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November 28, 2007



By Australian author Greg Egan, this 1992 hard sci-fi novel is set in 2067.

I found it compelling because of its thoughtful treatment of what might happen if quantum physical logic applied to everyday life.

A difficult book for many, I suspect, because of its unavoidably confusing explanations of quantum logic and the Alice in Wonderland world thus created.

From the novel:

"The lack of a positive result rules out nothing; computerized information is as evanescent as the quantum vacuum, with virtual truths and falsehoods endlessly popping in and out of existence. Deceptions of any magnitude are possible, on a short enough time scale; laws only apply to data that sits still long enough to be caught out."

"I have no doubt that the real strength of neurotechnology lies not in the creation of exotic new mental states, but in the conscious, deliberate restriction of possibilities, in focusing, and empowering, the act of choice."

I am reminded of a comment of Ingmar Bergman, hardly a quantum thinker in the conventional sense: "Explanations are simply clumsy rationalizations with hindsight."

And, of course, Richard Feynman, who said, "Nobody understands quantum mechanics."

November 28, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here


this time tomorrow.

November 28, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Q. The Eames chair, the Aeron chair and the Barcelona chair: what do they have in common?


A. They all cost a fortune and are uncomfortable as heck to sit on.

I remain perplexed by people who buy chairs by reputation instead of comfort.


My Gymnic exercise ball [top] has been my working desk chair of choice since the early 90s and I have yet to meet its match.

Amazingly enough, it still costs only $26.95.

Using one of these balls for sitting is a whole different ballgame — as it were.

They require "active sitting" — that is, constant, unconscious movements of the back, torso, and legs to stay comfortably atop them; this is the best possible remedy for back pain and disc problems, as well as being an excellent prophylactic device against same.

In addition, venous stasis can't happen, since you are always moving just a trifle.

And, it's tremendous fun to bounce up and down while you work.

People will think you're nuts, fair enough — I know several attorneys who've tried and loved my chair but haven't put one in their offices because of its visual frivolity.

Too bad for them.

These balls were originally developed and perfected in Switzerland, then used for decades in physical therapy all over Europe before making their way to the U.S. about 20 years ago. Even so, they're still mostly an underground phenomenon here.

Bonus — I took my second chair out of my office and substituted a second ball-chair: instantly, the number of people stopping by to shmooze and hang out and waste some time dwindled to nearly zero.

Take it from this board-certified anesthesiologist: this is the way to go.

Helpful sizing hint: most adults will find the 65 cm size ideal.

It comes in bright royal blue: who could resist?

Once you try it, you'll understand why resistance is indeed futile.

Bonus: The ball comes with the lifetime ferrous-clad bookofjoe guarantee.

If for any reason you're not happy with yours, simply let me know and I'll cheerfully refund every penny you paid for it.

Wait a minute....

There may be a reason why this Internet stuff isn't working out very well financially for me.

November 28, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The next Ugg boot?


I happened on this bag in a garden tools catalog and the longer I looked at it the more I wondered how it would work as an airline carry-on.

It's not sleek, but rather clunky looking; it's not expensive; it looks quite functional and well-made; and would seem ideal for all the odds and ends you take with you on board a plane these days.

Only one way to find out, what?

One more thing — unlike your carry-on, this one's washable.

From the website:

    Garden Tote Bag

    This garden tote bag is perfect for carrying all those small tools, seed packets, gloves, and other items that are often needed with every trip to the garden.

    Made of a tough, weatherproof material and nylon mesh that create a lightweight, strong, water-resistant and washable product.

    It has 12 exterior pockets and a large interior.

    The two end pockets and the top of the bag are held closed with Velcro fasteners, providing secure travel for smaller, easily lost items.

    An elasticized cord runs across the top of four side pockets, giving support to longer tools.

    Measures 10"W x 13"L x 9"H.

    Ideal for preventing numerous trips back to the house for forgotten items.

    Also good for camera gear, art supplies, etc.

    Makes a nice gift.


You want water bottle pockets?

You got 'em.


November 28, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Cause and Effect' — by Do Ho Suh


This enormous theatrical installation in the
shape of a twirling tornado is made from
thousands of plastic interlocking figurines


stacked on top of one another and
densely hung from the ceiling of the
Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York City
through December 22, 2007.

[via Benjamin Genocchio and the New York Times]

November 28, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

LasaComb Laser Hairbrush — Precipitous price break!


The HairMax LaserComb costs $545.

You could look it up.

You know our philosophy here: "What, me worry?"

No, not that one, idiotstick.

"Why pay more?"

Yeah, that's the ticket.


My crack research team has discovered a far cheaper laser hair technology for those who prefer the low [er priced road] but still want to pursue their 21st century follicle fantasy.

From the website:

    LasaComb Laser Hairbrush — Stimulates Fuller, Healthier Hair Growth!

    At-home hair treatment uses low level laser technology to improve the appearance of dull, lifeless or thinning hair.

    Safe, simple and far less costly than salon treatments or hair clinics!

    Thicker, shinier results may be noticed in as little as 12 weeks!

    Use 3 times a week for 10 to 15 minutes per use.

    Uses 2 AA batteries (not included).




That's less than 10% of the price of the Hairmax LaserComb.

Why pay more?

Besides which, the cheaper one has a much better name.

November 28, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Life as Lego: The modularity of living things


Natalie Angier's March 6, 2007 New York Times essay on the subject will be as meaningful in 20 years as it was eight months ago.


