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Thursday, October 29, 2009
PM's senior technology editor Glenn Derene is defending his property on mischief night by catching the ne'er-do-wells before they strike—with two high-tech video-capturing pumpkin mods.
I don't. Now that I am an adult and a homeowner myself, I am acutely aware of the threat from rambunctious and undisciplined teenagers—at one point in my history, I was one of them. Yet that doesn't mean I have to put up with it. I am determined to defend my house, and I can identify any person who attempts to assault it. You see; if anyone so much as raises a rotten egg in anger on my property, I'll have the whole thing on video.
My confederates in this surveillance operation will be a pair of high-tech jack-o-lanterns. These poor, put-upon squashes are often targets of abuse themselves—smashed, chucked, or defaced with magic markers—so I decided to carve my family's yearly pumpkins into security sentinels with built-in video cameras.
Make a Surveillance Pumpkin:
|The Vue Pumpkin||The Generic Wireless Camera Kit Pumpkin|
Camera technology has gotten both cheaper and more sophisticated in the past few years—wireless video transmission, in particular, has exploded into the home security market based on the legitimate need for security. I outfitted my pumpkins with two different low-cost wireless video systems. The first was a small no-name-brand infrared camera and receiver bought for $40 from bargain computer-parts site geeks.com (no kidding, the box just says "Wireless Camera Kit" and "Made in China" on it). The second was the new Aavek Vue wireless camera system, which comes with two mini cameras and a receiver/network interface for $300.
Both systems have their advantages: The no-name wireless kit was super-cheap, and it promised to capture detailed images of miscreants hiding in the darkest of Halloween shadows. The Vue system promised to be easy to set up, and, because it works through a simple Web interface, the video is viewable on any computer with no setup, and could be watched remotely through a password-protected site.
Carving the pumpkins was easy. Thanks to a tip from Popular Mechanics's senior home editor, Roy Berendsohn, I sliced through squash flesh with ease using a drywall saw. Each pumpkin was built with a different strategy. For my infrared camera pumpkin, I chose deterrence—one eyehole of the jack-o-lantern face was carved to match the aperture of the camera, then the rest of the face was carved to accentuate the pumpkin's all-seeing eye. Unfortunately, I also had to carve an exit hole for the camera's power cord out the pumpkin's rear end—apparently the "wireless" camera wasn't completely so. To secure the camera, I wrapped a section of 12-gauge building wire around its base, then poked the ends into the inner flesh of the pumpkin for support. The resulting face was a nice balance of madness and menace; my pumpkin's grotesque techno-eye loomed large and leering. Even better, in the evening the infrared LED array glowed faintly red, warning those who pass: You are being watched—behave yourself, or else!
My Vue pumpkin was far more subtle and secretive. Since Vue cameras are tiny, completely wireless and battery-powered, they can easily disappear inside a cavernous pumpkin. I carved the Vue pumpkin with textbook triangle eyes and nose, then created the mouth as a howling oval for a convenient camera porthole near the base. Then I synced the Vue camera with its base station, turned it on, and inserted it into the pumpkin, creating a platform for it out of the carved-out section of pumpkin that I had removed for the mouth.
The Vue system worked perfectly. I went to an online Web page and created a password-protected account for my base station, and, in moments, I was viewing video of my front yard. The Vue service gives 2 GB of storage for recorded video for the first year, with an option for downloading clips to your computer for longer-term storage. You can check the live footage from anywhere with Web access, even from your phone.
The infrared wireless camera was not so impressive. Its instructions are probably much clearer in the original Chinese, but I found them impossible to follow. The system consists of two parts, the camera and base station, which has no computer interface to speak of, only a composite video and mono audio output (although for the life of me, I couldn't find any microphone on the camera itself). There is also a switch for four channels within the 2.4-GHz frequency band, but no corresponding switch on the camera. You are left to guess what frequency your camera is outputting video on, or randomly switch from channel to channel until you see video.
