February 18, 2006
Using Open in Tabs

Cousin James showed me this great feature of Firefox last week. If you aren't using Firefox, you should be.

Most mornings I open the same daily links to check various sites. I used to use my personal links page, but now I use the Open in Tabs feature.

To get started, you make a folder in the Bookmarks toolbar by right-clicking and selecting New Folder. Name the folder something meaningful.

Next, drag bookmarks into the new folder so that when you click on the folder in the toolbar, you see the desired bookmarks.

Too open them all up, simply select the 'Open in Tabs'

A just like that, all your desired sites are open and ready for browsing.

Nifty, eh?

Posted by michael at 09:00 AM | Comments (5)
February 17, 2006
Bunch of tea!

As long time Cruft readers will know, I enjoy a cup of tea now and then. Recently I ran out of my usualy tea and was forced to use Michele's tea bags in the morning. On a recent episode of Diggnation, Kevin mentioned he was getting tea from Adagio. If you don't watch Diggnation, you should be.

I like to support Digg when I can and checked out the Adagio site to see the Kevin Rose Tea Sampler. The included types weren't my cup of tea, (ROFL, I'm a punster!) so started wandering around the site. I was impressed with Adagio's sampler tins. With tea I was getting from Golden Moon, it came in a large tin and took a while to drink it all. The site says that the sampler tins are good for about 10 cups of tea. At around $2 per sampler tin, it's perfect for trying a variety of teas.

For $12 I bought six different types of tea. What a deal!

The sampler tins have cool little printed labels that show the preferred steeping temperature and duration. If this isn't a geek tea, I don't know what is.

So far, Michele and I have been impressed with the quality of the tea. Coconut is my current favorite and Michele is digging the Jasmine #5. I also think the Gunpowder is tasty with a little milk and sugar.

Posted by michael at 08:00 PM | Comments (5)
February 12, 2006
The new Dungeons & Dragons

When I was young, I remember my mother buying me the original boxed Dungeons & Dragons set since she had heard it's what 'smart children' played to stay 'creative'. I spent endless hours pouring over the various books and modules absorbing the information. Thoughout my teen years I played with friends until I got to college when going out to parties suddenly seemed like a much better way to spend a Saturday night.

Last week I got a Dungeons & Dragons miniature in the mail. There had been a coupon for a free one in PC Gamer magazine and I sent it in. The girls saw it when I opened the box and were interested. I explained about D&D and they were interested. As a result picked up the Basic Set of the game one day at lunch.

I had read that the set was designed for kids and first time players. I read the books and info in the boz and it seemed to be perfect. The set includes a set of dice, miniatures for all the characters and monsters, pre-made characters, maps broken up by tiles, and an advanced rules book.

The entire first adventure is scripted out and designed to be run my people unfamiliar with D&D if need be. The pre-made character sheets were perfect for handing to the girls to get them started. We played through two rooms in which in the epic battles two kobalds were slain, a locked box was opened, and finally a troglydyte was put to death. The girls loved it. They seemed to enjoy the descriptions of what was happening much more than the dice rolling. When I described the death of one of the kobalds as having it's head chopped off and rolling around the floor, it was bought up shortly thereafter at the dinner table as the girls described their adventure to Michele.

If you want to get started yourself, I recommend the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game boxed set, it comes with everything you need to get started. I really liked the map tiles that allowed you to plop the tiles down as the adventurers got to that part of the dungeon and didn't require drawing on graph paper. Yes, I know purists will complain, but when the players barely know the dice apart, map tiles are a great idea.

The only trouble was when the dog, Piper, stealthily stole the black dragon miniature and chewed on it a bit until Michele saw it. The dragon's wings are a bit gnawed upon, but otherwise we are good.

Posted by michael at 09:44 PM | Comments (7)
February 10, 2006
Why coffee and iced tea refills suck

This morning the team at work was in early (before 6AM) in case of problems with a power wiring upgrade. There were no problems and we all went to breakfast at Bob's Big Boy, a local coffee shop (in the pre-Starbucks coffee shop sense, meaning a restaurant that serves basic food).

Besides my hash browns, bacon, and rye toast, I also had a cup of coffee. I carefully added the proper amount of sugar, stirred and happily sipped away as we debated the fine points of HVAC design and the risk of running on split generators.

I had drank about half the cup when waitress walked by with coffee pot in hand and refilled my cup. I hate that shit.

Yes, I know she's just trying to provide good service, but to me, it's a disservice and here's why.

Note that with a fresh cup of coffee (or iced tea) you add the proper amount of sugar and/or cream (or in Sean's case, soy) and once you find that perfect combo, you can enjoy the entire cup.

When you get halfway through the cup, the coffee to sugar ratio remains correct.

