Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Abomination or Marketing Breakthrough?

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

So I’m in the grocery store in the orange juice section. Specifically, the Tropicana orange juice section, (and section is the right name because there are 14 distinct varieties of Tropicana orange juice) when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a new variety labeled “Trop50”.

The label says prominently “50% less sugar and calories than orange juice”.

“Huh”, I wonder, “how do they do that? Is it some chemical process like de-caffeination where they somehow extract part of the sugar?”

So I pick up the bottle and look at the back and check out the ingredients. Whubbah-wha? The first ingredient is “FILTERED WATER” followed by “NOT FROM CONCENTRATE PASTEURIZED ORANGE JUICE”. Wait, there’s more WATER than ORANGE JUICE? Yes, this is, in fact, completely true. Elsewhere on the label it states “42% juice”. So ok, they took some OJ, and cut it 50/50 with water. Fine, this stuff must be cheaper, right?


Same _exact_ price[1] for the full 100% pure orange juice and the watered down 50% orange juice beverage. So wait, does it taste (and feel) like watered down orange juice? I’m guessing not, since Tropicana has conveniently added “MODIFIED FOOD STARCH”, “NATURAL FLAVORS” and “REB A” to make the beverage presumably thicker, more flavorful and sweeter than watered down orange juice would otherwise be.

In the interest of full disclosure, I often drink “orange-ade”[2] consisting of 1 part OJ to anywhere from 1 to 5 parts water depending on thirst. But when I drink this… I DON’T PAY FOR THE WATER.

My open letter to Tropicana:

With respect to your Trop50 Some Pulp Orange ‘Beverage’ which I recently discovered on the shelf of my local grocery:

You should be ashamed selling watered down OJ for the same price, and in the same section as your trademark “Pure Premium” orange juice. It exploits consumers who expect the product directly between varieties of actual Tropicana orange juice to actually be <gasp> orange juice. Kudos to your production team, however, for significantly increasing throughput without adding significant cost. Unfortunately, this product damages your reputation for a premium, great tasting, high quality pure orange juice. It certainly has damaged your credibility with this consumer.
– Sincerely, Chris Schierer

(Note: After multiple attempts at receiving a 500 server error at the Tropicana website, I was unable to send this comment through. I’ll try again later.)

  1. Based on a single sample of our local Tops grocery store []
  2. Shout out to Aunt Ann and the Schierer cousins for introducing me to this. []

8 Days of Windows 8: Part 2, GUIs Gone Wild!

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Technically we’re up to 12 days now, and no, this isn’t some sort-of voyeuristic post for graphics designers. It is, as before, a few comments on my initial take on Windows 8.

Any readers who’ve had a cell phone longer than they could drive, probably won’t understand this analogy, but for those who do, consider for a moment Windows 3.1 (aka “Windows for Workgroups“).[1] Remember when you tried to find your programs (before they were called applications, let a lone “apps”), and you sort-of visually searched around for a little rectangle that represented the thing you wanted? Sometimes though, it wouldn’t work quite right until you exited to DOS and ran the program from the real operating system hiding in the background? Sure there were a few snazzy programs (mostly written by Microsoft) that would actually work within the Windows environment, but most of the really powerful stuff (or really good games) left Windows behind and lived elsewhere. This, my friends, is pretty much how Windows 8 feels to me.

If you want some examples of why Win8 feels more like a colorful paint-job than an operating system, keep on below the fold. Otherwise, there is some good news which I’ll save for the next post.


  1. For what it’s worth, I have Windows 3.1.1 floppy disks in my lower left desk drawer. They are, in fact, the beginning of the long chain of Windows OS upgrades that leads my upgrade licenses all the way to this post. []

Life with 1.5 knees.

