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January 21, 2007

Joost — 'The iPhone of TV'

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That's how Nicholaj Nyholm, writing on O'Reilly Radar, described this new website, created by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis (above), who created Skype.

Joost, which went live this past Tuesday (January 16, 2007), emerging from its alpha-status code name, Project Venice, calls itself "a new way of watching TV on the internet."

Spencer Reiss reports on the new earthshaker in an excellent article which appears in the new (February, 2007) issue of Wired magazine.

Want to get out there on the bleeding edge?

Be a beta tester for Joost.

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Apply within.

January 21, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Breath Xchange — Darth Vader will see you now

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What the heck?

From the website:

    Breath Xchange

    This mask will keep you warmer — not just your face, but your entire core!

    Just the thing you need if you love spending time in the snow, or exercise on cold days.

    The unique technology in this mask turns dry, cold air that you inhale into body-warming heat.

    A unique heat exchanger captures the heat and moisture in your exhaled breath, then uses it to warm and humidify the cold, dry air you breathe in, returning heat and moisture to your body.

    Reduces dehydration and protects your heart and lungs from the detrimental effects of breathing cold air, especially during exercise.

    Covers face, neck and ears, and has a Velcro® closure.

    No batteries, no electronics!

    Polyester/nylon/spandex.

    Washable.

....................

Small or Large.

Darthvadersideshoweiki

Don't tell me you're skeptical.

$39.95.

January 21, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Daydreaming is the default setting of the human mind

That's the short version of the results of a new study just published in Science magazine.

Malia F. Mason, a Harvard Medical School psychologist and lead author of the study said, in a summary of the work that appeared in yesterday's Washington Post, "There is this network of regions that always seems to be active when you don't give people something to do."

Here's the abstract of the Science report.

    Wandering Minds: The Default Network and Stimulus-Independent Thought

    Despite evidence pointing to a ubiquitous tendency of human minds to wander, little is known about the neural operations that support this core component of human cognition.

    Using both thought sampling and brain imaging, the current investigation demonstrated that mind-wandering is associated with activity in a default network of cortical regions that are active when the brain is "at rest."

    In addition, individuals' reports of the tendency of their minds to wander were correlated with activity in this network.

....................

Here's a link to an overview of the paper, appearing in the same issue of Science magazine.

    This Week in Science

    Despite the preponderance of daydreaming during everyday life, little is known about its neurocognitive underpinnings. How does the brain spontaneously produce the images, voices, thoughts, and feelings that constitute stimulus-independent thought? By analyzing functional magnetic resonance imaging signals associated with a cognitive task that was shown to induce a high frequency of mind-wandering, Mason et al. (p. 393) show that between periods of instrumental thought and goal-directed behavior, the mind exhibits tonic activity in a network of cortical regions. This so-called default network contributes to the production of stimulus-independent thought and the subjective experience of mind-wandering.

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Here's a link to an interview with Professor Mason which appeared in the January 18, 2007 Washington Post.

The video at the top is a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan of a human brain; this imaging technology was used in the experimental work described above.

January 21, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why the NFL playoffs are like Schrödinger's cat

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Consider the moment (1:01 p.m. ET today, Sunday, January 21, 2007).

In two hours the New Orleans Saints take the field in Chicago to face the mighty Bears on the snowy, frozen tundra of Soldier Field.

Meanwhile, the Colts and the Patriots sit in their respective locker rooms in Indianapolis, considering their game to come this evening for the right to represent the AFC in next month's Super Bowl.

If you look at the sports results circa 10 p.m. tonight, the winners' names will be in lights while the losers make their way home.

Yet at this very minute — this zeptosecond — all four teams believe their names will be the ones in lights.

Opening Schrödinger's box to determine if the cat is dead or alive

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is the equivalent of turning on the news tonight to see who won.

Right now, they've all won — and they've all lost.

Only playing the games will let you open the box.

Until kickoff, you might as well imagine you won.

Because you did.

And will have done so for the next few hours, regardless of the games' outcome.

I wonder if Brian Urlacher (below)

Brian

looks at it this way.

