September 18, 2018

"The Check in the Mail" — Jack Ziegler


This is my all-time favorite cartoon.

It originally appeared in the April 21, 1986 issue of the New Yorker.

Back then, as soon as I turned the page and saw it, I got up and got a pair of scissors and cut it out and put it on my fridge.

Though I've since bought a new fridge, the cartoon, now weathered and battered by more than three decades of fridge life (top), remains up and still amuses me when I happen to look at it.


So true!

September 18, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two Faces of Gloria

I heard this great 1982 song, sung by Laura Branigan, twice last week while watching movies: 1) as the final number in the 2014 Chilean film "Gloria," just released in a 2018 remake starring Julianne Moore as Gloria, and 2) in "I, Tonya."

Wonderful song.

Those who go back a ways further may recall Van Morrison's 1964 "Gloria," which accompanied the opening scene of Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 film "The Outsiders" and recurred several times during the movie.

September 18, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gutter Sense Gutter Cleaning Tool — A reasesssment


So long ago, I don't even know if it was in this century, I bought one of these to clean my gutters. 

After trying to use it without success, I stuck it in the basement and forgot about it.

Fast forward 15-25 years to today, and the giant maple tree that towers over my house, occasionally dropping a limb big enough to kill, is doing its autumnal best to shed enough of its big leaves such that the second story gutter of my house gets clogged overnight, even after my hired gun goes up on his two-story ladder and scours the gutter clean.

Those check$ add up.

I pulled the Gutter Sense tool out of its cobwebby corner and took it upstairs to give it a try from inside the house: WINNING!*


It appears that the passage of time has given me new skilz because after

1) removing the storm windows

2) lowering the top half of my double-hung windows

3) shortening the extension pole attached to the Gutter Sense mechanism as much as possible (the resulting tool measures about five feet long in total)

4) shortening up the control rope to about five feet long

5) patiently leaning out and over the bottom half of my windows (no worries about falling out; the top edge is 52" high and I'm 68" tall — the window comes up to my chest)

I was able to successfully grasp and remove from the upper gutter — at the point that always gets blocked up by leaves — about five loads of packed sopping wet leaves.

"O! The Joy!" (to quote Meriwether Lewis's journal, recording the emotions that accompanied the expedition's first view of the Pacific Ocean at the end of its epic journey).

Note that it's still not an easy tool to use, and requires a lot of patience along with substantial coordination and dexterity to simultaneously maneuver the cleaning arms, the attached extension pole, and the action rope to just where you want them to go in the proper sequence.

If you don't have a lot of patience and tolerance for a long, annoying learning curve, this tool's not for  you.

Fair warning.

From the website:


Cleaning a gutter with your bare hands can cause painful scratches and cuts.

And climbing a ladder to reach second-story gutters is just asking for trouble.

Instead, keep your hands unscathed and your feet on the ground by using Gutter Sense.

This tool features large polycarbonate "tongs" that will grab leaves or pine needles from flat-bottom gutters up to 14 feet high with its extension pole fully extended when you pull on the included 12-foot-long braided rope.

Tongs may be adjusted through 180° side-to-side.




*Full disclosure: the second photo is from Google image search: it's not a selfie.

September 18, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 17, 2018

Blast from the past: The Wrong Stuff — Mountaineer Ed Viesturs on making mistakes

Kathryn Schulz's book, "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error," was published in 2010.

Excerpts from Viesturs' interview with Schulz which appeared in Slate on June 14, 2010 follow.


You've written that the worst mistake of your climbing career occurred on K2 — which is a bad place for a mistake, given its reputation as the deadliest mountain in the world. Can you describe what happened?

I was with two other climbers trying to make the summit, and we'd had to sit at our high camp for three nights waiting for the weather to clear. Finally we had what we thought was a window of opportunity, so we started climbing. About halfway into the day, the clouds below us slowly engulfed us, and it started to snow pretty heavily. I always contemplate going down even as I'm going up, and I was thinking, "You know what? Six, seven, eight, nine hours from now, when we're going down, there's going to be a tremendous amount of new snow, and the avalanche conditions could be huge."

