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Friday, August 20, 2010

A Surfboard Gets an Onboard Computer

By Daniel Kane


Photo of DrEricson
UC San Diego mechanical engineering undergraduates outfitted a surfboard with a computer and accompanying sensors -- one step toward a structural engineering Ph.D. student’s quest to develop the science of surfboards. Pictured: (L-R) Mechanical engineering undergraduates Victor Correa Schneider, Trevor Owen, Julia Tsai, Dan Ferguson; structural engineering PhD student Benjamin Thompson Photo credit: UC San Diego. Learn how the board works on YouTube: Watch Video

Computers are everywhere these days – even on surfboards. University of California, San Diego mechanical engineering undergraduates outfitted a surfboard with a computer and accompanying sensors -- one step toward a structural engineering Ph.D. student’s quest to develop the science of surfboards.

The UC San Diego mechanical engineering undergraduates installed a computer and sensors on a surfboard and recorded the speed of the water flowing beneath the board. While the students surfed, the onboard computer sent water velocity information to a laptop on shore in real time.

This is part of Benjamin Thompson’s quest to discover if surfboards have an optimal flexibility – a board stiffness that makes surfing as enjoyable as possible. Thompson is a UC San Diego structural engineering Ph.D. student studying the fluid-structure interaction between surfboards and waves. By outfitting a surfboard with sensors and electronics that shuttle data back to shore, the mechanical engineering undergraduates built some of the technological foundation for Thompson’s science-of-surfboards project.

Sensors on a Surfboard

Photo of DrEricson

Four undergraduates from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering outfitted a surfboard with eight sensors and an onboard-computer or “microcontroller.” The students dug trenches into the board’s foam and ran wires connecting the sensors to the onboard computer. From this computer, the data travels via a wireless channel to a laptop on land – in this case, a beach in Del Mar, Calif.

The onboard computer also saves the data on a memory card.

“We were stoked to get good data and to be surfing for school,” said Dan Ferguson, one of the two mechanical engineering undergraduates who surfed while the onboard computer captured water velocity information and transmitted it back to land.

The four mechanical engineering majors built the wired surfboard for their senior design project, the culmination of the MAE 156 course sequence. Each project has a sponsor, and in this case, the sponsor was Benjamin Thompson, the structural engineering Ph.D. student from UC San Diego and founder of the surfboard Web site

The onboard computer is in a watertight case the shape of a medium-sized box of chocolates. It sits at the front of the surfboard and glows blue. “What’s on your board? What is that?” fellow surfers asked Ferguson. “We’d have to tell them it’s a microprocessor connected to velocity sensors, and they would kind of nod and paddle away. It created a minor stir.”

Each of the eight sensors embedded into the bottom of the board is a “bend sensor.” The faster the water beneath the board moves, with respect to the board, the more the sensors bend, explained Trevor Owen, the other surfer on the four-person mechanical engineering team.

The data from the sensors runs through wires embedded in the board to the microcontroller. “You can see where we carved channels in the board,” said Owen.

Wireless Surfing

Photo of DrEricson

The most interesting part of the project for senior mechanical engineering major Victor Correa was using the microcontrollers and wireless transmitters to get the data to land.

Thompson, the project sponsor, is already working on a smaller version of the onboard computer. He hopes to shrink it down to the size of a cell phone and embed it flush with the top surface of the board.

Assembling, waterproofing and installing the microcontroller, connecting it to the sensors, and successfully transmitting the collected data to a computer on land required persistence and a lot of learning, explained senior mechanical engineering major Julia Tsai. “Everything hypothetically should take five minutes, but everything took at least three hours.”

Even though the team has finished their class project, Ferguson plans to keep working with Thompson. “This project is going to apply some science that most likely [board] shapers understand pretty’s going to settle the debates. It’s going to be black and white hard data to let them know for sure which ideas work, which concepts work, and why they work.”

Surfboard Flex
Surfboard flex refers to the temporary shape changes that surfboards are thought to undergo. While many surfers say flex makes their boards feel springy in the water, it has not been scientifically measured. Thompson hopes to scientifically document surfboard flex. Then he wants to determine if there is an amount of flexibility that enhances the performance and feel of a surfboard, and if this optimal flexibility depends on other factors such as surfer experience or wave conditions.

Surfboards and Fluid-Structure Interactions

Photo of DrEricson
Mechanical engineering undergraduate Trevor Owen and the data-collecting surfboard. Watch the students surf the board on YouTube: Watch Video

The surfboard project falls within a hot area of engineering research: the study of fluid-structure interactions. According to UC San Diego structural engineering professor Qiang Zhu, the study of fluid-structure interaction is important due to the large number of applications in mechanical, civil, aerospace and biological engineering. “In my opinion, its popularity in recent years is partly attributed to advances in experimental and computational techniques which allow many important processes to be studied in detail,” said Zhu.

This is what the UC San Diego engineers are doing for surfboards: they are studying how surfboards change shape when people ride them – and how those shape changes are tied to the subjective experience of surfing.
At the public presentation of their research, team member Tsai said, “I thought the coolest part was being able to test our board, going out to the beach to test it, everyone else had to stay downstairs in the lab.”

