Patrick Stewart on Sesame Street

I can’t believe I haven’t shared this already. Here’s Patrick Stewart on Sesame Street:

I honestly didn’t see that coming until it was happening. Then I laughed euphorically.

But let’s not paint Patrick Stewart into a corner; here’s a sample of his Shakespearian work… also on Sesame Street:

Growing Up in the Universe

Richard Dawkins presented a series of five lectures at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in 1991 titled Growing Up in the Universe explaining in glorious detail the process of Darwinian natural selection and how people (and other animals) came to exist. The entire series is available to watch in full on YouTube.

Each lecture is a full hour, but the investment is well worthwhile. This is how education with apparently unlimited resources might look. Dawkins seems to want for nothing as he presents each day. Dogs, insects, parrots, a famous author, fireworks, an enormous model of an immunoglobulin molecule, an autonomous robot, first editions of some of science’s best known publications, and limitless other props, tools, and visual aids parade through the lecture hall.

Children from the audience volunteer to run computer simulations, operate a scanning electron microscope, engage in a virtual reality simulation, and show their own eyes and faces in demonstrations in front of the camera.

The material is still entirely relevant after 21 years (though of course if presented today the series may have had more to say about DNA sequencing or other modern advancements in the field). I did enjoy that whenever a volunteer came to the dais to operate a computer simulation Dawkins was motivated to ask, “Have you ever used a computer with a mouse before?”

Ultimately the presentation is at once both a spectacular explanation of Darwinian natural selection and an awe-inspiring look into what education can do with the proper resources. I tried watching it in the background while doing other work, and frequently found myself quite entirely drawn in. At least give the first video a try, and see if you’re not compelled to take on the remaining four:




Interstates as Subway Diagram

Interstates as Subway Diagram

Interstates as Subway Diagram

I loved this the moment I read the title: Interstates as Subway Diagram. Designer Cameron Booth crafted this map of the Eisenhower Interstate System in the style of a subway map, emphasizing connections rather than literal geography.

If you’re planning a drive from Los Angeles to Denver, for example, the route is obvious: I-10 to I-15 to I-70.

In the era of Google Maps we can obsess over the literal geography of a trip in a way never before possible, even previewing an entire cross-country trip in Street View before ever getting into the car. But on the Interstates, you’re in a world of exits and interchanges where the geographical details of when the road ascends a hill or veers north are wholly irrelevant.

This map embraces that spirit, and is a work of art in its own right.

Booth sells posters of the map (36 by 24 inches) for $49 with shipping, as well as a similar diagram of numbered US Highways. His Flickr feed includes some other transit-themed diagrams (e.g., the TGV routes in France or Europe’s E-Road network) along with more than a little photography.

(via Lifehacker)

Ryan Astamendi

I wanted to include some links to Ryan Astamendi’s other photography when posting the “Real Princesses” yesterday, but there are so many extraordinary pictures there I didn’t want to bury them.

With over 300 entries on his blog dating back to 2006, Astamendi covers a wide range of styles, with astoundingly elegant results across the board.

Here’s John and his daughter Meredith (age 8) at the Vasquez Rocks park outside Los Angeles:

John and Meredith

John and Meredith

And Katya, dancing:



Gabbi, posing with a flower, has some interesting use of color:



Anne, doing nothing more interesting than smiling, makes one of the most compelling pictures:



Really every picture on the site is just wonderful. The newer photographs often have a sexier edge, but there’s still a lot of elegance and playfulness to be had. If you start back at the beginning of the blog in 2006 and work forward, the evolution of ideas and style is almost tangible. Bottom line: this blog definitely warrants a subscription.

The Real Princesses

In the wake of the “realistic” Disney princesses and then the “fashion” Disney princesses, we turn now to Ryan Astamendi’s photographs of actual Disney princesses: real people with costumes, hair, and makeup, looking every bit like the characters we know and love.

Snow White

Snow White



I couldn’t find a single listing of all the princess pictures on Astamendi’s own site, but here are direct links to each:

Also enjoyable are pictures of the models who played the princesses photographed looking at their own princess photographs.

I imagine any quest to find the ultimate Disney princess art ends here.

Sassy CSS

Cascading Stylesheets are a brilliant and now ubiquitous mechanism for styling webpages. Draw borders, add colors, arrange the content, and make the whole site look presentable. Of course, CSS is not perfect.

The major annoyance for me has been the lack of support for variables. I’d like to say, “I want the same color on this border, this text, and this background,” or, “I want this padding to be the same as this margin and that border width.”

Sass solves this problem by extending the CSS language. Any valid CSS file is already valid SCSS, but in an SCSS file you can do a lot more. Whenever you change your SCSS file, sass automatically recompiles it into a valid CSS file. Browsers are indifferent, since they’re just getting standard CSS all along, but web authors get a much better development experience.

Variables are of particular interest to me, and sass supports them:

$color = #efefef;
.something { border-color: $color; }
.something-else { background: $color; }

And that’s only the beginning. Variables can also be used in mathematical expressions (e.g., width: $standard-width - 10px; to account for some padding, perhaps), and even in functions that generate CSS rules with slight variations.

I also particularly like the ability to add “parent references”:

#some .lengthy .selector a {
    color: black;
    &:hover { text-decoration: underline; }
    &:visited { color: purple; }

I just started using SCSS, and I already love it.

What Have I Done!

My hotel had a lot going on yesterday. The morning began with breakfast:

Today's Schedule (1)

Today's Schedule (1)

In the evening the restaurant opened for dinner. Don’t forget room service can bring meals while one lounges in bed in pajamas if the trip downstairs is just too much work.

Today's Schedule (2)

Today's Schedule (2)

Finally, when you’re finished with all the food, visit the board room for a relevant meeting.

Today's Schedule (3)

Today's Schedule (3)

I wonder if they’re trying to send a message.

Dani Lierow

The Tampa Bay Times reported four years ago on the story of Dani Lierow, which is the saddest non-fictional account I have ever read. Dani entered civilization for the first time at age six when a neighbor called the police to report a case of child abuse. The call was well warranted. Reporter Lane DeGregory describes what the responding officers encountered at her house:

First he saw the girl’s eyes: dark and wide, unfocused, unblinking. She wasn’t looking at him so much as through him.

She lay on a torn, moldy mattress on the floor. She was curled on her side, long legs tucked into her emaciated chest. Her ribs and collarbone jutted out; one skinny arm was slung over her face; her black hair was matted, crawling with lice. Insect bites, rashes and sores pocked her skin. Though she looked old enough to be in school, she was naked — except for a swollen diaper.

“The pile of dirty diapers in that room must have been 4 feet high,” the detective said. “The glass in the window had been broken, and that child was just lying there, surrounded by her own excrement and bugs.”

Dani had, for nearly seven years, experienced almost no human interaction. She “missed the chance” to learn speech. She had scarcely been held, and likely had never been allowed outdoors.

Her caseworker determined that she had never been to school, never seen a doctor. She didn’t know how to hold a doll, didn’t understand peek-a-boo. “Due to the severe neglect,” a doctor would write, “the child will be disabled for the rest of her life.”

This is more injustice than should exist in the whole world, heaped onto a single innocent human being. Dani didn’t starve because she was born into poverty. She didn’t crave the outdoors because she lived somewhere unsafe. She suffered simply because her mother did not think it important to interact with her child.

I can’t begin to summarize this story. Read the article in full and visit the Dani’s Story website to see pictures of Dani more recently with her new family. Bernie and Diane Lierow adopted Dani at age eight knowing that she still wore diapers, that she couldn’t speak, and that she may never develop in the most basic ways parents wish for their children. The amount of good they’ve done can’t ever undo the evil that’s already been wrought, but it is all anyone could ever give.

As I had hoped, the Dani’s Story website does include a link to donate via PayPal toward Dani’s therapy and long-term care. Nobody’s asked for anything, but the ability to donate — to do something — just feels necessary when we are all so powerless to do anything more substantial.