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September 11, 2006

Note to Campbell's Soup: How to save your company


As the decades rolled by, with seemingly every single-use canned product on the planet converting first to Ring Pull Tops and then adopting today's ubiquitous Stay-On Tab tops, Campbell's Soups stayed stubbornly anchored to their past.

No opener?

No soup for you.

A few years ago they woke up and smelled the eroding profits.

Of course, by then the business had collapsed.

So here's my two cents worth, for what it's worth (huh?), re: how to revive your moribund business:

1) Consider your flagship canned condensed soup line. You're always tarting up the labels and taking better pictures of what the contents might look like in a dream world, but guess what? Nobody cares.

2) All I think about when it's time for soup is, am I willing to go through the pain-in-the-butt trouble of getting a spoon and scraping out the can's contents into the bowl or pot before I nuke it?

3) Often, the answer is no.

4) Why?

5) Because my very most favorite Campbell's Soup variety on the planet is Cream of Celery — and Cream of Celery has the consistency of thick rice pudding.

6) Who needs that?

7) Not me. Next slide — and stick a burrito in while you're at it.

Here's the million-dollar idea: beat the Japanese and figure out a way to make the soup slide out en bloc from the can, without requiring a spoon.

Bonus, for a billion more: make the condensed soup somehow liquify upon contact with the added can of water, obviating the need for a whisk to de-lump it.


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

September 11, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bi-Polar Pitcher


That's what I call it — much better than the catalog's "Stay-Cold Polar Pitcher."

From the website:

    Stay-Cold Polar Pitcher

    Back in college the adult beverages we enjoyed didn’t have time to get warm.

    Today, however, your guests may be pacing themselves a bit more.

    That’s not a problem with our Stay-Cold Polar Pitcher.

    Inside is a specially-designed ice chamber that keeps ice separate from the beverage.

    Just fill the ice chamber with ice and water before pouring.

    Drinks remain icy-cold without ever getting watered down.

    Made of unbreakable food-grade polycarbonate.

    Pitcher holds 60 oz.

    Designed for beer but also perfect for margaritas, wine coolers, even lemonade.


September 11, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Become a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum — In the privacy of your own home


That's right: a little-known program allows small museums, in exchange for an annual $2,500 fee paid to the Smithsonian, to bill themselves as Smithsonian affiliates.

But that's not the best part — not by a long shot.

You also get to borrow Smithsonian artifacts and display them in your museum, some on a short-term basis and others long-term.

Jacqueline Trescott, in an August 22 Washington Post story, explored this program, officially called Smithsonian Affiliations, which currently numbers 146 museums and cultural organizations.

Long story short: The Smithsonian owns about 136 million objects. 99% of them are in storage. More than 7,000 have gone on the road in the 10 years the affiliates program has existed.

Here's the piece.

    Smithsonian Struts More of Its Stuff With Affiliations

    The Apollo 13 space capsule has been to Hutchinson, Kan.

    Kermit the Frog has gone to Dubuque, Iowa.

    A triceratops skull went to Anniston, Ala.

    Lincoln's top hat, the one he was wearing the night of his assassination, visited Danville, Calif.

    The four trips are part of a plan to get the Smithsonian Institution to empty its closets. In exchange for a $2,500 annual fee, museums may become Smithsonian "affiliates" and borrow artifacts. Some are less important items. Some are icons. Some go out on a short-term basis. Some, long-term. Now 146 museums and cultural organizations are part of the program, called Smithsonian Affiliations. The latest is the International Museum of the Horse in Lexington, Ky., which has its eye on a famous stuffed steed from the Civil War.

    The Smithsonian owns about 136 million objects. Ninety-nine percent of them are in storage. Through the affiliates program, more than 7,000 have gone on the road in 10 years.

    The loans give local museums a stamp of approval and can help boost attendance.

