from TED

Attention word nerds: 13 mysteries of the vernacular, solved

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick

Before a ‘clue’ became a thing that excited a detective, the word referred to a ball of yarn. So how did this shift in meaning occur? Because in Greek mythology, Ariadne threw a ball of yarn to Theseus before he entered the minotaur’s labyrinth. Theseus unrolled the yarn behind him as he traveled into the deadly maze — then used it to find his way out.

And you’ll find lots more of it in the TED-Ed series Mysteries of the Vernacular, from Jessica Oreck and Rachael Teel.

  1. What the word gorgeous has to do with turtlenecks
  2. How the word window came from a clever metaphor
  3. The strange derivation of the tuxedo
  4. How Alfred Nobel invented dynamite
  5. Why venom once meant ‘something to be desired’
  6. The riddle of the word earwig
  7. Why the word inaugurate is for the birds
  8. How noise, nausea and naval are all related
  9. The story of the word pants
  10. Why the origin of the word miniature isn’t so small
  11. What a hearse was before a vehicle for the dead
  12. The word assassin’s roots in hash
  13. And, as previously mentioned, why you could once knit with a clue

[ click to read full post at TED.com ]

New Drone City

from The Observer

Game of Drones: Does NYC Have an ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ Problem?

Rise of the machines.

By Jordan Valinsky

New Yorkers Seek Relief From Summer Heat At The Beach

In late 2011, a slender Williamsburg resident named Tim Pool roamed downtown Manhattan, seemingly recording every minute of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Mr. Pool, an independent journalist, would use his smartphone to live-stream the demonstrations, sometimes for as long as 19 continuous hours, earning himself the nickname “The Media Messenger of Zuccotti Park” in Time magazine.

As the protests escalated, it became increasingly difficult for Mr. Pool to capture the civil disobedience from eye level. He yearned for an unhindered view—a higher vantage point, like from the sky.

“The fact that police would obstruct cameras just sort of put in our minds that we might be in a situation where you can’t get a good shot because there’s a wall or a fence or something,” Mr. Pool, now 27, told The Observer.

Enter the “occucopter”—a modified drone of Mr. Pool’s creation, built from a Parrot AR, one of the first consumer-oriented drones, which hit the marketplace in 2010 and was available for purchase on Amazon for $299.

Drones, also commonly called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), differ from the remote-controlled toy helicopters of childhood in that they operate via onboard computers under the direction of a pilot, who is on the ground. The Parrot AR Drone has onboard technology to follow preprogrammed instructions and automatically stabilize itself against wind.

A lightweight quad-rotor, Mr. Pool’s drone resembled nothing so much as a bike seat and, with its palette of neon colors, it looked like it had been plucked straight from the pages of SkyMall. Unlike the junk found in an in-flight magazine, however, it actually worked—and with the addition of a camera, the occucopter was given further functionality.

Shooting 50 feet into the air and zipping around at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour, the occucopter buzzed above the heads of the protesters. For many, both within and beyond Zuccotti Park, this marked their first-ever encounter with a drone. Even the mainstream media was fascinated, focusing on the device’s nonmilitary capabilities, as Mr. Pool earned press mentions across the globe in outlets like The Guardian and Wired magazine.

[ click to continue reading at The Observer ]

Weed Man vs. Beer Man

from the NY Times

In Times Square, a Bizarre Clash of Weed Man Versus Beer Man


Michael Appleton for The New York Times

This is not an only in New York story.

This is an only in Times Square story, in a place where the Beer Man and the Weed Man in a Box can star as the principals; a different Weed Man can serve as the falsely accused; and Alien and the Predator can stand in as the witnesses to a low-rent attack in a high-rent district.

More than six months ago, the Weed Man in a Box, or Weed Head to some, began wandering around the pedestrian plaza at 46th Street and Seventh Avenue, a cardboard box on his head and a sign over his chest, cajoling cash from tourists with a simple pitch: “I am the weed man. I’m too sexy for you to see me.”

As charming as this tactic may have been to some, his appearance rankled the other creative panhandlers of Times Square, who make their living not by donning Elmo suits or coating themselves with metallic paint, but by simply advertising their need for marijuana, beer or both on handwritten signs.

Busking being serious business in Midtown, long-simmering tensions between the box man and one of his rivals erupted into violence on Friday night, when the box man was said to have stabbed a competing panhandler, Wayne Semancik, five times in the head and chest with a pen.

