If you’re in the market for a commuter bicycle, be on the lookout for the collapsible, theft-deterrent Biomega Boston. The Biomega Boston features a cable that locks into place as a structural part of the frame. In order for the bicycle to function, a key is inserted into a lock that keeps the cable taut and firm; without the key, the cable is slack and the frame collapses. The bike, once the cable is slack, can be folded for easy storage in the office or at home. (If a would-be thief cuts the cable, the bicycle is rendered unrideable via collapsing frame. For the owner of the bicycle, though, the cable can be replaced to restore function — although the ease of repair and theftproofness is debatable.)
The design of the Biomega Boston is so cool and innovative that it’s on display in the current San Francisco Museum of Modern Art exhibit 246 and Counting: Recent Architecture + Design Acquisitions. (When I came across it during a recent museum trip, the key was in the lock and I was half-tempted to grab the bike off the open display board and ride away. I’m guessing, though, that I might not have made it very far — and my museum membership would most certainly have been revoked!)
Biomega offers other lightweight but sturdy models that are popular with commuters and bicycle design aficionados. Keep in mind, though, that in aggressively hilly cities like San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, the limited number of gears typically on a commuter bicycle may not be enough (unless you enjoy consistently walking your bike up steep hills). If your commute involves a lot of ups and downs, I recommend investing in a bike with at least 18 speeds, and practice shifting gears effectively to ascend and descend those hills with ease.
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Posted October 17, 2008 by Mariva in city, fitness, gadgets, innovations, technology, travel
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.
Girls’ fashion, circa 1980:
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Posted April 3, 2006 by Mariva in fashion, fun, gadgets, games, innovations
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.
Having said that, however, I am amused by the surprisingly numerous iPod-and-mint-case projects, which transform candy containers into a digital audio players, and vice versa. For a few examples (in order from easy to challenging), you can make an iPod Shuffle case from a Tic Tac box, an Altoids case made from old iPod Shuffle or an MP3 player out of an Altoids tin.
If this stuff intrigues you, here are some resources mentioned on the program and that I’ve found as well:
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Posted March 21, 2006 by Mariva in arts, crafts, education, fun, gadgets, innovations, resources, social
The Treo mail alert Swoosh sounds a lot like the background piano drops in Kanye West’s song "Heard ‘Em Say," which is Track 2 on Late Registration (also available through iTunes). Every time mail is received, I start singing:
Nothing’s ever promised tomorrow today
Nothing lasts forever — but be honest Babe,
it hurts but it may be the only way. . . .
Posted March 8, 2006 by Mariva in entertainment, fun, gadgets, music
- "Building Beijing": Construction within this Chinese city — the site of the 2008 Olympic Games — is happening at such a mind-boggling rate that a new map is issued every three months.
- "Memory": How does memory work, and how does it fail?
- "All in a Day’s Work": Exploring the ways in which people around the world earn their living. Profiles include domestic workers, soldiers, judges and clerics.
I couldn’t stop listening to the documentary about cell phones, which Europeans call "mobile phones." The program explores the history behind, uses of and cultural phenomena surrounding the over two billion mobile phones in use around the planet. How is the mobile phone changing the lives of the poor? Are mobile phone conversations secure? What is considered acceptable behavior of mobile phone use in various countries?
If this got you thinking about your own cell phone use, you may want to bookmark these guides to cell phone etiquette:
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Posted February 23, 2006 by Mariva in education, gadgets, innovations, news, resources, social
The Solutions catalog offers all sorts of, well, solutions — or, as the company puts it, “products that make life easier.” Lest you think that Solutions products are akin to Kenji Kawakami’s 101, 99 More and The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu, check out this sampling of potentially useful items:
If you need help with home improvement or getting organized, Solutions also provides a handy list of free clever tips.
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Posted February 22, 2006 by Mariva in decor, entertaining, gadgets, gifts, home, innovations, kitchen, resources, travel
Knowing that I have an addictive personality — at least with regard to the "soft addictions" — I do my best to stay away from treacherous time traps like Freecell Solitaire. And if I owned a game console that could play Super Mario, I’d probably never see the light of day.
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.
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Posted January 18, 2006 by Mariva in entertaining, entertainment, fun, gadgets, games, gifts, home, innovations, news
Archie Bunker once mused, “You got your Thermos here, see? You can put coffee in it and it stays hot, or you can put beer in it and it stays cold, right? So my question is, how does it know?" Clearly, Archie never grasped the concept of insulation; nonetheless, Thermos products — three decades ago — worked so well that they seemed like magic.
Thermos has been updating its line of products, including its signature beverage bottles. The container featured here ain’t your parents’ Thermos. This lightweight, double-wall vacuum-insulated Food Jar with Folding Spoon comes with a stainless steel folding spoon that fits neatly into a storage compartment, which, by the way, has enough room to hold condiments and other small items. The Food Jar keeps your meal hot or cold, just the way you (and Archie) like it — and it looks cool to boot.
Posted January 13, 2006 by Mariva in gadgets, gifts, health, home, innovations, kitchen, travel
Oh, gosh, I have trouble getting up in the morning. I usually "negotiate" with my alarm clock for several snooze periods until I finally turn on the lamp and groggily make my way out of bed. Or I give up entirely, turning off the alarm clock altogether, too half-asleep even to think the words "forget it" consciously. Then the cat comes in and vociferously demands breakfast. There’s no way I can sleep through that — and once I’m up, I’m up for the day. While the cat is an effective alarm clock, the waking experience isn’t the most pleasant.
Sound familiar? Maybe it’s not our fault. The alarm clock wakes us up by the time of day (an external factor), not by the best time for us to wake up naturally (an internal factor). Aren’t there some times you wake up more easily than others, regardless of whether you’ve had your requisite hours of sleep?
On the January 2 episode of Dr. Phil (which I watch when I’m in the mood to feel self-righteous and falsely superior to others), guest LuAnn has profound trouble getting up in the morning. Even a high-decibel alarm located across the room from the bed isn’t enough to keep her up for the day (she gets up to turn it off and crawls back into bed). In addition to the expected psychological analysis (LuAnn doesn’t want to get up because she’s avoiding things she doesn’t like in her life), Dr. Phil gives her a SleepTracker alarm watch.
This is what intrigues me: the watch — not a clock, because it has to be in direct contact with the body — monitors the biological changes associated with the different stages of your sleep cycle and wakes you up during an "almost-awake" moment, which is the easiest stage for waking. Instead of setting the alarm for an exact time, like 7:00 AM, you set an "alarm window," such as 6:30 to 7:00 AM. The SleepTracker finds the "almost-awake" moment during that half hour (like, say, at 6:53 AM) and wakes you up then. It can also record your sleep data so that you can review your cycles and see what works best for you over time.
The Gear Live reviewer and others seem to love the SleepTracker, even if it’s a bit pricey ($150) for a geeky-looking carpal accouterment. SleepTracker maker Innovative Sleep Solutions also offers some rather obvious sleep tips as well as a forum for SleepTrack users.
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Posted January 9, 2006 by Mariva in gadgets, gifts, innovations, resources