Monday, December 29, 2008

'Twas the vuln before Christmas

As a Christmas gift to Microsoft, a hacker released proof-of-concept code for a Windows Media Player crash that at first was reported to be exploitable.

The SVRD bloggers quickly poured cold water on that, but I found this poetic response amusing enough to link to from here:

A quick snippet:

A file template built, Pat now had the vision,
To find oddness in song tempo, and time division,
and what in my windbg window should appear,
but a #DE error, no int overflow here!

Now checking in IDA, and tweaking edx,
no memory moved, no additional wrecks,
not a vuln at all here! Not nearly the same,
I can't believe we stopped drinking for something so lame!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The "earn less, spend less" movement

Or, Why not start your weekend on Wednesday?
See the thought-provoking article by Tim Harford in Slate:

Here's a snippet:

Here's the big question of the season, then: Why don't we do as countless moralists urge every year and focus less on money and more on leisure (or spiritual concerns, if you must)? Why haven't we all decided to work less, spend less, and consume less?
There is an anti-consumer movement with a ready answer: We're helpless, enthralled by advertisers and hooked on shopping. I've always had a slightly more optimistic view of human autonomy.

A more convincing answer is that we work hard because income is linked to our desire for status, which is collectively insatiable, because status is largely relative. A famous survey by economists Sara Solnick and David Hemenway found that many Harvard students (although few Harvard staff members) would rather have an income of $50,000 in a world where most people were poorer than an income of $100,000 in a world where most people were richer. The survey has arguably been overinterpreted in the 10 years since it was published, but it does seem to point to an important truth: It matters to us how much money other people have.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Apple CEO "Choose Your Own Adventure"

I was just reminiscing about the old "choose your own adventure" books I read as a kid, and now I see there is an online version in which you get to see what happens after you pick a new CEO for Apple.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I'd like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas from a decidedly white Seattle - it snowed a few more inches today and I made a decent snowman (pics to come).

Wherever you are, I hope you are surrounded by friends, family and loved ones.

December snow at home

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A cheaper XBOX 360 wireless adapter

Instead of paying close to $100 for the XBOX 360 USB wireless adapter, I came across some how-to's that describe modifying a cheap wireless router so that it can be used to get devices onto your existing wireless LAN.

This article matches the current DD-WRT firmware the closest, and I got things working eventually using a Netgear WGR614v8 and DD-WRT v24-sp2. The firmware UI makes it even easier to set up than the article describes. You just need to:
  • Use an ethernet cable to connect to the client router. Connect the admin page (usually and change the admin username/password as prompted.
  • Go to the Wireless tab and select "Client Bridge", and enter the SSID for your existing wireless LAN. Set up the WLAN type and encryption if needed.
  • Make sure your WEP/WPA key is entered correctly - the "unhide" option is useful. (I had a typo which initially made things fail)
  • Back on the Basic Setup tab, you should see that the WAN interface is disabled, and the DHCP server is disabled too.
  • Give the client router a static IP on the same subnet as your main router. (E.g. my main router is and my client router is If needed make sure your primary router is assigning DHCP addresses in a higher range, e.g. starting at
  • Apply the settings, and refresh the machine that's plugged in to your client router. (Un-plugging and re-plugging the ethernet cable is the easiest)
  • You should now get an IP address from your primary router, and be able to ping the primary router's IP, in my case. You should be able to connect to the Internet.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Forgettable Pinotage: 2008 Zarafa

So, I've just gotten to taste the 2008 Zarafa Pinotage I bought at Trader Joe's a week or so ago.
A while ago I moaned about how bad the 2005 vintage was, but now I wonder if I got an off bottle?

The 2008 vintage is perfectly fine for a cheap ($4) red wine, think "3 Buck Chuck" from South Africa. While it is not bad for the price, I can't say it really represents the Pinotage varietal or South African terroir. It might as well be cheap Merlot.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Ken Levine has a fun contest underway on his blog: whoever can come up with the most humorous made-up definition for a Google CAPTCHA wins a cool prize. You enter by posting a comment under the post linked to above.

I have a few entries posted already, and in the process was offered this CAPTCHA which is too rude to enter:

More SA wines on WLTV

Peter May pointed out an old episode of Wine Library TV where more South African wines are tasted - this time some premium wines.

Gary really liked one of them - after tasting the 2004 Kanonkop Pinotage is one episode, he decided to do a follow-up show focusing on this wine and seeing how it changed with different amounts of breathing time.

Episode #218 is here, and #219 is here.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Another reason I like Washington State

Where else would the State Capitol put up a sign from an Atheist group to balance out the Christmas nativity scene? Strangely enough, not everyone is happy with this. I think seperation of church and state is a great idea. So, either it all goes, or it all has to get equal airtime :)

PS: Go see Bill Maher's movie Religilous. And read the His Dark Materials series. You'll be in good company when you land in Hell with the rest of us...

Pinotage tasting on WLTV

Gary Vaynerchuck tastes some Pinotage from South Africa in today's Wine Library TV show.
Check it out here. Sadly he stuck with the "value" wines, instead of the big guns that win awards. Why is it that mostly California and France get featured for expensive wines? How about a show with $30+ South African wines just to show people that there is some really good stuff along with the more value-driven wines.

On a semi-related note, I noticed Trader Joe's is still selling the Zarafa Pinotage, which was really awful last time I tried it. Perhaps I had an off bottle and it's worth another try?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Proposition 8

Thanks to Lucia for pointing this out! (If the embedding doesn't work, try this link instead)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The long, slow death of Zima

From Slate, an interesting look at the evolution and gradual demise of this much-maligned beverage. "Tinfoil soaked in Fresca" indeed...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Slate's take on fake turkey

Slate has a nice article on veg*n turkey options, covering the venerable Tofurkey and a few more recent products.

The Whole Foods one sounds quite good, and I'm tempted to pick one up to compare with the Tofurkey we always do. (My main gripe about Tofurkey is that it's a bit rubbery and dense).

Quorn is perhaps the most realistic (I like the way the reviewer complains that it's too realistic - bland and dry like real turkey!). I've had Quorn "chicken" before and to me it tastes just like the real thing (I used to eact chicken until 6-7 years ago).

Oh, and it's great to see Seattle-based Field Roast in the list too!


Here's my list of 100 things I am thankful for, in no particular order:

1. My lovely wife
2. Coffee
3. Napster subscription
4. The Interwebs
5. Wine
6. My job
7. Living in Seattle
8. My cats
9. Sheepskin slippers
10. Good health
11. The symphony
12. Scrambled eggs
13. Farmer's markets
14. Good cheese
15. Sunny winter days
16. Being able to travel
17. Good friends
18. Sane family
19. My car
20. The Connector
21. Things on toast
22. Mushrooms (boletus edulis, I'm looking at you...)
23. Good books
24. Netflix
25. Movies at The Big Picture
26. Flexible schedules
27. A great team of co-workers
28. Our house
29. Mt. Rainier
30. Going skiiing in winter
31. Puzzles
32. Sudoku
33. "Man perfume"
34. The way A smells
35. Gin & tonic
36. Beer on a hot day
37. Lint rollers
38. Microprocessors
39. Security bugs (a.k.a. job security)
40. Harper's magazine
41. Marmite
42. Sushi
43. Our garden
44. Walks around the neighbourhood
45. Dark chocolate
46. The West Coast
47. Living in a stable democracy
48. Indian food
49. Olive oil
50. Garlic
51. Having nice in-laws
52. Hot water (showers, baths...)
53. Down duvets
54. Time-shifted TV
55. Oysters
56. Being able to cook
57. Dreaming
58. Not having to watch American football
59. Good mustard
60. Road trips
61. Swimming
62. Hiking
63. Snowshoeing
64. Watching a good movie at home
65. Snuggling
66. Spring in Seattle
67. Uwajimaya
68. Trader Joe's
69. The King County Library System
70. Click-lighters (not matches)
71. Braais
72. Long days
73. My education
74. Serendipity
75. My prior incarnations (must have done something right)
76. Good memories
77. Good mammaries
78. Being able to use Afrikaans words every now and then
79. Having lived in Cape Town
80. Knowing what Kathmandu and Lhasa look like
81. Great teachers
82. Kind people
83. LOLCats
84. BBC TV
85. Having feet down below my knees
86. Popular music (a long and varied list)
87. Jazz (a shorter list)
88. Being exposed to a wide range of things growing up
89. Having a sense of humour
90. Spelling colour with a 'u' if I want to
91. KUOW
92. Plays
93. Musicals
94. Ferry rides
95. Being close to Canada
96. The Internet Superheroes
97. Monty Python
98. Mrs. Balls Chutney
99. Good service
100. Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

60 Minutes story on the Pelindaba raid

Tali mentioned this last night at dinner, and I was surprised that I had not heard about this when it happened about a year ago.

In Nov 2007, armed robbers broke into the Pelindaba facility (in South Africa) which contains a stockpile of weapons-grade nuclear fuel (a.k.a. highly-enriched uranium or HEU).

Check out the 60 Minutes story here. Not too surprisingly, it sounds like staffing is a major problem at Pelindaba.

The US has offered to "help secure" the site, but as the Project on Government Oversight points out, the US has some weak areas that might be worth focusing on first. The US is also offering to "downblend" the HEU so that is not attractive to terrorists - something that the US has not done to their own sveral hundred metrics tons of HEU.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Secret Pizza

Updated: 11/15
There are a few posts on the Pacific NW Chowhound forum about this...

I had an incredible pizza! Seriously,, my life is forever changed! Unfortunately, I can't tell you where I had it, or I will be killed...

Sound far-fetched? That's what I thought when I read the latest email offering from Garagiste (a wine mailing list I'm on). The owner, Jon Rimmerman, waxes rhapsodic for over 1,400 words describing a (presumably recent) pizza dining experience.

Garagiste have tickled my sense of humour/BS-detector a few times in the past, but this is a new level of tickling :) Is there anything more pretentious and snobby than this sort of email?

Here it is for your reading pleasure (spelling errors preserved) :

“So when do you open” I asked the keen looking gentleman standing inside the doorway outside this cult haven for pizza.

“I’m not sure, when do you want us to open” he said and stared at me with the eyes of a demon waiting for a response.

“How about now” I meekly stuttered as I glanced at the dozen other wide-eyed souls waiting outside, waiting for me (or anyone) to take charge of the situation.

“we'll see...we'll see”, his thick accent pierced the air as he slammed the door in my face.

....and so began my journey to one of the most talked about pizza establishments in the world (at the present moment) - no sign, no menu, no wait-staff. There may be nothing to eat, but there is everything to look forward to. If he feels like making pizza, you are graced with the most divine creation that basil, cheese, sauce and dough have ever quantified. If he doesn’t, you walk away knowing that there is always another day. The only clue that this “restaurant” may be open is a pyramid of hand-made mozzarella balls being depleted one-by-one as the pizzas are produced - you can glance through the window at the dwindling stack of rotund cheese bricks and gauge your chances of actually eating a pizza - if there are more than 20-30 people waiting outside and it looks like only 15-20 mozzarella balls left, you may as well leave. When the cheese is gone, they close - even if you’ve waited for 2 hours in the rain. All of this is certain restaurant suicide but, in this case, there is a longer line outside everyday.

How can this obtuse attitude be tolerated? Easy - the pizza in among the finest gastronomic creations in the world and the difficulty obtaining it is almost part of the appeal.

Every ingredient is made form scratch - everything - the cheese, the dough, the sauce. The basil is grown on site and a plethora of sea salts, vinegars and olive oils adorn the pies like necessary accoutrement in a haberdashery window. The pizza is so marvelous, so deeply complex that it renders the person enjoying it helpless to enjoy another more common pie again. Excuses are made for what used to be heavenly but your pizza reference will never be the same. Like the finest Musigny, once your lips have graced its presence, you are ruined for everything else...

...just then, I felt a hand on my shoulder, I quickly turned around and was face to face with the above mentioned demon “you, come inside now”. I didn’t question his invitation - in I marched toward what could have been the macabre, the underworld, the unknown - but I marched inside like a lemming toward the cliffs of Dover awaiting my fate...

Once inside, it was not what I expected - a few scattered, simple tables with other patrons chomping on what smelled and looked like the most divine food one could imagine. I stood there waiting and he stared, without so much as a blink - after what seemed like a full five minutes he faintly said, “What will you eat?”

I wasn’t sure if it was a trick question but I responded with one foot poised to retreat if I was wrong “Pizza?”

“Good answer and for you, because I can tell you are difficult, I will break the rules and make you a half and half...when it is your time”

With that he vanished into the den of burning logs, sticks and what appeared to be full tree branches smoldering away inside the most incredible wood-burning oven I’ve ever seen ( I would later find out that this secret combination of wood, some of it olive tree branches with the olive fruit still attached, was a secret to his success). A “half and half”? I pitied the more sheepish diners, who would not be amused with a no-menu policy - I consider myself to be among the more adventurous but stories of calf brain on pizza dough did not stoke my appetite besides, the mozzarella balls were being depleted quicker than I liked to see, one at a time, like sands through my hourglass, the chances of tasting this ever so hyped gastronomic achievement were dwindling (I still had not been offered a table yet).

Ball after ball was removed from the stack and my unsettled feeling increased until only four lonely pieces remained - they were the lock and key to the lucky few that would experience the splendor on this night - and then, when I was sure all was lost, my luck changed with ball number three, it was mine.

After hours of nervous anticipation, waiting in the rain and one of the most bizarre dining experiences I can ever recall, my pizza was presented....and what a creation it was. As I type this, my fingers tremble with the memory of a piping hot pie, razor-thin and so aromatic the charred scents of embers were embedded in the perfect crust and superlative raw materials that adorned the top. Visually, the pizza was indeed “half and half” - half was as plain as you can get - dough, sauce and hand-made cheese but the world “plain” does not prepare one for the perfection of the experience. The other half was very intriguing - what appeared to be wood-roasted onion, fennel, peppers of some variety and tiny specks of roasted fresh porcini mushrooms with the most delicate olive oil made famous in the region sprinkled on top.

The first bite was as anticipated as any first encounter I can remember and the aromatic and taste sensation was like a sensory explosion - with each nibble the ingredients would stand out as individuals (down to the flour and water) and then again as an amorphous whole as the pizza made its way down the gullet.

