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December 22, 2005

BehindTheMedspeak: Episode 2 — Is your doctor a quack?


Well, that didn't take long, did it?

I raised the AFLAC question just yesterday and already the MM (I guess that means "mainstream media" — it's a terrible term/abbreviation and it will not appear here ever again, I promise or you can personally feed me a pound of Sherwood Premium gold–foil–covered chocolate coins) are taking it to the next level.

Just this morning, for instance, I was standing there walking along on my treadmill (but striding differently than the day before) when, on page 6D of today's USA Today, I was greeted by the headline above over the paper's story by Elizabeth Weise about a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrating, with scientific rigor, that doofus medical students make doofus doctors.

Gee — I could've sworn that I figured that one out about a zillion years ago.

But I guess not until it appears in the august pages of the New England Journal does it become a fact instead of a supposition.

Anyway – here's a link to the journal article's abstract.

December 22, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chocolate Coin Taste Test: Gold Foil Throwdown


Yesterday's Washington Post Food section featured a wonderful story about the mostly horrible but nevertheless irresistible gold–foil–covered chocolate coins that people give each other and put in stockings around this time of year.

Bonnie Benwick wrote it and I read it with great interest.

She enlisted three chocolate experts to taste and rate 13 different brands of gold–foil–covered chocolate coins.

From the taste test sidebar:

    Know your gold–foil–covered chocolate coins!

    Our three testers are chocolate experts in their own right: Marilyn Mueller, owner of Terracocoa, a Chantilly supplier of chocolate novelties, cakes and artisan chocolates who prefers that such coins melt fairly quickly on the tongue; Max Cutler, 13, of Bethesda, an experienced gelt consumer and discriminating chocolate fan who thinks "there ought to be a law" against the dark chocolate coins because "they're just too bitter"; and Food section staff writer Candy Sagon, whose name alone earns a berth at any confectionary test we hold.

    The panel rated the coins in three categories: whether they were better for eating or playing, how they tasted and an overall score of 1 to 5 (tops).

Here are the results in order, from best (#1) to worst (#13), along with the tasters' comments on each.


1. See's Candies — $3.05; 4 oz. (Sweet and milky, good chocolate flavor, melts quickly; the foil coin design gives it a slight edge over Godiva)

2. Godiva — $8; 1.75 oz. (Fancy, mild, creamy)

3. Madeleine [Rockaway Beach, N.Y.] — $12.99; 16 oz. (Mild, good break, nice but not very chocolaty)

4. Trader Joe's Coins of the World — $1.99; 5 oz. (Rich but not overly sweet, doesn't melt)

5. Bissinger's [of St. Louis] — $23; 16 oz. (Nice flavor, sweet but tough to peel open)

6. Premium — $1.29; 1 oz. (Has coconut taste, grainy, good–looking)

7. Astor Belgian — $5.99; 5.1 oz. (Hard and rich, sweet but odd aftertaste, very mild)

8. Elite Gelt — $.50; 5/8 oz. (Too sweet; dark chocolate's too hard)

9. Chanukah Gelt — $1.25; 1/2 oz. (Bland, no chocolate taste until the end)

10. Balmer Coins of all Nations — $1.19; 1.9 oz. (Rough on the tongue, bitter aftertaste)

11. Frankford Belgian — $.99; 2 oz. (Grainy; weird flavor)

12. Sherwood Premium — $.50; 5 oz. (Not much flavor, breaks apart)

13. Pirate's Gold Coins — $.89; 5/8 oz. (Strange aftertaste; doesn't melt)


Summing up, the panel rated Nos. 1–2 "Best"; 3 through 5 "Good"; 6–7 "Fair"; and 8 through 13 "Better You Should Play Than Eat."

To me the most fascinating thing about the results was the fact that See's, at 76¢ an ounce, bested the most expensive brand (Godiva; $4.57 per ounce).

Let me do the math here a second: that makes Godiva six times more expensive.

The second most interesting thing was the price of Sherwood Premium's coins: 10¢ an ounce.

I can see how Trader Joe's, buying in giant quantities, can sell their house brand for 40¢ an ounce but what is in the Sherwood Premium coins that lets them undersell Trader Joe's by 75%?

Maybe I don't want to know, come to think of it.


Here's the story that accompanied the taste test.

    Gelt Trip: A Taste Test

    Whether you see these chocolate coins as Hanukkah gelt, Christmas stocking stuffers, Kwanzaa favors or edible moola for Texas Hold 'Em, they ought to be good enough to eat.

    We've noticed over the years, to crib a kvetchy old sentiment, that some brands of gelt are not so good — and they come in such small portions!

