October 2012 Archives

Fun with Office Supplies
October 21, 2012 8:23 PM | Posted in: ,

Perhaps I'm easily impressed and/or amused, but I had no idea until I went back into the world of corporate dronage that the Liquid Paper I grew up with had been replaced by cool correcting tape that's applied with a dispenser filled with all kinds of rollers and gears and semi-circuitous pathways.

Photo - Tombow Correction Tape

Anything worth engineering is worth over-engineering, or at least providing the appearance of excessive complexity, and the good folks at Tombow apparently take this philosophy seriously. It's an elegant design for a mundane product, but after using it a while, I got this nagging feeling of - I don't know - familiarity...like I'd seen it somewhere before. 

Now, I'm not accusing anyone of product plagiarism, but there really is nothing new under the sun.

Photo - Tombow Correction Tape reimagined as a Star Wars AT-AT Walker

For the less geeky readers, here's the reference.

A Running Story
October 20, 2012 12:27 PM | Posted in:

It was the most rare of days: cool and clear, with hardly a breeze, and it occurred to me while driving home from work that this would be a perfect day to ditch the usual treadmill workout and go for a run outdoors. I figured I could easily get in five miles before the sun got too low in the sky.

Besides the remarkable weather, I was enticed by something new in the neighborhood. The development was being expanded to the north and to the south, and the streets were paved with virgin asphalt and still closed to traffic. The thought of running down the middle of a street with no danger, other than what I might inflict on myself, was the icing on the cake.

That's not to say that danger was non-existent. My intended route would take me across those beautiful new streets, but it would also entail some running down trails in the pasture that surrounds the neighborhood on three sides. With the recent rains, these trails were a bit overgrown, and it wasn't uncommon to encounter a rattlesnake in those fields. I was counting on the cool weather to keep the snakes dormant and out of my way, and on my senses to alert me otherwise.

I made two circuits around the neighborhood, each about two-and-a-half miles. I wasn't concerned about the off-road portion of the route until I got to the last quarter mile of each circuit, which meandered slightly away from the development and into the pasture to the west. The first time around was uneventful, but the second lap - about twenty minutes later - was a bit different.

As I veered onto the trail, I caught a movement to my left, out in the pasture. It was hard to make out at first, but I finally realized it was a coyote, and he seemed to be stalking something, creeping low and slow through the mesquite, coming toward me. He wasn't close enough for concern, and I'm not afraid of coyotes anyway, although I suppose there's always a chance of rabies. It was actually kind of cool to be running in the company of wildlife.

The sun was getting low in the sky, and the lengthening shadows stretched over the trail and made it difficult to discern details. That's my excuse for coming around a slight bend and finding myself almost on top of a stick-looking thing spanning the entire width of the trail, a stick that I was sure wasn't there during the first lap.

My momentum and surprise caused me to do something that isn't recommended in any rattlesnake avoidance manual: attempt to jump over the reptile. It was apparently as surprised as me, but was also significantly quicker (I thought they slowed down in cool weather!).

You know how they say things slow down in a crisis? Perhaps it's your body's survival instinct kicking in, trying to give you every chance to find a way out of the predicament you've put it in. In any event, time seemed to stop while I hovered in mid-air over a very large and annoyed diamondback rattler, and I saw his head come up toward my right leg while simultaneously sensing a movement from my left. I waited for the pain of the fangs sinking into my calf, but just as the snake's head was about to make contact, a blurred figure came between the rattler and me.

Remember the coyote? He'd been stalking a jackrabbit while I was running down the trail. Said jack had realized his danger at the last second and had bolted away from the coyote, not realizing (or caring) that he was on a virtual collision course with yours truly. And his timing was exquisite, because he flashed by just in time to take the hit from the rattler.

The snake, the rabbit, and I (and, I suppose, the coyote, but he didn't stick around to confirm it) were equally shocked by this turn of events. In fact, the snake apparently wasn't ready to administer the coup de grâce, thinking my leg was the target, and the bunny bounded off unharmed, heartbeat undoubtedly racing but still lagging my own.

I'm sure there are many lessons to be learned from this encounter, not the least of which is that treadmills are really quite nice, now that I think about it.

Some of you have accused me of making stuff up, and I confess that I have not told the truth...not the whole truth, anyway. I apologize for that, and I've revised the end of the story to address the situation. Let's rewind a bit, shall we?

