Procuring proper pint glasses

Seriously, where does one do this?

I find it a little odd that I want a few more, because I’ve always derided having specialty dining ware in favor of “do-it-all” items. I still have no desire to own silver flatware that requires special care or polishing, nor do I really want special fancy plates that require extra care or caution. But who knows? That could change. Because I’ve gone from laughing at having separate red and white wine glasses to contemplating getting some of my own, and I’ve already picked up a set of Glencairn glasses just for kicks.

Of course, some of this simply comes down to me liking glass that’s in cool and different shapes. The geometry and form of it just fascinates me. But the reason I want a proper, British style pint glass is because I spent three years stationed in the U.K. when I was in the Air Force and I’ve already got two that I stole liberated from pubs there. There’s nothing wrong with the American style pint glass, really. It’s just as manly, stacks just as well, and honestly it’s more versatile due to being an even simpler design. But I’ve got two “proper” pint glasses complete with the etched official crown pint seal, and I’d really like to have at least four more in case one breaks. Especially since the UK gov’t is such a bunch of ninnies that there’s serious talk of banning the traditional pint glass in favor of plastic shatter-proof designs that can’t be used as weapons. Because the rim of the glass can’t be used as an impact device, apparently… /snark.

Update: I found them while writing this post! Apparently the traditional ridged glass (I always thought is was more of a bulge than a ridge, but whatever) is known as a Nonic glass. I’m going to order several before they’re no longer available.

Fat Head, Fat Sick, and The Paleo Diet

Well here’s a post I’ve put off for over a week. It started with watching the documentary Fat Head, which is a fantastic counter-point to Super Size Me. From there? Well…

At this point I need to stress that I am not a nutritionist, physician, or personal trainer. Most of my medical knowledge comes from watching House, M.D. I’m just a guy that has experimented with his diet and discovered what works for me. If I actually do it. My blog = my opinions.

So, if you haven’t seen Super Size Me, let me just say that it is worth seeing. I question Morgan Spurlock a little bit because at the end he goes back to eating meals made by his “vegan chef” girlfriend and I fail to see how somebody can arrange lawn trimmings in enough variety of ways to earn the title “chef”, but whatever… Having seen Food, Inc. before hand wouldn’t be bad either, but neither movie are really pre-requisites for getting good info out of Fat Head.

See, what makes Fat Head so good is that it approaches the fast food topic with a far more realistic approach than Spurlock did, is far more transparent, actually explains how our body processes different foods and things like insulin response, gives historical and educational information, and it’s entertaining. That’s five reasons it’s a good flick, and only two of them relate to Super Size Me. I really do recommend it pretty highly. And this gist of it is this: at the end of 30 days of eating only fast food, Tom Naughton actually lost weight and he didn’t have to order a bunch of salads to do it. He did it by limiting his sugar and carbohydrate intake, and going on walks.

Let me repeat: his exercise was as simple as walking. You know, that thing we all started doing around a year old but gave up on once we got our driver’s license.

Initially I was just going to post up a review of this and call it good, but I enjoyed it so much I went on to watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. (Both of these are available for streaming on Netflix as I write this.) I’ll sum this one up a little bit better, since it’s not quite as worth watching. The filmmaker begins as overweight, but also sick enough that he’s on constant medication. Steroids and stuff, due to autoimmune issues. So he begins a juice fast, and sticks with it for 60 days. Nothing but fresh fruits and veggies, and he juices them because trying to eat the sheer amount of produce he consumes through juice would very likely be impossible otherwise. (All the fruit and veggies cure his malady, by the way.)

I have to critique Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead a little bit though. It’s not a bad movie, so much as… well… After the educational material presented in Fat Head, Joe Cross’s attempt here is a bit simplistic. He only talks about “micronutrients” vs. “macronutrients” (defines them incorrectly while he’s at it), and it strikes me as a bit silly to think that the only we can get real nutrition is by juicing produce. Don’t misunderstand, I think its a fantastic practice and I’ve ordered a Vitamix for myself. But he glossed over some important aspects of his diet/experiment.

