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October 21, 2005

Meet Amanda Peet

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How is it that certain stars are appealing while others remain disagreeable, in the minds of the great majority of people?

One of those elusive — albeit, not Eleusinian — mysteries.

Everyone — women as well as men — likes Amanda Peet.

I challenge anyone who doesn't to watch "Saving Silverman," "Whipped," or "The Whole Nine Yards" and then say she still doesn't.

Anyway, Ms. Peet headlines the upcoming fifth annual production of "The 24 Hour Plays" next Monday evening.

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Lawrence Van Gelder featured the upcoming dramafest in his "Arts, Briefly" column in the October 12 New York Times; from his piece:

    The real–life drama starts at 10 p.m. on October 23 [Sunday], when six writers, six directors and 24 actors gather at the American Airlines Theater before the writers go off to a nearby hotel, each to write a 10–minute play.

    At 7 a.m. the next day, the directors return and read the plays, and each chooses one.

    The casts meet at 8 a.m. to read and rehearse.

    At 8 p.m. the curtain rises on the six new productions.

Now, a girl like Amanda Peet doesn't come cheaply — it'll cost you $250 for preferred seating and an invite to the VIP cast party after the show.

There'll be lots of other actors there in case Ms. Peet doesn't float your boat, among them Rosie Perez, Kate Burton, Rachel Dratch, Adam Pascal, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Tracie Thoms, Cheyenne Jackson, Andrew McCarthy, Ben Shenkman, Alan Tudyk, Elizabeth Berkley, Ally Sheedy, Cady Huffman, Kathryn Erbe, Mary Stuart Masterson, Anthony Mackie, Charlotte d'Amboise, Andre Royo, John G. Connolly, William Sadler, and Ashlie Atkinson.

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The American Airlines Theater is at 227 West 42nd Street in New York City; 212-868-4444; www.smarttix.com.

October 21, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Earlarm — 'World's first ear–holding timer alarming device'

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That what it says right here.

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No more nodding off only to wake up alone at the end of the line.

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People tell you to stick it in your ear?

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Ha — you'll have the last laugh

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if you've got one of these nifty devices.

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Which one of the cartoons above from the product's website best characterizes you?

[via AW]

October 21, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Marathon runners are far better off drinking too little water than too much

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Back in April BehindTheMedspeak considered the growing evidence that drinking too much water when exercising is far more likely to kill or injure you than not drinking enough.

That was good timing, what with the Boston Marathon in the air.

But since Gina Kolata of the New York Times, who wrote an article back then on the subject, revisited it yesterday, I figured it must be time for me to do the same.

Long story short: Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, medical director of the upcoming (Sunday, November 6) New York City Marathon, told Kolata, "There are no reported cases of dehydration causing death in the history of world running. But there are plenty of cases of people dying of hyponatremia [drinking too much water]."

If you're going to run a marathon, drink no more than one cup (eight ounces) of water every 20 minutes.

Making things worse for runners is the fact that inexperienced medical personnel may misdiagnose hyponatremia as dehydration and start an IV, in the process creating a life–threatening medical emergency.

Here's Kolata's excellent piece, timed just right for the upcoming race.

    Marathoners Warned About Too Much Water

    Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, the medical director for the New York City Marathon and marathons in San Diego, Phoenix, Nashville and Virginia Beach, said he was taking every opportunity this year to educate runners about the biggest threat to their lives on race day - drinking too much water.

    He knows the danger: in their zeal to avoid becoming dehydrated, runners may end up drinking so much that they dilute their blood.

    Water rushes into cells, including cells of the brain.

    The swollen brain cells press against the skull, and the result can be fatal.

    The resulting condition is known as hyponatremia - too much water.

    "There are no reported cases of dehydration causing death in the history of world running," Maharam said.

    "But there are plenty of cases of people dying of hyponatremia."

    No one knows how many have died, said Dr. Arthur Siegel, the chief of internal medicine at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and the designated hyponatremia team leader for recent Boston Marathons.

    But he said that perhaps a dozen hyponatremia deaths had been recognized, according to informal communications among doctors at recent marathons.

