March 03, 2005
Skydiver Tissue Box
"The coolest tissue box cover in the world."
From the website:
- The Skydiver Tissue Box Cover depicts a skydiver in free fall.
Way below him (or so it appears) are clouds, farmland, woods, and water.
A friendly hawk escorts the skydiver as he plummets.
The tissue dispenses through the skydiver's parachute harness.
So every time you pull out a Kleenex, it appears as if his parachute has just popped open!
I'm a B-list blogger
Dave Pollard, on January 4, wrote a very interesting post in his blog about the blogosphere.
He took a lot of the recent survey results and reports and information from a variety of online sources and blogs to come up with some very interesting statistics that he then rendered graphically (above and below).
Here are a few fun facts from his post:
• There are 100 "A-list" bloggers — they get an average of 150,000 hits/day
• There are 2,000 "B-list" bloggers — 2,500 hits/day average
• "C-list" bloggers number 18,000, with 500 hits/day average
• Up-and-coming bloggers number 80,000, averaging 100 hits/day
• The other 5 million bloggers average 3 hits/day
I find it interesting that to move up to "Up-and-coming" status you have to have over a 30-fold increase in traffic.
The next two steps require multiples of 5 each.
The final push to major-league status requires a 60-fold increase in traffic.
Pollard went on to calculate that the average B-list blogger, with an average 90-seconds-per-visit, gets 62 hours/day total of reader attention.
He compared that to a total of 170 reader-hours/day for the average newspaper article.
Thus, the average B-list blogger gets about one-third the total reader attention/day as the average newspaper story.
But look at it another way, as Pollard did: no matter how many hours a day you're putting in on your blog, it can't exceed 24; if you make it onto the B-list, then you're getting several times more hours worth of attention being paid than you invested.
With the rapid increase in blog readership that's occurring (top), Pollard estimated that in less than three years (conservatively) the average B-list blogger will get significantly more reader attention than the average US unsyndicated newspaper article or column.
As for the A-list, he projected daily reader attention about equal to that of the average US daily paper.
Pretty impressive for a bunch of girls and guys sitting around in their pajamas, he wrote.
Sitting here in my PJs, it's hard not to agree, what?
Control Tape™ Extreme Style Strips
It's a pack of parchment-like strips that morph into a medium-hold styling gel when mixed with water.
So new wave.
"Just wet hands and hair and tape it on, rip it up, or run it through hair for hard-headed style."
• ultra-firm hold that dries hard — thanks to certified organic flax seed and plant derived starches
• coconut-derived glycerin adds shine, while aloe adds moisture
• easy to carry, for styling on the road
• for all hair types
"Experience Control Tape™ while you can: it's here for a limited time."
$19.50 for 20 strips from Aveda.
Yes, they exist: here's the sad account of one of them — unabridged, uncensored and unexpurgated.
We all knew it would eventually come to this.
As Phil Wolff wrote, "Who is going to start Bloganon for the families of hard-core blog addicts?"
[via Phil Wolff and dontblog]
'Don't Despair, Just Repair' — A philosophy of appliance management that works equally well in other areas of life
Oscar Wilde (above) wrote, "We value more highly the opinions and intelligence of those who agree with us."
So I must be careful not to let my pleasure overflow at finding one of my core philosophies of life in the OR and elsewhere vindicated by the information in a sparkling article by Stephanie Cavanaugh on home appliances and the "repair v replace" dilemma.
Her piece appeared in last Saturday's Washington Post Real Estate section.
Cavanaugh is a superb free-lance writer who contributes occasional pieces to the Post; she does an enormous amount of homework and background investigation, which adds great value and credibility to her articles.
For this story she interviewed experts in appliance sales and repair, trade associations, consumer nonprofit research groups, home inspectors, and ordinary people like me and you.
The gist of her findings: if you like something, get it fixed regardless of cost.
And if you want reliability, then buy appliances with as few features and options as possible.
