Sashimi on thin ice

This article in the Toronto Star made me sad – in 90 days all Toronto restaurants cannot serve raw fish. It must come frozen.

As you all know, sushi, sashimi and Scandinavian cuisine often demands completely fresh, raw fish. Sushi chefs are saying freezing the fish will ruin their taste and turn their textures from buttery and firm to chewy and mushy.

Personally, I think that if raw fish is shipped and handled quickly and cleanly, there should be zero problems. One chef suspects that most food poisoning comes from bad hygiene by the cooks, not because of the general state of the goods.

First they came for the sunny-side eggs. Now it’s our sushi. What’s next, a law requiring bars to boil all their beer?

Update: My fellow members of the bourgeoisie have succeeded in getting health officials to reconsider, with some mulling a fish grading system, like what they have for meat. Let them eat maki!

Soft sell hard ware

Engadget reports on the new Samsung Experience electronics boutique that just opened in New York City. The peculiar thing is, you can’t buy anything on display there. They figure that any true hardware enthusiast would browse the store and head back home and buy the product online anyway.

They are even showcasing items that aren’t even available in North America, such as the miniscule MP3 players and cellphones with TV tuners that are commonplace in Korea and Japan.

The purpose of the “store” is to whet your appetite, to sell the Samsung brand. They want to show they’re as badass as Sony.

A++ they all say

Silverlotus has been trying to offload a bunch of doodads and gear we have lying around on eBay recently, so I’ve begun to understand the thrill of wheeling and dealing there.. I still don’t understand why people snipe; there isn’t any real reason to since it’s a proxy bid system.

Weird Al Yankovic, in his hilarious song “eBay“, describes its thrift culture phenomenon perfectly as a “worldwide garage sale”. The song is sung to the melody of “I Want It That Way” by the thankfully defunct Backstreet Boys. Speaking of which, I got that single somewhere. Any bidders? 😉

Toronto the body double

toyotamatrix.jpgI always get a kick out of seeing shots of Toronto in popular media. From Short Circuit 2 to Good Will Hunting, films have used Toronto as a kind of body double for grander places. For example, the historical landmark of Casa Loma sat in as the X-Men‘s school for mutants.

My latest sighting is from the recent Toyota Matrix movie trailer (Quicktime movie is here).

In the beginning the cars race under the Gardiner Expressway and then head north through the Bay St. underpass toward Union Station. The “anime” is being shown on multimedia billboards at Yonge and Dundas, across from the Eaton Centre. Another shot shows one of the spinning neon records from the “Sam the Record Man” on Yonge Street. At the very end you see the BCE Place in the skyline.

It’s very surreal because the streets are deserted and all the store signage has been edited out, but it’s TO alright.

Only months before, moviegoers saw Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil: Apocalypse run down the Toronto City Hall before it was blown up with (computer generated) bombs. The movie poster also features the uniquely steepled roof of the BCE Place tower on the righthand side.

I’m not sure if it’s that comforting flash of recognition, or pride that my hometown is being seen to millions of people and they won’t even realize it. Or the silent satisfaction of being able to see through the disguise of an American city, a disguise spawned from the curious Hollywood belief that Americans won’t go watch anything that indicates there is civilized life outside the USA.

The switch of dewm

AskTog has possibly found the Worst Interface Ever. It’s a particular aftermarket pump you turn on that circulates fluid through the transmission of a Lexus SUV so that the gears stay lubricated if you are moving the car while the engine is off, i.e., while it is being towed. This is because if the transmission doesn’t stay wet, it can be destroyed.

Inversely, the pump must be turned off before the Lexus is to be driven, or the fluid won’t get to the the operating transmission and the transmission will go bye-bye.

So here’s the kicker – the only thing between you, a dead tranny and a $5,000 repair bill is a small switch that turns the pump on and off.

This Switch of Good and Evil, Life or Death, is hidden under the hood of the car. The switch can only be professionally installed and therefore can be in any location on the engine or in any orientation.

Ooo, but it gets even better: the switch is not labelled. You can’t tell whether it is ON or OFF just by looking at it.

AskTog has mitigated the problem by labelling the switch himself and running rigorous pre-tow and post-tow checklists, something that any normal person would naturally do if he were… say, a frickin’ astronaut flying to the frickin’ moon.

The moral of the story is as follows: “Never, ever, ever let systems-level engineers do human interaction design unless they have displayed a proven secondary talent in that area.”

AMD on the inside

Infoworld’s latest issue features the microprocessor underdog AMD in a Special Report entitled, AMD: From follower to leader.

AMD played copycat to Intel’s successful x86 chip designs for a good part of twenty years, until Intel pulled their licensing agreement with them. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise; when Intel took its ball and went home, AMD was forced to move up the value chain and innovate on its own.

Its debut original product, the Athlon, was the first to break the 1GHz speed barrier. My first AMD product was the Athlon XP, a chip that outran the Pentium 4 at two-thirds the cost. Since then, they’ve developed several unique technologies, including HyperTransport, DDR RAM, and the x86-64 bit instruction set.

It’s the last one that powers their Opteron and Athlon64 chips and winning approval in the server market. By being able to efficiently crunch both today’s 32-bit and the future’s 64-bit applications, it leaves Intel’s 64-bit only Itanium chip in the dust.

The interesting thing is how AMD managed to sneak into Intel’s “old boys club” of motherboard and OEM manufacturers:

In 1999, while AMD was suffering through one of the darkest periods in its history, the financially strapped semiconductor maker needed to get the word out about its new Pentium II-compatible processor, Athlon. So it did what any serious company would do: It enlisted the aid of PC gamers, overclockers, and build-it-yourself enthusiasts.

It reached out to selected small and startup sites that were snubbed by other hardware vendors. For many of these sites, it was AMD

Redefining a new generation

On the bookshelf: William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, his latest book and his first foray into a story based on the modern age. That’s right, this time he has no cybernetic femme fatales or sentient holograms to rely on; he only has his stylized prose going for him.

The story is still very technocentric, with the jetsetting main protagonist Cayce (pronounced “Case”…hmm remember him?) trying to uncover the author of a series of CG videoclips posted anonymously on the Internet. A Macintosh G4 Cube, an iBook, and a corporate credit card are the main props. Still, Gibson manages to squeeze in his obligatory visit to Tokyo and a brush with organized crime. His use of metaphor makes everything sound special.

However, in the end, you realize you read a whole freakin’ book on email and forums and Internet video.

In the D drive: Doom 3. No interactive environment. Very few physics or ragdoll effects. Requires a top-of-the-line PC just to run properly. The one thing that defined Doom – large, arena-like rooms with the screaming hordes of hell barrelling toward you – is noticeably absent. Instead, you traipse through identical narrow grey corridors in pitch dark while dispatching monsters in twos and threes as they try to ambush you from behind, which stopped being scary after the 263rd time they did it. You can’t actually be “knee deep in the dead” because dead critters just disappear in a puff of red smoke.

Still, great graphics. I especially like the PDA (a touch of System Shock), the crisp, clickable graphical displays, and of course Super Turkey Puncher 3.