Senin, 31 Juli 2006

0 Altering Antarctica

[Image: Courtesy of NASA's Earth Observatory].

There are a wide variety of overlooked and forgotten ways in which humans participate with, and alter, the biological systems around them. A few seeds, trapped in the soles of our shoes, can cross oceans with us in airplanes, bringing gardens, and weeds, and parasite species, to the other side of the earth; trace amounts of infectious diseases can cling to our clothes and decimate livestock several nations away; snakes, rats, spiders, mosquitoes – all can easily ride the ships and planes of globalization.
Our economy is crowded with invasive stowaways intent on surviving elsewhere – even if survival means irretrievably altering the new host environment.
In other words, travel itself can be something of a biological activity: we do the migratory work of other species for them. We take them with us. Importations of even the smallest microbe can sufficiently alter an ecological niche, opening it up to further changes – then compounding over time into whole new landscapes. What would happen naturally is accelerated: a thousand years in a decade.
It shouldn't surprise us, then, to learn that strange things are afoot in Antarctica.

(To read more, you'll have to visit WorldChanging – for whom this post was originally written).

0 Teaching Kids about Finance

I'd be willing to bet that only 5% of the parents in America know this. The Federal Reserve is actually trying to educate our youth on Money. With the exception of their non-existent advertising, this is a great program.

By visiting a Federal Reserve Publications site, you can order up comic books that will be delivered to your home FOR FREE. Each book has a specific topic all of which are geared towards teaching children about money.

Here are some of the titles. Clearly you would choose the items that make sense based on your child's age.

  • The Story of Inflation
  • Once Upon a Dime
  • A Penny Saved
  • The Story of Banks

There are 12 books in all and a few of them can actually teach me a few things. One is named, The Story of Monetary Policy. You may want to wait until Little Jimmy gets older for that one.

Order them today before you forget. More importantly READ them to your kids. Don't just throw them in with the coloring books. You have a chance to teach a lesson that will seriously last forever.

In case you missed the link above, here it is again: Federal Reserve Publications.
Finder's Link to Fast Pitch Financials where I learned about this.

0 Who is copying your content?

Good Stuff at Lifehacker this morning. Wendy Boswell pointed readers to a site named Copyscape that scans the content of a URL you provide and then scans the internet looking for copied works.

I tested it out and scanned 5 of my posts. Surprisingly, there is a Lion's Club in Canada that literally cut and paste 3 or 4 of my entries onto their site (word for word, images too!). It also appears that they've copied content from well over 100 sites. They did link back to me but I think a 100% cut and paste is a little too much. However, it's a Lion's club for their community so I don't personally care. I hope my tips help them.

Check out and scan for your content at Copyscape.
Here is the link to the Lifehacker post also, they always have a great comment thread.

0 Recycle Broken Crayons into Cookies

I can't get over how much I love this idea. Not only am I excited about saving a few cents by recycling old broken crayons, but I can see the kids really having a good time making these and then using them.

In my house we find broken crayons in the couch, closets, the playroom - really all over the place. No matter how much we clean, broken crayons seem to reappear. Blog Ten Ten shows how you can take these broken crayons and bake them together to form cookie or cupcake crayons.
The cookies solidified in their pans on the counter (so as not to have liquid crayons running down the sides on my freezer!) and then I popped them in the freezer (Ahhhh!) for about a half hour. They just about jumped out of their little muffin cups and the true artistry could be seen.
There are additional pictures, tips, and instructions available at Ten Ten [via Make and Kiddley]

0 Popularity Dialer - Get an urgent call so you can leave

The Popularity Dialer lets you set a time and date to receive a phone call. At the specified time, your phone will ring and half a phone conversation will begin playing. This of course prompts you to have a fake conversation so the person you are with understand when you say, "I have to go".

From their website:
Have you ever been in a situation where you wished your cell phone would ring? Maybe you wanted to look extra important or popular on that hot date. Or maybe you just needed an excuse to escape from an unpleasant meeting.

With "The Popularity Dialer", you can plan ahead. Via a web interface, you can choose to have your phone called at a particular time (or several times). At the elected time, your phone will be dialed and you will hear a prerecorded message that's one half of a conversation. Thus, you will be prompted to have a fake conversation and will easily fool those around you.

I can think of a few times that this could have come in handy. The obligatory visit to Aunt Betty's, the dinner party you could not get out of, dinner with an Ex that you want to make get the idea.

Check it out at Popularity Dialer

Minggu, 30 Juli 2006

0 Basic Picture Edits with Snipshot

If you need to do some basic edits to a photo, you can take care of it easily at Snipshot. This alleviates the need to open your enormous photo editing software just to crop an image.

Here are the main points from their site:
  • Edit big images—up to 10 MB, or 5000x5000 pixels

  • Import PDF (first page only), EPS, and SVG files

  • Import pictures from any web site (including Flickr) with our bookmarklet

  • Flickr export, or save as GIF, JPG, PDF, PNG, or TIF

  • Basic editing tools like crop, rotate, resize—many more are in the works

  • Unlimited undo and redo (Ctrl+Z and Ctrl+Y, or ⌘Z and ⌘Y on your Mac)

Visit Snipshot to give it a shot [via Lifehacker]

0 DIY: Turn old Neck Ties into a bag

Have some old ties that should have died in the 80's? I have a ton sitting in by closet gathering dust. If you have sewing skills, Craftbits has some detailed instuctions on turning those Paisleys into a bag that can easily be used for school, diapers, etc.

What you will need:
  • You'll need a bunch of ties. Mine are all paisleys.
  • A lot of lining fabric - mine is black velveteen.
  • One 18mm magnetic snap
  • Heavyweight stabilizer
  • Large graph paper (or newspaper) for pattern
  • Basic sewing supplies

If you are into crafts or scrapbooking, plan on spending some time on Craftbits. There are easily 50+ user-submitted tutorials. It's a pretty cool site.

