John Farrier's Blog Posts

64-Year Old Man First to Cross the Atlantic in a Kayak Nonstop

Aleksander Doba, 64, crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Dakar, Senegal to Acaraú, Brazil in almost a hundred days. He's the first person to do so nonstop:

After 98 days, 23 hours, 42 minutes at sea, Doba and his custom 23-foot-long, 39-inch-wide human-powered kayak landed at Acaraú, a city on Brazil’s northeast coast. The trip covered some 3,320 miles in all, and Doba became only the fourth known person to accomplish such a feat, and the very first to do it nonstop.

Of course, Doba encountered his fair share of obstacles along the way — age, a broken desalination unit, 20-foot swells and stifling equatorial heat — but none of that would deter him, as he survived on dehydrated food products, candy and fish (which he caught along the way). He also made time to collect rainwater for drinking, communicate by sat phone (recharged by solar panels lining his vessel), and even send out a few tweets.

Link via Glenn Reynolds | Photo: Arsoba Travel

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Arthur C. Clarke's 31-Word Short Story

In 1984, science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke submitted "siseneG" to Analog magazine. Clarke's cover letter was as terse, stating "This is the only short story I've written in ten years or so. I think you'll agree that they don't come much shorter."

Link via blastr

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Flypaper Clock Eats Flies, Uses Their Bodies for Energy

Design student James Auger was inspired by carnivorous plants to make a clock that is powered by converting the bodies of dead insects into electricity. A roll of flypaper catches the flies, which are in turn scraped off and dumped into a fuel cell. It's an application of biomass energy conversion technology. You can watch videos about the clock at the link.

Link via OhGizmo! | Photo: Auger Loizeau

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The World's Largest Jigsaw Puzzle Is Going to Keep You Busy for a While

Toy and puzzle making company Ravensburger has created the world's largest commercially available jigsaw puzzle. It weighs 42 pounds and is composed of 32,256 pieces. The completed image is a compilation of 32 works by the pop artist Keith Haring. You can view more images of it at the link.

Link | Company Website | Image: Ravensburger

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Sharks Chasing Food inside a School of Fish

(Video Link)

Vimeo user Mark Hannant shot this amazing scene in the Maldives. Five small sharks are chasing after their dinner inside an enormous school of fish. The fish school amorphously forms a hole around wherever the sharks move -- all while a heron on the shore tries to take advantage of the opportunity.

via The Presurfer

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Star Trek/Doctor Who Fan Art Has Me Deeply Confused

deviantART user Sumerset envisions grand alliances in the Star Trek and Doctor Who universes. Leaving aside the depiction of late 24th Century Romulans and Klingons fighting alongside each other...well, they did briefly during the Dominion War, I suppose. But shouldn't all sides within each universe ally against the opposing universe?

I mean, if I saw even the Jem'Hadar fighting the Doctor, I'd support the Jem'Hadar. It's like that old proverb says: "My brother and I against my cousin. My cousin and I against any stranger." Are you a Trekkie or a Whovian? Choose your side and stick with it.

Link via io9

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Huckleberry Finn to Be Republished With "Robot" Replacing the N-Word

Mark Twain's classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been republished without the n-word, a term now deeply offensive to American sensibilities. But Gabriel Diani and Etta Devine think that this change doesn't go far enough. They have a Kickstarter project to republish the novel with the word "robot" replacing the n-word, and further alternations to the text to make the character Jim clearly a robot instead of a human. At the link, you can view a hilarious video that they've put together explaining the venture.

Link via Gizmodo

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Corpus Libris

Corpus Libris is a photoblog of people covering themselves with the covers of books so that their gestures match the people on the covers. It was started by the staff of Skylight Books in Los Angeles featuring themselves, but now includes reader-submitted photos.

Link via Super Punch

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Floppy Disk Drives Playing Toccata and Fugue

(Video Link)

We've seen floppy disk drives altered to serve as musical instruments, but not quite as sophisticated as this set up by YouTube user FunToTheHead. In this performance, he performs Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor:

Features two 3 1/2" drives and two 5 1/4" drives connected to a PIC18f14k50 microcontroller. It interfaces to any MIDI source via MIDI over USB. Straight MIDI would also be possible with an additional small circuit and some minor firmware changes. This initial version can respond to all 128 MIDI notes, and pitch bends +/- 2 semitones.

