Archive for Entirely Too Cool

Scraping by

And doing it well, one would think:

Custom Dental sign in Newcastle, Oklahoma

Newcastle is the city at the north end of McClain County, Oklahoma; it has about 10,000 people.

(From Dorkly via Miss Cellania. Originally I was going to set this piece to the Bee Gees’ “New York Mining Disaster 1941” — “Have you seen my ass, Dr. Jones? Do you know what it’s like on the inside?” Taste prevailed, kinda sorta.)

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How do they work, anyway?

We’ll presume you already understand farking magnetism, or at the very least can recognize it at a glance. Now comes the question: how do you ship a fair-sized (six inches across, weighing 6.5 kg) magnet without causing difficulty for other parcels being delivered in the same vehicle?

The answer, of course, is “Very carefully”:

Biggest magnet I have around the place sits under the subwoofer in the car, and I’m pretty sure it’s nowhere near that big, or it would have planted itself on the headliner by now.

(A @SwiftOnSecurity special.)

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Cultural artifact

There’s always going to be something to make me grin on the Architecture Tour. Often as not it’s something Trini says, inasmuch as she has a sense of humor warped in the same general directions as mine. But sometimes it’s something I see on a wall:

Come on, get happy

Somehow suitable for the 1920s, this is in fact a message from the 1970s. Then again, what does it say that I recognized it immediately?

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Protection without racket

After wearing them pretty consistently for 40 years or so, I think I (mostly) understand seat belts. And despite having never seen them deploy, I have a reasonable grip on the concept of air bags, four of which can be found in my current car. But some of the new safety gewgaws simply astonish me. Eric Tingwall, in the May ’16 Car and Driver, reveals a couple of options for the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class:

The optional Pre-Safe Impulse system adds radar units to the front corners of the car and inflatable bladders in the outboard bolsters of the front seats. It predicts an imminent side-impact collision, and inflates the bladders — without damaging the seats — two-tenths of a second before impact, pushing the occupant inward, away from the B-pillar and the intruding car.

Spiffy. But this goes beyond:

Pre-Safe Sound plays pink noise (it sounds like a TV that’s lost its signal) through the speakers to contract the stapedius muscles in your ears prior to a crash, reducing the risk of hearing damage during an accident. This is what a successful civilization looks like: fixes for problems you never even knew existed.

An E-Class with these goodies will likely cost around $60,000: base price, guesses C/D, will be $52k. Still, you know these things will gradually start showing up in cars within my budget.

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Someone planted a page in the score

Led Zep meets Ludwig Van:

Of course, the cello is a quintessential metal instrument — see, for instance, Apocalyptica — but it also works well on that classical-era stuff.

(Via Laughing Squid.)

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Future journalist

What am I saying? She’s already a journalist, and she’s already paid more dues than some of the pros in the business. Admittedly, her beginning was less than auspicious:

Hi. I’m Hilde Lysiak. I’m the publisher of the Orange Street News. I believe it is important to write this newspaper because I believe people need to know what is happening around Orange Street. I’m eight years old and love to play outside and also love holidays and birthdays. I hope you enjoy this issue of the Orange Street News and pick up the next issue.

But that was over a year ago. Last week:

A man is suspected of murdering his wife with a hammer at 9th Street in Selinsgrove, sources told the Orange Street News.

Law enforcement sources will not confirm.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” an officer told the Orange Street News.

Residents reported seeing a person taken out on a stretcher but were told by police not to talk to media.

“They told us we can’t talk about anything,” one neighbor told the Orange Street News.

The woman is a former Selinsgrove borough employee. Many neighbors remembered her fondly.

“This is terrible. Just terrible,” one neighbor told the OSN. “I can’t believe this happened. She was such a wonderful woman. Very kind.”

The suspected murdered was a retired school teacher at Selinsgrove and the victim also worked as branch manager at a local bank manager on Market Street, according to neighbors.

