Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Monthly Mix

Customer: Do you have Soul?
Rob: That all depends.
- High Fidelity (2000)

Each month I make a mix cd. It takes a fair amount of time to make these. Finding new music, in the quantity that you need, each month, in order to make a quality mix is no simple task. February's mix is in "production". These essentially replace the radio for me. It's nice because I can look at my back catalogue over the year and I have 12 discs that make up what I listened to in 2005. I have just started the 2006 catalogue.

January's mix was entitled:

above is a dragon

The track list is as follows.

1. This Year - The Mountain Goats
2. Girl In The War -
3. Off The Record - My Morning Jacket
4. Bed Is For Sleeping - Bonnie 'Prince' Billy/Matt Sweeney
5. Mornings Eleven - The Magic Numbers
6. Star Bodies - The New Pornographers
7. All I'm Thinkin' About - Bruce Springsteen
8. Joy! Joy! Joy! -
9. Stream Running Over - Apples In Stereo
10. Hurt - Johnny Cash
11. Love's Lost Guarantee - Rogue Wave
12. Time Bomb - Goldspot
13. You Are the Rake - Sufjan Stevens
14. In the Sun (Featuring Joseph Arthur) - Michael Stipe
15. The Salt Islands - Cub Country
16. Tristan and Iseult -
17. Snow Is Gone - Josh Ritter
18. Upside Down - Jack Johnson
19. Gold Lion - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Jacket Revolution

If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run - and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative. - Arthur C. Clarke
So sometime over the last year (or more) Starbucks evidently developed a policy that is designed to limit the number of coffee sleeves distributed with their drinks. What this policy means to you and me is that if you are not ordering a Venti, you need to ask for the sleeve. As an avid fan of scalding hot caffeinated beverages, and a dedicated consumer of one of the most prominent scalding hot drink producers in the country, I find the policy a little counter intuitive. Let me rephrase, I can see it being intuitive to an unfortunately near sighted individual in a board room, but I see it as counter-intuitive when viewed from the perspective of the customer satisfaction revolution that is sure to be spearheaded by a one hand blistered burnt new age savior who will lead us all.

In response to this policy, I have invented a new Starbucks ordering method that will be sure to spread like wild fire across the land. My old order was phrased as a "triple grande with whip vanilla latte." This will now be modified to "triple grande with whip jacketed vanilla latte." This is huge. It may be bigger than the "The Way I See It" campaign. I will hold my breathe.

I tried "sleeved" as in "triple grande with whip sleeved vanilla latte" - but the "s" and "v" don't work in the drive through lane very well. Hard syllables work over multiple mediums. "Jacketed" will catch on and become the new hip, in the know phrase, of all caffeinated soldiers in the customer satisfaction revolution. It will migrate to slang. Your children will start using it in school. "Man, did you see that move, it was jacketed." It will be added to Wikipedia. Andy Rooney will use it as a generation gap expletive. Webster will come around. It may even make a rap song or two. And most importantly...

...your drink will no longer burn your hand through the cup.

PS - The patent hyperlink (Patent # 5,425,497) on the "sleeve" above is technically not correct as it links to the patent filed by Jay Sorensen, who rather than sue the coffee company who burned him, decided to invent the insulating sleeve. Starbucks eventually made, or went with, a competitor product. For a really interesting article on Sorenson and his relationship with Starbucks, go here.

- Start the Revolution: Click the Email Post Icon below -

Saturday, February 25, 2006

...it is much more serious than that

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.” - Bill Shankly

Update: A few days ago I mentioned a local high school soccer game that I attended. The Lafayette High Mighty Lions won that game and were headed for the State semifinals. During the game, an altercation resulted in the coach being red carded. Cops came out, an odd calm chaos ensued. I had heard rumors that the ref and other folks were arrested. I think these were all false rumors, although some charges may have been filed. What happened next is the real travesty.

Turns out, the team ended up having to forfeit every game of the season due to coaching violations. The team was 32-1 and was ranked number 1 in the state. The coaching violation had to do with the proper certification of the team's trainer. You can read the story and disappointment here. I wish someone could have come up with a better solution than punishing a team of kids for the mistake of the coaching staff and school administration. There are 17 seniors on that team whose season just ended - and it did not end due to a game being lost.

Some Like It Hot

The Krewe of Xanadu ball - themed "Some like it hot" - was last night - officially kicking off our Mardi Gras experience. I don't think any description I can give will really do the experience justice. First, some context. The Krewe is made up of 250 women. Each brings a date (spouse or other) and can invite a few other couples. Thus, at a minimum, there were probably 1200-1500 people at the ball. It was held in the convention center of the Lafayette Cajundome Convention Center. The center was transformed by the Krewe by placing a stage that spanned the entire length of the center floor, shaped like a "T." At the intersection of the "T," the throne for the king and queen. Along the remainder of the east-west line were the chairs for the court. Any Mardi Gras decoration you can think of could be found somewhere.

