Capn Design

November 2010

This month I posted 26 entries, crafted 96 tweets, listened to 566 songs, watched 15 videos, bookmarked 10 sites, took 11 photos and favorited 68 things.

20101129christmascard.jpg Just A Few Holiday Cards

Like most good Jews, I have a strong love of Christmas music and ephemera. Which is why it pains me that this abstract Christmas tree card would not work well for the majority of my family.* There is a pretty good chance, statistically speaking, that it could work for you.

If it’s not your style, there are eight other options. You can buy one of each or just get 9 of a single style, with envelopes, for $18.

* Truth be told, I am not sold on the concept of holiday cards, even if I can get behind the sentiment. Also see: Birthday Wish Hierarchy

CSS Vocabulary

I often find myself teaching someone new to web design about something very specific and can’t remember the name. “So you just pick your class name and write all the, er, definitions.” Maybe I’m not that bad, but this list of vocabulary is a good reference to give someone just starting with CSS.

Fast Motion in Slow Motion

Graeme Taylor captures the world using a high-speed video camera on a fast-moving train. The results are really striking. It reminds of my favorite scene from Megamind where Metro Man moves so fast through the city that time seemingly stops. For this ability alone, I would seriously consider lightning speed as my super power.

Graeme explains his own super power:

In all my slow-motion work so far, I’ve used a static camera to capture a high-speed event. But, I wondered, what would happen if the camera was the fast-moving object? For instance, if you use a 210fps camera at 35mph, on playback at 30fps it’ll seem to the observer that they’re moving at walking pace- but everything observed will be operating at 1/7th speed.

20101123mcfly.jpg Will the Nike Air Mag McFly Actually Happen?

It’s possible, but still far from a sure thing, that Nike might have taken my advice and made the McFly. Now, all we’ve got so far is a patent filing from Nike’s Innovation Kitchen, but that’s way more than we had before. The quote Dime Mag took from the abstract:

An article of footwear with an automatic lacing system is disclosed. The automatic lacing system provides a set of straps that can be automatically opened and closed to switch between a loosened and tightened position of the upper. The article further includes an automatic ankle cinching system that is configured to automatically adjust an ankle portion of the upper.

Nice Kicks lays out all of the photos from the filing and shows a charging station and pressure sensors in the soles. If these do get a general release, I have a feeling they’re going to be in the range of $250-300.

Divine intervention is the only way to explain that I just dropped five pairs of sneakers off for consignment at Flight Club this weekend. Someone upstairs knew I had to make room for the McFlys.

If you can’t wait to see what happens — and want more speculation fuel — I encourage you to check out the Delorean Dunks when they drop this Friday.

Remember the Z

Posted November 23, 2010

The Missing ZToday, I thought about the time that David and I were nearly maimed, né killed, by a Z. Almost exactly 4 years ago we went to Shake Shack to enjoy the final Shack Burger of the season (back when we were young, they closed the Shack for the winter). We had ordered for ourselves and John had just arrived, waiting with us.

Then, like a bolt of lightning, a metal projectile hurled towards our heads. This weapon of mass destruction descended behind us, but I could feel the sonic boom. It was over before we knew it. Miraculously, we emerged from the event physically intact, but we had been bruised in so many other ways. I mean, I still spell lazy with an S.

We had considered keeping the remnants of the shoddily held together Z, but we were bigger than that. We returned the 3 pieces of metal — that were essentially huge razor blades — to the manager. For our anguish, they provided us each with a Pie-Oh-My concrete (one part real pumpkin pie, one part vanilla custard, smashed together) and a $10 gift card. Obviously, they should have provided us a lifetime of free Shack Burgers and a wall of remembrance, but we were too humble to suggest anything of that ilk. Proof that they knew the damage it had done to us psychologically, they comped our food and the food of our 10 friends on a subsequent trip. Again, for the better of the community, we graciously thanked them and went on our way.


In honor and remembrance of the 4 year anniversary, I have complied a Flickr Gallery of all known photos from the event. If you have anything to add to this digital scrapbook, I will happily add it.