Sabtu, 29 Juli 2006

0 Microsoft Live, Photosynth - Combining the world's photos in 3D

Ever wondered what it would be like to walk through your digital photos in 3D or see what hundreds of other people shot at the same location? Well, it's almost here and from what I have seen and read, it looks incredible.
Photosynth takes a large collection of photos of a place or object, analyzes th similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed 3-Dimensional space. With Photosynth you can:
  • walk or fly through a scene to see photos from any angle;
  • seamlessly zoom in or out of a photograph even if it's gigapixels in size;
  • see where pictures were taken in relation to one another;
  • find similar photos to the one you’re currently viewing;
  • explore a custom tour or see where you’ve been; or
  • send a collection to a friend.
Visit the site at Microsoft Live Labs

0 A Sketch for London

For an exhibit during last month's London Architecture Biennale 2006, curator Matteo Cainer invited "architectural studios from outside the UK (...) to sketch a visionary project for London." Graphic speculation about another London yet to come, Cainer hoped, would "further consolidate architecture’s role in imagining a future for the city":
    Architects have been invited to take an outsider’s view, and as such submit a sketch for an imaginative project in the city of London. They are free to choose a site and focus, whether addressing issues of planning, landscape, infrastructure or building. The central challenge remains what it has been for centuries: to make architecture a vessel for new and controversial ideas. Gathering together architects with sketches, and critics with words, will entice visitors into a theatre of architectural imagination where a wide range of daring projects, conceived by some of the most inventive and newly emerging architects, come together in a panorama of architecture’s current potential and promise. This will in turn create a platform for discussion and a critical examination of today’s approach to architecture.
The result was The World in One City – A Sketch for London, an exhibit beautifully designed by Cainer's own Design Research Studio at Fletcher Priest Architects.

[Images: ©Chris Gascoigne].

After emailing Cainer expressing interest in the exhibit itself and in the architectural projects it featured, he responded with a PDF from which these images were taken. Here we see interior shots, offering a glimpse of the show's dominant theme: coordinate points of latitude and longitude, geographic sites of architectural speculation.

[Images: ©Chris Gascoigne].

"The show tries to move beyond the current scene, dominated by cyberspace and video simulation," Cainer explains, "and beyond the familiar client restraints and the fashion parade of magazines." Instead, the exhibit's purpose is to focus on "the ‘sketch’ as the fulcrum of architectural imagination. Concepts and subsequent sketches are often underestimated: sketching is not only practical but also essential; it is the quickest, most accessible way for generating ideas."
A website for the show is in the works, as well as a publication.
Finally, let me just add that the idea for this exhibition is totally fantastic, and that every city in the world, frankly, should perform this kind of imaginative self-reflection at least once every few years. By openly speculating about conjectural urban futures – whether those include pedestrian malls, blimp-aquariums, or even insanely ambitious green roof projects – residents of cities everywhere can be reminded that their own urban environment is an ongoing project, and that everyday life itself can be upgraded, reprogrammed, better designed. After all, the architectural future is just a few words and sketches away.

(Note: All photographs in this post are by Chris Gascoigne – whose website is chock full of more architectural photography).

0 DIY: Create your own backyard water slide

Today in Chicago is going to be 98 degrees. I was looking around for something to do with the kids today that would keep us cool and keep us from being cooped up inside.

Here is the plan for today, we are going to make our own water slide and I am going to faithfully take the advice from eHow.
  • Purchase a large roll of plastic, at least 4 feet wide and 12 feet long. Plastic tarps work as well.
  • Choose a sunny area for your water slide, on an incline or hill and within reach of a hose.
  • Unroll the plastic. Make sure no rocks or hard or sharp objects are sitting underneath it.
  • Rake away any grass or leaves around the water slide area, as these will stick to the participants once they are wet.
  • Spray the entire water slide with water and lay the hose at the top of the slide so that water continues to run down.
  • Dress all participants in bathing suits and water shoes and let them slide down one by one.
  • Have people slide sitting, lying on their backs, and head first.
  • Allow the plastic to dry in the sun before rolling it up and putting it away.
After getting started I am adding my own tips here that were not listed on ehow.
  • Be very sure there are no rocks under or around the slide. Not only will it rip the plastic, but you don't want someone sliding over any rocks.
  • Make sure you get this thing off the grass when you are done. It will suffocate the grass if left overnight.
  • Don't forget sun screen.

Get other ideas at eHow

Jumat, 28 Juli 2006

0 The architecture of spam

[Image: From Spam Architecture, ©Alex Dragulescu].

Alex Dragulescu has some extremely interesting projects up on his website right now. For the most part, they're "experiments and explorations of algorithms, computational models, simulations and information visualizations that involve data derived from databases, spam emails, blogs and video game assets."
However, this one – called Spam Architecture – totally blows me away: "The images from the Spam Architecture series are generated by a computer program that accepts as input, junk email. Various patterns, keywords and rhythms found in the text are translated into three-dimensional modeling gestures."

[Image: From Spam Architecture, ©Alex Dragulescu].

Applying this to large-scale architectural design would be endlessly and hypnotically fascinating – not to mention quite profitable if you turned it into a kind of immersive, 3-dimensional version of Tetris. You turn digital photographs of your last birthday party into architectural structures; your Ph.D. thesis, exported as an inhabitable object; every bank statement you've ever received, transformed into a small Cubist city.
Your whole DVD collection, informationally re-presented as a series of large angular buildings.
Of course, you could also reverse the process, and input CAD diagrams of a Frank Gehry building – thus generating an inbox-clogging river of spam email. The Great Wall of China, emailed around the world in an afternoon. The collected works of Frank Lloyd Wright.
In any case, Dragulescu currently works at the Experimental Game Lab at UC-San Diego – the same institution at which Sheldon Brown developed his Scalable City project.

