July 28th, 2009

pickle zen

mental_floss has 12 interesting facts about pickles.

3. The majority of pickle factories in America ferment their pickles in outdoor vats without lids (leaving them subject to insects and bird droppings)! But there’s a reason. According to food scientists, the sun’s direct rays prevent yeast and molds from growing in the brine.

4. In the Delta region of Mississippi, Kool-Aid pickles have become ridiculously popular with kids. The recipe’s simple: take some dill pickles, cut them in half, and then soak them in super strong Kool-Aid for more than a week. According to the New York Times, the sweet vinegar snacks are known to sell out at fairs and delicatessens, and generally go for $.50 to a $1.

I can’t get to sleep so I’m reading about pickles. More about pickles.

July 27th, 2009

synthetic biology & bacterial computing

Computers are evolving – literally. While the tech world argues netbooks vs notebooks, synthetic biologists are leaving traditional computers behind altogether. A team of US scientists have engineered bacteria that could solve complex mathematical problems faster than anything made from silicon.

Amazing! Read more at the Guardian.

July 25th, 2009

Arcturus is watching Little House on the Prairie

This map displays the progress of Earth’s tv transmissions as they have disseminated throughout the galaxy to date. Neato! (via kottke)

Posted in Ha!, Space, Time | No Comments »
July 23rd, 2009

101 summer salads


This list of seasonal salads from the New York Times is full of weird, delicious-sounding combinations. Such as…

10. Cook whole grape tomatoes in olive oil over high heat until they brown lightly, sprinkling with curry powder. Cool a bit, then toss with chopped arugula, loads of chopped mint and lime juice.

Can’t wait to work through the list…

July 23rd, 2009

gate change

Above: Kansai Airport, Japan.

The design of new building types has often borrowed from the past—early skyscrapers looked liked steeples, for example—but the 19th-century railroad terminal, a monumental concourse in the front and a steel-and-glass shed over the platforms in the back, was not easily adapted to air travel. Architects have struggled with the problem of how to design airports ever since—and have produced a variety of different solutions.

Slate has a surprisingly insightful slideshow-essay on the evolution of airport architecture.

Posted in Design | No Comments »
July 23rd, 2009

lagers and ales

Above: What a difference a yeast makes!

I’ve sometimes wondered what the technical difference is between a lager and an ale. Apparently the difference comes mainly from the type of yeast used. From the Kitchn:

There are two main strains of yeast that have been cultivated specifically for beer brewing: ale yeast and lager yeast. It’s possible to use the wild yeast living naturally in our environments to brew beer (as for some Belgian styles), but wild yeast is somewhat unpredictable and can result in some very funky brews.

What is it then that the yeast contributes to the flavour of the beer?

Both ale and lager yeasts feed on the sugars in the malt to produce alcohol, carbon dioxide, and other flavors. This fermentation process goes on for between 5 and 14 days, after which the yeast has more or less finished converting all the existing sugars. Additional sugar can be added during bottling to encourage more carbonation in the final brew.

Realbeer has an illuminating mini-history of the use of yeast in brewing. Apprently “lager” comes from the German word for storage: Brewing of one kind of yeast was seasonal and so these beers were stored.

Ales came first, when brewers weren’t exactly sure what role yeast played. Because ales were unstable, brewing ceased in warm weather and brewers would store reserves in as cool or cold an environment as they could find. Brewers storing their beer in very cold Alpine caves found that their beer was more stable because the yeast had sunk to the bottom.

How do all the beer sub-types fall into these two yeast categories? Realbeer says:

Ales include everything with ale in the name (pale ale, amber ale, etc.), porters, stouts, Belgian specialty beers, wheat beers and many German specialty beers. They generally have a more robust taste, are more complex and are best consumed cool (50F or a bit warmer) rather than cold.

Lagers include pilseners, bocks and dopplebocks, Maerzens/Oktoberfests, Dortmunders and a few other styles found mostly in Germany. They are best consumed at a cooler temperature than lagers, although anything served at less than 38F will lose most of its flavor.

