Junk science: The 5-second rule

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The 5-second rule is not mentioned here, but still shows that going against Mother Nature leads to convoluted and wishful thinking. Found here.

You remember this. It’s where a child says that if you drop food on the floor and pick it up in less than five seconds, you can safely eat it again. Many adults believe it too. It is hard to know where these ideas come from.

There was a V-Sauce video on the 5-second rule made back in Noveber of 2012, that debunks it with everyday science. V-Sauce mentions, however, that your immune system protects you from a good deal of the bacteria that are sure to come from the floor. There is a MythBusters episode on TV that debunked the 5-second rule also. But away from popular science, there is also a 2007 article in The Journal of Applied Microbiology that not only do microbes adhere to food pretty much on contact, but further that, on an otherwise clean, dry tile floor, Salmonella typhimurium can survive for over a month in large enough numbers to pose a human health problem (40 days, according to the journal). S. typhimurium is a bacteria known to cause typhoid fever in humans.

In scientific terms, “clean” is taken to mean “free of dirt and debris”. Only “sterile” can mean “free of all bacteria and other single-celled organisms”. The floor in this case would be clean but not sterile, just like a floor would be in any average well-kept home.

Well, that was back in 2007, and there has since been another journal article released two days ago by researchers at Rutgers University (who published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology), with what appears to be bigger samples with more surfaces and more measurements than ever before. The lesson, however, is still the same: if food falls on the floor, the safest way to deal with the food is to just throw it out.

Sterility is too lofty a goal for an average home, requiring the inside of the home to be sealed off and air-tight, and for the people entering the home to cover their clothes with a sterile outer suit (since they are contaminated from being outside), and to put on shoe and hair coverings before entering the house.

Eating in a sterile environment

Eating and getting rid of bodily wastes would require, as the easiest solution, to do all that outside the house. Once food is brought into the home, any hope of sterility is gone. Growing food in the home does not absolve you from microbes, since most plants and animals need bacteria to grow. And you don’t just need the individual microbes, you need the whole ecosystem they belong in. Past attempts at building artificial ecosystems isolated from the rest of the world had all ended in failure. To get rid of bodily wastes, you would need to build an outhouse — one with running water, if you like to be fancy. None of these are the most comfortable solution to everyday needs which we take for granted.

Brewing coffee and the environment

Coffee drinking is, I suppose, the curse of the educated class. But I suppose one should not forget coffee lovers who just like the taste, and I guess they could describe all kinds of people. I love the flavour, and the caffeine “buzz”, when it happens, is a distant second in what I consider a to be a good coffee experience. That being said, I am somewhat fussy in my choices of coffee.

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A “gold” filter, not anywhere near as expensive as gold.

There has been a recent trend in single-serve coffee makers. I brew for myself, so that is about the kind of coffee maker I would likely buy. For the longest while, I used a “gold” (possibly brass) basket, which was fine, it lacked smoothness. I also experienced paper single-serve filters, such as those made by Melitta and others. However, I didn’t like the environmental idea of disposable filters (the reason for going to gold filters).

K-Cups (and all cups like them) are a bad idea on two fronts. K-Cups themselves are not recyclable, and enough of them have been sold by Keurig (the inventors of the system) alone by the start of this year to reach 401,000 kilometers when placed end-to-end. That’s far enough to reach the moon and still make it a quarter of the way back. This is a serious waste disposal problem for all of us. This is changing slowly, but newer concoctions of K-cups depend on the recycler (meaning you) disassembling the cups before disposal. It is unlikely that enough people will want to do that. But at any rate, the aggregate amount of money spent pound for pound is more than double that of high quality ground coffee sold in pound bags: nearly $50.00 per pound. This is true regardless of the make of the coffee pod.

The attraction of coffee pods for coffee afficionados, I would suppose, is that the amount of cleaning is greatly reduced compared with an espresso machine. In addition, Keurig machines and their ilk are much less expensive than espresso machines. They produce a better coffee than ordinary perk, since each airtight packet is packaged using what is called a “modified atomosphere” to keep the grounds fresh. A modified atmosphere is usually nitrogen infused into the packet to reduce oxidative degradation in a harmless way (our atmosphere is 70% nitrogen, so you breathe in huge gulps of it all the time).

I compare them with espresso machines, since they too make one cup of coffee at a time, but usually cost hundreds of dollars and take up more counter space than single brew coffee makers like Keurig.

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The Flex Brew, taking up less space than a typical coffee maker or espresso machine.

I have seen some manufacturers now offering a K-cup compatable adaptor for ordinary ground coffee, usually offered as an optional add-on. Hamilton Beach has it as a basic feature of their “Flex-Brew” line. The latter also offers the option of doing away with K-cups altogether.

