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July 26, 2007

Pimp my rice paddy

photo of rice paddy from Pink Tentacle
Kudos to both Pink Tentacle and Salon's How The World Works for calling attention to the amazing rice fields of Inakadate, Japan. Each years farmers there mix three different varieties of rice plants together in their fields. Since the plants have different colored leaves the rice paddies turn into beautiful, intricate images that can be seen only from the air.

Farming of any variety is such a hard business, ya gotta love it when farmers take a little extra time and make some art in the process. Pink Tentacle has some additional photos of past years efforts.

To see the other end of farm crop related craziness (making art from the harvested product), hop in your car, drive to Mitchell, South Dakota, and be amazed by the Mitchell Corn Palace.

Tags: rice  farming

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2007

DIY Strawz

photo of DIY straws

Even the simplest act offers opportunities for elaboration. Take, for instance, the act of drinking. Sure, you can just take a drink with nothing but a glass and a straw, but where's the fun in that? Any kid worth their skinned knees will will go crazy for DIY Strawz from Think Geek.

Each DIY Strawz kit comes with 36 parts -- 20 different junction connectors and 16 straw segments. And of course you can combine multiple sets to create truly gargantuan drinking apparatuses.

Kits are $12.99 from Think Geek.

Tags: toys

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 06:29 AM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2007

Transformers maker Alex Kubalsky

photos of Alex Kubalsky from Pingmag.jp

With all of the hype around the Transformers movie, there has been renewed interest in the kids toys that started the whole Transformers phenomenon.

The Japanese design blog PingMag has a cool interview with Alex Kubalsky, an Australian designer who created many of the Transformer toys. He's also the only foreign-born toy designer in Japan.

How do you usually start with the creation process?

I put on my headphones, listen to music and close my eyes - and most of the stuff is in my head. When I was a kid I spent hours and hours with LEGO. I would go to bed and still be thinking of LEGO in my head.

Really? No 3D software involved?

No, I draw everything on millimetre paper, including every part. It is all in my head!

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 06:41 AM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2007

Waiting for the Maes-Garreau point

part of the cover of Joel Garreau's Radical Evolution book

On his Technium blog, Kevin Kelly recently discussed an interesting trait of human nature... it seems many of us think things are going to get better just before we die.

Kelly starts out by talking about how often futurists are wrong, how anyone who attempts to predict the future can't help but be influenced by... and blinded by... the present(*).

But then he talks about some fascinating research by MIT's Pattie Maes that shows a much more personal bias. Maes noticed that several of her colleagues were optimistic that one day we'll all be able to upload our minds into computers. And if you can do that, you can live forever. But here's the interesting thing... Maes noticed that when she asked her colleagues when this would all happen, they all tended to give a date that just happened to be right before they could be expected to die of old age. Journalist Joel Garreau has noticed this type of thing happening with other predictions of cool, wonderful, transformative advances that will make all of our lives wonderful... the person making the prediction tends to think that the advance will happen right before they die.

Kelly has named this magic future The Maes-Garreau Point. Read his full essay on his Technium blog.

(*)I've always thought a much better alternative to predicting the future is the type of scenario planning practiced by Stewart Brand and his colleagues at the Global Business Network. Don't try to predict the future, take a look at multiple possible futures, and plan how you'll react to all of them.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2007


Image from Shuttle launch

Here's a little bit of beauty for your weekend. The space shuttles are festooned inside and out with on-board cameras. A guy in the UK named Steve Bowbrick took a compilation video of shots from camera mounted on the solid rocket boosters of the shuttle Atlantis, laid a musical soundtrack by The Electroplankton Quartet over it, and the result is a surprisingly poignant and lovely short film.

You can watch the video right here. (There's also a somewhat better quality Quicktime there for download).

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 05:33 PM | Comments (1)

July 03, 2007

2001 poster

image of Brendan Dawes 2001 poster

Take a copy of Stanley Kubrick's film masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. Capture a single frame of the movie every second. Average out the color of every pixel of the frame and draw a tiny square of that average color. Repeat that process for all 9,000 or so seconds of the film and then stick all of those tiny squares in order. Print the finished product as a high quality poster.

That's just what UK designer Brendan Dawes did. He calls the result a kind of a visual fingerprint of the film. The design firm Coudal Partners is offering the posters for sale. They ain't cheap... $300... but there's only a limited run of 50, they're signed by the artist, they're ready for high-quality framing, and they sure are cool.

(P.S. In case you're wondering, Dawes used Processing to pull this off.)

Tags: posters  2001

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 03:34 PM | Comments (2)

July 01, 2007

The future of the book

photo of Manolis Kelaidis' blueBook

From several accounts, the high point of the recent Tools of Change Publishing conference (an O'Reilly conference devoted to exploring the future of print, books, publishing, knowledge organization and the like) was designer Manolis Kelaidis' demonstration of blueBook.

blueBook is an old-school traditional paper book, but printed with electrically conductive ink. Touch a word or picture and your finger completes a circuit, sending a message to a tiny circuit board in the book's cover, which then transmits a message via Bluetooth to your nearby computer. Voila!, additional information about the selected text or image appears.

Kelaidis' elegant demo earned him a standing ovation at the conference (when was the last time you saw someone get a standing O at a tech conference?) and I can understand why. For far too long there's been this "paper or plastic" type of debate about the future direction of publishing, pitting those who are convinced that everything we read should be on some sort of uber-sophisticated electronic device against those who scoff at such ideas and sing the romantic and economic glories of traditional paper books.

Kelaidis showed this group of movers and shakers that hybrid solutions are not only technically possible, they may be the best way to go. There's a nice write-up of the demo on the Institute for the Future of the Book's if:book blog.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 10:48 AM | Comments (1)