Amazing bird shots

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Today I bring you some amazing bird-shots, courtesy of my friend Diede. The first set includes the photo above, and comes from Andrew Zuckerman’s Bird book. The second set is all about kingfishers from National Geographic:

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Walt Disney as Entrepreneur

US postage stamp of 1968 depicting :en:Walt Disney

For a great lesson in entrepreneurship, I warmly recommend visiting the brand new Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco’s Presidio Park. Apart from being a beautiful museum with lots of wonderful artwork, it also illustrates the phenomenal entrepreneurial spirit that made Walt Disney the success that he was:

  • Walt was ambitious and tenacious. He started his first studio at age 21, and when that went bankrupt, he started another one.
  • Walt understood his audience. Right from the start he knew to focus on the story (inventing the storyboard) and on the characters (inventing character animation, where all of a character’s movements map to his personality and feelings).
  • In addition to being a creative genius, Walt was an inventor who understood the importance of new technology. He invented synchronized sound for cartoons, and invested in new techniques such as multi-plane cameras and Technicolor.
  • Walt was a shrewd businessman. He got a 2 year exclusive on Technicolor, licensed his characters to merchandisers early on, and syndicated them to comic drawers.
  • Walt was a good boss. Animation was a hugely labor-intensive art,  and Walt made sure his employees had great facilities and opportunities for education. There were some strike issues in the early 40s, but you can tell from the quotes that most of his employees loved him.
  • Walt took risks, always reinventing himself. Just as Mickey was taking off, he created a series of experimental, music-themed animations. Snow White was the first feature-length animated movie, and a hugely expensive gamble. During WW2, rather than closing the studios, he put them to work creating educational and inspirational videos for the war effort.
  • Walt was an optimist, who dreamed big and let no one get in the way of making those dreams reality.

I found it incredibly inspiring to learn about the life of this great man, and the passion with which he brought so much joy to all of us. And with that, I’m going to put the Jungle Book at the top of my Netflix queue:

Eli Burakian’s nature shots

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Eli Burakian has some beautiful nature shots on his site, many of them from around Dartmouth (where we both went to college). I particularly recommend his abstract gallery. Thanks Will for the recommendation!

Innovative laptop features from Dell

Given how much I post about Apple products, I really want to give kudos to Dell for the genuine innovations in their latest laptop. This Ars Technica article describes the cool new features of the Z600 laptop:

  • Completely wireless docking (screen, keyboard/mouse, audio) via a compatible wireless station. No need for an ugly proprietary dock connector. I want this.
  • Wireless charging via an induction stand. It won’t charge from your couch, but it’s nice to not have to deal with a cable.
  • Face-aware locking uses the built-in web cam to lock the screen whenever the user steps out of sight. If it isn’t annoyingly aggressive, this is super cool.
  • Always-on functionality to continuously fetch new mail. I wouldn’t use this (real-time is overrated), but clever nonetheless.
  • Gimmicky touch-strip on the side of the screen. Well, they can’t all be winners :)

All in all, a very impressive feature set that demonstrates real creativity. I hope Apple follows suit on some of these, especially the wireless dock.

Dust storm

These dust storm pictures from The Big Picture blog are stunning. This Flickr gallery also has a bunch of great shots. San Francisco looks like this most days, but unfortunately our fog is a dull grey.

What is a moment?

What is a moment? Here’s one answer from the excellent science podcast Radiolab:

So simple, so plain, so beautiful. Via Jonah Lehrer’s equally excellent blog The Frontal Cortex.

PS: Is the soundtrack by Sigur Ros? It reminds me of Heima. Shazam won’t recognize it…

99 colorful ballons

I’m certainly not the first to post these picture, but this balloon launch is AWESOME:

The largest mass ascent of hot air balloons took place recently at the biennial Lorraine Mondial Air Ballons rally in Chambley, France. Pilots from around the world lifted off in 329 balloons on 26 July.

The Social History of the MP3

The Social History of the MP3 is a Pitchfork article that puts MP3s in the context of previous technological  revolutions. It’s full of interesting nuggets:

When radio came along, its broadcasts created communities of music-listening strangers, physically distant from each other but connected through the knowledge that they were listening to the same song at the same time. Where radio brought listeners together as a listening public, the LP started splitting them apart. The LP and 45 rpm formats took the phonograph, which had been in existence for over half a century, to the masses, right as the American middle-class was going suburban and privatizing their lives. We could then use musical objects like we’d been using literature and art for centuries prior: as collectibles, and signifiers of personal taste. The emergence of the cassette–the first sturdy, re-writeable music technology– allowed us to “manufacture” our own music in the privacy of our own homes and recirculate it at our will, through mixtape trading and full-album dubbing.

How the telegraph created commodity futures:

Weirdly enough, this particular effect of mp3s and peer-to-peer networks– that information travels much faster than physical goods– most closely resembles that of the telegraph on the 19th century commodity markets. Before that innovation– the Internet’s great-grandfather– individual markets based in major cities were separated by hundreds of miles, and goods could only travel as fast as railroads could take them. Yet because information about crop conditions could travel via telegraph exponentially faster than the actual crops, the exchange of money for physical commodities was largely replaced by a futures market, based on what would happen.

On the pace of online music

The ideal would have been that a new network of independent music lovers would have elevated different types of music, or even found new ones, the way nascent rock’n'roll, honky tonk, bluegrass, and R&B benefited thanks to the 45. But online, new genres risk being strangled in the crib before anyone knows they exist, and people are “done” with new albums before the cover art has been approved.

Thanks to Noah for the link. Also, for those of you who have Spotify, I can warmly recommend Pitchfork’s 500 Best Songs of the 2000s playlist.

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Have nothing in your houses…

I love this quote shared by my friend Amit:

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” -William Morris