Posts from 30th August 2005

Aug 05

Best Toy Ever!

TMFDPost a comment • 319 views

I had one of those meetings today where we do ‘creative work’, this means our meeting environment was filled with TOYS including my new favourite toy EVER viz. GEOMAG. GEOMAG is a simple construction toy consisting of a load of small metal balls and a load of strong magnets cased in colourful plastic. The balls form nodes for the magnets and so you can create SHAPES. For someone like me this provides endless pleasure, I am the kind of person who always doodles in geometric forms and now I could do it in 3-D! In a meeting!! Eventually I had to put the GEOMAG down when I dropped it in the middle of someone else’s presentation. It is now very much on my Christmas list.

Do check out the GEOMAG site linked above which is slightly on the mental side, proclaiming the toy to be “the most intelligent form of entertainment ever seen” and containing a five-page disquisition on the manifest disadvantages of rival product SUPERMAG (boo, hiss).

Good Times, June 2005

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 304 views


Proven By Science2 comments • 3,327 views

AIM: To see if avocado is nature’s butter (2). If it is, can you bake a cake with avocado instead of butter?

APPARATUS: Cake tin with removable base, various bowls, electric whisk, blender, sieve, dessert spoon, sharp knife; 4 eggs, 12 oz self-raising flour, 3/4 cup milk, 3 small avocados, a sprinkling of sugar.

How to bake a very basic cake (using civilisation’s butter ie butter itself):
i. Beat 8 oz of sugar into 8 oz of butter, until smooth and fluffy
ii. Add four eggs
iii. Gradually fold in 12 oz of self-raising flour and 3/4 cup of milk
iv. Pour into a cake tin and place in an oven for about an hour.

Straight away an important issue arises: is the goal eatability (is the result CAKEY AND NICE?) or edibility (is the result merely NOT HORRIBLE)? Three decisions had to be made: how much avocado flesh to substitute for the 8 oz of butter; whether to make initial allowance for the distractingly unscientific potential yukness factor of 16 oz of avocado and castor sugar in the mix; and how long to bake. On the assumption that further tests will establish ideal amounts and proportions for DELICIOUS NICE CAKEYNESS, we decided to use our judgment to aim for a minimal eatability.

Hence: in a weight-for-weight substitution, we traded 8 oz of butter for 8 oz of avocado (= flesh of about two and half small avocados). And – since sugarfree cake is no contradiction in terms – we decided on a minimal chefly sprinkle of sugar only (sinkah argued for NONE, brahnie casting the expert’s vote for the sprinkle after a late taste test).

The question of length in the oven was again answered in an ad hoc fashion – by checking by eye and nose and finger-pokage every five minutes after half an hour. In the event, it was in for about 40 mins, at which time we thought it seemed ready enough to take out, allow to cool, divide up and sample.

First discovery: butter beats to softness supremely easily. But avocado doesn’t MELT, and if the avocado is even slightly unripe, squeezage by hand, however diligent, can leave lumpy bits. Nor are whisks and blenders much help. We resorted – once we had added the beaten eggs – to pouring the mix through a sieve and pushing what wouldn’t flow through with the back of a dessert spoon. The mixing of the cake dough then proceeded uneventfully, except that we started to get excited in its late stages because it felt and looked more and more like “proper” cakemix (this was in fact the point brahnie suggested that we add a little sugar after all).

[secret sidenote: in my hand-written notes, 3/4 cup of milk had become 3-4 cups of milk – but luckily brahnie wz advising at this point on consistency, and proportion disaster wz averted] [i only realised this when looking back at the book just now]

The cake – for cake it clearly was, by sight and smell – was removed when it became obvious that it had risen well, at least in the centre, and was browning nicely. It had formed a crust – the upthrusting cakemix below had then cracked this crust, hardening itself as it squeezed through, like fresh magma. After beling allowed to cool for a while in Tim’s bedroom, it was served out to GENERAL DELIGHT TOLERANT ACCEPTANCE: it had a cornbreadish texture and flavour, went well with other things, and by the end of the evening was almost completely finished (one small remaining slice-worth was thrown away uneaten).


CONCLUSION: Avocado is indeed nature’s butter. This particular mix was a wee bit doughy and uncooked in the middle still, unsurprisingly wasn’t especially flavoursome – it didn’t TASTE of avocado at all – and rose in a problematic way, given its rather leathery crustiness (not at all at edges, maybe too much in centre). As noted above, experiments with proportions (more avocado for moistness?; more baking powder for lightness?) and further tasteable ingredients (sweet OR SAVOURY) would certainly produce excellent cakey or indeed bready results. Also Tim had no salt.


FOOD SCIENCE DAY: 1 Green Eggs (No Ham)

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 1,409 views

AIM: To see if avocado is nature’s butter (1). If it is, can one scramble eggs in it?

APPARATUS: Frying pan. 4 Eggs. A small avocado.

METHOD: The mashed avocado was smeared on the pan which was then brought to the heat. When the avocado was clearly hot, the lightly beaten eggs were then added. Usual scrambling technique was employed (Chris took over at this point as I prepared a bowl).

