Dec 09

Daily Links for December 10th through December 13th

All excerpts are quoted from the respective link(s).

  • Top 10 Homemade Versions of Things We Love – DIY Creations – Lifehacker – Making your own versions of great food and clever gadgets is already rewarding, and if you play your cards right, the homemade route also comes with serious bragging rights. These 10 economical homemade creations—epicurean and electrical—should inspire some well-deserved praise.
  • The Book Cover Archive
  • A collection of older, cheaper gadgets that still make great gifts in 2009. – By Farhad Manjoo – Slate Magazine – That observation prompted Dash to wonder what satisfaction he was getting from "chasing novelty." If his uncle could make do with an old cell phone, why couldn't he? Thus, a small movement was born: In April, Dash and a few tech-luminary friends launched Last Year's Model, a one-page site that encourages techies to consider the old before jumping into the new. The response, Dash says, was overwhelming—people posted hundreds of comments on the site and on Twitter and Facebook explaining how the economy, the environment, and general thriftiness had prompted them to stick with old phones, music players, cameras, video game consoles, and other devices.
  • Water Conflict Chronology [Google] Map – An interactive map showing the geographic location where conflicts over water have occured, and information about each conflict.
  • Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics | TPMCafe – In states with lower percentages of people that endorse spanking and washing kids' mouths out with soap, which is the case in New England and much of the Middle Atlantic, Obama did very well. In states with higher percentages, like Wyoming, Idaho, and Alabama, McCain won big. Even the states that fall somewhat far from the trend line are usually easy to explain. For example, Hawaii, Illinois, and Alaska are all favorite son or daughter states. Several states that are below the line, like Nevada, Indiana, and Ohio, are states that have usually voted Republican in the past.
  • 28 Rich Data Visualization Tools – InsideRIA – We're currently working with a dozen different clients, all web application (re)designs. All of these clients have data rich applications and need equally rich data visualizations to help their end customers analyze data quickly and effectively.

    What makes my job really interesting is that these clients are in different industries and are using different technologies. So we have pulled together a set of 28 tools for creating graphs, Gantt charts, diagrammers, calendars/schedulers, gauges, mapping, pivot tables, OLAP cubes, and sparklines, in Flash, Flex, Ajax or Silverlight.

  • Final edition: Twilight of the American newspaper—By Richard Rodriguez (Harper’s Magazine) – National newspapers may try to impersonate regional newspapers that are dying or dead. (There have been reports that the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal will soon publish San Francisco Bay Area editions.) We already live in the America of USA Today, which appears, unsolicited, in a plastic chrysalis suspended from your doorknob at a Nebraska Holiday Inn or a Maine Marriott. We check the airport weather. We fly from one CNN Headline News monitor to another. We end up where we started.

Oct 09

Daily Links for October 16th through October 22nd

All excerpts are quoted from the respective link(s).

  • The Ultimate Gadget Decision Flowchart [PIC] – Should get the new [insert gadget here] or not? [Note: A handy guide for gadget enthusiasts. But be honest with yourself, you're probably going to buy the thing anyway. It's so shiny!]
  • Remodeling Magazine: Home remodeling, kitchen and bath design … – Looks like the return on home improvements is suffering as much as the real estate market.
  • A Random Search Search for Excellence Why “great company” research delivers fables and not facts – Many believe that we can learn how to be great by studying greatness. But what is great performance? It turns out that we typically measure the wrong thing and set the bar far too low. Consequently, researchers who think they are studying successful companies are usually studying the winners of a random walk. What does this mean for the soundness of some of the most popular and influential management research? The bottom line: you can’t trust it.
  • What carries you up will also bring you down — cdixon.org – chris dixon’s blog – In every case you can find the one sentence or paragraph that describes their unique business model advantage. It could be their unique distribution system or the retailing model. It’s the factor that accounts for their success. It turns out the factor that explains their success at the beginning is what accounts for their failure later.
  • Amazon offers same-day delivery to select cities | Webware – CNET – Amazon customers placing deliveries within the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, Baltimore, Las Vegas, and Seattle, as well as "some surrounding areas," will now be able to receive shipments on the same day they place an order. The service will be coming to Chicago, Indianapolis, and Phoenix "in the coming months."

