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July 18, 2007

Best TV Commercial of the Year

Sanya Richards for Nike.

July 18, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Giraffe Stiletto — Take a walk on the real wild side


[via fashionchica, gadgetmetro, supernetx and funnycoolstuff]

July 18, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

'Mission Impossible' Email — It self-destructs


It's the new new thing and best of all, it's free — the way we like it.

It's happening right now at www.bigstring.com.


For those who'd prefer to find out more before signing up or drinking bigstring's Kool-Aid, here's Howie Rumberg's July 12, 2007 Associated Press story.

    The Doh! Files — This e-mail will self-destruct in 10 seconds

    Here's a scenario that way too many people are familiar with: You just went on a fantastic date and decide to send a friend a blow-by-blow e-mail. Instead you type the fresh-in-your-memory, newly acquired address of the potential steady and hit the send button just... as... you... realize... you are sending it to the last person in the world who should see it.

    In the past, unless you had Mission Impossible-style computer tools, you kissed date No. 2 goodbye. But no longer.

    BigString Corporation has come up with a free e-mail service (www.BigString.com) that gives the author ultimate control over his outbox. That's right. The outbox.

    Users can recall e-mails from a recipient's inbox, cause a message to self-destruct after a certain number of reads or after a set period of time, edit an e-mail after it's been sent, make it look as if the mail is coming from another account or prohibit forwarding to unwanted parties, among a slew of other face-saving functions. And in the age of YouTube, you can prevent your embarrassing videos from being posted in unwanted places.

    As the name suggests, each e-mail you send has a big "string" attached and all it takes is a simple "tug" to bring it back.

    The magic string works like this: BigString converts the e-mail to what is basically a simple Web page (an HTML document) and stores it on their server. When you change or delete the documents or attachments, you are not actually breaking into the recipient's inbox, but changing the virtual string that goes from BigString's server to that inbox.

    Once an e-mail is self-destructed or deleted, all that is left in the recipients' inbox is a record of the mail being sent and the subject line. The message has been deleted off the BigString servers and there is no record of the original message anywhere. (It's like a phone record: the content of the call is gone but the number called is still there.)

    While those phantom e-mails may disappoint recipients, the idea sounds like a such a no-brainer for the sender that you have to wonder why a big e-mail service such as Gmail didn't patent the features first. Google spokesman Jason Freidenfelds said in an e-mail that Google is responsive to user feedback, but did not list any of the BigString-style features for future versions of Gmail.

    Darin Myman, CEO of BigString, came up with the idea after he sent an e-mail with the wrong attachment. It wasn't a disaster, but a friend had a worse experience: He was caught cheating when his wife looked through his sent mail.

    Ownership of the outbox became Myman's goal. BigString achieves it, but don't think the service will completely save you from miscues.

    Masking your e-mail address is not foolproof. While the address in the recipient's inbox changes, the IP address — that string of numbers that identifies Web locations — doesn't, so someone with a little Internet savvy could find out where you're really messaging from. Also, the function that prevents printing doesn't always work on the browser Firefox.

    With so much of our lives left out there in the Internet ether to be picked over and used in ways we never even imagined, the innovations at BigString — despite the flaws — are a giant step toward taking back control of our electronic lives.

July 18, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Time Flyer Clock — 'Gets your day off to a flying start!'


Yeah, well, anyone can put a Clocky on their nightstand but few will own this nifty persistence-of-vision timepiece, costing less than half what the admittedly clever Clocky will set you back.

From the website:

    Time Flyer Clock

    Alarm clock gets your day off to a flying start!

    Wake up to the roar of the plane’s engine and the spinning of the propeller blades as the alarm sounds and time appears in a super-bright "floating" display and again on the LCD screen.

    Has time/alarm function and on/off buttons.

    Includes decals to personalize plane.

    Uses 3 AA batteries (not included).



July 18, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Campbell's Soup goes to Russia


Julie Jargon's instructive article in the July 9, 2007 Wall Street Journal examined Campbell's belated, better late than never entrance into the Russian and Chinese soup space.

Julie Jargon?

Why, she threatens to dethrone Rhymer Rigby, a freelance journalist who writes frequently for the Financial Times, as the possessor of the best reporter name going.

Here's the WSJ story.

    Can M'm, M'm Good Translate?

    Campbell Rethinks Soup As It Prepares to Enter Russia and China

    American food companies have succeeded in persuading consumers in China and Russia to chew gum, guzzle soda and munch cookies. Now Campbell Soup Co. wants to sell those soup-loving countries on its signature product.

    It won't be easy. Wet soup in cans or boxes has yet to take significant market share in Russia and China, partly because of cost and because soup-making is a source of pride for many there. Campbell finally gave up after trying to sell canned soups in China in the 1990s. Other Western companies have had some success in the two markets, but the niche remains largely untapped.

