Zazzle Shop

Screen printing

Monday, March 1, 2010

Red Tires and Rockets: 1928 Opel Motoclub is awesomely insane

Opel Motoclub

Opel Motoclub w/ booster rocketsBack in the early 1900s, Fritz von Opel, grandson of Opel founder Adam Opel, was enamored with rocket propulsion. As the company's director of testing and the man in charge publicity, Opel had quite an outlet to fulfill his rocket-powered fantasies. Hence, the 1928 Opel Motoclub you see above.

The example showcased so beautifully here doesn't happen to have rockets attached to it, but a number of Motoclubs apparently did, as seen on the right. The 500cc single-cylinder engine could reportedly push the silver-and-red Opel motorcycle up to about 75 miles per hour, after which a foot pedal lit the rockets, sending the bike to a calculated top speed of 132 mph.

Sadly (or perhaps fortunately?), the German government forbade Opel from conducting a world-record top speed attempt, fearing that such a run on two wheels couldn't possibly be safe. The good news, though, is that decent examples of the Opel Motoclub can still be found from time to time, minus the six solid-fuel rockets, of course. Sounds like a good DIY weekend project, no?

[Source: Bike EXIF]

Obama yet to kick smoking habit, should eat better

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama hasn't kicked the smoking habit, takes anti-inflammatory medication to relieve chronic tendinitis in his left knee and should eat better to lower his cholesterol, his team of doctors concluded Sunday after the 48-year-old's first medical checkup as commander in chief.

The hoops-happy chief executive, who has endured an exhausting White House run and yearlong battles with congressional Republicans, was otherwise declared in excellent health and fit for duty.

The White House physician, Navy Capt. Jeffrey Kuhlman, said Obama should stick with "smoking cessation efforts," the use of nicotine gum, and come back in August 2011 after he turns 50.

Obama cholesterol levels have crept up to borderline high and he should alter his diet accordingly, according to a report the White House released after the 90-minute examination at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. While at the facility, he visited 12 military service members receiving treatment and rehabilitation for injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The president is the picture of health, eats modest portions and exercises regularly. He is an avid basketball player and golfer. The slightly elevated cholesterol levels, tendinitis in his left knee and occasional smoking were the only negatives noted.

Obama said at a June news conference that he still had an occasional cigarette. It was his first public acknowledgment that he hadn't kicked the habit. He chews nicotine gum to avoid regular smoking, and his doctor said that should continue.

Kuhlman also said the president should modify his diet to bring his LDL, or bad cholesterol, below 130. At the time of his last exam, Obama's total cholesterol was 173, while his LDL was 96 and HDL, or good cholesterol, was 68.

This time, total cholesterol was up to 209, with HDL down slightly at 62. LDL was up to 138. Borderline high cholesterol starts at 200, with LDL considered in the same category at 130.

Kuhlman said Obama last checkup was in July 2008 when he was seen by the attending physician to Congress when Obama was an Illinois senator. During the 2008 White House race, his campaign released a statement from his longtime Chicago doctor saying Obama was in excellent health when examined January 2007.

Sunday's report said Obama is 6-foot-1 and weighs 180 pounds in shoes and exercise clothing. His pulse rate is 56, which is very good, as is his blood pressure — 105 over 62. The doctor said Obama's vision was 20/20 in both eyes for both distance and near vision.

The president was checked for and found free of colon cancer with a virtual colonoscopy, a scan that avoids the more invasive visual inspection with a camera device that is passed into the large intestine.

The tendinitis that Obama suffers in his left leg could be the result of his regular basketball playing.

Kuhlman said that there was mild popping and grinding in Obama's left knee and "some weakness" in his left hip, also possibly a result of rigorous and extended periods on the basketball court.

The doctor said Obama should:

_Have another exam for colon cancer in five years

_Continue smoking cessation efforts, a daily exercise program, a healthy diet, moderation in alcohol intake, periodic dental care, and remain up to date with recommended immunizations.

_Keep up a modified exercise regimen to strengthen his legs to ward off more difficulties with his knee.