(Thanks to Brent Kissel for the tip about Dragulescu – and you can read more here – and to Brian Romer for Scalable City).

0 Seal Silo

The Marine Mammal Center (MMC) in Sausalito, California, treats elephant seals injured by "shark bites, gunshot wounds, and untenable toxins in their liquid habitat," Architecture magazine explains. "Half of all injured pinnipeds and cetaceans found in the United States – typically 700 over recent years, mostly reported by vigilant fishermen – are treated here."
More relevant to the present website, however, the MMC is now receiving a much-needed, multi-million dollar architectural upgrade – and the new design fascinatingly incorporates a derelict "pair of Nike missile silos."

[Image: Architecture Magazine].

"A dozen anti-aircraft missiles were first secured here in two 3,000-square-foot underground berths," Architecture tells us. "Soon, one of those deep concrete wells will contain all of the hospital facility’s water processing equipment, keeping it away from the sun’s damaging rays and freeing the territory above ground for recovery functions... The other silo will contain long-term freezer storage of animal tissue specimens for study."
Let's hope neither of them accidentally go off.
Of course, reusing missile silos for architectural purposes is nothing new – and, in skimming the original article, I actually thought the silos would be turned into functioning aquariums – but the project still works as a brilliant engagement with existing site conditions.
You can see one or two more images of the design at the website of Gyroscope, Inc., the project architects –

– where, for instance, we find the above diagram. "Because the center operates around the clock," Architecture explains, "illumination for night had to be directed in a manner sensitive to the fact that animals in the bay use light for migration. A portion of the pools will always be shaded by overhead awnings – many of which will be lined with photovoltaic panels, thanks to a generous donor – giving the animals a choice of where to hang out, and cutting down on cooling costs."
On the other hand, at least one question remains: seeing as how the missile silos will not be turned into functioning aquariums, is there an aquarium avant-garde anywhere else – and, if so, what does it look like? My provisional vote is for a series of truly gargantuan blimps dragging huge, transparent, cable-tethered aquariums full of coral reefs, fish, and blue whales through the skies of Baghdad.
The insurgency might end right then and there: dazzled, confused, feeling touched by the miraculous, the only thing the militias will know how to do is just put down their guns – and stare.

0 Control your Leftovers

Although I am fairly anal about tossing old food, I occasionally run into some furry leftovers buried in the fridge. Most of it is in Tupperware or some other container and although it would work just fine, labeling a piece of tape and sticking it on is too much work.

A company named Timestrip looks to take advantage of the situation (and my laziness) and developed a time strip that automatically adjusts to display the amount of time your old spaghetti has been sitting there.

Timestrips® are single-use, disposable, smart-labels, which automatically monitor lapsed time, ranging from under 1 day to 6 months.

The technology behind the revolutionary Timestrip® works by capillary action, allowing a tinted liquid to migrate through a micro-porous material at a consistent rate.
You can learn more at their site,

0 Tips for Effective Complaining

It seems that 50% of the conversations I have or emails I read contain some form of complaining. Maybe it just seems like a lot because of my kids, employees, or boss(es), etc. I don't know.

There is one thing that I've realized though - Everyone is complaining and most people are A) not doing it right, and B) not adding to a solution.

Let's start simple:

What is a complaint?
It is making others aware of a perceived short-falling in a method, behavior, or result. It is the starting point of a process that concludes with a solution or decision to not act. That's my definition at least. If you seriously need more, go to Webster.

What should we complain about?
Anything that you feel needs to be corrected, made more efficient, or something you want to forum and/or brainstorm. (please NOTE: I did not say "anything you want someone else to figure out for you!). Remember, as the complainer, you now have a role in developing the solution. If you are not willing to contribute to the solution, don't complain.

How is it done?

  • Tactfully - Remember, the people that you are complaining to may have either had a hand in implementing the wrong solution, or they are the person irritating you. Think of your boss or spouse. You are not going to walk into your boss' office and say, "This process absolutely sucks and the idiot that developed it needs to be shot." Guess what, it was his idea and it was implemented the day before you started!

  • How much is enough? - I know, I know, you have 80 things making you upset and you've listed them all out with bullet points and everything. I have news for you, that's worthless unless it's part of a brainstorming session. Prioritize your items and present them as individual concerns (grouping is OK if they are very relevant). By focusing in on high priority specific items, you will get complaints resolved faster as opposed to spreading resources all over the place.

    Likewise, I don't want to sit there and hear my wife list off a dozen things that I do wrong. I immediately get defensive and a war breaks out. If she wants to talk about how cheap I am fine, but not until she's done complaining about my long work hours. I cannot take a ton of criticism all at once and neither can managers at work.

  • Presenting a complaint - What I do in most circumstances is verbally complain first. If at work, I give a few days and wait for a response before the emailing begins. Even then I email the person directly with no CCs. If the person still doesn't respond, others will begin getting copied, generally a manager.

    Knowing that you may have to escalate in this manner, it's a good idea to be extremely specific and professional in the original email. It's also good practice to forward the entire email thread so newcomers can see the history.

    This will vary greatly based on the situation but regardless of the issue, it is wise to document the steps you took to resolve the issue - especially if a decision you made contributed to the problem to begin with. If you are documenting a 10-day negative trend with a system's performance, just document it and skip the phone call.

  • Seek out facts - Keep your emotions out of this. If you want your wife to stop spending money, keep a log of how much garbage she bought and discuss it with her. If at work and a process has a failure rate of 8% and the goal is .5% document the exact point of failure and discuss it.

  • Note: If for some reason the situation is making your blood boil, do not discuss it until you've calmed down. Your emotions can seriously make you sound ridiculous. Also, I would not recommend coming home from work, having a few drinks, and then firing email missiles at people. In my younger years, I did that and I woke up in the morning thinking, "What the *$#@ did I just do?"

