All posts by Andrew

Moved to WordPress

I finally moved this site from Moveable Type to WordPress. What a pain. For one thing, I’m about 10 years late on that. A lot of the help online for making that transition is outdated. Two other things are painful: (1) keeping (or at least redirecting) my old permalinks to keep them permanent, and (2) moving my site design over.

For #1, I tried a lot of different things and ended up just rebuilding the existing pages with a javascript redirect. For #2, I decided that the old design wasn’t worth trying to copy over. I kept the key color and I may make some other adjustments to the WordPress default theme (or make a new theme some other day).

tortfeasor liquidation

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.

Pickle Project: Seed to Sandwich

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.
Pickle Project: Sprouts on day 7
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.
Pickle Project: Planting in Earth Box on day 7
I set up the EarthBox on the same day, and planted the cucumber plants.
Pickle Project: Bigger leaves developing on day 29
Day 29: Most of the plants survived and started growing big leaves.
Pickle Project: Thriving vines on day 62
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.
Pickle Project: Tiny cucumbers on day 70
By day 70, there were flowers and tiny little cucumbers forming.
Pickle Project: Full size cucumbers on day 91
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.
Pickle Project: Harvest
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.
Pickle Project: Pickling
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.
Pickle Project: Sandwich
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.

iPhone Concept Investment

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:
Apple stock chart
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.

I’m a Dad

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.

King Arthur Baking Class

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.

I Love High Gas Prices

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.

The Most Inefficient Gift Certificate

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.