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Men Wear Bras So Women Can Go Topless

David Moye Contributor
(Aug. 19) -- Gay marriage is a hot issue right now, but it's not as titillating as another battle for equality: the right for women to go topless in public.

That right is a fundamental one, according to the folks behind Go Topless, an organization dedicated to the belief that in order for America to be a truly equal society, women should be able to bare their breasts without fear of being arrested.

Go Topless has been around since 2007, and its big push is Go Topless Day, an annual event held on the Sunday closest to Aug. 26, which is Women's Equality Day, the anniversary of the day women were given the right to vote.
National Go Topless Day
Mark Ralston, AFP / Getty Images
Protesters prepare to march during National Go Topless Day" to honor Women's Equality Day at Venice Beach in Los Angeles on Aug. 23, 2009.

Women in nine U.S. cities -- Seattle, New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Denver, Honolulu, San Francisco and Austin, Texas -- will gather in public spots on Aug. 22 to put the hot-button issue front and center by wearing little more than strategically placed stickers.

In addition, male supporters of the cause will show their support by wearing bras and bikinis.

"It's a matter of fairness," Go Topless director Nadine Gary said. "We want equal topless rights for all or none."

Gary believes that the right for women to go topless should be guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. "The Supreme Court won't stop us," she added

Although other countries, such as Gary's country of origin, France, tolerate topless women, she wants it to be in the legal books so there is no wiggle room.

"Some states, like New York, are supposedly 'top-free,' but in 2005 Phoenix Feeley was arrested for going topless," Gary said. "She later won $29,000 for wrongful arrest."
Note: Women in this video are wearing nipple covers that look like actual nipples.

Gary admits that it's one thing for the laws to be changed to reflect a woman's right to choose to go topless, but it will be harder to get women to actually do it.

"There is a puritanism here that will have an effect," she said. "But it's the same as it was 40 years ago in France. The problem will be lifted when women see other women doing it."

Gary is aware that America has a lot of "body-conscious" women who may not want to go topless, but the point, she says, isn't to make all women bare their breasts, but to make the option legal.

Meanwhile, Gary is getting support from, not surprisingly, men.

"Guys are great," she said. "They understand this issue, and we get lots of cooperation from males."

One of those is Larry Abdulla, a Chicago-based dentist who, at 63, is putting his support on the line by wearing a red bikini at the Chicago rally.

"This is much more than wanting women to go topless," he insisted to AOL News. "It's about equal rights. Why is it OK for men to be topless but not women?

"It's terrible. A woman breastfeeding her baby in public gets hassled just because people are afraid of how some guys might react. Other guys get excited by seeing legs or belly buttons. Do you ban those too? A transsexual who may have beautiful breasts can get away with going topless if he still has a penis."
Go Topless Day
Mark Ralston, AFP / Getty Images
A male protester wears a bikini top as he prepares to march during National Go Topless Day to honor Women's Equality Day at Venice Beach in Los Angeles on Aug. 23, 2009. The annual protest is held in several U.S. cities to promote the idea that women have the same constitutional right to be bare-chested in public places as men.

Although Go Topless is focused on the laws in the U.S., its roots are, well, extraterrestrial in origin.

Both Gary and Abdulla are members of the Raelian religion, which believes that humans were created by advanced scientists known as the Elohim. The group is best known for its close ties to Clonaid, a human cloning company that claimed in 2002 to have created the first cloned human baby.

They say their beliefs in ETs are inspiring them to fight to make the right to bare breasts as fundamental as the right to bear arms.

"All life on Earth is created by advanced scientists," Abdulla said. "We have no reason to be shy about our bodies. They are works of art."

Of course, art is in the eye of the beholder, and Gary admits that some guys who attend a Go Topless rally initially act like boobs.

"Some of them take pictures at first, but then they get used to seeing women's bodies and return to normal within an hour," she said.

Germany Ready To Legalize Medical Marijuana

By Steve Elliott
Photo: DPA.jpeg
Photo: The Local
Medical marijuana will soon be available in Germany, with the center-right coalition preparing to make major changes to the country's drug laws, a government health spokeswoman said this week.

Doctors could write prescriptions for cannabis and pharmacies would be authorized to sell the plant once the law had been changed, a member of the junior coalition party, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) said Monday, reports The Local.

Marijuana would also be permitted for use as a pain relilever for the terminally ill in hospices and other health care facilities, making it a legal part of their emergency pain-relief supplies, according to the report.

"With this, the sickest people will always have a pain-relieving substance available," said Ulrike Flack, the FDP's health policy spokesperson.

The new law will end a longstanding struggle between German government officials, doctors and health insurance companies over the use of the proven herbal therapy for treating pain stemming from diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Under current law, only 40 German patients are currently allowed to use prescription medical marijuana, according to the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (ACM). Others using cannabis, even for medical reasons, have until now risked prosecution.

However, law enforcement generally "tolerates" small amounts of cannabis for personal use.

Meanwhile, as pointed out by Mike Meno of the Marijuana Policy Project, patients in 36 of the 50 United States are still treated as criminals if they relieve their symptoms through marijuana, and our federal government persists in incorrectly classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug--meaning it has "no accepted medical value"--while at the same time blocking the much-needed research necessary to move marijuana through the FDA approval process.

