Archive for Entirely Too Cool

Fan services

This is one of those things that aren’t taught in schools:

My in-window fan has an option to direct the air outward instead of inward. I have absolutely no idea what the purpose of this is, but I am loving the white noise it creates without making my room cold, since the temperature dropped a bit over the last couple of days (and that it drowns out my neighbor’s child, whose goal in life seems to be to see how loudly and for how long he can pointlessly scream).

If it drowns out a noisy moppet, it’s already justified.

But directing the air outward — the “exhaust” setting — has a purpose besides white noise: it sends indoor air outside, which is useful if that air isn’t all that wonderful. (There’s a reason why all bathroom fans are exhaust fans.) I’ve been known to use a fan for white-noise generation myself; if the room doesn’t need cooling, I turn it away from me. Slightly different pitch, but similar results.

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Wear your dog tags

And nothing else, if you’re so inclined:

[A]n outfit in Scranton, Kan., just south of Topeka, seeks to honor troops and veterans in a rather unusual way — it’s a nudist colony that is waiving all admission fees over the three-day holiday weekend to any guest who shows a military ID card or proof of military service.

Yes, the 30-acre Prairie Haven nudist colony and campground, which features tent and RV sites as well as cabins, wants to give troops and vets a free opportunity to soak up more sun than perhaps they’ve ever soaked up in their lives.

“Colony” is considered Oldspeak among nudists, but this does strike me as a heck of a deal, especially if there’s some therapeutic effect:

[A] 2013 report by WFTS, a television station in Tampa, Fla., featured former Army officer Max Sanchez, who said his regular visits to a local nudist colony in that state has helped him cope with behavioral disorders — flashbacks, nightmares, sleep problems — that he said were lingering souvenirs from a yearlong combat tour in Vietnam.

This is the second year Prairie Haven has offered this promotion, having discovered last year that some of their regulars were coming in from nearby Fort Riley.

(Via Breaking Shame.)

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No longer keeping up

Who says there aren’t any good new browser extensions? Not I, after this:

If you want to live in a Kardashian-free world, there’s now an ad block for that.

The KardBlock browser extension, created by the same person who successfully put his resume on Tinder back in September, removes the Kardashians from your feed.

This will perforce block most Bruce Jenner news, but I suppose you can’t have everything.

Coming soon: similar code to expunge all references to Justin Bieber.

(Via Fark.)

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Hang the fees

Another one of my lingering questions, answered while I wasn’t looking: “Is there an automatic teller machine in Antarctica?” There is:

Despite the frigid temperatures, ornery elephant seals, and months of perpetual darkness, Antarctica is still a place where money matters. That’s where Wells Fargo comes in.

The banking conglomerate installed an automatic teller machine (ATM) back in 1998 at McMurdo Station, the largest science hub on the continent. Depending on the season, McMurdo’s population ranges from 250 to more than 1000. And like any small community, commerce is crucial. In order to patronize the coffee shops, general stores, bars, or post office, money is exchanged in what amounts to a closed economy. Some places only accept cash; others have a credit card minimum that’s hard to meet when you need just a couple of items.

And who fixes it when it’s broken?

According to Wells Fargo spokesperson Kristopher Dahl, the company trains McMurdo staff to make simple repairs; more importantly, there’s a second ATM that can be cannibalized for parts. “Every two years, both machines are serviced and brought up to speed on the latest technology,” he says. The vendors chosen for that job undergo a psychological exam and a physical to make sure they’re equipped to deal with the Antarctic climate in case they get held over.

“Latest technology” tells me that they’re not running Windows XP, anyway.

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No needle and no damage done

A record player that costs as much as a small car:

ELP Laser Turntable

This Laser Turntable, in varying incarnations, has been made by ELP Corporation in Japan for a couple of decades now. The pitch has always been the same: the laser tracks the groove, but nothing ever actually touches the surface of the record, so there is no wear or degradation.

