January 21, 2006
Ian's Shoelace Site — 'Bringing you the fun, fashion & science of shoelaces'
A sample of the useful information abounding on this singular site:
- Slipping Shoelaces?
Do your shoelaces always seem to come undone?
If so, you're probably tying a "Slip" Knot [above] and one simple change to your technique will turn it into a "Reef" Knot [below] that stays secure.
Note that my "Ian Knot™", the World's Fastest Shoelace Knot™, forms a secure "Reef" Knot!
In shoelace tying as in life the smallest, subtlest change can have enormous, far–reaching consequences.
Consider making one (a change, not a consequence) today.
[via pixel y dixel]
Portable Instant Car Heater
Why freeze while you wait for your car's feeble heater to warm you?
Never again if you have this nifty device.
From the website:
- Add speedy warmth to a cold car, truck or van!
Plug this portable heater into your car's cigarette lighter and its quiet, powerful motor and fan quickly heat and circulate air to warm feet and defrost windows in seconds.
Rests on dashboard, floor or rear window deck.
6.5"L x 5.5"W x 2.25"H.
5-foot cord included.
Too bad there's no USB connector 'cause this would be great in a chilly office plugged into your computer.
Panera Cinnamon Raisin Bread — Attention must be paid
If you take one bite I guarantee you it will not be the last one.
I happened on this widely available item yesterday when I went down to the Barracks Road Shopping Center to run a few errands and decided, just as an experiment, to test out two known free WiFi hotspots there: Panera
and Greenberry's Coffee.
Greenberry's at Barracks Road is the founding store, the first location of this very successful chain; they've had free WiFi from the get–go but don't advertise the fact.
Greenberry's is a perfect 10 as regards their WiFi: you open up your laptop, it searches for the WiFi signal, then asks if you want to join the network, you click "yes" and you're on.
Fast, easy, and open: no filtering.
Panera is another story: everything's just like Greenberry's until you try to visit bookofjoe: up pops a screen saying "Blocked."
Most likely a vestige of a previous incarnation.
Maybe I'll contact the URL given on the "Blocked" screen to have them unblock it or maybe I'll just shrug and move on.
In any event, I could still post stuff to bookofjoe and all since TypePad's not blocked: I simply couldn't see the blog itself.
While I was fiddling around I got hungry so I ordered a loaf of their cinnamon raisin bread to snack on while I played.
I had them slice it for convenience, which I'd never do if I were taking it home 'cause it jumpstarts the deterioration of the loaf, what with all the additional exposed surface area.
But you knew that — didn't you?
But I digress.
Hey, that bread was good!
The raisins are fresh — plump and moist; the cinnamon is heady; but best of all is a kind of jammy sticky stuff swirled throughout the loaf.
On the web page for the bread
it says molasses is the secret sauce but whatever it is, it makes the bread sublime, crunchy within wherever your mouth happens to find this sweet treat.
Bonus: the top of the bread is covered with confectioner's sugar.
I ate half the loaf before I got out of there.
But wait — there's more.
This morning I made toast with the last seven slices, with just the barest sheen of butter applied as each emerged from the toaster oven.
Outstanding and cheap at twice the $3.69 a loaf price.
One last note: have you ever noticed that bread and bagels in the toaster oven are noticeably darker when they emerge than they seemed just an instant before, while they were inside?
Perhaps up in a corner of the window it should say, "Objects in oven may be browner than they appear."
Spy Pen Digital Camera
Any aspiring junior spy will need one of these.
Standard equipment for those who aspire to become the real thing.
From the website:
- Work your secret spy mojo with the incredibly normal–looking Digital Camera Spy Pen.
This incredible digital device gives you the ability to do what no other pen is capable of.
Go to a board meeting and snap a few candid shots.
Do your own investigation by taking snapshots of secret documents.
Take photographs of a competitor's products at trade shows or retail stores.
Sneak it in where cameras are not allowed like art museums and opera houses.
2MB memory is capable of storing up to 36 160 x 120-pixel images.
Even has a voice function that lets you know how many images have been taken and when the power is on or off.
Includes software and serial cable (RS-232) for downloading images to PC.
It also has a built-in pen so you can write when the need arises.
With the Digital Camera Spy Pen, the possibilities are as boundless as your imagination.
o Dimensions: 6.0" x 0.62" (150 x 15.86 mm)
o Weight: about 69g (including batteries)
o Operating system compatibility: Win 95/98/2000/me/xp
o Uses 4 button cell AG13 batteries (same as LR44 watch batteries — included)
o Includes CD-ROM driver and serial cable for downloading images
o Video component: CMOS
o Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
o Focus, exposure and balance: auto
o White balance: auto
o Working current: 10-30mA (working), <3uA (pending)
o Power manager: automatic shut-off/electricity
o Built-in memory: 2MB
o Image capacity: up to 36 at 160 x 120 (8-bit)
o Image format: BMP
o Erase function: image erasable
o Power indicator: LED lamp (green)
o Shutter speed: 0.3ms-18/120 seconds
o Computer interface: COM interface (RS-232)
o Function instructions: vocal instruction
o Color Photo Download
o Battery life: over 500 pictures
o Battery: button cell AG13 x 4
o Auto–shut–off conserves battery power
Minimum System Requirements
o CPU: 486
o Memory: 8M
o A Drive: 1.44M
o CD-Rom: Driver
o Display memory: 1M
o Hard Disk memory: not less than 100M
o Interface: COM port (RS232)
o Comes with serial cable
Recomended System Requirements
o CPU: 266Mhz or Pentium CPU or Better
o CD-Rom: Driver
o Memory: 32 M
o Display: VGA
Wait a minute — what's that song playing in the background...?
