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July 12, 2007

Miranda July is an original


She's a compelling filmmaker, performer and writer whose website for her new book is enchanting.

The site is sort of like potato chips in that it's hard to stop yourself from just one more — in its case — page.

Her website proper is also a kick.

[via Adam P. Knave]

July 12, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Unbreakable Margarita Glasses


All the way from New Zealand to your hand.

From the website:

    DuraClear® Margarita Glasses

    They look like expensive glassware, but these beautifully designed margarita glasses are constructed from sturdy polycarbonate, which won’t crack or break, so they’re ideal for outdoor use.

    Made for us in New Zealand using a revolutionary technique, they are formed from the same plastic material used for bulletproof glass.

    They maintain their clarity even when washed in the dishwasher.

    A Williams-Sonoma exclusive.

    12-oz. cap., 6-3/4" high.



Set of six clear glasses: $48.

You want assorted colors?

Same price: six (top) for $48 here.

I hate to break it to the krew who crow in their ad copy above that these glasses are "a Williams-Sonoma exclusive," but look what my crack research team just dragged in:


Oh, well.

Let them fight it out, 'cause we've got better things to do.

Don't we?

And one more thing: I wouldn't be throwing around phrases like "won't crack or break" or descriptors (you call them "words" in your country) like "bulletproof" quite so loosely until Cliff M. up in Indiana has had a chance to put a few through his proprietary testing regimen.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Mercifully, for once no accompanying picture of Forrest Gump.

July 12, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: 1,540 pixel retinal chip implanted into 7 blind human volunteers produces vision


Okay, so it wasn't 20/20 — but give the inventors of this technology (pictured above, in situ) a little time and things will get a lot clearer.

A story about the advance appeared in the June 7, 2007 Economist's Technology Quarterly supplement, and follows.

    Visual implants: An electronic retinal implant uses technology borrowed from digital cameras to restore some sight to the blind

    These days using silicon chips to allow machines to see is commonplace. So why not use them to restore sight to the blind? That is the reasoning behind a study being carried out in the eye hospitals of Tübingen and Regensburg universities, in Germany. The project, which is being led by Eberhart Zrenner, involves implanting chips into the eyes of seven people who have lost their sight to a disease called retinitis pigmentosa.

    Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited disorder that accounts for 11% of cases of blindness and has no medical treatment. It gradually destroys the rods and cones that detect light in the retina of the eye. But it does not harm the optic nerve, which transmits electrical impulses from the retina to the brain. Feed some appropriate electrical signals to this nerve, Dr Zrenner reasoned, and the brain would be able to see again.

    The chip that does this was designed by a firm called Retina Implant. Its researchers used photodiodes (the technology found in digital cameras) that generate an electrical signal when light strikes them. By putting 1,540 such sensors on a chip that can be implanted over the retina the company has created a device that can produce an image made up of 1,540 picture elements, or pixels — though it is a very coarse image, given that a healthy eye has 120m rods, which produce the bulk of the image, and 6m cones, which add colour to it.

    Each diode stimulates the nerve cells that have their endings in the retina — unlike the photoreceptors, these cells are unharmed by retinitis pigmentosa — and the nerve cells in question then relay their individual signals to the brain via the optic nerve. Electrical power is supplied using a cable connected to a small battery slung around the patient's neck, though Retina Implant eventually hopes to supply power wirelessly, using electrical induction. That would not require anything to penetrate the skin.

    The seven volunteers spent a month with the implants and reported being able to distinguish between dark walls and a light window, and a dark table and white plates. The image was coarse compared with normal vision because of the small number of pixels, and the patients did not see fully in colour, although they reported being able to distinguish white, grey and yellow tones. Nevertheless, enough sight was restored to make a difference to each of the volunteers' lives.

    The researchers now want to repeat the experiment and keep the implants in place for at least a year. (Their original research licence was limited to four weeks.) They hope this will be long enough for their patients' brains to learn how to interpret the images more accurately than they now can. Newer versions of the devices will also have more pixels, so that the image-quality should be better. Walter Wrobel, the boss of Retina Implant, reckons the cost for each one at about €25,000 ($35,000). That is less than the bill for training a guide dog — and the implants will not require feeding.

