Mar 102013

GATE sign for United Flight 93 Gate 17I usually don’t jump too deeply into politics here but the TSA decision to allow small knives on airplanes is simply incomprehensible. I live in NYC, I was here when 9-11 happened. I don’t ever want to experience that again.

Perhaps we’ll never see a coordinated attack on our air transportation system in the same way, but for the sake of the cabin crews alone – who are spearheading the opposition to this totally illogical decision – we owe it anyone working in the airline industry to keep potential weapons out of the air.

A petition on the site has been set up. It needs a lot more signatures above what it has right now. Take a moment a sign it, if only to foster more discussion on the issue. Click on the petition link to go to the page and here’s some of the petition text:

Keep Knives Off the Plane. Block Transportation Security Administration Policy Decision to Accept Pre-9/11 Weapons
Before the morning of September 11, 2001, the threat of using commercial aircraft as a weapon was unknown. At great cost, we know better today. The TSA was created because blades on airplanes were used to cause this deadly attack on U.S. soil.

There’s no excuse for reversal on the policy to ban knives from the aircraft cabin. Multi-layered security, including prohibition of items that could pose a threat, ensures U.S. aviation is the safest in the world. The ban on dangerous objects is an integral layer in aviation security.

Flight Attendants serve as the last line of defense in aviation security – responsible for ensuring the safety, health and security of the passengers in our care. Join us in keeping our aircraft cabin safe. TELL THE TSA TO KEEP KNIVES OUT OF THE CABIN.

Created: Mar 06, 2013. Issues: Homeland Security and Disaster Relief, Regulatory Reform, Transportation and Infrastructure

Feb 152013

Just as we were waiting for close pass of a large meteor today, another unexpected meteor exploded over Siberia, with a sonic boom that lead to breaking glass and injuries of close to a 1,000 people including 34 that had to be hospitalized. Given the love of dashboard-mounted cameras in Russia, there’s plenty of video out there showing the remarkable meteor trail, the explosion, and some of the damage. A good write-up with many of the videos can be found in the Atlantic Wire.

All of this is just a small – and very humbling – reminder that we live in a world much larger than just the Earth, that we are part of an incredibly dynamic universe. We’re struck by objects from space every day but our atmosphere protects us. What you often see (if you don’t live in a large brightly lit urban area) and what we refer to as “Shooting Stars” are really nothing more than pebble-sized rocks burning up in the upper atmosphere. So we walk around in our protective cocoon, consumed with our own agendas and challenges, taking for granted that all is well with the world.

But every now and then the universe gently reminds us with just the smallest whisper in our ear that our little world is not so little after all, that our protective bubble is really quite porus, nothing more than a thin veil between us and a cataclysmic event like the dinosaurs experienced. Of the many videos out there this morning, this is one of the best:

Feb 122013

Okay, just a bizarre coincidence, I know, but it is kind of incredible that a Pope resigns – the first in almost 700 years – and within hours, a bolt of lightning strikes St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. From Gawker:

Alessandro Di Meo, one of two photographers who captured the ominous event on camera, told the BBC he was met with much skepticism after his photo went public.

“I understand that the picture may be incredible,” he said. “Photos of lightning have always been done, but the only difference, in this case, is that it is the right place and at the right time.”

But the cries of “fake” persisted, until video footage of the lightning strike finally emerged (see below). 

But you have to wonder what people would have thought 700 years back – today it is a cry of “It’s Photoshopped!” Back then, it would have meant something entirely different. But the last Pope to step down resulted in much deadlier drama – he was hunted down by his successor and died in prison. So a bolt of lightning is on the tame side.

Feb 052013

Here’s a whimsical map of the United States done through Yahoo! Search with the autocomplete feature on. It gives a you a sense of what people say – and look for – when it comes to typing in the name of a specific State in a search engine. Google’s results are a little different, but not that far off.

Done over on the FlipCollective, here’s a description of how this autocomplete map of the United States was put together:

The following map is based on search engine autocomplete results. Autocomplete is the stuff that pops up when you search for stuff in Google or Yahoo! or AskJeeves (probably?).

For this project, I used Yahoo!’s autocomplete (Yahoo! produced more results than Google so suck it) to find out how search engine users are describing each of the 50 states. This is what Iowa’s search looked like:

Screen shot 2013-02-04 at 1.56.21 PM

I wanted the terms to describe the states, so I weeded out unhelpful results like:

  • Questions (Iowa is in what time zone?)
  • State abbreviations (Iowa is IA)
  • Leading queries (Iowa is known for…)

From there, I’d take the topmost term that satisfied my conditions and put it on the map. Behold my results: 

And what of the end results? Some of the autocomplete terms are ridiculous, but some, dead on accurate. In a way, it’s just a glimpse of the online reputations of each State, but that says something about them and us. And when you think about it, there’s a small a SEO lesson here – it’s always worth checking to see how a website title comes up with autocomplete on. Enjoy.

