Thursday, July 27, 2006If you're eating right now (or contemplating doing so), you might want to skip this post. Just a warning...
I'm not quite sure what to make of this "The Jungle"-esque article in the Internet Journal of Toxicology, which exposes a stomach-turning (soy-free) method for making fake soy sauce. Remember, the part of soy sauce that provides flavor-enhancing umami ["the fifth taste"] character are amino acids - and amino acids are simply broken down proteins. Unfortunately, lots of things are potential protein sources. Just ask any Chicago dumpster rat. From "Hair Soy Sauce: A revolting alternative to the conventional" - yes, hair soy sauce:
In late 2003, there was an alternatively produced soy sauce named "Hongshuai Soy Sauce" in China. The soy sauce was marketed as "blended using latest bioengineering technology" by a food seasoning manufacturer, suggesting that the soy sauce was not generated in a traditional way using soy and wheat.[via BoingBoing] Fortunately, Chinese customs regulators stepped in and seized stocks of the ersatz sauce, but not before consumers staged a massive boycott. I hope it's a hoax, but somehow I suspect it isn't. [By the way, I love the subtitle of the ITJ article.]
The Hongshuai Soy Sauce was sold at a relatively low price in Mainland China and became very popular among the public. The people found its taste to be similar to other brands. Because of its low price, many catering services in schools and colleges decided to use this new product.
Chinese journalists went to the food seasoning manufacturer in Hubei province. They pretended to be buyers and enquired about the soy sauce ingredients. They were told by a manager that the soy sauce was made from the amino acid syrup, and mixed with water, sodium hydroxide, red sugar; hydrochloric acid and other chemical additives...
...The journalists then found the amino acid syrup manufacturer (a bioengineering company) in Hubei province. When asking [sic] how the amino acid syrup (or powder) was generated, the manufacturer replied that the powder was generated from human hair. Because the human hair was gathered from salon, barbershop and hospitals around the country, it was unhygienic and mixed with condom, used hospital cottons, used menstrual cycle pad, used syringe, etc. After [being] filtered by the workers, the hair would then cut small for being processed into amino acid syrup...[keep reading, if you dare]
Tuesday, July 25, 2006Coming soon: your next trip to a Chicago hot dog stand may help an ex-con stay on the right side of the law. From CBS2 Chicago:
...four of [Chicago entrepreneur] Jim Andrews’ five employees have been to prison. He says they’re great employees. It’s just that former felons can seldom find work. "Once they're branded as ex-offender you might as well just tattoo ‘felon’ on their foreheads," Jim said.More on WBBM 780's website.
Enter the idea of Felony Frank’s Hot Dogs. Andrews will finance and license hot dog stores to former felons, turning ex-offenders into entrepreneurs through a foundation he set up three years ago. At the Michael Barlow Center, where formerly incarcerated men and women learn job skills to cope in the real world, Bob Dougherty knows giving them a job is important.
"(It’s) the component that really signs the deal as to whether or not they will remain on the positive side of the law," Dougherty said. That’s what Jim Andrews hopes to accomplish with the idea of his Felony Franks, where non-offenders need not apply. "It’s felons only," he said.
The Michael Barlow Center estimates that 80 percent of former felons with a job stay straight.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006My good friend Daphne passed on a very informative link at PCWorld.com: The 10 Biggest Security Risks You Don't Know About. Among the ten, one especially caught my eye - not in terms of frequency of risk, etc., but out of curiosity. Apparently, some RFID chips and "smart cards" are vulnerable to virii:
Though highly useful, some implementations of the RFID technology have security weaknesses. For example, the information on some tags can be rewritten, and other tags can be read from an unusually great distance.As the article points out, metal shielding around RFID tagged objects (e.g.R, tinfoil hats) helps mitigate the risk. However, this may not be a viable option for cats.
In an attempt to exploit some of these weaknesses, the Dutch university researchers conducted a controversial proof-of-concept study using modified RFID tags and a viruslike command to "infect" the back-end database that stored the tag's records. Theoretically, an RFID system could thus be made to crash or run malicious code--a scary prospect for a critical business or government technology.
Numerous computer security experts have pointed out that a reasonably well-built system with effective "middleware" between the RFID reader and the database probably wouldn't be vulnerable to such an assault. And sensitive RFID chips can use encryption and shielding covers to protect against acquiring an unasked-for malicious payload. The planned U.S. passports will use both measures.
Still, the study illustrates a basic point: Nearly every system has exploitable flaws. Keep an eye on your cat.
