Friday, December 3, 2010

12/3 Moment of Zen: Ooh, a Maze!

In Case You're Not Sure What To Do With All Your Free Time

Here's a maze in the shape of Einstein's Head. Click for full size version.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

12/2 Moment of Zen: Pizza Flags

Can You Have Your Flag and Eat It, Too?

When Project Food Blog, a competition between food bloggers for attention and a cash prize, announced that contestants would have to reimagine and present their distinctive version of pizza, Taiwanese-American participant Jen of Tiny Urban Kitchen was a little stumped. Despite her extensive knowledge and experience with Asian cuisine, she'd never made a pizza.

As pictured above, her unique take was to make turn pizza-making into a travelogue of sorts: each of her pizzas takes the form of the flag of a country she's visited, and is described not only in terms of its toppings, but with photos and brief anecdotes from her travels. Click above to read about her travels and how she managed blue for her flag pizzas without food coloring.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

12/1 Moment of Zen: Native Name Map

Enough Rockets

Always thinking of new and interesting ways to view the world, the folks at National Geographic made the map of the US based on translations of place names from their origins in Native American languages. While not exhaustive, they picked some remarkable ones. Guess which place's name means, "It makes a loud noise over there all the time," which means, "A good place to dig potatoes," and where "Gnat Town" is. Click the picture above to go to NG's interactive version of the map, where you can magnify different areas to read the fine print. Click here to read about the process of translating these names through their many origins to their current form.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

11/30 Moment of Zen: Nuclear Photography

Rocket Week Continues

While the US Government documented its nuclear experiments in excruciating detail, most of those images are still highly classified. German newspaper Der Spiegel recently ran a story about some of the military photographers who worked on this during its heyday in the mid-late 20th century, including a slideshow of some of those images that have been released. Images of the blasts themselves, like the one above, were shot on special XR (extended range) redscale film, which makes them look like something surreal.

Monday, November 29, 2010

11/29 Moment of Zen: Space Junk In Kazakhstan

The Russian Space Program still rents its land from Kazakhstan, near a town the USSR built for the purpose and named Baikonur (Kaz. "rich with light"), and fires off its rockets about as far inland as you can get. While most of the USA's space program cast-offs splash down in the water, Russia's land out in the desolate scrub of the steppe, which better resembles the expanses of Nevada where the US performed its nuclear tests in the mid to late 20th century (incidentally, Kazakhstan was the major proving ground for the USSR's nuclear program as well). There, they are quickly harvested for their titanium-rich scrap metal. Click the picture to see more photos of space junk harvesting.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

11/23 Moment of Zen: More Creative Uses for Squash

Squash Use #327: Thwarting Robbers

A would-be convenience store robber in Manchester, NH was undone when one of the store's customers bonked him over the head with a squash earlier this month. Click the picture above (Squash Use #164: Making Pictures of Dinosaurs) for more on this story

Monday, November 22, 2010

11/22 Moment of Zen: Volcanic Lightning

Volcanos: Hogging All The Awesome?

Explosions, lava, ash, steam, lightning? As if volcanos weren't impressive enough, vulcanologists (volcano scientists) are increasingly documenting the occurrence of lightning as part of a volcanic eruption. Here's some more links to pictures of volcanic lightning and possible scientific explanations.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

11/17 Moment of Zen: Population Mapped As Area

Click map for larger version

What if the largest countries had the biggest populations?

Curious folks decided to see what would happen if they lined up the lists of the world's countries in order by land area and by population, then, for each list number, map the name of the country with that population onto the shape of the country with that land area.

A couple things to notice:

  • Four countries, the US, Yemen, Ireland and Brazil, have the same position on the population list as the area list.

  • The South Asian countries, usually squished into a small corner of the map, occupy several of the largest areas, including Canada (India), Greenland (Vietnam) and Australia (Pakistan).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

11/15 Moment of Zen: Masquerade (Basket)Ball

Sorry for the pause—I had a 4-day weekend from Homework blogging with Veterans' Day and a bit of professional development.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

11/10 Moment of Zen: Space Bubble

Scientists Excited At Cluelessness About Bubbles

Something big is going on at the center of the galaxy, and astronomers are happy to say they don’t know what it is. A group of scientists working with data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope said Tuesday that they had discovered two bubbles of energy erupting from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The bubbles, which will be in a paper to be published Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal, extend 25,000 light years up and down from each side of the galaxy and contain the energy equivalent to 100,000 supernova explosions.