January 21, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'It's never too late'

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George Sand memorably wrote, "It is never too late to become what you might have become."

Stephen N. Sampogna, 58 years old and dying of cancer, with only a few months to live, recently decided to clean out his home.

In the course of his deaccessioning, he came across a book he'd checked out from his high school library on May 14, 1964 (above).

So he did the right thing: he returned it, along with a note.

What ensued is wonderfully related in today's Washington Post Metro section front-page story by Amit R. Paley; it follows.

    Returned to Lender

    The book of Sherlock Holmes stories just showed up one day at a Silver Spring high school library, 42 years overdue. Would it be a case befitting the detective himself?

    The dusty, 1,122-page book didn't attract much attention when it arrived this month at the Springbrook High School library in a nondescript FedEx package.

    Then a librarian noticed the checkout date: May 14, 1964.

    "How much do I owe for 'borrowing' this book for 42 years and 8 months?" Stephen N. Sampogna, a 1966 graduate of the Silver Spring high school, wrote in an attached note. "Did you miss it?"

    The librarians hooted and hollered. But the return of the tome, a 1930 edition of "The Complete Sherlock Holmes," quickly presented them with a real-life whodunit: Who was this man, and what possessed him to return a four-decades-overdue library book?

    Maybe he found the book during a house move. Or he was just cleaning off his shelves. Perhaps pangs of guilt drove him to do it. "Whatever the reason, it's such a feel-good story," librarian Cynthia Strong said.

    But no. As Sherlock Holmes once observed: "There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."

    The Mystery of the Missing Library Book was a tough one to crack. The letter did not include Sampogna's phone number, which had been unlisted for 25 years. The address listed him in Richmond, three hours away.

    Most days, he can be found listening to jazz in his modest Cape Cod-style Richmond home, which is where a visitor met him one morning last week. Sampogna smiled ruefully when told how delightful — but perplexing — the Silver Spring librarians found his story. Then he took a deep, wheezy breath.

    "Why did this happen all these years later?" he said. "Well, back in November, I was told I had terminal cancer. So I began to get my affairs in order."

    The doctors said he had only a few months left, but Sampogna said he didn't dwell on his diagnosis. "I don't even think about it," he said. "I don't think about it at all unless I have to. I'm just trying to lead a normal life every day."

    Sampogna began to give away his most treasured possessions. His LP collection (including a rare early Jimmy Buffett recording) went to a brother-in-law, and he pondered where to send a receipt for a pair of headphones he sold in 1974 to the judge who listened to the Watergate tapes.

    Then it was time for his books. An obsessive reader since childhood, Sampogna decided to box up a 6-by-6-foot room in his home, lined floor to ceiling with about 400 volumes, and ship them to used-book stores. Most of his hardcovers are wrapped in dust jackets, but while packing up in December, he noticed a book that seemed naked.

    "I pulled it off the shelf and said, 'Wait a minute! Why doesn't this thing have a dust jacket?' " Sampogna said. "Then I remembered."

    Sampogna thinks he checked it out during his sophomore year while he was in Mr. Lerario's world history class. "Pete Lerario told me to get a history book, I thought he said 'mystery book,' " Sampogna wrote in his Dec. 18 letter to the librarians. "No wonder the test had nothing to do with [the] reading assignment!"

    After he read all the stories in the book ("The Hound of the Baskervilles" was a favorite), Sampogna forgot about it. It traveled with him for four decades as he moved repeatedly throughout the Washington region, but he said he never thought about it or recalled its provenance — until last month.

    It's strange that you can forget about something almost your whole life and then remember it right before you die. But Sampogna thinks it's also kind of funny — and that's why he decided to return the book. "I just wanted to see what the school's reaction would be," he said. "I thought it would be fun."

    Sampogna spent most of his life having fun. He was a C student in high school (unlike his nerdy classmate Lewis Black, now a famous comedian) and after less than a year in college he dropped out. "I was more interested in reading books like 'How to Handicap the Thoroughbreds' and 'How to Play Winning Pool' than my textbooks," he said, laughing.

