Tuesday, May 31, 2011

US Postal Service near collapse

My friend over at TYWKIWDBI commented on this issue today and linked to a rather extensive analysis of the problem at Bloomberg (excerpt below) via Neatorama. Below is an infographic produced by Microsoft chronicling the history of eMail - but one of the reasons for the USPS's distress.
Since 2007 the USPS has been unable to cover its annual budget, 80 percent of which goes to salaries and benefits. In contrast, 43 percent of FedEx's budget and 61 percent of United Parcel Service's pay go to employee-related expenses. Perhaps it's not surprising that the postal service's two primary rivals are more nimble. According to SJ Consulting Group, the USPS has more than a 15 percent share of the American express and ground-shipping market. FedEx has 32 percent, UPS 53 percent.

The USPS has stayed afloat by borrowing $12 billion from the U.S. Treasury. This year it will reach its statutory debt limit. After that, insolvency looms.
Click to enlarge

75 books every man should read

An unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published. How many have you read?

The full list at Esquire Magazine

Friday, May 27, 2011

50 quotes of Albert Einstein

  1. “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”
  2.  “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
  3. “Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.”
  4. “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”
  5. “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
  6. “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
  7. “A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.”
  8. “Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.”
  9. “I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.”
  10. “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”
  11. “Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing.”
  12. “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
  13. “Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.”
  14. “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
  15. “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”
  16. “Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one’s living at it.”
  17. “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”
  18. “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
  19. “The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.”
  20. “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”
  21. “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.”
  22. “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.”
  23. “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
  24. “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”
  25. “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
  26. “Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.”
  27. “Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity.”
  28. “If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.”
  29. “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.”
  30. “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
  31. “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
  32. “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
  33. “In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep.”
  34. “The fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there’s no risk of accident for someone who’s dead.”
  35. “Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves.”
  36. “Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how passionately I hate them!”
  37. “No, this trick won’t work…How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?”
  38. “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”
  39. “Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever.”
  40. “The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking…the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.”
  41. “Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.”
  42. “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
  43. “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
  44. “You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.”
  45. “One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.”
  46. “…one of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought.”
  47. “He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
  48. “A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
  49. “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
  50. “So, where is the fiftieth? (Not Einstein, but it was just pointed out to me that I only had 49. Fixed that.)”
Compiled by: Kevin Harris 1995

Ideas And Opinions

10 People's Lives in Photographs

Famous for its lists, Listverse has published its lineup of the ten most famous life stories as told in photographs. You can see the rest here.

From the site regarding this iconic image::
"I know most would be expecting this photo to show up on this list. It is the most recognized photograph in the history of National Geographic. Because of this photograph this girl’s story seems amazing, but it’s probably not that unusual during that time. After a Soviet strike that killed Sharbat Gula’s parents, she was forced to hike over the mountains to the Nasir Bagh refugee camp, in neighboring Pakistan, with her siblings and grandmother. It was there that photographer Steve McCurry took the, now famous, photo. Her face became a symbol of the 1980s Afghan conflict, and of the refugee situation worldwide. When the photo first appeared in the magazine, her name was unknown and the photo was just titled “Afghan Girl”. For over 17 years, the Afghan Girl’s name and identity remained a mystery, until McCurry and a National Geographic team traveled to Afghanistan in 2002, to locate her. After many false claims, they finally found her after meeting her brother, who had similar green eyes, in one of the countries remote regions. She was now a woman around 30 years old, and a married mother of three girls. When McCurry was given permission to meet with her again, he told her that her image had become famous. Sharbat was not particularly interested in her personal fame, but she was pleased when he told her she had also come to be a symbol of the dignity and resilience of her people. When her brother was asked what his sister’s life is like, he said this: She rises before sunrise and prays. She fetches water from the stream. She cooks, cleans, does laundry. She cares for her children; they are the center of her life. Robina is 13, Zahida is three, Alia, the baby, is one. A fourth daughter died in infancy. Sharbat has never known a happy day, except perhaps the day of her marriage. Shabat had never seen her famous portrait before it was shown to her, then. She also agreed to have her picture taken for the second time in her life. You can see the picture here."

