November 24, 2005
Sleep in Betsey Johnson's Bed
As long as you pony up the $5,500 to $8,500 a week she charges to rent her vacation villa in Barra de Potosí, Mexico.
Here's Gisela William's story, from this past Sunday's New York Times,
about how Betsey Johnson came to find herself a property owner in Barra de Potosí:
- Little Grass Shack
You've heard of Margaritaville? Now there's Betseyville, Betsy Johnson's own private Mexico
The fashion designer Betsey Johnson went to Zihuatanejo, Mexico in 2000 and came back with the ultimate souvenir: beachfront property.
"I decided that I just can't do hotels anymore," she said.
"I go to these la–di–da perfect places and end up hanging out with plastic surgeons and dentists and their wives by the pool."
To escape, she drove to the fishing village of Barra de Potosí, felt at home and bought Betseyville — five thatch–roofed bungalows with two pools.
Decorating was "such a trip, I thought more people have to see it."
Starting this Thanksgiving [Hey — that's today!], more people can: Betseyville is available for $5,500 to $8,500 a week, staff included (go to www.lacurevillas.com).
Vacationers — it sleeps up to 10 — will find interiors true to Johnson's funky style: patterned fabrics, glittery chandeliers and Popsicle–covered walls.
Betseyville's website is lots of fun, even if you don't plan on staying there;
my favorite page is this one, with the interactive map that lets you move your computer cursor over various rooms in Betseyville and see pictures of them.
Very funky indeed.
The photos above are of various rooms and places in Betseyville; that's Betsey herself, in the center of the last one, in the garden.
Rotating Cell Phone Holder — 'Won't jab you when you sit'
The website says it best: "Why didn't anyone think of this before?"
From the website:
- A simple twist lets you keep your cell phone clipped to your belt without getting jabbed every time you sit down.
Durable 600–denier nylon polyester with elastic sides and Velcro flap to fit any phone.
Sturdy nylon clip fits belts up to 1.5".
5.5"H x 2.25"W x 0.25"D (empty).
LED technology: Butterflies got there first
African swallowtail butterflies, long admired for their "brighter–than–bright" wings, use "what was thought to be exclusively human advanced technology: high–efficiency photonic crystals like those of LEDs," wrote Larry O'Hanlon in a recent Discovery News story.
A paper on the findings, by Dr. Peter Vukusic and Ian Hooper of Exeter University in the U.K., appears in the current issue of the journal Science.
Man–made LEDs use electricity to create their bright light; butterflies do it with sunlight — and have been doing so for over 30 million years.
Butterflies grow photonic crystals (top — a magnified wing segment), which are made by man of silica, usually in neat arrays.
The butterfly crystals, once grown, are no longer alive but, rather, are like hair or fingernails.
Butterfly wings thus work as light–emitters long after a butterfly is dead.
The wings also contain micromirrors and microscopic holes, which act together with the crystalline structures to reflect light outward as well as change the wavelength of absorbed light and then reflect it, amplifying the emitted overall intensity in a given wavelength above that absorbed.
The function of the crystals in life seems to be for territorial signalling to other butterflies of the same species: they have receptors in their eyes for the same colors they flash.
I wonder when, in the near or distant future, a scientist will discover that somewhere in the animal or plant or even fungus kingdoms there are organisms with biologic lasers.
And what even more wondrous technologies we haven't even discovered yet, and can't begin to imagine, will be found to have been hiding in plain sight from us all these centuries and millenia among our feathered, furry and finny friends.
Alien Artifact Nutcracker
Assuming for a moment that this object originates on Earth, why did I think it had to hail from one of the Scandinavian countries* the moment I saw it?
You put your nut inside, then squeeze the handle and your nutshell is cracked.
No more bits flying around the room.
No pinched fingers.
4.5"H x 2.75"D at the top.
Weighs 2.7 oz.
'Sample: 100 Fashion Designers, 10 Curators' — Edited by Bronwyn Cosgrave
That name, that name: be still, my heart.
Bronwyn Cosgrave: How could you miss with that?
But I digress.
This book features "100 up–and–coming fashion designers," though many would seem to have already arrived and ensconced themselves in comfortable quarters.
I mean, come on: Olivier Theyskens of Rochas, Nicolas Ghesquière of Balenciaga and Phoebe Philo of Chloe are not what you'd call newbies.
No matter, let's not quibble.
I love, Love, LOVE books like this, a kind of "experts' experts" compendium.
I just ordered my copy.
But I digress again — I mean, who really wants to hear about me or my life or what I do?
Get over it, Joe.
Done. (Now where did I put that darn NexTel phone? Oh, yeah, NexTel's no longer in existence... what should I call it then, I wonder? A question for the crack research team, fer shur.)
The editor of this compilation assembled ten doyens of the fashion scene and asked each to pick the ten most promising designers from around the globe.
