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Posts Tagged ‘shiny’

The Birds II: This Time It’s Personal

March 11th, 2011 No comments

Photo from XRailbyRCI.com.

Would you rather carry ammo and have to load it, costing you valuable time, or would you prefer it in your gun?

Of course the answer is always “in my gun.”

My sentiments exactly!

Though a relatively small number of magazine-fed shotguns exist, they’re rare in the civilian market. Most shotguns feed through what’s called a “tube magazine.” It lines the shells up end-to-end between your trigger finger and the muzzle. The magazine is part of the gun. It’s the same overall configuration used in the Henry rifle design so popular in the frontier era (aka the Indian Genocide era), but most civilian shotguns are pump action, as opposed to the lever-action most common in Henry-style rifles (though some rifles, also, are pump action). Even semi-automatic shotguns tend to use tube magazines in the United States, even if they’re military or law-enforcement.

That means that if you’re a shotgun user, you usually can’t use extended magazines like the ones you’ll use to guarantee your second-amendment freedoms in the event that Bubba-Larry starts talking shit over at the bait store about how your AK can’t hit anything. Shotgun magazines (like Henry rifle magazines) are integral to the weapon, and you won’t be able to pull a New York Reload when avian flu morphs into a zombie virus. The day Blackbirdicus ohGoditseatingus starts coming for you en masse, you’re pretty much screwed, zombie-hunter. You ever try to hit a flock of swarming brain-starved featherweights with a pair of Glocks and some Chow Yun Gun Fu? It’s not fun. It’s not fun at all.

Enter Roth Concept Innovations, “designer and manufacturer of high capacity solutions for your shotgun” and the latter-day Tippi Hedren’s very best friend. As a press release in Guns & Ammo informs me, They manufacture the new XRAIL System, “an auto indexing loader for shotguns.”

Here’s what you’ll be wearing, come the apocalypse, to accompany your stylish headgear: Read more…

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Wingsuits, Rocket Boots, Jet-Powered Finns

February 22nd, 2011 1 comment

Public Domain photo by the ominously-named "The.Eleventh.One."

You know those women in Virginia who beat the world record for an all-female head-down formation skydive? I know…how could you forget? I was pretty excited, too. So excited, in fact, that I hit that pesky “like” button and get invitations with some frequency from Skydive Orange, the group that hosted that record-breaking, to come skydive with them. Hey, we’re all still figuring out this social marketing thing, right?

In any event, one of their Facebook messages tipped me off to an event I can’t possibly attend (because it’s on the other side of the country). But it let me know about the ultra-cool sport of wingsuit flying. It may look weird, but do you think that stops Batman? Hellz no. The suit may be called a “squirrel suit” or a “birdman suit,” and it’s bad-ass. Wingsuit flying can be performed any time you can get enough altitude to fall for a while, and when wingsuiters jump from, you know, planes and stuff, they also wear parachutes,and end their glide by pulling the ripcord. Apparently Burt Lancaster wore an early wingsuit in the 1969 film The Gypsy Moths.

The Wikipedia article on this sport tells me:

The main difference between the squirrel suit and a flying squirrel is that the real squirrel can use its tail as a rudder and is able to slow itself down while in the air, whereas the wingsuit base jumper still needs a parachute.

Er…yeah. That, and a flying squirrel is roughly the size of a big-ish person’s forearm, giving it lots and lots of wind resistance. A human is roughly the size of a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup, and that’s what said human will look like if he or she forgets that as an organism gets bigger, mass increases much faster than surface area. A cockroach can fall without hurting itself because it’s little; it has lots of surface area in relation to its guts. You? Not so much.

The function of a wingsuit, therefore, in grossly oversimplified terms, is to make your surface area much bigger. Wingsuit flyers are able to glide long distances; horizontal-to-vertical ratios of 2.5:1 are said to be common — in other words, if you jump from 3,000 feet you could cover 7,500 feet horizontally.

But wait…it gets better.

In May of last year, a gent named Visa Parviainen made the first powered birdman flight in Lahti, Finland. The information about it refers to jets, but I”m pretty sure these boots have to be rockets, not jets. (Jets have air intakes; rockets provide their own oxidizers). In the Lahti flight, ascent was accomplished by balloon:

The launch platform selected for the day was provided by the famous Finnish Balloon Bros, who graciously offered their services for this historic event. Visa had designed a unique launch platform to hang outside the balloon to avoid ‘cooking’ the balloon occupants during the ascent to altitude from the exhaust gases of the jet engines.

