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January 26, 2007

A penny here, a penny there, and pretty soon your entire bar is covered with nearly a million of them


For real.

Randal C. Archibold paid a visit to Mike & Annie's Penny Bar (above) in McKittrick, California to see what a million pennies looks like.

He wrote about the experience in a [nearly] priceless January 7, 2007 New York Times story, which follows.

    See a Penny, Pick It Up and ‘Honey, Get the Glue!’

    It began innocently enough, like most casual obsessions. Annie Moore dropped a penny into an empty coffee can. Clink.

    And then another. Clink. And soon enough, many, many more. Mrs. Moore began scouring parking lots for lost pennies. Clink, clink, clink. She filled several cans.

    Like many penny hoarders, she was never sure what to do with all of them — until she and her husband bought a roadside bar and cafe in this speck of a town in California oil country near Bakersfield. Why not, she asked her husband, Mike, festoon the bar with the pennies? And he dutifully obliged the crazy idea, using regular Elmer’s glue to affix them from one end of the bar to another.

    Job well done. Well, almost.

    “I said that was a nice start, but I meant the whole bar, everything,” Mrs. Moore said with a laugh. She is the laughing one of the pair. Mr. Moore is the grumbler, and it is no wonder.

    It was his task to complete the job, penny by painstaking penny, six years of gluing, gluing and gluing.

    [Below, a detail of the penny bar]


    Now, one million pennies later — from Annie’s cans, customers with loose change and not a few trips to the bank for exchanges — Mike & Annie’s Penny Bar is a sight to behold. The pennies, like a swarm of copper ants, cover nearly every surface: the floor, the walls, even the sides of the pool table.

    Mr. Moore did not exactly count out one million pennies, but after calculating 304 pennies per square foot of surface area, he figures it is pretty close. “It’s 200,000 on the floor alone,” he said proudly.

    There are surprises. Mr. Moore used different shadings of pennies, old and new, to spell out a few messages that the sober may miss without squinting: “No Fishing,” under a fish tank. “I was a TV,” over an old television set. “Mike (heart) Annie,” on the back wall behind a row of liquor bottles. (These compete with an assortment of bumper stickers with messages like “Don’t suffer from insanity, enjoy every minute of it.”)

    Mr. Moore did not enjoy every minute of this job, especially when pennies kept loosening from the ceiling railings. And it was not done entirely out of love. Mrs. Moore paid him a bribe of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle a couple of years ago.

    Of course, they do appreciate the tourists.

    “It is kind of a regional attraction,” said Kial Gunter, an oil field worker, whose beer one afternoon sat close to the bar’s prize possession, an 1883 Indian head penny. The oldest of the lot, it sits unheralded among its contemporary brethren beneath the hard plastic that covers the bar top.

    “I didn’t even know it was there until a customer pointed it out to me one day,” Mr. Moore said. After a while, a penny is a penny.

    The bar and cafe are what is left of the McKittrick Hotel, which has not operated as one for decades and is one of just a few businesses downtown, such as it is. A road sign off Highway 33, the main drag, gives the population as 190, but Jan Heim, a local rancher, said, “I think they were counting cats and dogs.”

    Still, the Moores are preparing to give it all up. They have put the place up for sale, asking $899,999.98, “as is,” pennies included.

    It is time to retire, they said, exhausted from the crush of business.

    Illness sidelined Mr. Moore from much of the cafe work and penny-laying a couple of years ago. Mrs. Moore, working seven days a week, is ready for some fishing. For lunch each day she cooks about 80 steak specials on two outdoor grills, and she often does many more for the dinner crowd.

    The establishment’s pennies surely lure some, but it is also the only restaurant to speak of for the growing number of energy workers in this part of Kern County, which locals have nicknamed West Texas for all the oil derricks and natural-gas plants.

    Attractions are few.


    “Who the heck would live in a godforsaken place like this?” Mr. Moore recalled asking when he first passed through in the early 1970s, on the way to visit one of Mrs. Moore’s aunts, who lived in town.

    But the Moores were interested in getting out of the termite-extermination business they had operated in Eureka, Calif., and so they rented and operated the cafe for several months then. They went back to crawling under houses for a few more decades before quitting eight years ago and buying the McKittrick Hotel outright, moving in to some of the rooms upstairs.