  • Provide alternatives - Nags drop bombs and run. What you want to do is provide alternative approaches to solving the problem. Clearly you don't need to present a full solution when you complain, but be prepared to discuss a couple what-ifs (What if we did this instead?). Now you are acting as part of the solution.

  • Wording - If you start your email or complaint with, "Why do we", or "How come this", you are going to be met with rolling eyes and a sigh. Try using words like, "I think I figured out why...", or "I want to discuss a different approach to..."

  • Audience - I don't care what the situation is. At work, complain in a closed office unless you are in a group bitch-session in the conference room. Complainers that voice concerns over a cigarette in the lobby are also the first ones to complain about the office gossip because someone overheard them say Jim the VP is a moron because of XYZ.

  • Follow-Through - Be involved. Ask how you can help the corrective process along and ask if you provided enough detail in your complaint.

  • Backseat driving - Ask for updates on the status of your complaint but don't nit pick and provide countless commentary and criticism.

  • Gratitude - This rarely happens but when your complaints are addressed and resolved to your satisfaction, why not say thank you? If you are at work, copy the guy's boss in a 'thanks for the effort email'.

The last thing you want to be known as is a serial-complainer. To be honest, people hate them and cringe when they call. They are also the people whose complaints get pushed down the list. Don't be that person, be productive and add some input. You will be surprised how much your stress level decreases as you see your complaints get resolved.


0 Urban Autobiographies

In April 2006, a city-wide writing program began in Philadelphia. Called the Autobiography Project, the program's basic idea was to invite residents of the city to tell ther own life stories – or simply individual stories taken from their lives – using 300 words or less. The Project even sponsored community writing workshops for those Philadelphians unsure of their literary abilities – and some workshops were so successful that similar such groups may become regular fixtures at the institutions involved.
More than 340 memoirs were submitted over a six-week period. A panel of local writers and cultural figures then chose 20 particularly memorable autobiographies, and these were printed as full-size posters, complete with a photograph of each author, and installed within bus shelters throughout the city. The posters were taken down on July 23rd.
You can read more about the project at WorldChanging, where this post was originally published.

Rabu, 26 Juli 2006

0 Changes to Dumb Little Man

We have recently made a couple of changes to the functionality of Dumb Little Man and I thought I'd point them out to everyone.

1. Commenting - As many have probably noticed we moved away from Haloscan. This decision was really based on 1 thing. We simply didn't feel the need to collect email addresses from every person that left a comment. We don't like giving away our personal email address so we couldn't continue mandating that you left yours. We all want this to be an open forum where anyone can add to the conversation whenever they want to (except blatant spam). We want your feedback so we are going to make it easy to leave it.

Our new feedback system was written by Singpolyma. Mark did a lot of tweaking to the display to get the look we wanted, but the brains are with Singpolyma.

2. Bookmarking - If you are a frequent blog reader, you will notice that several blogs have tons of icons that allow you to bookmark their post to, or where ever. In the very beginning, we tried that but felt it was too obtrusive. Therefore, for a while we went without any social bookmarking icons. Recently I tested a fell in love with something named the Socializer. On all of our post pages, you will now see "Social Bookmark this page"(see image below). By clicking that link, you be shown a ton of bookmark sites and you can basically choose where you want to save our post based on the service you use.

I welcome feedback on these changes so if you have any positives or negatives, please let us know.


- Jay

0 14 Tips for Communicating Ideas

Some people may recall that I am in Sales and that I am very chameleonic. I have the ability to change my demeanor and tongue in an instant. So I talk extremely technical in one conversation and then absolutely dumb it down and talk a basic user through the entire end-user experience.

Throughout the conversation, I make sure the person/group is with me and that I am not, as they say, throwing up information on them.

This is one of the reasons that I was so drawn to a post at Lifehack. Chris Brogan does a great job of explaining the usefulness of this skill and how to use it effectively.

His tips include thoughts on defining the Bare Bones, allowing for White Space, and they important "Check-in".

Visit Chris' post at for the details. You can also track him down at or at Grasshopper New Media, an audio and video podcast media company he's starting.

0 National sovereignty and the detention market

[Image: A partially inflatable immigrant-detention center, photographed by The New York Times – though their article is now pay-per-view].

Between statelessness and Westphalian sovereignty you apparently get inflatable architecture, instant cities on the carceral edge between two systems of power: "As the Bush administration gets tougher on illegal immigration and increases its spending on enforcement," the New York Times reported last week, "some of the biggest beneficiaries may be the companies that have been building and running private prisons around the country."
This is referred to as the "detention market," and it is "projected to increase by $200 million to $250 million over the next 12 to 18 months" – an astonishing increase of 400%. (Invest now).
These "beds within the border region" are managed with Wal-Mart-like efficiency. Indeed, making beds "available quickly is considered an advantage in the industry since the government’s need for prison space is often immediate and unpredictable. Decisions about where to detain an immigrant are based on what is nearby and available. Immigration officials consider the logistics and cost of transportation to the detention center and out of the country."
All of which defines a new political space wherein real-time logistics, transport infrastructure, the rise of the market-state, private investment, and post-Archigramian inflatable architecture strangely merge.
Two quotations seem appropriate here, both taken from Philip Bobbitt's recent – and extraordinarily dense – look at historical mutations within the concept and practice of constitutional sovereignty.
As the nation-state is superceded by the market-state, Bobbitt explains, we are witnessing a clash of tactical responsibilities: "What is appropriate for the market-state – with its porous territorial concepts and its responsibility to preserve the opportunities for personal development, including, of course, access to a safe environment – seems to clash with the absolute sovereignty of a nation-state taking steps it alone can determine are necessary, within its territory, to protect the nation." Of course, this is exactly what we see today in the U.S. immigration debate: an argument for the economic necessity of immigrant labor, including financial opportunity for all, vs. an argument for national border security and the protection of legal citizens.
"There is a grotesque disparity," Bobbitt writes, "between the rapid movement of international capital and the ponderous and territorially circumscribed responses of the nation-state, as clumsy as a bear chained to a stake, trying to chase a shifting beam of light."
The almost Dr. Seussian world of inflatable immigrant-detention camps, as explored by The New York Times, is perhaps evidence of this sovereign clumsiness.

