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August 13, 2005

A. Catwoman, Spiderman and Batman


Q. Who will soon be able to travel by air without being frisked?


The Transportation Security Agency's new head, Edmund S. Hawley, recently directed his staff to propose changes in how the agency screens 2 million passengers a day.

I wonder if he calls them his "crack research staff?" But I digress.

The group came up with a set of proposals on August 5 that may or may not go into effect, depending on whether or not Hawley signs off on them.

Among them: no longer would screeners have to pat down "those persons whose outermost garments closely conform to the natural contour of the body."

Spandex and Lycra manufacturers, to your marks....


Though Batman will still have to lose the cape if he wants to fly.

Sara Kehaulani Goo’s front page story in today’s Washington Post reported on the possible upcoming changes to today’s Kafka-esque,


sometimes nightmarish airport security environment.

August 13, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Extra–Long Scissors


Very handy for gift wrapping: the 14"–inch–long stainless steel blades on these scissors will make the holidays — dare I eat a peach as I say it? — a snip.

"Also great for coupon clipping and arts and craft projects."

$4.99 here.

Got you all excited about things extra–long, have I?

Then you're in just the right state of mind to view the next in today's cavalcade of elongated things: the very weird–looking but potentially quite useful extra–long needle–nose pliers below.


Measuring nearly a foot from stem to stern, they feature blue rubber handles for a sure grip and a serrated tip to grab and hold.

"Good for retrieving lost objects, too."

Well, that's not very accurate, is it?

I mean, by definition you can't retrieve something that's lost, only something that's found.

Well, cut the people who write the catalog copy a little slack, OK?

Not everyone can afford a staff of wizards like my crack research team.

The pliers are $8.49 here.


Now comes the most fun part: a great idea.

First off let me say that I didn't think of it.

I was looking through some catalog last week and saw these cheap cutters with interchangeable blades on top and on the bottom... a ruled blade.


Why aren't all cutting tools like scissors and, for that matter, all tools like pliers, wrenches, etc. similarly etched or marked?

Think of how often it would be useful have a handy built–in ruler when you were working on something.

Take this idea and get rich.

Claim it as your own.

I don't want the credit, only that you prosper.

August 13, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

15th Annual World Pizza Championship


It will take place in Salsomaggiore, Italy, on April 3–5, 2006.

About 20 international teams of the finest pizza makers in the world will descend on the little resort spa town south of Milan.

The U.S. will be sending two teams, one sponsored by Pizza Marketing Quarterly.

The competitors in the finals in Italy have made it through a grueling series of national trials; they'll compete in five categories:

1) Fastest pizza maker

2) Largest dough stretch

3) Freestyle pizza tossing

4) Best traditional pizza

5) Best gourmet pizza

Pizza Marketing Quarterly has organized two tours centered on the Pizza Championship.

One is for the pizza–obsessed, the other for those who want to see some of Italy as well.

On the former tour, guests travel with the team and attend the full roster of competitions.

The cost is $2,500 per person double (including round–trip air fare from New York) for either tour.

Information and sign–up here or call 662-234-5481.

You don't have to go with a group, though: the championship is free and open to the public.


If you're interested check out this link to Salsomaggiore's tourism website.

[via Andrea Sachs and the Washington Post]

August 13, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Scotch® Acid–Free Book Tape


Got books?

$3.90 and up a roll here.

August 13, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



What a great website.

I remember once upon a time, when I was driving a gigantic 1969 Lincoln Continental (the slab–sided model with the suicide doors) that I'd purchased for $500, stuff started to fall off or stop working.

It looked just like the one in the picture near the end of this post, a deep green–black color.

First the power motors that adjusted the seats, then other stuff started breaking.

No biggie — I was young and adaptable and the fact that I had to drive in the position the final occupant of the driver's seat had selected before the motor broke wasn't all that great an inconvenience.

The problem was that this was in the early 1980s and you couldn't get replacement parts anymore: they just weren't available.

