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October 10, 2005

BehindTheMedspeak: 'Don't Share! Don't Swap!'

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Oh, chill out, will you?

I know this is Version 2.0 and this post is perfectly SFW/Disney–approved/G–rated as always.

The quote in the headline is from the FDA's web page about eye cosmetics.

It's extremely informative and should be required reading/listening for every 10–year–old girl in this country.

At least, you'd catch most of them in time with that age stipulation.

Among the many admonitions about cosmetics you use anywhere in the vicinity of your eyes:

• Keep it clean!

• Hold still!

• Don't share!

• Don't swap!

• Keep away from kohl.

Eyelash dyes can cause blindness.


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October 10, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Clearwave Electronic Water Conditioner — The Ionic Breeze of Things Aquatic (sans Steve Zissou)

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From the same skunkworks that brought us the now legendary Sharper Image Ionic Breeze Ozone Generator–Masquerading–as–an–Air–Purifier comes this iteration, for your water.

From the website:

    Soften Water & Remove Scale From Your Pipes Automatically

    Use less soap, and remove scale from your pipes - continuously, automatically and for only about $5 in electricity a year.

    Clearwave is the most advanced computerized anti-scale device available today.

    Its computer chip is programmed to bombard water passing through your pipe with over 200 different electromagnetic low frequency pulses.

    These electromagnetic pulses have been scientifically proven to increase the electromotive attraction potential of the water to mineral salts.

    The result is that the mineral salts (mainly calcium bicarbonate) stay dissolved in the water instead of converting to insoluble calcium carbonate and attaching to the inside of pipes as scale.

    Existing scale in pipes, water heaters, toilets and faucets begins to soften and dissolve away.

    Recommended for dishwashers, washing machines, coffee makers, and boilers.

You may have noticed that the Sharper Image took it on the chin once again from Consumer Reports last month when the publication gave an emphatic "thumbs–down" to the latest version of the Ionic Breeze with its new anti–ozone feature bolted on.

As always, the Sharper Image said Consumer Reports used the wrong testing methods and measured the wrong things, bla bla bla.

Read more about it here and here.

You will note that nowhere in any of the recent news stories is there any mention of the Sharper Image contemplating legal action against Consumer Reports.

After the company had its head handed to it on a platter the last time it went to court to squelch the trashing of its ineffectual and in fact harmful cash cow, it now apparently has come to its senses and abandoned the scorched earth tactics which only served to make it even more of a laughingstock.

The Clearwave costs $139.99 here.

October 10, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Trulli — 'The White Cones of Puglia'

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Trulli are curious, rounded structures made of pieces of layered rough–hewn limestone wedged into concentric circles without mortar.

Though little–known outside the Italian province of Bari and Taranto, they are so highly regarded that UNESCO has declared the historical center of the town of Alberobello, where a hundred trulli some 500 years old remain, a World Heritage Site.

I first heard of and saw picture of them yesterday when I read Emily Backus's story in this past weekend's Financial Times about the sudden transformation of the region's fortunes.

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Whereas fifteen years ago trulli were given away when land was sold, now they have become objects of desire and are commanding premium prices from Italians who have rediscovered their charms.

Here's the Financial Times story.

    Architectural Highs in Italy’s Heel

    The traditional, rustic cupolas that tuft the countryside of Puglia along the heel of Italy’s boot might seem more fitting to the Land of Oz than an industrialised country.

    Made with rough hewn stones wedged into concentric circles without mortar, these trulli are crowned with an ornamental top piece, usually an orb or a saucer.

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    That is white-washed to match the blindingly white walls on which they squat.

    They sometimes cover just a section of a house or the whole thing, bundled like flint cocktail glasses inverted on table linen.

    Guido Piovene described their visual effect in his book Travels in Italy from the mid-1950s: "The valleys . . . assume a fairytale like appearance, like tents strewn by an exotic army, or fairy homes; and some clusters vaguely resemble rural Kremlins."

    Compared with masserie, another form of renowned stone architecture in the region, trulli are like peasant huts to palaces.

    Masserie usually look like a cross between a villa and a medieval fortress.

