Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
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New York City, September 22, 2014

weather review sky 092214★★★★★  White, blowing clouds streaked the blue overhead like images of the planet from space. Litter blew along the base of the wall at the foot of the fountain. Even the littlest shreds of cloud, tattered and curling on themselves, were bright and solid-looking. Two women went by wearing scarves–lightweight decorative ones, but wrapped like mufflers. The sun warmed and dazzled the spaces it could find between the high-rises. Wind brushed softly through the still-green leaves. Getting to the river in the afternoon promised more sun, but also the brunt of the breeze. It turned out to be the warmth that prevailed. Later, lower light glowed in the trees and through a sail out on the Hudson. Sundown was a wash of red and violet just over the pale twilit water. 

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SALES, "Getting It On"

The first EP from SALES comes out this week, but most of its songs—save for the one above—have been filtering through the internet for months ("Toto" for about a year; the most popular, "Chinese New Year," since January). You wouldn't know the band hadn't released an album if this one didn't exist to remind you. They're very… what is a band supposed to be now? Present? Anyway: You can stream the EP here, and buy it here. It is excellent.

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Book Titles, Answered

brownbear
A: My natural habitat being systematically destroyed in the name of advancing civilization.

doandroidsdream
A: Technically, they count electric sheep while they're still awake, trying to drift off to sleep. Then they generally dream of naked lady androids, or of writing midterms at the local electric school they're unprepared for, while wearing electric underwear with a Batman motif.
READ MORE

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Enterprise-Grade Media Encoding Using the Yo Smartphone App: A White Paper

A Guide To Converting Empty Transients Into Stateful Bits

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Abstract
  2. Precedents and Prior Art
  3. Format Design
  4. Obstacles
  5. Credits

1. ABSTRACT

Yo is a single-purpose mobile app which has become very popular despite its limited ability to send only empty notifications which do not include any content (see Figure 1). Much of its use has taken the form of a new lightweight social network of sorts in which notifications can be exchanged between friends and acquaintances, who then separately interpret the implied meaning.

yo
Figure 1: Yo mobile app

Recognizing that a notification mechanism is more useful than the app's unusual marketing successes might suggest, events such as coding competitions have attempted to make use of the app's functionality in more pragmatic ways, some of which are now even presented as available services inside the app. Yo was also recently added as a supported output mechanism by IFTTT, a popular internet service which allows users to aggregate other services and create customized new multiplatform functionality. Similarly, this paper puts forth a theoretical specification for a high-resolution file format for audio storage which could be built atop Yo and would outperform most existing encoders, including uncompressed WAV and AIFF as well as compressed FLAC, MP3, AAC, and other algorithms such as those used by streaming music services.

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Visiting Hogwarts When You're Broke

I'm a young freelance costume designer living and working in NYC, which means my default money situation is “LOL.” It's been a thin summer, with lots of traveling and no luck finding a subletter, and my most recent paycheck is a few weeks late. It's on the way, and my bills are paid, but I have under $100 in the bank this week, a small credit card debt, and no savings. LOL!

I'm in Sarasota, Florida, for a few weeks for a project that includes transportation and housing. I haven't worked at this theatre for awhile, and I'm glad to be back, not least because my high-femme friend Kay is there and I haven't seen her in ages. As soon as my contract is signed, she texts me: “I JUST HEARD THE NEWS”, and then, “THEY OPENED DIAGON ALLEY.” We made a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter a few years ago, when I was in town for another Sarasota gig and way more flush. This was when it only included Hogsmeade, and my clearest memory of the trip is how good it felt to straight-up hurl my money at J.K. Rowling. That, and how awesome the frozen butterbeer tasted when you mixed it with actual beer.

I'm ready to say no, but there's more: Kay's friend is a park performer and can get us free entry, a deeply discounted hotel, and discounts within the park itself. Plus, school is starting up and attendance is thinning to a manageable level. Finally, Kay's kind of broke too, and planning to pack a cooler full of sandwiches.

When the planets align that hard and magic is involved, I don't even think about it. I pull out my credit card, vow to do it on the cheap, and go. We hit the road Friday after work.

Here's the cost of a trip to Hogwarts when you're broke (and lucky):

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Want to See Deals Before You Shop?

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War Encoded

REBLOG FOR PEACEAt 11:12 EST, on the DoD News Channel, which was until last month known as the Pentagon Channel, reporters were shown a video of one of the many air strikes carried out this week against ISIS in Syria. The video was played within a frame: Windows Media Player 9, which was officially released in January of 2003, one day prior to the State of the Union address in which the president said these words:

The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi's—Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors and its links to terrorist groups.

We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.

"And if war is forced upon us," he continued, "we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military, and we will prevail."

The video appears to show between thirteen and fifteen distinct explosions—the result of munitions that were guided, apparently, by GPS. How many people died will be revealed just before we are told who they are, and well after we are told who they were supposed to be. At 10:17 EST, reporter Charlie Spiering recorded a gif of the air strike and posted it on Twitter.

