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August 14, 2005

Reading in bed at night

Readinginbed_4

Sometimes the stars and planets are in alignment and you know it's a sign.

It happened yesterday.

First came the comment at 9:58 a.m. from the wonderfully named Joeseppe Bonaventura about my November 1, 2004 post entitled "Reading in bed — the search for the Holy Grail of reading lights continues...."

His comment is very entertaining and you can read it for yourself but in case you don't have the energy here's the first sentence: "How much progress since December 2004?"

Joeseppe — like me and many other readers — is still searching for that perfect bedtime reading light.

He tried a spelunker's headlamp but apparently "the love of his life" didn't find it very appealing and went nuts when she saw it.

Not in a good way, related Joeseppe.

Well, that was event #1.

Event #2 happened yesterday (Saturday) afternoon when I finally got around to Friday's Wall Street Journal.

Now, before you ream me a new one let me say I know this unacceptable behavior on my part.

I know very well that part of my deal here with you is that I am to have read all six of my morning newspapers before beginning that day's blog posts.

I failed.

Give me ten more.

Anyway, the Wall Street Journal's Elizabeth Blackwell ordered a selection of five bedtime reading lights, then tested them all and ranked them.

Without further ado, her story and accompanying ordering information. (I will resume my narrative following her piece.)

    Lighting Up the Page

    There's nothing like settling into bed with a good book -- until you get the evil eye from a sleepy spouse.

    Can this marriage be saved?

    Maybe with a good book light.

    Like cellphones and TV screens, book lights have gotten slimmer and sleeker in recent years.

    The newest generation uses LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, which last longer -- most manufacturers claim they last about 100,000 hours -- and remain cooler than standard iridescent bulbs.

    Zelco, the company that introduced the original Itty Bitty Booklight in 1982, started selling a LED model in 2002; it now makes up 20% of the company's book light sales.

    Levenger's LED LightWedge, also introduced in 2002, is now responsible for almost 70% of that company's book-light sales.

    But does the high-tech advance make it any more enjoyable to read in bed?

    We ordered five book lights from major retailers and tested them under real-life conditions -- late at night, in a dark room, with a variety of books and magazines -- to see whether the lights were easy to use and illuminated the pages well.

    We also put each book light through the "sleepy spouse" test.

    Bright light causes the brain to think that it's still daytime, delaying sleep, says Dr. Clete A. Kushida of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

    To make the grade, a book light had to keep the rest of the bed and the room dark.

    We were intrigued by Levenger's LightWedge ($24), a flat pane of illuminated plexiglass that rests on top of the page.

    While it provided just the right amount of reading light, we found it annoying to have to move the LightWedge (below)

    Lt0480e_0904

    every time we turned the page; it also made the book slightly heavier.

    Size was also a problem: We tried the paperback version (the site sells a $34 model for hardcovers), which was too small when we switched to a hardback book.

    The $15 Brookstone Pop-Up Booklight (below)

    Uykkjfg

    impressed us at first with its one-touch, automatic opening, and we liked how easily it clips onto the book. But then we found we couldn't adjust the arm -- a huge drawback.

    The LED bulb also protruded slightly at the bottom, sending light well beyond our reading area.

    Hammacher Schlemmer's $25 Over-Ear Book Light (below)

    67774eps_1

    operates much like those new phone headsets that slip over the ear.

    The plastic hook initially kept slipping back and forth along our ear, but after some adjusting it targeted light right where we needed it.

    However, the light shone in a circle with a distracting blue edge, rather than illuminating the whole page. It also had a tendency to slip off when we shifted position.

    Initially, we considered the Flexi Lite Bookmark from Magellan's (below)

    Kuygh

    a dud -- the light, perched on top of a flat, rubber bookmark, glared right into our face when we tried to read.

    It was only after we went back to the Magellan's Web site that we realized the top was adjustable.

    Once we folded the light down toward the page, it was enough to make both pages of an open book readable without distracting a nearby sleeper.

