Category Archives: cool

On Marvel Movies, and how Robert Downey Jr made almost half a billion dollars from them


Here me out. You might think this story about how Robert Downey Jr. made $450m as Iron Man would be boring.It’s not. It was a fascinating journey for both Downey and Marvel over the last 14 years. In 2008 when the first Iron Man came out, both the actor and the company were down on their luck. However bad luck turned into good, and both parties went on their way to become incredibly successful.

Disney bet big on Marvel, and Robert Downey Jr bet big on himself, and the bets paid off big. After all his years struggling with addiction, it was good to see.

It was not without some twists along the way, so read the piece to see how it went down. Or I should say, went up.

P.S. Also a good intro to how the movie biz works and how actors get paid.

(Image linked to the article)

 

 

On the Smiths and those album covers

The Smith’s were (are?) great for many reasons. One reason in particular was their album covers. Looks like the folks at NME agree, because they put together

an exhaustive guide to each and everyone of their 27 single and album releases’ sleeves, and what they mean

You can find here. Fans of the band will enjoy that. I did.

Speaking of the Smiths, this piece by Doug Coupland, Morrissey will never be cancelled is worth a read.

It’s Friday. Don’t you wish you were out on the road on a cool bike?

I know I feel that way after looking at some of these babies. For example, this could be uncomfortable, but just look at how great this modular ebike looks! 

For something a bit more practical, there’s this  cool café racer bike:

Very nice!

If you want something bigger, there’s this 2022 Harley:

Too big? How about this little number via Justin Bieber no less:

But wait, maybe you agree with this piece on bike road safety that laments how dangerous riding a bike is in the city? In that case, maybe you just want something like this exercise bike:

The weather is getting nicer. Get yourself a bike and get out there.

(Images courtesy of Uncrate and Yanko Design)

White noise generators: virtocean

If you like the sound of the water and you like white noise generators, then this one’s for you: VirtOcean: Ocean noise generator. Good for sleeping, working, or just for relaxing sounds in your everyday life.

Hey! It’s time to take a break and wander the most brilliant bookshops in the world

This is a most amazing collection of the most brilliant bookshops in the world. Thanks to the  Financial Times for it.

Not a bookshop, but I love the image above. What a perfect space to simply sit and read.

 

How to garden in the winter

What’s cooler than summer gardening? Winter gardening! 🙂 No seriously, winter gardening is very cool. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the Times and specifically Niki Jabbour of Halifax have convinced me otherwise. As the Times explains:

Is it really possible to garden year-round? Yes, even in Nova Scotia. Through years of experimentation, Niki Jabbour has developed an all-seasons approach to edible gardening, despite the rigors of her Halifax location, where frost can linger until late May and return in early October. What Ms. Jabbour — an intrepid vegetable gardener and the host of the radio show “The Weekend Gardener” — calls her “vegetable garden tool kit” doesn’t include a trowel and pruning shears (although they are always within reach). Her essentials are an assortment of fabrics and the supports she drapes them over.

It’s really impressive. The article below gets into great depth as to how such an activity is possible. I don’t know if I will ever do it, but I really enjoyed reading about it, here: The Year-Round Garden – The New York Times

Forget cremation. When I die, turn my into a diamond.

Seriously, that is one of the options mentioned on the site Interesting Engineering. You can also be dissolved in a liquid (apparently Desmond Tutu chose this option). Or you can be turned into soil.

For more on this, see:

(Image via algordanza, makers of the diamonds)

 

 

How would you like a cube of titanium, or copper, or even uranium? With the Luciteria web site, you can!

How cool is this Luciteria web site? Well if you are a geek like me, very cool indeed. Among other things they sell are cubes of each of the elements in the periodic table. As they say:

Cubes of each of the elements are our most popular sellers. And it’s not hard to see why. Precision machined and labeled each one is a self-contained ambassador of the periodic table. From the small cubic centimeter up to the hefty 5cm these cubes practically define the ideal desktop gadget for anyone who loves to nerd out on science. So get one as a conversation starter, a few as a clever means to spell out a name or phrase or go for broke and get as many as possible to make your own “real life” periodic table!

Some of them, like copper above, are pretty harmless and common. Others, like the uranium cube below, not so much.
I think these would be a great gift for anyone into science, or for teachers teaching the elements.

My first thought when I went there was that they would only have a few of the elements, but no, they have pretty much all of them. (With some reasonable exceptions.) Very much worth checking out.

What did you learn in 2021? What will you learn in 2022?