"Make sure to tell your elected officials that you're tired of seeing the United States lag behind while other developed nations implement compassionate and science-based medical marijuana policies by visiting MPP's Federal Action Center," Meno said.

Change can come, even when it has recently been stymied. Just two years ago, the conservative Christian Democrats, the FDP and the center-left Social Democrats all voted against loosening medical marijuana laws.

Opponents had used scare tactics in their campaign against medical marijuana in Germany, claiming cannabis had a potential for addiction, and trying to cast doubt on its medical benefits.

Howard Stern posts "sexted" picture of wife in her underwear - Today on the Howard Stern Show on Sirius satellite radio, Howard Stern talked about the picture his wife "sexted" him, and then, after getting her approval, posted it on

Evidence That HBO’s Hard Knocks Is Not Scripted

Last night on HBO’s Hard Knocks, Antonio Cromartie was asked to name his children.

Antonio Cromartie tries to remember his kids

Pull up a chair.

Follow Brooks on Twitter for daily, live updates.

The man who lives without money

Mark Boyle gave up using cash over a year ago and loves his new lifestyle.

Mark Boyle, the moneyless man
Mark Boyle, the moneyless man

Mark Boyle, 31, gave up using money in November 2008. He lives in a caravan that he got from Freecycle (, which is parked at an organic farm near Bristol, where Boyle volunteers three days a week. He grows his own food, has a wood-burning stove and produces electricity from a solar panel (it cost £360 before the experiment started). He has a mobile phone for incoming calls only and a solar-powered laptop. Boyle, who has been vegan for six years, set up the Freeconomy in 2007 (, an online network that encourages people to share skills or possessions and now has 17,000 members. The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living (Oneworld Publications, £10.99) is out now.

It all started in a pub. My friend and I were talking about all the problems in the world, such as sweatshops, environmental destruction, factory farms, animal testing, wars over resources. I realised they were all, in their own way, connected to money.

I decided to give up cash. I sold my houseboat in Bristol and gave up my job at an organic food company. I made a list of everything I bought and tried to figure out which I could get in another way. For toothpaste I use a mixture of cuttlefish bone and wild fennel seeds. Things like iPods you just have to knock off the list, but birds in the trees around my kitchen have become my new iPod.

Everything takes more time and effort in a moneyless world. Handwashing my clothes in a sink of cold water, using laundry liquid made by boiling up nuts on my rocket stove, can take two hours, instead of half an hour using a washing machine.

It was meant to be just for a year but I enjoy the lifestyle so much that I’m just going to keep living like this. I’ve never been happier or fitter.

I had a very normal childhood. I think at first my parents wondered what on earth I was doing. But now they totally support me and they say that they may even try it themselves.

Sometimes it is frustrating trying to socialise with no money. I grew up in Northern Ireland where it’s a show of manliness to buy your mates the first round. But I invite them back to my caravan instead to have homemade cider around the campfire.

I am single at the moment, but because of the book and my blog a few women seem interested in me. Just being a vegan cuts down the number of women I’m compatible with, never mind being moneyless. I’ll be lucky if there’s one woman in the whole country who wants to give up cash for life – and I might not even fancy her.

Ketamine is 'magic drug' for depression

A single dose of the drug Ketamine acts like "magic" lifting people out of depression in hours and lasting more than a week, scientists claim.

Glass capsules containing ketamine
Ketamine progresses through the nervous system in a different way to traditional drugs Photo: GETTY

The drug has traditionally been used as an anaesthetic for animals and, in some cases, humans – but has also established itself as a nightclub favourite in recent years, where it is nicknamed Special K.

But studies have found it can treat depression within hours, even when years of alternative treatments have failed.

And the effects of just one dose can last up to 10 days.

Most antidepressant drugs currently available on prescription need several months or even years to take effect and must be taken everyday.

However, scientists discovered that rats given ketamine stopped displaying symptoms of depressive behaviour within hours of their first fix.

The drug was even shown to restore brain-connections damaged by stress.

A similar study conducted at the Connecticut Mental Health Centre also found 70 per cent of depressed patients who failed to respond to years of treatment on traditional antidepressants improved within hours of receiving a dose of ketamine.

Professor Ronald Duman, at Yale University, discovered that ketamine progresses through the nervous system in a different way to traditional drugs.

It follows a pathway that rapidly forms new synaptic connections between neurons, a process called "synaptogenesis".

Professor Duman hailed the potential of ketamine. He said: "It's like a magic drug — one dose can work rapidly and last for seven to 10 days."

Until now, ketamine's clinical use has been limited by the fact that it has to be injected and can cause hallucinations.

But it only needs to be used in low doses for depression.

George Aghajanian, co-researcher on the study published in the journal Science also warned that the drug needed further analysis and modification before it could be approved for general use.

He said: "The pathway is the story.

"Understanding the mechanism underlying the antidepressant effect of ketamine will allow us to attack the problem at a variety of possible sites within that pathway."

Glenn Garnham, a drug and alcohol counsellor for UK charity Admit voiced concerns over the study's findings.

He said: "Ketamine is a very addictive drug which is normally used on horses. I deal with many people who are addicted to ketamine and it affects their life in the same way as any other addiction does, leading to serious problems with health, money, friends and family.