Friday, July 14, 2006
- Via CBS2 Chicago: How not to drive a Jetta:
(STNG) SUGAR GROVE A Volkswagen Jetta "virtually vaporized" and split in half when its driver lost control and flew over one vehicle and crashed head-on into another, killing himself and another motorist Thursday in far west suburban Sugar Grove. According to witnesses, the Jetta was traveling at nearly 100 mph, police said.
- Nude York sunbather fights to keep his Cheekies:
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. -- A nude sunbather is suing for the right to bask in the buff with his rat terrier, Cheekies, at his side. New Yorker Mark DelCore said he needs full sun exposure for a skin condition he links to World Trade Center toxins. And he said he needs Cheekies with him because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. DelCore likes to do his sunbathing on a clothing-optional beach on Fire Island. [Chicago NBC5.com]
- Star Wars (Episode IV, in progress and almost complete) in ASCIImation
- Space travelers, urine luck: scientists have found a way to generate breathable oxygen aboard spacecraft by processing astronauts' bladder juice.
The current shuttle mission is carrying the refrigerator-size OGS [oxygen generation system], but it won't be put into use until a urine-water recovery system is launched on a future shuttle mission. That system will use a vacuum-distillation system to remove the dissolved solids in urine so the resulting water is pure enough to put into the OGS. A prototype of the vacuum-distillation system was tested on the space shuttle Columbia's last mission in January 2003.So, breathing urine is an improvement over greenhouse gases? ;) [WIRED News]
The devices could hold the key to a major hurdle for extended space travel and off-planet colonization. The topic has been in the spotlight recently following remarks from physicist Stephen Hawking and ex-astronaut John Young suggesting that mankind must plot an escape from Earth in order to fend off extinction by environmental catastrophe.
- "The Case Against Sufjan Stevens," by Stephen Thomas Erlewine [AllMusic.com]:
Illinois topped many critics' lists -- as evidenced by its top position on Metacritic's poll for Best Album of 2005 -- and won the inaugural New Pantheon Music Prize. He had it all: critical adulation, awards, devoted fans. It seemed that if you like any kind of indie pop or folk -- or modern music at all -- you would like Sufjan Stevens and wonder at the scope and ambition of Illinois.Only 48 "states" to go!
But for me, Illinois was a breaking point, the place where I could no longer take Stevens and his music seriously. True, he doesn't make my skin crawl the way that Conor Oberst does, but oddly that's part of the problem. [keep reading]
- "A Fleeting Glimpse: A Tribute to Syd Barrett"
- Japan: Toyko Subway
- Bees Bite Dog(s) [fatally; via NBC5.com Chicago]
- Amaze your friends! Solve Sudoku without even trying with this step-by-step visual
cheat sheetguide. [Instructables.com]
If you're one of those people that displays a column of ancient Chicago City Stickers on their windshield - because it's easier to replace the windshield than remove the darned things - here's a relatively easy way to remove them without smashing the glass. Note to July City Sticker thieves: sorry, this method will not yield you an intact city sticker to sell on the black market. You will need:
- a single-edged razor blade
- Goo Gone™ (not to be a shameless shill, but this product works very well for the purpose), or similar adhesive solvent. Use with care, and don't spill any on the dashboard
- some sturdy paper towels
Note: the City Sticker has an "X" cut into its center, designed to make it virtually impossible to peel off a previously-applied sticker in one piece. Bad for thieves, but also inconvenient for car owners.
2) Generously dampen a section of paper towel with the Goo Gone™, and swab (don't rub - yet) at the adhesive remaining on the glass for about one minute. What you're doing right now is softening the hardened adhesive into a jellylike substance. Wait a few seconds, then use a dry section of the paper towel (or a fresh one) to rub away the old adhesive. When properly softened, the adhesive should stick to the paper towel and come off the glass in little stringy rolls. Repeat process if needed.
3) Rub the now-clean glass with a fresh paper towel, and you're ready to apply your new City Sticker. Sure, the designs through the years are interesting, but did you really want your car be a Chicago City Sticker Museum?
Wednesday, July 12, 2006This was the big news story around town (and made news around the country as well) - last night, at around 5:00pm, the end car of a CTA Blue Line train derailed and caught fire shortly after leaving the Clark and Lake underground station, forcing hundreds of passengers to evacuate through hundreds of feet of dark, smoke-filled subway tunnel. Over 150 riders were taken to area hospitals, most suffering from smoke inhalation.
