It had been a long day and the thought of a massage sounded so relaxing. At CES Unveiled I walked past the Inada Massage Chairs table. They had two chairs lying prone. There was a bit of a line to try one out, but I thought it might be fun to try it myself.
I walked up to the guy in the chair nearest to me.
“You don’t look very relaxed,” I said to him jokingly.
“I’m not,” he replied.
I decided I didn’t need to give them a try after all.
Last weekend, I went to visit my mom. In the bathroom, I saw a clock that has been part of the house since the Eighties and it looked it.
We bought this clock for Carol when her eyes started failing. When you press the button on the top, the clock announces the time. Here is a video of it in action.
I’ve seen this clock in my parents’ house for two decades, but something about the retro Max Headroom style made it jump out at me. It suddenly looked out of place in their house. All the Eighties stuff that used to be in their house has slowly gone away, leaving this last vestige. The talking clock was spared because of its functionality. We should all be so lucky.
This photo from Nicole Lee brought back such a vivid memory for me:
In her words:
Let’s see. Shut-down escalator? Check. Random kid-size shoe? Check. No kid in sight? Check.
Yep, kid-eating escalator.
This EXACT thing happened to my friend, Kirstie Salamanikas, at the top of the escalator in the Mervyn’s store at Valley Fair Mall back in the Eighties. Kirstie was lucky enough to give her shoe a big yank and get it out of the escalator, but the bite it took out of the sole left an indelible mark in my mind.
To this day, I’m scared of escalators, jumping over that dangerous seam where the escalator can grab hold of your shoe and keep crunching it as the stairs move under your feet.
Mike tries to tell me that escalator technology has advanced since then and it’s impossible for someone to get their shoe caught, but now I know he’s WRONG!
When you hear electric guitar music, only part of what you hear comes from the guitar. The rest is effects, such as distortion, echoes, reverb, and chorus. While guitarists traditionally use a stack of single-purpose effects pedals to create their unique sound, digital multi-effects have recently become a more convenient alternative. The Line 6 M13 is one of the most sophisticated multi-effect units, with over 80 digital simulations of pedal effects from the traditional to the bizarre.
How it Works
I’ve used lots of multi-effect devices, and I’m pleased to report that the M13 has the best user interface I’ve seen. In fact, since it’s meant to replace a group of guitar pedals, it’s designed so that you can use many of the functions with your foot.
The M13′s main interface is divided into four columns and three rows, representing twelve effects pedals. You can use four effects—one in each column—simultaneously. The signal from the guitar normally proceeds through the four effects from left to right.
In each column, you can select one of the three rows with the corresponding footswitch. The selected row’s switch will light up. Pressing the same switch twice bypasses the effect for that column. Once you’ve selected a row, the LCD display and knobs at the top of the column let you configure the effect. Pushing the first switch selects the category of effect, while turning it chooses a specific effect. The remaining knobs control the effect’s parameters—for example, the amount of distortion or the number of repeats.
Each group of 12 effects is called a scene, and you can have a total of 12 scenes (more with the firmware update, see below.) While this all sounds complex, it only takes a few minutes tinkering with the M13 to understand how to use it.
The M13′s different effects are divided into five broad categories. Each has its own color; the LCD backlights for each column and the footswitches change color to correspond with the effect type, which means you can tell at a glance which effects are currently enabled. The following categories of effects are included:
Distortion (yellow) – effects that create the familar distorted and fuzzy guitar tones used in most rock music.
Modulation (blue) – effects that change the quality of the sound—for example, tremolo and vibrato effects to vary volume and pitch, and spacy effects like chorus and flanger.
Filter (violet) – effects that filter the sound, creating synthesizer-like effects.
Delay (green) – effects that repeat a sound, creating rhythm or depth.
Reverb (red) – effects that add “air” or simulate the sound of a room or hall.