    For overall convenience and ease of use and at just $10, it's our Best Value.

    Zelco's Itty Bitty Booklight (below)

    Ukhb_

    is already a design classic -- this year, it was added to the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection.

    The gray-and-silver LED edition ($30) looks sleeker than the white original model, but it's still easy to use, with a sturdy clip that keeps it anchored to the top of the book and an arm that adjusts so that light is spread evenly across the pages.

    We especially liked the round canopy covering the LED bulb, which kept light focused down. The light quality and easy adjustments make it our Best Overall.

    * * *

    Zelco
    Itty Bitty Booklight LED Edition
    $30
    800-431-2486
    zelco.com

    Quality: Best Overall. Sturdy clip keeps it anchored to top of book. Arm is easy to adjust so light can be centered in middle of the page. Sleek metallic design looks cool enough to leave out on a nightstand.

    Shipping Cost/Time: Paid $7.50 for FedEx ground shipping, and the light arrived in three days.

    Return Policy: No returns; replacements were offered for defective merchandise.

    Phone/Web Experience: We weren't informed of the no-return policy when we placed our order. It was hidden away in the "Customer Service" section of the Web site.

    Comments: Requires four AAA batteries (not included), for an estimated 12-14 hours of reading time. When we placed our order, the Web site suggested buying a $10 110V adapter as a "related item."

    * * *

    Magellan's
    Flexi Lite Bookmark
    $9.85
    800-962-4943
    magellans.com

    Quality: Best Value. The flexible rubber bottom of this booklight/bookmark slips between the pages of a book to hold it in place. Lamp at top bends easily but light is somewhat dim for nighttime reading.

    Shipping Cost/Time: We paid $14.95 for rush shipping (2-3 business days); the light arrived in 2 days.

    Return Policy: Returns accepted for refund or credit with no time limit. Return mailing label included.

    Phone/Web Experience: Web-site listing includes alternate photos that allowed us to zoom in for a close-up look. Shoppers can also click on icons for product manuals and technical specifications.

    Comments: Two button-cell batteries included (estimated to last about 20 hours). The book light arrived without instructions, so we were initially confused about how to use it.

    * * *

    Hammacher Schlemmer
    Effortless, Over-Ear Book Light
    $24.95
    800-543-3366
    hammacher.com

    Quality: Model slips over ear, targeting light more specifically than others we tested; it lit about a paragraph. Earpiece takes adjusting to fit snugly.

    Shipping Cost/Time: We paid $16.90 for premium shipping, which arrived the next day.

    Return Policy: Full refund or exchange with no time limit. Company provides return-mailing label.

    Phone/Web Experience: Web site indicated the item was available for immediate shipping even before we placed our order.

    Comments: Requires one AAA battery (estimated to last 25 hours). Confusingly, the product arrived in packaging labeled "I-Sight Book Light."

    * * *

    Levenger
    LightWedge Paperback
    $24
    800-544-0880
    levenger.com


    Quality: Flat pane of illuminated plexiglass rests on top of the page. Lights up entire page of a paperback, but must be shifted from page to page while reading.

    Shipping Cost/Time: We paid $20 for rush delivery (2-4 business days); it arrived on the third day.

    Return Policy: Returns accepted for exchange, refund or credit with no time limit.

    Phone/Web Experience: Web site had best selection of reading lights. Larger, hardback LightWedge ($34) was on backorder, but company says it is now back in stock.

    Comments: Requires four AAA batteries for an estimated 40 hours. Batteries were a very tight fit to install and extremely difficult to remove.

    * * *

    Brookstone
    Pop-Up Booklight
    $15
    800-846-3000
    brookstone.com

    Quality: Automatic pop-up feature of this clip-on light is fun to watch. But once open, the arm can't be adjusted. Light only covered top half of page.

    Shipping Cost/Time: We paid $14.53 for rush shipping (price varies by zip code). It arrived the next day.

