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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Measuring out a gram: There's an app for that?

by Matt Hickey

OK, we're not really sure what demographic this fake iPhone pocket scale is aiming for, and we also don't condone illegal drug use, but we still have to admit this is pretty funny stuff.

It's just what it appears to be: a fake iPhone that conceals a pocket scale for weighing minute quantities of, uh, cinnamon. Or oregano, maybe. For discreet chefs on the go. It was found on a shelf in a head shop in (where else?) Amsterdam. That said, I've actually seen one in a convenience store here in Seattle.

Really, though, an iPhone? Seems rather conspicuous. We could think of a few other gadgets that would make better decoys than an iPhone. Maybe a Zune would be a better choice, as chances are a police officer wouldn't know how a real one looks.

Thirteen Alcoholic Beverages you can Make at Home


Alcohol is one of those things in life that many of us enjoy, but few of us ever try to make ourselves. Far from a stressful and complex chore, home brewing of alcoholic beverages is in fact a legal art that can be both satisfying and rewarding. Whether you want to try your hand at brewing beer, wine or spirits, its all very doable and could turn into a unique adult hobby with some practice. Below are the thirteen most commonly brewed alcoholic beverages and what home brew hobbyists use to make them.

Hard Apple Cider

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One of the best things about fall is the harvest of fresh apples that the brisk northern climate brings in. In addition to snacking on them or baking them into pies, many people choose to brew their own hard apple cider. Brewers often first make their own cider with freshly picked apples grown at home. Preservatives ruin the fermenting process, so most store bought brands are no good. The fresh cider is then poured into a pot and simmered (not boiled) for 45 minutes. Many people choose to add as many as two pounds of brown sugar to the mix, as this will later ferment and increase the alcohol content of the brew. Once cooled to room temperature, the cider is poured into a fermenting bucket where yeast is added to trigger the natural process by which alcohol is created. In three weeks time the seasonal inebriating beverage is ready to be served!

Strawberry Wheat Ale

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This home made brew combines the smooth and light qualities of a wheat ale with the unique flavor of fresh strawberries. The first task to harvest a batch of strawberries for the brew. Those who do not grow their own buy organic from small merchants or farmer's markets. Pesticides, fertilizers and preservatives are not good for the brew and can interfere with flavor and fermentation. The strawberries are then pureed and brought to a simmer to kill bacteria. Meanwhile, in a separate mixture, oats, wheat malts and hops are brewing the ale which the strawberries will be added to. Once combined, the brew is set to ferment for about three to four weeks. When it is ready, the beer yields a summery flavor that can be perfected by varying the levels of wheat, hops, and fruit in further batches.

Whiskey

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No longer just a woodsman's hobby, home brewing fine whiskey has recently become a popular and involved art for a growing number of people known as "Whiskey Geeks." Wired magazine recently ran an article on the practice of making high class hooch in which a few home brewers claim that the art takes practice to perfect, but eventually you will learn to brew as good as any commercial distillery. Home made whiskey generally consists of sugar, rye, and yeast (for fermentation). The yeast is mixed with water and heated to a bubble. Over the course of about eight days sugar and rye are added in. The mash is then distilled and poured over charred white oak chips for woody flavoring.

Gin

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Gin was perhaps the most popular home brew during prohibition, known by most as "bathtub gin." It was called this because many makers would store their batches in tubs before distributing it to the local speakeasies. Brewers of gin typically use a whiskey base and various botanicals for flavoring. Juniper berries and coriander seeds usually constitute most of the botanical ingredients, but other flowers and roots are sometimes used to perfect the taste. Liquorish root, for example, is a common extra ingredient that can make a big difference in the flavor of the brew. The gin is made by one of two processes: distilling or compounding. Distilling involves adding the flavorings slowly over a continuous process while compounding simply requires combining the ingredients with neutral spirits at once.

