Boing Boing likes our cover

Cory Doctorow likes the duct tape on our cover. Cool. I’ve been a Boing Boing fan for years — was quite a nice surprise to see a familiar image there.

There were some early cover designs of the book that included Post-It Notes. And we were thinking, is there anything less sticky than a Post-It? Isn’t that, in fact, the core value of Post-Its, that they aren’t so sticky? I guess we could have gone that direction and renamed the book: Made to Adhere Lightly.

We also played around with images of gum. Gum sticks, ya know. One design showed a woman’s foot in a high-heeled shoe, and she had just stepped in a huge wad of gum, and strands of the gum were trailing the heel into the air. It was a cool photo, almost beautiful. And yet the emotional resonance was, um, less appealing. “Our book — it’s like stepping in gum!”

Bless you, duct tape.

Writing a more concrete online dating profile

In our Fast Company column this month, called “Polarize Me,” [which isn’t avail online to non-subscribers but is referenced by Brady Whalen here] Chip and I poke fun at people whose online dating profiles are terminally abstract and bland. Go ahead, do a quick search — you’ll see an infinite number of headlines like these: “Hey there!” “I’m unique!” “Looking for the right person.” That kind of thing. So in the column, we urge people in the dating world (and by extension, advertisers in the business world) to take a stand and say something wonderfully concrete, like this headline we found on Match: “Athletic math nerd looking for someone to hum Seinfeld intro music with.”

Well, it turns out that there are people who actually make a living giving advice like this! Check out this Time magazine piece called “It’s a Brand-You World,” which discusses consultants who help people spruce up their self-descriptions for job- and mate-hunting purposes. From the piece:

Fran Hartman, a bubbly New Hampshire widow, had posted a Yahoo! Personals ad touting her fondness for seafood and back rubs, and herself as “a young looking 66 year old grandmother. I still work as a courier for a lab company. I love to feel wanted and needed.” But when she didn’t meet a suitable man, Hartman, now 67, paid New York City–based PersonalsTrainer $159.95 to polish her narrative. Her new entry begins “Whether listening to Merle Haggard while driving in my courier vehicle or settling in for some fried clams and a good conversation at Bob’s Clam Hut, you will always find me with a smile on my face and a ready-hug for new friends and old.” The new story generated more responses from prospective mates and “made me feel like I walked on water,” Hartman says. “And it was very much me.”

Chip and I are in the wrong line of work. This sounds fun.

The slowest-spreading celebrity rumors

From The Onion, celebrity gossip that doesn’t stick.

Who’s the Exaggerator?

What, exactly, is William J. Broad trying to say in this NYT piece? The gist seems to be: Scientists are disputing the alarmist claims of Al Gore’s global-warming movie An Inconvenient Truth! Except for the many world-class scientists who, er, strongly support it. And except for the many others who might quibble at the edges but basically think he got it right. (Let’s remember, folks, we’re talking about a movie, not a Ph.D program.) Follow that?

There is a kind of willful blindness displayed in this piece. The core message of Gore’s movie is: Global warming is real, and it’s time to take it seriously. Which is something Gore has been saying for years, and which the overwhelming majority of scientists now agree with. That’s an important message — it could well turn out to be THE critical message of the 21st century — and it was well communicated in the movie by Gore. (To be fair, in support of the skeptical view, Broad points out that there were only FIVE hurricanes in the Atlantic season this year — not the NINE predicted! Take that, Science!)

Unfortunately, repeating what might be the critical message of the 21st century is not “news.” “News” is finding a couple of random people, such as the article’s guest star Don Easterbrook, a geologist at Western Washington University, who argues with some of the movie’s points. And “newsiness” further requires Broad to bolster up these stray arguments into the illusion of a backlash against Gore.

(Side note: No doubt it will come as a Genuine Shocker to anyone who has followed the global-warming debate that one of the critics quoted is none other than Bjorn Lomborg, who has made a career out of being The Scientist that you quote when you want a global warming skeptic who can put a few statistical-sounding sentences together. Quoting Lomborg as a scientist on global warming is kind of like quoting Joe Lieberman as a Democrat on Iraq.)

The ugliest line in the article is this: “Mr. Gore, citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent.”

Implying … that inundation is imminent. (At least visually!) No one who has seen the movie will find this line credible. But the exaggeration (and others like it in the article) makes you wonder whether Broad’s piece isn’t simply an op/ed in news clothing.

The elephant story

If you’ve read our book, the high-concept pitch for this story is: A Connection Plot meets Unexpectedness… (If you haven’t, ignore that line and just read this cool elephant story.)

From an email that’s making the rounds. (If you wrote this story, please contact us.)

I swore I would never pass along something like this, but this did touch my heart:

In 1986, Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Mbembe approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant’s foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Mbembe stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away.

Mbembe never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Mbembe was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teen aged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his son Tapu were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man. Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe couldn’t help wondering if this was the same elephant.

Mbembe summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder.The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe’s legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn’t the same elephant.