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October 5, 2007

'Fracture' — On my 2007 top ten movie list


From its very first frames — an absorbing close-up of a fiendishly complicated mechanism of rails and spheres created by Anthony Hopkins in pursuit of his hobby — this thriller held my attention, all the way to its surprising and satisfying conclusion.

Beautifully photographed and lit, with no lulls or pauses to let you catch your breath and think about what just happened, the story drives forward, with wonderful performances not only by Hopkins (pretty much what you expect from him) but also Ryan Gosling as his youthful legal adversary, Embeth Davidtz as Hopkins' unfaithful wife, and Rosamund Pike (sounding as if she'd been born and bred in the USA instead of being as she in fact is a British graduate of Oxford University) as a driven, blood-on-the-lips junior corporate lawyer and Gosling's boss and lover.

Why this great movie only played for a week or two in theaters before being consigned to DVD purgatory isn't a mystery — it's just the way things work nowadays.

Ain't 2007 great?

'Cause unlike the old days, now you can still see the movie, in fact enjoying it even more (what with the perfect clarity of DVDs and the absence of the myriad negative externalities accompanying today's moviegoing experience) than when you see it on the big screen.

As is the case more and more often these days, the DVD offers, along with the film as shown in theaters, not one but two alternate endings.

I'm confounded about why this sort of thing is of interest to enough people to merit inclusion.

Me, I pay to watch a movie or read a book because I want to experience the director or author's point of view: why would I want to choose an ending or series of events?

If that were the case I'd write my own book.

October 5, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Come In/Go Away — 'The doormat that tells you where to go'


From websites:

    Come In/Go Away Doormat

    This mind boggling doormat reads differently depending whether you are walking in or out of the house.

    It's got to be seen to be believed but from one side this really does read "Come In" and from the other "Go Away".

    And when you have finished marvelling at this remarkable feat of graphic design you can wipe the mud from your boots too!!

    All natural materials.

    26" x 16".




October 5, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Disgusting fact: A six-year-old pillow can get 10% to 25% of its weight from dust mites, dead mites and mite excrement.


Mite be true.

October 5, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Stovetop Roaster


From the website:

    Stovetop Roaster

    Fire-roasting chilies and bell peppers brings out their smoky-sweet flavor, but it can be a tricky business to hold a pepper over a flame with a fork.

    This handy stainless-steel roaster offers a safer option.

    Fitted with two loop handles, the round, bottomless pan fits over a gas burner, allowing peppers to roast and char to perfection without burning.

    It’s also good for warming breads and tortillas and for roasting eggplants.

    Intended for use on gas burners only.

    Dishwasher safe.

    9-1/2" diam.




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

BehindTheMedspeak: Have M.D. Will Travel


An August 7, 2007 Wall Street Journal story by Joseph De Avila about the rise of personal travel nurses — sometimes at a cost of over $1,000 a day — got me to thinking: What could I charge per day to accompany an aging mogul in precarious health on his peregrinations around the globe in his private jet?

You say that they already have a personal physician accompanying them everywhere, so what would they want with me?

Well, for starters: I've been called to a hundred times more cardiac arrests and codes in real life than those guys have seen on TV.

And did I mention that my specialty is airway management, with emphasis on crisis situations?

A cardiologist at the scene of a respiratory arrest is about as useful as an IV pole.

Whad'ya think: $10,000 a day seem reasonable?

Sounds about right to me.

Here's the newspaper article.

    Have Nurse, Will Travel

    Rigomar and Joyce Thurmer faced a huge problem when they arrived in San Francisco for their Christmas vacation last year. There was a blackout at their hotel.

    Mr. Thurmer suffers from emphysema and congestive heart failure and breathes with the help of an oxygen tank that runs on electricity. But the Thurmers came prepared: They had hired a nurse to accompany them on their vacation. Andrew Fallon, a licensed practical nurse who often travels with the Thurmers, helped to get the couple new hotel accommodations and had an oxygen tank delivered to their new hotel.

