July 30, 2008

Great Pancakes with the Presto Cool Touch 20 Inch Electric Griddle

griddle We recently bought an electric griddle so that I could make more than one pancake at a time. After reading a few reviews, I confirmed that the 20 inch electric model from Presto was the way to go.

While it's available on Amazon.com (and here), I bought locally and got the chance to put it to use last weekend when some of the family were visiting. I was surprised and impressed by how quickly and evenly it heated. But that was really just the beginning.

It turns out that this little electric wonder makes pancakes that light, fluffy, and far more evenly cooked than anything I've even been able to do on the stove top. And to put icing on the cake, the manual provides temperature settings so that you can cook a few dozen other things: eggs, sausage, bacon, and so on.

The non-stick coating is trivial to clean and the grease catcher appears to do it's job well too.

In summary, if you ever find yourself needing to make pancakes for more than a couple people at once, get yourself an electric griddle!

Damn, now I'm hungry for a pancake...

Posted by jzawodn at 07:42 AM

July 22, 2008

Congrats to Chad Dickerson on his new gig!

News is out today that Chad Dickerson is leaving Yahoo! to become the CTO of Etsy in New York. That's fantasic news and I wish him the best of luck. Having made a similar decision myself, I know it's not easy.

How time flies. I still remember interviewing Chad on the phone a few years back and talking about some experiences we had in common: using Perl to wrangle news and content feeds from varous partners and so on. It didn't take long to realize he'd be a great addition to Yahoo. That turned out to be quite the understatement. :-)

Chad and I worked together in various capacities for a few years at Yahoo! and he truly made a mark there, kicking off Hack Days, helping put the Yahoo! Developer Network on the right track, and generally kicking ass. Seriously. Ask anyone who worked with Chad.

I know this will be a big loss for Yahoo! and Brickhouse but it will be an even bigger gain for Chad and Etsy.

My only regret is that we didn't get to work together longer.

Good luck, Chad! And welcome to the ex-Yahoo! club.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:30 PM

Settling in to a New Environment at Craigslist

Wifi networks visible from the Craigslist Annex Yesterday was my first day as an employee at craiglist. Several folks on Twitter asked how it was, so here are my thoughts.

First off, it was a bit like a first day anywhere. I had several new people to meet, a bunch of paperwork to fill out for benefits and payroll stuff, and started to get an overview of how things work.

Unlike jobs in larger organizations, I had the pleasure of un-boxing and setting up my chair, desktop, and laptop computers. There's no "IT group" to do this stuff and that's perfectly fine with me. That's just one of the ways the size difference between a company of less than 30 people becomes apparent when you're used to well over 10,000. Specialization just can't take hold in a smaller group like that.

Aside from a new job and new people and new computer(s), I'm also in a newish office that's referred to as "the annex." It's just down the street from the main craigslist office but isn't nearly as full yet.

Unlike Yahoo, there are many, many places to eat within a very short walk from the office. To get a sense of how dense an area I'm in, check out all the wifi networks visible from my desk. At Yahoo, we were in a corporate campus environment, so all you saw were Yahoo networks.

At the end of yesterday, I'd setup the bare minimum stuff on my new laptop (a 15.4" ThinkPad T61 running Ubuntu), desktop (also running Ubuntu), many accounts and passwords, email access, an IRC client for our internal channel, got wiki access, and a few other bits.

I'm looking forward to learning what makes things tick and how I can make the better. I'm already getting a sense for the challenges we face in running such a popular service with a small team.

Honestly, it's a refreshing change from the larger environments that I've worked in before. Plus, the commute wasn't as bad as I expected yesterday. Thanks to all the tips and advice I got last time, I headed up with the right expectations. That makes a difference.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:20 AM

July 17, 2008

The Truth about Web Navigation

In Will Mainstream Users Ever Learn About The Browser's Address Bar?, Marshall probes a bit into how people use the browser's search box vs. the address bar.

A lot of people seem surprised to learn that tons of people every day are "searching" for ebay.com or aol.com or just "ebay" or "aol" even though they can type those things into their address bar and get exactly what they want.

I think part of the problem is the myth perpetuated by the search companies themselves. They all know that the top search terms every year are not "britney spears" or "ipone" or whatever.

They're domain names or domain names without the .com on the end of them. Lots of people search Google every day for "yahoo." People search Yahoo for "google." And AOL. And eBay. And so on.