    This time, the Camden, N.J., company is trying a different approach. For the past two years, cultural anthropologists employed by Campbell have visited the homes of Russian and Chinese consumers to watch how they prepare and eat soup and to ask about the role soup making has played in their lives.

    Although the company has learned that ready-to-eat soups still aren't likely to sell well, increasingly busy Chinese and Russians seem more willing to use it as a convenient base for other cooking. So Campbell this fall plans to roll out "starter soups" and broths designed to help consumers save time while making soups with their own touches.

    "The biggest soup company in the world should be developing the biggest soup markets in the world," says Larry McWilliams, president of Campbell's international division.

    If Campbell gets it right this time, the move could help drive the company's sales growth, which currently relies heavily on the U.S., with $5.1 billion of its $7.3 billion in 2006 revenue. Campbell recently has turned around its core U.S. soup business with the introduction of low-sodium soups, new supermarket soup dispensers and new varieties of broth. At some point, the momentum from those initiatives could slow and the company will need new sources of growth.

    Campbell officials won't disclose sales projections or how much they are spending to enter Russia and China. But they are planning a big marketing push, including television commercials, billboards, subway ads, Internet ads and product samplings.

    Chinese and Russians eat soup more than five times a week, on average, compared with Americans' once-a-week, Campbell says. In China, 320 billion bowls of soup are consumed each year, compared with 32 billion in Russia and just 14 billion in the U.S.

    In Russia and China, nearly all those bowls are homemade. In Russia recently, Mr. McWilliams asked a mother about soup and "her eyes lit up, she leaned across the table and for the next 30 minutes she told me what soup she likes and how she makes it," he says. "You'd think I'd asked her about her kids."

    But consumers in Moscow and China's Guangdong province, which Campbell will target with its early rollouts, are becoming busier as those areas have grown more industrialized. And with a rising middle class in both China and Russia, "you have improving consumer spending power, and as a result, the affordability factor is becoming more favorable for Campbell," says Mitchell Pinheiro, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, who has a "buy" rating on Campbell shares.

    Other food companies have made inroads into China, notably Yum Brands Inc. with its KFC fried-chicken outlets. McDonald's Corp.'s fast food has proved popular in Moscow. In most cases where Western companies have done well in the East, they have tried to adapt their offerings to native tastes.

    Campbell didn't do a lot of listening to consumers when it tried to enter China in the early 1990s. Rather than tailor soups to Chinese tastes and cooking customs, the company simply exported its condensed soups. Consumers, some wondering why they should pay for something that could be easily made from scratch, shunned the soups. Campbell pulled out.

    In China, the basic soup stock is often made by combining water and monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer known as MSG that has been linked to headaches, nausea and other health problems, the company says. The Chinese use that mixture as a base in rice and noodle dishes as well.

    "Our research shows that Chinese consumers add MSG to food to lift the flavor, but they know it's not good for them and they're looking for an alternative," Mr. McWilliams says, adding that Campbell's soups won't contain any added MSG.

    Campbell gave women in Shanghai recipes and samples of broths it plans to sell under its Swanson brand. One woman told Mr. McWilliams she didn't use any of the recipes but suggested using the broth as a replacement for water and oil in a stir-fry.

    The company has reformulated the broth to have a stronger chicken flavor, which its research shows is preferred by the Chinese. A second broth to be sold there will be an even more flavorful, cloudier version containing chicken, pork and ham stock.

    Campbell plans to set up booths in grocery stores in China for demonstrations of how to use broth to make soup and vegetable dishes. Because cellphones are so popular in China, Campbell will send text messages reminding people to pick up some Swanson broth. In both countries, products will be carried in the biggest supermarkets first and then, as brand awareness grows, in smaller mom-and-pop shops.

    In Russia, Campbell researchers learned that "Russians consider themselves the foremost experts on soup in the world, and they have words they only use for soup, which tells you how ingrained it is in the culture," Mr. McWilliams says.

    Among those words is navaristy, which refers to a thick, heavy soup like the ones Campbell plans to sell in Russia: a beef broth with pieces of meat, onions and potatoes; a chicken broth with chicken, onions and potatoes; and a mushroom soup with large pieces of mushrooms, onions and seasonings.

    The dense soups will have to be diluted with water, and Campbell plans to encourage Russians to use them as a base for soup, adding their own meat, vegetables and herbs.

    Campbell also learned that mothers do the bulk of the soup preparation, with daughters helping out by cutting vegetables. So the company decided to target newlywed women as they take on the role of household soup-maker. Campbell plans to give out coupons and recipes at buildings where couples register their marriage.

July 18, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pie Ejector


No more failure to launch once you add this puppy to your batterie de cuisine.

Years of work out back in the skunk works finally pay off with this singular creation.