And, in all likelihood, you'll be switching around like crazy trying to get any sort of signal—in my experience, the receiver didn't picking up anything at all the first time I tried it. I discovered through plenty of trial and error that the receiver–camera combo only seemed to work when they were within 10 feet of one another. A fat lot of good that does when the television I'm attempting to plug it into is thirty feet away from the pumpkin on the front porch. The problem was eventually solved with a very long composite video cord. Even then, however, the video cut in and out until I found just the right spot for the receiver. I guess you get what you pay for.
Nevertheless, now I have two working surveillance pumpkins ready for Halloween night. I also have several bags of candy and snacks for the children who come to the door in cute costumes, looking for a treat. But for those who come looking for nothing but mischief, I've got a trick or two up my sleeve.
Make a Surveillance Pumpkin:
|The Vue Pumpkin||The Generic Wireless Camera Kit Pumpkin|
Do beer, hemp and placenta really help hair? We ask two cosmetic chemists.
Although THC is an active ingredient in Nature's Gate Hemp Conditioner, the levels are too low to cause positive urine tests for marijuana, chemist Jim Hammer says.
Hair products are no exception to this somewhat creepy phenomenon. Consumers hoping for a hair miracle are willing to pay extra for deep conditioners and conditioning "treatments" that promise an enviable crowning glory -- even when they contain rather odd-seeming ingredients such as placenta, caviar and hemp. Pushing the limits, Hari's, a well-known "celebrity" salon in London that claims clients including the Rolling Stones and Margaret Trudeau, had the beauty world abuzz earlier this year with owner Hari Salem's Aberdeen Organic bull sperm treatment. The promise was that the protein in the treatment (called "Viagra for Hair" on Hari's website) would repair, restore and brighten hair.
But is there really any reason to go for such exotic treatments?
"Not necessarily," says Jim Hammer, a cosmetic chemist at Pharmasol Labs. "They may be quite effective, but as always there is more than one way to skin the proverbial cat, so to speak."
For instance, he says that conventional ingredients such as wheat or rice protein, combined with hydrating oils, are likely to perform as well as products such as bull semen or beer, but acknowledges, "Wheat protein certainly sounds boring when compared with these other more unusual, even taboo, options."
Hammer and Ron Robinson, a cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat.com, have both been beauty experts for Allure magazine and other outlets. Below, they hack through the hyperbole and hype to share thoughts on some of the unusual ingredients, including which work and why.
Hask Henna 'n' Placenta Conditioning Treatment
Company executive David Miller says that Hask Placenta products use bovine placenta. Some companies also use sheep and pig placenta in their beauty products. Hask claims that its Henna 'n' Placenta Conditioning Treatment repairs and strengthens dry, brittle, lifeless hair. Biology refresher: The placenta is the organ that connects a developing fetus to the uterine wall via the umbilical cord.
"It acts like a trading post where nutrients are transferred from the mother to the fetus," says Robinson. "Because of its function, placentas are rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and proteins." Robinson's assessment? "Given placenta's rich nutrient content, it may indeed help to strengthen and repair dry, brittle, lifeless hair."
Cost: About $3 for each 2-ounce packet
Available at: Sally Beauty Supply and various other beauty supply outlets.
Alterna Caviar Anti Aging Seasilk Moisture Conditioner
A rich idea, but does it work? Caviar is used in many beauty products. "It's one of the world's richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids," says Lisa Hoffman, Alterna's director of marketing and product development. "It has a similar cellular format to that of human skin, helping increase hair's elasticity and improve the health of the scalp. It's deeply moisturizing and repairs dry, brittle hair like nothing else."
Robinson notes that "some beauty companies may include an ingredient that's trendy, but it's the other ingredients in the formula that are actually doing the heavy lifting."