Joe Cross should absolutely be commended for upping his fresh fruit/veggie intake, and it’s something I think is sorely lacking from most American diets. The reason I want to buy land and a homestead is so I can grow fresh produce myself, and the health benefits are irrefutable. But Joe missed two things in his flick. First, I don’t believe his diet provided enough protein and that’s why the other fella in the movie that starts juicing loses 200 pounds but never really begins to look very fit. I think the modified food pyramid graph they show is still unbalanced. But second, what they never mention is that juicing also cut out cereal grains. He was so focused on eating whole foods that weren’t processed (which is ideal), that they never talked about how heavily processed “healthy” grains are.

Which leads me (almost) finally to The Paleo Diet. I bought the book and I’ll tell you right now not to bother. It’s good information, and it absolutely works for me and is an easy diet to adopt for life. I am 100% a believer, but you can just Google the info you want rather than spend ten bucks on a book that is repetitive, not fun to read, and all the info is available for free online. Better to buy a Paleo cookbook, if you want.

The evolutionary perspective of what mankind as an organism is suited/designed to eat will likely be a source of consternation to Creationists, as I’ve outlined I am, but the science behind the book and the effect modern agriculture and cereal grains have on us today is pretty compelling. Especially in light of how much more processed our foods are these days and how sedentary Americans have become at “work”. It’s like a trifecta for diabetes, obesity, and any other number of physical ailments.

Side note- you know why red meat is so “bad” for you? Because we’ve altered the cows’ feeding to make ‘em fattier for marbling, and started shoving cereal grains (most notably corn, which I avoid like the plague) into ‘em, which in turn has altered their fat balance to Omega-6 away from Omega-3 found in free range cows allowed to graze naturally. The same stuff that makes us fat (carbs and insulin response weirdness) makes the cows fat, and their fat stores all the lectins and becomes “bad fat” as opposed to “good fat”.

I hate to jump on a hippie bandwagon about whole and organic foods, but what we’re eating (combined with a lack of exercise) is killing us.

Now, I refuse to believe God gave me incisors so I could rend the flesh or artichokes from their leaves (although that is an awful handy use for ‘em). And soy ain’t as great as vegans wish it was (there’s good reason your average male vegan usually seems kind of feminine)… It’s a legume anyway, which Paleo rules out. But I’m getting distracted and digressing.

So here are my two real points and/or conclusions:

  1. In the absence of physical exercise, cereal grains, starches and similar carbohydrates are actually quite harmful and should be avoided.
  2. Physical exercise improves insulin response, so if we’re not cutting carbs we’d better be working out.

I’ll be the first to admit that Paleo is a little more strict than I’d care to be, and I don’t follow it with religious devotion. But the Primal Diet is pretty close and even easier to stick with (dairy is still allowed, for example). Plus, if you follow that link to Mark’s Daily Apple you’ll find lots of exercise ideas (no gym needed) and recipes that actually taste good.

For all that reading, viewing and educating myself I’ve done, in the end I’m going Primal. There’s a great big world out there, and I plan on living long and healthy enough for Caveman Eric to conquer a whole lot more of it.

Real food

While I’ve still got motorcycles on the brain (I found a cool old ’73 Triumph I’d like to buy if I can sell the KLR), a change of pace felt really needed here. So it’s been quiet while I’ve not known what to write about and then last night it hit me: real and tasty food.

Blog followers will recall my review of Food, Inc. not long ago. I’ve also been reading (and only partially adhering to) The Paleo Diet. I’ve been enjoying going Paleo for the most part and really do feel better than when I eat cereal grains. But at other times it can be very difficult to kick the refined sugars and salts that’s in so much of our food today. Let’s face it: that stuff is tasty! Well last night I found the solution I needed to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Previously, I’ve been using frozen fruits and berries (thawed, of course) thrown into some plain Greek yoghurt. (I spell it that way because then it’s manlier and has “hurt” in it’s name.) But it’s still been pretty bland. The fruit just hasn’t tasted… fruity enough. The frozen peaches were so tasteless I thought I should add honey. The problem according to Jack Spirko on an episode of the Survival Podcast is that modern produce from a supermarket is so overproduced and overwatered that it actually begins to be watered down in flavor. He contends that a big, juicy blueberry is far less flavorful than a smaller blueberry grown in the wild. After trying some organic strawberries I bought at a farmer’s market, I think he may be right.

They were so sweet and delicious! No added sugars, and they’re perfectly sweet enough to offset the tart flavor from the yoghurt. So now I’ve got a delicious snack that replaces ice cream or other sugar-heavy treats and I get fiber (avoiding grains this is what everyone brings up) and an outstanding amount of protein.

It’s hard going back to the Paleo Diet, I won’t lie. When I hurt my foot two years ago I fell off the wagon of regular exercise, but I’d made so much progress working out that I thought I could afford to cheat a little bit in my diet. Pretty soon the “cheats” became my regular diet, and I’m 50 pounds heavier than I’d like to be. This is not ok, but I’m hooked on eating junk again. Finding organic fruits that taste so much better than the frozen stuff in the local grocery megastore is just what I needed.

I love salt, and in order to drop it I have to use lots of salsa and other spices/herbs to “sex up” what would be an otherwise plain meal- but every time I find that perfect replacement that’s both healthier and tastier, getting back into the swing of things and eating right becomes that much easier.

The best part is that I find the vegetables and protein (lean meats and nuts/seeds) are much more filling and satisfying longer. It negates the “it’s more expensive” argument because I eat less now.

Now, it’s a little early to start proclaiming my triumphant return to eating Paleo but it’s never too soon to make one’s declarations public and invite a little public pressure to help maintain them. Right now my only specific goal is get back down to 200 lbs. (with 180 the goal after that) and back in to pants with a waist no greater than 34″. And the more reading I do, the more convinced I am that real food is the key.

And it doesn’t hurt that it tastes better.

I don’t know the dietary or physical goals of my readership, but I strongly encourage you all to seek out a local farmer’s market. It’s likely only a Google search away. And yeah, they’ve got a dirty hippie vibe a lot of the time that kept me away for years. Birkenstock-wearing granola munchers just make my skin crawl. But if you remember you’re there for Paleo reasons and they were hunter-gatherers, just go in there with a warrior mindset ready to pillage the weaker soy fans like the viking/valkyrie you can be. It’s worth it in the end.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I’ve gotten myself all psyched up while writing this and I’m gonna go find something to do pull-ups on.

Food, Inc. – Missing the Mark

I’m watching the documentary Food, Inc. and for the most part I think it’s something more people need to be aware of. It’s just frustrating at times.

Around 40 minutes into the movie a Hispanic family is featured that buys most of their meals (we’re led to believe) from fast food drive thru dollar menus. This whole sequence is incredibly maddening, but not for the reasons I think the film producers intended. The matriarch of the family says something incredibly stupid when she claims she used to think all the food was healthy. What kind of moron ever truly believed fast food was healthy?!?! Then they’re shown shopping in the produce section of a grocery store and the father says, “Look at the price of the broccoli. It’s too ‘spensive, mang.” And the film goes on to talk about the statistic of low income levels being linked to obesity, claiming it’s because these foods are cheaper due to being heavily subsidized.

I don’t doubt obesity and low income levels share a link, but I’ll argue that the cases/rates where the correlation is greatest, you’ll also find these people aren’t very intelligent.

Sounds harsh, I know, but you have to be an idiot to really believe eating from a dollar menu will save you any money, and here’s why:

  • Do the math. I spend an average of $40 a week on grocery shopping if I don’t buy any treats like the occasional beer, etc. Now let’s factor the dollar menu diet being $3 each meal (sandwich, fries and drink), three times a day ($9), and for argument’s sake seven days a week. That’s $63 a week, or 1.5 times more expensive to eat garbage than I spend on fresh produce, eggs, etc.
  • They have no concept of food quantity. The father complains about broccoli being priced at $1.29 per pound. The daughters weigh a pound of produce and complain they’ll only get three of the item…. How much does a small, $0.99 hamburger weigh? How much does a Hungry Man frozen dinner that proudly advertises itself as being a whopping “1 pound of food!” cost? These idiots are being exploited by the filmmakers because they have no clue how much food they’re really getting.

I believe in the point of the film, that we should be eating healthier and more “real” foods. But when it’s so blatantly exploitive with ominous music in meat packing plants and making a family look like victims of anything other than their own lack of critical thought…? I wish the movie hadn’t taken that turn, because it becomes harder to take seriously. I resent the obvious attempt at manipulation.

From time to time the movie comes back to making valid points about the consequences of manufactured food. The parts on the over-production of corn and how it’s synthesized was fascinating. This is the stuff that the movie really should have focused on a little bit more, because the synthetic and manufactured foods are what really affects, and I believe eventually afflicts, the population at large. Complaining about “corporations” and other liberal hippie scare words that hate business and capitalism only drives off the very audience they should be trying to reach. Real, nutritious food is an issue that should transcend the “Occupy” liberal’s frame of mind.

However, there’s a section of film roughly between the 45-50 minute marks with a chicken farmer. Heck, maybe he’s just a farmer, period. I think every American should see more stuff like this, because he begins to do a much better job at outlining the problems and falsehoods in mass produced foods.

Unfortunately, around 55 minutes in the movie just takes another political swing to show illegal aliens as being the victims of the evil corporate fat cats. This is where they lose me again and why I’m typing this up. Because I’m a bad person and I don’t care about these people. I really don’t. Altruism is for suckers, and I’m a big fan of capitalism. I don’t agree with unchecked profit-at-all-costs and harming people to turn a buck, but the movie (and Occupy zombies) don’t ever really clarify and just blast “big business” at any chance. They come off as saying mega-corporations are inherently evil and harmful to people, and I simply disagree and would like to be making that kind of money. I’m a mercenary. I am reward-driven. And Starbucks is a major corporation that treats employees well. This movie needs to get off the “corporate = evil” bandwagon if they want me to listen, and focus on telling the audience about the harm “enriched flour” can do to our bodies. Make it matter to me.

I will say, some people might cringe at the sounds of the animals in the meat processing plants. There’s some kind of gross stuff shown that would make PETA members cry but grateful the public can be exposed to it. I think it’s good, too, but for other reasons. I want to learn to hunt, because I think it’s both healthier and more natural food, and that meat-eaters should take accountability for ending a creature’s life. We’ve become too far removed from the process and live in an unnatural age where meat comes in plastic wrap from the store. I won’t go vegetarian and PETA, the Humane Society, and any other anti-hunting group of vegan whackos can get stuffed. I like meat. I simply believe taking accountability for the unpleasant task of ending an animal’s life is the moral thing to do.

Right at the 1 hour, 30 second mark, Gary Hirshberg (Stonyfield Farm CEO) outright states “We’re not going to get rid of capitalism. Certainly we’re not going to get rid of it in the time that we need to arrest global warming and reverse the toxification of our air and our food and our water.” THAT is what angers me about this movie. Sell me on the health benefits of organic food or the negative health aspects of the mass-produced stuff. SELL me. He talks about the growth of the organic food industry. He is in business, making money serving a market demand. That’s capitalism, you idiot! I freaking hate liberal hypocrites!!!

Capitalism is an economic system, determining the flow of money. Production methods are physical labor with measurable effects on the environment. And either can drive the other due to the moral/ethical demands of producer or consumer. Blaming capitalism for environmental problems betrays liberal bias toward being a retard, because 20% annual growth in the organic food industry is being driven by consumer demand, met by marketplace response and it capitalism at work. Socialism and/or gov’t mandate plays no part in it.

This movie verges on being dishonest. -Eric R. Shelton

Eventually Gary Hirshberg starts to talk some sense about producing good food and still being profitable, and Wal-Mart purchasing agents are shown to not be evil bastards out to poison the world but simply in the business of providing what the customer demands. If these stupid hippies would get off their anti-corporate, “damn the man” high horse and simply put forth a societal message for people’s health, it would go so much further. Attack my aspirations to make lots of money, and you’re a villain. Provide natural food for me to live a long and healthy life, and you’re a hero.

And of course, old harvesting equipment drawn by horse is shown romantically, while modern tractors are portrayed as belching gasses into the air.

Finally, well over an hour into the movie they start talking about Monsanto. THIS is where the movie finally gets good and talks about real issues and threats to the U.S. food supply and system. If this movie would have cut-out the blanket “corporate = evil” hippie crap and focused on Monsanto, the ownership of GMO food, and how Monsanto has used patent infringement law to cripple traditional farming methods, I would recommend this movie to everyone I know.

By the end, it finally gets on point and is worth watching. The end sequence, where they appeal to the consumer and tell us about the power we have with our spending choices is really great. I am absolutely a believer in locally grown, organic foods. Where the movie makes its greatest missteps is simply saying “Oh, bulk food and corporations are bad! Evil!” without spending enough time explaining how or why a can of Green Giant green beans is virtually nutrient depleted. They say “corporations are bad, but organic food is healthy” without realizing the converse statement is “this food lacks nutrients, and that farmer is a nice guy”. The food’s nutritional value is a separate and distinct quality from the size of a business, but the hippie environmentalist wackos confuse the topics.

Ultimately, the point of the movie is valid and I recommend it. Just realize you’ll be wading through knee-deep propaganda, just like the cows featured in manure, before you get to the good stuff.

If this article strikes a chord with you, and you are interested in healthy and organic food, I would encourage you to plant a food garden for yourself, listen to Jack Spirko’s podcast, and learn about permaculture. There’s a lot of good stuff out there.

Drinking with Web, M.D.

I’ve always hated self-diagnosers. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll joke around about OCD (though really, 99% of the time we’re incorrect in our jokes and mean OCPD) and the like. But when people actually convince themselves of their own diagnosis despite having no training in whatever field they’ve decided to dabble in, it just irks me. Here’s an idea: we all have different strengths and weaknesses, so try working on yourself as a person and quit looking for a medical excuse for your state of being. But I digress. Despite my loathing of self-diagnosis, I found myself attempting it a few months back. Let’s take a trip in the way back machine for background on why…

I’d guess I was about 19 years old when I first tried any alcoholic beverages. I didn’t go nuts, and drinking until I puked was never on the agenda. Nevertheless, I still remember getting violently sick from imbibing a little too much Jim Beam one evening. I didn’t even like whiskey; it was awful! What I liked were westerns like Silverado and Tombstone, country music and American Cowboy magazine- and cowboys liked whiskey! So I decided to “cowboy up” and drink that awful swill (n). What ensued was vomiting, regret, and largely avoiding anything stronger than beer for over a decade.

[My next post will talk about "whiskey" vs. the properly spelled "whisky".]

Three years of being stationed at an RAF base in England changed my attitude toward adult beverages even further. Thanks to the local pub in the very tiny neighboring village of Fringford I learned what good beer is, quit drinking Budweiser and the like, and really began to appreciate a public house vs. our pale imitations in America. A good bar is hard to find in this country (though I haven’t looked very hard and maybe that would be an interesting essay in the future.) At least we have lots of good beer if you know where to look, but again I’m getting distracted. The point of the paragraph is this: The only reason to drink major brand American beers like Bud is to swill (v) enough to get drunk, but life in the pub further matured my behavior and refined my palate to simply enjoying a pint with dinner. Where some dote on wine, I became a beer snob.

Fast forward to the holiday season of 2011. I’m in the Seychelles, there is no good beer anywhere on the island, and their local SeyBrew is especially awful. The official beer for drinking out-of-doors is Mexican, and Corona was impossible to find and expensive when available. So what’s a fella with bottle openers in his flip flops to do? (Incidentally, never pay to go to the Seychelles. Mahe Island itself is beautiful, but everything is poorly built or dirty there, restaurant service is universally awful, and the interior hallways of the Berjaya resort make Motel 6 look good.)

Fortunately for my soon-to-be-expanded horizons, I had roommates that were no strangers to measured drinking of liquor. One of them really didn’t care for the taste of alcohol and would only do mixed drinks, so I got a gentle break-in to the world of cocktails with the relatively flavorless and extremely flexible vodka.

Who knew that mixed drinks could be so good?!?! Now, I once read an interview with a bartender who said he didn’t drink vodka for the same reason he didn’t listen to the Black Eyed Peas- it’s just empty and flavorless. But for an introduction to cocktails, it was just the ticket. Over the next few weeks I went on to try martinis, gin & tonic, Jack & Ginger (with a wedge of lemon)… But what I really liked was based in a Cape Codder- vodka and cranberry juice with a wedge of lime.

By in large, I really hate cranberry. It’s just too tart. But we had some Ocean Spray bottles of juice that were cranberry and black currant. Now this was really tasty! A splash of some orange or pineapple juice to bring it closer to the Sea or Bay Breeze cocktails really made vodka seem a lot less scary…

Until I woke up the next day with swollen ankles and feet.

What in the world was this?!?! Good grief, had I poisoned myself somehow? I remember seeing bulbous bare feet when I was young and being grossed out by them. Since then I’ve always been conscious of being able to see veins, bone structure and musculature in my feet. Look, they’re gross enough already and where athlete’s foot grows, so trying to take care of them isn’t really asking too much, right? WebMD to the rescue!

Now, here’s the thing: the internet gives us information to lots of information, much of it conflicting. And I have a hard time thinking of an area of expertise with more conflicting opinions than dietary advice. (Maybe stock and investments, but that’s for another time.) For every granola munching vegan hippie there’s a protein soaked bodybuilder and they’re both absolutely convinced what they’re putting in their body is the correct way for people to eat. Personally, I tend to prefer a paleo diet, but let’s not get sidetracked again.

If I’d wanted to, I could have blamed the aberration in the appearance of my feet on anything I desired. The internet gave me the “references” to claim I had gout, pin it on liver function, claim the liver function was impeded by either the alcohol or the cranberry juice, or even declare myself to be suddenly allergic to the root grain the vodka had been distilled from. I literally could have just exempted myself from any responsibility from sitting all day long, diagnosed myself with whatever I felt like, and gotten my nifty little victim/medical malady badge to wear simply by choosing to heed certain sources and ignore others. And I’ll tell you right now, I’ve never swollen when enjoying a beer but have long disliked cranberry and relished the thought of having a medical reason to avoid it.

When it comes right down to it, I have no idea why my feet swelled for those few days. Maybe I walked barefoot through something. Maybe it was inactivity. I do know when I quit imbibing Cape Codders my Vibram Five Fingers fit correctly again. But the point is it doesn’t matter: I disliked plain cranberry and with very limited “evidence” found myself leaning blaming it due to my bias. I’m just glad I recognized my own pattern of thinking. It’s like I tend to harp on the difference between causation vs. correlation. And maybe the truism of a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing.

WebMD is a great resource. So is Wikipedia. But you should really have your premise examined by a professional or reference in either case before staking your word on the conclusion you’ve drawn from the web.

Christmas Bacon

Hey, when you don’t have a honey-baked ham, bacon should be considered an acceptable pork product substitute. At this time, I will once again declare the inferiority of “turkey bacon”, as it would fail to live up to the festive demands of the holidays and bacon is a cut of meat that appears nowhere on fowl. A pox on you, turkey bacon. May the ground where your hippie creators are buried remain barren and plagued.

I like turkey. Just don’t try to tell me it’s something that it’s not. But I digress.

I’m not going to go on a long-winded ordeal about why hippie-ish food substitutions are lame (although that’s an idea for a later post), so much as a shorter Thanksgiving post redux. Christmas here was good, but power and internet have been iffy for days. First I was just going to be lazy and not post. Then there was no power to post. Then there was power but no internet. Now there’s power, internet, and a sense of gratitude that I keep a lot of fruit and nuts around and tend to keep a few chicken breasts already cooked for convenience.

And I had saved a bunch of bacon I’d cooked previously. Yum.

So I hope everyone had a good Christmas, and that post-holiday parties and get togethers with family are fun and festive in this bizarre week where it still feels wrong to go to work between the holidays. Take time again to count your blessings (water never quit working!) and I hope you all have a happy new year.

Cooking and the iOS App Store

I just finished some mesquite chicken topped with bacon and port cheese and a side of asparagus, but that’s not what this post is about. While I was very happy with my culinary creation and want to brag about it, the problems I’m having with Apple’s App Store for the iPad and iPhone are what’s really on my mind. Some of the fixes I see that need to be made would fall on Apple to implement, some on the developers themselves. Let’s see if I can avoid blurring the lines here and list the fixes I would put into place.

The “walled garden” is what Android fans and/or Apple haters refer to as Apple’s ecological model- everything is “locked down” and the App Store is the single authorized place to get apps unless your device is jailbroken. Personally, I see this as a benefit, because Apple ensures no malware gets on your device and there’s just one place to check as opposed to multiple Android app stores which may or may not have the app you’re looking for at the moment. But it’s not perfect.

The problem with the App Store isn’t the walled garden or being locked down, but in its effectiveness in communicating the app’s quality or behavior. Ratings done by any Joe Schmoe that cares to rate, whether or not they have the app or even a clue about rating something fairly. Written reviews are largely absent of information that’s actually useful, and the App Store only differentiates programs in to “free” or “paid”, without consideration of a $0.99 app’s inequalities to a premium program listing at $40. The App Store also doesn’t fully describe an app’s requirements.

The app’s requirements lead me back to why I opened with dinner discussion. I have three cookbook apps on my phone. Only one, Epicurious, is a “universal” app for both the iPhone and iPad (which I’ll touch upon more in the Developer Fixes section later), but only my old Betty Crocker cookbook (iPhone only, not updated for Retina display) has an actual database of recipes and will function without an internet connection. It’s a cookbook, for crying out loud! Online and social functions like commentary and trading recipes is all well and good, but creating a “book” that can’t be accessed without potentially using some of your mobile carrier’s data plan is just nonsensical. Epicurious and Cook’s Illustrated are both good apps that become useless when the internet access we take for granted is stripped away. And while some apps may disclose they require a data connection, it’s up to the developer to disclose in their product description, rather than something uniformly stated in the details.

Why does data access matter in the product details, and how will I tie that in with the App Store’s lack of a “Premium” section? I’m glad you asked! Did you know there are full-on professional apps like DishPointer? It may be niche, but it makes your iPhone a real tool that uses the compass, accelerometer and GPS to figure magnetic variation on the globe and actually point your dish at a satellite in space. It’s too bad it’s so hard to find among all the dollar garbage. When WolframAlpha first debuted on the App Store it was famously $50 in a world of 99-cent crap. Sure, some dollar apps are a good product, but WolframAlpha was an honest-to-goodness database of information and answers. Now it’s $2.99, but also nothing more than an iOS interface for the website and requires internet access to function. Why would I pay three dollars for what boils down to a website bookmark?!?! Another example, which will lead to my final gripe about the App Store itself, would be the plethora of GPS apps for a buck but are really nothing more than a new skin using the same data and tech as the built-in Google Maps, when a premium app like Navigon is a complete database of maps and will function as a true GPS even when your data connection is iffy on remote highways. Give me access to filter out the crap and get to premium apps that are worth my money, Apple.

Which leads to my last Apple-based recommendation for perfecting the store: Start eliminating some of the catalog. I know, I know… that’s free-market heresy. But shouldn’t a company that brags about how many more apps they have than Android, or how much better the apps are be able to claim that both statements are simultaneously true? The App Store may have more selection than Droid Marketplace, but who cares if you’re wading through garbage to get to the good stuff? Search the App Store for the wonderful game “Plants Vs. Zombies” and see the knock-offs that border on plagiarism like “Animals vs. Zombies” or “Zombies vs. Ninjas”. I understand it’s a free market, or that it’s Capitalism at work- that doesn’t change $1 plagiarizing knock offs being unethical or making the App Store an unpleasant shopping experience. Frankly, I refuse to browse the App Store anymore because of all the electronic detritus- I’ll wait until something stands out enough it gets recommended by a trustworthy source and then I’ll seek it out by name.

Finally, developers, here are two helpful hints: make your apps universal for the tablet and phone, and keep them updated.

Now, not every app would work as a universal- I love RunKeeper but nobody in their right mind would strap their iPad on like a backback before a run. In that case, phone-only for GPS and armband wearing makes sense. But why in the world does my bank have two separate apps depending on the device? Or for that matter, why are premium games like Plants vs. Zombies still separate editions? Every app that can be universal should be- because if somebody owns an iPad it’s pretty likely they own an iPhone or want to… Charge more if you must, I’ll pay. I’m compulsive enough about organization that I hate having duplicate apps in my iTunes account and don’t want to buy twice- and I’d wager many others are, as well.

And keep them updated. When screen resolutions changed to “Retina” on the iPhone 4, there was such a strange joy at watching my app’s icons go “HD”. When they languish, that tells me the app has been abandoned- and when I paid a lot for the app (GTA: Chinatown Wars, I’m looking at you) it tells me maybe I shouldn’t bother buying something from that developer in the future (cough, cough, Rockstar, cough)…

All that because Jetpack Joyride is universal and great, and my cookbooks are irritating…

Red Wine and Gay Bacon

Sometimes, life is really good.

One of my roommates here in our deployed “bunker” is a reluctant wine snob and not a half-bad cook. We’ve traded some recipes, ideas, and favorite ingredients and it’s been a lot of fun. Due to unforeseen issues at work, all of us were at the house at the same time (a rare occurrence) and chef roomie cooked chicken with cheese and bacon for all of us- like a poor man’s chicken cordon bleu with the stuff on top rather than stuffed inside, and using Kraft singles for cheese. Hey, we’re limited to ingredients on-hand and it was delicious.

So I’m learning enough about wine to… appreciate it? Not mind it? The word I’m looking for escapes me…. Oh! I-can-drink-a-red-without-gagging-or-making-faces. That’s the word I was looking for.

What? Three years in England makes you a beer snob. Doesn’t mean I’m classy enough to care about wine.

But I decided to experiment today and tried some wines available in the “deli” of the place we’re staying. I thought, “Hey, we’re in [undisclosed African location]. Maybe I should get this South African wine?” It was the Red Jerepigo, and I’m very glad I can type it rather then read it on a podcast because I have no idea how it’s pronounced. It’s from Swartland Winery and it’s awful. I’m given to embellishment, but I promise you this stuff tasted like cherry cough syrup with no exaggeration whatsoever. Reluctant wine snob/chef roomie actually asked if I’d be offended if he didn’t drink it after just one sip. I laughed and said no, because I’d rather just chug NyQuil than drink this garbage and he excused my own desire to pour it down the drain. I don’t know wine, but I know what sucks.

But like the first sentence of this post proclaims, the night got awesome shortly afterward. Because I also bought a bottle of Barton & Guestier Cabernet Sauvignon (which I also can’t pronounce) that wasn’t great, but wasn’t bad either. And then social weirdo/chef roomie proceeded to make Epic Meal Time‘s Gay Bacon.

It’s dessert, and it’s bacon. This night could only have been improved with Claudia Schiffer as our waitress telling me the ability to grow a full, manly beard was overrated.

I had just a mite too much wine, and now find myself searching the web for an Airstream trailer to buy instead of a house. I’m not sure what/if that says anything about me. Also, I want to buy some 365+ red wine glasses from Ikea.