Thursday, July 07, 2011


You know you missed me providing design for you to make fun of. Here you go.  Baby prison: Science Fiction Edition.

via Design Milk by Jaime on 7/7/11

I found Ubabub on Black Eiffel and instantly I knew I had to spread the word. Functional, well-designed contemporary baby and kid furniture is tough to get right, but I think Melbourne, Australia-based company Ubabub has done a great job.

Historical Thursday: Hitler’s Talking Dogs

This gives me the giggles.  Even a week later - still giggling.

via There, I Fixed It - Redneck Repairs by Not-So-Handy Andy on 6/30/11

Oh Nazis, you so crazy. While the Germans, Soviets and Americans all had some pretty nutty ideas during wartime in the 20th century, the Nazis always seem to take the biggest slice of the crazy cake. During the Second War of the World, the Reich spent a fair amount of time and money research our canine friends in an attempt to turn them into more than just adorable companions.

It's no secret that Hitler was a fan of dogs. His German Shepherds Blondi and Bella stuck with him through the war; he killed the former moments before taking his own life in the bunker. But his love for the animals went deeper than playing fetch and a good long pet. Adolf had a feeling that the animals were vastly more intelligent than we had always believed. Believing this, he started a project that a UK newspaper dubbed Woofan SS, collecting dogs from around the country to join his special school run by a team of animal psychiatrists.
white trash repairs - Historical Thursday: Hitler's Talking Dogs
Tier-Sprechschule (animal speaking school) in Hannover was run by headmistress Margarethe Schmitt and home to dozens of furry friends including Rolf the talking dog and Young Hitler. The Nazis believed that these already intelligent dogs could be f├╝rther groomed to be able to converse with humans; the ultimate goal being human-canine interaction to the point where the SS could have conversations with them.

They were first taught to tap out signals with their paws but the Nazis claimed the animals could do much more than this. One pup could apparently write poetry and another barked out the words 'Mein Fuhrer' after being asked his relationship to Hitler. The most ridiculous theory was that humans have a special telekinetic relationship with dogs, which they apparently tested by putting buckets on their head connected by some rope. But one terrier was especially talented:
Rolf, an Airedale terrier, reportedly 'spoke' by tapping his paw against a board, each letter of the alphabet being represented by a certain number of taps. He was said to have speculated about religion, learnt foreign languages, written poetry and asked a visiting noblewoman: 'Could you wag your tail?'
It was hoped that the dogs would be able to take over duties from SS officers and help guard concentration camps. Obviously, all of the claims were completely fraudulent and spread by the Germans as propaganda. All of this information was only recently discovered, when amateur historian Dr Bondeson published Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet Of Canine Curiosities, last month.

But really, who would be able to tell the difference between a barking dog and the German language anyway?
(Just joking, I speak a little Deutsch, please don't hurt me)
Enjoyed what you read? Check out all whole compendium of Historical Thursdays!
Pictures and Information courtesy of: The Daily Mail and Wikipedia.
As always, if YOU have an idea for a Historical Thursday, e-mail it to

U.S. Army Bans Vibram FiveFingers

Well, that's just plain silly. Vibram should make military editions that are in appropriate colors, etc. See if they can win over the Air Force. The AF has always struck me as taking innovations in stride. I know my cousin who's in the Army has a pair of Vibrams.

U.S. Army Bans Vibram FiveFingers

via - Outdoor Gear Reviews by Stephen Regenold on 7/6/11

As reported around the barefoot-minded blogosphere this week, the U.S. Army has banned Vibram FiveFingers and all other "toe-shoes" because they "detract from a professional military image."

Open Library offers libraries a third choice for eBooks

Looks pretty cool to me!
via Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton-Jan by Sarah on 7/5/11

The library eBook scene, indeed the eBook scene for consumers too, is ever-changing and unpredictable.  Any library trying to plan more than one year out for eBooks is playing a losing game.  Don't sign contracts for more than a year and don't invest huge amounts of time in what might be dying models.
For the most part, right now libraries feel like we have two choices for eBooks:
  1. paying beaucoup bucks for high-demand eBooks to third-party aggregator companies like Overdrive and 3M (for more on for-profit companies' recent eBooks offerings, see David Lee King's excellent post on what he saw at ALA Annual)
  2. pointing users to the many free, lower-demand eBooks out on the web on sites like Project Gutenberg or Librivox
But there is a third choice, and it's one that I think can change the landscape of library eBooks forever…and for the better.
Open Library is a project from the Internet Archive, a non-profit that has given us amazing web content like the Wayback Machine (historical snapshots of websites), the Audio Archive, the Moving Image Archive, and the Software Archive.  The Internet Archive is also technically a registered library, and they have long collaborated with local libraries for services and collections.  IA is based in San Francisco and I was lucky enough a couple of months ago to visit the headquarters for a stunning tour that included the "hands-down-most-awesome server room ever" and the most efficient book scanning workflow I've ever seen.

