Thursday, November 30, 2006

top 5 science fiction movies

Usually the conversation at Guys’ Night Out is serious. Philosophy, politics and business are common subjects. Tonight we decided to change things up a bit, and after some spirited debate, lobbying and several rounds of voting we determined the top 5 science fiction movies of all time.

Because of our age, several important films are absent. They include (the original) War of the Worlds and the Day the Day the Earth Stood Still. Because we limited the list to 5, some more obscure but still deserving titles did not make the cut. It is in this category I would place the 12 Monkeys, Gattaca and Strange Days. But now, onto the list:

#5 Terminator 2
original was a contender, but the stunning visual effects and non-stop action of the sequel earn it Top 5 honors.

In this case the first nudged out its offspring. Alien proved that seriously scary and sci-fi are a winning combination.

Star Wars IV
We all waited in line to see this over and over again. Sure the dialog is campy, but the special effects were revolutionary.

The Matrix
Only a script that good could overcome Keanu Reeve’s weakness as an actor. Twists, turns and kick-ass choreography rocket this blockbuster to the top.

Blade Runner
A perfect film! Watch for a 2007 re-release.

To balance the top 5, the guys also ranked the bottom 5. We excluded films no one had seen (like the sequels for our first and second choices) and focused on the big budget ones we wished we had never seen. Without commentary, other than our warning that these should be avoided at all cost, we present:

#5 Independence Day
The Matrix Revolutions
Star Wars Episode I
Battlefield Earth

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


To celebrate Lisette’s birthday we dined at Coi.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoI was expecting to enjoy our meal for several reasons. First, Lisette selected the destination, and she is pretty good at picking restaurants. Second, Coi’s chef, Daniel Patterson, is well-known from a controversial NYT article and innovative stints at Elisabeth Daniel and Frisson.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoThird, Coi was one of the most anticipated openings of 2006, and the follow-up press suggested that it was not a disappointment. Gayot, for example, just named Coi of the country’s 10 best new restaurants.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoCoi (pronounced “kwah”) is archaic French for calm, and that is a perfect adjective for the simple, elegant and modern décor (photos). Coi is small – less than thirty seats in the main dining room and fewer than 20 in the outer lounge – and it is ideal for groups of 2 and 4.

Diners are presented a choice of a 4 course menu (of which there are 3 options for each course) or the 11 course tasting menu. As the pictures suggest, we opted for the latter.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoEach item we sampled offered wonderful surprises. In some there were unusual tastes, others offered a variety of temperatures, others still used texture to delight, and all used ingredients in unique ways. Each was delicate, balanced, perfectly prepared and utterly delicious.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoAfter starting with an amuse-bouche, we had a pink grapefruit foam with citrus underneath. A drop of fragrant oil with hints of ginger, tarragon, black pepper and grapefruit, designed to be placed on the wrist and sniffed before sampling the foam, enhanced the flavors and the fun.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoThe second course was rich and decadent: farm raised Osetra caviar on top of sautéed bone marrow. A warm buckwheat bellini and a beet gelee complete the dish. This was followed with sea bream sashimi. White soy and citrus yuzu were well-matched with the subtle fish.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoThe meal continued on its adventurous path with a soft-cooked egg yolk with bacon, onion relish and parmesan foam. And, it continued to combine the unexpected with the fifth: a smooth squash soup poured over walnut brittle, cipollini onions and cold cocoa mascarpone.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoMore intriguing still was the “pappardelle” in curry and coconut milk. Instead of flour and egg, the “noodles” were fashioned from yuba (tofu skin). None of the listed ingredients are favorites of mine but the combination was delectable.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoYou would think that we would be full at this point, but the portion size and the novelty made us anticipate each course to come. Next were two perfectly cooked scallops with jicama, green apple and a refreshing “Buddha’s hand” emulsion of hibiscus and mint.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoCourse eight extended the culinary delights with foie gras poached squab with endive, hibiscus and vanilla. The medium-rare squab was extremely tender and reason-alone to order the tasting menu. However, my vegetarian friends should note:

there are always non-meat, non-fish options on the four course menu and, with notice, a vegetarian tasting menu can be assembled as well.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoMy favorite item was the ninth: an onion tart with gruyere and arugula to provide balance. The pastry was sweet and flaky, and this dish provided a wonderful transition to our deserts. As a bonus, it was especially nice with the Vacheron Sancerre we were drinking with our meal.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoAh, the deserts. First were huckleberries, tapioca and maldon salt. I love maldon salt! Second was a chocolate brioche bread pudding with coconut ice cream and a mango sauce. And, finally, warm malted milk with the best peanut butter cookie I have ever had.

the tasting menu at Coi Restuarant, San FranciscoOur thanks to Daniel Patterson for a very entertaining menu and to his staff for their extreme professionalism. I am looking forward to a return visit and, if you haven’t been, I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is still a month left but I suspect that tonight’s dinner will be the best of 2006.

Coi: 373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA (415) 393-9000

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Clean (imdb, official US site, trailer) was released to critical acclaim in 2004, and it tackles the tough subject of drug addiction and the impact it has on others. It is not as depressing or gritty as a Leaving Las Vegas or a Sid and Nancy, but it is not a film everyone will find entertaining.

