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February 2, 2008

Meet the BeaTrips — Japanese tribute band performs 'My Sweet Lord'

Who else but Saul Castellanos could bring us yet one more nation's interpretation of the iconic band?

Saul wrote, "I've heard of a Japanese BEETLE, but not a Japanese BEATLE."

Until now, I suppose he meant.

February 2, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

8-in1 MultiWrench: Toolbox-in-a-Fist


From the website:

    8-in-1 MultiWrench — The Right Wrench, Every Time

    This solid 8-in-1 MultiWrench puts 8 SAE wrenches in your fist, in sizes from 5/16" up to 3/4" — no more fumbling for the right wrench when you’re under the car or head-down in a well pit.

    Its rubber grip cushions your hand and prevents slipping.

    Made of solid chrome vanadium hardened steel, the 8-5/8"L MultiWrench resists rust and will last a lifetime.

    Fits 5/16", 3/8", 9/16", 5/8", 7/16", 1/2", 11/16", 3/4".


February 2, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tiny sparrow blown across Atlantic on winter winds becomes British celebrity


In the Norfolk (U.K.) village of Cley Next The Sea, a white-crowned North American sparrow (top), a rare visitor to Britain's shores, has become a magnet for pilgrimages by twitchers (bird spotters) and a fundraiser for the village's Church of St. Margaret of Antioch.

Long story short: "The bird has made only four appearances in the U.K. in the past century."

Twitcher tourists by the thousands are coming to view the seven-inch sparrow and so far have chipped in over $6,000 in donations to be used to mend the church's 14-century roof.

Here's Pat Ashworth's churchtimes.co.uk story about the avian visitation.

    Helpful visitor is a rare bird

    A rare sparrow’s arrival in Norfolk has given an unexpected financial boost to the parish church in Cley Next The Sea.

    A white-crowned sparrow, normally found in parts of Canada and the United States, landed in the hedge of a retired priest, the Revd Richard Bending, and his wife, at Epiphany. “We felt rather privileged it had chosen our garden,” Mr Bending said on Tuesday.

    He recognised that the bird was a very unusual one, and contacted members of the local bird club. Then it had to be decided how public to make the news.

    “Either you tell nobody or it’s going to be a very big affair, because it’s so rare,” he said. “Fortunately, using bird feeders, we were able to persuade the bird to go regularly to a position on our driveway where the public could see it. It’s a nice thing to share with other people.”

    The bird has made only four appearances in the UK in the past century. Birdwatchers turned up in droves, “not a scrum, but occasionally awkward when 150 people were trying to look at the same time”. Then the press arrived. Mr Bending praises the local bird club for its management of the situation, and the birdwatchers for their courtesy.

    Birdwatchers have a tradition of putting out a bucket for a local cause when they arrive in droves to spot a rare bird. On this occasion, they chose to support the restoration of the local church, St Margaret of Antioch. “They viewed it as putting something back into the life of the village. It’s a virtuous circle and there aren’t too many of those at the moment,” said Mr Bending.

    The bucket has filled up steadily, and the collection now stands at £3800. The Priest-in-Charge of Blakeney and Cley, the Revd Neil Batcock, is delighted, especially as work needs to be done on the church roof this year. St Margaret’s is regarded as a fine example of early-14th-century English decorated architecture — and on a large scale, as there was a port there.

    “The bigger the church, the more there needs doing; so it’s very welcome,” said Mr Batcock.


Wrote Lewis Smith in a January 26, 2008 story in the Times (U.K.) Online, "It is the biggest sum yet collected by bird enthusiasts, for whom it is a tradition to make a collection when they throng at a village to spot a rare bird from abroad."

Below, a photo that accompanied the Times story, captioned


"Twitchers gather to get a look at the rare North American white-crowned sparrow."

Turns out this story is old news in the U.K. — my crack research team woke from its collective stupor long enough to take a dive into the Web and bring back the following January 10, 2008 Times (U.K.) Online article about the rara avis by Will Pavia.

    Crowds flock to see a US celebrity

    It has already attracted hundreds of excited birdwatchers with its unlikely arrival from across the Atlantic.

    Last night there were fears that the white-crowned sparrow that has arrived in the garden hedge of a retired vicar in Norfolk had also attracted the attention of the next-door neighbour’s cat.

    Birdwatchers who hope the sparrow will survive cannot have been encouraged when they learnt that the cat into whose patch the wind-buffeted creature has flown goes by the name of Hooligan.

    It was first spotted last Thursday [January 3, 2008] in the village of Cley-Next-The-Sea by Richard Bending and his wife, Sue, who were scratching around in their walled garden. By Friday — with the help of a birdwatching book from the library — they were puzzling over the fact that it appeared to be a creature that had no business on these shores.

