Welcome to eBay.de

We’ve arrived here at the eBay Germany offices. Everything in this building looks cool, including the ultra-modern open cubes and the eBay-colored futuristic furniture.   Note the cool German advertisements for eBay on the wall.

chairs    pict1105.jpg    DE Cubes

We’re getting all set up for a day of meetings, but I thought I’d post a quick picture. It’s Lara Housser & myself, in front of the eBay sign.


Most everything in Germany is more expensive than in the US, but I’ve found one exception.  A latte in the small cafe in the eBay building is only 0.30 € !


Also worth noting, the superior European education in math & science has clearly led to a more logical elevator button design.  You walk in the entry floor (E), and if you want to the first floor above you, you press (1).  If you want go to the first floor below you, you press (-1).


After a full day of meetings about eBay Express, what better way to wrap up the day than with a group photo of the eBay Express DE team in front of the eBay sign.

Express DE Team

Ich bin ein Berliner

It’s a famous John F. Kennedy quote, from his West Berlin speech in 1963.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And therefore as a free man, I take pride in the words: “Ich bin ein Berliner”


I am in Berlin this week, after taking a direct flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt, and then a quick hop over to Berlin. I’ll be at eBay Germany all this week, meeting with our German team responsible for eBay Express.

What they don’t know yet is that I have also brought them See’s chocolate truffles from home.


So far, AT&T has totally failed me, as my cell phone isn’t picking up service. However, Skype is awesome, and I’m set up with Skype-Out and Skype-In, including voicemail. Makes me wonder why I have a normal landline at home, really…

The MacBook Pro also seems quite happy here. In fact, a lot of the furniture in my hotel room looks like it was designed with the MacBook in mind.

Blogging Update: Big Day for Psychohistory, and Updated Stats

So, let me just be blunt here.  If you find my posts about the statistics for this blog boring, you’re not going to find this post very interesting.

However, I am writing this blog for a reason, and that reason was to learn  about the medium.  I’m a big believer in learning about technology through experimentation, and this blog was originally meant to be a 30-day test.

Of course, that was about 7 months ago.  Look where we are now.

Anyway, today happened to be the biggest day, from a page view standpoint, in the history of this blog.  1953 page views in one day, nearly half of them going to a single post.  The post was my first one on the mint errors for the new dollar coins, from March 2nd, about 5 days before the major news coverage began.

Makes the rest of my days look puny, although I’ve been hovering around 300-500 page views per day this past month.  Amazing when I think about the first month, when I thought 10 page views was a big day.  Right now, my run rate is likely 250,000 page views a year.  Not a small number.

More and more people seem to be reading me through RSS Feed Readers, programs or websites that let you get my posts directly, rather than visiting the website.  I was surprised to see that roughly 100 people seem to be reading my posts that way.

If you are interested, here is the breakdown of the types of readers people are using.  An awful lot are using websites, but there are some common names in there.  A lot of people using Google.

Not surprisingly, my top posts are now skewed towards coins.  Here is yesterday’s top 10 posts:

Until recently, however, my top traffic driver was still the Harry Potter posts, with American Idol, Battlestar Galactica, and Coins all bringing in significant visits as well.  Personal Finance has been a steady performer for me, and the most requested.  However, it’s not generating the page views.  Here are the top posts from the last 30 days.

Finally, my favorite little insight, the search engine terms that people are using to find my blog.  It looks like I no longer get much traffic from people looking for Seema Shah… they seem to find her own blog directly now.  Yesterday was all about the dollar coins.  Look at the search terms.

Over the last 7 days, it has been a little more balanced.

Right now, I’m finding that I don’t have enough time to post on all the topics I’d like to.  I’m going to likely have to start focusing a bit more on certain topics, like personal finance, and indulge a little less in the “news of the day”.

Easier said than done.

I hope this information is somewhat interesting for the other newbie bloggers out there.

Looking at Prices for George Washington Dollar Coins, and How to Search eBay Like a Champ

I’m not sure, but I think the storm of interest in George Washington Dollar Coins peaked yesterday. At least, based on sales on my rolls, and looking at prices, it seems like today was not a bigger day than yesterday.

