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August 17, 2006

Playback Drift — Or why a stone tablet is better than a hard drive


Is there a better all-around writer than James Fallows?

If so, give me her or his name, would you?

In the current (September) issue of The Atlantic, Fallows explains why it is that when it comes to keeping information around for centuries, millennia, that sort of deep time, digital simply can't hold a candle to analog.

Here's a link to his article.

August 17, 2006 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

We get email: From Doug Lambrecht, founder/owner of Real Wasabi


Just in at 3:18:02 p.m. ET today, the following.

    Fresh Wasabi Rhizomes


    As you're a fan of the "Fiery Taste, Smooth Finish" of Real Wasabi, I want you to know that recent harvests of our fresh Sawa (water grown) Daruma Wasabi Rhizomes [above] have been nothing short of outstanding!

    To ensure freshness, we've improved our shipping and handling process, procured thicker styrofoam shipping boxes and longer-lasting frozen gel packs.

    We assemble shipments just prior to pick up to make sure they go out cool and fresh and then rush them to your door via FedEx Overnight.

    This method allows the fresh wasabi rhizomes to arrive in great shape.

    If you would like to place an order you can simply click here or visit www.realwasabi.com and follow the links to fresh rhizomes.

    If you have questions or would like additional information, please feel free to drop us a line or call us at our new fullfillment center near Hilton Head Island, SC at 843-815-7442.

    Yours in culinary adventures,

    Doug Lambrecht, Founder
    Real Wasabi, LLC



How different is real, fresh wasabi from the reconstituted paste, made from powder, that you get at almost all sushi bars?

Well, let's see....

You know those shiny green containers of Kraft "Parmesan Cheese?"

The difference between what's in those and fresh grated real Parmigiano Reggiano is about the same.

Thanks, Doug.

August 17, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Going Postal — Episode 2: Hygiene revisited


Tuesday afternoon Chuck Bernardes commented on Episode 1's suggestion to "use the nine-character Zip Code when possible," as follows:

"How do you figure out the 9-character Zip Code? 5-character Zip Code is as far as I get."

Excellent question.

So good, in fact, that rather than just email the answer back to Chuck and post it as an addendum to the Monday post, I've decided to feature it here.

As I wrote Chuck, "The USPS website offers a 9-character Zip Code finder right here."

You'll want to memorize mine (below)


so as to ensure that your checks arrive in a timely fashion.

As if.

August 17, 2006 at 02:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Fireplace Insulating Plug — 'Remove it before you start a fire'


Winner of the 2006 bookofjoe Product Use Information Award™.

That contest is now so over.

From the catalog and website:

    Fireplace Insulating Plug

    Stop your chimney from stealing heat

    Fireplace dampers can't stop heat loss as well as a tight-fitting chimney insulating plug.

    Trims with a knife to fit your chimney.

    Rigid, closed-cell polyethylene is unaffected by moisture.

    Insulation R-Value of 8.

    42"W x 12"L x 2"H.

    Remove it before you start a fire.



Not recommended for TechnoDolts™.


August 17, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Mysteries of Pricing — Episode 2: Brevity is best


Episode 1 last Sunday explored the routine use of .99 and generated an enormous amount of feedback, the gist of which pointed out that since sales tax of varying amounts was invariably added, the actual price paid was invariably a non-round number and therefore the "employee-generated shrinkage" explanation proffered for pricing ending in .99 was DOA.

Now comes Alex Mindlin in the August 14 New York Times with a brief item about a new study, to be published in the September issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, showing that "each extra syllable in the price reduces the chances of it being recalled by 20%."

Here's Mindlin's piece.

    For a Memorable Price, Trim the Syllables

    Consumer researchers know that people are terrible at remembering store prices: two seconds after taking a product from a shelf, the average person has roughly a 50 percent chance of remembering how much it cost. But few researchers have examined why some prices are more memorable than others.

    According to a new study, it is a matter of syllables. Each extra syllable in the price reduces the chances of it being recalled by 20 percent, according to the study, which will be published in the September issue of The Journal of Consumer Research [JCR]. In other words, someone faced with a $77.51 camera (eight syllables) and a $62.30 bookshelf (five syllables) is about 60 percent more likely to forget the camera’s price than the bookshelf’s, after half a minute.

    “The way information goes from the environment to your memory, there is this phonetic loop which is a two-second buffer,” said Xavier Drèze, one of the study’s authors.

    Hungarians are far better than Americans at recalling long prices; on average, they can recall 19 to 24 syllables with decent accuracy, while Americans can recall only 13. The authors suggested that this was because Hungarians speak 41 percent faster, both out loud and when repeating sounds to themselves “subvocally.”


I am so ahead of the curve: I mean, how many syllables does "free" have?

It doesn't get much shorter than that.

When Shakespeare* wrote that "brevity is the soul of wit" he had no idea how much more was inherent in the concept.

Read the abstract of the forthcoming JCR paper here.

Bonus: that same link lets you download and print out a PDF version of the full paper.

A bit of intellectual arbitrage in play here: casual browsers of the JCR website get only the paper's title and subscribers ($145/year for four quarterly issues) most likely haven't even received their copies yet, but bookofjoe readers (all sixteen of you) get to enjoy the article right now — free.

How many syllables...?

*Name the play

August 17, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Canvas Cup


From the website:

    Canvas Cup

    For some, it may still be a memory that when heading into the Boundary Waters, you could dip your cup over the side of your canoe and be refreshed with pristine water.

    Although this practice is no longer recommended, you still need something to drink from.

    Our canvas cup is small enough to stow in your pocket and ready to drink from whenever or wherever you are.

    Yes, it really holds water… enjoy.

    Made in Duluth, Minnesota.


August 17, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

George Allen is the new Trent Lott

Like anybody who's been reading the papers or watching the news on TV the past few days, I've noticed the kerfuffle over U.S. Senator George Allen's remarks directed at James Webb's senatorial campaign volunteer S.R. Sidarth (above) at a campaign stop in Breaks, a town in Southwest Virginia, last Friday.

Since it's on YouTube (above) and even I can use YouTube (witness my award-winning video "Humphrey the Cat Walks on the Treadmill," already viewed nearly 1,000 times since its premier on July 14 and clearly headed for internet immortality — but I digress), and since a YouTube link was thoughtfully provided in this morning's Charlottesville Daily Progress (clearly on the bleeding edge technologically) story, I figured I could steal a minute from today's jam-packed schedule (as you may have heard, I'm a very busy and important person) to have a look.

So I did, watching the CNN report up top.

But guess what?

I noticed there were other related videos on YouTube just below that one so I watched one, apparently the actual video shot by Sidarth, the man slurred by Allen.

Memo to George Allen and his campaign: you got off easily — at least so far.

Because when you watch the CNN piece up top and its edited footage it doesn't appear to be all that bad, what Allen said and how he said it: it seems spontaneous, even if ill-advised.

But when you watch the unedited video (below)

it becomes clear that this was not only a slur but a premeditated, thought-out, mean-spirited offering of "red meat" to a welcoming Republican audience.

Allen is toast.

Trent Lott made it most of the way back.

True, that was 2002 and it's been four years.

But that was also before YouTube.

Also ironic is the fact that Allen sarcastically remarked, "Welcome to Virginia," to Sidarth, who happens to have been born and raised there.

Allen himself was born and grew up in California.

August 17, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Star Trek Voice-Operated Dimmer


From the website:

    Star Trek™ Voice-Operated Dimmer

    Let the Star Trek Computer Control Your Lights

    After a long day at the Starfleet Academy you don't want to stumble through a dark room, feeling your way for that lamp or light switch.

    With the Star Trek Voice-Operated Dimmer, you can instruct the Federation Computer to turn on a lamp at any of three brightness levels (or turn it off) — all with simple verbal commands.

    It's like actually being on the U.S.S. Enterprise bridge!

    Set-up takes just a few minutes.

    The module will even guide you through the process.

    The Star Trek Voice Operated Dimmer is not only convenient, it's fun.

    The module confirms your commands with actual sound effects and verbal response recorded by Majel Roddenberry, the original voice of the Federation Computer in the Star Trek TV series and films.

    The unit even has an auxiliary lighting feature that can be used as a night light!

    • Turn lights on to any of three brightness levels — all with simple voice commands

    • Responds with actual Federation Computer voice and Star Trek sound effects

    • Can also be used as a night light



August 17, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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