[ click to continue reading at NYTimes.com ]

Canis sapiens sapiens


Dog genetics spur scientific spat

Researchers disagree over canine domestication.

by Ewen Callaway


Scientists investigating the transformation of wolves into dogs are behaving a bit like the animals they study, as disputes roil among those using genetics to understand dog domestication.

In recent months, three international teams have published papers comparing the genomes of dogs and wolves. On some matters — such as the types of genetic changes that make the two differ — the researchers are more or less in agreement. Yet the teams have all arrived at wildly different conclusions about the timing, location and basis for the reinvention of ferocious wolves as placid pooches. “It’s a sexy field,” says Greger Larson, an archaeogeneticist at the University of Durham, UK. He has won a £950,000 (US$1.5-million) grant to study dog domestication starting in October. “You’ve got a lot of big personalities, a lot of money, and people who want to get their Nature paper first.”

In January, Erik Axelsson and Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, geneticists at Uppsala University in Sweden, and their colleagues reported inNature1 that genes involved in the breaking down of starch seemed to set domestic dogs apart from wild wolves. In the paper and in media interviews, the researchers argued that dog domestication was catalysed by the dawn of agriculture around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, as wolves began to loiter around human settlements and rubbish heaps (see Naturehttp://doi.org/mv4; 2013).

But Larson, who has worked with Lindblad-Toh on other projects, says that their claim is dubious. He notes that bones that look similar to those of domestic dogs predate the Neolithic revolution by at least several thousand years, so domestication must have occurred before then.

[ click to continue reading at NATURE.com ]

Being Ungoogleable

from The Guardian

Internet anonymity is the height of chic

In this age of information overload, internet exhibitionism and NSA snooping, is it possible to make yourself unGoogleable? And does it earn you added credibility, as fashion designer Phoebe Philo and bands such as !!! suggest?



The chicest thing,” said fashion designer Phoebe Philo recently, “is when you don’t exist on Google. God, I would love to be that person!”

Philo, creative director of Céline, is not that person. As the London Evening Standard put it: “Unfortunately for the famously publicity-shy London designer – Paris born, Harrow-on-the-Hill raised – who has reinvented the way modern women dress, privacy may well continue to be a luxury.” Nobody who is oxymoronically described as “famously publicity-shy” will ever be unGoogleable. And if you’re not unGoogleable then, if Philo is right, you can never be truly chic, even if you were born in Paris. And if you’re not truly chic, then you might as well die – at least if you’re in fashion.

If she truly wanted to disappear herself from Google, Philo could start by changing her superb name to something less diverting. Prize-winning novelist AM Homes is an outlier in this respect. Google “am homes” and you’re in a world of blah US real estate rather than cutting-edge literature. But then Homes has thought a lot about privacy, having written a play about the most famously private person in recent history, JD Salinger, and had him threaten to sue her as a result.

And Homes isn’t the only one to make herself difficult to detect online.UnGoogleable bands are 10 a penny. The New York-based band !!! (known verbally as “chick chick chick” or “bang bang bang” – apparently “Exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point” proved too verbose for their meagre fanbase) must drive their business manager nuts. As must the band Merchandise, whose name – one might think – is a nominalist satire of commodification by the music industry. Nice work, Brad, Con, John and Rick.

[ click to continue reading at The Guardian ]

‘This is a dish that everybody can make, starting with the donkey.’

from Smithsonian

Is Spaghetti and Meatballs Italian?

Spaghetti and meatballsSpaghetti and Meatballs. (Photo by Lynda Balslev.)

Meatballs—juicy goodness of meat, onions, breadcrumbs, egg, butter, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, soaked in red sauce over a pile of spaghetti. Nothing says comfort like a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. And, nothing says Italian food like a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs—unless you are Italian.

If you go to Italy, you will not find a dish called spaghetti and meatballs. And if you do, it is probably to satisfy the palate of the American tourist. So if not Italy, where does this dish come from? Meatballs in general have multiple creation stories all across the world from köttbullars in Sweden to the various köftes in Turkey. Yes, Italy has its version of meatballs called polpettes, but they differ from their American counterpart in multiple ways. They are primarily eaten as a meal itself (plain) or in soups and made with any meat from turkey to fish. Often, they are no bigger in size than golf balls; in the region of Abruzzo, they can be no bigger in size than marbles and called polpettines.

