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January 5, 2005

Toilet Booster Seat



From the website:

    Ideal for anyone who has difficulty bending or rising from a low position.

    These toilet seat risers add 2" in height to your existing toilet seat.

    Easy to install, the risers are made of durable, easy-clean plastic.

Perhaps the solution to the dreaded "splashback."

Also good for really tall people who find themselves scrunched up in the bathroom; finally, you can be like the rest of us - at least in the W.C.

Useful if you're just an inch or two below a perfect view from where you usually sit; these might put you over the top, as it were.

Great conversation starter.

$19.99 complete.

January 5, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'How to Navigate the Digital Music Scene'


Headline of the best short guide to the insanely confusing world of MP3, WMA, AAC, and the like I've yet to come across.

It was written by S.J. Sebellin-Ross for last Sunday's Washington Post.

Here's the article.

    How To Navigate the Digital Music Scene

    Buying digital music can be confusing.

    On one hand, you have an alphabet soup of acronyms, all referring to varying formats.

    On the other hand, you have a slew of online retailers, each furiously competing for your hard-earned music dollar.

    And in the middle, you have an avalanche of players, each of which offer different features and work with different formats.

    So what do you do? For starters, you can use this guide to figure out which digital music format is right for you.


    There are already multiple choices, all with their own advantages and disadvantages, and companies eager for a slice of the lucrative digital music pie are scrambling to introduce even more.

    For longevity, stick with the mainstream:

    • MP3. The good news is all digital music players can play MP3s. The bad news is all MP3s deliver inferior quality (think of the flat sound of radio compared with the rich sound of CDs).

    • WMA (Windows Media Audio). Not only does this format sound better than MP3, but it does so at a smaller file size, which means you can fit more onto your player. Although it's supported by most players, WMA is not supported by all, including the iPod.

    • AAC (Advanced Audio Coding). Music in this format, a descendant of MP3, sounds better. Because the only major company supporting AAC is Apple, however, the only major devices that can play it are iPods.


    The number of organizations striving to score your cash is changing even faster than the number of digital music formats. To get you started, here are three of the biggest:

    • MSN Music (www.music.msn.com). Atypical of Microsoft, which tends to stick to middle-of-the-road offerings, MSN Music offers a surprisingly large and interesting mix of artists. The con: no audiobooks. The pro: Because the files are in WMA format, and because most players support WMA, you should have no trouble finding a player you like.

    • iTunes (www.apple.com/itunes). Offers a broad selection of songs, heavy on pop and rock. But because it insists you load its software to use the store, if you're not using compatible Mac OS X or Windows 2000/XP operating systems, you're out of luck. The pro: a nice selection of audiobooks. The con: The store offers only the Apple-supported AAC format.

    • Napster (www.napster.com). Remember Napster? Now, instead of helping facilitate free music downloads, it provides music for sale. The pro: With everything from chat rooms to an online magazine, Napster has a nice community feel that the other sites can't match. The con: The quality of the Napster WMA files is lower than that of WMA files from other retailers, such as MSN Music.


    The number of digital music players available dwarfs the number of formats and retailers combined.

    But really, you need consider only three things:

    First, get a player that supports the format(s) you want.

    For example, although the sleek, silver Rio Carbon ($249.99, www.rioaudio.com) doesn't support AAC, it does play MP3, WMA and Audible (audiobook) files.

    Second, figure out which features matter to you.

    For example, iRiver's iFP-790 ($149.99, www.iriveramerica.com) has a built-in radio and voice recording, and can also record from anything you can plug into it, such as your TV.

    Finally, consider whether you want nifty extras.

    For example, Dell's Axim X50v PDA ($499, www.dell.com) is a personal digital assistant as well as a digital music player, so you can listen to MP3 and WMA files while creating documents and surfing the Internet.

    January 5, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    BehindTheMedspeak: La Rapidita


    The hangover cure of choice in New York City's Dominican neighborhoods is La Rapidita, two little yellow pills (Mick Jagger, call your office: your mother's helper is waiting for you) sold for a buck in bodegas everywhere.

