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Sunday, February 1, 2009

British Airways to allow in-flight texting

Posted by Kent German

Go ahead, send that all-important text.

(Credit: Airbus)

British Airways announced this week that it would initiate limited cell phone use on an upcoming route between London and New York City. Voice calls will not be permitted, but passengers will be allowed to send and receive text messages and e-mails.

The airline will limit the service to twice-daily flights between London City Airport and New York's JFK that are due to start in September. The all-business class route is flown by a narrow-body Airbus A318 aircraft that must make a stop in Ireland on the westbound leg. The configuration will allow for just 32 seats.

British Airways didn't disclose pricing for the service, but we wouldn't be surprised if it was included in the price of the business-class ticket. Though avoiding the trek to Heathrow may attract busy financial titans shuttling between The City and Wall Street, the price of a ticket is not expected to be cheap.

Other airlines have experimented with in-flight cell phone use, including Ryanair, Qantas, Air France, and Emirates. Only Emirates allows voice calls onboard, but other airlines, British Airways included, say they might permit in-flight talking, depending on passenger feedback.

(Source: Daily Telegraph via PhoneSccop)

Kent German is a senior editor for cell phone reviews at CNET. When he's not testing the newest handsets on the market, he's blogging about cell phone news for Crave. In his On Call column, he answers reader questions and gives his take on the rapidly changing mobile industry. E-mail Kent.

Original here

Revealed: The 18th century guide to amputations, operations and other medical tips

A 300-year-old medical guide which provides an eye-watering insight into how operations were carried before anaesthetic was invented has been uncovered.

The pocket-sized book, which was written by French medical author Joseph Charriere in 1712, was regarded as a vital medical guide for surgeons in the 18th century.

The book, Treatise of the Operations of Surgery, sat gathering dust on a shelf in Staffordshire for years and was only re-discovered when handed into auctioneers last month.

A Treatise Of the Operations of Surgery
A Treatise Of the Operations of Surgery

The 300-year-old medical guide, which is up for auction next month, was regarded as a vital tool for surgeons in its day

One chapter gives graphic tips on what surgeons should do when amputating a leg and recommended patients bite down on a piece of wood for pain relief.

The book suggests that when operating on a leg to 'cut quick with a crooked knife before covering the stump with the remaining skin.'

And as surgeons didn't have the benefit of sophisticated medical research and MRI scans to determine how to proceed with surgery the book suggests letting the weather decide.

An extract reads: 'A favourable season for an operation is either Spring or Autumn. In the Spring, the blood is revived with greater heat whilst in the Autumn blood is calm.

'In the Winter the cold locks up the paws, hinders transpiration and the blood has not the vivacity required to animate our bodies.'

The rare guide also provided a lesson in stating the obvious, and advised that if the end of the tongue was cut off the patient would not be able to speak.

It was recently shown to an auctioneer at a book valuation day by a 70-year-old man whose grandfather had owned it in the 19th century.

The 6ins by 3ins book has been collecting dust on a shelf in the study of his home in Lichfield, Staffordshire.

It has been put up for sale at auction with a guide price of up to ?300 and is due to go under the hammer on February 19.

Surgery

Surgery, such as this operation in the 1800s, would have been extremely painful and risky without the use of anestheic

Charles Hanson, of Hansons Auctioneers, said the book provided a fascinating insight into 18th century medical knowledge.

'The book was brought in to one of our valuation days,' he said.

'A member of the public came in with these old bibles and scriptures and encyclopaedia and at the bottom of the pile was this rather interesting little book.

'Given its age, its condition is superb. The book would have proved invaluable to surgeons in its day - it would have been like a bible for them to use and refer to when operating.'

Undergoing an operation was an extremely painful and deadly experience until ether anaesthetic was discovered in 1846.

The risk of dying from infection was greatly reduced from 1867 when Joseph Lister introduced carbolic acid as an effective anti-sceptic.

The book states: 'If the wound be only in the flesh you may bathe it with brandy and cover the part with a compressed dip in a warm wine quickened with spir vini.

'If the wound is to the nervous parts you can dissolve sugar candy, camphire and myrrh in it.'

Howard Ellis, professor of surgery at the Westminster Medical School and author of A History of Surgery, said having an operation was the very last resort for a patient in the 18th century.

He said: 'Back then you would only submit to an operation if you were in agonising pain or if you had something that was going to kill you. Most people just refused to have surgery.

'Having a limb sawn off without anaesthetic is just unimaginable. The surgeon would probably have just said "stick with it, this is going to hurt", they may have had some wood to bite down on.

'And yet having gone through that awful ordeal there was then a very high risk of death from infection.

'The dates of 1846 and 1867 represented a tremendous revolution in surgery and not very much has changed since then, it is just more refined.'

Prof Ellis said it was quite common for surgeons to write about their practises and medical students and fellow surgeons used their works as text books.

Original here

How memories form, fade, and persist over time

By Elizabeth Landau

(CNN) -- What was the name of that guy with that stuff in that place with those things? Don't you remember?

Scientists have found mechanisms for how the brain creates short-term and long-term memories.

Scientists have found mechanisms for how the brain creates short-term and long-term memories.

We all suffer occasional lapses in memory. Some people suffer severe neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer's, that rob them of their ability to form memories or remember recent events.

Three new studies shed light on the way the brain forms, stores and retrieves memories. Experts say they could have implications for people with certain mental disorders.

When did it happen?

Newly born brain cells, thousands of which are generated each day, help "time stamp" memories, according to a computer simulation by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and the University of Queensland in Australia. The research was published in the journal Neuron.

These cells do not record an exact, absolute date -- such as January 28, 2009 -- but instead encode memories that occur around the same time similarly. In this way, the mind knows whether a memory happened before, after or alongside something else.

Neuroscientists believe that if the same neurons are active during two events, a memory linking the two may be formed.

For example, you might remember that, on a day a few years ago, you went to a restaurant and then went to a baseball game. Researchers think the same neurons are active during both events, which results in an association with each other when you remember them.

In fact, the same young neurons respond to everything that happens for several weeks, said two of the study's co-authors, professor Fred Gage and graduate student Brad Aimone from the Salk Institute. While associations are known to form based on sight, smell, and other senses -- you may remember last year's baseball game through the taste of a hot dog today, for example -- their computer model shows that the young brain cells also link through time.

"Even though these young cells are only a small percentage of the overall circuit, we believe that their effect may be enough to give people the sense of "this happened around the same time as" something else, Gage and Aimone wrote in an e-mail.

The findings could have promising implications for diseases that involve a neurogenesis deficit -- in other words, a lack of new brain cells being born -- which happens in conditions such as depression, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, the authors said.

A therapy that boosts the creation of neurons may alleviate some memory problems. Potential therapies include medications, a special diet or even running, since previous research has shown that running increases the creation of neurons, Aimone said.

The computer simulation showing the time-stamp effect in the study is novel and original, said Joe Manns, assistant professor of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. It also explains why, for example, you recognize your car both when it's very dirty and very clean, and why you can remember where you parked your car today even though you had a different space yesterday.

Storing in the short-term

You may remember reading this exact sentence in a few minutes, but not in a few days. That's because our brains handle both long-term memory, which enables us to recall events from the distant past, and short-term memory, also called working memory, which encompasses the most transient, fleeting memories.