Polpettes are more commonly found at the family table than on a restaurant menu and hold a dear place in the heart of Italian home cooking. Pellegrino Artusi was a Florentine silk merchant, who in retirement followed his passion for food, traveling and recording recipes. In 1891, he earned the unofficial title of ‘the father of Italian cuisine‘ when he published the first modern Italian cookbook titled La scienza in cucina e l’Arte di mangiar bene: Manuale practico per le famiglie (The science of cooking and the art of eating well: a practical manual for families.) Artusi was the first to bring together the variety of Italy’s regional cuisines into one book and also importantly, the first to write for the home chef. Of polpettes he writes, “Non crediate che io abbia la pretensione d’insegnarvi a far le polpette. Questo è un piatto che tutti lo sanno fare cominciando dal ciuco,” which translates, “Don’t think I’m pretentious enough to teach you how to make meatballs. This is a dish that everybody can make, starting with the donkey.” Needless to say, meatballs were seen as an incredibly easy dish to make, but a popular one nonetheless.

[ click to continue reading at Smithsonian.com ]

World’s Most Depressing Video Game

from SPIN

Joy Division Inspire World’s Most Depressing Video Game

by Kyle McGovern

Play ‘Will Love Tear Us Apart?’ now, doubt the existence of true love later!

Here’s something no one knew they needed: A video game based on Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Thanks to European developer Mighty Box Games, that need has been satiated. Will Love Tear Us Apart? is a “free-to-play browser-game about relationships on the brink of breaking up,” according to the game’s official website.

Each verse of Joy Division’s signature song represents a different level, and the game as a whole is supposed to encourage players to “reflect on the darker side of love: miscommunication, emotional impasse and the sadness of separation… What guides this game is an ambition to frustrate, upset, and sting the player into remembering the dark days preceding the death of a relationship.” Fun!

[ click to continue reading at SPIN.com ]

‘Animal experiments show that caffeine may reshape the biochemical environment inside our brains in ways that could stave off dementia.’

from The New York Times Magazine

This Is Your Brain on Coffee


Illustration by Ben WisemanThis column appears in the June 9 issue of The New York Times Magazine.

For hundreds of years, coffee has been one of the two or three most popular beverages on earth. But it’s only recently that scientists are figuring out that the drink has notable health benefits. In one large-scale epidemiological study from last year, researchers primarily at the National Cancer Institute parsed health information from more than 400,000 volunteers, ages 50 to 71, who were free of major diseases at the study’s start in 1995. By 2008, more than 50,000 of the participants had died. But men who reported drinking two or three cups of coffee a day were 10 percent less likely to have died than those who didn’t drink coffee, while women drinking the same amount had 13 percent less risk of dying during the study. It’s not clear exactly what coffee had to do with their longevity, but the correlation is striking.

Other recent studies have linked moderate coffee drinking — the equivalent of three or four 5-ounce cups of coffee a day or a single venti-size Starbucks — with more specific advantages: a reduction in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, basal cell carcinoma (the most common skin cancer), prostate canceroral cancer and breast cancer recurrence.

Perhaps most consequential, animal experiments show that caffeine may reshape the biochemical environment inside our brains in ways that could stave off dementia. In a 2012 experiment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, mice were briefly starved of oxygen, causing them to lose the ability to form memories. Half of the mice received a dose of caffeine that was the equivalent of several cups of coffee. After they were reoxygenated, the caffeinated mice regained their ability to form new memories 33 percent faster than the uncaffeinated.

[ click to continue reading at NYTimes.com ]

Slim Whitman Gone

from The Florida Times-Union

1923-2013: Country star Slim Whitman of Middleburg has died

By Dan Scanlan

Known as “America’s Favorite Folksinger,” Slim Whitman’s songs were marked with his soaring yodel.

Mr. Whitman, who has lived in Middleburg for years, is dead at 90. He passed away at 1 a.m. Wednesday at Orange Park Medical Center, family friend Sherry Raymer said.

Many remember Mr. Whitman’s yodelling in his 1952 hit “Indian Love Call” as the weapon that killed invading aliens in the 1996 movie “Mars Attacks.”

“I’m the one who killed the blasted Martians,” he joked in a 2008 Times-Union interview.

