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July 4, 2005

'Thomas Cannon Dies; Postal Clerk Lived Like a Pauper to Help Others'


Above, the headline above today's lead obituary in the Washington Post.

Thomas Cannon (above and below) died this past Saturday in Richmond, Virginia at 79.

He spent his working life as a career U.S. postal worker who never made more than $20,000 a year, yet gave away over $155,000 over the years.

After he retired from the postal service in 1983, Cannon and his wife lived in virtual poverty on his pension.

He told the Richmond Times–Dispatch earlier this year, "We lived simply, so that we could give money away. People say, 'How can you afford it?' Well, how can people afford new cars and boats? Instead of those, we deliberately kept our standard of living down below our means."

Here's Bill Lohmann's July 2 Richmond Times–Times Dispatch obituary of this extraordinary man.

    Thomas Cannon, "Poor Man's Philanthropist," Dies

    Thomas Cannon, Richmond's self-described poor man's philanthropist, died today after a brief battle with colon cancer.

    Cannon, who was 79, was known for doling out $1,000 checks to strangers on a postal clerk's salary.

    He was diagnosed in April with colon cancer, and surgeons removed two tumors but couldn't do anything about a third.

    He told The Richmond Times-Dispatch at the time that he was quite willing to follow doctors' orders in order to stay alive, although he said he has no desire to become "a helpless, bedridden shell of an old geezer who has to be spoonfed and diapered."

    He wanted nature to take its course.

    Cannon approached death with his characteristic sense of humor.

    "A Baptist deacon who owed me $200 died recently," Cannon said in late April.

    "First thing I'm going to do when I get to the other side is run him down."

    The $1,000 checks started in 1972.

    Since then, he gave away more than $155,000, often to people he read about in newspapers.

    They might be stuck in an unfortunate situation, or maybe they've displayed courage in one way or another.

    Some had cancer, a coincidence that was not lost on him in his dying days.

    Cannon traced his benevolence to his time in the Navy, when dumb luck saved his life.

    Many of his buddies died in a shipboard explosion after he'd gone off to gunnery school.

    He always wondered why he'd been spared.

    Maybe, he finally determined, he was saved to help others and be a role model, to help people see "the oneness of it all."

    He thought and talked and wrote like that.

    He wrote numerous essays over the years that he kept in large folders in his paper-strewn office, which was intended to be a dining room when the house was built.

    It was all food for thought for Cannon.

    Cannon spent most of the past 33 years retired from the postal service and some of them caring for his wife, Princetta, who died in 2000 after almost 54 years of marriage and a lengthy illness.

    He used to spend nights lying next to her bed in a sleeping bag on the floor.

    It was during her illness that it became publicly known that the Cannons' home on Church Hill had fallen into disrepair.

    A group of admirers raised enough money to purchase and donate a house to the Cannons near Maymont.

    Tom Cannon lived there until his death.


Thomas Cannon gave the phrase "go postal" a whole new meaning.

July 4, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kari Voutilainen Masterpiece 6 Minute Repeater


This master horologer has created a unique minute repeater: instead of chiming the hours, quarter and then the minute, the Masterpiece 6 (above and below) divides each hour into 6 10–minute segments and chimes accordingly.


Don't ask.

Isn't it great we know each other well enough to communicate without words?


What did you say?

July 4, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

'Be More Chill' — Or why bookofjoe is pure luxe


Once in a while — not often, but often enough to keep me in the game — I come across something that explains me to myself.

Or at least some aspect of my sometimes extreme behavior or predilections.

This happened last Sunday morning (June 26) when I happened on the lead story in the New York Times Sunday Styles section, headlined "Shivering For Luxury."

Because I like it cold.

Real cold.


People wonder how I can stand the chilly air inside my house, where it's a brisk 68° throughout the summer.

I have to offer sweatshirts and sweatpants and Patagonia Capilene longsleeve shirts to visitors to keep them content and even then they expect hot tea.

Me, I'm always happy to oblige.

I don't know why I like it so cold but I really do.

I love being in the OR in my silky scrubs with nothing underneath and the surgeons and nurses all gowned and gloved and sweating under the lights.

Sometimes it's around 64° in the OR.

That's chilly.


I remember back when I was less experienced and I used to occasionally get in trouble during a case: boy, the sweat poured off me and soaked my shirt and pants.

Rarely happens anymore.

But I digress.

Long story short: The Times story found that "the higher the prices, the lower the temperatures."

Proof? How about the following series of store temperatures:

    Bergdorf Goodman: 68.3°

    Hermès: 68.6°

    Tiffany & Co.: 70.3°

    Macy's: 73.1°

    Levi's Store: 76.8°

    Old Navy: 80.3°

Pretty convincing.

Read Allen Salkin's story; it follows.