Well, OK, but then one day something mechanical went out and the car wouldn't run.

I had it towed in to wherever I was taking my car and the guy there said he couldn't get a replacement part because they weren't being made anymore.

I asked him what I should do.

He said find a used replacement part from a junked car of the same model and he'd put it in.

Long story short: I called Leon's Used Auto Parts and Junkyard, a gigantic spread of broken and damaged immobilized vehicles about an hour northeast of Charlottesville on route 29 north.

The guy said he had a car like mine out on the lot.

So I drove up with the broken part and gave it to the guy at the counter, who looked at it silently, turned it over in his hands, grunted, and left the counter to go out back after saying, "Wait here."

Hey, I wasn't going anywhere and I'd cancelled all my appointments for the day (as if).

About a half hour later the guy came back with my part and one that looked just like it.

I paid him whatever it cost and drove back to Charlottesville and gave the replacement part to the mechanic, who said, "That'll work."

It did.

Boy, that was a huge car: it weighed 5,005 lbs. But I digress.

Nowadays I could skip the phone call and the day trip and simply buy the part on this great website.

But hey — don't take my word for it, read what Jason Spitzer had to say about the service, as posted on Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools on July 29.

    Get Used Parts

    Used auto parts online network

    After recently being involved in a minor fender-bender that resulted in a cracked tail light on my Subaru, I found that replacement parts would cost about $300 brand-new.

    A thorough web search confirmed that no lower prices could be found for new parts.

    Then I thought of trying to find the parts from a junkyard, but soon realized that would involve calling all of the junkyards in my area and then traveling to get the part, if one could be found.

    So I did what any person would do in this day and age and searched Google for used or salvaged auto parts and found this website.

    Once I entered in the year, make, model of my car and the exact part I needed, I received a phone call a half hour later from a junkyard in Alabama that had exactly what I needed.

    They sent me the part for $95, including shipping.

    There are several other sites that do essentially the same thing, i.e. use a standardized format to send a parts request to multiple junkyards and salvage lots around the country.

    I use this one because it has the nicest interface and I received the best and fastest quote on the parts I needed.

    One thing I noticed in using these sites is that they all used the same software for selecting the year, make, model of the car and parts needed.

    Some entrepreneurial software company must have identified this niche and they now monopolize the market for this specialized type of software.

You didn't drive that Lincoln: you aimed it.


[via Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools]

August 13, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack



The picture above is pretty compelling, I've got to admit.

It shows how your dryer vent pipe looks before and after a treatment with the LintEater™.

Long story short: the device is a rotary dryer vent cleaner that's "designed for the homeowner by a leading manufacturer of professional duct cleaning equipment."

You attach it to your cordless drill — what, you don't have one? Me neither, but don't let that stop you from reading on — and it reams out the dreck and schmutz from your dryer's vent.

From the website:

    There's a hidden fire hazard in almost every home... it's the dryer vent!

    The buildup of lint over time in your dryer vent poses a potentially dangerous situation.

    Moreover, clogged dryer vent pipes cause you dryer to work harder and can greatly increase the time it takes to dry your clothes.

I must admit, they do give you an awful lot of stuff for your money (below):


• Blockage removal tool

• Self–feeding 4" auger brush

• Dryer adapter for rotary brushing

• Large 2.25" lint trap brush

• Five 36"–long flexible rods that connect to reach in up to 15 feet

• Vacuum adapter to connect to a shop vac or blower for lint removal

What, you don't have a shop vac or blower?

Me neither — just keep plugging along here with me anyhow.

All this can be yours for $39.95 here.

Well, why haven't I ordered yet?

And why don't I plan to anytime soon?

And why, if the company selling the LintEater™ should happen to read this and decide to send me one to try out, will I give it unopened to a neighbor?

Because I like the dryer vent cleaning tools I already have.

I discussed them in this very space last year on December 5.

They are easy to use, they are fun to play with and most important, they won't hurt me.

Hooking stuff like the kit above up to a fancy–pants cordless drill I don't already own is tantamout to a reservation in the ER for me.

