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December 13, 2007

'Do I know you?' (on Facebook) is the new 'What do you do?'


You know how when you go to a party, once you start talking to someone inevitably the question "What do you do?" surfaces.

Who cares? has always been my (unspoken) response.

Maybe that's why I've never liked parties.


Facebook's default opener is "How do I know you?"

Equally boring.

Once upon a time the question was, "Do you come here often?"

Who knew?

December 13, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cheap, fast and easy: Christmas shopping made simple


For a minute there I thought someone was talking about me.


But I digress.


Inkstone.net offers decks of playing cards "with a twist," to wit:


your choice of a variety of themes and motifs (above and below),


each with a photo and related caption such as a description, recipe or what have you.


Everyone from Cat Power to Donald Trump will find at least one of these decks entertaining and/or amusing.


If I'm wrong simply get in touch with me and I'll cheerfully refund every penny you paid.


Tell you what: for $8.95 a pop


you could do a lot worse.

December 13, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bratwurst Museum


It's located in Holzhausen, Germany, a village whose main intersection is marked by a giant sausage-and-bun sculpture (above).

Craig Whitlock's December 2, 2007 Washington Post story about the recent unearthing of a 1432 document laying down "... the law regarding the production of Thuringian Rostbratwurst, perhaps the most popular variety of sausage in a country where wurst is worshiped as sacred grub," follows.

    Germans Take Pride in the Wurst

    1432 Decree Shows Thuringian Sausage May Have Been Nation's First Regulated Food

    It's the German version of the chicken-or-the-egg conundrum: Which was regulated first, beer or bratwurst?

    For centuries, brewers seemed to have history on their side. As evidence, they cited the world-renowned Reinheitsgebot, the Bavarian beer purity law of 1516, which stipulated barley, hops and water as the only permissible ingredients in the German national drink.

    But thanks to Hubert Erzmann, a 75-year-old amateur historian, sausage lovers are crowing these days. Digging in the Weimar city archives, Erzmann unearthed a yellowed, handwritten parchment from 1432 that laid down the law regarding the production of Thuringian Rostbratwurst, perhaps the most popular variety of sausage in a country where wurst is worshiped as sacred grub.

    The official document decreed that bratwurst from this corner of Thuringia, today a central German state, be made only from "pure, fresh" pork. Forbidden were beef, internal organs, parasites and anything rancid.

    Although the regulations might not sound revolutionary, wurst aficionados have described the bratwurst purity law as a holy find, almost as significant to German culture as a Gutenberg Bible.

    "As soon as I found it, I ran to the director of the archive and said, 'Look! Look what I found!' " recalled Erzmann, who has haunted the archives for years in hopes of making such a discovery.

    Food purity laws hold a revered place in the German soul. When the modern German nation was formed in 1871, Bavaria joined on condition that its beer purity rules be applied to the entire country. Even today, spoiled meat outbreaks are a national scandal and consumer protection is considered among the most important functions of government.

    "The medieval regulations in Germany were incredibly modern," said Michael Kirchschlager, an author who writes about Thuringian culture. "When you think of the Middle Ages, you think the food wasn't necessarily that safe. But the hygiene in many ways was better than today."

    A replica of the bratwurst purity law soon will be enshrined at the German Bratwurst Museum ( www.bratwurstmuseum.net), located 24 miles away in Holzhausen, a village whose main intersection is marked by a giant sausage-and-bun sculpture.

    The museum, run by an organization called Friends of Thuringian Bratwurst, opened last year and is packed with exhibits describing the social and political history of the famous wurst.

    Visitors learn that a man named Hans Stromer ate 28,000 bratwursts during a long stint in jail in the 16th century. There's also a corner dedicated to Karl Sterzing, a Fleischermeister, or butcher, from the village of Grossbreitenbach, who grilled an estimated 2 million bratwursts at his home between 1945 and 1985.

    In Thuringia, each man, woman and child consumes an average of 60 bratwursts a year, according to statistics compiled by the museum. The bratwurst industry in the state employs about 18,000 people. And the public hospital in the town of Bad Berka mandates that all patients and staff be served bratwurst for breakfast every Monday morning.

    "The first question most visitors always ask about our museum is 'Why?' " said Uwe Keith, president of the museum's board. "It's just that Thuringian Rostbratwurst is such a part of life here."

    For the uninitiated, Thuringian bratwurst is distinguished from the other 41 varieties of German bratwurst mainly by its distinctive spices (marjoram, garlic, sometimes a bit of lemon) and its fat content (only 25 percent, compared with up to 60 percent for greasier cousins). It's also supposed to be cooked and eaten within 24 hours after it is stuffed in the casing.

    The sausage is generally between six to seven inches long and served on a very small crusty bread roll, the main purpose of which is to keep your fingers off the meat.