And that book scanning project has yielded Open Library.  Open Library is a digital library built partially from paper books from physical libraries.  Anyone can access the 1,000,000+ free eBooks through their website.  But wait, there's more!  A new project with 1,000+ currently participating libraries, including mine, is the Lending Library, a swiftly growing collection of 100,000+ eBooks from the 20th century, including many popular titles (though not those from the most recent 15 years or so).  Did I mention that it's currently 100% free for your library to participate in the Lending Library?  All you have to do is send at least one paper book to the IA for digitization.  That's it.

Users can access the entire collection in-library or from home with remote access, as long as you set up authentication on your end through EZ Proxy, WAM, etc.  Books are added two primary ways: they are scanned in from discarded copies sent to the IA from member libraries -or- IA has arranged a lending agreement directly with the publishers.  Books do operate on a one-user/one-copy model, in keeping with copyright holder rights.

Here's what it's like on the user's end: You click on the link from your library's website, as you would for any other eBook collection, and log in with your library credentials.  Now Open Library knows you can borrow from the Lending Library.  If you access from inside the library, you will see this message alerting you that you have access to even more eBooks.

Browse or search for a book, then choose whether you want to borrow an "in-browser" version (which you view using the super smooth Internet Archive's BookReader web app) or downloadable formats like PDF, ePub, Daisy, plain text, and Kindle.  One thing I really like is how all the various editions of a work are aggregated into one record.  Here's what you see when you go to the "digital holdings" for the Scarlet Letter.

Each person can borrow up to 5 eBooks at a time for up to 2 weeks.  You can read these eBooks on the device of your choice: Mac or PC, laptop or desktop, tablet or smart phone. Read and smile: NO COMPATIBILITY ISSUES!

From Open Library's About page:
One web page for every book ever published. It's a lofty but achievable goal.
To build Open Library, we need hundreds of millions of book records, a wiki interface, and lots of people who are willing to contribute their time and effort to building the site.
To date, we have gathered over 20 million records from a variety of large catalogs as well as single contributions, with more on the way.
Open Library is an open project: the software is open, the data are open, the documentation is open, and we welcome your contribution. Whether you fix a typo, add a book, or write a widget–it's all welcome. We have a small team of fantastic programmers who have accomplished a lot, but we can't do it alone!
I <3Open Library.  And I don't <3 a lot of things.  So you know it must be amazing.  Here are some of the reasons that I think Open Library is a successful future model for library eBooks:
  • Open Library is an eBook library built by libraries, with library collections, for libraries.
  • A printed book accessible to only one library's users gets turned into a digital book accessible to all participating library's users. This is the ultimate in resource sharing.
  • The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization, so if they can arrange more contracts with publishers directly the cost to libraries will necessarily be less than it would be with the for-profit companies we've been dealing with so far.
  • It's open: the code, the collection, everything.
  • Reading is a smooth, device-neutral user experience.
  • This solves the "last copy" syndrome in many libraries where we might hold on to an outdated printed item if it's the last one in our catalog.  Send your last copies to the Internet Archive and share with other libraries while freeing up valuable shelf space at the same time.
Freaking awesome, period.
Libraries interested in partnering in this program should email  You can read more about the technology behind the project and the librarianship that built this collection as well.  And to learn more as things develop, keep track of what's new with the Open Library through their blog.
Mark my words.  This is the future of eBooks for libraries.

innocent's new Hungry? book

This book looks practical and innovative!

via CR Blog by Gavin Lucas on 7/5/11

Does the world really need a new cook book? Probably not. However, smoothie brand innocent's new recipe book, entitled Hungry? (published by 4th Estate, £20) really is rather good. Warning: this post may make you hungry!

The book is aimed at families with small children and, as well as over 100 recipes for straight forward dishes - some healthy and some indulgent treats - it is choc-full of helpful info like how to test for a good or bad egg, and an easy to read chart of what food is seasonal when. And there's plenty of fun stuff for kids to enjoy, such as the particularly excellent tips for how to make your popcorn last through an entire DVD. Also of note is the photography by Clare Shilland and the on-brand witty captions and copy in general – a trait which is one of innocent's strongest brand assets. Here a selection of spreads:

Couldn't resist a close up of this page. It's a picture of a burger but the caption references a Gavin. How do the guys at innocent know I'm all about the burgers?