As it can produce only four simultaneous notes, and each drive has a different range and tonal characteristics, best results are obtained by arranging compositions by hand. However, it features two modes of operation: in one mode, MIDI channels 1 through 4 are played directly on floppy drives 1 through 4. In the other mode, all 16 MIDI channels are read, and notes are "intelligently" divvied out on a first-come, first-serve basis. "Note stealing" ensures that melody lines sound, but chords are often cut short. One or the other produces acceptable results for many unmodified MIDI files straight out of your favorite media player.

via Geek Dad

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    Model Rocket Launches When a Fish Bites the Hook

    (Video Link)

    Mike Haeg built this contraption to use while ice fishing. When a fish pulls on the line, the movement of the reel triggers a model rocket to launch. Skip ahead in the video to 0:35 to see the action. Haeg writes "No one lost a hand, but we did lose 2 rockets."

    Link via Boing Boing

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    Locksmith Shop Covered with Keys

    Greenwich Locksmiths, a little locksmith shop in New York City, recently added a facade that is composed of keys. Thousands of keys have been arranged and fixed to create intricate patterns on the front, the door, and some parts of the interior. Scouting New York has a series of detailed photos showing this amazing piece of folk art by shop owner Phil Mortillaro.

    Link via The Presurfer | Official Website

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    Play-Doh Cologne

    If you didn't catch this back in 2006, now would be a good time. Demeter Fragrance Library offers a body scent that will take you back to your childhood. You'll be the hit of the playground with Play-Doh Cologne. Other aromas offered by this company include Saddle, Laundromat, and Glue.

    Link via Geekosystem

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    (214)748-3647 Is the Most Common Phone Number in the World

    This story reeks of "urban legend", so make of it what you will. But an anonymous poster at a Computer World forum writes:

    Working on something this morning, I needed to know what the largest number is that can be stored in a 32-bit signed integer. A 10-digit number starting with "214". In other words, a Dallas phone number.

    So, out of curiosity I Googled "214-748-3647" to see who has the number. After a handful of blogs noting the coincidence (and that it's a prime number), there are 1500+ websites with that phone number showing up. Why? Because some programmer somewhere didn't learn his lesson from Y2K, and decided to store phone numbers as a single integer instead of a string of characters, but only used 32 bits and didn't check for overflow. So any time someone enters a phone number that's larger than 2147483647, the system stores it as that Dallas number.

    Link via Geekosystem | Photo by Flickr user nate steiner used under Creative Commons license

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    Foursquare Film Noir Presents a Hard Boiled Social Networking Detective Story

    (Video Link)

    It seemed like an open-and-shut case of accidental death. The only possible suspect had an albi established thanks to a Foursquare check-in. Or did she? This funny short film by Justin Johnson and Erik Beck mixes the gritty film noir genre with modern social networking.

    via Urlesque

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    Hummingbird vs. Viper

    Photographer Bence Máté snapped this amazing shot in Costa Rica. He writes:

    I was photographing hummingbirds when I heard the sharp, alarming noise of the birds reacting to the presence of a predator. Sixty feet away from me this green-crowned brilliant was fearlessly attacking a small viper. The long shutter speed and shallow depth of field made it difficult to make an image with both animals sharp. This encounter was one of the most interesting ones I had ever seen, and I quickly set up two flashes to increase the light and shutter speed, using one flash fired from the background and another from the camera.

    This image was among the winners of the 2010 Nature's Best Photography Competition. It and other winners will be on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. starting in April.

    Link via reddit | Artist's Website | Exhibit Website

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    World of Warcraft Customer Service Helps with Math Homework

    Is this image real or fake? I have no idea. Is it correct? I have even less of a clue on that. But Alex has a double Ph.D, so maybe he can tell us. The point is: World of Warcraft online customer service appears to be exceptionally helpful.

    Link via Geekologie

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    Prize-Winning Photographer is Completely Blind

    (Video Link)

    Peter Eckert lost his sight as an adult, but that didn't stop him from becoming an accomplished, professional photographer. He won the grand prize at Artists Wanted: Exposure 2008, an international exhibition. In the above short film about his work, Eckert says:

    My blindness -- while it might be a curiosity and it's kind of a hook on some of my work and stuff -- I try to stand on the work, not on the idiosyncrasy of my disability.

