Thursday, March 29, 2007

what we call the news

A new JibJab video debuted last night at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Annual Dinner. As we have come to expect from the Spiridellis brothers, the lyrics and visuals are both humorous and biting.

There was a time not long ago when each and every day,
At 6 o’clock each evening you knew news was on its way.
From anchors of integrity and three channels to choose,
It’s what we call the news.

Then along came cable, and a ratings race ensued.
Great legends found themselves replaced by blondes with big fake boobs.
Debate replaced with punditry, politically skewed.
It’s what we call the news!

We interrupt this story which is coming from Iraq,
‘Cuz Rosie’s suing Donald, Donald’s suing Rosie back.
We’re cutting from Darfur, we’re in Des Moines with urgent news,
“There’s a finger in my food!”

Guitar strings! Titles! Sound Effects! And graphics everywhere!
Breakin’ news each minute in the rush to get on-air!
With scandals, dramas, tragedies and mindless ballyhoo,
That’s turned our brains to goo!

Now only 3 percent can point to Kabul on a map,
But 96% can claim they’ve seem Brit’s putty-tat… (Meow)
The word’s greatly affected by the stories you choose
To put into the news!

Bronco chases, plane wrecks, shootings, victims on a cruise!
JonBenet, Scott Peterson, and Anna Nicole too!
Celebrities in rehab and a mauling at the zoo!
It’s what we call the news!

Bonus links: President Bush’s remarks

Monday, March 26, 2007

the music videos of michel gondry

43-year old Michel Gondry is well-known as a writer and director of films like the fantastic Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Before directing movies, though, Gondry built his reputation with innovative music videos.

Gondry started his musical career as the drummer for the French group Oui Oui, and he created four of their promo clips including 1989’s Les Cailloux and 1992’s La Ville. However, it was his work with Björk in 1993 for the odd and influential Human Behaviour that brought Gondry wide acclaim.

These 3 videos are among 16 I have selected for your viewing pleasure. They include artists ranging from Beck and Radiohead to Daft Punk and Kanye West. Deserving special mention is the concept for Come Into My World (see how fast you identify it) and the execution on Behind (1 frame per second during 7 days of driving).

Despite his Hollywood success (he won an Academy Award for the screenplay for Eternal Sunshine), Gondry continues to make music videos. As hard as it is to choose among the more than 60 he has created to date, I offer my top 5:

5) Massive Attack – Protection (1995). A gorgeous song and a video filled with detail and shifts in perspective. The set: a building 6 stories flat.

The White Stripes – Fell in Love with a Girl (2002). Lego sets and figures built, demolished and rebuilt 5 frames at a time.

Jean-François Coen - La Tour de Pise (1993). Gondry sub-titles the song using signs he filmed all over France. I can’t imagine how long this took to produce.

Chemical Brothers – Star Guitar (2003). Landscapes as viewed from a train perfectly translated into a musical score. Each visual element matches a sound in the track.

Cibo Matto – Sugar Water (1996). Incredible!

YouTube offers a sample of his genius, but to really enjoy his artistry I recommend the 2-DVD The Work of Michel Gondry. It contains 27 videos and shorts and a 75-minute interview that answers many of the “how did he do that” questions you will have as you watch. My thanks to Cathy for introducing me to this wonderful collection.

Bonus clips: Michel has also made visually interesting commercials for clients like Levi’s, Coke, Diet Coke, Nike, The Gap, and, my favorite spot, Air France

Monday, March 19, 2007

super stunt

April Fools Day is fast approaching and, if you haven’t already, it is time to start planning your jokes. For inspiration, I offer one of the most expensive and intricate pranks of all time: the Super Stunt.

As John Hargrave from Zug explains in the press release:

Just days after the Boston bomb scare, another team of Boston-based pranksters smuggled and distributed 2,350 suspicious light-up devices into the Super Bowl. Due to its attractiveness as a terrorist target, Dolphin Stadium was on a Level One security alert, a level usually reserved for Presidential inaugurations. By posing as media reporters, the pranksters were able to navigate 95 boxes through federal marshals, Homeland Security agents, bomb squads, police dogs, and a five-ton X-ray crane.

During the second quarter of the Super Bowl, the team of pranksters—who call themselves the “Super Six”—quietly distributed thousands of “Prince Party Packs” to an entire section of Dolphin Stadium. Each packet contained a light-up necklace with official-looking instructions. By turning on the necklace lights during the halftime show, Super Bowl fans believed they would be spelling out the word “PRINCE.”

But they didn’t. They spelled a secret message that was broadcast to 93.1 million people.
Read the riveting full story (in six parts) and then watch the video. The obsessed can read this account from another participant and some coverage on Engadget and a Wired blog. What was the real secret message? A good clue is that John has just published a new book: Prank the Monkey.

Bonus pranks: the best of MIT hacks. The police car complete with donuts on the roof of the Great Dome is incredible, although the Changed Inscription rivals it for attention to detail.

