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November 29, 2009

Scobleizer on why the Huffington Post is flourishing while MSM dies

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He makes a pretty good argument.

November 29, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Tippi Micro Gel Grips — Blast from the past

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These innovative devices first appeared here on March 25, 2008, clearly ahead of their time and thus passing for the most part unnoticed.

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Now they're back.

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Intended to help you sort, shuffle and collate paper.

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Friction ridges enhance grip and dexterity.

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Bonus: no fingerprints.

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Two for $3.29 (scroll down about two-thirds of the way).

November 29, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thierry Legault, astrophotographer extraordinaire, explains the secrets to his success

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He told Brigid Grauman, in a November 10, 2009 Wall Street Journal profile, that his success at capturing moments such as that above (the transit of Venus across the sun on June 8, 2004) when extraordinary things happen in the sky resulted from "the right equipment, knowing it well, having plenty of practice and leaving nothing to chance."

Sounds like a recipe for success in any arena.

Here's the article, capturing the essence of one of the world's greatest amateur photographers of things extraterrestrial.

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He's an Astrophotography Star

In the rarefied world of amateur astrophotographers, Thierry Legault is known for pictures of astonishing clarity and mystery. "We're like people who travel the world to see animals. I travel the universe and take pictures of everything in the sky," he says. He's not sure, though, whether he'll be shooting the Nov. 12 shuttle mission. "The sun is too low on the horizon," he explains, "and the shuttle will be particularly far and small when it passes in front of it."

The 47-year-old French engineer lives outside Paris, in tidy suburban Versailles. A slight, pale and pleasant man, he drinks milk instead of coffee or tea for fear of being overstimulated. "The moon, for instance, is a constantly changing landscape. Observing it through a telescope is like watching shadow theater. One never tires of it."

Astrophotographers specialize in recording astronomical phenomena. The professional snappers among them focus on collecting scientific data about faraway galaxies and nebulae, while the amateurs are a small and almost exclusively male bastion of DIY star- and planet-spotters who work in other jobs but spend all their spare time watching the universe. The best among them combine infinite patience with thorough technical knowledge of everything from telescopes to Photoshop. Astronomers will give them access to their observatories' megapowerful telescopes, and their often strikingly beautiful work is regularly published in popular science magazines.

Mr. Legault has seen his photographs published in books and magazines around the world, from Popular Science and the French Science & Vie to the Vatican calendar. (You can see his pictures at www.astrophoto.fr.) His most recent widely reproduced image depicted what appeared to be a large yellow globe with a small Aboriginal-like drawing on it. In fact, it showed the International Space Station and a docked shuttle Endeavour on July 26 of this year as they crossed the path of the sun.

What makes Mr. Legault unique is that he combines his passion for the universe with solid scientific know-how and total familiarity with his equipment, which includes Webcams and video cameras, CCD cameras (specializing in long-exposure pictures of the skies), a Canon 5D Mark II, as well as refractors and reflectors. An asteroid has been named after him, although with characteristic modesty he says that it's pretty small and very far away. "I won't be going there on holiday," he quips.

Professional astronomers take him seriously, though. NASA used his photographs for a promotional catalog, later inviting him twice to visit them at Cape Canaveral in Florida. On his first trip there, in December 2007, nothing happened because of technical problems with the shuttle. But on his second visit, in May of this year, he got a splendid shot of the undocked shuttle on its way to repair the Hubble telescope. Again it was widely published.

You can see the International Space Station with the naked eye on a clear night just after nightfall or just before daybreak, Mr. Legault says, when it is lit up by the sun. It circles the Earth every hour and a half at a speed of almost 16,000 miles per hour. . "You can't miss it. It's like a particularly bright star moving slowly across the sky. It's only 400 kilometers [280 miles] away," he says, "which isn't really very far."

The sky is Mr. Legault's ocean and he navigates it like a skipper, watching the weather forecasts with an eagle eye to take advantage of those nights when the air is unhindered by clouds or pollution. Among his most precious aids is a Web site that calculates exactly when and where certain phenomena will be visible (www.calsky.com).

He followed the Web site's indications for his photograph of Endeavour, packing his car with his equipment and driving 60 miles southwest of Paris towards Orléans. "I set everything up on a small footpath in the middle of the countryside. The moment the shuttle was to cross the path of the sun would take less than a second. I placed my Canon 5D Mark II on my telescope and launched a burst of pictures two seconds before the scheduled moment. I ended up with three pictures."

By contrast, all of the deep-sky pictures of constellations, star clusters, nebulae and galaxies, meteorites and asteroids require an exposure of several hours. For these photographs, Mr. Legault places red, green or blue filters between the camera and the telescope. Without them, the pictures would come out in black-and-white. "I prefer pastel colors because they are the colors we would see if our eyes were more sensitive to low light or if these objects were brighter."

It is only Mr. Legault's budget that puts a rein on his ambitions. His job as an auditor for the airborne systems firm Thales takes him across Europe and to Asia, but he can't bring any sky-gazing equipment along because of weight limitations and the high cost of extra luggage. Most of his salary, however, goes into equipment and travel, including expeditions to Angola, Egypt, Russia and, most recently, to Shanghai for July's solar eclipse, which was marred by thick clouds.

But his ambitions are usually more modest—he packs everything in the car and heads for the unpolluted skies of the Alps or the Pyrenees. Or he simply goes out into his small back garden and rolls back the green wooden hut on rails that stands in the middle of a concrete platform to reveal a large telescope. It is from these suburban skies that Mr. Legault takes some of his most admired pictures, like the shot of Saturn and its ring resembling two smooth, gray gemstones.

Mr. Legault ascribes his success at capturing moments when extraordinary things happen in the sky to "the right equipment, knowing it well, having plenty of practice and leaving nothing to chance." He discovered astronomy at age 12, after reading an article in an amateur science magazine. His parents, who were office workers in Nantes, soon bought him a telescope. "I wanted to understand how the sky worked, the stars, the planets, the solar system, how they influenced seasons and tides. I was fascinated by the scientific origins of the universe."

His first photographic scoop took place in July 1994 at the observatory of Pic du Midi in the high Pyrenees, where one night he found himself among professional astronomers photographing the extremely rare event of a collision between comet SL9 and Jupiter. Unlike other amateur photographers at the time, Mr. Legault was already using digital imagery and a CCD camera. His pictures were at once sharp and raw. "Digital imaging was a revolution for astronomers," he says. "It allowed amateurs to surpass earlier work done by the top observatories."

Since then, Mr. Legault has taken hundreds of pictures of the sun, the moon, the planets, the Milky Way, the rings of Saturn, the giant Alnitak star in the Orion constellation with its clouds of gas and dust, and much, much more. Given that there's always something going on in the sky's bubbling cauldron, what's the next big challenge? "I would like to go to Northern Canada to photograph the Aurora Borealis," he says, eyes gleaming.

November 29, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Doody Head Game

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From the website:

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Doody Head Game

Maturity is overrated.

Why not play target practice with your favorite fool as you lob poo piles at her cap?

Hysterical 'Doody Head' hats have sticky strips and pre-printed point scores so you can keep track of who slings the most most crap.

Includes three poo piles, two stretchy hats, and one book of instructions for fun games.

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Just when I thought I was finally beginning to elevate the tone of this blog, something like this happens.

Whoever posted this — you're outa here.

$14.98.

November 29, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

MorphWorld: Urban Meyer into 'Papa John' Schnatter

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The penny dropped the other day while I was watching a Papa John's commercial.

Six meats!

I wonder what they might be....

One easy way to find out.

Maybe during Monday Night Football.

They're about the same age: Meyer (top) is 45 and Schnatter (below)

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is 47.

November 29, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bookmark

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"Move the indicator arrow to the line where you leave off. After a break, continue by simply looking for the colorful pointer."

Designed by Ankul Assavaviboonpan for Propaganda.

[via Milena]

November 29, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tributes.com — 'Because every life has a story'

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True.

November 29, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What is it?

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Answer here this time tomorrow.

November 29, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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