September 2011 Archives

Bug List

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This is a list of problems I'd like to solve (mostly product related):

a way to pay without a ticket in pay per lots on campus

not needing to carry around ID/wallet

having a way to time your phone to turn the ringer to settings based on the type of event on your phone/computer's calendar, or being able to set the ring tone to silent, vibrate, low, high, when you set an event in your calendar

keeping headlights from blinding you in the rearview (stole this one from Nancy)

making allergy medication and other ongoing or seasonal medications, to be automated, or part of something else you do every day so you don't have to remember to take them. For example, having a sensor that measures air quality and reminds you to take meds based on the air quality.

a cure to pet allergies

getting all winemakers to use consistent closures to preserve quality
knowing what a wine is like before you open it

having a difficult time shipping wine and beer over various state and international borders

dog shedding... I love Osita more than most things in this world, but we have to fix the shedding, and make clean-up non-existent

a pleasant and easy way to wash dogs that doesn't scar them (I've heard the powder wash is helpful)

water filters that work on any cup
jeans that dry quickly
seats (benches, bike seats) that can get rained on and not get your butt wet
normal pants or jeans that are still comfortable after a big meal or while traveling, but still look good
pantyhose that don't rip
an easy way to remove nail polish
more general versions of applications for paperwork, so you don't have to rewrite the same ideas and content for things over and over for basically the same thing (jobs, grants, university and federal bureaucracy)
a way to electronically sign things in a universal, secure and simple way
a way to electronically buy things in a universal, secure and simple way
a way to carry or store books that are heavy that you need to shlep for each class
a simple and easy way to print pages in kindle and related tools (hack?)
a better and more efficient way to store and use keys than a key chain

Idea Wallet

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This idea wallet will continue to build as the semester progresses:

Another big idea is to train dogs in another language. All of Osa's commands are in Spanish, so hears them distinctly from what other dogs are told to do, she doesn't listen to that, she pays more attention to non-verbal cues, hand motions, and facial expression and intent. She also pays more attention to a smaller number of people who know those commands, and she is more loyal to those people. I know there are downsides to this. I'm trying to learn and teach French commands for her now. More on Osa in the bug list.

My second big idea is to express that my dog is the best footwarmer I've ever encountered. It doesn't matter where I am, washing dishes in the kitchen, eating dinner at our dining room table, or lying in bed: Osita loves to follow me around and lay on my feet. She is a German Shepherd, so she is like having self-generated warmth, a soft fur blanket, and not-to-heavy weight and conformity on top of my feet when they are cold. There's got to be a way to duplicate those traits.

My first happy idea for the wallet is this 3M produced highlighter and tag dispenser in one. I thought it was an interesting variation for us to consider in light of our tape dispenser assignment:

3Mhighlighterandtag.jpg

I'm going to add more picture links later, but here are some other places where I get ideas, things I read on a regular basis. I find that a lot of design concepts come from unrelated sources. If I am well-read in various periodicals who are known for being curious and innovative I will learn about new ideas in all disciplines:

Generalist:
www.nytimes.com
www.theatlantic.com/

Food ideas:
http://www.artofeating.com/
http://parisbymouth.com/

Fashion ideas:
http://www.thesartorialist.com/

I have some friends that I consider especially creative, and I asked them what they like to read. I will continue to build this list as well:
http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/
http://www.ikeahackers.net/
http://lifehacker.com/
http://www.re-nest.com/
http://www.dudecraft.com/
http://www.notcot.org/
http://boingboing.net/
http://www.notmartha.org/
http://grainandgram.com/
http://www.stairporn.org/

1) Drain protectors need to be both easy and un-yucky to clean, and work well to keep gunk out of the drain.

2) Drain protectors seem like they should be a natural or included part of every sink. My stylist described a type of permanent drain protector that screwed into the drain, and I kind of knew what she was talking about, or have seen versions of what she described. However, she said that drain protector didn't work very well and wasn't practical. It needs to be simple a la Occam's razor.