Friday, March 16, 2007

apple caramel bread pudding

Bread pudding is a favorite topic here at (at least) one cool thing. I have featured a tasty recipe before and mentioned variants in numerous restaurant write-ups. On Wednesday, Dmitry was kind enough to bring some to the office from Tartine and that reminded me that I hadn’t discussed the excellent bread pudding Joy made a while back.

Joy followed the recipe in A Passion for Desserts. Chef, author and James Beard Award Winner Emily Luchetti is known for her fantastic creations at Farallon, and although bread budding might not be her most elegant, it is certainly one of the most delicious.

4 golden delicious apples
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/3 Cup apple juice
2 Teaspoons lemon juice
1 Cup Sugar; scant
4 1/2 Cups sweet baguette; cut into ¾ inch cubes
1/2 Cup water
1 1/2 Cup heavy cream
3 Cups milk
4 eggs
5 egg yolks
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350. Peel, core, and slice the apples 1/4 inch thick.

Cook the apple slices, butter, apple and lemon juices, and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a large sauté pan over medium high heat until the apples are soft (about 15 minutes).

Evenly spread the apple slices into the bottom of a 2 1/2 quart ovenproof baking dish. Place the bread pieces on top of the apples.

Stir together 2/3 cup of the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Increase to high heat and cook, without stirring, until the sugar is amber colored (8-10 minutes). Remove from the heat. Wearing oven mitts, carefully stir about 1/2 cup of the cream into the caramel. Be careful, as the caramel will sputter when the cream is added. If it sputters violently, stop stirring. Let the bubbles subside and then stir again. Carefully stir in the remaining cream. Stir in the milk.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and salt. Whisk a quarter of the caramel cream into the eggs. Add the remaining caramel cream and whisk until incorporated. Pour the caramel cream into the pan over the apples and bread pieces. Using a metal spatula, gently press the bread pieces into the liquid, coating them.

Bake the bread pudding for 35 minutes. While it is baking, stir together the cinnamon, ginger and remaining 1 1/2 T sugar in a small bowl. After 35 minutes, sprinkle the sugar over the top of the bread pudding. Continue baking until the tips of the bread pieces are golden brown and a small knife inserted in the middle comes out coated with thickened custard (about 10 minutes). Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Serve the bread pudding warm. (via Sur La Table)

Read more of Emily’s wonderful recipes here, here and here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

preparing for march madness

There are two types of people in the world – people who text and people who don’t. I’m in the latter category as are most of my friends. I have figured out T9, but typing anything on a telephone keypad is so much slower for me than email or an actual call that I rarely bother. I’m just not cool enough I guess.

However, there is one text service that is so awesome even I get it: 4info. 4info gives you information on your phone without the hassle of using a mobile web browser.

On my clamshell, getting a game score or a stock quote is a major 10+ step connecting to the internet pain. With 4info, obtaining the same information is much simpler. I just text a message to 4info (44636) and add what I am looking for in the body of the message. For example, warriors or msft. And, 4infro responds back with real-time results.

Their how to page lists the types of searches 4info supports. Examples include very useful services like local weather, flight tracking, package tracking and headlines as well as some more creative ones like jokes, movie times, wifi hotspots by zipcode and pickup lines.

There some advanced features too. In sports, you can get schedules, player stats and standings, but there is more to 4info than search. Web phones can bookmark for faster queries, and smart phones can run the 4info application. Free. 4info is advertisement supported. No charges, apart from any your carrier may impose for texting, are passed on to you.

The greatest feature, and the reason for this post, is the 4info alert providing customizable, instantaneous updates. And, the most kick-ass alert of all is the one designed for March Madness.

You’ve filled out your brackets, you’ve made plans to watch your favorite teams, but you are not truly prepared for the Tourney unless you have sent “TOURNEY ALERTS" to 44636. In return you will receive scores in a text message immediately after each game. Better still, you will get messages anytime there are upsets in progress.

ps watch out for the PAC-10

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Some of Microsoft’s most genius products are both free and under-publicized. Over the summer I wrote about Cleartype, and today I would like to introduce you to SyncToy. SyncToy makes tasks like file backup, replication and synchronization super simple, and version 1.4 runs on Windows 2000, XP and Vista.

With SyncToy, you start by creating folder pairs, for example your My Pictures folder on your home machine and an external drive. You then pick your desired flavor of sync. The choices are:
  • Synchronize – New and updated files are copied both ways. Renames and deletes on either side are repeated on the other.

  • Echo – New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames and deletes on the left are repeated on the right.

  • Subscribe - Updated files on the right are copied to the left.

  • Contribute – New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames on the left are repeated on the right. No deletions.

  • Combine - New and updated files are copied both ways. Nothing happens to renamed and deleted files..
That there are 5 options may be the hardest part of the program.

I use Synchronize to mirror My Documents on my laptop and desktop since I create and edit on both computers. And, I use Echo to backup all of my content from my desktop to an external drive (although I could see how Combine might be safer). Subscribe would be handy if you have a subset of documents on portable media that you update offsite and want to re-sync when you return.

