Colette Taylor is a molecular biologist and crafter who makes some rather lovely pieces, including the amino-acid inspired necklace shown here (which I saw in person tonight), which reads "We are star-stuff."
There are certain phrases or ideas which sometimes need reminding. Just to keep us sane, to remind us what is important. This is We Are Star Stuff in Amino Acids. This is a big one for me, a reminder from Carl Sagan that we are all made of the same building blocks, and the same amazing pieces. Not only are we made of the same stuff, it is particles of the universe. This is a reminder of not just how insignificant an individual is, it’s a reminder that every individual is a beautiful and brilliant thing. It’s so awesome that a person, made of the same thing as everyone else, manages to carve out a unique and original existence. This is a reminder that being is pretty much the coolest thing ever, and should never be taken for granted.
The current Wired has a long feature by Robert Capps on the significant changes in product testing and warranty service brought about by the combination of highly accurate computer modelling and disclosure laws that force firms to publish details of the costs of their warranty plans. The latter was most interesting to me, as it offers insight into what had formerly been a black box for gadget-watchers.
Read the rest
One of the world’s foremost experts on the cost of product failure lives and works in a fifth-floor apartment on a modest block in Forest Hills, Queens. His name is Eric Arnum, and he runs a one-man newsletter titled Warranty Week. Tall and soft-spoken, he can (and often does) talk about warranty accruals, payment rates, and reimbursement policies for hours without stopping. Most of his days are spent in his small office, working on a vast array of spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides—files that contain detailed warranty information for 1,107 companies. Collectively, these sheets hold perhaps the most comprehensive accounting of product failures on the planet.
Warranty information is one of the most closely guarded secrets in corporate America. Companies are loath to share how much they spend on warranties and why. It’s understandable, as talking about warranties is the same as talking about the fact that your products break when they’re not supposed to. Because of this, nobody just gives data to Arnum. He has to dig it out, one company at a time.
Arnum owes his livelihood to Enron. In the wake of the scandal that took down the energy juggernaut, the Financial Accounting Standards Board made changes to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principals—the rules that, among other things, govern how companies write financial statements.
I recently started listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Wikipedia describes Rogan as an "American martial artist, stand-up comedian, actor, writer and color commentator."
In the latest episode Rogan interviews Victor Conte. From Conte's Wikipedia entry:
Victor Conte (born c.1950)is a former musician with Tower of Power and the founder and president of BALCO, a sports nutrition center in California. He served time in prison in 2005 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering.
I enjoyed the entire interview, but the most interesting part to me was hearing Conte talk about his four-month prison sentence at the Taft Correctional Institution (near Bakersfield, CA). It's a privately-run minimum security federal prison with 1,700 inmates, and Conte's account of the goings on there is astounding:
Sports complex "The first morning, when I woke up it was a kind of university-campus like setting. I walked out and in the middle of the courtyard was a huge sign that said 'Sports Complex.' Basketball, football, baseball, soccer, bocce ball, volleyball, handball. And I looked around and there were about 500 guys there. And they all had on equipment; there was a soccer game and a baseball game going on."
Rec center "I looked over I saw the rec center. And I walked over to that and looked in and there were six pool tables, six foosball tables, six ping-pong tables."
Music department "Then I went through this door and there was this huge music department. Three different musical groups were practicing. Read the rest
Tom Baker (no relation) has nearly funded his Kickstarter for "AirTracks: Inflatable All-Terrain Camera Slider" -- a dollying system for SLRs that will cost you about $275 in pre-support (assuming the project is successfully completed). Baker's product design experience is a little unspecific, but his prototype is impressive, and produces even-more-impressive videos. I can imagine that there are people for whom an AirTrack will open previously inconceivable possibilities.
As soon as you're ready to shoot, un-clip the dolly from your bag and pull out the tracks. Within two breaths and a few squeezes of the built in hand pump, you have a 5-foot dolly ready to use wherever you are. The weight limit for the AirTracks is 8 pounds. That's a lot in the world of DSLR's, because the average camera / lens set-up weighs in at around 3 pounds. (Go-Pro Cameras and cell camera phones weigh even less!) And if it's a pretty windy day, the grommets around the edge allow you to hold it down with tent stakes. As soon as you're finished, twist the mouth valve to instantly release the air, roll it up and you're on your way. The AirTracks were made to get dirty, so once you get home just spray it down with a hose and they'll be dry in no time.
The lesson here is clear: if you are a minority without a lot of money and a prosecutor wants to put you in prison, you will be imprisoned.
The Central Park Five is the story of the five young men who were wrongfully convicted for the 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park. It examines how the legal system's rush to judgment - fueled by a city racially divided and fearful of crime - resulted in false confessions and no reassessment of the charges as conflicting evidence came in. This left a brutal rapist on the streets and robbed five innocent kids of their youth, all of whom served out their full terms. District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, after directing a thorough re-investigation when the actual rapist came forward and confessed, and realizing his office's mistakes, joined with the defense to request that the convictions be vacated, which was instantly granted by Judge Charles Tejada.
Set against a backdrop of a decaying city beset by violence and racial tension, The Central Park Five tells the story of that horrific crime, the rush to judgment by the police, a media clamoring for sensational stories, an outraged public, and the five lives upended by this miscarriage of justice.
Lowering the Bar has a copy of Herman Meville's publishing contract for Moby-Dick, made 161 years ago between Harper and Brothers of the city of New York, Publishers and Melville. Melville got 50% of the profits (which seems fishy to me, given that the publisher has near-total leeway in accounting for its expenses-before-profit on the book), which apparently amounted to $556.37 (~$16K in inflation adjusted 2012 dollars).
HarperCollins posted this on October 18, which was the 161st anniversary of that certain work entitled "The Whale" but commonly known as "Moby Dick." The contract provided that the said Herman Melville would get half the net profits from the sale of said book in the United States for the next seven years, although once the publisher had recovered the cost of the plates used to print it, Melville could have the terms changed so he would get a "sum certain" for each copy sold.