phone applications

If You Only Get One Fart App

Mr. Nice Hands

Mr. Nice Hands


Go on, search for fart app.
You’ll be stunned by what you find (assuming you’re not a 9-year old boy and this is a first for that particular search term). At last count the App Store was offering 1,068. There’s iFart, U-Fart, and Who Farted?? There are motion-detecting fart apps, random fart generators, and apps that let you compose melodies with a farting orchestra. Even Google Glass has its own GlassFart app.

Flatulence humor is universal and timeless. It’s a frequent comedic device in the ancient plays of Aristophanes, and one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is basically an extended fart joke. Modern humorists from Mel Brooks to the South Park guys to Louis C.K. have all mined the comedy gold of wind breaking. With fart app technology, the mobile engineering brain trust is leveraging the applied science of accelerometers, GPS, bluetooth, and digital audio loops to give us the 21st century whoopie cushion. 

Amid the juvenilia of apps like SimonSaysFart, the FartHarmonica, and BunnyFarts (available in StinkyWinky or SmellyMelly editions), one app stands out by creating a teaching moment with the appeal of scatological humor. Fart Code scans the barcode of any food label to identify the farty ingredients within. The app’s fartometer determines the gas-producing potential; benign foods get the all-clear signal, while active ingredients produce fart noises and vibrations emulating the appropriate digestive response ranked on a scale from stinky to toxic. If you are a 9-year old boy, you can share a link to your fart with your social network. The rest of us might just take it as actionable data for menu planning.


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The Coffee Break- A Vaunted Worker Tradition

coffee cup cozy available at Handmade Coffee's Etsy store

coffee cup cozy available at Handmade Coffee’s Etsy store


The lunch break has all but disappeared under a mountain of emails, but the coffee break seems inviolable.
It’s a highlight of the workday, the favorite employee benefit even at perk-heavy companies like Google with their ping pong tables and free haircuts. The Department of Labor even gives it special status—lunchtime can be off the books but coffee breaks have to be paid.

Some of us need more coffee than others.
Every year Dunkin’ Donuts teams up with CareerBuilder to survey Americans about their workplace coffee habits. The most recent survey ranked the top 10 heaviest coffee drinking professions:

  1. food prep and food service workers
  2. scientists and lab technicians
  3. sales reps
  4. marketing and PR professionals
  5. nurses
  6. writers and editors
  7. business and finance executives
  8. K-12 teachers
  9. engineers
  10. IT managers and network administrators

Even if your profession didn’t make the top 10 you’re probably drinking coffee on the job. Optimize the habit with these apps for coffee breakers:


Caffeine Tracker monitors the body’s metabolization of caffeine. Just provide a few body specs and record your consumption and it displays the current level of caffeine in your bloodstream in a color-coded pie chart.

Are you the one making the Starbucks run? Skip the post-its and keep all the no-foams and half-cafs straight with Coffee Order.

Up Coffee correlates your coffee drinking with your sleep patterns. Give it a few days of your habits and it can tell you how long you’ll feel wired from that last cup and when to cut off the caffeine so that you can get a good night’s sleep.

Take a real break with the Coffee Break AppIt darkens your computer screen for a pre-determined duration, guaranteeing the pleasures of a work-free cup.



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Detox Away the Turkey Weight

image via

image via


Are you feeling the turkey weight?
The typical Thanksgiving meal was a whopping 4,500 calories. That’s two day’s-worth of food for most of us, or, to put it in especially vivid perspective, the equivalent of nine large orders of McDonald’s fries. 
Is it any wonder that you woke up feeling overstuffed and bloated?

This holiday season is just getting going.
It’s too soon to be feeling a pinch in your waistband. But it’s the perfect time for a between-holidays detox. Flush the alcohol, sugar, and toxins out of your body now and you can boost your immune system and improve metabolic function through the rest of the season.

There are plenty of online resources to prep you for a few more weeks of bacchanalian excess.
Detoxification blogs like The Detoxinista and Detox the World are full of seasonal suggestions..
A variety of approaches are taken by smartphone detox apps:

The app from Juice Master has a 3-day juice detox  that will have you losing up to five pounds in just 72 hours.

How to Detox Your Body leaves you sparkling on the inside with colon cleansing regimens. Detox Diet Pro claims to do the same but without enemas and colonic. This app shows you how to flush out the liver, intestines, kidneys, lungs, skin, blood, and lymphatic systems through a very high fiber diet.

