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July 1, 2009

Time Machine: Havana, Cuba circa 1930

Those were the days....

July 1, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Scuba Underwater Camera + HD Video Diving Mask


Just the thing for the next time you slip into the bathtub for a nice hot soak.

Wait a minute....

From the website:


Scuba Underwater Camera and HD Diving Mask

Ideal for scuba diving or snorkeling.

A high-quality 5MP still camera and crisp, clear 720p HD video camera with sound lets you capture your underwater adventures.

  • Diving camera includes an integrated microphone
  • Accommodates up to 32GB micro SD/SDHC card
  • Features mounting capability for optional lights
  • Waterproof to 115 feet below the surface
  • Requires 4 AAA batteries (not included)
  • High-speed USB 2.0 interface
  • 64MB of built-in memory


Still not convinced?

I can see how that could be the case.

Have a look at some actual footage shot by the device.


Yo joe — as usual, you're hopelessly out of your depth.

For the tub you're supposed to use the Snorkeling iteration.


I wonder if the footage would still be good after they removed the camera from a shark's stomach....

July 1, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'It will take a long time until we can actually challenge CNN or BBC' — Xinhua, China's official news agency, on the launch of its English-language channel


You know what?

They have plenty of time — and money.

According to Kathrin Hille's June 28, 2009 Financial Times (FT) story, the Chinese government will "... hand out $4.4–$6.4 billion to media groups."

I wonder which channel — Xinhua English or Al Jazeera English — will be the first carried on mainstream U.S. cable and satellite.

I'm putting my money on Xinhua.

Here's the FT article.


China agency to launch English TV news


Xinhua, China’s official news agency, will launch an English-language tele­vision news programme this week on screens in supermarkets and outside Chinese embassies in Europe, in a cautious first step towards spreading Beijing’s view of the world to western audiences.

The move, planned for Wednesday, comes six months after the Chinese government launched a plan to improve its global image through English-language television news channels to be built by trusted state-owned media.

It highlights how daunting a challenge it is for media organisations that function mainly as propaganda outlets to compete with experienced commercial western groups in wooing a global audience.

“Our goal is to get China's voice and perpective of things out there and to offer a different choice to a news audience all over the world,” said a department head at Xinhua with detailed knowledge of the TV preparations. “We have been hiring aggressively and building our TV capabilities for months. But still, it will take a long time until we can actually challenge CNN or BBC.”

Xinhua this month started offering Chinese-language TV news on Kaixin001, a social networking site. But editorial staff at the agency said broadcasting overseas would require a lot more preparation.

“We decided to test viewers’ reactions first by putting up some screens at Chinese embassies in Europe so people can watch it while they wait for their visas,” said one person. “Also, we will have Xinhua English-language TV in supermarkets in Brussels and other cities.” Academics with an advisory role in the plan have said the government would hand out Rmb30bn-Rmb45bn ($4.4bn-$6.6bn, €3.1bn-€4.7bn, £2.7bn-£4bn) to media groups.

The government has de­nied the numbers and re­fused to comment further, but many state media have focused on the project for months. China Daily, the country’s first nationwide English-language news­paper, started overseas circulation this year. In April, Global Times, an affiliate of People’s Daily, the Communist party’s mouthpiece, launched an English-language edition.

Senior Xinhua journalists, advertising industry sources and media executives said the agency had been picked as the main media organisation for the TV portion of the propaganda push, and state funds for the project had started pouring in.

One of the main challenges for the state media in conquering foreign audiences has been the conflict between their propaganda background and the speed and transparency required in a free and commercially driven media market.

The English-language Global Times has experimented with balancing the two. But even stories and pictures that would have been considered too sensitive in China’s domestic market were seen by many western readers as sophisticated propaganda.

July 1, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Physical Design — Official backyard shed designer/fabricator of Olivia Newton-John


You could look it up — but you wouldn't find the link.

That's because it — the link between this very real company and the pop songstress — exists only in my brain.

Which, as everyone knows, borders on being a virtual particle .

Wait a minute joe — a particle is either virtual or it's not: there's no border.

Are you sure?


Long-time reader Ray Earhart just sent me news of this company, writing "I really want a new shed. 'Physical Design Co. — Make Your Digital World Physical.' The really cool part is that it uses Google Sketchup, a free program, to allow you to design your building. I can't find the price list yet. Darn it...."

Stay tuned, Ray: I've got my crack research team on it.


July 1, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

bookofjoe on MySpace


Turns out that MySpace lets you have your very own customized URL.

