The Lost Art of Ice Harvesting

Posted by ted @ 8:00 am, March 18th, 2014

When ever I hear about a dying industry being bailed out to “preserve a way of life” I always think of the massive ice harvesting industry that disappeared  almost overnight once modern refrigeration became common. I imagine that poor teenager apprentice trained and ready to take over the family business, when suddenly it all goes away.

Gizmodo has an longish excellent article, with  many pictures, on the the lost art of the ice harvest itself as practiced at the annual ice cutting event in South Bristol, Maine.

In 1805, a twenty-three year-old Bostonian named Frederic Tudor launched a new industry: the international frozen-water trade. Over the next fifty years, he and the men he worked with developed specialized ice-harvesting tools, a global network of thermally engineered ice houses, and a business model that cleverly leveraged ballast-less ships, off-season farmers, and overheated Englishmen abroad. By the turn of the century, the industry employed 90,000 people and was worth $220 million in today’s terms.

By 1930, it had disappeared, almost without trace, replaced by an artificial cryosphere of cold storage warehouses and domestic refrigerators.

They also point out how the industry fell into a strange loop-hole in government classifications:

Funnily enough, despite being a thriving industry, it barely figures in official statistics: as Gavin Weightman explains, “since it could be classified as neither mining nor farming, it was not subject to any taxes that would have given federal or state governments an interest in it.”

Follow the link and see how it was done:

Learning the Lost Art of Ice Harvesting in Maine


And here are some crazy young men in Latvia cutting ice again, this time for some wake boarding!

Project Black Ice at Marupe Wake Park


It’s Not That Funny, So Why Are We Laughing?

Posted by ted @ 8:53 am, March 22nd, 2011

wierd food names


I keep struggling to figure out what is going on here, it doesn’t make sense. I keep think it is starting to make sense, but then no, it still doesn’t make sense. Then why is it so funny? (B has sneaking suspicion it is the word “mork”)

Click through for much more…

(click for more…)

How Does Paper Beat Rock Anyway?

Posted by ted @ 11:00 am, March 10th, 2011

Ever wonder just how paper beats rock in the Rock Paper Scissors Game? Well someone else out there not only wondered, but outright disagreed and even went one step further – they made this funny sign about it:

Paper vs Rock

[CSLACKER]  via [Stumbleon]

but wait, there’s more!

Speaking of Rock Paper Scissors: If you feel like losing a few games to a smarty-pants computer program, check out this “You Vs Computer” rock paper scissors game at the New York Times. I will give you one for free, he leads with rock the first time, after that, prepare to be humbled…but at least it won’t punch you in the face for playing paper.


The Current Situation in a Nutshell

Posted by ted @ 9:24 am, March 2nd, 2011

A CEO, a Tea-Partier, and a union member at a table with a plate of 12 cookies.

The CEO takes 11 of the cookies, turns to the Tea Partier and says,
“Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.”

When Real Life Becomes Indistinguishable from a Monty Python Sketch

Posted by ted @ 2:01 pm, November 12th, 2010

Parkour for Lazies: The Bizarre British Lying Down Game

Monty Python Royal Society for Putting Things on top of other things

Amazing Japanese Giant Shopping / Poetry Site

Posted by ted @ 9:48 am, October 18th, 2010

The other day the daily email from included an ad for a Japanese Shopping site called Rakuten – “Now Shipping to the USA” – so I decided to check it out. It is apparently one of the biggest shopping sites in Japan, almost like a Japanese, but with a heavy bent towards kitsch. Unfortunately, unlike the amazing Japanese Gadget site which offers free shipping to the USA, the shipping to the USA from Rakuten looks pretty cost prohibitive right now, but the poorly translated product descriptions are wonderfully entertaining and worth a look.

Some are just the somewhat cliche awkward English translations (sometimes referred to as “Engrish”), like the text on this wonderful Asimo Costume which I wish I could afford to buy:

Robottoasobo costume
Product Description ?
The newest robot costume design.
ASIMO ASIMO can also be used for imitation.