Research in mice published in the February issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience found that an individual nerve cell in the front part of the brain can hold traces of memories on its own for as long as a minute, possibly even longer, said senior author Don Cooper, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

This idea, that an individual nerve cell can hold a trace memory, is also related to drug addiction, the study found. By giving cocaine to mice in the laboratory, the researchers explained why the drug impairs short term memory: Cocaine causes a buildup of dopamine, a brain chemical that decreases the individual nerve cells' ability to hold moment-to-moment information.

The study is an important contribution to the field of working memory because it shows the molecular mechanisms involved in the process, said Michael Kuhar, professor of neuropharmacology at Emory University, who was not involved with the research.

One distant but possible implication is that medication focusing on the neuron receptors investigated in this study would help someone who has serious problems with attention and executive decisions, he said.

Although the study was conducted on mice, when speaking about individual nerve cells, it's reasonable to say that an isolated mouse nerve cell is the same as a human one, Kuhar said. The two differ more markedly in complicated neural pathways and circuits, he said.

Holding for the long term

So, what about remembering things in the long run?

Research in the Journal of Neuroscience this week supports the idea that different brain structures are involved in forming short-term and long-term memories.

The authors took brain images of participants as they answered questions about events that happened in the last 30 years. The hippocampus, a brain region known to be involved in short-term memory, and related structures were most active when participants recalled recent events. Activity in these regions declined for events older than one year, and remained low for events 13 to 30 years old.

Meanwhile, as memories got older activity increased in the frontal, temporal, and parietal cortices, located on the surface of the brain, researchers found. That means these regions may serve as long-term memory storage.

This model of memory structures make sense in the context of Alzheimer's disease, said study co-author Larry Squire, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. Alzheimer's patients often have trouble forming short-term memories, but less difficulty recalling older memories.

"It helps us understand that Alzheimer's disease begins with memory problems because the very same structures we're talking about here [the hippocampus and related structures] are the ones affected in the disease," he said.

Original here

Student on a Caribbean holiday dies from leukaemia she didn't know she had

By Daily Mail Reporter

A boyfriend today told of his grief after his student girlfriend died on a Caribbean holiday two days after complaining of a headache.

Gemma Battersby, 26, had been on holiday with Gavin de Souza when she succumbed to an aggressive form of leukaemia she knew nothing about.

The newly qualified physiotherapist, who had graduated from a London college, had been kayaking on the day she went to hospital with a severe headache that quickly led to unconsciousness.

Gemma Battersby

Sudden illness: Gemma Battersby had been kayaking with her boyfriend Gavin de Souza in the Caribbean before she fell ill

Her mother Barbara flew out to be with her daughter but was unable to speak to her again and she died hours later.

Mr de Souza, 32, a personal trainer, is originally from Trinidad and Miss Battersby had gone there with him to meet his family.

She had gained a first-class honours degree in PE and sports science from Exeter University and had just completed a physiotherapy masters degree at King's College, London.

Gemma Battersby

Devastated: The 26-year-old had just gained a master degree in physiotherapy and was due to start her first job in Poole, Dorset

Her devastated mother and sister Victoria collected the certificate in their daughter's honour on graduation day last week.

Mrs Battersby said afterwards: 'It was probably the hardest thing I've had to do, but they gave Gemma a standing ovation.

'I know she was my daughter, but she was just amazing. She did everything and was so independent. She wanted so much out of life.'

Gemma and Gavin flew to the Caribbean last month and she died on Christmas Eve.

On Gemma's Facebook site Mr de Souza has posted a poignant photo of the happy couple on the kayaking trip on the day she went into hospital.

He has written underneath it: 'This is Sunday morning. We went kayaking for about an hr. The same day she went into hospital. She was so happy.'

He added on her profile page on the social networking site: 'I spent the last year or so doing everything with you and now everything I do is with you in my thoughts.'

Miss Battersby had secured her first job as a physiotherapist in Poole, Dorset, which she was about to start.

Hundreds of mourners packed into her local church in her home town of Bournemouth for her funeral and her Facebook site has dozens of tributes to her.

Original here

Make Your Own Scientific Super Bowl Snacks

By Brandon Keim


The problem with Super Bowl snacks is that they're boring. It's time for something new.

On Sunday, most of America will gorge on typical salty, fatty and totally unhealthy foods: buffalo wings, nachos, pizza. And that's just fine. The Super Bowl is all but an official federal holiday, and holiday feasts aren't supposed to scrupulous. But they should be scrumptious.

Wired Science asked leading molecular gastronomists for their own preferred finger foods recipes. Inspired by the experimental spirit of science, they've come up with new variations on old standbys, from Wylie Dufresne's pizza pebbles to Homaro Cantu's olive dipping chips.

"With the vanishing of preconceptions over recent years of what we can do in the kitchen in regards to taste, technique and technology, food is becoming much more influenced by science," said chef Kevin Sousa, designer of the puffed sauerkraut pictured above. "Every time an advance is made with an ingredient or piece of equipment, that advance inspires countless chefs to push themselves to create a dish that is equally ambitious."


Wylie Dufresne: Pizza Pebbles

Dufresnepebbles_2PIZZA PEBBLES

Ingredients: 105 grams toast powder • 30 grams tomato powder • 45 grams parmesan powder • 45 grams buttermilk powder • 67.5 grams garlic confit oil

Procedure: Mix the toast, tomato, parmesan and buttermilk powder together in a bowl. Drizzle in the garlic confit oil (see recipe below). Mix well until it resembles wet sand. Form into small spheres about the size of a dime in diameter and reserve. When rolling is complete, place in sauté pan over medium heat and swirl pan continuously until spheres begin to form smooth “pebbles”. Pour onto a tray, let cool and serve.

Note: Dufresne purchases his powders here — but in the grand spirit of kitchen tinkering, it shouldn't be too hard to make your own.

GARLIC CONFIT OIL

Ingredients: 285 grams garlic clove, peeled • 445 grams grapeseed oil

Procedure: Combine ingredients and heat gently until garlic is tender. Puree with a pinch of salt.


Homaro Cantu: Greek Chips & Dip

OLIVE CHIPS

Ingredients: 100g tapioca starch (this can be purchased from most asian markets) • 100g kalamata olives, do not use oil cured olives as they will not work properly (including juice)

Procedure: Puree olives with juice in a food processor. Fold in tapioca starch until it forms a workable ball of dough. Place the dough in between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and roll out to 1/8th inch thickness. Steam until opaque. Allow to cool and cut into strips that are 1 inch by 2 inches. Dry overnight on a metal rack, they should look like shriveled purple leather.

Fry in 400 degrees Fahrenheit oil to puff up and allow to cool, they will more than triple in size.

FETA-PARSLEY PUREE

Ingredients: ¼ bunch parsley, leaves only • Boiling salted water for blanching • Ice water for shocking parsley • 200 grams feta cheese • 30 grams whole milk • Kosher salt to taste

Procedure: Blanch parsley in boiling salted water for 30 seconds and quickly shock in ice water. Place parsley, feta and milk into a blender and blend until it reaches a smooth and silky consistency. Season with salt to taste. The puree should be bright green.

To plate: Spread a small amount on chips and serve immediately.


