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October 9, 2006

This is me thinking of you


Via Professor Gershom Zajicek,


who first visited on June 24, 2006.

October 9, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Folding Drum Pad Set


From websites:

Folding Drum Pad Set

Only a fraction of the cost and size of a full set of drums.

You want to pound the skins but you don't have the room (or thousands of dollars) for a standard set?

Unroll this compact fold-up drum set, pick up your sticks and pound away!


Each of the 4 different drums can be adjusted to 8 different tones, including cymbals, providing 32 different sounds.


• 30 preset rhythms

• 20 preset drum combinations for easy reference

• 10 demo songs to play along with and help the musician perfect his/her sense of rhythm

• Volume keys allow you to practice in privacy


• Tempo key allows you to adjust play speed

• Headphone jack

• Includes 4 drum pads and a pair of sticks, complete with detailed instructions.

Unrolled size: 21"W x 7.25"H.

Requires 4 AA batteries (not included).



October 9, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Balanchine Rescue Project

George Balanchine created some 425 ballets, of which only 75 remain in the repertory of the New York City Ballet and other companies.

Balanchine died in 1983, and as the years pass and his dancers do as well, more and more of his creations simply vanish, having been performed before they were recorded on video.

The Balanchine Rescue Project aims to do just that: find and preserve as many as possible of the otherwise soon-to-be-lost-forever dances created by the master.

Roslyn Sulcas wrote about the effort in a story which appeared in the Ocober 1, 2006 New York Times, and follows.

    Search and Rescue for Balanchine Ballets

    George Balanchine was famous for contemplating the eventual disappearance of his choreography with equanimity. “I like to live now, today,” he wrote in an article published in Life magazine on June 11, 1965, when he was 61. “What will be 10 years from now, 100 years, who cares?”

    The answer is lots of people. Balanchine created an estimated 425 ballets, some 75 of which remain in the repertory of the New York City Ballet and other companies today. How those ballets are taught, danced and preserved has provoked passionate debate and frequent criticism since Balanchine died in 1983. And then there are the ballets that, for many different reasons, simply disappeared during his lifetime.

    “So much of what Mr. Balanchine made was lost,” said Paul Epstein, president of the Balanchine Foundation, created after the choreographer’s death to foster and preserve his art. “There was no video, and in the early years there weren’t too many other companies who were capable of performing his work and who might have preserved them. Every year a certain number of ballets would be cast aside because the company needed the room for new works, not because there was anything wrong with them. They were put into mothballs without anyone to take them out.”

    The de-mothballing has begun. The Balanchine Rescue Project is a new and ambitious undertaking by the foundation that aims to recover as much forgotten Balanchine choreography as possible, with performance the eventual goal. It was begun by Mr. Epstein, who suggested that the foundation focus on ballets from the early 1950’s to the 70’s — a period that predated video recordings but that was likely to produce a reasonable number of former dancers who would remember their roles. One example is Balanchine’s 1951 “Swan Lake,” from which the former City Ballet dancers Patricia Wilde, Edwina Fontaine and Barbara Millburg put together a pas de trois.

    “To the extent that these ballets are recoverable, they are in the muscles of the dancers who danced them,” Mr. Epstein said. “And as we see so sadly from the death of Melissa Hayden a few weeks ago, people are not around forever,” he added, referring to a seminal Balanchine ballerina of the 1950’s and 60’s.

    The rescue project is being run by Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, former New York City Ballet dancers who jointly directed the Pacific Northwest Ballet for 28 years until they retired in 2004.

    “Barbara Horgan had been trying to persuade us for a long time to have more to do with the Balanchine Foundation,” Ms. Russell said from Seattle, referring to Balanchine’s longtime personal assistant, who is the chairwoman of the foundation board. “She gave us three months after retirement to decide, and in the end we couldn’t say no to such a wonderful idea.”

    Ms. Horgan says she was initially lukewarm about resuscitating the forgotten ballets. “A lot of people, including me, said: ‘Forget about it. What we’ve got is wonderful, and we must try hard to preserve that.’ But there is an archival, academic point of view that says, ‘This is important because it’s Balanchine.’ And it occurred to me that it would be wonderful for small, regional companies who don’t have enough dancers for a ‘Symphony in C,’ or can’t afford to stage it, to get these pieces, even if they were fragments.”