    Shivering for Luxury

    More money, more B.T.U.'s: a study in air–conditioning.

    Macy's is colder than Old Navy, but Bloomingdale's is colder than Macy's, and Bergdorf Goodman is colder than all of them.

    It is the frigid season in New York City.

    Not outside, where temperatures have hovered in the upper 80's and 90's for much of June, but inside: in shops, offices, restaurants and museums, where air-conditioning makes temperatures feel more like November.

    "I don't like that super-cold air-conditioning," said Madeleine Marchese, who was stepping out of the chilly and dry 68.3-degree air of Bergdorf Goodman into the humid 79-degree air of Fifth Avenue on a June Thursday.

    She does what many New Yorkers do in the summer: she carries a sweater, the better to cope with what Henry Miller titled his 1945 critique of American culture, "The Air-Conditioned Nightmare."

    "Nowhere else in the world," Miller wrote of the United States, "is the divorce between man and nature so complete."

    Fifty years later that divorce seems more popular than ever, especially among businesses selling luxury goods.

    A recent experiment in which a reporter visited various commercial corners of Manhattan with a high-grade thermometer found that almost without fail, the more ritzy the establishment is trying to be, the colder the air-conditioning is kept.

    In other words, the higher the prices, the lower the temperatures. Consider the clothing stores: Bergdorf Goodman, 68.3 degrees; Bloomingdale's, 70.8; Macy's 73.1; Club Monaco, 74.0; the Original Levi's Store, 76.8; Old Navy 80.3.

    For the experiment a pair of professional-grade Mannix HDT303K digital thermometers were used.

    The temperature was measured as close to the center of each establishment as possible, away from any vents, moving air or doors.

    When the thermometers' readings differed (never by more than 0.4 degrees), the two were averaged. The reporter did not announce his presence as one but entered each place of business as a normal customer would.

    While a few degrees' difference might not sound like much, the feeling on bare skin can be surprising.

    Tiffany & Company (70.3), where a sterling silver baby rattle sells for $200, lacked the meat-locker-like sting of Hermès (68.6), which sells a stainless steel thermos for $1,200.

    "There is still a status symbol in almost over-the-top air-conditioning," said Craig Childress, the director of prototype design for Envirosell, a New York-based consulting firm that studies retail stores' designs to help them maximize sales.

    High-end retailers argue that cool air is a positive part of their image.

    "It's part of the whole environment package that we try to offer to our customers," said Tony Nicola, vice president for operations at Bergdorf Goodman.

    "We're offering the best of service in New York City, and what comes with that is how the store looks, how it's lit, the cleanliness and the temperature."

    Last year Bergdorf's installed a new air-conditioning and heating system that features an array of software and sensors designed to keep the air near the target of 68 degrees.

    "I don't think it's too cold," Mr. Nicola said.

    At least one shopper agreed.

    Sylvia Pastor, who lives on the Upper East Side, said she found the cool temperature invigorating, adding that it kept her shopping longer than a warmer temperature might have.

    "It's good for the store," she said. "But not for my pocketbook."

    At some luxury stores, where heavily dressed customers have arrived in air-conditioned cars straight from their air-conditioned homes, 68 might be right, Mr. Childress said.

    But many businesses make the mistake of setting the thermostat more for the comfort of employees than for customers.

    "You may have a high-end jewelry store where the staff is wearing shirts and ties," he said.

    "But the shoppers are wearing T-shirts and shorts, and that makes shoppers uncomfortable and decreases the time they stay in the store."

    In one case Envirosell studied three locations of a high-end apparel client with stores in New York City and found that customers were spending less time in the coldest one.

    Studies have shown that the longer shoppers stay in a store, the more money they are likely to spend.

    Lower-end stores tend to be more frugal.

    The 88-cent shoelaces at National Wholesale Liquidators on Broadway near Houston Street were curled up in 76.6-degree air, while half a block away, an $11.95 frosted soap pump at Crate & Barrel sat in a comparatively frosty climate of 70.9.

    The Energy Department says that each degree setting on a thermostat below 78 degrees increases energy consumption by 8 percent.

    The consistency of the luxury-equals-cold pattern in the experiment was striking.

    The book-strewn NoHo offices of Workman Publishing - which had a recent best seller with the lowbrow "Bad Cat," a collection of amateur photos of strange-looking cats - were 76.0 degrees.

    The sleek, impeccable SoHo lobby of Scholastic, which publishes the best-selling Harry Potter books, was a chillier 73.0.

    While there are tales of executives making their offices cold in order to keep visitors off balance, some financial firms say they have good reason to keep temperatures low.

    A trader at a prestigious Wall Street firm said the air-conditioning there was kept icy "because we get stirred up during big trades, and we'll complain if it's too hot."

