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

April 16, 2005

bookofjoe TV — is it showtime?


Well darned if I didn't get all excited when Phillip Winn, my superb technical engineer (yes, he will program for food), the man who makes it possible for bookofjoe to go out world-wide without a hitch seven days a week, 365 days a year, sent me this link to Google's new Video feature.

Could this be the killer app I've been waiting for?


I read all about and it seemed pretty cool; then I looked around online and found this:

    Of course, the movie uploader is an exe file---

    To the best of my knowledge, there is no way to run an .exe file on the Mac without purchasing a third-party application like "Virtual PC" by Connectix or "SoftWindows" by FWB Software.

    They allow you to boot Windows under Mac and run Windows programs.

    "Virtual PC" sells for $250 and "SoftWindows" sells for $150 (MacWarehouse prices).

As you know, we are Mac people here, me and my crack research team; we have no use for Microsoft's D.O.A. software.


Oh, well.

Maybe Stevie Jobs is cooking up something in his basement in Cupertino....


Let us pray.

April 16, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Can plumpy'nut® end world hunger?


plumpy'nut™ (note the absence of upper-case letters — the new new thing? But I digress) could be the best invention ever for relieving hunger in the Third World.

It's a peanut-based paste, sort of like Nutella in texture, that comes in a sealed foil pouch with a two-year shelf life.

What makes it revolutionary is that there's no need to add water, which in poor countries is itself a potent disease vector.

plumpy'nut™ is already saving lives.

Roger Thurow's story about this breakthrough product appeared on the front page of this past Tuesday's Wall Street Journal: it follows.

    In Battling Hunger, A New Advance: Peanut-Butter Paste

    Plumpy'nut doesn't use water and is easily distributed; big deployment in Darfur

    Balancing profits with aid

    Four-year-old Sadia Mohamed Yousif walked 25 miles with her family to the Krinding refugee camp here.

    Violence ravaging the surrounding Darfur province had driven them from their farm and Sadia was near starvation when aid workers began feeding her a new product made of sweet, enriched peanut-butter paste.

    Its name is Plumpy'nut, and as its use becomes more widespread, this whimsical-sounding product is helping transform the treatment of malnutrition in children.

    Each packet, the size of a small juice pouch, weighs less than 100 grams but packs 500 calories.

    After several weeks on a diet of Plumpy'nut -- brought to the camp by Save the Children, a U.S. aid organization -- Sadia was able to stand and walk again.

    When she spied the silver-and-red packet in her mother's hand, she said "Plumpy," stepping forward on wobbly legs and reaching out her hands.

    "Plumpy saved her," said her mother, Fatma, with a broad smile.

    Plumpy'nut is the serendipitous result of one man's breakfast-time revelation, which came after years of research by nutritionists.

    Made by a French company in the Normandy countryside, Plumpy'nut has been fed to some 30,000 children in Sudan's Darfur region and aid officials there say it has helped cut malnutrition rates in half.

    Unlike powdered-milk formulas, which have been the standard treatment for severe malnutrition, Plumpy'nut doesn't need to be mixed with clean water, a rare commodity in famine-stricken regions.

    Medical officers aren't needed to be on hand to mix ingredients.

    A mother simply snips a corner of the packet and squeezes the paste into her child's mouth.

    As a result, nutritionists for the first time can take treatment beyond crowded emergency feeding centers and hospital settings, where disease can spread rapidly, and into the communities where malnourished children live.

    The shift from emergency treatment to more-routine community care, "has long been a Holy Grail of humanitarianism," says Steve Collins, a director of Valid International, a United Kingdom organization specializing in famine relief.

    "It's an amazing breakthrough when it comes to therapeutic feeding."

    A delicate mix of capitalism and humanitarianism, Plumpy'nut is made by Nutriset SAS, a private company specializing in food for humanitarian relief.

    With 40 employees working from a small blue-and-white factory in Malaunay, France -- a country otherwise known for its haute cuisine -- Nutriset also makes milk-based formulas for treating severe malnourishment as well as other nutrition-boosting products.

    While other food companies seek to sell their yogurt and breakfast cereal to the widest possible consumer market, Nutriset focuses only on the world's hunger zones.

