« January 15, 2005 | Main | January 17, 2005 »

January 16, 2005

bookofjoe mania


A joehead with computer skills went out of control yesterday, creating the post above (click on it to blow it up and make it readable).

She sent it to me as an email attachment: little did she know that it would go up here, a beacon to the world.

You rock, girlfriend.

And yes - as I wrote in an email yesterday, you'll have full control of the merchandising arm of bookofjoe when we go there.

January 16, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'B of the Bang'


It's the tallest sculpture in Britain, rising 184 feet above the ground and tilting at an angle 10 times greater than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Just unveiled by British Olympic sprinter Linford Christie last Wednesday, it's in Manchester, near the City of Manchester stadium.

The title comes from Christie's claim that he always left the starting blocks on the "B of the Bang."

The sculpture, which cost £4 million ($7.5 million), is one of a series of projects aimed at boosting the attractions of provincial Britain and making the country less London-centric.

It's made up of 200 solid steel spike-shaped columns, each 7 feet long.

One of the spikes fell off a few days before the official dedication, causing some consternation.

The "B of the Bang" was designed by none other than bookofjoe's favorite folding bridge designer,


English architect Thomas Heatherwick.

January 16, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stopping Schubert - by Gerald Stern


Stopping Schubert, ejecting him, changing the power,
I make it from Newark to the shores of Oberlin
in less than nine hours, Schubert roaring and groaning
halfway there, the violins in the mountains,
the cellos in the old state forests.
When I reach Clarion I know I am near Pittsburgh.
I turn the tape down; I can live off the music
of childhood for a while—I still know the words
in both languages—I am not that different
even today. My mouth makes a humming sound
just as it did back then. I take my comb out
and my piece of paper. I bang the swollen dashboard
thinking of my golden trombone; I ruined
the lives of twenty-four families in those days
sliding from note to note, it was my fate
not to make a sound on the French horn,
to rage on my trombone. I still love Schubert
most of all, Death and the Maiden, Frozen Tears,
Der Lindenbaum.

I have kept it a secret for forty years,
the tortured composer from central Pennsylvania,
Franz Schubert.



January 16, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Art of Rain


Vladimir Sumchenko is a


Vancouver-based blacksmith who creates unique,


custom-designed and


hand-fabricated downspouts


out of copper, stainless steel,


or whatever metal suits your fancy.


Ukrainian-born ((hey, a countryman - on my mother's side),


he's the third generation of a metalworking family. Each of his downspouts


is made to precise customer specifications:


he's done snakes, frogs, fish,


elephants, herons, dragonflies,


and incorporated water wheels and all manner of wonderful things.

January 16, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World Sunlight Map


This wonderful site shows the planet as it appears now, in terms of day and night, sunlight and darkness.

Created by Aaron Hopkins, a computer engineer who lives in L.A., it shows current sunlight and cloud cover, a computer-generated approximation of what the moon currently looks like, and what dawn and dusk look like from above the Earth.

A good stop-gap measure until Virgin Galactic gets off the ground.

Hopkins, who currently works for Google, merges NASA satellite images with a freely distributed Linux application called Xplanet.

I'm reminded a bit of the Geochron clock (below),


which shows the planet in terms of day and night along with the time.

But if you want one, it's gonna cost you $1,425 - and that's the entry-level version.

My advice would be to wait until you're President of the United States - then you can have this clock in its most luxe iteration on the Situation Room wall, where it currently resides at the taxpayers' expense.

In the meantime, be like bookofjoe and my crack research team: save your renminbi and use the virtual version.

[via Lisa Napoli and the New York Times]

January 16, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The rise of LG Electronics


Once a second-rate, generic producer of things electronic, this Korean company has ascended to the heights.

Now acknowledged as one of the world's two leaders in flat-screen plasma TV technology (along with Samsung, another Korean company), with its new 71" model (above) about to go on sale (for $76,000), the company's home appliances are making serious inroads into turf up to now controlled by GE, Whirlpool, Maytag, and the like.

