Alec Baldwin Is President Millard Fillmore's Doppelgänger

Alec Baldwin and Millard Fillmore

When Lillian Cunningham, host of the podcast Presidential, offhandedly mentioned that Alec Baldwin resembles 13th President of the United States, Millard Fillmore, it didn't prepare me to find a photograph that looked like Jack from 30 Rock had been subjected to an old-west photo booth. Read the rest

The Optimal Route for Visiting Every U.S. National Park

Optimal US National Parks Road Trip

Randy Olson, a researcher at University of Pennsylvania Institute for Biomedical Informatics, has taken his genetic algorithm previously used to find Waldo, and has applied it U.S. National Parks. In August, the National Parks Service is celebrating their 100th year, and Olson has calculated the optimal route to hit every single park in one monster road trip.

The trip would take 14,498 miles, which is only 9.29 days of pure driving time with no stops and no sleep. A bit longer if you want to see any of the sights.

A great thing about Olson's posts is he open sourced his original code, so you can dig in and make your own route. Plan your own trip and support his patreon if you want to see more work like this. Read the rest

A Song of Ice and Fire Is 20 Years Old

Original Game of Thrones cover

Recent comers to Game of Thrones may be surprised to discover that the first book in the series is 20 years old today. Though we now know it as the fantasy juggernaut keeping HBO and podcasting afloat, the scene George R.R. Martin describes on his livejournal at the book's release is much more modest.

Reviews were generally good, sales were... well, okay. Solid. But nothing spectacular. No bestseller lists, certainly. I went on a book tour around that same time, signing copies in Houston, Austin, and Denton, Texas; in St. Louis, Missouri; in Chicago and Minneapolis; and up the west coast to San Diego, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Portland, and Seattle. Turnouts were modest in most places. The crowds didn't reach one hundred anywhere, and at one stop (St. Louis, if you must know), not only was attendance zero but I actually drove four patrons out of the bookshop, allowing me to set my all time "bad signing" record at minus four (on the plus side, I had the time for long friendly talks with the readers who did show up).

In honor of the 20th anniversary, Martin is releasing Game of Thrones: The Illustrated edition, featuring "a total of seventy-three (73) black and white interior illustrations, and eight (8) spectacular full color plates" from artists such as John Picacio, Paul Youll, Gary Gianni, Didier Graffet, Victor Moreno, Michael Komarck, Arantza Sestayo, Magali Villeneuve, Ted Nasmith, Levi Pinfold, and Marc Simonetti.

The latest book in the series is famously over deadline, with the TV show passing Martin's telling and revealing plot points before Martin himself is able to, but his inability to finish the series is even more incredible given his original ambitions:

I'd thought the whole story could be told in three books, and that it would take me three years to write them, a year per book.

Read the rest

The NY Times' Lively Morgue

Two young lesbians outside NY City Hall, 1974

The New York Times' tumblr of photos from its voluminous archive is full of impactful and gorgeous moments.

May 23, 1974: A kiss outside City Hall, where gay rights activists had gathered to show support for a gay rights bill up for a vote at the City Council. The anti-discrimination measure was defeated, 22 to 19, but the bill’s backers vowed to resubmit the following week, although they would “not press for action until after the November election.” It didn’t pass until 1986.

Photos include "back stories", literally notes on the back of a photo to add context including how the photo was used, how much the photographer was paid, and the published caption, if applicable.

via The Lively Morgue. Read the rest

“The Queen of Code,” new short documentary on computing pioneer Grace Hopper

My only objection is that it's not a full-length documentary.

Gaming: Tim Schafer and dev team watch an awesome Psychonauts speed run

It's great fun to watch the development team repeatedly surprised by tricks they hadn't considered.

Gordy's leather lug-mount camera wrist strap

Over the past decade I've been annoyed with traditional camera straps that go around your neck or diagonally across the body. I've tried retro looking 70s camera straps, sling straps, and eventually just carried my camera in a bag and didn't use anything to secure the camera. I found this to be a surprisingly good solution, but I still wanted some safety measure in case the camera got knocked out of my hand.

I got the Gordy Lug-Mount Wrist Strap for Christmas as a gift along with the optional wrist pad, and it's proven extremely secure, non-restrictive, and also doesn't look like a disposable nylon cargo strap. This camera strap is guaranteed to increase sexual potency by 7%. Also it will most likely keep your camera on your wrist and off the ground.

Gordy's Wrist Strap ($18, $31 with optional Wrist pad) Read the rest

Snipers, WOMEN comedy on IFC.com

The guys from WOMEN have been putting out some of the most compelling and original sketch comedy in memory. Women members Allen Strickland Williams, Dave Ross, Jake Weisman, and Pat Bishop have recently teamed up with IFC.com's "Comedy Crib", and their first collaboration is on point. Read the rest

Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder, commercial quality grinder that fits on your counter

In the eight years I've been grinding my own coffee, I've burned out the motor on three grinders: a cheap blade grinder, then a Cuisinart burr grinder, and finally a Capresso grind 'n brew. Either consumer-level grinders are poorly made, or my workload of 4-5 pots of filter coffee per week plus the occasional enemy (no space for a wood chipper in my city apartment) is too intense. Having spent more than $300 on now busted grinders I decided to investigate what it would take to acquire a grinder that I might reasonably expect to last for a decade.

The Rocky has commercial grade grinding burrs and is rated at 7.7 lbs per hour. Rancilio refers to the Rocky as "quiet during operation", and maybe it is in a relative sense, but I've yet to find a device that crushes things at a volume level approaching "serene". It is slightly less obnoxious than my previous grinders at close range.

Though I was sufficiently assured that the grinder would stand up to my usage, the quality that tipped the scales towards the Rocky is one most coffee nerd sites don't mention: height. At 13.8" tall, the Rocky is much shorter than most prosumer grinders, and it was the only grinder of its quality that fits easily under my shelves. I've had it for two years at this point and it still grinds as if I'd just taken it out of the box.

Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder ($363) Read the rest

Deep Breath Hold Tight, emotionally crushing science fiction

Greatfall, a take on religion in the world of Hugh Howey's Wool, was my introduction to Jason Gurley's writing, and I was immediately hooked on the fresh take on the Silos inhabited by the specter of an imposing and oppressive cult. Having enjoyed myself I set out to try some of Gurley's original IP through his collection of short stories, Deep Breath Hold Tight, which has become one of my favorite books.

Despite being introduced to Gurley through another author's universe, Greatfall is representative of his work. Gurley has a mind for building compelling speculative worlds, and there's a consistently oppressive, dystopian quality that runs throughout this book of seven short stories. The tone is reminiscent of Black Mirror, if the subject matter wasn't restricted to technology.

The collection is consistently excellent, from Wolf Skin and it's post-apocalyptic survival tale through The Caretaker, a story of a solitary astronaut and her growing realization that she may be the last living human being, on through Onyx, an exploration of guilt and class struggle on a space station as humanity escapes a decaying Earth.

It's The Dark Age that stands out the most for me, not just because it's the final story; the examination of the period surrounding a one hundred and fouty-four year deep space hibernation condenses a crew's lifetime of regret into several dozen pages of gut-wrenching regret. Deep Breath Hold Tight is the perfect book to read on a rainy January day punctuated by bouts of sobbing into a pillow. Read the rest