Thursday, June 30, 2011

Under Sink Solution: Hang Spray Bottles From Tension Rod A Thousand Words

BRILLIANCE! I love organizational goodness, but this is sheer simplicity and intelligence. AWESOME! I shall do this post-haste!

via Apartment Therapy Main by Tara Bellucci on 6/28/11

If the cabinet under your sink could use a little organization, check out this quick fix. For more under sink storage and easier access to the Windex, try hanging those spray bottles from a tension rod.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Amazon Mp3 - $2.00 Credit applied to account After Coupon - Valid June 27-30

This is legit - I've gotten an Abney Park song and am figuring out what I want to get with my other buck. :-)

Amazon Mp3 - $2.00 Credit applied to account After Coupon - Valid June 27-30

via Hot Deals on 6/27/11

Rating: 266 Posted By: 116sloppyjoe116
Views: 5468 Replies: 69

1. Go to
link to redeem coupon code
2. Type in code: CLOUDMP3
3. $2.00 Credit will be applied to your account for future use.
Code details: link - thanks dvdjunkie

Good luck!
99 Must-Have Mozart Masterpieces - $1.99 Link -Thanks Sartor
60 Essential Royal Wedding Classics - $1.99 Link - Thanks Templeboy

Monday, June 27, 2011

Terraria vs Minecraft: Why 2D Is King

This looks like a lot of fun!

 Why 2D Is King

Ever since the behemoth that is Minecraft starting eating all the monies in the world, other developers - both indie and AAA alike - have been trying to work out what the heckers makes it so popular. Then there are those developers who have decided to take it a step further and make their own Minecraft, with success-bearing results.
Anyone who tells you that Terraria is not a 2D Minecraft clone is either a) a huge Terraria fanboy, or b) a bit dense. The game never admits its roots, yet never tries to conceal them either, from its blocky world to its crafting system to its enemies coming out at night... everything screams Minecraft. But then, Terraria also builds on the 3D original, adding tons of its own ideas and, of course, featuring a whole new side-on perspective.
In doing this, Terraria has actually managed to better its inspiration. Indeed, Terraria is not simply 2D Minecraft - it's far better than that, and my 20+ hours of play, coupled with numerous late nights of 'just one more descent', are proof of that.
For those yet to try Terraria: We're talking a mining game, in which you dig into the depths of a randomly generated world, hunting precious metals, secret caverns and materials that can be crafted into useful and exciting items.
So far, so Minecraft. However, the differences don't just come in what Terraria adds to the original concept - it is, in fact, the new 2D prespective that gives the game a whole new feel. Whereas Minecraft sees you digging into the depths, using torches and first-person vision to scope out your surroundings, Terraria lets you take in whole areas at once, allowing for far more fluid and action-packed scenes to unfold.
Being able to see everywhere around you at the same time makes the concept feel so much more accessible. You'll see enemies coming up from behind, and run screaming in the opposite direction. You'll eye treasure down below and race to get it before your friends do. There's still that tense feeling of claustrophobia and horror about it as you dig deep, but now lots of other emotions can come flooding out too.
What Terraria then does is reach Minecraft's bar, and storm on ahead. There's so much to see, do and make, and you'll wonder how the developers expect you to see it all in the short timeframe that is your life. I've now been playing for over 20 hours, and have seen many exciting things - and yet, I read the Terraria wiki and find that I have crafted about a tenth of the available items, and not yet even witnessed whole areas of the game.
There are dungeons to explore, floating islands to climb up to, lava-ridden hell levels to scurry madly around, corrupted segments that spread if you don't stop them, underground jungles to discover, lakes that hold glorious treasures at the bottom... and most of these you won't even find in your first 10 hours of play.
Terraria, in a nutshell, is bloody huge. Myself and two friends have been exploring a single world for the last week now, and we're still finding new and exciting things to do. Note that when we created the world, we chose 'Small' at the size. There's also Medium and Large too. Erk. In fact, why not check out our world below - here it is in PNG format:
(Click to enlarge)
See that thin grey line sprouting up from the land in the middle? That's our headquarters housing all our NPCs (more on them later). To the left you can see the dungeon marked in purple (we're still to beat it), and The Corruption to the right, seeping slowly away at the land. Underneath that is the underground jungle, and at the very bottom is the fiery depths of the world.
Zoom in on the pic and you'll see, just beneath our HQ, all the different routes we've dug out. You'll notice we've barely scratched the surface, and that's in over 20 hours of teamwork-based digging.
Now, to the NPCs. As you satisfy specific challenges, characters will move into houses that you build for them on the surface, and offer their services to you. The nurse heals wounds, while the demolitionist hands out dynamite. You really can build your own living village on the surface, and it will feel like home. The safety we feel when hidden away in our well-lit hallways at night-time is so satisfying.
But the best bit about Terraria is the random events that occur. We'll be digging away, minding our own business, and suddenly... 'a goblin army is approaching'! Or 'something is watching us...'. A multitude of different happenings pop up in the corner, from huge boss battles to meteorite crash-landings. It's worth playing Terraria just for those moments. I won't spoil them - you need to experience them yourself.
Now, after all this gushing, let me make one thing clear - Terraria will not destroy Minecraft, nor the other way around. These two games can live comfortably together, offering experiences that the other cannot. Yet, for me, Terraria is now the better game, and easily the first Minecraft clone to actually get it right.

