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April 08, 2009
Trevor Blackwell's Model T Segway — How to build your own
"Self-balancing scooters like the Segway™ are often thought to
be technological miracles,
but it is not actually very hard to build
I built the one described here [above and below] in about a week using
I spent another week tweaking the high-speed
stability, improving the steering control, and writing about it."
[via Cliff Hatch]
April 8, 2009 at 05:01 PM | Permalink
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10 principles for a Black Swan-proof world — by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
They appear in today's Financial Times, and follow:
1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small.
2. No socialization of losses and privatization of gains.
3. People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus.
4. Do not let someone making an "incentive" bonus manage a nuclear plant — or your financial risks.
5. Counter-balance complexity with simplicity.
6. Do not give children sticks of dynamite, even if they come with a warning.
7. Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence. Governments should never need to "restore confidence."
8. Do not give an addict more drugs if he has withdrawal pains.
9. Citizens should not depend on financial assets or fallible "expert" advice for their retirement.
10. Make an omelette with the broken eggs.
Long time readers will know that I've been a fan of Taleb's work since long before he got big.
April 8, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink
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Look smart and feel secure anywhere with Cold Steel's new personal
grooming aid, the Honey Comb.
It looks like an ordinary hairbrush — but
the handle is actually a highly effective stiletto dagger.
cross-section is cruciform in shape and a full 1/2" thick.
gradually along its 3-1/2" length down to a needle-like point.
any good dagger (or hairbrush) it has a secure, well-designed hand grip.
The Honey Comb is precision injection-molded from Zytel, a super-tough
nylon and fiberglass composite that contains no metal and is impervious
to the elements.
With its innocent appearance and obvious usefulness
(after all, it is a real hairbrush), this is the answer to personal
defense — at home, at work, or traveling.
Perfect for your handbag, glove compartment or travel luggage.
Blade length: 3-5/8"
Blade thickness: 1/2" cruciform
Overall blade + handle length: 7-7/8" (8-1/4" w/brush)
Weight: 2.2 oz.
April 8, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink
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You put cake, cookie or brownie batter in the pan, insert popsicle sticks, then bake.
[via Bem Legaus!]
April 8, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink
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Helpful Hints from joeeze: How to penetrate the 800 number wall
For the past week I've been trying to reach a person at a company with an 800 number.
No luck, no matter when I call, anytime day or night I get a recording, leave a message, blah blah blah.
So yesterday I left a message, asking if there was a real person there.
This morning I received not one but two return calls in my voicemail from a woman who said their hours were Monday through Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Central Time, and then she gave me the same 800 number I'd found unfulfilling.
She also noted I could use the live online help feature by clicking on the icon in the upper right hand corner of the home page, or email them at the address on the homepage.
But I knew my problem, though simple, would not do well via internet back and forth but could be solved on the phone very quickly with both of us working on the same screen.
Besides which, hasn't that live online help thing for the most part kind of gone away as a result of its uselessness?
Anyhow, I called the 800 number a couple times during working hours and got the usual recording — and then the penny dropped.
I went back into "missed calls" on my phone and lo and behold there was her number — area code 903 etc. etc.
I called the number and she answered on the second ring, and when I told her my name and that I was returning her call she sounded a bit nonplussed for a couple seconds, then said to hold on for a moment while she finished something (not putting me on hold, thank goodness), then came back on the line and pleasant as could be spent the next 10 minutes or so with me solving my problem.
So here's the short version of the above: When you can't get through to an 800 number, leave a nice message, in a friendly tone rather than sounding faintly annoyed as I did (I guess I got lucky since I was kind of smart alecky), and if possible make your message stand out from the zillions of others they receive.
Then give your phone number slowly, twice.
With any luck you'll get a return call, and if so and the number's not blocked you're money.
As far as I know you can only use an 800 number to receive calls.
Worked for me, might work for you.
April 8, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink
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Simply Dump It — World's first ergnomically articulating wheelbarrow handles
From the latest edition of Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools, edited by Steve Leckart, comes this item, reviewed by one Andrew Bajorinas as follows.
Simply Dump It Wheelbarrow Handles
These pivoting plastic
wheelbarrow handles let you go from a walking position to lifting and
repositioning your hands. They're also amazing for me, because I am
tall: When walking
with a wheelbarrow the nose can sometimes
catch the ground causing several problems. The handles lower the
wheelbarrow's handles several inches, allowing me to walk upright
instead of hunched.
Although I've only started using them, they've already had quite a
workout. I am replacing
the gravel pushed off of my 350' driveway by the snow plow. I load the
wheelbarrow quite heavily. These handles have eliminated my hunching
AND they let me dump the gravel easily.
Installation took me about ten minutes, being
very careful, as they require you to drill permanent holes. They
come with clear directions, a long screw, and nylon lock nut for each
handle (also included are tubular shims to adjust the fit, if
necessary). The steps
are: 1) Slip it over the handle; too tight? Sand the handle. Too loose?
