Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Red Bull vs. Red Bull Sugar Free

It's a question that's been plaguing energy drink fans forever, or however long it's been since a sugar free version of Red Bull was introduced.  That question is "does the sugar free version taste as good as the other kind?"

This question is irrelevant to those who think that Red Bull in any incarnation tastes "gross".  Happily, I like the taste of Red Bull.  I've liked it ever since my first tiny can at a Bavarian water park when I was 13.

Then, as now, the component of the flavor that strikes me the most, the part that is unique among soft drinks, is the "nose".  Nose is a term commonly reserved for drinks like wine and beer because of the way alcohol fumes travel into the sinuses after sipping.  Red Bull, however, has a distinct nose.

I liken Red Bull's nose to the fumes one experiences when eating circus peanuts or anything with artificial banana flavor in it.  It's a sweet funk that hangs in the back of your throat and sinuses.  I think it's great, but I can understand how such a description might send others running.

The question, luckily, is not whether Red Bull is any good, but how Red Bull Sugar Free compares to the original.  Does it maintain those distinct Red Bull attributes like the "nose"?  Let's review my completely subjective notes.

Red Bull

The aforementioned "nose" is strong but not overpowering.  There is the slightly chemical citrus taste that hints at a lemon scented cleaning product.  These highlights, in combination with the perfect level of carbonation (very slight), give Red Bull that wonderful taste that my slightly synesthetic brain perceives as "round".  (and yes, the number three is green and bass notes taste like teriyaki)

Red Bull Sugar Free

The "nose" I like in the original Red Bull is much reduced in the Sugar Free version.  Perhaps that part of the flavor is tied strongly to the sugar and doesn't manifest as well with sucralose?  It is approximately as citrus flavored in that chemical way, but instead of the "round" impression I get from the original, Sugar Free has an astringent sharp taste underneath the citrus and is far more carbonated.  It's a little reminiscent of tonic water.  It's spiky, not round.

Red Bull Sugar Free isn't awful, it's just not as good.  And to its credit, the difference in taste between the two is not nearly as great as the difference between regular and diet versions of other soft drinks.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

re-mix as "fine art"

In the olden days when I posted more frequently to this blog I uploaded a number of paintings and pen drawings.

The technique for such works is always this:

1) I use the web to locate images from which elements could be taken and cobbled together to form a work with a theme unrelated to its constituent parts.

2) I re-scale and distort these images in photoshop to fit my re-mix work and then lay a piece of paper over my laptop screen.

3) I trace the picture directly over the screen using the light from it as a sort of backlight.

4) I ink or paint the pencil tracing as appropriate.

That process may be my own, but I am not alone in making art from disparate elements taken out of their original context.

I've recently seen works by another artist that does the same sort of thing, but for sculpture. Kris Kuksi uses bones, plastic models, found objects, and dollhouses to make sculptures that have a re-mix approach similar to mine.

Think about it, won't you?

Monday, September 14, 2009

All Portland Has to Offer

I took this on a trip to Portland, OR last spring. It was in the window display of the city historical society. I had a great time in that city and encountered very little in the way of assisted suicide or Indian casinos. But I did eat some fish.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Puerto Escondido Pt. 1

There is only one flight a day from Mexico city to Puerto Escondido's tiny airport and that flight takes off at 1330. Coming from Boston as I was, it was impossible to make that flight the same day I left. I was forced to sleep in Houston airport.

When I got there I asked the guys at the Sbarro pizza place where there were some seats without those fucking armrests that make sleeping on them impossible. They directed me to E-1 as the best option. The seats all had armrests though and I was forced to sleep on the floor. I snatched a garbage bag off a cleaning lady's cart as a prophylactic between me and the world's dirtiest floor, put in earplugs against the din of CNN, wrapped a bandana around my eyes against the bright lights, and went to sleep. I was woken a few hours later by an insistent nudging against my foot. It was a man with a vacuum cleaner who told me that they were shampooing the rugs in E-1 and that I had to move. I picked up my garbage bag and moved to E-2.

I met Harlow and Ashley when I arrived in Mexico city. We met up at the gate departing to PE and while we waited to board, Ashley writhed in the throes of hangover. She had gotten into some 151 the night before, which is bad enough, but she had compounded her folly by going for a drunken jog around the apartment building. A good sport though, she didn't fully succumb and pass out until we all got settled into the apartment in Puerto Escondido.