Clean is a character study and a vehicle for Maggie Cheung (2046, Hero, In theMood for Love, Chinese Box). It was written and directed by Oliver Assayas (imdb), her ex-husband, and he coaxes an amazing performance from the talented actress. Cheung plays Emily Wang, the wife of indie musician Lee Hauser in a role that garnered Best Actress honors at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

Cheung is surrounded by talented actors in the very well cast film. Nick Nolte (Hotel Rwanda, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, 48 Hrs.) is outstanding as Lee’s gruff yet tender father, and veterans of French cinema Béatrice Dalle, Jeanne Balibar and Rémi Martin are strong as well.

As Clean is more mood than plot a soundtrack from Brian Eno and Mazzy Star guitarist David Roback add to the atmospherics as do the cities of Vancouver, Paris and London. Tricky and Metric make cameo appearances, and Maggie Cheung sings a number of Roback songs.

Clean DVD, Clean Soundtrack

Monday, November 27, 2006

soup for fall

I’ve mentioned Epicurious before, and it is a site responsible for some of my favorite recipes. Lisette used Epicurious to make butternut squash soup, and after trying it tonight I must say that it was excellent.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 2-pound butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeded
2 cups (about) canned low-salt chicken broth
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 cup nonfat milkNonfat sour cream (optional)
Chopped fresh chives or green onions (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Place squash cut side down in prepared dish. Pierce each squash half several times with toothpick or skewer. Bake until squash is tender, about 45 minutes.

Using large spoon, scrape squash into processor; discard peel. Add 1 1/2 cups broth and nutmeg and puree until smooth. Transfer puree to heavy large saucepan. Mix in milk and enough broth to thin to desired consistency. Stir soup over medium heat until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with dollop of sour cream and chives, if desired.

Bonus link: a variant I might be tempted to try, butternut squash and apple soup with melted blue cheese

Sunday, November 26, 2006

joe newman at count basie's

Trumpeter Joe Newman was more famous for his dozen years with the Count Basie’s Orchestra and his work for jazz preservation than for his solo career, but he and his quintet were marvelous musicians. In 1961 they played a series of shows in New York at his old boss’s club, and Quincy Jones and Mercury records were on hand with tape.

The result is the stunning Joe Newman Quintet at Count Basie’s, a perfect bite of small group jazz in a small club setting. Yes there is crowd noise, but it adds to smoky, late-night feeling of the record. The listener can almost imagine being in Harlem enjoying a scotch and this seductive performance.

For the recording, remastered and reissued by Verve last year, the Joe Newman Quintet plays the standards Caravan, Our Love is Here to Stay and On Green Dolphin Street as well as Joe Newman’s own compositions The Midgets and the jumping Wednesday’s Blues; music that is ideal for relaxing after work or a sophisticated dinner party. To give you a taste I have linked to Someone to Love.

Joe Newman Quintet - Someone to Love

Joining Joe are Oliver Nelson on tenor, Lloyd Mayers on piano, Art Davis on bass and Ed Shaughnessy on drums.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

happy feet

Paul’s note: This is Scott’s sixth contribution to (at least) one cool thing. Previously he has written about music, television, movies, travel and a game. Scott writes:

One of the finer moments in life is the brief period of bemused amnesia that falls between the end of the previews and remembering which movie you came to see.

The opening scene of Happy Feet , with its Crab Nebula and cosmic space clouds, gave no fast closure to that span of time, but it did promise something more than just your basic dancing penguin story.

But what to make of this odd tale? As per usual, I tried my hardest not to read in advance anything that might give the faintest hint as to the story line. But I had seen a brief clip of an excellently produced and syncopated dancing Peruvian penguin (comically voiced by Robin Williams) earlier this year, and was eagerly awaiting the final product.

As the opening scene foretold, this isn’t your basic animated children’s story. At its heart, it is your standard odd-kid-gets-ostracized-then-tries-to-prove-himself tale, but the odd twists and serious turns it takes are not as simple. For this reason, I think it leaves some of its younger audience behind. I took my two daughters – aged 6 and 3 – and the reviews were mixed. Though both were fully on-board as the silly penguin Eggshell did the jig on his wobbly first legs, the youngest was soon turned away by some of the darker and more scary scenes.

Serious topics are no stranger to children’s tales, but one thing dampens this movie. The producers went to great lengths to mimic the environment of the Emperor penguin colony in the effects, and the dark blues, heavy atmosphere and languid hues can’t help but bring down the tone of the film.

The filmmakers countered this whenever possible, with campy dance numbers, funny side characters, and clever jokes. But in the end there wasn’t enough counterweight to the scary leopard seals, skuas, Orcas and elephant seals to resurrect the final vote of the 3-year-old.

For those a little older, and for the adults, fortunately, there are many redeeming qualities. First and foremost are the effects, which are stunning and beautiful. Second is the voice acting, most notably by Williams who played the hilarious Adelie penguin Ramon, in addition to the wise and wise-cracking Rockhopper guru Lovelace. A distant third is the story line, which comes off as a little forced. Further still (for this parent) are the dance numbers, most of which fall somewhere between contrived and cliché.

All in all, the movie is worth a watch, but it comes short of the grand promises of the opening scene. The youngest should wait until they have the safety of the sofa, but the middle and older kids will find enough to laugh at and sing with to give it their little thumbs up. Parents, meanwhile, won’t mind sitting in for the ride, and will have fun trying to catch all of the adult lines. A cool thing, yes, but not quite a film to get up and dance about.

Friday, November 24, 2006

yeah, we're boring

Today’s entry is more embarrassing than cool, but it is important to have a sense of humor. Last week while the guys were ogling the Eclipse 500 and enjoying our friend’s hospitality, we were captured on film. As Valleywag noticed (for other reasons), the edited tape has hit the web.