The game is $10/£6 on Steam
, and as with Minecraft, is seeing regular content updates, such as new things to craft and new items to discover. It's been in the top five top sellers on Steam since release, and most days can be found at number one. Whether you like Minecraft or not, I heavily suggest you try this one out with a couple of friends. Get digging.

3D printing glass in the desert

We live in the future, I tell you!

via Ponoko - Blog by David on 6/25/11

If you were stuck in the desert and only had one provision to choose from, what would it be?
solar sintering
Well if your name is Markus Kayser you'd likely take your solar sintering 3D printer of course! The abundance of sand and sunlight in this environment provides both raw materials and energy. Allowing any failed mutineer or downed pilot to make nearly any provisions they could ever dream of!
"By using the sun's rays instead of a laser and sand instead of resins, I had the basis of an entirely new solar-powered machine and production process for making glass objects that taps into the abundant supplies of sun and sand to be found in the deserts of the world." – Kayser
Video and further images after the jump…
This printing method employs no bonding agents nor synthetic support material – only using the raw materials readily available. Kayser's machine focuses the Sun's energy with a fresnel screen onto the thin layer of sand fusing the sand into glass.

The video shot in the Sahara desert near Siwa, Egypt shows the process isn't yet 100% automated – the current model requires an operator to lay down and level each layer of sand. But otherwise the machine is truely remarkable in that it is entirely solar powered – the photo-voltaic cells power the sun's tracking motor and computer – feeding the 3D data to the sintering bed.
Sintered sand
Kayser concisely sums up his project:
"Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and trigger dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world's most efficient energy resource – the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking."
Without a doubt this must be the most sustainable additive manufacturing process ever put into production. According to Wikipedia the total amount of energy the Earth's surface receives from the Sun each second is 1.74×1017 J. Currently we harness only a mere fraction of that…
Personally I don't think its ridiculous to rule out the possibility of some day Bedouins adopting 3D print technology of this sort.

David is an industrial designer from New Zealand. He contributes weekly 3D print articles for Ponoko. You can follow him on Twitter @dizymac
Posted in 3D Printing, Announcements + News, David McGahan, Technology by David

Want Better Naps? Sleep in a Hammock

I, for one, knew this all along!  I think I will sleep in my hammock this Thursday night.  (Why Thursday, you ask?  Well, because Thursday is my Friday!  Yes, I have the coolest, awesomest, possible schedule for working 40 hours a week.)  Anyways, onward to HAMMOCKS!

Matthew Rogers —A group of Swiss scientists studied the effects of sleep in hammock-like conditions by hooking a dozen people up to EEG units while they fell asleep on gently rocking beds. The end result was basically Science confirming what hammock-enthusiasts have been saying for years—the gentle rocking motion not only puts you to sleep faster, but the sleep is just plain better.

While the group believes there's a definite link between rocking babies to sleep and adults falling asleep easier while being rocked, it's still not clear if it's a causal relationship, or if our brains are just wired that way to begin with. Either way, the results were solid—every single participant fell asleep faster in the rocking bed, and their brain scans showed deeper sleep. So, if you want to get the most out of a nap, take it in a hammock.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Music To Test By: Portal 2′s Free Soundtrack

Go. Download. What do you mean you haven't played the game yet?