    "He steps in when something goes wrong," Mr. Thurmer, a 77-year-old retired architect from Boulder, Colo., says. "I wish we didn't have to have him, but we wouldn't be able to travel without him."

    The Thurmers are among the growing numbers of elderly or chronically ill travelers who are hiring skilled nurses to come along on vacations to administer medications, monitor care and generally help them get around.

    For years, people with special needs have hired non-medical caregivers to travel with them — or they have simply stayed home. But increasingly, as the population ages and more people are living with chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, patients are seeking specialized care when they travel. Unwilling to give up the active lifestyle that many retirees today enjoy, older trekkers are also taking advantage of advances in medical technology — from portable dialysis equipment to airplane-friendly oxygen tanks — to keep them on the go even after they become frail.

    There are no statistics tracking the number of travelers who vacation with nurses, but health-care experts say the demand is increasing. Nursing agencies, home-care specialists and nursing schools say more travelers are seeking nurses who will pack up and come along. And a number of companies have sprung up to provide skilled caregivers for travel — including Trip Nurse in Boulder, Colo., and Executive Care Service in Orlando, Fla. One firm, Accessible Journey in Ridley Park, Pa., offers organized tours for frail or disabled travelers, with nursing care available.

    At Partners in Care, the private-care unit of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, President Marki Flannery says more patients are asking for nurses to accompany them during leisure travel. And "we are customizing our services" to match up patients with medical personnel willing to travel, says Ms. Flannery, who oversees a network of 200 nurses and 5,800 home health aides.

    Hiring a travel nurse can be costly, sometimes running more than $1,000 a day, plus travel expenses for the nurse. The costs typically aren't covered by insurance. Employers also must carefully check a nurse's credentials to make sure he or she has the necessary skills. And people traveling abroad should be aware that the services nurses can legally provide will vary from country to country, Ms. Flannery says.

    Private-duty nursing agencies make criminal background checks and conduct drug tests. And many allow customers to interview nurses before hiring them to ensure that they will mesh well with the patient and family. Otherwise, having an extra person around on a family holiday can be uncomfortable.

    In the past, some vacationers with disabilities hired medical transport services to assist them with air travel, such as moving through airport security and getting on and off the plane. But now, "it has absolutely broadened," says Elinor Ginzler, who oversees projects on mobility and housing for AARP in Washington, D.C. Now nurses are not only helping travelers on plane trips; they also are staying in hotels or cruise ships with them — often in the same room.

    The practice often appeals to the so-called "sandwich generation" of people in midlife who have to care for their elderly parents, as well as their own children. Hiring a nurse for a frail parent allows them to continue to vacation as a family.

    In May, Candice Miller, a 59-year-old retiree from Longmont, Colo., traveled with her father to Alaska for 11 days to celebrate his 83rd birthday. Ms. Miller hired a registered nurse from Trip Nurse to care for her father, who has Parkinson's disease. The nurse helped dress him, administered his medications, and assisted him with his feeding tube. "I wouldn't have even considered it doing it myself," Ms. Miller says. "It would not have been a vacation otherwise."

    Trip Nurse — which charges $300 to $1,000 a day, depending on the time and care needed by the patient — was co-founded a year ago by Mr. Fallon, the nurse who travels with the Thurmers. He had met the Thurmers via word-of-mouth, but realized that there was a larger market for such services. The company has served only a handful of patients so far, but Mr. Fallon says demand is rising. The ability to travel and visit family is "very appealing to someone stuck in a sedentary lifestyle," says Mr. Fallon.

    Some patients hire a nurse just for transport. Last fall, Ruby Valme, a registered nurse and field supervisor for Partners in Care with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, picked up a patient from a New York area hospital and flew with him on his private jet to the patient's home in the Midwest. Ms. Valme coordinated with the hospital, handled the patient's medical equipment on the plane and handed off the patient to his home caregivers.

