It’s possible to be paralyzed by choice

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Mental health problems are a pain in the ass. One of the more obnoxious coping mechanisms I used to use to deal with depression and anxiety was shopping.

Having nightmares again? Stressed out? But something new! You earned it, pal! Sometimes, the brief rush of endorphins I’d snag from spending a little dough was enough to allow me to slide through another day without addressing any of the problems I was suffering from. On other days, I’d buy something I knew damn well that I didn’t need and feel almost instantly guilty. I’d want to return it, but the shame and embarrassment of walking back into a store and having to explain myself felt like too much to tolerate. I’d find ways around having to return stuff by buying non-returnable items, like digital downloads. Back when I was first confronting my addiction to this kind of rampant consumerism, I figured out that I had spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 on iTunes downloads over a five-year period.

That’s fucked up, by anyone’s standard.

I thought that starting into a career as a tech journalist would help to cure me of my desire to buy stuff all of the time: if I get to play with all the latest gear for free, there’s no need to invest any cash in it, right? Nah. I hoped that my exposure to new and fabulous things would allow me to tire of them after spending some time with them. Instead, I ended up having a better idea of what I wanted to buy and, as I already knew what a given product could do, was able to talk myself into it, guilt-free. Read the rest

What does writer and human guinea pig AJ Jacobs keep in his bag?

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In the latest issue of the What’s in my bag? newsletter (published by Cool Tools, which I edit), my friend AJ Jacobs talks about four things he keeps i his bag:

A.J. Jacobs is a writer, lecturer and human guinea pig. He is the author of four New York Times bestselling books, including “The Year of Living Biblically” and “The Know-It-All.” He is a contributor to NPR, the New York Times and Esquire magazine and is a frequent TED speaker. His most recent book is “Thanks a Thousand

Life Changing Questions ($24)
My friend — the social scientist and mathematician Spencer Greenberg — developed a deck of cards he calls “Life Changing Questions.” And they are just what they sound like. Each card has a Big Question printed on it (e.g. “What have you changed your mind about?” or “What would you do if you had one week to live?”) Spencer’s research shows these questions are the ones his test subjects find most valuable in reassessing their lives. I like to break the cards out at dinner with my family and use them as conversation prompts. They are much better than arguing over screen time.

ReMarkable ($499)
This is an unusual tablet. Its main purpose is to allow you to take handwritten notes on the impressively paper-like interface. It’s too expensive for what it is, but I still recommend it because it’s helped reduce my habit of having dozens of spiral-bound notebooks strewn about my office.

Read the rest

Man collects sand, seawater, and seaweed in a jar, and a year later the jar is teeming with life

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This guy collected a gallon of seawater, some sand, and seaweed, poured it in a jar, and sealed the lid. He inadvertently collected a lot of tiny animals, too, and a year later the jar is a vibrant closed ecosystem, though it seems to be in a bit of decline due to a massive heat wave.

From the YouTube description:

A year ago I made this huge natural native saltwater ecosphere in a jar. It has had a lot of ups and downs, but to this day is still very successful. The ecosphere has housed crabs, starfish and a lot more and is currently still housing a lot of crustaceans, paramecium, worms, other invertebrates and even spionid worms.

Image: YouTube/Life in Jars Read the rest

Gorgeous seven-segment display that depicts numbers by heating and cooling

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Thermochromic materials change color as they heat or cool. You know the mood ring? Like that!

Now comes a much weirder and more delightful use of this technology: A seven-segment thermochromic display. Each segment is blackish in color when cool, but slowly changes from reddish to yellow to green as it heats up.

Behind the scenes is some nifty hardware work by the physicist Moritz v. Sivers, as this post in Hackaday describes …

To achieve the effect, he first cut each segment out of copper. The crystal sheets were applied to the segments, thanks to their handy self-stick backing, and the excess was carefully trimmed away. Each segment was then mounted to a TES1-12704 Peltier module by way of thermally conductive epoxy. TB6612FNG motor controllers and a bevy of Arduino Nano’s are used to control the Peltier modules, raising and lowering their temperature as necessary to get the desired effect.

