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April 2, 2005

Nike Pazuru Women's Thong

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At $25 a pair these will sell out so fast your head will spin.

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And once Nike sells out of a style they rarely go back for a second printing.

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Which means don't spend the next month wondering if these are what you want to wear to the shore this summer.

Nike has solved the seemingly intractable, unresolvable problem of the lost thong.

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The solution?

So simple and elegant: make the soles positive and negative impressions of each other so they snap together (top).

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A bookofjoe Design Award to the ingenious, anonymous inventor at Nike who thought of this clever, innovative puzzle-like design.

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Available here in whole sizes 5-12 in your choice of the following six base + strap color combinations:

• Shy Pink + Clearwater/Maize

• Sport Red + White/Shy Pink

• Firefly + Bright Cerise/Medium Yellow

• Clearwater + Lake Blue/Lymon

• Lake Blue + Lime Ice/Ice Blue

• Black + White

April 2, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

10 Million Candlepower Portable Spotlight

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Wouldn't it be fun, the next time somebody asks if anyone has a flashlight, to pull this baby out? From the website:

    Most powerful cordless handheld spotlight available.

    Its quartz halogen bulb illuminates objects up to a mile away and can be seen even further.

    Powered by a 12 volt 7 amp hour sealed lead acid battery, it recharges using household current or your vehicle through the lighter socket.

    Heavy duty cage construction makes this spotlight virtually indestructible.

    Cleverly designed swivel mount lets you point the beam in almost any direction so you can work hands-free.

    It's perfect for camping, worksites, roadside emergencies, search and rescue, and so much more.

    High beam runs up to an hour on a single charge.

    Low beam setting provides longer run time.

Includes an AC adapter for home use, 12 volt DC adapter for vehicle use, and durable nylon carrying belt.

Weighs 10 lbs.

9"W x 10"H x 14"D.

Original priced at $74.98, now reduced to $59.98 here.

I wonder what 10 million lit candles look like.

April 2, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Instrumented Contact Lenses — iSugar?

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Just as the cell phone turns out to be the technological equivalent of the proverbial camel's nose under the tent, bringing in all manner of increasingly exotic functions via its small footprint and simple user interface, so does the humble contact lens, previously considered simply a substitute for glasses, look to be the equivalent for the human body.

This past Thursday I touched on the use of contact lenses as drug delivery systems.

Today I bring you news of their potential use as a diagnostic tool.

Chris Geddes of the Center for Fluorescence Spectroscopy at the University of Maryland has created glucose-sensing contact lenses so that diabetics can monitor their blood sugar levels accurately and noninvasively.

Now, we've previously had a look at the GlucoWatch (below), a glucose-measuring watch-like device that also works noninvasively.

Glucowatch

However, the GlucoWatch's manufacturer still recommends occasional blood sugar monitoring through finger pricks.

The technology of glucose-sensing contacts is deceptively simple: scientists add boronic acid to disposable contact lenses as they are being manufactured.

Glucose-containing moisture in the tear ducts binds with the molecules of boronic acid, causing a fluorescent glow which is then detected with a hand-held device that flashes a blue light into the eye and measures the intensity of the glow, converting it into a number corresponding to the wearer's blood sugar.

Other sensors to measure sodium, potassium, cholesterol, and theorectically any constituent of body fluids could be placed in contacts.

Geddes' group is also working on a contact lens that changes color under normal lighting conditions to indicate blood sugar levels.

The lens would shift from green to yellow to orange to red, enabling the wearer or an observer to determine a broad range of blood sugar levels, from too low to too high.

That might become a fashion accessory in its own right, apart from its medical uses.

And what about having the lenses react to varying levels of neurotransmitters?

Put in a glowing, color-coded dopamine sensor and you could tell if someone liked you in the dark: no need to see if their pupils were enlarged.

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Talk about "turn on your love light."

I see these new uses for contact lenses as just the beginning.

There is no reason why nanotechnology can't be adapted to lenses such that they act as transmitters, receivers and personal viewing screens.

