May 17, 2016

Forget How to Spell with Irn Bru

Is that jello and pasta sauce, I smell?

Following up my Lucozade review, I went straight into number two with Irn Bru in my International Beverage Bonanza series. I kid you not, that’s how to spell it. I’m pretty sure it’s pronounced Iron Brew. I think the lack of iron makes you forget how to spell properly.

Irn Bru is in a rather unassuming clear bottle, looking more like a 16oz soda than a carbonated citrus drink with 5% of your daily recommended amount of iron. Unlike the last orange beverage thing I tried, this one has some flavor. Some odd flavor.

Remember, as a kid, when the dentist put fluoride in your mouth to poison your mind for your teeth and you got to pick a flavor? Yeah. This brings back those memories. While I wondered for 20 minutes what Lucozade tasted like, I have no doubts what Irn Bru is trying to get after. Ever drink orange gelatin before it set?

I really hate that I’m making myself drink 12 oz of this mind-altering fluoride water bubble juice. I’m having a really hard time figuring this drink out. The flavor is so crazy compared to how innocuous it looks.

Then again, as a kid, I always wanted more of the tasty fluoride foam so the Illuminati could become supreme overlords I could get more of that orange flavor. As I drink it, it’s becoming addicting. Irn Bru is a British Scottish drink that’s lying to me, you, to the Queen, and to all of Her Majesty’s KingdomTM. The latter half is fine because of its Scottish roots; I hear the Scots have some beef with England.

If I took the wrapper off and told someone it was a new kind of Crush orange soda, they’d believe me.

Did I mention the spelling? Oh, I did. I’ll just get back to drinking it.

Besides the 5% DV of iron per serving, there’s little nutritional value. At 200 calories, 50 carbs (100% of which is sugar), and a measly 20mg of Sodium, this is true sugar water.

One thing worth noting here is Irn Bru found in the United States contains different ingredients than the UK version. The UK version uses Ponceau 4R (Europe: E-124) for coloring, a coloring not approved by the United Stated Food and Drug Administration for use in food, where as the US version uses FD&C Yellow Number 6 (Also known as Sunset Yellow FCF; Europe: E-110). Like anything FD&C is much better, right?

Barr’s has made a legit attempt to make sure Irn Bru is as US legit as possible. It comes with a North American UPC label and everything.

Taste – 2/10. The logical side of me is having a hard time with this flavor. Seven-year-old me is metaphorically losing his mind. If my inner child were writing this review, it would be a 10/10.

Presentation – 5/10. The package screams “Meh!” and Irn Bru’s bland packaging is definitely hiding something. In the right light, the liquid looks like dark urine. Take that for what it’s worth.

Desire – 2/10. Again, like the taste, adult Johnathan is nearing repulsion. Seven-year-old me is now spazzing out.

Overall – 9/30. If you’re over the age of seven, don’t even think about it. The exception is those who drink jello before it sets or they have odd fixations with funky-@$$ citrus flavors.

I picked this one up at the Aussie Products store for a few bucks but it can be had online in many places, including Amazon and UK Goods.

Special thanks to Aussie Products for the hookup on this one, even though I technically paid for it. If you’re in the San Jose, CA area and are feeling that down under tingle, go check them out or visit

Get After it with Liquid Sugar and Lucozade Energy

If there’s one thing I’ll always try a new variant of, it’s an energy drink. As the inaugural post in my International Beverage Bonanza series, I think it’s incredibly appropriate (or not) to give the U.K.’s rocket-bottle-full-of-sugar the first chair. I’m cautiously optimistic.

At first glance, it feels like the 90s called, asked for their bottle back, and the Brits said: “nay, good sir!” The odd, rocket shape lends credence to the statement on the back which reads, and I quote:

Glucose. It’s for that moment, when you need it most. When the energy and good times flow. Whatever you do, do it with energy.

If that’s not a sexual innuendo, I don’t know what is. Translated into me speak: “Maximum Effort!”

With the added punctuation, I feel like it’s meant to be read as if I was out of breath. (So. Much. Energy. Must. Do. Things!)

A bigger bottle. So you can split the energy between friends.

I’m having a hard time figuring out a situation where two (probably and nonbiological) “bros” would decide to split a sugar missile. (sigh) Even just calling it a sugar missile makes the innuendos more… innuendo-y.

Tossing in some nutritional information that would make even the most passive hippie health coach vomit their kale chips (per bottle: 172g of carbs, 88g of sugar, 700 calories). I’m somewhat regretting the 12oz minimum rule. Ah, what the hell.

On first taste, it reminds me of partially flat, less flavorful Sprite. Then again, pretty much everywhere else in the world things have normal levels of taste. Us Americans can’t get enough of anything so we shovel all the tastiest crap we can find into our mouths. My taste buds have been tainted.

