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November 29, 2004

PhiferReader

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The website calls it "the ultimate reading companion," and that may well be, but I just bought it because of this

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picture.

It shows someone lying in bed on their side reading.

That's what I do, 365 nights a year.

I lie in bed, on my side, reading.

And I've never found a device that would hold my book for me in my preferred left lateral decubitus position.

Until now.

The legend for the picture above says, "Its patented on-side reading feature gives a uniquely comfortable way to read in bed."

I can't wait to see if it really works for me.

$39.95.

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Watch the video and see what you think.

November 29, 2004 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Chinese Take-Out Bag

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Bet your superchic girlfriends don't have one of these.

Dazzle 'em with your flair.

The white vinyl bag features a zippered top, authentic metal spiral handle, and four metal feet.

The sides are screened with a fiery Chinese dragon and the words "Thank You" and "Come Again" are on top.

$20.95 here for the large one (above - 7" tall), or opt for the dressier 5¼" high" version (below) for the ultimate glammed-up look.

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The little one's $15.95, and it will go perfectly with your new Christian Louboutins.

November 29, 2004 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's most expensive chopsticks - from Hermès

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They'll set you back $450 for two sets, but hey - anyone can buy the $3.95 version from Crate and Barrel.

[On the Hermès homepage, move your cursor over to the far right and click on "guest star," then scroll down to "sushi sets."]

For the girl who's got everything, I suppose....

They would look awfully good as hairpins.

November 29, 2004 at 02:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'Extreme Alpinism - Climbing Light, Fast, and High'

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Mark Twight's book is unique among mountaineering tomes: it's considered kind of a master class taught by one of the acknowledged masters of alpine climbing.

Many of his routes in Asia, North America, and the Alps remain unrepeated.

Me, I'm scared of heights.

Even looking out the window of a tall building makes me woozy.

But I heard so much about this book I decided to buy it and read it.

And it was worth every penny of the $18.45 I paid for it at amazon.

You don't have to know a cramp from a crampon to enjoy and benefit from the wisdom of this hard, practical, no-nonsense man.

I love competence, and this book reeks of it.

The pictures alone are worth the price of admission.

Some excerpts:

    At the edge of the possible, the rules and techniques of climbing become quite different from the nostrums aimed at beginners.

    Character means more than strength or skill.

    Extreme alpinism is a matter of will.

    In a dangerous environment, speed is safety. Climbing routes at the edge of the possible is akin to playing Russian roulette. Each time the cylinder spins, the chance of firing a live cartridge increases. Therefore, "keep moving" is the mantra of the extreme climber. The idea of speed permeates this book.

    Beware of accidentally succeeding on a route above your ability. Success tends to breed ambition. The next time, a route of similar difficulty and danger may deliver the hard lesson that a single success at a high level may represent luck and not skill.

    Nobody controls a situation in the mountains. It is vanity to imagine one can. Instead, grow comfortable with giving up control and acting within chaos and uncertainty.

    When self-discipline fails and and fear runs unchecked, the spiral into panic is not far off. Panic is uncontrolled, undirected fear and as such is unproductive. Panic blocks thought. If you can't think, you die.

    In his book about soloing Nanga Parbat, Reinhold Messner wrote: "I only plan ahead when it is absolutely necessary. I believe in being independent - and that means I do not want to be dependent on my future."

    The goal of physical training for alpine climbing can be summed up in one phrase: to make yourself as indestructible as possible. The harder you are to kill, the longer you will last in the mountains.

    Learn to turn back before losing all ability to influence what will happen to you.

    A bad attitude for a climber bears little resemblance to the usual meaning of the term. Many climbers complete hard routes out of rage or despair - some make a lifestyle out of it. These are attitudes that some people might call "bad." I define a bad attitude as a mental state that prevents you from realizing your desires.

    A good attitude consists of a psychological state that allows and spurs you to reach a goal. Both equanimity and rage could qualify. Personal torment has inspired great climbs and great creations. Outsiders may view torment as a negative state of mind or bad attitude. But confusion, questioning, and doubt often act as fountains of creativity, producing great works of art and action. They meet my definition of good attitudes.

    Unlike other sports disciplines, high-level alpinism becomes more dangerous the more you do it. The drug-like demands of harder, higher, lighter, faster have killed most of the very best climbers the world has ever seen.

    When Velcro ices over, it won't close.

    Rock and ice fall is so common in the mountains that only a fool climbs without a helmet.

    Dexamethasone can mean the difference between flying home coach-class or arriving there by freight.

    Remember, it doesn't have to be fun to be "fun."


November 29, 2004 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Laser Tweezers

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Science fiction has long fancied the tractor beam, a hypothetical device that can hold objects without touching them.

Scientists have been doing this for years with molecules and living cells using lasers, but only by controlling a single laser beam.

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Arryx, a Chicago-based company, has discovered how to control thousands of these optical laser tweezers simultaneously, thus allowing it to introduce technology that has potential real-time biological applications.

They've just partnered with Haemonetics, a Braintree, Massachusetts maker of blood cell scavenging devices - "cell savers," in OR parlance - to develop a system that can sort blood cells.

This will allow much faster, easier, and more precise separation of whole blood into its component red cells, white cells, and platelets.

It will also remove bacteria and viruses from blood, both reducing the risks of transfusion and increasing the pool of potential blood donors.

Another area of major interest is in the fabrication of nanoscale computer chips and

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biological sensors, currently being explored by a number of groups.

