Mas Subramanian’s Quest for a Billion-Dollar Red

04/18/2018

via Bloomberg:

The world lacks a great all-around red. Always has. We’ve made do with alternatives that could be toxic or plain gross. The gladiators smeared their faces with mercury-based vermilion. Titian painted with an arsenic-based mineral called realgar. The British army’s red coats were infused with crushed cochineal beetles. For decades, red Lego bricks contained cadmium, a carcinogen.

More than 200 natural and synthetic red pigments exist today, but each has issues with safety, stability, chromaticity, and/or opacity. Red 254, aka Ferrari red, for example, is safe and popular, but it’s also carbon-based, leaving it susceptible to fading in the rain or the heat. “If we sit out in the sun, it’s not good for us,” says Narayan Khandekar, director of Harvard’s Straus Center for Conservation & Technical Studies and curator of the Forbes Pigment Collection. “That’s the same for most organic systems.” One red is stable, nontoxic, and everlasting: iron oxide, or red ocher, the ruddy clay found in Paleolithic cave paintings. “It’s just not bright in the way that people want,” Khandekar says.

I imagine that back at my parents house there are a few buckets of highly toxic old Legos. Who knew red was so difficult?

Ancient Roman Bathrooms – What Did They Do Without Toilet Paper?

04/05/2018

via Sapiens.org:

In the same way that we use an American-style toilet, a Roman user would sit down, take care of business, and watch number two float blissfully away down the sewer system. But instead of reaching for a roll of toilet paper, an ancient Roman would grab a tersorium (or, in my technical terms, a “toilet brush for your butt”).

Experience: I’ve played a game of tag for 23 years

03/26/2018

via The Guardian:

Since we had busy lives and lived hundreds of miles apart, we agreed on three rules. First, we would play it only in February each year; second, you were not allowed immediately to tag back the person who had tagged you; and finally, you had to declare to the group that you were “it”.

Now we are grown men, we don’t run like Usain Bolt, so subterfuge and collusion have become our weapons. Eleven months of the year are spent planning. Collaborating with a friend is where the fun is – we can spend hours discussing approaches.

I was tagged spectacularly a few years back when a friend popped round to show me his new car. As I approached it, Sean sprang out of the boot where he’d been hiding and tagged me. He’d flown 800 miles from Seattle to San Francisco just to stop being “it” – to shrug off the “mantle of shame”, as we call it. My wife was so startled she fell and injured her knee, but she wasn’t angry; she was pleased to see Sean. All our partners are good-natured about the game – they even get involved in the sting operations.

How wonderful is this?

PCXL Magazine November 1998: Ping-Free Partying

03/03/2018

via Donde Quake 2:

Who Needs Online Gaming When You Can Lug Your Kit Around Town to Shout Abuse at Complete Strangers? Online Gaming is Dead. LAN Parties Are Where It’s At.

In retrospect, online gaming was just getting started, and most kids today can’t tell you what a “LAN party” is, but this is still a fun look back.

The LAN party culture of the late 1990s and early 2000s defined the multi-player gaming we enjoy today. I was in college during these years, and LAN parties were a huge part of my life. Lugging my computer to another dorm, or to another apartment, and gaming until the next day. Online gaming is certainly more convenient, but there is something incredibly satisfying about staring down your opponent after a victory.

Those were fun times.

Burning Out: What Really Happens Inside a Crematorium

03/02/2018

via Popular Mechanics:

Four decades ago, less than 5 percent of American were cremated when they died. Now that figure stands at nearly half. This is how cremation actually works, and the story of what happens to a culture when its attitude about how to memorialize the dead undergoes a revolution.

Really interesting article. I had a surface-level understanding of this process, but they really dig in with some interesting details about the cremation process.

The cremator’s rule of thumb is that 100 pounds of human fat is the equivalent of 17 gallons of kerosene. If you have a body that weighs 400 pounds, at least 200 of it will be fat that will burn rapidly. If you put that person into a very hot machine, as the cremation unit tends to be at the end of the day when it’s been running for hours, the chamber may emit smoke and odor out of the stack.