But back in 1991, Mr. Whitman told The Associated Press he wanted to be remembered as “a nice guy.”

“I don’t think you’ve ever heard anything bad about me, and I’d like to keep it that way,” Mr. Whitman said. “I’d like my son [Byron] to remember me as a good dad. I’d like the people to remember me as having a good voice and a clean suit.”

He was a good man who never sang anything suggestive, said Raymer, who also knew him from the Jacksonville Church of the Brethren they attended. He died from heart failure, according to the AP, a bit more than four years after his wife of 67 years, Alma Crist Whitman, died at 84.

[ click to continue reading at The Florida Times-Union ]

‘Hmm, empty room’

from The New York Times

Back at the Whitney, Tinkering With Perception

Nancy Crampton


The artist Robert Irwin took over the fourth floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1977 with a single work that became a kind of legend, though many visitors at the time failed to see it. “People would step out of the elevator, say, ‘Hmm, empty room,’ and hop back in before the doors shut,” Mr. Irwin recalled recently.

But the room was not quite empty — and in Mr. Irwin’s work, “not quite” can mean the entire world. He has become one of the most important artists of his generation through work that is less about objects and how they might be perceived than about perception itself. The Whitney piece was a radical experiment in dialing art down to almost nothing: simply a white translucent polyester scrim bisecting the open space, extending from the ceiling down to about eye level, with a black painted line on the wall creating the sensation of seeing floating rectangles. Daylight from one of the museum’s trapezoidal windows was the only illumination. The effect, for the receptive observer, was as if the room were separating into its constituent parts.

Mr. Irwin later described the work as the “X at the point where I jumped off,” and told the writer Lawrence Weschler that he considered leaving the art world after the show. “I don’t know what else I would do exactly,” he said, “but I’m not wedded to that world at all anymore.” In the end, he decided to stay. But the Whitney is not staying in its Marcel Breuer building, for which Mr. Irwin created the piece; in 2015 the museum will move to a new home downtown. And as part of the rolling goodbye to the Breuer, Donna De Salvo, the museum’s chief curator, long dreamed of resurrecting Mr. Irwin’s piece, which has not been seen since it came down 36 years ago.

[ click to continue reading at NYTimes.com ]


from CBS LA

Famed LA Helicopter Reporter Bob Tur Becoming A Woman

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles helicopter pilot-reporter Bob Tur, who famously covered the L.A. riots and the O.J. Simpson slow-speed freeway chase, said she suffers from gender dysphoria and is in the process of becoming a woman.

Tur told KNX 1070’s Chris Sedens and Diane Thompson that she is in the early stages of aggressive hormone replacement therapy to fully transform from male to female.

The 53-year-old, who worked for a number of L.A. news outlets, including CBS, said she was born with a female brain and a male body.

“It’s a genetic disorder that happens in utero. Nobody knows exactly why, but you’re born with a female or feminized brain. The corpus callosum is the main structure that joins the left and right hemispheres and it’s a nightmare if you don’t really know who you are. You think you’re a woman, but you’re a man,” she said.

Tur said she chose to come out publicly about her life-altering decision because she’s “done hiding.”

“I’m done trying to deal with this. It’s gotten very bad in the last five years. It’s been a very easy process once I made the decision to go forward. Now that my brain is getting the right hormones…I had no idea that life was like this. I just had no idea. It’s amazing. The dysmorphic OCD thoughts are gone. For the first time, I’m truly happy,” she said.

The journalist said friends and family have been supportive of the change.

“I have not had a single negative response,” she said. “I didn’t realize I had that many friends. A few people knew. A few people figured it out. For the most part, people didn’t know. They were in a state of shock initially. My kids were in a state of shock. And they have been going through this mourning process. Bob Tur has got to die. And that’s going to happen within the next three or four months. There’s a mourning process, but they’ve been very, very supportive.”

[ click to read full article at CBS LA ]

and check out this sweet piece at The Daily Beast on Tur and how she invented essentially the helicopter News Report

Into The Pixel

from The NY Times

Pixels Floating on the Art World’s Margins

John Sweeney


LOS ANGELES — The annual E3 convention here is known for the glitzy premiere of video games with huge budgets, and for its boisterous hustle and bustle. But tucked between the two rowdy convention halls is a quieter area resembling a Chelsea art gallery.