Vodka

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Not for the entry level home brewer, vodka is one of those potent potables that requires patience, experience and care to properly make. Vodka mash can be made out of several various ingredients depending on the smoothness of brew desired. Rough varieties commonly use potatoes while finer vodkas use grains such as wheat or rye. The mash is fermented for two weeks, then distilled three times. This process involves using heat to evaporate it through tubes and into a collecting container. Triple distilling makes the vodka refined and safe to drink. Each time the brewer distills the mash, it is important that he remembers to discard the first and last 50 milliliters of alcohol. This removes the harmful wood alcohol that can cause blindness if it were drank. Next, brewers run the vodka through active carbon filters to take the roughness off of the flavor. This can be done as many as seven times for ultimate smoothness before it is diluted with water, representing the end of the brewing process. If a flavoring is desired, the vodka is poured into a container with berries, peppers, vanilla bean, or any other flavor additive and left to sit. After a few weeks the vodka will have taken on the flavor and is ready to enjoy.

Pulque

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Pulque is a distinctly flavored native beverage of Mexico and is home brewed by many Mexican hobbyists. The primary ingredient in this unique tasting beer is agave cactus, which is often fermented and distilled into tequila. Home brewers trim all the leaves off of the cactus and slice the big pineapple looking base into large chunks. These chunks are then baked at around 300 degrees. This effectively turns the starches into sugar that can be fermented. When the agave is done baking, it is removed from the oven and the sweet nectar is rinsed off with hot water and collected in a pot. Once this juice cools, brewers add yeast and ferment the mash for about a week. When it is done, out emerges a fresh batch of pulque, ripe for the tasting.

Red Wine

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Most people know that wine is made from grapes, but many do not know much more than that. The process by which wine is made is actually quite easier than it appears. Home brewing is a popular hobby in America, and many people utilize various techniques and grape selections to brew very fine varieties. The essentials of home brewed wine consists of crushing fresh, organic grapes into a pulp to form the base of the wine. From there, brewers add yeast, sugars and any additional ingredients, before allowing the mix to ferment for about a week. After seven days, the wine maker strains the mix to filter out any remaining grape skins, pulp pieces and other ingredients. The mix is then further fermented, bottled and aged for a period of 6 to 24 months. The older the wine, the better is tastes, so it is important to be patient when brewing this particular drink.

Mead

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Whether partying with vikings, celebrating your Norwegian heritage, or simply listening to an Amon Amarth CD and reading some Norse mythology, mead is classic viking drink that has been home brewed for centuries. Brewers begin with pure water, (or if you want to be true to the drink's roots, melted snow) and honey. Honey is added to the water and the mix is heated until it becomes smooth and consistent. As it boils, foam will quickly develop on top, and it is essential that the brewer frequently skims this off. Once no more foam rises to the top, the mixture is allowed to cool until lukewarm. A spoonful of yeast is then added and the mix is set to ferment. After about six weeks the mead will be ready to enjoy, though many claim that allowing an even longer time will produce better tasting results.

Irish Cream

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Since liquor stores are not open at 9 AM, it occasionally becomes necessary to add a little kick to your morning cup of coffee to start the day off on the right foot. In such situations, what you need is some Irish cream to mix into your mug. In order to make this you'll need to break out your blender and get to work. Pour in a 14 ounce of sweetened and condensed milk and a cup of heavy cream. In a separate bowl, crack open some eggs and pour them into the blender as well. Finally, add some chocolate syrup, a couple tsp of espresso and some vanilla and almond extracts into the blender for flavorings. Turn the blender on and mix it up until its all nice and uniform. Now for the fun part. Crack open a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey and dump in half of a 750ml bottle. Recap the blender, mix it up some more, and you're all done. Now all that's left is to bottle the tasty cream up and refrigerate it. You better drink it fast though, for it comes with an expiration date of 30 days. Looks like you'll be having more than a few memorable mornings at the office.

Moonshine

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Nothing hits home like straight, undiluted alcohol. If you're in the mood to get so drunk your friends have "9-1" dialed on the phone and are arguing over whether to push the next "1," then what you need is some good old-fashioned moonshine. To begin, grab a few pounds of the cheapest sugar you can find. Dump it into a bunch of water and bring the water to a boil to dissolve it all. Next, let the water cool to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and add your yeast. Lightly cover the mix, but leave some room for the CO2 produced by the yeast to escape. Give it 10 to 25 days to finish fermenting. Next you'll need to run the mix through a still, (for which there exist many good instructions online) and out comes your moonshine. Enjoy in extreme moderation. After all, too much of the stuff can make you go blind!

