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March 22, 2005

Lego bracelet

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"Finally another use for Legos!"

4-dot tiles join together

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to create an accessory

your friends will envy.

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"Practical and fun!"

Waterproof to 30,000 feet.

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$14 here.

March 22, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dante Leonelli — Master of space and light

Halo

He commented here recently on Thomas Heatherwick's Folding Footbridge.

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He never mentioned anything about himself.

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My crack research team, however, leaving no tern unstoned — and how many times have I told them to leave those darn birds alone but no, they just can't stop themselves from tossing one more pebble... but I digress — brought back the news the Leonelli is a formidable artist in his own right.

Nip01

Explore his website and see for yourself.

March 22, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Godcasting: The Rise of the 'Wireless Parson'

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Kathleen Murphy recently wrote a superb story for the Religion News Service on the latest development in online religion.

Podcasting lets you download audio programs from the internet so you can hear them whenever you feel like it.

Musicians, businessmen, tech talk show hosts, political commentators, anyone with an internet connection can create a podcast.

Wrote Murphy in her article, "There's lots more God on iPod than jazz, theater or movie reviews."

Podcasting News, a website the features a podcast directory, said, "Based on the number of religious-themed programs being distributed, it looks like Godcasting may be the podcast's first killer app."

A 2004 Pew Internet Project report said 82 million Americans have used the internet for spiritual and religious purposes.

Here's Murphy's piece.

    Finding God on the iPod

    The radio preacher is finding new life in cyberspace.
       
    Godcasting is the latest advancement in online religion, in which preachers convert their sermons to audio to be heard on portable digital audio devices.
       
    Using iPods or any portable MP3 player, ''podcasting'' lets people download audio programs that can be listened to whenever they like.

    It's a form of audio syndication that musicians, businessmen, tech talk show hosts and political commentators like Al Franken have already adopted.
       
    There's lots more God on iPod than jazz, theater or movie reviews.

    Pod preachers, including Christians, Buddhists and Pagans, are among the most prolific users of the new technology.

    Just as sermons were among the first type of broadcasts when radio caught on in America in the 1920s, podcasting is creating a new form of wireless parson.

    To get the audio feeds, listeners connect an MP3 player to a computer, go online and sign up for podcasting feeds.

    Audio content is then pushed from the original source and makes its way through an aggregator to a subscriber who can listen to it anytime - in the same way VCRs time-shifted TV and services like TiVo have provided television programs on demand.
       
    ''Based on the number of religious-themed programs being distributed, though, it looks like Godcasting may be the podcast's first killer app,'' said Podcasting News, a Web site that features a directory of podcasts.
       
    Kevin Seger, minister of youth and education at Pitts Baptist Church in Concord, N.C., one of the first churches to podcast weekly sermons, said, ''You don't normally see the churches on the cutting edge of technology. If we can utilize tools and technology to get the gospel out, the better we are. It's portable. It's compact. People can listen in the car or when they're working out. It fits like a beeper on the side of your belt.''
       
    Recently launched podcasts include ''Catholic Answers Live,'' an hourlong daily call-in radio program run by a San Diego-based lay group.

    The show also airs on AM and FM stations.
       
    Another podcast called ''Teachings for the New Age,'' offers thoughts on following your inner self and achieving true perfection.

    Meanwhile, the ''RevTim Podcast'' with host Tim Hohm, and ''Lifespring'' with Steve Webb devoted recent podcasts to discussing how God could allow a devastating tsunami to happen in South Asia.

    ''Psalmcast,'' produced by John Owen Butler, pastor of Beal Heights Presbyterian Church in Lawton, Okla., airs selections of musical settings of the Book of Psalms.
       
    Religious podcasters said they like the medium because it's an inexpensive way to reach the masses.
       
    Nick Ciske, media coordinator for Minneapolis Vineyard Church, also called Bluer church, said, ''It takes a lot of money to run a TV show, it takes millions of dollars, and it seems a lot of the focus is on money. Podcasting is basically free. There is never a mention of asking for money. There's no need.''
       
    Podcasting also can connect a dispersed flock - snowbirds, in particular. Part-time members of the Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Ind., listen to podcasts of sermons as they spend the winter in Florida, said Bill Todd, network administrator for the 2,400-member church just south of Indianapolis.
       