(The NYT article was also covered by Bryan Finoki over at Subtopia; meanwhile, a rather old BLDGBLOG post explores the idea of "criminal aliens needing beds").

0 Dump your job and work for the CIA

0 How to make your own Beer

Last night around 2AM I was heading to bed and I noticed a commercial for Sam Adams beer. In the commercial they point to their website where you can watch a tutorial on making your own beer.

It's a flash site so I cannot give you a direct link to the video, but here is the path to take:

  • Go to Samuel Adams

  • Click the Longshot image (it's big and right in front of you)

  • Click "Enter the site"

  • Click "Watch the Art of Homebrewing"

Other places to learn about making beer:
Mr. Beer

Tags: ,

0 How to make a Digital Toy Infrared Camera

Zach Stern explains in good detail his method of turning a cheap digital camera into one with infrared capabilities.
While conventional photographs record visible light from a scene as you might see it with your eyes, infrared (IR) photographs record invisible infrared light, producing interesting and unexpected results. Custom IR cameras may be expensive; this article describes a method of making an inexpensive digital toy IR camera (toyIR).

photo by Zach Stern

Selasa, 25 Juli 2006

0 Facebook giving away 10 Million iTunes Samplers

US Only

We will toss this one in the get in quick because it's free folder.

Facebook, the 7th most popular site in the world, launched a promotion for the back-to-school crowd. They will be giving away 1 million, 25-song samplers every week for the next 10 weeks.

After a little confusion, a comment on the iLounge site seems to have cleared everything up. Here is how you do it:

  • Join the “Apple Students” group.....

  • Then, click the link on the opening photo. By clicking that link, you will receive a PM.

  • Now check your messages. There will be a message with an iTunes code.

  • Open iTunes, click the “Redeem” link and enter your code.

[via Tuaw and iLounge]

0 Smart ways to donate to charity

The Motley Fool does a very nice job on their list of 9 things to be a better charitable donor. The three points that I like most are:
  • Take the time to think about what causes are most important to you. Then concentrate your giving on those issues. Otherwise, you run the risk of sending a little money this way, and a little money that way, and never really being able to keep up with all the activities you're supporting.

  • If you have children, involve them in giving, beginning when they're young. Share with them what you're donating and why, and what your gift will do.

  • Don't give money to some organization that cold-calls you. Always investigate them first. There are many hucksters out there calling people and wheedling donations out of them. Some shifty outfits beg for donations of cars, too.

0 Google Adds Live Traffic to your Mobile

Today Google announced that it's Google Maps for Mobile service will now provide detailed, live traffic stats.

I am going to refrain from telling you how convenient this is because it's pretty obvious. But, do yourself a favor and check your route before your leave. I don't think it would be too smart to looking up stats while you are driving 80 m.p.h. down the interstate. If you forget to check the stats first, either pull over or just listen to an AM radio station.

Google Maps/Mobile Home
Here is the list of supported devices
To download, visit from your mobile device.

Senin, 24 Juli 2006

0 How to get your Kid to Smile for the Camera

Good little DIY at shows you how to add a PEZ dispenser to your Camera that could (can't promise) get your little one to smile on queue. I know there are 119 million varieties of cameras out there, but this just might give you an idea that works for yours.

Here are a few images that will give you an idea as to the difficulty rating on this one.

For more, visit
You can also get some cool tips from ParentHacks, the site where we found this.

0 Stop! Learn how to spot bad Ebay Sellers

I occasionally write about my previous experiences as a buyer and store-owner on eBay. During my time there I saw a lot of good things, and a lot of shady things. In fact, I was one of the gumps that bought a counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbag so I learned by experience (although I got the feds to get my money back!).

This morning I read an article by Aron Hsiao. He writes about the 10 warning signs that buyers should be aware of BEFORE entering a bid on eBay. There are a couple of points of importance, but I felt the need to add a couple.

Of his 10, here are the one's that I experienced most often:

  • Very Low "Buy it Now" price: No. There is no real way that you are getting a Tiffany bracelet for $1.99. If it looks way to good to be true, it is.

  • Contradictory information in listing: This is a good point. If the headline reads "32-inch color TV, but the description down below says 22", there is something wrong.

  • Shipping: I personally don't see this as a big deal as long as the price you are paying for the product is lower. You are looking for the lowest NET cost. At the end of the day, I don't care how my money is split up. Now, it the product price is high AND the shipping cost is high, than this is a no-brainer...Don't bid.

Here are some things that I personally noticed, that were not on Aron's list:

  • No picture available: If someone has the ability to get a PC, a Paypal account and create a listing, they should be able to take a silly picture and post it. I would be very cautious of buying anything that simply has no picture of the item.

  • Stock Photos: Ok so let's say there is a picture but it look like something out of a catalog. Again, why is there no picture of the actual merchandise you are paying your actual money for? When I sell on eBay, I take a picture and be sure that the time/date is stamped on it so the buyer knows how recent the photo is.

  • Padded Profile Stats: Hey the seller has a 100% rating and has sold 1,500 products, "He must be good." Wait! Before you bid, look at the seller's feedback history and look towards the right of the screen. Click on some previously sold items to see that he acquired his feedback by selling similar items. I ran into a seller once that started mass-distributing cell phones after he accumulated 800 positive feedback ratings by selling coupons.

  • Return Policy: If someone is selling something as "New", I recommend not buying it unless there is a return policy that gives you back all of your money (except shipping). If the item is really new, I cannot think of a valid reason why you can't return it.