"It is already very cheap and easy to become addicted to – approving it for medical use might remove some of its stigma and lead more people down the path of addiction."

Who the ***** writes this *****? (Cosmo Cover)

Who the ***** writes this *****? (Cosmo Cover)

Next trend? Grow out that tickley upper lip hair, girls!

Read the comments here:


U.S. Muslim leaders condemn Holocaust denial

U.S. imams pray at Dachau. | Photo courtesy of Suhail A. Khan
U.S. imams pray at Dachau. | Photo courtesy of Suhail A. Khan
Imams join U.S. officials at Nazi sites

By: Laura Rozen

U.S. officials participated in a trip of eight Muslim-American clerics to the sites of the former Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps last week in what one official called a transformative experience.

“These Muslim leaders were experiencing something they knew nothing about,” President Barack Obama’s envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, told POLITICO Tuesday. Rosenthal lost many family members at Auschwitz, including her grandparents. “I can’t believe anyone walks into Auschwitz and leaves the same person. I watched them break down. I broke down in front of suitcases. ... It is the cemetery of my whole family.”

The participating imams “were totally aware that they were visiting my family cemetery, and they were very loving about it,” Rosenthal said.

At the end, the imams — from a broad range of backgrounds — issued a far-reaching statement, condemning anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and religious bigotry.

“We bear witness to the absolute horror and tragedy of the Holocaust, where over 12 million human souls perished, including 6 million Jews,” the group said in a joint statement issued after the trip. “We condemn any attempts to deny this historical reality and declare such denials or any justification of this tragedy as against the Islamic code of ethics.”

Beyond Rosenthal, among those from the Obama, Reagan and George W. Bush administrations who accompanied the imams on the Aug. 7-11 trip to Germany and Poland were Rashad Hussain, Obama’s envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference; Nasreen Badat, a State Department official working on religious freedom issues; Marshall Breger, former special assistant to Reagan for public liaison and his liaison with the Jewish community; and Suhail Khan, an official in Bush's public liaison office. Also participating was Rabbi Jack Bemporad from New Jersey.

The trip was co-sponsored by Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Center for Interreligious Understanding, of which Bemporad is executive director.

The letter was signed by Imam Abdullah T. Antepli, the Muslim chaplain of Duke University; Imam Syed Naqvi, director of the Islamic Interfaith Center in Washington; Shaikh Yasir Qadhi, dean of academics for the AlMaghrib Institute in New Haven, Conn.; Laila Muhammad, daughter of late Imam W.D. Muhammad of Chicago; Imam Suhaib Webb of the Muslim Community Association of Santa Clara, Calif.; Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith & Community Services; Imam Muhamad Maged of the All-Dulles-Area Muslim Society in Virginia and vice president of the Islamic Society of North America; and Imam Muzammil Siddiqi of the Islamic Center of Orange County, Calif.

Organizers of the trip say they were dismayed that the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman lobbied U.S. officials against participating. They also say the Investigative Project’s Steve Emerson, author of "American Jihad," lobbied against the trip, arguing that one of the imams planning to participate had made Holocaust denial statements a decade ago.

Emerson was unavailable for comment and Foxman did not respond to repeated queries from POLITICO.

Organizers say they tried to pick imams from a wide range of American constituencies.

“The Muslim faith and community leaders represented the broad diversity of the Muslim-American community including Arab, South Asian, African-American, Caucasian, Sunni, Shiite, men, women, young and older established leaders,” Khan told POLITICO. “Most knew very little about the Holocaust, and all were eager to learn and personally witness the reality of this historical tragedy.”

“There is a view among some people in the Jewish community that you should not meet with certain Muslims because they are in some way not worthy or they don’t meet the right criteria,” former Reagan special assistant Breger, now a professor of law at Catholic University, told POLITICO. But, he said, it was the trip organizers’ belief that “it is important to reach out to Muslims prepared to talk to us, people who are ready to open themselves to experiences which might be transformative for them — as occurred on this trip to Dachau and Auschwitz.”

At the sight of the imams praying in Dachau, Rosenthal said, “All of the tourists stopped in their tracks. I don’t think anyone has ever seen anything like it.”

In Poland, the group met with the chief rabbi of Poland as well as with the cardinal of Krakow. On the last night of the trip, Rosenthal said, the group went to an Iftar dinner at a Turkish mosque in Munich.

“It was truly an interfaith experience,” Rosenthal said. “There were representatives from the Catholic community, from the Jewish community and members of the mosque. It was wonderful. They were very curious about what we had just done. I am sure a number of them had no idea what we were talking about. How can you?”

“I can’t really put into words what we saw there,” Imam Suhaib Webb of Muslim Community Association in California, told POLITICO Wednesday. Webb, 38, originally from Oklahoma City, said he converted from Christianity to Islam. “I would have to say the sheer inhumanity of what we saw I was not able to comprehend — the systematic killing of people. … The whole time we were asking the rabbis, ‘why did they do this?’ ”

Webb said he and Rabbi Bemporad and Imam Muhamad Maged have discussed organizing future trips for Jewish and Muslim youth groups to Poland, Germany and Bosnia.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation was the sole sponsor of the trip. Suhail Khan's name was also spelled incorrectly.