July 12, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

ShelBroCo Chain Cleaning System: 'A new exercise in bike maintenance futility'


Above, the headline over Rocky Thompson's June 29, 2007 blog post about a new approach to cleaning your bike's chain.

The complete entry (which cracked me up) follows.

    A New Exercise in Bike Maintenance Futility — The ShelBroCo Chain Cleaning System

    I know that a lot of cyclists are anal-retentive, mechanical engineering types who get off on the sport’s tech side.

    Still, I think most of these people are able to keep their quirks within the bounds of biking’s wide range of accepted behavior so they move about largely unnoticed.

    Here’s a good way to see if your engineering friend’s gone round the bend — show him the ShelBroCo Chain Cleaning System and watch his reaction.

    If the idea of paying $250 for chemicals and tools to completely disassemble his chain and clean it link by link excites him, then you should find a new riding partner.


$69.95–$249.95, depending on just how fanatic you are about a pristine bike chain.

[via The Piton]

July 12, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Buzz Off — Ultrasonic Mosquito Repellers Don't Work


The Cochrane Collaboration, which systematically evaluates a wide variety of scientific claims, has demonstrated that high-frequency mosquito repellers do nothing but drain your wallet.


Read the details here.

July 12, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Peel-Off Nail Polish


That's different.

Holly E. Thomas featured it in her "Test Drive" feature in the July 1, 2007 Washington Post; her review follows.

    Honeybee Gardens Peel-Off Nail Polish

    I've passed on press-on nails (too flimsy) and acrylic talons (too scary). But a nail polish you can peel off — meaning no smelly removers and no stained fingertips? Sign me up. At least, that's how Honeybee Gardens' peel-off polishes first caught my eye.

    As much as I wanted to be wowed, though, I wasn't. I coated my nails with the sparkly, baby-pink Fairy Dust, which looked ethereal during a dusky summer barbecue. But a few days later, the polish didn't exactly peel off: It came off in small strips, so I spent the better part of an evening scratching, picking and swearing at my nails.

    Next, I slicked on the bright red Rock Star; to give the color credit, it's rather sexy. And this time, the lacquer did peel off in near-complete sheets. But it took ages to dry (a lesson I learned the hard way by getting a little Rock Star on my sheets, hair and clothes). And after it came off, my nails and cuticles looked parched.

    If you have loads of time to, well, watch the paint dry, these polishes are an option you won't find anywhere else. Then again, there's probably a reason for that.


Six colors:



July 12, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Is 'drinking the Kool-Aid' a good thing?


Up until last week I'd always thought it was meant as a put-down, a disdainful aside describing someone who'd been bamboozled or deluded into thinking something was wonderful when instead it meant they were a fool.

The origin of this phrase is nicely described in Tom Wolfe's 1968 classic, "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test."


Long story short: It was a positive thing in that context, and meant you were tuned in from the point of view of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, the subject of Wolfe's piece.

These days the phrase has become associated with the 1978 cult mass suicide/murder in Jonestown, Guyana, orchestrated by Jim Jones.

The only problem with that attribution is that Jones's acolytes drank grape Flavor Aid laced with cyanide — not Kool-Aid.


When I read a Financial Times article in which a company spokeswoman said of some its highest executives, in reference to some radical new corporate initiative, "They all drank the Kool-Aid and they're onboard," I was somewhat confused and taken aback.

Either this woman hasn't a clue about history or the zeitgeist or her company is headed onto the rocks — at warp speed.

July 12, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Remote-Controlled Floating Water Cannon


Everybody in.

    Remote-Controlled Floating Water Cannon

    This remote controlled boat has a cannon [above] that shoots a gentle stream of water up to 20 feet and the waterproof remote [below] allows precise navigation from up to 40 feet away.

    The cannon elevates and lowers via remote control, ensuring accurate shots at targets inside the pool or on a ledge, and the device is propelled by dual Kort nozzles (similar to the thrusters used to propel tugboats) allowing 360° spins and tight turns.

    The remote control operates on two channels and its waterproof housing allows you to control the water cannon while swimming.

    Runs for four hours on a full charge — different color units operate on separate frequencies to allow water battles between two cannons.

    Includes rechargeable battery for cannon and AC adapter.

    Remote requires one 9-volt battery.

    12"H x 14" Diam.

    Ages 8 and up.



Green or Orange.

"8 and up?"

We are so there.


July 12, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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