Do You Like Our Owl?”

"Do You Like Our Owl?"

This stuff is so much stranger than skeumorphic interfaces.

The Sensu Artist Brush was created from a desire to have an authentic brush to use with drawing and painting apps on the iPhone and iPad. The revolutionary technology uses special synthetic brush hair that is infused with conductive properties to produce real-life paint effects in your apps.

JetPens has an interview up with the guy who leads the shop that designed it, called Developed by Artist Hardware:

We have favorites and revel in the fact that they improve and update frequently. In these apps, watercolor really behaves like watercolor, oil paint looks like oil paint. The Sensu brush takes that reality up another notch.

So, there exists software that uses complex modeling to simulate the interaction of watercolor and oil paint with various surfaces. Look at what went into Paper by Fiftythree’s color picker.

The difference in our brush is that we bring this understanding of artist brush making to this new tool. We spent a lot of time worrying about how it felt to paint. We made a tool that you can feel on the screen as it makes contact. It’s very responsive like the best sable watercolor brushes.

Hmmm what are these “best sable watercolor brushes”?

The hair is obtained from the tail of the kolinsky (Mustela sibirica), a species of weasel rather than an actual sable; The finest brushes are made from the male hair only, but most brushes have a mix of about 60/40 male-to-female hair. Kolinsky bristles tend to be pale red in colour with darker tips. The weasel is not an animal that is raised well in captivity, and is generally isolated to the geographical region of Siberia. Due to this difficulty in harvesting the hair, and the fact that other natural and artificial bristles are not comparable in quality, makes these bristles extremely valuable and consequently expensive. Those who use the kolinsky sable brush claim it has superior strength, slenderness, and resilience when compared with other sable brushes.

Presumably, the problem here, besides cost, is that the tail fur of a Siberian weasel does not have the right dielectric κ-value to trigger the iPad’s capacitive touch screen, so a synthetic substitute had to be developed.

Meanwhile, the reason I came across this is that I was looking on Jetpens for something that could duplicate the functionality of Paper’s watercolor tool on physical paper. I’ve never really used watercolors before but I like how they work in Paper and I was like “hmmm maybe I could get whatever real-life thing these are based on?”

Emma “Grandma” Gatewood

Emma "Grandma" Gatewood

“Make a rain cape, and an over the shoulder sling bag, and buy a sturdy pair of Keds tennis shoes. Stop at local groceries and pick up Vienna sausages… most everything else to eat you can find beside the trail…and by the way those wild onions are not called “Ramps”… they are “Rampians” … a ramp is an inclined plane.

Ultralight Backpacking Pioneer/All Around Badass Emma Gatewood on Appalachian Trail gear lists in 1970. Gatewood was the first woman to do the AT solo in one season, and she did it the first time at the age of 67. Because she “thought it would be a nice lark” (“It wasn’t”).

I Need an Oculus Rift Dev Kit

One of the things I get asked most often about by the press is for examples of non-military, non-police use of drones. Part of our function here at DIY Drones is to educate the public about civilian and peaceful uses of drones, so I’m always happy to reel off some examples, from agriculture to Hollywood (aside from the main reason we do it here, which is education and fun).

–from my new favorite website, DIY Drones. I stumbled across this while looking for autogyro-based drones the other day, and now I’ve learned I can just build by own autogyro-based drone!

Riff Dev Kit.

Serious Roman Horse’s Ass Situation


King David I of Scotland in his Assize of Weights and Measures (c. 1150) is said to have defined the Scottish inch as the width of an average man’s thumb at the base of the nail, even including the requirement to calculate the average of a small, a medium, and a large man’s measures. However, the oldest surviving manuscripts date from the early 14 century and appear to have been altered with the inclusion of newer material.
The earliest known reference to the inch in England is from the Laws of Æthelberht dating to the early 7th century, surviving in a single manuscript from 1120. Paragraph LXVII sets out the fine for wounds of various depths: one inch, one shilling, two inches, two shillings, etc. “Gif man þeoh þurhstingð, stice ghwilve vi scillingas. Gife ofer ynce, scilling. æt twam yncum, twegen. ofer þry, iii scill.”
An Anglo-Saxon unit of length was the barleycorn. After 1066, 1 inch was equal to 3 barleycorn, which continued to be its legal definition for several centuries, with the barleycorn being the base unit. One of the earliest such definitions is that of 1324, where the legal definition of the inch was set out in a statute of Edward II of England, defining it as “three grains of barley, dry and round, placed end to end, lengthwise”. CSS3 media queries specification:

For example, this media query expresses that a style sheet is usable on devices with resolution greater than 300 dots per inch: @media print and (min-resolution: 300dpi) { … }

I wonder if the W3 has a specific reference set of barley grains or men’s thumbs I can use to test my implementation for compliance.

Own Personal Volapük” is the Title of William Gibson’s Depeche Mode Remixes Album, Right?

