December 2018

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Au Revoir, Le Grand K

Mass of a Kilogram to be Redefined

Oddly enough, every measurement of mass made anywhere on Earth is tied back to this one cylindrical object. Known as “Le Grand K,” the cylinder, cast in 1879, is kept carefully sequestered in a secure, controlled environment outside Paris.

[…]

On May 20, 2019, Le Grand K will lose its special status, and the mass of a kilogram will be defined by a fundamental constant of nature known as the Planck constant. At the same time, other mainstays of the metric system will also be revamped: the ampere (the unit of electric current), the kelvin (the unit of temperature) and the mole (the unit for amount of substance).

One. Two. Ten!

Inside the Making of Home Alone’s Fake Gangster Movie

Reeking of authenticity, Angels with Filthy Souls is not just a uniquely persuasive parody. It’s the perfect movie-within-a-movie: a one-minute-and-20-second noir-in-a-nutshell that feels like a fleeting glimpse of a long-lost classic. Its dialogue is crisp, the characters and performances credible, the rapid escalation of its drama enthralling. Plus it culminates in not just the most memorable utterance in Home Alone but one of the great movie lines of all time: “Keep the change, ya filthy animal”.

Unintended Behaviors of AI

Mentioned in January’s newsletter, Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, has a thought experiment that goes…

Suppose we have an AI whose only goal is to make as many paper clips as possible. The AI will realize quickly that it would be much better if there were no humans because humans might decide to switch it off. Because if humans do so, there would be fewer paper clips. Also, human bodies contain a lot of atoms that could be made into paper clips. The future that the AI would be trying to gear towards would be one in which there were a lot of paper clips but no humans.

Out of Bostrom’s thought exercise came Joscha Bach’s Lebowski Theorem stating that, “No superintelligent AI is going to bother with a task that is harder than hacking its reward function.”

Victoria Krakovna has begun aggregating a list of AI who have gamed their objective or reward system.

Examples:

  • “Agent pauses the game indefinitely to avoid losing.”

  • “Agent kills itself at the end of level 1 to avoid losing in level 2.”

  • “A robotic arm trained to slide a block to a target position on a table achieves the goal by moving the table itself.”

  • “In an artificial life simulation where survival required energy but giving birth had no energy cost, one species evolved a sedentary lifestyle that consisted mostly of mating in order to produce new children which could be eaten (or used as mates to produce more edible children).”

  • “AI trained to classify skin lesions as potentially cancerous learns that lesions photographed next to a ruler are more likely to be malignant.”

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Thanks for reading. Have a great holiday season,

Clay

November 2018

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

“Listen, it takes a long time to go broke buying Ferraris”

What the Hell Happened to Darius Miles?

I remember one day I was running late for practice, so I was flying down the 405. All of a sudden, I look in the rearview, and I see the flashing lights. This unmarked police truck is right up on me. Tinted windows. Big heavy-duty truck. Woop-woop.

I knew I was speeding. So I pull over, and I roll the window down, and I’m reaching over into the glove compartment to get my papers ….

… Then I hear this voice. Big, booming voice.

“WHERE YOU G’WAN, BOY?”

I’m like, Damn, they got the sergeant on me or something?

I turn to look out the window, and I can’t even see this dude’s face he’s so big. All I see is his chest.

“I SAID WHERE YOU G’WAN BOY?”

Then he bends down and looks in the window.

Big, dumbass grin on his face.

It’s Shaq.

I’m like, “Yo! I’m going to practice! You made me late!”

He don’t miss a beat. He taps side of my truck, turns around and says, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll pay your fine. Just holler at me.”

I’m looking in the rearview mirror, like, How the hell …

I built a desk once…twice actually

How One Man Made Stardew Valley

Then there’s Stardew Valley—a humble, intimate farming adventure about the monotony of domestic life, in which you spend dozens of hours parenting cabbages. Eric was a team of one. It took him four and a half years to design, program, animate, draw, compose, record, and write everything in the game, working 12-hour days, seven days a week.

When I first played Stardew Valley all I wanted was to play it on an iPad. Stardew Valley for iOS was released in late October. If you do decide to give it a shot, the Wiki is required reading as far as I am concerned.