    Amazon said "thousands of items" are available now to customers living in those cities. The new option, called Local Express Delivery, will have varied pricing that depends on the type of product purchased. Amazon Prime members–customers who pay $79 per year to receive unlimited two-day shipping from the online retailer–will need to pay $5.99 per item for the service.

  • Invest in Collaborative Tools, Get More Than Double Return, Study Says – While the study shows that companies investing in top-of-the-range telepresence and telephony systems get the most return, even organizations deploying just basic collaborative tools (like IM and web conferencing) reap a return on collaborative investment of over two times. The study suggests this is because teams using collaborative tools can benefit from a network effect — the more users on a network, the more value is realized from it.
  • No-contract $30 / $45 Straight Talk wireless plans storm Walmart – Remember when TracFone horrified the world with its Straight Talk phone selection back in July? Clearly the suits in Bentonville weren't so scared, as now Walmart is latching on to that very plan and claiming it as its own. In over 3,200 of the outfit's retail stores across America, consumers will be able to snag an admittedly pathetic cellie and a rather decent calling plan for just $30 a month. Three Hamiltons gets you 1,000 voice minutes, 1,000 texts and 30MB of mobile web access, not to mention nationwide coverage and free 411 calls. If that's not quite enough, a $45 per month option provides unlimited everything (voice / SMS / mobile web). Of course, the price of using an antediluvian LG 220, LG Slider 290 or Samsung 451 can't be measured in mere dollars, but hey, humiliation's only temporary — right?

Dec 08

Daily Links for December 22nd through December 31st

  • Fimoculous.com – misc – 30 Most Notable Blogs of 2008 – Maybe half of the blogs listed below are new, and the other half deserve attention for having reinvented the medium in some way. Consensus is an impossible task in a world this diverse, but that shouldn't stop us from pointing out excellence when we see it. So here they are, the most notable blogs of the past year[.]
  • Inside the Playbook – The New York Times
  • 15 Useful Tools for WordPress Bloggers – Six Revisions – In this collection, you’ll find a few convenient applications, plugins, and browser extensions that will help you accomplish a variety of blogging tasks that range from easier screen captures to making sure your WordPress site is secure.
  • Neoformix Review 2008 – I think it's natural at the end of the year to look back over the previous 12 months and assess what was accomplished. This post is my attempt to summarize what I think my key contributions were this past year on Neoformix. They aren't necessarily the most popular posts and are ordered chronologically rather than by any notion of importance. I hope this proves useful to those of you who are new to Neoformix or just want a quick review of the key ideas presented during 2008.
  • The Apocalypse is Coming: What You Need to Pack | Gadget Lab from Wired.com – But what happens in a real crisis, the kind where the world stops working, the electricity stops working and (gasp) the internet stops working? Every New Year’s Eve, some wacko predicts the End of Days. What might you need? Consulting my huge back catalog of post-apocalyptic science fiction, I came up with the following list of true essentials. Bonus points for spotting the Sci-Fi sources.
  • Zune Epidemic! 30GB Models Failing Worldwide (MSFT) – Zune users are already calling it "Z2K9" — according to multiple reports, 30GB Microsoft (MSFT) Zune models all over the world are failing. And all at the same time.
  • Welcome to Delaware County PA History
  • Welcome to Delaware County PA History: Links
  • Toyota Prius: Tech-Savvy Prius Owner Uses Hybrid To Power House During Snow Storm – John Sweeney, of Harvard, Massachusetts, was among the many residents of Eastern Mass without power after a big ice storm hit on December 12th. Sweeney, an electrical engineer, saw his Prius as the answer. Using an inverter, he converted the DC power coming out of the car into AC power for his house. Though he couldn't run his entire house one his one car, they were able to get approximately 17 Kilowatt hours of energy. This was enough to power his refrigerator/freezer, television, lights, wood stove fan and accessories for a few days. Although anyone can use a regular DC power supply, like the battery found in a non-Hybrid car, but a hybrid is ideal.
  • Ward’s columnist wonders if Americans can handle the truth about gas taxes – Autoblog – Winters paraphrases The End of Oil author Paul Roberts, noting that "every major fuel shift in history – from wood to coal to oil – was driven primarily by market forces, specifically by competitive advantages of the new fuel over the old." Thus, part of the solution may simply to make the fossil fuels more expensive relative to other energy sources.
  • Chinese government to reward scrapping your car and buying a new one – Autoblog – The key word in this plan is "scrap." The way it's been presented, the government doesn't want folks to just trade in their cars – that would simply add more cars with much smaller margins to dealer lots. They want car owners to send their cars to the crusher. If that's what is actually being considered, we'd be interested to find out how close the "incentive" will be to the value of the car being junked. If the difference is considerable, that plan sounds like a non-starter.
  • Peter Schiff On Stimulus – In other words, this isn't just a "rough patch" or even a "severe rough patch" and the American economy isn't just some car on the side of the road that needs to be "jumpstarted". Whole sectors of the economy are experiencing generational shocks, from which they may never recover — not because the economy is weak (that's just what has exposed the rot), but because, they're no longer productive places to invest our capital (or spend our dollars). With as many people as we have employed in finance, brick-and-morter retail, the union-model auto industry and homebuilding, et. al. that will produce wrenching pain, but it's not something easily fixed by a couple years of stimulus.
  • Firedoglake » The Third Rail of “Israel” Cools in the Blogosphere – Although a lot of bloggers are still obviously gun shy, it looks like readers are ready to take it on, and they are doing so without letting the conversation devolve into an endless flame war. I read closely the comments section of Gregg Mitchell's top-rated Kos diary on the diversity of opinion about the Gaza situation within the Israeli press, which commenters reflected in their own disparate opinions. But despite the attempts of a couple of trolls to derail the conversation, it remained remarkably civil. A series of diaries on the subject of Gaza subsequently made their way onto the recommended list, some critical of Israel's actions and others in support. But one thing is becoming clear — the third rail is cooling off.
  • Netflix, Adobe, Google Rated Best Places To Work. AT&T, eBay, RadioShack Among the Worst. – Where are the best and worst places to work? Glassdoor, the site that surveys employees about workplace conditions in great detail, has issued lists of the best and worst 50 companies as rated by employees out of the 11,000 in its database […].
  • FRAMESHOP by Jeffrey Feldman – In 2008, perhaps more than any year in history, words made a huge difference in politics. If I had to pick one word that caused the biggest stir, my choice would be: 'lipstick.' Yes, ma'am. Sarah Palin's 'lipstick-on-a-pit-bull' moment at the 2008 Republican Convention rocketed her to the center of American life faster than Tesla Roadster, and will likely keep her there longer than most people would prefer. Of course, more important than 'lipstick,' Barack Obama built the most significant election campaign in history out of the simple phrase: 'yes we can'–three little words whose iconic status will take up a well-deserved spot for posterity alongside 'I have a dream' and 'Nothing to fear, but fear itself.' Yep, 2008 was a big year. But what can we expect in 2009? Without further ado, here are the predictions from Frameshop of 10 words and phrases that will shape politics in 2009.
  • US Census Press Releases: Holidays 2008 – The holiday season is a time for gathering and celebrating with friends and family, gift-giving, reflection and thanks. To commemorate this time of year, the U.S. Census Bureau presents the following holiday-related facts and figures from its data collection.
  • Chart Porn: The Unofficial Theory Of Sci-Fi Connectivity