Sambuca

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Sambuca is a sweet Italian liquor that tastes a bit like liquorish. Sambuca is usually enjoyed straight up (and sometimes on fire), but some people choose to add it to coffee for an extra kick in the morning. Making your own sambuca is not very hard, though it does require a lot of waiting. Most home brewers take a 1 liter bottle and add flavorless vodka with essential oil of Anise. After doing so, the bottle must be shaken vigorously to dissolve the oil. Next, home brewers typically add sugar and hot water, and then shake the bottle some more to dissolve all the sugar. Lastly, the bottle must be stored for six months before drinking. This is the hard part, as most people want to pound their booze right away. But if you are patient and can wait, you will have a great tasting liquor of your very own to present at the next house party.

Chocolate Liquor

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if you enjoy the taste of Frangelico, you might want to check out a good recipe for making your own chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor is a great desert treat with various pastries, and can also make some really unique tasting shots and cocktails. Most people choose to start with Bacardi 151 rum, simply for its quality and seriously high alcohol content. The rum is poured into a mixing bottle and vanilla bean halves and coco nibs are added. Next, the bottle is left to sit for three weeks, though it is important to remember to give it a good shake every day to stir the ingredients. When the three weeks are over, strain the liquor into a new, fancy bottle and serve chilled to anyone looking for a strong and tasty treat!

Hard Welch's

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Sometimes you just aren't in the mood to be classy about what you drink. Drinking fine wine or Grand Marnier can get old, and sometimes you might just feel its time to drink the cheapest, bummiest thing you can get your hands on. The next time this urge hits, head to the local grocery store and pick up two cans of Welch's frozen juice concentrate because its time to adulterate a beloved childhood favorite. Bring one quart of water to a boil and dissolve 1-1/4 lbs of sugar into it. Remove it from the heat and mix in the frozen concentrate. Now add another gallon of water, 2 tbs acid blend, 1 tsp of pectic enzyme, and 1 tsp yeast nutrient. Cover this concoction with a napkin held on by a rubber band and set it aside for 12 hours. Once the time is up, mix in wine yeast and recover it with the napkin after about 5 days you can bottle it with an air lock and let it sit for 30. Voila! You now have a drink so cheap it'll make you crave a 40 ounce of Old English.

NASA To Bomb The Moon

NASA is launching a dramatic mission to bomb the moon.

The LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite) mission will send a missile traveling at twice the speed of a bullet to blast a hole in the lunar surface near the moon's South pole.

Scientists expect the impact of the Centaur rocket to be powerful enough to eject a huge plume of debris from the moon. The moon dust should even be large enough to be seen from earth through telescopes 10-to-12 inches and larger, says NASA.

So what's our beef with the moon?

The bombing isn't an act of hostility: it's all part of our search for water in space.

The missile will impact the lunar surface at crater Cabeus A (see photo below). The crater is located on the moon's South pole, an area in which scientists estimate there may be billions of tons of trapped ice.

Scientists intend to examine the debris from the blast for traces of water ice or vapor. Discover Magazine explains how it works:

Detecting that water is tough. Radar results have been inconclusive, with some people saying there's lots of water, and others saying there's none at all. By impacting a probe there, any ice located at the impact site will be shot up above the lunar surface, where sunlight will break it up into O+ and OH- molecules, which can be detected. Thus, LCROSS.

Locating water on the moon would be a big boon for future space missions, NASA notes:

Transporting water and other goods from Earth to the moon's surface is expensive. Finding natural resources, such as water ice, on the moon could help expedite lunar exploration.

Check out an awesome video simulation of the LCROSS mission here.

Watch the LCROSS launch on a Live NASA TV Broadcast that will start at 6:15 a.m. EDT/3:15 a.m. PDT on October 9, 2009.







AT&T Changes Tune, Allows VoIP Over Cell Network

Dan Moren, Macworld.com

All engines, full reverse! That's the order AT&T seemed to be giving on Tuesday when it announced that it would be altering its existing policy to allow Internet phone applications such as Skype to place calls over the iPhone's cellular data connection.

Previously Skype and other Voice over IP (VoIP) applications for the iPhone, such as Fring, were relegated to Wi-Fi connections, prompting calls of foul play by consumers who often wanted to take advantage of features like the services' cheaper rates for international calling. An FCC investigation was launched in April at the behest of Internet advocacy group Free Press, shortly after the Skype app was released for the iPhone.

