April 25, 2007
Sissel Tolaas is 'The Odor Artist'
Sally McGrane profiled this unique woman (above) and her favorite party scent (it's essence of fear, distilled from the armpit sweat of a man Ms. Tolaas calls "Guy No. 3") in the latest Wired magazine.
Here's the heady article.
- The Odor Artist
Animals can smell fear. Now you can, too — on walls, maybe cars.
Sissel Tolaas holds out a sealed bottle. "So," she says, sniffing gingerly, "this is the S&M Guy." She hands over the bottle with a warning: "Just smell from the top. If you open it, it's very extreme." I inhale cautiously. The scent is... heavy? Musky? There are definite deodorant notes, plus an undefinable, unfamiliar something that, after a deeper whiff, nearly makes me gag.
We are sitting in an elegant, high-ceilinged room adjacent to the laboratory in Tolaas' turn-of-the-century Berlin apartment. The leggy blonde, who wears a skirt and high-heeled boots, grabs another glass bottle and sprays her wrist liberally with what she calls Guy No. 3. "I wear it to parties," she says.
S&M Guy and Guy No. 3 were derived from the sweat of two of the nine men who were the subject of Tolaas' 2006 exhibit "the FEAR of Smell — the Smell of FEAR" at MIT's List Visual Arts Center. The men suffer from acute, chronic fear. To capture the smell of their sweat, Tolaas, the world's preeminent odor artist, designed a small device that subjects placed in their armpits when they were likely to be afraid. The S&M guy, for instance, collected his perspiration when he visited sex clubs. He and the other men mailed their samples to Tolaas' lab, which is funded by International Flavors and Fragrances, a $4 billion company that makes perfumes for Prada and Calvin Klein.
For her MIT show, Tolaas synthetically rendered each man's unique scent. Then, using IFF's industrial micro encapsulation process (today's answer to scratch-and-sniff), she created a special paint. When visitors touched the exhibit walls, microscopic capsules broke, releasing scents into the air.
The 45-year-old Tolaas, who has graduate degrees in chemistry, art, and language, plus an undergraduate degree in math, began working with smell after chemicals she was using for an art project blew up in a particularly stinky way. "I realized we have only two words to communicate about smells: bad or good," she says. "I thought, something is wrong with that."
Tolaas traveled the world collecting odors, building a library of 6,763 scents, including dirt, toys, and rotten bananas. Ultimately, her reputation led her to the perfume industry. Tolaas' collaboration with IFF allows her to concentrate on scent 24/7. In turn, the company gets her maverick sensibility, which may lead it to untapped markets. Tolaas has also worked with companies like Ikea and Volvo to add a scent to their brands. This could mean that in the future we'll know a company not just by its logo or jingle, but also by its smell.
As Tolaas shows me to the door, she offers me her wrist, where Guy No. 3 has been percolating with her body's chemicals for the last couple of hours. "What do you think?" she asks. "Owah!" I say, and make a face. She shrugs, smiles, lifts her forearm to her nose, and inhales. "Ah!" she says. "You really don't like it?" She inhales again, with gusto. "I think it's wonderful!"
Law School in a Box — Just enough information to get you into deep doo-doo
Then you'll have to hire a real lawyer to get you out.
Nicely done by our legal friends.
From the website:
- Law School in a Box
Who needs a $100,000 law degree from Harvard, Yale or Duke, complete with competitive classes and hours in the library?
Fast-track your law degree and save some cash, too.
Everything you need to know about practicing law has been squeezed into this small tin box!
• Law School in 96 Pages: This mini-textbook features Law Lingo (what’s the difference between assault and battery?), Famous Cases (Brown v. Board of Ed.), and the most supreme of the Supreme Court Justices.
• 10 Heroes of the Courtroom Trading Cards: They’re all here — Abe Lincoln, Johnnie Cochran, Sandra Day O’Connor — with portraits and famous quotes on baseball-style trading cards.
• 10 "You Be the Judge" Cards: Put your new legal knowledge to good use! One side features an ethical dilemma — the other side features real courtroom verdicts on the matter. Test your legal IQ!
• Mini-Bar Exam: Ready for trial, Matlock? Not so fast! Better answer these tantalizing legal trivia questions first! They come complete with detailed answers on an accordion-folded exam.
• Diploma (one side in Latin, reverse in English): suitable for framing and showing off.
$14.95 (bail not included).
[via the May 2007 Wired magazine's "Playlist" feature.
Robert L. Wolke's Green Tea Throwdown: 3 Teas Enter, 2 Teas Leave
Long story short: The superb food writer has lately taken to green tea and writes in his "Food 101" column in today's Washington Post Food section, "I've been drinking a loose green tea called Temple of Heaven Special Gunpowder from China" (above), for which he pays $2.49 for an 18-ounce (500-gram) box.
Then he got to wondering, what with all the green teas out there, if a premium green tea might taste even better.
So he purchased 2-ounce (57-gram) packages of Dragon Well (from China's Zhejiang province) and Genmai Cha from Japan, at $5.25 and $8.75 per package respectively, and brewed up batches of all three.
The cheap tea (14 cents/ounce) is superior to the high-priced ($2.63/ounce and $4.38/ounce, respectively) varieties.
Here's the piece.
- Give Green Tea a Try, but Get a Handle on the Perfect Brew for You
I have been drinking green tea for about four years, ever since I concluded that the hundreds of scientific studies on whether it lessens the risk of cancer and heart disease all boiled down to one phrase: "more likely than not." The latest research only strengthens that conclusion. How has green tea earned its reputation? By virtue of its large amounts of antioxidants.
