Road To Nowhere

Back in the 1980’s, there was a big push to switch the US to the metric system (an initiative I vaguely remember). Way down in southern Arizona, the politicos back then took the initiative to switch over Highway 19 south of Tuscon to the metric system in anticipation of the country’s full conversion. Yes, we’re all still waiting for the country to switch over and 30+ years on, this stretch of highway is the only road in the US that is measured with the metric system.

That made sense in 1980, when I-19’s signs first went up and when U.S. was near the peak of its flirtation with the metric system. Five years earlier, President Ford had signed the Metric Conversion Act, declaring the metric system “the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce” and establishing United States Metric Board to guide the conversion. Schoolchildren dutifully learned their kilograms and centimeters.

But the Metric Conversion Act was only voluntary, and there was far too much inertia to change every single label in the country voluntarily. Reagan disbanded the Metric Board in 1982. Instead of leading the charge into brave new metric system, Arizona’s highway is a reminder of a failed experiment.

Ironically, Arizona is now trying to switch the road back to miles however it is stuck in political red tape. Ah, progress!

via Factually Gizmodo

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Densely Populated

An interesting infographic that shows how big a city would be need to be to house the world’s population, if that city was as densely populated as NYC, San Francisco, Paris, etc. According to the infographic, Paris is a more densely populated city than NYC, which kind of surprised me.

On a more practical note, managing the logistics of transportation and traffic for 6.9 billion people in one city is probably a challenge that would explode a few minds.

via Swiss Miss

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Start It Up

If you are a podcast listener, here is one to add to your listening queue.

At one point in the not too distant past, Alex Blumburg was a producer at NPR and was intimately involved in argueably the two best programs on the NPR show list – This American Life and Planet Money (Six years on, the TAL podcast that Blumberg and Ira Glass produced – “The Giant Pool of Money” – about the 2008 financial crisis still resonates with me).

Blumburg recently left NPR to venture into the great blue yonder of starting a business – only he’s producing a podcast series that is documenting his successes, failures, and challenges along the way as he tries to build his company and business.

So if you are in a start up, thinking about starting up a business, or just need some new programming to listen to on your commute to and from your cubicle job, take a listen to the Start Up podcast. The RSS feed of the podcast is here and you can just copy and paste the URL into any Podcast player (I’m a big fan of Marco Arment’s Overcast in the iTunes Store)

Start Up.

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Amateur In Name Alone

Today, the NCAA board voted to allow the ‘big five’ power conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10) to have more autonomy to set their own rules and regulations – basically opening the door for them to allow players to be paid and covered by insurance, to set the rules on hours dedicated to the sport of choice and the number of coaches on staff. In short, the NCAA provided the most powerful conferences with even more power and competitive advantage, and have thus have left all other schools and conferences in the dust.

I’m actually OK with the college players receiving compensation above and beyond the scholarship benefits they already receive. The rules that the NCAA has in place are amazingly outdated and onerous to the point that a plain bagel is considered a snack (and thus ok for a student athlete to eat if someone gives it to them) yet adding cream cheese to that same bagel turns it into a meal, and thus would be an NCAA violation if a student athlete accepted that as a ‘gift’ from someone.

However, the bigger concern is that this ruling has basically separated the top 5 ‘power’ conferences from the rest of the universities who play intercollegiate sports. And from that perspective, this is a pretty troubling result. It is troubling because all of these schools have been seduced by the dollars that these ‘amateur’ sports drive. Bill Snyder, the long time and well respected coach of Kansas State, took it one step further by saying everyone (his school included) has ‘sold out’ to TV at the expense of education:

“It’s no longer about education,” Snyder said. “We’ve sold out to the cameras over there, and TV has made its way, and I don’t fault TV. I don’t fault whoever broadcasts games. They have to make a living and that’s what they do, but athletics — that’s it. It’s sold out.”

“Everybody is building Taj Mahals,” Snyder said, “and I think it sends the message — and young people today I think are more susceptible to the downside of that message, and that it’s not about education. We’re saying it is, but it’s really about the glitz and the glitter, and I think sometimes values get distorted that way. I hate to think a young guy would make a decision about where he’s going to get an education based on what a building looks like.”

The importance and entertainment value of intercollegiate sports is very important to a college campus/student environment. As a Syracuse alum, some of my best memories of college centered around the basketball team, the football team (Kids, ask your parents about Floyd Little, Jim Brown, Joe Morris, Larry Csonka, Don MacPherson, and Donovan McNabb), and having a venue like the Carrier Dome on campus. To this day, going to see SU’s hoops team play is a great way to re-connect with friends from college. Yet, when these few ‘power conferences’ are given the keys to the kingdom by NCAA leadership and are driving a complete upheaval with all of this conference re-alignment, we really need to take as step back and ask “What the hell is going on here?”. That is what I would have expected the NCAA ‘leadership’ to do, but instead they have given the fox the keys to the hen house.

In the ACC today, seven of the conference’s 15 teams are former Big East teams and now the Big East conference – and the great regional rivalries – has ceased to exist as we know it. How does this make any sense? Tell me how a Syracuse – Florida State game has more relevance to their respective student bodies compared to, say, a Syracuse – UConn game or a Syracuse – Boston College game? Where each of those three schools are within a 4-5 hour drive of each other? Where students at those schools are probably far more likely to directly or indirectly know an alum from the other institutions? Isn’t part of the fun (remember when playing sports was fun!) of sports is busting on your buddy when your team beat his?

