Monday, February 28, 2005
In Search of...Taylor® Ham, the "Heroin of Pork" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Taylor ham, a.k.a. pork rollQ: Have you ever eaten Taylor® ham/pork roll? (Not to be confused with a tailor's ham, which is rarely eaten except in the most dire of circumstances)

(a) What?
(b) Hell no, I'm vegetarian/Muslim/keep Kosher
(c) (*tears come to eyes*) Oh, man, pass me the ketchup (or mustard, if you're from North Jersey)!

If you answered (a) or (b), or you haven't spent at least a few years of your life in the Trenton, New Jersey or Philadelphia area, you may want to skip this post dealing with an obscure preserved meat product; one that inspires intense longing in Garden State expats, and expressions of complete incomprehension in just about everyone else. The object of our devotion is New Jersey's sine qua non of the sausage family, more ancient than but analogous to SPAM™ - only without the global ubiquity or junk-commerce connotations. If SPAM™ is the Elvis of processed pork, then the Taylor Ham is more like James Dean, full of swagger and nuance, machismo and mystery.

There is no substitute for real pork roll, and outside of its geographic home one must sagaciously seek out proper channels to obtain a taste.

Scroll back to the Gerald Ford years. At Kuser Elementary School in Trenton, Wednesdays on the monthly spirit-duplicated lunch menu were invariably marked "pork roll" days (Fridays were "school pizza," toasted hamburger roll halves spread with tomato sauce and a broiled slice of process cheese on top - but that's for another post). Kids would file by the stainless-steel counter and receive their plate containing a plop of canned vegetables, a few soggy Tater Tots, and a hamburger roll containing two slices of Taylor® ham topped with ketchup. This being Central Jersey, mustard on pork roll was considered blasphemy.

I'm not sure pork roll is even considered an acceptable food in New Jersey public schools any more - a couple of slices contain enough salt, nitrates and saturated fat to produce an instant coronary, back in the 1970's who cared? - but its distinctive scent and flavor recall a whirlwind of memories. Its earthy, salty, slightly tart smokiness carries hints of both our nation's and our childhood's early history. When slices of Taylor ham begin to sizzle, you can almost see the campfires of George Washington's beleaguered troops as they prepared to cross the Delaware for liberty, justice, and the pursuit of nourishment, with strains of the Boss' "The River" dolefully echoing in the valley.

Rick Nichols of the Philadelphia Inquirer relates the essential lore of the Taylor Ham:
You may be among those for whom the concept of pork roll - dating to the prized hanging "minced hams" of Trenton's colonial past - is foreign or incomprehensible, or both. It is a taste rarely acquired outside pork roll's Philadelphia-Trenton home base. But once acquired, it's impossible to deny or forget.

It is neither that of salami (not that hard) nor Lebanon bologna (not that spicy), though it shares their shape and white flecking of fat. It isn't as greasy as Spam, though it shares many component parts. It has a bit of the flavor of what is sometimes known as smoked summer sausage. But in the best-known Taylor's brand, there's a distinctive tang and a puckeringly astringent, lemony finish.

The origin of this has always mystified me (the recipes are kept obsessively secret), though Wendy Nardi, curator of the Trentoniana collection, provided a clue... [continue reading]
For some Jersey celebrities, Taylor ham is more than a meal - it's medicine for what ails you:
Both Case and Taylor Pork Rolls were introduced in the later 1800s. But Hometown Tales research has found that the Pork Roll might have been in existence during the Revolutionary War. Our interview with a resident historian uncovered a salted, cured ham that came in a "Roll" so the Continental Army could easily transport it.

