Eightface

by Dave Kellam

NYC subway map from 1964

1964-nyc-subway-map-portion

A version of the NYC subway map, which had been lost to history, was recently found and recreated digitally by Reka Komoli.

A local lawyer, R. Raleigh D’Adamo, was the winner of that 1964 contest. His design separated local from express routes and assigned separate colors to each of them. Submissions had to fit all the subway lines into a geographically correct map. So to use as little space as possible, D’Adamo employed colored squares along shared lines.

Personally, I would’ve found the map tough to use as a tourist, none of the station names are indicated. It was replaced by Massimo Vignelli’s version three years later.

The man in the van

Daniel Norris van

Daniel Norris, a rookie pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays, lives in a van during the off season.

This is where Norris has chosen to live while he tries to win a job in the Blue Jays’ rotation: in a broken-down van parked under the blue fluorescent lights of a Wal-Mart in the Florida suburbs. There, every morning, is one of baseball’s top-ranked prospects, doing pull-ups and resistance exercises on abandoned grocery carts. There he is each evening, making French press coffee and organic stir-fry on his portable stove. There he is at night, wearing a spelunking headlamp to go with his unkempt beard, writing in his “thought journal” or rereading Kerouac.

He’s made the starting rotation, looking forward to seeing him and the Jays in action this year. There’s quite a lot of youth in the squad this year, one of those things that could go either way. Wishing the best for him and the rest of the team.

Space probe tracker

Space Probes

Spaceprob.es provides news and information about the various probes that we’ve launched in our solar system. There’s a poster version of the probe artwork available as well.

Origins of the blink tag

Lou Montulli, a former engineer with Netscape, writes about the origins of the blink tag. It seems that it was a lament for the lack of features in text-based browsers.

Back in 1994 I was a founding engineer at Netscape, prior to that I had written the Lynx browser, which predated all of the other popular browsers at that time. Lynx had been and still is a text only browser and is commonly used in a console window on UNIX machines.

Sometime in late summer I took a break with some of the other engineers and went to a local bar on Castro street in Mountain View. At some point in the evening I mentioned that it was sad that Lynx was not going to be able to display many of the HTML extensions that we were proposing, I also pointed out that the only text style that Lynx could exploit given its environment was blinking text. We had a pretty good laugh at the thought of blinking text, and talked about blinking this and that and how absurd the whole thing would be.

Saturday morning rolled around and I headed into the office only to find what else but, blinking text. It was on the screen blinking in all its glory, and in the browser. How could this be, you might ask? It turns out that one of the engineers liked my idea so much that he left the bar sometime past midnight, returned to the office and implemented the blink tag overnight. He was still there in the morning and quite proud of it.

Why am I not surprised that the idea originated in a bar.

The Wire in HD

David Simon wrote a piece about The Wire’s conversion to high-definition and a 16:9 aspect ratio. I remember watching the series while it was airing and reading about the intentional preservation of the 4:3 ratio. I just figured we’d never see a widescreen release.

At the last, I’m satisfied what while this new version of The Wire is not, in some specific ways, the film we first made, it has sufficient merit to exist as an alternate version. There are scenes that clearly improve in HD and in the widescreen format. But there are things that are not improved. And even with our best resizing, touchups and maneuver, there are some things that are simply not as good. That’s the inevitability: This new version, after all, exists in an aspect ratio that simply wasn’t intended or serviced by the filmmakers when the camera was rolling and the shot was framed.

Glad to hear that Simon is down with the new treatment (for the most part).

Gmail fixed itself

Earlier this year, Google’s Gmail service fixed itself before the engineers did. From the post-mortem blog post:

Users began seeing these errors on affected services at 11:02 a.m., and at that time our internal monitoring alerted Google’s Site Reliability Team. Engineers were still debugging 12 minutes later when the same system, having automatically cleared the original error, generated a new correct configuration at 11:14 a.m. and began sending it; errors subsided rapidly starting at this time.

Found this sifting through some old bookmarks, hat-tip to Kyle Neath.

The chicken of tomorrow

Apparently, most of the chickens that we eat today are derived from the winners of A&P’s 1948 Chicken of Tomorrow contest. They worked with the USDA to increase the growth of the poultry industry.

It was an alliance with a specific goal: The “development of superior meat-type chickens.” The winning chicken would have broader-breasts, bigger drumsticks, plumper thighs, and above all, more white meat. And they would grow faster, too, so that the consumer would eventually come to depend on the bird as a reliable kitchen staple.

So who won? Arbor Acres White Rocks’ white feathered birds beat the competition in the purebred category, but Red Cornish crosses from the Vantress Hatchery definitely outperformed them. And as it happens, those two breeds would eventually be crossed and become the Arbor Acre breed — whose genetics now dominate poultry farms worldwide.

Makes me think I should make an effort to find places that produce some of the heritage breeds.

Lou Reed on Kanye

I recently heard about Lou Reed’s take on Kanye West’s Yeezus album and I’ve gone back to the album with a renewed sense of interest. Worth reading and re-listening to the album, if you haven’t already.

He knows about all kinds of music and popular culture. The guy has a real wide palette to play with. That’s all over Yeezus. There are moments of supreme beauty and greatness on this record, and then some of it is the same old shit. But the guy really, really, really is talented. He’s really trying to raise the bar. No one’s near doing what he’s doing, it’s not even on the same planet.

Unearthing Atari’s E.T.

The video game tie-in for E.T. was an epic failure. Atari sent hundreds of thousands of unsold copies to the dump. Joshua Wheeler reports on their excavation in The Glitch in the Video-Game Graveyard

In Alamogordo, New Mexico, a documentary crew has descended on my hometown to dig up our old dump in hopes of resurrecting hundreds of thousands of copies of E.T. the Extraterrestrial video-game cartridges that in September of 1983 were reportedly hauled 90 miles from an Atari warehouse in El Paso, Texas, and left for dead thirty feet down.

And apparently punk archaeology is a thing.

Behind me some guys in hard hats are complaining about not getting to gather more data and complete more analysis of the Pit before the public arrives tomorrow. They’re a group of self-proclaimed “punk archaeologists” who bullied their way into participating in the dig by insisting that it has sufficient value as cultural heritage to deserve some measure of archaeological methodology. Even though I’m unclear about the exact nature of punk archaeology and what this crack team of scholars hopes to accomplish here, I dub them the Arch Punks and resolve to fall in with them the next morning.