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June 24, 2007

The world's largest operating musical instrument — It's at Macy's in Philadelphia



Craig R. Whitney, in a June 9, 2007 New York Times article, described how the massive pipe organ (above and below), constructed for the 1904 St. Louis International Exposition where it was a smash hit (though it bankrupted the Los Angeles Art Organ Company, which built it), subsequently made its way to Wanamaker's in Philadelphia where President William Howard Taft dedicated it in front of 40,000 people on December 30, 1911, then occupied the vast, 149-foot-high Grand Court center space specially designed for it by Daniel Hudson Burnham, resounding in glory before slowly deteriorating over the decades to the point that by 1995 only about 20% of its pipes were playable, with just two of its six keyboards functioning.

When Macy's took over the store last year, it decided to pull out all the stops in an attempt to restore the great instrument to its former power — and beyond.


Here's the Times story.

    Amid the Shirts and Socks, a Concert Can Break Out

    What do you do if you buy a famous downtown department store and find an organ with 28,482 pipes occupying thousands of square feet of perfectly good retail space?

    If you’re Macy’s, you let devotees of the instrument put in 61 more pipes and give them thousands more square feet to set up an organ repair shop.

    Diapasons, it would seem, are as much music to Macy’s as cash registers, coin counters and customers at its Center City store here, a Philadelphia institution that was originally a Wanamaker’s. So the company let the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, a private group of aficionados who have been helping to maintain the instrument for years, install another stop and set up a repair shop after Macy’s took over the store.

    “Every lunchtime, people hear the organ and feel good — and people are in a mind to shop when they’re feeling good,” explained James Kenny, the store manager. “It’s the ultimate feel-good experience.”

    The organ, the world’s largest operating musical instrument, has never sounded better, according to the store’s staff organist, Peter Richard Conte, who has been here 20 years and fills the place with warm waves of sound at noon and in the evening, daily except Sunday.


    “In 1995 it was down to about 20 percent of the pipes being playable, maybe,” and only two keyboards working instead of six, Mr. Conte said. “Now it sounds loved again.”

    With money from private donors and more than $100,000 from Macy’s this year, the staff curator, L. Curt Mangel III, with his assistant, the Friends and numerous organ groupies, now have 95 percent of the organ playing again. Next year they expect to have it all up and running for the first time in decades.

    Today Mr. Conte and the Friends have the run of the store for the annual Wanamaker Organ Day, and Mr. Conte will play something new: his own transcription of Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations (Op. 36), at 11:30 a.m. Shoppers are welcome.

    He has been working feverishly on the Elgar for weeks, with all-night practice sessions, alone in the store except for a guard. “It’s probably the most difficult piece I’ve ever done,” he said before trying out several movements at a Wednesday evening concert, his fingers slinking from keyboard to keyboard and darting restlessly over the 729 stop-control tablets as phrase seamlessly followed phrase and crescendo climaxed and faded into descrescendo.

    The Elgar sounds impressively orchestral on this organ, with its 462 sets of pipes, including stops named for orchestral violins, cellos, flutes, orchestral oboes, clarinets, French horns, tubas and trombones. It has just about everything else imaginable — chimes and even a kitchen sink (for the curators to wash their hands) — in a forest of pipes ranging from 32 feet to less than an inch long, spread over both ends and multiple rooms and floors off the store’s Grand Court.

    Next year a long-muffled section of 2,000 more pipes, now being cleaned and restored, will rejoin the rest in a more audible spot, and Mr. Conte expects to luxuriate in its liberated sounds, including three more French horn stops made by the Kimball Organ Company of Chicago.

    “I love the sound of French horns and I will probably use them a lot,” he said.

    The instrument started life at the St. Louis International Exposition of 1904, when the Los Angeles Art Organ Company built it along orchestral lines, rather than according to the baroque organ ideal, as Bach and Buxtehude knew it.


    It was a smash hit at the fair, but bankrupted the company. Then it languished in storage until 1909, when John Wanamaker bought it for the Philadelphia store that he was planning to open two years later.

    His son, Lewis Rodman Wanamaker, saw the vast, 149-foot-high Grand Court center space in the building Daniel Hudson Burnham had designed for them as the ideal place for “the finest organ in the world,” and 40,000 people and President William Howard Taft came to the dedication ceremonies on Dec. 30, 1911.

    Until his death in 1928, Lewis Rodman Wanamaker oversaw successive expansions of the organ in the store’s own organ shop on the building’s roof. The changes were so extensive that the instrument’s “string” section finally had more pipes than most large organs do altogether.

    Famous organists flocked to play it over the years, and both Marcel Dupré and Virgil Fox developed signature pieces on the organ, but when Lewis Rodman Wanamaker died, the organ’s importance faded. Wanamaker’s itself was sold to Woodward & Lothrop in 1986; then it became a Hecht’s; and in 1997 a Lord & Taylor store. Macy’s took it over last year.

    Each of the owners recognized the unique historical value of the organ, and Lord & Taylor hired Mr. Mangel as curator in 2002. The difference now, as Mr. Conte sees things, is that “Macy’s gets it — it understands how to use this instrument and market it to the public.”

    Martine Reardon, the Macy’s national headquarters executive overseeing holiday events, including now the annual Christmas organ and light show in the Philadelphia store, said, “The Wanamaker Organ’s legacy is as legendary as the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Fourth of July fireworks.”

    Next year, Macy’s 150th anniversary, the store hopes to get the Philadelphia Orchestra to come and play Joseph Jongen’s “Symphonie Concertante,” a work for organ and orchestra commissioned by Wanamaker’s in 1928 but never performed at the store.

    And the Friends, with a $150,000 donation from the Phoebe Haas Charitable Trust, have set up a spacious repair and organ-building training center on an unused floor of the store. Early this year the additional 61 new pipes, a rank of singing vox humana stops, joined nine others in a chamber rebuilt especially for them and brought the total to 28,543. To many their vibrato tones call to mind a choir of angels.

    Mr. Conte patted the huge console that controls the pipes and said, nodding at Mr. Mangel, “Baby hasn’t been given such care and tending since John Wanamaker.” But he still hopes Baby will throw no tantrums at today’s performance.



How does it sound?

Find out for yourself, right here.

June 24, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

RFID-Blocking Wallet — 'A tinfoil hat for your bank account'


That's how Evan Ratliff described it in the new (July, 2007) Wired magazine.

More: "For smartcard-carrying citizens of the 21st century, leaving home without an RFID-safe wallet is the equivalent of wearing a T-shirt with your Social Security number silk-screened on it."

This tricked-out accessory has just been named the Official Wallet of Buffalo Springfield.

From a website:

    RFID Blocking Passport Wallet

    Protect your passport and credit cards from data-stealing hackers.

    Passports, credit cards and other forms of identification are now being embedded with radio-frequency (RF) tags that can be read by security scanners at airports and retail stores.

    Unfortunately, hackers have figured out how to scan those tags too, gaining access to personal and financial data that can result in identity theft.

    This RFID Blocking Passport Wallet acts as a protective shield for ID so your RF data can only be accessed when you open the wallet at approved locations.

    Made of top quality leather.

    5½ x 4'.


The mechanism of action is a built-in mesh Faraday cage to block RFID scanners.

Ratliff added, "In a completely wired world, radio-proof accessories, buildings and even neighborhoods will serve as disconnected oases, the only ways to go offline."

Black, Red or Tan.


But perhaps you don't want to carry some generic wallet.

Maybe it's Hermès or nothing for you.

No problema.

You can get an RFID-blocking insert (below)


here for $10-$15 that will do precisely the same thing, yet allow you to carry the accessory of your choice.

June 24, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Yahoo's Panama Canal: Toxic Waste Dump in the Making?


Project Panama, Yahoo's search engine advertising overhaul, began at least two years later than it should have, according to Richard Waters' June 19, 2007 Financial Times article.

No matter: Yahoo's losing its audience so fast that the rest of its advertising business is circling the drain, even though the company claims success for Panama (unveiled last October) in its early stages.

To distract the naysayers and scoffers the company tossed CEO Terry Semel under the bus last Monday.

My favorite line in the whole kerfuffle appeared in Chris Nuttall and Richard Waters' June 19, 2007 Financial Times front page story.

Semel said, "I know everyone will think I was pushed... quite frankly I resigned."


Don't you find it amazing that a guy who made $71 million last year while his company imploded finds it important to save face?

I mean, what the heck does he care what anyone thinks?


Turns out that even if Panama succeeds, "Yahoo could make more money by simply outsourcing search to Google," according to a June 20, 2007 New York Times Business section front page story by Miguel Helft and Andrew Ross Sorkin.

They added, "Abandoning search and Project Panama at this time would be wrenching. A Yahoo executive who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity said that ceding the search business to Google was not an option being considered now. But that could change, the executive said, adding, 'The Panama effort is actually really working. The question is whether the slope of the improvement is such that we'll catch up, or get close enough. My guess is that the executive team is going to give it six or nine months and see if we are there, and if not, they'll ask the question again.'"

