Wednesday, February 27, 2008


... they threw chairs at the snake? Chairs? What about getting a knife? Or gun?
Blog-reading snakes around here - consider yourself on notice! If I see you, I will use full deadly force.


A science professor dares to find out what germs lurk on your garnishes

Are you drinking germs?

Feb. 27: A new study found that the lemon slices you get on the side of your glass may be spiking your beverages with bacteria. TODAY’s Natalie Morales reports.

It's fairly common for restaurant staffers to place a lemon slice on the rim of a beverage glass as a flavor enhancer or decorative garnish. But who knows whether these lemons have been handled using sanitary procedures? Anne LaGrange Loving, a professor of science at Passaic County Community College, decided to find out.

Loving began her investigation after she saw a waitress’ fingertips dip into her soda as the drink was being brought to her table. Although lemon juice is known to kill germs, Loving devised a study to determine whether lemon slices contain germs when they are served to customers.

Using sterile collection swabs, Loving took two samples from each of 76 lemons that were served in restaurants in North Jersey. Patrons normally start to drink a beverage moments after it is served, so samples were taken right away, before a sip was taken and before anyone at the table touched it. One swab was rubbed along the rind, while a second was rubbed along the pulp. The restaurants were unaware that she was doing this. Samples were then analyzed for microbes at a clinical microbiology laboratory.

A total of 25 different types of germs were found on 53 out of the 76 lemons that were sampled. Some were fecal in origin (either from dirty fingertips of the restaurant employees, or from meat-contaminated cutting boards and knives), while others were types commonly found in saliva, on the skin and in the environment.

One sample had six different microorganisms on it, three of which are found in fecal material. Although some lemon slices had germs either only on the rind or only on the pulp, 29 percent had germs on both sites. In 15 instances the germs on the pulp were completely different from those on the rind, indicating that the pulp had been in contact with a contaminated surface as or after it was sliced. Sometimes when more than one lemon was sampled during a single restaurant visit, different germs were found on each.

Although there have been no reported outbreaks of illnesses attributed to lemon slices in beverages, every microorganism that was recovered had the potential to cause a variety of human infections. Establishment of an infection would depend upon the numbers and types of germs involved, the general health and age of the person and whether the person had chapped lips or a cold sore on the lips or gums.

People who love to have lemons with their drinks — especially those who are not in the best of health — might want to check out the sanitary practices of the restaurants they visit. At home, people can simply wash their lemons well with plenty of running water and soap to remove any protective wax that might have been added, then slice them using clean hands, a clean knife and a clean cutting board.

The study did not investigate other beverage garnishes such as olives, celery and limes. Alcoholic beverages were not tested. While alcohol is known to be antibacterial, studies would have to determine whether a beer, glass of wine or mixed drink would contain sufficient alcohol to kill germs quickly. Previous studies have shown, for example, that the communion wine left in a chalice after all parishioners have taken a sip is loaded with bacteria.

The full report of the investigation is in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

You have just been grossed out.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Terri's VALENTINE ONE radar detector has had a problem lately, in that it sees ghosts. Beeping at anything, it wasn't easy to ignore.

Months later, I lept to the rescue.

Found their website - $45 to repair the Valentine One. Curious, doesn't have a list of prices, just one. I carefully pack and send it in.

Several days later it comes back, FedEx 2 day. Inside there's an invoice marked $0.00... and our check. "Oh great, I think, they couldn't fix it!" I look through the box more thoroughly, for an explanation - none.

So I called their 800 number and inquired. "They just replaced all the guts" said the operator. No charge. No even for 'shipping and handling!'

And that, is what we call Exalted Customer Service on a superior product by a company that really stands behind its product. Does this happen anywhere else? Do pigs fly?

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I thought this would be a lot more painful. Try to watch someone else adjust something - you think more, more, less, no stop, no, too far. Go back. No, the other way. No, the other other way. On a zillion parameters.

However, there are computers involved and a thing they attach to the screen to micro manage the color setup.

