What 800 nerds on a cruise ship taught me about life, the universe, and snorkeling

Wired:

Jonathan Coulton loves cruise ships. He loves the weird artificial mall running down the middle, and he loves staring off the back of the ship into infinity. That’s not to say that David Foster Wallace’s famously dark assessment of shipboard vacationing (“There is something about a mass-market Luxury Cruise that’s unbearably sad”) is unfamiliar. The lanyard that holds a laser-cut wooden JoCo Cruise name tag around my neck came printed with the phrase “A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again.” Inside jokes are the coin of the realm around here.

I’ve been on one cruise and, for various reasons, it was an awful experience.

“Let Peace Begin With Me”

Angela Ahrendts:

I’ve always tried to focus my comments on simple leadership lessons I’ve learned that might somehow, somewhere, someday help others. I’ll admit, I’ve been struggling recently to find one that’s relevant around the holidays.

On Wednesday, I was listening to the radio on my drive home and I heard an old song that took me back to my childhood. I hadn’t heard it for a while, and wow — in that moment, it really moved me.

I know this is probably just fluff, but I’d love to see more of these kinds of posts from more of Apple’s leadership.

2014 National Geographic photo contest winner

National Geographic:

More than 9,200 entries were submitted from over 150 countries, with professional photographers and amateur photo enthusiasts across the globe participating.The Grand Prize Winner will receive $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual National Geographic Photography Seminar in January 2015.

Check out the winner and let us know what you think. It’s not the usual photo that comes to mind when you think of National Geographic.

Reaction to the Sony hack is “beyond the realm of stupid”

Vice:

It is mind boggling to me, particularly when you compare it to real things that have actually happened. Someone killed 12 people and shot another 70 people at the opening night of Batman: The Dark Knight. They kept that movie in the theaters. You issue an anonymous cyber threat that you did not have the capability to carry out? We pulled a movie from 18,000 theaters.

There’s probably no worse way for Sony to have handled this. Incredible how messed up this has become.

Workflow for iOS review: An awesome Mac-like app for our post-PC devices

Macworld:

The first true automator for iOS, Workflow takes full advantage of Apple’s looser restrictions on sharing to bring new levels of interactivity and multitasking to our handheld devices. More versatile than the situational IFTTT and more powerful than even Launch Center Pro’s slick system of shortcuts, Workflow’s endlessly customizable actions integrate seamlessly into the apps you already use to help you work smarter, faster, and just plain better.

I have yet to try this app (not really the target customer), but if my Twitter feed is any indication, many people find it incredibly useful.

Apple stops online sales in Russia over Ruble fluctuations

Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. halted online sales of its products in Russia due to “extreme” ruble fluctuations, showing how the currency’s swings are rippling out to international businesses.

The iPhone and iPad maker stopped sales from its Web store as Russia’s currency lost as much as 19 percent today.

Not good news for Russian Christmas shoppers, among others.

Christmas Tree, Inc.

Mashable:

Your tree has a complicated backstory, one that includes daredevil helicopter pilots, 18-hour days battling Oregon sleet and, of course, the fickle hibernation habits of squirrels.

Here is how (and where) an American Christmas tree comes to life.

We posted a story with video last year about the use of helicopters on these Oregon Christmas Tree farms.

How broken is discovery on the App Store? This broken.

Gedeon Maheux:

The following list was generated by a manual App Store (iPhone) search on Nov 15th, 2014 for the term “Twitter”. The official app from Twitter is naturally the first result, but the next actual Twitter client (Hootsuite) doesn’t appear on the list until #20 and the next one after that comes in at #62. Even the mega-popular Tweetbot isn’t returned in the results until position #81 and even then, the older v2 of Tweetbot (for iOS 6) comes first.

Where’s Twitterrific? Although it contains the word “Twitter” in the app’s name, Twitterrific isn’t seen in the list until you scroll all the way down to #100.

I’ve seen this many times, in particular when searching for podcasts and dozens of completely unrelated ones intrude on your search. Makes for a frustrating waste of time.

The insane history of how American paranoia ruined and censored comic books

Vox:

Some 60 years ago, during the era of McCarthyism, comic books became a threat. The panic culminated in a Senate hearing in 1954. This, of course, isn’t to say that McCarthyism and the comic book panic were comparable in their human toll. But they share the same symptoms of American fear and a harsh, reactive response to it.