    He spent the next 20 years selling stereos and newfangled devices called personal computers, but Sampogna said almost every night was dominated by drinking — frequently up to eight beers a night. "I had a real Peter Pan complex until I was 42 or 43," he said.

    The doctors said the alcohol caused his liver cancer. Sampogna, 58, now looks to be in his mid-70s, and he has plummeted from his normal weight of 190 pounds to 145. His kidneys are failing, which can cause his stomach to fill with 30 pounds of fluid. So he is often frighteningly gaunt and possessed of a potbelly at the same time.

    But Sampogna doesn't like to dwell on his cancer or the other hardships in his life. Such as the nine-month period in 2005 when his wife, brother and one of his best friends died unexpectedly. Or the 1997 grand larceny conviction for what police said was the theft of $698 worth of computer equipment sold to Kabuto Japanese restaurant. (Sampogna, who would not comment about the incident, paid a fine but didn't serve time in prison.)

    "Dwelling on the negative can lead to depression. And nothing will shorten your life more than depression," he said. "So keep a smile on your face. It's a much easier way to live, even if you have cancer."

    He got a big grin from the Jan. 4 letter he received from Springbrook librarian Linda S. French. "My first thought was to forgive your $152.70 in fines (yes, we still charge only $.02/day) because of your honesty," she wrote. "But then I remembered all those students who were deprived the joys of Sherlock Holmes because you couldn't tell the difference between history and mystery and didn't remember the good citizenship habits that I'm sure Springbrook instilled in you."

    She went on, however, to note that he probably paid for the lost book to graduate. Because Sampogna probably paid $3.95 for the lost book and the library only charges $2 in processing fees for returned books, French determined that the school probably owed him money.

    "We'll be happy to refund about $1.95 (with your receipt) the next time you visit Springbrook," she concluded.

    Although he has no receipt or recollection of paying a lost-book fine, Sampogna still hopes to visit his alma mater soon. He wants to see an exhibit in his honor that was erected two weeks ago in front of the library. His overdue "Complete Sherlock Holmes" rests on an Ionic column, next to a copy of the letter he sent and his 1966 yearbook photo.

    Above is a giant signs that reads: "IT'S NEVER TOO LATE."

January 21, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Power Button Earrings

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$48.

January 21, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Helpful Hints from joeeze: How old is that egg?

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Yes, that one on your plate.

Aren't you curious?

I sure am.

Turns out there's an easy — albeit hiding in plain sight — way to find out.

The following is from The Splendid Table newsletter.

    Thoughts from Lynne

    We got an e-mail recently from a listener wondering about the cluster of three numbers on the end of an egg carton. Those numbers, which range from 1 to 365, are called Julian dates and must be present if eggs have a USDA grade mark.

    The Julian number is the date the eggs were packed. For instance, "31" would be January 31, while "60" would be March 1st. An easy way of remembering is to think of each month as 30 days, so a number in the 300 range would be the tenth month, give or take a week.

    An expiration date might also be on the carton, often on one end of the lid. This must be no more than 30 days after the packing date. So, if the packing date number is 60 (March 1), you want to use the eggs by the first of April, or 30 digits later, which is number 90.

    Perhaps one day egg producers will join the real world and use dates like the rest of us.

...................

Of all of Gore Vidal's books, I found his 1964 novel "Julian" to be — by far — the best.

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Prepare to visit Imperial Rome in a way far more engrossing than the HBO series will ever be able to convey.

[via Shawn Lea and everythingandnothing]

January 21, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Poop Freeze — 'Pet waste removal made easy!'

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Tell us more.

From the website:

    Poop Freeze

    Here's the quick and easy way to pick up after your pet.

    Just aim the instant-freeze spray at the waste — the liquified gas chills the surface to -62º, instantly hardening it for easy pickup and disposal.

    Non-flammable and earth-friendly — no CFCs.

    Use indoors and outdoors; safe around people and pets when used as directed.

    Keep by the door for nightly walks.

......................

Myriad uses outside the poop space — use your imagination.

Bmnbnm

$14.95.

January 21, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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