(Another ancient draft, and I don’t remember much of anything from the book.)

Wang-3-Watch mentioned his book American Vertigo (the blog was deleted for whatever reason), and after almost 3 months I finally finished it. Not that it’s dull–just the opposite. It’s just that I only have a few commute minutes on weekdays to read, if I’m awake at all.

Before I say anything, you’d better take a look at this piece.

Then if you still have any interest, how about another one, which says “Noël Godin has hit him a record five times”.

Still with me? Are you nuts?! Or is it because my hair is perfect?

If I had read those, I wouldn’t in a million years have borrowed the book from library. The book is a good read, almost like a road trip reality show, and if anything, I learned about Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, which I promise to never read.







豆瓣的一条评论更有些细节:“何先生的中学、大学同学骆静兰女士,时任商务印书馆的副总编辑···来问老同学有没有兴趣翻译罗素的这本书。因为这是工作之外的“私活”,最后何先生只接了上册的一半,另一半商务委托了南开大学的李约瑟教授(此李约瑟非彼李约瑟,这位李教授已故,其公子任职国家图书馆)。”终于了结了我多年来关于Joseph Needham为什么会去翻西哲史的疑惑。



  • 文:院长冯友兰,历史系钱穆、陈寅恪,哲学系,中文系朱自清、闻一多、沈从文,外文系吴宓、卞之琳、钱钟书
  • 理:数学系陈省身、华罗庚、许宝騄,物理系叶企孙、吴有训、饶毓泰、吴大猷、周培源,化学系曾昭抡
  • 法商:院长陈序经、周炳琳,芮沐
  • 师范



This must be one of the most delicious books ever. As usual I was reading it on my evening commute, and boy did it make me hungry. The book isn’t particularly well written, but those things would look just as delicious in a People’s Daily editorial.

There are a few obvious omissions of famous gourmet materials, as the author mentions, e.g. olive oil and foie gras. His criteria for inclusion is more about exclusiveness: there’s only one place in the world that can possibly produce it.

This post is simply a note. The story of each one can easily fill a book.

Aceta Balsamic Tradizionale di Modena

  • Material: Trebbiano, lambrusco grape
  • Environment: Wood barrels in attic
  • Production time: >= 12 years. > 25: Extra Vecchio
  • Production volume: 20,000 100ml bottles
  • Brand: Acetaia Malpighi, Acetaia del Cristol
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Roast vegetable, Parmesan cheese, strawberry
  • Comparable: Aceta Balsamic Tradizionale di Reggio-Emilia


Huître Bélon de Bretagne

  • Material: Ostrea Edulis
  • Environment: Brittany seashore, then Bélon river head
  • Production time: 18 months in the sea, 2 months in river
  • Production volume: 1000 tons
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Chablis white wine

Poulet de Bresse

  • Material: 2kg (sans feathers and intestines)
  • Environment: Grassland, 5000m2/500 chicken, fed with corn and milk
  • Production time: 5 weeks in house, 9 weeks on grass, 2 weeks in epinette
  • Production volume: 1 million
  • Brand: Chapon de Bresse (osten) > 3kg; Poularde de Bresse (fat hen)
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: roast

Fleur de sel de Guérande

  • Material: sea water
  • Environment: 1000 acre, 7820 oeillet
  • Production time: 2 large tides/month; 5 days to oeillet
  • Production volume: 10,000 tons of salt; 200-400 tons of fleur
  • Brand: Le Guérandais
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: as condiment
  • Comparable: Ile de Noirmoutier, Ile de Ré, Ria Formosa, Camargue

Jamón Ibérico de Jabugo

  • Material: Iberia pig (pata negra, “black-foot”) 150-180kg, leg 10kg
  • Environment: Dehesa (acorn wood), 1 hectare/pig
  • Production time: 18 months live, Salt 1day/kg, Dry 3 months/kg, Cellar 6-18 months
  • Brand: Grade: Bellota > recebo > cebo/campo/pienso. Region: Huelva, Guijuelo, Extremadura, Pedroches
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Fino/manzanilla sherry, La Rioja red wine
  • Comparable: Prosciutto de Parma, Prosciutto de San Daniele, Jamón Serrano de Trevélez