Put a cute-enough girl in a platinum blonde wig; make sure she is smart enough to act ditzy and ask things like: Tell me a story about your boring friend; and, the above is the result. Fortunately (or perhaps tragically), the get to our lame scene you have to watch some really bad dancing. Had the party crashers not run out of film you would have seen some really good dancing when Hansel was making friends with our interviewer later in the evening.

Head over to d7tv for more videos of the Party Crashers lampooning the socially awkward.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Paul's note: Emmanuel and Meg invited Lisette and I to join them for a Thanksgiving meal this evening, and for the excellent company and delicious food I am grateful. Meg was also kind enough to send me a guest post about a very special organization, and I felt that today was the perfect time to share it. Meg writes:

With Black Friday only a day away, I thought I'd share a gift idea that I think is pretty amazing. It's called Heifer International. Ignore any mental image you may now be entertaining of a bovine beauty pageant - this is actually a unique opportunity to make a meaningful and lasting gift with your hard earned gift-giving dollars. I'm not suggesting it's the gift for everyone, but it beautifully solves the problem of what to get those "hard to shop for" people on your list.

Heifer International is devoting to ending poverty by providing poor families with a gift of sustainable livestock. For instance, a family might receive a pair of breeding llamas or ducks, as well as the training necessary to successfully raise and breed them. This "teach a man to fish" philosophy not only ends that family's poverty and hunger, but also helps their whole community, since all Heifer recipients promise to give some of their animal's offspring to a neighbor in need. Recipients become donors themselves, expanding the power of your original gift perhaps even exponentially. Now that's cool!

And for the folks on your list, instead of another material gift they can't use, your friends, family, business associates or vendors receive a card explaining that, in their name, you've given the gift of self reliance to a struggling family. If you feel that you really need to give them an object to "hold,” tie the card to a bottle of wine or a candy cane. Can't afford a whole cow? No worries: you can buy a "share" for each friend. You can also give tree seedlings to create an orchard or bees to create honey. Since it's charitable, it's even tax deductible.

When I think about all the gift baskets my company used to send out and receive from vendors that wound up being left out in the break room by their recipients, or all the useless dust-collecting "doodads" I've tossed each January, I can't help but wonder what might have happened if all that money had been spent on something that could've really made a difference. It just makes you think.

Bonus link: The New Yorker just ran an excellent article discussing how micro-loans are changing the economy in Africa.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

pumpkin cheesecake

Chuck William’s Thanksgiving & Christmas (now out-of-print but available used) is a great resource for the holidays, and one its best recipes is for pumpkin cheesecake. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare, another hour to cook and a night to chill, but the effort is worth it for the decadent treat.

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons plus 1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ lb cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups pumpkin puree, at room temperature
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 eggs, lightly beaten (at room temperature)

Preparing the crust:

1) Cover the outside of a 9” springform pan with aluminum foil. Butter the inside and set aside.
2) In a bowl stir together the graham cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons of sugar and the ginger. Stir and toss with gradually adding the melted butter. Continue to stir and toss until well mixed.
3) Press the crumb mixture evenly over the inside bottom of the pan and 1 ¾ inches up the sides. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preparing the batter:

1) Place the room temperature cream cheese in the mixing bowl and beat on medium for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
2) Slowly add the 1 cup of sugar while continuing to beat. A stand mixer makes this much easier, but don’t forget to scrape down the bowl sides.
3) Add the pumpkin, orange zest, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and continue to beat until smooth.
4) Add the eggs a little at a time and beating well after each addition.
5) Poor the batter in the prepared pan. You can smooth the surface with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 60-70 minutes on the center rack of a 325 degree oven. When the cheesecake is ready the top will be lightly puffed over but the center will be underset. Don’t worry about the giggling, it will firm up during cooling.

Cool first in the oven with the door open and then on a wire rack for 1-2 hours. This will help prevent cracking. When the cheesecake is approaching room temperature, remove the foil, refrigerate overnight and enjoy with friends the next day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

sambazon acai smoothies

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day but it is also the one I am most likely to skip. Sure, I’ll have a yogurt, some citrus or pomegranate juice from time to time, but more often than not lunch will be my first meal of the day. That may change now that I have discovered Sambazon açaí smoothies

Açaí is a palm native to the floodplains of Central and South America that produces a dark berry extremely high in dietary fiber, and antioxidants. The açaí berry also contains significant quantities of vitamin E, phytosterols, amino acids, fatty acids and anthocyanin pigments, and it tastes a bit like blueberry, but less sweet.

Sambazon is the largest organic producer and exporter of açaí to the US and they formulate delcious beverges. I’ve just become a big fan of the Mango Uprising for its smooth blueberry/mango/banana taste, and I will keep drinking it for its nutritional properties. The drink is made from:

Açaí purree, organic apple and grape juices, organic bananas, organic mangos, organic soy lethicin, organic guarana extract, organic acerola and citric acid

and nothing else. A 10.5 oz smoothie has 260 calories and provides 4g of omega fatty acids, 7g of dietary fiber and 3g of protein. The one drawback is that, like any juice, it is high in sugar at 34g.

Sambazon smoothies are priced like other superfood drinks at $2.99, but Safeway is running a buy 1, get 1 free sale right now. I am stocking up on Mango Uprising and I will try some of their other flavors.

Monday, November 20, 2006


I noticed the Gorillapod online a few weeks ago, but now that I have seen on in person I can endorse it as a genius invention.