    Its products are household names in places such as Ethiopia, Sudan, Congo and Malawi.

    Its main customers are aid agencies.

    In this niche, Nutriset has few rivals.

    Competing products such as enriched biscuits aren't as versatile as Plumpy'nut -- which costs relief agencies about 35 cents a packet before shipping -- many aid workers say.

    Of course, neither Plumpy nor other similar products can help overcome the more intractable problems associated with famine, such as lack of clean water.

    Darfur, a vast region in Western Sudan, has been Plumpy'nut's first major deployment.

    For two years, marauding militias, composed mostly of Arab nomads and cattle herders, have attacked Darfur's African farmers in a battle over arable land.

    United Nations agencies estimate nearly two million people have been driven from their homes and at least 70,000 killed, although other estimates place the death toll much higher.

    The survivors have sought refuge in squalid camps with minimal sanitation and health facilities in Sudan and neighboring Chad.

    The U.S. government has labeled the attacks against Darfur's farmers as "genocide" and a U.N. commission probing the violence concluded in February that government forces and militias committed atrocities on a "widespread and systematic basis."

    The Sudanese government, accused of supporting the militias, refuted the findings, saying it's waging a campaign against Darfur rebels.

    As the turmoil threatens to wipe out a third farming season, Nutriset is anticipating another run of round-the-clock production mixing peanut paste with sugar, fats, minerals and vitamins.

    For Nutriset, the news of fresh orders always comes attached to reports of children on the edge of starvation.

    "When we got the first order for Darfur, our initial reaction was, 'It's a pity, it's happening again,' " says Isabelle Sauguet, Nutriset's sales and development manager.

    The increasing use of Plumpy'nut -- more than 300 metric tons have been distributed in Darfur alone -- has boosted Nutriset's sales to about $15.5 million a year from about $6.5 million in 2001.

    Nutriset, however, is wary about being seen as profiting from the tragedies it serves.

    It doesn't offer its products for commercial sale, through creating high-energy athletic bars, for example.

    Aid groups would object "if we make money from these products and invest it to make commercial products in order to make more money," says Michel Lescanne, Nutriset's chairman and managing director.

    He says the company plows back its profits into research and development. The company doesn't disclose salaries it pays.

    Plumpy'nut's origin lies in the African hunger crises of the early 1980s, including Ethiopia's epic famine in which nearly one million people died.

    Back then, Mr. Lescanne was developing an enriched chocolate bar for malnourished children while working at a French dairy company.

    The product never caught on.

    "The taste wasn't good, and it was expensive to produce," he remembers, making a sour face.

    The company dropped Mr. Lescanne's project, he recalls, but he wanted to continue his research.

    In 1986, he bought some scales and blenders and founded Nutriset in his kitchen.

    At the same time, nutritionists working for various aid agencies were also hunting for new malnutrition treatments.

    Earlier feeding regimens involving various levels of protein, fat and nutrients didn't work effectively and in some cases exacerbated problems by putting excessive demands on a malnourished person's already-weakened digestive organs.

    In the early 1990s, these nutritionists, in conjunction with agencies such as the World Health Organization, developed a set of formulas for therapeutic milks that they dubbed F-75 and F-100.

    Nutriset then developed a way to turn these recipes into a powdered mix for use in the field.

    "Just open the package and add some water," says Mr. Lescanne, waving his hands with the flourish of a French chef.

    The product became the accepted way to treat malnutrition and helped to establish Nutriset's niche.

    But Nutriset and nutritionists working in famine zones knew that powdered milk mix had its limitations.

    Because it needed to be mixed with clean water, it could only be used in clinical settings, either in established hospitals or in feeding tents set up at the onset of a famine.

    This meant malnourished children were crowded together, aiding the spread of illnesses such as diarrhea and measles.

    It also required mothers stay with their sick children during treatment.

    Nutritionists wondered: Would the health of children left behind deteriorate?

    What about those who never reached the treatment centers?

    "It became a fixation for me to come up with another way," says Andre Briend, a former specialist in pediatric nutrition at the French government's Institute of Development Research and now an official with WHO in Geneva.

