Dec. 31, 2003

Low Carb Year in Review

Fortune magazine has a feature they call Atkins World which nicely sums up the low-carb phenomenon over the past year. There's not much about the science of the diet but more of the culture surrounding it and its effect on various industries (like as bread & pasta). Much of it I was already aware of (such as the increase in egg consumption), but there were a few surprises as well.

[spoilers ahead] If you want to be surprised, don’t read this part. Most starting to me was the news about Splenda. Most people are probably aware that Splenda is in products such as Diet RC, Ocean Spray Lite and Blue Bunny ice cream. But, I was astonished to read that Diet Coke in Japan has Splenda! I'm guessing that even Larry may not have been aware of that one ;). In any case, if Coke has formulated Diet Splenda Coke and dispersed it to Japan, I can only hope that the US will have it soon. [/spoilers]

Most amusing to me, though, was some of the dedication that some of these low-carb companies have — to taste as well as nutrition:

[…] And that’s how [Keto] CEO Arne Bey wants it. For the past five years his passion has been to make low-carb food with the taste and texture of regular food. “When I hear, ‘It’s not that bad,’ it pisses me off,” Bey says, offering a visitor a chocolate Keto shake in lieu of lunch. […]

For what it’s worth, there’s also a print version of the article which doesn’t require clicking from one page to the next.

Dec. 30, 2003

Dow Doing Well — 10,450

It looks like the economy may be picking up and the major stock indices are posting encouraging gains. Just yesterday, the Dow closed up 125 points (1.2%) and all 30 blue chips advanced (yeah, every Dow company had a boost).

More than that, the Nasdaq closed above 2,000 for the first time in about two years (which was just before the second dip of our recession). Even the S&P 500 gained 1.2% yesterday. Though I’m hoping in the back of my mind that this isn’t just a case of holiday-time exuberance, the experts tend to agree that things are looking up:

“By and large, the news is positive, and the economy is perking along so unless we have some sort of terrorist activity or some other negative event, I would expect the positive momentum to continue through the week,” said Andy Brooks, head of equity trading at T. Rowe Price.

Dec. 29, 2003

Sara Lee Debuts Low-Carb Bread

Climbing onto the low-carb bandwagon, Sara Lee has introduced some low-carb breads. Though I’ve only found a press release on this (previous link), the write-up is pleasantly not as self-congratulatory as a regular press release.

The new line of Delightful breads will feature:

  • Sara Lee Delightful White Bakery Bread — A 20-ounce sandwich loaf that offers a 40 percent reduction in carbohydrates and a 44 percent reduction in calories compared with typical regular white breads. Each slice of Sara Lee Delightful White contains only 9 grams of carbohydrates compared with 15 grams for typical regular white breads and contains just 45 calories, compared with 80 calories.
  • Sara Lee Delightful Wheat Bakery Bread — The 20-ounce Delightful Wheat sandwich loaf also contains only 9 grams of carbohydrates and 45 calories per slice [the carbs may be even lower after subtracting fiber]. That compares with 13 grams of carbs per slice for typical regular wheat breads, a 31 percent reduction for Sara Lee Delightful Wheat, and compares with 70 calories per slice of regular wheat bread, a calorie reduction of 36 percent for Delightful Wheat.

Both varieties of Sara Lee Delightful breads are good sources of fiber and have no trans fat or artificial colors or flavors. And each slice is full sized, in contrast to some "light" breads that reduce the dimensions of the slice. Each loaf has tested favorably in consumer taste tests, even outscoring some leading full-carbohydrate breads. […]

I’ll reserve judgment on this one until I’ve had a chance to try it, but I’m pleased that they focused on creating a good-tasting bread and not just a low-carb-at-all-costs bread. And, to their credit, the bread also avoids trans fats, which can be rather tricky to avoid in baked goods. I’ve also found a picture of the packaging, which may make it easier to find this bread on store shelves.

Dec. 28, 2003

Spellchecker Wonky in Mozilla

If you keep up with the Mozilla nightly builds, you may find that the spellchecker has gone a bit wonky. Since approximately from the 22nd, the spellchecker no longer recognizes capitalized versions of words already in its dictionary. For instance, if you start a sentence with “The”, “This” or “So”, it'll think you've misspelled the word.

