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June 8, 2005

10,000 years ago, a tribe of 70 Asians became the first Americans


Back around the year 8000 B.C. an Asian community of about 9,000 people existed in what is now Northern China.

For reasons we will (probably) never know, a small group of about 70 of them, likely one tribe, broke away and set out across the unknown territory to the east.

They crossed the Bering Strait land bridge, which at the time connected Asia to the Americas, and founded the first settlements in what was to them a new world.

The first immigrants must have been of singular boldness to have made such a decision.

In fact, it must have an equally bold group of Africans many tens of thousands of years earlier who decided to leave their native country and venture north and east, out of Africa.

Jody Hey, an evolutionary geneticist, used complex mathematical models fueled with nine genetic sequences common to both Native Americans and northern Asians to draw the conclusions above, published online this month in the journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) Biology.

Here's a link to the full article.

Here's one to a synopsis of it.

Goethe wrote, "In boldness lies genius."

If so, then we are all the descendants of singular, great women and men.

Where has this immensity of soul and spirit gone?

June 8, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Black Truffle Salt


Tell me more.


Black truffles are among the rarest and most expensive of all foods, their cost astronomical, often more than $1,000 a pound in lean years.

All manner of truffle–flavored and scented products have been created, most using a chemically produced truffle essence which is nothing like the real thing.

The best truffle–flavored product I've had is truffle butter from D'Artagnan.

Now comes black truffle salt (above) from Ron Post and Ilyse Rathet, the co–owners of Ritrovo, a company specializing in imported Italian foods.

They take "40 grams of black summer truffle from Abruzzi, air–dry it, crush it and combine it with Italian sea salt," wrote Amanda Hesser in this past Sunday's New York Times.

Hesser continued, "Its aroma skews more closely to real truffle than any truffle oil, truffle butter or truffle honey I've come across."

The creators suggest you "sprinkle over eggs, meats, fish, pâté, fresh tomatoes and even popcorn!"

Popcorn is exactly what it's going on when it arrives here at chez bookofjoe.

$22 for a 3.5 ounce jar here.

June 8, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Melanoma in children on the rise


It's still rare: last year 50,000 cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the U.S., yet only 400 occurred in people under 20.

That's fewer than 1% of all cases.

Yet that number represents a marked increase over decades previous: "Since 1978 the rate of melanoma in the young has increased by 1.3% a year, according to the National Cancer Institute," wrote Christina S. N. Lewis in an eye–opening story that appeared in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.

Melanoma in young children is not believed to be related to UV radiation but, rather, to be the result of a genetic predisposition.

Now, it seems to me that there is a huge potential payoff here in terms of understanding the trigger that causes a melanoma to begin.

If this small group of children diagnosed each year with melanoma share a hardwired genetic predisposition to the disease, wouldn't an all–out effort at sequencing their genomes quite possibly lead to a common genetic locus being identified as associated with melanoma?

If such a genetic sequence were to be identified it could lead to predictive diagnosis in those especially at risk, either because of a family history or a weakened immune system.

As Willie Sutton replied, when asked why he robbed banks, "Because that's where the money is."

One relatively new development not noted in the Journal story is the use of sequential whole body photography and subsequent computer analysis of changes in moles over time.

Dermatologists adapted this technique from astronomers who use computers to flag infinitesimal changes in vast fields of stars.

The standard mnemonic for melanoma surveillance is ABCD:

A = Asymmetry:

B = Borders (irregular):

C = Color (various):

D = Diameter (larger than a pencil):

Here's the Journal story.

    Melanoma in Children Is Rare But Number of Cases Increases, Cause Remains Unknown;

    Sun exposure may not be the reason, say doctors

    In the summer of 2002, Mark and Mylissa Horrocks, both 27 years old, of Cape Coral, Fla., noticed a small bump on their toddler's left knee.

    It was flesh-colored and bled when Bella bumped it.

