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March 24, 2005

Noodlepie

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"From gutter grub to gourmet tables. Noodlepie is a blog about scoff & swill in Saigon."

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Not only is the writer really descriptive, funny and colorful, his pictures are just sensational.

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And there's all manner of useful, interesting information about odds and ends, such as the only place in Saigon to take your Mac if you've got a problem.

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Man, seeing the city with this guy would be a blast.

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Must remember to pencil in Saigon for the upcoming bookofjoe World Tour.

March 24, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Borba — Facelift in a bottle?

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So the maker of Borba Nutraceuticals would have you believe.

According to the Sephora website, Beverly Hills cosmetics developer "Scott Vincent Borba has found the Fountain of Youth and bottled it."

Drink two bottles a day, he says, and you'll see skin improvements in seven days.

"Technologically advanced, calorie and carbohydrate free, and guaranteed to make your skin glow from within."

Hey, that's precisely how I'd describe bookofjoe and the results of regular visits — and they sure won't cost you $30 for a six-day (12 bottles) supply, which is what the Borba treatment will set you back.

You be the judge.

Let me warn you, though, that if you decide to explore the Borba website, make sure you turn off the volume on your computer first — especially if you're at work.

It's truly one of the most annoying sites I've come across in a while, and I do see an awful lot of them.

Jennifer Huget investigated the science of drinkable skin care for a story which appeared in this past Tuesday's Washington Post Health section.

March 24, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Body Integrity Identity Disorder

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The first time I ever heard of this condition was yesterday, when I read Robin Marantz Henig's fascinating New York Times story of March 22.

Body Integrity Identity Disorder is only the latest name for the condition, in which an otherwise normal individual has an obsessive desire to have a healthy limb amputated.

I am not making this up.

Other names for the disorder are apotemnophilia (literally, love of amputation); factitious disability disorder; and amputee identity disorder.

No one knows what causes the condition or how to treat it.

People who have it will go to great lengths to get their limb amputated: some have injured themselves with chainsaws or guns in desperate attempts to force surgical amputations; one man in Liverpool, England packed his leg in dry ice for the same reason.

Of interest to me is that in Henig's article, every person described as having the disorder is male.

How different, then, this would seem from the spectrum of anorexia nerovosa-related conditions, which appear predominantly in females.

Here's the Times article.

    At War With Their Bodies, They Seek to Sever Limbs

    When the legless man drove up on his own to meet Dr. Michael First for brunch in Brooklyn, it wasn't just to show Dr. First how independent he could be despite his disability.

    It was to show Dr. First that he had finally done it - had finally managed to get both his legs amputated, even though they had been perfectly healthy.

    Dr. First, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, had gotten to know this man through his investigations of a bizarre and extremely rare psychiatric condition that he is calling body integrity identity disorder, or B.I.I.D.

    "This is so completely beyond the realm of normal behavior," he said of the condition, which he estimated afflicts no more than a few thousand people worldwide.

    "My first thought when I heard about it was, Who would think this could go wrong? Who even thought there was a function that could be broken?"

    Dr. First is among a small group of psychologists and psychiatrists who are trying to define the disorder, understand its origins and decide whether to include it in the encyclopedic bible of psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or D.S.M., as a full-fledged disease.

    At the same time, the disorder is turning up as a plot device or documentary subject in a handful of films, plays and television shows.

    The idea of having extreme elective surgery, even when it involves mutilation or removal of healthy tissue, has met at least some acceptance in cases like sex reassignment, or cosmetic surgery for those who hate their noses or breasts even when those body parts are objectively fine.

    But an obsessive desire for a limb amputation - one that drives people to cut off healthy arms and legs - tests the tolerance of even the most open-minded.

    Body integrity identity disorder has led people to injure themselves with guns or chain saws in desperate efforts to force surgical amputations.

    A few have sought out amputations abroad, including one man who died of gangrene after an elective amputation in a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico.

    The disorder has been known by several names. In 1977, Dr. John Money, an expert on sexuality at Johns Hopkins University, named it apotemnophilia (literally, love of amputation). He considered it a form of paraphilia - that is, a sexual deviation.

    In 1997, Dr. Richard Bruno of Englewood Hospital in New Jersey proposed the name factitious disability disorder, which he grouped into three types: people who are sexually aroused by amputees ("devotees"), those who use wheelchairs and crutches to make it seem as if they are amputees ("pretenders") and those who want to get amputations themselves ("wannabes").

