Category Archives: For Your Consideration

In search of a breakfast drink that you can actually drink….

This may seem like a strange thing to review, but stick with me for a minute…

As someone who heads out with the camera into places without services and who tends to take long road trips, it’s really a good idea for me to keep a food supply in the car. As a diabetic, there are times when I realize I really ought to eat — and I’d like an alternative to finding a fast food joint (assuming there’s one nearby).

But since I’m diabetic, I really want things that are higher in protein and lower in carbs. To add to the complication, I have nut allergies, and I eat zero tree nuts and I also can’t eat peanuts. So right off the bat, 90% of the things most people haul in the car with them fail the “me” test, since the whole universe of granolas and trail mixes and the typical things people suggest are either non-edible for me, or are basically carb bombs. It’s always come down to carbs and jerky and things requiring refrigeration.

I’ve recently seen adds for these “breakfast to go” drinks, and so I was curious. Could this be my “leave in the car for those unscheduled uses” mini-meals? Good news: they don’t require refrigeration until opening, their nutritional setup isn’t bad (the Ensure is actually got a good amount of protein and moderate carbs) and they’re imminently portable and you can leave them in the car until you want them (within reason).

But are they drinkable? I gave a couple a shot. Trust me when I say the chocolate flavor of anything like this is most drinkable, and anything labeled strawberry I would avoid like the plague, just from past experience (remember Quik? Remember Strawberry Quik? Yeah… like the plague…). First up, Ensure High Protein, Creamy Milk Chocolate — I cracked one open unchilled. The first swallow — chocolate Quik. Not a great chocolate flavor, but… And then the aftertaste hit. The best description I can give is “institutional”. Quik was always kind of a weak, not very chocolate, sweet taste. That was this, but then layer in, oh, that flavor you get when you brew up some iced tea and then leave it out on the counter for three or four days until it turns. That flavor. 20 minutes later, I could still vaguely taste it. It would probably be better heavily chilled, just like a bad, cheap beer is more palatable chilled until the flavor goes away, but still, I have to say I’ll only drink ensure under Doctors orders (and an armed nurse), and under protest. A big “no, thanks anyway” here. (I can only wonder how bad the strawberry version is).

Later, I tried the Kellogg’s. It’s not as high protein, but the nutrition profile is still okay. Again, chocolate. This time, I stuck it in the fridge and chilled it. 190 calories 5g of fat, 10g or protein, 29g of carbs. more carbs than I’d hope, but… it’s closer to what I want then most things I’ve tried.

My suggestion: don’t go for the breakfast drinks, but look for the shelf stable milks. Both white and chocolate exist, and both are much cheaper than the “special” drinks, the nutrition is as good or better (the shelf stable low-fat white milks are about 8g protein and 12g carbs. the chocolate is 18-20g carbs), and the only other difference is that the milks don’t have lots of really cheap vitamins (of questional real value to you) added.

So, if you’re looking for something like this, don’t get fancy or follow the marketing, drink the milk.



Gary’s Guaranteed Rooter

Friday night started “one of those” weekends. Laurie called me in from the other room, because water is flowing from under the toilet. The wax seal has failed. hint: this is not good.

Worse, our other one has been, well, offline for a few weeks because we dropped a shampoo bottle in it and it’s been on the “we can’t fix it ourselves, so we need to get someone out here to take care of this” list.

So we got everything under control, got towels down, etc. and since it was late, got to bed. In the morning, I called the plumber, Gary, at Gary’s Guaranteed Rooter. We’d used him before when we got that slab leak that needed some major surgery. He agreed to get out here as soon as he could.

And literally, as soon as I got off the phone with him, we started getting sewage back out of the bathtubs, and up around the toilets. So it wasn’t (just) a bad wax seal, but a full sewage blockage.

And hilarity ensued. And Gary got a second phone call, and re-arranged his other appointments, and generally got his butt out here as fast as he could, pulled off a miracle or two, got everything cleared up, the toilets fixed, and just because he could, fixed a dripping sink while he was here.

I know enough about plumbing (thank you, This Old House) to know when I shouldn’t be mucking with it, and enough to have some idea what needs to be done. Gary’s now pulled out butt’s out of the fire twice, and he’s not only a good plumber who knows his stuff, he gives a damn. If you need a plumber, from San Jose up the peninsula, he’s a good option to have, especially when the, um, stuff is hitting the fan. In this case, literally.