I opted for www.myspace.com/bookofjoe.

I didn't read about this anywhere, I just happened to be making my semi-annual rounds there when the feature's availability announced itself.

Free, the way we like it.

Get your own — instructions here.

I had my crack research team drill down on this feature and they brought back news that it's been available since September, 2006.

You could look it up.

There are those who'd ask, "Gee, joe, what the heck are you paying your crack research team for, if they don't find stuff until it's nearly four years old?"

Don't rub it in.

Here at bookofjoe we like to say we're on the clotted edge.

That's the Bizarro World-equivalent of the bleeding edge.

In case you were wondering.

I wasn't, see, but I thought maybe you were.

Enough, this thread is going nowhere fast.

"Haha joe, just like you!"

Who said that?

Close readers will note my age on MySpace (top) is 99, that's because they don't let you pick a birth year after 1996.

And everyone knows bookofjoe was born on August 24, 2005, so that I'm precisely five years old late next month.

The way I see it, if you can't take it to one extreme, there's always the other....

July 1, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BottleWise — Just how bold are you?

How about placing your most treasured bottles in this puppy, then checking it through to your destination?

From websites:



Transport your favorite vintages without worrying about breakage.

This TSA-friendly travel case has two padded, liquid-tight pouches that each hold a 750 ml bottle securely in your checked luggage.

Use it to carry those special bottles home from a far-off destination, or for picnics, outdoor concerts or wine country tours.

Made of durable Bordeaux or Black Cordura nylon with an adjustable shoulder strap for easy carrying.

9½" x 16½" x 3½".

1 lb. 14 oz)



$58.95 (wine not included).


July 1, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: 'Origin of Anesthesia' — by Eduardo Galeano


Yesterday reader Ken Steen emailed me, writing "I was reading 'Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone' by Eduardo Galeano today and came across this":


Origin of Anesthesia — Page 141

The carnival of Venice lasted four months, except when it lasted longer. From everywhere came acrobats, musicians, thespians, puppeteers, prostitutes, magicians, fortune-tellers, and vendors offering potions, good-luck tonics, and elixirs for a long life.

And from everywhere came the tooth pullers and the aching mouths that Saint Apollonius had been unable to cure.  In agony, the latter approached the gates of Saint Mark, where, pliers in hand, the extractors awaited, anesthetists at their side.

The anesthetists did not put patients to sleep: they entertained them. They gave them not poppy or mandrake, but jokes and pirouettes.  And their humor and grace were so miraculous that pain forgot to hurt.

The anesthetists were monkeys and dwarfs, dressed for carnival.


Ken concluded, "I do not know how factual Galeano's account is but I thought that you might enjoy it."

He got that right.

July 1, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MakerBot 3-D Printer

Not $25,000 to $250,000, which is what most 3-D printers cost: how about $750?

That's what Bre Pettis and friends charge for one over at MakerBot.

Use it to "... create nearly any three-dimensional form of 4-square-inches or smaller," wrote David Gelles in a June 29, 2009 Financial Times (FT) article .

Continued Gelles, "Users of MakerBots simply create or download a 3D computer file using one of several prog­rams, then set the machine to work. The MakerBot takes spools of spaghetti-like plastic, heats it to 200°C and squirts it out in the desired shape. Already the MakerBot has been used to make missing parts for electronics and the casing for new flashlights."

"After just two months Mr Pettis has sold 60 printers, half of them to clients outside the US. 'We originally had the idea that we were going to revolutionise American manufacturing, but it's global,' he says."

Here's the FT story.


DIY fanatics find a cyber showcase

Eric Wilhelm was studying for his PhD in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000 when he decided that he needed an athletic pursuit. So he took up kite surfing, a sport that was then in its infancy.

Because kite surfing was so new, there were no established manufacturers producing reliable equipment. So Mr Wilhelm decided to make his own. He began sewing kites from rip-stop nylon and crafting boards from plywood. "It's a perfect sport for an engineer," he says. "You can build all your own gear."

Mr Wilhelm posted instructions and pictures of his craftsmanship on his personal web page. It soon gained a following, and readers e-mailed to ask where they could find documentation of similar projects.

The website evolved into Instructables, a San Francisco-based portal, and Mr Wilhelm is its chief executive. The business employs 10 and registers 5m unique visitors a month. The site, Mr Wilhelm explains, serves as a sort of collective repository for creative types who want to show off their wares.

