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July 1, 2007

iPhone disassembly: Anyone can unbox one but very few can — or would — open it up

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Anand Lal Shimpi of AnandTech wrote, "We did it — so you don't have to."

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Selections from his narrated deconstruction appear above and below — refer to his website for details re: what you're looking at.

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Enjoy his anatomy class — I know I did.

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Though I must confess that as a TechnoDolt™ I didn't read very much 'cause I didn't understand any of it.

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I like to watch.

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As I mused on the innards of the iPhone two thoughts — epigrams uttered by Germans — came to mind:

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1. "God is in the details" — Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

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2. "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made" — Otto von Bismarck

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[via Arthur Bernard Byrne and slashdot]

Note: Judie Lipsett of geardiary.com fame just sent me a link to Allen Hong's post of yesterday (yeah, joe, see, what good are you, a day late and a whole lot of dollars short? Huh? But I digress) featuring an iFixit.com dismembering of the precious object.

Note to file: If ever I should have an iPhone that requires disassembly, call the iFixit guy, not Anand Lal Shimpi — comparing their respective dismemberings, it would appear the iFixit result stands a better chance of working after reassembly.

Not that I'd put a whole lot of money on it in either case.

July 1, 2007 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Artists' Self-Portraits from the Uffizi: Masterpieces from Velázquez to Chagall

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It went up at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London on May 22 of this year and will remain open through Sunday, July 15, 2007.

It's drawn rave reviews from most critics who've seen it.

From the Dulwich description: "These remarkable works are usually housed in the Vasari Corridor, a kilometre of corridor linking the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti. Access is notoriously difficult; this is therefore an incredibly rare opportunity to experience a slice — never before seen in this country — of what must be one of the most remarkable sights in the art world."

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The Economist called it "the world's greatest collection of self-portraits... closed to all save the most persistent or well-connected because of a chronic shortage of funds."

The self-portrait up top is by Filippino Lippi (1457-1504); the lower is by Johann Zoffany (1733-1810).

Both are among the 50 in the Dulwich show.

July 1, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How to get me to buy a book

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It's so easy, really: simply have a reviewer write about it just so.

Rick Moody's new book (above) is the subject of a review by Elizabeth Hand which appears in today's Washington Post Book World.

"The Albertine Notes" is the last of three novellas in "Right Livelihoods."

    From Ms. Hand's piece:

    "The Albertine Notes" is speculative fiction for this century, steeped in the global post-traumatic stress disorder that is one legacy of 9/11. A dirty bomb has destroyed lower Manhattan and vaporized nearly half the city's population. Those who survive, such as young journalist Kevin Lee... have become addicted to a street drug called Albertine. The drug allows users to relive memories, "the actual event itself, completely renewed, playing in front of you as though you were experiencing it for the first time." But users can't control which memories will surface: They're slammed by a sensory tidal wave composed of trivia, desire, insight, trauma. As addicts drown in this drug-induced "riptide of the past," they lose their ability to remember huge blocks of the actual present.

    "The Albertine Notes" is framed as a whodunit, with an increasingly paranoid Kevin attempting to find the User Zero at the center of the Albertine epidemic. But it's really a Proustian meditation on loss, a "light show of lost time" that describes not just personal but cultural grief, for a world and a past that are irretrievable, even in memory.

Sounds like a fever dream/mind meld of William Gibson, Philip K. Dick and Greg Egan, what?

How do you spell "Two-Day 1-Click®— FREE?"

$16.31 at Amazon.

Good: You can read an edited transcript from a New York Times interview with Rick Moody here.

Better: Listen to the entire 41-minute-long interview by clicking on the link below the headline on that same page.

Note to self: Look into the work of Ms. Hand with an eye to buying one (or more) of her books.

You can listen to her read the first chapter of her novel "Generation Loss" here.

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Anyone who can electrify me with a couple paragraphs in a book review is worth exploring in more depth.

July 1, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Essential Tremor

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Jane E. Brody's "Personal Health" column in the May 29, 2007 New York Times focused on this oftimes misdiagnosed condition, which afflicts millions of individuals the great majority of whom do not know they have it.

Here's the piece.