Clearly, when two of the curators picked the same person, one must've been forced to go back to their wait list to find a substitute.
But again, let's not be so darn nit–picky.
You know why they call someone who's annoying a pill?
Because they're hard to swallow — as in take.
When I first figured this out — I was, oh, I dunno, maybe 23 or 14 at the time, it gets hazy when I try to remember... — I was so pleased with myself.
So about the book: It's got jagged, hand–cut, artfully pleated pages and white covers (top) showcased in scrapbook form and includes 1,000 illustrations (including previously unpublished sketches, never–before–seen photographs and other archival material) displaying the work of the chosen 100.
Benjamin Schwarz, reviewing the book in the December Atlantic magazine, wrote, "The unconscionable neglect of [Narciso] Rodriguez, to my mind the best designer on the scene today, is the book's greatest flaw."
If that's the case then this is one great book.
£31.50 ($54; €46) here.
And remember, before you blow what's left of your money and credit, Calvin Klein's remark, to wit: "You don't have to buy the clothes — just feel the fabric."
If you will, that's a perfect metaphor for life.
Who knew good ol' CK was a modern–day Marcus Aurelius?
Hmm... — mA.
I like it.
Is he under contract yet?
Have his people call my people — we'll take a meeting.
Or at the very least, do lunch.
SolarRoll — Solar power in a Tube
So finally, after years of telling us that solar is the new new thing it's starting to get interesting.
From Brunton comes this portable roll–up solar power cell array.
Take it out of its 3–inch diameter tube, lay it out where it can capture light, and the device is capable of producing 14 watts of power — enough to power a laptop anywhere photons exist.
The roll weighs 17 oz. and measures 12"W x 57"L when open.
Still not cheap — but getting to the point of much wider adoption.
There's also a 40" long model weighing 10.6 oz. that produces 9 watts, enough to power a digital camera: $279 here.
"Baby bear" is 22" long, weighs 6.4 oz., produces 4.5 watts and can power your cell phone; it costs $169.
The mats are waterproof and can be linked to increase overall power output.
Plug–in device adapters are included.
'30 Million Turkeys Can't Be Wrong' — The secret history of the pop–up turkey timer
Say what you will about the ubiquitous pop–up turkey timer, it's embedded in 30 million of the 46 million turkeys in ovens across America this Thanksgiving Day.
But how did such "pop-ularity" come to pass?
It's a classic story of good–old Yankee perseverance, luck and ingenuity.
Here's Robert Tomsho's timely story, from Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, about Tony Volk, the South Dakota–born manager of a turkey processing plant in Turlock, California who, in the early 1950s, decided to devote his free time to finding a better way to prepare a turkey.
He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
- Ask the Volk Family: 30 Million Turkeys Can't Be Wrong
Maker's Pop-Up Timers Grace Many Thanksgiving Birds; Martha Stewart Demurs
The late Tony Volk seldom left this agricultural town.
But once again this Thanksgiving, the invention he promoted will appear in millions of American kitchens.
Determined to make turkeys as easy to cook as a TV dinner, he was a pioneer of the pop-up poultry timer.
This time of year, that means both fortune and grief for his oldest son, Anthony.
Since his father's death in 1991, the 58-year-old has been chief executive officer of closely held Volk Enterprises Inc.
The company has annual revenue of about $100 million and is the only U.S. maker of the little breast-mounted gadgets that sell for a dime apiece to turkey processors.
They are designed so that a red plastic temperature indicator, shaped like a tiny umbrella, pops out at 180 degrees, when a bird is fully cooked.
Mr. Volk, who manages the company with his three brothers, relishes the fact that Volk pop-ups will be embedded in some 30 million of the 46 million turkeys headed into ovens this Thanksgiving.
Yet during holiday food shows and in cooking columns, the pop-up seldom comes in for praise.
In her recipe for "Perfect Roast Turkey," Martha Stewart advises fans to toss the little timer.
"An instant-read thermometer is a much more accurate indication of doneness," avows Ms. Stewart.
Rick Rodgers, author of "Thanksgiving 101," says he avoids pop-ups because he worries basting will prevent them from popping properly.
Sgt. First Class David Russ, a U.S. Army chef from Fort Bragg, N.C., who won the National Military Culinary Chef award in 2004, can't stand the puncture a pop-up leaves behind.
"If you get a piece of turkey on your plate with a hole in it," he says, "you wonder where it came from."
Cook's Illustrated, a popular journal for food lovers, put the disposable timers on trial a few years ago and also came out favoring thermometers.
Because pop-ups don't go off until the deepest dark meat is safely cooked, editor Chris Kimball says the breasts of his test birds came out dry.
"As a friend of mine says, that's why they invented gravy," Mr. Kimball jokes.
It's not funny to Anthony Volk, who maintains the pop-up is reliable and as much of a Thanksgiving tradition for most people as pumpkin-pie filling from a can.