    Meanwhile, the ''Pagan Power Hour'' started providing spells, cooking and crafts in January.

    The show is aimed at educating people about Wicca, said Malcom Waterstone, host of the show produced in Quincy, Ill.

    A recurring topic has been the need for public worship spaces in small communities, but the show also advises listeners that the correct practice of Wicca excludes sacrificing animals and worshipping Satan, Waterstone said.
       
    The borderless Internet, unfettered by Federal Communications Commission guidelines, allows people to enjoy freedom of speech without fearing retribution, Waterstone said.
       
    ''People have the freedom to hear what they want and respond how they want,'' Waterstone said.
       
    Craig Patchett of San Diego started The Godcast Network at Godcast.org in November, a site that mirrors religious-themed podcasts so the feeds can be more widely distributed.

    Patchett said he started the network to reach seekers, and people in 75 different countries have downloaded podcasts during the past three months.
       
    Patchett said he would have registered the name Godcast.com instead of ''dot org,'' but the person who reserved it wanted $250,000 for the ''dot com'' name.
       
    Despite its mass-market promise, listening to podcasts is, for now, the pastime of an elite, gadget-oriented group, said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a nonprofit group that analyzes the real-life impact of the Internet through national surveys.

    But as the price of MP3 players - ranging from around $100 to $600 - continues to drop, it will make podcasting more accessible, Rainie said.
       
    A 2004 Pew Internet Project report said 82 million Americans have used the Internet for spiritual and religious purposes.

    Podcasting is a logical, virtual extension of the connection between minister and the congregation, and time-shifting is what makes it noteworthy, Rainie said.
       
    ''You can get your dose of your worship service when you want it, not necessarily when it's taking place,'' Rainie said.

March 22, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flip Clock

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In 1970 this was hi-tech.

Now it's old-school-cool.

The 70s sensation has numbers that change with a nice, satisfying clatter as the minutes in yet another day tick over.

Hey, it beats watching your nails grow.

Iron base.

Available in orange or blue.

Requires one D-battery (not included).

8" x 4" x 6.5" h.

$39 here.

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It's later than you think.

March 22, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Finland is mad about tango

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"For Finns, tango is a three-minute dream with your eyes open."

So said Maarit Niiniluoto, a Finnish radio presenter and tango historian, in David Atkinson's January 8 Financial Times story about Finland's love of tango.

Tango was born around 1900 in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, being brought to Europe by visiting Argentine musicians in the aftermath of World War I.

Said Niniluoto, "Melancholy is beautiful to the Finnish soul. The sadder the tango, the more Finnish people love it."

"Finns are not very verbal, nor prone to easy communication. Tango expresses the distance that they feel in their daily lives."

I must say that I don't recall ever having heard from a Finnish reader, though I know there are plenty of them.

Tangomarkkinat is a giant Finnish festival devoted to tango.

It's been held in the city of Seinajoki since 1985 and now attracts 100,000 visitors annually.

This year's event takes place from July 6 to July 10.

Here's the Financial Times story.

    Tango With Melancholy

    All the rage in Helsinki

    Tuesday night, 10.30pm, and the dance floor at Wanhan Tanssikellari is packed.

    On stage, the house band, Laura Hihnala and Sesam, are keeping the crowd on their feet while, propping up the bar, a slick of middle-aged lotharios in open-necked shirts and hair grease are wiggling their hips in tune to the rhythm.

    Outside, the blizzards of the bleak Finnish midwinter may be howling a chilly symphony, but inside, the exotic beat of tango fills the room.

    "I come every week just to dance and flirt. I love to dance close," says 45-year-old Vuokko, dressed in a racy leopard-print top and a pair of high heels that would leave Naomi Campbell stumbling down the catwalk.

    Vuokko works in a hospital and travels from her home in Vantaa, 15km from Helsinki, just to join each Tuesday's tango session.

    "My husband is at home," she laughs, casting an eye around for potential dance partners. "He doesn't like to dance."

    Tango has provided Finland's national soundtrack since its 1917 declaration of independence from Russia.

    Even today, both old and young know how to tango, while huge outdoor music festivals are a mainstay of the short but hedonistic Finnish summer.

    The biggest event of all, Tangomarkkinat (www.tangomarkkinat.fi), has been held in the country town of Seinajoki (www.seinajoki.fi) since 1985 and now attracts 100,000 visitors annually. (The next festival runs from July 6 to July 10.)

