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Light as light

Physics Stack Exchange is a Q & A site for active researchers, academics and students of physics; anyone can ask or answer, and the best answers rise to the top by votes. It’s genuinely interesting and lots of fun.

One post listed methods of storing cold (ice), heat (i.e. hot water bag), electrical charge (batteries) and, in a stretch, “storing” a magnetic field in a magnet, then went on to wonder what keeps us from doing the same with light.


Among other things, the top answer speculates on photons (and, by default, the whole particle/wave thing), having to accommodate the stored light’s speed (186,000 miles a second) and mirrors to keep it bouncing around – but an article in PhysicsWorld tells of research into a solution.

Presently, in switching and data processing operations, light pulses carried over fiber optic cables must be converted to electrical signals and back to light – a costly operation.

The research looks into a method of eliminating these conversion steps by capturing the pulses within a micro-fiber, itself wrapped between the bulges of a resonator-laden tube.


Though held for an impossibly short time, it’s much longer than achieved in earlier experiments and long enough to manipulate the data. Grab some caffeine and dig into this fascinating stuff.

Lobe at first sight

“Things Organized Neatly” is both a Tumbler photoblog and a book curated by Austin Radcliffe that, for me, sets off a curious cranial crossfire.


Since I have both artistic and organizational bents, TON has me teetering between  A) finding the photos deeply satisfying and  B) wanting to rail against the OCD that fuels stuff like this.


Mostly, though, these’s so much creativity and humor on display here that my brain’s two hemispheres just sort of point, laugh and dance together, each delighted at seeing the other with their pants down.


Raw Shoe Wedge

This second footwear-related entry is as close as this blog’s likely to come in adopting a trend or, at least, a shoe department.


The product in our first such post assembled the pairs’ triangular shapes into a wheel, toes to the hub.

This second one, “Shoe Slotz“, nests each pair vertically within a shelf-standing injected mold. Simple and duh-clever (although, unfortunately, their homepage video depicts “before” shoe-searching women as manic-depressive idiots).

But personally, Imelda, I’ve always thought that if you have so many shoes that storing them is a problem — then maybe that’s not your problem.

Stack ‘em if ya got ‘em.

Sentinels of New York


Brick & Water Tower

As a NYC expatriate, I frequently go on-line to read of how my old hometown is changing. The thing I see most – and hear from friends still there – regards the gentrification of what gave (particularly) Manhattan its character – the small Mom & Pop stores on the perimeter of the core wealth.

There have been – for literally hundreds of years – small retail and trade shops specializing in virtually every conceivable trade, craft or supply for home, business, body or stomach, now largely decimated by landlords clutching at trendy chain-store lucre.

The quadrupling of rents is common; such was the fate of seminal punk/new wave club CBGB, perhaps one of the most publicized such insults.

One NYC photoblog and book by James and Karla Murray has documented the disappearance of these storefronts, and a Smithsonian Magazine post has (with the aid of  the Murrays’ photography) also noted this whitewash in before/after contrasts. Anthony Bourdain has also chimed in with a list of get-them-while-they’re-still-here bistros.

And, while hope and character still exist in many holders-on and scores of great shops in Queens, Brooklyn and da Bronx, an article in AMNewYork really made my heart sing. And yes — it’s related to storage!


Any marginally observant NYC walker will notice wooden water towers on top of just about every commercial structure. They are EVERYwhere, and most appear ancient; I had always assumed them to be remnants of an older infrastructure, now mostly inactive or soon to be obsolete – perhaps they were more costly to remove?

However, while leaving me with some questions about the mechanics of it all, the article makes it clear that their presence is greatly misunderstood, even by natives, and that their need is vital and ongoing.

I like to think that they’re watching, and that they have a special watery consequence in store for each and every sellout.


From Skylab to Times Square

While only tangential to our mission here, this article from The Huffington Post (actually, Huffpost New York) on a means of keeping flood waters, smoke and even terrorists’ gasses from the masses greatly appealed to the ex-NYC’er in me.


In the wake of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy flooding the subway tunnels, municipal minds have been prototyping and testing huge (internal capacity of 35,000 gallons) inflatable plugs which could be deployed remotely throughout the subway system like so many air bags.

Originally conceived as part of a Homeland Security project, they’re made of a fabric similar to that used in space suits.

Seems NASA’s long line of tech spinoffs continues.

The Less Said the Better

The site Apartment Geeks has some great products and ideas in their 11/25/12 post “15 Apartment Space Saving Ideas”.

Operative word: some.

kitchen-and-bath-combined_59651 copy

Number 12, an item from design house Philippe Malouin, deservedly receives a cleverly snarky comment.

And I’m just staying out of it.

