Saturday, December 30, 2006

For the den

Mounted Tyrannosaur head. Good, but I think I might prefer a mounted grey instead.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Shaving without commitment

I like my own hair just fine, but I don't have a problem with the idea of parting with it should the occasion arise. But what would be the most prudent way to proceed?

[Caution to those at work: it's some dude without his clothes. But there are bubbles, so it should be copacetic, right?]

I saw a HeadBlade in the store the other day and thought to myself, "I might try that if I knew that I could change back if I didn't like the way my head looked." That's when I came up with the idea of a razor with undo.

The way it would work would be to mate an electric or non-electric razor with a can of spray-on hair in the color of your existing hair. If you make a mistake and take off more than you actually want, you would flip a switch on the thing so that you could reforest the bad spot with a bit of spray-on. To go even higher-tech, one could imagine a gadget that collects and cleans the little hairs being shaved off, so that when you hit the undo button they could be stuck back on, assuring an absolutely perfect color match to what you had before. Assuming that that was what you wanted (think bad dye jobs). It would be like having CTRL-Z for your head! (Geeks know what I mean by that.)

It would also be great for persons undergoing sudden hair loss (such as during chemotherapy), to get rid of the weak hair and replace it with something more durable.

I think it might also work in the case of shaving one's face, though am somewhat dubious about how convincing the spray-on stuff would be in emulating a beard, let alone a mustache. It might be good in combating the problem of uneven sideburns, perhaps.

I know that there are women who shave their heads also, but I think it might be a savvier marketing idea to go after the much larger segment which shave their legs. I find it unlikely that they would have much reason to restore the hair, but I understand that some people have problems with cuts during this procedure, so I think the obvious choice would be to mate a razor with antiseptic and spray-on skin. As soon as one felt or saw a little nick, a spritz of this and a spritz of that should set you right.

Also would be nice to have: software to let you know what your bald head would look like beforehand. But that would be the subject of a different post altogether.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pied beauty

Christmas morning we drove out on a one-night trip to Massachusetts to visit Pam's mother. There's a pet store near us which we've patronized for ten years where we bring our two cockatiels for boarding when we're out of town, so that we know they'll be warm and fed.

Cornbread
Cornbread,
originally uploaded by milkfish.

Last night, after calling the store, we drove home and went over to pick them up, and the first thing I noticed when I looked at their cage up on a high shelf was that I couldn't see either of them. Had they gotten out and flown away? But then I saw a head pop up from the lower part of the cage and I thought they were just playing on the floor. Instead, we found BB (the one on the left here) slumped on the grill, dead, and Pearl had been standing by her. The pet store worker told us that when we'd called twenty minutes earlier, she'd looked and they both looked fine standing up on their perch.

BB was twelve or thirteen years old, near as we can figure, not very old for a bird of this type in fact. As you can see, she had that patchy "pied" color pattern quite different from the normal grey cockatiel hen. She'd gotten her name from her little two-note cry with a rising intonation, which sounded to us like "BB? BB?" She was not a hand-fed bird and so was always a bit nervous around us, unlike Pearl, though we came to an arrangement over time where we could pick her up without too much struggle to pet her, and she would never, ever bite.

We called the largest vet clinic here last night to find out what to do to find out whether there might have been some kind of illness present which would put Pearl at jeopardy, but they told us that they do not do pet necropsies themselves, referring people to Cornell if such is required. She seems to be fairly healthy, though she was unusually hungry when we got her home, ravenous, really, making us wonder whether they might have been deprived at the pet store, though it seems nearly as likely that she might have succumbed to a bad fall somehow. We had other reasons to believe that the account given by the pet store was accurate and that it had happened only a very short time earlier, but everything is based on circumstantial evidence.

I checked on Pearl this morning and she seems to be okay. It makes me sad to see her all by herself there, even though the two of them had not been best buddies or anything like that, because I know they are very social creatures. My wife is upset and unhappy too because of a sort of history of Bad Things having happened the week between Christmas and New Years Day.