    On the plane, Ms. Valme monitored the patient's oxygen flow, administered his medication, and helped him get on and off the plane. In addition to Ms. Valme's fees, which range from $60 to $80 an hour for plane transportation, the patient also paid for Ms. Valme's hotel room for one night and a return flight home on a commercial airline.

    Ms. Valme says some nurses are interested in this type of service because they enjoy traveling. "You are taking care of someone and at the same time it is fun and interesting," Ms. Valme says.

    There are also options for those who cannot afford to pay for the plane ticket, hotel room and the fees that come with hiring a nurse. Elizabeth Clemmer, a 67-year-old retiree from Chevy Chase, Md., often seeks to hire a certified nursing assistant in the city she is visiting when she vacations with her husband, Dan Clemmer. Mr. Clemmer, 68, has multiple systems atrophy, a condition similar to Parkinson's disease.

    Last year they took a weeklong trip to Rehoboth Beach, Del., and Ms. Clemmer used Eldercare Locator, a free online service from the U.S. Administration on Aging, to help find a nursing-assistant agency. She punched in the ZIP Code of the area she was visiting and the services she was looking for, and the Web site gave her the phone number of a local social-service agency that helped her find nursing-assistant agencies in the area.

    She found an agency that suited her price range and her husband's needs, costing about $15 an hour for the care. Ms. Clemmer says she prefers to work with an agency because she can always request a different nursing assistant if one doesn't click with her husband.

    Sometimes it can be awkward for the family and the nursing assistants on a vacation, says Ms. Clemmer. For example, dinnertime can make for some uncomfortable moments. "The addition of a new person at a table changes the dynamics," Ms. Clemmer says. She adds that most of their nursing assistants bring their own food. But when dinnertime rolls around, and the nursing assistant is sitting alone, Ms. Clemmer says she can't help but feel for them. "It does feel that you are not inviting someone to the party," she says.


Not to worry: I'll bring my own dinner.

October 5, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Litter Lifter — With a name like that, it has to be good


Vince Houmes reviewed it as follows in Cool Tools, edited by Steven Leckart.

Litter Lifter — Time-saving cat box scoop

I've been using this cleverly-designed scoop for more than four months and found it really cuts down on the amount of effort and time I have to put into one of my least favorite parts of the day. The tines are long (7 inches) and the slots are wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, so the clean litter passes through quickly and any lumps stay in the scoop.


I don't have to make as many passes through the box (three quick passes does the job), and I don't have to shake the scoop to strain out the clean litter. Their web site looks awful, but the scoop is terrific. I will never switch back to those smaller, nasty old scoops I used to use.



October 5, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just so stories: Who is Julann Griffin? She invented 'Jeopardy'


In an August 16, 2007 story in The Hook, Lindsay Barnes wrote about how Julann Griffin, on a plane trip in the early 1960s with her then-husband Merv, came up with the idea for the iconic show.

Here's the article.

    Genesis of Jeopardy! Who is Julann Griffin?

    In covering the death of talk show host and show business mogul Merv Griffin, news outlets the world over credited him with inventing one of the most enduring television shows of all time: "Jeopardy!"

    They were partly right: the idea for 'Jeopardy!" came from a Griffin, but it wasn't Merv.

    As Griffin, who died August 12 of prostate cancer, wrote in his 2003 autobiography, when he needed an original game show idea in 1963, he turned to his wife for an answer and found that she offered him the right question.

    Today a Palmyra resident, Julann Griffin-- she and Merv divorced in 1976-- found inspiration in a scandal that had just rocked the fledgling game show world and later inspired the Ralph Fiennes-John Turturro film, "Quiz Show."

    "We were on a plane from my hometown of Ironwood, Michigan back to New York, and Merv was writing on a pad of paper and said he was trying to come up with a new game show," says Julann.