    Part of the mystique of La Rapidita, which is far more popular on its own stomping grounds than Tylenol or Alka-Seltzer, is the belief it's made in the Dominican Republic.

    In fact - I'm sure much to the dismay of the manufacturer, Natural Health Products - it was revealed by Seth Kugel in last Sunday's New York Times story to be made on... Long Island, New York.

    The company's headquarters is on Fifth Street in the East Village.

    Also known as "Hangover Helper," the remedy contains acetaminophen, calcium carbonate, thiamine mononitrate and 43 milligrams of caffeine.

    That's a Tylenol, a Tums, vitamin B, and half a cup of coffee.

    It's sold in around 14,000 grocery and convenience stores in the Northeast.

    The company's website promises that "within 10 minutes your hangover or headache will be completely gone."

    Hey, sounds pretty good to me.

    Maybe I better get some.

    'Course, I've never had a hangover, probably because I rarely drink (around a beer every month or so, with a Domino's pizza), and I get headaches painful enough for me to take something perhaps two or three times a year, so I'd probably forget I even had the stuff before I needed it.

    Doesn't mean you can't try it, though.

    Here's the Times story.

      Yellow Pills, When Liquor Leaves You Feeling Green

      Countless New Year's Eve revelers awoke yesterday morning (or afternoon) longing to get rid of a sickening hangover, while many residents and visitors in the city's Dominican neighborhoods were convinced they had just the cure: a dose of La Rapidita, two yellow pills that bodegas sell for a dollar and that are far more popular among Dominicans than over-the-counter remedies like Tylenol and Alka-Seltzer.

      Francisco Alberto Polanco was among the fervent believers.

      "Between my woman and me, we drank half a gallon of Black Label last night," Mr. Polanco, 36, said just before noon as he walked into the Food Center bodega on St. Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights to buy a bag of pork cracklings and a Rapidita.

      Mr. Polanco, who was visiting from the Dominican Republic, said he had used it for three years and had taken a dose the night before.

      "It works," he said. "With La Rapidita, in about 30 minutes I'm rid of my headache."

      With the second dose, he said, the partying could begin anew.

      Part of its allure, apparently, is the belief that La Rapidita is made in the Dominican Republic.

      "It is from over there," said William Javier, a 28-year-old Washington Heights resident who said he had used the remedy at least 50 times.

      "People who are here know it is from over there."

      But despite his insistence, Mr. Javier was misinformed.

      La Rapidita, which came on the market 16 years ago, has always been manufactured on Long Island by Natural Health Products, a Dominican-American company whose headquarters is on Fifth Street in the East Village.

      La Rapidita, which the company labels in English as "Hangover Helper," contains acetaminophen, calcium carbonate, thiamine mononitrate and 43 milligrams of caffeine.

      Essentially, it's like taking a Tums, a Tylenol, a Vitamin B1 supplement and half a cup of coffee.

      No matter.

      It sells.

      "This sold out in two days," said Mercedes Núñez, a worker in Santiago Food Market, on St. Nicholas Avenue, as she held up an empty box that had contained 30 two-pill packets.

      "This won't last through tomorrow," she added, grabbing a new box.

      "I need one right now," said Santiago Peralta, 55, who at 11 a.m. had just arrived at his job as a driver at Dan's Supermarket after a night of drinking with family and was slumped over a parking meter, looking a little green.

      Mr. Peralta, who lives in the Bronx, said he had dragged himself into work.

      It appeared to be a monumental accomplishment.

      "In Santo Domingo, I bought them by the dozen."

      The general manager of Natural Health Products, David Matos, said that La Rapidita was available in at least 14,000 groceries and convenience stores, mostly in Dominican neighborhoods in the Northeast from Lawrence, Mass., to Atlantic City.

      It is also available in several thousand more stores in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

      Mr. Matos said that the company was targeting other markets, like the East Village and the Lower East Side, in part because of the large number of young people who live and drink there and in part because he lives there and knows local businesspeople.

      The company ended its Spanish-language radio and television advertising years ago ("Everybody knows about us already," he said) and has begun advertising in East Village cinemas.

      Although the company Web site promises that "within 10 minutes your hangover or headache will be completely gone," Mr. Matos acknowledged that La Rapidita could only be so effective.