It’s pretty mesmerizing to watch in action, since the segments glow and recede so slowly — a witty inversion of the snappy speed at which we normally expect digital readouts to move. I’m now dreaming of having an entire wall of these things as the output for the world’s most glacial word processor, where you have to voluntarily ease your typing speed down to 5 WPM so the display can catch up. Read the rest

Aerial photos of sea-salt flats

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Tom Hegen (previously) is a photographer who specializes in aerial photography of landscapes, often with a focus on mass industrial activity that reshapes the natural world. His latest work is a series of photos of sea-salt production flats, where seawater is flowed into huge ponds to evaporate.

During the process, bacteria forms and changes the color of the ponds — and seen from above through Hegen’s lens, they look like super weird organic Mondrian paintings. It definitely makes you ponder anew how we meatbag humans terraform the planet, as Hegen notes in this interview with Fubiz:

I am interested in the concept of the Anthropocene. It is a term used by scientists suggesting that humans, in the recent centuries, have become one of the most important factors influencing the biological, geological and atmospheric processes on Earth. Some of the most significant changes in the Anthropocene include climate change, the ozone hole in the Antarctic, rapidly rising sea levels, and landscape changes caused by river shifts or the degradation of raw materials.

In my photography, I explore the origin and scale of that idea to understand the dimensions of humans’ intervention in natural spaces and to direct attention toward how we can take responsibility. There are many untold stories on this subject, and I would like to keep the focus on the overall topic of the relationship between people and nature.

Tons more photos on Hegen’s Instagram, and here’s a short video showing his process:

A few more pictures from Hegen’s series … Read the rest

The easy way to season cast iron

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I have offered plenty of advice on caring for your cast iron cookware. Stop seasoning it in the house, use your BBQ.

Seasoning this stuff in the oven (my favorite old way,) or on the stove smokes your house up. Just throw the shit on the grill.

Super thinly put a coat of oil on your cast iron piece.

Put the cast iron piece on the grill.

Heat the grill up, let it run until the cast iron piece has stopped smoking.

Turn off grill and let cool down.


I was able to perfectly season a set of cast iron Pie Irons with no problem. Read the rest

6 next-gen dash cams that do more than just record

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Accidents happen. And when they do, you’re going to want a dash cam for a second pair of eyes. At the minimum, a decent dash cam can save you vast sums of time and money in case of an accident. But a really good dash cam can do a whole lot more. Here are six of our favorites.

U-Drive: DVR Dash Cam with Night Vision

With 1280 x 720 high-resolution video, this affordable cam boasts surprisingly clear images. And that’s not just true during rush hour: 6 infrared LEDs activate after hours, providing night vision video that records automatically whenever your car is on the road. You can get the U-Drive: DVR Dash Cam with Night Vision for $19.99, down from the previous sale price of $24 and half off the original cost.

Papago GoSafe 366 Dash Cam

Even when your car is parked, the 366 has you covered from multiple angles. It records HD video in front and rear views, and you can easily view the footage on any phone with a Wi-Fi connection. The Papago GoSafe 366 Dash Cam is on sale for $249.99, a 16% break off the list price.

GoSafe S780 Dash Cam with Sony Image Sensor

The S780 comes with a sensor that automatically adjusts to compensate for low light levels, and also toggles between front and rear views if the car goes into reverse. Combine that with a stunning 150º field of view in the front  – and 180º in the back – and you won’t miss a thing. Read the rest

Puppy, 4 weeks old, makes cutest sound in the world

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The sound this tiny little 4-week-old “pound puppy” makes when he’s smacking his toof-less gums around that soaked kibble? It gives me all the squees in the world. Look at that little dude just go.

That chubby little belly!

Those crusty li’l paws!


Little Mowgli is 4 weeks old, can smack on some soaked kibble, and smiles in his sleep.

Read the rest

Cat tries a lick of ice cream for the first time

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Look at this cute kitty getting a little taste of ice cream on a spoon from her human. Not an every day thing, but it’s okay as a fancy once-in-a-while.

