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December 30, 2004

'Three-Timing' - Analog v Digital


For those who're serious in the kitchen, now come not one but two devices that can time three things at once.

In the silver grey, with blue, yellow, and green accent highlights, is the analog version (above), for $22.95.

Fits on your countertop or hangs on a wall, and features three color-coded, magnetized timers (two 1-hour, one 20-minute), each removable to go wherever you choose.

In the other corner, sleekly advertising the digital lifestyle (below), is this contender, sporting three digital displays, one atop the other.


It also has a "count-up" feature to track elapsed time after each alarm has gone off so you can see how badly you messed up while you were blissfully soaking in the tub.

Digital timers can be stopped or started individually or all together.

Memory function recalls the last timer setting for each.

Also features a 12/24-hour clock.

Has a magnetic backing and a fold-out countertop stand.

Runs on 2 button cell batteries (included).

$19.95 here.

The choice of which way to go - old-fashioned, self-powered, steadily clicking wind-up analog or silent, battery-powered, tricked-out digital - is a perfect metaphor for the tipping point we're at in terms of our world at large.

It might be instructive to buy both and see how using each affected your thinking in the kitchen - and out.

December 30, 2004 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Buddhist Flyswatter


"He who saves one life, saves the world." - Maimonides

For those who would try to tread as lightly as possible on our planet, Rosendahl offers its Buddhist Flyswatter.

Designed by Erik Bagger for the Danish company, this flyswatter "cannot even hurt a fly."

"It only stuns the insect, which is helped out into nature once again - without spots on walls, tables, or your conscience."

Contains 350 fibers of black polyester in a shaft of matte-finished stainless steel.

13.3" (34 cm) long.

If St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi or Albert Schweitzer had used a flyswatter, this would have been the one.


$39.99 here (reduced from $60).

December 30, 2004 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Sea snail venom-derived painkiller just approved


Just goes to show you how out of it I am: a new painkiller called Prialt - a synthetic version of sea snail venom - has just been approved for sale in the U.S.

I didn't even know it was in Elan's pipeline.

Available next month, it's expected to generate a quarter-billion dollars a year in sales once it starts getting prescribed.

I mean, I didn't even know sea snails - or any snails, for that matter - had venom.

The things you learn if you live long enough.

The drug's generic name is ziconotide, and it's the equivalent of the naturally occurring venom that the tropical cone snail species Conus magus (pictured above and below) uses to incapacitate prey.

Researchers believe it works by blocking calcium channels in the nerves that transmit pain signals to the brain.

It's administered directly into the spinal canal via a catheter connected to an internal or external pump.

Since it doesn't work by occupying opiate receptors, as do narcotics, the drug can be used long-term without tolerance developing.

The drug is not addictive.

However, it can produce profound psychiatric side effects such as hallucinations, dizziness, confusion, and difficulty walking.

On the other hand, patients requiring this drug, with the requisite indwelling catheter and attached pump, will likely be so sick - often terminal - that such side effects may be of less concern than they otherwise might be.

Here's Sara Schaefer-Muñoz's story, from yesterday's Wall Street Journal.


    FDA Approves First In a New Class of Pain Drugs

    Federal regulators approved the first in a new class of drugs for treating patients suffering from severe, chronic pain who don't get relief from other painkillers.

    Prialt, generically called ziconotide, is a synthetic version of sea snail venom manufactured by the Irish drug-maker Elan Corp.

    Approved for sale in the U.S. yesterday by the Food and Drug Administration, it is expected to be available to physicians and patients in late January and could generate as much as $250 million in peak sales, Elan said.

    Final European approval for the drug is expected in early 2005.

    About 120,000 patients, mostly people with diseases such as cancer and AIDS, are candidates for the painkiller, part of a new type of non-narcotic analgesics known as peptide channel blockers.

    Most of these patients have failed to get relief from other drugs, such as morphine.

    "Prialt offers an important new option for patients," said Lars Ekman, president of research and development for Elan.

    "Many of them are at the end of their life and are having intractable pain."

    Prialt is the equivalent of the naturally occurring venom that tropical sea snails use to incapacitate prey.

