Archive for Entirely Too Cool

It’s all about keyboard feel

For the touch-typists among us, there is a little raised section on the F and J keys, so you’ll always know where your home row is. (Those of us who never learned to type that way and still worked up a modicum of speed, well, we pay no attention to it.) But that’s only two keys. What if you could distinguish every key by feel? If this is your desire, Michael Roopenian has something for you: wood-grained key tops, sliced from actual wood, with a distinct grain pattern on each key.

Okay, maybe not for you. This is available only for Apple wired keyboards with the integral keypad, and for two different Apple wireless keyboards. And I suspect it’s probably cumbersome to install. But you get a whole new set of tactile sensations, and the distinction of clicking away on a genuine, if quotidian, objet d’art.

(Via Pergelator.)

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Your coordinates had better be exact

Because we have a transporter now, kinda sorta:

In case all of the recent talk about artificial intelligence wasn’t enough of a technologically-driven existential crisis for you, we now have a 3D printer that will “teleport” objects by beaming their specifications to another printer and then destroying the original object. But why destroy the original? Well, we don’t want any Thomas Rikers running around, do we?

Not multiple Rikers, no.

The 3D printer, which was named “Scotty” by its inventors at the Hasso Plattner Institut because of course it was, is like Star Trek’s transporter in that it doesn’t teleport so much by moving matter as it does by accurately reconstructing it in another place. 3D printers aren’t capable of reproducing living creatures (yet), but Scotty can already easily transport simple objects.

Don’t think Starship Enterprise; think Ship of Theseus, as discussed here and here.

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There’s no face like Noam

The downside, of course, is having to explain him to visitors:

Though the descriptor sounds like something generated by a game of Mad Libs, Just Say Gnome is a purveyor of artisanal garden gnomes. Their flagship product, Just Say Gnome sculptor Steve Herrington explains, was first thought up over a decade ago but is newly getting attention online. Gnome Chomsky The Garden Noam, named, naturally, for linguist, philosopher, and political activist Noam Chomsky, runs between $75 and $195, plus shipping, depending on which of two versions a buyer wants and whether it’s ordered unpainted or painted. Gnome Chomsky sports its namesake’s appearance, but the proportions, cap, and boots of a standard-issue garden gnome.

You’ll have to wait, though:

Both versions are currently out of stock, though Herrington says on the Just Say Gnome website that interested buyers can e-mail him to see about getting one once he prepares more.

Buy one for your transformational grandma.

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set syllables = 17

This has serious charm, given its alleged mechanical origins:

The AIs are coming for us.

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Ludicrous speed

Tesla has brought out a P85D version of the Model S, with a smaller motor out back but an auxiliary motor up front for all-wheel-drive use. Apparently it also provides something of a performance boost, as suggested by this shot from the car’s touchscreen:

I don’t think I’d want both Insane and Slip Start pressed at the same time, though.

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And I thought I was observant

So this appeared in my tweetstream (it’s from someone in protected status, so no embed):

Just watched Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” vid for the 1st time. Anyone else notice she throws a Galaxy S5 into the water? It’s waterproof!

“Migawd,” I thought, “that’s brilliant.” I was all ready to go frame-by-frame through the video, when this popped in:

Taylor Swift dangles a Galaxy S5

Yep! Just watched it again & paused. That’s a Galaxy S5! Oh, Taylor.

I’m not sure who impressed me more in this incident: Taylor Swift, for being shrewd enough to trash a fairly pricey phone without actually trashing it, or my correspondent, for having a really good eye for detail.

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C plus

I remember, from way down the timeline, a bumper sticker to this effect: “186,000 miles per second. It’s more than just a good idea. IT’S THE LAW.”

But apparently it’s not as ironclad as I’d heard:

Turns out you can, in fact, move faster than light, and when you cross that threshold you create a “photonic boom” the way a jet does when it crosses the speed of sound. The only problem is that in order to do so you must have zero mass, and that state is probably not going to be reached by switching from ranch to vinaigrette on your lunch salad.

Still, it’s worth the shot, if only because you’re no longer eating ranch. And keep in mind: Hidden Valley Ranch brand, which started it all, is owned by Clorox.

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One would certainly hope so

You may actually need this service more than you think:

We are a full laundry service that includes free pickup and delivery. Yes, you read correctly. Full. Delivery. Laundry. Service. No half jobs here! We will pick up your messy, wrinkled, and dirty laundry. All you have to do is throw them into a large bag(s) and schedule a pickup online or give us a call. We will come by and pick up your items. At our discussed delivery time, we will then return your items washed, folded and smelling fresh; all at a low rate.

