Naples pizza makers achieve EU trademark status

Naples has celebrated the first day of official recognition for the Italian city’s most famous culinary creation: the pizza.

The European Union ruling marks the end of a battle that began a quarter of a century ago and aimed to protect Neapolitan pizzas from imitations.

The Traditional Speciality Guaranteed label on Naples pizza was approved last month and came into effect on Thursday. The EU’s agriculture commissioner said Neapolitan pizza was now part of Europe’s food heritage…

The TSG label means that all pizzerias aspiring to supply the real thing are in future supposed to be vetted by a special commission that will check standards. They include using only San Marzano tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese.

Italy now tops the EU chart for products that are protected – it has 180, more than Spain or France.

Starting with the name up top of this blog, regular readers are aware of how much of a role my Scots heritage plays in my life. With one significant exception.

I am proud that I learned how to cook from the Italian half of my family.

Dumb crook of the day!

A slippery character

Seventy-five bottles of body lotion stuffed down his pants did not help Chamil Guadarrama make a slick getaway.

Guadarrama, 30, of Framingham, was arrested Wednesday night on a charge of shoplifting more than $250 from Bath & Body Works in the Eastfield Mall, said Sgt. John M. Delaney, aide to Police Commissioner William J. Fitchet.

When he was apprehended by mall security officers Jane Colon and Jeff Lawlor and held for police after a brief foot chase, Guadarrama was found with 75 8-ounce glass bottles of lotion stuffed into his pants, Delaney said.

“They could not fit Mr. Guadarrama into the cruiser because his pants were bursting at the seams and he could not bend over,” Delaney said.

He said Guadarrama was wearing ordinary trousers but had string tied around each ankle to keep the bottles from slipping out…

A clerk at the store spotted Guadarrama slipping bottles of lotion through his zipper, and alerted security, Delaney said. Colon asked him to stop, but Guadarrama tried to run, he said.

Given the sheer volume of merchandise down his pants – the equivalent of nearly 5 gallons – the 5-foot, 10-inch, 210-pound Guadarrama did not exactly tear through the mall with a sprinter’s speed…

Guadarrama pleaded innocent at his district court arraignment Thursday. He was released on his own recognizance and ordered to return to court on March 19.

I’m getting tired of the automatic “Not Guilty” pleas. Can’t we institute a system where crooks like this ditz can plead guilty and get better TV in their cells or something – for not wasting taxpayer money and court time?

Temperatures continue to rise at the Top of the World

The roof of the world is heating up, according to a report today that said temperatures in Tibet soared last year to the highest level since records began.

Adding to the fierce international debate about the impact of climate change on the Himalayas, the state-run China Daily noted that the average temperature in Tibet in 2009 was 5.9C, 1.5 degrees higher than “normal”…

The average rose in both summer and winter, which is unusual as most of mountain warming has previously been observed in the winter.

A monitoring station at the foot of Mt Everest also recorded a new record high temperature of 25.8 degrees, which was 0.7C warmer than the previous peak.

Amid the worst drought in decades, Lhasa experienced its first temperature above 30C since records began in 1961, the report said. Rainfall in Tibet fell to its lowest level in 39 years, affecting nearly 30,000 hectares of cropland – an eighth of Tibet’s arable land…

While Talking Heads, bush-league skeptics and politicians get their shorts bunched over single paragraphs within 3000-page reports, change continues apace. Another example of the egregious nature of the human species – unwilling to face up to realistic concerns when it seems easier and cheaper to stick their heads wherever they’re most comfortable.

Maybe next year people will worry. Or the year after…

Google’s alleged tie-up with NSA raises concerns

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Google has declined comment on a Washington Post report that it has asked the National Security Agency to help track down the cyberattackers who recently breached its databases.

Reporter Ellen Nakashima’s front page story on Thursday rekindled concerns about corporations collaborating with government sleuth agencies. You might recall the alarm raised by privacy and civil liberties advocates in 2006 after a USA TODAY investigation revealed how the NSA secretly analyzed phone records of tens of millions of Americans.

