Chicago via Instagram (Part I)

I recently took a trip to Chicago, IL. This would be my first trip in which I used my primary camera (the Canon 5D Mark II) alongside the camera on my iPhone. I’ve been posting images from Chicago taken with my dSLR on Erudite Expressions, but I wanted to highlight some of the images I captured with Instagram, one of my favorite photography apps on the iPhone.

The first day I arrived to Chicago, it was really windy and foggy.

Chicago fog.

On what would be the windiest day of my trip, I decided to face Lake Michigan at the Navy Pier:

Chicago's Navy Pier.

Walking along Bellevue Street.

The next day I took a walk to Lincoln Park. Along the way, this is what I saw:

Zen living.

Pink bike.

Tunnel view.

A stroll in the park.

Chicago skyline as seen from Lincoln Park.

Inside the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

During my visit to Chicago, I ate at three famous pizza places: Gino’s East, Lou Malnatti’s, and Giordano’s. This is the graffiti inside Gino’s East on 162 East Superior Street, near Michigan Avenue:

Graffiti at Gino's East, Chicago.

After a great lunch, I proceeded to Millenium Park and The Art Institute of Chicago:

Reflections in "The Bean" in Millenium Park.

No visit to Chicago would be complete without a stop at the Apple Store.

Monet's Water Lilies at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Stay tuned for Part II of the post coming later this week. In the meantime, check out my photoblog, where I am posting images on a daily basis that I captured with my dSLR. The dedicated Chicago gallery is here. You can also see a selection of my other Chicago photos on my Flickr feed.

A Bandit to Hollywood but a Hero to Soldiers

Hyman Strachman, nicknamed Big Hy, is a 92-year-old, 5-foot-5 World War II veteran trying to stay busy after the death of his wife.. He’s doing so by making bootleg copies of Hollywood movies and sending them to the U.S. troops abroad. He started out by using his desktop computer to copy the movies one tedious disc at a time (“It was moyda,” he explained) but has since moved on to a professional $400 duplicator. While Mr. Strachman admits that what he’s been doing isn’t right (and controversial), I think it’s a wonderful story:

In February, Mr. Strachman duplicated and shipped 1,100 movies. (“A slow month,” he said.) He has not kept an official count but estimates that he topped 80,000 discs a year during his heyday in 2007 and 2008, making his total more than 300,000 since he began in 2004. Postage of about $11 a box, and the blank discs themselves, would suggest a personal outlay of over $30,000.

Born in Brooklyn in 1920 to immigrants from Poland, Mr. Strachman left high school during the Depression to work for his family’s window and shade store in Manhattan. He became a stockbroker on Wall Street — “When there were no computers, you had to use your noodle” — before retiring in the early 1990s.

After Mr. Strachman’s wife of more than half a century, Harriet, died in 2003, he discovered a Web site that collected soldiers’ requests for care packages. He noted a consistent plea for movie DVDs and wound up passing his sleepless nights replicating not only the films, but also a feeling of military comradeship that he had not experienced since his own service in the Pacific during World War II.

My favorite comment from The New York Times story comes via Martin in New York:

My 82yo mother doesn’t know what email is, and here we have a 92yo, 5’5″ Long Islander cranking out DVDs on his professional duplicator. Hilarious! 

The story, of course, is not piracy.

This man has discovered a way to make himself valuable again at 92yo and re-connect with an important part of his life; more importantly he’s made himself part of the war effort, something most of us have abdicated.

Shine on, you crazy diamond.

Read the full story here.

Money Can’t Buy Taste

Marco Arment offers an excellent rebuttal to this Seeking Alpha article about Apple’s eventual downfall. Marco has two major points: time and taste. This was my favorite part of his argument:

Most people don’t have great taste. (And they don’t care, so it doesn’t matter to them.) They usually like tasteful, well-designed products, but often don’t recognize why, or care more about other factors when making buying decisions.

People who naturally recognize tasteful, well-designed products are a small subset of the population. But people who can create them are a much smaller subset.

Taste in product creation overlaps a lot with design: doing it well requires it to be valued, rewarded, and embedded in the company’s culture and upper leadership. If it’s not, great taste can’t guide product decisions, and great designers leave.

No amount of money, and no small amount of time, can buy taste.