But he says caviar contains hair-friendly ingredients including calcium, phosphorus, protein, selenium, iron, magnesium and vitamins B12, B6, B2, B44, C, A and D. Caviar also has amino and essential amino acids and is rich in omega-3s. After looking at the product's entire ingredient list Robinson concluded that the Alterna conditioner does "contain a blend of lipids that could work to hydrate while protecting it from daily stresses and damage. And the omega-3 fatty acids in the caviar would also help to hydrate."
Cost: About $35 for an 8.5-ounce bottle
Available at: Select salons and retailers. For more information, go to www.alternahaircare.com.
Nature's Gate Hemp Nourishing Conditioner for Dry or Frizzy Hair
Founding fathers George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were all said to have grown hemp, and the crop has been used in a wide variety of products including clothing, paper, rope, fuel and even tortillas and vinaigrette. Hempseed oil, an ingredient in the Nature's Gate conditioner, is pressed from the seed.
Laura Setzfand, vice president of marketing for Nature's Gate, says that hempseed oil "contains high levels of amino acids, vitamin E and other nutrients vital to keratin formation, the principal protein responsible for the structural integrity of hair." She credits its protein for enhancing elasticity, volume and shine. For Hammer, the benefits are all about the fat: "Hempseed oil is rich in fatty acids and oil-soluble antioxidant vitamins. The fatty acids in natural oils, like hemp, act as emollients and moisturizers. They prevent hair from drying out, and help to eliminate frizziness."
And for those who might be wondering: Although THC is an active ingredient, the levels in cosmetic products such as Nature's Gate are too low to cause positive urine tests for marijuana, Hammer says.
Cost: $6.29 for an 18-ounce bottle
Available at: Whole Foods Market, www.natures-gate.com.
Hop Beer Hair Conditioner
The South Korean company Skinfood is one of many companies that use beer in their hair products. In fact, "Beer actually enjoys a long history of use in hair conditioners and rinses," says Hammer. "Anyone who was around in the 1970s will no doubt remember the Body on Tap hair products."
Skinfood's retail marketing executive, Constance Goh, says that the conditioner "prevents hair loss by strengthening the scalp and hair, providing elasticity and strength to thin and weak hair making hair roots healthy."
So what's the verdict? "Beer is rich in proteins and complex carbohydrates," Hammer says. "Carbohydrates have a hydrating effect on the hair, and protein helps to coat the hair, giving it more strength and flexibility, producing great shine." But does it prevent hair loss? "Only in the sense that it prevents damage and breaking," Hammer says.
Cost: $20 for an 8-ounce bottle
Available at: www.skinfood.sg/beta/
ApHogee Two-Step Protein Treatment and John Frieda Sheer Blonde Color Renew Tone-Restoring Conditioner
After poring over ingredient lists looking for odd contents, we realized there were at least a couple of more common ingredients that made us a teensy bit uneasy too. ApHogee lists dimethylol urea; the John Frieda conditioner lists diazolidinyl urea.
So here's the scary question: Is "urea" what we think it is?
"Urea is a water- soluble organic compound," says Robinson.
"It is found naturally in the body and is excreted in the urine of humans (as well as other mammals)." It was also the first organic chemical compound ever synthesized. "The urea referenced in the two formulas functions merely as preservatives," Robinson says. "And it's synthetic urea."
I breathe a sign of relief. In the world of "alternative beauty products," there are several boundaries I'm happy not to push.
Cost: ApHogee Two-Step Protein Treatment is about $21 for a 16-ounce bottle
Available at: Sally Beauty Supply
Cost: John Frieda Sheer Blonde is about $9 for a 9.3-ounce bottle
Available at: Target, Ulta, drugstore.com and various chain drugstores.
Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
Born in 1957 in Birmingham, Willard Wigan MBE began his artistic life at a tender age. Suffering from dyslexia and learning difficulties, he struggled at school, finding solace in creating art of such minute proportions that it virtually could not be seen with the naked eye.
“It began when I was five years old,” says Willard. “I started making houses for ants because I thought they needed somewhere to live. Then I made them shoes and hats. It was a fantasy world I escaped to where my dyslexia didn’t hold me back and my teachers couldn’t criticise me. That’s how my career as a micro-sculptor began.”