Well if you are Tom Whitwell, quite a lot, as he shows here: 52 things I learned in 2021 by Tom Whitwell from Fluxx | Fluxx Studio Notes

His piece is fascinating. Even better, it makes me think I might like to keep a similar log for 2022. Maybe you want to as well! Meanwhile read Tom.

(Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash )

Why beach robots are good

While I am not a fan of most popular robots these days, I will make an exception for this one: This Microsoft-powered AI-enabled robot cleans up cigarette butts littered on the beach! – Yanko Design

It’s sad we need such a robot, but if this problem is going to exist, I am all for such technology. It’s a great project and not unlike a Roomba for the beach. Nice.

Happy 2022!

Happy New Year! Maybe this year will be year we finally see the end of the pandemic!

One of my resolutions this year is to do more with less. In that vein, I am going to share some of my old posts on the new year, rather than recreate another. You can find them here. I think they are still good and still worth revisiting, both by me and you.

All the best to you in 2022.

Profiles on four cool dudes


Here’s links to four cool dudes worth reading about. First up is  Lingdong Huang and his very cool projects. This is a good piece on  how Duro Olowu gets dressed in the morning. This is on  Hanif Abdurraqib and how he cuts through the noise. Finally, this piece is on a man who earned a Ph.D. and fulfilled his dream of being a physicist — at 89.

Each one is a good profile. Enjoy.

 

 

 

Christmas gift ideas: a colourful wireless keyboard with removable emoji keys!


Sure, technically this is aimed at Gen-Z, but I want one too! What you say? Only this:  Logitech designed the perfect wireless keyboard for Gen-Z complete with removable emoji keys! Nice! Comes in lots of bold colours too! Perfect for the emoji lover in your life.

Well done, Logitech.

A virtual tour of Hagia Sophia


A few years ago I was fortunate to visit Hagia Sophia and get a tour of it. If you ever can get a chance, I highly recommend it. For those who cannot visit it, this might be the next best thing: 360 Degree Virtual Tours of the Hagia Sophia .

I think Hagia Sophia is one of the wonders of the world. See it if you can.

(Image via Wikipedia)

Amazing Christmas gift ideas: Lego Titanic

Truly for those who are epic Lego model builders, this Lego Titanic Building Set…

… is made up of 9,090 pieces, including interactive details like turning piston engines, a working anchor, and adjustable tension lines. To fully appreciate the level of care taken, the ship divides into three pieces to allow views of the grand staircase, boiler room, and smoking lounge.

For more on this, check out the link at Uncrate. Not for me, but impressive!

On how to make a cover illustration for the New Yorker

What goes into making a cover illustration for the New Yorker magazine? Well if you are Adrian Tomine, quite a lot. In this piece he breaks down the process he followed to make the above cover, now famous: Making a Cover – by Adrian Tomine – ADRIAN TOMINE. He really puts a lot of thought into making such an image, and a description of the tools and materials that he uses as he works on different versions is interesting, especially to fellow artists, I’m sure.

 

On stopping the next Chelyabinsk Meteor

If you think of meteors hitting the Earth, you might be thinking of ones like the Chicxulub impactor that killed off the dinosaurs. Good news: scientists have been tracking meteors of that size and we are safe for at least the next few centuries.

But what about smaller ones, like the one that hit Chelyabinsk and caused significant damage? Those we may not be so safe from. Indeed, if they hit a major city, the destruction could be catastrophic.

That’s why NASA has launched the DART mission. It’s goal is to see if it could stop an asteroid and prevent an asteroid apocalypse. That piece in Scientific American on what is involved is fascinating. It’s not merely a matter of putting a major explosive on an asteroid and blowing it to bits. Go read the article and you’ll see what I mean.

For more on the. Chelyabinsk Meteor, click here.

Something calming for a Sunday: the Zen Gardens of Yuki Kawae

Over at Colossal they have a good piece on the Zen Gardens by Yuki Kawae. Check it out: it could be just the thing to calm your mind.

For example, practice slow breathing and watch this:

 

The future of delivery might be this e-scooter

One thing that proliferated with the pandemic was food delivery and delivery in general. I’ve seen people delivering via cars, bikes, scooters  and on foot. No doubt Honda noticed it too. Perhaps it was driven by other things, but their  e-scooter with a roof so people can deliver parcels even in the rain seems to be made with the assumption that people will continue to do lots of deliveries and they need a proper vehicle to do it. We’ll see. Right now what you see above is exclusive to Japan. I expect Honda to break out and have these everywhere food and other things are being shuttled from one building to another.

