November 22, 2007
Gotta love a holiday mostly centered around food...
November 19, 2007
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?
November 18, 2007
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.
November 17, 2007
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.
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?
November 7, 2007
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...)
November 4, 2007
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.
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.
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.
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...
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:
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.)