They all filter out those "navigational" queries when reporting those things. I'm not sure who they're trying to protect by doing so, but I certainly could speculate.

Everyone in the search business seems to mostly get this. The folks at those big destinations (like eBay) know this too. They have logs. But the rest of the techie population on-line seems to believe that normal people use the web the same we do.

They don't. And they never will.

Get it through your collective heads, please.

People don't get DNS, domain names, or the difference between searching and direct navigation. And since they all know what it means "to google" that's exactly what they do. You can either accept that or deny the truth.

That's why you're seeing numbers like this every quarter.

This ends today's reality check. Please go back to trying to change the world by explaining what the address bar is for. :-)

Oh, here's a bonus tip: normal people can't tell the difference between AdSense style ads and all the other links on most web sites. And almost the same number don't know what "sponsored results" on the Search Results Page are either. It's just a page of links to them. They click the ones that look like they'll get them what they want. It's that simple.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:21 PM

July 14, 2008

Weight Based Pricing of Airline Tickets

Ever since fuel prices have been on the rise, I've wondered why airlines don't price tickets based on weight rather than the current system where pricing is related to factors that few of us understand.

I mean, really, if it costs more to fly a 300 pound person than a 180 pound person, why shouldn't the 300 pound person pay more?

And by "300 pound person" I'm including the 200 pound person that brings 100 pounds of baggage along. That costs money to fly too.

We're sort of headed in that direction with extra costs for extra bags, but why not just go all the way? Make the pricing fair. Airlines can compete on a dollars per pound from point A to point B.


Clearly the airlines are desperate to save weight.

This might encourage people to pack less junk. That's save fuel costs, baggage handline time, and so on. It might even encourage frequent flies to think twice about eating that Cinnabon "treat" before getting on board.

Would that be so bad?

After all, when it comes to buying gas at the pump for our cars, we each pay for what we use. The people who are moving heavier loads (either themselves or their cars) buy more gas and the gas stations "compete" on a dollars per gallon basis. There's no flat fee to fill up a car based on when you decided you need to fill up.

Same with electricity. And water. And so many other things in life.

Let's pay the actual cost and no pretend that moving a 12 year old across country uses the same amount of fuel as her overweight 48 year old father.

Have there been airlines that tried this in the past? Did they end up only flying supermodels and skinny people around? Did people pack less baggage?

Update: See the comments on FriendFeed too.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:11 PM

July 10, 2008

Congrats to Yahoo! on the BOSS Launch

One of the more ambitious projects in the works when I left Yahoo was BOSS, a more open Yahoo! Search for developers and publishers. I see that BOSS launched today and wanted to say congrats to my friends in the Yahoo! Developer Network and Yahoo! Search.

Marshall Kirkpatrick said it well in his ReadWrite Web post today:

It is clear, though, that BOSS falls well within the company's overall technical strategy of openness. When it comes to web standards, openness and support for the ecosystem of innovation - there may be no other major vendor online as strong as Yahoo! is today. These are times of openness, where some believe that no single vendor's technology and genius alone can match the creativity of an empowered open market of developers. Yahoo! is positioning itself as leader of this movement.

Well done.

Keep on pushing...

Posted by jzawodn at 07:26 AM

July 09, 2008

This is a test

This is a test document from google docs.

I decided to try this procedure to see if it worked for my old MT blog install. Sure enough, it seems to.

Kick ass. Sort of.

You see, I'm not sure I really want to write my blog posts in Google Docs. But it's nice to know that I can do this if I want to.

Anyone else tried this yet?

Hmm, checking the source, it seems that there's some funky stuff getting inserted in here. I'll have to see what I can do to clean that. For some reason, paragraph <p> tags don't appear anywhere. It seems to use break <br> tags instead. That's annoying.
Posted by jzawodn at 08:15 PM

Grilled Tuna Steaks Recipe

Yesterday night I made grilled tuna for the first time. And the consensus is that the results were mighty fine. So good, in fact, that paying restaurant prices for the fish was still worth it. (Yeah, tuna is a bit more pricy than I expected...)

