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Best thing since sliced bread [updated]

This morning I overhead someone talk about "the best thing since sliced bread." But I missed hearing about the thing that was the object of her superlative. I felt my innards congeal with curiosity, and when it didn't pass, I realized I needed to think this through. When did they invent sliced bread? Before or after canned beer? And why is sliced bread so amazing? Sure, sliced bread is extremely convenient when you've got exactly 30 seconds to make the PB&J for the critter who has to run out the door to catch the bus in the morning, but should it really be the standard by which measure innovation?

I'm just wondering if the saying really should be something more along the lines of "The best thing since, and perhaps even encompassing the invention of, sliced bread." Imprecision in speech is a form of evil.

In any case, several things come immediately to mind as being possibly the best things since s.b. (and note that I have chosen to limit my list to consumables):

1. Canned tomatoes. Because you don't have to peel them. Dump 'em in the pot, slice with a knife or just MANGLE them with your fingers.

2. Screw-top wine. Snobs may mock you, but it's so much easier than struggling and breaking out in a sweat as you fuss with the ridiculously overdesigned Williams Sonoma contraption that looks like a small communications satellite.

3. Tabasco. And by that I include Cholula and the like. Makes anything better (chili, Bloody Marys, bananas, etc.)

4. King Arthur flour. That's the brand I use when I decide to cancel all my appointments, unplug the laptop, take the phone off the hook and engage in some really serious baking.

5. Energy bars. You know, those snack bars, granola bars, Luna bars, whatever. Because you can put them in a kids' lunch and feel like it's not pure junk.

6. Baby carrots. Ditto.

7. Pre-washed salad kits. I don't wash plants if I can help it.

8. Veggie-burgers. Because it gives the crunchy-granola teenagers something to eat when I fire up the grill and have a meatfest.

9. Ground bison. I just love the fact that I can get buffalo at my Safeway now. When will we get venison? And, like, squirrel?

10. Unsliced bread. They really didn't have it for a while there during the reign of disco and whatnot.


Via one of our ace boodlers, here's an amazing Why Things Are-ish piece in Scientific American about male anatomy. I did find some of it rather ... what's the word? ... inscrotable? I'm surprised to read, by the way, that there's a universal preference for nocturnal copulatory activities. Always assumed people were ready to go 24 hours a day. (Discuss.)


This just in: The invitees to Obama's first state dinner. Dang, got passed over AGAIN.

Pasted in from the WH email:

Below is a list of expected attendees at tonight's State Dinner:

The President & First Lady Michelle Obama

Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, India & Ms. Gursharan Kaur

The Honorable (Rep) Gary Ackerman, United States Representative
Mr. Sant Singh Chatwal (Guest)

His Excellency Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Mr. Mukesh D Ambani

Mr. Tim Dutta (Spouse of Ms. Pia Awal)

The Honorable (Mr.) David Axelrod, White House Communications
Mrs. Susan Axelrod

Ms. Preeta Bansal, OMB - General Counsel

The Honorable (Ms.) Melody Barnes, Domestic Policy Council
Mr. Marland E. Buckner

The Honorable (Rep.) Howard Berman, United States Representative (D/California)
Mrs. Jane Berman, Spouse of United States Representative (D/California)

Mr. Om Prakash Bhatt

Mr. Hunter Biden
Mrs. Kathleen Biden

The Honorable (Vice President) Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Vice President of the United States
Dr. Jill Biden

Mr. Robert O Blake, Jr., Assistant Sec for South and Central Asian Affairs, State Department
Mrs. Sofia Blake

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York, NY
Ms. Diana Taylor

The Honorable (Mr.) John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism, Homeland Security Council
Mrs. Katherine Brennan

The Honorable (Ms.) Lisa Brown, Office of Staff Secretary
Mr. Kevin Cullen

Mr. Donald Browne
Ms. Maria Junqera

The Honorable (Ms.) Carol Browner, Energy and Climate Change
The Honorable (Mr.) Tom Downey

Mr. William Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Department of State
Ms. Lisa Carty

General James E Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Mrs. Sandee Cartwright

The Honorable (Senator) Bob Casey, United States Senator (D/Pennsylvania)
Mrs. Terese Casey, United States Senate Spouse (D/Pennsylvania)

Mr. Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Mrs. Julie Chandrasekaran

Mr. I.S. Chaturvedi, Personal Secretary to the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Senator Satveer Chaudhry, State Senator
Colonel Ravi Chaudhry (Guest)

Ms. Rohini Chopra

Mr. Deepak Chopra
Mrs. Rita Chopra

The Honorable (Secretary) Steven Chu, Secretary of the Department of Energy
Mrs. Jean Chu

The Honorable (Secretary) Hillary R. Clinton, Secretary of State

The Honorable (Rep.) James E. Clyburn, United States Representative (D/South Carolina)
Mrs. Emily Clyburn

