12 August 2007



"We've spoken with a health-care specialist who believes that the intensity of your research efforts is unhealthy."

OK, so Sharkrunners has issued me with a health warning, and I was up until 3am last night scrabbing in Facebook with Australians. In my defence, I was deliberately staying up late to get a good view of the Perseids meteor shower. And, anyway, neither Sharkrunners nor Facebook Scrabble can be played with any real intensity. In Scrabble, you're kept in check by the turn-taking (why do all of my opponents take so bloody long to make a move?) and in Sharkrunners you're waiting to be alerted to an encounter. According to area/code, the developers of Sharkrunners, ships in the game move in real-time towards sharks that are representations of real-world white sharks with GPS units attached to their fins.

So it's intermittent play and in that sense reminds me of Twitchr, Matt's mobile play prototype. In Twitchr, digital birds visit your mobile phone and you have a short, intense moment in which to snap them. I like these playful interruptions.

In other (non)news, I also like Wii bowling. Because I win.


No chance of overplaying that one, my arms couldn't take it.

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25 January 2005

Measuring quality of life with coffee spoons

Consider a mug of American coffee. It is found everywhere. It can be made by anyone. It is cheap—and refills are free. Being largely without flavor it can be diluted to taste. What it lacks in allure it makes up in size. It is the most democratic method ever devised for introducing caffeine into human beings. Now take a cup of Italian espresso. It requires expensive equipment. Price-to-volume ratio is outrageous, suggesting indifference to the consumer and ignorance of the market. The aesthetic satisfaction accessory to the beverage far outweighs its metabolic impact. It is not a drink; it is an artifact.

From the New York Review of Books, via 3quarksdaily.

And what might we say about Finland, where the coffee is often served in a shot glass; the caffeine equivalent of a tequila shot's 'lick sip suck' (get some sugar on your tongue, throw back the espresso, then bite down on chocolate)?

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16 October 2003


I ordered a side of broccoli at a restaurant in the Denver Technology Center last night and they brought me two heads on a plate. Not two florets but two heads.

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26 September 2003

Food fight!

Bashshar Ibn Burd: We, in our glory, used to eat white bread and to drink from silver and gold vessels... At night you lurk for hedgehogs. Hunting mice makes you forget glorious deeds. You envy someone who roasts a chameleon...

Abu al Hindi: I have had all that, like you have, but I have never found anything like an old lizard.

From Slow Food

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15 September 2003

How everyday things are made

A new site explains how more than 40 products and manufacturing processes - from jelly beans to forging, planes and plastic bottle tops - work.

"We tried to focus on which processes are most mysterious to people," said Mark V. Martin, a lecturer at Stanford...

Dr. Martin would like to create a version of the site for younger children that would focus more on toys and food. Yet "the food industry is the hardest industry to get information out of," he said. "Apparently the breakfast-cereal people have a lot of proprietary manufacturing processes."

From the New York Times

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02 September 2003

Bottled water

In 2003, bottled water is, by far, the fastest-growing drink on the market. It's 1,000 times as expensive as tap water. Every day, we spend nearly £2 million on something that, many of us hope, will taste of nothing...

People working at a water factory don't have to do anything to their product before packaging it; in fact, they are legally bound not to. Mineral water is, by definition, not processed in any way.

From The Observer Food Monthly

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14 August 2003

Slow Food's tech manifesto

The first University of Gastronomic Sciences - run by Slow Food and the regional authorities of Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont - starts its 'sensory and linguistic' study of food in Autumn 2004.

I have occasionally been attracted by Slow Food's Master of Taste, with its units of wine, coffee, olive oil, chocolate, cheese, spices, herbs, balsamic vinegar, bread... but I wasn't confident in the stated policy of slow, self-directed study ('Relax and take things easy: you will have all the time you need to complete the Master at your own pace') and locally-organised classes. From my experience of Italy this might just be too slow.

But this is something altogether different. Just read their tech manifesto:

With two campuses located in historic buildings hundreds of kilometers apart and professors and students living in nearby towns, not on campus, the University's information and communications technology will be specifically designed to meet all the needs and standards of its users.

Consequently, there are plans to make extensive use of wireless technology, built to the latest Wi-Fi standards (IEEE 802.11). This means that the local network (LAN) and Internet links can be set up without having to lay cables, guaranteeing optimum mobility and giving users freedom to change workstations or location at will.

Professors and students will be supplied with laptop computers complete with Wi-Fi cards; palmtops will also be programmed with the same feature.

In the spirit of openness which characterises the University, the entire IT network will run on Open Source software (Linux, Apache, MySqu, Php), enabling it to manage different types of hardware and software made by different manufacturers...

All internal administrative, secretarial and teaching activities will be operated via a dedicated Intranet system; priority will be given to the user interface, ensuring easy use and smooth interaction.


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11 August 2003

Left-wing hedonism

The movement's primary motivation, in other words, is hedonistic: it wants to prevent a set of traditional pleasures - those of the table - from being comprehensively destroyed. This is indeed distinctive, for it is one of the few examples of a left-wing political movement embracing pleasure as a legitimate cause in its own right.

From New Statesman's review of Carlo Petrini's history Slow Food: the case for taste

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