Thursday, September 30, 2010

Crazy pricing

I like reading books on my iPad.  I am using both the Kindle app from Amazon and the Nook app from Barnes & Noble - they both work well, and seem better than Apple's own ebooks app.

I also like Ken Follett's historical novels, and he has a new one - called Fall of Giants.  But the Amazon pricing is crazy!  It's more expensive on Amazon in the Kindle (electronic) version - $19.99 - than in the hardback (actual copy) version - $19.40:

Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy) [Hardcover]

Ken Follett (Author)

List Price:$36.00
Price:$19.40 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details
You Save:$16.60 (46%)
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.


Amazon PriceNew fromUsed from
Kindle Edition-- 
ExpandAudio, CD, Abridged, Audiobook$20.21 

By way of contrast, BN has it for $19.99 in the electronic version and $21.06 for the hardback version.

What is the rationale for Amazon's pricing, besides pure greed?  Though it seems like the greed is on the part of the publisher, not Amazon, which is willing to discount the hardback even more than BN.

This pricing structure,makes me rethink my whole approach to purchasing books.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I need to try to make one of these!

There are lots of gadgets for the iPad, including lots of stands to hold them.  But Wired magazine demonstrated one of the most creative, made entirely of pencils and rubber bands:

That looks pretty simple to make.  Maybe I'll give it a try.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

OK Go - with friends

These guys are so creative:

The prior videos (with the treadmills and the Rube Goldberg machine) are also great.  But you have to love these dogs.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A very large cat

We have a nice dog bed in our home office, which Daisy likes to sleep in when I am there working.  But at other times, our two cats like the softness of that bed.

Yesterday I found Snow sleeping there, trying to avoid all the heat:

I guess she fits, but that really is a bed for a 45-lb dog!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Where did German chocolate cake come from?

One of my favorite desserts is German chocolate cake.  It doesn't get much traction at home (Karen doesn't like coconut), but I am big fan.  The combination of coconut and pecans with the chocolate just works very well together:

Last year I wrote about the version that Sarah made me for my birthday.  Yum!

But now, I have been surprised to learn that the cake is not from Germany at all.  (Well, maybe it's not that surprising - there are a lot of coconuts there).  It turns out the cake was made with a sweet baking chocolate from the Baker's Chocolate Company, a chocolate developed by Sam German in England in the mid-1800's.

Baker's German's chocolate is still widely available:
However, in common vernacular, the name of the dessert was shortened from the possessive "German's" and it became German Chocolate Cake.  The cake remains hugely popular today (especially with me).

The original recipe, from the 1950's, can be found on the Kraft Foods website.

Just one of those interesting facts you never knew.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Having a heat wave

We've had an unseasonably cool summer.  Lots of days in the 70's, almost never running the air conditioner.  Sometimes we'd turn it on at 4 or 5 pm for an hour just to cool things down a bit.

But now that fall has officially arrived, the weather has decided to revert.  Here's the forecast on my phone from yesterday, showing the next few days:

That's right, back up to 100 degrees!

Oh well, time to get out the iced tea and the frozen yogurt again, I guess.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Very creative and funny:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Google New

Just in case you'd like to keep up with new products as Google announces them, now there is Google New.  As explained on its release:
But if you want to keep up just with what’s new (or even just what Google does besides search), you’ll want to know about Google New. A few of us had a 20 percent project idea: create a single destination called Google New where people could find the latest product and feature launches from Google. It’s designed to pull in just those posts from various blogs. We hope it helps you find something useful you’ve never tried before.
Convenient and handy.  Check it out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Precision marching

Not sure what to make of this, but it is pretty impressive:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Not my watch

I've done some posts on watches I own (and there are plenty more to come).  Here is one I don't own - and probably never will:

It's called the HM4 Thunderbolt, and it's not so much a watch as a "horological machine."  As explained by MB&F, the manufacturer:

Horological Machines are as much, if not more, art and sculpture as they are micro-engineering: they are machines which tell the time rather than machines to tell the time.
By designing and constructing three-dimensional machines rather than wristwatches, MB&F are able to break free of the constraints imposed by traditional horology and create kinetic art.

The watch is designed by Maximillian Busser and is a tribute to aviation, with a watch thrown in for fun.

I like it.  But, oh, it costs $259,000.  So I guess I will have to pass.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cheerleader eating mascots

File this in the really weird category.  During the Tennessee Titans - Oakland Raiders game last weekend, the Titans mascot actually devoured one of the Titans' cheerleaders:

What's particularly frightening is that this is not something new.  It has happened at Toronto Raptors' basketball games as well:

Is this really something the NFL and the NBA want to be showing on their broadcasts?  I'd be surprised.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A well-stated analysis

An article in the Christian Science Monitor, entitled "Class as a way of understanding Christine O’Donnell and the tea party," comments on (and quotes liberally from) a thoughtful piece by Glenn Greenwald in Salon:
“There are some reactions to the Tea Party movement coming from many different directions – illustrated by the patronizing mockery of Christine O'Donnell – which I find quite misguided, revealingly condescending, and somewhat obnoxious,” he writes, referring to O’Donnell critics of both parties.
“Much of the patronizing derision and scorn heaped on people like Christine O'Donnell have very little to do with their substantive views – since when did right-wing extremism place one beyond the pale? – and much more to do with the fact they're so … unruly and unwashed,” Greenwald continues. “To members of the establishment and the ruling class (like Rove), these are the kinds of people – who struggle with tuition bills and have their homes foreclosed – who belong in Walmarts, community colleges, low-paying jobs, and voting booths on command, not in the august United States Senate.” 
Greenwald observes that Bill Clinton drew the same kind of criticism when he came to Washington. Even though he’d been educated at Yale and Oxford, Clinton had been raised by a working-class single mother, and he “exuded all sorts of cultural signifiers perceived as uncouth.” 
“I'm not defending Palin or O'Donnell; they both hold views, most views, which I find repellent,” Greenwald writes. “But it's hard not to notice the double standard which treats quite respectfully many politicians with the right lineage who espouse views every bit as radical. This is the kind of condescension that causes Sarah Palin's anti-elitism screeds to resonate and to channel genuine resentments.” 
I think this is very well stated.  I recommend reading Greenwald's entire article.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

20 years old!

Today is Sarah's 20th birthday!  Wow!  Now we are down to two teenagers.  Hard to believe.

Two years ago she started college on her 18th birthday.  This week, she'll start her third year at UCSD.  Time sure does fly by.

Hope you have a great day today Sarah!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Invitation to robbery?

So locating things and people on the Internet is all the rage.  Facebook's approach is called "Places," which allows people to check in online and show on their Facebook page where they are.  The concept, of course, is that it helps your friends to know where you are.

But it's not so good if others figure that out.  Because if you are at a publicly-disclosed location, it's easy to tell that you are not at home.  A group of criminals figured this out in New Hampshire, according to the Manchester Union Leader:
Authorities are continuing to warn citizens about the dangers of posting their whereabouts on social networking sites such as Facebook. The three men arrested were viewing the sites and targeted their burglaries accordingly, according to police.
Not such a good use by Facebook customers of this new feature, I guess.  

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Leaf has been ordered!

I placed my order for a new Nissan Leaf yesterday.  It will be red, with all the options available (just one, a high powered charging port).  I was told that the car probably won't arrive until early 2011, which is ok with me.

Here is the new ad Nissan is running for the car:

And here is a video on how the commercial was made:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Whose birthday?

Some famous people born on this date:

  • James Fenimore Cooper, novelist
  • Porfirio D¡az, soldier, President of Mexico (1877-1911)
  • William Howard Taft, (R), 27th pres (1909-13), Chief Jjustice
  • Bruno Walter, conductor
  • Ettore Arco Isidoro Bugatti, car builder
  • Dame Agatha Christie, mystery writer (Murder on the Orient Express)
  • Jean Renoir, cineaste (Grand Illusion)
  • Milton Eisenhower, Dwight's brother
  • Roy Acuff, country western singer
  • Umberto II, King of Italy (1946)
  • John Mitchell, Attorney General who went to jail
  • Creighton Abrams, Army general
  • Jackie Cooper, actor
  • Bobby Short, singer, pianist
  • Norm Crosby, comedian
  • Gaylord Perry, baseball player
  • Miroslaw Hermaszewski, 1st Polish space traveler (Soyuz 30)
  • Tommy Lee Jones, actor
  • Oliver Stone, director
  • Dan Marino, quarterback
  • Prince Henry, of Wales (Prince Harry, third in line to the throne)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not separated at birth?

One of (the many) great characters on Mad Men is Pete Campbell.  He is played in a perfectly smarmy way by Vincent Kartheiser; his blue suit and slicked-back hair are instantly recognizable:

But the recent cover story in Rolling Stone quoted Kartheiser thus:  "One of my few vanities is going to a party and people not realizing I'm the person they saw on Mad Men."  And why not?  He doesn't look like Pete Campbell in real life:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Go Giants

Ok, we've been through this before.  It's almost mid-September, and the Giants beat the Padres yesterday to move into a tie for first place in the Western Division.  18 games to go; are they going to pull it out this year?

As a reminder, the last great season was 2002, when the Giants controlled the West and then rolled through the National League to win the pennant and head into the World Series against the Angels. They lost that Series in seven games, on Oct. 27, 2002.  I remember the date pretty well because that is the day Karen and I got married.

The Giants play in such a beautiful ball park.  Here's a photo I took years ago, one of my favorites:

Let's hope this season they go all the way.  But first, let's get through September.  Because the last 3 games of the season, Oct. 1-3, will be played in San Francisco. And they will be against the Padres.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Seafood chowder

I was in a restaurant on the East coast recently and ordered a cup of seafood chowder, which included fish, crab, shrimp and lobster.  There were housemade croutons on top as well.  The chowder arrived in a beautiful little black cookpot:

Taking off the lid, the chowder had that perfectly presented look:

And the result was just perfect - creamy, hot and delicious.  I love presentations like this, especially when the food is particularly good;

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Super cute

From Wired Science comes a great story about finding a baby seahorse:

File this under A for adorable. The Seahorse Trust, after years of surveying the fish in British waters, has finally found, measured and photographed a baby seahorse, which is also called a fry.
Despite finding many adults, plenty of pregnant males (female seahorses transfer their eggs to the male, who fertilizes them in his pouch) and juveniles, the trust had previously failed to find any babies.
Baby seahorses are left entirely on their own after being born, and rarely survive long enough to become an adult. Due to their premature independence and underwater predators, less than one in a thousand will survive into adulthood. Not good odds, even though about 100-200 eggs are hatched at a time.
But the trust finally found a fry in the waters at Studland in Dorest. Despite poor weather and only 3 feet of visibility, scientists spotted a tiny seahorse clinging on to a piece of seagrass. They managed to measure the 1.6 inch creature, and snap the photograph above, before the baby returned to the sea bed.

The picture is worth a thousand words:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Faster searching

Another Google item - this time the release of Google Instant.  The search algorithm is always trying to give you the best result for your query, but this takes it one step further.  As you type your search request, the page returns updated, instant results, changing with each letter you type.  It's quite likely that the result you are seeking will be shown on the page well before you finish typing the search.

This is a step beyond Google Suggest, which would offer you different search query options as you typed. This time, you are actually seeing results.  And if it's too distracting, you can turn it off.

I like the way this works.  It shortens up search time and gets you what you want to know.  Quite helpful.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A welcome addition

Back in February I wrote about a fascinating talk I heard at work, given by two senior officials on Hilary Clinton's staff at the State Dept.  This week, my company hired one of them - Jared Cohen.  I only saw this in the news, that he has been hired to lead a "think/do tank" called Google Ideas.

I would say this bodes well for our company and new ideas it might bring forward.

Welcome, Jared.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One full year

I started posting to this blog a year ago today.  I went and looked back over some of the things I've written.  Not all that interesting by themselves, but I am a bit intrigued by the overall collection.  My goal was just to find a small outlet for writing, but I am surprised at how many photos I have posted over time.

Not yet sure how long this will go on, but we'll start year two and find out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

iPad update

I've been using my iPad for a little bit over a month now, and I am really pleased.  It certainly is a luxury item; no defined need that it meets, but it's a lot of fun.  Plus it is so lightweight to carry around, it can easily substitute for a laptop when you don't need to do any serious typing or editing (which means I can use it a bit for work, but not that much).

My favorite uses so far are watching recorded tv shows or movies, reading books (very good for that; so far I alternate between the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes&Noble Nook apps), checking my email and news headlines, and playing some time-wasting games.

It's fairly hard to imagine it - you really need to play with one.  Apple has run some commercials that give you an idea of what it's like, but they are speedy:

All in all, it is a great consumer entertainment device.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Watches - No. 3

Another in my series on my watch collection.  This is a watch that Karen brought me from Tokyo:

That is Mt. Fuji in the background, and I particularly like the Japanese numbers:

I thought this watch was particularly unusual because the face is so busy, but I don't find it distracting at all, and I very much like the images that are included.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Crazy tennis shot

Roger Federer at the U.S. Open the other day, returning a shot hit over his head by hitting it through his legs for a winner:

The amazing part of this is that he has done this before:


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Summer tomatoes

Take a look at these gorgeous tomatoes, delivered today as part of the Urban Farmers' project:

These came from one local backyard farm.  I've never quite seen that many colors of tomatoes.

I don't eat them, but the rest of the family is quite excited.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A better view of the Pyramid

Recently we watched the Transamerica Pyramid building disappear into the fog.  But this past weekend, the fog was not present, so the building looked much nicer.

Here's the same top view from before:

And here are two much clearer shots of the building, which is visible from many different vantage points:

It's one of my favorite buildings.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Funny signs

We saw two amusing signs while walking around SF the other day.

First, an intriguing, but somewhat odd, food combination:

And second - not sure what to make of this effort to entice you inside this bar:

"Where - good friends & girls meet."   Hmm.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Odd pricing

Years ago I remember seeing an Arby's roast beef restaurant offering a special on their namesake sandwich - 5 for $5.00.  The only problem was that the regular price for 1 was $.99.

I spotted this pricing issue recently at the honey stand at a local farmer's market:

Not quite the same problem as Arby's, but what are they thinking here?

The honey straw are colorful, though.