phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

Attention K-Mart Shopperswww.chartattack.com

A former employee has digitized and uploaded 56 cassette tapes from K-Mart’s in-store sound system.

“God, the internet is a wonderful place.”
“God, the internet is a wonderful place.”

Mark Davis worked behind the Service Desk at the Naperville, IL Kmart in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Every month, corporate office issued a cassette to be played over the store speaker system — canned elevator-type music with advertisements seeded every few tracks. Around 1991, the muzak was replaced with mainstream hits, and the following year, new tapes began arriving weekly. The cassettes were supposed to be thrown away, but Davis dutifully slipped each tape into his apron pocket to save for posterity. He collected this strange discount department store ephemera until 1993, when background music began being piped in via satellite service.

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Warm Focusbff.fm

A weekly internet radio show designed to help you focus. Streamed each Wednesday at noon, Pacific Time. Hosted by none other than Patrick Ewing (the game developer Patrick Ewing).

Each week we attempt to induce a two-hour state of Flow in the listener: the sense that your work is carrying you along effortlessly like a log in a stream. Long, uninterrupted sets of instrumental music carefully selected as a background for doing creative work. I aim to energize and focus the mind without ever feeling distracting or alienating.

Link via Robin Sloan

Raiders of the Lost Webwww.theatlantic.com

Somebody must have downloaded this, right? Anybody got a copy?

Many of the never-before-published documents and photographs Vaughan unearthed became key components of the web series, appearing only online and not in printed versions of the series. These weren’t just extras, but key chapters of the story, told digitally. And when the website disintegrated after the Rocky’s closure, these stories weren’t relegated to an old box on an unreachable shelf; they were gone.

If a sprawling Pulitzer Prize-nominated feature in one of the nation’s oldest newspapers can disappear from the web, anything can.

Link via Rose Eveleth

Renewables are winningwww.bloomberg.com

Bloomberg on some promising trends in U.S. energy production.

For the first time, widespread adoption of renewables is effectively lowering the capacity factor for fossil fuels. That’s because once a solar or wind project is built, the marginal cost of the electricity it produces is pretty much zero—free electricity—while coal and gas plants require more fuel for every new watt produced. If you’re a power company with a choice, you choose the free stuff every time.

It’s a self-reinforcing cycle. As more renewables are installed, coal and natural gas plants are used less. As coal and gas are used less, the cost of using them to generate electricity goes up. As the cost of coal and gas power rises, more renewables will be installed.

See also: a wonky financial analysis of the residential solar market.

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Refrigerator of the futurewww.psfk.com

From a concept kitchen developed by IKEA, IDEO, and design students from Lund University and Eindhoven University of Technology.

While we often see smart refrigerators as in concept kitchens, IKEA and the designer believe that fridges will become obsolete in the future due to their energy inefficiency. Rather, people will store food much as how they have done so in the past—using materials that are naturally insular, such as cooling ceramic, to keep items as fresh as possible. People will no longer buy groceries on a weekly basis, but with automatic delivery from drones and the like, fresh food will be just as easy to get on demand.

“Clear containers that display the state of food and serve as a visual reminder to eat before it goes bad.”
“Clear containers that display the state of food and serve as a visual reminder to eat before it goes bad.”

See also: MoMA’s 2010 design exhibition, Counter Space.

Link via Dan W

Chantal Akerman vs. Huluhyperallergic.com

From Hyperallergic:

The film world received dreadful news this week when it was discovered that the famed Belgian filmmaker and pioneer of modern feminist cinema Chantal Akerman had died. She is well known for her breakout film, directed at age 25, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), which depicts several hours in the domestic life of a single mother who is also a sex worker.

Mitigating the sad circumstance of Akerman’s passing, the Criterion Collection, an American film distribution company known for its discriminating supply of virtuoso filmmakers, has made its entire catalogue of Akerman’s work available for viewing on Hulu for free.

Do check out Jeanne Dielman. It’s very slow paced, but that pace feels deliberate and effective. The subtlety of the photography and sound design manages to hold your attention for 3-plus hours. However, you may want to seek out the film elsewhere if you don’t have a paid Hulu account. The relentless advertising significantly shifts the viewing experience. I appreciate the gesture of the Criterion Collection licensing this as they have, but such a quiet, poised film easily gets overwhelmed by schlocky ads.

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The Whalephiffer.org

As a coding exercise for a course I’m teaching this semester I created this single-serving site serializing Moby Dick into tiny individual texts. Remember single-serving sites? Sadly many of those domains have expired, but one of the best of them—Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle—is still there, if a bit quaint. I ruthlessly stole the design.

the-whale

With apologies to Mat Honan. See also: Joshua Cohen serializing his novel PCKWCK (after Dickens’s Pickwick Papers) live on the Internet.