Yesterday, while the dryer repairman was here replacing a broken part, we got to chatting about appliance makers.

Full disclosure: I purchased a new Maytag model DE212 electric clothes dryer on August 16, 1986, for $395.

It worked flawlessly until June 7, 2001, when the main belt broke: repair cost was $67.13 total, parts + labor.

Then, on July 25, 2001, about seven weeks after the belt replacement, I had to call Doug's Maytag again: the heating element had burned out.

That was $117.65.

For three and a half years all remained quiet on the laundry front, up until two weeks ago when I noticed a loud rattling noise when the dryer was on.

The clothes dried fine; it was just noisy.

Yesterday Darren came and replaced the broken blower wheel: $133.88.

There are those who might say, reviewing the narrative above, that I should consider adopting a "3 repairs and you're out" philosophy regarding my venerable dryer, and replace it the next time it breaks instead of fixing it again.

I will give some thought to your observation.

But I've digressed... where was I?

Oh, yes, LG and appliances.

Darren works on all brands, so he's got a nice broad perspective.

He said if he were buying a new washer or dryer, he'd buy an LG.


I asked him why, and he replied that they're unbelievably well-designed and constructed, "overbuilt" the way U.S. products used to be.

I've written about LG's tricked-out




before, but I'm gonna "take a fresh look," as Sandy Weill advised the former AMEX cheerleader Jack Grubman to do back in the day.

Best Buy's been selling LG home appliances since 2003 and Home Depot's just climbed on board.

January 16, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spend the night in a Frank Lloyd Wright house


Ever wonder what it might be like to live in a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright?

Three Wright-designed homes in the U.S. - one in Pennsylvania and two in Wisconsin - have been painstakingly restored, then opened by their owners to paying guests, who've raved about the experience.

Joe Milicia's story for the Associated Press follows, along with booking information.

    Be a Guest in a Frank Lloyd Wright Home

    If Fallingwater is Frank Lloyd Wright's greatest work, then a house he designed in this Cleveland suburb is one of his most livable.

    Owner Paul Penfield has opened up the Louis Penfield House to guests after spending four years restoring it to the iconic architect's original vision.

    It's one of three Wright houses in the country that allow Wright enthusiasts to spend the night.

    The other two Wright homes that permit guests are in Wisconsin.

    The 60-year-old Penfield lived in the house during his teenage years.

    His friends, who thought the place was a bit odd, nicknamed it "the steamboat house" because of it long, narrow design.

    Entering the house through slender double doors takes one past a floating wooden staircase, its steps suspended by rods from the ceiling.

    The entryway is like a bottleneck from which the home's spacious living area spills forth.

    Floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides and a third half-wall of windows (above) allow for a panoramic view of the wooded lot and give the feeling of being outside while indoors.

    The sound of trickling water from a fountain and the glow from built-in wooden light fixtures set a soothing mood.

    The living area takes up most of the main floor and illustrates Wright's fondness for open space.

    The kitchen is a narrow ribbon with a long counter that works great for a buffet line.

    Upstairs, corner windows in bedrooms give more sweeping views of the property's black cherry trees, poplars and white pines.

    Wright's color scheme of ochre walls and reddish-stained wood provide a soft warmth.

    "Here you really felt you were living with nature.

    That's what Frank Lloyd Wright wanted," said Marguerite Vonno, one of 300 people who have stayed at Penfield House since it opened for guests in 2003.

    Matt and Cheryl Banning of Willoughby booked it first, using it for their wedding weekend, including pictures and the rehearsal dinner.

    They returned a year later for their anniversary.

    "It's 11 o'clock at night. You've got a fire going. It's your house," Banning said.

    That's the way Penfield and his wife, Donna, intended it.

    "We want to give people to chance to experience it as if they were the homeowners themselves," Penfield said.

    At other Wright landmarks, visitors are shuffled on tours from room to room.

    "Just walking through, you miss that sense of what it would be like to interact with it," Banning said.

    Ron Scherubel, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, which advocates the preservation of the 400 remaining Wright structures, said he likes the idea of the houses being opened to guests.

