December 12, 2007
Just so stories: How Hermès got its orange
It was the only color that was widely available during World War II.
You could look it up (fourth paragraph).
Stanley 200-Foot Open Reel Fiberglass Tape
The other day I decided to lay out a one mile long running course in my neighborhood.
I'd roughed one out with my car's odometer measuring out the tenths of a mile but it really wasn't very accurate.
I figured I'd have to make do with a short tape measure used again and again but decided to see what else was available just for the heck of it.
I happened on the Stanley device pictured up top and ordered it from Amazon.
Easy and fun to use.
I spent a couple hours walking and marking my course in 200-foot intervals.
The nice thing about the tape being made of fiberglass rather than metal is that you can lay it down along a curve and it will stay there.
Anne Applebaum's Op-Ed essay in yesterday's Washington Post explored the secret dream of many people: to simply disappear.
Her piece follows.
- A Vanishing Fantasy
If for nothing else, we should be grateful to John and Anne Darwin for bringing the excellent word "pseudocide" back into wider public use. For those who don't follow the British press as closely as they should, John Darwin is a canoeist who paddled off into the North Sea in 2002 and was presumed dead after the remains of his canoe washed ashore. Last week, he walked into a police station in Hartlepool and announced he had amnesia. "I think I am a missing person," he declared.
Unfortunately for Darwin, there was some evidence that his memory was rather better than he claimed. Having perused the press accounts of his death and reappearance, one curious member of the public decided to Google the words"John," "Anne," and "Panama." She clicked on a few images — and there they were, on the Web site of a Panamanian real estate agent, grinning. The picture was dated July 14, 2006.
It now seems that the Darwins have been reunited in a quasi-afterlife even longer than that. In the past few days, police have discovered a secret door in the back of a wardrobe in Mrs. Darwin's former house, which led into a secret apartment next door (thus inspiring the immortal headline "The Lie, the Switch and the Wardrobe"). Presumably, this arrangement grew awkward over time, which explains why Mrs. Darwin traveled to Panama in 2005, looking to invest her husband's life insurance money in waterfront property.
A number of mysteries remain to be solved, primary among them why Darwin abandoned his tropical paradise and turned himself in. Still, it is already clear that this was indeed a pseudocide — or faked death, a form of deception that has a remarkably extensive history. Huckleberry Finn carried one out to escape his alcoholic father; James Bond once pretended to die ("You Only Live Twice"), as did Kate Winslet's character in "Titanic." In real life, the trick has been attempted by a British politician who wanted to escape to Australia with his mistress; Ken Kesey, author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," who fled to Mexico to escape drug prosecution; and at least two people who pretended to have died on Sept. 11, 2001. Urban legend has it that as many as a quarter of those who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge are pseudocides. There are even how-to books ("How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found") for the pseudocidal.
The most interesting thing about the Darwin case, though, is the enormous attention the story has received in Britain. For these sorts of enthusiasms are rarely accidental: Like the " runaway bride" whose story enraptured America a few years ago, this one surely taps into some deep, universal dream of escape. Columnists are inspired to fantasize about vanishing in the back of a taxi ("The only trace would be a lip gloss that fell out of my bag and rolled onto the back seat"), and the police are openly making jokes — among other things holding a "Lazarus Press Conference" — to the amusement of everyone else ("Say what you like about the British constabulary, they have a faultless grip on ironic biblical reference"). Everyone, it seems, has considered vanishing. The potential motives are innumerable — boredom, love, greed, shame, guilt, debt avoidance, revenge or simply a desire to lead a more interesting life — which is perhaps why the wish to disappear is a lot more widespread than one would think.
Yet the story also shows that even if the desire remains deep and universal, the technical difficulties involved in a successful disappearance are increasing all the time. Video surveillance cameras, DNA testing, biometric identification, electronic banking, the tax authorities and, yes, the unexpected hazard of Google are going to make this sort of caper ever harder to pull off. Even the most distant, obscure place one can think of — Panama, say — is inhabited by people with cameras in their cellphones.
A complete identity change requires a would-be pseudocide to wriggle out from the vast tangle of the modern financial, personal and government networks that ensnare us all. Escape is now harder to achieve than ever — which could explain why it is also more appealing than ever.
