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July 31, 2006

The best investment I ever made


Out there on the patio — it's a bird, it's a plane, it's... my can holder?


I saw it in a Seven-11 many years ago and instantly raced to grab it before anyone else.

No better summary exists of my take on things — then or now.

For $1.99 or whatever it cost I get at least one laugh and many smiles each day, every time I see it — which is often since I drink an unbelievable quantity of water and therefore visit the W.C., outside which the chiller stands sentry on a file cabinet, on a more or less hourly basis during waking hours.


My philosophy (long story short): If you can't laugh at yourself, you have no business laughing at anyone else.

July 31, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Portable Catalytic Golf Cart Heater


Res ipsa loquitur.

But perhaps you don't know the language.

From the website:

    Portable Catalytic Golf Cart Heater

    This portable heater produces 3,000 BTUs and fits in most golf cart cup holders to warm passengers on early spring or late autumn golf outings.

    It has platinum catalytic heating technology that is whisper-quiet and generates ample warmth without flame, and is capable of raising ambient cart temperature as much as 25°F.

    It uses a standard 16.4 oz. disposable propane cylinder available at hardware stores to provide up to 8 hours of warmth.

    The pressure-regulated fuel system controls flow to maximize efficiency and prohibit a flare-up if the unit is accidentally tipped over.

    The heating head is angled 35° to direct warm air towards cart occupants.

    The device ignites at the touch of a button without priming or pumping.

    Also suitable for use in cup holders on utility carts.

    Includes a carrying case and wire stand for use on flat surfaces.

    15-1/2"H x 9"Diam.

    6 lbs.



Wait till the guys at GolfPunk hear about this.

Most def not TechnoDolt™-approved.

Wouldn't it be great to be like a boa constrictor and be able to see those wavy red lines (top picture) with your infrared vision?

$99.95 (golf cart not included).

July 31, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What will college be like in 2056?


Naomi Schaefer Riley, the deputy Taste editor of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), addressed this question in her July 21 "de gustibus" column.

Long story short: Remarking on the ever more fashionable tendency in American schools to teach skills such as synthesizing and analysis rather than old-fashioned factual knowledge and history, Ms. Riley wonders who will edit and express the results of those conclusions in clear, understandable language.

I predict that being able to write lucidly will be a guaranteed ticket to a nice lifestyle in 2056.

But then, I would say that, wouldn't I?

Here's the WSJ piece.

    The Future Will Be Different! Why Study?

    What will higher education look like in 50 years? If you weren't in Honolulu a couple of weeks ago, you might not know. Alas, I wasn't there either. But a glance at the panels of a conference convened there -- called "The Campus of the Future" -- offers a clue: College in the coming decades will have even less to do with learning than it does now.

    Of the conference's almost 200 offerings -- e.g., "Responding to Climate Change," "Branding Your Identity" and "Takin' It to the Streets" -- none seemed to have even a tangential relation to the idea that, in college, teachers are supposed to impart knowledge to students.

    The organizers, in their defense, are not academics and probably don't consider it their jobs to think about what goes on inside classrooms. (The sponsoring groups included the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers and the National Association of College and University Business Officers.) But they were interested enough in classroom life to ask Thomas Friedman to lecture on the topic. The New York Times columnist obliged, offering his thoughts on what colleges can do to keep America competitive in a global economy.

    According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mr. Friedman "urged educators to focus less on concrete outcomes like grades and test scores and more on teaching students how to learn, instilling passion and curiosity in them and developing their intuitive skills." To anyone who has followed the rhetoric of educationists in recent years, these bromides will sound familiar. Suffice it to say that if colleges take up Mr. Friedman's suggestions, they will move further away from their academic mission, and the kind of student who thrives in a university environment will change.

    Mr. Friedman suggested to his audience of 4,000 that preparing students for an uncertain future was akin to "training for the Olympics without knowing which sport you will compete in." This blustery overstatement is also painfully familiar: Change is so rapid, we are told, that we can't even imagine what the future will look like. I recently found myself at a "career night" at my old high school in Worcester, Mass., where I heard ideas similar to Mr. Friedman's. An alumnus on my panel advised students that "the job [you] will hold probably doesn't even exist today."

    One has to wonder whether such claims will become, for students, an excuse for laziness. Remember the young Alvy Singer in Woody Allen's "Annie Hall"? Upon finding out that the universe will eventually come to an end, he decides to stop doing his homework. In such a way, students today -- hectored about the hyper-changing world they are in -- may decide that there is no point in traditional learning since the future will be so very different. Why read Gibbon when only "intuitive skills" are going to be worth anything?

    But for all the anxiety of education experts, it may well be that the skills that were useful to our parents and grandparents will be useful for years to come. People who edit Web sites, after all, still have to know grammar. Biologists who manipulate DNA still have to know the phases of meiosis. Businessmen -- who, Mr. Friedman suggests, now need to be "synthesizers," and "adaptors" -- still have to know how to calculate the bottom line. Even columnists may find that the history they learned in school comes in handy (though perhaps not often enough).

    A few years ago, David Brooks wrote a piece for the Atlantic called "The Organization Kid," in which he described the harried life of a college student today. At Princeton, Mr. Brooks recounted, he "asked several students to describe their daily schedules, and their replies sounded like a session of Future Workaholics of America: crew practice at dawn, classes in the morning, resident-adviser duty, lunch, study groups, classes in the afternoon, tutoring disadvantaged kids in Trenton, a cappella practice, dinner, study, science lab, prayer session, hit the StairMaster, study a few hours more."

    Perhaps, as Mr. Brooks concluded, students are amazingly diligent these days. Perhaps they are more serious about college than, say, the baby boomers were. But study after study has shown that less and less of their time is devoted to academics. It is given over instead to "leveraging," "synthesizing" and other Friedman-ite activities, often aided by handy electronic organizers.

    Some might say that a palm-piloted life is exactly what a young person will need for the 21st century. But not everyone is suited for it. We've been reading a lot recently about boys falling behind girls in school. You don't have to hang around teenagers for long to realize that girls are much bigger fans of to-do lists and neat calendars than boys. They are more adept at "multi-tasking," too. Meanwhile, boys throw themselves into one or two subjects, keep messy notes and need to be reminded where they have to be next.

    Some dean may chalk these proclivities up to immaturity, but there is a reason to value the kind of academic single-mindedness that male students often bring to an educational environment -- the kind of thing that pushes up those old-fashioned test scores. Even on the campus of the future.



And that's all I have to say about that.

Wait a minute — wrong picture....

July 31, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

We get email: From Bill Chisholm, founder of Farmers Almanac TV


Back in May I featured Farmers' Almanac TV.

I wrote that they were having some trouble gaining traction in the media space.

Not any longer.

Just in at 12:14 p.m. today, an email from Bill Chisholm, the creator of Farmers' Almanac TV.

    Here is what he wrote:


    Thanks for your comments about us, I thought I would update you on our status with PBS as to our coverage across America in our first season which started in April.

    We are in 50%+ of PBS stations and that equates to around 60 million households which now have the opportunity to watch our series.

    All of this info plus lots more video is available on our site.

    Bill Chisholm



Guess what channel's going to the top of my "favorites" list instanter?

You're very smart.

I never cease to be amazed at what a shout-out here can do for a great — but underappreciated — aspect of the world.

July 31, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is the price of happiness? — Episode 2: $6.25 (per hour)



Cheap at twice the price, what?

Yes, it turns out that money can indeed buy happiness.

And it doesn't cost all that much after all.

Let's do the math.

First, this quote from Shankar Vedantam's July 3 Washington Post story: "A wealth of data in recent decades has shown that once personal wealth exceeds about $12,000 a year, more money produces virtually no increase in life satisfaction."

"OK — you can have the magic bus for 100 English pounds."


What's that doing here?

Hold on a sec — I have to change reels....

OK, we're good.

Let's do the math: $12,000 a year = $1,000 a month.

Note that I'm doing math for you 'cause I know it's still early and your calculator's not warmed up yet.

I understand.

$1,000 a month = $250 a week.

Let's say — just for the sake of argument and convenience — you decide to begin your happiness quest by working a 40-hour week.

OK — $250 divided by 40 = $ $6.25 an hour.

But, but, what about taxes, and social security, and, and....

We'll make it easy for you and pay you $10 an hour gross ($400/week) so that after all the deductions, each week you'll have $250 to put in your pocket and take home .

Now are you happy?

Here's the Post story.

    Science Confirms: You Really Can't Buy Happiness

    When Warren Buffett announced last week that he will be giving away more than $30 billion to improve health, nutrition and education, people all over America reflected on his remarkable generosity, pondered all the noble things the gift would achieve and asked themselves what they would do if someone were to give them that kind of dough.

    Halt that daydream: Turns out the Oracle of Omaha is a wizard at more than investing. When it comes to money, giving may buy a lot more happiness than getting.

    Buffett may have been thinking of his soul -- "There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way," he said as he announced the largest gift in the history of the planet -- but he may also have been keeping up with the latest psychological research.

    A wealth of data in recent decades has shown that once personal wealth exceeds about $12,000 a year, more money produces virtually no increase in life satisfaction. From 1958 to 1987, for example, income in Japan grew fivefold, but researchers could find no corresponding increase in happiness.

    In part, said Richard Layard of the London School of Economics, who has studied the phenomenon closely, people feel wealthy by comparing themselves with others. When incomes rise across a nation, people's relative status does not change.

    But surely a Buffett-size gift -- he wants to give away $4 million a day -- would make most people euphoric, right?

    Temporarily, that is true, Layard said in an interview. However, social comparisons are not the only factor at play. Another big psychological factor is habituation: Dramatically changing one's wealth does create happiness, but it will last only until people get used to their newfound status, which can be a matter of months or a couple of years at most.

