Fashion Princesses

Fashion Princesses

Fashion Princesses

Disney princesses are depicted almost exclusively in their elegant ball attire, but artist Victoria Ridzel has imagined them as modern-looking teenagers in appropriately casual dress. With twelve princesses in all, only Princess Aurora seems happy to be pictured. Belle is fantastically bookish, Mulan deliciously tomboyish, and Ariel as rebellious as they come.

As with the “realistic princesses” from Jirka Vinse Jonatan Väätäinen, the splash of attitude and deviation from how these characters are normally seen adds some delightful believability to them.

Fashion Princesses

Fashion Princesses

High-resolution copies are available at Ms. viria13’s deviantART page.

Power Your Own Hubble

Vehicle Power Interface with the Doors Open

Vehicle Power Interface with the Doors Open

If you have an extra $75,000 saved up and you’re looking for a good Valentine’s Day present, you could buy the “Vehicle Power Interface” for the Hubble Space Telescope on eBay!

According to the auction’s description, the console weighs 2,750 pounds and was used to provide power to the telescope and test its on-board power systems while the telescope was still on the ground. An accompanying log book includes details of the equipment’s usage.

On the other hand, the eBay seller has no obvious affiliation with NASA and has only four reviews (all positive), so I’ll probably save my $75,000 for other completely impractical pieces of NASA equipment that may become available in the future. Ideally I’d like to hold out for a Canadarm.

(via Boing Boing)


From an online discussion pertaining to today’s middle school geometry homework:

I can’t seem to draw anything that ends in “agon”

I assume that means the assorted “angle” and “ircle” shapes proved easier.

The Simpsonzu

Apparently this is already wildly famous, but I’d never seen it. The official title is The Simpsonzu, but it’s been described as “realistic Simpsons” and “anime Simpsons” in posts I’ve seen. Nina Matsumoto, known as spacecoyote on deviantart, created the piece in 2007 and has since won an Eisner award for it.

The Simpsonzu

The Simpsonzu

More than anything I think it’s “The Simpsons with More Than Two Colors Each”.

Darwin 2012

This campaign poster for biological evolution by natural selection turned up recently:

But it’s not quite right! Someone quickly whipped up a fix:

This is closer… but still not correct! Here’s the ultimate version:

I imagine this is exactly the sort of science early pioneers of the Internet envisioned.

Atomic Energy Lab

The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab is clearly the greatest toy ever invented.

No. U-238 Atomic Energy Lab

No. U-238 Atomic Energy Lab

I had a pretty fancy “200-in-1” electronics kit of my own as a kid with a light bulb, buzzer, and other components for building radios and other basic circuits. Unlike the U-238 Atomic Energy kit, mine did not include four separate radioactive elements or a certificate to order replacement radioactive elements when the included samples inevitably “deteriorate” over time.


High Five

I love scientific analysis of unscientific things — like when Wikipedia takes on the high five:

The gesture takes its name from the “five” fingers and the raising of the hand “high”. This is opposed to the “low” five which has been a part of the African-American culture since at least World War II. It’s probably impossible to know exactly when the low first transitioned to a high, but there are many creation myths.

The best part of the article is a helpful series of photographs clarifying the proper manner in which to perform the “too slow” variation:

"Too Slow"

"Too Slow"

Zoom in on the facial expressions for Victim misses and “Too slow”. I don’t remember anything like that in The Encyclopedia Britannica we had back in the dark days when learning about something took more than 30 seconds.

Fun fact: the high five was invented in 1977.

[Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Glenn] Burke, waiting on deck, thrust his hand enthusiastically over his head to greet his friend at the plate. [Leftfielder Dusty] Baker, not knowing what to do, smacked it. “His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back,” says Baker, now 62 and managing the Reds. “So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed like the thing to do.”

Another fun fact: Glenn Burke was gay. Grade school bullies inclined to shout out homophobic insults and then high five about it should just keep that in mind. (Wikipedia cites that fact to a book titled Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgenders, which is at once the most awesome and the most horrifying book title ever.)


I recently signed up for the financial website Mint to see how it compared to our existing financial organization (a fancy Google Spreadsheet). Though Mint came highly recommended, it doesn’t compare favorably.

Mint does a good job of aggregating account information in one place, so I can now see on a single screen our credit card charges, banking transactions, investments, mortgage balance, and home equity (using the current estimate for our property’s market value from Zillow). This gives an excellent picture of our net worth at a glance, which is fun to see.

Mint's "Spending Over Time" Graph

Mint's "Spending Over Time" Graph

The site then categorizes expenses and graphs your spending on coffee (for example) over time. This is imperfect but it’s easy enough to correct errors.

But the point of any financial tool isn’t to analyze past spending but to budget future spending. Mint’s offering there is fairly weak. The entire model is built around categories so you can budget your coffee consumption or groceries for the month.

That’s not a bad idea, but it overlooks several major aspects of how people spend money. I’ll outline five of them.

First, our real budget accounts for several fixed once-monthly expenses like Netflix. That’s clearly an “Entertainment” expense, but it’s not really an optional expense from month to month. Unless we cancel the service, Netflix will charge us exactly $7.99 at some point in January, which means we have $7.99 less to spend than our paychecks say. The same is true for phone service, cable television, and other monthly activities. In Mint, though, you can’t track particular bills; you can only track categories. It might report that you’ve got $30 left for entertainment, but does that include Netflix? Or do you really only have $22.01 left?

Second, we account for some variable once-monthly expenses like our electric bill. I don’t know the amount for January’s bill but I know we’ll get one. This means our budget may set aside $200 for electricity but when the bill arrives we pay only $100 then we instantly have an extra $100 to spend on something else. In Mint, if your utilities budget is $200 and you’ve spent only half of it, the other half is still ready to go. There is no concept of being “done” with an expense.

Third, Mint does allow some control for unusual or one-time expenses in that you can set a budget for a certain category in only one month, but the reasoning is opaque. In my spreadsheet I may add a line for “Dentist Appointment” but in Mint I must instead increase the budget in my “Health & Fitness” category by that amount. If the appointment moves I have to decrease this month’s amount and increase next month’s.

Finally, Mint’s budgets are generally confined to a single month; there’s no clear picture of the annual budget. We pay our car insurance premium in full in January and July, which means we overspend dramatically those months. January’s budget alone makes us appear to be living well beyond our means. But a complete annual budget shows that we more than make up the difference in the other ten months and in fact save nearly $200 on our premium in the end.

The area where Mint works well is for ongoing expenses like groceries and entertainment. As long as your spending categories align with your budget categories, the budgeting tool works well. What you can’t do is budget entertainment and clothing as a lump sum while still tracking spending in each category separately.

I update our budget spreadsheet every day with our most recent expenses. The task is the worst part of a spreadsheet budget and it’s what Mint does best. For Mint to be useful as a financial tool, the budgeting needs to improve.

I’d like to see a focus on (and organization around) expenses: the kind you know in advance and the kind you don’t. Categories are great for analysis, but they shouldn’t be so critical in budgeting future spending. And there needs to be a better “big picture” view of an entire year (or more).

Mint is already immensely powerful and it’s completely free. As several people have pointed out to me, for someone who doesn’t already have a household budget, Mint would be an excellent place to start. And maybe after a while you too can setup a Google Spreadsheet!