And, as noted, no poop stains. The rate, at this writing, is a buck and a quarter per pound; there is a 30- to 60-lb minimum load depending on where in Los Angeles (hey, I know from 310) you happen to be. The driver does have a scale, but here’s a rule of thumb:

13 gallon (home) trash bags full of random clothes such as jeans, shirts, towels, and shorts … each bag weighed approximately between 10-13 lbs. So, roughly 2-3 full bags should typically meet our minimum in certain areas.

More than you’d spend feeding a laundromat, probably; but your time is worth something, is it not?

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Title(s) of the year

Someone thought this one through, and nailed it:

Scan from People Magazine: Rock's papers scissor union

Once in a while I approach these heady heights. Maybe. I can’t claim credit for this one either:

Scooby Doom

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Noodle used

I have a medium-size stockpot, used mostly for boiling water into which pasta will be dumped. The diameter of this pot is approximately 0.3 inch less than the length of typical spaghetti-like substances. In days of old, I would break the rods in two in an effort to get them to fit. The trouble with that, of course, is that you can’t actually break them in two: invariably a third piece is formed, and sometimes a fourth. Unable to explain this phenomenon, I started pushing one end of the handful of spaghetti against the bottom of the pot while the water was boiling, and when the rods bent enough, following through with the rest. The results were slightly less satisfactory at precisely al dente, but it was better, I thought, than dealing with segments of random length, given my tendency to roll the stuff onto the fork.

At long last, there’s an explanation for where that third piece comes from:

Maybe I should just get a bigger pot and be done with it.

(Via Sploid.)

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Mails of the unexpected

Generally, you get Christmas cards from the people who always send you Christmas cards. The loan officer who set me up with my current mortgage, whom I’d probably have remembered for purely superficial reasons anyway, has sent me a card every year since 2003.

I was not expecting a card from singer Sabrina Lentini, whose previous EP I’d bought, and whose next EP is made possible by an indiegogo campaign that I’d backed. Apparently she addressed all these by hand: the shapes of the letters are sufficiently irregular to suggest so, and mine, at least, is non-lavishly festooned with a seasonal but nonetheless stock Forever stamp from the Postal Service. (The Santa Ana, California, post office did come up with a Santa image for the cancellation.)

I doubt she sent one of these to every one of her 2,473 Facebook fans. The seventy or so backers of the EP? That I’d believe.

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Yet so far from Walley World

This is actually Clark/Westfield. Like anyone’s going to remember that now.

And yes, it would work better, or at least look better, if it had been Photoshopped, but you wouldn’t be able to see it from the Garden State Parkway.

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Thirty days of juke

A suitable introduction:

It’s like those “#1 on your birthday” sites, except this gives you only ten songs for the whole month. But you can hear all ten of them by pushing the appropriate buttons. The list runs out at December 1989, and if the World Wide Web were in existence in 1989, this page would look like it was that old; but don’t let that stop you.

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Accounting crows

They learn fast, they do:

[Researchers] trained two hooded crows (Corvus cornix) to identify items by color, shape, and number in what’s called “identity matching-to-sample” (IMTS). The birds were placed in a wire mesh cage with a plastic tray containing three cards and two cups. The card in the middle served as the sample card. The cups on either side were covered with the other two cards: One matched the sample (in the color, shape, or number of items pictured), while the other didn’t. The cup with the card that matched the sample card contained two mealworms as a reward.

Once the birds mastered this scheme, the researchers stepped up the game:

In the second part of the experiment, the birds were tested with relational matching pairs. A sample card with two same-sized circles, for example, means they should pick the test card with two same-sized squares — and not two different-sized circles.

How did they do?

The birds picked the correct card more than three-quarters of the time.

There are humanoids out there who can’t pick the correct card more than three quarters of the time; it’s been many years since I’ve seen a ballot that didn’t mention at least one such.

(Tweeted in my general direction by GLHancock.)

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Everybody knows that the bird has the word

However well our Weather Guys do at locating tornadoes, they’ve got a long way to go to catch up with these birds:

US scientists say tracking data shows that five golden-winged warblers “evacuated” their nesting site one day before the April 2014 tornado outbreak.

Geolocators showed the birds left the Appalachians and flew 700km (400 miles) south to the Gulf of Mexico. The next day, devastating storms swept across the south and central US.

In 2013, researchers tagged 20 of the birds; after flying to Colombia for the winter, ten of them showed up the next spring, and after the storms broke, five were recaptured and their tracking devices opened up.

In this case, all five indicated that the birds had taken unprecedented evasive action, beginning one to two days ahead of the storm’s arrival.