    It is traditionally served with mustard, though barbarians sometimes top it with ketchup. Thuringian bratwurst must be roasted or grilled. To fry it is a sin.

    Traditionally, entire Thuringian villages would gather to slaughter hogs and make wurst as a communal activity, said Thomas Maeuer, a member of the museum's board.

    Getting drunk on schnapps or beer was all part of the fun. "Eating bratwurst was even a bigger family festivity than having the Sunday roast," he said.

    Erzmann, the historian, said he discovered the bratwurst purity document in 2000. But its existence was kept largely under wraps until this fall, when it was publicized in a book and by the bratwurst museum.

    The original decree will remain in a bound set of documents in the Weimar city archives. Erzmann guessed that no one had cracked the book in at least a century. "I would have missed it, too, had I not gone through it line by line to translate into modern German," he said.

    Around the same time, Erzmann unearthed another document that threatens to roil the beer vs. bratwurst debate even further. It is a beer purity law from the city of Weissensee, and while it's not entirely clear when it was written, he said it dates to 1434 — just two years after the Weimar bratwurst regulations.

    Although Erzmann maintains his scholarly objectivity, he gave a hint about his personal feelings on which came first.

    "We have an old saying in Thuringia," he said. "Rain or shine, we stuff our faces with bratwurst."

December 13, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Socket Pocket — Episode 3: You name it


Episode 1 on August 11, 2007 introduced this approach to charging a device without its cord dangling and twisting and catching on everything.

Then came a much more stylish iteration on October 11, 2007.

Now comes a third approach.

From the website:

    Cell Phone Holder

    No more charging cords on the floor or counter

    When charging your phone, don’t leave it on the floor where it can get stepped on or on the kitchen counter where it’s vulnerable to spills.

    This handy shelf hangs adjacent to the plug, keeping your phone safe and the cord neatly wrapped and out of the way.


They call it a Cell Phone Holder but what about iPods and PDAs and all the rest?

Come on, I know someone out there's got a better name for it.


December 13, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Back to the future — Return of the DeLorean


Down in Humble, Texas, mechanic and entrepreneur Stephen Wynne is preparing to bring the legendary car into the 21st century.

Here's John Poretto's August 20, 2007 Associated Press story about the revival.

    Texas firm readies to revive DeLoreans

    In a nondescript warehouse in east Texas, mechanic and entrepreneur Stephen Wynne is bringing a rare sports car back to life. If he succeeds, he almost certainly has Michael J. Fox to thank.

    A quarter century after DeLorean Motor Co. began making its glitzy, $25,000 two-seater — an operation that collapsed after two years — Wynne's small automotive outfit plans to bring the vehicle back into limited production at a 40,000-square-foot factory in this Houston suburb.

    The creation of renowned automotive engineer John DeLorean, DMC eventually made fewer than 9,000 cars, distinctive for their gull-wing doors, stainless-steel exterior and rear-engine design. An estimated 6,500 remain on the road.

    Despite DMC's flop, the car has persevered, gaining notoriety largely as the time machine Fox drove in the blockbuster 1985 movie, "Back to the Future," and its two sequels.

    The trilogy's enduring popularity on cable TV has exposed countless viewers — and potential customers — to a souped-up version of the DeLorean.

    "There isn't a day somewhere in the world that 'Back to the Future' isn't playing as a rerun," said Wynne, president of the new, privately held DeLorean Motor Co.

    Wynne formed the company in 1995, when the bulk of his business was working on original DeLoreans at a Houston garage. Still, he needed a name, and because there was nothing legally preventing him from using the original, he decided to give it a shot. He even called John DeLorean, who wished him luck.

    A dozen years later, Wynne hopes to parlay the car's celebrity — along with the world's biggest stash of DeLorean parts and engines — into a niche production business that begins hand-making two DeLoreans a month sometime next year. They've just started taking orders.

    Already, the Humble operation will take an existing DeLorean, strip it to the frame and rebuild it for a base price of $42,500. Wynne's staff can rebuild one every couple of months.

    The company also handles routine maintenance, such as oil changes and tuneups, and ships between 20 and 50 parts orders a day to mechanics and individual owners worldwide.

    But because the original models are roughly 25 years old, finding suitable candidates to refurbish has become increasingly difficult.

    So Wynne figured: Why not use the thousands of parts and hundreds of engines sitting in his massive warehouse and build the cars from scratch?

    "Everything seems to evolve around here, and that seemed to be the next logical step," said Wynne, a Briton who began working on DeLoreans in the 1980s in Los Angeles, becoming expert in their mechanics and equipment. He eventually expanded to suburban Houston and opted to make his base here, in part because of the lower cost of living.

