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  • Michael Krakovskiy 4:52 am on August 5, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: audiophile equipment, , , , , George Howell, Kenya AA, , , vacuum tube   

    How Do You Like Them Apricots? 

    Today I received in the mail a fresh shipment of coffee from Victrola Coffee. Inside, along with the coffee was a handwritten postcard, thanking me for buying their coffee and encouraging me to let them know what I think about it.

    I bought a pound of their house blend, Streamline Espresso ($13 /lb), as well as half pound packages of pricier special coffees, Colombia La Esperanza #1 Cup of Excellence ($18/lb) and Kenya AA Mtaro ($14/lb).

    If I had sufficient financial resources, I would buy coffee in half pound increments, on a weekly schedule, because coffee is only at its best for a few days after roasting. I would also buy a Synesso Cyncra and a Clover machine. Well, ok, enough dreaming, as what I have in terms of coffee and equipment right now is pretty damn good.

    I loaded the award winning Colombia La Esperanza into my grinder and pulled a shot. There was a lot of crema (as there always is with coffee this fresh), but it wasn’t deep red. There were little dark flecks which I guess could pass for “tiger flecking.”

    “Juicy, complex citric notes in the dry aroma turn into dried apricots in the crust. The cup is astonishingly clean with brilliant cranberry acidity, white wine, honey & melon.”

    – says the website.

    Tasting wine, coffee and cigars is highly subjective, and gets rather ridiculous, just like judging audiophile equipment. I never know if I am so stupid and insensitive that I can’t detect all the subtleties that the real fanatics detect; or so stupid that I believe that generally vacuum tube amps sound more pleasant and that there are “notes” of different stuff in good coffee, wine and cigars.

    Starbucks has a huge variety of coffees. They all taste pretty much the same though, because they are over-roasted and under-extracted. Espresso made from any of their beans has the same notes: hydrochloric acid, burnt coffee and donkey. Yet they go on and talk about notes of chocolate, toffee and oranges; conduct coffee tastings and train their employees to talk about it to the customers.

    Once you properly pull a shot of well roasted coffee that is also fresh, it does not have enough acid that would cover up the thousands of complex aromatic organic molecules that really confuse your taste buds. Your brain starts trying to assign familiar tastes to the weird electrical impulses generated by your taste buds. Without overpowering bitterness and burnt character, the playing field is leveled for these subtle and rather weird flavors. Coffee starts tasting the way freshly ground coffee smells.

    The beans of Colombia La Esperanza had a smell that I have not encountered in my life yet. It was similar to the way really expensive chocolate-covered dried apricot would smell, although that wasn’t it. It was something else. But if it were sold, it would come from an expensive store individually wrapped in tissue papers inside a well-made wooden box.

    Espresso made from the beans was amazingly tasty. The major taste element was that weird apricot smell which actually went away after a while, replaced by something very similar to an expensive white wine aftertaste.

    In short, some of the best espresso that I’ve had in a long while. And that apricot-like taste still haunts me.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 10:02 am on October 19, 2003 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Application programming interfaces, , , Plug-in, Programmable calculators, , , vacuum tube   

    Old Skool Plugin Technology 

    Stuff missing from my collection: IBM vacuum tube plug-in logic modules. The damn things go for 70-80 bucks on eBay.


     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 3:01 pm on July 4, 2003 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: B-52, B-52 Stratofortress, Boeing, , , KC-135 Stratotanker, Leonard Nimoy, line products, , , Straton, Stratosphere, Stratosphere Las Vegas, , vacuum tube, Wonder Stories, Zenith Electronics   

    Up There In the Stratosphere 

    Today, when we think about science fiction, we think of rocket ships and outer space. But things were different in the 40s and 50s. Back then the blue sky was almost as exciting a frontier as the black void of space. Hugo Gernsback’s magazine Air-Wonder Stories and TV serial Zombies of the Stratosphere featuring young Leonard Nimoy were all the rage.

    The word “stratosphere” was considered and became a futuristic branding element a bit less common than “o-matic” and “o-rama”. It seems to me that Boeing started this trend : B-52 Stratofortress bomber , KC-135 Stratotanker and 377 Stratocruiser. But then the marketers caught on to the hipness of everything “strato”: Sheaffer Stratowriter pen, Fender Stratocaster guitar, Pontiac StratoChief car and probably many other things that I don’t know about. Prefix “strato” was usually applied to top of the line products.

    And you don’t really get any more “strato” than Zenith Stratosphere 1000Z console.

    Considered by some to be the best vacuum tube radio ever produced, it is also one of the rarest. It was top of the line and cost $750 when it was made in 1930s. Times were tough, and there were not enough customers to purchase these amazing and beautiful radios. Only 350 sets were ever made, 40 are known to survive. Today 1000Z is a wet dream of any vacuum tube radio enthusiast.

    What attracts me to 1000Z? Well, first of all I am a fan of vaccuum tube sound. The absolutely stunning art deco design is just gorgeous, especially the airplane style tuning dial. It looks like it belongs on a starship. This is how I imagine Henry Kuttner’s “twonky” device.

    There is an interesting thing about the ads for 1000Z. As it can be seen in this ad, there is a art deco porcelain cat sitting inside the concave area of the cabinet of the radio. This led some collectors to believe that the cat was sold together with the radio. But apparently it was only used for the photo shoot. Still, people lucky enough to own a Zenith Stratosphere try to buy a cat statue to go with it.

     
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