« October 15, 2006 | Main | October 17, 2006 »

October 16, 2006

Put yourself into orbit on the cheap — Now reduced to $295: A trip into space


Amateur spacemen (and women) pay $200,000 and up to rocket into orbit.

And then there're the months of intense training to prepare.


But maybe you don't have the money or time.

Or perhaps you're afraid of heights.

No matter.


Now comes Bigelow Aerospace, whose Genesis II spacecraft, due to launch early next year, will carry your photo aboard for a mere $295.

[via Paul B. Brown and the New York Times]

October 16, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why you should read Judie Hughes's Gear Diary instead of bookofjoe


Long story short: she does her homework far better than I do mine.

Exhibit A: The Pocket Cap, subject of yesterday's 3:01 p.m. post here.

Turns out that Judie reviewed this very same cap — personally, in her unique, exquisitely exhaustive, drill-down-until-you-come-out-the-other-side-of-the-planet fashion — on August 2, 2005.

Instead of my lazy-butt style of simply posting what a company or website has to say about its product, she actually uses it.

Then — and only then — does it appear on geardiary.com, warts and all.

Me, I haven't a clue half the time if something's good, bad or ugly: I just throw whatever looks interesting up here.

Thanks, Judie, for this morning's wakeup call.

Keep 'em coming.

But wait, there's more!

Not only did Judie like the hat, she provided a link where you can buy it for $19.99, $4.96 less than the inflated price quoted in my post.

Do note, however, that the lower-priced site has only the Charcoal Gray (below)


in stock.

If you prefer Tan (below),


you'll have to pony up the additional $4.96 and drop $24.95.

And if your heart is set on Green (top, on Judie, from her 2005 review and below),


well, you're out of luck, aren't you?

October 16, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

SkyBark: Where cool dogs go to chill


It's in LA (where else would it be?), at 1026 S. Santa Fe Avenue.

Give 'em a bark at 213-891-1722 or check it out online at www.skybark.com.

John Rosenthal, writing about this singular* sensation in yesterday's Washington Post, called it "A cross between a singles bar and a dog park."

Here's the article.

    L.A.'s Spot for Real Bar Hounds

    Bringing man's best friend along on a trip to Los Angeles has gotten a little easier, thanks to SkyBark, a nightspot where dogs are not only allowed but welcomed. A cross between a singles bar and a dog park, SkyBark features a full bar and live music, making it easy for canines and their owners to mingle and check each other out.

    SkyBark is the brainchild of Ralph Diaz, owner of Top Dog Canine Leather, and Brandon Hochman, inventor of the PETaPOTTY, a portable box of grass that's used to toilet-train dogs. The partners were looking for a way to stage a benefit for four-legged survivors of Hurricane Katrina when they held their first event in March.

    They scouted around for locations before settling on the roof of the PETaPOTTY headquarters just east of downtown. It's a pretty deserted area at night, so that makes for unobstructed views of the L.A. skyline.

    The party was such a smash — they raised $4,000 for New Leash on Life, a Southern California animal shelter — that Hochman and Diaz decided to turn it into a business. Since then, they've expanded the party to cities such as Boston and Las Vegas, and have had inquiries about locations in New York and San Francisco.

    The partners converted the western half of the rooftop into a 50-by-50-foot grass-covered play area for dogs (Hochman calls it the doggie dance floor) complete with tennis balls, chew toys and a doggie tunnel.

    The bone-shaped kiddie pool is a bit too small for a swim, but makes an ideal spot for dogs to slake their thirst. Specialty cocktails for dogs, made from vitamin-infused Doggie Springs water, are served in canine-friendly martini glasses at a snoot-level rail. A full bar and waiter service allows dog owners to enjoy their favorite cocktails, while a band or DJ keeps the party hopping.

    SkyBark is open only for special occasions, such as the upcoming "Howl-a-ween" party and costume contest on Oct. 27. Each event is a benefit, with proceeds from a silent auction and a portion of admission fees going to a local animal rescue society. Tickets are usually about $20 per person and $10 per dog in advance or $30 and $15 at the door. Select companies of interest to dog owners provide goody bags — it wouldn't be an L.A. event without swag, now would it? At a July 4th barbecue, dogs chomped on complimentary White Bites treats and got free grooming makeovers from Town & Country pet spa.