    But the trader, who would speak only anonymously because of the firm's rules against employees' talking to the press, admitted that most traders keep extra clothes handy for slower times.

    "We all have fleeces we wear."

    Even the most finely calibrated central air system can never arrive at an ideal temperature for all people in all circumstances, said Robert Helt, technical director of the Home Comfort Institute, a research arm of Trane, the air-conditioner maker.

    "Air temperature, humidity levels, heat radiation effects, air quality, air circulation or movement, and sound levels from comfort systems or even lighting all factor into our perception of comfort," Mr. Helt said.

    "Everyone has different needs."

    Gail Cooper, the author of "Air-Conditioning America: Engineers and the Controlled Environment, 1900-1960" (Johns Hopkins, 1998), said the music, lighting, traffic flow and hygiene of modern retail stores would be impossible without air-conditioning.

    "You don't get outside air, you don't get dirt," Ms. Cooper said.

    Without air-conditioning, many stores would not be able to use the brightest lights because of the heat they give off, she said.

    The first modern air-conditioner, installed in 1902 in Brooklyn by Willis Carrier, was designed to control humidity in a printing plant so that ink would stick to paper.

    Now air-conditioning is so common, it is used to make eating peas more pleasant.

    At Café Boulud, on the Upper East Side, where a dish of spring pea ravioli is $29, the temperature was 68.8.

    Restaurants were slight exceptions to the luxury-is-always-colder rule. In Greenwich Village, EJ's Luncheonette, at 68.7, was almost exactly the same temperature as Café Boulud, but both were much colder than a McDonald's in Chelsea (72.0).

    The idea of enticing customers with air-conditioning dates to early-20th-century movie houses.

    The managers would often keep the front doors open to allow cool "advertising air" to spill out onto the sidewalk to attract sweltering passers-by.

    For some, cold air is not about luxury but about what's natural and necessary.

    Thus the coldest place tested was the penguin observing room at the Central Park Zoo: 67.2.

    But for a lesson in coping with whatever Mother Nature deals out, a short jaunt from the penguin exhibit proved enlightening.

    There, in its open-air habitat (78.8 that day), was the arctic fox.

    A placard outside its pen explained that the fox is protected by the warmest coat of any mammal and that it "can remain comfortable at negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit."

    The fox appeared totally comfortable in the New York summer.

    Sometimes the summer's heat can instill a dreaminess that is the opposite of Henry Miller's air-conditioned nightmare.

    That was the case at the Stiles Farmers Market on Ninth Avenue near 41st Street, where there was no air-conditioning at all.

    A workman in a tank top had a healthy sweat going as he pushed honeydew on a handcart.

    Nearby, shoppers moved lazily among wooden bins containing eggplant, apricots and other fresh produce.

    "I'm in a good moment," said one Hell's Kitchen resident, Jeffrey Eiche, 50.

    "I'm shopping for a picnic."

    Staying cool wasn't as easy as flipping a switch, but the exertion of enduring the afternoon's heat had its rewards.

    The cold and refreshing watermelon, 59 cents a pound, melted luxuriously on the tongue.


Huh — maybe I'm part penguin.

July 4, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BYO Lunchbag/Placemat


Maybe I should've done a MorphWorld feature on this clever invention.

Designed by Aaron Lown of Built NY, it's a neoprene tote with a handle that zips open into a placemat.


Ideal for those who can't manage their french–fries and ketchup while driving. (Yes, R, that would be you.)

Comes in your choice of five colors: navy blue, black, cranberry red, orange and hot pink.

Measures 12.5" square, with 1/2–inch–thick neoprene walls.


Stores flat or rolls up.

Keeps food and drink separately, allowing hot and cold items to stay that way for hours.

Machine washable and stain resistant.

$19.99 here.

Winner of the 2005 Industrial Design Excellence Award.

If provenance is really important to you then go ahead and buy one here at MoMa for $28.


But remember: I'm the same guy whether I'm in scrubs or a tuxedo.

July 4, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Free Bottle and Jar Opener


I invented it yesterday afternoon.

I was just sitting here doing something close to nothing when I was asked to open a bottle of nail polish that had frozen shut.

You know how annoying that can be, especially when, as had just happened here, a nail had been broken attempting to open the bottle.

There is truly no justice.

It is hard being a girl.

But you already knew that.

Now where was I?

Oh, yeah, my invention.

I first tried a trick I've used successfully in the past: run just the plastic cap under really hot water.

The theory is that the plastic expands faster than the glass bottle neck and voila, loosened cap.

But that didn't work.

Remembering one of my favorite quotations of all time (Edwin H. Land's, "Solve the problem with what's in the room."), I opened a drawer and looked to see what might be in it that could provide a solution.

Bingo: rubber bands.

I grabbed a handful and instantly I had a ready–made, quick 'n dirty rubber jar opener.