    After many years working in the developing world, he returned to France in the early 1990s and began consulting with Nutriset.

    He sought an alternative to the powdered mix.

    He tried pancakes and doughnuts.

    He tried a chocolate bar, but it melted at high temperatures, making it unsuitable for use in desert famine zones.

    Adding the necessary minerals also ruined the taste.

    One morning in 1997, while eating breakfast, he noticed a jar of Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread popular in Europe.

    He had seen it on breakfast tables, including his own, for years, but this time he recalls thinking, "Of course!"

    He called Mr. Lescanne. "Why not a spread?" he said, both men recall.

    Since the previous experiment with chocolate didn't work, Mr. Briend tried a peanut paste.

    When the ingredients from the F-100 milk formula were added, it still tasted like peanut butter, only sweeter.

    Nutriset executives pored through a dictionary trying to come up with a name that would suggest a personality rather than a scientific label.

    Coming across the "P" section, they combined "plumpy" and "peanut."

    On its packaging, the apostrophe is represented by a picture of a peanut.

    In many African countries, the peanut is a staple food and Nutriset found no cases of peanut allergy.

    Nutritionists began deploying Plumpy'nut in hunger hot-spots.

    Children, delighted at the taste, gobbled it up.

    "The children cried when we took the Plumpy'nut away in order to weigh them," recalls Mr. Briend.

    Armed with Plumpy'nut, aid agencies are developing a new treatment method.

    During Ethiopia's latest famine, in 2003, which afflicted more than 12 million people, relief organizations erected a network of feeding centers to administer milk-based treatment.

    Countless lives were saved, but medical workers were overwhelmed by the crush of children filling the centers.

    Aid workers using Plumpy'nut were able to relieve the pressure by returning children to their homes and treating them there.

    In Darfur, aid workers have stepped up their use of these community-based treatments.

    Nutritionists say a milk-based treatment is vital for severely malnourished children with medical complications, which may comprise up to 20% of the total.

    But milk-based products can be breeding grounds for bacteria, either when mixed with contaminated water or when left out in the open.

    For most malnourished children, nutritionists have found that a steady diet of Plumpy'nut at home -- three or four sachets a day for several weeks -- will usually bring recovery.

    Some groups want to take the production of Plumpy'nut beyond Nutriset's factory and into the field.

    Mark Manary, a pediatrician at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis established Project Peanut Butter in Malawi, in southern Africa.

    To reduce costs, it uses local ingredients as well as a mix of vitamins and minerals supplied by Nutriset.

    Dr. Manary hopes to crank out 150 metric tons a year to treat Malawi's estimated 15,000 severely malnourished children.

    Dr. Manary initially used Plumpy'nut he'd received as a donation in 2001. Recovery rates soared to 95% from 25%.

    "We didn't need a statistician to tell us this was better," he says.

    "We figured if we wanted to continue, we needed to make it locally."

    Valid International's Dr. Collins, is also hoping to spur local production of Plumpy'nut-style products using other commodities, such as corn or wheat, as well as peanuts.

    "It's such an important technique, it can't be beholden to just one company," he says.

    "We need the lowest price with high quality to match."

    Despite the competition, Nutriset says it is open to local production.

    The company is hoping to establish a franchise network of local producers; it would supply its nutritional mix for a fee and offer advice on production and quality.

    In January, Fatma Adam Hassin emerged from her thatched hut in the Krinding camp cradling a packet of Plumpy'nut.

    She filled a plastic bottle with water and washed her hands before sprinkling some drops over the face and hands of her 2-year-old daughter, Hasania, who was severely malnourished.

    The mother sat on the ground outside her hut and fed Plumpy'nut to Hasania, who typically eats three packets a day in nine sittings.

    Plumpy'nut allows Ms. Hassin and other mothers to stay with their children rather than move to a feeding center located elsewhere in the camp.

    "How would I take care of all my children if I'm not at home?" asks Ms. Hassin, who has eight children in total.

    Plumpy'nut also puts the mother in charge of feeding and caring for her child.

    "It's the most beautiful thing with Plumpy'nut," says Hedwig Deconinck, a senior emergency nutrition specialist for Save the Children working in Darfur.