“They’re big,” said Doug Finkbeiner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, leader of the team that discovered them. The source of the bubbles is a mystery, [but] what it’s apparently not is dark matter, the mysterious something that astronomers say makes up a quarter of the universe and holds galaxies together.

Friday, November 5, 2010

11/5 Moment of Zen: The Trabantimino

The Amazing Collapsible Family Muscle Car

37-year-old artist and photographer Liz Cohen, has spent the last eight years in body shops across the country, building a custom hybrid like no other – with her own hands. Her collapsible Trabantimino is part Trabant, the VW of Soviet East Germany, as extinct now as the Berlin Wall, and part 1973 Chevy El Camino. Currently on display at the Salon 94 Gallery.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

11/4 Moment of Zen: Azhdarchids

What do you get when you cross a giraffe with goose?

Apparently, you get an Azhdarchid, the largest flying animal to have ever lived, standing about 20 feet tall (male giraffes average about 18') and with a wingspan of up to 50 feet. Click above to read more about the azhdarchid and several other lesser-known prehistoric monsters at Environmental Graffiti.

Friday, October 22, 2010

10/22 Moment of Zen: Fake Science

...and Other Important Facts

Click above to see more "informative" pieces of flapdoodle and poppycock, addressing such important scientific questions as, "Why do leaves turn brown in the fall?"; "How do mustaches grow?"; "How does Horsepower compare to Spongecake Power?" and "How are bees like the Swedish government?"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

10/20 Moment of Zen: Inflatable Helmet


Apparently, the Swedes have thought of everything. First, hobbit holes; now, this.

10/19 Moment of Zen: Home Space Photography

The Upper Stratosphere by Balloon and iPhone

The Brooklyn Space Program, largely the brainchild of Luke Geissbühler and his son, Max, sent its first spacecraft up recently, passengered by a brave little iPhone, which was filming for the over 75% of its near 2-hour journey. Propelled only by a weather balloon, the whole trip made it about 19 miles - over 100,000 feet - into the air and took some stunning images. Click either picture to visit the Geissbühlers' video about the project, largely composed of footage taken during the flight.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

10/15 Moment of Zen: Hobbit Holes in Sweden

Apparently, there are hobbits in Sweden, near Lake Kolarbyn. Click above to read more about it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10/13 Moment of Zen: Never too many DINOSAUR COMICS

On this day, I give you the gift of Dinosaur Comics in abundance. Yes, the pictures are the same every day and yes, it does get more awesome the more you read it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10/12 Moment of Zen: Brocken Spectre

Moment of Zen

Seeing Yourself in a New Light

A rare optic sight, the “Brocken spectre,” which occurs when a person stands at a higher altitude in the mountains and sees his shadow cast on a cloud at a lower altitude, was observed in the Tatra Mountains in Zakopane, Poland, Thursday.

That or it's Bigfoot. It can be hard to tell.

Friday, October 8, 2010

10/8 Moment of Zen: Oh, The Places You'll Go

King of the Couch, King of the River

Steve Snell, a grad student in art at UMass, has been traveling the Connecticut River on his specially built couch boat. Click the picture above to read more about Snell, his work and his time on the river.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

10/7 Moment of Zen: The Fog of War

A visual guide to Wikipedia's lamest edit wars.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

10/6 Moment of Zen: You're a Star!

The Earth and The Moon from 114 million miles away. We look like stars!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

10/5 Moment of Zen: Lego Sushi

Looks almost good enough to eat. Almost...

Monday, October 4, 2010

10/4 Moment of Zen: Dino-Pancake

Yup, that's a pancake.

Click the picture to see how it was put together and to see more pancake creations.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

10/1 Moment of Zen: Here Comes The Rain Again

The above photo is from science class one week ago (Fri., 9/24), in the river near the school. The photo below is a different angle, but the same site Friday, 10/1, after two days of heavy rain brought the river to levels nearing those of the snowmelt-fueled spring swell.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

9/29 Moment of Zen: TRIPLE Rainbow

I'll see your double rainbow and raise you one more.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

9/28 Moment of Zen: Science!

tax·on·o·my/tækˈsɒnəmi/—Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification. The word finds its roots in the Greek τάξις, taxis (meaning 'order', 'arrangement') and νόμος, nomos ('law' or 'science'). Taxonomy uses taxonomic units, known as taxa (singular taxon).
(from Pop Chart Lab)

