Amazon's Kindle Weighs More When It's Loaded with Books

Does the Kindle weigh more when it's loaded with books? A fascinating answer from the NYTimes:

“In principle, the answer is yes,” said John D. Kubiatowicz, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.

“However,” he said, “the amount is very small, on the order of an atogram,” or 10–18 grams. “This amount is effectively unmeasurable,” he went on, since even the most sensitive scales have a resolution of only 10–9 grams. Further, it is only about one hundred-millionth as much as the estimated fluctuation from charging and discharging the device’s battery. A Kindle, for example, uses flash memory, composed of special transistors, one per stored bit, which use trapped electrons to distinguish between a digital 1 and a 0.

The Arrogance of Aaron Sorkin

I love Aaron Sorkin, but Nathan Rabin's hilarious, exhaustive takedown of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip completely nails what's wrong with the show (and with Sorkin himself):

[F]ailed television shows come and go; why does Studio 60 obsess us so?
The answer has a lot to do with arrogance. In premise and execution, Studio 60 was a work of unbearable, overweening arrogance. It began with making the lead character of Matt Albie both a clear Sorkin surrogate and a writer so ridiculously romanticized even M. Night Shyamalan might say, “Get over yourself, dude. You’re a fucking writer, not Jesus’ younger brother, the one God really likes.”

Some of My Favorite Trailers of 2011 (so far)

I was chatting with Russ Fischer this morning about the amazing trailer for Martha Marcy May Marlene, and it caused me to reflect on some of my favorite trailers from this year so far. Obviously this list will probably change by the end of the year, and the following definitely does not reflect my appreciation of the films themselves.

What do you guys think? What did I miss?

Fast Five - I wish I knew how to quit this series of films. Thankfully, the latest iteration was a highly enjoyable, mindless heist film.

Martha Marcy May Marlene - This film is so disturbing and so well-made that I'm loathe to revisit it, yet feel I must.

Hanna - It is safe to say this movie did not live up to my expectations. Great Chemical Brother score though.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Amazing.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Daylight Savings Time

An awesome, informative video infographic about Daylight Savings Time:

The Red Envelopes

The NYTimes' Brian Stelter and Nick Wingfield try to deconstruct what went wrong at Netflix. Their theory? Netflix discounted the emotional connection that people have with the DVD service:

Like many other companies built in Silicon Valley, Netflix prides itself on its analytical, data-driven approach to making decisions. But it made a classic business misstep. In its reliance on data and long-term strategy, the company underestimated the unquantifiable emotions of subscribers who still want those little red envelopes, even if they forget to ever watch the DVDs inside.

The Travesty of the NCAA

If you've ever purchased an NCAA video game, bought a college basketball player's jersey as sports memorabilia, or watched a televised NCAA championship with commercials, it might have occurred to you that you're paying for something that the players themselves (sometimes still teenagers) aren't getting any compensation for. There's a pretty striking level of injustice going on at the NCAA and Taylor Branch's exhaustive feature in The Atlantic starts to get to the bottom of it.

The only consolation? Their tyrannical reign may soon be over.

Why 'Paranormal Activity 3' Scares Us More Than 'Contagion'

In short: because the reality of Contagion is too frightening to contemplate (via Jason)

Americans Now Owe More on Student Loans Than Credit Cards

USA Today has a sobering report on student loan debt in the U.S.:

The amount of student loans taken out last year crossed the $100 billion mark for the first time and total loans outstanding will exceed $1 trillion for the first time this year. Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Students are borrowing twice what they did a decade ago after adjusting for inflation, the College Board reports. Total outstanding debt has doubled in the past five years — a sharp contrast to consumers reducing what's owed on home loans and credit cards.

Alex Pareene has some further perspective on it. In short: our generation is doomed.

The iPhone 4S Camera

I don't get my iPhone 4S for another two weeks or so, but in the meantime, a bunch of online posts demonstrating the 4S camera have had me salivating to get my hands on one. Camera+ posted a comparison between the 4S and a bunch of other cameras this morning. This video shot on the iPhone 4S (via Gruber) is also extremely impressive.

The video below has also been making the rounds, comparing a video shot on the 4S with a video shot on the Canon 5D Mark 2 (camera body = $2400):

iPhone 4S / Canon 5d MKII Side by Side Comparison from Robino Films on Vimeo.