Editor's note: After this story was published, Steve Emerson disputed the assertion that he lobbied against the trip. POLITICO tried to reach Emerson repeatedly before publication. In an email, Emerson wrote: “I never lobbied against the trip of the Imams. What I did was provide background material on 2 of the Islamic leaders attending the trip who had made anti-Semitic, radical Islamic statements or justified terrorist attacks. The request of me to provide background material on two Imams was made by one of the leaders of the trip. I never lobbied whatsoever against the trip—that statement is a blatant lie but pointed out the previous radical statements of these 2 Islamic leaders—something you somehow neglected to point out to your readers."

Emerson also said POLITICO's account failed to mention that he had "called the statement issued by Islamic clerics 'impressive' even though the full statement was replete with contrived statements falsely equating the notion of 'Islamophobia' with anti-Semitism and also omitting the fact that the Grand Mufti, Haj Al-Husseni, the leader of the Muslims in World War 2, actively collaborated with the Nazis.”

A Big Fiery Ball Lights Up Earth's Horizon

Click to ENLARGE An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (Expedition 22) snapped this spectacular shot on 3 January 2010 at 12:28:57 GMT while orbiting 181 nautical miles (335.21 kilometers or 208.29 miles) above the North Pacific Ocean at latitude 1.5, longitude -114.6.

Zagat fast-food survey shocker: In-N-Out ousted - Five Guys Top!

posted by Nancy Luna, Staff Writer


Five Guys is raising its profile

It’s that time of year again, where Zagat releases the often controversial results of its fast food survey — where chains are ranked in categories ranging from best burger to best value.

And this year, Southern California chains took a beating, including Irvine-based In-N-Out and Costa Mesa-based El Pollo Loco.

The biggest shocker of the 2010 results comes in the “best burger” category, where Five Guys Burgers & Fries ousted In-N-Out Burger. The timing of the results come as many local burger fans proclaim Five Guys as a worthy rival to In-N-Out.

The Virginia-based chain opened its first O.C. burger joint two weeks ago. More are on the way.

Even more noteworthy – Five Guys didn’t even make Zagat’s Top 5 burger list last year. But suddenly it catapulted to the No. 1 position in the burger category, and the No. 2 spot for Best French Fries. (see rankings below)

Other interesting survey results:

    McDonald's beefed up its value menus this year

  • McDonald’s took best in show for value, beating Irvine-based Taco Bell for the second year in a row. Taco Bell has kept the prices on its cheap eats menu below $1 for a few years. It also came out with a $2 three-item combo meal this year. But McDonald’s and Wendy’s outranked the Mexican fast-food chain in the Zagat value survey. (More on value menu wars)
  • El Pollo Loco vs. KFC's grilled chicken

    Costa Mesa-based El Pollo Loco moves up in the rankings, coming in at No. 3 in the Best Grilled Chicken category. In 2009, it placed No. 5. But that’s not necessarily a ranking to write home about. Guess which chain placed higher than El Pollo Loco? Rival KFC, which introduced grilled chicken last year, came in second place. Ouch, that hurts — given that El Pollo Loco went crazy marketing its flame-grilled chicken as superior to KGC (Kentucky Grilled Chicken)

  • Starbucks is named best coffee.

Here are some of the Zagat rankings for 2010:

For the full list, go to

Top Food (up to 5,000 U.S. locations)

1. In-N-Out Burger
2. Papa Murphy’s
3. Chick-fil-A
4. Five Guys
5. Chipotle

Best Burger

1. Five Guys
2. In-N-Out Burger
3. Wendy’s
4. Burger King
5. McDonald’s

Best Grilled Chicken

1. Chick-fil-A
2. KFC
3. El Pollo Loco
4. Panera Bread
5. Chipotle

Best Value Menu

1. McDonald’s
2. Wendy’s
3. Taco Bell
4. Burger King
5. Arby’s

Best French Fries

1. McDonald’s
2. Five Guys
3. In-N-Out Burger
4. Wendy’s
5. Burger King

Best Coffee

1. Starbucks Coffee
2. Dunkin’ Donuts
3. McDonald’s
4. Peet’s Coffee & Tea
5. Caribou Coffee

How Jelly Belly Invents Flavors



House of Sims/flickr

In an echoing, high-ceilinged chamber in Northern California, there spin row upon row of what look like small cement mixers. The gleaming metal drums churn for hours on end while white-uniformed technicians pour in sugar, corn starch, color, and certain other, more miraculous concoctions. Out of one drum comes a whiff of red apple, conjuring a fall afternoon spent picking fruit; from another comes the buttered-popcorn scent of an evening at the movies. Out of drum after drum, all down the room, come smells evoking everything from apple pie to piña coladas to freshly mown grass.

Here, at the Jelly Belly candy factory, memories are reincarnated as jelly beans.

Flavor and scent are beloved for their ability to bring back memories long buried in the sensory deluge, a point made by Proust with his madeleine decades before modern science let us peer into the physiology of flavor. The flavor designers at the Jelly Belly Candy Company make it their business to speak this sensory language, and, through a process alternately technical and zany, to suss out exactly what it is that makes those tastes—and by extension, those memories—jump.

