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March 23, 2006

A History of Violence


I watched this film on DVD last night.

It was excellent.

How do I define excellence in a movie?

Very simple: when it ends you wish it hadn't.

It's seldom that I think that at the end.

I've liked the title of the film since I first heard it but had no real idea what it was about, since I didn't recall any reviews I might've read when it came out last year.

I won't tell you what it's about because maybe you'd like to approach it fresh as well.

I will say the following:

• Every single actor in the film is perfect — which I suppose reflects quite favorably on the casting director, Deirdre Bowen, as well as David Cronenberg, the movie's director.

• Now I know why Viggo Mortensen is so highly regarded.

• Mario Bello deserves major roles.

• William Hurt playing a Philadelphia mob boss and Ed Harris as his New York counterpart are beyond excellent: they are seriously frightening, they make their characters so real.

• I had never seen a movie where one character kills ten people that didn't leave you focused on all the deaths and violence — until this one.

• I was surprised to read in the credits that the film was "based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke."


I don't know why that should surprise me except for the fact that I've never read a graphic novel or even held such in my hand and yet here's a superb film made from one. Maybe it's time for me to have a look next time I'm at Barnes & Noble. Who knows, maybe I'll really decide to live large and play a videogame for the first time ever and have a firsts festival.

March 23, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Collapsible Colander — Episode 2: Designer Iteration Strikes Back


Those of you with residual medium–term memory may recall Episode 1, which appeared in this space back on December 31 of last year.

Seems a lifetime ago, doesn't it?

Anyway, that nifty effort cost $14.95.

Now comes Danish designer Boje Estermann with a much more expensive version of this tool.

From the website:

    This colander’s award-winning, space-conserving design was inspired by the expandable sun shield of an old camera.

    An excellent choice for the compact urban kitchen, it collapses to store flat in a drawer.

    Made of Santoprene® with a metal strainer.


    9" diameter.

    Extends to 5" deep.

    Made in Denmark.


Is having stainless–steel instead of silicone worth 4+ times the money?

I guess that's for you to decide, isn't it?

March 23, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Horseback Riding Exercise Machine — Episode 2: It's here


Last year on July 13 I reported on a revolutionary exercise breakthrough out of Japan, from the skunk works behind Matsushita: the Joba horseback riding exercise machine (above and below).


At the time it was not available outside Japan.


Rob Phipps emailed me an hour or so ago to inform me that the machine has been renamed and made its U.S. commercial debut on Tuesday of this week at the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association annual convention.


The new name: the Panasonic Core Trainer.

I like it.


According to an article in yesterday's gizmag, "the killer app... is that it is best suited for those who normally hate strenuous physical exercise — the user just 'rides' the Core Trainer and gets fit without having to do anything."



[via Rob Phipps and gizmag]

March 23, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Digital Flare


This LED-powered flare is water-resistant and reusable.

Three AAA batteries last 100 hours.

$60 for three once they get outa beta — at least we couldn't find them anywhere.

If you have better luck give me a holler so I can add the info to this post.

Made by Jeep.


Maybe it's because I watched too many cowboy and war movies when I was a boy but I can't help but get anxious whenever an occasion for lighting a standard red flare arises.

They just look too much like the sticks of dynamite in the movies.


A thought (they happen from time to time): one of these flares might be very helpful to the pizza delivery guy trying to find your house on a rainy night.

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

BehindTheMedspeak: The Sounds of Silence — Episode 2: The old boss still rules


On November 13, 2004 I spilled the beans here about the world's best earplugs.

Not earphones, not earbuds — earplugs.

For making things quieter so you can think or sleep or perchance [to] dream or whatever else you do best when it's hushed and silent.

I was quite looking forward, then, on the morning of March 9, two weeks ago today, to reading that day's Wall Street Journal article headlined "The Sounds of Silence: Testing Earplugs," by Cynthia Crossen.

Maybe she'd discovered a brand even better than the nonpareil Mack's.

But not only did she not not even mention my favorites (though she did review and comment — unfavorably — on a different variety of Mack's earplugs than I use: she didn't like their rubber version while I swear by their silicone model), her favorites cost $130 a pair and have to be custom–ordered.

And even then they had negatives.

No, trust me on this: you want Mack's Pillow Soft® Earplugs (top), sold at drugstores everywhere and available here for $3.25 for a box of 12.

I go through a pair about every month or so, so that's $6.50 a year for peace and quiet.

It doesn't get much better than that.

I like the bright orange ones (intended for kids) because they're easy to locate in the morning should they have fallen out and gotten lost in the bedclothes.

Besides which they're just more fun.

You know how little it takes to amuse me.

Here's the Wall Street Journal story.

    The Sounds of Silence: Testing Earplugs

    New Generation of Plugs Isolates Specific Noises; A Showdown with a Rooster

    Measured by decibels, the crow of a rooster is somewhere between freeway traffic and the roar of a diesel freight train running at high speed.

    The one outside my bedroom window was more like the speeding freight train, except that it didn't go anywhere.

    It's illegal to kill roosters in Key West, Fla., (not that I would, I'm just saying).

    And once they've found a good roost, they're very hard to dislodge, especially if they're in a neighbor's tree, whose limbs you can't hack off.

    After suffering through several nights punctuated by irregular intervals of rooster "song," as some ornithologists charitably describe it, there seemed only one solution to the noise problem that didn't entail violence: earplugs.

    Earplugs are nothing more than tiny bits of foam, plastic or silicone with no moving parts, but they turn out to be amazingly complicated.

    Who knew that each human ear canal is as unique as a fingerprint?

    And that the bones of your skull also conduct sound, especially of low frequency, which is the frequency of most snoring?

    And that even deaf roosters crow?

    Fortunately, the growing earplug industry is applying modern technology to the science of "sound management," attempting to isolate specific sounds to muffle instead of muffling everything equally.

    Companies are developing more effective ear protection not just for the sleepless but also for professionals like fighter pilots, rock musicians, miners and carpenters who have learned, some the hard way, that repeated exposure to loud noise can cause irreversible hearing loss.

    These people want ear protection that lets them hear co-workers' voices or warning signals but eliminates hazardous background noise.

    New generations of ear plugs and muffs attenuate noise more evenly across frequencies, so there's less distortion in the sound that gets through.

    Companies are also using new materials and designs to reduce the weight and bulk of ear protectors so users will keep them in for longer periods of time.

    For workplace uses alone, revenue for ear products was $243 million in 2004, and the overall market is "rapidly expanding," according to Frost & Sullivan, a corporate growth consulting firm.

    A common misconception about over-the-counter earplugs like the ones I tried is that they will render you artificially deaf, and you won't be able to hear someone yelling, "Fire!" or "That tree I've been sawing is about to fall on you!"

    In fact, earplugs can reduce sound only by about 20 to 30 decibels.

    A scale of sound intensity, decibels start at zero, the faintest sound an ear can hear, and rise to about 180, a rocket pad during blast-off.

    Normal conversation is about 60 decibels; a rock concert is about 115.

    Continual exposure to more than 85 decibels may cause hearing loss; pain starts at about 130.

    "If you have a spouse who snores, sleep plugs will help, but they won't get rid of all the sound," says Karl Cartwright, a manager at Westone Laboratories, a Colorado Springs, Colo., maker of custom earplugs.

    "The only way to get better results is to go deeper into the ear canal. That can be dangerous."

    So the best I could expect from earplugs was that they would reduce the intensity of the rooster's crow to roughly the level of ordinary conversation.

    It was also important to find plugs that would remain in my ears all night but not make me feel as though my inner ears were being stretched on little torture racks.

    How much sound earplugs can block is expressed as a Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR, a fuzzy statistic produced in earplug manufacturers' laboratories under ideal conditions.

    In the real world, the efficacy of over-the-counter earplugs is usually considerably less.