The Honorable (Senator) Kent Conrad, United States Senator (D/North Dakota)
Ms. Lucy Calutti, United States Senate Spouse (D/North Dakota)

Mr. David Cote

Ms. Katie Couric
Mr. Brooks L Perlin

Mr. Greg Craig, Assistant to the President and Counsel to the President
Mrs. Margaret D Craig

Mrs. Paula Crown
Mr. Jim Crown

The Honorable (Rep.) Elijah Cummings, United States Representative (D/Maryland)
Mrs. Maya Rockeymoore

Senator Swati Dandekar, State Senator
Mr. Arvind Dandekar

Mr. Rajesh De, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

Nancy Ann DeParle, Office of Health Reform
Mr. Jason P DeParle

Ms. Bhairavi Desai
Javaid Tariq

Dr. Vishakha N. Desai
Robert Oxman

The Honorable (Senator) Chris Dodd, United States Senator (D/Connecticut)
Mrs. Jackie Clegg Dodd

Mr. John Doerr

The Honorable (Mr.) Thomas Donilon, Assistant to the President, Deputy National Security Advisor, NSC
Ms. Cathy Russell

The Honorable Anita Dunn, White House Communications Director
Mr. Bob Bauer

Mr. Ari Emanuel
Mrs. Sarah Emanuel

The Honorable (Mr.) Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff to the President
Ms. Amy Rule

The Honorable (Mr.) Jon Favreau, Assistant to the President and Director of Speechwriting

Ms. Sarah Feinberg, Office of the Chief of Staff

The Honorable (Mayor) Adrian Fenty, Mayor of the District of Columbia
Mrs. Michelle Fenty

Ms. Michelle Flournoy

Mr. Thomas Friedman
Mrs. Ann Friedman

The Honorable (Mr.) Mike Froman, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs, NSC

Dr. Ashok S Ganguly

The Honorable (Mr.) Patrick Gaspard, Office of Political Affairs
Mrs. Raina Washington

The Honorable Robert Gates

Ms. Charlene Gaynor
Mr. Richard Heiss

Mr. David Geffen
Mr. Jeremy Lingvall

The Honorable (Secretary) Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury
Ms. Carole Sonnenfeld

The Honorable (Mr.) Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary

Mr. Anish Goel, Acting Senior Director, South Asia Affairs, NSC

Mr. Senapathy Gopalakrishnan

Mr. Mark Gorenberg
Ms. Wendy Wanderman

Mr. John Gorman
Mrs. Tamra Gorman

Representative Jay Goyal, State Representative
Kiran Goyal

Representative Raj Goyle, State Representative
Mrs. Monica Arora

The Honorable (Governor) Jennifer Granholm, Governor of Michigan (D)
Mr. Daniel Mulhern, First Gentleman of Michigan

Mr. Earl G. Graves
Mrs. Barbara Graves

Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta
Mr. Arvind Gupta

Mr. Raj Gupta

Mr. Rajat Gupta
Mrs. Anita M Gupta

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Mrs. Rebecca Olson Gupta

Mr. Lee Hamilton
Mrs. Nancy Hamilton

The Honorable (Ms.) Kamala Harris
Ms. Maya Harris

Mr. Kamil Hassan
Mrs. Talat Hassan

Mr. George Haywood
Mrs. Cheryl J Haywood

The Honorable Fred Hochberg, Export-Import Bank
Thomas P Healy

The Honorable (Rep.) Paul Hodes, United States Representative (D/New Hampshire)
Mrs. Margaret Hodes

The Honorable (Attorney General) Eric Holder, United States Attorney General, Department of Justice
Dr. Sharon Malone, MD

Dr. John P. Holdren
Dr. Cheryl E Holdren

The Honorable (Rep.) Eleanor Holmes-Norton, United States of Representative (D/DC)
Mr. John Norton

Mr. Robert D Hormats, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs, State Department
Ms. Camille Massey

The Honorable (Rep) Steny Hoyer, United States Representative (D/Maryland)
Ms. Kathleen May

Mr. Chris Hughes
Mr. Sean S Eldridge

Mr. Jeff Immelt

The Honorable (Senator) Daniel Inouye, United States Senator (D/Hawaii)
Ms. Irene Hirano, United States Senate Spouse (D/Hawaii)

Mrs. Deepa Iyer
Mr. Parag Khandhar
Mr. Vasudeva Iyer

The Honorable (Administrator) Lisa Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
Mr. Kenneth Jackson

The Honorable (Ms.) Valerie Jarrett, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor

The Honorable (Governor) Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
Mrs. Supriya Jindal, First Lady of Louisiana

The Honorable (General) James Jones, Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor
Mrs. Diane Jones

Mrs. Ann Jordan
Mr. Vernon Jordan

Mr. Anil Kakani

Mr. Farooq Kathwari
Mrs. Farida Kathwari

Mr. Neal Katyal, Principal Deputy Solicitor General, Office of the Solicitor General

Mr. Jeffrey Katzenberg
Mrs. Marilyn Katzenberg

Ms. Maneesha Kelkar, Manavi
Vinay Vaishampayan

The Honorable (Senator) John Kerry, United States Senator (D/Massachusetts)

Dr. Harish Khare, Media Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, Indian Delegation

The Honorable (Mr.) Bradley Kiley, Office of Management and Administration
Mr. James Coley, Jr.