Spot on.

Stunning Time Lapse Video of Portland, Oregon

Finding Portland is a stunning time lapse video that was produced, shot, and edited in 51 days during March and April at the invitation of TEDx Portland. Filmed in Portland and the Columbia Gorge, we take in many sights of the city and its surroundings. From a Portland Timbers season opening soccer game, to the top of the Fremont Bridge, to an aerial shot of Oneonta Gorge, to a Portland Trailblazers game, to a brief tour of Powell’s City of Books, this video covers the city and its surroundings from many incredible angles.

According to Ben Canales, John Waller, Steve Engman, Blake Johnson, the people behind Uncage the Soul productions, the video is comprised of 308,829 distinct photographs taken from over 50 unique locations. It took an average of 3.8 hours to make each second of this film. The intent of the project was to place our cameras in unique locations across the city, achieve significant ranges of dynamic camera motion, and pursue cutting edge time-lapse techniques.

This is one of the best urban time lapses I have ever seen, and it certainly deserves much recognition.

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(via PetaPixel)

London 2012: Social Media Olympics

With less than 100 days to go until the London 2012 Summer Olympics, The Wall Street Journal reports:

This year promises to be the first truly social Olympic Games. Television networks are planning to incorporate athletes’ Twitter posts into broadcast spots, and marketers are planning a flood of Facebook marketing tied to the Games.

For the IOC’s part, it is trying to strike a balance between allowing athletes and fans to post messages, photos and reactions online, but also protecting the sanctity of events and the stream of money from TV rights around the world.

The Olympic Athletes’ Hub collects in a single directory the existing Facebook and Twitter profiles from athletes around the world.

Building a Bridge in One Day

Boston may be known for the abomination that was The Big Dig, but an incredible recent development is surfacing in the city: new bridges are being built in just a day or two! The New York Times reports on the phenomenon known as “accelerated bridge construction”:

Nowhere have the various techniques for speeding bridge work been more enthusiastically embraced than in Massachusetts, which replaced 14 bridges on Interstate 93 last year over 10 weekends. But similar techniques are being used around the country, from Mesquite, Nev., to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, which is getting 300 feet of new roadway one 25-foot prefabricated section at a time, 78 pieces in all. “We have a bridge that we simply cannot close to traffic,” said Ewa Bauer, chief engineer for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.

Now, if only we could be as fast as the Chinese in building other things…

Sergey Brin on Internet Freedom

Over the weekend, The Guardian published an article in which Google co-founder Sergey Brin was interviewed. The Guardian distilled Brin’s views as follows:

The threat to the freedom of the internet comes, he claims, from a combination of governments increasingly trying to control access and communication by their citizens, the entertainment industry’s attempts to crack down on piracy, and the rise of “restrictive” walled gardens such as Facebook and Apple, which tightly control what software can be released on their platforms.

Today, Brin took to Google+ to clarify his position and explain that his thoughts “got particularly distorted”:

Today, the primary threat by far to internet freedom is government filtering of political dissent. This has been far more effective than I ever imagined possible across a number of nations. In addition, other countries such as the US have come close to adopting very similar techniques in order to combat piracy and other vices. I believe these efforts have been misguided and dangerous. 

Lastly in the interview came the subject of digital ecosystems that are not as open as the web itself and I think this portion has led to some misunderstanding of my views. So to clarify, I certainly do not think this issue is on a par with government based censorship. Moreover, I have much admiration for two of the companies we discussed — Apple and Facebook. I have always admired Apple’s products. In fact, I am writing this post on an Imac and using an Apple keyboard I have cherished for the past seven years. Likewise, Facebook has helped to connect hundreds of millions of people, has been a key tool for political expression and has been instrumental to the Arab Spring. Both have made key contributions to the free flow of information around the world.

It’s good to know that Brin loves Apple products. Also of note is Brin’s recommendation to check out Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet.

Mountain Dew’s New Marketing Campaign

Mountain Dew is about to roll out a new marketing campaign, focusing on the younger individuals:

The new campaign — targeted at consumers in their teens to 20s — brings together a diverse lineup of seven celebrities, O’Brien said. Individual TV and radio ads by each superstar will be tailored to regional markets. The point: Link Dew to stuff young people find cool.

