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November 21, 2006

dangerouslyfun.com — Illustrated How-Tos


Longtime reader William Whitney emailed me last evening and reported that "I'm currently writing for the website www.dangerouslyfun.com and I think we've got some stuff that might be up your alley."

Yet another joehead's career launched into the stratosphere.

But I digress.

William continued, "We've got a few sets of illustrated instructions for things such as a boomerang made of plywood and a simple pair of stilts, along with a blog I update daily that can sometimes through sheer luck find things that are good. Take a moment and check it out, you might find something neat."

William knows how to make a room his own: his comment, "Congrats to the crack research team for endless success," sent them into a frenzy of delight, so much so that I'm still having trouble getting them focused and back to work some 18 hours later.

No matter — that's my problem, not yours.

November 21, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pull-Cord Dynamo Flashlight


Have you noticed that over the past year or so, flashlights powered by every conceivable means possible seem to have appeared everywhere?

Off the top of my head — wherever that is — I can think of solar power, squeezing by hand and shaking as three different options out there right now.

Why not another?

From the website:

    Pull-Cord Dynamo Flashlight

    Pulling on the cord for just one minute charges the built-in rechargeable battery for up to 10 minutes of light.

    5 LED bulbs provide bright, focused light for up to 50,000 hours.

    Included phone charging cord lets you charge Nokia cell phone batteries and provided universal charger charges any other type of cell phone battery.

    With convenient hand strap.

    9" long.




November 21, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Best new word of the month


Via Matthew Leavitt, commenting on my tut-tutting yesterday about the phrase "free gift."

With readers as smart as this, I'm surprised anyone still even drops by.

Maybe it's kind of a habit sort of deal.

Simon Gray, in "Butley," observed, "Old friends are like old habits. Once you've got them, it's awfully hard to get rid of them."

November 21, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Pocket Power — 'An outlet in your pocket'


That's different.

Tell us more.

From the website:

    Pocket Power

    Compact and lightweight, the Pocket Power is a portable, rechargeable battery pack that provides power on the go for today's busy lifestyle.

    With 20 watts to power/recharge AC and USB devices, you never have to worry about being slowed down to power up from a wall outlet again.

    Charge your cell phone, PDA, MP3 player, digital camera and more — on the go — with up to 5 hours of added power.

    With both a standard outlet and a USB port, Pocket Power powers/recharges multiple personal electronic devices simultaneously, without requiring special tips or adapters — just use your own charging cords.


November 21, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

AWOL — Alcohol without liquor — hits the mainstream media


You could look it up.

But if you'd rather chill and let my crack research team do the heavy lifting, hey — that's what they're here for.

Smack dab on the front page of today's (November 21, 2006) Wall Street Journal is Kevin Helliker's story about the notorious AWOL device.

Long story short: it's an alcohol vaporizer invented by British entrepreneur Dominic Simler several years ago, purported to give a more potent high than having a drink the old-fashioned (as it were) way.

The AWOL appeared here on July 2, 2005.

It's so last year.

The Wall Street Journal piece follows.

    A Whiff of Notoriety Is All It Took to Sell An Alcohol Vaporizer

    Politicians Got Wind of It, Prompting Legislation; Liquor Makers In a Huff

    In September, the fortunes of Spirit Partners Inc. looked bleak. Sales of its only product — a device that vaporizes liquor, allowing it to be inhaled rather than drunk — had slowed nearly to a halt. And the company had no marketing budget.

    Then news broke of a Kentucky legislator's effort to ban the device, which is called AWOL, for alcohol without liquid. Suddenly, newspapers around the country carried warnings that the device might induce extraordinary mind-altering effects. An Oct. 7 segment on NBC's "Today" show on the device quoted an addiction expert saying that inhaled alcohol might go straight to the brain, producing a faster high than alcohol gulped from a glass. "Within a couple of days, we sold about 200 of them," says Kevin Morse, chief executive of Spirit Partners, which is based here. "There's no way we could buy that kind of advertising."

    About 20 states have banned the device in the two years since Spirit Partners bought U.S. rights to the British invention. Others have been thinking about it. Publicity suggesting that inhaled alcohol could pack an extraordinary wallop has sparked demand for the product, which is sold over the Internet and which has never been advertised. Mr. Morse says he has sold 1,000 units at $299 apiece, almost enough for him and his three partners to recoup their investment.

    Mr. Morse is a defense attorney who in his spare time peddles the device with the help of his paralegal. AWOL isn't successful enough to support even one full-time employee. Inventory consists of a waist-high stack of boxes in the corner of a warehouse packed with coin-operated arcade games — the primary business of another Spirit partner.

    In states that have banned or proposed banning AWOL, legislators have acted in the absence of reports of adverse consequences. Wyoming legislators banned the device without knowing whether anyone in the state had ever seen it.

    People who have used it say a no-hangover claim made for AWOL is accurate, given that the device takes so long to vaporize liquor, but it's no way to get drunk.

    Anyone wanting an alcohol buzz "would be better off drinking a beer," says Mark Hemmis, a Maryland tavern owner who tried AWOL with his wife. "We were using half an ounce of 100-proof liquor, and after 30 minutes, only half of it would be inhaled."

    One reason for the fuss the product has caused is that AWOL breaks a cardinal rule of marketing alcohol: Never extol inebriation. The AWOL Web site boasts that "AWOL is a hit in the global club scene due to the euphoric 'high' created when alcohol is vaporized, mixed with oxygen and inhaled." It's OK to advertise taste, aroma, freshness, sex appeal and whether a product is less filling. But saying that it makes you feel good is a drug dealer's line.

    Susan McComas, a Republican legislator in Maryland, proposed outlawing AWOL after seeing a flier touting the device at Mr. Hemmis's tavern, the Phoenix Emporium in Ellicott City. "I would say none of my other bills have received as much publicity," says Delegate McComas, who publicly likened AWOL to crack cocaine.