      "If you drank a liter of cognac, it's not going to relieve your symptoms," he said.

      "You'll have wait for the body processes to take effect."

      Pablo Hernandez, who was walking down St. Nicholas Avenue at 10 a.m. yesterday, had, luckily, stayed away from cognac, downing merely two six packs of beer.

      He owed his very wakefulness, he said, to taking Rapidita on New Year's Eve.

      "I'm standing here because of it," he said, and then hurried off to catch up with friends.

      January 5, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

      Olive Spoon - this has to be Department of Defense overstock


      There is no other rational explanation for the existence of this device.

      From the website:

        How marvelous not to have juice dripping everywhere when you get olives out of the jar!

        This stainless steel spoon's special design lets you gently cradle the olive, and the drip vent at the base drains excess liquid.

        Dishwasher safe.

        7 7/8" long.

      Well, I will say this, they certainly are consistent; I mean, anyone who'd buy and use this tool would undoubtedly place it in the dishwasher as opposed to rinsing it off under the sink or - heaven forbid - doing neither.

      I don't know what I like best about this appliance: the use of the word "marvelous" to describe the experience of "no juice dripping everywhere;" the use of the phrase "gently cradle" to describe the loving care with which each olive is caressed; or the existence of the drip vent.

      I am tempted to go into the archives and delete my post of September 20th entitled "Olive breakthrough."

      Clearly, there's not room in bookofjoe for both the Olive Spoon and my contrarian stance.

      Ah, well.

      $6.95 is the price of this marvelous tool.


      I wonder if it wouldn't be perfect for use in a game of "Can you guess what this is?"

      January 5, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

      'India's Boom Spreads to Smaller Cities'


      Above, the headline on yesterday's New York Times story by Saritha Rai about the rise of India, up to now hidden behind the speed and size of China's rapid ascension toward the top of the world's economic pyramid.

      Don't forget about India: with a population just a bit less than China, and plenty of intellectual firepower, they'll be right alongside China in decades to come, calling the tune while the rest of the world dances.

      Consider: KFC came to India in 1995; they opened 70 restaurants over the next 8 years.

      Last year, they opened 30 more, for a total of 100 to date.

      Their target in 2014?

      1,000 restaurants.

      Nearly 35 Indian cities have a population exceeding a million.

      Ford India arrived in 1996 with 12 dealerships in 8 cities; today they have 90 in 70 cities.

      Here's the Times story.

        India's Boom Spreads to Smaller Cities


        When the first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet opened in India, in the technology hub of Bangalore in 1995, the welcoming committee was largely absent.

        It was just four years after India opened its economy to outsiders, and the outlet quickly became a target of irate farmers, Hindu nationalists and others decrying what they saw as the encroachment of the corrupt, and corruptive, West.

        KFC's parent, Yum Brands, now has 100 KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants in India, 30 opened in 2004, and a goal of 1,000 by 2014.

        To realize such growth, the chains have begun a seemingly inexorable march into the country's smaller boomtowns, cities like Coimbatore and Cochin in the south, and Jaipur and Meerut in the north, where middle-class Indians - who increasingly crave localized Western foods, regional flavors and ingredients infused into the pizza, pasta or poultry - have hailed their arrival.

        The tsunamis that hit on Dec. 26 devastated the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and coastal villages in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, leaving 11,000 deaths in their wake.

        The country's cities were untouched, and despite the huge loss of life, little overall economic fallout is expected.

        As India's galloping economy has extended to its smaller cities, a younger population with expendable income is finding many Western and upmarket domestic products, brands and services increasingly accessible.

        Nearly 35 Indian cities have a population exceeding a million, and proliferating shopping malls cater to the rapidly growing consumer class.

        "A swelling base of affluent, upwardly mobile consumers with the same needs, wants and desires as the residents of bigger cities is seeking gratification," said Vatsala Misra, a consultant with the retail research firm KSA Technopak.

        With satellite television and the Internet now ubiquitous in smaller cities, she said, "People are increasingly exposed to how the other half lives, and the aspirational distinctions are blurring."

