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  • Luxury items and the strange case of Noka Chocolate

    Posted on December 29th, 2006 ben No comments

    noka chocolate boxesFoodies: caveat emptor. Snobs: keep on snobbing (but remember, you look like fools to sensible people.)

    Noka Chocolates are more expensive than elf semen, and yet this article at demonstrates that every claim made by the company about the significance of their company and their chocolate, explicit and implicit, is false.

    This is some really great investigative reporting, and it’s great food nerdery, and it’s great comeuppance. Plus, the author used the word “Sneetchcraft”, which I thought was brilliant. You’ll have to look it up .

  • You always get through to sales.

    Posted on December 29th, 2006 ben No comments

    The re-manufactured Roomba Santa brought us didn’t really work all that well after all. I gave it a good long charge, and then told it to go! do your thing! seek out bits of stuff and suck them up! but it would not. It made a little sucking sound and then immediately went back to sleep. This Roomba unit has a bad motivator! Look!

    So I tried to get some info online at about what that might mean, but their FAQ didn’t really help. Then I tried to hook up an online chat with someone there, but they kept rewriting the availability schedule; on Monday the chat page said it’s only available Tues-Sun, and on Tues it said it’s only available from Weds-Mon. Strange, huh? That’s the kind of thing that makes you feel like they’re not just unhelpful, they’re also fucking with you and laughing their asses off.

    Then I tried the POTS help line. Result: no. (30 minutes on hold before abort.)

    So I figured I’d just go ahead and order a new robot and worry about returning the Faulty Suck Job later. It should be a straightforward thing to order a new robot online, yeah? No, their web server wouldn’t put buttons on the checkout page which would complete the order. Yes, I know how to reload a page and see if it is completely sent… The rep I talked to later confirmed it was broken.

    So I rang up the POTS sales line, which I noted is available 24/7, and… got right through to a very real human being almost immediately. And she fixed everything. I mean EVERYTHING, and I mean FIXED:

    1. She set up the return authorization for the old busted and gave me instructions on how to send it in.
    2. She canceled my online cart.
    3. She took my order quickly for the package I wanted to upgrade to.
    4. She put me on hold for a moment, and then came back and told me she could get me all the stuff I had in my cart, plus a bunch more accessories, for about 80% of what I had been ready to pay, and about the same price as the re-manufactured non-scheduling robot I bought initially.

    That’s where we stand. We’re kind of “between robots” right now. Sorry for the messy floors…

  • Uh Oh, here's a calendar plugin!

    Posted on December 27th, 2006 ben No comments

    WordPress is pretty attractive platform for php coders to add stuff onto, apparently. If you go to the WordPress Plugin Database you will find a ton of extra functions for the WordPress content management system (CMS). I am poking my way through those plugins, just to see what’s possible.

    Update: I took down the calendar I was using briefly. It doesn’t play nicely with the format set up by the WordPress themes I’m using.

  • Getting to know WordPress

    Posted on December 27th, 2006 ben No comments

    Okay, first of all, I’m a spoiled brat about UI stuff, so I’m definitely having to suck it up and sweat over a whole lot of counter-intuitive or opaque stuff with WP. Fine, if the promise holds true, you know… In the mean time, maybe I can get a little geek poetry inspiration from this thing:

    The WYSIWYG editor
    (so-so from the start)
    doesn’t work with Safari, so I switch
    to Firefox for editing. And yet…
    my Quicktime-embedding plugins code vanishes at the publish button
    (two hours of troubleshooting shot…)
    but there are hints
    that this editor itself is the code killer

    How is this editor disabled? In Firefox I don’t find that feature.

    I go back to Safari again and again.
    My code is now persistent. But is the movie embedded?
    No, we see only broken links.

  • Christmas, 2006

    Posted on December 26th, 2006 ben No comments

    Click on the picture to play the video
    Quicktime 7 Required 22.8 MB

    It occurred to me today that in my family, traditionally (if such a thing can be said of us) Christmas day was a nuclear-family kind of thing. Sometimes the grandparents were visiting, and sometimes we were visiting them, and sometimes we would go and visit an Aunt and Uncle in the evening… but it was essentially a nuclear thing for us. And that was (I say without hesitation) a VERY NICE thing.

    It turns out that there are some other ways to do the day. I know, I know… shocker, right? So in my new family, apparently, Christmas is a wild, raucous, unscripted and unstructured affair with all comers welcome. And we had lots, today (Thanks, by the way, to all who came! We enjoyed your company immensely!)

    This year’s cast was:

    • Cheryl, Blair, and I.
    • Tim popped in for a bit with the puppy, Daisy.
    • Catherine and Scott
    • Patricia
    • Dora and John David
    • Clare and Jude
    • Leslie
    • Annie
    • Amber

    I think I’m getting the hang of this kind of Christmas. I’ll surely be getting more sleep on Christmas Eve next year, which will make my internal emotional management much easier. (No worries, it went fine. It took some effort, though.) And I really trust that the people around me will enjoy themselves quite well without me managing their experience, and that even includes Blair to some degree now… so I can let go and relax and enjoy all the good stuff.

    All in all I think that everyone had a very nice time, and there was a ton of good food around, and lots of hugs and kisses, and I even got in a video chat with the Berkeley Quadys.

    Suits me fine. Merry Christmas, y’all.

  • Our new robot

    Posted on December 26th, 2006 ben No comments

    our new robot At last, we finally have a proper robot in the house. Santa brought an iRobot Roomba Discovery Series robot vacuum cleaner today at Christmas. The thing requires 16 hours for its first charge (something about battery conditioning), so it’s just sitting there looking cool and giving off that incomparable new-robot smell. All I can offer is these few pre-application observations of the thing:

    1. Santa saved a pile by buying a re-manufactured robot for us. Smart. He first tried to buy it through Google Checkout, but after three or four days without any recognition of the order directly from iRobot, Santa began to suspect that the transaction wasn’t going anywhere, so he canceled it. Santa then ordered that re-manufactured robot directly from iRobot, paying their price, which was very slightly higher. Later, Santa discovered that he could have done substantially BETTER by going through Amazon. Santa says he paid $190. Amazon offers it starting at $160.
    2. iRobot apparently makes a single basic chassis (the “Discovery” series, currently) with all kinds of subtle variations, minor revisions, and with a couple of crippleware pricepoints. (I Am Not An Economist, and I realize there must be better jargon than that. Sorry.)

      For example, I paid for a model which does not do scheduling. It comes with a “dumb” remote, which only drives the thing and changes its cleaning mode. But the scheduling robots themselves don’t want to take commands from you directly about schedules. They like to get their scheduling orders through the “scheduling” remote. Any “non-scheduling” Discovery series robot will suddenly become a “scheduling” robot if you just buy the “scheduling” remote. Here’s the kicker: the minimum price difference between the “scheduling” robot packages and the “non-scheduling” robot packages is $50. The price of a “scheduling” remote by itself is only $30.

      I say, Santa could have saved money and reduced the number of plasticky bits in the landfill if iRobot offered a deep package-customization function. Oh, drat… it turns out they do (though not for the re-manufactured chassis) and Santa could have done slightly better if he’d known that.

    3. Santa also didn’t notice that the iRobot website which sells the re-manufactures also says that the actual model they ship may be slightly different than the one pictured. And it was.

      And since I didn’t realize that all those vacuums in the Discovery series are functionally the same (with some trivial differences at the high end) I kind of panicked. The Amazon page which offers those re-manufactures is a bit more clear about the model-number ambiguities…

    Naturally, there will be more to follow this post when I see this thing working for a few weeks.

  • Badmotivator switches from iWeb to WordPress

    Posted on December 24th, 2006 ben No comments

    Old site I guess that, in the end, iWeb just doesn’t work all that well end-to-end. It sure makes pretty pages, which I’ll miss. And it was fun to move little page elements around. Apple did those bits nicely.

    The problems came when I wanted to publish the site. Yahoo apparently doesn’t support WebDAV, whatever the hell that is, which meant no incremental publishing, and that meant whole-site uploading. In the end, I think that’s what did me in. I just never really felt like sitting down and remaking and republishing the whole site… so it never happened.

    So I’ll play around with WordPress for a while! Maybe this kind of content management system is right up my alley. Or maybe, like iWeb was, it’s a winter thing, which I’ll abandon at the very first sight of the sun… Stay tuned, and feel free to comment.