food

Protein Ratios in Food Bars

Thursday, July 4, 2013 

I’ve always been annoyed by the way food nutritional content is reported. It isn’t hard to find a food item with 1,000 calories per serving that claims to be be “high” in iron because it has 5% of the US RDA. The ratio of the RDA of iron to calories would be 1:10. You couldn’t eat enough to get the full allowance of iron in a day and you’d become a human blimp trying.

In an age of obscene abundance, the trick is not so much getting the minimum nutritional value, but getting it at the minimum caloric cost. I looked through some reviews of “good” protein bars and popular ones on Amazon and tabulated the nutritional data in Excel and then computed the ratio of grams of protein to three bad things: kilo-calories, grams of saturated fat, and dollars of cost. Thus, higher values are better. It is interesting to see a huge range in all three values. Sadly, it is common to get closer to the maximum recommended value of saturated fat per day than calories, meaning that eating only enough calories of these “healthy” bars will result in increased risk of disease compared to normal, “unhealthy” food. That’s pretty inexcusable.

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I’d like to change the way nutritional labels are printed from hard to read tables presenting only favorable values to simple bar graphs of all basic, essential nutrients, all of which would always be included so that empty calories foods would have a big red block of bar graphs pointing to the left indicating a food that had better be a pleasure to eat to compensate for the lack of nutrition.

But back to food bars: the ratio of protein to calories is a good way to select a food bar for healthy people. Finding one with the best ratio of protein to saturated fat can be important for some people and avoiding the worst ratios is good for everyone. Finding the most protein for your dollar may have merit as well (though prices are just Amazon prices and may vary significantly by outlet).

The Excel table for your editing pleasure protein bars.xlsx

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Posted at 11:55:41 GMT-0700

Category: uncategorized

Amman, Petra, and the Dead Sea

Friday, May 25, 2012 

Amman is a very cool city with a strong European flair, but an Arab sensibility. There is great food to be had easily and a lively cultural and social life. It is also near one of the seven wonders of the world: Petra, which is one of those cultural destinations that is really worth the trip.

The city is very close to the relaxing aqueous solution that is the Dead Sea. Just don’t get the liquid in your eyes. It is about 31.5% salt so while it looks like water it does not feel like water, neither in consistency (oddly viscous feeling) nor in resultant buoyancy (bizarrely high). As with all unusual natural waters in the world, it is believed to possess semi-supernatural healing powers.

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Posted at 11:43:48 GMT-0700

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Singapore Air: Nice planes, Crappy customer service

Saturday, July 2, 2011 

Singapore Airlines sucks… OMG.   Not only do they seem to have real trouble handling bags, they have absolutely no customer service at all.  None.  Zilch.

I flew SFO-JFK on a UAL PS flight first class on the 1st; JFK-FRA on Singpore Air, first class on the 1st-2nd; FRA-FLR on Lufthansa business the 2nd.  When I arrived in FLR, no luggage.  I waited for the next FRA-FLR flight to arrive, no luggage.  There had been 3 FRA-FLR flights before mine my luggage could have taken, no luggage.

I had a 3 hour layover in JFK, somehow Singapore did not get my luggage on my flight, despite flying first class and having one of those “priority” tags on my bag (as if). United’s scan showed they delivered the luggage to singapore on time, but that Singapore just hadn’t boarded it, and rather than find the fastest way to get it to me at my destination, put it on the same flight (SQ25) 24 hours later.  They hadn’t bothered to try to contact me.  At all.

Now that’s lame, lame for coach, pretty much intolerable for first, but to make matters worse:

Their online luggage check tool at http://www.worldtracer.aero/cgi-bin/fileframe.exe?tran=XXXsqXXXXXl1=enCB=Y does not have current information, but United has more recent information – FOR SINGAPORE. If they could give me some information, any information about the luggage, I’d be more confident, but that the only useful information I could get at all came from United, and from them only as a courtesy, is just astonishing.

