November 26, 2008
Movember, Part Deux

I wrote previously about growing a mustache for charity and I have been overwhelmed with the support.

I'd like to thank Miles, Knob, Drew, Micah, Charles, William, Mom & Dad, Robert, Garen, Laura, Pat, and Mr. P.

Special thanks go out to Little Kenny, Rich, Brian, Brad, and MK for their large donations.

If you would like to help, you can visit my MoSpace here and donate. The money goes to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, a non-profit (meaning tax deductible!) organization.

My co-workers have had to see my mustache all month and were very supportive yesterday when they all showed their support! For those that don't know me, I'm the guy in the tie...

I'm not sure who instigated this, but I think Ben (famed author of Jump Leads) was involved.

Update: It appears that Joe was the instigator. Many thanks Joe!

Posted by michael at 11:12 AM | Comments (2)
November 25, 2008
Free Wifi at McDonalds on the iPhone

I was in McDonalds waiting to order my coffee when I pulled out my iPhone to check the internets. A wifi hotspot popped up and this is what I saw:

It seems that AT&T bought Waypoint, the wifi provider, eariler this month and we are seeing the fruit of that acquisition. Free wifi for the iPhone? I'll give it a try.

I entered my mobile phone number and got a message to wait for a text message.

Sure enough, the message arrived almost instantly.


And boom, I'm on the interwebs. In about 10-20 seconds...

No login.
No registration.
No ads.
No headache.

Just some sweet, sweet wifi provided in a way you can actually use it easily.

Props to AT&T, Waypoint, and McDonalds for quick work on creating a great service. I'm going to check at the local Starbucks today if it works the same. If only I could register my phone with T-mobile Hotspot to work the same way, I'd be in heaven.

Posted by michael at 09:17 AM | Comments (2)
November 24, 2008
The View of Los Angeles from Runyon Canyon

Two weekends ago I went up to Runyon Canyon with family to see Los Angeles. It was the weekend of the fires in Sylmar and the Triangle Complex fire near Chino.

From the top of the canyon you can see the entire LA basin from the Ocean to Downtown to Hollywood to the San Fernando Valley to the Westside.

I took photos and made them into a Quicktime VR so you can pan around and zoom in and out.

Thanks to Sean & Tara, the Twitluvahs for showing me the spot.

Posted by michael at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)
November 19, 2008
Soda Roundup

Over the last few weeks, I've picked up a few random sodas. Finally I gave them all a test.

First up was the pair of sodas based on ice cream floats.

The Root Beer Float is a traditional dessert and A&W is well known root beer. The Orange Soda Float? Not so traditional, but hey they are trying something new.

The root beer float tasted like a melted root beer float. The ingredients include things like pectin and propylene glycol alginate to make it taste creamy. Not so much. While the root beer flavor is good, I would rather simply have a root beer rather than try to recreate a float.

The orange soda float was a bit strange. Not quite a melted 50/50 bar, the thickening stuff made the orange soda simply strange. I'm not a big fan of orange soda, to begin with, so I wasn't impressed at all.

Every year, Jones soda puts out a few flavors for Halloween. This year I picked up Dread Apple and Monster Mojito.

Amazingly, the Dread Apple tasted like carbonated apple juice and the Monster Mojito tasted like a non-alcoholic mojito, a little bitter with a hint of mint. Surprising, I know. Michele enjoys mojitos and gave it a test. She said it tastes "exactly" like a mojito. I'll take here word for it. Personally I don't like the whole muddling trend at bars these days.

I guess I was hopping for something strange or extraordinary here, but alas, it's just soda pop.

Posted by michael at 07:55 PM | Comments (2)
November 16, 2008
Movember - raising awareness and money

Most of the time, Cruftbox doesn't ask much from you, the Loyal Cruftbox Readers, but today I am.

This month is Movember, a month where I am growing a mustache to help raise money for Prostate Cancer research. Just last month, I had the opportunity to have my prostate tested during my yearly physical.

In Movember, men grow mustaches to help raise money and awareness about Prostate Cancer, a major problem for men. All donations during Movember go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, a non-profit (meaning tax deductible!) organization.

You can visit my MoSpace here.

I know these aren't the easiest financial times for anyone, but I am asking you to donate a little money to help. Every little bit helps. I've have been writing Cruftbox since January 2000, that's almost 9 years of Cruft for your to peruse. Donating $9 if you enjoy Cruftbox and my fine new mustache would be fantastic. Of course, feel free to donate more if you want!

The donation page is here. Please consider making a small donation now.

Here are some photos of the progress of the facial hair.

Clean shaven in October

Movember 4th

Movember 9th

Movember 10th

Movember 16th
Posted by michael at 11:46 AM | Comments (6)
November 12, 2008
The Math on the Starbucks Gold Card

Starbucks recently announced their Gold Card for frequent buyers. The Starbucks Gold card costs $25.

Here are the main benefits of the Gold Card (with my comments):

  • 10% off most purchases in participating U.S. Starbucks stores (the main benefit)
  • A free drink when you purchase your membership in-store (one time savings)
  • Option to pay however you’d like (cash, credit card, etc.) (as opposed to being forced to pay?)
  • A free beverage on your birthday (birthdays ftw, one time savings)
  • Exclusive offers and discounts throughout the year (umm, yeah, whatever)
  • Free Wi-Fi access for up to 2 hours each day in participating Starbucks stores (good, but the free Starbucks stored value card gives you the same thing)

So the real benefit is the 10% discount. Simply put, you break even if you spend more than $250 a year at Starbucks (10% of $250 = $25). But let's put that into more familiar terms, in cups of coffee. I'm an engineer, I like to the math on things like this.

I considered two basic scenarios, someone that buys the simple cup of coffee and someone that buys the proverbial $4 Starbucks MochaFrappaLatteChino. I usually order a small cup of coffee, a 'tall drip' in Starbuckese, but many people enjoy a more elaborate drink at a higher price.

For the general case, let's consider how many cups you need to buy to break even on the investment, if you simply look at the 10% discount.

The price of a small cup of coffee is $1.60, a $4 Starbucks costs $4, and a Starbucks Gold Card costs $25. So you are looking at a 16˘ off a small coffee, and 40˘ off a $4 Starbucks. I assumed that there are 50 work weeks in the year.

Doing the math for the general case shows that to break even:

You need to buy ~156 small cups of coffee, that's just over 3 a week or 13 cups a month
You need to buy ~62 $4 Starbucks, that's just over 1 a week or 5 a month

If you consider the maximum case, meaning you take advantage of the free cup when you buy the card and a free cup on you birthday, you get a shorter break even point.

Doing the math for the maximum case shows that to break even:

You need to buy ~136 small cups of coffee, that's just under 3 a week or 11 cups a month
You need to buy ~42 $4 Starbucks, that's just under 1 a week or 4 a month

Looking at it another way, if you a a heavy drinker of $4 Starbucks, say two a week, you are buying 100 cups a year. On that scenario, the math pencils out to a savings of $15 over the year.

So the basic conclusion is that the Starbucks Gold card is probably best for people that drink $4 Starbucks once or more a week. Another way to look at is if you spend more that $5 a week a Starbucks, the card can save you a little money.

For people that just want a small cup of coffee, they are probably better off stopping at McDonalds. McDonalds sells their small cup of coffee for $1.40, less than the price of a discounted Starbucks Tall Drip. Besides, in a blind taste test, people prefer McDonalds coffee to Starbucks coffee.

Personally, I'm sticking with the Starbucks Stored Value card for ease of payment when at a Starbucks and will continue to drink McDonalds coffee when I have the option. BTW, the best cup of coffee I ever had was from Intelligentsia Coffee. It was fantastic. Alas, there is only one in Los Angeles, not very close to me.

Posted by michael at 06:24 AM | Comments (23)
November 08, 2008
Website Outage

On Friday, the server I use to host web sites was hacked. It took the better part of a day to restore the server from scratch.

Sorry for dropping off the grid for a bit.

Please take this as another reminder to backup your data, online and at home.

Posted by michael at 07:07 AM | Comments (2)
November 05, 2008
How I will celebrate for the next four years

I was optimistic about the election and my wife bought me something special to celebrate.

Yes, for the next four years, I will be drinking those sweet, delicious Republican Tears. Of course, they are best when accompanied by a good rant first.

So keep up the crying, I'm thirsty!

Posted by michael at 06:27 AM | Comments (2)
November 04, 2008
My Election Post

"Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities."
-- Winston Churchill

Posted by michael at 10:22 PM | Comments (1)