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May 15, 2005

Lush Sonic Death Monkey Shower and Hair Gel


People in the U.S. ask their friends traveling to the U.K. to bring this back for them.

Named after Barry's band in Nick Hornby's novel "High Fidelity," the product combines chocolate, coffee, lime and orange.

"Dig That Crazy Gravy!" is what it says on the bottle (above).

Now those without a U.K. connection can get it right here: it goes on sale at Lush stores in the states later this week, from $8.95 a bottle up.

There's a Lush store in Washington, D.C. for you capitol joeheads: it's at 3066 M Street NW. 202–333–6950.

May 15, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: GPS — For the brain


Atamai of London, Ontario, Canada is the inventor of a potentially revolutionary approach to neurosurgery.

The company has combined MRI, CT and ultrasound imaging to produce a real–time 3–D map of a patient's brain.

Janet Morgan wrote about the new technology in an April 6 Financial Times article.

It differs from existing "virtual patient" imaging systems in that the image is that of the individual patient on the operating table rather than one based on a "representative' or "average" patient.

Traditionally, neurosurgeons carry out their procedures through a small access hole in the skull, going deep into the brain with a probe and only "seeing" the brain via readings from the probe and translating information from 2–D scans taken earlier.

The Atamai system, said neurosurgeon Dr. Yves Starreveld, one of Atamai's three founders, "provides an overlay on the image of functional information or anatomic information. This allows me to plan what portions of the brain can be safely resected, and which have critical function and need to be preserved."

Here is the article.

    The Power of Thinking Small

    When three Canadian PhD students started talking to each other about their doctorate projects, they could not have imagined it would lead to them working with Hollywood special effects wizards, computer programmers and leading hospitals.

    Yet, just eight years after they started collaborating, the ground-breaking surgical software developed by David Gobbi, a medical biophysicist, Yves Starreveld, a neurosurgeon, and Kirk Finnis, a neuroscientist, is poised to enter operating theatres around the world.

    "Each of us was working on different aspects of brain imaging techniques - ultrasound, deep brain stimulation and magnetic resonance imaging. But we saw that if we could combine this information, it had applications beyond our PhD projects," explains Mr Gobbi.

    What they envisaged was a global positioning system for the brain that would help guide neurosurgeons around critical structures such as blood vessels.

    The system would take the information from traditional imaging systems such as MRI, computer tomography and ultrasound and combine it to produce a real-time three-dimensional map of a patient's brain.

    It differs from existing "virtual patient" imaging systems in that the image would be that of an individual patient, rather than an image based on a "representative" patient.

    But the three students needed the resources and the time to develop the project.

    Fortunately, Mr Gobbi and his colleagues were carrying out their doctorate work at Robarts Research Institute, in London, Ontario.

    As an independent medical research centre, Robarts is keen to capitalise on the scientific discoveries of its staff, for which it set up the Robarts Business Development unit.

    The unit helped Mr Gobbi and his colleagues establish Atamai in April 2000 as a collaborative venture with Robarts and the affiliated University of Western Ontario.

    The founders own the majority of shares in the company, with other stakes coming from the university, the Robarts Institute and the university's hospital.

    "We drew a lot on the expertise of the business development unit. We also had the advantage that Yves Starreveld ran a software company before he got into medicine," says Mr Gobbi.

    Initially Atamai relied on grant money, but the founders recognised they needed to generate revenue as they developed their software.

    Since researchers - their potential customers - use various imaging techniques, they conceived a business plan in which software could be modified and assembled to create a customised virtual imaging system.

    They also decided to make the most of the computer code available to users under a non-restrictive licence and ensure that the systems run on a standard PC or Macintosh.

    This made it particularly attractive to academic users.

    Much of the programming underlying the system was originally open source.

    In fact, it was through their collaboration on an open-source project with Sintef Unimed Ultrasound, a research institute in Trondheim, Norway, that the team found its first client, just one year after starting up.

    Mr Gobbi says most of their clients have also come through word of mouth or via the open-source collaboration.

    Now, five years on, Atamai has taken on three more staff and plans to expand its staff to 12 by 2007.

    And the original concept - known as virtual augmentation for neurosurgery - is being tested in hospitals across Canada and one in Norway.

    Dr Starreveld is one of the surgeons putting the technology through its paces. He explains the advantages.

    Neurosurgeons traditionally carry out their procedures through a small access hole in the skull and go deep into the brain with a probe.

    The neurosurgeon can only "see" the brain through readings from the probe and by translating information from two-dimensional scans that were taken earlier.

    The software, says Dr Starreveld, "provides an overlay on the image of functional information or anatomic information. This allows me to plan of what portions of brain can be safely resected, and which have critical function and need to be preserved".

    So far, the augmentation software has been used to plan and carry out neurosurgery in up to 100 cases.

    Despite the risks in setting up their own venture, Mr Gobbi says the founders never considered seeking investment funds from a large company or venture capital fund.