_Modify his diet to lower his LDL cholesterol below 130.

Photo 1 of 10

President Barack Obama returns to the White House from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., following a medical exam, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010, in Washington. The 48-year-old commander-in-chief signaled a thumbs-up when asked about his health. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)


Five Best Music Streaming Services


The internet has revolutionized nearly every form of media, and music is no exception. This week we look at the five most popular music streaming services to see how people are getting their music fix.

Photo by CarbonNYC.

Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite music streaming services, and now we're back with the top five contenders. Read on to learn about the services and then cast your vote in our poll at the end.

Grooveshark (Web-based, Free)

When you're ready to listen to some tunes online, Grooveshark allows you to jump right in. Unlike many services that require a subscription to use, Grooveshark lets you search for music and build a playlist as soon as the site loads. If you want to save the playlist, however, and access other session enhancing features like flagging songs to enable the music suggestion service, you'll need an account. Aside from manually building a playlist, you can also listen to Grooveshark Radio, their suggestion engine. One of Grooveshark's most unique features is that if you can't find a song or artist you love, you can upload the music from your own collection to build the Grooveshark database.

Spotify (Windows/Mac/Mobile/Web-based; Basic: Free/Premium: €9.99 month)

First the bad news about Spotify: as of this writing, 02/28/2010, Spotify isn't available in the U.S. due to various legal issues and licensing requirements. The good news is that Spotify is an incredible music service, and we're always hearing whispers that it'll soon be available stateside. You can collaborate on and easily share playlists using the service—as easily as you share a link to a YouTube video for comparison's sake. A premium account adds more features, like commercial-free listening or the ability to listen to your playlists on your mobile phone. Premium service also enables offline mode for local storage of music, higher quality streaming, and travel access—so should you visit a country like the U.S., where Spotify isn't available yet, you can still enjoy it.

Pandora (Web-based; Basic: Free/Premium: $36 per year)

Pandora is the easy-to-use front end for the massive database of attributes generated by the Music Genome Project. The Music Genome Project analyzes songs with up to 400 different attributes so when you tell Pandora "Play me something like the song Punkrocker by The Teddy Bears featuring Iggy Pop" it doesn't just return a song that people who liked "Punkrocker" also liked—it returns a song that is also "genetically" related to your suggestion. Pandora may not have the most bells and whistles of the music sharing services rounded up today, but the power of the Music Genome Project and ease with which you can create and rate personalized streaming radio stations has won Pandora many fans. Upgrading from free to premium service allows you to stream more than 40 hours a month, gives you access to a dedicated desktop client, and increases the quality of your audio stream. (Web-based/iPhone, Basic: Free/Premium: $3 per month) is another service that not only streams music but generates suggestions for new music based on what you like. In addition to building playlists and enjoying tunes on the web, you can "scrobble" your own music collection to—which basically means you let track the songs you're listening to and add them to your profile, allowing you to both listen to them and use them to increase the scope of's suggestion engine for better personalized picks. In addition to listening to streaming radio and building personalized stations, also allows direct music download—when authorized by the copyright holder—so you can expand your personal collection as you listen.

Lala (Web-based, Free with per-song fees)

Lala's claim to fame is the ease with which you can listen to both your own music over the web and purchase new music inexpensively. Lala has a database of 8 million songs that you can listen to once for free, purchase for online play for $0.10, or buy as a DRM-free MP3 for $0.79. If you have a song in your personal collection—on your computer at home—you can add it to the Lala database to allow unlimited play without paying a fee. Lala doesn't sport a hefty music recommendation engine like some of the other contenders in the Hive Five—although we didn't find the one they have lacking—but instead focuses more strongly on connections between people to drive music suggestion. As a result Lala supports easy rating and playlist sharing with friends to encourage organic music discovery.

Winter Olympics in High Resolution (50 Pics)

From: Photo highlights for Saturday, February 27, 2010 at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver Canada. From Hockey and Bobsled to Cross Country and Speed Skating.