    In Dr. Bruno's taxonomy, those who manage to obtain amputations continue to be known as wannabes.

    In 2000, Dr. Gregg Furth, a New York child psychologist and one of Dr. Money's co-authors on his 1977 paper, published a book about the disorder, calling it amputee identity disorder.

    In addition to his professional interest in the subject, Dr. Furth had a personal one: from early childhood, he had wanted to have his right leg amputated above the knee.

    Dr. Furth wrote the book with Dr. Robert Smith, whom he met while searching for a surgeon who would perform the elective amputation.

    When Dr. Furth found him in Scotland, Dr. Smith had already done two such operations, and he agreed, after consulting with two psychiatrists, to operate on Dr. Furth.

    But in 2000 Dr. Smith's hospital, the Falkirk Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, prohibited any further procedures of this type.

    Dr. Furth never received his amputation.

    The newest name, body integrity identity disorder, was first used by Dr. First of Columbia in the journal Psychological Medicine in 2004.

    In that paper, he described the results of a telephone survey of 52 people with the disorder: 9 of them had amputations and the rest yearned for it.

    He chose the name to distinguish the disorder from paraphilia, psychosis or body dysmorphic disorder (the false belief that a part of your body is ugly or abnormal).

    To Dr. First, the closest analogy was to gender identity disorder.

    "When the first sex reassignment was done in the 1950's, it generated the same kind of horror" that voluntary amputation does now, Dr. First said.

    "Surgeons asked themselves, 'How can I do this thing to someone that's normal?' The dilemma of the surgeon being asked to amputate a healthy limb is similar."

    Still, the analogy is imperfect.

    "It's one thing to say someone wants to go from male to female; they're both normal states," Dr. First said.

    "To want to go from a four-limbed person to an amputee feels more problematic. That idea doesn't compute to regular people."

    Dr. David Spiegel of Stanford said he believed that body integrity identity disorder sounded closer to either body dysmorphic disorder or anorexia nervosa, though he added that he had not seen any patients with the integrity disorder.

    The connection to anorexia, he said, is that people with B.I.I.D. "have a clearly mistaken belief about their bodies."

    "It reminds me a little of anorexia nervosa," Dr. Spiegel added, "where people think they're fat when it's obvious they're not."

    No one knows for sure what causes the integrity disorder or how it can be treated.

    Dr. J. Mike Bensler and Dr. Douglas S. Paauw of the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, writing in the Southern Medical Journal in 2003, said it was probably both sexual and emotional in nature.

    The condition is at its heart an "erotic fantasy," they wrote, with two components: "undergoing amputation of a limb, and subsequently overachieving despite a handicap."

    According to Dr. First, people with body integrity identity disorder are quite specific about how many limbs they want amputated, and where.

    The most common is the left leg above the knee; the least common is a finger or toe.

    "Some people actually know the exact spot where they want the amputation," said Dr. First.

    "Not just above the knee, but four inches above the knee."

    Anything short of that specific site can be insufficient.

    One man from Dr. First's sample had a lifelong fixation on being a double leg amputee.

    After a shotgun accident, he lost his left arm.

    Amazingly, this did nothing to diminish the intensity of the man's desire to have his legs amputated.

    In Dr. First's study, just over half of his subjects had encountered amputees at a young age, and from that time on, they were fixated on getting their limbs removed.

    "It wasn't so much that I wanted to be an amputee as much as I just felt like I was not supposed to have my legs," said Dr. First's brunch companion in a phone interview, which he granted on the condition of anonymity.

    The man also was a subject in Dr. First's study.

    "From the earliest days I can remember, as young as 3 or 4 years of age, I enjoyed playing around using croquet sticks as crutches," he said.

    "I enjoyed thinking about what it would be like to be missing a leg. When we were playing cowboys and Indians, I seemed to be the person who always got wounded in the leg."

    This man said his amputations cured his disorder. But Dr. Spiegel said most such operations would probably not do away with the underlying problem.

    "I don't think the answer is fitting in with the obsession or delusion," he said.

    Dr. Spiegel expressed more faith in psychotherapy, especially something called response prevention and thought-stopping.

    "It involves training the patient to try and block the thought when it comes up," he said, "and to keep him from trying to act on it."

    None of the subjects in Dr. First's study reported being helped by therapy or medication, but Dr. First said that might be because they had not received "psychotherapy tailored to this disorder" or "high sustained doses" of medications used to treat related conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    He said more research was needed into treatment options and into whether amputation was an acceptable treatment "as a last resort."

