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March 6, 2007

Christine Kesler


This artist was unknown to me until 4:14:35 p.m. today, when she emailed me with a question.


I had my crack research team drop everything (well, actually, they were busy doing something close 2 nothing, but different than the day before, as is their default setting... but I digress) and have a look at her website.


Above and below, samples from an extensive online show of drawings, collage, photography and writing.


Highly recommended.


Tell her I sent you — and she'll have nothing to do with you.


I told you she knew what she was about.

March 6, 2007 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Post-it Table


Created by Tom Seymour.

From his website:

    Post-it™ Note Table

    The Note Table is made up from 5,000 sheets of paper which is then bound through the application of PVA glue.

    The table brings together the two functions of table and notepad.


£700 ("Delivery to the UK only" — so I guess we'll just have wait for Skipweasel to weigh in here on what he thinks of his, what?).

[via Dr. Yoni Freedhoff and BabyGadget]

March 6, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Kudos for Spitzer' — Bizarro World Edition of Wall Street Journal?


The paper's editorial page mercilessly flayed New York Governor Eliot Spitzer during his years as New York attorney general for everything he did, said or thought.

Now comes this editorial on March 3, 2007, headlined as above.

    Kudos for Spitzer

    Eliot Spitzer has debuted to mixed reviews as New York Governor, with our favorite episode being his recent remark to one legislator that "I'm a f------ steamroller." Such charm isn't news to our readers. But he's also moved a brick or two in the right direction in corrupt Albany, most recently in this week's deal to reform workers' compensation.

    New York's current workers' comp system, with its combination of high costs and low benefits, is one of the nation's worst. Its average cost per claim of $19,737 leads all other states, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance. At the same time, benefits paid to injured workers are capped at $400 a week, an amount that hasn't increased since 1992.

    Along with onerous taxes, workers' comp costs have been a ball and chain on the state's economy, particularly in manufacturing. The Business Council of New York State reports that manufacturing employment fell by 41% — more than double the national average — between 1990 and 2005. Delphi CEO Steve Miller has called New York "about the worst state from a workers' comp standpoint. We have a finite ability to pay our labor costs to operate a plant in New York in competition with plants that could be in other states."

    Mr. Spitzer's reform would attack the system's destructive costs by imposing limits on what are inelegantly called "permanent partial" disability payments, which typically go to someone who's sustained a head or back injury. More than 40 other states have a cap on the number of weeks you can collect workers' comp once you've been "permanently partially" disabled. But not in New York. Once that status is conferred, you collect 'til you depart this mortal coil. Though only 15% of all claims, they're 70% or more of costs. The Governor's plan would end these payments for more than 90% of cases after eight years or less, under the theory that this is plenty of time for a person to be compensated, rehabilitated and retrained.

    Mr. Spitzer also wants to increase the weekly benefit for injured workers to $600 over three years. Thereafter, the benefit would be indexed at two-thirds of the average weekly wage in the state. All told, the Governor says his reforms would cut workers' comp costs for employers by up to 15%.

    Any deal was always going to hinge on whether the AFL-CIO would agree to reform in return for a benefit increase. And under Mr. Spitzer's predecessor, Republican George Pataki, the unions had refused to compromise. It's nice to see them finally realize that the status quo is hurting businesses while benefiting only a small subset of workers at the expense of all others.

    One important reform not included in the agreement would implement some objective medical guidelines to determine the level of impairment sustained in an injury. Mr. Spitzer says he will pursue this administratively, and we hope he will. The Governor has much more to do if he wants to reverse the Francofication of New York's economy, but his workers' comp fix is a welcome start.

March 6, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

À Tout De Suite (Right Now)


I watched this superb 2004 French film (with English subtitles) on DVD last night.

It's a thriller, a love story, a meditation on obsession and chance, all the things that make a movie interesting if it's made with skill and care, superb direction and acting, and a willingness to push the edge of what cinema can be.

The movie was directed by French director Benoît Jacquot, whose previous films include "Sade," "A Single Girl" and "The Disenchanted."

Based on Elizabeth Fanger's memoir "J'avais 18 Ans" and with a wonderful soundtrack including Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream and the like, the film — in black and white and suffused with the energy of that time — opens in mid-1970s Paris and moves on to Spain, Morroco and Greece, finally returning to Paris.

Isild Le Besco plays and inhabits the main character Lili, a free-spirited 19-year-old art student whose mother tells her, toward the end of the film, as Lili's growing doubt about whether the life she's living is actually a true one, "Women have several lives, one after the other, while men have several lives, often at the same time."


That stopped me in my tracks — literally: I paused the film (the wonderfulness of DVD) to get up and walk around a while and think about that and other stuff before continuing.