3) This seems to be a product that people shouldn't have to think about, it should just work. I think that it is not in the interest of drain makers, however, to keep things from clogging the drain. Drain makers sell more drains if they get used and clogged, right? What incentive does the market have to fix this problem?

window shopping 3

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The ACE Hardware site offers more utilitarian products, as you would expect of a hardware store. Below is their translation of a drain protector, which is a larger version of the kind used by Keith at Dogwood, and the permanent ones in public restrooms. This is a household version of the same idea, plus the clips underneath, which resemble the clips that hold manila envelopes closed:

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window shopping 2

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Here is Target's product, which reflects the stylized "designer" aesthetic that Daniel Pink highlights in his book as part of the new culture of abundance. It also reminds me of the Karim quote from our 3M visit about how people want design at an affordable price. It looks like a drain protector crossed with a jelly shoe and an octopus. The suction cups are a new way to think about this compared with the sitting on top of, or coupling with the drain as the stainless and mesh ones do. It appears as if you could set this into the drain in the typical way, or invert it, as my stylist suggested:

draincatch6.jpg

window shopping 1

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I did some various window shopping online, and will highlight three sites that I think take different takes on the same problem:

First, IKEA. IKEA provided a traditional drain protector, like the one I described in the roommate focus group, but it sold it with the whole piece of sink drain as well. I think it sold it this way, still for a comparable price to just a drain protector, since IKEA markets whole sink/basin and related products for self-installation, including everything and the kitchen sink (ha ha).

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They also included their clear diagrams of this product, as seen above.

Focus Group-Roommates

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I asked my 3 roommates about their experience with the drain catches we use. We use a wire mesh drain catch on our bathroom bath and basin drains, which is the same as the pictures from my stylist's sink. They said they are all frustrated with having to constantly clean out the mesh on their own, and often other peoples' hair and gunk, who might forget, or neglect, to do it themselves.

We use a traditional sink drain catch, the little stainless cups with holes and a button in the middle to close the drain, in our two basins in the kitchen. I forgot to take a picture of it. They expressed frustration with people leaving food gunk in them after they wash dishes or cook. They also said the ones we use now are old and aren't great at keeping water from slipping into the drain slowly, which is a waste of water.

I found that someone would chime in on the focus group questions, and then everyone else would agree and augment those thoughts. It was hard to keep everyone from agreeing and directing the conversation based on what different people said, instead of sticking to the questions I asked.

Interview 2 in Drain Protector ethnography-Barista

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I interviewed Keith, my barista at Dogwood Espresso, about his view of drain protectors. He actually studied a sort of interior product design at Dunwoody, so his view on drains is more technical and specific. He corrected my terminology for drain catch as a piece of plumbing under the sink, rather than the drain protector. He also designed the interior of Dogwood, and made a lot of the aesthetic and practical choices for the business. Here is the drain protector style he uses at Dogwood:

drainprotector2.jpg

This is similar in look to what my stylist described for her inverted stainless drain, except it is flat, and sits on top of the drain. This is also similar to the industrial restroom sinks I saw at a hospital and bus station this weekend, except those aren't removable, and this one is removable. Again, they are small enough to protect from hair and large objects, and large enough for liquids, and probably coffee grounds, to slip through.

Keith also employs a type of drain protector on their espresso machine, similar to the kind on ice/soda machines at fast food restaurants:

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He said he wouldn't really consider this a drain protector, but a sort of tray, but I think it is just a different way to think about a drain protector in shape and size and form, so I'm including it in my observations. He said he thinks that the two pieces do their job and work well for his uses at the shop, he didn't have any changes to make.

I plan to speak with Andrew at Kopplin's about his sinks after this assignment, since he's designing a new shop. I want to hear his thoughts of moving from a space that was pieced together, to a place he will design to suit the possibilities and needs of both coffee and food preparation, since they require different types and numbers of sink/basin.

Interview 1 in Drain Protector ethnography-Hair Stylist

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I wanted to think about what I thought was a drain catch, but I guess a drain catch is something in the pipes/drain under the sink. I mean that piece that keeps hair and such from getting in the drain. I went to get my haircut, and interviewed my stylist about her opinion on drain protectors (my term). Here is the drain catch she uses, which is a bigger version what we use at my house:

drainprotector1.jpg

I call it a wire mesh drain protector, to be more specific. She said she doesn't like this style because you have to pull it out and clean/scrub it out to get it clean.

At home, she uses one that is stainless and inverted, so it is like a little stainless hill on top of the drain, with a stainless rim, and larger punched holes. She prefers it because you can pull the hair off easily. It does let viscous liquids such as toothpaste and bodily fluids to get into the drain more easily, which can build up and clog the drain.

I find it interesting that a shop that deals with hair all the time would choose the wire mesh type. I also find it interesting that the sinks don't come with some sort of special drain protector installed into the hair washing sink.

