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This Vending Machine Dispenses Random Books for $2

Bibliophiles with a taste for adventure and mystery will love the Biblio-Mat. Located in Monkey's Paw, a used bookstore in Toronto, Canada, the vintage-looking vending machine dispenses random old books. It was designed and built by designer/animator/director Craig Small in 2012 to get the attention of patrons who might normally ignore the selections of discount bins in a sidewalk sale.

The Biblio-Mat was dreamt up by Monkey's Paw owner Stephen Fowler, who initially had a much different plan for operating the machine. "Originally, I thought maybe we would just have a refrigerator box and paint it to look like a vending machine," he told NPR, "and put a skinny assistant of mine inside and have him drop books out when people put a coin in." Instead, when Fowler told Small about his idea, the animator suggested building a working vending machine instead.

Small told the National Post that he used an old storage locker, purchased for $120, to house the Biblio-Mat. (The front of the cabinet became the back of the Biblio-Mat.) The books are loaded into columns, which rise when money is inserted, until the top book, resting at a 45-degree angle, falls. A laser tripwire keeps the shelf from rising further and dispensing more than one book at a time, while limit switches let employees know when a shelf is out of books. The Biblio-Mat is powered by an Arduino microprocessor and has an on-board computer to detect the size of inserted coins. When money is inserted, an old telephone bell rings and a series of pulleys delivers a mystery book to the anxiously waiting customer.

It took Small—who looked at everything from condom to tissue dispensers when building the machine—three months to build the one-of-a-kind machine. He told the National Post that the Biblio-Mat is “kind of like a Pez dispenser, but instead of spring-loaded from the bottom it pulls from the top.”

Since its debut, the Biblio-Mat has amassed plenty of fans, among them Neil Gaiman ("A random used-book vending machine. I think I am in love") and Margaret Atwood (“This! Is! Brilliant!”). The Biblio-Mat experience costs just $2.

[h/t Reddit]

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Hamilton Broadway
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Food
A Hamilton-Themed Cookbook is Coming
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Hamilton Broadway

Fans of Broadway hit Hamilton will soon be able to dine like the Founding Fathers: As Eater reports, a new Alexander Hamilton-inspired cookbook is slated for release in fall 2017.

Cover art for Laura Kumin's forthcoming cookbook
Amazon

Called The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World, the recipe collection by author Laura Kumin “takes you into Hamilton’s home and to his table, with historical information, recipes, and tips on how you can prepare food and serve the food that our founding fathers enjoyed in their day,” according to the Amazon description. It also recounts Hamilton’s favorite dishes, how he enjoyed them, and which ingredients were used.

Recipes included are cauliflower florets two ways, fried sausages and apples, gingerbread cake, and apple pie. (Cue the "young, scrappy, and hungry" references.) The cookbook’s official release is on November 21—but until then, you can stave off your appetite for all things Hamilton-related by downloading the musical’s new app.

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fun
New Tolkien-Themed Botany Book Describes the Plants of Middle-Earth
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iStock

While reading The Lord of the Rings saga, it's hard not to notice J.R.R. Tolkien’s clear love of nature. The books are replete with descriptions of lush foliage, rolling prairies, and coniferous forests. A new botany book builds on that knowledge. Entertainment Weekly reports that Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium provides fantasy-loving naturalists with a round-up of plants that grow in Middle-earth.

Written by University of Florida botanist Walter Judd, the book explores the ecology, etymology, and importance of over 160 plants. Many are either real—coffee, barley, wheat, etc.—or based on real-life species. (For example, pipe-weed may be tobacco, and mallorns are large trees similar to beech trees.)

Using his botany background, Judd explores why Tolkien may have felt compelled to include each in his fantasy world. His analyses are paired with woodcut-style drawings by artist Graham Judd, which depict Middle-earth's flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and shrubs in their "natural" environments.

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]

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