    "As a small company you can take the risk based on your own confidence in the future of your technology," he says.

    "For a large company to take on something like this they would need to do projections of the promise and whether it was worthwhile. We knew it was worthwhile."

    Now it is up to hospitals and neurosurgeons to prove its value.

May 15, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Long tweezers — finally


I've long since lost count of how many times I've dropped things like my keys down the black hole next to my car's driver seat.

Whoever designed the admittedly comfy bucket never had something slip out of his pocket while sitting in it.

Unbelievable contortions and effort are required to retrieve items which have somehow wedged their way down below the railings and cushion into impossible–to–visualize — much less access — locations.

Now come these formidable 10"–long tweezers to spare my fingers and knuckles future misery.

These puppies will be placed in a convenient trunk location.

Can't wait for first use.

$7.95 here.


Note added May 18

A reader has informed me of his "Centrisk" tongs (below) from IKEA.


He wrote, "They are long (11"), narrow and withstand temperatures up to 428ºF (220ºC). They've got little nubbies at the end of each side to facilitate effective grabbing."

Best of all they're only 99 cents apiece.

But — IKEA only sells them in its actual physical stores, not online or via catalog.

[via JPW]

May 15, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nextel FanScan — Now you can ride with Dale Jr.


Or Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Michael Waltrip, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson or Dale Jarrett.

Last summer Nextel introduced FanScan, a proprietary service that allows Nextel subscribers to dial in and hear real–time conversations between NASCAR drivers and teams.

FanScan provides a service similar to the headsets fans can rent at the speedway, with one big difference: you don't have to be at the race to listen in.

Single races cost $4.99 and can be purchased online — if you're a Nextel customer — at www.nextel.com/fanscan.

Monthly access to all races costs $9.99.

Here's yesterday's Richmond Times–Dispatch story by Jeffrey Kelley about the bespoke technology.

    Off-Track, But in the Driver's Seat

    Nextel service lets NASCAR fans hear talks between drivers, teams

    With the right cell phone and service, you can hop into a NASCAR driver's seat from your lounger.

    Last June, Nextel Communications Inc. introduced FanScan, a service that allows subscribers to dial in to hear real-time conversations between NASCAR drivers and teams.

    "We do it mostly for people that are not at the track," said Jill Gregory, who is vice president of marketing for Nextel, based in Reston.

    FanScan is similar to the headsets that attendees can rent at the speedway.

    The technology is proprietary to Nextel, which signed a 10-year, $700 million sponsorship deal with NASCAR in June 2003, and began promoting the Nextel Cup Series soon after.

    "We want to target that demographic," Gregory said.

    Nextel spends $30 million annually in NASCAR promotion and advertising.

    FanScan is also a feature that appeals to Nextel's consumer base.

    The company has roughly 15.5 million subscribers, about 80 percent of which use Nextel for business purposes.

    FanScan is offered on top of regular service charges.

    Single races cost $4.99 and can be purchased online at www.nextel.com/fanscan.

    Serious fans can obtain FanScan for monthly access to any race for $9.99.

    Gregory said there were some problems with its launch last year involving jammed networks, but Nextel has since added capacity to serve more customers.

    The company declined to give FanScan subscription or revenue figures.

    Available drivers on FanScan vary depending on the race, but can include Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Michael Waltrip, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jarrett.

May 15, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Coconut Purse


From the website:

    Coconuts are impervious to water and they can float for weeks.

    So it makes perfect sense to store your most important valuables in our 4"–to–5"–diameter Coconut Purse (above).

    An actual split coconut with a zipper to open for the woman on the go.

    Be forewarned, some breeds of monkeys will snatch this purse and attempt to open it by beating it against a rock.

    We will not be held responsible for any monkey incidents.

$10.95 here.

May 15, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry' — by John Markoff


I enjoyed this book very much.

Markoff, a technology reporter for the New York Times, could easily do any number of things other than write for the Times.

He's discussed the possibility in public in the past, and so far has decided to stick with the Grey Lady.

It's fortunate to have him.

In this, his latest book, I learned about many hitherto–unknown–to–me people who played major roles in creating the digital world as we know it.

So many missed opportunities, so many near misses, so many triumphs resulting from luck and odd friendships.

The larger lessons of the book are:

• Those who lead often end up thrown overboard.

• Those who know where they're going get there, but more often than not it turns out not to have been the best place to have ended up.

• The future is readily apparent to some few individuals many years before it happens to the rest of us.

• It's almost impossible to know which future is the one that's going to actually happen: many seem equally plausible at the time they're predicted.

From the book:

    He [Steve Jobs] explained that he still believed that taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life, and he said he felt that because people he knew well had not tried psychedelics, there were things about him they couldn't understand.


    On December 9, 1968, the oNLine System was shown publicly to the world for the first time. ... Every significant aspect of today's computing world was revealed in a magnificent hour and a half. In many ways, it is still the most remarkable computer–technology demonstration of all time.


