May 7, 2021

BehindTheMedspeak: Home Covid Tests


They just went on sale over the counter/internet to anyone who wants one — no prescription required.

I bought a kit (actually two kits, each containing two tests, for a total of four tests) online from Walmart, which offers the best price: $20/kit if you buy two kits, with free shipping.

They arrived two days after I ordered.

For comparison, Walgreens and CVS want $24/kit (two tests) with free shipping if you order two kits.


I opened up a kit and was kind of dumbfounded by the length, complexity, and requirements for precision conveyed in the instructions (above and below).


I don't believe one person in a hundred is capable of doing each step as directed without screwing something up.

Which means that there are going to be a lot of false negatives and false positives from the manner of testing, beyond those inherent in the test materials themselves.

These are early days: I expect future over-the-counter Covid tests to be as simple as pregnancy tests.

Me, I'm gonna wait a while and reread the instructions a few more times before giving it a whirl.

Caveat tester.

May 7, 2021 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thinking without words


Lately I've been trying to act before putting the intended action into words.

It's very, very difficult.

So far I have not yet succeeded in bypassing my silent conscious statement of intent.

Nevertheless, I persist.

Try it and let me know what happens.

May 7, 2021 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

When Werner met Cormac

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From Open Culture:

Werner Herzog (L above) and Cormac McCarthy (R above) talk science and culture.

Physicist Lawrence M. Krauss suggests that science and art ask the same fundamental question: Who are we, and what is our place in the universe?

In a 47-minute-long discussion, Krauss is joined in his exploration of this question by Herzog ("Grizzly Man," "Encounters at the End of the World") and 2000 Pulitzer Prize winner McCarthy ("The Crossing," "The Road," "No Country For Old Men").

Much of their discussion revolves around Herzog's documentary film, "The Cave of Forgotten Dreams," but they also address bottleneck theory, complexity science, the history of painting, and the upcoming rise of the machines.

High point: Herzog reads a passage from McCarthy's "All the Pretty Horses" (38:00).

Low point: Herzog asserts that Star Trek lied — human beings will never learn to instantly transport from planet to planet.

Krauss confirms, and Trekkie hearts all over the world break into tiny unbeamable pieces (17:00).

May 7, 2021 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The size of solar flares


May 7, 2021 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What is it?

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Answer here this time tomorrow.

Hint: smaller than a bread box.

Another: no moving parts.

A third: plastic.

May 7, 2021 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 6, 2021

Dutch couple move into Europe's first fully 3D-printed house


[Harrie Dekkers and Elize Lutz outside their 3D-printed house in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.]

From the Guardian:

New home in shape of boulder is first legally habitable property with load-bearing walls made using 3D-printing technology

A Dutch couple have become Europe's first tenants of a fully 3D-printed house in a development that its backers believe will open up a world of choice in the shape and style of the homes of the future.

Elize Lutz, 70, and Harrie Dekkers, 67, retired shopkeepers from Amsterdam, received their digital key — an app allowing them to open the front door of their two-bedroom bungalow at the press of a button — on Thursday.

"It is beautiful," said Lutz. "It has the feel of a bunker — it feels safe," added Dekkers.

Inspired by the shape of a boulder, the dimensions of which would be difficult and expensive to construct using traditional methods, the property is the first of five homes planned by the construction firm Saint-Gobain Weber Beamix for a plot of land by the Beatrix canal in the Eindhoven suburb of Bosrijk.


[Harrie Dekkers and Elize Lutz inside their 3D-printed house]

In the last two years, properties partly constructed by 3D printing have been built in France and the US, and nascent projects are proliferating around the world.

"This is also the first one which is 100% permitted by the local authorities and which is inhabited by people who actually pay for living in this house," said Bas Huysmans, chief executive of Weber Benelux, a construction offshoot of its French parent company Saint-Gobain.

The first completed home of Project Milestone, a partnership with Eindhoven University of Technology and the Vesteda housing corporation, was due to be put on the rental market in 2019, but the challenges of the architect's design, which involved overhanging external walls, caused delays.

The 3D-printing method involves a huge robotic arm with a nozzle that squirts out a specially formulated cement, said to have the texture of whipped cream. The cement is "printed" according to an architect's design, adding layer upon layer to create a wall to increase its strength.

The point at which the nozzle head had to be changed after hours of operation is visible in the pattern of the new bungalow's walls, as are small errors in the cement printing, perhaps familiar to anyone who has used an ink printer.

But while it is early days, the 3D-printing method is seen by many within the construction industry as a way to cut costs and environmental damage by reducing the amount of cement that is used. In the Netherlands, it also provides an alternative at a time when there is a shortage of skilled bricklayers.

The new house consists of 24 concrete elements that were printed layer by layer at a plant in Eindhoven before being transported by lorry to the building site and placed on a foundation to be worked on by Dutch building firm Van Wijnen. A roof and window frames were then fitted, and finishing touches applied.

By the time the fifth of the homes is built — comprising three floors and three bedrooms — it is hoped that construction will be done wholly on-site and that various other installations will also be made using the printer, further reducing costs.


[The point at which the nozzle head had to be changed after hours of operation is visible in the pattern of the new bungalow's walls.] 