Tripods are really handy. They provide the steady hand needed to take pictures in low light and the extra hand when there is no one else around to snap a shot of you and your friends. The problem is that tripods are bulky and not as convenient to carry around as your slim pocket camera. That is where the gorilla pod comes in.

It is small (6 inches long, 1 inch across), light (1.6 ounces) and adjustable in three dimensions. Better still, it is more flexible than a conventional triopd as its twisty legs cling to all kinds of objects (poles, railings, bottles, tree branches, signs – you get the idea). The original version is $21.95 from Amazon and other electronics stores; a larger version designed for heavier SLRs is $39.95.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


I must admit that I have never been a big fan of the drum solo. However, when Hansel let me borrow his Animusic 2 DVD I was blown away by the quality and complexity of track 7, Gyro Drums. By the end, 3 pairs of robot arms play more than 150 drums and cymbals with perfect timing and synchronization.

Animusic 2 contains 8 high resolution music videos designed to showcase Animusic’s technology. Each is around 5 minutes long, and all of the sounds and animation are digitally synthesized. It really is amazing to watch widescreen and in surround sound.

You can see more in low-res at YouTube; but, for the full experience, you'll want to order the DVDs. They contain great special features like quad-view for Gyro Drums.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

ig nobel prizes

Every year since 1991, the Annals of Improbable Research recruits actual Nobel laureates to present ten Ig Nobel Prizes for "achievements that cannot or should not be reproduced." They often focus on accidental or amusing discoveries. As Nature observed, "The Ig Nobel awards are arguably the highlight of the scientific calendar."

Past winners have included:

Medicine (1991): Alan Kligerman, deviser of digestive deliverance, vanquisher of vapor, and inventor of Beano, for his pioneering work with anti- gas liquids that prevent bloat, gassiness, discomfort and embarrassment.

Literature (1992): Yuri Struchkov, unstoppable author from the Institute of Organoelemental Compounds in Moscow, for the 948 scientific papers he published between the years 1981 and 1990, averaging more than one every 3.9 days.

Consumer Engineering (1993): Ron Popeil, incessant inventor and perpetual pitchman of late night television, for redefining the industrial revolution with such devices as the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone, and the Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler.

Mathematics (1994): The Southern Baptist Church of Alabama, mathematical measurers of morality, for their county-by-county estimate of how many Alabama citizens will go to Hell if they don't repent.

Psychology (1995): Shigeru Watanabe, Junko Sakamoto, and Masumi Wakita, of Keio University, for their success in training pigeons to discriminate between the paintings of Picasso and those of Monet.

Physics (1996):
Robert Matthews of Aston University, England, for his studies of Murphy's Law, and especially for demonstrating that toast often falls on the buttered side.

Biology (1997): T. Yagyu and his colleagues from the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, from Kansai Medical University in Osaka, Japan, and from Neuroscience Technology Research in Prague, Czech Republic,
for measuring people's brainwave patterns while they chewed different flavors of gum.

Statistics (1998): Jerald Bain of Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto and Kerry Siminoski of the University of Alberta for their carefully measured
report, "The Relationship Among Height, Penile Length, and Foot Size."

Peace (1999): Charl Fourie and Michelle Wong of Johannesburg, South Africa, for inventing an
automobile burglar alarm consisting of a detection circuit and a flamethrower.

Computer Science (2000): Chris Niswander of Tucson, Arizona, for inventing
PawSense, software that detects when a cat is walking across your computer keyboard.

Economics (2001): Joel Slemrod, of the University of Michigan Business School, and Wojciech Kopczuk, of Columbia University, for their
conclusion that people find a way to postpone their deaths if that that would qualify them for a lower rate on the inheritance tax.

Interdisciplinary Research (2002): Karl Kruszelnicki of The University of Sydney, for performing a
comprehensive survey of human belly button lint -- who gets it, when, what color, and how much.

Interdisciplinary Research (2003): Stefano Ghirlanda, Liselotte Jansson, and Magnus Enquist of Stockholm University, for their inevitable report
Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans.

Biology (2004): Ben Wilson of the University of British Columbia, Lawrence Dill of Simon Fraser University , Robert Batty of the Scottish Association for Marine Science,
Magnus Whalberg of the University of Aarhus, and Hakan Westerberg of Sweden's National Board of Fisheries, for showing that
herrings apparently communicate by farting.

Chemistry (2005): Edward Cussler of the University of Minnesota and Brian Gettelfinger of the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, for conducting a
careful experiment to settle the longstanding scientific question: can people swim faster in syrup or in water?

And, now, for my favorite prize from this year’s awards:

Mathematics (2006): Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization, for calculating the number of photographs you must take to (almost) ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed

My thanks to an anonymous commenter on this post for alerting me to the 2006 Medicine Ig Nobel prize for curing hiccups, and the Ig Nobels in general.

Friday, November 17, 2006

the eclipse 500 very light jet

The Man with the 20s” invited the guys to attend a celebration for his firm’s friends, limited partners and portfolio companies last night. In addition to an abundance of beverages and food of all types (the sushi was quite tasty), the party held at the Hiller Aviation Museum had lots of gadgets. There were Xbox 360s everywhere, a black Tesla and, best of all, an Eclipse 500.

The Eclipse 500 is the progenitor of a new class of aircraft termed VLJ (or very light jet). Eclipse Aviation was founded in 1998 by an ex-Microsoft executive who wanted to make private jet travel more affordable. He raised more than $600 million from friends like Bill Gates to get his company started, and 8 years later his revolutionary aircraft has just been certified by the FAA and is starting production.