    They were great ranch compounds built in past centuries to accommodate landowners of vast, rural estates and their dependants.

    They had to incorporate a village worth of people, animals, tools, supplies, storage, transport, infrastructure and, in many cases, acted as fortifications.

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    It is not clear just when or how the trulli came about.

    With the exception of Alberobello, where a dense district of 1,400 trulli are clumped like molluscs to a hillock, they mainly cropped up in the countryside as rural shelters for farmhands, animals or storage.

    There is some archaeological evidence to support prehistoric origins, though the oldest known trullo only dates back to 1559.

    Legend has it that Alberobello arose in the 1600s under the direction of Count Giangirolamo Acquaviva of Aragon, who invited peasants to create an unauthorised settlement.

    Supposedly, the count made them build trulli, because the mortarless buildings could be dismantled and rebuilt in case of royal inspection.

    The district is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.

    The proliferation of trulli in Puglia is far more recent however, beginning with the breakdown of the Spanish land-owning system in the 18th century and subsequent partitioning of the estates.

    Vast tracts of forest were divided among heirs.

    Plots fell within the reach of farmworkers and middle-class families desiring vacation homes.

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    Trulli were seen as cheap, practical, enduring dwellings of modest dimensions that offered good insulation from climatic extremes, and made use of rocks strewn around the fields and vineyards.

    By the 1970s and 1980s, their discomforts had made them obsolete and often led to them being abandoned.

    However, thanks to an influx of culturally astute, affluent and adventurous out-of-towners, things have changed in recent years.

    "Fifteen years ago, they gave trulli away with the land," says Mario Luigi Convertini, mayor of Cisternino, a local town named one of Italy’s most beautiful villages by the National Association of Municipalities.

    The trulli are now seen as unusual, yet perfect, holiday home makeover candidates, and are therefore commanding premium prices.

    Dora Rizzuti, who lives most of the year in Rome with her husband Vincenzo, inherited a trullo compound because she is a direct descendent of Giuseppe Conti, a local noble who at the end of the 1700s was conceded a large piece of a once immense masseria.

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    Conti’s estate, in turn, was divided among his descendants.

    The Rizzutis’ trullo was built as a vacation home in 1870, and expanded in 1890.

    The compound’s chapel was built by Dora’s great-grandfather to give the farmhands a place to worship.

    The oldest section of the trullo follows a traditional floor plan: the main entrance leads to a central room that serves as a communal gathering space and axis for the rooms that "serve" it, the bedrooms and former kitchen.

    The Rizzutis' central room is decorated with a century-old fresco of a gazebo, a rarity for trullo interiors, which are usually white.

    Dora remembers her family gathering there when she was young, and farmhands helping to keep them fed.

    "There was a wood oven and a chicken coop. They had to be self-sufficient out here. You couldn’t buy bread or pasta, so neighbours gave them as gifts. In the winter, all the vegetables were preserved in oil."

    As fond as Dora was of the old structure and the more rural lifestyle, the Rizzutis decided the trullo was too small and ill-equipped for their leisure needs.

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    But they didn’t want to abandon it so, in 1995, they renovated and enlarged it substantially.

    The central room became the foyer, the kitchen a narrow sitting room with a television.

    They enclosed and tiled the outdoor work area that was once the site of most domestic chores, to turn it into a spacious dining and living area.

    The new kitchen is at least twice the size of the old.

    The Rizzutis say they were careful to respect the original architecture and interiors and create continuity between the old and new parts of the house.

    But the roofs needing repair could not be restored using stones and methods of a bygone era.

    "It is very difficult to build as they once did," Dora says. "It was an art."

    Not all homebuyers are willing to undergo the contortions necessary to render a trullo comfortable.

    That is why other properties left over from the masserie days – larger, more expensive renovation candidates – are also popular.

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    One business executive from Milan and her husband, a prominent lawyer, who asked that their names be withheld for the sake of privacy, bought and renovated a 17th century hunting lodge on a former masseria in the Valley of Itria that had been abandoned for decades.

