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Magic Potion

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I(ce) Love You

New York City is celebrating Valentine's Day with the installation of a ten-foot-tall heart in Times Square. The cold caveat? It's constructed from masonry-scaled blocks of ice. Moorhead & Moorhead, the architectural and industrial design firm who created the public art project (with the help of structural engineers, lighting technicians, and a team of chainsaw-wiedling ice sculptors), are sharing the love online, with a web-based tool that allows users to create photo mosaic e-Valentines. Fill the virtual Ice Heart with your own photos or those selected automatically based on the Flickr tags of your choice, add a message, click "send," and prepare to melt the heart of that special someone.

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Ponoko

"Ponoko" may sound like the latest adorable animated creature or addictive puzzle game to come out of Tokyo, but it's actually an online venture that aspires to be nothing less than the Flickr and YouTube of product design. The virtual marketplace brings together creators, digital fabricators, materials suppliers, and buyers to take part in what Ponoko's creators describe as "the world's easiest making system." The vast site allows users to design their own products (from jewelry and toys to furniture and lighting fixtures), price them for sale, and arrange for them to be produced locally, as close to the point of consumption as possible. Those less inclined to DIY can choose from among Ponoko's tens of thousands of user-generated product designs, all ready to be customized and made into real things with the click of a mouse.

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Netflix Origami

Those initiated to the world of Netflix, the twenty-first-century version of a video store, are familiar with the distinctive red and white envelopes in which the company's millions of DVDs are dispatched and returned. The residue of a Netflix transaction is the squarish paper flap that must be torn off the envelope before dropping it into a mailbox. But before you toss that flap into the recycling bin, click over to Netflix Origami, a site (unaffiliated with Netflix) that provides step-by-step instructions on transforming your humble Netflix flaps into folded paper creations such as swans, frogs, airplanes, and (deja vu!) envelopes. Want to impress that environmentally-conscious film buff this Valentine's Day? Go with the heart.

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Smart Art

Scout and support emerging artists without leaving your desk. Affordable art is just a click away at CollegeArtOnline.com, which aims to bring art to the masses. The site offers a wealth of original student artwork at prices that range from $50 to $3,000 (the average sale is $200) and allows would-be collectors to pay the listed price or make the artist an offer. As for sifting through the available works, you can browse categories including paintings, photography, and sculpture, but we recommend checking out the site's "curated exhibitions," an ongoing series that features works selected by guest curators around themes such as simplicity and fate.

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The Year’s Worst Album Covers

As 2009 draws to a close, list makers around the world are busy counting down the year’s best and worst in various realms. The hardcore music buffs at Pitchfork are concerned with album covers—specifically, graphically tragic ones. Among this year’s group of 20 “goofy, offensive, amateurish, and puzzling” covers are Green Day’s sad take on street art, a Neil Young cover that appears to be the work of a third-grader, and Razorlight’s presentation of its four members inside squares that recall the opening credits of The Brady Bunch. Other highlights include the appearance of mermaids, sprinkle-covered donuts, and endless night skies. Pitchfork cautions that the list is “Not safe for people at work or those prone to nausea.”

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Awkward Family Photos

With the holiday season approaching, do your part to avoid clichéd, and downright tragic, memories with the help of Awkward Family Photos. The hilarious photo blog was created earlier this year by a couple of childhood friends who compile cringeworthy snapshots from far and wide. Click through the growing cache of awkwardness to see families posing in the bathtub (Dad pulls up a chair on the toilet), with a raccoon, in matching karate outfits, in front of a burning barn, and while clutching various semi-automatic weapons. The good-natured captions only add to the fun. One shot of an unsmiling family arrayed stiffly in vacation mode is accompanied by the observation, “Something tells us an itinerary is involved here.”

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The Jell-O Gallery

Ready for a visually stimulating autumn road trip? There’s always room for Jell-O -- specifically the Jell-O Gallery, located in Le Roy, New York, once home to General Foods’ Jell-O factory. Open every day through December 31, the Jell-O Gallery welcomes you to its website with, "If you haven't been to LeRoy recently, please do so!" and from there details what you can expect to see, including “a large new exhibit that reflects Bill Cosby's influence over 30 years.” And don’t miss the gift shop, which offers keepsakes such as Jell-O-emblazoned molds, thimbles, and, um, boxer shorts, although we're not sure what to make of this online description of them: "A great gift for the man in your life, or wear them as shorts (they don't have a fly)."

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Smashing Pumpkins

‘Tis the season for novelty typefaces, and we have just the thing to get you in the holiday spirit. Dafont.com offers freeware, shareware, and demo versions of more than 50 Halloween-themed fonts. We’re partial to pumpkins. From Tim Watkins comes Pumpkinese, which inserts jaunty script characters into solid black pumpkin shapes, while French designer Claude sketched more realistic pumpkins for Jack O. Punkins, Bumkins, and KR Pick a Pumpkin offer an array of jack-o-lantern dingbats. Blue Vinyl’s Trick or Treat also aims to please, with dingbats ranging from black cats and a bubbling cauldron to skulls and spiders. If it’s truly spooky symbols you’re looking for, try Dancing Dead, for which Mike Larsson created an uppercase alphabet backed by skeletons and a matching set of undead dingbats: skeletons in assorted poses.

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Pantone Meets iPhone

While the iPhone isn’t yet available in a rainbow of colors, there’s an app for that! From color authority Pantone comes myPANTONE, now available for the iPhone or the iPod Touch, which allows users to capture, create, and share Pantone color palettes. On-the-go designers can snap an iPhone photo of whatever inspires them, use the app to instantly match the colors, and share their Pantone palettes in forms ranging from e-mailed color swatches to Facebook updates. Amaze your friends with your ability to identify 14-0848 Mimosa (Pantone’s 2009 “color of the year”) at fifty paces.

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3-D Histogram Maker

After a recent project had us overdosing on pie charts and line graphs, we found ourselves in a visual representation rut. Three-dimensional color histograms to the rescue! We owe it all to 3DHistogram.com, an open source web application that allows users to produce and model three-dimensional color histograms based on a supplied image. A project of Minneapolis-based Third Ave Design and its wind-powered servers, the application analyzes the distribution of colors in an uploaded image and renders the results in mesmerizing constellations of correspondingly hued 3D cubes. Betcha can’t make just one.

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