The very cool AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality) section of the New York Times

If you read the Times as much as I do, you know it has a wealth of sections on its web site. So many I can’t read them all. What I didn’t know is that one of those sections is devoted to AR and VR. To see what I mean, check this out:  The Apollo 11 Moon Landing in Augmented Reality – The New York Times.

It’s a great story in itself, but using AR gives you a sense of scale for the photos taken on the first moon landing. It’s great! Great for anyone, but could be especially great for educators covering the moon landing in their courses.

There’s more stories there as well using AR and VR. See what they have by looking for the Immersive (AR/VR) section. Note: you have to access it via a mobile device; I couldn’t find it on the main web site unless I searched for “Immersive”. (Makes sense: you need a mobile device to appreciate it.)

The prison of the Vatican

This is a fascinating story: The Vatican has three jail cells, one prisoner — and suddenly, a surge of people on trial – The Washington Post.

Fans of Dan Brown especially should enjoy it. But it really gives another glimpse in one of the oddest parts of the world. A good Sunday read.

(Photo by David Edkins on Unsplash)

Webcams! Still going! Still a great idea!

If you were around during the early days of the World Wide Web, you remember webcams. People would point a camera at something like the sky or a coffee pot and others would use their browser to check it out.

You might be thinking no one does that any more, but if you did, you’d be wrong!

To see what I mean, go here. That is specifically for the Northern Lights, but if you scroll down you can see many others as well.

Still a nice way to see the world without leaving your room.

 

 

The fascinating history of the word “lox”


I thought this piece was great: The English Word That Hasn’t Changed in Sound or Meaning in 8,000 Years. It turns out the world “lox” has not changed meaning in all that time. As the linguist in the piece explains:

One of my favorite words is lox,” says Gregory Guy, a professor of linguistics at New York University.  “The pronunciation in the Proto-Indo-European was probably ‘lox,’ and that’s exactly how it is pronounced in modern English,” he says. “Then, it meant salmon, and now it specifically means ‘smoked salmon.’ It’s really cool that that word hasn’t changed its pronunciation at all in 8,000 years and still refers to a particular fish.”

That’s a great piece. Not just for the story of the word “lox”, but on the study of language and its origin. Recommended. It makes me want to run out and get a plate!

(Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash)

Where to buy neon signs from Blade Runner

This is pretty amazing. This Etsy account YesteryearPropStore seems to be selling many of the neon signs found in Blade Runner.

If I ran an establishment, I would love to have this one out front:

On restaurants loved and lost: Florent (and Odeon)

Here are a number of pieces on two great downtown Manhattan restaurants: Florent and Odeon. Florent has been closed for a number of years. But Odeon lives on, happily. What I love about both restaurants is how the embodied that era and how they both set a stage. You can see that in the pieces below about them. Florent in particular was a radical place that was like no other, right down to their menus and promotional material (like the one above).

When they both opened the lower part of Manhattan had nothing like them. There was no gentrification down there like there is now. They were an oasis of good food, good design, and good times.

To really get a sense of that, read Restaurant Florent Takes Its Final Bows – The New York Times.

For more on the design ideas around Florent, see: Restaurant Florent | Restaurant Design in New York, NY — Memo Productions

A short history of the space Florent occupied is written about here: What remains of a Gansevoort Street restaurant | Ephemeral New York

Lastly, here is it’s Wikipedia write-up: Florent (restaurant). It’s a good source of other links on the place.

Before I forget, this is a fun piece on The Odeon: A Retro Haven That Defined New York 1980s Nightlife | Vanity Fair.

Also worth reading. Now go and eat at The Odeon.

 

On the big anniversary of the Lunar Rover

Lunar rover

While there has been a lot of talk lately about space travel due to the billionaire space race, I want to highlight something people rarely mention but should. It’s that it is the anniversary of  Apollo’s First Lunar Rover, Driven 50 Years Ago. The Atlantic has a great story on it, including amazing photos.

It’s crazy to think that not only did we land on the moon, but we brought a car with us to drive on the moon! That’s amazing, to me.

In the film Ad Astra with Brad Pitt, there’s a great chase scene with Lunar Rovers. Nothing quite so exciting like that happened during the Apollo missions, but the fact that we brought a car to the moon is exciting as it is. Plus it is still parked up there! I hope the parking rates aren’t too expensive 🙂

 

On the planet about to visit our solar system!

It’s true! A planet is going to make a fly by.  According to Kottke, the minor planet 2014 UN271  is about to visit our solar system. By 2031 it should be about as close to the sun as Saturn is!

I hope we can get some good views of it while it is in the area.

For more on it, see the Kottke article. He also has links to more pieces on it.

