Bonavita Variable Temperature Digital Electric Kettle

Man, I love my Bonavita 1-Liter Variable Temperature Digital Electric Gooseneck Kettle!

It’s fast, it’s consistent (temperature-wise), it’s just a joy to use.
If you brew coffee via pour-over, french press, AeroPress, etcetera; or tea that requires less than boiling-hot water, you should really consider one of these. It’s programmable from 140 F up to boiling, it will display the temp in either Fahrenheit or Celcius, the gooseneck spout gives you a nice, controllable pour, and it will hold whatever temp you set for up to an hour.

I love mine so much that I take it and my AeroPress along when I travel.

Coffee making gear, hotel room

The Bonavita 1-Liter Variable Temperature Digital Electric Gooseneck Kettle definitely earns “Crazy Greg’s Seal of Approval”.

Crazy Greg's Seal of Approval

Handy mp3 software

Last night I spent an inordinate amount of time equalizing the volume of the (1500+) mp3’s on my Sansa. If they all lived together in one directory, I could have knocked it out in no time and just let the software do its thing. However, being the obsessive/compulsive neurotic that I am, they all live in separate directories, sorted by artist, then by album. Anyway, I finally got it done and I’m thrilled with the results. No more wild fluctuations in volume level from song to song. The software I used to accomplish this is MP3Gain. It’s freeware and it:

does not just do peak normalization, as many normalizers do. Instead, it does some statistical analysis to determine how loud the file actually sounds to the human ear.
Also, the changes MP3Gain makes are completely lossless. There is no quality lost in the change because the program adjusts the mp3 file directly, without decoding and re-encoding.

MP3Gain most definitely earns:

The Problem With Building Your Mother A Computer…

…is that you then become, by default, tech-support. My hair stands on end when she calls on the phone and says, “I’m having trouble with my computer”.

Recently she made that very call. Her computer was making a noise (which she couldn’t describe) and, more troublingly the motherboard’s protection software had popped up a warning “something about heat” just before it shut down. Let me just pause here to say, my mother is an amazing, extraordinarily intelligent woman. She doesn’t, however, know nor does she have any interest in knowing what makes her computer work.

Analyzing the facts at hand, I determined that the most likely culprit was the fan on the CPU heatsink. I pulled up the emailed invoice, checked the Intel website, and determine that it is still under warranty (two years old, 3 year warranty!)

I call Intel, hopeful that with the info from the invoice I can get a new heatsink on its way. No such luck, they need specific info from the fan and from the processor itself. Ok, this isn’t a huge problem, and I at least have jumped the first few hurdles with Intel and have a case number. When I handed the computer over to mom, I had nested all of the component’s boxes into the larger boxes and had her save them, so it shouldn’t take long to locate the CPU box and get the serial number and such… in theory. In reality, a few phone calls later, it’s obvious Mom isn’t going to find the box.

In a scene reminiscent of a 70’s disaster film, wherein the control tower talks the sweating passenger through the landing of a jumbo-jet, I (looking at photos and diagrams online) manage to talk my mother through removing the heatsink from her CPU. Jubilant with her success, she gets off the phone with me to call Intel.

Far too soon, my phone rings, they’re closed for the night.

The next evening, she calls Intel, everything goes swimmingly, and Diego (whom she was quite impressed with) assured her that the heatsink should be there in 2 – 5 days. She gives my email address to send the confirmation and tracking info to, as her computer is (obviously) down.

The tracking info comes shortly after midnight and it says that it was shipped next-day air. The next day I check the tracking status and discover that it was delivered at 9:30 AM! Just over 13 hours after she’d gotten off the phone with them!

So, I call Mom that evening and tell her to look on her porch for the package, then we repeat the control-tower, nervous non-pilot, reinstallation process.

I’d give anything for a picture of my mother’s face when she got it back together and it worked without a hitch. Just the joy in her voice was reward enough. She was (understandably) proud of herself, and I was proud of her. Graciously, she complimented me for doing such a good job talking her through it.

My lovely, amazing mother and Intel’s customer service both earn a resounding:

Crazy Greg's Seal of Approval

Shareware for the Color Blind

As I’ve mentioned here before, I am colorblind, and as I said then, it’s not really something I like to bring up.

I’m mentioning it now because I’ve found an awesome shareware utility that is absolutely indispensable. I don’t know how Ive gotten along without it! Years ago I found eyedropper, a handy utility that lives in your system tray, ready to tell you the color value of any pixel on your screen in RGB or Hex. Handy for matching colors and such, but less so for actually identifying colors.

