Dustin Curtis


Page 9

Captain’s ‘incompetence’ led to the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship

From the May issue of Vanity Fair:

American captain and nautical analyst John Konrad tells Vanity Fair special correspondent Bryan Burrough that the ship had already been listing starboard, toward the peninsula. When Schettino dropped the ship’s anchors in an attempt to prevent it from falling farther, he instead created the opposite effect. “You can see they let out too much chain,” Konrad says. “I don’t know the precise depths, but if it was 90 meters, they let out 120 meters of chain. So the anchors never caught. The ship then went in sideways, almost tripping over itself, which is why it listed. If he had dropped the anchors properly, the ship wouldn’t have listed so badly.”

How to explain so fundamental a blunder? Video of the chaos on the bridge that night gives insight into the captain’s state of mind. “You can tell he was stunned,” says Konrad. “The captain really froze. It...

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Disney’s Crisis Letter

Twenty years ago, in January of 1991, a very critical 28-page internal memo — written by the then-head of Disney’s film studios, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and distributed to his fellow executives in an effort to refocus their approach — was leaked to the press, and instantly became talk of the industry.

The recent release of the big-budget Dick Tracy movie had been a disappointment and, as a result, Katzenberg was desperate to recapture the magic of old and rid his studio of their extremely costly “blockbuster mentality.” This fascinating, highly quotable memo was his mission statement. Its subsequent circulation in Hollywood caused a huge stir.

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James Cameron meets Neil deGrasse Tyson

Titanic is about to be re-released in theaters, at 4K resolution and in stereoscopic 3D. The entire film has been “remastered,” but only a single scene was changed. James Cameron, speaking to Culture:

Neil deGrasse Tyson sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year, at that position in the Atlantic, in 1912, when Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen. And with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in.

So I said, ‘All right, you son of a bitch, send me the right stars for the exact time, 4:20 a.m. on April 15th, 1912, and I’ll put it in the movie.’ So that’s the one shot that has been changed.”

I wonder how much work it took to make that change.

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The Post-Post-PC World

Nick Bilton, on Google’s “secret” Glass project, at the NYT Bits Blog:

On Wednesday, Google gave people a clearer picture of its secret initiative called Project Glass. The glasses are the company’s first venture into wearable computing. […]

One person who had used the glasses said: “They let technology get out of your way. If I want to take a picture I don’t have to reach into my pocket and take out my phone; I just press a button at the top of the glasses and that’s it.”

The current Glass prototypes look kind of ridiculous, but the vision for this market is massive. Wearable/embedded computing is, obviously, the post-post-PC world. It’s just going to take a very long time to get there. Watch this incredible video Google released today; it’s certainly enticing:

But what’s the point of creating a “secret” laboratory, where “where engineers and scientists are working on robots and...

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StockTouch, my favorite iOS app

Last night, after I posted a screenshot of Groupon’s stock price from my iPad, some people asked me which app I was using. It’s actually my favorite iOS app, StockTouch.

After I wake up every morning, I grab my iPad and open StockTouch. The first screen I see is an overview of the top 900 US stocks by market cap, split by sector:

StockTouch Overview

This is an incredibly powerful data visualization; it gives an at-a-glance view of the entire market’s health. It also facilitates quick exploration. Touching a sector zooms in to just those companies:

StockTouch Sector

And touching a stock zooms in to the company overview:

StockTouch Company

The UI is gesture-based, so it’s easy to quickly pan around and get a feel for what is going on with the market at any given interval. You can also change the ordering of the companies in each sector box (I sort by market cap, but you can also sort by percentage change or by comparison against the...

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Can bees have heart attacks?

Fascinating answer by Entomologist Matan Shelomi:

Nope. No blood vessels. […]

Insects have a heart, sometimes, but no arteries or veins. They have an open circulatory system: all their organs just float in a goo called “hemolymph” that is a combination of lymph and blood. Some insects, bees included, have a heart and an aorta (the vessel leading out of the heart) that pumps the blood and gives it some semblance of direction (from the back of the insect to the front), but beyond that there is no circulatory system. The heart floats in the hemolymph along with everything else. No way to stop it from receiving blood flow, because it’s surrounded by it.

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The cost of Groupon’s incompetence

$2.5 billion.


On Friday evening, Groupon revised their very first earnings report to the SEC, reporting that the company’s revenue was actually 3% lower than initially reported, increasing losses by $22.6 million. In the 10-K filed yesterday with the SEC, they admitted to having a “material weakness” in their financial reporting structures:

[…] Management concluded as of December 31, 2011 that our disclosure controls and procedures were not effective at the reasonable assurance level due to a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting […]

This is actually the second time Groupon has had to revise its earnings; after their S-1 (the IPO prospectus) was first filed with bizarre accounting procedures, the company was forced to make considerable revisions.


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Symbols, everlasting

Heroes become super by virtue of their actions. They do great things. They perform heroic acts. And then, when the honor is bestowed upon them by some shared consciousness, they become superheroes. The super- prefix is one that is earned, not given. It is a trophy. No superhero has ever become a superhero by calling himself a superhero.

Villains, however, are different. Because people are assumed to be good by default, villains must consciously decide to deviate into villainy. No villain has ever accidentally become a villain. Villainous acts are performed with the full intention of achieving an end goal that satisfies ego, greed, lust, or the desire for power. Sometimes those goals align with universally positive outcomes, and, though they should always be seen through the lens of skepticism, villains are not bad without exception. Actions that appear evil can often be used to...

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A brutal story of capitalism at work: $0.75 pizza in Manhattan

N. R. Kleinfield in The New York Times:

On Thursday evening a week ago, Bombay/6 Ave.—unprovoked, and without warning—cut its pizza price to 79 cents. The next morning, 2 Bros. retaliated by moving to 75 cents (its owners felt it was easier to make change from a dollar than at 79 cents). Bombay/6 Ave. matched the 75 cents, and that’s where everything sits.

Clearly, a slice of pizza cannot be sold profitably in Manhattan for $0.75. The price is an unsustainable gesture. Something has to give. It’s going to be fascinating to watch the story unfold.

See also: The term used in biology to describe this evolutionary principle (as it manifests itself in ecosystems) is punctuated equilibrium and the term describing the effect in economics is called the Bertrand Paradox.

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RIM posts terrible fourth quarter results, loses its CTO, COO, and former co-CEO

RIM has posted its fourth quarter financial results. They’re bad.

Revenue for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 was $4.2 billion [ … ], down 25% from $5.6 billion in the same quarter of fiscal 2011.

A quarter of RIM’s business has been wiped out in just one year. Net income (profit) is even worse (you can ignore the word “GAAP”):

The Company’s GAAP net loss for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 was $125 million [ … compared with] GAAP net income of $934 million, or $1.78 per share diluted, in the same quarter of fiscal 2011.

That’s a billion dollar swing towards the negative in just one year. It’s hard to comprehend that kind of change, especially considering that RIM hasn’t done much to stop it.


In a ridiculously worded sentence, RIM reported that both its CTO and COO are leaving the company:

In addition, David Yach will be retiring from his role as CTO, Software...

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