Amazingly, she caught some flak for reporting on this. She ably defended herself in the Guardian (yes, the actual Guardian):

Here’s what happened. On 2 April, there was a homicide in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. It took place just a few blocks from my house, where I run my newspaper.

I acted on a tip from a good source that I was able to get through some of my other reporting. After confirming with the police department, I then went straight to the scene and spoke to neighbors and got more information. I worked very hard.

Because of my work I was able to keep the people of Selinsgrove informed about this very important event hours before my competition even got to the scene.

In fact, some other news sites run by adults were reporting the wrong information or no information at all while the Orange Street News was at the scene doing the hard work to report the facts to the people.

Consider yourselves called out, haters.

Me, I’m now subscribing to the Orange Street News, because this sort of enterprise needs to be supported. (As Robert Stacy McCain would say: “Hit the freaking tip jar!”)

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The apocalypse is at hand

And apparently it’s going to be the left hand:

Some of these may be a little disquieting; some others may be more so.

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Shazam is one of those smartphone apps that is supposed to be able to recognize an unknown song and tell you what it is. Saturday night — into Sunday morning, because that’s how dumb I am — I put it to work on my tablet.

And, of course, I tested it on stuff in my own collection first. Correctly identified on the first try:

On “Kaiser Bill’s,” the title was rendered in German, but that makes a certain amount of sense.

I did manage to stump Shazam on “Mr. Turnkey,” Zager and Evans’ followup to “In the Year 2525.”

And there’s one track it consistently misidentified, the unknown backing track from this video:

I got two different answers, one “Kompression” by Albion, one “Ethno Love” in the Vaffa Superstar Mix, for which I found no link. (Shazam did play a few seconds for me for comparison purposes.)


A kinder, gentler hive mind

It could come from only one place in the universe:

Canadian Borg, eh?

Yes, I know, it’s a cultural stereotype. But it’s not really an unfavourable stereotype.

(Via the TREKYARDS group on Facebook.)

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Na, not really

The medical profession has long put the “odium” in “sodium.” I seldom add salt to anything, but I have a tendency to read while I eat, which detracts from the actual eating experience. So I’m probably not a candidate for this swell gadget, but I can think of lots of people who will be:

Japanese scientists are working on a solution in the form of a fork which is able to generate a salty taste by stimulating the tongue with electricity. The fork is being developed in Tokyo University’s Rekimoto Lab and is intended to allow those who must eat salt-free diets for their health to at least be able to enjoy the taste. It was trialled earlier in March as part of a project called “No Salt Restaurant” where a venue was offering a completely salt-free five course meal and proved to be a success.

The fork’s handle contains a rechargeable battery and electric circuit and when the user puts the fork into their mouth they simply have to press a button on the handle which applies a small electric charge to their tongue.

I suggest you not try it out on pizza.

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From the book of Romans Go Home

Monty Python’s Life of Brian turned out to be so gosh-darn amusing that several multitudes at the time, the time being 1979, assumed the film must be blasphemous, and some of them got actual form letters from Python, which closed this way:

We are aware that certain organizations have been circulating misinformation on these points and are sorry that you have been misled. We hope you will go see the film yourself and come to your own conclusions about its virtues and defects. In any case, we hope you find it funny.

This statement is not approved by the Judean People’s Front People’s Front of Judea.


Someone remind me of this later

One of the reasons I continue to maintain this unauthorized autobiography, as it were, is that I don’t want all this stuff to be forgotten when I’m gone — or, perhaps worse, while I’m still here but unable to remember any of it. So this bit of news maybe lets me breathe a little better:

Researchers at MIT may have made an important breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease.

The school announced Wednesday that it may be possible to retrieve recent memories of Alzheimer’s patients that were thought to have been “lost” to the disease.

Neuroscientists reached that conclusion after extensive tests on mice that have been genetically modified to develop Alzheimer’s symptoms.

