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July 3, 2005

Irish Beekeeper Attracts 200,000 Bees But Falls Short In World Record Attempt


Philip McCabe of Tipperary, Ireland tried valiantly but failed to set a new world record for attracting the most bees to a human body.

His recent attempt fell 150,000 short of the world record of 350,000 as he succeeded in attracting "only" 200,000 (above).

McCabe, head of the Irish Beekeepers Association, said he suffered no stings during the effort until he jumped off the scales used to estimate the number of bees he was wearing.

He was then stung seven times.

Beekeepers were on hand with six hives full of bees for the feat.

Using a funnel they placed the insects onto his abdomen; the bees then climbed up to rest on his chin, where the beekeepers had placed a queen bee that gave off pheromones attracting the other bees.

Here's a link to an excellent BBC News report on the event.

Kids, do not try this at home.

July 3, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

We have impact


Less than 11 hours away is the encounter of NASA's spacecraft Deep Impact with comet Tempel 1, one billion tons of dirty ice speeding through space some 270 million miles from Earth.

The spacecraft carries an "impactor," an 814–lb. (370 kg) copper projectile that will be fired into Tempel 1, creating a crater about the size of a football field and up to 14 stories deep.

Earlier today, at 2:07 a.m. (ET), Deep Impact successfully released the impactor, pictured below


as the brightest object in the field in a photo taken by the mother ship after the two separated.

The collision at 1:52 a.m. (ET) tomorrow morning (July 4) will be observed by some 30 telescopes, including the Hubble space telescope and the Chandra X-ray observatory.

Don't bother staying up late and going out back to watch: the collision's explosion won't be visible from Earth with the naked eye.

[via Alan Cane and the Financial Times]

July 3, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'Around the World in 80 Dates' — by Jennifer Cox


Now comes 39–year–old Jennifer Cox to bring us the tale of how she decided to hit the road in search of Mr. Right.

The London–based publicist for Lonely Planet visited 18 countries before she found her match at Nevada's Burning Man Festival.

Reese Witherspoon bought the movie rights so you know we'll be seeing it on the silver screen — maybe.

Laura Bly of USA Today interviewed Ms. Cox about her journey for a story that appeared in this past Friday's issue; it follows.

    Looking For Love In Many, Many Places

    Call it Bridget Jones' Travel Blog.

    When 39-year-old Jennifer Cox decided it was time to track down Mr. Right, the London-based publicist for Lonely Planet hit the road — and her keyboard.

    The result: a globetrotter's dream lineup of 80 dates in 18 countries and a new book, Around the World in 80 Dates (Downtown Press, $13).

    Cox found her match at Nevada's Burning Man Festival and has been living with him happily ever after in Seattle, where she recently wrapped up a movie deal with Reese Witherspoon.

    She dishes with USA TODAY's Laura Bly about her global search for a soul mate.

    Q: You were living in one of the world's largest, liveliest cities. What convinced you that, unlike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, you couldn't find your heart's desire in your own back yard?

    A: London is a wonderful city, but it's a disastrous place to find a decent relationship.

    Londoners have time for nothing but their jobs.

    I'd spent 10 years pouring myself into my career and getting by on "relationship patches" — like nicotine patches, staving off the desire without satisfying any of the need.

    When a particularly awful relationship ended... I decided to travel to the ends of the Earth and find (true love).

    Q: How did you decide on locations and find dates?

    A: Within a couple of weeks of sending out a "soul mate description" (to her network of pals and business contacts), I was getting up to 20 e-mails a day from prospective dates — everywhere from Australia to Russia to Indonesia.

    I'd e-mail back and forth with each of them to get a sense of how compatible we were. (This wasn't some Sex and the Suitcase scenario; I was serious about wanting to meet the right guy.)

    From there, I drew up a short list of guys I liked.

    Q: How did you keep track of them?

    A: I wrote the name of each country — say France — on a blank piece of paper.

    Then I would write the name of potential dates underneath.

    I'd stick the pages to my office wall, then move them around as the order in which I intended to visit changed or new countries/dates were added.

    I would store each guy's e-mails in their file.

    After three months, I had enough Mr. Rights to start the European leg of my dating tour.

    Q: Your friends referred to the trip as "around the world in 80 lays."

    Were you worried about ending every date in a wrestling match?

    A: My answer turned into a mantra: "It's not about sex; it's about romance."

