Thursday, December 28, 2006

Exciting Day Downtown

Dianne had to go to work for a bit today. Since she was operating on a couple hours of sleep, I took her downtown. I can surf there as well, just not as comfortably. But it turned out to be an exciting day in downtown Cincinnati - as exciting as Cincinnati can be.

We had lunch at Skyline Chili with a few of her colleagues. Afterwards, we walked to the Carew Tower to visit Churchill’s Tea Room. Along the way we saw quite a few things. We walked by the Duke Energy holiday model train exhibit. If you can’t make it, their site has photos and a short video. We also walked past John Matarese (the WCPO-TV reporter who does the “Don’t Waste Your Money” segments) who was conducting an on the street interview. I’m not a huge fan, but nevertheless a brush with a 2 time Emmy award winner (according to his bio). Finally, I was looking ahead and the back of a jacket with the Full Metal Corsets logo of the Cincinnati Rollergirls caught my eye. I’m pretty sure it was The Librarian, but it was a bit hard to tell as she wasn’t wearing skates and making her trademark shooshing pose.

What a day, huh!?!

Cooking with Monkey

I stumbled across a creative website called Cooking With Monkey. The site has collections of photographs that follow a stuffed monkey making various dishes from start to finish. The idea of a stuffed animal holding kitchen utensils and operating appliances to cook something struck me as very funny. The picture at the right shows Monkey making cupcakes. You can see Monkey making all kinds of recipes. I think it’s a cute, clever idea for a website – although a lot of work.

I must be in the target audience, because when I showed it to Dianne she didn’t think it was that cute. I thought the stuffed animal would enhance her interest, but it didn’t work. Maybe if the monkey rides a motorcycle she’ll get sucked in.

By the way, the cooking area is just a small part of the photo documentary of Monkey. Go here to see him doing all kinds of things like going to the dentist (getting teeth x-rays is the funniest pic in that series), going to the eye doctor, doing origami, and traveling in Chicago.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Puzzle Box

Puzzle box closed 2My mother- and father-in-law gave me this puzzle/treasure box for Christmas. It's all wood and looks like a sealed, secure box. The joints are very tight. See another view here. However, the bands move in sequence to release the ends of the box and reveal two hidden compartments. One end is relatively easy to open and gives access to the large compartment. See that end open here. You might think that is all there is. But a series of steps lets you open a smaller compartment on the other end. A very unique gift!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Prince of Wales

Carew tower and bus stationA few weeks ago, Dianne and I made a rare trip downtown to the Carew Tower. We went to the Tower Place mall to visit Appointments - a nice pen and accessory store. We were walking around and I noticed Churchill's Tea Room, but we didn't stop in since it was lunch time. Dianne went back a couple weeks ago over lunch and found out they sell bulk loose leaf tea. She said it is similar to the Lupicia Fresh Tea store (formerly L'Epicier) in the Ala Moana Shopping Center.

I'm a big tea drinker - black or green mostly, not herbal teas. There's nothing like a good loose leaf tea. So while at Churchill's, she bought a few different kinds for me to try. All the tea was very fresh and the flavors were wonderful. One sample she bought was the Prince of Wales tea. That is one of my favorite everyday black teas. It's a little hard to find, but a few stores in the area carry the Twinings version. However, the flavor of Twinings version doesn't even come close to the fresh stuff from Churchill's. If you're a tea drinker and are downtown in Cincinnati, stop by Churchill's. You'll be glad you did.

It's probably no Teaism, but I'll bet Kyle could get some of his favorite white tea there.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mouse Cookie

mouse cookieCarla found the cutest little mouse cookies today. The body was a chocolate covered cherry - the cherry stem was the tail. The head and nose were a chocolate kiss and the ears were sliced almonds. The mouse was sitting on half an Oreo cookie. A little red and green decoration gave the cookie a nice touch. A very clever combination of common items made a nice cookie.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Street Art & Anamorphosis

Thanks to the Dragonfly (whose Adventures you can read about here), I found the street art of Julian Beever. He uses chalk on sidewalks to draw images that, when viewed from a certain direction, show an object or scene in perfect proportion. The illusion leverages our eye/brain knowledge of perspective, object size, and relative distance and the viewer’s perspective to correct the “distorted” image he draws on the angled sidewalk. It’s easier to see than to explain in words. Looking from one direction, this image appears stretched out and you don’t immediately recognize the object. However, in the correct view the object pops out in perfect proportion. The illusion is striking on some of his art here and here where people seem to fit in perfectly with the drawing.

