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February 5, 2005

Perfect Solutions Luxury Electric Windshield Scraper

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The ultimate in car windshield ice scrapers.

For £9.99 ($18.75), you get an electrically-heated scraper powered by your car's battery via the cigarette lighter.

Dead battery?

You're outa luck, buster: back to the same old same old.

Supposedly the ice-breaking teeth are extra-tough and fierce as well.

There's also a "super-thick, rubber-tipped snow squeegee."

And did I almost to forget to mention the "rugged, non-slip grip and LED 'On' light?"

And the "Platinum-tone finish?"

Almost - but not quite.

February 5, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If you are a scuba diver, your records have been turned over to the F.B.I.

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After 9/11 the F.B.I. asked the nation's largest scuba diver certification organizations to turn over the records of all divers certified since 1998.

This is now done on an annual basis.

Didn't know, dive girl - yeah, PH, that's you - that the bureau's got a file on you, eh?

Not to worry.

With the mess they've made of their new computer system, they'll never be able to locate anything anyhow. But I digress.

This interesting wrinkle regarding scuba divers was buried in last Wednesday's New York Times story by Eric Lipton about the extension of the Coast Guard's domestic law-enforcement mission into the undersea arena.

Among the Coast Guard's new tools is a powerful air gun that sends a nonlethal impulse into a diver to force him or her to the surface by causing extreme discomfort.

The underwater weapon is called a "nonlethal interdiction acoustic impulse" device.

It uses high pressure pulses of air or water to send shock waves through the water.

Jeff Nadler, vice president of PADI Americas, the world's largest diver certification organization, asked, "What is the impact of high-frequency sonar on an individual who is diving? At this point, we don't know."

Coast Guard officials said they were confident the equipment would not harm human or aquatic life.

Here's the full Times story.

    Coast Guard Turns Its Eyes Underwater

    Fearing that the nation's ports are vulnerable to an underwater attack, the United States Coast Guard is extending its domestic law-enforcement mission into a new arena: the sea below.

    The Coast Guard's new tools include a new sonar-based device that can distinguish humans from aquatic life and underwater weapons that are being developed, including an air gun that sends a nonlethal acoustic impulse to force divers to surface by causing them discomfort, officials said.

    Special 75-member Coast Guard law enforcement teams focusing in part on underwater security are also being set up in 13 ports nationwide.

    And the Coast Guard has acquired an underwater speaker system to blast verbal warnings to errant divers.

    "Until now, we have had virtually no capacity to detect anything underwater," said Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson Jr., who is in charge of the Coast Guard's Pacific divisions.

    "It was a huge vulnerability. This is an attempt to narrow it."

    The Coast Guard will unveil its new sonar device on Wednesday in Alameda, Calif.

    The move to extend the service's patrols from above the harbor to down below comes after a series of warnings issued that operatives of Al Qaeda have considered making underwater attacks.

    After the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked the nation's largest organizations that certify scuba divers to turn over records of every diver certified in the United States for the last three years.

    The extension of Coast Guard patrols underwater surprised leaders of groups that represent diving professionals.

    Jeff Nadler, vice president of PADI Americas, the world's largest diver certification organization, said on Tuesday that he was disappointed that his group had not been consulted.

    "We certainly are very supportive of the need to take appropriate steps to protect the public against terrorist activities," Mr. Nadler said.

    "But what is the impact of high-frequency sonar on a individual who is diving? At this point, we don't know."

    Coast Guard officials said they were confident that the equipment, if used properly, would not harm humans or aquatic life.

    The Anti Swimmer System, the sonar detection system, consists of two sonars, one operated from the shore to provide basic surveillance of a 180-degree area covering several hundred yards and a second that is mounted on a vessel to provide detailed images of underwater objects.

    The sonar, at least for now, will not be used for an entire port.

    Instead, the Coast Guard will respond to specific requests to monitor activity in relatively small areas near military ships, cruise ships or cargo ships.

    These patrolled sectors will generally be limited to areas where divers and swimmers are not allowed.

    The shore-based sonar is hooked up to a computer developed by the Navy that can identify underwater objects and track their trajectory and speed, similar to radar systems used by air traffic controllers, said Lt. Cmdr. Alan Tubbs.

    It can distinguish between marine animals and humans in part because of their different shapes and typical movements underwater, he said.

    If a suspicious object is detected, a Coast Guard patrol boat equipped with the imaging sonar will check it out.

    Crew members can wear a set of sonar projection goggles that would allow them to look deep into even cloudy water to see what is going on, Commander Tubbs said.

    "We can put them anywhere we want, anytime we want," he said.

    The sonars both operate at a high frequency that is not perceptible by most marine life, with the exception of bottlenose dolphins, said a Coast Guard spokeswoman, Jolie Shifflet.

    Whales, which are also sensitive to some sonar, should not be harmed because the devices would be used in harbors, not the open sea.

    The underwater weapons, which the Coast Guard calls "nonlethal interdiction acoustic impulse" devices, are still being tested, so they will not be used immediately, Ms. Shifflet added.

    But several models use high pressure pulses of air or water to send shock waves through the water that feel something like the bass from loudspeakers at a concert.