I'll be going out to lay BB to rest in a spot in the garden later this morning. BB was a wonderful, sweet pet to have had these ten years, and it's a hollow kind of loss we feel.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas eve 2006

Our church choir's one big performance at 10pm last night went off at last, after something like eight weeks of practice, with many of the same hymns as last year.

Choral preludes (9:30 PM)



  1. O Holy Night (Adam)

  2. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

  3. Gesù Bambino soprano solo (Yon)

  4. Panis Angelicus tenor solo (Franck)

  5. Pie Jesu soprano/alto duet (Webber)

  6. Hark, the Herald Angels Sing (Wesley - Mendelssohn)


Mass


  1. O Come, All Ye Faithful (Wade - Adeste Fideles)

  2. A Christmas Gloria (Gibson)

  3. A Child Is Born (Deiss)

  4. Christmas Alleluia (Dean)

  5. Offertory - He Shall Be Called (Callaway)

  6. Sanctus - Mass of Creation (Haugen)

  7. Profession of Faith - "O Come Let Us Adore Him" (Wade - Adeste Fideles)

  8. Amen - Mass of Creation (Haugen)

  9. Lamb of God - Mass of Creation (Haugen)

  10. Communion meditation -
  11. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring violin and piano duet (J. S. Bach)

  12. Communion hymn - Silent Night/Night of Silence (Kantor)

  13. Joy to the World (Watts - Händel)


I would be exaggerating to say that everything went off without a hitch, but I think the issues we had to deal with were pretty small - a missed cue here, a disjointed accompaniment there, a thump when someone touched a microphone - that most of them were probably just at the threshold of perception for the audience. On the other side, we seemed not to have as much of the chronic flaws we fought during practice (ragged entrances and a pronounced tendency to go flat), plus the crowd maybe 25% larger than what we had last year, in this time slot that always poses such a challenge.

Finally, after the last hymn, I made an announcement: Nobody was to leave until they'd had a chance to pick up one of the cupcakes I'd made! From the sound of the thanks I received, I think I might have earned some (almost literal) brownie points thereby.

2007 calendar

I used one of the Flickr Toys to make this calendar for 2007 out of some of my favorite snapshots. (Click on the thumbnail to download a zip archive of the 12 individual months.) It is suitable for printing in a format suitable for a CD case. I hope you like it!



Update: Changed the link over to my other site, which has changed hosts and ports.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Don't let them get me!

When I was a kid there were are few movies which would sometimes get me scared at night, with the common old fear of the thing lurking under the bed. This crafter has created a monster under the bed plushie which I feel deserves to be popularized, as a way to help children (and others) get over their night frights maybe. Maybe some purple electric tentacles and slime glands would be nice accessories to add - I'm willing to act as consultant!

Cthulhu
Cthulhu,
originally uploaded by GothCandy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Attention, Warner Brothers

Elmer Fudd would be overjoyed to receive a set of these rabbit fur serving utensils.


Do you suppose they could be persuaded to make a set in, say, roadrunner?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Rubikation reprise

The tactilely-enhanced Rubik's cube should, I think, be in greyscale, don't you? That way, the sighted spectators would really have to stare at it to know whether it was solved correctly or not, whereas the blindfolded solver would just know.

For the record

I saw this edgy biohazard-themed laundry bag at Realm Dekor and thought that while this was cool (along with their shower curtain and bath towels, they really should have pushed it a smidge further and put the crab-symbol thingy on other household items.

Barware:



Tableware:



Major appliances:



(I thought the bright red would be a nice touch as well.) You could either intend it ironically, or as an actual service to your houseguests. One also might want to accessorize and expand on the theme with a nice set of Petri Dish rugs.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A new record

I was down in the basement going through some old papers when I came across one which I came across one describing the original property tax assessment when we first moved here. It had the date of sale (our closing date) on it: 12-11-1996 - exactly ten years ago this last Monday! Today or tomorrow would be the anniversary of our actually moving in (it was a snowy day, as I recall). Perhaps there should be some kind of celebration when one reaches this kind of milestone, the sort of thing one has a round-number birthday or wedding anniversary?

I know I've got a picture of the place somewhere, maybe I'll post it here if I can locate it.

