#  Trademarks Fallen to Genericide →

April 15th, 2014 at 15:21 // In Worth Knowing 

Jason Kottke calls our attention to a great Wikipedia list, that of brands that died from being overused as the common name for their property.

I’ve not listen to it in a while, but it reminded me of this episode from the old CBC radio show The Age of Persuasion, which covered the topic of genericide.

#  How Walmart Spread →

April 15th, 2014 at 10:14 // In Worth Watching 

This isn’t new by a long stretch, but it’s an awesome map: animating the spread of Walmart in its growth out of Arkansas and across the US. It cuts off in 2010, and inspired an animated GIF made with Excel. (!?) The GIF is below:


I looked this up in part because of a recent post from Shane Parrish which quote’s Sam Walton’s explanation of their strategy:

We figured we had to build our stores so that our distribution centers, or warehouses, could take care of them, but also so those stores could be controlled. We wanted them within reach of our district managers, and of ourselves here in Bentonville, so we could get out there and look after them. Each store had to be within a day’s drive of a distribution center.

We saturated northwest Arkansas. We saturated Oklahoma. We saturated Missouri. We went from Neosho to Joplin, to Monett and Aurora, to Nevada and Belton, to Harrisonville, and then on to Fort Scott and Olathe in Kansas —and so on.

#  Splitting the US by Closest Capital →

April 14th, 2014 at 10:05 // In Worth Distraction 

Cool: a map that redivides the United States not by which state capital is closest in any given land area:

map-of-united-states-split-by-closest-capitalRelated: the same technique, but splitting the US among to Major League Baseball teams.


#  How to Become More Disciplined →

April 11th, 2014 at 14:59 // In Worth Reading 

I say it a lot, but I love a good Ask MetaFilter thread. This one is about self-discipline, something I’m pretty passionate about — you should read up on another site I maintain, Frozen Toothpaste, for more from me about it. Perhaps start at its Productivity category.

The whole comment thread as many gems, but the comment from “jdroth” really resonates with my experience:

For me, the key to discipline is intrinsic motivation. That is, pursuing activities that I’m naturally motivated to accomplish without any sort of outside pressure. “But wait!” you might be saying. “Then all I’d ever want to do is screw, play Flappy Bird, and eat ice cream.” Well, those things are nice, but turns out they don’t actually provide any sort of long-term fulfillment. Instead, pursuing intrinsic goals (that term again) that are challenging (but not too challenging) and meaningful make me (and other people) happier than hedonism.

#  Deceptively Busy →

April 11th, 2014 at 8:50 // In Worth Knowing 

Hanna Rosin brings up a topic I’ve got a keen interest in: how much modern (Yuppies or otherwise striving) Americans — such as myself — love claiming to be busy. The point that much of this is self-serving self-deception was (not shocking but) new to me:

“It’s very popular, the feeling that there are too many things going on, that people can’t get in control of their lives and the like,” Robinson says. “But when we look at peoples’ diaries there just doesn’t seem to be the evidence to back it up … It’s a paradox. When you tell people they have thirty or forty hours of free time every week, they don’t want to believe it.”

#  Quick Flyover Accents of the British Isles →

April 10th, 2014 at 16:13 // In Worth Distraction 

It’s a bit too breezy to really give you a sense of the accents in full, but ease and speed with which Andrew Jack switches among the accents it fun:

#  Campaign Finance and the Self-Interest of the American Politician →

April 10th, 2014 at 11:17 // In Worth Considering 

Almost all rational people the world over agree the America’s system of funding political campaigns is, at best, bad. But it wasn’t ‘til I read this recent column from David Brooks I felt like I maybe understood quite why:

But campaign finance laws weren’t merely designed to take money out of politics; they were designed to protect incumbents from political defeat. In this regard, the laws have been fantastically successful.

The laws rigged the system to make it harder for challengers to raise money. In 1972, at about the time the Federal Election Campaign Act was first passed, incumbents had a campaign spending advantage over challengers of about 3 to 2. These days, incumbents have a spending advantage of at least 4 to 1. In some election years, 98 percent of the incumbents are swept back into office.

#  Interestingness vs Truth →

April 9th, 2014 at 14:22 // In Worth Considering 

Another in our regular series reminding you that if you don’t follow Oliver’s Burkeman’s “This column will change your life” in the Guardian, you’re missing out. In an idea I believe in strongly — my essay “On the Banality of Profound Truths” is something I refer to often even though I don’t love its prose — Burkeman argues that we pursue the interesting at the expense of the true:

If you care about the truth, Davis suggests, interestingness can mislead. That new book on how to get fit – or raise happy children, or invest your savings – caught your eye because it’s interesting. But is ittrue? (In science, this helps explain the “file drawer effect”: studies with interesting conclusions get published; boring ones, however true, get locked away.) Ultimately, interestingness is a form of excitement, and we all know how excitement can lure us off course: consider the thrill of an extramarital affair, or of driving at 120mph. But it’s intellectually respectable excitement, so it doesn’t ring alarm bells.