    When people win lotteries, for example, Layard said, "initially there is a big increase in happiness, but then it reverts to its original level. So why do people want to win lotteries? . . . They have a rather short-term focus, and they don't seem to grasp long-term ways their own feelings work."

    The journal Science reported last week yet more evidence and another theory about why wealth does not make people happy: "The belief that high income is associated with good mood is widespread but mostly illusory," one of its studies concluded. "People with above-average income . . . are barely happier than others in moment-to-moment experience, tend to be more tense, and do not spend more time in particularly enjoyable activities."

    Wait, there's more.

    "The effect of income on life satisfaction seems to be transient," the researchers added. "We argue that people exaggerate the contribution of income to happiness because they focus, in part, on conventional achievements when evaluating their lives and the lives of others."

    Wow. Let's pause a moment to let all priests, nuns and anarchists take a bow and say, "I told you so!"

    "People grossly exaggerate the impact that higher incomes would have on their subjective well-being," said Alan Krueger, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University and an author of the study.

    The problem is that once people get past the level of poverty, money does not play a significant role in day-to-day happiness, Krueger said. It certainly can buy things, but things do not usually address most of the troubles people experience in daily life -- concerns about their children, problems in intimate relationships and stressful aspects of their jobs.

    When people daydream about winning big, Krueger said, "they focus on all the things they would buy, without recognizing that does not contribute all that much to their well-being."

    In fact, the study noted, data from the Department of Labor show that the more money people have, the less likely they are to spend time doing certain kinds of enjoyable things that make them happy. High-income individuals are often focused on goals, which can bring satisfaction. But working toward achievements is different from experiencing things that are enjoyable in themselves , such as close relationships and relaxing leisure activities.

    "If you want to know why I think poor people are not that miserable, it is because they are able to enjoy things that Bill Gates has not been able to enjoy, given his schedule at Microsoft," Krueger surmised.

    Various studies have shown that people are enormously reluctant to accept a pay cut, even if that would give them more freedom, less supervision or a shorter commute -- all things that are tangibly associated with moment-to-moment happiness. The emphasis on salary is identical to the lottery ticket winner's mistake in thinking that money changes everything.

    "One of the mistakes people make is they focus on the salary and not the non-salary aspects of work," Krueger said. "People do not put enough weight on the quality of work. That is why work looks like, for most people, the worst moments of the day."


Not convinced?

Watch an MSNBC interview with Vedantam wherein he discusses his article.

July 31, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack



My name for this "patented system for separating the dirt from your [car's] wash water."

Can a bucket be too technical a tool for me to master?

It would appear so.

From the website:

    DirtGuard™ AutoWash System

    Traps grit to prevent scratches and swirl marks

    A patented system for separating the dirt from your wash water, DirtGuard includes a 4-gallon bucket, a super-plush chenille wash mitt and a strainer/filter unit in the bottom of the bucket.

    Each time you dunk your mitt, drag it across the strainer to trap any dirt in the mesh filter — brilliant!


Just because it's not TechnoDolt™-approved doesn't mean you can't enjoy the benefits of grit trapping and swirl mark reduction.



July 31, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

What is the price of happiness? $24.96



That's what I just paid at Amazon (1-Click Two-Day Free Delivery) for the Who's new album, "Wire & Glass," the group's first full studio release since 1982, and Nora Ephron's new book, "I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman," her first collection of essays since 1978.


Read an excerpt here.

Both come out tomorrow.

I'm so excited.

Gonna be a very good week.

July 31, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

World's most technical stadium seat cushion


From the website:

    Portable Gel Seat

    Unlike bulky seat cushions that are heavy or difficult to carry, this compact gel-filled cushion weighs only 2-1/2 lbs, folds in half and is easily portable due to its integrated handle.

    The soft, pliant gel- and supportive memory foam-filled pads disperse weight across the width of the cushion, relieving point-of-contact pressure inherent in long periods of sitting (at a desk, behind the wheel of a car, in bleachers while viewing a sporting event and elsewhere) as well as helping to prevent or lessen back strain and blood vessel and capillary constriction.

    For additional comfort, the center groove eliminates contact pressure on the tailbone and soft tissue.

    The surface slopes forward a gentle 5° to encourage proper pelvic posture for correct lumbar curvature while 16 small vented openings allow for adequate ventilation.

    1"H x 16"W x 13-1/2"L.



Can your cushion tilt forward 5°?

And how many small vented openings did it have when last you counted?

I rest my case.

In gel- and memory foam-filled comfort, I might add.

Not that it's necessary, but hey — my blog, my rules.



But wait — what about a different approach to this item?

How about we position it as a must-have air traveler's accessory?


We give it a wacked-out name like "GSeat® Light and flog it in Magellan's — think that might work?

Drop the price 95 cents, round it off to $59.

Let's give it a shot, what?

And as long as we're here we might as well take a closer look at those "16 small vented openings."

I had the crack research team count them and darned if they didn't keep coming up with 14.

They even did the math in longhand: 2 x 7 = 14.

You try:



Better not assign the people who wrote the ad copy to count how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, is all I'm saying.

July 31, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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