Ms. Gayle King

The Honorable (Ambassador) Ron Kirk, USTR
Mrs. Matrice Ellis-Kirk

The Honorable (Mr.) Ronald Klain, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Office of the Vice President

Mrs. Chanda D Kochhar

His Excellency S.M. Krishna, Minister of External Affairs of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Ms. Gaitri Kumar, Joint Secretary (Americas), Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Mr. Vivek Kundra

Mrs. Jhumpa Lahiri
Mr. Alberto Vourvoulias

Mr. Marc Lasry
Cathy Lasry

Mr. Jacob Lew, Deputy Secretary, Department of State

The Honorable Gary Locke, Secretary of Commerce
Mrs. Mona Locke

The Honorable (Mr.) Christopher Lu, Cabinet Affairs
Ms. Kathryn Thomson

The Honorable (Senator) Richard Lugar, United States Senator (R/Indiana)
Mrs. Char Lugar, United States Senate Spouse (R/Indiana)

Mr. Michael Lynton
Ms. Elizabeth Jamie Alter

Mr. Surinder Malhotra

The Honorable (Chief of Protocol) Capricia Marshall

The Honorable (Ms.) Alyssa Mastromonaco, White House Office of Scheduling

Mr. Brian Mathis
Mrs. Tracey Kemble

Ms. Kiran Mazumda-Shaw

The Honorable (Senator) Claire McCaskill, United States Senator (D/Missouri)
Mr. Joseph Shepard, United States Senate Spouse

The Honorable (Rep) Jim McDermott, United States Representative (D/Washington)
Mrs. Therese Marie Hansen

Mr. Zarin Mehta
Ms. Carmen Lasky

The Honorable (Mr.) Jim Messina, Office of Chief of Staff

Mr. Judd Miner
Mrs. Linda Miner

Mr. Newt Minow
Mrs. Josephine Minow

Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal

Kalpen Modi, Associate Director, Office of Public Engagement

Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Mrs. Deborah Mullen

The Honorable (Secretary) Janet Napolitano, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

His Excellency M.K. Narayanan, National Security Adviser of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Mr. Shantanu Narayen
Mrs. Reni Narayen

Mr. Raju Narisetti
Durga Raghunath

Mr. Martin Nesbitt
Ms. Anita Blanchard

Mr. Konrad Ng
Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng

Ms. Indra Nooyi

The Honorable (Rep) David Obey, United States Representative (D/Wisconsin)
Mrs. Joan Obey

The Honorable (Mr.) Peter Orszag, Director, Office of Management & Budget

Mr. Jim Owens
Ms. Katie Owens

Mr. Deepak Parekh

Mr. Eboo Patel
Ms. Shehnez Mansuri

The Honorable (Governor) Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts (D)
Mrs. Diane Patrick, First Lady of Massachusetts

The Honorable (Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, United States Representative (D/California) and Speaker of the House
Mr. Paul Pelosi

Mr. Dan Pfeiffer, White House Office of Communications

Mr. Sam Pitroda
Mrs. Anjana Pitroda

General Colin Powell
Ms. Alma Powell

Dr. Rachakonda D Prabhu
Dr. Lata Shete Prabhu

Mrs. Penny Pritzker
Dr. Brian Traubert

Ms. Kavita Ramdas

Her Excellency Nirupama Rao, Foreign Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Ms. Preetha Reddy

The Honorable (Governor) Edward Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania (D)
The Honorable (Judge) Marjorie Rendell, First Lady of Pennsylvania

Mr. Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting

The Honorable (Ambassador) Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Mr. Ian Cameron

The Honorable (Governor) Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico (D)
Mrs. Barbara Richardson, First Lady of New Mexico

Ms. Robin Roberts

Mrs. Marian Robinson

Ambassador Timothy Roemer, US Ambassador to India
Mrs. Mary Johnston

Ms. Desiree Rogers, Special Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary

Mr. John Rogers

The Honorable (Dr.) Christina Romer, Chair, Council of Economic Advisers

Mr. Dennis Ross, NSC

The Honorable (Rep) Edward Randall Royce, United States Representative
Marie Therese Royce

Mr. Michael Sacks
Mrs. Cari Sacks

The Honorable (Rep.) Linda Sanchez, United States Representative (D/California)
Mr. James Sullivan, Guest of Then Honorable Linda Sanchez

