Theo Kitchen Chocolate Holding Tanks Theo Chocolate Factory Building Theo Chocolate Mill & Mix 2352426671_1143731951

Theo Chocolate Factory

On Valentine’s Day, I took Sig to Theo Chocolate for a tour of their factory at 3400 Phinney Avenue North in the Seattle Fremont Neighborhood. For a $7 tour, you get a quaint history lecture, a tour of their factory floor, chocolate samples and a modest 10% discount at their confectioners counter. You also get hair nets, which you must wear for obvious health reasons. If you have a beard net you must also wear a beard net.

The Building

Theo Chocolate was founded in 2005 in a historic brick building in the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle. The building was built in 1905 and it has housed an interesting array of tenants. It sheltered Seattle’s electric trolley fleet until 1941. After being a transportation hub, the building housed painters and artists in the later part of the 20th century. Then Redhook Brewery in 1989 moved in and opened an adjoining pub called the Trolleyman. You can learn more about the building’s history by taking the Fremont Historical Society’s walking tour.

The Chocolate

According to their presentation, Theo Chocolates gets their name from the scientific name of the cacao tree: Theobroma cacao. Theobroma means “God Food” – theos for “god” and broma for “food”. They did have a small cacao tree, but there is a better specimen on display at the UW Botany Greenhouse which actually flowers when in season. Or you can visit Hawaii’s Big Island or Kauai Island for tours of cacao plantations.

Theo is the first roaster of organic and fair trade cocoa, from “bean-to-bar” as they put it. Fermented beans sourced from Costa Rica, Madagascar, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador, and the Congo travel all the way to this Seattle factory. On one factory floor they sort, roast, mill, mix, conche, mold and package.

The air in the factory has a biting chocolate smell, mostly coming from the acetic acid. Tanks of chocolate paste is conched, or gently ground for smoothness, and heated to over 70ºC. Conching refines flavors and drives off the acetic acid produced during cocoa bean fermentation. There are more floral (South America) or earthy dark (Africa) smells depending on where the beans come from

In the Confection Kitchen, they make all kinds of sweets and even offer classes on how to make truffles, toffee, caramels and really anything you want to learn about making chocolate treats.

Dr. Chocolate: Better Science Through Chocolate

Andy McShea COO of Theo Chocolate is also known as Doc Choc, and his personal motto is “Better Science Through Chocolate.” He had no prior chocolate experience before joining Theo, but he knows how to develop an assay and focused on the quantitative analysis of cocoa. For on-site experiments, he has a small research space at the chocolate factory, behind a door marked “super-secret chocolate laboratory.” He’s worked with collaborators from Seattle to Cleveland to Manchester, England. This international chocolate team has developed chromatography and mass spectrometry methods that generate profiles of the volatile compounds released by fermented cocoa beans. The goals are to find biomarker compounds and specific chemical profiles that indicate bean quality, and possibly country of origin.



Valentine’s Day

For South Koreans Valentine’s Day is when women shower men with chocolates! Japanese women also gift chocolate to all men around them ranging from love interests to co-workers and bosses. In the Philippines, V-day is celebrated in the same way as their western counterparts, greeting loved ones with “Maligayang Araw ng mga Puso” — literally translating to “Happy Day of the Hearts”.

Since before we were married, we’ve been celebrating Valentine’s Day the way the Japanese and Koreans do: me making sweets for Sig and planning a special day just with him. Come March 14th, Sig will have his turn.

If you’re single you can celebrate Black Day (블랙데이) on April 14 by gathering your single friends and eat jajangmyeon (noodles with black bean sauce) and celebrate your singledom.

vday cookies

Chelyabinsk Meteor Olympic Medals

February 15, 2014 will mark the one-year anniversary of the meteorite strike that caused much damage in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in the Urals.

Last year in 2013, the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded in an air burst over Chelyabinsk Oblast, at a height of around 18 miles. The explosion generated a bright flash, a hot cloud of dust and gas, many surviving small fragmentary meteorites and a powerful shock wave that boasted a kinetic energy of 500 kilotons — 20–30 times more energy than was released from the atomic bomb detonated at Hiroshima.

lake hole

In the hours following the visual meteor sighting, a 20 ft wide hole was discovered in Lake Chebarkul’s frozen surface. Scientists from the Ural Federal University collected 53 samples from around the hole the same day it was discovered. In June 2013, a 2 foot wide meteorite buried in the mud at the bottom of the lake was found near the lake hole, and in October 2013, a fragment was raised from the bottom. With a total mass of 1,442 lb, this was the largest found fragment of the Chelyabinsk meteorite. Initially, it tipped and broke the scales used to weigh it, splitting into three pieces.

Some Olympic winners who will win their gold medals on February 15 will receive medals embedded with tiny fragments of last year’s Chelyabinsk meteorite. Fifty medals have been struck in all. Ten of them will be sent to the Olympic Committees of those countries whose sportsmen win gold medals on February 15, and another 40 will be sent to private collections.

Olympic Medal Metiorites


Of Wolves & Viral Marketing

In 2010, a YouTube video showing a pack of wolves going wild in downtown Moscow and ‘charging’ at Russian traffic cops, became the latest online hit, scoring over a million views. Eventually, the truth revealed itself – with a brand of vodka being behind the viral hit. It appears it was part of a highly-focused ad campaign for Eristoff, a spirits-maker which is trying to launch itself onto the Russian market.