Notably, the ban did not apply to non-iPhone devices on AT&T's network. "Today's decision was made after evaluating our customers' expectations and use of the (iPhone) compared to dozens of others we offer," AT&T Wireless CEO Ralph de la Vega told The Wall Street Journal.

While some alleged that AT&T's desire in keeping Skype off its data network was a way of stifling competition and forcing customers to use the wireless company's international calling options, it's also been suggested that AT&T was worried about the amount of traffic the immensely popular iPhone could bring to bear on its network.

Somewhat coincidentally--if you believe in such things--earlier in the day, Google and Verizon held a joint press conference to announce their new partnership, in which the two companies stressed network openness.

The decision today does not apparently affect other applications that suffer from similar restrictions, such as the iPhone version of SlingPlayer Mobile, which allows users to stream video from their home devices only over Wi-Fi connections. Nor does it affect the contentious Google Voice service, which uses the standard telephone functions of the cellular network to route phone calls to and from users.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope Discovers Largest Ring Around Saturn


NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted a nearly invisible ring around Saturn -- the largest of the giant planet's many rings. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Keck)

ScienceDaily (Oct. 7, 2009) — NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous ring around Saturn -- by far the largest of the giant planet's many rings.


The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles). One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material.

Saturn's newest halo is thick, too -- its vertical height is about 20 times the diameter of the planet. It would take about one billion Earths stacked together to fill the ring.

"This is one supersized ring," said Anne Verbiscer, an astronomer at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. "If you could see the ring, it would span the width of two full moons' worth of sky, one on either side of Saturn." Verbiscer; Douglas Hamilton of the University of Maryland, College Park; and Michael Skrutskie, of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, are authors of a paper about the discovery to be published online tomorrow by the journal Nature.

An artist's concept of the newfound ring is online at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/spitzer/multimedia/spitzer-20091007a.html .

The ring itself is tenuous, made up of a thin array of ice and dust particles. Spitzer's infrared eyes were able to spot the glow of the band's cool dust. The telescope, launched in 2003, is currently 107 million kilometers (66 million miles) from Earth in orbit around the sun.

The discovery may help solve an age-old riddle of one of Saturn's moons. Iapetus has a strange appearance -- one side is bright and the other is really dark, in a pattern that resembles the yin-yang symbol. The astronomer Giovanni Cassini first spotted the moon in 1671, and years later figured out it has a dark side, now named Cassini Regio in his honor. A stunning picture of Iapetus taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft is online at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA08384 .

Saturn's newest addition could explain how Cassini Regio came to be. The ring is circling in the same direction as Phoebe, while Iapetus, the other rings and most of Saturn's moons are all going the opposite way. According to the scientists, some of the dark and dusty material from the outer ring moves inward toward Iapetus, slamming the icy moon like bugs on a windshield.

"Astronomers have long suspected that there is a connection between Saturn's outer moon Phoebe and the dark material on Iapetus," said Hamilton. "This new ring provides convincing evidence of that relationship."

Verbiscer and her colleagues used Spitzer's longer-wavelength infrared camera, called the multiband imaging photometer, to scan through a patch of sky far from Saturn and a bit inside Phoebe's orbit. The astronomers had a hunch that Phoebe might be circling around in a belt of dust kicked up from its minor collisions with comets -- a process similar to that around stars with dusty disks of planetary debris. Sure enough, when the scientists took a first look at their Spitzer data, a band of dust jumped out.

The ring would be difficult to see with visible-light telescopes. Its particles are diffuse and may even extend beyond the bulk of the ring material all the way in to Saturn and all the way out to interplanetary space. The relatively small numbers of particles in the ring wouldn't reflect much visible light, especially out at Saturn where sunlight is weak.

"The particles are so far apart that if you were to stand in the ring, you wouldn't even know it," said Verbiscer.

Spitzer was able to sense the glow of the cool dust, which is only about 80 Kelvin (minus 316 degrees Fahrenheit). Cool objects shine with infrared, or thermal radiation; for example, even a cup of ice cream is blazing with infrared light. "By focusing on the glow of the ring's cool dust, Spitzer made it easy to find," said Verbiscer.

These observations were made before Spitzer ran out of coolant in May and began its "warm" mission.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. The multiband imaging photometer for Spitzer was built by Ball Aerospace Corporation, Boulder, Colo., and the University of Arizona, Tucson. Its principal investigator is George Rieke of the University of Arizona.