The Health Detox promotes an acid and alkaline balanced diet that claims to boost your energy level by optimizing your body’s pH balance.

There are apps for detoxing on all raw foods, or by following the lemon regimen popularized by Beyoncé’s post-partum detox. You can find gender-specific detox apps like Body Detox 4 Women and Man Up Detox, or learn to detox with smoothies.

The Official Online Holiday Detox Kit professes to understand:
to overdo it is human. to overdo it over the holidays is almost mandatory. we’re here to help. choose your flavor of holiday splurging, confess your excess, and get the perfect detox plan.”
Just enter your specific overindulgence into the quick and easy online tool and it suggests the appropriate cure.

Posted in health + diet, holidays, phone applications | Leave a comment

What’s For Dinner? Ask Your Phone.

via Run Wifey Run


Our days are filled with decisions. 
From the trivial to the life-altering, it’s been estimated that most of us make about 70 conscious decisions to get through the day, and dozens more that are too mundane and rote to penetrate our consciousness. 

Some really smart people think it’s best to ration out their mental energy. 
Albert Einstein was known for wearing the same clothes everyday, surmising that his brainpower could be put to better use than matching his socks to his shoes. Steve Jobs streamlined with his signature blue jeans and black turtleneck. It’s the same thinking behind Mark Zuckerberg’s uniform of t-shirts, flip flops and hoodies, and Barack Obama says he pares his wardrobe down to only blue or grey suits to avoid making any more decisions than he already has to, even citing research that shows that too many choices can lead to decision fatigue and degrade the ability to make future decisions.

There’s a new wave of decision-making applications that let us outsource the choosing.
You’re probably not launching a tech revolution or laying the groundwork for nuclear fission, but you still might want to take a few decisions off your plate. For the insecure, indecisive, or just plain over-whelmed, there are apps that can tell you what college to attend or stocks to buy or they’ll choose the next novel you’ll read. There’s a decision-maker for drafting a fantasy football team and another that tells you what sex position to use. But for many of us, at the end of a long workday all we want is someone to tell us what to do for dinner.

Most of the apps started out as shopping aids—snap a few selfies from the dressing room and let your online friends pick your new jeans—but creative users quickly turned them into menu planners. There are randomizers like coin tosses or a roll of the digital dice; apps that rely on complex algorithms based on your preferences and history; and crowd-sourcers that collect the opinions of friends or recommendations of strangers from outside of your social circle. Upload a menu, list the contents of your refrigerator, take some photos, or toss out polling questions, and let them decide for you.

SeeSaw’s dinner decisions come from your own panel of personal advisors while Thumb draws on the wisdom of the masses but lets you choose the collective demographic that’s polled for a given decision. Ding! takes the agony and office politics out of group takeout orders, and when all else fails, shake your iPhone and the UrbanSpoon decision-maker spins a roulette wheel to pick a restaurant.

What’s for dinner? It’s a decision that can stymie the best of us.
AppCrawlr has compiled a list of the top 200 decision-making applications, sortable by topic and decision-making methodology.


Posted in cook + dine, cyberculture, phone applications | Leave a comment

Who Knew? Chefs Have Their Own Version of Yelp.

image via Merton Parrish

image via Merton Parrish


There’s one question we all want to ask our favorite chefs: Where do you go out to eat?

A chef’s recommendation is the ultimate stamp of approval. Chefs know restaurants from the inside out, and they know their local dining scene as only an insider can. With so much time spent in their own kitchens, when a chef turns the tables and chooses a restaurant to experience from the diner’s side, you know it’s got to be good.

Their secret weapon is Chefs Feed.
Chefs Feed is a Yelp-like restaurant discovery and recommendation site that we civilians can peruse, but the only people contributing reviews are chefs and other hand-picked culinary professionals.

Chefs Feed covers 15 U.S. cities plus London with a current lineup of 600 working chef-contributors, all respected professionals in their own circles and some outright celebrities like Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, and Wolfgang Puck. While just the chefs can add photos and reviews, anyone with the app can submit questions and comments, creating an interactive dialogue between the professionals and the rest of us.

Chefs look to the top of the food chain for inspiration, but they’re as likely to eschew the haute for the offbeat. So while all the big guns of city dining are represented, Chefs Feed also reveals the universal appeal of dumplings and Asian noodle houses, and unravels the mysteries of some lesser-known ethnic cuisines like Ethiopian and Peruvian. Given the hours they keep, it’s no surprise that chefs also display a soft spot for late-night joints and all-day breakfasts.