    A 1959 Congressional investigation had blown the lid off the scandal that had made the public and FCC reluctant to trust another knowledge-based game show: a show called Twenty One was supplying its most telegenic contestants with the correct answers.

    "So I said, 'Just give all the contestants the answers,'" recalls Julann.

    By his own account in "Merv: Making the Good Life Last," Griffin initially thought it was only an "offhand remark," but Julann soon demonstrated she was serious by engaging her husband in a rapid-fire answer-and-question session.

    "I said, 'The answer is 5,280,' and he said, 'How many feet are in a mile?'

    "I said, 'The answer is 52 Wistful Vista,' and he said, 'Where did Fibber McGee and Molly live?'"

    By the time they touched down in the Big Apple, Merv and Julann had enough of a concept to call a meeting of Griffin's creative partners in his office, and "Jeopardy!" was born. After a year of development in which Julann did everything from writing clues to composing the original theme music (but not the famous "thinking music" Merv composed later — earning him an estimated $80 million in royalties!), the program was ready to be pitched to the networks. As Merv had predicted, it was a tough sell, but not for the reasons he thought.

    "NBC flipped for the idea, but they thought the questions were too hard," Julann says. "But then, they were network executives, so of course they would think it was too hard. So we made the questions easier and easier until they said it was ready to air."

    On March 30, 1964, the Griffins made television history when Art Fleming hosted the first episode of "Jeopardy!" Although the marriage ended in 1976, more than 40 years and thousands of episodes (hosted by Alex Trebek since 1984) have secured a place for the game show in American popular culture.

    On the strength of the program, Merv went on to build Merv Griffin Enterprises, a television empire that included his own long-running talk show as well as mega-hits "Wheel of Fortune" and "Dance Fever."

    Julann's career in fun and games went on as well. In the early 1990s, with her sister, Maureen Roberts, she founded Jam Productions, which later merged with filmmaker Temple Fennell's Boxer Films as Boxerjam, an online gaming company sold to Media General in 2003.

    The sum the Daily Progress's parent company paid for the dot-com company was undisclosed, but it's safe to say it did not rival the $250 million the Coca-Cola Company shelled out for Merv Griffin Enterprises in 1986. Julann says she saw nary a cent from that transaction and that she's "a little bit" bothered that many of her ex-husband's obituaries haven't mentioned her role in creating his biggest hit.

    "It's a leftover from the days when women were just in the kitchen and expected not to take the credit," she says, "but I think we're outgrowing that, and I've just had to move on."

    For his part, Los Angeles Times reporter Dennis McLellan says a lack of column inches is the reason he didn't include Julann's "Jeopardy!" role in his summation of Merv's life.

    "You just couldn't get into too much detail, and he developed the idea into the show itself," McLellan explains, "but she was certainly involved in the creation of the thing."

    In spite of the slight, Julann still has warm memories of her former husband.

    "When he would walk through a crowd, he was interested in everybody," she says. "Everyone from kings and queens to scullery maids, he knew how to relate to all of them and loved talking to them. It was a pleasure to be a part of that."

    Never one to rest on her laurels, Julann continues to develop ideas for all manner of games. Still, she says she experiences a certain fondness every time she sees "Jeopardy!"

    "It's like a mother cat with her kitten," she explains. "She takes good care of it and raises it, and then one day swats it and lets it go."

October 5, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Garlic Vodka


That's different.

From trifter.com:

    Garlic Vodka

    This unique garlic-flavored vodka is produced by the Vodochnaya Artel “YAT”, a Russian distillery.

    It is actually part of a new product line of strongly flavored vodkas better known by the company as “bitter nastoykas”.

    The company has also released horseradish-flavored vodka.

    It is said that the drink complements and enhances the flavor of certain dishes and it is also believed to help prevent a cold.

    Perhaps it can also keep the vampires away.


Those who wish to explore the garlic vodka space in more depth will find much to chew on here.

[via my Missouri correspondent]

October 5, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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