    Artist's Website via The Agitator

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    Gym Scales Member Fees on Keeping Fitness Committments

    Gym-Pact is a company founded by Yifan Zhang and Geoff Oberhofer that arranges for group membership rates at fitness clubs in Boston. Customers pay higher rates the more often that they skip workouts, thus encouraging them to keep in shape:

    Gym-Pact offers what Zhang calls motivational fees — customers agree to pay more if they miss their scheduled workouts, literally buying into a financial penalty if they don’t stick to their fitness plans. The concept arose from Zhang’s behavioral economics class at Harvard, where professor Sendhil Mullainathan taught that people are more motivated by immediate consequences than by future possibilities.

    Zhang and Oberhofer translated that principle to workout motivation. If missing a workout cost people money, they’d be more motivated to stick with it, they thought.

    “If you have a toothache, you go to the dentist. If there’s a cavity, you know it needs to get filled in, but if it doesn’t hurt right now, you may not bother,’’ Mullainathan said. “In traditional gym memberships, not going is not very costly. In this one, you actually might feel the pain of not going immediately.’’

    Link via Marginal Revolution | Photo: Essdras M. Suarez/Boston Globe

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    Angry Birds Bento Box

    The food artists at My Meal Box made a bento box inspired by the mobile game Angry Birds. It does not appear to be available for download, but here's a description of how they made it:

    For the red bird, I used white rice and mixed it with tomato sauce. The bird also had white color on the bottom part of its body, so I add a little white rice on the bottom after I made the red onigiri and shaped it again until became egg shaped. I used baby carrot for the beak and cut red pasta sheet for the feather on top of its head. The eyes and eyebrows were cut from nori and cheese slice.

    As for the green pig, I mixed white rice with edamame and peas paste to make green colored rice. I used edamame for the ears and cut a slice of cucumber for the nose. Like the red bird, I used nori and cheese slice to make the eyes and the eyebrows.

    Link via Technabob

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    Water Turbine Designed after the Basking Shark

    Industrial designer Anthony Reale was inspired by the natural flow of water through a basking shark to design a water turbine that could be used to harness the energy of the Detroit River. The basking shark swims for eighteen hours a day with its five foot-wide mouth open to sift for food. Reale thinks that this model of water flow is more efficient than conventional turbines. He built a prototype and tested it successfully in an experimental water tank. The linked video tells Reale's story of envisioning and creating this turbine.

    Link and Video via OhGizmo! | Screenshot: OhGizmo!

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    4 Men with Sledgehammers vs. 1 Old Woman with Purse

    (Video Link)

    It wasn't her fight; it wasn't her store. But when four men in Northampton, UK, tried to smash their way into a jewelry store with sledgehammers, an old woman with a purse decided to put an end to their thievery:

    Four men are being held by police after a gang of crash-helmeted robbers wielding sledgehammers was put to flight by a pensioner who attacked them with a handbag.

    Video footage of the attempted robbery at a jeweller's in Northampton town centre showed the unlikely have-a-go-hero crossing a road and jogging briskly towards the six-strong mob as they smashed the shop's windows.

    The raiders, who had arrived at the scene on three scooters, drove away just moments after the red-coated pensioner, thought to be aged in her 70s, began lashing out at them with a large black handbag.

    Link via Urlesque

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    Pokémon Balls Subdermal Implants

    This image has been going around the Internet for a few days, but thanks to Anime News Network, we now know who acquired these Pokémon balls subdermal implants. His name is Alex Finch, and he is a hardcore fan:

    Finch spoke with ANN and stated that he has been a fan of the Pokémon videogame and anime franchise since he was in third or fourth grade, and that he chose to get six Poké Ball tattoos in reference to the number of Poké Balls which can be carried in the original videogames. He also noted that the tattoos shown are "just the beginning" as he plans to get additional tattoos of videogame, cartoon, and anime icons on the rest of the arm, including more Poké Balls.

