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October 26, 2009

'Sharkproof Bracelet'



October 26, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Limited Edition Oakley Elite C Six Sunglasses — At $4,000 a pair, your future better be real bright


Long story by Bruce Horovitz in today's USA Today short: they're on — just not on you.

He wrote, "... Oakley, the egocentric sunglasses maker that prides itself on outside-the-box craftsmanship and marketing chutzpah, on Monday will announce plans for a line of $4,000 sunglasses."

"The ultrapremium Oakley Elite C Six [top] will sell at almost seven times the price of the $600 Pit Boss, which had been Oakley's costliest line."

"About 80 layers of costly carbon fiber — a material more common to the aerospace and motor sports industries — are pressed into the frame."

"Another reason for the high price tag... is the number of worker hours devoted to them. About 90 hours of machine time go into crafting each pair...."

"Oakley will limit the line to 200 pairs over the next year. They'll be sold at Oakley retailers and designer sunglasses boutiques. The target customer... is the guy who doesn't blink at spending $300,000 on a car.'"

And just like that, half the potential market is tossed out the window — "guy?"

Excuse me?

October 26, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Gail Ann Barns — The most extraordinary obituary I've ever read


Written by her son Jim, it appeared in yesterday's Daily Progress.

Once I started reading I simply could not stop.

It follows.


Gail Ann Barns

Gail Ann Barns, 93, went into that good night, on Friday, October 16, 2009, at the Colonnades Health Center. For weeks she had been fading. That morning after having a cup of yogurt from her devoted caretaker of four years, Hope Williams, Hope's "Sleeping Beauty" was gone.

She was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Her father took the McCuskey family from Ohio to be a business manager of a rice plantation. Her father bought her a country fiddle. Gail took to the violin and when the family returned to Ohio in her teens, she was on her way to stardom.

The devotion to the violin called for sacrifices she later regretted. Also, there was an uneven duality in her life, publicly acclaimed and privately neglected. Gail and her three siblings at different times were sent away to live with relatives or at boarding schools. This had significant effects on her emotional makeup.

She went from Columbus, Ohio, to the premier music school in the country, Juilliard, in New York City. Due to lack of money and perhaps the aggressive competition she faced, this dreamy young woman returned to Ohio after one year. At a church choir rehearsal, she met an earnest young man, Jim Barns. They were married and spent the first difficult year living with her in-laws in Shaker Heights. It was wartime, and they moved to Gary, Indiana, where Jim worked in a steel mill.

In Mansfield, Ohio, Ann Gail Barns was born. Thus began the greatest challenge of Gail's life. She recalled Ann's intrepid personality. As a toddler, she would be at the beach and run into the waves. Her brother describes her as a combination of a powerful will and great vulnerability.

Though there was a gap between mother and daughter that never closed, Gail and Jim were heroic in their efforts to help Ann, tutors, different schools, and sports chauffeuring. Once Jim was in college, they moved to New York City so Ann would have access to art school.

Later, when Ann's condition became dire, she went into a premier mental hospital, McLean, in Belmont, Massachusetts. That commitment used up all their money. Her mother believed it made all the difference in Ann's stabilizing.

Ann last saw her parents in 1992. The visit was brief, Ann always had to be in control. A master of social services available and an accomplished artist, Ann, 67, is today ever upbeat and in motion. Her parents, with sad resignation, had come to accept the state of things, taking consolation that Ann was okay, and all their efforts made a difference.

Jim Jr. was born in 1946 in Cleveland. Jim went into sales work with large chemical companies. This work took them to West Orange, New Jersey, then to Towson, Maryland, and then, in a big step up, a premier community, Bronxville, New Jersey...Gail engineered that. Given its wealth and Ivy League outlook, it was a stretch. She loved this genteel community. She returned to the violin with an informal group. At church, she celebrated those thoughtful, personable people. Discussion groups, retreats, etc., one of the highlights of her life was teaching sixth grade girls. They were sweet and responsive. She took up painting and was good at it in a methodical way, she loved the classes. An intense bridge player blossomed.