    The California Science Center in Los Angeles borrowed an Apollo command module from the National Air and Space Museum and meteorites from the National Museum of Natural History. The Oklahoma Historical Society borrowed the Gemini 6 spacecraft, piloted by Tom Stafford of Oklahoma. The Museum of Discovery in Little Rock borrowed Jim Lovell's flight suit from his Apollo 13 mission and John Glenn's foil-wrapped malted-milk tablets from his Friendship 7 flight.

    "We make it clear they are not mini-Smithsonians or satellites," says Harold A. Closter, a longtime Smithsonian administrator who directs the affiliations office. "They are independent and responsible for administration and finances. They are good partners."

    The Smithsonian achieves one of its goals — going beyond the Mall — and builds better relationships with smaller museums. It also sends its specialists out for talks and consultations. Additionally, visitors to the affiliates receive a Smithsonian membership when they join the local institution, which means they get Smithsonian magazine (and boost its circulation).

    Some affiliates have sent exhibitions to Washington, too. At the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, curators used objects from the Smithsonian and 11 countries to create a show about the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War. The exhibition is now in Ottawa and will come to the Smithsonian in December.

    Some of the affiliates have extra clout. The Lincoln hat was lent to the Blackhawk Museum, which was founded by Kenneth Behring. The Behring family has given $100 million to the Smithsonian, the largest gift it's ever received.

    A few museums decided the affiliation wasn't working. The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk belonged for several years and built special cases for Stradivarius instruments it borrowed. The museum later dropped out.

    "As the Chrysler's program has evolved in the last several seasons . . . we have discovered that — with good will on all sides — the museum's needs and the offerings of the affiliations program have not matched up," says William J. Hennessey, the museum's president.

    Some of the affiliates go the extra mile to get an item. When a replica of a triceratops skull was available, folks from the Anniston Museum of Natural History sent a refrigerated truck to haul it back to Alabama.

    Others make the loans a centerpiece of their displays. The prototype for the first Jeep truck was built in Butler, Pa., in 1940. The nearby Heinz Museum borrowed it from the Smithsonian's American History Museum and placed in right in the entry hall, underscoring its industrial importance.

    Andy Masich, the museum's president, said that after becoming an affiliate in 1999, the Heinz added 70,000 square feet for traveling shows from the Smithsonian.

    "We have seen a more than 30 percent increase in attendance since our affiliations," Masich says.

    Curators for the Heinz found an English flintlock pistol Gen. Edward Braddock gave George Washington in 1755 in the Smithsonian's collection.

    "The Smithsonian curators said, 'We didn't know we had that!' " Masich says.

    The pistol is important to Pittsburgh because Braddock was killed near Pittsburgh during the French and Indian War and Washington took command of his army. The Pittsburgh museum borrowed it for 3 1/2 years, but eventually Smithsonian curators asked for it back. It is now on display in the American History Museum's military wing.

    Now about the horse museum. Closter says nobody raised an eyebrow when the application came in.

    "No chuckles," he says. "We have gotten used to the fact that there are so many kinds of museums devoted to so many topics that it doesn't surprise us that museums are being devoted to one topic."

    Bill Cooke, the Kentucky museum's director, knew a link with the Smithsonian would raise its profile.

    The largest horse museum in the world, the International has 52,000 square feet and owns 50,000 items, from bits to carriages. It focuses mainly on the history of the horse and especially thoroughbred racing.

    The museum has equine mannequins but no preserved horses. The Smithsonian, however, has one famous animal: Winchester, the beloved mount of Civil War Gen. Philip Sheridan. Winchester was preserved by taxidermists and eventually landed at the Smithsonian in 1922.

    But there is another artifact Cooke covets more, the skeleton of the famous racehorse Lexington.

    "I've got my eye on Lexington. He was a tremendous horse and sire and helped establish Lexington as a horse capital," says Cooke.

    The Kentucky museum didn't get promises from the Smithsonian, but Cooke is ginning up an e-mail campaign. And he's making a trip to Washington in the fall with a wish list.


Sign up here.

Me, I'm considering just how well the Apollo 13 capsule (top) would work with my decor.

September 11, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Giant Christmas Pencil


Suitable for use by both left- and right-handed people.