    The Coast Guard would use the devices only after issuing a verbal warning with the underwater speaker system, Commander Tubbs said.

    A single impulse would be sent first.

    But if necessary, repeated impulses could be sent.

    In World War II, the Coast Guard used sonar to help protect military ships from attack.

    The United States Navy has also used sea lions and porpoises to help protect ships in the Persian Gulf from possible terrorist attack.

    The Coast Guard historically has also had dive teams that performed hull inspections and light salvage work.

    But officials said the collection of new equipment and the Marine Safety and Security Teams represented the first foray underwater within the United States.

    Officials hope the new patrols underwater will discourage terrorists from considering an attack.

    "You lock your door, turn on your lights and have a burglar alarm," Commander Tubbs said.

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    "It is a deterrent."

February 5, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MorphWorld: Rick Neuheisel into John Grisham

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The former University of Washington football coach (above and below),

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fired in 2003 because of betting on football, is starting to resemble the mega-bestselling author (below).

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FunFact: Grisham lives here in Charlottesville, along with many other people who could live anywhere they choose.

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Among those who come quickly to mind: billionaire John Kluge, Edgar Bronfman Sr. of Seagrams, Sissy Spacek, directors Steven Soderbergh and Hugh Wilson.

February 5, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kinky for Governor

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Don't bet against him, would be my advice.

Musician-novelist Kinky Friedman (above, on his Texas animal rescue ranch), who provided the quote that galvanized bookofjoe and led to my current "lifestyle which does not require my presence," has followed through on his threat – or was it a promise? – to run for governor of Texas.

Yesterday's New York Times story by Ralph Blumenthal laid out the Kinkster's battle plan.

Appearing live from the Alamo in San Antonio on the Don Imus television and radio show broadcast nationally on MSNBC, he said, "The choice should be something besides paper or plastic."

He can't lose.

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He said he had high hopes of beating Republican incumbent Rick Perry, who "appears to have more interest in ironing his shirts than ironing out the problems of Texas."

Kinky said he was inspired by Jesse Ventura, the surprise winner of the 1998 election for Minnesota governor.

"Of course," he said, "Jesse didn't realize that wrestling is real and politics is fixed."

He said he wasn't at all worried about the requirement that he obtain 45,000 signatures, none from anyone voting in a Republican or Democratic primary.

"There's so much apathy; that leaves me a lot of people."

In the circus and carnival side-show that, to a large extent, characterizes American politics, Kinky has a terrific shot at winning the Texas governorship.

I mean, which would you rather attend: Rick Perry droning on about this and that, or Kinky and his band rocking out?

If Ronald Reagan can become governor of California and then President of the United States; if Jesse Ventura can become governor of Minnnesota; if Arnold can become governor of California; if a dead man can win election to the U.S. Senate, well, then I'd say the inauguration of Governor Richard (Kinky) Friedman in early 2007 is a done deal.

The only question is if he'll wait until 2012 to run for President, or throw caution to the winds and toss his (cowboy) hat in the ring for 2008.

"Kinky for President."

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I like it.

February 5, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Power Plate - 'Advanced Vibration Technology'

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"Achieve a toned and fitter body in just three 10-minute sessions a week!"

The Power Plate (about $7,000) violently vibrates your body at certain key frequencies uncovered by Russian researchers.

This fools (good word, that) muscles into producing a stretch reflex and contracting like crazy, 30-50 times a second, which radically speeds up the whole exercise process and allows it to be compressed into a 10-minute session.

So says the company's PR, anyhow.

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In other words, it's like going to the gym and having the machines do 90% of the work for you, while you get 100% of the normal exercise benefit.

Talk about "rise of the machines...." But I digress.

Hey, don't listen to me: visit the company's website, then see why I'm seriously considering bagging that treadmill idea I had earlier in the week in favor of this tricked-out shake 'n bake.

The list of organizations using it is pretty impressive, I gotta say.

There's even a page with links to all manner of videos showing the machine in action.

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After watching a couple, I actually felt like I was in much better shape.

In fact, I think I'm gonna skip today's run and take the day off.

Same as it ever was.

February 5, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Eric Griffiths — Quarrymen bandmate of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison — is dead

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He died in Edinburgh a week ago Saturday at age 64.

The picture above, taken on October 14, 1957, shows the Quarrymen in concert.

From left: Colin Hanton, 15-year-old Paul McCartney, Len Garry, John Lennon and, far right, Eric Griffiths.

Ben Sisario wrote a superb obituary for yesterday's New York Times.

But for the fact that Griffiths couldn't afford to buy a new guitar, he might well have become a Beatle.

Fascinating how often it's just a matter of chance who happens to get a chair when the music starts - or stops.

"When I'm 64" — indeed.

Here's Sisario's story.

    Eric Griffiths, 64, Member of Band That Became Beatles, Dies

    Eric Griffiths, a guitarist for the Quarrymen, the rock and skiffle band led by John Lennon that eventually evolved into the Beatles, died on Saturday at his home in Edinburgh. He was 64.

    The cause was pancreatic cancer, said Rod Davis, who played banjo in the original group.