I'm looking forward to getting my own. Expect impressions here when that happens.

How Facebook and Google+ Erode Our Options

Chris Poole, founder of 4Chan, explains why Facebook and Google+ are forcing us into boxes when it comes to our online identities:

"The portrait of identity online is often painted in black and white," Poole said. "Who you are online is who you are offline." That rosy view of identity is complemented with a similarly oversimplified view of anonymity. People think of anonymity as dark and chaotic, Poole said.

But human identity doesn't work like that online or offline. We present ourselves differently in different contexts, and that's key to our creativity and self-expression. "It's not 'who you share with,' it's 'who you share as,'" Poole told us. "Identity is prismatic."

One of the biggest challenges for online social networks is to accurately convey the messy realities that make up our lives. So far, they've done an okay job, but there are many ways in which they could do better. Poole powerfully identifies one of them.

The GOP Horse Race

Slate has a wonderful visualization of the race for the GOP presidential nomination, created using polling data over time. The most interesting thing from my perspective: Romney's remarkable stability over time. It shows that he's not going away, but that Republicans still, after many, many months, haven't mustered the ability to fully embrace the guy yet. Poor Mitt.

Also, I appreciated Matt Bai's in-depth look at the current state of the GOP establishment. Illuminating.

The Tobolowsky Files LIVE


It's been a bit quiet here this past week. That's because I've been busy putting together the following:

The Tobolowsky Files will have three LIVE performances in Boston during November (11th, 12th, and 13th)! Then, in January, we'll be heading to Seattle for a performance at the historic Neptune Theater. It will be epic! Buy your tickets now!

I am beyond excited about this. There is nothing quite like seeing Stephen perform his stories live; I've seen it happen and the results are moving, powerful, even transformative.

More importantly, I can't escape the thought: this is how it begins. With a few, jam-packed shows at a cozy, intimate venue. If these go well, not only will it do much to spread the word of Stephen and of the show, but it will also demonstrate that we have a viable business model on our hands. Perhaps even viable enough for me to seriously consider a career change...

Stephen recently did a live interview for a packed house for Seattle public radio. Our show is apparently quite popular there. It is not popular in Boston, where pretty much nobody knows that it exists. In my mind, this presents a number of interesting challenges and questions for us:

- From state to state, how big is the podcast's reach? And how many of our listeners in each state are big enough fans that they are willing to spend money to see Stephen live?

- Given a situation where most people are not aware of the podcast, is Stephen's existing popularity as an actor sufficient enough such that people will come see his show even with no knowledge whatsoever of his storytelling abilities?

- Suppose people don't know about the podcast NOR do they know any of Stephen's work. What are ways to entice them to come?

Stephen already has a Facebook and Twitter page, and I've created a Facebook event for the live showing in Boston. In the weeks to come, we'll be playing around with some ways of selling the show that I hope will be effective. I look forward to sharing them with you.

I hope you'll join us in Boston or in Seattle. And if we sell out (or come close to selling out) both locations, you can expect there to be many more performances down the line.

The Future of Apple

Matt Mullenwegg has some interesting thoughts about where Apple is heading. The one industry that I could not have possibly guessed? Cars:

Walk down the car stereo aisle in Best Buy and see what $800 gets you, or a $300 GPS from Garmin, vs an iPad or iPhone. The screens feel like a TI-92 calculator. The typography makes my eyes bleed. I find it morally reprehensible how bad these products are because it’s one of the areas of technology where a bad interface is most directly tied to injuries and deaths. Car folks are making their iPhone/iPod integrations better and better, which may be a glass of ice water in hell, but they’ll never make the jump to providing a beautiful marriage of media, search, and navigation that a great in-car experience needs.

To quote Dennis Reynolds, "That is some long-term shit."

Freestyle by the Taalbi Brothers


The song bove was featured in the fourth season finale of Breaking Bad last night. And even though it feels heavily inspired by a few of Rodrigo y Gabriela's pieces, it's still incredible to see two people so young with the ability to jam like this.