Ten years is the longest I've ever lived in one place, equaling the length of time I was in the house my parents still live in now. The place needs a fair amount of work - a new garage, back door, bathroom floors and tub enclosures, windows upstairs, some landscaping - all things we would like to do before selling out. Neither of us envisions staying here permanently, really, although circumstances currently do not suggest a good exit strategy.

The whirlwind

Remember how relieved you felt when the hurricane season ended this year with zero hurricanes hitting the US mainland? Wasn't it a pleasant surprise not to see pictures and headlines about people who have lost everything, and the ones even less lucky to have lost their lives to the storm? Well I felt that way too, and I know it was a good thing.

Still, I would like remind people that the Pacific typhoon season has not been so kind with super-cyclone Durian making landfall in the Philippines on southern Luzon and killing perhaps 700 people. Perhaps if you had a little money earmarked for charitable giving in case of natural disaster in this country, and ended up not needing to dip into it, you might consider a donation for disaster relief for the 100000 people affected by this typhoon? I don't have much to spare, myself, but sent in what we could afford.

Friday, December 15, 2006

More on TV shields

Since I first blogged about the problem of fragile television screens last August, the problem has gained a lot of notoriety owing to damage sustained by players of Nintendo's Wii system. Of course, with these kinds of hazards, you have to have protection while the TV is on, so a fancier flying-object countermeasure (one that flips up in a fraction of a second? sonar activated? diamond-coated screens?) would be necessary. These gamers are flinging their handsets with some considerable force to be able to shatter glass that way, so a namby-pamby plastic film is just not going to work. Maybe we just have to rig up some anti-bombardment armament so an expensive TV can defend itself in a fair fight.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Actually, I did want what I haven't got

My HP Photosmart 735 has pointed and shot its last today, after one ultimate electronics-rattling spill after three years of same, and it was clear to me that I needed to pick up a replacement digital camera for work. It's all part of that wave of stuff breaking down recently, I think.

The main things I wanted were a macro mode for taking close-up pictures of repairs, SD card compatibility, a good size display for previewing pictures. I didn't care about having lots of pixels, since I spend most of my time taking pictures at the lowest resolution anyway, and since I haven't gotten into shooting video or recording audio clips, I didn't care about any of those other multimedia functions. Above all, I wanted something which was rugged, since I carry it into the field every day in my camera bag and don't want to have to worry about the hard knocks it will take now and then. Oh, and I didn't want to spend more than $200 US.

Of course, there really is no such camera out there, as far as I can tell. On that next-to-last qualification, I am wondering why they don't make leather cases (not bags) that protect the corners and backs of the camera while still making it possible to take a shot just by unsnapping a couple of snaps, the way the old SLR cases used to be. I still have my old Nikon film camera from twenty years ago and more, and the body without a scratch because of its case, and it seems like some company like Rhinoskin should be impossible to do the same thing for the low-end digital cameras too. Or maybe one of those companies that make nose bras.

At the office supplies store nearest to my house I picked up a Kodak camera with twice as many pixels as I strictly need. It even fit under the last of my criteria, and they threw in a 512MB SD card as part of the deal. I can store 3437 pictures at the lowest resolution setting without changing out the card, which would probably take me years. I'm still getting used to the different auto-focus behavior of this camera. You can check out a picture of myself I took to try it out.



Tickle my bones

You may not import a piano into this country if the keys are made of non-antique ivory, a measure which helps to protect the dwindling populations of ivory-bearing animals.

Xylophone
Xylophone,
originally uploaded by woxy.
Steinway and other piano makers thus use synthetic material to cover their keys, something which I am sure grieves many an old-fashioned music lover.

But now does technology come to the rescue? You can already arrange to have a laboratory produce rings cultured from your own bone:
When you think about it for a while, it’s like ivory but more ethical, and the material has never been part of Harriet, just grown from her code taken from her body.

Well, pretty close - ivory comes from teeth, not bones, but they're both composed of the mineral apatite, and some craftsmen do use beef bone to cover keyboards.

So what could be better than to own a piano where the keys are covered in your own bone? I can only think of one instrument possibly cooler in this morbid way: a xylophone constructed of cultured strips of the player's bone. (I would rather call it instead an osteophone but that name seems to have been already usurped.)

