Tag Archives: Food and drink

Sleeping, Frothing, Typing and Sealing


 The Wall Street Journal’s holiday gift guide is out. My contributions, some of which would be familiar to regular readers:

Sleeptracker Pro $179. A successor to the Sleeptracker which I wrote about a couple of years ago (Sandman’s Little Helpers, Jan 13, 2006), the Pro is a watch which monitors your sleep patterns — more specifically, your movements while asleep — to wake you up when you’re at the lightest stage of sleep. The Pro improves on its predecessor with a better watch design and the ability to move your sleep data to a PC with a USB cable. Great for sleepyheads.

Aerolatte milk frother (about $30) I must have been through a dozen cappuccino machines, and they usually die slowly and noisily. I even once had a neighbor complain. The aerolatte won’t make you an espresso, but it does away with all the milk frothing side of things: a small, beautifully designed whisk powered by two AA batteries, just insert it in warm milk and the froth is delivered in an instant, sans noise pollution. And you can take it with you on trips or to dinner parties where their froth isn’t good enough for you.

iGo Stowaway Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard (about $150) Connects via Bluetooth with most gadgets — including a laptop — the Stowaway has the keyboard action, the compact size and the sleek look to merit a spot in your baggage or suit pocket. Makes typing an SMS or email on your smartphone a pleasure. Don’t settle for the cheap imitations; the guys behind these spent a lot of time ensuring the feel of the keyboard is up to snuff.

Clip n Seal (above, from $5) Another gadget I won’t travel without: the Clip n Seal is a tube of plastic clasped by another — a sort of clamp. It’s simple and will keep food fresh, bug free and unspilled, even in the tropics where I live.


This Week’s Column: Bacteria at Your Fingertips

This week’s (paid subscription only; apologies) column in the WSJ.com (which runs in the Personal Journal of The Asian Wall Street Journal) is about the gunk in your keyboard:

An exhaustive poll of my friends reveals that all sorts of stuff is being spilled over the average keyboard: biscuit crumbs, mango, fizzy beverage, the odd stray cornflake, nail varnish, rice, soy sauce, coffee, wine (red and white), hand cream. Under your keys lie a faithful record of every snack, lunch and beverage break you’ve had at your desk since you joined the company. It’s like typing on a pile of week-old dirty dishes.

Here’s the permanent WSJ.com home to Loose Wire columns.

The Gum Lobby

Calvin, who subscribed to ‘Chewing’ Magazine and took his gum seriously, would approve: The leading producers of chewing gum from around the world have launched the International Chewing Gum Association (ICGA).

Sadly, it’s not what I thought it was: a gathering of folk who will share their experiences of gum chewing and bubble blowing, a forum to discuss preferred locations for used gum wads and the problems of simultaneous perambulation and mastication, and a lobby group for greater gum-chewing rights in places where users are discriminated against (Singapore springs to mind). Instead it’s an organisation of manufacturers and its objective is to “speak with one global voice and to seek harmonization of regulations between countries and continents.” Which sounds really dull.

For those of you still fascinated, the ICGA is actually a merging of the

  • EACGI (European Association of the Chewing Gum Industry) and the
  • NACGM (National Association of Chewing Gum Manufacturers)

Sadly I can’t find the strip online where Calvin goes into detail about his “dedication to developing a proper chewer’s jaw that ‘drives the girls wild’ through his Chewing magazine subscription”.


That’s what the ICGA should be talking about. Or how to remove chewing gum from carpets, clothes and furniture (somehow the name of that site made me think it was about removing gum from people’s mouths).

The Technology Of Hotel Breakfasts

I hate, for the most part, hotel breakfasts. They’re dreadful, overpriced affairs in over-airconditioned caverns offering buffets of dried-out, re-heated mush which has to be labeled so guests can figure out what it is they’re eating. There has to be a better way.