    Some gold-colored mesh bags we've come across lately have as few as four coins each.

    The story of gelt ("money" in Yiddish) comes from a less-gilded age, of course.

    For Hanukkah, which starts at sundown on Christmas Day this year, various attributions of giving are almost as illuminating as the holiday's menorah itself.

    Plausible origins include ancient rabbinical commentary on the distribution of money so that each household could afford to light candles each of the eight nights of the holiday.

    Another points to the minting of commemorative "war-medal" coins about 2,400 years ago, after the first celebration of Hanukkah in Jerusalem. (For most of the Hanukkahs since 1958, the Bank of Israel has made special holiday money to connect Jewish history with the modern world.)

    And then there are sources who peg the practice to late 18th-century and early 19th-century Eastern Europe, when coins were given as payment to rabbis who traveled to small villages to teach Jews about Hanukkah.

    This at least puts the gelt in the hands of someone who might have called it by that name.

    It also links it with a population of Jewish European chocolate makers who produced confectionary coins wrapped in gold foil, much to the delight of children.

    We gathered 13 kinds of gelt, mostly from Washington area shops and a few that are easily accessible online, to test which ones are worth both playing with and eating.

    Marilyn Mueller, one of our three taste-test experts, said that the chocolate used to make much of the gelt has a reduced cocoa-butter content.

    That makes it easier to shape into coins and more shelf-stable (like some chocolate chips), but harder to melt on the tongue and less tasty.

    "If you don't get a pronounced chocolate flavor, it's not worth it," she said.

    And, in the end, we agreed.

    Foil-covered coins with simple designs of Stars of David and Hanukkah menorahs, as well as those that resemble euros and Kennedy half-dollars, were initially appealing.

    But this is currency that's meant to be consumed.

    The perfect gelt should look good and taste good, too.

    We found a few that'll fill the bill.


Well, that's all very nice and well and good but what if you're not interested in fighting the crowds and madness just to see what the best gold–foil–covered chocolate coin tastes like?

And maybe you don't live anywhere near a See's Candies store.

Well, you're in luck: simply visit the See's Candies website and buy yourself a pound of their chocolate coins for $11.50.

You'll get four 4 oz. bags which, if you're wise, you'll stash in a secret place so that you — and only you — can get at them whenever a chocolate jones strikes.

December 22, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Liparazzi — 'Lights the way to beautiful lips'


From the website:

    The genius light–up lip-gloss features a handy mirror fixed in the barrel and an innovative dual light concealed in the cap.

    Switch on to illuminate lips for last minute make–up checks as you apply a slick of luxe–looking gloss for a flattering sheen.

    The natural formula features jojoba oil and vitamin E to treat and nourish for a truly luxurious lip sensation.

    Creator Nina Leykind, of famed manga makeup brand Eyeko, came up with the concept for Liparazzi on a night out with friend Emma Bunton of Spice Girls fame.

    "Every girl asks, 'Is my lip gloss ok? Are my teeth clean? Can I borrow your mirror?' on a night out whether they’re facing a barrage of paparazzi or not! And Liparazzi is the answer."


    Along with husband and business partner Max Leykind (also of Eyeko and previously Hard Candy), Nina and her friends had fun trialing Liparazzi, the gloss gadget combo you never knew you needed and now can’t live without.

    • Picture this: Hot date, cool restaurant, no time to nip to the loo between courses. You wonder why your date cools off before dessert.

    •• Do this: Liparazzi for discreet make–up/spinach–in–teeth checks.

    • Dark and sexy club, not so good when you've lost an earring, contact lens and that hottie's phone number.

    •• Use this: Liparazzi for illuminating dark corners.

    • After one too many cocktails can't find your front door, let alone your keys?

    •• Note this: Liparazzi lights up the bottom of your handbag.

    • And let's not forget rock concerts.

    •• Try this: Liparazzi so much chicer than waving a lighter in the air.

Bethan Cole of the Sunday Times (of London) mentioned Liparazzi in her feature, "The Sybarite," on December 11.

You can buy one at Henri Bendel in New York or Liberty on Regent Street in London or online here.

The gloss (and its matching case) comes in five colors: Entourage, After Party, Premiere, Velvet Rope and Stalker [!] and costs £15 ($26; €22).


Tell you what: it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Calvin Klein decided to push the naming space envelope with his next fragrance and call it Stalker.

[via AW]

December 22, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack



Well — after all the blood, sweat and tears involved in finally getting my treadmill desk Version 1.0 up and running, what do I find in today's email but the remarkable bit of kit pictured above and below, called the Nethrone.

From the website:

    The Nethrone is a uniquely engineered environment designed for gaming, net surfing and computer using.

    The oval–shaped structure, electric adjustment control and seat massage enable users to enjoy various comfortable seating positions.

    The perfect balance between design and technology makes it the cutting edge of the digital entertainment center.

Hey, just a minute... what the heck is my creation — chopped liver?


But I digress.

I must say that I adore the little video atop the Nethrone website — the way the guy does that kind of moonwalk from his desk to his Nethrone reminds me of Michael Jackson in his salad days.

In fact, the passage between computers does appear to be paved with a treadmill, now that I watch the guy more carefully... ya think?

But the best part is when, just before he straps on the Nethrone, he gives his back a couple stretches — 2 kewl 4 skool.

The Nethrone was designed by Eran Baru and features electronic adjustment controls, built–in seat massage and seat colors in your choice of yellow, green, blue, purple or red.

Click on the "Features" button on the website to see the thing perform.

The display goes up and down.

The keyboard extends and retracts.

The seat slides backward and forward on rails.

The back reclines and lifts up.

The headrest extends and retracts.

The computer display lowers and raises up.

Bonus: The seat color is coordinated with the device's floor contacts.

There is no price information on the website nor could my crack research team locate any online.


If you must have one, well, the company is based in Las Vegas and can be contacted at ema@nethrone.com (tel: 702-877-4321).

[via Ben Willmore and chipchick]

December 22, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

bookofjoe treadmill desk: Version 1.0 is up and running


Well, gang, I've been all hat and no cattle about this for so long I thought the whole thing might be a hallucination — except for the fact that the clamp–on sliding keyboard tray (below)


I ordered about two months ago has been lying on the floor in full view of my wandering eyes whenever they stray from my newspapers as I'm reading.

The problem is that the device comes unassembled and I absolutely dread putting stuff like this together: I'm horrible at it.

You know, it's the usual little plastic bag full of nuts and bolts and washers and a bunch of crazily–shaped metal pieces that don't seem related.


I'm the kind of person who'd be tempted, after taking something like a car or airplane engine apart, then fixing whatever's broken and reassembling it, only to find that there are a couple pieces — screws, bolts, whatever — still lying on the ground, to say, if the engine started right up and sounded OK, that the parts probably weren't that important anyhow.

I mean, the thing runs, right?

The fact is that design is the result of accruing, incremental evolution: each new addition builds on the others.


Leave something out and you know that, sooner or later, you — or someone — will pay.

Anyway, somehow all the planets must be aligned just right 'cause this morning I sat down and put the thing together.

I did it wrong three times before I finally got it right.



Now, you might say that my treadmill work station isn't quite ready for prime time but hey, let's not be haters.

I set the treadmill for 0.7 mph, the speed recommended by the treadmill desk guru himself, Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, who invented and popularized the concept.


A Bluetooth keyboard works best because the fewer cords the better.

I'm trying out the laptop right on top of the treadmill's control panel shelf, just to see how that works.


To get the ideal angle I use a doorstop under the bottom of the computer; it serves a second function as well, namely, it prevents the laptop from falling down between the treadmill and all those boxes and crashing to the floor.

So far I'm limiting myself to housekeeping chores on the computer: checking my statistics, making sure my posts are going up, reading and sending email.

Once I get more accustomed to working there I'll start creating bookofjoe from this new location.

I wonder if the tenor of the blog will change.


We'll see.

Anyway, the point is not that Version 1.0 is rough, it's that it even exists.


I am so stoked.


The official bookofjoe Version 1.0 treadmill desk™ keyboard tray costs $24.98 here.


That's my 15" Powerbook G4 you see in the photos above; in those that follow it's up on a Griffin iCurve.

Oh, yeah, one thing: don't believe the blurb at the bottom of the picture (second from the top) of the assembled keyboard tray — you're going to want a small Phillips screwdriver if you want the thing to remain functional for longer than a day or too.


You see, the text in the photo reads, "Attaches without tools or screws!", which is true enough: to the desk or treadmill shelf, is what this exclamatory sentence means.

The unassembled keyboard tray has twelve (12; one dozen) Phillips screws and an equal number of nuts; to fasten them securely in the tiny spaces you'll be working in you will need a Phillips screwdriver.


Trust me on this: I may not be the Wright Brothers incarnate but I do know a hawk from a handsaw.

Where'd that come from?

As I survey the chaos of stuff scattered all over my living room and around my treadmill it occurs to me that the real next step is a robot desk, sort of like the robodocs (below)


now infiltrating hospitals.