Treat eBay like a real store. If the listing or seller looks shady don't buy from them just like you wouldn't buy a watch from the weird guy on the street corner.

To read Aron's article in full, go to

Sabtu, 22 Juli 2006

0 How to pack a suitcase

A while back we explained how to pack your clothing to avoid wrinkles. What we didn't mention was how to plan your pack.

Before your next trip, consider the following to ensure you have what you need:

  • The weatherman is your friend - If overlooked, this can easily ruin your trip. Call the hotel you are staying at or just go to and be sure you are packing clothes (and rain gear possibly) that are appropriate for the current conditions.

  • You carry what you pack - Yes, it would be nice to bring your entire wardrobe, an iron, and all 90 of your hair care products. But remember, not only are there weight restrictions on your baggage at the airport, you have to carry this stuff around. Even worse, if you are train hopping in Europe or have connecting flights, you are just asking for trouble and risk a lost bag.

  • Go Neutral - Cut down on the clothes by bringing neutral colors and maybe an accent color. One pair of khaki pants can easily go with anything whereas a pair of navy pants has limited matches. Plan what you are wearing and when.

  • The Beauty Shop - Do not bring the full size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, etc. You can easily pick up small travel sizes of your brand or I have even seen little Tupperware-like containers at CVS specifically for liquids. You will save a ton of room by doing this.

  • Appliances - Trust me, the hairdryer in the hotel may be a little low on blow but it will dry your hair. Call the hotel and ask about an iron and hairdryer before you lug your's along.

  • The order - What I tend to do is pack the heavy stuff first. Jeans, sweaters and jackets go on the bottom. Then, using the tip I mentioned earlier, I put in my shirts, shorts, and khakis. I stuff underwear, socks, and belts around the perimeter.

0 Printable Airplanes and the Future of Fiction

[Image: "The Polecat UAV is pictured flying at 15,000 feet by a chaseplane. Polecat's airframe was 'laser printed' rather than machined." New Scientist Tech].

The same week we found out that jets of the future will be made with plastic, we also read that the U.S. military has been working toward printable airplanes – unmanned drones made by "rapid prototyping." As New Scientist Tech reports: "In rapid prototyping, a three-dimensional design for a part – a wing strut, say – is fed from a computer-aided design (CAD) system to a microwave-oven-sized chamber dubbed a 3D printer. Inside the chamber, a computer steers two finely focussed, powerful laser beams at a polymer or metal powder, sintering it and fusing it layer by layer to form complex, solid 3D shapes."
Of course, 3D printing is nothing new; several months ago, for instance, just about everyone in the universe learned that 3D buildings and cityscapes can be printed using images from Google Earth.

Even more strangely, you can also print fully-functioning body parts using "droplets of 'bioink'," which are "clumps of cells a few hundred micrometres in diameter." In other words, if you "alternate layers of supporting gel, dubbed 'biopaper', with the bioink droplets," and if you "build tubes that could serve as blood vessels, for instance," then, through bio-printing, these will become the "successive rings containing muscle and endothelial cells, which line our arteries and veins."

This Frankenstein-meets-Hewlett-Packard technology can be used to "print any desired structure." Indeed, there are now "printing heads that extrude clumps of cells mechanically so that they emerge one by one from a micropipette. This results in a higher density of cells in the final printed structure, meaning that an authentic tissue structure can be created faster." (What about a photocopier?) Finally, skeptics will benefit from learning that "cells seem to survive the printing process well. When layers of chicken heart cells were printed they quickly begin behaving as they would in a real organ. 'After 19 hours or so, the whole structure starts to beat in a synchronous manner.'" (A bit more on this here).
The Oliver Twist of tomorrow, then, will be a poor boy, printed in obscurity...
So the question naturally arises: what if you were to combine all these? You'd get a vast, self-printing city-organism, whose skies are criss-crossed with machine-birds of prey; when buildings reach the age of senility, forgetting how many floors they contain, they are melted down into rivers of ink and pooled in living reservoirs to be printed once again; molds and fungi and architectural infections bloom, growing atop one another till new parasite structures form, small Gothic rooms in which the homeless live.
All of which reminds me, somewhat disjunctively, of the following rather unoriginal statement: the default condition of all literary genres will soon be science-fiction. You simply will not be able to write about the world without incorporating these weird new technologies.
Science-fiction and social realism will become one and the same thing.
Look at the recent genre-defying work of Kazuo Ishiguro, Michel Houellebecq, David Mitchell, Rupert Thomson, Alex Garland; soon even Ian McEwan will be writing sci-fi. Note, as well, that whilst mainstream American literary novelists appear increasingly incapable of doing anything other than reimagining their own national past – Philip Roth, say, or the forthcoming Thomas Pynchon – as if endlessly recycling historical micro-narratives will result in something new – Anglo-European fiction appears to have accepted, with great success and enthusiasm, the futurist inclinations already so obvious in everyday life.
To be rather broad here – for instance, does Michael Cunningham invalidate my argument? do I even have an argument? – it seems that while British fiction in particular has already accounted for the slippage of contemporary life into sci-fi, even welcoming this phenomenon with a newfound literary ambition, mainstream American fiction is content simply to enroll itself in unnecessary MFA programs, writing 800-page novels about family farms, the period between WWI and II, shopping, or the supposedly "atmospheric" end of the 19th century.
Run-of-the-mill student architectural proposals are already more stimulating than most of today's American novels. Architectural proposals have ideas.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world has already discovered the future, and it's no real wonder that the U.S. publishing industry is in the midst of a kind of slow financial crisis. In fact, you only have to look at the ongoing revival of interest in Philip K. Dick – sci-fi novelist and volunteer FBI informant – to see that Americans don't exactly lack a literary taste for the future; it's just that all the wrong novels keep getting published here.
In any case, there are a million exceptions to this argument; feel free to rip it apart. For example, where does The Da Vinci Code fit in all this? Etc. etc.

