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Month: August 2007

not webvan, but rather AMAZON FRESH

One of the advantages to working at Google up in Kirkland is, well, everyone’s pretty much from either Amazon or Microsoft. This means easy access to the Microsoft Company Store (though I already had that), and, most recently, a beta invite to Amazon Fresh, their new grocery delivery service.

My first thought was, “Hasn’t this idea already failed?” And my second thought was, “Guess it’s about time to sell that Amazon stock I have.”

The brilliant thing Amazon did (and I doubt they did it for this reason) is offered up some produce, specifically apples, for 10 cents. The whole problem I have with online grocery shopping is that you can’t pick your own produce. I would fully expect bruised apples or, at minimum, not the crunchy ones I so long for. But, at ten cents, I figured I could order ten and at least get a few good ones. And even if I didn’t, heck, it’s a buck.

As such, I picked up 10 apples each of 4 types: Granny Smith, Fuji, Braeburn, and Jazz. I had not heard of Jazz apples before, but again, 10 cents.

I also picked up a pineapple, a clove of garlic, and some chicken breast, to see what their meat was like.

They offer delivery, but unfortunately, not in my area. Fortunately they have a pick-up point only two blocks from where I work (though not in the direction of home – otherwise I could see actually using this very often). I place an order, it’s fulfilled somewhere in Seattle, shipped to this “store front,” and I pick it up. The whole process is supposed to take 4 hours, though mine was ready in 3 (which I found out because they called me, to let me know and also asked if I needed directions. Way more customer support than I’d expect on a $9 order, which is mostly apples).

I got a little lost trying to find the “store” – it’s pretty small since it’s just a front desk, and an employee-only area which has what appears to be two gigantic freezers (fridges?). The lady at the desk, incredibly nice, said they were getting more signs put up. Apparently, they had just opened Wednesday, so, I cut them a bit of slack on their find-ability.

She scuttled off to find my 4 bags (this is the first inkling I got that maybe I ordered too many apples), stating that if I had parked closer they load the bags into the car themselves. I figured I could handle the apples.

Anyway, this is what I ended up picking up (click the images, especially the second one, for closeups):

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Impressed by the sheer volume of apples, I knew I had to weigh them and see how many applies I ended up getting for $4.

It ended up about 18 pounds and some change. That is a lot of apples. Not only that, they’re good. They are firm, unbrused, and really, really big. (Sadly, the price of apples has gone up! They are now about 80 cents each).

Plus, I have grocery bags with Amazon’s logo on them. That’s pretty cool.

It’s a bit weird to buy things how you do – per apple, or per 1 lb of meat (I only ordered 1 lb of chicken, but I assume if I had ordered more, it still would have been individually packed per pound. Which, I should mention, is actually pretty nice). The interface is somewhat nice, though you can’t browse sales, and I sure do love a sale. The prices ranged from good (apples, chicken) to average to bad (for some reason, bone-in chicken was twice the cost as boneless, when it is typically half. Most of the beef is fairly expensive, too). The service was great, and the quality was as well. It was amazingly convenient as well.

So, yes. I think I will purchase from them again, especially if they expand their delivery area out to Redmond.

webcomics can lead to literary pursuits; read ‘name of the wind’

I tend to like Science Fiction and Fantasy books, simply because they tend to be a bit more imaginative and easier to read. Plus, to be honest, I like wizards. Come on, they’re wizards! What’s not to like? The long gray beards, pointy hats, and fashionable robes…

Unfortunately, a lot of fantasy is puffed up, boring, and uninterestingly vain. Writers so in love with this world they’ve created that they feel the need to lecture you on it.

Anyway, ever since I struggled through Lord of the Rings I’ve had a way to disambiguate fantasy I’ll like, versus fantasy that is boring. It is a simple test and has a very good accuracy.

Simply flip through the first few pages of the book, before the book proper begins. If there is a map there, I hope you haven’t bought the book already. If you have, sorry, you’re screwed and in for a very, very boring time.