Grilled Tuna

Here's what you need to make the marinade spread:

4 peeled garlic cloves
1 tablespoon coarse salt (sea salt)
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (possibly more)
4 tuna steaks (6-8 ounces each, roughly 1 inch thick)
8 bay leaves

And how to do it:

  1. Combine the garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil in a mortar and grind it into a paste with pestle. Add the olive oil a bit at a time until you achieve the consistency o of a spreadable paste.
  2. Rinse the tuna steaks under cold water and blot dry with a paper towel. Then cover both sides of the tuna with the marinade paste. Put the tuna into a small baking dish or pan and add the extra olive oil. Flip the tuna to get oil on both sides and then add a bay leaf to the top and bottom side of each tuna steak.
  3. Cover the tuna steaks and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

Finally, cooking instructions:

Rinse and dry the tuna steaks and then apply a little olive oil to both sides. Pre-heat the grill for high heat, brush oil onto the grill, and begin grilling the tuna. After 2 minutes, rotate the steaks 45 to 90 degrees for cosmetic grill marks. Grilling will take a total of 4-6 minutes on each side depending on thickness and taste.

The final product (once sampled) looks like this:

Grilled Tuna

And it's quite good. :-)


See Also: Using a 20 Pound Propane Tank with the Weber Baby Q Grill

Posted by jzawodn at 07:10 AM

July 07, 2008

Crazy Yosemite Squirrel

A few weeks ago we ended up hiking the Mirror Lake Trail in Yosemite National Park and encountered an amusing little squirrel near the end of the trial. I just happened to have finished filming a deer that walked nearby, so I pointed the Canon SD800 at the little furball to see if he'd perform.

Sure enough, he did. Check out the video.

I have no idea if this is common or not, but we were all amused at the little stretching thing he did at the ~40 second mark.

I also have some good photos of that hike (and the visit to Glacier Point) that should be coming online soon. Watch my Flickr photostream.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:16 AM

July 04, 2008

First Flight of Cirrus The Jet

the jet Cirrus Design, the makers of the revolutionary SR-20 and SR-22 light airplanes, have flown their first VLJ (Very Light Jet) prototype: The Jet V1.

Given the reputation that Cirrus Design has created for itself, "The Jet" is a highly anticipated jet. The all-new design should appeal to pilots of existing Cirrus aircraft looking to upgrade, as well as those currently flying aging twins which have high operating costs and slower cruise speeds.

AVweb covered the story in this video and this article.

The video is included below.

It'll be interesting to see if they're able to hit all the price and performance targets they set out at the beginning of The Jet development. In the meantime, anyone have $1.5 million I can borrow to get one? :-)

It occurs to me that there's a lot of development and excitement on both ends of the general aviation (GA) spectrum: light sport aircraft on the low end and VLJs on the high end. Hopefully fuel prices don't cut too deeply.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:33 AM

July 03, 2008

A Day of Glider Extremes

A couple weekends ago we experienced a pair of glider extremes at Hollister on Saturday: one very short flight and one very long flight.

The short one, unfortunately, was us. Kathleen and I headed down to fly the BASA Grob 103 on what was predicted to be an epic soaring day. And it was. Unfortunately, we got there a bit late and the weather had already developed quite a bit more than we expected.

We towed toward the east hills and got off around 6,000 feet in what seemed like decent lift. But it was hard to stay with it and the high clouds from over-development in the Santa Cruz Mountains were quickly spreading. That blocked out the majority of sunlight and shut down most of the lift. We quickly went from "wow, this is going to be a good day" to "gee, let's see if we can find enough lift to keep from having to land soon."

Before long, we were getting low and had to head back to the airport. But there was one big a problem. A wall of clouds and rain was approaching from the west and brought a wall of dust on the ground to match. There was a very visible gust front headed directly toward the airport. Folks on the radio were advising pilots to stay away because of the 30 knot crosswind.

We were getting so low at that point that I didn't like the idea of flying back through possible sink and a definite headwind just to land at an unsafe airport. Luckily we were just a few miles from the private Christensen airport, so I put the nose down and headed straight to the runway at maneuvering speed (Va). No pattern. I knew where the wind was and decided to land downhill but into the wind.

All the the while, we were watching lightning strikes in the Santa Cruz Mountains from the approaching storm--some of which started a few of the 1,000+ wild fires that have burned so much of the California countryside.

Anyway, before long we were on the ground and sitting in the glider while the storms passed. And after the fun passed, I got on the phone to call for a retrieve.

Waiting for a Retrieve

This goes down in my book as my shortest (distance and time) cross country flight. Ever.


More pictures available in my Christensen Landout on Flickr.

And for something completely different...