The movie — as does any good film — makes you wish it would never end.

Ms. Le Besco would make a great Valerie Plame — at 1% of Scarlett Johansson's price.

Watch three clips from the film here, here and here.

For once, my crack research team earned its keep.

March 6, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yo, joe — where's today's 11:01 a.m. (ET) post? — Or why the Internet is still in the fetal position


I'm glad you asked that question in the headline above.

About once a month on average for reasons completely unknown and unknowable, when I step atop the bookfjoe Treadmill Workstation™ to begin the day's activities, I'm greeted by a screen with a triangular yellow sign and an exclamation point within, alongside which it reads "Unable to connect with whateversiteyouwanted.com, blah blah blah."


Compost happens.

So I do other stuff for a while, then try again.

After a few minutes or hours — depending on how urgent it seems to get with the program here, and if the failure to connect has not resolved itself (which happens perhaps half the time) — I go to DefCon 3, which consists of restarting the computer.

If that doesn't work (which is about half the time), I move to DefCon 5, which consists of

1) going upstairs and disconnecting the power to the cable modem box

2) disconnecting the wire from the cable modem box into the Airport Express

3) disconnecting the power to the Airport Express

Then I go do other stuff for a few minutes or hours, depending blah blah blah....

Then I reconnect the three wires I'd disconnected (as noted above) and wait a few minutes, then see if I'm online.

99% of the time that solves the problem — as it did today, witness this post after following those steps — and all is well in joeWorld.

Except for the fact that it's yet another example (as if we needed more lessons, what?) of the fact that computers and the Internet are not yet a mature technology.

Would you accept waking up dead once a month?

I rest my case.

March 6, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'I Was Certain, But I Was Wrong' — by Jennifer Thompson


Her powerful New York Times Op-Ed page essay of June 18, 2000 has become a classic.

It's been featured here on September 16, 2004, March 18, 2005 and May 8, 2006.

Once a year seems about right to me for this important document.

Yesterday's post about the increasing fallibility of memory and eyewitness testimony as we age brought it to mind; it bears reposting.

    I Was Certain, but I Was Wrong

    In 1984 I was a 22-year-old college student with a grade point average of 4.0, and I really wanted to do something with my life. One night someone broke into my apartment, put a knife to my throat and raped me.

    During my ordeal, some of my determination took an urgent new direction. I studied every single detail on the rapist's face. I looked at his hairline; I looked for scars, for tattoos, for anything that would help me identify him. When and if I survived the attack, I was going to make sure that he was put in prison and he was going to rot.

    When I went to the police department later that day, I worked on a composite sketch to the very best of my ability. I looked through hundreds of noses and eyes and eyebrows and hairlines and nostrils and lips. Several days later, looking at a series of police photos, I identified my attacker. I knew this was the man. I was completely confident. I was sure.

    I picked the same man in a lineup. Again, I was sure. I knew it. I had picked the right guy, and he was going to go to jail. If there was the possibility of a death sentence, I wanted him to die. I wanted to flip the switch.

    When the case went to trial in 1986, I stood up on the stand, put my hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth. Based on my testimony, Ronald Junior Cotton was sentenced to prison for life. It was the happiest day of my life because I could begin to put it all behind me.

    In 1987, the case was retried because an appellate court had overturned Ronald Cotton's conviction. During a pretrial hearing, I learned that another man had supposedly claimed to be my attacker and was bragging about it in the same prison wing where Ronald Cotton was being held. This man, Bobby Poole, was brought into court, and I was asked, ''Ms. Thompson, have you ever seen this man?''

    I answered: ''I have never seen him in my life. I have no idea who he is.''

    Ronald Cotton was sentenced again to two life sentences. Ronald Cotton was never going to see light; he was never going to get out; he was never going to hurt another woman; he was never going to rape another woman.

    In 1995, 11 years after I had first identified Ronald Cotton, I was asked to provide a blood sample so that DNA tests could be run on evidence from the rape. I agreed because I knew that Ronald Cotton had raped me and DNA was only going to confirm that. The test would allow me to move on once and for all.

    I will never forget the day I learned about the DNA results. I was standing in my kitchen when the detective and the district attorney visited. They were good and decent people who were trying to do their jobs — as I had done mine, as anyone would try to do the right thing. They told me: ''Ronald Cotton didn't rape you. It was Bobby Poole.''

    The man I was so sure I had never seen in my life was the man who was inches from my throat, who raped me, who hurt me, who took my spirit away, who robbed me of my soul. And the man I had identified so emphatically on so many occasions was absolutely innocent.