We ask New Jerseyans, "Where do you have yours? How do you have yours?" John Bon Jovi, from a Playboy Magazine interview:
Jon Bon Jovi eats pork roll"The roadside diner right off the circle in Wall Township is a fabulous greasy spoon, one of the real silver-bullet diners. Taylor ham—a pork roll—is a Jersey fixture. Taylor ham with cheese on a hard roll is love. The big question is: ketchup or mustard? Everyone in north Jersey puts on mustard, everyone in the south, ketchup. I’m a mustard guy myself. A cherry Coke is wonderful with chipped ice. Diners are made for Sunday mornings or the day after when you need grease to soak up everything you did the night before. Then you order breakfast and lunch at the same time. That’s the greatest. It cures a hangover." -- Jon Bon Jovi
Donna Beers of PorkrollXPRESS.com - an online source for what her partner calls the "heroin of pork" - says in a NewJersey.com story on Trenton's mystery meat,
Pork roll is the star of New Jersey's official breakfast sandwich: Taylor ham, fried egg and American cheese on a hard Kaiser roll. The sandwich, often referred to as a "triple-bypass" for the caloric and fat content, is a wee-hour-of-the-morning favorite of Jersey natives at diners.

Taylor ham was created by John Taylor, a New Jersey state senator, in 1856. Fourteen years later, George Washington Case, a farmer and butcher, created his own pork roll. Today, the companies are headquartered in Trenton, just down the street from each other, and they're tight-lipped about their secret recipes. Though technically a trademark name, the term "Taylor ham" has become synonymous with pork roll, whether it's made by Taylor Provisions or not. Surprisingly, this has caused little friction between the two companies.

"It's a friendly competition," said Case Pork Roll President Tom Grieb, a seventh-generation descendant of the founder. "They're very nice people. They never bother us and we don't bother them." Grieb did reveal that his pork roll is made primarily with ham trimmings. After the addition of spices, the pork is hickory smoked and wrapped.

The sausage-shaped pork roll usually comes in one-, three- and six-pound sizes. Removal of the thin cloth layer reveals the white-flecked, pink meat inside. Once sliced and cooked, it more closely resembles Canadian bacon, although it is most definitely not as lean. In fact, it needs no extra oil or fat when frying - simply place it in the pan for a few minutes until it's slightly charred on both sides.

That's the way Beers loves to prepare it. She puts it on a bagel, adds some white cheese and heats it in the microwave for 20 seconds. After adding a dollop of ketchup, it's ready. "My partner calls it the heroin of pork," Beers said. "In a way, she's 100 percent right." [continue reading]
Should you choose to purchase and try Taylor ham for yourself (either by mail, or by stopping at a Shop-Rite in Jersey), remember one thing - and one thing only - thou shalt not eat Taylor Ham cold. Despite some minor compositional similarities, it ain't summer sausage. Always cook it, either in the microwave, in a bit of water (yuk), or the traditional way, by grilling it to charry perfection on an old skillet.

MORE: "Pigging out on Taylor Ham," The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly.com
Towns & Tales: The Pork Roll
Essential Pork Roll recipes: Beyond Bagels: Taylor Ham or pork roll
New Jersey.com: Pork roll is an original Garden State creation
Taylor Ham on Wikipedia
Interment.net, John Taylor's gravestone inscription: "Taylor, John, b. 1837, d. 1909, created Taylor Ham, founder of Taylor Provisions Co and Taylor Opera House, [RN]"
Pork Roll Xpress [online merchant]
New York Times: "Oink If You Love Pork Roll"

Friday, February 25, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 61: The "What a Tool" Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Get Smart. Get a shoe phone.

Thursday, February 24, 2005
Mysteries of the Universe, and Serendipity 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I love a mystery. That's why I couldn't wait to sit down in front of the computer this morning to decode a slip of paper I found on the sidewalk outside the quadrangle of Stuart Hall. There's probably no great meaning here; but when a randomly misplaced note crosses your path, it always seems prudent to listen to the serendipitous messages the Universe may be sending.

At first glance, I thought someone might have unintentionally lost a new acquaintance's digits, or had jotted down a pair of Illinois license plate numbers off some suspicious-looking vehicles lurking in the shadows. Maybe it was a secret code! Then, I noticed the two faint periods separating the second "1" from its neighboring "5." Such a combination exists only one place here: in the call numbers of the University of Chicago library system.

Eureka! All I'd have to do now is pop the call ID into the electronic library portal page, and information on the book would appear. A few moments later, I learned that "F1435.1.C45R3" belongs to a 1934 Carnegie Institution publication, Chan Kom: A Maya Village, by Robert Redfield and Alfonso Villa Rojas.

