The Long, Lonely Quest to Breed the Ultimate Avocado

Everyone who knows me knows that I love avocados. I had never eaten an avocado until I was nearly 30, and now I simply can’t get enough of them. Until I read this article, I didn’t know much about Haas avocados, but I knew they seemed superior to the larger, greener variety. 


This fascinating story first appeared in Wired, check it out and weigh in with your avocado stories in the comments below.

I love my rice cooker

I’m not a huge fan of rice. I don’t mind it, but it’s carb-y and always seems like a lot of extra calories to me. But, about two years ago, I bought an Aroma electric rice cooker which became one of my very favourite kitchen appliances of all time. The rice cooker steams veggies beautifully and makes perfect quinoa and rice every time. I even learned to make an omelette in it, and posted about it some time ago.

My favourite recipe (that I make all the time) is quinoa with pesto or sauce. It’s so easy:

100g quinoa 1 cup

60ml water 1/4 cup

190g pesto 7 oz

Whatever sautéed vegetables I have on hand (mushrooms, onions, peppers, shallots, etc.) I just dump them in right at the beginning.

Whatever vegetable scraps I have on hand go in the steamer (broccoli, carrots, etc.)

Set to “white rice” and when it’s done, mix the veggies with the cooked quinoa and a spoonful of ricotta, season with freshly cracked salt and pepper and a tiny bit of chopped herbs (basil or whatever is around) or some shredded Parmesan.

It’s easy, delicious, comfort food that literally cooks itself. It’s also good leftover and cold. You can also substitute tomato paste or sauce (or even salsa) for the pesto. It’s all delicious.

Unfortunately, I was using the rice cooker the other night and noticed that the cord, where it attached to the back of the cooker had frayed, and lots of copper wiring was poking out of the back of the cooker. I emailed Aroma, and within a day had a very pleasant response. The Aroma folks—much to their credit—replaced the rice cooker and shipped it at their cost, along with a return label to replace the defective cooker. They even sent a coupon for a free 5lb bag of rice.

Outstanding customer service, speedy reply, and they stand behind their product. Two thumbs up to Aroma and a strong endorsement from me! So if you’re looking for a good Christmas gift for someone, consider picking up an Aroma rice cooker. They are outstanding.

BBC – Capital – The new, subtle ways the rich signal their wealth

As luxury goods become more accessible, the educated elite are changing how they mark their social position – not with luxury goods, but with less obvious status symbols

Source: BBC – Capital – The new, subtle ways the rich signal their wealth

Tile. A Disppointing Scam

A few years ago, I became interested in Tile, a little white tracking device that—in theory—helps you to locate and find lost items.

A little over a year ago, I bought four Tile devices through an offer that one of my credit card companies was running — I had wanted to try Tile for a while and was really excited to give it a go. The Tiles showed up in my mailbox, and that’s when the excitement evaporated and the disappointment set in. A year later, I’m more than convinced that Tile is a bit of a scam. Here’s why: The authors of the Tile website are really crafty and the language is parsed VERY carefully. What the descriptions actually say and what they imply are worlds apart. This isn’t a case of things hidden in fine print, indeed all the damning details are spelled out in clear (and large) text. A quick or casual read of the website implies that Tile can: “Never lose anything again.” However, here’s where the whole experiment becomes an exercise in semantics that rivals the intellectual slipperiness of any of my graduate-level classes on Deleuze. Like Deleuzian analysis, reading the Tile website requires excruciating and miserable effort to wade through bullshit and figure out just what it is that is really being said. Let me save you the effort: it’s never what you think it is. 

Let’s do a quick fact check the Tile website.

Front and center the Tile website shows the following graphic:

Now let’s take it step by step.

Never lose anything again.
False. This is a ridiculous and nonsensical claim antithetical to the main purpose of the Tile device. If you will never lose anything again, then why would you need this device. Patently, you will lose things. The implication here is that you will never need to search for things, becasue if you cannot locate them, Tile will help you find them, which incidentally, is also false.