Now, when a waitress pours more coffee into the cup, they have diluted the ratio and you need to add more sugar. It's not the end of the world, but at some coffee shops, they'll try to refill your cup everytime you take a sip.

The same problem occurs with iced tea, and it's even worse. With hot coffee, the sugar dissolves easily. In saner countries, they give you sugar syrup to sweeten cold liquids, but here in the good ole USA, you get granulated sugar. Dissolving granulated sugar is a pain and requires much stirring to accomplish properly. The last thing you want is to spend more time re-sugaring and stirring your iced tea everytime the waiter walks by and 'tops off' your iced tea.

You may be saying, "Mike, why do you worry about these things?" and I'll agree, I am a wee bit eccentric on a few select topics, but this is a problem that happens to everyone. Many just suffer in silence, drinking poorly sugared beverages.

Not surprisingly, I think I have the solution. I took an old beer coaster and drew on it a bit. The idea is to place this over the coffee cup to ward off the evil refillers.

This could be worth millions! What do you think?

Posted by michael at 06:02 PM | Comments (11)
The plane will not take off

OK, I read the post on Jason Kottke's site about the The case of the plane and conveyor belt, and quickly concluded that the plane cannot take off.

I was shocked, SHOCKED, to find smart people like Matt Haughey and Mike Buffington believing that the plane can take off.

Let me clear this up.

For an aircraft of any type to fly, it must overcome the constant acceration downward of gravity. Flying, for the most part, has little to do with speed and everything to do with the lifting force that counteracts the pull of gravity. Got that? Lifting force is all the matter to leave the ground and fly.

The question then is how do you generate enough lifting force. With a balloon, the lifting force is based on the fact that a bag of lighter-than-normal-air gas (usually hydrogen, helium, or hot air) will rise above normal (cold) air. Make sense? A balloon has no direct thrust or "push against air", it simply has the lifitng force of the gas.

Now let's look at an airplane. How does an airplane fly? An airplane flys off the ground solely because it can generate a lifting force. An airplane generates this lifting force by air flowing over an airfoil (known as a wing). The faster the air travels over the wing, the more lift is generated.

Planes that go fast can generate a lot of speed (air moving past the wings) can generate a lot of lift. If an airplne goes too slow, it doesn't generate enough lift to counteract the force of gravity, and it falls to the ground. This is called a stall.

So, now that you are versed in the basics of aerodynamics, let's look at the question of the airplane on the conveyer belt. The airplane will sit on the conveyer belt with engines blasting, tires rolling, and to the outside observer, standing in place. While tremendous forward force is being generated, there is no increase on the airflow over the wings.

So, if there is is no increased airflow over the wing, there is no lift. Without lift, the airplane CANNOT take off and fly. Let me repeat that key part, without lift, the airplane CANNOT take off and fly. It doesn't matter how hard the engines 'push the air', there is no lift being generated in the conveyor belt scenario.

I hope you can now see clearly the correct answer to the 'question' is that the plane will not take off.

If you start to argue about the validity of the basic aerodynamic theory of lift, you might as well start arguing that the earth is flat or in creationism.

Update: After reading the comments it seems like the debate is hinging on whether the plane stays stationary or not. Obviously above I'm assuming the plane/conveyor belt contrapion is designed to hold the plane still. If that is not assumed then then the entire question is stupid and ridiculous. It's then like asking can a plane take off in the rain or snow when the wheels slip.

If that's really the point that the question poser is making then it's fucking stupid. It's like those stupid tests where the first line says "1) Read all instructions carefully before taking the test" and the last line says "57) Now that you've read all the instructions carefully, don't do 2-56, write your name in and turn in the test." Fuck that shit.

Posted by michael at 09:18 AM | Comments (16)
February 09, 2006
Quote of the Day

"So many people view my help in a negative way."

Wow. He must have a strange definition of help.

Posted by michael at 05:56 AM | Comments (0)
February 08, 2006
Cruft Labs -> Hefty Serve ‘n Store

A while ago (ok, it was five months ago) I received an email from a marketing guy asking if I wanted to review Hefty Serve ‘n Store stuff for my site. Now I know that marketers are getting saavy to blogs and that this was basically a product pitch, but I thought it would be fun. So, let it be known that I received TWO PACKAGES of plastic bowls for FREE. No hidden astroturfing here at Cruft Labs.

Due to little things like work, my family, World of Warcraft and my general laziness, it has taken me quite a while to do the review that you, the Loyal Cruft Reader, would expect.

Now down to business.

The Serve 'n Store bowls and plates are a kinda intriguing concept. The idea is that the edges can interlock and close up to form a container. So you eat off a plate, don't finish it, and with the leftovers, you slap a second one on top and toss it in the fridge. Sounds reasonable.