Add shims. 2) Position as desired. 3) Drill hole in marked location
through entire handle. 4) Put screw through the hole, apply nylon lock
nut on the other side. Done.
I've found them to be
stable. UV degradation is my primary concern, since I leave my
wheelbarrow outdoor all year. Still, they are cheap enough that a second pair in
4-5 years would be acceptable to me, considering the convenience and
April 8, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink
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ArtBabble — All art videos, all the time
Free, the way we like it.
Here's Kate Taylor's article from yesterday's New York Times with the details about the site, created by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and just up yesterday.
ArtBabble Site Opens Window to World of Museums
For old television shows, there’s Hulu.
For college lectures, there’s iTunes U. And now, for videos about art,
there’s ArtBabble, a Web site created by the Indianapolis Museum of Art that offers videos from sources including the Museum of Modern Art and the PBS series “Art:21.”
In the last few years, as museums have tried to take advantage of
the Internet to connect with young audiences, they have produced an
increasing number of online videos, from artist interviews and
time-lapse shots of exhibition installations to short profiles of
curators, art handlers, and even museum guards. Most institutions
feature these videos on their own Web sites, as well as uploading them
to sites like YouTube or blip.tv. But until now, there has been no
dedicated place on the Web for art videos.
which goes live to the public on Tuesday, is intended to change that.
For the roll-out the Indianapolis museum invited a handful of
institutions, including the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,
to take part. In the long run, it hopes to add more institutions, so
that ArtBabble becomes “the destination for art content online,” Daniel
Incandela, the director of new media at the Indianapolis museum, said
in an interview.
On sites like YouTube, an artist interview can get lost among the
“music videos, blooper videos, and sort of more viral, edgier content,”
Mr. Incandela added. There is also no easy way to browse content from
multiple museums, and, until recently, videos weren’t available in high
On ArtBabble the majority of videos are in high definition. The
design of the home page is clean and is clearly meant to draw in
nonspecialists, with speech bubbles featuring punchy quotations that,
when clicked on, jump to the relevant videos. (A mock dictionary entry
defines “ArtBabble” as “a place where everyone is invited to join an
open, ongoing discussion — no art degree required.”)
The most unusual feature of the site is the “notes” that accompany
each video. The notes run down a window to the right of the screen,
offering links to related material on the Web. For example, in an
interview with the artist Robert Irwin, when Mr. Irwin mentions the
sculptors Mark di Suvero and Richard Serra, the notes offer links to the Wikipedia
entries for each artist. A reference to the gardens that Mr. Irwin
designed at the Getty Center in Los Angeles provides links to the Getty
Center’s Web site (getty.edu)
and a YouTube video of the gardens. Representatives of several of the
partner institutions said that they were most excited about the notes
feature and its potential.
“We can give an online viewer the opportunity to take countless
tangents,” said Joshua Greenberg, director of digital strategy at the
New York Public Library. “It fits the core premise of librarianship,
that it’s not just about putting something in someone’s hands but
The hosting fees and other expenses of ArtBabble are being covered
by the Indianapolis museum, with the help of a $50,000 grant from the
Ball Brothers Foundation. (ArtBabble is free to users.) If the site
becomes popular, the museum will look for corporate sponsorship, the
museum’s director, Maxwell Anderson, said.
Mr. Anderson said the goal behind ArtBabble, and the museum’s own
video production, is to allow visitors to “experience the life of
museums,” whether through employee profiles, studio visits with artists
or videos of conservators restoring objects. The advantage of making
the new video site a collaborative one was obvious, he said: “The
strength and potency of this as a shared site is much greater than one
museum at a time.”
The Indianapolis museum has been a pioneer in using the Internet to
provide greater transparency about museum operations. A section of its
Web site (imamuseum.org)
called the Dashboard offers current information about the value of the
museum’s endowment, the number of visitors and its average daily energy
consumption. The museum also recently created an online database of
works it has deaccessioned.
Mr. Incandela acknowledged that the ultimate success of ArtBabble
will depend, at least partly, on what other institutions the
Indianapolis museum persuades to join.
Internationally, one museum that has devoted substantial resources
to producing videos is the Tate. In collaboration with British Telecom,
the Tate has put hundreds of videos on its Web site, tate.org.uk, from studio visits with Jeff Koons and Gilbert & George to archival interview footage with Francis Bacon.
Reached by phone, Will Gompertz, the director of Tate Media, the branch
of the museum that oversees its video production, said that he had not
previously heard of ArtBabble, but based on a description, he thought
it was a great idea.
“Tate would be delighted” to put its videos on a site like
ArtBabble, Mr. Gompertz said, adding, “Nothing in this new world can be
April 8, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink
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What is it?
Answer here this time tomorrow.
April 8, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink
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