Two pet peeves:

  • The buffet toaster: usually a conveyor type machine where you slot a piece of bread in one end and it disappears, coming out five minutes later barely toasted on one side and black on the other. Chances are that if you haven’t been standing over the machine in the meantime, someone else has either stolen your piece or fingered it.
  • The over-eager waiter/ress: Not their fault, because they’re told to do it, but what is it with the need to hover over guests as they’re eating, swooping in and swiping any plate, spoon, cup or yoghurt carton as soon as it’s put down by the guest? This behaviour drives me nuts as it’s impossible to relax and read the paper for fear that by putting down a spoon for 10 seconds to turn a page, a waiter will descend and grab your plate away from you. This morning I lost some yoghurt, some Rice Krispies (I’m a sucker for them, still) and a half-glass of grapefruit juice because I wasn’t quick enough.

This is a solution-oriented blog, so here are my solutions:

  • The buffet toaster: Toasters need serious work by technology companies. Even the kitchen toaster could do with a makeover. But in the meantime, hotels should have one of the over-eager waiters cut fresh bread on request and toast it for guests. Either that, or small kitchen-style toasters should be installed around the restaurant so guests can more easily identify which is their toast, and don’t have to walk halfway across the restaurant to retrieve it.
  • The hovering waiter: Don’t clear away anything until the end of the meal, or until a guest puts the plates, cups or whatever right at the edge of the table. Don’t refill coffee cups unless the guest asks for it. A good waiter should be invisible but available, hovering at the corner of a guest’s eye. To counteract these dawn-raids, guests should get T-shirts made with the logo ‘Don’t take away my plates until I ask you to. I’m trying to have breakfast, not a heart attack’.  I’m thinking of having some made up. Anyone want to order one?

Heinz Meanz Blogz

Here’s how not to use the blog as a promotional tool:

New Media Age reports that Heinz is launching its first ad campaign for baked beans in ten years this week. The campaign, aiming to “reinvigorate the brand with a newer, healthier image” revolves around an “energy-packed ‘Superbean’ character who will have his own blog on a specially created microsite”, heinzbeanz.com. Apart from promoting the, er, nutritional value of baked beans, Heinz is also, gasp, “swapping the plural ‘s’ in the Heinz Baked Beans brand for a ‘z’, integrating the famous ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ slogan into its first can redesign in Heinz’s 135-year history.” So now you know.

Sadly, though, the blog itself is a travesty of the genre. It’s viewable only in pop-up mode, which I suspect will not work with many browsers. There’s some Flash in there (a bean bouncing around a can), and frames to make the material itself virtually unreadable. The blog entries all carry the same date (today) as far as I can see, and are along these lines:

OK, listen, there’s something I’ve gotta share. I’m worried about your salt intake. Hey, the government’s worried about your salt intake, you’re worried about your salt intake! So what do we do? We cut back on the salt baby. I mean, we ain’t gonna tamper with the taste, don’t get me wrong. But since 2001 I’ve reduced my salt content by 30%.

Oh gawd. Isn’t there some law against this kind of thing being a blog? Or is the whole blogging thing going to be usurped by overpaid ad execs who think this is how to ride the blogging wave?

Link: Warchalking RIP?

 Interesting article by Nick Langley of ComputerWeekly about ‘The demise of the warchalkers’ (warchalkers are those folk who advertise, via street scribblings, the location of publicly available and free Internet access via WiFi points:
“The fall in warchalking has been attributed to the rise in public wireless Lan services, either those that are paid for or laid on by coffee shop owners as an inducement to hang around and buy more muffins. There is also a growing number of community wireless initiatives, providing free wireless broadband in towns and villages – particularly those the broadband providers have passed by.
“But one comment on www.warchalking.com may give the real reason warchalking is dying. “I am afraid that warchalking is in danger of being washed away by the lack of active chalkers. Perhaps that is the ultimate test. Unless people are prepared to make a record of their netstumbling for the sake of others, warchalking will not last.”