    Its plain façade, rectangular shape and flat roof matched their own clean, minimalist aesthetic, and they were able to build an ample kitchen, living and dining area, an extra bedroom, bathroom, and a service room all on the majestically vaulted ground floor, originally reserved for sheltering animals.

    The second floor had housed bedrooms and an ancient kitchen for hunters to use, so the latter was transformed into a master bathroom, with a shower where the fireplace had stood.

    Convertini says the influx of upper middle-income owners in Puglia is due mainly to the region’s beauty, unusual dwellings, accessibility – including discount airline flights to nearby Brindisi – and affordability.

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    "The other week I went to an auction where they sold two tiny trulli for €62,000 each," he says.

    But there is also another, more surprising draw, he says: the 20-year-old Bhole Baba Ashram, devoted to the legendary Indian guru Babaji, who mysteriously vanished in 1984 and is purported by some to have lived for 1,700 years.

    "In fact, for the last few years, we’ve begun to capitalise on its activities to attract more tourism," he says.

    The town now organises a spiritual festival in July and another festival in August devoted to screening international films.

    The visitors are affluent, respectful of their surroundings and delighted by the region.

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    And invariably at least a few of them will make their next trip to shop for property.

October 10, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SUV Watch

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You knew it was only a matter of time.

Why drive an SUV when you can wear one?

From the website:

    Navigate your way through the world with the STORM Obligator Watch.

    It's like having a command center right on your wrist!

    Wear a uniquely–designed timepiece that's sure to have people asking, "Oh, my goodness, what is that?"

    It's a durable as a real SUV and its design is unlike any seen before!

    Its 1.5-by-2-inch titanium rectangle features:

    • A one-inch square timepiece with both analog and digital time

    • A light so there's always one at the ready

    • A stopwatch

    • A fully functional compass

    • A thermometer

    Heavy–duty genuine leather band.

    Watches like the STORM Obligator are coveted around the world as trend–setters for the man whose passion for durability and individual style is unmatched.

    Join the many who proudly show they are of a unique character by wearing the STORM Obligator Watch.

Huh.

"Join the many... of unique character...."

I like it: my kind of logic.

$249.95 here.

Full disclosure: I have no idea whether or not Arnold Schwarzenegger receives royalties from the company that makes this formidable wrist paperweight.

October 10, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

We get email: From Arianne Cohen, author of 'Help, It's Broken!: The Fix–It Bible for the Repair–Impaired'

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Just in at 6:13:01 p.m. ET last evening, an email from one Arianne Cohen, an excerpt of which follows:

    Dear Joe,

    I am an enormous fan of bookofjoe: in fact, you could call me a religious reader.

Anyone who comes out of nowhere avowing she is a "religious reader of bookofjoe" and goes on to state that she reads it every morning definitely deserves a second look.

I explored the web space, as Bruce Dickinson might say, of Arianne Cohen (below)

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and found it engaging and forthright, just like her email.

Her new book, pictured up top, is just out, and she was writing to give me a heads–up.

Such things are important because of the enormous handicap I labor under here, to wit: what purports to be my crack research team.

With them you're unlikely to find out that it's raining outside, much less about cool new books.

Anyhow, I went to amazon instanter and purchased a copy of her book for $9.56.

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Maybe it'll have some tips on how to fix my dysfunctional research team 'cause it's been broken since day one.

October 10, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Motion–Activated Electrical Outlet

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You know how, for the past twenty or thirty years, they've being telling us about the "smart home," just around the corner, where you can phone your oven to tell it you're on your way home and by the time you arrive your house will have burned to the ground?

Wait a minute, that's not how it's supposed to work....

But I digress.

Now comes this motion–activated outlet you simply plug in a la Jane and George Jetson.

With this little gadget in place, whenever someone walks by, anything plugged into it will automatically turn on.

Ha — bet you could have plenty of good fun with that....

The power goes off automatically 2–5 minutes after it's been activated (you choose the duration).

From the website:

    A real convenience when you come into the house with an armful of groceries!

    Even use for security with a radio or TV.

    • Hands–free!

    • Detects motion up to 25 feet away

    • Can be adjusted to come on only when light is low (for use with lamps)

    • Leaves lower outlet open for other appliances

$19.50 here.

