Staples now sells an “ultimate travel bag” online for $2 billion dollars is now selling an “ultimate travel bag” for the low low price of two billion dollars.

$2 billion, 147 million, 483 thousand, 647 dollars and 99 cents to be exact.


Ultimate Travel Bag!

Ultimate Travel Bag!


Wow. They’re not joking around when they whip out the “ultimate” label for something!

What’s mildly freaky is that I have apparently ordered this item before since it is showing up in “My Previously Ordered Items”, but there’s no photo available of what it looks like.

Either I’ve been “flashy thinged” by the Men In Black, or someone at needs to run some database maintenance ASAP.

There’s a NASA probe flying around in the asteroid belt?

Apparently I was asleep for a few years, because I totally missed that NASA sent a probe (with ion propulsion!) to mosey around the asteroid belt.

NASA’s probe DAWN has been in orbit around the asteroid Vesta since July 2011, and now it is about to pop off on a two and a half year journey to a dwarf planet Ceres (AKA : A really reeeeeally big asteroid).

We’re just flinging shiny toys all over the solar system. I like it!

Here’s the official NASA press release…

RELEASE: 12-303


WASHINGTON — NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is on track to become the first probe to orbit and study two distant destinations to help scientists answer questions about the formation of our solar system. The spacecraft is scheduled to leave the giant asteroid Vesta on Sept. 5 EDT (Sept. 4 PDT) to start its 2 1/2-year journey to the dwarf planet (AKA : A Really Really Big Asteroid) Ceres.

Dawn began its 3-billion-mile odyssey to explore the two most massive objects in the main asteroid belt in 2007. Dawn arrived at Vesta in July 2011 and will reach Ceres in early 2015. These two members of the asteroid belt have been witness to much of our solar system’s history.

The valuable evidence Dawn gathered from examining the first of these cosmic fossils up close improved our understanding of asteroids and provided context for a future human mission to visit an asteroid.

The spacecraft will spiral away from Vesta as gently as it arrived, using a special, hyper-efficient system called ion propulsion. The ion propulsion system uses electricity to ionize xenon to generate thrust. The 12-inch-wide ion thrusters provide less power than conventional engines but can maintain thrust for months at a time.

“Thrust is engaged and we now are climbing away from Vesta atop a blue-green pillar of xenon ions,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “We are feeling somewhat wistful about concluding a fantastically productive and exciting exploration of Vesta, but now we have our sights set on dwarf planet Ceres.”

Dawn provided close-up views of Vesta and unprecedented detail about the giant asteroid. Findings revealed that the asteroid had completely melted in the past, forming a layered body with an iron core. The spacecraft also revealed the collisions Vesta suffered in its southern hemisphere. The asteroid survived two colossal impacts in the last 2 billion years. Without Dawn, scientists would not have known about the dramatic troughs sculpted around Vesta, which are ripples from the two south polar impacts.

“We went to Vesta to fill in the blanks of our knowledge about the early history of our solar system,” said Christopher Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator, based at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “Dawn has filled in those pages and more, revealing to us how special Vesta is as a survivor from the earliest days of the solar system. We now can say with certainty that Vesta resembles a small planet more closely than a typical asteroid.”

JPL manages the mission to Vesta and Ceres for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

UCLA is responsible for the overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are part of the mission’s team.

For information about the Dawn mission, visit:


Why you shouldn’t buy the new HP Pavilion dv7 in one photo

Don’t buy the new HP Pavilion dv7.

I’ve had this new “top of the line” laptop from HP for awhile, and despite the impressive speed, built-in BluRay, HDMI access, giant screen, epic sound, and stupendous battery life, this one photo shows why it’s almost time to play laptop-frisbee.


Don't buy the HP Pavilion dv7


Left hand on the A, S, D and F keys? No problem!

Right hand on the J, K, L and ; keys? You will ALWAYS trigger the trackpad.

Imagine getting halfway through a document, only to see that somewhere along the line, the trackpad activated from a palm-hit. Now you’ve got whole paragraphs out of place and spliced words all over the document because the cursor was jumping around while you were typing.

There’s a button on the trackpad you can triple-tap to “deactivate” the input (the little white box on the upper left) so you can type with your palms on the palmrest like you’re supposed to, but there goes your live mouse editing ability.