600 chefs vs. the collective wisdom of the mob
Yelp is commendably democratic with fresh voices and plenty of knowledgeable citizen journalists. But Yelpers also bring their quirks, biases, grudges, and ignorance (along with unchecked spelling and grammar); and the ratings are notoriously easy to game. Unscrupulous business owners compensate diners for positive reviews, greedy customers extort freebies with threats of negative reviews, and the site itself has been willing to tip the ratings scale to favor paid advertisers.

By contrast, there’s nothing democratic about Chefs Feed. Its roster of contributors is drawn from the elite and exclusive club of successful, professional chefs. You might not always share their dining druthers, but you can trust their discernment. After all, it’s Mario Batali; not some random guy with a smartphone.

Chefs Feed is offered as a free download from iTunes.

Then there are the restaurants where chefs go to blow off steam after a long shift in the kitchen. Read Gigabiting’s Marijuana and Food to learn how chefs feed their munchies.


Posted in cyberculture, phone applications, restaurants | Leave a comment

Bottled Water Comes Out Swinging

You have to buy bottled water because you can never find a decent, working drinking fountain.
Drinking fountains are disappearing from public spaces because everyone buys bottled water.
WeTap wants to break the cycle.

WeTap is a new, free smartphone app that uses Google Maps to locate public drinking fountains, nearby or along your route.
Water fountain data is currently available for just a few U.S. cities, but it’s already the largest database of its kind, with information on location, working condition, water quality, plus a photo of each fountain.

From the expense to the environment impact, there is just so much wrong with bottled water; but you already know that. While in the U.S. we’re still going through 85 million bottles every single day, we are catching on. More than 100 cities and towns and an equal number of college campuses have banned sales or restricted the use of bottled water, as have many national parks including Zion National, the Grand Canyon, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The bottled water industry is not taking this lying down. With 20 billion dollars in annual domestic sales at stake, the International Bottled Water Association has launched a marketing campaign to defend itself against what its press release calls “well-known anti-bottled water groups [that] are recruiting college students to spread misinformation.” The IBWA has launched an online campaign urging the public to protect this threat to its “freedom of choice,” and has launched a video titled Student Activism: 101 reminding students that past generations have used college campuses to protest against war, racism, and other social injustices like Darfur and sweatshop labor.
Uh huh, just like bottled water.
That’s some serious chutzpah.

Alternatively, concerned citizens can channel their activist energies toward reducing the 50 million or so barrels of oil used to produce and transport a year’s worth of water bottles, and eliminating the 38 billion water bottles that end up in our landfills each year. You can help reinvigorate our public water systems— some of the cleanest, safest, and most abundant waters in the world. The WeTap app encourages crowdsourced contributions. Install the application and you can contribute to your area’s map and ratings through the add a fountain function.

See what restaurants are doing to break the bottled water habit. One small change has already saved 9 million gallons.

Posted in phone applications, sustainability | 2 Comments

Who’s Going to Take a Bite Out of Open Table?

image via VG Wall Decals


OpenTable does not have a lock on the restaurant reservation business.
I’ll admit, appearances suggest otherwise: the online reservation service is in one third of all U.S. restaurants that accept reservations for a total of 25,000 member restaurants, and seats a staggering nine million diners each month. Its annual profits are in the tens of millions, and the company is valued at a billion dollars.
Formidable but hardly impenetrable.

The field was wide open when OpenTable came on the scene with free to the end-user, real-time online reservations in 1998. It democratized the reservation book and rescued us from the busy signals and limited hours of telephone reservations. But the convenience to us comes at a cost to the restaurants. OpenTable runs on its own integrated hardware and software system. Restaurants have to invest in and commit floorspace to the terminals, and pay a monthly leasing fee of about $270. What really rankles is the reservation fee of $1—per diner, not per reservation—and the (smaller) fee charged even when a reservation is made through the restaurant’s own website. And you know those “1,000-point” bookings” that help restaurants fill seats at off-peak times? They can cost the restaurant as much as $7.50 per person.

OpenTable does seem to have the wind at its back. It’s reached critical mass with both diners and restaurants. But the tough economy has squeezed margins, and diners are seeking low cost and casual options. There are a lot of disgruntled restaurateurs out there, and unlike 1998, there are promising alternatives to OpenTable.