I talked to my partners, and either I was overreacting or they were underreacting, because they were like, "What do you mean? This is fine." So I was kind of alone in my quandary. I knew I was making a mistake; I knew I should just simply go down, that I should unrope and leave my partners and let them go, but I kept putting off that decision, until eventually we got to the top. When we got down to camp that night, I was not pleased with what I had done. I'd have to say that was the biggest mistake I've ever made in my climbing career.

Really? Given the many fatal mistakes made on mountains every year, this doesn't sound so bad. You made it down safely, after all.

Yeah, but a mistake is a mistake even if you get away with it. Even though we succeeded, I don't ever want to do that again. I felt on the way down that the conditions were pretty desperate. We could've gone down in an avalanche at any minute. We just got really, really lucky. There were moments I was convinced we weren't going to make it down, when I said [to myself], "Ed, you've made the last and most stupid mistake of your life."

I think a lot of people, when they survive a situation like that, they're willing to do it again. They're like, "Well, you know I got away with it one time, I can probably get away with it again." You do that too many times and sooner or later, it's not going to work out.

Did you make more mistakes early on in your climbing career? There's that old saw about how experience is just another name for having made a lot of mistakes.

I don't really look back and say, "Oh my God, that thing I did was really idiotic, how could I have done that?" I think I always wanted to be careful. I didn't want to die in the mountains. I do think, though, that as I climbed more, I became more conservative, just because of all the things I'd learned.  When you're less experienced, you don't even know about the mistakes you're making.

Speaking of conservative decisions, I heard you once turned around when you were 300 feet from the summit of Mount Everest. Three hundred feet out of, what, 29,029?

Yeah. That was my first trip to Everest, and I was like — daaaaaaahhh! You know, there's the top, I could see the top, 300 feet away. But it was the obvious decision; all the indications were that we needed to turn around, and I just realized that I was going to have to go home and come back another year. And even though it was slightly frustrating, I wasn't disappointed. If I have to turn around because of conditions beyond my control, as long as I haven't given up physically or mentally, I don't call those failures. I can live with those.

When the stakes are big, the small stuff matters.

Climbing is the small stuff. The higher you climb, the less and less chance you have of being rescued. And that's when minor mistakes have huge, huge consequences. These high-altitude mountains are one of the few places on the planet where there is literally no help. If you screw up and break a leg, it's up to your partner to get you down. If he can't, you're dead. It's one of the few places in the world where your decisions have real consequences. I think a lot of people don't ever experience that — "Man, every decision I make has a consequence right now." That's a very interesting feeling.

The majority of accidents and deaths in the mountains are what I call self-inflicted. You make bad decisions, you choose to climb in bad weather, you make a dumb mistake like not clipping into a rope or not putting on your crampons, and then in a heartbeat, it falls apart. It's those little things that you have to constantly remind yourself about. It doesn't matter if I've been doing this for 30 years; I still have to be just as careful. But I think as you do something more and more, you have the tendency to become complacent.


I'm reminded of an old saw: "There are old mountain climbers, and there are bold mountain climbers, but there are no old, bold mountain climbers."


This post originally appeared in boj on July 30, 2010, and again on October 23, 2013; every word applies just as well today as it did then.

September 17, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top 10 Most Valuable College Degrees

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[via Bloomberg]

September 17, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

MTG Athlete Style Pole — "Posture therapy back muscle stiffness treatment"


From the website:


Co-developed by beauty gadget experts MTG and former top figure skater Fumie Suguri, the MTG Athlete Style Pole helps knead out those muscle cramps and stiffness in your back that we get from sitting for too long or sleeping in bad positions.


Lie on the easy-to-use therapy "pole" and swing from side to side to relax your body.


Then stretch out fully and spread your weight across the entire pole to help re-adjust the posture of your back.


Features and Details:

• For improving posture, removing stiffness in back, etc.

• Recommended for daily use for 5 minutes per session

• Instructions: Japanese (but easy to use)


• Dimensions: "37 x 9" x 8"

• Weight: 23 oz.



$79.99, which is way cheaper than the $141 Japan Trend Shop charges and which higher price would have appeared here if not for the timely comment by Estelle, who enclosed a link to the lower price. 

Nicely done!

September 17, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 16, 2018

NYC Buildings Department Real-Time Online Construction Map


Free, the way we like it.


Fair warning: there goes the day.

