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November 9, 2007

I just saw a preppy named Maria


In fact, I'm watching her now (Versus Channel, DirecTV 603), wearing the very same outfit pictured above, in the Sony Ericsson Championships in Madrid v Ana Ivanovic.

Burgundy polo buttoned all the way up — including the top button — paired with a pink skirt.

It struck me that this outfit is 180° opposite her usual meticulously planned, blinged-out tournament wardrobes, such as the Swarovski crystal-laden red dress (below)


she sported in this year's U.S. Open.

Perhaps the criticism she's been receiving for her attention to her outfits has resulted in an fashion attitude adjustment.

Refreshing, in any event.

November 9, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

KnifeSafe Finger/Blade Protector


From the website:


    Prevent accidental injury and keep knife edges sharp with these easy to use KnifeSafe covers.

    Hinged clamshell design snaps over the blade securely, holding the knife in place for safe storage and transporting.

    Dishwasher safe.


Four sizes: 4.5", 6", 8" or 10" long.

, depending on size.

November 9, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cody Willard sails too close to the wind

Willard (above), grand panjandrum of CL Willard Capital Management LLC, has been the "Inside Curve" columnist for the Financial Times (FT) for a while now — but not any more.

In his swan song of last Friday, November 2, 2007, he wrote that "I'm out of the business of running other people's money.... But since this column is all about money management insight and since I'm not managing money now, this is my last Inside Curve column."


Just last week I wrote Michael Skapinker at the FT, wondering how it was that I'd just seen Willard on the new daily 5 p.m. show "Happy Hour," which he co-anchors with Rebecca Gomez on the Fox Business Network.

I mean, Rupert Murdoch has stated that not only does he aim to eclipse the New York Times with the Wall Street Journal, but also to bury the Financial Times.

Skapinker responded that fortunately, it wasn't his problem.


Hot potato, that.

But I guess Mrs. Scardino, the empress of Pearson, had the same thought I did.

At any event, Willard is history at the FT.

That's what happens when you get big.

Real big.

As William Burroughs observed, "there are no coincidences."

November 9, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

IKEA 365+ Bread Knife = Knufe Daddy


Jeremy, majordomo and grand panjandrum of softlord.com, pointed me to the IKEA iteration (above) in a comment this morning, writing, "Kinda like IKEA's bread knife, which has been around for several years."

To which I wrote back, "Kinda? How do you spell 'rip-off?'"

IKEA's was designed by D. Crafoord and U. Vejbrink.

From the IKEA website:

    IKEA 365+ Bread Knife

    • Serrated edge for easy cutting of bread and soft vegetables such as tomatoes

    • Materials in the handle provide a firm grip

    • Provides support for your hand and wrist

    • Ergonomic design

    • 10" (25 cm) long


The choice is yours: $50 for a Knufe (below)


v $6.99 for IKEA's.

Stop Press — This just in from Jeremy at 12:27 p.m. today:

"For the record, I have the IKEA version and it's very unwieldy, making it hard to get a grip on bread. Turns out having the knife handle and blade parallel actually helps provide the correct angle and force for slicing."

November 9, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why blinkx is my new favorite video search engine


It does something none of the others — YouTube, Google, Yahoo, all of 'em — do, to wit: After compiling the results and listing them (so far, nothing out of the ordinary), it transforms into a kind of autonomous, personally tailored TV channel and begins playing all the videos in order, from the first on down.

If you don't call a halt it just keeps on churning, putting up one after another.

Very, very interesting approach and to my way of thinking it trumps all the others.

Joia Shillingford's Q&A with blinkx founder/CEO Suranga Chandratillake in this past Tuesday's Financial Times Digital Business supplement follows.

    Technophile: ‘I want a hovercar one day’

    Suranga Chandratillake, chief executive and founder of video search engine blinkx, talks about his likes and dislikes.

    What’s in your pocket?

    My wallet and some loose change. I tend to keep my mobile in my hand. It is an old Nokia, a 6682, and works well internationally. It also has the one feature I cannot do without – a camera. Photos help me catalogue my time from fun stuff to mundane things.

