Is there a way to survive without cable, and still see all the shows you want? That was the topic of my conversation with American Public Media's Future Tense -- you can listen to the interview below.

AuthorMark McClusky

Want to read some of the best magazine writing of the year? Here are the writing finalists for the 2010 National Magazine Awards, with links to the stories online. Perfect for Instapaper! Links are to full text and print friendly versions, where available. If you find stories that I didn't, please let me know in comments.

Personal Service

5280: "Low on O2," by Lindsey B. Koehler and Natasha Gardner Men’s Health: "Dead Man Driving," by Oliver Broudy New York: "For and Against Foreskin," by Michael Idov Parents: For a three-part series by Meryl Davids Landau: "So Long, Cigarettes!"; "You Can Do It!"; "Breathe Easy" Wired: "How to Behave"

Leisure Interests

Esquire: "Esquire’s All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast" Field & Stream: "America’s Meat" New York: "The Great New York Neoclassical Neapolitan Pizza Revolution," by Bob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld with Michael Idov and Christine Whitney Texas Monthly: "The 50 Greatest Hamburgers in Texas," by Patricia Sharpe and Jake Silverstein Texas Monthly: "Step Right Up," by John Spong

Public Interest

The Boston Review: "A Death in Texas," by Tom Barry National Geographic: "Scraping Bottom," by Robert Kunzig The New Yorker: "The Cost Conundrum," by Atul Gawande San Francisco: "War of Values," by Danielle Morton Technology Review: "Dissent Made Safer," by David Talbot


The Boston Globe Magazine: For a two-part series by Neil Swidey: "Trapped,"; "The Way Out" The New York Times Magazine: "The Deadly Choices at Memorial," by Sheri Fink The New Yorker: "Eight Days," by James B. Stewart The New Yorker: "Trial by Fire," by David Grann Vanity Fair: For a three-part series: "Madoff’s World," by Mark Seal; "Hello, Madoff!" by Mark Seal and Eleanor Squillari; "Ruth’s World," by Mark Seal

Feature Writing

Esquire: "The Last Abortion Doctor," by John H. Richardson The New York Times Magazine: "The Holy Grail of the Unconscious," by Sara Corbett Texas Monthly: "Still Life," by Skip Hollandsworth Vanity Fair: "Wall Street on the Tundra," by Michael Lewis Wired: "Vanish," by Evan Ratliff

Profile Writing

Esquire: "The Man Who Never Was," by Mike Sager New York: "A Nonfiction Marriage," by Jonathan Van Meter The New Yorker: "Man of Extremes," by Dana Goodyear Vanity Fair: "The Man in the Rockefeller Suit," by Mark Seal Vanity Fair: "Marc Dreier’s Crime of Destiny," by Brian Burrough


National Geographic: "Top Ten State Fair Joys," by Garrison Keillor The New York Times Magazine: "A Journey Through Darkness," by Daphne Merkin The New York Times Magazine: "Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch," by Michael Pollan Orion: "Out West," by Joe Wilkins Sports Illustrated: "And Yet...," by Mitch Albom

Columns and Commentary

The Atlantic: Three columns by Megan McArdle "Sink and Swim," June; "Misleading Indicator," November; "Lead Us Not Into Debt," December

The Economist: Three "Obituary" columns by Ann Wroe "Danny La Rue," June 13; "Benson," August 15; "William Safire," October 3

Newsweek: Three columns by Fareed Zakaria "Obama’s Vietnam," February 9; "The Way Out of Afghanistan," September 21; "Theocracy and Its Discontents," June 29

Popular Science: Three "Gray Matter" columns by Theodore Gray "The Other White Heat," May; "Gone in a Flash," September; "Flash Bang," October

Travel + Leisure: Three columns by Peter Jon Lindberg "In Defense of Tourism," January; "Unhappy to Serve You," September; "Stop the Music!" November

Reviews and Criticism

GQ: Three reviews by Tom Carson "The Great White Hype," May; "One Glorious ‘Basterd,’" September; "There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute," November