I crushed the handful of rubber bands tightly around the bottle cap and twisted and darned if the cap didn't instantly loosen.

Oh, yeah.

Don't forget to scream at the instant you apply maximum force to enhance your power.

There's a reason shotputters and discus throwers and female tennis players scream at the moment of truth: it actually does seem to make you stronger.

No charge for this tip; as always, feel free to patent it, make money off of it or claim it as your own idea.

More and more I'm thinking that to want credit for anything you do or accomplish is just one more (ultimately futile) attempt to seem important in the greater scheme of things.

Get over it.

July 4, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Chopstick Fork


The "b–side" (dreadful name) disposable fork/chopstick, designed by Alessandro Busano but not yet in production.

Considering the words spork and knork, though, maybe b–side's not all that bad.

[via ohgizmo and designboom]

July 4, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Anselm Kiefer in Hoxton Square


Last week in the East End of London, just north of the financial district, Anselm Kiefer's first exhibition in the city since 1997 went up.

Thirty of his most recent paintings are housed in a 25–foot–tall pavilion of corrugated steel designed by Kiefer (above, inside the pavilion with some of his works) and created just for this show.

The new installation is entitled "Anselm Kiefer for Khlebnikov."

The pavilion and all 30 paintings inside have been sold to a single unidentified American collector for $5 million.

The building and paintings will move to the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut by next spring.

Following its American opening in Ridgefield, the show may tour the U.S.

Carol Vogel wrote about the exhibition in a July 1 New York Times story, which follows.

    A London Pavilion, Connecticut-Bound

    There's a curious sight in the center of Hoxton Square in the East End, just north of the financial district here: a 25-foot-tall pavilion of corrugated steel.

    Erected this week by White Cube, the contemporary-art gallery just across the square, it is designed by the German artist Anselm Kiefer and houses 30 of his recent paintings.

    The installation, on view through July 30, is Mr. Kiefer's first exhibition in London in eight years.

    An exact re-creation of one of the artist's studios in Barjac, in Provence, where he lives and works, it is called "Anselm Kiefer for Khlebnikov."

    The title refers to Velimir Khlebnikov, the visionary artist, poet and thinker who died in 1922 and whose analytical systems, based on arcane mathematical calculations, deal with the illusion of logic in history.

    "I discovered Khlebnikov in 1973 when his works were first published in Germany," Mr. Kiefer, 60, said at the pavilion's opening.

    "He invented an absurd system of history."

    The paintings depict historic sea battles, incorporating actual model ships into highly textured surfaces.

    Inside the White Cube Gallery are three more paintings related to those in the pavilion, as well as a sculpture fashioned from concrete that resembles a shipwreck.

    The pavilion and the 30 paintings inside have been sold as a single installation to an American collector, identified only as a supporter of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn., where it will go on view.

    "Ideally we would like to see it up by the spring," said Harry Philbrick, director of the Aldrich, who was also at Hoxton Square on Wednesday for the opening.

    Mr. Philbrick said he was investigating the best way to create the pavilion and to transport the paintings safely to Connecticut.

    After that, he said, he is hoping the pavilion and its paintings will go on tour to American institutions.

    "It's like a collision between painting and sculpture," said Jay Jopling, White Cube's owner, who is devoting his space to Mr. Kiefer this summer.

    When the pavilion and the works at White Cube (a detail of one is shown below)


    come down, others by the artist will be on view inside the gallery.

    From Aug. 3 to 27, there will be a full-scale, cast-concrete staircase embedded in a canvas and a floor installation incorporating hundreds of glass shards.

July 4, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WindChaser IceMan Professional Portable Stainless Ice Cube Maker


It takes more than a pretty face to woo me.

When I first saw a picture of this stylish stainless steel ice maker capable of cranking out 29 pounds of ice a day, I was smitten.

But then the crack research team went behind the music, as it were, and discovered Judie Hughes's mostly unfavorable review of the product, which appeared this past March in her great blog, The Gadgeteer.

Who's Judie Hughes, you ask, and why should you believe anything she has to say about anything?

Judie Hughes is one of a handful of writers, online or on paper, whose thoughts you can take to the bank and trust implicitly.

A totally straight shooter, besides which she's cool and she even responds to my emails.

It doesn't get much better than that. But I digress.

The Windchaser is true plug–and–play: find a socket, plug it in, turn it on, add water and ice ensues.

Works with tap water or the bottled version.

Water is water to this machine; none of it's under the bridge.

Requires no drain.

Measures 16.25"H x 14"W x 15.5"D.

The dealbreaker, according to Judie and many others, is that after a couple months it just stops working.

So save your $399 unless you're in the market for a streamlined, once–functional side table.


If you insist, it's $350 at Amazon.

July 4, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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