Surely there has to be a downside, apart from that five-figure price tag. I thought about it for a moment, and this bit from the archives popped into my head:

Do not use SensEpil on naturally dark skin complexion. SensEpil removes unwanted hair by selectively addressing hair pigment. Varied quantities of pigment also exist in the surrounding tissue of skin. The quantity of pigment in a particular person’s skin, which is manifested by their skin complexion, determines the degree of risk they are exposed to using SensEpil. Treating dark skin can result in adverse effects such as burns, blisters, and skin color changes (hyper- or hypo-pigmentation). Many other laser and light devices, professionally and at home, also have the same restrictions on naturally dark skin complexion.

And then I thought about that red-vinyl copy of Nazz Nazz sitting on the shelf, and concluded that this high-zoot turntable wouldn’t play it well, if at all. Turns out I was right:

Our LT Master #1 is our full-featured, entry level model. Like all Laser Turntable models, this unit plays only Black records. It supports LPs and 45s. It also supports standard album sizes up to 12 inches.

For most people, this is not a disadvantage: I don’t think I have more than a dozen examples of colored vinyl. One of them is that creepy glow-in-the-dark off-white, which for all I know might actually damage the darn machine.

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Entering maximum meta

I mean, you can’t get much meta-er than this:

And if you can, please send it along. In the meantime, here’s a classic from Roberta X:

This reminds me — the Hofstadter’s Law T-shirts are still running way behind schedule. Really thought we’d planned for that.

Now that’s meta within meta.

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I’d call this a pro tip

I hadn’t seen it before. It’s a restaurant ticket, pretty much like any other, except that at the bottom it calculates the “suggested gratuity” for you at three fairly standard rates: 15 percent, 18 percent (“GREAT!”) and 20 percent (“WOW!!”) On the $43.50 check used as illustration, 20 percent is given as $7.99; since 20 percent of $43.50 is in fact $8.70, I’m assuming they’re figuring it before taxes. Me, I’d probably round it up to $9, because that’s just how I roll.

The chap who actually got this particular check, however, left quite a bit more:

It’s common to leave a nice tip for restaurant waitstaff who do a good job. But one man went above and beyond with his restaurant gratuity, leaving behind a $3,000 tip on a $43.50 check for a struggling waitress.

Mike, a resident in New York City, left the massive tip for a waitress who was facing some hard times. “This woman had been serving us for almost a year now. She’s a lovely individual, and she talked about how she was served an eviction notice last month,” Mike told ABC News.

Mike, who asked to remain anonymous, made the tip as part of the ReesSpecht Life foundation, a pay-it-forward movement started by teacher Ray Specht after the tragic death of his 22-month-old son. Mike asked the waitress to not “let ‘Pay it Forward’ end with you.”

Not all of us can afford to part with three grand on just such an occasion, but it’s heartening when someone can, and does.

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Stepping outré

I still think there’s a greater need for variable heel heights, but maybe that comes later. In the meantime, we’re on the verge of variable trim colors:

I do hope there’s enough security built into this system to keep other people from changing your shoes with their apps.

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Why Google still rules

Apparently they can handle even the most horribly mangled English:

(Via Rand Simberg.)

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Advanced shelling

The SB Nation title was “TACO CANNON TACO CANNON TACO CANNON TACO CANNON TACO CANNON,” and justifiably so, since it’s about a taco cannon:

The Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks just had their most successful season in history, with the school’s hockey team making its first Frozen Four, and they’re building a new $80 million arena set to open in October. Whether that arena has good sports teams or nice seats or structural integrity is irrelevant, because it has something more important:

This is the sort of thing that has to happen when Pinkie Pie and Sonata Dusk get together.

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No place to dive

PB Jams is a little sandwich shop on 38th west of MacArthur, owned by Ashley Jiron. The other day, she was a bit unnerved to discover that someone had been Dumpster-diving on the premises: “I had noticed some bags, when I had taken out the trash, were torn open and some of the food was taken out.”

Someone else might have put up a sign saying Don’t Do That. She chose to do this:

Sign posted at PB Jams

“I think we’ve all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand and if I can be that one person to extend that hand to another human being then I will definitely do it,” Ashley said.

The sign, she says, will stay until the diver returns and takes advantage of her offer.

