Whenever you do significant building reconstruction of any kind, there eventually comes the time when you need to choose the colours with which walls & things are going to be painted. Even though I’m a fairly visual person I have to confess that my mind just clouds over when I see a paint colour chart.

“What colour do you think for the walls,” asks Violet Towne, “White?”

“Oh sure, white is good,” I say. “Goes with everything and makes the decision-making simple!”

The problem is, the people who make paint don’t see things merely in black & white. There are TEN MILLION different shades of white. And they have a sample for every single one of them.

I scrutinize the contenders to which Violet Towne has narrowed down the choice, but inevitably, this is always how it ends up looking to me:


An Eye Pin

Violet Towne made me this ultra-geek-chic pin for my birthday.


And this little piggy went clubbing, drank one too many Lemon Ruskis, got into a punch-up with a Samoan bouncer and spent the night in the lock-up.

Instant Bill Henson

*WARNING: This is a geeky tech post. If things such as hacking devices to make them more fun don’t interest you, you should go have a coffee and a donut.

A recent article over at Lifehacker* explains how you can hack your digital point-and-shoot camera via software and turn it into a ‘super-camera’. The hack requires that you own a Canon camera and have some (fairly basic) computer skills, but it is on the whole pretty damn easy.

I have a Canon IXUS55 and it’s a great little camera. Most of the images that I’ve shot specially for The Cow have been recorded with it. It’s pretty darn versatile, but now I can can do a multitude of things that were previously not possible with it, and yet, bizarrely enough, are still functions contained within the camera’s operating parameters.

One thing that has always bugged me about my IXUS is that there is no battery life indicator. Well, with the Canon Developer’s Hardware Kit (CHDK) firmware installed, I get my wish, plus a host of other neato functions. For instance, I can now override the shutter speed of the camera, allowing me to take exposures of up to 60 seconds in length. Or, if I am inclined, go the other way and fire the shutter at faster than 1/10,000th of a second. As another feature, the CHDK also allows me to save my images as RAW (that is, uncompressed) image files, something that is usually the domain of professional gear (most point-and-shoots compress the images to jpg, which means you lose some of your potentially useful exposure data).

With the addition of some executable software scripts, I can also turn my little Canon into a motion-sensing camera (ie, movement will trip the shutter), an intervalometer (to allow automatic ‘time-lapse’) and rig it to record lightning flashes. There are a number of other very useful scripts written by users, and the database is increasing all the time.

I’ve only just started playing with it, so nothing especially great to show you right now (I quickly snapped the image above just for fun), but next week I’m intending to give it a good workout so stay tuned!

Cow Cool Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆


*I highly recommend that you check Lifehacker out. It’s not just geeky electro/computer/software stuff and I guarantee that no matter what your interests, you’ll find something there that’s totally cool. It is a little Windoze-heavy for my tastes, but at least they don’t totally ignore the Mac community.


Sheesh. The Catholic Church only ever really had one original idea and even that wasn’t terribly popular. Now they (or someone using their credentials anyway*) has gone into competition with Tetherd Cow Ahead and is treading on our turf…

The Pope's Cologne

PZ Myers over at Pharyngula brings to our attention a recent product to hit the Perfume Department shelves: The Pope’s Cologne. Long time readers of The Cow will know that this is well-worn territory in these parts, after our introduction in May 2006 of Lamb of God and prior to that (because we are not at all partisan here in The Cow Perfume Laboratories) of Satan’s preferred cologne Brimstone.

The Pope’s Cologne website claims to have in their possession the ‘private formula of Pope Pius IX’ and spruiks it as an “aristocratic, Old World cologne with suprising freshness…”. I hope their perfume chemistry is better than their spelling, but somehow I doubt it.

And we must wonder at the ‘suprising’ freshness. Why surprising (presuming that’s what they were trying to spell)? Is it because Pius IX is renowned as a smelly old bugger? Or did they whip it up out any old stuff they had lying around and then excitedly proclaim “Hey! Who’da thought turps and orange peel with a dash of kerosene would smell, like, fresh?”

The San Francisco Chronicle tells the story of the perfume’s rediscovery by Dr. Fred Hass, a general practitioner from California:

Hass found the purported recipe about seven years ago in a limited-edition 1963 cookbook published in the United States. The cookbook says the recipe is believed to have been passed down by the family of a French general who was in Pius’ papal guard.

