In re: Bialetti revolution

“Tea is said to have fueled the Industrial Revolution; caffeine has been credited with modern physics and chemistry. “A mathematician,” the prolific, nonsleeping Paul Erdos liked to say, “is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.” – One Latte, Hold the Milk (NYT)

On the subject of Espresso there is not consensus: “We could sit for days and argue things like, what’s the perfect size for a single shot? How much crema is important? What is the ideal brewing time and temperature? To tamp or not to tamp? Is espresso only an “espresso” when it is under a certain volume of liquid per grams of coffee used? Should you use robusta? Should you sweeten it? Why stop at 9 atmospheres? Can a super auto produce authentic espresso? And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. ” – Espresso Nirvana 

That said Espresso today is generally agreed to be coffee that is brewed under pressure (9 bars…) but unlike the days it was first created steam pressure is a no no as the temperature of boiling water is too high to create the ideal espresso (200 F is generally viewed as ideal).  So for this reason the ‘stove top espresso’ maker, sometimes called a Moka Pot, often known by the original brand Bialetti, is not  an espresso maker – but instead a hybrid drink between drip, percolator and espresso (to that end neither are the cheapy steam pressure espresso models that retail for under $100 generally).  Despite being shunned by the espresso connoisseurs the Bialetti Moka Pot if found in  9 out of 10 Italian households (the country where espresso originated) have a Bialetti that allows an approximation on the stove top.  

I found it interesting having recently received the classic Moka Pot for Christmas from a friend to learn about the history of the device, its rise in the Italian household can be tied to the push for aluminum and fascism in Italy.  An interesting story and it is interesting as well to see how many people are die hard Moka Pot users (aside from all those Italians).  So far I am just starting to learn how to use it and what it can produce.  For more on the story of the humble Bialetti  see here

[Side note: While typing this up Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode on espresso came on, people have various opinions of this episode (i.e. hard core espresso folks do) it is a good intro if you are a newbie – for hard core criticism and discussion of the episode see some coffee geek discussions]


In re: Blu-ray – what’s its future?

Article in Silcon Alley Insider talking about “An interesting argument by Paul Sweeting on Content Agenda: Blu-ray needs to stop pretending it’s a revolutionary new format like DVD and start acting like what it is…a minor quality improvement that consumers won’t pay any more for.

The first order of Blu-ray business for 2009 is an adjustment in strategic planning around the format, by both hardware makers and the studios, some of which will happen naturally but some of which will be forced on the industry.

via Blu-ray, Cut Prices Or You’re Toast.

The basic point I think is right, Blu-ray isn’t as mind blowing (too most people, as probably the jump from VHS to DVD (for a number of reasons).  Unlike DVD Blu-ray is also facing immediate competition not from just the previous format (who is still crushing it – upscaling DVDs are still good enough for most HDTV users) but also from streaming content and digital downloads.  If Blu-ray sits around too long it may lose its window.  (Not sure about you, but over 90% of my music purchases are digital downloads, I am now doing a lot of streaming from Netflix)  (“The quality of MP3 files doesn’t match the quality of CDs, let alone DVD-Audio or SACD. But it has become the dominant music format because it met other consumer needs more effectively than the optical disc alternatives.” the article in Content Agenda )

Disclosure – I am still a bit bitter from the content war – went with HD-DVD for several reasons and still think that it had a lot going for it…Oh well.  Gonna wait a while on the Blue.

In re: Late night confession

I might not have mentioned the Wire on here in a long time, probably haven’t thought about it as often as I used to.  So it came as a bit of a surprise a week or two ago I got a late night phone call from a friend of mine, who after having just a  few drinks, decided to call me up and confess that I was right about The Wire being a great TV show (after getting a lot of crap from them about it).  Now to this friends credit he came around and additionally I’ll admit that I did deserve some of the crap for having began a few too many sentenances over the years with ‘so this one time on the Wire’ but anyway at least now they know I wasn’t incrediblely crazy at my excitement over the show.  So my advice to all those who haven’t drank the Kool-Aid and gotten into the Wire, stop wasting time and crack it open… you won’t regret it.

