stuloh Love how Boateng is 2.5 syllables long.
It’s known that language shapes the way people think, but the development of a new form of sign language in Nicaragua has allowed scientists to examine this in a more controlled way. They gave two groups of signers a spatial test. The first group were older, and had learned a less evolved version of the sign language when they were growing up which lacked some spatially-related concepts which developed in the language later on.
Pyers explains, “The first-cohort signers find these tasks challenging because they do not have the language to encode the relevant aspects of the environment that would help them solve the spatial problem.” She added, “[They] did not have a consistent linguistic means to encode ‘left of’.”
This is a fascinating result, especially since the first group of adults were older and had been signing for a longer time. It’s clear evidence that our spatial reasoning skills depend, to an extent, on consistent spatial language. If we lack the right words, our mental abilities are limited in a way that extra life experience can’t fully compensate for. Even 30 years of navigating through the world won’t do the trick. And they may never catch up, even though the language they invented has advanced – after all, some studies with American Sign Language suggest that people who learn spatial terms later on in life never master them.
stuloh It's true. iPhone 4's voice call quality sucks if you don't hold the phone in the certain ways. Bleh.
Someone has started a Facebook group to try and get lawyers addressed as doctors (because a JD stands for Juris Doctor, in the same way MD stands for Medicinæ Doctor). Here’s a tip: if you’re a lawyer and you insist on people addressing you as “Dr.” even the dentists (who have been trying to get the same appellation for years) will think you’re a tosser… unless you actually have a “real” doctorate like 99% of German lawyers seem to have. If you use “esq.” people will also think you’re a tosser. So don’t.
Interestingly, the ABA is fine with this:
Less than a year later, however, the ethics committee reversed course in light of the newly adopted ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility. Disciplinary Rule 2-102 permitted a J.D. or LL.M. (master of law[s]) recipient to use doctor with his or her name, the committee concluded in ABA Informal Opinion 1152 (1970).
stuloh Got my new iPhone. This retina display is so slick. Thankful no one nicked the box from my doorstep after it was sitting there all day.
stuloh We have a new PM.
stuloh GG Australia - see you at Brazil 2014.
stuloh US SCORES. Goal in stoppage time, they're through to the second round!
stuloh Ok, I just got an email from Apple saying my iPhone will be delivered on June 23... a day early?
stuloh Great game by the Kiwis
Atul Gawande, who Charlie Munger sent $20,000 to for an article he wrote on healthcare in the New Yorker, gave Stanford Med School’s Commencement speech this year. In it, he talked about the shift in the medical profession as the field has grown over the last century:
You come into medicine and science at a time of radical transition. You have met the older doctors and scientists who tell the pollsters that they wouldn’t choose their profession if they were given the choice all over again. But you are the generation that was wise enough to ignore them: for what you are hearing is the pain of people experiencing an utter transformation of their world. Doctors and scientists are now being asked to accept a new understanding of what great medicine requires. It is not just the focus of an individual artisan-specialist, however skilled and caring. And it is not just the discovery of a new drug or operation, however effective it may seem in an isolated trial. Great medicine requires the innovation of entire packages of care—with medicines and technologies and clinicians designed to fit together seamlessly, monitored carefully, adjusted perpetually, and shown to produce ever better service and results for people at the lowest possible cost for society.
OkGO has another video out and this time they play with time. Very cool, as usual:
“The fastest we go is 172,800x, compressing 24 hours of real time into a blazing 1/2 second. The slowest is 1/32x speed, stretching a mere 1/2 second of real time into a whopping 16 seconds. This gives us a fastest to slowest ratio of 5.5 million. If you like averages, the average speed up factor of the band dancing is 270x. In total we shot 18 hours of the band dancing and 192 hours of LA skyline timelapse – over a million frames of video – and compressed it all down to 4 minutes and 30 seconds! Oh and don’t forget, it’s one continuous camera shot.”
Incidentally, Portal 2 was just showcased at E3. And the WCC appears to be back.
Here’s the gameplay video for Portal 2.
North Korean nationals generally aren’t allowed to leave their country, and even if they could, they probably couldn’t afford the flight to South Africa. So, who cheered them on in their very respectable 2-1 loss to Brazil?
The largest contingent of North Korea fans may end up being Chinese. North Korea, allocated a block of seats for each World Cup match, has offered its tickets to sporting officials and tour agencies in neighboring China, which does not have a team at soccer’s biggest event.
The North Korean players might just have won a few more supporters because of their first game efforts.
stuloh POR vs CIV commentator: "And you know if there is contact, Ronaldo is going to go down. Any contact. Even a puff of wind."
stuloh Wow, 7 hours later and AT&T servers still can't handle the volume of iPhone preorders.
stuloh All the sports bars in downtown PA are packed! Who said Americans weren't interested in soccer?
For all the work its elaborate grading process entails, the Michelin Guide is parsimonious when reviewing restaurants, allotting its treasured stars sparingly to a select few. Eighty-one restaurants from around the world currently have the distinction of holding three stars, which the Guide merely mentions as denoting a place with “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.
Because of its location, getting to the French Laundry necessitates a special journey. It seems strange that a restaurant stuck in a rustic town called Yountville, smack in the middle of Napa Valley and two hours’ drive from most of the Bay Area managed to become what’s regarded by many to be America’s finest restaurant.
In addition to the journey, some forward planning is required, as the Laundry only takes booking up to two months in advance. Dinner bookings are usually in such demand that each day’s 60 or so seats are snapped up within minutes of the reservation line opening each morning. Lunch bookings are a little easier to come by. In March, after getting a busy signal on the phone for about an hour, I managed to get placed on the waiting lists for all three days of the Memorial Day long weekend. The next day I lucked out – it appears that someone had cancelled and a 9.15pm spot had opened up for the Friday night. It would be a late night drive back, but there wasn’t any other option.