Autocomplete Map of United States

Autocomplete Map of United States

Jan 302013
Gun Violence in United States Cities


Since we had the Congressional hearings today with the incredible testimony of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, it’s worthwhile looking at a map of gun violence in United States cities compared to the rates in other countries. I am a realist here – I don’t see a reason for high capacity clips and assault rifles but the data is clear that most gun violence is due to handguns. NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelley was on CNN tonight and admitted as much – shootings here would drop less than 3% with a ban on assault rifles as it’s concealed handguns that are the weapon of choice.… Continue reading

Jan 242013
It's Cold in New York

If you live in New York or much of the United States, you’ve noticed the weather this week – temperatures (in Fahrenheit) down near single digits at night. Having to sleep in the living room of my small West Village apartment with its leaky windows (I’m having issues with the ceiling in my bedroom – long story) it’s been one of those pile-every-blanket-you-have-on-the-bed kind of weeks.

But temperatures now pale in comparison to what people endured in the 19th century. Ice regularly blocked the rivers, and ice bridges formed (or were built) by enterprising New Yorkers on a regular basis.… Continue reading

Jan 222013
Funny Images from the Inauguration

Watching the Inauguration, one thing was undeniably clear: we live in a world awash in technology, where every moment is a media moment, where everyone carries a camera and digital video device through their smart phone. You almost have to wonder how people survived earlier inaugurations where the only cameras were in the hands of the credentialed press corp.

What would Jefferson and Adams had done if they could have put aside their quill pens and picked up Smart phones?… Continue reading

Jan 162013
The Pace of Technology Change
Technology: Rusted Plow as Yard Art

Technology: Rusted Plow as Yard Art


On the pace of Technology change, by Kevin Kelley, posted over at PopTECH:

Five hundred years ago, technologies were not doubling in power and halving in price every eighteen months. Waterwheels were not becoming cheaper every year. A hammer was not easier to use from one decade to the next. Iron was not increasing in strength. The yield of corn seed varied by the season’s climate, instead of improving each year. Every 12 months, you could not upgrade your oxen’s yoke to anything much better than what you already had. 

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Jan 152013
The Flood of Tributes for Aaron Swartz
NOAH BERGER/REUTERS -  Aaron Swartz poses in a Borderland Books in San Francisco on February 4, 2008

NOAH BERGER/REUTERS – Aaron Swartz poses in a Borderland Books in San Francisco on February 4, 2008

Even if you didn’t who Aaron Swartz was before his suicide the other day, you probably do now. A tech prodigy (co-developer of RSS code and the website Reddit) and thoughtful young activist who fought to fulfill the real potential of our communications revolution – who Lawrence Lessig called an “incredible soul” – Swartz was facing up to 35 years in jail and millions in fines for taking documents via MIT’s network from the non-profit JSTOR repository.… Continue reading

Jan 132013

Yes, I understand the hectic pace of life in NYC. New York is a crazy place with seven million hyperactive people packed together in too little space with too much to do and not enough time. And yes, I understand that in this setting people can easily lose site of what’s going on around them – like the people who left their cars in underground garages a block from the Hudson River when Hurricane Sandy rolled ashore with a 13 foot storm surge the other month.… Continue reading

Dec 312012
New Year's 2013

So we come to New Year’s 2013, surviving the (pseudo) Maya Apocalypse, going to the brink with the fiscal cliff in the United States and now lurching into a another year. I’ve been busy with friends and family (finally getting my brother to leave his live-aboard life on a boat in Key West for once and visit New York). Whatever you are doing this evening, I wish you peace and happiness in 2013.

A couple of things from around the Web on this New Year’s 2013 .… Continue reading

Dec 152012
Gun Violence in America - the Newtown Tragedy
A young boy is comforted outside Sandy Hook Elementary School after a shooting in Newtown, Connecticut,

A young boy is comforted outside Sandy Hook Elementary School after a shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012 (Reuters / Michelle McLoughlin

More gun violence. My heart goes out to those affected by the tragedy in Newtown Connecticut as 20 small children and seven adults die in one of the worst massacres in U.S. history. One recoils at the horror of what the children in that school went through; and it’s impossible to fathom the pain and suffering that the families, the communities and so many others will feel.… Continue reading

Dec 052012
The End of the Smart Phone

I upgraded my Smart phone the other week, on Black Friday, actually. But the Apple store in the Meat Market district on Manhattan’s West Side was nearly empty (let’s face it, Apple doesn’t do major discounts for holidays). So far, I’m loving the new iPhone – faster processor, beautiful screen, LTE service – even if I sometimes chafe at Apple’s walled garden. Even the upgrade was dead simple: everything was already backed up to Apple’s iCloud service so all I had to do was download the hundred and twenty or so Apps that I have to the new device.… Continue reading

Nov 232012
Thanksgiving and Now Black Friday
Customers wait in line for doorbuster deals at the Kmart on Addison Street in Chicago on Thanksgiving Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012.

Customers wait in line for doorbuster deals at the Kmart on Addison Street in Chicago which opened at 6:00 am on Thanksgiving Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012.

