May 26, 2017

Written by

Chris Gonzales


Quit Nguyen

Welcome to this week’s edition of our Friday Quality Linkage column. Please enjoy this week’s collection of interesting and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee, find a comfortable place, and relax.

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When Your Bookstore Becomes a Photo-Op »

According to Katie Orphan at Literary Hub, running a bookstore in the 21st century has its ups:

The more that the book is venerated as a physical item, something that, unlike a screen, people want to hold and even smell, the more the bookstore turns into a temple. The physical space where books are kept, and where booksellers friendly and grumpy alike can provide guidance in the world of books, becomes more important.

…and its downs:

The other challenge that arises for us is the way that people interact with the space. Some see it as a special place, one made magical through the presence of books. Some view it as a photo opportunity first, everything else second. We get people blocking thoroughfares to take photos, making access to shelves difficult for both staff and visitors. We should have known that would happen when we created unusual design fixtures for the store, from the tunnel of books on the mezzanine level to the cash wrap made of books.

A good bookstore these days is a sacred place. Take the occasional photo if you must, but always remember to show respect for it.

Illustration: Jason Hoffman, Thrillist

Illustration: Jason Hoffman, Thrillist

The 100 Best Burgers in America »

Following a year-long burger quest that took him to 30 cities across America and saw him consuming 330 burgers along the way, Thrillist writer Kevin Alexander has curated this list of the 100 best burgers in the country:

This started as a fairly straightforward mission. I was sick of having to rely on other people’s opinions as to the greatest burger in America and I wanted to figure it out myself. And so I pitched an idea I never thought my editor (or his bosses) would approve — but when they did, and I set off, this somewhat simple exploration of our nation’s best burgers morphed into something much more complex. It became partly about that, but it also became a celebration and documentation of the culinary glory that abounds in America. It turned into stories of people and places as much as food. The quest became a living journal of the way we live, think, and eat now. But, yeah: I also ate a lot of f*cking burgers.

The top burger from my hometown made the #19 slot overall. I’ve never been to that particular joint, but now I’ll have to try it.

A word of warning: Don’t read this article unless you’re prepared to drool all over your keyboard/screen/whatever else. The photos within are mouthwatering to the extreme. Tread carefully.

Illustration: Gavin Aung Than, Zen Pencils

Illustration: Gavin Aung Than, Zen Pencils

Pyotr Tchaikovsky: In the Mood for Work »

Gavin Aung Than’s latest Zen Pencils comic focuses on the work ethic and creative process of The Nutcracker composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky:

Most freelancers take on a job that they’re not that excited about … I know I have. The brief doesn’t excite them, they can’t get creatively enthusiastic about it or sometimes the people involved are a pain to deal with. Whatever it is, they wish they never said ‘yes’ to it in the first place. The great Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky felt that way about The Nutcracker. […]

Tchaikovsky was not thrilled about the job. Not only was he busy with other work and had an upcoming tour of America to worry about, but he also didn’t like the story at all. But one does not turn down an Imperial commission backed by the Tsar, so being a “self-respecting artist” Tchaikovsky gritted his teeth and got to work: “I am working with all my might and I am growing more reconciled to the subject.”

Barry Can’t ‘Arf Weld »

There’s something both fascinating and dystopian about this 2014 short film by Shaun Bloodworth (who also made this film about the makers of these scissors). Filmed at Firth Rixson Forgings in Sheffield, England — back before they were acquired by Alcoa, now Arconic — this 8-minute video shows the large-scale forging of special steels, which is cooler to watch than it sounds.

As MetaFilter user “Happy Dave” put it: “If you’d like to see very large machines bashing the crap out of very hot pieces of metal guided by very skilled workers, this is eight minutes of beautifully shot film that is very much for you.”

Note: The video has lots of loud screeching and repetitive metallic banging noises. I won’t mark it NSFW for that, but do be mindful of your surroundings while watching.

Example-Based Synthesis of Stylized Facial Animations »

A research team led by Czech Technical University associate professor Daniel Sýkora has created an AI-powered algorithm that reminds me of the Deep Photo Style Transfer project (which I included in this Quality Linkage column) except instead of combining the styles of two photos, it can actually animate peoples’ faces in the style of another photograph.

Here’s Sean O’Kane of The Verge describing the project:

Sýkora’s software [is] able to take a picture of an oil painting on canvas or a bronze statue, and transfer those styles to videos of people speaking. The results are spellbinding. It’s not all that far off visually from what apps like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram offer […], but the execution is far more flawless.


The team’s paper on the project has apparently been accepted by Transactions on Graphics, one of the many journals published by the Association for Computing Machinery. But that paper won’t be published until later this summer, when Sýkora’s team presents their findings at the ACM’s SIGGRAPH conference.

Very cool.

The Hermit Who Inadvertently Shaped Climate-Change Science »

Back in January, J. Weston Phippen of The Atlantic profiled Billy Barr, a Henry David Thoreau-esque man who “moved to the Rocky Mountains four decades ago, got bored one winter, and decided to keep a notebook that has become the stuff of legend”:

Each stenographer’s notebook lasted for three years of data, and Barr developed his own code. In the morning and night he logged snow levels, weather, and temperatures. For wildlife he invented his own number system, and in red he circled first sightings: the mammals emerging from hibernation, or the first calls for spring from the robins, the flickers, and especially important to Inouye would be the broad-tailed hummingbird.

Having lived in the area nearly three decades, Barr had become good friends with many of the scientists, and because Inouye had visited RMBL as long as Barr had lived there, the two talked often in the summer. Even so, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that Inouye learned of Barr’s priceless trove of data.

This story reminds me somewhat of a conversation Merlin Mann and John Roderick recently had on episode 239 of their Roderick on the Line podcast (starting from the 1:04:39 mark), where they discussed the idea of all this data being recorded by ordinary people around the world and how it should all be captured in databases online before it disappears forever. There’s probably a lot of critically important information to be gleaned from all that stuff, at least in the aggregate.

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Got any suggestions for articles, videos, stories, photographs, and any other links you think we should be posting in our weekly Quality Linkage? Please do let us know on Twitter.