    Researchers believe it works by blocking calcium channels on the nerves that transmit pain signals to the brain.

    It is released into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord by an internal or external pump.

    A major benefit is that it can be used long-term without the dose wearing off and without it having to be increased significantly, researchers found.

    By contrast, opiate-based drugs such as morphine have the drawback of being addictive, making patients drowsy and losing their effect if administered long-term.

    Prialt's side effects include dizziness, confusion, and difficulty walking, researchers said.

    "Because this is a population where they have such few options, this is an important therapeutic advance even given the adverse effects we have seen," said Robert Meyer, a director of an FDA office of drug evaluation.

    The drug can also have psychiatric side effects, such as hallucination, if taken in high doses.

    Dr. Ekman said that one of the advantages of Prialt is that it can be administered at relatively low doses and still be effective.

    Prialt's approval comes as safety concerns continue over the painkillers Vioxx, Celebrex and naproxen, which is sold over-the-counter under the brand name Aleve.

    Studies have suggested that these drugs carry an elevated risk of cardiovascular problems.

    The approval was based on the treatment of more than 1,200 patients in three clinical trials, the company said.

    In a trial involving 111 cancer patients, patients who received Prialt instead of a placebo showed a 53% improvement in pain reduction, researchers said.

December 30, 2004 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Ultra Light - 'Gives you bat vision at night!'


Hey, that sounds pretty darn good; I mean, bats go swooping around at top speed in pitch darkness without smashing their brains out on cave walls, so it must be the right stuff.

This clip-on light attaches to your glasses or hat, then lets you aim it precisely where you want.


From the website:

    Made by the leading manufacturer of precision medical headlamps for surgeons and dentists.

    The powerful beam passes through a surgical-grade lens that gathers and intensifies the light into a brilliant beacon so powerful that you can see 35-40 feet ahead while walking at night.

    LED never needs replacement.

    Swivels both up-and-down and side-to-side for exacting close-up work.

    Two tiny lithium batteries give 80-100 hours use per set.

    For reading at night without spooking your spouse!

Say what?

Reading at night?

It doesn't say anything about clipping to my book, but that clip looks plenty serious from the pictures.

I'd best be getting one to try out as a bedtime reading light, don't you think?


No, I don't use Nextel, don't start in on me....

Comes in yellow, white, black, blue, red, and olive green (not shown).



December 30, 2004 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Please read the comments!


Mike's on yesterday's iPod-to-Go post was very informative; he bought one and found it useless.

He wrote that it was a complete waste of money ($99.95).

See, the thing is, I can't buy each and every thing I feature here: if I did, I'd have to charge you to read, 'cause I honesty don't have the money for stuff like the


world's most expensive suitcase ($20,000) and suchlike.

I do the best I can with what I have, which is - truth be told - me and my crack research team (which some think a phantasm of my fevered brain).

But I digress.

Frequently, joeheads offer corrections, cautions, and additions which make the original posts far more useful - or useless, as the case may be.

But often the comments add depth and detail to what I've written.

For example, this past Tuesday Willie Morrison, editor of The North Star in Dingwall, Scotland, commenting on the post about George Campbell, noted that, contrary to what I'd written, Campbell was Scottish, not English, and that I'd spelled the name of his boyhood home wrong.

The truth of the matter is, I simply republished the obituary that had appeared in the Washington Post.

Bet theirs is still uncorrected, and will remain so forever.

Interesting, isn't it, when you come to think of it, that bookofjoe, a secondary source - is, because of the peculiar nature of the internet - in this case, at least, more accurate than the primary source from which it was drawn?

When I can, I make corrections and additions to the original posts as soon as I receive them.

However, when they are as detailed and informative as, for example, Mike's on the iPod-to-Go, I just don't have the time to keep amending the previous posts if I want to give you what you like and need: eight new posts, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

So, read the comments if you want to get the most bang for your virtual buck.


You have to admit, a buck still goes a long way here.

December 30, 2004 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

CEO of the Year: Christian R. Fabre of Fashions International


Yes, that's him above, in the saffron robe, hard at work.