Rarely do I find myself in a circumstance where I keep glancing at the clock, not because I want the experience to end but just the opposite - I longed for each moment past to return unadorned, as I knew this pizza would end at some point and it seemed unfair. Each bite was from a place never before experienced - to say this was the finest pizza I’ve ever had was underestimating the detail and genius of the man that had tried as hard as he could to shoo me away only to captivate my gustatory senses like no other (and I’ve spent the better part of my adult life searching for the perfect pie)...

...and then one bite remained. One bite - the last bite. I looked at it for a few moments and wondered if I would ever experience this again - most likely not as the establishment was so off the beaten path that even I had trouble finding it and I was not sure I would ever pass that way again. It was immersed in a national forest of sorts, in mountains that were foreboding enough, if not made more mysterious by the dining experience within their deepest shadows.

The tap on the shoulder came again...

“You are not a journalist are you?” as he noticed my non-sensical scribbles trying to place what had just occurred into some form of language on paper.

“No, I write about wine - I just love food”

“You will not write about my pizza, correct?”, as the demon-like eyes seemed to stare through me and the wall behind me...

“No, well, yes I need to write about it - it was sublime, incredible, unlike anything else - I need to tell people”

“I will make you a deal - you agree not to write about the pizza and I will agree to let you to leave”

With that, I made my first deal with the devil - I made him a promise not to reveal the name or location of this singular shrine and in exchange, he agreed to let me to leave, to carry on with my post-pizza life. I’m still not sure if I received the better half of the deal.

As I walked toward the door, toward the crisp night sky, I resisted the temptation to turn around but I felt those eyes burning through me and in a hushed voice I’m certain I heard him say...

“You'll be back”

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yes, Africa is a continent...

Every now and then some talking head on TV will be enumerating a list of countries, and will include Africa in the list. Come on people! Africa is a continent! South Africa really is an independent state within the continent.

Now that the election is over, it seems Fox News is able to cover the fact that Sarah Palin didn't know that Africa is a continent (or which countries make up NAFTA). It's quite amazing to see how quickly the McCain campaign folks are distancing themselves from her. Perhaps this is partly to scupper her chances of running for election in 2012, and partly also so McCain is not totally tarnished.

Here's the Fox News video clip:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Is Obama the Mandela of America?

Nope, not quite.
But it's quite interesting to view the 2008 US election after having been through the 1994 elections in South Africa. Sadly, I was not eligible to vote in the 2008 US elections, so I can't say I took part in both of these historical events, but there are definitely some parallels. Hopefully Obama will also have the nation-building and bridge-building skills that Mandela had. 4 more years of partisan politics will not be helpful...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Nailin' Palin: the prank call

If you haven't hard it yet, the Huffington Post have it online here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A crazy house, and some Google-stalking

A friend of mine was looking around on Redfin for "crazy" Seattle houses, and found this one: *

At just under $35 millions dollars, it's quite the estate. Over 22000 square feet, and 2 acres of shorefront proprty on Mercer Island. (Why on earth does the house have 9 bathrooms for 5 bedrooms though? And only 4 garages? What insanely rich person has only 4 cars?)

Anyway, since the address is not disclosed, my curiosity was piqued. From the listing agent's description the property is on the NW shore of Mercer Island. And the exterior pictures show a fairly unique quarter-circle roof near an outside pool. A little time on Google maps and you can find house in aerial shots. Some more digging and you can find the street address. In fact you come across a property listing with the full address.

Who owns this house?

A quick search on the address finds some political campaign donation records in the name of Charles and Karen Lytle. (Thanks to Huffington Post's Fundrace 2008!) The 2007 and 2008 records show that Charles Lytle is CEO of Lytle Enterprises (as does a search on his name).
Their company develops retirement and assisted living communities.

Kind of interesting how easy it is to find stuff on the 'net sometimes. (And how bored I am :P)

I somehow don't think they'll be selling this house any time soon though. (It's been on the market for over a year already... And things haven't gotten any better in the past few months!)

* Updated on 1/14/09 to include current Redfin link. The cumulative time this house has been on the market is now 1628 days (almost 4.5 years).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kabocha squash time!

Fall means it's time for winter squash - great in soups, baked as a side dish, or of course in the form of pumpkin pie. One of my favourites is the Japanese kabocha squash, and our local farmer's market has had some recently.

I experimented last weekend with a new soup recipe - a Thai-style coconut milk soup made with baked squash. The recipe I used as a starting point is here, but this one from Annie Sommerville's website is very similar and has the added benefit of giving you a nice recipe for making your own veggie stock.

I had to make a few changes to the recipes, but I think it turned out really well, so I'll jot them down here as a reminder to myself and in case other people want to try:
  • I didn't have any lemongrass or kaffir lime, so I used the zest of a lime near the end of the recipe (when I added the coconut milk).
  • I used light coconut milk :)
  • I used about a teaspoon of Thai green curry paste - this gave the soup a nice kick which complemented the natural sweetness...
  • I didn't add any sugar (which the one recipe calls for)
  • I blended the soup in the pot using a "magic wand" (immersion blender). If you don't have one of these and like making soups or sauces, I really recommend getting one! Bamix are the Rolls-Royce models, but a cheaper Cuisinart or Braun model will work fine unless you use it a LOT.

Amazon links: Bamix Mono Hand Blender, Cuisinart SmartStick Hand Blender

Friday, October 03, 2008

From Scrabble to Electronic Voting Machines

From Slashdot today :
"A New Jersey Superior Court Judge has prohibited the release of an analysis conducted on the Sequoia AVC Advantage voting system. This report arose out of a lawsuit challenging on constitutional grounds the use of these systems. The study was conducted by Andrew Appel on behalf of the plaintiffs, after the judge in the case ordered the company to permit it. That same judge has now withheld it indefinitely from the public record on a verbal order."

The name Andrew Appel looked familiar to me, and sure enough looking at his past publications I see that he is one of the authors of the paper on computer Scrabble that guided my own Scrabble game's development many years ago. (See my previous posts here). This more recent paper looks like it would be interesting to read..

I wonder how one moves from computer Scrabble to looking into the security of voting machines? Probably the Scrabble paper was the result of supervising a student's research...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

AntiVirus XP vendor sued

Fake AV warning
Yay! From ZDNet's ZeroDay blog today:

"The software purveyor behind AntiVirus XP, a fake anti-virus package, has been sued and will hopefully be put out of business."

This is great news - even better would be if they are forced to remove their badware from all the machines they've infected. It was sad to see the public Internet machine in our hotel in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, infected with this crap. (See the screenshot I took.) I was tempted to try removing it, but doing tech support on vacation is not my idea of fun.

Update: 10/02/2008

I didn't realize that Microsoft and the Washington State Attorney-General are the ones suing over this. Kudos to both! Brian Krebs (Washington Post) and Bruce Schneier also wrote about this. (The comments are pretty sad - I had no idea how prevalent this stuff is...)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

New Gito Baloi album!

"Death is not the end" :)

I got a message on Facebook today announcing a new Gito Baloi album, called Beyond, produced posthumously using recording made before he died in 2004. (See my previous post about Gito Baloi here).

Folks in the USA can buy the album from CDBaby here (you can also listen to the tracks online), or you can order from Kalahari in South Africa (see below).

Here's the full message*, from the album's producer Dave Reynolds:

There's a brand new Gito Baloi album out called Beyond.