1 of 50
Croatia's Ivica Kostelic wins silver in the Men's' Slalom in Whistler
Croatia's Ivica Kostelic kisses the camera after winning silver in the Men's' Slalom during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics in Whistler, Canada on February 27, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo | Permalink

2 of 50
Team Pursuit Speed Skating at 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver
Germany's Anna Friesinger-Postma looks at her team's time after sliding across the finish line after Germany raced the USA in a heat during team pursuit speed skating at the Richmond Olympic Oval in Vancouver, Canada, during the 2010 Winter Olympics on February 27, 2010. Friesinger-Postma had a problem with a skate, causing her to cross the finish line sliding. Despite the problem Germany defeated the USA and went on to win gold. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo | Permalink

3 of 50
Austria's Benjamin Raich competes in the Men's' Slalom in Whistler
Austria's Benjamin Raich competes in the Men's' Slalom during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics in Whistler, Canada on February 27, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo | Permalink

4 of 50
USA four-man bobsleigh team wins gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
The USA 1 four-man bobsleigh team driver Steven Holcomb celebrates as the sleigh finishes their last heat in the four-man bobsleigh event at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, Canada on February 27, 2010. The team of Holcomb, along with Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curtis Tomasevicz won the gold medal in the event. UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo | Permalink
6 of 50
USA four-man bobsleigh team wins gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
Curtis Tomasevicz (L) of the United States (C) celebrates with teammates Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler (R) after winning a gold medal in the four-man bobsleigh event at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, Canada on February 27, 2010. UPI/Brian Kersey | Permalink

7 of 50
Finland vs. Slovakia in bronze medal men's ice hockey at 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver
Finland's Niklas Hagman looks on as the puck gets by Slovakia's Jaroslav Halak for a goal in the first period of the bronze medal men's ice hockey game at Canada Hockey Place in Vancouver, Canada, during the 2010 Winter Olympics on February 27, 2010. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo | Permalink
9 of 50
France's Julien Lizeroux competes in the Men's' Slalom in Whistler France's Julien Lizeroux competes in the Men's' Slalom in Whistler
USA's Bode Miller stands on the side of the course after missing a gate in the Men's' Slalom during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics in Whistler, Canada on February 27, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | Permalink

10 of 50
Finland vs. Slovakia in bronze medal men's ice hockey at 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver
Finland celebrates their win over Slovakia in the bronze medal men's ice hockey game at Canada Hockey Place in Vancouver, Canada, during the 2010 Winter Olympics on February 27, 2010. Finland beat Slovakia 5-3. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo | Permalink
10 of 50 Next page >

How to Set Up the Ultimate Desktop Recording Studio

With the right software and a few plug-in instruments, anyone (really, anyone) can be a rock star in his own home. Here's how to use a MIDI keyboard and software like M-Powered Essential and GarageBand to become the next Beck.

Published in the February 2010 issue.

Entry-level music-production gear such as M-Audio’s KeyStudio 49 keyboard and Fast Track audio interface can plug in via USB. (Photograph by Jeff Westbrook)

Consider it another marvel of the digital age—or the latest evidence that the beautifully difficult, soul-­taxing art of music creation has irretrievably slid into the hands of talentless idiots. Either way, with the help of a computer, a few peripherals, a variety of entry-level software and two weekends’ worth of struggle, I have produced my first single.

It’s hardly a secret that musical production has been striding boldly into the digital age over the past three decades. Software that enables instruments to interface directly with PCs was pioneered in the 1980s, and current programs pack all the goodness of a full production studio into a laptop, with virtualized instruments, amps, effects, mixing boards and multitrack recording machines all onscreen. This has had a profound effect on the music industry—lowering the barrier to entry to the point where a small band with a computer, a microphone and a few instruments can produce studio-quality recordings.

Instruments have changed, too. Much of the computational heavy lifting that used to be done by circuitry inside digital keyboards and drum pads has been off-loaded to PC-based software. By turning instruments that used to play independently into computer-­connected USB peripherals, manufacturers have reduced the cost of some of these devices to within reach of the musical dabbler. That’s where I come in.