He's a 63-year-old Frenchman whose present career began after a deep personal setback.

He had come to India in 1971 to work for a leather exporter, but lost his job a few years later.

Then his wife divorced him and left with their young son in the early 1980s.

His neighbors introduced him to Hinduism and yoga.

Later, he was deeply influenced by a leper who had lost his fingers and toes yet seemed content.

Fabre said, in yesterday's New York Times article by Saritha Rai, "He became my guru in my quest for happiness."

His guru urged him to return to business, so Fabre set up a garment exporting company, then founded Fashions International, which supplies clothes and home furnishings to foreign retailers like Kenzo, Catimini, and Haggar.

He's in his usual work attire above: saffron robe, beads, and ash and vermilion on his forehead.

For every 10 days he works, he retires to his ashram for two weeks, where he goes about nude.

He calls himself Swami Pranavananda Brahmendra Avadhuta, but at work they just call him Swami-ji, or guru.

The company exports 3.5 million pieces of apparel a year, taking a few dollars commission on each.

Swami-ji takes a monthly salary of $200.

Neither he nor his two associates, nor his 80 other employees, have contracts.

"For a sanyasi like me, contracts are redundant," he said.

He has never fired anyone in the 18 years the company has existed.

Truly the anti-Trump.

Read the wonderful story, which follows.

    Off Label

    For an executive whose work entails closely tracking fashion trends and couture labels, Christian R. Fabre has an unusual sense of dress.

    At work, he wears the garb of a Hindu holy man: saffron robes, beads, and ash and vermilion on his forehead. In his hermitage, he goes about nude.

    Mr. Fabre, a 63-year-old Frenchman who has lived in India for more than three decades, is chief executive of Fashions International, which supplies clothes and home furnishings to foreign retailers.

    In this hot and humid city, often considered the last urban bastion of conservative Indian values, his dress and skin color set him apart.

    But even when he travels to Europe for business, Swami Pranavananda Brahmendra Avadhuta, as he calls himself, creates a stir.

    At the Prêt-à-Porter Paris trade fair in September, Mr. Fabre got amazed looks as he prospected for new business in his ascetic robes.

    "Potential customers were shocked," Mr. Fabre said, "but when I started talking business, they discovered I speak their language."

    Fashions International supplies clothing to European and American brands like Kenzo, Lee Cooper, Catimini and Haggar, and it supplies retailers including Jules and Camaïeu Femme.

    The garments are made in factories across India, where Fashions International employees supervise production, quality and deadlines.

    The company exports 3.5 million pieces of apparel a year, and averages a few dollars of commission each.

    With profit growing at more than 25% a year, Mr. Fabre is one of the highest payers of income tax in Tamil Nadu State, of which Madras, also known as Chennai, is the capital.

    Mr. Fabre takes a modest monthly salary of $200, in keeping with his faith, which requires him not just to go without clothes, but also to renounce all material attachment.

    His employees earn varying percentages of the company's revenue. Mr. Fabre declined to give the company's profit and revenue figures.

    Mr. Fabre is not bound to his company's headquarters.

    For every 10 days he works, he retires to his ashram for two weeks.

    It is an eight-hour drive to the 32-acre ashram in the remote Kolli hills southwest of Chennai, where Mr. Fabre meditates and, through a satellite-enabled Internet connection, tracks business deals while discussing spiritual matters with his followers in online chat rooms.

    The retreat is open to all and offers free medical services to local people.

    The way Mr. Fabre runs his business is as unusual as his appearance.

    At Fashions International, now in its 18th year, he and his two associates, A. Jayapalan and Shaana Tiruchelvam, have no contract.

    Neither does his personal assistant, Pinky Lahiri, nor his 80 other employees.

    "For a sanyasi like me, contracts are redundant," said Mr. Fabre, using the Hindu word for renunciate.

    Mr. Fabre says he has never fired an employee.

    The headquarters of Fashions International are in a 10,000-square-foot building in a Chennai suburb, entered through a wooden gate, and surrounded by lush foliage.

    A central courtyard houses a shrine to the Hindu gods Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, and his father, Shiva, the god of knowledge.