Music To Test By: Portal 2′s Free Soundtrack

via Rock, Paper, Shotgun by Alec Meer on 5/25/11

I guess we still can't show the image of the [censored] on the [censored], can we?
Attention, test subjects. There is a soundtrack to Portal 2, and it is now available for you to download. It is free (FREE!), and comprises 22 MP3s with a bitrate of 320kbps – which is a number than means it doesn't sound like a man yodelling into a fish tank. Appears to be purely the instrumental soundtrack, not the Coulton or The National songs, but that means it's full of bleepy, technoid wonder. You can get it from here.
This is but Volume 1, which suggests a further volume to come (edit – two more, in fact). If you're the sort of person who likes annoying people on the bus, you can also download snippets of some of the tracks as ringtones for your personal communication device.

Street Art to Make You Smile!

Something to make your morning just a little more happy...  I'm especially fond of the journeying beduins!

Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk

via - Interior Design & Architecture Newsletter by Lavinia on 6/20/11

oakoak 9 Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk
For today we gathered a few street art works that are sure to bring a smile on your face. OaKoAk is a "French artist who likes to play with urban elements". The result? Cute urban jokes that liven up the gloomy city streets. From the "Chuck Norris Sat Here" broken bench (you guys are probably familiar with all the buzz around Chuck Norris jokes lately, we are certain) to a puzzled Pinocchio and ghosts with brick heads, the array of subjects seems to be never-ending. We really like the artist's art "improvisations" and believe they are able to make anyone's day just by encountering them unexpectedly on the street. There is even a design idea that you might have observed (the one with the piano stairs) that could be implemented indoors also. Enjoy the photos and contact the designer if you need any other type of information.
oakoak 2 Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk
65213121 Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk
65732772 Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk
oakoak 1 Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk
65018710 Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk
oakoak 4 Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk
oakoak 6 Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk
oakoak 7 Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk
oakoak 8 Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk
oakoak 10 Smile! Creative Street Art in France by OaKoAk

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Makey Awards 2011 Nominee 03: Volkswagen’s Fun Theory, “Best Education / Out...

Okay... this is awesome. And the thought occurs to me, could the City of Round Rock create something equally cool and motivating? Maybe something to encourage people to conserve water? Maybe something as simple as announcing a contest for the greatest reduction in summer water useage from one month to the next? Interesting thoughts...

via Make: Online by Sean Michael Ragan on 6/22/11

The idea behind Volkswagen's The Fun Theory program is simple: reward socially useful behaviors by making them into opportunities for play. Or, to quote a great sage, "You find the fun and snap! The job's a game."
The Fun Theory first appeared on our radar back in October of 2009, when it funded the conversion of a public stairway in a busy subway station into a giant piano keyboard to encourage people to take the stairs instead of an adjacent escalator.
Shortly thereafter, the program produced The World's Deepest Trashcan— a public rubbish bin that senses when an object is discarded and plays a delightful sound effect suggesting an impossibly long Wile E. Coyote-style fall, followed by a distant crash. The idea here is to encourage people to put their litter in the can by making the act of throwing something away rewarding in a visceral way.

Next came a glass bottle recycling bin that doubles as a whack-a-mole-style video game, with six different bottle openings, flashing lights, sound effects and a scoreboard.

Recently, their open contest was won by US citizen Kevin Richardson. His idea? Use a robot speed patrol camera in reverse-reinforcement mode: Record the license plates of those driving within the posted speed limit and automatically enter them in a lottery, with cash rewards funded by speeding tickets.

We're unsure, as of this writing, if Volkswagen intends to continue The Fun Theory awards program, or not. We certainly hope so. It's been a great source of inspiration to many makers, and a great source of funding for some clever projects that otherwise might never have been realized. And—just incidentally, of course—we think it's done great things for VW's PR, too. Congrats, Meine Damen und Herren.

"I'm proposing to make my school a prison"

Today is apparently a day for ideas to float across the interwebs. Who knew?!

via TYWKIWDBI ("Tai-Wiki-Widbee") by Minnesotastan on 5/31/11

A only-slightly-tongue-in-cheek suggestion by Nathan Bootz, superintendent of public schools in Ithaca, Michigan.
Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.

This is why I'm proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!
His full, open letter to the governor of Michigan is here.  Via Daily Kos.

Why aren’t we more rational about commuting?

I don't usually re-post items that lack a compelling visual element, but I really feel what this article has to say is worth listening to.

