Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry, uh, Holidays

Or Season's Greetings! Or Happy Hannukah! Or Happy Eid ul-Adah!

In celebration of the holidays, I bring you "The Spirit of Christmas" (and in Russian for those that prefer).

Good info on veg*n diets

We have a vegan/vegetarian (hence veg*n) distribution list at work, and one of the regular topics that comes up is good sources of protein. The next-most popular topics are iron and vitamin B-12, since many meat-eaters think that veg*ns can't possible get enough of these nutrients.

It turns out that with a little research/education, and a varied diet, you can meet all of your dietary needs with a veg*n diet.

In terms of education, the Internet has lots of good information... So much that it's hard to know where to start or who to trust. I'd recommend starting with the pages on the Vegan Society website.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Brown really was a dumb idea

I rememebr when the first Zunes came out and everyone looked at the brown colour and went "Whaaaat?!"
Some folks said brown was an "in" colour (lots of fashion designers were using brown that year), and that Microsoft was riding the crest of the coolness wave and differentiating the Zune from the white iPod.

Cue 2007... The new Zunes are out, and brown is nowhere to be seen...
The old Zunes are on deep clearance (e.g. $109 on What colour is left?
You guessed it : Brown!

When all life on earth is extinct, there will be "mint in box" brown Zunes left as a testament to Man's ingenuity.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Woodinville St. Nick's wine-tasting

Last weekend, a few friends and I sent to Woodinville for their annual St. Nicholas Open House. The event ran over both Saturday and Sunday, but we only did one day - next weekend I think I'll try to make it to both days, since there are far too many wineries to fit into one day. As it was, we did pretty well, visiting around 10 wineries in about 5 hours.

I had only basic knowledge of the area's wineries, having been to Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Winery a few times, and having heard about a few of the bigger wineries like Januik.

We skipped most of these big names, but did stop in at the Januik / Novelty Hill winery, which is very impressive and modern. This was in contrast to our first stop of the day at DeLille Winery (which was one of the venues we looked at for our wedding). DeLille was very cozy and had lots of wood and country ambience (kudos for the huge roaring fire on a wet snowy day!). They also had passed hors d'ouevres and a cheese selection to die for... I didn't think their wines were that amazing, though (they have lots of awards, so I guess I'm not smart enough to appreciate their wines?)

A slight peeve at DeLille was that they stamped your St. Nicks booklet for every glass of wine you tasted, which was rather tedious and seemed cheap. (How many people would have abused their hospitality and drunk too much wine? No other winery felt the need to be this fastidious.)

Back to Januik / Novelty Hill: Their tasting was held in the actual winery, with loads of stainless steel fermentation tanks and oak barrels stacked to the ceiling. Their wines were clean, fruity and generally very good, but I thought they lacked some "character" and tasted a bit generic. (We were tasting their more everyday wines, which no doubt are made in a more approachable style). I did like their Cab Sauv and they had a very good Rose wine that we all liked. There was also a guy selling amazing savoury shortbread that came in several flavours, and each went very well with a particular kind of wine. A nice idea, and his stuff worked very well with wine (unlike some savoury biscotti we tried in Oregon this summer).

Other wineries we tried were:
  • SilverLake (their adjoining tasting room also had incredible fruit wines from the Hoodsport Winery, and yummy chocolate truffles). We bought some blackberry and raspberry wine, which have already been had and enjoyed :)
  • Facelli Winery, which is a small family-run winery tucked away in an industrial park. Their tasting room was small and a little cramped, but the family was on hand pouring their wines and very friendly.
  • Northwest Totem Cellars were pouring their wines at the old Hollywood School House. They were defintely the most laid-back and inviting of all the wineries, not even looking at our St. Nick's booklet. They had an awesome folk band playing, and their wines were quite good. (I think I liked their Low Man Red the best, but the Cab Sauv was very nice too). Their first reds are being released this month, so keep an eye out for them!
  • DiStefano Winery had some good wines and great food - their pumpkin soup was very welcome as the rain poured down outside.

The highlight of the day for me was the discovery of Pomum Cellars. The setup was basic but inviting and the wine-maker was on hand pouring his creation. Apparently they had some amazing cheese, but I missed it completely as I tasted the one wine they had out - they 2004 Shya Red. This was the only wine I tasted all day that made me go "Wow!". It's a Bordeaux-style blend with more of an old-world style and lots of character. I had a great time talking to the winemaker about how he got into the wine business, and his plans for the future. Since he's from Spain, he is working on some Spanish varietals and will have a Tempranillo coming out soon (next year?). I'm really excited to see what their future wines are like and would recommend trying their wines if you have the chance.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Columbia Winery moving

I just noticed this story on the Seattle Times website about the Columbia Winery in Woodinville. They are moving from their current iconic location, and will be looking for a new retail/sales location in or around Woodinville. The production facilities will move to Eastern Washington.

I also didn't realize that Columbia are owned by Constellation Brands. I've just finished reading The House of Mondavi about the Mondavi family and the collapse of the Robert Mondavi's wine empire. It was eventually bought by Constellation...

