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August 14, 2006

Going Postal — Safety and Hygiene


Earlier today I had a chat with my mailman about something I'd read recently somewhere, about how crackheads were now driving around nice parts of town looking for mailboxes with the flags raised to identify outgoing items, then stealing the contents to obtain credit card, bank account and social security numbers, names, addresses, telephone numbers, all the stuff you need in order to successfully impersonate someone online to gain access to their finances.

Anyhow, the mailman said that those fears are well founded.

He went on to tell me about several instances in the past several years where huge quantities of mail were found trashed in out of the way places, clearly having been stolen and riffled through.

And I live in a Podunk town in the middle of nowhere.

He said he would never leave outgoing mail in his box, flag up or down.

Rather, he said, take the trouble to find a good old-fashioned mailbox in the neighborhood and use that.

Good incentive for me to go running: the nearest mailbox is about a mile away from my house, halfway to my turnaround point.

Turning to a happier subject, let's address hygiene — specifically, the postal version.

Here is how you practice good postal hygiene:

• Print all names and addresses in capital letters

• Use no punctuation of any kind

• Use only the two-letter official state name abbreviations — MS not Miss.

• Use the nine-character Zip Code when possible

Following the guidelines above enables the machines that do the majority of initial mail routing and sorting to more accurately match what you've put on the envelope with their computerized character recognition memories and direct your mail to its intended destination.

Addendum Tuesday, August 15 at 4:55 p.m.

Chuck just commented on this post and asked, "How do you figure out the 9-character Zip Code? 5-character Zip Code is as far as I get."

Excellent question.

The USPS website offers a 9-character Zip Code finder right here.

Thanks, Chuck!

August 14, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

World's Finest Anti-Procrastination Tool


That got your attention, huh?

I'd bet that the percentage of people who have issues with procrastination rivals that of those who fear public speaking.

We're talking big numbers here.

So when I tell you that the device featured in this post is the single best tool I have ever come across to mitigate — hey, nothing will cure you short of your final breath, this is merely a temporizing (as it were) measure — your habit of putting things off, well, you had better sit up and go find a different website.

Wait a minute....

But a tool is only as good as the person who uses it.

And so merely dropping $7.31 for this item will not do anything for you.

No, you're going to need the following value-added instructions on how to repurpose this kitchen-centric device for the great world.

1) Set the timer to count down from five minutes.

2) Turn it on.

3) Make sure you can't see the LCD screen.

4) Turn to your dreaded task and begin — shuffle or rearrange papers, take a note or two, skim through the pile, anything to keep you occupied. It's imperative that you say to yourself, "I'm stopping after five minutes, as soon as the timer goes off," then move really fast through your chosen job.

5) More likely than not (hey, I never promised 100% effectiveness, did I?) when the timer goes off you will have forgotten about it and will say to yourself, "I can do another five minutes."

6) Repeat Steps 1-5 above ad infinitum, setting the timer interval longer and longer, until your task is done.

My method employs the bookofjoe Anti-Inertia Wedge Principle™.

Briefly stated (a paper laying out the details has been submitted to Physical Review Letters), this means that starting something is much, much harder than continuing.

Have you ever noticed, for example, that going running or cleaning the house or shaving seem easy to put off but, once started, are generally continued to completion without anything like the Sturm und Drang of beginning?

Me too.

Boy, you so owe me.

But as always, I'll just put it on your tab.

As I noted, $7.31.

August 14, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

My car has arrived


It's a 1968-69 AVS Shadow-Chevrolet Lowline CanAm Racing Sports initial prototype, designed by Don Nichols of Ex-Works.

One reviewer back in the day upon seeing the car wrote, "It looked kinda like a man just seated on a skateboard, with a Chevy V8 strapped to his back — the image looked so amazing I forgot to press the shutter and missed the shot!"

The car is Lot Number 518 in an upcoming Bonham's auction styled "An Important Sale of Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia, Featuring Fine Jewelry and Watches."

You say you'll get it for me?


The auction's at 3:30 p.m. this coming Friday, August 18, at the Quail Lodge Resort & Golf Club in Carmel, California.

Give me a holler after you've bought it — I'll be curious as to what you paid.

The estimate is $100,000-$140,000, according to Simon de Burton's story in this past weekend's Financial Times.

Why not pick something up for yourself?

Here's the catalog.

August 14, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

21st Century Duchamp?


Above, the Pale Ale Urinal, created by British designer Philip Watts.

Brendan Koerner wrote about it in his weekly feature, "The Goods," in yesterday's New York Times.

Here's the story.

    Is It a Urinal, or Is It Art?

    The British are known for their enthusiasm for bawdy, innuendo-filled fun, especially the sort that takes place after downing a half-dozen pints with your mates. That mischievous spirit is what inspired the Pale Ale Urinal, a vessel designed to sluice away the night’s alcohol once it has run its course. This men-only toilet may cost $605, but it consists of nothing more than a steel bucket mounted atop a pedestal; it’s a jab at the pomposity of some modern art as much as a place to answer nature’s call.

    “Some products are about color, and some products are about shape,” said Philip Watts, head of the design firm in Nottingham, England, that created the urinal. “With this product, it’s more about concept and a statement of intent that’s obviously humorous.”

    The Pale Ale Urinal grew out of a brainstorming session that Mr. Watts led in early 2004. His designers, who ordinarily focus on sinks, seats and handrails, are fond of batting around ideas for urinals because the field is so underdeveloped; the white porcelain shells familiar to men worldwide have changed little for several decades.

    When someone suggested replacing the traditional shell with a pail, Mr. Watts and his team instantly fell in love with the ribaldry of the concept. The product’s development was then relatively simple, requiring less than four months.

    The buckets themselves have come from two sources: some are surplus containers from the brewing industry, used for carrying hops, while others are off-the-shelf pails made in South Korea and intended for gardeners and the like. Mr. Watts and his designers decided to mount the buckets atop plinths of white Corian, a polymer often used in countertops. The juxtaposition of the objects — one fit for the barnyard, the other for a museum — is part of the fun, he said. He characterized the product as in the tradition of the Dadaist artist Marcel Duchamp.

    Despite the simplicity of the materials, there were some engineering challenges. Chief among them was finding the right position for the hole through which the bucket’s contents disappear. The designers quickly found that placing it in the center caused tiny pools to form along the edges of the pail’s bottom, so they moved the opening toward the front; because the bucket is tilted slightly forward on its pedestal, gravity helps keep things tidy. (Flushing is controlled by an automatic mechanism that cleans the urinal every 15 minutes.)

    Mr. Watts’s staff also experimented with using a resin to seal pennies to the receptacle’s surface, to provide users with targets. But the resin turned jaundiced after extended use, giving the entire product the unwanted veneer of uncleanliness, so the coins were abandoned.

    Field testing was conducted at a Nottingham bar, where some inebriated patrons took to punching and kicking the buckets near closing time. Mr. Watts said the abuse actually improved the urinals’ appearance, adding character to pails that looked a little too pristine for a much-trafficked washroom.

    Mr. estimates that he has sold 160 of the Pale Ale Urinals so far. They can be ordered on his company’s Web site, www.philipwattsdesign.com. Most customers have been high-end bars and restaurants in Britain, though the urinal has also proved popular in the former Soviet bloc; toilets have been shipped to cities in Russia, Slovakia and Romania. Clearly, the British aren’t alone in their love of a rowdy night out.


I'm going to order one and put it in my backyard, near where it falls off down to a little creek about a quarter-mile down.

Then when I'm outside doing this or that or back from running I can take a whizz and make art, all at the same time.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Especially if you really have to go.

£317.25 ($605; €470.75).

Mr. Mutt, please call your office.


It's time you went.

August 14, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp for Almay


Yesterday as I looked up at the TV while I was moseying along here on the treadmill I espied a beautiful woman who looked like a dead ringer for Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp who, back in her supermodel prime,


graced seemingly every fashion magazine cover


on the planet month after month.

I watched, mesmerized, and it turned out that it indeed was Ms. Irwin-Mellencamp for Almay, where she's been a spokesperson for over two years.

Word travels slow here.

Though modeling et al takes second place to her family now — she's got two boys, Hud and Speck, along with her husband John, perhaps raising the count to three — her timeless beauty (she'll be 37 this year)


lets her pretty much call her own shots.

Her sons appear with her in both her print (below)


and TV ads.

I guess her husband still represents a kind of third rail, much too dangerous and unpredictable to put up alongside mom and the boys.

Her career began in 1985 when a two by three inch photo (below)


appeared in Seventeen magazine when she was 15 and still in high school in Boyertown, Pennsylvania; the rest of the ride was via rocket to the top as she became a superstar covergirl


in Europe while still a teenager.

Her current cover count is well over 50 and every now and then I see a new one, on Self magazine and its ilk.

I could watch her commercials all day, as opposed to ones like the brain-dead Taco Bell "good-to-go" family spot which became annoying during the first zeptosecond of the second time I saw it.

It only comes up on VH1 about three or four times every hour so I suppose I shouldn't complain.

August 14, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Portable Cookies and Milk


Stunningly, jaw-droppingly wonderful.

From the website:

    Cookie Dunkers

    Pack-A-Snack Of Icy Cold Milk-N-Cookies

    Cookie Dunkers are great for school lunches and travel.

    Spill-proof sipper jug holds 7.9 oz. of milk while twist-off top compartment stores 5 cookies.

    In between is a freezer pack that keeps milk icy cold up to 4 hours.

    Dishwasher-safe polypropylene.

    Assorted colors — we'll choose.

    8''H x 3¾''Diam.


Words fail.


$8.99 (Oreos and milk not included).

August 14, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

picsearch.com — 'Innovating image search'


I was messing around the other night and happened on one of my old posts here.

However, the search engine used the picture rather than words to find it.

How does that work?

From the website:

    What is Picsearch?

    Picsearch is a company at the cutting edge of visual search that provides an image search engine for individual users. This is available through Picsearch internet properties, such as www.picsearch.com. Picsearch also creates image search solutions for search engines and portals that are available through our licensing program.

    Picsearch connects its users to the vast visual resources of the internet. Picsearch uses its own technology to crawl the web and has created a searchable index of images. When a user sends a query to Picsearch the result is received as a set of thumbnail images that are sorted to ensure that they are as highly relevant as possible. When the user clicks on a thumbnail they are linked to the original web site where that image is located.

    Picsearch image search technology has three main features that make it unique. It has a relevancy unrivalled on the web due to its patent-pending indexing algorithms. Also, Picsearch has a family friendliness that allows children to surf in safety as all offensive material is filtered out by our advanced filtering systems. The site is also very user friendly as it's designed to be simple, fast and accurate. Due to all of these features, Picsearch is perfect for fun, school, business and families!

August 14, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's Coolest In-Box


So stylish you might even do your work so you can look at it empty.

Designed by Hani Rashid for Alessi.

$36 at Alessi's new SoHo store (130 Greene Street; 212-941-7300), opening at the end of August.

FunFact: Rashid, along with Lise-Anne Couture of Asymptote, a New York-based architecture firm, designed the store, which will feature a coffee bar near the front entrance that will open every morning before the store itself.

FunFact #2: In England an in-box is called an in-tray — you could look it up.

[via Stephen Treffinger's "Currents" feature in the August 10 New York Times]

August 14, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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