One night, after a few glasses of wine with friends, he decided to make the concoction in his kitchen.

After a few glasses of wine with friends…’ Uh-huh. Lot’s of ‘great’ things happen like that.

“It was very pleasant,” said Hass’ cohort, Hank Sandbach of Sonoma, a retired vice president of Nabisco. “To think, if you close your eyes you’re in the presence of the pope. And if you splash a little on you get something even headier.”

Whoa there Hank! What exactly are you suggesting by that? Are you thinking, perhaps, that you chaps might have undersold yourselves there, now that the SF Chronicle has interviewed you, and that you should have tried, maybe, for God’s Perfume?

Here’s what Hass, undoubtedly aided by Hank’s expertise at the helm of Nabisco, came up with for the catchline for his scent:

The Pope’s Cologne ….a fresh new fragrance from the past.

Fresh. New. Two words not usually associated with the past. Usually things from the past are Old and Dusty. But hey.

Thing is, seeing as Pius IX was the Pope who declared Papal Infallibility as official Catholic Dogma I’m just suprised they missed the obvious marketing line:

The Pope’s Cologne. You simply CAN’T fail to impress.


*Despite the use of one of their figureheads, the Catholic Church doesn’t appear to have anything to do with this venture.


Radioshack Brilliant Idea

The people at RadioShack have been running a rather clever advertising concept illuminating their ‘Do Stuffâ„¢’‡ slogan. Briefly, it involves demonstrating how to accomplish some task, such as shooting candid nature shots of wild animals, by buying off-the-shelf RadioShack items and repurposing them.

Being a bit of a techno-geek, I respond very well to this kind of idea, so I’ve been checking in with the RadioShack site now and then to see what else they’re coming up with. Amusingly, the current (December) offering sees the RadioShack Geek Department comprehensively out-clevering itself in an enthusiastic bid to ratchet up the Christmas shopping turnover.

The concept is outlined in easy-to-follow steps under the uber-tekky, up-to-the-minute-geeky* title Caroling 2.0 and this pitch:

When the weather outside is frightful, and the fire is so delightful, it can be pretty hard to get excited about caroling. Luckily, all it takes is technology and a little know-how to sing to the neighbourhood, without dashing through the snow.

To synopsize the idea: you video yourself singing Christmas carols, edit the results and transfer them to your iPod. You attach your pod and a little speaker to a radio-controlled toy truck and then, from the cosy comfort of your living room, drive it off to your neighbours’ houses to infuse them with jolly musical holiday cheer (and all of the aforementioned tech-toys are purchased from RadioShack, of course). Easy peasy, eh?

Or, as the RadioShack Geek Department rates it:

    Difficulty: Easy
    Time: About an hour
    Result: A new holiday tradition

Here at the Tetherd Cow Geek Department, we think it would go slightly differently:

    Difficulty: Somewhat easier than assembling an IKEA bookshelf. But not much.
    Time: How good is your singing and how competent are your editing skills?
    Result: One stolen iPod & RC toy

Aside from anything, isn’t the whole point of Christmas caroling that you get together with a bunch of friends and trudge through the snow in order to spread the neighbourly Christmas spirit? And so you can trudge back again and enjoy brandy and eggnog and chestnuts roasting on an open fire?†

Sigh. Obviously I have, once gain, been left behind by the latest trends.

These days, it would appear, with a RadioShack purchased Wireless AV Sender, a RadioShack purchased camcorder and some RadioShack purchased AV cables, not only will your kids get see mommy kissing Santa Claus, they’ll be able to project the whole sordid affair as it happens, for all the world to see, using a RadioShack purchased video projector pointed at a convenient neighbourhood snow drift.

So with that thought in mind, a Special Tetherd Cow Christmas Competition!

Your task: re-imagine a Christmas tradition using a combination of products from the RadioShack catalogue. Keep it realistic (ie, feasible), make it purposeless (points will be deducted for anything deemed useful), make it inspired, and make it funny. If possible, refer to the lyrics of your favourite Christmas song.

There will be a prize for the cleverest invention. And it will be a special one.


‡Is it just me, or is all this trademarking starting to get A Bit Out Of Handâ„¢?

*Sarcasm (in case you think I was being serious).

†Well, I dunno. We don’t have anything like snow or icicles or Frosty the Snowman here of course, but from watching all the American films, I certainly got the impression that that’s what it was all about.


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