    The rescue project is not the foundation’s first attempt to capture the memories of former Balanchine dancers. Nancy Reynolds, a dance historian who danced with the New York City Ballet, has for many years been constructing an interpreter’s archive: videotapes of dancers coaching others in roles that Balanchine had created for them. In 1995 Ms. Reynolds persuaded the English ballerina Alicia Markova to recreate her Nightingale solo from “Le Chant du Rossignol” from 1925, when she was 14 and Balanchine was 21; she has since recorded Todd Bolender’s memories of the 1947 “Renard” and Frederic Franklin on the 1933 “Mozartiana.” (Outside the foundation, the ballet historians Kenneth Archer and Millicent Hodson have staged reconstructions of a number of early Balanchine pieces for different companies.)

    Mr. Stowell and Ms. Russell said that they were probably years away from an actual performance and that their concern for now was to find as much information as they could — from personal recollections, films or other documentation — about the 16 ballets that remained on their list after eliminating those for which no records existed.

    The project has three parts: conducting research; finding companies with schools willing to act as a laboratory to stage and film the ballets; and, finally, having the ballets produced on a professional level. “All the way through,” Mr. Stowell said, “it’s vital to involve as many original dancers as possible so that a new generation knows what Mr. B. said, how he wanted it danced, and to have that contact with the past.”

    That contact was evident last week when Mr. Stowell, Ms. Russell, Mr. Franklin and a group of School of American Ballet students assembled in a rented studio in Chelsea. They were there so that Mr. Franklin, 92, whose prodigious memory and musicality is legend, could teach the students as much as he could remember of the Czardas from the third act of the full-length “Raymonda,” choreographed by Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova in 1946 for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

    As it turned out, he could remember everything, down to fine musical shadings, and the mood in the studio was jubilant as the sprightly Mr. Franklin, who performed with American Ballet Theater last spring in “Petrouchka” and “Romeo and Juliet,” bounded around, calling out instructions in his crisp British accent. Behind him, Mr. Stowell and Ms. Russell took notes and clarified points from time to time. “I know this is a bit different for you,” he told the teenage students after the first rehearsal. “But, you know, it’s nice to do.” In late June Mr. Stowell and Ms. Russell enlisted Robert Weiss and Sara Leland, former City Ballet principals, for “Gaspard de la Nuit,” made for the 1975 Ravel festival.

    “ ‘Gaspard’ was unique in Balanchine’s canon,” said Mr. Weiss, artistic director of the Carolina Ballet. “I don’t think the steps were as important as the effect he was after, and it’s interesting that he was still so experimental at 70. That’s why this is important. The ballets they are trying to rescue might not be masterpieces, but they are by the greatest choreographer of our time, and you can learn from his successes and failures.”

    Although Mr. Weiss clearly remembered the set and costumes, and a lot of Balanchine’s instructions, much remained unclear. Then, with the help of new technology, a miracle happened: a film of “Gaspard” from the Ravel festival, thought to be unusable because it was so dark, was digitized. Now a complete staging of the work seems feasible.

    “A lot of what happens in this area is serendipitous,” Mr. Epstein said. “Anyone who has a connection to Balanchine should look in their closets because any snippet of film or old photograph could wind up being the magic key to a whole movement. People may argue that these ballets were of their time and should be left alone. But Mozart composed for his time, and no one would turn down a chance to hear more of his work. These ballets are the Mozart pieces of our time. Something has to be done before they are lost to us forever.”

October 9, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yard Bag Chute


Invented by Bart Mulle, who grew tired of struggling to keep leaf bags open while he piled leaves in during raking season.

It's a corrugated plastic form that fits most leaf bags and holds them upright.


[via Karen Sommer Shalett's "Sunday Shopper" feature in the October 1 Washington Post]

October 9, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Helpful Hints from joeeze: How to use bubble wrap


Take a look at a piece of bubble wrap: one side is smooth and the other has the bubbles.

Some people don't think it matters which side contacts your fragile item.

Of course, some people don't obsess over paper towel holders and reading lights, either, and they seem to get through life just fine.

But this isn't about them.

For the longest time I thought that the bubbles were supposed to go against the object; in fact, I had my crack research team explore this question and report back, noting their finding on October 9, 2004 — precisely two years ago.

Today, when I was simply gonna feature an anniversary blast from the past and republish that pearl, I happened on a pretty logical explanation of why, at least for glassware, the smooth side should contact the glass, not the bubble side.