My last formal musical instruction was in high school. I took a year of piano and drum lessons, and I have since forgotten far more than I ever learned. But the basics of drum rolls and chord progressions remained in the stickier regions of my subconscious, and I can generally noodle around with such instruments so long as no sheet music is involved.

I started by picking up KeyStudio 49, a software–hardware combo recently launched by M-Audio. For $130, the kit comes with a 49-key MIDI USB keyboard and a mini-USB audio interface, as well as the company’s entry-level Pro Tools M-Powered Essential software. The software comes with more than 60 virtual instruments, hundreds of loops and templated recording sessions. As a basic launchpad into digital music production, it’s a darn good deal; the keyboard alone is worth the money, since it can be used with multiple music programs.

Digital music-production software can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never worked with it before. Much of it caters to the obsessive audio engineers who populate the music industry. M-Powered Essential is pitched as a “streamlined” version of parent company M-Audio’s industry standard Digidesign Pro Tools suite of software. The advantage to this approach (as opposed to software such as Apple’s GarageBand, which was designed from the ground up for newbies) is that once you’ve learned how it works, you are well on your way to learning how professional music is made. The disadvantage is that, if you’re like me, you don’t give a damn how professional music is made, and you may end up grinding off several layers of tooth enamel trying to weed through all of the menus and submenus that don’t apply to you before finding the stuff that does.

Regardless of what software you pick, there are a few basic concepts that are common to all digital music-production software. Understanding these basics will help you focus your use of the software on what’s relevant.

Writing sheet music is hard, but using software that does it for you is easy. With programs such as Sibelius First ($130) from Avid, all you need to do is play an instrument into your PC, and your computer will transcribe the notes.

Multitrack Recording

This is a carryover process from the days of analog tape, when producers would record elements of a song on different tape tracks, edit them separately, then combine everything into a cohesive whole. Computers have simplified this process immensely. “New Track” is one of the easier-to-find menu items in most programs—so building a song is like layering ingredients on a sandwich. I started with a percussion line, then added a bass line on a separate track, then another for rhythm instruments, another track for piano, then vocals and so on. And, I was free to tinker with individual tracks without altering everything at once.

Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI)

MIDI is a standardized language that helps instruments digitally communicate with computers over interfaces such as USB or FireWire. Instead of sending actual sound to a PC, a MIDI controller—usually a keyboard or drum pad—sends data about pitch and intensity of notes, and the computer translates that info into sound. That allows a MIDI device such as my KeyStudio piano to function as any one of thousands of virtual (sometimes called synth) instruments—these vary from the general (grand piano) to the highly specific (Modular Moog 3C). Each virtual instrument has software controls that adjust variables such as sustain, attack, delay, reverb, etc.


In digital-music parlance, the production program that you use to record and edit your songs is called the host software. Users can supplement that program with additional software elements such as virtual instruments and effects, known as plug-ins. Most host software comes with a variety of virtual instruments, effects and loops, but users can add to that with third-party plug-ins. This adds a lot of flexibility to the host software but can also complicate and confuse things a bit. Plug-ins tend to be host-specific (for instance, plug-ins that worked with my M-Powered Essential software would also work with other Pro Tools software, but not with Cakewalk’s competing Sonar software), but some work with multiple hosts. In general, the more plug-ins you get, the more tied to a particular host platform you become.


All music-production host software will come with a stockpile of pre-arranged loops in a variety of categories, and they vastly simplify the process of music creation. By using loops, you can quickly arrange a background melody by making tracks of simple loop arrangements. I, for instance, can (sort of) play piano and (kind of) play drums, but I don’t know the first thing about brass or wind instruments. So, by browsing my host software and looking online at places like and, I was able to grab a few different loops of trumpets and clarinets and oboes or an entire orchestra, then stitch them together to add another dimension to my song. If you can’t find exactly what you want, some software lets you clip a sample from an existing song and use it as a custom loop. In fact, there are musical genres in which songs are formed entirely of arranged loops.

