Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
John Hodgman is known to millions as the "PC" of recent Apple ads, but that's hardly his best work. Hodgman wrote the instant classic The Areas of My Expertise (check out the audiobook if you have a chance -- it's the best thing ever), and his regular appearances As Resident Expert on The Daily Show are some the show's best segments. In February Hogdman gave a brilliant TED Talk in which he discussed a series of strange events in his past, each of which led him to believe that something strange was... READ ON
Word nerds love Erin McKean. If you aren't yet familiar with her oeuvre, here's the short version: McKean is a totally hip editor/lexicographer for the New Oxford American Dictionary. She's spoken at both Google and TED, and she's the top Dictionary Evangelist of our day. She's the author of Weird and Wonderful Words, More Weird and Wonderful Words, Totally Weird and Wonderful Words, and That's Amore (which is also about words). Got it? Okay, let's nerd out on words. In a recent article for the... READ ON
Woot is hands-down my favorite place to buy strange things on the Internet. The idea is simple: one thing per day, one price, cheap shipping. They put up a new thing each day, slap a price on it (generally a low-low price), and sell it until they run out, or until tomorrow comes (specifically, "tomorrow" occurs at 11:59pm Central Time in the U.S.). The items are all over the map, though typically they're electronics of some sort -- MP3 players, laptops, television sets, speakers, thumb drives, and so... READ ON
With just two weeks left until election day in the U.S., the race is no longer heating up: it's at a steady boil. Early voting has begun, a full eight national tracking polls are cranking out numbers daily, and the campaigns are on the ground nationwide Getting Out the Vote. If you haven't voted yet (or if you just can't get enough political coverage), I urge you to check out Frontline's The Choice 2008 program online. You can watch the whole thing for free -- and I think you'll find it worthwhile.... READ ON
In 1931, Harry Beck drew a diagram of the London Underground (aka the Tube), making visual sense of an extremely complex system. Today Beck's map is displayed in the Museum of Modern Art, and is considered a classic work of design. Beck's work is the template for modern subway and train maps, and his influence is seen worldwide in the way we conceptualize public transportation.
Beck's central breakthrough was making a map that simplified geography to achieve maximum clarity. He reasoned that the... READ ON
In previous entries, I've talked about my initial adventure with sleep apnea and my subsequent sleep study. The gist of those entries is that I was diagnosed with "severe" obstructive sleep apnea, with an AHI (Apnea-Hypopnea Index) of 48. This number means I had an average of 48 sleep interruption "events" per hour -- these events range from blood-oxygen desaturation to a complete closure of the airway. There are lots of people out there with worse cases than mine (including readers of this blog!), so I... READ ON
Nick Mamatas is a published author. He has two novels in print, and a good bit of other stuff out there as well. So it's something of a shock when he admits, "for several years I made much of my freelance income writing term papers." Last week Mamatas published a fascinating article on his time in the term paper-writing industry. He explains what goes on in such an operation, breaks down the types of clients he worked with, and comments on the apparent legality of the practice (though it's, uh, more... READ ON
Garrett Lisi is a physicist...and a surfer who lives in a van down by the beach. In his TED Talk from February, he described a way of understanding the world (as a large thing) by looking at the tiniest things we can find. How does the world work at tiny scales? How does the Large Hadron Collider help us figure this out? How is a coral a pretty good metaphor for the patterns of subatomic particles? Lisi explains all of this in surprisingly followable language. (I did find myself rewinding and... READ ON
The Panic of 1873 marked the beginning of The Long Depression. Although most of us today think of The Great Depression as the canonical American Depression, The Long Depression was a big deal in its own right, and has worldwide effects. It lasted twenty-three years, and according to Wikipedia, "The primary cause of the depression was a shortage of available money to facilitate trade." Sound familiar?Today New York Times writer Jennifer 8. Lee (yes, her middle initial is a number) looks at the... READ ON
Slate write Sara Dickerman had a problem: her 4-year-old son didn't want to eat his vegetables. This problem is not uncommon, of course, but effective solutions are rare. (Personal digression: I recall one incident around age 5 when I had to sit at the dinner table contemplating my bowl of pea soup for what seemed like hours. I don't recall whether I finally ate it, but these days I love pea soup. Who knew?) Anyway, Dickerman tried the standard solutions -- cooking with him, putting more vegetables... READ ON
Taco Bell is named for its founder, Glen Bell.