bulletpoint the facts and slap a number on it. This is my favorite:

If Clark’s childhood home featured in those old movies looks familiar, that’s because it’s the same house featured on Bewitched as well as The New Gidget. Except it’s not a house at all; it’s part of the Warner Bros. back lot, located on what is known as Blondie Street. The rest of the Griswolds’ neighborhood is on a studio back lot as well.

The backlot can be toured here, and a website that lists all the movies shot at the individual houses can be found somewhere on the internet. Or so I assume. If I had the time I’d try to find it. Actually, I do have the time. I just don’t care.

It’s a funny movie, and compared to some modern comedies it seems almost leisurely and intimate. The name is peculiar, but accurate: it’s based on a story that appeared in National Lampoon, but audiences at the time just figured “National Lampoon” meant “A good Chevy Chase movie,” as opposed to the others.

It also had Brian Doyle-Murray, who always made you think of Jim Belushi, aka America’s Backup Belushi.

VRRRMM Montana might raise the speed limit to 80 MPH. If you think think is too fast and unsafe, spend some time in the middle of the state on I-94, where the average speed sometimes is, well, 94.

Seventy is too slow if conditions are good and you know what you’re doing. For fun sometimes if you have the kids along, and there’s no one around, drop down to 55 and let them know what it was like in the dark ages. You feel as if you’d get there quicker if you slapped some stamps on the car and pulled up at a mailbox.

VotD Somehow, I think this was avoidable.

GO HERE NOW Best story of the day so far: the mystery of the cryptic rubber slabs washing up on the beaches of Europe. Not so much a mystery any more, thanks to the internet. 


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