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November 2, 2006

BehindTheMedspeak: 'CDC Investigates Salmonella Outbreak; Lettuce, Tomatoes Are Suspected As Carriers'


Above, the headline of yesterday's Washington Post story by Annys Shin about the latest fresh produce-related epidemic.

In September it was spinach, now it's lettuce and tomatoes.

Next thing you'll know carrots will be on the watch list.

Tell you what, my microwave-centric* diet is looking better every day.

Ain't no one ever got sick from Stouffer's Macaroni & Beef, what?

Here's the Post article.

    CDC Investigating Salmonella Outbreak

    Lettuce, Tomatoes Are Suspected as Carriers

    Health officials suspect lettuce and tomatoes in a nationwide outbreak of salmonella that so far has sickened 171 people in 19 states, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

    The spate of salmonella infections comes as federal and California state investigators are still searching for the cause of September's deadly spinach-borne E. coli outbreak, the 20th episode of foodborne illness linked to leafy greens in 10 years.

    Investigators believe the salmonella outbreak has already peaked but they do not know the precise cause and have not linked it to any particular product, brand or distributor. But some food safety experts said that with so many cases and no source yet identified, the outbreak could widen. The typical produce-related outbreak involves an average of 43 people.

    Salmonella infections cause 1.4 million cases of illness and 400 deaths in the United States every year, according to the CDC. Within 12 to 72 hours of infection, salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps that last four to seven days. It can be fatal for young children and the elderly. Most healthy adults recover.

    Like E. coli, salmonella is a bacterium commonly found in warm-blooded animals that finds its way to the food supply through animal feces. It can be killed by thorough cooking. Washing can reduce the number of bacteria but may not get rid of all of them.

    Salmonella infections are most often caused by eating undercooked meat, poultry or eggs, or other foods that have been become cross-contaminated through contact with raw meat or poultry. People have also become infected with salmonella after eating tomatoes, cantaloupe and alfalfa sprouts.

    Eleven outbreaks of salmonella have been associated with tomatoes since 1990, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

    Illness linked to produce is a growing concern among food safety experts as Americans consume more fresh fruits and vegetables, on the recommendation of the federal government. Consumers are now more likely to get sick from a produce-related outbreak than from any other food source, said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the CSPI.

    Every year, about 76 million people contract foodborne illnesses in the United States. About 325,000 of those cases require hospitalization, and 5,000 people die.

    Several previous salmonella outbreaks have been associated with fresh fruit and produce. Last year, Orchid Island Juice Co. of Fort Pierce, Fla., recalled unpasteurized orange juice after 15 people fell ill. Salmonella-tainted Roma tomatoes sickened 561 people in 18 states and Canada during the summer of 2004.

    Salmonella, which has also been found on almonds and pet reptiles, is more common than E. coli, said Larry Beuchat, a researcher at the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. "Salmonella is present in a number of warm-blooded animals and reptiles in large numbers," he said. "There are larger number of reservoirs in nature than there are of E. coli ."

    The strain involved in the current outbreak is a common variety called salmonella typhimurium, said Lola Russell, a CDC spokeswoman. The CDC receives about 6,000 to 8,000 reports of illness due to this strain every year.

    Virginia health officials are looking into possible cases of salmonella infection related to the outbreak. Shannon Marshall, a health department spokeswoman, said it was premature to disclose how many cases the agency is investigating.

    No deaths have been reported in connection with the outbreak, though 11 people have been hospitalized.

    Health officials detected the outbreak by genetically matching strains of bacteria collected from victims and submitted by public health labs across the country to PulseNet, an electronic database maintained by the CDC.

    The E. coli outbreak, which sickened more than 200 people and killed at least three, prompted federal officials in mid-September to warn consumers against eating fresh spinach. That warning was lifted after the outbreak was traced to four farms in California's Salinas Valley. Though investigators have not determined how the spinach came to be contaminated, they found the original strain in cattle feces collected within a mile of an implicated spinach field and in wild pigs known to pass through the field.


A sidebar to the Post story listed 8 tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on healthy practices to prevent salmonellosis: they follow.

• Cook poultry, ground beef and eggs thoroughly before eating. Do not eat raw eggs or unpasteurized milk.

• If served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, send it back for further cooking.

• Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces and utensils with soap and water immediately after contact with raw meat or poultry.

• Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly and the immunocompromised.

• Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles or birds, or after contact with pet feces.

• Avoid direct or indirect contact between reptiles and infants or immunocompromised people.

• Don't work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.

• Breast-feeding prevents salmonellosis and many other health problems in infants.

N.B.: I'm hereby trademarking Microbiotic™ as the Official Description of the True and Genuine bookfofjoe Diet™.

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

Perfect Tea Timer — Because in tea, as in life, timing is everything


From the website:

    Perfect Tea Timer

    Timing is everything when brewing the perfect cup of tea.

    Our tea timer includes three sand timers, each calibrated for 3, 4 and 5 minutes respectively, so you can make teas that require different steeping times or brew to meet various strength preferences simultaneously.

    Three sand colors differentiate the timers.

    Stainless-steel and glass with rubber feet.


Caution: Mos def not TechnoDolt™-approved.

I mean, me trying to simultaneously keep track of three different cups of tea with three different brewing times, using this device, is a guaranteed ticket to three really unhappy tea drinkers.

You go ahead, though: I'm sure you'll be fine.


November 2, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

MyBlogLog.com — 'Connect with fellow readers'


Kevin Maney brought this site to my attention in his USA Today column of October 24, 2006 about the past, present and future of social networking sites.

He wrote, "MyBlogLog started as simply a way to track blog page views, but has morphed into a way for fans of a particular blog to form a social network around that blog. That way, fans of the Bigcatheads blog (subtitled 'Life as an artist who paints cats') can bond to each other and, presumably, to the blog itself."


That sounded interesting so I went and signed up.

For some time now I've wished I could have an active sidebar area where joeheads could goof off and stuff in real time, more interactively than by putting up comments which often get rejected by TypePad's built-in spam filter for no apparent reason.

No way, though, can I tamper with bookofjoe without risking bringing the whole thing crashing down.

Maybe MyBlogLog is a bridge of sorts.

Maybe not.

November 2, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flex-Neck Clip Light


From the website:

    Flex-Neck Clip Light

    This handy light has a strong clip that attaches practically anywhere, plus a flexible gooseneck that aims two super-bright LEDs right where you need them.

    The neck coils around the clip for compact storage so it's perfect for travel.


Cherry, Lapis or Black.


November 2, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'I have, in effect, created a Web-based fine-arts-video-on-demand site' — Terry Teachout, drama critic of the Wall Street Journal


He came to the conclusion above after looking at the accumulated results of his YouTube discoveries, all listed as links on his website, www.terryteachout.com.

One small problem: that list of links he referred to is buried deep, deep within his site, so much so that my crack research team had to spend the greater part of a day unearthing it.

Without further ado, then, it's right here — somewhere.

Here's how to find Teachout's wonderful links list, numbering around 400:

1) On the home page, note the right-hand column headed "About Last Night"

2) Follow that column down, down, down and further down

3) Eventually you'll come to a subsection headed "Video" (pictured up top)

You're there.

Here's his September 30, 2006 Wall Street Journal article explaining how it was that he came to be a (virtual) mini-media mogul.

    WhoseTube? ArtsTube!

    YouTube is shaping the future of fine-arts video on demand

    Everybody's talking about YouTube — and not always nicely, either. Doug Morris, who runs Universal Music, gave a speech the other day in which he proclaimed that the 19-month-old online video-sharing Web site owes his conglomerate "tens of millions of dollars" for allowing copyrighted music videos to be posted without permission. Mr. Morris's shot across the bow was quickly followed by the announcement that Warner Music, Universal's smarter competitor, has struck a deal allowing YouTube, which receives 100 million hits a day, to show its videos in return for a chunk of ad revenue. Says Warner Chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr.: "Consumer-empowering destinations like YouTube have created a two-way dialogue that will transform entertainment and media."

    Such heated talk will doubtless puzzle casual visitors to www.youtube.com who have yet to find anything there other than pirated videos, home movies and amateur porn. But YouTube, like the other new Web-based media, is a common carrier, a means to whatever ends its millions of users choose, be they good, bad, dumb or ugly. You can use it to watch mindless junk — or some of the greatest classical and jazz musicians of the 20th century.

