Archive for Entirely Too Cool

Tru to you

A couple of years ago, I mentioned this little boutique hotel from the gigantic Hilton chain. And since I’m holed up in one of them for the duration, I figured I could repeat myself:

Picture a Quality Inn or a Comfort Inn with a makeover along the lines of an Ace hotel, without the hipster restaurants, and you may have Tru by Hilton, which features bright colors, a lobby designed with areas for eating, playing games, working and lounging and efficiently designed guest rooms.

“The rooms got smaller and the lobby got bigger,” said Phil Cordell, global head of Hilton Worldwide’s focused service brands, highlighting the social aspects of the new concept.

Not so small a room, really. And the price is decidedly unHiltonesque: I got this place for $85 a night, which in a town where half the hotels are closed up due to lack of electricity is downright affordable.

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Trailers for sale or rent

You want something like this, though, it’s gonna cost you more than a room in a flophouse:

This is, of course, absolutely essential for members of the My Home Theatre Is Better Than Yours Club.

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Birb calling

You have to figure this sound is heard around the house on a regular basis:

Not even Siri can explain this.

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Natty anachronism

Okay, what if Henry VIII was a sk8ter?

Henry VIII Skate Dress by Lorica

Holly at Gadgette explains:

Described as “a line of sustainable fashion for your hardcore history-loving heart. Perfect for LARPers, cosplayers, and the geek community looking for everyday cosplay,” Lorica is right up our nerdy street.

The site has designs inspired by chainmail, damask and other such medieval delights, plus a new range inspired by Henry VIII.

And you’re seeing the Henry VIII Skater Dress, which sells for a modest $72. I think it’s utterly adorable, though I seriously doubt I’ll ever see anyone wearing it.

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The eagle has sort of landed

Sometimes a predator pays a high price for its prey. But it’s seldom so high that the prey is allowed to walk (or, in this case, swim) away:

(Via Fark.)

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Dietary fiber

Good enough to eat? Darn near:

Cheese platter by Trevor Smith

By day, Trevor Smith is a local council worker in Victoria, Australia. After hours, Smith creates replicas of elaborate meals and household appliances in crocheted wool. Cheese platters, baked hams, toasters, and hair dryers are carefully constructed using foam armatures underneath the woolen exteriors. Smith has had a lifelong interest in crafts, and shared with The Design Files, “my mother was a talented craftswoman and I was always shadowing her, wanting to be doing what she was doing.”

I’d say he’s done her proud.

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Beyond even vinyl

Most of us, if we still have a turntable, have just the one. (I have two, but I am certifiable.) But getting the most out of pre-digital recordings sometimes takes specialized equipment, especially if you’re working with 78s.

Or even beyond 78s. Here’s a replacement reproducer for an Edison Cylinder machine:

With both a 2 and 4 minute styli, this electric cylinder reproducer has none of the compromises of earlier designs, it tracks properly at 4.5 grams with its Stanton cartridge.

The cartridge is fitted to a miniature tonearm and is weighted so that it will track any cylinder of any thickness. Also any stylus could be fitted. There is also lateral tolerance so as not to cause stress on the stylus due to worn gears.

You can hear an acoustical recording made with this by clicking here. No computers were used in this reproduction, only a Timestep T-01EQ.

Our price $495.00 USD including 2 and 4 minute stylus and flexible cable.

Just the idea that you can still do this sort of thing is downright exciting, at least to me.

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Whatever’s fare

How about zero? Does zero work for you?

Salt Lake City may soon become the first major American city with free public transit, as voters and mayoral candidates get behind the idea 0f eliminating fares as a way of attacking rampant air pollution.

A new poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and the University of Utah found that almost three-quarters — 71 percent — of local voters said they “strongly” or “somewhat” support eliminating fares as a way to stimulate transit ridership and reduce air pollution from private vehicles.

Meanwhile, at least two candidates of the eight candidates in the city’s August 12 nonpartisan primary election have pledged to eliminate transit fares, while others have said they would consider the idea.