Once Visa had adorned his birdman suit and rig on the ground, it was time to test the rocket boots. Each jet engine provides around 16kgs of thrust, and is primed with a mix of butane and propane. Once ignited, the engines rely on a steady supply of kerosene (JetA1) fuel. This fuel burns at around the rate of 0.5 litres per minute, on full power, for each jet engine. The combined thrust of both power plants was calculated to be enough to sustain level human flight in a wing suit for an average weight skydiver.

[Link.]

Yup, yes, uh-huh. They said “rocket boots.” But don’t take my word for it. Check out the video; between the clever headline and the first comment (“It’s like squirrel had sex with Ironman”) I’m, like, seriously busting a gut.

Anyway, if you’re in the Baltimore/Washington/Virginia area and want a little wingsuit instruction (presumably sans rocket boots), check out Skydive Orange’s Facebook Page. The wingsuit first-jump instruction is taught by Andrea Olea on May 14, costs $35, and you have to have at least 200 jumps under your belt. “In addition to the first jump course she will be providing wingsuit organizing throughout the weekend. The in-air coaching and load organizing is no cost to the student other than the cost of the student slot compliments of Skydive Orange.”

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Have Space Suit, Will Urinate

January 20th, 2011 No comments

SPD-143 space suit from the Apollo mission. Screencap from the NYT gallery, photo by Mark Avino, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Science fiction writer Walter Jon Williams, one of the O.C.’s (Original Cyberpunks) has a post on his blog tipping me off to this great article in the New York Times about the 300-item storage room at the Smithsonian that holds almost the museum’s entire collection of space suits.

The accompanying slide show features 18 images of suits throughout the American space program. These are the very suits that made history. Or, as Williams puts it, “Check out the very suit that Alan Shepherd pissed in!”

Williams’s reference, of course, is to the fact that first-American-in-space Alan B. Shepard, before his Freedom 7 launch, got delayed on the launch pad. He found he had to pee — but had no facilities to do so. The result was dramatized with LOLZ in the 1983 film The Right Stuff, based on a book by Tom Wolfe. He whizzed in his suit, which worked out just fine.

But as to the other awesome Shepard moment during Freedom 7 in The Right Stuff, it didn’t happen. At least, not precisely. Wikipedia, citing NASA flight director Gene Kranz (Ed Harris in Apollo 13, don’chaknow) never really said, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me fuck up.” In his book Failure Is Not an Option, Kranz claims Shepard said, “Don’t fuck up, Shepard…” — which Shepard confirmed. The words are known at NASA as “Shepard’s Prayer,” but I’ve been saying the incorrect version for years.

Anyway, the NYT article says photos and X-rays in the Smithsonian collection will be part of a traveling exhibition next spring — by which I assume they mean 2012. The suits are too fragile to travel.

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Water-Powered Jet Pack

January 12th, 2011 No comments

No need to despair about the flying car! The blog Techfyre points me toward a water-powered jetpack being flown over the Thames as part of the London International Boat Show this past week. Running off a water-hose intake, the JetLev jetpack can achieve a height of 30 meters and go 22 miles an hour.

Turns out you can find out lots more at JetLev.com. The manufacturer describes the technology thusly:

Unlike conventional aircrafts and jetpacks, the innovative Jetlev concept greatly improves thrust-to-weight ratio by locating the propulsion engine, fuel and related systems on a separate vessel tethered behind the jetpack, and uses water as the jet propulsion medium because its high density can carry vast amounts of power at much lower velocities, and generate nozzle reaction forces much more effectively, than gases.

[Link.]

Check it:

Wanna know my very favorite part of the video? The disclaimer at the beginning:

What to think, then, of the fact that you can get your training on The YouTube?

Anyway, the fact that the JetLev can’t carry its own supply of water, of course, limits it applications, but as for having beaucoups fun while looking weird and slightly ridiculous, it seems to be perfectly applicable.

The Daily Mail says the thing costs £110,000, and JetLev.com says that it’s recruiting dealers, and you can fill out a form to be considered. It’s also licensed the technology to developers in Germany and Dubai.  The site still says it has “plans” to make a model available for demonstrations in Florida starting in November 2010, and that:

We are planning a limited rollout in select markets including South Florida, Hawaii, Bahamas, the Caribbean and the Asia-Pacific region, hopefully by December 2010. Other regions are also under consideration.

Given your other jet pack options, like commissioning a custom-made rig from Jet Pack International, the Rocket Belt, buying one from a more questionable dealer or building one yourself, if you’re dead-set on jet pack recreation, the JetLev looks like a bargain.