Click off trackpad, type comfortably, see error on review, click on trackpad, move mouse to specific edit area, click off trackpad, type comfortably, click on trackpad, put mouse back to end of document, click off trackpad, type comfortably, see error, click off trackpad… that gets old surprisingly fast.

How hard would it have been for HP engineers to move the trackpad over just ONE INCH TO THE LEFT? Or make the trackpad just a little bit smaller?! Didn’t anyone in HP quality control sit down with an alpha of this laptop and try to type with it?

Sorry HP. This one behemoth design goof makes the dv7 a “hell no” in my book.

Cerealize review : it needs more than milk

A few months ago, I heard about a project called Cerealize. They were the winners of the StartupBus competition at SXSW with the blisteringly brilliant idea of letting you “mix custom breakfast cereal from your favorite ingredients” online!


Cerealize Logo


My first reaction? Something along the lines of “Oooooooo yeah!”

One day while browsing the ‘net, I saw Cerealize was accepting the first 100 people that sent in a reply to try out their website and get a taste of their product before it went “live” for the rest of the world. I quickly fired off an email and found out I was lucky number 10 of 100! Booya!

Once I got the secret credentials to login for ordering, I went to their website and saw this exquisite menu to choose from…


  • Puffed Quinoa
  • Corn Flakes
  • Mini Cookies
  • Honey Roasted Oates
  • Whole Grain Os


  • Almonds
  • Cocoa Nibs
  • Shredded Coconut
  • Hazelnuts
  • Cashews
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Goji Berry
  • Blueberry
  • Mango
  • Strawberry
  • Bananas
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Honey
  • Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans
  • Marshmallows
  • Bacon
  • Yogurt-Covered Raisins
  • Peeps


Mix and match? Any and all items? No limits?

The 8 year old in me was completely freaking out.

  • Peeps and Marshmallows on a base of Honey Roasted Oates!
  • Bacon and Brown Sugar on a base of Whole Grain Os!
  • Cocoa Nibs, Cocoa Powder, Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans and Shredded Coconut on a base of Corn Flakes!


I finally decided on something simple. Corn Flakes, Brown Sugar, Honey, Whole Grain O’s, Mini Cookies, Honey Roasted Oates and Bananas.

I finalized my personal magical concoction, and went straight to the PLACE ORDER page when I saw something that stopped me cold.

Any order and any combination would be $10.

$10? For a box of cereal? Dude! There better be something else in that box aside from whole grain goodness!

After my inner “Scrooge McDuck” quit WAAAAH WAAH WAH-ing and calmed down, I rationalized the cost wasn’t really that bad, and if I wanted new companies like this to succeed, I needed to invest.

Head in the clouds, and hoping for the best, I placed the order.

A few weeks passed, (with the occasional hard twitch when I thought about how much that ONE BOX OF CEREAL cost), but I finally received the box from Cerealize!


Cerealize 01


It was a bit smaller than I expected, but I was thrilled to see that it actually arrived and it was full of the breakfast goodness that I had created!


Cerealize 02


On the outside of the box was my number, immortalized in sharpie for all of cardboard time. #10 of #100!


Cerealize 03


When I opened the box to pull the bag out, I heard a clink at the bottom.


Cerealize 04


A plastic spoon? That’s kind of charming, I thought. But then I looked at the bag of happy bliss I had summoned from the vapors of the internet itself, and I immediately noticed…


Cerealize 06


…no bananas.

No bananas. None. Not a single Bah. Not a single Nana.

You would think one of the very top things of the to-do list when letting customers make their own $10 cereal is to get the ingredients right on their order. Forget about putting a half cent plastic spoon in the box! The customers are ordering custom-made cereal! Online! They probably already own a spoon-like food delivery tool of their very own! Job number one should have been “Did the contents of the bag match the order?”.

Inside the box was also a congratulatory letter addressed to me, saying how wonderful Cerealize is, yadda yadda yadda, and by the way, here’s a copy of the list of the ingredients you ordered. Ingredients that, you know, should have been in the cereal.

Aaand it gets worse.

