May 20, 2018

Candy Time Machine

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Be still my heart.

Exploring the earlier decades featured, I got to wondering if, like with pop music of the same eras, you could get a sense of what it was like to be alive then from the candies that were popular.

Fair warning: there goes the day.

May 20, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pentel 0.35mm Needle Tip Gel Pen


1/3 of a millimeter: that's a mass manufacturing triumph.


To create something this precise and unforgiving and be able to sell it for $2.85 (including 10-day shipping from Japan) is remarkable.


Superb for crossword puzzles: you can use just a fraction of the boxes for your answers and still read them and if you got it wrong, just cross it out and Bob's your uncle.


I've noticed over the years that Japanese companies oftimes farm out some of their production to China and elsewhere in Asia, but they tend to keep things like this, demanding extremely high precision, in country.

Black, Blue, or Red ink: $2.85-$4.80.

May 20, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 19, 2018

LEGO Pinball Machine

From Ars Technica:


If you're a nostalgia-minded geek, you might have a soft spot for the classic Space Lego sets, with their iconic orbiting rocket ship logo.

You might also be fond of the physical action of pinball, full of tactile sensations so often missing from modern gaming.

You probably never expected the two to meet in one of the more amazingly geeky pairings in recent memory, a pinball machine called Benny's Spaceship Adventure made entirely of LEGO bricks.


Lego enthusiast Bre Burns (video above and photo below) used over 15,000 LEGO bricks to build a fully functional pinball machine, and it's amazing.

Every part (minus the plywood base used to help safely transport it) is made from LEGO pieces, from official LEGO rubber bands in the bumpers to Mindstorms steel caster balls — no glue, screws, or custom parts.

The scoring, sounds, and electronics are controlled by three LEGO Mindstorm NXT programmable bricks connected over Bluetooth.

The Mindstorm systems include servo motors, touch sensors, color sensors, light sensors, and ultrasonic sensors, giving Benny's Spaceship Adventure a wide variety of ways to track and interact with the ball.


The dedication to staying with official parts continues to every detail.

The LEDs are sourced from LEGO, and so are the power sources, which can either be a LEGO Power Functions battery box or a 9-volt LEGO Trains speed regulator plugged into a wall socket.

The game logic was all programmed using the native NXT-G environment.

Perhaps the most authentic detail, though, comes from the side art, depicting a classic Space LEGO helmet, with the bottom featuring the crack that every Space LEGO owner knows is inevitable.


For more details on the programming, the challenges Bre faced during the build (she said that she took roughly 200–300 hours to design and build the massive table), and her thoughts on using LEGO for a pinball machine, read the write-up at The Brother's Brick.

You can also see the machine in action and hear Bre describe her process in her own words in the video above.

May 19, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

USPS Informed Delivery — It's what's [gonna be] in your mail







the way




we like it.

May 19, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

bookofjoe's Favorite Thing: Glow-in-the-Dark Keychain Light


Tritium: that means it doesn't ever need to be exposed to light to produce its faint, steady glow.

No batteries, not very bright, unnoticeable unless you're in the dark, at which time it emits enough light to enable you to locate your keys.

From the website:



Features and Details:

• Glows continuously for 10 years

• Transparent plastic housing

• Waterproof to 100 meters

• Keychain ring included

• Available in six colors

• 0.8" x 0.2" x 0.2"

• 0.18 oz (5g)



$15.90 (bag pictured above included with orders from southern Atlanta suburbs).

May 19, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 18, 2018

Meat Rocks


Like it says: rocks that look like meat.

They're huge in China.

From the Wall Street Journal:



Some Chinese rock collectors prefer jade, others prettily crenelated limestone.

Jiang Sui’an prefers stones that look like pieces of pork.

Stones that turn up in riverbeds around Mr. Jiang's home have a rosy or caramel-colored hue, making them resemble pieces of meat.

They "look just like pieces of pork freshly plucked from a pot, some stewed, others braised or deep fried," says Mr. Jiang, who has collected hundreds over the years.

They originate on "Meat-Rock Mountain."

When storms come, the rocks are swept down to the river, where they are picked up by the many collectors here in the hills of central China.

Lushan boasts a museum dedicated to meat rocks and plans another.

A local meat-rock research committee was formed last year and now has hundreds of members.

Mr. Jiang's expertise has been called on to develop official classifications for what makes a good meat rock.

Not so fast: Lushan's bid to be the center of meat-rock culture is landing with a thud with collectors in other parts of China whose rocks also resemble meat — they say Mr. Jiang's classification system favors Lushan's rocks.

"Of course we object," says Zhang Yaowen, 59, a meat-rock collector in a north China county also vying for recognition. "If Lushan wants to spread their standard throughout the country, that's not possible."

More is at stake than bragging rights.

Lushan and other local governments hope meat rocks will draw investment and tourists.

Across China, various governments seeking both have seized on monikers ranging from "Land of Donkey-Hide Gelatin" — a traditional Chinese remedy — to "Land of Big Drums,' which a southern region known for its plus-size drums has embraced.

Development has lagged in Lushan, a mountainous region where farmers hawk mushrooms and honey roadside.

"Meat rocks are a resource we can develop to promote the economy," says Xing Chunyu, vice-chair of a local political advisory body.

Nationwide, prices for meat-rock specimens have boomed, helped in part by the country's state broadcaster, which in recent years has aired multiple segments spotlighting meat rocks.

Stones bearing the most striking resemblance to meat can sell for thousands of dollars.

"Everyone can appreciate meat rocks," says Yuan Ziming, a collector from the northeast city of Tianjin who, like many, prefers to photograph his treasures on plates with real vegetables to boost their verisimilitude. (He also has a favorite stone that resembles a potato [below].)


Lushan's guidelines, which were published by the provincial government late last year, classify meat rocks into more than a dozen subcategories.

