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May 25, 2006

Big news: Tiny tortoises

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On Monday of this week the BBC reported on the birth of three Egyptian tortoises — each smaller than a raspberry (top) — recently hatched at Chester Zoo in England's Northwest.

The tortoises will measure between 3 and 5 inches when fully grown.

The full BBC story follows.

    Zoo celebrates tortoise arrivals

    Staff at Chester Zoo are celebrating the arrival of three tiny additions which are set to continue their work to save a species from extinction.

    Three Egyptian tortoises, each smaller than a raspberry, were hatched at the zoo in the last few days.

    Kevin Buley, head of lower vertebrates and invertebrates, said the survival of the species depended on breeding programmes at zoos across the world.

    The Egyptian Tortoise is critically endangered in the wild.

    "Our tortoises might well be tiny at the moment but what they currently lack in size, they make up for in importance," said Mr Buley.

    "It is only through the continued successful breeding of this species in zoos in the coming years, that there can be any hope of one day seeing these animals returned to the wild."

    The Egyptian Tortoise is found in the wild in Mediterranean coastal deserts of Egypt, Eastern Libya and western Negev in Israel.

    Its numbers have rapidly declined since the 1960s because of the exotic pet trade and destruction of its habitat through development.

May 25, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Brick Hanger

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I've been looking at these in catalogs for years now but only today did I realize that many people have brick interior walls and so might find them of use.

This might be the result of seeing all those cool and funky brick-walled domiciles on apartmenttherapy.com in recent months.

My outside walls are almost entirely brick but hanging things from them has never appealed to me so I figured other people would feel the same way.

Silly me.

From the website:

    Hang almost anything on brick, without drilling or hammering

    Spring-steel brick hangers snap easily onto a brick wall to support up to 25 lbs.

    No anchors to hang, no holes to drill, no damage to brick or mortar.

    When you redecorate, just unclip it and use it elsewhere!

    Use outdoors (rust-resistant) to hang climbing vines, or for stringing lights.

    Use indoors over a brick fireplace to hang picture frames, wreaths or clocks.

    Teeth grip standard brick 2-1/8" to 2-1/2" tall.

    1/8" minimum mortar recess needed.

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In Brass or Antique Zinc.

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Four for $9.99.

May 25, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Buckminster Fuller explains Einstein's theory of relativity in a telegram to Isamu Noguchi

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In 1936 Noguchi, inspired like Fuller by Einstein's theory of relativity, worked on his first major public sculpture in Mexico.

It was a seventy-two-foot-long wall, part of which would be a figure of an Indian boy observing Einstein's equation for energy.

Noguchi forgot the exact equation and wired to Fuller for help.

Fuller sent back a telegram (above) explaining E=mc².

Yeah, I figured you'd want to me do that — here's the plain text.

    Einstein's formula determination individual specifics relativity reads quote energy equals mass times the speed of light squared unquote speed of light identical speed all radiation cosmic gamma x ultra violet infra red rays etcetera one hundred eighty six thousand miles per second which squared is top or perfect speed giving science a finite value for basic factor in motion universe stop speed of radiant energy being directional outward all directions expanding wave surface diametric polar speed away from self is twice speed in one direction and speed of volume increase is square of speed in one direction approximately thirty five billion volumetric miles per second stop formula is written quote letter e followed closely by equation mark followed by letter m followed by letter c followed closely by elevated small figure two symbol of squaring unquote only variable in formula is specific mass speed is a unit of rate which is an integrated ratio of both time and space and no greater rate of speed than that provided by its cause which is pure energy latent or radiant is attainable stop the formula therefore provides a unit and a rate of perfection to which the relative imperfection of inefficiency of energy release in radiant or confined direction of all temporal space phenomena may be compared by actual calculation stop significance stop specific quality of animates is control willful or otherwise of rate and direction energy release and application not only of self mechanism but of from self machine divided mechanisms and relativity of all animates and inanimates is potential of establishment through einstein formula

    bucky

May 25, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Butter Boy

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From the website:

    The mess-free way to butter your corn!