All of the effects sound great. Many of them are digital simulations of well-known guitar effects—for example, the Ibanez Tube Screamer used on many blues records or the Fuzz Face used by Jimi Hendrix. While I’m not enough of an expert on guitar tones to judge how realistic these simulations are, they all sound like the real thing to my ears.
Along with all of these effects, the M13 includes a sophisticated looper—an effect that can record and repeat a musical phrase. You can record up to 28 seconds of audio, which will then repeat, and if you’re quick on your feet you can make this sound quite musical. You can then overdub more guitar (or other) parts to create a layered sound. All of this can be operated with 8 of the footswitches normally used to select effects, and features like an Undo button add to the usefulness.
The looper is like a separate device in itself—in fact, it’s basically the Line 6 DL4, previously available separately. You can use it in combination with the M13′s effects to create sophisticated layers of sound – here’s one example from Youtube.
Recently, Line 6 introduced the M9. It’s a smaller version of the M13. While it can only do three effects at a time and lacks much of the user interface, it has the same effects as the M13, some improved, and 20 more effects. It can also store 48 scenes instead of 12, and has some additional looper features.
This sort of thing happens all of the time in the consumer electronics industry—a new device arrives and leaves those who bought the older, more expensive version feeling a bit cheated. But not so with the M13. Coinciding with the release of the M9, Line 6 released a free firmware update for the M13 that gives it all of the new sounds and features of the new unit.
Since this firmware update just came out, an M13 you buy today may not have the latest update. See Line 6′s site for information on performing the update. It took me about 5 minutes and everything worked fine.
At about $500, the M13 is an amazing deal, but there are other choices:
If you’re a devout traditionalist and only need a couple of effects, you might want to get exactly the same pedal effects your guitar heroes use. Most are still available and will undoubtedly sound a bit better than a digital simulation.
The M13 only replaces guitar pedals—it doesn’t include an amplifier or an emulation of one. If you don’t have a good amp, you might consider an amp with built-in effects (such as the Line 6 Spider Valve series or the Peavey Vypyr series.) There is also Line 6′s line of POD effects, which combine some of the same effects as the M13 with simulations of a variety of different amplifiers.
Some people prefer software to hardware. Software like Native Instruments Guitar Rig or Line 6 Pod Farm can do many of the same effects within a computer.
The aforementioned Line 6 M9 is a more compact version of the M13. It lacks some of the effects routing options, the effects share a single LCD screen, and it is limited to 3 effects at a time, but it’s otherwise identical to the M13. If you need to save $100 or if space is at a premium it might be a better choice.
As a beginning guitarist, I was bewildered by the variety of effects pedals out there. I wanted to have the option to play with different sounds, but didn’t want to invest thousands of dollars in pedals and surround myself with patchcords. The Line 6 M13 gives me all of the sounds I wanted and more, plus a looper that is great for practicing. For $500, you won’t find anything better, and if we’re lucky, Line 6 will keep updating the firmware to make the M13 even better.
About two weeks ago, I got notice that the Powermat system was available for purchase. I went to Powermat.com, read up on it, added one mat and two iPhone cradles to my cart, and then hovered over the buy button for about five minutes. At $180, my highly impulsive gadget-buying urge was tempered, and I didnâ€™t buy it. A week later, Powermat sent me an evaluation kit at no charge for review.
So I plugged in the charging pad, put my iPhone in the charging case, and set it on the pad. The pad chimed its acceptance, a charge LED went on, and the iPhone indicated that it was charging. Having seen Powermatâ€™s viral video, I said (out loud, much to the chagrin of my wife) â€œItâ€™s f—ing charging!â€
After using it for two days, I really like it but Iâ€™m still glad I didnâ€™t pay for it. Despite how much I love the idea of it and the clever design, my recommendation is to wait until the price is down by half overall and until they have clip-on adapters or cases for at least three devices you own and use daily.