Kevin Sousa: Puffed Sauerkraut

Souzasauerkraut2_2PUFFED SAUERKRAUT

Ingredients: 220 grams prepared sauerkraut • 200 grams small tapioca pearls, coarse ground in spice mill • 40 grams sauerkraut juice • Salt to taste

Procedure: Puree all ingredients in food processor until a dough forms. Roll in between two sheets of plastic wrap, steam for ten minutes over on the underside of a pan inverted over a steam bath covered tightly. When cool, remove plastic wrap and dry in 180 degrees Fahrenheit. oven until completely dry and brittle. Break in desired sized pieces and deep fry at 350 degrees until crisp and puffed to about three times original size. Season and reserve.

POTATO-CHEDDAR CHEESE DIP

Ingredients: 228 grams Idaho potato (approximately one potato) • 100 grams aged cheddar cheese • 80 grams warm chicken stock • 18 grams microplaned garlic • 9 grams ultratex 3 • Salt and black pepper to taste

Procedure: Peel and quarter one large Idaho potato, place in vacuum bag and Cryovac. Cook sous vide at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours. Place hot potato in food processor with blades at high speed. Add cheddar, garlic and two thirds chicken stock. Add ultratex and adjust consistency (it should be that of slightly loose cream cheese). Season with salt and black pepper, cool, and place in a squeeze bottle with an 1/8" opening. Reserve.

EAST END BIG HOP BRATWURST PUREE

Ingredients: 230 grams bratwurst (removed from casing) • 200 grams caramelized red onion, cooled • 1 liter plus East End Big Hop beer (substitute brew of your choice) • 3 sheets gelatin (bloomed in cold water) • 3 grams agar agar • Salt and black pepper to taste

Procedure: In medium saucepan, bring half of beer to a boil, add bratwurst and reduce heat, reduce liquid by half, add caramelized red onion and cook for an additional five minutes. Transfer to blender and blend on high until smooth adjusting consistency with more beer if necessary, reserve.

Place other half liter of beer in a small saucepan and add agar agar, puree with immersion blender and place over medium heat while constantly whisking, bring to a simmer and add bloomed gelatin (squeezed of excess water). Return to a simmer and turn off heat. Combine bratwurst mixture and agar mixture in high speed blender and puree until smooth and creamy, push through a tamis or fine mesh screen, season and cool. Pipe mixture into a squeeze bottle with a pastry bag.

BRAISED MUSTARD SEEDS

Ingredients: 50 grams yellow mustard seeds • 1 liter water • 20 grams apple cider vinegar • 10 grams spicy mustard • 40 grams grapeseed oil • Salt to taste

Procedure: In small saucepan, combine mustard seeds and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, and cook until seeds are soft and liquid is semi-gelatinous. Cool to room temperature. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard and grapeseed oil. Dress seeds and season. Cool completely and reserve.

CREME FRAICHE PUDDING

Ingredients: 200 grams crème fraiche • 4 grams ultratex 3 • 1 gram locust bean gum • Salt to taste

Procedure: In a high speed blender, puree all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Strain through a chinoise and place in a squeeze bottle. Cool.

To Plate: Place sauerkraut puff in center of plate. In a long smooth motion squeeze potato cheddar dip in one strip over the puff. Squeeze five dollops of the bratwurst beer puree randomly in close proximity to the puff. Spoon the mustard seeds on to the puff, using them according to your tastes; drizzle the crème fraiche over the puff and finish with baby caraway leaves.


Marc Lepine & Michael Holland: Beer Ice Cream with Pretzel Crust and Dipping Sauces

LepinebeerBEER ICE CREAM

Ingredients: 460 grams 35% cream • 165 grams sugar • 6 egg yolks • 400 mL beer • 100 grams honey • 100ml beer • 100 grams pretzels

Directions: Place sugar and yolks in bowl and 35% cream in pot. Bring cream to a boil and slowly temper yolk mixture. Place back on heat and cook to anglaise stage, coating back of spatula. Cool down immediately in ice bath. Place ice cream mix and beer in a mixer with paddle attachment (a whisk and bowl works, too.) On low speed, gradually add liquid nitrogen ½ cup at a time until mixture is frozen and becomes thick enough to pipe. (Note: If you can't get liquid nitrogen, an ice cream maker will do.)

With a plain round piping tip, pipe lines on frozen steel tray. Leave there until ready to bread ice cream.

For breading, take some honey and small amount of beer and mix until smooth and slightly thicker than water. Place pretzels in blender and blend until fine, sifting out powder. Place pretzels in bowl.

Take frozen beer ice cream off the tray, one at a time, and dip into honey•beer mixture completely coating it, then placing into bowl of crushed pretzels. Using your hands, squeeze crushed pretzels into ice cream tightly to ensure it sticks. Place immediately into freezer for 6 hours.

MUSTARD SABAYON

Ingredients: 125 mL water • 50 grams Dijon mustard • 20 grams grainy mustard • 45 grams honey • 8 egg yolks

Place all ingredients in a bowl. Cook at 175 degrees for 6-8 minutes, then blend thoroughly in a mixer. Cool immediately in ice bath, and keep in covered container in fridge.

BLUE CHEESE WHIZ

Ingredients: 200 grams blue cheese • 200 mL milk • 2.8 grams sodium citrate • 250 grams cream cheese

Procedure: Place blue cheese, milk and sodium citrate in pot. Heat until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth. Cool mixture in fridge. Take cream cheese and blend in mixer with paddle attachment (or with a whisk and bowl) until smooth. Slowly add blue cheese mixture to cream cheese, blending until smooth. Place in fridge 3-4 before using to set cheese mixture.

WHIPPED FRANK'S HOT SAUCE

Ingredients: 150 grams egg whites • 300 grams sugar • 125 grams Frank’s Hot Sauce • 50 grams water

Directions: Combine sugar, Frank’s hot sauce, and water in pot. Bring to boil and cook to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Slowly whip egg whites to stiff peak timing it with the temperature of the boiled syrup. Once syrup reaches 350 degrees, slowly pour into egg whites and continue whipping until mixture thickens and cools down. Place in piping bag and keep in fridge until ready to use.

To plate: Spread blue cheese whiz onto plate with offset spatula. Pipe a rosette of whipped Frank’s hot sauce, and place a spoonful of mustard sabayon. Place Beer Pretzel next to dipping sauces.


Will Goldfarb & Jennifer Leuzzi: "Dry" Olive Oil Popcorn

Willolive OLIVE OIL POWDER

Ingredients: 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) extra virgin Olive Oil • 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces) tapioca maltodextrin

Procedure: In a bowl, pour the olive oil in a slow thin stream into the tapioca maltodextrin while whisking. Whisk until well blended, but still dry and coarse.
Place a tamis or fine mesh strainer over a mixing bowl. Using a spatula, press a ¼ of the mixture through a tamis or fine mesh strainer. Repeat.
Store powder in an air-tight container for up to one month.

To plate: Sprinkle it on popcorn, salads, pizza, toast, pasta. It will become your favorite condiment. (For popcorn, add 2 tablespoons powder per 1 cup of popped corn.)

Recipe Variation: You can use other oils for this recipe. But as oils have different consistencies, test a small quantity first using the 3:1 ratio to see how it works. If it's too runny add more tapioca maltodextrin.

Image: Emilie Baltz


Hookah Richard Blais: The Aroma Dome

Grab your Smoking Gun. Or your hookah. Or that tube-like apparatus from college.

Fill with spices or hickory chips.

Find a big glass bowl. Serve your food under the inverted bowl.

Fire up the smoker; place the tube under the dome to capture the smoke.

When serving, remove the dome and — voilà! — the smokey flavor swirling underneath hits the guests.

Original here

Take a peek at the foods you could find at West Michigan Whitecaps games in spring

Posted by Jaye Beeler



New foods being considered for concessions at West Michigan Whitecaps baseball games at Fifth Third Ballpark.

The Fifth Third burger, a monstrosity of five beef patties weighing five-thirds of a pound, dressed with sliced Spam, sausage gravy, fried eggs and a gigantic pickle, looked like a cartoonist's dish in a Dr. Seuss book.

At the West Michigan Whitecaps' private food fair Tuesday at Gordon Food Service headquarters, 333 50th Street SW, the outlandish and preposterous mingled with the fun and fantastic. Bite-size pretzel poppers, miniature chicken sliders on a pretzel bun, funnel cake fries, chocolate-dipped frozen bananas and walking chicken teriyaki jostled for attention, looking to find their way into the concession stands at Fifth Third Ballpark.

It all depends on whether it hit a home run with the taste buds of the front-office workers from the Whitecaps and GFS, which provided a panoply of treats by a number of vendors hoping to introduce items to the concession menus. The sports folks sampled the tidbits, took notes and kept score. Back at their home base, the staff, under the direction of Matt Timon, the Whitecaps' director of food and beverages will revamp the menu, keeping the vast majority of favorites from past seasons and deciding which new items to introduce.

"We're trying to figure out what's out there and can it fit into the ballpark," Timon said. "We're always looking for things people can't get everywhere and want to go out to the ballpark to get that giant burger and funnel cake fries."


The ballpark dishes up more than 100 food items, including the swimming pig sandwich (barbecue, boneless pork loin). The park will discontinue low earners, adding a dozen new choices for the April 9 season opener.

The delicious options sprawled all about the GFS main office. Kevin VanderMeer, executive chef at Michaels and Associates, a food-service brokerage in Kentwood, showed off a Chicago dog cart loaded with mustard, "nuclear relish," chopped onions, sliced cucumbers, chopped tomatoes and pickled sport peppers.

"Chicago dogs -- all-beef hot dog on a poppyseed bun -- never has ketchup. It's taboo," VanderMeer said. "We're also offering Italian sausage, smoked hot dogs with smoked mustard and a meatball grinder. Everything on this cart is stuff you can find in Chicago. Oh, you have to top it off with a dash of celery salt. It's the Chicago way."

Nearby Gordy Mouw, GFS center of the plate specialist, stood ready to carve a hunk of smoked bologna.

"Actually, I'm calling this my hot dog carving station," Mouw said. "We took a large 6-pound bologna and put it on the smoker. In all seriousness a fried or grilled bologna sandwich is a very '60s, '70s thing. A fried bologna sandwich with some onions is kind of old school. This is still in the conceptual stage but with the economy a little tough, people might like the savings."

Not many could resist the root beer ice cream, corn roasters and deep-fried pineapple dipped in waffle cone batter served with a side of caramel.

"The deep-fried pineapple kind of tastes like a pineapple danish," said GFS chef Jeff Applehof. "It's a big surprise when you taste it. We call those flavor bombs, something that will bring a big smile to your face when you try it."

Original here

Take Bacon. Add Sausage. Blog.

Don Ipock for The New York Times

The Bacon Explosion is a rolled concoction that can be baked or cooked in a smoker. More Photos >

By DAMON DARLIN

FOR a nation seeking unity, a recipe has swept the Internet that seems to unite conservatives and liberals, gun owners and foodies, carnivores and ... well, not vegetarians and health fanatics.

Certainly not the vegetarians and health fanatics.

This recipe is the Bacon Explosion, modestly called by its inventors “the BBQ Sausage Recipe of all Recipes.” The instructions for constructing this massive torpedo-shaped amalgamation of two pounds of bacon woven through and around two pounds of sausage and slathered in barbecue sauce first appeared last month on the Web site of a team of Kansas City competition barbecuers. They say a diverse collection of well over 16,000 Web sites have linked to the recipe, celebrating, or sometimes scolding, its excessiveness. A fresh audience could be ready to discover it on Super Bowl Sunday.

Where once homegrown recipes were disseminated in Ann Landers columns or Junior League cookbooks, new media have changed — and greatly accelerated — the path to popularity. Few recipes have cruised down this path as fast or as far as the Bacon Explosion, and this turns out to be no accident. One of its inventors works as an Internet marketer, and had a sophisticated understanding of how the latest tools of promotion could be applied to a four-pound roll of pork.

The Bacon Explosion was born shortly before Christmas in Roeland Park, Kan., in Jason Day’s kitchen. He and Aaron Chronister, who anchor a barbecue team called Burnt Finger BBQ, were discussing a challenge from a bacon lover they received on their Twitter text-messaging service: What could the barbecuers do with bacon?

At the same time, Mr. Chronister wanted to get attention for their Web site, BBQAddicts.com. More traffic would bring in more advertising income, which they needed to fund a hobby that can cost thousands of dollars.

Mr. Day, a systems administrator who has been barbecuing since college, suggested doing something with a pile of sausage. “It’s a variation of what’s called a fattie in the barbecue community,” Mr. Day said. “But we took it to the extreme.”

He bought about $20 worth of bacon and Italian sausage from a local meat market. As it lay on the counter, he thought of weaving strips of raw bacon into a mat. The two spackled the bacon mat with a layer of sausage, covered that with a crunchy layer of cooked bacon, and rolled it up tight.

They then stuck the roll — containing at least 5,000 calories and 500 grams of fat — in the Good-One Open Range backyard smoker that they use for practice. (In competitions, they use a custom-built smoker designed by the third member of the team, Bryant Gish, who was not present at the creation of the Bacon Explosion.)

Mr. Day said his wife laughed the whole time. “She’s very supportive of my hobby,” he said.

The two men posted their adventure on their Web site two days before Christmas. On Christmas Day, traffic on the site spiked to more than 27,000 visitors.

Mr. Chronister explained that the Bacon Explosion “got so much traction on the Web because it seems so over the top.” But Mr. Chronister, an Internet marketer from Kansas City, Mo., did what he could to help it along. He first used Twitter to send short text messages about the recipe to his 1,200 Twitter followers, many of them fellow Internet marketers with extensive social networks. He also posted links on social networking sites. “I used a lot of my connections to get it out there and to push it,” he said.

The Bacon Explosion posting has since been viewed about 390,000 times. It first found a following among barbecue fans, but quickly spread to sites run by outdoor enthusiasts, off-roaders and hunters. (Several proposed venison-sausage versions.) It also got mentions on the Web site of Air America, the liberal radio network, and National Review, the conservative magazine. Jonah Goldberg at NationalReview.com wrote, “There must be a reason one reader after another sends me this every couple hours.” Conservatives4palin.com linked, too.

So did regular people. A man from Wooster, Ohio, wrote that friends had served it at a bon voyage party before his 10-day trip to Israel, where he expected bacon to be in short supply. “It wasn’t planned as a send-off for me to Israel, but with all of the pork involved it sure seemed like it,” he wrote.

About 30 people sent in pictures of their Explosions. One sent a video of the log catching fire on a grill.

Mr. Day said that whether it is cooked in an oven or in a smoker, the rendered fat from the bacon keeps the sausage juicy. But in the smoker, he said, the smoke heightens the flavor of the meats.

