Roxana Popescu

Stories by Roxana Popescu

  • Tastes Great, Less Billing

    In a world without price tags or labels, which wines would rule? Food writer Robin Goldstein offers an answer in "The Wine Trials," a new book based on a blind taste test of 540 wines, priced between $1.50 and $150. Goldstein's 500 volunteer tasters, a group that included experts and everyday drinkers, sipped more than 6,000 glasses of wine and recorded their impressions on a simple scale of bad, OK, good and great. Their results might rattle a few wine snobs, but the average oenophile can rejoice: 100 wines under $15 consistently outperformed their upscale cousins. For instance, after the initial ratings were turned into numbers (1 for "bad," 4 for "great"), a $9.99 bottle of Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut outscored a $150 bottle of Dom Perignon, while Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon, known as "Two-Buck Chuck," bested the $55 version from Stags' Leap Artemis. Several box wines, much derided in some circles, also cracked the top 100. This is what happens when you "get past the jargon...
  • Short Books for the Time-Pressed

    Here are five books for people in a hurry. We promise: you can read one in the time it takes to watch a movie.
  • No Child Outside the Classroom

    When no child left behind became law in 2002, teachers suspected there'd be some casualties—they just didn't think field trips would be one of them. Since the federal government's landmark overhaul of U.S. schools, class trips have plummeted at some of the country's traditional hot spots for brown-bag learning. The new emphasis on standardized testing has resulted in "a reluctance to take kids out of the classroom," says Natalie Bortoli, head of the visual-arts program at the Chicago Children's Museum, which has lost more than a tenth of its field-trip business since 2005. At Mystic Seaport, a maritime museum on the Connecticut coast, school traffic has slowed more than a quarter since 2005, while Boston's New England Aquarium has lost nearly the same amount since 2003. Even NASA's Johnson Space Center has started to see its figures stagnate, says marketing director Roger Bornstein, "and stability is not our goal."Teachers blame the bear market in part on No Child Left Behind, which...
  • Romney’s Health-Care Plan

    Romney championed a universal plan as governor. Will he be judged on its success as a presidential candidate?
  • No Silent Treatment

    Smut isn't the only thing that sells well online. STD treatments also trade briskly in the anonymous e-commerce world, where the afflicted can avoid the shame of being spotted at a local clinic. The problem, says a new study from Britain's University of East Anglia, is that do-it-yourself remedies are often unregulated, untested—and unclear about the side effects. Researchers found 52 U.K. and U.S. vendors selling 77 dubious medications, many claiming natural or herbal ingredients, to treat genital warts, herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Almost half promised results, but hardly any offered evidence of effectiveness beyond breathless testimonials—misleading because many STDs have periods during which they show no symptoms. "You think you've treated yourself," says the study's coauthor, Dr. Roberto Vivancos, "but the infection is still there, silent." Worse, less than a quarter of the remedies discussed side effects, nor did they offer advice on how to avoid reinfection or infecting...
  • Public Art Controversies

    Public installations have been raising hackles ever since that pesky Parthenon went up in Greece. Next up: a controversial sculpture is set to rise from the ashes in Phoenix.
  • Managing Your Money Online

    A new wave of financial management Web sites taps into the power of social networks. Which sites will survive?
  • Keepsakes From Loved Ones Ashes

    For nine years, Patty Gorman-Bishop kept her mother's ashes in a drawer, unsure how to display them. She wanted something evocative of her mother and didn't want a traditional urn. Then she discovered Art From Ashes, a Web company that incorporates a teaspoon of pet or human "cremains" into luminous artwork. Bishop ordered a cobalt blue paperweight, which catches the sunlight on her windowsill. "It's vibrant," she says. "It matches my mother's personality."As cremation becomes a more popular funeral option, families are searching for personalized ways to remember their loved ones—and online businesses are emerging to meet that demand. Cremated remains can be used in almost anything now: in hand-blown glass ornaments, as Art From Ashes provides; in diamonds, offered by a company called Life Gem, or even in colorful coral reefs, à la Eternal Reefs. Prestige Memorials sells oil paintings containing flecks of ash, starting at about $800. For one grieving husband whose wife was a "Wizard...
  • College Costs: Studying Abroad

    With the dollar falling, the cost of studying abroad is rising for everything from meals to museums. How some students are coping.
  • A Boom In ‘Poorism’

    Most tourists scrupulously avoid grubby alleys in foreign cities where they might brush past gun-toting drug lords, but Kevin Outterson, a law professor at Boston University, actually paid to do it. It was precisely the kind of experience that drew him to Brazil's favelas, or slums. Outterson is part of a small but growing band of tourists who prefer to skip traditional hot spots and visit squalor instead. "It's not Disneyland," Outterson says. He's also visited junkyards in Cairo and in Mazatlán, Mexico, where he cooked lunch for local trash collectors. Such excursions into the world's poorest pockets can cause stereotypes to fizzle; Outterson found the favela dwellers to be industrious—not "desperate and crushed" as one might expect.The trips are all part of an educational—and perhaps a bit voyeuristic—new travel niche dubbed "poorism." Private operators in Soweto, South Africa; Mumbai, India; Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and, naturally, New York all offer similar tours. They're...
  • Cars: Where’s the Perfect Part?

    In the past, finding the perfect part for a classic-car restoration meant joining enthusiast clubs, hanging around swap meets and pawing through junkyards. How the Web has revolutionized the hunt.