Putting It All Together

Digital pianos and drum pads get the most obvious benefits from a computer interface, but electric guitars can also get a performance boost. There are a few high-tech MIDI guitars that can interface directly with computers, but you can plug an ordinary guitar in to a PC via a USB audio interface. Audio interfaces can get sophisticated and expensive, but a basic model, such as the Cakewalk UA-1G, can be had for $100. With the computer interface, you can bypass a conventional amp, letting the software create a virtual amp and effects pedals. Guitarists (admittedly, I’m not one of them) can get pretty geeky about the sound characteristics of certain legendary amps, and software engineers are just as geeky about faithfully reproducing them. Want to play your Gibson Les Paul guitar through an ’85 Mesa/Boogie Mark IIc+? There’s a plug-in for that.

I had far more fun with the digital tricks that can be applied to vocals. Most of the same audio interfaces that work with guitars also work with microphones, and there are a variety of effects that can change the character of the voice or ­other acoustic instruments. Reverb, echo and specialized effects—my favorites were “mouse voice” and “helium breath”—can add character (or comedy) to your performance.

I was able to piece together a workable song (well, depending on your standards—my 11-month-old son seemed to like it) with M-Powered Essential. However, as a newbie, the experience was frustrating. There’s very little hand-holding for beginners unfamiliar with the logic of the program; instruments and effects are buried in submenus that are not always clearly labeled. And some elements are positively annoying—the software won’t even start unless you have the USB audio interface plugged in, and scattered throughout the menus are items that don’t actually work but instead launch pop-up windows that try to up-sell you on higher-end versions of M-Powered in which those features are actually functional.

After a weekend of working with M-Powered Essential, I decided to try again with software that is actually aimed at beginners. Apple’s GarageBand, first launched in 2004 and now in its fifth generation, comes installed on all new Macs. GarageBand was obviously designed to walk you right into the process of music creation. It in­stantly recognized the M-Audio MIDI keyboard. Tracks are easy to arrange, instruments are organized logically—and assigning virtual instruments to the keyboard was a snap.

For those who just want to jam with a backing band, GarageBand Jam instantly gives you a multi-instrument rhythm section in whatever musical style you select. And if you don’t know the first thing about music, you can follow instructions on the basics of piano or guitar, or download (for $5) Artist Lessons from famous musicians. Sting, for instance, will teach you to play “Roxanne.” There is no direct analog to GarageBand for the PC, which is a pity, since most people still use Windows PCs, but there are some programs that come close. Sonar Music Creator ($35) is well-priced and has a clean interface that is simple to use, as is Acoustica Mixcraft ($65)—and both programs use the popular DirectX and VST plug-in formats.

So after tinkering with multiple programs, I finally got a song I’m satisfied with—at the very least, it has a discernible beginning, middle and end. I’ve exported it to an MP3 file, and it’s currently sitting on my iPod, where only I can listen to it—for now, the rest of the world is safe.

Three ­Devices = Infinite Instruments

This basic setup will plug you in to a wide world of synth instruments and digital audio effects.

1. Drum Pad Most music-production software will come with a variety of “drum kits”—sampled percussion instruments that vary by genre (rock, salsa, dance, etc.). While you can play these on a MIDI piano or even a qwerty keyboard, a drum pad or digital drum set lets you break out the sticks. Available from Roland, Alesis, and Yamaha; expect to pay between $140 to $4000 for a full set.

2. Audio Interface To choose a USB audio interface, first determine what you want to plug in to your computer. Most have basic analog-to-digital audio converters inside to capture vocals and analog instruments through a microphone. Others integrate MIDI inputs and have built-in dials for manual adjustment of input levels. Available from Cakewalk, M-Audio and Behringer; expect to pay between $45 and $1000.

3. MIDI Keyboard The most flexible digital music device you can buy—a MIDI keyboard can be made to imitate any instrument imaginable. More expensive models have manual controls and settings—some have onboard audio processing and can play independent of a PC. Available from M-Audio, Yamaha, Roland, Korg; prices range greatly, from $50 to $4000.

'Pants on the Ground' Guy -- King of Vegas

Move over, Frank Sinatra -- there's a new man in Sin City and he goes by the name of Gen. Larry Platt.