What adults thought was best for children ended up censoring and dissolving away years of progress and artistry, as well as comics that challenged American views on gender and race. Consequently, that cemented the idea that this was a medium for kids — something that we’ve only recently started disbelieving.

Fascinating history of what comic books used to be and how we got to where we are now.

Most insane ski line ever

The helicopter shot makes it look insane. The GoPro shot had me tighten up every orifice in sympathy.

The Church Brew Works

Atlas Obscura:

Located in Pittsburgh’s historic St. John the Baptist Church, a deconsecrated but still beautifully ornate building, the Church Brew Works has turned a former holy sanctuary into a hip brewery

When I lived in Pittsburgh, this church was my favorite place of worship.

Person of the Year: Tim Cook of Apple

Financial Times:

This year has seen Apple’s chief step out of the shadows of his predecessor and imprint the company with his own set of values and priorities: bringing in fresh blood, changing how it manages its cash pile, opening Apple up to greater collaboration and focusing more on social issues.

There’s no doubt that this is now “Tim Cook’s Apple”.

The visual trickery that turns hockey rinks into lakes of fire

Wired:

Pre-game presentations have long been excuses to trot out special effects. Indoor pyrotechnics, giant inflatable helmets, live wild animals running the field, and bone-rattling sound systems have been around for years.Turning a hockey rink into a lake of fire? That’s new.

The tech behind all of this is pretty cool but it seems like pointless eye candy to me.

The stimulating history of coffee: why you hear this word around the world

Slate:

You don’t speak Turkish. You don’t speak Finnish. You don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese. None of these languages is remotely related to English. In fact, none of these languages are even in the same language family. Yet you can recognize, within the two quick syllables of kah-vay, ka-vee, and ka-fay, the word you know as coffee.

I am always fascinated by where words come from and their commonalities. I’d never thought about why “coffee” is so similar around the world and in so many different languages.

Amplified: “I was in a bar somewhere”

Jim and Shawn talk about three months with an iPhone 6 Plus, Apple lawsuits, Apple’s Best of 2014 and connecting instruments to an iPad!

The paranoid person’s guide to a complete Mac backup

Macworld:

I’m somewhat paranoid about backing up my data files. And by “somewhat paranoid,” I mean “petrified.” If you’re not of a similar mindset, you should be.

Consider what it would mean to lose some irreplaceable photos, for instance. Or the please-let-me-keep-my-job presentation that you’ve been pulling together for months. Or your financial data. Being paranoid in every waking hour isn’t a great way to get through life, but when it comes to backing up your data it’s nearly impossible to go too far.

I’m constantly on people to have, make and verify their backups. As a victim of not having a backup in the past, I know the pain losing important data can cause. I’m doing this for your own good.

Twitter clients in 2014: An exploration of Tweetbot, Twitterrific, and Twitter for iOS

MacStories:

I’ve spent weeks comparing features and changing apps to understand the kind of experience they want to promote. But implementation details and design differences aside, I also kept wondering the same question: was the real Twitter different from the third-party clients I used for three years?

I use Tweetbot on iOS but am always interested in reading what others think of the other major iOS Twitter clients.

The quest to hit 1,000 mph in an insane rocket-powered car

Wired:

The car, Bloodhound SSC, marks a bold attempt to set a new Land Speed Record of 1,609 kph (1,000 mph) by 2016. If successful, it will not only mark the biggest jump in land-speed history, but will also be the culmination of a decade-long experiment in education and open engineering.

What a great story about the engineering challenges of trying to push a car, and I use that term loosely, faster than any has ever gone before.

Let’s go crazy: Inside the making of Purple Rain

The Verge:

In an age where fans expect direct relationships with the artists they love, Prince has turned himself into a reclusive legend. But 30 years ago, he was still a young artist on the cusp of releasing his greatest record — and former Vibe and Spin editor-in-chief Alan Light’s Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain documents how the record and film came to be.

I’m all kinds of biased as a huge Prince fan but I think the album is still amazing and listen to it at least once a month. The movie doesn’t hold up as well but it’s still a lot of fun to watch every now and then.

