Archive for Entirely Too Cool

It’s worse with a d20

Dice usually have several sides, the typical cube having six, with various other shapes in general use. Why might you want a die with only a single side? For predicaments like this:

Imagine this all too common scenario faced every day by D&D DMs around the world: your group is in a dungeon crawl. There’s a room with a pie in it, and the pie is guarded by an orc. If the characters open the door, one of these things happen:

1. The orc attacks

That’s it, there’s only the one option. So the characters do indeed open the door and the poor DM consults the chart. Unfortunately the smallest die type he has is a d4, so our DM has no choice but to roll the d4 over and over until he gets a 1 before he knows what the orc is going to do.

This is exactly the situation that 1-sided dice are designed to solve. Now the DM can grab the d1 and quickly roll just one time, see what the orc will do, and get on with the action of the game.

This is why I never became a gamer of any renown: I never could come up with neat stuff like that.

(Via this Dave Richeson tweet.)

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Circumferential evidence

If you’re planning to surprise her with a ring, asking her “Um, what size do you wear?” is one of the more efficient ways to ruin the surprise. It’s possible that she may have acted proactively, so to speak, but you can’t count on that sort of thing. If you happen to be close enough to Germany, this seems like a nifty way to get the information you need:

It’s generally hard to make an impression on a piece of cardstock that’s 3.5 by 2 inches, but German agency Jung von Matt definitely found a winner with its incredible business card for jewelry company Marrying — which, as the name suggests, specializes in engagement rings and wedding bands.

The card rolls up, becoming a handy tool to measure one’s ring size. The idea is that men who are shopping for a ring can use the card at home to subtly check the size of a woman’s current rings.

Assuming this can be done subtly. I’d probably run the risk of “What the heck are you doing in there?”

(Via this tweet by former OKC jeweler Dan Gordon. He’s still a jeweler, but he’s relocated to another state starting with O.)

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Foreign dung

I tell you, dogs can be trained to do almost anything:

A highly specialised detection dog trained to sniff out koala droppings is on the case in Logan, south of Brisbane, Australia, in a bid to boost protection for the vulnerable species. Logan City Council enlisted conservation canine Maya to help identify koala habitats in the area. Maya’s owner is Dr Cristescu, an ecologist who specialises in koala research.

And how did this pound puppy develop her, um, koalafications?

“You need a dog basically with an OCD on a tennis ball, an absolute nutcase on a tennis ball,” [Cristescu] said. “Then you scent-associate the tennis ball with the target odour — which is a koala poop — and then the dog will search for ages just to try to find that odour. She will go into an open area and she just has to find one little koala poop and she will just hit the deck. Maya will do a drop and then when you go up to her she’ll go and put her nose over the top of it and pinpoint exactly where it is. You’ve got a whole acre and you’ve found one tiny piece of koala poop.”

Maya, it appears, will be searching 1200 acres (about 500 hectares) over a two-week period.

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Bon^2

In the foreground here is the pony commonly known as Bon Bon. The fans gave her that name, based on her cutie mark, but Hasbro prefers that you refer to her as Sweetie Drops:

MLP screenshot featuring Bon Bon

Viktor & Rolf, who in 2006 gave us a fragrance called “Flowerbomb,” have just introduced this:

New ad for Bonbon by Viktor & Rolf

Now obviously this concept predates both V&R and MLP:FiM; still, you should have seen the spit take I did when I found that advertisement on the back cover of Vanity Fair.

And now I need to write up a background pony and call her Flowerbomb. Because silly.

Addendum: Maybe we can talk this model into some of that Twilight Sparkle eyeliner.

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Welcome to Drosophiladelphia

It’s a place where the agriculture is booming, the produce is headed for your table, and the fruit flies are the best damn stunt flyers you ever did see:

Fruit flies could make some talented fighter pilots. Scientists who had the insects wing it through two laser beams watched the bugs make hairpin turns at blazing fast speeds, by banking in the same way that fighter jet planes do. The findings, published in the journal Science, shed light on these tiny critters’ remarkable ability to evade predators (and fly swatters).