First, the Alzheimer’s mice were put in a chamber with normal mice and all received a foot shock. When the mice were put back in the chamber a few days later, only the normal mice demonstrated fear while the Alzheimer’s mice didn’t seem to remember the shock.

But when scientists shined light on the specific brain cells that encode the unsettling event, the Alzheimer’s mice immediately showed fear.

This approach has its limitations, mostly contained within the word “recent.” Still, it’s a beginning:

“It’s possible that in the future some technology will be developed to activate or inactivate cells deep inside the brain, like the hippocampus or entorhinal cortex, with more precision,” neuroscientist Susumu Tonegawa said.

And the prospect of inactivation? Are we on the verge of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?

Joel [Jim Carrey]: Is there any risk of brain damage?

Dr Mierzwiak [Tom Wilkinson]: Well, technically speaking, the operation is brain damage, but it’s on a par with a night of heavy drinking. Nothing you’ll miss.

Just a thought. Nothing more.

(Via Daily Pundit.)

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For certain values of “retro”

From The Seattle Times, yesterday:

Pizza perfectionist Brandon Pettit has done it again. Dino’s Tomato Pie opened just last week on the curve of Capitol Hill’s Olive Way, and it’s already a mob scene. Unlike Pettit and partner Molly Wizenberg’s revered, restrained Delancey in Ballard, Dino’s is also a scene fit for the mob: old-school, East Coast all the way, with pebbly-textured red plastic water glasses, booths with fake-marble Formica tables and a custom-carved oak bar back. (The figures on the latter are Bacchus and Venus, not Pettit and Wizenberg, though some might say, same difference.) Specialty cocktails include Long Island iced tea, and even the website is a retro eyesore/delight.

A word about that Web site: it says it’s best viewed with Netscape 4.72. Don’t have Netscape 4.72? There’s a download link. Which works.

With my own 20th anniversary coming up, I am sorely tempted to retrieve one of the yecchy designs that used to exist here, because retro.

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A Teutonic for the troops

Germans, at least, seem to respect their adversaries:

(Via Martin Spencer.)

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For best results, follow directions carefully

Now $59.95 might seem high for a fan, but it’s not just a fan you’re getting:

What? No, Linux doesn’t do this. I think.

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A latter-day guitar hero, and he didn’t have to play a note:

Yishay Montgomery, a 26-year-old street performer, was playing for money on Jaffa’s beachfront promenade when he came face to face with a terrorist on a stabbing spree. Without thinking twice, the young musician grabbed the first thing he had, his own acoustic guitar, and engaged the stabber.

“I just grabbed the neck of my guitar and rammed it into the guy’s face. It disoriented him a little, and he started to run away. I felt I had to end this incident and started chasing him down, hitting him with my guitar and yelling ‘terrorist, terrorist’ until security forces showed up,” Montgomery told Tazpit Press Service.

The incident occurred on Tuesday night, March 8, when a 22-year-old Israeli Arab from Qalqilya went on a lethal stabbing spree that claimed the life of a 29-year-old American tourist and ended with 11 wounded.

You may be absolutely certain I am not the only one who immediately thought of this:

Said Kevin Walsh: “Quick Draw [McGraw] spent more on guitars than Pete Townshend.”

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Venetians less blind

This is, I suppose, one of those things you don’t think about, that turns out to be important to someone else:

With its many arched bridges, Venice cannot claim to be among the world’s most wheelchair-friendly cities. But a pair of gondoliers is challenging that image.

A new private-public project, dubbed gondolas4all, on Friday unveiled the first access point for wheelchair users to board one of Venice’s storied black-lacquered gondolas.

It will take about six weeks to complete the logistics and train gondoliers in the use of the wheelchair lift. The patrons, I’m thinking, will happily wait a little longer:

Gondolier Alessandro Dalla Pieta said that over 20 years he had seen “people in wheelchairs dozens of times looking at us as if we were the last Coca-Cola in the desert. It tugged at my heart.”

As my own mobility declines, I can more easily see what they’ve been missing, and appreciate their plight.


