Sunday, December 30, 2018

Forgotten Toast

Place: Slim Chickens
Lunch: Eight Wing Plate (Spicy Korean sauce, ranch), potato salad, cranberry lemonade

Hey, they forgot the toast.  Oh well.  I don't really care.

It's almost New Year's, so let's do that year in review thing now in case I forget later because after nearly a month of not working, I'm losing concept of time.  I should probably get over that because I have a flight to catch later this week.  I think.  Maybe.  *scratches head*  I should set an alarm or something.  If I can remember how to set an alarm.

Headline of the Year - "Utah bars have started warning each other about rogue male stripper troupes that come through town."  What???

Oops of the Year - Ever check in to your hotel, go to your room, unlock the door, and discover somebody else is already staying there?  That happened to me this year.

Dream of the Year - Dreamed I was driving somewhere but couldn't get there because some guy had closed the road to expand his yard.

Bad Luck of the Year - Got new tires in April.  One replaced under road hazard warranty in June.  Second replaced under road hazard warranty in December.  If this keeps up, I'm never going to have to buy a new set of tires again.

Dumb McDonald's Move of the Year - Every year for Fast Food Fish Season, McDonald's has a special on Filet-O-Fish.  This year, they limited that special to a coupon that required you to use their phone app, effectively shutting out the elderly, the biggest consumers of fast food fish.  They later did the same thing with McRib.

Fortune Cookie of the Year - "Attitude is more important than facts."  The very definition of politics.

Radio Ad of the Year - "Is your credit so dirty it needs disinfectant and a safe word?" 

Album of the Year - Beach House "7".  No reason why.  Honestly, it was kind of a slow year.

Movie of the Year - "Aquaman".  For me, anyway.

Streaming Movie of the Year - "Roma" (Netflix)  takes some effort to watch, but the last fourth or so of the movie has three incredibly powerful scenes.

Television of the Year - The CW's "Supernatural" had a crossover episode with...Scooby Doo.  It actually exceeded my expectations.

Television Advertising for Dummies of the Year - Silk changed their package design and ran an ad campaign that dumbed down the changes as if their customers would have a hard time understanding what essentially is a bigger logo on the package.  It REALLY came off as overkill.

Creepy Commercial of the Year - Am I the only one who found the facial expressions of the girl in the Viasat commercial they ran earlier this year disturbing? 

Television Commercial Overkill of the Year - Did Sia give Target a bulk rate on royalties for use of "Round and Round" in their ads or something?

Retail Change of the Year - Best Buy stopped selling CD's.  In even more shocking news, Best Buy still exists.

Weird Sports News of the Year - Vince McMahon announced the resurrection of the XFL.  I still have an XFL football from the last time it failed.

Fast Food Branding of the Year - Discovered there's a burger chain in Illinois called "Meatheads".

Fast Food LTO of the Year - I really liked Burger King's Cheesy Bacon Crispy Chicken.  I guess they had to find something to do with all that cheese sauce they bought for that disaster of a sandwich that wins the...

Fast Food Disappointment of the Year - Burger King's Philly Cheese Cheeseburger.  I don't even get the connection.

Fast Food Hack of the Year - You know those Hot Chili Seasoning sauce packets Wendy's gives out with their chili?  Turns out that crap makes for a decent taco sauce.

Fast Food Regret of the Year - "OH MY GOD THEY HAVE A TRIPLE DOUBLE CRUNCHWRAP!" - Taco Bell customer full of sorrow and remorse because he already ordered.

Fast Food Fail of the Year - Taco Bell used to have the best app for mobile ordering, but they replaced it with a new app that is absolute garbage that fails you more often than it actually works.

Not Like Fast Food More Like Diner LTO Burger of the Year - Steak n Shake came out with a White Truffle Prime Steakburger that included their "nothing like a Steak n Shake" 6oz patty,  Tillamook Swiss, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and truffle aioli sauce.  "Is this Heaven?"  "Yes.  Yes it is."

Trendy New Treat of the Year - Cookie dough scoop shops are now a thing.  The "dough" doesn't have egg in it and the flour is cooked, so it's safe to eat.  But it's still pretty tasty.

Drive-Thru Mishear of the Year - Me: "2 for $6 Whopper deal..."  Burger King Drive-Thru Guy: "26 Whopper Jr's..." 