    A few months later they pointed it out to their pediatrician, who prescribed a wart-removing acid that they dutifully applied to Bella's knee daily.

    But after nearly a year, the bump was still there, so despite their doctor's reassurances, the Horrocks took Bella to a dermatologist.

    The specialist removed the growth within a half hour of seeing her.

    Relieved, the family left for a two-week vacation to visit relatives in upstate New York.

    When they returned home, they realized the dermatologist had left several urgent messages.

    Bella had advanced melanoma, the rarest and deadliest form of skin cancer that until recently was unknown in young children.

    "No one thinks melanoma occurs in kids," says Casey Culbertson, head of the Melanoma Research Foundation.

    Melanoma in young children is extremely rare.

    Of the approximately 50,000 cases of melanoma diagnosed each year in the U.S., only about 400 involve people under 20, according to the National Cancer Institute.

    But the number of affected children is growing.

    Since 1978, the rate of melanoma in the young has increased by 1.3% a year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

    The causes of pediatric melanoma are a mystery to doctors.

    Although the link between sun and skin cancer is well established in dermatology, some doctors think melanoma in children isn't directly caused by the sun.

    John DiGiovanna, a Brown Medical School dermatologist, says that young children can't have been exposed to enough ultraviolet radiation to cause cancer.

    "It has to be a genetic predisposition because it's clearly not sun-related," Dr. DiGiovanna says.

    By contrast, UV radiation is strongly linked with higher melanoma incidence in adults.

    The increase in incidence rates for melanoma in children may be caused by better surveillance and awareness among parents, Dr. DiGiovanna speculates, noting that skin cancer in adults has received significant media coverage.

    The risk factors for children and adults are similar.

    Children with many moles, particularly moles present from birth or of unusual size, are at higher risk.

    Those with a family history of melanoma are at greater risk, as are people whose immune system has been weakened, Dr. DiGiovanna says.

    Children do face some unique risks, such as maternal transmission of the cancer while in utero.

    Also, doctors say cancers in children often go undiagnosed for longer because doctors don't think to look for skin cancer in youngsters.

    After a month of calling different medical centers, Mark Horrocks was eventually referred to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., a well-known institution that has significant experience with pediatric melanoma.

    Between January 2000 and October 2004, the hospital has seen 22 patients under the age of 18 with melanoma.

    In October of 2003, Mark and Mylissa Horrocks rented an apartment near the hospital and lived there for three months, while three-year-old Bella began her treatment.

    Although most melanomas can just be removed with surgery, Bella's cancer had gone undiagnosed for nearly a year and a half and had progressed.

    St. Jude enrolled Bella in a study of children with Stage III melanoma.

    She received interferon injections fives times a week in her thighs for four weeks.

    The drug gave Bella severe side effects, including 105° fevers and extreme fatigue.

    After a month, doctors halved her dosage and her parents administered the shots, three times a week for the next 11 months.

    She received her final injection in October and has shown no signs of cancer for over a year.

    Bella's prognosis is good.

    Of the 15 children who participated in the St. Jude study, 12 have no evidence of disease, according to the results published in February in the journal Cancer.

    An Italian study published in March in Pediatrics found that children younger than 10 had a lower rate of relapse than older patients.

    Bella's mother believes there was nothing she could have done to prevent her daughter's cancer.

    "We believe that a child that is raised naturally is not going to have to deal with cancer. But she was breast-fed for two solid years. I made all her baby food," Mylissa Horrocks said.

    "Not a drop of formula touched her lips."

    Bella is light-skinned and fair-haired, but she doesn't have a large number of moles or freckles.

    She has no history of melanoma in her family and has never been sunburned, her mother says.

    On May 10, Bella turned five.

    She now wants to become a doctor and loves watching medical shows, her father says.

    And she puts bandages on her dolls and hooks them up to a toy IV that she received from the hospital, explaining to her parents that the dolls are recovering from surgery.

    She will receive regular checkups every three months.