I was given this number by united to call: 800 742 3333, it is a call center that could do nothing at all to help but sound vaguely apologetic and give me the Local airport number.

I called that number, 718 751 3832, and got voice mail. Of course I left a message, of course nobody called back.

I called their lost and found number at 1 800-2244243 and got fast busy every time (during daylight hours Singapore time, daylight hours EST, daylight Europe time… the number seems disconnected: WIN SQ!).

I wrote them at sqbaggage_enquiry@sats.com.sg, no answer so far.  (update, 12 72 hours later, no response at all).

I found the JFK office number on the Singapore site, which is actually their “traffic number” at +1 (718) 751-3830 and called and got voice mail, no answer, no response. (update, no call back 12 hours later UPDATE again – still no contact at all from Singapore – 3 days).

I found the JFK baggage office email at JFK_LostNFound@singaporeair.com.sg and sent a note there, of course no response.

I filled out the form at https://www.singaporeair.com/baggageFeedBack.form and at https://www.singaporeair.com/customerServiceFeedBack.form, but of course got nothing back – so far not even an automated response (update: got an automated response, but no real response 12 72 hours later).

I called the 24 hour call center in singapore at +65 6223 8888 and their phone tree system had real trouble recognizing DTMF signals and they had no default to human operator. It’s a reservations system and has endless hold problems, but at least I eventually got hold music. No help, but hold music. Update – I did eventually get someone but they were as useless as the first number. I had serious trouble explaining that I needed to speak to a human being and that it wasn’t useful to give me a number to call where nobody answered.

I demanded that the operator connect me, and she finally connected me to someone who said “hello.” I said “hello.” He said “hello.” I said “hello.” Excuse me, who are you? No “can I help you?” No “I’m sorry we screwed up and didn’t get your luggage on the flight?” But finally, finally, someone at Singapore who could, if not entirely politely, at least look up the status. I had to correct him when he said “you lost your bag” to me: “No YOU lost my bag, you failed to board it on my flight. Where is it?”

People rave about Singapore Air and while the flight was comfortable enough and the food excellent… and the FAs the nicest and most attending I’ve experienced, their baggage handling and customer support is horrible. Unbelievably worse than even a discount airline in the US. And the thing that pisses me off most (and this is the same with UAL): they KNEW my luggage didn’t get on the plane before my flight took off – certainly long before I landed. Why wait until I get to my final destination to file a claim before fixing it? Flying first class on a transcon flight they should have had someone waiting for me at FRA with a toiletries kit and an apology and an update as to where my luggage was so I didn’t have to waste 90 minutes at the airport filing a claim and another hour or two following up to find out the status of their screw up (Update: 4 days later and Singapore has yet to take a single step to rectify their mistakes or apologize).

UPDATE 1: 12 hours after arrival, UAL is still the only airline that is willing to answer their phone or check on updates.  I haven’t tried to track down Lufthansa, though they haven’t yet answered  their email.  UAL is at least polite and responsive on the phone and can track the bag for me, even though they didn’t lose it, Singapore did.  Note that Singpore has known my bag wasn’t on my flight for almost 36 hours already and has not bothered to contact me (update: 4 days later and not a word from Singapore)

UPDATE 2: 24 hours after arrival, Singapore’s web site still says “Bag 1 Status TRACING CONTINUES. PLEASE CHECK BACK LATER”   But FINALLY got through to Singapore Air and spent some time teaching the bag guy there how luggage scanning works at different airports and why it is reasonable for him to be able to answer whether my bag had made it to FLR yet or not (shaming him a bit by explaining that if he couldn’t answer, I can call UAL and they DO know because their computer WORKS).

He kept telling me he was the one who “rushed” my bag to FLR.  I’m sorry, using the word “rushed” for putting my bag on my same itinerary 24 hours late isn’t “rushing.”  Just like making me call HIM to find out the status when he knew my bag was misplaced isn’t “customer service.”  In a moment of honesty he said “I don’t know why your bag didn’t get on your flight.”  SQ simply screwed up, but hasn’t done anything to fix it at all.