$20 million worth of classic cars, forgotten in a barn

Artcurial Motorcars:

The Collectors’ Car Department at Artcurial has discovered 60 collectors’ automobiles, all major marques dating from the early days of the motor car through to the 1970s. Found following fifty years of lying dormant, the Baillon collection will be sold by Artcurial Motorcars in the first part of the traditional sale at Retromobile Salon, on 6 February 2015, in Paris. These motor cars have been tucked away in a property in the West of France, under makeshift corrugated iron shelters and in various outbuildings.

One of the cars, a Ferrari 250GT SWB California Spyders, is one of only 60 ever built. Another, a 1956 Maserati A6G Gran Sport Frua, is one of just three ever built.

Next time you drive past a barn, take a peak inside – you never know what you’ll see.

Hockey fans toss 25,214 stuffed animals onto the ice for charity

Mashable:

The Calgary Hitmen held their 20th annual Teddy Bear Toss on Sunday, which allowed fans to throw 25,214 stuffed animals onto the ice in a heartwarming and entertaining display of charity.

The bears, which are bagged prior to tossing, are gathered up by the team and donated to more than 60 charities for the holiday season.

The Hitmen do this every year and it’s heartwarming and funny every time I see it.

The trouble with cheap oil

The New Yorker:

High oil prices would force governments, corporations, and consumers to find another way to power the world. It was a nice dream, but it’s over now. We are awash in cheap oil. Propelled largely by a boom in domestic production, due to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,’’ and horizontal drilling, oil prices fell below $70 a barrel on Thursday—from a high in June of $112.12. Prices have fallen nearly every day for the past two months, and some economists predict that we will soon see oil selling for less than fifty dollars a barrel.

Domestic production isn’t the only reason prices are falling but it’s certainly true that cheaper oil just delays the inevitable.

Helmetless football? It’s the new practice at New Hampshire

Peter King:

The sight of players going into contact without helmets is jarring to observers accustomed to standard football drills. Players dive at tackling dummies, or push into blocking sleds, or wrap up a live runner without helmets. Their heads are bare, and so by instinct, they don’t lead with their heads.

“At first, tackling without a helmet doesn’t seem like the best idea, with the size of the guys we have around here,” says Cameron Shorey, a 6-5, 252-pound sophomore defensive end. “But when we started doing it, it made more sense to keep our heads out of the contact zone. We use our chests, use our legs, and absorb most of the force with our bodies, not our heads.”

I love football – I played it in high school – but I definitely believe we have to find ways to make it safer for the players’ brains.

A fun way to learn about copyright

Photofocus:

The folks at Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has produced a (free) comic book that explains copyright in both a clear and interesting way. Learn about the delicate balance between intellectual property and the public domain – the realm of material that is free to use without permission or payment.

Every “content creator” should understand the basics of copyright and this comic book is a clever and visually interesting way to do it.

The nerve-wracking process of shooting the very last space shuttle launch

Wired:

At a space shuttle launch, a front row seat is 3 miles away. If you want to get closer, you have two options: Be an astronaut, or be a camera. Photographer Dan Winters got a rare chance to explore the second option.

In 2011, after NASA announced it would be ending the shuttle program, Winters received permission to document the final launches of the space shuttles Discovery, Endeavor and Atlantis. He’s compiled that work in the book Last Launch. A shuttle launch is a violent event, yet Winters captured them with the same stunning intimacy found in his portraits. And while he had unparalleled access to make that happen, the logistics were tremendous. At WIRED by Design, the photographer explained how he got the shots.

Both the above video and the Wired article are fascinating looks at both the technical and emotional side of photographing these last moments of history.

Traffic light lets you play Pong with person on the other side installed in Germany

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This is Colossal:

The game units have been designed and approved for use by the city of Hildesheim, Germany where they were installed two weeks ago. Rebranded as the ActiWait, the devices aren’t just a clever way to pass the time while waiting for cars, hopefully they disuade impatient pedestrians from darting through traffic.

Who said Germans don’t have a sense of humour and fun?

The Apple TV needs to get back in the picture

Six Colors:

Apple’s getting its lunch eaten by competitors, and the hits just keep on coming. The most recent numbers have Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV pulling ahead of Apple’s set-top box, and you know what? They should be. Right now, they’re better products: they have support for more services, they have more flexibility, and they’re cheaper.

The Apple TV, on the other hand, hasn’t gotten a meaningful upgrade since 2010.

He’s not wrong. I used to recommend the Apple TV wholeheartedly but it’s far too long in the tooth now.