April 05, 2012
Kindle Cloud Reader
A number of readers have emailed me that they wished they had a Kindle so they could take advantage of Amazon's eBookstore, currently responsible for about 60% of all eBook sales.
You don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books: The Kindle Cloud Reader or Amazon's free reading apps let you read anywhere on your Android phone or tablet, iPad, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone 7.
The capsule lighter "has a waterproof/airtight seal. No water can get in, and no lighter fluid can get out. It's quick to light and always at hand. Stands up on its own and stays lit until you blow it out, but we don't recommend keeping it lit for longer than 15 seconds at a time. (Unofficial testing at our office revealed that the lighter can get quite hot and the flame very large after 15 seconds.)"
Travel into a black hole
The YouTube video caption: "Falling into a black hole would be a one-off sightseeing trip, so this simulation, calculated by Andrew Hamilton and his team at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is a safer option."
[via New Scientist]
Burberry Prorsum Tweed Trench
Experts' Expert: "Three simple rules to ensure humiliating failure"
From Schumpeter in the March 31, 2012 issue of The Economist:
There are three principles that have proven particularly effective over the years.
First: Slaughter a sacred cow.
The most spectacular slaughter, of course, was Coca-Cola's decision to kill off the drink that gave it life.
Coca-Cola quickly discovered that it was merely the custodian of the brand, rather than its owner. Angry Coke-drinkers accused the company of doing the equivalent of redesigning the American flag or blasting Teddy Roosevelt off Mount Rushmore. One group complained that the company was violating their freedom of choice. Less than three months after their foolish decision, Coke's bosses grovelled to customers and reintroduced classic Coke.
Second: Mix oil and water.
Theatrical impresarios are the masters of this — over the years they have tried, unwisely, to turn Hamlet, Lolita and Ernest Hemingway's drunken last days into musicals. ABC once added song and dance to an otherwise formulaic cop drama, "Cop Rock." Other industries have made similar mistakes, albeit less noisily. McDonald’s spent $100m launching a burger for upmarket customers, the Arch Deluxe. The snag was: who goes to McDonald's for upmarket food? Ford once produced a pickup truck for the luxury market. Same problem. Bengay tried to stretch its heat-rub brand into the aspirin market. Ouch. Colgate made TV dinners; you could eat one and then brush your teeth with Colgate toothpaste. Few found this appetizing.
Third: Produce a genuinely awful product.
The Ford Pinto had a nasty habit of catching fire if it was rear-ended (the petrol tank was behind the rear axle). Microsoft's Vista operating system appeared to be incompatible with every other programme. Worst of all was the former Yugoslavia's Yugo car. It enjoyed such a successful launch that hundreds bought it sight unseen. The trouble began when they tried to drive it. Consumer Reports slammed it: the bonnet (hood to Americans) came loose, the rear window-washer quit, the ignition switch broke and the brakes squealed, the review complained. Motor Trend reported that it even broke down during a road test. "What comes with every Yugo’s owner's manual?" went one of the thousands of jokes inspired by the car. Answer: "a bus schedule."
Still, the surest way to guarantee failure in the long term is to be so paralyzed by the fear of it that you don't try anything new. The line that separates a hit from a flop is thin. Companies sometimes have to slaughter sacred cows to escape obsolescence: IBM only recovered from its death spiral when it abandoned its focus on building hardware. Some of the most successful products are the result of mixing oil and water — most obviously, phones with computers and entertainment systems.
[Illustration up top by Brett Ryder]
Social Sticky Notes
"Don't just post messages to your online wall —
with our social networking-inspired sticky notes you can actually post a message onto your office wall!"
"EVERY EXIT IS A START"
Below, excerpts from Randy Kennedy's story in yesterday's New York Times about how the show came to be.
The quest for happiness has been the direct or indirect subject of a huge chunk of intellectual endeavor: philosophy, theology, psychology, economics and, of course, literature, which has tended to cast a jaundiced eye on the matter. "To be stupid and selfish and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness," Flaubert wrote, "though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless."
The world of design aims ultimately at happiness, too, through the elegance of a font or the feel of an iPhone. But a few years ago the Austrian-born graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister decided to take on the problem of happiness more directly, in much the same way he has approached ad campaigns and the celebrated album covers he has designed for David Byrne and the Rolling Stones.
He started to work... on an ambitious, unusual feature-length documentary, "The Happy Film," a kind of delivery vehicle for several years of thinking and reading about the nature of happiness. The film is not yet finished, but it has spun off an equally unusual art — or maybe design, or maybe amateur sociology — exhibition, "The Happy Show."
The conclusion he reached was that the three most widely agreed-upon routes to happiness were meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotropic drugs. He decided to spend a considerable amount of time testing each on himself, while filming the process.
"The question I wanted to answer was, could I train my mind to be happy, the same way one trains one’s body?" he said. "In running, I know that I can train as much as I want and I'm never going to break the world record for the five miles. It's partly genetics; I'm just not built for it. But if I worked really hard, I might be able to cut my time by half. Could I do the same thing with my mind and my well-being?"
The Philadelphia exhibition, which features an extended trailer for the film and a virtual funhouse of didactic interactive displays, functions much less like a design show than like an three-dimensional glimpse into Mr. Sagmeister's travels in self-improvement.
Mr. Sagmeister… is willing to report, midresearch, that therapy seems much more effective than meditation in increasing overall happiness. But he will soon begin the final phase of the film — drugs — so the verdict is still out. The pharmaceuticals will probably be by prescription.
[Photo up top by Ryan Collerd]
Tub set in monolith.