Editorial: Do you know your Halloween?
Travel: Is business class worth it?
Technology: Alert firefighters towards people in a burning house.
Stationery: Horizon pocket sketching tool.
Gadgets and Gear: Fingertip Microscope for your phone.
Books and Writing: The long lost S.
Miscellaneous: Tool making crows.
PD: Store

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EDITORIAL: Do you know your Halloween?

Most people, particularly in English speaking countries, know of Halloween but almost no-one that PD and MOTS have spoken to know what it is. They know that children dress up as ghosts, ghouls and witches, and go door to door asking for treats (the trick part seems to have disappeared).


The Holiday, All Hallows' Eve, is believed to have arisen from an old Celtic tradition and been taken up by the early Christian Church to remember the dead. Observed on the 31st of October (it is a fixed date), it is the eve of All Hallows' Day, or All Saints' Day.

[Above: Fra Angelico, The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, 1420s]

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TRAVEL: Is business class worth it?

Whether business class on planes is worth 3-4 times economy class fare is a question that PD often gets asked. It is a serious question. Unless you are really cashed up think of the shopping that you could with the several thousand euros/dollars that it costs on top of an economy fare.


Of course business class is much nicer than economy. Not being squashed in your seat, especially if the person in front of you reclines his seat, is a good start. Being able to extend your seat into a bed is even better. The food is far tastier and the amenities kit is nicer, but the latter two do not cost thousands of euros. The bathrooms are slightly larger and are kept clean, something that you will appreciate on a long journey. Dedicated luggage drop-off and getting on and off the plane quickly is also more satisfying, as is seeing your luggage arrive sooner. Airport lounge access also makes life more pleasant, but these days you can buy entry for far less money (see PD; Cool Things issue 141 here: GHOST_URL/prowling-dog-cool-things-issue-141/).


However, whether it is worth it depends on the length of your flight. In PD's view, on short haul flights of 1-3 hours it is definitely a waste of money. Often on domestic routes the seats and legroom are the same as economy, however the middle seat is left empty and the snack is slightly better.

Long haul flights, especially those of eight or more hours, are a different matter. On those it is the difference between arriving at your destination rested or tired, whether you can walk off the plane and get on with things or whether you will crash in your room for a day.

Of course you could compromise. If your trip is especially long (such as MOTS', whose flight involves two legs of about 8 and 14 hours to get from his Australian home town to the European PD HQ), it may be worth doing economy for the short leg and business for the long leg. Or you could go premium economy all the way. Premium economy gives you more leg room than economy and a seat that reclines to about 45°. You also get priority boarding and disembarkation after business class. The main meal is economy food but served on crockery and with steel cutlery. You do not get lounge access (but see the above comment). And you save a lot of money compared to business class.


All of this applies if you are paying for the flight; if someone else or a company is paying, it is a no-brainer - go business class and drink the French champagne.

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TECHNOLOGY: Alert firefighters towards people in a burning house.

Fire is uncommon but unfortunately it can happen and people die, usually from smoke inhalation. The Smart Fire Rescue Assistance System alerts firefighters to rooms with people.


The device is placed on a window and is triggered by the sound of the smoke alarm to shine a strong flashing LED and laser beam that will be visible even through smoke.


PD thinks that safety items are never a waste of money. They may seem so, and you hope never to have to use them, but if something happens they suddenly become priceless.

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STATIONERY:  Horizon pocket sketching tool.

Sometimes you need to do a neat sketch or to have a small tool where a larger one would be cumbersome to use. The Horizon is what you reach for.


You can use it as a ruler with various scales, including metric and imperial as well as pixa and pixel for electronic measurements, and a protractor that can double up as a compass for drawing circles. This neat little tool comes in either aluminium or stainless steel and a choice of colours (black is available only in aluminium ones).


Get it here:

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GADGETS AND GEAR: Fingertip Microscope for your phone.

Several small microscope attachments for cell phones have appeared over the last few years. The devices are getting smaller and have better resolution, although nothing quite beat the Blips for size, literally a lens on a strip of cling tape (featured here: GHOST_URL/prowling-dog-issue-106/).


The recently announced Fingertip Microscope is even shorter, although thicker.


It attaches to the phone with a nano suction pad and has a shim for phones with raised lenses. In the past, PD has found problems with attaching phone microscopes with some types of phone covers.


The producers claim up to 800X magnification, achieved by combining magnification from the lens, the image enlargement by the camera processor and digital zoom.


They also claim superior quality for a single lens, which usually has a limited usable field of view, by using a multi-aspherical design.


Every microscope has to have back lighting to work. This one has a light guide that utilises the phone's flash's light. The people behind this project have had several successful microscope campaigns in the past. One neat item is their micrometer measuring tool for microscopes.


So who is it for? Children and schools come to mind (these are cheap and of far better quality than those old toy microscopes), as well as some professionals. Even those working with circuit boards and other tiny things.

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BOOKS AND WRITING: The long lost S.

Have you ever browsed old books and wondered why every now and then the printer snuck in an 'f' that seems totally out of place?


No, this is not an error or the result of too much drinking or poor eyesight! This is in fact the now disused and forgotten long S.


It was used at the beginning and middle of a word, or as the first s of a pair. The short S, which is the only form used today, was reserved for the end of a word. Having been the more common s for a long time, the long S fell into disuse by the middle of the 19th century.

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MISCELLANEOUS: Tool making crows.

We know that cavemen created tools and monkeys can use tools, but did you know that crows and their close relatives ravens can not only use tools but actually make them?

To verify this scientists put some food in a small container with a narrow slit at the bottom. Given dowels, the birds could use the sticks to get the food out. The scientists then kept shrinking the length of the dowels but also had some syringes there. Without prompting the birds assembled up to 4-part tools by using the dowels and syringes to lengthen the sticks in order to reach the food.


We will have to rethink our use of the term "bird-brain" - these creatures are smarter than most animals.


For the scientifically minded get all of the details are here:

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PD: Store

X90 Planner

The X90 Planner has been thoroughly tested by PD and featured in PD: Cool Things 178:


The planner is hard back but opens flat. It is clearly laid out and uses quality paper. It is undated, so you can start working on your goals immediately. There are 90 days in the planner, the ideal length of time to achieve goals.


From US $31.95 plus shipping. Local taxes may apply in your country.

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Important disclaimer: Remember that crowd funding sites are not stores. You may decide to back this project and provide funds, however there is no guarantee that any project will be delivered - the rate of failure is about 10%. PD is in no way accountable for the success or otherwise of any project and writes in this column purely for entertainment purposes, and will in no way be held liable for any failure or money lost by anyone. It is a case of "buyer beware". It is a sad reflection on the era we live in that PD must resort to this type of disclaimer.

Note: Photographs and illustrations are from the relevant websites and are the copyright of the respective owners.

© 2018 Prowling Dog