(Photo by Guillermo Ferla on Unsplash )

How our relationships change over time, represented in minimal graph form

This is lovely:

I especially like “Parent” and “Dog”.

More on that, as well as the source of the image, here.

Web site of the day! or what’s old is new again


In the early days of the Web, there were several sites that would feature the Web Site of the Day. It would be something someone put together that was smart or wacky of useful. Those days were good.

Good news! Here is a list of web sites that Buzzfeed put together that made me think of those days: 38 Super Useful And Fun Websites You Never Knew You Needed In Your Life.

Every day check out a different one!

In a similar vein, here is a list of places in New York that have been around forever that are still going. Likewise, check out a different one every day: The 212 – The New York Times

The Internet can feel stale. Let’s make it fresh again.

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash )

 

A very cool way to listen to ambient sounds

If you need some ambient sounds, you should check out: A Soft Murmur

It’s great for a number of reasons:

  1. It has lots of different sounds, from rain to coffee shops to white noise.
  2. You can mix sounds together (e.g., rain and thunder and birds)
  3. You can create your own mixes and share them with people!

Anyway, it’s good. You should check it out.

(Photo by reza shayestehpour on Unsplash )

Incredible modular storage I wished IKEA offered

I love these playful modular cabinets that put a quirky spin on storage by using geometric shelves found at Yanko Design. You can mix and match the pieces to design the best storage for your room. And if you get tired of it, you just have to reposition things and you have a whole new look. Fantastic.

Not your typical staplers

It may be hard to believe that anything to do with getting a stapler could be interesting. But these two are.

First here is one you can get to staple your own skin if you are injured. This one isn’t dramatic but if you want to staple a booklet, it’s perfect.

(Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash )

Another watch: the smart watch from Timex

Besides the classic digital watch I wrote about earlier today, Timex also makes some smart watches that are very affordable for a smart watch.

For example, this one, the iConnect Premium watch:

This watch does a lot of the fitness work that other smart watches do and for a very good price.

Timex has many watches like this, and while this one is rated well, others are not. So buyer beware. But if you were thinking of getting a watch to help you with fitness, this could be the one.

A digital watch that is also a classic

Apple Watches are cool. I love them. So do many others.

But if want to have have a cool digital watch that is also a classic, you want this, I think:

It comes in silver and gold. You can order it, here.

The pandemic ain’t going away soon. Maybe you need a hobby. This can help.

I am sorry to (not) break this to you (since you know it already) but the pandemic is not going away soon. That’s bad. What’s good is it may be the right time to start a hobby. Here’s two links that can help:

  1. CrossFit, ceramics: 10 people on how much they spend on their hobbies – Vox
  2. How to Find a Hobby – Smarter Living Guides – The New York Times

The New York Times piece can help you find a hobby. And the Vox piece can give you an idea of what it might cost.

A hobby is a good thing to have and no one argues this better than Austin Kleon. To see what I mean, check out his writings on hobbies.

(Photo by Margarida Afonso on Unsplash)

For fans of Lego and sneakers…

There is this: the Lego/Adidas collaboration!

If I were a Lego fan I would so want a pair. They debut September 25. 

See the link for more pics and details.

The perfect headphones for working at home may be these Grado’s GW100 Wireless Headphones. Here’s why…

If you are in the market for headphones and you work by yourself at home, consider the GW100 from Grado. If you need convincing, read this rave review in Forbes. Working in a space with others isn’t great with them because they are open back (i.e. others can hear the sound). But WFH alone, these would be perfect. Sure, you can also go with the wired versions that Grado makes. They are also great. Even the lower end models are excellent. However, the wireless is a great feature, especially if you want to move around some or want to avoid yet another wire to deal with. 

In Canada, you can get the GW100 and so many more at Bay Bloor radio.

 

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WindowSwap: or how to change your view during the pandemic


If you are  tired of your view and want to look at something new, I highly recommend this site: WindowSwap.

WindowSwap gives you a random view of someone else’s window somewhere in the world.  Not all the views are beautiful or interesting, but many are. For those of you wishing you could travel but can’t, this site will allow you to vicariously do it through this website.

(Image by Mari Madriz)

The soothing calm of Japanese minimalism in a canal house in Amsterdam

If you want to soothe your eyes and spirit with some calm today, check out this canal house in Amsterdam:

Design Milk has a feature on this place and every image is a sight for sore eyes. To see what I mean, take yourself to this page.

You’ll be glad you did.

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Very cool: Gregorian Chant Music Generator!

A very cool site that allows you to mess around with Gregorian chant music in all kinds of ways. Fun! And also great if you want to have it playing while you work Gregorian Voices • Relaxing Music Generator