National Geographic: The Photographs (National Geographic Collectors Series)

The world's most interesting bookstores

Starting with my favorite: Lello e Irmao in Oporto, Portugal

Many more here.

Lonely Planet Portugal (Country Travel Guide)

A most excellent collection of movie posters

Hundreds more at Film on Paper

Found via Coudal Partners

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Best Picture Winners (Casablanca / Gigi / An American in Paris / Mrs. Miniver)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Los Angeles Times Summer Reading Lists

The reading season is heating up! What novels and biographies are coming? What's quirky? What should the kids be reading? The LA Times reading guide of new and forthcoming titles offers up a hundred or so to help you decide what to read this summer.

If you prefer CNN, their 12 recommendations are here.

The Paris Wife: A Novel

The most targeted books (2009)

Click to enlarge

Found at The Toronto Star

120 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature

How to be a motion picture director

Click to enlarge a bit

Found at: On Animation, via Coudal Partners

Moviemakers' Master Class: Private Lessons from the World's Foremost Directors

Publishers bindings online, 1850 to 1930

Decorative bindings cover many of the books that people have in their homes today, but their owners are often unaware of their cultural and historical significance. These bindings reflect not only social and cultural history, but bibliographic history as well.

In September 2003, The University of Alabama, University Libraries, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries, received an IMLS National Leadership grant to create the digital resource, Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books (PBO).

The project will also afford students, teachers, binders, and scholars in many different areas the opportunity to study up to 5,000 decorative bindings from two different physical collections in a single, virtual location.

Found via MetaFilter

500 Handmade Books: Inspiring Interpretations of a Timeless Form (500 Series)

Books 2 Barcodes: The classics in QR

Books2Barcodes is an ongoing effort to convert all the world's great books to QR codes (2D barcodes). Each work featured here is the entire text of a piece of classic literature translated into several thousand barcodes. With a mobile device equipped with a camera and a barcode-scanning app, you can experience the joy of a great book as read through 800-character fragments on your cellphone.

At the moment their catalog includes:
Here is a sample from Ulysses (click to enlarge):

Found at Coudal Partners

The New Lifetime Reading Plan: The Classical Guide to World Literature, Revised and Expanded

Use Google Books to build your own car!

Gizmodo is reporting that Bob Ferry used Google Books to find old magazines that described mechanics, showed pictures and gave descriptions of a 1906 Oldsmobile Model B Runabout so he could build it 100 years later.

Inside Google Books has more pics and a narrative about the project and how it was accomplished.

The Automobile in American History and Culture: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)

Ask "Cool Tools" for answers to everyday questions

Do you need to know:
  • What are the best muck boots?
  • How can I do wireless backups on my local WiFi network?
  • What is the best hat for a trip down the Amazon?
You know - stuff like that. Cool Tools is a crowd-sourced, community-based recommendation service. The site is all about answering questions along the lines of: I am trying to accomplish X, what's the best tool? Or I need this kind of tool Y, what's the best brand? Or, I have tool Z, are there any tips on using it? Or, simply, how do I accomplish X? Answers are supplied by you and the community of readers.

The site, itself, is a very cool tool and a fun read.

DIY Projects for the Self-Sufficient Homeowner: 25 Ways to Build a Self-Reliant Lifestyle

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tiny people in a tiny world

Seattle-based artist Christopher Boffoli creates fantastic scenes that mimic everyday life! His collection, titled Disparity, is shown in galleries all across the United States. My Modern Metropolis has a nice collection.

ZOMBIES Bag O' Zombies

It is Towel Day


The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

NASA's Multi-purpose crew vehicle. The next shuttle.

See how NASA's new Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, based on the Orion capsule, stacks up against other crewed spaceships in this SPACE.com infographic.
Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

The Starflight Handbook: A Pioneer's Guide to Interstellar Travel (Wiley Science Editions)

Infographic: The return of vinyl

At a NARM presentation in Los Angeles last week, Nielsen projected a gain of more than 25 percent gain in 2011 in the US. That would still put vinyl at a small 1.6 percent of broader physical sales (numbers below are in millions.)