One of the most common questions I get about eBay is how to use the site to research what the “fair price” is for an item. There are a lot of reasons people ask this question:

  • They are looking to buy something, and they want to know what a fair price is
  • They are looking to sell something on eBay, and they want to know what to expect
  • They are looking to sell something off eBay, but they still want to know what a fair price would be.

I was looking over the prices tonight for dollar coins, and I realized it’s a pretty good example to work from.

The first magic trick to figuring out prices on eBay is a good search. Yes, you read that right.

The hardest thing about figuring out pricing on eBay is the fact that it is just incredibly big. There are millions of different types of products sold on the site, and there isn’t a catalog in the world big enough to hold them all. If you go to the Apple Store, you would see all the current products that Apple sells, in all the configurations they currently offer. On eBay, you might likely see every model that Apple has ever has sold, in every possible configuration that Apple ever offered, and even configurations they didn’t!

The key to good price research is a good result set, and that means getting good at eBay search.

eBay search is actually incredibly powerful. There is a syntax to it that is very easy to learn, and can take your use of the site to a new level. eBay has a help page on the topic, but here are some of my tips:

  • Start with basic keywords. It may sound counter-intuitive, but don’t start with categories. Start with simple keywords from the homepage. Sometimes sellers put your product in categories that you might not expect. It’s best to start with some keywords that fit what you are looking for, and then only using categories to filter if you are seeing unrelated items from other categories.
  • Look at the result set. There is no magic right answer to the perfect query – a big part of the process is doing a search, looking at the items, and learning from them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a search for something, like a piece of computer equipment, and then seen result titles that include the part number. I then do a search on the part number, and I find items that didn’t show up before. The marketplace represents the aggregated human intelligence of millions of people – learn from the keywords in their titles, and your searching will reach a new level.
  • “Or” is your friend. Sometimes, there are multiple words that represent what you are looking for. Laptop or Notebook. Roll or Rolls. PowerMac or Power Macintosh. If you enter a search on eBay for “Laptop Notebook”, you’ll get very few listings – only the ones that actually put both words in the title. But if you put the two words in parentheses, separated by a comma, like this: (Laptop, Notebook) – eBay know to look for listings with either “Laptop” or “Notebook” in the title. This is the most powerful trick for truly exploring the marketplace, especially as you learn new words from the item titles of the listings you find first.
  • Don’t like some results? Remove them! eBay search has another great operator, the minus sign. Just put it before a word, and eBay automatically removes any item with that word in the title. Incredibly powerful for “cleaning” your results. For example, let’s say you do a search for “Apple” hoping for computers, but you get a bunch of apple-scented lotion and candles in your results. Changing your search to: Apple -lotion -candle will all of a sudden clean your results to remove all lotion and candle listings.

So, when I wanted to explore the pricing of George Washing Dollar Coins, I ended up starting with this search:

Washington Dollar

Yikes. Too many individual coins. I’m selling rolls. So I added two good words for roll:

Washington Dollar (roll, rolls)

Much better, but I was still seeing some junk. So I minused out some of the worst offenders:

Washington Dollar (roll, rolls) -single -1982 -quarter

Much cleaner. Almost every listing was for a George Washington Dollar Coin Roll. Now to be picky, I could have refined it further for mint mark and for mint vs. bank roll, but this was good enough for my purposes. There is a always a trade-off between precision and recall. The more you sharpen your query, the more likely you are excluding some good listings with the bad. There is somewhat of an art to saying, “it’s good enough”.

Now, for the second magic trick: searching completed items.

That’s right. eBay allows you to search roughly the last two weeks of closed listings. You can see if they sold or didn’t sell, which format they were in, and what price.

All you have to do is click the little checkbox in the lower left, and sign in. eBay restricts this feature to registered users. However, registering is free, so I recommend it highly.