I opened the bag and poured the cereal into a bowl. The contents didn’t look bad, but it didn’t look great either. Let me rephrase that… they didn’t look $10 kind of great.


Cerealize 07


You know those cereals that come in a big giant plastic bag at the supermarket? The ones waaaay at the end of the cereal isle with names like FROSTED FLAYKES and CHEERY-OHS? Those $1 cereals looked way better than what I saw in the bowl.

So the big question… the question that could make a bronze contender into a gold medal top-shelf grand poo-bah winner in the last few seconds of the home stretch… What did the cereal taste like?!



Cerealize 08


I poured in the milk and took a giant spoonful. It all tasted the same. Like nothing. The cookies didn’t say COOOOKIE. The Corn Flakes didn’t CRUNCH and say HEY THERE, MAC, HOWS YOUR MORNING? The bowl was uninspired. Everything blurred together. The cereal was, for lack of a better word, bland.

Not flat. Not tasty. Not terrible. Not stale. Just terribly bland.

The closest thing I can come up with to describe this cereal is if someone went back in time to a whole foods store from the early 80’s. Back when they didn’t know healthy food could have a taste, or that healthy food could taste like anything for that matter! It’s almost as if they put a baggie under every one of those old-fashioned floor-to-ceiling tubes of 80’s health-food cereals and went POOT POOT POOT down the line to fill a bag. Sure, everything looks different, but it all tastes the same.

When you mention “whole grain Os” to a cereal junkie, they’re going to expect Cheerios. When you mention “Mini Cookies”, to a cereal junkie they’re going to expect Cookie Crisp. When you mention “Corn Flakes ” to a cereal junkie, they’re going to expect Frosted Flakes. When you charge $10 to a cereal junkie, they’re going to expect something better than if they went out and bought three boxes of cereal at $3 each and poured them all together into a bowl themselves!

Right now on their ABOUT page, Cerealize says it “was born as a side project and we haven’t yet built cereal-production capabilities. We’re flattered by all the interest we’ve been getting, though. If there is enough market demand we might turn this into a business.”

Cerealize, if you’re reading, I wanted to believe. Really. This was a brilliant idea, guys. Brilliant! I can totally see Jerry Seinfeld being your spokesperson and the concept of Cerealize making the existing cereal juggernauts of the world have a righteous freak out. But man, this thing fell out of the sky and hit every branch of the ugly tree on the way down!

Make the ingredients tastier!

Make the boxes cheaper!

And don’t screw up the customer’s order!

Get those things right, Cerealize, and come again.

FDA recalls some Protica products “Because Of Possible Health Risk”

Anyone want some after-workout clostridium botulinum poisoning? Anyone?

Today, Protica pulled some of their health-and-after-workout products off the shelf “including Body Choice “Protein Shots”, Nutritional Resources “Protein Wave”, ProBalance “Protein to Go French Vanilla Latte” and “Protein to Go Milk Chocolate Shake” because they have the potential to be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium which can cause life-threatening illness or death. ”


Protein To Go Recall


“Botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning, can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.”

Not exactly the best thing to slam after a workout!

The affected lots are…

Protein to Go Milk Chocolate Shake (2.5oz bottle)

 Manufacture Date Lot Number
2/9/12 PP0402 4109 A
2/9/12 PP0402 4109 B
 2/9/12 PP0402 4109 C
 2/9/12  PP0402 4109 D
 2/9/12  PP0402 4109 E
 2/9/12  PP0402 4109 F
 2/9/12  PP0402 4109 G
 2/13/12 PP0442 4113
 2/16/12  PP0442 4115
 3/29/12  PP0892 4121
 4/12/12  PP1032 4131 A
 4/12/12  PP1032 4131 B
 4/25/12 PP1162 4134 B
 4/25/12  PP1162 4134 C
 4/25/12  PP1162 4134 A
 5/3/12  PP1242 4139
 5/8/12  PP1242 4140
 6/7/12  PP1592 4145 B
 6/7/12  PP1592 4145 A

Protein to Go French Vanilla Latte (2.5oz bottle)