The shape of rooms to come

I have yet to see one of these in a hotel room, but I figure they’re bound to spread, at least at some of the price points I can handle:

This would almost, though not quite, make up for the absence of a desk.

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Random penguin

In 1950, Bugs Bunny, out of the kindness of his rabbit heart, escorted an abandoned penguin all the way to Antarctica, only to discover that the bird actually hailed from Hoboken, New Jersey. As tales go, it was pretty tall, but it’s nothing compared to this real-life caper:

Retired bricklayer and part time fisherman João Pereira de Souza, 71, who lives in an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, found [a] tiny penguin, covered in oil and close to death, lying on rocks on his local beach in 2011.

João cleaned the oil off the penguin’s feathers and fed him a daily diet of fish to build his strength. He named him Dindim.

After a week, he tried to release the penguin back into the sea. But, the bird wouldn’t leave. “He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared,” João recalls.

And, just a few months later, Dindim was back. He spotted the fisherman on the beach one day and followed him home.

“Ooh, I’m dyin’!” says João. Maybe.

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‘S marble-ous

Rube Goldberg smiles from beyond at this crazed music machine:

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t all done in one take, but the amazing thing is that it was done at all.

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The Derpsichorean muse

The first day of March, as usual, is Derpy Day; that Super Tuesday business just happened to fall on top of it this year. As you might expect, Equestria Daily has a bunch of Derpy-related items on display for the occasion, but the one I found myself coming back to was this little 15-cm sculpture by frozenpyro71:

Derpy sculpture by frozenpyro71

This project, says the artist, was fraught with frustration:

You have no idea how close I was to shelving this little nightmare of a project. I must have broken her wings in nearly a dozen places during sculpting/painting, they are so very fragile.

She has a wonderfully cartoon-y look here; somehow I see her as performing a dance step that nopony else would ever dare.


Brave new storage

Tam needed to move a whole bunch of files, and acted appropriately:

I go to Amazon and order a 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive. Huh. Same day delivery available. I mention it to Bobbi and she asks me to order one for her, too.

A couple hours later, there’s a thump on the front porch, caused by the impact of a box containing probably more storage space than every computer I owned before 2010 combined, delivered to my doorstep in hours on a Saturday for less than the price of dinner & drinks for two at a middlin’ fair restaurant.

And close to what I paid in 2006 for a drive containing a single gigabyte.

Note from the description:

The 128GB Turbo USB 3.0 Flash Drive can hold approximately 23,674 songs.

By now, there are probably that many covers of “All About That Base.”

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Keeping it in the family

Welcome to Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, the oldest hotel on earth:

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Japan

How old is it, you ask?

Nestled among a number of picturesque hot springs in the mountains of Kyoto, the traditionally-styled Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan in the Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, is recognized as the world’s oldest hotel, inn, and possibly even business in general, catering to everyone from ancient samurai to modern tourists for over a thousand years.

Originally established in 705, the traditional “onsen” or “hot spring” was the brainchild of the son of the reigning emperor’s aid. The natural hot springs in the area allowed for the creation of a number of healing baths that drew visitors and military men from all around to come and relax. Among these early patrons were a number of samurai and famed shogun, giving the spa a bit more notoriety still.

From its inception, the Keiunkan onsen has been passed down within the original family through the centuries. 52 different generations of descendants have cared for and operated the inn, growing the space and modernizing it slowly with each passing epoch.

The Friar quips:

Sometime in the next few years, its guest registry is expected to surpass Mount Fuji as the tallest point in Japan. Rates start at about $300 a night in US dollars. Feel free to mention my name; it’s guaranteed to draw as blank a look there as anywhere else on the globe.

Is it just me, or does $300 a night seem unbelievably inexpensive for the oldest hotel on earth?

(Photo by 663highland on Wikimedia Commons.)

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Good against remotes

I’m sure I need not explain this:

At the very least, she’ll no longer be a little short for a stormtrooper.


