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June 14, 2007

Mr. Wizard is dead

Don Herbert (above), who began his TV career as Mr. Wizard on NBC on March 3, 1951, and continued on Nickelodeon until 1990, died this past Tuesday, June 12, 2007 at age 89 at his home in Los Angeles.

Here's Martin Weil's obituary from yesterday's Washington Post.

    Don Herbert; Mr. Wizard Of Children's Television

    Don Herbert, 89, who as television's Mr. Wizard was for many years one of the nation's foremost popularizers of science, particularly noted for his ability to attract, inspire and hold the interest of children, died June 12 at his home in the Los Angeles area.

    A son-in-law, Tom Nikosey, said Mr. Herbert died of cancer.

    Once an aspiring actor, Mr. Herbert used gifts of showmanship, imagination and manual dexterity to create demonstrations that satisfied the senses, expanded the mind and provided insight into the workings of nature.

    People of all ages remained enthralled by his television appearances, which included brief science news flashes for adults, a number of TV science specials and "Watch Mr. Wizard," the long-running children's show that transfixed the baby-boom generation.

    His instructional legacy, begun in the days of small-screen black-and-white television, has continued into the computer age, with the Web site www.mrwizardstudios.com.

    Of all his achievements, his son-in-law said, Mr. Herbert probably considered his most important legacy to be "communicating science to children." Nikosey said thousands, and perhaps millions, were influenced by his TV show.

    A significant figure in television history, Mr. Herbert brought his first show to the air on NBC on March 3, 1951. Television was still in its infancy in terms of the number of viewers and the effect it had on American culture.

    Mr. Herbert's 30-minute show seemed to symbolize the potential of the new medium to instruct and entertain and to unite a mass audience around a common interest.

    Within three years, almost 100 stations carried the show and science clubs inspired by it sprung up around the United States. In contrast with the modern admonition "don't try this at home," Mr. Wizard's viewers were prompted to do just that: that is, to reproduce the experiments and demonstrations they watched on the show.

    Mr. Herbert had served in World War II as the pilot of a heavy bomber, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and holding the rank of captain, and was unfazed by the challenges of performing live in the days before the modern TV prompter.

    However, he prepared himself with "18 file cabinets full of notes," he once told the New York Times, and kept reminders to himself posted around the studio, out of sight of the camera, for emergency use.

    Another of his secrets: "Even when things went wrong, we could always explain why."

    With almost 550 live broadcasts, the show ran through 1965, winning praise from scientific organizations and earning Mr. Wizard the image of a permanent ambassador from the world of science.

    After being revived on NBC, the show came to life again on the Nickelodeon cable channel from 1983 to 1990.

    Donald Jeffrey Herbert was born in Waconia, Minn., on July 10, 1917, and studied at Lacrosse State Teachers College, now a branch of the University of Wisconsin. He studied drama and science in college and once performed in summer theater opposite Nancy Davis, the future wife of President Ronald Reagan.

    In Chicago, where Mr. Herbert acted on radio, he presented broadcasters with the idea that combined his interests in theatrical performance and in the hard facts of scientific truth.

    His first marriage ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife and three children.

    The "wizard" of the title of Mr. Herbert's trademark show might seem to be the antithesis of science, but Mr. Herbert knew its value.

    "We thought we needed it to seem like magic to hook the audience," he said, "but then we realized that viewers would be engaged with just a simple scientific question, like, why do birds fly and not humans?"


Flags at MAKE magazine headquarters are flying at half-staff this week.

June 14, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's best mini offset spatula


No doubt you, like me, have been losing sleep for years fretting about how your mini offset spatula simply doesn't frost cupcakes like it should.

Well, guess what?

Tonight we're both gonna rest easier.

From a review/product comparison in the latest (July/August 2007) issue of Cook's Illustrated:

    Mini Offset Spatula

    You need control when spreading batter or icing.

    We’ve found that tasks like spreading batter in a cake pan or frosting cupcakes are a lot easier with a mini offset spatula. These moderately priced, blunt-edged metal pastry blades, which average about 4-1/2 inches long, are especially helpful in spreading the sticky batter in our Rustic Plum Cake recipe. We tested five models and found significant differences. Thin blades wobbled and wooden handles absorbed odors. Our top choice, the Wilton Angled Comfort Grip 8-Inch Spatula, has a sturdy, round-tipped blade and an easy-to-grip polypropylene handle.