He finally managed to look it up after I basically explained how to do it over the phone and confirmed it was in Florence, but had made no arrangements for final delivery.  At least he knows how to check on the status of a missing bag now, so if anyone else loses their bag out of JFK on Singapore and wants to find the status, call +1 (718) 751-3830 during regular daytime hours and if you’re lucky the same guy will be there and know how to look it up for you.  You’re welcome.  I forgot to ask him to add a local cell number to the record, but that was too painful, I’ll call UAL and ask them to do it, even though this is all SQ’s fault.

UPDATE 3: 36 hours after arrival, Singapore’s web site now says “Bag 1 Status ITEM LOCATED, PENDING CONFIRMATION”  According to Singapore Air the bag was actually delivered to FLR last night. I called the airport and they were very polite but couldn’t give me any information other than to take my number and offer to call tonight.  As it might be out for delivery, I won’t drive back to the airport yet.   Singapore still has yet to call me, message me, or respond to any email. UPDATE – they were wrong, the bag had not made it to FLR.  They were either lying or incompetent.

UPDATE 4: 48 hours after arrival, still can’t reach anyone at Singapore at any number.  I’ve taken to calling sequentially all of their listed numbers in the entire world trying to reach someone, anyone, with 1/2 a clue… or who will even answer the phone.  As that was complete FAIL I called UAL again.  Of course they knew exactly what was going on.  My luggage seems to have gone on SQ 25 from JFK a day late, and flown to FRA… but…  it seems they FORGOT TO UNLOAD IT.  WTF?  OMFG.

So UAL tells me it is now actually on SQ 326 from SINGAPORE to FRA.  It is supposed to connect tomorrow on LH308 arriving on the 5th.  They lost it on the 1st.  That’s 4 full days Singapore has known they screwed up, and two MAJOR screw ups, and not a single contact from them, not an email, not a phone call, not an SMS, not anything.  I’ve written them maybe 6-8 emails and called every number I could find and actually talked to two people, including the guy in NY who insisted that he RUSHED to get my bag on the same flight 24 hours later (but didn’t bother to contact me or assist me in any way to either locate my luggage or offer to assist with the absence of luggage) and still not one single proactive step from them at all.

I finally got some poor guy at the LA office and gave him a bit of a chewing out for their corporate incompetence.  He promised to tell his manager and try to get back to me.  We’ll see, but what can they say?  “Um, sorry we forgot to load your luggage.  Sorry we didn’t bother to say anything at all about it.  Sorry we forgot to unload it in Frankfurt and took it on a world tour instead… I guess we’re just incompetent morons?”

UPDATE 5: 60 hours after arrival.  Still not a word by any means from Singapore Air. They have yet to even apologize for losing my luggage, not once, but twice on the same trip.  That’s just inexcusable.  I called FLR’s automated luggage line and they told me the luggage has been found and will go out for delivery as I arranged with them.  No call yet to arrange delivery, but at least it is no longer in Singapore Air’s incompetent hands.

UPDATE 6: 72 hours after arrival.  I got through to someone at FLR.  Their automated line in English and Italian is at +39 055 3061 302.   The information they provide has so far proven correct, so it is a fairly reliable system (unlike Singapore Air).  They also have a direct line, though the people there are quite hassled and busy, but if you need to update your record, you can reach them at +39 055 3061 680.  Still not a word, not an email, not an SMS, not a call from anyone at Singapore.

UPDATE 7: 84 hours after arrival.  I finally got an email from Singapore Air – first contact from the company.  It reads:
Dear Mr Gessel,

thank you for your e-mail sent to our baggage enquiry department in SIN.

According to your Missing Report FLRLH82547 raised in Florenz with LH, the bag was received in Florenz yesterday, on the 05th of July.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the status of the delivery as I´m at Frankfurt. But I´m confident that our colleagues from LH will arrange a fast delivery to your mentioned adress in Italy.