Country singer Jason Aldean’s spot might be in heavy rotation in Nashville, for example, while Lil Wayne flashes on screens in Los Angeles and rapper Mac Miller dominates airwaves in his home state of Pennsylvania. Mexican-American pro skateboarder Paul Rodriguez — a.k.a. P-Rod — appeals to a street-skate set that is racially diverse, O’Brien said.

I had no idea of Mountain Dew’s storied history:

Mountain Dew was named for the moonshine liquor produced in the Appalachian stills of Tennessee. In the 1940s, brothers Ally and Barney Hartman concocted a lemony soda as a spirits mixer, trademarking the name in 1948. Early bottles featured a gun- toting hillbilly chasing a federal agent from an outhouse.

PepsiCo bought the brand in 1964. Its first TV ad used the slogan, “Ya-Hoo Mountain Dew. It’ll tickle your innards.” A barefoot, one-toothed mountain man raved, “Shore as shootin’, there’s a bang in every bottle,” as a curvy woman wearing a hair bow and Wilma Flintstone-looking dress took a sip.

Another bit that caught my attention: Mountain Dew outsells Coca-Cola in convenience stores in Georgia, the home of Coca-Cola. I’d like to see hard numbers justifying this claim.

David Simon on Building Things

David Simon, the creator of the TV show The Wire, has some thoughts on critics in a New York Times interview. The quote I bolded below is especially relevant, not just for the media, but for life in general:

Q. Are you surprised that “The Wire” has had the afterlife that it has?

A. Of course. We were making something that might have a shelf life, we hoped. But whether it did or it didn’t, we didn’t want to make anything else. So we were willing to go down in flames, and it was very delicate trying to get the last two seasons made at HBO. And it starts over again with “Treme,” and everybody watched the first two episodes of “Generation Kill” and says, “Oh it’s not ‘The Wire’” or “It doesn’t know where it’s going.” Nobody knows what anyone’s building until it’s built.
 
Q. Of course now we’re in the era of instant episode recaps.
A. The number of people blogging television online — it’s ridiculous. They don’t know what we’re building. And by the way, that’s true for the people who say we’re great. They don’t know. It doesn’t matter whether they love it or they hate it. It doesn’t mean anything until there’s a beginning, middle and an end. If you want television to be a serious storytelling medium, you’re up against a lot of human dynamic that is arrayed against you. Not the least of which are people who arrived to “The Wire” late, planted their feet, and want to explain to everybody why it’s so cool. Glad to hear it. But you weren’t paying attention. You got led there at the end and generally speaking, you’re asserting for the wrong things.
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Amazon’s Knock-Off Problem

CNN reports on Amazon.com’s knock-off program, which has gathered some steam:

There are a number of books on Amazon with similar titles to much more popular ones. Fifty Shades of Grey, the steamy romance novel that has created buzz around the world, is the No. 1 selling book on Amazon. Also available on Amazon: Thirty-Five Shades of Grey. Both books are written by authors with two first initials – E. L. James and J. D. Lyte – and both are the first in a trilogy about a young girl who falls for an older, successful man with a taste for domineering sex. The publisher of the bestseller Fifty says the book is “a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.” The author and publisher of Thirty-Five, which came out in early April, apparently believe that description fits their book as well, word-for-word. Also selling on Amazon is I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Twilight New Moon. Neither is the book you are likely looking for.

And if you want to buy bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow on Amazon, be careful where you click. A number of Amazon shoppers looking for the book by Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman ended up with Fast and Slow Thinking by Karl Daniels, which until recently was also on Amazon [editor's note: it is no longer available on Amazon.com]. Says Kahneman of his doppelganger, “There is no such expert, it’s a rip-off. The comments on it are quite amusing – rather shocking that Amazon allows this sort of thing.”

Just be careful what you’re typing into your search.

This was quite the shocker, though:

Karen Peebles, who is the author of I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, says she has self-published around 10,000 books though CreateSpace, not all of which are in her own name. “I am a single mother who home schools her children,” says Peebles, who says she sells “thousands and thousands” of books a month. “Self-publishing is a great way for me to make income. I receive a pretty nice royalty every month.”

People have trouble publishing 10,000 words — she is claiming to have published 10,000 books!? Give me a break.