Thursday, March 31, 2011

Practical Benefits of Working at a Fire Department

Anyone who has been near me for longer than 50 minutes in the last month has probably heard me talk about why I love my new job.  Working for the City of Round Rock - and specifically for the Round Rock Fire Department has more perks than a coffee shop.

It is my hope that many of the more obvious practical benefits of working with a group of highly trained life-savers will never be something I actually need.  However, today I experienced one of the highly valuable, extremely practical benefits of working at a fire station.  Today I got a flat tire.

I called my boss, who reminds me of my father more and more with each coming day.  (Seriously, when you visit me next, Dad, you need to meet my boss, ya'll would see eye to eye.)  He asked me if I wanted one of the guys to come down and change my flat for me.  At first, I thought I'd just use USAA (which is an awesome service I love having, when I'm not in the Round Rock city limits).  But then, I realized - it was still rush hour.  It would take USAA at least 45 minutes to just get a guy out to me.  I called him back.  Within 10 minutes, I had three guys from Engine 2 changing my tire, Nascar style.  I arrived at the office by 30 minutes after eight.  

So thanks guys, thanks Mr. Six (boss's nickname) and thank you God - I work at the Round Rock Fire Department (Training Division) and I couldn't be gladder!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Awesome Augmented Reality App Could Save Librarians Hours

See... this is the kind of thing that librarians need - time saving devices that let them spend more focus working with their patrons!

via ReadWriteWeb by Audrey Watters on 3/27/11

libraryshelf150.jpgIf you've ever worked in a library, you're familiar with the drudgery of shelf reading. That's the process of verifying that all the books on a shelf are in the right order, based on their call numbers. Books get out of order fairly easily, when they're taken off the shelf and examined, for example, or when they're just stuck in the wrong place.
Miami University's Augmented Reality Research Group (MU ARRG! - that exclamation point, I confess, is my addition), led by Professor Bo Brinkman, has developed an Android app that could save librarians a lot of time and hassle. Using the Android's camera, the app "reads" a bookshelf, and with an AR overlay, quickly flags those books that are misplaced. It will also point to the correct place on the bookshelf so the book can easily be re-shelved correctly.

The app can also aid with inventory, generating a report of what a library really has on its shelves.
There are a few drawbacks. Thin books, such as those found in the children's section, would be difficult to tag. Also, this prototype only uses 16 bits on the tag, but Brinkman says the group is working on a version that would allow them to put around 72 bits on a tag, allowing the system to scale up to work with any library collection.
The app was developed by undergraduate research assistant Matt Hodges, and it will be demoed next month at the Association of College and Research Libraries 2011 conference.
via Reddit; photo credits: Flickr user Stewart Butterfield

A Valuable Lesson (Courtesy of John Scalzi)

Indeed, Sensei Scalzi, indeed.

"I See No Possible Way How This Incredible Cover Letter Could Ever Fail!"
via Whatever by John Scalzi on 3/29/11

As a preface: I did not write this. I might have exploded had I tried.
[Author and address redacted]
Dear [Agent / Editor]

Prepare to be blown away.  In your hands you hold the first four pages of my debut epic, VIOLET THUNDER.  You have the truly unique opportunity to be one of the first to read a work that will undoubtedly revolutionize the publishing world.  Borrowing tropes from the epic fantasy, supernatural detective, and harlequin romance genres, I have crafted the first wholly original masterpiece in probably at least a century.
I know quality writing, and know a lot of other people who know quality writing.  A sample chapter presented to my mother's book club was described as, and I quote, "like nothing they had ever read before".  My high school English teacher told me that I should submit it right away, even though I only shared the first half of the first draft.

Now, I understand that conventionally you are expecting to see the first five pages.  I haven't done that.  Instead I am sending the first FOUR, so convinced am I that what you hold in your (no doubt trembling) hands is 20% better than anything you have ever read.  Ever.  Now, I am intimately familiar with everything you publish, but to avoid embarrassing any of your other authors I will not name names.  Suffice it to say that when you finish VIOLET THUNDER it is very likely that you will forget them, and will likely shit joy and barf rainbows.