For additional images relating to the ring discovery and more information about Spitzer, visit http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu and http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer .


Adapted from materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Burger King plans ‘futuristic’ remodel of stores

$300,000 to $600,000 for each of the chain’s 12,000 outlets worldwide

Image: Burger King
A Burger King in the Houston suburb of Spring, Texas sports the company's new "20/20" design.
Pat Sullivan / AP



CHICAGO - Burger King Corp. plans to swap its generic fast-food feel and bland tiles and tabletops for a vibe that's more sit-down than drive-through.

As part of a plan to be revealed Wednesday in Amsterdam, the company will announce a massive effort to overhaul its 12,000 locations worldwide.

The sleek interior includes rotating red flame chandeliers, brilliant TV-screen menus and industrial-inspired corrugated metal and brick walls.


"I'd call it more contemporary, edgy, futuristic," Chairman and CEO John Chidsey told The Associated Press. "It feels so much more like an upscale restaurant."

But that comes with an upscale price: The new look is expected to cost franchisees, who operate 90 percent of Burger King's locations, between $300,000 to $600,000 per restaurant.

The company said the new design, called "20/20" at the Miami-based chain, is already in place at about 60 locations around the world. But it will take years before all its locations are switched.

Burger King franchise owners are contractually required to update their restaurants after a set period, and executives said the redesign will be the primary option for future upgrades. All new restaurants will be built using the plan.

Burger King said it expects about 75 more redesigned restaurants to be open by the end of next year.

So far, remodeled restaurants have seen sales climb about 12 to 15 percent, while restaurants that are torn down and completely rebuilt at the same location have seen sales climb by as much as 30 percent, Chidsey said.

Observers say the hip, urban and masculine elements in the redesign may be a hit with Burger King's most loyal customers — young men who frequent the chain known as much for its signature Whoppers and "steak burgers" as its sometimes-creepy "King" commercials. But some experts are skeptical about whether sales will climb as much as the company claims and how eager franchise owners will be to part with that kind of cash, particularly in a sour economy.

A group representing Burger King franchise owners didn't immediately comment.

Chidsey said he thinks most franchise owners, who typically own both their restaurant's building and the land, won't have trouble obtaining finanacing and will be swayed once they see how sales can climb.

Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy said the reformulated restaurant could keep diners at the table longer but may not draw in enough extra diners to justify the cost.

"I don't think they'll change their perception," he said. "They're pretty entrenched in their reality."

Fast-food restaurants typically get almost two-thirds of their business from drive-through or carryout orders. More appealing interiors could help the company compete with its sit-down counterparts that many customers think offer better food and better ambiance.

They might also help Burger King, the No. 2 burger food chain the U.S., stand out from larger rival McDonald's Corp. and other competitors, including regional chains, who've begun to add bigger and better burgers as they clamor for a share of the growing burger market that's worth $100 billion in the U.S.

"It's a competitive necessity to square up against the competition," Chidsey said.

Ron Paul, president of the food consultant company Technomic Inc., said he thinks the redesign shows just how determined Burger King is to compete with "fast casual" restaurant chains such as Chipotle, Starbucks and Panera, which customers think of as a cut above typical fast food.

"People in the fast-food category are recognizing they've been losing customers to the fast-casual player," he said. "What this sounds like is an attempt to get that dining-in business back by making it an attractive environment."

While the most noticeable changes will be inside restaurants, Burger King executives also plan to tweak exteriors, too, adding more signs proclaiming "Home of the Whopper."

At the same time as the company is beefing up its value menu, temporarily adding a $1 double cheeseburger to U.S. menus. And it's also in the final stages of installing new broiler ovens that cut energy use and will let the company roll out new menu items in the future.

On deck is Steakhouse XT burger, which has a thick patty topped with mayonnaise, fried onions, lettuce, steak sauce, cheese and tomatoes. It's slated to join menus in February.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

DeLorean Motor Company Contemplating Building Pontiac Solstice


The DeLorean Motor Company is a brand without a car and the Pontiac Solstice is a car without a brand. That leaves the company wondering: if John DeLorean were still alive, would he try to save Pontiac? Or one Pontiac?

