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June 5, 2006





is what





[via Doug Stanley and the Tampa Tribune]

June 5, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

3-D Caffeine Molecule LED Keychain


From the website:

    Experience Your Favorite Molecule In Three Dimensions!

    This fine looking custom keychain from ThinkGeek is just what the cardiologist ordered.

    It's a masterfully laser-etched 3-D rendition of the caffeine molecule in the middle of a 1.25" x 0.75" x 0.5" block of plastic.

    The plastic is then affixed to a blue LED that is turned on/off by pressing the momentary push button on the top of the battery compartment — lighting up the 3-D molecule in the process.

    What does it all mean?

    Very simply, that if you purchase this keychain you will have the most spiffy, most keen, most hyper keychain on the planet.

    And if you enjoy caffeine as much as us, you'll be able to spend countless hours staring into your mesmerizing 3-D keychain to give thanks to the caffeine molecule gods for their fine contribution to humanity.


June 5, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Should you remove 'quakers' before grinding your coffee beans?


"... so sue me if I go too fast."*

I just learned moments ago that quakers — in the world of coffee — are a whole different thing from the guy on the oatmeal container.

"Quakers are underdeveloped coffee beans that accidentally made it through the manufacturing process," according to the first sentence of the response to the lead item in the "Notes From Readers" section of the new (July/August) issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine.

Here's the full Q&A.

    Strange Brews

    Q. In your supermarket coffee tasting story (November/December 2005) you blamed "quakers" for giving some coffees bad flavor. Couldn't you just remove the quakers before grinding a batch of beans?

    A. Quakers are underdeveloped coffee beans that accidentally make it through the manufacturing process. Because they are less dense than healthy coffee beans, they roast up to a much lighter color, and they can impart a spoiled, rancid taste to a pot of coffee. Some manufacturers pay a premium to make sure quakers are sorted out before processing.

    What about removing them yourself? To see what effect this would have, we spent half an hour sifting through bags of whole-bean coffee (from a brand that evidenced a high number of quakers in our 2005 testing), separating the lighter-colored quakers from the rest. Then we brewed up two batches of coffee: one with the quakers left in; the other, quaker-free. After tasting one batch against the other, a few things were clear: The quaker-free sample was by no means perfect, but the "quakery" coffee was worse (described as more sour, astringent, and "rancid"). Our opinion is that while it won't hurt to remove any qaukers you happen to see, spending half an hour hunched over a bag of coffee isn't worth the effort. Getting rid of a few bad beans isn't enough to transform a low-quality bag of coffee into a high-quality brew.


My first thought after reading the above exegesis was that removing quakers from my weekly pound of fresh-roasted beans delivered to my front step every Monday morning by Doug Escalera, founder-owner of Escalera Roasters here in Charlottesville, might be a perfect task for my crack research team.

They're certainly not of much use in their putative primary role around here, the one I hired and then carefully trained them for, to wit: research and analysis.

They're barely able to sign their own names on their paychecks, that's how bad it's gotten.

But I digress.

I just went and had a careful look through the latest delivery from Doug but there wasn't a quaker to be found.

No surprise, that.

So I guess that's not a job for the team after all.

There's a reason why the very best restaurants in Charlottesville and Central Virginia use Escalera coffee: it's probably intimately related to, among other things, the small-batch roasting personally supervised by Doug.

I suspect very few — if any — quakers ever make it out of the roasting pan with his gimlet eye focused on the beans.

How is it that I get personalized home delivery (free, I might add) by Doug?

Can you get this too?

No, you can't.

The reason I do is that, long ago and far away in a galaxy many parsecs from here, I did a huge favor for Doug that may well have jump-started his business.

I did it for no reason other than that's what I like to do.

I received nothing for it; Doug didn't ask me to do it nor did the other party involved, though both benefited mightily in the end.

That's just how I'm wired.

I didn't have a blog back then; Al Gore or Tim Berners-Lee or Flutist Haynes-not-Hayens hadn't even invented the internet, it was so long ago.

So I had to do something with myself.

Enough of that.

It's interesting, isn't it, that one bad coffee bean won't spoil a pot but a few of them certainly make it less palatable?

Isn't there an old saying with this sentiment?

"One bad rappel [won't] foil the climber's crunch."

Is that it?


Let me think on it for a few years.

*Can you name the song this line is from?