In other words, it doesn’t have an American level of flavor and I suspect is thusly not worthy of being an American beverage.

Besides that, it tastes fine. I’m having a hard time putting a real flavor profile down. It feels like a mix between orange and lemon with a hint of ginger ale. I don’t even know. I’m making stuff up at this point.

I’m getting the vibe that this is aimed at a younger audience with the bright red packaging and orange soda tint. If I gave this to you in a cup and said it was orange soda, you’d taste it and revolt.

After drinking it, my lips feel sticky. I suspect that’s the power of liquid sugar at work. Given the sugar content, maybe this beverage is more American than I thought.

I picked an odd beverage to start with, I’ll admit. That said, I don’t think it was a terrible choice. Here’s what I’d give it:

Taste – 6/10. It would have scored higher had it actually stuck to one flavor… literally any flavor. I imagine this is what people feel like when they drink a Red Bull and wonder what the hell…

Presentation – 4/10. The asthmatic punctuation bothers me and I think there are more bubbles on the package than in the beverage.

Desire – 6/10. It’s a light drink, and I’m a fan of that. I haven’t experienced what the raw sugar crash is going to be like but I suspect it’ll line up with that of Mountain Dew.

Overall – 16/30. This is pretty much a universal score for every energy beverage I’d ever consume. It’s nothing earth shattering but some folks seem to really dig it. I can understand that as a connoisseur of Red Bull.

If you’re dying to get some, look for a local import food store. If not, Amazon should be able to hook you up. I paid $15 for this bottle. Definitely better than lighting $15 on fire, but not by much.

The International Beverage Bonanza

Some say Americans get all the good stuff. I don’t know who those people are, but they’re probably crazy. The real winners are the non-American countries. Just about every other country in the world gets awesome flavors of Coca-Cola–without HFCS no less–and America is left with garbage. I suppose a few locations source the good stuff like Club Cool at Epcot.

They also get some pretty oddball choices.

Beyond the major brands everyone knows, there are lesser known ones. It’s those brands I’m focusing on in this series: The International Beverage Bonanza. The goal is simple: source allegedly tasty beverages from countries around the world without getting on a plane. Each one will get its own post, about 300-500 words, and a rating out of ten each for:

  • Taste
  • Presentation
  • Desire*

The last one comes with an asterisk as just saying “desire” is pretty subjective. In this case, we’re talking about how badly, as an American, do I want to see this on U.S. store shelves? Naturally, a ten is the best possible score in all categories and a score out of 30 sums it up.

I wanted to keep the rules simple because otherwise I’m bound to break them without even realizing it.

  • No wine or spirits.
  • No beer.
  • I must drink the whole container before reviewing.
  • The beverage must be packaged ready to consume.

That’s it. Everything else is fair game.

I’m excited to spend way too much money on stuff I might not like for the sake of the Internet’s amusement.

Get ready. This American is about to get Cultured.

The List

  • Lucozade Original (U.K.)
  • Irn Bru (Scotland)
  • Grapetiser (South Africa)
  • Appletiser (South Africa)
  • Vinto (coming soon)
  • Ribena (coming soon)
  • Lilt (coming soon)
April 8, 2016

The Dolby Atmos(phere)

I watched my first Dolby Atmos movie, tonight, and had to come home and write about it. This isn’t a long post, as I don’t have a ton to say and I don’t want to get into the super technical details.

Paired with the AMC Prime experience, I’ll start by saying this: it was awesome.

My first movie in this format was Hardcore Henry, a first-of-its-kind First Person action film. The movie isn’t anything worth winning awards unless those awards are for over-the-top violence-and-lack-of-plot-while-still-being-raunchy-and-fun. What I’m focusing on right now is the Atmos aspect of this experience.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Dolby Atmos is a theater sound experience that involves the position of movie sounds in two dimensions, not just one. A typical movie theater (and home entertainment setup, as well) features sources of sound on a single plane. The speakers are positioned around you, but are generally just across the X axis in your space. With Atmos, the vertical Y axis is considered, as the theater (and your home entertainment setup if you’re brave enough and have the cash) contains an array of downward firing speakers on the ceiling.

This creates a sound field that allows the audio engineers to pick a point in 3D space where the sound is supposed to travel through, as it would in the real space represented in the movie, and the hardware does the rest of the work.

An easy example would be a plane. You see it flying toward you and above. This plane will pass over your head dead center. In a regular theater, the sound would be played through the left and right surround channels (along the side walls) and probably be adjusted to fake being above you. In an Atmos theater, the sound would pass through those same channels for effect, but the primary source would be the ceiling. Given the array of speakers above you, the sound would be more precise and its source more accurate.

I promised I wouldn’t get too technical and I think I failed, there, so if you want to read more about how it works, hit up the Dolby Atmos site. Moving on.