    People who have lost limbs to accidents or disease are often horrified when they learn about healthy people who seek amputations.

    "It's very difficult for people who have been through what they consider to be a devastating life experience to understand why anybody would want to mutilate himself in this way," said Paddy Rossbach, president of the Amputation Coalition of America, an advocacy and support group.

    "Especially when so many people are having tremendous problems with prosthetic fittings, or access to prostheses, and are living with pain every day of their lives."

    Mrs. Rossbach, who has been missing a leg since childhood, said that some amputees are angry at people with body integrity identity disorder because they believe that the condition "is really minimizing what they themselves have been through."

    According to Dr. First, people with the disorder are basically normal.

    "They have families," he said.

    "They hold all kinds of jobs, doctors and lawyers and professors. They're not screwed-up people apart from this. You could spend an evening with them and never have the slightest clue."

    But people with serious mental illnesses, even psychoses, often look normal on the surface, Dr. Spiegel said.

    Still, the surface can mask some profound problems.

    "It's often the case that people with this kind of delusion would pass a mental status screen," he said.

    "They can do abstract thinking, they're not disoriented, they look pretty good to the outside world as long as you don't trip over their delusion."

    Yet many with the disorder would go to extreme measures to get rid of the limb they consider extraneous.

    In May 1998, the urge drove one man to a California surgeon who had lost his license more than 20 years earlier for several botched attempts at sex reassignment surgery.

    At a clinic in Tijuana, the surgeon, John Ronald Brown, 77, cut off the left leg of Philip Bondy, 79, of New York, who had paid him $10,000.

    Then Mr. Brown sent Mr. Bondy to a motel in a run-down section of San Diego to recover on his own.

    Two days later, Mr. Bondy was dead of gangrene, and Mr. Brown was charged with second-degree murder.

    During the trial, newspaper reports said that Mr. Bondy had sought the operation to satisfy a "sexual craving."

    Mr. Brown was found guilty in October 1999 and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

    Mr. Bondy was not alone in his desperation.

    Among the body integrity identity disorder sufferers in the documentary "Whole" by Melody Gilbert, broadcast on the Sundance Channel in May 2003, is a Florida man who shot his own leg so it would be amputated in the emergency room, and a man from Liverpool, England, who packed his leg in dry ice for the same reason.

    The man who froze his leg referred to the resulting amputation as "body correction surgery."

    The condition is slowly making its way into popular culture. At the New York International Fringe Festival last summer, an award for best overall production went to "Armless," a play about a middle-aged suburbanite with the disorder.

    The playwright, Kyle Jarrow, said his goal was to explore "the line between gross and spooky and funny and poignant."

    In November, an episode of "CSI: New York" featured a man with the disorder who bled to death after he tried to saw off his leg.

    And last month, a screening was held in the East Village of "Pretender's Dance," a short film by Tom Keefe about a young choreographer and her boyfriend who wanted amputation.

    Dr. Smith, the Scottish surgeon who removed the legs of two men before his hospital forced him to stop, is trying to get the disorder formally recognized so that the amputations can be covered by the National Health Service.

    "The Hippocratic oath says first do your patients no harm," he said in the film "Whole."

    But maybe the real harm, he said, is to refuse to treat such a patient, "leaving him in a state of permanent mental torment," when all it would take for him "to live a satisfied and happy life" would be to amputate.

    Dr. Smith's American co-author, Dr. Furth, is trying to get body integrity identity disorder added to the D.S.M., the textbook compiled by the American Psychiatric Association that lists all mental disorders considered distinct, pathological and worthy of reimbursement by health insurance companies.

    Dr. First of Columbia is on the board of editors for the next edition of the textbook.

    Even though he is one of the few psychiatrists who studies the disorder, he still has not decided whether it should be included.

    Putting the disorder into the manual could generate research interest into its origin and possible treatment, he said.

    But, he added, "the D.S.M. already is a very big book."

    "And as far as clinical utility," Dr. First said, "the thicker it gets, the less useful it gets."

    And while the disorder is genuine, he said, he has to recognize that it may be too rare for mention in a book that is already buckling under the weight of its inclusiveness.

March 24, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

ShasPod — Talmud to go

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Continuing what appears to have become a daily feature, today's religion-related post is about the rise of the Talmud from ink atoms to virtual bits.

