Monday, November 29, 2010

Which shipping company is hardest on your packages?

Using a self-powered data logger equipped with an ARM microcontroller evaluation board, a three-axis accelerometer and a massive Energizer Energi To Go XP18000 battery, Popular Mechanics shipped a variety of packages using the three most popular shippers: FedEx, UPS and the USPS. None of the shippers were alerted and the packages were sent through the usual shipping channels. During the test a few variables were manipulated to see if the treatment of the packages changed. Was overnight shipping more or less violent than three-day? Did marking the package "Fragile" or "This Side Up" ensure more careful treatment?

Before the first journey, the ­National Instruments engineers collected baseline g-force readings. "We dropped the package from different heights, kicked it around our building, ran down the stairs with it in a backpack and took it on a car ride—giving real-world meaning to how many g's the package endured," says Kuhlman. The findings: A moderate jostle exerts 2 g's, while a 2.5-foot drop registers 6 g's; we set the latter as our limit for rough treatment. "Our co-workers thought we were a bit odd," says Brettle, "but we assured them it was all in the name of science."

The results are summarized in the chart below, and detailed results are available at the referenced site.

A few months ago we posted an interesting video demonstrating the method used to produce those "marbled" endpapers that grace many of our most treasured books. Here are a few more designs and details. I also offer a link (gratis) to Amazon where you may peruse "Marbled Paper: Its History, Techniques, and Patterns".

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The Portland Mercury asked readers to contribute their worst Thanksgiving memories. They did with relish (no pun). How can you fault stories that contain the phrases, "Goddamn it, boy, come slit this thing's throat, already!" or - maybe even better - " friend accidentally dropped the turkey... on a baby. The drippings showered the infant and the lap of her mother, who had been cradling her, and the turkey itself kind of bounced off the baby's head."

Full text here. Even more from The New York Times.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TSA Gone Wild!

TSA Gone Wild

12 events that will change everything!

What dramatic new events are in store for humanity? Scientific American presents an interactive website exploring twelve possibilities and rating their likelihood of happening by the year 2050. From extinction-causing asteroid collisions to evil robots, the site is thought provoking and cautionary.

The Morrow Project - 4 free short stories predicting the future of technology

Brian David Johnson is a futurist and future-caster at Intel Corporation. In this video, he outlines the importance of future research and speaks about “The Morrow-Project” from Intel were the four bestselling authors Douglas Rushkoff, Ray Hammond, Scarlett Thomas and Markus Heitz created short stories about the technology of tomorrow. eBook downloads in both ePub and PDF format, as well as audio podcasts of the works are available here.

Detailed photos of the Sistine Chapel

While ther are numerous wonderful sites devoted to the art of the Sistine Chapel, this site has the most detailed photographs and interesting commentary we have seen. While it can not replicate the sense of awe experienced while visiting the iconic chapel personally, the site will let you appreciate the intricacies of the artwork much more.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bad vintage fashions. Did we wear these things?!

Seems to be the day for really bad are some more....

Vintage ads that would NEVER be allowed today

Many more here,, and they get a LOT worse. Be warned....

Take the "apostrophe test"

Can you correctly place apostrophes? Take these tests. Test one, and test two.

Found at Coudal Partners

Magazine designer's Guide to Magazines

Click to enlarge

Found at Coudal Partners

Fascinating film shot from a fast-moving camera

We have all seen numerous films of high-speed cameras catching high-speed events like shot bullets, but what if the camera itself was the fast moving object” Very relative...

More info here.

Marilyn Monroe was an intellectual heavyweight

Click to enlarge (and try to read the titles!)

From The Independent:
She was the original blonde; her platinum curls inspiring millions of women to reach for the bottle. But Marilyn Monroe was no stereotypical intellectual lightweight, according to a collection of her own private writings that will paint an alternative picture of the cinematic icon when it is published this autumn.

