Waialua root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Waialua Soda Works, Inc. brings back the “experience” of drinking soda by using natural, high quality ingredients to create a refreshing and lightly carbonated gourmet soda. Down to the glass bottle, Waialua Soda Works is a source for the nostalgic soda connoisseur, and those who prefer to savor a purer beverage."

"Founded in 2003 by Waialua residents Karen and Jason Campbell, Waialua Soda Works’ recipes are inspired by the elements familiar to the Hawaiian Islands. Reviving a local soda bottling tradition that goes back more than 100 years, the company uses only clear glass bottles, pure cane sugar, and natural flavors to make its pineapple, mango, root beer, and vanilla cream sodas. The products feature local ingredients such as Maui Brand natural white cane sugar, Big Island vanilla, and honey from Kauai. Waialua Soda Works is owned and operated from a warehouse in the historic town of Waialua, located on the famous North Shore of Oahu."

"Reaching consumers through hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores as a wholesale distributor, Waialua Soda Works launched pineapple as its first, full-flavored premium soda in early 2004. With aspirations of reaching consumers worldwide, Waialua Soda Works' gourmet products will attract soda connoisseurs with the palate for a light and uniquely flavored beverage."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Waialua Soda Works Inc, PO Box 657, Waialua, HI 96791 USA 818.371.7556. 140 calories, 35g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.waialuasodaworks.com

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar Blend (cans sugar and Maui natural white cane sugar), natural flavor, caramel color, phosphoric acid and hawaiian vanilla extract.

My thoughts: I had exhausted the variety of root beers from the local soda seller, but after a couple months, I thought I'd drop by and see if anything new had arrived.  Fortune was on my side, as I found a few new root beers, the first of which I decided to try was Waialua, Hawaii's own root beer.  So the question remains, is this root beer going to be more like Lost: Season 1 or the disappointing Season 6?

My initial impression is that it smells quite nice.  The flavor feels very natural, not at all like the cheap syrup flavor of the grocery store canned product.  The rootiness is nice and crisp, with a pleasant vanilla hint.  The flavor may be a bit more subtle than it could be and diminishes quickly, but instead of disappearing completely, it subtly lingers behind.  Sugar balance is perfect, as it leaves my mouth feeling clean and dry rather than sugar-coated.  The dryness is nice, but sort of reminds me of the sensation when I put a wooden spoon or Popsicle stick on my tongue.  Carbonation is not too bad, but could use just a little more kick to it.  It may seem like a contradiction, but the dry sensation left behind also has an oddly creamy feel to it.  I really like the aftertaste attributes to this soda.

My conclusion?  Waialua root beer is more Lost: Season 1 than it is Season 6.  Plenty of promise, intrigue, and a moderately complex but natural flavor that doesn't make me angry.

Rating: B+
flavor: B
aftertaste: A-
sweetness: A
smoothness: A-
carbonation: B


GuS (Grown-up Soda) Dry root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Founded in early 2003 by Steve Hersh and Jeannette Luoh, GuS was what the founders and their friends were looking for in a beverage; something not so sweet like everything else out there. But not so dull and lifeless like flavored seltzers and waters. Or artificial, like diet drinks."

"Steve grew up in a household where his father added seltzer to everything. This was done to cut the sweetness, and make juice and soda lighter and more refreshing. It also reduced the calories, but that wasn't really the point."

"Now that tradition continues with GuS sodas. They're distinctive sodas made with real juice and real flavor extracts, in refreshing flavor varieties. They're 100% natural, pasteurized and kosher, with no caffeine. And they're lightly sweetened with natural cane sugar, with only 90 - 98 calories in each 12oz. bottle."

(from the bottle) "Lightly sweetened root beer with birch oil & vanilla ."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Utmost Brands, Inc., New York, NY 10022 (212) 355-7454. 98 calories, 24g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.drinkgus.com

Ingredients: Purified sparkling water, cane sugar, birch oil and other natural flavors, caramel color (from sugar), quillaja, citric acid.

My thoughts: With claims of being a"grown up soda", I was expecting a complex flavor, which GUS sort of delivers on.  The initial taste is quite good, with a nice blend of vanilla and rootiness.  It even delivers on the "dry" claim, a pleasant sensation on the tongue.  But where it really falls short is in the aftertaste.  The good flavor is fleeting, rapidly leaving behind the soda water taste I detest.  Sweetness is excellent, with just enough without leaving behind a costing of sugar residue.  Carbonation is almost spot on as well, with a pleasant smoothness that is a bit lacking in creaminess.  Overall, the overly rapid vanishing of flavor left me disappointed, and I wish it lingered a bit longer, as this could be a very good root beer.

Rating: C-
flavor: B+
aftertaste: D
sweetness: A
smoothness: B
carbonation: A-


Three cheers for equality!

With all the hoopla celebrating the Supreme Court's progress towards marriage equality, I wondered, "What is next?"  Now that two consenting adults can choose to love each other and have that love legally recognized -regardless of the sexual orientation of the two individuals- what is the next battle to be tackled?

Logically, the next step from equality should be what I dub as threequality.  Just as we've moved past denying the union of same sex couples and castigating those who practice (well, the second part is a work in progress), it must now be time to move past a similarly primitive prejudice and grant other consenting adults the same rights that our gay comrades now legally enjoy.  If a consenting adult loves another consenting adult, they should be free to choose to be married, whether we agree with that choice or not.  Part of having freedom is granting others to have those same freedoms, even if we think that decision may be wrong.  Now if a consenting adult loves another consenting adult, and then a third consenting adult loves them both, who are we to deny their love and say that can't be married?  As long as the three agree, what is wrong with all three getting married?  Is their love any less valid than the love that two men may have for each other?

Now I'm sure that many will balk at this suggestion, as it is socially taboo (you know, just as being gay was and, to a certain extent, still is).  I might ask, where is the open mind that was displayed when gay rights were not being respected?  Why should the rights of heterosexual or homosexual couples be any more important than the rights of a hetero or homosexual trio?  On what moral, social, logical or biological grounds should we be opposed to this practice between three consenting adults?

It just seems to me that there is nothing other than social stigma (the same thing that afflicted the gay community for so long) that should prevent this from being acceptable.  Are those who so ardently supported the fight for gay rights satisfied now that they have their rights, or will they actually put their money where their mouth is and continue to fight for those that lack the same rights as the rest of us?

I suppose this is just a brain exercise for me, as I'm neither gay (boobs are just too awesome), nor do I have any desire to try to find two wives (the "two chicks at the same time" fantasy never appealed to me)*.  Really, I was just questioning what we define as socially acceptable and whether or not those who claim to be open minded are, in fact, actually open minded.

Either way, I just thought I'd throw out the threequality thing for thought and let you chew on that.

*I can't even seem to find one lady with whom I'm sufficiently compatible, so two would be waayyyy to much work for this guy!  


Star Trek Into Lameness

Okay, I enjoyed the Star Trek reboot that came out in 2009, despite the many flaws that film had.  But Into Darkness is an absurd film where it seems that any small amount of character development is just a brief segue from one convoluted action scene to another.  It felt less like the Star Trek that I know and love and more like Transformers in Space.  Here are a few problems I had with the film:


Where do I start?  Probably right at the beginning, where all of Star Trek history is ignored and the Enterprise can now magically fly through the atmosphere, land, and go under-water.  Now this isn't just a result of this being an alternate timeline, as the technology can't just materialize out of nowhere, and TNG demonstrates that even a hundred or so years later in the normal timeline, Troi still can't land the Enterprise D on a planet.  In fact, one of the big technological advances in the Star Trek universe is when Voyager comes along and, being a much smaller ship, now has the ability to land on the surface of a planet.  But the much older original Enterprise having this capability well before the technology was established as having been developed, ridiculous.

Look guys!  I'm a submarine!  Wait, no, I'm a spaceship!  No! I'm a fish-bird-ship!

Speaking of ridiculous technology, what's with the transporter device that Starfleet has that can transport someone to the other side of the galaxy?  Why keep building ships if you can just transport things from one place to any other, with distance not being a major factor?  Now that the technology exists, it would be insane to not utilize it all the time.  It was a crutch the writers utilize without thinking about the consequence of such a technology existing, as now any other means of transportation is a stupid waste of time and energy.

I probably could have gotten over those two things, but the everyone-is-in-danger-of-dying-action-scenes to character development and story ratio is pretty sad.  The movie seems to just jump from one action scene where characters are in danger of dying to another action scene where characters are in danger of dying.  There is very little downtime between these action scenes, and by the end I was quite bored with the improbability that the crew members would survive so many back-to-back near-death scenarios.  I think Spock almost died about 76 times during the movie and Kirk almost died 483 times.  When nearly every single scene is a life-and -death situation, it just ends up cheapening the danger and they all turn into a bland mishmash of over the top action.

One of Star Trek's most beloved tenants and the driving force behind Starfleet, The Prime Directive, is what makes the Star Trek universe what it is.  Yet at every twist and turn, the writers like to point out how much they enjoy violating it.  Spock claims to obey it (not be seen by the primitive society), yet the very first scene has him jumping into a volcano to stop it from exploding (you know, interfering with a primitive culture and events, which violates the Prime Directive).  Don't get me wrong, I'm not forgetting Star Trek: Insurrection where this very same sort of interference occurs (along with many instances of violations in TOS and subsequent series), but since the writers make a point of Spock logically and calculatingly adhering to policy (as he claims in the new movie), it doesn't make sense that he was even willing to participate in the first place, as he was under no pressure or strain, yet chose to violate the Prime Directive anyway (contradicting his claims of following policy).

These are just a couple of the things I found lacking and many things were just absurd (Spock's "KHAAAANNN!" moment was so cheesy it almost made me laugh out loud, yet I think they intended it to be dramatic and poignant).  I know that it seems I'm nitpicking, but add up all the problems with the new movie and you end up with something that is Star Trek in name, but lacks all of the spirit and characteristics that made the show what we loved.  J.J. has shown his true colors as not being a Trek lover by Michael Baying the movie.  I hope Star Wars takes up all his time and that they get someone who really cares about things like story, character, and the Star Trek canon to make the next movie.  With that, I'll leave you with this picture of a completely useless and meaningless character who was added as a non-essential plot device, but looks good in her underwear.

Gravity's Rainbow review

Although I read this book a while ago, it seems that it is my most "liked" review on Goodreads, so I thought I'd share it here.

Title: Gravity's Rainbow
Author: Pynchon, Thomas
Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition
Published October 31st 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 1973)
ISBN: 0143039946 (ISBN13: 9780143039945)

Hundreds of unimportant characters, dozens of instances of pedophilia, unending passages that ramble on and on with no actions or information of consequence, drug and sexual organ obsessions, and fecal matter galore! If all of these sound like what you enjoy in literature, then this is the book for you. While a great master of vocabulary, Pynchon just doesn't know when to quit. It seems that any time there is any hint that the story might be progressing, Pynchon has to go off on a barely related tangent for ten or twenty pages, rarely returning to or referencing this material again. While Laurance Sterne (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman) managed to employ "the tangent" with aplomb, Pynchon takes them to such excess that I can't help but say he is a literary glutton, prone to verbose over-indulgence.

When I start a book, I finish it. It has taken me over a year and a half to get through this book because every time I read a little bit, I dislike it so much that I end up picking up another book to read instead. I'm well aware that I am bucking the trend by not liking this book, but it seems that the high ratings are in part due to pseudo-intellectuals reveling in the knowledge that they 'get it' and the rest of us just don't. While I do admit that Pynchon managed to write a very dense (as in "packed to the brim with information"), cryptic, and nigh unfathomable tome, those attributes are overwhelmed by the plodding narrative, explicit perversion (I know, that is a personal, rather than technical, fault), and lack of character development (I didn't learn enough about the hordes of characters to care about any single one of them). The intelligentsia may turn up their noses at my [obviously] inferior taste and comprehension, but nonetheless, I stand by my opinion. Gravity's Rainbow is quite possibly the worst book I've ever read.


Saranac root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Our Hand-crafted Saranac Root Beer is made in small batches in our own hometown Brewery. The flavor will take you to the fresh root beer taste from days-gone-by.  We make our Saranac Root Beer with the best of ingredients - look for the fresh vanilla and licorice notes. Saranac Root Beer has the trademark rich, creamy head that only a real Brewery Root Beer can achieve."

(from the bottle) "In 1888, when our small brewery was founded, real rich, creamy root beers were not uncommon.  Thirty years ago, we brought this tradition back with the introduction of real brewery-fresh root beer on draft in our brewery's 1888 tavern.  Our Saranac root beer has been acclaimed by consumers from all 50 states and over 100 countries.  We hope you'll enjoy it too."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  The Matt Brewing Company, Utica, NY. 180 calories, 46g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.saranac.com/page/root-beer

Ingredients: Filtered water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness), natural & artificial flavors, citric acid.

My thoughts: It's been a little while since my last root beer, so perhaps my tastebuds would have been satisfied with anything, but this is awfully good.  The drink starts off with a nice hearty root beer flavor, not the artificial kind, but the delicious natural tasting stuff.  Behind this rooty taste there is something else just beneath the surface, but becomes more apparent as the rootiness dies down and the other flavors take over. This provides a complex, but pleasant aftertaste of vanilla, wintergreen, and a little licorice.  Not only is the flavor great, but this root beer is nice and creamy as well.  Carbonation is just perfect and if there were one thing I could change about this root beer, it would be swapping the high fructose corn syrup, which leaves a bit of a coating in my mouth, for cane sugar instead.  But a minor quibble for an excellent root beer.

Rating: A-
flavor: A-
aftertaste: A
sweetness: B-
smoothness: A
carbonation: A


Fitz's root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Fitz's Root Beer first appeared in St. Louis at a local drive-in restaurant back in 1947. Famous for its tasty draft root beer and hamburgers, Fitz's quickly became a local tradition. After sadly disappearing for a number of years, Fitz's Root Beer was revived in 1993 when Fitz's Bottling Company, America's original soda microbrewery opened in the historic and vibrant Delmar Loop. Please come watch us bottle Fitz's Premium Sodas while sipping on a frosty mug of root beer and enjoying some good homemade food from our diverse American menu."

"Fitz's Root Beer, our flagship soda, is made according to an original recipe developed in St. Louis in 1947. Our unique formula features fine ingredients including select natural roots, spices, barks and is exclusively sweetened with all natural pure cane sugar. Thanks to its robust and creamy flavor, Fitz's Root Beer has been recognized as one of the best root beers in the United States. We keg Fitz's Root Beer in 15 gallon barrels in our bottling room right inside our restaurant and serve it ice cold right out of the tap."

(from the bottle) "Original Recipe Since 1947"

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Fitz's Bottling Co, St. Louis, MO. 160 calories, 40g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.fitzsrootbeer.com/

Ingredients: Filtered carbonated water, all natural pure cane sugar, natural flavors, caramel color, vanillin, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness) and citric acid.

My thoughts: Fitz's starts off with a subdued, but pleasant and simple rootyness that tastes very natural.  There is a hint of vanilla that grows in strength as the root beer flavor fades, becoming the dominant aftertaste.  I like it.  Other than those two flavors, there doesn't seem to be too much at work here other than a vague hint of wintergreen cooling, which is a pleasant and understated addition.  It seems slightly sweet, but doesn't have an overly sugary feel to it.  Carbonation is nicely balanced with the flavor, neither hiding it nor disappearing underneath the taste.  This drink also feels crisp, though slightly held back by the sweetness, yet smooth at the same time.  For some reason I wasn't expecting Fitz's to be that great, so it was a pleasant surprise when it delivered an perfectly good root beer expereience.

Rating: B+
flavor: B
aftertaste: B+
sweetness: B-
smoothness: B
carbonation: A-