Greenland is a Poser

The Mercator projection is a cylindrical map projection presented by the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569. It became the standard map projection for nautical navigation because of its ability to represent lines of constant course, known as rhumb lines or loxodromes, as straight segments that conserve the angles with the meridians. Although the linear scale is equal in all directions around any point, thus preserving the angles and the shapes of small objects (making it a conformal map projection), the Mercator projection distorts the size of objects as the latitude increases from the Equator to the poles, where the scale becomes infinite. So, for example, landmasses such as Greenland and Antarctica appear much larger than they actually are, relative to landmasses near the equator such as Central Africa.

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Clay

October 2018

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Ping of Pong

The Tables

A look at the powerful connection between a pair of outdoor ping pong tables in the heart of New York City and the unlikely group of people they’ve brought together, from homeless people to investment bankers to gangbangers.

COFH, BIRF, CORS

The Unique Neurology of the Sports Fan’s Brain

Affiliation with sports teams, it seems, is a contemporary form of tribalism. “Our sports heroes are our warriors,” Cialdini once remarked. And tribal affiliation, along with satisfying our need for a sense of belonging, produces another social pleasure that’s not so warm and fuzzy: the good vibes of walloping your opponent. It’s what Germans call schadenfreude, literally “harm-joy,” the pleasure derived from others’ misfortune.

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Clay

September 2018

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Dun-Dun—Dunnnn

An Oral History of ‘GoldenEye 007’ on the N64

GoldenEye 007 was originally planned to be a 2D, single-player side-scrolling game, much like Donkey Kong, another game that British developers Rare were producing at the time for the SNES. However, lead developer Martin Hollis suggested it be a 3D first-person shooter for the Nintendo 64, a system and technology that didn’t even fully exist yet. He got his way, and assembled a ragtag team of new-to-gaming developers to begin working on what was expected to be “just another film license” game — games that typically rode the movie’s fame, but didn’t prove to be smash hits, critically or commercially.

And just to cut to the chase…

Oddjob is cheating: He is banned. That said, I have only played with a caliber of people who would never consider choosing him, so it has never been an issue.

Rich Uncle Pennybags

How an Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald’s Monopoly Game and Stole Millions

Jerome Jacobson and his network of mobsters, psychics, strip-club owners, and drug traffickers won almost every prize for 12 years, until the FBI launched Operation ‘Final Answer.’

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Clay

August 2018

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Home is Where the Dryptosaurus is

Locate modern addresses on Earth 750 million years ago

300 million years ago the current location of my home emerged from the sea. Some of my neighbors may have also arrived at that time.

Good Design is as Little Design as Possible

Ten Principles for Good Design

Gary Hustwit has a documentary about designer Dieter Rams coming out soon.

From objects to influence, Rams’ contribution to our everyday lives is expansive.

“Dieter Rams’ ability to bring form to a product so that it clearly, concisely and immediately communicates its meaning is remarkable… He remains utterly alone in producing a body of work so consistently beautiful, so right, and so accessible.” – Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer

Bo-Yo

Good One: Can’t Handle This

A part of me loves you,
A part of me hates you,
A part of me needs you,
A part of me fears you.

In this podcast, Jesse David Fox and Bo Burnham discuss the finale to Bo’s special, ‘Make Happy’. In an auto-tuned Kanye-esque rant we hear about Pringles, Chipotle, and Bo’s view of the audience and performing.

Bo has directed a movie called Eighth Grade receiving tremendous acclaim. The production company for the film, A24, has had recent success with Ladybird, Moonlight, The Disaster Artist, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Ex Machina, and The Lobster.

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Book ‘Em

Bill Gates has his 5 books worth reading this summer.

I’ve read some terrific books lately. When I pulled together this list of five that you might enjoy this summer, I realized that several of my choices wrestle with big questions. What makes a genius tick? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where does humanity come from, and where are we headed?

I’m in the middle of Factfulness. Gates provides some great notes about the book.

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Clay

July 2018

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

The Cup and the Ball

How the New World Cup Ball was Designed to Not Influence the Games

The Telstar 18, the design for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, is as close to a perfect sphere as you can get. It has subtle pimples and six thermally bonded panels designed to avoid knuckling, which is the characteristic bobbing and weaving movement when a ball is kicked without spin. All 32 teams have been able to play with it since November in preparation for the tournament, which runs from June 14 to July 15. But despite its similarities to the old ball, players have grumbled about the Telstar 18. Compared to the last few World Cup balls, the Telstar 18 is very similar to the ball used for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It won’t fly quite as far down the pitch, and will wobble in the air a little differently, but aerodynamic testing suggests it will be more stable in the air overall.