 Manufacture Date Lot Number
9/8/2011  PP2511 4066 A
 9/8/2011  PP2511 4066 B
 10/11/2011  PP2841 4079
 10/18/2011  PP2911 4086
 12/6/2011  PP3401 4103
 2/13/2012  PP0442 4112
 4/2/2012  PP0932 4122
 4/4/2012  PP0952 4125
 4/11/2012  PP1022 4129
 4/24/2012  PP1152 4133 A
 4/24/2012  PP1152 4133 B
 4/24/2012  PP1152 4133 C
 5/1/2012  PP1222 4138 A
 5/1/2012  PP1222 4138 B
 5/1/2012  PP1222 4138 C
 5/8/2012  PP1292 4141
 6/8/2012  PP1592 4146 A
 6/8/2012  PP1592 4146 B

Nutritional Resources Protein Wave gelatin (6oz cup)

 Manufacture Date Lot Number
May 03 2012 PP 1242 6123

Body Choice Protein Shots (3oz vial)

 Manufacture Date LotNumber
Dec 20, 2011 PP 3541 2924


You can check out the official FDA press release here for some more details on the recall.

NASA, Birds, Pigs and gravity : a new collaboration with the “Angry Birds : Space” game

The latest version of Angry Birds has a direct tie-in with NASA’s recent Mars / Curiosity rover mission in addition to adding NASA rovers and landers to the game dynamics.

Sneaking legitimate education and real-time events into a game about birds that shoot at pigs in space through gravity wells?!

Why… thank you very much!

Here’s today’s NASA press release in full…

RELEASE: 12-285


WASHINGTON — NASA is helping pigs and birds explore the Martian terrain and shed light on the agency’s missions to the Red Planet in the latest update to the game Angry Birds Space. Rovio Entertainment, creator of Angry Birds, announced the update Thursday, complete with a cast of agency rovers and landers.

Earlier this year, millions of gamers were introduced to concepts of microgravity in Angry Birds Space, which was supported through a partnership with NASA and includes links to a variety of education information.

“Rovio is teaching huge new audiences about NASA’s missions to Mars thanks to this collaboration,” said David Weaver, associate administrator for communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It’s a great way to introduce both kids and adults to the wonders of the planet in a fun and entertaining way.”

NASA participated with Rovio on Angry Birds Space under a Space Act Agreement to share the excitement of space with the Angry Birds community, educate players about agency projects and programs, and collaboratively create interactive informational experiences for the public.

The game will include links to NASA web content about Mars exploration and NASA missions that are represented in the game. The content can be found at:

“We’re huge NASA fans, and we were all cheering the Mars Curiosity rover as it touched down,” said Peter Vesterbacka, chief marketing officer of Rovio Entertainment. “So, working together on the Mars update was a perfect fit, especially since we got such an amazing response to our previous collaboration, the ‘Angry Birds Space: NASA announcement’ video, which quickly surged to the top of 2012’s viral video charts. We’re thrilled to continue working with NASA. Stay tuned for even more great fun and educational content coming up.”

For more information about NASA’s Curiosity rover and Mars exploration, visit:

For more about NASA’s other missions and projects, visit:

Neiman Marcus (and Euclid) track you while you shop

A few weeks ago, my gorgeous wife and I went shopping at Neiman Marcus. We were just looking around on the third floor (AKA the “very expensive gadgets to make toast” floor), when I saw some water fountains near the customer service area. I went over, got a drink, and as I was walking back into the general shopping area, I saw this sign on the wall.


Euclid Elements Warning Sign


“To enhance our customer’s experience, we use Euclid to identiry mobile devices in and around our stores. Only the information that your device publicly broadcasts will be collected. If you do not want this information collected, or want to learn more information about Euclid, visit”

Wow. Tracking me in the store? Without my consent? That was a nice little “oh hell no” kind of surprise.

So I immediately visited and on the main landing page was a bullet-point style mash of “we do not link any information we collect with the owner” and it’s only “aggregate and anonymous data.”

Fine. But if you really want to know how Euclid works, you have to go in and read their big long Privacy Statement.

Here’s a summary…

“If and only if you have a wifi-equipped phone AND wifi is turned on, Euclid’s sensors collect your phone’s unique MAC address, some information that describes the manufacturer, and data that is used to estimate its location in relation to the sensor. We calculate and analyze client traffic based on these signals sent from shoppers’ mobile devices.”

