Do you like stuff? So do we! Stuff for the mind, for passing time, for sharing, for yourself, for fun.
Mariva's Guide brings you interesting, innovative, beautiful, entertaining and useful products, web sites,
articles and images -- in other words, this, that and the other thing.
Sometimes animal lovers are in the mood to see kittens — lots and lots of kittens. Still photos of kittens may offer only partial satisfaction for your desire for cuteness. Fortunately, there’s plenty of video footage available, showing all the wobbling, bouncing, chasing, batting, squealing, head-tilting, cat-napping silliness you can stand.
With visual access to so many kittens, is it possible to rank them in order of cuteness? kittenwar seeks to do just that, by encouraging users to click the cuter baby feline subject of two photos. One selection leads to another, and another, and another, and pretty soon you’ve found a new way to procrastinate with this addictive activity. After selecting the cuter of two kittens, kittenwar informs you of the percentage of how many users agreed with your assessment of the previous pair.
kittenwar compiles the stats of photos that garnered the most clicks (or "Winningest" kittens) and the least clicks ("Losingest" kittens). The collection of Winningest photos showcases those kittens — (often seen looking directly at the camera with wide-eyed expressions of innocence, sleeping in a pile of siblings and playmates, or curled up in a household object) — that have been statistically deemed cutest by kittenwar users. By contrast, the Losingest kittens tend to possess features that most people judge as unattractive in felines: hairlessness, bulging eyes, long snouts, long ears. Many of them are at least part Siamese, and some almost look like Chihuahua dogs.
Complicating matters is the battle of photo quality perception. Many of the Winningest kitten photos are of a high enough quality to be made into posters (the kind found in offices and dorm rooms with cliched captions like "Hang in there" or "Easy does it"); whereas the quality of the Losingest kitten photos are often low (over- or underexposed, "red eye" reflections, unappealing backgrounds, poor composition). So I wonder if, given a choice between two equally cute (or non-cute) kittens, Kittenwar users subconsciously choose the one in the higher quality photo? In any case, proud kitten guardians may want to upload images with only the best photographic quality.
You know you’re wearing something distinctive when strangers — men, women and children — approach you on the street and say, "Cool shoes! Where’d you get those?"
Crocs makes a variety of slip-on active footwear, each model available in a rainbow of colors. I wear my Cayman Crocs (an updated version of the original Beach model) everywhere: at home, at the beach, in the river, on the street, at casual restaurants, in the shower. They’re cheap, waterproof, colorful, low-maintenance, appropriate for many types of weather and downright futuristic-looking.
The only downside is that one’s feet tend to sweat in them, and while socks mitigate the sweatiness, they make the footwear look not quite as cool as sans socks. Still, though, I plan to pick up spare pairs in pink, purple and turquoise.
VH1 used to be the second-rate music video channel, targeting an audience about a decade older than MTV’s. But now VH1’s programming generally comprises time-wasting, guilty-pleasure filler shows, like I Love Toys. The show’s pointless exercise in conjuring nostalgia inspired me to dredge up my own memories of the not-too-distant past.
It’s hard to imagine a better — or funnier — gift for the parents-to-be who already have everything than Safe Baby Handling Tips by David and Kelly Sopp.
This novelty picture book is basically a series of contrasting dos and don’ts with regard to taking care of an infant. For example, the correct way to "bond with baby" is to hold and coo at the baby, not attempt to engage him or her in a timed game of chess! And when you’re putting the baby down to play, put him or her in, say, a playpen, not a cage. When taking baby for a walk, put him or her in a baby backpack, not in an old potato sack.
I mean, sheesh, people — take care of the baby! Get this book.
Remember "The Future"? When our environment was supposed to have become so technologically advanced that machines would do virtually everything for us, leaving us with many hours of free time to pursue various leisure activities? It turns out that the exact opposite happened, and so we’re left with less time for accomplishing the basic tasks of maintaining our lives, let alone for leisure.
Paradoxically, those with free time often use it to cram more work into their lives, inspired by the growing Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement. (Granted, it’s work that’s taken on by choice — as opposed to the DIY work we’ll supposedly be doing after the post-peak oil crash — but still work nevertheless.)
Today’s Your Call radio program, "The New DIY", focused on this phenomenon, interviewing the editors of Make (purchase here) and ReadyMade (purchase here) magazines (both said to overlap techie and crafty interests, although Make focuses a bit more on the techie side) and addressing the practical questions of avid DIYers, which the program host referred to as a "growing community of punks, greens, anticonsumerists and Martha Stewart wannabes." The show addressed everything from the ubiquitous home improvement television shows and networks to crafts (especially knitting, which has developed an inexplicable "cool" factor among young women) to modifying high-tech electronic and mechanical devices.
The host of the show, who admitted to being less than technically savvy, successfully made the Go-Torch soda can stove. The show’s producer attempted to make "Mousey the Junkbot" — and found that while the results weren’t successful, he enjoyed focusing on the journey, not the destination, and developed a better understanding of how electronic things work.
I happen to have copies of both Make and ReadyMade on my desk, and I have to admit that I find myself a bit more fascinated with Make — not that I would actually consider making a cigar box guitar or a LEGO PC myself. But the editor’s description of Make‘s mission to help readers "liberate devices and bring functionality that was deliberately left out by the manufacturer" — or transform landfill-bound electronic appliances in novel ways, like turning a VCR into to an automatic cat feeder — seems almost revolutionary to me. Of course, some projects from the magazine and the Make Blog, like the pliers food chain or the AOL CD dodecahedron, seem ridiculous and remind me of the giant replica of the Golden Gate Bridge that some Silicon Valley programmers had constructed from empty soda cans and paper clips during the absurd excesses of the late ’90s dot-com boom.
ETSY: Marketplace for handmade goods (bid to make stuff or list your desired handmade purchases).
Instructables: Collaborative repository of free instructions for making computer hardware and software, electronics, toys and many other useful things. This site, and others like it, is sometimes referred to as "open source hardware."
Lifehacker: Blog of useful downloads, web sites and shortcuts.
DIY media creation: CD Baby (independent music) and YouTube (video sharing).
So many paper crafts, so little time. If you’re cutting paper (or even cloth!), you can — safely — get clean, straight lines with a Fiskars rotary paper trimmer (available with a 12-inch or a 24-inch cutting board), which is surprisingly affordable for quality home office/crafting equipment.
Perhaps the best part is the available assortment of rotary blades, including blades for scoring paper (for easy bending without cutting), perforation (for easy ripping along predetermined lines) and decorative edges (pinking, scallop, wave, tiara, Victorian, deckle, squiggle).
Sometimes the perfect thing to say has already been said by someone else. Lunch Mail has encapsulated this concept in an attractive product designed to uplift and inspire. Each Lunch Mail pack contains a set of thirty colorful business-card-size "surprise" messages. (Think fortune cookies or Cracker Jack prizes without the calories.) Created by the National Education Association, Lunch Mail was conceived as a special treat to include with children’s lunches, but I’ve seen them used for various grownup purposes, such as ice-breakers for cocktail parties, classes and business networking mixers.
Another creative company that showcases pearls of wisdom is quotable, which produces notecards, magnets, journals and other stationery products that feature memorable quotes. Especially notable by quotable (ha!) is the Truth Be Told card pack, which contains "48 calling cards to give to your friends or enemies." Personally, I could imagine handing someone "nice to meet you" or "you rock" more than, say, "enough already" or "you need a mint" — but that’s just me.
As they say, though, words are cheap, so if you’re feeling crafty, you can create your own cards and gifts from the sayings of various wordsmiths. One of my favorite inspirational quotes, featured in the movie Rushmore, is: