November 19, 2004
HomeFood.it - parla Italiano?
Hope you speak Italian 'cause if you don't, you may not be able to take full advantage of this wonderful new website.
It enables people to experience real Italian cooking in the homes of the cooks themselves.
The Home Food Project carefully investigates the culinary abilities of home cooks all over Italy, and then names those it approves as Cesarina - an affectionate term adopted by Home Food for their cooks, it means "empress of the kitchen."
Cesarine are deliberately chosen from across the social spectrum, and divided into four categories: popular, middle class, and two levels of aristocratic.
Prices escalate with increasing rarification of category.
It's not only the Cesarine who are vetted, though: potential guests are required to fill out a questionnaire and promise to turn up on time, be gracious, and complain not to the Cesarine but directly to Home Food, to spare the cooks any upset.
So far Home Food has registered about 300 guests, and has a roster of 50 Cesarine positioned across the length of Italy, as far as Sicily.
Rebecca Rose, a Financial Times reporter who tried a level-four experience in Bologna, wrote, "I had the feeling that a level-four lunch was a taste of a life that was almost too good."
[via Rebecca Rose and The Financial Times]
'The extraordinary change that has taken place in the climate of London during the last 10 years is entirely due to a particular school of art' - Oscar Wilde
"Where if not from the Impressionists do we get those wonderful brown fogs that come creeping down our streets, blurring the gas lamps?"
"To whom, if not Whistler, do we owe the lovely silver mists that brood over our river, and turn to faint forms of fading grace curved bridge and swaying barge?"
Wilde wrote those words in 1889.
I wonder how much longer until this becomes generally accepted and we can get on with the real business at hand - becoming part of the universe instead of idly standing around and observing as if we had nothing to do with it.
First came Jolt Cola, and now this.
Two pieces contain the caffeine equivalent of a cup of coffee.
Costs $1.49 for 12 pieces = 6 cups of coffee: 25 cents a cup ain't bad.
The gum's creators, Kevin Gass and Laurence Molloy, first obtained a license from the maker of Jolt Cola (Wet Planet Beverages in Rochester, New York).
Then, it took them two years and four tons of discarded iterations before they came up with gum that masked the very bitter taste of caffeine.
The final product was created by master food scientist Mauricio Bobadilla, who blended six different sweeteners, featuring everything from dextrose to aspartame, to achieve perfect flavor pitch.
Comes in two flavors - Spearmint
The gum's slogan is
"Chew more, do more."
You can buy some here.
Wrigley, which once sold another caffeinated gum called Stay Alert, has already filed suit to crush these upstarts under its massive corporate heel.
Here's the full story from the November 7 New York Times story by Brendan Koerner.
Shouldn't Have Had That Second Piece
A good advertising slogan sticks in the mind like the multiplication tables.
Maxwell House, as virtually everyone knows, is "good to the last drop"; Nike implores you to "just do it"; and Jolt Cola has "all the sugar, twice the caffeine."
The last aphorism doesn't ring a bell?
Then you probably weren't a preteen when Jolt was introduced in 1986.
The jitters-inducing soft drink was briefly a junior-high-school fad before maturing into a niche brand, popular among computer nerds.
Yet nostalgia for Jolt runs deep in the under-35 set, as Kevin Gass and Laurence Molloy discovered.
When the entrepreneurs surveyed 1,000 young consumers in 2000, they found that 80% still knew the Jolt slogan by heart.
"That was, like, the light-bulb flash over our heads," said Mr. Gass.
"At that point, we came up with putting Jolt in a gum."
Jolt Gum, like its cola counterpart, provides a speedy kick - two tablets contain the caffeine equivalent of a cup of coffee.
At 12 pieces per $1.49 pack, there are few cheaper ways to catch a caffeine buzz, said Mr. Gass, who founded GumRunners L.L.C. with Mr. Molloy to develop and market Jolt Gum.
The concept is simple enough, but the product's voyage from concept to shelf took far longer than expected.
GumRunners first had to obtain a license from the maker of Jolt Cola, Wet Planet Beverages in Rochester.
Mr. Gass and Mr. Molloy, both former marketing executives at Colgate-Palmolive, pitched the gum as yet another way to exploit Jolt's cachet among consumers who hit puberty in the Reagan era.
The idea dovetailed with Wet Planet's recent brand-building tactic of placing the Jolt logo on everything from key chains to thong underwear.
License in hand, GumRunners had to formulate a gum that energized chewers but didn't taste like potting soil.
Pure caffeine has an intolerably bitter flavor, one that the company had a tricky time masking.
"We went through iteration after iteration," said Mr. Gass, who estimated that GumRunners produced four tons worth of test pieces.
"It took us two years to get the product ready to go."
Jolt Gum might have still been on the drawing board without the aid of Mauricio Bobadilla, the food scientist who finally perfected the six-sweetener blend, featuring everything from dextrose to aspartame.
Mr. Gass compares Mr. Bobadilla's work to that done by acoustic engineers, who use inverse sound waves to block out noise.
At GumRunners headquarters in Hackensack, N.J., Mr. Bobadilla is referred to simply as MM - "Magic Man."