Now, a few years ago, this was the best you could do. These days, there are a number of third parties who sell tools to help you price different items using eBay data. eBay also has a tool which is available for a very low fee ($2.99 for two days, or $9.99 per month for the basic version) that lets you use advanced, user-friendly tools to go through data.

Here is a screenshot of the prices from tonight for my search, using eBay Marketplace Research Pro, the $24.99/month professional version of the tool. Notice that it lets me save my search, so I can easily check back on the prices for it with one click (awesome).


How cool is that? It uses flash to show you the breakdown of prices day by day, format by format. Super cool. You can also see volume numbers – almost 3,000 listings sold in the eBay core marketplace, and about 200 sold from Stores. Not surprising for a popular product like this. You’ll also note the prices between the two differ. Some people think you pay more when you shop in an eBay Store than bidding on an auction, but when products are hot, that isn’t always the case. Here, the average price for a winning auction is over $52. The average price in an eBay Store is just $40.

Looking at the charts, there has been quite a ramp in the last two days in volume and price. Not surprising given the press coverage.

Now, these type of searches aren’t perfect. For example, this search includes all types of sellers, some with good reputations, some not. Some who accept PayPal, and some who don’t. Some who charge fair shipping, and some who don’t. Lately, I’ve been using eBay Express to also get a sense for what more professional sellers are charging for item. There is no completed items search on eBay Express, but since it is all fixed-price, it’s easy to see what the “going rate” is for a product.

In any case, with some of the tricks outlined above, pricing a product using eBay does not have to be black magic. Knowledge is power, and being able to search eBay well is definitely a skill worth having.

Update (3/17/2007): If you are looking to buy original, unsearched bank rolls of the new George Washington dollar coins, I have procured a box of 40 rolls, in a box certified as wrapped on December 7, 2006. They are availablehere on eBay Express.  Sold out!  Will get more soon!
Update (5/24/2007): For a limited time only, I am now carrying unopened, original John Adams Presidential Dollar coin rolls in my eBay Store. Click here to buy them on eBay Express. I also have a few more original bank rolls of the George Washington dollar coins.  Click here to buy them on eBay Express.

If you are interested in the other rolls I am carrying, click here for all the coins I am currently selling on eBay Express.

Who Is Voting For Sanjaya? (American Idol, Season 6, Top Twelve)

Funniest thing about today. It was a record day for my blog, almost 2,000 page views. I’m going to write a separate post about the metrics because they were pretty interesting.

The funny part is when I checked the #1 search term from outside search engines to my blog before watching the Americal Idol, Season 6, Top 12 announcements today, I found this phrase:

“who is voting for sanjaya”

Number 1 search term! Hilarious. All the hits went to this post.

Well, I don’t know who is voting for Sanjaya, but he’s now in the top twelve. Wow.

Really, I don’t know what to say. Maybe someone has actually figured out how to “crack” American Idol, kind of like the Google bombing from a few years ago. I can see some clever hackers laughing about it:

“Hey, what if we bring American Idol down?”

“How can we do that?”

“We’ll rig it so that Sanjaya wins”

Well, whatever Sanjaya has, I’m going to have to watch him sing at least one more time. Ouch.

Update (3/9/2007): The answer was found on Blogging Stocks. Apparently, there is a growing movement (as I suspected) to damage these shows by voting for the worst contestant! There are actually sites that are encouraging people to “Vote for the Worst”. And I was just kidding when I wrote this post originally!

Update (4/7/2007): All of a sudden, this blog post is getting thousands of hits a day again. I guess it is because we still have Sanjaya to kick around! The comment trail has become hilarious, so I’m approving them as fast as I can. Just for the record, it’s now well known that Vote For the Worst isn’t the only contributor here. Howard Stern on Sirius Radio has been stumping for Sanjaya with his millions of fans. Also, there definitely does seem to be a very real Sanjaya fan base, as embarrassing as that might be for those people.

Update (4/11/2007):  Nice coverage of the Sanjaya phenomenon on Newsvine, including a link to this post as one of five primary points outlining the causes.  Special kudos in the post to the elaborate comments here on Psychohistory…

Update: The Press Frenzy about the “Godless” George Washington Dollar Coins

I didn’t originally think that today would be a big sales day for me on eBay, but it was.

