« September 22, 2006 | Main | September 24, 2006 »

September 23, 2006

Harnessing Google


Consider that if you apply leverage in precisely the right fashion, you can use the power of many to help little old you.

Here's how I do it:

1. I was puzzled as I created an earlier post about the Calendar Mouse Pad. Is "Mouse Pad" — as used on the catalog website — correct or should it be "Mousepad?"

2. I put "Mouse Pad" into the Google search box: 26,600,000 results

3. Then I try "Mousepad": 12,300,000

It's plain as day once you run the numbers.

September 23, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

World's Cheapest Giant Duffel Bag — Episode 2: Price Break


Episode 1 on September 19 explored repurposing an outdoor furniture cushion storage bag.

Now comes what purports to be a bag to store your artificial Christmas tree between uses.

We know better.

From the website:

    Artificial Tree Storage Bag

    Your artificial tree will last for many years — so why is it packed in such a flimsy box?

    This bag neatly solves the storage problem.

    Tough, long-lasting polypropylene, heavy-duty zipper, carrying handles.

    Holds trees up to 9' high.

    28.5" x 28.5" x 56".



September 23, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, now downloadable — free


But the "free" part could end at any time so you better do it now — right here — if you're even considering it.

The Philadelphia Orchestra this past Thursday, September 21 became the first major U.S. orchestra to open its own downloadable music store online at www.thephiladelphiaorchestra.com.

To mark the occasion they're giving away their performance of Beethoven's Fifth, performed last September.

Once the site gets moving it plans to offer full symphonies for about $5 in MP3 format and $6 in a higher-quality format called FLAC.

[via Seth Schiesel and the New York Times]

September 23, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ruler Suspenders


From the website:

    Ruler Suspenders

    You’ll always measure up with these Ruler Suspenders.

    Show your true colors while you keep your pants up.

    Two-inch adjustable straps with 4-point attachment technology will withstand extra-stress situations such as summer barbecues and even Thanksgiving dinner.

    One size fits most.


September 23, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Walkers Shortbread — 'Probably the best food you can buy in a box'


So wrote the superb food journalist Julia Moskin in her most interesting article in this past Wednesday's New York Times Dining section about the best ready-to-eat foods — not frozen — she could find on a regular supermarket's shelves.

I agree with Ms. Moskin re: Walkers Shortbread.

It's almost impossible to understand how a factory can turn out something this good, that somehow retains its excellence after the trip across the pond from the Highland village of Aberlour, Speyside, Scotland, where it's baked.

Go ahead, try some.

I offer the iron-clad bookofjoe guarantee: if it's not every bit as good as I led you to believe it would be, just let me know and I will refund — cheerfully — every penny you paid.

Just don't be surprised if your request pops up here in plain view.

Here's the Times story.

    In Search of Grocery Gems

    After a summer wallowing in fresh produce and farmers’ markets, it’s always a shock to come back to the supermarket. Many of New York City’s supermarkets are a thing apart from the well-lighted, spacious havens found elsewhere in the country, and like many in the city I avoid them by cobbling together a food supply from Zabar’s, bodegas, the Internet, Whole Foods and the like.

    This year, instead of skulking off to my local fancy food store (where the high prices can bring tears of pain at checkout), I embraced the assignment of learning to love my supermarket: grimy aisles, shelves of overprocessed food and all.

    I went off searching not just for individual ingredients I already buy from the supermarket, like butter, flour, vinegar and frozen peas — but for ready-to-eat food I might not have fully appreciated before. Somewhere in the vast selection of jarred tomato sauces, Cheddar cheeses, baked beans and dairy-case puddings, I knew there must be food that is reasonably wholesome and possibly delicious.

    I limited myself to short ingredient lists and minimal use of artificial preservatives, sweeteners and partially hydrogenated oils (not a guarantee of good flavor, but the odds are better). I didn’t include “ethnic” or organic-certified products, although most American supermarkets now stock them, on the grounds that they are held to a different standard than “supermarket” food. Produce and frozen foods, also, were deemed irrelevant, except for staples.

    To my disappointment, I couldn’t find a single jar of olives, a bottled dressing or a pie crust that passed muster for both taste and nutrition.

