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December 9, 2005

What do the Cold War doctrine of 'Mutual Assured Destruction' and the Screaming Meanie alarm clock have in common?


They both produce their desired effect without having to demonstrate their capability.

Let me explain.

But first, allow me to digress.


I'm begging you.

Just this once, then I'll never do it again.

Now where's that tooth fairy?


Back in the day there was an attorney named Roy Cohn who, in his younger years, served as Senator Joseph McCarthy's right–hand man during the Communist witch hunt of the Cold War years.

Cohn later went into the private practice of law in New York where he was mightily feared by all who encountered him in the halls of justice.

He defined the term "scorched–earth" with regard to his approach to his legal adversaries.

Nothing — absolutely nothing — was sacred when he undertook to represent someone.

So much so that when an individual or company or attorney received a letter from Roy Cohn declaring Cohn's intention to file suit, the immediate response was to begin settlement negotiations.

Because no one in their right mind was willing to take a chance on what might happen in the courtroom once Roy Cohn began unsheathing his weapons.


Mutual Assured Destruction (whose acronym, MAD, is perhaps the most perfect one ever created) had its origins in the 1940s and 1950s and was shaped and refined by the very greatest strategic and military thinkers on the planet.


John von Neumann, Herman Kahn, Bernard Brodie, John Nash, all the great game theory and military strategists of those years spent their lives working to produce an equilibrium between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. that would guarantee that if nuclear war broke out both countries — and the rest of the world — would be completely and utterly destroyed.

Thus, there could never be a winner.

So why bother playing?

Say what you will about the madness of the concept, it worked: nuclear war didn't happen and the Cold War ended.

So all the thinkers of the bygone era — at least those still alive — would say to you that this is proof that their strategy was a good one.

Just as I say to people who laugh at the deer whistles I've had on my front bumpers for years that I know they work because I've never hit a deer.

Which leads me to the Screaming Meanie alarm clock, featured here on October 8, 2004.

When I received mine I naturally tried it out to see what the packaging meant by "Warning: Will wake the dead."

Now I know.

Trust me on this: a 120 decibel sound will hurt you if you stay around it for very long.

So knowing this is what you will hear when it goes off provides an excellent incentive to get up and shut it off.

But here's where the MAD concept comes into play: if you set your regular alarm clock to go off two or three minutes before the Screaming Meanie, it's amazing how the alarm that you sometimes ignored or pretended not to hear in the past suddenly works perfectly.

Sure did with me.

The relief I felt as I got out of bed and turned off the not–yet–activated Screaming Meanie markedly attenuated my ordinary early morning grumpiness.

If you'd like to integrate Cold War game theory into your everyday life you start right here.


I recommend you opt for the MegaBomb equivalent, the model 220 ($39.99), for two reasons:

1) Unlike it's little sister, the model 110 ($29.99), which only has a countdown timer ticking off the minutes until the alarm goes off, the 220 has a clock and a timer. I find it preferable to have the time at which the alarm will erupt visible to me. Knowing when the fun starts is preferable to knowing that it will start.

2) The 220 offers a choice of 3 volumes: 70, 110 and 120 decibels. Now, you may say to yourself, "This is not my beautiful house!" — wait a minute, that's not right: hold on... — OK, OK, from the top: You may say to yourself that 110 decibels is almost as loud as 120. But you would be so wrong. Because on the decibel scale every 10 decibel increase represents a ten–fold increase over the previous volume. Trust me, 110 is plenty loud enough to wake up anyone but 120 indeed might even wake the dead. If you're gonna play the game then you might as well play it at the highest level.

December 9, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Shark Bite Bottle Opener


Kind of cool, actually.

From the website:

    There's a surfer beer joint not too far from our corporate offices that has a shark-bitten surfboard hanging from the ceiling.

    Late one night our boss Eric found himself lying on the floor, thinking, "That'd make a good bottle opener."

    It's made of laser-cut stainless steel with an opener in the bite and on the skegs in back.

$14.99 here.

Hard to believe they didn't drill a hole in it so you could attach it to your keychain or, better yet, sell it as the "Shark Bite Key Chain Bottle Opener."

No reason you can't make up for their lapse and create a one–off for yourself.

December 9, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Respect and empathy — Susan Kare on computer icon design


Susan Kare's career in user interface graphic design began in 1983 when Apple Computer hired her to create the icon and font designs (four are shown above) for its new computer, the Macintosh.

Enough said.

But allow me to continue anyway.

Since that time she has continued to work in this field and has become acknowledged as a Jedi Knight equivalent by her peers.

Spend a little time on her website and get a sense of what good design is all about.

No, you won't be able to instantly create a great website after you do, just as wearing a pair of Air Jordans won't make you suddenly capable of throwing it down like Mike.

But it sure is fun to watch.


Why was I not surprised that Ms. Kare's website contains not one bit of Flash?

December 9, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Voodoo Doll Toothpick Holder


Holds 35 toothpicks.

Hand–painted face details.

In charcoal gray or oyster white.


$5.99 here (Toothpicks not included).

December 9, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'The largest virtual on–line grocery store in the world'


Guess what?

It's not Webvan or Peapod or any of the imploded shells of the dot–com bust.

No, it's a most unlikely company: Gristedes, a New York institution that's been around since forever in bricks and mortar.

I stumbled upon their online store over the weekend when I decided I'd had enough of wasting time and energy and gasoline on finding a store in Charlottesville that sells my current favorite cereal on the whole planet: Post Selects Maple Pecan Crunch.

Kroger and Giant always seem to have the other cereals in the Post Selects line, (Blueberry Morning, Cranberry Almond Crunch, Great Grains — with and without pecans and almonds — and Banana Nut Crunch) but they never have the one I really want.

Now, don't get me wrong: the other Post Selects varieties are very good and I do buy them and enjoy a bowl quite often — but Maple Pecan sets the bar.

So I had my crack research team see what they could come up with.

And they came up with Gristedes.

But wait — it gets better.

Turns out that Gristedes partners with Amazon so you can order whatever you like via Amazon's nonpareil one–click feature.

So I did: eight boxes of Maple Pecan Crunch.

Hey, it's not just me who likes this cereal: even Mr. Breakfast found it a morning delight.

But I digress.

Yesterday a big box from Gristedes was on my front doorstep.

But wait — it gets better.

Not only was my order inside, but it was nestled within as much compressed air packaging as you'd expect to find over, under and around a new iMac G5 computer.


And the cereal inside was pristine, just if if I'd pulled it off my local Kroger's shelf.

Not mashed up into bits or powder but, rather, crunchy and delicious.


I'll be visiting the virtual Gristedes again, and for more than cereal.

I've noted previously the far better experience to be had purchasing non–perishables such as paper goods and detergent etc. online vs. in person at a store; it would appear virtual groceries have now become a contender, if not yet the undisputed champion.

December 9, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Liquid Electrical Tape


Interesting concept.

Lets you get into tough areas and corners to insulate bare wire.

Flexible and waterproof.

Could be very useful.

$7.95 for four ounces here.

December 9, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'I go to MIT'


Tell that to your friends and they'll laugh so hard at you.

"You? You can't even spell MIT."

But guess what?

You'll have the last laugh.

Because a few years ago, MIT started an ambitious project to eventually put all of its courses on the internet — for free.


It's called OpenCourseWare (OCW) and anyone — from any computer in any country in the world — can now partake of:

    • Course syllabi

    • Lectures — in both printed and video form

    • Homework assignments

    • Exams

for 1,200 MIT classes.

Materials for courses in the Harvard–MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, MIT Biological Engineering and MIT Sloan School of Management are also available.


So you see — you weren't putting everyone on after all, were you?

December 9, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Flower Power Fridge Magnet Bottle Opener


A lot going on here in a small space, what?

From the website:

    No more searching for an opener

    Keep this bottle opener handy on the fridge, stove or filing cabinet, even on the tailgate!

    Six super-strong magnets cling tightly to any metal surface.

    This bottle opener stays put when pressure is applied to open bottled beverages.

    The bottom magnet even catches the bottle cap before it can drop to the floor!

    A better idea than openers that mount to the wall with damaging nails or screws.

    Made of 18/8 stainless steel and ABS plastic.

In green (!) or blue.

$14.95 here.

December 9, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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