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P. Diddy Does Not “Control” His Yacht by iPad

January 6th, 2011 No comments

Screencap from www.YachtSolemates.com.

As someone who made the leap from Mac to PC about 8 years ago (after 14+ years on Apple products), but loves my iPod Touch, I’ve found it endlessly fascinating seeing Apple’s iPad market itself. The success of the device seems to prove an axiom that’s so rarely true nowadays…good design means product success.

At the same time, fantastic public relations is an art form in and of itself. I have great respect for the good and the bad in the PR industry. Getting good PR is impressive, whether you’re the manufacturer of the season’s most widely-coveted consumer good, or an offensively opulent luxury yacht next to no one can afford. Good PR — Apple gots it, in addition to a solid product that many consumers seem to (legitimately) love.

These German cats apparently gots it, too. But even the iPad doesn’t “control” a yacht, as CNN claims.

Nor does a press release from a yacht broker warrant a news story, no matter how bad-ass this thing is.

In the headline of its front-page article “P. Diddy sails on $850,000-a-week superyacht controlled by iPad,” CNN implies that the Didster is actually piloting the brand-new 200-foot German-built superyacht Solemates by iPad. He’s not. From the passenger’s perspective, it’s a high-tech, fast-moving condominium, not a boat.

Custom-made software from German luxury yacht firm Lurssen gives passengers control of everything but the captain’s steering wheel — all with the most leisurely brush of their iPad.

“Solemates”, the first pleasure yacht to carry the technology, is currently playing host to flamboyant rap tycoon Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, girlfriend Kim Porter and their daughters D’Lila and Jessie, confirmed the yacht’s charter firm.

Using complimentary iPads, the millionaire mogul and his family will have control of all the shipboard entertainment and climate systems, the blinds and lights in their cabins, and could even have their Pina Coladas topped-up at the tap of an icon.

“You won’t find this app for download in the Apple store any time soon,” said Rupert Connor, central agent from chartering firm the Luxury Yacht Group. “The captain hands each guest their own iPad when they board, which they get to keep for the entirety of their trip.”

This is a little like the opening of The Simpsons, where the audience (and presumably Maggie) are led to believe that Maggie, the baby, is driving the car. That is, if Maggie was shelling out a mil a week to rent both the car and her mother’s services. And I do like the idea of Diddy with a pacifier.

Sometimes in the effort to make headlines out of the new shiny, the media presents technology as being more accessible to the average Jane/Joe/Giacomo than it is. The idea of controlling a luxury yacht’s entertainment system is a little too close to what consumers can already do with a smartphone — even if your living room doesn’t have a deck facing the Caribbean. It’s interesting, but it’s not a story.

But then, your living room probably doesn’t cost a million clams a week, no matter how upside-down your mortgage is. And that’s what makes this a story, as far as I can tell.

If you ask me, it smells like a story built on company PR.

That said, the yacht is shiny on the outside, stupid on the inside. Lurssen.com, the shipbuilder’s site, tells you fuck-all, not because it’s in German (only part of it is), but because it runs with this funky-monkey Flash orgy that assumes you want to sit there and stare at pretty and largely incomprehensible pictures crossed with slow-reveals of words like “Perfection.” “Taste.” “Character.” “Truly Individual,” and “Are You Ready?”

Apparently the German yacht-building industry is now at the stage that the financial services industry was in about 2002.

But the CNN article has some ultra-creepy conspicuous consumption copy that reads like a press release promoting the not-so-good-life. “At night they [sic] gym converts into an al-fresco disco, with an $80,000 integrated sound and light system.” “”As well as a bevy of en-suite Jacuzzis, the master cabin is fitted with an aromatherapy shower that comes in four flavors: eucalyptus, pine needle, citrus, and peppermint.” “The guests aren’t the only ones who benefit from an array of interactive flat screens — the captain has five to play with!”

The friggin' DINING ROOM. Hope you're eating an extra crab cake for all those starving babies in Somalia, Diddy. Screencap from www.YachtSolemates.com.

Who the fuck ARE these people? What’s worse, all the CNN photos are tagged “Courtesy Luxury Yacht Group,” which makes them seem even more like advertisements.

I’m all for the shiny. But wasn’t there, you know…a war on?

http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/mobile/01/06/ipad.superyacht.diddy/index.html?hpt=C2
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Popular Mechanics’ CES Gadget Roundup

January 6th, 2011 No comments

The SPOT Connect turns your smartphone into a satellite phone. Call Mom from Antarctica!