College sports has been big business for a long, long time. And the value to the campus culture beyond the sporting arena is clear. I don’t think that can be argued. Yet, the path that collegiate sports has taken to get to this point is nothing short of a shame and as Bill Snyder said in the above referenced article, “we’ve lost sight of what college athletics is all about”.

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Dial Up Still Covers AOL’s Bills

While AOL beat Wall Street estimates this past quarter, it was also revealed that it still has multiple millions people still paying $20 a month for Internet access. How is this possible in 2014?

But as always, the most amazing thing about AOL’s business is the thing that drives AOL’s business: Millions of people, who started paying the company a monthly fee for Internet access more than a decade ago, who continue to pay the company a monthly fee for Internet access, even though they likely aren’t getting Internet access from AOL anymore.

via Re/code

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The Luckiest Man

This week marks the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man On the Face of the Earth” speech when he was honored at Yankee Stadium near the end of his legendary career.

Here is a cool video where the first basemen from all the MLB teams recite his speech and then Derek Jeter concludes it:

The full transcript is below:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

“Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

— Lou Gehrig

Speech transcript via Lou Gehrig’s website

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Tetris Turns 30

The simple yet ultra addictive game Tetris turns 30 years old today. Granted, it’s not nearly as popular as it was ‘back in the day’ but somehow, over the years, the game has survived and continued to have a life of it’s own.

Five years ago Google even honored the game with a Google Doodle.

Tetris junkies can find ample options to play the game online:

Free Tetris
Tetris 24 Hours A Day
Tetris on iTunes/Apple
Tetris on Google Play

Legacy-Unfinished-Alan Cathcart

Bienville Legacy Motorcycle

Is this beautiful or what?

This is a concept prototype design of a Bienville Legacy Motorcycle. But what’s even more interesting is the story behind the design and the desire of one individual to address what he believed was a critical deficiency in America today: The decline of industrial design and craftsmanship.

This prototype was designed by JT Nesbitt of New Orleans, who in motorcycle circles, is considered one of the top designers in that space. He designed the amazingly awesome Confederate Wraith motorcycle. He had a motorcycle studio in New Orleans until it was wiped out back in 2005 when Katrina hit. Fast forward to 2012, when the aforementioned individual walked into Nesbitt’s studio and said “What would you do if you could do anything?”

And from that simple question and a blank check, Nesbitt designed the above prototype motorcycle that, according to the story, brought one man to tears.

“I think we’re at the beginning now of what could be another Renaissance,” says Jim [Jacoby]. “You have more money sitting on the sidelines through private equity and venture capital and in business profits than has ever existed. My goal is to lead through example and inspiration, and say, ‘Let’s believe in great craftsmen first, and put that money to work with them.’ And the byproduct will create all kinds of other business opportunities.”

Not only is the bike an industrial design of unmatched beauty, it is designed to perform as well. It has a 350HP engine and only weighs 350lbs. Think about that for a second. That much power on a bike that light.

The bigger picture point here is that as everyone from coast to coast is obsessed about digital this and app that, some amazingly talented industrial designers are struggling to find the support and resources needed to drive true, game changing innovation that will have positive cascading impacts across the economy.

I know I’m not doing the story justice so take a listen to part one and two of the story on Marketplace – they are definitely worth a listen.

via Marketplace

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Where No One Lives

Really interesting map based on 2010 census that details areas of the United States where there are no people living.

A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.

via mapsbynik

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Bohemian Rhapsody

Clayton Patterson has lived in the Lower East Side of NYC for the past 35 years and has run his Clayton Gallery over that same period of time. He created the Tattoo Society of NYC. He was the one who recorded all the mayhem during the Tomkin’s Square Park riots of 1988 – something that was not at all commonplace in the era before mobile technology. He is the epitome of what people describe as a ‘downtown bohemian’ from the hey day of downtown NYC scene in the 1970s. He was and is an agent of the underground creative scene that made downtown NYC, well, downtown NYC. But the NYC he once knew and loved has disappeared and he has recently decided to move to (of all places) Austria:

If the notion of a New York fixture like Mr. Patterson moving to a chalet in the Alps struck some in his circle as unfathomably strange, it nonetheless possessed a certain logic. There exists in Bad Ischl (Austria), Mr. Patterson contends, a creative community of artists, writers, tattoo designers and musicians that “is very much alive.” Then, too, he happens to be big in Austria — unlike in New York. “They love me over there,” he said. “They think of me as America’s No. 1 underground photographer.”

Still, as the news of his retreat leaked out, the downtown avant-garde shuddered with amazement and despair. “Clayton is the neighborhood — or what’s left of it,” said Ron Kolm, a poet, editor and bookseller who once worked at the Strand with Patti Smith. “I guess I always figured that he’d be the last one standing, surrounded by tall buildings. This really is the end of an era.”

CBGB goes away. Grey’s Papaya goes away. The Knitting Factory goes away. The story goes on and on. Yes, nothing lasts forever but maybe it is true that the real downtown vibe of NYC has also moved to Brooklyn.

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