Capn Design

September 2010

This month I posted 45 entries, crafted 97 tweets, listened to 131 songs, watched 13 videos, bookmarked 9 sites, took 15 photos and favorited 65 things.

It Gets Better

There has been a rise in gay teen suicides and Dan Savage wants to do something about it. He’s starting the “It Gets Better” project. Here’s a big chunk of his column that introduced the project.

“My heart breaks for the pain and torment you went through, Billy Lucas,” a reader wrote after I posted about Billy Lucas to my blog. “I wish I could have told you that things get better.”

I had the same reaction: I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.

This morning I was reading about the suicide of Tyler Clementi and wished someone had reached out to him. I’m not gay, but I hope that those of you who are will heed Dan’s call and post a video.

Health Month

If you’ve ever wished you could make a game out of improving your life, this is for you.

The formula for living healthier has 4 ingredients: 1) the information (you have most of that, and we can help fill gaps), 2) the ability (you have that too), 3) the motivation (who doesn’t want to be healthier, at least a little bit, right?), and 4) the fun and sustainable trigger. The reason. The self-challenge. The game that helps you live healthy, not because you have to, but because it’s fun.

You set goals for the month and then keep track of them with a playful but usable interface. It’s still in beta, but I’ll be playing along in October. If you want to join in next month, make sure to set your rules before the end of the day.

Hi Sally

Sally Menke, a film editor who was a close collaborator with Quentin Tarantino, was found dead today in LA. Dave Itzkoff wrote about her passing and her contributions to the film community.

This video is an extra from the Inglorious Bastards DVD. Tarantino liked when people would say to Sally before, during or after takes. It’s certainly no retrospective, but a sign she was well loved. [via Neven]

How Long is a Happy?

Frank Chimero makes me think again as he considers if we should try and quantify happiness.

I used to play hide and seek with my niece. It was fun and infuriating. She’s not very good at hiding, so I’d have to pretend that I didn’t see her. “Where is she? Where could she be?” I’d stumble around the house. Eventually, she’d get so impatient she’d yell hints. “I’m not over there!” or “Come upstairs!” or “You’re on the wrong side of the room!” After more of my poor seeking, she’d get frustrated, pop out and say “I’m over here!”

It was more fun that way than if I had seriously looked for her. And maybe happiness is a bit paradoxical like that: if you stop pursuing it, there are fewer places for it to hide. You just have to be listening when it says “I’m over here!”

The Coen Brothers' True Grit

This is the first trailer for their new movie with Damon, Brolin and Jeff Bridges and it doesn’t show a whole lot. It’s a remake of the book, not the film. IGN had an exclusive interview with the Coen’s last year. Joel said:

I don’t actually remember the movie too well, but I do remember it as being much more of a standard western, and the book is just an oddity. It’s a very odd book.

Interest level: piqued.

Update: When you’re done watching the trailer, you should watch John Wayne accepting the Oscar for the original True Grit. Bonus: A young Barbara Streisand presents the award!

Jason Schwartzman & the New Yorker App

The New Yorker is now on the iPad (no subscriber discount) and that’s cool, but this video is waaaay cooler. In addition to starring Jason Schwartzman, it is directed by Roman Coppola. They’re friends.

35 Kit Kat Varieties From Around The World

While in Japan, I was constantly looking for unusual Kit Kats. It wasn’t until I left that I realized you can find many of them at the airport in duty free. I can highly recommend the green tea flavor.

20100927china.jpg The Big Picture: Scenes from China

TBP has been on quite a tear lately. The breadth of photos is particularly impressive.

20100925sandwich.gif We just made the ultimate sandwich

Please consider this inspiration for the weekend. [via Natalie]

Head & Shoulders Troy Polamalu Commercial

This is my favorite commercial on TV right now. On the other hand, the companion website is pretty dumb. They’ve got the spirit of the Old Spice source material, but when it comes to a continuation on the web, it didn’t work. On the other hand, the Old Spice Twitter responses did work.


As Gridulator says, “Make pixel grids, lickity-split.” It’s a great little tool. David Sleight, aka Mr. Stuntbox, gives some nice background on the product, if you’re into that.


Posted September 24, 2010

I like rewards systems. It’s nice to be told that you’re doing something right. This morning, I was pointed to a new service that lets you add badges to your site. It’s called Mojo.