#  Portraits of Reconciliation →

April 9th, 2014 at 12:39 // In Worth Seeing 

Not so different from the recent Touching Strangers (on LB) or First Kiss (on LB) ideas, photographer Pieter Hugo recently went to Rawanda to capture pairs of genocider and victims in close proximity to each other as the twentieth anniversary of the event comes to pass. There’s quite interesting images, and the presentation here is fantastic:


#  “Slomo” →

April 9th, 2014 at 10:15 // In Worth Watching 

Charming little video about a old man who’s living a nice simple life as the most recognized face on San Diego’s Pacific Beach.

#  Winnie the Pooh Plays Darth Vader →

April 8th, 2014 at 9:12 // In Worth Distraction 

Voices only, but if you hear voices in your head when you hear those two character names Jim Cumming’s offers you a fun little head-trip.

#  The Economics of Gender in Film →

April 7th, 2014 at 15:11 // In Worth Knowing 

Really neat study from the Nate Silver-directed venture FiveThirtyEight: they did a pretty rigorous statistical analysis of Hollywood movie using the Betchdel test (on LB) of the portrayal of women and found pretty clearly that movies that do better on the test do better in the box office.


The article’s way more thorough and detailed that an one chart, and well worth a read.

#  “Slow TV” →

April 7th, 2014 at 10:11 // In Worth Knowing 

Jason Kottke put together a great little summary of a phenomenon I’d never heard of: “slow TV.”

Slow television is the uninterrupted broadcast of an ordinary event from start to finish. Early efforts included burning Yule logs on TV around Christmas and driver’s views of complete British rail journeys (not to mention Andy Warhol and the pitch drop experiment), but Norwegian public television has revived the format in recent years. The first broadcast was of a 7-hour train trip from Bergen to Oslo, which was watched at some point by ~20% of Norway’s population.

#  Awesome Chart of Global Migrant Flows →

April 4th, 2014 at 13:54 // In Worth Seeing 

This thing is mind-blowingly good. It’s simultaneously beautiful and a good way to get a sense of the data it presents, which is unfortunately rare.



I’ve snapped a static picture above, but you really should take a bit of time to interact if you’re the least bit curious. Some of the actions are a bit puzzling, but clicking around a few times give you a sense of its power and utility.


#  Let’s Stop Pretending College is for Everyone →

April 4th, 2014 at 10:35 // In Worth Reading 

I’m not sure if this is a peculiarly American problem, but I heartily support Michael J. Petrilli’s argument that we should back off on the idea of making every high school student ready to attend a post-secondary institution and spend a lot more energy helping them find skills that will help them get ahead in a modern economy. He starts:

What if our own hyper-credentialed life experiences and ideologies are blinding us to alternative pathways to the middle class? Including some that might be a lot more viable for a great many young people? What if we should be following the lead of countries like Germany, where “tracking” isn’t a dirty word but a common-sense way to prepare teenagers for respected, well-paid work?

(via /r/TrueReddit)

#  You’re The Expert →

April 3rd, 2014 at 15:17 // In Worth Distraction 

Every person employed for their expertise can almost certainly identify with the story in this video:

#  Immortality in the Ocean of Infinite Memories →

April 3rd, 2014 at 11:17 // In Worth Considering 

Venkatesh Rao is one of the most consistently interesting sources of thorough essays about novel but valuable ideas I know of. He is, typically, a bit too thorough for my patience, but I got further with this essay than most others. The central premise:

We generally fail to understand the extent to which both our sense of agency and identity are a function of memory. If you could coherently extend memories either forward or backward in time, you would get a different person, but one who might enjoy a weak sort of continuity of awareness with a person (or machine) who has lived before or might live after. Conversely, if you went blind and lost your long-term memories, you might lose elements of your identity, such as your sense of your race or an interest in painting.

Right?! Philosophy that interests me.

#  Generic Brand Video →

April 2nd, 2014 at 16:37 // In Worth Distraction 

Based on a little bit of satire from Kendra Eash, the stock video company Dissolve put together a video that could plausibly be sold to any company on the planet.

Part of its interest and appeal to me is that it’s possible to read it as both an example of the banality of branding, but also (and I admit this requires more of a mental stretch) the universality of values that people aspire to embody or see embodied in the world.

(via @jmspool)