    From their travels they had grown fond of greasy spoons, and they dreamed of owning one in a quiet, simple place. But every little cafe needs a quirk, and that is where the pennies came in. Those, coupled with Mrs. Moore’s secret steak marinade, have drawn the masses ever since.

    Television stations and magazines have visited over the years, and usually donations of pennies have followed. One customer left a five-gallon bucket full of them.

    The Moores are leaving it up to the next owner to decide the pennies’ fate, but they hope they will remain. At the very least, someone has to keep up the penny puns, which have been difficult to avoid to this point — but it is time for a change.

    “I guess,” Mrs. Moore said, “the buyer needs to be penny-wise.”

January 26, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

'It's Ugly, and Coming to Your Grocer'


Above, the headline over a story in the January 24, 2007 Washington Post Food section by Walter Nicholls about a decision last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture finally allowing the UglyRipe tomato (above) to be sold outside its South Florida growing region.

Here's the article.

    It's Ugly, and Coming to Your Grocer

    Say goodbye to the cotton-textured tomatoes of winter. UglyRipe tomatoes, praised for their flavor if not their appearance, are on their way from Florida to Washington area supermarkets, thanks to a decision last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Tomato developer Joe Procacci, who fought shape restrictions imposed by the Florida Tomato Committee, can now sell his lumpy, bumpy UglyRipe heirloom tomato outside the South Florida growing region. It took more than 20 years of research and $3 million in funding to bring the variety to market.

    "I have sold tomatoes since I was a boy during the Depression," Procacci, head of Philadelphia-based Procacci Brothers Sales Corp., said in a news release. "This is the first tomato that tastes like a tomato should taste and yet is hardy enough to ship across the country."

    Marketed by Procacci Brothers subsidiary Santa Sweets, which also introduced the grape tomato, UglyRipes are in short supply now because of recent hot weather in South Florida but should be more available in a few weeks. They retail for about $3 to $4 per pound and weigh an average of 1/2 pound. Look for them at Giant, Harris Teeter, Magruder's, Shoppers, Wegmans and Whole Foods stores. Santa Sweets will soon launch a blog for fans at the Web site www.santasweets.blogspots.com.

    January 26, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Google makes a subtle — but significant — change in how it presents images


    Look at the picture above.

    What do you see?

    The question should be, what don't you see?

    Up until this past Wednesday (January 24, 2007), all of the images had their size (in pixels) and website locations included below their descriptions.

    Then yesterday, I noticed they didn't — only the description is now present on the page, until you move your cursor over an image, at which time the detailed size/location information appears (below).


    At first I wasn't sure if this was a good thing: I mean, you see less information at first glance — but after using the new system for a day and a half I like it lot.

    It makes the page much cleaner and easier to take in at a glance.

    Once again Google demonstrates why it is great and why Yahoo, Microsoft and the rest are falling further behind every day.

    They don't have a clue.

    January 26, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    The Rise of Athanasius Kircher


    Who dat?

    He was a seventeenth-century (that's the 1600s, if you get as confused as I still do trying to convert the word into the number) German Jesuit priest who "published dozens of volumes on matters both large — astronomy, Egyptology, cryptography, botany, geology, geography, magnetism, and linguistics — and small, such as the real size of Noah's Ark," wrote John Seabrook in the current (January 29, 2007) issue of the New Yorker.

    [Not that] long story short: by the end of the seventeenth century (1699, if you're still befuddled) many of Kirchner's assumptions had been proven wrong and his reputation sank to that of a charlatan.

    That was then, but this is now: in the late 1970s (twentieth-century) a Kircher resurgence began in academic circles and it's now gathered serious momentum.

    Witness the very first meeting ever of the Athanasius Kircher Society, held in the CUNY Graduate Center on Fifth Avenue in New York City last week on January 16, 2007.

    Here's a link the society's website, your gateway to Kircher's world.

    Here's a link to Hugh Merwin's January 25, 2007 gothamist.com story about the inaugural meeting.

    January 26, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Bag that Segway — How about Copenhagen by stroller?


