Archive for July, 2005


Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

Not only does this newly designed spork remove the need for two separate utensils, but it is also about as environmentally friendly as a disposable utensil is likely to get.

Via Treehugger.

Driven to Distraction

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

There have been a number of articles about email and other technology interruptions/distractions lately. CNet adds their own to the mix. Of course, stepping back can be difficult:

It’s all part of a culture shift that has accompanied all of the new modes of communications. These days, corporate culture frowns on those who turn off their instant messaging software or don’t respond quickly to the latest e-mail.

“People start to look at you with contempt or disgust if you shift away from the technology,” Honore said.

I think this will start to switch as people become truly fed up with being expected to be constantly available. I like being able to keep up with what’s going on all the time, but I would hate to be expected to be instantly responsive 24/7.

Prepaid cellphone plans – wave of the future?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

Right now, standard cellphone plans are monthly, with a pretty hefty bucket of minutes. My wife and I never even come close to using all of our minutes, yet we pay the same amount as if we’d used all of them. Plus, the monthly bills have a large number taxes and additional fees that really swell the total amount paid. The Washington Post had an article a little while ago about prepaid being used more and more by folks who don’t want a monthly plan, especially younger users. My mom uses a prepaid service, and it works fine for her. Now Net10 has announced that they have flat-rate 10 cents/minute prepaid cellphone service, nationwide. That is getting close to tempting for a switch. At minimum, it will hopefully put more pressure on cellphone companies to lower their monthly rates. For now, I’m staying put since I like not worrying about minutes at all, but this is something to keep an eye on.

Via I4u.

Looks unsafe at any speed, but wow, this two-seater is pretty cool

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Twike makes a skimpy looking battery powered two-seater vehicle that supposedly gets the equivalent of 550mpg and has a max speed of 55mph. Of course, if you hit a speed bump, you’re probably going to be hurting, but I’d love to be proven wrong. Maybe it has a rollcage or something? I think I’d also want to add one of those orange flags on a long pole your mom put on your bike when you were a youngin’ so that cars would hesitate a second before running you down – the Twike seems like it might be a bit hard to see from a Hummer.

Via TreeHugger.

Self storage – wow, we have lots of stuff

Monday, July 18th, 2005

Slate writes about our Self-Storage Nation today. I expected this to be a one-sided piece about how we’re all such pathetic overconsumers that we can’t cram all of our crap into our ever-larger houses. Indeed – that is about half the article. But the other half talks about some of the other reasons for self-storage, including people who are moving or getting divorced, as well as the fact that more and more houses are built without attics and basements.

But still, people. Do we really need “1,875 billion square feet of personal storage?” Much of that really is just:

mementos we somehow can’t live with, and yet can’t live without, and exemplify the downside of acquisition, the moment when you realize there are more bread machines, plastic lawn chairs, and treadmills than anyone could use in a lifetime.

Just give it away to someone who can use it, or recycle it. Spending cash to store stuff you are never going to use is just silly.

Hacking the Prius so you can plug it into the wall

Friday, July 15th, 2005

Yes, hybrid is a good thing. I’ve been following the story of the folks who created a kit to allow you to plug in your Prius and then run it 100% on battery to get phenominal gas mileage. Some people ask why Toyota didn’t just make it an option. I think they made the right choice for the broader market – they made it work just like a standard car, removing one of the possible pieces of opposition to adopting the technology. In addition, there are some significant additional costs, like more battery storage, that would make it non-trivial to add.

But I think we’re almost ready for it as a manufacturer option in the next few years – once people really internalize that they can use it just like a normal car, having the plug-in option to really crank that gas bill down will probably be a welcome improvement. Until then, the enthusiast hacker market can get it from EDrive right now.

Topeak Bikamper

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

If you’re biking across the country or something, you may need to camp out. You could carry a full tent, but the Topeak Bikamper cuts down on weight and bulk by using your bike as a support. I love dual-use like this – making the most use out of what you have. Gizmodo is apparently wrong on the price though – they said $300, but the website indicates a suggested retail of $219. Still darn expensive, but a good idea.

Via Gizmodo.

Cheaper, simpler cellphones

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

I love my cellphone, but sometimes it crashes and refuses to make a call. And it isn’t a cheap model – it just got distracted by doing too many other things like keeping my calendar. Most of the world can’t afford even a basic cellphone model. Wired talks about how Cheap Is New Cell-Phone Mantra, with manufacturers hoping to create a phone that will sell for under $15 by 2008. To do it, they need to minimize just about everything:

Manufacturers also cut costs by using black-and-white screens, doing away with MP3 support for ring tones and providing 100 spaces for contact information rather than 500.

Well, that’s ok. Please just make them call reliably.

What to minimize for muffin cups?

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

Saw these silicone muffin cups, and it brings up a recent debate here. We’ve always used paper muffin cups, but were debating whether it would be better to spray oil in a standard muffin tin. We hadn’t decided, but now there is this third option. So here’s the question: should we minimize silicone, paper or oil? I’m thinking we’ll still go with paper, but other opinions are welcome.

Via Treehugger.

Don’t talk on your cellphone while driving. At all.

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

Today’s no-brainer: do not talk on your cellphone while driving. I don’t know why anyone would still do this, but CNN indicates that you’re four times more likely to have a serious accident while yakking away on your phone. Of course, the idiot industry spokespeople say everything is fine:

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, a Washington-based trade group, downplayed the findings, saying the distractions associated with mobile phones are no different from those encountered by drivers who eat or talk with passengers as they drive.

Well, first, you shouldn’t be eating while driving either. But talking on your cellphone is very clearly different than talking to someone in the passenger seat. The passenger sees the same road conditions that you do, and the flow of the conversation is better – they see when you’re unable to talk, and shut up so that you can navigate a tricky situation. After all, they’ll die too if you flip the car. The pressure of a normal phone conversation with someone who can’t see the road, on the other hand, means that it takes much more effort to keep the conversation going – the person on the other end is less forgiving of pauses and lack of attention. Plus, with cellphone voice quality usually being poor, you have to concentrate much harder just to hear what the other person is saying. That’s why hands-free headsets don’t really help either – physically holding the phone up to your ear is less of an issue than being distracted by keeping the conversation going.

I love my cellphone. But I like not being messed up in an accident even more. Here’s something to not just minimize – don’t do it at all.