Air pollution is the top concern for Salt Lake City residents, according to a recent poll, ahead of homelessness and affordable housing. Built in a natural basin, Salt Lake City suffers frequent “inversions,” a weather condition that traps fine-particle pollution close to the ground. The city’s inversions cause many health problems among the elderly and people with asthma or heart conditions.

Given the concern, a “majority or plurality support across all age, education, religious and gender groups in the city” support fare-free transit in order to remedy the situation, the Tribune’s Lee Davison writes of the survey, with 85 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of independents approving the idea. Republicans, who are a minority in Salt Lake City, do not tend to support the proposal.

With the possible exception of Ernest Istook, former 5th District Representative from Oklahoma, of whom local rail fan Tom Elmore once complained:

While he was talking down rail development using a wealth of existing assets in Oklahoma — he was using Oklahoma-derived tax dollars to fund extensive light rail and commuter rail development in the home of his “spiritual brethren,” Salt Lake City, Utah.

Simultaneously, he funded ODOT’s needless destruction of OKC Union Station’s rail yard, last then-unused, grand, capital-city rail passenger hub in the West with all its original train-handling space intact and center of Oklahoma’s 900-mile state-owned railway network.

And where is Istook now? Last I heard, he was teaching poli-sci stuff at Utah Valley University.

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In Joisey, yet

Worth a smile or three:

From the GoFundMe campaign:

Lamar Harris is a Special Needs adult with the mental abilities of a preteen. He has lived in his house in Gloucester Township his entire life. His life has been full of tragedy. His mother died when he was 8 years old. His grandmother died when he was 12 years old. Lamar lived with his father and brother until the sudden death of his father in 2015. The very next year, his brother also suddenly died leaving Lamar alone. Lamar has a part time job doing menial tasks which he has held since he was 15 years old. He also cuts lawns for some of his neighbors. He does try hard to survive. He cannot drive. He does not understand finances and has a very limited reading ability. As a result of the death of his family members, his reading deficits, and his inability to understand finances, he has fallen behind in his property taxes. They have not been paid since his father died in 2015. Gloucester Township has filed a lien for back property taxes and Lamar is in imminent danger of losing his home.

Last I looked, they were over $65,000, and the township will get its pound of flesh.

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Watching oneself gavotte

File under “I wish to hell I’d thought of that”:

You're so Venn, you probably think this graph is about you

(With thanks to Donna Barber.)

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Bring that garbage in here

At this place, it will get you fed:

We often see ragpickers collected such waste and trying to earn some money by selling them off. Despite all of this, they still don’t manage to have a hearty meal. To ensure these homeless people get to eat a good meal, the country’s first garbage cafe has been launched in Chhattisgarh. Under this, the Municipal Corporation will provide food to the poor and homeless in lieu of plastic waste.

Persons fetching 1 kg plastic waste will be offered a full meal while those collecting 500 grams waste will get a substantial breakfast. Ambikapur, which has been selected as the second cleanest city after Indore, plans to use the plastic for construction of roads.

The cafe will operate from the city’s main bus stand, said Mayor Ajay Tirkey who presented the city’s municipal budget on Monday.

Well, that’s one way to get the stuff off the streets.

(Via Vandana Puranik.)

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And then there were, yes, three

Congratulations are in order:

The Fark submitter predicts the lad will make a Presidential run in 2056.

Addendum: Our old friend Cripes Suzette weighs in:

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Doing it yourself

Expect this to become a cottage industry in its own right if the We Hate Those Awful Guns crowd winds up in utterly-undeserved ascendancy:

No Federal laws were broken, or even bent, during the making of this video.

(Via Pergelator.)

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Shaken, even stirred

Some of Taylor Swift’s detractors have pointed out that she tends to fall back on the same four chords. Then again, she’s hardly alone in so doing:

Sir Elton, I’d like to think, is properly amused.

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Tension, pressure, pain

All you need is this simple Pink medication:

I have become comfortably numb

The flip side of the literal video, perhaps.

(Via American Digest.)

