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January 24, 2006

Tiddlywinks To Be Olympic Sport at 2012 London Games?

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Everything you always wanted to know about the sport of Tiddlywinks was included in Lori Aratani's most enlightening article in the January 21 Washington Post, where it appeared above the fold on the front page of the paper's Metro section.

Must've been a slow news day.

Anyway, among the tidbits in the story was the news that Dave "The Dragon" Lockwood (above, on the right, locked in a fierce battle) — rated #1 in the world in 2001 and training furiously now in an attempt to recapture that spot — "is hoping to persuade Prince Philip, reportedly a tiddlywinks aficionado, to suggest that tiddlywinks be chosen as a demonstration sport during the 2012 Olympic Games in London."

Here's the article.

    Family's Game Is No Joke

    Silver Spring Father and Sons Revel in Competitive Tiddlywinks

    Dave "The Dragon" Lockwood has heard it all before.

    He has seen the smirks; he has heard the jokes.

    But as a former world champion, he has also basked in the glory of a sport that some describe as just the right mix of skill and intellect.

    And now he is passing that on to his children.

    NASCAR has the Earnhardts; baseball, the Ripkens; and football, the Mannings.

    Now competitive tiddlywinks has... the Lockwoods.

    From his Silver Spring home -- where tiddlywinks practice is wedged among homework assignments, soccer games and wrestling matches -- Lockwood is grooming his own dynasty.

    Even as he hones his skills -- hoping to recapture the No. 1 ranking he last held in 2001 -- Lockwood is busy schooling his children in the ways of the squidger.

    All five of his children play tiddlywinks, and of them, Max, the middle child, appears to have the most potential to join his father in the top echelons of the wink world.

    At 12, Max was one of the youngest players ever to hold a world title.

    At 16, he is currently ranked 52nd in the world in tiddlywinks.

    But his brothers, Jon, 13, and Ben, 10, also have potential, their father said.

    "Strategically, Max probably has the most experience," Lockwood said.

    "But Jon and Ben have been coming along fast."

    In fact, Jon and his father are slated to compete in April in England at both the world pairs championship and the English pairs tournament.

    The Lockwood children said it was only natural for them to take up the sport.

    They grew up watching their dad compete, and last year -- the 50th anniversary of the modern game -- Lockwood took the entire family to England for the festivities.

    "Tiddlywinks doesn't sound very serious,'' said Max, who participates in other sports, such as wrestling, and who started a tiddlywinks club at his school.

    "But you start playing, and you realize how different and challenging it is to do each shot. There's so much strategy."

    Added Lockwood, the father: "Sometimes it's hard to stand up and take the ridicule that comes when you say that you take tiddlywinks seriously. But it does have a physical element.''

    The elder Lockwood was a freshman at MIT when he was handed a list of activities he could participate in.

    On the list: tiddlywinks.

    "So I checked it off, along with baseball and skydiving,'' Lockwood said.

    "I didn't think they were serious."

    But a few weeks later, the captain of MIT's tiddlywinks team called.

    And kept calling.

    Lockwood went to a meeting and discovered that he had a knack for the squidger (the tool used to launch the winks).

    Two years later, in 1972, Lockwood was on a plane to London, where the Americans battled the English.

    Much to the dismay of the Brits, the brash Yanks won.

    Lockwood's skill would eventually earn him a No. 1 ranking from the English Tiddlywinks Association.

    Lockwood is hoping to return to the top of the sport this year.

    He seems to have the momentum. Lockwood teamed with son Jon for the North American Tiddlywinks Association pairs tournament, held recently in the basement of a Potomac home.

    Around the room, more than a dozen winkers -- mostly boys and men, from middle school students to adults -- warmed up.

    They set up the tables and smoothed out the felt pads.

    Lighting was adjusted.

    There was laughter and a bit of backslapping.