    Christine Buckley, a movie industry executive with Lakeshore Entertainment, attended the July 4 event. She and her boxer mix, Yoda, enjoyed the rooftop vantage point while dozens of fireworks celebrations lit the skies across Los Angeles. Yoda has severe separation anxiety and can't be left alone, so Buckley jumped at the opportunity to "escape for an evening out without having to line up a dog-sitter. My only complaint is that SkyBark isn't open more often."

    Hochman says he's looking to address that, but a permanent liquor license and health regulations are still hurdles. Plus, the roof garden's maximum capacity of 300 people is too small for SkyBark ever to be a big moneymaker. Hochman says he breaks even.

    But that's not deterring him from trying to expand the concept to other parts of the country. A Boston outpost, dubbed SkyBark East, debuted Aug. 27 at a billiards-themed club called The Rack (24 Clinton St.), which will host another event Oct. 19.

    "I'm hoping to start a trend," Hochman says. "I want people everywhere to be able to take their dogs to a club on a Saturday night and live it up."

    In addition to the Oct. 27 Halloween-themed event, SkyBark is hosting L.A. events on Nov. 11 and Feb. 11.


*Note to file: Suggest to Cingular that they use the great finale from "A Chorus Line" in their next ad campaign.


I can't believe I give it away for free.

October 16, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Linde Werdelin Biformeter — 'World's most macho watch'


That's how Jonathan Margolis described this new timepiece from Linde Werdelin, out of Denmark.

Here's his Financial Times review:

Silly Street

Here's the world's most macho watch, ideal for the hairy-chested Action Man not averse to wearing a small block of flats on his wrist. The Biformeter, by Danish company Linde Werdelin, is a strange but compelling gadget aimed at the skiing/running/space-walking market.


One minute, the Biformeter is an elegant, chunky Swiss mechanical watch, the next, thanks to its snap-on digital "Land Instrument" (above), it morphs into a mobile electronic command centre which can give status reports on anything from the wearer's heart rate to the likelihood of a nearby avalanche — the custom-built databank can include a pulse sensor, compass, barometer, thermometer and altimeter. Coming additions will include GPS navigation, a G-force readout and a hygrometer.

The Biformeter watch runs from £2,230 in steel to £10,600 in 18k gold; the Land Instrument


adds £1,180.

For more information, or if you've simply got to have this yesterday, call Linde Werdelin at 020-7727-6577 or visit them online.

If you're not inclined to pony up that kind of money, you might find last year's $249 macho toy, the SUV Watch (below),


more to your liking.

October 16, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How to wrap your package


Everything you need to know in one place.

October 16, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chair-and-Desk Cube


Meaghan Wolff wrote about it in the October 12 Washington Post Home section, as follows:


One Clever Cube

Practical and chic don't readily click when it comes to kiddie furniture, so we were taken with Klick, a clever chair-and-desk combination that fits snugly together to form a compact cube when not in use. The sturdy desktop and frame is made of Baltic birch by P'kolino (piccolino means "little one" in Italian), a Florida company designing modern play furniture.


With its minimalist appeal, Klick works with adult furnishings — it's just the right height for stacking magazines next to the sofa — while providing work and play space for 3- to 7-year-olds. Underneath the padded vinyl seat, a cubby stores books, crayons and pencils.


Available in orange, blue, purple, red or green for $285 at www.pkolino.com

Tell you what: there's an even larger market out there for the adult version.

Maybe I'll email P'kolino and give 'em a heads-up so they can get there first.



October 16, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Is compulsive shopping a psychiatric illness?


That was the question explored in Shankar Vedantam's October 13, 2006 Washington Post front-page story.

Long story short: "The American Psychiatric Association, which is updating its influential 'bible' of mental disorders, is weighing whether to list compulsive buying as a disorder."

Here's the article.