After the move to the city, there were hard times. On a remarkably dark day, Jim dropped out of college, Ann ran away from McLean and Jim Sr. lost his job. He and a comrade blew the whistle on an unethical boss and they got fired. After 20 years with the company, he had lost his pension. These stresses and the dynamics of their marriage led to a crisis. The marriage survived. The center held to the benefit of all. In a liberating move for Jim, they moved to Florida, where Jim had longed to be. Again, Gail engineered the selection, Naples. They found a modest but pleasant house in a town known for its millionaires.

Jim showed remarkable steadfastness in the face of a sometimes brutal market place. Gail with intensity worked the stock market, and built up their savings from nothing. She also took a job. Dressed to the nines, she would get on a bike and awkwardly ride up Route 41 (Naples' 29) to a high end department store, where she worked in the gift department. In retrospect, that image of her taking off on that bike represents tenacity and doing what you have to do. The job itself was perfect for her. Her older sister once said that Gail lived in a "glass menagerie world", and there it was, (That effort is a reminder of this mother taking her young son to a World Series game at Yankee Stadium. They had gotten terribly lost and arrived near game time. Normally not a street wise sort, Gail saw a policeman was taking bribes for parking spaces and she nailed him. A spot was hers and no bribe. Don't mess with a mother looking out for her child!) As a non-athlete, she took up tennis. She was very tight and took these huge swings and misses, but she loved it. Her attitude was admirable.

They were very pleased that their son, Jim, at 40, married Rebecca Beall. His evolution had been slow, much due to a condition yet understood, five years later, with stability established, they had a child, Hayden Corinne Barns, this was especially fulfilling for her grandparents at this point in time.

Jim Sr. continued working well past retirement age, but he was faltering. In retrospect, the Alzheimers was obvious. Neighbors called greatly concerned about Gail and Jim. After a harrowing day on the phone from Charlottesville, Jim Jr. got help for them. They moved into a retirement home, but soon there was a report of Jim's inappropriate behavior.

In 1999, their son drove them up to Our Lady of Peace. After a few years, Jim went to live at a wonderful Mennonite home, Mountainview, in Madison County. After a year, he died in September, 2003. For Gail, there was much emotional discontent and several moves. There were trips to the emergency room. The most serious came after four traumatic seizures. Each diminished her mental capacity. There was a benevolent aspect to this. She was released of regrets over unfulfilled potentials, resentments, etc., that slanted her outlook. After the last seizure, she could not return to Rosewood Village and the blessed intervention of Karen Leake and Wendy Hartsook, she was able to stay in one of the two Medicaid beds at the Colonnades. A place Gail would have chosen.

For her son, this is her legacy: From neither of my parents did I learn much about being in the world, in practical or survival terms, that was up to me, the hard way. What they gave me was of much more value, unconditional love. The 1970's were an emotional roller coaster for me. Sometimes the only recourse was to make that long drive to Naples. Not only was the sanctuary crucial, that love lives inside. It shines forth in being a happy, positive person. Another appreciation is my mother's enjoyment of lively, sometimes offbeat people. Though, in general, a cautious person, she took to some live wires, funny, and free spirits. She also was a generous person. Several times in Bronxville, she would bring home foreigners she had met. One charming young guy from Colombia stayed with us for two weeks. Finally, she was a teammate in my quest to go to Williams College. A success that has given me a wonderful association over the years.

Living in Charlottesville are her son Jim, wife Rebecca, and daughter, Hayden. Ann lives in Arlington, Massachusetts. Gail's older sister lives in Deland, Florida, and her younger sister, Mary Jo, lives in Pataskala, Ohio. She was a loving hostess and companion to Gail in Florida. An older brother, Walton, died in a car crash int the 1950's. Their father died in a crash long ago.

Gail had big disappointments in her life, but ultimately she was a strong-willed survivor, and she should have felt good about the difference she made in her children's lives.

Deep appreciation goes to Hope and the staff at the Colonnades. They appreciated Gail, and their friendliness made all those visits so comfortable. They will be missed. Rebecca and Hayden have been true blue teammates for the last 10 years.

Preddy Funeral Home of Madison County handled the arrangements. There is no service planned.

October 26, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

World's most technical measuring cup


From the website:


Digital Scale Measuring Cup

This is the only measuring cup with an integrated digital scale.

Unlike typical measuring cups that only determine volume, this model also measures wet or dry ingredients by weight, a more precise technique favored by pastry chefs and artisanal bakers.

