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July 31, 2005

Cockroach Hall of Fame Museum


The Washington Post headline for its story in today's paper about this establishment was headlined "Lifestyles of the Roach and Famous."

I like it.

The hall of fame is tucked away in a shopping center north of Dallas.

Sure hope they don't try to rent the neighboring spaces to restaurants.

Or at least if they do, they certainly ought to consider giving 'em a break on the rent.

10% to 20% of Americans are entomophobes.

If you're one of them then this museum — and this post — might not be for you.

On the other hand, what with the craze for so–called "desensitization" techniques in psychology, with their graduated, increasing exposures to the things that most frighten the subject, perhaps reading to the end of this post represents the first stage in your psychotherapy.

To be fair, though, there are those who would say that reading to the end of this post — much less writing it — is indicative of descent to a hellish level of psychopathology, requiring immediate intervention.

I agree. Now where was I?

Oh, yes: your psychotherapy.

The bill will be in the mail.

And now back to our regularly scheduled nonsense, as opposed to nonsense that just erupts out of nowhere, like some quantum fluctuation out of the froth and foam and quark–gluon plasma.

The museum's founder and curator, 58–year–old Michael Bohdan (above), is by profession an exterminator.

They say you always end up killing the thing you love most. But I digress.

Bohdan parlayed a publicity stunt during the 1980s to find the largest cockroach in Dallas into a huge 15 minutes of fame culminating in an appearance, along with some of his favorite cockroaches, on the Johnny Carson show.

Life is quieter now; in between sales of pest–control products at his suburban Dallas shop, he leads museum tours of the decaying Styrofoam–based "scenes" featuring roaches in celebrity get–ups.

One of the favorites is Liberoachi, with its white mink cape, seated at a tiny grand piano that actually plays a tune.

Among the other attractions are H. Ross Peroach, Marilyn Monroach (above), Norman Roachwell, Madonna Roach and Elvis Roachly.

Bohdan refers to himself, while in his tour leader guise, as "Cockroach Dundee."

He wears a fedora adorned with the carcasses of huge Madagasgar hissing roaches.

Here's a picture of one of the giant creatures:


FunFact: Madagascar hissing cockroaches such as the adult pictured above can be up to 4" long and weigh nearly one ounce.

That'll get your attention when you turn on the lights in the kitchen for your midnight snack.

The museum now gets about 6,000 visitors annually.

That's just fine by Bohdan.

He told the Washington Post's Sylvia Moreno, "The cockroaches are small, so the museum is small."

Let's see.... 6,000/52 = 115 people a week stop by.

That's my goal.

If I straighten up and fly right I think I've got a fair chance of reaching it within the next 15–20 years.

July 31, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Internet Speed Test


Best internet upload/download speed test site I've yet come across.

Very simple and elegant design and interface that's fun to use.

Excellent diversion anytime you're at a computer anywhere.

See if you're getting what you're paying for.

I'm sure not: I signed up for Adelphia's ultra–fast broadband service a month ago, advertising speeds of 5–6MB/second down.

Both early this morning (1 a.m.) and now (2 p.m.) I was around 3MB (top).

Oh, well.

I tested all eight of the test site's servers just to see if there was a difference in terms of their geographical location.

Result: no question, the West Coast servers are much slower (about 33%) for me here in Charlottesville.

Why should I be jealous of the fact that most Koreans have 100MB/second — and pay around $15/month for it?

I mean, my bill's only four times that.

Speakeasy is also useful when you're staying somewhere, like a hotel, advertising such and such high–speed internet: test it, then print out the results and bring them down to the front desk and demand a rate reduction for false advertising.

Might be amusing with the right manager.

[via whereisben.com]

July 31, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dat–so–la–lee — 'The greatest of all American Indian basket weavers'


So said Gene Quintana, an American Indian basketry expert, in an article by Martin Griffith of the Associated Press published last Sunday, July 24.

He continued, "When I walk into a museum, I can tell her baskets. They represent perfection." (Five of her baskets are pictured in this post.)

Dat–so–la–lee (below)


was a Washoe Indian born between 1829 and 1850 near the mining town of Sheridan in Carson Valley, Nevada.

Her real name was Louisa Keyser but it was changed by her employer, Amy Cohn, who made her a star attraction at the Bicose curio shop at Tahoe City in the early 1900s.

Dat–so–la–lee made miniature willow souvenir baskets for tourists and collectors that sold for $2 to $6 apiece.

Most measured no more than 5" high.