    So this year, for the first time, the participant handbook for runners in the Nov. 6 New York City Marathon tells them how much to drink - no more than eight ounces of water every 20 minutes.

    Maharam also makes sure the message is delivered via television shows that feature news about the marathon.

    He makes an announcement at the start of the marathon about how much to drink.

    And there will be a flier in the goody bags telling each runner, once again, of the dangers of drinking too much.

    Even though Gatorade is one of the sponsors and the race features Gatorade's new sports drink, Gatorade Endurance Formula, Maharam said that sports drinks were no better than water.

    Eight ounces of fluid every 20 minutes is plenty.

    But it is a message that is not always heard.

    Last year, one percent of the more than 35,000 New York City marathoners developed hyponatremia, Maharam said, and although that is a smaller toll than in other cities' marathons, doctors say every one of those life-threatening medical emergencies could have been avoided.

    To make matters worse, medical treatments for hyponatremia are often disastrous.

    Some doctors mistakenly think the runner is dehydrated and give intravenous fluids.

    The extent of the problem may go far beyond the number of runners who have been hospitalized for it.

    A recent study of runners in the 2002 Boston Marathon found that 13 percent who finished the race had hyponatremia.

    And those were runners who thought they were fine and were just participating in a study.

    If such a runner continued to drink after the marathon, perhaps thinking that feelings of nausea and malaise were due to dehydration, the runner could end up with seizures or slip into a coma, doctors say.

    That is what happened to Mark Robinson, a 27-year-old computer programmer from West Roxbury, Mass., who sees his story as a cautionary tale.

    The day of the 2004 Boston Marathon dawned unusually hot.

    The race was on April 19, but the temperature was projected to reach nearly 90 degrees.

    Robinson was concerned.

    It was his first marathon, he had been training for six months, and he wanted to run it in four hours or less.

    "I sweat a lot," he said.

    With weather like that, he worried he might become dehydrated.

    So he tried to make sure he drank enough.

    "I drank more than a gallon of water before the race, and then at every rest stop I would stop and have a couple of drinks of water," he said.

    He was on pace until Mile 19 when, suddenly, he felt nauseous and his legs began to cramp.

    He forced himself to continue, but by Mile 23 he could no longer run.

    "I tried to power-walk it in," Robinson said.

    His parents met him at the finish line, bringing water. He drank two quarts, but he felt worse than ever.

    Not only was he vomiting and having diarrhea, Robinson said, but "I felt spacey, out of it, almost like I was on drugs."

    His parents got a wheelchair and took him to the medical tent, where the person doing triage at the entrance asked if he could stand on his own.

    He could.

    He said he was told, "We have people here who are lying down," and was sent away.

    His parents helped him walk to the subway and took him to their home in Wayland, Mass.

    All the while, Robinson was drinking water and drinking Gatorade and vomiting.

    Robinson said: "I felt completely mentally out of it. It was a strange sensation. Deep down, I knew something really, really wasn't right. It was like a feeling of impending doom. My father wanted me to take a bath, but I didn't want to be alone. I looked at my dad and he was talking and his mouth was kind of going," but, Robinson said, he could no longer hear what his father was saying.

    Suddenly, Robinson screamed, leaped into the air, and fell down on his shoulder, breaking it.

    He lay on the floor, unconscious and no longer breathing.

    His mother called 911 and a helicopter arrived.

    On the flight to Boston Medical Center, Robinson received intravenous fluids; the medical team thought he was dehydrated.

    He ended up in a coma, on life support, and woke up four days later.

    His problem?

    Hyponatremia - poisoned by drinking too much water.

    Robinson still runs, but much shorter distances.

    "I'll never run a long race again," he said.

    And forget marathons, he added.

    "My wife would never give me permission," he said.

    Dr. Paul Thompson, a cardiologist, a marathon runner and a director of the Athletes' Heart program at Hartford Hospital, said: "Everyone's been told to drink water, drink water, drink water. Water companies want you to drink water like a fish. Then you dilute your blood and your brain starts to swell. You have healthy people running marathons and dying. Has the word gotten out? No."