    Many, many products, including surprising ones like Thomas’ English Muffins, didn’t even make it into my cart because high-fructose corn syrup, vegetable shortening or both were listed high on the ingredients lists. Once home, I tasted scores of products. Some of the worst, most lingering flavors were in foods that tried hardest to achieve “gourmet” status, with acrid flavors that were supposed to suggest roasted garlic, with an excess of cheap balsamic vinegar or with chemical approximations of fresh raspberries.

    Here are the best, making up a full day’s worth of irreproachably good food (though perhaps not your nutritionist’s first choices), beginning with breakfast.


    When the time comes to get serious about oatmeal, this is the only choice. According to McCann’s, its signature nutty flavor comes from a quick roasting of the whole grain, after which each oat is sliced into four pieces, called pinheads. (For rolled or instant oatmeal, the grain is then steamed and crushed in the factory.) When you cook the pinheads — slowly — the nubbins swell and soften into a cereal of transcendence. McCann’s quick-cooking version (not instant) is also good.


    The leanest and densest supermarket bacon I found: it doesn’t shrivel away when cooked, like the watery, fatty brands most producers put on the shelf. “That’s why we make it in Canada,” said Louis Eni, the company’s president. “The Canadian hog growers raise leaner breeds in a colder climate, and feed them less corn and more barley.” Thick-cut, but not so thick it takes forever to cook, like many premium brands.


    This Greek import arrived on the American market in 2000 and quickly made the leap to supermarkets from fancy-food shops; its creaminess and flavor eclipses any domestic supermarket product. According to Fage, Total’s parent company and one of the leading dairy producers in Greece, the whey is strained out of the yogurt during the fermenting process; this makes it thicker and prevents it from separating when cooked. Choose the whole-milk version and simmer it in velvety Indian sauces, spoon dollops into hot soup or eat it straight from the tub with jam or honey.


    Progresso says that its lentil soup hasn’t changed since the Taormina family recipe hit the market in the 1950’s. The ingredients are more or less what I would use: lentils, celery, tomato paste and spinach, though it could use more of the latter. Spike it with cumin, hot sauce and lemon juice, and stir in leftover rice to bulk it up into lunch.


    “Stoned” wheat is another name for cracked wheat, and it’s included in several products in the nutritionally alarming cracker aisle, where sweeteners and partially hydrogenated oils are almost impossible to avoid. These crunchy, substantial Canadian imports do have a small amount of trans fat, but far less than other crackers. Stoned Wheat Thins make excellent little sandwiches for children.


    Not many farmer-owned dairy cooperatives develop on a scale suitable for national distribution, but this Vermont-based manufacturer has expanded consistently since 1919, with all-natural sharp Cheddar as its signature product. While not as complex as Cabot’s long-aged Cheddars, it has some of the crumble and tang of an artisanal cheese, but none of the waxiness of other supermarket brands.


    Not for cheese snobs who crave the funk of the barnyard, this cow cheese is smooth and peppery. I liked it especially for breakfast, or spread on a roast beef sandwich. Unlike Brie or Camembert, Boursin is not a distinct type of cheese, but the name of the fellow who first wrapped France’s traditional mixture of cream cheese (fromage frais), herbs and garlic in foil for mass distribution. (Avoid that once-trendy garlic and herb version; the garlic grows over-pungent and the herbs die as it sits on the shelf.)


    If you’ve only had pressure-cooked baked beans, the kind the big brands produce, you’ve never tasted them as they should be: baked in open pots in brick ovens, where they become firm but tender, and a little smoky in flavor. (Other brands cook the beans in the can, usually in tomato sauce.) B&M baked beans are produced in Maine, where baked beans and steamed brown bread have been a staple dinner for generations. When made properly they are delicious, especially with garlicky sausages and spicy mustard. This brand had the firmest beans and wasn’t as sweet as others.