While a lot of the defaults are ridiculous (earning a badge for visiting a site on Christmas?), the concept is fun. I set up some badges to reward people who come here often and those who are exploring the site for their first time. I’m not sure if I’ll keep it around, so we’ll call this a Capn Design Labs feature.

If you want to set it up on your own site, it’s pretty straightforward. On the other hand, you may feel like my friend Mark, which is completely understandable.

Obsessives: Soda Pop

No, this is not a video about me, but instead about John Nese, the owner of Galco’s Soda Pop Stop, a shop in LA. They have over 500 different types of soda. I was happy to hear that one of his favorite diet sodas (and he hates diet soda) is Sprecher. Looking forward to checking this out in person when I go to LA next month.

Seabird: A Phone Concept from Mozilla

This is a community-driven concept driven by Mozilla and designed by Billy May. There are a lot of interesting features (and a few that are not so interesting), but I’m concerned it would end up being like Firefox — a product that has a lot of great features but has serious performance issues. John Gruber summarized an article about Apple’s detail-oriented design the other day and the point is apt here.

It’s that simple: Apple cares about details that no other company cares about, and these details matter.

While this phone has a laundry-list of features people would love, it’s just a piece of art until someone turns it into a tool.

[via @DidYouSayGil]

Slow Motion Beer Commercial

Generally, I dislike beer commercials. Generally, I think slo-mo is so-so. This is funny. [via lonelysandwich]

Rebuilding Bones with Titanium Foam

Tim Carmody lost a small section of bone in his right forearm and was lucky that he could get a bone graft from his fibula. That wouldn’t work for everyone though; most people need a titanium rod, which has the stability but not the flexibility of bone. Tim talks about a new substance that might solve both problems.

Fraunhofer, a German industrial and medical research firm, has actually created such a substance with their TiFoam project. The titanium foam has a complex internal structure that allows blood vessels and existing bone cells to grow into the foam, integrating them into its own matrix (and vice versa). This makes the foam particularly useful to repair damaged bones that are still partially intact, like the radius in my arm.

Bonus: this also brings us closer to building cyborgs.

IDEO's Future of the Book

Posted September 22, 2010

Ideo considers three aspects of the digital book’s future. It’s a nicely done video and it takes some features I looked at in my Multi-Layered iPad talk to a whole new world (a dazzling place, for you and me). Below is the video and some interesting points about each of the interfaces.


  • It provides a view into what your friends and other important people think about the content you’re reading.
  • I like how easy it is to scan through a book and find passages that are important. These would be a great research tool.
  • Showing debates that started from a particular passage is interesting. It’d be nice if you could actually respond to the discussion inside the app. Bringing in outside content is a great start, but no one has built a reader that lets you discuss the media inside the app.


  • It’s designed to show you what your colleagues, or social network, are reading.
  • In theory, you can have a discussion about something inside the app, but you’re not actually reading the app here (I think), so it’s still not a direct link between consuming and creating.


  • It turns the written word into a game.
  • For example, if you’re in the right location or if you tap on your device with a secret code. It sounds like Condé Naste and Activate’s Gourmet Live might be the first real app to attempt this.
  • The idea of contributing to a story is pretty cool. I’d love to see my friend’s version of a particular passage or see a photo of my own house instead of a generic one when I’m reading a scary story.
A Blind Man's First Week with the iPhone

Austin Seraphin is blind and has a story that will guarantee every designer remembers how important it is to make their products accessible.

“Can he get text messages on this?” she asked. “Well, yes, but it doesn’t read the message.” the salesman said. Mom’s hopes sunk, but mine didn’t, since I understood the software enough. “Well, let’s see, try it.” I suggested. She pulled out her phone, and sent me a text message. Within seconds, my phone alerted me, and said her name. I simply swiped my finger and it read her message: Hi Austin. She almost cried. “Leave it to Apple.” I said.

That made me tear up a little, but this just blew my mind.

The other night, however, a very amazing thing happened. I downloaded an app called Color Identifier. It uses the iPhone’s camera, and speaks names of colors.