In other words, they can tell exactly where you are in the store at any given point and how long you stay in each area.

They then “anonymize and analyze this information in order to provide our clients with valuable analytics reports so they can improve their operations.”

They have a LOT more detail on the Privacy Statement section of their site about the whys and hows their tech works, but this particular part stuck with me…

“Our clients use Euclid Services to answer questions like: How many new shoppers did I have today? Last week? Do more people stop and enter the store with one window display vs.or another? Do more people usually tend to grab a coffee or an ice cream after going to the dentist? Answering these questions does not require that we know who you are. We only need to determine that you are a unique person. ”


“Turning off wi-fi on your phone or turning the phone off will stop sensor collection but you are still advised to visit our site to delete any records we already have.”

Good to know.

Is this a big deal? Not if it had been addressed properly in the first place. I would have preferred a notice on the store’s entrance to let me know I had the option to opt-out before walking in. Like a software EULA. Let me, the customer, decide before you get my data if you can have my data. That’s the really important part right there. Don’t print this warning on a itty bitty sign and bury it in the no-man’s-land part of the store. I want to see things like this front and center.

The other part of this whole thing that bugs me is Euclid’s own statement that they “anonymize… this information.”

So, by inference, the collected data from my phone isn’t anonymous in the first place, and it is up to Euclid to anonymize it before passing it on to their paying customer. Soooo what happens if some other company buys Euclid later on down the line? Or what happens if someone breaches Euclid’s security just to take a little look-see at what data they have?

Just about everyone has WiFi constantly enabled on their phones these days, and some phones even have the “connect to any open network automatically” option checked by default. Tech companies like Euclid are probably very well aware of this, and I think this kind of “silent observation” is going to be more prevalent as more stores figure out they can very extensively track their customers from entry to exit.

Euclid’s motivations may be as pure as a chubby baby angel’s smile, but I highly recommend you go to the OPT OUT section on the Euclid website so that you can be removed from their databases, and by proxy, all the retail stores they support.

For now, I have it in my mind to switch off my phone’s WiFi whenever I enter any retail storefront. I’ve got nothing to hide, but just because I have nothing to hide doesn’t mean I want everybody and their dear old Aunt Petunia looking at what I’m doing either.

The latest in shopping cart technology

During a recent visit to Walgreens, I saw a rather interesting tech upgrade to the plain old shopping cart.

Inside the shopping basket was a notice on a bright yellow background. “Attention shoppers! Our shopping carts will lock if taken beyond the parking lot perimeter. While distinctive yellow lines mark normal exits, the entire lot perimeter is protected.”


Shopping Cart Tech 01


So being a total tech neeeerrrrd, I started taking looking at the shopping cart to figure out how it worked.

The wheels looked OK from inside the basket…


Shopping Cart Tech 02


…but at the ground level, it was obvious that one wheel was completely different.


Shopping Cart Tech 03


The front left wheel (the same as the warning illustrated) was encased, and not completely solid like the other three wheels. It also felt heavier to spin by hand, but I didn’t notice any difference in moving down the isles when I was pushing the cart.


Shopping Cart Tech 04


Did I put enough eeeeerrrrd’s in the neeeeerrrrd description above?

Anyhow, the “Trojan wheel” had 10 phillips screws all along the perimeter and didn’t make any noise or give any resistance when I changed directions suddenly while driving the cart.

I’m guessing that this wheel is always listening to a signal that tells it it is “inside” the store grounds, and once that signal fades, a locking mechanism clamps down on the front left axle to bring the basket to a grinding halt. But I wonder if that means the wheels need occasional recharging or if the motion of the basket recharges the unit like our kinetic motion can charge modern watches?

Another option would be if there is a actual line-of-sight signal fence along the store perimeter, where if the basket crosses the signal line (which would have to be from ground level to about a foot high), the wheel gets the OK to seize up.

It’s an interesting piece of tech that I see being useful to stop some thieves from getting away with $75-$400 pieces of store inventory, but I wonder if these stores thought of how easy this security would be to bypass. If I was a bad guy, all I would do is pop the nut and bolt off the “trojan wheel” and put on a “normal wheel” from another basket! Done!