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Seattle company offers stevia-sweetened soda, er, dietary supplement

SEATTLE, Washington - I've been avoiding Nutrasweet for a long time, and Splenda-flavored sodas don't hit the spot and are often made with several artificial sweeteners including Ace-K. About ten years ago I started ordering stevia on the young internet and mixing it with seltzer and lemon-lime juice to have my soda fix.

I eventually got to where I now just drink lightly flavored sparkling water, but sometimes I want something sweeter. Today at PPC I stumbled upon Zevia, a local company making stevia-sweetened sodas in four flavors. Of course, due to long-standing FDA nonsense you can't actually claim that stevia is a food or food additive, so these things are officially "dietary supplements" but proceed with the nod-nod-wink-wink. I had the Cola flavor and will try the others, they're $0.88 a can at PCC and allegedly are also for sale at Metropolitan Market.

Zevia store locator


Salty Caramel is the new Mango

SEATTLE, Washington - First it was the Sweet and Salty cake in Brooklyn...

then The Stranger started going gaga over a Salty Caramel treat at Fran's (in which they also mention a Salted Caramel ice cream at Molly Moon's)....

then last week I was eating at Mario Batali's Otto in New York City and my beloved Ricotta gelato was pulled from the menu, replaced with a Salty Caramel gelato offering...

and tonight, while making my semiweekly raid on a supermarket ice cream freezer, I see a new Häagen-Dazs flavor piled high with caramel, with a touch of French sea salt for good measure. The Häagen-Dazs website recommends shoveling the ice cream onto oyster shells.


Useless "Landmark" Denny's in Ballard finally allowed to die

SEATTLE, Washington - The rights of a property holder - enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, Magna Carta, that list nailed to Martin Luther's door, etc. - have for once held firm against the Seattle neighborhood busybodies.

The old Denny's in Ballard, which was granted Historical Landmark status in February, is probably going to be torn down anyway. In a meeting last week, the same board that granted landmark status voted unanimously that there was no economically feasible plan for the property that included leaving the building intact - so even though the building is still officially a "landmark" the owner can tear it down.

Click through on the link, you can see the Landmarks and Preservation board... the chin rubbing, the pen-twiddling, the hangdog expressions... they're in agony.

“It’s a very sad situation,” said board chair Stephen Lee. “It’s a bad situation to be in.”
Board chair Stephen Lee — who rallied the board to preserve the Denny’s three months ago — refused to talk to the media and was overheard telling someone, “I need a drink.”

He needs a drink? I need a drink after following this charade. I hope I hear when the wrecking ball will arrive, I'll be there.


Mara kept shoveling vodka down my throat

SEATTLE, Washington - One of my dinners in NYC last week was at Mara's Homemade, a mom-n-pop Cajun place in the East Village that I had been to a couple times when I lived in the city. I should be angry at Mara - I've asked to get off the email list a couple times since moving away, without success - but I was in the mood for fish.

I didn't order drinks on my previous visits, but this time I ordered a Cajun Martini (just vodka and Tabasco, it seems.) Mara brings out the glass and the shaker, pours the drink, and then tells me to tilt my head back. I get a shot poured right down my gullet. I swallow and she says there's more. I tilt back and take a second one. She says to tilt back again - I said why not just get bigger glasses? She said "he's a generous man." Hopefully she meant her husband David, mixing the drinks. So I took a third shot, finally emptying the shaker. I was lit up real good before even touching my martini.

Two young ladies at the next table also ordered drinks (one saw me getting served) and they each only got one shot down their throat. I don't know if David puts extra in the shaker for men or if it was just luck.


No moisture in the forecast - the bedroom forecast

NEW YORK, New York - I almost never watch television at home, but I've gotten into the habit of having the usually unobtrusive Weather Channel running all night as I sleep in a hotel. I keep the volume low - but not low enough not to notice that last night, they ran sexual lubricant commercials over and over and over.

The good folks at K-Y Jelly have introduced "K-Y Yours+Mine", a his & hers lubricant combination that apparently produces some beneficial chemical effect when the two concoctions come together during intimate congress.

There's at least four separate commercials, the Weather Channel had them in heavy rotation, at least one during every commercial set.


Met Life Tower at night - E 23rd

NEW YORK, New York - click for larger image

Female cows in India do have large horns, do not lay eggs

NEW YORK, New York - One of the places in my lunch rotation when I'm in NYC is the Kati Roll Company, even though it's a good 15 minute walk from the office. The menu is very simple - they offer up 10 choices on the menu, each of which is cooked up and wrapped in a paratha. Two of these make for a filling (albeit a bit fatty) lunch.

The menu was simple before, but it involved reading, so they've made it even simpler by introducing a picture menu. You have to distinguish a bit between the blob that represents a potato and the blob that represents minced mutton, but overall it should help people to order. The place is also adorned with Bachchan movie posters, so you can get some ideas for your Netflix queue.


Lower Manhattan from W 33rd St.

NEW YORK, New York - click for larger version


Chrysler Building from W 34th

NEW YORK, New York - click for larger version


Harrison Ford: aging, making a cash-grab, possibly gay

NEW YORK, New York - Madison Square Garden has dedicated its massive outdoor advertisement to the upcoming Indiana Jones movie. As the movie approaches, I can tell from your Google searches that one thing is on your mind: is Harrison Ford gay?

I've speculated on this before, and frankly I don't think that reprising the ruggedly masculine Jones character is going to help. Really, what evidence do we have that he's straight? The fact that he's been having sex with Calista Flockhart for years? That doesn't prove anything.


on flip-flops, the kind you wear on your feet

SEATTLE, Washington - A long comment thread has broken out on the Slog about flip-flops and the attractiveness of feet.

For the record: Feet are ugly (all 12+ billion of them), I've been buying my own footwear since the late 1980s and have never bought or worn anything that leaves my feet visible, everyone else should do the same as me, you need a damn good excuse for burdening others with the sight of your feet (e.g. you're about to step into the ocean), and while I frequently argue against classifying things as "mental illnesses" I would think there's no greater sign of delusional lack of self-awareness then having your ugly feet (and they're all ugly) visible to others in public.


Lots of infantile glee about high gas prices

SEATTLE, Washington - There's been quite a bit of happy internet buzz for the past week or so because of a New York Times story about high gas prices causing some folks to switch to mass transit. I won't bother posting links, there's plenty of blog search engines out there.

This is nothing to celebrate. Every person that is switching from auto to transit for their commute is suffering a reduction in their quality of life. Transit is an inferior way of getting around except when auto transportation is completely out of the question (usually because there's nowhere to park at the destination). If transit is so great, people would choose it automatically, not only when suffering a (hopefully temporary) spike in the cost of driving.

If good meat got very expensive and people switched to cat food, this is a reduction in quality of life that nobody would celebrate. If electricity got so expensive that people sat around their house in the dark at night, this would be a blow to their quality of life that nobody would celebrate. But if some people are forced into the commuting version of cat food (mass transit), suddenly a big celebration breaks out.

I could list all the ways in which transit is worse, but why? I believe in choice, and people choose driving and they will switch right back to driving as soon as gas prices come down or alternatives to gas emerge for powering cars.

Why the celebration? Many people hide behind the floral-print skirt of the "environment", but people love to play the environment card when they really have a separate agenda. Cars aren't going away, and if you primary concern is the environment you should be focused on cleaner cars and cleaner energy (which is happening anyway due to natural technological progress and what is probably absurd overinvestment in these technologies.) Yet, if cars became 100% clean tomorrow, and were powered in a radically cheaper way, the same set of dorks crowing about the NYT article would still be pushing for transit.

Why? There's a spectrum of reasons, but I think the main one is the egalitarian impulses of many people. In a car based system, (gasp!) some people can't afford a car and (double gasp!) some people have nicer cars than others, while with a transit system the masses and the classes all get around the same way. In this sense, switching to transit is a bigger hit to the quality of life of a wealthy person than a poorer person, so it's a Good Thing.

There are other reasons: cultural dislike of suburbanites, the bogus perception that oil companies are "profiteering" (their profits in proportion to income and investment are in line with other industries), and the general affinity for massive tax-funded systems (see education, and their desires for health care).

Still, transit gets public support beyond the NYT-transit-article-loving fanatics - it even manages to win some elections and referendums. The most accurate analysis of why that happens appeared in The Onion years ago - the best satire is always very close to the truth.

Laid off - one year ago today!

SEATTLE, Washington - What a special anniversary this is, exactly one year since the one and only time I was let go from a job.

Media accounts of layoffs (and commentary upon said layoffs) often speak of reductions in staffing as if Something Awful has happened - a grave violation of the social contract, a cruel trampling of peoples' lives for the sake of inflating the bottom line. This is hogwash - businesses exist to provide goods and services, not to provide people a living*, and firings feed future hirings as market processes work to allocate labor where it is needed.

In my case, I speculated that the RIF was a preparatory step to my company being acquired, and that's exactly what happened. The layoffs were the right thing to do, every last one of them.

Most people would look at my situation and say that I got myself into a better place than I was in at my previous job.

* No matter how stridently labor unions and their ideological allies seem to think otherwise


My boldest painting yet

SEATTLE, Washington - This is a small sample (about one square inch) of my newest painting. I dare not post the entire thing on the internet for fear of causing a sensation - a bidding war, servers going down, etc.

I know what you're thinking - given my skill in both the verbal and visual arts, I must be a direct descendant of Jean Cocteau. I'm not. I've never even had an art lesson.


Top Pot Doughnuts now hiring to update their web site, I hope

SEATTLE, Washington - Top Pot Doughnuts has opened a Queen Anne location. I used to live in this neighborhood, and I like Top Pot, so this was good to see.

Of course, you have to be a bit lucky to even know it's there, because it's been open since at least February but Top Pot's website doesn't mention this new location. I would blame it on the fact that there's so much whizbang Flash bullshit animation on the page that no one knows how to update it, but the HTML version also doesn't mention the Queen Anne location.


Book Review - The Producers: Profiles in Frustration

SEATTLE, Washington - In case you've wondered what it is that a television or movie producer does - you can read The Producers and still not be quite sure what they do.

Author Luke Ford has been around the block. A few of us would read his porn gossip website when we were in grad school in the late 1990s. This type of profession was unusual for a convert to Orthodox Judaism, and he wrestled with this for years (a struggle chronicled in his XXX-Communicated: A Rebel Without a Shul) and appears to have finally thrown the porn reporting over the rail.

The book contains interviews with 68 different producers. If you're interested in movie scuttlebutt at all, the material is interesting. Luke doesn't talk a lot in the interviews, and when he does it's often to ask questions about values and Judaism. Luke's the kind of guy that throws all his stuff onto his website, so you can read most of the interviews (except the ones with Jeff Wald, which were removed due to threats and litigation) on his website. Some good example interviews are Peter Hyams (I never seem to like his movies) and Christopher Mankiewicz (for his repeated bashing of producer Arnold Kopelson).

I also did throw a dozen or so movies into the Netflix queue while reading the book, including The Man From Elysian Fields, Trees Lounge, and Sordid Lives.

One amazing thing about Ford's writing is his incredibly bad spelling. For a guy obsessed with Hollywood, he inexplicably misspells names like Lee Strasberg and Hal Wallis. He must call Sidney Lumet "Sydney Lumet" a dozen times. At least his mistakes aren't confined to names - Luke, there's no such thing as "du-op" music. Luke, "He's the worst human being whoever lived" is not a valid sentence. I'll forgive Luke for writing that Don Phillips "grew up in Ventner, New Jersey, a heavily Jewish town" - the name's wrong but it was a heavily Jewish town in the 1940s.

Ford claims he was laid up with "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" for six years, perhaps those were the years when spelling is learned.


The fate of dead monitors in Seattle is very Seattle

SEATTLE, Washington - My 17 inch LCD has breathed its last, so I need to get rid of it. I knew this would be a convoluted, politically correct task in Seattle, and it is: King County has put together the Take it Back Network, a "partnership among government agencies, retailers, repair shops, charitable organizations and recyclers" tasked with resolving things like computer monitors into their constituent atoms and routing these atoms to their heavily thought-out fates.

Looks like I'll have to comb over the large list of Take it Back Network affiliates and contact a few and see what they'd charge me to take my monitor - essentially, comparison shop to throw something away.

I told this to my operative in Pittsburgh, and he told me to just ship him the monitor UPS and he'd throw it away there, it would probably be cheaper and easier than whatever I'd have to do here.


Can I ever escape this sight?

SEATTLE, Washington - Today, not a block from my house, I took in a sight I suffered repeatedly earlier in life - a bus picking up loads of old people to haul them to/from a casino.

Who knew this happened in Seattle? This is something more typical of bad neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore.


Where's Waldo? And, where's the Trophy Cupcakes PB&J?

SEATTLE, Washington - Perhaps the best way to keep a limited-edition cupcake "special" is to keep changing the days on which it's offered. As of early April the PB&J at Trophy was being offered on Fridays. I went on a recent Friday and it was not to be found - the official word now is that it's being offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In the meantime, the cupcake that got Trophy all the buzz on the Martha Stewart show - the s'more-ish Chocolate Graham Cracker with Toasted Marshmallow - is being offered on Sundays and Mondays. I jump right on s'more-flavored things when they become available (like ice creams) and this cupcake is on the money.

How long will they offer it? Presumably, as long as Martha Stewart tells them to.


Today is RSS Awareness Day - so become aware

SEATTLE, Washington - In case you're one of the buffoons that still fires up a favorite news site or blog in the browser every so often, to see if there are any new stories - please note that today is RSS Awareness Day. Switch to an RSS or Atom newsfeed for your favorite sites.

Join the 21st century. Here's the feed for this site, and here's a little secret: for any Blogspot blog, you can use that same URL (just swap out the stuff before "") and you can get their feed, even if the user doesn't publish it on their page. (This assumes they have not explicitly turned off the feed.)