March 05, 2006
Helpful Hints from joe–eeze: Coffee Management
A tale of woe emailed to me two weeks ago from down Mississippi way, in which the contents of a very hot to–go cup of coffee, its lid not firmly fixed atop the lip of the cup, exploded all over the front of my crack research team head researcher's outfit just before she was to go on the air for a live broadcast, disturbing the careful arranged chi and inner feng shui she'd labored over so meticulously, leads me to offer a few tips to help you manage your coffee space.
1) Before leaving the cash register area with your coffee, place the cup down firmly on the countertop. Press the lid down. Then carefully and deliberately rotate the lid a full 360° before taking a single step. That will eliminate events such as the one related above.
2) When you get out to your car, do not place your coffee — or, for that matter, your pocketbook, packages or anything else you happen to be carrying — on the roof of your car. Instead, place them on the driver's side of the car's hood. No more driving away and getting a free window wash or — even more refreshing — coffee shampoo from the overturned container you forgot was on the roof above you.
3) This one might push your envelope: consider using a drinking straw placed through the opening in the lid to drink your coffee instead of repeatedly trying to get a perfect fit of your lips over the little hole. I mean, aren't you tired of coffee dribbling down your cup and your chin onto your clothing?
Trust me — it's unorthodox but it works.
And no, your coffee won't taste of plastic — at least, not any more than it reeks of the cardboard container it's already in.
[via Shawn Lea and everythingandnothing]
Name–It — Finally, a way to quickly identify your cords, plugs and adapters
The official name of this product is "ID Pilot Wire Management Labels" (looks like they could use a bookofjoe naming in–service, what?).
If you're tired of unplugging your printer instead of your lamp, maybe you need to get some.
From the website:
- Ever inadvertently unplug your clock radio instead of the lamp, because you couldn't tell one plug from the other in your power strip?
Forget about color coding or plastic tags — ID Pilot Wire Management Labels to the rescue.
Each label has a drawing of the device it powers.
They’re easy-to-use, pliable vinyl and stick directly onto the plug identified.
Labels come in three themes:
• "Office" contains 22 office computer labels & 10 office equipment labels.
• "Electronics" has 16 home computer labels, 16 audio/video equipment labels & 8 charger labels for wireless devices.
• "Household" has 8 kitchen basics labels, 8 gourmet kitchen labels, 24 household labels & 8 workshop labels.
They adhere easily to uneven or irregular surfaces and their ultra–white background enhance visibility of the label images.
Labels measure 5/8" in diameter.
$6 for a package of any one of the three themes noted above.
As long as we're on the subject of identifying cords and their corresponding devices, I may as well bring up an idea I had years ago to simplify and make safer the operating room environment.
The unbelievable tangle of cords and wires that accompanies anesthesia administration is not to be believed.
We call it "spaghetti" and it comes free with every case.
All the wires are gray and it's a bear trying to follow them out to the patient and back to their respective machines.
Whenever I see maintenance men from the anesthesia machine companies doing their periodic machine checkouts, I mention this problem and tell them how easy it would be to solve: simply make each cord a different color.
Consumer electronics should've adopted this fix decades ago.
So simple and obvious but it hasn't happened yet and probably never will.
I'm not talking about Apple's use of white here: I'm talking hot pink, light blue and the entire rest of the visible spectrum.
Whoever wants this idea, take it and run with it: first patent it, though, if you don't want to see your cords pouring out of China by the gazillions the week after you introduce yours.
Hey, because you're so cool I'll even throw in a name at no extra charge: ColorCords™.
SiteAdvisor — 'The web, tested'
It works with Internet Explorer and Firefox and "attempts to interpret the relative safety of Web sites that show up in search results."
Long story short: When you do a Google search, your results come back with a small color–coded icon (green, yellow, red or gray) next to each one, signifying at a glance that the sites: are free of hidden stuff like pop–ups and their ilk (green); evince some odd behavior (yellow); require that you exercise "extreme caution" (red).
Gray means there isn't yet enough information to assign a rating.
I tried to download SiteAdvisor for Internet Explorer for Mac but was stymied when it came down as an .exe file, which I haven't yet figured out how to open and probably never will.
No matter — there are always other formats where that one came from and even if there aren't, cut–and–paste works.
I then tried Firefox 1.5 and succeeded in getting SiteAdvisor, so I tried it out on bookofjoe to see how it appears to the gimlet eye of big–time computer security out in Redmond.
The results are shown above.
Here's Krebs' story as it appears in the Post.
- Exposing Web Addresses' Hidden Mischief
Security experts have long warned computer users to beware of links that come via instant messenger or e-mail, the most common ways for adware, spyware and other bad stuff to get into your PC.
But few people think twice about the unfamiliar links that turn up after a Google, MSN or Yahoo search and how those sites might also expose users to a security risk.