    By Saturday they had identified it formally and made the fact of its presence known to the wider birdwatching community, whose members began to arrive almost immediately [below].


    More than 1,000 of them have now visited the Bendings’ hedge and the garden bird-feeders that the couple have set up for it, adding to a collection for the village church by way of thanks.

    Birds that lose themselves so far of course seldom live long, and the birdwatchers, the vicar, his wife and the villagers of Cley are watching the bird’s every move, hoping that it may yet survive. It is not yet known whether Hooligan has been made aware of the white-crowned sparrow, but ornithologists have highlighted cats as a potential threat.

    Mrs Bending, 59, a retired librarian, said: “We were quite happy to share it with the public. It was just in a position in our garden where it was not possible for people to see without inconveniencing us or frightening the bird. We moved the feeders and didn’t know if it would work, but the bird moved too. It spends a lot of time in the hedge and comes out on to the driveway where people have put down seed.”

    The white-crowned sparrow lives in Canada and the western and southern United States and rarely crosses oceans. Only four have been spotted in Britain in the past century.

    Hopes that this bird may survive in its new environment — and against the wiles of Hooligan — were raised by the sight of it taking up with a group of finches. Perhaps it would find safety in numbers. Meanwhile, at the house next door, Hooligan was unavailable for comment.

February 2, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

World's First Ergonomic Strainer


When I saw the twin fingergrips I nearly swooned.

From the website:

    Universal Can Strainer

    All you need is this stainless steel strainer to keep the contents in the can while you pour off the liquid.

    Unique fingergrip design helps keep strainer from slipping.

    Fits cans up to 4" diameter.

    6-1/8" long x 4-1/8" wide.

    Dishwasher safe.


February 2, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Echoes of Byzantium


About 1,400 years ago, in what is now called the Bird Palace in Caesarea in what is now Israel, the gold and opaque glass mosaic panel pictured above served as a table.

In the intervening centuries, having fallen face down, its green, blue and gold facade was protected from damage.

During excavation of the palace the original floor was exposed, revealing the panel lying face down on one of the larger paved mosaics.

"Detached from the floor in a risky operation, conservationists were then faced with the task of removing centuries of dirt and fire damage from the destruction of the palace in the late Byzantine Era in late 6th or early 7th century A.D.," said Joseph Patrich, professor of archaeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in Rory Kress's January 28, 2008 Associated Press story.

"Yael Gurin-Rosen, head of the Israeli Antiquity Authority's glass department, said that the mosaic panel is the first of its kind to be excavated in Israel, and due to the quality of its preservation, given its age, and its gleaming, gilded craftsmanship indicating Christian origins, it is most likely the only one in the world," wrote Nadav Shragai in a January 28, 2008 story on Haaretz.com.

Unearthed in 2005 and restored, the panel is now on display in Caesarea.

February 2, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Campfire Back Warmer


From the website:

    Campfire Back Warmer

    Have you ever sat in front of a campfire on a cold evening, only to have your front bake while your back froze?

    This ingenious device is the answer to this problem.

    It is a reflective sheet that clips onto almost any chair (especially good with folding chairs) and, curved down behind and partly under the chair, reflects the radiant energy from the fire toward your bottom and back.


    Made of a durable reflective laminate material for long life.

    Great for campers and cottagers.

    Also good in front of wood stoves or heaters in ice fishing huts.

    Measures 22" x 45".




February 2, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Defensive Packing — The 'Drop Test'


World-class art packer and mover Rita Gomez (above) was profiled in a March 28, 2007 New York Times article by Laura Novak.

I was interested to learn that Ms. Gomez "packs defensively" — i.e., she calculates her crates' ability to withstand drops from as high as four feet.

In the OR we do the same thing with our monitors and machines, because we know that sooner or later they're bound to go crashing to the floor.

"Can it pass the drop test?", that's the question.

Here's the Times story.

    Master of the Science of Packing and Crating

    IN the art world, Rita Gomez is a mover, but most certainly not a shaker.

    She wears blue jeans with scuffed work boots and spends her days in a windowless room with all the glamour of a warehouse, yet Ms. Gomez has bragging rights to rival any in the business.

    Among the highly educated scholars who make the Getty Center one of the world’s renowned art institutions, it is Ms. Gomez, with her walkie-talkie and untucked flannel shirt, who has the whole collection in her hands.

    Over the last 20 years, Ms. Gomez has cradled Cleopatra’s perfume bottle and carried van Gogh’s “Irises” so many times she has lost count. She is, in museum terms, the lead preparator for packing and crating.