A quick search on the web pointed out the technique is called anamorphosis. Here is one nice site that discusses the technique that has a nice bibliography and list of links. An early example of the technique is a skull put in the oil painting shown here. I also discovered another street artist, Kurt Wenner, with similar work.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Tune Glue

Tune glue is a fun little Flash site that lets you create a music map where you can explore relationships between bands and musicians. Enter a name as a starting point. Each artist or group is shown as a node. Click on the node to expand or delete it from your diagram. You can drag nodes or lock their positions in the diagram. Some artists have news, links, etc. as well. When you expand a node, connections are made to neighbors. At the right is a diagram I made starting with one of my favorites, ZZ Top. You can see their node near the center (click on the image to see a larger view). The logic seemed pretty good as I also like the neighboring groups within a couple degrees of separation.

The diagrams aren't always perfect. Sometimes an artist will show up in 2 places and band names can be tricky (e.g. The Doors and Doors were separate nodes). Nevertheless, it's clever and worth a look.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Updated Blog Roll

I've been a blogging slug lately, but I've been reading a lot of sites. I've updated my reading list on the right side of the page. I've mentioned all of these in previous posts except for the update to my photoblog list -- The HOV Lane. It's a great collection of photos taken by Josh Lane on his road trip. The photos capture the beauty as well as the wacky observations he makes on the journey. Check it out!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More Holiday Gift Ideas

Thanks to the swissmiss site, I found a site called Generate that has lots of nice items for the home that have an innovative design. One example is the hugging salt and pepper shakers shown at the right. There's another interesting salt and pepper shaker here. I'm not into sushi, but the sushi dipping plate here and the chopstick holder and rest here are nice. Finally, these plates are funky. They keep things from mixing on the plate and can be stored vertically in the cupboard.

Swiss Miss

It's been cold here, but this entry isn't about hot chocolate. Thanks to 101 cookbooks, I ran across the swissmiss blog written by a Swiss designer living in NYC. She posts on all sorts of items that have a design flair. An example is the oil lamp shown at the right. The wick holder is a brass match that gives the illusion of a half used wooden match that keeps on burning. It's an interesting read for gift ideas.

Curious Cook

Thanks to the Blogger Buzz post on the Blogger dashboard, I found the News for Curious Cooks blog written by Harold McGee. He provides an interesting look at the interface between food, cooking, and science. His book as well as the blog explains the "why" behind cooking methods and food transforms. For example, this post gives some background as to why black teas should be brewed in very hot water whereas green teas need more gentle brewing.

National Toy Hall of Fame

The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY has a National Toy Hall of Fame. Check out an online version of the items here. I was fortunate to have many of these toys while growing up. Tonka toys, Legos, Slinky, Etch-a-sketch (although I never made sketches like these), Lincoln Logs, etc. The list brought back a lot of memories. I was pleasantly surprised to see the cardboard box on the list--Dianne didn't get it. I got lots of boxes when my dad received orders for his shop. A little imagination and a box can be hours of entertainment.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

9 out of 10

A colleague pointed out the Rough Type blog by Nicholas Carr. It's an interesting blog about various web, technology, information, and web business related items. I read several of the recent posts and liked the style. He introduces topics succinctly and then adds his own insight. A very good read.

Ben Franklin could have written the title for one of Nicholas' recent posts -- Death, Taxes, and Spam. In that post he cites a study saying nine out of every ten emails are spam. That is sobering. I've been getting a lot of spam with "stock tips" lately. It boggles my mind that folks can make money doing that! If his 5-7% return on investment information is correct, it's no wonder spammers keep sending junk. As Susan Powter used to say, "Stop the Insanity!"

Early Kodachrome Images

I'm not a political blog reader. However, the Daily Kos site departed from their usual political theme with this nice post today on early kodachrome images -- color photos taken all across America prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Each photo has a brief comment. I like the first photo in the Modernization section of some locomotives. An interesting collection.

First Snow of the Season

My normal 15-20 minute commute to work took one hour and fifty minutes today. Why? It was the first snowfall in the area. The 1/4 to 1/2 inches of snow throughout the area put Cincinnati drivers into a tizzy. The roads were slippery in spots, but they really weren't that bad. People just aren't used to driving in that and so they were sliding all over. I saw two cars in the ditch in the Mason area and a few fender benders on the way to work. As shown in the Borgman cartoon from last Friday, some areas had the salt trucks out in full force. That helped a lot, but my black car was mostly white with salt by the time I got home. I can't wait for the next snowstorm during rush hour.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

First House on the Moon

...I'd like to someday be the owner of the first house on the moon.
there would be no neighbors, and no population boom.
You might say that all I do is dream my life away.
I guess it's true, 'cause I'm stone in love with you...