Monday, September 27, 2010

9/27 Moment of Zen: AuroraMAX

On Demand Northern Lights

We're not totally out of luck for seeing the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) the old fashioned way around here—especially those who live farther out in the hills where there's less light pollution, but here it's a rare and precious event (see the "Current Auroral Oval" at SpaceWeather for updates about when to look up for this). In the higher latitudes, though, it's a far more commonplace event. So for those other times, the Canadian Space Agency (ASC-CSA) has developed AuroraMAX - a live camera from Northern Canada which takes a shot of the sky every 10 seconds. You can watch it live at night (except during the summer, when the Midnight Sun washes out the view) or check out their gallery of featured videos for some of their best captured time-lapse displays.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vintage Argyle Patterns!

Back before the Doctor Who scarf really got underway, I mentioned that one of the ladies from Thursday Night Knitting Group had passed along the argyle sock and tie patterns she had used years ago. No dates are included on the patterns, but I estimate they are from the early 1950s, which would make them 50-60 years old. I am excited to announce that I've finally finished digitizing them so that you can get your argyle on, too!

Note that I am not the author of these patterns—I have included all text from the original patterns exactly as written, along with a few editorial notes for clarification purposes. All patterns include charts which were scanned directly from the original patterns and are included as images. Also included are the lists of color combinations in the original kits, which make for interesting suggestions, perspective or both.

As of posting, I haven't knit from these yet either, though I plan on embarking on some argyle socks soon. If you get to it before I do, let me know—I'd love to workshop on how to make these patterns better. One glaring omission in both cases is the lack of listed yardage requirements, as they were sold as part of kits including yarn to complete the pattern, I'd love to be able to add that information at some point.

Without further ado, here's the patterns:
  • Argyle, Plaid and Block Sock Patterns (pdf, 190K) - Published by Bernat as part of the Bernat Meadowspun Sock Pak, this includes a specific instructions for following included Argyle, Plaid or Block pattern charts, all of which feed into general heel and foot instructions that allow for size adaptation by length. Original pattern was printed on front and back of a sheet of 8½ by 14 paper, which I was not able to scan as a single image, and so only typed version with images lifted from scans.
    • To make argyle socks, print pages 2 and 4 (general notes page 1 optional)
    • To make block or plaid socks, print pages 3 and 4 (general notes page 1 optional)
  • Argyle Tie Pattern (pdf, 181K) - No publisher listed on the pamphlet, but it appears the bottom of it was cut off. The pattern makes an adult tie at a finished full length of 49½ inches. The original pattern as it came to me measures about 7½ by 11 inches, so can be printed on regular paper. Both direct scans of the original pattern and a typed version formatted for easier reading available.

Friday, September 24, 2010

9/24 Moment of Zen: Such Great Heights

I don't think this is what they meant when they said that art imitates life, but this photo sure looks like an abstract painting. Taken from Robert Haas's book Through the Eyes of Vikings, this is just one of an impressive set of aerial photographs from around the Arctic Circle that make the Earth look like abstract art without being messed with in the least. Click the picture to see more from Haas's Arctic collection.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

9/23 Moment of Zen: Caption Time!

What's Your Caption?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

9/22 Moment of Zen: Vulcanson, Volcanosdottir

Iceland: On A First Name Basis with Volcanoes

In Iceland, the phone books are organized alphabetically by first name. Instead of having family last names like we do, folks in Iceland are known by their given first name and patronymic. A patronymic is based on your father's name and indicates you as son of __________ or daughter of __________. Musician Björk's full name is Björk Sigmundsdottir. Iceland being related to English as it is, the breakdown of Sigmundsdottir is actually fairly transparent: Sigmund's daughter. If she had a brother, he would be Sigmundson. Other cultures still highly integrate patronymics - In Russia and many other former USSR nations, the patronymic is a middle name, and people are formally addressed not by their family name (e.g., Mr. Dostoyevsky, Ms. Akhmatova) but by first name and patronymic (e.g. Fyodor Mikhailovich, Anna Andreyevna). (Read more about patronymics around the world).

But, Iceland has the coolest volcanoes (see above), sitting as it does on the line between the American and Eurasian plates as they spread apart, so they get the picture.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

9/21 Moment of Zen: Il a choisi vivre! (Et nager!)

