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February 23, 2006

Richard Reames, Master of Arborsculpture: Ultimate Topiary


Say what?

That's right: arborsculpture.

It was new to me as well until I read an article in the latest issue (#20) of Cabinet magazine by Richard Reames (below, sitting on a living tree bench) about his esoteric field of expertise.


"Arborsculpture is an art form utilizing the live tree trunk as the medium. By grafting, bending, framing and multiple planting, I grow useful, solid, flowering, fruiting, seasonally changing kinetic works of art and architecture," is how he describes it on his website.


It's a fascinating introduction to a rather arcane arena.

He has written two books: "How to Grow a Chair,"


published in 1995, and

"Arborsculpture — Solutions for a Small Planet,"


out last year.

Above and below,


several of his "extreme trees."

February 23, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hot Dog Roaster


I may be mistaken but if memory of those lazy, hazy crazy days of summers long since gone by serves me correctly, we used to use untwisted old wire coat hangers to roast our hot dogs.

If that's the case then there may be, at long last and after all, a scientific explanation for what happened to me: the chemical reactions undergone by the paint and lacquer and whatnot on the coat hangers impaling the hot dogs, catalyzed by the smoke and heat and the chemicals in the hot dogs themselves, created the functional equivalent of inorganic prions which I cheerfully ingested over the years, the more or less inevitable outcome being me in my current state, producing piffle like this.

But I digress.

From the website:

    Hot Dog Roaster

    A campfire necessity!

    Nothing tastes quite like a good hot dog, roasted to perfection over a campfire.

    Maybe that's why these classic roasters fly off the shelves of our retail store — they are one of the most popular items we carry.

    Heavy–duty, galvanized steel shaft and two–pronged roaster hold up to the hottest fires and will last for years.

    45" total length and 12" stay–cool wooden handle keep every member of the family a safe distance from the fire.

    Use for roasting sausages and marshmallows, too.

$3.95 (hot dogs not included).

February 23, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Olympic Ice


Better [to learn of something wonderful] late than never, say I.

Yesterday's USA Today had a story about the above–titled show, which airs at 6 p.m. (ET) on the USA Network (channel 242 on DirecTV).

Sounded pretty good so I watched last night.

Hey, it's much better than good.

If you're a figure skating fan, it's pure Olympic gold.

The thing that makes it wonderful that wasn't even mentioned in the newspaper is that much of the show is devoted to the final practice sessions of the skaters, which are almost dress rehearsals — in casual dress, true, but at full speed with all the difficult triples and moves that you won't see in the final programs tonight when the skaters go for the gold.

5 stars.

Here's Robert Bianco's February 22 USA Today story.

    Host spins sharp commentary on 'Ice'

    Carillo enlivens USA's coverage of figure skating

    At these Olympics, the best show is clearly on ice.

    Hosted by the breakout star of these TV games, the martini-dry Mary Carillo, USA Network's Olympic Ice (6 p.m. ET/PT) is a tiny corner of subversive humor in a locked-down, pre-programmed Olympic universe.

    What could have been your standard collection of pre-event speculation and post-event gushing is instead a freewheeling hour that is playful without being childish and critical without being caustic.

    Best of all, despite being taped hours before it airs, this daily figure-skating roundup feels fresh and alive — particularly when compared with NBC's prime-time broadcast, which often seems to have the speed and maneuverability of a glacier.

    OI, as the show's stars call it, feels like an ongoing experiment, as if the producers were inventing it before our eyes.

    Surely for fans of figure skating, OI has become invaluable.

    It does anything any skating fan could wish: It explains what happened the night before and tells you what is likely to happen in the night to come.

    But it also does something rare and invaluable at these Olympics: It captures some of the fun and flavor of the event.

    With record speed, it has made itself the can't-miss place to go the day after a big skating competition.

    Any OI fan who watched the ladies' short program Tuesday has to be eager to get the replay lowdown tonight from Carillo and her medal-winning team: Jamie Salé, David Pelletier, Scott Hamilton and Tracy Wilson.

    Best of all, we're also scheduled to hear from the irrepressible Dick Button, who gets a nightly e-mail question-and-answer session called "Push Dick's Button."

    What you can expect is a mix of serious analysis and gentle sarcasm, with barbs aimed at any skater who misbehaved and any costume that shocked the senses.

    Outrageous costumes are a Carillo pet peeve, along with overly theatrical ice dancers and phony blather of all sorts. ("She's suiting up in that outfit and she's saying, 'I'm going to go conservative?' " Carillo said about one ice-dance travesty. "I love this sport!")

    Monday's show, for example, got great comic mileage out of Sunday's post-fall staring match between Italian ice dancers Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio.

    "These are my people, and this is just a classic stare-down," Carillo said, comparing it to a "cheesy soap opera on Telemundo."

    OI does have its misfires.

    Carillo can sometimes play the bemused outsider card too heavily, and the show can become a little silly.

    And while U.S. skater Johnny Weir went along with the built-in joke in his Weir Eye for the Skate Guy segment, it was still in questionable taste.

    If sportscasters think his sexuality is newsworthy, then ask him about it.

    Don't make snide references or wink-wink, nudge-nudge puns.