I’m far from a gadget freak, but I still find a lot of inspiration in all the consumer tech that debuts at the Consumer Electronics Show each year. Unfortunately, I find it too hard to make sense of the sensations, and to tell the difference between all the tech-industry publicist hype and the real innovations.

Ever the source for the modern practicum, Popular Mechanics has a great slideshow roundup of their favorite gadgets from this year’s CES. The slideshow is pretty horribly marred by commercial interruptions ever few slides, including a few that sat there blank (proving that advancements in technology are no guarantee against minor disasters). But it’s still good tech-obsessed fun.

My absolute damn favorite gadget is the SPOT Connect, which will be available this month:

The SPOT Connect is a waterproof satellite communicator that smartphones can use to stay in touch with the world, far away from a cell signal (a special app allows smartphones to use Bluetooth to latch onto the device’s satellite connection).

[Link.]

…the short version is that it brings the cost of making your smartphone a satellite phone down to $170. A competing device, the Delorme Earthmate, was an award-winner last year, but costs almost $600. What could be better to have on hand for when you wake up in the jungles of Panama missing your pants and trying to sort out just who blew the heads off all these zombies? Just dial up the bartender at Zeitgeist and repeat that sad refrain, “Was I drinking tequila again last night?”

Anyway, there’s more to CES excitement than satellite phones and apocalyptic slaughter: I love the idea of the “dog recognition mode” on the Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR, which allows you to capture your rover with greater ease — important to any photographer who’s ever tried to shoot their dog and ended up with a squirrel-chasing blur. Cat owners will no doubt cry foul, but I’m sure it works for Mister Fluffypants as well.

Other interesting gadgets in PM’s roundup include the Samsung 9 Series Laptop (slimmer than a Macbook Air!), the Seagate GoFlex — a dedicated satellite drive for the iPad — and the Liquid Image Video Mask, designed for recording your motocross and skiing exploits. There’s also the Cobra Phone Tag, which gives you an alert on your smartphone every time you lose your keys, and the Samsung RMC 30D Internet-Enabled Remote Control will “stream a live feed of whatever is on TV directly to the remote’s tiny touchscreen.

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Momocreatura Jewelry: Death Becomes Cute Overload

December 29th, 2010 No comments

Momocreatura Hanged Owl Pin

It’s certainly true that many of us girlier girls – even those of us with guns and motorcycles – love pretty shiny jewelry. And like, totally cute little animals. But not all girls who love the shiny shiny also love adorable roadkill presented as strange and unsettling macabre bestiary mythology, so perhaps the items from Momocreatura (jewelry design) are for that rare babe who squeals with glee at both LOLcat and puss-oozing zombie alike.

Momocreatura’s fantastical creations are impossibly whimsical and frankly disturbing, which also makes them pretty delightful. In a twisted way. Notably, the Nearly Dead series. Think Alice in Wonderland taxidermy. A Momocreatura brooch boasts little owls dangling by neck from nooses; squirrels made of silver stand stolidly, waiting with axe in hand. Stud earrings are axes and the savaged heads of woodland animals; on a silver chain are strung furry cuties such as bunnies and mice suspended by the holes in their hearts. Cheerful. We love it.

* Facebook: Momocreatura

Wednesday Night at the Gun Nut Hut: The FN Five-seveN

December 15th, 2010 No comments

Creative Commons photo of the FN Five-seveN with a Sure-Fire tactical light by Malis.

For what it’s worth, I am deeply suspicious of all the high-tech, newfangled stuff these gun manufacturers are coming out with nowadays. It’s polymer this, tactical that, “Pocket Performance” blah blah blah. The AR-15 platform pretty much seems to have taken over the rifle market, at least as far as gun magazines and blogs go; every pistol looks like a Glock, promises “peace through superior firepower” and, oh, by the way, costs more than the Cold War.

See, I don’t like all this black plastic, y’dig?

Nah, I like the antiques. Give me a pearl-handled nickel-plated .25 Colt to haul out of my silk smoking jacket when the detective shows up to question me about the missing jewels; it’s just the right size that I can point it at him and say “I wouldn’t try it, Detective Hulksmash — unlike your brain, my gun’s loaded,” and then wave it fanatically while I puff on my cigarette holder and explain how I stole the jewels, where I hid them, and how he’s going to outsmart me. Now that‘s high technology.

But.