This sound experience is subtle. The fact that the sound came out of the ceiling wasn’t immediately apparent until a scene in the movie that involved a sudden audio position change from around the field of view to abruptly above. I don’t want to describe the scene because it would be a spoiler, and I hate spoiling movies for people on the Internet. You don’t know what you were missing until it’s given to you. But then you can’t not have it… kind of like heroin. Atmos = heroin.

The majority of the movie the effect was subtle but reflecting on it, I feel the sound was more naturally placed because of this technology. Dolby Atmos isn’t something that can just be had in any movie. During the mixing of the audio tracks in post-production, the engineers have to mix it for Atmos.

I mentioned earlier that this can be had in home theaters, as well. The effect is slimmed down a bit as most won’t have the budget or the space for some 30 speakers in an array in their ceiling. The premise is the same, though. That blu-ray movie you purchased has to come with an Atmos audio track. Some newer movies will have this, but the effect will be lost unless you have an Atmos-compatible receiver and blu-ray player.

Back to the experience, again. I paid about 30% more for my ticket, but I’m pretty sure that some of this price was due to the fact that this was also an AMC Prime theater which features leather reclining seats and assigned seating (my favorite).

Given my maiden voyage into Atmosland, I would spend the extra, again, to experience a movie in this format. Note how I said “experience.” I feel this is how traditional movie theaters are going to have to stay relevant. Offering unique and super-standard exeperiences making it worth the time and effort versus grabbing your TV remote and ordering a rental from there for a few dollars or buying the disc from a retailer six months after the movie came out.

I don’t see many movies in the theater for this exact reason. Most are average experiences so I’ve limited myself to IMAX and Prime/Atmos showings. Sure it’s $16-20 a piece, but when I only see one a month at most, it’s not a huge deal.

I’m glad I don’t have kids. A family of four to an AMC Prime showing would be $100 easy counting food. Rough.

April 4, 2016

Internet Arguments: Even Garbage Fires Can be Extinguished

It might not seem like it, but every argument on the Internet has a winner. While everyone can agree there’s always going to be Internet fights, there’s a little bit of secret sauce you can apply to come out on top, so long as you’re ok with laying waste on a metaphysical level. I’m not talking about an actual disaster, but what I’ve learned over the years is actually pretty good advice.

Also, let’s be clear here. This is completely tongue-in-cheek. I wrote this because to me it’s an interesting topic that everyone can relate with all too well. If you get offended by this, I can’t really help you. You can email all you want. If it’s unsubstantial, I’ll probably just delete it, to be honest.

This solution comes in two flavors, and I want to address them both. First, though, a preface.

We all know what a good old-fashioned Internet argument looks like: party A has an opinion and party B has one, too. Party A tells party B and party B. It’s at this point where be diverge and either convert to a debate or an argument. The debate track is an obvious one and I don’t think it needs discussion. Let’s not get confused, though. What you see on TV during an election year are not debates. Don’t be foolish.

The argument track is where I’m headed, and more often than not, the scenario progresses by one party providing counterpoints, the other starting flaming up and eventually both are flipping their s–t all over the place like monkeys. That’s never a good thing. Twitter is full of them. I’ve been in many of them.

Before I explain how to get out of this scenario on top, lets look at why this happens.

Everyone has their opinion. Unfortunately, not everyone that has an opinion has made it on a well-informed foundation. Oh well, there’s nothing we can do about that. This, by itself isn’t a deal breaker as some are open to the idea of seeing the error in their judgement and conceding. That’s a debate, not an argument.

The guy on the right is showing the guy on the left his opinion. The guy on the left doesn't care.

The guy on the right is showing the guy on the left his opinion. The guy on the left doesn’t care.

It’s when these opinions become the heart and soul of a person, otherwise known as being closed-minded, if I may be so blunt. (Sure we could throw politics and religion in here and talk about this all night, but I really don’t want to write a million words on the topic, so we’ll keep those out and stay at a higher level.) Again, nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s all these quirks that add that unique flavor to our personalities, to our being. It helps describe who we are. Not even this closed-mindedness has anything to do with what I’m talking about.

By now, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about, then because it sounded like I just said what causes a lot of people to argue is ok.

And in reality, I did. Because it is. Except not on the Internet.

See, here’s the thing. Something crazy happens when we mix polarizing topics, hard-and-fast viewpoints, and a virtual protective layer between people that makes for this odd and sometimes nasty concoction that people think is a license to do whatever they want. Social media is full of these people. You see them as those who say “you’re wrong because I said so” or “lol ur and idiot go die” or something around that. If you hit the latter, you probably don’t need those people around, in your life. In reality, you probably don’t need the former in your life, either, if we’re being honest, here.