When I'm ready to work I'll say, "Hey, desk, let's go," and the RoboDesk™ will scurry out from whatever corner it spends its down hours in recharging and get into position at the head of my treadmill,


ready to deploy its computer, music player, TV, phone, brain neural socket implant connector and God knows what else might be around by then.

But in the meantime my crack research team and I are hard at work on Version 2.0.


Stay tuned.

December 22, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Hansgrohe Downpour Air Rainmaker 24" Shower Head


That's right: it's two feet across, with 358 channels dropping 46 liters of water a minute in your choice of five spray patterns along with mood lighting effects.

Hansgrohe has created air–injection technology that "enriches the water with drawn–in air to create voluminous raindrops. The subjective perception of the water coming into contact with the skin is more gentle."


You can mount it on a wall or flush with the ceiling.

The Rainmaker lists for $2,900 but you can pick one up for $1,595 here.

Want to learn more before taking the plunge?


No problema: you can whet you appetite for information here and here.

December 22, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: 'Chest X-Rays Detect Early Lung Cancer'


That was the headline of a report Tuesday on the largest U.S. study ever performed to determine the efficacy of screening with an ordinary chest x-ray for lung cancer.

Dr. Martin M. Oken of the Hubert H. Humphrey Cancer Center in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, one of the investigators who conducted the study, told Reuters Health, "This is a tantalizing first step, raising the possibility of real benefit."

77,465 people received a chest x-ray.

5,991 of them — nearly 9% — had results deemed "suspicious for lung cancer."

Each of these people underwent additional testing.

In the end, 126 cases of lung cancer were confirmed in this group.

So that's great news — right?

Well, yes and no.

Forgetting for the moment that no one wants to get the news they've got cancer, certainly those 126 lesions wouldn't have been discovered until later — if ever.

But what about the 5,865 people who were told that they had suspicious chest x-rays and needed to have more tests?

Each and every one of those people was terrified, just as you would be upon hearing this news.

And then each of those people underwent tests which in and of themselves carried risks, risks which wouldn't have been present had the suspicious chest x-rays not been performed initially.

And then, when those 5,865 people were told that they didn't have cancer after all, do you think their lives resumed just as if they hadn't participated in the study?

I don't.

Because once you've been in that frightening place, you're never the same.

And there is other fallout as well.

Did you know that insurance companies now routinely deny coverage to those who've had a negative work–up for things like cancer, simply because of the fact that such an evaluation automatically puts them in a higher risk group, that of those who've been suspected of having cancer?

That's not a conjecture — that's a fact.

And the 126 who did have cancer: how many of those people would have died without ever knowing it was there, or having it affect them?

The whole point of screening is to discover something at a stage when it is more likely to be curable.

Indeed, in the group of 126, 44% of the tumors were early localized stage 1 cancers that are completely curable with surgery.

So for those individuals, the study was of benefit, to be sure.

Unless, of course, they were old or suffering from other illnesses which would have killed them long before their cancers became clinically significant.

Dr. Christine Berg, who oversaw the study, said, in a Wall Street Journal report on the findings, "The study showed the chest x-rays produced a high false–positive rate."

Let's cut to the chase: a false positive rate of 5,865/5,991 = 98% is simply not acceptable for a screening test.

The paper appears in yesterday's edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Here's a link to the abstract.

December 22, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Global Puzzle


I remember — or at least, I think I do — back when I was little, and I had a puzzle with each state representing a piece.

Until yesterday I'd never given a thought to why there wasn't one with countries as pieces, encompassing the the whole world.

The reason, I guess, is that I'm like most people, and most people don't wonder about it.

In yesterday's Financial Times was an interesting article by Andrew Ward about Roger Andresen, who did wonder about it.

He got the idea, the article stated, after he read a survey about how little Americans knew about other countries.

He remembered that he'd had a wooden puzzle of the U.S. when he was a boy, and that he'd learned the states with it.

He then investigated whether or not a global version existed, and concluded there was no such thing in the U.S.

One thing led to another and he created his first Global Puzzle about three years ago.

Andresen, who had a background in mechanical engineering, quit his job with Nortel Networks, ordered 10,000 puzzles and set out to market them.

He noted that "first two years were difficult and slow. It took six months to sell the first 10,000. Now we're selling 10,000 puzzles a month."

You can buy one here for $14.95.

The puzzle (above) contains 600 pieces, measures 36" x 18" when completed and is suitable for those 8 and over.

The company also offers a variety of other geography–themed puzzles, including the Global Animal Puzzle (below),


which takes the Global Puzzle as its base and adds "100 exotic animals located in their indigenous regions all across the globe!"

December 22, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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