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Like the priests for whom they were named

The San Diego Padres are spending about $125 million on player salaries this year, ninth highest in Major League Baseball. And the team is spending money on a pitcher who can no longer pitch, there being no place for his wheelchair on the mound, but that doesn’t matter to the club’s front office:

San Diego has signed former left-hander Matt LaChappa to a minor league deal each year since 1996, when LaChappa suffered a heart attack while warming up in the bullpen for a Class-A game. He was only 20 at the time.

Now minor-league players aren’t exactly rolling in dough, so this isn’t costing the Padres a whole lot. Still, there’s a very good, even very kind, reason for this:

LaChappa, now 39, is now a wheelchair user, and his contract with the Padres gives him access to health insurance.

If possible, this is even more remarkable: LaChappa was pitching for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League, which in 1996 was the Class A affiliate of the Padres. Affiliations change over the years, and the Quakes are now a farm club of the Los Angeles Dodgers; the Padres’ current Class A club is the Storm, over in Lake Elsinore. This doesn’t matter one bit to the Padres. Says Padres director of minor-league operations Priscilla Oppenheimer:

“It’s our way of saying to Matt that you’re a Padre for life. When Larry Lucchino [the team’s former president who now holds the same position with the Red Sox] was here, he said that’s the way it should be. And as long as I’m here, that’s the way it’s going to stay.”

(Via Fark.)

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Support your local pony fan

Now here’s a perfectly reasonable question:

I can imagine a Brony scholarship … where maybe I get to give scholarships to the people who drew the cutest fanart or made the fan-drawn comic that made me laugh the hardest. Darn it, why isn’t that a thing?

Well, of course you can make it a thing. But you won’t be the first:

The Brony Thank You Fund is now raising funds to start a permanent animation scholarship to Calarts, the school where such people as Lauren Faust, Craig McCracken, and Tim Burton got their start, among many, many others.

It took a little over a year, but it happened:

Pony makes things happen.

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Flexibility is mandated

If this product actually exists, we’re going to have Rockette-level high kicks on every Main Street in the nation:

Perhaps these are repurposed High Tide Heels.

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Quitting time

If I ever again have to leave a job, I hope I have the presence of mind to do it this way:

I actually did give a letter of notice. I wrote it that morning, backdated of course, and shoved it under the rat’s nest of papers on BossMan’s desk. Archaeologists, later on in the millenia, find it and say “What does that mean, die in a crotchfire?” To which another archaeologist will sneer, “Let me Google that for you.”

“Crotchfire,” incidentally, is one of very few words that will reliably trigger involuntary leg-crossing.

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And yet it used to move

You want symbolism? We got symbolism:

Galileo Galilei’s middle finger has been meticulously preserved and can be viewed today at the Museo Galileo in Florence, for eight euros. The digit was plucked from his dead body by a souvenir-hunter named Anton Francesco Gori in 1737 when Gori detached the finger while moving the body from a storage closet to a nearby chapel. For a great man who was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” forced to recant, and who spent the rest of his life under house arrest, isn’t it fitting that Galileo is still flipping the bird to the Catholic Church for condemning him for his theory of heliocentrism?

Even then, everybody knew that the bird is the word.

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The Certs of fonts

Yes, it’s two, two, TWO fonts in one!

Presenting Comic Papyrus. You heard right — COMIC FREAKIN’ PAPYRUS! Your two most favoritest fonts ever have FINALLY been smooshed together typographically, just as Darwin intended. Cross-bred. Cross-awesomified.

So stop wasting hours switching back and forth between your two old favorites, and just use your new favorite instead. Comic Papyrus combines the timeless rustic qualities from centuries past with the hilarious fun-loving wit of today’s funny pages. It’ll make you laugh (like a joke) and cry (like a mummy). Simultaneously!

This wondrous example of typographic hybridization can be yours for a mere five bucks. Admit it: you’ve paid more and gotten less.

(Via Fark.)

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Class personified

Quite apart from putting a permanent crease in the phrase “throwing like a girl,” Mo’ne Davis has demonstrated maturity far beyond some of us:

Mo’ne Davis, heroine of the Little League World Series, said the college baseball player who was dismissed from his team for posting an offensive tweet about her should get a second chance at playing.

