Category Archives: cool

Forget going to Mars. Go to Iceland

I think going to Mars is a terrible idea, but if you are the opposite of me and would love to experience that, I have a suggestion for you. You can get the experience of going there today by going to…Iceland. NPR explains:

Iceland is like Mars — if the Red Planet had hot tubs. That’s the cheeky idea behind a new pitch from Iceland’s tourism board, which says people don’t need a spaceship to see otherworldly sights like red rocks, black sand and subglacial volcanoes. Plus, they note, oxygen is abundant in Iceland. To drive home the message, they launched a promo video and a space billboard with the tagline, “Iceland. Better than space.”

See? All you need is a plane ticket and a place to stay and you can go to Mars next week. If you think the tourism people are just making stuff up, listen to NASA. NPR again:

NASA agrees: the agency has repeatedly used Iceland as a stand-in for the Moon, and it’s doing so again as it prepares astronauts for new missions off-world. “Iceland is an amazing analog for both the Moon and Mars,” says NASA’s Kelsey Young, who researches the exploration of planetary surfaces and who has done geologic fieldwork in Iceland.

For more on this, see the NPR article, here: Iceland says it’s better than space. We asked NASA about that.

The fine photography of Jared Bramblett, London and elsewhere


My friend Jared Bramblett was recently in London, and as he does, he took some fantastic photographs of his visit, which you can see here:  5 Days in London – Jared Bramblett.

Once you check that out — and you should — take some time to look at the rest of his site. It’s wonderful.

(Image: link to image on his site.It looks so much better on his site.)

Happy Friday! It’s the weekend!

Woo! It’s Friday! If you are American, then there is a good chance you are participating in Thanksgiving activities! May your days be joyous and your feast plentiful. As for me, I’m in Canada, where we celebrated our Thanksgiving weeks ago. I suspect I will be gearing up like many Canadians for that other festive time that is coming soon: Christmas.

Speaking of feasts, here’s a cornucopia of things for you to check out and enjoy as you head into the weekend.

How cool is this  Balmuda speaker? I just love it. Move over Sonos! (JK I love my Sonos One speaker too.)

Also cool: this public bench. I wish my city had such great places to sit.

This artwork by  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (below) is stunning. Plus it is related to your pulse. Intriguing, yes?

Speaking of stunning, check out these bold black houses. I just love to look at them and to imagine staying in them.

As for imagining things, how great it would be to take some time and do this 750-Mile Bicycle Route from New York. That’s a good bucket list item.

Or perhaps that’s too much effort. In which case, why not daydream about climbing on board The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express for one of their Winter Journeys? That sounds fabulous.

If you can’t afford that, then maybe you just want to stay at home and have a low key meal tonight. I recommend you look into what Austin Kleon does every Friday. He has these Pizza night blockbusters with his family that you might want to try (this link even has his wife’s pizza recipe). It’s a great idea and the pizzas look delicious.


Or maybe you can’t even decide what to eat. Kavall, a Swedish grocery delivery company, understands.  See that button? You press it and they will  randomly selects a recipe and have the ingredients delivered by bike in around 10 minutes. Amazing! You can read more about it here!

Want to impress your kids after dinner? Show them the metal rig Jelle Seegers built with a handmade fresnel lens on top that can concentrate solar rays tightly enough to smelt metal. You can see it, here. It will blow their mind.

Or show them this small paper microscope that works!

But don’t show them this McDonald’s gaming chair because they might want one! Unless you too like it…I dunno. 🙂

I have written often on cat furniture. Perhaps too much. But I can resist sharing this one called Igloo that is a side table that also gives your cat a cozy home.

Have fun on the last Friday of November! This year is flying by. Have a great weekend.

 

 

 

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What’s cool? I thought these things were all pretty cool

Alan Rickman’s diaries have been published. You can see excerpts from them here. What I thought was cool was how he not just wrote a journal, but he wonderfully illustrated it.

Also cool is this cassette shaped white noise machine (shown above).