Grocery Development of the Year - Sprout's Farmer's Market, who brought Tillamook Yogurt to the Midwest for the first time ever a few years ago, added Tillamook Ice Cream to their stores too.  I may have cried, even though they don't sell my favorite flavors.

M&M's of the Year - M&M's debuted three new Crispy flavors...Crunchy Mint, Crunchy Espresso, and Crunchy Raspberry...and had a contest to decide which would be a permanent addition to the M&M's lineup.  Mint was the best, and Mint won, which is shocking because it wasn't the coffee-related flavor.

Ice Cream Flavor of the Year - Braum's came out with a Cookie Monster that was essentially their blue Birthday Cake ice cream, but loaded with chunks of various cookies.  I tasted chocolate chip, peanut butter, and snickerdoodle for sure.

Twitter Feed Winner of the Year - The MoonPie and Wendy's Twitter accounts (who I suspect are run by the same person) got into a ridiculous back-and-forth squishy compliment thing on National Compliment Day.  At some point the Regal Cinemas account chimed in with "Still a better love story than Twilight" and won.

Vegas Acquisition of the Year - Virgin Hotels bought the off-strip Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and the jokes about the "first Virgin in Vegas" were never-ending.

Grabbing Opportunity of the Year - In the midst of the "idiot teens eating Tide Pods" fad, Hurts Donut started selling a doughnut frosted to look just like a Tide Pod.

Pickup Line of the Year - Boy are you an indie movie because you are projecting a boldly unresolved narrative onto me - @aparnapkin

Retweet of the Year - 

Prediction for 2019 of the Year -
When the new job hunt starts, I'm pretty sure any relocation will be entirely based on what I'm craving for lunch that day, and what region is a core market for that chain.

Finally, one personal aside...Rest in Peace, Dan "Weird_1" Green.  Thanks for all the laughs.

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Place: Burger King
Lunch: Hooter, fries, Pibb XTRA, lemon soft serve cone

I know what you're thinking.

"What's a Hooter?"

"It's a quarter pound cheeseburger," Smiling Counter Guy replies when I ask.

I know what you're thinking.

"Wait...what?  What's going on here?  My Burger King doesn't have that."

And you'd be right.  Because this is NOT a part of the Burger King chain.  This is the Burger King in Mattoon, Illinois.  This Burger King was operating well before the national chain made its way to this here neck of the prairie.  They tried to get the local store to cease and desist their use of the branding and lawsuits ensued, but the local Burger King prevailed and the national Burger King has to live with that.  They also can't open a national outlet within 20 miles of this store.

The name is the end of the similarities.  The burgers are grilled, not charbroiled, and more closely resemble Steak n Shake's or Freddy's with their thin, juicy, crispy edge patties.  Which made ordering a single-patty Hooter a mistake, as these patties should always be eaten as doubles.  So if you happen by, just get a double cheeseburger.

The fries are hot and fresh and of the lightly coated and seasoned variety.  They're delicious.

There's two order counters, one for the hot food side ("Burger King") and one for ice cream ("Frigid Queen").  You order and pay separately.  The highlight item according to the locals is the lemon soft serve cone.  So I had one, and...yes.  Wow. That's really good.

The locals treasure this place.  It's busier at 2:00pm than any national Burger King I've ever been to at any time of the day.

This is far from the first trademark conflict with a big name.  For years, Waffle House was known in Indiana as Waffle & Steak because there was already a chain of restaurants in the state using the Waffle House name.  Still is, actually, but the national Waffle House rebranded under their flagship banner a couple of years ago.  Payless Shoe Source is another example.  In the Pacific Northwest, where PayLess Drug Stores were once a thing, they were known as Volume Shoe Source.

For companies that die, it's possible to let a registered trademark lapse and for someone else to jump in and swipe it up.  So businesses sometimes play tricks to keep trademarks dead.  Hardee's, for example, bought Burger Chef a long time ago.  Somebody once wanted to take the trademark and revive the brand, but Hardee's killed the idea by putting Burger Chef's signature burger, the Big Shef, on sale again at Hardee's stores every few years in a couple of old Burger Chef core markets.  They included the Burger Chef logo in promotional materials.  All specifically designed to keep the brand dead.

