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April 7, 2005

The best [ready-to-bake] chocolate chip cookie


Renee Schettler took off the gloves yesterday in the Washington Post Food section, where she wrote up her taste test of the cookies resulting from seven varieties of ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookie dough.

Seven doughs entered but only one cookie could emerge triumphant from the oven, and the winner was... drum roll, please... 600 lb. gorillas brand "Ready to Bake All Natural Premium Chocolate Chip Cookies" (above).

Here's her story about the good, the bad and the unpalatable.

    Cookie Dough That Makes the Cut

    Not everyone has time to make hot-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies from scratch.

    So we gathered every roll, carton and box of prepared cookie dough we could find.

    We preheated the oven, poured a glass of cold milk and put them to the test.

    We found a lot of variability in taste as well as baking instructions, so we offer this advice: Follow the package directions carefully.

    Look for the fine print about how to use frozen and thawed dough, and watch the cookies carefully during the final minutes.

    In some instances, a few additional minutes may be required.

    OUR FAVORITE: 600 LB. GORILLAS Chewy and moist with an exceptional real-butter flavor. Chunks, not chips, of chocolate make for a grown-up appearance. No trans fats or bad aftertaste. Available at Giant stores and some BJ's Wholesale Club locations, $4.19.

    WHOLLY HEALTHY Tied for second favorite. A rich butterscotch flavor from brown sugar. Available at Whole Foods Market, $4.39.

    PILLSBURY Our second favorite in a tie. Good if you like your cookies cakey. Dominant vanilla flavor. Available at most grocery stores, $3.29.

    GIANT A close third. Tastes like a standard chocolate chip cookie. Available at Giant, $2.29.

    SAFEWAY Strangely synthetic tasting. Available at Safeway stores, $2.79.

    NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Very sugary. Available at most grocery stores, $3.29.

    TOM'S ALL-NATURAL Thud. Thud. Thud. That's the sound of these overly sweet cookies hitting the wastebasket. Available at Whole Foods Market and some health-food stores, $3.99.

April 7, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Expert's Expert: How to do your laundry


Helaine Olen interviewed Fred Mwangaguhunga, vice president of operations for Laundry Spa, a Manhattan carriage-trade laundry service.

Her article appeared in yesterday's Wall Street Journal and offered a number of pointers from Mr. M. on how best to keep your clothes looking good.

His tips:

• Before putting your clothes in the washer, button every button and zip every zipper to prevent snags

• Turn t-shirts inside out so colors don't fade

• To avoid the irretrievable disaster of accidentally tossing a verboten item into the dryer — like knitted sweaters or lingerie — he separates out air-dry-only items by placing them in a mesh bag before putting them in the washing machine

• Use stain remover by rubbing it into the clothing, not spraying it on

• Never place stained items in the dryer — the heat causes stains to set

• Never use fabric softener on baby and children's sleepwear — it erodes the fire retardants in the material

And here's one from me, gleaned from an article interviewing appliance repairmen:

• For the best results from your washer, first let it fill with water, then add detergent, and lastly put in your laundry.

April 7, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The [Annotated] New York Times


There's something really interesting going on at this website, but like Bob Dylan's iconic Mr. Jones in "Ballad of a Thin Man", I don't really know what it is.

"The Annotated New York Times tracks blog postings that cite articles published by The New York Times."

The site says it's "NOT affiliated with the New York Times."

OK — but, what's it all about, Alfie?

• "Track what the blogosphere is saying about a specific article"

• "The Top Articles charts list the most discussed articles in a given time period

• "The Missing RSS Feeds" — "The New York Times provides only a small number of RSS feeds? No problem. We have thousands of feeds that track Times articles by topic or author"

Like many things that make their way onto bookofjoe, this one's way above my intellectual pay grade — but it may just right for yours.

April 7, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's Longest Gum-Wrapper Chain


It's above, along with its creator, 54-year-old Gary Duschl of Virginia Beach.

The chain entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 1995 and has retained pride of place in each new volume since, with its increased length duly updated.

For the upcoming edition, due out in August, the Guinness people have decided to make Gary a rock star: they're going to feature his picture along with a few links of his chain as an example of the work as a whole.

"The editor asked me to send an 8-inch piece of chain to put in the book beside the record," Gary said in Tony Germanotta's entertaining story about the chain that appeared in this past Monday's Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.

