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April 16, 2008

Hypercities.com: Welcome to the future — today


"Rather than surfing the web, going from site to site, portal to portal, what if you could surf a city, browse its streets, get lost in its buildings, meet friends and strangers in a hyperlinked world, go back in time, and reemerge in another city?"

You've heard of augmented reality?

It's here.

[via Todd Presner]

April 16, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mirror Wall Clock Hook


Taking mashups to the next level, a 2006 design by Pascal Tarabay.

From the website:

    Mirror Wall Clock With Hook

    Blending aesthetics and functionality, the designer delivers three useful items in one — a mirror, wall clock and sturdy hook.

    Made in Italy of mirrored stainless steel.

    One AA battery required (not included).

    13"H x 8.75W x 1"D.


April 16, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is willpower a zero-sum quality?


That's what Sandra Aamodt, editor in chief of the journal Nature Neuroscience, and Sam Wang, associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton, contend.

Once you use some, there's that much less available to resist the next temptation.

On the brighter side, they believe it's possible to increase your overall store of willpower such that you'll have that much more left the next time you need some.

Their new book (above) is just out.

Here's their most interesting April 2, 2008 New York Times Op-Ed page essay on the subject.

    Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind

    Declining house prices, rising job layoffs, skyrocketing oil costs and a major credit crunch have brought consumer confidence to its lowest point in five years. With a relatively long recession looking increasingly likely, many American families may be planning to tighten their belts.

    Interestingly, restraining our consumer spending, in the short term, may cause us to actually loosen the belts around our waists. What’s the connection? The brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others. The good news, however, is that practice increases willpower capacity, so that in the long run, buying less now may improve our ability to achieve future goals — like losing those 10 pounds we gained when we weren’t out shopping.

    The brain’s store of willpower is depleted when people control their thoughts, feelings or impulses, or when they modify their behavior in pursuit of goals. Psychologist Roy Baumeister and others have found that people who successfully accomplish one task requiring self-control are less persistent on a second, seemingly unrelated task.

    In one pioneering study, some people were asked to eat radishes while others received freshly baked chocolate chip cookies before trying to solve an impossible puzzle. The radish-eaters abandoned the puzzle in eight minutes on average, working less than half as long as people who got cookies or those who were excused from eating radishes. Similarly, people who were asked to circle every “e” on a page of text then showed less persistence in watching a video of an unchanging table and wall.

    Other activities that deplete willpower include resisting food or drink, suppressing emotional responses, restraining aggressive or sexual impulses, taking exams and trying to impress someone. Task persistence is also reduced when people are stressed or tired from exertion or lack of sleep.

    What limits willpower? Some have suggested that it is blood sugar, which brain cells use as their main energy source and cannot do without for even a few minutes. Most cognitive functions are unaffected by minor blood sugar fluctuations over the course of a day, but planning and self-control are sensitive to such small changes. Exerting self-control lowers blood sugar, which reduces the capacity for further self-control. People who drink a glass of lemonade between completing one task requiring self-control and beginning a second one perform equally well on both tasks, while people who drink sugarless diet lemonade make more errors on the second task than on the first. Foods that persistently elevate blood sugar, like those containing protein or complex carbohydrates, might enhance willpower for longer periods.

    In the short term, you should spend your limited willpower budget wisely. For example, if you do not want to drink too much at a party, then on the way to the festivities, you should not deplete your willpower by window shopping for items you cannot afford. Taking an alternative route to avoid passing the store would be a better strategy.

    On the other hand, if you need to study for a big exam, it might be smart to let the housecleaning slide to conserve your willpower for the more important job. Similarly, it can be counterproductive to work toward multiple goals at the same time if your willpower cannot cover all the efforts that are required. Concentrating your effort on one or at most a few goals at a time increases the odds of success.

    Focusing on success is important because willpower can grow in the long term. Like a muscle, willpower seems to become stronger with use. The idea of exercising willpower is seen in military boot camp, where recruits are trained to overcome one challenge after another.

    In psychological studies, even something as simple as using your nondominant hand to brush your teeth for two weeks can increase willpower capacity. People who stick to an exercise program for two months report reducing their impulsive spending, junk food intake, alcohol use and smoking. They also study more, watch less television and do more housework. Other forms of willpower training, like money-management classes, work as well.

    No one knows why willpower can grow with practice but it must reflect some biological change in the brain. Perhaps neurons in the frontal cortex, which is responsible for planning behavior, or in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is associated with cognitive control, use blood sugar more efficiently after repeated challenges. Or maybe one of the chemical messengers that neurons use to communicate with one another is produced in larger quantities after it has been used up repeatedly, thereby improving the brain’s willpower capacity.

    Whatever the explanation, consistently doing any activity that requires self-control seems to increase willpower — and the ability to resist impulses and delay gratification is highly associated with success in life.


I've always believed that delayed gratification is the emotional equivalent of compound interest: it just keeps growing and growing, getting better by the hour or day.

April 16, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Drinking Glasses


Move aside, beer goggles, 'cause there's a new kid in town.

From the website:

    Drinking Glasses

    Loosen up, get goofy and wear a straw shaped like eyeglasses.

    They rest on your nose so others can watch your drink swirl around your eyes as you sip your beverage!



These have clifyt written all over them.


Bonus: If you're the sort of person who doesn't like to drink alone, why not buy a second pair for a buddy?

If you do, they're only $4.98 apiece.

April 16, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MethodIzaz — Your own private paparazzi


From James Thornburg, who wrote, "Paparazzi for an anesthesiologist?", comes news of this interesting new company.

From its website:


    MethodIzaz is a unique photography experience. Subjects are unaware of the exact moment they will be photographed and of the photographer's identity. Instead, the subject is photographed completely naturally, living life as normal.

    MethodIzaz will provide you with a portfolio of pictures representing the fleeting moments of an authentic lifestyle. The photographs will allow you to remember these moments later in life. They will also give you a new perspective on the everyday, letting you see yourself and your surroundings through the eyes of an artist.

    Using information provided earlier about their weekly routine, the photographer will arrive on the scene, and unseen, take shots of the subject. The subject will be photographed walking through the streets, going about their daily business. Without posing and artifice, the camera captures only the natural beauty of the person.


Josh Spear reviewed it here.

April 16, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Portable Incense Kit


Handmade in Japan by Nippon Kodo.

60 incense sticks and a holder.

Kits available in three different scents: Bathing in the Woods; Mediterranean Evening; Behind Closed Doors.


Apiece, £22.

April 16, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is consciousness a quantum effect?


Well, duh.

I've said so for years now.

You could look it up.

Looks like physics is finally catching up to me.

Although that's not very hard, considering that when I checked a moment ago my book's Amazon sales rank is #5,318,918.

But look at it this way: there can't be a whole lot of downside.

And you thought I wasn't an optimist.

Here's a link to Zeeya Merali's October 20, 2007 NewScientist.com article about recent developments in this arena.

April 16, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

April 16, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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