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June 27, 2006

Thomcord Grapes: Faux Fruit — or Fabuloso?


Well, you'll be the judge, won't you, when this new hybrid grape (above) arrives in your supermarket's produce department sometime during the next few years.

It's a cross between a Concord grape (purple, with seeds and a distinct flavor) and a Thompson grape (green, seedless and neutral in flavor).

What horticulturalist David W. Ramming — leader of the grape breeding studies group at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, part of the Agricultural Research Service — got during his initial experiments in the 1980s was a mish-mash: some grapes were white with Concord flavor, some were purple without flavor, some had seeds and some were seedless.

But one was special: it was purple, had Concord flavor and no seeds.

Ramming called it A29-67 (catchy, what?) and played with it for 17 years, fine-tuning it until the fruit was reliably delicious, firm and easy enough to harvest to make it commercially competitive.

He succeeded.

According to Guy Gugliotta's item in the June 19 Washington Post "Science Notebook," Thomcords "are a staple of Central Valley [California] farmer's markets and should soon be in California supermarkets."

Ramming's work was reported on June 16 by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

June 27, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Official Foldaway Travel Scale of my home planet


Memories... of the way we got here.


But I digress.

Leigh Lambert of the Washington Post brought this device


to my attention in a brief review which appeared in the June 21 Food section.

    She wrote:

    You don't have to be a traveling dieter to appreciate the Tanita KD-400 foldaway travel model.


    It could help with portion control while you're on the road, and its features also include a weighted stainless-steel base, 11-pound [5 kg] weight capacity and tare function.

    The fold-up display creates a narrow, vertical footprint that can fit right in on the cookbook shelf.


"Portion control while you're on the road?"


You gotta be kidding — the only redeeming factor of traveling is being able to enjoy all the junk food you like, without your thought police casting a gimlet eye on every Pringle.


Measures 6.5" in diamter, weighs 1.4 pounds.

$59.99 at Amazon (put Tanita KD-400 into the search box).


Word origin for "tare" here.

June 27, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

iPod baseBall


The June 18 New York Times Sports section featured an Associated Press story about a new iPod application: by major league baseball players studying past performances of their opponents — and themselves — in an effort to gain an edge.

Most still rely on DVDs and laptops for this purpose but that will change.

Here's the article.

    Videotape? It's Passé for iPod Pitchers

    Three hours before a start against Florida, Colorado Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings sat in front of his locker, put his headphones on and stared at his video iPod.

    He was not watching the latest Coldplay video or catching up on an episode of "Alias" as a way to relax before the game.

    Jennings was doing some last-minute cramming: The Rockies' video staff had downloaded footage of every Marlins hitter into his iPod, and Jennings was studying how to pitch to them. He watched frames of himself delivering the pitch, followed by the result of the play. Everything else was edited out.

    "It's a good way to refresh yourself on how you got guys out," Jennings said. "It's an amazing concept."

    The Rockies have taken the iPod beyond entertainment. And the idea has caught on — teams like the Florida Marlins and Seattle Mariners have called the Rockies to explore their innovative use of the iPod.

    "It wasn't like we invented the wheel," said the Rockies assistant video coordinator Brian Jones, who came up with the idea after the video iPod was released last November. "We're using Apple's technology as best we can. We figured if you can watch music videos by rock 'n' roll and by country, why can't you watch at-bats by San Francisco and pitches by Jason Schmidt?"

    Over the past two decades, video has become common throughout the major leagues, as it is with the N.F.L. Teams have an abundance of film to help players study their opponents and their own technique. In the last few years, players have been able to take home DVD's to watch on their laptops.

    Now all that information is in the palm of their hands.

    "They can do it on their time," the Rockies' video coach, Mike Hamilton, said. "They don't have to be here or they don't have to be behind a desk watching a laptop. They can be at home, on the airplane or even in their locker."

    Boston Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin said he wasn't sure the trend was a good one.

    "Improved the game for us pitchers? No," he said, laughing. "There's only so much you can do to get the guys out. These guys have a better idea and a better understanding. You have to rely on your catchers."

    Mets Manager Willie Randolph does not have a problem with a player analyzing video, but it would not have been for him. Randolph, a former All-Star, preferred extra batting practice to extra film sessions.

    "I think it's overrated, personally, but that's just me," Randolph said. "I'm from a different school."

    The Rockies have downloaded video clips into the iPods of 14 players. For the hitters, they will store every at-bat and download performances of upcoming pitchers. A 60-gigabyte iPod, made by Apple Computer, can hold roughly five seasons' worth of a player's at-bats. Pitchers can get all their performances, along with opponents' at-bats.

    Jones has permission to take iPods from players' lockers to update them, and when the Rockies are on the road, he compiles DVD's of their play and loads video onto the iPods when they return home.

    "I take care of it all," Jones said. "It just takes a few minutes. It's like putting a song on from iTunes."

    The club does not buy the iPods for the players. It's a $399 investment for the 60-gigabyte model (the 30-gigabyte version costs $299). The Rockies have, however, purchased iPods for General Manager Dan O'Dowd and several scouts.

