Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Music's biggest letdown of the year

So there's this song called "Blank Space." You might have heard it—it gets played on the radio approximately every 5 minutes on every station. All the time that this song has been blowing up the airwaves, I've been convinced I was hearing something like, "Got a lonely Starbucks lovers, they'll tell you I'm insane...I got a blank space, baby, and I'll write your name!"

I thought this lyric was some kind of play on the phrase, "star-crossed" lovers, and I found it very clever. I envisioned a sad barista, leaning on a desolate counter, just waiting for her favorite customer to come in so she can write his name on his cup! Although my version didn't quite take the form of coherent sentences, I was convinced that I had the spirit of it right, and if I just listened harder and actually paid attention to the lyrics (something I rarely do), I would not only learn the correct words, but I would hear the entire story of a tragic coffee-shop love affair.

Alas, yesterday, a Buzzfeed article someone posted to Facebook set my starry-eyed mind straight. In this article, I learned that the verse I (and apparently lots of other people) thought referred to Starbucks lovers actually goes "Got a long list of ex-lovers"—a typical and played out Taylor-Swiftism. It was also through this article that I learned Taylor Swift was indeed the artist, but it's the first revelation that really hurts. Why is it that the real lyrics of a song never quite stand up to the lyrics I imagine in my selective deafness? Who else out there thinks this song would have been better if it were about doomed romance in a coffee shop?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Say it again, Sam (or don't)

Since my last (non-food) post was about stupid questions, it seems a reasonable progression to have my next post be about stupid phrases. Yes, today I'll be taking on the persona of Li'l Language Lady and sharing my thoughts on superfluous verbiage!

I am not at all a fan of saying the same thing twice (you should hear the hostile "nothing" I have perfected for when my boyfriend has asked "what?" too many times in a conversation!). And I get just slightly, almost imperceptibly, annoyed by sentences which could be several words shorter and still say the same thing (you'd think that someone who's so fond of rambling asides would have a little more tolerance for the inefficient sentences of the world, but life is full of inconsistencies, eh?).

Take, for example, double self-referencing. People love to stick the word self in front of other verbs as a way of indicating that the action is directed towards the actor—a prime example: self-diagnose, which is common in this age of Internet medical reference and accessible hypochondria. There's nothing wrong with using self- as a prefix, but I do take issue when it is also used as a suffix, as in, "Self-diagnose oneself." Almost as bad as the dreaded double negative, the second "self" in this phrase is just dead weight and should be jettisoned. Think of it as a practical impossibility—one can not have two selves. Unless, maybe, one is part of a sci-fi story.

One particular circumstance in which duplication of words seems to happen a lot is when using acronyms in a sentence. People don't always seem to know the words behind the letters they speak, resulting in superfluous meanings like "Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus gear" or "Automatic teller machine machine" or "Personal identification number number."

One of my favorite misused acronyms to rag on is RSVP. Commonly seen at the bottom of invitations, asking the recipient to note whether he or she will be coming, RSVP comes from the French "Répondez s'il vous plaît," or, "please reply." Somehow, in common English, RSVP became a verb for "tell us whether you're coming," and so gets commonly used in phrases like, "Please RSVP." Translated literally, this means, "Please, please, reply," which sounds just a bit desperate. When used as a noun meaning "an indication of whether you're coming," RSVP becomes even more weird—e.g. "Indicate your meal preference on your please reply." I try not to use this abbreviation in such a corrupted way, but I'll admit that even I have trouble avoiding it—there's just no good alternative word that packs in all that commonly accepted meaning in such short four letters!

Maybe we should just reduce the conclusion by using our own English language. From now on, maybe I'll start closing my invitations with TUWYC (Tell us whether you're coming.)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Costco Macaroni and Cheese

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend was shopping at Costco and called me on the phone. "Should I get some macaroni and cheese?" he asked. I thought about it. We've been to Costco many times in the past couple months (I still believe it's not worth the cost of membership, but when you're borrowing someone else's card, it makes all the difference!), and many times, I have looked over the giant pan of ready-to-bake macaroni and cheese, wondering the same thing. This time, I decided why not?

I'm sure glad I did. Though the Costco ("Kirkland signature," if you want to be totally accurate) macaroni and cheese takes an agonizing hour to cook, it is one of my favorite macaroni and cheese dishes out there.

It has plenty of flavor, plenty of salt, nicely substantial noodles, and is an all-around crowd pleaser. I don't really have anything bad to say about it, although I guess it can be improved by adding more shredded cheese to the top, which we've done every time we've had it.

All in all, I rate it a good 2 Happy Noodles, because why not?

1 happy noodle1 happy noodle

The Mood Noodle rating system is not based on a fixed scale, but is a much more subjective system based on what makes me happy and what makes me sad.
Any number of happy noodles and comparatively few sad noodles constitute a good rating.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ask a stupid question

All my working life, I have been dealing with stupid questions. They mostly come from people who are too lazy to follow directions.

For example, when I worked for a recycling nonprofit, I fielded all the inquiries that came through the contact form. At the top of the form, we had posted a list of questions we could not answer. Of course, this did not stop people from asking those same questions on a regular basis. I started compiling a list of the dumbest questions so that I could eventually blog about them, but I always chickened out, afraid it would cost me my job...and sometime since I left the job, I lost the list.

I get a few eye-roller questions here at my current job (though I think I've intimidated most of our users into thinking twice before sending me a question). But by far the stupidest questions I get nowadays are from my potential guests on Airbnb. In my listing, I describe my living situation and the surrounding area in great detail. Almost any question that people could think to ask about my accommodations is answered. I post at the top of my listing a plea (in capital letters!) for people to read the whole listing before asking a question or making a booking request. But almost every day, I receive an inquiry from some lazy oaf who wants to know how close I am to the airport and DC and public transportation (see section "Getting Around") and how much the room costs (see first line of listing). I get complaints from guests who were not expecting me to have pets, even though I have dedicated a whole paragraph to explaining about the dog, the rabbit, and their respective shedding habits, and I include a picture of them both in the photos section.

I list my room at the lowest price in my metropolitan area (It costs approximately as much to stay in my house with a private room, an outfitted bed, a kitchen, free towels, and central heat as it does to rent a campsite and bring your own tent). But just yesterday, I got a singular inquiry from a potential guest from Viet Nam wanting to know "Can you give me more discount for Vietnamese?" This person also wanted to know whether I was close to DC. Well, with two stupidity strikes against them, I didn't even want their money. I declined their inquiry without another word.

The moral of this story is, if you were contemplating asking someone a question today, contemplate this first: When the answer is right under your nose but you refuse to look for it, you're only sending the message that you value your own time more than that of the person you're asking—hardly the right way to begin an interaction. If you can do just one thing to make this world a better place, it's to do your research before you ask a question. Oh, and if your question is about whether you can get a discount for being Vietnamese, better to not ask at all.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Starbucks Redux

Ages ago, early on in my cookie-reviewing career, I did a little piece on the Starbucks chocolate chunk cookie, in which I concluded that Starbucks cookies were good, but no longer worth their price.

Recently, having come into possession of a Starbucks gift card and not being a coffee drinker, I had no choice but to enter a Starbucks and acquire some cookies for a re-review.

I can confidently say now that they are still not worth their price. They have gone up to $2.15 per cookie (including tax, or 1.95$ without) and have actually decreased in size. Now they just barely meet the 10cm diameter threshold necessary to qualify as a "Giant" Cookie. This puts their mass at just 71 g each, and their price at 3¢ per gram—about as high as Giant Cookies go.

As for their eating experience, however, they are still pretty satisfying—definitely better than the last time I reviewed them, which was partly, I think, due to a bad batch. The flavor is delicious, the texture is still pretty close to perfect, and the chunks of chocolate are still huge and wonderful. I conclude this review by saying I still won't be dipping into my pockets for Starbucks cookies on the regular, but I definitely won't mind using up the rest of my gift card on them!

The Bottom Line

Taste:4 out of 5 stars
Texture:5 out of 5 stars
Price:1 out of 5 stars

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese from Nelly's

As one of my Facebook friends kindly pointed out in a mass post, I have been attending a lot of sporting events with my boyfriend lately. This is not because I enjoy them—I'll make that perfectly clear—but because everyone must make concessions in the name of a happy relationship. Speaking of concessions, have you ever bought food at a sporting event? You probably shouldn't. Whether at a stadium or at a bar, the choices are fried, fatty, or, well, that's about it. Now I love me some fried pickles, but after eating them every time I set foot into Hard Times Cafe to keep my boyfriend company while he indulged in football, I was ready for a break.

So we went to a different sports bar this Sunday: Nelly's in DC. Their menu was notably lacking in fried pickles, but featured my favorite alternative: macaroni and cheese! I ordered it. Here's a review.

When the plate first arrived in front of me, I was cautiously optimistic. A thick golden layer of what appears to be real cheddar is always a good start. Underneath the top coat, the sauce was suspiciously liquidy, arousing my worst fears of synthetic cheez, but the top coat was so perfect that I really didn't mind.

I loved it. It even had a little greenery to add aesthetic value. Nice, though non-nutritive, touch.

Flavor-wise, it was also pretty tasty. Everything a macaroni connoisseur could ask for.

My one complaint was that the noodles were a little softer than I like, but not inedible.

The really standout thing about this mac & cheese was that it tasted good even as a 4-day old leftover. I microwaved it on a styrofoam plate (hello, cancer!) and then gobbled it up shamelessly.

I rate it one happy noodle for best sports bar macaroni yet, and one happy noodle for cheese overload, and one sad noodle for being a little mushy.

1 happy noodle1 happy noodle 1 sad noodle

The Mood Noodle rating system is not based on a fixed scale, but is a much more subjective system based on what makes me happy and what makes me sad.
Any number of happy noodles and comparatively few sad noodles constitute a good rating.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sweet & Natural Chocolate Chip Cookie

This cookie is vegan, so it's 4 dollars. For those 4 dollars, I got 145 grams of cookie, which equates to 2.75¢ a gram, or the worst giant cookie value I've encountered in a good long while!

Even before I opened it, the odor wafted out from the wrapping, and I didn't really appreciate the smell. It did not smell like chocolate, or sugar, or cookie, or any of the flavors I enjoy, but I was willing to open it up and see if the smell was improved by being separated from its coating of cling wrap.

It took all my strength to break off the first piece, which is never a good sign, although scattering of crumbs was minimal.

But for all my effort, I was still disappointed by my first bite. The cookie's taste lived up to its smell, being kind of bleh (or as my boyfriend put it, "feels like it's missing something". The chocolate chips were up to par, marginally redeeming the lackluster (bordering on unpleasant) taste.

I did enjoy the hint of coarse sugar in the texture. The little gritty bits were a surprising pleasure to my teeth, but they didn't do enough to counteract the overall dry and tough nature of the cookie.

This is one rare instance where I feel the cookie could have been improved by being less giant. It would have still been too crunchy, but it wouldn't have been such an ordeal to break and bite into.

The Bottom Line

Taste:2 out of 5 stars
Texture:2 out of 5 stars
Price:1 out of 5 stars