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March 3, 2006

RetroJunk.com

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The pop culture of the 70s, 80s and 90s lives.

Because I care about you and your future I decided to post this now as opposed to first thing next Monday morning when your shaky self, sitting down to day one of the weekly slog, might see it and abandon the stuff piled high on your desk for the more sublime pleasures offered by "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" cartoons and their ilk on this wonderful throwback website.

March 3, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

MorphWorld: Sno–baller™ into Meatballer

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Jung thought that synchronicity offered a glimpse of the underlying structure of the deep reality forming the armature of everyday life.

He might've been right.

The Sno–baller (below)

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surfaced on October 17; now comes the Stainless Steel Meatballer (top).

From the website:

    Shaping meatballs has never been this easy.

    The no–mess, speedy way to create uniform meatballs.

    18/10 stainless–steel scoop–shaped tong is dishwasher–safe.

    6.75"L x 1.75"W.

$9.99.

Cited for excellence by the Bizarro World Slow Food Movement.

March 3, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

bookofjoe goes global on Reuters

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Ellen Wulfhorst of Reuters chatted with me on the phone yesterday afternoon: her story went out this morning.

Read it for yourself below.

The treadmill lifestyle™ is more than a final fantasy... wait a minute — that's not right.

Passing fancy, yeah, that's what it's more than.

Anyway, here's the story.

    Researcher: Walk while you work

    Workers of the world, walk.

    Fueled by research conducted by a Mayo Clinic obesity specialist, some U.S. workers are spending their days on treadmills or indoor tracks, walking as they talk on the telephone, send e-mails and even hold meetings.

    "I'm speaking to you at one mile an hour on a treadmill in my office in front of my computer," said Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Rochester, Minnesota, medical college, whose research has fueled the nascent movement. "I do all my work here."

    A walking worker can burn 100 calories (0.4184 kilojoules) an hour or as many as 800 calories (3.3472 kj) a day, said Levine, whose research has appeared in the journal Science and medical journals.

    All that calorie-burning could help desk-bound workers, whose obesity-related health problems cost businesses money, he argued.

    His research is based on a theory nicknamed NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, founded on the idea that people burn energy on mundane, day-to-day tasks and movements.

    Using NEAT, Levine has designed offices to keep workers on the move, with treadmills outfitted with desks, computers and telephones, and office walking tracks, marked by lines on the floor, so colleagues can walk while they hold meetings.

    "It's absolutely logical to target the workplace as a fundamental place to get healthy," he said.

    Levine said he knows of no company building treadmills along his designs, although a few have expressed interest.

    Instead, word is spread on the Internet sites and on blogs.

    One fresh convert to walking while working is Thomas Niccum, president of Lancet Software in Burnsville, Minnesota, who created his office treadmill at the start of this year.

    He estimates he has walked about 120 miles on the job since then.

    In the process, he lost five pounds (2.27 kilograms) without dieting.

    He admits that while his colleagues stop and look at his set-up, no one else has signed up for an office treadmill.

    "People do look at you weird or funny," he said. "It takes a little effort to do it, so a lot of people just aren't going to going to bother.

    Another advocate is Dr. Joseph Stirt, an anesthesiologist in Charlottesville, Virginia, who estimates he spends eight to 12 hours a day working and walking on his treadmill in his home office.

    "You will become addicted," he said. "When I turn the treadmill off at night, it's so unpleasant. Sitting in a chair, working, is so unpleasant, you might as well be dead."

    Stirt said he even walks an hour a day in reverse, figuring he can exercise his quadriceps walking forward and his hamstrings walking backward.

    A "walking-while-working" proselytizer, Stirt said he wishes he could take his treadmill into the community hospital operating room and do his job there while he paces.

    "The nurses haven't seemed real excited about it so far," he said. "But give me time."

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The picture leading this post is Version 2.0 beta of my treadmill desk, at which I am happily typing these words.

I'm not on it because I took the picture.

"Hey, Joe — ever hear of an auto–timer?"

Yes; so?

Remember whom™ you're talking to.

March 3, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UV Black Light Pen — Episode 2: 'This really could be... used to write secret messages!'

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That's what it says right here.

From the website:

    Authenticate Secure Documents — Write Secret Messages

    This really could be a toy... used to write secret messages.

    But it is really a great tool to help identify original documents.

    UV Blacklight Pen Set includes:

    • UV Blacklight Pen

    • 3 Batteries

    • 2 Invisible ink cartridges

    Invisible Ink Pen on one side: Black Light on the other side

    • Use to view "hidden fibers" in Document Security Paper

    • Use to view "UV Security Ink" Printed on Document Security Paper

    • Use to write and view hidden messages

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Fsdgfargf

$6 complete.

[Episode 1 is here]

[via Shawn Lea and everythingandnothing]

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Addendum: You will note, should you go back to Episode 1, that I ended with an appeal for a source for the nifty pens featured.

Shawn Lea has done it once again.

You can buy the Elephant Pen here; the Dolphin here; and the Rocket version here.

But wait: there's more.

Shawn's source brings them to us not for the $9.99 list price but for a very sweet $4.99 apiece.

You GO girl!

March 3, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A. Beijing

Ikea

Q. Where, as of next month, is the second–largest IKEA store in the world?

You wouldn't think a winning strategy for a Western company would be to try to compete in China on price.

But that's precisely what IKEA is doing.

Mei Fong, in a story on the front page of today's Washington Post Business section, noted that the Chinese, who boast the world's fastest–growing economy, "... are notoriously reluctant to spend money. People on average save 30 per cent of their incomes...."

Thus, Ian Duffy, who for the past four years has been in charge of IKEA's Chinese stores, took an approach opposite to that of other foreign brands in China and slashed his company's prices.

He said, "I had to make a break, change perceptions that Western–branded goods are normally more expensive."

Thus, he's pushed IKEA's prices in China as much as 70 per cent below those for the identical product in IKEA stores in other countries.

Looks like his strategy is working: "Weekend throngs at IKEA's three stores in China — in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou — are so big, with more than 20,000 visitors each on any weekend day, that employees use bullhorns for crowd control."

IKEA plans to open a store in the city of Chengdu this year and then add two stores annually until 2010.

Duffy said, "Chinese consumers are the most demanding in the world."

If that's the case, look for the rise of world–class Chinese brands in the next several years, driven by that country's own ethos.

Here's the Post article.

    Ikea Goes Even More Cut-Rate to Draw Chinese Shoppers

    When Ian Duffy was first put in charge of Ikea's China stores four years ago, he spent hours at the checkout line observing customers.

    He didn't see many.

    Instead, he saw plenty of people crowding the Beijing store for freebies -- such as access to air-conditioning and clean toilets.

    Adding insult to the injury: Shops right outside were offering copies of Ikea designs at a fraction of the cost.

    So, to lure shoppers, the blue-eyed 48-year-old Brit launched perhaps the least expensive Ikea non-sale item anywhere in the world: the 12-cent vanilla ice cream.

    Thus began Ikea's strategy to beguile the finicky Chinese consumer by slashing prices in China to the lowest in the world -- the opposite approach of many Western retailers.

    Although China boasts the world's fastest-growing economy as millions join the ranks of the middle class, the frugal Chinese are notoriously reluctant to spend money.

    People on average save 30 percent of their incomes, one of the highest savings rates in the world.

    China's trading partners, such as the United States and Europe, hope to narrow their huge trade deficits by getting the Chinese to buy more of their products.

    Yet, typically, Western brands in China price their products 20 percent to 30 percent higher than in other markets.

    That's partly to make up for China's high import taxes on foreign goods and partly to lend their products an added cachet in Chinese eyes, an important branding strategy in developing markets.

    Foreign retailers in China "don't feel that they have to compete on price," because they are offering a wider selection of goods and a more pleasant shopping experience than domestic competitors, said Ann Chen, a retail analyst at Boston-based consultancy Bain & Co.

    Not Duffy.

    "I had to make a break, change [Chinese] perceptions that Western-branded goods are normally more expensive," he said.

    By stocking Ikea's Chinese shops increasingly with China-made products, Duffy pushed prices on some items as low as 70 percent below prices in Ikea outlets elsewhere.

    An armchair from Ikea's popular Ektorp range retails for $112 in China, 67 percent less than one sold in the United States.

    The gamble seems to have worked.

    Ikea -- whose name in Chinese, "Yi Jia," means "comfortable home," -- is anything but comfortable on weekends, as thousands of Chinese crowd in to look and to outfit their homes and apartments.

    Weekend throngs at Ikea's three stores in China -- in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou -- are so big, with more than 20,000 visitors each on any weekend day, that employees use bullhorns for crowd control.

    China_2

    Next month, Ikea will open a 452,100-square-foot store in Beijing, second in size only to its flagship store in Stockholm.

    At the store, which Ikea furnished with extra-wide aisles to handle the expected crowds, the Swedish company expects to sell enough furniture every year to fill about 5,000 40-foot containers -- double what it sells in other stores.

    It's a fast-growing market.