The film star reveals her passion for literary giants including James Joyce, Walt Whitman and Samuel Beckett in previously unseen diary entries, musings and poems, challenging the popular myth that blondes are supposed to be dumb.

Monroe, whose death at the age of 36 remains a mystery, was an avid reader and something of a culture vulture while she lived in New York, frequently visiting museums and attending plays. Not that she got any credit for her intellect. Michelle Morgan, who wrote Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, said: "She played ditzy blondes and for some reason people believed that was the person she was, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. It's intriguing that she seems to be one of the only actresses who people confuse with her parts. People believed she was a joke but she was always trying to better herself."
More at the above link...


Test your political IQ

To test your knowledge of prominent people and major events in the news, we invite you to take our short 12-question quiz. Then see how you did in comparison with 1,001 randomly sampled adults asked the same questions in a national survey conducted Nov. 11-14, 2010 by the Pew Research Center.

(my score is above....just sayin')

From Pew Research

A holiday giving alternative that can really help

Instead of giving a holiday gift no one really needs, why not donate a flock of chickens or a dairy cow to a destitute village, warm clothes and a dry bed to someone who needs help, or reading lessons so someone can land a job.

Take a look at an Alternative Market that can really make a difference in someone's life. Donations may be made via PayPal:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Shameless PBS plug - John Lennon on American Masters 11/22/2010

Watch the full episode. See more American Masters.

There really is a "burning bush"!

Dictamnus albus is a flowering plant native to parts of Europe and Asia (but not North Africa or the Middle East, and it doesn't come with the voice of a higher being). For most of the year it acts as a normal plant, but over the summer months, it develops a sticky, flammable oily substance which sometimes spontaneously sparks in the heat. The excretion, when lit, burns rapidly -- so rapidly, in fact, that the plant itself is typically unscathed. Watch it in action:

Found at Dan Lewis' "Now I Know"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stunning photographs of Earth as art

Admittedly, the images are enhanced by the false colors the satellite imagery injects, but these are stunning!

above: Great Salt Desert, Iran

Like poster paints run wild, this image reveals an eclectic montage of landscapes in Iran's largest desert, the Dasht-e Kavir, or Great Salt Desert. The word kavir is Persian for salt marsh. The almost-uninhabited region covers an area of more than 77,000 square kilometers [29,730 square miles] and is a mix of dry streambeds, desert plateaus, mudflats and salt marshes. Extreme heat, dramatic daily temperature swings, and violent storms are the norm in this inhospitable place.

Image taken by Landsat 7 on Feb. 10, 2003

found at

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

10 Centuries in 5 Minutes

The creators of this, Centennia Software, would prefer you pay $79.00 for a single user license for this, so they forced it off YouTube. Certainly, we understand - and good luck with that.

This is a fascinating video that depicts a thousand years of European history--and the fluidity of its borders--in just 5 minutes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The map of online communities

This holiday season is the "tipping point" for eReaders

No longer an exclusive staple of Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple, eReaders are now available at such mainstream outlets as Target, BestBuy, Wal-Mart, Staples and even Walgreens! eReaders are expected to be the gift of choice this holiday season. A recent Consumer Reports poll showed 10 percent of adults surveyed plan to give an e-reader as a gift this year, up from 4 percent in 2009. Forrester research expects the number of eReaders in circulation to increase by 1.3 million by the end of the year pushing total readership to 10.3 million. Research also indicates that 1 in 5 Kindle users received the device as a gift.
“Last year, when you think of the e-reader category, it was Nook and Kindle and Sony, but primarily Nook and Kindle if you look at the sales,” said William Lynch, chief executive of Barnes & Noble. “The difference this year is, there’s a whole lot more choice.”
It will be interesting to see if eBook sales spike on Christmas day as new eReader owners download their first purchases.

More from the NYT here.