About a week ago, I wrote a post here about the discovery of mint errors on some of the new George Washington Presidential $1 dollar coins.

George Washington Dollar Coins: First Significant Mint Error Found (Missing Edge Lettering)

Mint Error

A dollar coin with missing lettering above one with proper lettering

Well, it took a while, but the mainstream press caught on to the controversial angle on this error today, and in a big way. Ironically, it’s the angle that Ray commented on in his comments on my post – no edge lettering means no “In God We Trust” on the coins with the errors.

This article from Australia has coverage of the dollar coin that sold for $405 on eBay. For more detailed coverage, check out this piece in the New York Times:

New York Times: US Mint Good Creates Godless Dollars

An unknown number of new George Washington dollar coins were mistakenly struck without their edge inscriptions, including ”In God We Trust,” and are fetching around $50 apiece online…

So far the mint has only received reports of error coins coming from Philadelphia, mint spokeswoman Becky Bailey said.

Bailey said it was unknown how many coins lacked the inscriptions. Ron Guth, president of Professional Coin Grading Service, one of the world’s largest coin authentication companies, said he believes that at least 50,000 error coins were put in circulation.

”The first one sold for $600 before everyone knew how common they actually were,” he said. ”They’re going for around $40 to $60 on eBay now, and they’ll probably settle in the $50 range…”

The coin’s design has already spurred e-mail conspiracy theories claiming that the religious motto was purposely omitted. That rumor may have started because the edge lettering cannot be seen in head-on photographs of the coin.

To show you how seriously the US Mint is taking this “conspiracy theory,” check out this hastily written post on the US Mint website.

So, how did this impact me? Well, as I posted on this blog last week, I had acquired some of the original bank rolls of the George Washington dollar coins and listed them on eBay. (Click here if you are interested in buying some – I still have a few left)

In order to drive traffic to my Store listing, like any good eBay seller, I put up a $0.99 auction to get some bidding going and to pull people into my coins. Using the eBay Marketplace Research tool, it was easy to see that about 100 rolls were selling daily, mostly out of the core auction listings.

My auction was set to close at 5pm today, so I checked it around 3pm. Imagine my surprise when I saw that my little listing already had over 800 page views. That’s an incredibly high number – I usually consider one of my auctions successful when it gets on the order of 50-75 page views.

Not knowing what was happening, I flipped to My eBay, and I saw that an astounding 15 rolls had sold out of my eBay Store, just in the past few hours.

Well, now I know. It’s interesting – the eBay bidding activity showed up well before my normal news sources gave me a clue to the cause. It just goes to show you how liquid and real-time the eBay marketplace is.

People must be bidding up these early rolls, hoping that there are mint error coins in them. I wish them luck. The bidding on the auction ended at $56 for a single 25-coin roll. Quite a premium. Mint errors are normally a big deal, because they are rare. The catch here is, if this error is common enough, the error won’t end up being worth much. It’s a gamble, and only time will tell.

I wonder now if this mini-press boom will get more interest around collecting these coins. I had expected the normal press coverage for the first coin, and then a rapid drop off in attention. However, it seems like now everyone will be rushing to get the John Adams coin, in the hope that there will be errors there too (don’t count on it).

Update (3/17/2007): If you are looking to buy original, unsearched bank rolls of the new George Washington dollar coins, I have procured a box of 40 rolls, in a box certified as wrapped on December 7, 2006. They are availablehere on eBay Express.  Sold out!  Will get more soon!
Update (5/24/2007): For a limited time only, I am now carrying unopened, original John Adams Presidential Dollar coin rolls in my eBay Store. Click here to buy them on eBay Express. I also have a few more original bank rolls of the George Washington dollar coins.  Click here to buy them on eBay Express.

If you are interested in the other rolls I am carrying, click here for all the coins I am currently selling on eBay Express.