[via The Economist]

November 29, 2004 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gloria Vanderbilt's love life - so many men, so much time...

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Her new memoir, "It Seemed Important At The Time: A Romance Memoir," is quite interesting and absorbing, and well-written to boot, a rarity among such books.

She was the classic "poor little rich girl," the subject of a world-wide media frenzy when a custody battle between her mother and her father's sister, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, broke out in 1934.

She was 10 years old at the time, and the combination of notoriety from that early age along with the enormous fortune she stood to inherit at 21 made her forever a subject of fascination to both the media and their audience.

The book's got tons of great pictures, of both her and her many boyfriends, lovers, husbands, and relatives.

Vanderbilt herself in her late teens and twenties was extraordinarily beautiful, a dead ringer for Natalia Vodianova, today's über-model/"it" girl.

Among her men: Howard Hughes, Leopold Stokowski, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Sidney Lumet, Wyatt Cooper, Roald Dahl, and Gordon Parks.

Whether she or they were married or single didn't matter to her.

The book's epilogue begins, "Dear Others - you who are not mentioned in this romance memoir - do I hear a sigh of relief?"

I'll bet there were many such sighs by men whose lives and marriages would've been blown out of the water had she mentioned them.

Now 80 years old, she writes that she still can't get enough.

You GO Gloria!

FunFact: the book is dedicated to Joyce Carol Oates.

November 29, 2004 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Is North Korea about to crack?

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This past June the Goethe Institute opened in Pyongyang.

Significant?

I'd say so: it's the very first foreign cultural center in North Korea.

It offers over 8,000 books, CDs, videos, and German newspapers and magazines - all freely available to any North Korean.

Sure, you could argue that there are probably about seven North Koreans not connected with the government who understand German, but that's not the point.

It's that the Institute exists.

Combine that bit of news with the recent reports filtering out of the locked-down country that pictures of

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Kim Jong Il, North Korea's leader, have been coming down from walls all over the country, for no apparent reason, without being returned to their places, and one doesn't have to be under deep cover to realize something is indeed afoot.

You can bet the South is cautiously optimistic: that's because, having watched the fall of the Berlin Wall lead to West Germany's still-struggling efforts to incorporate the East, South Korea wants no part of a sudden collapse of the barriers, both economic and political, between the two countries.

Seoul would much prefer that the North Korean army slowly take the country back from its near-war footing to a more conciliatory, gradual thaw.

But then, I said the CIA and the Pentagon would throw the election to Kerry, so what do I know?

Here's the story, from the October 16th Economist.

    To Pyongyang With Love

    North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, is sometimes said to have preferred his earlier career, as a film director, to his present one of dictator.

    And an enthusiam for celluloid is a refreshing feature of the dour people over whom he presides.

    It was much in evidence last month, during the Ninth Pyongyang Film Festival.

    Perhaps that was because the festival has abandoned its traditional concentration on films from friendly and non-aligned countries - which in practice meant days full of film-makers from Iran, Syria and Vietnam all chatting about their latest revolutionary guerrilla videos.

    This year, the festival billed itself as "international", and even without glamorous cocktail parties or starlets - in Pyongyang, the last screening is at 6 pm, and official banquets end at 9 pm - it provided a rare chance for North Koreans to get a glimpse of the outside world.

    North Korea used to produce dozens of films of its own, for release in fraternal communist states.

    Nowadays, though Kim Jong Il's famous book "The Art of Cinema" is still a bestseller, television seems to be taking over.

    But the North Koreans seemingly remain as keen on film as ever.

    The festival screenings were all packed out, with some workers even getting a day off to attend.

    The selection at this year's festival was surprisingly open as well.

    Topics such as homosexuality and the loneliness of the elderly were featured, not swept under the carpet.

    A retrospective of a German film-maker, Margarethe von Trotta, Indonesian sitcoms, Austrian documentaries, Hong Kong action movies and "Bend It Like Beckham", a multi-racial British comedy, were all on show.

    True, the final prize list sounded like a roll call of the axis of evil and its associates (first China, then Iran and Syria) but the five members of the international jury said they had made their choices without duress, and were impressed by the quality of this year's selection.

    Another special guest at the festival was the head of the German delegation, Uwe Schmelter.

    Usually in charge of the Goethe Institute in Seoul, he was responsible for an impressive showing of German films and documentaries, and even brought along a famous German actress.

    He is well known in the north for having presided over the opening in June of Pyongyang's own Goethe Institute, the first foreign cultural centre in North Korea.

    It offers some 8,000 books, CDs, videos and German newspapers and magazines - all freely available to any North Korean.

    It is a small indication that things are slowly starting to change.


November 29, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

LED Flashlight + Red Safety Flasher + Piercing Siren = Credit Card-Sized Personal Safety Device

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What?

No pepper spray?

No Taser?

No Mace?

Then why bother?

Well, for one thing, it's very cool looking, the most tricked-out device of this sort I've ever seen.

Second, it's priced quite reasonably considering all the stuff it does have: $14.95 doesn't seem that outlandish, really.

Fits in your pocket, wallet or purse or wear it around your neck with the included lanyard.

Preferably along with your Photo I.D.

Built-in pouch holds cash, credit cards, driver's license, etc.

Waterproof body includes a 10-year battery that'll give you light for 50 hours.

I mean, I just love the over-the-top look of this thing.

November 29, 2004 at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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