These lyrics came to mind today. Russell Thompkins, Jr. of the Stylistics might live on the moon if the plans announced by NASA come true. Of course some people will think the moon colony is a hoax.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pillows for Christmas

Need some unique pillows as accents around the house? There are several options I've seen recently on the web. At the right is one of many sushi pillows available here. If sushi isn't your thing, you could decorate with rock pillows. Finally, there are some drug product pillow options.

Holiday Havoc

On Saturday evening, Dianne and I went to Dayton for Holiday Havoc - a charity event scrimmage between the Cincinnati Rollergirls and the Gem City Rollergirls. We went up early and had dinner at bd's Mongolian Grill (thanks to Carla for the tip). It's a good, albeit Americanized, place for Mongolian bbq food.

The Holiday Havoc wasn't far away at the SkateWorld Kettering. The event had two scrimmages each lasting 40 minutes. The Gem City group has two teams (with some girls skating both events due to injuries) and the Cinci girls formed two teams as well. In both bouts, the Gem City girls edged out the Cinci girls by a few points.

It was a tough match with some hard blocking by the Gem City team. I happened to sit next to Ruff'n the Passer's mom. She is very nice and proud of her daughter - and rightly so! Ruff'n the Passer is a very good all around skater. She is good at jamming and a good blocker too. The best Gem City blocker was Fonda la Boom who gave hard shoulder blocks that knocked several Cinci girls off their feet. Another Gem City jammer of note was I Candye. She is light, but really sprints around the track.

Overall, the Cincinnati Rollergirls didn't look as sharp with their blocking as in past matches. We were sitting with a Cincinnati group and there were several times where folks couldn't believe how easily the Gem City jammer made it through the pack. As usual, Collier Mama was doing a good job blocking. Unfortunately, she got ejected after going down hard with a Gem City skater. I thought it was a very bad call as Collier Mama was crawling away from her opponent as the Gem City girl was kicking Collier with her skates. Go figure!, Kathy Killzone...was also doing well with blocking. By the way, I found the name change confusing. :^) Sk8 Crime went all out as usual with some hard blocks and take downs. Polly Rocket is hurting today after Sk8 Crime's tackle.

On the jamming side, even Ruff'n the Passer's mom was impressed with Sadistic Sadie's skill. She really kept the team in it during the second bout. In one jam, the Gem City jammer got an early jump on Sadie and she was waving her fist in the air through the turn to excite the crowd. However, she didn't have much of a jump and wasn't watching Sadie. Sadie caught up to her at full speed while the Gem City girl was waving and Sadie gave her a hard shoulder block that sent her into the crowd. That electrified the Cinci crowd.

A lot of Cinci skaters contributed as jammers as there was a lot of rotation. Emolition, one of the newer skaters, showed a lot of promise as a jammer. The Cincinnati crowd wasn't always sure of the scoring. There was one jam in particular where Gummilove was against the Gem City jammer in the penalty box for 3/4 of the time. The jam ended up Gem City 3 and Cinci 2. A Cincinnati fan behind me shouted "how is that possible?" We all agreed!

Despite the Cincinnati Rollergirl losses, it was a nice event. Thanks to all the Roller Girls from both cities for volunteering their time to put on the charity event.

First Lego League Competition

Getting Ready for the Next MissionOn Saturday morning, Dianne and I went to the Cincinnati area First Lego League competition at the Loveland middle school. For those not familiar with the FLL, check out their website. The league is a means to get kids thinking about math, science, and engineering in a fun way by using Lego robots to perform tasks. But it goes beyond the Lego toys aspect by evaluating teamwork, requiring background research, and looking at communication and understanding. It's a neat program. The theme this year was nanotechnology.

We went especially to see the Teeny Tiny Techno Team participate in the table top, robot aspect of the event. The team is coached by Kyle (who Dianne works with) and Tresha. In this aspect of the competition, the robot tries to complete as many pre-defined tasks as possible in 2 1/2 minutes. The tasks have varying degrees of difficulty and so have different point values. They had three rounds of competition and the TTTT improved each round! I posted a few photos from the event in this Flickr set. You can read more about the other parts of the event and the outcome here and here. The team should be very proud of themselves!