More broadly, Instructables is a symbol of the latest evolution of a do-it-yourself culture of invention that has been the lifeblood of California's Silicon Valley high-technology industry. Apple, Google and Hewlett-Packard are just three global companies that began with a couple of creative tinkerers experimenting in a garage.

The new DIY tech culture is made up of a loose-knit group of computer geeks, arts-and-crafts fans and whimsical sculptors and is enjoying a mainstream renaissance, thanks in part to television programmes, magazines and festivals that celebrate the quirky culture of making.

It has also been enabled by the connectivity of the web, with sites such as Instructables acting as online hubs for adherents to find each other and exchange ideas.

"When you build something at home, you put it on the coffee table so people who come over can see it," says Mr Wilhelm. "We've put that coffee table on the web."

The decentralised nature of the DIY tech culture makes it hard to value it, and there are no estimates of how much it is worth. Yet with hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts around the globe, it is a potentially lucrative market for those who can tap it.

Indeed, scattered among the creative spirits are would-be entrepreneurs who are trying to open up the manufacturing process to encourage innovation and lower the costs of the research and development.

The biggest annual festival for the community is the Maker Faire, held at the San Mateo County Expo Center in the heart of Silicon Valley. At this year's Faire, held one weekend last month, more than 65,000 people showed up to admire interactive sound sculptures, handmade carnival rides and fountains made from Diet Coke and Mentos.

In one aircraft-hangar-sized hall, attendees took turns building their own alarm clocks and reliving their childhoods in a giant pen filled with Lego. Nearby, petrolheads admired a finished version of the all-electric Tesla Roadster and a stripped-down version of the car exposing its battery and chassis.

Bre Pettis is the founder of MakerBot Industries, which sells affordable 3D printers. While most 3D printers cost anywhere between $25,000 and $250,000, (€18,000-€180,000, £15,000-£150,000) , Mr Pettis sells his, which can create nearly any three-dimensional form of 4sq in or smaller, for a mere $750. Users of MakerBots simply create or download a 3D computer file using one of several prog­rams, then set the machine to work. The MakerBot takes spools of spaghetti-like plastic, heats it to 200 0C and squirts it out in the desired shape. Already the MakerBot has been used to make missing parts for electronics and the casing for new flashlights.

"It changes the way you live," says Mr Pettis, "from being a mindless consumer to being a creative participant in the marketplace."

After just two months Mr Pettis (pictured) has sold 60 printers, half of them to clients outside the US. "We originally had the idea that we were going to revolutionise American manufacturing, but it's global," he says.

Indeed, in March the UK held its first Maker Faire in Newcastle, in the UK. According to the organiser, Ian Simmons, science communications director at the Newcastle Centre for Life, about 5,000 people attended the event. "It's really coming up in the UK," he says.

At the Maker Faire in San Mateo, Mr Pettis was set up in a warehouse mostly occupied by the crew from TechShop, a well-appointed community workshop founded two years ago by Jim Newton in nearby Menlo Park. For $100 a month, tinkerers are given access to plasma cutters, welding tools and industrial lathes. Members have created everything from homemade electrical scooters inspired by the Segway to remote-controlled video-conferencing robots.

Mr Newton says TechShop is a second home for aspiring inventors in need of a community. "They come to TechShop because they have the drive to be a maker but they can't afford the tools themselves," he says. "You always can find people to talk to about your project."

TechShop is also a growing business. Mr Newton is finalising a $2.5m round of investment in the private company, and has opened franchises in North Carolina and in Oregon. The company declined to discuss its revenues.

The DIY community even has its own method of commerce. While most of the wares produced by makers never see the inside of retail stores – small volumes make wide distribution impractical – there are ways to consume a bit of the culture.

Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods, based in New York, has become the community's Ebay. Makers and non-makers alike can buy anything from a handmade rechargeable light-seeking robot ($55) to a hand-carved footstool in the shape of an elephant's foot ($280). Most often it is the maker doing the selling, and buyers are encouraged to get to know the craftsman.

"It's a different way of shopping," says Adam Brown of Etsy. "You meet the people and hear the stories behind the items." Etsy is not yet profitable but he says it is on the path to making money soon.

But isn't there something incongruous in a profit-seeking marketplace for specialised goods that are supposed to be the antidote to big box shopping? Herein lies the paradox of the DIY tech ethos: much as it would like to escape the confines of the throwaway economy, it cannot exist too far outside consumer culture.

Mr Wilhelm of Instructables does not see a conflict. The DIY movement, he says, "is not anti-capitalist...It's a backlash against mass market. It's not like everyone who does DIY is a communist."

July 1, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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