Monday, November 08, 2010

eBook sales will approach $1billion dollars

James McQuivey reports in his blog that Forrestor research has released a study predicting that eBook sales in 2010 will reach $966 million. By 2015, the industry will have nearly tripled to almost $3 billion, a point at which the industry will be forever altered. Furthermore, only seven percent of U.S. online adults currently read e-books, Forrester found, and that bodes a potential market that is likely ready to explode. According to the survey, current readers of digital material, when asked how many e-books they expected to read a year from now, said 51 percent (would be digital).

And the biggest winner in the e-book sweepstakes? Forrester says it will be … the Kindle.
“Sure, other eReaders have been introduced that are intriguing, but Amazon has a secret weapon: an existing relationship with a large share of all book buyers,” Forrester said. “Four in 10 people who own or expect to buy an eReader shop at Amazon for physical books. Exactly 50% of people who bought an eBook in the past month have bought eBooks from Amazon’s Kindle store.”

“This is why we’re convinced that Amazon’s Kindle store will be the most used eBook store, even on the iPad or any other platform open to its Kindle apps.”

Kim Rugg: Cut-up artist. Amazing!

Kim Rugg is a Canadian visual artist who uses a very sharp knife and a lot of patience and glue to turn newspapers, stamps and other paper ephemera into delightful and demented art like newspapers in which all the type has been rearranged in alphabetical order. The work is a beautiful and provocative commentary on the form and content of print media.

She also deconstructs stamps by cutting them into intricately small pieces and reassembling them into whimsical shapes. As often as not, they are accepted by the post and are delivered!

Batgirl and Superman's Mom were both librarians

"Superman’s biological mother, Lara Lor-Van, was the archivist and librarian in the capital city’s archives on the planet Krypton."

Found at TYWKIWDBI via Librarianista.

The most mysterious book on Earth

Thought to have been written in the 15th or 16th century and comprising about 240 vellum pages, nearly everything about the Voynich Manuscript is a mystery. No one knows who wrote it, when it was written, or why. The language it is written in is unknown, as is the script used to write it. Nearly every page is illustrated with images of herbs or zodiac signs but no one knows why they are there. The consensus is that it's a pharmacology book, but that is only a guess.

The tome is named for Wilfrid Michael Voynich, a bookseller from the early 1900s who came into its possession in 1912 and popularized its inherent mystery. Some even think the book is a hoax, intended by Voynich to defraud a purchaser. Voynich reportedly tried to link the book to Roger Bacon, one of the earliest advocates for the modern-day scientific method and one enamored of calendars and mathematics.

The manuscript has some characteristics that suggest it actually does mean something -- at least to the author. The text is written left to right with an irregular right margin, and the pen strokes used suggest that the author was writing something intelligible. The glyphs used to spell the "words" used are consistent throughout the manuscript and compose what appears to be an alphabet of twenty to thirty unique characters. These "words" follow rough rules of language -- some letters only appear with other letters; some letters appear only at the beginning or end of words. Some words are clustered around certain topics (as delineated by the illustrations). All of this, combined, suggests that the Voynich Manuscript's corpus consists of a cohesive discussion about something.

In 2009, University of Arizona researchers performed C14 dating on the manuscript's vellum, which they assert (with 95% confidence) was made between 1404 and 1438. In addition, the McCrone Research Institute in Chicago found that much of the ink was added not long after, confirming that the manuscript is indeed an authentic medieval document. However, these results have yet to be published properly, leaving room for continued speculation.

Full text scans of the book are available at

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Amphibolies: I'm just sayin'

Amphibolies are syntactically ambiguous, meaning you can read them in more than one way.

