• Wanted: MBP power brick/cable (with magnetic connector). With a new room upstairs, we need a power plug on each floor.
  • BAM! A few days ago we went straight from awful “leave the AC on” summer right into amazingly beautiful fall weather. The change always surprises me, even if it does happen every year.
  • I also forget how pleasant – or amusing, depending on the circumstance – it is watching all the new college kids and their parents tour around Boston and Cambridge each year. Important Safety Tip: do not drive your U-Haul on Storrow or Memorial Drives, no matter how much quicker it seems to be.
  • Au Bon Pain coffee cup report: Cambridgeside Galleria, one large iced coffee, fairly full. 5 minute walk. No spills. Coffee: weak. Light cream: not very good.
  • Fall plan: streaming Netflix et al on mid-sized screen. Specific suggestions for setting up low-key home theater? Should have convenience features and “just work”, but allow for occasional geeky upgrades. HDTV monitor should be small and low power. Have NAS and networking already. Is it worth springing a little extra for a PS3/360 to get games too, or just go for a newer BluRay with streamy stuff?
  • Dear Amazon: yes, I was browsing HTDVs briefly. Please refrain from sending me DAILY emails about them now.
  • Many thanks to the ASF infrastructure team for late nights and detective work on the recent hack attempt. Read more with official Apache blogs.
  • Wish I had more hacking time – the visualizations of MBTA trips are cool. Kudos to the Mass EOT and MBTA for working on better feeds.
  • R.I.P. Teddy, the Commonwealth misses you.
  • Condolences to an ASF member who lost someone recently.

2 reasons I don’t like Au Bon Pain coffee

I skipped my coffee maker this morning since I came into work early, and decided to stop at the Kendall Au Bon Pain this morning for coffee. I remembered a couple of reasons I hadn’t been drinking their coffee for a while.

It’s not that the coffee’s bad: it’s certainly no paragon of coffee perfection, but it’s a fine chain bakery brew and I do sometimes like their Hazelnut mixed with the French Roast. No, it’s two issues about their materials:

  • Light cream. They serve light cream instead of half and half. While I like my coffee with a moderate amount of half-and-half, I inevitably get the amount of light cream to add instead wrong. 90% of the time I think I’ve got it, and it turns out to be far too white and creamy. Today, I was sure I did it right: a tiny splash of light cream and enough 2% milk to make up for it: nope, now it’s not quite rich enough. Sigh.
  • Cups. ABP cups have a far higher failure rate than other local shops – more often than not while driving or walking to work, I get a steady stream of drips down the seam side of the cup, from right under the edge of the lid. Either the seams are too uneven, or the plastic lids are too inflexible. It’s disappointing, and today I forgot to wrap a napkin around the edge of the cup, and so got dripped today.

What ever happened to the old, old Au Bon Pain, back when the baguettes were really flavorful, and the croissants were rich and buttery? Were they actually better back then, or did it just feel like that because they were one of the first chains to do those foodstuffs justice locally so long ago?

(Drat! I didn’t mention the “p” word, but even though it wasn’t on my mind I talked about croissants anyway, which I suppose counts. Another statistic plus for BHD!)