Please, leave your stories and thoughts in the comments. Do you remember where you were on November 16th, 2006? Tell us about it.

Never Forget

Never forget.

How Twitter Users Balanced the Budget

Remember when I invited you to fix the budget? Apparently lots of you (and at least 7,000 Twitter users) did it. Good work! It turns out the most popular fix was reducing troop levels in the Middle East and the least popular was letting the Bush Tax cuts expire. They also made a purdy graphic showing the popularity of each response. [via waxy]

The Food Lab's Guide to T-Day

Jori and I are hosting our first Thanksgiving this year. We’re planning a pretty traditional feast, but having only played sous chef for others, I found Kenji’s suggestions quite useful. We’re actually doing most of our prep and cooking on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the shopping is finished.

I also very much enjoyed Salt & Fat’s turkey guide. We’re not brining, mostly because I’ve had lots of delicious non-brined turkeys and it’s labor-intesive, but I now want to try a dry brine. I’ve heard others mention it, but Jim’s post pushed me over the edge.

The Winklevoss Twin

I’ll admit, I didn’t realize until well after seeing The Social Network that the Winklevi were actually one person. I felt dumb. Just showing one twin at a time is easy, but I still didn’t understand how they did two. Then I searched around it’s kind of mind-blowing.

Hammer played the main twin in each shot. For shots that included both twins at the same time, Pence stood in for the second twin; Hammer later went into a studio, where he strapped his head into a harness to film that twin’s face and voice, which was then digitally superimposed over Pence’s face in the film. The result is a sort of hybrid actor with Hammer’s head and Pence’s body.

That sounds creepy and entirely unnecessary. Apparently David Fincher’s exacting detail went beyond just clothing. On the other hand, reading this quote makes me realize it’s not the easiest of tasks.

For a long time, I held out for this idea that we were going to find two 6’5″ 220-pound scullers who were going to be able to act.

Fine, you win this round Fincher, but it doesn’t make up for the ridiculous CGI sequences in Panic Room.

Context, Regularly

Posted November 21, 2010

A word from Liz Danzico, one of my favorite bloggers:

Whether one’s readership is large or small, intentions professional or personal, time boundless or abbreviated, it’s a person’s responsibility to give context where appropriate. If there are rules, that’s one I believe in. One that I should follow. And that’s integrity.

Here at Capn Design, I plan to follow this edict. A beautiful photo is great, but paired with a personal story it brings us a little closer together. It’s also more fun to write.

I’m also going to make an effort to post more regularly. I ran a TypePad Meetup in New York last night, and I was talking to a couple bloggers about how to get and keep a following. There’s a lot more to it, but I think it boils down to this:

  1. Post regularly.
  2. Have a voice.

To be clear, I don’t have grand ambitions for my blog, but it’ll be good to write more regularly and to put this theory to the test. I’m going to start slowly and try to post something, however small, once a day. I’m also going to post at least one non-quick-post once a week. Like I said, I’m starting small.

Best Cheers XOXO,

p.s. I am not saying “I’m sorry”.

When 'Best' Isn't Good Enough

In the last few months, I’ve been trying out different sign-offs. Sometimes I use “Cheers”, once or twice I used “Best”, but I typically don’t use anything. Family is easy because I just use “Love”. I just can’t find something that feels right.

Unfortunately, Judith Newman isn’t much help. Fortunately, she feels my pain.

In a medium where it is often oddly difficult to interpret tone, where the lines of friendship, love and business are easily muddied, and where people are sometimes a little too eager to shine brightly in the drab sludge of daily missives, something as seemingly trivial as an e-mail signoff can loom large. It can be a clue to both the personality of the sender and the standing that the recipient has in the sender’s social universe. It can enlighten, amuse and enrage — sometimes all at once.

I think I need a Google Labs feature for Gmail that suggests a sign-off based on the content.

The Hidden Costs of Extra Security

I’m not a fan of security theater, but that’s primarily because it’s an inconvenience. I don’t feel a lot safer and inexperienced travelers gum up the works. It turns out, there are real dangers to all of our additional protections. In addition to having a negative effect on how often people travel, it is killing us.