Man, she is preaching to the choir.
When I went to replace my old, defunct dryer I said to the guy, give me a Maytag with only an on/off button and no features.
He said no one buys those anymore.
I said I'm no one, so sell me one.
It has one button: you push it to start the machine, and it goes until it stops.
The only thing I didn't like was the dial that lets you set the time it runs.
I wanted no dial, just a fixed time.
If the clothes weren't dry, I'd just push the button again for another cycle.
No dice, so I took the one he showed me.
In the OR I employ the same drugs now that I did back in the Paleolithic era when I did my anesthesia residency.
They are, in my usual order of administration:
• Fentanyl (synthetic narcotic — 100 times stronger than morphine)
• Midazolam (benzodiazepine)
• Propofol (sedative/hypnotic; I add 2 cc of 1% lidocaine to the syringe to mitigate the burning sensation that otherwise occurs on injection)
• Succinylcholine (depolarizing skeletal muscle relaxant — complete paralysis within 60 seconds)
• Nitrous Oxide (anesthetic gas)
• Atracurium (nondepolarizing skeletal muscle relaxant)
• Neostigmine (reverses the muscle relaxant at the end of the case)
• Atropine (counteracts the undesirable side-effects of the neostigmine)
After giving this combination of drugs perhaps 25,000 times to that many different people, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
It's really very similar to appliances, if you think about it: the fewer the variables, the less likely something unexpected will occur.
Just so you don't think I'm all theory and no practice, consider that a month ago I paid the GE repairman $221 for a house call in which he replaced one of the original electric burner coils on my 1967 GE range, which was original equipment in the house I live in, also built in 1967.
To paraphrase the crowd when a president's seeking reelection: 38 more years!
Here's the Post article.
- Don't Despair, Just Repair
It's True. They Don't Make Appliances Like They Used to.
Judith Capen's rattletrap dishwasher recently went into death throes.
Two repairmen fiddled with it, then stomped off, saying she could buy a new one for less than it would cost to fix the 18-year-old machine.
But Capen, an architect and self-described "defective consumer," didn't want to replace it.
She wanted it fixed.
Particularly after she and her husband went off to eye a $1,500 dishwasher for which he had been lusting -- whisper quiet, stainless steel inside and out, and bottom line "very cool looking" -- and the sales clerk said it wouldn't last any longer than the mid-priced model dripping in their Capitol Hill kitchen.
Capen went home and stuck an aluminum baking pan under the leak until she could figure out a better solution.
"That's how our frost-free refrigerator works too. Fifteen cents versus $1,500."
Then she grumbled, "I grew up when people expected to be buried with their appliances."
Search the Internet for consumer complaints about appliances and it appears there is scarcely a stove, refrigerator or dishwasher that won't break down, blow up, or flood your new parquet floors, usually in the midst of some major family event.
The catalogue of consumer wrath at www.consumeraffairs.com, for example, will make you contemplate resurrecting the ice box and cooking joints of mutton on a spit in the fireplace.
Were kitchen appliances really more reliable in the old days?
"I think they generally break down less than they did," said John Lefever, president of Alco Appliance in Beltsville.
"If you made a graph of the last 50 years -- overall they're more reliable. Much like automobiles, they last longer."
It seems that memories of trusty appliances are tinged with the same nostalgia that colors so much else about the halcyon 1950s.
"I go to dinner parties and people, particularly those in their sixties, say they never saw an appliance guy all the time they were growing up," he said.
"Of course they broke down. People used to fix things themselves or there was a guy they called in the neighborhood."
And don't forget that Mama herself was at home, waxing the linoleum, so repairs always seemed painless and invisible.
One thing is true about the 1950s: At least when it came to appliances, things really were simpler.
There were no icemakers, computers or links to the Internet that let you defrost tonight's roast from your office.
All of these gadgets and gizmos have a tendency to... break.
But you knew that, didn't you?