    Still, those are tiny flaws in an otherwise sparkling program that generally maintains a witty mix of insight and irreverence.

    As Carillo likes to say, it's "cracklin' good television."

    If you haven't already watched, get crackin'.


Here's a link to a story USA Today ran about the show last week; clearly I'm not on the ball.

Maybe I'll go take it out on my crack research team; I mean, it's their job to flag stuff like this... isn't it?

February 23, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Adjustable Traveling Magnetic Trivet


Who would've thought the trivet space had so much upside potential?

From the website:

    Employing the principle of magnetic attraction, this trivet features three round magnets affixed to a triangular steel base.

    The trivet adheres to any cookware made of magnetic material, including steel and enameled cast iron, and travels with pots and casseroles from stove to tabletop.

    Its silicone feet protect surfaces from heat damage and prevent slippage.

    Trivet adjusts to hold 3"–7" diam. pots.

    6" wide.


Also functions nicely as the world's most sculptural fridge magnet.



February 23, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Things that make me say 'Yessss!'


Anytime I read about some new company or service that's supposed to enable frictionless micropayments, I get all excited.

You may recall that the word "frictionless" was the poster child for Internet 1.0 and its inflationary bubble.

Hasn't happened: you're still paying me what you think bookofjoe is worth instead of my valuation.

Although, truth be told, we're not all that far apart.

You don't know how much it hurt me to say that.


Yesterday's New York Times had a special Small Business section centering on things digital.

Jennifer 8. Lee's front–page article about a new white–hat hacker school called Y Combinator, a kind of software writers' MIT, was interesting enough if you're the type of person who knows what a Y Combinator is (I'm not — for a second there I thought it was something that made the Y chromosome special, but no) but the part I that got my attention was buried about a third of the way through the story.

    Here it is:

    The other, called TextPayMe, is a service that sends cash payments to an online account through text messaging — akin to PayPal but using a cellphone.

    Last month, Mr. Yuen [the inventor] was in Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley, demonstrating his product to venture capitalists and other tech entrepreneurs.

    At a Y Combinator dinner, he asked Evan Williams, a co–founder of Blogger, who was a guest speaker at the event, for his cellphone number and then sent him $2 using TextPayMe.

    Mr. Williams, intrigued, mentioned that he had the same idea earlier that day while brainstorming with friends.

    "It's something in the air," he said.



Well, guess what?

I'm inhaling — but nothing's happening.

Maybe I bought the wrong stuff.

But it says "Kool–Aid," with that frosty pitcher with the happy smile and all....

I wonder where I messed up.

Trouble is, what with the way things are around here there are so many places it could be that once I started looking I'd never be finished.


Better get on with the next post and stop dreaming, what?

February 23, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Operation Game Pen


Is this a hint?

It arrived yesterday from Mississippi, a result of what must have been some serious deliberation on the part of my crack research team head researcher.

From the website:

    This game really works – tweezers are hidden under the cap!

    All pieces are connected by nylon thread so they will not get lost.

    Features broken heart, butterflies in stomach, writer's cramp, charley horse and wrenched ankle.

    Includes replaceable battery.


Bonus: the pen really writes.

But wait — there's more.

When you touch the tweezers — which in this OR are the equivalent of forceps — to any of the five white target organs, the guy's nose lights up bright red and a buzzer sounds.


That's one big heap of surgical fun for $5.99.

[via Shawn Lea and everythingandnothing]

February 23, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

aaob.blogspot.com — 'Plug that will probably be deleted by Joe'


Guess you don't know me as well as you thought, eh, Paul?

Paul is a "40-something" masters runner whose blog (aaob.blogspot.com) faithfully records his training efforts as he prepares for the main event: the National Masters Indoor Championships coming up on March 26, 2006.

Sure hope he doesn't stroke out when he pays his morning visit here, what with his advanced age and all....

You just never know with me.

I remember reading the riveting 1996 book "Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit," by John E. Douglas, who worked at the FBI for 25 years.


Yes, the TV show "Profiler" was a result of the book, in case you're wondering.

Anyway, the part that struck me and the only thing I remember from the book was Douglas's description of the bureau's worst nightmare, a person agents described as a "Random Actor."

The problem with Random Actors is that they are, in fact, random: past performance is unrelated to what they might do in the future; pattern recognition becomes useless and, in fact, a hindrance.

When I read that description I instantly recognized myself.

The only difference between me and all those feared criminals is that I'm not a criminal — rather, I'm pretty much a goody two–shoes.

But my thought processes are extraordinarily nonlinear, simultaneously both my most appalling and appealing characteristic — or so I've been told on so many occasions I lost count decades ago.

February 23, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Edible Spoon Rest



    From cooksillustrated.com:

    A spoon rest is a nice extra to have in the kitchen, but many cooks don't want to bother with them.

    Julian Lewis of Burlington, Vt., came up with an alternative.

    Instead of a ceramic or metal spoon rest, she uses a slice of bread.

    The bread catches bits of food and soaks up juices, in the process becoming a savory treat for the family dog (or the cook).

Puts the ridiculousness previously published in this space to shame.

[via cooksillustrated.com]

February 23, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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