We apologize for any inconveniences caused to you because of this unfortunate incident.

Best regards,
SINGAPORE AIRLINES LTD.

Silke Ruthotto
Senior Customer Services Agent
_____________________________________________

SINGAPORE AIRLINES LTD.
Gebäude 201 HBK 277
60549 Frankfurt/Main

 

Tel.: 069-690-32881
Fax.: 069-690-54681

I appreciate the apology, but it has been 5 days since Singapore first discovered they lost my luggage and this is the first they’ve bothered to say anything, and that thing is “OK, we’re done screwing it up, Lufthansa can sort it out.”   Still no delivery advice. Perhaps he could have taken the time to find out what the delivery timing will be and let me know.

UPDATE 7: My luggage was just delivered, at 0710 ET July 6.  Singapore Air first became aware they had failed to board it on SQ 25, presumably shortly after takeoff at 2125 ET July 1.  It took them 100 hours to contact me at all, and then only after I sent them dozens of messages and called every number they had to try to track down my luggage, and my luggage finally go to me 92 hours late.

It has been all over the world since I checked it in at SFO 5 days ago.  The Singapore reroute tags tell the tale: they start on the 2nd, and are crossed out and updated with 4th and then 5th.  Nice work!  Once it got to LH, it was delivered quickly.

My Luggage travels more than I do

Conclusion: Singapore Air gives a great front office experience, but their back office needs some serious work.  With the amount I’ve flown, I’ve had my luggage misdirected plenty of times, but never twice on the same flight – never misdirected in the effort to get it to me.  That is a special category of fail.  I’m particularly annoyed by Singapore’s astonishing lack of responsiveness: they provide no functional way to track down luggage they’ve lost.  None at all.

If you’re lucky and you’ve connected with another carrier, a responsible one, you can get updates and keep track of what is taking so long, but not through Singapore.

Singapore’s in-cabin reputation is well deserved, definitely one of the best in the business, but their back office is one of the worst.  Discount airlines do a better job.  I would not trust them with my luggage again.

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Posted at 16:15:59 GMT-0700

Category: planestravel

A Few Pretty Spots at VBC

Friday, February 4, 2011 

Saddam managed to build a fairly pretty complex here, with lots of artificial lakes (originally filled with potable water). Along one of those lakes is the Gates of Babylon restaurant. The food is excellent and the adjoining room is a hookah bar. The Nex5 does a pretty good job at night.

The palace is pretty inside, though the construction is legendarily shoddy and parts of the palace are starting to disintegrate as salt in the sand mixed in with the concrete disintegrates it. The main hall is quite dramatic with a three story chandelier.

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Posted at 13:49:56 GMT-0700

Category: Milplacestravel

Kynodontas (Dogtooth)

Saturday, September 19, 2009 

Dogtooth (2009) is a Greek movie about a strange family where the parents create an alternate universe full of danger and mystery to confine their teenage (at least) children and control their exposure to modern life.

The movie is fully of amazingly clever premises: teaching children through the Naughty Hungarian Phrase Book technique to hide the meaning of any difficult (and many random) words; terrifying them of the world outside the estate walls with tales of terror and a lost brother (to whom they throw food and other things); the horrible terror that cats pose, ripping the unwary apart; that airplanes are actually very small and plastic and now and then when they fly over head just drop into the yard to be found by the winning child; and contests to decide the best of the children at every turn.

And then there’s the woman who is paid to have sex with the son and manage his urges who seduces the sisters and pays them with knicknacks from the outside world they treasure. And the porn she brings for the father to watch with his wife after the children are asleep, that ultimately goes astray. And lastly, the title, which refers to the K9 tooth, the adult one, which is the indicator of adulthood when it comes out.