Bloomsburg (Pennsylvania) University’s Joey Casselberry, a junior first baseman, was thrown off the team after tweeting: “Disney is making a movie about Mo’ne Davis? WHAT A JOKE. That slut got rocked by Nevada.”

Davis told SportsCenter on Monday that she wrote an email to the school asking officials to reinstate Casselberry.

The university confirmed that they received her request. She explains:

“Everyone makes mistakes,” Davis said. “Everyone deserves a second chance. I know he didn’t mean it in that type of way. I know people get tired of seeing me on TV. But sometimes you got to think about what you’re doing before you do it.

“It hurt on my part, but he hurt even more. If it was me, I would want to take that back. I know how hard he’s worked. Why not give him a second chance?”

Oh, and despite her formidable baseball prowess, she wants to play in the WNBA some day. Heck, she might be able to play in the NBA. (Yeah, she’s five-foot-four — now.)

The Disney Channel original movie, incidentally, is called Throw Like Mo.

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A warm byte or two

I have every confidence this scheme will work:

A Dutch energy company is joining forces with a tech startup to harness computing power to heat homes.

Eneco said Tuesday it is installing “e-Radiators” — computer servers that generate heat while crunching numbers — in five homes across the Netherlands in a trial to see if their warmth could be a viable alternative for traditional radiators.

The technology is the brainchild of a company called Nerdalize, whose founders say they developed the idea after huddling near a laptop to keep warm after their home’s thermostat broke.

“Nerdalize”? Okay, if you insist.

But I don’t see how this can fail. My particular IT job puts me right next to the server tower, in a room which is deliberately not connected to the office heating system. With temperatures in the single digits Fahrenheit, the typical temperature in the shop is 67° F. (Of course, there is massive A/C for the warmer periods.)

And the proponents see it as a win/win:

Eneco and Nerdalize say the idea cuts costs for companies using the servers as they no longer need to pay for housing computers in data centers and will provide free warmth for Eneco’s customers as Nerdalize pays the energy bill for the e-Radiator.

You know, we should have patented the damned idea.

(Via Costa Tsiokos.)

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Permanent exhibition

If you were a fan of the rollicking space opera Temporary Duty by the late Ric Locke (my review is here), you’ll be pleased to know that a fansite-plus-sort-of-wiki is being built at temporaryduty.org. The site is officially titled “Peters Pa’ol,” of course a reference to protagonist John Peters. For now, Under Construction applies, but progress is being made.

If you haven’t read the book, it’s still available for your Kindle from Amazon: link at the site. And at the very least, you ought to look at the cover art, by the estimable S. Weasel, who wrote thusly about this project:

It sold well enough that he spent his last days arguing with the IRS. Yes, sadly, that rat bastard cancer got him in the Summer of 2012.

Welp, I got an email earlier this week from a dude called Yuris Daudish, who read Ric’s book and thought it deserved a public fandom. He put out the call for anybody who might have had dealings with Ric who could share anecdotes or insights into the man or the book. Or might want to join the discussion forum. I promised to go through what emails we traded back in the day to see if anything interesting turns up — and to spread the word to any reader here who might have had some interaction.

And I’m happy to provide a signal boost.

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A nightmare dressed like a sugar rush

The little girls sell lots of cookies, but they’re not too proud to tap the resources of a big girl:

(Via Hello Giggles.)

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Flattening news

And another piece of the dumb-jock stereotype is chipped away:

John Urschel recently co-authored a paper in the Journal of Computational Mathematics. It is titled “A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians” and apparently includes “a cascadic multigrid algorithm for fast computation of the Fiedler vector of a graph Laplacian, namely, the eigenvector corresponding to the second smallest eigenvalue.” I understand close to none of the words in that sentence, which comes from the paper’s abstract. I probably never will. The rest of the study is similarly accessible.

For what it’s worth, a Laplacian is a differential operator given by the divergence of the gradient of a function on Euclidean space, while eigenvectors point in a direction which is invariant under an associated linear transformation. I have at best a vague idea about those two words, not so much about some of the others, and it did not become less vague after looking through the actual paper [pdf].