Mr. Pankaj Saran, Joint Secretary to the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

His Excellency Shyam Saran, Special Envoy to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Indian Delegation

Mr. Jaideep Sarkar, Personal Secretary to the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Mr. Parag Saxena

The Honorable (Rep.) Jan Schakowsky, United States Representative (D/Illinois)
Mr. Robert Creamer

The Honorable (Mr.) Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs
Mrs. Jody Schiliro

Ms. Annetta Seecharran
Seema Agnani

Mr. Stuart Seldowitz, Acting Director for South Asia, NSC

Dr. Amartya Sen
Ms. Emma Georgina Rothschild

Under Secretary Rajiv J Shah, Under Secretary for Research, Education & Economics, Department of Agriculture

The Honorable Sonal Shah, Deputy Assist to the President, Director Office of SICP, Domestic Policy Council

Mr. Vinod Shah

Her Excellency Meera SHANKAR, Ambassador, India

The Honorable Susan Sher, Assistant to the President/Chief of Staff to the First Lady
The Honorable (Mr.) Neil Cohen

Mr. M. Night Shyamalan
Mrs. Bhavna Shyamalan

Ms. Amrit Singh
Mr. Analjit Singh

Mr. Arun K. Singh, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Republic of India, Indian Delegation

Mr. Balvinder Singh
Mr. Mohinder Singh

Mr. Lakhwinder Singh
Mrs. Sukhbir Kaur

Ms. Upinder Singh

Mr. Steven Spielberg

Mr. Sri Srinivasan
Ms. Carla Garrett

Ms. Srinija Srinivasan

The Honorable (Mr.) Jim Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State
Ms. Sherburne Bradstreet

Mrs. Semonti Stephens, Deputy Press Secretary, Office of the First Lady

Mr. Andy Stern
Ms. Anna Burger

Mrs. Jane Stetson
Mr. Bill Stetson

Honorable (Dr.) Larry Summers, Director, National Economic Council
Dr. Elisa New

The Honorable (Ms.) Mona Sutphen, Office of Chief of Staff
Mr. Clyde Williams

Mr. Ratan Tata

The Honorable (Ms.) Tina Tchen, Office of Public Liaison

Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally, Ambassador, Embassy of Belize
Mrs. Barbara Thummalapally

Mr. Jim Torrey
Ms. Rose P Lynch

Mr. Richard Trumka
Mr. Paul H Lemmon

Ms. Urvashi Vaid
Ms. Kate Clinton

Mr. Kirk Wagar
Ms. Crystal Connor

Dr. Eric E. Whitaker
Dr. Cheryl Whitaker

Mr. Brian Williams
Mrs. Jane Williams

Mr. Wellington Wilson
Mrs. Wilson

Mr. Neal Wolin, Deputy Secretary, Department of Treasury

Ms. Alfre Woodard
Mr. Blair E Underwood

Mr. Fareed Zakaria
Ms. Paula Throckmorton Zakaria

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 24, 2009; 1:17 PM ET
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Inscrotable? Snort. That's the best word since Cherry Nibs.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 24, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Let me point out that nocturnal activity is considered a preference. When needs must, humanity is ready to rise to the occasion.

I think the Pill is better than sliced bread. But then, I slice my own bread. And yet, I am so darned lazy that I purchase the canned DICED tomatoes. I already know that any tomato I purchase within a canned configuration is not destined to maintain a tomato-like form, so why not get them ready-mangled for the same price?

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 24, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Joel, back when you were doing Why Things Are, why did you never the testicular beat?

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 24, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Not to mention Red Vines from the American Licorice Company. Much better than that "Twizzler" stuff.

And then there are dark Wilbur Chocolate.

Good n' Plenty's.

Utz Barbecue Chips.

Doritos when consumed with any manner of Red Ale.

Sleepytime tea with milk.

Bananas foster.

My Grandma's Plum Pudding.

(Heck, just about anything edible with fire.)

Fresh warm pumpkin bread.

Cold pumpkin pie - made from canned pumpkin the way God intended.

Peppermint ice cream with crunchy bits.

Tulley's Coffee Americano.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 24, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

"... never COVER the testicular beat."

Typographical errors are the bane -- or the source -- of written humor. At least, I blame it on the typo.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 24, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

From wiki:

Sliced bread is a loaf of bread which has been pre-sliced and packaged for convenience. It was first sold in 1928, advertised as "the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped." This led to the popular phrase, "the greatest thing since sliced bread".

Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa invented the first loaf-at-a-time bread-slicing machine. A prototype he built in 1912 was destroyed in a fire and it was not until 1928 that Rohwedder had a fully working machine ready. The first commercial use of the machine was by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri, which produced their first slices on July 7, 1928. Their product, "Kleen Maid Sliced Bread", proved a success. Battle Creek, Michigan has a competing claim as the first city to sell bread presliced by Rohwedder's machine; however, historians have produced no documentation backing up Battle Creek's claim. The bread was advertised as, "the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped."

St. Louis baker Gustav Papendick bought Rohwedder's second bread slicer and set out to improve it by devising a way to keep the slices together at least long enough to allow the loaves to be wrapped. After failures trying rubber bands and metal pins, he settled on placing the slices into a cardboard tray. The tray aligned the slices, allowing mechanized wrapping machines to function.

W.E. Long, who promoted the Holsum Bread brand, used by various independent bakers around the country, pioneered and promoted the packaging of sliced bread beginning in 1928. In 1930 Wonder Bread, first sold in 1925, started marketing sliced bread nationwide.

The phrase "the greatest thing since sliced bread" (and variations thereof) is a commonly used hyperbolic means of praising an invention or development. Sliced bread appears to be something of an arbitrary selection as the benchmark against which later inventions should be judged. It has been said that "the phrase is the ultimate depiction of innovative achievement and American know-how," although it is commonly used in the United Kingdom as well.

The popular use of the phrase derives from the fact that Wonder Bread, the first mass-marketer of sliced bread as a product, launched a 1930s ad campaign touting the innovation.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Ooh just one more.

Fresh pod peas picked just seconds before from your back yard and consumed in the living room from a paper bag..


Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 24, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Finally, the scientific explanation for 'shrinkage.'

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe I didn't do the dangle item for WTA.

The nocturnal question -- isn't it that night-time is when people drink, relax, party? As opposed to, you know, go off to work? I'm just not sure you need the ambient temperature explanation. Seems to be a form of overexplaining and hyper-reductionism.

Posted by: joelache | November 24, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

And re #10 above: they also didn't have sliced bread in 1943. From the same wiki entry:

During 1943, U. S. officials imposed a short-lived ban on sliced bread as a wartime conservation measure. The ban was ordered by Claude R. Wickard who held the position of Food Administrator, and took effect on January 18, 1943. According to the New York Times, officials explained that "the ready-sliced loaf must have a heavier wrapping than an unsliced one if it is not to dry out." It was also intended to counteract a rise in the price of bread, caused by the Office of Price Administration's authorization of a ten percent increase in flour prices.

In a Sunday radio address on January 24, Mayor LaGuardia suggested that bakeries that had their own bread-slicing machines should be allowed to continue to use them, and on January 26, 1943, a letter appeared in the New York Times from a distraught housewife:

I should like to let you know how important sliced bread is to the morale and saneness of a household. My husband and four children are all in a rush during and after breakfast. Without ready-sliced bread I must do the slicing for toast—two pieces for each one—that's ten. For their lunches I must cut by hand at least twenty slices, for two sandwiches apiece. Afterward I make my own toast. Twenty-two slices of bread to be cut in a hurry!
On January 26, however, John F. Conaboy, the New York Area Supervisor of the Food Distribution Administration, warned bakeries, delicatessens, and other stores that were continuing to slice bread to stop, saying that "to protect the cooperating bakeries against the unfair competition of those who continue to slice their own bread... we are prepared to take stern measures if necessary."

On March 8, 1943, the ban was rescinded. Wickard stated that "Our experience with the order, however, leads us to believe that the savings are not as much as we expected, and the War Production Board tells us that sufficient wax paper to wrap sliced bread for four months is in the hands of paper processor and the baking industry.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

So glad you're a fan of King Arthur Flour - but since we've been around since 1790, we actually pre-date sliced bread, too. :)
Happy baking!

Posted by: allisonfurbish | November 24, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

While those are all delicious foods, none seem to carry the industrial awe of a true innovation, like microwave popcorn.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

And the circadian rhythm theory doesn't quite explain the phenomenon of morning wood, which played a part as a major plot point in Kilgore Trout's 'Venus On The Half Shell.'

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Dazzle 'em at the gym!

"I'm working on my cremasteric muscle flexes."

Posted by: kguy1 | November 24, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Oh yello. I beg to differ.

I mean, have you *tried* Tully's Coffee Americano?

But I do see your point.

How about grind-at-home coffee in general?

Microwave anything.

And, of course, premixed chocolate chip cookie dough.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 24, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm reasonably sure that the words schnarfigrade and cremasteric have never before appeared in the same sentence, the same page, the same Boodle, indeed, the same newspaper, ever before in our proud nation's history.

Methinks Joel could do an entire new book simply called "Why Things Dangle." Christmas tree ornaments, earings, bats, sloths, stalgmites (tites? I can never remember), participles, conversations (see Simon, Paul, "dangling conversations and superficial sighs, the borders of our lives" from The Dangling Conversation, Parsley Sage Rosemary and Tyhme album, 1966), telephones off telephone cords (older mystery novels), etc.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I had a co-worker describe a celebrity's head as the size of a bread box. I chuckled because I "got it" but the younger set didn't have a clue what a bread box was. Are bread boxes not used anymore?