And despite short notice turning into this oh-my-god emergency, his prices are fair. His number is (650) 766-7821; it’s one you probably want to stick in your address book for that day when you really need it, because when you really need it, you don’t want to go thrashing around trying to figure out who to call…

(And now life is back to normal, although one of the bathroom rugs is a goner; all of the towels have gone through the “sanitize” cycle, and hopefully, we won’t have to worry about this for a while. We’ve been in this house since the mid 90’s, and this is the first time we’ve had this problem. Hopefully, with a bit of scheduled maintenance, we can keep it from happening again…)



Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I’ve finally finished Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs. Having worked at Apple through much of the time covered in the book, I was curious how my view of the time and events matched up with this — the official — version, and to try to get some perspective on the man behind all of this.

I’m happy (and a bit surprised) to say that I found nothing in the book that was demonstrably wrong compared to reality as I remembered it; this is no sanitized, “remember me fondly” hollywood bio; Steve seems to have played fair with Isaacson, and Isaacson played fair with Steve.

You get Steve unfiltered. The book brings clear a complex man; not easy to work with, but not evil. Just — insensitive. I can speak to many people who cursed having to deal with him at times; and after, loved him for having brought out the best in them along the way. The Steve in the book matches up well with the Steve I came to know through living in Silicon Valley and working at Apple. He was an exceptionally intelligent person, but more so, an exceptionally intuitive man who could make that jump directly from point A to the end point, and wasn’t afraid to take those leaps without endless masses of data to justify them. He was also right often enough that he was allowed to do this, even though this can be a scary way of operating to people who aren’t strongly intuitive.

And yet I found myself fighting to get through the book. Unlike some of Isaacson’s other works, this book feels flawed and somewhat lifeless.

I don’t think this is Isaacson’s fault. Unlike some of his other biographies (I especially loved his book on Franklin), the material here is new, it hasn’t been given the benefit of time to smooth off the raw edges or any chance at perspective and consideration that helps us understand what really matters in the essence of the man. I also get the feeling that since so many of the other people involved in this book are alive, Isaacson stepped carefully through various minefields; it feels like there are punches being pulled, that people are being careful — but may not even realize it’s happening. The frustration that Bill Gates showed at some of the comments Steve made is one place where this breaks through, but even there, I think both sides watch their words, knowing posterity was watching, and I think that “carefulness” invades many of the relationships in the book.

That’s inevitable in a book like this, and I’m not criticizing Isaacson for it. I do feel like he was still grappling with the material, still really trying to get his head around the material and Steve and how to write the book, and the end result is that parts of the book, especially later parts, are missing the perspective and analysis I expect from this author. This is a book that would have been better suited to a year of incubation, giving him more of a chance to ponder and polish.

It is, however, a massive and fascinating source of material about Steve, Apple, and Silicon Valley at a seminal time where the people and companies here changed society in so many ways.

My criticisms here are minor — give the book a B-, maybe (where I’d give the Franklin book an easy A-). If you’re at all interested in what has gone on behind the keynotes and product introductions, then this is a definite read for you. But there’s a bigger, better book on Silicon Valley and Steve to be writen, but one that is going to need five or ten years for us to understand Steve in the larger context and let time help us see him after time salves some of the raw emotions so many of us have felt in the last few months.

This is a good book, but not a great book. It is, I think, the best book Isaacson could have written right now, and it’s definitely worth your time (but also go grab the Franklin book, to see Isaacson at his best).

(addendum, added later, but before publication:

One thing that struck me in reading the book was Jobs saying he wanted the book to exist so his kids could read about him and learn who he was. In similar situations, very few of us would think to call up Walter Isaacson and tell him to write our biography. Steve did (and Walter did, because he’s Steve, and this is an important book about an important person). But it seems to me there’s a deeper meaning to this; while most of us would solve this problem by sitting down with our kids and talking, at some level, Steve realized he couldn’t, that he just wasn’t wired that way. I also get the impression that because he insisted on this book being honest, and his flaws weren’t hidden or glossed over, that at some level this book was in Steve’s way also a way of acknowledging he wasn’t the greatest father in the world, and in the kind of act only someone like Steve would do, apologizing to his kids for being what he was, in public. And I think that sums up the Steve we’re seeing in the book: a very complex person who both had flaws and recognized them — but couldn’t overcome them. He was who he was. And he couldn’t just sit down with his kids and explain himself or say I’m sorry. But he could stand up in a very public display and do that — which if you think about it, is a very powerful way to show that you really mean it when you say “i’m sorry” for being what he was to them.)