The next day, I went outside. I looked at the sky. I heard colors such as “Horizon,” “Outer Space,” and many shades of blue and gray. I used color cues to find my pumpkin plants, by looking for the green among the brown and stone. I spent ten minutes looking at my pumpkin plants, with their leaves of green and lemon-ginger. I then roamed my yard, and saw a blue flower. I then found the brown shed, and returned to the gray house. My mind felt blown. I watched the sun set, listening to the colors change as the sky darkened. The next night, I had a conversation with Mom about how the sky looked bluer tonight.

[via @waxpancake]

20100922miners.jpg Think of the Miners

I hadn’t quite pictured just how small the hole was. Seeing each of these items listed out makes me think about what I’d need. I’d probably ask them to load up an iPod Touch with a bunch of articles in Instapaper and my Kindle account. After 2 months without anything to read, I’d be going nuts. [via Co.Design]

Dark Patterns

I’m glad someone catalogued these. Tricking your audience is never the right approach.

Normally when you think of “bad design”, you think of laziness or mistakes. These are known as design anti-patterns. Dark Patterns are different - they are not mistakes, they are carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do not have the user’s interests in mind.

20100921oktoberfest.jpg The Big Picture: Oktoberfest 2010

Man, this looks like fun.

The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret

This is the pilot for a new show that premieres on IFC on October 1st, but you can watch it on Hulu through the end of the month, then you’ll have to watch it on your T.V. set.

It’s pretty hilarious. It stars David Cross and Will Arnet. There is swearing. The episode is set in England. It features an energy drink called Thunder Muscle. You should watch it.

Stairway to Heaven: Climbing a 1768 ft. Tower

I cannot believe people do this for a living.

20100920covers.jpg My Type of Music

Periodically, Yves Peters rounds up recent album covers and talks type. It makes me miss buying CDs.

20100920knuckleball.jpg A Knuckleballer's Glove

David and I were just discussing the active knuckleball pitchers in MLB when I came across an article about the glove used by those who catch for R.A. Dickey. It’s no surprise that it’s different, but I love the idea of a pitcher carrying around a specific glove because no one else has them.

Because there are so few knuckleball pitchers, Rawlings had only one [knuckleball glove] on hand. It was sitting in a closet in the company’s headquarters in St. Louis, and Cohen had it shipped overnight to Cleveland, the Mets’ next destination.

And I was going to let you just go to that Wikipedia article yourself, but I can’t help but post about the active pitchers using the knuckler.

As of 2010, [Tim] Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox and R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets are the only knucklers in the big leagues, though minor leaguers Charlie Zink of the Rochester Red Wings and Charlie Haeger of the Albuquerque Isotopes also throw the knuckleball. In November 2008 it was announced that 16 year old knuckleballer Eri Yoshida was drafted as the first woman ever to play in Japanese professional baseball for the Kobe 9 Cruise of the Kansai Independent Baseball League. On March 2, 2010, she trained with Tim Wakefield at the Boston Red Sox minor league training facility. and on April 8, 2010, she signed with the Chico Outlaws, debuting on May 29, 2010. Detroit Tigers reliever Eddie Bonine also throws a knuckleball, though he does so infrequently as compared to pitchers who use it as a primary pitch. Lance Niekro, son of Joe Niekro, attempted to convert from a position player to a knuckleball pitcher. He started the 2009 season with the Gulf Coast League Braves but is currently listed as a free agent.

The photo is copyright Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Real Editors Ship

Paul Ford wrote this a couple months ago and I never linked to it. Paul argues that web projects need editors to keep them from floundering and help them get the code out the door. Lots of smart people have talked about continuous integration and building the simplest version of a feature first, but Paul’s take puts a human touch on it that’s easy to appreciate.

If you read this before, read it again. If you didn’t, read this quote.

Editors are first and foremost there to ship the product without getting sued. They order the raw materials—words, sounds, images—mill them to approved tolerances, and ship. No one wrote a book called Editors: Get Real and Ship or suggested that publishers use agile; they don’t live in a “culture” of shipping, any more than we live in a culture of breathing. It’s just that not shipping would kill the organism. This is not to imply that you hit every sub-deadline, that certain projects don’t fail, that things don’t suck. I failed plenty, myself. It just means that you ship. If it’s too hard to ship or you don’t want to deal with it, you quit or get fired.