The Eclipse has been eagerly anticipated, and so far, more than 2,500 have been ordered. At a price of $1.5 million nicely equipped, the 6 person jet is much less expensive than anything else on the market. With small, fuel efficient engines, it is also more affordable to operate – about $1 a mile for fuel and maintenance costs.

It is manufactured with techniques borrowed from the auto industry. As Joe Cozza expained to us, frame and body construction is done by Eclipse using their patented friction stir welding (most planes are riveted) and Eclipse does final assembly, but all of the plane’s components are outsourced and shipped just-in-time. The results is a faster, lighter, eaiser-to-build plane, hence the “bargain” price.

Outside and in the airplane is beautiful. If you think new car smell is fantastic, wait until you experience new jet smell. Soft leather wraps the seats and the cockpit is packed with state-of-the-art electronics. The Eclipse has a cruising speed of 370 knots (425 mph) and a range of 1,295 miles. When you are ready to order, build your own jet here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

bond cars (ranked)

Despite yesterday’s post, everyone knows that the best part about Bond films are the gadgets. And, no Bond gadgets are cooler than the cars. So, as we build up to Casino Royale (official site, trailer) tomorrow, I present the 5 coolest Bond cars of all time:

#5 Toyota 2000 GT convertible - You Only Live Twice

One of only two 2000 GT convertibles ever produced, this early Japanese sport cars has gorgeous lines. It was lacking in gadgetry – it’s best trick was a TV screen for communication – but it makes up for this in rarity. More about the Toyota 2000 here and here and here.

#4 Aston Martin V8 Volante – The Living Daylights

Bond belongs in an Aston Martin, and Q made sure this V8 Volante had the gadgets to keep him safe. Bullet-proof glass, fireproof body, guided missiles, jet engine booster rocket, convertible ice tires, snow skis hidden in the door sills, laser-cutting devices in the wheel hubs and a self-destruct mechanism are just some of its goodies. Learn more about this Bond ride
here and here.

#3 Aston Martin V-12 Vanquish – Die Another Day

Even the causal fan knows that no 007 Aston Martin would be complete without it's special equipment. The seductive Vanquish featured in Die Another Day offered a camouflage device that enables invisibility, two machine guns mounted behind a retractable grille, heat-seeking missiles and studded tires engineered for driving on a frozen lake. Oh yeah, it also had a Passenger ejector seat. Read more about the Vanquish
here and here and here.

#2 Lotus Esprit – The Spy Who Loved Me

Arguably the best Bond car of all time, and certainly one that I will never forget. Thanks to Q’s wizardry, this Lotus transforms into a submarine. It is also equipped with a rear liquid concrete sprayer and underwater depth-charges and sea-to air missile launchers. Did I mention that it transforms into a sub?! Details on the Lotus
here and here

#1 Aston Martin DB5 - Goldfinger, Thunderball and GoldenEye

It was close, but I am a traditionalist. I played with the Corgi car too often as a child and I still love the tire slashing wheel hubs. The DB5 sported .30 caliber Browning machine guns, an oil-slick dispenser, smoke screen capability, bullet-proof shields, revolving number license plates, a radar screen for tracking enemies, taillights that drop nails, and, of course, and ejector seat. Oh, its glove box was refrigerated and equipped with a bottle of Bollinger. Get the lowdown on the most famous Bond car
here and here and here and here.

Bonus link: Wikipedia’s definitive list of
Bond vehicles

11/20 Update: I saw Casino Royal today, and it is excellent. A review would result in Bond overload, but believe the hype. Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Sean Connery, and Eva Green is a worthy companion, every bit as smart and tough as the spymaster himself.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

bond girls (reviewed)

Sometimes, the selection of the cool thing of the day is obvious as soon it appears. Other times, the path to selection has twists and turns. Take today, for example.

At lunch, Bill, Emmanuel and I discussed the art-house centric top films list mentioned Monday. Bill wondered how Star Wars IV: A New Hope (#26) could be ranked so low? I wondered how it could be ranked ahead of The Godfather Part II (#28). But, our chat did make me interested in an Entertainment Weekly article when I saw the post at slashdot tonight.

Miraculously, the staff at EW found someone who had never seen any of the Stars Wars films, and they convinced him to watch all 6 episodes back to back to back. I thought, perhaps this will tell us how well episode IV has aged. Unfortunately, watching I-VI in story order (rather than release order) ruins the mystery and wonder we experienced when we first saw Star Wars, so it isn’t a fair test. However, his humorous observations are still worth reading.

That link led me to EW’s list of the 10 Worst Bond Girls of all time. 10 worst? Is this possible? I admire an author with a strong point of view, but I am surprised at many of the choices. What does he have against cellos and Swedish women?

Of course the 10 worst list fed into the 10 best list. Again, the author has a perspective, and now I have a good idea about what we will be talking about at tomorrow’s lunch. Casino Royale with Daniel Craig (pics for the ladies) opens Friday. (official site, trailer)

Bonus link 1: an alternate ranking
Bonus link 2: 45 James Bond trailers in
one place

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"you're with me, leather"

I was chatting with Scott earlier. He was wondering if anyone had come close to his Guess-the-google high score and curious about why I didn’t save a few entries from last night’s post for future cool things. He has a point; readers are more likely to gloss over a long list than a more concise selection. So, to give you a little flavor for some of the sites, I present a five exemplar articles:

Deadspin – a must-read story for the ESPN fan
MAKE: Blog – an essential project for budding scientist
The Consumerist – how to make a lost wallet less painful
Photonhead – everything you need to know to edit photos
Cute Overload – a puppy with big paws

Bonus non sequitur: Happy 40th Birthday, Lloyd!