Totally Tubular

An entry at Unclutterer has a neat take on organizing your home extension cords and, while this is a pretty good idea in a Martha Stewart universe, it also fires up a Pavlovian comparison in my head.

I played drums and/or bass in bands some years back – quite some time before the widespread adoption (and price-lowering) of wireless stage and instrument technologies – so we had hundreds of miles of — class?

Cords! Power cords, mic cables, guitar cords, amp cords — everything was hard wired.

Before we could afford roadies, I was in charge of running the the snake to the stage and making all related hook-ups, all of which burned a synaptic connection so strong I can still smell the smoke; I look at this article and instinctively visualize a post-gig fantasy/nightmare with thousands of TP tubes into which I am tasked to stuff 200 cubic feet of rat’s nest.


But then SNAP — back in the here-and-now, my gigging days a far-away mist, I find this photo deeply comforting…


Spud Farming in Gotham

My childhood home is a 3-floor, 2-family house in a middle-class (then; now, precede with “lower”) neighborhood in Queens, New York City. As spacious as it was, especially to a child, our backyard was typically small – no larger than what’s in the foreground of this Google-search-acquired photo:


But, not long after Summer had arrived, my sainted Mom produced produce that rivaled any local market in quantity and far surpassed them in quality.

I thought of her the moment I saw this – a clever method grows up to 100 pounds of potatoes within a 4-foot-square footprint by going vertical. This article at Tipnut details the method, variations and details – this illustration among them.


Don’t Whirlpool that joint, my friend…

This post is informed by two things only — our interest in all things storage and the growing wave of marijuana legalization as a sociopolitical phenomenon. In this regard we are completely Straight Edge here at CSS.

Personally, I have never seen a quantity of pot that made me wonder “How do you store that much stuff?”; the kids I knew back in the day kept a single sandwich-baggie in the back of the closet.

But for those with a larger investment is this article from “Weeds That Please” on the proper refrigeration of one’s stash along with many others with titles like “Not Getting High?”, “Stoner Contest” and “Cannabis Conundrum”.

Help yourself to the snacks; I’ll be next door actually getting something done.

P.S. In the likely event that you don’t get the title of this entry, try this 60s relic.

The Lost “Quantum Mechanics” Seinfeld Episode

I was grabbed by the headline “Physicists Successfully Store and Retrieve Nothing” which explains that the “nothing” was actually a “squeezed vacuum” — which yields quite a few Google hits if you’re so inclined.

For me, it was a quick-n’-easy blog post.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Jerry & Kramer

Hammer Time

I wouldn’t want to dehumanize a segment of the population just to stay on topic but, in truth, one of any society’s challenges is where to store the disadvantaged.

And while scores wander the streets tragically content to stay there, exponentially more are hard-working people on the downside of advantage, eager to improve their circumstance – and you can help them, yourself and the world rebuild.

Leading the modern-day movement for affordable housing since 1976, Habitat For Humanity has built well over 300,000 new homes around the globe and repaired or renovated countless more.

It’s not a giveaway; those accepted pitch in and sweat with volunteers to build simple, decent homes in decent neighborhoods, then purchase them at cost with a 0% loan.

This model has housed well over 1.5 million people and, as importantly, tens of millions of volunteers have been mobilized to help their fellow fellow. And, In many countries, purchasing a Habitat house costs less per month than renting substandard housing.

Last month, on February 3, Habitat’s founder passed away. His name was Millard Fuller, and you would do well to learn about this man and the organization he started.

You would do even better, as I do most Saturdays, to work side-by-side with a crew in your area. Anyone can help regardless of your skill or experience, and they are building everywhere.

I guarantee that you will meet some very special people and feel like a million bucks by quitting time.

It’s 10:00 PM. Do you know where your nipples are?

From the site “Mommies With Style” – which is exactly what you’d think – comes this repurposing of what looks to me like last year’s Nano + EarBud holder.

Yes, it’s the “Essentials Pacifier Pod” by J.J. Cole, soon to be followed by old DiscMan cases for your rice cakes.

It’s Not Easy Storing Green

Unlike fossil-fuel methods, the hours of peak generation for wind or solar power barely align with peak usage patterns; the industry term is that wind and solar are not “dispatchable”.  A New York Times article from July ’07 named “Storing Sunshine” looks at moving beyond the battery as a means of bridging the gap between the creation and distribution of green electricity.

All methods covered in the article are in use, all have their drawbacks and some are damned clever. As it turns out, large-scale battery storage comes off as the least attractive method presented, its best use being as a shock-absorber/safety margin in a system that uses wind, solar and diesel.

Other than storing the energy outright, two methods work at using up to a third less fossil-fuel than conventional generating systems. They both buy electricity at night, when it’s cheap, and store it for peak hour usage when rates are higher.