A $370M Lottery Jackpot and A Story of a Lottery Winner

I noticed a lot of coverage today about the $370M Mega Millions Lottery jackpot. I found some of the trivia in the coverage interesting, like:

The odds of picking the six correct numbers and taking home the mountain of cash are 1 in 175,711,536. That’s “175,” as in millions. Those odds are even worse than one of those carnival booths where you pitch a dime and try to get it to land on a piece of glass.

1 in 175,711,536. Astonishingly small. Of course, it’s $1 per ticket, and with a $370 Million jackpot, it seems like the expected value of a ticket would be higher than $1… assuming that you don’t end up splitting the pot with someone else.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the lottery. I do have a little libertarian voice in my head that says, “Go ahead. If people want to gamble, it’s their money.” Of course, I have this other voice, call it my nagging sense of social justice that says, “This is just a regressive tax on people who are bad at math or have a low-level gambling addiction.”

I never play, which is why when I ask my wife,

“What would you do if we won the lottery?”

She tells me,

“You have to play to win, honey. You have to play to win.”

In any case, I’ve always been fascinated with the stories of lottery winners who blow many lifetimes worth of money in a matter of years. Similar to professional athletes who blow fortunes after they retire, I’ve always felt that these cases prove that no amount of money can substitute for being educated in personal finance, and being prudent with money.

Well, there is an inspirational story here of a lottery winner who actually handled his money well. Graceful Flavor, which I typically read for Apple-related news, had a nice write-up on this story. The original article actually breaks down what this winner spent his money on:

  • $45 million: Safe, low-risk investments such as municipal bonds
  • $35 million: Aggressive investments like oil and gas and real estate
  • $1.3 million: A family foundation
  • $63,000: A trip to Tahiti with 17 friends
  • $125,000: Mortgage retired on his 1,400-square-foot house
  • $18,000: Student-loan repayment
  • $65,000: New bicycles, including a $12,000 BMC road bike
  • $14,500: A used black VW Jetta
  • $12,000: Annual gift to each family member

Let’s just walk down the understated brilliance of how this man, Brad Duke, actually allocated his money after winning a $220 Million jackpot. You see, Brad spent time researching the stories of other lottery winners, and I think there are lessons here for all of us who may (hopefully) be faced with a small windfall someday.

  1. Municipal Bonds. This is exactly right. Largely risk-free, this guarantees Brad a tax-fee investment that will provide regular income, indefinitely, and will likely match inflation over time. This provides a wonderful base of income for him, indefinitely.
  2. Aggressive investments. This is likely his riskiest endeavor, but with a base level of income guaranteed, he has freedom here to be more aggressive, and try to scale his assets over time.
  3. Family Foundation & Gifts. Nice clear breakout of what he’ll be giving to charity, and gifts to family members. Note the lack of family members “on the payroll” – a sure-fire track to the money problems.
  4. Trip to Tahiti & Bicycles. You have to celebrate. $128K is not a large amount here, and it represents some fun with the winnings. Most personal finance experts agree that if you try to save every single dime, you can end up feeling deprived, and it can lead to impulsive behavior. This trip sounds like a great way to have fun, do something extravagant
  5. Student Loan & Mortgage Paid Off. In the world of debt, student loans and mortgage are the best possible forms of leverage. Low interest, with tax advantages, and typically a large payoff on the investment. Still, once you have ample assets, reducing debt reduces risk. It’s that simple.
  6. The Used Jetta. This is probably what impresses people the most. He sold his 2005 car, and bought another used car! This is a good sign of someone who isn’t frugal because they have to be, but because they just don’t like to waste money.

It’s hard to say what you might do with a windfall of $100,000 or $100,000,000. Oh, I guess it’s easy enough to guess, but I have a feeling that reality is always more complicated than idle dreams.

Living in Silicon Valley, it is not uncommon to have friends and family who come across fairly large windfalls. A company goes public, or is sold. A relative passes on an inheritance. The fact that so many people who have large windfalls in their lives end up losing the money in short order is a warning. Managing money is difficult, and the right habits and the right attitude towards it will likely benefit you at any asset level.