Click here to see his fabulous Web-page: http://www.willard-wigan.com/default.aspx
BY Kit Eaton
A new video of a Boston Dynamics robot has surfaced--possibly the scariest yet. The company's name alone should give you the willies if you've watched the Terminator movies or seen the previous chilling robots BD makes. We've rounded up the videos for you. Happy Halloween.
Boston Dynamics is a small engineering and robotics firm spun off from MIT in 1992. According to its own Web site it "builds advanced robots with remarkable behavior: mobility, agility, dexterity and speed." Those parameters sound kinda military-like for a reason: BD has worked with DARPA, the Army, the Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as the more innocuous-sounding Sony. Their current starting lineup:
And before you think that sounds pretty Cyberdine Systems-sy, check out the video of Petman in action. It's a prototype bipedal robot from BD that walks with extraordinarily human-like gait--it even heel-toes, and does so with a dynamic sense of balance that means it can take a solid kick and still keep walking.
Makes the cute Asimo seem like the walking equivalent of a robotic grandpa doesn't it? Technically BD says its an "anthropomorphic robot for testing chemcial protection clothing [...] Unlike previous suit testers, which had to be supported mechanically an had a limited repertoire of motion, Petman will balance itself and move freely; walking, crawling [...] Petman will also simulate human physiology within the protective suit by [...] sweating when necessary." But if you didn't get a shiver from imagining the next gen of the sweaty thing with arms and a head, painted silver instead of black and wielding a gun then ... well, you've not got a very active imagination.
This is perhaps BD's most famous 'bot, designed to act something like a robotic packhorse to aid soldiers in the field of battle. Its four legs make it highly sure-footed, and it'll be smart enough to be able to maneuver semi-autonomously when it hits its final military specification levels.
Think Big Dog but more petite--and try to banish thoughts of tiny robots creeping into buildings via drains or under fences, all to assassinate bad guys.
The last beastie is a six-legged smart climbing robot that has adhesive feet to let it scale even the most unforgiving and sheer building walls.
All that's left for us is to wonder what Petman and Big Dog and all the rest will evolve into over time: We're pretty sure we heard Petman muttering something about his plan to "be back."
How many minutes to earn the price of a Big Mac?
THE size of your pay packet may be important, but so is its purchasing power. Helpfully, a UBS report published this week offers a handy guide to how long it takes a worker on the average net wage to earn the price of a Big Mac in 73 cities. Fast-food junkies are best off in Chicago, Toronto and Tokyo, where it takes a mere 12 minutes at work to afford a Big Mac. By contrast, employees must toil for over two hours to earn enough for a burger fix in Mexico City, Jakarta and Nairobi.
|A frightful blend of spine-chilling cities, weird wayside towns, and baffling bodies of water|
© 2009 MSNBC.com
details.com — After carrying tabloid baggage for 18 years, Paul Reubens is back in the saddle---and in the Playhouse. Ready for a big adventure, boys and girls?
Click here to read this article: Pee-wee Herman Rides Again
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Ricochet the dog helps quadriplegic Patrick Ivison ride some waves to raise money for his physical therapy.
by Lin Edwards
The charging equipment. Image: TechOn
(PhysOrg.com) -- Toyota is developing a solar charging station for electric cars and plug-in hybrids, making a green technology even greener. It has also designed a battery charger for mounting inside an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid to recharge the storage batteries.
Toyota Industries Corporation's announcement follows similar press releases in August by Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Showa Shell Sekiyu KK.
Toyota's solar charging station will consist of solar cells capable of generating 100/200V of electricity. The station includes storage batteries to store the electricity generated until it is required to recharge electric vehicles. The station also has a communication facility to authenticate users' identification information, and to communicate the amount of charge and other data to a remote data center. The communication system is expected to use LANs and Mobile networks.