Via psfk

Audio Technica AT-PL60USB Fully Automatic Belt Driven Turntable with USB Port

A sobering Flickr stream of the devastation in Joplin

Amateur photographer Aaron Fuhrman has posted images of the devastation in Joplin that are simply beyond belief.

The Atlantic has published a series of aerial shots that are equally sobering.

MIDLAND WR300 Weather Radio

EU wants to ban wifi in schools

Gizmodo this morning broke a short story and link to a report by the European Union - specifically European Parliamentary Assembly - in thich they state:
"After analysing the scientific studies available to date, and also following the hearings for expert opinions organised in the context of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs, there is sufficient evidence of potentially harmful effects of electromagnetic fields on fauna, flora and human health to react and to guard against potentially serious environmental and health hazards."
Though the committee can not yet substantiate the actual dangers posed, they are recommending a precautionary ban on cellphones, wireless phones, WiFi  and even baby monitors suggesting the ban as a precautionary measure, claiming that waiting for scientific and clinical proof could lead to high health and economic costs, as was the case in the past with asbestos, leaded gasoline and tobacco.

The full report is available in PDF format here.

Hawking HWREN1 Hi-Gain Wireless-300N Range Extender

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The new Nook Simple Touch

From Mashable:

Barnes & Noble unveiled a small touchscreen eink ereader at a press event in New York Tuesday. Priced at $139, the Simple Touch Reader is designed to more closely compete with Amazon’s Wi-Fi-only Kindle 3, which is likewise priced at $139.

The Simple Touch Ereader improves upon the Kindle 3 in several ways, however.
First, it sports a touchscreen, reducing the number of buttons to one: a simple on/off switch on the upper back. It also has up to two months of battery life — double that of the Kindle, and greater than any ereader in the industry. And although the device is substantially smaller than the Kindle at 7.5 x 4.8 x 0.335 inches, it sports the same 6-inch screen. Both devices weigh in at 8.5 ounces and have built-in Wi-Fi.

Simple Touch Reader owners can also customize their screensavers.

The device is available for pre-order now in-store and on nook.com, and will ship “in time for Father’s Day” on June 19, says Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch.

I Threw It All Away by Bob Dylan

Happy 70th Bob! From Nashville Skyline and well worth a listen....

Found via Coudal Partners

Nashville Skyline (Reis)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Microsoft falls to 3rd place in market cap

And what is more stunning, Apple's market capitalizaion now exceeds Microsoft's by more than $100 billion!

Brief story at SF Gate

Investing For Dummies, Fifth edition

Eerie images from abandoned Six Flags New Orleans

Many more at lovethesepics.com

The French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld

Playboy puts 57 years of back issues online

Just sayin', not recommending. The link

The "Oprah Effect" on book sales

For an author graced by Oprah’s Book Club, membership translates to new editions, heightened attention and huge sales increases. Oprah’s Book Club—with picks ranging from older classics to lesser known works to Pulitzer Prize-winners—became a coveted and exclusive fraternity founded in 1996, with branded special editions selling more than 22 million copies in the past 10 years. And that 22 million is only "her" editions and does not take into account additional sales of previous editions.

As Oprah prepares to sign off from her daily talk show for good, The Nielsen Company takes a look at Oprah’s Book Club selections from the past 10 years.

Homemade dams ward off flooding

More pics at The Daily Mail

The Dictionary of American Regional English

Click to enlarge
To the dictionary

The Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy

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Using the World Wide Web to gather and process data from across English-speaking North America, Alan McConchie plots the regional variations in the use of the terms "Pop" and "Soda" to describe carbonated soft drinks.

I grew up in the South and say "Coke" when referring to ANY carbonated soft-drink. Even when asking, "What kind of coke would you like?"

Above map created by Matthew Campbell and Prof. Greg Plumb of East Central University in Oklahoma.

Genuine Coke Coca Cola Glasses, Set of 12