According to the Cornell study, roughly 130 inconvenienced travelers died every three months as a result of additional traffic fatalities brought on by substituting ground transit for air transit. That’s the equivalent of four fully-loaded Boeing 737s crashing each year.

Noah Silver also makes an interesting parallel with Chicago’s police cameras.

[T]hey are deliberately designed to be conspicuous, since the cameras are accompanied by extremely vibrant blue police lights — and they may well decrease crime. But they only appear in marginal neighborhoods that were susceptible to high crime rates to begin with. The explicit message is that the Chicago Police Department is doing what it can to keep everyone safe. The implicit message is that it is doing so because this is a really dangerous neighborhood — and perhaps you should be buying your condo, or planning your wedding reception, somewhere else.

I’m hopeful that the TSA rethinks their approach and starts addressing how their oftentimes reactive plans negatively affect the air travel ecosystem and the health of its customers.

"The Suburbs" by Arcade Fire, Directed by Spike Jonze

One of my favorite videos of the year. I’m glad that it’s still commercially viable to make music videos, otherwise we’d miss out on stuf like this. [via Ze]

20101119cadillac.jpg Cadillac's Tiny Luxury Car

Aside from Mini, no one has released a car in the U.S. that is both small and luxurious. To us, luxury is big and spacious. Unfortunately, this is just a concept, but I’d love to see this made. Cadillac is doing a fantastic job of bringing elegant design back to U.S. automakers. Autoblog has many more photos.

Drinking Four Loko

Four Loko sounds like a truly abhorrent concoction. Kids: stick to NyQuil.

Google Refine

As they describe it, “a power tool for working with messy data.” After going to the Times Open Government 2.0 event, I’m acutely aware that there are lots and lots of messy datasets out there. [via waxy]

Monthly vs. Single After the Fare Hike

Posted November 16, 2010

20101116metrocard.pngIn a month and a half, the MTA will be raising the fares for subway riders in New York City. I commute to work underground every day and wasn’t sure if I should continue to buy a monthly unlimited pass. I also have been enamored with data journalism as of late. Thus, I made something.

For New Yorkers considering a monthly Metrocard in 2011, I submit the Metrocard Cost Comparison for 2011. As you can see from the preview, it compares the difference in cost for monthly vs. pay-per-ride cards both before and after the fare hike. The difference isn’t huge, but seeing the table makes it much easier to digest.

Kilian Martin: A Skate Regeneration

I think Kottke is on a skateboarding video hiatus, which means someone has to fill in the blanks. Also, this guy’s balance is unbelievable. It seems pretend.

You Fix the Budget

The NY Times has an interactive feature that allows you to balance the budget by choosing cost-cutting measures that are actually being proposed. When people talk about data journalism, this is what they mean.

A Typekit Colophon Bookmarklet

Posted November 12, 2010

Hello type nerds! Have you ever had a moment where you knew a site used Typekit but you didn't recognize the fonts? I know I have.

For every site that uses Typekit, they produce a colophon that gives you the name of the font, a specimen, and other helpful information. Unfortunately for us, not everyone links to their colophon. I know, right?

That's where my Typekit Colophon Bookmarklet comes in. After adding it to your bookmark toolbar, all you do is click and it will open the site's colophon. If the site doesn't use Typekit (lame-o's), it'll pop up a little alert to let you know.

Install It

Installing it, at least on the desktop, is easy. All you do is click and drag the following link to your bookmark toolbar. If you're dying to install this on your iDevice, it's a pain in the ass, but you can try and follow Instapaper's instructions (but use my code, not theirs).

Drag me to your toolbar: Typekit Colophon

Make It Better

I've put the code up on Github as a gist. Please, feel free to fork it and make improvements. I've tried it in a bunch of places, but I'm sure the code could be cleaner and it'll probably break in some edge cases.

Update (11/15/10): On Friday, my friend Mark Pascal answered my call for a bookmarklet powered by a gist, enabling easier updates. Then Phil Dokas forked my code and prettied up the javascript. I combined the two to so I can improve the bookmarklet. I've also updated the code above to use this new bookmarklet code. Thanks guys!