* The one who is not compatible.
* Please read the instructions available.
To 180cm tall. Adult
Urethane, leather, polyurethane, PVC, use film
* After use, I highly recommend I use deodorant.
* You can not wash.
The set includes ?
Mind, body parts back, hands, gloves, feet

Some others though enter into a whole different realm of surreal beauty, like product haiku’s or love poems.

The title on the product page for a basic iPod sock is
“Like a rice cake! Whoops stretched Gyu cover Pitatto”

Check out this wonderful description / poetry:

ipod while carrying in a bag, against various things,
Imperceptibly that I’ve hurt for?
At that time, it is useful to have a cover too.

mochi is made up of a soft knit fabric has stretch.
Pita Innovation cover stretches Gyu ?.
ipod protection against scratches and shock.

The body, so that a snug fit,
Unchanged in size but covered.
When carrying, I am happy that the bulky!

And, ipod besides the variety of usage.
Compact and vulnerable part of the LCD cover and even cell phones.
Inorganic electronic devices, is surrounded knit, friendly atmosphere.
Watch and removed, ? also soaking in the small items into

The perfect gift item!
Packages like the sweets, there is impact
Some people were gifts will surely surprised me.

In all color 8color!
Bibittokara a bright strawberries.
I hesitate because there are a lot of tea!
Ipod usual, but by changing the color of the cover, it becomes a different color.
ipod will not hesitate to get a new one but not,
If you cover, you can enjoy lots of color.

Even with friends and lovers and matching different colors good!
Oke covered in it,
“Which one do it, she’ll not know!”
No more of them.
I may use both the mood of the day!

In addition, ipod or mobile phone, and each item
Once you have a different color cover,
Obviously useful even when removed from the bag!

Does introduce one color.
Your favorites, please find it.

“Even with friends and lovers and matching different colors good!”  yes,  indeed.

With over 17 million products in their catalog, it could keep you amused for a long time.

The Man With Exploding Bananas on His Face

Posted by ted @ 9:02 am, February 28th, 2010

Watch this video of a slow moving performance artist exploding bananas on his face. Go ahead, watch it, you know you want to . . .

Found on [BoingBoing]

Let Me Passing Through The Fine Time With You

Posted by ted @ 12:40 pm, February 15th, 2010

Love the text on this toy box:

-Game Attention
Do not play outdoors during thunderstorms
– Handsome appearance
modern techniques
radio control
– Flat out most
Let me passing through the fine time with you

A Different Way For A Cat to Get A Drink

Posted by ted @ 9:39 am, September 17th, 2009

This cat likes to drink from a running sink. Nothing too unusual there. But he has an unusual way of getting the water to his mouth. No cat I have known would do this. Very funny video, thought it is really too long, you can get the whole idea in the first minute.

Is There Any Problem a Banana Can’t Solve?

Posted by ted @ 12:42 pm, September 12th, 2009


Well, okay, maybe there are some problems a Banana can’t solve, but over at re-nest they mark a few off the list with their post on “7 Ways To Re-Use a Banana Peel“.  They claim that Banana peels are not only good for shining shoes and plant leaves (wouldn’t that attract fruit flies?) but can also be used for relieving discomfort from itches and burns (although one commenter strongly disagrees with using them on burns). One can also tape a banana peel (now that sounds convenient!) over splinters and warts and the enzymes will help remove and heal them. They leave out the obvious old standbys like tripping up people chasing you. I honestly don’t know what to make of the supposed curative powers of the enzymes in banana peels, but what the heck, I am willing to give it a try the next time I get a mosquito bite or splinter.

Re-Nest [via LifeHacker]
(Image: Flickr user butler.corey licensed for use under Creative Commons)

Rabbits? In The Stove?!?

Posted by ted @ 9:48 am, August 8th, 2009

Or: More Adventures in Home Repair

For the last several months we have been experiencing a terrible smell from our stove whenever we broiled food in the oven. An odd, not food like smell, more like burning insulation or plastic or something. It was barely noticeable when we just baked, but once the top elements got really hot for broiling, the odor got nasty. We opened windows and turned on fans, but it would linger in the whole house for hours. We cleaned the oven, we cleaned under the stove burners, no change. The other day we finally decided to tear into it and figure out what was going on.