    Like other DeLorean mechanics at the time, Wynne bought replacement parts from an Ohio company, Kapac Co., which had acquired the original inventory when DeLorean failed. In 1997, when Kapac wanted out of the parts business, Wynne bought the supply for himself, though he declined to say how much he paid.

    A decade later, he's decided to take the company to the next level: Niche automaker.

    The handmade cars will feature about 80 percent original parts. The other 20 percent will be new, supplier-made parts from companies such Valeo SA and the Bosch Group, said DeLorean vice president James Espey.

    The one limiting factor is the doors. The company has enough for about 500 cars, though it's important to keep some in stock for repairs and such. Beyond that, Espey said, the company is studying its options.

    Enhancements to the new cars will include an improved stainless-steel frame, a stronger but lighter fiberglass underbody and electronics upgraded from the disastrous systems in the early DeLoreans. A peppier engine — the original cars' 135 horsepower was a downer for performance enthusiasts — will be available as an option.

    "After working on these cars practically every day for 25 years, we've identified most of the issues and replaced them," Wynne said. "If there's a better part available, we'll use it. If there's a better way to install it, we'll do it."

    The base price of a new DeLorean is expected to be $57,500 — roughly the same price a 1981 DeLorean would have cost in today's dollars. The company will sell the cars from its shop in Humble and affiliate shops in Bonita Springs, Fla., Crystal Lake, Ill., Bellevue, Wash., and Orange County, Calif. DMC also has a shop in the Netherlands for European owners.

    "It's taken years to get the wheels moving, and they're moving slowly, but we've got motion," Wynne said.

    Ken Baker likes the company's direction — so much so that the Bentley and Rolls Royce sales executive in Fort Lauderdale drives his own original DeLorean and heads that region's DeLorean owners group.

    A car guy to the core, Baker says he became enamored with John DeLorean in high school after reading DeLorean's book, "On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors," the author's critical look inside his former employer.

    DeLorean was the antithesis of the buttoned-down auto executive of his day, sporting designer suits, dating models and moving in celebrity circles. While at GM in the 1960s, he created what some consider the first "muscle car," putting a V-8 engine into a Pontiac Tempest and calling it the GTO.

    When DeLorean began making his own car in Northern Ireland in 1981, Baker says he fell in love with it. Of course, as a teenager, he wasn't able to shell out $25,000. Now, at 41, Baker is a proud DeLorean owner.

    "You have to understand it's a car that never got to its full development because it was gone before it really hit its prime," Baker said. "And you have to realize it's 25 years old. But understanding that, it's fun to drive and very comfortable."

    Unfortunately, DeLorean simply couldn't sell enough of the cars to sustain the business. The company folded in 1983, a year after DeLorean was busted in a drug trafficking sting and accused of conspiring to sell $24 million worth of cocaine to salvage the venture. He used an entrapment defense to win acquittal, but legal entanglements plagued him for years to come. He died in 2005 at age 80.

    Kevin Smith, editorial director for the automotive Web site Edmunds.com, said he's interested to see if the Humble effort fares better than the Irish debacle. He said quality control is often an issue with limited production, "but I'm always optimistic for people who want to make new and interesting cars."

    The newest version of the DeLorean will certainly be interesting and exclusive, Smith said, "and for some people with means, that's enough."



Above, John De Lorean with his namesake.

December 13, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Liquor Lock


From the website:

    Liquor Lock

    Keep "unwanted customers" from running your bar dry.

    Just enter a three-pin combination, then turn the top clockwise until the lock expands and is tight.

    Re-enter the combination and turn counter-clockwise to release.

    Keep the kids and help from helping themselves.


Note to file: Forward to clifyt.


December 13, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack



Though rather misanthropic on first impression,


further investigation reveals this site to be a compendium of interesting places to go and things to see.

It might be one of the few organized outposts in virtual space where my Indianapolis correspondent, whom some say is Ambrose Bierce reincarnated, would feel perfectly at home.


I only became aware of monkey.org when one of its members, a schoolteacher who shall remain anononymous


because I believe — even though she didn't say so in so many words — that's the way she'd prefer it, commented on a post back in August.

December 13, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ShowerFloss — 'Prevent diseases by flossing in the shower'


That's what it says in the catalog.

From the website:


    ShowerFloss can help provide some of the best preventative dental care.

    Hate to floss?

    ShowerFloss prevents painful, unsightly gum disease by helping to control plaque before it starts.

    Just attach it to your shower fixture and get the benefits of an oral irrigator like your dentist's.

    Harmful bacteria can build up under the gums in "pockets," leading to gum disease and bad breath.

    Powerful ShowerFloss flushes out these pockets, reducing bacterial build-up.

    Compatible with 98% of all home showers.


    • Tubing and sleeves

    • Red and blue piks

    • Wall hanger

    • Adapter

    • Handle


December 13, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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