How about that...did the Universe know that I'm a big fan of Mesoamerican history and artifacts, and coincidentally leave a student's misplaced library reminder in my path to discover? Did it know that the book might be more edifying to me than some bored history major, or would the person who lost the note now search frantically for that obscure citation to make a term paper deadline? I'll never know. But you can be sure I'll try to track down that book just to see if a message from the infinite lies within. ;)

Chicago's SPAM Sculpture Contest 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This one is too good to pass up, from Chicagoist:
The Chicago Cacophony Society Reform Lodge #176 is proud to host its 7th annual SPAM Sculpture Contest at the Gallery Cabaret in Bucktown on Saturday.

Bring your own SPAM, or if you're too embarassed to been seen in public buying it, you can buy SPAM there. And don't forget to bring props for use in your sculpture. If you don't want to go alone, drag your friends along and register as a team. Oh, and costumes are strongly encouraged. Sounds like a spectacle, huh? It's sure to be. .. so if you don't want to sculpt, it's cool. You can show up and just watch. After sculpting time is up, the final results will be judged by a panel and the winner will take home a SPAM-tastic medal.

The SPAM party starts at 6pm on Saturday, February 26th. Space is limited, so call 773.551.0525 or email spam@planetshwoop if you'd like to participate or attend. A $2 or food contribution to benefit R.E.S.T. is encouraged.
Be there, or be shaped like a can of SPAM.

More fun: the legendary nitrogen-freeze SPAM drop

Wednesday, February 23, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 60 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 59 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Monday, February 21, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 58 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Friday, February 18, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 57 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Just a quick note to check in...updates have been a bit infrequent because of a couple of major work and academic projects I've been toiling away at working on. In the meantime, I did want to tell you about a very nice (and free, which augments the "nice" part) open-source audio editor application I downloaded a few months ago, and recently found a great use for - cleaning up and "sweetening" .mp3 files for my trusty Rio S10 Flash player.

Audacity is surprisingly flexible and useful for a wide range of applications, including file-type conversions; it's lightweight [2.5Mb download], adware and spyware-free, and available at Sourceforge.com for PC, Mac and GNU/Linux, and other OS's. If you're at all curious about desktop audio editing, but don't want to spend a lot of any money, this is a perfect program to try. It comes with online documentation and a user tutorial, but there's also an Audacity user forum available for unanswered questions and application tips and tricks, as well.

Speaking of .mp3's, I've been sucking quite a few down the T1 from Epitonic.com and mp3Blogs [from Bloglines, my new favorite desination on the Web - it lets me read all 80 of my RSS feed subscriptions at once], among other locations; my hard drive is starting to feel a little, how shall I say, bloated?

Sunday, February 13, 2005
RFID School Tags, Part 2 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
More articles on the use of RFID tagging in public schools seem to be cropping up in the wake of the Sutter, CA story (where families on the whole appear angrier about the unannounced ID card program than parents in Texas. Hmm.); one I read today on Geek.com brings up what I believe is a common misconception of how RFID tags would increase security in schools:
Regardless of the specifics of this case, are RFID tags a good idea for schools? It would certainly increase security, allowing systems to be set up to alert teachers when unauthorized people are on the grounds. It could also help to locate children if they had wandered off or missed a class, and it could be used as evidence if accusations were made about certain individuals. If you look at it this way then it seems like a good system for schools.
Misconception: "[RFID allows] systems to be set up to alert teachers when unauthorized people are on the grounds." RFID cards in themselves can not alert anyone the presence of unauthorized people, because the system can only track individuals who possess the RFID cards - not "strangers" who do not have them, who presumably would be the unauthorized people in a school. The only way an RFID system tracks unauthorized people is when a person passing through a checkpoint fails to "OK"-trigger with a valid RFID tag; this could be accomplished if all access points in a school were monitored with turnstiles or video cameras, which this sustem does not accomplish. Without full video camera or security guard coverage, it is difficult or impossible to verify that every instance of RFID-tag presence or absence matches the student or employee, because cards can be easily traded, copied, "surfed" or stolen.