Clever design aesthetics permeate the entire system. The portable mat is a tri-fold device that comes with a magnetically closing case. There are buttons on the mat to control sound volume and LED brightness. The universal charger is small and comes with a magnetically coupled case that holds four of the seven tips included with it. The power adapter is designed to let you coil the extra cable around the adapter and clip it in, so your charging station looks tidy. Even the boxes that the system comes in exhibit excellent design.
The only missed opportunities I noticed were the lack of a booster battery on the iPhone charge case, which would have sold me on the whole solution when I first looked at it, and the fact that the wireless charge receiver on the iPhone case protrudes about two millimeters from the case, which is annoying to my wife to the point that sheâ€™d prefer to use the upright iPod charger. I donâ€™t mind it. In my opinion, the portable pad is a better value than the standard mat because itâ€™s portable and I think it looks better.
The mat contains coils that create a magnetic field. When you place a device that has a compatible coil on it, it induces a current in the device and that current is used to charge the device. Powermat adds some clever engineering to detect when devices are present to shut down when power is not needed, thus saving that 20% of power that would be lost to inefficiency when no device is present.
Unfortunately, you canâ€™t just throw your iPhone on the pad randomly. You have feel around for the (strong) magnetic field and wait for the charge sound or your device might not couple correctly. iPhones are finicky about charge power unfortunately, and about 1/3rd of the time my phone fails to charge even when the mat thinks it should be. Removing and replacing the phone usually fixes it. I have figured out that placing the iPhone quickly with a slight circular wave helps find the right spot to couple better than placing the device straight down on the pad, and now that Iâ€™ve gotten good at it, the phone couples about 90% of the time. Thatâ€™s 10% of the time less often than dropping it on my iPhone upright dock.
But you donâ€™t want to spend $180 on a wireless charger to wind up with a system that is slightly harder to use than dropping your iPhone in a dock. Now, for devices less finicky than the iPhone, such as the Nintendo DSi (Powermat Charging Case for the DSi) and most current Blackberry models (except the Storm) it works a lot better. Its included charger adapter for other devices is light enough that the magnetic field pulls it to the right spot and it works every time.
The Powermat comes with an array of plug-in adapters for other devices. But avoiding the use of plugs is the point of the Powermat, so without a clip-on adapter that stays with the device, thereâ€™s little reason to use the Powermat over any other universal wired adapter. If you think of the Powermat as a tidy universal adapter charging station system with the ability to become a wireless charging system for a few of your devices, youâ€™ll be really happy with it. Its plug-in universal adapter can charge nearly all of the devices I use on a weekly basis, including my Mophie Juicepack Air and my stereo Bluetooth headset. Only my Sony cameras and camcorders are left without a solution.
The Powermat is exciting technology. When the initial adopters have paid back the companyâ€™s investors and the Powermat company is comfortable reducing the price to be competitive with wired universal chargers, and the number of natively supported devices is in the teens, itâ€™ll be a compelling purchase. Until then, itâ€™s an interesting vision of the future thatâ€™s still firmly in the future for most consumers.
I love this advertisement from America’s Independent Electric Companies.
More Power To You! America’s independent light and power companies build your new electric living
Tomorrow’s higher standard of living will put electricity to work for you in ways still unheard of!
The time isn’t too far off, the experts say, when you’ll wash your dishes without soap or water – ultrasonic waves will do the job.
Still hasn’t happened yet. I’ve seen lots of gadgets that SAY they do this, but none of them have been made readily available.
Your beds will be made at the touch of a button.
Yours do that? Mine sure doesn’t.
The kids’ homework will be made interesting and even exciting when they are able to dial a library book, a lecture, or a classroom demonstration right into your home – with sound. (Some of this is happening already)
Thank you, Internet! You HAVE fulfilled the dreams of the 1950′s!
To enjoy all this, you’ll want a lot more electric power, and the independent electric companies of America are already building new plants and facilities to provide it. Right now these companies are building at the rate of $5,000,000,000 a year, and planning to double the nation’s supply of electricity in less than 10 years.