A nice feature is that all actions can be previewed, and recovery of deleted files is as easy as fishing them out of the recycle bin. Cooler still, SyncToy can be scheduled, reducing my excuses for not performing nightly or weekly backups. Step-by-step instructions for adding SyncToy to your Scheduled Tasks are in the Help document.

Download SyncToy 1.4

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

the right stuff

On October 14, 1947, a Bell X-1 piloted by Chuck Yeager was dropped from a modified B-29. After ignition of its rocket engine, the X-1 became the first aircraft to break the sound barrier. Yeager and the X-1 reached a speed of Mach 1.06.

As the above video shows, Mac Hodges is obviously a fan of The Right Stuff. He has constructed a 20-foot, 100 lb. B-29 radio-controlled replica that launches its own rocket-powered X-1. I don’t want to give away all the best parts, but when the B-29 appears to be in distress and stalls, pay close attention. Thanks to Bill for the great discovery.

Bonus link bonanza:
-Fly into the danger zone with this RC
F-14 Tomcat
-See what happens to this 8 engine, 300 lb.
$60,000 B-52. Sadly, it isn’t pretty
-Check out 240 mph, $15,000 RC jets doing acrobatics
-Watch this incredible flying exhibition conducted in a gymnasium
-Finally, defy the laws of physics with
RC helicopters. How are those tricks possible?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

multiple-choice correspondence

Hand-written notes are wonderful to receive. They are the ultimate mark of civility and manners but, sadly, they are increasingly rare. It is difficult to find the time to put pen to paper. Luckily, the folks at knock knock have the perfect solution: Multiple-Choice Correspondence.

Send a letter with MCC is easy. First, select the appropriate category. The 112-page booklet offers: thanks, staying in touch, congratulations, regrets, complaints, terminations and love. Next, pick an appropriate subject. Regrets offers options like “forgot” and “personal setback.” Thanks covers gifts, parties, help and, quite humorously, “nothing.”

Third, complete the pre-printed sentences with your choices. For example, Termination: Relationship begins with:

It pains me deeply to tell you that:

- I don’t love you anymore
- I’ve fallen in love with someone else
- I hate you
- I’m gay
- ______________

Finally, turn your completed form over, and address, fold and seal. No envelope necessary.

To see how this wonderful system could enrich your epistolary communications, enlarge the photo on the left. It is a scan from Thanks: Gifts. Note details like special box for references and the extra room for postscripts. As each letter reminds recipients, “the honor of receiving a piece of multiple-choice correspondence lies in the knowledge that someone cared enough to check off just the right phrases for you.”

Monday, March 05, 2007

san francisco as seen by thomas hawk

Lost As the Sky is High, Part 2Lost As the Sky is High, Part 2 Hosted on Zooomr

Thomas Hawk takes amazing pictures. I linked to his 8,000 photograph collection on flickr when I discussed One Bush Street, but after reading his blog more regularly and exploring his 11,500 photos on zoomr I have really begun to appreciate his eye for composition and overall talent. Here are a few of my favorites of San Francisco, and I encourage you to explore his work.

Golden Gate Bridge at Dusk, Dedicated to My Good Friend Robert ScobleGolden Gate Bridge at Dusk Hosted on Zooomr

Countles Visions of the Other She'd ReflectCountles Visions of the Other She'd Reflect Hosted on Zooomr

Just the Place I'm Looking ForJust the Place I'm Looking For Hosted on Zooomr

ImposingImposing Hosted on Zooomr

Sunday, March 04, 2007

the goose

The Dutch Goose, has been a Stanford institution for 40 years. It isn’t exactly a college bar as there isn’t a real college bar anywhere near Stanford, but it is the best approximation on the Peninsula with its patio seating, great burgers and, thanks to new ownership, LCDs showing sports. Popular with students, alum and its family neighbors in West Menlo Park, the Goose draws a very diverse crowd and you never know whom you might run into. Take yesterday afternoon for example.

Brian, James and I headed over to the Goose after attending the Arizona / Stanford basketball game. (thanks Brian!) Stanford had trailed by 19 at the half but fought back to tie with 6 seconds left before losing in overtime. Clearly, beers were called for to take the edge off of that thrilling but disappointing defeat. And, the Goose offers many on tap to choose from.

We settled on Fat Tire and added Goose-traditional peanuts and deviled eggs. Actually, the smell of the eggs makes me queasy so I ordered a pork sandwich that was tasty, but next time I want the brisket sliders. Those looked awesome, however I digress.

So the three of us are drinking our beers and in walks Steve Lavin, former men’s basketball coach at UCLA, followed by his good buddy Brent Musberger. They had called the Stanford game for ABC. Seating was a bit tight so they shared our long table.

A few minutes later Joe Kirchoffer, a former forward for the Cardinal, dropped in for a snack. The only thing that surprised me was not seeing Goose-regular and Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Plunkett. Perhaps he was out of town as he was not in his regular seats at the basketball game.

The Dutch Goose: 3567 Alameda De Las Pulgas, Menlo Park, CA (650) 854-3245