Michael Chabon:

This, to me, was the wisdom—the potable water, the fungible currency, the capering troop of Sea-Monkeys—left me by the Wake. If the language we have inherited, have had imposed upon us, proves unfit to our purpose in catching hold of the darting apparition of our dream book (as it always will, for the job is impossible), then we must reinvent it. The writing of every novel, and not just some polyglot punster’s babbling Book of Kells, requires this act of invention, the creation of a personal Volapük. For each book you must devise an idiolect, a working creole you compound by embedding the fine-grained matrix of your mother tongue with the coarse aggregate of the world—a Yiddish-speaking Alaskan Jerusalem, a four-color Nazi-haunted Metropolis, a nighttown Pittsburgh of gangsters and gay boys—that you have dreamed, with its argots and geographies, ethnologies and etiquettes. The limits of language are not the stopping point, says the Wake; they are the point at which we must begin to tell the tale.

on Finnegans Wake.

I Guess It Could Go Either Way

Just 16 and recently released from a naval academy, Kenji Ekuan witnessed Hiroshima’s devastation from the train taking him home. “Faced with that nothingness, I felt a great nostalgia for human culture,” he recalled from the offices of G. K. Design, the firm he co-founded in Tokyo in 1952. “I needed something to touch, to look at,” he added. “Right then I decided to be a maker of things.”
One of the most enduring objects in his 60-year design career — which includes the Akita bullet train and Yamaha motorbikes — is the Kikkoman soy-sauce dispenser. Introduced in 1961, it has been in continuous production ever since. Traditional in its grace yet modern in its materials, the bottle’s design drew on Ekuan’s experiences at war’s end. The atomic blast killed his younger sister, and his father, a Buddhist priest, died of radiation-related illness a year later, prompting Ekuan to train briefly as a Buddhist monk in Kyoto.

–From a New York Times Magazine piece on how the ubiquitous soy sauce bottle came about.

So in Europe, you have a bunch of people who recoil in horror from WWI and say “LET US START A BAUHAUS IN WHICH WE WILL DISTRUST THE ARC OF HUMAN STORIES AND TAKE REFUGE IN THE PRECISION OF CUBES AND SPHERES”, but this guy in post-nuclear assault Japan feels “a great nostalgia for human culture”. “Nostalgia.”

I wonder if there’s anything systematic here. If you have the outbreak of mechanized industrial warfare that lays waste to almost everything and everyone you’ve ever known or cared about, you distrust the narratives that led you there. However, you go a notch or two farther and completely annihilate any trace of human civilization and reduce the surrounding Earth to a post-apocalyptic wasteland who’s only parallels are Biblical, you feel some nostalgia, you miss old humanity.

Distinct Leaf-like or Spokes-on-a-Wheel Patterns

Distinct Leaf-like or Spokes-on-a-Wheel Patterns

“Researchers have discovered that the cloud fields forming June Gloom and related phenomena from other west-coast marine-influenced climates are excellent places to find and study actinoform clouds.”

( via June Gloom)

Video Games in the 80s

Three facts about the pre-‘83 Crash video game industry:

  • Everyone knows that the purported first 3D game, Battlezone attracted the interest of the US military and a special version of it was created to use as a training simulator for the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Less well-known is the fact that one of the changes the military required was a redesign of the controller: they wanted something that matched the actual hardware of the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle’s gunner control, and so Atari worked something up. You are probably familiar with this controller; it was used on the Star Wars arcade game.
  • During the craze, many random consumer products companies got in the mix. Quaker Oats started a video game division. Purina released a game called Chase the Chuckwagon where the player is a dog (“Chuckie”) who needs to overcome various obstacles to reach the delicious food at the Purina Chuckwagon. The plot is based on Purina dog food ads of the ’70s and ’80s. Surprisingly, Eggomania is not one of these games: it is a game about trying to catch eggs thrown by a chicken before they hit the floor and break.
  • Many consider the strangest game from the period to be the hotly-sought-after Spectravision rarity, Mangia. Here is Wikipedia’s description of the game:
    The player gets to control a young boy, who must eat plates of pasta placed in front of him by his mother, who will keep feeding him until his stomach explodes on-screen.
    To prevent this, the player can, instead of eating the pasta, throw it to a cat, who occasionally appears at the window, and a dog, who walks across the bottom of the screen. However, if the mother sees the pasta being thrown to the cat or dog, she brings three times as much pasta the next time she returns.
    The joystick is used to control the player: pressing right causes the boy to grab a plate of pasta, pressing left causes him to eat it, and pressing up or down causes him to toss the pasta to the cat (named Frankie in the manual) or the dog (named Sergio) respectively. If the cat and dog are not nearby when the food is thrown to them, the mother returns with extra pasta to “punish” the player. The fire button is not used.
    If, instead of eating the pasta or throwing it to the animals, the player is idle, the pasta will accumulate on the table until it breaks, causing the player to lose a turn. Attempting to eat all the pasta without giving any to the cat or dog will cause the boy’s stomach to swell, changing colors from blue to yellow to red, before finally exploding in a mass of chunky blue pixels.