Link, source available on GitHub

Margaret Hamiltonen.wikipedia.org

Margaret Hamilton oversaw the guidance software on the Apollo program. Thanks to sophisticated error-handling in that code, her engineering efforts prevented an abort of the Apollo 11 landing.

Three minutes before the Lunar lander reached the Moon’s surface, several computer alarms were triggered. The computer was overloaded with incoming data, because the rendezvous radar system (not necessary for landing) updated an involuntary counter in the computer, which stole cycles from the computer. Due to its robust architecture, the computer was able to keep running; the Apollo onboard flight software was developed using an asynchronous executive so that higher priority jobs (important for landing) could interrupt lower priority jobs.

Margaret Hamilton standing next to listings of the actual Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) source code
Margaret Hamilton standing next to listings of the actual Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) source code

This was on a 2 MHz machine with 1 MB of RAM. Even the term software engineering was coined by Hamilton, who also helped develop “concepts of asynchronous software, priority scheduling, end-to-end testing, and human-in-the-loop decision capability.”

A safe mantra to keep in mind with software is “all software has bugs,” which so often means “don’t expect too much.” Margaret Hamilton was instrumental in creating processes to ensure that software can systematically accommodate surprises and continue functioning as expected.

See also: an appreciation of Margaret Hamilton by Three Fingered Fox.

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12 people have walked on the moonen.wikipedia.org

Wikipedia has an article listing the 12 astronauts who’ve stood on the moon, along with their age at first step (youngest: Charles Duke at 36y 6m 18d) and Alma Mater (most moon-walking graduates: MIT).

[Ralph Morse / Getty Images](http://photoblog.nbcnews.com/_news/2011/11/16/8843372-apollo-11-astronauts-glenn-honored-with-congressional-gold-medal)1969: Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong,
Ralph Morse / Getty Images
1969: Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong,

See also: this amazingly detailed cutaway of the Saturn V rocket.

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Apollo photo archivewww.flickr.com

A fan of the space program, Kipp Teague, has uploaded a huge trove of Apollo mission photo scans onto Flickr. They’re organized into albums, but rather overwhelming as a collection, unless you want to just page through thousands of space photos (which, I mean, yeah why not?).

Apollo 7 Hasselblad image from film magazine 4/N - Earth Orbit
Apollo 7 Hasselblad image from film magazine 4/N – Earth Orbit

Digg has posted a smaller “best of” selection if you want to see just the highlights.

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The Author of the Acacia Seedsinterconnected.org

This Ursula K. Le Guin story is so good!

No known dialect of Ant employs any verbal person except the third person singular and plural and the first person plural. In this text, only the root forms of the verbs are used; so there is no way to decide whether the passage was intended to be an autobiography or a manifesto.

Seeds 14-22

Long are the tunnels. Longer is the untunneled. No tunnel reaches the end of the untunneled. The untunneled goes on farther than we can go in ten days [i.e., forever]. Praise!

The mark translated “Praise!” is half of the customary salutation “Praise the Queen!” or “Long live the Queen!” or “Huzza for the Queen!”—but the word/mark signifying “Queen” has been omitted.

Thanks to Matt Webb for transcribing it from The Compass Rose. You can also listen to Le Guin reading the latter half of the essay (with an additional footnote!) in a 2014 talk.

Link via Hugo Reinert

Self-driving cars: “utterly inevitable”www.buzzfeed.com

Mat Honan wrote about the experience of riding in Google’s cute self-driving cars.

“One also suspects that the cars look intentionally nonthreatening. That they very much are not intended to look like [some of Google’s other robots](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuThIK-X2gU).” Mat Honan / BuzzFeed News
“One also suspects that the cars look intentionally nonthreatening. That they very much are not intended to look like some of Google’s other robots.” Mat Honan / BuzzFeed News

The first time I rode in a fully autonomous car, what really impressed me was when the car saw something that I could not. As I rode down a residential street in Mountain View, the car slowed, for no apparent reason. Yet in the front seat, a laptop showed everything the car could “see.” And up ahead, there was a man, in the street, standing behind a double-parked vehicle. He was concealed from my eyes, but the car detected him. And it slowed down, anticipating that he might step out unexpectedly.

It anticipated this because each and every one of Google robot cars has experienced the totality of everything all its siblings have experienced. Google’s cars have driven a total of 1.2 million miles on the roads. We tend to think of this as combined experience — an aggregate number. But what it really means, effectively, is that every single car has driven that distance, has experienced it. This is a machine that learns. And in addition to that on road time, the cars log, Google said yesterday, 3 million miles every day running scenarios.

This car is a better driver than me, or you, or any of us.

Link via Andy Baio

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