    "The mother tells us, 'My child is healthy and I have done it.' "


    April 16, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Sideways — The Plug


    I've seen those devices that convert a standard wall socket into a six-plug docking station but they always have the six sockets facing out from the wall into the room.

    That makes it hard to push stuff up against the wall.

    This multi-outlet device puts the six three-prong sockets on the sides — three to a side.

    Projects out only 1.25".

    $9.98 here (Item # 18140).

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

    What we do when no one is looking defines us


    Once upon a time, in 1945, an anonymous 24-year-old Polish man offered food and shelter to a 13-year-old girl on the verge of death.

    Here is the absorbing story by Roger Cohen, which appeared in the International Herald Tribune on April 6.

      The Polish Seminary Student And the Jewish Girl He Saved

      Here is a family story of Pope John Paul II, an intimate tale of his humanity.

      During the summer of 1942, two women in Krakow, Poland, were denounced as Jews, taken to the city's prison, held there for a few months and then sent to the Belzec extermination camp, where, in October, they were killed in primitive Nazi gas chambers by carbon monoxide from diesel engines.

      Their names were Frimeta Gelband and Salomea Zierer; they were sisters.

      As it happens, Frimeta was my wife's grandmother.

      Salomea, known as "Salla," had two daughters, one of whom survived the war and one of whom did not.

      The elder of these daughters was Edith Zierer. In January 1945, at 13, she emerged from a Nazi labor camp in Czestochowa, Poland, a waif on the verge of death.

      Separated from her family, unaware that her mother had been killed by the Germans, she could scarcely walk.

      But walk she did, to a train station, where she climbed onto a coal wagon.

      The train moved slowly, the wind cut through her.

      When the cold became too much to bear, she got off the train at a village called Jendzejuw.

      In a corner of the station, she sat.

      Nobody looked at her, a girl in the striped and numbered uniform of a prisoner, late in a terrible war.

      Unable to move, Edith waited.

      Death was approaching, but a young man approached first, "very good looking," as she recalled, and vigorous.

      He wore a long robe and appeared to the girl to be a priest.

      "Why are you here?" he asked. "What are you doing?

      Edith said she was trying to get to Krakow to find her parents.

      The man disappeared.

      He came back with a cup of tea.

      Edith drank.

      He said he could help her get to Krakow.

      Again, the mysterious benefactor went away, returning with bread and cheese.

      They talked about the advancing Soviet army.

      Edith said she believed her parents and younger sister, Judith, were alive.

      "Try to stand," the man said.

      Edith tried - and failed.

      The man carried her to another village, where he put her in the cattle car of a train bound for Krakow.

      Another family was there.

      The man got in beside Edith, covered her with his cloak, and set about making a small fire.

      His name, he told Edith, was Karol Wojtyla (top, at age 12).

      Although she took him for a priest, he was still a seminarian who would not be ordained until the following year.

      Another 33 years would pass before he would become Pope John Paul II and embark on a papacy that would help break the religion of communism and so transform the world.

      I do not know what moved this young seminarian to save the life of a lost Jewish girl.

      I do know that his was an act of humanity made as the two great dehumanizing forces of the 20th century, the twin totalitarianisms of fascism and communism, bore down on his nation, Poland.

      Here were two people alone in a ravaged land, a 24-year-old Catholic and a 13-year-old Jew.

      The future pope had already lost his family - mother, father and brother.

      Edith, although she did not know it yet, had already lost her mother at Belzec, her father at Majdanek, and her little sister at Auschwitz.

      They could not have been more alone.

      We are alone.

      All of us.

      The great opiates of the 20th century - communist and fascist ideology - promised to subsume the individual into the collective glory of a beckoning utopia, but they delivered only new and more terrible forms of suffering.

      In his early, and very personal, observation and absorption of this suffering lie the roots of the late pope's core belief: the inalienable value and sanctity of each human life.

      This belief carried Pope John Paul II to convictions that some found old-fashioned or rigid.

      But in an indulgent age of moral pliancy, why seek to be indulged by the pope, of all people?