What’s a gas (sorry) is the form in which it’s stored; one does it in large, underground caverns as compressed air to help drive daytime turbines, another as 500-gallon blocks of ice in big-building basements, frozen cheaply by night and cutting AC costs by day.


I Can Has Cat Stacking

When my web designer offhandedly let “I Can Has Cheezburger” fly in the middle of one of her fascinating, strap-yourself-in-and-get-out-the-Britannica rants, I feared I was witnessing a transient ischemic attack.

As it turns out, it is the name of an enormously popular and way-too-cute website for cat lovers that has nonetheless posted a photo of a radically innovative storage method. In this kinship, we are pleasantly surprised and not unmoved.

Sezz Ely: Lean

Learning About Lean” is one of three blogs written by a gentleman named Joe Ely (no, not the Tex-Mex singer). As stated on one of his other blogs, Mr. Ely is in charge of manufacturing at a Midwest maker of medical devices. Dry, you say? No, sir.

Many of the posts offer clever, engaging looks inside his daily work experience with observations and reflections that may be applied elsewhere in business.

Still many more bring a Zen-like approach to efficiency, simplicity and elegance of process in a wide range of life situations:

  • Getting stopped for speeding brings comparisons to industrial “non-standard work” impeding progress; applied here, it lengthens his trip
  • During a trip to Italy, pointing up a supermarket’s ingenious, customer-empowering cart-return method
  • Reducing staff while increasing efficiency and customer satisfaction at a resort – all with little flags on the backs of cabana chairs.
  • A meditation on “Simple” vs. “Simplistic”
  • “Lean” applied at his kid’s school in the making of 5,000 apple pies with a volunteer staff.

Throughout, “Lean” – always capitalized – indicates a construct encompassing many ideals, including “Gemba“, a Japanese term meaning literally “the place where the truth can be found”.

In quality management, “Gemba” is the manufacturing floor, a place where Ely observes that bosses don’t spend enough time. A 2002 post indicts management’s isolation and the quality-control problems caused by their “hunches”. The post concludes simply that “being in Gemba knocks down hunches”.

Much to like and learn here.

Shoe Wheel, Schlamazel…

An Esculon Says article titled “Creative Shoe Storage For Shopaholics!” displays mostly yawny variations with about as much evolutionary propulsion as exists between Homo Erectus’ matrimonial club and the baseball bat.

However there is one item, the Shoe Wheel by Rakku, that immediately invites the “why-didn’t-I-think-of-that” response with its clever, straight-line logic:

Shoe = Wedge = Pie Section = Fits in a Wheel.

But this thing has a pretty big (a-hem) footprint, and one can easily imagine its 30″ diameter and 13″ width overwhelming anything less than a large-ish walk-in closet. And the two, three or four wheels that many shopaholics may require would resemble an array of hydroelectric turbines.

Still, it’s a striking idea if you have the room on your closet floor. But the most space-efficient option for most may still be that long, thin slice of vertical space, the perennial closet-door-hanging-organizer thingy (I do believe that’s the technical term).

How do you fit a cat in your mouth?

We at Compact Storage Systems mark the transfer of presidential power by revisiting this classic space-planning challenge, reenacted daily by frat boys of all ages. 

A Sixth Way to Save Money on Office Space

I came across an article on from July 2000 (4 months after the NASDAQ peaked at 5,132 – sigh – and on the cusp of the “dot-com” bubble-burst) which is no less relevant to these bargain-hunting times.

It is titled “Five Ways to Save Money on Office Space” and details that many strategies for constructing the best deal – but there’s another.

If your business stores a significant amount of any physical thing – paper, media, stock, parts and so on, high-density shelving systems should be investigated during downsizing or moving to a less expensive part of town.

The process costs nothing and may very well yield a 50% + reduction in the storage square-footage leased. The resulting savings pay for the systems in the first 2 to 3 years then continue for as long as the space is rented.

Look (and Save) Before You Leap

The steps in this process are as intuitive as you might suspect, with some High-Density Storage professionals, including our firm, conducting all surveys and studies free of charge.

  1.  Discuss how and why you hold what you do, retention schedules and so on. 
  2.  Conduct a physical inventory.
  3.  Trim as needed. Do you really need all that stuff?
  4.  Your High-Density specialist computes, in square feet, your now-greatly-reduced storage needs,  perhaps producing a drawing of the hypothetical system as a visualization aid.
  5.  Armed with this information, you go shopping for an office or facility significantly smaller – and less  costly – than originally required.
  6.  We fine-tune the system to the new physical space. 

It bears repeating; savings of the rent you would have shelled out on a larger space will typically pay for the systems within 2 to 3 years. After that, it’s all black ink.

Questions? Call Paul Jemielita at (818) 772-0996