Arrived in PE in the afternoon and decided that the first thing to do was to go to the beach a block from our apt. and go for a swim. We were not prepared for how big the surf was or how strong the current. In combination, the effect was to break a swimmer in half and then sweep the pieces out to sea.

I've been surfing before, but that was pre-shoulder surgery and on much smaller waves. The ocean literally laughed me off my board when I paddled out into Puerto Escondido surf. That was fine with me though, I then devoted myself whole heartedly to reading in a hammock on the porch and drinking Tecate, activities at which I am highly skilled.

more to follow...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Guinea Pig Zero

I entered into the prospect of being mildly electrocuted for a medical study with a spirit of journalistic curiousity and a desire to be paid. I'm not alone in the latter. There are people who make 80+ grand a year by participating in medical studies. Some of those studies, like mine, are a short and easy couple sessions that end with getting a check for a few hundred. Others, and these pay $5,000 or so, involve staying in a hospital for weeks at a time while you manifest the side-effects of a new anti-depressant. I don't think I'm willing to trade what remains of my sanity for a paltry 5K, but the proposition is interesting.

But where to find such a proposition? In the back of any city newspaper are advertisements that say "safe sex, get paid!" and "smoke weed, get paid!" Those are scams (I looked into it). There is, however, a site called Center Watch where you can look up studies in your state. I found one studying "extinction of adrenal response" and with a name like that, how could I resist?

It consisted of two sessions of looking at a computer screen with electrodes on my fingertips that delivered a tingling sort of shock when certain pictures were displayed. On the palm of my other hand were two sensors measuring my galvanic skin resistance (sweatiness/stress). Certain pictures became associated with a shock and others with a not-shock. The goal of the study, or so I have surmised, is to see if a person's natural stress response can be overcome through being conscious of when they should and shouldn't be stressed.

The people who took blood and administered the test were all nice and I probably spent a total of an hour and a half at the place. I even got to customize the level of shock my fingertips got. Easy money.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lazily Efficient Eating

Eating is second only to sleeping as a waste of human life force. Too much time and effort is spent producing, buying, preparing, and eating food. That isn't to say I don't sometimes get great pleasure from food, I just don't want to be a slave to my stomach 3 times a day when I have to go on a hunting/gathering mission to stay comfortable and alive.

I'm interested in alternatives to a "meal". In The Man Who Ate Everything the author described in one chapter a meatloaf-like substance that could be made which contained all the nutrients and calories a person needs. You make a loaf of the "sludge" out of oats, soy, etc, and eat a slice or two for every meal. It tastes like nothing special, but it's cheap as hell and can be consumed quickly and efficiently. The recipe was given in the book, but I've yet to look it up again and try it out.

Then there are the food and water combinations like this one. Maybe put it in a giant hamster water bottle and hang it on the side of the house or office.

Is it apparent that I'm hungry as I write this, but too lazy to do anything about it?

Friday, March 13, 2009

I Wore an Orange Safety Vest

Initially, the temp agency said they had no jobs for me (or anyone else for that matter). When I explained to the temp manager that I was willing to schlep boxes or wash dishes or anything at all though, he told me there was a one day gig on the 12th that I could have. I would be "Parking Manager" at a biotech sales conference hosted at the Harvard medical center.

Parking managers, as I discovered, arrive before the sun-up, don those lovely vests, stand on the street in front of the medical center, and help the sales reps from the biotech companies unload the displays, samples, and other crap (pens, plush toys, etc) from their cars. I then handed them a ticket that allowed them to park for free in the lot around the corner. It was the job of my colleague, Dave from the Bronx, to actually cart the salesmen's paraphernalia up to the display areas on the second and third floors.

Dave from the Bronx preferred singing Dean Martin loudly to doing his job. In fact, he had temped the same biotech conference last year as "parking manager" but the temp agency decided to make me the manager this time (an unknown quantity in terms of work ethic or ability) because he was so remarkably unreliable.

Many of the sales reps didn't trust Dave or I, despite our collared shirts and orange vests, to handle their sensitive equipment. Some of them actually seemed to resent our offers of assistance. It reminded me very much of being a parking valet one summer during college. No one really wants to surrender their stuff, much less their car, to a stranger even if they really need the help.