No thank you very much.

Instead, I recommend the excellent manual dryer vent tube disimpactor (providing only a pale imitation, no doubt, of the pleasure a pediatric gastroenterologist feels when relieving a child's fecal impaction — but I digress) below.


It's so cool when the fluff comes out.

Trust me, I'm a ....

And you won't feel complete without this handy little accessory:


it's a lint trap brush that enables you to dislodge the stuff you can see so the dryer can blow it out the other end.

The two tools are $12.98 apiece purchased individually, and $21.98 for the set here.

August 13, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The rise of green tea milk


Coming soon to your local supermarket (if you live in Asia): milk in flavors like green tea (above), ginger, rose and honey.

And I guarantee you that they'll wash up on the shores of California not long after that.

Here's a story about the new trend by Cris Prystay; it's from this past Tuesday's Wall Street Journal.

    Milk Industry's Pitch in Asia: Try the Ginger or Rose Flavor

    On a recent afternoon, New Zealand's biggest dairy company gathered its Asia-based marketing directors here for an unusual milk-tasting session. Among the flavors on offer: green tea, rose, ginger and several kinds of honey.

    The mainly Asian tasters decided that one thick honey blend was too Western, says Sarah Kimber, milk innovation manager of New Zealand Milk, a unit of Fonterra Co-operative Group.

    A lighter, sweeter honey milk got higher marks. But ginger "was a real winner," Ms. Kimber says.

    "Almost all Asians use ginger in cooking. It's a taste they're used to."

    Fonterra, one of the world's biggest milk producers, is experimenting with offbeat flavors such as wheatgrass and the aromatic pandan leaf in an attempt to tap into calcium-deprived Asians' growing appetite for milk.

    Asia's $35 billion overall dairy market is expanding 4% annually, according to Euromonitor, a market research firm.

    By comparison, the U.S. market is expanding at a lean 2%.

    Total milk sales in the Asia-Pacific region rose to an estimated $14.7 billion in 2004 from $12 billion in 2001, Euromonitor says.

    Yet Asians (except the Japanese) still consume less milk per capita than almost anyone else in the world -- just 1.3 gallons a year, compared to eight gallons in Latin America and 24 gallons in North America.

    Still, as Asia's middle class grows, so does overall milk sales.

    Like Fonterra, a number of dairy companies are tailoring milk flavors to tempt local palates and are pitching their products as health supplements -- which appeals to many Asians' predilection for traditional medicines.

    As a result, the region's supermarkets are brimming with varieties of milk crammed with extras ranging from the fatty acid DHA (usually found in fish oil and believed to boost children's brain functions) to folates, a type of vitamin B used by pregnant women to promote cell growth.

    "Western consumers see milk as a natural product, and probably don't want too much added to it.

    In Asia, people are into the science.

    The more things you can add, the better," says John McKay, Fonterra's marketing director.

    Asians in developing countries have shied away from drinking milk in part because many of them find it too expensive. Geography and dietary habits also play a role.

    Temperate-climate regions in northern Asia, including Japan and northern India, have dairy industries, so consumers tend to drink lots of milk.

    Tropical climates further south aren't conducive to a flourishing dairy business -- milk-producing cows fare better in milder weather -- so milk isn't a part of local diets.

    To help prod consumers, Fonterra's New Zealand Milk unit arranged for teaching hospitals in Hong Kong and Malaysia to conduct clinical trials to demonstrate that one of its products -- a vitamin-D enriched powdered milk -- offers a bone-building boost.

    The positive results of the studies were printed on the company's milk cartons.

    Asian diets typically contain less calcium than those in the West and osteoporosis -- a decrease in bone density and strength -- is a big problem in the region, according to the World Health Organization.

    Calcium intake is just 500 milligrams or less a day -- half of the recommended 1,000 milligrams, says Edith Lau, a osteoporosis researcher in Hong Kong and president of both the Hong Kong Osteoporosis Foundation and the Asian Pacific Osteoporosis Foundation.