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None taken

Singer Madilyn Bailey is one of the more successful musical artists on YouTube, but as anyone with a YouTube channel can tell you, some of the bozos out there work overtime to be hateful and condescending. And so she decided to splice some of her detractors’ comments into a song, with hilarious results:

And spelling, perhaps unsurprisingly, is not the haters’ strong suit.

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1911 BC

Handguns made from metal from a meteorite

Actually, the metal is even older than that, and not by a little either:

Two pistols made from a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite could fetch $1.5 million when they are auctioned later this month.

Constructed from part of the Muonionalusta Meteorite, which was discovered in Sweden in 1906, the working .45-caliber pistols offer an unusual take on the classic 1911 handgun design. Experts believe that the meteorite slammed into Earth about 1 million years ago, although the meteorite itself is thought to date back some 4.5 billion years.

Dallas-based auction house Heritage Auctions will be selling the pistols, either individually or as a set, at an auction on July 20.

I have to think John Moses Browning would have been pleased.

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Nothing for me, thanks

Been there, observed that:

It’s a tale as old as time: Boyfriend takes girlfriend out to eat, girlfriend claims she’s “not hungry” — and then proceeds to eat half of the boyfriend’s meal.

Social media users have dubbed it “date night food-theft” — and in Arkansas, there seems to finally be a solution.

My Girlfriend Is Not Hungry at Mama D's

A restaurant called Mama D’s, in North Little Rock, has been serving a menu item known as the “My Girlfriend is Not Hungry,” which adds “extra french fries to your entrée, and fried chicken wings (2) or fried cheese sticks (3).”

The restaurant has been cooking up the side dish for a while now, along with several other food joints across the country, but it only recently went viral.

(Via Ed Driscoll.)

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Hear, hear

And if you can’t hear, this is a good way to deal:

Silence, sometimes, is indeed golden.

(Via @LadygodivaLDN.)

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Dude looks like a lady

Which lady? A very specific lady, it appears:

Steven Tyler, post-menopause

Forgive us if we seem out of line.

(Swiped from Facebook.)

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Being memorable

Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck PhDThe young lady here — well, she’s twenty years younger than I am, anyway — could be memorable for how she looks, which is marvelous; how she busted [name of vital organ] earning a doctorate, which is laudable; or how she stuck to her gums, which is the subject at hand today:

A woman who refused to change her name has defied her bullies by earning a PhD and becoming a doctor.

Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck says she spent her life being made fun of because of her distinctive name. But instead of changing it she decided to be proud of the name she was given and refuse to let it hold her back.

The 46-year-old has used her experience to research black names and how they affect the education of children in the United States.

I’m guessing that black children with distinctive names have a tendency to catch all manner of flak from people who really need to calm down, be they classmates, teachers, or neighbors, though this isn’t something with which I have first-hand experience, since I didn’t actually attend a desegregated school until grade twelve. (If you’re keeping score, this was 1968.) I admit to having had entirely too much fun with some NBA types, particularly Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who brings out Declension Fever in yours truly; I couldn’t tell you what Kentaviousness entails, but dammit, he makes twelve million a year, and I do hope he’s having a great time.

And I’ll bet Caldwell-Pope was never told he ought to change his name, either:

Marijuana was nine years old when she first realised she had an unconventional name. At school in Wisconsin she says it wasn’t just the other children who commented on it but the teachers, too. “Tell them your name honey,” they’d say.

“Marijuana is unusual and then you add Pepsi to it and the comments just didn’t stop and they still don’t stop,” she told the BBC.

“They would ask to call me Mary, and at first that was fine until I won a school spelling bee. I came home with my certificate, and my mum hit the roof when she saw the name on it read Mary Jackson.

“She told me never to let them call me Mary ever again and then she went up to the school and demanded they change it. She wasn’t playing.”

For now, “Doctor Vandyck” works fine.

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Hauling becomes electric

It started out as a perfectly ordinary Tesla Model 3. But then:

Elon Musk says that the official Tesla truck would be out by the end of the summer, barring catastrophe. Unfortunately, barring catastrophe is not one of Musk’s strong points.

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But does it mulch?

