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November 25, 2005

'The last time I was with Max, blue light shot from his third eye'


That's precisely what Jewels Crowe–Muñoz told Peter Carlson of the Washington Post, who wrote about Max the Crystal Skull (above) in a scintillating story that appeared on the front page of the November 20 Washington Post Style section.

Long story short: Max is an 18–pound piece of quartz crystal carved in the shape of a human skull.

Its owner/minder, JoAnn Parks (above), a 63–year–old grandmother from Houston, Texas, received it from a dying Tibetan lama in the 1970s.

She learned after his death, from a man referred to her by a UFO organization, that Max was a 3,000–year–old "pre–Mayan, pre–Aztec" relic with mystical powers.

Here's the story.

    Thinking With A Clear Head

    Meet Max. A Mentor, Yes, And He's Quite the Hunk.

    Wrapped in a leopard-print coat and a salmon-colored scarf, Jewels Crowe-Muoz walked into the TeleSpectral Living Light Center in Gaithersburg on Friday, eager to see Max.

    "I love Max," she says.

    "The last time I was with Max, blue light shot from his third eye and I had a download of information."

    Max is out on the porch, perched atop a rabbit skin on a makeshift altar, surrounded by crystals and plants and a statue of an angel.

    Max the Crystal Skull is an 18-pound piece of quartz crystal, carved in the shape of a human skull, complete with eye sockets and perfectly straight teeth.

    Max's owner, a Texas housewife named JoAnn Parks, says Max is more than 3,000 years old and possesses mystical powers.

    Right now, Max is busy, meeting with a woman who paid $55 for a half-hour session with him.

    So Crowe-Muoz has to wait.

    She takes off her leopard coat, revealing a necklace made of beads as big as Ping-Pong balls.

    She sits on a couch in the living room of the TeleSpectral Center, which doubles as the suburban home of Jim and Sandy Young, who do "angelic readings" and host an "AngelicTalk" cable access TV show in Montgomery County.

    "I feel as though I have had a personal experience with Max," says Crowe-Muoz, who says she is "over 50" and is a "master hypnotherapist" from Wheaton.

    "On the way over here," she continues, "I already felt his resonance. I'm in a slightly altered state now, and I'm getting some communication. I feel it's an 'old friends' communication. It's a type of mentor energy."

    Soon, the porch door opens and Sherry Dmytrewycz emerges from her session with Max.

    "I feel an increased energy," says Dmytrewycz, 58, a "spiritual counselor" and "intuitive energy consultant" from Centreville.

    "It's almost like I'm sitting on a huge vibrator. The energy leaves you just, like, trembling."

    During the session, Sandy Young, who translates angelic messages professionally, translated Max's messages for Dmytrewycz.

    "According to Max, I've had past lives with him," Dmytrewycz says, smiling.

    "I have been with him before in other lifetimes."

    There's a story behind Max the Crystal Skull and JoAnn Parks is eager to tell it, but she warns that it'll take a while.

    "Hollywood knows this story," she says. "One of these days, they'll make a movie."

    She's 63, a short, white-haired woman wearing a turquoise blouse over a black turtleneck.

    She says she's a perfectly normal Houston grandmother, married to a guy who makes custom furniture.

    "I was raised a mainstream Lutheran," she says.

    "I'm not a guru or a shaman. I'm just me."

    She got Max from a "healer" she met in Houston when her daughter was dying of cancer in the 1970s.

    The healer was an American, she says, a former undercover agent who became a Tibetan lama while he was in the federal Witness Protection Program.

    The lama got Max from a Central American shaman.

    He brought the crystal skull back to Houston and, Parks recalls, he "used to chant and talk Tibetan to it."

    In the late '70s, before he died, the lama gave the skull to Parks.

    "His parting words were: 'Take care of this and one day, you'll know what it's for,' " Parks recalls.

    "We put it in a box in the closet. But it came to me in dreams. I could feel it calling me telepathically. I said to my husband, 'The skull talks to me.' And he said, 'Woman, you've taken leave of your mind.'"

    In 1987, Parks was watching "Good Morning Houston" when she saw somebody from a UFO organization displaying a picture of a skull that looked like Max.

    She called the man, who put her in touch with somebody who told her the skull was a 3,000-year-old "pre-Mayan, pre-Aztec" relic with mystical powers.

    The skull seemed happy that she'd finally learned its secret, she recalls.

    Telepathically, it said to her: "Wake up, woman. Now I can get out of this box and serve mankind."

    The skull also said this: "By the way, my name is not 'the Skull,' it's Max."

    For the past 19 years, she and Max have traveled all over the United States and Europe.

    Along the way, she says, she and Max have appeared on TV programs on the BBC, A&E, the Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel, as well as documentaries in Japan and France.