A 1-1/4" LCD on the handle displays digital measurements in ounces, pounds, or grams.

The scale automatically converts weight (ounces, fluid ounces, grams, or milliliters) into volume (cups) for water, milk, oil, sugar, and flour, providing superior accuracy when making recipes.

A tare function allows you to layer multiple ingredients inside the cup and measure them one at a time.

The durable plastic measuring cup has markings for milliliters, ounces, and cups; holds up to 4 cups or 1 liter; and its weight capacity is 6.6 lbs.

Includes a volume-to-weight conversion chart for common foods and a replaceable lithium battery.

6"H x 7"W x 10"L.

Hand wash.


Picture 1


October 26, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Area 51 Veterans Association Website — RoadrunnersInternationale.com



Who knew?

Not me, until I read Angus Batey's fascinating "First Person" feature in the October 17, 2009 Financial Times, headlined "I tested secret aircraft for the US military"; it follows.


I tested secret aircraft for the U.S. military

First person: T.D. Barnes [below] knows all about clandestine operations and only now feels to speak


Area 51 is a military base in Nevada where the Air Force, the CIA and aerospace manufacturers test the machines they don’t want anyone to know about. By the time I started working there, I was already used to keeping secrets, even from those closest to me. I think that’s typical of military families: they’re not in the habit of quizzing each other about day-to-day details.

I’d had 10 years in the army, and was highly trained in radar operation. After my discharge in 1964, I was hired at the Nasa High Range at Beatty, Nevada, as a hypersonic flight support specialist. On days when nothing much was happening, I’d fire up the radar and see if I could find anything. One day I picked up something travelling at over 2,000mph near a local dry lake. It wasn’t one of ours and we were told to forget we’d seen anything, but shortly afterwards the Beatty station was asked to provide radar support for these flights. I was the only person allowed in the radar room during these missions.

I was approached about a secret, unspecified job shortly afterwards. I’d worked for the CIA when I was in the army, so I knew the recruitment drill. I arrived at Area 51 in 1968, just as the CIA was winding down a programme codenamed Oxcart. This was the A-12, a surveillance aircraft that flew at three times the speed of sound, right on the edge of space. It was the aircraft I’d tracked at Beatty.

Even though most of my career had been in classified projects, the big difference at Area 51 was the threat of Soviet spies. Their satellites sometimes kept us pinned down and unable to fly missions for months at a time. So in some ways it was the most boring job I ever had.

They started declassifying our work in about 1990, but we still wouldn’t talk about it. Our veterans’ association, the Roadrunners, held reunions every two years, but even that was pretty clandestine. Gradually, though, more information was declassified, and a few years ago I set up RoadrunnersInternationale.com, so we could start telling people about what we’d done. Our work was very important, and if we don’t talk about it, no one will ever know.

I think the key thing in getting our members to open up was when David Robarge, the CIA’s own historian, called because he needed information from us he couldn’t get from anyone else. So now our members have realised that it’s OK to tell their stories – in fact, that it’s desired for the sake of history.

For a lot of us, what you did during the cold war at Area 51 is stuff that’s been bottled up, without even being able to tell your family – so finally talking about it can be a very emotional thing. The US air force had a plane, the SR-71, which was a two-seat version of the A-12, and throughout its life, there were no losses of aircraft or pilots and that was because we’d taken the risk out of it for them. During the A-12 programme, we lost 30 per cent of our planes and 20 per cent of our pilots – all without anyone outside being allowed to know.

I get messages almost daily now. Usually it’s a granddaughter who’s run across something on the website, and they’re so tickled because they know that their grandpa did something very important that he wasn’t allowed to talk about. Often he’s deceased already and they’re only finding out the truth now.

It came full circle for me: my daughters followed in my footsteps and got jobs at the Area [below].


To this day I don’t even think they’ve ever looked at the website – they have polygraph tests every six months out there and they’d be afraid they’d have a flare-up if they were asked whether they’d discussed Area 51 with anyone. Even though it’s innocent, it could cause a problem, so we just don’t talk about it.

October 26, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New York Times Crossword x Granite

67dtu vjhk

Laser-etched 4" x 4" solid granite coasters with a puzzle by Will Schortz; one coaster displays a blank puzzle, one has across clues and one has down clues and one shows the completed puzzle.


