August 25th, 2007


A very merry

Un-birthday to kevin_standlee, who admits this is the second time he has abused the International Dateline to avoid his natal day. Not quite as efficient as being born on February 29, but more enjoyable as it involves a trip to distant lands.

Reminds me of my trip to Fiji, where I spent about an hour taking pictures of myself on both sides of the geographical date line. For convenience, Fiji chose to put the country all in the same time zone, but that's cheating.

Anyway, best wishes for a great trip to Worldcon and Japan, Kevin, and may you bring back a few more statues than you went with.

Stars and Chocolate

As advertised, I went to the PO this morning and picked up the registered packet with the latest lot of star sapphires. Unlike the last vendor's batch, this one was all winners. Each stone is at least 1 carat, most more than 2. All have stars, seven of them have clear bright stars in a translucent stone (as opposed to less valuable opaque). So my $80 investment is worth maybe $1k. Not enough to retire on, but when I do, I hope eBay is still around to help sell these.

Speaking of eBay, I signed up for their September advanced sellers class, and I see howbearca's buddy Griff is the head of the teaching staff. I'm looking forward to meeting the legend. The class isn't as much for me to sell my own stuff as it is to help friends who want to open an eBay store, and don't know what tools they should use. I'm not a big fan of database programming, but the times I've done it have proved relatively painless.

Pointed the new camcorder at the fish last night, it works pretty well. I think I will bring it to the tour, in addition to the Nikon. Very strange playing with a Sony camcorder again - I spent a year and a half doing QA on Sony PCs, mostly using camcorders and i-link ports. I need to get an i-link to standard firewire cable - the cable which comes with the camcorder is i-link to i-link.

Another half hour and I'll put some blue ice in the cooler and head for Berkeley. I expect to buy a lot of chocolate at the Scharffen-Berger factory.

Not worth the long drive

Got back from the Scharffen-Berger tour, the weekend edition is definitely not worth the long drive - especially following Yahoo maps' directions which landed me on the wrong side of the incredibly messed up 580-880-80 interchange in both directions. Should have taken 24 to upper Berkeley and taken normal streets. Or walked from the nearest BART, if there is one.

In a nutshell, despite having to double their output thanks to the new owners, they have no weekend production after Saturday morning. So instead of seeing a chocolate factory in action, we saw what looked like a museum.

The tour guide was good, though she could stand a lesson in public speaking - just one lesson: When they tell you to speak up, it means higher volume, not pitch. Lots of good info, and we got to taste three types of chocolate, a few nibs and a couple of beans. The tasting was pitched at the masses - they did not give samples of the 82% which is (IMHO) their best, and they did give samples of two milk chocolates, which I wouldn't spend S-B prices on.

The gift shop was not exactly a rip-off, but everything was at MSRP, I can get it the same or cheaper at Piazzi's. But as I was out of 82%, and it was the same price as locally, and I had a cooler packed with blue ice in the car, I bought a dozen. In the process I gave the cashier a math lesson. They had a "special" on a 36-pack of 1-oz bars (regular $99, special $79) but the 3-oz bars were $71.50 a dozen. 3x12 is also 36, so the same amount of chocolate at regular price in the bigger bars was less than the "on-sale" 1-oz bars. Why pay for the wrappers?

Also picked up a very nice branded coffee cup ($11 - worth maybe $6), a package of nibs and a tin of unsweetened cocoa powder.

With the potentially melting chocolate in the car, I drove straight home. Would have liked to play a little in Berkeley, but them's the breaks. Now that I know better about the prices, I'll have to book a tour for when they are making chocolate. The photos I got are not worth posting, dull art shots. The only reason I took them was to see how the new camera does raw+jpeg fine and to test the audio on the camcorder.

Went to Best Buy hoping to look at HD radios, but they had none. They also didn't have the i-link-to-firewire cable I need for the camcorder, though I just noticed my laptop has an i-link connector. But I'd rather do the video stuff on the bigger faster tower PC.
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Porch Talk

Starbuck's summer slogan is "Life's better on the porch". Lame. I never lived in a house with a porch in my 20 or so years in Seattle. My first house on the SF peninsula, in the area between Redwood City and Atherton, had a porch which the landlord had boarded up in front (the previous tenants wanted it enclosed for child care and street noise reasons) and within a week of moving in, the house was burglarized (probably by my next door neighbor) by using the porch entry - with the enclosure, they could not be seen from the street. Life was not better on the porch for me that day.

I've never had a porch before or since. But we had a porch at a couple of my childhood vacation homes. I mostly remember fighting the mosquitoes and being on the porch swing when the chains broke.

Nope, life is definitely not better on the porch.

Obligatory porch joke:

Homeless man is going door to door in the 'burbs asking if anyone needs any handyman work done. One classy business woman who is working from home that day tells him, yes, he can go out back and paint the porch. "There's a couple of cans of brown paint, and bushes and rollers back there," she said, "and please clean them when you're done. Come back up front and I'll pay you $100."

A couple of hours later, her knocks on the front door again, and tells the nice lady he's done. "But I have to tell you, lady, that isn't really a porch."
"Oh?", she says, "what is it, then?"

"That there's a Ferrari".