    First crush?

    The BBC Micro [computer] that my dad bought me when I was eight. I was so looking forward to playing computer games on it. But he wouldn’t buy me any until I’d learned how to write programs. It started me off on the technology track and I’ve basically never stopped.

    True Love?

    My wife. I got married in July and, emotionally, it’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me.

    Latest squeeze?

    I travel a lot and am not much of a music listener. But I do love to read. So I’ve just bought a Sony book reader – a kind of iPod for books. It’s the size of one paperback and can carry about 90. I haven’t tried it yet, so I hope it works!

    What makes you mad?

    My previous laptop was infuriating. Whenever its battery was about to run out, it made a very loud noise. That must be one of the most power-draining things a computer can do. I also get fed up having to pack three or four power adaptors every time I travel because I need different ones for different countries: the US, the UK, the continent and so on. Life should be simpler.

    What’s your biggest technical disaster?

    When launching blinkx.com, I agreed to let someone blog about it beforehand. Mostly because I thought he would not have many readers. But when I got back to the office, all our servers had crashed due to the level of traffic on the site. I had to send all the non-technical staff out to buy any PC they could find. And the technical staff stayed till 2am connecting them. We ended up with a strange-looking collection of machines – from laptops to bright-green children’s PCs.

    What would you most love to see?

    A world where there’s no restriction on the movement of people. I was born in Sri Lanka, spent a lot of time travelling with my family, then moved to England and became British. Now I live and work in the US. In a life like that, you see lots of people who can’t do what they want and be with the people they love. And today there are people in other places that I would like to hire and can’t.

    If money was no object?

    I’d like to save the polar bears. A first step might be to collect and ship them down to Antarctica while we figure out how to preserve the diminishing Arctic. It’s just astounding to me that these incredible animals are facing possible extinction in the next few decades.

    Favoured communication method?

    E-mail and instant messaging. I probably receive 500-600 e-mails a day and send about 200. I couldn’t do that any other way. Phone calls have that “hello” and “goodbye” part, which takes time.

    Worst mobile working experience?

    Arriving at a conference in France with a 15-minute presentation to give and only five minutes of power left on my laptop. I had a mains lead, but no socket-adaptor to enable a US plug to fit into a French socket. Nor did the venue have one. Being France, not making a US-to-French adaptor available was practically a political statement. In the end, I ad-libbed for about eight minutes, then went through the slides very fast.

    Website favourites?

    I tend to read all my US and UK news online, including the Financial Times, The Guardian and The Times. I also log on to our Nowthen.com site. Because my friends use it, I can catch up with where they are, and it’s more emotional and visual than e-mail. So far I’ve resisted Facebook. I’ve seen others become junkies and how it’s taken over their lives. I’m hoping everyone will have moved on in a year’s time.

    How wrong have you been?

    I thought e-mail on mobile phones would never take off. I tried one of the first with e-mail and it was really difficult to use. When the BlackBerry came along, I gave it a miss. I realised how wrong I was when I got one two years ago.

    Company to watch (not yours)?

    Zopa.com, an online community bank. It’s a kind of eBay for money that connects borrowers and lenders directly. If you want to borrow money for a project, you apply. Or if you have money to lend, you can pledge it. I grew up in Manchester where people often got together to help each other. I’ve lent a bit of money through it. So far, so good. No one’s defaulted.

    Left field technology?

    We have hovercraft that skim over the sea, but I want a “hovercar”. I look forward to the day I can hover over the traffic. I think we’ll see them in the next 50 years. Then we’ll get the very interesting problem of three-dimensional traffic jams.

November 9, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's first powered dustpan — Bag that Roomba


From the website:


    Removing the line your broom leaves behind, this powerhouse dustpan's built-in vacuum sucks dirt in as you sweep larger debris onboard.

    Generous plastic pan features easy-empty dirt trap.

    Uses three AA batteries (not included)

    17.5" long x 10" wide.


Out back in the skunk works they're already hard at work on Version 2.0.

Word on the PowerPan fanboy grapevine is that it will feature lights.