No one would know you're watching "The Three Stooges" during your weekly corporate meeting until you doubled over after Moe told Curly to "pick two — any two" and gave him a good poke.

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Ha.

April 2, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's Largest Basket

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Pictured above and below, it's the seven-story tall (excluding the handles) corporate headquarters of Longaberger, the nation's premier maker of handcrafted baskets.

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It's an exact replica of the company's Medium Market Basket — only 160 times larger.

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You can visit if you like: it's in Newark, Ohio.

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Pick up a basket or two while you're there.

April 2, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yardiac.com — 'Because you're really serious about your yard'

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Well, I'm not really serious about my yard — sheesh, it looks like dreck now that the snow has melted and all is revealed in its barren, lumpy glory — but I am really crazy about the sensational name of this online gardening supplies and information company, begun in 2003 but only now making it into the big-time, i.e., a spot on bookofjoe.

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The Grant Wood painting on the company's logo seals the deal.

April 2, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Anthony Bourdain is moving to Viet Nam next year

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He can't get enough of the country.

Especially the food.

He wrote, in a piece published in The Financial Times on March 19, "you don't have to go looking for great food in Vietnam. Great food finds you. It's everywhere."

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Next year he plans to move to a small fishing village in a coastal area of Vietnam near Hoi An.

Vnmap

He wrote, "I have no idea what I'm going to do there, other than write about the experience.... Whatever happens, happens."

Bourdain is an accidental celebrity.

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By that I don't mean that he achieved celebrity without having bona fides as a cook and a writer.

Rather, I mean that only because he was asked and agreed to write an article for the New Yorker magazine about being a cook did fame explode all over him as a result.

He expanded the article into a mega-bestselling book, "Kitchen Confidential," and the rest is history.

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Here's his piece from The Financial Times.

    Hungry for More of Vietnam

    Nearly five weeks of hotel rooms, airport lounges, pressurised cabins, mammoth meals and equally mammoth amounts of drink and yet, only a few minutes out of Hanoi's Noi Ba Airport, I'm all but levitating - absolutely giddy with delight.

    I'm no longer jet-lagged, burned out, cynical or jaded.

    I'm alive. I'm hungry. And back in Vietnam.

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    I look out the window of the car taking me into Hanoi, see lush, green rice paddies, water buffalo, the women in their peaked hats bent at the hip, standing in calf-deep water.

    Motorbikes crowded with families, the children masked and dressed in bright colours, whizz by on both sides.

    The narrow, two-floor homes are decorated with rows of drying corn and though the sky is grey, the bright, bright red banners everywhere pop right out of the landscape with their New Year's greetings: Chuc Mung Nam Moi.

    There are also flags emblazoned with a yellow star on a bright red field, anticipating Monday's anniversary of the founding of the Vietnamese Communist party.

    The roads are crowded, more so than usual, with pedestrians and cyclists alike dressed in their Tet best; jackets and ties, babies swaddled in blankets or netting, women with scarves or face-masks covering everything below the eyes.

    Everyone is smiling and loaded with holiday goodies.

    They carry fruit, flowers, traditional chung cakes wrapped in artfully tied leaves, shimmering gold paper trees, bundles of bright red joss sticks as gifts, or offerings.

    The centre of the road is for four-wheeled vehicles - the cars and trucks barrelling at full speed headlong into each other's paths, then pulling aside at the very last second.

    There's the constant honking of horns that announces: "I'm here, keep doing what you're doing."

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    We were supposed to head straight to the Metropole Hotel, me, my friend Linh, and Chris and Lydia, the married, two-person camera team who follow me everywhere to shoot material for my television series.

    Because of the Tet holiday, most businesses are closed, but Linh is a Hanoi native and the three Americans are in tears at this point because we're so happy to be back.

    So, perhaps to give us time to compose ourselves before checking in to the hotel, we pull over at an open Bia Hoi joint as soon as we've crossed the long, Russian-built Dragon Bridge over the Red River.