    Phrases such as: "It's a good potting squidger," "If you're on this, you boondock" and "The blue's over the yellow -- I could consider double-booning" filled the air.

    When tournament play began, the atmosphere grew tense.

    Tiny distractions -- the slightest movement or even the click of a camera shutter -- drew angry glances.

    As he and Jon played, Lockwood dispensed advice like a Jedi master: "Just focus on the shot. Don't worry about the situation." "Quick and continuous motion. Quick and continuous motion."

    And like a young Jedi, Jon sometimes rolled his eyes and made faces at his father.

    But the father-son combination proved to be a winning one.

    The two Lockwoods won first place, and Dave Lockwood moved up one notch to eighth in the world.

    Max, partnered with another player, came in second.

    Ben, the youngest Lockwood, made it to the semifinals before being knocked out.

    When most Americans think of tiddlywinks, they probably envision a brightly colored Milton Bradley set procured from the local drugstore.

    Lockwood said real tiddlywinks, which involves two or four people, is played on a 6-by-3-foot felt mat.

    Winks come in four colors -- blue, green, red and yellow -- and two sizes: two large winks and four small ones in each color.

    And there's a pot, generally a red cup, in the middle.

    The winks are shot using a squidger (a disk that is one to two inches in diameter).

    But to Lockwood, the game is much more than just shooting plastic disks into a tiny red plastic cup.

    Players earn points ("tiddlies") for the number of winks they land in the cup (if a player lands all his or her winks in the cup, it's known as "potting out") but can also block opponents from reaching the pot by "squopping" or covering their winks.

    A covered wink cannot be played until it is freed or until another player pots out.

    Players take turns and are awarded points on the basis of who fills the cup first.

    Got that?

    Though the sport traces its roots to late Victorian times -- the earliest patent application was filed by Joseph Fincher in 1888 -- most historians think modern tiddlywinks was developed in 1955 by a group of Cambridge undergraduates.

    It is not known whether alcohol was involved.

    In the 1960s, as many as 37 English universities played the game, said Severin Drix, author of "History of the North American Tiddlywinks Association, 1962-1969."

    The game landed in the United States in the early 1960s. In 1966, the North American Tiddlywinks Association was formed.

    Most American tiddlywinks players trace their lineage to Cornell, Harvard, Ontario's Waterloo Lutheran University (which in 1973 became Wilfrid Laurier University) or MIT, Lockwood's alma mater.

    In addition to schooling his sons in the ways of the game, Lockwood wants to take tiddlywinks to the next step.

    To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the North American Tiddlywinks Association this year, Lockwood is hoping to persuade Prince Philip, reportedly a tiddlywinks aficionado, to suggest that tiddlywinks be chosen as a demonstration sport during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

    Could an Olympic medal be in the offing?

    If the Games can have synchronized swimming, he said, why can't there be winks?

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Bonus: along with the above story was a sidebar headlined "How to Speak Tiddlywinks"; it's below.

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Good news, bad news: the good news is that you can buy your very own set of Tiddlywinks — so you can immediately start training for London 2012 — for $9.95 here.

The bad news?

"Minimum recommended age: 6"

Oh, well — I don't suppose they'll card you so go ahead....

January 24, 2006 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kensington FlexClip Computer Copyholder

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You don't need a treadmill to find this nicely–designed accessory useful.

It's very simple: a flexible, 9.5"–long device with strong clamps at each end to grip whatever you put there.

You can use it as shown in the photo above or if you're me then you'll clamp one end onto the edge of the cookie sheet still functioning as the net under my PowerBook while I smooth out the rough spots on treadmill desk Version 2.0.

If you've got a desktop computer you can use the included adhesive pad to place one end on the side or top of your machine, as shown

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just above and

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below.

$5.83 here.

January 24, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Good tech, bad tech — Free graph paper v Opera mini: One works, one fails

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Today's been a wonderful day, demonstrating both the very best of internet-enabled technology and the worst.