    Finding Some Calm After Living With ‘the Shakes’

    As Sandy Kamen Wisniewski remembers, her hands always shook. She hid them in long sleeves and pockets and wrote only in block letters in school because at least that was readable. The tremor became much worse as she entered her teenage years, and if she was upset or under stress, it grew so bad she cringed with embarrassment and decided that it must all be psychological.

    Ms. Wisniewski, now 40, was 14 when she learned that she had not an emotional disorder, but a neurological condition called essential tremor — “essential” not because she needed it, but because no underlying factor caused it. It was not a prelude to Parkinson’s disease, nor was it caused by a hormonal problem, a drug reaction or nervousness.

    (Many people thought that Katharine Hepburn had Parkinson’s disease, when in fact she shook because she had essential tremor, as does Terry Link, a state senator in Illinois, and Gov. Jim Gibbons of Nevada.)

    This disorder, which in most cases is inherited, is so misunderstood and so often misdiagnosed that Ms. Wisniewski, who lives in Libertyville, Ill., decided to write a book about it. Called “I Can’t Stop Shaking,”

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    the book was self-published last year through Dog Ear Publishing in Indianapolis. Her intent is to help the estimated 10 million people who suffer with essential tremor, often for decades without knowing what is wrong.

    John, for example, whose head shook uncontrollably, spent 27 years “being tested for nearly everything,” as he relates in the book. He even had an M.R.I. and was told by the doctor that there was nothing wrong with him.

    Modern technology helped him learn the truth when he typed “head tremors” into a computer search engine and found the Web site for the International Essential Tremor Foundation. His shouts of joy upon recognizing his disorder woke his wife. He then recalled that his grandmother and all his cousins had what they called “the shakes,” also without knowing why.

    Only a small minority of patients with essential tremor seek treatment, Ms. Wisniewski’s book says, although there are several medications that help and, for intractable cases, a surgical procedure that can greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the tremors.

    For Shari Finsilver, who never even told her parents about the hand tremors that began at age 11, the surgery she underwent in her 50s, called deep brain stimulation, was “a life-altering experience, like someone awakened from a lifetime coma.”

    As she wrote in Ms. Wisniewski’s book, “I immediately began doing all the things I had not been able to do for 40 years: write by hand, use a camera, cut with scissors, make change at the cash register, sign checks and credit card receipts, enroll in a public speaking course, dance with men other than my husband and son — all the things most people take for granted.

    “But best of all, I was able to walk down the aisle at my children’s weddings, and cradle my grandchildren in my arms with steady hands.”

    A Tremulous Mutation

    One thorough study has indicated that in 96 percent of cases, essential tremor is familial, a result of an autosomal dominant genetic mutation. That means that every child of a person with the condition has a 50 percent chance of inheriting it. And most people, after learning the nature of their problem, are able to trace it from a parent and other family members. But the so-called penetrance of the mutated gene can vary widely, resulting in different degrees of disability.

    The damaged gene interferes with voluntary muscles and can affect any body part, hands most often, but also the neck, larynx (resulting in a tremulous voice) and, less often, the legs. The tremor disappears at rest and during sleep, but becomes apparent when a person tries to do something with the affected part and is made worse by stress, fatigue, caffeine and anxiety.

    In people with hand tremors, the shaking starts when they try to write or hold a cup of coffee or eat with a utensil. Many people with essential tremor devise ways to avoid such activities, like eating just sandwiches or never eating in public, typing instead of writing or paying by credit card to avoid writing a check.

    One woman in Ms. Wisniewski’s book was able to return to college when she learned that disability laws entitled her to a note taker for all her classes. But many employment opportunities are out of reach. Jean Moore worked in a payroll office until she could no longer read her own numbers. Another woman was fired from her job as a waitress when she could no longer carry cups of liquid and plates of food without spilling them.

    Head tremor is more difficult to disguise. Some people sit with their elbows planted on a firm surface, holding their head in their hands.

    While the disorder can show itself at any age, essential tremor usually does not become apparent until midlife and then worsens with age.