    Some Psychiatrists See 'Shopaholic' As a Diagnosis

    Lucille Schenk bought $20,000 worth of jewelry a year ago, plunging herself into debt and despair. She knew something was wrong but couldn't help herself: For hours each day, she watched a jewelry channel and the Home Shopping Network, until the salespeople felt like family.

    She did most of her binge buying late at night. Often, after her purchases arrived, she returned them, knowing she could not afford them. Then she would see the same items on TV and buy them again.

    When Schenk finally sought help, New York psychologist April Lane Benson advised her to have a "conversation" with the jewelry before she made her next purchase, as a way to put some distance between herself and her compulsion.

    "I would say, 'You are so beautiful, I can't live without you; I love the way you sparkle,' " recalled Schenk, 62, in an interview. "The jewelry would say back, 'You need me. You look pretty when you wear me.' I would say, 'I do need you. I can't possibly think of being without you. But something has to change. I need to stop this. I can't afford a penny more.' "

    There may be more than 10 million people like Schenk in the United States, according to a study published this month in the American Journal of Psychiatry. They shop compulsively, buy things they do not need and often cannot afford, and place their work, their families and their mental health in jeopardy.

    The problem is widespread and serious enough that the American Psychiatric Association, which is updating its influential "bible" of mental disorders, is weighing whether to list compulsive buying as a disorder.

    That proposal is sure to stir a long-running debate about whether psychiatry is turning every troubling aspect of human behavior into a disease. Some researchers argue that categorizing binge buying as a medical problem takes the focus away from social factors such as the impact of advertising, easy credit and commercialization.

    Avis Mysyk, an anthropologist at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, said therapists should not be advised to "throw the person out of your office" but added: "One thing with the holistic perspective is we don't isolate the individual from the wider context, or just look at the wider context to the exclusion of the individual."

    There are no historical data to show whether the number of people affected is growing, but experts agree that the easy access to shopping provided by the Internet, 24-hour cable networks and malls has probably had an impact.

    Most people can use shopping networks and credit cards without losing control, experts note. But for people who cannot control themselves, as with addictions to alcohol or gambling, easy availability of the thing they crave aggravates the problem. Like other addicts, binge buyers usually want to stop but find they cannot.

    The new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry was conducted by a team led by Lorrin M. Koran, a psychiatrist at Stanford University.

    Besides the sheer number of people, Koran said what surprised him was that men were just as likely as women to be binge buyers. The study also found that compulsive buyers were likely to earn less than $50,000.

    Classifying compulsive buying as a disorder could have legal implications. Koran and other psychiatrists believe that at least some people who end up in bankruptcy are binge buyers, suffering from a disease similar to alcoholism, and that this should mitigate their personal responsibility for their debts.

    Koran said it is a mistake to think that compulsive buyers are the same as people who occasionally overextend themselves financially, or to suggest that anyone who runs up debt is afflicted.

    "This is persistent, compulsive behavior that gets them into trouble financially, at work, with their families or their friends," he said. "They buy things they can't afford. At work, they will be shopping on the Internet instead of doing work, or take a three-hour lunch break because they get lost at the mall."

    Instead of getting home in time to make dinner for their children, Koran said, binge buyers may stay at malls until closing, disrupting their family life. And binge buyers almost always shop alone. Unlike people who often shop with friends because it is enjoyable, compulsive shoppers usually say they are ashamed to tell other people about their behavior, much like people with other addictions, Koran said.

    "It doesn't become a disorder until it becomes very time-consuming, causes substantial strains on a marriage, interferes with job-related activities," said Eric Hollander, a psychiatrist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine who wrote a commentary on Koran's study. "You have to realize at that point there are substantial consequences."

    Compared with the general population, the study found, binge buyers were far more likely to report that buying things made them happy and that they buy things simply because they are on sale.

    Both Hollander and Koran said binge buyers who seek help report being aided by a variety of treatments; both physicians have treated the problem.

    Hollander said those who shop because they are suffering from anxiety problems can be helped by antidepressants such as Prozac or Paxil. If the problem is caused by mood imbalances, mood stabilizers such as lithium can help, he said.