Unsurprisingly there's a whole section devoted to fruit – and there's also a dedicated drinks section too, which includes a patented "wee-ometer" -  a graphic guide to help you work out whether or not you're drinking enough water by checking the colour of your wee:

Yet another nice touch - a pocket on the inside back cover, perfect for... well, you can read it for yourself.

We also very much like the 10 Commandments of Washing Up tea towel that came with the book (above).
To find out a little more about innocent and the book, visit

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

E. Travels: The Tom Bihn Tri-Star

My first thought - SO entering the drawing, because I WANT THIS BAG. Then I visited the website. I want everything on the website. All so smart, so chic, so intelligently designed!

I just wish I could somehow get it TODAY.  Ah well. Shall have to enter the drawing on Friday.  Is the only way to afford bag of awesome.

via academichic by admin on 7/5/11

It's been just about six years since my husband and I discovered Tom Bihn, a company making cleverly designed bags from US Ballistic nylon in Seattle, Washington. Since then, we've been devoted fans, especially of our carry-on Aeronaut bags.
But, as much as I love the maximal carry-on capacity of the Aeronaut, it's a little bit too big for my two or three day conferences and research trips. So, I was thrilled when Tom Bihn offered to let me review their new(ish), slightly smaller carry-on bag, the Tri-Star. For short trips — particularly short trips when you need to hit the ground running off to a museum, archive, or auditorium — this bag is a great blend of briefcase and suitcase, small enough to fit easily in a locker but spacious enough to accomodate more than enough clothes and whatnot for a few days.
Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review
Take, for example, my recent research trip to New York City. I needed to go directly from the airport to a museum archive. This meant bringing my luggage with me on a bus, train, and a brief walk to a building with not-generously sized lockers. Besides clothes and toiletries, I also needed to bring my laptop, some reading material, note-taking material, and folders to house my piles (we hope!) of research findings.
Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review
Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review
(Did I mention that these bags come in fun color combinations? I have grellow luggage! At last!)
The Tri-Star is basically made of three compartments that can be further sub-divided as necessary. The center compartment is the perfect size for my laptop and other nerdy supplies. Plus, there's still a little bit of room for a snack in there, too.
Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review
The back compartment has nifty hold-down straps for clothing. I folded and strapped down a pair of knit pants, a cotton button-down, a thin tunic, two skirts, a jersey dress, and a knit blazer. My big soft tote bag fit easily on top of all of that without straining the compartment zipper.
Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review
The front compartment is the one that got my compartmentalized packing self all excited. You could easily fit multiple configurations of packing cubes in there…
Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review
Or, you could choose to divide the compartment with the built-in zipper. Oh look, it's the perfect place to stash shoes…
Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review
My remaining clothes (underwear, pajamas, camisoles, a skirt slip, and three knit tops) and toiletries all fit easily into another packing cube. Speaking of, Tom Bihn pretty much makes a little zippered pouch for anything you can imagine: jewelry, toothbrush, a chapter of your dissertation…the usual.
Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review
The front of the Tri-Star has three tiered zippered pockets of varying depths. It's the perfect place to put things that you need to access easily, like your passport, boarding passes, pens, earbuds, printed directions, phone, etc.
Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review
And then, you could use the additional zippered pocket to tuck a few more sundry items or…you could use the nifty little snapping contraption to create the perfect little pouch for your water bottle or travel mug.
Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review
Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review
As with the Aeronaut, the Tri-Star has easy-to-grip handles and can also convert into a backpack. The very comfortable shoulder strap can be purchased separately as well. I find the backpack orientation to be the easiest way to travel with this bag when I'm boarding an aircraft or rushing to catch a bus or train. Once I'm at my destination, it's easy to switch to a briefcase carry.
Are these the most aesthetically stylish bags on the market? No. But it's incredibly well-made, sturdy, smart, and worth the initial output of cash. And I like that in a bag. Oh, and, for you international travelers, the Tri-Star meets carry-on requirements for Europe and Australia as well, since it's smaller than the Aeronaut.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, partly because I really, truly love Tom Bihn bags and have been on a crusade to convert as many family members and friends to them as possible. But also…we'll be offering a chance for you to WIN a Tri-Star in Tom Bihn's newest color of custom U.S. 1050d ballistic nylon: Forest. The giveaway starts on Friday, so be sure to check back for an opportunity to snag your very own Tri-Star in Forest/Ultraviolet. Start dreaming about what perfect little trip you could take…

Printable Nunchuck Pen Caps

Another example of what happens when the capability to create whatever is put into the hands of geeks. 3D printing is the bomb diggity!

via Make: Online by Sean Michael Ragan on 7/6/11

From Thingiverse user PrintTo3D, who calls them BicChucks. He was inspired by lusofer's pen-cap cutlery attachments. [via Thingiverse Blog]

How-Tuesday: Build Your Own Seltzer Maker

Okay, so it's Wednesday now.  Ah well.  Still, this looks like another fun project to add to the long list of "things I'll do with my copious spare time to save money and live better."