“This is Hallie,” says IMGURian DOWNVOTEALLEMOJIS, who adopted her.

“Named because we found her abandoned on a Halliburton well site in the dead of winter.”

“Kept her warm in the diesel truck and fed her cans of tuna.”

“Had her almost 2 years now. She’s a lucky girl! And so are we.”

What kind of ice cream?

“Strawberry, my favorite.”

Her first ice cream

Read the rest

“The Stab”: a forgotten nearly-was Haunted Mansion changing portrait

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The queue area at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland features a row of changing portraits wherein paintings everyday scenes are revealed as sinister and haunted (originally the effect was done with crossfading slide-projectors; now it’s done with an amazing, crisp electroluminiscent effect).

There were a lot of potential gags designed for the hallway (for example, the miser who spontaneously combusts!), and while the paintings the Imagineers settled are part of the best queue in theme-park history, I can’t help but wish a few of those nearly-was gags had made it into the ride.

One example is “The Stab,” based on a well-known Currier and Ives print, which Imagineer Marc Davis reimagined as a murder scene. As the Long Forgotten Blog writes: “So it’s another example of Marc riffing off of a known image, in this case wickedly reading murderous intent in this dear lady’s so seemingly innocent eyes. You know, her face does seem to me to have an utter blankness about it, despite the Mona Lisa smile, that allows the viewer to imagine virtually any thought lurking behind it.”

Long Forgotten also mentions that my friend (and sometime Boing Boing contributor, and former Imagineering colleague) Chris Merritt is just wrapping up an astounding, two-volume history of Marc Davis that comes out on Labor Day. Chris was Davis’s protege, and the rarities, never-seen sketches, and insider dope he has on Davis are absolutely mind-blowing. I’ve pre-ordered my copy: it’s a $105, slipcased, two-volume hardcover set. Read the rest

The “sitting and smiling” guy sat and smiled for 8 hours straight yesterday

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Benjamin Bennett has a YouTube channel of 300 videos where he silently sits in a corner for four hours and smiles into the camera without taking a break. Yesterday he made an 8-hour video of sitting and smiling.

He also has a newer video series called “Walking and Talking” where he rubber bands a camera to a stick and delivers stream of consciousness philosophical musings for four hours per episode.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Panic averted! Two empty Maruman Mnemosyne notebooks have arrived

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Shipping on my favorite notebooks went from 30 days to overnight.

Last time I ordered a Maruman notebook it took a month for it to arrive. I love the Mnemosyne paper for writing upon with fountain pens and my favorite inks. I have been writing a lot lately, letters to friends as well as the mundane shit that passes thru my head. As my last notebook filled up I started to freak out a bit.

I did not, however, get off my ass and just order a new notebook.

I waited until I was surely doomed. Then I checked online and delivery times were down to 1 day. I ordered 2 notebooks. I like the “182” which is about 5″x8″, spiral bound with perforated and SQUARE RULED pages.

I rarely tear pages out, but perforation is nice when you need it.

Ink doesn’t feather. Pens both fine and medium glide over the surface. The white is good for me to spend lots of time staring at a blank page thinking about whatever terror I am trying to get out of my head and onto a page.

There are many size and rule options.

My go-to pen is a Parker Duofold International with a medium nib, and my favorite daily-use ink is Noodler’s Heart of Darkness.

Maruman 1 Hardcover Executive Notebook (N182A) via Amazon Read the rest

Already regretting asking Charles Bukowski to review the new ‘Cats’

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somebody needs

to throw a god damn boot

at Mr. Mistoffelees


screw this jellical distraction

this is not quiet, small

nor should one anthropomorphize

a pissant cat

prancing about a stage

you don’t know what theater is

I am telling the director, who is not there

fuck your memories!

there is no fire, it is a cop out, a fake

something to cry in a theater that needs emptying

as they escort me to the door

threatening legal action

I go to Charlie’s and order a pint of rye

it tastes good Read the rest

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