For the past few weeks I've been surfing the Web with the help of SiteAdvisor, a beta version browser add-on for Internet Explorer and Firefox that attempts to interpret the relative safety of Web sites that show up in search results.
With SiteAdvisor installed, search listings are accompanied by a small color-coded icon, such as the red "X" that comes up next to sites that have had reports of suspicious or malicious activity.
If you use IE and click on the link for one of those questionable sites, the program immediately redirects you to a SiteAdvisor page that offers more information on the threat.
Hover over the red "X" with your cursor arrow and a small window appears urging you to exercise "extreme caution" in visiting the site.
If you then visit the site, a red dialogue box emerges that offers a brief description of why SiteAdvisor doesn't like it.
SiteAdvisor also may assign a green check mark (all clear), a yellow exclamation point (some odd behavior found) or a gray question mark (not enough info to assign a rating yet).
Regardless of the rating, hovering over a rating will produce a dialogue box that offers a "more info" link.
I ran my test by searching for "lyrics" in Google.
The result: two "Red X" listings, including one next to lyricsplanet.com.
SiteAdvisor warned me that the site would try to install a plug-in that ranked high on SiteAdvisor's "Nuisance Score."
Below the scoring meter, the site offers a link to a warning by anti-spyware vendor Pest Patrol that flags the plug-in as adware that will bombard the user with pop-up ads and track online activities.
I decided to test SiteAdvisor's claims by allowing the plug-in to be installed.
Almost immediately, just as I was warned, the pop-ups appeared.
Clicking on the red X next to the other suspicious listing on our "lyrics" search results in Google -- a "sponsored link" paid for by rewardsgetaway.com -- we learned that the site was flagged because users who sign up can expect to receive no fewer than 134 e-mails a week as a result.
SiteAdvisor knows this because it uses a unique e-mail address to register for sites that require e-mail addresses for registration and tracks the subsequent e-mails that arrive in the inbox.
SiteAdvisor also provides a graphic that shows which other sites have an advertising relationship with the Web site you're visiting.
For example, SiteAdvisor says Lyricsplanet.com is linked via advertising to absolutelyrics.com, a site which the software flagged as deceptive or fraudulent.
Overall, SiteAdvisor does a good job.
Still, its extensive database is not necessarily authoritative.
We found a handful of Internet addresses that have been flagged by anti-virus and anti-spyware firms as serving up malware that were marked "safe" by SiteAdvisor.
If you enjoy this sort of stuff, visit Krebs' website and dive in as deep as you like.
4–in–1 Hose Connector
OK, I was wrong — there is indeed something in the water.
What else could make a perfectly ordinary hose connector wake up one morning to find that instead of its usual and customary division into a perfectly ordinary twin outlet, quadruplets had appeared?
From the website:
- Run 4 Garden Hoses Off Just 1 Faucet
There’ll be plenty of "water, water, everywhere!"
Attach this solid brass water "distributor" to your existing outside faucet and you'll be able to attach up to four hoses at one time!
No need to fumble with disconnecting hoses: all four taps have rubberized shut-off valves, standard threads for timers and, of course, standard hose fittings for quick–connects.
Why don't cars have copiers?
I was down at my local Kinko's yesterday faxing a couple pages to someone.
I don't have a fax machine because it's always struck me as a pain in the butt to both send and receive faxes, much less deal with keeping a machine functioning.
Then with junk fax and all it seemed a slam dunk, not having one.
I send maybe one fax every two months.
Of course, that could be because when people ask me to fax something to them or want to fax something to me, I tell them no can do.
Anyway, I figured it would be best to make a copy of the original of the document I was faxing because I had to mail the notarized original to someone else.
If I hadn't had to go to the bank to get the thing notarized I'd have made my copies at home on my very useful Canon personal copier (top), which I've had one version or another of for at least five years and don't know how I lived without.
My friendly Barracks Road Shopping Center Kinko's has 10 self–service copying machines, each with its own credit card reader.
They got rid of those crazy gray boxes with the counters you had to stick in the machines, then take to the register so they could charge you.
All well and good, but when I began my copying machine rounds I found that five of the machines were in use, three were broken and two were color copiers with instructions I couldn't begin to fathom.
Oh for ten.
Everyone at the five working machines had big piles of stuff to copy and two people were alreadly waiting for one to become free.
I went up to the desk and sweet–talked the clerk into making my copies on one of his machines.
Same price but a lot better than waiting around for Godot's copy.
Anyhow, while all this was going on I got to thinking that I probably could have put my copying machine in my car, plugged it into the AC–DC inverter I keep in my trunk but have never used, plugged the inverter into the cigarette lighter socket and made my copies right there in my car in the Kinko's parking lot.