Note added Saturday morning, November 10, 2007: Amazon sells it for $14.99.

November 9, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

M. C. Escher's favorite building


That's it above.

Alas, Escher is no longer with us and the building doesn't yet exist.

Below, how it appeared last week.


Mei Fong, in a November 7, 2007 Wall Street Journal story about the China Central Television (CCTV) Tower presently rising in Beijing in time for the 2008 Olympics, examined the history and current state of the unique structure.

FunFact: It will be the second largest office building in the world (after the Pentagon)

FunFact #2: An estimated 10,000 new structures are currently rising in Beijing


Here's the article.

    CCTV Tower Mirrors Beijing's Rising Ambitions

    Five years ago, Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren unveiled their radical design for the new China Central Television Tower here to a disbelieving public. Even their client wasn't sure it could be built, they say.

    Formed like a misshapen square doughnut, the building is full of technical challenges, with two towers leaning inward at sharp inclines that will be joined to form one continuous loop.

    There were no building codes for this convoluted sort of structure, which Messrs. Koolhaas and Scheeren conceived as a challenge to the notion that all skyscrapers should point skyward. (Complicating matters: Beijing lies in an earthquake zone.)

    Now, the moment is fast approaching for a crucial part of the tower's construction. In a matter of weeks, workers will construct the floors that will join the two leaning towers, producing the building's unusual shape.

    The technical details are like something from a science-fiction novel: The joining must be performed at dawn. That's because heat from the sun expands steel in different portions of the tower over the course of the day, and such distortions must be avoided at all costs. "If one tower is distorted, it would be locked into the system and tax the whole system," says Mr. Scheeren, grasping a scale model of the CCTV Tower in his hands as if it were a giant Rubik's cube ready to be solved.

    The CCTV Tower is probably the most ambitious of an estimated 10,000 new structures being built in Beijing, a symbol of why China's capital is developing a reputation as the "Wild East" in architectural circles. Mr. Scheeren, for example, says it would be unlikely that this structure could be built anywhere else in the world because the design would not be permitted by building codes elsewhere. In China, there was an openness to making things happen that "created an extraordinary context for architecture," says Mr. Scheeren.

    With the 2008 Olympics in mind, China's authorities have been trying to transform Beijing, an ancient city crafted by rulers such as Kublai Khan, into a modern metropolis. They're doing this through a collection of buildings that make statements, including an Olympic stadium shaped like a bird's nest, an egg-shaped National Theater and the bubble-wrapped Watercube, where Olympic swimming events will be held.

    But the $800 million CCTV Tower looms large in the public imagination. Both massive and controversial, it is likely to become a symbol of China's recent accomplishments. The building will be the second largest office building in the world, after the Pentagon, and a visible emblem of China's state-controlled media, China Central Television, the country's only nationwide broadcaster.

    The imminent joining essentially borrows from bridge-building technology, except that if the section were a bridge, it would be an exceptionally large and cumbersome one. It is a full 11 stories high at some points, and it includes a cantilevered overhang — scheduled to be completed in February — that will jut out almost 250 feet into nothingness.

    Five years ago, it would have been impossible to engineer the tower because high-speed computational systems — particularly for seismic analyses — weren't as sophisticated, says Andrew Chan, group deputy chairman of Arup Group Ltd., a global design and business consulting firm. "We had to write the rulebook," he says.

    Rocco Yim, one of the judges at the design competition that eventually picked the square tower, says he initially had great reservations about the "extremely irrational design." But he came to see it as representing "a certain spirit that is just what the new China is all about," says the Hong Kong-based architect. "Irreverent, a can-do spirit, fearless and extremely confident."

    To help make the CCTV Tower a reality, Mr. Scheeren took the unusual step of moving to China in 2004 to supervise things, a role usually performed by local engineers and architects after the design stage. But it was an important step for Mr. Scheeren, 36 years old, who wasn't yet a household name like his mentor Mr. Koolhaas, winner of the Pritzker Prize, the highest honor in architectural circles. The Prada-clad Mr. Scheeren is best-known for designing several award-winning stores for the Italian fashion brand and has never worked on a product of CCTV's magnitude before.

