October 21, 2019

"Taking a Thread for a Walk"

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The new above-titled show

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at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

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features textiles, fiber art, and industrial design from the museum's vast collection.

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The show will remain up through spring 2020.

October 21, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

How are frog tongues so sticky?

Produced by Helen Thompson.

October 21, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Where was this picture taken?

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Answer here this time tomorrow.

Hint: That's me.

Extra credit: identify the source and author of the quotation.

No cheating!

October 21, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Japanese Condiment Highlighter Pens

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From the website:

Wasabi (the green paste we all know from sushi), shoga (ginger), and umeboshi (dried plum) are three of the most common flavors in Japanese cooking.

So much so that you won't find a refrigerator in Japan that doesn't contain mini tubes of pastes of them.

Geodesign had some fun playing with this household icon by making the Japanese Condiment Highlighter Pens, which borrow the immediately recognizable look of these tubes to create a very original writing instrument.

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The Japanese Condiment Highlighter Pens come in three colors (fluorescent green, yellow, and pink) and are created with such care that every detail in the tubes and the carton boxes is as close as possible to actual condiment tubes.

Spice up your desk, pencil case, and documents with these Japanese kitchen colors and surprise your friends or coworkers with these unique markers.

$28.

October 21, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 20, 2019

"This spider web was deliberately spun to look like bird poop"

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Below, excerpts from Helen Thompson's Smithsonian magazine story.

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Deep in the forests of Southeast Asia lives a silver-colored orb-weaving spider that decorates its web with a silky spiral pattern and bits of dead leaves.

This isn't just to make the web a bit more festive, though.

Some scientists think that this arachnid is just pretending to be poop — bird poop, specifically.

In a paper published in Scientific Reports, a team of researchers from Tunghai University and the Endemic Species Research Institute in Taiwan argue that Cyclosa ginnaga spiders' body color and web designs are part of a strategy to masquerade as bird droppings and cut its chances of dying in a predator attack.

"We provide empirical evidence for the first time that bird dropping masquerading can effectively reduce the predation risk of an organism," said I-Min Tso, a co-author on the study and an ecologist at Tunghai University in Taiwan.

October 20, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Gesundheit."

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Tom Cheney's wonderful cartoon appeared in the March 26, 2007 issue of the New Yorker.

October 20, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What's in your drinking water?

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"A healthy adult who drinks two liters of water a day would get a full drug dose every:"

[via Popular Science]

October 20, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

EDC in the Bronze Age

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From Atlas Obscura:

Three thousand years ago, at least 140 fighters died in a battle along the banks of Germany's Tollense River.

One of the fallen dropped a small kit containing tools and a handful of bronze scraps (top).

Based on the types of artifacts archaeologists found in this kit, they've concluded that at least some of the combatants in the prehistoric battle probably came from hundreds of kilometers away in Central or even Southern Europe.

According to University of Göttingen archaeologist Tobias Uhlig and his colleagues, that suggests that large-scale battles between far-flung groups began long before people in Europe had developed a system of writing to record the history of their conflicts.

An Ancient Battlefield

Today, quiet pastures flanked by woods line the banks of the Tollense River in Northeastern Germany.

But beneath the green grass and the placid surface of the water, the 3,000-year-old remains of fallen soldiers and their broken weapons lie scattered for at least 2.5km along the river.

Most of what we know of the European Bronze Age comes from more peaceful contexts, like settlement or burial sites; the bones, weapons, and personal effects along the Tollense River are the only archaeological evidence (so far) of a battle in prehistoric Europe.

The people of Bronze Age Europe left behind no written records to tell us who was fighting along the river, why they fought, or who won the battle.

Only their bones and the things they left behind offer any clues.

Based on their bones, the dead were overwhelmingly male, young, and fighting fit. To archaeologists, that kind of skewed demographic strongly suggests a group of soldiers.

And many of their bones bear evidence of healed fractures and cuts to the bone, suggesting that many were veterans of other conflicts, who survived those earlier fights only to die fighting over access to a causeway.

Many of the bones also show evidence of wounds probably sustained in their owners' final fight, dealt by arrows from a distance or swords and clubs from an arm's length away.

According to radiocarbon dating of arrow shafts and other wood fragments, the battle took place sometime between 1380 and 1250 BCE.

The Things They Carried

Since 2008, archaeologists working at sites along the Tollense have found the warriors' personal belongings mingled with their bones: flint and bronze arrowheads, bronze knives with bone handles, assorted tools, bronze rings and clothing pins, and even a small, ornately decorated bronze box meant to be worn on a belt.

In 2016, scuba diving archaeologists found a cluster of 31 small bronze artifacts on the bed of the river, not far from where they'd already found three skulls and an assortment of other bones and artifacts.