Like there’s a chance you’re going to swat this guy:

When trying to escape from a threat, the Drosophila hydei flies turn at a speed that’s five times faster than their normal turning speed, according to researchers from the University of Washington. Instead of turning right or left on the “yaw” axis, like a boat in the water, the flies execute banked turns, by rolling and pitching their bodies at the same time, which supercharges their turns. They can execute one of these within less than one hundredth of a second after seeing a threat, the scientists said. That’s 50 times faster than the blink of an eye.

At this point, about all you can hope for is that they won’t be teaching these techniques to their slower friends among the common houseflies. Or you might invest in one of these.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Mopzilla

October 2003, seeing the kitchen floor in this house for the first time: “Oh, what beautiful white tile!”

No later than December 2003: “What were they thinking?”

Keeping this floor clean is much more of a chore than I’d like, not that I particularly like any of my chores or anything. And mops tend to be either (1) ineffective or (2) made of cheap crap that breaks in no time flat.

I am here to tell you that the Libman Tornado Mop is not ineffective:

Many cleaning pros swear by cotton string mops for making short work of big spills, but then they have those clunky wringer pails to roll behind them. Who wants to unknot wet tangles and wring a dirty mop head by hand? The Tornado packs the power of traditional yarn-head mops, but its built-in wringer pulls the strings extra tight and twists them a full 360 degrees, meaning less excess gray water to muddy the task. It also spreads water evenly, so there are no puddles or dry spots. Three heavy-duty cloth bands stitched across the yarn bundle keep strands tangle-free.

As for (2), well, I’ve only had it a week.

The instructions are a bit obtuse; they should probably just provide this video link. And no, I have no idea if these Libmans are related to Andrea Libman, the voice of Fluttershy and (speaking only) Pinkie Pie.

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Point and whatever

What could be handier for today’s electronic musician?

This is yet another Kickstarter that’s drawn my attention; I have no discernible musical talent, or so I’ve always believed, but just the idea of this puts me in Rapt Fascination Mode.

Of course, if I were a musician:

Most of us on our small team are musicians who are tired of being stuck behind computer screens, keyboards, faders, knobs, and buttons to make our music. We feel there could be a better way that is more like the experiences we have with traditional instruments: using the dexterity and mobility of the human body.

And, as Roberta X notes, “The UI options are huge.

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Circulation beginning

Yours truly, from about this time last year:

One of the niftier ideas of recent years is the Little Free Library, bigger than a breadbox but just barely, located in urban neighborhoods and rural areas. And we’re about to get this one in our neck of the woods.

It’s now up and awaiting further stock:

Little Free Library in Mayfair Heights neighborhood

I dropped off a couple of books yesterday; if the neighborhood follows through, and they almost always do, it should be pretty well stuffed by this time next week.

(Photo by Taryn Evans, shot Wednesday. If you’re unclear on the concept, this is how it all started.)

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Meanwhile, a long way from O’Malley’s

Marie’s ready to run her first full marathon, she says, but the first order of business is to find a place to train:

I have experienced one strange obstacle to logging those long runs, the ones greater than about 10 miles: It’s needing to tackle them somewhere other than the sandy back pasture of our farm. NOT finding a solution was beginning to feel like a reason to only run the half. And that would be a big disappointment for me, because I have been determined to run my first full marathon in my fortieth year. Personal goal.

The Mr., however, has found a solution:

Handsome found a park about fifteen minutes east of the farm that seems perfect. It is public but not too crowded; it is encircled by a paved one-mile track with some incline here and there; and most days a police officer watches nearby. So the problem has been solved, at least temporarily.

This is clearly a cause for celebration, and as part of the jubilee, she’s written some new words to an old song by Rupert Holmes. Do you like piña coladas?

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Ay, there’s the nub

Tisha is twenty-six, lives in Missouri, and has no arms. (Also, one leg’s shorter than the other, but let’s not complicate matters.)

She also paints. (See below the jump.)

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The Deereslayer

Self-driving cars? Brian J. says we’ll see self-plowing plows first:

[S]elf-directing machines are going to hit the farms first, where they can go along in their laser-and-GPS-guided finery to handle the time-consuming chores of farming with far less insurance liability concerns. Just imagine when this becomes mainstream, at least as mainstream as farming is, and automated farm machines can work day and night on ever larger farms. Great swaths of land will really become food farms, and it’ll squeeze out the family farmers most likely.