    In winter, however, tango goes behind closed doors, with a slew of dance schools and private parties, where Finnish tango fans find perfecting their footwork brings a much-needed dash of colour to the drab winter months.

    Tango

    "Our popular culture is very melancholy. The paradox of tango, the feeling of longing for someone while dancing very close, appeals strongly to Finns," explains Maarit Niiniluoto, a radio presenter and one of Finland's leading tango historians.

    "For Finns, tango is a three-minute dream with your eyes open," she says. "It's poetic and deeply symbolic."

    Tango was born around the turn of the century in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, and its dramatic vignettes of Latin life were brought to Europe by visiting Argentine musicians in the aftermath of the first world war.

    By the time tango fever had gripped Paris in the 1930s, Argentine tango had developed into a syncopated form of music incorporating influences from early jazz and blues.

    In Finland, however, where dancing in restaurants was banned during the second world war, it was only after restrictions were relaxed in 1948 that the local tango scene could flourish.

    The Finns also added their typically dour sense of gloom to the craze, tempering the Argentinian ardour with a dash of minor-key Finnish melancholy.

    "Lumihiutaleita" (Snowflakes), composed by M. Maja in 1936, was one of the first breakthrough tango hits to introduce icy Nordic imagery to the sultry tango.

    "Melancholy is beautiful to the Finnish soul. The sadder the tango, the more Finnish people love it," says Maarit Niiniluoto.

    "Finns are not very verbal, nor prone to easy communication. Tango expresses the distance that they feel in their daily lives."

    Back at the restaurant, the Latin spirit - not to mention the vodka - is flowing freely.

    After tripping the light fantastic with the frisky Vuokko, I head backstage to find lead singer Laura Hihnala basking in the post-gig glow of a rapturous ovation and besieged by autograph hunters.

    "When I sing, I feel the pain of tango. Finns reach out via this music - it's like musical therapy," says the 23-year-old singer, who was crowned Seinajoki's tango festival princess 2003.

    Tango01

    "I want to take Finnish tango to the world," she smiles, a gently elegiac smile. "To share our pain."

March 22, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Folding Banana Hook

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This device turns my usual design philosophy on its head, to wit: it's because of its moving part that I've awarded it a coveted bookofjoe Design Award.

I've had banana hooks in the past: they sit there on your counter getting in the way even when they're not busy working.

Hey, if you're not living on the edge — or a fold-up banana hook — you're taking up too much space.

This clever variation on a theme attaches underneath your kitchen cabinet with its own included adhesive.

You hang your bananas from it so they ripen evenly and don't bruise.

Yes, you have no bananas?

No problema, señorita: simply fold it up and out of sight.

Nice price, too: $3.95 here.

A suggestion for the company that makes/sells them: offer them in colors, especially pastels, and they'll fly off the shelves as people use them all over the house for all manner of nifty things.

There's a reason marketers and companies plead with me, via email and fax and telephone, to please, please take their fat checks and help them.

And there's a reason I tell 'em all to get lost.

It's you.

How could helping businesses sell more stuff and achieve higher market share possibly compare with being here with you?

No way, Josefina.

March 22, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Depression — A light at the end of an unspeakably dark tunnel?

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Depression is devastating and sometimes fatal.

It's estimated that 20% of the population will suffer at least once in their lifetime from clinical depression.

But there's depression, and then there's depression.

If you can go about your daily activities, however miserable you might be, that's one level.

Then there's another, far more profound and disabling.

Said Dr. Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, of patients who participated in her recent study, "These people weren't just having a bad day. They were beyond suicidal; they were too apathetic and disengaged to be bothered. They described their state as dead and deader."

A report on Mayberg's work appeared in the March 3 issue of the journal Neuron: read it here.

She chose six volunteers for her experiment, in which deep brain electrodes were placed through holes drilled in the patients' skulls.

Then a pacemaker was sewn under the skin of their chest.

Wires from the brain electrodes were connected to the pacemaker, which provided constant electrical stimulation to the subgenual cingulate region of the brain.

Sound terrible?

Consider what the patients who received the implants had to say.

One described it as being "like a miracle."

The volunteers described the effect of having the current turned on as a sudden brightening of the room, a "disappearance of the void" and a feeling of "connectedness."