Why Aren't We More Rational About Commuting?
by Brad Plumer

At this point, most everyone agrees that Americans are way too dependent on oil in our daily lives. Set aside pollution issues, even. There's still the raw fact that the economy is hideously vulnerable to wild swings in the price of crude. Another well-timed spike could hurtle us back into recession. All sorts of solutions have been proposed, from drilling the Arctic (not likely to help much) to alternatives like electric cars (which could take years). Then there are urbanist types who point out that if people simply had more alternatives to driving — from mass transit to biking — then oil spikes wouldn't hurt as much. Even though a significant subset of people would still have to drive, more options for more people would, at the margins, make our economy more resilient in the face of, say, civil war in Libya.

The trouble with this urbanist approach is that it has a P.R. problem. Americans are pretty culturally attached to the suburbs, and it's not terribly popular to suggest that more people should learn to love denser living and the joys of cramped city life. So here's another way to think about the problem. Earlier today, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) released a new report, "Freedom from Oil: How Transportation Choices Can Provide Gas Price Relief" that subtly raised an interesting point: Right now, people don't really have enough information to make reasoned transportation decisions. And simply providing that information could have a big impact.

Here's what I mean. Last week, Annie Lowrey wrote a wonderful piece for Slate about all the myriad ways that long commutes make us miserable. People absolutely loathe sitting in traffic, and long commutes increase the risk of obesity, divorce, stress, sleeplessness, neck pain. So why do we keep opting for long commutes? Here's Lowrey:
The answer mostly lies in a phrase forced on us by real-estate agents: "Drive until you qualify." Many of us work in towns or cities where houses are expensive. The further we move from work, the more house we can afford. Given the choice between a cramped two-bedroom apartment 10 minutes from work and a spacious four-bedroom house 45 minutes from it, we often elect the latter.
For decades, economists have been warning us that when we buy at a distance, we do not tend to take the cost of our own time into account. All the way back in 1965, for instance, the economist John Kain wrote, it is "crucial that, in making longer journeys to work, households incur larger costs in both time and money. Since time is a scarce commodity, workers should demand some compensation for the time they spend in commuting." But we tend not to, only taking the tradeoff between housing costs and transportation costs into question.
 Tom Vanderbilt had a vivid way of describing this situation in his book "Traffic." Most people would rather shell out for a house with, say, an extra guest bedroom, even if it meant tacking an extra 10 minutes of commuting each day. It's easy to visualize the one or two days a year (if that) when Grandma comes to visit and the guest bedroom gets used; it's harder to visualize the slow, steady drip of misery that that extra 10-minute commute brings. In the long run, making this choice might be irrational, but it's how our brains seem to work.

 There's no way to prevent this sort of thinking entirely, but there are ways to mitigate it. And that's where Blumenaeur's report comes in. It notes, rightly, that people often don't fully take into account transportation costs when buying homes — partly because it's difficult to make those calculations upfront. But what if, say, the government created a Transportation and Housing Affordability index that disclosed the transportation costs associated with a particular location? Likewise, what if mortgage lenders gave credits on home loans for households that had lower transportation costs? After all, owning a car is expensive, and in some areas, forgoing a car can save up to $9,000 per year. In theory, lenders should reward that sort of behavior, but they often don't. If this were all more transparent, a lot of people might prefer, of their own accord, to pay more for homes that were transit-accessible or had shorter commutes. A little more information can go a long way.

  Granted, that's not the whole story. Right now, transit-accessible homes are already in high demand — that's why they're so pricey. As Chris Leinberger of Brookings once told me, some 30 to 50 percent of residents in U.S. metropolitan areas want to live in walkable urban environments — a trend fueled by the growing numbers of single and childless couples, who will constitute 88 percent of household growth through 2040. But there are only enough truly walkable neighborhoods in the country to satisfy about 5 to 10 percent of metro residents. Even if more and more people wanted to ditch their cars and interminable commutes, there's still a supply problem.

 And that's where the rest of Blumenauer's report, which is really worth reading, comes in. There are a whole slew of minor but worthwhile ideas in there, from rejiggering federal transportation funding formulas so that they take gasoline use into account when approving new projects, to encouraging local communities to rethink their oversupply of free parking. Of course, that's all harder, more contentious stuff. Simply providing better information to renters and home buyers — so we can think a little bit more rationally about commuting — should be a relatively noncontroversial start.