One question, however, remains unanswerable for now:

Will the prices go down for commodity foods (but remain high for the locovore organic artisan stuff), or will it put Google in charge of our food supply?

I suspect we’ll see continued demand for Federal price supports until Google actually takes over the government.

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Honey, my bracket hurts

Some things, they say, practically sell themselves. This is not one of them:

March Vasness from BadNewspaper.com

(Another Bad Newspaper special — and timely, too!)

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Tin whistles are made of tin

If the next question is “What do they make foghorns out of?” you’re ready for this slice of quantum phenomena subtitled “Does your neutrino lose its flavour on the bed-post overnight?”

Neutrinos, which interact so weakly with normal matter that even the best detectors only manage to capture small handfuls of interactions, come in three “flavours”: electron, muon, and tau, and they oscillate between these flavours.

The SuperKamiokande detector, which comprises 50,000 tonnes of water and 11,000 photomultiplier tubes, is specific to electron neutrinos, spotting the tiny amount of Cherenkov radiation emitted when a neutrino scores a direct hit on an atom in the tank. These interactions are rare, which is why the experiments are so long-lasting.

With enough data, however, something interesting emerged: when it’s night-time at SuperKamiokande, the detector observes 3.2 per cent more electron neutrinos than during the day. In other words, when the detector is on the sun-side of Earth, the neutrinos passing through it are very slightly skewed towards muon and tau flavours, while at night-time, there’s slightly more electron flavours for the detector to observe.

Which, at the very least, justifies going on to a HyperKamiokande detector.

(With thanks to Lonnie Donegan.)

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Pi, schmi

To some of us, Pi is Very Special Indeed:

To others (after the jump), maybe not so much:

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Wouldn’t want to lose patients, either

In these grammar-challenged days, it took guts for the Oklahoman to put up a story with a title like this:

Oklahoma City treatment center neighbors lose patience over loose patients

The actual article in question deals with runaways — or, more commonly, walkaways — from a psychiatric treatment center located in a predominantly rural area of the city.

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I suppose juice is out of the question

Still, this seems pretty remarkable in its own right:

Oscar Mayer is giving meat fans the chance to wake up to the sound — and smell — of bacon every morning.

The company’s Wake Up and Smell the Bacon app and iPhone dongle, which unfortunately contains no actual bacon, is a complete bacon-themed overhaul of your iPhone’s alarm.

The dongle plugs into the iPhone’s headphone jack and, when paired with the accompanying iOS app, releases the smell of bacon as the alarm sounds.

Unfortunately, they’re not selling this package just yet: it’s being given away to lucky winners, and, as they say of contests advertised on kids’ shows, many will enter, few will win.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Are they ill-tempered?

The scientists had one simple request, and that was to have sharks with frickin’ cameras attached to their heads:

The footage from 14 tiger sharks, six Galapagos sharks, five sandbar sharks, five bluntnose sixgill sharks and a prickly shark is the first to be taken of sharks, by sharks in their natural environment.

One clip from a camera attached to a male sandbar shark show the pursuit of a female; another shows its wearer’s point of view as it meets up with dozens of other sharks in a mixed group — including sandbars, oceanic blacktips and scalloped hammerheads — and swimming together for most of the day.

This is, you may be certain, a Serious Scientific Inquiry:

Sharks are among the top predators in the world’s oceans, and so where they go and what they eat can have huge effects that reverberate through their ecosystem’s food web. Scientists have attached sensors to sharks before to get an idea of their movements, but until recently they haven’t had the technology necessary to get good video footage — or to get their cameras back.

Did this cost one million dollars? Maybe, maybe not.

(Tweeted at me, complete with Austin Powers references, by just another prof.)

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Another man’s treasure

One thing I’ve learned in my ten years in this neighborhood: if you put something out on the curb that might have some actual value, it will be gone long before the city sends the truck. I must assume that this is also the case elsewhere.

Some folks do a pretty impressive job of collection, too:

My big framed Ansel Adams poster of a snowy tree? The neighbors two streets over were throwing it out (along with two seascapes and some mirror candle sconces). The rattan end table on our Florida room? Another neighbor. The Ikea chair and foot stool in the office? Left behind when another neighbor moved out. Candles, sheets, picture frames, fabric, canned food, mirrors of every kind, clothing, lamps, furniture, fancy shower curtain rod; all found on the streets. I won’t say that you will find everything you need, and certainly never right when you need it, but there sure is a lot of stuff out there going begging.