    I meant it.

    One-night stands are the emotional kebabs of the relationship world: easy to get after the bars shut, leaving you feeling like rubbish for the next three days.

    At last: Cox fell for date No. 55, Garry Greth of Seattle.

    "If dating is like dancing, most nationalities might know a few steps, but the Americans take to the floor like Fred Astaire," Cox says.

    Q: In what way do you think nationality helps determine men's personalities? Are French and Italians inherently more romantic than Brits?

    A: Each country definitely has its own date persona.

    British men tend to be unsure of themselves and retreat into sarcasm.

    Make them feel confident and they'll be charmingly self-deprecating and sweet.

    Scandinavians are clever and interesting, wooing with great conversation rather than macho moves.

    Mediterraneans are old-fashioned romantics, the type who open doors and help you on with your coat... Australians and Kiwis (New Zealanders) were fun and laid-back, but I found Americans the most red-blooded daters — confident and flirtatious.

    If dating is like dancing, most nationalities might know a few steps, but the Americans take to the floor like Fred Astaire

    Q: Your best date locale?

    A: There were so many bests: champagne under the midnight sun with Anders on a floating sauna in Sweden; dressing up as Juliet and dating Romeo on a balcony in Verona; being flown over wineries and snow-capped mountains by Gene, the handsome pilot in New Zealand.

    But of course, my absolute best was in the Nevada desert, where I fell in love with my soul mate, Garry (below).


    Q: You found your match 55 dates into the 80-date plan? What kept you going?

    A: We missed each other horribly, but I felt there was more to learn from my journey.

    Plus I'd made a deal with fate that if I traveled around the world in 80 dates, I'd meet my soul mate.

    Perhaps superstitiously, I believed that if I didn't honor this bargain, I'd forfeit Garry.

    My journey made me feel good about myself — because I made it happen.

Here's a link to Chapter 1 of her book.

I must say that I found the movie "20 Dates," the story of Myles Berkowitz's similar odyssey of sought–for–and–found love, most amusing even if it's impossible to know how much of the film — if any — is real and not simply poetic license.

July 3, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Freedom Grill — 'Extreme Tailgating'


That's the thrust of the Freedom Grill.

Too late for the 4th but hey, plenty of time to pick one up before Labor Day weekend.


It's a portable grill that attaches to the back of any vehicle with a standard 2–inch hitch receiver.

The grill then swings aways from the car or truck or or SUV so you can still access your trunk.


Not recommended for use while driving unless you're extremely hungry.

Even then, it'd be best if there were another person to mind the fire while you drove.


$799 here.

July 3, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Civil War Medicine


Warning: this post could ruin your lunch or dinner.

Don Oldenburg wrote a superb story for yesterday's Washington Post about a new exhibit entitled "Civil War Medicine" which just opened at the William P. Didusch Center for Urologic History in Linthicum, Maryland, a Baltimore suburb.

I read the first paragraph, groaned, then turned the page to something less gruesome.

But I couldn't resist — I went back and read the rest.

So should you; it follows.

    Battlefields and Bladders

    Civil War Exhibit Opens at the Urology Museum

    At a cocktail reception to open "Civil War Medicine," a new exhibit at the ever-so-curious William P. Didusch Center for Urologic History, located in the Baltimore burbs, onlookers quietly groan as a Civil War surgeon tosses a Union soldier's amputated arm into the piles of bloody body parts littering the floor.

    Suddenly you're not so drawn to the chips and salsa at the hors d'oeuvre table.

    Next, the doctor picks up a long, curved, silver instrument designed for very personal probing, and some of the men among the party guests get a woozy rush.

    "Didn't work," announces the physician, Robert Urban, demonstrating battlefield surgeries in the lobby of the American Urological Association headquarters in Linthicum Wednesday evening.

    The soldier, a corpse-like dummy attired in a Union blue uniform, lies in a field hospital mock-up of the 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry.

    Wounded in the belly, he "can't go to the bathroom," says the goateed Urban, who isn't a real doctor -- he just plays one on TV (the Discovery Channel, sometimes) and in battlefield reenactments.

    But real doctors -- urologists -- are among the 125 or so guests paying close attention to the procedures.

    Someone in the crowd deadpans a classic urological prognosis: "If he can't go, he dies."