First, the winner: Free graph paper from incompetech.com.

That's right: free.

Go here, follow the instructions geared to TechnoDolt™–level computer enthusiasts like me and before you can say Bob's your uncle you're printing out all manner of graph paper (above) that's as good as store–bought.

It's like having an engineering school bookstore in your computer.

Sensational.

I just love the domain name: incompetech.com.

Be still my TechnoDolt™ heart.

And their slogan: "Ugly website. Brilliant Content."

Utterly sublime.

And now the loser: the envelope, please.

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It's Opera's new Opera mini application, designed to let you browse the internet on your cellphone without having to view degraded versions of websites.

Turns out Opera started offering it worldwide last month (up to that time only residents of some Nordic countries and Germany could download it) but chose not to announce the global launch until today to give itself time to prepare for the increased traffic on its servers.

I read about it in today's Wall Street Journal and got all excited, thinking I could view not only bookofjoe's text — as I can do now, as long I'm as I'm willing to hit "next" about five or ten times to read a single post — but the pictures as well on the 1" screen of my Nokia 6230.

Opera mini has a one–time cost of $2.99 and it's available to Cingular customers, of which I'm one, so I figured let's light this firecracker.

Well, after about 20 minutes of torture and frustration I gave up.

I was able to actually follow the instructions and get the download onto my phone but when I tried to use it nothing happened, just the usual circular rotation back to the previous screen and all.

Now I can't even find the thing on my phone.

So much for that.

The free graph paper is via the inaugural edition of Charles Platt's guest–edited Cool Tools, a smashing debut.

January 24, 2006 at 02:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Trouble With Chestnuts: Episode 2 — Reader Valerie sorts out the pretender tools from the contenders

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Those of you who read the December 4, 2004 post about chestnuts (yes, all twenty–three of you) may recall that when we left the topic, I had noted my reliance up to that time on the Chestnut Critter (below),

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a relatively inexpensive ($3.99) device intended to safely score your chestnuts prior to roasting.

I also reviewed the Chestnutter (top), a newer arrival on the chestnut scene, on the basis of a description of the device provided by Jasco, the manufacturer.

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Fast forward thirteen months to 11 days ago — Friday, January 13, 2006 — when Valerie, a stalwart reader from back in the day, emailed the following critique of these two chestnut scoring tools.

    Joe,

    Almost one year later, I have used my Chestnut Critter and lamented its inability to stand up to the pesky nuts.

    However, this Christmas I have received a Chestnutter (also learned about from you).

    I LOVE my Chestnutter.

    It is sturdier than the Critter with sharp blades that stay put (as opposed to separating from the tool upon wedging in the nut itself).

    Oh, the blades do wedge, though - but that goofy-looking second arm [below]

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    firmly wrestles the nut loose from the tool.

    Well-rounded nuts are best to use - they fit best in the tool's bowl and allow for the deepest cut, thereby allowing for the easiest peel.

    Avoid the flat ones.

    The Chestnutter isn't perfect, as some nuts still resist the removal of all of their skin.

    Not that I can blame them.

    However, the roasted chestnuts are still worth it - especially with a little butter.

    So, I hope you have had the opportunity to enjoy this delicacy during their present season.

    And, if you had similar trouble with the Critter, I wanted to spread the good word about an alternate solution.

    Happy New Year!

    -Valerie

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The Chestnut Critter costs $19.99 here.

You will note that it is out of stock there, as is the case with all the stores online that carry it.

This is not surprising considering the holiday season recently passed.

I suggest either visiting a Bed, Bath & Beyond store in person or waiting till the websites restock.

However, if you don't mind paying a $5 premium, the manufacturer will sell you one direct for $24.95 here (Click on "Buy Now").

If I were the cynical sort I'd wonder if Jasco, the company that makes it, is creating an artificial shortage of their device in order to squeeze that nice $5 surcharge/profit out of anyone who wants to buy one in the foreseeable future.