June 14, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Helpful Hints from joeeze: What's the best way to remove strong odors from a cutting board?


Sandra Wu took the question and responded in the July/August 2007 issue of Cook's Illustrated; the published dialogue follows.

What’s the Best Way to Remove Strong Odors From a Cutting Board?


The dishwasher is the best way to clean plastic cutting boards, but often you can’t wait two hours to reuse a malodorous board. To find the best way to remove odors without a dishwasher, we took four cutting boards and cut a large onion and made garlic paste out of raw minced garlic on each of them. Once they were nice and smelly, we used a different odor-removal method on each board before immediately washing it with hot, soapy water: spraying with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of bleach and 1 gallon of water; scrubbing with a paste of 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of water; spraying with distilled white vinegar; and doing nothing more than washing with hot, soapy water.


After the boards were wiped dry, we sliced apples on each one. Tasters were required not only to taste the apples for off-flavors but to sniff the boards as well. The results? Only the baking soda paste-treated board was odor-free; the other boards suffered from varying degrees of sulfurous odors and allium flavors. Tasters were nearly unanimous in finding the apples cut on the baking soda board “fine,” with “no off-flavors.” So the next time you stink up your cutting board, scrub it with a baking soda paste and follow up by washing it with hot, soapy water.


June 14, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Anna Rögnvaldsdóttir's Exquisite Homemade Knife Block


Just in yesterday from my Iceland correspondent, the following:

    Hi Joe,

    Remember the knife block w/ bamboo skewers you featured a couple of years ago? Well, I loved it and had one made to my specifications. Works like a charm, despite the horizontal position (I wanted to place it on a shelf to keep the counter uncluttered).

    In case you're wondering why the image is B&W: I wanted a picture of the knife block to put on my blog but it turned out awful — fuzzy image, garish colours (dysfunctional camera). Taking out the colour information actually improved the image a tad so I left it at that. A shame because the box (made by a craftsman friend of mine) is truly a beauty.

    Thanks for the great idea!




"If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." — Usually attributed to Isaac Newton, though my crack research team unearthed an entire book devoted to a search for the origin of this quotation. I read the result (below)


with much amusement and delight.

June 14, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Be a rock star — destroy a hotel on July 3 (by invitation only)

Does Pete Townshend know about this?

Reuters today reports that the Spanish hotel group NH is inviting "stressed-out individuals" to apply to take part in the active demolition of one of its hotels.

Here's the story.

    Stressed execs to smash hotel rooms

    A Spanish hotel chain is running a competition for stressed executives to let off steam in a fashion usually reserved for rock stars — by smashing hotel rooms.

    NH Hoteles will allow 30 people chosen by a team of psychologists to help demolish the interior of the 11-year old NH Alcala hotel in central Madrid as part of its refurbishment, it said.

    The chosen 30, armed with mallet and hard hat, can destroy any part of the 146-room building, NH said, from bringing down walls to smashing windows.

    The demolition will take place on July 3.


An item in the Financial Times "Observer" feature concluded, "The group is keen to stress that this kind of service is not available in its other hotels."


June 14, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oscar-Style USB Webcam with 4 LEDs


Via Ray Earhart, who wrote, "Can't you just see it? Joe TV!"

I'm trying to visualize it, Ray, but all I'm getting is a kind of gray-green mist... wait a minute — it's those darned whirled peas again!


Back to the skunk works.


June 14, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Trends — 'Hot or Not' for the great world


As always with Google, it starts out with a deceptively simple, clean home page.

Once you're there, though, it's like going down the rabbit hole or through Alice's mirror — the fun never stops.

June 14, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Balancing Chair


Another* mind-bending creation from the award-winning Swedish design collective Front.

Elaine Louie, in the "Currents" feature of the June 7, 2007 New York Times Home section wrote, it "... appears to defy gravity by resting on a single leg, although when you sit on it all four legs touch the ground. (The secret lies in the plate of steel anchoring the chair to the floor, connected to the leg with a spring; because it is shaped like the chair's shadow, your eye passes over it)."


June 14, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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