To me, Blade Runner is cool and more Blade Runner is also cool. So I was pleased to see that there will be an new TV show of it coming to Amazon Prime..

Libraries of course are cool. So to is the Libby App, which gives you free ebooks & audiobooks from your library.

Finally, here’s a cool story of how a British writer rediscovered what it means to be European by train. Train travel is the coolest.

Crowns: kings and queens and royalty, then and now.

A lot has changed with European Royalty since this (colorized) photo of Nine Kings was taken in 1910 at the funeral of Edward VII. For one thing, many of these monarchies these Kings represented have disappeared. And of the ones remaining, they are slimming down quite a bit, such as the one in Denmark, with Denmark’s Queen Margrethe stripping 4 grandchildren of their royal title. Harsh but fair if the monarchies are to survive. And it’s not just happening in Denmark: Charles is likely to do it in England, too. Monarchy ain’t what it used to be.

Perhaps that’s why we look back in history with series like the Crown. The success of which has lead to this German Royal Drama about the heads of Austria-Hungary coming out next. The farther we go back, the grander it all seems.

Speaking of grand and wanting to go back in time, here’s a good piece on King Charles’s Poundbury Town. Going forward in time, this AI portrays how famous people like Princess Diana would look like today.

That’s the thing about Royalty. In many ways it is about a life other than the one most of us lead. There’s an unrealness about it that somehow attracts us.

In closing, I want to include a clip of one of the most real people in The Crown, Tommy Lascelles. No one is more grounded than him, which makes him highly effective and often dangerous:

P.S. I am fascinated by that photo of the nine kings. Here’s a good post with lots more detail: Nine Kings in one photo 1910.

Cameras aren’t dead yet. Here are four fun ones.

First up, this may be the only Leica camera most can afford, and then it is still around $1700: Leica D-Lux 7 Vans x Ray Barbee Camera.

To see what I mean, check out the Leica M-A Titan Camera… it costs around $20,000. And while that is extreme, it is closer to the median than the d-Lux 7.

Maybe you need this Pixy Selfie Drone  to follow you around and take selfies all day. Your own paparazzi!

Or perhaps you just want a new webcam. This one, Opal C1 Webcam | Uncrate, will set you back around $300.

Thanks to Uncrate.com for all these. Still one of my favourite sites for all things cool and wonderful.

The PO-80 Record Factory Kit from Teenage Engineering is very cool

The smart folks at Teenage Engineering have produced another cool product. As Yanko Design explains….

The PO-80 Record Factory Kit is a record cutter that engraves audio onto 5″ vinyl discs, giving kids the ability to record their own LPs the old-fashioned way, quite like how millennials made mixtapes and burned their own CDs. The Record Factory, created in collaboration with Yuri Suzuki, lets you engrave and playback 5″ discs with an ultra-analog lo-fi sound. This isn’t studio-grade equipment, after all, but it does add a creamy muffled, effect to your audio that totally sounds like the 40s and 50s in a nutshell.

Love it! For more on the PO-80, see these write ups in Yanko Design and the Awesomer.com.

(Image link to Yanko Design)

This “cloud” shredder will make you want to shred paper!

Seriously, how cute is this??

The paper looks like rain! It’s awesome! Thank you, Muji!

For more on it, see: Muji cloud is a fun tool to condense paper into small pile of shreds – Yanko Design

Now you too can own your very own Vampire Slaying Kit

500

I thought these things only existed in movies: I was wrong. Over at Uncrate, they have great photos of this actual Vampire Slaying Kit that you could own (or could have owned if you had been there to snap it up).

For those who fear the undead — or those that just like cool stuff — go take a look. It’s amazing.

The Drone-Jellyfish wars and more (today in robot news)

Man, what I would have given to have these Jellyfish drones monitoring my beach when I was a kid. I hated jellyfish! Still do. Kudos for the folks who came up with this. (I don’t think the drones actually fight the jellyfish, in case you were concerned about this due to my misleading title. :))

Here on land, if you are keen to have a Boston Dynamics dog robot of your own, now you can. Click on that link for more details.

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 )