Social media gives a false sense of power and authority that what we’re saying is true. We have a tendency to propagate fear, anger, divisive ideals, and try to “get people on our side.” Depending on your political assignment, you might be more likely to do so, but I couldn’t find more than a few articles on this that were from the last decade so the five I’m linking will have to do. I don’t want to get too deep into that as I’m not a doctor. That’s not my field of expertise (we’ll come back to the expertise bit).

Where we're going, there isn't going to be much enLIGHTenment... get it?

Where we’re going, there isn’t going to be much enLIGHTenment… get it?

Let’s get down to how this scenario is going to play out and how you can keep yourself from going crazy. We’ll roll back the clock just a bit to right at the point where you thought you’d have a lively debate. This all assumes you didn’t roll up and just smear your words around on the walls like a jerk. If you did, I can’t really help you, there. That’s just provoking someone. Not cool.

For this, we’ll use names, but make them up. Thanks to the random name generator I found, Arthur and Brent are our victims, this evening. Arthur posts something on a social network. Brent, a friend of Arthur for a while, who has a pretty good idea of the kind of person Arthur is, provides some information as a counterpoint. It’s short, not a speech. It makes sense.

Arthur doesn’t like that, at all. Usually around this time if things are going to go sideways, you’ll start getting attacks right away. Here’s where you can pick which route you want to take, both of which lead to wins: send them on their way or watch them explode. I’ve done both, personally. I use these types of scenarios to weed out people who probably shouldn’t have been a friend in the first place. It’s helped me curate those I want to be in regular contact with and I’ve had more meaningful relationships because of it. If I really want to gauge someone, I’ll go for the latter. Depending on it turns out determines if they’re a decent friend.

These two stayed together because when they have differences of opinion, they're not douche waffles about it... probably.

These two stayed together because when they have differences of opinion, they’re not douche waffles about it… probably.

If Brent takes the first route, Arthur just got dressed up with nowhere to go. An instant deflation is a solid move. In real life, this is just walking away. On the Internet, it’s a removal of the connection that’s established between you and them. Now if Brent takes the other route, a bit more self control is required. Be on the lookout for some of these things:

  • grammar… going out the window
  • spelling… that’ll probably be shot, too.
  • targeted attacks… if they take a shot at you, whatever you’re doing is working.
  • mockery… see targeted attacks.
  • citation of the same reference from earlier… while not as clear cut, using the same piece of material repeatedly at different times doesn’t make a case stronger.
  • links… there’s going to be a lot of them.
  • videos… points for creativity, I think.
  • passive-agressiveness… everything is going to be coated in this stuff.

It’s a good thing Brent isn’t the kind to just walk away from a fight. No sir. Brent isn’t going to put up with stupid people. Brent is smart. Brent will make them lose their minds.

The angst is going to get real, so be ready.

The angst is going to get real, so be ready.

Ready? start by playing dumb, otherwise known as baiting. It’s like how when cops know there’s a drug dealer in the neighborhood but they need to catch him in the act to do something about it? Yeah. Brent’s going to bait the hell out of this conversation. Boom. Arthur drops a YouTube video link. That covers two bullet points above. We’re off to a great start.

Brent counters with a short, but logical response on how YouTube isn’t real source of authority on anything besides cat videos, science clips, video games, music videos, and makeup tutorials. There’s a shot fired across the bow. Arthur is pissed now.

Once you’re at this point, it’s smooth sailing. It might take a few tries to get them to 100%, but once you do, the rest is cake. Logic is cruise control for cool. Wait, that’s not right…

Start dropping the logic bombs. This’ll toss them for a loop, for sure. Get ready for the personal attacks and mockery, because that’s usually what happens by about now. Keep playing the logic cards in your hand and watch the tire fire grow. Odds are no one else will join in at this point. They’re either not going to touch this with a 10 foot pole because it’s so diseased or they’re too amused.

An artist rendition of what a logic bomb looks like within a one-sided conversation on Facebook.

An artist rendition of what a logic bomb looks like within a one-sided conversation on Facebook.

The back and forth might go on for a while, so it’ll be up to you to determine how long you want to drag it out. The most satisfying take a while, so be ready. Pee before you start, if you have to, because you might be sitting there for a while.

So Brent and Arthur have traded some shots, or rather Arthur shot Brent several times and Brent literally shrugged his shoulders, to Arthur’s bewilderment. Usually this laissez-faire response will be enough to deal the death blows to this argument. If you’ve done it right, they’ll rage quit. If it was on social media, they’ll probably “unfriend” or block you. Cool, they made it super easy.

All in all, you probably said a total of 50 words, and they lost their mind. Most importantly, though: you won. I guarantee you didn’t actually get your point across. That’s not what this is about, though. This is about winning. You showed them you’re number one. Their tiny brain couldn’t handle it. They collapsed under the weight of their nonsense and you’re standing tall like the Internet king you are.


This is what winners on the Internet look like.

You put out the garbage fire you started because you rock.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography