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May 13, 2011

Helpful Hints from joeeze: What to do if warned of an approaching tornado while in a skyscraper

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Wrote C. Claiborne Ray in her Q&A column in Tuesday's New York Times, "Go to an interior area away from windows, on a lower floor, if possible. Interior staircases are usually safe.... In skyscrapers as well as in low-rise buildings, a major risk is windborne debris."

So stay inside.

Illustration up top by the Times' inimitable Victoria Roberts.

May 13, 2011 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

iKeyboard — touch-type on the iPad

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Cliff Thier's Kickstarter brainstorm has already tripled its goal with 45 days to go.

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What is it?

 
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In his own words, "My invention, the iKeyboard, addresses the one drawback of a tablet computer — the impossibility of touch-typing on its virtual keyboard."

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"My solution is to provide the feedback missing from a virtual keyboard by 'grafting,' or piggybacking, a real keyboard onto the screen. My invention — the iKeyboard — will sit atop the virtual keyboard and be lightweight. It will add little bulk and not increase the footprint of the tablet. It will be easy and fast to deploy and remove.The iKeyboard will improve accuracy and typing speed, letting tablet users do real writing."

I'd like to try it.

May 13, 2011 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Mosfilm on YouTube

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It's on — literally.

From Mike Hale's "Arts, Briefly" item in the May 2, 2011 New York Times:

For Eisenstein, you can go to Netflix and stream "Battleship Potemkin" or "Ivan the Terrible." For Dovzhenko, you can stream "Earth" at Netflix or "Arsenal" at Amazon. For Pudovkin, "Mother" is at Amazon.

But what if you're looking for a more recent, if less familiar, brand of Russian cinema? Like, say, Vitali Moskalenko's 2002 Volga river-boat comedy, "The Chinese Tea-Set." Or Emil Loteanu's 1979 adaptation of the Chekhov novella "The Shooting Party" (original title "My Tender and Affectionate Beast").

For those, you'll need to go to the YouTube channel of Mosfilm, the Russian film studio and production company. Over the last month 50 or so films from the company's library, with English subtitles, have been posted.

Determining exactly how many films are available, or what they are, takes a little work for a non-Russian-speaker, since the site is entirely in Cyrillic. With the help of your browser’s translation function and a little cross-referencing on the Internet Movie Database, it's possible to identify what you’re looking at.

There are some older, more familiar titles in the mix, like Andrei Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev" (1966) and "Solaris" (1972) and Mikhail Kalatozov's 1957 film "The Cranes Are Flying." Perhaps the most noteworthy director represented is Kurosawa, whose Siberian adventure "Dersu Uzala" was a Soviet-Japanese co-production.

Other films, while little known in America, have opened here and won praise, like Mr. Loteanu's "Shooting Party," which Vincent Canby of The New York Times called "a fascinating, almost intoxicating experience."

Five films will be added to the channel each week.

Kristin M. Jones wrote about the Mosfilm channel in a May 10, 2011 Wall Street Journal article, from which excerpts follow.

 Karen Shakhnazarov, Mosfilm's general director and also a filmmaker, producer and screenwriter, released a statement saying in part: "For us the project with YouTube is very important and interesting. The aim is to offer users the possibility to view online legal quality video content and prevent illegal use of our films." Fifty titles were initially made available, and five more are being uploaded each week; by the end of the year, Mosfilm aims to have uploaded more than 200 movies to Mosfilm's YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/mosfilm). Many are subtitled.

What does this unprecedented access mean for Mosfilm and for film enthusiasts? One benefit is to show Western cinéastes that Soviet cinema encompasses more than Socialist Realism and groundbreaking classics.

The array of movies viewers can explore includes not only masterworks by Tarkovsky, such as his complex, dreamlike meditation on memory, "The Mirror" (1974), but also comedies, live-action and animated fantasy films, musicals, melodramas and action and adventure films. Seagull Films has shown hundreds of Mosfilm titles, many in collaboration with New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center. "It looks like a sketch of all the programs we've done," Ms. Verlotsky said, citing a string of examples. They include Mr. Shakhnazarov's perestroika-era "Zero City" (1988), a surreal allegory laced with absurdism, which screened in a series on Russian fantastic cinema. "Nine Days of One Year" (1961), Mikhail Romm's ambivalent tribute to technological progress, appeared in a retrospective of Soviet films from the 1960s. And Vladimir Motyl's folktale-western mash-up "White Sun of the Desert" (1969), a favorite among cosmonauts, recently ran in a series on Soviet "Easterns."

Watching movies online may be a radically different experience from viewing them on the big screen, but the partnership highlights the complicated forces behind the trend. And in this case there is something magical about being able to click open a treasure box of Russian and Soviet cinema on one's computer screen.

There goes the day.

May 13, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Air Conditioned Shirt

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From the website:

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The USB Air Conditioned Shirt is a fantastic cooling invention for hot days.