Thanksgiving is over and now Black Friday is here – an American social phenomenon I’ve never quite understood. I get waiting in line for a good deal (though it would have to be a really good deal) yet this seems much more about the mass psychology of the good deal rather than any real bargains.… Continue reading

Nov 192012

A very cool short time-lapse video of airplanes lining up for a landing at London’s Heathrow airport. Speeded up 17x, the jumbo jets appear as small toys buffeted by the wind. There’s enough time-lapse videos out there, but this one is nicely done with a matching soundtrack. They look like puppets on strings.

Continue reading

Nov 082012
New York Blackout - an Eerie Beauty After Hurricane Sandy
Christophe Jarcot photograph of New York City during the Blackout Created by Hurricane Sandy

Christophe Jarcot photograph of New York City during the Blackout from Hurricane Sandy

There was a haunting beauty to New York during the loss of power from Hurricane Sandy, a way of seeing the City in a different light. Yes, it was frustrating and by the end of the week, I felt like I would lose my mind if not for the realization that there were so many people in much, much more dire circumstances than I ever experienced. I didn’t have the presence of mind to take that many photos during the week nor could I have taken any as beautiful as the ones by Christophe Jarcot.… Continue reading

Nov 072012
The Political Pundits Who Blew It

punditsElection night is not quite over, but the networks have called it for Obama. Politico has a quick view of the many pundits who were off – some very, very off – base in their predictions. No doubt there will be much more analysis of who was right and who was wrong in the coming weeks but in the heat of the final night of a long election year (really more than 18 months), it’s a fun read.

Here’s some of the quotes from those who were most off-base:

Newt Gingrich:

“I believe the minimum result will be 53-47 Romney, over 300 electoral votes.” – Oct.

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Nov 062012
Election Guide - Decision Day at Last

Twitter Political Index siteThere are a number of different ways to follow the election tonight through an online election guide if you dread listening to the TV pundits or would rather just have something to balance their unsubstantiated claims. First, here’s a list of poll closing hours from First Read; early results from these states will reveal how the election is going. I’ve highlighted the swing states in red:

How to watch tonight: With several battleground states having poll-closing times at 8:00 pm ET or earlier (Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania), we’re going to know a lot about how the race is breaking fairly early in the evening.

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Nov 032012
Hurricane Sandy Aftermath
Hudson River Flooding - Water Coming into the West VIllage

Hurricane Sandy: Hudson River Flooding – Water Pouring into the West Village

I’m finally resurfacing after dealing with Hurricane Sandy over the past week. My apartment is okay but it was a wild ride – water coming up the streets of the West Village, four days with no power, heat or Internet access. On the other hand, these are hardly serious issues compared to what people on Staten Island, parts of Brooklyn and the New Jersey Shore are going through. People have been generous in helping those deeply affected by the storm but so much more help is needed.… Continue reading

Oct 242012
Superman Becomes a Blogger!

Clark Kent is leaving The Daily Planet to become a blogger

Yes, print media is officially dead for Superman who is leaving The Daily Planet to become a blogger.

His reasons? Clark Kent has become something of a media critic and no longer wants to work for a newspaper that is pushing entertainment over news.


. . . this week’s new issue, and the first regular issue by writer Scott Lobdell and artist Ken Rocafort. Superman’s alter ego has been a reporter at the Daily Planet since the 1940s, and his central supporting cast has included employees Perry White, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen for as long.

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Oct 232012
Lifelogging: Memoto Blows Away Kickstarter Goal

MemotoTake a look at Memoto. A long look as this may just be a game-changer.

Lifelogging has been around for some time – at least two decades if you look at the work Steve Mann with his “wearable computer” and “reality mediator” inventions. I remember watching Mann walk through the streets of Florence, Italy in the early 90′s and thinking this is just too cumbersome to be practical. But you knew the technology would shrink and with the advent of Smart phones and the pending Google Project Glass, we’ve gone from chest-mounted cameras and batteries to the latest innovation that may put lifelogging firmly on the map – Memoto’s lifelogging camera.… Continue reading

Oct 212012

A visualization of Facebook activity and how a photograph goes viral. The short video below reproduces the acts of hundreds of thousands of individuals on Facebook as they share a photograph, Famous Failures, first posted on Star Trek actor George Takei’s Page.

Each visualization is made up of a series of branches starting from a single person. As the branch grows, re-shares split off on their own arcs, sometimes spawning a new generation of re-shares, sometimes exploding in a short-lived burst of activity.

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Oct 192012

Great video on copyright law, remix and free culture. Disney was one of the great mashup artists of his time and ahead of many of his contemporaries in the use of technology to remix culture. But through corporate lobbying, the concept of copyright went from supporting creativity to a situation where a new generation of digitally literate kids are in regular violation of the law. This isn’t about stealing music and down downloading movies illegally; it is about fair-use and that the law needs to adapt to the new landscape of the digital revolution.… Continue reading

Oct 172012

When politicians nearly come to a fistfight at a debate (forget Obama and Romney circling each other last night – that wasn’t even close), you know the end result will be a new political ad and this one is very effective. The episode was a forum for a very bitter race between two redistricted democrats in a congressional race in California, featuring Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA). You can find more details at the LA Times if you’re interested (and as you might expect, the candidates do not actually disagree that much).… Continue reading