Waffle House actually trademarked the brand of a dead competitor it itself was founded out of and keeps that brand from being revived by using the name on their own menu.  Thus the reason you see "Toddle House Omelets" on the Waffle House menu.  The ridiculous thing there is I can't find any evidence that Toddle House ever even offered omelets.  They were well known for their burgers and chocolate pie.

Not all this trickery actually works.  A few years ago, a guy decided he wanted to revive Naugles, a Mexican chain Del Taco acquired years ago.  He sued to get Del Taco to acknowledge abandoning the trademark.  Del Taco responded by showing they were in fact still using the logo in their online store where they offered Naugles branded T-shirts.  But a judge decided that wasn't enough, and the result is Naugles is open for business at a couple of locations in California with copycat recipes the guy reversed engineered and customers claim are pretty accurate.

So if there's an old brand out there and nobody's used the trademark in years, maybe you can have it.  Hardee's has never pulled any stunts to protect the Sandy's trademarks the way they did with Burger Chef.

And I know how to make a pretty accurate Big Scot.

Friday, December 07, 2018

O Christmas Tree

Place: The Habit Burger Grill
Lunch (well, early dinner technically): Double Char (no tomato), onion rings (w/ranch), strawberry limeade

The Habit is a fast casual burger chain that dates back to 1969.  The idea behind the name is they want you to "make it a habit" to show up and order food.

Everything's cooked to order and priced in line with the usual suspects.  The burger is good, if not a little too intensely charbroiley tasting.  Loving the strawberry limeade, which is a flavored drink you can refill...there's no fresh fruit in it.  There's at least three other sandwiches I'd like to try on the menu (an Ahi tuna, a tri-tip steak, and a portobello Char), but I'm only in town for a few days and have like 17 places I'd like to eat at while I'm here, so probably not.

Ford has a commercial running for the Escape...a car-based SUV not really designed for off roading...that suggests that you should give your kid a life lesson by taking them into the woods and finding a random tree to cut down and bring home for the family Christmas tree instead of going to a tree lot.  A family adventure.

This seems ill advised.

First off, it can be outright illegal or at a minimum require permits.   The US Forest Service has some guidelines here

Second, make sure you're on public property where this is allowed and what the rules are.  You'd feel terrible if you cut down a tree that turned out to be on private property and had the family dog's remains buried under it.  Poor Fluffy.  And poor you when the family's attorney gets involved and it turns out they had security cameras and you're suddenly a YouTube star for all the wrong reasons.

Third, know the conditions.  Saws can spark.  Dry climates can catch fire.  And as the people of Paradise, California will attest, fires can burn whole towns down.  Even the local Jack in the Box.   Nobody wants to lose their local Jack in the Box.  I mean, all those wasted tacos.

Fourth, there's safer places to do this.  Find a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm.  Find your perfect tree, saw it, properly secure it to your vehicle, and pay the attendant.  Off you go.  i have a memory of doing this as a child.  Dad found the perfect tree at the bottom of a steep snow covered hill and intended to drive our '61 Transporter (the VW pickup version of the Type 2/Bus) down there and get it, but the lot owner wouldn't let him.  "There's no way that thing will make it back up the hill."

"Yes it will," my father flatly replied.

They argued until Dad wore him down by accepting responsibility if he got stuck.  He drove down the hill, cut the tree, loaded it in the back, and drove straight back up the hill, where the guy, arms folded, watched with surprise.  "Damn.  I need to get me one of those," he said.

But whatever adventure you have, it will never top the ones we had when we moved to Alaska.

Dad's boss had a 50-foot yacht.  Every year, he'd take us and other friends out to some random uninhabited island to find the perfect "free" Christmas trees.  Because who would pay for a tree while living in the middle of a national forest.  We'd anchor off shore, take the skiff in, wander inward to find our perfect trees, cut them down, drag them back to the skiff, tie them to the back, haul them through the salt water, and put them on the back of the boat.  Scrapes, bruises, colds, and once a broken leg ensued.  But hey...we had our "free" trees.  Not counting the untold hundreds spent on fuel and food and supplies and what not.  A point Dad never missed pointing out, but nobody cared.

It was, after all, really about the adventure.