Jumat, 21 Juli 2006

0 Get that Background Tourist Out of your Picture

This is actually pretty neat. Yes, I said the word neat. Tourist Remover is a free site that lets you blend together multiple shots of a pose (for example) and then to remove irritating people or objects in the background (the guy walking the dog or the car passing by).

Multiple shots? Here is how it works:

  • When shooting the sequence, try to capture the same area each time.

  • Each part of the background you want to appear in the final image must be captured on at least two photos.

  • The lighting should be the same for each photo.

Here is an image may help explain:

To try it out visit SnapMania

0 Kids and Food: 10 Tips for Parents put together a great list of rules that parents should try to abide by when it comes feeding time at the house. Our daughter (3 yrs.old) has been a challenge with food because she loves it. However, to this day she has not had any soda and we really limit her sugar intake.

It's funny because the in-laws (and my parents) bring candy and garbage food over EVERY single time they visit and Bella actually knows that this stuff is bad for her. Here is the list from (which is summarized in greater detail at Yahoo)
  • Parents control the supply lines

  • From the foods you offer, kids get to choose what they will eat or whether to eat at all.

  • Quit the "clean-plate club."

  • Start them young. Food preferences are developed early in life, so offer a variety of foods

  • Rewrite the kids' menu

  • Drink calories count

  • Put sweets in their place.

  • Food is not love.

0 75 ways to use Vinegar around the house

When is the last time to sat around and thought about Vinegar? Ok, me either. I have never done anything with vinegar unless it pertained to pouring it on my salad.

Well, I was surprised to learn that there is actually a Vinegar Institute and that there are 75 household uses for Vinegar. A ton of them have to do with cleaning which leads me to believe that you are about to replace some of those expensive cleaning solutions you have under the kitchen sink. I will give you a sample here, but we're not listing all of them.
Carpet stain removal:
A mixture of 1 teaspoon of liquid detergent and 1 teaspoon of white distilled vinegar in a pint of lukewarm water will remove non-oily stains from carpets. Apply it to the stain with a soft brush or towel and rub gently. Rinse with a towel moistened with clean water and blot dry. Repeat this procedure until the stain is gone. Then dry quickly, using a fan or hair dryer. This should be done as soon as the stain is discovered.

Water or alcohol marks on wood:
Stubborn rings resulting from wet glasses being placed on wood furniture may be removed by rubbing with a mixture of equal parts of white distilled vinegar and olive oil. Rub with the grain and polish for the best results.

Ant deterrent:
Ant invasions can sometimes be deterred by washing counter tops, cabinets and floors with white distilled vinegar.

Unclog the showerhead:
Corrosion may be removed from showerheads or faucets by soaking them in diluted white distilled vinegar overnight. This may be easily accomplished by saturating a terry cloth towel in vinegar and wrapping it around the showerhead or faucet.

Kill weeds:
Spray white distilled vinegar full strength on tops of weeds. Reapply on any new growth until plants have starved.

Freshen baby clothes:
The addition of 1 cup of white distilled vinegar to each load of baby clothes during the rinse cycle will naturally break down uric acid and soapy residue leaving the clothes soft and fresh.
Ok, that will do for an example. Visit The Official Vinegar Institute for the rest. [via Jonny Five]

0 Watch TV for Free Online is a free service that I just tried out and was pretty impressed with. First, it's free so you cannot complain about the cost. Second, they currently have 199 different channels to choose from. 2 weeks ago they only had 104 so they are certainly adding channels at a quick pace.

Everything from News, to Mystery, Comedy and Health and Fitness. They do have an adult section as well so before you toss a shortcut on your desktop, you're advised to take a look around a little.

There are a few other services like this out there, but for what it's worth, I didn't have to download anything new or be afraid of spyware.

Check them out at

0 Voyage to Utopia and the City Obscure

[Image: A spatio-structural urban fantasy taken from Urbicande. Les cités obscures, the source material, is a 12-volume graphic novel by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, in which "references to our world abound, especially in regard to architecture." It is a "parallel universe," we read, full of utopian construction projects and urban expeditions, strange villages and –

– moving machine-labyrinths made from decontextualized walls. Its "coherence is constantly growing with time." All images, including those below, are copyrighted by and fully credited to this creative team].

(Thematically related: gravestmor introduces us to The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, and Pruned gives us some Brodsky & Utkin. In the process, don't forget BLDGBLOG's own look at cinematic urbanism, or Archidose's reconsideration of the strangely inspiring film, La Jétee).

0 Bookmarks in your System bar

As an avid user of I was pretty excited about this. If anyone has really looked at our site, you'd notice that the code is really sloppy but more importantly, the categories (in the right menu) are entirely generated by the JSON feed. Suffice it to say, I use it a lot.

Anyway, by installing Deliwin, you have immediate access to all of your bookmarks and even recent URLs right from the system bar The image here shows my view.

You can check it out or download it by visiting Deliwin.


0 How to Make Chopsticks your Kids can use

I am always up for a good kid hack. Even if this idea doesn't get them to eat their food, maybe it will keep then entertained long enough so you can eat yours.

From Jake Ludington's MediaBlab site:
To help other people who might run into this same chopsticks problem, I put together a short video on how to make chopsticks for kids. All you need is some of those wooden chopsticks that come in a paper sleeve and a thin rubber band. The video tells the rest of the story.

0 Decorate the walls without painting

Site Rental Decorating lists 5 decent tips for sprucing up your walls without paint. I personally like painting walls, just hate cutting in around the baseboards and woodwork. Nevertheless, these are pretty economical so they are worth sharing.