    Mr. Griffiths was born in Denbigh, Wales, and moved with his family to Liverpool at a young age.

    On his first day at Quarry Bank School when he was at 11, he met two students, John Lennon and Pete Shotton, who, Mr. Griffiths later said, shared an interest in "music, girls and smoking."

    The friends began to play skiffle, the ragtag mix of American blues and early rock 'n' roll that captivated English youth in the mid-50's.

    The band rehearsed at Mr. Griffiths's home while his mother was at work, and began to perform in Liverpool.

    Along with other revolving members, Lennon and Mr. Griffiths played guitar, Mr. Shotton played washboard percussion, Bill Smith played tea-chest bass and Colin Hanton played drums.

    At a concert on July 6, 1957 - a hallowed date in Beatles lore - the Quarrymen were heard by a 15-year-old Paul McCartney, who soon joined the group.

    The next year George Harrison joined as another guitarist and Mr. Griffiths was asked to switch to bass.

    The instrument was prohibitively expensive, so he left the group and joined the British merchant navy.

    He first heard "Please Please Me," the Beatles' first No. 1 hit, on the radio while on duty in the Persian Gulf.

    After various name changes, the Quarrymen became the Beatles in 1960.

    Mr. Griffiths left the merchant service in 1964 for a job with the British prisons, supervising prisoners' work projects.

    The job took him to Edinburgh, and after retiring in 1994 he ran a family dry-cleaning chain.

    In 1997 Mr. Griffiths joined with the other surviving Quarrymen - minus its most famous alumni - to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Cavern, the small Liverpool club where the the Quarrymen and the Beatles played in their early years.

    The men had not been together since 1958, Mr. Davis said, but allowed themselves to be persuaded to play a few songs.

    Soon they had a second career as the reunited Quarrymen, and in concerts around the world hammed it up as the forgotten also-rans of the most famous group in rock 'n' roll history.

    In 1998 they played at Shea Stadium in New York, the site of one of the peaks of Beatlemania in 1965; of their appearance there, the Quarrymen's Web site says that "photos of the group with their guitars on the spot where the Beatles performed were followed by a few beers in the famous Mets dressing room."

    In 1997 the reunited Quarrymen released a CD, "Get Back - Together," featuring "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Whole Lotta Shakin' " and other songs from the band's skiffle origins.

    Its second CD, "Songs We Remember," was released last month.

    Among Mr. Griffiths's survivors are his wife, Relda, and three sons.

    February 5, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    BehindTheMedspeak: Invasive Psychiatry

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    You've never heard the term before because I just invented it.

    But I don't have the time or interest required to trademark or patent or copyright it or whatever one does with a term.

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    Shrinkette, take it from here, would you?

    You keep all the cash: I take no commission.

    The term's gonna come into vogue real soon, because the F.D.A.'s on the verge of approving the use of Cyberonics' implantable vagal nerve stimulator for the treatment of depression.

    Currently used in Europe for the treatment of seizures, the device, which costs $15,000, acts as a sort of pacemaker for the brain.

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    It's the size of a pocket watch and must be surgically implanted in the upper chest, then connected via thin wires to the vagus nerves in the neck.

    It then sends pulses through the nerves into parts of the brain associated with depression.

    Total cost for the device plus the surgical procedure is around $20,000.

    Hey, stop, what's that sound?

    Oh, yeah: "ka-ching."

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    Cyberonics estimates that 4.4. million Americans suffer from the severe and recurring type of depression that might be treated with its device, called the VNS [Vagal Nerve Stimulator] Pulse 102.

    That's a lot of "ka-ching."

    Robert P. Cummins, the chairman, CEO, and president of the company said in yesterday's New York Times story that "If it is adopted for depression at the same rate as it has been for epilepsy, we will pass $1 billion in sales by 2010."

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    Hey, you with the band, strike up "We're In The Money."

    Here's what I don't understand: how is it, with all the wireless technology that's sweeping into wide use, both cardiac and now central nervous system pacemakers still rely on old-fashioned hard-wired technology requiring expensive, invasive surgical procedures, with all the complications that accompany such things?

    Bleeding, infection, all manner of things happen when you go in surgically.

    So why aren't these devices able to be worn outside the body, or at least inserted via a transcutaneous technique akin to that used for birth control with Norplant?

    The signals could then be sent wirelessly to the heart or brain.

    Couldn't be the juicy $5,000 fee the surgeon gets for the 15-minute implantation procedure, could it?

    Nah - how could I think that?

    If you've ever had any contact with depression - in yourself, a loved one, or a friend - you could not do any larger favor for the both of you than to buy and read William Styron's brief, overpoweringly affecting memoir of his own descent into a hell worse than any imaginable.

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    It's entitled - perfectly aptly, in my opinion - "Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness."

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

    Heart Cone Chair

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    Designed by Vernor Panton in 1959.

    Just the thing for St. Valentine's Day.

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    You could try and find an original, or settle for the authorized Vitra reproduction ($3,175) shown here.

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    Lara Tusher, who sells the Vitra version, says, "It's actually a very comfortable chair to sit in."

    February 5, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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