Then, the show. I don't even know where to go with this. There is the parade of the court, 2 at a time, pyrotechnics, lines of about 30 scantily clad women all dressed in identical red miniskirts (punctuated by the surprise appearance of our realtor in said line), more pyrotechnics, faux-jewel encrusted costumes, another line of 30 scantily clad women in neon tights and hot pink hair, more pyrotechnics, Elvis (two of them), beads that are so big they hurt your hands when you catch them, and finally, I believe there was one moment with indoor fireworks. The Krewe wears costumes, the remainder of the attendees sport their black tie best - with the quirks of Mardi Gras adding a twist of style - boa's, flashing glasses, spinning lights, glow sticks, and colored head wear. Beautiful people everywhere.

A band topped off the evening, ranging from pop standards, jazz hits, and chanka chank. We hit the dance floor, and for the first time, we felt like we knew how to dance the two step. I have no idea how I was able to wake up and play soccer at 8 am this morning...

Thanks for the invitation Raquel!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Different Kind of GRAS

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

So it's Mardi Gras time and this is obviously a very big deal in the town I live in - Lafayette ,Louisiana. Being from NJ myself, I get a kick over how much this holiday dominates the local culture. This will be the first year that I get to attend an actual Mardi Gras ball - the Krewe of Xanadu. I am not sure if the Krewe gets its name from the particular Coleridge reference above, but evidently it was this Coleridge poem (Kabla Khan) that led to the term Xanadu being synonymous with opulence. And opulence is what I expect on Friday...

I picked up my tuxedo this past week. The town comes to a standstill. Businesses close. Kids are off school for a week. Parades, beads, king cakes, costumes, the ubiquitous purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power). It's really quite amazing to live around it. At this point, I have been told that my joke of "What's Mardi Gras?" may actually insult more than entertain...a common theme with my humor it seems...

In truth, I started this post with the intent of regurgitating a random news post that I picked up the other day...and surprisingly enough, it was not in the tasteless red "breaking news" box at the top of CNN. Have you heard of GRAS? "Generally Recognized as Safe?" Have you heard that case ready meat can be treated with Carbon Monoxide so that the meat can retain that pleasant red color longer? I find this completely crazy. GRAS is the term applied to this practice (and others) by the FDA. I decided to poke around to see if my local supermarket was on the list...but there is no list...in fact, I have yet find out a method to discover who uses this GRAS technique. I did find the actual GRAS notifications issued by the FDA though. It's a pleasant read. I believe that this fact, just maybe, might be a good idea to place on packaging. I even read a quote from someone who was interviewed noting that there was no current study on how the color of meat affects a consumer decision. Wow. I am assuming I am not the only one who uses color as one of the primary factors...right?

Take this additional fact for what it is worth, because it comes from a natural food extract producer - but supposedly, carbon monoxide "also suppresses bad odors and the presence of slime, other telltale signs that meat is spoiled."

Call me conservative, but anything that can conceal the freshness of my food is not necessarily what I would call a generally safe thing.

Off to local butcher this evening.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pandora's Box

I am a huge fan of music, and am an even bigger fan of finding new music. The trick is finding it. I thought I would point out a few resources that I use to do so. In exchange, comment back and let me know how you find yours - I need new sources.
  • Pandora - This just might be one of the best things I have found lately. You type in an artist name and music from that artist and similar bands are streamed to your computer to listen to. Free. From the interface, no downloads necessary, you can go right to Amazon or iTunes. You provide feedback to encourage or discourage the music they line up for you. Sponsored by the Music Genome project.
  • MP3 blogs - There are obviously tons. Today, I updated my sidebar and added a portion of my weekly music blog list. I go to each of these sites at least once a week and check out the music they are posting. Then, while I am pretending to work, I listen to it, and buy more. The current favorites are there...the actual weekly list is much bigger.
  • Paste: The magazine goes hot and cold for me these days - I've had a subscription for 2 years. The 2 years prior, I was into UnCut. The subscription was extravagant compared to the return I was getting. Paste appears to be drifting in this direction but the price is reasonable enough...so maybe I will keep the subscription. If 2 years is the average attention span I have...it might be time for a change.
  • Surfing iTunes - iTunes changed the way I buy and listen to music. It's like Tivo that way. I am trying eMusic out these days as well - mainly because of the 50 free songs that you get when you register. And for real, you can quit after 50 with no fee. Free music. Why would you not check this out?
  • Mapping - There are two sites that map music that I am just starting to explore. It is really quite fascinating. Check out Music Map (appears to have a larger library than Live Plasma - although I was able to stump both sites) and Live Plasma (which also includes movies). Basically, you type in an artist you like and a dynamic map of similar artists is generated. Live Plasma is the generated image I inserted on this posting. I mapped Ryan Adams just because. It's pretty promising but I have yet to tap it as a resource for real.
Hope you find something you like.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Red Card