As we all know, the folding of both Pontiac and Saturn has left the small RWD platform without a home. It also left GM's Wilmington, Delaware plant without a purpose. The new DeLorean Motor Company, which we toured last summer, is currently the main keeper of the DeLorean flame and up-keeper of the world's fleet of DeLoreans. They're also producing a small series of upgraded second generation cars. Could they also carry forward the spirit of a company enriched by John DeLorean's vigor and genius?


"JZD always said that the best memories of his automotive career were at Pontiac, and that connection between JZD and Pontiac is probably one of the better known associations among car enthusiasts," said James Espey, Vice President of the DeLorean Motor Company.

The company has released the above drawings and acquired a Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe for evaluation. DMC also says they're excited about the prospect of "putting several hundred people back to work" in Wilmington, though it's unclear at how much capital it would take to acquire the plant and the source of funding for such an endeavor.

Until we get more information we're just going to sit back and enjoy the prospect of GM's Kappa platform getting a second life.

An Exhaustive Guide to Saving Your Smartphone's Battery


Modern phones come loaded with bright screens, fun games and apps, and connections for 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Not coincidentally, they're constantly out of juice. Here's some of the best collected wisdom about saving your web-connected phone's battery life.

Photo by [177].

Note: I've tweaked a few sections, added in submissions from commenters, and removed a woefully misguided idea about dark-themed backgrounds since this post was originally published. Thanks for the help and (occasionally) gentle hand slaps.

Universal battery tips

They're different in a lot of ways, but all smartphones can be made to be more frugal with their limited power reserves if you're willing to follow a few simple rules of thumb.

  • Keep it cool and out of pocket: If you're outside, don't leave your phone facing the direct sunlight. If you can pull it off without looking like a hyper-aggressive real estate agent, belt-clip your phone, or generally keep it out of your pocket and away from close quarters with your body heat.
  • Switch off 3G when it's unnecessary: It's faster than EDGE or GRPS and can deliver both voice and data in a continuous stream to your phone. It also uses up quite a bit more power. When you've got good coverage and plan to mostly talk, or just get occasional email updates, you don't need such wide wireless pipes. Switch to EDGE/2G usage in your settings, preferably with a widget or shortcut.
  • Switch off any unneeded service: Goes without saying for anyone who's learned the hard way. Having your phone constantly look for new Bluetooth devices, Wi-Fi hotspots, GPS positions, and Exchange server emails that don't arrive at 4 a.m. will definitely kill your battery. Find the most convenient way your phone offers to turn these things off, or automate their use, and act on it.
  • Be frugal with background applications and notifications: It feels like living in the future when new emails, Twitter messages, Facebook updates, calendar appointments, and other minutiae are delivered minute-by-minute to your phone. Your battery lives in the present, though, and could use a break from your hyper-awareness. If you've got a phone that can keep multiple applications "open" for quicker access (Android, Pre, Windows Mobile), don't feel obligated to keep them present.
  • Fiddle with screen time-outs and brightness: Tweak how long your screen stays lit after a quick time check, modify how bright it must stay during the daylight, and you'll likely pull a bit more use time from your handset.
  • Use mobile site versions: Find and bookmark the mobile versions of the sites you always visit (often found at m.sitename.com, mobile.sitename.com, or, occasionally, sitename.com/m), and keep tools like the Google Mobilizer and Bing Mobile handy; they'll automatically pare down a page to its basic elements, and save your phone from having to burn its battery pulling down giant banner ads. Using Google mobile search on some phones also presents an "Options" menu next to each result, which provides a "mobile" link for any page.
Photo by sarchi.

BlackBerry


If you're rocking a BlackBerry, chances are that disconnecting your network to save on battery life isn't an option. Instead, you might try a few of these tips. Photo by liewcf.

