A friend of mine, Neil Gilmore, a talented developer, taught me the phrase "fully buzzword compliant". It's like something in a Dilbert cartoon, where jargon takes on a life of its own. I use it often.
Terms like REST and RESTful come up regularly, but I rarely see them in enough context to be understood by someone who doesn't already know what it means. That's why I was thrilled to see "Understand Representational State Transfer (REST) in Ruby" by M. Tim Jones. The term is even described in the title! If you are working with Ruby I think you'll find this a useful read. Even if you don't use Ruby I think there is information that will help you become more fully buzzword compliant, and be able to better consider the value of the REST architecture for your own projects.
Last week I attend the Austin Forum on Technology session "From Sous Vide to Social Search, How Technology is Changing How We Cook and Eat" at the University of Texas in Austin. The video is not up yet, but I'll post it here when it appears.
We all eat... at least I'm pretty sure that we do. In the United States we have a relationship with food. Restaurants are a big part of Austin culture, and the culture of many cities. "Arm chair" chair chefs have begun to rival "armchair quarterbacks" as people watch the plethora of cooking shows and networks on television. So, it's no wonder that the auditorium for this forum was nearly full (there were easily two hundred people).
The speakers were Addie Broyles and Michael Chu. Addie is a food writer and blogger for the Austin American-Statesman. (Read her blog, "Relish Austin".) She talked about the ways in which technology is changing how we interact with and communicate about food. I mentioned the cooking shows. There are also hundreds of food blogs where people share restaurant experiences, dietary thoughts, nutrition discoveries and personal cooking adventures. Not so long ago there was a designated professional food critic or two who were the official voices of taste. Now, in addition to the bloggers, we have social media, Yelp and other sites where anyone and everyone can publicly share their praise and disdain for their dining experience, and restaurants can publicly respond and react. It's not just dining out that gets treatment though. People share personal recipes, techniques and nutritional ideas. People with food allergies or conditions that require special diets are able to share their discoveries for enjoying food with restrictions.
Of course, technology doesn't just bring us commentary. There are sites and apps devoted to different things that you may need to do with food. Sites like livestrong.com allow you to track your diet and learn more about the nutritional details of food you eat. (I like everything about that site except for their serious deficiency of not having an Android version of their app. They seem to be pointedly supporting everything but Android. Come on guys! Maybe you need IBM Worklight... but I digress.) There are also sites that will let you enter the food that you have and help you come up with recipes that you can make (e.g. supercook.com and myfridgefood.com). One site, eatyourbooks, will let you enter the titles of the cookbooks that you own and it will help you find recipes for available ingredients.
There is even an app which will estimate calories based on a picture of your food. It's currently only available for iPhone, but I'm sure there will be others. Very interesting stuff!
Next it was Michael Chu's turn. He is an engineer and the author of Cooking for Engineers. He was demonstrating a technique called Sous Vide, which is borrowed from a laboratory technique for accurately and evenly heating substances by using a temperature-controlled water bath. (Read Michael's introduction to the concept on his blog.) Michael was passionate about cooking and enjoys a good steak (a man after my own heart). It was clear that many of the attendees were unprepared for Michael's engineering view of cooking, but I was fascinated with how his knowledge of the process could help one predictably and consistently create the perfect 65
ºC boiled egg. Words really fail me on explaining what we got from Michael's presentation. You'll just need to wait for the video to fully appreciate what he did.
It did get me thinking about the ways in which science, engineering and food overlap. The Sous Vide process that he demonstrated is a tub filled with water. The substance that you want to heat is packaged in some sort of container (except for eggs, which have their own container). Next a heating unit will gently heat the water until it reaches a designated temperature and hold it there for as long as desired. It is not possible to overheat food in this manner because the temperature cannot go over what you've specified. However, the physics of certain foods causes them to do certain things when heated for an extended period of time. (Michael seemed especially intriguiged by the physics of the perfect egg.) Home use of this technique is pretty uncommon, but it is becoming more widely used by restaurants. They can, for example, prepare a container of steaks to a perfect medium-rare temperature and hold them there for hours. Then, when one is ordered it is seared on the grill to give it the final touch. The result would be consistently perfect steaks.
Of course, we already enjoy a number of scientific breakthroughs in our kitchen. Our basic stoves and ovens, refrigerators and such are obvious examples. Some of us still remember what it was like to cook without a microwave oven. Much of the science in food happens behind the scenes though, in the growth, preparation, and transportation of food before it gets to you. Some of this is controversial, and rightly so. We literally are what we eat. It's good to learn more about what is done with your food and what you can do yourself to keep it healthy and tasty.
Video coming soon.