Alex Mindlin wrote a story for the March 17 New York Times Circuits section about the enterprising 23-year-old Yehuda Shmidman.

Shmidman solved the vexing problem of how to cram a 2,711-page book — the Talmud — into a commuter-friendly package.

Many students of Talmud have the text on audiocassettes, which generally consist of a rabbi who spends about half an hour explicating each page.

The problem is, a full set of Talmud tapes numbers around 2,000 cassettes.

Said one student of Talmud, Chaim Shulman, in Mindlin's article, "I know somebody who had his whole garage full of the cassette tapes."

Enter the ShasPod.

For $399, Shmidman sends his customers a 20-gigabyte iPod loaded with Talmud lectures given by Rabbi Dovid Grossman of Los Angeles.

That's $100 above the price of the iPod alone.

Shmidman said he's sold several hundred ShasPods to date (that was before the Times story — he can expect an inflection point) with customers all over the world, including the Chief Rabbi of Venezuela.

This news along with the previous posts here about Godcasting and the Pagan Power Hour are extremely exciting to us here at bookofjoe.

It can't be long before iPods and every other MP3 player accept flash memory chips.

That means complete portability of information.

Add to that the rise of Wi-Fi and Wi-Max and what I see is a seamless, wireless web of information distribution.

My Holy Grail — bookofjoeTV, live and commercial free, broadcasting/podcasting/whatever's-nextcasting 24/7, is growing ever closer.

Feel like doing something else instead of watching?

Why would you?

But just in case, simply record it onto a flash memory chip and watch it whenever on your PSP.

You just wait and see.

Here's the Times piece.

    2,000 Talmud Tapes, or One Loaded IPod

    Two weeks ago, about 26,000 Orthodox Jews crowded into Madison Square Garden to mark the completion of the Daf Yomi, a seven-and-a-half-year cycle of Talmud learning. Participants in the Daf Yomi - who number, worldwide, in the hundreds of thousands - study a page a day of the massive compendium of Jewish oral law, culminating in this celebration, known as the Siyum HaShas.

    At the door, handing out leaflets beside the Jews for Jesus and the teenage collectors for Jewish charities was a 23-year-old entrepreneur named Yehuda Shmidman.

    Mr. Shmidman was passing out glossy brochures showing a bearded, black-hatted Orthodox Jew, lighted in silhouette, wearing a pair of white ear buds.

    His product, the ShasPod, is a solution to a vexing question: how does a commuter study a 2,711-page book?

    Many commuters use audiocassettes, not just because of the Talmud's size but because of its difficulty; taped lectures generally feature a rabbi who spends half an hour explicating each page.

    Chaim Shulman switched to audiocassettes after finding that his Talmud was too bulky to commute with every day from Jamaica Estates, Queens, to Manhattan, where he works as a lawyer.

    "It's very bulky," he said. "It takes up half your briefcase."

    But audiocassettes are unwieldy, too; a full set of Talmud tapes usually numbers around 2,000 cassettes.

    "I know somebody who had his whole garage full of the cassette tapes," Mr. Shulman said.

    Enter the ShasPod.

    For $399, Mr. Shmidman sends his customers a 20-gigabyte iPod loaded with Talmud lectures given by Rabbi Dovid Grossman of Los Angeles.

    That is $100 above the price of an iPod alone.

    "We created this because of two glaring trends," Mr. Shmidman said.

    "One is the iPod, and the other is the Siyum HaShas, which is something so incredible that when it happens you obviously want to join the next cycle."

    Though he will not give exact figures, Mr. Shmidman says he has sold "about a couple hundred" ShasPods (available at shaspods.com), with a spike in sales just after the Siyum HaShas.

    The Chief Rabbi of Venezuela is a customer.

    Others are in South Africa, England and Brooklyn.

    Will all of these people complete the next Daf Yomi cycle?

    "It's like a gym," Mr. Shmidman said. "Not everybody stays at the gym; some people stop in the middle."

    ShasPods, like audiocassettes, are off-limits to Orthodox Jews on the Sabbath, when religious laws prohibit the operation of electrical equipment.

    "You can turn it on," Mr. Shmidman said, "but that's sacrilegious."

    He said his customers would probably use the ShasPod on Friday morning and Saturday night, thus listening to their daily Talmud lecture while avoiding the Sabbath.

    MP3 audio files of Daf Yomi lectures have long been available online; indeed, Rabbi Grossman's lectures are available free at dafyomi.org.