Quadruple Amputee Swims English Channel

French metalworker Philippe Croizon lost both arms and both legs in an electrical accident 16 years ago. Two years ago, when he began training, swimming the length of a pool was a struggle. This weekend, he swam across the English Channel. Croizon made the approximately 21-mile crossing in 13½ hours; a little less than twice the record crossing time of just under 7 hours, set by Bulgarian swimmer Petar Stoychev in 2007.

Here's another article about Croizon from earlier in the summer, which examines the training he did to prepare for his channel swim.

Monday, September 20, 2010

9/20 Moment of Zen: Caption Time!

What's Your Caption?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

9/14 Moment of Zen: Prison Labor Beyond License Plates

What Do These Things Have in Common?

They're all made by inmates in the US. Beyond the classic prison jobs like stamping license plates (which they still do), US inmates are also employed in manufacturing everything from prescription eyeglasses to processed meats, and yes, Kevlar vests, dentures and toilet brushes like the ones pictured above. Click the pictures to find out more about things you wouldn't suspect were made by inmates.

Friday, September 10, 2010

9/10 Moment of Zen: Improbable Loads

Moment of Zen

Experiments In Improbable Physics

In considering the photo series the above image comes from, called "Manufactured Totems" by French photographer Alain Delorme, which features transport workers in Shanghai, China with towers of merchandise lashed to the backs of bikes, such that you have no idea how they're even upright. Click the picture to see more, including stacks of furniture, flowers and more.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Moment of Zen 9/9: Disney Princess Superheroes

Moment of Zen

Reimagining Disney Princesses as Superheroes

This late night brainchild of casual artist Melissa Erickson takes the almost ubiquitous images of the Disney "princesses" and reimagines them as superheroes instead. There's a lot of different ways you could see this, but in all of them, it's a pretty interesting idea. What do you think? (click the image above to see a more extensive lineup)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Moment of Zen 9/8: The World's Longest Maki is Local News!

Moment of Zen

9/7/2010: UMass Amherst students make the world's longest sushi roll

420 feet of California Roll:
650 sheets of nori (seaweed),
200 pounds of sushi rice,
200 pounds of crab,
100 pounds of avocado,
100 pounds of cucumber,
2 pounds of sesame seeds,
5 gallons of soy sauce
6 pounds of wasabi
Video of the sushi feat

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

9/7 Moment of Zen: Knitting a Year in Two Meters

How Long Is A Year?

About two meters, according to this conceptual timepiece designed by German-based Norwegian industrial designer Siren Elise Wilhelmsen. A round knitting machine, ticking off one stitch every half hour, one round per day, this uncanny timepiece produces a knitted tube about two meters (6' 4") in the 365 days of a year.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

¡Simpatico! - Original Pattern for Free Download

I am very proud to introduce ¡Simpatico! Though I've been making up patterns on the fly for years for myself and for people I can talk through it in person, this is the first one that's ready to fly solo. (also see original in this earlier post)

An excellent one-skein project, this cabled earflap hat is worked from the bottoms of the flaps up. The two earflaps are worked separately, back and forth, then joined in the round, with the rest of the hat cast on. The whole hat is symmetrical in a way that's nonobvious from the front but still cuts the number of instructions in half.

Here's its specs:
  • Needles: set circular needles and/or set of 4 DPNs in size 5 (3.75 mm) or size needed to obtain gauge
  • Yarn: 9-10 wpi (worsted weight), about 120 yds (a little less than 50g for most worsted yarns)
  • Gauge: 4.5 sts/in; 17.5 st/10 cm
  • Size: ~22.5”/57 cm circumference (average adult head)

  • 1/15/11: Thanks to knitter feedback, ¡Simpatico! is now bigger and better - literally! Many knitters found the pattern came out too small for grown-up heads, so I've reworked the pattern to have about 2 more inches in both directions. However, the original pattern seems to work okay for kids, so I've left it and called it child size. Both patterns include any relevant errata.

  • 1/30/11: Reworked an egregious oversight in the adult size at the join between the earflaps and hat body.

Here are a few yarns currently available from RPM Fiberworks which would be good choices for this pattern:

Friday, September 3, 2010

9/3 Moment of Zen: Return of the MoZ

School's back, which means I'm keeping up the students' homework blog and its embedded dangling carrot, the Moment of Zen. These will also get posted here when I put them up, which means most M-F in the early afternoon sometime. Without further ado...

A Matter of Perspective...

