Happy pi approximation day

Today, July 22, or 22/7 as the Eurostyle daters would have it, is pi approximation day. Why? Because 22/7 = 3.1428… which is a an approximation of pi, one that’s a bit bigger and a lot less irrational than the real pi. If this shakes your faith in religion or something, you can refer to this song for something approximating solace:

A little bigger
I’m bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
I’ve circumscribed too much
I messed it up

Or maybe not. Perhaps you prefer the wisdom of a couple of dinosaurs on the topic of pi day vs pi approximation day:

Dinosaur comics approximates pi day

That feels a bit more satisficing, but what would really hit the spot is something that’s almost pie, but not pie and just a bit more than pie. Maybe that’s pie a la mode, or a crumble or a brown betty. Call me irrational if you like, but I’m going to look into this and get back to you before next March 14, approximately.

The beautiful road not yet taken

Remember when, before pervasive phone GPS, you actually asked for directions? You know, stopping a stranger on the street or pulling into a gas station and asking somebody working there and trying to write it down on a mapkin? If you’re not an american male, that is. Maybe it was awkward or ineffective, but the directions were personalized, and you could ask for all sorts of things not precisely shown on maps.

Via The Atlantic’s CityLab blog, I just learned that Yahoo! labs (!) has released a paper exploring “how mapping apps could theoretically generate short walking routes that are more beautiful or quiet than standard offerings.” Color me intrigued, and also excited about mapping that’s pedestrian based. Could a future mapping app plot me a course that optimized not for shortest distance or quickest time but for maximum beauty, minimum chance of an accident, or maybe even one that only uses the shady side of the street?

Yahoo! maps. Who knew?

The sub-head, “In the future, GPS directions may not always be destination-driven.” might be the most interestingly subversive idea in the piece. Who even says that a trip has to have a destination? Maybe the journey is the destination. Maybe you want your GPS to give you a scenic drive or walk of some duration or level of beauty. Maybe you want to explore Somerville and see as many Bathtub Marys as possible along the way.

Who knows when or if such things will ever become available, but I’m excited by the possibilities.  Until then, I recommend taking random walks when you can and also checking out some maps of imaginary places.

Five years later, my cupcake prophecy is fulfilled

Just about five years ago on this very blog, I called peak cupcake and announced the age of pie. Finally, the world is catching up. You can scoff at me five years ago, but behold the WSJ delivering the truth earlier this month:

Crumbs "signature happy birhtday" cupcake, in cross sectionBut the popularity of high-end cupcakes—embodied by chains such as New York’s Magnolia Bakery and Los Angeles-based Sprinkles—has waned in recent years, even as new players crowded into the field. Crumbs posted a loss of $18.2 million last year, layered on a loss of $10.3 million in 2012, according to securities filings. Its cash on hand fell to $893,000 at the end of 2013, down from $6.3 million the prior year.

If you hadn’t caught the headline, Crumbs global cupcake empire was reduced to its namesake particles as it was delisted from the NASDAQ and closed all its stores. As of this writing, nobody told their webmaster that cupcakes are over.

Really, when you think back on it, end-of-days pastry like the cronut should have tipped us off.

Space Duck Mother Mother

Ordinarily I would not post twice in a week about giant ducks, but this has been no ordinary week, gentle readers. As you are no doubt aware, the European Space Agency spacecraft Rosetta is heading for a rendezvous with the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Recent advance imaging of said comet looks like this:

Space Duck Mother Mother

Do you see what I see? Don’t worry, other people see it too. Even the BBC calls it a “space rubber duck” and if it’s good enough for the beeb, it’s good enough for me. The space duck formerly known as comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is 4.5 km across, dwarfing recently cited giant ducks by orders of magnitude.

Please join me in welcoming our new space duck comet overlords.