Oh, and if you're like me and feel like you're just ont cusp of understanding scoping of Javascript functions, I recommend the Functional Javascript article from

The Ultimate Dropbox Toolkit & Guide

I am a casual Dropbox user, but this guide is giving me all kinds of great ideas. I think I need to spend more time integrating Dropbox into my workflow.

If you’re worried about your computer being stolen, you can easily use Dropbox to perform silent reconnaissance in the even it is stolen. You’ll then have a greater chance of retrieving your stolen computer.

To do this you’ll need to install a keylogger and/or screenshot applications and set the applications to log the data they collect to your Dropbox directory. If your computer is stolen then you’ll be able to monitor every key they push and even collect screenshots of whatever they might be doing.

[via khoi]

The Myth of The 12-Year Old McDonald's Burger

Kenji takes on the myth that a 12-year old burger McDonald’s burger doesn’t rot. I won’t give away the results, but it’s a good read. I will share this tidbit to entice you to read more.

Every day, I monitored the progress of the burgers, weighing each one, and carefully checking for spots of mold growth or other indications of decay. The burgers were left in the open air, but handled only with clean kitchen tools or through clean plastic bags (no direct contact with my hands until the last day).

At this point, it’s been 25 days, 23 calm, cool, and collected discussions with my wife about whether that smell in the apartment is coming from the burgers or from the dog, and 16 nights spent sleeping on the couch in the aftermath of those calm, cool, and collected discussions. Asides from my mother, my wife is the fiercest discusser I know.

Digging Into New York City's Trashy History

Robin Nagle is the NY Dept. of Sanitation’s anthropologist-in-residence and in this interview reminds us that New York used to be truly disgusting.

Going back 100, 150 years, American cities were disgusting — and New York City was notorious as the filthiest and stinkiest. We were a laughingstock. The rumor goes that sailors could smell the city six miles out to sea.

[via kottke]

20101104eightbit.jpg 8-Bit Halloween Costume

Dan Liuzzi decided to make an 8-bit version of his head and wear it for Halloween. The 8-bit tie is a nice touch. See also: Papercraft Self-Portrait

20101103playdoh.jpg Play-Doh Kicks

Core77 often runs 1-hour design challenges and the latest was building teeny-tiny sneakers out of Play-Doh. They’re nothing compared to the lovely pencil holders I build in art class in middle school, but they’re pretty neat. [via tien]

A Tiny Pie Catapult

Please, please, please tell me this is real. It’s amazing to think someone made 3mm wide pies and a catapult just so they could fling them at bees. Relatedly, a mini-canon that shoots real bullets. [via kottke]

Birthday Wish Hierarchy

Posted November 2, 2010

In this modern age, we have a ton of ways to wish people a happy birthday. Some of them are essentially meaningless. Let’s list them out from most meaningful to least meaningful.

  • Flying in from out of town to see you in person
  • Engineering some elaborate, personalized birthday gift (e.g., wrote and recorded a song about you)
  • Meeting you in person (not from out of town)
  • Sending you a birthday card via snail mail that arrives on or before your birthday
  • Calling you from a landline, when they probably should working
  • Calling you from a cell phone as they walk from the office to the car
  • Sending you a card that arrives after your birthday
  • Sending you a card in an overnight package that arrives after your birthday
  • Texting you
  • Emailing you
  • Sending you a personal Facebook message
  • Emailing you a greeting card that is either relevant to your life or has a personal message
  • Sending you a generic eCard that is all flash, seems to never end, and is signed with “Love, Me”
  • Sending a birthday tweet to all of their followers by not putting your name first
  • Starting a birthday tweet with your name in front, so only your common followers can see it
  • Telling a friend to wish you happy birthday when they see you at your party
  • Posting on your wall on Facebook
  • Doing nothing
  • Posting a “cryptic” message on their Facebook wall saying “I guess I missed her birthday”
  • Checking in on Foursquare at the movie theater on the night of your birthday with the shout-out, “Sorry I’m missing so-and-so’s birthday but Saw 3D is out!!”

I could probably go lower, but it’s late and the thought that there is a lower is depressing.

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