    In fact, in cases where reducing sound is a safety issue -- factories, airports or construction sites -- some employers automatically halve the NRR in calculating their workers' exposure.

    For ordinary insomniacs, however, the earplugs' NRR will be less important than the right fit.

    Any breaks in the seal between the surface of the plug and the surface of the skin allow noise to enter.

    But a tight seal can create tender hot spots, and give you the feeling of being stopped up.

    An alternative to earplugs is muffs, which cover the ears like earphones.

    Muffs block some sounds more efficiently than plugs; they're easy to put on and take off; and they're more sanitary.

    But they can feel heavy and hot, they won't seal over hair or eyeglasses, and at night they make sleeping on your side almost impossible.

    White noise machines also mask sound by emitting a steady and monotonous combination of all frequencies (I have one of these, too).

    For the truly intractable noise problem, battery-operated Sleep-Eze noise generators (about $200) actually fit inside your ears, acting as both plugs and individual white noise machines.

    But like me, most people will start their quest for silence with earplugs, which come in dozens of materials, shapes, sizes and even colors.

    The one-size-fits-most plugs sold at pharmacies and the online Ear Plug Superstore are relatively inexpensive -- less than $1 a pair.

    Some, made of foam, are designed to be worn a few times and discarded.

    Others are plastic or silicone and can be washed and reused.

    Earplugs can be premolded, like Mack's Ear Seals, and come in several sizes (note to women: most earplugs are sized for men).

    Other plugs are molded by the user just before insertion, like Hearos Ear Filters.

    You can also have molds made specifically for your ears, which are expensive -- mine cost $130 for the pair -- but which assure a flawless seal.

    Ordinary cotton balls or wads of tissue paper stuffed into ears reduce noise only by about seven decibels.

    The general rule of thumb is that two-thirds of a properly fitted earplug will be inside the ear canal, the other third exposed.

    If more of the earplug goes into the ear canal, it's probably too small; if too much is exposed, it's probably too big.

    I pitted five pairs of earplugs against unmuffled motorcycles, emergency sirens, television at normal volume, barking dogs and a rooster.

    Then I paid a modest sum ($20) for the local chicken-rescue woman to trap "my" rooster and transport him to a junkyard 10 miles away that's owned by an acquaintance who is a welder and keeps several other roosters.

    She swears by the Silent Earplugs.



Here's a link to the chart comparing various brands that accompanied the article.

March 23, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Window Jack into Oven Rack Adjuster — MorphWorld enters the domestic space


At long last.

Above, the nifty Window Jack, made of "sturdy pine" and offering an alternative to a sawed–off broomstick (that's what I use — as best I can tell it's pine as well — for what that's worth) for holding up a guillotine–equivalent, no–longer–functional–as–designed double–hung window.

From the website:

    Our Window Jacks Hold Windows Open with Old-Fashioned Ingenuity

    We know a teenage boy who uses UPS boxes to hold open his old windows, which fits with his rather eclectic decor but may not be quite the look you're going for.

    These sturdy pine Window Jacks, made in Vermont, prop up old double–hung windows that won't stay open on their own.

    Three notches allow you to adjust windows to desired height.

    19¼" long by 1" wide.


To refresh your memory, on February 26 of this year we explored the


oven rack


adjuster (above


and below)



As I consider the photo of the Window Jack at the top of this post — using my proprietary WhirledPeas™ algorithm, which Google and I have not yet been able to value in a way satisfactory to both of our negotiating teams... hey, wait a minute, I'm in my quiet period now. I just blew it. Oh, well... — it appears to me that the Window Jack would double quite nicely as an oven rack adjuster.

Perhaps I should to pass this on to the redoubtable Ortons, who sell it.


March 23, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Teslamania.com — 'Danger: High Voltage'



Fun with electricity doesn't begin to tell the story.

Shrunken coins.


Mendocino motors.

Lichtenberg figures.


And much, much more.

March 23, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Objective attention


March 23, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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