Caffeine Peter Colijn

April 09, 2007 (link)
On Expectations

dcoombs: aren't you forgetting the part where there is some "issue" halfway through the journey and the train stops for 3 hours while you sit around in tedious boredom wondering just how late you're going to be? That's generally what I expect when I ride Via.

April 15, 2007 (link)

Our Industry

I don't think I've mentioned this before, but I tend to be a champion of getting more women interested in computer science. As Larry Page puts it, we're missing out on an incredibly large talent pool right now by having so few women in computer science. We could be solving more problems and more interesting problems if we had more people working on them, and over half the population is female, so the industry in its current state is clearly losing out.

According to Wikipedia, the number of women in computing the US declined from 35.2% in 1990 to 28.4% in 2000. Wow, talk about a step in the wrong direction. Why is this? There have been many studies, and the reasons can often be distilled down to feelings of exlusion and lack of respect. A principal source of both of the above is immature crude jokes.

Which is why when I saw this, I felt compelled to write this post. As immature jokes go, it is relatively mild. I have certainly seen and heard far worse. But it doesn't really matter; it's still inappropriate, and it's still bound to make people feel uncomfortable, and even more importantly, it's completely unnecessary! The poster could have made the same point using any number of other metaphors, and could have easily found another funny metaphor to use instead of the one he did choose, if he was hell bent on trying to make his post amusing.

Anyway, that's my rant for the day. I personally feel that as rude as it may be, attempts at public shaming like this may be the best way to get people to stop with these silly jokes. Pointing these things out isn't half as rude as starting them in the first place, and hopefully can help people realize how pointless and damaging they are.

April 16, 2007 (link)

Pet Peeve

So Facebook seems to be all the rage these days, the cool kids are all over it. It does something that most social networking sites (including Orkut) do, that really, really pisses me off. Somebody "writes on your wall" or comments on a photo, or adds you as a friend, or whatever. You get an email. Great. But to drive traffic to the site, and for no other reason, they don't actually include the content inline in the email. You have to click through, login, etc.

I understand they want to increase traffic, so they can sell more ads, so they can make more money. My employer has become an expert at this. But there are much less annoying ways to do it. You know, like providing more cool features and genuine reasons to visit the site, rather than just stuffing it down people's throats.

With Calendar, we took the view that we really don't care if people are using the product from the web interface. Some users only use it through GData and SMS notifications. Fine by us, if that's what makes them happy. We also provide all the information about an event in the invitation, and if you use Gmail, we even provide a mini-calendar display of your day's events and a way to respond inline without leaving page. Users are your friends. Don't piss them off.

I will say, however, that I am impressed with how fast Facebook is, given that it's written in php and probably MySQL or Postgres, an architecture which can be very difficult to scale. Yet everything is really snappy. One of the things that plagued Orkut and one of the big reasons (IMO) it didn't take off in North America the way Facebook did is that for a long time it was dog slow. Because they wrote it in C# on MS SQL. They have since re-written it in Java and something not SQL, and it is now fast :P

April 17, 2007 (link)


Does anyone want to try Joost? I have 3 invitations. I will give them to first 3 people to email me at

If you don't know, Joost is a new streaming video thingy. They have clients for Windows and Mac; no Linux. I tried out the Mac version because I was curious. It's not very exciting (at least there's no content I'm interested in) and the UI is really, really unresponsive.

So, now that I've told you how cough awesome it is, who wants to try it?

April 21, 2007 (link)

New York

Snapped this today from our balcony. I have a somewhat crummy camera which can't really do it justice, but it's still a nice shot.

Coffee pr0n

Some of you may know that I'm a bit of a coffee enthusiast. Some may even argue that that characterisation is putting it a tad lightly. Well, whatever you call it, I do have somewhat of a fondness for coffee. I recently discovered that we live only a few blocks from what is supposedly the best coffee in New York.

I stopped by there today, and I'll believe it. Their triple ristretto was fucking amazing. Very nearly brought tears to my eyes. Literally. About 1 cm of crema, and the espresso was naturally sweet. It was delicious! Better even than Open Da Night in Montréal.

I couldn't stop with just the triple ristretto, however. I ordered a cappuccino after the ristretto and was equally impressed. Their latté art was impeccable, the blend of the microfoam with the espresso crema utterly delicious. Their baristas are freaking gods.

Which brings me to my next point, about the pr0n. I am trying to improve my own barista skills. Now I have been pulling espressos for about 6 years at this point, so I am by no means a beginner. But professional baristas pull hundreds of shots a day on the very best equipment. Much of my time as an amatuer barista was spent toiling away on cheap, $100-$200 consumer machines, and even on my most decadent days I don't pull more than 10 shots. While I managed to get some decent shots out of those machines, there's only so much you can do with a cheap machine like that. I have since upgraded to a commercial machine, and have been pulling better and better espressos through it.

My most recent upgrade was a new tamper and portafilter for the machine. You see, every aspect of preparation contributes to the quality of the espresso. The bean, the roast, the grind, the tamp, and finally the pull. My new portafilter is a so-called "naked" portafilter, meaning it does not have a spout. Why would you want that?

There are 2 main reasons. The first is that with a traditional spout portafilter, you lose some amount of the delicious crema in the spout. The crema is the best part of the espresso and losing even a single drop is a tragedy. The second reason is that the naked portafilter lets you see the pull much more clearly than with a traditional spout filter. This helps you learn and adjust your tamping to eventually get a perfect tamp. Ideally the pull should be even across the filter so that the espresso coalesces into a single, long drip from the filter. As you can see in the image to the left, I still have some work to do. My tamp there was a little too firm towards the back of the filter. However, I am getting some nice crema through the front. That shot was a triple 400 micron grind of Kona beans from Hawaii. An enjoyable shot, though not as good Gimme Coffee's.

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