April 18, 2005
"Hulls to Blame for 'Old Maids'"
Above, the headline of Guy Gugliotta's story in today's Washington Post about the apparent solution of one of life's enduring mysteries: "Why is it that whenever you make popcorn there are always unpopped kernels left at the bottom of the bowl or bag at the movies – the ones that stick in your throat, plug up your teeth and pop your fillings?"
Purdue University's Rengaswami Chandrasekaran along with a high-powered, eye-poppingly powerful team of his school's finest minds led an assault against this seemingly impregnable problem.
In research scheduled to appear in the July 11 edition of the journal Biomacromolecules,
the group, led by food chemist Bruce Hamaker of Purdue's Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research, analyzed 14 varieties of microwaveable popcorn to determine what causes the die-hard leftovers, known as "old maids."
They found that the number of unpopped kernels ranged from 4% to 47%.
Memo to file: find out which brand was 4% and get some.
The key "popability" (sounds awfully similar to papabile, doesn't it? No blasphemy intended, just an observation) factor, it turns out, is the kernel's cellulose hull, known as the pericarp.
Chandrasekaran, a crystallographer, found that the pericarp in the better performers had a stronger crystalline structure than the pericarp in the losers.
"With a better organized crystal structure, the kernel retains moisture better," Chandrasekaran said in a telephone interview with the Post's Gugliotta.
The kernel swells as it heats up, until it finally explodes, creating popcorn.
Gugliotta wrote, "If the moisture leaks out prematurely, or the pericarp collapses, the pressure will not build, and the frustrated consumer is left with old maids."
Now we come to the good part.
Wherein bookofjoe reveals one of his closely-held secrets.
This one is about how to make the world's best microwave popcorn — for pennies a bowl.
I came across this wonderful recipe in the Washington Post Food section of December 10, 2003, in an item by Jeanne McManus entitled "New Wave Popcorn."
Here it is, in its exquisitely simple, perfect entirety:
1) Get a brown paper lunch bag and open it so it sits flat
2) Get some popcorn
3) Put enough popcorn in to just cover the flattened bottom of the bag
4) Close the top of the bag and fold it over three times
5) Place in the microwave for 3 minutes or so, until the sound of popping stops
I like Orville Redenbacher's Original Gourmet Popping Corn myself.
What you will get is popcorn as good or better than any you have ever had in your life.
And that's all I have to say about that.
Backwards Wall Clock
"Keeps perfect time — backwards."
9.5" quartz clock; requires one AA battery (not included).
Originally $21.98; now reduced to $14.98.
Official clock of the Bizarro World.
When I encounter something I don't understand — like this clock, which I still can't figure out — I embrace it.
Some scorn such unfamiliar, confusing things; others hate or fear them.
C'est la vie, say I.
Getting rather fancy, aren't we?
BehindTheMedspeak: Depression kills another one
There is someone reading this who is seriously considering suicide at this very second.
You may even have the means in your hand, while you debate one more time whether or not to go ahead.
If that's the case, click here.
If you're not that close, then click here.
Some years ago when I was in a very bad (psychological) place, I happened on John McManamy's website.
He responded to my cries for help without delay or fail.
I am here to tell you that depression is as curable as pneumonia.
It is not the equivalent of metastatic cancer although it feels like it.
So visit McManany's website whenever you're not feeling so good.
It could save your life.
Regarding the headline of this post: the following story appeared in the Washington Post on March 30 of this year:
- Missing Potomac Man's Vehicle Found
The vehicle of a missing Potomac physician was found yesterday near the C&O Canal, but rescue divers who searched the canal for three hours found no sign of the man, authorities said.
Montgomery County police received a call about 1 a.m. about a silver Chrysler Sebring matching the description of the car belonging to Scott Nathan LaBaer, 39, in a gravel parking lot along River Road near Pettit Way, police said.
LaBaer had been depressed, according to his family, and he has not been heard from since about 4:30 p.m. Monday, when he spoke to his wife by phone.
Police dogs and divers from the county's Fire and Rescue Service searched the canal between Pennyfield Lock Road and Violettes Lock Road but found nothing, spokesman Pete Piringer said.
LaBaer is white, six feet tall and 175 pounds, with blue eyes and short, light-brown hair.
He was last seen wearing a beige trench coat, a light-blue shirt, red tie and khaki pants.
Anyone with information can call 240-773-5070 or 301-279-1602, or the police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000.
That was on Wednesday, March 30.
This morning, Monday, April 18, the Post ran the following short item:
- Body in Potomac Identified as Physician
Remains recovered from the banks of the Potomac River on Saturday have been identified as those of a Montgomery County physician who had been missing since last month.
Scott Nathan LaBaer, 39, of the 8700 block of Seven Locks Road in Potomac, was reported missing on March 28.
Police said he suffered from depression.
Police discovered LaBaer's silver Chrysler Sebring convertible March 30 abandoned in a gravel lot near the C&O canal.
Police dogs and divers from the county's Fire and Rescue Service searched the canal but found nothing.
Police said there was no evidence of foul play.
The cause of LaBaer's death will be determined by the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore.
LaBaer's death, like that of every single person who commits suicide due to depression, was 100% preventable.
Like I said, click on the link above.
Bling Bling Cellphone Bracelet
When your cellphone rings the beads in your bracelet flash.
"Perfect for meetings, restaurants, theater, or when the ring is silenced."
Maybe I should get one, considering that the music playing while I work is so loud I never hear the delivery guys pounding on the door for a signature, much less the phone ringing.
Requires two 3v batteries (included).
In pink or blue.
$19.98 here (Item # 23487).
It is what it says.
Who knew that the Segway would find its niche as perfect tourist transportation?
Or as a polo pony?
Not exactly what Dean Kamen had in mind back in the day but hey, it's something.
BabyGUND Birth Diamond™ — 'Because forever begins at birth™'
Gund didn't fool around when it came to extending its brand into jewelry: they even trademarked their slogan (above).
BabyGUND offers "Birth Diamond™" necklaces (above) starting at $620; "Baby Blossom™" earrings with emeralds, at $280; and tiny necklaces and bracelets with pink sapphire hearts for hundreds and thousands of dollars.
There's a tiny gold signet ring for babies, with the Gund bear on it, for $225.
F.A.O Schwarz will offer selections from the line, and the reincarnated toy store will also carry a new line of children's jewelry by David Yurman.
Tracie Rozhon wrote about the new bejeweled infant of the 21st century in yesterday's New York Times Business section.
Ground Control to Major Tom: Prepare for lunch. I mean launch.
"The Original Egg-Stractor™ peels hard-boiled eggs with just a push!"
That seems different.
"Place egg inside, push and presto your egg is peeled."
Sounds kind of cool, actually.
"No more messy hands. It's fast, easy and fun!"
You know how vulnerable I am to that kind of pitch.
"FREE bonus: egg slicer included with every order, along with a recipe book."
Who could resist?
Not me, certainly.
$9.98 here (Item # 22044).
What better way to start the week than to clock in at this website, which lets you enter your annual income, then watch as it shows you, in real time, what you're making sitting there in your stupor.
If you don't like what you see, no problema: simply choose from their list of somewhat more well-to-do campers, close your eyes, and pretend.
There, don't you feel better already?
Hey, I'm not a miracle worker, I'm just an eccentric left-handed anesthesiologist who's breathed a bit too much unscavenged waste gas over the years.
So don't be so mean.