    But many ultra-Orthodox Jews refrain from using the Web for purposes unrelated to work, so they have no way of downloading these files.

    Indeed, Mr. Shmidman's only rival, Torah Communications Network, says it refuses to market through the Internet, a fact Mr. Shmidman notes with a touch of glee.

    Torah Communications Network's iPods, at 40 gigabytes, are twice as large as Mr. Shmidman's, but $100 more expensive.

    "It's a great, great price," he said. "Rabbi Grossman is a steal."

March 24, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shark Steam Bottle — Chemical-free cleaning

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21st-century technology takes us back to the steam era with this stylish appliance, just washed up on the shores of the U.S. after becoming a fixture in European cleaning circles.

You fill the bottle with water, plug in the 14-foot-long cord, and voila — superheated steam in 30 seconds, which you dispense with a squeeze of the trigger just like the Fantastik of old.

Steam-clean everything: countertops, floors, tiles, windows, even your car's hubcaps.

Doubles as a garment cleaner.

Might be nice to toss in your luggage when you travel, to avoid the old "steam your clothes near the shower" routine to get out the wrinkles and all.

Since the bottle's technology uses no pressure, you can refill and use it almost instantly.

Comes with a whole host of accessories: you get the steam bottle, a filling flask, an angle adaptor/concentrator, three nylon scrub brushes, and a squeegee.

$49.99 here.

Of interest to me is that Target has just added true 1-Click ordering, just like Amazon's always had and claimed as its exclusive feature.

I wonder if Target made a deal with Amazon to use their technology or just decided the heck with it and implemented it, regardless of what Jeff Bezos and his "cease-and-desist" lawyers might do.

I haven't read a word about this new Target website feature or any such deal, that's for sure.

Perhaps if I'd open a newspaper every now and then I'd be more in touch with what's going on in the world.

Ya think?

March 24, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

John Virtue, Painter of London

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Now in his late 50s, Virtue only became known perhaps 20 years ago for his landscape paintings which have become increasingly abstract over time.

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In recent years his subject has been London.

His paintings are large (those above and below measure 6 feet x 6 feet), and in black and white.

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Currently they are on view at London's National Gallery in a show, "John Virtue: London Paintings."

A second show, "John Virtue: London Drawings," at the Courtauld Institute of Art, also in London, examines his preparatory work for the paintings that follow.

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Virtue has written, "Drawing is the compost from which painting develops."

It's not obvious to me in which order one might best view the two shows.

Perhaps those who do so will offer their thoughts here.

[via William Packer and The Financial Times]

March 24, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Très Fluo Black Bag

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Klaus Biesenbach, the German-born chief curator of "Greater New York 2005," a survey of new art at P.S. 1 in Queens, uses it as his attaché.

Created by German designer Ilke Penzilien in 2001, it mimics the plain plastic bags used in stores throughout Germany, right down to the punched-out crescent handle and bottom placket.

It was sold at a furniture store in Berlin where the designer was working.

Only five were made before it was discontinued due to the expense of creating it.

Then a miracle happened.

The bag reappeared.

It's now sold for $195 at Opening Ceremony in New York City's SoHo district. (35 Howard Street Basement, New York, 10013; 212-219-2688)

[via David Colman and the New York Times]

March 24, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Singapore ranked #1 in the world in information technology

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The World Economic Forum's annual ranking of the world's nations in terms of their ability to compete in information technology has just come out: the new ranking establishes Singapore as the world leader, displacing the U.S. from the top spot for the first time since the rankings began in 2001.

Here're the top 20:

1. Singapore

2. Iceland

3. Finland

4. Denmark

5. U.S.

6. Sweden

7. Hong Kong

8. Japan

9. Switzerland

10. Canada

11. Australia

12. U.K.

13. Norway

14. Germany

15. Taiwan

16. Netherlands

17. Luxembourg

18. Israel

19. Austria

20. France

The full list can be found here, along with previous years' reports and links to media coverage of the newest report.

My thoughts?

The disconnect between size, natural resources, and quality of life is now complete.

Singapore, Iceland, Hong Kong, Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan, Luxembourg, and Israel have no natural resources to speak of, yet they comprise 40% of the list above.

These tiny nations also boast some of the very longest life spans and highest standards of living in the world.

Can there be any doubt anymore that the future lies in bits rather than atoms?

Not in this man's mind.

What's left of it, anyway.

March 24, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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