But how likely is it that an "un-tagged" kidnapper or sexual predator would risk entering an RFID-monitored school to victimize a child? Much of the justification for using RFID cards in schools to protect against "stranger danger" predation and abduction - but, the reality is, "stranger" abduction and sexual abuse is far more rare than acquaintance crime. Most victimizations are either made off school grounds, where RFID tags have no monitoring capability, or by authorized persons known to the students such as school employees, or students - who would have presumably have valid RFID tags.

In this case, is it that unrealistic to think that an individual seeking to victimize a child might leave their ID card somewhere (in a locker, classroom, etc.) where it would allow them to enter and move about the school normally, but not alert their presence in proximity to the child in case a crime were committed? This is just one example, but there are many ways to circumvent the security benefits of RFID chip systems.

Additionally, RFID tags are not useful in tracking children if they wander away from school, or heaven forbid, are abducted: the devices are not geographic trackers, and only function in the proximity of RFID detector wands or kiosks - not in the open "field." Even if the cards were enabled as such, if someone adbucted a child from a school district that used RFID cards, you can be certain that the kidnapper would remove the card before leaving a tracking area.

While RFID tags can enhance attandance tracking of students within a school, I believe they offer a false sense of security when it comes to preventing kidnappings or other types of victimization. Security cameras would be equally Big-Brotherish, but ironically much more effective in preventing these types of crimes, because both people and their activities would be monitored - not merely the presence or absence of the RFID card.

What bothers me most is when people place blind faith in technology as a means of protection against human evil; if humans developed the technology, they can certainly find ways around it if they wish to do another harm. Schools may be marginally safer in some ways with RFID cards - but outside the perimeter of a school building, at home and play, students will still have to rely on their instincts and good sense for protection against predators. No ID chip can protect them there.

Good book: Gavin de Becker's "Protecting the Gift" candidly discusses the ways parents and children often look in the wrong places for both sources of risk and safety from kidnappers and sexual predators, and how they can better assess the true sources of these risks. I think this is a far more effective and realistic way to make children and teens safer than these school districts' "cattle-tagging" efforts.

Friday, February 11, 2005
California School Tagging Students with RFID Chips 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
UPDATE: Scott at Grits for Breakfast mentions that a similar test was underway in Texas. There's a good story on TexasISD.com dated November 17th, 2004 - "In Texas, 28,000 Students Test an Electronic Eye," which describes the process in more detail, and brings up some valid caveats in using these cards with schoolchildren. Unlike the Sutter, CA school RFID tag test site (see below), the stated main reason for instituting RFID tagging in Spring, TX is to locate students in the event of kidnapping. Interestingly, Spring police chief Alan Bragg states in the TexasISD.com article that the district has never experienced a child kidnapping.
[O]n the morning Felipe and Christopher shared a seat on bus No. 38, the district experienced one of the early technology hiccups. When the bus arrived at school, the system had not worked. On the Web site that includes the log of student movements, there was no record that any of the students on the bus had arrived.

It was just one of many headaches; the system had also made double entries for some students, and got arrival times and addresses wrong for others. "It's early glitches," said Brian Weisinger, the head of transportation for the Spring district, adding that he expected to work out the problems.

But for the Enterprise Charter School in Buffalo, where administrators gave ID cards with the RFID technology to around 460 students last year, the computer problems lasted for many months.

The system is set up so that when students walk in the door each morning, they pass by one of two kiosks - which together cost $40,000 - designed to pick up their individual radio frequency numbers as a way of taking attendance. Initially, though, the kiosks failed to register some students, or registered ones who were not there. Mark Walter, head of technology for the Buffalo school, said the system was working well now. But Mr. Walter cautions that the more ambitious technological efforts in Spring, particularly given the reliance on cellphones to call in the data, are "going to run in to some problems."