    This past weekend, she and Max came to the TeleSpectral Center, where she taught a class about Max for 17 students, who each paid $25, and Max met privately with a couple of dozen people who paid $55 apiece for the privilege.

    Parks also sells miniature replicas of Max for about $20 each.

    But she says the money barely covers her travel expenses.

    "I don't do this for a living," she says.

    "It's my passion."

    Max is one of many crystal skulls traveling the New Age circuit, but Parks says he's one of only two that are authentic ancient mystical skulls.

    "There's a lot of dupin' and connin' goin' on," she says in her Texas twang.

    After the Smithsonian received a crystal skull from an anonymous donor in 1992, Jane MacLaren Walsh, a Smithsonian anthropologist, studied several skulls, including Max, and concluded that they were all made after 1850.

    "They were carved with modern lapidary equipment," Walsh said in a recent phone interview.

    "Max is as modern as the rest."

    Not surprisingly, Parks dismisses Walsh's study.

    "She doesn't know quartz crystal," Parks says.

    "She didn't know what she was looking at."

    Sitting in the TeleSpectral Center, Parks and Dmytrewycz and Jim Young discuss UFOs and pyramids and other metaphysical topics.

    Then Parks shows everybody the box that Max travels in.

    It's an old green leather cosmetics case that her husband mounted on a piece of plywood with four little wheels, so she can roll Max through airports.

    On planes, she stows him under the seat in front of her.

    She opens the case.

    It's lined with foam rubber to protect Max, and it contains the purple cloth that Max likes to be swaddled in when he's traveling.

    "Max told me what box to go look for and how to pack him," she says. "And he said, "Put me in purple.' "

    The porch door opens and Crowe-Muoz and her friend Wayne Danzik emerge from their private session with Max.

    Danzik, 47, an engineer from Wheaton, enjoyed the meeting.

    "It was a very relaxing, peaceful experience," he says, sounding quite relaxed.

    "I felt a feeling of well-being and peace."

    Crowe-Muoz seems less relaxed.

    In fact, she can barely contain her enthusiasm.

    "It was fabulous!" she says.

    "It was a tremendous vortex of light! I've definitely had an experience! I was enveloped in love. He glowed in golden light... I saw in my mind's eye and felt Max's enveloping arms."

    Then she put on her leopard coat and headed out into the cold suburban night while Max sat calmly on his rabbit skin, waiting for the next customer.

    He'll be receiving guests until noon today.

November 25, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

OTT–LITE — World's best travel reading lamp (plug–in style)


There are a very few things in life that get better with time.

This portable reading and task lamp is one of them.

I bought mine at least ten years ago, at Office Depot or some such place.

I paid around $100.

Cheap at many times the price, considering that it's provided many hundreds — if not thousands — of happy hours reading in bed in dim, inadequately lighted hotel rooms all over the country.

I love turning on the bedside reading lamp once I get in my room, just to think about how happy I will be not to have to try to read by the crummy 40W or 60W or 75W incandescent bulb provided.

I simply take out my folded up OTT–LITE (mine is a blocky black thing without the nice handle on the current version), plug it in, open it up (opening it turns it on; closing it turns it off — sweet, eh?)


and bask in the wonderfully bright, true color light given off by the lamp.

Don't be misled by the fact that it has a 13W bulb: it's fluorescent so it's much brighter than a regular 100W round socket–type light bulb.

The light doesn't flicker nor is it harsh.

According to one website it's used by the appraisers on "Antique Roadshow" and that makes perfect sense to me, so ideal is this nicely conceived and executed tool.

It's bomb–proof, what with the tough case that folds down around the bulb clamshell style (below).

The lamp can be aimed to shine right where you like and the very solid construction of the hinge keeps the top (which contains the bulb) right where you put it.

It stands 10"–19" high depending on where you place the top section.

I don't think I've ever replaced the bulb and as I said above, it's been many years since I bought the thing.

A truly great product.

$34.88 here.

Note: Even though the lamp's cord is 5.5 feet long I strongly recommend attaching a 12–foot extension cord and leaving it on so that no matter where an outlet happens to be in your room you'll be able to plug in easily.

Sometimes you just don't have the energy to fight the mattress and headboard to gain access to the outlet buried there.

Here's what one user has to say about her OTT–LITES.


Another glowing review here.

November 25, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

This and that: idle ruminations from the corner office


Hey, wait a minute: that's where I work.

Yesterday when I finally sat down in front of the computer it was after 1 p.m.