Harper’s Magazine: Two reviews by Jonathan Dee "Suburban Ghetto," April; "Motherless Children," September

Los Angeles: Three reviews by Steve Erickson "The Next Frontier," January; "War Games," July; "No Ordinary Fad," September

The New Yorker: Three reviews by Elizabeth Kolbert "Green Like Me," August 31; "Flesh of Your Flesh," November 9; "Hosed," November 16

Paste: Three reviews by Rachael Maddux "Cold Bore," July; "Brandi, (You’re a Fine Girl)," September; "Just Peachy," December 2009/January 2010

AuthorMark McClusky
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You might have heard that Apple announced details of its new iPad device today. NBC News asked what I thought of it, and you can see the results in this segment from tonight's broadcast:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Also, there are some outtakes with Brain Lam and I on the NBC website.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

AuthorMark McClusky

What's a logical new venue for Bloomberg LP, and it's massive expertise in manipulating and analyzing financial data? Well, how about baseball? Kinda makes a weird sort of sense, if you think about it.

Couching baseball in the language of Wall Street is an easy leap. [Bloomberg president Daniel] Doctoroff, during an interview in Bloomberg’s Manhattan headquarters last week, said, “If you think of players as securities and teams as portfolios, then our infrastructure for managing information about securities and portfolios could be adapted to sports.”

Full details at the NY Times. This is interesting--is there enough of a market for Bloomberg to make money here? And, dear god, how do I get to play with it?

AuthorMark McClusky
CategoriesBaseball, Wired

This morning, the 32 teams for the 2010 World Cup were drawn in to their eight qualifying groups. There's always a lot of talk about a "Group of Death" for the World Cup, so I decided to try and analyze the draw a little mathematically.

I used FIFA's world soccer rankings, as well as Nate Silver's Soccer Power Index at ESPN. For each team, I averaged those two rankings, and then used that as a way to evaluate the groups.

The strongest group, from top to bottom, is group H. The lowest ranked team in the group is Honduras (31.5), and the average ranking for the four teams in the group is 17.5.

Here's the groups, in order of the average ranking of the teams in that group. Lower numbers mean stronger teams:

Average ranking of all teams in group
Group H: 17.5
Group E: 19.625
Group D: 20.25
Group C: 23.25
Group B: 26
Group G: 27
Group A: 29
Group F: 39.5

The Italians are the lowest ranked of the seeded teams, other than the host nation South Africa, but they get the easiest group overall in Group F.

But overall strength isn't the best way to evaluate the Group of Death. The top two teams from each group advance. So, which Groups have the biggest gap between the second and third ranked teams in the group?

Delta between second and third ranked team in group
Group A: 3.5
Group B: 5.5
Group C: 20
Group D: 5.5
Group E: 10
Group F: 18
Group G: 5.5
Group H: 12

A couple things pop out here. The USA was drawn in with England in Group C, but it a clear second ranked team in the group. The US team is ranked 15, and the Slovenia team is the third best in the group, at 35th. You'd hope that the US would be able to advance with that large a gap between second and third. Paraguay also has a big gap in Group F over the third-ranked Slovakia team.

How about another way to look at it? What's the ranking of the third-best team in each group?

Ranking of third-place team in group
Group A: Mexico, 17
Group B: Nigeria, 28
Group C: Slovenia, 35
Group D: Australia, 22
Group E: Denmark, 23
Group F: Slovakia, 42
Group G: Cote d'Ivorie, 12.5
Group H: Switzerland, 24.5

It's the Ivory Coast that's gotten the toughest draw this World Cup, by far. They've got the tenth-best ranking in my crude little system, but are third-best in their group, after Brazil and Portugal. In most other groups, they'd be a favorite to move on, but in Group G, it's going to be tough.

Want to play with the numbers more? Spreadsheet is up on Google Docs. Love to see more slicing and dicing in the comments!

AuthorMark McClusky
CategoriesSports, Wired
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Check it out: I talk with my friend Nancy Miller and photo editor Zana Woods about the story I edited in the October issue of Wired, The Slow and the Furious.