Due to strict Russian policy on alcohol advertising (no TV), digital became a main channel for the campaign launch. The successful campaign includes 5 viral videos 1 brand video and ad campaign materials. This viral campaign was called “WOLF IS BACK” and was flawlessly created and executed by Firma Agency for Bacardi-Martini’s Eristoff Vodka brand launch.

Firma Agency Wolf Ad

$130 Million

$130 Million USD is how much Cecil Chao Sze-tsung, a Hong Kong-based property and shipping tycoon, offered to any man who could woo his gay daughter, Gigi Chao, into marriage. A year ago he was offering $65 Million, but upped the “dowry” when initial efforts by courting men failed.

Gigi married her partner of seven years, Sean Eav, a year ago in France.

The amazing part is her loving reaction to her father’s efforts, “I understand that he loves me, it’s just he’s from another time and it’s difficult for him to understand the plight of the LGBT.”



A Street Named Frodo

Geldrop is a small town in the southern part of The Netherlands, with a population of 28,000. Not much information on this place is available online, but it seems like a perfectly ordinary Dutch town.There’s not much that’s special about it, except for the names of all the streets in one of the neighborhoods are taken out of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

They’re all organized by category: The north part of the neighborhood has the Gondorian streets – Boromir, Faramir, Aragon, Denethor, and Palantir. The dwarf section lies westward and includes Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Balin, Dwalin, Dori, Ori, Fili and Kili. A little bit to the South are Gimli, Pippin and Peregrin. Towards the East, you can find two popular characters – Gandalf and Samwise – and the Rohan section with Eowyn, Eomer and Theoden. Up North are the Numenor folk – Elros, Amandil, Silmarien, Elendil and Valandil.

The main road which runs across the heart of the area is named after the master himself: “Laan van Tolkein” which translates into Tolkein Avenue

Bilbo Baggins, doesn’t have a single street to his name. Gollum also does not have a street name. There aren’t any streets named after evil characters, except for Saruman.

The neighborhood was built in 1998 to 2000 and consists of 107 exclusive houses, designed by the architect office Van den Pauwert.



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Boggie’s New Perfume

Hungarian Pop star Boggie’s, real name Csemer Boglárka, new music video titled ‘Nouveau Parfum’ shows her being transformed in real time. Even though such real time editing software is far from reality, but the message this video conveys is strong and deep. Nouveau Parfum is the song about resisting the fashion labels and beauty industry that markets their products with heavily edited and digitally transformed photos to lure customers in to believing how the magical product can change your looks in minutes.

The video is directed by Nándor Lőrincz & Bálint Nagy, as the film-makers shot four different videos during the time of make-over and using different lights. Rest of the stitching work is done in After Effects giving it the appearance of being edited real time in a software.

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Li Hongbo’s Honeycomb Paper Sculptures

Li HongboI’m not a big art lover and few mediums move me, but paper used in unconventional constructions always fascinates me.

Li Hongbo observed that honeycomb paper is a folk art present in many aspects of life in China, from children’s toys to festive decorations. Dismantling one such object, he discovered how simply it is made and the amazing flexibility, resilience and strength of the paper material once built into layers of hexagonal cubes. The artist reproduces the mechanical process manually, making it a painstaking craft, which requires a whole new level of perfection to achieve the machine made rendering. The thousands of layers of brown and white paper are cut, folded and glued together to look just wood, clay or plaster. Each bust has anywhere from 7,000 to 8,000 sheets of paper and weighs about 30 pounds.

If I was in New York now through March, I would so visit the Klein Sun Gallery.



Of Hobbits and eBooks

My friend John ( now has one of his beloved books available as an eBook on Kindle from Amazon. Although the write-up and title of the page says its Volume I: Mr. Baggins, the cover image is the correct one: this ebook actually includes both Mr. Baggins and Return to Bag-End.  As a bonus, it’s the revised and expanded single volume edition, The History of the Hobbit. All for the stunning low price of $12.74!

The History of the Hobbit

Read more on John’s blog at:

Toilet Diagram

General Preparation Tips for Toilet Repair

I’ve repaired a toilet twice in my life now. Once by myself and another with some help. Its been quite a learning experience and now I’ve got some general process tips on toilet repair. Really, this could be applied to any kind of home repair, not just for the toilet.

  1. Research and Read. Learn the working parts of your toilet by looking up the make of your toilet and flush system. Also read the instructions for any new parts you buy. There are also videos on the internet on how to repair a toilet.
  2. Take pictures. Take a picture of your toilet, both inside and out. Pictures make a great reference for reassembly and for when you need to ask for help.
  3. Measure. Take out a ruler or measuring tape and measure parts and distance between parts. Also measure the water levels in the tank. Write this data down on piece of paper. This will provide a great reference.
  4. Have a checklist of materials needed for repair. Bonus: buy back up materials once you know that they work. If the toilet breaks again, you’ve got spare parts!
  5. Have a checklist for the tools you’ll need. Having tools all ready to go and laid out will prevent you from scrounging around in your garage for tools midway toilet repairs.
  6. Take your time! Use that time to double check everything and measure twice.

 Toilet Diagram