You can still add the word to its dictionary and it won't bother you about that one again, but this is enough of an annoyance to me that I don’t think I’ll be downloading the nightlies for the next couples days until this one is fixed. And, it looks like it should be fixed soon — there’s already a patch awaiting approval :).

Dec. 26, 2003

Low-Carb Wraps at Subway

USA Today reports that Subway will start offering low-carb wraps on Monday:

Subway today will announce plans to begin selling two Atkins-Friendly Wraps at all 16,500 Subway stores nationwide beginning Monday. The wraps are made from special wheat and soy grains that are high in fiber and protein but low in carbohydrates.

Consumers, however, will pay a premium for them — about 50 cents more than Subway's conventional, six-inch subs. Subway sandwich bread has 17 net carbs compared with 5 net carbs in the in the Atkins wrap, alone. […]

I think this was a good move for Subway — for quite some time, they held the reputation as a healthy fast-food, but many consumers likely reconsidered that under auspices of low carb eating. So, once again, it looks like Subway is probably a decent choice, whether you’re trying for low-fat or low-carb.

Dec. 23, 2003

Turning Off AOL Today Window in AIM

If you’ve installed the latest AIM beta (AIM 5.5.3501), you may have noticed that it now displays the AOL Today window on startup — and there’s no UI to turn it off. However, Daniel Glazman has dug up the registry key which will deactivate that:

[…] Launch regedit and look for key ShowAimTodayWindow. If you have more than one AIM account on your computer, make sure you are modifying the correct user (look at the status bar at the bottom of the window and check if you AIM nick is in). Then right-click on the "ShowAimTodayWindow" string and select Modify. Turn the 1 into a 0 in the dialog and click OK. Close regedit’s window. It’s done.

Ah, that’s not too bad. I’ll have to be sure to do that once I get back to my Windows box.

Dec. 21, 2003

Off to Pittsburgh

I’m on my way to Pittsburgh for the week, so updates may be a bit sparse until I return. Mike gave me a ride to the airport and we got here in plenty of time (there was no line at the e-ticket check-in and I got to the gate an hour before boarding).

As you may have guessed, I’m typing this entry from the gate — via my PowerBook’s WiFi connected through Wayport. It’s $6.95 for the day, but I don’t mind paying that if it means I can read Slashdot while I wait :).

Dec. 18, 2003

MacOS 10.3.2 and Battery Update Released

I saw from MacRumors that Apple released MacOS 10.3.2 along with a battery update yesterday. I didn’t mind the OS update is a good thing, of course, as it included new ATI and NVIDIA graphics drivers along with various bugfixes and security updates.

However, what really excited me was the battery update. Going by Apple’s description, it didn't seem like much at first — “The Battery Update enhances the performance of the battery to ensure that full capacity is available for your PowerBook or iBook”. But the forum comments attached to that posting give a different perspective:

AmigoMac: “I guess I won’t get it until my next flight … but hope it will help me a bit more… ;), it's reaching 3:00, full speed, and itunes on!”

coumerelli: “well, it’s later now and am SUPER thrilled to report that it looks like the battery has more than DOUBLED its life. I always look at the percentage (and compare to the ‘time’ the menubar gives me) and it’s now draining NEARLY as quickly. Hallelujah! woo-hoo! — That translates into 3.5 hours! Go Apple!”

I’ve already installed the battery update, though I haven’t had a chance to test it yet (I’m just running off wall-power at the moment). And the battery update isn’t even that big — just around 800k IIRC — though the OS update is over 30 MB. In any case, those power improvements look like good news for me, especially while I travel with my PowerBook over Christmas.

Dec. 17, 2003

Mac Progress — 1 Week

I’ve had my PowerBook for about a week now and it’s working out well (I’m typing this entry on the PowerBook now). Considering that I had to call my brother on that first day to ask him what the colored circles in the titlebar were, I’d say that I’ve made some good progress (for what it’s worth, the red circle is “close”, the yellow circle is “minimize” and the green circle is “change-shape”).

Of the apps I initially surveyed, most are working out fine — Mozilla Firebird and Thunderbird are working as expected, Fire is dandy, and Chicken of the VNC works just as I thought it would. But, they’re not all working out so well…

The biggest disappointment, perhaps, is the ftp client. I had Fugu earmarked for that slot, but I can’t get it to do normal ftp (only sftp et al). And, Fugu’s runner-up, Cyberduck, didn’t work out either — sure, it can do normal ftp, but it doesn’t even have such basic feaures as automatic binary/ASCII switching (at least, not as far as I could tell).

