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April 3, 2007

Julian Beever, master of pavement chalk art illusion

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Reader Ed Berger sent these

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to me this morning.

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It's truly jaw-dropping,

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to realize that they are in fact

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2-D chalk renderings on pavement.

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Here's a website

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devoted to the work of Beever.

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Here's a link

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to a YouTube video

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of him at work.

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More?

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Okay — here's a time-lapse video

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of the master creating.

April 3, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Why is ABC photographer Carol Kaelson steaming?

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Look at the photo above.

What do you see?

I see the latest marketing gimmick of Starbucks Coffee, now appearing on USA Today front pages in Omni Hotels everywhere.

Long story — by Stuart Elliott in yesterday's New York Times — short: Starbucks has placed scent strips on the newspapers, hoping to entice hotel guests to stop by for a brewski.

That's all well and good but I gotta say, if I'm Carol Kaelson of ABC, who took the photo up top, I'm steaming — and not because my coffee's too hot.

Here's the Times article.

    Joint Promotion Adds Stickers to Sweet Smell of Marketing

    A promotion scheduled to begin today may prompt hotel guests to exclaim, with apologies to “Apocalypse Now,” that they love the smell of advertising in the morning.

    Guests at Omni luxury hotels will find small scented stickers on the front pages of their free copies of USA Today. A blackberry aroma will suggest that the guests start the day at their hotels with a cup of Starbucks coffee “paired with a fresh muffin.” The promotion, to be tested for at least six months, is being sponsored by Omni Hotels and Starbucks Coffee.

    It is one of two ideas being explored by the Gannett Company, the parent of USA Today, in the increasingly popular realm of scented advertising. The other concept Gannett is testing is to let marketers add scents to the ads they run in the pages of USA Today. Another national newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, owned by Dow Jones & Company, is also looking into scenting its ad pages.

    Scented selling, part of a trend known as sensory marketing, is gaining favor because it helps brands stand out in crowded, competitive categories.

    For example, visitors to the lobbies of Omni hotels can smell blends of lemongrass and green tea, which since late 2005 has been the official scent of the lodging chain.

    “We’re looking for a way to carry the scents, the whole sensory experience, further,” said Caryn Kboudi, vice president for corporate communications at Omni Hotels in Irving, Tex.

    Other sensory-marketing tactics at the 38 Omni hotels, which are intended to help “create a more memorable stay,” Ms. Kboudi said, include Sensation Bars, redesigned room minibars stocked with items like mojito-flavored jelly beans and miniature Zen gardens; elaborate floral displays in public spaces; and “Sensational Wednesdays,” offering gifts for guests like eucalyptus bath salts. There are even chimes that play softly when computer users visit the corporate Web site (www.omnihotels.com). “Omni is one of the brands getting aggressive about sensory marketing,” said Michael Davidson, vice president for national circulation sales at USA Today in McLean, Va., which made Omni executives “excited to try this.”

    USA Today and Omni worked together about six months to try various types of stickers, Mr. Davidson said, making their way through the estimated 160 scents available from the sticker maker, the WS Packaging Group in Algoma, Wis.

    Ms. Kboudi recalled evaluating “at least 50” aromas, she said, “sniffing a lot of little Baggies with scent stickers inside.”

    After executives at Starbucks were invited to weigh in, the verdict was that “we all gravitated to the berry scent,” she added, because it “made you go ‘yum yum’ and had a very fresh scent.” (The smell of Starbucks coffee was deemed too difficult to duplicate.)

    The stickers are composed of two layers and measure 2 inches long by 1 inch wide. They replace the single-ply stickers affixed to the front pages of USA Today, informing the guests the newspapers are courtesy of Omni Hotels. The chain distributes 10,000 to 13,000 copies a day of USA Today, Mr. Davidson estimated.

    The stickers are of the “peel and sniff” variety in that the berry scents are not supposed to be released until the top layers are lifted. That is intended to minimize complaints from allergic — or berry-allergic — hotel guests.

    Scented ads, like any sensory experience, have generated their share of protests. Ads in magazines featuring scent strips, for products like fragrances, draw the ire of readers who believe the smells are unpleasant or too powerful.