What planet is this? Although seemingly something out of The Little Prince, the planet is actually Earth. More specifically, it is a small part of the Earth incorporated into a four image stereographic "Little Planet " projection. The central fisheye image points down, while the surrounding wide-angle images were taken at a 30 degree tilt and added digitally later. Earth-anchored items surrounding the image center include green grass, dark shadows, and trees near and far. At the image top ("noon" if the planet were a clock) is the well-lit Parkes Radio Telescope dish in New South Wales, Australia. The surrounding sky contains many jewels of the night including the Moon at 9 pm, the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy at 1:30 pm and 7 pm, and the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy at 5 pm. A full field interactive version of this scene can be found here.

Photo and explanation lifted from NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day archive, which features and explains an interesting image every day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Doctor Who Scarf: Really, it's done...

...and has been for quite a while if I want to be honest about it. Or rather, the knitting is. I reached the goal of 12', as predicted, sometime last Sunday, but between rainy days, lost camera, and the practical difficulty of laying out such a thing to photograph in my apartment and fitting it in one frame, it's been a long time getting it photographed in this state. I added a little more on, as well, but now I'm confronted with many a knitter's worst nightmare: weaving in approximately a billion ends. Give or take a few million.

For the uninitiated, weaving in ends is the process of taking the yarn ends hanging off of a project and looping them back through the stitches, which both makes the work look cleaner and, depending on how the thing's constructed, further ensures it will not unravel. They usually turn up every time you start or stop a new yarn. When working in the same color, there are ways to avoid it, but with stripes, there's no hope, so I have two ends to weave in for each stripe on the scarf. At this magnitude, a billion is only a slight exaggeration.

This is one of the greatest difficulties of "finishing" a project; it's why if you look at projects on Ravelry (a knit/crochet project sharing site), you will find any number of in progress pieces that hang at 95%, or even 100% nearly indefinitely, without their creator declaring them complete. It's weaving in the damn ends.

When it's for me, I don't mind having strings hanging off unless they put the piece at risk for unraveling, so it's become sort of a trademark of knitted things I make for myself. Plus, in a way, it complements the trend of wearing things, especially baseball hats, with the tags hanging off of them. It shows people where it came from. They both also have the feature in common of making you look a little silly. Looking silly, as evidenced by the themes of the last post, is clearly among my major concerns: I am concerned about not looking silly enough.

So I've done what a great history of fiber artists have done and started another project rather than do the finish work on the first one. I won't tell you what the other project is, because I want it to be a surprise for Mlle. Commissioner, but it involves a large quantity of bobbles and has had other parts reknit several times because the shaping wasn't quite right.

Slowly, I am working through the woven in stripe ends. On the other end of that, I get to make tassels, which I'm rather looking forward to doing. It appears that my estimation of two weeks will be about spot on for this project, even if that's a self-fulfilling time frame. Evidence of the school year creeps up more and more, starting to reclaim my brain from the free-roaming pastures of summer. It can't shut me in the barn yet, though. I will stampede the grass of summer yet!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Doctor Who Scarf Day 4: 88.5" and Waiting for the Other Shoe

As of sometime last night, the scarf is more than halfway done! Thursday is Knitting Night, so it's not unexpected that it was productive time, though not as productive as it could have been, since I forgot one of my needles and needed to wait for someone else to show up with a spare #8. Quite productively, I spent this waiting time doodling on the little whiteboard that lives in my bag for tutoring and stacking as much of my stuff on my head as I could.

I have a longstanding belief that most things are worth trying on as a hat. Here is a partial list of things that I have worn as a hat:
  • colander
  • CD spindle cover
  • CD spindle
  • skeins of yarn
  • corn husks
  • dictionaries and other untold numbers of books of varying sorts
  • egg carton
  • watermelon with a pineapple topper
  • tinfoil (one has to try it at least once)
  • trash can
  • cat
  • flower pot (with and without flower)
  • flip flop
  • bread box
  • white board
  • and a cast of thousands...

I suppose I'm happy to think of myself as someone who wears many hats, but this wasn't exactly what I meant. Maybe I've been preparing myself for a varied life since a very young age by trying on any hat I could find. Even the ones that aren't really hats.

The other exciting thing about knitting last night was that one of the older members brought me the argyle sock pattern that she used to knit from years and years ago, which I've been digitizing over a large portion of today, and will be making available for free once it's all sorted out. It also includes patterns for plaid and block patterned socks and an argyle tie pattern. More about those soon. For now, back to Doctor Who-ville!