We pulled the plug, moved it out from the wall and started taking out screws. Top element removed, connections looked fine, no charring or loose wires. Took off the door, removed back panels, found some greasy dirt, but nothing that looked like it was burning. After taking the stove top and head unit completely off we spotted a few mouse droppings in the bit of fiberglass insulation exposed under the edges of the pan which separates the stove from the oven. I started wondering if mice had moved in to the insulation, then met their hot demise. I found it interesting that the pan was held on with Torx screws which seemed to imply that it was not supposed to removed. I dug out my Torx driver, removed the screws, and cautiously lifted, afraid of what I might find. As it came up we saw a dark brown area on the otherwise light yellow insulation and knew we were on the right track. We slowly peeled back the insulation, afraid that any moment a horror movie worthy charred remains of a dead mouse would be revealed, but instead there were dark pea sized pellets? Whaa? those look like – no it couldn’t be – rabbit droppings??


While my mind churned for a moment trying to grasp what I was seeing, BRB suddenly spoke the answer – Cat Food! Yes, there were not rabbits nesting in the stove (whew, I hate it when that happens), but rather mice had stashed a winter’s worth of cat food pellets in a hollowed out area in the fiberglass insulation, and then the pellets had baked and burned when the top of the oven got hot enough. We proceeded to carefully perform a pelletectomy surgical procedure with gloves, scissors and vacuum cleaner. We managed to remove the food and the damaged insulation, but were left with a big hole in the insulation exposing the top of the oven compartment.


We left everything torn apart all over the kitchen and drove to the appliance store to find out how to get replacement fiberglass. The service man did not seem to even offer to sell us some, but agreed with our suggestion that it would be easy to scavenge a piece from a dead oven. We drove over to their appliance graveyard where things were piled up for recycling. Unfortunately they had just sent out a big group of ovens, but there was one stove top that had a few strips of insulation in it – just enough to fill the hole, and its bright white color made it look like surgical gauze, to complete the surgery metaphor.


After reassembling the whole mess, we  seem to have solved the problem, and tested it / celebrated by baking some muffins. And now we know not to try to bake a cat food hot dish for the cat. Like revenge, cat food is a dish best served cold.

Three things that make me laugh, every time

Posted by ted @ 5:00 pm, July 9th, 2009

Number one: a doormat, named Mat

Number two, a wonderful visual pun that speaks for itself (original source unknown):


Number three: a hilarious 20 second video pun, Obama’s Elf:

Just makes me laugh, every time I see them.

Breakfast Cereal – Fortified With Iron (Filings)

Posted by ted @ 10:20 am, June 4th, 2009

We read that iron added to fortified cereal is usually in the form of actual iron filings, which your body may not even be able to use. A box of Mini Wheats I recently purchased had an unusually large amount of crumbled cereal in it (over 4 cups!).

mini wheats

After calling for a coupon for a replacement box, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to do some kitchen science and try to find these iron filings.
First we tried grind up the crumbs in a mortar and pestle.


We then  tried putting strong magnets in the powder. While some stuck, it was not clear if it was just stickiness and not magnetism, and it sure didn’t look like iron.



We then added water to make a slurry.

Needs more water.

Tried a stack of little rare earth magnets, but still nothing conclusive. We did see some movement in the liquid  when we passed the magnet over the liquid (but could not capture it with the camera), so we were on the right track, but still not satisfied.

mag slurry
Time for the big guns. Out with the blender and more crumbs.
Reduced crumbs to finer powder and added a generous helping of RO water.

iron0007 blend2

Poured into a little plastic container and applied magnet to the outside of the container. After sloshing and stirring around a bit we began to see a dark blob form on the inside of the container against the magnet.

iron blob 1

The blob is made up of small particles and moves with the magnet. Iron!

A little careful arrangement of magnet, camera and window light and (despite imperfect macro focus) we are finally able to clearly see the spiky little iron filings standing up on the side of the container.

iron filings 2


Yummmm . . . enjoy your breakfast.