Of all my friends and acquaintances, the individual most likely to do a "rainmaker" (our pet word for suddenly and inexplicably vanishing) can't.
As he pointed out to me, it's hard to disappear from view when you're 6'5" tall.
- Tingler Head Massager
Sending tingling sensations from scalp to toes, the head massager helps ease away the stress of your day.
Custom-fit fingers bend to fit your head, gently raising and lowering for a relaxing massage.
Features rubber-tipped copper fingers and wood handle.
Collapses for storage.
12" x 6".
BehindTheMedspeak: How to end a recurring nightmare
In a response to a November 27, 2007 Washington Post Health section article on dreams, Margaret Bradley of Alexandria, Virginia described a cure in a letter published in yesterday's paper; her correspondence follows.
- Much Ado About Dreams
I had a recurring nightmare for over 25 years. A therapist suggested that the next time I was startled awake, I immediately close my eyes, imagine myself back in the dream, and then imagine a different ending.
I was very skeptical, but I tried it. I have not dreamed that nightmare since the late 1980s.
What have you got to lose by trying her method?
Nothing but your nightmare.
I don't know if you've noticed but here we're about doing things that offer a huge upside/downside ratio, whether they be medical, financial or emotional.
This fits the bill to a T.
Poochie Bells — 'No more accidents by the door'
She wrote, "My dog's trained to ring bells when he needs to go out. The bells are called Poochie Bells. He had the idea down within 24 hours of the bells going up."
I've got people on my crack research team who wouldn't twig that quickly.
But I digress.
From the Poochie Bells website:
- Poochie Bells
The original designer doggie doorbell — ring...ring... I need to go out!
Give your dog the ability to safely, clearly and effectively communicate with you without whining, barking, waiting or scratching at the door.
Extra-smooth reinforced bells, snapped and looped safely into place so that they won't be pulled or fall off.
Heavy-duty durable designer grosgrain ribbon, strategically placed for both small and large breeds.
Recommended and endorsed by professional trainers and breeders throughout the U.S.
Specifically designed for both small and large breeds — all dogs can reach the bells.
Yes! Your dog can ring — easy to train and use quickly — 95% success rate.
Each Poochie Bell comes with our suggested training method.
An intelligent, proven, and highly effective training choice.
Top loop unsnaps to accommodate any door handle type.
Portable and great for travel or for the dog sitter.
Your pooch could be ringing just days from now.
For dogs ages 10 weeks to 20 years.
No batteries or wires.
bookofjoe MoneyMaker™ — GPS Binoculars
Who wants to be a multimillionaire?
What a great idea, if I do say so myself: binoculars that show the GPS coordinates of whatever they're focused on — in the form of a heads-up ("eyes-up"?) display overlaid on the viewed image.
Get to work.
Atomic Wave Sunglasses — 'Not suitable for people suffering from epilepsy'
Says so right on a website.
- Atomic Wave Sunglasses
The only shades cool enough to be worn after dark.
Just because our sunglasses look like regular sunglasses doesn’t mean they have to act like them.
These designer style glasses use electroluminescent fibers set into the frame to illuminate the entire outline with a steady or phased glow.
Sunglasses are of course the must-have accessory for all happening people but whoever you are, wearing them after the sun has set just makes you look ridiculous.
Enter Atomic Wave Sunglasses, the only sunglasses designed specifically to be worn after dark.
For parties, raves, clubs and anywhere you want to be noticed, the Atomic Wave glasses are second to none.
Incorporating Glowtronix fibers inside the frames, these hot glasses illuminate throughout their entire frames.
They can either be set to full-on or, for a funkier approach, to a phasing color pulse.
They're powered by a compact remote wired battery pack (batteries included), and are the only sunglasses cool enough to wear at night.
• One pair of Atomic Wave sunglasses with built in Glowtronix fibers
• Cord length: 91cm (perfect to put in your back pocket!)
• Size: 14.5cm (wide) x 14cm (nose to end of ear piece)
• Illuminates with a steady glow or phasing light
• Not suitable for people suffering from epilepsy
• Attached to power cord and battery case
• Includes 2 AA batteries
Luscious Lime Green (top) or Cool Blue.