    And her parents know now to watch out for the standard ABCD symptoms of melanoma: moles that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, are many different colors, or have a diameter larger than a pencil.

    These should be checked, along with any growth that changes color, texture or size.

    "The one blessing with melanoma is that it's a skin cancer," Mylissa Horrocks says.

    "If you watch your body and you're careful, you can catch it early."

June 8, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Veuve Clicquot Ice Jacket


Very stylish.

Veuve Clicquot has created a yellow neoprene ice jacket (above) to precisely hug a bottle of its signature Yellow Label champagne and keep it chilly for up to two hours.

$10 if you can find one; it's not on the website except to look at as best I and my crack research team could determine.

However, if you're willing to wait, the jacket along with a bottle of Yellow Label champagne will sell for $55 next month in wine emporia worldwide.

June 8, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



"I'm probably gonna be famous soon so I gotta go."

This, from the mouth of Mr. Billy Harvey, proprietor of billyharvey.com.

A joehead who styles her– or himself "Karma" — as in "karma demands retribution" — sent me a link to the site and wrote, "This is the first [and only time, now that I think about it] I've felt a website actually captured someone's personality."

Hard to disagree after you spend a little quality time with Virtual Billy.

Tell you one thing: five minutes on his website is as good as a Xanax tablet if it's anxiety that's bothering you.

This guy's resting heart rate must be about 30.


It may not be possible.

[via K — as in KDR]

June 8, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Noodle Bowl


A cross between a mug and a bowl, just right for udon, ramen, soup or stir–fry.

Contoured for nice hand–fit.

Handmade in California.

Microwave safe.

Two colors: Tofu or Snow Pea.

Very stylish and clever chopstick management built in (below).


$26 here (chopsticks included).

June 8, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'To feel rich is far better than to be rich'


So wrote Ben Stein (above, in his signature role as the world's most boring teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") in a great essay which appeared in this past Sunday's New York Times Business section.

Long story short: it's simple — be grateful.

Stein wrote, "It's the only reliable get–rich–quick scheme."

Read the piece for yourself.

    Lessons in Gratitude, at the Basement Sink

    MY father entered Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., in September 1931.

    The United States was entering the downswing of a small uptick at the beginning of what would be the worst industrial depression in history.

    My father had an unemployed father (a former skilled tool-and-die maker) and a mother who worked as a sales clerk at a department store in Schenectady, N.Y.

    He had no money, no financial reserves, no social connections.

    He told me of many jobs while he was at Williams, but one stays in my memory a dozen times a day, especially when I am working by traveling through a dismal, endless security line or waiting in a line to check into a hotel or noticing that my bed in my new hotel has a ripped sheet and is next to a noisy air-conditioner.

    My father had a job thanks to a kindly man named Taylor Ostrander at a fraternity called Sigma Psi.

    My father's job was to wash dishes in the basement of the frat house as the other boys finished their lunches and dinners. (One of the boys, Richard Helms, went on to be director of the C.I.A., but that's another story.)

    He toiled down there at a huge sink, with steam rising and detergent getting on his unimaginably soft hands.

    He wore a stocking cap to keep his already curly hair from going crazy.

    It was the 1930's, and Jews weren't allowed in any fraternity at Williams.

    Many years later, maybe in the 1980's, by which time my father had become a major economist and public policy discussant, I asked him if he felt angry about having to wash dishes to pay his way through school in a fraternity that didn't admit Jews.

    "Not at all," he said.

    "I didn't have the luxury of feeling aggrieved. I was just grateful to have a job so I could go to one of the best schools in the country."

    I think that this was the secret ingredient - aside from astonishing intelligence and versatility - in my father's success and happiness.

    He did not feel that he had the luxury of feeling aggrieved.

    He was just grateful to have a chance.

    Or, I can say, he was grateful for the opportunities he had been given.

    I think about this in other situations, too.