    Treatment Options

    In diagnosing essential tremor, a doctor must first rule out other causes like medications, drug or alcohol withdrawal, excessive caffeine intake, overactive thyroid, heavy metal poisoning, fever and anxiety. A doctor also must check for other neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or dystonia.

    A number of drugs have been found, mostly by accident, to relieve tremors. They include beta blockers like propranolol, marketed as Inderal, used mainly to control high blood pressure; primidone, found in Mysoline; and topiramate, or Topamax, used mainly to treat epilepsy.

    Several other drugs have helped some patients, and sometimes a combination of medications proves helpful. Dosages are limited by the patient’s ability to tolerate side effects. Injections of botulinum toxin A, in Botox, help many people with head tremors.

    If drug treatment is not helpful, implanting a stimulator in the thalamus of the brain can block the nerve signals that cause tremors in the upper extremities. The procedure has its hazards and is usually a last resort.

    Most people with essential tremor have discovered on their own that alcohol provides temporary relief. But over time, more and more alcohol is needed to be helpful, so excessive intake and alcoholism are real dangers. This remedy is best used sporadically.

    Members of the essential tremor foundation have provided a host of “survival” tips that Ms. Wisniewski lists in her book. They include these ideas:

    ¶Using half-full mugs and holding them with all five fingers on the top.

    ¶Using a travel mug with a lid and straw.

    ¶Asking the server to deliver your plate with the food already cut in bite-size pieces.

    ¶Using a bib or fastening the napkin under your chin with a dentist’s chain.

    ¶Writing with a fat pen that has a rubber grip.

    ¶At the computer, wearing wrist weights and keeping palms anchored to the front of the keyboard.

    ¶Using an electric toothbrush and razor.

    ¶Using Velcro instead of buttons.

    ¶Carrying preprinted labels with your name, address and telephone number.

    For further information, including support groups for people with essential tremor and their families, the foundation has a Web site at www.essentialtremor.org, and a toll-free telephone number, (888) 387-3667.

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

EZ Lift Toilet Seat Handle

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A stopgap until I learn to levitate.

From the website:

    EZ Lift Handle — No More Touching The Seat!

    Avoid germs by lifting and lowering a toilet seat without having to touch it.

    The EZ Lift makes cleaning easier and more hygienic.

    Handle also acts as a reminder that a seat is down.

    Installs using strong tape (included).

    Works with all size seats.

    Bacteria-resistant plastic.

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2 for $9.95 (toilet seat not included).

July 1, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Limbo Kit — Episode 2: Pump It Up

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Back on June 23, 2007, Episode 1 featured your basic limbo kit, made from bamboo to capture that island zeitgeist (now there are two words I've never before seen together — but I digress).

But what if you're allergic to bamboo, and you inadvertently bump into the bar as you attempt to really get down?

Huh?

For you, there's this nifty inflatable version, with nary a trace molecule of bamboo anywhere in it.

From the website:

    Inflatable Limbo Kit

    Everyone can limbo, but how low can you go?

    You and your guests will have fun figuring out the answer to that question with this inflatable limbo kit.

    Each set includes 2 freestanding 6-ft. poles and one 6 ft. limbo stick.

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$14.95 (air included — it'll appear all around you the moment you begin inflation. Which is a lot more than the nascent universe was capable of. But I digress yet again....).

July 1, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'A Brief History of Economic Time: How The World Grew Rich'

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Steven Landsburg's June 9, 2007 Wall Street Journal essay begins, "Modern humans first emerged about 100,000 years ago. For the next 99,800 years or so, nothing happened."

Now, I ask you: who could stop reading there?

Not moi, fer shur.

Here's the piece.

    A Brief History of Economic Time

    Modern humans first emerged about 100,000 years ago. For the next 99,800 years or so, nothing happened. Well, not quite nothing. There were wars, political intrigue, the invention of agriculture — but none of that stuff had much effect on the quality of people's lives. Almost everyone lived on the modern equivalent of $400 to $600 a year, just above the subsistence level. True, there were always tiny aristocracies who lived far better, but numerically they were quite insignificant.

    Then — just a couple of hundred years ago, maybe 10 generations — people started getting richer. And richer and richer still. Per capita income, at least in the West, began to grow at the unprecedented rate of about three quarters of a percent per year. A couple of decades later, the same thing was happening around the world.