My story follows the adventurous life of Sir Reginald Garret Von White Castle, a 900 year old katana wielding swordfighter from Prussia who, despite his great age and staggering accomplishments chooses to associate with and speak exactly like a modern day high school kid.  From the opening line "I always knew that, in teh end, I would be fucked by unicorns and glitter" to the mind blowing dénouement, Reginald leads you through a clandestine world of classic and completely new supernatural creatures who have all chosen to masquerade as high schoolers in a typical Midwest town with no defining features or characteristics.  This is so a reader could easily imagine him- or herself there (VIOLET THUNDER will appeal to both genders, and anyone who is or ever has gone through a trying transition to adulthood).

VIOLET THUNDER begins when Reggie's best friend Bob is kidnapped from the high school shower after third period gym.  Bob is a figmentationist, a person who can make anything happen that he imagines, except that it is never useful or impactful, and generally only functions when it is convenient for me, the author, to have it do so.  Obviously Reggie isn't going to stand for this, so he sets upon a journey of discovery, where he confronts glowing magic vampires, a succubae sponsored lesbian biker gang, mean cheerleaders, the sexually repressed high school councilor who is also a troll, and many other things so shocking that you need to read them in context to avoid some sort of brain hemorrhage.  In all instances Reggie starts with banter, but ends with a drawn katana and a decapitated foe.  He is also a police detective.

Through twists and turns literally nobody has seen coming, Reggie ends up in a final confrontation atop an incongruous Midwest skyscraper facing down his ex-girlfriend who now rides a magic unicorn who poops glitter and controls zombies.  I will not spoil the end for you, but suffice it to say that when they do it, it is totally hot.  You will be amazed when you finally discover the totally hidden meaning of Reggie's VIOLET THUNDER.

Please respond promptly, as I have simultaneously sent this to literally everyone in the publishing industry that I could find on the internet.  If you do not happen to be the first person to snap up the rights to VIOLET THUNDER and all future sequels, I apologize.  Judging by what I think authors make, this series should totally be worth at least a million dollars.

Thank you.

[Author's Name Redacted]
You may say, there is no way such a thing could possibly be real. But ask any agent or editor if they've ever received a cover letter like this. The answer may surprise/shock/depress you.
Also, in case you weren't clear on this: Dear writers, never do anything in this cover letter ever.
Thank you.
[John Scalzi]

Historically Hardcore

Gotta love it when museums make "pop-culture" references. The first one is my favorite. Yay Teddy Roosevelt! (You know, he actually worked getting shot INTO his speech as an example, several times!)

via Design Milk by Jaime on 3/22/11
These made me laugh so much that I had to share.
Historically Hardcore
Created by artist Jenny Burrows and copywriter Matt Kappler during school for their portfolios, these fake ads for a famous museum are spot on awesome. And well done. Unfortunately, that major museum was not a fan. Jenny had to change the text at the bottom to read "Museums" and change the logo. You can read all about that here.
Historically Hardcore
Historically Hardcore

On the Street....Eveline, Paris

There are two reasons I post this, #1: I love how her wrap dress and wrap shoes compliment each other, very nice! #2: I knew Scott would appreciate the photography of birds.

via The Sartorialist by The Sartorialist on 3/29/11

Geektastic lighting

This seems like it might go very well as overhead lighting in our library... so, how do you feel about crawling around in the attic, oh my husband?

via IKEA Hackers by Jules on 3/22/11

Materials: Hemma Cord Set, copper wire, blank printed circuit boards

I wanted to create some lighting for my apartment that would have a very geeky feel. After looking around and finding nothing I wanted I decided to create something from circuit boards.
I purchased blank printed circuit boards from ebay.
I used copper wire and insulated wire. (Local hardware store.)
I hooked this all into a Hemma cord set, well 3 of them for the 3 lights.

I wired the circuit boards together with the copper wiring visible as one square and two triangles. I tried using 5 of them but it was very heavy, the 3/4 seemed to be a good look and weight, they are hung with cup hooks using the hooks that came with the cord set.

I then suspended the Hemma fixture inside with insulated wiring. The piece that screws together allows for a good tight hold and the lights have held up very well for several months.