Nick Pummell, a barbecue hobbyist in Las Vegas, learned of the recipe from Mr. Chronister’s Twittering. He made his first Explosion on Christmas Day, when he and a group of friends also had a more traditional turkey. “This was kind of the dessert part,” he said. “You need to call 911 after you are done. It was awesome.”

Mr. Chronister said the main propellant behind the Bacon Explosion’s spread was a Web service called StumbleUpon, which steers Web users toward content they are likely to find interesting. Readers tell the service about their professional interests or hobbies, and it serves up sites to match them. More than 7 million people worldwide use the service in an attempt to duplicate serendipity, the company says.

Mr. Chronister intended to send the post to StumbleUpon, but one of his readers beat him to it. It appeared on the front page of StumbleUpon for three days, which further increased traffic.

Mr. Chronister also littered his site with icons for Digg, Del.icio.us and other sites in which readers vote on posts or Web pages they like, helping to spread the word. “Alright this is going on Digg,” a commenter wrote minutes after the Explosion was posted. “Already there,” someone else answered.

Some have claimed that the Bacon Explosion is derivative. A writer known as the Headless Blogger posted a similar roll of sausage and bacon in mid-December. Mr. Chronister and Mr. Day do not claim to have invented the concept.

But they do vigorously defend their method. When one commenter dared to suggest that the two hours in the smoker could be slashed to a mere 30 minutes if the roll was first cooked in a microwave oven, Mr. Chronister snapped back. “Microwave??? Seriously? First, the proteins in the meats will bind around 140 degrees, so putting it on the smoker after that is pointless as it won’t absorb any smoke flavor,” he responded on his site. “This requires patience and some attention. It’s not McDonald’s.”

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Scientists Find a Latte Health Benefits from Drinking Coffee

Although coffee gets a bad rap, it’s actually a medicinal food. In fact, this stimulating bean isn’t nearly so bad as we’ve all been taught. Although I’m skeptical about grande latte supplementation in the long run (it’s a drug, after all), I found myself surprised by much of the science on coffee. Poor Ponce de Leon; all this time he should have been searching for the espresso machine.

Step aside, acai. Here are 20 surprising health benefits of coffee.

Apparently, coffee and alcohol really do go together. Believe it or not, alcohol drinkers who also drink coffee regularly have a lower chance of developing cirrhosis of the liver. That’s not to say it’s a healthy lifestyle - obviously, lowering your alcohol consumption is better. But…science says…

Caffeine reduces risk of skin cancer. Sorry, venti quaffers, this prevention method is topical. Lotions containing caffeine (both from coffee and green tea) have been shown to prevent the occurrence of cancerous tumors on the skin - in murine trials, anyway.

Have a smile with your morning brew! If you’re a caffephile, you don’t need this Johns Hopkins study to tell you that a cup or two a day increases your sense of well-being and happiness. You can thank dopamine for that, which also contributes to coffee’s addictive nature. But be aware, the study also noted that more than 2 cups daily increases the risk of anxiety and panic attacks. Some people respond more readily than others - if you find yourself feeling jittery or nervous, ease up on the joe.

Caffeine may reduce chance of Parkinson’s Disease. A 30-year study has shown that non-coffee drinkers have a higher chance of developing Parkinson’s Disease than their coffee-drinking counterparts.

Most Americans get their antioxidants from coffee. That doesn’t mean it’s the best source of antioxidants, just that it’s the most consumed. But, it’s true, coffee is very high in antioxidants. As for me, I’ll stick to fruit.

Black gold. After petroleum, coffee is the second most valuable economic product in the world. Imagine the financial potential of running our cars on coffee grounds.

Coffee may cut colon cancer in women. A 12-year study on Japanese women found that drinking 3 or more cups of coffee per day may actually halve the risk of developing colon cancer. They found no beneficial effect from green tea on the colon - in this case, it was strictly a coffee thing.

Coffee and diabetes, that’s a tricky one. Even though a Finnish study shows that drinking large amounts of coffee can reduce the risk of developing Type-2 Diabetes, coffee drinkers who already have diabetes have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels.

Coffee reduces muscle pain. After a hard workout, a cup or two of coffee has been shown to reduce muscle soreness (in women, anyway) more effectively than naproxen, aspirin and ibuprofen. (But don’t replace your water thermos with coffee.)

Coffee will detox your liver in surprising ways. This remedy is not one for drinking: we’re talking about the coffee enema. Some people swear by it - using a tube to introduce coffee into the rectum and colon in order to stimulate the liver to remove toxins. Definitely not for the squeamish.

Coffee may reduce chance of death from heart disease. Studies show that drinking 4-5 cups of coffee a day can make you less likely to die from heart disease. The researchers think it may have something to do with coffee’s anti-inflammatory effects.

The devil is in the grounds. When coffee, which originated in Ethiopia and became popular in the Arab world, was first introduced to Western culture, Christian priests denounced it as the devil’s drink, given to the Muslims as a substitute for the wine (Christ’s blood) they weren’t allowed to consume. The belief at the time was that any coffee-drinking Christian risked burning in hell forever. Hooray, progress!

Coffee may help with short term memory. It’s probably because of caffeine’s stimulant effects, but an Austrian study showed that volunteers given caffeinated coffee had better reaction times and short-term memory function than those who were given the cup of decaf.

For women, caffeine may prevent long term memory loss. Because caffeine is a psychostimulant, older women who drink 3 or more cups of coffee or tea a day have less memory loss and cognitive decline than their counterparts who drink less or none. Unfortunately, caffeine consumption doesn’t seem to have any preventative effect against dementia.

Caffeine won’t cause hypertension. Some of the studies can be contradictory and confusing. What we do know is that for non-habitual coffee drinkers, those first few cups will cause a temporary rise in blood pressure, but for regular drinkers, a tolerance develops and won’t cause any long term, permanent increase.

The injustice of cheap coffee. No, it’s not just an injustice to your connoisseur taste buds; conventional coffee farming exploits workers and destroys communities in third world countries. On average, 5% of the profits actually make it back to the farmers, who are hungry, underpaid and treated badly. Why do they work on coffee plantations at all? Because in many cases, the plantations own the most fertile land (which was most often acquired unscrupulously) and the local people won’t survive from subsistence farming alone. How can you avoid supporting the cycle of poverty, corruption and injustice? Only buy Fair Trade certified coffee.

Pesticides in your brew. Because almost all coffee is grown in third world countries with less stringent laws than Europe or the United States, your non-organic cuppa is probably laden with chemicals. That’s not just bad for you, it’s bad for the farmers and the tropical ecosystems in which the coffee is grown. Go organic, will ya?

Pick your poison - literally. Caffeine is an alkaloid, which is a type of poisonous, bitter substance found in plants. Other alkaloids include strychnine, nicotine, morphine, mescaline, and emetine (the deadly ingredient in hemlock). Fortunately, in small quantities the bean is harmless, but it’s worth thinking about if you choose to use other drugs (both pharmaceutical and recreational).

The FDA has approved caffeine for babies. This doesn’t mean you can wake up your sleepy infant with a bottle of latte. Caffeine injections have been used medicinally since 1999 in the United States to stimulate breathing in infants who are experiencing apnea. It’s still recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women keep their caffeine intake to a minimum, but a modest amount is safe.