In the long run, however, the biggest problem may be human error. Parents, teachers and administrators said their primary worry is getting students to remember their cards, given they often forget such basics as backpacks, lunch money and gym shoes. And then there might be mischief: students could trade their cards.
Middle and high school students already wear ID badges, but they have not yet been equipped with the RFID technology. Even so, some bus drivers are apparently taking advantage of the technology's mythical powers by telling students that they are being tracked on the bus in order to get them to behave better.
It is "naïve to believe all this data will only be used to track children in the extremely unlikely event of the rare kidnapping by a stranger," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the technology and liberty program at the A.C.L.U. Mr. Steinhardt said schools, once they had invested in the technology, could feel compelled to get a greater return on investment by putting it to other uses, like tracking where students go after school. [read full article]
Regular readers will know I'm staunchly opposed to the developing practice of radio frequency ID - or, "RFID chipping" human beings and their day-to-day activities; so I find the details of this news story from Sutter, California especially alarming. Brittan Elementary School recently instituted a RFID-tag program to track students on school grounds, without seeking input from families in the district. Understandably, many of these parents are furious. From the Chicago Tribune [Associated Press]:
"Sometimes when you are on the cutting edge, you get caught," [Brittan Elementary School principal Earnie] Graham said, recounting the angry phone calls and notes he has received from parents. Each student is required to wear identification cards around their necks with their picture, name and grade and a wireless transmitter that beams their ID number to a teacher's handheld computer when the child passes under an antenna posted above a classroom door.

Graham also asked to have a chip reader installed in locker rooms and bathrooms to reduce vandalism, although that reader is not functional yet. And while he has ordered everyone on campus to wear the badges, he said only the 7th and 8th grade classrooms are being monitored thus far. In addition to the privacy concerns, parents are worried that the information on and inside the badges could wind up in the wrong hands and endanger their children, and that radio frequency technology might carry health risks.

Graham dismisses each objection, arguing that the devices do not emit any cancer-causing radioactivity, and that for now, they merely confirm that each child is in his or her classroom, rather than track them around the school like a global-positioning device. The 15-digit ID number that confirms attendance is encrypted, he said, and not linked to other personal information such as an address or telephone number.

What's more, he says that it is within his power to set rules that promote a positive school environment: If he thinks ID badges will improve things, he says, then badges there will be. "You know what it comes down to? I believe junior high students want to be stylish. This is not stylish," he said. (Ed's note: proof that Graham is out of touch with the reality of the objections is in the fact that it is mostly parents who are reacting angrily at having their children chipped without any community input - not students complaining about ID tags' "un-stylish"-ness.)

This latest adaptation of radio frequency ID technology was developed by InCom Corp., a local company co-founded by the parent of a former Brittan student, and some parents are suspicious about the financial relationship between the school and the company. InCom plans to promote it at a national convention of school administrators next month.
Besides the Big-Brother aspect of the story, something else triggered my "Something Is Rotten In The State of..." detector: the fact that the founder of InCom, the company that makes the chips used at Brittan, works in the school system - and the money that changed hands.
InCom has paid the school several thousand dollars for agreeing to the experiment, and has promised a royalty from each sale if the system takes off, said the company's co-founder, Michael Dobson, who works as a technology specialist in the town's high school. Brittan's technology aide also works part-time for InCom.
From the Collegiate Times:
InCom, the maker of the radio ID tag, is paying the elementary school for agreeing to use the system. Further, the company has agreed to pay the school royalties for each subsequent sale of the product. Clearly, the school is crossing the line of ethical behavior. It is one thing to accept money to carry one line of soft drinks. It is entirely different for educators to accept money to track children in the same fashion that farmers track cattle.
What school officials seem to be forgetting is that keeping traceable records of students' regular whereabouts can be as much a safety hazard as a precaution:
Tech students place their trust in an honest, ethical technological system each and every day. If an unscrupulous person where to obtain the Hokie Passport records for a student, it would not be difficult to ascertain their whereabouts in a given day. It is for this reason we must all be vigilant in insuring that the application of technology is used in a safe, legitimate manner. Tracking elementary school students does not qualify as a legitimate application of technology.
The paranoid part of me sees that debuting RFID chipping in an elementary school makes perfect sense: young children are unlikely to be disturbed by the civil liberties implications and may even consider the devices "cool" - perhaps even serving to allay some parents' objections to the practice - and if the citizenry is exposed to routine "chipping" at such a young age, they will have far fewer objections to being chipped later in life.