October 26, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's smallest working train set measures 1/8 inch x 1/4 inch — or so it would appear


Here's an October 24, 2009 Telegraph story about the 1:35,200 scale model (above) built by New Jersey model train enthusiast David Smith.


World's smallest working model train set unveiled

At 1-35,200 scale to the real thing, the five-carriage train travels around an oval route including a ride through a tunnel.

Created by New Jersey model train enthusiast David Smith, the model was built using nothing more fancy than a craft knife and a steady hand.

Mr Smith, 55, from Toms River, said: "This model train set is going to be part of the larger train set I have at home.

"I am creating a fictitious village called James River Branch and this model train is going to be placed inside the model shop I am building as part of the re-creation.

"It is going to be a model train village inside a model, so it is very postmodern"

Powered by a standard two-inch-long rotating motor head and carved out of mouldable plastic, the model train cost Mr Smith just over £6 to make.

"To get a sense of scale you have to remember that the River Branch project is being built to the scale of 1-220," Mr Smith added.

"It has taken up two and a half years of my life and is going to be very impressive once it is finished."


From Geek.com, more about the back story:


World's smallest train layout is incredibly tiny


From large size electronic arcade games we go to the other extreme of proportion to very small train models. And when I say small I mean, very small, like make-your-eyes-cross small. What I am talking about is a train model layout created by David Smith that is actually an N-Scale model that goes into a Z-Scale model layout. For those of us that don’t speak model train lingo, we are talking a combined scale ratio of 1 to 35,200. Now that’s small.

When you watch the video [top], you might be saying to yourself, “How in the world did someone build model trains that tiny?” Well, if you keep watching the video the trick is explained that it isn’t really tiny trains circling a miniature track at all.

The trains you are watching are actually made from notches on a flexible tube that has been colored with a silver sharpie to represent a passenger and fitted over a small gear motor. This tube has fitted inside a layout that has been created from several pieces of styrene, the thickest part measuring only .060-inches.  Then by using smaller pieces of styrene, squadron putty, and additional sharpie colorations, the layout was made to look like a complete train model landscape with mountain, tunnel and tiny buildings – just on an incredibly small scale.

Now, some of you model train enthusiasts may be complaining that this is not an actual train layout with working miniature trains. Well, I won’t argue with you there. But you have to admit that David Smith is very ingenious for even coming up with this tiny train illusion.


From Hack a Day:


This train layout is so small it nearly defies photography as much as it defies expectations. Built by model railroad enthusiast David Smith, this is a model of a model: an N scale (1:160) layout inside a Z scale (1:220) world!

Of course with this being Hack a Day you know there’s going to be some shenanigans involved. Pause the hi-def YouTube video [top] at the 0:50 mark and see if you can puzzle it out first. The remainder of the video and David’s project page reveal how this all works, and it’s no less amazing even with the trick exposed. Check out his other ludicrously small mechanical wonders as well!


[via Milena and Retro Thing]

October 26, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Bamboo Briefcase


Three years ago I featured one made from cedar, stylish enough to have been sold by MOMA.

Alas, it's no longer available.

Time for new wood.

From the website:


Bamboo Briefcase

This bamboo briefcase is stronger than steel yet as light as a traditional attaché case.

The briefcase is handmade from Moso bamboo, a dense grass with a tensile strength of 28,000 lbs. per square inch — 5,000 lbs. greater than that of steel.

Despite its exceptional strength it weighs only 5-1/2 lbs., resulting in a briefcase that is both durable and easy to carry.

The bamboo is sustainably harvested from a forest in the Highlands of Central China where the temperate climate encourages slower growth, producing a dense, hard culm.

The briefcase is naturally water-resistant and won't crack or splinter, providing optimal protection for sensitive documents when navigating a bustling metropolis.

The interior is lined with supple suede and has two file pockets, three penholders, and a cell phone compartment.

Dual combination locks secure the contents of the case.

17-1/4 "W x 12-3/4"H x 3-1/2"D.

5-1/2 lbs.



"Bustling metropolis" — huh.

I guess that means no dice for me.

Don't let that stop you, though.

Be honest: did you know what "culm" meant before you read it here?


October 26, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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