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August 12, 2005

Mega M&Ms — A size too far


For me, at least.

I tried my first bag last week and that will also be my last.

They're too darn big, are these new M&Ms on steroids.

They're said to be 55% bigger than the regular size ones but they feel much larger than that in the mouth.

Of course, after decades of getting used to the default setting anything new is bound to be disruptive at first, but I don't see how these new ones could ever replace the old stand–by in my confection affection.

First, the ratio of chocolate to shell is all wrong.

There's too much chocolate, which is understandable since the volume of a solid increases faster than its surface area, if my dim recollection of high school geometry serves me correctly.

Second, you don't know whether to suck them like a lozenge or just crunch them.

With the regular ones it's always clear what to do with any given M&M.

I always start by lovingly placing one in the little virtual pocket between my upper gum and cheek, the one where my wad of chewing tobacco would go if were more of a man and less of a wuss. But I digress.

For a while I was enamored of M&M minis but they got tiring: just too fussy and they didn't last very long when you sucked them.


I found them rather unsatisfying "in the crunch" — as it were — as well.

The little tubular container with the handy hinged flip–off top served admirably, though, as a container for inline skate bearings.

M&Ms spokeswoman Joan Buyce told CNN the new Megas come in "adult–oriented" colors including teal, beige, maroon, gold, brown and blue–gray.

Well, no wonder they didn't work out for me.


No, it's all about Goldilocks and her porridge.

Not too big, not too small — I want my M&Ms to be just right.

Just like they always were and still are.

Color me old–fashioned even if not an adult.

I am reminded of André Malraux's conversation with George Bernanos, author of the singular "Diary of a Country Priest."

Bernanos told Malraux he had learned three things from a lifetime of taking deathbed confessions.

The most significant, he said, was that "There is no such thing as an adult."

August 12, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

$29.98 Laptop Computer


"Built–in monitor, keyboard, speakers, plus preloaded programs with 4 main modes of play, 13 basic games and activities."

Tell us more.

"Even has advanced keyboard shortcuts and memory!"

Closes up nicely in its own travel case.

Runs on 3 AA batteries (not included).

$29.98 here.

The deluxe model costs $10 more: the only thing different is the AC adapter that's included.

Before you get all bent out of shape about this being a joke, think for a moment about what you're getting.

I mean, with an instructional book you could teach yourself to type with this device.

And I'll bet an enterprising hacker could make quite a bit more out of this machine than its initial presentation.

August 12, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Concrete That Could Save Your Life


It's called the Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS).

Look at the photo above.

What do you see?

What you are looking at is a runaway plane halted by EMAS, a crushable concrete material made of water, foam and concrete designed to collapse under a plane's weight so as to make it sink into the surface and come to an immediate stop.

The substance is designed to be placed at the end of an airport runway for emergencies like the near catastrophe involving Air France Flight 358 at Toronto Airport last week on August 2.

So far 14 airports in the U.S. have installed the material and airline pilots want it to be required at all airports.

The technology has so far helped to stop three planes at John F. Kennedy International Airport, including a 747 cargo plane flown by Polar Air earlier this year.

Sara Kehaulani Goo wrote a story which appeared on the front page of the August 5 Washington Post about the innovative material; it follows.

    Crash Renews Focus on Runways

    Pilots Criticize Toronto Airport's Lack of Arresting System

    The Air France jet that overshot a runway on Tuesday barreled off the pavement at 90 miles per hour, a dangerously high speed that led to renewed calls yesterday to make runways safer.

    All 309 people on board managed to escape, but some aviation experts said the crash could have been avoided if the Toronto airport had installed a new kind of concrete at the end of its runways.

    The Air Line Pilots Association last night said the accident demonstrated the dangers of inadequate runway safety areas.

    "The crash of Air France Flt. 358 in Toronto occurred at an international airport that, unfortunately, does not meet international standards," the association said in a written statement.

    Officials at Toronto Pearson International Airport yesterday said they think the runways are safe.

    Safety officials also said the crash provided new insight into the flammability of materials on newer airplanes.