    Then it got even better. By the 20th century, per capita real incomes, that is, incomes adjusted for inflation, were growing at 1.5% per year, on average, and for the past half century they've been growing at about 2.3%. If you're earning a modest middle-class income of $50,000 a year, and if you expect your children, 25 years from now, to occupy that same modest rung on the economic ladder, then with a 2.3% growth rate, they'll be earning the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $89,000 a year. Their children, another 25 years down the line, will earn $158,000 a year.

    Against a backdrop like that, the temporary ups and downs of the business cycle seem fantastically minor. In the 1930s, we had a Great Depression, when income levels fell back to where they had been 20 years earlier. For a few years, people had to live the way their parents had always lived, and they found it almost intolerable. The underlying expectation — that the present is supposed to be better than the past — is a new phenomenon in history. No 18th-century politician would have asked "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" because it never would have occurred to anyone that they ought to be better off than they were four years ago.

    Rising income is only part of the story. One hundred years ago the average American workweek was over 60 hours; today it's under 35. One hundred years ago 6% of manufacturing workers took vacations; today it's over 90%. One hundred years ago the average housekeeper spent 12 hours a day on laundry, cooking, cleaning and sewing; today it's about three hours.

    As far as the quality of the goods we buy, try picking up an electronics catalogue from, oh, say, 2001 and ask yourself whether there's anything there you'd want to buy. That was the year my friend Ben spent $600 for a 1.3-megapixel digital camera that weighed a pound and a half. What about services, such as health care? Would you rather purchase today's health care at today's prices or the health care of, say, 1970 at 1970 prices? I don't know any informed person who would choose 1970, which means that despite all the hype about costs, health care now is a better bargain than it's ever been before.

    The moral is that increases in measured income — even the phenomenal increases of the past two centuries — grossly understate the real improvements in our economic condition. The average middle-class American might have a smaller measured income than the European monarchs of the Middle Ages, but I suspect that Tudor King Henry VIII would have traded half his kingdom for modern plumbing, a lifetime supply of antibiotics and access to the Internet.

    The source of this wealth — the engine of prosperity — is technological progress. And the engine of technological progress is ideas — not just the ideas from engineering laboratories, but also ideas like new methods of crop rotation, or just-in-time inventory management. You can fly from New York to Tokyo partly because someone figured out how to build an airplane and partly because someone figured out how to insure it. I'm writing this on a personal computer instead of an electric typewriter partly because someone said, "Hey! I wonder if we can make computer chips out of silicon!" and partly because someone said "Hey! I wonder if we can finance startups with junk bonds!"

    Which contribution is more important? By one rough measure — the profits earned by the innovator — they're about equal. In the late 1980s, Microsoft earned economic profits of about $600 million a year, while Michael Milken, the inventor of the junk bond, earned an annual income that was just about the same.

    Some good ideas even come from economists. Julian Simon came up with the idea of bribing airline passengers to give up their seats on overbooked flights — and gone were the days when you relied on the luck of the draw to make it to your daughter's wedding. Economists first suggested creating property rights in African elephants, a policy that has given villagers an incentive to harvest at a sustainable rate and drive the poachers away. The result? Villagers have prospered and the elephant population has soared.

    Engineers figure out how to harness the power of technology; economists figure out how to harness the power of incentives. Our prosperity relies on both.

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

bookofjoe MoneyMaker™: Cinch Sak Drawstring Access Point Indicator™®

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I've previously noted my fondness for Hefty's 30 Gallon Clear Cinch Sak, named just last week the Official Trash Bag of bookofjoe.

Here's a freebie for the Hefty folks, and anyone else who makes bags or devices with similar closures.

Put a small but easily visible contrasting color mark on the drawstring — both sides if it's flat, like Hefty's — right where the guide opens up to let you grab it for closure.

I'm always fumbling around trying to find that access point when it's time to close up shop.

As always, this boj MoneyMaker™ is free — the way it should be.

$7.74 for 28 bags — as yet, without an Access Point Indicator™®.

July 1, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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