From the website:

    Jumbo Christmas Pencil

    For long letters to Santa and really BIG wish lists, this oversized pencil promises mega-merry fun!

    A great stocking stuffer, it's a whopping 15-1/2" long with bright Santa and reindeer design.

    Includes attached eraser and its own jumbo sharpener.


September 11, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

White Coat Real Estate — 'Physicians in training our specialty'


What a superb idea.

When Christine Lisle, the founder of White Coat Real Estate in Charlottesville, Virginia, moved here with her husband, a resident at the University of Virginia Hospital, she immediately noticed there were no realtors in the area specializing in physicians.

She said, "Each year there are 60 or 70 residents or fellows either coming into or leaving the university and there was no one here to embrace that niche market."

She filled the gap, starting her company in 2004 and quickly building it into a hugely successful enterprise with over $9 million in closed business — comprised of 37 transactions with an average price of $250,000 — in the first eight months of 2006 alone.

Her listings average 33 days on the market before selling.

Her list-to-selling price ratio is 100.12%.

Sounds like she's doing a lot of things right.

bookofjoe tip to any reader who's a real estate agent in a city or town with a teaching hospital: exploit this market segment.

September 11, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

FM Radio Binoculars


From the website:

    FM Radio Binoculars

    These compact binoculars include a built-in digitally-tuned FM radio favored by those who prefer to follow sporting events from the stands while listening to an accompanying radio broadcast.

    The optics provide clear, crisp vision and a 377 ft.-wide field of view at 1,000 yards.

    Powerful 10X magnification and 16-1/2' minimum focus range bring distant objects into sharp, up-close detail.

    BAK-7 prisms made of fine, high-density glass lessen internal light scattering for bright images with high edge resolution (most other models rely on lesser prisms that dull images).

    Fully coated lenses result in higher image contrast with reduced eye strain and less glare.

    Includes a compact integrated LCD screen with clock, alarm, and radio tuning; headphone jack; and ear-buds.

    Requires two AAA batteries (not included).




September 11, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stop Dropped Calls


Hey, where do I sign up?

In the latest (September) issue of Popular Science magazine, on page 86, in the "How 2.0" feature, is a little item by Mike Outmesgine headlined "How To Tell If Your Amp Is Working."

It follows.

    Stop Dropped Calls

    How to tell if your amp is working

    Most cellphones have what technicians call “field test mode,” which displays the signal strength more precisely, as negative numbers instead of bars; closer to zero means a stronger signal (zero means you’re standing on a cell tower). Accessing that mode usually requires entering a code. Download the list of codes (PDF) to find how to access field test mode on your phone.


Well, I got all excited after reading that and as soon as I got home I decided to try it.

Uh, oh — Technodolt™ time.

My everyday phone (a Nokia 6230) is on the list but I couldn't get past step 1 (Press *3001#12345#).

I did that about fifteen times but nothing ever happened so I figured it was above my pay grade.

Then I figured I'd try my fancy-shmancy Samsung A920 that Sprint sent me free to try out as part of the Sprint Ambassador program.

That phone is so far above my technical pay grade I just keep it in front of the treadmill all charged up so I can use its nice green light as a nightlight.

I haven't opened it in months.

But I digress.

Though the link in the Popular Science web page to the PDF document with all the phones and their secret codes does list a number of Samsung phones, alas, it's not up to date enough to have mine so I'm oh for two.

But I'm sure you'll have better luck.

You don't have to be a chef to know if the food tastes good.


What the heck?

For those who'd like to learn more about field test mode, here's a site that will give you plenty to chew on.

September 11, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

McCuff — 'No spill motorcycle fill'


Catchy, what?


From the website:

McCuff — 'Everyone Wants One'

No More Clicking Nozzles! Those Days are Over!


No More Spilling Gas! No Hassles Filling Up!

Squeeze More Mileage from Tank Capacity!!


Works Like Magic with All Nozzles in All States!

Top-Off if you want! Filling up is Fun Again!


You don't have to be a weather man to know which way the wind blows nor do you have to be a biker to realize this device is pretty cool.



September 11, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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