Starbucks Winter 2009 offerings

Tazo Tea Lattes

London Fog: Very good; very sweet. First time I had this, I didn’t take the Earl Grey tea bag out, and by the end of a Grande, I was sick of the taste of Bergamot. Take the tea bag out before drinking.

Vanilla Rooibos: Even better; also very sweet. Floral tea doesn’t overpower the drink. The Starbucks employees tend to pronounce rooibos like it was French: roo-bee. Apparently, it’s Dutch (Afrikaans more accurately) for red bush and pronounced roy-bosh (very soft sh, close to ss). Still, I like ordering a Vanilla Ruby more than a Roybush.

Black Tea: Apparently, when I had tea with milk and sugar as a kid, I was drinking a Black Tea Latte. Who knew? My grandparents were very ahead of the curve.


Double Chocolate: Way, way too sweet. The cupcake tastes like it’s made with artificial sweetener. The icing tastes like sugar with a chocolate liquor aftertaste. Not particularly chocolate-y.

Red Velvet: Excellent sour-cream-y tasting icing. Red sprinkles that launch off the cupcake and into clothing with every bite. The cupcake is kind of chocolate-y, but is that a fruity, almost cherry-undertone? Red Velvet is not supposed to taste like cherry, or any fruit. Black Forest is chocolate and cherry. Red Velvet is just red Devil’s Food.

Vanilla Bean: Sorry, I don’t buy vanilla cupcakes. I don’t order vanilla ice cream, either. It’s a hang-up I have. I’m all like, why didn’t you finish making this dessert? Isn’t there supposed to be something else in there? Vanilla? Really? It’s like ordering tea and getting a cup of hot water. Oddly, I love a vanilla soda and vanilla yogurt. Anyway, vanilla cupcakes are too boring for me to order. Get it yourself.

Tazo Fruit Infused Teas

Berry and Apple: My sister-in-law tried the Apple and said it was intense. She had to water it down. I won’t get the Apple, but I will probably try the Berry iced. Even if it’s too sweet, the ice will help water it down. Going to wait until the local temperatures around here average a bit higher than 20 degrees, though.

Posted on 05 February 2009.

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Further notes from a commuter

12/2 10:23 pm
— I have a button on my messenger-bag that says “I read banned comics.” It’s a fairly old button, and I got it because it the late 80s and early 90s there were a few comics that were being banned. I don’t think I actually read any of them, but I supported the people who did. It wasn’t so much a rebelious thing as an act of solidarity. But those days are gone. I don’t really read new comic books, and I couldn’t tell anyone what’s being banned, if anything is.

I Read Banned Comics button

Outside of my necklace, the most-commented part of my apparel is that button. Most of the folks I work with are 25 years-old or younger. Someone at work will see that button and ask me, “You read banned comics? What comics are banned?” Truthfully, I answer that I don’t know.

I’m sure in some small communities there are people who are trying to ban works of fiction, but today there just isn’t the nationwide push to ban supposedly dangerous comic books like there had been starting from the 50s. I’m pretty sure this is because of the Interweb. Not only does it make attempting to ban something pointless, but it’s changed the distribution model, too. If some young Turk wants to put out something so edgy that no publishing house will touch it, the artist can skip the publisher all together and get it to an audience online. He won’t make any money, but that’s not what edgy, dangerous art is about anyway. Rarely does a boundary-pusher live comfortably.

— That Marley-covering busker was back in Penn Station. He did this medley of “Stir It Up” and “The Tide Is High” by Blondie. It lasted like 10 minutes. I purchased his CD.

12/5 10:09 am
— Having a regular schedule is soothing. I’m sitting on the same seat on the train coming in to the City and going home. I’m getting the same parking space in the morning at the train station. It’s oddly relaxing to have these things be consistent from day to day. I’ve never understood why humans desire this, but now I certainly appreciate the mindless joy of it. I’m guessing that this has something to do with the primitive part of the brain, the animal instinct. And I’d also guess that it’s the same part of the brain that believes the past is more comforting than the future. It’s the conservative mindset. I wonder if having a rigid schedule makes one less likely to accept radical ideas and change. I wonder if they go hand-in-hand.

12/16 10:23 pm
— An unfortunate combination: a loud, grating voice and my train ride home. Oh, well, gives me a reason to listen to some tunes. Oddly, I don’t often listen to music on the train. But I will tonight. Thanks, woman who is just blabbity-blab-blabbing two seats in front of me.