Larry Platt

The genius behind "Pants on the Ground" performed at JET nightclub at the Mirage Hotel last night -- and judging by the bevy of women who surrounded the General ... that song may have taken on a whole new meaning.
Larry Platt

The Revolving Revolution Door

Revolving doors are ubiquitous in our cities. Why not use them to generate free energy? The Revolution Door by Fluxxlab would do just that. It converts the kinetic energy used to push the door into electricity. Several similar projects are in operation worldwide. Now we're not just spinning our wheels

Top 10 Torrent Sites Soon Without Mininova

Written by Ernesto

For the first time in five years Mininova is about to disappear from the top 10 of most visited torrent sites. This exit is due to a traffic drop that resulted from the removal of most of the site’s torrents following a lost court battle. Newcomer KickassTorrents is still gaining momentum and has already surpassed Mininova in terms of traffic.

Compared to a year ago the BitTorrent landscape has changed significantly. The Pirate Bay decided to shut down its tracker last fall and a few weeks later Mininova partly shut down its website. However, with the fall of Mininova many new torrent sites emerged, with KickassTorrents being the most successful one.

It almost seems like history is repeating itself. Early 2005, just a few weeks after that period’s leading torrent site,, closed its doors, Mininova was founded. In the years that followed the site grew out to become the most visited torrent site. That growth was stunted in November 2009, when a negative verdict in a court battle against the local anti-piracy outfit BREIN forced the operators of the site to remove over a million torrents.

As expected Mininova’s decision resulted in a disastrous drop in traffic, as its users spread out over other torrent sites including some promising newcomers. Today, three months after Mininova’s downfall, the site is about to disappear from the top 10 list of most visited torrent sites. The Pirate Bay is currently leading the list closely followed by the meta-search engine Torrentz and isoHunt. KickassTorrents is currently in 9th place, which is a remarkable achievement consdering the site is only a few months old.

Below you’ll find a list of the 10 most-visited torrent sites as of today. Only public and English language sites are included. The list is based on traffic rank reports from Compete, Alexa and SiteReport’s World Rank. The number of daily visitors and page views are estimates.


- Daily Visitors: 4,600,136
- Pageviews: 26,036,770 (5.66 per visitor)
- Alexa Rank: #101
- Compete Rank: #724

Visit Site | Full Report


- Daily Visitors: 2,756,280
- Pageviews: 13,781,400 (5 per visitor)
- Alexa Rank: #167
- Compete Rank: Currently Not Available

Visit Site | Full Report


- Daily Visitors: 2,285,811
- Pageviews: 15,497,799 (6.78 per visitor)
- Alexa Rank: #187
- Compete Rank: #1,187

Visit Site | Full Report


- Daily Visitors: 1,363,883
- Pageviews: 6,423,889 (4.71 per visitor)
- Alexa Rank: #367
- Compete Rank: #2,055

Visit Site | Full Report


- Daily Visitors: 919,552
- Pageviews: 1,783,931 (1.94 per visitor)
- Alexa Rank: #737
- Compete Rank: #3,035

Visit Site | Full Report


- Daily Visitors: 728,513
- Pageviews: 5,383,711 (7.39 per visitor)
- Alexa Rank: #626
- Compete Rank: #4,640

Visit Site | Full Report


- Daily Visitors: 686,219
- Pageviews: 1,331,265 (1.94 per visitor)
- Alexa Rank: #1,050
- Compete Rank: #3,435

Visit Site | Full Report


- Daily Visitors: 670,536
- Pageviews: 1,562,349 (2.33 per visitor)
- Alexa Rank: #1,004
- Compete Rank: #6,846

Visit Site | Full Report


- Daily Visitors: 642,498
- Pageviews: 2,634,242 (4.1 per visitor)
- Alexa Rank: #859
- Compete Rank: #4,347

Visit Site | Full Report


- Daily Visitors: 632,519
- Pageviews: 1,872,256 (2.96 per visitor)
- Alexa Rank: #987
- Compete Rank: #3,257

Visit Site | Full Report