The rules say only that it must be able to cut grass:

Inasmuch as the speed trials were conducted on a straightaway, I presume that optimizing the turning radius was not a priority.

(From Motorcyclist via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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This anaconda don’t want none

And she don’t need none, either:

Staffers at the New England Aquarium last winter were setting up for an after-hours event near the Amazon rain forest exhibit when they made an unexpected discovery.

Anna the anaconda — 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms), 8 years old and 10 feet (3 meters) long — had given birth to a litter of baby snakes.

Aquarium staff notified the resident biologist, who scrambled into the tank and found three live babies and about a dozen stillborn.

On its face, anaconda birth isn’t unusual. Anaconda have no trouble reproducing in aquarium settings, and the snakes living in this Amazon exhibit were no exception.

If left to freely breed, green anaconda like Anna can have dozens of babies at a time, which is precisely why staffers at this Boston aquarium had taken great care to keep male and female snakes in separate tanks.

By design, Anna’s roommates were all female. She had no contact with males.

And yet, she had still, somehow, become pregnant.

Was it magic? Divine intervention? A secret, late-night reptile tryst?

Not some weird reptile dysfunction at all, in fact:

The staffers immediately suspected a rare reproductive strategy called parthenogenesis, which means that a female organism can self-impregnate. (The word itself is of Greek origin. Its translation means “virgin birth.”) The phenomenon is far more common in plants and insects, but it has been documented in some lizard, shark, bird and snake species.

Just once before, at a zoo in the United Kingdom in 2014, had scientists documented a parthenogenesis case in green anaconda whose young were born alive.

None of this, however, is necessary to explain Baby Shark.

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Putting the squeeze on them

His name was Robert R. Taylor, and you may have one of his creations in your house: Taylor, who had numerous successes (and the occasional flop) as an inventor/entrepreneur, gave us SoftSoap, the hand soap with the pump sprayer. And apparently the key to its success was that little pump:

Before launching SoftSoap, Taylor had made a crucial observation — there were only few companies in the United States at the time that actually made the kind of pumps needed. Of these companies, only one produced enough pumps suitable for mass-production on the scale envisioned here. And since there also wasn’t much in the way of a suitable international company that would be able to provide what was needed here quickly and at a competitive price, in effect, this left only a single choice for anyone wanting to sell liquid soap en masse using such a pump system. Thus, Taylor’s idea was quite simple — buy literally every pump the company had available for the foreseeable future. How many would he need to buy? It turns out about 100 million to keep the company (Calmar) busy at full capacity for about a year.

The problem was he didn’t have the required $12 million (about $37 million today) to place such an order. So he had to wait until after the product was launched and hope that it was a massive hit to give him the money he needed before his competitors decided to make their own copy-cat product.

Outrageous as it was, the plan still could have backfired:

[W]hen the time came, he also had no way of knowing whether Calmar would agree to the contract. If Calmar didn’t, there was a very real risk that one of the bigger companies would eventually sign a contract with them that would do to Taylor what he was attempting to do to everyone else — stop them from getting the needed pumps for a little while.

And while you might think agreeing to a massive contract that would see them working at full capacity for the foreseeable future would be a no-brainer for Calmar, consider that this would force them to get rid of all their other business contracts to service one, relatively small, company.

When the time came, however, Calmar agreed. Naturally, this sequence of events has gone down in history as one of the most ballsy “bet-the-company moves” ever.

And, just as Taylor had planned, when the larger companies tried to release their own take on SoftSoap, they quickly realised that they couldn’t at first because some mysterious, freshly smelling, large penis owning individual had called dibs on almost every suitable pump in the United States set to be produced for the next year.

In the States, the financial industry has been known to refer to a person who pulls off a stunt like this as a Big Swinging Dick, so the penis reference is not gratuitous, or not too gratuitous anyway.

And there’s a bottle of Taylor’s soap beside my bathroom sink, and another in the men’s room at the office. I assume there’s also one in the women’s, but I am disinclined to take a look for myself.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Adhere today

Some research techniques are downright pricey. Others, not so much:

Researchers have managed to grow large numbers of blood-forming stem cells in the lab using a surprisingly simple ingredient found in glue. And when injected into mice, the cells started producing key components of blood.