The items are so closely packed together that they probably once lay in a small bag or box that has long since rotted away, leaving its contents behind.

The ancient kit contained a bronze knife with a curved blade, an awl decorated with ladders and rows of triangles, and a bronze chisel, along with an assortment of bronze scraps and small ingots (below).

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Wear marks on the chisel suggest that someone probably used it to cut bronze fragments like the ones in the kit.

The curved blade of the bronze knife, with structural reinforcement on the back side, looks as if someone recycled a sickle to make it.

There were also a few tubes made of rolled bronze.

Essentially, the kit looks like the kind of thing you'd carry if you wanted to keep a small stash of scrap bronze for trade or recycling into other things.

People in Europe hadn't started using coins yet, but ingots and scraps of bronze and copper were starting to become an early form of currency — the idea of using small bits of metal for exchange was catching on, but it would be centuries before people decided to standardize them.

Carrying around some scrap metal as spending money probably wasn't unusual anywhere in Bronze Age Europe, but the kit's long-vanished container suggests its owner wasn’t local.

Fighters From Southern Europe?

Three tubes of rolled bronze (below)

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suggest that the kit may have come to Northern Germany carried by a warrior from Southern Central Europe. The tubes look very similar to fittings used to close small boxes of tools and scrap bronze; when the box is shut, two tubes on one side of the lid line up with a third tube on the other side, so the owner can pass a rod through the tubes to hold the box shut.

Archaeologists have never found that type of box in Northern Europe, but they turn up often at sites farther south — usually with a very similar set of tools and usually in the graves of men who were also buried with swords.

In other words, it seems to be a piece of a Southern European warrior's personal kit, so important that it would have probably been buried with this person if it hadn't been dropped into the river in the heat of battle instead.

Causeway Belli

If Uhlig and his colleagues are correct, large-scale violence — something we could reasonably call actual warfare — was part of life in Bronze Age Europe, and the conflicts that erupted into battles like this one drew fighting forces from across large distances.

Based on the lay of the land, some archaeologists who study the site suggest that the battle along the Tollense started over control of an important river crossing.

One of the lingering questions about the toolkit, and many of the bones and weapons in the mud at the bottom of the Tollense, is whether these items simply ended up where someone dropped them in their final moments or whether the victors threw them into the river immediately after the battle as a ritual offering.

At later battlefields in Northern Europe, Iron Age people often deposited the carefully prepared bones and deliberately broken weapons of their fallen foes in lakes and bogs.

October 20, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Banana Phone

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From the Verge:

Before I tell you more about the biggest tech gadget of 2019, I want to be perfectly clear that the Banana Phone isn't a phone — it's a Bluetooth headset that connects to your phone, and you can use it to take calls.

But it looks like a banana!

And soon, it's getting a refresh.

I spotted FCC filings for an updated model of the Banana Phone, so I called up Brian Brunsing, president of Banana Phone LLC, to learn more about what's new.

Turns out, it has some meaningful updates.

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The biggest new feature: the new Banana Phone will apparently be able to play music over a speaker that's louder than the original model's.

So yes — you can now play Raffi's "Bananaphone" on a literal banana phone.

Don't expect the new Banana Phone to be a Sonos replacement, though — Brunsing told me the new model isn't designed to compete in the speaker space.

And honestly, I don't really care how it sounds compared to a Sonos.

"Bananaphone" on a banana phone. Come on.

Brunsing also told me that the new Banana Phone has an improved battery life of 20 hours of talk time, up from 10 hours.

And the price remains the same at $39.99.

If the new improvements are enough for you to take the plunge, Brunsing tells me you'll be able to get your hands on the new version sometime around Black Friday.

A bit of history: The first Banana Phone launched as an Indiegogo campaign in 2017.

My colleagues Jake Kastrenakes and Chaim Gartenberg tested a call on that original model, although the quality didn't seem to be very good at all.

We're not sure if the new one will be much better for talking to your friends.

But if you've always wanted to have a banana-shaped phone that — and I can't stress this enough — can actually play the song "Bananaphone," you'll be able to do that very soon.

As stated above, $39.99.

Wait a sec — what's that story I'm thinking of?

October 20, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 19, 2019

Helpful Hints from joeeze: How to make your hotel room pitch black

Hotel tip

From Richard Kashdan, my Crack San Francisco Correspondent®©, comes news of this wonderful invention.

He wrote, "I don't remember who posted this on Twitter a few years ago, but whoever you are: you have improved every night I've spent in a hotel since."

"Solve the problem with what's in the room," Edwin H. Land's powerful epigram, might well be the guiding spirit of boj.