These include definitions for what kinds of rocks look like beef, bacon, and chicken and suggest stones should appear to have fatty meat, lean meat and skin, with pores, to be considered high-quality.

Rocks are graded on a 100-point scale.

Few places may be able to match all those attributes, critics of Lushan's standards say.

Some, like Liuzhou, in the south, carve their rocks, which purists like Mr. Jiang frown on.

Size also matters in Lushan's standards.

"Some claim their rocks are pork shoulders, but they aren't even as big as a fist!" says Mr. Jiang.

China's appreciation of meat rocks is centuries old, part of a tradition among scholars and connoisseurs who seek out stones in the service of meditation or beauty, prized for their resemblance to everything from mountains to mythical creatures.

In the case of meat rocks, the stones contain varying degrees of quartz and silica; high-iron content in some brings out a reddish hue.

Riverbeds and hot springs add polish to the finishes.

The world’s most famous meat rock is a piece of jasper carved to resemble a slice of braised pork belly.

A gift to a Qing Dynasty emperor some 300 years ago, it rests on a gold stand in Taiwan's National Palace Museum and is featured on postcards and museum memorabilia.

Many Chinese meat-rock collectors say Taiwan's meat-shaped stone is inferior to local specimens.

Taiwan's stone "doesn't have any lean meat," notes Mr. Zhang, the collector from northern China.

By contrast, he says, stones from his county, Kangbao, contain darker stripes of lean meat, as well as pale stripes suggesting succulent layers of fat.

They are deeper in color, Mr. Zhang says, than those found in Lushan.

Like other enthusiasts, he is fond of reminiscing about the first time he saw meat rocks, in his case back in the countryside in 1981: "It was like the whole field was covered with pieces of pork!"

Drafting Lushan's rock standards wasn't easy, says Mr. Jiang, 65.

The task involved heated debates over nomenclature, including whether the rocks should be referred to as "meat rocks" — as they have long been called — or "meat-shaped rocks."

The latter, he says, won out: "It sounds more scientific that way."

He says Lushan's standards can be a reference point for others but aren't intended to be prescriptive.

Huang Weiping, from Liuzhou, says meat rocks shouldn't have any standards at all, and that they are firmly a matter of taste.

While Liuzhou's rocks wouldn't hold up well by Lushan’s standards, given that they are carved, he says that doesn’t diminish their quality.

"For those who've just begun playing with meat rocks, ours are very good for their price."

He boasts of their deep red color, saying that they look like raw meat.

"Cooked-meat rocks aren't so appealing, they aren't so bright and beautiful," he says.

Back in Lushan, meat-rock aficionado Liang Peng says he hopes their stones can help put the county on the map.

In 2015, he founded the China Lushan Meat-Rock Museum, where slabs of rocks — some the size of small boulders — sit carefully plated inside glass cases.

It sees a slow trickle of visitors, mostly meat-rock enthusiasts from elsewhere in China.

"We aren't a big city like Beijing or Shanghai," Mr. Liang says. "But our meat rocks are the country's finest. We should be proud."

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

Quantum theory for dummies

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

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

Hint: smaller than a bread box.

Another: should work perfectly in non-terrestrial environments.

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

May 17, 2018

The Wooden Escalators of St. Anna's Tunnel

Above, going down.

Going up:

From Atlas Obscura:


The majestic escalators, made in the 1930s, were a novelty then and still are now, their beautiful woodwork remarkably preserved.

They carry you deep down into a tunnel that stretches beneath Antwerp's Scheldt River.

St. Anna's Tunnel was built to connect the newer parts of Antwerp with the older portion of the city so locals wouldn't have to rely on ferry service alone.

Originally, plans were made to build a bridge, but this would have gotten in the way of the many ships that cruise the waterway, so officials decided to build under rather than over it.

As with many European structures, the tunnel was badly damaged during World War II.

The passage has since been repaired, and it and its unusual escalators are still frequently used by pedestrians and cyclists as they go about their daily commutes.

May 17, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Interactive Gregorian Chant Generator

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What's that music I'm hearing?


[via Richard Kashdan]

May 17, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Magic Sarcastic 8 Ball

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What took so long?

From the website:


Ask a simple question and get a sardonic answer with this Sarcastic 8 Ball.

A fun take on the classic Magic 8 Ball, its answers to your "yes" or "no" questions will have you wondering why you ever asked.

With twenty different responses it's sure to give you all the snarky cynicism you can handle.

Retorts include "Get a Clue", "In Your Dreams", "Yeah Right", and so many more.

The purple plastic ball measures 3.75" in diameter.



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

May 16, 2018

Tellegen Absorption Scale


Introduced in 1974 by psychologist Auke Tellegen, it assesses a person's responses to engaging stimuli.

Those who score high, according to T.M. Luhrmann, "... are often people who lose themselves in nature, become captivated by books, or pray ardently — in other words, people who get caught up in their inner worlds."

Take the True/False test here and see where you stand.

Deep dive here.

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

If Wittgenstein did "Beetle Bailey"

Favorite comic strip?

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

Touchscreen Smart Wrist Watch



Worth $9.99 if it keeps accurate time.




The myriad other functions — should they work — are lagniappe.




"Fly your mood, enjoy the fun!" — I'll drink to that.




Features and Details:

• Android

• Altimeter

• Barometer

• USB charge

• Bluetooth 3.0

• Burglar alarm [!]

• Silent vibration mode

• Make and receive phone calls (Bluetooth pairing with smartphone)

• Choice of 10 colors

• Sleep monitor

• Phone book

• Music player

• Alarm clock

• Stopwatch

• Pedometer

• Calendar




May 16, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2018

Best high school nickname EVER


It's not even close.

[via Mark Mincer]

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

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