Coffee can fight cavities. Just avoid all the sugar and milk! Actually, roasted coffee has some antibacterial properties, particularly against Streptococcus mutans, one of the major causes of cavities. By the way, these properties have nothing to do with caffeine, so decaf drinkers will get the same protection.

Despite the positive health studies, it’s best not to intentionally pick up the caffeine habit if you’re not already a regular coffee drinker. Even though some of the studies suggest drinking 3 or more daily cups to get the benefits, everyone is different. If it makes you jittery and sick to your stomach, stick to a milder pick-me-up like green tea or yerba mate. But if that morning cup makes you feel awake, alive and eager to greet the day, you might as well indulge (in moderation) in the world’s most well-loved drink.

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5 Tips for Buying a Home During a Recession

By Luke Mullins

What you need to know about purchasing real estate in 2009

In the wake of a historic housing bust and a bone-chilling credit squeeze, the American economy is grinding to a halt. The National Bureau of Economic Research reported that the U.S. economy has been mired in a recession since December 2007. And as more bad news-such as mounting job losses-continues to pile up, the chances for a quick turnaround seem increasingly dim." The current downturn is well on its way to becoming the longest in the past six decades," Nariman Behravesh, the chief economist at IHS Global Insight, wrote in a report. But for would-be home buyers, 2009's economic pain could be a great opportunity to get into the market. After all, home prices at the national level have dropped more than 20 percent from their 2006 peaks, while mortgage rates have plummeted. Still, buying real estate during an economic recession presents some serious risks. Here are five things to consider before you purchase a home this year:

1. Make sure your financial house is in order: One of the biggest risks of buying a home during a recession is that you could lose your job after closing the deal. With that in mind, anyone who is considering purchasing a home this year should do so only if they have solid job security. In addition, banks have been raising their lending standards in the face of increased delinquencies. That means in order to get the best mortgage rates, most would-be home buyers will need solid credit, a decent down payment, and documented income verification, says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH Associates. "Mortgage money is available," he says. "In order to have access to the financing, however, you are going to have to align yourself more closely with the new, more prudent lending standards." So, if you're uncertain about your job security, or if you can't meet the credit requirements, you should probably hold off on buying a home until the economic outlook improves.

2. Buy a home, not an investment: A lot of people were hurt in the housing bust because they bought houses as short-term investments. With the market expected to decline further this year, 2009 won't be a good time to get back into real-estate flipping. "Don't buy a house because it's cheap, buy a house because you want to live in it," says Kenneth Rosen, chairman of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California-Berkeley. Home shoppers should only purchase a home this year if they plan to live in it for at least three to five years, says Mike Larson, a real estate analyst at Weiss Research. "The real risk is that prices continue to deflate, so do you want to get in front of that bus?" Larson says. "[Don't buy a home this year] unless you are planning on staying for the very long term."

3. Be conservative: Given the gloomy economic outlook, 2009 isn't a good year to stretch your finances. If you do decide to buy a home, make sure it's a place you can conservatively afford. Rosen says a buyer's monthly housing payment shouldn't exceed 35 percent of their gross monthly household income. And given how low interest rates are these days, buyers should target a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, he says. "Make sure you can make those payments comfortably," Rosen says. "You don't want to have to struggle."

4. Get those concessions: With so many homes on the market, would-be buyers will have a great deal of leverage this year. Don't be shy about using it: low-ball the listing price or ask if the seller will chip in for closing costs. You might even ask about a decorating allowance. "[Sellers are] throwing in lots of extra stuff to put transactions together," says Ron Phipps of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. "The rule of thumb is ask for anything." In a market like this, you might be surprised by what sellers will agree to. Just don't go overboard-angering the seller with overly aggressive demands could end up torpedoing the deal.

5. Check out foreclosures: While the foreclosure epidemic has caused tremendous pain for many Americans, it has created some great deals for would-be buyers. "[It's] a once-in-a-generation opportunity for many people," says Steve Dexter, a foreclosure expert and author of the forthcoming book, Buy and Hold Forever-Building Real Estate Wealth Far Into the 21st Century. Because such properties can often be found at sharp discounts, anyone looking to buy a home this year would be wise to check out the inventory in their market. But foreclosed home buying can present unique challenges-legal and otherwise-that are often best handled by someone with experience. So, unless you are a veteran real-estate investor, you're probably better off having a professional with experience in the foreclosure market assist you.

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Fastest Bentley GT Ever to Run on Biofuel… and You Want One!

SSC to Launch World’s Most Powerful Electric Car in 2009

LP640 vs. ZR1


By Paul Horrell

For the Italians in this duel, it's like a night at the opera. All the showiness and drama of La Scala. Huge cast, elaborate costumes, deep lungs, music by Puccini or Verdi. For the Americans, it's the straightforwardness of a four-piece guitar band. Maybe The Killers. (Or are The Killers a bad choice of analogy? "Are we human or are we dancer?" not so very straightforward, really. "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier," huh? It was reimagined by Bill Bailey as, "I've got ham but I'm not a hamster." Anyway, I digress.)

The Murciélago LP640 and Corvette ZR1 couldn't be more different. To their fans, both hold an extraordinary power to captivate and move. Both camps find the other a bit pointless.

Pointless? How in the blue blazes can any 200-mph car be pointless? For the Corvette crowd, it's the attention-seeking cantankerousness of the Lambo that undermines it. Their beloved American idol is so easy to live with, you can use it all the time. That way, you can enjoy its pulverizing acceleration and face-bending cornering whenever the opportunity presents itself. From the Corvette side of the fence, the Murciélago is such a demanding luvvy that you might just be tempted to leave the thing at home.

But to fans of the Lamborghini, that's the entire point of a Murciélago. Yes, it asks an awful lot of you, and yes, it makes a savage impression wherever it goes. It is a rolling event, a special-occasion car, and you should feel privileged to be a part of the whole hysterical performance. If you can't stand the heat, get out of la cucina.

Of course, the Murciélago LP640 and the Corvette ZR1 do have something in common, and that's the reason we've brought them together: their huge power and hallucinatory speed. Let's get those astonishing figures out of the way, just to establish their bona fides. Lambo: 632 hp, 0-62 in 3.4 seconds, 210 mph. ZR1: 647 hp, 0-62 in 3.5 seconds, 205 mph. Not so very far apart, eh?

But look at the differences. The Lambo has a mid-mounted normally aspirated V12, four-wheel drive and a flappy paddle transmission. The Corvette has a front-engine supercharged V8 driving the rear wheels. It might be slower away from rest while its 335-section tires spin like Catherine wheels, but real-world acceleration is a different matter because it's some 330 pounds lighter than the Lambo.

Mind you, none of those technical differences goes even one percent of the way to illustrating the real difference between these two cars. They just don't begin to explain the straightforwardness and sheer pragmatic approachability of the Corvette, or the outrageously demanding and domineering nature of the Lamborghini.

Just to climb into the Lambo is a palaver. The door swings up, you drop down into the strange skeletal seat, you pull down the door and the seat belt comes down from your inboard shoulder. The steering wheel is somewhere between your knees, your head bumps against the top of the door, you can't see to reverse unless you've specified the optional $3,700 rear-view cam. Basically, Lambo made space for the engine and transmission and wheels, styled a bizarrely dramatic shape to drape over them, and then chiseled out a small and inconvenient space for the person who's paying for it all and his or her probably slightly terrified companion.