Tile is a tiny Bluetooth tracker and easy-to-use app that helps you find everyday items in seconds.
True and False, but mainly false. Tiny: no. Bluetooth: yes. Tracker: no. Easy-to-Use: no. App: yes. Helps you: no. Find: rarely. Everyday items: no. In Seconds: definitely, positively, not.

Attach to anything. Designed with a convenient hole, easily hook onto keys or stick to anything.
Again, some really slippery wordsmithing here. Could you attach it to anything? Technically, yes. Does it sport a convenient hole? Yes. Could you easily hook it onto keys or stick it to anything? Yes. However, again the problem lies in the implication that by attaching the Tile to something, that you will be able to find it in the aforementioned “seconds.” This claim is patently false.

See it. Ring it. Find it.
See the last place you had it on a map and make it ring when you get close.

Here’s where the BS really gets mixed with mud. The Tile website provides several “use cases.” These include: Keys Finder, Wallet Tracker, Luggage Tracker, Remote Control Finder.

Again, the implication made by the Tile website is that when lost, Tile will help you to locate these items in “seconds.” This is untrue… and here is why:

Though the Tile website implies that you simply open the app and find your missing items, this isn’t at all how Tile works. The app associates a Tile device with a particular object. I put one on my travel backpack, one on my cat’s collar, and one on my keys. The other one remained in the box, unused. Within ridiculous proximity of about 20 feet of any of these Tile devices, I can see in the app that these items are somewhere within 20 feet of me. Where? Tile offers no clues, kind of like the childhood game of Warmer! Colder! … only Tile doesn’t even give you that much information, just a vague “warm…ish.” 

So, for example, let’s say you misplace your keys, Tile device attached, somewhere in your home… looking at the app tells you “yep… last I checked… your keys are at home.” But, the app gives you no clue as to where your keys might be. That’s a pretty major fail. The “Find my iPhone” app that locates my Apple devices is scary accurate and you can judge from the location of the dot, exactly where the item is in your home. This refined level of accuracy is definitely not the case with Tile.

This is where the “ring” comes in. Allegedly, you can “ring” a Tile from the app. I found that this worked about 8% of the time over the course of the past year. Sometimes I would be standing immediately next to the Tile-d device, but it was under a piece of paper or otherwise obstructed from view, but the ringing feature didn’t actually activate any ringing sound on the Tile itself. So, that, as far as I’m concerned is a major fail.

So, let’s say instead, that you lose something away from home… like your backpack or keys. Again, the Tile app will show you where it last remembers you having it. Now, that in and of itself is a significant problem, becasue the Tile app isn’t constantly in contact with your stuff. It kind of checks in from time to time, and let’s you know where it last remembers seeing it. That is only helpful if you never move. It’s the equivalent of looking for a friend in a small town. Someone might say, “yeah, I just saw her at McDonald’s… but that was about 4 hours ago.” Dashing over to McDonalds would likely not help you to locate your friend (unless she really likes McDonalds), becasue she probably moved since the last time she was spotted there. This is a MAJOR fail on part of Tile, and the part that I feel is most misleading. While you may be able to track some movements of a Tile-d item, the information is not real time, not linear, and not even sequential. Which makes the information not only random but utterly useless. 

Devices also need to be in range of a Bluetooth enabled device. That’s not clearly explained on the website, and means that if you are out to dinner and want to double check to see if your Tile-enabled cat is home or not, that you are out of luck… unless your cat has a spare iPhone sitting around that you have “shared” the Tile with. The only problem is that the “share” feature worked exactly 0% of the time for me when shared with family and friends. So, that was a major fail too.

So at this point, if a Tile won’t ring when I’m standing next to it, won’t actually help me to zero in on the location of a missing item, and can’t tell me where my item is unless I am right on top of it…what is the point of this product?