It would be the perfect instrument on which to perform the Danse Macabre or perhaps some Tom Waits.

Evil minds at the keyboard

BigString offers a free email service which enhances the email you send in the following ways:

  • Self-destructing email (the screen image of your email burns up or fades away after being served up to the recipient).

  • Non-printing, non-forwardable email.

  • Messages which were sent from one email account which appear to come from another email account.

  • Email which can be edited or deleted after it has been sent.

  • Email which can be viewed only one time.

All of this is fine when used by responsible and morally upright folks, but if it falls into the wrong hands? Consider the possibilities:
  • Man woos heiress and emails a proposal of marriage. Asks her for the combination of safe deposit box. Once he has the contents, edits his email to delete any mention of wanting to be wed.

  • A person with a grudge email-bombs their target with a huge amount of disturbing and graphic images, maybe illegal, by way of harassment. When the victim calls in the authorities, they find only some innocuous vacation pictures.

  • A spy could send pictures they took of secret documents to their handler (perhaps encrypted) and have them self-destruct.

  • Same as preceeding, only substitute "unfaithful spouse" for "spy."

  • The email-masquerading feature seems like a good way to provoke someone into doing something unwise that they might avoid if they knew who the solicitation was really coming from.

I'm sure that a security maven at the company could come up with some good countermeasures for each of these and others I could dream up (though I do not see them addressed in their FAQ), but it seems like it might be pretty messy. Until then, let all the hack mystery writers be on notice that this is the birth of a brand-new cheesy plot device to use!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tearjerkers for guys

Women often report enjoying going to the movies to have a good cry, so maybe men (and I'm talking about conventionally straight men) could benefit from similar stories with them in mind. Unfortunately, it is surprisingly difficult to come up with much in the way of ideas of film stories which have a high likelihood of making your average guy really weepy, rather than enraged or just quietly humiliated. But maybe if the special effects are really good, a big Hollywood studio could clear that obstacle.

Droplets
Droplets,
originally uploaded by whyizit.

Off the top of my head:
  • Man sacrifices for years to buy a sports car, the only one he knows he'll ever own. A day after he picks it up, he finds that someone's scratched it all the way down to the primer.

  • One of the new guys in the office tries to fit in by trying for the slow-pitch softball team, is picked last.

  • The guy is in a store selling fancy electronics at a discount and sees a beautiful, ring-less girl looking at him from a couple of aisles over. Turns out, she thought he worked there.

  • The first date is going great, she's laughing at his jokes, and it's time to leave. But his credit card is declined, and he has to borrow some cash to cover the bill.

  • Pulling out of his driveway, he sees something and stops just in time to miss a kid riding past on a bicycle. He's congratulating himself, but then realizes that something doesn't seem right in his shirt pocket area. His iPod is missing, and it turns out that he had just run over it.


Now that I look at these, I see that all I've done is to summarize a set of YouTube shorts which people will tag as "funny" and call the guy a "loser" in the comments.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sterilized for your convenience

I was looking at this transparent German knife block at about the same time I was reminded of Laura Splan's Blood Scarf and devised this hybrid.

The red fluid would be dyed grain alcohol, sealed into the space between the clear acrylic panels, which would serve to help sterilize the cutting edges as well as providing the festive color accent. You would fill the thing with a big syringe, which you would also use periodically as the alcohol evaporates.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Heads-up display for performers

Yesterday, as sometimes happens, I sang a solo at church. It went pretty well, partly because I am one of the two or three people in the group who does not much suffer from the number one phobia: public performance. I think I got rid of this particular fear back when I was teaching college and got used to all those ravenous (or sometimes sleepy) eyes looking at me all at once.

