September 30, 2006
The Mocha Dunk Mug

Last week, my friend Sean IMed me a link to the The Mocha Dunk Mug at the Charles & Marie website. I think Sean saw at a Brotherhood of the Bean. Within seconds, I had ordered this amazing mug. Charles & Marie is a neat site with loads of wonderful items, but the lack of a search function (at least one that I could find easily) made my brain hurt as I spent 10 minutes looking for a search box.

The mug arrived this week and I finally had time to use it for the first time this morning.

I made a small pot of tea (coconut tea if you must know...) and began to prepare for a proper morning setup.

Thanks to my co-worker, Cyril, I had a tin of actual English biscuits to go along with my tea. For testing purposes, only the proper test materials will suffice.

Sure enough, the Mug holds two cookies/biscuits easily and they fit with some space to spare.

I walked from the kitchen to the breakfast table and the cookies remained in place. I had successfully avoided the need to use a plate. Of course, Michele simply rolled her eyes at me.

I must make a warning to anyone that might consider buying one of these mugs, you must be right handed.

You see due to gravity and a messy attitude, the cookies want to leap to the table. As you can see above, if you pick up the mug with your left hand, the naughty cookies will take advantage of the situation and make their escape attempt.

Lefties have no fear, my ninja intraweb search skillz have found a place to buy a version for left handers at Mocha Home.

So let's summarize with a pros and cons list:


  • Stylish mug that holds cookies

  • Saves usage of a plate at breakfast

  • Heat of the tea/coffee warms the cookie, which an unexpected benefit


  • For right handers only

  • Outrageously expensive at $23

  • Water collects in the cookie chamber in the dishwasher

  • Wife rolls eyes at you

Posted by michael at 09:49 AM | Comments (1)
September 18, 2006
How to cook bacon

Bacon is favorite in Cruft Manor. Typically, bacon is cooked in the microwave here. It is quite a production with separating the strips on a plate and careful placement.

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Infected, and Martin, Joey, and the Gator were discussing how to cook bacon. Gator suggested that you cook bacon "like a man" and toss the slab in without separating anything.

Now Gator ain't a man to steer me wrong, so I gave it a try.

I tossed about a quater of the slab in the pan. The pan was nice and hot.

Sure enough, the bottom slice started to cook and it peeled off the slab quite easily. I simply moved the slab off with no trouble and the bacon continued to cook.

Quite rapidly, the bottom slices each began to cook and shrink down, peeling themselves off the slab. It was trivial to seperate them now.

The bacon cooked up just great. I cooked a second slab to test again with the same results.

Of course the final test was if the girls liked it. As you can see, they both rated Gator's bacon cooking method and superb.

So the next time to cook bacon, cook it "like a man" and just toss that slab in.

Posted by michael at 09:55 PM | Comments (3)
September 15, 2006
Athletic Support

We here at Cruft Manor do not do triathlons. We engage in huge amounts of mental exercise to compensate.

But my co-worker, Mr. P., is participating in a triathlon for charity tomorrow. Please consider being an Athletic Supporter and donating to Mr. P as he does a half-mile swim in the Pacific Ocean, 18-mile bike ride along the Pacific Coast Highway, and 4-mile beachside run for your donation.

The money goes to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS. So please, toss a few $ to Mr. P's effort.

Posted by michael at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)
September 12, 2006
Yesterday's Guesses

Yesterday afternoon, I sat with a few of my colleagues in Amsterdam and we discussed what Apple was going to announce today. I wrote down our guesses and emailed them out to timestamp them.

Cxxxxx: New service that integrates movie rental/download with Front Row. Possible rebranding of iTunes into Showtime. Launch of a new iPod video with touchscreen. Steve Jobs is leaving the company. Lion King & Pearl Harbor on the iPod

Dxxxxx: New iPod with wifi access. Movies on iPod. New DRM.

Michael: Movies on iTunes. Airport for video that uses wifi to move video to near the TV.

I do believe that I made the most correct prediction.

For those so unlucky as to work with me, I have been predicting (ranting some might say) this type of move from Apple as opposed to the computer centric "home theater PC" mindset. The idea to place a fully fledged computer next to your TV. As someone that runs multiple computers in the house and has their media on a server, this is the last thing I want. Heat, sound, cable, and simply a place to put it make the HTPC a bad idea.

Microsoft tried some thing kind of like this with Windows Media Center PC but got caught up in their own rules. If you had a Media Center PC, there were extenders that allowed you do basically do what iTV will do. The problem is that Microsoft made it extremely hard to actually use Media Center Edition. Basically you had to buy a whole new computer to get the software. There are ways to get the software now without a new computer, but it's far from easy.

Apple got two things right that Microsoft got wrong. First, they give away iTunes for free on both Mac and Windows. Microsoft, best case, will sell you the software for $109 for Windows only. Second, Apple had the content people wanted ready to go. Microsoft did not.

Let's compare the score cards:

Apple - Free software for Mac & PC, online media store with music, television, and movies
Windows - $109 software for PC only, online media store with music

If Microsoft really wants to compete when Zune (their supposed iPod killer) is released, they should included the features of Media Center into Windows Media Player and release a Mac version of Windows Media Player and allow Zune, Media Center Extenders, and Xbox 360s to attach to it. That would level the playing field. I doubt that Microsoft will do this since they specialize in doing things only halfway right.

Apple is willing to fulling commit to new ideas and take on the risk of walking away from their existing safety zone. Microsoft has not been willing to do this. The biggest change they have made since releasing XP is to launch the Xbox. They have done a great job, but they seem to lack the will to really go in for the kill and make the Xbox the dominant machine in the home. Their focus on PCs running Windows in the home is keeping them from achieving the larger goal of Microsoft in the home.

This is the key point Apple gets and Microsoft misses.

Look, I like Microsoft and think they have some of the brighest people in the industry. But they really need to take the gloves off and let their product people stretch the limits, even if it changes some of their core focus on selling copies of the OS. The fact that they are walking away from the Mac is silly. They should be embracing the new Mac line with a version of Windows specifically for the Intel Mac. Windows Media Player should be just as available and useful on a Mac as on a PC.

Best case scenario, a media war between Apple and Microsoft for the living room with escalating volleys of neat new technologies. In that case, the consumer wins.

Posted by michael at 12:14 PM | Comments (3)
Serious Security

I'm sitting in Frankfurt Airport on my way home from Amsterdam. After landing in Frankfurt, I went through Passport Control and then had to go through another security checkpoint.

This checkpoint was serious.

I was told to remove everything from my pockets, including wallet, passport, everything. Case, computer, and my shoes also went through the x-ray. I was then hand searched instead of going through a metal detector. In fact, there were no metal detectors at all. Everyone was hand searched. The hand search was extremely thorough. I've been searched by the police before, and this was even more complete than that. They checked everywhere including inside my belt and the soles of my feet. Most of the time I feel it would be trivial to slip something by security, but not this time.

Once that was complete, they went through my bags and found a small bottle of saline and another of eye drops. Both are OK to travel with, but they made me squirt them on my hand to show them what they looked like.

After finding the liquides, they then pulled out all my electronic gear to look at closely. Power supplly, cables, etc. It all came out for inspection. Next, the pulled my mobile phone out and walked over to the explosives detector. They swabbed down the phone to check for any explosives.

Only after that exhaustive search was I allowed to proceed to my plane. Remember, this is after my first security screening in Amsterdam. Also, everyone was was undergoing the same process.

Usually I feel that airport security is more theater than actual security, but not so today. The security at Frankfurt Airport was rigorous and yet the staff carried thing sout pleasantly, explaining to me everything as it happened.

When I think about the airport security in the US, it seems almost childlike in compairison.

OK, time to go catch my plane.

Posted by michael at 03:45 AM | Comments (2)
September 03, 2006
Gotta save some juice

As summer starts to wrap up, the summer electirc bills also arrive, reminding me that I need to save some electricity where I can.

As a result, I switched over the majority of the house to use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of traditional incandescent one. There was a 10% off sale at the local hardware store, so I decided to take advantage.

The energy savings are pretty huge. I replaced:

(6) 100 watt incandescent bulbs with 23 watt flourescent blubs
(8) 60 watt incandescent bulbs with 14 watt flourescent blubs

Yes, the flourescents really do only use a quarter the electricity for the same amount of light.

The only issue was with one of the fixtures where the wider base of the flourescent wouldn't fit. I'm sure there's a short extender I can use to solve this on my next trip to the hardware store.

So how much electricity am I really saving here? In a pure wattage reduction, the 14 new bulbs save 830 watts when on. Assuming that the bulbs are on for an average of 3 hours a day, that's 2.49 kilowatt-hours a day. Over a year, that's ~900 kilowatt-hours. If you look at the How Stuff Works page, you can see that you get 2,460 kilowatt-hours per ton of coal. Doing the math, that means that switching to the flourescent bulbs save 731 pounds of coal from being burned in power plants. Also, we help avoid producing air pollution from coal burning.

On the money front, we pay ~25¢ per kilowatt-hour for electricity here in California in the summer. 900 kWh * 25¢/kWh = $225 in savings. I spent about $58 on the bulbs today, so I should recoup my cost in the next 3 months.

Not bad for an hour's work. There are still more bulbs to swap out as well. Now I seriously need to consider making a change to both our air conditioner and refrigerator, both over 20 years old.

Posted by michael at 08:06 PM | Comments (3)