In related but much better news, Hollister glider pilot Eric Rupp set a new distance record the same day, flying his DG-300 glider from Hollister to Calexico, California--right on the Mexico border. This amazing 782.66 kilometer flight has been the subject of much planning and speculation until Eric finally pulled it off. It was an amazing combination of great weather, timing, and piloting.

You can see flight details on OLC and his SPOT Satellite Messenger kept the rest of us informed on the ground while he was flying.

Eric's epic flight was covered a bit in the press as well:

Congrats to Eric on an amazing and inspiring flight.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:48 AM

July 02, 2008

Two Tech Jobs: Technology Evangelist and Network Operations

I've been getting lots of inquiries from recruiters recently looking to find good people for various tech companies. Two in particular might be interesting if you're in the market or know someone who is.

Technology Evangelist at New York City Based Startup

If you saw Fred Wilson's post Are You A Connector?, you know a bit about this job already. It's a NYC based startup developing a new platform in an area that's likely to see serious growth in the next few years.

They're looking for someone with coding experience who loves showing other developers and users how stuff works: on stage, via blogs, in screencasts, and so on. It's important that this person have a technical (programming) background and also be very comfortable getting in front of people to demo and speak.

The company is New York based and this job is too. However, I'm told that a Bay Area candidate may work as well, since a presence here will be important. Otherwise, I'm sure that frequent travel to the Bay Area will be part of the gig.

The company is still a bit stealthy but more information will be forthcoming soon.

Ping me if you're interested and I'll put you in touch.

Network/Systems Administrator at Rapleaf in San Francisco

The folks at Rapleaf ping me from time to time looking for talented engineers too. Here's the description of the position they're currently hiring for.

Rapleaf is a well-funded San Francisco startup (we’re currently at 15 people). We gather publicly available information from the social web on hundreds of millions of people to enable developers and companies to give their consumers a better user experience. Rapleaf has built the largest portable social graph in the world. We provide rich insight on customers for clients such as retailers, airlines, hotel chains, social networks, lead gen firms, telcos, political campaigns, financial services, and more (these companies learn about their consumers in order to give them a better user experience). The company has processed over 175 million unique searches for businesses and consumers.
You will maintain Rapleaf’s entire infrastructure and enhance the system to do great things as we’re on the trajectory to change the world. Helping grow one of the largest and most complex databases for a small start-up.


  • Manage all Rapleaf servers (Linux – CentOS, Redhat), backups, web servers (Apache clusters)
  • Manage relationship with hosting provider and hardware vendors
  • Scalability and expansion (Hadoop)
  • Systems administration (DNS,LDAP,NFS,TCP/IP,SELinux)
  • Some scripting (Shell, Ruby, Python, or Perl)
  • Administer MySQL databases (multi-master replication, snapshot backups)
  • Learn how to scale with Ruby on Rails
  • Manage complex Java systems
  • Manage billions of data items of pages being served
  • On-call duty
Note: this job is really hard. You’ll be working with some of the top search engineers in the world and they are going to expect that you kick ass. We’re doing things that no one has ever done before and solving problems that have been open for years.


  • Master of all things Internet and Linux.
  • Incredibly smart, can learn fast, and takes no prisoners
  • Learn new platforms fast. We use Ruby on Rails and Java … you can pick this up quickly.
  • Intensely driven and proactive person.
  • Extremely hard working. This is a start-up - team members work long hours.
  • Quick learner and real doer. Err on execution over strategy.
  • Thrive on working with A-players. Too good to spend long hours with B-players.
  • Likeable person who garners respect on and off the job.
  • Thrive on chaos, risk, and uncertainty.
  • Should be easy to get along with, nice, fun, smart, ethical, and low-maintenance.
  • Strong desire to build a more ethical society.
  • Desire to be an early employee and want to be a real owner in Rapleaf’s future.
  • Want to work with extremely large datasets and indirectly build portable APIs that thousands of other companies can build applications on top of.
  • Ability to lift and install servers (50 lbs)
  • Should want to live in or near San Francisco (relocation available if necessary)


  • Good salary/stock compensation.
  • Personal MacBook Pro or Linux based machine
  • Medical insurance, 401k.
  • Kitchen stocked with food
  • Work with some of the smartest engineers
  • Contribute to the Rapleaf Dev blog (http://blog.rapleaf.com/dev/)

Again, ping me if you're interested or know someone who might be. I'll make an introduction for you.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:16 PM