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
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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 3/28/2005 -   4/3/2005
 3/21/2005 -  3/27/2005
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  3/7/2005 -  3/13/2005
 2/28/2005 -   3/6/2005
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  2/7/2005 -  2/13/2005
 1/31/2005 -   2/6/2005
 1/24/2005 -  1/30/2005
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  1/3/2005 -   1/9/2005
12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
 12/6/2004 - 12/12/2004
11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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  8/2/2004 -   8/8/2004
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  7/5/2004 -  7/11/2004
 6/28/2004 -   7/4/2004
 6/21/2004 -  6/27/2004
 6/14/2004 -  6/20/2004
  6/7/2004 -  6/13/2004
 5/31/2004 -   6/6/2004
 5/24/2004 -  5/30/2004
 5/17/2004 -  5/23/2004
 5/10/2004 -  5/16/2004
  5/3/2004 -   5/9/2004
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 4/19/2004 -  4/25/2004
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  4/5/2004 -  4/11/2004
 3/29/2004 -   4/4/2004
 3/22/2004 -  3/28/2004
 3/15/2004 -  3/21/2004
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 2/23/2004 -  2/29/2004
 2/16/2004 -  2/22/2004
  2/9/2004 -  2/15/2004
  2/2/2004 -   2/8/2004
 1/26/2004 -   2/1/2004
 1/19/2004 -  1/25/2004
 1/12/2004 -  1/18/2004
  1/5/2004 -  1/11/2004
12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
 12/8/2003 - 12/14/2003
 12/1/2003 -  12/7/2003
11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
 11/3/2003 -  11/9/2003
10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
 10/6/2003 - 10/12/2003
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 9/22/2003 -  9/28/2003
 9/15/2003 -  9/21/2003
  9/8/2003 -  9/14/2003
  9/1/2003 -   9/7/2003
 8/25/2003 -  8/31/2003
 8/18/2003 -  8/24/2003
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 7/28/2003 -   8/3/2003
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 1/13/2003 -  1/19/2003
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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
 12/9/2002 - 12/15/2002
 12/2/2002 -  12/8/2002
11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
 11/4/2002 - 11/10/2002
10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
 10/7/2002 - 10/13/2002
 9/30/2002 -  10/6/2002
 9/23/2002 -  9/29/2002
 9/16/2002 -  9/22/2002
  9/9/2002 -  9/15/2002
  9/2/2002 -   9/8/2002
 8/26/2002 -   9/1/2002
 8/19/2002 -  8/25/2002
 8/12/2002 -  8/18/2002
  8/5/2002 -  8/11/2002
 7/29/2002 -   8/4/2002
 7/22/2002 -  7/28/2002
 7/15/2002 -  7/21/2002
  7/8/2002 -  7/14/2002
  7/1/2002 -   7/7/2002
 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
 6/17/2002 -  6/23/2002
 6/10/2002 -  6/16/2002
  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
 5/27/2002 -   6/2/2002
 5/20/2002 -  5/26/2002
 5/13/2002 -  5/19/2002
  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
  3/4/2002 -  3/10/2002
 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
  2/4/2002 -  2/10/2002
 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, December 2, 2007
19:09 - Total sausage party over here, bro

(top)
Here's what we had here last night:



Make all the jokes you want. It was good.



18:23 - There's a sign of a healthy company
http://www.autoblog.com/2007/12/02/tesla-motors-founder-martin-eberhard-fired/

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O RLY?

Late Friday evening, Tesla Motors issued a brief statement that company founder Martin Eberhard was transitioning from his management role as President to the company's advisory board. This announcement came barely a day after the announcement that Ze'ev Drori had been tapped to be the new CEO, taking the reins from interim boss Michael Marks. Drori is now also taking up Eberhard's title as President.

After the announcement it became clear that Eberhard did not relinquish his duties voluntarily...

Yeah, I am so holding my breath for these guys ever producing any cars. Never mind ones that will sell.



16:58 - Chocolate Reviews: Côte d'Or Expériences Noir 86% and Lindt Excellence 85%

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Côte d'Or 86%: Great wall stucco, lousy chocolate.
Lindt 85%: Awesome. The hype is all true.
Scharffen Berger 82%: Complicated, showoffy, and sour, without enough focus on tasting good.