Since neither Fugu nor Cyberduck met my needs, I turned to Transit (which Jon Gales recommended in one of the comments from my last entry). Transit does all that I want it to (not that an ftp client needs much, really), but it’s also $25. Now, $25 isn’t necessarily a bad price for software, but it seems a bit excessive for an ftp client. Another ftp client that I’ve heard of is Fetch but that one’s also $25 :(. I really don’t want to pay that kind of money for an ftp client; but, I suppose I will if I have no other option.

If Fugu & Cyberduck were my biggest disappointment, then OpenOffice.org was the most disheartening. I really wanted to like it (after all, I use the Windows version on that OS exclusively), but the Mac OS X version left me wanting more. Really, it’s hardly a port at all — it’s just the Unix version running under X11 for OS X. So, it has the Unix interface and doesn’t have the usual Mac OS niceties such as the Aqua look or even the nifty Finder-ized open/save dialogs.

All the same, I’m between a bit of a rock and a hard place. Normally, when presented with an unappetizing option, I’d look for others. But, if I didn’t go with OpenOffice.org… is Microsoft Office my only option? Not only is Microsoft unappealing (after all, that’s one reason I bought the Mac), but it’s also on the expensive side as well — it’s about $250 for the full version (I don’t qualify for an upgrade and I’m not going to cheat with an Academic license)

So, I figure that I can either: (1) learn to live with OpenOffice.org, (2) Find a 3rd office suite for OS X or (3) find MS Office cheaply somehow. Though auctions can often be more trouble than they’re worth, I haven’t ruled out eBay. But, other than that, I’m open to suggestions.

As for virtual desktops, I had Space.app on the top of my list (especially since it’s free). I gave it a try but it just didn’t have the features I was looking for. When I use such an app, I like to treat my multiple screens as one giant desktop including desktop-switching by mousing off the edge of the screen. And, Space.app doesn’t have that feature :-/.

So, I turned to my second choice, VirtualDesktop from CodeTek. Sure, it's not free ($30, as it turns out), but it has all the features I’m looking for (mouse-switching and then some). Yeah, $30 might be a bit high for such an app, but I can respect that the developers must have had to do some low-level digging into the OS to achieve the functionality. And — ooh! — I see that they’re running a year-end 25%-off sale. I might just have to get that one.

Dec. 15, 2003

Apple-Cheese Omelette

I had Tilapia & green beans earmarked for dinner this evening, but I just didn’t quite feel like it after I got back from the gym. So, through process of elimination, I looked around the kitchen to see what else I could make. Well, I had plenty of apples, some eggs and some cheese — voila, I could make a cheese-apple omellete. I had no idea if it would taste good, but it seemed like a good idea in my head ;).

Realizing that the heat of cooking eggs isn’t enough to cook an omelette’s ingredients, I decided to pre-cook the apples beforehand (I learned that part from Good Eats). So, I chose one of the smaller apples from the bag and proceeded to dice it (I figured that a too-big apple wouldn’t fit inside the omelette).

After dicing the apple, I preheated the pan and added about a half-inch slice of butter (yeah, real butter). Once the butter melted, which happened fairly quickly, I tossed in the apples. From here, I just played it by ear — I added a dash of cinnamon along with a good heap of Splenda.

At this point, I wasn’t sure how long to cook the apples. But, I aimed for the softness and texture of a baked apple. And, it actually took about ten minutes or so for the apples to soften and reduce. When the apples were ready, I set them aside in a bowl and realized that I could reuse the pan without rinsing it — no sense in losing the yummy apple sludge from the bottom of the pan.

From here, the omelette process was fairly conventional. I cooked the omelette about three-fourths through and then added the apples and the shredded cheddar. Of course, the apples were already cooked, but I also wanted to allow the cheese to melt.

The cheese only took a few seconds to start melting and I soon plated the omelette. It wasn’t a pretty omelette — the diced apple wedges made it a bit of a lumpy beast — but I was anxious to try it.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I dug in to that first bite, but it turned out all right. In particular, I wasn’t sure how well the sugar/cinnamon of the apples would work with the eggs, but it was much better than I thought it would be. Would I make an apple-cheese omelette again? Yeah, I think I would.