    Eight or nine people sit at low tables on tiny plastic chairs outside what looks like a former garage, with a large square keg of Bia Hoi, the legendary, fresh draft "bubble beer" of Hanoi prominently displayed on the kerb.

    You don't find this stuff in Saigon.

    The beer is made daily, dispatched to the shops and quickly consumed. Most places serving it run out by 4pm - and what's trucked outside the city seldom makes it too far south.

    We haven't even sat down yet and the proprietor hurries over to fill two glasses, challenging me to a "chug-a-lug".

    I drain my glass and we repeat the process two more times before I settle into my little chair.

    He doesn't know me.

    There are no TV cameras present.

    He only knows there's a tall, enthusiastic-looking westerner in his place who seems interested in his beer and he wants me to taste how good it is.

    His wife shows us her child, dressed in his holiday clothes.

    An ancient Vietnamese gentleman in a weathered tweed jacket and jaunty beret, smoking from a bamboo pipe at the next table, offers me a puff and another beer.

    "Je suis un cinéaste," he says.

    "Nous sommes tous cinéastes ici," he adds, indicating a few other smiling septuagenarians around him.

    Soon the beer is coming fast and furious.

    The owner insists we wait while he changes to a fresh keg.

    I'm smiling - we're all smiling so hard our faces hurt.

    I love Vietnam.

    I love it now.

    I loved it from the minute I arrived for the first time, a few years ago.

    A year from now, I plan to live here.

    I will move to a small fishing village in a coastal area of Vietnam near Hoi An.

    I have no idea what I'm going to do there, other than write about the experience.

    I plan only on being a visual curiosity, the lone westerner in a Vietnamese community; to rent a house, move in with few, if any, expectations and let the experience wash over me.

    Whatever happens, happens.

    There are other beautiful places in the world.

    And there are other places - just like Vietnam - where the people are nice, the scenery beautiful, the food extraordinary.

    But Vietnam always feels so right.

    I have a theory that it's to do with pheromones for me.

    Like when you meet the love of your life for the first time.

    Later, trying to describe why you love her, you struggle: sure, she's beautiful, she's brilliant, she's funny, she can take apart and rebuild a 1967 Mustang to original factory spec.

    Yet that's not why you love her.

    It's something else.

    Maybe she just smells right.

    You sense, you know, that this is a woman you want to spend the rest of your life with.

    Reason and logic fly out the window.

    A more primal, uncontrollable and unquantifiable force is at work.

    This is the place you knew you always wanted to be.

    Even before you knew it.

    As I sip my beer and chat with Linh and my fellow drinkers, beyond the kerb are passing vignettes of colour and beauty, the usual mad patterns of bicycles and mopeds miraculously weaving through crowded, yet fast moving streets.

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    It's a grey city, Hanoi.

    The infamous crachin of February, a constant, spitting rain, may not have officially begun, but the air is chilly and it's drizzling ever so slightly.

    "Good luck for Tet," Linh assures me.

    The rain and monochrome of the old city seem to highlight the supersaturated colours of the flags and banners, the clothes and packages.

    Old French colonial buildings sit side-by-side with the grim, socialist monoliths, ornate pagodas, and the ultra-narrow, multi-storey and at times wackily ornate homes of the new, not-so-underground economy.

    An hour in town, and already I'm tipsy, elated, goofily high and wanting to do everything at once.

    "I eat here every day," says Linh, breaking into a smile.

    It's the next day and we're sitting in Hanoi's Old Quarter, greedily slurping down bowls of bun cha.

    An old man grills morsels of pork and pork meatballs over a small, homemade charcoal grill on the sidewalk.

    He squats on his haunches, turning the meat with bamboo splints, small plumes of smoke issuing from the coals as juice from the meat hits them.

    Just inside an open-to-the-street storefront, a hollow, charcoal-blackened space with a few communal tables and a worktable, the man's wife ladles a mix of room temperature vinegar, nuoc mam (fish sauce), green papaya juice with sugar, pepper, garlic and chillies into bowls - a few slices of cucumber at the bottom of each.