Now these baskets command prices of $7,000 to $25,000 and up.

She had huge hands (below, the artist at work)


yet created works of astonishing delicacy, including baskets so tiny they require a magnifying glass to see.

Three such "miniatures among miniatures," each less than half the size of a dime, are among the 62 baskets on display at a show of her work now ongoing at the Gatekeeper's Museum in Tahoe City, California through October 31.

The exhibit, the first ever to feature her baskets, is entitled "Woven Legacy: A Collection of Dat–so–la–lee Works, 1900–1921."

Her larger baskets sold for as much as $2,000 during her lifetime (she died in 1925) and now are worth as much as $1 million, the highest price commanded by any American Indian weaver.


In 2001 one of her baskets sold for $750,000.

Here's the AP story.

    Basket Weaver’s Artistry Attracts Fans, Big Prices

    After her tribe’s traditional way of life was swallowed up by white settlers, the master Washoe weaver spent summers on Lake Tahoe’s shoreline making souvenir baskets for tourists and collectors that would one day be worth as much as $1 million each.

    Dat-so-la-lee also crafted small models of traditional baskets for her employer, Amy Cohn, who made her a star attraction at The Bicose curio shop at Tahoe City in the early 1900s.

    Eighty years after Dat-so-la-lee’s death, a special exhibit of 62 of those "miniatures" is on public display for the first time through Oct. 31 at the Gatekeeper’s Museum, just down the north shore from where the curio shop once stood.


    While most measure no more than 5 inches, the works are as impressive as her large baskets, said Gene Quintana, an American Indian basketry collector and appraiser based in Carmichael, Calif., who owns the collection.

    The willow miniatures reflect the same craftsmanship and design that made Dat-so-la-lee one of the best-known basket weavers, he said.

    "I think she’s the greatest American Indian basket maker by far," Quintana said in a telephone interview.

    "When I walk into a museum, I can tell her baskets. They represent perfection in basketry."

    Even those unfamiliar with American Indian basketry will come away from the exhibit with an appreciation for Dat-so-la-lee’s artistry, said Sue Ann Monteleone, registrar at the Nevada State Museum in nearby Carson City, Nev.

    "I think it’s an impressive exhibit," Monteleone said.

    "She was one of the greatest weavers in the world of all time. I think people will enjoy the fineness and perfection of her weaving and the beauty of her designs."

    The exhibit celebrates a woman who began weaving baskets for traditional activities such as cooking and storage not long after her birth, about 1850.

    Like other American Indian women, Dat-so-la-lee switched to making baskets for tourists and collectors after her tribe’s way of life was disrupted by whites.

    The Washoes used to spend summers at Lake Tahoe and winters in the Carson City area.

    With huge, nimble hands, Dat-so-la-lee earned international acclaim for the minute care with which she created spiraling surfaces of interlocking stitches.

    She was successfully marketed by Cohn, who promoted her as the "Indian Princess" Dat-so-la-lee and spun tales about her to command higher prices.

    Her real name was Louisa Keyser.

    "Woven Legacy: A Collection of Dat-so-la-lee Works, 1900-1921" also features models of other traditional objects she made: seed beaters, medicine bottles, winnowing trays, baby carriers and gambling sticks.

    Other highlights include the only known fish trap and beaded basket made by Dat-so-la-lee, a basket partly chewed by Cohn’s dog and "The Miniatures Among Miniatures" - baskets so tiny they require a magnifying glass to see.

    Those baskets - each less than half the size of a dime - are showstoppers, said Sara Larson, museum director.

    "You have to get right up there to see that they’re actually tiny baskets," Larson said.

    "It’s a demonstration of her skill. It’s so difficult to strip the willow down to a thread that fine. And to be able to weave something with it is amazing."


    Quintana’s personal favorites are two flawless "degikups," a form of basketry that Dat-so-la-lee introduced featuring a handsome spherical shape and smaller mouth.

    One of the baskets - titled "Men Assembled for Cult Ceremonies" - features 10 diagonal bands of H’s, all in blackish bracken fern.

    The other basket, "Family Crest," is notable for its complex triangular motif in six columns.

    "Those two baskets really stand out to me," Quintana said.

    "The shape and weaving is so nice and tight, and the design is well-executed. Other basket makers have too much design. Her design is not crowded."

    Stefanie Givens, assistant museum director, agreed: "Her designs are gorgeous and beautiful, definitely a treat for the eyes."