Again, it's about the money. From Wired News:
"In California, the funding of schools is based on attendance," Boylan said. "Therefore we want (attendance) to be as accurate as we can. If we are wrong for whatever reason, it means we are getting less money than we should be getting." The system provides an audit trail to back up the district's claims if the state questions their numbers.

[However, the school's attorney Paul Nicholas] Boylan couldn't say how scanners above bathroom doors would help track attendance. InCom installed scanners outside 7th and 8th-grade classrooms at Brittan and above bathroom doors in a cafeteria. But Boylan noted that the bathroom scanners never worked properly anyway, and the school has since asked InCom to remove them.

Boylan said the school properly notified parents about the test, as the law requires, and got no complaints. He said the school held an open board meeting to discuss the test and posted public notices describing the essence of the test, but could not say where exactly the notices were placed. "At the office, possibly in town," he said.

On Jan. 12, Brittan did announce in its weekly newsletter (PDF) that the school would soon require students to wear ID badges, but didn't mention RFID chips or scanners in classroom doors. It said only that the school would soon issue "new safety ID badges" that students should wear "at all times" during normal school hours. The announcement also said students would be held accountable for the cost of replacing lost or destroyed badges.

Lauren Tatro said that when principal Earnie Graham distributed the badges, he didn't mention the RFID chips in them or give students a choice about wearing the badges. "Students asked questions," Tatro said, "but they couldn’t really be answered very well. We got just the basics of what they were but nothing about the tracking."
George? George Orwell? Where are you when we need you?

MORE: Wired News, "School RFID Plan Gets an F"
Details on the chipping system available at the InCom website; we're likely to see more widespread use, as the company is apparently a member of the American Association of School Administrators.
InCom's press release [PDF] on the California test chipping program
ACLU of Northern California

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 56 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Tuesday, February 08, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 55 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Sunday, February 06, 2005
Illinois Judge Says: Parents of Discarded Embryo Can Sue for Wrongful Death 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Let's look over the subject of my past few posts: eggs, technology, and political obstinacy. At first glance these disparate topics seem to have little in common, yet as often happens, a strange synchronicity reveals itself.

Friday, a Cook County, Illinois judge gave a couple permission to sue their fertility clinic under the state's wrongful death law, because the clinic accidentally discarded their frozen fertilized embryos:
CNN [AP] In an opinion issued Friday, Cook County Judge Jeffrey Lawrence said "a pre-embryo is a 'human being' ... whether or not it is implanted in its mother's womb."

He said the couple is as entitled to seek compensation as any parents whose child has been killed.

The suit was filed by Alison Miller and Todd Parrish, who stored nine embryos in January 2000 at the Center for Human Reproduction in Chicago. Their doctor said one embryo looked particularly promising, but the Chicago couple were told six months later the embryos had been accidentally discarded.

In his ruling, Lawrence relied on the state's Wrongful Death Act, which allows lawsuits to be filed if unborn fetuses are killed in an accident or assault. "The state of gestation or development of a human being" does not preclude taking legal action, the act says. Lawrence also cited an Illinois state law that says an "unborn child is a human being from the time of conception and is, therefore, a legal person."
I agree that the loss of the frozen embryos is a tragic disappointment for Miller and Parrish, but I don't think alleging "wrongful death" is the best remedy here. In fact, I think the parents stand more chance of losing this case, given the future ramifications. Not only does such a charge (warranted or not) set the stage for the inevitable sticky pro-life/pro-choice political maelstrom, but how do we assess and assign blame or responsibility for the life of the embryos? If we declare frozen embryos "children," what happens when the parents either do not use all the embryos, or later choose to discard some, as almost inevitably happens?