    The still-sizzling meat hits the table at the same time as the "soup", plus plates of lettuce, sweet basil, mint, cilantro and raw vegetables.

    There are side plates of sliced red chillies, salt, pepper and lime - and a big plate of cold rice noodles.

    We drop some of the pork into our bowls, the meat releasing a thin slick of juice into the clear liquid, then, grabbing a bit of green and herb, a healthy ball of the cold noodles, we begin to dunk and slurp.

    The place is dark, cold and dirty - the floor littered with the detritus of Vietnamese post-lunch rush: papers, cigarette butts, empty beer bottles. (The Vietnamese drop litter with abandon - but always clean up scrupulously after.)

    The cooking equipment is rudimentary, the chopsticks look decades old, but the bun cha is amazing.

    Sweet, sour, meaty, crunchy, forceful yet clean-tasting and fresh. Caramelised just enough from the low temperature grilling.

    The cold rice noodles separate perfectly when dipped in the liquid.

    The owner's wife brings over some fried spring rolls and puffy shrimp cakes - also good to dip when the pork runs out.

    You don't have to go looking for great food in Vietnam.

    Great food finds you.

    It's everywhere.

    In restaurants, cafes, little storefronts, in the streets; carried in makeshift portable kitchens on yokes borne by women vendors.

    Your cyclo-driver will invite you to his home; your guide will want to bring you to his favourite place.

    Strangers will rush up and offer you a taste of something they're proud of and think you should know about.

    It's a country filled with proud cooks - and passionate eaters.

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    By Hanoi's West Lake, families pull up in their scooters and file out on to the narrow spit of land extending into the water to the Cha Quoc temple.

    They're here to make Tet offerings to their gods and their ancestors, to burn incense, to reflect, to hope for good luck, good health and prosperity for the year to come.

    They carry offerings of fake cash and small cards depicting household appliances, cars, television sets, washing machines - all the things they can't afford but would like to pass over to their ancestors in the next world.

    By the temple entrance, under a tarpaulin by the water's edge, an old woman carefully arranges two kinds of freshwater snails in bowls with crabmeat, noodles and tomatoes before ladling steaming hot pork broth over them.

    The smell coming off the broth is maddeningly good - and she's doing monster business from the crowds coming out of the temple, so, even though I'm not really hungry, I can't resist.

    I duck under the tarpaulin, squeeze through and scrunch down at a long, oilcloth-covered picnic table and try to find some place for my knees among a large, extended Vietnamese family.

    Linh just smiles and shakes his head.

    He understands.

    I catch the woman's eyes, point to the person sitting next to me, already slurping down the last of his noodles, point and smile.

    She beams back at me. She knows what I want.

    You know - anywhere there are cooks, but especially in Vietnam - that when a proprietor or server smiles proudly at you like that, when locals are clamouring to get at what they're selling, when your fellow diners' expressions mirror your own, that good food is on the way.

    They do fast food just right in Vietnam.

    The glorious tradition of "one cook - one dish" ensures that the person making pho or spring rolls, or bun cha - or whatever they're selling - has likely been making it, and only it, for years and years.

    Often the skill has passed down from a previous generation.

    That kind of close identification with a single dish makes almost everything an expression of family pride, local spirit, even national identity.

    The next day provides a typical example.

    Linh pulls the car over unexpectedly on the side of a main road.

    He leads me down an embankment to a shabby, litter-strewn neighbourhood, a slum.

    Down a long, forlorn looking alleyway to the smoky back entrance of Luong Nong Ong Tre - the Eel Shop.

    Two big pots steam on an outdoor grill.

    A few hard-drinking Vietnamese men are way over their limit inside, singing and shouting happily.

    On worn, bamboo matting outside, facing an unpaved intersection of alleyways and disused heavy machinery, are a few low plastic chairs and two wobbly, wooden tables.

    Mischievous street kids hurl unripe oranges at each other that they've pilfered from an anaemic looking tree.

    "What do you eat here?" I ask Linh, foolishly.

    "Eel," he replies.

    "This is the Eel Shop. Only eel."