"A lot of these gourmets and professionals look down on anything that is convenience-related," he says.
"It's an American icon," adds his brother, Steve Volk.
Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton has long relied on the pop-up at home.
"It's not supposed to tell you the turkey is perfect," says Ms. Thaxton, a poultry science professor at Mississippi State University.
"It's supposed to tell you it's safe to eat."
The pop-up's patriarch was born on a South Dakota farm and played a big role in convincing American homemakers to buy more turkey.
A frugal man who bought his clothes at Kmart, Tony Volk became manager of a turkey processing plant in Turlock in 1951.
Soon he set up a side business of his own to pursue turkey-related innovations.
In those days, most turkeys were still sold in butcher shops with head, feet and entrails intact.
Meanwhile, processors trying to market fully eviscerated turkeys to supermarkets were having trouble with the drumsticks which, left to themselves, sometimes emerged from processing pointing every which way.
Determined to rein the legs in, Tony Volk experimented with string, rubber bands and other bindings.
He taught his sons to use wire-bending machines and convinced his younger brother, Henry, to quit his job as a tax auditor and join the quest.
"It was something that needed to be done," declares Henry Volk, now 80 years old.
The result was a breakthrough in supermarket turkey presentation: the Hok-Lok.
Introduced in 1963, it was a patented length of thick-gauge wire that looped over the ends of both drumsticks, holding them tight to the bird, with both ends anchored in the body cavity.
The wire was designed to keep the turkey in one good-looking piece all the way through the cooking.
Processors loved the Hok-Lok because it made a bird's breast appear plumper.
At first some consumers tried to yank the unfamiliar contraption out before cooking, but eventually most got used to it.
By the early 1970s, the Volks were selling 100 million Hok-Loks a year.
Tony Volk wasn't always so lucky.
A scheme to market turkey feathers left him with a warehouse full of slow-selling fluff.
In the late 1960s, he was also beaten to the punch in marketing the first pop-up timer.
That distinction fell to Dun-Rite Co., a tiny company in Fresno, Calif.
The Dun-Rite pop-up contained a spring-mounted plunger whose lower tip was embedded in a metallic bead.
The bead was designed to liquefy at 180 degrees and release the plunger.
"They didn't always work," admits co-founder Leo Pearlstein, an 85-year-old public-relations man in Los Angeles who now promotes poultry stuffing.
Dun-Rite was sold in 1973 to 3M Co., the big St. Paul., Minn., conglomerate.
It refined the pop-ups and put its marketing muscle behind them.
By then, Tony Volk had launched a counterattack.
His initial weapon was the Vue-Temp.
Instead of popping out when the turkey was done, the Vue-Temp stuck out at the start and gradually sank into the roasting bird.
When it disappeared, the meat was ready.
However, the protruding stem of the Vue-Temp had to be folded down for packaging.
Cooks had to snap up the stem before putting the bird in the oven, which some failed to do.
"People would write letters saying, 'Why didn't it pop up?' " says Steve Volk.
Tony Volk shifted to a pop-up timer of his own design, similar to the Dun-Rite/3M device.
Oldest son Anthony crisscrossed the country pitching pop-ups to processors and supermarket chains.
In Turlock, the clan donned sanitary hairnets and put together pop-ups around the kitchen table at night.
The Volk family business was sued by 3M for patent infringement in 1982.
After several years of litigation, the two sides negotiated a settlement that permitted them to manufacture pop-ups under each other's patents.
Thanks to Tony Volk's contacts in the turkey business, his own timer business took off and, a few months before his death from cancer in 1991, Volk Enterprises acquired 3M's pop-up business.
At the company Tony Volk left behind, the Hok-Lok has largely given way to its more supple nylon cousin, another Volk invention called the Handi-Clamp.
With offices in Brazil, Canada and Hong Kong, the company now markets pop-ups for everything from salmon steaks to pork chops, selling over 100 million of the devices a year.
Manufacturing now takes place in a sprawling modern complex whose circular lobby sports a V-shaped fountain and a life-size painting of the founder.
The Volk sons have worked hard to boost the pop-up's respectability and counter its critics.
The company has sponsored university cooking studies and armed its timers with more powerful springs to ensure they can burst through the thickest basting.
Anthony Volk says he continues to invite high-profile chefs to visit his factory.
Meanwhile, working over turkeys wired with all manner of electronic probes to measure heat, company researchers are testing timers that spring at lower temperatures and devices that follow the roasting process in greater detail.
The tip of one model changes color as the turkey gets hotter before finally popping.
Another contains multiple plungers, also to give cooks a clear idea of how their bird is progressing.
Still, Steve Volk worries that adding too many bells and whistles to the simple turkey timer will only spark more culinary confusion.
"To change it into some high-tech device may not fly," he says.
Belt Buckle Bottle Opener
No one will know you're carrying.
by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany, doesn't do bottles.
Sterling silver; belt included.