“As god as my witness, he is broken in half!”

Hell in a Cell, The Whole Story

We have just ‘celebrated’ the 20 year anniversary of The Undertaker vs. Mankind in Hell in a Cell. I have known the phrase, “In 1998 The Undertaker threw Mankind off Hell in a Cell.” as a meme. What I didn’t know is how absolutely insane the events of this match were.

Body Issues

ESPN The Body Issue

As if watching professional athletes be nearly perfect at their sport wasn’t enough…

Don’t miss previous issues in their Body Issue Archive.

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Book ‘Em

In his second book, Living with the Monks, Itzler goes to live on a monastery for 15 days. This is the follow up book to one of my favorite books, Living with a SEAL.

Living with the Monks

Getting over the fear of being embarrassed is one of the most liberating gifts you can give yourself.
– Jesse Itzler

Get a copy here.

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Clay

June 2018

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Architectural and Interiors Photographers

I’ve found myself going off the deep end of architectural and interiors photography in the last few weeks. Below are a few links to some work I’ve been admiring.

Zip It…

Zip it real good

Don’t ever expect to see how zippers are made at YKK. Founded in 1934, Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha is the world’s zipper kingpin, and it keeps its manufacturing secrets under lock and key. As John Balzar explains in the Los Angeles Times, that’s partly because YKK makes everything—and we mean everything—on its own.

“YKK smelts its own brass, concocts its own polyester, spins and twists its own thread, weaves and color-dyes cloth for its zipper tapes, forges and molds its scooped zipper teeth, extrudes the monofilament for coil zippers, hammers and paints the sliders, clamps the stops, attaches the dangley pulls in a thousand varieties, and even fabricates the cardboard boxes in which zippers are packaged. Naturally, YKK makes the machines that make the components.”

Since YKK controls all aspects of its business, it’s widely viewed by design companies as the most dependable and consistent zipper brand on the planet. (Case in point: At Slate, Seth Stevenson points out that “When the Japanese earthquake hit in 2011 many supply chains were shredded, but YKK kept rolling along.”) For that reason alone, YKK is a major player in the (very niche) high-end zipper market.

I never knew there was so much to know about zippers.

Are you my friend?

Study reveals how many hours it takes to make friends.

In a new report published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Associate Professor of Communication Studies Jeffrey Hall found that it takes roughly 50 hours of time together to move from mere acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours to go from that stage to simple “friend” status and more than 200 hours before you can consider someone your close friend.

This means time spent hanging out, joking around, playing video games and the like. Hours spent working together just don’t count as much, Hall’s study found.

Hall’s colleagues developed an ”Interactive Friendship Tool” to guess whether someone is an acquaintance, casual friend, friend or close friend.

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Clay

May 2018

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

“Hey Watson, what’s my personality?”

IBM Watson’s Personality Insights

A well-accepted theory of psychology, marketing, and other fields is that human language reflects personality, thinking style, social connections, and emotional states. The frequency with which we use certain categories of words can provide clues to these characteristics. Several researchers found that variations in word usage in writings such as blogs, essays, and tweets can predict aspects of personality.

IBM conducted a set of studies to understand whether personality characteristics inferred from social media data can predict people’s behavior and preferences.

40 Year Anthem

“Y.M.C.A.”

It was 1977, and we were leaving a photography session on 23rd Street. Jacques Morali saw the big pink YMCA on 23rd and asked, “What is this YMCA, anyway? “And after laughing at his accent, we told him the Y was a place where you could go when you first came to New York when you didn’t have any money — you can stay there for very little. And of course, someone joked, “Yeah, but don’t bend over in the showers. “And Jacques, bless his heart, said, “I will write a song about this!”

Om Nom

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

Frito-Lay had a formidable research complex near Dallas, where nearly 500 chemists, psychologists and technicians conducted research that cost up to $30 million a year, and the science corps focused intense amounts of resources on questions of crunch, mouth feel and aroma for each of these items. Their tools included a $40,000 device that simulated a chewing mouth to test and perfect the chips, discovering things like the perfect break point: people like a chip that snaps with about four pounds of pressure per square inch.

To get a better feel for their work, I called on Steven Witherly, a food scientist who wrote a fascinating guide for industry insiders titled, “Why Humans Like Junk Food.” I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it… you can just keep eating it forever.”

