35% off eBay with Microsoft Live.com

Amazing, but true. For a limited time, and with a LOT of hoops:

FatWallet thread

Essentially, you must:

  • have a live.com account
  • link it to your PayPal account
  • search in live to get to eBay through a graphic
  • find a BuyItNow item
  • verify your credit before you commit
  • pay with PayPal
  • wait 60 days for the credit

But it’s a great deal!

Gift cards are popping up fast – lots of smart sellers are listing things to make part of that 35%. But they go down fast too.

3G iPhone: Will I use other GPS?

Here’s a list of the GPS receivers I currently have and use:

  • Garmin Forerunner 205: Great running watch, with current readouts, plus I download info from runs into my Mac. Then I keep a history on my Mac and get full stats.
  • In car navigation (x2 – my car and my wife’s both have it). This costs almost $2K per car, and, frankly, it’s not amazing. The screens are big, but I doubt I’d get it in my next car.
  • Garmin Nuvi: Shared purchase, we trade it around for use on trips.

But I also have an iPhone, and I’m likely to get a new iPhone 2.0 like the rest of the six million users out there. So, since it’ll have real GPS, with Google Maps, no less (the best, to me), will I use these others? It seems that their functionality should all be easy to replicate on the iPhone, maybe with some App Store intervention.

The running functionality should be a snap. The only issue is the display – I can’t really wear the iPhone on my wrist to get current info. So maybe it’ll be good (I’ll check my situation less often) or maybe I’ll get an armstrap – this is all assuming someone writes a running app.

The car functionality should be easily replicable with the iPhone. It’ll probably even be better.

The Nuvi does have some unique features, like the ability to set points of interest for trips. But, again, I’m guessing someone (maybe Garmin?) will build that into an iPhone app.

My guess is, the rest of the GPS world just got dealt a sizable blow here.

We were up at Tenaya Lodge near the south entrance to Yosemite this weekend. The area around the place is beautiful, but some architect made some really bad decisions at this place.

Essentially, unless you book very, very early, this is the only place around that will have rooms available. There’s a reason for this: it’s pretty expensive, and not that nice.

The setting is a hill in the mountains, totally denuded of trees (in a very, very dense forest). The building takes no awareness of the land into account – no views, no tucked-in parts, nothing. Just a big building surrounded by parking lots.

I could complain forever, but I should say that for $320 a night, you’d expect a room to be ready for you during normal check-in times (it wasn’t), or that the staff would be nice about it (they told us to go walk around and come back to see when our room would be ready). You’d also expect not to be nickle-and-dimed for things like WiFi ($9.95 per device, not room, so be careful on your iPhone) and games ($6.95/hour for the Lodgenet nonsense on the CRT TV). But, strangely, valet parking is free.

The indoor pool was totally sterile (really just plain ugly), and at the outdoor pool you have to withstand blaring Muzak. It’s really, really loud.

Anyway, the one saving grace was a great running trail. I found it by running south on the highway and ducking in the next road below the place, but there’s also a road out the backside of Tenaya that gets you there. Most signs highlight the horseback riding a mile down – if you see that, you’re in the right place. It’s a dirt road that goes, I think, 13 miles. I didn’t go all the way down. But it’s rolling, and gorgeous, so if you’re looking for a run in those parts, it’s a good place to hit.

Sadly, no pictures. I honored that provision of the venue’s policies. I also poured my red wine into a Nalgene container (#2 – HDPE) so as not to attempt bringing a wine bottle in. But onto the music:

One of the main reasons I went was to see Elvis. I’m a longtime Elvis fan, and, as much as I like The Police, Elvis was top draw for me. Unfortunately, Elvis didn’t get the respect he deserved.

I arrived about fifteen minutes late, at 7:45, and heard “Pump It Up” blasting through the speakers. I knew they wouldn’t play a song from a band that would be on later the same night, so I realized Elvis was already on. Just fifteen minutes after the appointed start time? Things have changed since I used to go to shows, I guess. Or the entertainers are just getting older. I wasn’t expecting anything until 8:30 at the earliest. I figured 7:45 would be all-clear of good music. Unfortunately, so did everyone else. Elvis don’t get no respect.

Since the Bowl is basically known for picnicking, among other recreational activities, people were milling around, eating, drinking, setting up, going off to the sides to smoke, cleaning up their meals, etc. All the while, Elvis belted it out.

He played with the Impostors, who include Steve Nieve. They did some old stuff (Peace, Love, and Understanding) and some songs off Momofuku. Then Sting came out and did “My Aim is True” with Elvis. 

The biggest problem with that part of the show was the sound. They must have optimized the acoustics for The Police, because Elvis basically sounded like shit out there. I could barely make out some of the music. I was praying that The Police’s sound quality would be better – and it was.