Bonus: such solutions are free, the way we like it.

October 19, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

"Doubting foragers can take their fungi to any French drugstore for an expert opinion because all pharmacists here are trained mycologists"

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Who knew?

Craig S. Smith's New York Times story about France's annual nationwide fall mushroom hunt would've been of much interest to me even if it hadn't contained the morsel up top in the headline.

Here's the article.

Chantraine Journal: Harvesting by the Basket What France's Diners Crave

Claude Villiere, wicker basket in hand, set out into the dense woods beyond this sleepy village to hunt his prey: cèpes, better known in the United States by their Italian name, porcini mushrooms.

He is one in an army of part-time foragers who fan out through the country's forests until the frosts of November, filling markets across France with humid mounds of chunky white pieds de mouton, or sheep's feet; golden girolles; black trumpets of death; and cèpes, the beefy brown toadstools that are the royalty of wild mushrooms.

It is a remarkable feat, given the quantities of autumnal fricassees, mushroom-spiked omelets and fungus-flavored sauces that the French consume, using hundreds of tons of wild mushrooms a year. Every bite leads back to a walk in the forest.

The epicurean adventure is not without its dangers. Last month, the French health authorities warned mushroom enthusiasts yet again that they should be absolutely sure of what they eat after a dozen people were hospitalized — three in intensive care — with mushroom poisoning over the course of just two weeks in western France.

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Every now and then, someone succumbs. Two elderly brothers died near Bordeaux two years ago after eating deadly ''death caps,'' or Amanita phalloide, which account for most mushroom fatalities. They apparently mistook the pale gray fungus for ''agaric des bois,'' known in the United States as wood mushrooms.

There is even a lingering danger that some mushrooms could be tainted with cesium-137, which settled like snow over parts of Europe after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Mushrooms absorb and concentrate heavy metals or radioactive isotopes found in contaminated soil.

Mr. Villiere, 53, dismisses those concerns and insists that it is hard to mistake the most delectable fungi from toxic varieties. But following him through the woods proves otherwise. A novice accompanying him on a recent trip repeatedly picked what looked like cèpes only to be told they were ''Satan's boletes,'' which ''would give you a good purge'' if eaten, Mr. Villiere said. He sliced open each specimen, and the white flesh quickly turned a telltale inky blue.

Doubting foragers can take their fungi to any French drugstore for an expert opinion because all pharmacists here are trained mycologists. In rural areas, they regularly sort through baskets of mushrooms, picking out the toxic ones.

''Agaric jaunissant gives us the most trouble,'' said Catherin Leconte, the pharmacist in Chantraine, pointing to a picture of Agaricus xanthoderma, the poisonous mushroom's Latin name. She said that people confuse the fungus, known in America as a ''yellow stainer'' because its white flesh turns yellow when bruised, with the tasty Agaricus campestris, known in the United States as the field mushroom or the meadow mushroom.

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Mr. Villiere says he learned everything he needed to know from his mother, which is how most French foragers learn. ''I have never had a problem,'' he said. ''But I only eat what I pick myself.''

Some foragers go out before dawn with miner's lamps on their foreheads because mushrooms — especially cèpes — shine in the light. But Mr. Villiere prefers the daytime, and spends a few early hours each morning alone, hunting for champignons sylvestre.

He keeps enough to eat and sells the rest to a local depot, where they are sorted by size and sent by truck through the night to Rungis, the sprawling, fresh-produce clearinghouse outside of Paris.

Local laws limit mushroom hunters from gathering more than a few quarts a day, and fungus wardens patrol some of France's most popular foraging spots. One person in southern France's Cévennes National Park was recently fined for having picked 150 quarts of mushrooms in a day.

But mushroom hunting is, by nature, a clandestine affair and the rules are regularly broken.

''We all have secret places,'' Mr. Villiere said. ''If you see someone, you don't go directly to your best spot. You walk around until they're gone.''

There is usually one big growth in June and another in September, and everyone knows that cèpes will ''push'' a week or so after a soaking rain. At those times, the woods quickly fill with foragers creeping quietly among the trees like deer.

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There are hundreds of wild mushroom varieties, but only a dozen or so that are commonly eaten and just a handful that are collected for commercial sale. Mr. Villiere paused to pluck a reddish-brown fungus from the shadows of the forest floor.

''Ah, a gourmelle rose, this is the most beautiful one,'' Mr. Villiere said, peeling back the cap's skin to reveal a whitish meat beneath. ''It's very fine, better than cèpes. This melts in your mouth.''

His favorite fungus, he said, is the ''gris de sapin,'' which comes only with the first frost, when the other mushrooms die.