Hint: it's by Prince.

June 5, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Double-Walled Glass Bowl


I guess it was only a matter of time before the double-walled thing spread from beverage glasses out into the greater dining space.

From the website:

    Glass Bowl (double-wall)

    Keeps food chilled longer, eliminates condensation

    Double-wall glass bowl by Bodum® works like this: air between the two layers of glass insulates the outside from temperatures within.

    The result is that ice, cold salads, ice cream and other chilled foods stay that way a whole lot longer, even throughout a buffet dinner.

    Bowl can even be placed on a table without worry of water stains from condensation.


    Measures 6" dia.

$14.95 (scrumptious-looking biscotti and ice cream not included).

June 5, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

quickmuse.com — Internet poetry throwdown


Dinitia Smith wrote in a May 29 New York Times front-page Arts section story story about the latest mashup of the real world and the internet: a virtual poetry contest at quickmuse.com.

In one corner, Thylias Moss (above), author of 10 books and a professor at the University of Michigan.

In the other, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon (below).


Here's the article.

    On Your Marks, Get Set, Poeticize: Dueling Poets on the Web

    Here's the setup: Two writers are given 15 minutes each to compose a poem based on a little inspiration furnished by an editor. They type their poems for posting on a Web site called QuickMuse (quickmuse.com). Fifteen minutes later the poems go up on the site, and can be played back so that readers see the keystrokes unfold second by second and follow each erasure and false start, all the little compromises necessitated by the constrictions of time.

    QuickMuse held its first battle on May 17, pitting the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon against Thylias Moss, author of 10 books and a professor at the University of Michigan. For inspiration the two were given a snippet of Elizabeth Bishop. "Writing poetry is an unnatural act," it began. "It takes great skill to make it seem natural." It was not assumed that they would necessarily write directly to it. Being poets, they would end up writing what they wanted.

    The two read Bishop's words, and they were off.

    Thirteen minutes 19 seconds later Ms. Moss was done. Her untitled poem played on the fact she had a headache:

    my headache remains

    a kind of proof of the seriousness

    of what is locked in my brain,

    everything tucked there, fusing there

    into a feeling so tremendous it hurts."

    Mr. Muldoon used the entire 15 minutes for a poem he called "Aim," about where poetry comes from: "The sense of the poem as having always been,/as the redknot is bent on that selfsame patch/of tundra grass on which it was hatched." The image of the redknot, a bird, came to him, Mr. Muldoon said, because his son, Asher, was turning 7 on May 20, and on that day the redknot arrives at the Delaware Bay en route to the Arctic from South America. Mr. Muldoon had used the same image in a poem commemorating Asher's birth.

    "The image was there," Mr. Muldoon said later. "I was clutching at straws."

    On QuickMuse there are no actual winners or losers, though on the site's chat board after the face-off between Mr. Muldoon and Ms. Moss, it was generally agreed that Ms. Moss's poem had a more improvisatory quality, in keeping with her general style. Poets are a contentious group, perhaps because of the small stakes, and poetry competitions go back at least to the Greeks, who called them agons. The founder of QuickMuse, Ken Gordon of Newton, Mass., calls his showdowns agons too. Keats and Shelley also liked to square off in sonnet contests.

    Mr. Gordon, a poetry enthusiast who is editor of JBooks.com, a Jewish literature site, said he was interested in the general subject of improvisation in the arts. "Improvisation makes it fresher, more vital," he said. "It doesn't give poets a chance to be careful. It offers them the opportunity to surprise themselves, to say things they didn't know they wanted to say, things their fingers know but their brains do not."

    And of course improvisation has a long history in American culture, especially in jazz. Frank O'Hara and Jack Kerouac wrote quickly, though Truman Capote famously derided Kerouac's work as typing not writing.

    For her part Ms. Moss said that "the idea of writing a poem in this very naked way appealed to me."

    "It gave me the ability to reveal some of the ways I interact with Elizabeth Bishop's words," she continued, "some of my patterns of thinking, without second-guessing myself."

    The purpose of the project, Mr. Gordon said, is to give poets a chance to avoid what the lyric poet Louise Glück once described as "torment: wanting to write, being unable to write; wanting to write differently, being unable to write differently." The poets are not paid for their efforts.