Consider a visor like the one shown here, maybe slightly reduced in size to something like the thing Bono wears onstage, with the half-reflective properties of a heads-up display. If you adjust the lighting at the venue and the contrast of the display you could effectively blot out the sight of those threatening eyes. One could replace it with something calming or useful (such as the words of the psalm you are singing, often a tough thing for me to read given my recent turn toward farsightedness). Or, if you wanted more of a mood enhancer, you could just have a scene which enhances the emotional delivery of what you are singing or saying - for instance, if you were singing the beginning of The Sound of Music you could have a projection of the Austrian Alps spinning around. You could either keep your little technological hallucination to yourself, or you might choose to project it on a screen behind you simultaneously. It might work for some people to distract them from the audience they fear.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I'm envious

I came across this article when searching for information about this bar made out of espresso. Quoting:

Lava Chocolate has launched another chocolate bar in the US, promoting its Lava Bar as the first liquid chocolate bar. The bar is presented in a foil lined squeezable pouch which is touted as being ideal for on-the-go consumption as it allows the contents to be squeezed into the mouth without spillage. The chocolate can also be poured over ice cream or other desserts like a normal chocolate topping. A lawyer developed the bar in his kitchen while still working full time, hiring a manufacturer and food scientist, as well as trademarking the idea, in his spare time.

Developing a new chocolate delivery system in one's spare time? Why didn't I think of that? (Probably because the enterprising lawyer didn't spend all his extra time blogging.) Especially considering that the invention just sounds like it might just be Bosco in a pouch - heck, anybody could have done that! And don't tell me that this guy is the first person who's had a chocolate bar melt in the sun and eaten it anyway. Though it probably helps to be well-heeled so as to be in a position to hire a manufacturer and a food scientist.

Excuse me, I've got to get working on my idea of peanut butter in a foil pouch, stat.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It pays to blog

Molar Graffiti
Molar Graffiti,
originally uploaded by henrier.
...and not necessarily in the way you might think. My recent experience at the dentist was still fresh in my mind because I blogged it here, when one day I received a bill from the dental insurance company saying that I owed them some money. They claimed that one of the two fillings was a redo of previous work covered some years back, when in fact I distinctly remember the offending filling being in between the two that were put in during this last go-around.

I called the dentist office today, and sure enough, the old work was on #19. So this bill is being lobbed back into their court, and maybe I'll get off scot-free.

So, perhaps it isn't a totally crazy idea to set up a something online wherein one writes about all the stuff that has been worked on, in case you're dunned for the same thing a while later. No reason to stop at teeth, of course, I could enumerate the widgets inside my vehicle which have been put in, medical procedures in general, bill payments. I'm not terribly eager to have people online know all this stuff about me (and it would likely not be a compelling read), so either I would want to set a blog up anonymously but with keys to prove when the time comes that it was I who posted the items, or not set up a blog at all, but submit the items some kind of online notary service.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Non-seasonal greetings


It's the time when we are much wrapped up in greeting cards here, so I started thinking of non-Christmas cards for a change of pace. I came up with this romantic number (click on the image to open a printable PDF version in a new window.

Updated: corrected link to pdf.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gift idea #7: All human knowledge

Did you know you can download a best-of collection of Project Gutenberg's collection of etexts to burn on a DVD, or, if you want to customize the selection, roll your own selection of books to burn onto disk? Combine this with some text-to-speech software and one would never need to feel deprived of something to learn about. The only better thing would be if they had perfected the skull jack so that you could just pipe all this information directly into your brain.

And it's all free. Free, I tell you!

It is true that for the most part, the texts in the collection are only those already in the public domain, and as such are some 80 years or more in age. But if you think about what has happened since the 1920s in human history, you might well conclude that the sum total of mankind's wisdom has not significantly increased since then, and one could even make the case that it has slipped down a notch or two. And there are some dandy selections in there. (Some of which I have even had the privilege of having edited.)


This concludes my little gift-giving series, which I hope has given you an outside-the-box idea or two - please let me know in the comments if you have any success with these. If you're up to it, since after all, Wittgenstein tells us "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence." I should caution, however, that in a recent report, scientists tell us people suck at gift-giving for those they care about, so don't set your expectations too high.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gift idea #6: Peace

let there be....
let there be....,
originally uploaded by imagepeace.
In this season when so many of us turn our thoughts on how to give back, doesn't it make sense to consider whether it might be possible to go for the greatest hope, the one which tops so many people's list? "But," you say, "how can I possibly do anything to bring an end to war and conflict everywhere on earth?"

Mathematics. Are you surprised?