Urbanspoon’s Rezbook is coming on strong. As a restaurant recommendation site, Urbanspoon is already a big player. 10 million people have downloaded the Urbanspoon application on their smart phones, and the company claims 28 million monthly visitors. Its reservation fees are similar to OpenTable’s, but it eliminates leasing fees because the whole system can be run on a single iPad. Rezbook has just relaunched its iPhone app with a nifty ‘trending’ search feature, and recently reached the milestone of seating its one-millionth diner.

Livebookings, known as the OpenTable of Europe, is making a serious run for the U.S. with its Freebookings. The service is completely free to restaurants, with no required hardware or booking fees, and revenue will be derived from pay-for-click social media and search companies. It’s a plug-in for a restaurant’s existing website, Facebook page, and GooglePlaces page.

Another European reservation service, Eveve, is direct in its intention to go head-to-head with OpenTable on its home turf. Eveve charges a single monthly fee for its cloud-based service, starting at $200 regardless of reservation volume, and has made inroads by skimming off some of OpenTable’s top bookers who stand to save the most from the flat rate fee structure. In late 2011, Eveve launched its service in the Twin Cities, capturing 20% of OpenTable’s business in what had previously been its top market. The national rollout is underway.

A pair of startups are also making a run at OpenTable.
Seatme lures the restaurants with its iPad-friendly software and $50 monthly fee, and is winning the hearts of  diners with a slew of new features. It makes recommendations, remembers that you don’t like beets, and texts you when a table is available at the new spot you’ve been dying to try. Ureserv boasts a low monthly fee of just $30 and subsidizes its revenue stream with paid advertising and food-related craigslist-style classifieds. It’s a cloud-based system that a restaurant can run on just a smartphone.

OpenTable could also be facing a homegrown threat. For years its had a de facto partnership with restaurant reviewer Zagat in the form of an exclusive referral relationship. Now that Google is the proud owner of Zagat, all bets are off. Google is free to strike a deal with another reservation service, say Freebookings, which has already developed a GooglePlaces plug-in module. Or Google could choose to leverage the good name of Zagat and launch its own service.

The technology sector has always been susceptible to periods of creative destruction. Business models give way and companies rise and fall as technology platforms shift. It will be months or even years before it all shakes out, but one thing is clear: OpenTable has had a good run, but it’s no longer a sure thing.


Posted in phone applications, restaurants | 1 Comment

The $1,000 Coffee Break

image via Visual Photos

Work perks.
Staffing firm Accounting Principals, which has just published its Workonomix Survey of workplace spending, found that 50 percent of the American workforce has a $20 weekly coffee habit, spending $1000 a year on workday coffee. Most consider it money well-spent.
Younger workers (ages 18-34) spend almost twice as much on coffee during the workweek as their older colleagues ages 45+: $24.74 vs. $14.15; men outspend women: $25.70 vs. $15.00.

The coffee break is a vaunted worker tradition. Legend has it that the world’s first coffee break took place around 1000 A.D. in Abyssinia, today’s Ethiopia. Long before the power and pleasure of the coffee plant had been discovered, a goatherd noticed his goats dancing around after eating its red berries. Following the goats’ lead, herders began indulging in the berries to stay awake during the long, boring stretches of watching the herds.

The coffee break first appeared in the U.S. in Stoughton, Wisconsin (home to the Stoughton Coffee Break Festival held every August) when the wives of 19th century Norwegian immigrants agreed to cover their husbands’ work shifts on the condition that they be allowed morning and afternoon breaks to go home to tend to household chores and brew up coffee. It was formalized as a workplace ritual in 1902 at the Barcolo Manufacturing Company of Buffalo, NY (rather appropriately, the manufacturer of Barcalounger recliners). In 1964 the coffee break was etched into U.S. labor history when negotiations between the United Auto Workers and the big three automakers nearly broke down over the practice. Other issues at those historic negotiations included health insurance, retirement benefits, and a 5% raise, but it was the coffee break that nearly brought about a strike. 74,000 workers at Chrysler came within an hour of walking off the job when the company relented and agreed to a 12 minute daily coffee break.

Did you know…
the espresso machine was invented in 1901 by an Italian factory owner as a way of speeding up his employees’ coffee breaks?  The first espresso machine, the Tipo Gigante, used a combination of steam and boiling water forced through coffee grounds to make a cup of coffee quicker than any other method in use.

The Coffee Break App for Mac can be set to remind you when it’s break time. It darkens your computer screen for the duration, lighting up again when break time’s over.