It's hard to say, "I failed."

Not for me: I love it.

But then, this is joeworld.

June 24, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yogurt Body Cream


What took them so long?

Hannah Schardt featured this new mashup in today's Washington Post "Trendspotter" feature, as follows.

    Cleo Yogurt Body Cream

    With all the edible-sounding skin-care products out there — grapefruit body scrub, avocado oil hand lotion, oatmeat bath treatment — it was only a matter of time before someone decided to put yogurt in a jar and sell it as a moisturizer. Cleo, an Italian bath and body line, has done just that with this body cream.

    Well, sort of. The cream looks disconcertingly like Yoplait, but yogurt powder actually shows up thirteenth on the ingredients list (then again, who would buy Cleo Isopropyl Palmitate Body Cream?). The product, which comes in cherry, smells sweet and fruity, though not a lot like cherries. But as a lightweight, summery moisturizer, the affordable cream shines. My dry skin stayed smooth and soft all day long, with no hint of greasiness. Now, that's delicious.


Note to Ms. Schardt: If you want to get out of the journalistic slushpile-equivalent you're currently mired in writing brief product reviews, you need to take it to the next level.

In this case, that would've entailed buying a container of Yoplait Cherry Yogurt and using it on half your face while applying Cleo on the other.

Then ask people after a week which side of your face looks better.

I'm just saying, is all.

A container of Cleo Cherry Yogurt Body Cream is $7.95.


A six ounce container of Yoplait Cherry Yogurt costs 68 cents here and about that at stores everywhere.

June 24, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Little Engine That Could: How About a 1.1cc Corvette 327 V-8?


That's it above.

Jim Norman's story in today's New York Times about the cult of building functioning miniature automobile engines blew me off the line.

Large story small: Jim Moyer of Boyds, Washington built the ultra-small block Chevrolet Corvette 327 V-8.

More: Each cylinder's bore is 0.6 inches, compared to the 4 inches in the original; the eight tiny pistons have a stroke of less than half an inch compared to the 3.25 inches of the real engine.

Here's the article.

Saying 'Small Block' and Really Meaning It

Downsizing may be a chilling concept nearly everywhere, but not in the workshop of George Luhrs, a machinist in Shoreham, N.Y., with an affinity for the very small. Mr. Luhrs has built a single-cylinder engine you could lose in a pocketful of nickels and dimes.

The piston of Mr. Luhrs’s itsy-bitsy engine rides in a cylinder whose bore is just 1/8-inch across. The engine’s stroke — the distance that the piston travels up and down inside the cylinder — is only 5/32 of an inch. The spark plug? You could lay seven of them across the face of a dime and still see F.D.R. peeking through.

Mr. Luhrs, whose day job is doing experimental fabrication for aerospace and other companies, is not the sort of hobbyist content to just step back and admire the exquisite details of his handiwork. This engine kicks over and starts, Mr. Luhrs said, though he has yet to overcome all the challenges of working at such a small scale. The engine’s minuscule valves are not yet closing properly, causing the motor to lose compression and stall.

That this little engine runs at all is something of a mechanical miracle. If you let your imagination run wild, in a world where microsurgery has become routine and nanotechnology is mentioned constantly, you can almost visualize the making of ultrasmall parts. But as Craig Libuse, director of craftsmanshipmuseum.com, a Web site dedicated to the recognition of manual skills, observed recently, “You can’t scale electricity, and a fuel molecule is still a fuel molecule.”

For other modelers, the urge to scale back does not stop with miniaturization; it also extends to historical accuracy. Chevrolet’s mainstay V-8, introduced in 1955 models as a 265-cubic-inch engine, is known as the small block, but Jim Moyer, a 66-year-old semiretired machinist and welder in Boyds, Wash., took the concept a few steps further. Over an eight-year period, he built a very small-block replica of a later 327-cubic-inch version used to power Corvettes of the 1960s.

Its designation notwithstanding, Mr. Moyer’s 327, one-sixth the size of the real motor, has a displacement of 1.1 cubic inches. For those inclined to pull the slide rule out of the pocket protector, yes, the displacement in this little V-8 is considerably smaller than the scale would dictate. That is because the bore in each cylinder (0.6 inch, compared with 4 inches in the original) is undersize, a compromise to assure that the cylinders would withstand the heat and compression generated by the eight tiny pistons pumping up and down through their stroke of less than half an inch (compared with 3.25 inches of the real engine).

The cooling system of Mr. Moyer’s 327 is incomplete and will probably stay that way, he said. “I just like to see the pulleys and belts going around when it runs, and they would be hidden by a radiator.” To prevent overheating and seizure in the absence of a cooling system, Mr. Moyer runs his engine only for short periods.

“But I go out and start ’er up several times a day. I just love to watch ’er run.”

Roger Butzen, 63, the sales development director for a book-printing company, has been building miniature engines in his garage in Diamond Bar, Calif., for about 12 years. Among his accomplishments is a replica of a 426-cubic-inch Chrysler V-8 [below — both photos]


that looks and sounds ready to bolt into a Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda of the muscle car era — except that it is just a quarter the size of the original and displaces just 6.3 inches.

Before that, he replicated the V-twin engine of a friend’s Harley-Davidson; it looked just like the original but was only a third the size. Each of the projects took him about a year and a half to complete.

“It’s really fun,” Mr. Butzen said. “I enjoy all the time I spend in the shop, and I enjoy the expressions on people’s faces when they see me start one of these engines. Psychologically, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Mr. Butzen said he was nudged into his hobby by his wife, Maridee, who gave him a kit to build a model of a working steam roller that she thought he would enjoy assembling and running.

“I am sure she hadn’t a clue what she was getting into,” he said, adding that she had been “extremely supportive” as he bought more equipment and took over the family garage for later projects.

Mike Rehmus, editor of Model Engine Builder, a magazine published five times a year in Vallejo, Calif., said that the builders of miniature internal-combustion engines seemed to have in common a “satisfaction of making something mechanical run that started out as a pile of raw metal.”

“The first time it runs is pretty exciting — we call it the first pop,” he said. “This is pretty good therapy for a lot of people.”

Even at the larger end of motor miniaturization, these power plants are a trip through Tinytown.

Take, for example, the 1/3-scale Ferrari 312PB racecar that Pierre Scerri, a telecommunications engineer from Avignon, France, designed and built over a 15-year period, taking an estimated 20,000 hours. All it needs is a 1/3-size driver to slip into the seat, fasten the precisely scaled four-point seat belt, turn the absolutely accurate 1/3-scale key, and the 12-cylinder engine will roar to life with an exhaust tuned to the perfect Ferrari pitch, albeit not as loud.

Mr. Libuse of the online craftsmanship museum said that miniature-engine hobbyists exemplified the innovative spirit of American industry. “They don’t get the money that ballplayers and movie stars make,” Mr. Libuse said, “but they actually go out and do stuff. They are like the founders of this country.”


“When Ferrari needs a tachometer, they go to a manufacturer and order one,” Mr. Libuse said. “When people like Pierre Scerri need one, they build it from scratch. When he needs a set of tires, he doesn’t go to Michelin; he learns how to make tires and molds them himself.”

Note added Monday, June 25, 2007 at 3:23 p.m.:

I just received an email from Joe Moyer, the son of Jim Moyer (Moyer the elder built the magnificent 1/6 scale Corvette engine featured above).

Joe was kind enough to send me a link to www.moyermade.com, where "you can find more information and photos on my dad's engines."

That's where I'm heading next.

June 24, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

EZ Glide Sliding Door Guide



From the website:

    EZ Door Guide

    Keep sliding doors on track.

    No more swinging and banging doors, scuffs or wear marks.

    Our EZ Nail-On Door Glide stabilizes sliding doors so they open and close easily.

    Use on any floor — wood, carpet, even concrete!

    Adjusts to any door size and installs in minutes.


2 pair for $11.95 (sliding doors not included).

June 24, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

tinyURL previewer


Embiggen expands those tiny URLs before you click on them to make sure they don't lead to somewhere dangerous or otherwise not to your liking.

From Embiggen:

TinyURL is a great service, but who knows what’s lurking on the other side of those links? They could be pointing at sites you’ve already visited, spam, malware, shock sites or other dangerous and time-wasting material. Protect yourself online by getting a heads-up! Embiggen uses a Dapper service to expand any mysterious TinyURLs into their full version.


You will never find a tinyURL on bookofjoe because my TechnoDolt™-level web and computer capabilities preclude their use.

[via redferret]

June 24, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

In-N-Out Burger Beach Towel


"On sale for $10. The color is incorrect it is dark orange instead of red. All sales are final. Not negotiable."

Folksy, friendly approach to marketing by the In-N-Out company store, what?


[via Russ Thomson]

June 24, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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