Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Playing with Concrete

Concrete You Eat Off Of

At first glance, I really like the look of these concrete dinnerware pieces from Ivanka Concrete Works.

The food on them, not so much

I imagine that once they have developed too many oil spots from your cooking,
you can use them as stepping stones outside

What concerns me about these is the possibility of what they might do to my teeth.  I remember going on a field trip as part of my public school education in Southern California.  During the trip, I learned about Native American people who would process the staple of their diet by grinding acorns against large rocks in the American Southwest.  These people were effectively using a mortar and pestle system in which one large rock would eventually become pock marked with dozens of holes that served as pestles.  These large rocks can still be seen sprinkled all over the landscape in California.  What stuck with me about this was the revelation that the small bits of stone ground off from the rocks during the grinding process would, over many years, wear down the teeth of the Native American people of the Southwest to nubs.  I worry that the same process of slowly grinding down my teeth might occur when I scrape a metal spoon against these concrete bowls, use a steak knife to cut through a T-bone and inevitably score the concrete plate beneath, etc.

Is that guacamole with a sliver of sour cream in it?
Ohh, I wanna put a chip in that!

While I worry slightly about what eating regularly from these dishes might do to my teeth, we all have to eat and drink from something.  I'm sure I've ingested my share of minute amounts of plastic, porcelain, wood, metal and other materials transferred to my mouth from the dishes I've eaten from and the cups I've drank from during my years on this earth.  But as long as I'm not drinking water delivered to me in pipes made of lead (I'm looking at you Ancient Rome) I probably won't wind up as mad as Carroll's Hatter.
How is a raven like a writing desk?

Also, I like the looks of these concrete bowls from Port Living Co., which come with cork bottoms and an air tight canister lid:
Finally a Place for Your Pepper Collection

To my eyes it appears that the manufacturer has really mastered the art of pouring and setting concrete because these look smooth and I don't think you can get concrete much smaller without adding a support structure like wire mesh inside.

What I don't like is the price on these containers.  The $75 they want to charge for these could buy me a lot of air tight plastic food containers.

TL:DR: You can check out some kitchen things made out of concrete. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Losing Your Retirement in 2012

The latest new thing for major American corporations to do is declare bankruptcy.  All the cool companies are doing it!  Here's how:
  • Company X is the brand that everyone in America and a large number of people around the world know and do business with
We Worship You With Our Money
  • Company X is actually owned by Company Y.
Your Teachers Told You This Math Stuff Would Be Testable
  • Virtually no one has heard of Company Y yet their holdings include the internationally known Company X.
  • Company X employes a lot of people and has employed many more over the years to whom it either owes pensions to in the future or is currently paying pensions to right now.  
  • Company Y doesn't like paying pensions so it declares bankruptcy.
  • Bankruptcy proceedings allow Company Y to restructure (read reduce) pension payments to their current and former employees.
  • Company X continues to do business during the restructing of Company Y as if nothing is happening.
 Financial Worship Continues Uninterrupted
  • Company Y negotiates lower payments for their all their creditors, which they justify by saying that actually having to meet their obligations makes them unable to compete in the marketplace, the business model isn't sustainable (despite the fact that Company X continues to operate), etc.
Who is Company X?
  • In late 2011, American Airlines was Company X
  • In January of 2012, Hostess became Company X.  You can read more details here.
  • I'm probably missing several other major companies that are doing the same thing.
If you're a member of the middle class in America, this should enrage you.  I say that companies shouldn't be allowed to avoid paying what they have promised to pay.

TL;DR: Large corporations have found a new way to screw the little guy.

Update, February 1, 2012: According to this article published today in the New York Times, "American Airlines said Wednesday [today] that it wanted to cut 13,000 jobs and terminate its workers’ pension plans as it seeks to cut its employee costs by 20 percent while operating in bankruptcy court. " 

On April 23, 2012 the New York Times published an update noting that the parent company of American Airlines went to court in an attempt to void its contracts with three labor unions.  Here is the article.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Television in 2012

Today we continue the "Stuff in 2012" series with my take on television in 2012.
 Try to draw a storage console under the screen, 
get a TV on top of the grill of a Mercury four door 
(five, if you count the trunk)

My tastes in entertainment aren't the best but whenever I'm feeling out of sorts I find it useful to consult my Entertainment List in the hopes of finding something to watch or do to improve my mood.  Here are are a few of the programs from the TV section of my current Entertainment List:
  • Academic Earth - The Academic Earth site offers all the fun of attending college lectures without the increased chances of becoming employed, which, theoretically, come with a college degree!  However, in as much seriousness as you will ever find here, I do recommend this site as a source of good quality information on virtually every topic one could pay thousands of dollars a semester to study at a quality college or university.  Plus, I enjoy the fact that anytime I have internet access I can get up to speed on any topic over the course of a single evening by watching videos on this site.  
 A good place to keep your stuff
         The downside to these lecturers is that I typically find it necessary to setup rewards for myself for making it through one of them.  

