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July 20, 2009

Diving speeds of birds (mph)

• Peregrine falcon (above): 242

• Golden eagle: 200

• Gyrfalcon: 130

• Bald eagle: 100

• Osprey: 80

• Hummingbird: 50

• Brown pelican: 40

[via the August 2009 Wired magazine]

July 20, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dirty Mug


"Even when it's clean it looks dirty."



July 20, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

An added benefit of Amazon's Kindle over paper


In an interview in this past weekend's Financial Times, British pianist Stephen Hough touched on the fact that as a result of his career, he often finds himself traveling — and eating — alone.

Said Hough, in response to interviewer Richard Holledge's question as to what were his favorite things, "My Amazon Kindle, the amazing electronic book. It's great for my traveling, when I often end up in a restaurant by myself, because there are no pages to turn when you are trying to eat. I've got hundreds of books on it, including the complete Charles Dickens for 99 cents."


As one whose default setting while eating is reading, this adds fuel to my potential Kindle-acquiring fire.

Which brings to mind a wonderful story about Stephen Hawking I recall reading years ago, in which a boyhood friend of his remarked on the strangeness of  having dinner at Hawking's house.

It seems everyone read during dinner: it was absolutely silent as each member of the family — including young Stephen — absorbed themselves in their book or whatever it was they were reading.

I would've been quite happy there.

July 20, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

8-in-1 Precision Screwdriver


Danilo Campos raved about this tool in the latest edition of Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools, edited by Elon Schoenholz; the review follows.


Husky 8-in-1 Precision Screwdriver

I've encountered many precision screwdriver kits intended to help you get past the tiny screws that keep you out of the most interesting parts of electronic equipment. Most are poorly made. I have long used tools similar to the jeweler screwdrivers previously reviewed on Cool Tools. The metal grooves in the shaft wear on your fingertips after awhile, making longer projects a real pain. You also can't exert quite as much torque, since each tool is so spindly. They don’t come close to the usefulness and execution of the Husky 8-in-1.

The Husky 8-in-1 uses removable, double-sided, magnetized bits, and stores them all inside the driver handle. The result is a versatile, compact, easy-to-carry tool. The best part is knowing that everything you need is contained in one small organizer.

The Husky's handle is made from rugged, squared-off plastic and is easy to grip without being clumsy or too large for practical use in narrow spaces. It also has the rotating top you'd expect for this kind of tool, allowing you to apply pressure on one axis while rotating the driver from another. Thoughtfully, the handle tapers to a long, narrow metal shaft for access to out-of-the-way screws. The most satisfying part is how cleanly the bits engage with the screws. They fit perfectly every single time.

Husky makes a Phillips/Slotted version and a Torx version. Having both sets gives you 16 screwdrivers that can pry loose just about any tiny screw you might encounter in an electronic device. For the low price and lifetime warranty, they’re tough to beat.


Phillips/Slotted: $5.97.

Torx: $5.97.

July 20, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ghost Orchid Blooms


For the third consecutive year a Ghost Orchid (above) is blooming at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida.

This is the orchid made famous in Susan Orlean's wonderful book, "The Orchid Thief, (the movie version, "Adaptation," is excellent as well).

The Ghost Orchid "... has no leaves and appears to float in mid-air when blooming, " noted the Wall Street Journal.

July 20, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Emergency Dynamo Hand Crank Dual-LED Flashlight w/ Key Ring


Because you just never know.

"Rotating the crank for one minute will give up to 30 minutes of continuous light."


July 20, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Clingstone, an unusual 103-year-old mansion in Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay, survives through the love and hard work of family and friends.


Henry Wood (below),


the owner, runs the house like a camp: all skilled workers welcome. The Jamestown Boatyard hauls the family's boats and floating dock and stores them each winter in return for a week's use of the house in the summer.

Mr. Wood, a 79-year-old Boston architect, bought the house with his ex-wife Joan in 1961 for $3,600. It had been empty for two decades.

Clingstone had been built by a distant cousin, J.S. Lovering Wharton.  Mr.  Wharton worked with an artist, William Trost Richards, to create a house of picture windows with 23 rooms on three stories radiating off a vast central hall.


The total cost of the construction, which was completed in 1905, was $36,982.99.


Above, an early sketch of the house. Mr.  Wood is as proud as any parent of his house, and keeps a fat scrapbook of photographs and newspaper clippings that document its best moments. Many of the historic photos he has were provided by the company that insured the house for its original owners.

The Newport Bridge is visible from the windows of the ping-pong room, to the left of the fireplace (below).


The house is maintained by an ingenious method: the Clingstone work weekend. Held every year around Memorial Day, it brings 70 or so friends and Clingstone lovers together to tackle jobs like washing all 65 windows. Anne Tait, who is married to Mr. Wood's son Dan, refinished the kitchen floor on one of her first work weekends.


There are 10 bedrooms at Clingstone, all with indecently beautiful views.


The dining room table seats 14. 


Refinishing the chairs is a task on the list for a future work weekend.


A sign by the ladder that leads to the roof reads, "No entry after three drinks or 86 years of age."  "It used to say 80 but we had a guy on a work weekend who was 84, so I changed it," said Mr. Wood, ever the realist. "It would have been a shame to curtail the activities of a willing volunteer."

[via Nicholas Wood]

July 20, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Flip-Flop Aperitivo


Designed by Milan-based Tommaso Colia, who writes, "This is a pair of flip-flops with round shapes on the top. When you are at the beach, you can sit down and put your glass on them. They become a sort of flat 'table,' very stylish indeed, ideal to support glasses, dishes and all the aperitifs you like."


Also good in the backyard.


Leather, wicker and rattan.

July 20, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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