The book is great, by the way. Very readable and full of interesting anectdotes and facts about the wine industry. If you're interested in wine or rags-to-riches-to-rags* biographies, check out this book.

* OK, not rags in the end exactly, but you get the idea.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Costco spam

Sigh... I love the marketing spam many companies feel inclined to send their customers. Costco is one of the more persistent ones, sending a weekly email advertising their latest Chinese imports. As is legally required, they include an "unsubscribe" link in the email, and I tried (in vain) to unsubscribe today.

  1. You can't unsubscribe by replying to their email. You must click on a link they provide in the email...

  2. The unsubscribe link is invalid and clicking on it does nothing. (The URL starts with "../" which is not a good sign :) )

  3. Their email includes a customer service email address, so I sent them a request to send me working unsbscribe link...

  4. This is the reply I got from the customer service "robot" :

  5. Thank you for contacting note your e-mail has not been submitted to customer service as we have upgraded our e-mail system.Simply click here and follow 3 easy steps to submit your question. Our goal is to provide immediate assistance and continue to add features to improve the customer service experience.If the above link does not work, paste the following link into your browser:

    This is an automated response and any replies sent will not receive assistance.


    Costco Wholesale

  6. Clicking on the link they provide eventually leads to nice error message:

Frack me, but they've managed to make this way more complicated than needed. I guess they really don't want you to unsubscribe!!!??

Friday, December 07, 2007

Office make-over

On Wednesday morning, after the ice-hockey game, I came in to work to find my office door looked a bit different:

Christmas Office Door 1

The entire door was wrapped in gift wrap and had a nice bow around it. Inside, I found almost every object in my office wrapped in gift wrap! My chair, notice boards, monitors, keyboard and mouse, even my (empty) water cup and pen! This picture doesn't really do it justice (and I had unwrapped a few things by the time it was taken), but you get a rough idea:

Christmas Office 3   Christmas Office 6Christmas Office 5

I had no idea who had done this (yes, I'm slow) - initially thinking my boss or colleagues were pranking me. Then I recognized a few holiday decorations from our house (the reindeer), and a note on one monitor finally solved the mystery: My fiancee and friends had pranked me while I was out watching the ice-hockey! (It turns out they were not all watching the Sound of Music as they had said....)

Thanks to all the "naughty people" that did this! It was a huge surprise and made my day!

In closing, here's the light-up snowman head:

Christmas Office 4

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Picnik chuckle

I used the Picnik photo-editing application for the first time last night (it's the one that Flickr partners with, so it's the easiest way to tweak your Flickr pictures).

I must say I was mightily impressed. For a web app, it was slick, intuitive and worked nicely. (Granted I only cropped an image, but still, compared to the Windows picture editor it's a step or two ahead).

The loading screen is worth seeing - they've definitely followed the light-hearted tone used by Flickr for their website. So, in keeping with the name "Picnik", the loading screen informs you that the program is:
  • Laying the blanket
  • Buttering the bread
  • Planting trees
  • Warming the breeze
  • etc.

Luckily ants and yellow-jackets are not mentioned...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ice Hockey

I went to my first ice hockey game last night, and had a fun time. Luckily my friends K & R wer there to explain the intricacies of the game to me, otherwise I would have been pretty lost.

It turns out ice hockey is blindingly fast and quite exciting to watch. I spent most of the evening trying to follow the puck around the court and figure out what random event had caused players to be sent to cool off. There was only one real fight during the game, no teeth went flying and there was no blood on the ice. The crowd was pretty bloodthirsty, and would rise and cheer whenever a player from the visiting team, the Tri-City Americans, got checked hard into the "glass" surrounding the ice.

Despite starting out well, the Seattle Thunderbirds slipped from the initial lead to a 2-2 draw and the game went into a 4-on-4 sudden death period, with the Tri-City Americans finally scoring a goal and winning 3-2. I have to say, the visitors outplayed the home team and deserved to win.

I suggested we drive out to the Tri-Cities for the next game, and keep supporting the winning team...

Some other random observations:
  1. It's amusing to see the make-up of the teams, though. Take the Tri-City Americans, for example. Only 2 of the 23-strong team are from the USA, most being from Canada. I guess Canada was annexed and I missed the news ? Only 1 of the 23 Seattle Thunderbird players are from the USA, and none call Washington State home. It's kind of weird to see the fans get so, well, fanatical in support of the "local" team versus the visitors, considering they are basically two Canadian teams :)
  2. The visiting team had the coolest player names: T.J Fast and Colton Yellow Horn. They also had the funniest name: Brett Plouffe.
  3. Ice hockey fans like to shout "You suck!" a lot. The smart ones add a name to end, so everyone knows who the suckee is. A few people seemed to think everyone sucked, which was a bit severe, I thought.
  4. Food and beer cost and arm and a leg. I guess that helps to keep the crowd from getting totally hammered?
  5. The game is interrupted every two minutes to plug some sponsor or other, usually thinly masked as a give-away or competition for the fans. The "half-time" shows were quite cute, though: 5-9 year-olds playing "bunch-puck", and the crowd throwing pucks onto the ice, trying to get them through the sun-roof of a car.