Best school assembly ever: A lifelike dinosaur puppet

Boingboing recently posted a video showing a life-like dinosaur puppet, controlled by a masterful puppeteer, that brought delight and surprise to a group of Australian school children. I can only imagine my daughters hiding in fear as this thing lunged and roared at them! What’s so amazing is that the incredible realism of the puppet and its movements almost completely mask the puppetmaster’s legs sticking out of the costume.

If the kids weren’t already enthralled with the subject of paleontology, I’m sure they are now!

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Graphic novel helps prepare active duty personnel, family, friends for war zone deployment

If you still think graphic novels are just for kids, check out this very serious novel, “The DOCS”. Designed by RTI International in collaboration with the Naval Health Research Center, this 200-page publication serves a critical population: active duty personnel deploying to war zones and their family and friends.

The story follows four fictional corpsmen as they deploy to Iraq with the Marine Corps and encounter insurgent attacks and roadside bombs, as well as deal with the emotional turmoil of treating the wounded and family issues at home.

Corpsmen Banks, Jackson, Mendez, and Wallace deal with insurgent attacks and roadside bombs, treat gravely wounded Marines, and wrestle with the emotional turmoil of leaving their families behind.

The Docs realistically portrays common concerns faced by our military personnel in war zones and serves as a discussion tool for lessening the stigma associated with combat/operational stress (COSC).

While the novel is set in Afghanistan, the encounters and lessons can be applied to any war zone. The story covers common sources of stress soldiers encounter before, during, and after deployment. But, while the story is easy to read, many of the scenarios are not easy to digest.

There’s the pain of a mother left behind to take on the responsibilities of her husband’s job and role as father.

Then there’s the soldier who disobeys orders because he can’t personally justify firing on a child.

You may be moved trying to understand the emotional pain of a medic knowing she can’t do anything to save a fallen colleague.

You may even gain a new empathy for the IED survivor who loses his leg and whose life is changed forever.

For anyone who has a direct or indirect tie to a warfighter, this novel is a must-read. It could even prove useful for those who support national defense efforts from the comfort of an office and may never get near a war zone.

You can read “The DOCS” online, download the PDF (32.5MB) from the Navy Medical website, or, if you’re a member of the U.S. military, order your free print copy.

Use Feedfliks for advanced Netflix account management

If you’re not a Netflix subscriber, you either don’t watch movies or you enjoy endlessly browsing the local movie rental place for DVDs (that ultimately aren’t available) and racing the clock to return it before late fees start to accrue. For the rest of us, the mail-order and streaming movie service has risen to become a staple of media consumption.

Yet, despite an impressive DVD collection, an improving streaming catalog available from TiVo DVRs, many Blu-ray players, and iOS devices, the options for managing your media queue are underwhelming.

Enter Feedfliks, a companion site that fills in nearly all of the gaps of account management. Offering a full-featured free account option as well as a paid premium account option, Feedfliks gives you a data-rick peek into your account as well as email alerts.

Your dashboard lets you see if you’re getting the most out of your account. This can help you decide to go with a cheaper account (2 versus 3 discs out at a time, for example) or encourage you to return your DVDs more quickly.

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Would you use a touchscreen vending machine that included personalization and game dynamics?

Last year, a new Japanese vending machine technology made its rounds on the Internet as another innovative, if not creepy, application of personalization. The video below shows the machine in action.

When a customer steps up to the 47″ LCD screen to order a drink, a camera identifies the customer’s gender and age. Based on that information, the display highlights the options it has been programmed to suggest to that demographic as most desirable.

When the videos first hit the web, many folks commented that profiling customer demographics in order to influence buying seemed an invasion of privacy. However, perhaps this reaction is due to the fact that the machine only uses age and gender. Just a couple modifications would make the interface much more useful.

What if, instead of using a camera, the machine used near field communication (NFC) to recognize a customer’s phone (or even the payment card seen in the video)? Your phone could include data you’ve added such as your personal preference for drinks and snacks, dietary restrictions, or weight loss and nutrition goals. Then the choices would truly be customized to you.

Let’s take it one step further and introduce a gaming aspect of vending machines. What if the machine communicated with your phone to link to a social network where you earned points for good choices in vending machine food and drink (is there such a thing?). When you selected an option, perhaps the screen would display the nutrition information (Pokemon trading-card style?). Drinks could be represented by characters, each with their own strengths (caffeine, calories, vitamins/minerals).

Undoubtedly, high-calorie soft drink and snack manufacturers would work to prevent such a system. On the other hand, it might help them determine what customers really wanted. What if customers were awarded points for trying a new drink?

The “gamification” introduced in so areas of life combined with the advent of NFC could soon have a profound impact on industries as seemingly insignificant as vending machines.