    So Fonterra put two dozen bone scanners in supermarkets across Asia to show consumers their bones aren't as dense as health experts recommend.

    In Thailand, the company recently loaded a scanner onto a mobile "bone bus" and took it to parks and recreation areas in Bangkok where the elderly gather to practice Tai Chi.

    Fonterra's Asian marketing drive -- it sells its products across much of the region -- is helping to lift sales. Asian revenue for New Zealand Milk hit $600 million last year and is increasing 10% annually.

    Other dairy companies have joined the move.

    The Netherlands' Foremost Friesland Co. sells green tea-flavored fresh pasteurized milk in Thailand.

    Japan's Diary Meiji Co. is selling a pandan-flavored fresh pasteurized milk in Singapore.

    And Malaysia Dairy Industries Private Ltd., or MDI, a Singapore company that sells its products across Southeast Asia, sells a drinkable yogurt and wheatgrass combination.

    In the U.S., the best-known milk promotions are aimed at increasing overall milk consumption, but flavored milk has received the spotlight at times.

    The California Milk Processor Board, which came up with the famous "Got Milk" slogan in 1993, issued print ads in 2002 and 2003 for "licuados," a blended Mexican milk-and-fruit drink.

    Still, flavored milk represents less than 10% by volume of the U.S. milk market, says Gary Hemphill of Beverage Marketing Corp., a New York industry consultant.

    Still, he adds, "it tends to be growing at a fairly healthy pace in contrast to the overall market."

    Simply adding popular local ingredients won't guarantee hit milk products.

    MDI's green-tea flavored milk three years ago flopped with local consumers.

    The company was confounded: green tea ice cream is a popular Japanese dessert.

    "It just wasn't a big seller," says Thio Syn Pyn, MDI's deputy managing director.

    It eventually was pulled off the market.

    Asians like their milk a bit thicker and sweeter than do Westerners, says Lim Choo Peng, MDI's general manager.

    Many Asians are lactose-intolerant, so the company breaks the lactose down into its base sugar components, which results in a sweet, low-lactose milk.

    Even MDI's regular liquid milk is lightly scented with vanilla to entice consumers.

    It also sells banana-flavored milk as well as chocolate and strawberry.

    The company, which has tinkered with its milk flavors since the late 1980s, expanded sales in its core market in Singapore to $120 million last year from $60 million in 1994.

    Last year, MDI began producing a drinkable yogurt that is a runnier version of the thick Indian lassi yogurt drinks that are becoming popular in the West -- in an array of fruit flavors, such as mango and strawberry.

    The product was so successful that three months ago MDI began looking for a flavor that would appeal to health-conscious consumers.

    The company zeroed in on wheatgrass, which is mixed into a high-fiber drink sold at traditional Chinese herbal pharmacies and is believed to improve the complexion, reduce weight and blood pressure.

    An MDI employee-tasting panel initially rejected the first version -- a wheatgrass and vegetable yogurt drink -- as too bitter.

    "It was too wheat-grassy. I said, 'You better add some fruit to make it taste better,' " MDI's Mr. Lim recalls telling the research-and-development team.

    The new version, with fruit that includes apples, pineapple, guava and lime, now is MDI's second-best-selling yogurt drink after mango.

    "We struggled during the early years. We didn't have product development and marketing then, and that's been really important," Mr. Thio says.

August 13, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Ring Re–Sizer


You know how your ring doesn't fit anymore?

How it slips and slides on your finger, and how sometimes it catches on things?

Annoying, isn't it?

Well, your troubles — at least those related to ring size — are over.

From the website:

    Ring re–sizers make loose rings fit without costly jeweler's repairs.

    Attach instantly; eliminate slipping, twisting, even losing rings.

    Adjusts to fit any size ring.

    Won't pinch skin, catch clothing or harm rings.

    14K gold electroplate or silvertone.

Specify men's or women's gold or silver.

$2.98 for a set of 4 here.

August 13, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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