In the article they detail:

  • Removable Wall Hooks
  • Framed Posters and Art
  • Display Shelves
  • Fabric and Starch Wallpaper
  • Folding Screens

I looked around a little and found some more good ideas:

  • Bilk - Kind of like stencils for walls.
  • The Rasterbator - they will stretch one of your photos to fill the wall. Pretty cool examples on the site.
  • The Metafilter forum has a ton of good ideas and so does Tim Matheson

Kamis, 20 Juli 2006

0 The Dune Sea

From today's San Francisco Chronicle: "'These are some of the largest sand waves in the world,' said Patrick Barnard, a coastal geologist with the Santa Cruz office of the U.S. Geological Survey. 'They're certainly in the upper 10 percent.'"
Unfortunately – or perhaps more interestingly – they're underwater, lining the bottom of San Francisco Bay like tectonic corrugation: "The sand waves range up to 700 feet long and reach heights of more than 30 feet, Barnard said. It is a dynamic system, he said, with the configuration of the individual dunes changing significantly with each tidal cycle. But overall and over time, the net change to the entire field is slight."
In that regard, and if you were pretentious, you could say that the landscape inhabits a kind of fractal temporality...

As it is, "scientific interest in sand waves has been growing around the world because sonar technology has improved to the point that high resolution, three-dimensional maps can now be made of the ocean's floor" – which was actually explored in an earlier post on BLDGBLOG: The Geoacoustic Sea.

There we read the following: "It'd be interesting, meanwhile, if you could take geoacoustic data and release it as an MP3: you could then listen to the suboceanic landscape's raw sonic topography, compressed aquatic echoes, complete with deepsea ridges and audio-thermal vents. Non-visual mapping of unreachable landscapes. An MP3 of the surface of Mars. The rings of Saturn."
And now we've read it again – because, for the record, I still think it'd be interesting. After all, if you can't actually visit the landscape, you could simply download it as an MP3... Audio geotechnics. Or convective audio cartographies, 3D podcasts of unexplored worlds.

(Thanks to Bryan for the tip!)

0 Mr. Electricity shares how to cut costs on power

Michael Bluejay, aka Mr. Electricity, has put together an extremely comprehensive article that not only tells you how to save on electricity costs, but he tells you why each tip works. I found it very useful and for those that are as nutty about savings as we are, he's even included a calculator that tells (state-by-state) how much you will save by turning things off for a day.
Welcome! I've always hated "How-To" guides which don't explain why a certain tip works, or how well it works. Sometimes a topic is just as mysterious after you read the guide.
Visit Mr. Electricity at

Rabu, 19 Juli 2006

0 Dumpster Gardens

"You may not know his name," the New York Times wrote four years ago, "but you have probably enjoyed the public spaces he has created."
He is Ken Smith, "the Elvis Costello of landscape architecture."
"Perhaps," the Times continues, "you sat on an Art Deco bench and admired the Islamic geometric patterns of the paving stones at Malcolm X Plaza in Harlem or walked through the Glowing Topiary Garden he and Jim Conti, a lighting designer, installed three years ago at Liberty Plaza for the winter solstice. If you've been to Toronto, you may have walked through his idiosyncratic Village of Yorkville Park, with its 700-pound rock and miniforests and the rain curtain that freezes into icicles in winter."
Smith, we read, has a "Seussian mind," which means that he freely combines glass elevators with bamboo gardens – moving, earthless landscapes; horticultural Cubism – and he adds "glacial hummocks, grasslands, [and] honey locusts," even while opening up space for ice skating. And so on.
But what interests me here are Smith's so-called Dumpster Gardens, where you take a dumpster – or skip, if you're British – and grow a garden in it. Portable landscapes.
In 2003, Smith installed three such Dumpster Gardens at Ohio State University

– as these photographs attest.
"Each of the three Dumpsters houses different plant life," Ohio State University's student newspaper tells us. "One contains a fragment of lawn and a second has juniper shrubbery and river birch. The third stands in front of Ohio State President Karen A. Holbrook's office with a bed of scarlet (celosia) and gray (artemisia) flowers. (...) Each of the Dumpsters is three feet deep and 20 feet long. The bottom is covered with gravel to allow for drainage and the rest is filled with planting soil."
But Smith's dumpsters are not doomed to spend the rest of their days in the empty, mausolean fate of decorating university campuses; indeed, returning to the New York Times: "Dumpsters would also be a great way to enliven traffic medians, Mr. Smith said. 'You could grow corn, or have a portable meadow of Queen Anne's lace and juniper,' he suggested."
Of course, you could also link them all together into a walled labyrinth, a postmodern hedge maze that twists and meanders through the city; you could grow hybrid flowers and Aspen trees, poisonous fungi and ergotic growths, in others, a kind of dumpsterized botanical taxonomy; you could tow gardens all over the country, even, driving every mile of the US highway system (and terrestrially out-performing Robert Smithson in the process); you could ship the things to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where they'd be permanently anchored, forming tax havens, utopian atolls, a new Earth; or, better yet, you could skip the dumpsters outright and use enormous wicker baskets: plant amazing and weird asymmetrical gardens in each, then attach them to hot-air balloons – bulletproof, Artificially Intelligent hot-air balloons. Set them loose in the sky.

Gardens drift slowly above your head on trade winds, trailing creeper vines; a jellyfish, made of kudzu, flying through the stratosphere. New weed species auto-hybridize, evolving super-seeds, and they re-invade the earth from above. Literal new levels of biological warfare. Hugo Award-winning novels are written, documenting the vegetative horrors.
One of the balloons then crashes in the forests of Papua New Guinea and, instead of a cargo cult, you find a cult of landscapes-that-fall-out-of-the-sky.
Gardens in a space capsule. They re-enter Earth's atmosphere and crash outside London 5000 years from now. Ken Smith is there to greet it – turns out it was his idea in the first place...
In any case, Smith also has a book. More info on some of his other projects here and here and here.
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