Monday, November 13, 2006

interesting web sites

When I arrived at work this morning, there was an article from last week’s PC Magazine from Emmanuel on my desk. It lists 99 Undiscovered Web Sites and 101 Classic Web Sites. I thought I would share a few lesser known highlights:

From the “undiscovered” category:

Deadspin – the news that really matters
Bookslut – a monthly literary magazine
MAKE: Blog – a great resource for DIY projects
Core77 Design Blog – a listing of all that is slick
Films101 – the top 2100 movies of all time, ranked
Valleywag – the best source of silicon valley gossip
GmailTips – for all of you gmail needs
The Consumerist – solid information for consumer advocacy
Photonhead – digital camera tips and tutorials
Google Maps Mania – map mashups for lovers of Google Maps
Cute Overload – an endless supply of animal cuteness
Britney's Guide to Semiconductor Physics – a site for my EE friends
Guess-the-google – a variant of a game Mikey Mike invented years ago

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A drink for the holidays

Paul’s note: Emmanuel is my business partner and an important influence on (at least) one cool thing. Previously Emmanuel has shared his favorite lunch spot and his favorite TV show. I’ve adopted both enthusiastically, and I suspect I will do the same today’s suggestion. Emmanuel writes:

Inspired by the health benefits of the pomegranate, I’ve developed a drink loosely based on the Cosmopolitan Martini. My wife and I enjoy this recipe much more than the traditional Cosmo, and we are happy to receive the added health benefits pomegranate provides when indulging in a cocktail or two. (statements not verified by the FDA ;-)

In an ice-filled shaker, pour:

5 parts of Vodka (I use Skyy for this recipe)
3 parts of pomegranate
2 parts of triple-sec

shake and strain. For extra intrigue, follow Meg’s suggestion and add one frozen raspberry to each glass after you have poured the drinks.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

fight telemarketers

You pay too much for caller id, you have registered with the Do Not Call Registry but, if you are like me, you still get unwanted and illegal calls from survey groups and telemarketers. I won’t answer my home phone if any “Out of Area” or non-local number I don’t recognize appears. My assumption is that if it is something important, they will leave a message.

Still, the interruption is annoying. Yesterday and Friday I received 5 calls from 212 448- 5501 and 801 623-4623. All of the calls were in the evening, and the numbers displayed ID unavailable. Thanks to, I was able to learn more about both callers and fight back.

Since its inception, users have logged 83,000 calls with whocalledus. It is very easy to do, and a webform lets you file a complaint with the FTC if you are on the Do Not Call list. The next time you get tele-disturbed, visit

4/9 update: 800notes is a similarly valuable service

Friday, November 10, 2006

spider-man 3

Spider-Man 3 (official site) isn't in theaters until May 4, 2007 but the buzz is building thanks to a preview released last night. Spidey has new powers and new enemies. Watch the full trailer above or download it in 720p HD from iFilm.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

prince in las vegas

Tomorrow night, music superstar Prince will begin an engagement at his new 3121 club at the Rio in Las Vegas. Every Friday and Saturday night, the eccentric and immensely talented artist will perform with the New Power Generation in front an audience limited to 700 people. Tickets are $125.

Throughout his 30 year career Prince has been extremely profilic, releasing more than 40 albums and writing thousands of songs. Wikipedia hosts a detailed bio and discography, but for those wanting to dig deeper than The Hits may I suggest:

Dirty Mind, Purple Rain, Crystal Ball and the new 3121

2/7 update: The reviews from the shows have been amazing!

4/3 update: His reign continues. Read the New Yorker review

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

hot wheels radar gun

I’ve found another candidate for greatest toy ever. Mattel, creators of Hot Wheels and (since 1997) producers of Matchbox have just introduced the Hot Wheels Radar Gun. Playing with ~1:64 scale cars is already a good time. You can drive them around, collect them, park them, crash them and race them. I remember zooming my cars down slick orange track and around loop-the-loops, but the great thing about Hot Wheels and Matchbox was that pushing them across the floor or up and down a chair was just as much fun. Any surface could become a highway.

Police cars in my Matchbox world were at a distinct disadvantage, however. It was tough enough to catch rogue drives as the bad guys cars went really fast and could perform amazing escapes by flying through the air or hiding under the sofa. But if the police did catch violators of the posted speed limits, it was hard to prove it in court. My Matchbox traffic safety force lacked funding for radar. If only the Hot Wheels Radar Gun was available when we were little.

With the Hot Wheels Radar gun, kids everywhere can find out how hot their Hot Wheels really are. It displays in MPH or KPH, and a second switch lets you select between actual speed and converted 1:64 scale speed. It is a low-powered unit (those pesky safety laws) so it won’t measure automobile traffic speed, but it is perfectly appropriate for clocking the dog or a sibling at closer range. The gun is available from major retailers like Toys R Us and Amazon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it hasn’t made its way to a few lists for Santa.

