Sunday, 13 August 2006

Mousetrap - 66

Snake Oil
The Patent Medicine Menace
In the 19th century, the USA was plagued by “patent medicines.” Taking advantage of gullibility and a still very undeveloped medical establishment, using a combination of lures that included faith, superstition, alleged native remedies and pseudoscience, hucksters peddled all manner of cures for everything from baldness to impotence. It was only in the early years of the 20th century that the first Food and Drugs Act was passed, and some measure of accountability came in. The gallery link at the bottom displays some of the labels from the peak years of the patent medicine age. And below that, a timeline and other links for the more serious student. Strange how some very similar labels still exist a hundred years later somewhat closer to us, hm?

Sociable Networking
Shareaplan (Beta)
A newish site, with a single-minded focus: when you sign up, you can post events and gatherings which you’d like to publicise, and have people RSVP online. What works for it is the clean interface and lack of clutter, but it is a service that (as I’ve mentioned before when talking of similar sites) isn’t exactly novel. Similar offerings are available bundled with social networking sites, for instance. Keep a look out. The site’s in Beta (for the non-geeks, that means it’s still in development, and may be buggy), so perhaps there’s more and better to look out for.

Key(chain) apps
Handy programs to put on a USB stick
Do you own one of those handy little storage devices that you can plug directly into your USB port? Until such time as hand-held computing devices get far more efficient—and cheaper!—they’re still a more convenient way to carry around your data without a hernia-threatening laptop or a clunky portable drive. But even so, you may wind up having to use a PC that doesn’t have the programs you need. Well, check out this page: a long list of useful apps that can run straight off a USB stick. And they’re all freeware! (Link via Ashwan Lewis.)

What the well-dressed blog is wearing
go fug yourself
Fug? I’ll let the site explain. ‘“Fug” comes from “fugly,” which is a contraction of “fantastically ugly” (or an f-word more prurient, if you like, but we are clean and delightful young ladies who don't engage in that kind of filth, dammit).’ That tells you all you need to know about the attitude. The rest: it’s a couple of funny, opinionated writers being, well, funny and opinionated about celebrities and what they wear at premieres and suchlike. Remember our press talking about a certain actress at Cannes? Like that. But wittier.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 13th August, 2006.

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