Then I got to wondering if you could run a little business by driving around to busy places where business people congregate, parking and putting a sign in your windshield saying "Copies — No Waiting," and charging a buck a copy for the convenience.
Then I got to wondering why there's no copier option for cars.
Put it behind the back seat, accessible from either the cabin of the car or the trunk; wire it into the electrical system; and there you go, your own personal copier at your service 24/7/365.
Just a thought.
From the website:
- Organize pens and pencils!
Put this handy tool on a desk, computer or phone where you want pens and pencils within easy reach.
It couldn’t be easier to mount and use.
Also comes with clips for attaching to a car visor.
The gripping "fingers" of this set securely hold pens, pencils, scissors, markers and small tools — up to eight in all.
Mount vertically, horizontally or at an angle using the adhesive foam included.
Measures 4.25"H x 1.6"W x 2.5"D.
The crack research team subjected the photo up top to rigorous analysis in our supersecret lavatory out back — wait a minute, that's not right... laboratory, ya, that's it — in an attempt to better understand what is involved in the device's "gripping 'fingers'" mechanism of action.
As best they were able to determine, the eight "finger" pairs are stacked vertically (note the divisions in the photo along the one inside wall that's visible) and open and close in a kind of pincer action.
Hey, if you're that curious maybe you owe it to yourself to buy one so you can examine it up close and personal, as it were.
A set of 2 (hey, amaze and delight a friend while you're at it) costs $12.95.
Snowflakes are Forever
If you follow the instructions below.
The snowflake pictured above fell 27 years ago, in January 1979.
Theodore Gray wrote about it on the Popular Science website; his article follows.
- Save a Snowflake for Decades
Create a lasting cast of nature's perfect crystals with a drop of chilled superglue
Ever wanted to catch a snowflake and keep it forever?
This [above] is a photograph of a snowflake that fell in January 1979, but it isn't a 27-year-old photo.
It is a recent shot of a snowflake that’s been sitting in chemist Tryggvi Emilsson's desk for 27 years, locked in a drop of that miracle of modern chemistry we call superglue.
The "super" in the thin, runny adhesive, which was invented during World War II, is the small molecules in it called cyanoacrylate monomers that penetrate and interlock with the microscopic forms of anything they touch.
The glue hardens when the monomers link together, or polymerize, head-to-tail into long chains called polymers.
This process is triggered by any minute trace of water or water vapor and progresses very quickly, which is why superglue hardens more rapidly on moist things, such as your fingers, than on the thing you’re trying to glue.
The tendencies of superglue to seep into the tiniest nooks and crannies, harden on contact with water, and solidify rapidly make it perfect for taking an impression of something that is very small, made of water, and ephemeral, a fact that struck Emilsson during the winter of '79.
He'd been fascinated by Wilson A. Bentley’s famous 1931 book "Snow Crystals," which contains 2,453 snowflake photographs taken over 47 freezing Vermont winters.
Bentley had to work quickly to get each shot before the radiant heat from his body melted the flake.
Despite being from Iceland (or perhaps because of it), Emilsson wasn’t about to endure long bouts of biting cold, so he came up with the superglue method described below, which lets you capture snowflakes outside and examine them later in the comfort of your living room.
In front of a crackling fire, if you like.
Bentley could save just photographs, not the real snowflakes he longed as a child to take home to show his mother.
One can only imagine what a collection he would have built if he’d had a few hundred tubes of superglue.
Perhaps we'll see when a modern-day Bentley comes along.
Who knows, maybe it’s you.
Preserving a Snowflake in Superglue
Time: 10 minutes
How It Works:
1) Set microscope slides, coverslips and superglue outside when it’s 20°F or colder to chill them.
2) Catch flakes on the slides or pick them up with cold tweezers.
3) Place a drop of superglue on the snowflake. Note: Gel glue doesn’t work. Find a brand that’s thin and runny.
4) Drop a coverslip over the glue. Don’t press down hard or the flake could tear or melt from the heat of your finger.
5) Leave the slide in a freezer for one or two weeks and don’t touch it with warm hands. The glue must completely harden before the snowflake warms up.
[via Steve Mallory]
4–in–1 Farmer's Pliers
You know how nowadays people are finding more and more of those two–headed frogs, then blaming it all on pollution?
Well, guess what?
It's not just in the DNA space, if this tool is the canary in the coal mine.
"Top-quality, high-polish multi-tool features Slip-Joint Pliers, Wire Cutter, Adjustable Wrench and Prybar/Screwdriver."
Comes with its own custom leather belt pouch.
$9.99 (scroll about two–thirds of the way down).
Anyone can clip a Treo or BlackBerry or Swarovski crystal–covered cellphone to their belt.
Your bling will go blindingly supernova, off the chart and right through the glass ceiling the moment you strap this puppy on.