Bonus link: this thread contains more technical information on the gun and tips for converting it into a higher-powered unit

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

hacking democracy

The most secret systems should be the most secure. This is what Hollywood has taught us with spy movies and it seems logical. After all, if how a system operates is completely secret, shouldn’t it be harder to figure out how to defeat it? History has taught us the opposite, though, and more than a hundred years ago Kerckhoff formulated a principle on which modern cryptography is based: The security of the encryption scheme must depend only on the secrecy of the key, and not on the secrecy of the algorithm.

Modern reasons continue to make Kerchoff prescient, including the ability to reverse engineer software, the inevitability of the secret becoming compromised and the power of peer review to discover vulnerabilities. Sadly, this lesson is lost on the corporations that manufacture electronic voting machines and the election boards, city councils and state commissions that purchase the hardware. Today’s voting machines are black boxes, and attempts to examine the hardware, review the software and audit the systems can violate both contracts and laws, even when the auditor is a state agency.

Questions surrounding both the 2000 elections and the 2004 results have spurred the organization of groups like open voting and black box voting dedicated to lifting the veil of secrecy. With paper ballots, officials from the major parties could monitor the voting process both at the polling place and during the count. While their may have been fraud on a small scale, this open approach and its significant acountability trail created confidence in the system. As the new HBO special Hacking Democracy documents, with electronic voting there is ample reason for an erosion of that confidence.

Hacking Democracy tracks the efforts of Black Box Voting to learn how Diebold voting machines work. It illustrates untraceable techniques to alter the count at both optical scanning machines and the point of central tabulation. Perhaps more importantly, it shows Diebold executives lying about the existence of these flaws and their efforts to correct them. No matter how you feel about previous elections, the integrity of the voting process and its theoretical potential for compromise is certainly an issue on which Republicans and Democrats can unite.

Hacking Democracy re-airs tonight and the rest of this week on this schedule. It is also available on Google Video, and that is how I watched it late last night. Although its free distribution violates HBO’s copyrights, I applaud HBO legal team’s restraint in permitting this must-watch film to gain a wider audience. The Sopranos, The Wire, Rome and now hard-hitting documentaries – HBO is certainly the premier television network.

Download or watch Hacking Democracy via Google (via slashdot)

Bonus link 1: Bruce Schneier’s Nov 2004 essay on ways to increase electronic voting security
Bonus link 2: Sept 2006 Princeton analysis of a Diebold AccuVote TS machine

Monday, November 06, 2006

2007 ipod buyers guide

The iLounge is the premier website for all things iPod. They have hundreds of detailed accessory reviews, tutorials that cover iTunes and iPod advanced features and the latest in news and product announcements. They have just published their 2007 guide, and it is packed with 180 shiny pages of accessory debuts, exclusive reviews and best of the year awards.

There is no better source for detailed information on protective cases, replacement headphones and car stereo integration, and it is a great companion for your little music-playing friend.

Download the 2007 iPod Buyers’ Guide

Sunday, November 05, 2006

november 7

Politics is a subject rarely broached at (at least) one cool thing. I try to find things with the potential for wide interest, and there has been little in the current hyper-partisan environment that I consider positive or appealing. Perhaps inspired by an evening with Oliver and Daphne discussing the California propositions, I am lifting my ban to present today’s New York Times lead editorial. The Times writes:

On Tuesday, when this page runs the list of people it has endorsed for election, we will include no Republican Congressional candidates for the first time in our memory. Although Times editorials tend to agree with Democrats on national policy, we have proudly and consistently endorsed a long line of moderate Republicans, particularly for the House. Our only political loyalty is to making the two-party system as vital and responsible as possible.

That is why things are different this year.

To begin with, the Republican majority that has run the House — and for the most part, the Senate — during President Bush’s tenure has done a terrible job on the basics. Its tax-cutting-above-all-else has wrecked the budget, hobbled the middle class and endangered the long-term economy. It has refused to face up to global warming and done pathetically little about the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

Republican leaders, particularly in the House, have developed toxic symptoms of an overconfident majority that has been too long in power. They methodically shut the opposition — and even the more moderate members of their own party — out of any role in the legislative process. Their only mission seems to be self-perpetuation.

The current Republican majority managed to achieve that burned-out, brain-dead status in record time, and with a shocking disregard for the most minimal ethical standards. It was bad enough that a party that used to believe in fiscal austerity blew billions on pork-barrel projects. It is worse that many of the most expensive boondoggles were not even directed at their constituents, but at lobbyists who financed their campaigns and high-end lifestyles.

That was already the situation in 2004, and even then this page endorsed Republicans who had shown a high commitment to ethics reform and a willingness to buck their party on important issues like the environment, civil liberties and women’s rights.

For us, the breaking point came over the Republicans’ attempt to undermine the fundamental checks and balances that have safeguarded American democracy since its inception. The fact that the White House, House and Senate are all controlled by one party is not a threat to the balance of powers, as long as everyone understands the roles assigned to each by the Constitution. But over the past two years, the White House has made it clear that it claims sweeping powers that go well beyond any acceptable limits. Rather than doing their duty to curb these excesses, the Congressional Republicans have dedicated themselves to removing restraints on the president’s ability to do whatever he wants. To paraphrase Tom DeLay, the Republicans feel you don’t need to have oversight hearings if your party is in control of everything.

An administration convinced of its own perpetual rightness and a partisan Congress determined to deflect all criticism of the chief executive has been the recipe for what we live with today.

Congress, in particular the House, has failed to ask probing questions about the war in Iraq or hold the president accountable for his catastrophic bungling of the occupation. It also has allowed Mr. Bush to avoid answering any questions about whether his administration cooked the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. Then, it quietly agreed to close down the one agency that has been riding herd on crooked and inept American contractors who have botched everything from construction work to the security of weapons.