Allegedly, when something is *really* lost, you can mark it “lost” in the Tile app. That reportedly activates a network of other Tile users and borrows Bluetooth bandwidth and battery to scour the earth for your item. Keep in mind that these unsuspecting Tile spies would need to be within 20 or so feet of your item and have their app active (which most people deactivate, becasue it’s such a battery hog) to have any chance of finding your lost item. Then, once it’s found, you get a message indicating that Tile “last saw” your lost item in a specific location. Again, the location is incredibly vague, comes in hours after the spy app actually pings the Tile-d device and the information is all but useless. Without exaggeration, I tested this feature eight times in the past year, as I traveled from North America to Europe or from Europe to North America. Of eight times, I received two notifications that my “lost” item was located. (Hardly scientific, but enough to know that it doesn’t work.) The problem is that (despite my Tile app being active and working, and within 20 feet of my “lost” item), my lost items were reported “last seen” more than 6,500km away. So, needless to say, not very accurate and not very timely, and again a major fail.

To add insult to disappointment, after using Tile for 6 months, I received an e-mail telling me that my Tile devices were getting old and would expire soon. Apparently, the battery life is poor, and Tile de-activates the Tile devices one year after they are activated. This information isn’t prominently displayed anywhere on the website, and while its unrealistic to expect a Tile device to last forever, it seems like a bit of a scam to disable it exactly one year after activation. 

Not to worry, though, because the constant pop up notifications that you will receive on your iPhone (even when notifications are turned off for the app) will never let you forget that your useless Tile devices are about to be killed by Big Brother. 

So, in short, Tile is a great idea that comes up horrifically short on execution and perhaps a bit before its time. What Tile really strives to be is a GPS tracker AND locator and sadly it is neither, but instead a clever idea that grossly under delivers. 

My advice: hold off until the technology is actually in line with your basic expectations. 

A New Mattress

The bed in Florence is a peculiar size. It’s just smaller than a full and is in fact a “three quarters” size. The peculiar size was once a common bed size in America until the old bedding size system was standardized after WWII. The mattress is also rounded at two corners to accommodate the rounded sides of the Airstream frame. This makes finding bedding difficult and more complicated. 

When I purchased Florence, I made a mental note to buy a new mattress. Three years have passed and I never found the time to do it. After purchasing a Casper mattress for my home, I wrote to Casper asking if they could make a custom size one for the Airstream. They never wrote back. 

So for a few years I slept on a sturdy cot-like mattress. It wasn’t uncomfortable but it wasn’t luxurious either. I began shopping around for a mattress and was surprised to find that the cost was not insignificant. Ballpark was about $800-1200 for a custom mattress. 

Which, as always, is when my very favorite store in the world came through for me. This past week, ALDI featured memory foam mattresses for $219. That was the lowest price I could find anywhere and just like the Casper mattress, the ALDI version came with a 10 year warranty. 


So, I bought one. I used my mom and dad’s electric turkey carving knife to slice the foam and replaced the cot-like mattress. Amazingly, it was easy and is tremendously comfortable. Honestly, it’s as comfy as the Casper, of which, I am a huge fan. 



I also made a friend with a slug while I was cutting the mattress. I interrupted his happy home with my cutting activity. Mr. Slug is nownhappily living in a paper towel tube outside my Airstream. 


Also, for those interested, I have found that European-size bedding including square pillows and “single” comforters fit the Airstream perfectly. You can find great bedding at Hema in The Netherlands and Central Europe or Hemtex in Estonia and across Northern Europe. 

Ironic: RIP Chipotle

CMG Chipotle Chipotle Mexican Grill

Ironic that my last post earlier today was about being “too clean.” Chipotle, the Mexican fast food chain seems to have no problem with being too clean. Its stock plunged nearly 8% today on reports of—yet another—norovirus scare at one of its stores in Virginia.

Let me say this (remember, you heard it here first…) if this problem spreads to other Chipotle outlets, this is the end of Chipotle.

A year and a half ago, I posted this original post about how Chipotle blew the first major crisis to hit their business. Unbelievably, they still haven’t rebounded. At its high, Chipotle stock was soaring at $725ish a share, after the food safety scare it plummeted to mid 200s per share. It’s never fully recovered. Neither have their stores. Outlets with lines out the door two years ago are all but empty today. The company made no significant effort to control the narrative in 2015, and they haven’t jumped in to crisis mode this time either. Chipotle made no significant effort to win back customer faith in their brand promise in 2015, and their stock price shows that lack of understanding between cooking, product, marketing, and branding. It’s that disconnect that cost Chipotle more than half their market capitalization in 2015, and this time around, they are left with 50% less than they had then.