"In the flavor industry, we sometimes say one plus one equals three," reflects Lee: mix pear with orange, for example, and what you get is peach.
All Jelly Belly flavors, from toasted marshmallow to cappuccino—there are around 100 on the market at any given point—grow from ideas submitted by company employees, members of the public, retailers, and others, but the execution depends on a four-person team of food scientists, led by head of research and development Ambrose Lee and aided by the company's marketing and executive teams.

The development process begins with a very specific idea. The taste must be instantly recognizable, says Lisa Brasher, a fifth-generation member of the founding family and executive vice chairman of the board. "When you say 'pickle,' do you mean sweet or dill? When you say 'potato chip,' do you mean regular or barbecue? Those are very important questions for us."

Thus, the food scientists and marketers taste-test extensively to find what sort of pickle is most pickle-y, whether Bartlett or D'Anjou screams "pear" loudest, and which specific combination of spices, dairy notes, and pumpkin puree sends you straight back to your grandma's pie. When they began development of the chili mango bean, Elise Bernstein, a food scientist, says, they descended on a local Trader Joe's and spirited bag after bag of the chili-covered fruit to their labs for tasting.

Sourcing inspirational ingredients is a matter of utmost importance in the design of a flavor. In its quest to know the taste of a pomegranate inside and out, the group taste-tested juices and fruit from different regions, climates, and providers. "Pomegranates from different areas taste different. Even the bottles they use [for juice] affect the flavor," Lee says.

Once the team decides exactly which version to mimic, the scientists retreat to their labs. They work to determine what mixture of juices, purees, and any of a huge variety of compounds can best call to mind their target. Sometimes they work backward from a sample of, say, pomegranate juice, which they run through a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer, a pair of instruments that heat up the fluid and vaporize the juice's molecules one by one. The temperatures at which the molecules break down help the scientists determine what kinds of compounds are in the juice and guide them in constructing a faithful flavor.

Corby Kummer: "Reinventing Old Candies"
Jessie Cacciola: "Chocolate Orgasms"
Alex Whitmore: "Searching for Cacao"

With the precision of chemists, they mix batches with slightly different amounts of each component, adding compounds like aldehydes for a fresh green flavor, or esters for a fruity note. Sometimes the effects are not what they expect. "In the flavor industry, we sometimes say one plus one equals three," reflects Lee: mix pear with orange, for example, and what you get is peach. In addition, special compounds must be deployed to make flavors meld with the properties of their "vehicle," as the vessel for the flavor is known. Jelly Belly even has a secret ingredient that suppresses the sweetness of the bean so that savory flavors, like buttered popcorn, can show through.

The most promising permutations are incorporated into small batches of beans for taste-testing. At tasting parties, with the bean in one hand and the real deal in the other, food scientists, marketers, and executives silently rate the fidelity of the flavor. They hold up signs with numbers, and if the overall rating is not an 8, 9, or 10, the flavor doesn't pass on to the next stage of development, Brasher says. The new cocktail flavors were particularly fun to test, she says: "One of the guys in marketing who used to be a bartender made us up some pomegranate cosmos and peach bellinis and mojitos. We tasted the bean versions and tasted the real thing, and tasted the beans—and tasted the real thing again." (The three new flavors were released in June in sleek black boxes announcing, "It's five o'clock somewhere." None contains alcohol.)

Sometimes a flavor must be recalled: Grandma's Pumpkin Pie flavor, for instance, is back in development, because it turns out that nobody's grandma makes pumpkin pie in exactly the same way. Occasionally, the scientists' success overtakes them, as when an experimental four-cheese pizza bean managed to empty a whole mixing room with its noxious smell. But even disasters can redeem themselves: with the release of the company's Beanboozled novelty line, cheese pizza, with a few tweaks, became barf. "They sell like hotcakes," Brasher says.



Even with all his technical skill, Lee acknowledges, he sometimes finds that human taste buds are the most sensitive detectors of flavor: "They can pick up it when something is missing," he says. Intuition and creativity are also integral to his work. The buttered toast flavor was languishing in the lab, with something lacking from that delicious burnt taste, until Lee, on instinct, added a dab of caramel. Even the buttered popcorn flavor (loved by many, hated by many), was the result of his tinkering in the lab with corn, butter, and salt flavors, just to see what he could come up with. It is now one of Jelly Belly's top three flavors.

To those in the business of building flavors, memories of tastes and scents can be especially poignant. Brasher, who grew up eating pomegranates on a family farm, sent early pomegranate beans back to the kitchen because they lacked the distinctive tartness. And she recalls the way the air tastes when it's full of sugar from wandering the factory floor as a small child, watching row upon row of candy corn kernels ride up conveyor belts to be shipped.

For Bernstein, that special memory is of a certain spice cookie she ate as a child when her family lived in Germany: "Whenever I taste those, I go back to that time, when I was eleven or twelve. Cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger ... the amounts of them, the way they're mixed, there's nothing else like it."

Lee, who once made a raw garlic bean by mistake, is ever the maverick: cloves still remind him of youthful dentist office visits. "[When] we were developing a pumpkin spice flavor and added cloves, that rang the dentist office bell for me," he laughs. "I hate that flavor."

It just brings back too many memories.

Eastbound and Down Season 2 poster arrives

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Danny McBride is Kenny Powers, a star pitcher whose self-destructive behavior knocks him out of major league baseball and back home to North Carolina, where he ends up teaching Phys Ed at the middle school he once attended.

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Jesse James Makes Over $100,000 Selling His Stuff On eBay


As Jesse James moves on with his life following his split with Sandra Bullock, he has unloaded a good amount of excess clutter- to the tune of $118,088.95! was the first to break the news that the West Coast Choppers CEO had turned to eBay to sell off his personal belongings including some of his beloved bikes and clothing.

James put 110 items from his life up for sale and it took him a little over a year to unload the full roster of goodies.

The highest ticket item? A 1938 Elgin Robin Shat Drive Prototype bike which went for $30,302 in July after starting at a comparatively measly $1,500.

One of the oddest items to get attention? One West Coast Choppers/Monster Garage soap on a rope which garnered $76.95.

Over 12 months, 227 buyers gave James positive reviews with only 2 negative comments about shipping issues. His “positive feedback” score is 99.5%.

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Budget Travel Tips: Skip the Hotel With These Five Lodging Alternatives

photo: foilman

New York State recently passed a law that bans enterprising home owners from renting out private property for less than 30 days. Taking advantage of temporarily empty spaces made a lot of sense in New York City, considering the insanely high cost of real estate in the area. It was arguably beneficial to tourists as well, who were able to rent a space for a much lower cost than that of a hotel room.

The reality is, staying at a hotel — whether in New York City or elsewhere in the world — is among the priciest ways to travel. Increasingly, budget-conscious travelers are seeking out alternative lodging arrangements, from swapping apartments to crashing on someone’s couch.

Here are five ways to slash the price of your travel drastically.

House swaps

What it is: Websites like and hook up travelers who want to exchange homes for usually a week or two. Other than the membership costs (described below), house swaps do not involve money exchange: you stay at someone’s home for free, while they stay in yours.

How it works: A network of international, multi-lingual sites are linked to allow for a more global reach. After signing up ($9.95 per month for a one year unlimited membership or $15.95 per month for a three-month trial), exchangers create a profile, including listing all the places they are interested in visiting. Search the site for your house-swapping soul mate, then send them a message through the secure server to start a dialogue. On, you’ll find everything from a four-bedroom place in Kigali, Rwanda to a studio in Tokyo.

But how safe is it to open up your home to strangers, you may ask. HomeExchange reports that in 14 years they’ve never had a case of vandalism or a complaint that someone has cleared out an exchanger’s lot. They encourage the families involved to approach a house swap like internet dating, getting to know potential swappers by connecting and communicating as much as possible beforehand. They also offer this sample agreement to help you seal the deal.

Frequent users of these services like that they live as locals instead of being funneled along a tourist path, and that they have someone to give them recommendations on happenings in their new area code.

Your savings: The monthly membership fees can add up, but considering that a typical hotel room is around $200 per night, you stand to save thousands of dollars, especially if you have some vacation time in the bank. Many people also set up car exchanges to further their savings.

Couch surfing/Renting private spaces

What it is: Networks of travel addicts and those who want to have international experiences or make a little extra cash by hosting those addicts in their homes. You’ll find two types of services out there: Ones like, based on goodwill and not charging for space, and those like, in which private homes and rooms are rented out for a typically affordable fee.

How it works: With, the host sets up a profile and is then subject of some safety checks. One way to verify the host’s identity and address is to make a donation to the organization. Some recommend searching for those hosts who have gone through that verification process, though it is in no way manatory for becoming a host. In addition to that, you do not have to host someone in order to be an eligible surfer yourself. You could also choose to just meet people in the network to hang out for a coffee or a drink. So far, this nonprofit organization claims to have helped create 2.4 million successful friendships in 230 countries.

If you’re a traveler in need of a couch to crash on, you can narrow down your search with specific criteria, such as the gender and age of your host. You can also check former crashers’ references, which is helpful. (Hosts can not modify comments.)

Money does exchange hands with services like,, and, where individuals set up a profile for their space, whether it’s a downtown LA loft for $100 a night to a room in a townhouse in Phuket, Thailand, for $25. The conversation starts on the site, and usually the company will handle the exchange of money, which can make a blooming friendship less awkward. (On the host can also ask that the renter pay them directly in cash.)

Your savings: If, realistically, your alternative for a hyper-social travel experience is a hostel, you don’t stand to save that much, maybe a few hundred dollars, depending on the cost of living at your destination. If your alterative is a hotel room, the savings will certainly be more drastic. Either way, you do stand to make new friends and see a new place through the eyes of a local.

Renting a vacation home

What it is: Using sites like and, vacation home owners (or someone managing the property on their behalf) post homes for rent, usually in attractive vacation spots like the beach or mountain. Many owners tend to rent out their places for longer periods, such as a week, and cater to larger groups or families. (The average size of a property on is 1,850 square feet.)

How it works: Simply search for places that interest you and send a direct message to the owner through the site. The site can also provide a rental guarantee that will protect the renter against any wrongdoing with deposits.

Your savings: Hundreds to thousands of dollars, especially if you take advantage of the weekly rental prices. The added advantage is having a full kitchen stocked with supplies and extras like barbeque grills that you wouldn’t necessarily find at traditional hotels, helping you save big on meals.