Earlier this year Toyota Industries unveiled a new public charging station for electric vehicles, which went on sale a few months ago at a cost of 450,000 Yen (around 4,600USD). Both the earlier public charging station and the new solar charging system were developed in collaboration with Nitto Kogyo Corporation.
A variety of charging station options is needed to address the potential range limitations of electric vehicles, and a significant network of charging stations will need to be deployed to make electric vehicles viable for longer distance travel. Virtually all major car manufacturers are planning to launch electric or plug-in hybrid cars starting next year.
Charging stations for electric cars are gradually becoming more widespread. In the UK the Department of Transport estimates there will be about two million electric vehicles by 2020. In the US, SolarCity and Rabbobank have created a partnership to provide free electric charging for electric vehicles traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles along Highway 101. SolarCity has also bought SolSource Energy, which is in the business of installing charging stations for electric cars.
Toyota made the announcement and exhibited the charging station and battery charger at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show being held from October 23 to November 4, 2009 at Makuhari Messe, in Chiba City, Japan. The solar charger is scheduled for release late next year or in 2011 at a price of several hundred thousand Yen.
Via: TechOn© 2009 PhysOrg.com
|Touchdown celebration or unnecessary roughness? Who gives a damn, really.|
Been meaning to catch a Dallas Desire game this season, but lo and behold they only play two home games. The last one is Friday at 9 p.m. against the Los Angeles Temptation at Grand Prairie's QuickTrip Park.
I don't have to tell you that when Temptation meets Desire, you can throw out the records. And throw off the clothes.
The Desire would get their asses kicked by the Dallas Diamonds - mud wrestling, anyone? - but they are one of the best teams in the Lingerie Football League.
I could break down the Xs and Os and tell you that the Desire is 2-0 and has outscored its opponents 60-12. But who I am kidding? All you really want is photos and slideshows of some supple, yet strong sporty skin to get you through another rainy day.
C'mon then. Let's do this ...
How 'bout a video?
Perhaps a slideshow?
Some action shots from the Desire's first home game?
Or just the greatest football card in the history of ever?
Update: Read on for more photos from the Desire's Friday night win over the L.A. Temptation -- or skip straight to our slideshow from the game.
|Photos by Danny Fulgencio|
|The Desire, the class of the new Lingerie Football League, run out to a hero's welcome Friday night in Grand Prairie.|
|Tackles around the waistline are acceptable in the LFL, though it's fairly common to see players taken down shorts-first.|
|The L.A. Temptation celebrate a touchdown Friday night, on their way to putting 12 points on the board.|
|Photos by Danny Fulgencio|
|By the end of the night, the Desire had turned in another dominant performance, topping the Temptation 24-12.|
Check out our full set of game photos here in our slideshow.
With the unemployment rate in the United States reaching new heights each month, many are forced to contemplate relocating to reduce their costs of living. Similarly, there is a greater focus nationwide on the patterns in salary growth. While many areas of the country are experiencing zero or negative growth, there are still states, many of which are clustered on the East cost, in which salaries are actually on the rise. Additionally, there are numerous metropolitan areas in which salaries have grown at a surprisingly healthy rate. The graphic below showcases changes in salary across the country from the 4th quarter in 2008 to the 1st quarter in 2009, and spotlights those individual metropolitan areas with the greatest salary growth.
Before moving to Hawaii, however, you might want to review our guide to tax friendly places to retire.
Please click on the image below to enlarge.
Click to ENLARGE....
Our friends at Walyou.com and some people we don't know (but whose work we admire) at Pumpkin Gutter have assembled a rogue's gallery from the gourd family just in time for Halloween, and we've picked the best of the best. Every photo links back to the source page in case you want to keep exploring. Walyou alone has put together a mega gallery of 130 Pumpkin carvings that feature likenesses of video game characters, geek celebs, and more. So check em out when you're done cowering at the sight of these fruity monstrosities. (Yes, pumpkins are fruit.)