    The fire-retardant material now required in aircraft cabins may have helped slow the spread of flames and smoke, enabling all crew members and passengers to escape.

    Forty-three people sustained minor injuries.

    Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the accident.

    Yesterday, they disclosed that the crew did not declare an emergency to air traffic controllers as the plane landed.

    To reduce the likelihood of runaway jets, 14 airports in the United States have installed a crushable concrete material at the end of runways.

    The material is a mixture of water, foam and concrete and is designed to collapse under a plane's weight, to make the plane sink into the surface to come to an immediate stop.

    It is unclear whether the Engineered Material Arresting System could have stopped the Airbus A340-300 involved in Tuesday's accident.

    But the technology has helped to stop three planes at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, including a 747 cargo plane flown by Polar Air earlier this year.

    "In this case, chances are it would have stopped it," said Richard F. Healing, who until last week was a member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

    Washington's three major airports do not use the crushable concrete.

    "We should be looking at having it at all airports," said John J. Goglia, a former NTSB board member.

    The pilots association agrees.

    The NTSB has recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require airports to have 1,000 feet of flat, empty space beyond each runway to prevent planes from crashing into roads or buildings located at the end of airport runways.

    In March 2000, a Southwest Airlines plane overshot a runway in Burbank, Calif., and plowed through a fence and a busy road, stopping just feet from a gas station.

    All aboard survived.

    The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has not made similar recommendations.

    The Air France jet's wheels left marks on the runway and cut through the grass down a slope into a ravine at the Toronto airport.

    For decades, pilots have urged Canadian officials to build a bridge or somehow extend the runway at the airport.

    An Air-Canada DC-9 aborted a takeoff from a different runway in 1978 and ended up in a different location in the same ravine.

    The 1978 crash killed two people and injured 105.

    Steve Shaw, spokesman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said the ravine's slope, which had been a steep drop-off, was changed after the 1978 crash.

    "Our runway design has allowed a slope down to the ravine, which probably stopped the Air France plane," Shaw said.

    Several factors probably contributed to fact that no one was killed aboard the Airbus A340, safety officials said.

    At the end of the flight, the plane probably had only an hour's worth of fuel on board, which reduced the chance that the fire could have been much larger or spread more quickly.

    Also, new regulations requiring fire-retardant treatment of seat cushions, carpet and other materials may have curbed the fire and smoke.

    "Those materials make a difference," said Carol J. Carmody, a former NTSB board member.

    In an NTSB study of aircraft evacuations published in 2000, investigators found that most deaths occur from smoke inhalation and that most injuries occur from using the evacuation slides.

    Yesterday, safety investigators here suffered a minor setback in the probe when they discovered that the plane's "black boxes," which contain the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, could not be downloaded using Canadian equipment.

    The boxes were to be flown last night to France, where the information will be downloaded.

    Investigators said they would continue their investigation into the factors that may have contributed to the crash, including the aircraft's performance, the pilots' decisions and the weather, which was reported to include thunderstorms and lighting and wind gusts of 30 mph.

    Investigators said they confirmed that three of the plane's four engines appeared to be working properly at the time of the aircraft.

    The fourth engine was damaged by fire, investigators said.

    Real Levasseur, the accident's chief investigator for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said all of the plane's parts had been located, an indication that nothing broke apart before the crash.

    He downplayed the possibility that the plane had been struck by lightning, saying previous incidents have shown that planes perform fine after being struck by lightning.

    "We don't have any information to indicate a lightning strike to an aircraft is dangerous," he said.

August 12, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's best–designed multi–outlet


It's the only multiple outlet device I've ever come across that does both of the following:

1) Accomodates up to six three–prong and/or two–prong plugs

2) Puts the outlets on the sides such that all the cords and wires leading into the box are as close to the wall as can be, thereby allowing you to put your furniture or what have you right up against the box.

Very nicely done.

$9.98 here. (Item #18140)

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

Nike rocks — bookofjoe shoe is born


I just had the most astounding experience at the Nike Free website.

I bought a pair of these ultra–lightweight running shoes a month or so ago for $85 at my local running shoe shop and I like them a lot.