Embryonic viability decreases the longer the cells remain in cryogenic storage. If parents leave embryos frozen for decades or longer (obviously well past the time the biological parents would be able to use the embryos themselves) - would the parents be guilty of "murder," "abortion," "child abandonment," or perhaps "child neglect"? If, as Judge Lawrence states, an embryo is a child whether or not it is implanted in a womb, are parents of unused or discarded embryos "selectively aborting" their children? You can see how messy the issue will become when a charge of "wrongful death" lodged, rather than seeking financial compensation for negligence - or even medical malpractice.

To complicate matters, when Judge Lawrence stated that "the couple is as entitled to seek compensation as any parents whose child has been killed," does this place fertility clinics in the legally tenuous position of being "childrens'" guardians?

Friday, February 04, 2005
"Eggs, Eggs It Is!" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Fellow geeks will undoubtedly remember this post's title as Gollum's answer to Bilbo Baggins' quid pro quo riddle in the Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit. However, I didn't know Gollum was the new copyeditor at the Village Voice.

Let There Be Light 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
A perfect joke for a post-State of the Union address Friday morning:
Q: How many Bush Administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None.

There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its condition is improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are illusional spin from the liberal media. Illuminating rooms is hard work. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effort. Why do you hate freedom?
Thanks to my friend Nate who passed it on!

Thursday, February 03, 2005
Chef Homaru Cantu: Moto's Techno-Culinary Wizard  
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Printed sushi, edible menus and laser-baked inside-out bread?

Homaro Cantu's menu at Chicago's Moto resembles an atom-smashing of Willy Wonka and Salvador Dali, with items like "hanger steak with hanging potato chain links," "baked map of alaska," "deconstructed sable bouillabase reconstructed tableside," "lobster with chateau d'yquem jello, freshly squeezed orange soda & brown butter ice cream," or my personal favorite - "three ounces of jelly doughnuts with doughnut shaped coffee." He's even found a gastronomic use for NASA's physics-defying aerogel:
Cantu is also developing a course that floats. He starts with a cube made of a special kind of whipped silicone (invented by NASA) and, in a smoker, imbues it with various food aromas. The server then holds it above the table and spins it to release its designated fragrance. The material, which contains air pockets, become lighter than air when heated, so it remains suspended for a short time.
The New York Times today dedicated a story to the Second City's wizard-chef-engineer, not under "dining," but "technology":
But the sushi made by Mr. Cantu, the 28-year-old executive chef at Moto in Chicago, often contains no fish. It is prepared on a Canon i560 inkjet printer rather than a cutting board. He prints images of maki on pieces of edible paper made of soybeans and cornstarch, using organic, food-based inks of his own concoction. He then flavors the back of the paper, which is ordinarily used to put images onto birthday cakes, with powdered soy and seaweed seasonings.

At least two or three food items made of paper are likely to be included in a meal at Moto, which might include 10 or more tasting courses. Even the menu is edible; diners crunch it up into a bowl of gazpacho, creating Mr. Cantu's version of alphabet soup.
He also prepares edible photographs flavored to fit a theme: an image of a cow, for example, might taste like filet mignon. "We can create any sort of flavor on a printed image that we set our minds to," Mr. Cantu said. The connections need not stop with things ordinarily thought of as food. "What does M. C. Escher's 'Relativity' painting taste like? That's where we go next."
Mr. Cantu is experimenting with liquid nitrogen, helium and superconductors to make foods levitate. And while many chefs speak of buying new ovens or refrigerators, he wants to invest in a three-dimensional printer to make physical prototypes of his inventions, which he now painstakingly builds by hand. The 3-D printer could function as a cooking device, creating silicone molds for pill-sized dishes flavored, say, like watermelon, bacon and eggs or even beef Bourguignon, he said, and he could also make edible molds out of cornstarch.

He also plans to buy a class IV laser to create dishes that are "impossible through conventional means." (A class IV laser, the highest grade under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's classification system, projects high-powered beams and is typically used for surgery or welding.)

Mr. Cantu said he might use the laser to burn a hole through a piece of sashimi tuna, cooking the fish thoroughly inside but leaving its exterior raw. He said he would also use the laser to create "inside out" bread, where the crust is baked inside the loaf and the doughy part is the outer surface. "We'll be the first restaurant on planet Earth to use a class IV laser to cook food," he said with a grin.