Gary started working on it 40 years ago, in 1965, when he was a 14-year-old boy in high school in Canada.

Such chains were a fad that year — at least in Canada, he said — and his goal was to make the longest one in his class.

Then he decided to make the longest one in his school.

And he just kept going.

"I can do it in my sleep," he told Germanotta.

Gary went on, "I have folded over two million of these things."


• He averages 3 feet of chain a day

• So far the chain contains 1,076,656 wrappers

• It measures 46,053 feet — that's 8.72 miles

• It would take three hours to walk its length, or nearly nine minutes in a car doing 60 mph, were he ever to actually lay it all out on a line

• The chain resides in eight custom Plexiglas display cases (above) that allow the chain to travel unbroken from one container to the next.

• He only uses Wrigley wrappers.

• Gary estimates he's spent about 360 hours just measuring and marking the chain.

• He estimates that construction of the chain has taken around 16,000 hours, the equivalent of eight straight years of 40-hour-weeks

• In his day job he is the general manager for Virginia Materials, Inc.

• Gary's wife, Deborah, a dance teacher and personal trainer, is tolerant, he said, "As long as I keep it to one room"

• Most of his wrappers arrive as donations, solicited from his website, www.gumwrapper.com


Every night, he notes, he can set a new world record.

I was just sitting here, doing something close to nothing, but different from the day before, when I got to wondering what bookofjoe might be like in 2045.

Forty years more?

I'm down wit dat.

Although I am going to require the assistance of R, bookofjoe's official cloner.

Thank goodness there's a joehead willing to step up.

April 7, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Swiss Pen


The classic basics of a Swiss Army knife merge with a ball point pen.

Scissors, knife, file, LED flashlight from Victorinox; and a pen that writes upside down and in zero gravity, in case you want to take notes while you're retching aboard the "Vomit Comet".

In red, blue or black (the pen).


$49.95 here.

Don't take it to the airport.

April 7, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Longhand — 'A calculator for Mac OS X'


"Most other computer calculators try blindly to emulate the physical format of their predecessors. What works well in the real world, however, functions worst, and is often not desired, in its virtual sibling."

Time out here: that last sentence, from the Longhand website, is worth memorizing and recalling from time to time.

If you're among the walking brain-dead like me, you could print it out and put it on the free area above your keyboard keys, or even on a 3 x 5 card.

Because that insight applies not just to calculators but to everything.

But I digress.


"By leveraging the capabilities provided by modern Macintosh technology, Longhand allows you to perform everything from the most basic to the most complex of calculations with great ease.

Above and below are screenshots from the site.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: it's free.

But you have to have a Mac.


Sorry about that, PC people.

[via AR]

April 7, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

PatentRoom.com — 'The Art of Industrial Design'

A nice, quiet, understated site that features patents in architecture, automobiles and toys from the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s.

See what others have dreamed up.

Stuff like this


coffeeshop you enter via the handle (George B. Brown, 1947);

The leaning tower of pizza,


patented by Louis J. Catania in 1956;

The spinning whirligig toy of Henry Harper,


invented in 1930;

and the "pie-on-pie"–shaped car created by


Frank A. Petry in 1957.

Then, if you want to explore further, visit the United States Patent Office website: you can search for patents, read, download and print them out, whatever you like.

Invention favors the lazy and the bored, so you're perfectly positioned for something great to happen.

[via hurie.org]

April 7, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Laser-Guided Car Parking


"Nothing is more accurate than laser-guided parking," crows the catalog entry for this "space age laser parking system."

I'm sure that's correct, but I'm also certain that you don't use a tank to crack walnuts.

When I looked at the picture (above) of this device in action, for a moment I thought it might be a still from the new "Terminator 4: The Lasers Strike Back."

But the beam isn't burning a hole in the pretty BMW's hood, it turns out; it's simply helping its brain-damaged driver (I mean, he bought the darn thing, Q.E.D., don't you think?) position his vehicle just so in his garage.

"Simply attach the laser unit to your garage ceiling above your vehicle's windshield. As you pull into the garage, the built-in motion sensor automatically turns on the laser beam. When the beam strikes your dashboard, you know to stop."

I dunno, I've always just noted some landmark or nail in the side of the garage and pulled in so that my head is even with it.

But if you prefer to be new-fangled, then you can buy a Laser Park for $29.98 here.

Just remember not to look up.

April 7, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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