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Book ‘Em

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts

We deify willpower and self-control, and mock its absence. People who achieve through remarkable willpower are “strong” and “heroic.” People who need help or structure are “weak.” This is crazy—because few of us can accurately gauge or predict our willpower. We not only overestimate it, we chronically underestimate the power of triggers in our environment to lead us astray. Our environment is a magnificent willpower-reduction machine.

– Marshall Goldsmith

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Clay

April 2018

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

Can you say…Hero?

I would usually put a brief pull quote or my favorite remarks from the article here but, set aside half an hour and read this. You will feel a refreshed sense of care and peace.

In celebration of Mister Rogers’ 90th birthday and the 50th year anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood:

Last Man Standing

Fortnite vs. PUBG

There are an insane number of people playing both PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (over 30 million players) and Fortnite (over 45 million players).

Both games are also pulling wild viewership numbers on Twitch. In February, Twitch streamed 65.44 million hours of Fortnite gameplay and 43.33 million hours of PUBG gameplay. 600,000 people watched Ninja stream Fortnite with Drake…at 3am…on a Thursday.

I think it is widely agreed that Fortnite is a better game. Fortnite is a blast but it never feels high stakes. In PUBG I can hear my pulse. No, not my character’s pulse – my actual beating heart pounding in my ears.

Phony

Millions Are Hounded for Debt They Don’t Owe. One Victim Fought Back, With a Vengeance.

“When the scammers started to hound Therrien, he hounded them right back. Obsessed with payback, he spent hundreds of hours investigating the dirty side of debt. By day he was still promoting ice cream brands and hiring models for liquor store tastings. But in his spare time, he was living out a revenge fantasy. He befriended loan sharks and blackmailed crooked collectors, getting them to divulge their suppliers, and then their suppliers above them. In method, Therrien was like a prosecutor flipping gangster underlings to get to lieutenants and then the boss. In spirit, he was a bit like Liam Neeson’s vigilante character in the movie Taken—using unflagging aggression to obtain scraps of information and reverse-engineer a criminal syndicate. Therrien didn’t punch anyone in the head, of course. He was simply unstoppable over the phone.”

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Book ‘Em

Ego is the Enemy

The question to ask, when you feel pride, then, is this: What am I missing right now that a more humble person might see?
– Ryan Holiday

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Clay

March 2018

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Slurp

The Amazing History and the Strange Invention of the Bendy Straw

Friedman inserted a screw into the straw toward the top (see image). Then he wrapped dental floss around the paper, tracing grooves made by the inserted screw. Finally, he removed the screw, leaving a accordion-like ridge in the middle of the once-straight straw. Voila! he had created a straw that could bend around its grooves to reach a child’s face over the edge of a glass.

Friedman filed for the patent on a “Drinking tube” in 1936.

The main object of my invention is to provide a soda straw or similar drinking tube with a flexible section so positioned that the tube may be bent during use without substantially reducing the diameter of the straw.

Olympic HQ

Set, Put, Run

A Verb for Our Frantic Times

HER birthday: must set plans in motion. Run a bath, put on cologne, set the table. High anxiety. Run down list: set watch again, put water in glasses, set flowers. Run to the window — phew! Watch her put a finger to the doorbell. Such joy! What timing! And just as the sun sets, too!

Thus does an evening beckon, full of pleasantry and promise. But as described here it notes events in a manner of considerable interest for the lexicographer. For scattered within the vocabulary of this 54-word drama are 11 uses of the three most complex verbs in the English language: “set,” “put” and “run.”

Reason to Forget

Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read…and the movies and TV shows we watch

In the internet age, recall memory — the ability to spontaneously call information up in your mind — has become less necessary. It’s still good for bar trivia, or remembering your to-do list, but largely, Horvath says, what’s called recognition memory is more important. “So long as you know where that information is at and how to access it, then you don’t really need to recall it,” he says.

Research has shown that the internet functions as a sort of externalized memory. “When people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself,” as one study puts it.

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Book ‘Em

This book is atop almost every ‘greatest books’ list I have ever seen.

Man’s Search for Meaning

Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.

By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant. Therefore, we can predict his future only within the large framework of a statistical survey referring to a whole group; the individual personality, however, remains essentially unpredictable. The basis for any predictions would be represented by biological, psychological or sociological conditions. Yet one of the main features of human existence is the capacity to rise above such conditions, to grow beyond them. Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary.
– Viktor Frankl

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Clay