I loathe the expression "What makes him tick." It is the American mind, looking for simple and singular solution, that uses the foolish expression. A person not only ticks, he also chimes and strikes the hour, falls and breaks and has to be put together again, and sometimes stops like an electric clock in a thunderstorm.
James Thurber (1894 - 1961)

Falling is a theme that continued to surface for me today. First, the easy part, womens figure skating. Of course, a fall for most in this competition is not a fall, it is the slight twist of a skate or a hesitation on a landing. Second, high school soccer. I took some time this afternoon to go watch the local public high school in the state quarter finals. They won. Two people fell though: the coach got a red card, was subsequently arrested. The ref followed. No red card for him, but he was arrested as well (at least that was the rumor in the stands). Needless to say, half time lasted a really long time.

Some falls are bigger, and the Thurber quote I caught today just made me make the mental leap to my own high school coach. Our team was a power house in HS. While he was not a classical soccer tactician, this guy knew how to make HS teams win, and to some extent, you just can't argue with that. He was also one of the funniest men I have ever met although I have always wondered if I would find him funny now. Unfortunately, two years or so after I graduated, they caught him living with a student from the all girl school down the road...growing marijuana in his basement.

I've gotten my share of red cards. And I've always been a firm believer that the difference between a slip and a fall is smaller than we all acknowledge. We like to think the distance between the two is big because this lets us get through the day with comfort - it helps us sleep at night. I am also a strong believer that what really matters is how you deal with the fall, whether it be yours or how you judge the person's next to you. Here's to all of those who strike the hour, regardless of whether you are ticking along or in the fall.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Hats Off

Starbucks was out of lids today. It wouldn't bother me all that much except for the fact that there seems to be a continual inventory issue occurring there. We only have one real Starbucks in town. The rest are fake - being that they are in Target or B&N. There is a difference you know, and yes, some people can tell. The people who can tell most likely frequent Starbucks more than 5 times a week and I would say that my 10 trips (on an average week) puts me in that category. I've graduated to a triple shot drink at this point. The baristas like to point it out sometimes. There are probably very few addictions that people can call you out on and you can just shrug them off and laugh with them...

I went to go find a nice graphic to give you, themed to Starbucks of course, and found this little gem on their website. Interesting to see what the image was called: "hp_promo_espressoDating.gif" In general, it's little details like this that are small windows into places you don't normally get to see - usually because people gloss over details and don't turn on their inner editor. In this case, there is no lack of attention to detail here. This particular example is just a small token of the lifestyle that has become a piece of Starbucks marketing. Because, amen, Starbucks has actually teamed with Yahoo personals and gone into on-line dating. They even have a dating guide. You can find more info here.

The inventory problem can range from a lack of vanilla, lack of sleeves, and now a lack of lids. I think coffee may be the next chip to fall and I won't be shocked. I guess that is just some damn good expectation management, or lack of attention to detail. Hats off.

The Killer Angels

All I can see is black and white
And white and pink with blades of blue
That lay between the words I think on a page
I was meaning to send to you
I couldn't tell if it'd bring my heart

The way I wanted when I started
Writing this letter to you

- jeff tweedy, wilco

I'm reading a good book these days. Can't say that I am a big civil war buff - or that I am a civil war buff, or that I am a history buff for that matter. In fact, I probably watch less history channel then the average person. In fact, these days, I don't watch that channel at all...My lack of history channel viewing may be due to the fact that I would no longer consider myself an insomniac (I used to blame the fact that I appeared to be a workaholic on insomnia, but I have finally come to grips with the fact that I am not either an insomniac or a workaholic).

A narcoleptic may be more accurate. Head on pillow, no matter how much coffee, and I am out. The history channel seems to be one of the insomniac's medicine of choice...this book surely is not. "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara will be on my highly recommended list for quite some time. It is a historical fiction novel that describes the battle of Gettysburg. Not a subject matter I would consider interesting off the bat. But with Robert E. Lee as one of the main characters, and with insights into a key moment of our country's history at the center of the plot, this book is right there. Recommended for history buffs, insomniacs, narcoleptics, and workaholics.

partial non sequitur: this is the first letter to you, so I thought the tweedy quote was perfect.