Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cooking for Engineers


At a young age, I read the Joy of Cooking. Back to Front. I've always had a love-love relationship with food and when I was of an age to be entranced by Mr. Rogers, it was mostly because he came on before Yan Can Cook, the Frugal Gourmet (I don't care, his recipes are awesome) and Julia Child. I read cookbook after cookbook, comparing recipes, writing my own notes and then writing my own recipes, trying to understand the science of it all. Why were my fried eggs soggy? Why didn't my pop-overs pop? I was good at math and science and cooking was like chemistry, there were things going on, food things, amalgams to compound, liquids to emulsify, energy to be released. I bought as many of the Time-Life "The Good Cook" series as I could, because they taught the basics: marinades needed an acid, an immersive, and a flavoring agent; chicken saut├ęs must be seared then tempered with vegetables then finished in a simmer.

Modern cooking shows like Alton Brown's "Good Eats" were such a godsend, because he put the math and science right next to the cooking. Finally, someone else got that teaching one to prepare food should not be about teaching how to follow a recipe, but how to understand food and how to experiment with it.

You don't have to have cable (or a TV for that matter) to learn the same thing. Enter, "Cooking for Engineers", a site built for analytical minds that like to cook aimed at demystifying the science of food preparation. In addition to their ingredients dictionary, catalogue of cooking tests, and notes on equipment and gear, at the end of each recipe is a Nassi-Shneiderman diagram (shown above for New England Style Chowder) which is simply the recipe at one glance. Now why hasn't Alton Brown thought of that?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Embrace the Shoelace


Once upon a time, I was a middle-schooler of the eighties, fond of watching ThunderCats, buying dresses printed with faux paint splatters, and wearing my black Reebox sneakers with wild shoelaces, meticulous threaded during timeless evenings of Gimme-A-Break, Growing Pains, or Family Ties.

Now that the eighties are unofficially back, I find myself pressing my nose against the glass at Lady Footlocker, wondering if I can get away with practicing my basket-weaving skills on the tops of my shoes. You could do it too, you know. And you don't need to scour the pages of Seventeen magazine like I did back in the day. You can just take a look at Ian's Shoelace Site. Which, among other things, has colorful step-by-step instructions on not only how to tie designer laces the envy of any respectable Reebox wearer, but also carries shoelace news stories, tips for teaching children, ways to repair agelets (those shoelace ends) and methods for calculating your own appropriate shoelace length.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Stay Cool


I was supposed to see U2 3D last weekend with some friends down at the Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater in the National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian, but the very idea of leaving the apartment and foraging into that horrible hotness that can only be known as DC "weather" caused a swoon that could only be cured by cold beer, soccer games and Xbox.

I also spent some time surfing the web and pretending to be productive, when came upon list after list of interesting websites that I never got around to visiting. Seems like everyone has a listing of what they think are the "coolest" website on the web. But these Ploomy, what men need to know and Time Magazine actual have some street cred. Take a look at Ploomy's "10 Cool Websites" and Times' "10 Cool Websites" when you are cranking up the AC and hiding from the DC heat wave.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Hot Dog, Haute Dog


When summer approaches, hot dog consumption goes up exponentially as the temperature increases. (Not to mention, I'm heading off for my sister's wedding this weekend in Chicago). In honor of such simple pleasures, I would like to bring attention to the Chicago Tribune's article, "Hot dog, haute dog!". You don't have to go to Chicago to experience these creative twists on the old-fashioned dog. Included in the article are fabulous recipes from the Chicago Chefs for making such delicious innovations like the Asian Tuna Dog, or the Hoisin-and-Hot-Mustard-Glazed Tofu Dog in your own kitchen. And don't worry, when asking the five interviewed chefs to put their own spin on the wondrous wienie, they made sure to stipulate it had to be something the home cook could feasibly replicate.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Garfield minus Garfiled



Dan Walsh of Dublin did all Garfield critics a favor when he took the orange lay-about and all of his furry friends out of Jim Davis's cartoons. The result is a neurotic, manic-depressive and frankly hysterical offshoot called "Garfield minus Garfield" showcasing the neuroses of Jon Arbuckle (Garfield's Owner) in all their delirious glory.

Surreal and a touch dark (they way I like 'em) Jon's antics are still touchingly human and laughably ridiculous. In Amy Orndorff's article, "When the Cat's Away, Neurosis Is on Display" in the Washington Post, she noted "the futility in making everything turn out right every day". I for one, love the Walsh's refreshing pandering to the lonely, absurd and desperate conditions of office workers and stalled dreamers everywhere.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Thesaurus.com's Lexico sued by Roget's Thesaurus


If you use thesaurus.com as extensively as I do, you'll notice that on or about May 1st the website became drastically useless. Here's what happened.

Around April 8th, 2008, Jezebel.com made a snuff about synonyms for the word "weaker" at thesaurus.com, which came up as "female" and "lady". While disgusting, synonyms like these don't particularly surprise me since they are slang for the concept of female as the "weaker sex". (Yes, while males get stuck with synonyms like "soul" and "humanity", feminine synonyms run a gamut of derogatory slanders. Welcome to being a lady. But that is another post.) Many of these synonyms can be found in Roget's Thesaurus (indicated as slang, just like I said). I know because it is on the bookshelf above my writing desk (sometimes I like to drift among the words, like a thirsty man in the desert, so sue me. Oops, did I give away the post?). The people these synonyms surprised the most, were the people at Roget's Thesaurus.

The attention and outrage garnered at Jezebel.com lead to someone at Roget's realizing that Thesaurus.com was lifting their words and infringing on the copyright of their 21st Century Thesaurus. They are now suing Lexico, the owners of Thesaurus.com in "The Philip Lief Group, Inc vs. Lexico Publishing Group" dated May 7th, 2008.

Apparently in 1990 and 1998, Roget employed a Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD to create the 21st Century Thesaurus and the Revised edition. Roget retained the copyright and its agreement with Kipfer prohibited her from participating in the preparation of another English language thesaurus without Roget's permission. In 1999, Thesaurus.com requested a license for Roget's Thesaurus for its (then) fledgling internet based reference business. Citing that the business was not profitable and would be used mainly to educate people, they offered Roget's $3,000 smackers. Roget's declined.

Meanwhile, Thesaurus.com entered into an agreement with Dr. Kipfer to buy a thesaurus for their online site called "Roget's New Millennium Thesaurus". Roget's is charging that Kipfer's "New Millennium Thesaurus" is actually their "21st Century Thesaurus" copied verbatim, complete with misspellings and nonsense words.

Oops.

From 2002 to 2008 Thesaurus.com has increased in business value by creating a significant web based advertising supported business replete with pay for use premium features. In July of 2007 Lexico (declined) an offer of 100 million dollars for its sale.

Around May 19th, Thesaurus.com apparently removed all the words from their database that could only be found in Roget's new Millennium Thesaurus. The result is fewer returns, non-existing antonyms and some that words no longer have thesaurus entries. Since each word is cross-referenced through hyperlinks, this has drastically reduced the overall effectiveness of their on-line tool. Cries across the web have ranged from complaints about the "massive reduction" of hits and the "newly degraded" format to less detailed epithets ("suddenly sucks" and "now worthless").

Other discussions on the subject have disintegrated to a lot of finger pointing. Thesaurus.com's parent company, Lexico, has remained mum on the subject (foolhardy in my humble opinion) but court records serve as the herald of the awful truth.