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August 22, 2010

What are they?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

August 22, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Zip-It Pencil Case


Can your pencil case do that?

Didn't think so.

"The Zip-It pencil case can be unzipped all the way for fun or used as a sturdy pencil case."

$11.99 wherever they're sold, which so far remains an elusive mystery to my crack research team.

C'mon, girls and guys, wake up and find a source.


Two readers have responded as of 3:55 p.m. today.

Pictou wrote, "Purchase": http://www.just-zipit.com

"See zipped and unzipped": http://apinnick.wordpress.com/2009/08/04/zipper-pencil-case

Paul wrote, "Found these at Staples. Really fun to play with!"

August 22, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Cave paintings of Petra


Long story short: after three years of painstaking restoration, spectacular 2,000-year-old Hellenistic-style wall  discovered in a cave complex in Petra, Jordan, have been unveiled.

The caption for the painting above: "Detail of a winged child playing the flute, before and after cleaning."

Today's Guardian story follows.


Spectacular 2,000-year-old Hellenistic-style wall paintings have been revealed at the world heritage site of Petra through the expertise of British conservation specialists. The paintings, in a cave complex, had been obscured by centuries of black soot, smoke and greasy substances, as well as graffiti.

Experts from the Courtauld Institute in London have now removed the black grime, uncovering paintings whose "exceptional" artistic quality and sheer beauty are said to be superior even to some of the better Roman paintings at Herculaneum that were inspired by Hellenistic art.

Virtually no Hellenistic paintings survive today, and fragments only hint at antiquity's lost masterpieces, while revealing little about their colours and composition, so the revelation of these wall paintings in Jordan is all the more significant. They were created by the Nabataeans, who traded extensively with the Greek, Roman and Egyptian empires and whose dominion once stretched from Damascus to the Red Sea, and from Sinai to the Arabian desert.

Such is the naturalistic intricacy of these paintings that the actual species of flowers, birds and insects bursting with life can be identified. They were probably painted in the first century, but may go back further. Professor David Park, an eminent wall paintings expert at the Courtauld, said that the paintings "should make jaws drop".

At the instigation of the Petra National Trust (PNT), conservation experts Stephen Rickerby and Lisa Shekede restored the paintings to life. The work took three years, and was completed only last week. "The paintings were a real mess," Rickerby said.

He described what has emerged from the blackened layers as "really exceptional and staggeringly beautiful, with an artistic and technical quality that's quite unlike anything else".

Three different vines, grape, ivy and bindweed – all associated with Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine – have been identified, while the birds include a demoiselle crane and a Palestine sunbird with luscious colours. The scenes are populated by putti-like figures, one winged child playing a flute while seated in a vine-scroll, others picking fruit and fighting off birds pecking at the grapes. The paintings are exceptional in their sophistication, extensive palette and luxurious materials, including gold leaf.

Petra – the Greek word for "rock" – is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites, where ancient eastern traditions combine with Hellenistic architecture, with monumental buildings sculpted out of the solid red sandstone. A Unesco world heritage site since 1985, it was the Nabataeans' capital city, flourishing as an economic and religious centre from the third century BC for some 400 years. Its site, in the Shera mountains, was an important crossroads for Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia.

The paintings are not at the main site, but at the less well known canyon of Siq al-Barid in Beidha – nicknamed "Little Petra" – about 5km away. As they are now the most important surviving examples of Nabataean art, they rank among Petra's most remarkable treasures and are likely to become a major tourist attraction, Rickerby said. They are located within the "biclinium" (dining area), a principal chamber and a recess, where ritual dining is thought to have taken place. The most outstanding painting covers the vault and the walls of the recess.

The site was a retreat for affluent Nabataeans. The surrounding land shows evidence of ancient vineyards and grape-pressing sites, which explains the significance of the paintings' subject-matter. The Greek historian Strabo conveyed a sense of their wealth when he wrote: "The Nabataeans are a sensible people, and are so much inclined to acquire possessions that they publicly fine anyone who has diminished his possessions."

Rickerby said: "They show a lot of external influences from the ancient world and are as good as, or better than, some of the Roman paintings you see, for example at Herculaneum… This has immense art-historical importance, reflecting a synthesis of Hellenistic–Roman cultural influences."

Park said: "Petra is a vast site at the cultural crossroads of the eastern Mediterranean, and among the rock-cut tombs and temples the survival of a fragile wall painting that decorated a dining hall is extraordinary… The quality of the painting is matched by the luxury of its materials, including gilding and translucent glazes. It is the only surviving [in situ] figurative wall painting from the Nabataean civilisation that created Petra.

"It provides an incredibly rare insight into the lifestyle of this ancient and little-known civilisation."


The Nabataeans

Few Nabataean manuscripts survive, but it is through the ancient historians Strabo, Josephus and Diodorus that we know something about them and their culture. Diodorus wrote of a people with diverse characteristics who were "exceptionally fond of freedom". Strabo described them as "exceedingly well-governed", with few slaves, banquets with girl singers and "drinking bouts in magnificent style" held by the king, in which "no one drinks more than 11 cupfuls, each time using a different golden cup".