  • RIM's official tips: To summarize: Close your browser with the ESC key when you're done surfing, use shortcuts instead of Java-based menus, get crazy with the extensive settings, and use the Desktop Manager (now available for PCs and Mac OS X) to load media, rather than have your phone resize and compress it all.
  • Radio Saver and AutoStandby: Radio Saver turns off your phone's cell reception when coverage is spotty or non-existent, saving you from the dreaded drain of roaming for signal. AutoStandby, when it's on, drops your BlackBerry into a deeper standby state, rather than just sleep, if you'd rather get a bit more time from your phone than be constantly pinged. They're $2.99 each, which isn't cheap for a utility, but might be worth the coffee change if you're low on battery life or working on the edge of service.
  • BBlight: This simple little app allows you to have your screen's backlight automatically turn off after a set period of time. Here's the direct over-the-air link. Thanks atomicrabbit!
  • The Boy Genius basics: Straight from the BlackBerry-toting, news-breaking blogger behind the Boy Genius Report, the basics on keeping your phone alive:

    Turn down brightness of the screen, turn the LED off, turn Bluetooth off, Wi-Fi off (when not needed).

    Also, keep it in a holster, since it will "sleep" (when inside it)

    No silver bullets there, but sound advice—especially on the holster bit.

iPhones


Apple's game-changing, full-web-browsing phone has had its battery life detractors from the get-go. Luckily, some have put their efforts into fixing that. Photo by Mat Honan.

  • Apple's official tips: To summarize: Don't get it too hot or too cool, turn off unnecessary services, "lock" it frequently, and let the battery run completely down, and then charge to 100 percent, at least once a month.
  • Gizmodo's suggestions: To summarize: Change from Push to Fetch email, turn off contacts and calendar sync if you're not a CEO, cancel scanning for new Wi-Fi networks, and avoid games with vibration and 3D graphics (except in seriously long airport lines).
  • Toggle networks with SBSettings jailbreak app: By default, the iPhone's on/off switches are tucked inside the settings, and the phone can only automate screen brightness. With SBSettings installed on a jailbroken phone (from the BigBoss repository), you can not toggle all your data connections on and off from a flip-down widget, and fine-tune other battery-grabbing aspects of your phone. See and read more about SBSettings at The Apple Blog. Thanks j_rich!
  • Use the battery percentage indicator: The standard battery indicator can leave you guessing as to how healthy your iPhone actually is, and sometimes misreports its state entirely. If you've got a iPhone 3GS, or a jailbroken iPhone, you can enable a numeric percentage read on your lock screen by heading to Settings, General, and then Usage to toggle "Battery Percentage" to On.
  • Use Prowl, GPush, or very light Push for Gmail: We first showed you how to use Prowl and Growl to push Gmail to your iPhone, and it remains a more battery-efficient means of getting important email notifications, particularly while your main work computer is running. We also detailed a work-around with GPush that works at any time—when it works, period. Since then, Gmail has added official push support for instant email notifications, but it also makes manual email fetching more reliable, so users can set it to an hourly or manual interval to save on battery use. Thanks drjonze and wbullockiii!

Android


The current crop of Android phones have almost universally crummy battery life. Luckily, the system's open platform has given app developers lots of leeway to squeeze every drop out of them. Photo by sugree.

  • Automate your phone rules: When you're asleep, you want important calls to come through, but you don't need to check your email every hour. When you're at work, your screen doesn't need to be so bright, and you've already got net access. Using an app like Locale , you can make turning on and off your phone's most power-hungry features automatic, based on time of day, location, battery status, and other factors.
  • Learn to love APNdroid: It's more severe, but APNdroid is also the most sincere battery saver out there. Click its app icon, and your EDGE/3G cell networks are turned off, while your basic call connection remains in place. That's better than Airplane Mode, which totally renders you inaccessible, and, used wisely, you'll definitely notice the difference when you start charging every other day. Better still, it seems a Locale plug-in is in the works, so turning off your wireless access when it's not needed could become a no-brainer.
  • Keep the power widget handy: When your Android 1.6 (a.k.a. Donut) update arrives, you'll have a new widget available, "Power Control," that puts some important on/off switches—Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, auto-sync, and screen brightness—all on one horizontal strip. Keep it someplace handy on your home screen, and power down when you're at your most casual.
  • See what's eating your juice: Also new in Android 1.6: A percentage Battery Use chart you can access under About Phone in your Settings. It shows what's been pulling in power since the last time you charged your phone, which can help remind you of background apps and other power drains.

Windows Mobile


Older than almost all its siblings, but Windows Mobile has grown to incorporate all the same battery-killing background powers as its brethren. Photo by Titanus.