         Finally, I realize that Academic Earth isn't television.  "Video Content in 2012" doesn't sound quite convey the subject matter of this post since the rest of these are TV show.
  • Archer - Archer is guilty pleasure TV for me.  I would never recommend people of my Grandparent's generation watch this show because it's filled with vulgarity, hilarious, often unexpected and well written vulgarity.  Basically, Archer is a spoof on the James Bond series of books and movies, which consistently delivers laughs. 
  • Children's Hospital - Again, this one falls into my guilty pleasure category.  I like the show because the jokes come quickly, the writing and editing are sharp and the cast is a blend of guys from the stand up world and good looking actresses.
  • Community - I bet a lot of the success of this show comes from having Joel McHale involved.  From all the time that McHale has been doing Talk Soup he seems to have learned what makes for bad TV.  From what I've seen of Community, he tries to do the opposite on this show.  Also, having Chevy Chase probably doesn't hurt in the laugh department.  Plus, Alison Brie is easy on the eyes.
  • Conan - I'll tune in to TBS at 11 p.m. once every few days to watch Conan's monologue and the first sketch, which are usually fairly good.  If the guest that night seems interesting, I'll usually leave the TV on in the background while commenting on the blogs of people that publish interesting content.  You know who you are.
  • CSI - I like the original version, which is set in Las Vegas, not so much the New York or Miami versions.   
 Why do they always investigate in the dark using flashlights?
The dead guy isn't going to get stuck with the electric bill.
  • Gold Rush - I'm addicted to watching the working life of the three groups of gold miners working in Alaska on the Discovery Channel program, Gold Rush.  The first season captivated me based on the inept management of the group of miners who are sort of led by a heavily bearded guy.  While watching the first season, it struck me as amazing that a group of people with no skill or knowledge were willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment but didn't budget enough for fuel to keep their incredibly expensive equipment running, nor did they spend any money or time training themselves on how to make money at gold mining.
  • Jeopardy
  • Mythbusters - I appreciate their blend of science and entertainment.
  • The River - On February 7, 2012 ABC will premier The River.  Based solely on the ads, I'll watch at least the first episode.  I'm not going to spend a single second thinking about the show if the first episode doesn't deliver.  Here you can find the official site of this upcoming ABC show.  
To give you some sense of my taste, or lack thereof, here are some of the shows I deemed worthy of watching in the past and/ or still do watch in reruns:
  • Harper's Island - In 2009 this terrible mistake of a show, which was hyped as "horror comes to network TV" but really didn't deliver anything more graphic than your standard episode of CSI, captured my attention.  The Harper's Globe site where promotional videos and content written from the perspective of a resident of the fictional Harper's Island, which was used to promote the series before it aired was very well done.  Unfortunately, I found that the TV series left a lot to be desired. 
  • The Killing - This show does well in terms of atmosphere and I like the fact that the murder mystery presented in this series isn't just wrapped up in a neat little package in a one hour time slot.  But when the investigation dragged on and on I started to think that perhaps the detectives on the show need to find new careers.

"You know what baffles me more than this case?"
"Wondering how it was that we were ever hired as detectives?"
  • Lost - I enjoyed the first season a lot but lost interest when the show was pushed to a later time slot.  I saw a billboard for the fictional airline featured in the show on Hollywood Blvd. several years ago, which is a fantastic way to connect with one's audience.  Also, from what I heard during my drive to and from work at the time the producers ran faux-commercials that referenced a fictional corporation in the show during the regular commercials for the show, which is awesome. 
  • Scrubs – I still find Scrubs to be funny.
  • The Simpsons
How does any of the above fit within the scope of this blog being about computing, technology, world affairs, the struggle of the middle class in America, famous authors, computer programming and well designed things?  I don't think it does.  However, I'm justifying posting this information in the hope that one of the shows listed above will cause someone else to exclaim "WHY DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BEFORE!?!"

TL;DR: I watch a lot of TV.  As always, I try to highlight in bold the bits I think are worth scanning.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Food and Drink in 2012

It would be good to eat a little bit better in 2012.

Homegrown Basil

As those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know, in the later part of 2011 I planted basil seeds.  You can relive all the excitement, including a picture of a terracotta pot with dirt in it, here if you like.

My hope was that the basil I planted would result in fresh basil to add to the pasta I cook this year.

 Not so Much

Unfortunately, my attempt to grow basil failed miserably.  I did learn that if you're going to borrow top soil in Southern California where nothing grows without fancy store bought dirt that contains nutrients you will never find here otherwise, you should borrow the top soil from a place where things actually grow.  You should not borrow top soil from a place that has been recently landscaped and filled with store bought dirt that does not actually have anything growing in it.  Now I know.

If I was really cool, I'd probably set myself up with some kind of hydroponic system to grow green things like the people in this photo from the WindowFarms site.

A White Guy with a 'Fro Knows Something About Hydroponic Gardening.
Go Figure.

Eating Healthier in 2012

Some snack foods I enjoy which would be wise to eat more often include:
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Carrots, hummus optional
  • Celery with peanut butter
  • Cucumber sliced and dipped in low-fat yogurt
  • Edamame 
  • Grapes
  • Handful of almonds, cashews or peanuts
  • Olives
  • Pear, sliced
  • Slice of cheese
  • Strawberries
  • Yogurt
Drinking in 2012

Those of us who have consumed our fair share of beer know that beer is awesome.  Not only does it taste good but it can add anywhere between 1/2 and 5 points on the standard 1 to 10 scale of rating potential mates based on their appearance.

