The Foodie Trend Runs Amok

Photo_121607_001I’ve been hanging onto this picture for a while now, meaning to make a post with it.  It was taken at a Burger King in Massachusetts in February, 2008.  I know that America is becoming a nation of "foodies" but pairing carbonated soft drinks with the food selections at Burger King?   Things are clearly out of control and/or someone at Burger King has way too much time on their hands. 

If You’re Wearing A Flowered Shirt and Shorts, Stay Away From Me!

As I’ve referenced before, I’m a pretty frequent flier.  Unfortunately, I fly a lot around in the Northeast US, so while I’m often on a plane, I don’t rack up a lot of miles, which means that my frequent flier mileage doesn’t necessarily reflect how much of an experienced traveler  I am.  But I am an experienced traveler – I’m the guy that the TSA agents like… I make sure I pat myself down before going through the metal detector, know that I have to take my laptop out of my briefcase and always take off my shoes.  I even know that I need to move down to the end of the x-ray belt and what order things need to go through the x-ray so that I can get my shoes on, put my laptop in my briefcase, put my quart bag of toiletries in my rolling suitcase, and then put my briefcase on my suitcase and then put on my jacket so I can go tie my shoes away from the line of people trying to get through security.

OK, so I’m a bit "type A" about going through security, but it works and it makes it much less stressful.

So what drives someone like me crazy is getting stuck behind "amateurs."  If I’m not in a rush, I find it humorous, like the time a TSA guard asked an older gentleman to take off his shoes and he responded by asking "why?"  Here’s a hint: when the nice man with the gun/taser/mace spray/ability to lock you up tells you to take off your shoes, you simply take off your shoes.  One of my all-time favorites is the couple that didn’t quite understand the way that the carry-on liquids rule works.   Not only did they not have a quart bag, but in the bag they DID have, they had large containers of hair gel, shampoo, etc.  I actually heard them arguing with a TSA agent, saying that there was two of them, so couldn’t they have a 6 ounce bottle of shampoo?   You’re allowed 3 ounce containers per person, so why not a 6 ounce container if you’re traveling together?  Why not indeed? 

I’ve often wished for an "expert" lane at airport security.  A lane where the frequent travelers – usually identified by a briefcase, a rolling carry-on, and a quart bag filled with generic travel sized toiletry containers written on with a black Sharpie – can do their thing and not get frustrated by the family of four that hasn’t flown in 5 years, didn’t bother to read what they are supposed to do before getting on the plane and are now in their third pass through the metal detector.

Turns out I’m not alone – Logan airport in Boston is considering such a plan, and apparently it is being tested in Denver and Salt Lake City.  Reading that Denver article is interesting – it says that the last thing families want to do is hold up people in the line.  I am sure this is true, and I’ve seen very apologetic people if they are messing up the security line, and I appreciate the apology.  But I’ve also seen people that are completely ignorant of their surrounding and fellow travelers.  Those are the people who REALLY bug me.  Maybe we should have these three lanes: 1) Know what you’re doing and care about getting through quickly  2) Kind of know what you’re doing and don’t mind waiting with others 3) No clue and ignorant of anyone else. 

Record Shop Day – Cool Idea! (I Think)

Even even I do have an iPod now and could never buy another CD for the rest of my life, I’m not about to give that up.  I still love the experience of getting a new CD, reading through the booklet and listening to the music with the book in hand, trying to figure out what the lyrics mean, and trying to figure out what the artist is saying in both the music and the artwork. 

Just as I still love that tactile experience, I still enjoy going to an actual record store and browsing around.  Sometimes I have a goal in mind – a particular album I want to get – and other times I just go in and see what catches my eye and ear, sometimes using a listening station if there is one available (why there aren’t more of these, I don’t know!).  The number of  independent music stores continue to dwindle.  In my area, Newbury Comics is the leading independent record shop, and I love them, but I still miss In Your Ear records on Thayer Street in Providence.

So when I heard about "National Record Day," I naturally got excited!  I went to the web site and immediately got a banner to put here on my blog:

While come over here to write this post up, I figured I should know what it is all about.  The site doesn’t really have much information for consumers on it; apparently all the indie shops are getting together to create an event at each of their stores on the same day and use their collective power to get freebies and more attention from the record labels. 

The irony here is kind of obvious – these are "indie" (that’s "independent" for you non-hipsters out there) stores (known for their fierce individualism), joining together, combining their power, to fight against mega-stores and discount stores that are stealing business from them.  Because those guys are big and put their power together to get more attention from the record labels. 


Of course, I realize that there is a greater good here, but I still find it a bit humorous.  I do hope that it gets people into a new local record store though, and maybe they will find some great music that they wouldn’t have found at their local Wal-Mart or Best Buy.  You don’t have to wait until April 19th to do it either – these stores are open between now and then, doncha know!?!?   

Roger Williams Park Botanical Center

I almost hesitate to share this with everyone, lest it gets overrun with people…  this weekend we went to the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center. What a great, relatively unknown oasis in the great little city of Providence! 

Open only about a year at this point, the Botanical Center is three massive greenhouses, two of which are open to the public and filled with a wide assortment of tropical flowers, plants and orchids, all arranged around beautiful fountains and ponds.  The other greenhouse is used for lectures and classes. 

A highlight is the carnivorous plant exhibit (brought to you by the New England Carnivorous Plant Society) which allows you to see all those cool plants that trap and digest insects (and rodents!).  If you find yourself with an hour to spare after checking out the Roger Williams Zoo, for $3, you can’t go wrong at the botanical center.

Technology Update

Among friends, family and co-workers, I have gained a reputation as a tech-savvy person; someone who is always in on the latest gadgets and technologies.  I admit that I do like technology and I tend to be pretty comfortable with it, and I do like gadgets, but I’m hardly an "early adopter" or obsessed with technology.  Most of the time I just want my computer to not crash, my laptop to start up within a reasonable amount of time and the GPS unit to send me to the right hotel.   Other than that, I’m not all about upgrading everything every year. 

However, in the last few months, I’ve acquired a few pieces of technology that have greatly impacted my life and my entertainment options.

First was an iPod.  I know I"m a few years behind on this one, but I’ve always put it off for a few reasons: first it was because of price and because the iPods weren’t big enough to hold my music collection.  Then their storage capacities got bigger and it because an issue of price and being frightened by how long it would take for me to rip my music collection (1500+ CDs) to iTunes.  But I always wanted one, and finally I was given one for Christmas and I haven’t stopped using it since.  I use it on planes and in hotel rooms while traveling and listen to it nearly all day long in my office through a small speaker system.  And even with XM Satellite Radio and a CD player in my car, I find myself using it there as well.  I knew it would have a major impact on my music habits, but even I underestimated how much the brilliantly simple device would change how I "consume" music.  I’ve listened to a wider variety of bands than I have in years, since I don’t have to haul around so many CDs.   Getting all of my music collection onto it continues to be a daunting task, but I am picking away at it and enjoying getting to reacquaint myself with old albums that I had forgotten about.

Shortly after the iPod came the Nintendo Wii.   Let me start off with a little context: up until last spring, the last video game system I bought was the original NES.   Then after a little taste of Guitar Hero, I found myself in possession of a PS2.  However we never moved any further than Guitar Hero – in fact, with one exception of about two hours when a neighbor brought over a Spider-Man game, I don’t think any game other than Guitar Hero has ever seen the inside of our PS2.  So basically, it is a Guitar Hero console.

Then this past Christmas came when we got to try the Wiiat my fiance’s family’s house and after about 30 seconds of playing with the controller, we made the decision that we had to get it.  It ended up being a present to us, and it has become a true entertainment center for us: from playing games to creating Miis, it has quickly become part of our regular routine and a primary "entertainment option."   Super Mario Galaxy is the best video game I have played in years and nearly each game we’ve played on the Wii makes use of the Wii remote and/or Nunchuck in such an intuitive manner that just about anyone can quickly pick up a new game and start having fun with it.  I recently read an article where a Nintendo marketing executive said that the major insight for the Wii was that there were more people out there who DON’T play video games (Nintendo’s Blue Ocean Strategy) than those who DO, and the Wii is designed for those who aren’t hard-core gamers, which I was never one (at least not since Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out).  They wanted a FUN, easy-to-use video game system, not one that could render the splattering of blood in Call of Duty 4 with the greatest realism. The strategy worked: its fun and we’re hooked.

The most recent technological development – one that is only a few days old – is TiVO.  Yeah, I know, I’m even more behind on this one – the iPod came out in October of 2001, the Wii in September of 2006, but the TiVo launched in March 1999!  Nearly 8 years later, I feel like I wasted a lot of time running around with VCR tapes and actually trying to be home when a TV show is actually on.   If you don’t have a TiVoor a similar DVR, and you watch more than 2 TV shows on a fairly regular basis, you really need to get one.  Just last night, we were able to clean up after dinner while the Simpsons were paused and then come back and catch up with the show after we were done. 

So that’s my tech update.  Check back with me in anywhere from 2 to 7 years to see if I’ve jumped on the Blu-Ray bandwagon!

A Personal Moment to Brighten Your Day

I really do try to keep this blog focused on things related pop culture and things that affect our cultural tastes, but once in a while something happens that I just need to mention somewhere…  I hope this makes you smile, knowing that there is justice in this world.

This morning on the way into work, there was someone driving a Nissan 350Z who clearly thought he owned the road and was easily doing 90 – 100 MPH and weaving in and out of traffic.  Your typical jackass who thinks he’s king of the road because he drives a sports car. 

Less than a minute later, a State Police Car comes barreling down the highway, and my only hope was that he was chasing after Mr. Nissan Z.  As I came over the next hill, there he was, with the Nissan Z pulled over, lights flashing… 

To the State Trooper who pulled over the speeding driver on 495 in Massachusetts this morning – thank you.  You made me feel alright this morning. 

Great Tool for Bloggers, Emailers and People Building Pages on

After a frustrating day trying to get looooooong MapQuest URLs to work in’s web page builder interface, I discovered a great free service called TinyURL that shortens ridiculously long URLs.  If you you’ve ever tried to figure out how to email a really long URL without it getting cut off, this is your solution.

Enter a long URL to make tiny:

It made the difference in being able to create the page I really wanted to have, with all the information needed for our guests.   As I said, I can see TinyURL being great for emailing and blogging as well.

Flavor Trends

Just how much has the palette of American changed?  Here’s a listing of some of the flavors recently predicted to be among the most popular new flavors for food in 2008: acai, lychee, pomegranate, verbena, goji, noni, guarana, achiote, sofrito, ras-al-hanout, tandoori, chermoula, cumac, pandan and tamarind.  I wonder how many people could tell you what all of them are.   I wonder how many people could have told you that ANY of these existed ten years ago?  I consider myself a "foodie" and I have to say that I couldn’t tell you what all of these are. 

For those who are as ignorant as myself, here’s some links to help clear things up.  To start with, here are the "sweet" flavors that they say will be in the beverage, confectionery, bakery and dairy markets:

  • Acai (side note: Smirnoff just came out with a Strawberry Acai flavor of Smirnoff Ice)
  • Lychee
  • Pomegranate
  • Mint (I’m assuming you know about this one, but it is one taken for granted)
  • Blueberry (hopefully you know this one too)
  • Verbena
  • Goji
  • Noni (also known as "vomit fruit." awesome)
  • Guarana (not really new, but reaching widespread influence beyond energy drinks)

And here are the "savory" flavors predicted to become more popular in meat, condiments, sauces, soups and seasoning markets:

  • Achiote (tried finding this a few months ago – never did manage it)
  • Sofrito (this is a very interesting one – it is kind of like the Latin equivalent of the "trinity" in Cajun and Creole cooking or French Mirepoix
  • Ras-al-hanout (a tough one to define – basically a mix of high-end exotic spices, typically in the Moroccan or Middle-Eastern arena.  Don’t take this link as definitive, but exemplary)
  • Tandoori (yum!)
  • Tea smoked (I have heard of it, and have had food smoked with tea, but never done it myself.  Now I will have to!)
  • Chermoula (somewhat similar to ras-al-hanout in concept)
  • Cumac – I cannot find any information about this.  If anyone can help, please let me know!
  • Kaffir lime
  • Pandan
  • Tamarind (tasting tamarind for the first time is a mind-blowing experience.  I encourage you to pick up some tamarind paste and experiment with it)

One of the interesting things about this list is that many of the them, especially on the sweet side, have purported medicinal/health benefits as well.  Not only are we looking for more and different flavors – bolder, spicier, more challenging – but we’re looking to get health benefits from them as well.