Archive for the ‘Oddity’ Category

‘It Might Not Get Any Weirder Than This’

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Fascinating, insightful post by Sophie Schmidt (19 year old daughter of Google’s Eric Schmidt) on her trip to North Korea. Her summary:

Top Level Take-aways:

  1. Go to North Korea if you can. It is very, very strange.
  2. If it is January, disregard the above. It is very, very cold.
  3. Nothing I’d read or heard beforehand really prepared me for what we saw.

Read the whole thing here.

A Tour of Volkswagen’s ‘Transparent Factory’

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I remember going to the Detroit Rouge Ford Factory when I was a kid. That fascinated me: the sheer scale of such large things being made at such a rate with automation that seemed from the future was astonishing to a developing mind. It seemed as if giants ran the factory. (One did, in fact: Henry Ford.)

Fast forward to present. The below video is a tour of Volkswagen’s ‘transparent factory’, and it, too, seems like it’s straight out of the future. VW is Europe’s largest automaker — in fact it’s the world’s largest automaker by profits, second only to GM in units sold — and its transparent factory is  just that: transparent. There’s nothing you can’t see, no process that’s hidden. There’s metal, glass and every worker wears white, right down to their fingertips.

As a guy who spent most of his life growing up in the Motor City, I remain fascinated by things like this.

What Would Happen If You Tried to Hit a Baseball Pitched at 90% the Speed of Light?

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Amazing and entirely amusing explanation of what would happen, brought to you by the fine folks behind xkcd (my favorite webcomic).

If you like sports and have a single nerd bone in your body, don’t miss this. Here’s an excerpt:

When it reaches the batter, the center of the cloud is still moving at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light. It hits the bat first, but then the batter, plate, and catcher are all scooped up and carried backward through the backstop as they disintegrate. The shell of x-rays and superheated plasma expands outward and upward, swallowing the backstop, both teams, the stands, and the surrounding neighborhood—all in the first microsecond.

And you thought Goose Gossage threw some heat.

Read the entire explanation here.

How Pixar Almost Deleted Toy Story 2

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You know that moment when you think you’ve lost an important Microsoft Word DOC and desperately think of every possible way to get it back, including praying to your coffee mug? Amplify that by a eleventy-million and you’ll have an idea of what the team at Pixar was feeling when they figured out someone was doing an RM*, or ‘remove everything’ on the drive where its Toy Story 2 files were stored.

If it weren’t for a telecommuting employee, Toy Story 2 would have been erased in its entirety.


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Casual Friday: Riffing on Health, Exercise and Nutrition

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I see you injure yourself a lot. Can you help me?

When I’m not being an annoying blogger/web wonk, I often do athletic things like lift weights, play soccer and injure myself. When people see me do these things (even including the injury part, oddly), they invariably ask me questions about how they can get in shape, what they should eat, what workout program they should do, and why my neck makes crunching noises.

Instead of try to be coherent and give anyone who’s interested a logical guide to these questions, I will instead secrete a bunch of bullet points from my finger motion, which are below. If you are an astute reader (and you are), you’ll notice these are in no discernable order. That’s OK, because order isn’t important, mainly because I lack the discipline right this second to infuse this post with even the slightest bit of structure. And if you’re honest with yourself, you’re reading this before your first meeting, Starbucks coffee in hand, while the printer spits out some documents for said meeting that you’ll doodle on for 45 minutes. So let’s not get carried away with formality.

So, yes, anyway. These bullet points about health and fitness:

  • I wish everyone would understand that fat isn’t necessarily the enemy. We’ve been led for years to believe fat is what makes us fat, and that’s calorically-speaking: fat has 9 calories per gram, whereas carbs and protein only have 4. So, with over double the caloric value, fat must make you fat, right? Not really. It’s not the main culprit.
  • Sugar is the main culprit, which means instead of counting fat grams, you better start moderating your carb intake. Without getting into the biochemistry and forcing you to pass out face-down on your keyboard, let’s just say carbs invoke your body’s insulin response, which in turn stores excess sugar (glycogen) as fat. Excess or wrong-type carbs create a metabolic cascade that is very much at the center of the obesity problem we’re seeing today.
  • Again: don’t freak out about fat. I know you want to. Everyone does. But understand that your fat-free dressing is full of nasty vegetable oil and additional sugar and salt to make it even somewhat palatable, which is far, far worse than a couple tablespoons of olive oil on your salad. Eat real food.
  • Exercise isn’t optional. It really isn’t. Yes, you can manage your weight by keeping a really tight diet, but eventually you will cheat or fall off. We all do. Without stoking your metabolic furnace, you’re really pushing a boulder uphill.
  • What kind of exercise? Not endless cardio. I tell folks to lift heavy things 2–3 times per week for no longer than 30 minutes, and to sprint twice per week, but there are many option like kickboxing, Martial Arts Classes, and boxing. If you can’t run, do very short, intense 20 second intervals on a bike, rowing machine, or elliptical. Intervals mean you should go at 90–100% of your max effort for 20 seconds, then take 40 seconds to recover. As your fitness improves, you’ll be able to reduce your rest interval all the way down to 10 seconds. Doing 20 seconds of high-intensity work followed by 10 seconds of rest is known as the Tabta Protocol. In just eight minutes you can get a better cardio and metabolically-stimulating workout than 45 minutes doing steady-state cardio work.
  • When you lift, don’t be afraid of going heavy. Heavier weights build more muscle, and they hit metabolic pathways that help you burn fat, gain lean tissue and even impmrove your cardio capacity. Ladies, you do not have the hormones required to put on much bulk, so concerns about you turning into a hulking, stinking she-devil are unfounded.
  • Walk. A lot. As many times as you can per week. Beats the heck out of staring at TV.
  • Don’t ignore sleep. Amazing things happen in your sleep, and I’m not talking about having that dream where you are a robot superhero and fly around on a chocolate dragon. I’m talking about tissue recovery and growth, fat loss, stress reduction – you name it. We’re a nation of overtired, super-stimulated people, and we need sleep. Don’t skimp it – especially if you start exercising more.
  • Avoid grains if you can. I mean it. All grains. I can go on and on about this, but I’d rather refer you to Robb Wolf’s excellent The Paleo Solution or Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint for thorough explanations. This should actually be bullet point #1, but I didn’t want to freak you out right way. (But I am OK with freaking you out now.)