The circuit boards create a lot of visual interest because they have many different levels of light they let through. The light also creates a great visual on the ceiling above them.

Total cost was around $50 with materials left over.

~ Sara Reller

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Disney Princesses + SuckerPunch

I fully admit to being already excited about the lovechild of Steampunk, Anime and Strong Female Protagonists that is SuckerPunch. But the person who made this video? They are awesome, talented and super-cool. Friends of mine who make trailer/video mash-ups, take note, this is a top-notch example! (Okay, I only have, like, 2 friends who do this, and they're both pretty amazing. But still. It is awesome.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Barter for Instruction at Trade School

What an excellent concept! My dad will no-doubt think of it as slightly hippie in nature, but still... the idea of a learning community like that is something I've seen take off in a lot of different ways in the last few years. Best of luck to you, Trade School!

Barter for Instruction at Trade School

Tucked away in a back room on the 3rd floor of a nondescript church in NYC's NoLita neighborhood is Trade School. An initiative of Our Goods, Trade School encourages students to "barter for instruction." Basically you take a free class, and in exchange, you teach the teacher something they want to learn about! Classes range from making balloon animals to making soup, from learning dance forms to public advocacy, and even a How to Teach A Class class.

This past weekend I took a 1.5 hour class with Brooklyn's locavore and foraging specialist Leda Meredith. The class was Food Preservation for cans and jars, and was attended by a dozen students. In exchange, sometime in the future, I'll teach Leda on how to use File Transfer Protocal (FTP) to connect to her own websites and servers! A real deal for me, because whereas I make my own kombucha, kim chi, and sauerkraut, I was unaware of the simple science behind hermetically sealing jars for pickling food — whereas I can teach about FTP while I sleep!
Classes run until April 17th so if you're looking to learn or even to teach, get in touch with Trade School.

Vericon Schedule, Signing in Boston Area, ALLOY OF LAW Cover

Yay! New Brandon Sanderson Mistborn novel! STEAMPUNK COVER FTW, just, you know, in case you missed the goggles and bowler hat.

Vericon Schedule, Signing in Boston Area, ALLOY OF LAW Cover

via Brandon Sanderson Blog on 3/17/11 has revealed the cover art (below) for the Mistborn book that's coming out in November, THE ALLOY OF LAW. There's a short summary too. I may talk more about this later, but let me say that I love the art that Chris McGrath did for this.

More Blog Posts at

News - Watch Amy Pond Flirting With Herself

And now for something completely awesome... (plus, the "quasi-date" we've been waiting for - Easter 2011!)

News - Watch Amy Pond Flirting With Herself
via Dark Horizons - General Feed by Dark Horizons on 3/20/11

The BBC's Comic Relief Night saw the premiere of a two-part mini-sketch from "Doctor Who" penned by current showrunner Steven Moffat. It's a standalone piece that has TARDIS materialising in itself, Amy Pond flirting with herself, even a bit of fun innuendo with one joke about a TARDIS design feature that's strictly for you dirty old dads in the audience.
'Who' mini-episodes have popped up several times on Comic Relief over the years, Moffat himself penned two previous ones, most recently "Time Crash" (watch here) which has the tenth Doctor (David Tennant) meeting the fifth (Peter Davidson).
Watch both parts of this year's special below. The new season of 'Who' kicks off April 23rd in the US and UK with a new trailer for it due later this month:

Scanned Boards Custom Cut into Curved Hardwood Floors

This goes on the list. You know, the one I keep of AWESOME THINGS THAT MUST BE DONE... someday... when I can afford them...  in a dark hardwood...  (yes, "in a dark hardwood" is a category on the list.  Because that's just the way I roll, baby!)

[Picked up from Dornob, Filed under New Materials or in the More category ]

We have so much technology to design and build these days, but it is all meaningless without an application like this: a device scans each board that passes through the machine, evaluates its natural curves and structural properties, then slices it into perfectly-fitting but uniquely-shaped floorboards.