[T]he researchers propose people tell a referee how much they value certain qualities of a cake.

The referee then uses these weighted values to calculate where to cut the cake.

In an ideal world, both parties would get 100% of what they want. But in reality there's a compromise.

Jones says his team's algorithms ensure that both parties get about 65% of what they want, based on the principle of giving each person at least 50% of the cake plus the surplus as they value it.

The catch is that the system depends on honesty and requires a referee and a calculator.

The surplus procedure system can be used for two or three people, Jones says, but doesn't work quite as well for three or more.

He says the method can also be applied to other heterogeneous and divisible items, like dividing land or deciding how much rent each flatmate pays.



So consider making a sacrifice: cancel your trip to Starbucks and postpone that haircut you were planning, grab that old calculator out of the kitchen drawer and get yourself over to Palestine to offer your services as a referee to the parties there. There will be time to practice your fractions on the plane ride over. After that, buoyed by your success, maybe trips to Darfur, Baghdad, and Kabul next, and with luck you can be back in time for Christmas Eve.

The best thing about this plan is that give the size of the gift itself, you can probably designate multiple recipients and thus knock off most or all of your gift list at one stroke. Only the curmudgeonly ones who would admit to wanting a PS3 over the ancient dream of worldwide harmony would you still need to shop for, and maybe you could pick up a knicknack or two on your global errand for them too.

Plus, next year you'll most likely have a lock on picking up some pretty classy jewelry, baby!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Gift idea #5: Da bomb

Medium-sized nuclear warhead
Medium-sized nuclear warhead,
originally uploaded by cowgirlmelissa.
If you have a trawler and the time to devote, maybe you could help locate one of the thermonuclear devices the US has lost over the years. It's got to be better than leaving it out there to rust, right? Put a big red bow on it, like on those Lexus commercials, and watch how their eyes will light up when your friend or loved one finds one of of these on Christmas morning (or any Hanukkah night).

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Gift idea #4: Silicone stand-ins

Breast Inspector
Breast Inspector,
originally uploaded by Danfromdublin.
There comes a time in a young person's life when a certain lack of experience starts to weigh heavy on the mind. At least there does for boys, and the kind with a heterosexual orientation at that, who have enough fundamental decency (or insufficient opportunity) to be unable to satisfy this basic curiosity by means of first-hand exploration with the aid of a lady-friend possessing the appropriate qualifications. If you know a boy you suspect is facing this common quandary, there is a discreet way of helping dispel some of that distressing ignorance by means of an entirely legal gift.

Commando's HerLook Takeouts are made of medical-grade silicone, important for portraying that realistic feel and consistency. The manufacturer's product information unfortunately does not mention whether they are microwave-safe, but it appears that immersion in water is not problematic and should be a suitable way to raise them to the proper temperature.

There are other venues selling a variety of items in this material, which I feel might be a bit less suitable for general holiday gift-giving owing to their startling realism. (An exercise left to the reader.)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Gift idea #3: Brains

Can I Pick Your Brain?
Can I Pick Your Brain?,
originally uploaded by Nick Nick1.
In this information-heavy culture, it is rare that anyone would pass up any opportunity to boost the ability to deal with the complications of the world. Your thoughtfulness will surely be remembered for years and years to come when you give the gift of brain. Even if they are only sheep brains (try as I might, I was unable to locate a reputable establishment selling the Homo sapiens variety), this formalin-preserved item is still chock-full of folds and neurons and those other kinds of things which make your gift recipient uniquely human. Or conscious. Or whatever they happen to be.

You may want to pick up extra brains, just to have on hand for special situations other than gift-giving.


Gift idea #2: Extraterrestrial life

Esquel
Esquel,
originally uploaded by Bistrosavage.
According to CBC News: A meteorite that crashed in northwest Canada almost seven years ago might have been able to host the very earliest life forms. And yet you can buy chunks of planetoid over on eBay with little trouble at all. Wouldn't any gift recipient be thrilled to be the first to own a sample of a completely unknown (and possibly virulent) microscopic life-form?

As further proof, I think this etched bit of meteorite looks like the inside of a Borg ship on Star Trek.