Beating the (Dow) Joneses

From an article by Paul Graham on Beating the Averages comes this gem:

If you do everything the way the average startup does it, you should expect average performance. The problem here is, average performance means that you'll go out of business. The survival rate for startups is way less than fifty percent. So if you're running a startup, you had better be doing something odd. If not, you're in trouble.

I've worked for many clients and companies who did nothing so well as obsess over what their competitors were doing and how best to do exactly the same. At the same time, there was always a belief that these same competitors were stupid, lazy, slow, wrongheaded, and whatever else they could think to make themselves feel superior in comparision. This contradictory behavior has always been explained to me as careful analysis of the competition with an eye toward borrowing the best and discarding the rest. But it seems to me to be a strategy based on fear and won't get you very far, relatively speaking. (via eb)

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

If only Peter Jackson could have found a way to make the LOTR book trilogy into four 2h45m movies instead of three. I just finished watching the Two Towers extended version and, as with the first movie, the extra 43 minutes of footage adds significantly to the plot and pacing of the film. This is how the film should have been shown in the theatre, but at 3h45m long, many wouldn't sit through it or even buy the tickets in the first place. Perhaps a way could have been found to split the entire tale into four parts so that the valuable extended footage could have been shown. The only problem is with three books and four movies...what do you call the fourth movie?

23 Nov 03    rating 85/100

I'm skeptical when it comes to marketing, but even so, some of brands on this list seem to have succeeded almost in spite of the marketing. LeBron was going to get a mega contract and mega endorsements no matter who his agent was. Bend It Like Beckham got positive word of mouth because it was a good movie. The iPod sold itself, especially when it didn't have any competitors to speak of. A former drug dealer turned rapper? 50 Cent doesn't need marketing, especially when Dre and Eminem put him on their albums (an *obvious* marketing move...you'd have to be stupid not to do it). When you're marketing good products, is it good marketing or are the products doing all the work?

comment on worth skimming, Nov 23

The photo of Colonel Sanders doing the Cabbage Patch is the most disturbing image you've ever posted on this site. And that includes the MJ mugshot from the previous post.

The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary I

by Michael Ruhlman

As competitive and crazy as he makes the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) sound, I was surprised that, even though he didn't attend a full slate of classes or do an externship like all of his classmates, Ruhlman was not only able to keep up with everyone, but seemed to excel at times. And somehow, he was able to take notes about what he was doing and conversations he had with instructors and classmates.

How to cook tator tot hotdish

Hotdish is a delicacy enjoyed by the inhabitants of the upper midwestern United States. For those of you who haven't spent a lot of time in the flyover states, hotdish is a dish typically baked in one pan and contains a meat, a starch, and a vegetable with optional cheese or onion crisps. It's what the rest of the US would call a casserole. Hotdish is the food of my people.

The Cadillac of hotdishes is tator tot hotdish, and here's how you go about making it.

Step 1: Panic.
You may want to skip this step. I did, and it worked out fine.

Step 2: Learn how to peel an onion.
I did not know this going in. Valuable minutes were wasted as tears welled up in my eyes from the onion essence.

Step 3: Collect ingredients and supplies
These should include:

1.5 pounds beef, ground
1 onion, chopped
2 cans of Campbell's cream soup (mushroom, celery, chicken, pick two)
1 soup can-worth of milk
1 can french cut green beans
1 package tator tots
1 pound cheddar cheese, grated
1 9"x13" baking pan

You can find all of these items at your local grocery store and/or in your kitchen cupboard. This task is immensely easier in rural Wisconsin than in, say, Greenwich Village; they practically sell all these items together in a blister-packed kit back home while locating the french cut green beans at D'Agostino's was a bit touch and go.

Step 4: Assemble the hotdish
Chop the onions. Grate the cheese. In a largish pot, brown the ground beef and onions. Into the pot goes the soups, the milk, and the green beans. Stir and cook until warmish/hot. Cover the bottom of the 9x13 baking pan with the tator tots, pour the hamburger/soup mixture over them, and cover liberally with the grated cheese. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve.

The redesign continues...

The incremental redesign of kottke.org continues today with a bit of tinkering with what is possible with the weblog format. If you scroll down the front page of the site, you'll notice that sprinkled in with the regular posts are remaindered links (the 1-line, 1-link posts that have formerly lived in the sidebar), movie "reviews", book "reviews", and excerpts from comments I've made on other sites. Five types of content, one list.