20100920lostfairs.png Lost World's Fairs

When you put great people together, they do great things. The IE9 team asked Jason Santa Maria to show off what you could do with web fonts in their new browser. He, Frank Chimero, and Naz Hamid put together their vision of world’s fairs that never happened. Frank hit it out of the park with Atlantis, but they’re all wonderful.

20100920metamirror.jpg MetaMirror: Another TV Companion

A more fully-featured (and vaporware) television companion concept that would be lovely. In theory, you are watching the show on your television and watching a simulcast on your iPad with modal dialogues over the video (e.g., to buy an album, see some trivia, etc.). I dreamt of this feature 7 years ago and I’d love to see it come to fruition.

ABC Uses iPad to Interact with "My Generation"

I’m all for making the television experience more engaging, but it seems like this app is pretty standard with “polls, trivia and other content timed to be relevant to what is transpiring in the ‘Generation’ storylines.” I won’t judge it until I try it, but I’m much more interested in how it’s displaying information.

The application works by using the iPad’s microphone to pick up on audio cues embedded within the TV episode itself, allowing the application to sync up with what the viewer is watching.

Pretty smart. I hope the content strategists are as smart as the technologists.

I Am Detained By The Feds For Not Answering Questions

Paul Karl Lukacs arrived at immigration while returning to the U.S. and refused to answer the question “Why were you in China?” (in addition to others). It’s a simple reminder that law-abiding citizens shouldn’t have to be afraid when talking to law enforcement. This line resonated a lot

This Is About Power, Not Security. The [Customs and Border Protection] goons want U.S. citizens to answer their questions as a ritualistic bow to their power. Well, CBP has no power over me. I am a law-abiding citizen, and, as such, I am the master, and the federal cops are my servants. They would do well to remember that.

Now I’m reminded about a video I saw that instructed you to never volunteer information to a police officer in an effort to avoid prosecution (wrongful or otherwise). I found something similar, but it’s not what I remember (and it’s really long and boring).

20100914plumen.jpg Plumen 001 Light Bulb

Plumen is designing bulbs that look good on their own and are extremely energy efficient.

AirPlay Is Apple's Sneak Attack On Television

Joel does a great job explaining why I’m far more excited about AirPlay than I am about AppleTV. Here are some of his imagined scenarios:

Want to show your friends your vacation photos? As long as you’re on their Wi-Fi network, you should be able to throw them up on their HDTV via Apple TV. (Or directly to the TV, once someone makes an AirPlay-licensed HDTV.)

Want to watch an episode of Mad Men you just rented again at your girlfriend’s house? Hit play on your iPhone and send it the digital photo frame that sits on her desk while you play Angry Birds.

Or maybe it’s a party, the host’s music sucks, and you want to play your own mix on their speakers. Should be easy.

20100913totems.jpg Totems by Alain Delorme

These photos were taken by Delorme in Shanghai and, damn, they are striking. [via ze frank]

Momofuku's Front of House Policies

Eater manages to snag a copy of the FOH rules for Má Pêche and it shows the attention to detail required to provide a high level of service. Here’s a run of rules for table-side manner.

-When a guest order the rose be sure to ask: Sparkling? Or Red hook?
-We don’t say famous, signature, baby, micro, housemade

[via Anil]

How I Saved A 747 From Crashing

It’s good to be reminded that most of the folks in a cockpit know what they’re doing.

The four of us proceeded to take the cockpit operating manual, which is a red manual that we have in the cockpit designed to cover all of the emergencies that you would think that you might expect to encounter. This was not in the manual.

ESPN Digs into the History of the Madden Game

This article is really long and I read it in fits and starts over the last month, even though I’m genuinely interested. Still, there’s lots of good stuff in there. Here are three quotes, first about Madden missing quite the opportunity.

Hawkins: “You stayed with me. EA is about to have an IPO [initial public offering]. You can have as much stock as you want.”

Madden: “What do you mean by ‘have’?”

Hawkins: “Well, you have to buy it — at the IPO price.”

“Hell, I’m just a football coach,” Madden says now. “I pointed with my finger, all knowing, and said, ‘I gave you my time. I’m not giving you my money.’ I showed him!”

From 1989 to 1999, EA’s share price went from $7.50 to $70. Madden laughs. “That was the dumbest thing I ever did in my life.”