    Or Chicago, Barcelona (below), Amsterdam, Portland, Toronto, London, Paris, New York City, LA, Boston, San Francisco, Miami, East Berlin, Edinburgh, Milan, Dublin or Brighton?

    Bugaboo — the Dutch stroller maker — has created day trips suitable for a stroller passenger (and propeller), complete with detailed maps, photos and description of all the sights.

    The website's a bit... dare I say buggy? but you'll get to the trips by following these steps:

    1) Click here and you'll be on the main page

    2) Move the cursor over the word "explore" in the horizontal black bar up top: the words "daytrips" and "bugaboo by" [sic] will appear below the bar

    3) Click on "daytrips" and you're good to noodle around and check things out for yourself


    Note that the website offers multiple country/language options so most everyone ought to be able to find one that suits.

    January 26, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    'I think old people are scary' — Grace Slick, 67


    She's just as cool as she ever was, regardless.

    Sue Kovach Shuman's January 13, 2007 Washington Post Style section front-page story catches up with the legend as she is today.

    If you're only pretty as you feel, well, Grace (above) isn't feeling too cute.

    Here's the article.

      Counterculture Meets Mall Culture for Grace Slick The Ex-Acid-Rock Singer Peddles Her 'Alice' Art

      Grace Slick says she can't remember a lot of things, which is perhaps no surprise given how much she drank and drugged herself into oblivion during her reign as a rock-and-roll queen. But she knows who she is today: "I'm a 67-year-old fat, white-haired, liver-spotted woman."

      Of her body, she says, "It's all lumpy stuff with lines."

      Ahem. Anything else?

      "I think old people are scary," says the former hippie vixen. "They remind you of your own death. People don't like to tell you that."

      This is where Grace Slick likes to be: in your face, her blue eyes holding you hostage, unleashing verbal assaults. As lead singer for the Jefferson Airplane in the 1960s and the group it begat in the '70s, Jefferson Starship, she was a voice of countercultural transgression. Now she's an artist holding court at a gallery in a suburban shopping mall, where some 150 people have come to see her paintings and drawings. But mostly it is a chance for them to set their eyes on a legend, the woman who did all those bad things that horrified parents — and survived.

      Polka-dotted teacups are set on a table at the Wentworth Gallery in Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, in a tribute to Slick, whose work revolves around "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," nudes and rock musicians (live ones like Eric Clapton, but more often dead ones like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin).

      Near the gallery's entrance, a poster of a young woman stares hard into you, eyes peeking out from under thick brown bangs: It's an iconic 1968 photo of Slick, then about 28, wearing a green Girl Scouts USA shirt [below].

      Today Slick's thick white hair is pulled back in a ponytail that cascades to her waist; she wears silver hoop earrings the diameter of a small yogurt container. She's seated at a black-clothed table; her black-fringed sweater poncho is paired with pencil-cut black jeans; a deep red chenille scarf drapes her shoulders. When she smiles, which isn't often, she is radiant.

      Before taking the first of several cigarette breaks, she pops out a false incisor, then shoves it back in.

      What happened to her tooth? "It fell out," she barks. "I'm old."

      Security guards flanking her, she is escorted outdoors to smoke. She's obviously someone important, but passing shoppers don't seem to know who. But her presence is felt, and when she returns to the gallery, the faithful gather.

      * * *

      Back in 1970, Grace Slick came to Washington for a very different purpose: a White House reception hosted by Tricia Nixon. The event's organizers weren't aware that her song "Mexico" was a scathing critique of President Richard Nixon's anti-drug policy. Nonetheless, she was denied entrance because she'd brought along Abbie Hoffman, whose name was synonymous with radical. Slick said afterward she would have spiked Nixon's tea with LSD if she'd gotten in.

      She was a hero of her generation for such bold provocations. And at Wentworth Gallery on Thursday night they want to hear about her glory days, tidbits about the Summer of Love and Woodstock, her ex-husbands (Jerry Slick and Skip Johnson), and daughter China's father, Paul Kantner. And to share their own memories.

      "I saw you in March 1970 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia," management consultant Jamison Hawkins of Alexandria tells her. "It was my first case of rock-and-roll ecstasy."

