The Vikings Were Badasses

The Draken Harald Hårfagre. via

Through history and popular culture, the Vikings of the northern parts of Europe (Norway, Sweden, Finland) have always had a the reputation as hardened, sturdy folk who were able to deal with any situation head on, with the matter of fact clarity that make men and women swoon.

In my opinion, the importance of the Norse on European culture has always been underrated. They were prolific explorers and a critical piece of their traveling exploits were the amazingly sturdy, iconic boats that they built.

So as we fast forward a couple of thousand years to present day, we find the Norwegian Sigurd Aase, who in 2008, initiated a project to build a modern day version of the traditional Norse ship – the Draken Harald Hårfagre. The ship looks exactly like the traditional Norse ships, all the way down to the decorations and embellishments, and was built to as close to specification as could be.

The Vikings left almost no record of how they built their ships, or how they sailed them. Draken Harald Hårfagre is a recreation of what the Vikings would call a “Great Ship”, built with archaeological knowledge of found ships, using old boatbuilding traditions and the legends of Viking ships from the Norse sagas.

Yet, at the same time it has very modern technology built into it. Here is a video of it traversing the North Sea during a storm.

From their YouTube page:

Sometimes it is hard to imagine that this was just a couple of months ago. Draken and her crew have been through storms on the North Atlantic Ocean. What an achievement, sailing from Norway, to Shetland Islands, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland – just like the Vikings did a 1000 years ago, and into the St Lawrence Seaway, trough the locks and into the Great Lakes. She made it, it is a real modern Viking voyage.

Now, let’s think back a couple of thousand years when the ‘real’ Vikings sailed around the North sea, wearing handmade fur outerwear, navigating the seas in these boats with nothing but wooden oars. Pretty amazing. Pretty badass.

Visualization of Past Pandemics

Great visualization and fact based article detailing some of Earth’s most significant pandemics, going all the way back to Justinian in the 5th Century. While we are in the early stages of the CoronaVirus (COVID-19) and we have yet to determine the long term human impact of this outbreak, this visual does put it in perspective compared to the Black Death/Bubonic Plague of the 1300’s and the Spanish Flu of the early 20th Century.

What is interesting as noted in the article is how the rise of urbanization, globalization, and the ease in which society can now travel around the world has been a key driver of the spread of pandemic incidents:

We arrive at where we began, with rising global connections and interactions as a driving force behind pandemics. From small hunting and gathering tribes to the metropolis, humanity’s reliance on one another has also sparked opportunities for disease to spread.

Urbanization in the developing world is bringing more and more rural residents into denser neighborhoods, while population increases are putting greater pressure on the environment. At the same time, passenger air traffic nearly doubled in the past decade. These macro trends are having a profound impact on the spread of infectious disease.

As organizations and governments around the world ask for citizens to practice social distancing to help reduce the rate of infection, the digital world is allowing people to maintain connections and commerce like never before.

Nicholas LePan, Visual Capitalist

COVID19 Life – Day 5

Today was the fifth day of the full on quarantine. For many, this experience started way earlier but for me and my family, things have radically changed within the past week as it has for so many others. Thankfully, none of us are showing any symptoms and we all appear healthy.

For me, the hardest part of this experience has been the impact that it has had on my children – one who is a Freshman in college and one who is a Junior in high school. Those ~6 years – late high school and college – are arguably some of the best and most important years in a person’s life, where you grow, where you change, and where you make deep meaningful friendships with your peers. Not to mention, it is the period where you find and hone your interests and try to set a path for the rest of your life. That experience has suddenly been ripped away from my kids and it is just heartbreaking.

My son has been doing virtual schooling via his high school since Monday. My daughter started her virtual college classes today. In general, the transition to virtual classes has been fine, but both have expressed really missing the interactions with their peers and the fun of spending time with their friends. The novelty of it for a week or three may sustain both of them, but I am worried when we get to May and they are still doing the virtual classes. How will their state of mind be by that point? What will be the emotional toll?

The scary thing is that this may not be a temporary thing. This situation could have long, deep, lasting impacts that go beyond when ‘things get back to normal’, because I don’t (and no one knows) what normal will look like. How will colleges and universities operate in the near term, with kids living so close to each other and interacting so closely on a campus? How will this impact kids who are the same age as my children from a social and emotional perspective? For high school kids in their Junior year, how will colleges evaluate their applications and factor this experience into the equation? How will universities factor the emotional and psychological toll of this experience into how these high school Juniors performed during this year? What about the kids who are high school Freshmen and Sophomores? Will all the schools out there transition to become the University of Phoenix?

