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August 5, 2005



How is it possible that I have yet to read a single word about this remarkable new website, which went up three weeks ago, in any publication other than the July 14 issue of the Economist?

Because that's where I learned of it, not 15 minutes ago.

It seems "Last year Harold Kraft, an anesthesiologist [!] by training, had an 'epiphany.'"

The Economist story continued, "It was about the frighteningly intricate 'threads' that Americans unwittingly leave behind whenever they buy a house, register for a driver's license, appear in court, file an insurance claim, pay their electricity bill, or indeed do almost anything."

Long story short: Kraft created the above–styled website where, for $79.95, you first answer some multiple–choice questions to verify your identity and then get access, within hours, to all the public records about yourself from thousands of databases across the country.

Wrote the Economist, "They are in for a shock."

The article continued, "There, on a screen, is their entire life, as any sleuth doing a background check would see it — 30–year–old addresses, the names of all the other people who ever lived there, and so on. A few will see crimes they never committed or assets, supposedly hidden from the taxman, that they never owned."

I like it.

Why not find out what people have been saying about you all these years?


Isn't it better to be the last to know than never knowing at all?

August 5, 2005 at 04:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Water Wiggler


This device is selling like hotcakes at Birdbaths.com.

It's for people who worry about stuff like West Nile virus because of the standing water in their birdbath.

The Water Wiggler is a 4.75"–wide battery–operated device (2 D–cells) that silently vibrates and creates gentle ripples in the water which attract birds while deterring mosquitos which might lay eggs.

The Wiggler stands on its own three legs.

Philip Chumbley of Allied Precision Industries, the Wiggler's developer, said in today's USA Today story by Sarah Bailey, "We've even had people call who wanted to put it in the shallow end of a pond."

$16.25 here.

August 5, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: World's best personal blood pressure monitor


I have written before (on February 2, to be precise) about Panasonic's superb wrist–worn personal blood pressure monitoring devices.

• Accurate (tested in the OR by yours truly against the gold standard — the BP monitor on my anesthesia machine that costs a hundred times more)

• Easy to use

• Convenient

• Fun

• Inexpensive

I feature it here and now because in yesterday's New York Times I noted that J & R Electronics has reduced the price to $38.99. (It was $80 back in February.)

Tell you what: it was cheap at $80.

    From the website:

    • 42–reading memory

    • Large easy–to–read LCD screen

    • Precise Logic™ technology

    • One–touch operation

    • 3 Color LED Indicators

    Digital Filter Precise Logic™ technology accurately detects and isolates only the essential pulse oscillation for precise readings.

    Automatic Memory feature stores 42 of your readings with date and time so you can track readings over a period of time.

    This blood pressure monitor is lightweight and portable for travel, folding down to only 1.4–inches wide

    Includes slim carrying case that lets you take the monitor wherever you go.

    Large LCD display panel shows both blood pressure readings and pulse rate simultaneously.

    Power Source: 2 AAA batteries (included).

    Dimensions (H x W x D): 2" x 2.5" x 1.25".

    Weight: 3.2 ounces.


$38.99 here.

August 5, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Power Sentry Squid — World's Coolest Multi–Outlet


This funkadelic device has five inlets (2 are 6", 2 are 8" and the one in the middle is 10" long) and a 4–foot cord for added flexibility.

Built–in 15–Amp circuit breaker and yellow lighted master on/off switch.


$14.99 here.

[via gizmodo]

August 5, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Easter Eggs and bookofjoe


From the site that comes up first in a google search for "Software Easter Eggs":

    What is an "Easter Egg"?

    In the context of software (get that Cadbury Bunny out of your head!), an Easter Egg is a hidden feature or novelty that the programmers have put in their software.

    In general, it is any hidden, entertaining thing that a creator hides in their creation only for their own personal reasons.

    This can be anything from a hidden list of the developers, to hidden commands, to jokes, to funny animations.

    You'd be surprised just how many things contain Easter Eggs... just look at the list that has accumulated here!

    A true Easter Egg must satisfy the following criteria:

    1. Undocumented, Hidden, and Non-Obvious — An Easter Egg can't be a legitimate feature of a product, or be an obvious part of a storyline. Easter Eggs will usually stand out either because they totally don't fit with their context (like a pinball game in a word processor), or because they have a deeper hidden personal meaning to the creators, so they threw it in for entertainment.

    2. Reproducible — Every user with the same product or combination of products must be able to produce the same result given the instructions. If others can't reproduce an Egg, then it doesn't belong in this archive.

    3. Put There by the Creators for Personal Reasons — The Egg must have been put there on purpose, and furthermore have a personal significance to the creators beyond just making a better product (movie, TV show, software program, etc).

