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September 29, 2007

Linguality.com: 'Breeze through the same books Parisians are reading — without a dictionary'


I happened on a full page ad for this company in last Sunday's New York Times Book Review.

A sample (above) from one of its annotated books appeared in the ad, and just for the heck of it I decided to see how much I could understand — without any French language training or capability beyond that gleaned from reading footnotes and whatnot all my life.

I was amazed to find that I could, albeit very slowly, make my way through the French text with the aid of the facing page's definitions.

It seems to me that you could acquire a working reading knowledge of a language this way if you had plenty of time, even without any formal instruction whatsoever.

From the website:


    If you love good books and speak basic French, become a charter member of Linguality’s French Book Club and read recently published French fiction and nonfiction almost as effortlessly as you read a novel in English! The key is the extensive glossary we place opposite every page of text.

    We're not talking about a few scattered definitions. EVERY difficult word and expression is defined, typically over 2,000 entries per book. It’s the Linguality innovation: current fiction and nonfiction with so much annotation you don’t need a translation, or even a dictionary. With just an intermediate command of French, you can enjoy outstanding contemporary francophone literature and dramatically expand your French vocabulary.


The concept is great and the execution wonderful but the marketing is terrible and dooms this company from the get-go.


Because by far its strongest selling point — the compelling demonstration up top of exactly how it works, with side-by-side pages of annotations and text — appears nowhere on its website.

Or if it does, neither I nor my crack research team could find it, which is the equivalent of it not being there from our perspective.

Because if a tree falls in a forest and there's no one there to hear it, it makes the same sound as one hand clapping.

Too bad for Linguality.

Yet another company with too many smart people working hard — but not smart.

On another note entirely, the new crack photography team doesn't seem any better than the old bunch.

I guess that's what happens when you work in a blogging wasteland.

September 29, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

MP3 Recording Karaoke Player


From a website:

    MP3 Recording Karaoke Player

    This is the first device to record your voice while you sing along with your favorite karaoke songs, creating a custom MP3 file for playback by overlaying your voice onto the song.

    The device displays lyrics you load when you plug it into a computer using its built-in USB port (cable included) and software, so you won't have to wait for the release of specially formatted CDs used by dedicated karaoke machines; you can load new songs you download from the internet by connecting it to a computer.

    You can also lower or fully mute the vocal track of the original song, so that you can replace it with your voice so it is easily heard over instruments.

    The device supports WMA, WAV and MP3 file formats and it has a built-in speaker, microphone and headphone jack for private listening.

    It has 512 MB of memory that can store up to 120 3-minute songs, and includes an SD/MMC card slot for memory expansion.

    Its rechargeable battery provides five hours of operation and takes four hours to fully recharge.

    5-1/4"L x 2-3/4"W x 5-1/2"D.


See it in action here.


September 29, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vicipaedia — Where Bartholomaeus Simpson met Brittania Spears


Today's Wall Street Journal front page story by Lee Gomes about the rise of Vicipaedia Latina — the Latin version of Wikipedia — is just great, and follows.

Res ipsa loquitur — as it were.

    Veni, Vidi, Wiki: Latin Isn't Dead On 'Vicipaedia'

    Online Reference Features Britannia Spears, Disneyi; Disputing Computatrum

    It's not that ancient Romans didn't know a thing or two about wild sex. They had their Bacchanalia, after all. But lacking video technology, they had no expression for "sex tape." And that is why writing about Paris Hilton in Latin can sometimes be so difficillimum.

    The editors of Vicipaedia Latina, the Latin version of the popular Wikipedia Internet reference site, were thus forced to wing it. In their article about the hotel heiress, they described Ms. Hilton's famous X-rated Web video as pellicula in interrete vulgate de coitu Paridis.

    Which means, more or less, "the widely disseminated Internet movie of Paris's sex."

    Improvising like that is necessary when using the language of chariots and togas to account for the world of SUVs and navel piercings. Vicipaedia is a labor of love for a small group of Latin buffs and weekend philologists whose motto might well be "What would Julius do?"