    As a result, publishers like the Time Inc. unit of Time Warner, which owns magazines like InStyle, People and Real Simple, adopted a policy by which readers can request scent-free issues from customer service representatives.

    And in December, the California Milk Processor Board ran afoul of scent-sensitive commuters when it asked that adhesive strips smelling like chocolate chip cookies be affixed to five bus shelters in San Francisco.

    Gripes about the aroma from the ads, part of the “Got milk?” campaign, led the local Municipal Transportation Authority to order CBS Outdoor, which maintains the bus shelters, to remove the scent strips.

    Such troubles may lead some consumers to conclude that ads in general are good only for wrapping fish. For them, help has arrived.

    To promote the series “Deadliest Catch,” which will begin its third season tomorrow night, the Discovery Channel cable network is providing branded wrappers to 12 fish markets in Boston, San Francisco and Seattle.

    The estimated 185,000 feet of wrapping paper, enough for more than 100,000 seafood orders, tells shoppers they can now watch “fresh episodes” of the series, which follows crab fisherman in the Bering Sea.

    The promotion, which began last week, is to continue through April “or until we run out of paper,” said Julie Gordon Willis, senior vice president for marketing at Discovery Channel in Silver Spring, Md., part of Discovery Communications.

    The promotion was developed by PHD, a media agency owned by the Omnicom Group, and produced by Metropolis Media, part of Ubiquitous Media in New York.

    Hmm. Perhaps the two promotions can be paired, encouraging those who read newspapers online to buy the printed versions because fish cannot be wrapped in computers.

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And what about "Dancing With The Stars" ballroom pro Cheryl Burke (below),

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whose pretty face is obscured by the scent strip?

She doesn't come out of it looking very good either.

I'm just saying.

April 3, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Nail House' — Episode 2: R.I.P.

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From Cleveland reader Andy McCoy comes the sad news, related in today's Guardian article by reporter Jonathan Watts in Beijing, that the "Nail House" in Chongqing, China (above, left), featured here and elsewhere recently, was demolished (above, right) last night.

Here's the story.

    'Nail' house flattened after three-year row

    The most famous "nail" sticking out in China has finally been hammered down. After a three-year standoff with developers, the home of Yang Wu and Wu Ping was demolished last night, ending a property rights protest that was the talk of the nation.

    From 2004, the couple had refused to give up their home in Chongqing despite court orders, offers of compensation and the beseiging of their house by a construction company, which cut off their electricty and water and dug a 10-metre deep moat around the two-storey building.

    Their struggle captured the imagination of a country at a time of spectacular — and often stressful — economic development. Land disputes are all too common as the authorities rush to build new roads, office blocks and factories despite only meagre legal protection for those affected.

    There are countless thousands of holdouts — widely known as "nails" because they stick out and snag the plans of developers. None, however, has the notoriety of the couple in Chongqing. Yang holed up alone in the isolated home, threatening to fight off potential attackers and relying on supplies hauled up by rope from sympathisers, while his wife Wu acted as the family spokesperson to a throng of reporters.

    They conceded yesterday. Within three hours, mechanical diggers reduced the home to rubble, clearing the way for a new shopping mall.

    The couple have yet to comment, but the Xinhua news agency reported that they agreed to move into a similar-sized apartment elsewhere in Chongqing. Earlier reports said they had been offered compensation of several million yuan.

    Supporters, however, say their resistance remains an inspiration. "This is not an individual case, it concerns the rights of all those Chinese who say their homes were demolished. You are the people's heroes!" declared one commentator on the Yangcheng Evening News' website.

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R.I.P.

April 3, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Padded Luggage Handle Wraps

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From the website:

    Padded Handle Wraps — Wrap Your Bag And Go!

    New Padded Handle Wraps give your luggage a distinctive look.

    Easy to see on a crowded luggage carousel, these brightly colored Neoprene handle wraps are made of a durable nylon baffle weave that reduces pressure on your hands from heavy luggage.

    They fit any luggage handle and secure with Velcro®.

    Handle wraps reverse to black.

    5½ x 4¾" x 1/8".