The gum spent most of 2003 in test markets in New England and Oklahoma before going nationwide last January.
It is now available in about 10,000 stores.
GumRunners hopes the gum will be popular among cyclists and joggers looking for a boost mid-workout, but who probably don't want to pause for a hot latte.
Jolt Gum has attracted plenty of attention with a catchy slogan of its own - "Chew More, Do More."
It has also drawn unwanted notice from lawyers for the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company in Chicago.
They have filed suit against GumRunners, alleging that Jolt Gum infringes on a 2002 Wrigley patent, involving a caffeinated gum that was never brought to market. (Wrigley once sold another caffeinated gum called Stay Alert, but it's no longer on the market.)
The suit specifically targets Jolt Gum's coating, which contains a sweetener called sucralose.
Mr. Gass declined to comment on the suit, preferring to trumpet the Department of Defense's decision to include Jolt Gum in an experimental line of ready-to-eat meals.
Soldiers may need a caffeine boost, but they can also do without one of coffee's main side effects. Combat is no time for a bathroom break.
10 x 10
"100 words and and pictures that define the time."
Clever, original site created by Jonathan Harris.
A different way of looking at the world.
The only business book I'll buy this year
It's pictured above.
Business books are more or less futile: they purport to tell you how to succeed if you do this, that, and the other.
Doing exactly as Peter Lynch does will indeed make you rich - if you're Peter Lynch.
Otherwise, you might as well buy a pair of Air Jordans, put them on, and suddenly believe you can dunk.
Ain't gonna happen.
But when Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractals, casts his original eye on market behavior, I sit up and listen.
The problem with most stock market models is that they don't bother much with the real data; they assume, based on faulty evidence, that prices typically vary by so much - and not an iota more.
In mathematical terms, they rely on the bell curve.
In fact, financial prices behave much more wildly than the bell curve would imply.
If the standard models were correct, the odds of a one-day drop of 13% - as happened to the Dow Jones Average on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929 - would have been 1 in 10 to the 26th power, virtually impossible.
When, in 1998, Russia defaulted on its debt and markets swooned, the official odds were 1 in 20 million.
As for the worst crash in recent times - on October 19, 1987 - the chances of its happening were less than 1 in 10 to the 50th.
Says Mandelbrot: "Either we live in an improbably improbable era or the bell curve is an inappropriate yardstick for financial prices - and the standard financial models built with it are faulty."
"Let us understand the true odds of financial ruin, so we can enter the markets prepared."
I won't enter the markets even after I read his book, which is en route as we speak (I just ordered it from amazon, where it's $18.70); I'm much too risk-averse for such pursuits.
But I will enjoy learning how to look at things in a fractal light.
I've always been amused by the concept of stock brokers and investment counselors and their ilk; if they were as good as they say they are, they wouldn't be working trying to sell you stuff.
They'd be out there cruising the Caribbean in their tricked-out boats, a la Peter Lynch and George Soros.
If you'd like more insight into financial markets from a decidedly unconventional, brilliant thinker, spend a little time at the website of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of "Fooled by Randomness."
[Full disclosure: Nassim Nicholas Taleb has been a joehead since the beginning]
[via Benoit Mandelbrot and The Financial Times]
Alexander McQueen - bookofjoe's 2004 Designer of the Year
The ballots have been counted (can you count to one?) and we have the final returns... the envelope please.
It's Alexander McQueen in a runaway victory, of landslide proportions.
Is there any other designer on the planet currently working in the space this inventive, original man inhabits?
I think not.
Adding to the amazement is frequently seeing Sophie Dahl, the former "big babe/plus size" superstar model, in his creations as his muse of sorts.
She attributes her new look to fitness guru David Marshall, inventor of the "banana diet."
Sure worked for her.
But really, it didn't matter if she got skinny or not: I mean, she was the Yves St. Laurent Opium girl, completely nude and in living, lush color until St. Laurent pulled the ad in response to protests about its provocative nature.
Probaby just a bunch of banana dieters jealous that Sophie, all plus size of her, could be a big-time model/sex symbol.
Because if that's possible, well then, it completely undermines and subverts the dominant paradigm, a la Lara Flynn Boyle/Calista Flockhart and their "Look at my tendons" approach to beauty.
It's good to be Roald Dahl's
Why is The Financial Times like the United Arab Emirates?
Both put up barriers to bookofjoe.
Aren't you glad you're not part of either the paper or the country?
Because if you were - or if you lived in China - you'd be out of luck, and certainly not reading this.
BehindTheMedspeak: 'Girlie-Men' shouldn't play football
Football players who engage in cosmetic body shaving are six times more likely to become infected with MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphlococcus aureus).
The report was published in the November 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
MRSA is bad stuff: it's a drug-resistant bacterium that most commonly infects the skin, heart, or central nervous system of hospitalized patients.
In recent years, a more virulent strain has emerged that can infect healthy people.
Dr. Elizabeth Begier of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the lead author of the report, said that shaving creates micro-abrasions - small breaks in the skin.
Of the players interviewed for the study, 28% shaved areas other than the face, most commonly the chest, groin, and arms.
Begier recommends discontinuing the practice of body shaving.