At the time, public backlash was directed mainly at telecom giants AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth for so readily giving up their customers’ private phone records to a government agency.

In a similar vein, Google, the world’s dominant search service, amasses data on the surfing habits of most Internet users, and stores vast amounts of sensitive data belonging to users of its popular Gmail and Google Apps online services, says Amrit Williams, CTO of security firm Big Fix. Because the NSA is an “opaque intelligence organization . . .the potential for abuse of private information at the intelligence or government level is very high,” he says…

That’s possible – perhaps, likely; but, it’s an unsound logical statement. It’s opinion.

Continue reading

Excessive internet use in Leeds is depressing

Click on photo for NSFW version

People who spend a lot of time browsing the Internet are more likely to show depressive symptoms, according to the first large-scale study of its kind in the West by University of Leeds psychologists.

Researchers found striking evidence that some users have developed a compulsive internet habit, whereby they replace real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites. The results suggest that this type of addictive surfing can have a serious impact on mental health…

“While many of us use the internet to pay bills, shop and send emails, there is a small subset of the population who find it hard to control how much time they spend online, to the point where it interferes with their daily activities.”

These ‘internet addicts‘ spent proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying websites, online gaming sites and online communities. They also had a higher incidence of moderate to severe depression than non-addicted users.

“Our research indicates that excessive internet use is associated with depression, but what we don’t know is which comes first — are depressed people drawn to the internet or does the internet cause depression?

Having Spurs kick your butt – with Jermaine Defoe scoring a hat-trick – doesn’t help, either. 🙂

Which shows how much concern I feel over chicken v. egg studies like this.

Spherical cows trash metabolism law

Apparently, the mysterious “3/4 law of metabolism” — proposed by Max Kleiber in 1932, printed in biology textbooks for decades, explained theoretically in Science in 1997 and described in a 2000 essay in Nature as “extended to all life forms” from bacteria to whales — is just plain wrong.

Actually, it’s two-thirds,” says University of Vermont mathematician Peter Dodds. His paper in the January 29 edition of Physical Review Letters helps overturn almost eighty years of near-mystical belief in a 3/4 exponent used to describe the relationship between the size of animals and their resting metabolism.

To understand the debate between 2/3 and 3/4, assume a spherical cow. “That’s what a physicist would do,” Dodds says, laughing. Basic geometry shows that the surface area of this difficult-to-milk creature would increase as the square of its radius while the volume would increase as the cube of the radius. In other words, the exponent that describes the ratio of surface area to volume is 2/3.

Next, assume a spherical mouse. OK, now compare the resting metabolic rates of these sorry animals. Since the point of resting metabolism is to keep a warm-blooded animal warm (and alive!) with the lowest necessary energy use, both geometry and common sense suggest that the cow would have a lower rate of metabolism per cell than the mouse: the mouse, with more surface area relative to its volume, would lose heat faster than our cartoon cow…

“Kleiber’s original data is a mess, a complete mess,” says Dodds, “but it became something everyone believed in. The idea of quarter-powers begins to take on this spooky, magical quality. Nobody can explain it, but it’s a secret law of the universe. It’s quarterology!..”

In 1997, an elegant, though controversial, paper by Geoffrey West and colleagues was published in Science that claimed to derive 3/4 from first principles, drawing on ideas about fractals in networks and the growing length of tubes.

“The problem is their paper fell to pieces mathematically. It just didn’t work. Unfortunately, I showed that and published a paper with my adviser and a fellow student in 2001,” Dodds says…

A confluence of facts — greater understanding about how a network best minimizes volume, as evolution would favor in the costly production of blood supply; surface area geometry; and re-analysis of Kleiber’s and other data — seem to be pummeling the once-beguiling 3/4 law into dust.

“Especially for smaller guys,” Dodds says, “like birds, it’s just absolutely, stone-cold 2/3.”