There is so much promise in this movie that could have been a real pleasure to watch, could have been hilarious or disturbing. But it just wasn’t. It was slow and stilted and clumsy. The pacing was brutal and ultimately tedious and drained the humor out of the most absurd situations – like where the father released live fish in the pool as some sort of miracle and then went to catch them for dinner with a spear gun that should have had the audience laughing but were drained of life by the pacing and structure.

This movie was particularly difficult, not so much for what it was but for how great it almost was.

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Posted at 19:55:56 GMT-0700

Category: Related Links

Lers ros thai

Monday, March 16, 2009 

Excellent, open until 2:00am

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The food is really excellent.  We were taken by people visiting from Thailand, who ordered in Thai, made fun of us for using chopsticks (only for use with dishes of Chinese origin) and having Sake with our dinner, how odd.   They said “this is what we eat in Thailand when we go out.”
Good enough for me.
730 Larkin St San Francisco, CA
(415) 931-6917

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Posted at 23:00:15 GMT-0700

Category: GeopostphotoPositivereviews

Supper club diva

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 

Dinner with Chris and Mona.

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We ate dinner at the Supperclub in San Francisco.  The food was good – a prefix menu in normal and food-challenged versions.  During the meal the staff provides entertainment, such as this lovely opera star.
We were there on a night when a company had a special event in the main room so us regular diners were consigned to the smaller private room.
One reclines on bedding to eat, which is fine, though the provided table spaces are not sufficient for the plates and the resulting arrangements are a bit clumsy.
The food was excellent and I’d go back on a normal night.

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Posted at 21:00:30 GMT-0700

Category: mapphotoPositiverestaurantsreviews

Vienna Austrian air club

Sunday, June 1, 2008 

Not a bad club, stylish and quiet but the liquor selection isn’t very good (limited, mostly well-drinks) though it is free and there’s food.

There is good free wifi with no hassle (not even a log-in screen, so you can use it with a skype phone).

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The wine is called pimple.

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Posted at 10:17:21 GMT-0700

Category: photoplanesreviewstravel

Winter in Borgo a Mazzano

Monday, January 28, 2008 

Winter is beautiful in Tuscany. The light is more gentle all day than in the summer and the warmth seems closer when the distant mountains are covered in snow and the nights are cold. We had a lovely time there, if only for two nights, warming the house with the wood furnace and taking long walks down to town and up to Rocca.

We ate at I Macelli in Borgo a Mazzano the first night – I had the Minestra Di Cereali, then the Ravioli di Castagne and finally the Filetto Di Manzo, all excellent as always. The food at I Macelli is excellent, always. The second night we had dinner at The Butterfly, just outside of Lucca. Butterfly is a Michelin rated restaurant and perhaps the best restaurant I’ve ever been to. Everything there is amazing.

Carolyn and I both had the “of the land” tasting menu. Of I think about 8 courses, only the pasta with sardines was not to my taste, but I don’t normally like them anyway and even so it was good.

It is a source of constant amazement how affordable first rate restaurants are in Italy. The food there is much better than anything one can get in the US, probably because the supply tend to be local and everything is made fresh and from local ingredients, and possibly for the same reason the prices are surprisingly low, even with the painful exchange rate one eats better in Italy than one could in the US at 4-5 times the price.

And then there’s the bulk wine dispensed into your own bottle at less than 2 euro a liter…

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More pictures…

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Posted at 14:18:53 GMT-0700

Category: photorestaurantsreviewstravel

Zagreb Restoran Dvorisce

Sunday, January 27, 2008 
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We had a wonderful meal at the Restoran Dvorisce. The local Croatian wine was very good and the food excellent: Carolyn had the spaghetti with crab and I had swordfish. The restaurant is stylish and clean and the service was excellent.

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The night before we ate at Masklin I Lata, a cute little local homestyle restaurant with a great selection of local brandies. I had vegetable farina soup, Carolyn tomato rice. She had seafood risotto and I seafood spaghetti. All excellent.

Maps.

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Posted at 16:59:08 GMT-0700

Category: photoplacesrestaurantsreviewstravel