    Colorado's minor league hitting coordinator, Jimmy Johnson, has an iPod filled with video of players in the farm system. If a player is struggling, Johnson can compare his swing from the past with his current swing.

    The iPods came in handy before June's baseball draft.

    "That way the scouts could compare a prospective draft pick in North Carolina with one in California," Hamilton said. "You'd have a real good comparison. The game is so visual now. This helps."

    The small screen size — two and a half inches — has not been a problem.

    "Six or seven guys can't sit around and watch it," Hamilton said. "But if you watch it yourself, it's not that much different from watching a large screen."

June 27, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Grace Lee Project


From the website:

    When Korean-American filmmaker Grace Lee was growing up in Missouri, she was the only Grace Lee she knew.

    Once she left the Midwest however, everyone she met seemed to know "another Grace Lee."

    But why did they assume that all Grace Lees were reserved, dutiful, piano-playing overachievers?

    The filmmaker plunges into a funny, highly unscientific investigation into all those Grace Lees who break the mold -- from a fiery social activist to a rebel who tried to burn down her high school.

    With wit and charm, "The Grace Lee Project" puts a hilarious spin on the eternal question, "What's in a name?"


Watch the trailer here.

June 27, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheDogspeak: Aqua Paws Canine Underwater Treadmill


Just the thing when Fido is rehabbing.

It's just not fair that you should have all the fun.

June 27, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thread Cutter Ring — 'Jane Bond, call your office'


From the website:

    Thread Cutter Ring

    Slip this lovely ring on any finger to easily snip any type of thread — simply, smoothly, and quickly.

    Provides fingertip convenience while sewing or crafting, eliminating the tedious search for scissors.

    Brass with stainless steel blade.

    Adjusts to fit most fingers.

    1" diameter.


I wonder if they'd confiscate this at airport security?

$6.99 (thread not included).

June 27, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How to deter piracy off the the African coast


On November 5, 2005 the luxury cruise liner Seabourn Spirit was attacked off the southern coast of Somalia by pirates, deployed a long-range acoustic device (LRAD — above) against the threat and successfully avoided being ransacked and possibly hijacked.

Here's the November 8, 2005 New York Times story about the attack.

    Somalia: Liner Docks After Pirate Attack

    A cruise liner that was chased and attacked by pirates off Somalia on Saturday docked safely in the Seychelles, in the western Indian Ocean. Passengers described their horror as pirates in speedboats chased the liner, the Seabourn Spirit, firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons for 90 minutes. ''I was very scared,'' said Jean Noll of Florida. Charles Supple of California said he had tried to take a photograph. ''The man with the bazooka aimed it right at me,'' he said. ''Needless to say, I dropped the camera and dived.'' No gunmen boarded the ship, but a crew member was injured by shrapnel, according to the Miami-based Seabourn Cruise Line, a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation. The liner, with 151 passengers, mainly from the United States, Europe and Australia, had been at the end of a 16-day voyage from Alexandria, Egypt.

It was not an isolated event: here's a November 12 New York Times story about other attacks in the area.

    Somalia: Pirates Attack More Ships

    Somali pirates chased and attacked five ships in the last week in a sharp rise of banditry apparently directed from a ''mother ship'' prowling the busy Indian Ocean corridor and launching the speedboats much farther off the coast, the International Maritime Bureau said. Four vessels escaped, including the cruise ship Seabourn Spirit, which was carrying 151 Western tourists, but a Thai cargo ship was commandeered, bringing to seven the number of vessels now being held captive with their crews by the pirates, the bureau said.

LRAD technology has military applications but certainly appears to offer promise in the civilian space as well.

Many cruise ships now carry directable sonic weapons of this nature as part of their security armamentarium.

From the American Technology Corporation website:

    LRAD — The Sound of Force Protection®

    The Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) is a breakthrough long-range hailing and warning device designed to communicate with authority, affect behavior and determine intent.

    It has the unique ability of providing amazing voice and tone clarity in a 15°-30°beam at distances over 300 meters using only two amps of power.

    As a method for safely addressing the difficult missions of waterside force protection against small boats, crowd control, area denial of personnel, clearing buildings and visit board search and seizure operations, LRAD puts distance between a potential threat and troops to save lives on both sides of the device.

    LRAD can also be configured to provide live, continuously recorded video and audio from a remotely controlled ruggedized pan, tilt and zoom mount for high value infrastructure "first responder" capability.

[via Jonathan Margolis and the Financial Times]

June 27, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sausage Roll Cover


From the website:

    Sausage Roll Cover

    Keep Meat Fresher Longer by Capping in Flavor!

    Sausage Roll Cover preserves rolls of sausage, ground beef or turkey.

    Slips on for a snug fit — no waste, no mess.

    Forget about foil or plastic wrap that lets in air and can cause premature spoilage!

    Dishwasher-safe plastic is 2-1/2" diameter.


A matching set of two is $2.99 (Jimmy Dean sausage not included).

June 27, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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