    In recent months, jazz-loving friends have been sending me YouTube links to videos by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and other celebrated artists, most of them drawn from films of the '30s and '40s and TV shows of the '50s and '60s. Some of this material is available on DVD, but most of it lingered in limbo until Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, YouTube's co-founders, made it possible for anyone with a computer to post and view video clips at will. Fascinated by the links unearthed by my friends, I spent the better part of a long weekend trolling through YouTube in search of similar material. When I was done, I'd found hundreds of videos, some extremely rare and all compulsively watchable, posted by collectors from all over the world.

    I discovered along the way that using YouTube's literal-minded search engine to track down high-culture links — or anything else — can be a tricky business. (It doesn't help that so many YouTube users are poor spellers.) To ease the way for first-timers, I posted the fruits of my labors at www.terryteachout.com, where you'll find a list of links to performances by Armstrong, Ellington, Count Basie, Pablo Casals, the King Cole Trio, Miles Davis, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Benny Goodman, Jascha Heifetz, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Andrés Segovia, Bessie Smith, Arturo Toscanini and numerous other musicians of comparable significance. All can be viewed free, whenever you want.

    Seeing these artists, most of whom are now known to us only through their recordings, is an awe-inspiring experience. To watch Art Tatum rippling through a bristlingly virtuosic version of Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays," or Richard Strauss conducting his tone poem "Till Eulenspiegel" with a cool detachment that borders on the blasé, is to learn something about the essence of their art that no verbal description, however insightful or evocative, can supply.

    By posting this list of links, I have, in effect, created a Web-based fine-arts video-on-demand site. The irony is that I did so just as network TV was getting out of the culture business. Not only have PBS and its affiliates cut back sharply on classical music, jazz and dance, but cable channels like A&E and Bravo that used to specialize in the fine arts are now opting instead to show "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." This abdication of cultural responsibility has created an opening for entrepreneurs who grasp the new media's unrivaled capacity for niche marketing.

    Might YouTube, or something like it, become the salvation of culture-hungry TV viewers? I hasten to point out that nobody's making any money off my little experiment. But it would be perfectly feasible for Classic Arts Showcase, the foundation-supported outfit that makes fine-arts videos available via satellite to any TV station that cares to air them, or Ovation, the last remaining high-culture cable network of any seriousness, to team up with iTunes and launch a professional video-on-demand service. If they don't, somebody else will.

    In the meantime, fine-arts fans are using YouTube to build their own makeshift "network." It's far from perfect: The technical quality of the videos is wildly variable, and you have to watch them on a computer. What's more, many are protected by copyright, and some of the copyright holders are requesting that their videos be pulled from YouTube. (I just lost two terrific Bill Evans clips that way.) I understand their concerns, but I think they're being as short-sighted as the paranoid executives at Universal Music.

    As any economist can tell you, supply creates its own demand. Disseminating high-culture TV and radio programming for free via the Web is among the simplest and most cost-effective ways to expand the audience for the fine arts. Every time a Web surfer in South Dakota or South Africa views a YouTube video by Louis Armstrong or Arturo Toscanini, he's making a discovery that could change his life — not to mention his concert-going and record-buying habits. I can't think of a better bargain.

November 2, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dead Duck


From the website:

    Dead Duck

    Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to honor and bear witness to the passing of a cherished friend.

    Dead Duck, whose 2-1/2"-tall rubber soul has passed into the next world, reminds us to question our existence: Why are we here? What is the meaning of bath?

    He rests in peace in his net bag with a mortuary toe-tag header.



A nicely matched set of 2 is $5.95.

November 2, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Philosophical Health Check — 'Check your tension quotient!'


Go ahead, take a minute or two, almost no one's looking and those who are don't care.

November 2, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hole Vase — Episode 2: 'Because nobody sees a flower, really...'


A number of readers remarked on the aluminum version featured on October 19 in Episode 1 that they found it a bit severe, a touch too austere.

I asked the crack research team to find a kinder, gentler iteration.

Took 'em a couple weeks but they finally succeeded.

From the website:

    Zero Hole Vase

    Simplicity creating fascination.

    The open design reveals the natural stems of your arrangements for a unique, organic look.

    The stems rest in shallow water at the base of the white ceramic vase.

    13"W x 4"D x 12"H.


November 2, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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