MINI REVIEW (Part 1): Bezzera BZ02 Espresso Machine

Many moons ago, Scott asked me about espresso machines. Specifically, he asked me how I liked our Francis Francis X3. My response? “It died.” In fact, much too my wife’s horror, its guts (and carcass) still adorns my workbench in our garage.

What Scott really wanted to know was “what espresso machine do I like?”

I finally got that answer (but alas, by that time, Scott had purchased his own espresso machine…and thus my recommendation was available a little late…at least for him).

Just today, the email box pinged with another email from Scott. His espresso machine died…so what was my recommendation again? Well, it hasn’t changed. I recommend the Bezerra BZ02. And I really need a “Part 2″ in order to explain why.

For now, however, it’s worth posting up my email reply to him for both the links and for the comment about the grinder. Enjoy. Oh, and more from me on this later.

Scott:

Wow…blast from the past. I’m now almost embarrassed to have recommended the Francis.

Anyway,

We have a Bezzera BZ02 (Semi Auto) and love it. We have had it for a while and when I purchased it, it was hard to find….I don’t know whether it will be easier or harder now.

We bought it from a guy in Sac (http://www.vanelis.com/store/), but he doesn’t seem to be carrying it anymore.

As you re-enter this amazingly complicated world, read this thread….it’s a good one: http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machines/333116

And I can’t stress enough the “GRINDER. GRINDER, GRINDER” comments. I wish ours was better, but since I know how to baby it, I can make good espresso even with ours and thus can’t seem to justify the $$. I always wonder though, what I would get if we had a Mazzer, Macap or Rocky. As one of the guys in the thread said, “Buying a really nice espresso machine and a cheap grinder is a complete waste of time and effort.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Best,
JJ

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Firesheep: Identity Hijacking for Idiots

Last night the world suffered another ill-conceived “proof of concept.”  The “concept” was that the Internet is insecure.   The “proof” was that any idiot could hijack an unsuspecting user’s website visit if that unsuspecting user was using a typically ubiquitous open “wi-fi hotspot” (think local neighborhood coffee shop).

And in proving this concept, Developer Eric Butler has wrought havoc on the unsuspecting masses by delivering to idiots everywhere a Firefox plugin named “Firesheep.”

Earlier today, Techcrunch ran a reasonably informative post which included the following chilling lines:

It’s not hard to comprehend the far-reaching ramifications of this tool. Anytime you’re using an open Wi-Fi connection, anyone can swiftly access some of your most private, personal information and correspondence (i.e. direct messages, Facebook mail/chat)— at the click of a button. And you will have no idea.

At its most basic, Firesheep is a “cookie-scraper.”  As you visit sites that use cookies, Firesheep intercepts and copies those cookies.  So, even if you don’t actually go through a log-in process while on an open wi-fi, if your “cookie” is set to automatically log-in your session, then merely by your visiting the site, Firesheep will get all it needs to access your account.

I have spend a number of hours trying to devise a system for safe mobile web-surfing (including a long effort at trying to set up a home VPN solution).  The best I have come up with is the following:

1.  Use Firefox and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “HTTPS Everywhere” plugin:  The EFF’s plugin forces sites which are listed in the plugin’s preference pane to use “SSL / HTTPS” encryption.  I got the idea from another Techcrunch post which recommended a different Firefox plugin (Force-TLS)…but my testing of that other plugin yielded less-than-stellar results.  With one notable exception (Amazon), the EFF Plugin seemed to work well enough.   And for those that care, the EFF Plugin works by encrypting the website visit BEFORE sending the cookies.  Note: I also tried to secure both Chrome and Safari and came up short.  However, Paula rightfully points out that Firesheep is a big deal and likely there will be more generic solutions (for all browsers) soon.

2.  Use SSL for E-Mail Programs.  Unless your only access to email is over a web browser that uses HTTPS, you will likely need to dig around in your email program to find out how to configure your email program to send and receive using SSL.  I won’t go into more extensive detail than that (because I use GMAIL myself), but given that many passwords can be found in archived emails, securing email access seems a really important step.

I’m hoping this pathogen is neutralized soon.  Until then, while out in the wild, securing your web-surfing and practicing “abstinence” with respect to the more important of your websites, seems doubly important.

UPDATE: I’m testing Blacksheep, which appears to be a targeted Firesheep blocker. More on this later.

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Tax Free? Really? (QSBS)

Did you know that there is gold lying around on the ground courtesy of Obama?

Specifically, new temporary income tax rules for start-up, and other small business, stock acquired in the Next Three Months provide that the Income Tax Rate for later sales of that stock is (pretty much) ZERO.

From three days ago (September 28, 2010) through New Years Eve (December 31, 2010), if a US individual is lucky enough to buy the right kind of stock from the right kind of start-up and holds it for 5 years, a vast swath of the gain realized by such individual on a later sale of that stock just might be TAX FREE.

And no, this is not limited to some targeted industry located in some narrowly defined “prosperity zone.” Many companies are already the “right kind” of company and can easily sell the “right kind” of stock.

Oh, and for those of you AMT-style doubters, there is no AMT preference in this super-special US tax holiday. So, that would make it a ZERO federal tax.

Hmm. Wondering if I should form a start-up in the next three months.

#clockisticking #tempting

Read more here. And the law can be found here (see Section 2011 of the Act and note the magic words: “paragraph (7) of section 57(a) shall not apply”).

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I’m a Sucker for InfoGraphics — Star Wars

Econ 101
Hat Tip to Holy Kaw.

Posted in Fun, Ramblings | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Scariest Words I’ve Seen In a Long Time

These are the scariest words I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve been waiting for them. They are here. And, I have no idea what the world will do with them.

A variety of projections that extrapolate current policies and make plausible assumptions about the future evolution of the economy show a structural budget gap that is both large relative to the size of the economy and increasing over time.

– Ben Bernanke, Testimony Before the Committee on the Budget, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., June 9, 2010 (third to last paragraph)

Oops.

NYTimes Article HERE.

Oh, and yes, I’m still holding my short positions.

Posted in Life, Ramblings, Tax | Tagged , , | 1 Comment