      He offered his truth with the same simplicity and directness he showed in proffering tea and bread and shelter from cold to an abandoned Jewish girl in 1945, when nobody was watching.

      It was a truth based on the belief that, as he once put it, "a degradation, indeed a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human being" had lain at the root of the repetitive mass murder of the 20th century.

      The power of that truth answered forever Stalin's contemptuous question - "How many divisions has the pope?" - as John Paul II, starting with his 1979 visit, undid Stalin's iron legacy in Poland and so opened the way for the unification of Europe a decade later.

      This was not his achievement alone, by any means, but in an inalienable way it was his.

      I do not believe the strength that enabled him to do this and the strength that led him to save Edith Zierer differed in any fundamental way.

      Like his healing ecumenism, these acts required the courage born in a core certitude.

      Edith fled from Karol Wojtyla when they arrived at Krakow in 1945.

      The family on the train - also Jews - had warned her that he might take her off to "the cloisters."

      She recalls him calling out "Edyta, Edyta," - the Polish form of her name - as she hid behind large containers of milk.

      But hiding was not forgetting.

      She wrote his name in a diary, her savior, and when, in 1978, she read in a copy of Paris Match that he had become pope, she broke into tears.

      By then, Edith Zierer was in Haifa, Israel, where she now lives.

      Successive letters to him went unanswered.

      But at last, in 1997, she received a letter from the Vatican in which the pope recalled their meeting.

      A year later, they met again at the Vatican.

      Edith thanked the pope for saving her.

      He put one hand on her head, another hand in hers, and blessed her. As they parted, he said, "Come back, my child."

    "He who saves one life, saves the world." — Maimonides

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

    Banana Box — 'What better place to keep a banana than in a Banana Box?'



    "Suitable for storing or carrying just about any size of banana — get one and you'll wonder how you ever managed without it."

    I haven't even ordered yet, much less received mine, yet I'm already wondering.

    "Now you don't have to worry about your banana getting smashed in your bag, lunch box or suit pocket."

    Easy to clean and dishwasher-safe.

    $6.95 here.

    [via Stephane]

    April 16, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Is Newt Gingrich stealing from bookofjoe?


    You decide: this past Tuesday he delivered a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, D.C. in which he predicted that Senator Hillary Clinton of New York would be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008 and that she would be "very formidable."

    I call your attention to this bookofjoe post of March 13.

    Now if we can just get Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to keep up her astonishing burst of energy since taking over from Colin Powell, the greatest presidential race ever will be on in three years.


    Can't hardly wait.

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

    Finger Fenders — 'Prevent smudges while nails dry!'


    No girl should be without a set of these clever devices.

    "After polishing, flip down protective hood to stop wet polish accidents."

    Polypropylene; reusable; twelve per package.

    Originally $11.98, now priced to move fast at $9.98 here (Item # 22753).

    "Finger Fenders."

    Who thought that up?

    I want that person on my crack research team.

    Apply within.

    April 16, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Expert's Expert: How to clean a diamond ring


    Peter Schneirla is vice chairman of jeweler Harry Winston.

    He told the Wall Street Journal's Joshua Lipton, in yesterday's "Tricks of the Trade" feature, that he "sometimes gets calls from customers distressed that their diamonds have lost their luster."

    He makes a house call (don't try this if your name's not Beyoncé or P. Diddy) and introduces them to his own cleaning mixture: a diluted mixture of ammonia and warm water (three parts water to one part ammonia).

    Here's the drill:

    1) Immerse the diamond in the solution while holding it by the shank

    2) Using an old toothbrush, make-up brush or stiff-bristled paint brush, clean the diamond itself and in between the prongs and stone

    3) Rinse under the faucet

    4) Gently dry it with a lint-free towel

    Note: Use this ammonia-based solution to clean diamond rings set in platinum or gold only — "it isn't appropriate for sapphires or emeralds."

    Schneirla cautions against other popular remedies for dirty diamonds.

    "Soap leaves a cloudy film on the stones, while turpentine can weaken the mounting."

    You will note also the absence of an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, another useless appliance foisted on us, the unwitting.

    OK, OK — me the unwitting.


    I forget about all those self-esteem issues there for a second.

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

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