        Among the companies seeking customers in these second-tier cities are the athletic-shoe makers Reebok International and Adidas-Salomon, and the cellphone maker Nokia.

        Bacardi Martini India, a unit of Bacardi Ltd., distributes its alcoholic beverages in 50 Indian cities.

        Ford's Indian unit said most of its sales growth was coming from outside the primary cities.

        "When we came in 1996, we set up with 12 dealer facilities in 8 cities; today, we have 90 facilities in 70 cities," said Vinay Piparsania, vice president for sales and marketing at Ford India.

        "People are finding cars more affordable, with banks chasing customers in smaller cities to offer loans."

        Here in Coimbatore, population 1.25 million, a manufacturing center close to the garment hub of Tiruppur, people crowded into the Pizza Hut recently, a day after a festival.

        "Traditional festival cuisine is vegetarian and we were surprised when 500 customers showed up, a lot of them ordering pizzas with nonvegetarian toppings," said Vineet Sharma, area manager of Pizzeria Fast Foods Restaurants (Madras), the franchisee that runs the Coimbatore outlet.

        A local tea factory owner, P. S. Mahendran, 39; his wife, Jayanthi, 30; and their 11-year-old daughter, Arthi, are regulars there.

        "We are no less conventional than we were five years ago, but, more and more, we splurge on imported cosmetics, Western brands and international foods," Mrs. Mahendran said.

        Mr. Mahendran, who drives a Mercedes, ordered tandoori chicken pizzas.

        India's demographics support the expansion.

        According to a report by the National Council for Applied Economic Research, which is based in New Delhi and partly government financed, half of India's 10.7 million households with an income of up to a million rupees ($23,000) are in smaller cities.

        The report recorded a big rise in the number of rich households, those with incomes of 1 million rupees to 5 million rupees, in smaller cities like Vadodara, Nagpur, Ahmedabad and Vijayawada.

        And while in 1995 just 2.8 percent of households were counted as middle class, with income of 200,000 rupees to a million rupees, the report projected that 12.8 percent would be counted as such by 2009.

        With a manufacturing boom as well as an expansion of back-office outsourcing into the second-tier cities, "wealth and purchasing power are no longer a big-city syndrome," said the research group's senior fellow and economist, Rajesh Kumar Shukla.

        "The urban market is more or less saturated for a lot of products, but in smaller cities consumers are hungry."

        When the Bangalore-based Air Deccan added 22 flights in mid-December, most connected smaller cities like Kanpur, Surat and Jaipur.

        "Doing the New Delhi-Mumbai route is a no-brainer," said Air Deccan's managing director, G. R. Gopinath.

        "The adrenaline rush is in connecting the smaller cities, where life is changing dramatically."

        Bharti Tele-Ventures, the country's second-largest cellular services company after Reliance Infocomm, rolled out its service in five smaller cities, including Lucknow and Kanpur, in mid-October.

        By the end of November, it had signed on 100,000 new customers, helped by the fact that at about 2 cents a minute, India has one of the lowest telecommunications costs in the world.

        Contrary to expectations, even premium brands are doing well in second-tier cities.

        For Bacardi Martini India, the top six Indian cities now account for only 45 percent of sales, compared with 70 percent in 2001.

        "We are going in and cashing on the demand that mass media has built up for upscale brands and products," said Jayant Kapur, the unit's chairman and managing director.

        When the country's first lifestyle television channel, Zoom, began broadcasting in late 2004, its promoter, India's largest newspaper publisher, Bennett, Coleman & Company, ensured that its reach extended beyond the biggest cities.

        People in cities like Ludhiana and Chandigarh, said Arun Arora, president of the company, "are just as likely to be the first to drive the latest-model foreign cars and gear up in the most expensive clothes and accessories."

        The growth in smaller cities is not without its challenges, including bad infrastructure and difficult supply logistics.

        And the purchasing boom in cities, both big and not so big, is in sharp contrast to life in villages, where two-thirds of the country's one billion people live and the price of, say, a bottle of Bacardi Rum - around $10 for 750 milliliters - equals a farm laborer's weekly earnings.

        But among those newly able to partake, a good many seem eager to do so.