    The next round, to take place tomorrow at 9 p.m. Eastern time, will pit the former United States poet laureate Robert Pinsky against Julianna Baggott, a poet and fiction writer. Visitors to the site will be able to see and play back the completed poems by 9:30.

    Mr. Pinsky, the senior poet, said he was looking forward to his chance to risk all and turn on a dime. "My ambition was to be a jazz musician," he said recently. Writing poetry fast is like composing music, he said. "You should be able to fit a lot of sounds together quickly."

    Not all the poets Mr. Gordon contacted were so eager to take part. Mark Strand, a poet known for his chiseled language, declined because, as he said in an e-mail message, he revises constantly, sometimes going through as many as 50 drafts of a poem. "Being spontaneous doesn't interest me nearly as much as getting 'it' right — 'it' being the poem," he said. "I write slowly, come to conclusions slowly, and for better or worse I am just a slow poet."

    Andrei Codrescu, the Romanian expatriate writer who has a tendency toward the surreal, also said no. "I'm all for improvisation," he wrote in an e-mail message. "I'm just not for improvisation online. There is a big difference between creating with your friends face to face in a bar or a living room, and typing away with strangers for Internet consumption."

    Besides, "poetry is a rare commodity that pays next to nothing even in print," Mr. Codrescu added. "Why would I give it away for free on the Internet while playing footsie with strangers?"

    QuickMuse uses a program created for it by Fletcher Moore, a Web designer in Atlanta, that captures the poets' keystrokes for eventual playback. (Mr. Moore calls it the Poematic.)

    The participants take part from their offices, living rooms or bedrooms. "It's completely virtual," Mr. Gordon said. "Everyone is all over the place. The Internet hasn't done anything to advance literature. This is a chance, as Ezra Pound said, to 'make it new.' "

    In Mr. Pinsky's opinion, the 15 minutes allotted is more than enough. He told Mr. Gordon he wanted even less time. "It's physical, like sketching," Mr. Pinsky said, "like modeling with clay." You may not write your best, he added, "but you should be able to write something that is memorable."

June 5, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Beverage Bobber Floating Cooler


From the website:

    The Big Bobber

    Ahab could have used this Bobber.

    This floating cooler stores beverages while staying afloat in water.

    It keeps your beverages cool, weighs only 5-1/2 pounds and has a built-in handle for carrying.

    Holds a dozen 12-ounce cans or bottles with ice.

    Can be attached to boats, rafts or float tubes.


Oh, yeah, one last thing: if I'm dropping by do me a favor and throw a couple Clausthaler non-alcoholic brewskis in for me, will ya?

After much tasting and evaluation here years ago it came first among all its ersatz beer competitors.

And yes — I do realize "non-alcoholic beer" is an oxymoron.

Cut me a little slack, will ya?



The Big Bobber costs $34.95 (beverages not included).

June 5, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

IBDB — Internet Broadway Database


I just stumbled on it.

It is what it says.

How is it that it's been up since 2001 and I'm just twigging?

Time to clean house and start fresh with a new crack research team, I think: the current iteration's been hard at it — well, admittedly doing the best they can but it's simply not good enough — for over two months, which must be a longevity record here.




June 5, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

ColorSplash Camera — Now your parachute can be any color you like


As if.

From the website:

    A Flashy Flash

    Add a little color to any photograph with the amazing flash of this Colorsplash camera.

    This flash features a patented colorwheel system


    that lets you choose tinted filters that recast your subjects in a gorgeous sheen of green.

    Or yellow, for that matter, or blue, red, pink, orange — you have nine filters to chose from.

    And a long exposure capability allows you to add dreamy streaked backgrounds to your crisp colorful foregrounds.

    It takes normal 35mm film and uses normal processing, too.

    Camera includes battery, film, filters and poster.

    9 filters include: two orange, two green, two purple and one each of blue, pink and red.

    Uses standard 35mm film and can be developed at any photo lab.

    Flash requires one AA battery (not included).

    6"W x 3.25"L x 1.5"H



Many years ago, I found myself down in New Orleans serving as an expert witness at the request of Lawrence J. Smith, attorney at law and perhaps the most memorable figure I've encountered in the legal profession in over twenty years of consulting work.

Anyhow, apropos of nothing, in the middle of a very tense deposition, he suddenly interjected, "You want a blue suit? Turn on a blue light."

I cracked up — no one else even smiled.


The camera is $75.

Stories like that above?


June 5, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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