Posted by: mfigiel-krueger | November 24, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Another thing one is unlikely to find in the pages of the SciAmerican article: "Alex, I'll take 'Things That Dangle' for $200."

yello, didn't "Morning Wood" first appear on the Beatles' Rubber Soul album? Or am I thinking of something else?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

"Why Things Dangle?"


Send me the advance.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

You want something better than sliced bread? How about movies of Saturn's aurora on the night side:

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 24, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Much better.

Such a list should also include:

Safety pull tabs.
Juice boxes.
Refrigerator cases of soda.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Things NOT better than sliced bread:

Microwave burritos
Frozen pizzas with the little microwave disc
Clamshell plastic cases on electronics
High fructose corn syrup

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I put instant coffee in a microwave and almost went back in time...

(my apologies, Steven)

I'd have to say the CPU tops the list.

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 24, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I am thrilled to bits that a representative of the King Arthur Flour Company has left a comment. Rapture!

Stalactites do not dangle. They hang.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 24, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

You're thinking of the funeral for Robert Wagner's wife.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

No dangle?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Tim, I was impressed. Allison Furbish... speak of King Arthur and she appears!

Posted by: bobsewell | November 24, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

The inner workings of the NYT usage cops:

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I like that when sliced bread was introduced it was the best thing since wrapped bread.

However, each pales in comparison with the real best thing - hot fresh bread.

Posted by: engelmann | November 24, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Stalagmites have a "g" as in "ground", while stalactites have a "c" for "ceiling". Works for me.

Posted by: engelmann | November 24, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

And for Climate Change Tuesday Before Thanksgiving (so you have plenty of ammo for global warming deniers at your table):

Climate change has been understated.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

The WaPo front page has no less than THREE photos of Susan Boyle on it right now -- one in the rotator box up top, one in the Style/Gallery/Travel banner at midpage, and then not half an inch below it in the Gallery banner box.

Isn't that a bit of Susan Boyle overkill? Jeez, even if they ran three photos of Evangeline Lilly I'd protes...uh. No, I wouldn't. Never mind. Bad example. OK, three Eva Mendes. Nope. That's not it either. Three...Halle Berries. Nah. Three Scarlett Johansona. Jeez, I didn't think this was gonna be so tough. Three Tamara Taylors. No. Two Tamara Taylors and a Sanaa Latham. No, that won't work, either.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Five (three, sir!)...

Three Ethel Mermans.

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 24, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Whipped Cream in Spray Cans.

Toaster Waffles.

Top Ramen.

Did I mention the premixed Chocolate Chip Cookies Dough?

Cause that one's a biggie.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 24, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

We don't eat white bread as a rule, except I like a little in my homemade Thanksgiving stuffing. I was thinking, as I cubed some bread this morning, how good some San Francisco sourdough would taste in the mix this year. So I ran to HEB market, where I had three choices. Brand A, whose name I can't remember; Cobblestone Mill--which was by far the most expensive and advertised on the wrapper "San Francisco Style"; and PepperRidge Farms, which was on sale.

So I returned home and began cubing the sliced sourdough bread to discover that there is nothing San Francisco-ish about the bread whatsoever. It's unfortunately slightly stale, doesn't have the crusty crust or overall texture, and isn't flavorful at all. The wrapper reveals that the bread is distributed by Flower Foods Bakery Group of Thomasville, Georgia! What do Georgians and Southerners in general know of San Francisco sourdough? They know peanuts!

This is the absolute last time I'll turn to a Georgia bakery for a Bay Area specialty. I spent far too much do-re-mi on this disappointing dough from Dixie. I'm soured on the thought of ever buying this brand again.

Posted by: laloomis | November 24, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

That is a biggie. E. coli-free premixed Chocolate Chip Cookies Dough would be even better.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

My list of best things,

Tim Horton's coffee - not the best but always consistent.
Starbucks Low Fat, No Whip Gingerbread Latte with their Molasses Cookie.

Liquid Advil Migraine

I live simply :-)

Now not to be out done by the embarassment of calling out our army to clear snow in Toronto (although workng there at the time it was needed), today a deer wandered downtown - you will note the response involve more than a few agencies - seriously the SWAT team.

Posted by: dmd3 | November 24, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Wizards owner Abe Pollin has died...


Posted by: Scottynuke | November 24, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Local radio station WTOP is reporting that Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Wizards, has died, age 85. RIP.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Susan Boyle will be Susan Boyle.