“The finding is very unexpected and exciting,” says John Dick, a stem-cell biologist at the Prince Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada.

If the technique can be applied to humans, it could be used to grow blood stem cells for use in people with blood cancers such as leukemia whose immune systems have been damaged by chemotherapy. The approach could also provide a safer way to treat people with blood disorders, such as sickle-cell disease, who currently have to undergo a risky procedure before receiving a bone-marrow transplant.

This sort of thing has been on researchers’ lists of desiderata for years:

Researchers have been trying for decades to grow in the lab large numbers of “hematopoietic” blood stem cells (HSCs), which regenerate themselves and give rise to other blood components. But until now, none had been able to produce the number needed to reliably engraft — or start producing blood cells — when reintroduced into the body.

Stem-cell biologist Hiromitsu Nakauchi, who leads teams at the University of Tokyo and Stanford University in California, reports in Nature on 29 May how his team managed to successfully engraft HSCs in mice1. The researchers first expanded a cluster of mouse HSCs to almost 900 times its original level in just a month, then transplanted them back into a different set of mice, where they thrived and developed into blood components. “This has been my life goal,” he says.

Okay, what’s the trick?

Researchers looking for ways to grow HSCs in large numbers in the lab had tried using growth factors without much success. But Nakauchi found that the reason the cells weren’t surviving was impurities in the medium in which the cells were being grown, a human blood protein called albumin. These impurities, mostly proteins released by immune cells, were stopping the cells from growing, says Nakauchi. “How much money, time, and effort has been wasted because of those impurities!” he says.

Nakauchi screened a bunch of polymers that he thought could replace albumin, and found that a synthetic compound called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), often used in glues, did the trick. PVA has also been used to culture embryos and embryonic stem cells. “It’s quite easy. People can go to Safeway and get glue,” Nakauchi says. Laboratory versions of PVA work better than those from the supermarket, he says, and the polymer, which is used in tablet coatings, is deemed non-toxic by regulatory agencies.

Cite: Nature 570, 17-18 (2019)
doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01690-w

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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This LAN is your LAN

Don’t ask Wi, try their Fi:

Possible wireless-connection names

(From Bits and Pieces via Miss Cellania.)

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And don’t forget those accessories

Or Cousin Hank down in Arlen will never forgive you:

(Suggested by Gail Hapke.)

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Learning together

Every now and then, a hopeful sign appears in the distance:

Not many people get to study in the same class as their parents, but a Somali mother and her youngest daughter did just that. Mother Falhad Ahmed Mohamud and her daughter Amina Mohamed recently graduated from a university in Virginia together with Masters degrees in IT.

The family came to the US as refugees in 1980, but her husband returned to Somalia and was killed in fighting. Falhad raised their two daughters Amina and Sofia on her own, working to ensure their education.

Brief video at the link.

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Array O’ Fish

Those wonderful folks who brought you the Internet now propose to put carp to work, or something:

The latest project from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) aims to improve military intelligence by using a range of aquatic creatures — from large fish to humble single-celled organisms — as underwater warning systems.

“We’re trying to understand what these organisms can tell us about the presence and movements of all kinds of underwater vehicles in the ocean,” says Dr Lori Adornato, programme manager of the Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (Pals) project.

This doesn’t quite mean that they’re sending tuna out to chase submarines, but:

Living creatures react in various ways to the presence of vehicles. One of the most familiar is the phenomenon of bioluminescence — some marine organisms glow with light when disturbed. This is the focus of one of Darpa’s strands of research.

“If you have an organism like noctiluca present on the surface of the ocean and an underwater vehicle that’s close to the surface, you will be able to see that from the air because of the bioluminescent trail,” explains Dr Adornato.

You may know Noctiluca scintillans under the scintillating name of “sea sparkle.” And not only does it glow now and then, but it gives off a none-too-faint scent of ammonia.

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