  • Material: 16l milk makes 1kg
  • Environment:
  • Production time: 1-1.5 years: fresco, 1.4-2: vecchio (best), 2-3: stravecchio
  • Production volume: 300,000 cubes
  • Brand:
  • Cooking and gourmet companion:
  • Comparable: Grana Padano, Lodiagiano, Trentino


  • Material: Lacaune sheep, 5kg milk makes 1kg, Penicillium roqueforti
  • Environment: Causse, Fleurine
  • Production time: 4-9 months
  • Production volume:
  • Brand: Société des Caves, Papillon (black is best), Cabriel Coulet
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Sauternes, Pecan, grape
  • Comparable: Bleu d’Auvergne, Blue des Causses, Gorgonzola, Cabrales

Tartufo bianco di Alba;
Truffe noire du Perigord

  • Material: truffle
  • Environment: Loose gravel ground, acorn wood
  • Production time: 1 year
  • Production volume: white 2000kg, black 30,000 kg
  • Brand:
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Demi-deuil, Risotto
  • Comparable: Champignon Terfez, Tuber aestivum
white truffle

black truffle

It’s one of the few things that I actually got done recently.

I got 131 books in LibraryThing (not even hitting the 200 limit for free membership, sigh) and 461 in Douban.

For Chinese books, I ended up using J’s keypad instead of CueCat, because too many don’t have bar code, and it’s not any slower.

Douban really lacks a lot of features, and books–I think I had at least 30 new entries. One most obvious missing thing for social networking is to show members with the most shared books. And the “work” concept in LibraryThing would help tremendously, since many Chinese books have a sickeningly large number of editions.

LibraryThing’s “top books and authors” is another Douban miss. I’m really surprised that 1984 is #9 and Animal Farm #19. There’s hope in humanity, after Harry Potter.

I’ve always wanted to catalog our library. I heard about LibraryThing a while back, but didn’t pursue it.

Last month we brought a stack of books back from China, as always. And I forgot what drove me to buy a CueCat from LibraryThing, but yes, I finally decided to do it.

I regretted as soon as I got the PayPal confirmation email. Why did I buy a bar code scanner when I can just type in the ISBN?

It turns out as one of the better mistakes I’ve made lately. There’s only one issue here: efficiency.

We have far more Chinese books than English ones, and I immediately found that LibraryThing can’t find any Chinese book from its few alleged Chinese sources. Then I remembered Douban.

Douban is a lot more of a social network than a library as LibraryThing, as you can’t even sort your books. But it does a pretty good job of finding Chinese books, so I happily entered about a dozen ISBNs manually.

Then I realized how efficient CueCat is with LibraryThing. Ignore the time to take a book from the shelf and put it back, it takes less than a second to get a book into LibraryThing after I mastered the scan speed, whereas it takes at least 15-20 seconds for Douban: type 10 digits (my laptop doesn’t have a num pad), enter, click “Reading”, “Want to Read”, or “Have Read”, pick tags.

Granted, I need to tag books in LibraryThing later, but that can be done in a batch.

So after a few more Chinese books I couldn’t stand it any more. I found a site with JavaScript to decode CueCat string, but it’s still a hassle to copy-n-paste the ISBN into Douban. Then I found Douban has API (python, php, and Java), and thought I could write a simple web app to decode CueCat, search Douban, and add the book.

It would probably take a web programmer less than 15 minutes to do it, but I was too lazy and too dumb. Instead I found a Java app that decodes and launches a browser, and Douban has a search URL like Now it takes about 5 seconds. Good enough.

After I finish scanning all the books, hopefully I can gather some courage to write something with Douban’s API to better display the books.

For now, here are our English books, and here are our Chinese books.

Don’t even think of borrowing them.

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