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Live Sketches from the Big Climate March

march_1 READ MORE

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The Real Estate Agent's Preferred Way of Thinking About Climate Change

alaska

“The answer is the Pacific Northwest, and probably especially west of the Cascades.”

“Actually, the strip of coastal land running from Canada down to the Bay Area is probably the best.”

“I predict we’re going to have millions of people moving to [the country’s midsection, like Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee and Detroit]."

“Alaska is going to be the next Florida by the end of the century.”

The grim parlor game that we're playing here is "Where will people move when the now-inevitable environmental apocalypse that the human race could've averted but loved its SUVs and one-dollar hamburgers and air conditioning a little too much to do anything about finally arrives later this century and renders large tracts of this country uninhabitable because they will either be underwater or have no water at all?" READ MORE

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"The perfect writer is is entirely focused on accuracy; entirely fearful of litigation; and possesses a keen sense of dramatic scene."

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The new health care:

Hospitals around the country are competing for newly-insured patients, and one way to increase patient satisfaction, they figure, might be to reduce the frustratingly long wait times in the ER. To that end, Northridge and its parent company Dignity Health started offering online appointments last summer; since then, more than 22,000 patients have reserved spots at emergency rooms in California, Arizona and Nevada.

Why stop here? Why not just rebuild the entire medical establishment from the emergency room out? One big door with the word "DOCTOR PLACE" above it, where anyone can walk in and be told quickly that it's either too early or too late to do anything; either that they're dying or they're not. "Emergency rooms are there to take care of people who have emergencies," some buzzkill doctor says, rudely. Every medical condition is an emergency when it's yours! And every emergency room is a clinic when sickly health insurance plans still treat preventative care like a luxury.

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New York City, September 21, 2014

weather review sky 092114★ The air through the windows was cooler in temperature than the suffocating, humid air indoors, but it was too damp to ease the discomfort. A few outriders from the climate-change march were lined up on one side of Broadway, opposite the people still lined up to consume the new obsolescence-making, resource-intensive high-end mobile phones. The light gray thickness in the atmosphere was not really misty; there was nothing mysterious or enchanting about its effects, just a faded Empire State Building looking down toward the markets of Grand Street. Sweltering though it was, the TV personality crossing Broadway back uptown wore a trim glen plaid suit buttoned, with a necktie, as he would be expected to. Only at day's end did the gray end, the overcast breaking up into luminous pink clouds before the dark descended—no longer delayed, but seasonably punctual.

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Prince, "FUNKNROLL"

Prince is releasing two full albums before 2015, both of which will be granted, by default, rigorous consideration by people who have at any point prior cared about Prince. But what on Earth does a teenager make of this? Will the youngest listeners hear this song and think, oh, Prince, dad, whatever? Or will they wonder, who is Prince, I've heard of him somewhere, and then maybe Google him? Does he just get to reappear, no questions asked, his legacy venerated unquestionably, his singles made hits in whatever order planned? Or does Prince have to plead a new case? Anyway: a pretty fun song.

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The Eternal Afterlife of Lonesome George

lonesome george

Lonesome George, likely the most famous tortoise in the world, was the last of his kind. He was the sole remaining member of his subspecies, Chelonoidis nigra abingdonii, from the northern Galápagos island of Pinta. He died two years ago. Last Thursday, his taxidermied corpse was unveiled at the American Museum of Natural History, where he will be on display until early January, at which point he will be moved to Ecuador. “I met George in Paris, walking down the Champs Elysees, in the rain,” Jan, a gray-haired travel and adventure writer, told me. “You can tell I make things up. The coffee is excellent!”

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The Enduring Legacy of Phil Hartman

philhartmanAs much as Phil Hartman's work and influence lives on, the Ontario native has so far escaped the kind of mainstream legacy re-appraisal that so many other late standups and sketch players have enjoyed.

You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman, which takes its name from the catchphrase of The Simpsons mainstay Troy McClure (voiced by Hartman), aims to right that. The long-overdue appreciation of Hartman's genius, which will be published tomorrow by St. Martin's Press, looks at the arc of his career — from his little-known stints as a rock 'n' roll roadie and album-cover designer to his comedy work with the Groundlings and beyond — as well as the off-stage, off-camera details: Hartman smoking pot, surfing, writing poetry, laughing.

Given his tragic fate, it's tempting to reduce Hartman's personal legacy to a tortured artist with a smiling persona, a man who endured private agony and professional highs but never quite found his star vehicle — despite creating roles that no one else could fill on Saturday Night LiveThe Simpsons, and NewsRadio.

But author and Chicago Sun-Times journalist Mike Thomas paints a more symmetrical, often brightly-colored picture of Hartman's life. His detailed, reporting-driven approach yields a less sexy but far richer portrait of this consummately professional comedian who improved the prospects of every sketch, sitcom, and series he touched.