    Their goal is a Latin reference work that is hip and alive — or at least as much as can be expected from a tongue long since given up for dead. They write in authentic classical Latin, too, not in the kitschy feastus maximus stuff you might see at Caesars Palace.

    Bartholomaeus Simpson is a skateboarder experto. As a pre-teen, Britannia Spears apparuit in Canali Disneyi cum Christina Aguilera et Iustino Timberlake in Sodalitate Mici Muris.

    For those who think Latin means Cicero's orations, caveat emptor. "We're using an ancient language, but we're writing on a computer, not papyrus," says Josh Rocchio, a graduate student and one of the most active editors. "There isn't anything that doesn't belong in Vicipaedia. You can write about Julius Caesar, or you can write about blue cheese."

    That up-to-the-minute outlook, says Rafael Garcia, another editor, is a boon to beginning Latin students since "it's a little more down to earth reading about Britney Spears than it is reading about Caesar conquering Gaul."

    Wikipedia is a reference work to which anyone can contribute. It comes in more than 200 languages; the English version, with more than two million articles, is by far the biggest.

    Vicipaedia has 15,000 articles. Catullus, Horace and the Roman Senate all are there; so are musica rockica, Georgius Bush and cadavera animata, aka zombies. You can read in Latin about hangman (homo suspensus), paper airplanes (aeroplanum chartaceum) and magic 8-balls (pila magica 8), as well as about famous Italians like Leonardo da Vinci and the Super Mario brothers.

    "It's a slightly odd thing to do in this century," admits Andrew Dalby, another contributor. "When I first saw Vicipaedia, I thought, 'What's the point?' But then I started working on it, and I found it addictive."

    Professional Latinists say they're generally impressed with Vicipaedia. While articles written by beginning Latin students often contain errata, "the articles that are good are in fact very good," said Robert Gurval, chairman of the UCLA classics department.

    Latin is undergoing a resurgence. High-school-Latin enrollments are up, in part because students hope college admissions offices will be impressed to see such a hard subject on their transcripts. There are Latin translations of Dr. Seuss, Elvis Presley and Harry Potter. In Finland — a Latinist hotbed, apparently — there are weekly radio news broadcasts.

    Mr. Rocchio, 24 years old, might well be a poster boy for this new, hip Latin. Mention "classics scholar," and most people conjure up a tweedy fellow sipping port next to a bust of Ovid. Mr. Rocchio wears regulation battered T-shirts and jeans. In his spare time, he is the drummer in a rock band.

    He went to college intending to major in physics and math, but on a whim took a Latin class and fell in love. "I liked its structure and its simplicity, the way it can take very complex ideas and express them in a couple of words." He is now a graduate student in Latin and Greek at the University of Maryland.

    He chanced upon Vicipaedia last year; at the time, it was full of musty articles about Roman military campaigns, et cetera. Other Latin buffs were happening onto the site at the same time, and as a group they decided to liven things up.

    Mr. Rocchio's contributions go back and forth between the traditional and the contemporary. He has written on math and chess but is especially proud of his essay on the American drinking game (ludus potatorius Americanus) known as beer pong (pong cervisiale). He says scholarship is important, even though most readers don't use Vicipaedia as a reference, per se, but instead as language practice.

    Most of the work among the editors is collegial, though now and then debates break out. One involved the proper neologism for "computer." Vicipaedia calls it a computatrum, despite the vehement opposition of editor Justin Mansfield, who says the word is just bad Latin.

    "You can't use 'trum' at will to make new words," insists Mr. Mansfield, also a classics grad student. " 'Trum' actually fell out of use around the time of the Punic Wars. It's like 'th' in English. You can say 'warmth,' but you can't say 'coolth.' "

    Mr. Mansfield lobbied for computatorium but was outvoted. He prevailed, though, with "particle accelerators," the atom smashers used by physicists, which, per his suggestion, are known on Vicipaedia as particularum acceleratorium.

    Observes Mr. Rocchio, "We tend to argue about words ad infinitum."