Of course, you do have to play to win.

Apple TV: Lead Zeppelin or Disruptive Rocket?

There is a fun debate going on right now, in the weeks building up to the shipment of the Apple TV.

The question is, will the Apple TV be a disruptive engine that will radically reshape the economics of TV and Movies?  Or, will it fall in the category of gorgeous, but underpowered boxes that fail to find an audience (et tu, G4 Cube?)

Now, I am not going to spend time here on the following, over-contested, issues like:

  • The Apple TV has too little storage
  • The Apple TV only has HD outputs
  • The Apple TV doesn’t include DVR functionality
  • The Apple TV doesn’t offer any “new” features

Sorry, but these arguments aren’t compelling reasons why the Apple TV won’t work.  The Apple TV has plenty of storage for caching.  Composite outputs are on almost every TV sold in the past five years.  The Apple TV is not meant to be a DVR (see below).  As for “new” features, like the iPod did?Jason O’Grady has been writing great posts about Apple products for over a decade.  He recently penned this article:

The Apple Core: Apple TV is a Lead Zeppelin

He basically argues that the problem with Apple TV is that unlike music, Apple cannot ship DVD-ripping software to customers.  As a result, consumers will have no easy way to convert their existing content (DVDs) to digital format.

Personally, I think Jason hit the nail on the head – what will make or break the Apple TV will be the supply of content for it.  Right now, there are three sources that matter:

  • User created content (Photos, Movies, Playlists)
  • Converted digital content (DVR, DVD)
  • iTunes content

I am just not sure that (1) and (3) are enough to make this platform work for most users.  There will have to be a solution for (2).

However, unlike Jason, I am not sure that Apple has to ship this software themselves to make this successful.  Companies have had excellent success defeating lawsuits to sell “DVD Copy” software that breaks encryption.  As long as people use the software purely for their own use, the courts have not yet upheld that the DMCA restrictions will apply.  Converting a DVD to another format for personal use certainly seems like it would fall under fair use, but that has yet to be tested in court.

In the meantime, if people want DVD Ripping software, it’s possible that retailers will step into the void to offer promotions and bundles, just to compete with the Apple online store.  Imagine:

  • Option 1:  Apple.com selling the Apple TV for $299
  • Option 2: MacWarehouse selling the Apple TV bundled with the new “DVD2AppleTV” software for $329?  $309?  Maybe even $299?

We’ll see, but the market very well may step in here and fill the void.

Why?  Because the current distribution channels for video, cable and satellite, have priced themselves into a very expensive place.

Check out this article from this personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly.  It confirms a trend that I’ve been hearing from a lot of my 20-something and 30-something friends.

The logic goes like this:

  • Cable/Satellite in HD is expensive
  • Pay channels are expensive
  • I hate waiting to watch shows week-to-week anyway
  • I hate watching bad shows, trying to figure out which ones will actually be good.
  • I don’t have time for that much TV on a regular basis – I need to consume it in bursts when I travel, or when there are lulls in my life.

These are the trends that have driven NetFlix and Tivo, but now iTunes has provided another path.

You drop your cable subscription.  You take the over $1000/year you save and put it into:

  • Movies for big-budget blockbusters
  • Netflix for movies at home
  • iTunes for TV shows that your friends say you have to watch

I think Apple has a shot with (3) eventually subsuming (2) if they get the content.

My sister, for example, is 21, and a senior at college.  She just recently discovered The Office, and has been catching up on all the episodes.

She didn’t buy the DVDs – they don’t extend to the current season anyway.  She just bought them on iTunes.

We’ll see what happens with the Apple TV this year.  It’s possible this will be a dud.

But I know I want to buy one (actually four, if you’ve read my previous posts).  I’m interested in it as a solution to get rid of the DVDs that my 2-year-old son continues to maul.

However, I wonder if we aren’t underestimating the potential for iTunes -> TV as a disruptive channel. I personally spend over $1000 per year for content through DirecTV… is that really rational?  How many movies and TV shows could I buy through iTunes and on DVD for that?  Is it worth it?