I have had reasonably good fortune with fabric, without even having to go looking for it: I’ve had half a dozen towels (two big enough for bath use) blow into the yard. I’m wondering if I should toss out the curtain rod that fell on my head in the garage this past weekend.

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Otherwise, it was a weak force

This might have been the best comment out of my Oscar-night Twitter feed, and to my delight, it comes from an astrophysicist:

Would anyone have gone to see it with that title? Of course they would.

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Not the quickest response

This was posted in alt.tv.commercials:

Does anyone know where I can find a copy of a 1970s Luden’s commercial featuring Will Lee (aka Mr Hooper from Sesame Street)? This ad ran every winter for about 10 years into the early ’80s and I can’t find any reference to it on any website.

He did get an answer, of sorts: someone remembered the ad, and remembered the last line, which the original poster hadn’t, but we still don’t know where the commercial is. (A perfunctory check of YouTube turned up nothing.

Here’s why you’re reading this, though: the answer was posted on the 2nd of February. The original request dates back to September.

September 2007.

And they say Usenet is dead.

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A slightly larger dab

Some products become icons for no reason you can imagine, but that doesn’t make them any less iconic. Historically, we can cite the case of Barrington Womble, drummer for the Rutles: the Prefab Four persuaded him to change his name to Barry Wom, to save time, and his hairstyle, to save Brylcreem. Many years later, Stephen Colbert referred to Ted Cruz as a “Texas senator and Brylcreem storage facility.”

If your next question is “Can you even buy Brylcreem these days?” the answer is Yes: they have their very own Facebook page with a purchase link, and they took out a full-page ad in the March Playboy, featuring a model that looked like a younger version of that month’s Interview subject, Gawker’s Nick Denton. Their new slogan is “Brilliantly Classic Hair Cream,” a suitable description for a product that has survived 86 years on the market, and the pitch is to those who want to look retro, but not too retro: not everyone wants or needs to be Don Draper.

And most of you probably remember something like this:

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Decibelligerence

I think it is wonderful for two reasons:

  • It’s capable of a sound-pressure level almost entirely unheard of;
  • There’s no way it can be installed in an ’89 Grand Marquis de Sade with dubs.

“It” is the European Space Agency’s Large European Acoustic Facility, and it can start things shaking you never imagined could move:

LEAF is an integral part of ESA’s ESTEC Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, a collection of spaceflight simulation facilities under a single roof. One wall of the chamber — which stands 11 m wide by 9 m deep and 16.4 m high — is embedded with a set of enormous sound horns. Nitrogen shot through the horns can produce a range of noise up to more than 154 decibels, like standing close to multiple jets taking off.

The threshold of Actual Pain is generally quoted as 130 dB; if Nigel Tufnel’s amp went to eleven, LEAF does an easy fourteen.

(The Friar heard saw this first.)

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What’s the name of the game?

If you remember ABBA from the Seventies and Eighties, you probably also remember that while they weren’t the least bit ugly, their mama, or somebody, dressed them funny. Turns out that this was a matter of cold calculation:

Swedish supergroup Abba have revealed they had good reason to wear such garish stage costumes — because it saved a little money, money, money on their tax bill.

The band, whose spangly flares, catsuits and platform heels were considered naff even in the 1970s, exploited a Swedish law which meant clothes were tax deductible if their owners could prove they were not used for daily wear.

Gotta love those capitalist Swedes.

(Via Fark.)

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Crease is the word

Yahoo! has an interview with Al Jaffee, who created the MAD Fold-In 50 years ago. How it’s done is interesting enough, but what I did not know is this: there was one Fold-In that was pulled after the magazine had gone to press, resulting in several hundred thousand copies being sent to the shredder.

It’s a video, but a shortish one. And Al, now well into his 90s, sounds a lot more on-the-ball mentally than I do.

(Via Joy McCann.)