    During the past eight years China has seen a huge surge in homeownership as authorities did away with state-allocated housing and subsidized rentals.

    Because many apartments are typically empty shells sold without paint, lighting or even flooring, the market for home furnishings has taken off.

    Bain & Co. estimates that the do-it-yourself market in China -- stretching beyond furniture to include items such as bathroom tubs and sinks as well as gardening tools -- is growing 10 percent a year and generates $15 billion in sales.

    Ikea's price strategy is encouraging repeat customers.

    In a thrifty nation accustomed to durable Chinese wooden furniture, habits are changing.

    "My parents' furniture used to last more than 10 years, but now they change every three or four years," said Chen Wei, 40, who recently brought his wife and mother to the existing Ikea store in Beijing.

    His mother, though, laments Ikea's falling prices: A sofa she had bought in 2004 for roughly $360 was now $224, she said.

    "I really regret not waiting," she said, sighing.

    Ikea holds a 43 percent market share in China's housewares segment, Bain estimates.

    But it is about to get a lot of company. Until last year, Chinese regulations required all foreign retailers to have a local partner.

    With the change in regulations, B&Q PLC, a home-improvement retailer owned by Kingfisher PLC of Britain, has announced plans to more than double its current number of stores in China to 100 in the next five years.

    Ikea, too, is expanding under the new rules.

    Its first two stores in China were joint ventures.

    But last October, Ikea opened its first wholly owned store in Guangzhou, a structure it plans to use for future stores, Duffy said.

    Ikea plans to open a store in the city of Chengdu this year and add about two stores annually until about 2010.

    Some analysts question whether Ikea can maintain its cut-price strategy as it enters China's smaller cities, where incomes are lower and demand for bargains even higher.

    "It's a big test for us," Duffy acknowledged.

    But he insists the company still will be able to reduce prices each year by improving productivity in stores, making more products in China (it is currently building a factory in the northeastern city of Dalian) and sticking to wholly owned stores.

    Half of the products in Ikea's Chinese stores are made in China, compared with about 23 percent in Ikea stores overall, with the rest made in countries such as Poland and Sweden.

    That has enabled the company to halve prices in China over the past four years, even as Chinese consumer incomes have increased.

    So far, few foreign retailers in China are making a profit from sales in the country, analysts estimate.

    Ikea is not publicly listed and does not disclose profitability, but analysts estimate its China operations bring in about $120 million in annual revenue.

    Duffy, a law graduate who long ago eschewed pinstripes for the jeans-wearing, everyman ethos at Ikea, said he has seen plenty of shoppers in his 19 years with the company.

    "Chinese consumers are the most demanding in the world," he said.

    But he appears undaunted.

    Standing by the plastic-shrouded products in his cavernous new store, he said, "People like what we've got. We've had seven years to build a following in the city, and in that time, we've learned enormously."

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March 3, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Virginia — by T. S. Eliot

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Red river, red river,
Slow flow heat is silence
No will is still as a river
Still. Will heat move
Only through the mocking-bird
Heard once? Still hills
Wait. Gates wait. Purple trees,
White trees, wait, wait,
Delay, decay. Living, living,
Never moving. Ever moving
Iron thoughts came with me
And go with me:
Red river, river, river.
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March 3, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Throw Paper — Hours of fun for the easily amused

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Huh – I guess that's you.

I mean, why else would you be here?

Anyway, from a joehead from Denver, Colorado comes this wonderful website, enabling you to do what you do anyway — but in glorious 2–D.

It might get better than this but I'll tell you what — it won't be by much.

[via Linda Lou Turner who added, "Not sure you can play it while walking, though."]

You can and I did.

Just one more variable among the many.

March 3, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Extreme Pen — Works underwater, atop Mount Everest or in outer space

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From the website:

    Write Anywhere Pen

    Ideal for situations ranging from outdoor adventures to underwater expeditions to everyday office use, this pen writes at any angle, temperature and altitude.

    It can even be used underwater or in zero gravity.

    Unlike lesser pens which claim to be titanium but are in fact merely titanium-plated, the barrel of this pen is machined from solid aerospace-grade titanium; additional components are crafted from carbon fiber, a strong, lightweight composite often used in aircraft and bicycle construction.

    It easily converts from a compact size for quick notes to a full-size pen for more extended use, and includes an integrated PDA stylus attachment for digital note taking and a split–ring for securely attaching the pen to keys, clothing or gear.

    The replaceable pressurized–ink cartridge has a write–out length of nearly 2000'.

    3"L (5" extended) x 5/8" Diam.

    Weight: 0.5 oz.

$89.95.

March 3, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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