— My poor phone. Today, before I left work, I put the phone on a chair when I had to do something with two hands. There’s a setup here. The chair is in a stairwell against a wall facing out, on a landing, one flight up. The stairwell almost, but not quite, butts up against the wall, leaving a one-inch gap between the stairwell-landing floor and the wall. The chair is plastic and slightly slopped towards rear of the chair, and the chair back is open and does not meet the seat of the chair. See this setup? I put the phone on the chair, where it slides towards the rear of the chair and out the space between the back and the seat. The phone falls perfectly into the gap between the landing floor and the wall and falls one story to the concrete floor below.

It falls so quickly that all I have time to do is laugh, because I can’t believe that the phone would fall so perfectly into that tiny gap, but, of course it does! There wouldn’t be anything funny or interesting about this anecdote if it didn’t fall through that gap.

I run down the stairway to the first floor hoping I didn’t bean anyone with it, and it’s face down on the floor—and intact.

I should mention that I have an Agent 18 case, which is plastic like the seat is, explaining why my phone was so slippery on its surface. But the Agent 18 case extends over the phone a bit. This gap prevented the glass surface of my phone from shattering into a spiderweb of misery.

I’m surprised as anyone that my phone continues to function as it had before the fall, but as soon as it happened, I thought it was not only something that I could write about, but also a great story to tell customers at work when they ask me about cases for their phones.

— Last night in Penn Station, a guitar-playing busker sang “Babylon Sisters,” by Steely Dan. Never—not in a dozen score years—did I expect to hear “Babylon Sisters” covered by anyone. It’s a fairly complex song, musically, and he did it pretty well. It’s really ambitious to play it solo, for sure. He said afterwards that he thinks it was written about women from Babylon, a town on Long Island, a busy stop on the LIRR. I think he was serious, unfortunately.

Posted on 07 January 2009.

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Too long between Guinness draughts

I just finished off a nice can of Guinness. In a plastic cup. On a train. It only bothered me a little bit that a pint of Guinness is only 14.9 ounces. But the taste was exquisite. When I was really drinking the stouts, I preferred Murphy’s to Guinness, especially on tap, but having that last pint, in a plastic cup, on the train, tasted just like a Murphy’s Irish Stout after downing a pint of Anchor Steam’s Old Foghorn (on tap) while hanging out with Tom McTeirnan at Tubby’s in Hauppauge. After drinking the bitter barleywine, Murphy’s tasted like liquid chocolate. On the train, too, drinking that can of Guinness, yum… liquid chocolate.

Today was a pretty good day for unexpectedly delicious treats. I grabbed some coffee that my wonderful wife brewed before she left for work. I think it was Amaretto-flavored. I don’t sweeten my coffee, and flavored coffees tend to be rather bitter without sweetener, but I’ve gotten used to it. At any rate, today I thought I’d pour in some Silk eggnog into the coffee, and it was rather tasty. I wasn’t sure what it was going to taste like, but it actually reminded me of an eggnog latte from Starbucks.

I’m going to backup here. Silk’s eggnog, like all the Silk products, is made from soy. So, yes, it wasn’t a milk-based product; it was soy. I know several folks who would be repulsed by this, and I used to be one. But when I worked at a vegetarian kitchen, they didn’t feel comfortable with animal’s milk in the refrigerator, and I reluctantly tried some Silk in my coffee. The plain flavor didn’t do much except cool the coffee down. But the vanilla and hazelnut flavors were pretty good. All alone, soy-milk is chalky, but when it’s in coffee, it’s pretty smooth.

And then there is the soy-milk eggnog. I like eggnog, but it’s so rich that I can usually only have one cup a year, and then I’m good until next Christmas. Two years ago, on a whim, I purchased some Silk soy eggnog. It’s definitely not as creamy as the real thing, but it was delicious and it didn’t leave me feeling like I just drank 12 oz. of liquid butter. I could have two or even three glasses of it in a season.

Another thing that’s increased my consumption of eggnog, and led me to appreciate it even more, is discovering that it’s made for whiskey. Get a decent Bourbon in there and it’s a jolly Christmas season. Grind a bit of nutmeg on top and it’s kind of like Jesus was born to just experience this. Putting whiskey (or rum!) and nutmeg in Silk eggnog allows me to have more than one, which, of course, is the point. The milk/cream version is richer, and a slight bit tastier, but the Silk-version doesn’t lack for anything.