    Return Policy: Return within 60 days for refund; thereafter, only exchange or credit is offered.

    Phone/Web Experience: Item took a little while to track down. ("Lighting" was the last of many categories in the "Home & Office" section.)

    Comments: Takes two button-cell batteries (included). Orders can be tracked automatically via the company's 800 number.

Well.

Blackwell's article is nicely written and sounds authoritative and you might well be inclined to spend $30 on the Zelco Itty Bitty Booklight LED Edition, which she ranked Best Overall.

Alas, Best Overall from the sad crowd she evaluated is like choosing the best lame horse: you're not gonna win the Kentucky Derby with it.

Let's run through her five candidates.

Two of them I've wasted my own money on and the other three I'd never buy based on their specs and design.

I tried and have in my closet, in the box reserved for failed reading lights (it contains around 15 devices I've purchased over the years, each and every one a flop) both the Hammacher Schlemmer Effortless Over–Ear Book Light and the Magellan Flexi Lite Bookmark.

Both are failures from the get–go because they're too dim: each has only one LED.

Let me cut to the chase: a satisfactory bedtime reading light is going to need a minimum of 4 LEDs.

Any less and you won't be able to read comfortably for long.

Now, back to the final three in Journal's survey.

The Levenger LightWedge was recommended to me by several joeheads after my November 2004 post.

I told them what seemed obvious to me: it was dead on arrival because it required the reader to move the thing from side to side after each page.

Not exactly what I call conducive to a relaxing bedtime read.

Blackwell agreed, and wrote, "We found it annoying to have to move the Lightwedge every time we turned the page."

She found the Brookstone Pop–Up Booklight unacceptable because of its inability to be adjusted and failure to light an entire page.

I could've told her that would happen: the feeble thing's only got 1 LED.

Finally, her choice of the Zelco as Best Overall: as I noted above, it's the best of a bad bunch.

Why?

It's only got a feeble two LEDs.

Unacceptable.

No, Joeseppe and everyone else who's hoping for an epiphany at bedtime, I'm sorry but I don't have it for you.

I will tell you this, though: the person who invents a good bedtime reading light will become richer than Croesus.

August 14, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

EZ–Poly™ Concrete Crack Filler

Ezcrete

Excellent invention: instead of all the nonsense with mixing bowls and sticks and the mess afterward, this product is concrete–in–a–bag.

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To use it you just squeeze the bag to mix up the two separated substances within.

    First 5 minutes, it's liquid and gets into the smallest cracks.

    10 minutes and it's ideal for spreading and vertical applications.

    20 minutes and you can shape or carve it.

    60 minutes and it's knife–trimmable.

    2 hours, hard enough to walk on, drill, cut, shave, paint or glue to itself.

    24 hours and it's fully cured, with 3,100 PSI compressive strength.

    No toxic fumes or volatile chemicals; nonflammable and non–combustible.

Tell you what, this stuff will save somebody's bacon for sure.

Ezcrete3

6 oz. costs $9.95 here.

August 14, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Car Whisperer — Listen in on conversations in nearby cars

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Ivan Berger, in today's New York Times, wrote about a remarkable invention called the Car Whisperer from the Trifinite Group in Europe which lets you listen in on conversations in passing cars with Bluetooth setups.

Even more amazing is that the system can be configured to overhear cars up to nearly a mile away.

So the next time a car passes you, with everyone in it laughing and pointing at you, consider that they might not be drunk or drug–crazed but, rather, listening in on your inane chatter.

Ha.

Berger wrote, "While it could be used to deliver compliments to a fellow motorist ('Nice ride!'), it would also be possible to insult the driver or make a lewd proposition."

Here's Berger's story.

    Miss Manners Wouldn't Approve: Snoops Bug the High-Tech Car

    Don't be too sure your car is an island of privacy.