    "Before this came up, I'd never heard of her, and suddenly she was on all the networks," says Mr. Hemmis, who calls the AWOL controversy "a fantastic way for conservative politicians to get their name in the paper."

    Not that he is complaining. He bought a $3,000 AWOL model capable of serving several inhalers at once, planning to charge customers $10 each to use it. When it turned out that his patrons disliked the device as much as he did, he trashed it — but not before Ms. McComas's legislation brought his tavern more publicity than it had ever had.

    The liquor industry also has made a big to-do of opposing AWOL. The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., the American Beverage Licensees and liquor giant Diageo have supported proposed bans on AWOL. "It is something with potentially dangerous side effects," says John Bodnovich, spokesman for the American Beverage Licensees, which represents retailers of beer, wine and spirits.

    The inhalation of alcohol is little studied. But in theory, vaporized alcohol could be more potent, because it goes straight from the lungs into the bloodstream, bypassing the stomach and liver. Cigarette smoke, for instance, is a faster provider of nicotine than chewing tobacco is, for the same reason. Supporters of legislative bans point out that even if current vaporized-alcohol machines don't intoxicate users, future ones might. Thus, they say, legislative bans are preventative.

    But Dominic Simler, the British entrepreneur who invented the AWOL machine, says the liquor industry is using the product as a vehicle for portraying itself as responsible. "Diageo has a responsibility to show that it's doing something about problem drinking, and AWOL is a soft target," says Mr. Simler.

    Diageo, the British-based purveyor of Guinness, Johnnie Walker and other brands, says: "We don't want anyone to consume our products irresponsibly. [AWOL] is nothing more than a vehicle for irresponsibility."

    Using AWOL entails inhaling through a tube, a process that isn't conducive to socializing. The user could be mistaken for an asthma sufferer. Even the man responsible for marketing AWOL in the U.S., Mr. Morse, doesn't use it. A daily drinker, Mr. Morse says, "I take my alcohol the old-fashioned way."

    Those whom he has watched try AWOL had a similar response, he says. "Most people try it once and then go back to drinking."

    In England, the AWOL device is legal but controversial. It created an outcry in the United Kingdom that caught the attention of some small business owners here in Greensboro. Thinking that the product might generate similar publicity in the states, four investors created Spirit Partners and bought the U.S. rights from Mr. Simler. The investors had stakes in real estate, junkyards and coin-operated arcade games. Their leader, Mr. Morse, defends people in court against charges ranging from speeding to murder, and he co-owns Pig Masters, which barbecues whole pigs for private parties.

    Hiring a public-relations consultant, Mr. Morse staged an AWOL launching party in 2004 at a New York bar and issued an announcement on PR Newswire. Before the event began, local alcohol officials raised questions about the legality of the product, creating a media storm — "Drunk on Fumes" read one headline — and forcing Mr. Morse to demonstrate the product using nonalcoholic beverages.

    Spirit Partners dreamed of AWOL becoming a must-have party toy across the country. Mr. Morse had dreams of being able to abandon his law practice. But word of mouth failed to catch on, and the partners lack any funds to advertise. So they've depended on legislators hostile to the product to drum up business. The recent Kentucky proposal to ban the product won coast-to-coast coverage, even though the legislature ultimately failed to pass the bill.

    Though AWOL hasn't enabled Mr. Morse to quit practicing law, it has raised his profile at the county courthouse. Following the recent media storm over Kentucky's proposed ban, Mr. Morse's arrival in a courtroom prompted a court reporter to declare that she had never before known anyone who had appeared on "Good Morning America."

    "It was the 'Today Show,' " Mr. Morse corrected her.


The lesson, as always: it doesn't matter if what anyone says about something is good or bad — only that they spell it correctly.

November 21, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rainbow Dunes


Spacey, huh?

That's because it is from outer space, booboo: namely, Mars.

The photo above is among those in a new book (out last week) entitled "Postcards From Mars."

It consists of over 150 high-resolution (some initially over 100MB) full-color photograpshs taken by the Mars rovers.

Ashley Bleimes interviewed Jim Bell, an associate professor of astronomy at Cornell University who headed the project, for a story that appears in today's (November 21, 2006) USA Today.

The book ($50 list) is $31.50 at Amazon.

November 21, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

You Go To School To Learn — by Thomas Lux

You go to school to learn to
read and add, to someday
make some money. It — money — makes
sense: you need
a better tractor, an addition
to the gameroom, you prefer
to buy your beancurd by the barrel.
There's no other way to get the goods
you need. Besides, it keeps people busy
working — for it.
It's sensible and, therefore, you go
to school to learn (and the teacher,
having learned, gets paid to teach you) how
to get it. Fine. But:
you're taught away from poetry
or, say, dancing (That's nice, dear,
but there's no dough in it
). No poem
ever bought a hamburger, or not too many. It's true,
and so, every morning — it's still dark! —
you see them, the children, like angels
being marched off to execution,
or banks. Their bodies luminous
in headlights. Going to school.

November 21, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Pictures you listen to'


From SoundArt in England come flat canvas wall-mountable speakers which can be made from any photograph you choose.

    From the website:

    Put simply, one or two canvas speakers, sleek subwoofer box, your choice of picture and, of course, your choice of music.

    Transform your interior with stylish canvas art speakers and make cumbersome traditional speakers a thing of the past. No complicated set-up, just hang on your wall, plug in your music source and enjoy the space around you.

    From music to movies the audio options are endless. Almost any audio source can be played through it — your Hi-Fi, iPod, DVD, CD or use the output on your AV system.


"I said be careful his bowtie is really a camera."


At stores throughout the U.K.

November 21, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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