July 23rd, 2009

back to back to the future

Via I Watch Stuff:

In the years between Back to the Future and Back to the Future II, Michael J. Fox visibly aged and the actress playing his girlfriend was replaced by Elizabeth Shue. Thus, to show the closing scene from the first film as the opening of the second, it was necessary to completely reshoot it.

CollegeHumor has a video comparing the two versions. Fun:

July 21st, 2009

the english language

July 11th, 2009


Kodu is a game that requires kids to think like programmers. Doesn’t sound innately appealing, but looking at the game preview, I think it could be a fun and creative experience.

I’m not usually a fan of video games, because I have the reaction times of a snail and I tend to be embarrassingly bad at them in general, but I do enjoy the escapism, collaboration and creativity that some games can offer.

via Slate

Posted in Ha!, Video | No Comments »
July 10th, 2009

Shiner Smokehaus


Part of my acculturation process in Texas is of course sampling the local food and drink. Shiner Smokehaus is a new, tasty beer from the local Spoetzl brewery in Texas, which produces one of the State’s most famous beers, Shiner Bock.

The first thing you notice is how pretty the bottle is. A lot of brands here are reverting for nostalgia’s sake to fifties-style packaging, but this is one of the most original and appealing examples.

Then there’s its distinctive smokey flavour:

Brewed with pale malt that’s been smoked with native mesquite in the backyard of our little brewery in Shiner, Texas (pop. 2,070), this refreshing Helles-style (Rauchbier) beer has a smoky flavor that goes great with all the flavors of summer.

From Examiner.com:

The German city of Bamberg is famous as the origin of a unique beer style known as rauchbier (“smoked beer”). This is simply beer brewed with malt that has been smoke-dried over a hardwood fire, and it can add the unique flavors of the wood unlike any other beer style can.

Smoked beers run the entire gamut of combinations: They can be light or dark, ales or lagers, strongly smoked or just a hint. Traditionally, German rauchbiers are lagers (closely associated with bocks) and with flavors that may be described as anything between “mild campfire” to “liquid bacon.”

July 7th, 2009



A clever design solution… Even if kind of unnecessary — worst case scenario without it is perhaps wasting 20 cents’ worth of pasta by making an extra portion or so. (via notcot)

July 7th, 2009

Protected: It The Wind

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July 5th, 2009

Glastonbury 09 in Pictures


A festival-goer shows off his unusual way of carrying his beer supplies at the Glastonbury Festival on June 26, 2009. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

The Boston Globe often has nice series of photos, such as this one of the 2009 Glastonbury festival.

July 5th, 2009

identity crisis

What if the crisis is not simply that identity eludes you?

July 4th, 2009

iced tea and hot boiled peanuts


The Kitchn recently posted a few cool articles.

I’m fascinated by their recipe for hot, boiled peanuts — apparently a delicacy of the American state of Georgia.

One of my cherished past times is driving along winding country roads and stopping at “HOT BOILED P-NUT” stands along the way, and purchasing a paper bag full of addictive, salty, soft peanut snacks. But when I am not in Georgia, I make these tasty treats at home.

Also intriguing is their super simple method for making iced tea

We simply fill our 4-cup bottle with cold water, add a tea bag, and put it in the fridge overnight. By the time we get thirsty the next day, the tea is ready. When using loose-leaf tea, Bill Waddington of TeaSource suggests using two large tablespoons of tea per quart of water, and then letting the mixture steep at least 8 hours.

No matter what kind of tea we brew, the flavor has been delicate and well-balanced without any of the astringency or bitterness we sometimes get when brewing hot tea. So far we’ve tried a jasmine green tea, a spicy black chai, and a peach white tea, and all have been delicious. We prefer it plain, straight from the fridge, and without any ice to dilute it.

And if I had an apartment I’d surely be all over their strategy for creating and stocking a home bar.

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