    Even now, more than a year later, Robinson says he is still shaken from his near-death experience after the Boston Marathon.

    "You would never, ever think that water could kill you," he said.

By the way, anyone — regardless of whether you're slow and fat or in tip–top shape — can benefit from Jayne Williams's book, pictured at the top of this post.

Williams isn't young either, but that doesn't prevent her from being hugely amusing, candid and an altogether wonderful read.

Well worth the $11.17 it costs at amazon.

October 21, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mood Shoes

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They call them Marshmallow Skins but I like my name better.

But then, I would.

In a sense, all shoes are mood shoes — I mean, a girl wears the shoes that best express how she feels at that particular moment.

But I digress.

"Unique shoes for the fashion–conscious young at heart."

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Or fashion–con, as they might say in Shibuya.

But I digress yet again.

You get four pairs of shoes for the price of one.

Each box contains 4 sets of different color uppers and a pair of zip–on soles in one of two styles.

"Glittered soles and flowered eyelets."

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The company originally targeted the shoes at girls 4–11 but repeatedly heard adult women — and grandmothers — of girls in their focus groups remark, "I'd not only buy pairs for all my granddaughters, I'd buy a pair for myself."

They took a fresh look and now make their shoes in sizes ranging from a children's 12 to adult size 9.

Way cool.

Want some?

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Contact the company here.

[via AW]

October 21, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

'Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose' — Game theory made practical

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Michael Kinsley wrote a superb Op–Ed piece for the October 12 Washington Post on Thomas Schelling, who won this year's Nobel Prize for Economics.

Kinsley recalled that Schelling taught a class entitled "Games and Strategy" which was his favorite lecture course during his college years at Harvard.

He wrote, "I took the course because it sounded festive, which it wasn't. But under Schelling's spell, the world suddenly looked completely different."

Long story short: Schelling made game theory completely practical.

For example, what's the best way for two kids to divide a candy bar?

Wrote Kinsley, "The answer is easy: I cut and you choose, or vice versa."

The reason: it channels self–interest to serve the general interest.

Just so: anyone with common sense understands that the risk of a bird flu pandemic is far greater because of conditions in poor nations that foster the spread of the virus, and that alleviating poverty is by far the cheapest way to deal with the potentially overwhelming, devastating cost — in both treasure and stability — of a world–wide infectious disaster.

Here's Kinsley's excellent piece.

    A Nobel Laureate Who's Got Game

    So you're standing at the edge of a cliff, chained by the ankle to someone else.

    You'll be released, and one of you will get a large prize, as soon as the other gives in.

    How do you persuade the other guy to give in, when the only method at your disposal - threatening to push him off the cliff - would doom you both?

    Answer: You start dancing, closer and closer to the edge.

    That way, you don't have to convince him that you would do something totally irrational: plunge him and yourself off the cliff.

    You just have to convince him that you are prepared to take a higher risk than he is of accidentally falling off the cliff.

    If you can do that, you win.

    You have done it by using probability to divide a seemingly indivisible threat.

    And a smaller threat can be more effective than a bigger one.

    A threat to drag both of you off the cliff is not credible.

    A threat to take a 60 percent chance of that same thing might be credible.

    This puzzler is dredged up (more or less intact, I hope) from memories of my favorite lecture course in college: "Games and Strategy," taught by Thomas Schelling, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for Economics yesterday.

    The Nobel honors his role as one of the godfathers of game theory.

    Schelling's particular gift has been applying the theory to real life.

    I took the course because it sounded festive, which it wasn't.

    But under Schelling's spell, the world suddenly looked completely different.

    Schelling was never a charismatic figure.

    Short, gaunt and tweedy, with wire-frame glasses, he talked in a slow, slow monotone, stripping away irrelevant detail and exposing situations ranging from the nuclear standoff of the Cold War to a family's decision about what to have for dinner as stark dramas of warring self-interest.

    This was game theory.

    Classical economic analysis generally assumes that we each take the world as we find it.

    We can "maximize" our own "utility" (as economists romantically describe the pursuit of happiness) in any circumstances, but the circumstances are a given.