So then, while the sun was still up, Elvis ended his set.

A bit later, The Police came out. Nice, casual start (can’t remember the exact song). Lighting was great – lots of effects reminiscent of Ghost in the Machine art. The set was very well designed, and, as mentioned above, the sound quality was pretty excellent at this point.

They played tons of the good hits: Roxanne, Every Breath You Take, Don’t Stand So Close To Me, De Do Do Do De Da Da Da, Wrapped Around Your Finger, etc. I was a bit surprised that they played not a single song from Sting’s solo albums.

Sting looked pretty good. Not as full of energy as in the old days, but vibrant, engaged, and interested. Andy is really getting old. I guess he’s about ten years older than the other two guys, and it shows. He still has his skill as a guitar player, but his face is pretty much frozen in place, and he looks like he has to concentrate pretty hard to make it happen. Still – the talent is there.

But Stewart killed me. I can’t imagine that the guy hasn’t seem some footage of himself and worked on his look a little bit. But I guess our dear president still says ‘nucular’ and he’s got an army of attendants. Stewart looks like some kid who grew up too fast and ended up as a real estate agent, but always wanted to jam on the drums. Again, the guy is very talented – without question. But the super-tight black jeans, the sweatband (probably needed), the hair, the printed t-shirt, and, most of all, the facial expressions practically killed me with laughter.

The showed ended with a few encores. Right out of some live album that I’ve heard a million times, Sting started introducing the band in the end of Every Breath You Take, “And on guitar, Mr. Andy Summers . . .”

This guy really nailed it – you’ve gotta check out his post (and the pictures are pretty good too). I don’t think I’ll be able to keep from laughing next time I’m there . . .

Salumi Cured Meats – Ordering Pork Online

I mentioned last week that I was awaiting a shipment from Salumi Cured Meats – Mario Batali’s father’s salumeria in Seattle. I was on the waiting list for four months (that’s right) and it finally arrived. I’m not sure which item held it up, but I think it was the guanciale.

I was a little surprised about how the shipment was packed. In my previous pork orders, the meat arrived in styrofoam boxes full of ice packs. The meat was cold each time. In this box, the meat was just wrapped in butcher paper, and stuck in the box, and shipped two-day. And mine arrived on a very hot day – I could smell the meat before I opened the box.

So I broke it open at work, and basically the meat was glistening from the melting fat. I ordered three products: the salumi salami, the finocchiona salami, and the guanciale. I haven’t used the guanciale yet.

We all gathered round and sliced into the salamis. First, we hit the salumi, and that remains my favorite. There is a big flavor of mellow garlic, and then a host of other spices that add a wonderful depth. On the website, they list ginger as one of these – that makes sense given the flavor. It’s hard to place overall, but it’s rich and delicious.

The finocchiona is also a great salami, but very different. This is a spicy log full of black pepper (cracked, but hardly) and fennel flavor – probably both pollen and seeds. It’s a very, very full flavor, and spicy enough that you can’t really taste whatever you eat next unless you give it a while.

So I’ll probably get on the list again for more salumi, and I’ll try some other logs next time. I’ll be back in four months with more – and I can’t wait to make a carbonara with the guanciale.

Did it – Pork Belly #1

It’s definitely a little scary to contemplate, but I did it. I cooked my first piece of pork belly.

I ordered from Niman Ranch, an eight pound slice of pork belly. It came as a super-flat, fatty slab. One side was solid white – not even a trace of meat there. In cross section, it was clearly the same cut as bacon.

So I cut it up into eight roughly even portions. I froze seven. One entered the fridge.

Last night I mixed kosher salt, a lot of fresh ground pepper, and some ground coriander seed, and then I rubbed it all over the piece in the fridge, and put it back in for the night.

Tonight, I roasted it. It’s definitely a work-in-progress, but it was pretty delish.

First, I heated a pan, added olive oil, and fried the top and bottom for about seven minutes each. Then I took the chunk out, and added some leeks, onions, carrots, garlic, potatoes, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Most recipes said I would toss the veggies later, but I figured I’d eat them. In the end, the recipes were right – only the leeks had any flavor left. So the potatoes were a waste, since they likely didn’t add anything to the flavor (maybe they thickened it a little? doubtful).

After the veggies were cooked down a bit, I nestled the pork belly back in, skin/fat side up. Then I poured some white wine in until it was about halfway up the meat, put a lid on it, and put it in a 325 degree oven for about two hours, basting it maybe every forty minutes.

Then, I scooped out all of the veggies (tried, really tried to eat them, but flavorless largely) and raised the temp to 450, and put the meat back in, higher in the oven, and no lid. I wanted a crispy top, but I didn’t quite get it.

When I took it out after about ten more minutes, the top had a beautiful golden color, and the fat that rendered made a thick sauce with the other pan remnants.

