31 March 2011

Tumblr enables (temporary) digital wildfire.

That post I put up yesterday about the burning crater in Derweze sent my stats completely through the roof.

This is how it happened: I tweeted it. Faris RTed it. Zeb saw this and put it on his Tumblr, crediting Faris. At some point ABC World News reblogged it. Some combination of these things is what brought me from an average of 100 unique visitors a day to 4,693 in 24 hours.

There are a couple of observations here, one of them being very obvious.

1. This would not have happened a few years ago, to this scale.

Yeah, I know, duh. But it's so interesting to me because: Prior to the Derweze crater post, the thing that got me the most hits was the photography project where I ate monochromatically for a week. Mental Floss wrote about it, which gave me 700 visits in one day. Then CNN featured the link to the story in a side bar, and I got 500 more. This was before Tumblr was widespread - before it was so easy to pass a story along by reblogging it (or even Liking it on Tumblr). Mental Floss and CNN are usually the types of platforms that have the most reach online, but by putting this sharing behavior into anybody's hands and making it easy, you can really get strength in numbers. I wrote about something equally insane as the burning crater - The Boston Molasses Disaster - nearly 3 years ago, and the web didn't even notice. I wonder if Tumblr is eventually going to tip the proportions of The 1% rule at all?

2. This is not necessarily an indicator of "success."

Yes, this is huge scale for me - eight times as many unique visitors as I, on average, usually get (this is awesome). But it doesn't indicate depth of engagement (which I care about a lot). You know how many comments I got on the Derweze post (as of now)? Four. How many of these 4,700 visitors are going to be back this time, next week? Who knows. If you're reading this, you're either a regular reader, or maybe you got curious about what else I talk about here and clicked on my masthead via the Door To Hell post. Either is great, but going the extra step to comment, come back, even subscribe (!) is what I really love.

So, hi! And if you're new, do stay. I write about the weird and fascinating things I find sometimes, just like the burning crater. Like this:

  • There's a $9 million vault in Norway that holds 250 million of the world's seeds
  • An engineer at GE studied butterfly wings to make better security sensors
  • A fifteen-foot wave of molasses tore through Boston in 1919, killing 41 and injuring 150

  • My point: This is exciting. And has the potential to be even more so. I guess that second part is up to me ;)

    30 March 2011

    The Door To Hell

    Mike sent me an IM one morning a few weeks ago, and I've been thinking of this thing ever since.


    That's a crater in the middle of Derweze, which is a village in Turkmenistan. And it's on fire. It's been on fire for 40 years.

    Here is the Wikipedia page; there's not a ton of information, but I guess enough to give context. In 1971, this crater formed while some people were drilling, and they realized that methane was emanating from it. Geologists decided that burning the gas would be less dangerous than letting it permeate the atmosphere, and figured that it would burn out in a matter of hours. It's still burning.

    Isn't that nuts? The crater (which is 230 feet across, by the way, that little dot on the right of the crater is an SUV (I must have either seen another picture when I first learned about Derweze with an SUV in it, or I'm hallucinating, thank you Anon; it is actually a hunk of metal)) has come to be affectionately (maybe not affectionately) referred to as the Door To Hell.

    I immediately put the town's name into Metafilter, because this is exactly the sort of thing that would be posted in there. And, you know what, not really. Why don't more people talk about this thing?

    Check out some more pictures on Flickr.

    21 March 2011

    An Education

    I watched An Education yesterday, which had been on my Instant Queue for quite a while. It was pretty great, and every time something like this happens, I marvel at the fact that I had been sitting on such a delight for so long without knowing it.

    As you can probably tell, the movie is about a school girl in the 1960s who is cynical about what a traditional education all means - she'd rather learn about life by living than by reading textbooks. I won't get into details on the rest; just see it. The story is heartfelt, exciting, and shot beautifully – I took a million screenshots and couldn't prioritize or stop, really. They triggered all kinds of different memories and associations in my head. How I imagine English, 1960s style, Marisa (who writes the fantastic The Significant Other), and current Swedish girl blogger culture (see this, this, and this for examples), mostly. This might crash your browser (unless... does that happen anymore?).

    How I Imagine English -

    Rain x cello


    English classroom

    1960s style with a dash of The Significant Other thrown in -

    Rainy car cigarette

    Jazz club

    1960s style

    Bar at Oxford



    Champagne & frocks

    Current Swedish Girl Blogger Culture -


    CS Lewis and a cute nose

    Quiet breakfast

    These two are hilarious for different reasons, and both make me giggle -


    So perfect.

    And this one is just pretty -

    Paris bedroom

    See what I mean? Just watch it.

    20 March 2011

    View-Master Model E

    While fidgeting my way through work today, I decided to take a break to play with this piece of magic -

    3-Dimension Viewer

    It was a gift from my friend Joe; he told me that he had bought a bunch of them while he was living in Portland and at WK12. The first View-Master factory was in Oregon, so it makes sense that one might happen upon more of these than usual over there. He bought a few reel collections from eBay and wrapped them all up together. I hadn't looked through one of these in decades, and it blew me away. Super 3D! So cool. And they're all printed on Kodachrome.


    View-Master reel packaging

    I really felt like I was 5 years-old again when I was looking through all of them. The different layers of depth are so cool. And if I moved my head, the colors would get richer with the sunlight coming through my window. The pictures in the Boston collection I have feature tons of noise and stuff that must have been on the camera lens. My favorite ones are the Las Vegas and New York collections, though, since there are so many examples of neon signs, cars and architecture from the 60s (the MetLife PanAm building was the best). Very Catch Me If You Can. I kept wondering who in their right mind would put these things on eBay in the first place. Well, good for me I guess ;)

    View-Master - hard to photograph
    I kind of like that the images can't be photographed. Maybe you can tell this is from the NY reel.

    So, this is how it works.
    While a View-Master disk holds 14 film slides, these really are only seven pairs, making up the seven stereoscopic images; two film slides are viewed simultaneously, one for each eye, thus simulating binocular depth perception.
    I just assumed View-Masters were always a children's toy, since I had a Fisher Price-looking, red version with yellow handle when I was a kid (I'm sure a lot of you did too*). But apparently the View-Master was invented by a guy in the photo postcard business, and a photographer. It was unveiled at the World's Fair in NY in 1939**, after which you could buy them at "photography shops, stationery stores, and scenic-attraction gift shops."

    The Wikipedia page talks about the View-Master's evolution - having a popular phase in the U.S. military ("In the 1940s, the United States military recognized the potential for using View-Master products for personnel training, purchasing 100,000 viewers and nearly six million disks from 1942 to the end of World War II, in 1945"), and later morphing into a children's toy. Eventually, the scenic tourist attraction discs were phased out and everything moved into entertainment themes (movies, cartoons, toys, etc.). Look at the thing now. Jeez.

    Check out this visual timeline/evolution of View-Master viewers; look at the Mickey Mouse shaped one! Amazing. Thanks for the inspiration, Joe ^^

    * Ha, turns out they were Fisher-Price at one point (and still are now). The one I had as a kid is the Model L.
    ** Wow! I was lamenting the end of the World's Fairs to myself, figuring that communication technology made them unnecessary; but apparently there might be a version of the World's Fair in a few years!
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