    Under certain circumstances, outsiders can eavesdrop on conversations among you and your passengers if your car has a built-in Bluetooth telephone link.

    Bluetooth provides a low-power wireless connection between your cellphone and your car - it permits hands-free conversations through a speaker and microphone built into the vehicle, or with a headset - and it may be vulnerable to amateur eavesdroppers.

    At a recent computer security convention in the Netherlands, a group of European wireless-security experts called the Trifinite Group demonstrated a system that lets a laptop user listen to conversations in passing cars with Bluetooth setups.

    The system, which Trifinite calls the Car Whisperer, also lets the user talk to people in these cars.

    While that could be used to deliver compliments to a fellow motorist ("Nice ride!"), it would also be possible to insult the driver or make a lewd proposition.

    Using a laptop computer with a Bluetooth transmitter and a software program (available at www.trifinite.org) that runs under the Linux operating system, the Car Whisperer has a range of 300 feet, some 10 times that of Bluetooth hands-free systems.

    The range can be extended to nearly a mile by adding a directional antenna.

    The system was developed not to create mischief but to head it off, said Martin Herfurt of Salzburg, Austria, a co-founder of Trifinite and inventor of the Car Whisperer, by showing manufacturers how vulnerable some of their products are.

    "Unless you can demonstrate the problem," Mr. Herfurt said in an e-mail message, "they may not recognize that it exists."

    The security loophole exists only in setups that do not follow the recommendation of the industry consortium that sets Bluetooth standards.

    Bluetooth devices can talk to one another only if they share a secret passcode.

    While this code can be up to 128 bits long, the equivalent of a 16-character string of letters and numbers, most are shorter.

    The Bluetooth consortium recommends eight-character passwords, allowing nearly three trillion potential codes.

    A computer could try them all, but by that time a moving car would be far out of range.

    Many manufacturers' codes are just four digits long and consist solely of numerals.

    Such passcodes have only 10,000 potential values and can be cracked relatively quickly.

    Worse, some manufacturers use a single passcode, like 1234 or 0000, over and over.

    If you are shopping for a hands-free Bluetooth speakerphone system, or a car equipped with one, you should look for one with a confirmation button that must be pressed to initiate a phone connection, Mr. Herfurt said, adding, "A button press cannot be performed by an external attacker."

    Mr. Herfurt added that you should change your car's passcode from the factory default, if the system permits, and that you should keep the phone turned on and linked to Bluetooth.

    "The system can only communicate with one device at a time," he said.

    A system that communicates with other cars could be used to pass useful traffic data to drivers behind you.

    When traffic slows, for instance, cars might automatically tell the vehicles behind them, giving drivers a chance to exit or slow down to avoid a crash.

    This is not the first time privacy issues have arisen in cars with high-tech connections.

    It is possible to eavesdrop on people in a car that has a telematics service with a phone connection, like General Motors' OnStar (which is also offered on some non-G.M. models) or Mercedes-Benz's Tele Aid.

    But listening in through such systems requires the cooperation of the companies providing the service, and they will not cooperate unless they receive a court order. Such orders have been issued at least once, in a 2001 F.B.I. investigation in Las Vegas, but were overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

    What are Bluetooth's other vulnerabilities?

    Despite reports circulating a few months ago, it is not true that a Lexus picked up a virus through a wireless link.

    Though cellphones can catch viruses, they are rarely linked to a car's vital computers.

    But the concern behind such rumors is logical: any electronic device connected to the outside world is potentially vulnerable.

August 14, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Magnetic Parts Bowl

P3540b

No, not another in the seemingly endless parade of new, bizarrely–named holiday season college football bowl games but, rather, a clever and useful invention for the person who's always losing her or his marbles — stainless steel version.

    From the website:

    This clever dish works two ways: it clings to any metal surface and it holds onto any metal objects you place inside.

    Perfect for holding auto parts under the hood or pins and needles in the sewing room.

    Cushioned bottom protects painted surfaces.