The Nabataeans were among the most successful merchants of their day, trading in spices, medicines, frankincense, precious jewels and metals. Exotic goods were brought by ship to ports in southern Arabia from India and the far east and taken overland to the Mediterranean. Accusations of a monopoly on many of their goods, brought complaints from the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans when they hiked up their prices.

They first appeared to history in 312BC in a cuneiform inscription, recording their defeat of a Syrian army. Although originally a nomadic people of ancient Arabia, they built the spectacular city of Petra as their capital. Such was its fame in antiquity that it was mentioned in Chinese records, as well as those of ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome and Byzantium. It boasted magnificent buildings and carved facades and piped water throughout the city.

August 22, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ray Gun with Leather Holster


From the website:



We have here an extremely rare ray gun manufactured in the late 19th century by the Swedish manufacturer Raughnold. This is their model 81, famous for its sleek lines and fine balance, coupled with its extremely effective vaporizing ray. The  mechanism of the ray gun is not well understood, but we do know that the power generator in the center of the gun sends a ray through the pulse delineator which is amplified by the particle accelerator. 


Measuring over 14” long, this beauty is solidly built, yet light enough to be handled even by those of the feminine persuasion. From the particle accelerator nozzle all the way to the rear exhaust port, this ray gun exudes quality. The gun is cast in cold cast aluminum resin, with a hand-stitched leather grip. Comes with a custom fitting leather holster. 


Gun does not actually do anything except look very cool. Ray gun may vary slightly from photos. Please allow 3 to 4 weeks for us to make this item for you.



$195 (or the equivalent in galactic credits).

[via Milena]

August 22, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Poetry in the Age of Technology


Bob Tedeschi, in a August 18, 2010 New York Times article about poetry in pixel form, wrote, "Smartphones are arguably the best thing to hit poetry since the printing press...."

Excerpts from his story follow.


There are probably people who have read “War and Peace” on their smartphones, but just the thought of spending that much time squinting at a little screen makes my eyes hurt.

A little haiku, on the other hand? A snippet of e.e. cummings? Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” even? That’s another matter.

Smartphones are arguably the best thing to hit poetry since the printing press, as even the most casual lovers of verse can read a poem whenever the spirit moves them, not just when they are in the vicinity of a book or computer.

Case in point: a friend hosted a dinner party, and after dessert we sat on the couch thumbing through some of his poetry books. We had trouble finding “Litany,” by Billy Collins, until I pulled out my iPhone and delivered a Web version in 30 seconds.

Apps are even better.

I have the entire works of Shakespeare on my iPhone, including his poems and sonnets. And it’s free, thanks to an app that is called, simply, Shakespeare. (On Amazon, I could score a print version of Shakespeare’s complete works for around $30, with shipping.)

For $10 you can get the Shakespeare Pro version of the app, which includes a better search function and some other nifty features. Shake the device, for instance, and the app offers you selected quotes from his works. (The iPad version, for the same price, is a must-have for any Shakespeare lover.)

Another essential app is Poetry, from the Poetry Foundation (free, for Apple devices). The app is a slot machine of verse: hit the Spin button, and themes like joy, passion, frustration and nostalgia race across the screen before the app settles on two.


B-Rhymes is a free iPhone app that helps you find words that almost rhyme.

Poets and rappers have long avoided rhyme schemes involving the word “orange,” for instance. B-Rhymes has the answer: “foreskin.”

Okay, maybe “forage” is better.

You can build tighter lines with Perfect Rhyme ($1) or RhymeBook ($2), both of which work when you do not have an Internet connection.

Android users also have great choices, in part because Feelsocial, an app developer, has flooded the Android Market with inexpensive or free poetry apps. Death Poems, Philosophical Poems and Graduation Poems, among others, cost $1, and sit alongside many more free apps that are tied to birthdays, love, proverbs, numbers, broken families and the like.

The free Shakespeare Sonnets app lets you browse the bard’s 154 poems, mark your favorites and e-mail them to friends. With the $1 version of the app, you can search the sonnets or browse them by first line or chronologically, and post them to your Facebook page.

Other author-specific apps await, including Frostisms, a free app that lets users share their favorite Robert Frost quotes via Twitter and Facebook. The Shmoop series of literature tutorials will help you parse specific poems for $2 apiece. These are especially good for students, but casual literature buffs will find them useful as well.

August 22, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Propeller Pen


If only there was a way to affix it to your beanie, you'd be totally ready for the time machine.

From the website:


A 2009 design by Hirofumi Kanasashi.

Designed with precision metal craft techniques used to make aviation parts, this playful pen balances and spins on a stand when not in use.

Made of aluminum.

Uses Pilot refills.


Orange or Chrome.


August 22, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jigsaw Puzzle Floor


Wrote Sean Michael Ragan on Make, "My pal Angus Hines cut these interlocking wooden puzzle pieces from finish-grade oak plywood


using his ShopBot and installed them in a hallway of his Carrollton, Virginia home. The finish is Varathane high-traffic polyurethane.


There are more pictures in this Flickr set.

[via Neatorama and Milena]

August 22, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On/Off Mug


"A seemingly simple black stoneware mug with "OFF" printed in white transforms when filled with coffee, tea or any hot beverage. Within seconds the mug turns white with "ON" printed in black."


Batteries not required.



August 22, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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