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October 13, 2018

1890 Mechanical Singing Bird

From Atlas Obscura:


The video above shows a mechanical singing bird from Paris circa 1890.

It's not much larger than the size of a fist but reproduces the sound of birdsong almost exactly.

Even though your new iPhone may be capable of the same feat, you can bet it doesn't look nearly as steampunk while doing so.

The whirs and ticks of the mechanism somehow add to the soothing element of the song and video.

Be careful about playing it out loud at your desk, though — your coworkers may think that a bird has made its way into the office.

October 13, 2018 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Cleopatra's Needle in Central Park


Who knew?

Not me, until I read this in the Economist: "The London obelisk is one of a pair. The other was given to America — and has also been largely forgotten. It sits in a lonely corner of Central Park in New York [above]."

Made of red granite and standing 69 feet high, it weighs about 200 tons and is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs.

From Wikipedia


It was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III in 1475 BCE.

The granite was brought from the quarries of Aswan, near the first cataract of the Nile.

The inscriptions were added about 200 years later by Ramesses II to commemorate his military victories.

The obelisk were moved to Alexandria and set up in the Caesareum — a temple built by Cleopatra in honor of Mark Antony or Julius Caesar — by the Romans in 12 BC, during the reign of Augustus, but was toppled some time later.

This had the fortuitous effect of burying the faces and so preserving most of the hieroglyphs from the effects of weathering.

October 13, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

New typeface said to improve recall of what's read

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 3.20.28 PM


Can you remember what you read above?

From The Guardian:


Font of all knowledge? Researchers develop typeface they say can boost memory

Researchers say font, which slants to the left and has gaps in each letter, can aid recall

Australian researchers say they have developed a new tool that could help students cramming for exams — a font that helps the reader remember information.

Melbourne-based RMIT University’s behavioral business lab and design school teamed up to create "Sans Forgetica," which they say uses psychological and design theories to aid memory retention.

About 400 university students have been involved in a study that found a small increase in the amount participants remembered — 57% of text written in Sans Forgetica compared with 50% in a plain Arial.

Typography lecturer Stephen Banham said the font had an unusual seven-degree back slant to the left and gaps in each letter.

"The mind will naturally seek to complete those shapes and so by doing that it slows the reading and triggers memory," Banham told the Guardian.

Senior marketing lecturer Janneke Blijlevens said the concept of "desirable difficulty" underpinned the font's design.

"When we want to learn something and remember it, it's good to have a little bit of an obstruction added to that learning process because if something is too easy it doesn’t create a memory trace," she told the Guardian. "If it's too difficult, it doesn't leave a memory trace either. So you need to look for that sweet spot."

The font was designed with year 12 students cramming for exams in mind but could also be used to help people studying foreign languages and elderly people grappling with memory loss.

Blijlevens is keen to test the font in other contexts such as proofreading.

Banham, who has created about 20 fonts, said the typeface would be best used for short texts.

"God no, you wouldn't want novels printed in it, it would probably induce a headache*," he said.

The font took about six months to develop and there were three different versions tested.

 Sans Forgetica is available free to download as a font and Chrome browser extension at sansforgetica.rmit.


Click here to read this article in Sans Forgetica.

FWIW (apologies to Susan Ishida), I got a headache from reading the first couple sentences of the sample up top.

October 13, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Desk Pen


This should put paid to peeps stealing your pen.

It's unlikely the perp will place it on their desk in the intended rest position.*

From the website:



This pen fits seamlessly in its curved base, creating a shape that looks like a line drawn in air.
The base can be placed on any flat surface, and the aluminum and brass pen is a bit heavier to the feel, ideal for writing.
Features and Details:
• White, Silver, Black, Orange
• Designed by Chiaki Murata
• 4.8"H x 2.6" W x 2.4"D
• Aluminum, Brass
• Made in Japan




*Unless you work at a very strange company

October 13, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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