Projects for the New Year

Resolutions this year? None.
Major projects planned? None.
Small projects planned? Too many.

Here are a couple of the smaller projects I've come up with in the last few days. I'm posting them here mainly as a reminder. One is useful, the other is not.

*Useful project: Tea comparison thing
Over the last year I've gone from 1-2 bottles of soda (usually Mt Dew) per day, to maybe 1-2 cans per week. I keep an awesome steel water bottle with me almost at all times. I'm trying to get back in the habit of having a mug or two of tea a day and am looking to buy full leaf loose tea.

Amazon has a pretty decent selection of loose teas, but picking out good ones is difficult. The prices are inconsistent, and the weights aren't always displayed without clicking through to a specific product.
My goal is to write a script to calculate (and display) the price per ounce, and also rank them based on a combination of the bestsellers and user ratings.

Such a system could also be generalized relatively easily to apply to other food items Amazon sells, and possibly even books… if anyone was shopping for books based on the best price per oz. 😛

*Not so useful project: Play around with name data from the Social Security Administration (
On the SSA's website, they make available a data source with baby names registered from the year 1880. It includes all names used at least 5 times in each year. I grabbed it and started playing around with it yesterday.

I'm interested in creating a list of the most common names used for both males and females in a year, the end result possibly being something like a "top 10 names per decade". Slightly more time-consuming would be creating a timeline of "new" and "expired" names. "New" names being names that have never been used before that suddenly show up, and "expired" names being names that haven't been used in a few years.

I've got to get to work… so as Joe would say: Time.

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  1. spudart said,

    I would like to use a tea site as you described. That would rock. For now I am enjoying Trader Joe's Vanilla & Cinnamon Black Tea. It's very tasty. It comes in bags. I've done loose-leaf, and you know what? I kinda prefer the bags. Easier cleanup.

    For your baby names site, you might find this interesting: Not what you are doing, but just an interesting mashup.

    January 4, 2011 @ 11:55 am

  2. sparx said,

    Bags are easier for cleanup, but I prefer loose-leaf. I'm thinking about getting something like this Tea-Mendous Tea Tumbler, which has a huge infuser basket.

    January 4, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

  3. sparx said,

    Also, the name site is interesting – especially since it is broken down by state. The SSA data I found doesn't have any location data… which isn't necessary to get an overall trend, but could be used for some further interesting reports.

    January 4, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

  4. Cactus Joe said,

    Nice. Thanks for the shout out. I've noticed as people get older and their teeth become more cavity ridden, there is a switch away from sodas to healthier beverages. Not that you are the type to ride those trends, but all things have a rational basis and toothlessness is just, well, not attractive…

    I started drinking again, in heavy moderation, because the data on the health benefits of 1-2 drinks per day is now overwhelming, as far as cardiovascular. People who drink 1 to 2 drinks per day on average have the best health outcomes compared with heavy drinkers and non-drinkers. It is nice to be able to savor wine and beer again, without the excessive calories of drinking too many (and I can still DD).

    As for tea, I would look for something that has a variety of adjuncts like fennel seeds and other flavorful herbs added to augment the tea.

    At the vitamin company, I had access to Healthy People 2010 data from the CDC, and it was fun to run regressions on the data looking at factors that help/hurt health. Statistics are cool. So are the media. No not really, I just like words that sound singular even though they are plural. Like politics.

    Well, I have overstayed my welcome here. Maybe I should go write my own blog post…

    January 5, 2011 @ 9:18 am

  5. sparx said,

    Almost 28 years now and still not a single cavity! 🙂
    It's mainly that I prefer tea to coffee, and coffee was becoming my caffeine replacement for soda. The caffeine boost from soda followed by the sugar crash has become unappealing enough for me to significantly cut back.

    I've been avoiding teas with too many herbal additives in them, but right now am enjoying a cup of Tazo Zen which has spearmint, lemon verbena (no idea what this is, I'll look it up after this comment) and lemongrass. What benefit does fennel seed provide to the mix?

    January 5, 2011 @ 9:54 am

  6. Tom said,

    I use my french press coffee pot to make tea, especially when I am using tea leaves

    January 7, 2011 @ 11:55 am

  7. sparx said,

    That would work perfectly. For xmas I received a double-walled glass Tazo container (tumbler? I don't know what to call it) that has a removable screen that fits inside the top. Throw the leaves in the container, put the screen in, fill with water, wait a few minutes and drink.

    Yes, the leaves stay in the water the entire time… yes, I know that's not the best way to make tea. To avoid bitterness I let the water cool a bit from boiling before adding it, and use fewer leaves than usual. I wouldn't use it with "fancy" teas.

    January 7, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

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