Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sim City for DS

I remember Robert really being into Sim City when it originally came out. Well, looks like he's going to get another shot at building a perfect metropolis on those long trips to Santa Clara and Oregon.

SimCity DS will allow players to put out fires by blowing on the DS's microphone, "wireless data exchange," sign off on proclamations using the stylus and do all the other things that urban planning junkies have been experiencing with the series for 20 years. It's expected to be out in June.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back

Harry and David Chocolate Truffles, rated the best, are now available in the Jonesboro Target alongside the bottom-rated Choxie brand. H&D are cheaper by about half.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Erin and I went to see Sparta in Omaha Thursday night. I've liked these guys since their previous incarnation "At The Drive-In". It was a pretty good show. Their new album "Threes" is definitely worth checking out.

Ice cream review

There are two new Ben & Jerry's flavors on the market that are both excellent. Probably the best new flavors to hit since Chubby Hubby.
Cinnamon Buns features carmel ice cream with cinnamon bun dough and a caramel streusel swirl. Marsha Marsha Marshmallow features chocolate ice cream with fudge chunks and toasted marshmallow and graham cracker swirls (campy, get it?)

High Frequency

You may have heard about the super high pitched frequency supposedly only people under the age of 30 can hear. This has been used by store owners as a teenager repellant. Later, kids used it as a ringtone or text message indicator that they could use in class that their teachers couldn't hear.

Well here's the frequency. Click the link to hear it. I didn't expect to be able to hear it but I do and it is very annoying. Yuki also perks up his ears. Can you hear it?


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Gin Blossoms Rock!

We went to Reno a few weeks ago to see the Gin Blossoms - a band that peaked in the 90's with two albums and a string popular songs. Some of the most well known tunes include Hey Jealousy, Follow you Down, Until a Fall Away and Allison Road. I've always considered their first album, New Miserable Experience, to be one of of the top albums released in the 90's because nearly every song on it is catchy and good.

In 2007, the Blossoms maintain much of their ability and a new album contains at least 4-5 really good songs. They opened the Reno show with Come On Hard and Closed with Let's Play Two - both from the new album Major Lodge Victory.

The Gin Blossoms are coming to the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica on March 4. They show is cheap and will be great.

Starbucks...A commodity? Well yes, coffee would be

From: Howard Schultz
Sent: Wednesday, February 14, 2007 10:39 AM Pacific Standard Time
To: Jim Donald
Cc: Anne Saunders; Dave Pace; Dorothy Kim; Gerry Lopez; Jim Alling; Ken Lombard; Martin Coles; Michael Casey; Michelle Gass; Paula Boggs; Sandra Taylor

Subject: The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience

As you prepare for the FY 08 strategic planning process, I want to share some of my thoughts with you.

Over the past ten years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand.

Many of these decisions were probably right at the time, and on their own merit would not have created the dilution of the experience; but in this case, the sum is much greater and, unfortunately, much more damaging than the individual pieces. For example, when we went to automatic espresso machines, we solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency. At the same time, we overlooked the fact that we would remove much of the romance and theatre that was in play with the use of the La Marzocca machines. This specific decision became even more damaging when the height of the machines, which are now in thousands of stores, blocked the visual sight line the customer previously had to watch the drink being made, and for the intimate experience with the barista. This, coupled with the need for fresh roasted coffee in every North America city and every international market, moved us toward the decision and the need for flavor locked packaging. Again, the right decision at the right time, and once again I believe we overlooked the cause and the affect of flavor lock in our stores. We achieved fresh roasted bagged coffee, but at what cost? The loss of aroma -- perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we had in our stores; the loss of our people scooping fresh coffee from the bins and grinding it fresh in front of the customer, and once again stripping the store of tradition and our heritage? Then we moved to store design. Clearly we have had to streamline store design to gain efficiencies of scale and to make sure we had the ROI on sales to investment ratios that would satisfy the financial side of our business. However, one of the results has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores vs. the warm feeling of a neighborhood store. Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee. In fact, I am not sure people today even know we are roasting coffee. You certainly can't get the message from being in our stores. The merchandise, more art than science, is far removed from being the merchant that I believe we can be and certainly at a minimum should support the foundation of our coffee heritage. Some stores don't have coffee grinders, French presses from Bodum, or even coffee filters.

Now that I have provided you with a list of some of the underlying issues that I believe we need to solve, let me say at the outset that we have all been part of these decisions. I take full responsibility myself, but we desperately need to look into the mirror and realize it's time to get back to the core and make the changes necessary to evoke the heritage, the tradition, and the passion that we all have for the true Starbucks experience. While the current state of affairs for the most part is self induced, that has lead to competitors of all kinds, small and large coffee companies, fast food operators, and mom and pops, to position themselves in a way that creates awareness, trial and loyalty of people who previously have been Starbucks customers. This must be eradicated.

I have said for 20 years that our success is not an entitlement and now it's proving to be a reality. Let's be smarter about how we are spending our time, money and resources. Let's get back to the core. Push for innovation and do the things necessary to once again differentiate Starbucks from all others. We source and buy the highest quality coffee. We have built the most trusted brand in coffee in the world, and we have an enormous responsibility to both the people who have come before us and the 150,000 partners and their families who are relying on our stewardship.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge all that you do for Starbucks. Without your passion and commitment, we would not be where we are today.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Custom Design Dog

Ever wonder what a cross between a Blue Heeler...

and a Border Collie

would look like?

The answer is my favorite designer breed out there today: The Border Heeler!

Meet Yuki, Border Heeler extraordinaire!!!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Dog Days of Winter - Introducing the Maltzers of Sacramento

Ever wonder what a cross between a Maltese...

and a Schnauzer

would look like?

The answer is one of the hottest and cutest designer breeds out there today: a Maltzer

Meet Emma and Chloe - two eight week old Maltzer puppies that our friend Ann just added to her family. They are supposed to be about 7 pounds once full grown and are definitely a step up from the plain old Maltese above!

Make your own judgements on comparisons to a Bagle (Basset Hound / Beagle Mix)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Peep innovation

The Marshmallow Peep has been around for years in its original chick form and many other shapes and colors. A new type of Peep has hit the market this Easter season that is truely different. It's the cocoa flavored Peep. It tastes like a drinking a cup of hot chocolate. I highly reccomend you pick some up.

Beagles sporting new collars...

Frequent readers (and there at least 2!) know that the beagles get new collars every 6 months or so. Since it feels like Spring out here in Cali we went shopping for their new "outfits"

Here's a nice one featuring Rangaer's tongue rather than the collar...


Steph's friends threw her a party to celebrate her recent graduation. They had a monster three pound customized Hershey's chocolate bar made for the occasion.

We haven't mustered the courage to cut into the thing yet.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

All the way to Reno

Steph and I went to Reno for the week-end to see the Gin Blossoms. More on the Blossoms later. The trip itself was an adventure with a substantial amount of snow falling over Donner Pass over the week-end.

Reno itself was nice...

One the way home it was a Winter Wonderland...

Our stay at the El Dorado Hotel/Casino was fine. All in all, Virginia St. in Reno is like a blast from the past - think of Downtown Vegas if you've been there. Some of the lesser motels around are still advertising the fact that they have phones and color television in each room!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Artist who recorded Robert's favorite song dies

Singer Frankie Laine dies of heart failure at age 93

...with songs such as That's My Desire, Mule Train, Jezebel, I Believe and That Lucky Old Sun, Laine was a regular feature of the Top Ten in the years just before rock 'n' roll ushered in a new era of popular music. Robert's favorite song? MULE TRAIN!!! YAH!!! considers Jackets, Huskers, and Wolverines recruiting classes decent.

School TOTAL
Commits Avg Stars
1 Florida 27 4 16 7 3.89 2,959
2 Southern Cal 18 6 10 2 4.22 2,761
3 Tennessee 32 5 11 15 3.63 2,726
4 LSU 26 2 19 5 3.88 2,695
5 Texas 24 2 16 5 3.79 2,562
6 South Carolina 31 1 14 13 3.42 2,190
7 Auburn 30 0 13 15 3.37 2,013
8 Notre Dame 18 1 12 4 3.72 1,932
9 Georgia 23 0 12 10 3.48 1,895
10 Alabama 24 0 10 11 3.29 1,790
11 Oregon 29 0 12 12 3.24 1,760
12 MICHIGAN 20 2 5 12 3.40 1,750
13 NEBRASKA 27 0 10 16 3.33 1,734
14 Oklahoma 20 1 9 8 3.45 1,718
15 Ohio State 15 0 12 3 3.80 1,577
16 North Carolina 23 2 4 12 3.13 1,542
17 Illinois 20 2 5 10 3.30 1,509
18 Florida State 19 0 8 9 3.32 1,464
19 GEORGIA TECH 20 0 8 10 3.30 1,453
20 Clemson 22 0 7 12 3.18 1,436
21 California 25 0 5 18 3.12 1,405
22 Miami-FL 17 1 7 7 3.41 1,401
23 Penn State 21 0 8 8 3.14 1,305
24 Virginia 24 0 7 11 3.04 1,267
25 Pittsburgh 24 0 6 13 3.04 1,265

Guessing Game Winner: Dad

Light dead on February 3rd. Dad wins. Congratulations.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Print and use - Choxie may be the worst chocolate out there but they don't sting you too bad with this coupon!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Eliminating Data from a Hard Drive

We decided to donate one of our three desktop computers to Goodill but were a bit concerned about the hard drive still containing personal data/information. Studying the situation on the web didn't ease our concerns. One of the quotes - "A simple delete, erase, re-format or even the fdisk command for Windows is not sufficient because there are many products which will bring back the data and software."

I didn't want one little hard drive to prevent me donating the computer - a Pentium 4 Extreme Edition to a worthy cause.

So I continued my research and finally found a tool that, when used properly, guarantees the data on the drive will no longer be accessible. The cost of the tool was ~$20 which was within my budget.

I removed the drive and took it down to the end of the driveway and went to town. Mission accomplished!

Superbowl Party a Success

Here's a layout of all the food. In addition there were 4 kinds of beer and frozen strawberry margaritas.

The game itself was displayed in a 7 1/2 foot projection. The regular TV featured a 15 second delay (thanks to Tivo so there were instant instant replays of everything.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

It's a Jayhawk College Gameday

I've been Tivoing ESPN's College Hoops Gameday to keep up with the season. I was happy to discover a Jayhawkcentric Gameday this morning thanks to tonights big game versus Texas A&M. Highlights from the crazy scene in Lawrence below were recorded directly from my TV screen.

Vista - Installation Review

First, because you are reading this, the installation has at least been somewhat successful. The installation took 1.5 hours and there were, and remain some complications.

The first big problem was my sound card, a Creative Audigy 4, stopped working. I finally found a beta driver install and got it back and running. Problem 2 remains the printer. My HP C3180 which is less than 6 months old is without driver and doesn't work. I figure it's only a matter of time until something shows up. Finally, iTunes. It doesn't recognize music I've purchased so won't allow me to play it. Lesson here is if you buy music from iTunes burn it and rip it to unprotected MP3s. I'm sure this will be fixed by Apple at some point as it is well-documented.

Aside from these, Vista seems to be working fine. It does give me a boot option which is kind of annoying when I turn the computer on.

Friday, February 02, 2007


I once went to a Superbowl party where the snacks were few and far between. There I was, stuck without munchies for the biggest game of the year. You can't order a pizza because on Superbowl Sunday, the pizza guy takes 4 hours to deliver. So last year when I hosted my own Superbowl party, I decided that my guests shouldn't want for munchies. This year I am again hosting a Superbowl party. My guests will not want for munchies.

The following group of images represents most of what will be served at the football party. There may be additions. This list does not include beverages, of which there will be many. Some of the items pictured will be combined with other items to make things like cheese dip and Oreo balls. The following food items contain 39,796 calories.

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