 Brad Plumer is an associate editor at The New Republic.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Truly Easy Homemade Cheese

Gonna do it. Gonna do it. Gonna do it! I wonder if I could use my slow cooker for the first step?

via HONEY ROCK DAWN by shreve on 6/6/11

Ten years ago, I read a profile in The New Yorker about a cheesemaking nun.  I have always remembered the piece, the accompanying photograph (just found it online!), and the profound feeling it left me with: I was like, that's what I want to be when I grow up.
I've now taken the first step down that path.  I have made my first cheese.
(I don't count my previous failures as cheese.  They were failures.)
Cheese, on the one hand, is complicated and intimidating.  On the other hand, it is simple and intuitive.  I'm quite certain that milk wants to become cheese.  Through my failures, I have realized the most important part about making good cheese is to take it slow.  Respect the milk.  DO NOT RUSH THE MILK.  And the cheesemaking books never tell you this, at least not the ones I've read.  And the cheesemaking websites act like you must shell out hundreds of dollars on specialty supplies if you wish to make cheese.  Rubbish.  A basic stainless steel pot will do the job just fine, or, in a pinch, a calf's stomach ~ people have been making cheese for thousands of years, long before fancy accoutrements existed.
Last year, I tried to follow the rules and ended up with so many cheese failures that I had given up.  But when I started milking Daisy again last week, and found that familiar surplus overtaking my fridge ~ multiple gallons of milk that we couldn't possibly drink ~ I decided to try again.  I needed something simple and gentle and intuitive to ease me back onto the cheese path.  In a case of perfect timing, I was inspired by this post on a blog I enjoy.  Since I only had fresh milk on hand, I altered her technique just slightly and the results are incredible.
OK!  On to the cheese!
It starts with one gallon of milk.
one gallon o' milk
This is fresh milk from my cow.  This particular gallon is the equivalent of whole milk; I placed the pink tab at the cream line in case it didn't show up in the photo.  If you're using store-bought milk, I think using 2% and maybe even nonfat would be fine, though I've not tested it out.  You certainly don't have to start with a gallon.  For my first batch I used half a gallon of milk but Mike and I loved the resulting cheese so much I went for a gallon this time.
You will also need a pot and a spoon and a lemon and a thermometer.
That's it.
pot and spoon
I plugged my hot plate into an extension cord and brought it outside because it was a beautiful day and I prefer being outdoors.
Pour the milk into the pot, cover, and set over low to medium-low heat.  LOW TO MEDIUM LOW.  Stir the milk every now and then; I found that just rocking the pot with the lid on did the job well.  Heat the milk to 170-175 degrees Farenheit.  This takes a long time at medium low heat; I timed this batch and it took three hours.  However, do not rush this part.  If you do, your cheese will be gummy and flavorless.
stirring the pot
Once your milk reaches a temperature of 170-175 degrees, squeeze the juice of a lemon into a cup and slowly pour it into the milk while stirring.  When I used a half gallon of milk, I used the juice of half a lemon (about 3 Tablespoons) and with a gallon of milk, I used a whole lemon.
and the lemon
Almost immediately after adding the lemon juice to the milk, it will separate into curds and whey.
curds appear
At this point, take the pot off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes just to give the curds time to separate from the whey.
Scoop the curds into a bowl; you could also pour through a tight strainer. I just spoon the curds into a bowl and then mash them with the slotted spoon to press out any remaining whey. At this point, you can add salt, herbs, garlic, whatever you fancy. Just mix it in to the curds and taste as you go.
And this is cheese!  You could put it in a square of cheese cloth (not the whispy kind; real cheese cloth has a tighter weave, like flour sack cotton) and hang it to drain all the whey for a harder cheese, but I just mash out whatever whey I can, then pack the soft cheese into pint jars. The miniscule amount of remaining whey does not adversely affect the cheese, and I noticed it fully integrates back into the curds and kept it soft and creamy.
cheese ready to go
One gallon of milk makes two pint jars of cheese.  It stores well in the fridge and the consistency is amazing and hard to describe - it's dense but spreadable and creamy. I like it with a little pink himalayan salt mixed in, spread on toast with fresh ground pepper on top. Try it - and leave a note in the comments telling us how it went! It's really easy. And REALLY good.
on toast 

Nathan Fillion: If Only He Were Actually Famous

My favorite Stealth Celebrity. Being "stealthy."

via This is Photobomb by Cheezburger Network on 6/17/11

photobomb that guy - Nathan Fillion: If Only He Were Actually Famous

Father-Daughter Reading Streak Lasts Nearly 9 Years

This is what being Scott's daughter should be like, right?

via NPR Topics: Books on 6/18/11

When Alice Ozma was 9 years old, her father made a promise: to read to her every night for 100 nights. But once the pair met their goal, they didn't stop. The Reading Streak lasted 3,218 days — and finally ended on Alice's first day of college.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Baled Out: Cow-Created Concrete Home Interior Completed

In the category of "so bizarre it must be true"...

Baled Out: Cow-Created Concrete Home Interior Completed
via Dornob by dornob on 6/16/11

[ Filed under Offbeat & in the Architecture category ]

Ensamble Studio is back for an encore performance with this bizarre cow-eaten concrete enclosure, finally finished and ready to be a real living space if you can stomach staying inside chewed-out architecture.

In case you can't recall (though twice should be enough for it to stick!), the construction of this strange little abode began with the digging of a pit, followed by the introduction of a series of hay bales subsequently surrounded with poured concrete.

Archi-truffle? Truffle-tecture? Hard to see either of those taking off with mainstream consumers (of hay or otherwise), but very creative nonetheless – with models, drawings and new photographs to prove it (bed, sink, fireplace and all).

So what drove the design? "The Truffle is a piece of nature built with earth, full of air. A space within a stone that sits on the ground and blends with the territory. It camouflages, by emulating the processes of mineral formation in its structure, and integrates with the natural environment, complying with its laws."

And where did the cow come in? "To empty the interior, the calf Paulina arrived, and enjoyed the 50m3 of the nicest food, from which she nourished for a year until she left her habitat, already as an adult and weighing 300 kilos. She had eaten the interior volume, and space appeared for the first time, restoring the architectural condition of the truffle after having been a shelter for the animal and the vegetable mass for a long time."

...I wonder, though, why there are no "in progress" pictures of Paulina?

Wood Age Computing at Its Finest

You know you're steampunk when...
you see this image and think "I have some spare plywood and an end table I want to convert into a linux box!"
And yes, these are my thoughts that I am seriously having right now.  Thoughts of sanding down an end table, building a plywood box inside it, staining the outside and making the whole thing one very roomy case.  IT WOULD  WILL LOOK SO COOL!

Wood Age Computing at Its Finest
via There, I Fixed It - Redneck Repairs by Cheezburger Network on 6/16/11

white trash repairs - Wood Age Computing at Its Finest
The graphics are obviously a little grainy. ~NHSHA

Submitted by: Windsor

The Unsung Heroes of Biscuit Embossing

The end result of this post? I want cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.

The Unsung Heroes of Biscuit Embossing
via Edible Geography by Nicola on 6/13/11

Over at The New York Times Magazine's enjoyable 6th Floor blog, Hilary Greenbaum asks "Who made that Oreo emboss?"

IMAGE: Oreo manhole cover, by Andrew Lewicki, an LA-based artist whose work also includes crates of Southern California concrete oranges and a combination ashtray/juicer, for the perfect Parisian breakfast.
Interestingly, when the Oreo was first introduced by Nabisco in 1912, it used a much more organic wreath for its emboss, later augmented with two pairs of turtledoves in a 1924 redesign. The contemporary Oreo stamp was introduced in 1952, and it has remained unchanged, and, in the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger, "the stuff of legend," ever since.
Writing in 1986, to mark the cookie's seventy-fifth birthday, Goldberger declared that the Oreo "stands as the archetype of its kind, a reminder that cookies are designed as consciously as buildings, and sometimes better." Comparing the Oreo to its less successful competitor, the Hydrox, Goldberger notes:
Still, it is the Oreo that has become the icon. And after all, it is the more American-looking of the two — its even pattern, however dowdy, has an industrial, stamped-out quality. It might be said to combine homelike decoration with an American love of machine imagery, and in that combination lies a triumph of design.

IMAGE: The late, lamented Hydrox cookie, whose pattern is, according to Goldberger, "at once cruder and more delicate than the Oreo's; the ridges around the edge are longer and deeper, but the center comprises stamped-out flowers, a design more intricate than the Oreo pattern." Photo via Wikipedia.
However, despite the iconic status of the Oreo emboss today, the identity of its designer remains murky. As Greenbaum reports:
Many Internet resources have credited William Turnier as the man behind the four-leaf clover and serrated-edge design, but Nabisco could confirm only that a man by that name worked for the company during that time as a "design engineer."