I did my usual:

1) Checked bookofjoe's rank on TTLB — 134

2) Checked my Technorati rank — 2,904 (out of 21,700,000 blogs)

3) Checked out yesterday's visits and page views (5,500 and 8,000, respectively)

4) Checked out the percentage of readers currently at the site by their country of origin (my goal is to, ASAP, increase my non–U.S. readership to at least 50% — I figure since the population of the U.S. is about 5% that of the entire world that's a reasonable goal. I'm getting there: a couple months ago the U.S percentage was always over 70%; these days it's consistently between 60% and 50%, though last evening this


was the picture around 10:30 p.m., during the third quarter of the very entertaining Pitt v. West Virginia football game)

5) Read my email

6) Read the five posts here that had already gone up

Much to my amusement and (very mild) dismay I found errors or things that could have been better stated in 3 of the 5 posts.


They were minor things — a word missing, two sentences which would have read better had their order been reversed, an aside that wasn't nearly as funny as it would have been had I changed the word order — but you know what?

I didn't feel bad about those things — not at all.

Because I'll tell you what: I knocked myself out, working to the very limit of my capability, the day before when I created those posts.

So if I fell short, hey, that's just the way it goes.

What with my having given my crack research team the holiday off (there are some who might say, as did Dorothy Parker when she was informed that Calvin Coolidge (below)


had died, "How could they tell?") it's just me, myself and I until next year.

Yes, I told them to take the rest of the year off.

For all the good they do, might as well.

At least it'll be quieter around here.


I went back and fixed those three posts so they're better.

You probably never even noticed.

On another note, I'm always of two minds about what to do about my "Comments" feature.

On the one hand, it's annoying to get spam and occasionally people hit the wrong button and a comment repeats two or more times.

As a rule, up to now I've gone back and deleted the ones that didn't belong, blocking the spammers and haters.

But you know what?

It's a pain in the butt — it's slow, takes time and energy and focus and detracts from my primary mission here — whatever that is, I haven't yet figured it out but I'm hoping someone will tell me sometime.

A couple days ago I read a Financial Times interview with Takafumi Horie (below),


the 33–year–old Mark Cuban–esque Japanese entrepreneur who founded Livedoor and has become a serious and very vocal threat to the old Japanese way of doing business what with, among other things, his nearly successful recent attempt at a hostile takeover of Fuji Television, one of the country's major media outlets.

Horie is the current rage in Japan because of his totally antiestablishment posture and doings and he has huge street cred and popularity among Japanese youth.

He has a blog that, like mine, is completely open to any and all comments and as he glanced at them during the FT interview he noted how viciously hostile some of them were.

The reporter asked him why he didn't delete them; Horie replied that to do so was too time–consuming and "a pain in the a**," so he just left them alone.

He's right.

From this moment on I'm leaving the comments alone.

Spammers, take notice and get ready to jam up my comments section.

I simply can't be bothered anymore.

Besides, people get mad when I delete their comments and there's more than enough hatred in the world without my adding to it.

November 25, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WD–40 — Taking it to the next level


Changes in something perfect should be rare, if they happen at all.

And now comes a change in the delivery system of the wonderful product WD–40, used by everyone everywhere for everything that makes a noise it shouldn't — even if it's not exactly the thing prescribed.


Because it's always available — and it always works.

Few things are that reliable.

One problem with WD–40 has always been that pesky red plastic straw that's scotch–taped to the can when you buy it.

It gets lost in about two femtoseconds and then you're spraying everywhere from that moment on.

Back on July 25 I featured a new product called the "Hold–It" (below)


designed to keep the straw and can together.

You get 12 for $4.99 here.

I guess the people who made WD–40 didn't like this add–on and decided to see if they could solve the problem in their own skunkworks.

They went way beyond anything that's gone before and tricked–out the straw so that it's attached to the can's delivery mechanism, flipping up and down as needed (top).

Too bad for the makers of the Hold–It but great for you and moi.

Oh, I am so getting a can today to try out this new feature.

This is what I call exciting.


[via Annie Groer and the Washington Post]

November 25, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

United Airlines Flight Attendants To Sell Retail Goods in Flight on Commission


This has been a big week for the airlines, what with all the new sources of revenue they've discovered: just Wednesday we learned that Air Canada now charges you $2 (U.S. or Canadian, I wonder?) to rent one of their lousy pillows for a flight.

But yesterday's story was much, much better in its overarching ridiculousness.

Bloomberg News reported that Ted, United Airlines' low–fare unit, is going to try to make up for the minuscule profit on each ticket by having its flight attendants become peddlers once the plane is aloft and you can't run away or close the door in their faces.

I am not making this up: you can read the news report here.


Here's the Bloomberg story in case you're too demoralized to click on the link.

    United Unit to Sell Retail Goods in Flight

    Ted, the low–fare unit of United Airlines, will begin selling items ranging from magic kits to sunglasses on about half of its flights starting December 1 [next Thursday].