Chestnut_1

Nah... that's not how businesses do things... is it?

January 24, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

'Wonder Bread Unveils Whole Wheat Loaf'

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Is nothing sacred?

The last of the iconic food products that are no good for you but satisfy mightily has yielded to the nutrition police.

Yesterday's introduction of two new new whole–wheat versions of Wonder Bread's venerable flagship — since 1921 the closest thing in the kitchen to edible aerogel (below) — puts paid to an era.

Read versions of the sad story here, here and here.

Me, I'm heading for the kitchen to make an old–fashioned peanut butter & jelly sandwich — Jif extra crunchy, Welch's grape jelly and two albino–white, weightless slices of Wonder Bread in its original incarnation.

You will take my original Wonder Bread away from me only by prying the flattened slices from my cold dead sticky fingers.

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Which is patently impossible since the bread will disintegrate like the Mission Impossible message tape as soon as you attempt to manipulate it.

January 24, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

EaseOut™ Broken Bulb Remover

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A shocking development.

Just kidding, ha ha.

Nobody's laughing.

Hey — turn on the laugh track.

Bunch of incompetents around here, I tell you: good help is hard to find.

But I digress.

From the website:

    EaseOut™ bulb remover safely extracts broken bulbs from light sockets.

    These plastic pliers don't conduct electricity and their long, sure-grip handle has a built-in safety shield to protect your eyes and hands from glass shards.

    What a bright idea!

    PVC; 8½ x 5½".

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Why am I not excited by what appears in the picture above to be a metal spring between the handles?

Doh!

$7.98 here.

Doctor's advice: wear gloves anyhow, just for the heck of it, should you buy and use this device.

You know me, old belt + suspenders; I'm the little old lady from anesthesia.

I wonder if you could put your own CD or DVD up there in place of the included "safety shield."

Hey, wait a minute — maybe that's an old Alice Cooper or Beastie Boys album....

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w00t!

This product wins bookofjoe's understatement of the year–to–date award for the wonderful headline on the product's web page:

"Safer than metal pliers"

Yessssss!

January 24, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Panera Blocked Site Hack

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I remarked Saturday on the fact that I couldn't access bookofjoe on my local Panera's WiFi because it was blocked.

Reader Benjamin Tung of the great state of Michigan confirmed shortly thereafter that the Italian–American corporate version of the Chinese firewall is up and functioning in a similar fashion at his local branch of the sandwich/bakery chain.

Benjamin wrote, "Don't make me choose between the cinnamon raisin bread and reading your blog."

I hear you.

In the meantime you can use a nifty workaround submitted by Enoch Choi, a reader who, among other things, is the founder and CEO of medmusings.

Here's his hack, which he put up in the comments section of the Panera post:

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Sweet.

One of the nice things about bookofjoe is that even though I'm a TechnoDolt™ I've got a plethora of readers who, when it comes to technology, know quite well the difference between a hawk and a handsaw.

[via Enoch Choi and medmusings]

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Addendum at 4:23 p.m.: Just moments ago I received the following email from Enoch Choi:

    I'm not just a reader... I'm a joehead ;)

Stipulated.

January 24, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bicycle Parts Pendulum Clock

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From funkmeister Graham Bergh and his merry band of mashup artists up in the Rose City comes another of their signature creations.

Find an old bicycle, take it apart, clean up the parts, put a few of them back together and voila: this pendulum clock.

12"H x 8"W x 6"D.

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$84 here (AA battery included).

But let's say you like the idea of big gears and time but you're not about to drop $84 to have it on your desk.

OK.

I can see your point of view.

I had my crack research team (Yo, Jack, you still there?) see what they could see and lo and behold they returned a much more affordable iteration (below).

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7.6"W x 6"H x 2.5"D.

True, the AA battery's not included; true, this one requires you to read the instructions.

But hey, for $19.99 maybe you can be a little flexible, what?

January 24, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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