I don’t know if it’s a matter of growing older or simply growing up, but I do find myself thinking about death more often these days. I suppose I should have a plan in place for what to do with my remains, but I have no idea what to do.

Why I Quit Google to Work for Myself

02/28/2018

via Silly Bits:

The pipeline didn’t record many metrics. The ones it did have made it look like things had gotten worse. My bug discoveries caused the overall bug count to increase. The pipeline’s failures increased because I made it fail fast on anomalies instead of silently passing along bad data. I drastically reduced the time developers spent repairing those failures, but there were no metrics that tracked developer time.

Believe me, I’ve been there — working for organizations which value the wrong things. It’s sort of surprising to see it happen at a place like Google though. Institutionally, it would seem they should better understand the issues with the metrics they collect (or do not collect.)

I spent the early part of my career working for political campaigns, where the only metric that mattered was the number of hours you worked (this is still the case today.) As long as you are on the job 18 hours per day, nobody cares if you are doing your job well or doing it efficiently. If you dared to leave the office before 8pm, you would probably find yourself fired.

I do not miss campaign life.

LOL

02/28/2018

Trump: ‘Take the guns first, go through due process second’ | TheHill:

President Trump on Wednesday voiced support for confiscating guns from certain individuals deemed to be dangerous, even if it violates due process rights.

“I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida … to go to court would have taken a long time,” Trump said at a meeting with lawmakers on school safety and gun violence.

“Take the guns first, go through due process second,” Trump said.

In the world before 13 months ago, this would have sent the House into immediately drawing up articles of impeachment, right?

Does this really surprise anyone?

Crisis

02/24/2018

I’m not going to pretend to know what combination of solutions is necessary to fix this crisis. And it is most certainly a crisis in every sense of the word. I will say there is overwhelming evidence, like the above, that the “let’s just arm the teachers!” argument is bullshit.

If that is the solution, then no more half-measures. Let’s have the full militarization of our schools and public places. Blockades and security checkpoints; student and faculty background checks; random searches; roving security patrols; full SIGINT. We’ll also need to develop HUMINT in the classrooms, probably starting around 2nd grade.

That is the logical conclusion to the “arm the teachers” argument. And it is a bullshit fallacy which makes us no safer. As the military and other protective services frequently demonstrate, arms and training are not enough to prevent tragedy. Not when the attacker can be anyone at any time.

Email is your electronic memory

02/15/2018

From the FastMail Blog:

Yesterday, Google announced that Gmail will use AMP to make emails dynamic, up-to-date and actionable. At first that sounds like a great idea. Last week’s news is stale. Last week’s special offer from your favourite shop might not be on sale any more. The email is worthless to you now. Imagine if it could stay up-to-date.

More:

Over time your mailbox becomes an extension of your memory – a trusted repository of history, in the way that an online news site will never be. Regardless of the underlying reasons, it is a fact that websites can be “corrected” after you read them, tweets can be deleted and posts taken down.

I agree with FastMail here. I look to my email as a source of “truth”. I can count on it to be static and unchanging. I have an archive of emails stretching back to around 1996, and I count on all of remain unchanged forever, safe in my archive.

Also not to be discounted are the legal ramifications of dynamic emails. I work in politics and, while not frequent, my emails have had to be turned over for discovery in litigation. That entire process assumes that the contents of emails have remained unchanged and will be turned over in the same state. AMP tosses that entire premise out the window.

AMP for email is a bad idea.

Also, if you’re in the market for a new email provider, FastMail is fantastic. I’ve been using them for a number of years and they are absolutely the best. Fast, reliable, trustworthy, and inexpensive. Visit this link to sign up.

Branded in Memory: NFL Edition

02/10/2018

This was really interesting:

Considering how important the NFL and its teams are to millions of people, we asked over 150 people to draw 12 of the most popular team logos from memory. With nothing to go off of but their own recollection, we wanted to know just how well these sports icons stand out in the mind of NFL fans and non-fans alike. Here’s what they showed us.

As a fan, how well could you draw your team’s logo?