Now I’ve found What Color, a tiny little utility that tells you the color not only in RGB and Hex, but also in plain english. For me “166,204,227” is much less helpful than “LightBlue”. Optionally, it can also display the color’s position on a color-wheel; also quite helpful.

‘What Color’ will be a permanent resident of my system tray. If you, or someone you know, has some level of color blindness it’s worth a look.

‘What Color’ earns a resounding:

Crazy Greg's Seal of Approval

The Way Customer Service Should Be

So, I’ve had some Rudy Project ‘Ekynox’ shades for a few years now. Last night I somehow managed to step on them and snap one of the temples, right at the hinge. They’re amazingly well made and suffered no other damage. I did notice that the nose pads could stand to be replaced, too, though.

So I call their toll-free customer service number to enquire about getting replacement parts. Within moments I have an actual person on the line (Celeste, who really should consider working for Bianchi!). Total for the parts: $6 or $7 (I forget, it all happened so fast). My parts will ship no later than tomorrow and I do have a spare pair, so all is well.

Rudy Project earns a resounding “CGSOA”.
Crazy Greg's Seal of Approval
Rudy also has a Replacement Lens Guarantee that can’t be beat!

Hilarious Animation

So, in the past I’ve mentioned how genuinely great I think 105 Tangents‘ CD “Songwriters Anonymous” is. Well, they’re working on a new CD, and to tide us over in the mean time, they’ve enlisted the assistance of graphics guru Eric Hullquist to create a series of animated webisodes.

The first one is up on their website, and I think it is some of the funniest web-animation I’ve seen. Don’t just take my word for it, check it out for yourself here. While you’re there, do yourself a favor and buy a copy of their CD. Hell, go ahead and email them some (richly deserved) words of praise while you’re at it; those artistic-types thrive on that sort of thing.

Chase, Joe, and Tony; (AKA 105 Tangents) and Eric Hullquist all earn a resounding “CGSOA”.

Crazy Greg's Seal of Approval

Bicycle Tubes (A review of sorts)

For quite some time, I’ve been using Torelli Extra-lite tubes (or Torelli Ultra-legere, if you prefer). Primarily because these were the only tubes at my preferred LBS which have smooth (unthreaded) stems, which I find to be a big plus. They slip into and out of my Silca Pista’s chuck much easier than their threaded counterparts, thereby lessening the frequency of the dreaded valve separation plus they don’t tear up the rubber washer inside said chuck. There were two problems with these tubes:

  • They’re a bit on the pricey side (6 or 7 bucks, as I recall)
  • They seem rather porous, needing to be topped off every day or two.

Anyway… I rode to the bike shop the other day to get some tubes (after my aforementioned Satanic tire debacle) only to discover that it was closed (apparently Roger was living it up in at Interbike in Las Vegas). So, I ordered some Michelin Ultralight tubes from Performance Bike. I must say, I’m pleased with these tubes. They have the smooth stems I value and they seem to hold air much better than the Torelli’s. They don’t come all nice and pre-talced like the Torelli’s, but that’s a minor point. All in all the “Michelin Road Ultralight Presta 700-18/23 Tubes” earn “Crazy Greg’s Seal of Approval”.

Crazy Greg's Seal of Approval
Now I need to test the Salsa “Pneumaticos Simpaticos” Tubes. Not only are their stems unthreaded, they’re all shiny and gold-plated!

Devil Tires!

So, my Bianchi Pista came with 700×23 Continental Sport 1000 tires on it. Cheap, but they wore well and I never had any problems with them. Until I had to change one, that is. While airing them up, I managed to seperate the stem from the tube in my front tire, necessitating a tube swap. Normally this is a fairly quick process. Not with these tires, though, noooo… Nearly two hours of wrestling with it (and two more tubes with holes in them) later, I realized that it is impossible (for me) to change one of these tires without pinching the tube. They are just insanely tight on the Pista’s rims (I did not, nor shall I, try them on any other rims).

Disgusted, I finally gave up, snagged a spare wheel from the Fuji, and went for a ride. Then, at my earliest convenience, I swapped the sinister stock circles of Satanism for some new tires. 700×25 Continental Ultra 2000’s. I’ve had good luck with these in the past, I like mine with the kevlar bead; I find that in addition to the obvious benefit of making the tire foldable (and lighter), it seems to make them easier to mount and remove.

I wish I had made this swap earlier. I’ve never really ridden anything wider than a 23, but those 25’s really give the Pista a plush (for a track bike) ride. Not that you care, but here’s a photo of her wearing her new shoes.

More On (moron?) Western Digital

So, the other day I was blogging about my satisfaction with WD’s customer service, right? Well, as Paul Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story.

