January 28, 2007
My favorite cartoon
Above, by Jack Ziegler.
When I first saw it in the New Yorker many years ago, I was dumbstruck.
The version pictured above — old, yellow, spotted, torn, taped and cracked, missing pieces here and there — has been on one or another of my refrigerators since forever.
And will be until I drop dead.
No doubt a fat check will arrive later that day.
What is it?
Don't ask me, ask Rob, whose website, puzzlephotos.blogspot.com, features unusual objects that you're invited to guess the identity of.
He's been doing this since July, 2004, so there's plenty there in the archives for nights you can't sleep and need something to do.
My own "What is it" occasional feature pales by comparison.
Helpful Hints from joeeze: Jean-Luc Godard on where to put your TV
The legendary French director, in an interview I read many years ago, said that the difference in how people perceived movies and television resulted from the placement of the screen.
Godard noted that we generally look down at the TV screen (remember, this was back in the day, when screens were much smaller) and up at a movie screen.
He believed the supplication-like nature of looking up created a kind of worshipful sense, making us more likely to imbue what we saw with greater meaning and force.
Gazing down at the TV screen did the opposite, making us spectators rather than participants.
With the advent of big flat screens, it's now possible to come much closer to the cinema experience by placing the screen up rather than at eye level or lower.
That's what I'm going to do when I get mine, for sure.
Hotel Bed Jumping — Could be bigger than the Pillow Fight League
Plenty of great pictures (above and below) to inspire you.
There's nothing more fun than bed jumping — especially if it's not your bed you're wrecking.
Backdating: White noise, 'mostly say hooray for our side' or distraction?
"She blinded me with science," sang Thomas Dolby (above) back in 1983, and I don't know about you but me, I'm being buried under the blizzard of news about the mushrooming stock option backdating scandals involving (so far) hundreds of companies both large and small.
Is backdating a crime or not?
Depends on what the meaning of "crime" is.
Which in turn depends on which dictionary – or person — you consult.
On the one hand (somewhat predictably) you find on the January 10, 2007 Wall Street Journal's editorial page stuff like, "Question whether backdating is really the crime of the century, or merely a business curiosity blown way out of proportion by poorly reasoned coverage."
And, "Here and there... the intellectual fallacies that have permeated the coverage are gradually poked away."
And, "All that backdating comes down to is a nonmaterial accounting irregularity... involving a defective judgment about whether 'in the money' options needed to undergo expensing."
Richard Marmaro and Ryan Weinstein, attorneys representing the former CEO and chairman of Brocade Communications in connection with his stock option issues, wrote in the January 10, 2007 Wall Street Journal, "Indeed, much of what is pejoratively called 'backdating' was actually undertaken in good faith."
So maybe it's just a technicality, then?
Well, Ben Stein, in the January 7, 2007 New York Times, didn't see it that way.
He described backdating as "Sort of like getting to pick lottery numbers after the winning numbers are drawn — and your stockholders supply the prize money."
He continued, "The options were awarded in a highly unethical way and then condoned — if I may use that term — in a way that would make John Dillinger blush."
It all depends on what you think the meaning of "is" — or crime — is.
Helpful Hints from joeeze: How to clean your kitchen sponge
Sure, you could wait until it gets totally nasty and then replace it, but in the meantime you and your posse have to eat off your plates.
Why not refresh your soggy sponge — using your microwave?
Rob Stein, in a January 24, 2007 item that appeared, oddly enough, on page two of the main news section instead of that day's Food section, tells you how; the piece follows.
- Microwave Zaps Germs Lurking On Sponges
Here's some good news for everyone who worries about germs: Zapping that soggy kitchen sponge in the microwave for a couple of minutes can pretty much sterilize it.
"Microwave irradiation is a cost-effective, practical, fast, easy, and safe method of disinfecting household... items," according to a study published recently in the Journal of Environmental Health.
For the study, Gabriel Bitton of the University of Florida and his colleagues contaminated kitchen sponges and scrubbing pads with a variety of bugs including E. coli, viruses, protozoan parasites and bacterial spores. The researchers then zapped the objects in a standard household microwave oven for various times and tested them to see how long it took to kill different organisms.
While it took four to 10 minutes of microwaving to kill everything, most of the organisms were dead after just two, the researchers reported.
As many as 80 million Americans contract food-borne illnesses each year, and about 9,000 of them die. Kitchen contamination is common. Microbes on raw meat, poultry, fruits and vegetables can easily transfer to sinks, countertops, cutting boards and other objects. And wet sponges can be particularly prone to picking up pathogens.
The study shows that the microwave can be a simple, inexpensive and effective solution, the researchers said.
"Consumers... can use microwave ovens to significantly reduce microbial pathogens in the home environment," they wrote.
One wonders if those ridiculously expensive toothbrush sanitizers you see advertised in catalogs might be rendered superfluous by this simple, cost-free alternative.
Here's a link to a news release from Bitton and the University of Florida.
Here's a link to a video in which Bitton demonstrates how to do it.
Here's a link to a BBC story which offers a cautionary word or three regarding the technique.
On Friday (January 26, 2007) Rob Stein's follow-up story on the subject appeared in the Washington Post.
In it he noted that in the two days since the publication of his earlier piece on January 24, 2007, "several unhappy readers have called to report that when they tried this at home something startling happened: Their sponges ignited."
Here's the latest.
- Microwaves Can Ignite, as Well as Sterilize, Sponges
Kitchen sponge users, beware. Microwaving sponges can sterilize them but can also apparently have a downside: Some sponges may burst into flames.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that new research showed microwaving a kitchen sponge for two minutes can kill most germs. Since then, several unhappy readers have called to report that when they tried this at home something startling happened: Their sponges ignited.
In response, The Post contacted Gabriel Bitton of the University of Florida, who did the research, for advice.
"I have been microwaving sponges for the past two days and nothing bad happened in my home nor in my lab," Bitton responded yesterday in an e-mail.
Bitton noted, however, that he had tested only cellulose sponges, using a microwave with a maximum of 1,100 watts of power, never exceeding 90 percent of its power.
"We have no data from synthetic sponges or loofah sponges," Bitton said. "If the customer has a microwave with a higher power, he/she should experiment a little bit by increasing the exposure time gradually."
Bitton added this advice:
• Sponges should be fully soaked with water.
• Metallic scrubbing pads should never be put in a microwave.
• Soapy sponges can be microwaved, but not those containing detergents and other chemicals.
Finally, Bitton cautioned: "Beware of hot sponges after exposure."
BehindTheMedspeak: Sticks and stones may break your bones — but a doctor who uses these abbreviations can kill you
[via the Medical Board of California January 2007 Newsletter]
Search by color — no end of fun for the easily amused
And we know who they are, don't we?
All too well.
But I digress.