Each post type requires a unique "vocabulary" and a design/layout to go with that vocabulary. For instance, a movie post includes a title, a link, a rating, a photo, and some text and looks like this:

a movie post on kottke.org

By default, most current weblog software, including the package I use, doesn't allow for different data for different post types displayed with different designs in the same list. Typically what people have done with their disparate data is to display them on separate pages or in separate locations on their site...so you need to visit the book page to see if there are any new book reviews or scroll down to check if they've added a new album to their "now playing" section.

To me, that seems not so optimal. A post is a post is a post. The newest content should appear at the top of the list of posts regardless of whether it's a short movie review, one-line link, latest photo, or any other type of update to your site that doesn't fit the typical title/text/category weblog paradigm and each type of content should displayed appropriately. And then if you want to view the complete list of movies, books, or all the remaindered links, you can.

So that's what I've done here. Sort of. What I've actually done is created 5 separate weblogs with MT and, using a bunch of MT plugins (MTSQL, Compare, MTAmazon, ExtraFields, etc.), have aggregated the 5 weblogs on the front page of the site. Which sounds complicated (and is!). But only in implementation (due to the limitations of the software). Really it's just the appropriate data presented with the appropriate design(s) in the appropriate context(s). One site, lots of content, many ways to view it.

Anyway, it's a start and we'll see if it works or not. I have concerns about displaying so many different types of posts in one list (especially with the minimal amount of information)...people are used to all the posts looking more or less the same. I've dealt with that somewhat by visually separating the posts to a greater degree than I have been. But who knows, maybe having a separate display for the remaindered links in the sidebar is a better way to go. We'll see.

Constructive feedback is welcome, as are bug reports, design critiques, etc.

Update: looks like the movie pages are a little funky on Mozilla, but not consistantly so.

foodie

Joe DeSalazar is an account exec at a NYC advertising agency, but all he really wants to do is cook. Keenly interested in food but frustrated by a lack of focus on food & drink at wine tastings and the expense of tasting menus at fine restaurants, Joe created a bimonthly event called foodie. foodie is Joe & 3-4 chefs cooking, 6 courses of food paired with 6 courses of wine, and around 50 people eating, drinking, chatting, and generally having a good time.

The latest installment of foodie was held last night near Washington Square Park. The inspiration for the meal was Joe's recent trip to Italy. The menu featured dishes with parmigiano reggiano, bologna (you know, from Bologna), balsamic vinaigrette, and basil. The most ambitious item of the night was the timpani, a dish inspired by Joe's favorite food movie, Big Night. The chef came around with the timpani before he cut it up...it was huge, about the size of library-scale Webster's Dictionary. My favorite dish was the tortellini with pork in a chicken broth.

If you'd like more information about foodie, you can email joe at foodieny [at] hotmail.com (web site coming soon, I've heard). Gothamist wrote about the previous foodie in September.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I really want to like the Harry Potter movies, but the potential just can't make up for their overall suckiness. Take Draco Malfoy. He's evil, we get it. But he's overwhelmingly, ridiculously, farcically evil, the kind of evil that bores but makes me want to smack the director, the sad Chris Columbus. But that would be ok by itself, but the acting is so bad that all of Malfoy's sneering and spitting is painful to watch.

16 Nov 03    rating 40/100

National Design Triennial

With the cold weather officially here in NYC, there's few better ways to spend a weekend afternoon than to sample one of the city's many museums. Yesterday, Meg and I went to see the Design Triennial (catalog) at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. The curators did a nice job in highlighting good, solid, creative work, avoiding the temptation to include pieces that might have been highly creative but have yet to prove themselves useful in the world (this was a design *review* after all).

The Triennial runs until January 25, 2004; I recommend checking it out should you find yourself in NYC between now and then.

Paris Hilton Sex Tape, my new favorite band

It's only been a few short days, but thanks to the Internet, everyone who's wanted to see the Paris Hilton sex tape has seen it, including those whose lives would be incomplete without a viewing, those who think it's already soooo 5 minutes ago but secretly whose lives would be incomplete if they hadn't seen it 45 times in the first hour they'd possessed it, and even a few uninterested folks caught up in the whirlwind.

