Monthly Archives: August 2011

Kimono Lantern

The folks at TokyoHackerSpace, have taken a break from building geiger counters, and built this rather cute table lamp. According to the write up, this solar powered automatic light was originally intended for tables at a local restaurant.

TokyoHakerSpace’s Kimono Lamp looks a lot like a DIY version of the €35 Marmaled / Jelly Lamp from Semiki, but more technically advanced. (The Marmaled uses a tilt switch and two AAA batteries.) Really, when it comes down to it, the Marmaled’s jar and black label is what sets it apart. Of course, you can always buy jars wholesale

Video of the Kimono Lamp in action after the jump.

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“No Man. No Problem.”

Fourth in the series of indeterminate length, Recolonizing Detroit

The root cause of the problems Paul Romer encountered in Madagascar was the local population. So how about founding these cities not just in unpopulated areas, but in areas people do not identify with as well? Could this be effective? From the European perspective, that’s what the era of colonization was, but most of us have a more expansive view of ownership now. Today, the only land that doesn’t have recognized claims on is Antarctica (Actually, it’s a bit more complicated on that, but more on that later.), but that location is not likely to attract many people to it. What if instead of land, these cities were built in international waters, or somewhere else unclaimed by any country? What then?

That’s right, we’re talking about micronations.
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Mechanical Desks

While reading about secretary desks, I came across a related type I had never heard of before, the mechanical desk. A fad of the 1700s, these desks featured mechanisms that hid shelves and surfaces when not in use. It’s a real shame that these didn’t make a comeback when computers became widespread. Computer desks were dreadful. While hiding a 21 inch CRT that weight 150 pounds wouldn’t have been easy, the idea hiding materials when they are not needed appeals to me.

A modern interpretation of the mechanical desk is the Crescendo C2 from Stilvoll. I like how it looks like a drafting table, but expands to reveal bins. Of course, the role these bins play could have been solved with a traditional divided drawer. Still, this got me thinking.

I’ve considered getting a desktop computer, yet I don’t know what I would do with it. At work I love my MacPro and its three 24 inch LCDs, and part of me would love to have that setup at home, even if I don’t do much coding at home. If I ever took to telecommuting regularly, I’d need such a setup, including the Steelcase Leap chair, as even a 17 inch laptop just doesn’t quite cut it. Assuming I had desktop computer with multiple displays, I wouldn’t like having the monitors dominating the desk space. Yes, LCDs have a much smaller footprint than CRTs, but they still are visually imposing. Sometimes that’s what you want, but sometimes it’s not. A mechanical desk that could retract the screens would be great. Even better, if the desktop could expand. Perhaps a second pullout spring loaded leaf, kind of the like the Crescendo C2, but with a pushdown panel that has the screens mounted on swivel arms. Fold up the monitors and push them down into a little protected area behind the desk. Hide the tower and assorted wires in pedestal, and put file drawers in the other pedestal. (Personally, I prefer desks with legs rather than pedestals, but such a desk would look weird with big solid front on it.)

This is something I’m going to need to draw out.

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Interesting, Yet Outdated, Furniture

Writing about traveling bookcases and other dead media storage solutions got me thinking about other furniture that always seems pregnant with possibilities, yet just isn’t practical anymore: secretary desks, and travel desks.

I love all the cubby holes in the secretary desks. Holes full of letters, bills, and checks. Drawers containing pens, ink wells, and seals. All of it lockable. Its very structure conveys, “Important stuff happens here.” Need to do serious work on the go? Get a travel desk, the attache case’s awkward cousin.

While tasks like answering correspondence and paying bills have remained, the form they have taken has changed. No longer are we physically shuffling atoms around, but rather simply information. Email, online banking, and all the rest has replaced paper. Similarly, we no longer need travel desks, as our laptop contains everything that the desk, could and much more. Add a network connection, and almost nothing is out of reach. It seems increasing clear that physical media is dying. Newspaper circulation is down. CD sales have fallen. DVD and bluray are now seen as a transition technology as streaming is becoming increasingly widespread. (Thus Netflix’s price hike.) With the advent of eReaders and tablet computers, even the books and magazines seems in danger.

We’re losing the need to deal with physical items, and as a side effect, it seems like we’re losing an ability to signal our tastes; which is ironic, given how personalization and sharing has taken over the web. When visiting someone’s home, we would occupy ourselves by perusing each other’s bookshelves. The books, CDs, and DVDs were essentially the tag clouds of the physical world. They weren’t there just for storage, but also to signal our personality. Our collections not only express how we see ourselves, but also how we want others to see us.

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