'The most painful coincidence in recorded history'
William Grimes of the New York Times was both judge and jury.
- His citation, as it appeared in yesterday's paper:
The award for the most painful coincidence in recorded history must go to the poet Simon Armitage, who chanced upon a used copy of a book of his poems in a trash bin outside a thrift store.
On the title page was the following inscription, in his own handwriting: "To Mum and Dad."
Those were the concluding sentences of Grimes' mostly bemused review of a new book entitled "Beyond Coincidence: Amazing Stories of Coincidence and the Mystery and Mathematics Behind Them."
I must say that when I happen on a signed copy of one of my books in Amazon's used bookstore I do wince a bit: at my signing at the local Barnes & Noble it wasn't as if they were stacked high and moving fast.
And that's an understatement.
Oh, well, what can you do?
Write another one, I guess.
Might happen: with me you just never know.
Anything that attempts to demystify coincidence, fate and chance always gets my attention, for one simple reason: I have long believed that coincidence is a glimpse of the scaffolding underlying the fabric of reality.
Only as long as everyone agrees not to look underneath at the same time will we continue to have consensus and keep things more or less predictable.
When I was in college I made up a little poem that reflected my thinking, both then and still today.
It goes like this:
Fate and chance,
Chance and fate.
No Stress Tuna Press
Admit it: sometimes you just don't have the energy to fool around and fuss with draining the water or oil from a can of tuna before plating it.
No worries if you add this nifty device to your kitchen armamentarium.
From the website:
- This helpful kitchen gadget lets you drain liquids from tuna and other canned foods while the cute fish-shaped handles protect your hands from sharp edges.
Isn't it nice to know that while you're lying there sleeping the sleep of angels, others* who simply can't accept the status quo are up creating stuff like this?
*I know some
'Origin of the Gob'
No — it's not what you think.
Gobs (above) are little cakes with icing on the inside instead of on the outside.
"Susan Kalcik, folklorist and archivist from with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission in Johnstown, said her research shows that the Gob's origin can be traced back to medieval Germany."
Kalcik added that once a Gob leaves Johnstown it takes on a new identity: "'They don't call them Gobs, they're called Whoopie Pies (below),
she said. 'I've also found Whoopie Pies in New England and as far away as Hawaii.'"
Tim Yost, the owner of the Dutch Maid Bakery in Johnstown, owns the name "Gobs," which he purchased from Harris & Boyar Bakery in Morrellville, Pennsylvania.
Yost loved Gobs as a little boy and told the Tribune–Democrat, "Little did I know that we'd be making it someday. When the opportunity presented itself to obtain the rights to the Gob, we pursued it vigorously."
He told the paper that his recipe was a secret and added, "I would say Gobs are our biggest seller."
While we're on the subject, let's not allow the signature Southern iteration, the beloved Moon Pie (below)
to go remarked.
No, I'm not gonna leave you like this — I know what you're like and what you're in the mood for right about now....
Tim Yost's Dutch Maid Bakery does not appear to have a website, according to my crack research team.
However — if you're in the neighborhood (they're at 809 Scalp Avenue in Johnstown) you could stop by and pick up some Gobs for the gang.
Or you could call Tim at 814-266-3191 and see if he'd ship you some.
Don't forget to tell him I sent you in order to qualify for special bookofjoe pricing (it's twice the regular price, this being the Bizarro World and all... but I digress).
The Pie Shoppe of Laughlintown, Pennsylvania makes its own version of Gobs (below)
and sells them via the internet.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that they only do so on an occasional basis: last year's Gobs months were June, July and August.
They haven't yet announced their plans for 2006 but you can email the shoppe here or call them at 724-238-9536 and ask.
You can order Whoopie Pies here.
If Moon Pies are more your style, hey, here you go.
[via Mark B., who informs me that the Gobs package is "decorated with the image of a sailor"]
Bonus: the Tribune–Democrat published a recipe for Gobs should you wish to whip up a batch.
2 cups sugar
1 cup of boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sour milk (1 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar to sour it)
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
Mix sugar, shortening, eggs, milk, water and vanilla. Then sift together flour, baking powder, soda and cocoa.
Gradually add dry ingredients to the first mixture, beating constantly until well mixed. Drop by tablespoon on engrossed cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes. Cool before icing.
Really have a lot of time on your hands?
Why not do a Gobs smackdown?
Here's another recipe.
And yet a third.
Hydrogen Fireplace — Water is the fuel
Talk about the Bizarro World.
This remarkable new home accent (above) uses ordinary tap water to produce a cozy flame for your hearth.
Underneath the abstract design is some pretty sophisticated technology, wrote Bradford McKee in Thursday's New York Times.
Here's his article.
- A New Fireplace That Gets Its Fuel Straight From the Faucet
The $50,000 Aqueon Hydrogen Fireplace by Heat & Glo (www.heatnglo.com) burns water, sort of.
Through a process called electrolysis, an electric current is passed through water to separate it into hydrogen and oxygen.
The fireplace ignites the hydrogen and mixes in some oxygen to add color to the flame, since hydrogen burns a nearly invisible blue.
The remaining oxygen is released into the room.
There is no carbon monoxide and no need for venting.
The unit stands about six feet high with a sculptural carriage for the burner wrought in stainless steel and copper.
The technology can work in a conventional fireplace for about $35,000, said Vince Bossany, a company spokesman.
"As with plasma TV's, we're out of reach of the typical owner," Mr. Bossany said, but more affordable models may be about five years away.
Think about it: no firewood, no carbon monoxide poisoning, no smoke, no ashes to clean up, no need to bore a hole in your house for a chimney or vent and, bonus: it adds oxygen to your ambient air.