In re: I am Ira Glass (in my car)

File under random: So last spring I went to see the live via satellite show of This American Life (see earlier post), which I thought was very cool. Anyway, I was somehow fascinated by the way he would adjust all the little knobs on his DJ equipment. Since then everynow and then I grab with a quick burst very deliberately the ‘bass’ ‘middle’ and ‘treble’ knobs on my car stereo and give them a little twist (most often not because I want to tweak them, but just to do it). Its pretty lame I know, and actually Ira Glass is just one of thousands who adjust audio control knobs in this fashion but for some reason I like to do it and I associate it with him.

In re: LeBron might stick around?

“LeBron James tells The PDs Brian Windhorst he’ll consider signing extension with Cavs this summer”

via LeBron James tells The PDs Brian Windhorst hell consider signing extension with Cavs this summer Cleveland, Ohio Sports News, Scores, Teams, Results & More – .

While I’ll admit despite all the talk of LeBron leaving for New York or somewhere else I’ve been holding out hope that he would stay for the fact that the Cavs are looking to be the best team he could play for (unless he somehow ended up in Boston or LA – but those aren’t going to happen).  How did the Cavs get so good?  Well thats for another day, but they are looking like one of the three best teams in the NBA right now and LeBron has expressed interest in being with a winner, so why not sign with Cleveland, as they will be able to offer the most money.  Well thats apparently now possibly in the works.  (As a side note, you had to figure Dan Gilbert, the owner was already figuring out how to save his franchise and keep LeBron, and while he is working within limits, I figured he wouldn’t go down without a fight).

Now if only the media can shut up about him going to New York for the rest of the season and then we can see what happens.  Okay?

In re: Irving – the secret ingredient in Vienna hot dogs?

This past week on This American Life (one of my favorite things of the week is listening to this) had a unique show: 20 Acts in 60 Minutes

Instead of the regular “each week we choose a theme, and bring you three or four stories on that theme” business, this week we throw all that away and bring you twenty stories—yes, twenty—in sixty minutes. Inspiration for this week’s show came from the Neo-Futurists, whose long-running Chicago show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind promises 30 Plays in 60 Minutes every single weekend.

Act 14: 

 One of the very short pieces this week was about the Vienna Sausage factory in Chicago that moved from its old cobbled together factory in the 1970s to the northside of Chicago.  The original factory in the South was put together over 70 years buying up more of a block and wasn’t the model of efficient design.  After the move the hot dogs weren’t as good, despite the most state of the art equipment, using the same ingredients, etc.  Everything had been accounted for yet for a year and a half they couldn’t figure out why they didn’t taste right and didn’t have the right color.  

The reason, which they only figured out  while chatting about the old days, was Irving who didn’t make the move to the new plant, but who had wheeled the hot dogs from the manufacutring room to the smoke house.  The thing was that this took a while and served as a cooling period because it took 30 minutes to do the walk through the twisting factory.  There was no Irving at the new plant – there was no need – and it was Irving’s trip was the secret ingredient.  So they built a new room to leave them in and cool and that new addition was to recreate teh effect of Irvings walk.

The point of the story?  well obviously one could take several things from it, but the point TAL makes is that even when they thought they were doing everything right while building the new factory, sometimes we don’t know why we are successful in the first place.

via This American Life .

In re: Is a $1 salary paid all at once or in 4-cent installments?

“It’s paid in a lump sum. Richard Kinder, the CEO of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, gets his $1 dollar salary by check every January—that’s 93 cents, after deducting for state and federal taxes.

via Is a $1 salary paid all at once or in 4-cent installments? – By Nina Shen Rastogi – Slate Magazine .

Ever wondered if these $1 salaries that are all the rage (Apple, Google, and now the car companies) are illegal due to not meeting the minimum wage and other fun stuff? See the article above for all of that.