Hartman, who was tragically shot to death by his coke-addled wife Brynn on May 27, 1998, would have been 66 years old this year, so I also picked Thomas' brain about where he thought Hartman's career was going, what he would have been like in 2014, and more. READ MORE

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The Perils of Assuming That the Flying Rodent on Your Porch Is Dead

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, ESPN the Magazine Senior Editor Megan Greenwell tells us more about being attacked by a bat that seemed to be dead but was really alive like crazy.

Megan! So what happened here?

I live in Hartford, Connecticut, in a huge house built in 1920 and since subdivided into three apartments. It’s easily the most beautiful, charming apartment I’ve ever occupied, but there are occasional reminders that the place is old. Such as: I have to prop up one leg of every single thing I own, because the floors are quite slanted. Also: my heating bills are out of control, and last winter my furnace broke on a day when the high temperature was twenty degrees.
 
The latest reminder came when I returned home one night after taking a walk around our neighborhood with my friend and his dog. I began walking up the back stairs to my second-floor apartment, then stopped when I noticed a bat lying peacefully on the third step. Until this moment in my life, I had never seen a bat, but I didn’t have too much trouble identifying it: black, surprisingly furry, and pretty disgusting/terrifying/generally horrifying-looking even when ostensibly dead.
 
A dead bat on my stairs seemed like a problem, but not the kind of problem that I needed to deal with right then. So I decided to step over his creepy lifeless body (yes, I assume all horrifying creatures are men, because misandry), go up to my apartment, and either a) figure out a bat disposal system, or b) assume that my neighbors would leave the house earlier than I did the next morning and thus feel compelled to deal with it. (Let’s be honest: I was always going to choose b.)
 
As I began to step over the bat, I realized that he was not, in fact, dead. READ MORE

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Incongruity Noted

What happens if you strip away most of the connective tissue in this New York Times article about sexual assault in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn?

1. By day, the handsome block of Irving Place that runs between Gates and Putnam Avenues in Brooklyn projects a vibrant wholesomeness. Women push strollers past the red-brick Mount Zion Tabernacle Church; young couples tote Trader Joe’s bags past a photo gallery; and watchful neighbors walk dogs in front of Public School 56.

2. It might seem incongruous, then, that this area would be the setting of two violent crimes: A 31-year-old woman told the police that she had been sexually assaulted twice on Aug. 31, the attacks coming one hour and a block apart in the near-dawn of Sunday morning.

3. Many residents of this section of Clinton Hill said the assaults had occurred amid a broader pattern of crime that taints these blocks on the weekends.

“You come out late at night, early in the morning, you see three, four prostitutes,” said Benny Allen, 30, a youth sports coach who grew up and still lives in the area. “Two years ago, I saw a man and a woman going at it right there on that sidewalk. I had to run them off.”

4. Standing in the doorways of multifamily buildings valued at $1 million to $3 million, residents told of their encounters with prostitutes and their clients.

We can keep going:

1. wholesomeness, strollers, Trader Joe’s

2. incongruous, sexually assaulted

3. broader pattern of crime, prostitutes, "run them off."

4. $3 million, residents

The GENTRIFICATION STORY lens is so narrow and distorting that a report about sexual assault in a changing neighborhood becomes a story about a "broader pattern" of crime; just broad enough to include and implicate both the people perpetrating sexual assault and their victims. But no broader!

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The Best Time I Thought I Was Going To Die In The Italian Woods

romanhol-final-amendedbilling-emailable“You don’t have to speak Italian, it’s completely fine. Non ti preoccupare.”

The fact that my boss couldn’t get through the entire reassurance in English should have been a tip off. But it wasn’t. I accepted the job, an offer almost too good to be true: myself and my first-ever Serious Boyfriend would be working in Italy for a now-defunct government program that sent Italian government officials’ children away from them for a few weeks every summer.

A regular summer camp in most of its programming, we would teach English for three hours total each day. In return, we would be housed, fed, paid, and free to roam the Italian national park where the camp was located. “If you’re working, try to keep it professional, you know. No more than three glasses of wine with lunch,” my future boss—a British man named Peter who sounded like he was kind and handsome—had said on the phone. It was really and truly too much. READ MORE

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"Marketers talk about 'paid media' (advertising they have to buy), 'earned media' (from press coverage to word-of-mouth buzz) and a growing category called “owned media” (their websites, blogs and social media feeds). The attraction of 'owned media', by definition, is that brands neither have to pay a media outlet for it nor earn it by convincing a reporter that the story is worth covering."

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New York City, September 18, 2014

weather review sky 091814★★★★ Denim and sunglasses everywhere. Cartons and backpacks and other baggage were lined up in the morning sun against the side wall of the Apple Store. It was abundantly bright, bright enough for some eyestrain, and fully qualified as warm. In the middle of the afternoon, a gray-infused mass of cloud wandered into the scene, cooling things for a while. Then it wandered off somewhere, and left Washington Square Park in strong sun again, for the drummers and the shirtless. A pigeon fluffed its feathers and contemplated a flock of fabric pigeon-sculptures feeding on invisible food. By evening, the Apple Store line was populated and stretched around the block. The sun went down in a cloudless west, without theatrics. READ MORE

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