“The warblers in our study flew at least 1,500km (932 miles) in total,” Dr [Henry] Streby said.

They escaped just south of the tornadoes’ path — and then went straight home again. By 2 May, all five were back in their nesting area.

Dr Streby and his team suspect infrasound:

The most likely tip-off was the deep rumble that tornadoes produce, well below what humans can hear.

Noise in this “infrasound” range travels thousands of kilometres, and may serve as something of an early warning system for animals that can pick it up.

“It’s very unlikely that this species is the only group doing this,” Dr Streby said.

Now to find a species that (1) can utilize infrasound and (2) can exhibit some serious TV presence.

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Out to launch

Would you like to swing on a star?

And yes, those are real NASA interns.

Meghan Trainor can probably retire next spring.

(Via Miss Cellania. See also this earlier example of Johnson [Space Center] Style.)

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As he nibbled at her ear

And can you blame him, really?

Sushi earrings by Hatanaka

The backstory:

My husband asked me a few days ago what I wanted for the holidays and I told him I didn’t know. But after seeing these fake food jewelry designs by Japan-based company Hatanaka, I think I just may want a Beef Bowl necklace, dammit!

I hate these and I kind of love them at the same time. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with wearing a bowl of fake beef around your neck, okay? I mean it’s not like they’re selling something weird, like salami necklaces or bacon earrings…

(From Caitlin D.’s contribution to the Saturday Links yesterday at Rookie.)

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Upward mobility

So, Lisa Quam, you’ve won $90 million playing Powerball. Do you quit your job?

She said she would quit her job at plane maker Boeing Co.

Do you buy new wheels?

Quam said she expected to travel more and had already identified her next new car: a Subaru Forester.

Which, for Washington state, will fit right in.

Although this is the part that gets me:

Quam and her husband bought two Powerball tickets on a Thanksgiving Day run to buy a newspaper and pumpkin spice.

For those of you who thought pumpkin spice, barely spice and not even close to being pumpkin, was the creation of Beelzebub — well, even the devil has an off-day now and then.

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Try it, you’ll like it

You can lead a horse to water, but — well, you know the rest of it. Especially if the horse is deeply suspicious of this whole “river” business.

How to overcome those fears? Just like this:

All sorts of lessons come to mind, but the one that matters is the one that came to you first.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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And appropriately so

The Internet Movie Database has millions of viewer ratings for hundreds of thousands of motion pictures, all on the standard 1 to 10 scale — with one exception:

Screenshot of IMDb entry for This Is Spinal Tap

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out any way to rate the film 11, even using my ten-year-old long-forgotten login. (The average is 8.0, though there are more 10s than 8s.) Apparently the 11 is for decoration only. Still: well played, IMDb.

(From BuzzFeed via Virginia Postrel.)

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Kind of a floaty ride

I’ve seen exactly one of these in my life. The Tupelo Automobile Museum has another one, in decidedly better shape:

Amphicar at Tupelo Automobile Museum

About 3500 Amphicars were produced between 1960 and 1968, priced starting at $3395. One of those coffee-table collector’s books describes it thusly:

Superb neither on water or land, but nonetheless the world’s only amphibious passenger car. Designed by Hans Trippel and powered by a Triumph Herald four-cylinder engine, it did what its maker claimed: run on the road (68 mph tops), sail on water (7 knots maximum) without sinking (rubber gaskets seal the doors; a bilge pump is available if the scupper-level rises). A transfer case handles the drive to twin props, and water navigation is via the steering wheel (the front wheels act as rudders). The sure cure for marina fees, yacht club sharks, and people who want to borrow your boat.

The Museum itself contains about 150 cars from the collection of the late Frank K. Spain, founder of WTWV (now WTVA) in Tupelo, a character in his own right:

Spain hoped to parlay his good relations with NBC officials into getting his new station an affiliation with the network. However, several NBC executives believed Tupelo was not a desirable place for a local station because of its rural location, even though most viewers in northern Mississippi could only get NBC via grade B coverage from WMC-TV in Memphis, Tennessee and WAPI-TV (now WVTM-TV) in Birmingham, Alabama). Nonetheless, they told Spain that if he could figure out a way to obtain a network signal, he could carry it.

Spain allegedly negotiated under-the-table deals with WMC-TV and set up a network of microwave relays and repeater systems to carry the WMC-TV signal to Tupelo. Station engineers then switched to and from the signal when network programming aired. This setup, necessary in the days before satellites, enabled WTWV to bring NBC programming to northeastern Mississippi and northwestern Alabama.

You got to figure a guy like that would appreciate a car that floats.

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pH 7+

And once again, I drift back to high-school chemistry — with a contemporary bounce:

Meghan Trainor, what hath thou wrought?