There’s something fascinating about the trend in full-sized handguns in smaller calibers with extremely high-capacity magazines. Take, for instance, the Fabrique Nationale Herstal Five-seveN semi-automatic pistol, which uses a 5.7-millimeter-by-28-millimeter round, which is about a .224 for us Yanks. In addition to its reputed accuracy, corrosion resistance, and very low recoil (claimed to be 30% less than a comparably-sized 9, the big plus about the Five-seveN is, of course, that it’s the highest-capacity production handgun around. The eensy bullet means you can cram 20 rounds into a flush fit magazine, or 30 rounds into an extended magazine, assuming you work for NATO (or the local SWAT team). Read more…

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Zombies Attack Your Mac (or PC)

November 29th, 2010 No comments

When zombies want brains, they go to the Apple store. On the go for a quick snack, they look for MacBook Pros. The above vinyl decal goes on any laptop and shows just how tasty your brains really are, though advertising this to a pack of hungry undead is at your own risk. Zombies Attack is on Etsy for $8.99. Zombies Want Braains is new and creepy.

In fact all of Macertera’s laptop vinyl is to die for; look for cool CCTV, Star Wars, ravens and Totoro designs.

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Party Like It’s…

November 28th, 2010 2 comments

Before the Fat Daddy in red finishes making his list and checking it twice, you know you need to get your ass in gear to start loading up your wish list at Rave Ready.

Come on: do you really wanna be standing there wearing jodhpurs, riding boots and a top hat with clocks, waving your howdah pistol like a douchebag and spouting By Jove‘s and Full Steam Ahead‘s when Doctor Who shows up to jack your ass back to Christmas, 1992 to help him score some wicked E without that speedy 1996 edge to it?

You lookin' at me?I mean, forget this let’s-just-slingshot-around-the-sun shit; this is real time travel. By the time you’ve strapped on the Cryoflesh UV Tube Monocle, you’ll already be conducting covert surveillance on your ear, from what I can tell. It doesn’t seem to come with a schematic, so I’m meeting the manufacturer more than halfway, here.

Once you know what your pesky ear has been up to, of course, you just might start your own chain reaction that, sooner or later, spells Total Disintegration of the MyndStreams, you know what I’m saying?

I think it’s supposed to mean you’re a Borg or a cyber pyrate or some guy named Field Marshall Von Hack or something. It’s not that it’s not a practical sort of monocle. It’s just that its use hasn’t been invented yet. Other than looking fabulous, of course.

And once you start huffing the nightmare in the CryoFlesh Chemi-Kill Cyber Circuitry Mask, that won’t just be Vick’s Vapo-Rub you’re smelling. It’s the ripe scent of your own flavorful intestinal gas, all tangled up with the lingering scent of Pintos & Cheese, Hold the Cheese, from last night’s midnight Taco Bell run after you closed down the Smart Bar at Der Screamm Parrtie while hacking the Pentagon mainframe and dodging bullets…or was that just a comic book you saw projected on the floor as you sweated and undulated all over a glostick-dappled UC Merced girl in a safety-orange unitard, plaid cat ears and clear plastic platform boots?

But wait. This one goes “ZabbaZabba!”:

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. What, are there no stylish options for Clinton-era females who want to fuzzy-pixie sexy-walk into a past-future retro-filled with candy-colored Thorazine rainbows and Niacin-gobbling bio-fueled mind expansion? What do you think, genius?

"Mine tastes like bowel resection!" MTCoffinz Glow in the Dark Binary Code Red Crossed Syringe Surgical Mask. You heard me.

"Is it getting hot in here?" Adjamiba Swizzle Pink and Purple Leg Warmers with matching Fluffies. (Fluffies?) Yes, I said "Fluffies," now STFU. And yes, it's getting hot in here. Or maybe that's just the meth in your Smart Water.

Oh God. Oh my God. Oh my God, Christ in Heaven, where the fuck did I put that blue pill...

By the way, those leg warmers and “Fluffies,” RaveReady tells us, “are imported from the UK and made of the highest quality materials,” which as far as I can figure means they’re made from actual free-range Martian ostrich-tribbles, rather than the crap those other companies will sell you — leg warmers made from Martian ostrich-tribbles raised unethically and unsustainably on a Martian ostrich-tribble farm. Be responsible consumers, people. Martian ostrich-tribbles have feelings too, and plus they’re psychic and can transmit TMJ through their ostrichy mind-control rays if you don’t wear the special anti-mind-control pendant RaveReady provides.

But wait — check out this handsome gent, whose stylish mask “Matches the Circuit Puncture line of clothing perfectly.” However, “Like all fine clothing,” you should “only dry clean or wash in cold water and line dry, or tumble on NO heat…Do not iron the vinyl!”

Don't get excited: No matter how many times you smack your palm on the "Minus" symbol, this guy won't minimize. Sorry. You're just going to have to sleep with him.

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