    Easy-to-grip Butter Boy holds butter inside and has rounded edges that conform to an ear of corn — no more butter sliding off a knife!

    This clever tool makes it quick and easy to butter corn-on-the-cob.

    When you're done just put the lid on and store Butter Boy in the fridge.

    Fits a standard stick of butter cut in half.

    Durable, dishwasher-safe plastic.

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$7.95 (butter not included).

Full disclosure: I actually find the Butter Boy absurd.

The reason it's gained pride of place in bookofjoe is because of its eye candy color.

At least, it's eye candy to me.

But then — consider

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the source.

In a nod to political correctness I'm bringing you Butter Girl (below),

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available here for $7.99.

May 25, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Loafing — by Raymond Carver

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I looked into the room a moment ago,
and this is what I saw—
my chair in its place by the window,
the book turned facedown on the table.
And on the sill, the cigarette
left burning in its ashtray.
Malingerer! my uncle yelled at me
so long ago. He was right.
I've set aside time today,
same as every day,
for doing nothing at all.
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[via Shawn Lea]

May 25, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Beach Chair Towel Headband-Style Anchor

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It's off to the bookofjoe Naming Seminar 2006™ for the geniuses who named this product the "Sol-Mate."

As if.

From the website:

    Sol-Mate

    Your towel won’t slip off your chair!

    Tired of having to rearrange your beach towel every time you get up?

    This plush band holds the towel securely on the chair back!

    No adjusting — with this handy accessory your towel stays in place when you get up for a dip in the pool or to get a cold drink.

    Soft velour terrycloth stretches to fit most chairs.

    A hidden pocket (below)

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    keeps your keys, money or credit cards out of sight.

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An unmatched set of two — one blue print (top) and one solid lime — is $19.95.

May 25, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'Failure... works' — Edward Rothstein, on the work of Henry Petroski

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Rothstein explored the nature of success and its antecedents in a penetrating "Connections" column which appeared in the May 15 New York Times.

Long story short: An old-fashioned push lawn mower and the iPod have much in common.

Here's the piece.

    Form Follows Function. Now Go Out and Cut the Grass.

    Failure 101.

    That is the nickname of an engineering course Henry Petroski describes in his new book, "Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design" (Princeton University Press).

    And if it sounds as if the course (like the book) must be full of self-help advice for engineers, that is partly true.

    Failure, Mr. Petroski shows, works.

    Or rather, engineers only learn from things that fail: bridges that collapse, software that crashes, spacecraft that explode.

    Everything that is designed fails, and everything that fails leads to better design.

    Next time at least that mistake won't be made: Aleve won't be packed in child-proof bottles so difficult to open that they stymie the arthritic patients seeking the pills inside; narrow suspension bridges won't be built without "stay cables" like the ill-fated Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which was twisted to its destruction by strong winds in 1940.

    Successes have fewer lessons to teach.

    This is one reason, Mr. Petroski points out, that there has been a major bridge disaster every 30 years.

    Gradually the techniques and knowledge of one generation become taken for granted; premises are no longer scrutinized.

    So they are re-applied in ambitious projects by creators who no longer recognize these hidden flaws and assumptions.

    Mr. Petroski suggests that 30 years — an implicit marker of generational time — is the period between disasters in many specialized human enterprises, the period between, say, the beginning of manned space travel and the Challenger disaster, or the beginnings of nuclear energy and the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island.

    His ideas also lead in other directions.

    He quotes Ralph Baer, one of the pioneers in the development of video games, who said that engineers are in the habit of "looking at the world as if everything in it needs fixing."

    The engineer strives to eliminate failure.

    But the unprecedented success of technology in the last 50 years may have also created an expectation that failure should be anticipated and eliminated in all aspects of life.

    This leaves less and less tolerance for its inevitable persistence; very little margin is left for error.

    That is understandable in deciding whether bolts or welds should be used in a skyscraper (as became an issue in the Citigroup Tower in New York); large forces hinge on such small decisions.

    But that absolutist approach also entails unexpected sacrifices in other aspects of life, particularly when avoidance of failure and accident becomes the guiding principle for future design and behavior.

