Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Few Likes and Dislikes

While Tam looks with increasing disfavor on people's habit of rating everything they experience, I find the rampant Facebook "liking" and "disliking"* of consumer products distasteful.  There are very few products I would want to announce to everyone I know, or basically the world, as having some kind of significant attitude toward.  I don't believe this is any principled belief; it just feels cheap and tawdry somehow (esp. because I think a lot of the impetus for doing so is in response to marketers' promotions -- e.g., "like us on FB to enter our contest for a free XYZ!" (Why yes, I am a marketing student.)).  And really, my FB page is already overfilled with annoying, meaningless garbage without finding out that the guy who sat behind me in 8th grade math class "likes" Tombstone pizza.

*After posting this, I thought, Wait - is there even a dislike option on FB?  I don't actually remember, but I'm thinking no.  OK, I checked - you can "like" but not "dislike" things on FB.  This makes my disdain all the stronger.  All the rabbits in the world and I disapprove.

This being said, I am happy to share my thoughts on a couple of recently-bought products/experiences in this setting.  (My marketing strategy professor's favorite way to end any given sentence, whether it really makes sense or not, is with the words "in this setting."  Another guy in our department ends sentences characteristically with "from that standpoint."  A psychology professor is partial to "in this space," though he uses it less frequently and mixes things up by stating it in other positions in the sentence.)


Lands End Weatherfield Shoes:  These are my perfect "walk over 2.5 miles to school on wet, slushy, icy, or snowy (below about 2") ground in comfort and wear them indoors all day, admiring the subtly contrasting colors and pleasant shape below where my jean hems scrunch up" shoes.  I have the brown ones, and because they are currently on sale, have ordered the black and violet, too.  Because we contend with snowy conditions through Easter, I thought the violet ones would be nice for that time of year when 95% of the rest of Americans are wearing spring clothing.  I really, really wish they would make them in dark grey and in red or green or pretty much any other interesting color (perhaps not yellow or pink).

Kashi Dark Mocha Almond granola bars:  I gave these up for a couple weeks when I was being really strict about eating zero wheat, but I am now back to eating about 5 of these per week (with no negative effects; I have added back wheat only in the very small quantities in these granola bars and my mom's meatloaf recipe, which is mostly oat-based but has about half a tablespoon of wheat germ per serving, too).  I tried a bunch of strictly oat-based granola bars and they all (1) were not very filling for the calories, (2) tempted me even when I wasn't hungry and (3) left me wanting to eat another one right away even though (4) some of them didn't even taste all that good.  The Kashi mocha ones are filling (for only 130 calories), satisfyingly toothy, have a chocolate-y flavor without any gooeyness, are not very sweet, and taste quite good, but I never crave them when I'm not hungry or feel left wanting more.  I really appreciate foods that have a high ratio of liking to wanting (to hijack the terminology of neurologist Kent Berridge, who has done a lot of interesting, great work demonstrating that finding something pleasurable - liking it - and finding something motivating - wanting it - are regulated by different brain circuits).  This combination - enjoyable to eat without making me really want it - is especially hard to find in long-term shelf-stable snack foods in convenient form factors and calorie amounts that I can carry around in my backpack, stash in my office, etc.  So it's the bomb, basically.


Pei Wei restaurant in my nearby suburb:  Today was it.  Robert and I have been eating lunch at this place most Saturdays since we moved here, but this was the last time I'm going there.  I have really liked the place because (1) Pei Wei's chai iced tea is delicious, (2) it's easy to eat wheat and corn free, and (3) you don't have a server waiting on you so you don't have to feel bad about using up a table for a couple hours when they're not busy, which they typically aren't.  However, I would say that fully half the times we go, the awesome, wonderful chai iced tea is brewed so pathetically weakly that it is like having sex on a boat in a silty river - i.e., fucking close to dirty water.  We always complain, and they always brew a new batch.  Today, this process took, seriously, over 45 minutes.  This ridiculous delay, in combination with an especially too-loud stereo system and an egregiously loud and chatty set of 4 women at the table next to us (who Robert noticed after they left had gotten disposable to-go cups instead of the normal plastic cups yet left them on the table because, what, they enjoy being wasteful), has finally turned me against them.  (Coming home and finding out that the lunch was 200 calories more than I remembered it being, and hence not as filling/enjoyable for the calories as I thought, just capped it.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

475 Birds

Yesterday Robert and I went to the airport in search of a snowy owl that had previously been seen, but with no luck.  (We talked to a woman there who had been out every day last week looking for it with no success.)  I think snowy owl has officially taken over as my nemesis bird.  It was sort of amazing how many partly melted then re-frozen clumps of snow in the general shape of an owl there were out there, though.  I also saw some surprisingly bird-like light fixtures and security cameras. 

We also went to a park with a lake in the area and took a walk through a grassland-turning-to-marshland that was almost completely bereft of birds.  Seeing a few chickadees, cardinals, and house finches was the excitement of this walk.  The path ended at a lake but we had to turn back when we hit a marshy area that we couldn't cross.

So we approached the lake from a different place, this time immediately happening to meet up with a big guy dressed in camo and carrying a spotting scope and a camera with a gigantic lens.  He showed us two gull species that are usually found in the arctic but that for whatever reason decided to spend some time here.  I'm not usually very thrilled by looking at gulls, but it was interesting to see these birds (which were clearly different looking once you knew what you were looking for).  It made me think about how Robert's grandmother had a birding friend (appropriately named Martin) who lived on a lake and frequently phoned her to come out and see a 3rd year hybrid whatever gull that he had found - she wasn't into gulls either and so had to gauge how often she had to show up to look at his gulls to ensure that he kept calling her when he saw an exciting non-gull bird.

This experience has not transformed me into a gull lover, but it was with great satisfaction that I added to my life list:
Glaucous gull
Thayer's gull