    “The great thing about this job is that we get to touch everything — Pissarro, Renoir, Degas,” she said. “Yesterday we unpacked another drawing by van Gogh.”

    The sophistication of her work — as much a fine art as a science — is a sign of how essential packers have become to the flow of art around the world.

    “Rita’s crates are famous,” said Mikka Gee Conway, the Getty’s assistant director for museum advancement. “I’ve seen preparers at other museums gather their staff around an empty Rita Gomez crate and use it as a teaching tool.”

    Each year from 2001 to 2005, 3,000 art objects traveled to and from the museum on loan or for restoration or exhibition. It can cost as much as $3,000 to prepare some objects for loan, Ms. Gee Conway said; in one year alone, the overall cost for in-house packing and crating was more than $100,000.

    Ms. Gomez’s goal is to allow the receiver to unpack the art by following a simple set of instructions without having to use a tool.

    “You never get tired of it because it is always a problem and always a challenge,” she said.

    She begins by measuring and weighing the object to be moved, working in the gallery with her assistants, Che Machado and Cary Stehl. Then she carves precise shapes in foam to fit and protect every surface when the object is crated.

    Tales are whispered throughout the industry of art crates coming off conveyor belts in airports going “gadunk, gadunk, gadunk,” Ms. Gomez said, mimicking the sound of breakage.

    Since arms are only human and forklifts can be faulty, she packs defensively. She does complex calculations to determine a crate’s drop height and takes steps to ensure that if a crate is repeatedly dropped, from a height of one foot to four feet, the art remains unharmed.

    “I think when you have a more complicated project, you do wake up thinking about it and you go to bed thinking about it,” she said. “You’re modeling in your head. I’m padding it, cutting it and so on. And then sometimes you make up your mind and just proceed.”

    That can mean moving beyond what Ms. Gomez calls the “goofy calculations” to applying common sense. Her cardinal rules: never touch an object without gloves (except porcelain: leaving a fingerprint is better than dropping the item); always place paintings face down (unless covered with glass) in case a pair of eyeglasses, a pen or a phone drop on it; pack objects upright no matter the size or shape; and consider using newborn-baby booties as buffers on points where foam cannot be molded.

    “Sometimes my analogy is that we’re art nurses or a person in a hospital, like a technician or physical therapist,” she said. “It’s like, how do you move a person without injury, making them comfortable. It’s a lot of that.”

    Ms. Gomez is surrounded every day by some of the art world’s wonders. One day in January she packed two Hogarth paintings in the morning and unpacked several Holbeins after lunch.

    But not everything must be rushed to a gallery. One day, an 18th-century black stone bust by Francis Harwood kept her company, peering out from the foam of its crate. A Constable landscape hung on a metal grate. Renoir’s “Promenade” sat next to it; its custom crate had been retrofitted to ship a Pissarro landscape of similar size.

    Ms. Gomez’s team can easily spend eight hours a day for four or more weeks on a single crate. While she sometimes worries that she has done too much or too little cushioning, the Getty’s staff frets more about the other end of the journey.

    “We worry about damage when the art is coming in and out of her crates at institutions with other people and handlers,” said Arlen Heginbotham, a conservator of decorative arts and sculpture. “That is the most dangerous moment for the object.”

    Art packing and crating has become more standard in recent years, after an organization of professional art movers, the Packing, Art Handling and Crating Information Network, was established.

    The industry has changed a lot, said Mike Hascall, the owner of Artech, a fine-art transportation and installation company in Seattle. Before, he said, “there were craft secrets and trade secrets and people didn’t share information.” But the packing information group now sells manuals, he added, “and the Smithsonian has test labs, and the museums have really set the standards for the industry of art handling.”

    Ms. Gomez’s work has earned her unusual respect.

    For several months she has been working with Mr. Heginbotham and Brian Considine, also a conservator of decorative arts and sculpture, to prepare a 17th-century Italian table for transport to England in 2008.

    Several years ago, Mr. Considine recalled, he accompanied a piece packed by Ms. Gomez to Amsterdam for an exhibition.

    “We opened up the crate and the guy looked at me, and he said, ‘God, Rita’s amazing,’ ” Mr. Considine said. “I didn’t even know the guy knew her name. They didn’t say beautiful crate or anything. They just said, ‘God, Rita’s amazing.’ ”

February 2, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Pet Blinker


Good idea.

From the website:

    Pet Blinker

    Make sure your pet is visible at night.

    For extra safety on your evening stroll or to help locate your pet in your own backyard, simply clip this waterproof blinker to your pet's collar ring.

    The flashing blue/white light can be seen from up to a half-mile away.

    On/off switch; batteries included.



Two for $14.99.

Wear one yourself.

February 2, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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