    The pickles you find in the refrigerator case aren’t just more expensive than the shelf-stable type, they’re actually brined differently. “The pickles on the shelf are hot-packed to pasteurize them,” said Karl Hermann, the sales manager for the small Ohio company that makes pickles sold locally under its own brand and nationally as Nathan’s Famous. “The hot brine makes them mushy, and then they need more chemicals to make them crisp.” Hermann’s cold-brined kosher dills with lots of fresh garlic and whole coriander seeds are as close as I’ve found to pickles out of a barrel.


    Wildly expensive at $8 to $11 for 32 ounces, but the closest approximation to homemade red sauce: thick, with mouth-filling flavor from good tomatoes. Rao’s sauce defines the long-cooked Italian-American style, where the ingredients shed their own identities and gradually melt into a smooth, dark sauce. If you are looking for something in a more sprightly style, with chunks of fresh tomato and garlic, a jarred marinara from Texas called Mom’s (the basil and garlic variety) was best. Both types have their place in the kitchen, depending on what you’re making.


    Expensive, but probably the best food you can buy in a box. Crisp, melting, buttery; better than any homemade version I have produced so far. The different shapes — fingers, rounds and the triangles called petticoat tails — are made from different recipes. “It’s a question of proportion of butter to sugar,” said Karen Riley, the company’s American sales manager. My favorite, the stubby, satisfying fingers, are so thick that they have to bake at a very low temperature for up to 30 minutes (most cookies spend just 8 to 10 minutes in the oven), giving them a very slightly caramelized-butter flavor.


    Ingredients: milk, rice, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt. Rice pudding, like baked beans, has slipped out of the culinary spotlight, but this version makes up in flavor what it lacks in glamour.


    A chocolate bar welded to a butter cookie, with just the right proportion of each. Bahlsen’s Choco Leibniz is decidedly less sweet than most American supermarket cookies. Bahlsen, from Germany, and its main competitor in the Euro-cookie section, LU from France, both produce a chocolate bar-butter cookie: LU’s is the Petit Écolier, which lost the tasting by a slim margin. (The Bahlsen chocolate had a better snap.)


But perhaps your supermarket doesn't carry Walkers Shortbread.

No problema — If you live in the U.S.

Walkers will sell you some from their online store.

September 23, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Rainbow Light Show LED Mug


From the website:

    LED Light-Up Mug

    LED Mug lights up whenever you lift it!

    The secret's in the base, where six LED bulbs in a rainbow of colors are embedded between insulated layers.

    Creates a cool, flashing "light show" each time you lift your glass; set mug down and lights stop!

    Durable plastic mug holds 16 oz.

    Includes button cell batteries.

    Has on/off switch.


September 23, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Experts' Expert: Edwina Ings-Chambers on how to apply mascara


Ms. Ings-Chambers, Beauty Editor of the Financial Times, touched on the topic in her September 9 "On Beauty" column.

    The keys:

    • First, be sure to invest in a really good eye make-up remover — you'll never get a good application if you have old mascara lurking on your lashes.

    • Next, when using mascara, start at the root of the lashes and then almost zigzag the brush along to the tip, says Neil Young, a make-up artist for MAC. "Try to deposit as much as you can to the root of the lash." He also suggests that to get the best coverage you should apply while looking downwards into a mirror and roll the wand down the back of the lashes.

    • Finally, don't fear colour. It's really OK to steer away from black or brown, at least occasionally. Though there are some vibrant shades reminiscent of the 1980s about, I'd avoid them. Instead go for something with a subtle colour such as Chanel's black/navy or black/violet. The colours are barely noticeable, yet they highlight the colour of your eyes in a subtle way. Then you can get ready for your close-ups.

September 23, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Etch-A-Sketch Wired


From the website:

    Etch-A-Sketch® Wired™

    Etch-A-Sketch Wired "draws" on a child's imagination!

    This updated version of an old favorite plugs into any TV or VCR so kids can see their creations take shape on the television screen!

    Four different activity zones offer hours of happy sketching: there's Cool Drawing Tools, Trace a Pic, Connect the Dots and Super Sketch.

    A shake of the controller erases the screen for a new round of fun!

    Includes TV/VCR connector plugs and instructions.

    Controller uses 4 AA batteries (not included).


September 23, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

« September 22, 2006 | Main | September 24, 2006 »