6" diameter.

$7.99 here.

Not recommended for use as a hat if you have a metal plate in your skull.

August 14, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Bibliotherapy

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Bibliotherapy — prescribing books instead of medications for depressed people — has been approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, a British health agency, since last December.

Jeanne Whalen brought it to my attention with her article which appeared in this past Tuesday's Wall Street Journal.

Long story short: bibliotherapy is cheap, fast and often works.

Doctors and therapists say that part of the power of the technique lies in actually writing down the book's title on a prescription pad just as if it were a drug.

This makes patients more likely to take it seriously, follow through and buy and read the book prescribed.

Libraries are stocking up on the books most frequently prescribed, largely self–help titles.

I'm all for it.

Once upon a time, in a city on the left coast, I spent a couple years working as a family doctor.

I couldn't take it.

The reason?

95%+ of the patients I was seeing were in my office not because they had anything physically wrong with them but, rather, because they were bored, tired and/or depressed.

A doctor — especially one who's free because visits are completely covered by your company's health plan — is a pleasant diversion from work or home or family or whatever it is that's making you miserable.

After a couple years doing the general practitioner thing it became clear to me that I didn't really want to hear patients tell me why they were miserable, day after day after day.

Every night I'd go home and just sit, depressed by the endless litany of troubles I'd listened to all day.

So I went into anesthesiology where it's wham, bam, thank you ma'am as I slam home the drugs and the patient falls silent, asleep and paralyzed for the duration.

Now that's medicine. But I digress.

Of course bibliotherapy won't work if a person is really depressed, but it won't make them worse and they won't be able to read a book anyway if it's that bad: I have been there and done that — on more than one occasion.

Depression_2

I'm reminded, for no reason in particular but that it's book–related, of Jeanette Winterson's wonderful remark about her mother.

Winterson said that her mother was extremely put off and unhappy by her habit of reading so much when she was growing up; said her mother, "The trouble with books is that you can't tell what's in them."

So great.

On a related note, it has always interested me that looking at a jumble of computer code cannot tell you whether it's going to show a lovely landscape or a horrific murder scene: all code is unemotional on its face.

There is something much deeper here but I am not even close to being smart enough to begin to unravel it.

My thought, though, for what it's worth is, is it possible to predict the appearance of a digital photo from its computer code?

Here's the Wall Street Journal article.

    For Mild Depression, British Doctors Prescribe Books

    When some British doctors see a patient with mild to moderate depression or anxiety, they pull out their pads and prescribe a self-help book.

    Under a new program in more than a dozen counties across the United Kingdom, patients take the prescription to their local library, where they check out reserved titles such as "Overcoming Depression" and "The Feeling Good Handbook."

    Doctors say they began prescribing books out of concern that too many depressed people were either being medicated too hastily with antidepressant drugs like Prozac or going untreated.

    They also saw it as a cost-saving strategy.

    The state-run health-care system here couldn't afford one-to-one counseling for everyone -- waiting lists can run up to 18 months -- leaving medication or no treatment the remaining options.

    The programs, called "bibliotherapy" or "guided self-help," were endorsed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, a British health agency, in December.

    The agency warned of "overuse" of antidepressants in patients with mild depression and recommended that doctors try guided self-help or other kinds of counseling before medication.

    Bibliotherapy raises some concerns.

    Some patients fail to check out or read the books and fall through the cracks.

    And, in a few cases, severely depressed people have been directed to the self-help program when more serious treatment was needed, counselors say.

    Concerns about overuse of antidepressants -- and about how to treat the growing depression burden in general -- have been voiced in many countries, including the U.S., making the British experiment a test case for others to watch.

    "Until recently the only thing available to a physician was to write a prescription for a drug. What this does is give the physician two prescribing pads," says Neil Frude, a Cardiff University psychologist who started the self-help-book trend by setting up a program in Wales three years ago.