October 10, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If you buy a coffin, can the manufacturer stipulate where you bury it?

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Oh, so you think I'm just being silly, do you?

Would it interest you to know, then, that in 1873, in the case of Adams v. Burke, a coffin–lid manufacturer went to court in an attempt to restrict where its patented product could be used?

The courts ruled against the manufacturer.

But things might not turn out the same way today.

J. R. Biersdorfer wrote a story which appeared in the October 3 New York Times Business section about a recent decision handed down by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which effectively ruled that companies can legally limit what customers can do with a patented product as long as the company spells out the restrictions and conditions on a package label known as a box–top license.

Most interesting.

Here's the article.

    By Tearing Open That Cardboard Box, Are You Also Signing on the Dotted Line?

    Pay attention next time you rip open a cardboard box - you may be entering into a contract without realizing it.

    A recent decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinforced the right of companies, in this case Lexmark International, the printer maker, to legally limit what customers can do with a patented product, given that the company spells out conditions and restrictions on a package label known as a box-top license.

    Clickable license agreements are common practice in software, where the buyer agrees not to tamper with the code or copy the program.

    But slapping postsale regulations on patented goods could deny buyers the ability to make modifications or seek repairs on other products as well.

    Box-top licenses could also theoretically hinder third parties from offering replacement parts or supplies for fear of a patent-infringement lawsuit (meaning, for example, that a lighter might have to be refueled only with the manufacturer's brand of butane).

    In the lawsuit, the Arizona Cartridge Remanufacturers Association, a trade group of companies that sell refilled printer cartridges, claimed that Lexmark was engaging in unfair and deceptive business practices by promising price discounts on its laser cartridges if the customer promised to return the empty cartridge to Lexmark.

    Lexmark's packaging for laser cartridges sold under this system (called the Lexmark Cartridge Rebate, or the Prebate program) includes a label on the outside of the box stating: "Opening this package or using the patented cartridge inside confirms your acceptance of the following license agreement."

    Cartridges that are not part of the Prebate program and not subject to the restriction are available to customers as well, but without the discount.

    At the time of the case, Lexmark estimated that cartridge returns had increased 300 percent since the Prebate program began.

    Lawyers for the remanufacturers' association argued that Lexmark deceptively suggested that the notice on the outside of the package created an enforceable agreement with consumers to return the used cartridges, and that the promise of a price discount was false because Lexmark could not control prices charged by retailers.

    Lexmark also uses an electronic chip on the cartridges to communicate with the printer, which refuses to operate with cartridges that lack the chip; the association cited that as an unfair business practice.

    The court ruled in Lexmark's favor on Aug. 30, citing the previous case of Mallinckrodt Inc. v. Medipart Inc., a 1992 Circuit Court decision in a medical equipment case that allowed patent owners to limit the use of their products after sale.

    The court also concluded that Lexmark's pricing claims were accurate and that ACRA failed to establish that Lexmark's cartridge chip amounted to unfair competition.

    Some frugal printer owners wondered if the decision would make it illegal to refill their inkjet cartridges at home, a concern that a Lexmark spokesman dismissed.

    "Lexmark's cartridge return program deals exclusively with laser printer toner cartridges. It does not involve any inkjet products," said Tim Fitzpatrick, the vice president of corporate communications for Lexmark, who said that the program almost entirely involved business customers.

    "The court's decision was very specifically about this program," he said.

    Fred von Lohmann, a senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and author of a 2004 amicus brief supporting ACRA, said he was more concerned about future implications of the decision.

    "This certainly sent a very strong message to patent holders generally, and Lexmark in particular, that you can use these labels in order to restrict what your customers can do with the product after they buy it," he said.

    Mr. von Lohmann gave several hypothetical examples of how box-top licenses could be used, including automobile manufacturers who might put a label on a new car stating that by opening the door for the first time, the new owner agreed to use only the manufacturer's replacement parts and to avoid modifying the car.

    "Owners of patents would love to be able to control what you can do with a product after you buy it," he said.