It's a brutally hot morning here at the Villages, one of the biggest retirement communities on the planet. But the saunalike central Florida weather doesn't slow down the 77,000 seniors who call this place home.

On the nine softball fields around the development, smack-talking eightysomethings try to leg out a base hit. Graceful swimmers slice through the water in glittering pools. Near the Bait Shop bar in one of the immaculate town squares, line dancers shimmy in unison.

Villagers play hard. And they drive ... well, they drive kinda slow. Because the ride of choice at the Villages isn't a Lincoln or a Cadillac. It's a golf cart.

The diminutive vehicles are the primary mode of transportation for daily life here. Residents can drive them just about everywhere they need to go. They whiz along 87 miles of trails, from the Walmart to the town squares, from the hospital to the archery range. When they have to cross the six-lane US 27/US 441 highway, no sweat—they take the specially built golf cart overpass. "We don't like to call them our golf carts," a retiree named Warren Cromer tells me. "They're our second car."

AuthorMark McClusky

1707cover.jpgI'm just tickled that my feature story on Nike+ and the data-driven revolution in athletics is the cover story this month at Wired. I think it's probably the best thing I've ever written -- the product of months of research, thinking, and draft after draft. Here's one of my favorite sections:

The Nike+ sensor consists of just three parts. There's an accelerometer that detects when your foot hits and leaves the ground, calculating that all-important contact time. There's a transmitter that sends the information to a receiver, one that's either clipped onto an iPod nano or built into the second-generation iPod touch. And there's the battery. That's what Nike+ is.

What's more interesting is what Nike+ isn't. There's no GPS that automatically tracks your routes—if you want to map your run, you have to do it manually on the Nike site. There's no heart rate monitor, so even though you know how far and how fast you've traveled, you don't know what level of cardiovascular exertion it required. "We really wanted to separate ourselves from that sort of very technical, geeky side of things," Tchao says. "Everyone understands speed and distance."

In other words, Nike+ isn't a perfect tool; it wasn't designed to be. But it's good enough, and more crucially, it's simple. Nike learned a huge lesson from Apple: The iPod wasn't a massive hit because it was the most powerful music player on the market but because it offered the easiest, most streamlined user experience.

But that simple, dual-variable tracking can lead to novel insights, especially once you have so many people feeding in data: The most popular day for running is Sunday, and most Nike+ users tend to work out in the evening. After the holidays, there's a huge increase in the number of goals that runners set; this past January, they set 312 percent more goals than the month before.

There's something even deeper. Nike has discovered that there's a magic number for a Nike+ user: five. If someone uploads only a couple of runs to the site, they might just be trying it out. But once they hit five runs, they're massively more likely to keep running and uploading data. At five runs, they've gotten hooked on what their data tells them about themselves.

Huge thanks to all the people at Nike who took time to talk to me, and everyone at Wired who made it a much better story -- especially Thomas Goetz, whose editing and advice was crucial in the story's success.

AuthorMark McClusky
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A big week around here. First, last Thursday, Wired won three National Magazine Awards. We won General Excellence, Design, and Magazine Section, for the front of the book Start section. Here's a quote from the judges' comment on the GenEx award:

In its 16th year, Wired continues to evolve as the most innovative and sophisticated guide to how technology is changing the world. Ranging across business, entertainment, science and culture, its mix is surprising and intuitive, articulated with graphic attitude and old-fashioned reporting. Wired is sometimes hilarious, often ironic, relentlessly smart and always engaging.

I'm just so darn proud to work here, with such amazingly talented people. And getting recognized by your peers is really gratifying.

And if that wasn't enough, the Alinea cookbook, which I wrote for, won the James Beard Foundation Award for the best book about "Cooking from a Professional Point of View." We beat out the latest from Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal, which is hard to imagine.

Thanks to Grant and Nick for pulling me into the project, and for making it so fun and so rewarding.

I now have to come up with something for next week.

AuthorMark McClusky
CategoriesFood, Wired
2 CommentsPost a comment