The croissant-shaped brioche

It’s been that kind of week. I stopped at a cafe I’ve always liked but rarely pass by, because it was a special week. Café-au-lait because I want something different, and a croissant because they look good. Get to work, laptop refreshes for dual monitors, and dive into some work and my tasty second breakfast.
But it’s not. Tasty, that is. The café is blah, the au-lait I could have poured myself from a carton, and the croissant isn’t. It’s tasty, but it’s no croissant. I may not be French, but I’ve learned more than enough from Julia Child to know that this is actually a very trickily disguised brioche, shaped to look like a croissant. Nice, but not what I had gone out of my way for. I was actually doing the fancy second breakfasts several days this week because it was my birthday – a way of treating myself.
See, Amy was actually away on a trip on my actual birthday. When I woke up with Roxanne, I talked about it being a special day, it was my birthday. With the perfect clarity and sense that only a 3 year old has, she said no, it wasn’t – it couldn’t be my birthday without mom home. We’d just have to hold that thought until later in the week when the whole family could be here.
Hence, I sort of stretched my definition of birthday for a while, and had quite a lot of second breakfasts. Peet’s is my favorite, both for coffee and bar drinks, plus the excellent service locally (Lexington). They get snobby bakery croissants, which aren’t bad, but I usually go for their scones which are just about right on the slightly dry/crumbly side.
Today I did Au Bon Pain since I was passing by there. I opted for a croissant, since I’ve long ago bored myself of their mass-made scones. What the heck happened to Au Bon Pain’s croissants? It wasn’t even brioche, it was just vaguely buttery cooked dough shaped in a wrapped horn! Geez, I’ve had more layers in a Pillsbury Crescent roll before! Was it just me, and nostalgia for days past, or did Boston area Au Bon Pains actually used to have decent croissant? Not actual French croissants – no American chain could pull that off – but still, I recall watching The Chessmaster noshing on a nicely flaky ABP croissant in years past.
This is turning into more of a nostalgia trip than a riff on disguised bakery products, but I do remember The Chessmaster, and was glad to see he’s still there one second breakfast earlier this week. The used book shelves at the Harvard Book Store are still there, although the science fiction section is disappointingly short from the pre-Amazon days. And so many of the stores in HSq have changed! The past 6 or so years has seen a huge gentrification of the area, which is a real shame. I mean, Cardullo’s Wursthaus may not have been the healthiest place around for your wurst-mit-kraut, but it sure had an infinity more style than the stupid sunglasses and trends store they’ve got in there now. There really isn’t that much benefit to the new HSq, and there’s a lot less class and culture there now. I suppose a fair number of places are a little cleaner, though.

Now I really want some decent coffee – and a brioche-shaped brioche. Hmmm. That’ll have to wait for morning, I suppose.

I miss the web

Not so much that I miss using the web, which I do every single darn day. More that I miss working on all the cool web- and user- facing technologies that my many ASF friends talk about over on PlanetApache. My current job is both internally-focused (hence I don’t talk about it much) and mostly business process improvement and based on somewhat legacy technologies. So while it’s comfortable, and has plenty of great co-workers, it’s not quite as exciting as what I read about most days on the web.

But that’s not what I came to tell you about.

Came to talk about the draft.

Well, no, really, came to talk about my morning. Had to get the mail, so I stopped at Au Bon Pain for coffee since I really needed some. Got to my garage and stopped my car, where my coffee got knocked down, got imploded, got fallen over, got smashed up, got spilled all over. Havin’ a bad day, I was, feelin’ hung down, brung down, and all kinds of tired and blahy things.
So I walked on over to the mall about 100 yards away, and I headed into the one big chain coffee shop right next door, you know the one, with the big green lady in the circle on the 8 by 10 colored glossy sign over the shop.

I walked on in, stood on in the line, waited on up ’till I got to the counter, and I said: “Barista, I wanna wake up. I mean, I wanna be really awake. I wanna be flyin’ off the ground and bouncin’ off the walls, and pound out that work all day long. I want a triple large vendi-grande latte drink with extra this and some of that with a big old shot and more of everything else. I want it so much I want to THRILL, THRILL, THRILL.”

And the barista smilled at me, and said “You’ll get a THRILL THRILL THRILL!”

Then he said: “That’ll be $4.04 please.”

And I stopped. $4.04. 404. No wonder I’m having such a bad day today. I’m missing. Part of me is not found. Something’s gone; not sure what, can’t be that important, but it’s messin’ me all up anyway. Sigh.

So I paid the man, four singles and a nickel, and I got myself my one penny for change, and got my drink, and came on over to work to post this blog entry.

So here I am, just waitin’ for whatever it is I’ve lost to come around on the keyboard again, gettin’ ready to write my reports and build my websites and dream my little AJAXy dreams.

And I hope you have a better morning than I did today.