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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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Wordle and del.icio.us

Chris Campbell

Thanks to Carolyn for pointing out the very lovely visualization tool Wordle from Jonathan Feinberg. It allows you to either paste words or use a del.icio.us username to generate a rather beautiful visualization of the words and their frequency. The image with this post is the collection of my del.icio.us tags, so you can see what I bookmark most frequently. I love being able to see things in different ways like this.

New Car

Chris Campbell

New CarLast week I got the new car. As expected, it's a Toyota Yaris hatchback (which is called a 5-door). It's a bit shorter than the Echo was, but inside it feels like there is more space. In the back (in the hatch part) there is less storage space than the trunk of the old car, but I think that it will be ok, since there is a bit of hidden space under the doors covering the spare tire. I've read through the manual and have taken the car on a few trips, so it's quickly become familiar to me and I really, really like it.
Toyota has the design thing down cold and it's a beautiful and functional design. One of the things that I've noticed is that Toyota often is ahead of the other carmakers in terms of design. With the Echo 8 years ago, many people commented on the way the car looked as it was taller and angled differently than most of the other cars around. Now it fits right in and most other sedans have a similar look. The Yaris is wider and shorter in the front. It's great since when you're driving you don't see the hood, but the road in front of you. The instrument panel (like the Echo) is not in front of the steering wheel, but in the centre of the dashboard, which I really like, since you don't have to look through the steering wheel to see the information.
The fuel economy is fantastic and I've only filled it up a couple of times, but it looks as though I'll be able to go about 700 kms on a 42 litre tank of gas. That means I'll probably save about $100 - $150 a month during the school year when I'm commuting in to the city every day. Even though the federal government has decided not to continue the program, the 2008 fuel-efficient cars are still eligible for the $1000 ecoAUTO rebate, which helps a lot.
One option that I'm excited about, but it isn't installed yet, is the iPod connection, which will let me control my iPod from the steering wheel. So it's not completely set up yet, but I'm very happy to have the Yaris and it's going to be a great car that I think will probably take me another 400,000 kms or so.

Time For a New Car

Chris Campbell

The Car Before the TripIt's funny how things all seem to happen with impeccable timing. Yesterday while driving home a deer ran across the highway in front of me and I slammed on the brakes to slow down and the deer just made it across. But when I started accelerating the car felt sluggish and then the "check engine" light came on as well as the overheating warning. Luckily I was close to a gas station, so I pulled over, checked the oil on the coolant, and then went home. The car was still sluggish and I had a regular checkup and motor vehicle inspection scheduled for this morning, so I knew that someone would be looking at the car this morning.
The car is a 2001 Toyota Echo, which we started leasing 8 years ago (I thought it was less than that, but the model years don't always reflect the calendar years), and now it has over 400,000 kms on it, so it's both the years and the miles. There is a REJECTED sticker on the car as it needs some repairs to the exhaust system and one of the cylinders is misfiring (so it's a bit louder and feels like it's going to stall when the car is idling). Luckily there are some more temporary repairs that can be done to get the car through a few more months, but it's probably the last bit of money that I'll put into the Echo.
A lot has changed over the past few years, and the most remarkable thing is how many things that I was able to quickly figure out today without going into a dealership. With anything that I get, from a camera, to a phone, software, gadgets, food or even a car, I usually will research it. Eight years ago in researching the Echo and then test-driving it, I knew that I loved the design which was built from the inside out. It's been a reliable car, so I'm going to stick with Toyota.
What I'll probably end up with is a Yaris Hatchback, which has a similar design as the Echo, and great fuel economy. I'd love to get a hybrid, but the cost difference isn't worth it. If I lived in a more progressive province I could get a $5000 tax credit for buying a hybrid, but I should be able to get a $1000 federal incentive for buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. The great thing about the car manufacturer web sites now is that it's quite easy to see the options, configure vehicles and check the pricing. You can find out what people think of their cars and be very prepared before you even walk in. I was hoping to get through the summer since I have less than two weeks before my summer vacation starts, but now it looks as though a new car is in the immediate future.