    "It spreads the word about how comfortable and beautiful Wright's houses are," Scherubel said.

    The Seth Peterson Cottage in Lake Delton, Wis., was the first Wright home to open to guests, in 1992.

    Located in Mirror Lake State Park on a bluff overlooking the lake, the once boarded-up structure underwent a $350,000 renovation funded by donations.

    "It's a very good example of how Wright could make a small space seem big," Scherubel said.

    It has a great room surrounded by windows that make "you feel like you're right out in the woods."

    The roomy Bernard Schwartz House in Two Rivers, Wis., opened in June.

    Owners Terry Records and Jason Nordhougen teamed with Michael Ditmer, a Wright fan who does remodeling work, to renovate the four-bedroom house and share it with the public.

    "It's really living in a work of art," Ditmer said of a stay there.

    Wright (1867-1959) has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects as "the greatest American architect of all time."

    He designed buildings to fit into their settings and viewed them as not just structures but ideas that permeate the lives of those who inhabit them.

    Penfield's father, Louis, was a painter who became acquainted with Wright and asked him to design a house that would fit his 6-foot-8 frame.

    Wright generally designed short entryways but took on the project, charging $2,500 and including plenty of clearance space for Penfield's head.

    Paul Penfield was a child when he accompanied his father to visit Wright at Taliesin, his home in Wisconsin.

    He remembers Wright as a stately man with long flowing white hair whose office was located at the end of a long corridor.

    "He's portrayed as a curmudgeon, but he really wasn't," Penfield said.

    The Penfield House was built in 1955 for $25,000 and is one of Wright's "Usonians."

    Wright is well known for grand homes, like Fallingwater in western Pennsylvania which was designed for the wealthy Kaufmann family.

    Its setting atop a waterfall is a supreme example of Wright's organic architecture — an integration of nature and structure.

    But his Usonians were more modest homes meant to be lived in by everyday Americans.

    The Penfield House fell into disrepair after the family moved out and turned it into a rental property for about five years.

    Penfield put $100,000 into the restoration and did most of the work himself.

    He replaced its flat, leaky roof — another Wright trademark — and refinished the extensive interior and exterior wood surfaces, wearing out a number of power sanders along the way.

    He even milled trees from the property to build cabinets and furniture, such as platform beds, chairs and tables, based on Wright's angular designs.

    Finishing touches included items like a rotary phone and a typewriter that keep the feel of the decade in which it was built.

    "My favorite time is the dead of winter when the snow is falling and the fire is going ... It's as romantic as you can possibly find for a single-family dwelling," he said.

    "Most of our guests report that it's a very renewing experience."

If You Go...

LOUIS PENFIELD HOUSE: 2203 River Road, Willoughby Hills, Ohio; www.penfieldhouse.com or (440) 942-9996. Rates: $275 a night, two-night minimum; sleeps five. Available for corporate or group events.

SETH PETERSON COTTAGE: E9982 Fern Dell Road, Lake Delton, Wis.; www.sethpeterson.org or (608) 254-6551. Rates: $275 a night, two-night minimum; sleeps four. Available for corporate or group events.

BERNARD SCHWARTZ HOUSE: 3425 Adams St., Two Rivers, Wis.; theschwartzhouse.com or (651) 222-5322. Rates: $295 weeknights and $350 weekends with a two-night minimum; sleeps eight.

January 16, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MI5 Website


MI5 is the U.K. domestic security service, "responsible for protecting the U.K. against threats to national security."

They do things differently across the pond: have a look.

Having just purchased the debut novel of Stella Rimington,


former head of MI5, I figure it's best to bone up on things as they're done "over there."

I find it interesting that England's had a female prime minister and head of domestic security, while first Madeleine Albright and now Condoleeza Rice, as National Security Adviser and soon Secretary of State, represent the leading edge of American women in positions of great power and authority.

I wonder who will take it to the next level.

January 16, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

« January 15, 2005 | Main | January 17, 2005 »