America has always had the best electric power service in the world. The electric companies are resolved to keep it that way.
Can I just take a moment to THANK the electric companies of yesteryear?! They stepped up the production of plants to meet our needs so well that we feel that electricity is a RIGHT. Whenever we get a huge snowstorm here in Utah, the weight of the snow can snap a line. When the people of Utah are out of power for more than a few hours, they SUE electric companies. Outages and brownouts are rare because these folks had the foresight to build.
Mind you, I wish they had built more windmills and less coal burning plants, but it’s not really fair for me to expect them to foresee the energy crisis as well as the need for it.
If you and your husband can’t agree on how many blankets you need for perfect comfort – and he tosses them off while you shiver with cold-
You can solve this problem so easily – as so many other smart couples have done – with a General Electric “Happy Marriage” Blanket.
Just ONE fluffy-light General Electric Blanket with Dual Comfort-Selectors is all you need – and you each enjoy personal comfort.
You choose the warmth you like… he chooses his – and GE’s Sleep Guard adjusts automatically to bedroom temperature changes.
The ad goes on to say that it’s washable and available in many colors.
The funny thing is, this EXACT electric blanket is still available today. The Sunbeam blankets have dual control, even now. Personally, I prefer an electric mattress pad instead. The Sunbeam Queen size also has dual control, but it lays UNDER you, heating up, so if your partner kicks off the covers, you’ll still be warm. The best new feature they’ve added since the Sixties is the auto-off feature, so the pad turns itself off after ten hours, even if you forget to. I LOVE that feature.
Now that it’s getting colder, it’s time for me to start using the heated mattress pad again. I’m so grateful for it when the weather gets chilly.
Die cutting has been a staple of crafting for centuries. Originally just cookie cutters sharpened to cut paper, a new generation of digital die cutters is available that use a razor knife and computerized control to cut any number of shapes with the same precision. This means you donâ€™t have to have a library of dies and you arenâ€™t limited by the size of the dies you have.
There are two types of digital die cutters vying for the craft market: Self-contained cartridge-based cutters that require no computer or computer expertise, and computer driven cutters that are less expensive and more flexible, but have a higher learning curve and require a computer.
THE PROVOCRAFT CRICUT
The Cricut machine by Provo Craft is easy to use. It doesnâ€™t need to be hooked up to a computer so it is portable. The cartridge designs are cute, although to get them to look like the examples on the boxes you will need to cut the same shape a number of times in different colors and layer them together.
If you buy cartridges at regular price they are expensive ($69-$89). They go on sale often, however, and Iâ€™ve been able to get them as cheap as $25. You can scale the images from 1â€ to 5.5â€, in specific increments of generally Â½â€.
The original Cricut will cut paper, cardstock, vinyl, and contact paper up to 6â€x12â€. The Cricut Expression gives you have more size options up to 12â€x24â€ and can also cut chip board, but it is bigger making it not as portable (it doesnâ€™t have a handle like the original Cricut). You need to put your paper on a tacky mat that holds the paper down while itâ€™s being cut. The Cricut comes with two mats and they last quite a long time if you keep dust off of them. Additionally, you can revitalize your old cutting mats using the techniques in this Youtube video:
The Gypsy is an accessory cartridge that can load and store all of your other cartridges. It is due out October 4th. It also does custom layouts of images and can scale them in more ways.
Cricut is expensive however. By the time youâ€™ve got a machine and a library of cartridges itâ€™s easy to be over $1000 into it.
They have over 100 cartridges with fonts, shapes (garden, animals, travel, boxes, tags, seasons, holidays, etc.) licensed (Disney, Hello Kitty, SpongeBob, etc), â€œClassmateâ€ (50 states, word builders, letters made of an item that starts with that letter)
You can only use shapes available as cartridges. With the Cricut Design Studio software you can blend and combine images from cartridges using your computer, and there is a third-party software program called Sure Cuts a Lot that takes your own images and fonts and cuts them on the Cricut machine. I have not tried it. It Costs $75-90, and it does not come with a design program. Frankly, if you want to use your computer, get the Silhouette SD, which is a lot more versatile.