    Most Vicipaedia articles duplicate topics also covered on English Wikipedia, though occasionally, when an editor is interested in a particular subject, it will get exclusive Latin treatment. J.W. Love, an editor who is also an anthropology professor, has published Latin translations of Samoan poems.

    So why bother? Vicipaedia's volunteers usually say they simply enjoy keeping up with the Latin they had in school. Mr. Garcia, for instance, teaches physics in Massachusetts at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and says he likes keeping in practice well enough to be able to read classics like Isaac Newton's "Principia" in the original.

    Mr. Rocchio's coda: "Latin has a tradition of 2,700 years... and we don't want that to end. Latin isn't dead, it just smells funny."

September 29, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wowo Dog Pod — 'Like an Eames chair for your best friend'


From the website:

Wowo Dog Pod

Created by Vurv Design and targeted at hip, design-conscious pet owners and their pampered pets.

Wowo's bent ply products have a distinct mid-century aesthetic and cater to pet owners who want their pet accessories to complement the beauty of their modern furnishings.


More of a recliner than a pet bed, it's like an Eames chair for your best friend.

Suitable for small dogs, approximate dimensions are 20"W x 20"H x 17"D.

Removable, washable pad.

Solid wood legs.

Bent ply with a choice of veneers:



September 29, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

iChatAV with Apple Stores

Here's a great hack.

Q. Would you like to be able to iChatAV with an Apple retail store?

"Well, it's not difficult at all to connect, although it's hit-and-miss trying to find someone to talk to. All you need are a couple of numbers to create the "buddy" screen name for the store and its computers."

Who knows, you might get lucky and find an idle genius who can answer your question and solve your problem without you ever having to leave home.

September 29, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Got Shavings? Evolution Cyclone Magnetic Stick


From websites:

    Evolution Cyclone Magnetic Stick

    Fabricating in steel can be a messy business.

    This is the perfect tool to quickly clean up your metal shavings and scrap pieces.

    Powerful magnetic stick with a retractable magnet is perfect for quickly gathering metal bits.

    The amazing Cyclone magnetic chip collector is a must have addition to help keep your work area tidy in any metal working environment.

    This handheld light weight tool works like a magic wand — simply push in the handle and wave the tool over the ferrous metal chips and it will attract them to itself, then carry them over to your scrap barrel, pull the plunger and the shavings are neatly deposited.


In the photo below,


the device is shown with its internal magnet withdrawn inside the handle (24" long); when deploying its magnetic capability (top) it is 15" long.


September 29, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I can't remember the last time I


used a wired telephone (100% cellphone since forever)

entered a bank (drive-through rules)

entered a McDonald's (see above)

opened a phone book (amazing, now that I think about, since it was once a daily — at least — occurence)

shopped at a mall-type mall (covered/enclosed etc.)

bought paper towels or toilet paper in a store (online in bulk they're half the price and I never run out and they leave them at my front door — hard to beat, that)

used my dishwasher (too noisy)

used my oven (microwave + toaster oven does the trick)

used my iron/ironing board

rolled up a car window by hand

What about you?












September 29, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Upside-Down Tomato Garden — As seen circa 600 B.C. in Babylon*


From the website:

    Upside-Down Tomato Garden

    This ingenious planter takes the toil out of tomatoes by elevating the planting bed so vines grow downward.

    Hanging vines need almost no attention as tomatoes ripen in the air (not on the ground) so they won't rot.

    Complementary plants like basil, parsley, rosemary and peppers can be planted on the top, which holds up to 80 lbs. of topsoil.

    The compact planter can fit in any space with ample sunlight — even condominium balconies.

    A hollow base filled with sand (not included) keeps it stable and upright.

    The plastic planting bed, supported by PVC pipes, has openings for four tomato plants underneath, with pop-out perforations for four additional openings.

    Minimal assembly; requires no tools.

    48"H x 25"W x 25"L.

    19 lbs.


A selection of the Bizarro World gift shop.



September 29, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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