So for the past 5 or so years I’ve had a phobia causing me to avoid books with maps. The mere thought of an atlas chilled me to my bone. It was all going well, until I read a review of “Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss on RealLifeComics (an excellent comic). He gave a short but basically glowing review so I ordered a copy on Amazon.

Now Amazon has a great feature called “Look Inside The Book” that lets one peruse a few pages (typically, the first few, and then an excerpt) of a book. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available, so I didn’t get to check for a map.

(One aside – the novel has two different covers. Amazon, at the time, was featuring the version I can only refer to as “the homoerotic cover,” so I ordered from Buy.com, where I hoped to get the “non homoerotic cover.” It’s not that there’s anything wrong with homoeroticism, it’s just not for me)

Anyway, the book comes – and it’s quite a long book, especially considering it is the first of a trilogy. It’s about 700 pages long, and when I flip it open, I notice the first page is nothing but a map.

“This,” I proclaimed out loud, “does not bode well.” Immediately I imagined being lectured on the finer points of some random language some bushy-bearded dude thought up in his mom’s basement while the main character goes for a THREE BOOK WALK THROUGH THE WOODS.

(Another aside – nothing wrong with living in your mom’s basement, especially if it has its own bathroom).
(One more aside – I think the last harry potter book was a homage to lord of the rings, in that Harry goes on a 300 page CAMPING adventure. I wondered why there were no book liner notes on Book 7; it was simply a technical decision because the summary would have read “Harry and friends go camping” and it’s hard to fluff that up to fill an entire book liner).

I actually put the book off further and read the Midnighter’s trilogy instead. After those books, I looked back at the giant tome and decided reading it would clear the most space in my cabinet of books to read.

It is, simply put, fantastic. I encourage you to ignore the fact that the first page is a map, and pick up a copy of this novel. It is smooth, well-polished, and somehow, for a 700 page book, not even remotely wordy or redundant. The author doesn’t spend words telling you fluff or things you don’t need to know.

The book’s story is hard to explain or describe – you learn of this character who is, for reasons unknown to you, legendary and presumed dead. He goes by an assumed name, living as someone else, until a scribe comes and asks for his story. The majority of the novel is him telling that story, with brief interludes into the current time.

Pick up a copy and read it – then thank me I suggested it to you.

//TODO(jimr): blog about this stuff

– Gnomedex Part 2
– PAX, including a picture of my new laptop decal
– Shootin’
– Casino time
– Segway funtime
– Dancin’ and Dancin’ Shoes
– Little dog that pees on all my things
– Segway 2 and the near death of an intern
– My new helicopter
Amazon FRESH
Bookin’: why you need to read “The Name of the Wind.” This will be short and only consist of me saying “You need to read ‘The Name of the Wind.'”

Gnomedex part 1

I know what you want to hear about: FREE STUFF I GOT.

Google happened to have an extra ticket to Gnomedex, a local blogger convention (thanks to Vanessa Fox for quitting!). Because it is a pretty small conference, there was some quite-good swag:

HD-DVD copy of “The Bourne Supremacy” (this will most likely be a Christmas gift for my brother, Chris), courtesy of HP
Assorted notebooks from HP and Google (including a holographic Google Earth notepad which is pretty neat).
Gnomedex badge with a hole punched in it (not sure why)
Yahoo Developer Network Mug
Gnomedex pin and sticker
Zillow Pen
B5 Media Telescopic Pen (neatish but more or less useless)
Edgeio 2 GB rather-small USB drive (nifty!) complete with a Gnomedex logo on it.
Something from ZenZui but I have no idea what. Maybe a monitor wipe? Hankey? Seriously, no idea.
Gnomedex bag
LapWorks laptop desk
HP Shirt (Size: Large)
“I blog, therefore I am” shirt from Emma Email Marketing (very hard to find logo on the shirt!) (Size: XL, but it’s American Apparel so it should come close to fitting)
Zillow Shirt (Size: Medium, and would only have fit 1 person at entire conference, Chris Pirillo, the host, who is diminutive).
Gnomedex shirt (Size: SMALL!)

I’ll be posting a blog later on what I thought – some of the presentations were really great, some not so great, and one a giant advert.

Anyway – time to roll around in my free stuff.