[via the New York Times]

September 16, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Conserve the Sound

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The homepage (above) speaks for itself.

Fair warning: if you don't have headphones, your cubicle mates are gonna become annoyed real fast.

[via Crack©® San Francisco Correspondent Richard Kashdan]

September 16, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

Hint: bigger than a bread box.

Another: no application in either the musical instrument or corpse space.

September 16, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

September 15, 2018

Storm Surge in AR

This past Wednesday the Weather Channel, in its coverage of Florence, premiered a very cool computer simulation of what various storm surge heights would look like.

Already over 1.5 million views and plaudits everywhere.

Have a look for yourself.

September 15, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Highest resolution map of Antarctica ever produced

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See it in all its glory here.

[via Newsweek]

September 15, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tesla Wireless Phone Charger


Every Tesla accessory they make sells out in a Podunkville minute.

Here's your next big chance — u snooz u looz

From the Tesla website:



Wirelessly charge your phone anywhere with the Tesla Wireless Phone Charger.

Simply set your Qi-enabled phone on the inductive charging pad and let your phone charge up without any cables.

Housed in a sleek, high-gloss case, the Tesla Wireless Charger embodies the same design language used across Tesla Energy products in a pocket-sized package.

In addition to wireless charging, the Tesla Wireless Phone Charger also doubles as a standard wired powerbank using the USB-A output port and either your own USB cable or the integrated USB-C cable which fits flush around the outside edge of the charger for easy storage.

Qi Certified and compatible with all inductive charging capable smartphones.   

Charge Wirelessly: Set your Qi enabled phone on the wireless base. Press and hold the power button for 3 seconds to activate wireless charging

Charge On the Go: Plug your phone into the integrated USB-C cable. For non USB-C ports, use the USB-A port to plug in any USB-A charging cable

Charge the Internal Battery: Use the built in USB-A cable to charge your Wireless Charger from any USB port.

Features and Details:

• 21 hours additional talk time

• 18 hours additional surfing time

• Black or white

• Battery capacity:  Lithium-ion polymer 6000mAh

• Watt hours:  22.2Wh

• Input charging:  5V/2A

• Removable USB cable (USB-C to USB-A) and 1 USB-A Port

• Output charging:

-Wireless charging: 5W

-Wired charging: 5V/1.5A



Bonus: price break.

The first time around they cost $65; now they're priced to really move at $49.

And doesn't the black look stylish?

I've noted before and I'll say it here again: if Apple offered AirPods and Lightning cables and all its other accessories in black as well as white, they'd unlock a whole new segment of the buying population.

Me, I'd spring for AirPods in black but never, ever in white; at least, not as long as they continue to look as dumb as the current iteration.

September 15, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 14, 2018

The Red Queen of Palenque


Above, the limestone sarcophagus of Lady Tz'akbu Ajaw, wife of powerful seventh century CE Mayan ruler K'inich Janaab Pakal I.

His tomb at Palenque was discovered in the mid-twentieth century but that of his wife only came to light in 1994.

The sarcophagus, whose interior was painted with crimson cinnabar, was discovered within her funerary monument, now known as Temple XIII.

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art:


Following her interment in the sarcophagus, her body and accompanying ornaments and offerings were also covered with a thick layer of cinnabar.

Understandably dubbed the Red Queen, her burial is one of the richest known for a female Maya ruler.

In addition to a headdress of greenstone and shell and an elaborate collar of multicolored stone and shell beads, she wore a headband (below) composed of two rows of circular disks made of the type of fine apple-green jade most prized by the Maya.


The mask over her face (above), made of malachite tesserae, has limestone and obsidian eyes that appear to bore right into you, conveying a striking sense of the presence of the queen.

September 14, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This is why your newspaper is dying

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[via Brad Colbow]

September 14, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Velosock Bike Condom



No worries, that's my clickbait headline. 

Gonna be interesting to see if it goes viral on Twitter.

But I digress.

From the website:



• Fits 99% of all adult bicycles

• Super-stretchy spandex/polyester

• Absorbs moisture, dries fast, minimizes rust

• No zips, clips, or fasteners to get caught on bike parts

• For indoor storage — keeps floors and walls free of dirt and tire marks



$48 (sure, bike included! How about a Mosaic Ct-1?).

September 14, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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