After the revelations about the abuse, torture and illegal detentions in Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Congress shielded the Pentagon from any responsibility for the atrocities its policies allowed to happen. On the eve of the election, and without even a pretense at debate in the House, Congress granted the White House permission to hold hundreds of noncitizens in jail forever, without due process, even though many of them were clearly sent there in error.

In the Senate, the path for this bill was cleared by a handful of Republicans who used their personal prestige and reputation for moderation to paper over the fact that the bill violates the Constitution in fundamental ways. Having acquiesced in the president’s campaign to dilute their own authority, lawmakers used this bill to further Mr. Bush’s goal of stripping the powers of the only remaining independent branch, the judiciary.

This election is indeed about George W. Bush — and the Congressional majority’s insistence on protecting him from the consequences of his mistakes and misdeeds. Mr. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 and proceeded to govern as if he had an enormous mandate. After he actually beat his opponent in 2004, he announced he now had real political capital and intended to spend it. We have seen the results. It is frightening to contemplate the new excesses he could concoct if he woke up next Wednesday and found that his party had maintained its hold on the House and Senate.

Bonus link 1: The Vanity Fair interview with Richard Perle
Bonus link 2: Keith Olbermann on the Operation Iraqi Freedom document portal
Bonus link 3: In for a penny, in for a pound; a Congressional candidate I wish I could vote for:

Saturday, November 04, 2006

lindsey buckingham

A few years ago an essay in The New Yorker described picking your favorite Beatle as a Rorschach test. Selecting your favorite Fleetwood Mac member is a similar exercise, and the same weakness I have for strong pop hooks that leads me to pick Paul causes me to select Christine McVie as well. However, I have always admired Lindsey Buckingham’s gifts as a musician and composer, talents that were on display tonight on PBS.

KQED re-aired a 2005 Soundstage performance that features Lindsey in concert (DVD). He plays a mix of old hits and newer songs from his solo albums and the 2003 Say You Will. Born in Palo Alto and raised in Atherton, Buckingham dropped out of San Jose State in 1971 to focus on music with Menlo-Atherton high school classmate, girlfriend and bandmate Stevie Nicks. In 1974, Mick Fleetwood recruited the duo to join his band, and the rest is well-documented history. Famous Mac songs penned by Buckingham include: Second Hand News, Never Going Back Again, Go Your Own Way, Tusk and Big Love.

Lindsey Buckingham is currently on tour supporting a just-released solo album Under the Skin, and he will be performing at the Palace of Fine Arts Monday night. For a sample, check out this video of Buckingham performing Never Going Back Again two weeks ago in Chicago, and for tickets Monday night visit Ticketmaster.

Bonus link: Lindsey Buckingham trying his best new wave impression in the 1982 music video for Holiday Road.

Friday, November 03, 2006

bargains at tower records

As you might have heard, Tower Records entered bankruptcy in August and was sold in October. The buyers (the Great American Group) are closing all 89 US stores, and a large going out of business sale is in progress.

Over the years I have purchased significant amounts of vinyl and CDs from Tower locations in DC, Palo Alto and San Francisco. Back in the day Tower’s selection, especially imports, was unrivalled. The nostalgist in me is sad about their demise, but the pragmatist recognizes that it is an opportunity to stock up music and movies. Discounts will increase until a final December liquidation, but savings currently stand at an attractive:

30% off books
60% of magazines
30% of all DVDs
30% of all video games
40% of Latin CDs
40% of rap / hip-hop CDs
50% of CD singles

and 30% of everything else in the store (CDs, accessories, etc). Many of the major label CDs were regularly priced at $18.99; hence Tower’s Chapter 11 filings. However, there are many releases priced at 8.99 to 12.99. Take 30% off and that’s a really good deal.

11/23 update: The current sale is 40% off all books and DVDs, and 40% off plus buy 4 get 1 free on all CDs. Selection is still good at the San Antonio location. San Mateo is picked through.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

an overnight success (10 years in the making)

My friend Jeff has diverse and discerning taste in music. In college he increased my appreciation for The Smiths and The Clash, and more recently he has introduced me to Anton Kuerti and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. This afternoon he sent me an email suggesting I write about Brooke Ramel.

Brooke is a LA-based signer songwriter who has been performing and recording self-produced albums for the past 10 years. Her style is well-suited to small, intimate venues, and her music is honest and personal. Brooke is also a fellow alum and on the verge of a big break.

This summer she has been competing in NBC’s internet-based StarTomorrow. StarTomorrow began with 100 bands and each week fan voting has pared the field. Now 5 remain, and Brooke is one of the 5.

Take a minute to check out the finalists and vote to help Brooke win a recording contract with Warner Music. On her myspace page, Brooke has more instructions on voting, and on her official site Brooke has music clips. Jeff’s advice: vote early and often.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

a pimped out chevy silverado

I am surprised I am saying this, but I have found something almost as great as pimpstar rims: a radio controlled Chevy Silverado with full hydraulics. Pictured above, it is 1/8th scale and, in addition to the standard levers for forward/back and right/left, the remote has buttons that bounce the front suspension and lift the truck bed.

Better still, the rims have LEDs and the truck bed is tricked out with speakers. Underneath is a compartment for an mp3 player. Connect it and your RC Chevy is slammin’ some serious beats. Available from Toys R Us, the Silverado is $79.99 and sure to be popular with kids of all ages who like to roll in style.