    Diane Schmidt wrote on About.com:

    Unroll the bubble wrap and take a close look at it. You'll notice that there are two sides; one composed of bubbles and the other smooth and bubble-free.

    Make sure you lay out the bubble wrap with the bubble-side facing down. You want the smooth side directly next to the glass for ease of use. If you try placing the bubble-side next to the glass, you'll notice it sticks to the surface making it more difficult to work with.

And again here: "Standard Self-Seal Bubble-Out Bags — Bubble on the outside, smooth on the inside!"


So maybe it doesn't matter after all.

For those who are easily amused, you can pop virtual bubble wrap here.

October 9, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hacking Knife


What's this?

Skipweasel's never said a word about it.

From the website:

    Hacking Knife

    Don't be a hack — get a little help from the hacking knife

    This handy tool hails from across the pond in England where it’s used to hack through the hard outer sheath on electrical cables and remove old putty from windows.

    The 1⁄4" thick full-tang forged steel blade is hefty enough to take a hammer pounding from the backside and force the edge through nearly anything: PVC, bricks, wood, even sheet metal.

    4-1⁄2" blade and triple-riveted 3-3⁄4" leather handle.

    Made in England.




October 9, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'The universe doesn't care what happens to you' — Nando Parrado


Parrado (above) is one of the 16 survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes Mountains that was recounted in Piers Paul Read's bestselling book, "Alive."

Along with a companion, Parrado trekked through the harsh cordillera for nine days with virtually no supplies or protection, contacted rescuers, then guided them back to the crash site to save his friends and teammates who were still alive.

"Mountain climbers have hailed Mr. Parrado's nine-day journey as one of the greatest mountaineering feats ever," wrote Larry Rohter in a September 30, 2006 New York Times article/interview, which follows.

    Dodging Death in the Andes, and Greeting Life With Gusto

    Over and over again during his 72-day ordeal in the Andes, Nando Parrado would tell himself, “I am already dead, I am already dead.” That mantra allowed him to vanquish the fear that gripped him — and perhaps also explains why, when given a miraculous second chance at life, he has lived ever since with such gusto.

    Mr. Parrado, 56, is perhaps the best known of the 16 survivors of the crash of an Uruguayan Air Force plane in the Andes Mountains in October 1972, as it was carrying his rugby team to a match in Chile. It was he who, with a single companion, trekked through the harsh cordillera with virtually no supplies or protection and eventually guided rescuers back to the crash site to save his friends and teammates.

    Since that deliverance, chronicled in the best-selling book “Alive” and a subsequent movie, Mr. Parrado has been a race car driver, television host, motivational speaker, business entrepreneur and, most recently, author of a book called “Miracle in the Andes.” But no matter what he does, he says, his actions are guided by the lessons he learned and the conversations about life, death, God and religion that took place during his struggle to survive.

    “We were lucky, extremely lucky,” he said. “We didn’t have any food, clothes or water, and they weren’t searching for us. So how could we survive? I lost everything, my family, friends and future, but I was resurrected. I came back to life from the grave.”

    Even after nearly 35 years, Mr. Parrado confronts curiosity about his experience everywhere he goes. The trials of “an untested boy who had never really suffered,” who could “be studying math in my room and 48 hours later be trying to survive on a glacier, like an animal,” force people to speculate how they would behave in a similarly extreme situation.

    “This is like the Titanic or the first man on the moon,” he said. “A lot of things combined to make this a great story, one that I don’t think will ever happen again, because now there are cellphones and Blackberrys and GPS devices on every plane, and the rescuers would find them in one hour.”

    But behind the world’s continuing fascination with the ordeal is the inescapable and grisly truth that “we broke a human taboo that was very big,” Mr. Parrado acknowledged. “We ate human flesh with complete knowledge and acceptance of what we were doing.”

    Mr. Parrado’s mother and younger sister were among those who died there in the Andes, his sister succumbing to injuries and cold as he held her in his arms. His awareness that theirs “would be the last two bodies” to be consumed by the group was one of the things that drove him to climb through the mountains on a quest that many of his teammates thought was impossible.

    Before he left, he gave the other survivors permission to consume the bodies of his mother and sister, preserved in the snow near the wreckage of the plane. But the idea of having to eat their flesh himself, he said, was too awful to consider.

    “I didn’t want to do that,” he said. “If we reach that moment, it is the end of the line. I don’t want to face that moment, I didn’t want to die there. I will face that moment of death, but more honorably, trying to do something.”