Mr. Urschel, associated with the Pennsylvania State University, is currently an offensive lineman with the Baltimore Ravens.

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Shadier than ever

Five years ago, I was telling you this:

Now we have ShadyURL, which says: “Don’t just shorten your URL, make it suspicious and frightening.”

As often happens, this service fell into disuse and was abandoned. It has now been revived through the kindness of @snipeyhead:

What’s more, it’s been substantially improved:

So if you need, for whatever reason, to give someone a scary-looking URL like http://www.5z8.info/inject_worm_m2p9wg_stalin, this is your first choice.

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Some day all transit will be like this

Dave Singer shows us the next step in public-transit noise control:

This is an STFU carriage

Well, actually, this is the next step, but it’s a logical progression, am I right?

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Creative pre-destruction

The following clip deals with two of my Favorite Things as a lad aged in single digits: dominoes and the Etch-A-Sketch. The results are as satisfying as you, or at least I, could possibly want:

There’s even a blooper reel, kinda sorta.

(Found over at Miss Cellania’s place.)

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I don’t care if it’s one-way

Then again, it’s almost certainly too early to start packing:

Then again, where would they put an airport? Canterlot’s built onto a mountain, fercryingoutloud: no place for a runway. Cloudsdale? Naw, the planes would just crash through the clouds. Or perhaps that long stretch of nothing southwest of Canterlot on the way to Ponyville…

(Via Equestria Daily.)

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Foiling photographers

The “candid” celebrity photo is not yet a thing of the past, but perhaps this scheme will catch on:

Thanks to DJ Chris Holmes, celebrities can now ward off those pesky paparazzi and their intrusive photography with ease. They just need to wear pieces from Holmes’ new “Anti Paparazzi Collection” — a line of clothing made from a reflective material [that] completely ruins flash photographs.

The collection currently consists of a hooded jacket, an infinity scarf, suit pants, a blazer, and a hat. While they look like regular clothes, the fabric is actually coated with glass nanospheres. This coating makes the clothes act like mirrors when hit with bright light, so the resulting images are horribly underexposed and the wearer is practically invisible.

For example:

Result of photographing a chap in the Anti-Paparazzi Blazer

The line is actually being crowdfunded, and not all the items are currently completely funded yet.

(Via American Digest.)

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Eight arms, one shutter

This had to be the experience of a (fairly quiet) lifetime:

Ben Savard was photographing an octopus at Middlebury College in Vermont on Monday when the animal suddenly grabbed the camera and snapped some photos of its own.

Savard, a digital media producer, wanted to capture some photos of the octopuses the school’s neuroscience students have been studying.

“I put a GoPro in a waterproof casing, set it to take a rapid number of photos per second and, with the help of the neuroscience student behind me in the photos, placed the camera in the octopus tank,” he told MNN. “We did this a few times with different octopuses and one of the more cheeky cephalopods grabbed the camera and turned it around on me for a quick couple of pictures.”

The cephalopod in question is Octopus bimaculoides, the California two-spot octopus, renowned for its friendly temperament:

Middlebury neuroscience students have been observing to see if the species can open boxes of food more quickly after seeing other octopuses do it.

I’m guessing they’re probably fast learners.

(Via Fark.)

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Longevity bonus

Then again, you can only take advantage of this special offer once a year:

A 101-year-old New Hampshire man had breakfast on the house at a Manchester restaurant that rewards customers dining on their birthdays with a discount based on their age, reports WMUR.com.

So for example, if you’re turning five years old, the restaurant covers 5% of your bill. If you’re 85, you get 85% of your tab paid. That means that at 100, your birthday meal is free — and at 101, you actually get 101% of your meal paid for — or a 1% refund.

Thus, after chomping on scrambled eggs and ham and a piece of chocolate cake for free, the World War II veteran got $0.07 back from the restaurant.

Heck, scrambled eggs and ham with a piece of chocolate cake for $7 sounds like a pretty decent deal on those other 364 days.

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Emotions definitely under control

The occasion is sad, but I still wish I’d come up with this:

(Via Twisted Spinster.)

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