During her NYC debut on NBC's Today show yesterday, she took the stage in a pretty black coat with a red scarf. (Since lightning knocked out the red in our TV, it looked gold. So, I'm glad to see the true colors on the home page.)

Both before and after her first song, "I Dreamed a Dream," and before the station cut to a commercial when she'd ended, the camera caught her vigorously twirling the end of the scarf like tassles, and giving that sassy, defiant hip sway that she did before the judges of "Britain's Got Talent." I think she even let out a western type of "Yee-haw."

For the second and third numbers she performed, the scarf, spun saucily only minutes earlier, was loooong gone. Her windblown hair had been tamed, but she definitely looked like she'd been tightly stage-managed thereafter.

Largest preorder on for her CD, though not all critics gave it positive reviews.

Posted by: laloomis | November 24, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Sanitary napkins--my mom says she wore rags that she would wash.

Then sanitary napkins with adhesive strips replacing the earlier hooks/hardware.


The Pill.

Posted by: laloomis | November 24, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Damn, I mighta beaten Scotty if I hadn't used all them extry words.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Rags? You had rags? Why we were so poor...

Wait a minute...

I think I'm on potentially thin ice here.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, in a sort of twisted holiday spirit, there were:

Three Susan Boyles
Two Lamberts
And a penguin in the Gallery.

Posted by: rashomon | November 24, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Oh my God. You can eat tampons?

That's just weird.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 24, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Fiiiiiiivvvvveeeeeeeee Kristen Wiigs!
Three Susan Boyles!
Two Lambert screamies
And a penguin in the Gallerrreeeeeeeee.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Brigham's vanilla ice cream with jimmies (chocolate sprinkles to non-New Englanders)

Dunkin Donuts coffee - for the same reason dmd chose Tim Horton's

Low-fat animal crackers

Diet cranberry juice

Agree about King Arthur's flour - why does any other company bother?

Posted by: badsneakers | November 24, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Oh dear -- so many items to comment on. Terribly sad about Abe Pollin. Now *there's* a sports team owner to be proud of!

Sliced bread -- I remember when my father used to take my brother and me on Sunday mornings down to Detroit to a particular bakery -- sawdust on the floor, wonderful smells -- and he would order "One loaf of Russian pumpernickel, sliced thin." And that pumpernickel was wonderful. The crusts were chewy and the taste was fabulous. i've tried to make pumpernickel without too much success. I think I need more coffee and chocolate in it. Maybe when I get my back taken care of, I'll partake in bread baking again. I did a lot of it in law school (the kneading is tremendously therapeutic, I must say).

I looked at the song choices on Susan Boyle's CD on Amazon, and I found that I wasn't really interested. I think she is a dynamite singer, but I also think I'm spoiled by Eva Cassidy. Two different voices, to be sure, but I think Susan Boyle is being wound up a bit too tight by her current set of handlers. She doesn't appear to be too business savvy or that confident yet to take the reins herself. I'll wait for the next CD from her and see if I'm interested.

And, Joel, the word "inscrotable" made me thrilled that I wasn't partaking of any beverage while reading. What a great word!

Dang, this Boodle is smart! *shhhh -- don't tell nobody . . . *

Posted by: -ftb- | November 24, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Improvements on things available in 1928, or unavailable since then. . . hmmm. Everything on Joel's list, even pre-washed salad which I don't use any more. Most of RD's list (is it snack time, RD?) with particular agreement on the pre-mixed chocolate chip cookie dough. Most of the other suggestions too.

Things I take for granted that my farm-based grandmother would have done violence for, even as late as 1928:
Reliable electric oven and stove.
Electric refrigerator and freezer.
Electric washing machine & drier. [Do we see a theme developing?]
Central heat and air.
Vacuum cleaner.
Clorox wipes.
Paper towels.

All these simple things make my daily life easier and more pleasant, and occasionally safer. I know Grandma would have liked them, because she was an early adapter and embraced "new stuff", particularly stuff which made her life easier, as quick as it came out. She gave away all her "old stuff" (antiques to you and me).

* I know the drawbacks to cellphones but they are gosh darn handy, particularly in emergencies.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 24, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

What the hell, rashomon, ya wanna go for the whole megillah?

"On the Twelfth day of the Secular Seasonal Holiday the WaPo gave to me:

Ten pundits whining...

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

You beat me, mudge. I was about to do

Six pundits opining.

Posted by: rashomon | November 24, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

No, they started with ten. But carry on, carry on.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 24, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Well, under More Top Stories, there are

Eleven categories

Posted by: rashomon | November 24, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Okay, now I've got it. Concentrating on food items since sliced bread (though I still think it is snack time). I second the suggestions aleady, with, again, special praise for pre-mixed chocolate chip cookie dough (which, parenthetically or pathetically as you will, I at one point swore I would Never Use, since as a baker and a Good Mom I would continue to make my own cookies, until I realized that any fresh-baked cookie tastes better than a store-packaged one, and Life is Short, and success in parenting is not measured in cookie dough, in much the same way that I realized Canned Green Beans are - gasp - vegetables and therefore better for my child than no green beans). Whew. Deep breath.