    As we wait for our food, we watch the comings and goings of the area, a small, poor, rural village in the middle of a big city.

    A trash collector in peaked round hat, face mask and gloves picks up rubbish bags and piles them into an overloaded handcart.

    Bicycles containing improbably balanced display racks of house wares, notions and nostrums pedals slowly by.

    The women are carrying yokes of fresh vegetables and fruit; men are selling lottery tickets; and someone pulls up on a motorbike to collect spent cooking oil from the Eel Shop.

    Another man takes away edible waste - to sell on to a pig farm.

    Aluminum cans are picked up, whisked away to be processed in a growing underground industry: makeshift recycling operations in rice paddies outside town where the cans will be melted down in woks, stamped on by sandalled feet, the impurities that come to the surface skimmed off and sold for paint, the metal reformed, reshaped, reused.

    I'm told later that a number of Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese who've returned) and their partners are becoming wealthy on the unofficial recycling trade.

    One account of a Central Committee meeting has a member asking his comrades, "Why do we - all of us - always ask only the big questions? It took just one foreigner to ask a small question: Where does the garbage go?"

    It's a good question as everything is used - and nothing wasted in Vietnam.

    In the kitchen, live eels are quickly divested of their bones (to be used for stock), sauced lightly and stuffed into lengths of hollow bamboo with garlic.

    The ends of the shoots are plugged with morning glory leaves and the bamboo is then charred slowly over the outdoor grill.

    When done, the bamboo is split lengthwise and served.

    I dig out tender hunks of smoky sweet eel - straight from the bamboo troughs, washing it down with Hanoi beer.

    Magnificent.

    Wherever there are Vietnamese, whether it be Minneapolis or Melbourne, Vietnamese food tastes good.

    But Vietnamese food in Vietnam, when across the street it's Hanoi - a slice of apartment building, a faded, peeling façade, women hanging out their laundry, girls in their long ao dais pedalling by, the chatter of fruit vendors in the distance, the high, throaty vibrations of a thousand motorbikes, somewhere nearby two women giggling (perhaps at the freakishly tall, unbelievably hungry American who sits at the Eel Shop, ineptly struggling to eat with chopsticks) - when it's like that; the food tastes better.

    I meet up with my camera crew later at the Metropole.

    We sit in comfortable rattan chairs at the Bamboo Bar, drenching in history.

    We drink vermouth cassis and review the day's events.

    Then we smile and when the conversation flags we just nod silently to one another - maybe an occasional "Oh yeah . . ." to commemorate how we're feeling.

    We know we've got it good.

    We're happy to be alive.

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    And still in Vietnam.

April 2, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Solar-Powered Turbo-Fan Safari Hat

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The safari hat enters the 21st century not with a bang but with solar power.

And don't get me started raving about the stylishness of this creation, with its strategically-placed solar panels right up at the crown of the hat for maximum photon absorption.

No sun?

No problem: it's got a battery back-up (2 AAs, not included).

"A small fan directs a constant cooling breeze to your forehead."

"One size fits all with adjustable comfort liner."

"Perfect for the sportswoman who has to keep her cool."

Don't tell me you're still thinking about it: once this goes up and around the world, this puppy'll be sold out like that.

$39.98 here.

I'll bet Philip Treacy is green with envy.

April 2, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Negative Poisson Ratio — Why you can put a cork back in a wine bottle

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Most materials, when squeezed at one end, bulge at the other.

Cork distributes the load and when compressed at one end narrows along its length.

That's why you can put it back in the bottle.

Don't believe me?

Try it in the privacy of your own home.

Scientists over the years have experimented with materials with this characteristic, termed a negative Poisson ratio after the French scientist who studied the phenomenon.

Such materials also get thicker when stretched (below).

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The New York Times called one such substance "anti-rubber" when it was described in an article published in Science magazine.

Contrast that with the behavior of most materials such as that below

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which become thinner when stretched.

Confused?

Read what University of Wisconsin materials scientist Rod Lakes, the creator of "anti-rubber," has to say about the subject on his website.

April 2, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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