    Binge buyers who also have other addictions, such as alcoholism, may be helped by opioid antagonists, drugs that block receptors that channel pleasure messages in the brain, Hollander said. And people who shop because they are restless or hyperactive can be helped by stimulant medications used to treat attention-deficit disorder.

    For the study, Koran administered a questionnaire to 2,513 adults. Koran and Hollander said the questionnaire, known as the Compulsive Buying Scale, was developed several years ago and has been shown to be 90 percent accurate in identifying people with the problem and in determining when they are cured.

    Benson, the New York psychologist, said she empathizes with binge buyers because she went through a similar "compulsive buy-return cycle."

    She believes that making compulsive shopping an official psychiatric disorder would draw attention to it, but she agrees with Mysyk that there are many societal aspects to the problem. She cited credit card marketing that encourages people to stay in debt, and said there ought to be regulations against it.

    Schenk, who lives in Sandusky, Ohio, said she came to realize in therapy that her compulsions were related to her relationship with her mother — a Freudian insight that helped her. With Schenk and other patients, Benson said, she has successfully used cognitive behavioral therapy, which encourages people to systematically question their false beliefs.

    Another patient Benson treated was a businesswoman in New York who believed that unless she bought a certain attaché case, she would be looked down on at work. Benson said that after treatment, the woman was able to go to a store, see the case and, when the impulse to buy swept over her, make a calculated decision.

    "What predisposes someone to being a compulsive buyer is a materialistic value orientation and low self-esteem," Benson concluded. "The materialistic orientation is very much cultural. This disorder exists along a continuum — there are excessive shoppers and there are compulsive shoppers."

    October 16, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    AeroPress — 'Fantastic brew'


    That's how Jonathan Margolis, in last week's Financial Times How to Spend It supplement, described the product of this espresso-for-one machine.

    From a British website:

      AeroPress Coffee Maker — Mmm... Coffee!

      Making high quality filter coffee is a right palaver, isn't it? Yes, you can use one of those plunger/cafetiere thingamabobs, but who can be bothered with all that waiting around and washing up? Then there's the posh electric coffee machine: chic and effective, maybe, but this pricey device seems to be the Noughties equivalent of the fondue set, as it invariably ends up collecting dust alongside your sandwich toaster and naked doughnut-hoopla set. (What, haven't you got one?).

      Thankfully your good friends at Firebox (or should that be Firebucks?) have discovered a nifty new way to make deliciously smooth filter coffee in no time. The ingenious Aerobie AeroPress is a manually operated device capable of producing pro-standard cups of filter coffee and espresso in less time than it takes to say 'I'll have a frappacappadoodah with sprinkles'.


      Independent reviewers and coffee connoisseurs agree that the Aerobie AeroPress delivers the smoothest, richest, purest and fastest cup of coffee (under 30 seconds) you're ever likely to find - and it only costs a bit more than a few double espressos and couple of muffins down your local poncey coffee shop.

      Using the AeroPress is a doddle: simply put your coffee in the transparent chamber, pour in hot water, stir for 10 seconds and then depress the plunger. Gentle air pressure forces the mix through a special micro-filter and into the cup below. Easy, eh?


      The total brewing time of only 30 seconds reduces acidity in the grounds and results in an exceptionally smooth taste. And the total immersion of the grounds causes rapid yet robust extraction of flavour. We could go on with the scientific blurb but the bottom line is the AeroPress makes the most delicious cup of coffee (including espresso) we've ever tasted.

      The amazing AeroPress comes complete with everything you need to get started, including a year's supply of micro filters, so unless you're a chronic bean fiend the only thing you need to buy is the coffee.

      We really can't stress just how superior coffee made using this simple gizmo tastes. Of course we could always invite you round for a quick cup, but that would involve divulging the secret location of our subterranean HQ. Besides, we've just run out of biccies.



      1 x Year supply of micro-filters.
      1 x Filter holder.
      1 x AeroPress (chamber + plunger).
      1 x Funnel.
      1 x Scoop.
      1 x Stirrer.
      1 x Instruction leaflet.

      Please note: Cup and coffee not included.




    Note that there's an informative demonstration video on this chaotic page just below the item description.

    October 16, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    « October 15, 2006 | Main | October 17, 2006 »