Worth a look.

    A Toast to Evolvability and Its Promise of Surprise

    Late last month, the day after my birthday, I was feeling punch drunk on my favorite glogg of sullenness, self-pity and panic. My life was passing by at relativistic speed, not one of my rotten siblings had called to wish me a happy birthday, my husband hadn’t bothered to arrange so much as a waiter-serenaded slice of cake at the restaurant the night before, and did he really think that his gift to me of an “amazing squirrel-proof bird feeder” would excite anybody but the squirrels?

    My post-birthday gloom was so rich, so satisfyingly glutinous, that I forgot to be suspicious, and when we headed over to a neighbor’s house later that evening, I opened the door like a cartoon buffoon onto a huge throng of friends and relations, gathered from across the nation and athwart my entire curriculum vitae, bellowing out in fractured synchrony that magic word “Surprise!” I gasped. I squealed. I felt like I’d died and gone to a TV game show. I’d gotten the surprise party of my admittedly oft-expressed fantasies, and I was thrilled, moved and profoundly grateful. Yet as I stumbled in a stupor from one friend who’d spent hundreds of dollars on airfare just to be there to the next, I couldn’t help wondering why I’d wanted such a shock to my system in the first place.

    I’m not much of a thrill seeker or adventurer. I like libraries, museums and speed bumps. I am, nevertheless, a multicellular organism of reasonably complex structure, and we complex bioforms can’t help but appreciate novelty. We are the fruits of it. If not for evolutionary novelty — that is, the periodic and often radical overhauling of an existing cell type, body plan, limb shape or brain design into something new and useful, or at least entertaining — we might still be so many daubs of blue-green algae decorating an Australian rock. And while I mean no offense to algae and recognize that my ancestors looked very much like them, an algal colony has yet to throw me a surprise party or make a passable stab at saying “G’day.”

    A tip of the paper-cone hat, then, to biological novelty. Under its tutelage, early groups of cells made the leap from the sleepy expulsion of oxygen as waste to the aerobic consumption of oxygen to grow at a hastier pace; and groups of single cells learned to pool their talents into multicellular collectives of specialized body compartments that could then go out and hunt other multicellular collectives; and fishy fins became amphibious feet and crept onto the beach, and some land-weary feet changed their mind and flippered back to the sea, while still other limb bones lengthened and found skin flaps for flying, and, hey, this airborne business is pretty handy, let’s rearticulate the forelimbs of three separate lineages and take wing as a pterodactyl, a bird, a bat.

    As scientists see it, these and others of nature’s fancy feats forward are clearly the result of large-scale evolutionary forces, but the precise mechanisms behind any given innovation remain piquantly opaque. For some researchers, the conventional gradualist narrative, in which organisms evolve over time through the steady accretion of many mincing genetic mutations, feels unsatisfying when it comes to understanding true biological novelty.

    “The standard Darwinian view always sounds like a better theory for making improvements than for making inventions,” said Dr. Marc W. Kirschner, a professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School. If incremental, additive genetic changes were responsible for all the boggling biodiversity we see around us, he said, how can it be that humans have hardly more genes than a microscopic nematode, and that many of those genes are nearly identical in roundworms and humans besides?

    In their recently published book, “The Plausibility of Life,” Dr. Kirschner and Dr. John C. Gerhart of the University of California, Berkeley, offer a fresh look at the origins of novelty. They argue that many of the basic components and systems of the body possess the quality of what they call “evolvability” — that is, the components can be altered without wreaking havoc on the parts and systems that connect to them, and can even produce a reasonably functional organ or body part in their modified configuration. For example, if a genetic mutation ends up lengthening a limb bone, said Dr. Kirschner, the other parts that attach to and interact with that bone needn’t also be genetically altered in order to yield a perfectly serviceable limb. The nerves, muscles, blood vessels, ligaments and skin are all inherently plastic and adaptable enough to stretch and accommodate the longer bone during embryogenesis and thus, as a team, develop into a notably, even globally, transformed limb with just a single mutation at its base. And if, with that lengthened leg, the lucky recipient gets a jump on its competitors, well, g’day to you, baby kangaroo.

    Dr. Kirschner also observes that cells and bodies are extremely modular, and parts can be moved around with ease. A relatively simple molecular switch that in one setting allows a cell to respond to sugar can, in a different context, help guide the maturation of a nerve cell. In each case, the activation of the switch initiates a tumbling cascade of complex events with a very distinctive outcome, yet the switch itself is just your basic on-off protein device. By all appearances, evolution has flipped and shuffled and retrofitted and duct-taped together a comparatively small set of starter parts to build a dazzling variety of botanic and bestial bodies.

    The combined modularity and bounciness of body parts suggest that life is spring-loaded for change, for outrageous commixtures, the wildest fusion cuisine. And who knows whether our organismic suppleness, our deep evolvability, isn’t related to our mental thirst for the new, and our hope that behind the door lies the best surprise yet?

November 28, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Magnetic Recipe Divider/Multiplier


Because sometimes you just don't feel like doing the math.

From websites:

    Magnetic Recipe Divider/Multiplier

    Easily divide in half or thirds, or multiply recipe measurements.

    Slide the tab to rotate measurement conversions.

    Attach to your refrigerator for easy access.

    Super-strong stainless steel magnet.

    4.5" diameter.




November 28, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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