        Of course, there are still many Indians who spurn Coca-Cola and Pepsi for a glass of nimbu paani (freshly squeezed lemonade).

        But back at the Coimbatore Pizza Hut, the owner of a spinning mill, Ram Kumar, and his wife, Suhasini, both 29 and dressed in jeans and T-shirts, munch on pizza and rue that the city is changing too slowly.

        There are no pubs, discos or multiplex cinemas.

        "Night life is nonexistent," lamented Ms. Kumar, who said that Coimbatore could do with "a lot more brands and entertainment options."

        Such attitudes are making Pizza Hut project a 40 percent growth rate over the next several years.

        "While they hold on to their rich traditions and very strong cultural heritage," said Graham Allan, president of Yum Restaurants International, "small-city consumers are open to new concepts and want to embrace brands openly, making them a very attractive market."

        January 5, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

        American Fancy: Exuberance in the Arts, 1790-1840


        Who knew?

        A kinetic aesthetic movement known as "Fancy" became the craze in America around 1790, and flourished for 50 years.


        The Maryland Historical Society, best known for having on display Francis Scott Key's manuscript of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and H.L. Mencken's typewriter, has put together, for the first time, many of the finest artistic objects of the "Fancy" movement.


        Curator Sumpter Priddy III (ooh, that's a good name) has assembled over 200 works from some of the nation's leading museums and private collectors for this show, up through March 20.


        The movement was characterized by light, color, motion, novelty, variety, and wit.


        I found out about the show from a story by Linda Hales in last Sunday's Washington Post.

        January 5, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

        MorphWorld: Bram Cohen into Anthony Kiedis


        Remarkable resemblance, considering Cohen, the inventor of BitTorrent, probably has a personal vanity quotient of 0, judging by the story about him in the January Wired magazine.


        I find it interesting that Cohen has Asperger syndrome while Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, though not Aspergian, as best I can judge after reading his autobiography clearly has a congenitally decreased sensitivity to pleasure, resulting in a lifelong unrelenting, unbelievably dangerous pursuit of increased sensation in all its myriad manifestations.

        January 5, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

        Phuket, Thailand joehead survives tsunami


        I emailed him last night, hoping against hope he made it through.

        Here's his reply from AspasiaPhuket, the property he manages:

          Dear Joe,

          Thanks so much for your concern.

          Our family and our resort were exceedingly fortunate in coming through unscathed.

          I was, strangely enough, going to write to you today.

          Phuket has fought back strongly since December 26 and we are now 77% operational in hotel terms (77% of all possible available rooms are usable) island-wide.

          What we suffer from most at present is inaccurate media coverage.

          Phuket is lumped together with the devastated areas like Khao Lak, which is in another province, many miles away from our island.

          We listened in disbelief to CNN stating that one major Phuket tourist destination of 5 hotels and golf course had been wiped out completely - yet the damage was less than 5% of total rooms inventory.

          We have seen television coverage of the appalling devastation in Sri Lanka, whilst the announcer talks about Phuket!

          We need tourists back here in a hurry, not because we are greedy and unemotional, but because we have an unemployment problem rising rapidly by the day.

          Workers from destroyed properties are without jobs, without money and often homeless as well.

          Rubbish is talked about the sea being contaminated by disease and fish eating rotting corpses, thus the fisherman cannot sell fish and cannot make a living.

          The truth here is that yes, we took a pounding and, God rest their souls, many lives were taken .

          We were here, we helped, we consoled, we counselled and the Thai people put the lives of tourists before their own in many instances.

          The tsunami has cleansed the water and beaches and they are mostly as pristine as they were 20 years ago.

          Now we need business to be brought to life to save social collapse and to give Thai people back the dignity of which they were so rudely stripped.

          God Bless the American people.

          They have given incredible amounts of donations and aid.

          My American brother-in-law and family from Boston were staying in our house at the time, enjoying a vacation.

          He and his wife spent a week with my wife touring hospitals giving comfort to the injured and touring the devastated spots putting corpses into boxes.

          We love and thank you all for your support.

          Please pass on my best to your concerned reader and thank her for her concern.

          My kindest regards,

        January 5, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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