Net result: the tech said it's about 35% better. Less blue. More accurate color mix and less enhanced sharpness, which adds distortion.

In high sun even with the shades pulled, enough light was entering the room to make it hard to judge for sure how it'll appear in normal nighttime use. But the little bit I saw was impressive, if a little subdued compared to what we had (which was quite a bit too high/bright.)

The sets ship with a vivid setting which was about 4000 degrees Kelvin above normal (my choice out of the box) which was another 3000 degrees above the ideal of, I think, 6500 degrees. (These are light measurements, not heat.)

So we'll get used to the look and report back after some time passes.

On our old set, years ago, the ISF calibration really changed a mediocre picture to a good one, often surprisingly good.

Starting now with a high definition picture, any improvement will be a real eye opener!


As you can see below, I have tried 3 various approaches.

And it finally dawned on me that I have flunked the LOWES GARDEN CENTER IQ test: most of the bags or bottles claim to kill 250 weeds. Now I suspect they do - but only out of the million or so which are carpeting the acreage!!!

I see no change. The 8 hour stuff on the clover has given the clover a nice gloss in the dew. Beset as we are with rabbits, I expect carcases. But the weeds look as if they are thriving. Three 8 hour death watches have come and gone.

Oh - have to go - the guy from Best Buy is here to 'calibrate' our new HDTV. That should be a worthy post. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 22, 2008


One man's weed is another man's obsession. That'd be me.

This year I vow to kick some serious weed-butt. Yesterday was the first attack.

Now you should know I've been the organic route, shoveling a good inch or so of compost to 'strengthen the turf' which would 'crowd out the weeds' - ha! I've used supplements to encourage biological activity. Ha! I used Round-up (Big mistake - bare patches of everything everywhere, but that was a few years ago and it's come back.)

I have literally pulled every weed by hand.

And now THIS spring I declare war. After a recent rain I thought I'd maybe get a propane torch - the grass is wet - and BURN the damn things out. Bonus: it sterilizes the soil. But that's a little too far over the obsessive/compulsive line (so far!)

Enter Lowes.

I decide to try three approaches in three areas. Winner takes all.

The trouble is, I can't find killer that's "safe for buffalo grass" or whatever perverted rhizome-laced crap is pretending to be what we had the landscaper put in.

All I get out of the knowledgeable is "that's really hrad to remove" when we get into specifics... me with a wilted leaf to show the expert behind the counter.

So here's what I did: three tries, each in its own area - crabgrass pre-emergent and death. Area 1.

Some spray that seemed safe for southern grasses and kills 250 weeds and clover in 8 hours.) Uh huh. Area 2.

And Corn Gluten, the natrual way of death. I spread enough to run an extended care facility for weeds. Maybe collect a government subsidy. Area 3.

Heck, if they pay farmers for NOT growing things, maybe I could collect for not growing grass.

The test has begun. Watered in. The rest of the acre and a half awaits the winner. This time, I'm SERIOUS.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Blind as they come without my glasses, I find I look pretty good in the post-shower mirror when not wearing them. It's the effect of looking through a distortion powerful enough to ignore what eating donuts and gravity have conspired to do to me.

I keep remembering Jack Palance at some awards show doing one-handed pushups (to show he was tough and vital.) I also read that in training for one of her movies, Demi Moore could do them too. I do - by actual count - 1000 pushups a week and couldn't come close to a one hander.

I think it's midlife crisis. I CAN say that putting tone to the bod is really hard the older you get. Actually, I remain convinced that I am not getting older, just that everyone else seems to be younger.

So, I am blind, showerside, dry. My baldness itches. We've been though a period of low humidity in Austin recently. Terri told me there was lotion for me, and since this little bottle of 'copped-from-the-hotel' had been on my sink area for months, I globbed it into my hands, hands to head. Rub-a-dub.

Something wasn't right.

I squint (like Clint Eastwood?) and read the contents. Hair conditioner. Not skin creme. (As useless as it would be on a bowling ball!) I mutter, remove, mutter, itch, scratch.