Yountville is quaint and well manicured. As you stroll through the town in the evening, you see nice cars, diners in dressy attire that seems at odds with the casual countryside setting, and several attractive restaurants, including Bouchon (Thomas Keller’s more affordable eatery). The Laundry is situated at the end of the main drag, in an old house which has variously served as a brothel, restaurant, and an eponymous French laundry over its 100 year old lifetime.
Inside, its tables are split between two renovated floors. Although the tables are spaced tightly together, it does not feel cramped, nor do the other diners feel too close. However, it is still easy to eavesdrop on the discussions of your louder neighbours. The lighting is pleasing – soft and not dim – with a single candlelight adding some atmosphere on each table. The pleasant toilets fit one person at a time, and come with linen hand towels and the usual accoutrements.
Arriving at about 9, we were ushered upstairs to a table next to the front balcony, which overlooks a vegetable garden that the restaurant uses to grow some of its ingredients. After inquiring whether we had dined there before (none of us had), our waitress left us alone to decide on the menu while they filled our glasses up with water. (One thing I love about America is that water is always provided and it is always free – unlike a certain Sydney establishment which plied our group with water throughout the night only to present us with a $110 bill for it at the end. $110! For water!)
She returned after some time, and after reciting our selected menu top to bottom without flubbing anything, we were on our way.
There’s not much to decide on the menu. It changes every day, but there’s always a “normal” menu and a vegetarian menu. Ten courses, three of them with internal choices. There are three additional complimentary plates – two appetizers, and one pre-dessert. The first main course is a constant: the signature Oysters & Pearls, which is also the first course at Per Se.
It goes without saying that the food is top notch. As far as fine dining joints go, the menu doesn’t rely on a lot of funky ingredients or weird cooking techniques. The flavours are usually familiar, but are done super well. One of the stand out dishes was a fat, tasty scallop, cooked all the way through to perfection and slightly seared on the outside. There weren’t any weak dishes. To me, the food seemed to be noticeably better than at Per Se.
The service at this restaurant is without parallel. It was seamless and flawless. The army of waitstaff are dressed alike, including the women (I always thought that ties looked strange on women), and are drilled like an army. Periodically, a stream of four waitstaff would clomp past us to present the next course to the next table – a party of six – so that everyone would be served simultaneously.
Pacing of courses is excellent and appropriately varied. They seemed to blend in well with the tempo of table conversation.
They are super attentive. Water glasses were never empty, and when you walk away to the restrooms, they don’t just refold your napkin; they replace the entire thing. Details, details.
My mum doesn’t like cheese, so when the cheese course came around, she had a nibble at one slice, and pushed the rest to the side. When the army came to collect the plates, one of the waiters noticed the leftover cheese and immediately turned to mum with an expression on his face that looked like we just told him that the family dog had just died.
When mum told him that she didn’t like the dish, he offered to replace it with different cheeses. Another waitress in the meantime had caught wind of mum’s manifestation and materialised on the other side of her, a similar look of concern emblazoned on her face.
Mum clarified that she didn’t like cheese in general (she’s lactose intolerant), and he offered to replace the course with something entirely different. At this point, I’m not sure whether he, or mum, was more embarrassed. After assuring them things were perfectly fine and that she didn’t need the course replaced, they apologised again and moved on.
If there was anything to fault them on, it was that they were too starched and too formal. It was as if they were afraid that a sense of humour would cause them to blemish the atmosphere with an inadvertent faux pas. The next door table cracked a joke while their waitress was presenting a course and, while the table was raucous with laughter, she paused briefly and uncertainly, a nervous smile fleetingly dashing across her face, before ploughing on through the rest of her spiel as if nothing had happened.
Now, I don’t know whether it was a coincidence, or if they have superhuman hearing, but I did remark at one point in the night to my parents that they seemed to be a bit too rigid. Soon after that, our waitress started to relax a little, cracking the odd joke here and there.
By the time the mignardises/petit fours came, I was stuffed. We had all the chocolates boxed (including some really awesome choc-coated toasted macadamias), and they put them in a gift bag along with some shortbread. Unlike Per Se, where some chocolates mysteriously went missing between our table and the kitchen, the Laundry really did box everything for us. The wooden clothes peg which holds the napkin is their calling card, so diners are encouraged to take them home. They also presented us with a copy of the night’s menu in a folder which was an excellent touch (apparently Keller used to sign these personally, back in the day where he didn’t own so many restaurants). A copy of the bill was handwritten on an old-style laundry receipt tag – complete with tear off docket and string – which is also intended to serve as another memento of the meal. You’re never too old for a gift bag!
Finally, they offered us a tour of the kitchen. It was nearly 1am at that stage, and the kitchen was busy cleaning up. They actually have a large TV screen on one wall, on which they constantly stream a live video feed of Per Se, their sister restaurant in New York (it was almost 4am there and people were still cleaning up the kitchen). Although Per Se is meant to be on par with the Laundry, I would have to say that if you had to pick between the two, go to the latter.
The text underneath the TV reads: When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear; to make people happy. That’s what cooking is all about.
I recognise the oddity of a restaurant review in which only a couple of paragraphs are written about the food. But when you fork out this much dough for a meal, you’re not just paying for food – you’re paying for an experience. That’s why dinner there is at least a four hour affair. The quality of the food should be a given – but you also want to feel pampered. The French Laundry certainly gets that part right. And Michelin was spot on.
$250 per person, plus CA state tax. Happily, tips are included in that price. Coffee/tea are complimentary. Other drinks are, of course, extra. There is a dress code (coats for men), which struck me as very un-Californian.