    Mountain climbers have hailed Mr. Parrado’s nine-day journey as one of the greatest mountaineering feats ever. But he scoffs at the notion that he did something heroic.

    “I don’t want this to be seen as an epic trek of superhuman beings because I was so afraid, so humiliated by the size of those mountains,” he said. “It looks like courage from the outside, but I had this physical fear in my stomach. And I was thinking of me, not of saving the other guys. You have to, because the pressure is so great that you cannot elaborate on friendship and beautiful thoughts. There was no space for that.”

    After his return to Uruguay, Mr. Parrado went to work at his father’s hardware store. He is a part owner of that business even now, but soon found that it was not enough to satisfy him. So he took up professional automobile racing, tutored by the likes of Jackie Stewart and Mario Andretti.

    “I had always loved the smell and sound of racing cars, but I didn’t dare do it, even though it was my passion, the most important thing in my life,” he explained. “But when I came back, I said ‘O.K., I have a life now, and now that I have the chance, I don’t want to regret that I didn’t do it.’ ”

    In retrospect, Mr. Parrado’s yearning for adventure seems only fitting. As a child, he said, he would leaf through his family’s collection of National Geographic magazines, read novels of derring-do in exotic places and peruse atlases, wondering what the places he saw on the map were really like.

    Today, Mr. Parrado is the host and narrator of National Geographic TV specials. His production company here also makes a pair of weekly car racing programs, a travel show and a program on fashion and beauty whose host is his wife, Veronique, who he met on the Formula One circuit in Europe.

    In 2001 and 2002, Uruguay was drawn into the financial crisis that struck its much larger neighbor, Argentina, with banks and businesses collapsing. Mr. Parrado’s friends and partners were frantic, spending sleepless nights worrying their companies would not survive, and marveled at his composure.

    “Those endless nights in the Andes were terribly, terribly, terribly cold, and so we burned all the money we had,” he said. “I can tell you that a $1 bill burns in the same amount of time as a $100 bill.”

    For many years Mr. Parrado simply did not want to talk about his experiences and beliefs in public. He and the other survivors would meet here periodically to reminisce. “But I was busy racing my cars and leading my life.”

    But in the early 1990’s a friend invited him to a conference in Mexico. And there, invited to speak, all the memories that had piled up inside came spilling out. He now travels the world addressing business and university groups on topics like leadership and creativity under stressful conditions.

    That, in turn, led him to start putting down on paper the memories that eventually became his book. He originally envisioned something modest “for my daughters and grandsons, because after three generations, nobody remembers,” but the book has become an international best seller.

    In March, Mr. Parrado returned to the site of the crash, his wife and their two daughters accompanying him there for the first time. His daughters told him that they wanted “to see the place where they were born,” as he put it, and were moved by what they saw. But for him, the visit only reinforced what he has felt all along about existence and destiny.

    “I think that life is simpler than we tend to think,” he said. “We look for answers and more answers. But there are no answers. Things happen in life, good things and bad. People say why did it happen to me? Well, why not? Some people win the lottery, and others die in a car crash. It happens, and there is nothing we can do about it. The universe doesn’t care what happens to you.”


I haven't read Parrado's recent book, "Miracle in the Andes," but I did read "Alive" and found it mesmerizing.

October 9, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Quick Zip Gloves — Never drop another one into a crevasse


See what it feels like to be an astronaut without going into space.


From the website:

    Use Your Fingers Without Freezing Your Hands — or Dropping a Glove!

    OK, so your hands are toasty warm.

    But what if you want to adjust your goggles?

    Blow your nose?

    Put on chapstick?

    Unwrap a piece of gum?

    Wipe away a tear?

    Sure, you can take off your mitten or glove, but then your whole hand freezes.

    Or worse, you drop your glove.

    Slip your hands into our Quick Zip Gloves and they’ll stay warm, real warm — thanks to generous Primaloft insulation, full fleece Tricot lining, a waterproof breathable layer, tough Taslan outer shell and washable leather palm.

    But if you need to do something requiring fingertip control, simply grab the oversize pull tab and unzip the back of the glove.


    Instantly frees your hand from captivity and just as quickly zips back up when you’re through.

    All without dropping a glove!



Black or Grey in S, M, L or XL.


Prefer a mitten?

No problema.


Same colors, sizes and price: $99.95.

October 9, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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