USB-powered fans blow fresh air into the shirt.

Great for any hot office or room, or even for portable action with a laptop or other device.

There’s simply nothing else out there like it.

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$258.

May 13, 2011 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Typography deconstructed: "A comprehensive guide to the anatomy of type"

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From Ampersand to X-Height.

[via Milena]

May 13, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

TSOVET SVT-NM85 Blackout Watch

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From the website:

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Part of TSOVET’s Series 2, the SVT-NM85 is heavily influenced by the Imperial Navy’s Baltic fleet divers.

This hybrid Diver has a brushed finish 50mm media-etched case with hand-applied model name plate and 11mm locking screw-down crown which epitomizes TSOVET's modern styling.

Toughness and reliability, a trademark of divers in shipbuilding yards across the world, are key factors in crafting the NM85’s Swiss made components.

• Scratch-resistant anti-reflective hardened mineral crystal case

• PVD coated dial, non-magnetic, etched with matte finish

• Matte corrosion-resistant PVD black case

• 50mm three-piece case with fixed bezel

• Water-resistant – 10ATM (100M/300)

• 23mm black Italian rubber strap

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£459.

[via Fancy]

May 13, 2011 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The incredible floating fire ant

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Brian Vastag's April 25, 2011 Washington Post front page story reported on a study by mechanical engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology investigating fire ant raft structure and function, published April 20, 2011 in the Proceedings of the National Academies.

Excerpts from the Post article follow.

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[Caption for video above: "Side view time lapse (10x) of an ant raft composed of about 3,000 ants spreading out on the surface of water.]

When in danger of drowning, a colony of the critters — thousands of them — will save themselves by joining forces and forming a raft. They pile together and lock legs and jaws.

So bound, an ant raft can survive for months.

Engineers studying animal oddities now report that together, the ants aren’t just stronger. They’re floatier. Airtight, even.

"Water does not penetrate the raft," said Nathan Mlot, a mechanical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology and lead author of the ant-raft report published in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academies. Even the bottom layer of ants stays dry, he said.

And although individual fire ants have been thoroughly studied in the lab, until now no one had bothered to figure out how ant rafts float.

The uneven, hairy surface of the ant’s skin explains this phenomenon. Bumpy, bristly, or otherwise rough surfaces repel water because of something called the Cassie-Baxter law of wetting.

This physical law states that as a surface gets rougher, water has a tougher time touching it. Duck feathers also repel water because of their tiny bumps.

In the lab, Mlot deposited colonies of 500 to 8,000 ants in large beakers. When gently swirled, each colony spontaneously formed a sphere.

[Caption for video above: "Top view time lapse (15x) of an ant raft composed of about 8,000 ants spreading out on the surface of water."]

Mlot dropped these spheres into water, and the amazing social behavior of ants became evident. The ants on top of the ball crawled down to the water and grabbed onto other water-level compatriots. The next layer of top ants then crawled to the edge, and so on. In about a minute and a half, each ant-sphere flattened into a dome, then flattened further into a pancake shape — a raft.

This togetherness pushes each ant’s individual air bubble against the next ant’s bubble. The bubbles join, protecting the whole raft.

"If water can’t come into contact with one ant, or the next, or the next, air can't get through," said Mlot.

The rafts are so buoyant that the engineers had to push them eight inches underwater before any water leaked through. As the rafts submerged, the ants pulled together even more tightly, working together to maintain their watertight communal craft.

When building these structures, no single ant is in charge. Yet what looks like chaos is really communal organization. The individuals act as one, becoming what entomologists call a super-organism.

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The Ant Raft web page has three videos and four pictures of various aspects of ant raft formation and function.

The Georgia Tech Ant Lab YouTube channel features seven videos.

[Caption for video above: "Panning across an ant raft of about 3,000 ants on the surface of water. This view also shows the undersurface of the raft. Note how the bottom layer of ants remains on the water's surface so that water is prevented from penetrating the raft."]

Here is the abstract of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies.

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Fire ants self-assemble into waterproof rafts to survive floods

Why does a single fire ant Solenopsis invicta struggle in water, whereas a group can float effortlessly for days? We use time-lapse photography to investigate how fire ants S. invicta link their bodies together to build waterproof rafts. Although water repellency in nature has been previously viewed as a static material property of plant leaves and insect cuticles, we here demonstrate a self-assembled hydrophobic surface. We find that ants can considerably enhance their water repellency by linking their bodies together, a process analogous to the weaving of a waterproof fabric. We present a model for the rate of raft construction based on observations of ant trajectories atop the raft. Central to the construction process is the trapping of ants at the raft edge by their neighbors, suggesting that some “cooperative” behaviors may rely upon coercion.

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May 13, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Hummingbird Harvesting Scissors

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"Ring-shaped handle allows use of both hands while keeping scissors at hand."

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Blade length 1-1/8"; overall length 4-1/2".

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$14.

[via Fancy]

May 13, 2011 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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