The first thing I had to check was if it was water tight or not. I filled the bowl up with water, seal the lid and turned it on it's side. Water poured out. It held food just fine, but it should not be used for liquids if you are used to Tupperware or other water tight containers.

As I took a closer look at the bowls, I was surprised to see the words "Do Not Microwave" on the bottom. At first this didn't make sense until I condsider that if the closed set was put into the microwave, the steam of the food cooking inside, could cause the bowls to blow open in a messy way.

Of course, the only way to know was to test the bowls out in a real test. So I placed some chicken leftovers in the bowl and popped it into the microwave for a few minutes. Everything came out of the microwave fine and I had a nice buffalo chickens andwich and a beer.

After eating, I took a look at the bowl and noticed that it had indeed deformed slightly from it's brief time in the microwave. My recommendation is that one reheat will be fine but more than that will wreck the bowls further. Of course, Hefty's lawyers are wigging out that someone would disobey the clear instruction "Do Not Microwave", but I'm a rebel.

Now on to more crucial tests. Once of the key roles that paper plates fufill is as makeshift frisbees. I took the girls outside and had them try throwing the sealed plates. They flew surprisingly well. The girls had fun with them and I guess that's all that matters.

The second critical test was whether the Server 'n Store could be used as maracas. Anyone that has participated in children's crafts knows the way to make a maraca is to put some pinto beans in some paper plates and then staple the edges shut. It made sense that the sealing action of the bowls would make them perfect for the test, but a real test was in order.

And so I present a Cruft video, made especially for you:

As you can see, they passed this test with flying colors.

Overall, the Serve 'n Store stuff works as advertised. We'll probably keep some around the house from now on, but I think they should offer a microwave safe version to placate the worryworts out there.

Posted by michael at 11:58 AM | Comments (6)
5+1=6 blades

Of course, the best commercial during the Superbowl was for the Gillette Fusion razor. At first I didn't know what the commecial was about, but once I did I stood and began applauding since i knew they we about to announce the 5 bladed razor.

I have waited for the 5 bladed razor for a long time. I reviewed Shick's 4 blade razor and there was the Onion's post about the 5 blade razor, but it has not been a reality until now.

As a man with a heavy beard, meaning that I get a five o'clock shadow by about 10:30 AM, I am keen for improvements in this realm. Due to my tight industry connections (actually Michele got me one at the supermarket), I got my hands on a new Gillette Fusion razor.

First you'll notice that Gillette is now boldy claiming orange as a 'man color' moving beyond the traditional blue and green. I will mention that the package was easy to open. Unlike many products that are encased in plastic requiring assault with pliers and knives to open, the package was easy to open with only my fingers with no difficulty.

Notice that the razor really has SIX blades. OUTF*CKINGSTANDING! The line has been drawn and it's now at six blades!

The shaving head itself is a slight modification of the previous 3 blade models. Besides the addtion of the blades, the little rubber strip at the bottom has been widened significantly. The handle obviously has some metal in it since it has some heft and is not as light as many of the complete disposable razors. I'm not sure why, but a little weight makes the handle feel better in the hand.

The trim blade on the back is a novel idea. For those that don't shave, all the rigamarole on the main shaving face can make it difficult to get a clean edge on your sideburns, leading to uneven and ragged edges.

The blade exchange system looks exceedingly simply, even easy to do with wet, soapy fingers. Now if only Gillette built a toothbrush attachemnt that you could swap onto the end of the handle...

So, how was the shave? It was superb.

I am serious about shaving and use Kiehl's Shave Cream at the end of my shower when my face has been wet for a while.

On the first few pulls of the razor, it felt so smooth that I thought it was just wiping the cream off and not cutting. I had to check and and sure enough, a clean shave. The smoothness of the pull is significantly better than any other razor I have used. A light tough was all that was needed, and I didn't have to go over the tougher places like my chin two or three times. I'm not sure if it's the rubbery part or the five blades, but the razor lives up to the hype. It's the smoothest shave available.

I tried the single blade trim part and that is a great innovation. It worked great and didn't feel as if I would cut myself as I positioned the blade to trim my side burns.

The only drawback of the Fusion is that with it's massive head, it doesn't fit into the typical razor hold, like the kind you see attached to the mirror. I had to hang the razor on one of the hooks through the center of the razor. Not a huge deal, but to those of you that prize symmetry, it might bother you a bit.

Obviously, IMHO, the Gillette Fusion is the new king of the hill in manly razors and is a significant improvement on shaving technology. Going forward, it will be in daily use at Cruft Manor.

Posted by michael at 06:24 AM | Comments (2)
February 05, 2006
Oh mighty spider

Oh mighty Google spider, please take a look at Rofeman.com, a family site about Taiwan Reunification.

Posted by michael at 01:26 PM | Comments (2)