    Because of safety and liability fears, for example, new children's playgrounds never seem to have see-saws or "monkey bars," sacrificing some of the daring enterprise that once accompanied play's inherent risk.

    Or a shoe-bomber is found on an airline, and to avoid any possibility of something similar, all air passengers must remove their shoes to be X-rayed.

    It is not only generals who fight the last battle; it sometimes seems as if the last war — the last failure — maps out how we assess contemporary success and determine future actions.

    So something other than failure must also be a guide.

    Consider, as counterpoint to Mr. Petroski, two simple engineering triumphs from widely contrasting eras, each of which has enjoyed considerable popularity.

    They are not only aesthetically pleasing but also practical; they are flawed but powerful.

    And it is their successes, rather than their failures, that have been crucial.

    Their failings have even been accepted as an aspect of their function.

    I am thinking of the manual lawn mower and the iPod.

    Look at an old lawn mover, with its center of curved rotary blades, turned by pushing on a wooden handle; nothing seems hidden from view.

    There is something elegant about this machine.

    The mower's turning rubber wheels spin the curved, angled blades.

    The length of the grass is determined by adjusting the rotor's height. The mower is a transformation of the scythe and a miniaturization of horse-pulled threshers.

    But it had a very specific purpose.

    It was not a tool for the farm; it was a tool for the small landowner, the city-dweller with a lawn or the country dweller with a yard.

    The mower's flaws are evident: the effort it takes to push it, particularly in wet grass, or the way it tosses the cut leaves of grass back onto the ground.

    Those flaws were addressed by electric and gas mowers, but those inventions added other problems: the motor, the noise, the worry over fuel and power cords.

    The basic principle was affirmed, not replaced.

    And it turns out that the manual mower's flaws were also part of the quiet pleasure it provided (when used in small areas): a direct connection is felt between the physical act of pushing and the physical result of cutting.

    The iPod, of course, comes from a drastically different engineering universe, but it too inspires through its successes not its failures.

    Unlike the mower, nothing can be seen of its workings.

    All physical effort dissolves into the magic of minimal gestures.

    A finger slides along its surface summoning several centuries of music.

    The iPod applies the best concepts in electronic design.

    Very few controls are required to perform any function.

    But you are never lost and can glide forward or backward through a catalog of possibilities.

    The iPod also has flaws that are constantly being ameliorated, with increased storage, decreased size and dedicated volume controls.

    But one reason for this evolution is not its flaws, but that advancing technology makes more things possible.

    And its limitations are also its strengths: the iPod requires a computer and cannot play music for multiple listeners, so it draws other pieces of equipment into its orbit, turning the sound system and the computer into extensions of its power.

    No doubt, far less than 30 years hence, the iPod will seem as limited and clunky as the manual mower, and perhaps as superfluous.

    And no doubt, engineers will be attending to its limitations as each new generation is constructed.

    But what accounts for its power and beauty is that, like the lawn mower, it may require some labor to set up and maintain, but it fulfills its function with simplicity and clarity, offering hints of sensual pleasure.

    Its flaws mark the necessary limits of every humanly manufactured object or human activity; failure and limitations are ineradicable, even essential.

    Mr. Petroski cites an epigram of Epictetus: "Everything has two handles — by one of which it ought to be carried and by the other not."

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Tell you what: the cover design for Petroski's book (top) is the opposite of a failure.

Black

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is the new beautiful in book jackets.

May 25, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Prada Crocodile Wheelie

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In brown (above), white or bubble-gum pink.

Measures 11" x 13" x 7".

Zip openings front and back.

Lined in silk with the Prada logo.

If you don't like the three standard color choices they'll be happy to make one for you from any of the colored leather swatches available in all of Prada's stores worldwide.

In London at the Prada flagship store at 16-18 Old Bond Street (020-7647 5000).

If you're in New York call 212-334-8888 and they'll set you up.

$12,900 (£6,875; €10,100).

[via Lucia van der Post and the Financial Times]

May 25, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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