The Corvette is, well, a car. Open the door, sit inside. Everything's where you'd expect it to be, including your luggage, which simply goes in through the hatchback. You can see out. You can understand it all. The ride's not too punishing, and at normal speeds it isn't too noisy. The gearbox is slow, but none of the controls are heavy. The ZR1 is a ridiculously easy car to use in the ho-hum of everyday driving. The Lambo is anything but. It sets you on edge, what with its slightly bolshie e-gear transmission and colossal width and minimal ground clearance and ear-bleeding noise.

If you have the exuberance to match its limitless craziness, the Murciélago is a source of wonder that never dims. If you simply want to nip around the corner and park without drawing a crowd, it's an embarrassment. As you maneuver into place, all fizzing V12 tailpipe racket and smell of burning clutch, then open the scissor door and stumble inelegantly out, a hundred pairs of eyes are questioning your reproductive endowment and wondering if you're in the grip of a compensatory imperative.

The ZR1's great trick is in managing to be so outrageously fast and such an inspired drive that it calls into question the drama of the Murciélago. If a car can go as hard as this easygoing ZR1, why on earth does the Lambo need to be so intimidating? The Corvette poses a nagging question about the Murciélago: at the center of this Italian bluster, is there a hollow, false heart?

No. Categorically, there is not. The Lambo absolutely has the trousers to match its mouth. The engine, for a start, isn't just about shattering performance or an utterly captivating Richter-8 soundquake. It's also instantly responsive. But you do have to be paying attention: The power builds with every extra rev, especially beyond 5,000, and so the max power arrives at 8,000, the exact instant the rev limiter cuts in. So to get the best out of it, you have to be right on the case with your gear-change timing.

Whatever. You're sure to be traveling at some hectic sort of pace when you start to explore the cornering. And here the Murciélago sends you a surprise parcel. It isn't half as scary as you'd think. Provided you can see where the road goes (the a-pillars get in the way) and you have enough tarmac (the rear end is disproportionately wider than the front), you'll be OK.

Its steering is just sublime: You can pour the Murciélago into corners and commune intimately with the front tire treads, sensing exactly how much grip they can call on. It begins with gentle understeer, but you've always got the power to settle things. Don't delude yourself, though — this is not a car you ever slide. Step beyond its comfort zone and it will turn as scary as it looks. Live within it, and there's the balance and feel of a sort of Impreza squared.

The sheer force of the Murciélago's acceleration and braking and cornering grip, and the subtler sensory array of noise and steering feel, make for an experience that takes everything we love about cars and goes beyond it. Truly, a supercar.

Can the Corvette answer all this? Oh, yes. But it's more traditional. And when you're really pushing on, it's actually got the trickier chassis to keep on top of. That's because its steering is fast and a little nervous — the car's set up to be so agile, that on the road I find myself wishing for a little gentle front-end slip in the first few degrees of a corner, just to let me know how adhesive things are down at the front tires. And of course it's rear-drive, which means you can't just stuff down the throttle and expect the car to sort it all out. Apple-pie drifts are there for the taking when the ESP is off, or even when it's in the intermediate Competitive mode.

Set it up right, though, and the mid-bend balance and damping control are sublime. If you really want to get out of a corner sharpish, wait until the apex is well behind you and squeeze the loud pedal progressively. The 'Vette rewards you with magnetic traction, aided by clever adaptive damping and the balanced weight distribution from its rear-mount gearbox. You're projected away in a drastic, drastic dollop of get-up-and-go.

Thank its supercharger for the ZR1's rocket thrust. While the Lambo has 6.5 liters, the Corvette has almost as much at 6.2, but the lungs of the blower mean you never really need to rev the Corvette to get a brutal episode of acceleration. Just as well, actually, for the six-speed gearbox is on the clunky side. Just stick it in the highest gear you think you're going to need for the foreseeable, and look down on the world from that high-altitude torque curve. Truth is, in a world where automated-clutch and twin-clutch transmissions are becoming the supercar norm, the ZR1's manual box is about the one remaining thing to call low-tech. The chassis and suspension are aluminum, the body carbon, parts of the engine titanium, the brakes carbon-ceramic. The Lambo uses a steel structure, also clothed in carbon.

The cabin of the Lambo is an enveloping, handmade cocoon. That's not the wavy stitching, rattly trim and whiff of glue that once characterized Lamborghinis, either. It's done with the precision and discipline of the Audi parent, but with the flair of the Italians of old. There are, before you ask, no Audi buttons to speak of.

The Corvette feels mass made, because that's what Corvettes are. This brings huge benefits in ergonomics, including a head-up display, but it makes things feel a mite ordinary, despite the leather-wrapped dash. (Can't complain too much, mind: a 911 Turbo's cabin is just a Boxster's in a Saturday night pulling shirt.) What really does let down the ZR1 is its fast-food seats. They're too flabby and wobbly to hold you against the ZR1's immense forces.

The fact that the ZR1 shares a cabin, a suspension, an electronics system, a transmission and a production line — but not a whole lot else — with the mass-made base 'Vette is why it's half the price of the Lamborghini. Still $103,000-plus, mind, but more than half the price. We got this far in the story without mentioning the money because, in all honesty, when you're flat on the throttle, squeezing the brakes or going through a full-chat corner, the money doesn't enter into it.

But there is the crux of the issue for people who just don't get the ZR1. It's stuck in a kind of limbo land. It can deliver the sheer blood-and-guts of a car double its price, so long as your driving style suits this classic knife-edge style. But it looks like a car half its price. And it's just as sensible as the regular Corvette C6.

The Murciélago views the whole notion of sensible with utter disdain. It insists you do things its way, even when that's a bit of a pain in the backside. There are times when my personality simply isn't big enough to cope with that. But given the chance of a proper drive, it would be the one of this pair I'd pick. Not because of its looks or its ef-you personality or its undoubted curiosity value, but because it's such a well-sorted car down the road.

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Ford posts $14.6B 2008 loss, still won't seek aid


By TOM KRISHER and KIMBERLY S. JOHNSON

DEARBORN, Mich. – After the worst annual loss in its 105-year history, Ford Motor Co. still doesn't plan to seek government aid, but it's borrowing more money and hinting at further restructuring to brace for a tough 2009 and any surprises from the unpredictable economy.

The second-largest U.S.-based automaker on Thursday reported a $14.6 billion net loss for 2008, beating its old record of $12.6 billion set two years earlier. Ford lost $5.9 billion in the fourth quarter, but more importantly it spent $5.5 billion more than it took in, dropping its cash reserves to $13.4 billion at year's end.

The company, like other automakers, predicted a slow start to the year with a small recovery in the second half aided by government stimulus packages. But Ford is behaving like it's expecting things to get worse. The company told lenders Thursday that it wants to borrow the remaining $10.1 billion of its secured credit line. The money is to arrive Tuesday, but Ford executives said they don't plan to use it for operating expenses.

"We took this action because of our concerns about the growing instability of the capital markets," Chief Executive Alan Mulally said on a conference call with reporters and industry analysts. "The worldwide economic slowdown, driven by tight credit markets and weak consumer confidence, has shaken the foundation of even the strongest companies in the automotive sector and other industries."

Ford said its financing arm would cut about 20 percent of its work force, or 1,200 full-time and contract jobs, as it deals with a smaller U.S. market.

The Dearborn-based company also reduced its forecast for industrywide U.S. sales this year from 12.5 million to a range between 11.5 million and 12.5 million.