    Bibliotherapy, he adds, also frees up busy counselors to deal with more seriously depressed or mentally ill patients.

    In Britain, the National Heath Service covers everyone's medicines and doctor visits, free of charge.

    Bibliotherapy has been used to treat thousands of patients so far and could within a few years reach up to a quarter of a million patients nationwide, Mr. Frude estimates.

    Most cases of depression and anxiety are diagnosed at the general physician's office, where the average visit in Britain lasts just seven minutes.

    In nearly 100 physicians' offices in Devon, a county in southwest England, doctors now send mildly to moderately depressed patients down the hall to a mental-health worker, who tries to determine the core problem.

    1563084074

    Then the mental-health worker prescribes a self-help book and meets four more times with the patient to discuss the book and its exercises and ensure that the treatment is working.

    Sami Al-Haboubi, a 23-year-old mental-health worker in Devon, lets patients talk about what's troubling them and asks a list of 14 questions that help score the person's level of depression or anxiety.

    One woman says she came to see Mr. Al-Haboubi recently for panic attacks brought on by a stressful work environment.

    The attacks would leave her hyperventilating and feeling she couldn't cope with anything.

    The woman had struggled with depression, including suicidal thoughts, in her teens and had taken Prozac but says she didn't want to go on medication again for the panic attacks.

    "The doctor told me I could go to counseling, but there would be a wait, or that Sami could help me quickly," she said in a phone interview in which she asked to remain anonymous.

    Mr. Al-Haboubi prescribed "Overcoming Anxiety" by Helen Kennerley.

    Some of the book's suggestions for dealing with panic -- including breathing and muscle-relaxation exercises -- helped calm some of the woman's symptoms, she says.

    The book gives people space to record times that they experience negative thoughts and explains how to keep those thoughts in check.

    The woman had four visits with Mr. Al-Haboubi and says she found this crucial to her therapy.

    Over time, her panic attacks lessened and she says she's looking into more long-term counseling to better understand the deep-seated causes.

    Mr. Al-Haboubi isn't a fully trained counselor -- Devon's mental-health workers have undergraduate degrees in psychology or a related field and take an additional one-year training course that qualifies them to administer bibliotherapy.

    Mr. Al-Haboubi keeps a stack of self-help books and his laptop in the trunk of his car, traveling among three doctors' offices to meet patients.

    Many of the books are from the "Overcoming" series published by London-based Constable & Robinson Ltd., including "Overcoming Panic" and "Overcoming Childhood Trauma."

    During the first session, Mr. Al-Haboubi says, he explains to patients that "what they're going to get is not what people typically think of as counseling -- it's not ongoing, it's not just us sitting here talking. We use self-help books," he says.

    He emphasizes that some of the onus will be on the patient working through the book and its exercises with Mr. Al-Haboubi as a guide.

    Because he writes down the book prescription, patients are more likely to take it seriously and get the book, he says.

    If a patient doesn't follow through, he says he reminds them that he can't do much for them if they won't do the reading.

    In other regions like Wales, where books are prescribed without follow-up visits, doctors and counselors acknowledge they don't even necessarily know when patients don't fill the prescription.

    Libraries are stocking up on the prescribed books, and some patients are also buying them.

    Constable & Robinson says world-wide sales its most popular "Overcoming" books will grow 20 percent to 25 percent this year thanks to bibliotherapy, with most of those sales coming from Britain.

    Dr. Frude says other publishers are also vying to get on the lists of approved books, which doctors in each region generally compile.

    Paul Farrand, a psychologist at the University of Plymouth and head of the Devon program, says bibliotherapy has led to "significant improvements" for patients.

    He acknowledges that sometimes patients in need of more serious treatment are wrongly referred to the self-help scheme but says that in those cases the mental-health worker refers the patient back to the physician.

    Mr. Al-Haboubi says he has had to stop his sessions a few times to call in the physician out of concern that a patient was at risk of self-harm or suicide.