Those are the things that I am thinking about these days, as we get all sorts of prognosticators predicting how long this will be the way we will live.

Optimistically, the medical community will find a vaccine for COVID-19 and it will eventually go away like mumps, rubella, and polio. But how long will that take? Because, I’m more interested in seeing how ‘social distancing’ will impact how we interact with each other in the near and long term future.

Twitter Tuesday – The Week In Tweets

A Trip Through 1911 NYC

Another amazing restoration of a vintage movie – this time from 1911 – depicting life in and around NYC – using modern computing neural networking capabilities. Many of the scenes in this video could be from today, if not for everyone wearing suits, white straw hats and bowlers. What is most amazing to me is how you can instantly recognize certain street intersections (beyond the obvious Flatiron Building/23rd Street/5th Avenue one). Worth a watch.

MLS Wallpapers Updated for 2020 Season

A touch late after the kickoff of the 2020 MLS season but I have updated all the Home/Away wallpapers to resemble the kits for the full slate of MLS teams. As always, I took a little ‘artistic license’ with some of them however you should find that they all are true to their 2020 kit designs.

Some random thoughts: Piling on with the hatred of the new Chicago Fire logo and highly bland kit designs….I think I like the Toronto FC away kits the best out of the whole league…with the Houston Dynamo’s funky orange striped ones a close second (so funky, I could not replicate it on my version of their wallpaper…will have to revisit it one day soon)…still can’t believe that the NE Revs still have that horrid 1990s faux painted logo…No surprise that Sporting FC has the most elegant, sharpest kit designs.

Here’s to a solid MLS year ahead and hope that keeps momentum for USA soccer as we look to 2022.

A Trip To The Far East Puts the US in Perspective

Renowned blogger Jason Kottke took a trip to the far east, visiting Singapore, Vietnam and then stopping off in Qatar on the way home. You can read the whole post here however what struck me the most within his elegant write up were the last few paragraphs (emphasis mine):

And finally to finish up… Whenever I travel abroad, of course I have thoughts about the overall character of the places I go, but they’re based on such an incomplete experience of those places that I’m hesitant to share them. The Saigon metro area has a population of ~13.5 million and I was there for 2 weeks as a tourist, so what the hell could I possibly know about it beyond the superficial? What I mainly tend to come away with is how those places compare to the United States. What freedoms exist in a place like Vietnam vs Singapore vs Qatar vs the United States? How are those freedoms distributed and who do they benefit? And from what authority are those freedoms derived? The more places I go, the less obviously free the US feels to me in many ways, even though our country’s baseline freedom remains high (for some at least).

But the main observation I came home with after this trip is this: America is a rich country that feels like a poor country. If you look at the investment in and the care put into infrastructure, common areas, and the experience of being in public in places like Singapore, Amsterdam, Paris, and Berlin and compare it to American cities, the difference is quite stark. Individual wealth in America is valued over collective wealth and it shows.

I know that’s a bit of a downer to end on, but despite what you see on Instagram, travel is not always fun & games and often provides some potentially tough lessons and perspectives. You might get your phone stolen and come back feeling a little bit less great about your home country. Them’s the breaks, kid — welcome to the world. Thanks for following along as always

This is a view of the rusted Long Island Bridge. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

His assessment of America feeling like a poor country as a result of a lack of investment in infrastructure, transportation, and public/common areas is so brilliantly on the money. I have subconsciously observed and noticed this when traveling internationally as well, however have never taken the “step back” to articulate the feeling. Sometimes you need to see it written in front of your face.

Twitter Tuesday – The Week In Tweets

  • RT @BarackObama: Even if the methods are new, sowing the seeds of doubt, division, and discord to turn Americans against each other is an o… 2020-02-11
  • RT @tburages: Thirty hours ago news breaks that all four prosecutors in the Roger Stone case suddenly quit because Bill Barr interfered to… 2020-02-13
  • RT @SenSchumer: We are witnessing a crisis in the rule of law in America, unlike we have ever seen before.

