Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Totally Confused

Call me crazy...but shouldn't every issue of Architectural Digest be the "Architecture Issue?"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pound of Starbucks Beans = Free Beverage... or Free Coffee?

I'm a big fan of Starbucks - that's no secret.

I don't mind the mass appeal of their products or their overcommercialized stores and brand. I still think that their concept is cool, and ubiquity is simply a product of their success and consumer demand.

Yesterday, I saw that Starbucks launched two new iPhone apps:

- Starbucks Card Mobile is an interface to reload a registered Starbucks card, check balances, and even use your iPhone as the actual card as some test locations out west (which is pretty sweet).

- myStarbucks is a pretty comprehensive app that uses GPS to locate nearby stores and give product information about practically anything they sell. Want to see which nearby locations are brewing coffee using the Clover machine? They have that.

I downloaded both apps and used Starbucks Card Mobile to reload my card with $25. It worked seamlessly, and they awarded me with an extra $5 since I used my Visa card on my first reload and they were running a promotion. Sweet, I figured. I needed to buy a pound of beans, as I was flat out.

Now, I know the rules. When I buy a pound of beans at a Starbucks, I'm entitled to a free tall beverage. I have always asked for a simple hot coffee, probably out of simplicity.

But yesterday, I felt like a pumpkin spice latte. I don't know why, I just kind of did. I was not 100% certain that more sophisticated drinks were entitled to the freebie upon purchase of beans, but figured that I would never know if I didn't ask.

So after the barista ground my beans, the exchange went something like this:

Her: "Anything else?"

Me: "Don't I get a free drink with that?"

Her: "You do if you use your Starbucks Card to purchase it"

Me: (after JUST having given her my Starbucks Card to pay for the transaction): "Good thing I did"

Her: "What would you like?"

Me: "Can I get a latte?"

Her: "No, just a coffee."

Me (not about to fight to the death...but I know she's wrong): "Why can't I get a latte?"

Her: "Because they are more expensive!"

So I settled for my tall coffee and went on my way. The first time I asked if this free beverage can be anything something other than a coffee, and I'm shot down.

But something just didn't sit well with me. Since she didn't even ask if I wanted a free beverage at the start, I think she was banking on my not knowing the rules. More times than not, when ordering beans from other Starbucks locations, I'm asked what tall beverage I would like.

So I looked up the rules at this morning, and found this:

Your Benefits

Free selected syrup and soymilk
Free brewed coffee refills
Free beverage with whole bean purchase
Free Wi-Fi up to 2 hours a day
Free beverage. Pretty vague, yes in my mind all encompassing. Even this fine print seems to support my case:

You receive one complimentary 12 fl oz beverage at time of purchase of one or more pounds of whole bean coffee. Offer valid at participating U.S./Canada stores and is subject to change.

I hate the inconsistency of Starbucks sometimes. I know it's impossible to give customers a 100% consistent experience given the vast quantity of locations and variable involved. But all I wanted was a free tall pumpkin spice latte with my pound of beans, and I left feeling bad for even asking.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sharing the Altar with The Pope

I'm not a huge fan of weddings. Thankfully, I'm only invited to one or so each year. And since my invitations usually come from true friends, I wind up going and ultimately have lots of fun.

I tried counting the number of weddings that I have attended, and I'm probably sitting somewhere between 10 and 15.

Most frequently, I am simply an invited guest. A few times, I attended the bachelor party beforehand. Once, I was even the wedding DJ.

This past weekend's wedding was quite different from the norm for many reasons.

First off, I was in the wedding party. I performed the second reading - from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians - the "Love is Patient, Love is Kind" one. I have had multiple friends guess either this particular passage and/or book of the Bible from which I read. I suppose this is a popular one.

I was even invited to ride in the stretch Range Rover. As I stood for about twenty minutes outside, awaiting the rest of the wedding party, I watched tons of people stop and photograph this un-ecofriendly vehicle.

Second of all, it was a black tie affair, which forced me into a tuxedo for the second time in my life. The first time was my high school prom.

Third, the wedding was at St. Patrick's Cathedral, which means that I shared the altar with Bishops, Cardinals, and even The Pope. I think that's completely wild! Parishoners and random tourists were mulling around the interior of the cathedral all while the ceremony rolled on. After the nuptials and procession, we stood on the exterior stairs and were greeted by even more onlookers taking pictures, pointing, and probably wondering what wedding they stumbled across. If I happened across a wedding during one of my trips to Italy, it would have left a lasting impression in the annals of my vacation memories. Hopefully this wedding served the same purpose to a few out-of-towners.

Fourth, the reception was at the New York Athletic Club, a private venue on Central Park South. Our function room on the 9th floor had an outdoor balcony and windows that gave a panoramic view above the treetops of the entire park.

Between the wedding and the reception, I had the opportunity to play Midtown Manhattan tourist, as my friend arranged for a brief chartered bus tour for guests to occupy the down time between the end of the ceremony and beginning of the reception.

Overall, a great day. Perfect weather, happy people all around.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Most Obnoxious Radio Jingle

Great jingles are infectious. Memorable, catchy, and witty.

I suppose "great" is subjective, but I certainly don't mind the jingles for Free Credit Report, Mattress Discounters, East-West Mortgage, and Giant Glass.

There is one current campaign, however, that makes me jump out of bed almost as quickly as most Beastie Boys songs.