    The confrontation became obvious one afternoon when the group, riddled by conflict, wheeled all the terminals into the corners and spread a carpet in the middle of the room. It was time for a real brainstorm. The programmers, in their blue jeans and colored shirts, took off their sandals and sat in a circle. A bottle of wine and a few joints were produced and a serious encounter session began. The stairway door opened without warning, and who should walk in but the Director himself, in his gray suit and striped tie, followed by several high–ranking officers from the Pentagon. They were on an official site visit, checking the expenditures of public monies under their jurisdiction.

    "And here is our STEM project..." the director began, without even looking. Then he looked, and saw, and smelled, when he realized what the unmistakable odor was, he made up some sort of excuse and left in a hurry. [from "The Network Revolution: Confessions of a Computer Scientist," by Jacques Vallee (1982]


    It was, ultimately, the cultural mismatch between the conservative copier company and its California counterculture laboratory that kept Xerox from fully capitalizing on the personal–computing technology that was invented at PARC [Palo Alto Research Center, Xerox's legendary laboratory of the 1970s].


    [Cap'n] Crunch was John Draper, a former air force technician who had worked with radar and secure communications equipment while in the military.

    Draper's life had taken a strange turn in the late 1960s when he met a young blind man named Denny who had demonstrated how the whistle that came in the Cap'n Crunch cereal box was tuned to the precise frequency that enabled it to control the long–distance calling switches of the AT&T telephone network.

    Draper became notorious under the name Cap'n Crunch after his antics with the telephone system were described in an article in Esquire magazine... which appeared in the October 1971 issue.

    [Steve] Wozniak was determined to find Crunch and enlisted another high school friend, Steven Jobs, in the hunt.

    Draper tutored Wozniak and Jobs in the art of building their own blue boxes, devices that were capable of gaining free — and illegal — access to the phone network.

    The two novice entrepreneurs sold the blue boxes door to door on the Berkeley campus, several years before they founded Apple Computer.


    Stewart Brand expressed the fundamental tension most clearly: "Information wants to be free," he said, "and information also wants to be very expensive."

    The computer hackers' urge to share and the entrepreneurs' desire for wealth — it is a confrontation that will inevitably define new technology revolutions.


Feed your head.

May 15, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Sometimes I think I live on another planet.

How is it, for example, that yesterday, in Tara Bahrampour's Washington Post story, was the first I've ever heard of the Boomwhacker?

Boomwhackers are colorful plastic tubes ranging from eight inches to four feet in length.

They come in seven colors, each corresponding to a note on the do–re–mi major scale.

Kids love 'em.

So much so that Whacky Music, Inc., the Arizona–based company that makes them, has sold about 425,000 sets at $25 a set since 1998 when they were first offered.

In the past year about 100,000 sets were sold, half in the U.S. and half abroad.

The Boomwhacker's inventor, Craig Ramsell, estimates that tens of thousands of U.S. schools use them.

Ramsell invented them by accident.

Back in 1994 he was at home, breaking down cardboard wrapping paper tubes for recycling, when he noticed that different lengths of tube resonated at different pitches when he banged them.

He told the Post reporter, "I went across the street to my neighbor and said, 'Hey Pat, I've got an idea for a musical instrument.' She just rolled her eyes."

Undeterred, Ramsell bought some plastic tubing and a tuner and four years later began selling sets of the tubes.

The rest is history.

Maybe I do need to get out more.

Or perhaps I should simply get myself some Boomwhackers and bang away whenever the urge strikes.


$19.95 a set here.

May 15, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

DKNY Be Delicious


An infelicitous name for a beautifully packaged product.

Sure, I get the apple reference in the name and bottle but the words don't exactly roll off the tongue.

But then, they didn't ask me, did they?

So silly not to, really; but eventually even the deep thinkers on Madison Avenue will awaken from their reveries, realize that yes, we really have entered the 21st century and that all their Buick–driving customers are dying, to be replaced by people like you and me who don't believe a word of it. But I digress.

"A modern feast for the senses."

Well, I don't know about that, but they've thrown the kitchen sink and the garden into this one: "American Apple, Cucumber, Grapefruit, Magnolia, Tuberose, White Muguet, Rose, Violet, Sandalwood, Tender Skin Accord [!], Blonde Woods, White Amber."

"Served in a sleek metal and glass apple bottle, this juicy fragrance combines the scent of apple with a sophisticated blend of exotic flowers and sensual woods."

Calvin Klein, at the grand opening of his flagship store, said, "You don't need to buy the clothes — just feel the fabric."

Just so — you don't even have to open the bottle; just put it in a place that feels right and look at it.

If you buy it at Lord & Taylor they'll give you a gift of a reusable matching green plastic lunch bag to carry it in.

If you're not up to a trek to Fifth Avenue, you can buy some (sans lunchbag) here.

May 15, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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