Unroll-and-bake dinner rolls, croissants and cinnamon rolls.
Vacuum-seal plastic food packaging.
No-boil lasagna noodles.
Dove bars.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 24, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of high fructose corn syrup and store-bought bread, I was startled to learn that, in the whole bread aisle at our SuperTarget (my grocery of choice if not inclination), the only loaf NOT made with high fructose corn syrup is Nature's Own Whole Wheat. That includes the other, fancier whole wheat breads. Ivansdad and the Boy get pretty tired of that Nature's Own, let me tell you. And the only way to buy hamburger buns without the Evil Substance is to buy the Target fresh-made bakery ones; every packaged brand has it.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 24, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I read all the labels.

I read all the salad dressing labels too (Target brand again) and the snacks (goldfish and pretzels) and the cookies and . . . .

People look at me funny in the grocery store sometimes.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 24, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, somewhere around here I have the cookbook that came with my grandmother's woodburning stove. I just can't imagine the work involved in having to start a fire to cook meals. I remember her washing machine with the external wringer. My mother talked about having two dresses for school. That meant that my grandmother had to wash, dry, and iron schoolclothes for five kids every day. By hand. Regardless of the weather.

Posted by: slyness | November 24, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm the same way, Ivansmom. It makes me want to throw things when I read HFCS in absolutely everything in sight! No way I want to ingest that stuff all the time.

*feeling suddenly cranky -- hold on*

Ok, I'm back. . . .

Food processing companies seem to enjoy the fact that most Americans (and others who also live here) don't read labels and don't much care what they put in their bodies. Whenever I'm at the grocery store (regular, not Trader Joe's or Whole Foods) I see people putting nothing in their carts but chips and sodas. And these folks aren't thin, either.


Posted by: -ftb- | November 24, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Oh, slyness, my mother had that kind of washing machine with the external wringer. The clothes were dried on the line outside or in the basement during inclement weather. She really, really appreciated getting a fully automatic washer and dryer.

I'd like to be able to employ someone to do that. Helps the economy, that's fer sher.

Posted by: -ftb- | November 24, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

OK, mudge, I've got:

Twelve News Guide topics
Eleven categories
Ten pundits whining
Nine ways to get them
Eight Post Partners
Seven point NASDAQ drop
Six Discussion topics
Five celebrities
Three Susan Boyles
Two Lamberts and
A penguin in the Gallery

Posted by: rashomon | November 24, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I once worked with a guy who told me that when he asked his 100-year-old grandmother what invention she'd call the most important in her long and invention-filled life, she said "screens."

Posted by: -TBG- | November 24, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I can see that, TBG! The good of not having mosquitoes inside, especially at night...and keeping other bugs out too!

Posted by: slyness | November 24, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Funny, rashomon and Mudge.

Screens indeedy.

In the not-food category, disposable diapers and the Diaper Genie. I know it is an ecological nightmare. Sorry.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 24, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

In case anyone cares, I posted in the kit the invite list for the state dinner at the White House.

Posted by: joelache | November 24, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

No comments on this passage from the SciAm article?

"This new hypothesis, which the authors call “the activation hypothesis,” sets out to explain the natural origins of the only human body part arguably less attractive than the penis--the testicles."

While it's nice to have those parts around the house, I'm just as glad I don't have to wear them.

Posted by: ndgirl | November 24, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

The best version of Bohemian Rhapsody since Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theater:

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

The genitals of either gender are really not much to look at. I guess they don't have to be.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 24, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Yes, ndgirl, I look down on them, myself. One might say.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 24, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Please turn your heads, cough, and then proceed to the new kit.

Posted by: engelmann | November 24, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Gosh, Joel. I was going to commiserate with your unaccountable absence from the State Dinner list (they forgot me too) by suggesting it would be a dull affair. Then I saw Dan Mulhern would be there. I knew him in law school. I didn't know his wife, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, very well, but Dan's a cool guy. In fact, the whole list looks like it'll be a pretty interesting party. Ah well.

I myself, after cleaning the rabbit cage and feeding the dogs, plan on a tasty home-cooked meal of pasta, or perhaps quesadillas, or possibly just scrambled eggs, in the convivial company of my family, followed by a scintillating rehearsal. Only the high life for me.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 24, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I know there is a new serious kit but thought I'd share this link: Please look at the third bullet on the left hand side under hot topics. It is a hilarious read --found it in a little store in San Diego.
A friend and I could not stop laughing in the store.

Posted by: Windy3 | November 24, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

All dog owners please read this blog entry before you travel with your dogs for the holidays.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 24, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

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