Remember the coyote? He'd been stalking a jackrabbit while I was running down the trail. Said jack had realized his danger at the last second and had bolted away from the coyote, not realizing (or caring) that he was on a virtual collision course with yours truly. And his timing was exquisite, because he flashed by just in time to take the hit from the rattler.

The snake, the rabbit, and I (and, I suppose, the coyote, but he didn't stick around to confirm it) were equally shocked by this turn of events. In fact, the snake apparently wasn't ready to administer the coup de grâce, thinking my leg was the target, and the bunny bounded off unharmed, heartbeat undoubtedly racing but still lagging my own.

I was already winded by the run, and the adrenaline rush from this encounter lasted only a couple of seconds, so I stood a few feet from the now-coiled rattlesnake, trying to catch my breath and figure out the next move. The snake and I locked eyes, neither trusting the other, and the only sounds were my heavy breathing and the rattler's buzzing...and a peculiar mixture of growling and moaning coming from the same direction the jackrabbit had appeared.

I whirled to find that the coyote hadn't left after all. This one was displaying a decidedly non-coyote-like behavior as he sped toward me, yellow eyes seemingly on fire and a disturbing froth flying from his mouth.

If you don't know coyotes, you might be surprised at how fast they are. I've seen one cross a four-lane highway, slinking under the barbed wire fences on both sides, so quickly that I wondered if I'd seen him at all. So I knew instinctively that I had no chance of outrunning this one. I froze, watching him tear toward me, that horrible growling growing louder, drowning out the almost forgotten rattling of the snake behind me.

A rabid coyote isn't clever, but it is focused, and this was my salvation. He had no intention of slowing in his sick rage, so at the last second I dodged to my left as he left the ground in a lunge for my chest. I could hear the snap of jaws flying by, and I whirled again to prepare for another evasive move, however futile it would ultimately prove.

The rattler wasn't going to miss twice, though, and he caught that coyote in mid-air, sinking his fangs into the animal's throat and delivering the full load of venom that he'd prepared earlier. The crazed coyote stumbled as soon as his feet touched the pasture, and he staggered only a few steps before keeling over, free from his misery and madness.

The rattlesnake apparently felt that he'd been sufficiently vindicated, and that I posed no further threat, so he took his leave and slithered back into the pasture, with my full blessing, I might add.

So, there you have it. Saved by a rattlesnake. Life can be funny sometimes, huh?

OK, OK...I know. You got me. That wasn't the way it happened at all. Or, at least, it's not the complete story. I apologize for not be completely transparent with you. They say the third time's a charm. I have no idea what that means, but here's how the story really, truly, actually played out.

Remember the coyote? He'd been stalking a jackrabbit while I was running down the trail. Said jack had realized his danger at the last second and had bolted away from the coyote, not realizing (or caring) that he was on a virtual collision course with yours truly. And his timing was exquisite, because he flashed by just in time to take the hit from the rattler.

The snake, the rabbit, and I (and, I suppose, the coyote, but he didn't stick around to confirm it) were equally shocked by this turn of events. In fact, the snake apparently wasn't ready to administer the coup de grâce, thinking my leg was the target, and the bunny bounded off unharmed, heartbeat undoubtedly racing but still lagging my own.

I was already winded by the run, and the adrenaline rush from this encounter lasted only a couple of seconds, so I stood a few feet from the now-coiled rattlesnake, trying to catch my breath and figure out the next move. The snake and I locked eyes, neither trusting the other, and the only sounds were my heavy breathing and the rattler's buzzing...and a peculiar mixture of growling and moaning coming from the same direction the jackrabbit had appeared.

I whirled to find that the coyote hadn't left after all. This one was displaying a decidedly non-coyote-like behavior as he sped toward me, yellow eyes seemingly on fire and a disturbing froth flying from his mouth.

If you don't know coyotes, you might be surprised at how fast they are. I've seen one cross a four-lane highway, slinking under the barbed wire fences on both sides, so quickly that I wondered if I'd seen him at all. So I knew instinctively that I had no chance of outrunning this one. I froze, watching him tear toward me, that horrible growling growing louder, drowning out the almost forgotten rattling of the snake behind me.

A rabid coyote isn't clever, but it is focused, and this was my salvation. He had no intention of slowing in his sick rage, so at the last second I dodged to my left as he left the ground in a lunge for my chest. I could hear the snap of jaws flying by, and I whirled again to prepare for another evasive move, however futile it would ultimately prove.