    Link via Geekosystem

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    Rockin' Out Koala Bear

    (Video Link)

    When this koala plays air guitar, he can really get an audience excited. Next up: a kangaroo on drums.

    via The Presurfer

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    Rare Book: Official Nazi Graphic Design Standards

    Steve Heller, a professor of design at the School of the Visual Arts in New York City, found an extremely rare book from Nazi Germany. It's an official rule and regulations book for the Nazi Party and contains extensive descriptions of graphic design standards:

    Published in 1936, The Organizationsbuch der NSDAP (with subsequent annual editions), detailed all aspects of party bureaucracy, typeset tightly in German Blackletter. What interested me, however, were the over 70 full-page, full-color plates (on heavy paper) that provide examples of virtually every Nazi flag, insignia, patterns for official Nazi Party office signs, special armbands for the Reichsparteitag (Reichs Party Day), and Honor Badges. The book “over-explains the obvious” and leaves no Nazi Party organization question, regardless of how minute, unanswered.

    Link via Kottke

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    Custom Painted Firearms

    Hard Corps Weaponry is a studio that specializes in the custom painting of guns, including this nifty FNP9 in a John Deere theme. Other guns in the gallery include a Hello Kitty shotgun, a Miami Hurricanes Glock 23, and many exotic camouflage schemes.

    Link via Say Uncle

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    Save the Tree Octopus!

    Did you know that:

    Tree octopuses have eyesight comparable to humans. Besides allowing them to see their prey and environment, it helps them in inter-octopus relations. Although they are not social animals like us, they display to one-another their emotions through their ability to change the color of their skin: red indicates anger, white fear, while they normally maintain a mottled brown tone to blend in with the background.

    I read it on the Internet, so it must be true!

    Really, it's important to be a skeptical consumer of information, especially given the fluidity of the Internet. Kids need to learn that not everything that they read on the Internet -- or through other media -- is true. And so this website was used as part of an experiment that examined the critical thinking skills of seventh graders:

    Pearson's release explained that the Department of Education funded the study and that it was administered by Dr. Donald Leu, a former teacher and "national authority on integrating technology into instruction." Leu's study highlighted fallacious reports on the fate of the "tree octopus" -- an allegedly endangered species roaming the treetops of the Pacific Northwest -- as a key illustration of this baleful trend.

    Researchers on Leu's team asked a group of students to hunt down information on the critter, which of course does not exist. But the same researchers pulled a bit of trickery on the students -- they directed them to a website dedicated to saving the mythical tree octopus from extinction. And presto: the kids taking part in the study fell for the hoax and even continued to believe in the tree octopus after the study's leaders explained that there was no such thing.

    Site Link and News Story via ill-l listserv

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    Mad Men Ad on Side of Skyscraper

    The ad agency DraftFCB in New Zealand made this clever ad in imitation of the falling scene in the opening credits of Mad Men.

    Link via Super Punch | Agency Website

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    AT-AT Model Made from Old Computer Parts

    Sage Werbock is a performing strongman who specializes in hauling enormous weights with his nipples. No, seriously, that's what his website indicates, although I didn't explore that section of it too far. You can do that if you want, but I'm going to focus on his blacksmithing work, and specifically, this AT-AT model that he welded together from scrap metal and old computer parts:

    The main body is composed of power supply boxes from old computers, the head from floppy drive housings, legs and feet from various scrap metal. The entire piece has been welded together using the MIG welding process. Two coats of cold galvanizing primer are applied followed by a coat of varied grays and finished with two coats of protective gloss. The whole sculpture was randomly "attacked" with the welding arc to simulate battle scars.

    Link via Technabob | Artist's Website

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    The 6 Stupidest Job Interview Questions

    Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal doesn't mince words in his cartoon rants, and this set on stupid job interview questions is no exception.

    To this question, I once answered "My inability to answer questions like that", and I then challenged the value of the question. I was subsequently offered the job.

    What's the stupidest job interview question you've ever been asked?


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    Head Shaving Helmet

    (Video Link)

    Boris, a friend of YouTube user mattinbrooklyn made a helmet that will shave a person's head in twenty seconds. Activating it spreads shaving cream over the head. Then four electric razors inside pass back and forth, giving the user, as you can see at the end of the video, a clean shave.

    via Gizmodo

    UPDATE 2/16/11: The video is a hoax! Or more specifically, a viral marketing stunt.

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    Profile for John Farrier

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