      "I saw you the first time in Atlantic City," chimes in retired accountant Tom Wilson of Arlington. Like others, he is carrying the Airplane's 1967 vinyl LP, "Surrealistic Pillow," hoping for Slick's autograph. (But this isn't an autograph-signing op, unless you purchase art. Sorry.)

      Slick doesn't sing anymore, but her songs are still heard on classic rock radio stations. "I'm not a genius, but I don't suck" at songwriting, she says. "White Rabbit" is her most commercially popular song — and royalties still roll in, which, combined with art sales, is enough to sustain her in a stucco-and-tile house on two acres in Malibu, Calif. She describes the song as "a slap to parents." Very loosely based on Lewis Carroll's works, it's all about drugs.

      The White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, hookah-smoking caterpillar and other Carroll characters inhabit many of Slick's artworks. As the gallery music gets louder — all Grace Slick hits, all night — people come, see, and some buy. Red dots appear on the corner of sold works.

      Slick's art includes acrylics, sketches and scratchboard; they range from $1,200 to $19,000. Art critics have panned her work. In 2000, the Wall Street Journal's David Littlejohn said of Slick's art posted on a Web site, "They're terrible." Slick says she took one art class at the University of Miami (but adds that she went there to party and to date football players).

      She creates about 120 pieces a year. And judging from the Pentagon City event, people like what she does.

      "I was a member of the psychedelic substance crowd," says John Jacobs, 66, an Arlington artist and writer who buys "Hooka Smoking Caterpillar" for $1,495. He's wearing wore red corduroy trousers, a turquoise paisley jacket and a multicolored top hat. With a psychotherapist, "I had three sessions with LSD," he explains.

      The Clements family of Fairfax — Don and Sara, with daughter Haley, 10 — buy the print "White Rabbit Remembering the Good Old Days," a giclee (a high-resolution reproduction of the original, produced from digital scans) for $1,525. It will hang in their living room. "I've been a big fan of Grace Slick," Don Clements says.

      While autographing their purchase, Slick explains that her father, an investment banker, wore only three-piece suits. "I made that bunny look like my father."

      A photographer snaps a shot. "Jesus, I hate having my picture taken," Slick says.

      On the wall, the White Rabbit print is accompanied by one of Slick's musings: "If we had a good time, we can look at youthful indiscretions with quiet amusement."

      * * *

      A year ago, Slick was struggling for life. It wasn't the drugs, or her battles with alcoholism, that nearly did her in. In an interview, she described her case of diverticulitis more colorfully than a doctor might: "It started with lower gut pain and the doctor screwed around with my intestines and sewed me back up." Complications led to two more surgeries and a tracheotomy, and a medically induced coma for two months while she healed. She says she went into rehab and had to learn to walk again. Scott Hann, her manager, says Slick may be making up for lost time; she plans 35 exhibits this year. "She works all the time," he says.

      "Who else can pick up a whole new career and now be at the top of their field?" Hann asks.

      Has a near-death experience tamed her or made her religious? She says she rises at 4 a.m. and paints. She'll throw on some sweats and sit in her favorite chair, look out at the Pacific Ocean or her lush garden for inspiration.

      She philosophizes, formulating her aphorisms. Like: "Old people should be heard but not seen. Young people should be seen, not heard."

      And: "You don't stop your life because of some unpleasantness."

      And: "Old people are rotting. I'm rotting. You're rotting."

      We all will.


    Don't believe it?


    Go ask Alice.

    January 26, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    'Data is inherently copyable, just as water is inherently wet' — Bruce Schneier


    Schneier is the chief technology officer of the security company BT Counterpane.

    He was quoted by Brad Stone in a January 17, 2007 New York Times story about the recent hacking of the antipiracy software protecting movies in the HD DVD format.

    The media types fighting against the reality described so aptly by Schneier would be well advised to hop aboard lifeboats rather than continue to pile their sandbags ever higher in the hope of thwarting the onrushing tsunami.

    For those who want to look more deeply into Schneier's background and qualifications, there's his website, www.schneier.com.

    January 26, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack









    it says.

    January 26, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

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