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With an eye to the sky

From the fall of 2012, regarding the video of BT’s “13 Angels on My Broken Windowsill”:

The video was shot by Randy Halverson, who, says BT, uses “a technique that could extend the range of viewable light normally visible to the naked eye and create new photography techniques to capture breathtaking visuals of the universe through stunning time-lapse and nature observation.”

Halverson has since shot a video called “Huelux.” As he explains:

I shot Huelux from April-November 2013 in South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah. The weather in 2013 made it difficult for me to get some of the shots I wanted. There were many times I planned to shoot the Milky Way or Aurora, and the clouds would roll in. But that also allowed me to get more night storm timelapse than I have any other year.

Huelux from Randy Halverson on Vimeo.

I’ve included an embed here, though you really should see this in its full width.

(Via the Presurfer.)

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Works every time

As the guy said in the antacid ad, “Try it, you’ll like it”:

Seattle news clipping from Bad Newspaper

(A Bad Newspaper special via Miss Cellania.)

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More than just a toy

Toy cars for kids to “drive” tend to look plasticky and, well, toylike. And that’s only fair: you wouldn’t want the resident three-year-old tooling about in a shrunken Malibu.

On t’other hand, where does it say that a vehicle for grownups can’t be toylike?

street-legal Little Tikes Cozy Coupe

This is a street-legal Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, built by John Bitmead at a cost of something like $6500. Supposedly it will do 70 mph. I suspect it probably doesn’t have side airbags.

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As I have foreseen

Back in 2011, on Bill Quick’s 10th blogiversary, I made a list of predictions for 2111. In the middle of the list were these two items, which are happening a lot more quickly than projected:

6. Top-level domains with fewer than 11 letters will no longer be offered

5. Google “upgrades” your thermostat

Two weeks ago, Nest Labs, which makes a “learning” thermostat that can be set by remote control, was acquired by Google.

And while two- and three-letter TLDs can still be had, there are about to be a lot more, a lot longer:

[I]n June 2008, more than two years after an internal policy group first started considering it, ICANN’s board approved recommendations to create a fourth set of new gTLDs [generic top-level domains]. Rather than planning extensive consultations about what they should be, this time ICANN allowed the market to decide. Anybody could apply to run a new domain, so long as they met certain requirements and coughed up a $185,000 application fee.

Many did. Google applied for 101 gTLDs through a subsidiary. Amazon bid for 76 of them. Donuts (“We are nuts about domain names. We are Donuts.”), a firm set up with more than $100 million specifically to make a business of gTLDs, went after 307 new domains.

One of those on Donuts’ application list is .sucks, which has yet to be granted. It will be expensive, though maybe not the most expensive:

The .guru TLD is open for pre-registrations (before it officially opens to the general public) on GoDaddy for $39.99 per year. A domain on .ventures is $69.99. One on .luxury starts at $799.99 per year. One of the applicants for .sucks has declared it will ask for $25,000 during the “sunrise period,” a 30-day span during which trademark holders can register their domains to avoid domain-squatting.

I can see someone registering really.sucks, and then selling subdomains to the pissed-off.

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A great big sled

With a very tiny occupant:

The Bonannis live at the top of Cinnamon Drive, a quiet residential street in Roxborough [neighborhood of Philadelphia] whose steep grade makes it a perfect sledding spot. But what’s good for sledding is often bad for driving — Fabian always has trouble getting the family’s car up that hill in the snow, and he knew that the storm would pose a problem.

So, knowing that his wife, Shirley, was due at any moment, he bought the sled and kept it handy in case they’d have to make a quick exit to his car, which he parked at the base of the hill.

George Leader lives at the bottom of the hill, and this is what he saw:

“I ran out after I heard the commotion,” Leader said, “and it was clear that this was happening now.

“I just sprung into action; I wasn’t even thinking.”

Leader called 9-1-1 as Fabian delivered his daughter, scooping her into his arms as his wife braved the morning’s subzero temperatures.

Fabian then charged up the hill, baby in his arms, as Leader and Shirley’s parents, just arriving on the scene, took charge of the mother; eventually parents and child were ported to the hospital for the once-over.

Little Bella has a two-year-old brother, Logan, who was delivered a bit more conventionally.

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Creatively spelled

The funny part of this may be that “McBride” is intact:

Raymond Luxury Yacht was not available for comment.

(Via Erica Mauter.)

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