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June 15, 2007



I've always contended that you meet the most interesting people online — but this


is ridiculous.

June 15, 2007 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Decision Maker — 'Great gift for surgeons'


That's the message that accompanied bookofjoe Canada correspondent Rebecca Waldeck's link to this item.

If for some reason you're unable to reach "The Decider," you'll have your very own personal backup.


From the website:

Colourful Decision Maker

For those of us who get tired of making all the critical decisions!

Lighten up, spin the wheel & let the decision maker have its say.


The blue LED lights spin around in a "Simon Says" fashion & land on one of six answers: Do It, Go, Buy, Forget It, Wait or Sell.

Pops open by turning label over so you can also use it as a dice "roller" for games.

3" diameter.


$22 (CAD).

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

BehindTheMedspeak: Is that a cellphone in your pocket or...?


I recently learned a new term: "hypothesis-guided search."

It's a psychological theory "that describes the selective monitoring of physical sensations," according to a June 12, 2007 USA Today article by Angela Haupt about the increasing incidence of reports of vibrating cellphones — with no one on the other end.

Here's the story.

    Good vibrations? Bad? None at all?

    Some call it "phantom vibration syndrome." Others prefer "vibranxiety" — the feeling when you answer your vibrating cellphone, only to find it never vibrated at all.

    "It started happening about three years ago, when I first got a cellphone," says Canadian Steven Garrity, 28, of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. "I'd be sitting on the couch and feel my phone start to vibrate, so I'd reach down and pull it out of my pocket. But the only thing ringing was my thigh."

    Though no known studies have analyzed what may cause spontaneous buzzing, anecdotes such as Garrity's ring true with the public.

    Spurred by curiosity, Garrity, a Web developer, described the recurring false alarms on his blog. The response was not imaginary: More than 30 cellphone users reported that they, too, experienced phantom vibrations.

    "I ended up hearing from a lot of people who said, 'Hey, the exact same thing happens to me,' " Garrity says. "And it was somewhat comforting, because it made me think I wasn't insane, after all."

    Some who experienced recurring phantom vibrations wondered whether the phenomenon had physical roots: Was it caused by nerve damage or muscle memory?

    But experts say the false alarms simply demonstrate how easily habits are developed.

    Psychologically, the key to deciphering phantom vibrations is "hypothesis-guided search," a theory that describes the selective monitoring of physical sensations, says Jeffrey Janata, director of the behavioral medicine program at University Hospitals in Cleveland. It suggests that when cellphone users are alert to vibrations, they are likely to experience sporadic false alarms, he says.

    "You come armed with this template that leads you to be attentive to sensations that represent a cellphone vibrating," Janata says. "And it leads you to over-incorporate non-vibratory sensations and attribute them to the idea that you're receiving a phone call."

    Alejandro Lleras, a sensation and perception professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, adds that learning to detect rings and vibrations is part of a perceptual learning process.

    "When we learn to respond to a cellphone, we're setting perceptual filters so that we can pick out that (ring or vibration), even under noisy conditions," Lleras says. "As the filter is created, it is imperfect, and false alarms will occur. Random noise is interpreted as a real signal, when in fact, it isn't."

    Phantom cellphone vibrations also can be explained by neuroplasticity — the brain's ability to form new connections in response to changes in the environment.

    When cellphone users regularly experience sensations, such as vibrating, their brains become wired to those sensations, Janata says.

    "Neurological connections that have been used or formed by the sensation of vibrating are easily activated," he says. "They're over-solidified, and similar sensations are incorporated into that template. They become a habit of the brain."

    Cellphone company spokesmen, meanwhile, say they are not aware of any consumer complaints about phantom vibrations. Cellphones cannot sporadically vibrate on their own, says Mark Siegel of AT&T, formerly Cingular Wireless.

    "Perhaps in the mind of the cellphone user only," he says.

    But Rob Whitehouse, vice president of communications at University Hospitals, insists the phantom vibrations he experiences each day are simply proof of how important constant communication is.

    "It's some psychological expression of my need to always be connected," he says. "It's like when e-mail first came out, and we constantly checked our inboxes, because getting a new message was so exciting.

    "I like that better than 'I'm crazy,' anyway."



Now I have a name for what I had during my second year of med school when pathology was the primary subject.

Every week I was sure I had yet another fatal illness, with symptoms identical to those accompanying failure of whatever organ system we were studying.

I called it suggestibility gone wild but what the heck did I know?

June 15, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Morphing Workstation/Lap Tray


Via Cheryl Rose, who wrote, "Maybe for your treadmill configuration, or maybe not. Just thought of you when I saw it."


From the website:



Con-Con's workstation and tray is an ingenious, simple device.


Use it by your computer to display pages at a comfortable viewing angle (and so much more stylishly that anything from Office Depot!), or turn the base around and create a tray that is perfectly shaped to rest comfortably and stably on your seated legs — perfect for a cup of tea or for a laptop.


14" x 10".

Tell you what, Cheryl — as soon as I figure out how to keep my tea from spilling while wearing it as I walk on my treadmill, I'll order the one pictured up top.


Green, Clear, Blue or Orange.


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

Chichen Itza — Second Life goes Maya


Last Sunday the Mexican Tourist Board threw a party to celebrate the opening of virtual Chichen Itza on Second Life.

Here's Jayne Clark's story, from today's USA Today.

    Oh, the places you'll go — on the Internet

    The Mexican Tourism Board threw a party Sunday at Chichen Itza, the magnificent Mayan archaeological site in the Yucatan jungle. The thousands of guests, many of whom donned complimentary Mayan warrior get-ups and salsa-danced to live music, were an international mix.

