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January 1, 2011

Alcoholize your website


Jim Duncan found this wacked-out site, which styles itself a "simulator of drunken web design."

I won't argue.

January 1, 2011 at 05:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chameleon Lamp matches the color of whatever surface it's on


Can your lamp do that?


Didn't think so.




[via Ufunk]

January 1, 2011 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Electronic Pickpocket

[via Whattayagonado]

January 1, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Book Pack










January 1, 2011 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The American


Why the makers of this film changed its name from the wonderfully evocative "A Very Private Gentleman," Martin Booth's superb novel, I have no idea.

No matter.

I watched the film on DirecTV theater in 1080p last night, as beautiful as a Blu-ray disc but at $5.99 about a quarter of the price.

Such an odd experience it was, seeing as from the get-go it was clear the movie was kind of fast forwarding through the story in order to get the high points in within the allotted 105 minutes.

But for once I didn't mind that so much of what made the book a deliberate, thoughtful read was omitted, because as each scene appeared on screen it evoked my emotions and thoughts at the time I was reading the events depicted, and it was as if the movie was enhanced by what my memories brought to it, making it all that much better than if I'd read the book years instead of a couple months ago, in which case I'd have long since forgotten my reactions while reading it.

This is the first time I've had this kind of palimpsest of movie over book and I can't wait to see if it happens again.

Now to the movie itself.

George Clooney is routinely excellent as he's been in everything I've seen him in in recent years.

The supporting cast, none of whom I recalled seeing previously in other roles, was uniformly fine, and Italy — gorgeous Italy — showed itself to considerable advantage as a result of wonderful cinematography and direction.

Though given the choice between the book and the movie, I'd go with the book by a mile.


Having said that, though, if you're not the book type the movie on its own is taut and absorbing, though kind of confusing because of all the loose ends that simply couldn't be tied up within the temporal constraints of the medium.

Just watch and don't try too hard to have things make sense while it's playing; save that for later.

January 1, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What are they?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

Hint: I wouldn't advise climbing them.

January 1, 2011 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Low-vision resources


Jane Brody's December 28, 2010 New York Times Science section "Personal Health" column focused on little-known resources that can help many people with impaired vision expand their capabilities.

Kara Gagnon, director of low-vision optometry at the West Haven [Connecticut] Veteran's Administration Medical Center, told Brody, "Our philosophy is to get patients to do things for themselves.... I can get them back to everything except driving a car and flying a plane."

Excerpts from Brody's excellent piece follow.


Jim Vlock is on a mission. Afflicted 15 years ago with macular degeneration, a retinal disorder that erodes central vision and thus the ability to drive, read, watch television and recognize faces, Mr. Vlock is determined to spread the word about the many devices that can help people like him live more fulfilling, independent and productive lives.

Mr. Vlock, now 84 and a longtime resident of Woodbridge, Conn., told me in an interview that he sought help at three of the country’s best medical centers: Yale, the Cleveland Clinic and Columbia. And though they tried to treat his vision problem, none told him there were ways to improve his life within the limits of his visual loss.
“These institutions attempt to cure, but they are not particularly interested or knowledgeable about providing ways to overcome low vision,” he said.

His wife, Gail Brekke, said: “We had been spending all our time focusing on a possible cure — stem cells, laser treatments, injections — we were willing to go to the ends of the earth. We didn’t want to live in a land of resignation. We thought there must be something out there to help. But like most of medicine, the specialists we consulted were not knowledgeable about helping you live your life without a pill or scalpel.”

Spurred by his distress over having to give up reading and television, as well as driving and playing tennis, Mr. Vlock, a retired steel executive who describes himself as “a proactive person,” found what he needed on his own. A technician who teaches people with visual impairment how to use computers suggested he seek help at the Veterans Health Administration’s medical center in West Haven, Conn., where he was entitled to free care as a Navy veteran of World War II.

With Mr. Vlock, I visited this full-service center, where he said he underwent “the longest and most comprehensive evaluation” he’d yet received — a full six hours of testing — along with a plethora of visual aid devices, including six pairs of specialized glasses for different tasks, a talking watch and a magnified travel mirror to help him shave.

Most important, he learned to use a computer with an enlarged keyboard and magnified screen for reading text and e-mail; if he can’t make out what’s on the screen, it will read to him out loud. (He has since donated three of these computers to the public library and local residences for the elderly.)

Now Mr. Vlock can again read and enjoy television, theater, ballgames and e-mail. Not only did the V.A. provide the tools to make this possible; it also gave him the instruction and training he needed to function well at home and at work, where he is a consultant to Fox Steel, the Connecticut company he previously owned.

He learned of still other services through a chance meeting with David Lepofsky, a lawyer in Toronto who has been blind since he was a teenager yet completed law school and a master’s degree at Harvard. In a long e-mail to Ms. Brekke, Mr. Lepofsky wrote, “There is no reason why, despite his vision limitations, Jim should not be able to read what he wants, including daily newspapers, in a relaxing way and without having to become a high-end computer scientist.”

With Mr. Lepofsky’s guidance, Mr. Vlock acquired a Victor Reader Stream, a device that downloads and plays all manner of audio books. He gained access to the National Federation of the Blind’s newsline; using his telephone touch pad, he can listen to articles from newspapers throughout the country as early as 8 a.m. each day.

The V.A. rehabilitation programs are meant to help blind and low-vision veterans and active service members regain their independence and quality of life and to function as full members of their families and communities.

Lisa-Anne Mowerson, acting chief of the agency's Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in West Haven, calls the center “the best-kept secret.”

“It’s hard for people to find us,” Ms. Mowerson told me. “A person’s vision problem doesn’t have to be service-connected for them to receive care here.”

There are 10 advanced-care vision centers for veterans around the country. The center Ms. Mowerson runs serves the entire Eastern Seaboard, with referrals from 13 veterans’ centers that provide more basic low-vision services.

“We don’t just give devices, we give training inpatient and out, at home and at work,” Ms. Mowerson said. “We may spend 20 hours with individuals to make sure they know how to use the devices properly and can cope independently, which takes training and practice. These devices are available in the community, but people are not trained how to use them.”

For nonveterans with visual impairments, more is lacking than just adequate training. Also absent is insurance coverage.

“The private sector has to step up,” said Kara Gagnon, director of low-vision optometry at the V.A. in West Haven. “Success is directly tied to the quality of the exam and the training — two hours doesn’t do it.

“We teach patients where their sweet spot is — the part of their remaining vision through which they can see best — and how to access it so they can see faces and read fluently. Too often we get patients who’ve been unable to read for 20 years, who’ve lost their jobs, their wives, their homes.

“Our philosophy is to get patients to do things for themselves, including cooking and laundry, so they can cycle out of depression and feel fulfilled. We ask about their goals, what they enjoyed doing before they became visually impaired. I can get them back to everything except driving a car and flying a plane.” 

January 1, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Disappearing Hanger










Three for



January 1, 2011 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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