I hear you knocking

But some of you, at least, can’t come in:

What is “this”? This:

No political or religious soliciting!
We already know who we're voting for and where we're going when we die.

I suppose that’s kinder than “Please wait while I reload.”


It’s still required

Get your mind around this one:

“Weird Al” Yankovic’s Mandatory Tour comes to Enid, Oklahoma on the 17th of July.

For reals. In between Dallas and El Paso, the Alapalooza will be stopping in the Wheat Capital.

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O hai

I once described a spam as “someone trying to imitate American legalese with no tools but a French-to-Urdu phrasebook.” If this sounds like an unnecessarily roundabout way of doing things, imagine this: feed a line of a song lyric into Google Translate, take the result and feed it back into Google Translate, repeat until utterly crazed, continue with the next line.

That’s pretty much what’s been done here:

Now think about it. How could you make this procedure even weirder? That’s right: incorporate Google Images.

To put this in Trek terms, we’ll have holodecks long before we get proper Universal Translators.

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Degrees of brilliance

While Gadgette editor Holly Brockwell fangirled all over the new Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge — and let’s face it, no one fangirls better or with more technological suss — she dropped this little tidbit of information that induced Severe Jaw Drop in yours truly:

Amazingly, the S7 and S7 Edge feature water cooling, something PC users have had for a long time. It’s essentially a way of using sealed containers of liquid to cool down the components of a phone during intensive activity, and while it’s not the first time it’s been seen in a smartphone, it’s still a very impressive feature to cram into such a slimline phone. Most people won’t care, but we think it’s cool.

In the literal sense, yet.

I had no idea they were even thinking about liquid-cooled smartphones, though of course the concept makes eminently good sense. This, of course, is why she’s among the best tech writers in the known universe, and I’m still sitting here fumbling with T9 texting.


Hope for the hopeless notebook

Toshi the Road Warrior, a sturdy Toshiba Satellite which has followed me around on road trips for a decade and a half, is woefully out of date. But now I’m wondering if maybe a solution just dropped into my lap:

Earlier today we published a story about Neverware, a New York City startup that is helping schools refurbish old Windows PCs and Macs that had been abandoned as unusable, converting them into “Chromebooks” students can actually work on. Neverware charges schools a licensing fee for every machine it enables this way, but it also offers the software for free to individual users. And starting today, you can set up most computers to dual boot into their original operating system or Chrome, meaning you don’t have to get rid of anything on your machine to give it a spin as a Chrome-capable laptop.

Now these aren’t technically “Chromebooks” because that name is a trademark reserved for the laptops created by Google and its hardware partners. A Google representative suggested we call them Chrome laptops, or Chromium laptops. I’m partial to Chromiumbook myself. In any case, you’ll find that the experience is mostly indistinguishable from Chrome, and that all the Google apps and services you expect work without a hitch.

Toshi’s lack of suds may not matter in the Chrome context:

I have been using a six-year-old Dell Latitude laptop running Neverware’s CloudReady software for a few weeks. In Chrome it boots in under 30 seconds and runs fast enough for me to use it as my only computer at work. In Windows, well, not so much. As we noted in our feature, an irony of the cloud computing era is that a lot of older machines discarded as obsolete actually have far more horsepower, in terms of pure hardware, than the latest Chromebooks coming to market.

Then again, that’s a six-year-old. Toshi is sixteen. Still, the idea is tempting, and it’s not like I’m going to miss Windows XP.


For when you have to pour it on

Presenting new, or not so new, Liquid Trump:

Advertisement for Liquid Trump

The “EL” logo in the corner represents Economics Laboratory, Inc., which also produced a home dishwasher product called Electrasol. (Electrasol was eventually renamed “Finish”; after several mergers, Finish is now part of the giant Reckitt Benckiser group.)

Choice comment comes from Gerard Van der Leun, who ran this picture with the caption: “For when you’re out of Solid Trump.” Well done, sir.

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