The single serve coffeemakers such as Hamilton Beach Flex Brew, feature a way to avoid K-cups and brew your own grind,  and come with a gold-ish metal filter much smaller than the illustration above, but it provides a sane way to reliably measure how much ground coffee to add compared with a Melitta filter. I have tried it, and am happy with the coffee flavour, as well as the idea that I can use any ground coffee I like, and am not limited to whatever it is K-cups have on offer, nor need I pay their exorbitant cost.

A vertical turkey for Thanksgiving

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In case you are like me and never seen a “turkey half” before, this is what it looks like. The half with the legs and wings got cut into quarters and sold separately. The remaining part that you see here weighs in at 8.8 pounds. The beef/veal/bread stuffing is stage left, and the bread/seasoning stuffing is stage right. They will be mixed together with chopped onions and diced apples. The body cavity was small and most of the stuffing had to be baked in a glass dish.

I live alone and had only one guest over this Thanksgiving, and so I did not want a full turkey. There was a meat market in town where I was able to purchase a half turkey, as long as you were ok in doing without legs and wings.

What I first noticed was a shallow body cavity that if you cook the bird facing upward, the stuffing likely wouldn’t fall out. But not only was that a kind of weird way to cook the turkey, it was also problematic in that the lid would not close over the pot, so I had to baste frequently every so often over a 2.5 hour period at 300F. to cope with possible issues in burning the top “rim” of the now vertical turkey, I applied vergetable oil to the top and sides using a small piece of wax paper. The turkey had to be cooked vertical in the sense of body cavity-side-up to prevent possible spillage of stuffing.

I was lucky to have a meat stuffing for this situation, since the meat would provide its own juice and not dry out so easily like a pure bread stuffing would. This meat stuffing consisted of meat mixed with bread. The meat was beef and veal, and if it had herbs mixed in, I could not tell by the smell. The dried bread crumbs forming the rest of the stuffing were added to this, along with a Spanish onion and a medium-sized Granny Smith apple. The bread crumbs had herbs with them, and I added no further herbs to the stuffing.

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Here are most of the ingredients outside of spices, salt and pepper: an apple, meat stuffing, a small bunch of carrots (the whole bunch was used), the turkey half, the bread stuffing, and 10-15 small potatoes, the latter of which were cut in half and placed in the baking pan with the turkey.

I needed vegetables to round out the meal, and I chose 10-15 small white potatoes (about 1.5 inches diameter) and a small bunch of carrots. The carrots were cut into pieces; each potato was chopped in half; and another Spanish onion was diced and added. About a quarter cup of vegetable oil was added to the veggies in a large mixing bowl, and some all-purpose seasoning was added generously (specifically Club House’s “Onion Plus”). I covered the top of the mixing bowl tightly with Cling Wrap, and shook the ingredients in the bowl so that all ingredients were covered with vegetable oil and seasoning. The seasoning mixes rather well with the vegetable oil and makes a great juice with the turkey later on. The vegetables were laid around the turkey inside the baking pan along with the juices from the mixing, but only after the turkey had cooked for a full hour.

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This is the finished product, with stuffing and veggies already served in the background. Not much skin on this turkey, but it was really juicy. However, the skin was not as crisp as I liked.

The stuffing could have used poultry seasoning, savoury, and the other usual suspects in making stuffing. I decided to do without them, and the result after more than two hours of cooking was pretty flavourful.

In fact the meat was suprisingly tender, especially given the fact that it was cooked vertically, exposing the “stuffing” end of the turkey to serious evaporation and possible drying out. I was extra careful to baste the turkey at least every 30-45 minutes, and made a point to add baste to the stuffing, and surrounding vegetables. The turkey also yielded a lot of juice, good for making gravy.

Journalists are slow on reports of the Tim Horton’s and Burger King merger

It is not my style to comment on things which come up on Facebook, but since Burger King’s Facebook page was mentioned in news of the merger as reported by CTV Newsworld, I thought I would weigh in. I went to Burger King’s Facebook page, and well…

It is now about 10:15 PM Toronto time, and a post by the Burger King media organ saying they are remaining headquartered in Miami, Florida appeared about noon our time today. CTV Newsworld is still reporting that BK is moving to Canada to avoid corporate tax.  Meanwhile, respondents to the Facebook page are plenty pissed, despite the announcement by the fast food giant that “The Whopper isn’t going anywhere”.

Wordle_BK_TimmiesAccording to Wikipedia, 3G Capital of Brazil has had a majority stake in the company since 2010 as BK’s share price was sagging. This means that in actuality, the report should have been about a Brazilian company headquartering in Canada. Since the 2010 purchase of BK by 3G Capital was under President Obama’s watch, his accusation that BK is being “unpatriotic” by moving to Canada now rings particularly hollow. Where was Obama when the flight of capital really took place?

