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August 2, 2006

'Sophistication that looks like simplicity is my own idea of style' — Jan Morris


Above, the first sentence of her short piece in today's Wall Street Journal.

More: "Style shows at its best in adversity."

The essay follows.

    Toujours Provence

    Sophistication that looks like simplicity is my own idea of style, and one of its epitomes, to my mind, is a delightful small rural hotel in central Provence. It is remote, and not conventionally luxurious. Beringed tycoons might not think much of it, but as its proprietress once reminded me, dukes frequent it.

    Style shows at its best in adversity, and I had occasion only the other day to see this little hostelry at its most imperturbable. A great storm had swept Provence, and when we came to check out the electric power was off and none of the credit-card mechanisms were working. We had no hard cash. We had no travelers' checks. We had a train to catch. What to do?

    The whole hotel staff, it seemed to me, assembled to deal with this crisis. There was the magnificent Senegalese lady receptionist. There were two or three Arab-looking maids. There was the curly haired hotel terrier, and two refugee kittens loudly squalling in a nearby basket. On his knees on the floor was a young electrician, contemplating his fuses in a scholarly way, and sometimes a gently smiling middle-aged Frenchman drifted through with a watering can. Now and then there sounded from somewhere out of sight the calmly authoritative voice of Madame La Patronne.

    We had four different credit cards between us, and we tried them all. None of them worked. We tried them back-to-front, inside-out, we rubbed them on our skirts. The electrician on the floor took no notice at all as we swapped one card for another, but once Madame's contralto offered comforting but totally ineffectual off-stage advice.

    Back came the man with the watering can, the Arab girls crowded around the reception desk, the electrician hummed to himself, a woman in a bikini turned up to clean the windows, and suddenly there was a bleeping noise from a credit-card machine. The receptionist seized one of our cards and jammed it in, and — miracle! — the machine responded. Limp with relief we watched as it began to churn out its paper. It was like the resolution of a fugue.

    But no, it was better than that. It was the development of a farce, because whatever any of us did then, whatever buttons we pressed, inexorably that paper kept on coming out. It spilled all over the table, it curled all over the floor, and by the time I managed to grab it in passing and sign my name we were all helpless with laughter, and the splendid Senegalese had collapsed hilariously shaking into an armchair.

    Presently Madame emerged into the chaos from her Olympus. "It has been a great pleasure to have you here," she said, above the whirring of the machine, the barking of the terrier, the meowing of the kittens, the shrieks of the receptionist and the giggling of the Arab girls. "I hope we shall see you again."

    "Au revoir, mesdames," said the electrician, looking up at last from his fuse box — and there's style for you.



Who's the designer?

Hint: one of my three favorites.

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

Antarctic Sky


Above, a photo of exceedingly rare nacreous clouds, taken last week by meteorological officer Renae Baker at Australia's Mawson station in Antarctica.

Short story shorter: Scientists say the iridescent, mother-of-pearl clouds "are produced when fading light at sunset passes through ice crystals blown along a strong jet of stratospheric air more than six miles above the ground."

Here's yesterday's CNN report.

    Mother-of-pearl clouds float over Antarctica

    Some of the coldest temperatures on the planet brought a rare cloud formation to the skies over Antarctica, scientists said Tuesday.

    Meteorological officer Renae Baker captured spectacular images of the nacreous clouds, also known as polar stratospheric clouds, last week at Australia's Mawson station in Antarctica.

    The clouds only occur at high polar latitudes in winter, requiring temperatures less than minus 176 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 80 degrees Celsius). A weather balloon measured temperatures at minus 189 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 87 degrees Celsius) on the day the photos were taken.

    Resembling airborne mother-of-pearl shells, the clouds are produced when fading light at sunset passes through water-ice crystals blown along a strong jet of stratospheric air more than six miles above the ground.

    "Amazingly, the winds at this height were blowing at nearly 230 kilometers (143 miles) per hour," Baker said on the Australian government's Antarctic Division's Web site.

    Australian Antarctic Division atmospheric scientist Andrew Klekociuk said the clouds are seldom seen, but are occasionally produced by air passing over polar mountains.

    "You have to be in the right part of the world in winter, and have the sun just below your horizon to see them," he said.


I wonder what it's like down there at this moment.

Hey — maybe I'll click here and see!

August 2, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ida Skovmand's blog


Who is Ida Skovmand, you ask?

She's a 19-year-old Swedish girl in the fashion business who has somehow found herself in London, England.

She started her wonderfully-titled blog (above) back in September of last year, writing in Swedish.


After her first post (above) she switched to English and has continued in her second language.

My first question: how is it that she can write better using a non-native language than 99% of those whose native tongue is English?

I'm just asking....

My second question: how much do you think I'll have to pay her to be an instructor at this year's bookofjoe Naming and Branding Seminar™?

A follow-up: do you think she'll be willing to fly business class or will I have to spring for first?

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

Portable Low-Profile Shelf-Mounted Paper Towel Holder


Nicely done.

From the website:

    Under Shelf Paper Towel Holder

    Installs without screws, nails or tools!

    Clever space-saver slides effortlessly on and off any shelf so you can now have a roll of paper towels where you couldn't before.

    Plus, you can easily move it to another location whenever you want!

    Great in kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, garage, workshop.

    Rust-resistant chrome.

    12" L.


I wonder what they were thinking when they pictured this


vertical orientation.

Sure, it'll work just fine — but what about closing that cabinet door?


August 2, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Secret Delivery Hack Exposed: 'Ship via FedEx — at U.S. Postal Service Rates!'


Who knew?

Certainly not me until ten minutes ago and now word is out on the web: FedEx "has flown Priority Mail, Express Mail and first-class pieces since 2001," according to today's Associated Press story.

CNNMoney.com noted that FedEx carried 1 billion pounds of U.S. mail in 2005, generating revenue of $1.3 billion.

FedEx transports about 4 million pounds of U.S. mail between U.S. airports each day.

These FunFacts were reported back on June 28 by Corey Dade in a Wall Street Journal article that my crack research team somehow missed.

Am I the only person who sees these two entities morphing into the U.S.F.P.S. (United States FedEx Postal Service) in the not-too-distant future?

I can assure you that I am the only person on the planet who visualizes, with great delight, the current crack research team — with the exception of its doughty leader, Shawn Lea, who somehow manages to put out a blog seven days a week, 365 days a year using the loose ends and misfits I hire — being given their collective pink slips at the end of today's shift.

There'll be a whole new krew onboard tomorrow.

Inquire within.

August 2, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Audible Candle


First sand, now a candle: is there no end of such things?

    Lighthouse Candle

    Lighthouse Candle with sound brings you all the romance of the seashore!

    Just flip the switch and you'll hear the crashing of waves, the cry of seagulls and the sound of a ship's horn, just as if you were really there!

    And all the while this lovely, long-lasting wax candle, with its seashore décor, fills the room with its soft glow.

    Has On/Off switch for sounds.

    Uses 2 AA batteries (not included).

    4" high x 3-3/4" diameter.



August 2, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rubbermaid — Official Chilling Tank of the Washington Redskins


It's back.

None other than the Rubbermaid 300-gallon stock tank, featured here back on August 6 of last year, at that time having been spotted by my crack research team (last year's iteration, all but one member long since scattered to the winds due to the demanding workload and stress inherent in that position) in the training room of the San Diego Chargers in a picture that appeared in the August 8, 2005 issue of Sports Illustrated.

Above, in a picture that appeared on the front page


of yesterday's Washington Post, Redskins rookie cornerback John Eubanks, left, and veteran left tackle Chris Samuels chill out in a tub of ice water after practice.

Guess word has spread cross-country, seeing as the Redskins appear to have plenty of these puppies in their training complex at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia.

What with the temperatures hereabouts these days, I'd bet the tanks are in constant use from morning till dark.

David A. Farenthold and Steven Mufson surveyed the region's reaction to the heat in a story that accompanied the photo.

I find it remarkable that the company that last year had by far the best price on these giant tanks is still selling them for that price today.


I'm amazed Rubbermaid's not capitalizing on the zillion dollars worth of free advertising and publicity they're getting via the athletic application of their tanks.

Why isn't that front-page photo, with the Rubbermaid logo on the tank in the background prominently highlighted, on billboards everywhere?

But then, what do I know?

Maybe that's why I'm in anesthesiology instead of advertising.

Or to put it another way: gas instead of hot air.

As it were.

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

Hands-Free Hair Dryer Stand — Episode 2: Taller, Telescoping and 75% Cheaper


I explored this space in a post that appeared on November 29 of last year and asked my crack research team to keep its collective eyes peeled for a more economical iteration than the $39.95 model featured at that time.

It seemed to me then and still does today that the accessory should not cost more than the thing accessorized — with the sole exception, of course, of the iPod — but then, that's the one that proves the rule.

Anyway, after many months of toil and countless hours spent in the nether regions of the web the team has hit pay dirt with the nifty item pictured above.

From the website:

    Hands-Free Drying Stand

    This adjustable stand leaves both hands free for quick 'n' easy drying and styling.

    Also doubles as a nail dryer!

    Extends from 27" to 39" for use on floor or countertop.

    Velcro strap secures any size hair dryer (not included).

    Flexible neck bends to any angle.

    Aluminum and PVC.


This stand is 75% cheaper and far more versatile than last year's.

Consider that the expensive one is only 19" high and doesn't telescope.

I rest my case.

$9.99 (I repeat: hair dryer not included. Sheesh).

August 2, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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