    Ronald Cotton was released from prison after serving 11 years. Bobby Poole pleaded guilty to raping me.

    Ronald Cotton and I are the same age, so I knew what he had missed during those 11 years. My life had gone on. I had gotten married. I had graduated from college. I worked. I was a parent. Ronald Cotton hadn't gotten to do any of that.

    Mr. Cotton and I have now crossed the boundaries of both the terrible way we came together and our racial difference (he is black and I am white) and have become friends. Although he is now moving on with his own life, I live with constant anguish that my profound mistake cost him so dearly. I cannot begin to imagine what would have happened had my mistaken identification occurred in a capital case.

    Today there is a man in Texas named Gary Graham who is about to be executed because one witness is confident that Mr. Graham is the killer she saw from 30 to 40 feet away. This woman saw the murderer for only a fraction of the time that I saw the man who raped me. Several other witnesses contradict her, but the jury that convicted Mr. Graham never heard any of the conflicting testimony.

    If anything good can come out of what Ronald Cotton suffered because of my limitations as a human being, let it be an awareness of the fact that eyewitnesses can and do make mistakes. I have now had occasion to study this subject a bit, and I have come to realize that eyewitness error has been recognized as the leading cause of wrongful convictions. One witness is not enough, especially when her story is contradicted by other good people.

    Last week, I traveled to Houston to beg Gov. George W. Bush and his parole board not to execute Gary Graham based on this kind of evidence. I have never before spoken out on behalf of any inmate. I stood with a group of 11 men and women who had been convicted based on mistaken eyewitness testimony, only to be exonerated later by DNA or other evidence.

    With them, I urged the Texas officials to grant Gary Graham a new trial, so that the eyewitnesses who are so sure that he is innocent can at long last be heard.

    I know that there is an eyewitness who is absolutely positive she saw Gary Graham commit murder. But she cannot possibly be any more positive than I was about Ronald Cotton. What if she is dead wrong?

March 6, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack



What's ning?

I thought you'd never ask.

I first heard of it in a March 3, 2007 New York Times article about the new wave of social networking sites.

ning.com, reintroduced last week after a limited introduction last year, is the creation of Marc Andreesen, who brought us Netscape.

Brad Stone wrote, "Mr. Andreessen's ning, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is fashioning itself as a one-stop shop catering to this growing interest in social networks. Anyone can visit the site and set up a community on any topic, from the television show "Battlestar Galactica" to microbrew beers. ning users choose the features they want to include, like videos, photos, discussion forums or blogs. Their sites can appear like MySpace, YouTube or the photo sharing site Flickr — or something singular. Those setting up ning communities can pay $20 a month if they want the site free of text advertisements delivered by Google."

The Times reporter was spot-on: anyone can do it — because I did.

In about five minutes, with no trouble whatsover.

You can't succeed online no matter how good your idea unless people can use it, and Andreessen et al have succeeded in taking it down to TechnoDolt™ level.

An excellent omen.

Anyhow, bookofjoe.ning.com is now up and running, anyone can join and do whatever people do, and every now and then I'll stop by and see what's happening.

As always, in the end ning's making money with its Google ads and I'm not but hey — what's new?

March 6, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Agraria Bitter Orange Eau de Cologne — Official Antidepressant Scent of bookofjoe


It was bound to happen.

No sooner was the ink dry on the page (it's a figure of speech, see, from back in the day when information came in the form of actual ink molecules pressed onto flattened dead tree pulp by giant machines — but I digress) with yesterday's 11:01 a.m. post about the world's first antidepressant perfume than our switchboard here at bookfjoe World Headquarters™ lit up and didn't stop.

We had to call in extra help from all over the planet to handle the load, which only now shows signs of abating.

My mistake?

Describing what would appear to be a failed product without offering a better alternative.

That's not what we're about here.

Anyone can trash something but few can — or care to make the effort to — make the world a better place.

My bad.

So without further ado, let me suggest to you my favorite spirit-lifting scent, from way, way back in the day, in fact the waning years of the 20th century.

Agraria Bitter Orange Eau de Cologne.

The most perfect unisex scent ever invented, "favored by both men and women."

3.4 ounces for $39.

It's not as intense as their nonpareil Bitter Orange Potpourri (below) —


the Official Potpourri of bookofjoe, I might add (and how many other blogs/websites have Official Potpourris, I'd ask you? But I digress yet again) since it (the blog, not the potpourri, sillybilly) was born — but it's a kinder, gentler evocation of the same wonderful aura and mood.

Guaranteed to improve your spirits.

If you are not fully satisfied, simply return the unused portion to me for a no-questions-asked refund in full.

The way it always should be.

March 6, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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