    4. Entertaining! — The most important element... if it's not there for entertainment, it's not an Egg.

    5. Not Malicious — Easter Eggs are there for fun, not to do damage.

The other day I got to thinking about Easter Eggs and and how in bookofjoe, whenever I can, I like to put in amusing or interesting links to things that may not be related to the post at hand except for a word in common or suchlike.

It occurred to me that this behavior on my part is the equivalent of a software designer putting an Easter Egg into a game or program.

Now, this is intimately related to the habit I have of doing stuff for people that they will never know I did.

Somehow they avoid trouble or something good happens and they just assume that's the way things happened to work out.

Not quite.

Just as in hockey a stick blade in the path of a speeding puck can deflect it only by the slightest amount yet make all the difference in the world in terms of whether or not a goal is scored, so do I like to deflect things ever so subtly onto the path of a better outcome.

I don't know when I started doing this but it's been going on for a long time.

Stuff like turning off a car's lights in a parking lot: the driver will never know it happened but the car will start instead of having a dead battery.

I will go to the trouble of trying every door and making a real effort to break in to turn off the lights.

That's just the way I am.

So creating links to stuff that may or may not ever be clicked on or looked at is just fine with me: I like doing it and it amuses me.

If it should amuse you, all the better.

For example, the sort of nonsensical habit I've developed here in the past few weeks of linking a word to a song with that title.

It's fun so I do it.


But only to songs I like.

There are a few related things I might as well throw in here.

1) Anything you find here — jokes, ideas, suggestions, useful inventions that don't exist, etc. — are yours for the taking.

Just as, when I'm on the phone with someone or at a store and realize how something could be done better and mention it to the clerk or whomever I'm talking to, I tell them to say they thought it up and take credit for it and prosper, so with you, dear reader: it's not stealing if someone gives it to you.

I can't be bothered profiting from stuff I think up: that's your job.

Don't worry, I'll never tell how you got where you did.

Trust me: I'm....

August 5, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blind–Spot Mirror


Years ago I bought one of these but threw it away when I realized that any advantage gained from seeing better behind me was more than negated by the impaired field of view to the front resulting from the size of the add–on mirror.

But that was me — it doesn't mean it's wrong for you.


Now come a new iteration of the old theme.

Called the "Precision Blind–Spot Mirror" (above), this clip–on device is even larger than the old version (below).

"With our distortion–free convex mirror you'll find it easier — and safer — to change lanes, merge and exit freeways."

$49.95 here.

If you'd rather stick your toe in the rear–view water a bit less expensively,


the smaller version is here.


It costs $22.95 for the standard 13" size and $24.95 for the larger 17" version.

August 5, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why cats don't like sweets


Long story short: they can't taste them.

Last month scientists from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia published a paper demonstrating that all cats — both the big ones of the jungle and the puddy tat curled up on a ball next to you on your pillow — harbor a genetic mutation rendering the sugar detectors on their taste buds inoperable.

The sweetness receptor in taste buds consists of two different proteins, T1R2 and T1R3, attached to each other on the surface of a cell.

The two proteins are manufactured under the direction of two genes, then join to create a single receptor that fires a nerve signal up to the brain when sugar is present.

The scientists found that in cats one of those two genes — called Tas1r2 — is missing a stretch of 247 DNA base pairs, a deletion that prevents the gene from making a correctly structured T1R2 protein.

With only one of the two crucial proteins, the receptor cannot function and the cat cannot taste sweetness.

Though the gene sequencing was done on six house cats (all pets of Monell scientists), when the scientists looked at tiger and cheetah DNA they found the same genetic deletion.

This suggests that the mutation occurred in a common ancestor early in feline evolution.

"It isn't clear whether the cat's loss of its sense of sweetness led it to pursue an all–meat diet or whether cats were already fully carnivorous, in which case the loss of an affinity for sweets would hardly have mattered to them," wrote Rick Weiss in a Washington Post story on July 25.

Here's a link to the original paper.

August 5, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Now you see it: now you don't.

"This exciting new repair pro features extra bonding and flexibility qualities so it never shrinks, even in holes up to 3/4".

Tell us more.

"Heavyweight compound repairs drywall and plaster easily, without tools."

Sounds useful.

"It won't dry out in the container, but dries rapidly once applied."

I wonder if it would work as a deodorant in a pinch?

Sure looks like one.

"Clay product allows water cleanup."

Might be better than my quick and dirty solution to holes: I use chewing gum, let it dry out, then cover it with liquid paper.

No one's noticed yet.

Erase-A-Hole is Off-White.

A 5.5 oz container costs $8.99 here.

August 5, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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