    The products, priced from $5 to $25, will be sold for cash on flights of more than 880 miles, or two and a half hours, a United spokeswoman, Jean Medina, said.

    United, a unit of of the UAL Corporation, will be the only major carrier to sell retail goods during domestic flights.

    Flight attendants will receive a 2% commission on each sale.

    Other items to be sold on the Ted flights include bracelets, earrings, toothbrushes, greeting cards, coloring sets, Ted playing cards and chargers for BlackBerry pagers, Ms. Medina said.

    Sara Nelson Dela Cruz, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants at the carrier, said, United "would probably sell parts of the airplane if they thought it would increase revenue."

    She added that the sales would be carried out "if there is time and if it does not interfere with our safety–related duties."

    UAL expects to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy sometime in February.


Tell you what: as long as they're gonna turn their planes into flying bazaars they might as well hawk stuff like Whoopie cushions


and make some real money.

November 25, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



And you thought you were having a bad hair day.

From the website:

    Stretch Ball

    Incredible ball stretches as far as you can reach and always snaps back into shape.

    Turn it inside out and it's like a hollow ball.

    Turn it right side out and it looks like something from another world.

    Totally change your image in seconds by slipping it over your head. One size fits almost anything.

    For ages 6 and up.

Well, you read it: are you in the right age bracket?


$9.98 here.


4:59 p.m. is the correct time in the final photo in today's 9:01 a.m. post.

Hope you got it but hey, if not, don't fret: there'll be other clocks.

November 25, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

White Paper on Black Friday


Running out of toilet paper is a big pain in the butt.

Wait a minute — there's probably a better way of putting that.

Hmmm... it's getting worse — better cut my losses (arrghhh!) and move on.

Last year it occurred to me that toilet paper appeared on my grocery list pretty regularly.


And then one day, when I was using toilet paper in the kitchen on the paper towel holder 'cause I'd run out of paper towels — no, you're not the only one — I thought to myself there's got to be a better way.

Once I assigned to my crack research team the task of finding reliable online sources for the particular brands of toilet paper (top) and paper towels (below)


I use it was only a matter of time before running out of/shopping for white paper goods became a thing of the past.

40 rolls of Charmin Ultra Unscented Toilet Paper (Double Rolls) cost $38.37 here.

Oh, I almost forgot — that's about 2/3 the price you pay at the store.

30 rolls of Scott Paper Towels cost $39.85 here.

That's also a lot less than it costs at Kroger or Safeway.

Even after you factor in shipping and handling you're still saving plenty $$$.

But that's not even the best part.

No, the best part is realizing that instead of pulling it off the shelf, putting it into your shopping cart, lifting it onto the conveyor belt at checkout, carrying it out to your car, putting it into your car, taking it out of your car, and carrying it inside — what a lot of effort for paper, eh? — a UPS guy stops by and puts a big box on your doorstep.

Then, each time you run out you realize you really didn't run out — over to the closet or shelf or basement or wherever you keep extra stuff, take out a fresh roll, and you're so good to go.

Why people don't do it my way is way beyond me: it's cheaper, faster and far easier and more convenient than the old way.

Will someone please explain to me what I'm missing, that I'm the only person I know of who thinks so?

November 25, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Pattern Clock


So what if you can't tell time: with this clock, if you can count to nine you'll be able to figure out that it's much later than you think.

From the website:

    Color Pattern Clock

    Unlike standard digital clocks which display traditional Arabic numbers, this unconventional timepiece displays a series of LED-illuminated color patterns to indicate minutes and hours.

    Deceptively simple, counting the colored squares in each of the four separate sections reveals the time (12:39 is shown above).

    The color combinations vary by increment of time and can be adjusted to update every one, four or 60 seconds.

    The clock has three brightness settings to suit any lighting environment.


    The unit may be viewed vertically or horizontally and can be wall-mounted or placed on any solid surface.

    AC adapter included.

    3"H x 10.25"W x 1"D.

$59.95 here.


Perhaps we can do better: let's call in the crack research team, shall we?

[Seven hours later]

Well, well — what have we found?

A bit more information about this clock, for one thing:

• The lights are LEDs so they should last for a very long time

• The faceplate is brushed metal

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: it's a much nicer $39.95 here.

It wouldn't be right to have you go and buy this nifty device if it's not gonna work for you.

It just wouldn't.

So, in conjunction with some of the finest minds here at bookofjoe and from among my WorldWideJoe™ Panel of Experts®, I've prepared a test to see if you're at a level commensurate with easy use of this timepiece.

Here it is:


According to the clock, what time is it?

The answer will appear at the end of today's 11:01 a.m. post.

November 25, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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