Electron Love

Posted by ted @ 3:06 pm, April 6th, 2009

Electron Love

ohm-my, I find you so irresistible,
I just don’t know watt to do,
Currently I ampere in your power.
You act so coil,
to induce me into your field,
its beyond my capacity to avoid.
please integrate me into your circuit,
I won’t be a load.
don’t leave me feeling like a dip.
Without you I could just diode
I know I am biased,
but you look so farad to me.
I just want to volt you all night,
and cuddle you in my armature.
You complete my circuit.
I’m not interested in your transistor,
don’t even want to meter,
I only have polarize for you.
How can I cell you on the idea,
the potential is there.
I need to switch you over.
Please don’t tune me out.
I can’t stand your impedance,
you know we were meant tube.
How can I bridge the gap?
How can I amplify my signal?
Help me rectify the situation.
There is nothing to sine,
just a wave will do.

A pun poem by ObserveTheBanana. Inspired by Breakfast Blues, by Trout Fishing in America.

Giant Banana Lamp Sighting

Posted by ted @ 11:20 am, February 2nd, 2009


“Large 1970s banana-shaped resin floor lamp by Louis Durot, with one light.”

Over at they are selling a giant banana lamp from the 1970’s. At close to 7ft tall this is one serious banana to have in your house. I want it. They won’t even show the price without registering and logging in first, and there is shipping from France.

[1stdibs via BoingBoing]

Headlines to Chuckle At

Posted by ted @ 2:41 pm, January 21st, 2009

Firefighters: Flaming Squirrel To Blame In Jones Wildfire

I guess I could come up with some clever joke about swishy homosexual squirrels starting wildfires, but I think the headline speaks for itself. Actually I was at first picturing a squirrel with fur ablaze in flame running though the tall grass leaving a trail of fire, but alas it is not quite so interesting with it merely dropping to the ground after being electrocuted by touching two power lines. But the good news is, it seems to have boosted the educational level of the local kids:

Students Moved From Elementary To High School

I know, wildfires aren’t funny – so stop chuckling ok?

The story:

A squirrel caught fire, sparking a blaze Wednesday morning that resulted in the evacuation of an elementary school in Jones, fire officials said.

Investigators said the squirrel touched two power lines at the same time and fell to the ground near Britton and Hiawassee roads.

That fire burned 5 acres in the Jones area, forcing the evacuation of the elementary school. Those students were taken to Jones High School.

I got a bag of Crap! And I’m happy?

Posted by ted @ 8:13 pm, November 20th, 2008

It’s a Woot thing. What is Woot? is a different kind of online shopping site. Every day they have just one thing for sale. It remains for sale until they sell out, or the until the day ends. The next day they have one different thing for sale. They have great deals, and wacky descriptions of the items, usually making sure to point out not only what a great deal it is, but also honestly pointing any weaknesses or shortcomings in the product. Every once and a while things get interesting when they have a Woot Off! On these special hallowed days they have offer many things, still one at a time until a preset quantity sells, before moving on to the next item. An item might be available for hours, or for only minutes. It inspires compulsive refreshing to catch new deals throughout the day (as their song goes, “giving me an F5 complex, refreshing just to see what comes next!”). There are even third party web sites dedicated to tracking Woot Offs and notifying you when new items appear ( is my favorite). The highlight of the Woot Off is the “Bag of Crap” (referred to as BOC, bandolier of carrots, etc) which is a random item grab bag. For some reason this is the most popular of items and instantly causes their servers to overload as it appears. This is despite their adamant assertions that you really don’t want one (see below). It is a true miracle of modern marketing genius. Having shopped on Woot for several years now, and purchased several items during Woot Offs or otherwise, I have just for the first time today managed to secure my very own Bag of Crap! It may be a dime store trinket, it may be a valuable electronic item left over from a previous day, I just have to wait and see. I will announce its contents when it arrives. – See what I got: I Got Crap!

And it was written…..

If we allow you to give us your money, we shall grant you some sort of bag and some quantity of crap. We promise nothing more. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll be grateful for that.


I. Thou shalt expect nothing beyond one bag of some kind and your chosen quantity of crappy items (which should be THREE).

II. Thou shalt not whine and complain when some people’s crap turns out to be nicer than yours.

III. Thou shalt take a moment to consider whether you might be better off just not buying this crap.

IV. Thou shalt not order just one crap and blame it on anything but your own inattention.

V. To paraphrase Stephen Stills, shalt thou not get the crap you want, want the crap you get.

Track Excavator Climbs Tower

Posted by ted @ 12:43 pm, November 16th, 2008

This looks to be a very cool demonstration of the power of this track excavator. The tower is obviously special made for this feat and appears to include locking points for the plate on the end of the arm, and places to wedge the tracks as the arm moves up to the next level. There is vigorous discussion on Gizmodo debating whether or not this is real or photoshopped, but I can easily believe that this was a real demonstration (although they may have removed the counterweight from the excavator). This desperately needs a video! …and yes that guy must have b*lls of steel!

Excavator climbs tower 1

via Gizmodo [Dark Roasted Blend] (scroll down to it)

Here is one more blurry photo from German TV that would seem to verify the stunt as real.

Related: Undressing a woman with a lalrge digging machine

The Future is Not What It Used To Be

Posted by ted @ 12:15 pm, September 10th, 2008

Not long ago I wrote about an interesting way to apply math to predicting the future. Now I have come across an interesting article called Welcome to the Future by writer Gavin Edwards on his site Rule Forty Two which summarizes nine future predicting authors, and how well they have stood up to the test of time. It is quite thorough and covers a lot, and he evens ends with some predictions of his own. Be sure to get down to the part about David Goodman Croly (1829-1889), “the greatest prophet you’ve never heard of” with an accuracy rate of 75%

Most of the futurists I read focused on the rise and fall of governments, and especially, the progress of technology and the sciences. The future of art and literature got short shrift, as did sex and religion. At first, I thought this was because too many of the predictors considered their readership to be drawn from the business community. But that didn’t wash: an accurate prediction of fashion trends, or societal attitudes towards sex, would be immensely valuable to any savvy investor or corporate type. Would-be prophets avoid arts and entertainment because they seem too difficult to pin down, too trend-driven. Science provides the illusion that progress occurs in an orderly fashion…

As I immersed myself in futurism, I waded through promise after promise of electric cars, unified world government, and videophones. (For decades, certain favorite predictions have been coming along Real Soon Now.) But before I burned out on days of future past, I resolved to grade leniently. If a prediction seemed to be mostly correct, even if it mangled some details, I gave the futurist credit. If they correctly described the effects of a technology but misunderstood the mechanism of it, that was accurate enough for me.

Welcome to the Future


One often overlooked future prediction comes from rock star and writer Pete Townshend. His failed and then reborn 1970’s rock opera project Lifehouse featured people living in a world where pollution is so bad they are forced to stay in Lifesuits and obtain all their experiences and social interaction by plugging in to “The Grid”, a huge global computer network not so unlike today’s internet and social networking sites.

Commenter Bobbie Dawn adds a reference to writer Orson Scott Card and asserts his prediction of blogging in Enders Game makes him particularly relevant to bloggers. I looked him up and, admittitly not having read Enders Game, could not find information on his predictions. I instead found him described as a right wing Bush war supporter and homophobe, not that that invalidates his writing, but it does make me less likely to want to read his work.

Another Observer of Bananas

Posted by ted @ 7:27 am, August 5th, 2008

Over at London Bananas they have a collected a surprisingly large collection of photos of banana peels spotted laying around the London cityscape.

“I see them everywhere. They’re languishing on doorsteps, hanging out in the middle of the road, dangling off street signs, peeking out of piles of garbage, reclining in the middle of the sidewalk, riding the bus for free. A great number of them are bright yellow as if they’re fresh and have just been dropped, although they appear in all states of decay.”

Banana Phone Spotted

Posted by ted @ 7:20 am, August 5th, 2008

Banana phone spotted in Ann Arbor, MI by Flickr user stplast.

Previous post: Banana Phone Video

Trying to predict the future? Look to the past

Posted by ted @ 7:23 pm, June 26th, 2008

I have often thought that futurists had a great racket going. They sit around and make up a bunch of random nonsense about what they think the future will be like, and apparently some of them even managed to get paid for it. It usually looks to me like their predictions are based on no more expertise or research than you or I might be able to come up with over a beer at the corner bar, and years later they are of course never held accountable when their predictions are wildly wrong.
In the July (2008) issue of Discover magazine in “Why Laughing Matters” Jim Holt offers a very interesting hypothesis on what they do wrong, “the repeated sins of futurologists is that they often extrapolate from what is new rather than from what is old”.

(click for more…)

Physicist Fence

Posted by ted @ 6:58 pm, May 26th, 2008

They have erected a small black fabric fence running along the side of the university campus near us. I naively thought it was a silt fence, used to control sediment flow and erosion from the road construction project beginning there. My son B has corrected me. He informs me that it is actually a “physicist fence” which is used to keep the physicists on campus and prevent them from roaming free in the community and administering random physics lessons to unsuspecting citizens. I am lucky to have an expert around to inform me of these things.

Time Traveller Currency

Posted by ted @ 11:24 am, May 14th, 2008

Lately I find myself wondering, if I was going to time travel back to the year 1800 in North America, what could I take with me to use in the place of currency to trade for goods? The tricky part is, ideally I would like to take advantage of inflation to increase the value of my money. For instance, $1 in the year 1800 had the purchasing power of around $14 in the year 2000 ( So if I could bring back currency from the year 2000, it would greatly increase in purchasing power from its face value. The problem is of course, I can not bring back modern currency because it is, well, modern. What I need is something that I can bring back that will not stand out as inappropriate and draw attention to me as a time traveler.
The choice of some basic precious metal like gold immediately comes to mind, and while it would work, it unfortunately loses its modern higher value when brought into the past, effectively undoing the advantage. The price of an ounce of gold in December 2000 was around $275 (, in 1800 that same ounce of gold would sell for about $19. That $19 of 1800 money had the purchasing power of about $170 of 2000 money, so you come out behind.
So perhaps what I should be looking for instead is some basic commodity that is cheap and plentiful in modern times, but was more scarce and valuable in 1800. Maybe even something that can more easily made to a high quality today, like perhaps iron or steel. I am not sure of the current and past prices of steel, and while there might be an advantage to be had on industrial scales, it is not something that could be easily carried and traded at the general store for basic supplies (is it?). Another possible contender would be salt. I have heard that it was sometimes used as a currency in the past. Let’s see, according to before refrigeration salt was used for preserving meat, and during the early parts of the Civil War the north blockaded salt shipments from England from reaching the south, forcing the the creation of new and expensive means of harvesting salt from springs. It states “Salt prices escalated so high, that workers were paid in salt rather than money. Prices rose from $1.25 per bushel of 50 pounds in 1861 to $50 by the end of the war.” These time periods are a little later target than my 1800, but may still be relevant. I see that a 50lb bag of fine sea salt goes for about $11 wholesale currently, so that might be a reasonable option, if not a little bulky. (As an aside, a good history of salt can be found at
So other that salt, what other good options might there be that have not thought of? Maybe something more compact? How about modern metal hand tools? I think they are relatively cheap and high quality, if you chose carefully to avoid items that would be out of place in the past. You can buy some nice knives pretty cheap these days, but stainless steel wasn’t invent until the 1900’s. I wonder how a 1800 merchant would react to stainless steel? Blue Jeans were not invented until the 1870’s, maybe some other clothing items, or even just some good unbleached cotton fabric? I poked around at other mineral price histories (thought they only go back to 1900) and although I didn’t read every one (there are lots) it looks like most have only gone up in value.
Please let me know your ideas. Something that has dropped in value significantly, that would not be out of place in 1800. I chose 1800 somewhat randomly and I think that the answers would change dramatically for other time periods, or geographic locations.


Posted by ted @ 10:28 am, May 12th, 2008

OK, this is weird, this guy not only built a cool machine to shoot 3.5″ floppy disks (which isn’t really so weird), but then made a wacky bizarre video about it. “…transfer files effortlessly to your computer, with extreme prejudice”. “Also effective against squirrels, vegans, clowns, hippies, street urchins, girl scouts, and more!” And I never knew that using a CD to transfer data could be so hazardous.