Dec 08

Daily Links for December 9th

  • GOOD » Books Are the New Cars» – Another day, another imploding industry…
  • Economist’s View: “Capitalist Fools” – Was there any single decision which, had it been reversed, would have changed the course of history? … The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. … The embrace by America—and much of the rest of the world—of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.
  • Google Book Search: Google Book Search Now Includes Magazines – This is awesome, although everyone is likely searching for Playboy or Honcho.
  • Two Methods to Measure Unemployment: 1948 – Nov 2008 at Visualizing Economics – Two unemployment series: U-3 the official unemployment rate in blue and U-6 the broadest definition of unemployment (includes marginally attached workers and people employed part-time for economic reasons) in orange.
  • Recession Is Shaping Up to Be the Worst Since the 1940s – NYTimes.com – This recession, which officially began in December 2007, now appears virtually certain to be the longest downturn — and possibly most severe — since the end of World War II, as evidenced last week by a demoralizing rat-a-tat of grim reports on jobs, sales and public confidence. The reports signaled that even after 11 months, more than the entire length of the last two downturns, this recession has only now entered its fiercest phase, and economists say the pain will not end soon.
  • Spectacular Christmas Lights from Around the World – Beautiful.
  • The Newspaper Industry and the Arrival of the Glaciers – Boing Boing – By the turn of the century, anyone who didn't understand that the business model for newspapers was a wasting asset was caught up in nothing other than willful ignorance, so secure in their faith in the permanence of their business that they assumed that those glaciers would politely swerve at the last minute, which minute is looking increasingly like now.
  • My Problems Are Real to Me: Five Sexist Trends the Advertising World Just Can’t Shake – The fact that these trends are so widespread is not the fault of the advertising world–these people are paid to appeal to our ids, they are often self-aware in their tendency to make the world harder for women, that's the life they've chosen. It is mainstream companies like BMW, Mitchum, Nikon, mainstream publications that host these images, and mainstream readers who use these products despite their appalling treatment of women that are truly to blame. The advertising world reacts to client demands and consumer activity–we have control over only one of those fields.
  • Radio Shack Catalogs – Currently broken, but I'm sure it will be back…
  • Wall Street: Profiles in Panic: About Us: vanityfair.com – With Wall Street hemorrhaging jobs and assets, even many of the wealthiest players are retrenching. Others, like the Lehman Brothers bankers who borrowed against their millions in stock, have lost everything. Hedge-fund managers try to sell their luxury homes, while trophy wives are hocking their jewelry. The pain is being felt on St. Barth’s and at Sotheby’s, on benefit-gala committees and at the East Hampton Airport, as the world of the Big Rich collapses, its culture in shock and its values in question.
  • Get Your Google Profile Organized For Friend Connect | MakeUseOf.com – So in other words, Friend Connect personalises your site more. Gives it that human touch. But it also branches out further than that. If you click on someone’s icon and view their Google profile, you can potentially see their Google Reader shared articles, their favourite shared photos, their Blogger comments, their YouTube videos and much more (if they choose to share that information with you by having it on their profile). This is in direct contrast to Facebook where you have to be approved first by the person before viewing any information of theirs. Facebook is also very much “walled in” where everything is inside and can’t be taken out of the site. Friend Connect, by contrast, seems more “looser” and you can click from site to site. Nothing seems to be constrained.
  • GM may rebuild Saturn rather than kill it – Autoblog – But GM can't simply close the Saturn shop. There are 425 Saturn dealerships, and one dealer-broker figured that GM would have to shell out $3-$4 million to each dealer if Saturn gets put down. That puts GM past the billion dollar mark even before any other cost is taken into account. And Saturn can't simply be sold either, except as a brand name and blueprints – it has no engineering nor manufacturing abilities outside of GM.
  • Hullabaloo: Until He Turns Blue – Shelby is a traditional conservative — in the mode of Herbert Hoover. That tradition is one that's been out of fashion for about 80 years now and there's little reason to bring it back. If you want to relive the Hoover years, take Charleston lessons. Or read some F.Scott Fitzgerald and leave the economy to more modern thinkers.
  • Op-Ed Columnist – The Brightest Are Not Always the Best – NYTimes.com – Few seem to recall that the phrase, in its original coinage, was meant to strike a sardonic, not a flattering, note. Perhaps even Doris Kearns Goodwin would agree that it’s time for Beltway reading groups to move on from “Team of Rivals” to Halberstam.
  • Scholars and Rogues » The “dumbest generation”: sloppy thinking, maybe, but it’s put-up-or-shut-up time for Gen X – In the coming five years or so a massive number of Boomers are going to retire (the earliest Boomers hit retirement age this year, in fact) and early Xers are going to have to step in and step up. (For a lot of reasons, I don’t expect this transition to be a terribly pretty one.) The most prominent symbol of Gen X taking the reins right now is Barack Obama, who will soon become the first Xer president. Unless you’ve been off planet for a few years, you realize the massiveness and unfathomable complexity of the challenge he faces, and for better or worse it’s now time for my generation to step up and lead. You may think Xers are slackers and “the dumbest generation,” or you may prefer the Howe and Strauss narrative from 13th Gen, which credits us with a good deal of street smarts and a collective ingenuity born of necessity. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter. The time is now, and we’ll either get it done or we won’t.
  • Firedoglake » Want Something Fixed? Make Sure Important People Have Skin In the Game – Principle: when elites are not effected by a problem they have a lot less incentive to fix the problem.