So, back to breakfast, I had my coffee with the Silk eggnog. No whisky, though. Then for lunch, I had a sandwich that my wonderful wife had purchased for me the night before from The Good Steer in Lake Grove. The Good Steer has been around for 50 years. It’s a Suffolk County institution. It’s mascot, on the sign in the parking lot, is a smiling bull’s head with a halo between his horns. Many of my friends referred to it as angel cow. I now live two blocks away from the Angel Cow, and they have great burgers, shoe-string onion-rings that my wife has a love/hate relationship with, and a nice turkey-meat Reuben. That’s what I usually go for when we eat there. Just give me rye bread, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut grilled together with Thousand Island dressing to dip it in, and it would buy it. The turkey meat is in there to justify the $12 price tag.

The Good Steer has a cole slaw that people who would never consider eating cole slaw actually eat, and a pretty decent red-potato salad. I had both of those with my cold, left-over sandwich for lunch. Reubens are meant to be eaten warm, but I don’t really care at what temperature I eat my food. Well, let me be more specific, I prefer cold food unless it’s French fries or white rice. Anything else, congealed or otherwise, I’ll eat right from the fridge. So my Reuben was cold, but it was so so yummy with the cole slaw and potato salad.

And on the way home from work, I wasn’t really hungry. I often get something in Penn Station, just because I’m bored waiting for my train and can’t resist temptation, but, tonight, nothing grabbed me. I didn’t feel like a beer, either, until I thought that I hadn’t had a Guinness in a while. For those people who don’t drink beer, you may not be aware that Guinness, and other Irish stouts, are in a class by themselves. Comparing a Guinness to any lager (like Budwiser) is like comparing a stylish hat to white jockey shorts. Sure, they’re both technically clothing, but only one of them demonstrates my extremely refined tastes.

The major problem with buying beer in Penn Station, though, is the lack of vessels to pour it in. I’m a firm believer in letting the scent of beer be a part of the experience of drinking beer. As much as I prefer bottles over cans when purchasing a beer at a store, I prefer pouring a bottle into a nice pint glass when I drink it, because bottles trap the aroma of beer. Guinness is one of the few beers that I buy in a can, because of the amazing widget that adds nitrogen to the beer upon opening. (Other than Irish stouts, Sapporo is the single beer that’s better in a can than in a bottle.) But drinking straight from a can of Guinness is an awful beer experience. It’s foamy and soapy—not yummy. But when I went to see what the beer vendor was selling, I saw a stack of plastic cups next to him. I got the cup, and the beer, and waited for my train.

I finished it before the train left the tunnel on it’s way towards Long Island. It was chocolatey and delicious. I had, honestly, forgotten how good a can of Guinness was. I think I have to pick up milk when I get home tonight. I think I’ll get me a 4-pack of Guinness, too, when I’m at the store. I’m going to let the deliciousness continue this weekend.

Posted on 15 December 2008.

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More notes from a commuter

11/18 1:21 am — The old LIRR trains with the blue and red seats were just not made for typing on a portable computer. They have outlets, but there is no way to get comfortable while typing.

— Today at {computer company that shall not be named} there was a graduate student who was working on her end of semester paper when her computer crashed and wouldn’t come back on. When she tried, a very specific indicator that her hard drive was ruined would appear on her screen. She came in, hoping against all that was reasonable, that somehow we could help retreive her school work. There was nothing I could do, and she was in tears, having potentially lost a semester of work. It was the most heartbreaking moment I’ve had at work. I’m so empathetic, though, that she apologized for getting me upset. I assured her that I was fine, and I offered information about some data recovery companies.

My point though is to keep a backup of your data. Seriously people. You’re going to kill me if you don’t.

On that subject, my iMac’s hard drive is clicking and occassionally will not mount. I will have to bring it in for service, and the hard drive will have to be replaced. I will lose what ever is on that hard drive. Am I concerned? No, my friends, for I have seen the light and am true to the way. I have a backup of my data. All hail the external hard drive!

Photos! Email! School work! Music! LOL Cats! Whatever it is on your computer, why would you risk losing it all to a micrometer sized bit of ferro-aluminum oxide flipping from north to south? Back up your data!