    Beijing's building codes had no provision for a building of this shape, so municipal authorities formed a special panel of 13 structural engineers especially for the CCTV Tower. The building was approved in 2004, two years after the design competition.

    For much of 2004, the team studied a three-story-high replica of the CCTV Tower that they had placed on a "shake table," which is a hydraulic platform that simulates earthquake tremors. The platform was equipped with several hundred sensors to help builders monitor the movements of the more than 10,000 steel beams in the tower and see which parts of the building would undergo the most stress under different conditions.

    As a result, the outer surface of CCTV Tower will be wrapped in a steel mesh resembling a diamond-like net, with the main structure of the building outside, instead of inside. Pressures can "literally travel around the system and find the best load path into the ground," says Mr. Scheeren. Parts of the mesh, including the areas where the building has the most stress, such as the corners, are visibly denser, and they have been incorporated into the building's design.

    In addition, the building is covered with glass coated with a pattern made of gray, baked-on enamel, providing more effective shade from the sun. This "merges very well with the air quality of Beijing," remarks Mr. Scheeren. In fact, on days of high pollution in the capital, the glass will appear to dissolve in the sky, leaving only the net of the structure visible, as though lightning had frozen in the sky.

    Critics argue that it's impossible to separate the building's form from its function housing one of the biggest propaganda units in the world. CCTV is both the biggest media company in the country and the official voice of the Communist Party. It will also be the sole Chinese broadcaster during next year's Olympics, and as a result, the image of the CCTV Tower will be beamed to millions of homes.

    Last year architecture critic Inga Saffron wrote that Messrs. Koolhaas and Scheeren may be remembered "as the ones who gave China's TV monopoly the architectural equivalent of the bomb." Ms. Saffron, a fan of Mr. Koolhaas's work, said in a phone interview that "the message from the design is very scary," referring to the cantilevered portion of CCTV Tower that hangs thousands of feet above the ground. Coupled with the gargantuan size of the overall site — about the size of 37 football fields — the CCTV Tower will "always remind you of how small you are, and how big the state," Ms. Saffron said.

    CCTV Tower's builders say it is designed to withstand major earthquakes without collapsing. Northern China's biggest earthquake in recent years happened in Tangshan city, more than 90 miles from Beijing. The 1976 earthquake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and killed more than 200,000 people.

    To make space for the main square tower and an adjoining boot-shaped tower, hundreds of Beijing residents in the area were forcibly evicted and, they say, offered inadequate compensation.

    Retired teacher Qiu Guizhi, 57, was distraught when she returned home from a trip to find herself evicted. She was so desperate and angry, she says, that she climbed up to the roof of the building and tried to jump. She was stopped by the police and held in detention for 10 days. She says she still hasn't received a penny of her promised $40,000 in compensation.

    Mr. Scheeren has been kept busy defending his creation. A few months ago, he spoke as part of a panel organized by the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts on the topic of architects who design for autocratic regimes. "Historically architects have built for those in power," he said. "How else are great buildings made? Or paid for?" Later, in an email, Mr. Scheeren clarified his statements, saying, "Historically, much of large-scale architecture has been produced for governments or powerful organizations. And this dependency/conflict will remain a complex issue for architecture generally."

    He has also said that his architecture firm received many indications, including explicit statements, that CCTV was interested in becoming more liberal and independent and was seeking a building that would facilitate these changes.

    The design of the building creates more openness, he argues. For example, the highest floors in the overhang won't be reserved for CCTV's top management and instead will include public spaces such as a canteen. (The building will have three major canteens that can feed 4,000 people at a time.) There will also be a public viewing deck with glass floors so that visitors can see the vertigo-inducing overhang, as well as corridors where they can peer into offices and television studios.

    The building's loop "expresses a unity of a production process, of what a media company can be. It isn't promoting isolationism but connectivity," Mr. Scheeren says.

November 9, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

My Other Half — by Jim Rokos


"A pair of wine glasses, which allows the liquid to flow freely through a tube joining them."



November 9, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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