This is the site of the “Into the Pixel” exhibition, a juried collection of 16 digital artworks printed on canvas and plucked from the kinds of video games being marketed nearby. Those who stumble upon these works can take a few minutes or more to muse upon the artists’ intent and inspiration — and perhaps glean some untold secrets, since the images are from games yet to be released.

Now in its 10th year, “Into the Pixel” is still somewhat overlooked during the convention, although perhaps less so than in years past. Recent exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum have considered such art in a different light, focusing on each video game as a whole.

“The thing is, these people are not computer geeks — they’re real artists,” said Martin Rae, the president of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, which jointly produces the show with the Entertainment Software Association. “And this is some of the top-tier art on the planet.”

[ click to continue reading at NYTimes.com ]

Indiana Jones And The Industry of Doom

from The Hollywood Reporter

Steven Spielberg Predicts ‘Implosion’ of Film Industry

by Paul Bond

George Lucas echoed Spielberg’s sentiments at an event touting the opening of a new USC School of Cinematic Arts building, saying big changes are in store.

Steven Spielberg on Wednesday predicted an “implosion” in the film industry is inevitable, whereby a half dozen or so $250 million movies flop at the box office and alter the industry forever. What comes next — or even before then — will be price variances at movie theaters, where “you’re gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man, you’re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln.” He also said that Lincoln came “this close” to being an HBO movie instead of a theatrical release.

George Lucas agreed that massive changes are afoot, including film exhibition morphing somewhat into a Broadway play model, whereby fewer movies are released, they stay in theaters for a year and ticket prices are much higher. His prediction prompted Spielberg to recall that his 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrialstayed in theaters for a year and four months.

Lucas and Spielberg told USC students that they are learning about the industry at an extraordinary time of upheaval, where even proven talents find it difficult to get movies into theaters. Some ideas from young filmmakers “are too fringe-y for the movies,” Spielberg said. “That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

Lucas lamented the high cost of marketing movies and the urge to make them for the masses while ignoring niche audiences. He called cable television “much more adventurous” than film nowadays.

“I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they’re going to be on television,” Lucas said. “As mine almost was,” Spielberg interjected. “This close — ask HBO — this close.”

“We’re talking Lincoln and Red Tails — we barely got them into theaters. You’re talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can’t get their movie into a theater,” Lucas said. “I got more people intoLincoln than you got into Red Tails,” Spielberg joked.

Spielberg added that he had to co-own his own studio in order to get Lincoln into theaters.

[ click to read full article at THR ]

Orwellian Rule Anew

from Shelf Awareness

It’s 1984 All Over Again: Orwell’s Book Sales Spike

Daily disclosures about America’s surveillance apparatus have sparked renewed interest in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The Wall Street Journal reported that by early yesterday, sales of the dystopian classic had jumped noticeably, with one edition rising more than 7,000% in its Amazon rankings, moving from #13,074 on Monday to the top 200.

The paperback edition Plume published on the centennial of Orwell’s birth in 2003 was ranked #80 on Amazon this morning, and the 60th anniversary edition #149. Elizabeth Keenan, a spokeswoman for the publisher, told the Journal that the sales jump is “symptomatic of all the surveillance coverage,” adding that while sales typically increase this time of year because of high school summer reading lists, this spike was unusual and “Plume wasn’t ruling out a relaunch of the book to capitalize on the interest.”

[ click to read at ShelfAwareness.com ]

Hamburger Hamlet Founder Harry Lewis Gone

from KSWT

Harry Lewis, founder of Hamburger Hamlet, dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Harry Lewis, founder of the Hamburger Hamlet chain whose regular customers included Ronald Reagan and Elizabeth Taylor, has died at age 93.

The Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1bqkpkA ) reports Lewis died Sunday at a convalescent home in Beverly Hills. His son, Adam, tells the newspaper that his father was compulsively driven by attention to detail and would cook 30 hamburgers at once.

Lewis was an actor who appeared in the 1948 movie “Key Largo” before founding Hamburger Hamlet chain in 1950 with his future wife, Marilyn.

The restaurants were decorated with movie memorabilia and offered customized hamburgers long before the idea became trendy.

click to read about the Hamlet at the deliciously cool OldLARestaurants.com

[ click to continue reading at KSWT.com ]