    But nobody checked into a hotel when the festivities ended.

    Instead, they simply logged out of Second Life, the virtual world populated by 7.2 million registered users. To enter the online realm, participants register on the free site (secondlife.com), create an alter ego called an avatar and navigate the character via their computer keyboard, interacting with other users.

    Many of the locales within Second Life are simulations of generic places — restaurants, beaches and stadiums, for instance. But as this cyber world grows (it now boasts about 1 million regular users), real-world tourism entities, including tourist boards, hotels and travel agencies, are setting up virtual re-creations there to heighten awareness of their real-world existence.

    Sunday's launch party for the virtual Mayan ruins is just the latest such attempt. "We think Second Life is one example of new ways of promoting tourism or specific destinations," says Mexico Tourism's Carlos Behnsen.

    So does STA Travel, an agency that caters to 18- to 26-year-olds. It opened a virtual island in Second Life in April with a travel agency staffed by a globe-trekking manager. Like Mexico, it also sponsors regular online events to keep visitors returning. Eventually, the agency plans to sell actual trips via the site.

    Both Sweden and the Maldives recently launched virtual embassies in Second Life. "If you get more people interested in the country, you'll get more people interested in traveling there," says Sibley Verbeck, head of the Electric Sheep Co., which created Sweden's 3-D virtual presentations.

    Starwood Hotels opened the Second Life version of its new chain lodging, Aloft, last August — though the bricks-and-mortar version won't open until 2008. The idea was to create buzz about the new brand and gather feedback from its target market, young business travelers. That feedback led to changing some design elements and amenities.

    Morocco tourism has a presence that showcases the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the Marrakesh marketplace and Rabat's old city. "It was created as a space to explore Morocco without traveling there. But it's much more interactive than a poster," says Hilary Mason, a Johnson and Wales University professor whose students created it.


When in Rome ....

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

American Icon — Designer Airstream


Just out, it's the result of a collaboration between the venerable trailer maker and Design Within Reach.

Short story shorter: Along with your tricked-out trailer you get "a bright red awning, a Howard Nelson ball clock and two lawn chairs [above]."

But wait — there's more!

You also receive, at no extra charge, four sets of Heller Dinnerware, Matteo Linens, a Maharam Pillow and a Tom Dixon Wire Coatrack.


Here's Annie Groer's take, from yesterday's Washington Post Home section.

An American Icon, Just a Bit Clipped

As design icons go, the Airstream — all sensuous curves, gleaming aluminum and industrial rivets — is a beauty. Wally Byam, publisher of a do-it-yourself magazine, first experimented with trailers in the 1920s by mounting a tent on a Model T Ford chassis. But his breakthrough came in 1936 with the launch of the Clipper, the first of what became a full range of aluminum-shell trailers and mobile homes that today enjoy a cult following among hipsters and retirees alike.

The original Clipper was 24 feet long. Now, the design-driven can own a scaled-down 16-foot version that sleeps four. It was created by Airstream, now a part of Thor Industries, and Design Within Reach, that retail temple of classic modernist furnishings. It sells for about $50,000.


The DWR model appeals to a younger, "different type of buyer, who will use it for purposes other than camping: pool cabanas in the Hamptons, guest rooms, mobile offices. Our customers used to be in their 60s, 70s and 80s," said Patrick Botticelli of Colonial Airstream in Lakewood, N.J., which claims the highest Airstream sales figures in the country.

In addition to the built-in beds, cabinets, bathroom, kitchen and air conditioning standard to most Airstreams, DWR's edition — which costs about $4,000 more than the similar non-designer model, Botticelli said — features a bright red awning, a Howard Nelson ball clock and two lawn chairs. He says it is light enough to be hauled by small SUVs.

DWR commissioned architect and longtime Airstream design collaborator Chris Deam to undertake the project after he created buzz at the 2000 International Contemporary Furniture Fair with his own refurbished old trailer. For information, go to www.dwr.com/airstream.



June 15, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

the truth laid bare — Episode 2: Tricked out and glammed up


When last I visited this site (a couple years ago), which ranks websites and blogs according to a secret sauce of its own devising, different from technorati's concoction, it was simply a long, long list ranking tens of thousands of sites, with attached descriptions from the worlds of microscopic-scale, insect, reptilian and animal life.

Things change.

Now when you go there and drill down on a particular site, all sorts of things happen, with arrows, graphs, indicator needles and whatnot going hither and yon.

The result of last night's investigation appears up top.

I'm a "flappy bird" in the truth laid bare's ecosystem.

Hey — I've been called far worse.

Number 4,258 out of 105,576 is where I stand currently.

I'll take it.

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

Girard-Perregaux Vintage 1945 Jackpot Tourbillon


Long story short: You pull the little lever at the side of the case and the reels within begin to spin. Out of 125 possible combinations of bells, spades, diamonds, clubs and hearts, only one — three bells in a row — represents the jackpot, signified by the sound of a tiny mechanical gong within.

Go ahead — you know you want one.

$625,000 (£317,000; €470,000).

Oh, yeah, one last thing: though it's not described as a "limited edition," the complexity of its construction means no more than three are likely to be made each year.

So don't hem and haw too long.

A lot more fun than playing sudoku while you're waiting for the plane that never seems to arrive.


Here's a link to a detailed description of this triumph of the watchmaker's art.

[via Simon de Burton and the Financial Times]

June 15, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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