"A range can last a few years or 40 years," said Lefever, who has been repairing ranges for more than 30, plus another 10 if you include teenage tinkering.
"It depends on the complexity of it. And some are just better than others... But price has little to do with quality and longevity. The dual-fuel Jenn-Air is a more troublesome range than a GE gas. The pricier you get, the more features, and the more features, the more there is to break."
"Some appliances are so simple they're hard to mess up," said Hal Woodyard, chief inspector at Archer Inspections Inc., a local home inspection firm.
"When I look at housing I see a lot of low-end stuff. A $250 gas stove will last a long time. The more complicated you make something, the more opportunity there is for it to break."
Not that cheap appliances are necessarily durable.
"Thirty years ago they didn't really make super-cheap... appliances. They do now," the former general contractor said.
"If you're willing to pay $1,000-plus for a refrigerator or $700-plus for a dishwasher... you'll still get something that'll last for 20 to 30 years. If you spend only half that amount, expect to get something that'll last only 10 years or so."
For the record, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, a Washington trade group, gives the approximate life of a dishwasher as 13 years, 14 for refrigerators and 17 for ranges.
"But are they giving you the typical lifespan of an appliance or how long people keep them before sending them to the trash heap?" asked Robert Krughoff, president of Consumers' Checkbook, a nonprofit research organization that rates goods and services in the metropolitan area and in other cities.
Lifespan estimates tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies.
People look at the numbers and wonder if a broken appliance is worth repairing, Krughoff said.
"I'm not sure that's the way those data should be used. Sure, people throw out an appliance after 15 years, but that doesn't mean it was dead. That doesn't mean yours wouldn't last another 10 years."
Bottom line, he said: "If you like it, get it fixed."
The most frequently requested repairs are, in fact, pretty simple, said Lefever: icemaker malfunctions; clogged gas jets on stoves; dishwasher leaks and broken glass and foreign objects caught in the pump; and various electrical problems.
Big-ticket items, where Lefever would be inclined to suggest replacement, include problems with a refrigerator compressor, or a refrigerant leak; replacing computer oven controls and glass cooking tops; and replacing the complete pump, motor or electronic control system on a dishwasher.
"Unless you get a reasonable repair quote, you should question whether you want to fix them or not," he said.
"But if you have an $1,800 refrigerator that matches the kitchen and has custom panels, a $400-$500 repair might make sense."
With most appliances, "there's some non-central feature that will usually break," said Woodyard.
"Like with a refrigerator, it's usually not the compressor, the core of the refrigerator, it's something else: plastic drawers fall apart or a water problem shorts out a wire. And you become disenchanted with the thing -- not that it's not fixable at a reasonable price."
Or maybe you're just ready to be disenchanted, looking for an excuse to get something new.
Just as with cars and computers, appliances come with ever-sexier features.
Then there are those covetable brands that drip status, even when they're not quite the performers they're cracked up to be.
"The Sub-Zero is a very nice refrigerator, but the competition, GE and Amana, have the same desirable features and have even exceeded Sub-Zero in some areas," Woodyard said.
"But there's still the cachet of the Sub Zero... and top-end European appliances... They're perceived as high end and high quality... It's like buying a Rolls-Royce."
But woe to you when it comes to fixing some of those sexy Europeans, particularly the dishwashers.
"If you expect it to be silent and beautiful and sit there it will be great," Lefever said.
Operating consistently is another thing entirely.
"And the trend toward professional ranges is not a trend toward reliability -- they will increase my repair business," he added.
"There are more parts and features, downdraft blowers, convection blowers, extra parts that can go bad. There's more to go wrong. And they're more expensive, so you'll spend more money to... protect the investment."
If you want an appliance to last, "buy a machine that would be readily repairable," Lefever said.
"If you buy an exotic European model, getting the parts will be a problem. If you stick with Maytag, Whirlpool, KitchenAid, you improve the odds of keeping it a long time."