The technique itself is not new, strictly speaking – master craftsmen have done things like this for ages. But the work has historically been laborious – time- and labor-intensive to the point of being cost-prohibitive. Digitized by Bolefloor, it becomes mass-producible … yet remains customized.

Aside from the amazing visual effect of having organic-looking floors, each board nesting into the next, the process also strategically eliminates knots and other structurally-troublesome deformities while maximizing the amount of use from each board.

Further, each tree is tracked from the time and location it is cut down to the final destination of its installation. While eco-friendly cork and non-wood materials have made their way steadily to market, it is nice to see an actual new-wood alternative that still considers environmental impacts.

I Think I’ll Take My Chances With Stairwell 2

I feel happy!  I think I'll go for a walk!  What do you mean, stairwell 3 is a bad idea?

I Think I’ll Take My Chances With Stairwell 2
via There, I Fixed It - Redneck Repairs by Cheezburger Network on 3/17/11

white trash repairs - I Think I'll Take My Chances With Stairwell 2
Actually, I'll use this as a good excuse to just head home. ~Not-So-Handy Andy

Submitted by: codymc
Via: original photo

Monday, March 14, 2011

Support ur local

This is the first cat picture on my wall at work.  I look at it when my day gets a little too...directed.  :-)
via Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures of Cats - I Can Has Cheezburger? by Cheezburger Network on 3/10/11

funny pictures - Support ur local Search and Rescue unit
Support ur local Search and Rescue unit Git lost
sum fingz r bettur off lost…

Kinect + Tesla Coils: Those Fools At The Academy Laughed At You…


via Make: Online by Sean Michael Ragan on 3/14/11

If you only watch one online video today, it should be this one.
[via adafruit]

Thursday, March 10, 2011

30 Things We Need — and 30 We Don't

This may just end up printed and in my office. In fact, no maybe about it - I'm formatting this pretty and printing it up ASAP.

via by Tony Schwartz on 3/8/11

Do you have the feeling, as I do, that in the tsunami of everyday life, we're getting too much of stuff we don't need, and not enough of what we do? Herewith my first set of suggestions about how to redress the imbalance:
Shallow billionairesPassionate teachers
MultitaskingControl of our attention
SugarLean protein
Super sizesSmaller portions
Private jetsHigh-speed trains
BlamingTaking responsibility
Constructive criticismThank-you notes
RighteousnessDoing the right thing
Long hoursLonger sleep
CynicismRealistic optimism
Immediate gratificationSacrifice

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Hot Seats! Stools Set on Fire to Create Charred Log Chairs

It seems that fire-themed items are just zooming across the Interwebs! The pyromaniac in me really, really, REALLY wants to try this.

via Dornob by dornob on 3/9/11

[ Filed under Furniture or in the Chairs category ]

Titled 'Burnt Out' (Ausgebrannt), well, they are indeed – the char-encrusted voids are the result of searing each seat, carved a unique shape with heat and flame rather than a saw or chisel.

Kaspar Hamacher strips raw logs of their bark, then sets smaller blazing logs atop the chopped stumps – by criss-crossing and repeating, a pair of bisecting lines slices down into the underside of each seat (leaving four rough-edged legs behind).

The (de)construction work is done, appropriately enough, in a forest atelier setting where the wood can be safely set alight and allowed to burn freely.

Of course, the concept is cool, but in reality the furniture has some issues that need addressing – wastefulness and pollution being obvious, but sealing off the charred remnants might not be the easiest thing either.

What Are Those Brick Circles in SF Streets?

I'm especially interested in this given my new place-of-work.  Although, I must say, SF is full of architectural curiosities.  Makes me want to visit there - or at the very least, re-read Laurie King's Locked Rooms.