To be fair, news is contradictory about the location of 3G’s head office. It has two offices, one in New York City, and another in Rio de Janeiro. Bloomberg says the head office is located in New York. Wikipedia, whose article on 3G reads like a brochure, says it is located in Rio. The 3G Capital website, whose home page sports the Manhattan skyline, has sparse information about anything, and makes it equally cryptic.

The BK head office still remained in Florida, and Alexandre Macedo (from New York) has been president of Burger King Holdings since 2013. We don’t know his salary, but Tim Horton’s Marc Caira earned a tidy $451 million in 2013. Tim Horton’s is headed in Oakville, Ontario.

Using the source, Luke: Compiling Firefox

My PC is one of those dual-cores from about 5 or so years ago with about 4 gigs of RAM and enough hard drive space that I don’t have to worry about running out of room any time soon. I installed the latest UBUNTU as a second operating system (XP is running on another partition), but became dissatisfied with its overly-simple interface and its hard-to-find terminal. In fact, anything that would have been called a menu system seemed impossible to configure. So, I ripped it out and installed Debian. Yeah, the software is always a version or two behind, but at least I have a guarantee of it working.

Except one thing. Debian didn’t seem to come with a web browser I liked. I wanted Firefox, since there will be a chance of syncing the menu system with my other machines. The binary downloaded from the Firefox website wouldn’t start, since it couldn’t find a library that was indeed on my system, it just wasn’t placed where Firefox was looking. So, to me that only meant one thing …

If you want a software to do anything right, you need to compile the source code yourself and build your own binary on the machine it will run on. And that’s one of the powerful advantages of open source software, and it is the whole reason why the source code is freely available. It is an essay in patience, but once it works correctly, it is always worth the extra trouble. In the source code for Firefox, I needed to use ./configure several times. Each time it reported an error of some kind, it was due to a missing package. I installed it using apt-get install <packge-name>, and there were several that were missing. I would suppose the reason so many were missing was because my Linux installation was not configured for “development” purposes (an oversight on my part). But once ./configure ran without error, I was able to do a “make”. And now the wait.

I recall back in the mid-90s, when I first used Linux on a 486, and I was compiling the kernel, I recall it took, on a 80486-DX2-100 processor with maybe 4 megs of RAM, about 5-6 hours to compile a proper kernel. At the time, that was the biggest compilation job commonly done on Linux systems, and was a rite of passage for any computer nerd, and probably still is. Things are easier nowadays with kernel modules in the version 2 and 3 kernels, since compilation is rendered almost un-necessary. Well, about an hour into the compilation of Firefox, it is still chugging away at the compilation of source code — sometimes C/C++, sometimes python, and it seems assembler at times (not sure). On 4 gigs of RAM and a dual-core processor, one would think that I wouldn’t have time to write this article (which is exactly what I am doing while I’m waiting), or at least to write this much verbiage over so long a period. But so far, the good news is that there are no serious compilation errors that would have caused the make to bail out.

Of course, I have better things to do than to compile Firefox and write about it on my blog. I am also roasting a turkey. The turkey will be ready to eat in about two hours from now. It will be interesting to see which will finish first: the turkey or my Firefox compilation. I’ll keep you posted. Right now, it is about time for its basting. The turkey, that is.

Why TSP rocks

I discovered textured soy protein (TSP, or textured vegetable protein [TVP]) in a local bulk foods store, sold in bins. TSP is a protein extract from the soybean. Soybeans is an already versatile plant that is used for many different purposes. It can be used as a meat analog, similar to the way surimi can be used as an analog for shellfish.

Flavoured with the appropriate broth, it can be used as a replacement or as a supplement to chicken, or beef. In the un-flavoured state, it can be used to add a meat-like texture to spaghetti sauces, chili, lasagna, you name it. If you are a vegetarian, you now can take advantage of a plant-based food which, pound for pound, has the same protein value as meat, with a fraction of the calories. You can now serve Hamburger Helper without any actual hamburger.

A recent experiment at Paul King’s Labs (my kitchen) used Hamburger Helper, the leftover remains of a Spanish onion, fried separately in a skillet greased with margarine until it was somewhat brown (grease poured away afterward), a quarter pound of lean ground beef, fried until all brown, and one full cup of TVP, to which nearly a cup of boiling water was added. To the concoction was added the noodles and the Hamburger Helper mix (Lasagna flavour), another cup of  water, and finally a small whole tin of tomato paste (mostly because I just love to kick that tomato flavour up a few notches).

TVP does not need the aid of hot water to hydrate itself; cold water will do. TVP does not necessarily need cooking, but I just want it to be there because I think it needs to absorb the surrounding juices and flavours like the meat does. So, the TVP is added just after the hamburger turns brown. Broth isn’t necessary for something like Hamburger Helper, so that additional preparation isn’t needed.