IMAGE: The evolution of the Oreo emboss, from 1912, to 1924, to today, courtesy Nabisco, via The New York Times.
In reply to Greenbaum's post, a comment by "Bill," who claims to be William Turnier's son, raises the intriguing possibility that the original blueprints for the Oreo emboss may be hanging over the door of a family room in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I hope design museums around America are sharpening their acquisitionary claws.
As it turns out, online Oreo-obsessives have spent as much time decoding the design as they have speculating on the identity of the designer. The circle topped with a two-bar cross in which the word "OREO" resides is a variant of the Nabisco logo, and is either "an early European symbol for quality" (according to Nabisco's promotional materials) or a Cross of Lorraine, as carried by the Knights Templar into the Crusades. Continuing the Da Vinci Code-theme, the Oreo's geometric pattern of a dot with four triangles radiating outward is either a schematic drawing of a four-leaf clover or — cue the cliffhanger music from Jaws — the cross pattée, also associated with the Knights Templar, as well as with the German military and today's Freemasons.
No wonder the Oreo has become the most powerful cookie in the world, with more than 491 million sold to date.

IMAGE: A hexagonal ship's biscuit, painted by an anonymous sailor, and showing evenly spaced docker holes, c.1906, National Maritime Museum.
Conspiracy theories aside, the origins of 3D biscuitry are both pragmatic and decorative. The practice of punching holes in biscuits is known as "docking," and has been done by bakers for centuries in order to prevent uneven puffiness and promote flat crispness. According to British cookery writer, Elizabeth David, a pre-mechanisation docker was "a dangerous-looking utensil consisting of sharp heavy spikes driven into a bun-shaped piece of wood."
Meanwhile, across Europe, a parallel and equally time-honoured tradition of decorative waffle irons and wooden moulds emerged, used to emboss religious symbols on communion wafers, coats of arms on Italian pizzelle, and courtly imagery on German springerle.

IMAGE: Wooden eucharistic wafer stamp from Epirus, Greece, via A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat.
The turn of the nineteenth century saw the birth of the industrial biscuit, and, with it, the marriage of these two morphologies — docking and decorating — into an automated production line. In the late 1890s, two cousins, both called Thomas Vicars, designed the first embossing and cutting machine, capable of punching holes, stamping decorations, and cutting out up eighty biscuits per minute from a moving sheet of dough. The dies were necessarily hand carved until engraving machines were introduced in the early 1900s.
Thin, hard biscuits, such as the Rich Tea and Morning Coffee, are still made in almost exactly the same way. But the true golden age of biscuit engineering did not dawn until the invention of the rotary moulder in the late 1920s.

Diagram of a rotary moulder, from Technology of Biscuits, Crackers, and Cookies, by D. J. R. Manley
This technology, albeit updated with variable speed controls, advanced non-stick coatings, and quality sensors, is still used to make Oreos and most other thick embossed biscuits today. The cookie dough is forced into negative moulds, which imprint patterns, brand names, and docker holes. A scraping knife ("D" in the diagram above) scrapes off any excess dough to give a flat bottom, and the formed biscuits peel away onto a conveyor belt to be baked.

IMAGE: Weidenmiller rotary moulding rollers.
This, then, is the enduring technology behind the blend of baking science and aesthetic appeal that is an embossed cookie. But what of the designers who created equally long-lasting moulds or dies?
For the most part, unlike the Oreo's William Turnier, they remain not only anonymous but completely disregarded. No one seems to know or care who created the stylized ferns on the Custard Cream, which remain unchanged since their debut in 1910; or the Art Deco steaming cup on the cardboard-like Morning Coffee biscuits of my youth.

IMAGE: The Custard Cream: Britain's favourite biscuit. Photo via Wikipedia.

IMAGE: Lovely design, shame about the biscuit. A Morning Coffee, via.
This tradition of biscuit design anonymity seemingly continues into the present day. The Weidenmiller company of Illinois, for example, promises that its team of nameless artists will "develop any design from a conceptual thought," while Italy's Errebi Technology offers more than 500 rotary mould shapes off the shelf — and utterly uncredited.

IMAGE: Machine carving rotary moulds today, courtesy Errebi Technology.

IMAGE: Errebi's ready-to-order emboss shapes, page 1 of 26.
To my mind, these classic biscuits — ubiquitous, overlooked, and yet embodying the highest design standards in both form and function — are worthy of recognition as "humble masterpieces," to borrow Paola Antonelli's terminology.
Time to make a nice cup of tea and appreciate one or two of them myself, I suppose.