Can a Novelist Be Too Productive? by Stephen King [New York Times] [Op-Ed]
“No one in his or her right mind would argue that quantity guarantees quality, but to suggest that quantity never produces quality strikes me as snobbish, inane and demonstrably untrue.”
"Every County in America Ranked by Natural Beauty" -- Christopher Ingram of the Washington Post presents an interactive map comparing the "natural amenities" of every county in the continental US, from a USDA study of "six measures of climate, topography, and water area that reflect environmental qualities most people prefer." [more inside]
Since the controversial 2010 takeover of the British company Cadbury, by the makers of processed cheese slices Kraft, consumers of chocolate have been dismayed at the many changes brought in by the new owners. But the breaking point of many has been reached as the recipe for Cadbury Creme Eggs in the UK is changed, replacing dairy milk chocolate with standard cocoa mix chocolate. To add insult to culinary injury, Mondelez International, owned by Kraft Foods, is also introducing five eggs in a pack instead of three and six-packs. The opinions of actors and wallpaper designers. [more inside]
The OECD has for a long time offered up measures of human wellbeing across a range of indices. Now they've taken the resolution a step further, providing measures of well being at a regional level for 300 regions/provinces/states across the developed world. How does your neck of the woods fare? What other part of the world is comparable to where you live? Allow your location and see.
Why is so much stuff mediocre? Matt Stohrer, saxophone repairman, has an explanation he has dubbed The Unprofitable Valley.
A few people at the Max Planck Society have put together an interactive visualizer of research paper quality called Excellence Mapping (Requires you to email a bot for a password). It shows the number of papers published at each institution in a given field, as well as the percentage of those papers in the top 10% of papers cited in that field. Some potentially surprising results come up, as noted by the Physics ArXiV blog: “In physics and astronomy, for example, two of the top three institutions in physics and astronomy are Spanish: the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona and ICREA (Institucio Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avancats) also in Barcelona. Ranked 8th, above Harvard and MIT, is Partners Healthcare System, a non-profit healthcare organisation based in Boston that funds research, mostly in the life sciences.” The creators of the tool also published a paper on the ArXiV about their techniques.
The Quality of Life: As Macaulay once noted: “If men are to wait for liberty till they become good and wise in slavery, they may indeed wait forever.”
Dale Askey is a librarian. He blogs. In August 2010, Dale was a tenured associate professor at Kansas State University, where librarians are granted faculty status. There, Dale blogged about the quality, and prices, of publications from Edwin Mellen Press. Edwin Mellen Press has served McMaster University (Dale's current employer) and himself with a three million dollar lawsuit, alleging libel and claiming aggravated and exemplary damages. [more inside]
Alan Cooper and the Goal Directed Design Process The heart of the problem, he concludes, is that the people responsible for developing software products don’t know precisely what constitutes a good product. It follows that they also do not know what processes lead to a good product. In short, they are operating by trial and error, with outcomes like customer satisfaction achieved by little more than blind luck. By Hugh Dubberly, first published AIGA GAIN Journal, 2001
"A ballet dancer needs a mirror to perfect her style, her technique. A singer needs the same -- an aural mirror."In 1950 and '51, Japan’s first reel-to-reel tape recorders, the "G-Type" (for gov't use) and the "H-1" (for home use) were released by a company named Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo. Music student Norio Ohga was unimpressed by the wobbly sound of "Talking Paper," so he wrote a note complaining to the firm's founders, who hired him. Mr. Ohga never achieved his original dream of becoming a baritone opera singer, but the future President of TTK, (later renamed Sony,) would still make an indelible, global impact on the world of music -- including the development and introduction of the compact disc. Mr. Ohga died on April 24, 2011. [more inside]
"It’s the vehicular equivalent of the AK-47. It’s ubiquitous to insurgent warfare. And actually, recently, also counterinsurgent warfare. It kicks the hell out of the Humvee." It may suck to drive, but the tough and agile Toyota Hilux is the insurgent's vehicle of choice in Afghanistan. U.S. Special Forces prefer the comparable American-built Toyota Tacoma.
Yet Another YouTube Script, by eugenox. Unlike nearly every other predecessing YouTube userscripts that erratically worked or broke with site revisions, this userscript interfaces with the YouTube Player API to globally control autoplay and playback quality to stop the repeated web annoyance of YouTube autoplay. (It also lets you pick a lower or higher quality video as your default.) [more inside]
Great Moments in Movie History. Scenes in a film taken out of context can be very funny. Though sometimes they were just funny anyway. [more inside]
W. Edwards Deming: Noted consultant, and proponent of total quality management. The prevailing forces of destruction start early in life-grades in school from toddler on up through the university, gold stars for school athletics, merit system or annual appraisal on the job, incentive pay, work standards, MBO (rather, MBIR: Management by Imposition of Results), MBR (Management by Results). These forces of destruction must be replaced by leadership.... The transformation will restore the individual; will abolish grades in school on up through the university; will abolish the annual appraisal of people on the job, MBO, quotas for production, specified requirements that people work 57 minutes out of every hour, incentive pay, monthly or quarterly reports on business targets, competition between people, competition between divisions, and other forms of suboptimisation. Leadership will replace these bad practices, and will restore the individual.
Korea, the Beats, Quality, and Mental Illness: A fantastic interview with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance's Robert Pirsig.
Hospital Compare: which are the better hospitals in your area?
Governors Work to Improve H.S. Education The nation's governors offered an alarming account of the American high school Saturday, saying only drastic change will keep millions of students from falling short. "We can't keep explaining to our nation's parents or business leaders or college faculties why these kids can't do the work," said Virginia Democratic Gov. Mark Warner, as the state leaders convened for the first National Education Summit aimed at rallying governors around high school reform.
The Salon Death March continues. I personally thought the nadir was the cover story last week featuring a photographer reminiscing about almost nailing Marylin (not work-safe), but no...now Salon has dared to crawl into the underbelly of this country and expose the horror of...hippie parents. Good to see the most high-profile online magazine tackling these hard-hitting issues. How's that stock price doing again?
Bottled water a waste of money, no better than most tap water, and environmentally unfriendly.