"If you look at what time we actually needed to print this house it was only 120 hours," Huysmans said. "So all the elements, if we would have printed them in one go, it would have taken us less than five days because the big benefit is that the printer does not need to eat, does not need to sleep, it doesn't need to rest. So if we would start tomorrow, and learned how to do it, we can print the next house five days from now."

Lutz and Dekkers, who have lived in four different types of home in the six years since their two grown-up daughters left the family home, are paying €800 (£695) a month to live in the property for six months starting August 1 after answering a call for applicants on the internet. "I saw the drawing of this house and it was exactly like a fairytale garden," said Lutz.

"With 3D printing you generate huge creativity and huge flexibility in design," he added. "Why did we do so much effort to print this 'rock?' Because this shows perfectly that you can make any shape you want to make."


Yasin Torunoglu, alderman for housing and spatial development for the municipality of Eindhoven, said: "With the 3D-printed home, we're now setting the tone for the future: the rapid realization of affordable homes with control over the shape of your own house."

May 6, 2021 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Toiletpaper Magazine


Toiletpaper was founded in 2010 by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, with art direction by Micol Talso, as a picture-based magazine.


It is a biannual, limited-edition publication combining commercial photography and twisted imagery.

It contains no articles or advertisements,


and each issue revolves around a basic theme, such as love or greed.

The brightly-colored, surreal images vary in style and reference,

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and include word play and optical illusions.


Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here.

May 6, 2021 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why doesn't Gray Cat worry about rolling over and falling while she's sleeping?

Ever since I first encountered a bunk bed, I've done everything possible to avoid sleeping in the top bunk, especially if there's no side guard to prevent me rolling over in my sleep and crashing to the floor.

I'd rather sleep on the floor even if there is a preventive side barrier.

Yet Gray Cat — and every cat I've ever encountered — doesn't hesitate to get comfy for a nap even when high up.

May 6, 2021 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quantum Tunneling* for Readers


When you find yourself vexed by a paywall, try one of these three ways through:

 • On Google Chrome, go Incognito

 • Outline

 • Archive

One or more of these alternative pathways is more likely than not to get you to the other side.

All free, the way we like it.

*Below, quantum tunneling explained in one minute

Know that quantum tunneling is fundamental to the functioning of phones, computers, and all things electronic.

May 6, 2021 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Mini Level Keychain


Level up


any time you like.

$6.34 (keys not included).

May 6, 2021 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 5, 2021

Pink robin


From Wikipedia:

The pink robin (Petroica rodinogaster) is a small passerine bird native to southeastern Australia.

Its natural habitats are the cool temperate forests of far southeastern Australia.

Like many brightly colored robins of the family Petroicidae, it is sexually dimorphic.

Measuring 5.3 inches in length, the robin has a small thin black bill and dark brown eyes and legs.

The male has a distinctive white forehead spot and pink breast, with grey-black upper parts, wings, and tail.

The female has grey-brown plumage.

The position of the pink robin and its Australian relatives on the passerine family tree is unclear; the Petroicidae are not closely related to either European or American robins, but appear to be an early offshoot of the Passerida group of songbirds.

May 5, 2021 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Falkirk Wheel

From Wikipedia:

The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift in central Scotland, connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal.

The lift is named after Falkirk, the town in which it is located.

It reconnects the two canals for the first time since the 1930s.

It opened in 2002 as part of the Millennium Link project.

Planners decided early on to create a dramatic 21st-century landmark structure to reconnect the canals, instead of simply recreating the historic lock flight.

The wheel raises boats by 79 feet, but the Union Canal is still 36 feet higher than the aqueduct which meets the wheel.

Boats must also pass through a pair of locks between the top of the wheel and the Union Canal.

The Falkirk Wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world.

May 5, 2021 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

'I'm in search of a lifestyle that does not require my presence' — Kinky Friedman

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That line stopped me in my tracks when I read it in 1983 in a Washington Post Style section interview with the Kinkster.

I'd never seen my ethos stated more perfectly.

It took Covid to make it happen for everyone.

Wait a sec — what's that music I'm hearing?

May 5, 2021 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Book Depository is the way to go for books published in the UK

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Sure, you can use Amazon UK but you have to go through the rigamarole of converting English pounds to dollars, and shipping can be pricey.

Better to use Book Depository, which Amazon purchased in 2011 but which seems to run on a separate, better track.

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Above and below, my transaction earlier this morning, after having been notified by email that the sold-out title was back in stock.


Lagniappe: free shipping, no sales tax.

Try it, you'll like it.

May 5, 2021 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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I love nuts.

Wegmans has in-store pre-packaged containers of bulk nuts which are OK, but I miss the jumbo cashews of yesteryear which I used to get from specialty nut shops.

Now comes with wonderful fresh nuts of myriad varieties.

Yes, they cost up to twice as much as Wegmans but they're more than twice as good.

Lots of other things if you're not the nut type.

Lagniappe: wonderful resealable bags that are easy to open and shut tightly, employing a more sophisticated and secure locking mechanism than those on resealable candy and ZipLok bags.

The store's here.

Lagniappe: free shipping if your order's ≥$59 — mine arrived the day after I ordered, much to my surprise and delight.

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$59 more than you care to spend?

Pool orders with friends.

May 5, 2021 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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