    Mr. Al-Haboubi also sees patients who are taking antidepressants.

    One recent patient says he was putting so much pressure on himself to perform his job perfectly that he would become hugely stressed over the slightest mistake and end up quitting.

    The cycle had left the man depressed and out of work.

    His doctor prescribed antidepressants, which he says made him feel better within a few weeks, and sent him to Mr. Al-Haboubi, who realized the man had a self-esteem problem and prescribed "Overcoming Low Self-Esteem" by Melanie Fennell.

    The patient has taken a less-stressful job and says he is feeling better.

August 14, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Femme Media Storage

1htjktg

Dress up your digital data with pastel polypropylene CD cases (above).

Pink, purple, blue or green. (Clear if you insist.)

40¢ each here.

But perhaps mademoiselle prefers something in a polystyrene?

No problema (below).

2hjfguyg

Pink, purple, orange, green or clear.

48¢ apiece here.

OK, then, that takes care of music: let's move on to video, shall we?

Your videotapes will be happy in their stylish new homes (below).

3ygjfu

In pink, green, yellow or blue.

$1.49 here.

And, last but not least, your DVDs.

Matching pink, green, yellow or blue cases (below).

4hgjy

88¢ each here.

Nothing is too trivial — or too grand — for bookofjoe.

August 14, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jack Ma is my Chinese doppelgänger

Photo483

Who's Jack Ma (above)?

You'll find out soon enough but for those who'd rather do it now than later: he was called "China's accidental internet champion" in a Financial Times headline yesterday.

Long story short: Ma is the founder and CEO of Alibaba, China's leading e-commerce website.

Yahoo this past week gave him $1 billion in cash and its Chinese operations in exchange for a 40% stake in Alibaba.

Now you know who Jack Ma is.

But what does any of that have to do with me?

In the Financial Times story, Ma was revealed as a technodolt just like yours truly — maybe even worse, though that's really hard to believe as there's very little downside from my extremely limited technical capabilities.

In his article, reporter Mure Dickie quoted Ma as follows: "I know nothing about computers. All I can do is send and receive emails. I can't even use a digital camera."

Ma, a former teacher who's 40, began his company nearly a decade ago after he stumbled across the internet nearly by accident while on a visit to the U.S.

He credits his success partly to his lack of digital savvy.

Dickie wrote, "Mr. Ma says that if he is comfortable with an Alibaba service, then it is simple enough for the small and medium–sized enterprises that make up most of the website's users."

Where have we heard this before?

I hate to beat a broken drum yet again but when I have to return my Motorola Razr phone because I can't even begin to figure out how to use it; when I still find RSS a completely incomprehensible mystery; when I have to hire someone — at great expense — after I buy an Apple PowerBook and Airport base station to set the devices up so that they work and I can use them; when I find podcasting way too difficult and far too complex to even consider trying it — then guess what: the same is true for 99% of computer users and 100% of those who won't use computers because they fear seeming incompetent and stupid.

It's the designers and their technology that's incompetent and stupid — 100% of the time.

I am the canary in the internet coal mine.

I could save companies and individuals millions of dollars if they simply ran their crapola by me before dropping it on the unsuspecting public like frozen waste from an airplane lavatory, the euphemistically named "blue ice."

Hey — the computer and telecom hardware and software emerging daily is nothing but garbage — blue ice — 99% of the time.

Because if the intended end–user can't turn it on and make it work the first time without frustration, it's a failure.

Period.

Oh, yeah, one other thing: still think I'm out of line re: my thoughts on the upcoming Chinese century?

August 14, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tire Knocker

P7390x

"Use for thumping truck tires among many other uses."

18" long, made of "sturdy hickory."

Does anyone out there know if truck drivers really use this — for the purpose of knocking tires?

I'd never heard of the device nor seen one before I happened on it in a catalog this morning.

"A nylon cord is provided to secure tool to your hand."

$4.99 here.

August 14, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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