Breaking Bad: Season Four Finale Round-up

Last night's finale of Breaking Bad capped off a remarkable fourth season, which cemented Breaking Bad's place among the pantheon of the greatest television shows in history. Many of the episodes this year could have stood alone as their own short films, with countless cinematic moments that gave me goosebumps for how carefully considered and executed they were.

My weekly ritual has been to read the recaps of Alan Sepinwall, James Poniewozik, Myles McNutt, and Matt Zoller Seitz, and I'd strongly recommend all of them this time around as well. Also, check out Sepinwall's extensive interview with series creator Vince Gilligan, as well as the NYTimes interview with Gilligan. 

We'll be doing our own /Filmcast season review this week. Look forward to it.

Steve Jobs Has Died

Man, this knocked the wind out of me in a way I did not anticipate. The world has lost a visionary. And I can't help but think back to that story about how Jobs helped to bring hope to a secular world.

Rest in peace, Steve Jobs. You changed the world in ways that will last for generations.

The New iPhone

After today's eagerly anticipated announcements, I'm particularly impressed by the Siri integration. At this point, Siri is still in "beta" and you can tell the way Phil Schiller says it that the tech is not quite to the state of perfection that they'd like it to be at. But it's what Siri represents that's so thrilling: a future where we can interact with our computers using natural language.

We're not there yet, but we will be one day. And as Apple is fond of doing, today it gave us a glimpse into the future.

Sam Harris on The Future of the Book

I enjoyed Sam Harris's musings on the future of the publishing industry. But I do wish contemporary authors sounding the death knell of the printed word would pay more homage to the fact that it was traditional publishing that propelled them to digital stardom. Traditional publishing's death may be painful, but it will also be relatively slow (at least, in internet years).

The Anger Against Global Warming

Robert Krulwich tries to understand why global warming deniers are so angry about it. Insightful.

What Went Wrong with Kodak

David DiSalvo, on how Kodak failed to react to market forces in time:

The fall of the company that George Eastman built is perhaps the most salient commentary on the new economy in recent memory, and tells an unfortunate story about much of America’s industrial base. Monolithic, inflexible and unable to keep up with the shifts and turns of disruptive technology, once great companies like Kodak can’t survive without exhaustive restructuring. Hopefully, other U.S. companies have been watching and learning.

Nathan Rabin's Exhaustive, Wonderful Interview with Louie CK

As I mentioned when I wrote about Todd VanDerWerff's interview of Community-creator Dan Harmon, I believe that the extensive, long-form interviews that the AV Club does with showrunners are so valuable that they actually contribute to our culture in a way that nearly rises to the level of the original works themselves.

This time around, it's Nathan Rabin who gets the honor to interview Louie CK and run down every episode of Louie's brilliant second season:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Well-worth the huge length of time it will take you to get through it (and with much less self-loathing than the Harmon interview!).

To Hear

A 29-year old woman who has been deaf for her entire life activates a cochlear implant and hears herself clearly for the very first time:

It is moving to see someone receive a gift that we all take for granted every day. Videos like this show us all how blessed we really are.

Why The Kindle Fire Won't Disrupt the iPad

Horace Dediu lays out the case against the Kindle Fire as a low-end tablet disruption. In the long-term, I'm convinced that Dediu is correct, but I think there's a significant possibility that the Fire is going to steal away some market share from the iPad in the short-term.

I posit that most people don't need something that's technologically cutting-edge to scratch that tablet itch. And if you give them a choice between a $200 tablet that can do most things they need, or a $500 that can do slightly more things, the choice will be pretty obvious.

Stephen Tobolowsky on 'Weekday' Live

Yesterday, Stephen Tobolowsky went to Seattle, Washington to perform "The Tobolowsky Files" live at a fundraiser on Vashon Island. While in the area, he stopped by the Neptune Theatre for a live recording of 'Weekday' live on KUOW, Seattle's premiere public radio station. I was sad that I could not make it out there, but thankfully, we can listen to his interview on 'Weekday' live right here.

I've been working on "The Tobolowsky Files" for two years now. For two years, I have tirelessly produced and edited each episode and promoted the show at every possible turn. It has consumed hundreds of hours of my life, and I have received essentially no financial compensation for it. But as I listened to the interview begin and heard the audience of hundreds cheering his name when "The Tobolowsky Files" was, there is nothing like it.