Horrible Bosses

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I watched Horrible Bosses with friends, and then made my mindmap:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh9cG5dzs-U

peanuts.jpg

10 Crazy Ideas

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1. Herb garden
2. Urinal a la Duchamp
duchamp.jpg
3. Baby changing table
changingtable.jpg
4. Lever 2000 model
5. Desk
6. Worm Farm-- Composting sink
7. hot water flowing under basin and helping dry dishes more quickly
8. griddle
9. light under counter, light table, backlighting
10. musical counter/keyboard, speakers

Mindmap

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Sinkmindmap.jpg

Process 4: Presentation, Revision, and Reflection

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I forgot to say a couple things.

First is my thoughts on presentation:

I decided to present the cookies in petit fours papers, and decorate them in the same vein as traditional petit fours. They are petit fours. I think that's a good concept for a cookie, and allows for more complex and concentrated flavor, like a cookie-amuse-bouche. I also thought it would be easier for judging and for the class to try them, which turned out to be true. Also, I'm not a huge sweets person, I'd rather have an interesting bite of something than a whole dessert. I think these concepts were reflected in my final design.

I designed some small red boxes with cardstock to put the petit four cookies into them. This is not unlike what Reese's does with their peanut butter cups. I found a pattern for the boxes in this great book that I could print onto paper, but the labor intensity in cutting all the boxes and shaping them by hand with an exacto knife and bone folder was too much for the scope of this project, I discovered.

Second is some thoughts on revision/reflection:

In the end, I feel a sugar cookie balanced better with the sour of the curd, in the same way as Bittman's cocktail ratio, and the Ratio reading. The curd/cookie combo was also reflective of the balance in most macaron, which was an inspiration. I'm really happy with how I was able to synthesize my different research, inspiration and experimentation.

Process 3: Sugar Cookies

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kitchen.jpg

Final recipe:
zest of one lime, leaves from a sprig of rosemary cut finely
2 C unbleached all-purpose flour preferably Gold Medal
pinch of salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 T vanilla
1 C sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Blend zest, sugar and butter until creamy and yellow. Then blend in egg and vanilla. Then flour until it seems mixed in like dough. Roll out flat into pan lined with parchment. Bake until golden brown on the edges. Right when you take out of oven, use pizza cutter to cut into small squares. Once cooled, put each square into a petit fours paper, add a small/appropriate dollop of chilled/thickened curd to each, and top with a mint leaf as garnish.
IMG_20110912_105158.jpg

Process 2: Fruit Curd

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My original vision was lemon curd on the cookies. I decided I wanted a fruit curd with the shortbread, which is similar to what they do in Great Britain (lemon curd on shortbread and scones), but I thought it would be a new idea across the pond, especially in the midwest.

I read several articles on curd, which is a spread that was created in the area of England where marmelade also originates. My family and I used to make a lemon cheesecake with lemon curd swirl growing up that was great, so the shortbread/curd idea is a variation on that delicious theme. I wanted it to be original, and my roommate is allergic to lemon, so I tried to make a curd using concentrated pure cherry juice, using a variation on a lemon curd recipe.
the curds.jpg

My first curd recipe had way too much sugar (far left), and tasted like diet kool-aid (too sweet). I made a traditional lemon curd to compare and see if it tasted normal and thickened, which it did. I read some more articles, and deduced that you don't have to listen to anyone when you make curd.

I found that the best thing is to mix all the ingredients together completely before putting it on the double boiler, and only use a lot of sugar if you're including citrus. You should use a wooden spoon or silicon spatula, not a whisk (a whisk aerates it too much and the foam sticks around). You should keep the water heat low on the double boiler, and keep stirring until the back of the spatula and sides of the bowl are coating. You can substitute another juice flavor, but it should be combined with half lime or lemon juice and a few tablespoons of zest. I used cherry and lime. It turned out and seems to be thickening.

cherrylime.jpg

Lavender Shortbread Recipe

2 c Flour
1 c unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1/2 c honey
pinch of salt
2 tsp herb (lavender in this case).

Oven at 325 F. Combine ingredients in a bowl, mix by hand or with mixer until dough comes together. Press or roll dough flat. You can cut the dough into whatever shape you prefer. I plan to use a pastry knife to cut into small enough shapes to fit into petit fours papers.

shortbread.jpg

A word on ingredients and my process:
I picked shortbread because it is a simple vehicle for other flavors. I use whole wheat pastry flour. This adds a nutty, complex flavor but does not cloy the way whole wheat flour can. The studies I read indicated that soft red wheat was preferable to other flours because of the gluten content, as opposed to bread flour. I got this idea from a roommate years ago who is a baker, and makes the best pancakes and chocolate chip cookies, made with whole wheat pastry flour.

Butter is key to a great cookie. I read some olive oil cookie recipes that sounded tasty (olive oil, orange and saffron?), but a classic cookie needs butter. Also, never microwave or heat butter before making cookies, because cooked/heated butter loses its emulsion: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/17/dining/17bake.html. Good butter is important. I used Hope Grade A unsalted butter and gave it 10 or so minutes to soften out of the fridge, while the oven was pre-heating.

I decided to substitute honey for sugar. This summer I made a great lavender honey simple syrup for sodas, and I still had lavender and Ames Grade A honey, which my coffee shop has recommended. I found both at my coop. Putting the lavender in the honey before mixing also allowed the lavender to reconstitute, and distribute more easily into the dough.

I followed the ratio of 3 flour-2 fat-1 sweet, suggested in the Ratio article. I think most recipes in cooking or baking, need some balance in salty and sweet flavors. Mark Bittman gets at this in his analysis of cocktails, where he discovers the balance of a great cocktail is a balance between sour/bitter/sweet.

The outcome was too plain for a cookie. It was edible, but wasn't sweet enough to contrast with the fruit curd. I decided to turn the shortbread into a sugar cookie.

1 Booze+ 1 Sour+ 1 Sweet= The Perfect Cocktail

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Mark Bittman's Cocktail Confidential

cocktail confidential.jpg

The link here brings you to the video. There is also an accompanying article, Add a Splash of Ad Lib.

Mark Bittman has a theory about cocktail recipes, and it works. This is the same idea as in the Ratio reading, which says that 3 flour+ 2 fat+ 1 sugar= the perfect cookie. More about fat in this NYTimes butter article on cookies.

Ladurée and Le Macaron

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Laduree.jpg


Ladurée's history of le macaron:
http://www.laduree.fr/en/histoire/macaron

More background on le macaron from Paris By Mouth:
http://parisbymouth.com/our-guide-to-paris-laduree/

Not to be confused with macaroons, which are coconut chewy cookies, le macaron are gorgeous, almond flour/egg white meringue-y clouds sandwiching jelly/gel/frosting or ganache.

I did brainstorm options for making my own spin on macaron, since the flavor and color manipulations are so pure. However, this was a big trend about a year and a half ago in the food world, so this didn't seem very "new" to me.

Anything McDonald's has decided to sell probably isn't original or novel anymore. Novel was a criteria, but only when combined with some usefulness. When I think about practical cooking, I see the smiling face of Mark Bittman, The Minimalist of the NYTimes, who is now an opinion writer for the times and blog-er/organizer at his site markbittman.com.

macaron.jpg

Blogs, Blogs, Blogs.

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Here are food blogs I like that inspire me:

101 Cookbooks

http://www.101cookbooks.com/
Heidi Swanson's soulful and artful healthy-ish (natural?) reflections, she lives in San Francisco and travels. I'm pretty sure she, and most others with nice design, use Wordpress rather than Moveable Type as their blog-maker of choice.

Alinea at Home
http://alineaathome.typepad.com/
This woman, especially her recent entry on avocado, chocolate, mint, and lime, cracks me up. Her goal is to cook through the Alinea cookbook. She's an entertaining writer.

Smitten Kitchen

http://smittenkitchen.com/cookie-recipes/
I'm referring you directly to SK's cookie section. Homemade oreos? Yes, please.

Chocolate and Zucchini
http://chocolateandzucchini.com/
Clotilde Dusoulier's reflections, usually on Paris and her own kitchen.

Mark Bittman
his website and nytimes.com archives
More on him in a minute.

Paris By Mouth
http://parisbymouth.com/?s=cookie&submit.x=0&submit.y=0
A clearinghouse for all the best English-writing, Francophone Foodies.

Books, Books, Books

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Sweet Martha's

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IMG_20110911_091443.jpg

Sweet Martha's Cookies are incredibly popular, but are they that distinctive? Or is it simply impossible to resist a batch of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, even if they aren't Tollhouse? I typically find them to be undercooked and too sweet, lower in quality and flavor than my own or a friend's.

Looking at Cookie Brands

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I started by thinking about what exists. Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Pecan Sandies, and their variations.

Swimming towards infinity

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