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May 7, 2009

Adam Gopnik discovers the perfect book light (with apologies to Samuel Johnson)


In a wonderfully discursive essay entitled "The Fifth Blade: On Razors, Songbirds, and Starfish," appearing in the current (May 11, 2009) New Yorker (it's styled "The Innovators Issue"), Gopnik ruminates about why it is that Gillette keeps adding blades, why frivolity — not necessity — is the real mother of invention, and why relaxed selection, as opposed to survival of the fittest, may be the driving force behind ultimately beneficial mutations.

But all of a sudden, out of seemingly nowhere, appears the following, toward the end of his piece, as he describes his vexation with book lights for reading in bed at night:


I have tried them all, without much success. The business of shining a small bright light on a printed page in such a way that it does not also shine into the eyes of a nearby sleeping person is fiendishly difficult — so difficult that it produces a proliferation of failed solutions .... They look like the alien technology in "Independence Day," some mixture of long-necked flexibility and creepy extendibility — they look like aliens themselves, for that matter, long and segmented and misshapen and repellant, with short, sharp heads that shine. Some hang around your neck, some sit on your stomach; some clip onto the edge of the book, where they shake and waver, and some bend around the book's binding to shine creepily on the pages. None of them quite do the trick. Some are too narrow, some too bright, most are too fragile, and all too short-lived; you have to change their little lithium batteries every few weeks, and you can never find the right kind to replace them with. Failure, it seems, generates variety, too, but it is the variety of futility, the small changes made in a lost cause, like G.M. fiddling with the metalwork on the grilles of its cars. The difference between the relaxed and the genial and the despairing and the fretful was smaller than I'd realized. It takes the eye of God to see, in the acts of man, which are the children of delight and which the dead ends of despair.

Then, the other night, shaking and grumbling, trying to find a working nightlight, I stumbled on a line from Dr. Johnson. No one who worries in the middle of the night, he says, should stay up worrying; the thing to do is light the light by your bed at once, and read. Visualizing the thing as the Doctor might have done it, I went into the dining room, snatched a candle from the closet, and took it to bed.

It does all the work a reading light can: it casts a gentle, even glow on the page; it doesn't need to be adjusted on the binding as you turn the pages, and your spouse goes right on sleeping in its amber twilight. And when you reading is over, the chapter finished, there are no clicks, no sudden darkness, just a light blown out with a breath.

The solution had been there all along. The ideal technology was very old, and the proliferation of alternatives was not Darwinian but Freudian, a set of alibis and excuses designed to repress the old and primal truth. Whatever the West Coast evolutionists might tell us, abundance obscures the possibility of old elegant solutions even as it propagates new and varied ones.


I could not agree more.

May 7, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Clap your hands say yeah


What a lot of people should be wearing under their graduation gowns if credit were properly attributed....


[via brogui]

May 7, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lamp Coincidence — or Plagiarism?

Pppppppppppppp Nnnnnn

You be the judge.

Above on the left, J.C. Penney's Dipak floor lamp, introduced last month and now on sale for $120.

On the right, the $2,910 Montaigne floor lamp from Niermann Weeks, a high-end company selling exclusively to the design trade.

Penney denies they ripped off the design but Terri Sapienza, writing in today's Washington Post Home section, takes exception in her story, which follows.


Lamp Coincidence? Seems a Tad Shady

J.C. Penney knows a good thing when it sees it.

Last month the national chain introduced the Dipak floor lamp as part of its new Artesia home furnishings and accessories line. The Dipak looks almost identical to the Montaigne floor lamp from Niermann Weeks, a Maryland-based company that sells high-end furniture and accessories exclusively to the design trade.

The Montaigne lamp, priced at $2,910, is constructed of steel and has a distressed gold-leaf finish. It comes with a custom silk drum shade. The design was inspired by a fragment of a wrought-iron garden border found at a Paris flea market, according to Bill Gardner, design development manager for Niermann Weeks. The Montaigne was introduced in 2005 and ever since has been the company's most popular lamp.

