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March 15, 2007

201 Stories by Anton Chekhov — Free

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Here, in the order of their publication in Russia between 1882 and 1904, the year he died from tuberculosis at age 44.

The stories were translated and published in 13 volumes between 1916 and 1922 by Constance Garnett, who stated, "I regret that it is impossible to obtain the necessary information for a chronological list."

That was then, this is now.

A boxed set of the 13 volumes (top) is $94.50 at Amazon.

Mona Simpson wrote about the collected stories in the March, 2007 issue of The Atlantic magazine; her review follows.

    Tales of Chekhov

    In 1984, Daniel Halpern, founder of the Ecco Press, began republishing all 201 of the Constance Garnett translations of Anton Chekhov’s stories. Since then, the thirteen resulting volumes have become a contemporary staple for the library of any serious reader. (I think I’ve purchased five whole sets in those twenty-odd years — several as wedding presents, one as a baby present, one remains in my study.) The price of around $8.50 per volume (which would total $110 for the series) represented a tremendous bargain for the most comprehensive collection of Chekhov stories in what is still the best complete translation available in English. Late in 2006, to coincide with its own thirty-fifth anniversary, Ecco republished the thirteen volumes in a handsome boxed set. After twenty years, the price has climbed only to $150.

    Chekhov is a master at making his characters’ darkest aspects comprehensible and human. He’s never sentimental and he’s not particularly pleasant, but he will always feel modern because of his astonishing juxtapositions and the way his characters’ swift, darting minds vacillate between idealism and boredom, vanity and hope. His narrator has a keen vision of class anger, resentment, and envy. Although less enchanted by his own characters than was Tolstoy, Chekhov acutely portrays largeheartedness.

    Given that all of the Chekhov stories translated by Garnett can be downloaded for free (James Rusk made them available at chekhov2 .tripod.com), Ecco might be wise to assemble the books in durable hardback; they will always find a market.

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FunFact: Mona Simpson is Steve Jobs's sister. They only learned they were kin as adults, long after Jobs had been put up for adoption by his unmarried mother one week after his birth.

March 15, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

M&M's Monopoly

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Sweet.

From the website:

    M&M's Monopoly

    America's favorite board game teams up with everyone's favorite candy-coated chocolates in this M&M's® Collector's Edition MONOPOLY®, giving you the chance to buy, sell, and trade beloved M&M's ads in an effort to own it all in the world of chocolate and to truly live the sweet life!

    Grab the M&M's dispenser token, one of 6 collectible pewter tokens, and advance to GO for a deliciously good time!

    For 2-6 players, ages 8 & up.

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$38.98.

March 15, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: The Wall Street Journal gets religion — The best office chair is... a ball

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Well, well.

Only three-and-a-half years after your faithful correspondent (that would be me, see? It's a figure of speech... ah, never mind) brought news that the best way to sit at work is atop a cheap rubber ball, the august Wall Street Journal, in a February 27, 2007 Personal Journal front page article by Anjali Athavaley, reported that this seemingly ridiculous alternative might indeed be superior to the overpriced, complicated, ugly and uncomfortable Aeron chair and its ilk.

Here's the story.

    The Ball's in Your Cubicle

    New Workplace Trend Replaces Office Chairs With Gym Balls; A Debate Over Health Benefits

    People have searched for the perfect office chair for decades, one comfortable, adjustable and easy on the back. Now some professionals are abandoning chairs altogether — in favor of parking their hind quarters on a giant rubber ball.

    Long used by fitness buffs and physical-therapy patients, those big spheres you see at the gym (commonly known as exercise balls) are rolling into an increasing number of workplaces as a seating option. Google Inc., a company that prides itself on its unconventional office culture, displays several balls on its campus in a recruitment video available online. But more-staid employers, including BMW AG and Bain & Co., the international consulting firm, are allowing employees to bring in balls or ball chairs for personal use as well. Manufacturers and distributors report that sales of the balls are up sharply. They even made an appearance on the TV show "The Office," when one character, irritated by the incessant bouncing, stabs a colleague's ball.

    Devotees say exercise balls, whose circumference ranges from about 18 to 30 inches, help improve posture and concentration. Sitting upright on them requires using abdominal and lower back muscles.

    Yet some ergonomists warn against balls in the cubicle. "The experience I've heard from people is that it's difficult to use for a long time," says Peter Budnick, president and CEO of Ergoweb Inc., an ergonomic consulting company in Park City, Utah.

    Sitting on the ball for hours at a time could cause people to eventually relax their muscles and slump forward, he says. The ball also lacks the adjustments that come with an office chair — there is no way to raise the height to fit the height of your desk and keyboard — and the ball offers no back or arm support.

    There are other potential complications. Adjusting oneself on the ball can be tough — especially for women who wear short skirts. Slouching can result in a tumble.

    It can also be an office safety hazard, says Andrew Concors, a physical therapist and certified industrial ergonomist at San Diego-based CPT Consulting. He has had a couple of patients in the past who have ruptured their balls at home while sitting on them and doing exercises. The ball also has a tendency to roll, which could cause other employees to trip.

    Still, some workers say sitting on a ball makes them feel younger. "It kind of reminded me of when I was a kid," says Patricia Harder, director of training and development at Healthtrax Inc., a Glastonbury, Conn.-based company that operates fitness and wellness centers. Ms. Harder bought a ball chair for herself a couple of years ago. When she began working at home, the chair went with her. Now, she says, sitting on regular chairs is a turnoff.

    Many employees supply their own balls at the office, but companies are starting to make them available, saying their oddity helps foster a creative environment and encourages better posture. Last summer, Sprint Nextel Corp. stuck about a dozen balls in its Overland Park, Kan., and Reston, Va., offices to inspire creativity among employees in the product-development group. The U.S. headquarters of Naked Communications, a London-based marketing-strategy consultant, purchased balls for eight or nine employees who requested them. Besides the physical benefits, the balls make work more entertaining, a company executive says. "We always have music playing, so you can bounce," says Paul Woolmington, a founding partner of the firm, while bobbing up and down on a gray ball. He adds: "A lot of people like it because it does discipline you on your posture."

    At BlueSky Strategies Inc., a communications-strategy firm in Toronto, employees have races on ball chairs, which roll easily, when they need a break from work. Sometimes they even do it backwards, says Ingrid Rubin, the firm's president.

    Some medical professionals warn that while the ball can be beneficial for short periods of time, prolonged usage can result in exhaustion. "I see value in it for the younger person who can tolerate it," says David Apple, medical director emeritus of the Shepherd Center, a hospital in Atlanta that treats people with spinal-cord injury and disease. But, he adds, "they may need to work up to having it for eight hours." Also, he says that while the ball may help young people who are in shape, he wouldn't recommend it for those over 50. "You have to maintain your balance. If you have to turn and answer the phone, you could conceivably fall off."

    First introduced in the 1960s, exercise balls — also known as stability balls, Swiss balls and balance balls — have been used in gyms for years. More recently, technology companies brought them into the workplace. In European classrooms, the balls are often used instead of chairs.

    Exercise balls, typically priced at about $25 — a bargain compared to $900 to $1,600 for an Aeron chair — is now making inroads into larger companies as well as U.S. schools. Last year, the Perkins Academy, a public school in Des Moines, Iowa, began offering the balls to 4th- and 5th-graders who obtain parental consent. Three balls have deflated in one 5th-grade classroom this year, although not while children were sitting on them. Shelly Johnson, the teacher, blames staples or other sharp objects. She says that children have rolled off the ball on occasion, but they have never received serious injuries.

    Ball Dynamics International LLC, a Longmont, Colo.-based company that manufactures FitBall brand balls in North America, has seen a 10% year over year increase since 2004 in sales of its ball chairs. Broomfield, Colo.-based Gaiam Inc. says it has seen sales of its balance ball chair — which is geared toward office users — nearly quadruple over the last three years.

    Other companies say that the growing popularity of Pilates — a workout regimen that makes use of exercise balls — is helping make the balls more popular. Stott Pilates, a subsidiary of Merrithew Corp., which sells Pilates videos and equipment, has seen an 82% increase in ball sales from 2004 to 2006. The company, which began offering the ball in 2004, sold more than 11,000 balls last year.

    Some in the ball industry say that the benefits of the ball, which keeps people active while sitting, outweigh the concerns. "Because you buy a ball that fits your height and your frame and your size, you are sitting properly," says Lisa Witt, founder of WittFitt LLC, a company that markets balance balls to schools and offices. She recommends that novices start out using the ball in 30-minute increments.

    Many people opt instead for "ball chairs," which come with a frame and are consequently more stable and somewhat less eccentric-looking. In the corporate office of Food Fight Inc., a Madison, Wis.-based restaurant group, Lisa Schell and Brian Zach are the self-proclaimed ball-chair guinea pigs. The sight of the odd-looking chairs always draws comments from employees and mail carriers.

    Ms. Schell says. "I think people would like to have one, but they are afraid to have it."

    In some offices, employees who sit in regular chairs are developing ball envy. At PJ Inc., a New York-based public relations firm, when a new employee showed up with a ball chair on her third day of work, people stared. "It was kind of like, who is this strange girl who brought a chair in with her?" says Charis Heelan, a coworker. "That was until we sat in it."

    The employees are now fascinated with the space-age looking chair. It has also become a conversation starter when clients visit the office. "When she's not at her desk, we all go and sit on her chair," Ms. Heelan says. "There's a bit of jealousy."

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My source for my office chair — a 65cm-high blue Gymnic ball (below) — is exercise-balls.com.

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Amazingly, the price hasn't changed after all these years — it's still only $24.95.

I've had mine for over 15 years with nary a problem so I probably won't be getting another anytime soon: I've found that, in general, the first 15 years are usually the hardest on things like chairs.

Need I add that it's the Official Chair of bookofjoe?

[via Shawn Lea]

March 15, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Itch Soother

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From the website:

    Itch Soother — Don’t Let Irritating Mosquito Bites Ruin Your Fun

    This remarkable Itch Soother device uses heat to reduce the itching and swelling that come with mosquito bites.

    Just press the metal edge against the bite and push the button on the other end.

    As the unit heats up, you get almost instant relief.

    Safe for children and those with sensitive skin.

    Perfect for pocket, pack, or purse.

    Uses 2 AAA batteries.

    4.5" long.

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We are reminded of one of the great song lyrics of all time, to wit: "You're gonna need an ocean/of calamine lotion."

$17.98 (batteries not included).

March 15, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Res ipsa loquitur*

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*

March 15, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Elvis Singing Mugs

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From the website:

    Elvis Singing Mugs

    The King knows mornings are tough!

    That’s why he’s sweetening your start with this Elvis Singing Mug Set.

    Set of 2 ceramic double-sided 8 oz. mugs features "Jailhouse Rock" and "Love Me Tender!"

    Not for dishwasher or microwave.

$19.98.

March 15, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What are you doing the second half of July, 2015?

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Me, I've just cleared my schedule so as to be able to visualize the photos streaming in from out Pluto way, where the New Horizons spacecraft — launched from Earth by NASA 13 months ago and currently moving in for a close encounter with Jupiter (seen above in an artist's rendering, with its moon Io and the spacecraft), following which it will accelerate with the help of Jupiter's gravity to a cool 52,000 miles per hour — will move in for the first close-up and personal look at Pluto.

At that point Pluto and the spacecraft will be 3 billion miles from Earth, so far that the radio signals carrying the digitized data at light speed will take almost four and a half hours to reach us here on our blue planet.

New Horizons will make its closest pass to Pluto and its satellites — the large moon Charon and smaller satellites Nix and Hydra — on July 14, 2005.

Now there's a guaranteed stumper question: can you name Pluto's moons?

I'll be not one person in 10,000 — outside of joeheads, of course — could answer correctly.

If I'm wrong and you lost your bet, simply notify me of the amount you lost and I will cheerfully refund every penny — or your money back.

Wait a minute....

March 15, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Carsters Cupholder Coasters — say it five times fast and I'll send you a set free

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From the website:

    Carsters® Cupholder Coasters

    Coasters-For-Your-Car absorb drips to prevent messy cupholders

    Moisture that drips down your soda can or water bottle can make a sticky mess of your vehicle's cupholders.

    So drop one of these Carsters Coasters into each cupholder and the natural gypsum will absorb that moisture.

    Removes easily to wash by hand.

    2-9/16" in dia., 1/4" thick.

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Two for $6.99 (car included).

March 15, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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