RESULTS: The eggs started scrambling as normal, though quickly took on an eerily greenish tinge. However the lack of conventional fat was not a problem, and after a couple of minutes something which resembled perfect, if green, scrambled eggs was arrived at. When served (remember, they still cook out of the pan), the eggs were nice and creamy, if slightly lacking in a key flavour. That key flavour was either discerned as
a) butter (duh!)
b) salt (many of these write up may turn of Tim’s lack of salt)
c) something giving it a kick.
When tabasco was added, they tasted fantastic.

CONCLUSION: Initial conclusion was that step one in proving that avocado was nature’s butter was complete. However some dissent was raised when we found out that Isabel makes scrambled eggs without butter in the first place, and hence the butter is just a flavouring. That said, the green eggs with tabasco was a HIT! Num num!

FOOD SCIENCE DAY: An Introduction and Dedication

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 1,009 views

Over the next week a varied bunch of reprobates will be posting on the Publog, Proven By Science, TMFD and even The Brown Wedge, the results of the 1st Liz Daplyn Food Science Day. Please be patient with these results, remember the writing up is half of the science, and we should never rush science (or bad puns). Also photos will need to be collated, and hosted for your reading pleasure. But you will find out what fruit can be thrown the furthest.

It was a wonderful day, and out host Tim was a genial and pleasant as a man can be: only banning one piece of science on the grounds that dropping cheese off of his balcony would be a anti-social thing to do to his neighbours. The sun was shining, and whilst the large selection of food could have possibly been to to greater use, what we learnt will be passed down from generation to generation, hopefully aiding our understanding of the mysteries of food and bouze. In a war where the only ballistic missiles are the fruit aisle of Tesco’s, you want us on your side. Special note of thanks to Sarah for photos, Mark C for his throwing arm, Sinkah for comprehensive (if illegible) notes and Robster for complex notes on the fruit – and not dropping the cheese of the balcony BECAUSE WE DID NOT DO THAT.

In particular it was nice to have Rob there because, as mentioned before, the genesis of Food Science Day was a drunken conversation with Liz two months ago. Perhaps it is a strange way to remember someone, exploding eggs and making food just because its name is a silly pun, but I hope this event will become a regular one and will help us commemorate her life. I think we all felt her loss on Sunday; this was exactly the kind of inquisitive, silly yet serious event she would have loved and I hope that in doing this again we can continue to celebrate some of the passions of our friend. We certainly have more that enough experiments to do next year, including the Instant Atomic Buckminster Fuller Egg/Cheeseo-desic Dome.

So let the science begin.

Statistics of iTunes party shuffle

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 404 views

Graphs and everything courtesy of a slashdotted article. Regular shuffle IS INDEED RANDOM and without duplicates – like shuffling a pack of cards and dealing them out. But the difference with party shuffle is that you get “with replacements”, i.e. each track in the list is chosen randomly from the selected playlist, like drawing a card from a full pack and putting it back again. Duplicates happen, and more often than our tiny un-stats friendly BRANES give credit for.

Just Some Bad Old Boys

Do You SeePost a comment • 355 views

What was most interesting about the big screen Dukes Of Hazzard was exactly how unambitious it was. Granted they had more money than the TV show ever did, so there were a couple (and only a couple) of big stunts. But the humour, the plot and the characterization, was not a step up from the series. And the series got to build the relationships between the cousins, Uncle Jesse, the bad guys.

Actually, thinking about it, what exactly WAS the Dukes Of Hazzard, the TV series, about? Yes there was a moonshine operation (is alcohol illegal in Georgia still?), yes there was dastardly Boss Hogg on the make. But beyond that was there really enough to hang four series on, and really enough reason for those endless car chases. That a motivation free, plotless TV series becomes an equally lackluster film is not the issue (good car chases are still fun, and the enjoyment is just in ticking the boxes of the recreation). But then if any more ambition had been crammed into the film, it would have stopped being The Dukes Of Hazzard. Caught short by its own premise.

And they still haven’t caught Richard Marx I see.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 651 views

on the whole i sleep lightly – waking at the slightest hackney gunshot or police helicopter flyover – and, esp. if too hot, find it v.hard to drift off in the first place

for a long time – ie when i wz in my twenties – this is possibly bcz i drank 8-10 cups of coffee a day and SCOFFED at the idea it had powers over me!! possibly caffeine affects you puny earth-worlder mortals but i am IMMUNE! i sleep as twitichingly alert as a CAT and as a child was kept awake by BATS SQUEAKING* ect ect!!

anyway one day i got laryngitis and a side-effect of the antibiotics was i stopped liking or wanting coffee and after three weeks cold turkey i discovered SLUMBER AS DEEP AS I HAD NEVER KNOWN (and now rarely have coffee after mid-day)

however i continued inwardly to scoff at the unscientific notion that a HOT MILK DRINK would send me off quicker — until this last 18 months or so, when various real-life stresses really were keeping me awake… now i have taught myself, if i am still wide-eyed and hotly grumpy at 3, to get up, make a pan of milk, froth it up little ELECTRIC WHISK, drink it not so quickly i burn my tongue, and mmmm WHUPFF** zzzzzzz!

*this bit is true
**sound of head hitting pillow