The old ways we explained new tech#

When a technology is still new, reporters can’t mention it without explaining it. Here’s how the NYT first tech-splained the most important new inventions of the last 135 years.

The private lives of public bathrooms#

I found this article utterly fascinating (probably because I can relate to some of the anxieties discussed).

[T]he public bathroom is a place that has ingrained behaviors and social rituals—leaving space at the urinals, avoiding conversation even with people you know—that we’ve all experienced, if not daily at an office, than out in the world, at restaurants and ball parks and airports. The public collides uncomfortably with the private in the bathroom as it does nowhere else, and the unique behaviors we perform stem from a complex psychological stew of shame, self-awareness, design, and gender roles.

An OS X Service for saving to Pocket

February 25, 2014

A few days ago on Twitter I asked if anyone had seen or created a save-to-Pocket OS X Service (so that I could save a link from inside any application), and I wondered aloud if I’d have to create it myself. Just as I was thinking all hope was lost, Twitter user, @prenagha, wrote me to tell me that the Service I’d been lusting after gets installed with Pocket’s Mac app—it was already on my system!

Of course my first thought was that this person was wrong, and didn’t quite understand what I meant by “OS X Service”, but then once I got back in front of my Mac I wandered over to System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts, and there it was staring me right in the face. Works like a charm.

(I typed this up for all you future searchers, as this wasn’t immediately obvious to me and a quick browse of Pocket’s site makes me think they make no mention of it there.)

PowerMate Bluetooth#

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this (long overdue) upgrade to what I’ve previously described as my favorite computer peripheral of all time. If my Twitter and RSS streams are any indication, interest in this product is very high (you guys know a corded version has been around for years, right?), and so I suspect the PowerMate solutions I’ve hacked up will soon receive some renewed interest. (For what it’s worth, this solution probably is my favorite: Use AppleScript to determine which media app is currently playing something (or was last paused), and have your PowerMate act accordingly.)

The books I read in 2013

January 05, 2014

Below is a list of the books I managed to get through in 2013, and below that, is another list of the books I’m currently reading.

Apart from the usual mix of science, technology, psychology and evolution, last year I was obsessed with the JFK assassination and ~early 20th-century notables.





Currently, I’m reading the following books:

Is there a cure for alcohol hangovers?#

A great piece from The New Yorker. My trick? Water whenever I can remember to drink it, Advil just before passing out heading to bed and lots of Gatorade as soon as I come to wake up.

This American Life follows a car dealership for a month#

We spend a month at a Jeep dealership on Long Island as they try to make their monthly sales goal: 129 cars. If they make it, they’ll get a huge bonus from the manufacturer, possibly as high as $85,000 — enough to put them in the black for the month. If they don’t make it, it’ll be the second month in a row. So they pull out all the stops. Photo gallery here.

One of the best episodes from probably the best show of its kind. Just great. I learned a ton.

Just Delete Me#

Many companies use dark pattern techniques to make it difficult to find how to delete your account. aims to be a directory of urls to enable you to easily delete your account from web services.

Tweet Library#

Tweet Library keeps a local searchable archive of your own tweets, favorites, and retweets so that you can find important tweets later. It adds collections so that you can curate your timeline by organizing related tweets together. And it includes custom filters to automatically group or hide tweets.

I’ve known about this app for a number of years, but really never paid it much mind because Twitter’s API constraints meant it couldn’t reach further back in your timeline than your last 3200 tweets. A few days ago I came across it again (in my buddy Federico Viticci’s list of must-have iPhone apps for 2013), and the fact that it was now available for the iPhone (instead of just the iPad) was enough to pique my interest.

I was hoping it would now support the importing of the tweet archives Twitter made available at the end of 2012 , and sure enough…it does! It’s as simple as putting the archive file in a particular Dropbox folder, after which the app imports your tweets and from then on out you’re up to date (the app will download your latest tweets each time you open it, so you’re always synced up).

I do all of my Twitter’ing from the iPhone, and so having on my phone a searchable archive of everything I’ve ever tweeted is pretty awesome. (I used to use Tweet Nest for this sort of thing (and loved it), but since it requires its own MySQL DB, and I’m now using Jekyll+Amazon S3 for this site, it just wasn’t an option anymore.)

The Cubli: A cube that can jump up, balance, and "walk”#

The Cubli is a 15 × 15 × 15 cm cube that can jump up and balance on its corner. Reaction wheels mounted on three faces of the cube rotate at high angular velocities and then brake suddenly, causing the Cubli to jump up. Once the Cubli has almost reached the corner stand up position, controlled motor torques are applied to make it balance on its corner. In addition to balancing, the motor torques can also be used to achieve a controlled fall such that the Cubli can be commanded to fall in any arbitrary direction. Combining these three abilities – jumping up, balancing, and controlled falling – the Cubli is able to ‘walk’.

Just watch it.

For 25 years a single couple generated MLB's schedule#

Major league baseball’s schedule affects the lives of millions of Americans. For 25 years, the masterminds behind the massive undertaking were The Stephensons. A husband and wife duo working with a computer, a pencil and a great deal of cooperation.

I couldn’t care less about baseball generally, or Major League Baseball in particular, but I find this sort of thing fascinating.

The new Glif smartphone stand is adjustable#

I bought the original Glif in 2010, and have just ordered this updated version that can be modified to handle devices of varying size.

The Glif will work with practically any smartphone, with or without a case. Use the included hex key to fit the Glif to your phone. Once sized to your phone, you won’t need to make any additional adjustments. The Glif will fit devices between 58.4–86.4mm wide and 3.1–12.7mm thick.

The first version was an awesome little gadget, and so I’m definitely looking forward to using this new model with my iPhone 5s, and maybe even my iPad mini.