    Game theory was born to deal with interdependence: situations where what I do depends on what you do, and what you do depends on what I do.

    That, of course, would cover almost all situations.

    For example, what is the best way for two kids to divvy up a candy bar?

    The answer is easy: I cut and you choose, or vice versa.

    Why is this the best?

    Because, like free-market economics generally, it channels self-interest to serve the general interest.

    The cutter will split the bar as close to evenly as possible, because the chooser will get the benefit of any obvious disparity.

    You can apply this kind of thinking to a dozen people dividing a large pie, or 300 million people trying to govern themselves.

    Economics is the social science that is closest to being a real science.

    It starts out with a few plausible assumptions about human motives and behavior (basically, that people act rationally in their own self-interest) and derives from them an impressive array of "laws" about the future.

    Game theory can also be seen as the application of econo-think to non-monetary aspects of life.

    There's nothing economists like better than to show how someone who seems to be behaving irrationally, or at least is marching to drummers unconnected to rationality one way or another, is actually maximizing utility like, well, mad.

    Madness can be wickedly rational.

    If one of those two folks on the cliff can convince the other that he is just a bit nuts, that makes his threat to drag them both off the cliff much more plausible.

    Some defenders of Richard Nixon used to claim that the evidence of insanity that bothered a few Americans was actually a purposeful strategy to enhance the deterrent power of our nuclear arsenal.

    Another favorite game theory anomaly: Weakness is strength.

    If you cannot do something, you cannot be forced to do it.

    A bus driver who cannot open the change box, even at gunpoint, is safer than a bus driver who can.

    During the Cold War nuclear standoff, the challenge for both sides was to make a fundamentally irrational threat seem believable.

    Why would you start a nuclear war when the almost-certain result would be your own national destruction?

    Why would you even reply to a first strike by the other side with a strike of your own?

    The classic game theory insight was that your own safety depended on not being too strong.

    The other side had to be confident that it could survive and retaliate if you went first.

    Otherwise, in a crisis, it would be sorely tempted to go first.

    People associate game theory with nuclear strategy, in part because of the movie "Dr. Strangelove."

    But game theory's real gift is to make all of life seem like a game. Which it is, isn't it?

I've always liked Kris Kristofferson's take on game theory: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose."

October 21, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Burdick Chocolate Ghosts — 'Boo'

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Larry Burdick is perhaps America's premier chocolatier, besides which he's a really nice person.

Lagniappe.

He's created a wonderfully whimsical Halloween chocolate (above and below).

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One taste and you'll never be satisfied with any other chocolate.

One ghost in an beautiful beribboned black box (below)

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costs $3.75 here.

October 21, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

We get email: From Osian Batyka–Williams, designer of the wonderful 'Cutlery Chair'

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Just in 13 minutes ago from London, the following:

    Hi Joe,

    There's no website up and running but would you be able to put my e-mail — thewizardoz@hotmail.co.uk — as a contact?

    Or my phone number which is 00 44 773 433 8301?

    I'd really appreciate it as I'm looking to find customers having just set up my studio.

    Many thanks,

    Osian

Who says there's no tooth fairy?

Osian (above, chillin' in his singular chair) went to sleep Wednesday evening as one of myriad talented young designers striving for the top and awoke yesterday to find himself (almost?) famous.

I'm not the only one to twig to the genius of this man: apartmenttherapy took my Wednesday post and ran with it as soon as it went up.

You GO Osian!

Note: our policy is as it has been since day one re: getting into bookofjoe.

No amount of money will do it — but coolness always makes us open the velvet rope.

October 21, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Junior CIA Agent Secret Dissolving Message Pads

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You know who you are.

These one–time use messaging tools were cleverly hidden in the kitchen section of a home improvement catalog but that's only because stealthy kids like you know very well that you never put secret stuff out there where just anyone can find it.

Heck no — 'hide in plain sight' is one of the first lessons for the young agent–in–training.

"Run them under water or in the dishwasher and the paper disappears, as does the adhesive residue!"

Burn this.

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You get 240 secret message labels for $14.99 here.

October 21, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (52) | TrackBack

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