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.
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.
This is driving me nuts. What do you do with the hat once the snowman melts and his face mysteriously appears on the spinning thingamabob at the top that used to be the timer? (You have to play the game for that to make sense.) Or, without realizing it, did I actually win?
Gee, if I can’t even tear myself away from this thing, can you imagine me with Katamari?
Ever feel nostalgic for products or supplies that you remember from childhood, but haven’t been able to find in years? Your search may be over. The Vermont Country Store offers a wide variety of products that your parents or grandparents used — all brand-new and recently manufactured. How is this possible? The proprietors get permission to re-create vintage products as close to the originals as possible — including design and packaging — and bring them to market for another generation of consumers. If you’re not in the neighborhood of one of the stores in Weston or Rockingham, Vermont, you can order vintage games, classic New England apparel (warning: not for the fashion-conscious), long-lost fragrances and even food and beverages online. If you can’t find what you want, let them know, and they’ll consider re-creating it for you.
This morning, however, Fresh Air had an interesting story about a new video game that got my attention. The game is supposed to be both highly addictive and very popular — and not just among teenage boys, but among girls and grown women as well. Most intriguing of all, it’s not violent — at least in a kick-and-punch and shoot-’em-up kind of way. Produced by Namco Games, Katamari Damacy ("Roll It Up" in English) and the more recent We Love Katamari, begin with your avatar pulling a tiny ball that rolls around picking up random objects, like candy and game tiles. As you successfully pick up more and more objects, your ball grows larger and larger — first picking up animals and automobiles and then eventually skyscrapers and airplanes — until you’re devastating the landscape with your colorful mass of sticky stuff. The concept seems like an amalgam of the 1950s sci-fi flick The Blob and a black hole, with a little 3D PacMan thrown in.
I dare not start rolling around in such an appealing virtual world because of my aforementioned addictive nature, but if you’d like to give it a go, Katamari is available for Sony PlayStation 2 and other video game consoles.
Googlism: Find out what Google "thinks" of you — or of anyone or anything else.
The Dialectizer: Turn the verbal content of a web page into any of a variety of funny dialects, including "Jive," "Cockney," "Elmer Fudd," "Swedish Chef," "Moron," "Pig Latin" or "Hacker." I sound quite cornpone when Mariva’s Guide has been Redneck Dialectized.
KidSites.com: A good directory of educational activities, coloring books, comics, crafts, games, sports, story books, companion sites to children’s television programs, and sites specifically for girls’ interests.
Bored.com: If you really need to visit this site, you might want to get a hobby.
Does it fly? Can it cry? Can you eat it? Is it blue? Can you throw it? The Mind-Reading Electronic Question Game is a cool-looking device that can guess an object that you’re thinking of (although I can’t imagine that it could come up with obscure band names and scientific terms). Good for long trips, waiting rooms, bored kids and party ice-breakers.
When I was in the eighth grade, my English teacher assigned the class a unique exercise in vocabulary building: an empty table with general categories (cities, vegetables, animals, etc.) across the top, and single letters down the left-hand side. Our task was to complete the table with category-specific words that began with each of the letters. I was under the impression that I had to fill in every cell of the table — or fail the assignment.
So, with a little help from my family, I set about doing the assignment, which was more fun than I’d expected. Most of the cells were easy to fill in (an animal starting with the letter M could be moose or mouse or mink, and so on), but some of the cells seemed nearly impossible to fill in. In the end, I got creative, using nasturtium for a vegetable starting with N (with an asterisk, I explained that nasturtium was an herb that could be used in salads). Manhattan was my choice for a city starting with M, even though technically, Manhattan is a borough. For a vegetable starting with the letter D, I explained that "domato" is tomato pronounced with a bad head cold. My teacher seemed to appreciate my creative license, especially since I turned out to be the only student who’d managed to complete the entire table. I didn’t realize at the time that I’d been playing a handmade version of Scattergories, to which I would be been introduced five years later by a couple of little girls who beat me handily.
The San Francisco Chronicle publishes an annual review of board games, a terrific resource for game- and gift-buyers. The article claims that because of their annual imitators, "Trivial Pursuit and Balderdash are like the Beatles and Rollling Stones of board games . . ." To borrow this analogy, I would contend that Scattergories is the board game equivalent of — bear with me — Talking Heads. Perhaps marginal compared to the Fab Four or the Stones, but oh so cool. The centerpiece of Scattergories, a nifty icosahedral die with twenty usable letters, is worth the price alone.
Feeling creatively blocked? Try a pack of IDEO Method Cards, a tool that helps designers, innovators, entrepreneurs and others come up with new ideas, approaches and strategies for business and creative endeavors. Each card features a photograph, diagram, drawing or other image on the front and a suggested approach on the back. You don’t have to be a professional designer to appreciate how these cards can help you think about things differently or conduct thought experiments in the everyday world. IDEO provides four examples online; if you’re intrigued by these, you’ll hunger for the whole deck.