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My Ball of Wires

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Some people have a junk drawer. Some people have a shoebox of memories. But not me. I have a Ball of Wires.

The Ball spends its days overflowing a 31-gallon plastic tub. It contains my collection of audio/video, computer, and telephone cables, assembled over a decade of roaming the US, connecting things to other things. The Ball is hopelessly tangled -- it takes a good ten minutes to disentangle any given cable you want from the Ball -- assuming you can find it in the first place. I'm constantly removing cables from the Ball, but somehow it continues to gain mass and needs semi-annual upgrades into ever-larger plastic tubs.

Witness more details of my secret messiness after the jump.

Ball of Wires in Tub

Embedded in the Ball are: several obsolete cell phones, a TI graphing calculator from high school, an impressive array of SCSI cables from old Macs, several dozen RCA/RCA-to-1/4" audio cables, many hundreds of dollars of microphone cables, power cables, USB cables (several flavors), serial cables (Mac and PC), one parallel (printer) cable from a failed PC project, an answering machine, a metal music stand (in two pieces for easy storage), a USB hub from 1998, an assortment of telephone and Ethernet cords, a collection of torx wrenches, an anti-static wrist strap kit, an assortment of WiFi antennas, a Nintendo 64 controller (there used to be two, but one is out on permanent loan), several power strips, several computer mice, several 9-volt wall warts (many now hopelessly disassociated from their appliances of origin), and...well, you get it.

Ball of Wires - Big

My new visitor, Emma the cat, likes the Ball of Wires. It's chewy. Mostly I keep it under wraps (safely crammed in its host container), as it represents a sort of immense to-do item that may never get done. I bet if I spent a day disentangling, I could sort these all out. But how boring would that be? And wouldn't that destroy a handy metaphor?

A friend recently saw the Ball and suggested a good joke: "Just tell people you went wireless."

So what's your secret Ball of Wires? Do you have any special bits of clutter hiding in your home? Do you have any plans to deal with them?

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BioLite
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This 'Smokeless' Fire Pit Promises a More Efficient Burn
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BioLite

For thousands of years, people have gathered around open flames to cook food, find warmth, and share stories deep into the night. Campfires have been around since the dawn of humanity, but what if there was a way to use modern technology to make them even better? The people at BioLite believe they've found one.

The FirePit is the outdoor gadget startup's answer to the recreational, backyard fire. It offers the same benefits as a more conventional product: a space for building wood or charcoal fires, a removable grate for grilling, and metal screens on each side to protect onlookers from embers. But the yellow battery pack is what sets it apart from anything else on the market. With the press of a button, a fan inside the FirePit stokes a hotter, more efficient blaze without producing all of the smoke and soot people are used to.

Couple sitting by a firepit on the beach.
BioLite

"Air injection makes the fire burn more completely," Ryan Gist, one of the lead engineers on the project, told Mental Floss. "So you basically get all the energy out of your fuel." The result is a fire you can enjoy without worrying about your eyes and throat burning, moving your chair every five minutes to avoid a gust of smoke, or having your clothes stink for weeks.

It also makes for a fire capable of burning longer and brighter with less wood. Smoke is made of tiny fuel particles that haven't fully burned up. Using a fan, the FirePit can draw that runaway fuel back into the fire before it has a chance to escape. "It's like when you're stuck on the highway behind a truck and it's got black stuff coming out of the tailpipe," BioLite marketing director Erica Rosen told Mental Floss. "When you see black stuff coming out of a fire, it's the same thing. So what we've done is, we've given fire a tuneup."

FirePit's built-in fan makes the fire easy to control. If campfire gazers want to see big, roaring flames through the box's X-ray mesh, they can turn the air down low. The higher fan setting produces a smaller, more intense burn, which is perfect for chilly autumn nights. Adjusting the blaze can be done remotely with the BioLite Energy app or manually from the control panel on top of the battery pack.

People sitting by a fire.
BioLite

BioLite designed the FirePit for backyards, but its foldable legs make it convenient to carry to the beach, a campsite, or anywhere else where you might bring a cooler of the same size. Once it's cooled down after an evening of grilling hot dogs and toasting marshmallows, the pit fits neatly into its solar panel case, where it can recharge in time for the following night (the battery also features a USB plug for charging indoors).

The FirePit recently debuted on Kickstarter, where it's available along with its solar carrying case for a special deal of $169 (once the first 300 FirePits go, it will be sold for the regular price of $199). To help the campaign reach its $100,000 funding goal, you can reserve yours today with shipping estimated for May of next year.

Skewers cooking on a grill.
BioLite

All images courtesy of BioLite.

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ABBA Is Going on Tour—As Holograms
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AFP/Stringer/Getty Images

Missed your chance to watch ABBA perform live at the peak of their popularity? You’re in luck: Fans will soon be able to see the group in concert in all their chart-topping, 1970s glory—or rather, they’ll be able to see their holograms. As Mashable reports, a virtual version of the Swedish pop band is getting ready to go on tour.

ABBA split up in 1982, and the band hasn't been on tour since. (Though they did get together for a surprise reunion performance in 2016.) All four members of ABBA are still alive, but apparently not up for reentering the concert circuit when they can earn money on a holographic tour from the comfort of their homes.

The musicians of ABBA have already had the necessary measurements taken to bring their digital selves to life. The final holograms will resemble the band in the late 1970s, with their images projected in front of physical performers. Part of the show will be played live, but the main vocals will be lifted from original ABBA records and recordings of their 1977 Australian tour.

ABBA won’t be the first musical act to perform via hologram. Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, and Dean Martin have all been revived using the technology, but this may be one of the first times computerized avatars are standing in for big-name performers who are still around. ABBA super-fans will find out if “SOS” still sounds as catchy from the mouths of holograms when the tour launches in 2019.

[h/t Mashable]

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