See? No discerable order, yet pretty reasonable advice. Is it Friday or what, baby?

One last thing: supplements. Everyone asks what supplements they should take. Here’s what I recommend:

  • If you can’t get enough protein from real food (with enough being .6-.7 grams per pound of bodyweight; more if you are an athlete), get yourself a good whey protein supplement. I use this daily.
  • Fish oil for omega–3 fatty acids. Back when we ate more off the land, we had many more omega–3s in our diet. Today, with the preponderance of grains and processed food, we have a 20:1 omega–6 to omega–3 ratio. That’s way upside-down. We should be closer to 2:1. Fish oil helps this massively. Here’s what I take.
  • Unless you spend a lot of time outdoors, I recommend a Vitamin D3 supplement. Nearly every single blood panel I’ve seen is deficient in this, and often massively so. I use a liquid version.

So. Yeah. Friday post. Okay then.

Seriously, if you have any questions, you let me know in the comments. If you prefer email, no problem.

Have a good weekend, everyone.


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MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Want a big, techy, pixelated fireplace for your bedroom or office? Maybe your kitchen? Doesn’t matter. Nothing says winter like 8-bit warmth.

Take my word for it: go download Fireplace now. It’s available for Mac OSX or Windows. You can type words to interact with your new fireplace, or you can just chill and watch the logs burn to ashes (which takes about a half hour). My suggestion, however, is to play with the commands. Try these:


Nerdtastic fun. If you don’t agree, you might be broken.

Have a safe and happy new year, everyone!


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InFocus Labs Asks Users to Submit Candidates For the Worst PowerPoint Slide

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InFocus Labs recently ran a contest in which it asked its social community to send in the worst PPT slides they’ve ever seen:

Our “What Not to Present” contest was epic! Many thanks to all of you kind folks that submitted entries and spread the word about it. Many amazingly horrendous slides were sent in from all around the world. We laughed. We cried. We cringed.

Some of these are just awesome, if only for their sheer degree of obfuscation, complexity and nightmarish design.  Here are two examples (click each to enlarge):



Be sure to see all the submissions here.


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How Many Spaces After a Period, Again?

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Simple question for you today:  when typing, how many spaces do you put between sentences?

If you’re like me, you said two.  However, Slate’s Farhad Manjoo has a nice rant about the topic, and it’s sure to spark some debate.

Or maybe there’s really not much to debate?

Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It’s one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know thatfaq-in-old-typewriter the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men’s shirt buttons on the right and women’s on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period.

So technically speaking, and as far as the style guides are concerned, one space is the correct method.  So why in the world I did I learn two spaces after a period (and colon)?

The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks “loose” and uneven; there’s a lot of white space between characters and words, so it’s more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read.

Oh.  That explains it.  Back in typing class in 9th grade, we learned on archaic, heavy, industrial typewriters tucked away in the coldest, grayest classroom in my school.  Everything, naturally, was monospaced Courier.  So if you wanted your paper to look halfway readable, you double-spaced after periods and colons.  And you also didn’t get hit by the mean nuns patrolling the aisles.

But even if the modern rule is one space, here’s the problem: at 41 years old, some 27 years into my official typing habits, typing one space after a period is nearly impossible.  I habitually use two spaces.  There.  I just did it again – two times! – after my last two periods.  It’s a muscle memory thing.

The fact is it would take me longer to unlearn the two space rule than it’s worth.  Many modern applications – browsers, etc. – remove extra spaces automatically.  Bad habits are accounted for and quietly censored.

A few times a year, an article like Manjoo’s comes along and preaches the purity and correctness of the one-space rule.  And I get religion.  Then, after trying to type something using only one space between sentences, I find myself going back and removing the extra spaces my highly-trained, mildly spastic thumbs automatically put in.  Then everything starts getting confusing, I get frustrated, and I have to play a quick game of Z-Type before I settle down and admit maybe I can’t unring my two-space bell.

Is it OK to be wrong if you’ve been taught to be wrong by mean Catholic nuns who brandished rulers like swords?

I hope so, because that’s the only excuse I have.  Space space.  Do you get what I’m saying?

(Thx to Jim P. for the link)


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