November 2007

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Categories: Random junk

Gotta love a holiday mostly centered around food...

Posted November 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 19, 2007

I Hate Comcast

Categories: Random junk

I know this is like saying ""I hate evil" or something similarly obvious. We're buying a new house (more on that later). Obviously, we need Internet service and cable is generally the fastest connection type around, so I didn't even think about who to use. I went to the Comcast website to get service and figured we might use them for phone service too (reminder: we don't have TV).

I went through their long wizard to order my service and was connected to their chat service to confirm a time for the installation truck roll; I thought this was a nice touch and better than waiting for a call back. I was "on hold" for about an hour (terrible), but it got worse from there.

The service person proceeded to ask me everything I had already typed in only to say that she couldn't transfer my service since the new address wasn't in her database. It's a new house. Don't people who are moving into new houses ever need Comcast service? Their site couldn't have flagged this an hour ago before I wasted this time?

Now, I have to call the local Comcast office. What's worse, she couldn't transfer any of the information I typed to the local office, so I'll have to do the whole thing on the phone again. Lovely.

I am going to spend some time looking for alternatives to Comcast broadband now. Why do companies make it so hard to give them money?

 
Posted November 19, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

November 18, 2007

I Love My Zune 8

zune8

I can't stop playing with my new Zune 8. It's lovely to look at and hold, the UI is great, and the sound is super. I had no complaints with my iRiver Clix, but since Urge, the subscription music service I was using, merged with Rhapsody, I had to find a new music player (I would like to avoid give Real any money ever.) Contrary to what Steve Jobs asserted, some people (including me) really prefer all-you-can eat subscription music over purchasing songs $.99 at a time.

The only real complaints I have are around accessories. I couldn't find any cases or armbands for the Zune, which I need before I can use it running (I dropped by Clix several times, so I know I need some kind of protection for the Zune). Also, my car has an iPod adapter; as far as I know, there isn't a Zune-to-iPod convertor, so I may be out of luck there. I'm sure at least the case/armband issue will resolve itself in a few weeks, but I'm a bit stuck on the car thing.

I'm a pretty tough critic of the work we do at Microsoft; as cool as some of our stuff is, we can definitely do better. However, once in a while, we do something very slick. The new Zune is one of those times.

Posted November 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 17, 2007

Good Mexican Food Around Bellevue

Categories: Food and Drink

A while back I wrote about good Chinese restaurants around Bellevue, specifically close to Microsoft and our house. There are also a few good Mexican places in Bellevue now as well. This wasn't always the case. When I first moved to Seattle in 1990, I had a hard time finding Mexican restaurants that could scratch the Mexican food itch I developed in California and Texas. While I'm no expert, there are finally a few places I like a lot.

  • Guerrero's store frontGuerrero's is actually a little Mexican grocery store, but in the back of the shop they have a little buffet set up. You get a plate or a styrofoam box, fill it up with lovely stuff, and pay by weight. Last time, I had a great lengua (tongue) in tomatillo sauce, amazing birra (beef) cooked crazy tender and yummy, chicken to die for, delicious beans, and fantastic nopalitos (cactus). They apparently have tortas and nice bread too. It made me happy to get a Mexican Coke to wash it down; they're sweetened with real sugar instead of corn syrup like American Coke. It makes all the difference. There are only a few tables in the place, so I've only ever had takeout. One tip, go for lunch. They don't do much dinner business, so the selection isn't very good, and the food had been out all day. The cashier actually apologized to me and told me to come back for lunch. Anyways, this is an amazing place. I highly recommend it. It's in the old K-mart shopping center off of 148th and Main. Incidentally, this little mall is home of a few of my favorite restaurants. In addition to Guerrero's, Szechuan Chef (stellar Chinese) and Tuna House (very good sushi) are there. Yum. 15015 Main Street, Suite 119, Bellevue, WA
  • El Rinconsito is a little more fast food and is apparently something of a chain, but no matter, it's very good. Their menu extends beyond tacos and burritos to posole, menudo (perfect for hangovers), grilled fish, a big jug of horchata (which I've never developed a taste for, I must admit), tortas, and more. Perhaps most unique, they are open late (3:00 am, I think -- unheard of in Bellevue). It's in the strip mall near Skate King and Wimbley's. Also, the same mall as Pizza and Sandwich House, one of my other favorite Chinese places. 2255 140th Ave NE Ste A, Bellevue

Many people also seem to like La Cocina Del Puerco in downtown Bellevue. It's pretty good, but I haven't had as ethereal experiences there as I have with these other two places. Of course, I haven't been there for a while, so maybe I should give them another chance.

Anyone hungry for lunch?

Posted November 17, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 7, 2007

Proud Papa

Categories: Kids

Conversation from this evening:

Michael (7) [unprompted and with conviction]: "I'll never ever go to Cal [University of California at Berkeley]."

Me [very politically correctly and with a mostly straight face]: "Well, Michael, despite the rivalry with Stanford, Cal is a very good school. I'd be happy if you went to Cal."

Michael [adamantly]: "No way. I'm never ever going to Cal."

That's my boy. I'm so proud. Go Stanford! (Now, he just needs to study really hard, and I just need to save a small fortune...)

Posted November 7, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 4, 2007

Instant Ramen Done Right

Categories: Food and Drink

As I blogged about before, instant ramen is my "secret food" -- the thing I'll eat (despite my foodie ways) when no one else is around. I love them all, but I've recently discovered the dirty secret of instant ramen: the Asian varieties are way, way better.

Specifically, what I'm talking about here are the versions meant for Asian audiences and particularly for people in Asia. Case in point: Nissan Cup Noodles (the original instant ramen in a cup) are available in Japan as well as the US. However, the Japanese version is far tastier than its American counterpart. I compared the Japanese seafood cup to the American shrimp cup (this was the closest I could get to an apples-to-apples comparison). The broth in the American version had that familiar salty ramen soup taste; by contrast, the Japanese version actually tasted like seafood. The Japanese version had slices of octopus, more veggies, and more eggs too vs. the dried shrimp and sprinkling of other stuff in the American version. Even Michael (7) tasted the difference.

Nissan Seafood Cup Noodles Nissan Seafood Cup Noodles  

Since this discovery, I've been buying all kinds of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese noodles at the shops around us; they're all much yummier than the stuff at Safeway and not tons more expensive. Some even have foil pouches with meat (which actually taste good, if you can get over the idea). A few include a spork or other utensil too, which makes tons of sense.

If you like instant ramen (and let's be honest, who doesn't) you should definitely give the real thing a try.

Posted November 4, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

New Car

Audi A4 Avant

I just picked up a new 2008 Audi A4 Avant 2.0T . This is my first Audi. I'm impressed with the thoughtful design details in the car so far. For instance, you can fold up the cargo cover in the back like a tent to divide the space to hold grocery bags and such. Another nice detail is how the radio will show your presets next to the buttons with the RDS info as labels.

Audi Symphony II radio showing RDS tags

They did a nice job with the ski sack (a pass-through from the trunk into the back seat with a bag on the end to keep the skis separated from the passenger compartment); the bag drains out of the car, so if there's snow, etc. it won't collect in the bag). I'm also having a surprising amount of fun playing with the paddle shifters/tiptronic transmission. The user guide leaves something to be desired (the words are all in English, but the sentences are hard to parse), but if that's the biggest problem I have with the car I'll be doing well.

The car is "dolphin grey" (the same charcoal grey color as the image above), and the interior is black leather. I added the cold weather package (need those seat warmers and the ski sack), premium package (leather seats...), the "convenience package" (stuff like an electronic compass, folding outside mirrors, HomeLink, and xenon headlights -- I didn't really need this or even want it, but they were in the car that was available. Besides more toys are more fun), and the iPod kit (also, not something I needed or wanted, but it'll be fun to mess with).

I opted against the performance/sport stuff or bigger engine that I would have bought in the past. While I think the car looks better with bigger wheels, etc. they don't help snow driving or the ride quality; I've also just come to grips with the fact I'm not a sport driver. This is my daddy mobile with a six mile daily commute over side streets. No hard cornering, fast acceleration, or autobahn driving in my daily life.

I've always been a BMW fan; the first car I owned in college was a 1972 BMW 2002, and I've almost always had a BMW since then with the most recent being a 528iT (station wagon) I've had for the last eight years. The 5 was a great car; I still really liked it, but maintenance was starting to become expensive relative to the value of the car, plus I wanted something with all wheel drive for the wet and snow. I looked at the X5 and X3, but I realized I'm not an SUV guy. I didn't look at the other new BMWs because I think they look like ass. I don't care for BMW's new design direction at all, especially in the new 5 series. Also, I don't know that the BMWs are worth the premium over other European cars (let alone Japanese or American cars).

So, Audi won my vote this time. I'm looking forward to getting to know the car better...

Posted November 4, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

World's Best Apple Cider

Every week when I pick up our share from The Root Connection, I stop by Minea Farms across the street for some the best apple cider I've ever had. Minea uses a 100 year old cider press to make both single variety and blended ciders. Unlike most store-bought cider, Minea's actually taste like apples rather than sugary brown water; what's more, each variety of cider tastes different, as it should. I love them all, but I especially prefer the sweeter ones like Gala and Fuji over the tarter varieties like Granny Smith. Each week they have a few different types and offer tastings so you can decide which to choose from. (Michael (7) likes the cherry-apple cider blend.)

This time of year is especially good since they are pressing recently harvested apples; earlier in the year, they sell cider frozen the previous autumn (still super damn good). In addition to cider, they have apple butter, veggies, apples, fruit leather, and other farm products, but the big draw is the cider.

Their usual hours are Wed-Sun 11am - 5pm. They're located at 13404 Woodinville-Redmond Road. Here's the sign from the road:

 Minea Farms sign

If you haven't had fresh apple cider before, you're in for a treat. If you have, well, you know what you're missing. Either way, get off your butt and go get some...

(OK, as usual, I have no idea if this really is the world's best anything, but it's pretty damn good cider.)

Posted November 4, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)