J.C. Penney's Dipak lamp is a little taller and a little chunkier, and much less expensive. The list price is $240 (though it's now on sale for $120). It has a steel base and an antique silver-leaf finish and comes with an off-white drum shade. Assembly is required.

J.C. Penney denies that the inspiration for its lamp came from the Niermann design. Debra Schweiss, trend director at J.C. Penney, said in an e-mail: "Through a collaborative effort between J.C. Penney's internal trend, design and product development teams, the Artesia collection was created and introduced in April as a home decor choice for customers desiring a global design aesthetic."

We're not buying it.

May 7, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pet Screen Door


From websites:


Pet Screen Door

Now when your pet needs to go out, they don't have to bother you.

The pet screen door is a fast and easy way to turn your existing screen door into a animal screen door.

Fasten the plastic frames of the Pet Screen Door together through your existing screen door, trim around the swinging door and you instantly have a puppy screen door cats and dogs alike will appreciate.

Use the pet screen door on your patio screen or storm door screen.

Better yet, if you don't want your pet to use the pet screen door, it includes a latch to keep it closed.


Small (top): 8" x 10" tall opening.

Large (below): 12" x 16" tall opening.


Small: $15.74.

Large: $29.99.

May 7, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Asthmap uses GPS-enabled inhalers to map asthma hotspots


Interesting mashup.

From Jared Newman's April 13, 2009 GearCrave story:

"David Van Sickle, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is looking for a better way to hunt down [asthma] triggers. His team of students will use GPS technology, embedded in patients’ inhalers, to locate triggers around campus, hopefully uncovering previously unknown environmental factors for the lung disease."

"Known risk factors  don’t fully explain asthma’s prevalence. An example: one outbreak of asthma attacks in Barcelona throughout the 1980s baffled scientists who were looking for all the usual triggers. But after eight years of reports from the victims, they traced the source to the city’s waterfront. Soybean dust — once unsuspected as a trigger — was ultimately flagged as a serious threat to asthmatics."

From Susan Lampert Smith's April 2, 2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison News article:

"An epidemic of severe asthma ... struck Barcelona throughout the 1980s. On more than 20 days, emergency rooms were overwhelmed with people having severe, and sometimes fatal, asthma attacks.

"'Barcelona put together a group of scientists to look at the meteorology, climatology, and levels of standard air pollutants and pollens in the city, but there wasn’t anything exceptional about those days,' [Van Sickle] says."

"Finally, they asked where the patients had been when they got sick: All reported that their symptoms started near the waterfront. Further investigation showed that the port had been unloading giant heaps of soybeans from container ships.

"'The victims were exposed to massive clouds of soybean dust because the appropriate filters weren’t installed in harbor silos,' he says. 'It took the group nearly eight years to prove, but it was the first time soybean dust had been shown to be a potent allergen.'

May 7, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jolly Roger Clogs


Yo ho ho and bottle of rum.

But I digress.

From the website:


Skull & Crossbones Clogs

Handmade in Sweden, these clogs have printed leather uppers and add attitude with Jolly Rogers twinkling your toes.

Comfortable and cool, they're available in women's Euro sizes 36 (U.S. size 6), 37 (7), 38 (7.5), 39 (8.5), 40 (9), and 41 (10).



May 7, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Absolution in a Sacred River


The photo above (by Jitendra Prakash) appeared (in black and white) in yesterday's New York Times, taking up most of the space above the fold on page six of the main section.

The Times caption: "A woman offered prayers on Monday in the Ganges River, in the northern Indian city of Allahabad. Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges washes away sins."

May 7, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blast from the past: Beauty Mask redux


It's been nearly three years since I first featured this conceptual breakthrough.

Long story short, from the website: "If you like to do your hair and makeup before getting dressed [and who doesn't?], protect your careful efforts with this mask. Simple to put on, the generous front-zippered hood is made of soft domestic nylon."


"Soft domestic nylon" — that's different.

No matter.

Still a snip at $4.99.

And no — it won't protect you from swine flu.

As if.

May 7, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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