Although I was passing through the south Loop on a bus at about 5:40pm (and got on the CTA Red Line shortly thereafter) I actually didn't hear about this incident until the 10:00 ABC local newscast.
I did notice an unusual number of ambulances - four, I think - making their way through traffic. Otherwise the ride was uneventful. But, by a strange coincidence, both the bus I was riding on and the Red Line "L" had minor mechanical problems that triggered operator alarms - which was strange in itself. Maybe all the CTA vehicles are revolting?* Today's Red Eye cover included this image of one of the Blue Line derailment evacuees:
In a bizarre coincidence, July 10th's Red Eye cover story was a CTA Worst-Case Scenario Survival Guide. Talk about timing.
* (Well, some of them certainly are at times.)
MORE: CTA Tattler on Lessons Learned From the Blue Line Fire
Daley Praises Response (Chicago Tribune)
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
- Smile, Chicago! There are piranhas in the Des Plaines River - but don't worry about it, they're likely only there because they've been released into local waters by careless aquarium fish owners. [Chicago Tribune]
- Windows 98 is dead. So is Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett.
- Japanese researchers have been excitedly developing scent players ("Smell-o-Vision") for years; now, New Scientist reports engineers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have built a working scent recorder/player:
"Point the gadget at a freshly baked cookie and it will reproduce the odour." ...
While a number of companies have produced aroma generators designed to enhance computer games or TV shows, they have failed commercially because they have been very limited in the range of smells they can produce, says Pambuk Somboon of the Tokyo team. So he has done away with pre-prepared smells and developed a system that records and later reproduces the odours. It's no easy task: "In video, you just need to record shades of red, green and blue," he says. "But humans have 347 olfactory sensors, so we need a lot of source chemicals."
Somboon's system will use 15 chemical-sensing microchips, or electronic noses, to pick up a broad range of aromas. These are then used to create a digital recipe from a set of 96 chemicals that can be chosen according to the purpose of each individual gadget. When you want to replay a smell, drops from the relevant vials are mixed, heated and vaporised. In tests so far, the system has successfully recorded and reproduced the smell of orange, lemon, apple, banana and melon. "We can even tell a green apple from a red apple," Somboon says. [read full article]
- The Secret History of French Fries: met frietsaus for me, thank you:
On March 11, 2003 the cafeteria menus in the three United States House of Representatives office buildings changed the name of french fries to freedom fries in a symbolic culinary rebuke of France stemming from anger over that country's opposition to the United States government's position on Iraq. French toast was also changed to freedom toast. In response, the French embassy noted that french fries are Belgian. "We are at a very serious moment dealing with very serious issues and we are not focusing on the name you give to potatoes," said Nathalie Loisau, an embassy spokeswoman.
- Can you quantify happiness? New York Metro's Jennifer Senior reports on recently developed psychological tests that claim to do just that, with geographic precision:
"...if you want to know the absolutely most miserable Zip Code—and this is based on a very large number of people—it seems to start with 101." That’s the prefix assigned to many of the office buildings in midtown Manhattan. "Staten Island is also miserable," [Chris Peterson, of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania] adds. So what does this say about New York? I ask. "I don’t know," he says. "Maybe that if you make it there, you can make it anywhere, but you won’t be happy doing it." [continue reading]
Wednesday, July 05, 2006Legendary Chicago meat purveyors Moo & Oink have announced the winner of their jingle contest - rapper Kenlo Key's "Shop @ Moo & Oink" has that cool, retro soul undercurrent that screams "BBQ!" and "Chicago!" in the same breath. It's a fitting successor to M&O's classic ad jingle.
Listen to each of the 10 weeks' entries (in mp3 format), or download them all to your iPod for some meaty vibin' down at the Taste. Runner-ups include "Put It In My Mouth" by Rik Franklin, "More Than Just Meat" by Pry, and Levellton Birch's "Moo Moo Moo." [via Gapers Block]
While you're there, don't miss their online video, MooTV.
Monday, July 03, 20061.) CTA Red Line, near Grand (and State!) stop: a thirty-something man in green T-shirt and jeans enters from the emergency door at the end of the car and launches into a typical "Ladies and gentlemen, I pray you never find yourselves in my position, but can you find it in your hearts to spare me some change or offer me some food..." panhandle.
This goes on for about a minute, and no one responds, except for one seated male passenger that giggles when the panhandler warns, "I will eat anything except mayonnaise or sour cream. I am allergic, as God is my witness."
2.) The Bureaucracy In Action Award today goes to a Chicago