I'd like to say I'm in the third camp (because who wants to be thought of as being interested in something...how gauche and unhip!), but I find celebrity sex tapes kind of intriguing. On one hand, they're a fulfillment of the fantasy that if TV shows like Baywatch and movies like Cruel Intentions or Showgirls are going to have celebrity actors and actresses acting all vampy and slutty, then they should just bite the bullet and go porno all the way. And on the other hand, these tapes are very celebrities-are-people-too; they look, sound, and act just as ridiculous as the rest of us when having sex.

But anyway, the one question about the tape I haven't seen answered yet is:

Paris Hilton sex tape

Is Paris Hilton a raccoon? And if so, why haven't we noticed it before now?

Wow, that sounds like a fantastic spot to dine. When Meg, Matt, Kay, and I went to the French Laundry, our waiter suggested that we take advantage of a pause in our meal to go stand in the garden and peer through the screened windows into the kitchen. We were stunned by how quiet it was. I would guess there were about 20 people in the kitchen along with a steady stream of servers zipping in & out and you could have literally heard a pin drop.

comment on lessons in service, Nov 13
The Ring

The Ring

The Ring wasn't scary, there was no suspense, and it wasn't thrilling. There was nothing. You can't just throw a bunch of weird things together with Naomi Watts and out pops a horror/thriller...or whatever this movie was supposed to be. I call it dull and boring. (zing!)

11 Nov 03    rating 20/100

Yes, let's rewrite history, redo all of our art, alter all the photos, and forget that there were ever buildings there in the first place. [fingers in ears] la la la laaa la lala la la la...

Cooperative web services

I have seen the future of the web and it is the Gothamist events page. Here's how it works. Gothamist's editors use free tools and information (in the form of events already listed in the system) from upcoming.org to compile events that are happening in NYC and then publish those events to the site using Movable Type to pull in upcoming.org's RSS feeds. Gothamist's readers can add their own events to upcoming.org, which, if they wish, the editors can then add to the events page.

The Gothamist/upcoming.org relationship is an excellent example of a cooperative web service, in which information is not simply pushed from a provider to a user but flows both ways...and even flows to people not directly involved (i.e. everybody wins). Gothamist's editors don't have to build their own tools to easily offer event listings to their readers. Gothamist's readers are down with what's going on in NYC. upcoming.org's NYC events section gets "gardened" by Gothamist's editors and readers (i.e. events are added and annotated to upcoming's database). Users of upcoming.org benefit from the content added by Gothamist's editors and readers and they start using the site more often, adding more events and information to the system.

(Oh, if you want to add your own events listing to your site, check out Matt's instructions on how to make it work with Movable Type.)

What I don't like is having service that I don't want being forced upon me, especially when the service involves the whole fucked-up culture of tipping. When I arrive at a hotel, I want to take the bags up to my room by myself. However, because I know that the bellhop derives a not-insignificant portion of his income from tips, I feel bad doing so because I'm depriving him of that extra income. As Jason says, I can hold my own door, I can dry my own hands, I can hail my own cab, thank you very much.

comment on I Hate Being Serviced Too, Nov 07

You'll find more in the archives or you may peruse the books, movies, remaindered links, or further afield separately.

kottke.org navigation

Home
Weblog archives
RSS feed
Contact me

About kottke.org
About Jason
FAQ

remaindered links

recommended links

Anil Dash
Bitter Pill
Boing Boing
Ex machina
Google News
Gothamist
Greg.org
Gulfstream
Hchamp
Jogin.com
Lightningfield.com
Matt's a.whole
Megnut
Morning News, The
Muxway
News.com
Paranoidfish
Plasticbag
Slashdot
Waxy.org
What Do I Know?
Wired News
Yahoo! Sports
Yahoo! pop. news
Zeldman

Acts of Volition
Andre Torrez
Atomiq
Blue Jake
Brushstroke.tv
Daring Fireball
David Galbraith
Dive Into Mark
Justin Hall
Kaliber 10000
Maciej Ceglowski
Magnetbox
Morale-O-Meter
Nedward
Oblomovka
Onfocus
Overstated
Rebecky
Signal vs. Noise
Sippey
Speak up
Stopdesign
Sylloge
Tesugen
Textism
more crappy links

 
miscellaneous etc.