Using bass and vocal recordings which Gito did before he died in 2004, the music was developed in studio by some of the musicians that had worked closely with him on various different projects in his life: Steve Newman, Paul Hanmer, Ian Herman, Dave Reynolds, McCoy Mrubata, Moses Khumalo, Pedro Pinto Da Silver (of 340ml), Tlale Makhene, Tony Cox, Frank Paco, Nibs Van Der Spuy, Deepak Ram, Rui Soeiro (of 340ml), Bernice Boikanyo, Paulo Chibanga (of 340ml), Thuli Mdlalose, Eliot Short, Vusi Maseko and Graeme Sacks.

Here is a write-up by Daniel Brown from Radio France International - there's also a 20 min audio interview which I did - also features some words by Gito.

The album is available from Kalahari . 100% of the proceeds of sales go to the Gito Baloi Memorial Trust (since all costs have been covered by donations).

The Radio France International interview also touches on a collaboration project called Grassroots which features Gito as well as Louis Mhlanga, Concord Nkabinde, Jeff Maluleke, Chris Tokalon, Siya Makuzeni and others. It was nominated for three South African Music Awards and had hit songs on Kaya FM and Munghana Lonene FM [South African radio stations].

The Grassroots album African Moods is also available from Kalahari, and check out the Facebook group called "friends of gito baloi" which will also be the name of the collective of musicians who will be performing tracks from Beyond.

Look out for this - Oppikoppi etc.and funky video coming soon on YouTube too. So get down and pass this on (for Gito and his family, and because it's a great album to have in your collection) ....

* With some slight tweaks and added links by me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Verizon Bundled Services?

(Last updated 9/30/08 - see below)

Warning - rant ahead! Verizon certainly know how to irritate their customers. (Well, this one for sure).

I presume I am not the only person to use Verizon for landline phone service. I got a letter in the mail from them this past week, labeled Important Information, which lists a few of their current residential service plans and then says:

"These packages will be moved from Verizon Northwest's regulated tariff to a Catalog for Bundled Services under minimal regulation. [My emphasis] A tariff is a document containing the rates, terms and conditions of services that the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) regulates. This will not cause any interruption to your existing service"

So, this seems to be a way to increase the monthly fees I pay, side-stepping the regulation of the UTC? A logical question is: How much more will my monthly bill be? The letter conveniently doesn't mention the fees at all... And:
"Your use of Verizon Bundled Services will constitute your agreement to be bound by the charges, terms and conditions set forth in the Catalog".

The letter also says:
"You agree that it is impractical to print in this document the complete Catalog of all the service descriptions, charges, and other terms and conditions [...] and making it available on request are reasonable means of notice and incorporation of those terms".

Let's get one thing straight. I do not agree with any of the above. I'd like to know how much I will be charged under this new scheme *before I am actually locked in*.

The letter mentioned that the full copy of the Catalog for Bundled Services can be found on
I tried... I challenge anyone to find anything useful relating to the new fees on that website! Which if these "effective tariff" documents do you suppose I should read? Or is it one of these "non-tariff" documents?

All of this frustration made me see if the WUTC website had info on these "Bundled Services under minimal regulation". It looks like Verizon petititioned the WUTC in July 2007 and it was approved shortly thereafter. (See the documents here.)

Update: 9/30/08
I called Verizon last week to ask them if my bill would change in any way, and they said it wouldn't. Even if they're correct, this is an epic fail in terms of dealing with their customers and answering the obvious questions that would arise. (The customer service agent I spoke to sounded quite peeved and frustrated that I was asking about this - I guess they are getting a lot of calls? Hint: Provide better info up-front in the mails you send out and you won't get a flood of calls from confused and frustrated folks...)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The evolution of computer demos

One of the guys I work with spent some time in his youth coding Amiga demos in Poland. A friend of his recently found one of his group's old demos on Youtube here. Remember this is with a 14Mhz proc, no 3D acceleration and very little memory and storage.

Nowadays people have machines that are almost 1,000 times faster, not counting their graphics card's GPU. Memory is abundant and portable media can hold loads of information. As an example of how far things have come in the past 15 years, take a look at last year's winner at The Assembly. (Remember, all this is rendered in real-time).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fun iPhone puzzle game and an interesting blog

I've been enjoying the puzzle game Subway Shuffle on my iPhone. It's has a clean, simple design, is easy to play and challenging, plus I love this sort of abstract puzzle. (There's also a Mac trial version but no PC version).

The author, Bob Hearn, was a student at MIT, and it looks like this game was part of his Ph.D. research. (No, I haven't read his dissertation :P)

An unexpected discovery by way of the Subway Shuffle website is Robert Brinkerhoff - a talented artist who has an interesting blog covering art and life as an American in Rome.

Monday, September 22, 2008

testing this thing...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interesting times in South Africa

So, president Thabo Mbeki has been recalled by the ANC and will step down as president.
I'm guessing that Jacob Zuma is very happy, and will be elected president in the next elections. (In the interim, and acting president will be chosen from parliament). The oppopsition parties are not happy, even though Mbeki was not popular with them.

What's next for the country?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thanking our wedding vendors

I've been meaning to write a quick blurb about the various vendors we used for our wedding in July. They were all fantastic and I'd recommend them if you're planning a wedding in Seattle. (And no, they didn't pay me to say any of this :P)

P1040069Photography:KMB Photography. Karen and her partner took some amazing photos and has a fun, relaxed style that made us feel comfortable.
MAW8297Music:Bamboo Beats. DJ Tecumseh and his wife Joanne were very professional and organized, helped us get our playlist together, and did a lot of work on the day-of to keep things running smoothly. He did a great job of sticking to our list of songs and also mixing in a few of his own to keep the energy up and everyone on the dancefloor.

MAW8294Food: Ravishing Radish. Their food is great - tasty, fresh and beautifully presented. Their passed hors d'oeuvres are some of the best I've ever had, and the everything on the buffet looked like it had just come out of the kitchen. (Quite a feat considering we were in a place with a tiny prep kitchen).
MAW8156Flowers: Fena Flowers did a great job (and Junko at Ravishing Radish did a great job on the buffet table and centerpieces)
MAW8104Drinks: Pete's Wines. If you know what you want to drink at your wedding, this is the place to go. They sourced the beer & wine I wanted at a great price and delivered to the venue.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Popcorn Superhet Receiver

Ever since seeing There Will Be Blood and loving the soundtrack, I've been looking around for more music by Johnny Greenwood (guitar player for Radiohead).

In 2004 he was hired by the BBC as their composer-in-residence, and wrote a piece called Popcorn Superhet Receiver, which won the Radio3 Listeners' Award at the 2006 BBC British Composer Awards. I tried to find a version online that I could listen to, without much luck until today I found this page from WNYC , part of the Wordless Music series. You can listen to any of the three pieces on their own, and I've also embedded the code for Popcorn Superhet Receiver below.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Chrome First Impressions

To follow on from my previous post, I've downloaded and installed Google's Chrome on my Vista 64-bit machine. First impressions:

  • The installer is quick and slick. I never saw a UAC prompt (and I'm not an admin user) - so where the hell did it install the darn thing? (Turns out it is under the user's profile in AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\)
  • It's FAST! Rendering typical "busy" pages (Slashdot, MSN), it blows IE8 Beta 2 out of the water on my machine...
  • The UI is very slick. Chrome features many things that IE8 has (like seperate processes per tab) but they have made some really nice improvements to the UI. For example, the "omnibox" (address bar) is very intuitive.  Dragging tabs works just like you'd think it should (they can be re-ordered,  undocked and re-docked).
  • The smart search feature is cool - I went to once and searched for something, now typing 'a' + [Tab] switched the "omnibox" to a "Search for:" box. No more installing a million search providers...
  • Memory use is better than IE8 Beta 2. With MSN and Slashdot open in both browsers, Chrome used a total of 40MB, while IE8 used over 100MB.
So far I like it... The only area that IE8 may have the upper hand is in terms of security. (Chrome doesn't seem to have an Anti-XSS filter). Now to look into their sandboxing technique in more detail :-P

Google Chrome

So, today Google announced their own web browser, Chrome. This small comic book is cute and gives a quick look at the features - most of it sounds like stuff IE8 already does, so their "we're smarter than you" tone is a bit funny.

I think the timing of their anouncement is interesting too, following hot on the heels of the IE8 Beta 2 release last week. I think Microsoft stole a large amount of their thunder...

CNN have an article looking into why Google felt the need for their own browser (instead of working with the existing open-source browsers like Firefox). One reason they give is that IE8's privacy features prevent Google from collecting user-information they need to target advertisements. (I think the latest Firefox has a similar feature).

No doubt Chrome will be less aggressive when it comes to enabling user privacy?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Say it isn't so: The Asteroid is closing...

Sad news today: The Asteroid restaurant in Wallingford is closing.
There's a closing party this Sunday night (August 31st) at 8pm, and all are welcome. I'll be out of town, so sadly I won't be able to make it...

{A} and I love this place, and had our wedding rehearsal dinner there just a few weeks ago. It feels odd to know we won't be able to go back, enjoy the great food and service, and re-live the memories. I hope Marlin finds a new restaurant site, but whatever he chooses to do, I wish him all the best!

As one commenter on the Seattle Times website said: It's sad that good, independent places like the Asteroid can't make a go of it, but chains like The Cheesecake Factory make gobs of money.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Feel-good music from Africa

I've been having a bit of an African-themed few weeks, musically speaking. {A} and I received two CDs as a wedding gift from our friends Patrick and Tracy in Cape Town: Putumayo's Mali and African Odyssey CDs.

Both are great, but the Mali CD reminded me how much I like Malian music. Perfect up-beat stuff that leaves you feeling energized and cheerful. The songs by Habib Koite & Bamada are my favourites, so I looked him up on Napster and downloaded his most recent album, Afriki.

That led me to related artists on Napster, and I discovered more good stuff - most notably, Dimanche a Bamako by Amadou & Mariam. (This was released back in 2005, but I've never heard of them before.) This has an interesting, more modern pop edge (not surprising since it is produced by Manu Chao).

Finally, I've been enjoying the recent album by South African guitar legend Tony Cox, called Blue Anthem. This is a collaboration with the guys from the SA band Benguela, and it's quite different to Tony's usual fingerstyle guitar CDs. (He won a 2008 SAMA award for this album - congratulations!)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wedding pics

We met with our wedding photographer yesterday and got the pictures - they are amazing! :)

Here is a link to the collection on Flickr - if you're not already on my friends/family list, drop me an email and I'll invite you so that you can see them.
I'm working on the honeymoon pics (tagging them and cleaning out the bad ones) - I'll post an entry here once the sets is ready for viewing. (They're already on Flickr if you want to look at them in the meantime).

Monday, August 11, 2008


Well, that was certainly an eventful few weeks! {A} and I are now married - Hooray! The wedding went smoothly, she looked beautiful and everyone had a great time.

We had a lovely mini-honeymoon in Seattle at our favourite hotel, and then left for the real honeymoon in Costa Rica a few days later. (We just got back this morning at 1:00 AM) The 13-days in Costa Rica were fantastic - more details to come, along with pictures. In brief, we saw lots of amazing wildlife, plants and beautiful scenery, spent lazy hours on the beach or in warm pools swimming, did a horse-ride at sunset, went on many rain-forest walks, and ate lots of yummy food.

Now it's back to the grindstone for a while :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dr. Horrible

If you've not yet heard of this, check out the latest project from Joss Whedon et al - Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog.
If you liked the musical episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", you should enjoy this...

Episodes I and II are out already, and the final episode is due out on the 19th.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How to east sushi

I was recently reminded of this fun video that spoofs Japanese sushi-ya etiquette, so here it is:

Monday, July 07, 2008

Wedding website live...

At last, the wedding website is ready for public consumption. (Sorry about the Flash content :P)

Now we just need to complete a few last minute things and enjoy the actual day! Hold your thumbs for sunny weather!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Oh noes! No more Monte Pollino olive oil at TJs?

My favourite olive oil for the past few years has been the Monte Pollino oil that Trader Joe's sold. Sadly, the last few months that we've been to TJ's to get more olive oil, they have not had any. It seems like, in classic TJ's fashion, they've discontinued it... I will keep my fingers crossed (and maybe talk to a store manager) in the hope that the stock it again.

Antonello Imports have it for $15 a bottle (compared to $5 when TJ's had it...)

This blog post on Chowhound mentions that it seems Monte Pollino at TJ's was the same as a more expensive brand, Frantoia (which I've not seen generally in Washington - maybe DeLaurenti in Pike Place has it?)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

No-one said we are "poor, wimpy, stupid jerks"

In the July 2008 edition of Wines magazine (which I got from the Issaquah Winestyles store) , executive editor Cathryn Castle Whitman wrote the closing article, titled "We Are Not Poor, Wimpy, Stupid Jerks". The article is in response to one by Joel Stein in Time magazine, which you can read in full here.

Joel's article starts:

Touring wineries can make you feel like a jerk. Not just from saying that yes, you do totally taste the gooseberry in that merlot but also because the chemistry of oenology makes you feel stupid, the picking and crushing of grapes makes you feel wimpy, and the giant estates make you feel poor.

Cathryn quotes this and then responds:

Wow. In the span of two short sentences, Stein makes us wine enthusiasts out to be poor, stupid, wimpy jerks. I say not so fast, beer man.

I think Cathryn misses the point of Joel's article - he is not saying that all wine drinkers are stupid, wimpy, or poor - just that there are still a lot of wineries that are intimidating for "wine neophytes". Wines magazine has a similar philosophy to Gary Vayerchuck: wine should not be initimidating, taste lots of wine and find what you enjoy, and don't let "wine snobs" put you off. All of that is amiable - but you still need to recognize that some wineries are targeting the more "expert" wine drinker, and will tend to make us lesser mortals feel intimidated.

Cathryn writes:

The key is to enjoy ourselves and have fun while we're sniffing and
swirling and sipping. If we don't totally taste the gooseberry, we won't let it totally spoil our fun - or make us feel like a jerk.

Carolyn then mones on to tackle the "wimpy" part of Stein's 2-sentence opener:

As for Stein saying that "the picking and crushing of grapes make you feel wimpy," I know a few burly wine-makers who'd probably like to crush his laptop, like, well, a graoe. If you ever tour a vineyard during harvet, you'll soon find out it isn't a job for wimps.

Now, for me this is where Carolyn really loses the point. I don't read Joel's statement as in any way a maligning of wine-makers toughness. In fact, Carolyn re-inforces Joel's argument. Wine-making is tough, physical work - especially harvesting and crushing the grapes. Some of it is mechanised, but it is still a tedious manual job in most respects. Pruning the vines, picking the grapes - all manual. Most wineries feature huge fermentation tanks, with lots of hard work imvolved in moving the wine, cleanign tanks, filling barrels, ... And then there's the dirty job of making barrels. All along the line, this is a physically-demanding job.

All that just means that if you're an average person, all this phsyical work would seem quite daunting and might make you feel "wimpy".

And then the final statement that Carolyn takes issue with: "giant estates make you feel poor". I'm totally with Joel here. Has anyone been to a large winery or wine estate and not thought "Wow, this place is amazing! They must have spent a fortune building it!". Take the Mondavi Winery in Napa, or Opus One as a more extreme example. Or consider some of the older estates in Europe or South Africa that are located in old family estates/chateaux. At some point a family lived here and they had a lot more money that you do now...

Then there's the "makes you feel poor" apect of most wine tasting roooms I've been to i nthe USA. For example, in Napa you will be paying to taste, and for the higher-end wineries, you will be paying a lot. ($30 for a taste of Opus One). If that doesn't make you feel poor, then you probably earn a few times more per year than I do... :) I don't object to paying, to be clear, but sometimes I've felt like a poor country cousin being given a disapproving once-over, usually followed by the tasting-room staff steering me away from the expensive Reserve tasting list, as if to say "This isn't for you, boy. Have some nice, fruity wine instead..."

And in a snarky closing statement, Carolyn writes:

Maybe someday Joel and I will meet up at a writers' conference [me: they have those?] or something, maybe at the bar in the hotel lobby. And maybe I'll buy him a drink. I'll order a lager for myself, and for him, a nice merlot. One with a hint of gooseberry...

Snarky me thinks: Isn't gooseberry a flavour you usually associate with white wines (like Sauvignon Blanc)? :P

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Word Association Football

I was reminded of this for no particular reason today: One of my favourite Monty Python pieces is the "Word Association Football" sketch from the Matching Tie and Handkerchief album.
(Can I get a shout-out for for Michael Palin?)

It's definitely worth listening to, but the script is pretty funny on its own:

Tonight's the night I shall be talking about of flu the subject of word association football. This is a technique out a living much used in the practice makes perfect of psychoanalysister and brother and one that has occupied piper the majority rule of my attention squad by the right number one two three four the last five years to the memory.

It is quite remarkable baker charlie how much the miller's son this so-called while you were out word association immigrants' problems influences the manner from heaven in which we sleekit cowering timrous beasties all-American speak, the famous explorer. And the really well that is surprising partner in crime is that a lot and his wife of the lions' feeding time we may be c d e effectively quite unaware of the fact or fiction section of the Watford Public Library that we are even doing it is a far, far better thing that I do now then, now then, what's going onward christian Barnard the famous hearty part of the lettuce now praise famous mental homes for loonies like me.

So on the button, my contention causing all the headaches, is that unless we take into account of Monte Cristo in ourthinking George the Fifth this phenomenon the other hand we shall not be able satisfact or fiction section of the Watford Public Library againily to understand to attention when I'm talking to you and stop laughing, about human nature, man's psychological make-up some story the wife'll believe and hence the very meaning of life itselfish bastard, I'll kick him in the balls Pond Road.

My high school French teacher would sometimes allow us to kick back and relax in class by playing this (in English!). Great fun - something to try on your long summer road trips maybe?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Swinging on the flippity-flop

(Updated on 6/29/08 with links to listen to this episode)

We saw Wait Wait Don't Tell Me! on Thursday night at the Paramount. It was really funny and interesting to see the mechanics of producing a "live" radio show. With Bill Gates' retirement from Microsoft happening this week, there were a large number of MS jokes, including about 15 minutes of riffing on the theme of Clippy!
"It looks like you're digging a shallow grave! Is this a business or personal grave?"

Their "not my job" guest was Jonathan Poneman, one of the founders of Sub Pop Records. That led to a discussion of the 1992 New York Times article on "grunge slang". See the article here, which includes a "lexicon of grunge speak" from Sub Pop employee (now VP) Megan Jasper - most of them were made up on the spot and are pretty obviously fake, but the NYT journalist took the bait and published them without checking... :)

Sub Pop have a recent interview with Megan here.

You can now download a podcast of the episode here (or listen to it online here)

How not to remove a palm tree

Some smart South Africans decide to get rid of their palm tree... Here's the video on Youtube:

All I can say is, ja-nee....

Updated on 6/29/08: Changed the video link to Youtube instead of Facebook.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pap snoek

For some reason, people have been hitting my blog after searching for "snoek worms" or "parasites in snoek" (finding this old entry).

I found this nice article on snoek by Hilary Prendini Toffoli, in which she looks at the history and culture around snoek, and gets some tips from the "top" Cape Town chefs. She also expains what a "pap snoek" is...

It looks like some of the more high-end restaurants may have snoek on the menu (at least when it's in season) - for some reason it is not very common to see it in regular seafood restaurants (maybe because of the bones that make it a bugger to eat, ot the work needed to get it off the bone once it's cooked). You can usually find some frozen, smoked snoek at Snoekies in Hout Bay (and most grocery stores stick it too - at least they did back when I lived in SA).

I wonder how many people come in wearing the "I Love snoek" cap? (The correct answer is "not many"...)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

As ironic as it gets...

I think I can hear Mr. Orwell spinning in his grave! Looks like this is in the Gothic neighbourhood of Barcelona. Might be a fun not-so-touristy spot to nab a picture when I visit (some day).

If you don't get the reference, then read this book.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I caught part of an interview with Rob Walker on Weekday today, covering marketing and the psychology of why we buy things. His Bio:

Rob Walker writes the weekly column “Consumed”, a blend of business journalism and cultural anthropology for The New York Times Magazine. Previously he created and wrote the “Ad Report Card” column for Slate, and has contributed to a wide range of publications, from Fast Company to The New Republic and others. Under the pseudonym R. Walker he has written a number of satirical comic books set in the business world and collected in the book Titans of Finance: True Tales of Money and Business.
More info and the audio podcast are here on the KUOW website.
The discussion covered some interesting stuff, and his book Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are sounds like it will be good.

He also has a blog that looks like it will be worth reading.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

100 New Classics (a random book list)

By way of wolverine_nun, Entertainment Weekly have a list of 100 "new classic" books. ("The 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008") . I've not read most of them - a few of them have been made into films which I've seen, though... :P

There are a few odd choices ("The DaVinci Code"? - I guess it was popular...) and omissions: Not a single J.M. Coetzee book? (He won the Booker Award in '83 and '99, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in '03). Where is "The Historian"? (No awards, I just love it)

It's interesting to see two "YA" books on the list. I fully agree that Harry Potter and the Dark Materials series should be there (looks like they only liked one Harry Potter book though?)

I'm also really pleased to see "A Prayer for Owen Meany" on the list - this book made a huge impression on me when I read it more than a decade ago.

{W_N} says that Posession by A.S. Byatt is the best book she's read, so I'll have to check that out... For no particular reason (except perhaps to show that I watch movies more than I read), here are the ones I've read (or seen in movie form):

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)

  • Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)

  • Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)

  • Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)

  • Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)

  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)

  • Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)

  • Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)

  • Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)

  • Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)

  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)

  • His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)

  • The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

  • The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)

  • Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)

  • High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)

  • America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Morcheeba videos by Joel Trussel

Joel Trussel is the animator behind the War Photographer video I've mentioned a few times - his work is amazing. It looks like I just missed a recent animation show on June 20th in Seattle that he attended. Anyway for the latest info/news check out his blog.

Here is a recent (Jan 2008) video he directed for Morcheeba's song Enjoy The Ride. You can also check out an interview with him about this video here on Youtube. "I get questions about the pears..." :-)

From his blog, I see he was asked back to direct the video for the 2nd single too, Gained the World:

A shiny, sharp Quicktime version is here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Madonna and the Viking Marching Band

Madonna's new album Hard Candy is pretty lame, but it does have a madly catchy hit single, 4 minutes. Rolling Stone describes it as having a "marching band aesthetic as blasting brass play a scale-like riff".

That must be why it reminds me so much of the Viking Marching Band* music every time I hear it. (Remember this cocktail based on the Viking Marching Band video?)

* Actually, it's called War Photographer.

So, for good measure, I give you the videos. Decide for yourself.

Updates: Better version of the War Photographer video.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Naartjie coming to Redmond

It's not every day that you see a store from South Africa opening up in the USA, let alone right in your own neihgbourhood. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Naartjie are opening a store in the Redmond Town Center mall.

As their about us page says, they opened their first store in Cape Town in the then-new V&A Waterfront development. (Well-worth checking out if you visit Cape Town - it's not just a big shopping mall :-P) They also memebrs of the British Royal Family have been customers. Hmm - I wonder if they have one of those "by appointment" seals? (Ha!)

In case you are wondering what a naartjie is (they do a so-so job of describing it themselves), think of a satsuma (a.k.a. mikan) - I think they are basically the same thing, although naartjies have a slightly different flavour and feel to satsumas - maybe due to the climate in which they grow.

Friday, June 20, 2008

New Coldplay album, and more new Brit music

I've been listening to the new Coldplay album for a few days now. It was a bit underwhelming at first, but it's growing on me more and more. The single hyped by Apple and used to promote iTunes, Viva La Vida, sounds a bit washed out on the album - I wonder if Apple did some funky remixing to make it bassier? Some of the production reminds me of William Orbit's ambient style - no surprise since Brian Eno did the bulk of the production...

One thing that has been driving me nuts is the opening track, Life in Technicolour. The repeating tune (on sitar, I think) that starts around 00:41 sounded very familiar, but I couldn't place it.

I think I finally have it! Nirvana's All Apologies. I wonder if they credit this "borrowing" anywhere?

In other "new British music" news, I downloaded the debut album by Adele, 19. What a fresh, interesting voice! (A bit like Macy Gray) Nice lyrics too... (Listen to the track Tired to see what I mean) I see what the UK critics have been raving about.

Sarcastic Amazon reviews

What do you get when you mix stupid products (like $500 Cat-5 cables), and Amazon reviewers? Well, if you are lucky, you get some brilliantly funny, sarcastic reviews:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Exceptional wines for big and small budgets

Back in May, Mike Steinberger wrote an article for Slate about great lower-price wines (under $15 per bottle). He followed that up yesterday with an article on more expensive wines (under $150 per bottle).

I agree with this comment from the first article:

One usually surefire method of finding interesting foreign wines: Let the importer be your guide.

I have noticed quite consistently that foreign wines that I like come from the same importers. That's probably an artifact of the weird Washington booze laws, and the fact that we have a lot of great importers in this area, so they tend to dominate the stores. Still, if you find a wine you like, check the back label for the importer info, and remember it. Often, they will specialise in wines from a certain region (e.g. Spain, Australia, France), so having found a wine you like you can try other wines from the same region in relative safety. (They are not likely to import bad wine and ruin their brand...)

Sometimes they will have a website with more info on the wines they import, so you can build up an idea of what to try next. If you are in a physical store, you can just look for the wines from the same importer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hell's Kitchen game

After last night's episode of Hell's Kitchen I noticed an add for a computer game based on the show. You can play it here for free (Windows-based PCs only currently). I haven't had a chance to try it out (that will come tonight), but it looks like it could be fun for a few minutes.

It looks like it might be bit like the Sushi restaurant game {C} sent me last week. That game is very addictive (and quite hard!)

In terms of this season's HK, I must say I don't really think any of the chefs are that impressive, and I'm not so invested in any of them. I predict Christina will win, but that she won't actually get to cook much at Gordon's new restaurant. (They'll probably leave that for the real chefs).

In other Gordon Ramsay news, the US version of Kitchen Nightmares will return to Fox in the fall. While it is not half as good as the UK version, it will have to do. Perhaps they will try to emulate the UK show a bit more, instead of trying to stir up drama and conflict.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blind tasting wine glasses

When most people do a blind tasting they simply put the bottle of wine in a paper bag and pour it incognito for their guests. If you are lucky you might have someone else select the wines and pour them for you in another room (This is what {A} and {R} did a while back when we threw a blind tasting party).

However, if you have a lot of money and not much sense, you are probably wondering "What can I do that will make me look extra cool?" Riedel have the answer for you: Blind Tasting Glasses. I quote:

Riedel has introduced a jet-black glass called the Blind Blind Tasting Glass. In addition to concealing wines' grape, type, region, producer and vintage, as is the case in normal blind tastings, this glass hides wines' color, (white, red or rosé), depth of color, clarity, brilliance, and effervescence.

PS: If you are a Gary Vaynerchuck fan, you might be interested in this event in Seattle on June 28th. I can't make it, so if you go, be sure to ask him what he thinks about the blind tasting glasses and let me know.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why I'm voting Republican

(Donning flame-proof suit...) This video really says it all:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Yuppy baby food

Today I was leafing through a recent copy of the magazine 425 (a glossy "lifestyle magazine" for Seattle's Eastside).

One advert near the end of the magazine caught my eye and made me laugh: World Baby Foods produce a range of baby foods inspired by food from around the world. Flavours like "Lullaby Thai", "Tokyo Tum Tum", "Sweetie Tahiti", "Baby Dal" and "Baby Borscht". It's made by a doctor, so you know it's good!

I'm looking forward to the sous-vide and molecular gastronomy line of baby foods! :)

PS: No, {A} is not in the market for baby food...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pomum wines on WLTV

I just noticed that Pomum Cellars was featured on an April episode of Wine Library TV.
As you may remember, I "discovered" them last year during the Woodinville St. Nicks Day Open House and really liked their stuff.

See what Gary thinks about their wine by watching the show here.
(And I am looking forward to the 2006 release!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sammamish farmer's market

{A} and I went to the Sammamish farmer's market yesterday - this is the second week that is has been running. It's pretty small (about half the size of the Issaquah and Redmond farmer's market), and the weather was not very good, but it was still quite well-attended, and there was some great produce.

I was very impressed with the stuff from Cha Gardens (not sure of their name) - they had the most amazing greens I have seen in a long time. A lot nicer than the stuff we've been getting in our Spud produce box.

A more irritating store was a local bakery with some nice-looking breads. They made a big deal about using emmer flour - I had not heard of emmer before and the guy at the booth seemed really into his grains. I tasted the bread, it was pretty good (not great), but I thought I'd buy a loaf. Silly me for not asking how much it cost! :) $7 later I had a small loaf of bread. (Yes, I should stop whining since I paid for the bread and could just have said "No", but heck, sometimes I like whining!)

$7 for a small loaf? Wow! I guess I do live in yuppieville! What really irked me though was the ingredient list, which I only read when I got home. The main ingredients are normal whole-wheat flour, with the "unusual" grains like emmer right at the end of list (before the salt). I guess this means there is 1 teaspoon of emmer flour per loaf? Sheesh.

The market did have some other nice stalls which will be drawing me back in the coming weeks. Our local bagel shop, Blazing Bagels, has a stall, there's a local honey producer, and a great bakery with evil goodies like apple pie, huge donuts, nice "everyday" whole-wheat bread.

Hugh Masekela coming to Seattle in August

I just noticed that Hugh Masekela is playing at Dimitiou's Jazz Alley on August 4th.
Sadly, {A} and I will be out of town - on our honeymoon! - so we'll have to miss this show. Needless to say, if you like jazz, I highly recommend seeing this show.

If you'd like a sampler of his music, check out this recording from the 2007 Tanglewood Jazz Festival, provided by NPR.

I was also really pleased to see that Ian Herman (ex-Tananas) is on percussion during this tour. I've been a huge fan of his since discovering Tananas back in the 90's in SA, and having the pleasure of seeing them live a few times. (Including once at the WOMAD Festival in Marymoor Park!)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Here comes the flood!

B27 flood
Originally uploaded by Mr Snootyhamper

Last night we had a bit of unexpected excitement - a water pipe burst and flooded the 1st floor. Luckily my office was spared - I think the dam we built using a desk helped a bit.

The videos Jonathan made are unavailable for now - I'll update this entry when they go back online :)

Vaynerchuck on Eat Drink or Die

Gary Vaynerchuck has some short videos on the new site Eat Drink or Die:

While they seem to be aimed at frat-house wine noobs, as usual Gary does a great job making the presentation lively and fun, and I found myself enjoying them a lot. I agree 100% with his philosophy - ignore the pretense and snobebry and just "taste the shit".

Oh yeah, the fake Borat-style intros are a very lame ("Ya exclusive - I laaaiik!") Still, I will check back to see what Gary gets up to...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Spell-check your code

I find it amusing when I stumble on mis-spelled API functions and structures. The irony is that a gaffe by one programmer becomes a documented interface, and it's often impossible to correct the mistake.

Take for example the PrintProvidor entries in Win32:

Luckily the person writing the surrounding text was able to use the phrase "print provider".

Monday, June 09, 2008

Advice for people travelling abroad

Just a quick bit of advice when travelling:

Don't assume that no-one else around you will understand your native tongue. Sure, it might be tempting to say something snarky about people you see, but you never know who might be able to understand you.

If you speak Navajo you might be OK, bit there are often surprising people around. You might even run into an Asian-looking man in Portugal that understands Swedish and helps you find your train... Or people in the USA that understand Afrikaans.

All this was prompted by a South African family that sat behind me on a recent flight from Seattle to Oakland: They used Afrikaans to make loud rude comments about other people, discuss their flatulence and generally behave boorishly. If you want to skinder* about people, do it under your voice so no-one else can hear... Or better yet, just don't do it :)

* gossip

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New wine store in Issaquah

Today I noticed a new wine store in Issaquah called Wine Styles. They're in the big strip mall close to Safeway and REI.

I went in to browse around and chatted with the owners a bit. They were very friendly and their selection is interesting. Like Vino100 in Bellevue, they are part of a nation-wide franchise. And like Vino100, they have an interesting approach to arranging their wine to make it a bit more accessible to the newbie.

Wine Styles arrange their wines according to, well, the style. Whites are borken up into Crisp, Silky, Rich and Bubbly, while reds are broken up into Fruity, Mellow and Bold. They also have a Nectar category for dessert wines. Nice and simple, and it makes it easy to find to suite the combination of weather, food and your own tastes.

They also offer a wine club with 2 wines per month for around $38 (which is a slight discount over buying the same wines from the store). I signed up to try it out (1 red, 1 white for summer), and got this month's selection - two bottles of Portuguese wine:

I'll report back in the coming months on the wine club selection...

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Yet another example of how much British TV I got to watch growing up in South Africa is that I know who/what the Wombles are. They were surprisingly environmentally-conscious and Green for their time, and the show was great fun to watch. (Granted, I was about 5 at the time).
Here's their theme tune on YouTube. And, Dear Lord, they were on Top Of The Pops.

There's something about the sound of the word womble that makes me want to still use it every now in coversation. (I tend to reserve the term for stupid people I come across at work. Muppet works well for the same purpose - what is it about furry kids-show characters being well-suited for insults?)

Monday, May 12, 2008

The 17th Karmapa

Short on the heels of the Dalai Lama's recent visit to Seattle, the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is visiting Seattle later this summer.

There's been a lot of activity, with Nalanda West in Seattle hosting him - that meant raising $100,000 and constructing special quarters for him. (Hmm... Perhaps out of security concerns?)

One thing that kind-of surprises me is that in all the websites and emails I've received, there is no mention of the controversy over who exactly is the real 17th Karmapa. (Wikipedia covers it here).
Obviously each side is defensive and probably wants to pretend the other does not exist, so I don't expect the Nalanda West folks to say "Hey, we know there's this other dude making some claims, but trust us, we've got the right one".

Still, one would expect the press to be a bit more balanced. For example. the International Herald Tribune has an article titled "Tibetan Buddhism's next leader?" that doesn't mention the controversy at all.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mountains to Sound Greenway Days

The Mountains to Sound Greenway is a 100-mile long expanse of preserved land along the I-90 corridor linking Seattle to Eastern Washington, and is full of great hikes.

This competition being run over the summer looks like a fun way to discover new places along the Greenway... Or you could just look at the sites here and plan some fun outings...

Friday, May 09, 2008

Fun with pointers

For the software geeks out there... What is the output from this code? (No cheating - compiling this and running it isn't allowed!)

void Func() {

char *c[] = {
"FIRST" };

char **cp[] = { c+3, c+2, c+1, c };
char ***cpp = cp;

printf("%s", **++cpp );
printf("%s", *--*++cpp+3);
printf("%s", *cpp[-2]+3);
printf("%s", cpp[-1][-1]+1);

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Silly adverts

I just saw an advert for Jack in the Box that touted a "bakery style bun" for their hamburger.
What, pray tell, is that? Aren't all buns made in a bakery?

Next they'll be praising the cow style sirloin...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Portishead guest DJ

Portishead are the guest DJs on this week's All Songs Considered. Check out the podcast here.
I've just started listening to their new album, Third, and so far I like it.

The Beeb have a review here which you can peruse...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I like Brazilians...

Brazilian espresso's, that is. There's a fairly new coffee shop in Redmond callnd Kitanda that serves excellent Brazilian coffee, espresso and some tasty pastries and imported goodies. (Their beans are 100% Brazilian, custom-roasted by Caffe d'Arte).

Their location is a bit sucky, so I think most people don't even know about them -I'm doing my small part to spread the word. Plus, they are offering 12oz drinks for $1.99 currently (a great deal!) And they have free WiFi.

My favourite drink is their Brazilian Mocha (which doesn't have any chocolate in it - just espresso, condensed milk and regular milk).

Here's their address:
Kitanda Redmond
15230 NE 24th St. # 1R
Redmond Wa 98052
Phone: (425) 820-4381