Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What's the Difference between Arabica and Robusta Beans

The Atlantic has a good description on the difference between arabica and robusta coffee beans. Whenever possible look for arabica beans when buying your coffee. It is not a guarantee of quality but arabica beans generally make better coffee.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Book Review: Wake

I'm a huge fan of Canadian novelist Robert J Sawyer. I was very excited when I had a chance to meet him at a book signing in Ottawa for his latest novel, Wake.

Wake's protagonist, Caitlin Decter, is a blind 15 year old girl living in Canada. She is about to undergo a new experimental procedure that may cure her blindness. The surgery puts an implant in her eye which will fix the signals going to her primary visual cortex. The catch is the implant must communicate with an off board device for signal processing which the dub the eyePod.

An unexpected side benefit of the the implant is that it allows her to visualize the world wide web. This allows Caitlin to detect an emerging intelligence on the web. Could this been the singularity that features so heavily in books by Vinge and Stross?

There are two side plots going on. One is the outbreak of an advanced strain of the bird flu in China and the other is the emergence of a Chimpanzee who can communicate in sign language.

Along with the main story Sawyer draws parallels to the life of Helen Keller. Keller was blind and deaf from an early age up until she was 7 when a governess learned how to communicate with her. When you read the book you can see how it relates to Cailin, the singularity and the chimp.

Sadly, the only negative point is that this is the first part of a trilogy so while you get a satisfying read you don't get the complete story. Mind you don't let that discourage you from picking up another great book from one of Canada's finest.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The iPhone App I Wish Tim Horton's Had

Mashable has a good article on Dunkin Run. This iPhone app allows you to keep track of coffee orders when you next run out for coffee at Dunkin Donuts. It even saves past orders so you can easily re-create a past run. Of course, it has the ubiquitous store finder feature as well.

For those of us in Canada we'll have to make do with Timmy Me for now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wilkins Coffee Ad's

It's amazing to think these commercials were done by Jim Henson of The Muppets fame. It does make me want some Wilkins Coffee.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Auto Login your iPhone to Starbucks Wireless

No word on whether we'll get a similar deal here in Canada. The crux of the matter is Rogers sells the iPhone but Bell does the wifi for Starbucks.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Book Review: Demo

Demo is a 12 issue collaboration between writer Brian Wood and artist Becky Cloonan.

This collected edition represents each issue of the original comic series as a short story. Each story does not connect to any of the others except in theme. Thematically they are all connected as the protagonist in each story has some type of super power. The closest analog I can make to the book is the first season of Heroes. You know, before that show started sucking.

There are two things I really love about this book. The first being Becky Cloonan's art. She mixes styles up from story to story to match the tone. One issue made me double check the credits thinking it was drawn by Brian Lee O'Malley.

The second, of course, is Brian Wood's scripting. He completely avoids the cliched story of young man gains super powers and goes on to fight evil. Each and every one of these characters is probably worse off for having powers. It marks them as different and strange.

I can't recommend this book highly enough!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Starbucks to Brew Fresher Coffee

Starbucks is changing the way they brew coffee buy grinding the beans more frequently instead of doing a bulk grid in the early morning. As mentioned here on a number of occasions the closer your beans are ground to the coffee brewing time the better the taste of the resulting beverage. This seems to be a clear signal that Starbucks is trying to win the coffee war with McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, etc. by focusing on quality over speed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tea Flavoured Coke

Oh those wacky Japanese are at it again. You'll soon be able to buy green tea flavoured Coke in Japan. Rival Pepsi is going to release a basil flavoured version of their cola. You know, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Book Review: Horizon, The Sharing Knife Book 4

Lois McMaster Bujold is a great multiple award winning author who will be forever remembered for her Vorkosigan series. One of her most captivating features is her ability to write believable characters no matter if they are in a sci-fi or fantasy setting.

In the past four years she's penned the four books of the Sharing Knife series. Horizon is the fourth and final book in the series and really isn't intended as a jumping on point.

The series focuses on Dag, the Lakewalker, and Fawn, the farmer. Lakewalkers are a soldier/magician class that protect the Farmers from Malices (evil magical creatures). As is to be expected neither group really understands the other very well and this causes no end of problems and it makes the pairing of Dad and Fawn so odd.

The first two books are about Dag and Fawn coming together while the third and fourth are about their attempts to bring Lakewalkers and Farmers closer together. Interestingly enough this is the second book in a short period I've read where co-operation seems to be the way to solve problems over an every man for himself approach.

In this final book Bujold uses her deft hand with characterization to bring things to a satisfying conclusion. She ties up the dangling plot threads and you can chart the personal growth of many of the characters from book one to four. Once the story concludes you get the feeling that the characters lives will continue on even if we won't be privy to it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Supermarket Coffee Buying Tips

The Atlantic gives you some coffee buying tips when you visit your local supermarket. It all boils down to:
  1. Check the freshness date
  2. Buy whole beans and grind them yourself

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Starbucks Paid Product Placement Gambit

Starbucks is paying $10 million to become the official beverage of MSNBC's Morning Joe. $10 million to have vapid morning TV show hosts sip your coffee? Come on Starbucks, wouldn't that money be better spent elsewhere.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Another Hot Coffee Lawsuit

It looks like Starbucks is being sued by a lady for an improperly secured lid. She's looking for $75,000 in damages for extreme humiliation and embarrassment.

Personally whenever I'm handed a cup of coffee I double check to make sure the lid is on right. In Starbucks locations in Canada the workers are trained to hand the coffee to patrons with the lids off. I've been told this is a health issue as the company does not want the workers hands touching the lids you are going to drink from.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Book Review: RASL Volume 1 The Drift

This is a book that is hard for me to review objectively as it is written and drawn by Jeff Smith the incredibly talented creator who wrote/drew Bone.

Now Bone was an all ages book but Jeff purposely wanted to go in another direction with a more adult oriented book of which the first volume is Rasl Volume 1: The Drift. In which our protagonist, too early to call him a hero, is seen as a hard drinking art thief who can slide between dimensions. This sets a very film noir/sci-fi vibe.

Volume 1 collects the first three issues of the comic series in an over sized format for $14. Initially that seems to be a lot of money for 3 comics but the issues themselves had extra pages so in total those 3 comics were more like 5 comics which brings the price into line. The best thing about the over sized pages is that Jeff's art really pops off the page.

Story wise I found the volume a bit disjointed as Jeff introduces a number of characters and plot threads. Although I trust Jeff to pull all of these threads together into a masterful story. I'll be keeping up on the release of the new volumes.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Starbucks to Revamp Menu

Starbucks is changing their food menu starting June 30th. They will be removing all the high fructose corn syrup and preservatives from their food which can only be a good thing. Not that I eat at Starbucks often but it's good to know that the occasional brownie won't be laced with HFCS.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The AeroPress

From Lifehacker: The AeroPress is a great way to make small batches of coffee. The beauty of it is that it only takes about 30 seconds to make a cup of joe once the water is boiled. It looks like something you would've used in chemistry class in high school. Check out this flicker stream of how to pictures.