g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
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Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Thursday, November 1, 2007
02:23 - Those who can't cook, bring chocolate

(top)
This was my contribution to the Halloween potluck at work on Wednesday:



Hey, it was this or Dixie cups.

For the past several months, largely as a side effect of this whole weight-loss thing, I've found myself at the mercy of an odd compulsion to pay really, psychotically close attention to the flavors of certain kinds of food. (It's what happens when your portion sizes shrink, I guess.) And since I'm not one to go in for the usual subjects of taste snobbery, such as wine or beer or single-malt scotch, I perhaps inevitably found myself staring at one dark chocolate bar after another, tasting them square by square until I felt I could tell them apart blindfolded, like the author of the by-now-infamous Noka Chocolate exposé. Or, at the very least, to gain enough familiarity with the ins and outs of the discipline that I could tell an Ecuadoran Arriba from a Venezuelan or Madagascar Criollo or an industrial Forastero, the way I've always sort of doubted you could even distinguish a red wine from a white by taste alone.

This informal tasting at the potluck was as much for my benefit as anyone else's in attendance; after all, I'm not about to buy a whole boxful of chocolate from Chocosphere just to nibble at a corner of a bar every day until finally six months later I start to run dry. No, most of the bars here I hadn't even tried until Wednesday. But I think by now that while I can't tell them all apart at a taste, there are certainly a few that I'm quite sure I could identify blindfolded with no trouble at all: the dull and ungainly Hachez Cocoa d'Arriba, the richly exotic Valrhona Ampamakia, the sour-like-a-lemon Domori Sambirano. And there are several others in the list that I feel I know pretty well, like the goofily candyish Villlars, the rich and bold Valrhona Palmira, the supremely melty Lindt Excellence 70%, and the round-tinned Chocolate Traveler from Trader Joe's, which I can best describe as "friendly"—it tastes like chocolate ice cream, all malty and nutty and all-around pleasant.

I use the reviews at seventypercent.comas a yardstick, but I don't always agree with their reviewers' findings; some chocolates they think are middling I find fantastic, whereas some of my very favorites barely score an "ehh" from them. I don't know if that's just because I'm unschooled in the art, or if maybe they're falling all over themselves comparing these chocolates to some Platonic ideal I'm just not familiar with, while I'm just calling things by how well they happen to tickle my particular taste buds. But I also think they get a bit too caught up with trying to put names on all the intricacies of flavors in each bar, to the point where it becomes self-parodic—I mean, come on: "...the chocolate immediately surges forward with a powerful blueberry, which then gives way to softer strawberry and cherry cordial components - clear criollo indications. Next, a brooding molasses component darkens the scene, which then in turn exits to reveal a smooth grape and hazelnut finish"? Seriously? To me, what these reviewers perceive as things like "blueberry" and "molasses" are just convenient but misleading names for unique aspects of chocolate itself—tastes you just aren't going to get anywhere else. And I'm not decrying this practice, either: I don't know a better way to do it. (Some of the chocolates on that air-hockey table taste to me like wine, Circus Peanuts, or suntan lotion.) I just think sometimes in the pursuit of language that conveys the flavor to someone who's never tasted the bar in question before, it's possible to overstep the bounds of usefulness and start describing something that's entirely unconnected with reality, subjective or objective.

If there's any interest, I could post some of my own reviews and opinions of chocolate bars I've known and continue to discover. I'd try to keep things brief and sane—no rhapsodizing about how many different breeds of nuts or berries it can be imagined to remind one of, but rather a succinct description of how I think it tastes, plus a general thumbs-up/down based on nothing but my own amateur opinion.

Or, if not, well—it's not like there's any shortage of opinion on the web about this stuff already. I guess I just think, hey, what's one more unaccountable personality quirk?



09:11 - iCal Helper is not helping

(top)
Have any Leopard users out there noticed this happening?


That's how it is all the time, 24/7, ever since installing Leopard. There seems to be nothing about it in Apple's discussion boards, though, and no big scandal sweeping the Mac web. Nor, naturally, do I have any way to make it stop, other than killing the process, after which it just comes back anyway.

Good thing I've got another CPU, otherwise I probably wouldn't even be able to type this.

Anybody know any Deep Magic?


Wednesday, October 31, 2007
19:16 - Court the nonexistent dollar

(top)
Clearly Apple is losing money by not pandering to those people who would rather hack Leopard onto a crappy PC than install Vista on the world's fastest Windows notebook.

I'm just sayin', is all.


16:34 - Or not to bee

(top)
You know, Bee Movie may or may not be any good. But I've just got to ask:

How many CGI movies about bugs or penguins are we going to have to see before they accept that the subject matter is well and truly mined dry?!

I mean, criminy. Is this going to be the way things go—every time some past-his-prime comedian decides he wants to keep his writing and performing alive without making people look at his ever-saggier face, he stumps for a CGI movie where he plays a bug?

And for that matter, can this movie please fail simply so the next time through they don't feel like it will do any good to plaster Flash ads all over every website in reach, like the egregious page-curl one you might be lucky enough to see if you go to SFGate.com? Or the Seinfeld edition of those "look what a celebrity can do with an HP computer" ads? Gad—I haven't seen product-placement-gone-amok like this since the 80s, back when it actually deserved the mockery it got in Wayne's World.

By this point I don't care if it's good: I'm skipping this movie on general principle.



16:22 - The weather underground
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/31/MN7FOGO71.DTL

(top)
I love how they report the news around here:

Guitarist A.J. Flores was at his San Jose home playing with his band when the quake hit. A lamp and guitar fell over amid the shaking.

"Yeah, man, we thought we were really rocking out," Flores said, adding that the musicians quickly realized it was an earthquake and not their Metallica cover song that caused the ruckus.

Geez, and I just thought it was a train going by next door on newly-installed rails.

(Just had another aftershock a few minutes ago, too.)

My brother had the best line, though, when talking about whether items had fallen off shelves: "I guess I should rethink keeping that anvil on the shelf above my bed, huh?"


Tuesday, October 30, 2007
11:13 - The Extra Mile

(top)
I believe that from now on, when I'm in need of a rental car, I'll take my business to Enterprise.

Yesterday I was having a shop in Livermore work on the Lotus, welding in new catalytic converters so as to bring it perhaps one step closer to getting the damn thing smogged and registered. Livermore's a long way from home, and from work—far out of bum-a-ride range, anyway. So my only recourse was to rent a car. Because Enterprise is leading with their "We'll Pick You Up" service, I gave them a call, and they sent a guy out to pick me up at the shop; as we pulled out, the welding guys were already deep into the process of breaking the studs off the rusty turbos and giving me hunted glances from inside the warehouse/service bay. Soon afterwards, I was back at the Enterprise office, where with efficient and friendly service they bundled me into a PT Cruiser and sent me on my merry, three-speed-automatic-whirring way.

Come the end of the day, I gave the shop a call and confirmed that broken studs or no, the job was going to be done and I could pick up the car by closing time—6:00. I checked Enterprise's schedule. They too closed at 6:00. I was on the Peninsula, a good 45 minutes from Livermore, not counting the inevitable traffic jams. And it was 4:45.

I hopped in the Cruiser and headed across the bridge, then up 880. Traffic was reasonably light until the 580 exit, where everybody eastbound has to thread through a single-lane on-ramp and then a couple of miles of construction; yet even that didn't slow me down too much, and soon I was over the 580 summit and on my way down into Livermore. 5:40 and I was on the outskirts of town, with nothing ahead of me but lonely freeway all the way to Stockton. Plenty of time to get gas, turn in the car, phone the shop, confirm that the car was ready and I was coming, and pick it up.

...And that's when the traffic came to a dead standstill.

I should know better by now: freeways leading out of urban areas into the countryside are prime locations for chronic traffic jams, because they always lose lanes at inopportune times. 101 does that just north of Novato, closing down from three lanes to two, and invariably causing a fifteen-minute pileup of traffic on its way north into the expanse of Sonoma County. And 580 does it too, between Dublin and Livermore, where it loses two lanes. Just when I'd thought I was home free.

Crawling in traffic is at least better with an automatic than a heavy sporting clutch, though.

I exited the freeway at about 5:55, and knowing that I couldn't afford the time to stop and top off the tank, I screeched down the boulevard to the Enterprise office, which I reached at 6:01. Wedging the PT sideways into a space, I bounded up the steps, and found... that it was already dark and locked.

$%^#$%#.

I stomped around in the parking lot for a minute, to the side of the building, knowing that there was nothing I could do now but go home—even if I drove over to the shop, and even if they were still open, I'd find myself in Livermore with two cars, and I'd have to drive all the way back up here the next day or otherwise somehow work out the rental car return. I was tossing half-baked ideas around in my head like leaving the PT Cruiser in the shop parking lot and calling Enterprise to come get it themselves, however the paperwork and liability would work for that, when suddenly the manager, the captain of the Enterprise office appeared on the bridge leading from the lit side door down to my car.

"Oh, did you want to turn in your car?"

Into the office we went. Within a matter of two minutes the lights were all back on, the shop's website and Contact Info page were up, and I was on the phone with the shop confirming that I was only a few blocks away and would be there shortly. "Oh sure," they said. "We'll wait for you." Soon I was signed out.

Then all the rest of the Enterprise staff appeared, apparently from some offsite group function that had taken place at the end of the day. All was workplace chatter and socializing, and it caught them quite by surprise to find a straggling customer there behind the counter, after hours, standing there with a laptop bag and a Diet Coke looking all bedraggled from the rain. But they regained their composure immediately. They all sat down long enough to clock out of their computers, and then one of them shuttled me over to the shop in his personal car, on his way home.

All this was done with the utmost of courtesy and volunteered helpfulness. Never was there even the hint that they were going out of their way to help me out here, or that this was above and beyond the call of duty, or that I was imposing on their schedule or resources or company policy. It was all as though it was assumed this was what they'd do all along, if it came to it.

Long story short (too late), I found the shop still open, went inside where the employees were still manning counters and finishing up the day's jobs, and paid and signed my car out, and was home with a car that no longer smells like a fuel spill in time for dinner. (It's now firing yet another O2 sensor code, but I'll figure that out at my leisure.)

The bottom line is that Enterprise could easily have simply said "We're closed", and I'd have been in a world of annoyance for the following day. Best business practices probably would have dictated them to do exactly that. But instead, when the manager asked me offhand while finishing out the paperwork whether they had provided a satisfactory level of service and would say as much when Enterprise called me later with the inevitable customer experience survey, I said, "If there was another star I could add at the end, I would."

And that's smart business.



10:33 - Well, that's about time

(top)
Finally, in Safari in Leopard, Monaco 10-point in bold renders as the non-antialiased Monaco 10-point in bold, just like in Terminal, not as some kooky antialiased Helvetica like it used to.

Whoopee!


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© Brian Tiemann