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December 3, 2005

'Signspotting: Absurd & Amusing Signs from Around the World'


That's the title of Doug Lansky's new book,


just out from Lonely Planet.










choice examples.




at the


Lonely Planet



December 3, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Futuristic Ceramic Peeler


Via a time warp or wormhole — it's difficult to be sure which — comes this ceramic blade peeler with a transparent handle.

From the website:

    Ceramic blade is six times harder than steel!

    The white diamond ceramic blade assures long–lasting sharpness!

    Plus, it’s easy to clean and more hygienic than metal.

    The lightweight textured handle is easy to grip even when wet.

    For right- or left-hand use.

7" long.

$9.99 here.

December 3, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Can you get herpes from eyebrow waxing?


That was the topic of January W. Payne's "Urban Myth Watch" feature in the November 29 Washington Post Health section.

Long answer short: It is very, very unlikely — but you can never say never.

Urban legend debunking site snopes.com addressed the issue by consulting the National Herpes Hot Line, according to Payne.

Eileen Dunne, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who specializes in sexually transmitted diseases, told Payne that herpes is a "very fragile" virus that's transmitted through skin–to–skin contact.

Thus, contracting herpes via the hot wax and tools at a salon is "very, very unlikely," said Dunne.

She continued, "A lot of bacteria and viruses [including herpes] don't like heat and don't grow well in heat."

Dunne, who told Payne that she gets her own eyebrows waxed, said that salon customers who are worried nonetheless should observe salon practices.

She added that if you see the salon doesn't use fresh tools to place wax on the body for each customer, you should ask them to use a new tool for you.

However, said Dunne, it's not necessary to request a new container of wax.

Why does reading the above make me less than completely confident that there's almost 0 risk of contagion?

Is it, perhaps, because after Dunne starts out by saying how safe waxing is, she then hedges her bets and tells you to conduct epidemiological surveillance to determine if your salon practices safe waxing?

I decided to have my crack research team spend a few hours nosing around and they came up with one nugget buried in the truckload of dross they brought back.

Dr. Lynn McKinley-Grant, a dermatologist in Chevy Chase, Maryland, said that "contracting herpes from a wax is unlikely, but it is possible."

Well, that's sort of what epidemiologist Dunne said, isn't it?

I gotta say that if I were a girl and partial to eyebrow waxing — yes, I know men do it too and that it's all the rage now for guys to primp and fuss over themselves but somehow I just can't get very interested in all that — I'd find it less than a delight to have to watch out for things like contaminated wax sticks.

Tell you what — you go to the salon, I'll sit home and watch the game.

That seems fair, what?

December 3, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Magnifying Pen


Now you can read the fine print.

"Magni–Pen™ starts as a black ink ballpoint pen — but when you need to read the fine print while perusing menus, checking stock quotes or reading maps, just twist the barrel and a 1.75–power magnifying lens comes into view!"

Weighs less than one ounce.

Two refills included.

Comes gift-boxed.


Blue or pink (above).

$19.99 here.

But perhaps mademoiselle is feeling especially corporate and prefers something a bit more subdued.

No problema.

How about one in Brooks Brothers gray (below),


for $19.95?

December 3, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Note — by Wislawa Szymborska

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it's not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble upon a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important.

December 3, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Color–Changing Nightlight


Trippy, what?

"Acrylic dome provides a screen and shade for LED lights that gently change color from red to pink, violet to blue, and teal to green."

And that's not all.

"Choose from eight modes to affect color display ('fast' mode accelerates the show; 'slow' mode makes colors meld into each other)."

Bonus: if you've got a favorite color you can opt for "freeze" mode to "continuously cast that hue."

LED lamp lasts over 100,000 hours (11.4 years, in case you were wondering).

"Stays kid–safe cool–to–the–touch."

Seems like a whole heap of night–time fun.

$15.95 here.

December 3, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: What's the best machine in the gym?


Christian DeBenedetti, in a November 24 New York Times story, attempted to answer this question.

In a most interesting approach to the ongoing controversy — among users and machine–makers alike — about which of the many varieties of machines provide the best workout, DeBenedetti "... asked 10 experts — physiologists, researchers, doctors and personal trainers — to rate the five most popular cardio machines on five criteria" —

• Cardio benefit

• Calories burned

• Muscles used

• Wear and tear

• Monotony factor

They compared the stair climber, treadmill, rowing machine, elliptical and stationary bike.


The results, in order, winner first:

1) Elliptical

2) Treadmill and Rowing machine (tie)

3) Stair climber

4) Stationary bike

So that settles it, right?

Get on the elliptical and forget about the others... right?


Not so fast.

Let's go BehindTheGymspeak for a moment, shall we?


The rankings were established by the following formula:

1) Each of the 10 experts gave each of the five machines a rating of 1 to 10 in the five categories noted above

2) 10 = excellent for a given category; 1 = poor. Thus, a 10 in monotony means a machine is not boring at all, because to be not boring is a good thing = a high score

3) The highest possible score for a machine is 500 (10 x 10 x 5)

Now, take a look at the actual raw numerical scores in the table below. (Unless you're a robot or a hawk, you'll find it easier to click on the graphic to enlarge it.)


Wrote DeBenedetti in his article, "The winner, by a solid margin, is the elliptical trainer."

Say what?

This guy is a drug company representative in the making, with that kind of statistical "analysis."

Because when I consider the final scores — 369, 340, 334 and 313 — on their scale of 50 to 500 I see no practical difference at all.

This kind of number massage is precisely why most science articles in the lay press — and many in scientific journals — draw unjustified and often erroneous conclusions from the raw data presented.

You tell me that those are blood sugar values, I'll tell you they're essentially the same.


High, but functionally the same in terms of what I'd do to treat them.

Often attributed — erroneously, it turns out — to Mark Twain is the following statement: "There are three types of lies — lies, damned lies and statistics."

In confirming that "fact" I learned it was not at all a fact, or even remotely the case.

Here's a nice bit of detective work that seems to pin down the origin of the famous phrase.

Would that my crack research team were capable of this kind of performance.

But I digress.

Catherine Saint Louis wrote a useful accompanying article entitled "What Not to Do At the Gym," about how not to use the five machines featured in the main story.

You'll find me here


tomorrow morning and every morning after that.

Same as it ever was.

December 3, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Heavy–Duty Magnet — Lifts 150 Pounds


Serious lifting power for a small object: it measures 5" x 2" x 1", weighs 1.75 lbs. including its screw–in eyelet and lifts up to 150 lbs.

Bet you can't do that.

From the website:

    Find Lost Metal Objects

    This heavy duty magnet has hundreds of industrial and household uses.

    Ideal for retrieving lost tools, fishing poles, golf clubs, etc., from lakes and ponds.

    Great for treasure hunting, lifting, holding or separating metal objects.

$15.95 here.

Remember not to put it in your bag or pocket near your credit cards.

December 3, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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