I think maybe the way I should handle these reviews is by tying each one to the previous one somehow. It's difficult to review a single chocolate bar in isolation; without anything to compare it to in the tasting, your taste buds can play tricks on you. Case in point: the Côte d'Or 86% I'm looking at here tasted pretty good to me when I first opened it up a few weeks ago; but after tasting it next to a few other 80%-class chocolates, it's become clear that to spare any breath on it for any reason other than to laugh at it is to waste precious carbon dioxide that could otherwise be going to keeping our poor planet warm.

So in the tradition that I've just made up of linking each review thematically to the (or a) previous one, for readers' benefit as much as for my own (so you can follow along in a grand tasting adventure if you like, with a common sequential storyline running through from episode to episode until the inevitable conclusion where we confront the Chocolate Dark Lord and end the season on an infuriating cliffhanger while the theme music plays over the end credits), I'll refer back to the last review and pit the Scharffen Berger 82% blend against the Côte d'Or 86%, available in some Safeways, and the Lindt Excellence 85%, available even more widely.

The Côte d'Or comes in a big black 100g package with gold lettering and an elephant logo that the Belgian company seems very proud of: Discover the true power of roasted cocoa beans. Delight in the intense flavor! Symbolic of the African Gold Coast, the Côte d'Or elephant is the seal of quality for the intense, authentic chocolate experience, perfected by our Belgian chocolatiers. Interesting. Usually chocolate makers don't want to draw attention to their cacao's West African origins unless they're certified Fair Trade (which means no child slavery in its production), and this one isn't. I guess that must mean they really believe in the power and intensity of their product, huh?

For an 86% bar, especially one from West Africa, the color is pretty light, especially compared to the pitch-black Lindt:

And there's that elephant again. Let's see how this thing tastes.

<crunch>

Hmm.

<crunch crunch crunch>

I said, let's see how this thing tastes.

....I'm not tasting anything.

Wait... wait, I think I'm getting something.

—No, no, my mistake. That was my other senses playing tricks on me, such as my sense of touch, which raised a klaxon upon feeling the clatter of this bar crumbling into hard little fragments in my mouth. But that wasn't taste. It wasn't even smell. This is just... nothin'. Not particularly unpleasant, just... flavorless. There are some hints of something interesting in there, but as soon as you get a grip on it it dissolves away, leaving you with only vague impressions of doctor's offices and natural gas leaks. The chocolate doesn't really melt, it sort of collapses like a Jenga tower into a heap of rubble on the tongue, which you then have to sweep out of the way like the ruins of a decrepit Vegas casino redolent of pipe smoke and loveless sex. Needless to say, there's no finish and no aftertaste to enjoy. Just a mouthful of wreckage that you're eventually glad is gone, and a cloud of something gray and gassy, indistinct and vaguely sinister, floating over the whole scene, looking towards the West, only to be dissipated by a firm breeze from over the Sea (or maybe a gulp of Diet Coke).

So then we turn to the Lindt Excellence 85%, the highest-rated 85%-class bar at seventypercent.com. I've had this one before, and I remember it being pretty awesome. Let's see how it stacks up next to the Côte d'Or's Real Ultimate Power.

Immediately the texture difference leaps out: it's chewier, which is to say it doesn't shatter into a million pieces like the Côte d'Or does. And the flavor is also apparent right off the bat; this one is a much deeper, richer, more luxuriant set of sensations, filling your mind with images of hot fudge sundaes and giant vats of melted chocolate being stirred and poured into molds. Indeed, there's hardly a single note in this bar's flavor profile that doesn't say chocolate to me loudly and firmly: no "forest fruits", no earthy or floral tones, no clangy Arriba, no herbal Madagascar—nothin' but net, which is interesting, because this bar has vanilla in it, an ingredient missing from the Côte d'Or. Yet the melt turns thick and bulky on the tongue, coating everything in sight, making you feel like you've got a mouthful of something much more substantial than the little 10g square you started with. It's not as pervasive a mouth-coating as you get from Lindt's own 70% (one of my very favorites), but it's definitely got lots of presence. When you let this one sit and melt for a while, it's going to be with you for a long time.

So it's only after a good long palate-cleansing break that I turn back to the Scharffen Berger 82% from the last review. This one seems like a return almost to the texture of the Côte d'Or at first, a lot more brittle and crunchy than the Lindt; but it's nowhere near as bad as that first bar. It's somewhere in the middle, and its flavor comes rushing in a lot more quickly than either one. Unfortunately it's not as pleasant a flavor as the Lindt's, with a sharp tang that I noticed last time and is all the more apparent now, coming so soon after the sublime richness of the Lindt. The Scharffen Berger brings to mind all those weird images of fruits and herbs that are missing from the Lindt—citrus, tobacco, lots of acidity in general—and it's a challenge to get them all sorted out and hold the sourness in check as it melts at the back of the throat, disappearing a lot more quickly than the Lindt but lingering far longer than the pallid Côte d'Or. It's not a bad chocolate, to be sure, and if what you're in the mood for is something with a lot of interesting melodies playing at once, it does the job admirably. I'm just not saying they know how to harmonize.

Between these three, it's the Lindt by a length or two, followed by the Scharffen Berger tossing its head and showboating for the crowd and not keeping its eye on the finish line; but it need not even breathe hard to get there ahead of the Côte d'Or, which arrives lumbering and wheezing and sweating hours after the spectators have all gone home. I guess that's what you get when you bring an elephant to a thoroughbred horse race.


By the way, just in case anyone suspects (as would be completely natural) that I'm letting my preconceptions of brand names and prior reviews and packaging quirks color my experience and make me subconsciously rate these chocolates according to how I'd intended to before even tasting them, just like those wine critics who thought white wine with red dye in it tasted just like red wine, and that cheap wine tasted better when it came in a fancy bottle... I had a little chunk of Lindt 70% here on my desk just now, with the intent to eat it after these 85%-class chocolates. But I forgot about it, and ended up with it plus the last square of the Côte d'Or that I sighingly resigned myself to finishing off. Because I'd broken all three of these bars down a few times, I absently mistook the chunk of Lindt for the last bit of Côte d'Or, and popped it in my mouth. Immediately, expecting the clattering crunch and pallid flavor of that bar, I was overwhelmed instead by the thick, nutty richness of the Lindt, and I instantly realized my error. If these chocolates really were as interchangeable as those wines apparently were, I'd never have known the difference. But in this case the game was up at first bite.

Next time I think I'll compare both these Lindt strengths against each other, or perhaps against some other Swiss varieties like Villars... and then after that we'll need to confront the Arriba monster head-on.



12:08 - History is written by the crushed-nuts demographic
http://www.cracked.com/article_15699_9-most-badass-bible-verses.html

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Cracked has come a long way since the days of being a sad, low-rent imitation of MAD. Hiring David "pointlesswasteoftime.com" Wong seems to have been a shrewd move for them.

See also: The Ultimate War Simulation Game.

Seanbaby's been and gone, man. David Wong's where the smart money's at.

Via CapLion.

Thursday, November 29, 2007
17:54 - Steam Punk Laptop
http://www.datamancer.net/steampunklaptop/steampunklaptop.htm

(top)
I'm stuck for words.

Via Tom G.



11:01 - Chocolate Reviews: Scharffen Berger 62%, 70%, and 82%

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From "Ehh" to "Huh", in no particular order

If I'm going to be doing these chocolate review thingies, I think I might as well start with something close to home: Scharffen Berger, the Berkeley-based chocolate company founded by wine makers to pioneer a bean-to-bar chocolate making industry in the United States, and now owned by Hershey, just as San Francisco's Ghirardelli is now owned by Lindt.

A side note before I get started on the company's three strengths of dark chocolate bars: you do pronounce it the way it looks like it should be pronounced, don't you? I mean, it looks like a German name, and that being the case the pronunciation ought to follow fairly standard rules. But I've heard more than one person in more than one circumstance pronounce it, unaccountably, "SHAY-fen BAR-zher", or even "bar-ZHAY". As though it's French—and not just French, but Super Mutant French. Or am I showing my linguistic ignorance here? Someone please feel free to enlighten me.

Anyway: on to the bars.

All three varieties are presented in 3-oz (85g) bars, a pretty decent size, and more generous than Valrhona and friends with their 75g bars (though not as imposing as Lindt's big flat 100g planks). The foil inside the wrapper is not sealed, and opens up along with the paper jacket. Unfortunately, the bar inside is scored in big weird triangles, possibly the most inconvenient possible shape if you're trying to break off small regular pieces. It's even worse than Domori's signature unscored slabs in that regard; they might as well not have bothered, as far as I'm concerned.

The three bars have distinctly different flavor characteristics, and no particular varietal signatures I can detect—the wrappers talk about "the world's best cacao beans", in meaningless marketing-ese, suggesting that these are blends of beans from lots of places, not that that's necessarily a bad thing (Lindt's top-drawer 85% bar is most certainly mostly regular Forastero beans from West Africa, not Criollos from Venezuela or Madagascar—they're just handled really really well).

Of the three, I like the 82% best, followed by the 62% and then the 70%. The 82% has some deep, rich, fruity complexity to it and a tangy pucker at the back of the throat. The aftertaste reminds me very strongly of Domori's Arriba (made from Ecuador's unique gourmet-grade Forastero strain known as Nacional or Arriba), which I thought tasted like suntan lotion once you got past its characteristic Arriba flavors of orchids and blackberries. This bar doesn't taste like Arriba, I don't think, but it does have that same weird aftertaste—it's just not as distracting or unpleasant here. I don't know about "dried figs with a mild peppery spiciness reminiscent of red wine", as it says on the package, but it's definitely tasty. Melt and finish are decent but nothing special.

The 62%, on the other hand, is approachable, a little nutty, much less complex, and a lot sweeter, as you'd expect—but it's not entirely one-note, either. It's not the chocolate-ice-cream maltiness of The Chocolate Traveler or Drost; it's something tangier, possibly the citrus and honey that the package tells you to look for. You find yourself frowning into the middle distance during the long melt, wondering what the hell that is you're tasting in the distance behind the chocolate and the sugar—it's beguiling, keeping you interested until it's gone, and then you want to try a little more to see if you can figure it out this time. This is a very decent middle-of-the-road bar if you're into subtlety, and it'll disappear quickly if you're not careful.

The 70% is not quite so interesting, though. There's a little of that same not-quite-Arriba tone in it that the 82% has, but it disappears almost immediately after the melt starts, giving way to one-note bitterness and an astringency that leaves the tongue coated with sour-tasting waxiness. This bar doesn't have the sweetness of the 62% or the complexity of the 82%, and brings nothing new to the table on its own. I'd give this one a miss if I were you.

Being owned by Hershey hasn't dulled Scharffen Berger's unique characteristics any more than any of the other chocolate industry conglomerations in the last few years have changed anyone else's recipes; these people know that what makes the various companies different is their unique processing techniques and sourcing practices, and they generally keep their hands off, treating it as a mere investment portfolio piece, like McDonald's did with Chipotle (much to my relief). That said, though, Scharffen Berger doesn't seem to be that ambitious a company in the burgeoning gourmet chocolate industry, with these three comparatively undistinguished blends making up the whole basis for their line of products, a far cry from the litany of varietals from the likes of Domori or Valrhona. Why don't they bring out some single-origin varietals of their own? I mean, hell, even Hershey is doing that with their "Cacao Reserve" line; in fact, that may be the reason: Hershey might not feel that Scharffen Berger is a well-known enough brand to be their high-end chocolate flag bearer, and they want to keep it under the Hershey name until they get their feet under them in this market. Too bad, since those Hershey bars aren't even manufactured by Scharffen Berger, but produced under contract by an unknown European company. Scharffen Berger might have missed the boat on this one, unless Hershey gives them free rein to expand their own offerings a bit, and see which one does better in the marketplace.

... Then again, maybe the company is making its own varietals—they're just not available on Chocosphere.com. And they don't appear to be all that highly rated, either. I might have to check this out for myself, if I can even find these bars.

I for one think Scharffen Berger could do some excellent Arriba or Madagascar bars if they decided to go that direction. But as it is, their dark chocolate blends are serviceable, but not worth writing a big long blog post about.

...Aw, crap.



08:55 - Vista Error of the Day
http://regmedia.co.uk/2007/11/29/vista_error_message.jpg

(top)
I think the dialog title says it all, really:


Via David G.


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