The list prices for the various Cricut Machines (the machines also go on sale at local craft stores and on the web):
Here is a step-by-step guide showing how to use the Cricut.
The fact that she used this elaborate machine to die cut the word “Simplify” for her wall is an irony that was obviously lost on her.
QUICKCUTZ SILHOUETTE SD/ GRAPHTEC CraftRobo
The biggest competitor to the Cricut is the CraftRobo Silhouette SD. The Silhouette SD is just like a computer printerâ€”in fact the computer actually thinks it IS a type of printer called a plotter. Instead of a print head, it has a razor knife.
Like a printer, it comes with a USB cable to connect it to your computer and you have to install a driver. It comes with a design program that lets you draw your designs and lay in whatever text you want. You can draw cut lines and perforations using different line colors. The cutting area of the Silhouette is 9â€ x 39â€ for cutting vinyl or other backed material, but if you need to use the cutting mat it is limited to 8 Â½â€ x 12â€. You cannot cut chipboard, foam, or fabric with the Silhouette SD.
The Silhouette SD also has an SD camera card slot that you can use to store your designs on. This allows you to take the cutter with you and cut designs without your computer attached. CraftRobo provides a library of designs that you can access on the Web, and the cutter comes with 100 free downloads from the library. Cutting from the SD card is not as easy as using the Cricut, but it does work. Itâ€™s certainly easier than setting up your computer each time you want to cut.
Like the Cricut, you have to put paper on a tacky carrier mat, which lasts quite a while if you keep the included cover on it. The carrier has precision markings and placing paper is more accurate than the Cricutâ€”so accurate that you use the â€œregistrationâ€ feature to cut around full color printouts from your printerâ€”a very handy feature for cutting out heart-shaped photos, for example, which the Cricut cannot do.
The Silhouette SD costs $250 and comes with everything you need to get started except an SD card. Consumables include razor blades and tacky mats, both of which are an inexpensive $10 and last for dozens of cutting sessions. The Silhouette SD cannot reliably cut stock heavier than 100lb. paper, however you can â€œre-cutâ€ the same cardstock over to make sure a cut goes all the way through.
Here is a video of a demonstration of the Quickcutz Silhouette:
If you are both computer savvy and creative enough to do your own designs, youâ€™ll be happiest with the Silhouette SD. Other than cutting the thickest stock, it can technically do anything the Cricut can do. For example, my husband uses it to cut out playing cards after printing them, and he has designed some paper tuck boxes that can simply be folded up like origami. Neither of these functions would be possible with a Cricut. It borders on being a professional tool, and the company that actually makes it, Graphtec, has higher-end machines specifically designed for professionals. It does not come with a wide library of shapes, so if youâ€™re looking to cut out Mickey Mouse, Youâ€™re going to have to do quite a bit of design work yourself.
If you prefer not to deal with computers, the Cricut is for you. Its wide library of cartridge designs and accessories ensures that youâ€™ll find the stock shape youâ€™re looking for. Be prepared to spend a bit of money, or start a cartridge lending pool with your friends.
When it comes to papercrafts and scrapbooking, die cutters are becoming as ubiquitous as scissors and paper. Make sure you take into account your financial limitations and technical abilities when you choose the die cutter that is right for you.
An image of a bionic brain implant chip taken through the microscope with my iPhone.
BW Jones is a scientist at the University of Utah:
Retinal neurophysiology scientist. My work involves disorders of retinal degeneration and how those diseases affect the intrinsic retinal circuitry including the implications for rescue of vision via gene therapy, and retinal bionic or biological implants.
Since he works with brain implants all the time, it’s probably not a big deal to see one in person, but for the rest of us, just seeing what they look like is awesome. The fact that he took the photo by sticking his iPhone up to a microscope, is ten kinds of awesome.