    Solution: don't let elites opt out of things like military service and public schools if you want problems with both (illegal wars, not enough body armor, bad schools) to be dealt with properly and in a timely manner.

  • Emptywheel » Dan Quayle and Cerberus Holding American Economy Hostage – But understand: GM acquiring Chrysler–which is the most discussed option–offers little benefit to GM. Sure, the merged company would get to sell either the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit or Chrysler's fairly new digs up north; you could find efficiencies in headquarter structure (if you were a healthy company to begin with). But everyone agrees that two of GM's most urgent problems are that it has too many brands and too many dealerships. And you want to fix that by making it take on 3,300 more dealers and three more brands? This is Congress' idea of a really smart restructuring?
  • IIHS: Ten Most Stolen Vehicles For 2008 – The most stolen cars, actually, are the ones American automakers are taking the most flack over: big trucks and SUVs. Vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade were popular with automakers because it was a cheap platform they could load with lots of expensive parts and make a hefty profit on. For the same reason it is popular with thieves. Add expensive audio equipment and rims, especially on cars like the Hummer H2 and Dodge Magnum, to the equation and you might as well paint "steal my car" on the side.
  • Political Calculations: Detroit in Four Squares – With the U.S. automakers now in line for aid from the federal government, we thought it might be valuable to present the following four square chart, which depicts the typical historic interaction between the strength of the economy and how well Detroit satisfies consumers in the U.S. with the outcomes they produce for management, workers and the future of the auto industry
  • Kop Busters | Never Get Busted Again – KopBusters rented a house in Odessa, Texas and began growing two small Christmas trees under a grow light similar to those used for growing marijuana. When faced with a suspected marijuana grow, the police usually use illegal FLIR cameras and/or lie on the search warrant affidavit claiming they have probable cause to raid the house. Instead of conducting a proper investigation which usually leads to no probable cause, the Kops lie on the affidavit claiming a confidential informant saw the plants and/or the police could smell marijuana coming from the suspected house.
  • 5 Comic Superheroes Who Made a Real-World Difference – If you think superheroes do amazing things in comic books, you won’t believe what they can do off the page. For starters, Superman brought down the Ku Klux Klan, Donald Duck raised ships from the ocean floor, and Spider-Man transformed the American justice system.