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October 20, 2004

Bedside Clock Flashlight

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Sometimes I think companies randomly pick objects to combine into "new" appliances and devices.

The line of LG refrigerators with built-in internet-ready flatscreens embedded in the doors; LG's new line of microwaves with a toaster, radio/recorder, or coffee-maker built-in, all these multiple-function creations seem to me the product of what unimaginative designers might resort to under pressure to come up with something new.

So it's hard to get all that excited about this new product, which merges a travel alarm clock and flashlight "so you won't have trouble navigating around a dark, unfamiliar room."

Requires 4 AAA batteries (not included).

I'd think twice about taking this item on a trip; bet airport security would look real carefully at a dynamite-stick shaped object with a built-in timer.

But maybe that's just my paranoia talking.

Buy one and report back to me, and I'll put your comments right up here.

$24.95 here.

[via redferret.net]

October 20, 2004 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

thedoll goes to Shanghai

Shanghai

She's a joehead from my Singapore posse.

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I'm big in Singapore, what with thedoll and xiaxue and other cool girls.... But I digress.

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thedoll just returned from a business trip to Shanghai, where she took many wonderful pictures.

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I've included a few here to give you a taste,

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but it's worth taking the full tour at her blog.

One picture I found especially compelling was this one,

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of the inside of a typical Shanghai cab.

Crime is so rampant that the driver is enclosed in a wraparound protective plastic shell.

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Makes New York and all the rest look like free-fire zones, what?

You GO thedoll!

October 20, 2004 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Sometimes, in order to be more accurate, you have to be less certain'

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I ordered this book a couple weeks ago, and finished it this morning.

I found it very interesting, though not all that useful.

You could sum it up with a line from the chapter on evaluating source material:

"Sometimes, in order to be more accurate, you have to be less certain."

There's a nice echo of

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Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle there.

Of interest, perhaps, is that in the book I found one unclear, ambiguous sentence and one misspelled word.

Too bad they didn't run the manuscript by old moi.

FunFact: the New York Times magazine is fact-checked by four full-time checkers [the author of The Fact Checker's Bible is the chief] and additional free-lancers as needed.

More: The Times was the first U.S. newspaper to employ a staff of full-time researchers.

About a dozen research librarians are available to any member of the staff to check particular facts that require verification.

The researchers are based in the largest newspaper reference library in the country.

It contains about 60,000 volumes, some dating back to the mid-19th century.

The research library subscribes to 200 periodicals, and has access to every possible research database.

I'd love to spend a day in the Times' library, just watching how they do things.

I bet I could learn an awful lot from these world-class researchers.

October 20, 2004 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Your Credit Score

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This U.S. government website is an excellent introduction to the subject.

It was created by the Federal Trade Commission to give you some background about this very important number.

Why is your credit score a big deal?

If it's too low - the range is 330-830 - you'll be unable to get a car loan or home mortgage, or at least you'll pay a higher interest rate - potentially a huge amount of your hard-earned cash - than those who could more easily afford to.

That's just the way the world works; the people most able to borrow money are those who don't need it.

But you can put this fact of life to good use if you know how to game the system.

For example: visit your local Food Lion.

Pretty spartan, huh?

Then wander by Whole Foods.

If you go around lunch time, you can easily score a delicious free meal from all the samples and handouts.

And that's without snacking in the produce section.

Be inconspicuous and you can dine there daily without ever drawing a second glance or spending a cent. But I digress.

Most people are clueless about credit issues.

For example, 28% of people believe - incorrectly - that maxing out a credit card will improve their credit score.

Only 13% know that a good score

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is one that is at least 700.

Just 34% understand that a score simply measures risk of default, not income or age.

The above (percent) results were obtained, by the way, from a survey conducted by Opinion Research for the Consumer Federation of American and Providian Financial, a major credit-card provider.

How is your credit score calculated?

Five factors are weighed.

In descending order of importance, they are:

• Payment history (35%)

• Amounts owed (30%)

• Length of history (15%)

• Types of credit in use (10%)

• New credit (10%)

After many years of effort and opposition from the three major credit bureaus, people - in the Western part of the U.S. only, starting this December - will be able to free copies of their credit reports, under the first phase of a program Congress approved last year.

Each of the three companies - Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union - will set up a website, toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address for handling the requests.

If you visit their website now - as I just did - you'll find them eager to give you your credit score, but you'll have to pay.

79% of Americans have errors in their credit reports.

That means you, most likely.

Yes, you.

As many as 50 million people have mistakes big enough to deny them loans or the lower interest rates they qualify for.

According to Amanda Welsh, author of "The Identity Theft Protection Guide," you could pay as much as $130,000 more than you have to over the course of a 30-year, $150,000 mortgage.

Now do I have your attention?

Free credit reports will become available across the country over the next year.

A few states - Colorado, Georgia, and New Jersey - already mandate free reports.

October 20, 2004 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Charles Cordier, Ethnographic Sculptor

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The Dahesh Museum of Art [New York City; 580 Madison Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets] is the only U.S. venue to present "Facing the Other: Charles Cordier, Ethnographic Sculpture."

The show opened last Tuesday, and will be up through January 9, 2005.

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It features 58 sculptures - many never exhibited before - as well as paintings, prints, and photographs documenting his career.

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Charles Cordier (1827-1905), the leading ethnographic sculptor of 19th-century France, created exotic works closely associated with Orientalism.

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He believed in the diverse beauty of humanity and worked in various stones and metal finishes.

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Cordier trained under François Rude, creator of the massive stone relief "La Marseillaise" on the Arc de Triomphe.

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He became renowned at age 21 when his bust of Seïd Enkess, a former slave from Nubia (modern Sudan), was exhibited at the 1848 Salon.

October 20, 2004 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Arkive.org - 'Creating a lasting audio-visual record of life on Earth'

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You could spend

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all day

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on this

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spectacular site.

[via Daniel Hurie]

October 20, 2004 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ego vase by Karim Rashid

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It Reminds me of that optical illusion

Facevase

that's in all the introductory psychology books.

Linda Hales wrote an interesting story about the great designer for the October 9 Washington Post. From her article:
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"The whole problem of the human race is nostalgia," said Rashid. [I am reminded of that wonderful line, "Nostalgia isn't what it used to be"]

Neckties and weddings are high on Rashid's list of absurdities.

So is conventional furniture, which he dismisses as "a derivative of a derivative of a derivative" of something created back in the 16th century.

"Why do we keep hanging on to these things?" he asked. "Why are we afraid to evolve? I have no idea."

Why do so many people cling to the past?

"It's this idea that somehow the past was better," he said. "It not. It's better now."
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I agree.

Now is such a great time to be alive.

Every moment a new world, every day a revelation.

October 20, 2004 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Europe's oldest and largest living fungus discovered

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Just reported, it's growing in Switzerland's Engadine National Park, where it currently occupies 86 acres.

Scientists at Switzerland's Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research say it has been growing for at least 1,000 years in the Alpine pine forest.

The vast majority of the ancient honey fungus Armillaria ostoyae is underground; a network of filaments looking like long shoelaces feeds on trees and their roots.

In the autumn, fruiting bodies appear as large yellow-brown mushrooms that are not only edible but, aficionados say, delicious.

But not to worry: this Swiss fungus is far smaller than the U.S. and world champion, another honey fungus growing in the Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon.

That one, covering an area 25 times greater - an estimated 2,200 acres, 3.5 miles across, an area equivalent to 1,665 football fields - is between 2,400 and 7,200 years old.

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Puts things in perspective, what?

October 20, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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