    A few days ago, on a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Denver, a group of flight attendants gathered near my seat in the last row of first class.

    One was either wearing or displaying a perfume I was allergic to, and I went into a wild asthmatic attack in which I could simply not breathe for an uncomfortable amount of time.

    When I revived, I thought of lodging a complaint and throwing a fit.

    But then I thought: "Well, these poor people. Think of what United employees are going through. I am just grateful I have a job. Why torture them any more than they are already tortured?"

    I was on my way to another job.

    I got to the next stop in my journey, Baltimore, and my driver could not recall where he had left the car.

    We had to have the airport police find it for us.

    He also did not know his way from Baltimore to Washington. (I am not kidding.)

    Exhausted as I was, I had to guide him all of the way.

    Never mind.

    I was grateful that I was in a car with a driver and on my way to a superimportant gig.

    This man was probably about where my father was in 1931.

    I decided not to pick on him.

    Now, I have found that I cannot predict the stock market except over very long periods.

    I cannot tell you when the housing bubble will burst - only that it will burst.

    I cannot tell you when the dollar will stop rallying - only that it will stop.

    So I cannot tell you anything that, in a few minutes, will tell you how to be rich.

    But I can tell you how to feel rich, which is far better, let me tell you firsthand, than being rich.

    Be grateful.

    Be grateful you have a job, even if it takes you to the world's worst airport, Dulles, and to the world's worst security lines, also at Dulles.

    Be grateful you have a job to travel to, even if you must travel to a hotel room where the previous tenant was a cigar tester for Fidel Castro. (But do ask for another room.)

    Be grateful about everything and you'll feel a lot richer than the billionaires I know who are always moaning about everything that happens and who lament, like King Canute, that they cannot control the waves of the market or the business cycle.

    When I got to Washington with my novitiate driver, I rested.

    The next day, I spoke to about 250 kids, perhaps ages 5 to 15, about how grateful the nation was to them.

    Their fathers had died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in training accidents.

    They were as good, brave, intelligent and yet haunted-looking as any kids I have ever met.

    Be grateful for their sacrifice and that your son or daughter is not one of them.

    Then I spoke to about 500 widows, widowers, mothers, fathers, fiancées of men who had been killed in the war on terror.

    They were totally devoted to one another and to helping one another through their grueling losses.

    They were probably the most spiritually fit, unselfish human beings I have ever met.

    One showed me the contents of his son's wallet when his son was killed.

    A dollar bill still had a blood stain on it.

    The father cried when he showed it to me.

    Be grateful that the armed forces of this country have such brave families.

    As I told them, we could do without Hollywood for a century.

    We could not do without them and their sacrifice for a week.


    As my pal Phil DeMuth says, it's the only totally reliable get-rich-quick scheme. Gratitude.

    Losing the luxury of feeling aggrieved when, if you look closely, you have an opportunity.

    My father washed dishes at the Sigma Psi house so that he could build an education and a life for the family he did not even have yet.

    At my house, I always insist on doing the dishes, and I feel a thrill of gratitude for what washing a dish can do with every swipe of the sponge.

    Wiping away the selfishness of the moment, building a life for my son.

    The zen of dishwashing.

    The zen of gratitude.

    The zen of riches.

    Thanks, Pop.

June 8, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Frosty Fan Pack


"Frosty fan pack keeps room cool at a fraction of the cost of air conditioners."

I like it — tell me more.

"Simply place frozen gel pack in mesh container and attach to fan for a quick and easy way to beat the summer heat."

For 14" to 18" diameter fans.

So what if it looks like a hair net for a fan — if it works you won't care one whit about its weirdness.

$11.98 here (item #23584).

But maybe you need something more.


Look no further.

My crack research team, never willing to stop at a reasonable place but always wanting to push on ahead, came up with the Ultra Frosty Fan Pack pictured below.


As you can see it features not one, not two but three gel packs for triple the cooling power.

$14.95 here.

June 8, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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