Mayberg said, "I see depression as a brain disease, not as a chemical imbalance like most psychiatrists. The brain is not a bowl of soup. You cannot just add a chemical and stir. It is a very intricate wiring system. Some circuits were not working for these people. Once we turned on the stimulator the changes were astounding."

Maurice Chittenden reported on Mayberg's work in the February 27 Sunday Times of London; the story follows.

    Brain 'Pacemaker' Can Lift Depression

    Scientists have conducted a successful trial of a “brain pacemaker” that can make depressed people happy again by electronically stimulating the brain.

    The experiment is thought to be the first true demonstration of electronic mood control.

    Those behind it emphasise more trials are needed but hope it could offer a drug-free therapy for millions suffering long-lasting clinical depression.

    In the study, carried out in Toronto, Canada, people who had suffered years of untreatable clinical depression had electrodes planted deep in their brains to stimulate one of the areas involved in mood control.

    Before the treatment the patients had led the miserable existence typical of the deeply depressed, lacking motivation, refusing to get out of bed for days and often feeling suicidal.

    They had not responded to conventional therapies such as drugs, electroconvulsive therapy or psychotherapy.

    Afterwards, some of the test cases started going to the gym and established new businesses.

    One was a woman struggling to cope with her children.

    She told researchers: "I want to hold my children and actually feel them."

    After undergoing the £10,000 [U.S.$19,000] operation she is back in control of her life and has become active in her local parent-teacher association.

    In the procedure surgeons adopted a treatment previously used for severe cases of Parkinson’s disease by drilling into the skull and inserting electrodes into the brain.

    With Parkinson’s disease the aim is to neutralise the brain impulses that cause patients to suffer constant tremors.

    For patients with clinical depression the surgeons had a different target: the subgenual cingulate region or Cg25.

    This is located in the frontal lobes and plays a critical role in modulating sadness.

    Six people, all severely depressed, volunteered for the electrode implant treatment.

    Each underwent local anaesthetic before doctors drilled two small holes in their skulls.

    Using magnetic resonance imaging to guide them, they inserted two thin electrode-tipped wires into the Cg25 area.

    The other ends of the wire were threaded under the scalp down to the lower neck area.

    Next the patients underwent a general anaesthetic to have a pulse generator implant — the pacemaker — sewn under the skin in their chest.

    The wires were hooked up to this to provide constant brain stimulation.

    The results, to be unveiled this week in the American neuroscience journal Neuron, have been described by those involved as “like a miracle”.

    One severely depressed woman in her forties who previously suffered such mental lethargy she would not answer the telephone has started a business dealing in antiques.

    A former competitive cyclist has got married and returned to the gym to get himself in shape.

    Another woman, a former veterinary technician, has revived a previous ambition to open a kennel and cattery.

    All six volunteers reported acute effects once the current was switched on.

    These included a sudden brightening of the room, a "disappearance of the void" and a feeling of "connectedness".

    Dr Helen Mayberg, a neurologist now based at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, who led the research, said: "These people weren’t just having a bad day. They were beyond suicidal; they were too apathetic and disengaged to be bothered. They described their state as dead and deader."

    She added: "I see depression as a brain disease not as a chemical inbalance like most psychiatrists. The brain is not a bowl of soup. You cannot just add a chemical and stir. It is a very intricate wiring system. Some circuits were not working for these people. Once we turned on the stimulator the changes were astounding."

    Two out of the six, both men, lapsed back into depression within six months.

    But the scientists believe that fine-tuning of the implant treatment could eventually cure most cases of severe depression.

    Clinical depression affects 20% of Britons at some time in their lives and up to 2.3m have the condition at any one time.

March 22, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Witchcraft by a Picture — by John Donne (1572-1631)

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I fix mine eye on thine, and there
Pity my picture burning in thine eye;
My picture drown'd in a transparent tear,
When I look lower I espy;
Hadst thou the wicked skill
By pictures made and marr'd, to kill,
How many ways mightst thou perform thy will?

But now I've drunk thy sweet salt tears,
And though thou pour more, I'll depart;
My picture vanished, vanish all fears
That I can be endamaged by that art;
Though thou retain of me
One picture more, yet that will be,
Being in thine own heart, from all malice free.

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March 22, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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