He is testing a hand-held ion-particle gun, which he said is for levitating food. So far he has zapped only salt and sugar, but envisions one day making whole meals float before awestruck diners.
[Read full article at New York Times]

Tastes Like Chicken. Seriously. 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From WBBM-TV, Chicago's Channel 2 CBS affiliate:
City Finds Dead Rat In Restaurant Deep Fryer
Feb 3, 2005 9:35 am US/Central
CHICAGO (CBS 2) A rib restaurant is now closed after inspectors found a dead rat in the deep fryer. The Chicago Department of Public Health shut down Fitzee's Serious Ribs and Chicken, 2130 S. Indiana Ave., on Wednesday after inspectors found a dead rat in the deep fryer, rat feces on the premises and live cockroaches in the kitchen, according to a press release. Fitzee's will stay closed until it passes re-inspection, the release said. Management could face a $500 fine after an administrative hearing on March 3.
Priorities, priorities:
Top Stories Articles:
# West Loop Gas Leak Closes Two Streets
# Two Women Shot In Bellwood
# Ex-Cop Charged In Hired Truck Scandal
# City Finds Dead Rat In Restaurant Deep Fryer
# Blagojevich Prepares For State Address
Translated: a dead rat in a deep fryer is slightly more newsworthy than the Governor's state address.

DIGGING DEEPER: According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, Fitzee's was shut down for a similar offense in April of 2002. But wait: its gets even better. From Sean Parnell's Velvet Lounge Review:
"...When the munchies set in, the Velvet Lounge does not serve food. However, there is a barbeque joint next door called Fitzee's Serious Ribs and Chicken where it looks like you'd find Matt "Guitar" Murphy and "Blue" Lou Marini working behind the counter and the bulletproof window that separates the kitchen and dining room. Fitzee's serves up soul food until 1:00am during the week and 2:00am on Fridays and Saturdays, so you can bring it into the lounge and feast on "serious" ribs, chicken and collard greens during the concert or assuage your stomach once your ears are satisfied. Perhaps it was the site of the Velvet Lounge's neighbor that spurred conversation between some friends of mine and I one night of eating kidney, liver, pickled pigs feet, intestine, snout, and scrapple..."
Bulletbroof windows between the kitchen and dining room...hhmm. Not exactly confidence-inspiring, if you catch my drift.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Biggest Lush of All? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This sounds positively fascinating, but scary as hell: Accenture Technology has developed a "magic mirror" that uses video and image-processing technology to generate an image of the future you, based on your eating habits, excesses and daily routine.
In Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, the eponymous subject keeps his youthful looks while the vagaries of age are visited upon his portrait in the attic. Now a digital version of Wilde's idea is being developed to show you what you will look like in five years' time if you take no exercise, eat too much junk food and drink too much alcohol.

At Accenture Technology's lab in Sophia Antipolis, near Nice in France, a flat-screen LCD TV linked to a set of cameras and a powerful image-processing computer replaces the portrait described in Wilde's novel.

Initially the system acts just like a sophisticated "mirror" in which an image captured by a wireless camera is displayed in front of you. But that is just the start. Its main purpose is to conjure up a computer-modified image of the effects of overindulgence at the press of a button, says Accenture lab director Martin Illsey.

To do this the computer builds up a profile of your lifestyle, using a network of high-resolution cameras dotted around the house. These webcams will feed images of your everyday activities to a computer running software that is able to recognise different patterns of behaviour.

It will be able to identify, for instance, when you have spent most of the day sitting on the couch instead of on the exercise bike, and will spot visits to the fridge for snacks and drinks. Verbal or text prompts from the computer will ask you to identify what you are eating and drinking. Of course, how honest you are is up to you. [Read full article at New Scientist]
It just might be might be the perfect gift for masochists, curiosity seekers, or college students who live on beer and pizza.

farkleberries Links du Jour 54 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Ayn Rand U.S. commemorative stamp

Tuesday, February 01, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 53 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink]