March 27, 2006

More Cardboard Houses

What, is cardboard the new concrete? I ain't giving up my granite countertop, though.

Remember that way-overpriced cardboard house from DWR? Well, here are a few more design-laden cardboard houses from Isa Toys in Brasil:

Photo of the Isa Toys cardboard castle

Best one is this kind of retro ("EAMES ERA!!!" in eBay-speak) Moon Rocket:

Photo of the Isa Toys cardboard moon rocket

I don't think these things even use Mr. McGroovy's rivets, either.

The best idea for making structures with cardboard boxes that I've heard was from ol' codger Ranger Rick Tscherne--the former Army sarge who lives in Italy off the proceeds from his "Ranger Digest" booklets. Rick suggests filling empty boxes used for Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) cases, (which are made of some truly heavy duty cardboard) with sand and then stacking them up instead of sandbags.

Photo of the a case of MREs

If you used a plastic-coated cardboard, or the coroplast stuff used to make US post office bins and the like, you could make some pretty hefty structures.

Ranger Rick also teaches you how to make a porta-potti out of an MRE box in one of the aforementioned Ranger Digest booklets, kind of taking Paperpod's cardboard chair a bit little further...

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March 24, 2006

Go Big or Go PowerPoint

Presentation Zen alerts us to a new meme in the Japan presentation world; this new "Takahashi Method". Essentially, Takahashi-san uses just text (albeit kanji characters that can say so much more than our lame 26 letter alphabet--a pictogram is worth a thousand words sometime). But not just any text, BIG text--like one kanji character fills up the whole screen.

Image of PowerPoint slide with huge sans serif kanji

Image of PowerPoint slide with huge sans serif words

Source: Maki's Ruby blog in Japan

I don't think this is new at all. Back at Scient, our head marketing guy, the irrepressible Chris Lochhead, would throw up slides like this one:

Image of PowerPoint slide with bold color background and huge sans serif word Ginormous

[Ginormous: Giant + Enormous. Part of Scient speak, like the aforementioned "Go Big or Go Home" phrase]

Classic Scient slide "deck": big bold saturated colors, Tahoma font, word that one of your fellow "colleagues" made up on the flight from SFO to ORD.

[Now people just leave out their vowels, like "Flickr" and "Esthr Dyson" You know, this isn't "Wheel of Fortune." Go buy a frigging vowel!]

Lochhead could pull this shit off because he had mojo in spades--flash, dash, confidence, and a terrific IPO behind him. This Takahashi guy seems like the anti-Lochhead though; an engineer who just wanted to get his point across better, and refactored his presentation method to suit.

Or maybe Lochhead was on to something back in those Web 1.0 days?

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March 23, 2006

DIY Cardboard Activity House

A while back I posted about DWRjax's Cardboard Activity House, a plain (er, "minimalist") cardboard box (er, "house") available from the modern furnishings retailer for the skimpy sum of $110.

Now there's Mr McGroovy, who will sell you cool nylon pop-rivets so you can build your own cardboard structures:

Mr. McGroovy's Cardboard Project Rivets

Plans for making a play castle from cardboard boxes

Like they always say, a man's box is his castle.

I gotta get some of these babies. If you used that corrugated plastic stuff like the US Post Office tubs are made of, you could make something that would last quite a long time.

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March 22, 2006

Online Courses: Content for Web 2.0

Just discovered the Barnes and Noble University site, which has a bunch of free online courses from improving your lawn to speaking German.

Barnes & Noble University

Sure, some of these are "online reading groups" where the point is to buy a book (ahem), read it, and talk about it with other like-minded folks, but others seem like the kind of thing you'd get from your local Learning Annex.

I thought it was interesting seeing more of these online course offerings from "non-content" businesses. For example, Hewlett Packard offers online courses through their Small Business site, on topics like XML, MS Office, and, naturally, ways to print more things and use up more of those $50 Vivera ink cartridges:

HP Online Classes

To me, this trend means a couple of things:

  1. Costs of running online classes are dropping. So providing the infrastructure (servers, chatroom, forum, etc) is really cheap now. Bandwidth is high and cheap, both on the hosting side and on the student side, with DSL and cable broadband penetration going up. It's therefore easier to have "guest" instructors host sessions from wherever they are in the world.
  2. Benefits of running the classes are increasing. Back in the ad-supported content days, About and other like-minded content sites could make enough money on the ad impressions to make online learning a viable model. But the ad dollars fell back. I guess the sell-through, of books, printer cartridges, digital cameras, and the like is getting better. But more importantly, the capturing of a customer in a relationship, because you need to enroll and thus provide all sorts of contact data about yourself before you can take a class, is the main thing. Competition for customers must be getting rougher.

Nevertheless, some of these courses do sound interesting. I wonder if they can swing a martial arts class online?

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March 17, 2006

Reading List Thus Far

Just finished: Frederick Forsyth's Avenger. Good action thriller yarn, kind of forumulaic, just change the dates and ethnicities and you have Rambo II or a typical Van Damme movie.

But the historical expostion was great--if it's truly grounded in fact I learned much more about the whole Balkan conflict than I did from CNN.

Next up: Crisis Four by Andy McNab. Just starting this one, looks to be a good thriller in the Tom Clancy genre.

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March 16, 2006

Free Kung Fu on AOL TV

Finally doing something with all that classic Time Warner content stuffed away in a subterranean vault under some nameless Utah mountain range, AOL is putting up classic TV episodes for your retro viewing pleasure--including classic "Kung Fu".

Kung Fu

List of episodes:

King of the Mountain
Dark Angel
Blood Brother
An Eye for an Eye
The Tide
The Soul Is the Warrior
Nine Lives
Ancient Warrior

See for yourself. Is David Carradine as good a martial artist as Chuck Norris is an actor?

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March 10, 2006

Now That's an Axe!

Remember that scene in Crocodile Dundee where the Croc-ster faces off a switchblade-wielding street hood by whipping out his 12" bowie? (That's a knife, silly reader--get your mind out of the gutter).

Now here's an example of one tough axe:

Strider CR

photo of Strider Knives CR2 axe

Strider's writeup of this baby is in the usual Mick Strider style: straightforward, no bullshit:

The CR is designed to be a hard substance destruction tool.

The materials and construction are intended to give optimum impact and prying strength.

The CR works as a system. The base of which is a .285” thick 6AL4V titanium head, with .775” thick cantilevered S7 impact bits. S7 is an incredibly strong material, most commonly seen on “Jackhammer” bits.

In addition to removing bolt stress, this cantilever action also allows for a multi strike action of the bits. The initial strike is achieved with human force by swinging the tool against a surface. The secondary strike is caused by the inertial force of the collapsing cantilever system. By using this system, the axe is actually working as a human powered Jackhammer.

I just finished Bernard Cornwell's Vagabond, second book in the Grail series, and found the depictions of technology during the Hundred Years War fascinating. What if you built old tech, like trebuchet and crossbows, using modern materials like carbon fiber and titanium? This would be a fine weapon for the days of men-at-arms and plate armour.

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March 09, 2006

FrameMaker and Tang Soo Do

Holy cow, I never thought I'd be able to do a cross-category blog title like that one. Framemaker and Tang Soo Do in the same post? Talk about your single sourcing!

Anyway, turns out that Kay Ethier, Frame guru, DITA 2006 conference organizer, and co-author of the XML Weekend Crash Course, has kids taking TSD, and wanted them to learn their mahki from their chagi. Framemaker to the rescue, of course. A judicious application of some Frame single-sourcing fu and voila, one instant book + CD set.

Learning Korean: Martial Arts Terminology

Between Frame-enhanced Tang Soo Do and Springfield's XML tactical handgun light, there are a lot of choices now for tech doc folks who want to kick some butt.

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