The Long Tail Up Close

Chris Campbell

Looking Through a ScreenWhile OS X and most Apple stuff is well-designed and simple, there has always been a bit of room between the smooth lines for utilities and software that make it just a bit better. Fascinating little economies and ecosystems spring up around things like the iPod or Dashboard or the iPhone and the indie Mac developers are there making their stuff and being part of the community. It really hit home with me as I listened to the first Core Intuition podcast with Daniel Jalkut and Manton Reece.
I found out about podcast through Daniel's Red Sweater Blog, which I found out about because I use (and bought) MarsEdit (which I'm writing these very words with). My using MarsEdit for writing blog posts came about because it was originally developed by Brent Simmons, who also writes NetNewsWire, but Red Sweater took it over. It was originally included with NNW and then became separate and I bought both because they're useful and I like supporting the little guys in the same way that I like supporting indie bands.
In the Core Intuition podcast it is just two indie Mac software developers talking about developing software and the world that they live and work within. Not overly geeky (a bit geeky, I guess) or technical, but very real and human, which I like. (Cyborgs generally aren't interesting in a podcast.) So much of the software and films and music that we use now is made by large groups of people with massive amounts of money, and I realized how the Long Tail really applies to the small Mac developer who isn't developing things for the biggest market. For me it's the same as buying food and produce at the farmers market as you're a lot more connected with what you're getting. It's about the people and the connections.
Manton's shareware product is Wii Transfer, which I'd thought of trying out (it lets you listen to music, view photos and move video to your Wii), and now I took the plunge and bought it before I tried it. Luckily I like it and I've no regrets. While I don't think that the intention behind the podcast is to drive a massive amount of sales, it does show how having a voice and a presence can have indirect benefits. It's nice to be connected a bit more to the people who make things that I use and I think that it's great both ways as you'll make better stuff if you know your customers by name.
Even though they're both relatively far away geographically, it feels like I'm buying locally as they're members of my community in terms of software and what they do. That's why I also love being able to buy from indie developers and keep their virtual factories running.

Back to the Coffee Future

Chris Campbell

Coffee Pouring Into CupThings seemed to be good for me, coffee-wise. I had just replaced the drip coffee maker with a glass carafe and heating element with one that I found on sale that had a thermal carafe. It's a lot more efficient and it only uses electricity while it's brewing the coffee and the coffee stays warm in the carafe for hours. It's stainless steel and worked great.
But (you knew there had to be a "but", didn't you), yesterday morning the a tiny bit of plastic fell off and the "pause and serve" function didn't work. That would be a bit of pain, but I could always wait a few minutes to get my coffee. I checked out the coffee maker and how the carafe and filter basket fit together and I realized that it wouldn't work at all. It was permanently paused, so there would be no serving of coffee. So I had to take it back and I figured out why I was able to get such a good deal on it since I think that it probably happened before. So then I started to look for another coffee maker with a thermal carafe and couldn't find anything.
Yesterday morning I made coffee with a drip coffee maker that I've had for a while that doesn't boil the water, but it just holds a filter over a carafe and you boil the water and pour it in the basket. It worked fine and I started thinking that maybe another coffee maker that may stop working soon after I bought it may not be the best way to go. I stopped into the Just Us! Cafe to get a coffee (since I hadn't had enough without a large carafe filled with coffee) and I saw a selection of French press coffee makers and I started to think that maybe simpler was better. So for half the cost of the coffee maker that I returned, I picked up a French press (I actually have one that is about 15 years old, I think, but the filter needs to be replaced) and now I'm boiling water to pour into the French press. Instead of making a big pot full of coffee, I'll make a smaller pot (or two if I need more) and fill my travel mug and thermos for the day. That's what I did over a decade ago, and that's what I'll be doing again. I guess I don't need a coffee maker that I can control over the web with a cell phone or a higher-tech solution. Hot water, coffee grounds, glass and patience work just fine.