What Are Those Brick Circles in SF Streets?

via CALIBER by Stuart on 3/8/11

There's actually an interesting story behind them…

I've seen these brick circles, or sometimes half circles, in the center of various intersections through out the city. I thought they might be historical markers or previous landmarks. In fact, each brick circle outlines an underground cistern full of pressurized water. The cisterns, ranging in size from 10,000 gallons to 250,000 gallons, are supplemental water supplies for the SF Fire Dept in addition to the high pressure and low pressure systems. They are accessible by special green hydrant valves and are tested every few years to ensure integrity.
There are 172 cisterns strategically spread throughout SF, totaling 11 million gallons of auxiliary water, enough to cover the city 1.25″ deep, and are part of the San Francisco Fire Department Auxiliary Water Supply System, a subset of The San Francisco High Pressure Water System.
Fifty four of the oldest were built as early as 1860. They exist independently of other water systems in the city and were put in place following the 1906 earthquake. As you may recall, it was the fires following the quake that destroyed most of the city and lack of water supply was a key reason the conflagration was able to do so much damage. In the event we were to experience another catastrophic earthquake, the high pressure supply system could be compromised and fire fighters would need immediate access to large quantities of water. These cisterns provide that additional flow, and as part of the high pressure supply, are unique to any city in the United States.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be investigating this High Pressure System further. It's unique to this city, quite complex and is made up of a lot of interesting landmarks that are fun to hunt down.

sources and more info:

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Cutting-Edge Fashion by Daniel Widrig and Iris van Herpen

Normally I wouldn't post something like this - it is way too wacky for me. But after Dad's comment on my last fashion post, I had to share this one. See, Dad, the "Princess Leia" outfits were NORMAL in comparison! This, THIS belongs in a 2001: A Space Odessey/The Princess of Mars crossover!

However, I will say... this is a very...interesting...use of a technology I AM following closely: 3D printing.

Cutting-Edge Fashion by Daniel Widrig and Iris van Herpen
via Design Milk by Jaime on 3/8/11

London-based architect Daniel Widrig and Sutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen first collaborated at Amsterdam Fashion Week in 2010 on a collection called Crystallization (above) — a fashion collection of 3D-printed dresses. Escapism is the continuation of this collaboration and launched at Paris Fashion week earlier this year.

The goal of the Escapism collection is to take 3D printing and push the limits on the wearability of the printed pieces. It investigates the possibility of using advanced technologies and computer-aided design to create haute couture fashions made of fiber-like elements that are lightweight and flexible.
Cutting Edge Fashion by Daniel Widrig and Iris van Herpen
Cutting Edge Fashion by Daniel Widrig and Iris van Herpen

Cutting Edge Fashion by Daniel Widrig and Iris van Herpen

Cutting Edge Fashion by Daniel Widrig and Iris van Herpen
Cutting Edge Fashion by Daniel Widrig and Iris van Herpen
The collection was produced in collaboration with New York based label .MGX by Materialise via Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) in Polyamide.

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© 2011 Design Milk | Posted by Jaime in Art, Style & Fashion | Permalink | No comments

Beautiful Old Wood Barn Renovated into a Fresh New Home

I love almost everything about this conversion. My only dislike is the stable-like bed arrangment in... with such a fresh and airy conversion, you'd think they'd avoid looking so institutional!

[Courtesy of, filed under Conversions or in the Architecture category ]

Barns tend to be rich in history but mixed in terms of materiality, made for functional on-the-farm purposes with owners little realizing they might one day live where pigs and chickens used to lay (eggs or otherwise).

This structure is a lovely layered and deeply-textured exception – particularly following a fantastic renovation effort turning it into a downright dazzling contemporary house.

SHED architects worked some serious wonders in programming this old building with a workroom, kitchen, lofted living area, guest apartment and multiple bathrooms. All of this also had to be done with historic preservation in mind.

Skylights and bay windows opened up the interior to let in additional daylight, while a limited material and color palette kept any additions from drawing attention away from the existing elements. Meanwhile, recycled surface materials, plumbing pipes and more were utilized throughout.

Salvaged exterior siding became interior paneling – scrap floorboards turned into new stairs, trim and counter-top material.  All in all, there is a timeless look to the end product; a traditional farmstead structure has definitely been giving a great new lease on life.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Haider Ackermann Fall 2011

I concur with my favorite fashionista blogger - best collection I've seen so far. I love the use of textures and fabrics, structure and looseness. AWESOME.

Haider Ackermann Fall 2011: "What a great follow-up to his outstanding Spring 2011 show. Right now, Haider Ackermann is the collection to beat for Best Show of the Season.