    Dressed in an authentic "blood"-splattered white surgeon's coat with a Union officer's uniform beneath, Urban searches his circa-1860s surgeon's toolbox for a different instrument.

    The Sykesville reenactor finds an antique trocar, a sharp-ended, tubular device with a removable inner sleeve.

    He shoves it through the soldier's soft belly flesh directly into the bladder, then pulls on the metal sleeve to siphon out red-tinted liquid.

    The trocar overflows.

    People back off.

    Someone says, "Eww!"

    Stick around, folks: He's going to remove a damaged eyeball next.

    Not your standard setting for a finger-food party, agreed.

    But then this museum, rising up like a tabernacle of everything urologic at the back of an industrial park wasteland near Baltimore-Washington International Airport, is not your standard museum.

    "He's [got it] again!" blurts out Rainer Engel, watching Urban prepare for another urological procedure on the anatomically correct dummy.

    Engel's a doctor, and he runs the museum, so it's okay.

    In these hallowed halls, dropping the p-word is practically de rigueur.

    A retired, German-born urologist whose prodding and probing is now done primarily at this museum (which he curates) and in the classrooms of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (where he teaches), Engel is in his early seventies and is a real character in a medical specialty where mannered eccentricities seem to be a prerequisite.

    This evening he wears a deep coral-red sports jacket and black ribbon tie.

    He says he cut off the bushy gray muttonchops and shoulder-length ponytail that he had been cultivating for these Civil War reenactments: "My wife said it tickled her in bed!"

    Guests gravitate to the lively and colorful Engel like sediment to a kidney.

    But Engel is quite serious when talking urology.

    Here's his lecture-like explanation of the discipline during the Civil War:

    "They treated injuries to the bladder, penis and testes... mostly gunshot wounds or occasionally bayonet wounds. The most common urologic diseases were gonorrhea and syphilis."

    In other words, all's fair in love and war?

    "Yeah," says Engel.

    In a world without antibiotics or knowledge of bacteria, with blood transfusions still 60 years off and amputation the cure du jour, Engel says medical diseases caused two-thirds of Civil War deaths.

    Treatments often contributed to fatalities.

    Physicians treated some 6 million illnesses during the war -- brought on by "malaria miasmas," "crowd poisonings" and "mephitic effluvia," which hovered around the privies.

    A majority of troops suffered from typhoid, dysentery and diarrhea.

    "They treated venereal diseases with mercury, which actually helped," Engel says.

    But in high amounts, mercury is poisonous and destroys mucus membranes from the nose to the bowels, he says.

    Opium was the common drug doctors gave soldiers for intestinal problems.

    "So many of the treatments invoked in those days were treatments where today we would say, 'My God, they did that?' On the other hand, by doing those things, they really pushed medicine forward. We eventually learned this was something good, this was something not good."

    Every war does that, Engel says, happily mixing metaphors: "Urology got a kick in the butt from the Civil War."

    Inside the exhibit are glass-encased displays of medical instruments from back in the day.

    Sets of long razor-sharp blades for amputations look like knives from a horror flick.

    Needle-like tools used to drain distended bladders are unnerving.

    Pliers used to chip off bone fragments give pause.

    "Some of these things, I could use," acknowledges Aaron Sulman, a urologist and laparoscopy fellow at Johns Hopkins, examining the exhibit's antiquated instruments.

    Nowadays, he says, many procedures use fiber optics that allow urologists to see what they're doing.

    "But here everything appears to be by feel, or involve some sort of incision," he says.

    "Now there are better ways to accomplish these things."

    Terry Chittick is especially attracted to the sepia photographs and excerpts from the wartime letters of Melvin John Hyde, surgeon of the 2nd Vermont Regiment.

    They provide the narrative of Civil War doctoring throughout the exhibit.

    "I was in tears when I went in there," says Chittick, a retired nurse, now a florist in Middleburg, who is Hyde's great-great-granddaughter.

    In 1985, when she started tracking family genealogy after the death of an uncle and aunt, she discovered a shoe box full of 150 of Hyde's letters and compiled them in a 432-page book, "In the Field."

    "It is drama," she says of Hyde's wartime experiences, which are highlighted by the exhibit: He was imprisoned. He saved wounded soldiers. He returned home unable to mend his broken family life.

    "That was the Civil War."

    Another display shows the infamous Minie balls: During the Civil War, these soft-leaded bullets packed bone-shattering punch.