Real tea is made from the leaves of a single plant, Camellia sinensis. ("Herb teas" such as chamomile and its ilk are not tea at all; they are infusions of virtually any plant material the natural-food folks can come up with, apparently excepting only hemlock.) When picked, some tea leaves are allowed to oxidize (a natural process that almost everyone mistakenly calls "fermentation"). Their tannins, or polyphenols, turn dark, and the result is called black tea. Tea that is only partially oxidized and therefore lighter in color is called oolong.
But if the leaves are first treated with hot steam, the enzyme needed for oxidation is deactivated, and the result is green tea. White tea is made from the silvery buds and new-growth leaves of a special varietal tea bush and, like green tea, is not oxidized. Unless specifically labeled green, white or oolong, all the teas in your supermarket are black.
Green tea's main brand of antioxidants, the catechins, fight harmful oxidants in the body known as free radicals. Catechins make up about 30 percent of the weight of each dried green tea leaf. White tea contains comparable amounts, but black tea retains very little.
I mistrust tea bags (what are they trying to hide?), so I've been drinking a loose green tea called Temple of Heaven Special Gunpowder (tightly rolled leaves that resemble gunpowder pellets) from China at $2.49 for a 500-gram (18-ounce) box. But there are so many kinds of green tea out there that I decided to try some others and to vary my brewing method until I found what I liked best. I recommend such experimentation to anyone who is drawn to green tea's antioxidant qualities but has found that the taste isn't exactly their, um, cup of tea.
The conventional wisdom is that a teaspoonful or so of green tea leaves should be steeped for about two minutes in one cup of 175- to 185-degree water. But that's not chiseled in stone. Only the water temperature is critical; the boiling-hot, 212-degree water customarily used to brew black tea would extract too many harsh compounds from the delicately flavored green tea leaves. The amount of leaves and the steeping time, however, can be whatever suits your taste.
A couple of weeks ago I discovered Teaism ( www.teaism.com), a shop in Washington that sells about three dozen kinds of Asian tea. With "so many teas, so little time" reverberating in my brain, I chose two premium green teas — one Chinese and one Japanese (all Japanese tea is green tea) — to compare with my old Gunpowder standby. They are Dragon Well, from China's Zhejiang province, and Genmai Cha ("cha" means "tea" in Japanese), from Japan, at $5.25 and $8.75, respectively, for a two-ounce (57-gram) package. Would they be worth the price?
Back home, I brewed samples of each tea in my single-serving mug fitted with a fine-mesh infuser basket. The drill was to put a measured amount of tea in the basket and the basket into the cup, then pour in eight ounces of 175-degree water.
I varied both the amount of tea leaves and the steeping time, recording their effects on drinking qualities as determined by a hastily assembled team of tasters consisting of my wife and me. Okay, so this wasn't the most scientific experiment I have ever done, but it taught me a few things.
I had always made my Gunpowder tea by steeping about two grams for about two minutes, which is the most widely recommended method. But in my experiments, I used amounts of tea from two to four grams and steeping times from two to four minutes.
Teas vary from very small leaves or pellets to large leaves; lacking a scale, one can figure that two grams will be about a teaspoon of small leaves and a tablespoon of large ones.
The results? The Gunpowder had the most body and flavor, with a good amber color and moderately strong tannins or astringency. I discovered that I preferred it at three grams of leaves infused for four minutes, which makes a much stronger brew than what I had been drinking.
The Dragon Well was bland and insipid at any strength. (Then again, no green tea can compare in body and color with a black tea, whose oxidized tannins are darker and more flavorful.) The Genmai had a pleasant, strawlike aroma and a nutty, toasty flavor that was quite pleasing at all strengths.
But not pleasing enough, especially at the higher price, to get me to abandon my good old Gunpowder, especially now that I know how to brew it to my taste.
So if you want to get on the green tea bandwagon, try several brands at several strengths, and pay no attention to "the rules": Except for the water temperature, there are none.
An 8-ounce (250-gram) box of Temple of Heaven Special Gunpowder is $4.99 (62 cents/ounce) at Amazon.
Go to "Gourmet Foods," then put "Temple of Heaven Special Gunpowder Tea" in the search box.
iWay: 40,000 photos on your iPod — without a computer
But why isn't there already an SD slot in the iPod?
From the website:
- iWay Lets You Load Photos into Your iPod So You Can Share Memories — Without a Computer!
Just plug iWay into your iPod and gain a portal that lets you instantly upload photos from any standard SD memory card.
Now you can take your photos anywhere and share them on the iPod’s larger, brighter screen (compared to your camera’s tiny LCD).
After uploading, you can either retain the images on the SD card or "erase card" to free up space for new photos.
And you don’t have to lug around your laptop to show off your photographic skills!
Works with iPod Video 80GB, iPod Video 60GB and iPod Video 30GB.
A typical 60 gigabyte Video iPod will easily store 40,000 photos!
Please note: the iWay is not compatible with iPod Photo or iPod Nano.
Black or White.
What is it?
Answer here this time tomorrow.
Electromagnetic Face Roller Massager
From the website:
Electromagnetic Face Roller Massager
Note: Manufacturer claims all of the following features some of which we find to be kind of novel. These are as printed on the packaging and currently we do not have the equipment to verify the validity of these claims.
• Built-in chip produces oxygen and six kinds of microwave [?] that promote blood circulation
• Helps make facial skin shiny and firm
[via Ray Earhart]
that will keep you entertained as long as you like.
Cheap, mindless, effortless fun —
what life should be
but far too seldom is.
How do you say 'Kernel Kutter' in Chinese?
It's useful to realize that two-thirds of the world is up and about while you're doing your best R.E.M. imitation.