They may be the opposite of what I'm used to running in (ASICS Gel Kayano, the top of the ASICS line tricked out with gel in the front and back and all manner of other highly engineered features to correct and support the foot properly) but hey, I get out of the house in the Nikes and that's the main thing.

They just feel a lot more comfortable and pleasant on the foot while in motion.

Anyway, I've been reading about Nike's mass customization program whereby you can design your own Nike Free down to the tiniest detail, so I decided to investigate.


I was blown away by how superb an interactive experience Nike has created.

The website is wonderful: easy for technodolt here to figure out and just excellent in its feedback, with all manner of nice clicks and other sounds when you do something.

The degree of user control is phenomenal: you see everything you're doing, from every angle.

You take as much time as you like, playing around and suchlike.

At first I designed a slew of weird looking shoes but then I decided to see if I could create a bookofjoe shoe.

The results are visible above and below.


Long story short: the shoes are ordered and should arrive, says Nike, in 3–4 weeks.

But what really amazes me is that they're able to sell a totally unique, one–off design for $95 — only $10 more than the mass produced version available in stores everywhere.

Nike has created something wonderful here, the ability to have exactly what you want for a most reasonable price.

Other industries and businesses which don't get on the clue train soon are gonna be left way behind in the wake of companies that understand and know how to let the individual get precisely what she or he desires.

Just amazing, what Nike has achieved here.


It's not about the shoe — it's about the company and the process and what it means for the next few years as the internet makes such capabilities ubiquitous.

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

Faucet Sock


What's this?

"Keeps outdoor faucets from freezing to avoid burst pipes or joints."

Well, I know such things can happen: one winter I forgot I'd left a hose attached to an outdoor faucet and found out that I had when, the next spring, the joint thawed and my basement was flooded.

That cost me plenty, what with having to rip out the inner wall to get to the burst pipe.

But I've never heard of putting a sock on your faucets to help them get through the winter.

When did this start?


I grew up in Milwaukee and we didn't have these fancy things, tell you what.

They've really gone and tricked–out an insulated bag, what with "wind– and water–resistant" Thinsulate™ thermal lining and a nice string tie.

Why couldn't you just find an unpaired mitten and achieve the same result, maybe using a shoestring to secure it?

I know, I know — don't be a hater.

OK, all right, I hear you.

You can buy a faucet sock for $7.95 here.

I must say, though, I don't quite understand why it would be warmer inside that thing than outside, once it's been sitting there for days at a time in sub–zero temperatures.

I mean, come on.


"Put a sock in it," well, I've heard that plenty but this — well....

August 12, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Ever since someone stole my tall chef's hat I've never been quite the same.

I enjoyed wearing it once in a while when I fried an egg.

Yesterday the Chefwear.com catalog arrived in my mailbox, joining the bazillions of others I get.

But this was an odd one since I don't do much anymore in the kitchen that doesn't require a microwave oven as the main event.

I mean, sure, when I get big — really big — like google I'll have my own great chef creating bespoke meals but for now, beef jerky (Oberto Teriyaki flavor, thank you very much) does the trick quite nicely.

This catalog and its associated website have everything you need to pose as a chef.

It features pictures of real chefs in their gear, quite entertaining.

Who knew kitchen wear had become so fashion forward?

Better forward this post instanter to Edwina Ings–Chambers, deputy fashion editor of the august Financial Times and one of my very most favorite writers in the English language on our lovely blue planet.

August 12, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Headphone Hook


This looks extremely useful.

Me, I hang my phone headset, earphone wires, headphones and all such paraphernalia over light switches, doorknobs or anything I can find that happens to stick out from a vertical surface.

This nifty hook appears a much better solution.

    From the website:

    This heavy–duty, molded–plastic unit clasps tightly to virtually any edge and provides a solid and dependable hook on which to hang headphones.

    Select large or mini version depending on the size and weight of headphones.

The large one is 4"H x 3.5"W x 3.75"D and comes in black, blue, red or yellow; it costs $6.29.

The mini version is 2.25"H x 1.5"W x 1.5"D and comes only in blue; it costs $4.19.

Both are available here.

August 12, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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