Kudos, Amazon.com!

Amazon recently (today?) launched what they’re terming “Frustration-Free Packaging.”  Basically, instead of getting things in the retail packaging, you get it in a brown box with plastic pillow packaging.  The number of things you can get in FFP isn’t high right now, but it’s a huge start.

From their description of the FFP on a Fisher-Price pirate ship:

This item is delivered in an easy-to-open recyclable box and eliminates 36 inches of wire ties, 1,576.5 square inches of package inserts, and 36.1 square inches of printed carton materials. Also eliminated are 175.25 square inches of PVC blisters, 3.5 square inches of ABS molded styrene, and two plastic fasteners.

Brilliant.  I hope to see more products offered like this, because the retail packaging is irrelevant when you’re buying stuff over the internet.

At least they’re honest…

My webhosting company sends out a monthly newsletter.  Unless most bits of marketing drivel that hit my inbox, I actually enjoy reading this one, because it’s typically hilarious.  An example from this month:

4.  New! Webmail Upgraded to 1.4.15!
Of course, putting a ribbon on a turd doesn’t stop it being a turd.
We’ve tried upgrading squirrelmail (our open source webmail software) to
version 1.4.15 recently to see how big a ribbon they put on it:
http://webmail.dreamhost.com/ or http://webmail.yourdomain.com/
and as far as I can see, the ribbon, it does nothing.
What a waste of time that was. No obvious changes or benefits at all.

That’s downright awesome.

Lay off McCain/Palin?


McCain’s campaign on Wednesday angrily called for an end to questions about its review of Sarah Palin’s background, deriding a “faux media scandal designed to destroy the first female Republican nominee” for vice president.

Don’t get me wrong here – I agree with what Obama said last week – family is off-limits, and pretty much irrelevant.  However, the way that the McCain campaign is pitching this is just wrong, but in line with what they’ve done in the past.

For those of you keeping track at home:  can’t pick on McCain cause he was a POW (which I admire the man for, but as Fred Thompson said last night, “being a POW doesn’t qualify you to be President”), and you can’t pick on Palin cause she’s the first female Republican nominee for VP.

Goldendale Star Party

This weekend, a few members from the Seattle Astronomical Society held an unofficial star party out near Goldendale, WA.  Since I didn’t get the chance to take on the Table Mountain Star Party a few weeks back, I was determined to make this event.  It was an easy sell on the homefront as well, what with the vineyards in nearby Yakima. 🙂


Tons of Messiers were knocked out, and now I’m ready to apply for the Messier certificate from the Astronomical League.

That’s 31 new Messier objects, bringing my total up to 98 out of 110.  The remaining 12 will have to wait until the dead of Winter and one or two left until Summer of 2009. 

Finally, some of you (ok… really just Michael) have asked me to post pictures of my observing.  I’ll post a picture here of the telescopes set up for the star party, and I’ll also note that I’m taking donations to buy gear to hook up to my telescope for observation photos. 🙂

The Weekend on Lopez

As I posted about earlier, Diann & I spent a long weekend on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands the weekend before last.  Other than the absurd waits at ferry lines, it was a great trip.  Sadly, my plans to use Qik to stream a lot of the trip were foiled by spotty (at best) cell coverage.  I was able to snag a quick video on the ferry ride, an a couple on the island.  They’re all available at the Qik link above, but here’s the one from the ferry trip:

Tour de Lopez Elevation Profile Lopez Island is one of the larger islands in the San Juans, and is probably best known for biking (it’s relatively flat and has mostly patient residents) and local farming.  We made use of both.  We recently picked up a bike carrier for the Prius, and we hauled the bikes up with us.  We did one major day of riding, but it was our longest ride yet: 32.4 miles by my reckoning, with a total climb of 2,340 feet (elevation graph to the left).  We started out at about 9:30am, and did a few little pit stops throughout the island, checking out some of the parks/preserves with some periodic walks through the forest and to the beaches and a pit-stop for lunch.  Overall, I think we probably spent a good 4 hours in the saddle of the bike.

We also went on a ~4.5 mile sunset say kayaking trip, and I’ve got a monster blister to show for it. I should’ve worn my biking gloves.  Somewhat graphic-ish photo to the right. :)  Kayaking Blister I’d never been kayaking before, and it was really nice and relaxing.  Less of a work-out than I anticipated, but I guess we were going slow considering it took us about 2 hours to make the 4.5 mile trip around the harbor. 

Other than that, it was mostly R&R.  Ate some good food in town, and I’m pretty sure we either drove or biked on every road on the island.  More pictures to come soon once I copy them off the cameras we toted along – I think I got some cool pics at the museum on the island.

Oh – farming.  On the way out of town, we stopped at Horse Drawn Farms.  They mentioned they’re open all the time because they have a farmstand, and I had no idea what to expect.  When we got there, there was a open building that had three deep freezers (one each for beef, pork, and lamb), and several refrigerated areas for produce.  There was a weigh-scale, and everything was priced by the pound.  It was up to you to calculate everything, add it all up, and deposit your money in the cashbox (and make change).  Call my cynical, but I’m still shocked and amazed that an honor system like this still exists and seems to work!  There was probably thousands of dollars of meats and produce, not to mention the well-stocked cashbox.  Neat stuff.

The last two meals we’ve made at home have featured foods we picked up here: flat iron steak and potatoes on Sunday, and Chile Rellenos last night.  I’ve gotta say: farm fresh meats taste so much better than the same stuff from a grocery store.

Blog post for a T-shirt? Sure. :)

I’m not above selling out periodically.  A few months back, I posted here for a chance to win some vanilla beans after winning some saffron.  Now, it’s time for a t-shirt.

Thanks to Bill, I’ve stumbled upon the Microspotting site.  And I definitely want one of the “I am the empire” t-shirts.  Oh, and Ariel, consider your blog subscribed to my RSS reader.  Great stuff!