    "That's new. The rule for most of a century has been, 'You buy it, you own it.' "

    Lexmark was recently involved in another lawsuit against a North Carolina-based company, Static Control Components.

    In the case, Lexmark sued under provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to keep Static Control from reverse-engineering Lexmark's cartridge chips so that remanufactured cartridges from other vendors would work in Lexmark printers.

    Static Control ultimately won the copyright fight after the United States Supreme Court declined Lexmark's petition in June.

    Ronald S. Katz, a lawyer for Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, which represented ACRA in the suit, said that while the continuation of Lexmark's return program would not put companies that reclaim and refill laser printer cartridges out of business, "it basically makes it harder for them to compete."

    The trade association, he added, is not pursuing the case further.

    Although legal analysts who followed both lawsuits expressed concerns that Lexmark was trying to create a cartridge monopoly for its printers, the ruling in the Static Control case does allow that company to keep making chips that communicate with Lexmark's printers.

    "This is about customer choice," said Mr. Fitzpatrick of Lexmark.

    "The court has ruled in favor of customer choice."

    A footnote in the court's written opinion stated that the decision would not preclude a consumer from raising challenges to the box-top contract.

    In his supporting brief, Mr. von Lohmann argued that the decision in the medical equipment case, which was cited in the Lexmark case, was wrongly decided.

    "The courts started saying, 'Well, you bought it, you own it - unless they put a condition on it that you agreed to when you bought it,' " said Mr. von Lohmann.

    He cited the 1873 case of Adams v. Burke, in which a coffin-lid manufacturer attempted to restrict where its patented product could be used.

    "The courts correctly said that's ridiculous," Mr. von Lohmann said.

    "When you buy a coffin, you can plant the guy wherever you want. It's none of the patent owners' business once you bought that coffin and where you put it in the ground."

    But would the coffin case have come out differently if the manufacturer had put a label on the outside?

    "That's the concern," he said.

Exactly what it means to own something has always been a subject of fascination to me.

For a long time I thought the best definition I'd ever read of what ownership meant was, "You own something if you can sell it."

But that's not really true, at least not in the United States in October of 2005.

For example, you can't sell your organs.

Yet they would seem to be yours, wouldn't they?

Here the state declares its interests trump yours and so you are forbidden to do what you like with what is, after all, totally within your possession.

Strange world.

If you haven't already twigged, my political and philosophical inclinations make the Libertarian Party look like Focus on the Family.

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

Safe Shower Temperature Gauge — 'The water will never be too hot or too cold, but always just right'

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Designed with Goldilocks in mind.

Who knew how dangerous it was to take a shower?

From the website:

    How many times have you been burned by scalding-hot water or broken something falling away from freezing-cold water?

    Our Safe Shower Temperature Gauge guarantees you will know when the water is just right.

    With the Safe Shower Temperature Gauge, you will always know when it's safe to enter the shower so you won't fall and break your hip.

    The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house.

    That's why there's a market for grab bars, bath mats and guard rails.

    But what about a way to protect yourself from water that's too hot or too cold?

    You have to touch it, and you might get burned.

    Or you might get in while it's still too cold, jump back, fall down and seriously injure yourself.

    You won't with the Safe Shower Temperature Gauge.

    After attaching it to your shower (no wiring needed — it's as easy as screwing in a light bulb), you will know the temperature, from 32-158°F, so you won't get hurt.

    You can even program the Safe Shower Temperature Gauge to sound an alarm if the water exceeds a certain temperature.

    It's perfect for the elderly and the small child who don't realize the water temperature until it's too late.

    The Safe Shower Temperature Gauge is also waterproof and comes with a clock so you'll know if you're spending too much time in the shower.

    And it will indicate when the battery is low.

    With the Safe Shower Temperature Gauge, the water will never be too hot or too cold, but always just right.

Hey — just like you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, I don't need a clock to tell me when I'm spending too much time in the shower.

I'm quite aware of the elapsed time, thank you very much.

In fact, spending too much time in the shower is one of those small pleasures that make everyday life that much more pleasant.

Gfc

$19.95 here.

October 10, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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