July 30, 2013
I only recently realized Panera even offered Blended Coffee Awesomeness. I was distracted by something else: egg souffles. Have you ever had an egg souffle from Panera? Or from anywhere? Egg souffle, cheese pastry, and Mountain Dew. That was my order. Then they stopped serving Mountain Dew. I was really bummed about that.
But back to the subject at hand...where I...review this drink? Yeah I have no idea what I'm doing here. If it helps, it seems like Panera uses a little more coffee than some of the other places. And for whatever reason (you can kind of tell by the picture), they give you a REALLY thick straw. You could probably drink bubble tea with this thing if you're so inclined, which — if you're like me — you aren't.
Panera is unfortunately on the south end of McKinney, where there's a bunch of annoying construction and traffic. But you know when there isn't much traffic? Sunday mornings. And if I just get myself out of bed, there's a spinach bacon souffle with my name on it. And a cheese pastry. And you know what else.
Also, there's a Half Price Books next door, so that's nice.
July 23, 2013
July 22, 2013
When things were going a little better, economy-wise, I used to get breakfast at Whataburger and coffee drinks from Starbucks for some of my co-workers. The coffee order was invariably more expensive than the food order. Say what you will about Starbucks, but no one can deny they have changed the way most of us think about the price of coffee. And they've caused us to lose all self-consciousness stemming from using ridiculous words instead of small, medium, and large. Bravo.
Maybe this is just my inner snob talking, but I swear I can taste the difference between the actual Starbucks store drinks and the grocery store Starbucks kiosk drinks. Okay, maybe that's not true. I think it mostly has to do with the barista (another word we probably only use because Starbucks is a thing). I particularly like it when it's blended evenly and there are no chunks of ice remaining that clog the straw.
Though my blended coffee awesomeness experience varies, and it's a little more expensive than some of the other options, part of the appeal of the Caramel Frappuccino is the options and add-ons. 2% (or skim milk) instead of whole milk, extra coffee, a shot (or shots) of espresso...if you're into that sort of thing. While I sometimes go for the extra coffee or espresso, I always opt for no whipped cream. I figure it's an easy way to get rid of a few calories, and it tends to make the drink neater.
Starbucks has a certain romanticism about it. Why do I get the urge to read a book at Starbucks instead of the comfort of my own home? I have no idea.
July 21, 2013
You know what I’ve never liked very much? Coffee. During my teens and even my twenties, if I ever expressed this to an adult, they assured me it was only a matter of time before I came to love it as most of them seemed to. It never happened, though I suspect part of the reason is I never had a job that required incredibly long hours or extremely early wake-ups. But you know what I discovered about coffee? When it’s blended with ice, milk, and caramel syrup, I can’t get enough of the stuff!
Initially, Starbucks was the only place in town I could satisfy my craving for this delicious delivery system of both sugar and caffeine…but not anymore! So what is the Blended Coffee Awesomeness Project? Mainly, it’s an excuse to get one at all the local restaurants that serve them. It’s also a motivation to write something in this space. Also, I like things with the word “project” in the title (see also: Gutenberg, October, Alan Parsons).
I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to write about them. I don’t plan on reviewing them or anything, since this is the type of thing that boils down to personal taste, and even drinks from the same place tend to vary. Maybe I’ll provide useful information like price, size, calories, etc. I at least plan on providing a picture of each since Instagram now allows embedding images.
Exciting, right? I’m aware that it’s not…but that’s never stopped me before!
September 6, 2012
Okay, this has been bugging me for a while. I’m certain (photographic) self portraits have been around almost as long as the camera. But with the advent of the internet, smartphones, and social networking, self portraits are more popular than ever. Especially popular is the “mirror portrait”. Here’s a couple examples I took in my bathroom mirror:
Besides the obvious similarities (they were taken seconds apart), do you notice what I’m doing in both of the pictures? I’m looking at myself—on my phone’s screen on the left and in the mirror on the right. It seems like 90% of the mirror portraits I see on the internet fall into these two categories, which is really just one category.
I don’t want to make blanket statements, but most of what we put on the internet is for the benefit of others. Even if the purpose of the picture is to draw attention to yourself, the picture itself is still there to be seen by others. So why not look at the intended audience?
Yeah, I’m probably just being picky, but it bothers me when people can’t take their eyes off themselves for the two seconds it takes to snap a pic. /rant
June 21, 2012
Normally Microsoft makes software and leaves it up to other companies to build the hardware. But with their upcoming product the Surface, they’re keeping control of both the OS and the hardware, not unlike a certain multi-billion dollar company named after a fruit. Apple’s strategy of tight integration and control of both hardware and software is definitely working for them. I’ve pretty much already covered that, but the point I’m trying to make is: Microsoft is borrowing Apple’s strategy for one part of its market. But Apple should be doing the same thing to Microsoft.
They’ve actually tried it before. Does anyone remember that Apple used to let other companies build Apple (clone) computers? Here’s an article (link) from when that was a thing, waaaay back in the late 90’s. Apple should start doing this again, not for their laptops or all-in-one devices, but for the Mac Pro. Apple should let an outside company (or companies) build the Mac Pro. Based on their barely-incremental update of the Mac Pro, some users are complaining that Apple isn’t making products for pros anymore (one example here, though this are also articles to the contrary). There is already a fairly vibrant community of users who build “Hackintosh” computers that run Mac OS on off-the-shelf hardware (link). The legality of these DIY Macs is questionable, but they are proof of what’s possible.
I understand that Apple has a certain reputation to uphold; they make beautiful computers that work intuitively. Though Apple's entire line of computers is nice to look at, Mac Pro towers are just that—towers. I don't have one myself, but I'm assuming plenty of Mac Pro users keep their towers out of sight anyway. Mac Pro users also represent a customer willing to spend extra money for the latest hardware, and yet Apple is very slow to upgrade these machines. They could pick one or two computer companies to manufacturer a Mac Pro line (preferably two, for competition). They could have a VERY limited license agreement that allows the companies to create only high-end towers (nothing that would really compete with MBP or iMac). These companies could then work with Apple, Intel, and other motherboard and video card manufacturers to create something that is both worthy of the Mac OS and can stay completely up-to-date from a hardware perspective.
One issue might be Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt is actually a joint venture of Intel and Apple, but I’ve only ever seen it on Apple computers and peripherals designed to work with them. Are motherboard manufacturers allowed to include Thunderbolt on their products? I can’t find a definitive answer. While Apple fanatics might resent the inclusion of this I/O in non-Apple devices, I think it would jumpstart the creation of more peripherals that make use of the technology.
This is my second post in a row directed at an industry that will never see what I’m saying, but it feels nice to post it on the Internet anyway. Thanks for reading!
June 19, 2012
Recently we got some maybe-true details about the next generation Xbox system (link). The specs include a Blu-ray drive, which totally makes sense. Microsoft wants the Xbox to be viewed as a gaming console as well as an entertainment device. It also makes sense because you can stuff something like five times the amount of data on a Blu-ray than you can on a standard DVD. This will become more useful as games get larger.
My question is, why do we still put games on optical discs? I can’t speak for the PS3 or Wii, but the optical drive is by far the loudest and slowest part of the Xbox, not to mention the easiest to break. USB flash drives continue to come down in price and go up in capacity. Many would say “why bother with physical media at all?” but I think going strictly digital isn’t viable as long as ISPs are considering bandwidth and/or data caps. There’s also gamers without access to broadband connections and the second-hand game business to think about (though I’m sure game companies would love to get rid of that industry).
Flash drives are still physical media that you can require to be plugged in for the game to be played. Since Xbox has two front USB ports and supports USB hubs, you can have more than one game plugged in at one time for easier game switching. And you can’t ruin a flash drive by scratching it. USB data rates (or at least seek times) are much faster than that of optical drives. This would mean faster load times and less (or at least less noticeable) load screens. You can already cut down on some of this by copying the game to the hard drive, but you still must have the disc in the drive to play. If a wholesale switch were made, this could mean a second, optical drive-less Xbox hardware device could be available for those not interested in playing movies or old games. Something closer in size to the Apple TV. Or you could put the whole system on the Kinect sensor!
I’m sure this has already been considered, so there must be significant downsides that I’m not thinking about. The cost of a 32 or 64 gigabyte flash drive is likely much higher than your typical optical disc, but I’m thinking the cost would become worth it when more games outgrow optical media. Disc switching isn’t fun. They would also have to put new, untested measures in place to protect against copying, but it doesn’t seem like this would be that difficult, and DRM is a fact of life for optical and digital games already. What do you think? Are console games on flash drives a good idea? What downsides am I overlooking?