I saw one small white woman, who had refused our help, balance a pile of heavy boxes and poster tubes on one of those little roller suitcases. She made it 13 feet before it all hit the deck. Needless to say, we vested professionals were scolded loudly about the irregularities in the pavement as we helped her pile it all back on her crummy little suitcase.

Still, it was 8 hours work and that means a little money coming in, instead of steadily leaking out. When I got home I celebrated by buying groceries.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Imperialist Grooming

Not being in the Navy anymore means I don't have to shave and like all recently released males, I have grown a scruffy goatee. My goal was merely to look unemployable, but someone pointed out that the facial hair makes me look a bit like a certain portrait of Sir Richard Francis Burton. It's wishful thinking on my part, but maybe there is a resemblance.

To complete the look I should really have an African warrior throw a spear through my cheeks to have those famous scars.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Freedom and Democracy are no longer my concern

Today was my last day driving on post and getting things signed, photocopied, etc. That and Obama being elected makes this one of the best weeks ever. Also I avoided having to switch to the hideous new uniforms the navy has in store for us.

I'm so psyched about Obama that I may not have to move to another country, but I might anyway. I wouldn't trust our nation's crumbling public school system to do right by my (hypothetical) kids.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Obama will be our next president. I didn't dare hope early on in the process, but as election day drew nearer, the hope would actually keep me awake at night.

"oh wow, he'll probably get a health care system started, and since he's actually a good man, he can pay for it by taxing the people that bush jr. has been helping to pig out for the last eight years... decriminalization of cannabis... end the war on rational thought and science... get the christians out of positions of power... pull out of IQ and AF so fewer of my peers and colleagues die horribly... "

Then I would have to turn the light on and read some 50s pulp science fiction to reset my brain to be able to sleep.

I know that all the positive energy that I, and many others expended in the form of sleepless hoping had an effect on the outcome of the election. It's an event of karmic justice and those things are powered by positive thinking.

Yes We Can.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pulp Fiction, The Jack Williamson Way

Read any one of Jack Williamson's stories and you will say "No wonder he was relegated to cheap pulp magazines! This stuff is about as sappy and 'atomic' as it comes." And you'd be right, sort of.

The typical Williamson story breaks down like this: A man is going about his business in the regular world. Something happens (something extraordinary) and he is transported to another world. The female who will become his love interest is present at the extraordinary happening, or appears soon afterward. A conflict is introduced via a bad guy who threatens them directly or simply prevents their return to the normal world. Action ensues and the protagonist wins out in the end, usually through the MacGuyveresque application of some scientific principle. All ends well, with the hero and his girl destined to live happily ever etc.

"The Green Star", for example, reads like a cross between Star Trek and a game of Candyland. Our hero arrives in a future world where all human needs are taken care of yada yada yada. The description that Williamson gives of the world of the future is the kind one usually gets from 50s science fiction. Things are "atomic" and all the problems of society are solved with "science".

There environment is a bucolic wonderland of perfectly manicured lawns and shrubs separating futuristic houses shaped like white towers. There are levitating rocket cars that shuttle men and women to home, work, or play. Cut gemstones play a very large role in the world of the future. They provide light, roofing, and a form of currency. They also provide Williamson with an endless supply of metaphor for the new inventions he witnesses.

The landscape of the future prompts him to write, "Here and there were low, forested hill, meandering silver brooks bordered with emerald verdure." When he meets the obligatory monster, our hero remarks that, "The red eyes were hard and cold and malignant as frozen rubies." The effect of all this comparison to jewels does give the future a gloss of the shiny and perfect, but it is so out of line with reality that it comes across as more of a hallucination than a vision of the future.

Make no mistake, Williamson is not deep reading. I fall back on WIlliamson when I am looking for literary popcorn. I read it with the same smile that I read Howard's stories of Conan the Barbarian or watch an episode of Mystery Science Theater. They are fun and illuminate the spirit of their time even where they fail at things like character development and believable plots.

To be fair, Williamson's work might suffer from that affliction that strikes artists and writers who started something that went on to be imitated extensively. Their work seems cliched now, but it was groundbreaking at the time. Nah...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another One