They shipped the replacement via UPS second day air, it arrived on time and I happily prepared to install the new drive. One little problem, though. They had shipped me the wrong drive! This was immediately apparent, the replacement drive was a WD1600JB (EIDE interface); the drive it was replacing was a WD1600JS (SATA-II interface). After a bit of handwringing and grumbling, I called their customer service folks to inform them of the error. The girl I spoke with had a peculiar cadence and lilt to her voice that I found very difficult to understand (though nothing like the poor stuttering engineer from ATI I got tech support from a few years ago!), so I hung up not exactly sure what she had said, other than that they would email me a return shipping label and another drive would be on its way. A couple of days passed, no packages arrived, and the RMA information page on their website was still only showing the original shipment, so I called again. Amazingly, this time I got the same technician I had spoken with the first time, Grant. He seemed as mystified as I was that the drive hadn’t been shipped yet, made sure I had gotten the return shipping label, and assured me that the correct drive would be on its way immediately. It was, it arrived promptly 2 business days after finally being shipped, and so far it’s working just fine.

So, Western Digital has been downgraded from an enthusiastic “Crazy Greg’s Seal of Approval” to a qualified “CGSOA”.

And now you know the rest of the story.

How to Maximize Your Footwear Investment

Buy these shoes. Wear them until they look like this.

If you would like to replicate this experiment, you can get the shoes here (and apparently nowhere else, I don’t know why). They’ll set you back about $90, but if they last you 6+ years of all-day, every-day wear before they start to disintegrate (as mine did), that works out to about $15 a year.

If you own and routinely wear more than one pair of shoes, your per annum cost will actually approach zero!

The New Balance 998 earns “Crazy Greg’s Seal of Approval”!

I’m a frugal, trend-setting fashion plate! (And, unlike Tommy Hilfiger, I do not have a monkey face… at least I don’t think I do.)

Simultaneous Bad Luck and Good Luck (Geek Content)

So, I’ve just built up a new computer (yesterday). It rocks, and everything came together without a hitch. Until today that is. I awoke to this “click… click… click…” sound that seemed to coming from the direction of the new computer.

Closer investigation revealed that it was the computer, or, more specifically, one of the brand-spanking new 160G Western Digital SATA-II hard drives. Here’s the lucky part; it’s not the boot drive which I just spent much of the night installing software on, it’s “just” the scratch disc.

So, I go to WD’s website, it suggests I try starting the computer up with the data cable disconnected from that drive and seeing if it still clicks. I do, it does, bingo! Bad drive.

So, I call Western Digital, spend a little too much time on hold being force-fed bad jazz at an uncomfortable volume level, then finally get a guy on the line. I describe the sequence of events and he says “Yep, bad drive, we’ll need to replace that.”

The cool thing is: They have Advance Replacement. They ship the replacement to me, enter an authorization on my credit card, I ship the dead drive back (in their packaging) within thirty days and the authorization drops off.

I’ve always had good luck with WD drives (I had 4 providing years of trouble free service in other computers when I got the new comp.) A bad drive happens every now and then, I suppose, and at least they make the replacement process as painless as possible.

Western Digital gets Crazy Greg’s Seal of Approval!

Peppermill (Crazy Greg’s Product Review)

So, a few days ago my lovely acrylic and stainless steel peppermill fell from the shelf above the sink and dropped all of 18 inches into the sink. I didn’t think much of it, put it back in its place and went about my business. Imagine my horror when I next tried to use it only to discover that the grinding mechanism had broken free from the body and it was beyond repair.

Anyway… I did some research and according to Cook’s Illustrated (From America’s Test Kitchen) and Alton Brown (who has never led me astray in the past) Unicorn’s Magnum Plus is the absolute zenith of peppermill functionality.

I was somewhat non-plussed by its appearance (a big black plastic cylinder… I was hoping for something in stainless steel or copper), but it has a lifetime guarantee, and according to the experts it excels at what it does.

So, I went ahead and got it and let me tell you, this thing rocks! The coarse/fineness is infinitely (and easily) adjustable, it holds scads of peppercorns, and it cranks out an insane amount of pepper per twist.

One of my other concerns was that due to its design, you can’t do the old “remove the top and attach the cordless drill” trick (à la Alton Brown), but as it turns out, it grinds so much more efficiently than any mill I’ve used before I can’t imagine this ever being necessary (quite unlike my recently departed peppermill, which ground so slowly that I frequently resorted to this technique).

So, if you are in the market for a peppermill, or you’re just tired of cranking endlessly to deliver the appropriate dose of pepper; the Magnum Plus gets ‘Crazy Greg’s Seal of Approval’.