If it turns out that there is an early adopter market that is ready to buy the Apple TV because they either have figured out DVD ripping, or they already purchase iTunes video content, then this just might work.  Once demand for the Apple TV is strong, other vendors will likely step in to make the DVD ripping problem go away.  Oh sure, the MPAA will fight it tooth-and-nail.  But it’s more likely they’ll be forced to put more content on iTunes, and price it more competitively.

Battlestar Galactica: The Death of Starbuck & The Rest of Season 3 (Spoilers)

Yeah, I guess putting “spoilers” after that title doesn’t help much, does it?

I was moved to post on the topic based on Elliot’s comment on my original post on a possible end to the series. After all, if Elliot cares, then maybe other people do too?

So the quick recap:

On March 5th (yesterday), the Battlestar Galactica episode “Maelstrom” aired. At the very end, Starbuck dies.

There is a nice interview with Katee Sackhoff, the actress who plays (played?) Starbuck on TheSciFiWorld. Katee has been pretty pissy about Battlestar Galactica all season, and she has frequently commented about how she didn’t like the love triangle set up around her character this season.

Personally, I found the episode tiring. So many predictions and allusions to Starbuck’s life having meaning & purpose. The vague references to finding out what lies between life & death.

Right now, the only options are:

  1. Starbuck is dead. Finito. No mystery, just a girl in Viper who went suicidal.
  2. Starbuck escaped. Some lame last-minute rescue or eject, picked up by a Cylon before dying.
  3. Starbuck is a Cylon. She wakes up in Season 4, resurrected, as one of the final Five, and becomes the fleet’s worst enemy because she knows them inside and out.

#3 is not the worst twist in the world. That would be my guess, assuming the writers don’t have the guts to just have her be dead.

There are only three more episodes in the season. BuddyTV has some additional spoilers here. It sounds like the last two episodes focus on the trial of Baltar, where we will learn the identity of one of the last five Cylons, and where Baltar will eventually go free.

Do you have a guess as to the Cylon? Based on the penchant for this writing team to go after the unexpected, my prediction would be for President Roslyn to actually turn out to be a Cylon. True, she went through that bout of cancer. But, Adama can’t be a Cylon, since his history is public and pre-dates the humanoid Cylons. I also like feeding on the suspicion that Roslyn somehow escaped the destruction of New Caprica on purpose, rather than on accident.

Unlikely, maybe. But if it’s some other character, will we really care?

We’ll find out soon enough.

Update (3/20/2007):  Check out my new post on the Final Five Spoilers for the Season 3 Finale.

Replace Sanjaya with Jacob (American Idol, Season 6)

Shri’s comment on my last post left me in despair.  How long will I be forced to sit through Sanjaya on this season of American Idol 6?

I have come up with a solution:  replace Sanjaya with Jacob.  Jacob loves American idol, and what can I say?  He has the talent and the personality to win.  He’s unique and memorable.  He’s got the whole package.


Remember to vote!

The Winner of American Idol, Season 6, is Announced Early

OK, major spoiler alert.

Watching the American Idol announcement tonight about the next four voted off, I could help but feel somehow detached from each exit. Why? Because the winner of Season 6 has already been announced… by Jim Ambach.

Yes, Jim has a blog on eBay, and he posted yesterday his grand prediction: Melinda (not Melissa) Doolittle.

Well, we’ll see. Jim’s American Idol skills may be a bit rusty from the 2.5 years he recently spent living in Switzerland. I haven’t placed my bets for this season, yet, but I will tell you that the size of Melissa’s head does freak me out a little.

Since we’re on the topic of American Idol tonight, can someone please explain to me who is voting for Sanjaya, and why? Please comment.

Jim, if you are out there, please explain.

Update (5/21/2007):  Well, it’s obvious now that Jim was wrong in 2007.  Clearly all that time in Switzerland has affected his read of the American voter.  The final episode is tonight, and it’s hard to believe that Jordin won’t be crowned the winner for Season 6… that is, unless Melissa’s votes somehow make their way to Blake (unlikely).