    They'd expand and explode and each fragment caused more damage inside the body.

    "In those days, the biggest problem with a wound like that was gangrene, infection, and with the absence of antibiotics, you cut it off," says Engel, squiring a group of guests through the displays and providing commentary with Civil War fiddle music in the background.

    "Many soldiers thought it was better to live with three limbs than to die with four."

    As the reception winds down, Engel grows reflective.

    "What are they going to say 100 years from now when they look at what we're doing?" he wonders.

    Next year's exhibit is "Sex Perception and Performance."

    We'll be awaiting our invite for that one.

    Civil War Medicine,through July and August at the William P. Didusch Center for Urologic History. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., 1000 Corporate Blvd., Linthicum, Md. Call 410-689-3789 for information or visit http://www.urologichistory.museum/.


Hey — you were warned.

July 3, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Phobile — 'Museum piece meets mobile accessory'


Pull one of these babies out and plug it into your cellphone — that'll quiet the room in a hurry.

    From the website:

    Phobile handsets are new production, exact replicas of the Western Electric 500–series models.

    These were made in the U.S. starting in 1949 and ultimately became the standard handset for American rotary phones.

    These high quality reproductions have a superior sound quality to the original handsets.

The website goes on to call the device "hilariously retro" and "daft but desirable."

I like that last phrase; I wouldn't mind having it said of me, if push came to shove.

But much as I wish it would, that just never seems to happen.

But I digress.

The Phobile sans adapter (Motorola phones don't require them but all other makes do) costs £32.95 (€ 49;$58) here.

If you need an adapter the price is £34.95 (€52.50; $63.50).


Note that you have to preorder as the next shipment is due in next Thursday, July 7.

July 3, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yellow Arrow Project


Here's how it works:

1) You put a palm–size yellow arrow–shaped sticker anywhere you think there's "art."

2) You use your cell phone to send a text message to Yellow Arrow.

3) People who happen upon the yellow arrow then call the phone number printed on it, punch in the sticker's code and receive your message.

Tommy Nguyen of the Washington Post followed Molly Aeck around Washington, D.C. last week while she tagged whatever she fancied.

He wrote about it in yesterday's Washington Post.

The yellow arrows are sold for 50 cents each on Yellowarrow.net, the website of Counts Media, the New York–based arts and gaming company that started the project last summer.

Aeck compared Yellow Arrow to the Situationist movement of the 1950s, which originated in Italy.

That group sought to create a discipline called "psychogeography" which encompassed a tilt in the perspective of everyday urban life to a new, skewed angle from which everything took on a different aspect.

So far 2,800 yellow arrows have been sold; 300,000 more are to be released along with the new "Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel," the guidebook empire's foray into truly off–the-grid tourism.


Lonely Planet will enclose six yellow arrows with each copy of the book.

Yellow Arrow is on to something but they don't know what and neither do I.

Not even the very energetic, intellectually bold and curious Molly Aeck knows.

But it is one more step toward making the earth one connected organism.

Here's the Post story.

    Targeting the 'Art' Around Every Corner

    Yellow Arrow Stickers Make a Personal Point About a Public Space

    A bright arrow hovering over the rush of city life usually means "get moving": Hang a left, take a right, barrel straight ahead.

    But the bright yellow arrow stickers that have started popping up in the Washington area have a different goal: to slow people down, maybe even stop them for a moment.

    Launched last summer by Counts Media, a New York-based arts and gaming company, the Yellow Arrow Project is a kind of geographical blogging.

    Adherents have been placing the palm-size stickers -- each with a unique code -- on street signs, city monuments, store windows, abandoned buildings -- anywhere, really, that observers encounter what they deem to be "art."

    Then, using a cell phone, they send a brief text message -- which could be an interesting historical fact, a restaurant review or just some goofy poetry -- to Yellow Arrow.

    People who come across an arrow can call the Yellow Arrow phone number, punch in the sticker's code and receive that message.

    Outside a building at Seventh and S streets in Northwest Washington, for example, the sticker offers up this discovery:

    Old wonderbread factorys not abandoned. a bike graveyard inside.

    Another, posted in an auditorium at George Mason University, conveys a hopeful dream:

    And even though today we play to an empty house, perhaps tomorrow the whole world will applaud.

    "It's a creative platform where people can contribute collectively to the places they live," explains Jesse Shapins, Counts Media's creative development manager.