This bit is about some astute corporate shenanigans.

Secretly, Hawkins assembled a team to reverse engineer the console — that is, figure out a way to make EA’s games run on Sega’s hardware without its technology or approval as a way to avoid licensing fees altogether. Publicly, he began negotiations with Sega, once meeting with the company’s executives while the reverse-engineering project went on in a nearby room. The gambit was risky: Once Sega caught wind of EA’s plan, it likely would sue — in part to discourage other software companies from following EA’s lead, in part because reverse engineering without copyright infringement is technologically vexing. Hawkins’ team, however, managed to pull it off.

Meanwhile, Hawkins revealed his reverse-engineering project to Sega and offered a deal. Let’s team up against Nintendo. Share the glory. You can sue, but we did the tech fair and square and have great lawyers. So make us an official licensee. And give us a reduced rate. Sega normally charged an $8 to $10 fee per game cartridge. Hawkins asked for $2 per game and a $2 million cap. Negotiations stalled.

“Only two times at EA did everyone in my management team pull me into a room and say, ‘We all disagree with you,’” Hawkins said. “The first time was about not having private offices. The other time was this.”

He stuck to his guns. Ten days later, on the eve of a major consumer electronics show in Chicago, Sega relented, afraid EA would sell its reverse-engineering knowledge to other software companies and torpedo the Genesis’ entire business model.

This next quote reminds of productivity software development. Once you start something, you can’t stop or people go nuts.

Cummings: “Updating player gear is such a pain. Like a guy changing from a single wristband to a double. It never stops.”

Young: “We have people that just catalog this stuff every week. A player will start wearing team-colored gloves. A team will put a special logo on the 20-yard line for Week 8. Another team won’t wear a special patch. And if we don’t have that, it ruins the game for some people.”

Future of Screen Technology

A Swedish software company puts together their vision for the screen’s of the future. The stretchable display would be amazing, but seems impossible. Personally, I’m looking forward to just having more everyday items display information of my choosing. [via swiss miss]

Khoi's Take on the New AppleTV

This is the best explanation of why the new AppleTV feels like a letdown. On the other hand, I’ll probably be buying one in November when iOS 4.2 is released for the iPad. One hundred dollars is not bad for a device that makes streaming music and videos from your iOS device a reality.

"Need You Tonight" by Beck's Record Club

Beck’s Record Club covers “Need You Tonight”. Kick appears to be the next album they’re covering. They’ve posted all of the videos on YouTube. Trivia: Kick was the first CD I ever owned. [via John Martz]


It’s no surprise I like this — it’s essentially Canabalt on skis with tricks. Also, I’m mostly posting this because the iOS app was having trouble tweeting my current high score of 8,341,511. Considering the world leader is over 3 billion, I’ve got a ways to go.

Update: Okay, it’s 5 minutes later and I just got 27.6 million. Maybe I’ll stop posting scores for a bit.

Jeffrey Steingarten's Food Diary

Grub Street let’s Jeffrey catalogue a week of eatings. It’s hugely entertaining and educational to boot. This bit is just entertaining.

For lunch, I had thought about taking him to ABC Kitchen, because he’s from California and might really appreciate that. People from California really are different: They eat avocado on everything. It was proven that day: I took him to Chinatown Brasserie, largely because they have the best dim sum in the city, and there was a new dim sum on the menu that I didn’t love and of course my friend loved it, because it had avocado in it and he’s from California and they put avocado on everything.

[via Alaina]

20100903jurado.jpg Other People's Songs

A free collection of 9 covers by Damien Jurado and Richard Swift. I’m a sucker for all things Jurado.

20100903coachpad.jpg CoachPad

This looks like a lot of fun. Does anyone need a coach for their team? I need a reason to buy this. [via Cameron Moll]

20100903softdrinks.gif Soft Drink Industry Structure

A diagram of all of the major soft drink players. Coke, Pepsi and Snapple/Dr. Pepper own nearly 90% of the market share. You can also see it big. [via kottke]

The Hit Whisperer

Dr. Luke has produced “Since U Been Gone”, “I Kissed a Girl”, “Tik Tok”, “Right Round” and “California Gurls”. That’s an impressive stable of hits.


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