    Here, employees scurry about carrying textile samples and confer with suppliers and clients in glass-enclosed conference rooms.

    Mr. Fabre, who does not eat meat or drink, is reverentially addressed by employees as Swami-ji, or guru.

    Ms. Lahiri says that "if a colleague suffers from a cold or headache, he distributes medicines, gives spiritual advice and counsels those with emotional problems."

    Mr. Fabre's initiation into business, and spirituality, came after a deep personal setback.

    He came to India in 1971 to work for a French-Belgian exporter of semifinished leather, but a few years later the Indian government banned exports of such goods.

    Mr. Fabre lost his job; his wife divorced him soon after and left with their young son in the early 1980's.

    "I lost everything," he recalled.

    "It was a traumatic time."

    His neighbors subsequently introduced him to yoga and Hinduism.

    Later, he was deeply influenced by a leper who seemed content even though he had lost his toes and fingers.

    "He became my guru in my quest for happiness," Mr. Fabre said.

    His guru urged him to return to his profession.

    So Mr. Fabre set up a garment exporting company, and then he and his associates founded Fashions International.

    Mr. Fabre is no naïve foreign businessman in India.

    His associates say he is a sharp tactician and negotiator.

    Suppliers in low-cost centers like India are preparing for the end of the global textile and apparel quota system, and Fashions International has opened a buying office in Hangzhou, China.

    Such moves please clients like Henri Roos, who designs for his own label, Leïko, based in Lyon, and was on his first visit to Fashions International.

    Mr. Fabre "perfectly understands our every fashion need," Mr. Roos said.

    Mitesh Patel, chief of Patel Exports India, a company based in Chennai that supplies brands like Brooks Brothers and Timberland, said of Mr. Fabre: "There is nobody quite as shrewd in all of the 20 buying agencies that I deal with."

    On a sultry Chennai afternoon recently, Mr. Fabre seemed at ease straddling two incongruent worlds.

    "Clothes are just a label of who you are and what your social status is," he commented.

    Why, then, is he in the fashion and clothing business?

    "I am because of the intimate certainty that what I do is useful to others," Mr. Fabre said.

December 30, 2004 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Cap Washer - 'Wash your cap without worry'


OK, so everyone throws on a cap when their hair's not so great: matted, twisted, dirty, you know the drill.

But what about your hapless cap, soaking up the detritus and sweat and oil and who-knows-what-else that comes off your head?

Ever sniff your cap?

Go ahead, right now, drop what you're doing - no, you there, you can keep on, but everyone else, freeze - and go get your good old cap.

Now, sniff inside the headband.



You should be, unless you've got an advanced case of anosmia.

But I digress - this isn't BehindTheMedspeak, this is about the cap.

From the secret laboratory of some deranged genius comes the Cap Washer.

For only $8.95 you can own not one, but two.

You put your precious headgear into this thing, then throw it "in the washing machine or dishwasher."


Please, don't invite me for dinner if you're gonna do this.


Where do they think we were brought up?

Why not put your shower curtain in there too, while you're at it?


Where was I?

Oh, yeah. The cap. Focus on the cap.

"Comes out clean, unscathed and doesn't lose its shape."

"Fits standard and duck-billed hats."

What're you waiting for?

December 30, 2004 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sensational photography by Curtis Knapp


Until late last evening, I wouldn't have known Curtis Knapp from a knapsack.

But after spending some time on his website, that's no longer the case.


He now lives in the U.S. and teaches photography at the Smithsonian; for many years he's been a premier portrait photographer, both here and in Tokyo.

Early in his career, he lived in Athens, Georgia, where he photographed the B-52s, then helped them get their first gigs in New York.


He shot Madonna's first ever magazine cover (for Island magazine), as well as REM's first record cover, "Chronic Town."

For years he was a regular contributor to Andy Warhol's Interview magazine.

The pictures illustrating this post were taken of Warhol at work in his legendary New York studio, "The Factory."


Knapp's website is a model of what an artist's site should be like: no Flash, eye-pleasing, informative, easy to navigate.

December 30, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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