— I tend to rant a bit at night.

11/21 11:07 pm — Okay. There was a hockey game again tonight, and the hoochie ladies were out in full force again. There was a group of them with totally inappropriate footware getting pictures taken with NYPD officers. At one point they shouted “Islanders suck!” which promted mixed reactions from the sea of Islander-jersey wearing male fans who were gawking at them anyway.

— I don’t know when the eighties fashions came back, but I want to hurt the designers and shops that are pushing them. Those women by the cops were straight out of a Whitesnake video, with only slightly smaller, slightly less teased, hairdos.

— John Hodgman didn’t say hi to the Genius Bar when he made a speaking appearance tonight at {computer company that shall not be named}. I’m a bit disappointed. I was probably one of the few who knew him from the “Ask a former literary agent” days, and not just as the PC guy. The folks I was helping at the store asked if “the Mac guy” was there too. To which I should have replied, “We’re all the Mac guys here,” but didn’t. I’m a bit disappointed in that too.

— It’s good to have a steady gig in this economy. I’m suspicious of my current good fortune.

Thanksgiving Update — computer is back from repair with new hard drive. My system is restored from my backup. No muss, no fuss.

Posted on 28 November 2008.

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Notes from a commuter

11/15 11:16 pm
— I don’t know what was going on tonight. There were some people wearing Ranger’s jerseys, so I’m assuming there was a hockey game tonight, but there were also these women who were dressed like they were going to ladies’ night at some singles’ club—lots of sequins and cleavage. I don’t think that was for a hockey game.

— I missed the 10:16. I almost always miss the train I want to take home. Instead, I’m on the 11:16 and it’s packed. At least the front couple of cars are. I normally like to hit the cars in the back, but I saw a seat with a plug by it, and I took the opportunity to grab some juice. I probably could have found something closer to the rear, though.

There was a pretty good busker in Penn Station tonight. He was covering Bob Marley songs on a guitar. He played them kind of jazzy. I was considering spending $5 to buy his CD, but I didn’t. Maybe if I see him again.

— Two people asked me for change. One was a tiny, old Asian woman. She had a handful of quarters and asked me for a quarter. I said, “You look like you have a lot of quarters already!” and proceeded to fish in my pocket for a quarter to give her. The other one was this guy who I see constantly in Penn Station. He asks for change all the time. I’ve seen him when he’s not begging—he’s usually harassing women and listening to music through very expensive headphones. He’s got stylish jeans, and, like I said, I see him there all the time. I consider him a professional beggar, and since I don’t like his service, I don’t give him money. If I ever get up the nerve, I’ll tell him to grab an instrument and pretend to offer something like all the other professional beggars out there. I give the buskers money all the time. I give homeless people money or a meal more than I’d care to admit. But that dude? C’mon, man, do something to earn it. Tap dance or mumble or offer to read palms. Do something.

I’ve gotten a couple of people asking me about my necklace at work. It’s a silver sun with a round amber stone in the middle. My wife gave it to me for our anniversary. The last guy to ask about it was a customer at the Apple store, and he wanted to know if the symbol had some sort of meaning. I thought to myself that usually suns mean something about the sun, but I explained that my wife is the sun, bright, blonde and cheery, as opposed to me, cold, dark, and brooding—the moon. I don’t think the answer satisfied him, but I’m not sure what he wanted the sun to actually represent. Maybe next time, I’ll talk about the cult that I belong to.

— My new MacBook is great, but the sharp aluminum palm rest digs into my wrists when I type. Playing a game is fine, but typing this hurts.

11/16 8:40 am
— So far, Optimum WiFi service sucks. The system delivers data fine to my iPhone, but the iPhone is much smaller than the one on my MacBook, so I only get the WiFi signal on the iPhone when I’ve stopped in a station. The MacBook antenna gets the signal for a few seconds outside of the train stations, but gets a fraction of the data that my iPhone does. And then, the service logs me out almost immediately, so I have to go to a website to log in again. I have an automatic login app (DeviceScape) that will bypass most website login screens, but it doesn’t work with Optimum. Then, too, if I’ve logged in with either the iPhone or the MacBook, I can’t log in with the other, even after the service has logged me out of the first device. I get what I pay for with this, I guess.

Posted on 16 November 2008.

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