    The baskets are typical of Dat-so-la-lee works that tourists and collectors used to purchase for $2 to $6 when she worked for Cohn and her husband, Abe, at their stores in Tahoe City and Carson City.

    Such works now fetch from $7,000 to $25,000, Quintana said.

    Some of her larger baskets that sold for as much as $2,000 during her lifetime now are worth as much as $1 million, making her works the priciest of any American Indian, Quintana said.

    One of her baskets sold for $750,000 in 2001.

    "It’s all about supply and demand. There’s just not enough Dat-so-la-lee baskets for people who want them," he said.


    Quintana, 64, bought the collection in 1984 from a Napa Valley family that acquired it in 1935 from Abe Cohn’s second wife.

July 31, 2005 at 02:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Flash Memory Card USB Drive


Simply superb.

SanDisk has created a flash memory card with built–in USB 2.0 connectivity.

No more need for a card reader, cables or card adapter to transfer data, images, audio or video between computers, digital cameras and other electronic devices.

You flip the card to expose the USB connector and plug it into any USB port.


Bonus: the card features an LED that blinks while data transfer is taking place to show it's in use as a flash drive.

The 1GB version costs $100–$140 but good luck buying one: I just spent a half hour looking at a zillion sites featuring it, every single one of which did not have it in stock yet.

If only I had a USB port in my head.

July 31, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Hey, Ice Cream Man!' — The Good Humor Man Lives


Berliner Foods of Hyattsville, Maryland will send an authentic old–fashioned 1960s–vintage Good Humor ice cream truck and attendant anywhere you like.


They'll stock the truck with your own selection of specially-ordered treats from their extensive inventory of frozen delights.

The ice creams and all cost $1.95 apiece and you have to order at least 500 to get the truck and the man.


Still, awfully fun.

July 31, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

3–D Globe Jigsaw Puzzle


Very nicely done.

"Each piece is designed to create a tiny section of the completed sphere."

Requires no inside support whatsover.

"As the pieces are correctly placed, the puzzle defies gravity and curves skyward — until the final piece snaps into place."

The pieces are numbered on the inside to assist you should you find the oceans too vexing.

The 530–piece puzzle is $20 here.

That's an astonishingly low price, in my opinion, for something this striking and original, and with that many pieces.

July 31, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The 'English Corners' of Shanghai


All over the great metropolis are dedicated areas and times where people come to speak and improve their English.

It's nothing new: such loci of lingual lyricism have existed for years now.

I just read of a well–known one at Jing An Park but there are countless such places dotting the city, most easily found in one of Shanghai's 125 parks.

Odd — I have yet to come across a Chinese Corner in the U.S., yet in not too many years they'll be calling the tune and we'll be dancing to it.

If you prefer to interact without visiting Shanghai, you could do worse than visit Alex (top), a personable young Chinese man who lives there and is very serious about improving his English.

Here's a link to his website.

July 31, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Snappy Readers


Oh, no — not again!

But wait: that's supposed to happen.

Yes, believe it or not these glasses are designed to pop open in the middle.

You say, that's the dumbest thing I ever saw.

Well, wait just a cotton–picking minute.

"Snappy Readers free you from the 'granny chain!'"

Oh? Tell us more.

    From the website:

    You'll never again misplace your readers!

    This innovative front–opening design makes readers functional, practical... and packed with fashion fun!

    One click of the powerful magnet at the bridge of the nose snaps them into place.


    To remove, just pull apart, and use the flexible, unbreakable headband to keep them hanging around your neck so you'll know where to find them.

    The optical quality lenses can be replaced with prescription lenses.

    One size fits all, thanks to adjustable sides.


Is a headband better than a granny chain, in the long run?

And what if you forget where your neck is: how then will you find them?

Nice, though, that there's no hedging with fit, a la that ridiculous "one size fits most" we saw the other day.

In red, blue or tortoise frames with your choice of 1.25, 1.50, 1.75, 2.00, 2.50 or 3.00 diopter power.

$29.50 here.

If you've got any metal plates or screws in your head this product is probably not for you.

If you insist, you might find yourself in the OR with Dr. Laws or one of his brethren extracting the magnet from your sella turcica.


I doubt Ann Sacks and her doughty Amy Sacks crüe out in Portland are losing a lot of sleep over this new development.

But you never know: they're awfully obsessive.

Which is why I like them so.

Likes attract.

But opposites are OK too — don't get me wrong.

I'm an equal opportunity kind of guy.

July 31, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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