For their sake, I hope they handle this crisis better than the last one. And for the time being, my money is with Jeff Gundlach (@truthgundlach) in short selling Chipotle stock (CMG) until this crisis either blows over or finally collapses the house of cards that has been propping Chipotle for the past 18 months.

Soap.


Is too clean dangerous? This is a compelling article that makes you consider (or re-consider) the ingredients in your shower gel and bath soap. It’s strange, so many of the ingredients and additives that are banned elsewhere in the world are still very much in our soap and personal care products.
Read the original story about triclosan at Quartz.

<http://qz.com/779681/the-new-fda-rule-on-triclosan-a-banned-chemical-in-anti-bacterial-soap-is-still-in-practically-every-other-american-bath-product/>

If nothing else, this story should give pause about using commercial products and perhaps prompt you to consider making some soap of your own!

My friend makes her own soap (which is fantastic) and the main ingredient is coconut oil. She uses the recipe you can find on Mommypotumus. 

I Love SLA!

My “Green” Bowl (with shaved Parmesan).

One of the highlights of any trip to The Netherlands is a stop (or two, or ten) at SLA. SLA is a healthy-eating/salad joint that I just love. SLA has a special way of building a salad, which believe it or not, makes a big difference! 

Even a driving rain couldn’t keep me away from SLA!

SLA focuses on clean and healthy eating in a sustainable and environentally responsible way. Their shops are no-nonsense and comfortable and the food is consistently delicious. On my last visit, I bought the SLA cookbook, and many of the dressings and salad ideas have become staples and favourites.

According to the SLA website, SLA opened in 2013 as a family business – Jop, Nina and Ida – in Amsterdam. The SLA business focus on having as many people taste, experience and share how conscious eating affects life positively. 

“We believe that you are what you eat and that food can be a drug. SLA is our way of heart, head and hands to create an environment that inspires and encourages healthy habits.”

SLA has a new cookbook, SLA Easy, that came out recently. I’ll add it to my birthday list. You can get the cookbook here!


Check out SLA here. #ILOVESLA

 

Kayak is Swimming Upstream


What happened to the travel site, Kayak?! What is it with me and companies this summer? I seem to be finding myself disappointed in companies that I have long-trusted more and more. For decades, Kayak has been my go-to travel site for searching for hotels, airline tickets, and cars. Those days are over.

A few years ago, Kayak was subsumed into the annoying Priceline Group, which turned Kayak from a quiet, consistent site into a used-car dealing circus. About a month ago, the site quietly changed it’s logo to a more streamlined version, and also changed some of its policies. Now any search you do seems to trigger a never-ending e-mail blast of spam. The sheer volume of spam that each search produces would make Hormel blush. It’s ridiculous and it’s a guaranteed way to tarnish the brand and kill what was once a great product.

For example, I recently searched for a car rental. About an hour later, I received an e-mail “reminding” me that I hadn’t actually booked the rental (which factually, was in correct, as I used the Avis app to book the rental). Then, about an hour after that the crazy started. Each hour, I received a pestering, obnoxious e-mail “reminding” me to book my car rental. So, I went to the Kayak site and changed all my e-mail preferences so that I would receive no e-mail whatsoever from Kayak. Still, the e-mail persisted, like 20 a day. I mean, seriously, is anyone that much of an idiot that they need 20 reminders each day to complete a travel transaction? There is a line between helpful service and harassment, and Kayak seems to have crossed it with a firehose.

So this morning, I clicked (again) on the little “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the most recent Kayak e-mail. It started a never-ending loop on my iPad of the Kayak app opening and Safari opening—back and forth—until I had to turn my iPad off to get it to stop. As if the volume of spam e-mail wasn’t enough.

So, after two decades of using Kayak, I have deleted the app from my phone and iPad, and I’ll find some other, less intrusive site to use.