Posted in diversions, phone applications, workplace | Tagged , | 2 Comments

2011 Food App Award Winners

image via National Post

Talk about understatement.
Do you cook? There are apps to plan a menu, find a recipe, convert to metric, shop ethically, analyze nutritional content, pair a wine, and donate your leftovers to a soup kitchen. Maybe you feel  like eating out. You can get cuisine- and location-based restaurant suggestions, read reviews, book a table, preview the daily specials, map your route, figure the tip, and calculate the excercycle mileage that will burn off the meal.
There are food apps for travelers, for fans of street food, and apps that will let you know when to take a cake out of the oven. They stop short of washing the dishes for you, but there is a house cleaning hypnosis app that promises dishwashing enjoyment through the power of suggestion.

The food app category has grown so large that it has its own, dedicated awards. Toque, the online magazine of food journalism, has just announced the first annual Food App Award winners. Entries came from multinational media giants, independent web designers, and everything in between. They were judged on creativity, technical excellence, and the ability to solve a problem (that we often didn’t even know we had until the app came along).

Here are this year’s winners:



Posted in appliances + gadgets, phone applications | Tagged , | 2 Comments

U.S. Government Gets 2 Million Fortune Cookies


No, it wasn’t one hell of a takeout order.

The cookies are part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s effort to reach various ethnic populations. The Bureau ordered two million custom cookies from a fortune cookie factory in Seattle’s Chinatown. Crack one open and the fortune reads Put down your chopsticks and get involved in Census 2010, or one of the other four messages exhorting us to fill out and return our census forms. The cookies will be available this spring in Chinese restaurants throughout the Northwest. […]

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Cyber Cheese



Milk’s leap toward immortality.

We do like our cheese. Not as much as they do over in Europe, but here in the U.S. we are eating more cheese than ever. We are also eating better cheese, turning away from highly processed products and toward natural and artisan-made varieties. We are showing a growing interest in style and variety, seeking out regional farmstead cheeses as well as cheese produced organically and from different milk blends.

Nowhere is this trend more evident than online, where age-old traditions meet new technology. […]

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Spending a Bundle? See how you stack up.


Are you a dine-now-pay-later Life-a-holic? A first-on-the-scene Thrill Jockey angling for the hottest table in town? Or more of a Proud Provider, cooking dinners at home so you can feather the nest?

Bundle is a new social-media website for personal money management that puts you in touch with your inner spender. It’s a joint venture of Microsoft MSN, Citigroup, and the investment research folks at Morningstar that in their minds offers information and tools to help people spend more wisely, but to the rest of us it’s a chance to see how the other half really lives. And eats. […]

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Gourmet Magazine: the aftermath


Where are they now?

When Conde Nast pulled the plug on Gourmet Magazine, none were more shocked than the magazine’s 180 employees who were cleaning out their desks as we were reading news of the closure in the morning paper. They were cut loose along with the employees of more than 450 other magazines and countless newspapers that folded in 2009. But a stint at Gourmet is something special on a resume, and many former staffers have resurfaced in new and notable capacities. […]

Posted in Entertainment, food business, phone applications | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Tweet ‘n Eat

image courtesy of City Food Magazine

image courtesy of City Food Magazine

Are you a Twitter skeptic?

Have you been slow to warm to the charms of microblogging?
We all know the pitfalls: the time-sucking potential; the relentless stream of random messages; the trivial, navel-gazing quality of too many tweets.

It’s time to stop blaming the messenger! […]

Posted in gadgets, phone applications, social media | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Night Owls Rejoice.

Open 24 Hours 23 x 23 Neon Sign

Jet lag. Insomnia. Jonesing for a a 3 am patty melt.

Whatever the reason, it’s an ungodly hour and you’re awake. And hungry.
It used to be that you’d get in your car and drive around looking for the neon light of a diner, flashing its greasy beacon of all-night dining. But now we have, a map-based site that features businesses that are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. […]

Posted in phone applications, restaurants, social media, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Augmented reality takes Yelp’s new phone app to the next level

photo courtesy of Metro Macs Kansas City

photo courtesy of Metro Macs Kansas City

Think of reality as a spectrum. On one end, we have the real world. At the other end is the computer-generated environment of virtual reality. Augmented reality falls somewhere in the middle, with real-time, computer-generated audio, video, and other sense enhancements superimposed on the physical world. […]

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