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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Which Movie Star Took a Week to Learn a One-word Script?

June 18, 2018

This popular actor appeared in over 1000 feature films during the 1930s through the 1950s, including several classics, performing alongside the likes of Jimmy Stewart, James Cagney, Judy Garland, and Bette Davis—but was uncredited in most of them. Why didn’t he squawk about it?

Actually, he probably did—because this actor happened to be a raven. Animal trainer Curly Twiford rescued the month-old chick in 1936 from an abandoned nest in the Mojave Desert. He named him Jimmy, and raised him indoors so he’d be comfortable around humans. In hopes that directors would want to use him in their films, he spent two years training his brilliant bird to type, light cigarettes, put coins in piggy banks, operate a cash register, flip magazine pages, open letters, deal a hand of poker, ride a tiny motorcycle (!), understand a few hundred English words, and speak 53 of them.

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Screen-Free Kid Fun with Flipbooks and a Castakite

June 14, 2018

 

Products
Flipbook Kit (T. Rex/Pteranodon version)
Castakite

Research
I was once a child. Isn’t that enough? OK, no.

I was planning a Mexican beach vacation with my mother, my brother, and his five year-old son, “The Chooch.” Like most kids, The Chooch is addicted to screens of all sizes. We wanted to get him away from them. His dad and I chose these two toys for our experiment in behavior modification.

Hypothesis
The Chooch will have a blast with these. More importantly for us, he’ll be distracted from his tablet for a significant amount of time.

Part I: Flipbook Kit

Boy and Flipbook. Initial response: positive. (Note experiment-appropriate lab wear.)

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Gift Guides

12 Space-Savers for Your Home Sweet Shoebox Small Apartment

May 10, 2018

Space-Saving Storage Solutions for Small Apartments

Scientists claim the universe is expanding, but they haven’t been to our house. You feel us? When it comes to saving space, more is never enough. Each of the items below is both more, and less. (Physics is full of such paradoxes.)

1. An entryway shelf that streamlines your exits.

Out The Door Catch-All Shelf | UncommonGoods

Hang this by your door and free up a drawer. All the little things you need as you dash out—keys, sunglasses, phone, wallet—will find a place on it. You can even put reminder notes on it with a magnet. For example, “Buy that cute catch-all shelf.”

Out the Door Catch-All Shelf – $45 Buy Now »

 

2. A caddy for storing #bedlife necessities.

Bedside Essentials Pocket | UncommonGoods

Look at your bedroom. See any space for remotes? Magazines? Tablet? Neither do we. This pocket creates a place for them right where you need it: next to your bed. Now, cocooning will be even cocoonier.

Bedside Essentials Pocket – $20-$25 Buy Now »

 

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Gift Guides

14 Practical Travel Items That Are Totally Worth Packing

March 16, 2018

Traveling soon? Have globetrotting friends? All trips have their hassles, and all can be made easier and more fun with some packable helpers. Read on for our latest faves.

1. A cocktail kit to help you unwind in midair.

Happy Hour is a terrible thing to waste. This compact tin contains everything you need—in TSA-approved sizes—to make tasty Moscow Mules wherever you may be at cocktail time. Just add mini-bottles of the hard stuff.

Moscow Mule Carry-On Cocktail Kit – $24 Buy Now »

 

2. A stylish way to organize your cords.

Seen an airport or hotel lost and found lately? They’re full of forgotten chargers, cords, and devices. Not yours, though. They’re all safely organized and accounted for in this clever roll.

Travel Cord Roll – $20 Buy Now »

 

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Maker Stories

Diagnosis: Talent. Dr. Martin Geller’s Pet Pedigree Poems

August 31, 2017
Dr. Martin Geller, acrostic poem king

Dr. Martin Geller, acrostic poem king

 

We’re proud of offering goods made by artists and makers from around the world. But we have a special, parental pride when a design’s DNA is 100% from the UncommonGoods “family”–like our Pet Pedigree Poem items. Unique from head to tail, these items, which are exclusive to UncommonGoods, feature an acrostic poem celebrating your breed’s special traits.

We have dog pillows, mugs, totes, and art for dogs and cats—including rescue cats.

The idea to mix paintings with acrostic poems came together serendipitously, and blended the skills and talents of the UncommonGoods Product Development team, led by Carolyn Topp (Director of New Business and Product Development), and Dr. Martin Geller, a retired psychiatric physician who is the father of UncommonGoods Senior Purchasing Planner (and not incidentally, organizer of our literary book club), Louise Geller.

Carolyn tells us how pets and poems came together in the creation of these unique items.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Sam Buss and Derek “Ducky” Dahl

August 2, 2017

Sam and Derek outside the industrial brick building that’s home to the Nordeast Maker Space and their studio. Photos by Marisa Bowe (unless otherwise noted)

Sam Buss and Derek “Ducky” Dahl, friends since they were in their teens, make original games in Nordeast Minneapolis, one of my favorite neighborhoods in my hometown city.

Last time I was there, I took a bus on a warm, sunny day to the brick factory building-turned-maker-space they share with other interesting firms and artists. “It’s a maze,” they warned me, “so call us when you get here.” But a friendly co-tenant told me how to find the underground, windowless space.

Given the nature of their games, all of which (so far) involve beer drinking, I expected boisterous frat types (they did meet in a frat while attending the University of Minnesota). What I found, though, was a couple of low-key, thoughtful guys.

As they talked about their history as friends and business partners, I realized what courage it took for them to quit good jobs and throw themselves into being entrepreneurs. Neither of them had any prior business experience, so their road has been full of learning experiences. A few of those— early game prototypes—are on display in their studio.

They demo’d a couple of fancy machines for me: a huge CNC (“Computer Numerical Control”) router, which precision-mills their specially-shaped game boards; and a laser cutter, which emits a little red dot—just like the one my cat likes to chase—except it can cut and engrave wood. The Nordeast Maker Space makes these otherwise-unaffordable specialized machines available to small, independent makers like them. 

It was exciting to hear how the duo are able to realize their ideas, forge their own path, and have some fun along the way. Read on to learn (and see) more.

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The Uncommon Life

Paid Family Leave: Why it Matters

May 12, 2017

You may have seen the Paid Family Leave page in our Mother’s and Father’s Day print catalogs. What “Paid Family Leave” means is this: family members can go on leave from work to take care of a newborn or seriously ill family member for a period of time, while continuing to receive some or all of their usual pay and benefits. The United States doesn’t have a paid family leave policy–we’re one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t, and the only developed country–and we are for changing that. We decided we wanted to advocate for it in our catalog.

Source: United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

We’ve always been a socially conscious company, working to use business as a force for good. But this is the first time we’ve communicated to our customers directly about a specific issue. We’re excited about it and a little nervous. We know not everyone will agree. We’re not trying to tell people what to think. What we’re hoping to do is raise awareness and build resources to take action.

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