North American video game revenues peaked in 1982 at $3.2 billion dollars, by 1985 they would fall to a relatively scant $100 million.

Dr Jekylls and Their Various Hydes

I’m reading this interview with a MIT researcher who’s working on some sort of broad-spectrum antiviral compound called Draco. The interviewer asks:

If you get a cold this winter… are you going to be tempted?

I’m not tempted by colds. I’ve had very bad stomach viruses and I’ve been tempted to give myself the stuff to see what would happen.

I always wonder about this. This guy came up with this idea 11 years ago. He estimates it’s at least 10 more years from human trials. That has to be so frustrating. Don’t they just want to see what happens? They must occasionally give in and try out their compounds on themselves, or each other. What happens? Accidental superhero/supervillain creation? Weird trips?

Catastrophe studies — a field with a busy future.”

“I saw a possum in the backyard the other day,” Terrence said. “Its teeth were about this big. I killed it with a stick. It was coming toward me, so I hit him. He just flipped over. I stayed inside after that.” There have been sightings of armadillos, coyotes, owls, hawks, falcons and even a four-foot alligator, drinking from a leaky fire hydrant. Rats have been less of a problem lately because of the stray cats and the birds of prey. But it’s not just animals that emerge from the weeds. “Sometimes I see people coming out of there,” Terrence said, pointing at the ruins of two houses, shrouded in weeds, across the street. “They’re trying to get in my home.”

“After the tractor finishes its circuit, two men stroll through the lot waving weed trimmers, the gasoline-powered machines used for residential lawn cutting. They resemble a fencing foil, only the tip culminates in a small mechanical spool that spins roughly a hundred times per second.” Ahh, the New York Times, the only place in the world where it is assumed more people are familiar with fencing foils than with weed whackers.

The Politics of #defines

So, apparently, there’s some ongoing issues with Turkey’s plans to purchase 100 of those boondoggle F-35s:

In particular, Turkey wants control over the aircraft’s identification friend or foe (IFF) system in order to offer more flexibility with regard to how its fleet identifies foreign air force jets. The default setting of the original U.S. software for Turkey’s F-16 fleet, for instance, identified Israeli air force jets as exclusively friendly. To overcome the problem, ASELSAN, one of Turkey’s leading defense companies, developed a new IFF system, which was finalized in September 2011 and is now operational on Turkey’s F-16 fleet. The new system allows Turkish fighters to bypass the original software restrictions, allowing Turkish pilots to determine whether to recognize Israeli fighters as either friendly or hostile.

So, somewhere deep in this $200m aircraft is a burnt PROM smaller than a thumbnail containing presumably digitally-signed, encrypted C++ code. And in that code, there’s logic that maps IFF codes to a list of known IDs, and whether they are “friends” or “foes”. The USA, as a matter of foreign policy, has decided to tag those fields “private” and “static”, but Turkey, as a matter of foreign policy, is threatening to scuttle the $20b deal because they want those fields to have public mutator methods. Bosses. Always giving engineers these late-in-the-game change orders for political reasons, and they wonder why the schedule slips.

Geometrics : Typefaces :: Domes : Dwellings

Geometrics : Typefaces :: Domes : Dwellings

In addition to Stanley Kubrick and Wes Anderson movies, heavy weights of Futura played important roles in World War II military documents.

Reverse Sweeney Todd

So I was just wondering why “pesticide” means “kills pests”, “fungicide” means “kills fungi” but “barbicide” means “stuff old barbershops store combs in.” Wikipedia, of course, has the answer:

According to Ben King, son of the inventor, Maurice named the solution Barbicide because “He hated barbers. Barbicide meant ‘to kill the barber’. It was his secret joke.”

“Until Mr. King died in 1988 of a heart attack while holding a winning poker hand, he loved to dance with every woman in attendance”

The Metamorphosis” Was Actually Dreamt Up In A Particularly Horrid Paris Hostel

And there was yet another plan which came out of that short but endlessly significant journey — which took us to Milan too, and from there, diverted through a cholera scare, to Stressa and Paris— a plan the bordered on lunacy but was worked out by the two of us with determination and continual new jests. We hit upon the idea of creating a new type of guidebook. The series was to be called “On The Cheap.” There were to be titles like “On The Cheap Through Switzerland,” “On The Cheap In Paris,” etc. Franz [Kafka] was untiring and took a childish pleasure in compiling, down to the finest details, the principles of this type that was to make millionaires of us and above all take us out of the hideous routine of office work. I then wrote in all seriousness and put our plans for “The Reform of Guidebooks” up to publishers. Negotiations always broke down on the point that we refused to deliver up our precious secret without an enormous advance.

Max Brod in his Kafka biography.