OpenCongress.com Beta

Catching up on my friends’ blogs tonight. Found this tidbit from John really interesting.

Check out OpenCongress.org — an exceptionally important site brought to you by the same folks who bring you the very cool Democracy Player.

Sort of like a Wikipedia for US Congress, everything is hyperlinked, cross-referenced & RSSified.

It is a great way of figuring out what’s really happening in Washington, and I think is going to be a crucial resource leading up to the 2008 elections.

It’s really neat to see this kind of direct and open coverage of Washington. I’ve already subscribed to a few feeds, and I’m finding a lot of interesting things to dig into. Check it out.

George Washington Dollar Coins: First Significant Mint Error Found (Missing Edge Lettering)

There is a nice post on the Coin Collectors Blog today about the new Presidential $1 Dollar Coin program. It seems that there have been verified reports of some of the dollar coins actually missing their edge lettering. The Tallahassee Democrat verifies at least five of these coins, and apparently one has already sold on eBay for $46.

It’s unclear at this point how many coins will have this problem, but this sounds like a true collectible error. Some people have been trying to pass off “upside down” lettering as an error, but it isn’t as the Mint is not orienting the coins one way or the other when adding the edge lettering.

When there is a new process like the “incused edge”, it’s inevitable that there will be errors. Keep your eye out for new dollar coins missing the lettering. They will inevitably be worth more than $1.

Ironically, for those people out there looking to get “In God We Trust” off US coins, these mint errors might be especially valuable. 🙂

Update (3/7/2007): Given the amazing amount of press coverage today, I’ve posted an update on the mint errors, with some insights into how its driving activity on eBay.

Update (3/17/2007): If you are looking to buy original, unsearched bank rolls of the new George Washington dollar coins, I have procured a box of 40 rolls, in a box certified as wrapped on December 7, 2006. They are availablehere on eBay Express.  Sold out!  Will get more soon!
Update (5/24/2007): For a limited time only, I am now carrying unopened, original John Adams Presidential Dollar coin rolls in my eBay Store. Click here to buy them on eBay Express. I also have a few more original bank rolls of the George Washington dollar coins.  Click here to buy them on eBay Express.

If you are interested in the other rolls I am carrying, click here for all the coins I am currently selling on eBay Express.

New Horizons Spacecraft Swings by Jupiter. Next Stop, Pluto, Charon & the Kuiper Belt

One of my first posts on this blog was about Pluto, namely the incredibly stupid move to re-classify it as a dwarf planet. For the first month of my blog, that post generated a surprisingly large amount of traffic.

Since then, I’ve posted about the New Horizons spacecraft, and the current mission to send a probe to fully explore Pluto, Charon and the Kuiper Belt.

This is just a quick post to highlight the fact that the spacecraft hit a major milestone today. According to the NASA press release:

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft successfully completed a flyby of Jupiter early this morning, using the massive planet’s gravity to pick up speed for its 3-billion mile voyage to Pluto and the unexplored Kuiper Belt region beyond.

“We’re on our way to Pluto,” said New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Md. “The swingby was a success; the spacecraft is on course and performed just as we expected.”

New Horizons came within 1.4 million miles of Jupiter at 12:43 a.m. EST, placing the spacecraft on target to reach the Pluto system in July 2015. During closest approach, the spacecraft could not communicate with Earth, but gathered science data on the giant planet, its moons and atmosphere.

At 11:55 a.m. EST mission operators at APL established contact through NASA’s Deep Space Network and confirmed New Horizons’ health and status.

The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons is gaining nearly 9,000 mph from Jupiter’s gravity – accelerating to more than 52,000 mph. The spacecraft has covered approximately 500 million miles since its launch in January 2006 and reached Jupiter faster than seven previous spacecraft to visit the solar system’s largest planet. New Horizons raced through a target just 500 miles across, the equivalent of a skeet shooter in Washington hitting a target in Baltimore on the first try.

You can find up-to-date mission pictures and information here on the New Horizons website.

July 2015 is going to be a lot of fun.