With his basket nearly full, Mr. Villiere returned to his car and drove to the home of Daniel Vujeic, 50, who runs a network of depots that buy mushrooms from foragers across the Vosges region. The foragers are responsible for cleaning the mushrooms. Mr. Vujeic's 18 depots deliver the goods to him in the early evening and he and a handful of workers sort them by size and ship them to Paris the same night. His trucks arrive in Rungis at around 4 a.m. Within hours, the mushrooms are sold to buyers for markets and restaurants across northern France. By nightfall, many will be gracing a plate.

Mr. Vujeic, the son of a woodcutter who grew up picking girolles while his father was working, says he moves about 150 tons a month during the June to November season, though the quantity doubles when the mushrooms are pushing. Prices fluctuate wildly, but cèpes in some areas at certain times retail for more than $25 a pound.

Still, pollution and an increasing number of mushroom hunters have taken their toll on France's mushrooms. Most girolles, the first mushrooms to be commercialized half a century ago, now come from Russia, Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine.

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''They are beautiful, and they are cheaper,'' sighed Mr. Vujeic.

October 19, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why I won't be using a mouse with my iPad

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I got all excited a couple months ago

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when I read in one of the fanboi mags

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that the upcoming iPadOS

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would include mouse support.

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Maybe for braingeniuses,

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but it's mos def not aimed at TechnoDolts©® like moi.

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Above and below,

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how to pair your mouse with an iPad.

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I lost interest on about the third screen.

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FAIL

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[via wccftech]

October 19, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Which square is darker, A or B?

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This is the checker shadow illusion, published in 1995 by Edward H. Adelson, professor of visual science at MIT.

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You could look it up.

October 19, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seam Ripper

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Reviewed by M.B. Davidson in Cool Tools as follows:

I recently realized that many people are unaware of seam rippers.

You can buy one for under five bucks.

Use it to remove an old hem before sewing a new one, remove a scratchy label, disassemble thrift shop clothing to repurpose the fabric, open a seam to tailor clothing.

Easier and faster than nail scissors.

I don't sew a lot, but I use a seam ripper pretty often.

$4.28.

October 19, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 18, 2019

A Red Sea of Chili Peppers in the Gobi Desert

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From Atlas Obscura:

In Northwest China's Gobi Desert, autumn tints the landscape a flaming scarlet.

The fields of red aren't deciduous leaves blushing with the season.

They're chili peppers, spread out to dry under the hot desert sun following the late-summer harvest.

Each September and October, farmers across the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which produces a fifth of China's world-leading pepper harvest, let the harsh sun and 100-plus degree temperatures do the work that most American producers leave to industrial dehydrators.

The result is a red sea of chilies stretching to the horizon.

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From the ground, the mounds of glossy, fat peppers look like tempting seasoning for a future dinner.

From above, the two hundred-plus ton harvest transforms the landscape, staining the khaki-colored desert like blood cells under a microscope.

Blanketing the arid sand of the Uyghur Autonomous Region, the chilies are part of a spice economy that stretches back to the heyday of the Silk Road.

Until the 16th century, native spices such as cumin dominated Central Asia's spice trade, and they continue to flavor the cuisine of the Turkic-speaking, majority-Muslim Uyghur people who call this region home.

Chilis reached China sometime in the 1500s, one of the many New World foods to spread in Asia as a result of European conquest in the Americas.

Chilis then took root both in the dry desert soil and the local cuisine.

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While the food of southwest China's Sichuan Province is popularly associated with hot peppers, Xinjiang's Uyghur food doesn't neglect the spice.

Fitting the region's status as a cultural crossroad, Uyghur food contains culinary traces of South, Central, and East Asia.

Manta, which are beef-and-pumpkin stuffed dumplings, evoke Turkish or Afghani mantu

Goshnan ("meat bread"), a stuffed flatbread, has consonance with South Asian keema parantha

Lagman, a bell-pepper-and-onion studded dish sometimes made of one impressively long noodle, resembles Chinese lamian.

While many of these dishes are oily and aromatic rather than spicy-hot, kawaplar, chili powder-dusted lamb kebabs, and dapanji, often translated as "big plate" chicken stew, make mouth-numbing use of the region's chili harvest.

The chili harvest is just one of the annual rituals that make the Uyghur's homeland unique.

Locals take advantage of the same hot weather that desiccates chilis to sweat in "sand baths," burying themselves in burning sand as part of a traditional therapy.

Like the health-seekers sweating for longer life, chili peppers in nearby fields dry as a means of preservation.

The image of their glossy skin vibrates in the heat-iridescent air, while their smoky scent drifts through a desert region that continues to be one of the world's crossroads of spice.

October 18, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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