Drunk gets nine months in violin case

Farmer bill dies in house

iraqi head seeks arms

prostitutes appeal to pope

British left waffles on falkland islands

Lung cancer in women mushrooms

Teacher strikes idle kids

Enraged cow injures farmer with axe

Miners refuse to work after death

Stolen painting found by tree

Two sisters reunited after 18 years in checkout counter

Never withhold herpes infection from loved one

Kids make nutritious snacks

Lansing residents can drop off trees

Local high school dropouts cut in half

Hospital sued by seven foot doctors

New vaccine may contain rabies

Include your children when baking cookies

Blatantly stolen here

Many more over at TYWKIWDBI
Written and Directed by Paul Rojanathara and Davis Johnson, INFLUENCERS is a short documentary that explores what it means to be an influencer and how trends and creativity become contagious today in music, fashion and entertainment.

MySpace is dying

Who Cares?

I have had a MySpace account for several years, but it has been over a year since I even bothered to log into the site. I did today and found absolutely nothing of value there. The homepage is a morass of adverts hawking movies and services in which I have absolutely no interest. Admittedly, these comments are skewed by my own perceptions and expectations, but it seems I am not alone.

News Corp. COO Chase Carey has put executives at MySpace on notice: Get the social network business fixed fast, or else.

"We've been clear that MySpace is a problem," Carey told Wall Street analysts in an earnings call. "The current losses are not acceptable or sustainable."

Full article and commentary is here

Media Surfaces: Incidental Media. An augmented reality that might just be of value.

Found at BoingBoing

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Springer Publishing says no to DRM

From the article in Publishers Weekly

“We’re not concerned about piracy,” said George Scotti, Springer Verlag’s director of channel marketing, when asked about the Springer e-book program, which allows institutional customers to lend Springer e-books without DRM protection. Seventy percent of Springer’s business comes from big academic and research libraries, Scotti said, and they are adamant that they don’t want DRM or other such restrictions on the e-books they buy from Springer.

Launched in 2006, Springer’s e-book program offers 40,000 titles in the PDF format in the science, technical, and medical category (including some textbooks). The company consulted with its institutional customers when it designed the program back in 2005. “We showed them our original plans and they said, ‘Start over,’ with no DRM,” said Scotti (although national consumer retailers require DRM on Springer e-books). The result, he said, has been “a better user experience leading to increased usage and a better ROI for the libraries.” Scotti said that Springer e-book downloads (for books and journals) in 2008 were up 33%, and downloads from 2007 to 2009 more than doubled.
“Libraries buy direct from us and they own the content,” he said. “Once users download content, they can give it out, share, whatever. They own it.” Scotti explained that once libraries have paid for the content, the e-books are available without charge to everyone at these institutions, so there’s no need to repost or redistribute it online. Once the e-book is downloaded from the library, no return is necessary. “Some of our competitors are afraid to do this,” Scotti said, “but we say, free the content.’”

Monday, November 01, 2010

Keith Richards wanted to become a librarian

From the article in The Daily Mail:
When it comes to living a life of excess, he virtually wrote the rulebook.

But fans eager to hear about Keith Richard's debaucherous tales of sex, drugs and rock n roll in his upcoming autobiography may be a little disappointed.

It appears that the guitarist has made a rather startling confession: He is in fact an avid bookworm who has taken great pride in developing libraries inside his homes in Sussex and Connecticut.

Sources in the publishing world who are familiar with the contents of his memoirs, claim he admits to once considering 'professional training' to manage his vast collection of books.

And to quote Keith:
'When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equaliser.'

Zombies in the Library 2011 Calendar

From the site:
This year the South Australian Library & Information Network (SALIN) Committee has chosen to celebrate our diverse and changing profession through production of the 2011 calendar “Zombies in the Library”. In 12 beautifully rendered scenes the calendar covers such topics as the role of the Zombie in reference, the frustrations faced when the Undead hog the photocopier, and for cataloguers, poses the eternal question: 299.675 or 398.21? All calendars come in A3 size, are professionally bound and beautifully printed (and you can even choose your starting month). Whether its something for the wall in Technical Services or simply a Xmas present for Mum, be sure to place your order.

To preview the calendar simply go to:

Zombies in the Library

Profits from each sale will go towards recovering the Committee’s costs and donated to a charity (if we get to that point).