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Either I have a stubborn knee or the surgical predictions were a bit off. The post-op paperwork says that I should use the crutches as needed, but that I should be able to walk without them in 3-5 days.
Yeah, right.
It’s now day 10, and although I can walk without them, I certainly wouldn’t want to for very long. I started physical therapy on Thursday and progress is being made[1] He predicts I’ll be walking without a limp in a week or so.
I’m twitching to be able to walk around and even more critically drive again. Not to mention the eventual running, jumping, biking and generally playing with kids without cringing every few minutes.

I’ve also played far more Civilization IV than anyone really should in a week.

Still, I can see the glow on the horizon and I’m certainly through the worst of the recovery. Now it’s just patience and perseverance.

  1. I sound like a politician. []


Thursday, October 21st, 2010

It’s official, the American Red Cross doesn’t want my blood. Some poor vampire will go without this Halloween.

Apparently, Isla Roatan in Honduras is a location for immediate deferral due to risk of malarial infection… Even though I spent less than a day there.

It’s rather impressive how detailed their geographical database actually is. Simply identifying “Belize” wasn’t sufficient. I needed to identify specific geographical locations. This is a problem, since I literally do not know exactly where in Belize the cave tour bus actually took us. Regardless, it wasn’t Belize that caused the deferral (perhaps because I could only identify Belize City), and even if it did, the restriction would be the same.

The deferral is for one year from my last day in Roatan. I suppose that assumes I don’t come down with malaria in the next year.

My New Law of Brake Repair

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Law: The pads and rotor that are the most worn and in need of replacing will be impossible to remove.

Corollary: The pads and rotor that come off easily will be nearly pristine.

At least I’ve learned when to quit and go to the other side before I irrevocably damage the bolt heads. I will have to pay someone with an impact wrench and/or torch to get those steering knuckle-caliper bracket bolts off I think.

Are we in a nut-job contest or something?

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I was going to write a post about the nut-job radicals planning to burn books to “commemorate” 9/11, but my good friend Bill beat me to it. I’ll link to his instead.

1) Burning books of any kind is certainly this guy’s right in America.
2) People have the right to think he’s a nut-job idiot for doing it. (I do!)
3) Unfortunately, people will tend to generalize all Christians (and/or Americans) based on this radical right-wing nutter. Sound familiar?

Fundamental Particle Error

Monday, February 1st, 2010

As seen on actual ESD[1] mandatory training material (emphasis mine):

“Static electricity is a simple form of electrical energy. Every time you walk across a carpet, touch a doorknob, and get a spark it’s because you were splitting electrons. When you move, you generate an excess of either positive or negative charges on your body. Upon touching something conductive, the excess electrons are trying to find an electron of the opposite charge in order to neutralize themselves. So, an imbalance in electrons creates a difference in potential, which may cause an ESD event that may cause damage to circuitry.”

This is so fundamentally wrong it just hurts my brain. First off, in the Standard Model of elementary particles, electrons are indivisible. Even if you could split them, doing so by casually walking across a carpet would result in a significant release of energy. (Note, the annihilation of a single electron would be essentially unnoticeable from an energy release perspective, but if it happened as easily as simply walking across a carpet, we would have serious problems.) The amount of charge one can feel dissipating on a doorknob is on the order of 10^18 electrons. If they were really combining with “electrons of the opposite charge” (aka positrons… or antimatter electrons) this would result in a significant antimatter explosion. Something on the order of 100-200 kilojoules. Enough to heat about 40 kilograms of water one degree. Or for the 10 grams in the tip of your finger… pretty much vaporization. (Somebody please check my math on that.) Regardless… ouch.

I sent a correction. I’ll be interested to see how well received it is.

  1. That’s ElectroStatic Discharge for you non-technical acronym types. []

Another crazy ‘health’ post.

Monday, July 27th, 2009

In my continuing series on over-analyzing the crazy factoids posted at my workplace comes this little gem:

Skimp on sleep, consume more calories!
Staying up late and getting less than 6 hours of sleep can cause cravings and cause you to guzzle down about 200 more calories a night than those who get to sleep earlier.

So at face value, they’re saying that if you stay up late, you’ll be looking for that midnight snack, or as Taco Bell would say, “fourthmeal“.[1] So an extra 200 calories, huh? According to the US Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies’ Dietary Reference Intake table: a 65 inch male has a daily caloric need of about 2500 calories[2]
Assuming that this is the intake for a day with a ‘normal’ 8 hour sleep period, that extra 200 calories would correspond to an 8% increase.
Of course, you’re awake, so aren’t you burning more calories than you would be asleep? According to Heathline’s Calorie Burn Rate Calculator an average US 35 year old male (190 pounds)[3] burns 60 calories per hour when sleeping, but burns 108 calories simply watching TV. So for the extra two hours, our imaginary average person will burn 96 of those 200 calories just be staying awake. If even 30 minutes of that time is spent in mild exercise such as walking, an additional 168 calories will be burned. In that case, our imaginary person will actually burn a net 64 calories by staying awake.
So the lesson here, as always, is that 200 extra calories isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as it’s balanced with useful physical activity.
FWIW: The NCHS report I cited above, says that we Americans are about an inch taller and 25 pounds heavier than we were 40 years ago. Didn’t I read somewhere[4] that sleeping makes you taller? Maybe it’s time to go for a walk instead of a nap.

  1. Which is apparently a Taco Bell trademark. []
  2. Gross over simplification. []
  3. Mean value from the table linked from CDC National Center for Health Statistics 2004 report. []
  4. Various sources found, none that seemed worth referencing on its own. []

Monday, June 8th, 2009

At both work and play my life is surrounded by software. To be fair, this is probably true of most people whether they realize it or not. This software increases in complexity with each passing day and will soon pretty much take over the world.[1] It’s a good thing it has no mass or we would be looking at an information event horizon.

Since I spend so much of my working life looking for and solving the crazy anomalies that crop up when complexity is multiplied by complexity, I am especially amused by funny little glitches I find in the programs I use. In my spare time, I’m often working my way through some video game or another. Whenever something goes awry I find myself thinking about whether it would have been practical to find a bug like one I’m experiencing. Unfortunately we live in a world where games are shipped incomplete, since the Internet can provide the patches (and missing features) later. In most games, this is immediately followed by wondering if this is something I can exploit when I get into trouble. Bill used to call this ‘optimizing’. My most infamous achievement in this arena is the famous Hyperspace Jump in X-Wing Tour 3, Mission 12.

Today’s silly example is from a game called GT Legends by SimBin Studios. (more…)

  1. See Augustine’s 17th law: “Software is like entropy. It is difficult to grasp, weighs nothing, and obeys the Second Law of Thermodynamics – it always increases (Law Number XVII)” []

Yes, you can see it!

Monday, March 16th, 2009

In the last week or so I have discovered that there are a lot of people in the world who don’t know how easy the ISS is to see!

If you didn’t know, or you knew but just haven’t bothered, why not!?

If I told you you could just step into your backyard and witness one of the most complex technical achievements of mankind… wouldn’t you do it!?

If you’re along the east coast of North America, the viewing conditions are almost ideal right now and tonight you can see the shuttle and ISS playing tag overhead! Many nights have two visible passes, one just after sundown, and one an orbit later (about 90 minutes). The space station is easy to see because it’s in a relatively low orbit and because it’s HUGE. After this week’s shuttle mission it will be bigger yet. There will be no debating that it is the brightest thing in the sky except for the Sun and Moon.[1]

Want to see it? Great! For a simple set of information on where (and more importantly WHEN) to look, I recommend SpaceWeather.
On the right hand side of their main website is a link for “Satellite Flybys“. Put in your zip code and Shazam! A convenient list of readily observable satellites, times and places appears.

Go! Look! You’ll be impressed that the brilliant yellow light is really a distant outpost of humanity in space. There are real people up there and who knows, maybe they’re looking at you too.

  1. And I suppose some aircraft landing lights if they’re pointed right at you. []