Private Rooms in Hostels

What it is: You may know hostels as dorm-style accommodations favored by international travelers–and you may have a negative opinion of them as places where you have to chain your underwear to your bunk-bed post. What you may not know is that many hostels have private rooms that are very cheap, clean and a great alternative to pricier hotels.

How it works: Look around on the vast network of friendly hostels around the world, starting with Hostelling International, then zero in on those that have private rooms. One caveat: you may still have to share a bathroom. You’ll get the social scene of travelers from all over the world hanging in the common space, including lots of people eating ramen noodles out of questionable dishes, and you still have the privacy of a hotel room when you want to escape it all.

Your savings: A private double room in a decent San Francisco hostel costs about $90 per night. A private hostel room in Bangkok, Thailand is about $50. A regular hotel room will cost roughly double. Depending on the length of your trip, you could save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.


What it is: There’s a room opening in a local apartment, which the tenant is renting out for a limited time while away.

How it works: Hit up Craigslist in any given city–except New York (per the new law mentioned in the beginning of this article). Go to the housing section, then navigate to the Sublets & Temporary section or Vacation Rentals section. But, buyer beware: there isn’t much oversight over how listings are executed, and many travelers have reported arranging a sublet only to find out upon arrival that the tenant will not be going away. Instead he’ll be staying on the couch while you pay his rent. At the same time, though, others have had incredible experiences, living in posh pads in the world’s greatest cities, if only for a week. It is advisable to get the deal in writing, no matter the length of stay, and to make sure that the building’s owner is aware of your presence.

Your savings: Potentially thousands of dollars, depending on the length of your stay. The most popular cities to find sublets in are also the most expensive, which is mighty convenient.

How to Throw A Party on Your Boat

Annual boat party
Annual boat party

Boats are not only used for the seas. The latest phase is using boats for having casual or elaborate parties. People who live in areas that don't have access to natural bodies of water always enjoy the chance to attend a party out on the water. When opportunity arises to go on a boat whether it be a day in the sun on the sea or a night cruise under the stars, the average person will jump at the chance. Owning a boat is a luxury for most, so attending a party on a boat is a special treat.

Planning for a party takes much thought, imagination and preparation. If you want to hire a party planner for such an event, it will certainly make things easier for your. But it's also something that you can do if you take in consideration all the details involved in making the party a success.

Choosing a Theme for Your Boat Party

To get started you should consider selecting a theme. Picking a theme depends on how much of a budget you have to work with. An affordable theme would be a card party (Black-Jack or Texas hold’em, with a Karaoke night); this would enable friends to get together and enjoy a night of gambling at sea. This type of party is inexpensive and casual. The need for decorations for such a party is minimal. Green felt can be used for covering a table and a simple boom-box can be used for Karaoke. If you feel food for the party may be over your budget, you can ask your guests to bring an item. This is a great way to kick-back and enjoy yourself without a huge expense.

Selecting a more elaborate theme can be more expensive. Keep in mind when working with a budget, the more exotic the theme, the higher the cost will be. If you choose a Hawaiian, Iron Chef, or Titanic theme, the decorations and elaborate foods will bring the cost up. The expense of different types of food to fit your theme can diminish your allocations quickly. Decorations can add up quickly also. Because of this, try to be imaginative with decorations. Some decorations you might purchase can be made easily by yourself and will probably come out better.

Depending upon your theme, invitations should be sent out accordingly. For a casual party a simple phone call, e-mail or online invitation would be appropriate. A privately mailed invitation is appropriate for a formal party, or for a theme party where your guests would have to dress accordingly.

Following Safety Rules and Regulations

Most importantly, the guest list must be held to the appropriate number for safety rules and regulations. Because the party is at sea and not on land, the motto “the more the merrier” does not apply. Boat usage must adhere to local laws. You have to make certain you have the proper amount of life jackets on board for each guest. Each guest should be aware of where the life jackets are kept and abide by the laws of the sea. Fire extinguishers must be close to the food area, especially if you are using small burners.

Safety, as always, should be a huge factor when inviting your guests. The boat cannot be overcrowded with people. For safety purposes, the boat should be well lit. Decorative lights on the boat can serve beneficial for both safety and creating a party mood for your guests. Inexpensive lights can be strung along side the boat depending on the theme for selected.

To make your party a huge success, creating a time-line is just as important as keeping to your budget. Since the boat can get filled up quickly, and there might not be as much room as you would like, managing your time is essential. Before your guests arrive, all decorations and preparation of food should be in order. Having the tables set-up, food all ready to be put out or placed on small burners before the guests arrive will be an efficient use of your time.

Most importantly, an inspection of the boat should be first on the list. Make sure the boat is in mechanical order, navigation maps on handy, all safety devices are checked and ready for use. After planning your time line and everything is in order, you can be assured you can sit back and enjoy being with your guests.

With the proper planning, your party will go smoothly and your guest will have a great time!

About the Author

Jane Warren is an avid outdoor water enthusiast who enjoys swimming, diving, boating, ski tubes, and anything else related to outdoor water sports. Out of this love of water sports, Jane started the website, where she provides information and reviews on watersports equipment including towable tubes. She also provides articles reviews on boating items that contribute to safer water activities, including Garmin Marine GPS units, and tips for water sport safety