"It's very volatile," Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth said. "We don't just know whereabouts in that range it will be."

After cutting costs by $4.4 billion in 2008, the executives predicted another $4 billion in savings this year, with part of that coming from other restructuring efforts that Ford declined to specify.

To improve its liquidity, Ford also took $2 billion set to go into a union-administered health care trust fund and converted it into a note payable at the end of 2009. As a result, the company has about $25.5 billion in liquidity available.

But if Ford continues to burn cash at the pace it did in the fourth quarter, it could reach $10 billion, the minimum amount required to operate the company, in about eight months.

Yet Booth and Mulally said with the cost cuts and a small sales increase in the second half of the year, they expect the cash burn to decrease substantially, and they don't expect to need government loans. The fourth-quarter cash burn dropped from $7.7 billion in the third quarter.

"It's not our plan at all to access the government money," Mulally said Thursday.

Last month, the Treasury Department agreed to lend $13.4 billion to General Motors Corp. and $4 billion to Chrysler LLC, saving Ford's U.S-based competitors from bankruptcy.

For Ford to need such help, the economy would have to worsen significantly or there would have to be a major event such as the bankruptcy of a competitor, Mulally said.

Ford said it lost $2.46 per share in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $2.8 billion, or $1.33 per share, for the year-ago period.

Revenue fell 36 percent to $29.2 billion from $45.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The results missed Wall Street's expectations. Excluding $1.4 billion in special items, the company reported a $1.37 per share loss for the quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a fourth-quarter loss of $1.30 per share on revenue of $27.1 billion.

Ford shares fell 8 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $1.95 Thursday.

The company also announced that the United Auto Workers union agreed to end the "jobs bank" in which laid-off workers get most of their pay. The effective date is still being negotiated.

Chrysler ended its jobs bank Monday, and GM has said its will end next week. Workers, though, will continue to be paid much of their wages because the companies will supplement state unemployment benefits for up to 48 weeks.

Ford also said it would not come to the aid of struggling parts supplier Visteon Corp., which it spun off in 2000.

Ford's 2008 loss of $14.6 billion compares with a loss of $2.7 billion in 2007.

Booth said Ford still is on track to break even or make money in 2011, but the company expects its sales to fall more than 10 percent in 2009.

Vehicle sales in the U.S. are at their lowest levels in 26 years as consumers face tight credit markets and economic uncertainty. Ford's U.S. sales plunged 20.5 percent in 2008.

The poor sales market pulled down revenue at AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest auto retailer. Yet the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company said Thursday its fourth-quarter profit rose 30 percent to $67.1 million because of a tax adjustment and the buyback of some debt.

At Ford, Mulally said the company is positioned well if the recovery starts as expected, largely because Ford is starting to build products globally and will bring small cars to the U.S. from Europe next year.

"Despite the financial crisis, our plan to invest in new smaller fuel-efficient vehicles and achieve a more balanced global product portfolio remains intact," he said. "Our pipeline is full."

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Road Rave


KING test drives 2009’s most anticipated rides

2009 Chevy Corvette ZR1
STREET DATE: TBA
STICKER: $104,820
MPG (City/Hwy): 16/26
Bucking the highways of America is as much of a personal pleasure for us as dating a top model (Selita Ebanks, preferably). And Chevy’s answer to those Euro pocket rockets doesn’t disappoint, laced with a 6.2-liter, LS9, supercharged V8 engine that cranks out a ridiculous 638 horsepower and a short-throw six-speed manual transmission for faster shifting. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention amenities such as Xenon headlamps, ebony-colored leather bucket seats and double-wishbone suspension. But ardent speed demons will only coo over the ZR1’s 198 mph top speed.

Mack Dancy of Dancy Automotive says: “[It’s the] fastest production car ever produced by General Motors, but give me a classic ’67 Corvette convertible instead.”

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2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible
STREET DATE: Early 2009
STICKER: $TBA
MPG (City/Hwy): 22/28
Aspiring car designers take note of what a convertible should embody. As the first-ever G Convertible, Infiniti impacts like a vet with its unique style (automatic three-piece folding hardtop to keep its coupelike roof line) and power (how is the G’s 328 horsepower generated from its V6 engine for starters?). Not to mention the seven-speed automatic transmission that gives the convertible the kind of dynamic performance needed when you’re going faster than that Bolt dude on ’roids.

Will Castro of Unique Whips says: “This is the perfect car for moving around the city. I don’t know how your date’s hair is going to look with the wind blowing from the 328 horsepower under the hood, but the leather interior might help you get under her hood.”

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2009 BMW 750Li
STREET DATE: Spring 2009
STICKER: $79,675
MPG (City/Hwy): 15/23
Maybe BMW is trying to score cool points with the wayward youth with deep pockets, because the German automaker has made everything in their 7 Series “new generation.” Already rocking a “new-gen” 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine that cranks out 400 horses, the 750Li packs lavishness from its iDrive (GPS, navigation, etc.) to its six-speed automatic transmission. Even the luxury sedan’s safety features aren’t safe from BMW’s new-gen makeover, featuring a brand-new suspension system that promotes better handling. And the rearview and side-view cameras will seem like a gift from God for the lame-ass parking challenged.

Dancy: “[It’s] one of the most anticipated vehicles of ’09. Definitely a long time coming.”

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2009 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
STREET DATE: Now
STICKER: Starting at $57,175
MPG (City/Hwy): 12/19
Thanks to AMG’s body styling—which also includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a high-performance brake system and sport suspension—the beefed-up C63 AMG looks like a pill-popping freak in comparison to its no-frills predecessor. Add to that the C63’s 451-horsepower, powerful 6.3 AMG engine that pushes up to 7,000 rpm, its AMG Speedshift Plus seven-speed automatic and a breakneck 4.3-second zero-to-60 speed acceleration, and you have yourself a whip that’s more Superman than any other Clark Kent–like model in the Benz’s vaunted C-Class family.

Castro: “These never go out of style.”

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2009 Nissan Maxima
STREET DATE: Now
STICKER: $30,160
MPG (City/Hwy): 19/26
Packing a Floyd Mayweather–type punch for 2K9, Nissan’s flagship model rocks a VQ35 V6 engine and an upgraded Xtronic CVT transmission for a smoother ride. And with a racecar-inspired look, the new-look Max—entering its seventh generation—will make you forget the six previous generations with paddle shifters and a “super cockpit” interior to give drivers that sporty feel inside while they’re putting the Maxima’s 290 horsepower to good use. Other features that’ll have the girlies swooning include a nine-speaker Bose system, touchscreen color monitor and 9.3GB music hard drive.

Dancy: “Is it me or does it seem like Nissan changes the Maxima design every two years? Great engine, but I would like to see a sportier look.”

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2009 Cadillac CTS-V
STREET DATE: Winter 2008
STICKER: $29,290
MPG (City/Hwy): 18/26
The term “muscle car” and Cadillac don’t fit in the same sentence. But with the release of the CTS-V, Cadillac is staking its own claim to the genre, creating a vehicle that pushes 556 horsepower, has a 6.2 supercharged V8 under its glossy hood and goes from zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds. Even the blog-surfing music buffs will enjoy the 40GB internal hard drive and MP3 and iPod connectivity that comes equipped.

Dancy: “Great car and affordable, but it makes me feel like I’m in a new Sopranos episode.”–Sean A. Malcolm

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