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Beyond gossamer

An (almost) actual necklace made out of nothing:

NECLUMI is the first projection-based interactive necklace. We’re posing a question if we’re willing to abandon atoms of gold for the waves of light? At the current stage the whole setup is based on iPhone running custom app and a picoprojector connected via hdmi cable and attached to the wearers chest. Given the rate of miniaturisation of the picoprojector technology and observing the trend of wearables treated more as jewellery and fashion accessories rather than just gadgets, we predict that wearable projection and projection-based jewellery become a reality in a few years. We’re currently committed to create a standalone version of the project and we’re opened for funding and collaboration.

Watch the video at the link. It’s spellbinding, and maybe more than a little scary.

(From Wearable Technologies via Dan Gordon.)

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What, this Sith again?

You can’t tell me this wasn’t inevitable.

(Via Bonnie Burton at CNET.)

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Outdoor batroom

Bat house from old Volt partsOn the off-chance that your first question is “Why is that Chevrolet Volt battery housing sitting on top of a pole?” the answer is that it’s scrap from the General Motors battery plant in Brownstown Township, in the southern end of Wayne County, Michigan, which has no landfill, and the stuff is difficult to recycle for some obscure chemical reason, so the General came up with something else to do with the little plastic boxes: provide homes for bats. Yes, really:

The company … creates bat houses out of scrap Chevrolet Volt battery covers that can hold up to 150 little brown bats each. John Bradburn, GM global manager of waste reduction, came up with the reuse idea, transforming the difficult-to-recycle material into nesting structures. So far, 232 of these bat houses have been installed on its properties and in other private and public lands in the United States. A tweak of the design has led to 368 specially designed structures to serve wood ducks, owls, bluebirds and scaly-sided mergansers — an endangered species.

Which means shipping the stuff off to China, since Mergus squamatus is native to east Asia and is presumably never seen around Detroit.

This isn’t the only bat-related Chevy recycling program, either:

Artificial stalactites give hibernating bats more surface area from which to hang, thus spreading them out around the cave. Creation of the stalactite is simple; robots that apply a structural adhesive that helps join Corvette body parts are purged regularly to keep the adhesive applicator clean and free of dried material. This dried gunk is the perfect shape for a stalactite, and its use in artificial bat caves avoids sending it to landfills.

Seems like a swell idea to me.

(Nicole originally posted the stalactite story; I just padded it out a bit.)

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A beep to the system

The staff at Minneapolis’ Acme Foundry, home of quality gray and ductile iron castings, were surprised to see what had been done to the building over the weekend:

Acme Foundry with additional Warner Bros. cartoon characters

Although the business manager is almost certainly telling it straight: “We’ve been in business for over 100 years. I’m surprised it took this long.”

The Super Genius (Carnivorous vulgaris) and his intended prey (Accelleratii incredibus) actually first appeared in 1949, so Acme had at least a 35-year head start, or as much as Wile E. probably needs.

The figures are made of cardboard, and won’t last through a Minnesota winter, but what the heck.

(Via Fark.)

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It’s not really a typewriter

It’s billed simply as a “typing device,” and there’s one particular typist at whom it’s aimed: the person writing for eventual publication, or just for the cedar chest, who wants to go somewhere and observe and/or soak up atmosphere but who doesn’t want to lug along a laptop or squint at a phone, which carry distractions of their own. Perhaps this person is you:

The Hemingwrite is designed like an old-fashioned typewriter but does also manage to keep some modern technology. It has a 6-week battery life so it’s perfect if you write better away from civilization, ample memory, instant on so no time is wasted on booting up, and a high contrast screen so it’s easy to read in daylight or at nighttime. It also has WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, allowing it to connect to Google Docs, Evernote, and the Cloud. The best part of all is that stylish old-school look and feel of a typewriter that completes the writing experience.

The four-pound keyboard-plus-screenlet holds about a million words, or roughly twenty standard-sized NaNoWriMo projects, and, I am told, has that nice mechanical feel.

(First seen here.)

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Whoops, nothing there

I have bloodwork on a regular basis, and since it’s at the same place each time, they manage to find a vein more often than not. This was not, alas, always the case.

But some of you younger folk may never, ever have to experience a failure of this kind again:

Frequent donors will love it.

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Beside some unnamed road

Finally, someone I can endorse:

And assuming that’s his real name.

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Meanwhile, a couple of miles away

Of late, Western Avenue has been known for medium to upper-crust eateries and cute little shops and brick walls.

The walls have been addressed here:

The final touches were applied late Sunday, in preparation for Taste of Western Thursday evening.

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