    Weight: 1 oz.

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Two per package, in Blue, Green or Orange.

$9.85.

April 3, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mr. or Ms. Right: Is he/she out there? — Episode 2: The 37% Rule

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I happened on this axiom many years ago, but Tim Harford's well-reasoned/intentioned advice to one Ruth of Barcelona, Spain — featured here just yesterday — occasioned a trawl back down memory lane (to mix a metaphor), and dredged up a superb discussion by Dr. David K. Smith of the Mathematical Statistics and Operational Research Department of the University of Exeter (UK) of this deceptively simple yet enormously useful rule applicable to all areas of life.

Long explanation short, in the context of romance: "Look at a fraction 1/e of the potential partners before making your choice and you'll have a 1/e chance of finding the best one."

Translated into English and applied to the workplace, "Once you have seen 37% of the application forms, a coherent picture of the ideal employee is built up and the next person to fulfil these criteria gets the job."

According to Smith, "Building models like this gives interesting results, but you don't know, at the age of zero, how many potential partners you are likely to meet in your lifetime. Dr. Peter Todd turned the problem around. Instead of trying to estimate the number of potential partners one could consider, he put forward a rule which would work for most people. He suggested that a typical person should count up to about a dozen potential partners, and then start hunting seriously. The first dozen would give enough information for a reasonable choice."

Now close the deal and live happily ever after.

April 3, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

ShaveMate Disposable Razor — 'The shaving cream's in the handle'

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That's different — tell us more.

Cindy Loose featured this new item in her "It Came In The Mail" feature in the April 1, 2007 Washington Post Travel section; her review follows.

    ShaveMate® disposable razor with shaving cream inside the handle

    What: ShaveMate disposable razors with shaving cream inside the handle: the gray Titan for men, the pink Diva for women.

    Aimed at: Travelers who are packing light, fliers who can't find a can of cream smaller than 3 ounces and anyone who needs a quick shave on the run but doesn't want to carry both a razor and a can of shaving cream.

    How much: $3-$4.

    But do they work? These babies have S-3 Flex Neck Technology and Aqua Flow Blade Rinse, a patented feature that channels water through an innovative curved neck. I don't know what that means, but I can tell you that the Diva is pretty slick at stripping hair off legs well overdue for a good shave.

    The shaving cream comes out of the handle as promised when you turn a little button, and it smells nice.

    The company claims that the handle holds a supply of shaving cream that will last "a week or more." Unless your body hair grows at an alarming rate, I think the cream in the Diva should last well beyond a week. But men with daily needs would have to be pretty sparing with the cream to make it last seven days. I emptied a Titan after five bursts of an amount I figured you'd need to cover a man's face. Then again, I have little experience with removing facial hair, so maybe I was using too much.

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The Diva is $2.29 and the Titan

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costs $3.99.

April 3, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Soimmature.com — "If people call you 'immature,' 'juvenile' or 'childish,' then this is the web site for you!"

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Ya think?

April 3, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Amphipod Micropack Explorer

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Luddite that I am, I still listen to CDs when I run but carrying my Sony Discman — even though at 7 oz. it may be the world's lightest such device — is a pain in the butt.

So I'm always on the lookout for an alternative to holding the music player in my sweaty hand as I pound the pavement.

I happened on this item and ordered it and I can say, after using it, that it is the best thing I've yet come across for my particular need.

You're supposed to wear the thing inside your waistband but I find that reversing it — with the pouch outside and the clamp inside — works much better for running.

From the website:

    Micropack Explorer™

    The Micropack Explorer has a soft backing and compartments to organize your essentials.

    With the capacity to carry a cell phone or a passport, the Explorer is a versatile active person's wallet.

    The patented lock-on clamp works both on the waist band of your shorts or sweats, or in a coat pocket or bag so you can find your stuff fast.

    Features:

    • Moisture-wicking plush back panel

    • No chafing neck/waist straps

    • Lightweight and comfortable

    • Secure and discreet

    • Attaches sunglasses

    • Internal organizer

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I may give it a shot next time I'm in the OR in lieu of my fanny pack.

$22.

April 3, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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