I cut the piece in two to give a hunk to my son. Then I plated and poured the pan drippings over top. Here’s how it looked:





Next piece: broil the top longer at the end to get something crispy happening. Maybe more flavor overall. Consider Asian spices: ginger, soy, miso, etc. Otherwise, clove and cinnamon could be good. Or dried fruits.

Main surprise: the overall sweetness of the food. I don’t know where it came from – maybe the onions – but it was just a really sweet piece of meat.

Ordering Pork Online

Maybe it’s because I was once a vegetarian (can’t even imagine that now) or maybe that I just want to get the economy moving again, but I’ve taken to ordering pork products online.

I first ordered from a place in Berkeley called Framani. They sell a line of sausages and salamis and related products. I ordered three packages of various sausages, which I haven’t tried yet. But I also got the dry salami and the chorizo.

The dry salami is pretty standard hard salami. It’s got a firm texture and a nice garlicky flavor. It’s good, but given the costs of ordering online with shipping, I’m not sure I’d run to get it again.

The chorizo, though, is really good. Firmer, still, than the salami, and with a lot more flavor of paprika and other spices. This is something I actually think about during the day, wanting to get home and have a slice. I’ll likely reorder or see if I can find it locally.

Next, I ordered from Niman Ranch. I’m more familiar with their meats since they often carry them at Trader Joe’s, and many local restaurants also feature them by name. I like that most of their beef seems to be grass-fed (although it’s hard to figure that out on the website). I also like that they at least claim their pork is “natural” although I’m not too sure that that means much, frankly.

I ordered some sausages (in the freezer for later) and a pork belly. This thing is a little scary. I knew what I was getting into, but it’s still going to take some work. I keep having it at restaurants, and it’s so delicious (with all of that fat, how could it not be?) that I’ve just wanted to try it myself. But I can’t find it locally, so I ordered.

As you can see from the cross section, it’s the same meat that would become bacon. This is just the raw version, skin on.

I bought about an eight pound piece, so I cut it up into eight individual pieces and froze seven. I’ll try to cook the first one this week and report back. I’m thinking of roasting it with dried cherries.

Finally, I have an order coming soon from Salumi Cured Meats. You might have heard of this place since it’s owned by Mario Batali’s father. Turns out, lots of people have heard of it. The waiting list is nuts. I ordered a guanciale and two salumi in January, and they’re just getting shipped tomorrow. I’ll report back on this – and then if it’s good, you’ve got to get your place in line, fast!

The Blog Recap – Popular Posts

Well, my fledging blog here really gets just a trickle of traffic, but I’ve been watching carefully to see what’s popular. Clearly, two posts I wrote stand out. They’ve gotten the most views, and the most (but pitifully few) comments. They are:

Superior Subscriptions and Buying Magazine Subscriptions on eBay – Seems I was a little naive here, most likely. While the idea seemed good, and many happy people did buy subscriptions on eBay, eBay shut this down soon after I posted, and even told me to try to get my money back. I did, in fact, get my money back from PayPal. I don’t yet know for sure if I did or didn’t get the magazine renewal. But in any event, enough people got scammed to lead them to my blog post to see what I had to say. Everyone was nice – but basically said I was an idiot. Seems that was pretty accurate; I’m sorry if anyone followed this advice to their peril. Then again, if anyone took the idea and did well, great! One thing I learned here is that PayPal’s protections really work – I got my money back with very, very little effort. So always pay by PayPal or credit card if possible; that way, you get some recourse in the event the situation turns unfortunate.

Infiniti G35, FX35, and Maybe Nissan 350Z Exhaust Noise – I guess whining and complaining is really what I do best, and it seems I tapped a nerve with this one. And now, these cars bug me even more. Here’s the idea: these were tuned to make tons of noise, perhaps to make it seem that the drivers of these vehicles are too cool for school. I think it’s just plain-old noise pollution. Apparently, so do many others (including, it turns out, some owners). So Nissan and Infiniti: Why not offer an option? Disturbingly noisy, or quiet? It seems crazy that you’re putting cars on the road emitting any more noise than need be. Please stop!

OK – that’s my wrap up. As I check my stats, I see that my info about Freedom Financial Partners is gaining ground here . . . 


Tierra Miguel CSA Box Update

Just an update here on what I’ve been receiving from my Tierra Miguel Farms Community Sponsored Agriculture box. Frankly, I feel like it’s a little light this week considering the $40 price tag. It’s generally all very delicious (the strawberries this week are amazing, and the avocados last week were luscious). But I had the idea that starting in the Spring, I’d be getting more produce. Instead, the size has shrunk since the winter.

Here’s a pic of my latest box’s contents:

The include jar of honey looks pretty good . . . that’s the first time I’ve received something processed in my box.