Sadly, drinking beer it is not a good way to keep one's weight down.  Mixed drinks or straight booze on the rocks offer one an advantage in terms of being lower in calories while still serving as a transport vehicle to the land of intoxication.  I mention all of this because if you're going to drink, you should probably stick to just a couple of beers (always tough for me to do) or go with liquor.  If you're going to go with liquor, you should probably have ice involved in your drinking.  For less than $5 including shipping if you're hooked up with the Amazon Prime thing, you can get yourself this ice cube tray:

Arr, you going to enjoy your rum a little more 
when it comes with these swimming in it, matey?  Maybe.

TL;DR: Eating a little bit more healthy won't kill you.  Plus, a $5 ice cube tray that makes skull and crossbones shaped ice enticed me to shill for Amazon.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Travel in 2012

Flying Around the World on the Cheap

I recently found Airfare Watchdog, which has become my latest favorite thing in the world.

 Thumbs Up Indeed

Basically, the Airfare Watchdog system publishes information on airfare which includes the coupon codes and deals that airlines offer to their customers.  My first search on this site resulted in a fare of $113.58 to fly round-trip between San Diego and Vegas this week.

Up, up and away!

It would be smart to keep an eye on Airfare Watchdog in the future, especially when you have a flexible travel schedule.

Kayak.com is still my main go to site for quickly comparing airfares.

Orbitz.com is another good site to use when searching for flights.

Flying Out of this World

Starting this year, you can book a flight into space on Virgin Galactic.  For $200,000 you can get yourself a seat on a ship that will travel all the way up to sub-orbital space, spend five minutes in zero gravity, snap a few pictures with the Earth in the background and return to terra firma.  If you're one of the 475 people who have already placed a $20,000 deposit to later have the opportunity to blow an additional $180,000 on this experience with Virgin Galactic, I have a suggestion for you.  Find a homeless person and tell them to watch as you set fire to a $100 bill.*  You'll feel better about yourself when you wake up the next day with your $199,900 still in the bank and you'll basically get the same experience of showing the poor just what income inequality really means.

 Laughing is optional

Here is the article from which I found the facts and figures related to space flight.

TL;DR: Airfare Watchdog is a really good resource when searching for cheap airfare. 

*Don't actually do this because I'm fairly certain that willfully destroying U.S. currency is a crime. 

Update: If you tell people you know in your personal life that you have just found a great new airfare website, they may ask you to look up fares for them rather than exploring the site themselves.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Recreation in 2012

Today we look at some well designed things intended for use in recreation.

Water Sports
Lakes, rivers and oceans are all there just waiting for you to look at them.  With this kayak you can look at them from a slightly different perspective:

Does she come with the kayak?

Of course, unless the water you're planning on kayaking in is crystal clear or filled with animals who are into swimming right next to the surface, you probably won't see anything underneath this kayak.  Also, once you scratch and scuff the bottom transporting this kayak to and from the water and when you inevitably encounter rocks and other hazards in the water the visibility will gradually decrease.

Here is the link to the manufacturer's website.
When you're on the go, space in your luggage is important.  While I don't like the zipper on the bottom, I really like the idea of having a pair of shoes that would take up far less space in my bag than a regular sized pair of shoes would occupy.  I imagine that these would work well when traveling somewhere were sandals would be appropriate for most occasions but shoes would be nice to have just in case.

Looks good enough

Folds up tight

[Insert sole/ soul pun]

At $65 a pair from the manufacturer I'm tempted.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012



I've reached 200 followers.  How exciting:
Can you feel the excitement?

Thank you to everyone that does follow this blog.  I do appreciate it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Food in 2012

Hungry as a Horse

Who uses a pasta measuring tool that looks like this?  Awesome people:
Just add Bertolli

Of course, owning something like this would only make sense if you have an audience for your pasta cooking.  I imagine I would use it once, put it in a drawer and rediscover it the next time I move.

Here is the link to the designer's webpage.

Dining Table

Once you've placed your cooked pasta on a plate, you need a place to eat it.  While a lot of people will go with something as simple as a table or their lap while sitting in front of the TV, people that are awesome enough to use a custom pasta portioning tool probably eat their meals off of something as cool as this dining table:
Honey, can you mow the table?
(Grumble, grumble) When the game is over (grumble, grumble) 

 Looks like it would be large enough for six diners

This table reminds me of the natural grass bed featured in the 2002 film Secretary.

 Why is the grass always greener on my neighbor's table?

All you need when you own this table is Hank Hill to handle the upkeep.  Or, more realistically, I think you would need either overhead lighting that simulates sunlight setup on a timer or wheels on the bottom of this to move it outdoors regularly.  Plus, you would need to think about watering.

Even the name that the desiger(s) who came up with this table chose to call this item, the picNYC table, is clever.

TL;DR: You'll find two well designed things that relate to food and dining in this post.