Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality? –

30 11 2012

Discovered this NYT article thanks to a Tweet from David Usher (@davidusher), after his session at the Art of Marketing on Tuesday. I thought he was pretty cool most of the week, what with musical heartbeats and whatnot.

Heartbeat Experiment – David Usher from David Usher on Vimeo. [Similar to what he did in Vancouver.]


Now I read from his Tweets that he follows UFC, I’m a lot less impressed. I know,I know, prejudice is my middle name… or would be, if I had one!

Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality? –

Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality? -

Source: NY Times

It’s not all Hash Pipes and Hand-grenades

29 11 2012

Tuesday was a day well spent.

I spent it with two colleagues at a marketing seminar in Vancouver. “The Art of Marketing”. I know, I know… “yawn” right?! The MC was Ron Tite, who sounded like he should have a career doing voice-overs for Futurama or something. Far too hyped and loud for that time in the morning.

The first speaker was David Usher. I vaguely knew him to be a singer. Turns out he fronted a band called “Moist” (Fnaar, fnaar) back in the day. He’s still a recording artist, but has now started to indulge his interests in technology. Most of the women in the audience seemed to be particularly attentive I noticed. He gave a little talk about how his band found “the rhythm” of the show every time they went on stage. A slightly different tempo at each performance. Wouldn’t it be great, they mused, if the audience could set the rhythm? Enter Arduino, a heart monitor and a drum machine. He asked for a volunteer and rejecting the high hands of several hundred females in the  audience of 2,000, he stepped off the stage and cruised for the perfect victim. In the end, he selected one young lady because she averted her eyes from his gaze.

David Usher… and John

Under ever so slight duress, she followed him up on stage and held the device as instructed in both hands. The unmistakable thump of a heart beat began… except it sounded like a drum, not the sound we’re conditioned to hear from watching hospital TV series’. Usher commented on how fit she must be as it was a very slow rate. Once he casually draped his hand on her shoulder though the rate sharply increased, the audience laughed and she went a delicate shade of crimson. It rose higher when he jokingly started to massage her shoulders.

John the guitarist valiantly attempted to strum to the rate, and as predicted the soothing tones slowed down her pulse. Usher sang a few improv lines to the rhythm of her heart, and the demonstration was done.

Usher spoke eloquently about the hard slog and grit needed to produce creativity, but that he believed it was possible for anyone. Then came the classic quote which echoed through the rest of the day: “It’s not all hash pipes and hand-grenades” . Plainly this was not premeditated, and he said something along the lines of “not sure where that came from”. He then gave a generous Q&A session. One lady said she was herself a recording artist and asked for suggestions on how to “break out”. “Do it for the love of the music” was the not entirely helpful response.

After the break, Tite called Flora Ware – the young lady who’d asked the question – up to the stage and offered her the opportunity to sing A Capella to the 2,000 strong  audience. Without hesitation she accepted and belted out a note perfect rendition of a jazz ballad to loud applause.

Mitch Joel was next up, and gave an interesting session about how to better engage the customer and have “sex with data”. He gave lots of great innovative examples including Amazon’s PriceCheck, Kickstarter crowd funding and Chipotle’s Coldplay-murdering Willie Nelson food video. He asserts that the “three screen” era (TV, PC, phone) is passing, as we enter a single screen era.

This video about Samsung’s new Smart Window technology was shown as an example of what’s just around the corner…

More people in the world, it seems, have access to mobile phones than either mains electricity or even safe drinking water.

Randi Zuckerberg (Mark – of Facebook fame – is her brother) was very smiley… and totally forgettable.

Biz Stone came next and was entertaining even if he seemed a little, er, medicated. That or exceedingly laid back. Which is possible given he co-founded Twitter. To the early complaint that “Twitter isn’t useful”, his co-founder Evan Williams is purported to have replied “Well neither is ice-cream! Shall we ban it and all joy?”

Lastly, we had Scott Stratten. From Toronto. But we won’t hold that against him. He said he used to be in HR until he realised he hated people. Then he moved into marketing… where it was OK to hate people. He came perilously close to being a stand-up comedian, but managed to keep a curb on his anti-QR Code rant, and instead gave some hilarious examples of how NOT to use it.

  • Like in aeroplane magazines… when you can’t use the internet
  • Or in emails to mobile phones… when the camera is on the opposite side to the screen you’re reading it on
  • Or in web pages… when the QR code sends you to the same web page
  • Or pulled behind an aeroplane, so you need to run down the street trying to scan it from the sky
  • Or on a dog tag in case the hound gets lost… but without a phone number! (Remember what you use to scan a QR code? Yup – a phone!)

Or my favourite… on the back of a bus! Readable only from a moving vehicle! And note what it gives you access to – Atlanta Medical Center ER. No irony at all…

Update: OK – so I found a really good image showing the bus I was talking about. Unfortunately, since I wrote the post late at night, I had forgotten to do the usual and add the source location. My bad. I was tired. I had added a link to encourage people who were interested to visit their site and read more, but had forgotten to mention it in words.

Anyway, the site owner seems to have an issue with people actually seeing their content, despite it being on a public website, easily locatable via google images, blah, blah, and put up a snotty replacement image instead. OK. A little rude (they’re probably Lancastrian 🙂 ) but OK. The image had words about stealing their bandwidth. OK… but it seemed to miss the point that even THAT image needed downloading from their site.

C’est la vie dear reader… there’s nowt as queer as folk.

Cool to be you!

29 11 2012

Via Skype…

First Born:   I wrote for the library’s blog. My boss said I am a good writer
Quieter Elephant: Cool! I’m going to blog you!
FB: Thank you.
QE: And twitter. You’re a cyber-star now 🙂
FB: you have a twitter?
QE: As of a couple of days ago
FB: man you’re cooler than me, i don’t even have a twitter
QE: Can I quote you on that? 🙂
FB: yes

Hey, take the credit where you find it! It’s not often I get called “cool” by anyone these days… let alone my kids!


Cellulite and You

29 11 2012

OK, so those of you paying attention will recall that First Born is currently on a co-op placement in Leysin, Switzerland. She’s there as the librarian for the American School (they recruit co-op students from Waterloo, Ontario – go figure!) Anyway, she was asked to write an article for their blog, and being the proud pachyderm parent that I am, I bring you, here for the first time in North America (drum-roll please…)

Tales from the StacksShort Stories from LAS Library, about LAS Library

(Don’t laugh – someone spent ages thinking of that!)

I look forward to comments from “proper” North Americans identifying the words/sentence constructs that give away that she’s (i) educated in Canada as opposed to America or (ii) she is essentially still English.

I give you, as a starting point, the suggestion that “whence” isn’t so common in these parts… Am I wrong?

Wildly Low-cost Solution to Clearing Afghan Landmines

28 11 2012

Here’s a dirt cheap (€40!) way to clear anti-personnel mines left over in Afghanistan. Developed from a wind-powered toy he used to play with in the windy deserts of Kabul.

Intermission: Hauntingly Beautiful, Wildly Low-cost Solution to Clearing Afghan Landmines | Design on GOOD.


10 Notable Staircases – Mental Floss

28 11 2012

“Miss Cellania’s Files” – I loved the title of this post.

10 Notable Staircases – Mental Floss.

A free school under a bridge in India – PhotoBlog

28 11 2012

So cool!

The photos themselves are amazing. But way more importantly, here are educators bringing learning to where it’s needed… to people who want to learn! Slum kids living in New Delhi. The blackboards are black paint on the underpass.

Compare these expressions to those on kids who take education for granted in any number of schools you care to mention.

A free school under a bridge in India – PhotoBlog.

BBC News – Mushroom soup claims fourth victim in California

27 11 2012

Oh dear…

BBC News – Mushroom soup claims fourth victim in California.

The Amanita family, according to Wikipedia “is responsible for approximately 95% of the fatalities resulting from mushroom poisoning, with the death cap accounting for about 50% on its own.”

At a lecture I attended at the Vancouver Mycological Society, I learned that an Asian edible mushroom  – The Straw Mushroom – was very similar in appearance to the young “Death Cap” and that recent immigrants to Vancouver quite regularly ate the latter by accident, resulting in poisoning. Perhaps this was the case in the BBC story… a little further South.

Wikipedia: Young Death Cap

Wikipedia: Safe-to-eat Straw Mushrooms


You look good enough to eat

25 11 2012

So I will!

Today was the day. After weeks of patiently watching fungus grow in my garage… I ate it. It tasted wonderful. I have never eaten oyster mushrooms before, so wanted to eat them tout seul to savour the taste. Having said that, I ended up frying them in a little bacon fat, but when all is said and done – I’m a bloke! The alternative would have involved an extra 5 minutes and some washing up liquid. Unconscionable! I went all out and put a sprig of fresh basil as garnish from my kitchen windowsill stash.

Feast your eyes…

Lorenzo Duran and BAFTA awards

24 11 2012

Years ago I used to live in the UK and was an annual member of the National Trust. As a subscriber I got to visit all manner of Manor Houses (sorry – couldn’t help myself). Amongst them was Snowshill Manor – about which I wrote in an earlier post. (If you’re interested, I’ll leave that as an exercise in googling.) One of the bewildering collections there was a small group of scrimshaw carvings by sailors and Napoleonic prisoners. In bone and ivory. Also some very fine oriental cricket cages. All were examples of very fine handiwork. Good ol’ StumbleUpon led me to this page today. A similar level of detail… but on leaves!! Lorenzo Duran – (It’s in Italian, but most browsers will translate it for you if you feel the need).

On a very tenuously connected thread…

When I was a Scout Leader in the UK, one of my young charges went by the name of Diarmid Scrimshaw. Still does actually – why change such a great name? It’s pronounced “Dermott” BTW, in case you were wondering. (I won’t share here what his rather cruel nickname at the time was – boys will be boys!) He was a bit smarter than the average, and I took a shine to him because he was a little bit out of phase with the rather bland world around him in Stony Stratford.

He used to ride a unicycle, just as a random example. To and from Scout meetings. While juggling live cats and chainsaws. OK, not actually, but the unicycle was real enough. I vaguely recall he was a dab hand with cards tricks too, and even more vaguely recall fire eating, but that might just be a false memory. A born performer, nevertheless.

I once bumped into him in a bar at the local cinema complex (he was still very much under drinking age) and he was dressed something like the Blues Brothers. It turned out he was there to play trombone with a band going by the name of The Blues Collective. I have a CD of their’s… not bad at all (“Hot Hits – Volume 1″… not at all pretentious!). Not unlike the sound of the band in The Commitments actually. Plainly this young man would go far. Here’s the opening track “Syrup” about a French prostitute.

Turns out he did go far after all. He just won a BAFTA award as the producer of “The Tyrannosaur“!! Read his interview here.

He just went up even further in my esteem as I learn on IMDB that he produced the Arctic Monkeys at the Apollo!

Guru: Diarmid Scrimshaw: now appearing on TWO wheels!

Diarmid on the right with Paddy Considine