From the website:

    Pie Slice Ejector

    Pie Slice Ejector assures perfect "landings" every time!

    Stainless steel utensil is especially good at serving up neat slices of "difficult" pies like cream, custard and meringue varieties.

    Fruit pies and all your other favorites are a snap to serve too, thanks to the unique sliding feature of the handle that gently glides slices onto plates
    without mess or fuss.





I've encountered plenty of difficult people in my life (yo, joe — did you break your mirror?) but this is the first I've heard of "difficult pies."






You say you want a pie with yours?

Don't push me.

July 18, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chimps on a Treadmill — Even better than 'Snakes on a Plane'


Just in yesterday from Shawn Lea, head of my crack research team, the news that chimpanzees — whose DNA you may recall is 99.4% identical to that of humans — enjoy spending time on a treadmill almost as much as my cat Humphrey.

Here's Will Dunham's July 16, 2007 Reuters article.

    Chimps on treadmill offer human evolution insight

    Chimpanzees scampering on a treadmill have provided support for the notion that ancient human ancestors began walking on two legs because it used less energy than quadrupedal knuckle-walking, scientists said.

    Writing on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS], the researchers said people walking on a treadmill used just a quarter of the energy relative to their size compared to chimpanzees knuckle-walking on four legs.

    The scientists equipped five chimpanzees and four people with face masks to track oxygen usage and looked at other measures to assess energy expenditure and biomechanics on a treadmill.

    Bipedalism is a defining characteristic of the human lineage and marked an important divergence from other apes.

    Chimpanzees are the closest genetic cousins to people. They are thought to have a common ancestor with humans dating back anywhere between 4 million and 7 million years, depending on the estimate.

    Some scientists for decades have advanced the hypothesis that millions of years ago, human ancestors began walking upright because it used less energy than quadrupedal walking, gaining advantages in things like food foraging.

    But there has been scant data on this notion, aside from a 1973 study looking at locomotion energy in juvenile chimps.

    "This paper provides strong support for the fact that energy savings played a role in the evolution of bipedalism," one of the scientists, University of Arizona anthropologist David Raichlen, said in a telephone interview.

    The chimpanzees were taught to walk on the treadmill both quadrupedally and bipedally, the scientists said.

    "These guys are smart enough that they would hit the stop button on the treadmill when they were done. If they didn't want to walk on the treadmill, they'd just hit the stop button or they'd jump off," Raichlen said.

    Raichlen, who worked with Michael Sockol of the University of California-Davis and Herman Pontzer of Washington University in St. Louis, said chimpanzees on occasion walk on two legs in the wild, but are not very good at it.

    Overall, the chimpanzees used about the same amount of energy walking on two legs compared to four legs, but the researchers saw differences among the individual animals in how much energy they used based on their gaits and anatomy.

    One, for example, used a longer stride and was more efficient walking on two legs than four, the researchers said.

    They also looked at the fossil record of human ancestors and found anatomical features such as hind legs that might use less energy in locomotion, and pelvic structural changes allowing for more upright walking.


Here is a link to the PNAS article's abtract; the abstract itself follows.

    Chimpanzee locomotor energetics and the origin of human bipedalism

    Bipedal walking is evident in the earliest hominins, but why our unique two-legged gait evolved remains unknown. Here, we analyze walking energetics and biomechanics for adult chimpanzees and humans to investigate the long-standing hypothesis that bipedalism reduced the energy cost of walking compared with our ape-like ancestors. Consistent with previous work on juvenile chimpanzees, we find that bipedal and quadrupedal walking costs are not significantly different in our sample of adult chimpanzees. However, a more detailed analysis reveals significant differences in bipedal and quadrupedal cost in most individuals, which are masked when subjects are examined as a group. Furthermore, human walking is {approx}75% less costly than both quadrupedal and bipedal walking in chimpanzees. Variation in cost between bipedal and quadrupedal walking, as well as between chimpanzees and humans, is well explained by biomechanical differences in anatomy and gait, with the decreased cost of human walking attributable to our more extended hip and a longer hindlimb. Analyses of these features in early fossil hominins, coupled with analyses of bipedal walking in chimpanzees, indicate that bipedalism in early, ape-like hominins could indeed have been less costly than quadrupedal knucklewalking.



July 18, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Smoker's Bib


Yeah, yeah, you know it's bad for you but you just can't quit.

Okay then, here's a useful addition to your armamentarium.

From the website:

    Smoker's Bib

    Stop fumbled lit cigarettes and dropped lit ashes from burning holes in clothing.

    Flame-retardant apron stretches across a chair's armrests to prevent hot cigarette ends from falling onto clothing or between you and the chair.

    Lightweight, machine-washable fabric meets NFPA 701 flame-retardant requirements.

    30" x 34".


$39.98 (cigarettes not included — roll your own.).

July 18, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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