Ugh! How irritating - a kid singing this phone number for 60 seconds straight. It's worse that fingernails down a chalk board.

What's funny is that the organization KNOWS how irritating their radio commercial is, which is partly why the campaign is effective. On their website, there is a link to have people submit their own versions of the jingle.

Having worked in radio, and now working in marketing / advertising - I get why this campaign is running as frequently as it is, and credit them for creating such a memorable yet irritating commercial.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lobster Bake in the Burbs

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being invited out to the suburbs for a delicious lobster bake at my friend Tom's place. He was gracious in scoring all of the remaining lobsters at his local grocery store (to the dismay of the woman in line behind him, he claims), and preparing them with a delicious butter sauce for dipping. Along with the grilled corn and baked potatoes, it was a fabulous way to end the summer.

It made me think - I need to prepare lobsters more often.

I rarely cook seafood at home, and never think to cook anything still alive - lobsters, crabs, clams - I just feel that I'd prefer to leave that to the experts and eat it in restaurants.

But lobster prices are extremely competitive these days, and they seem easy enough to cook if I have the stomach to boil a living crustacean. I'm not sure that I do, but perhaps after a glass of wine or two...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bummed by Lunch

One of the greatest parts about working downtown is the multitude of lunch options. I'm sure I won't feel this way after a few more month here, but it seems that every day, I'm trying a new establishment.

I remember hearing about some interesting pushcart in Downtown Crossing that sold Latin American sandwiches with green beans on them. I thought I would take a stroll a few blocks in that direction, just to see what I could find.

As I was on hold with my eye doctor (I needed to reschedule an appointment), I saw a restaurant that had an enticing menu posted. I was planning to order some chicken kabobs when I started pacing on the sidewalk outside, still on hold with the doctor's office.

I happened to stroll back past a storefront called Chacarero. It's a small Chilean restaurant that serves sandwiches...with green beans on them.

Cool, I thought! This must be the place!

Turns out that they started as a push cart in Downtown Crossing, and have expanded into this location.

I ordered a small chicken and beef sandwich, which came on a lightly salted bun, and was served with guacamole, tomatoes, muenster cheese, and hot sauce. There was also a large sandwich available, but the small was too big itself, I can't imagine what a large would have looked like.

I sat down to enjoy the sandwich, and was...kinda underwhelmed, unfortunately. I felt like the interesting flavor combination was still missing something. Salt? Garlic? Secret Sauce? I don't know. But it didn't make my taste buds sing and dance. Total bummer. I thought I discovered a delicious sandwich place, the likes of which were far from Southie, Quincy, Kenmore Square, and anywhere else I might have been paid to show up.

While I'm sure it's a popular establishment (there is a page of testimonials on their website), I must say that I'll probably just wish them well, figure many others will enjoy their food, and have to find myself walking elsewhere for midday eats. No ill will toward them - it just wasn't for me.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

United States of Beef

I grilled a few steaks on Sunday, and thought that this one looked suspiciously like the continental United States (well, minus Texas and Florida).

If I start seeing the Virgin Mary in a bag of potato chips, I'm going to be concerned.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Perfect Weekend

What a perfect Labor Day weekend!

I'm home...
...not dealing with traffic whatsoever
...spending time with friends and Rosie
...grilling steaks later
...catching up on some reading
...have the windows open, ocean breeze pushing through my place
...still wearing shorts, but feel the autumn air approaching

...and getting ready for some football!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Another Home Run

As far as I can tell, my softball season has finally ended. No more league play, and no more tournaments (to my knowledge). It was a fun ride!

This week, we placed 6th in the tournament (out of 39 teams in our division), and had a great 6-2 run, best of all six Boston entries. I batted .500 over the eight games, and somehow cranked a home run and a triple over two unsuspecting left center fielders during our final two games. Along with my walkoff game winning single in Game 3, I had a pretty exciting series.

Toward the end of the week, I started feeling the dreaded tickle in the back of my throat, and awoke in a pool of sweat on Friday morning, thanks to a fever that kicked in and then broke. The fact that my two extra base hits came while sick makes me wonder if I shouldn't play ill more frequently.

I was set to return on AirTran's Sunday evening MKE-BOS nonstop flight, but instead found a cheap $120 one way fare on Midwest for their Saturday nonstop, and decided to head home a day early for some needed extra rest. A day trip to Chicago would have been fun, as would have been a photo trip around Milwaukee. Unfortunately, I had to skip both of those options. Hence, no photos!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Softball Tournament

After a week of futzing around on the bus during my new commute to Chinatown, I decided to clear out of Boston and hit up a softball tournament instead.

Actually...this trip had been planned for months, and I was lucky enough to have been granted this week off by my new employers (albeit an unpaid week, but that's only fair given the short duration of my time with the company thus far).

Our bracket has 39 teams from across North America (well, just Canada and the U.S.), and in the round robin games, we went 3-0 to earn a 5th place seeding in the actual tournament, which begins today.

We ended up winning the final game on a walkoff game-winning single that I hit with two outs and two strikes! Normally that kind of pressure might have caused me to think a bit too much, but since the game was tied and it would have either ended that way or we would have won, I approached the at-bat pretty lightheartedly. Nothing to lose. Smack the ball and run fast to first, which is what happened. Run scored, I was safe, game over.

But every game is a new one - and we still have six more to win if we'd like to win the title.