The alternative to calling a repairman is to fix it yourself.
"The problem is not with the product, it's the repair cost," said Chris Hall, a former appliance repairman and the founder of www.repairclinic.com.
"Manufacturers are producing appliances for nearly the price they were 10 years ago... but the repairman's expenses have gone up. I did some calculations and the cost of the part is 25 percent of the repair. You can save 75 percent by doing it yourself."
Hall sells everything from knobs to broiler coils to glass panes, to entire doors for just about every appliance made; the company carries parts for 80 different brands.
It also provides a trouble-shooting section that reminds you to check for common problems such as blown fuses and burnt-out light bulbs, or to see if that cold, dark oven won't heat up because it's set for a timed or self-cleaning cycle.
And it dispenses free advice to about 30,000 people each month on fixes as simple as "putting the knob back on the stove to replacing a washing machine transmission," said Hall.
Consumers' Checkbook will be reviewing local appliance service companies in the issue of its Washington magazine that is due out in late March or early April. (For details go to www.checkbook.org.)
And if you do call one and he tells you to toss something you would rather keep?
"The secret is to say, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, but just fix it'," said Capen, who eventually found a third repairman who improvised a fix for her ailing dishwasher.
Chain mail goes everywhere
Think about it: it's got Goth overtones, and yet you can wear it to the most elegant affair with impunity.
No one messes with a mesh girl.
The necklace ($70) is hand-made of tiny steel circles, connected by a sterling silver clasp.
The smooth weave of the chain lays flat and smooth against your neck.
Formal enough for business yet flashy enough for South Beach.
Wear it with a matching mesh bracelet ($60) for full effect.
The bracelet (like the necklace, made by Rhode Island artist LeeAnn Herreid), has the appearance of two layers and the weight of one.
It closes with nickel-plated brass buttons.
PDF Digital Book — 'Halfway between a book and a website'
So wrote Kevin Kelly in last week's installment of "Cool Tools," his superb weekly internet email publication that you can get absolutely free just by signing up.
Full disclosure: I have never met Kevin Kelly. I have never spoken to Kevin Kelly. I have never seen a photo of nor heard a spoken word recording of/by Kevin Kelly. I have, however, contributed items to "Cool Tools"; in doing so, I have exchanged emails with him. I have never given nor received money or any form of compensation to/from Kevin Kelly.
Now where was I? Oh, yeah, PDF books.
Kelly's published his most recent book in PDF format: for $3.50 you get a full-color, indexed, hot-linked, instant digital download version of "Cool Tools" — the book.
Full disclosure: I bought it, and it was an excellent experience in on-demand publishing.
Fast, cheap, and under control.
What we're all about here — well, at least two out of three.
Among Kelly's many bona fides: he's one of the founding, "single-digit-employee-number" members of the Whole Earth Catalog's original crew; he's the founding editor of Wired magazine.
That ought to be enough for you. But I digress yet again.
Here's what Kelly wrote in his newsletter:
- Old Book, Cheap Experimental Format
Cool Tools Digital Download
For $3.50 you can get a full-color, indexed, hot-linked, instant digital download version of my 140-page "Cool Tools" book.
Halfway between a book and a website, PDF digital books are pioneering a third way.
With this "Cool Tools" PDF you get several things the printed version does not have (but the web does): an index, clickable active hyperlinks in the text and glorious full-color.
At the same time the PDF version retains the easy-to-browse design and rapid navigation of a book, which the web does not have.
And it is a lot cheaper than a book, immediate in its delivery, and smaller to store.
I find myself reading a lot of PDFs and growing comfortable in the habits.
The form is still experimental.
Kinks may be found.
If you do try this digital edition of "Cool Tools," I'd love to hear your feedback.
2003.1 PDF version, 24 mb
Available via PayPal
Oh, yeah, in case you want to read the book but just can't deal with a digital download: the "Old Media" bound paper version is $17 at Amazon.
[via Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools]