E-Commerce Search Report from 37 Signals

37 Signals, the Web design and usability experts out of Chicago, have recently published an e-commerce search report which, "analyzes, reviews, and rates the search engines and search results at 25 popular e-commerce sites." These guys are very sharp. If you're looking to improve your site's search, I suspect it's worth spending $99 for a .pdf download.

Some things I have learned about cooking over the years

The secret to cooking really good food lies in the quality of your ingredients. I've heard this many times, but I have finally come to believe its absolute truth with my purchase of good quality balsamic vinager ($8 bottle from Buon Italia at the Chelsea Market). It's like I never understood vinaigrette until now. Thank God the movers wouldn't allow me to lug that cheapo balsamic vinager from San Francisco.

Fresh. Always. Fresh ground pepper. Fresh herbs. Fresh seasonings and spices. Have you ever grated fresh nutmeg (it looks like a funny nut) on top of creamy fettucine? It's magical.

Kosher salt for seasoning your water before adding veggies or pasta. Thomas Keller says you should cook veggies in water so briney its salt content resembles that of the ocean. After much experimentation, I concur.

Homemade stock. There is simply no substitute. And homemade veggie stock takes less than an hour to prepare and freezes beautifully. On Sundays I like to make a batch and freeze it in 2 cup quantities.

You'd think I'd have more to share, but that's it, those are my secrets. Quality, seasonal ingredients, as fresh as you can get. That's the difference between so-so food and "Wow! That's the best carmalized onion I've ever tasted!" meals.

Weblogs for Dummies

Coming this April to a bookstore near you: Weblogs for Dummies. The best part? It's the same God-awful publisher behind my book. Apparently one under-publisized, under-selling weblog book wasn't enough for their catalogue. Or perhaps they'll actually *try* to sell this book? (I.e. when the press requests a copy, they'll receive it, allowing them to mention the book in publications like, oh, Newsweek?!) [via Anil]

Slight changes

I've made a few tweaks around here, the most noticable is that there are now titles appearing for each post and daily archives for each entry, and that's where the permalink will take you. The monthly archives still exist, and old permalinks shouldn't have broken. If you come across one that has, please let me know. There's still some roughness, but I figure it's better to make small changes as I go rather than wait up for my big "redesign" that, at the rate I'm going, will never ever happen. Look for a more timely and iterative redesign approach in the next few months.

O'Reilly swag for sale

"For years, our customers have asked us to make and sell various items with our animals on them. We are pleased and proud to present our first collection of official O'Reilly animal swag." So, if you're a geek and you know it, um, buy a t-shirt (and clap your hands if you want to, too).

Get paid to buy a cell phone

Amazon continues to offer amazing deals on cell phones (via rebates). They'll pay you to buy this Sony Ericsson T68i Phone! It's a $299.99 phone with a $300 rebate (upon service activation), meaning you pocket a sweet penny at the end of the transaction. The phone is nice-looking too: color display, Bluetooth, GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) for mobile Internet connectivity, and it "is the first phone to support MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), allowing you to send images, animation, and sound clips in your messages." Best move fast on this one though, the rebates expire January 27, 2003. [via Dennis Mahoney]

Bush's diplomatic inconsistencies

The Economist wonders in the article, Emperor, shedding clothes? if the Bush administration's diplomacy is doomed, due to its inconsistent and erratic policy with regards to Iraq and North Korea:

After saying for weeks that America would not negotiate with North Korea because to do so would mean giving in to blackmail, on January 14th Mr Bush said he would consider food aid and energy shipments -- even diplomatic relations and security arrangements...How bad is this? The offer of negotiations certainly casts an unflattering light on the inconsistency of Mr Bush's North Korea policy for the past two years -- sometimes proposing talks, more often issuing general criticisms. The offer also contradicts the aggressive Bush doctrine towards the "axis of evil".

Sanctity of Human Life Day

Bush Declares Sanctity of Human Life Day. What a load of crap. A more appropriate name would be "Sanctity of fetus but once you're born you better damn well have connections and money or you'll be shit out of luck because we don't really give a damn about educational funding or true welfare reform or universal health care or making sure you're actually taken care of and not left to die on the streets Day." Another alternative: "Sanctity of Human Life unless you kill someone, or maybe were just convicted of killing someone regardless of whether you actually did it or not, and then we'll kill you because you deserve to die Day." Perhaps most appropriate: "Sanctity of Human Life (except Iraqis) Day."

Ode to Citibank

To Citibank: How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...

1. For taking one month, rather than "4 simple steps and less than 10 minutes," to establish my account via your online account sign-up process.

2. For requiring different things depending upon whether when one opens an account at a branch or online.

3. For holding my funds for a week while you "wait for them to clear" when they've been electronically wired from another bank.

4. And finally, after the month of tribulations to open an account with you, for sending me an email thanking me for my interest in a Citibank checking account and encouraging me to open one in "4 simple steps and less than 10 minutes."

The War on Women

I'm not sure how I missed this New York Times Op-Ed from January 12 on the Bush Administration's War Against Women:

What is important is the actual impact of the presidential assault: women's constitutional liberty has been threatened, essential reproductive health care has been denied or delayed, and some women will needlessly die.

Along those lines: 30 Reasons We're Still Fighting for Choice.

Free Wednesday wine tastings

Every Wednesday from 3-6 PM there are free wine tastings at Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Sprits (679 Madison Ave., NYC). Next week features Spanish Rioja from CUNE and the following week (January 29th), "[t]he incredible single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons of Lokoya," whose bottles are in the $150 range. If you've got the time, you can't beat sipping on some really expensive wine for free.

Free wireless in Paris

And on the Paris tip: there's free Wi-Fi (French press release) at the Columbus Café Neuilly in Neuilly sur Seine. While I don't condone going to a Columbus Café -- they're a plague of French Starbucks -- free Wi-Fi is pretty nice. TLC Mobile, the service provider, hopes to have 600 wireless hot-spots in France by 2005.


All of a sudden, I'm really missing Paris. I want to go back right now.

Our secret government

Last's week's This American Life on our Secret Government is available online (warning: Real Audio link).

It's been said often that the Bush Administration is one of the most secretive Presidencies ever. But really, just what does that mean? Three case studies of some of the newly-minted secrets.

The first story concerns an American citizen being held without charges and without access to his lawyers in South Carolina. Yes, you read that right: an American citizen in America whose basic Constitutional rights are being violated. [via Adina]

Universal health insurance

There was an interesting Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal, A Brave New Insurance back in December by William Brody, the president of The Johns Hopkins University, in support of universal health coverage. A snippet of his reasoning:

In the years ahead, genetic testing will become gradually more pervasive, and at the same time, our knowledge of the risk of disease associated with the results of those tests will become increasingly refined. The result could be the end of private health insurance as we now know it.

If legislatures pass laws banning insurers from using genetic screening data, those companies will protect themselves by continually raising premiums to consumers. Some may even go bankrupt because purchasers of insurance will be the more knowledgeable in the transaction.

Yet if we allow insurers to use genetic data, many more individuals will be left without coverage because they will be deemed too high-risk to warrant insurance at affordable prices. Given this conundrum, there is only one solution that can preserve the concept of health insurance: universal coverage.

Whatever it takes to get universal coverage, I'm all for it. My quest for basic health insurance in the NYC area has turned up several options, the cheapest of which is nearly $300 a month (that's just individual coverage)! It's no wonder so many people go without. [via Scott Rosenberg]

Eldred 0, Ashcroft 1

The Eldred v. Ashcroft verdict is in and the Supreme Court upheld the copyright protections enacted by Congress in 1998. Just another example of government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.

USS Wasatch photos

General McArthur approaching Leyte on the USS WasatchLast Memorial Day, I wrote about my grandfather's Navy experiences during World War II. A few months ago, a woman doing a search on the Web for the "USS Wasatch" stumbled across my site and emailed me. Her father had been on the same ship, and she sent along two photos he'd taken during his service. The first is the USS Wasatch, all painted up for war. The other is of General McArthur when he was aboard their ship, as they approached Leyte. The Web never ceases to amaze me.

Chimera badness

Ever since I got my iBook (back last June or so), I'd been using IE 5 for my web browsing. Old habits die hard I suppose, and I was just rather slow moving to something else. Recently though (pre-Safari) I made the move to Chimera. And its tabbed browsing has been wonderful -- I love it and can't stand the thought of going back to non-tabbed browsing. But I fear I must because Chimera crashes three or four times a day for me (and I lose all those unread tabs). I've got the December 20th build that's supposed to be less buggy, but still, kaboom, down it unexpectadly goes. Potential culprits seem to be My Yahoo! and the New York Times, and I can't give those up. But the wonders of tabbed browsing keep me from moving to something else. I'm stuck.

Nick's investment ideas for 2003

Nick's posted his latest Management today column on 2003 investment ideas. Follow at your own risk, but I think his thoughts on #4, Online Media, are spot-on. Now's the time to do stuff online: the people are there and the pressure is off. Heck, here in NY someone's even doing a Webvan-type start-up again!

East coast rulz

Gawker's trying to stir up East Coast/West Coast shit, Biggie Tupac style. You know this will only end in bloodshed...

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