    So far, he says, about 2,800 arrows -- which are sold on Yellowarrow.net for 50 cents each -- have been planted and registered by participants worldwide, from New York to Berlin to Cairns, Australia.

    More than 100 of them are in the Washington area.

    Molly Aeck, who placed the Wonder Bread arrow, is one of the area's more dedicated participants.

    Aeck, 23 and a recent Stanford grad, has gone the extra step of logging 11 of her arrows on the project's Web site, complete with digital snapshots and a helpful locator map.

    On a scorching weekday afternoon, she is walking along 14th Street NW with a yellow arrow stuck to her index finger, looking for her next target.

    Her arrow seems to be wilting.

    For the academically-inclined Aeck, the arrow project is reminiscent of the place-based artistic expressions of the situationist movement, a group of 1950s thinkers and artists who, among other things, theorized about the pleasures of a process they dubbed "psychogeography."

    "These situationists would walk around and fall into these 'observational drifts' -- to find new perspectives in urban life," she says.

    "It's an appreciation for observing things around you."

    The situationists originated in Italy, where they must have drifted around on cooler days.

    Aeck's sticker is beginning to curl up.

    "I think these arrows can engage a passerby who doesn't have time but just to pass by," she says.

    Many more people are likely to pass by them in the future.

    That's because about 300,000 more stickers are being released through "Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel," the guidebook empire's foray into eccentric, participatory tourism. (It suggests, for example, writing a poem about every main square visited.)

    Six bright stickers come with every book.

    "It's about the personal experience," Shapins says.

    "There are stories in these arrows that you can't find in a conventional map."

    Most of the postings on Yellowarrow.net are more playful and poetic than pointed, but some people have used the project to create action.

    Aeck, for example, chose as one of her targets a place called Cafe Collage (below),


    on T Street near 14th, next to the restaurant Cafe Saint-Ex.

    She lives nearby and used to hang out there before it was closed down because of permit problems.

    She'd like to do so again, so she sticks an arrow just below the front window.

    Her message:

    open Collage! a meeting place for artists and writers. The waitresses at Cafe SaintX next door can tell you how to contribute to Collages revival.

    Howard Rheingold, author of "Smart Mobs," "The Virtual Community" and other writings that deal with communication technology's role in activating communities, says he likes the idea of collective voices like these.

    "There are two separate but connected issues here," Rheingold says.

    "One, using the cyber-world to connect people's opinions, information and places in the physical world. The other is the bottom-up part: People making things happen, and even changing policies, from the bottom up."

    Shapins says the company has been approached with ideas from a variety of groups, including bicycle advocates in Boston seeking to create safer streets and politicians in Europe who think arrows might be useful in election campaigns.

    And it's not the only project of its kind.

    Another New York-based effort, Grafedia (a melding of "graffiti" and "multimedia") lets people set up e-mail addresses using the @grafedia.net suffix, and then automatically send out images, videos or sound files to others who message them.

    Murmur, based in Toronto, works like Yellow Arrow but returns audio recordings instead of text messages.

    Rheingold says the trend is exciting, but the arrows themselves are a sticky issue for him.

    "I would really like to see this yellow arrow as a temporary on-ramp to something very virtual," Rheingold says.

    "I would hate to see the world covered with more debris."

    Kenneth Bryson, a D.C. police spokesman, doesn't sound too thrilled, either.

    "We can certainly appreciate arts projects," Bryson says.

    But "when it comes to defacing property, we ask that citizens cooperate with their local law enforcement." (Yellow Arrow discourages placing arrows on private property without permission.)

    Aeck says that she doesn't want to see a city full of arrows, "but the positive aspects of the project outweigh the reservations I have about it."

    And so she goes back out into the streets with sheets of yellow arrows in her bag, ready to aim her thoughts at the heart of the city.

July 3, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spring Roll Fetch Toy For Dogs


"Stuff it, bounce it, roll it."

It won the 2005 Industrial Design Excellence Award.

Made by Wetnoz International, a pet products company, it replaces the icky rawhide bone.

If you want to see your dog go truly wild with excitement, stick a meaty morsel inside in the "secret treathole" that's provided for just such an amuse bouche.

In moss or brio.

Hey — gimme a break, they picked the color names, not me.

$10 for the small version, $15 for the large here. (Scroll about halfway down.)

July 3, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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