The rattler wasn't going to miss twice, though, and he caught that coyote in mid-air, sinking his fangs into the animal's throat and delivering the full load of venom that he'd prepared earlier. The crazed coyote stumbled as soon as his feet touched the pasture, and he staggered only a few steps before keeling over, free from his misery and madness.

The rattlesnake apparently felt that he'd been sufficiently vindicated, and that I posed no further threat, so he took his leave and slithered back into the pasture, with my full blessing, I might add.

So, there you have it. Saved by a rattlesnake. Life can be funny sometimes, huh? Shaking my head in bemusement, I turned around and started walking back to the neighborhood, having experienced enough unbelievable excitement to last a lifetime.

That's when the first zombie appeared. 

My iPhone/iPad Feature Wish List
October 16, 2012 8:56 PM | Posted in:

My iPhone and iPad are important parts of my technological life, both at work and at home. I no longer use a notebook computer at home, and my iPhone integrates beautifully at work with our Microsoft Exchange setup. I can even access work applications remotely via Citrix on my iPad (which I do a really lot - in case my boss happens to check in here).

But neither device is perfect. Well, actually, from a hardware perspective, both leave little to be desired - especially if I'm ever able to upgrade to an iPhone 5. It's the operating system - iOS 6, to be exact - that has considerable room for improvement.

I'm sure Apple is working on some of the bigger picture items, like a workable directory structure and a time travel feature, but I want to make sure they don't overlook some details that would, above all else, make me happy. So, here's a short and simple list of things to implement in the next upgrade iOS. Please make them happen, Apple.

  • An option to require a code to power off the phone - This would be an awesome security feature. If your phone is stolen, the first thing a savvy thief will do is turn the phone off in order to defeat the "Find My Phone" app and the remote erase feature. Requiring a user-specified code to shut it down, similar to the way one can set a code to unlock the phone, would prevent an unauthorized possessor (i.e. "thief") from doing this. Sure, he or she could still run the battery down, but that would still give you some time to try to locate the phone, or at least wipe it remotely.

  • A forward delete key - If Apple truly wants the iPad to become a legitimate alternative to a notebook computer, the ability to delete text backward and forward is a no-brainer. It's not always easy to position the cursor in the right spot to use the backward delete arrow; having a forward delete key would allow you to drop the cursor in approximately the right spot and still get the job done. How hard would it be to program a shift-delete option to accomplish this?

  • More control over sleep settings - I doubt that there is more than a handful of people who think that iOS's 2/5/10/15 minute and "never" autolock options are somehow lacking, but I'd like to have the ability to specify exactly how long I want my phone or iPad to stay awake. I listen to music during my 45 minute treadmill workouts, and I want to see album covers along with the tunes. If I set the autolock option to "never," I invariably forget to reset it and it doesn't go to sleep until the battery runs down. So, Apple, I want to pick my own live-before-lock duration.

Two Things: HaloRig / Flyboard
October 7, 2012 9:39 PM | Posted in: ,

Our Two Things spotlight today focuses on a couple of "add-on" products, things that make other things work better, or at least differently.

HaloRig: Video Stabilizer


Anyone who's tried to shoot video with a small digital camcorder, point-and-shoot camera, or phone knows how hard it is to keep the dang thang steady. The form factor is just too small and light and the slightest irregular motion translates into a noticeably jerky video. That's the problem that the HaloRig is designed to mitigate.

It's basically an inexpensive (less than $200; price varies with options) metal ring onto which you can affix multiple cameras, lights, microphones, and other accessories. The ring is large enough to provide a greater chance of smooth motion (I haven't tried one, so I'm hard-pressed to say that it would completely eliminate jerky movement).

Here's a short video explaining the device in somewhat more detail.



Flyboard: Your next James Bondian Sporting Device


The following video is making the rounds on the interwebz. If you haven't yet seen it, it's worth spending six minutes to watch, and another six seconds to decide how crazy one needs to be to try it.



This is the Flyboard in action. I think the video explains everything you need to know about why the only question about product placement in an upcoming movie is whether the first director to use it will be Michael Bay or Luc Besson.

This review by GizMag touches on a lot of the salient points of the Flyboard, including cost (~$7K, excluding insurance premiums). But, seriously, aren't our public waterways dangerous enough now without giving inebriated jet skiers yet another injury vector? What happens to the poor soul who tries out that dolphin dive and hits headfirst an actual dolphin (or worse)?

Still, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want one.

Tip o'the ski helmet to my beautiful Aunt Margaret for the video link!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2012 is the previous archive.

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