  • WMExperts' tips: To summarize: Avoid Wi-Fi whenever possible, dial down your email checking, and dig into your settings to modify screen time-outs and vibration frequency.
  • WMLongLife: Basically, this independent app switches your phone from 3G service down to 2G when it's in standby mode, so background data grabs and non-essential pings drain less battery. The developer also states it has a beneficial impact on, erm, other functions.

Palm Pre


Everybody who digs the Palm Pre mentions its "deck of cards" multi-tasking and Sprint's seriously speedy data networks. Yeah, you guessed it—both require a little power precaution.

  • Treonauts' battery tips: To summarize: Turn it off (or into airplane mode) when in very weak coverage, and follow the same kind of auto-check and background app recommendations made earlier in this post.
  • Battery Saver: This homebrew app is only really useful if there are parts of the day where another phone provides you with emergency contact—like at home, if you have an alternate line. If that's the case, though, turning your phone to airplane mode at pre-set parts of the day gives you the advantage of a quick power-on or contact check, while also saving on battery life.

Our Earth New Urbanism: ep 2 - Rooftop Farming



Solutions for Urban Living #2: Turn warehouse roofs into city farms and grow local, sustainably produced food. Annie Novak and Ben Flanner have been farming the rooftop of a Brooklyn warehouse since May 2009 and the 6,000 square-foot farm has over 30 different varieties of vegetables. Nearby restaurants have caught on to the idea and the urban farmers have been making deliveries on their bikes - now that's local. For all other episodes, interesting links, more info, check out Babelgum's New Urbanism

'Curb' gets highest ratings in five years

'Seinfeld' reunion story line kicked off Sunday

By Nellie Andreeva


Sunday's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode, which kicked off a story line reuniting "Curb" mastermind and "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David with his "Seinfeld" cohorts, delivered the HBO comedy's best performance in more than five years.

"Curb," featuring Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards, drew 1.6 million viewers in its first airing at 9 p.m. and cumulative 2.6 million when the same-night rerun is factored in.

That is "Curb's" best performance in more than five years, since March 14, 2004.

"Curb's" ratings gain boosted freshman comedy "Bored to Death," which nabbed its largest audience to date, 1.1 million viewers, up 51% from last week. (The total grew to 1.5 for the two Sunday airings of the show combined.)

At 10:30 p.m., "Entourage" ended its sixth season on a high note, drawing 2.5 million viewers, up 21% when compared with last season's finale, and 3 million viewers overall when combined with the 11:45 p.m. re-airing.Cur

Brad Pitt Unveils Flood-Surviving Float House for Make It Right Foundation



by Bridgette Meinhold, 10/06/09

float-house, brad pitt, make it right, make it right foundation, float house, morphosis architects, thom mayne, floating house, new orleans, sustainable materials

Brad Pitt has been making waves in the green building world lately, so it’s only appropriate that the newest house completed for his Make It Right Foundation project be a floating one. Being revealed today in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the Float House by Morphosis Architects, goes beyond sustainable designand construction and is built within the context of its environment – it can float. In case of flooding, the home can literally break away from it’s moorings and rise up up to 12 feet on two guideposts. It won’t float away, but it will act as a raft and provide the family with enough battery power to allow them to survive for up to three days until help arrives.

brad pitt, make it right, make it right foundation, float house, morphosis architects, thom mayne, floating house, new orleans, sustainable materials

Thom Mayne, founder of Morphosis and winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, wanted to build a home that could survive through hurricane flooding as well fit in with the surrounding homes. He and his team designed a house that was essentially built on a chassis of polystyrene foam and covered with glass-reinforced concrete. During hurricane flooding conditions, the home could break away from its electrical lines, gas and plumbing and rise with the flood waters. Anchored to its site by two guideposts the home could sustain 12 foot high flood waters.

While it has never been tested in real life flood conditions, Morphosis conducted extensive computer simulations and modeled it to withstand Hurricane Katrina-like conditions. There is also a battery backup in the home with enough capacity to power crucial appliances for up to three days.

As with all Make It Right homes, the Float House is built with environmentally friendly materials, but in contrast to the other homes, this one is built on the ground level rather than 12 feet above the ground. Mayne and Morphosis wanted to retain the look of the existing community and make it more accessible to people who didn’t want to or couldn’t get up a huge flight of stairs. Mayne says about the house and design, “Hopefully it never gets used. But when it gets used, it’s important.”

+ Morphosis Architects

Via Ecorazzi and NPR

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