+ September 25, 2011
To clear out space, I'm liquidating all tortfeasor stock starting today. Shirts are just $10, down from $17. Shipping is still the very reasonable $3 for one shirt. Most shirts are American Apparel, which means you're probably buying below cost at this price. Get them while they last.
+ August 29, 2010
As the summer draws to a close, I thought I'd report on a very successful project I've been working on this summer. I call it Pickle Project: Seed to Sandwich. The idea was to make my own pickles, and I thought it would be fun to combine the cooking / pickling elements with some basic gardening. I'm a basic gardener.
The project began with a gift I received for Christmas a couple years ago, the EarthBox gardening system. I can't recommend this enough to the novice gardner. It's a planting box with a false bottom. The false bottom allows you to fill up a chamber of water under the soil and keep the soil moist without fear of overwatering. It's simple, but it worked really well.
I got some cucumber seeds from Burpee and planted them indoors in a seed starter. This picture was taken on day 7 of the project. The seeds had sprouted and were looking healthy.
I set up the EarthBox on the same day, and planted the cucumber plants.
Day 29: Most of the plants survived and started growing big leaves.
I took the above picture on day 62. All I had been doing up until this point was keeping the EarthBox full of water. As you can see, the vines were really thriving at this point.
By day 70, there were flowers and tiny little cucumbers forming.
The first cucumbers were ready around day 91, so this was the day of the first harvest. The pickles were a bit bulbous and sometimes more on the yellow side rather than green. I had better shapes and colors as the project went on, but not always the shape of perfect pickles. Looking around the grocery store, I developed a theory that commercial cucumbers are selected for cutting based on their shapes. So bulbous cucumbers become slices, large cucumbers become spears, and perfect cucumbers are picked whole.
Here's a picture of the first few cucumbers. This was enough to fill a pickle jar, or in my case, a plastic take-out container.
There are tons of pickling recipes online, with varying degrees of complexity. I chose a really simple "refrigerator" recipe that is basically just vinegar, water, garlic, spices, and a week or two in the fridge. I was at the grocery store finding all kinds of spices when I discovered "pickling spice". It's a mix of everything you need. The only drawback was the proportions weren't quite right, or the allspice was sitting on the top, because there was a little too much allspice.
My pickles turned out great. They're crisp, fresh, tangy, and a bit spicy. They go perfectly with a crusty grilled cheese sandwich. The above photo was taken on day 106, and I'm still harvesting and making more batches of pickles.
+ May 31, 2010
I was really intrigued by this story on NPR about Apple's stock price and Kyle Conroy's compilation of Apple prices vs. today's Apple stock value because... I've been taking part in exactly this sort of "concept investment".
Before the iPhone was released, I had looked back at Apple's stock and noticed that if I had bought Apple stock instead of an iPod, I would have had thousands of dollars instead of an aging (but still working) iPod. This thought gave rise to my "free iPhone" plan, instead of buying an iPhone, I would buy the equivalent in Apple stock. When increase in Apple stock price and decrease in iPhone price converged, I would use my investment gains to buy an iPhone. As an added benefit, Apple would be on the second or third generation of the product by then, and I would be able to get the latest technology.
The iPhone was first available for purchase on June 29, 2007. I didn't have a trading account at the time, and I missed that day by a couple days while I set up an account, but by July 7, 2007, I had $1000 in an account and purchased 5 shares of stock for $672.80. The larger 8GB version was priced at $599, so that was as close as I could come to the real price without being under.
My project was off to a great start; by September of that year, the price of the 8GB phone was down to $399. I was well on my way to a free iPhone, but the stock didn't rise as fast as I was hoping:
The stock rose until the end of 2007. At Christmas I had *almost* enough gains to buy an iPhone, but not quite. The stock tanked and by October of the following year, I had lost money. That's when I got tired of waiting and abandoned the experiment... I bought a 16 GB iPhone 3G.
I should have done this experiment with an iPhone 3G, because the stock doubled in value from October 2008 to October 2009. I still have the investment, and today I have nearly doubled my money. My account has $613 more than it did when I started, so clearly I could have bought an iPhone by now, even without a data plan.
+ April 2, 2009
My daughter Esme was born this afternoon. What a crazy feeling to see her and hear her for the first time. It's just amazing to me that she has never experienced things like color, cold, or night. My wife and I are really excited. I set up a website about Esme.
+ February 22, 2009
My year-long project to build a murphy bed in our second bedroom (soon to be baby-room) is now 100% complete. I used the Create-A-Bed system.
+ September 1, 2008
I've had an interest in baking for a long time, and have tried for a while to master the art and craft of baking bread. I think of bread as the backbone of the western diet. What is amazing about it, is that it's frequently made from just a few ingredients, yet has infinitely variable outcomes depending on how those few ingredients are processed. Making a loaf of french bread allows the baker to interact with the ingredients in a much more developed way than, for example, grilling some chicken. In short, baking is all about the process.
My wife and I are celebrating our first anniversary this weekend, and we decided to head up to Vermont to take a half-day baguette class at King Arthur Flour. These classes sell out quickly, so this is something we've been planning for a long time. The class was almost exactly what I expected, rows of butcher-block workstations with an instructor in the front. We were the youngest people by about twenty years, with the exception of a mother and son baking team; I guess taking baking classes is not something the hip kids are doing these days, but rather, something that hippie grand parents do. Regardless, there is no substitute of learning the process and technique of bread making than actual live instruction. I would never have figured out the the wet dough kneading technique without seeing it and then trying it with critique. Our baguettes turned out perfectly.
+ August 23, 2008
I've been commuting by car to work for about 1.5 years now, and I still hate driving. As a regular driver though, one would think I'd favor access to cheap fuel and find a common bond of complaint with my co-workers, TV advertisers, and politicians over the misery that is high gas prices. In fact, I'm happy to see prices skyrocket, revealing the true cost of car commuting.
Friedman correctly points out that reducing the price of an addicting substance is no way to cure the addiction. I agree, and I'm happy to see high gas prices having an effect on the kinds of cars people are buying. People used to talk about "hybrids" being environmentally friendly, disregarding the fact that there are many small cars that are more fuel efficient than certain hybrids. Now that efficiency actually matters to people, I hear actual fuel efficiency numbers much more frequently than I hear the assumption that hybrid *means* efficient.
High gas prices has made efficiency one of the most important factors in new car buying. It has also reduced the amount that people are driving. What's not to like? I do wish that gas prices were allocated appropriately (i.e. taxed more), benefiting public transportation and alternative fuels rather than oil companies, but for now I'm happy that there's at least some incentive for car makers to step up their technology and for fuel consumers to consume less. In the US, we're still getting a bargain compared to European prices.
+ July 2, 2008
I have an Amazon credit card. Amazon is, of course, not the bank. The bank is Chase. The card "rewards" me by giving me approximately 1% back in the form of Amazon gift certificates. When I got the card, I assumed my Amazon account would just get random credits of $25 every time I spent $2,500. Instead, Chase keeps track of my "points" and when I have enough for another $25, they send some kind of notification to a "Rewards Processing Center". The rewards center *prints* a coupon code on a piece of paper and mails it to me. I open the envelope, recycle the cover sheet, type the 13 digit number into Amazon, and recycle the certificate and envelope. To me, this is like an email client that sends an email to a processing center where it is printed and mailed... and where then ultimate recipient then re-types it into their email client. Total inefficiency.
+ June 22, 2008
I've been trying out twitter for a couple weeks. I didn't think I had anything to say using short frequent text-based messages (not "text messages" because I still get charged for those, but messaged consisting only of text). I think I was missing the point of twitter; I think saying some very simple things is pretty useful. I'm also finding that I *do* have things to say. Compare reading just one newspaper article to reading no articles but all the headlines.
+ June 21, 2008
I had a great time at the American Craft Brew Fest today. The fest took place in the World Trade Center Boston, which is the same location of the Massachusetts bar exam. The carpet was the same bright blue color, but by all other measures, the beer fest was better than the bar exam.
The fest had a great selection of beers, and the crowd seemed focused on certain craft brew leaders (or perhaps the bar tenders at certain booths were just slow to serve). Among the greats: Lagunitas, Dogfish Head (probably the most popular), Brooklyn Brewery, and Stone. Check out my blurry picture of Sam Calagione serving up Dogfish Head and Garrett Oliver serving up Brooklyn (note the cowboy shirt with hop vines and flowers).
There were a lot of quality lesser known beers too. Interestingly, Michelob had a large booth. Someone told me one of their beers was really good, but it looked like most were avoiding it.
The highlight of the fest for me was a presentation by Garrett Oliver, who is clearly an advocate for drinking better beer. Garrett had one point that I found particularly inspiring (paraphrased): Some of your best experiences in life with be sharing a meal with family and with friends; shouldn't you be eating real food and the drink equivalent? His basic argument is that mainstream american beer is like wonderbread. It's meant to synthesize the real thing, but it's not made of real ingredients using a real process. (Maybe the word "honest" would convey this point better. Hopefully, you get the idea.)
+ June 7, 2008
I started brewing my own beer over the last couple months. It's quite an enjoyable process involving simple ingredients, a reasonable amount of effort, and positive results. Much like baking bread, there are very few ingredients but infinite variety in the finished product. It's also a hobby that requires cool equipment like giant stainless steel pots, tubes, siphons, bottle cap crimpers, etc. Brewing has great colors too: lots of copper, brown, and shiny silver (the stainless steel).
My first brew was a bock, which did not turn out that great (something about lack of cold-aging, "lagering", that I didn't do). The second brew (pictured) is a Belgian Dubbel that turned out great. I'm still a beginning brewer so I'm using malt extract as one of my ingredients. In the picture here I'm pouring the syrupy goodness that is malt extract into my beer. Over time, I plan to amass an arsenal of brewing gear, which I'll use to expand into "all grain" brewing.
+ April 7, 2008
Starbucks has a new logo featuring an older, more hung-over, split-tail mermaid. This mer-woman comes in brown, and is apparently connected to Starbucks new "Everyday" coffee. It's a warm, rustic look, and as it turns out, that's because it's the original Starbucks logo (but with strategically placed locks).
+ March 28, 2008
The Competitive Enterprise Institutes's pro CO2 advertisements get even more hilarious with age. There was at least some semblance of a debate on this topic two years ago when these ads were made, but there's really not very many people left who would say that there's no scientific consensus.
+ March 7, 2008
I never did post a follow up here regarding the Apartment Therapy Fall Colors 2007 contest. We ended up winning second place in the east! I even made a video. Making videos is actually not that easy, even on a Mac.
+ February 25, 2008
to buy something on eBay? Shouldn't it just take one or two? Or maybe it shouldn't take any.