    It is a crisis of President Tru… 2020-02-13

  • RT @SethAbramson: Please remember, Trump isn't a man known for loyalty. To anyone. If you're wondering why Trump is bending over backwards… 2020-02-13
  • RT @maggieNYT: This is the second story from the speech that wasn’t as advertised in real time. 2020-02-13

Handy Dandy Map of Math

It is likely that discussing Math may emote a visceral reaction from people of all shapes and types. While there are some out there that adore numbers, there are probably many more that physically recoil at the sight of math problems. For those who are fascinated by how math works or are just interested in digging into how math can literally describe and impact every single thing within the universe, the good folks over at Quanta Magazine have developed a Map of Mathematics. It is a really neat and intuitively interactive map that breaks down the dependencies and interdependencies of different levels of Mathematics, going from the basics of Numbers, Shapes, and Change, to things like Prime Reciprocity, Continuous Symmetries, and Einstein’s Equations.

The discussion, analysis and obsession with Prime Numbers is one that goes back millennia and has spawned all sorts of theories:

Prime numbers are whole numbers larger than 1 that are not divisible by any whole number apart from 1 and themselves. They’re like the atoms of number theory — you can use primes to make any other number.

In the third century B.C., Euclid proved that there are infinitely many primes. He argued that if we multiply all known primes together and add 1, then either this new number N is prime, or N can be divided by a number that’s not on our original list of primes — a new prime. This proves infinitude, but it’s stillborn as a technique: It tells us nothing about the distribution of primes and provides no way to investigate further questions about them.

Today, mathematicians are interested in understanding how often primes occur.

Number theorists create functions of real or complex variables, called analytic functions, that let them study questions about prime numbers. For example, they might ask: Approximately how many primes exist in a short interval? Or in how many ways can a natural number be expressed as a sum of three squares? Analytic functions have properties that address these questions.

The field dates back to the work of Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet in the 19th century. Dirichlet studied “arithmetic progressions,” the list of numbers we get by starting with a natural number A and adding to it multiples of a natural number B. For example, with A = 4 and B = 7 we get: 4, 11, 18, 25, and so on. Dirichlet used analytic functions to prove that as long as A and B don’t have any common prime factor (as in our example), such an arithmetic progression must contain infinitely many primes.

Shapes have long been able to be described and defined using simple to complex math formulas. Interestingly, some of the hardest shapes to define via math are those that have 3 or 4 dimensions.

Mathematicians have understood one- and two-dimensional manifolds since the 19th century. A surprising discovery in the mid-20th century was that shapes with five or more dimensions are also relatively easy to analyze — those extra dimensions provide mathematicians with more room to maneuver, which allows them to bring more techniques to bear. Many of the hardest open problems in topology are in dimensions three and four, where mathematicians still search for a better understanding of how to tell manifolds apart and how to understand the characteristics that distinguish them.

You could get lost in this map of Math for hours. Some of the theories are mind bending on the highest order, yet this interactive map does an exceptional job of making the complex read clearly and succinctly. In today’s data driven world, getting a better grasp of Math concepts and theory may be a good career move.

Enhancing Historical Videos Using Neural Networks

One of the earliest and most famous ‘moving images’ is “L’Arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat”, filmed by Louis Lumière in 1896. It is a very grainy video that shows the arrival of a train at a French train station. It is a very basic video however it is so important because it is one of the first movies ever made.

An enterprising YouTuber named Denis Shiryaev decided that it was time to create a better quality version of this video, so he took the digital version of the video and applied some ‘neural network’ technology to it. The end result is pretty awesome and a really amazing quality view of a day in the life of 1896.

To really get a sense of the improvement of quality, be sure to watch the original video first and then watch the newer one on as big a screen as you can. Just awesome!

via Reddit

The Climate Is A Changin'

Quick PSA regarding a couple of article references about the warming of the planet, from the Exponential View newsletter. This week the CO2 levels as measured by the Keeling Curve measured 414.08ppm, which is up from January, 2017: 406.13ppm and 25 years ago when it was around 360ppm and from 250 years ago, where it was estimated to be at around 250ppm.

You can see the effect of carbon emissions in more stark relief by looking at the Keeling Curve over the past few hundred years, and how there is a noticeable hockey stick growth from roughly the mid 1970s through to today.

What is interesting is that while certain political leaders and others deny that the climate is changing, many cities around the world – many in Europe – are taking matters into their own hands. Cities from Amsterdam to Helsinki to Paris to Birmingham (UK) are taking steps to essentially ban cars from driving in their streets. These proposed changes address both quality of life for the city residents but also do their small part in trying to reduce their city’s ‘carbon footprint’.

Paris: On the first Sunday of each month, the heart of Paris—the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th arrondissements—shuts down to most traffic, turning streets over from cars to pedestrians and cyclists. (A few vehicles, including cars owned by local residents and delivery vehicles, are allowed to enter at access points and drive slowly.) 

