Speech scientist Rupal Patel creates customized synthetic voices that enable people who can’t speak to communicate in a unique voice that embodies their personality.
Anna Debenham on Code For America, starting a web career at age 14, checking websites in game console browsers, producing 24 Ways, what comes after winning young developer of the year, and the delights of Spotted Dick and Victoria Sponge.
Anna is the author of Front-end Style Guides, creator of the Game Console Browsers website for developers, co-producer of 24 Ways, technical editor for A List Apart, and was Netmag’s Young Developer of the Year 2013.
We all fail. We all make mistakes. Now, a new exhibit at Trinity College in Dublin is celebrating epic failures across the globe to make a point about the importance of making mistakes.
At its peak, the Berlin Wall was 100 miles long. Today only about a mile is left standing.
Compared with other famous walls in history, this wall had a pretty short life span.
The Great Wall of China has been around for 2500 years. So have the walls of ancient Babylon—although its most famous part, the Ishtar Gate, is actually in a museum in Berlin.
But even though the wall dividing Berlin into East and West was only up for 30 years, it had a huge impact on the psyche of the city. It broke families in two. In the decade that followed, more than 2 million people fled from east to west. East Germany was losing its most skilled workers as they sought jobs–and to reunite with their families–across the border. And East Germany was losing face with every East Berliner who chose to defect.
And that’s why, in 1961, East Germany closed its border to West Berlin with a wall. But this isn’t a story about the design of the Berlin Wall. This is a story about one design to get through it—or really, underneath it. Ralph Kabisch, then a 20-something-year-old university student, was there.
(This is not Ralph Kabisch. But this is the tunnel he helped build. Credit: Ralph Kabisch.)
Now to be clear, Ralph and his crew were tunneling from west to east. They were tunneling into what was arguably the most militarized city in the world at the time.
Construction on the tunnel began at a defunct bakery along the border. (The bakery had closed because too many of its customers were stuck in the East). Near the bakery’s entrance, you could actually see the East German guard towers looming over the wall. And in that bakery, young Berliners were tearing into the ground, trying to dig a tunnel under the wall and into east Berlin.
(At left, tunnel entrance (“Eingang”), just in front of the guard post (“Postenstand”). Tunnel exit (“Tunnel-Ausgang”) at right. Courtesy of Ralph Kabisch.).
Lessons learned from digging the tunnel:
— To make sure your tunnel doesn’t flood, dig vertically until you get to the water table, and no further. Then dig forward.
— It is possible to move enough dirt to fill four eighteen-wheeler big rigs with garden spades.
— A password system can help expose Stasi spies.
— To keep the East German police from finding out about the tunnel, minimize people going in and out of the work site. In other words, live there.
— You can make a shower out of a faucet and a bicycle inner tube.
— A screwdriver will melt if it touches the power grid.
Ralph and his friends may not have had expertise in tunnel-digging, but they did have enough gumption—and love for their friends and family stuck in the East—to reach the other side. Thanks to them, 57 people escaped into free West Berlin.
Oddly, this tunnel served as a sort of apprenticeship for Ralph. After he finished university—and the Cold War ended—he became an international engineering consult on underground train systems all over the world. He helped build train stations in Korea, China, Thailand, Taipei, and Athens.
(Ralph Kabisch giving a tour in 2013 in Berlin. Credit: Daniel Gross)
This story was reported by Daniel Gross, who spoke with Ralph Kabisch in Berlin.
Music: “Crown Scales”- Chihei Hatakeyama & Asuna; “As if It Would Have a Universal and Memorable Ending”- Upstream Color OST; “Lujon”- Henry Mancini; “Rode Null”- Hauschka; “Snow”- Hauschka; “La Seine”- Hauschka; “Schönes Mädchen”- Hauschka; “Tanzbein”- Hauschka; “Crown Scales”- Chihei Hatakeyama & Asuna; ”Barfuss Durch Grass”- Hauschka; ”Tokyo”- The Books; “Rythn”- Podington Bear
Linguists are looking to crowd-sourcing to solve the problem of translating lesser-known dialects. The plan is to use social networks to link human translators with groups like relief agencies — and even businesses. It’s a technique that worked after the Haitian earthquake.
There’s supposed to be this whole mystique surrounding “proper” pasta: how to cook it, which shape with what sauce, how to eat it, all that. And if you’re not born to it, you’ll never really understand it. Well, maybe not, but with a little effort you can get a whole lot closer to authenticity. Maureen Fant, a writer and scholar who has lived in Rome since 1979, has a new book out with her collaborator Oretta Zanini de Vita, making their Encyclopedia of Pasta a tad more kitchen-friendly. Sauces and Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way is a curious blend of the constrained and the relaxed … just like Italy. One of the things they’re relaxed about is shapes for sauces, which came as a bit of a surprise. One of the things they’re not relaxed about is overcooked pasta, which did not.
There was so much else we could have talked about, and the book is a one of those cookbooks that is as much a good read as a manual of instruction. As for my beloved cacio e pepe, fashionable or not, I am greatly encouraged by the the news that “[t]his is not a dish to make for a crowd … The smaller the quantity, the better the result.” That’s all the encouragement I need.
Sauces and Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way is available from Amazon and elsewhere.
I’m not too sure what to make of the whole mathematical pasta trope. It smacks to me of an answer in search of a question.
Maureen Fant recently gave a great little interview on spaghetti carbonara that tries to set the record straight on this canonical dish.
Cover photo by Stijn Nieuwendijk.
If you listened to the podcast and made it this far, you know I promised you a special treat. Here it is. Little Richard sings On Top of Spaghetti.
The astrophysicist says that participating in a "great unfolding of a cosmic story," should make us feel large, not small. This spring, Tyson hosts a TV series called Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey.
Many of those with severe speech disorders use a computerized device to communicate. Yet they choose between only a few voice options. That’s why Stephen Hawking has an American accent, and why many people end up with the same voice, often to incongruous effect. Speech scientist Rupal Patel wanted to do something about this, and in this wonderful talk she shares her work to engineer unique voices for the voiceless.
Mat Marquis, chair of the W3C Responsive Images Community Group, sits down with Zeldman to discuss guidelines for responsive images in multi-device design. The two web designers discuss the history, theory, and multi-leveled challenge of responsive images, the path to standardization, and what browsers will do next.
The goal of a “responsive images” solution is to deliver images optimized for the end user’s context, rather than serving the largest potentially necessary image to everyone. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been quite so simple in practice as it is in theory.
Andy Budd is a veteran of the UX field, as one of the founding partners at Clearleft and author of CSS Mastery. We talk about his start into UX Design, the role of a formal education for UX Designers, as well as some UX ethical issues, and the difference between UX and UI Design.
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