A very useful illuminated hand held magnifier for 3 dollars


This handheld magnifying glass has two bright LEDs and is powered by 3 AAA cells (not included). The manufacturer says the magnification is 40X. I think it is less than that, but it is still plenty powerful for my needs - mainly, reading the markings on tiny electrical components and checking the layer fusion on 3D printed parts. I have a few different magnifiers, and this one has quickly become my favorite.

It's not like a regular magnifying glass. It's more like a jeweler's loupe. To use it, you hold it up to your eye and move close to the thing you want to look at.

It comes with a fake leather pouch. At $2.93 + free shipping on Amazon, it's a great value. Read the rest

Rise of the Synthesizer: How an Electronics Whiz Kid Gave the 1980s Its Signature Sound


The recent revival of all things '80s has spurred a newfound appreciation for the decade's signature sound, which was largely produced by the synthesizer. Until the late 1970s, synthesizers had been finicky and difficult instruments to play, but the Prophet-5 in 1978 and the Oberheim OB-Xa two years later changed all that. For example, the pop-synth riffs on Cars hits like "Let's Go" were produced by the Prophet-5, while everyone from Prince ("1999") to Eddie Van Halen ("Jump") ran their fingers across Oberheim keyboards.

To learn more about these instruments, I visited Lance Hill at his Vintage Synthesizer Museum in Oakland, California, and interviewed Dave Smith, who not only gave the world the Prophet-5 but also co-created MIDI, a file protocol that's so durable, it's been in 1.0 since its release in 1982.

Still, advances technology were changing more than just music. South of San Francisco, the Silicon Valley that only a few years before had been dominated by the aerospace industry was suddenly poised to be a proving ground for what would become the personal-computer revolution. Among the region’s watershed moments was the first meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club in March of 1975. Hosted in the garage of a programmer named Gordon French, the meeting was attended by a computer engineer named Steve Wozniak, who, with the marketing and sales support of his friend Steve Jobs, released the first Apple computer in the summer of 1976.

In short, the musical-synthesizer revolution was taking place at the exact same moment as the dawn of the personal computer.

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S.S. Adams invented over 700 practical jokes. Here's a great book about them


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

For over 100 years, the S.S. Adams Company of Neptune, New Jersey has been selling joy buzzers, sneezing powder, exploding cigars, fake vomit, extra salty salt water taffy, toy smoking monkeys, magic tricks, and hundreds of other inexpensive novelties loved by children and adults who act like children.

The S.S. Adams company gave Life of the Party author Kirk Demarais unprecedented access to its archives of tricks, gags, and ephemera dating back to the company’s humble beginnings as a manufacturer of Cachoo sneezing powder. Samuel Sorenson Adams sold 150,000 bottles of the stuff at ten cents each. The FDA eventually banned the powder, which contained a toxic ingredient called dianisidine. Undaunted, Adams went on to invent over 700 other practical jokes (many of which were awarded patents).

The photos of the many different magic tricks in Demarais’s book are the most appealing to me. Many of them are made from metal or wood and are beautiful and mysterious. I’m not a collector of anything, but I could become a collector of old magic tricks like this if I didn’t check myself. For now, I will content myself with this lavishly illustrated homage to a company that could only have thrived in an earlier century, when pleasures were simpler, and humor was broader.

The foreword is written by Acme Novelty Library cartoonist Chris Ware.

Life of the Party: A Visual History of the S.S. Adams Company, Makers of Pranks and Magic for 100 Years

By Kirk Demarais S.S. Read the rest

TV Magic Cards with Marshall Brodien - the best commercial ever


I wonder how many thousands of kids were introduced to the joy of magic from buying TV Magic Cards after watching this commercial that ran on TV ad nauseum in the early 1970s. Read the rest

Exclusive clip from new Russell Brand documentary


In this clip from the new documentary, Brand: A Second Coming, Russell Brand recounts the time he was at a protest in the streets of London. He climbed on top of a police van and took off his clothes. He was so alarmed by his "shrinkage," that he tried to "wank it to normal size."

Brand: A Second Coming chronicles actor / comedian / activist Russell Brand on his journey from addict, self-proclaimed narcissist and Hollywood star living in the fast-lane to his current, and unexpected, role as political disruptor & newfound hero to the underserved. Criticized for egomaniacal self-interest, Brand injects his madness in to the world and calls for revolution. He stays the course with an irreverent courage that inspires a new generation of activists to rise up against the ever-increasing world engorged in Consumerism.

Can Brand rise against the roar of criticism from the very system that built him? Does he have the fortitude, resilience and commitment to keep up the fight? Will he find true happiness which has eluded him since childhood? BRAND: A Second Coming takes audiences behind the scenes of this wildly complex man for an intimate look at what drives Russell Brand as he continues to be the consummate disruptor.

Brand: A Second Coming is a feature documentary produced, written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Ondi Timoner (Dig!, We Live in Public).

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Young woman can't keep her hands off Katy Perry on stage


Katy Perry invited a KatyCat named Rayane to join her onstage in Rio, and the young woman couldn't help herself from squeezing, neck-kissing, and licking Katy, who handled the ecstasy-fueled gropiung with professional aplomb. Read the rest

This woman got mad that a restaurant doesn't serve dog meat so she read an angry script at steakhouse diners


The leader of this protest group walked into a restaurant in Toronto and asked the hapless restaurant hostess why "dog meat" wasn't on the menu. The flustered hostess didn't have an answer for her. The protestor then walked into the middle of the dining area and yelled to get the patrons' attention. Read the rest

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Kanye West thinks home 3D printing is killing the shoe industry


"This is what I'm afraid of right here, 3D printing. Because the Internet destroyed the music industry and now this is what we're afraid of right now with the textile industry. There will come a time where people are making the shoes at home." – Kanye West, speaking about the threat to his shoe business during a visit to the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies in Armenia Read the rest

Cool $200 analog Moog synthesizer kit


I just found my Christmas present - the Moog Werkstatt-Ø1! It's about $200. Read the rest

An artist is Kickstarting a jigsaw puzzle of his awesome toy ray gun painting


John Padlo has a huge collection of vintage science fiction toys. He has been working on a giant-size painting of a bunch of his toy ray guns, and is almost finished. Now, he is Kickstarting a 500-piece puzzle of the painting. Read the rest

Two guys switch places in the driver's seat and freak out the drive-up window people


Rahat and his buddy are very good at quickly switching places in the driver's seat. They put this unusual talent to good use by driving to fast food places and making the drive-up workers think they are hallucinating. Read the rest

A Belgian photographer was allowed to photograph the inner circle of Japan's yakuza


In 2009, Belgian photographer Anton Kusters went to Japan and gained the trust of high-ranking members Japan's organized crime families, known as the yakuza. He was allowed to photograph them for two years, giving Westerners a revealing glimpse into the secretive underworld syndicate. He published a book in 2011, called Odo Yakuza Tokyo. Earlier this month The Economist produced a short film about Kusters' project, called Japan's Yakuza: Inside the syndicate. Read the rest

My new e-book: how to make cool magic trick card decks


Trick Decks: How to Hack Cards for Extraordinary Magic is my $2.99 Kindle e-book that will show you how to easily make different kinds of magic trick card decks. You can make the decks from ordinary playing cards and easy-to-find tools and materials.

It contains full-color photos and illustrations and clear instructions, as well as links to helpful videos. No special skills are required and these cards are fun to make for beginners and experienced magicians.

My 12-year-old daughter and I have been using these hand-made decks to delight friends and strangers with amazing tricks. Best of all, no one has ever guessed the secret to these tricks!

For more information, watch the above video or visit my website, trickdecks.org. Read the rest

Marijuana arrests in U.S. increased last year for the first time since 2009


The FBI reports that 700,993 people were arrested for marijuana-related offenses in 2014. More than 88% were for simple possession. This is the first time the number of arrests have increased since 2009. Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics and a supremely hateful racist, would be proud.

"These numbers refute the myth that nobody actually gets arrested for using marijuana," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It’s hard to imagine why more people were arrested for marijuana possession when fewer people than ever believe it should be a crime. Law enforcement officials should not be wasting their time and resources arresting and prosecuting adults for using marijuana. While law enforcement was busy making nearly three quarters of a million marijuana arrests, more than 35% of murders went unsolved, the clearance rate for rape was less than 40%, and for robbery and property crimes, it was below 30%."

There are a lot of reasons why weed arrests are on the rise. It's important to keep weed illegal to support the prison industry, drug testing labs, court-mandated treatment centers, law-enforcement budgets, corrupt officials, and all the other businesses that make money from weed prohibition. It's also a useful way to lock up poor people and minorities without having a legitimate reason. As a conservative estimate, every person who gets arrested for weed probably has to pay at least $1,000 in fines, bonds, treatment, lawyers, etc. $1,000 X 700,993 = 700 million dollars. Read the rest

Hand-crank LED lantern $11


This nifty collapsable lantern has a built-in lithium battery. You can charge it with a USB cable or by turning the crank. The manufacturer says you can also charge your phone in an emergency by turning the crank. It's regularly $19, but you can get it for $11 on Amazon when you use the promo code 4HM7FB68. It's the #1 Best Seller in Outdoor Tabletop Lighting on Amazon.

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