How-Tuesday: Build Your Own Seltzer Maker

via The Etsy Blog by julieincharge on 6/28/11

If plastic soda bottles are piling up in your recycling bin, perhaps it's time to make your own seltzer maker! With a little tinkering and the right components, you can build a contraption to dispense the bubbly stuff with the help of painter and seltzer enthusiast Randy Stoltzfus.
Once your carbonated water is at the ready, a whole world of spritzers, sodas, ades, punches, and other effervescent beverages is at your fingertips. Try making an infused simple syrup or plum and ginger carbonated juice, then top it all off with a mustache drink topper, if you feel so inclined.

I've always loved fizzy stuff. It's made its way into my art (take a look at my paintings — those could be bubbles) and definitely into my diet. However, my partner Callie and I started to get a little bummed about all of the bottles we were lugging from the store and subsequently pitching into the recycling bin. After learning about the soda price conspiracy, open-source cola, carbonation history, and physics, by reading Richard Kinch's pioneering website, I set out to create a home seltzering set-up. Here's how to make one of your very own.

Supplies you'll need:

  • CO2 tank. You can buy one empty or just go to a welding gas supply company and pay a deposit for the tank. We purchased a refurbished tank from a dry ice supply company. This tank holds 10 lbs of CO2, the biggest that would fit upright under the kitchen sink. It lasts the two of us over a year before it needs a $20-30 refill.
  • Regulator. We got ours from the same place we got the tank. You need this to step the gas pressure down to around 50 psi. The dial gauges show you what the pressure is in the tank, the hose and when it's time to refill. Make sure you have a regulator that will work with CO2.
  • Vinyl tubing. You'll need enough to reach from the tank to wherever you want to fill your bottles.
  • A tire chuck. Look for this at an auto parts store.
  • A 1/4 turn ball valve. Since the tire chucks are leaky, you'll want an easy-to-operate cut-off valve. While you don't absolutely need this valve, it is convenient, and anything that keeps us from wastefully adding CO2 to the atmosphere is good, right?
  • Snap-in Schrader tire valve stems. You can find these at any auto parts store.
  • 3 hose barbs, sized to fit your hose. Use these to thread into your valve and tire chuck.
  • 4 hose clamps
  • An empty plastic soda bottle with a lid
  • Teflon tape
  • Gloves
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • A 15/64″ drill bit and a drill

1. Cut the hose to length and slide a hose clamp on each cut end.

2. Thread your hose barbs into the chuck and ball valve. Wrap a bit of Teflon tape around each threaded end of the hose barbs.

3. Slide all the hose barbs into the hose ends, move the hose clamps into place and tighten. Be sure to wear some gloves! The clamps can be sharp, and you want to be able to focus on doing a good job lining things up so you don't have any leaks.
4. Attach the regulator to the tank. Make sure the special washer is seated inside the regulator nut. You don't want any Teflon here.
5. Open the tank valve and listen for leaks. Do this someplace quiet. Even the tiniest leak will empty your tank quickly. Adjust the regulator so you are getting about 50 lbs on the low pressure dial.
Here's a close-up of what you need for your bottle fill-cap. A couple of extra screw tops are nice to have on hand:

6. Drill a 15/64 inch hole in your bottle cap. Use a Brad-point drill bit so that you get a nice centered hole.
7. Thread your tire stem through the cap and work it into place.
8. Now you have your complete assembly!
9. Make some seltzer! Fill your bottle with water. Leave some empty space (maybe 1/5 the bottle) at the top for CO2. Then just fill the bottle the way you'd fill a tire. You will be able to hear the gas moving, and feel the bottle getting full. Then give the bottle a good shake. You can actually feel the bottle get softer as the CO2 dissolves in the water. I usually repeat the fill-and-shake routine a few times, but it's your seltzer: make bubbles to your personal taste. To maximize your carbonation, chill your filled water bottle before adding the gas, since cold water adsorbs more CO2.
Here's how the seltzer machine looks installed under our sink at home. The cut-off valve makes a convenient place to store the hose, which is long enough to reach the sink. Installed this way, it's impossible to hang up the hose without turning off the ball valve, a nice feature. Have fun