Helsinki: In a new development in Helsinki’s Kalasatama neighborhood, none of the new apartments come with parking. It’s one of several ways that the Finnish city is nudging people to drive less; by 2025, Helsinki wants to make alternatives to driving appealing enough that people no longer feel it’s necessary to own a car. “It is important that more and more trips are made by using walking, cycling, and by public transport,” says Anna Pätynen, the city’s traffic and transit engineer. 

Birmingham (UK) once called itself the U.K.’s “motorway city.” Now, after joining dozens of other global cities in declaring a climate emergency in 2019, the city is working on plans to limit access to cars in its city center, creating a new network of pedestrian streets, and turning space over to bikes and public transit. One part of the strategy involves giving businesses incentives to get rid of their parking lots; the city plans to build thousands of homes on them instead. Other neighborhoods will also restrict traffic, particularly around schools. By 2030, Birmingham plans to be carbon neutral, and reducing car use will be one part of hitting that goal.

Adele Peters, Fast Company

The climate is changing rapidly right before our eyes. I live in the Northeast of the United States and it is clear that the ‘traditional’ winter months are noticeably warmer. As the United States Government so aptly proved this week, we can not rely on them to do what is in the best interest of the public and the country. People, cities, and towns need to drive change on their own.


As the country heads into the start of the ever critical 2020 election season, here is a great piece from The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper that profiles the fine, ‘diverse’ (“Iowa is 90% white but the 10% that’s not white, is 100% not white.”) folks of Iowa, the Iowa Caucuses, and why Iowa is first in the electoral primary process.

Klepper left TDS for about two years to try some other projects, and I have to say, I didn’t realize how much I missed his humor and bits until he came back to do the Iowa piece above along with this quietly savage take on a 45 rally in the heart of ‘Pennsyltucky‘, Hershey, PA.

Twitter Tuesday – The Week In Tweets

Twitter Tuesday – The Week In Tweets

Twitter Tuesday – The Week In Tweets

A Call To Sanity

Image Credit: NY Times

I have to wonder if Pelosi’s smart move to hold submission of the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate will maybe make those in the GOP to take a step back and really think about what they have in front of them. Maybe when others in the GOP start to vocalize a strikingly logical perspective, like what Jeff Flake penned in the WaPost, some sense of sanity will start to sink in. Or does nothing truly matter anymore?

But what is indefensible is echoing House Republicans who say that the president has not done anything wrong. He has.

The willingness of House Republicans to bend to the president’s will by attempting to shift blame with the promotion of bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories has been an appalling spectacle. It will have long-term ramifications for the country and the party, to say nothing of individual reputations. 

Nearly all of you condemned the president’s behavior during the 2016 campaign. Nearly all of you refused to campaign with him. You knew then that doing so would be wrong — would be a stain on your reputation and the standing of the Republican Party, and would do lasting damage to the conservative cause.

Ask yourself today: Has the president changed his behavior? Has he grown in office? Has the mantle of the presidency altered his conduct? The answer is obvious. In fact, if the president’s political rally in Michigan on Wednesday is any measure, his language has only become more vulgar, his performance cruder, his behavior more boorish and unstable.

Jeff Flake, OpEd, The Washington Post – 12.21.19

Twitter Tuesday – The Week In Tweets

Quit A Dream Job To Pursue A Film Career…

Said no reasonable parent. Ever.

I am sure that there are all sorts of stories out there about people leaving a plum job to pursue some insane pipe dream, only to actually crush it in that ‘pipe dream’.

Here is a case in point. Colin Levy worked at Pixar. He worked on films like Finding Dory, In and Out, Monsters University and several others. Not a bad place to be as, speaking from personal experience, I was lucky enough to take a tour of the Pixar campus last year as the son of a family friend currently works there and he was gracious enough to give me and my family a tour when we were out in San Francisco. Working at Pixar has to be absolutely awesome. Colin pretty much had the world at his fingertips. So what did he do? He quit to pursue becoming a filmmaker.

And wow, his first crack at it is pretty impressive. It is called Skywatch. It is only 10 minutes long, but wow, it is an impressive effort. Really interesting nugget of an idea – a sci-fi thriller that includes drones in a futuristic world where things can be delivered to your living room through a wall unit. What could go wrong? Great execution. Very well produced and directed. Within the first minute, you get the idea of what is going on.

I’m already looking forward to the full length feature!

UPDATE: Here is a short on how he got an Oscar nominated actor (Jude Law) to be in his short film.