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In These Tech Times: Soda Streaming

SaveThePlanetHaving re-discovered Soda Stream recently, I now know what old is new again. Thanks to tech-reinvention, a bit of smart marketing and the realization that something so classic was also a good idea, deserving of a second life.

Back when I was a kid I remember going into Jewish delis and there sitting at a corner of a table was the seltzer bottle. You never lacked a good burp after a huge pastrami sandwich or potato pancakes becuase there was the bottle -- full of gas clearing carbonated water.

I was watching early morning TV and suddenly up pops -- so to speak -- a Soda Stream commercial -- advertising and in-home carbonation generating system at a reasonable price point. In a high-tech looking bottle and a range of flavors far beyond egg creams, there was my old Yiddische treat in a new 21st Century form.

I had first heard if this company and its concept when I saw it being demo-ed at some tech showcase -- I think it was a Pepcom event several seasons ago. At the time, I thought that’s quaint, let’s revisit seltzer bottles but wasn't sure I hadroom on my countertop at home.

Well lo those many years ago when the experience of having the seltzer delivered was common practice, there storeHome dynamo-smwas no controversy about sugar-engorged soft drinks endangering the children of America.

Now i get it. Soda Stream offers a great way to get around pissing off Mayor Bloomberg, it can make mom and the dentists happy and keep us all safe from the ravagesn of white stuff by regulating the sugar content in soda.

The current generation of Soda Stream machines offer a range of flavors which can be genuinely natural so there’s a chance of something healthy slipping through while still serving the burp factor. What else is carbonation good for anyhow?

Now I admit i haven't asked for a model to bring home for my own evaluation, to really test and sample on an ongoing basis. But having watched the demo -- it didn’t seem too messy and it tasted pretty good if not a little strange to this Coca Cola lover.MachineTop-FountainJet

And lately I've been fascinated by the story of Coke's origins as a fountain drink. Around the turn of the century an entrepreuneur approached Coke to get the rights to bottle the drink and sell it for a nickel. Since the soft drink's primary business was soda fountains where the secret formula was mixed on site with seltzer water, the let the bottle side of the business slip out of their grasp.

Eventually that fresh-seltzer based business was eclipsed by the bottling side of the revenue stream. But it offered the sentimental side of the coca cola story when the boy and girl met at the edge of soda fountain in some diner.

Now that whole fizz factor is finding a new life in a different form and possible a whole new generation of audiences by brings the fountain soda experience into the home and the 21st Century.

And nobody needs to buy a disposable water bottle ever again. 

In These Tech Times: Why I Should Write About Stuff

at-pepcom-a-demoAt a recent event produced by Pepcom -- a technology marketing company -- I scanned the Metropolitan Pavilion looking at all the tables of tech stuff with publicists, marketers and executives hovering around, and watched them engage journalists and analysts in conversations about the wares they were promoting.

I listened to the pitches, watched some of the demos and glanced at the literature I had culled.

I got into a conversation with myself. “Self, what am I doing here?” 

I had to ask: what kind of writing do I want to do about all this cultural material whether it be the many versions of digital cameras, touch screen phones and various storage devices among the many others.

Besides my reviews, an interview or two and an occasional press conference report, I had to think how else I could write about all this without my eyes glazing over or my brain calcifying at the thought of finding ways to reiterate the tech manual.

I was at a gathering of New York’s many tech geeks and I wondered how many devices can one review; how many variations can you analyze or test without just stewing in minutiae.

Then I hit on it -- while we like to think other people inform us the most with films, tv, or music a surrogate or simulacrum for expressions of personal relationships, I think we really define ourselves by our devices.

Yes I do. We get command over our world by being able to manage a cell phone, tablet or new version of an operating system. In a funny way, the real surrogate for relation-building lies in our devices; they allow us to reach out to many and maximize contact.

I am not one of those quasi-luddites who speak of turn off your cell phone day and think they need email addiction therapy. I love my tools and tools they are.

Is our life informed by a use of utensils in the kitchen, our capabilities in driving a car or how we shape our environment by the ways we create comfort for ourselves?

I proudly say, "Yes," and figure -- even if I may not have the most original thoughts on how my devices work or the best judgement and reviewing them -- celebrate having the chops to use them with some facility and skill. So if my writing can do anything, it will be sharing the pleasure of getting better at it.

In These Tech Times: Watching a "Revolution"

Recently I wrangled an invite to a unique preview event -- a look at the producer J.J. Abrams’ latest series, revolution-posterRevolution -- hosted by cast member Tim Guinee (Iron Man).

Watching the first episode of Revolution (created by Eric Kripe and directed by Jon Favreau) being played before me with an audience of hardened New Yorkers so dependent on their machines, electricity and technology with a side show of bike riders supposedly pumping to power up the generators electrifying the event.

I thought about how dependent we were and how this show played on that feeling.

It was a sensible feeling to exploit -- we are after all out of touch with the survivor’s sensibilities necessary to adapt to less than ideal conditions we so desperately need to live in a city like NYC. Think about it, what really draws us to a series like The Walking Dead?

It’s more than just the fear of Zombies run amok threatening to tear us limb from limb and consume us literally. It’s the chaos and the loss of a secure world that we know and feel safe in.

Look at the profusion of post-apocalypse dystopia. It’s not just a matter of economic collapse. It’s a matter of surviving on the most basic level at all -- dirty, smelly, no hand sanitizer, eating what can be found whether it be old cans, dead animals or human bodies.

Take films like The Road, A Boy And His Dog, Book of Eli, the German film Hell, or even The Hunger Games. They all intrigue because we have to ask -- could I cope? Can I survive or do I want to without the tech-generated creature comforts?

On a pure sci-fi level I could tear apart the gaps of logic seen in this first episode of Revolution. Ok, so the large-scale energy net created by our power grid is gone whether by electromagnetic pulse or some energy absorbing device. But after 15 years later would people have been able to create the idyllic rural havens with alternate energy sources enough to keep some machinery going?

Just the idea of a fascist para-military force attempting to impose order sometimes seems more forced than likely. But while I could rend it apart I admire Abrams, his team and  producers, and the network’s belief in an intelligent audience willing to ponder. 

Why not?

Everyone has these primal fears.

A Start to Spring -- Denver Style


As I sit outside at Taki’s, a little Japanese dive on Colfax Avenue in the Capitol Hill section of Denver -- slightly east of downtown -- I marvel at the warm saki I am sipping and the fine Spring weather I am enjoying.

What a strange place Denver can be -- if for nothing else than for its odd climatic moods. I have been here in the dead of winter getting slammed with a 10-ft snow -- only to have it all melt away by the following morning with the temp rising above freezing.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I came from the lingering cool of a New York March-into-April only to see people in the Mile High City galavanting in shorts and sleeveless t-shirts (always a pleasurable sight after winter’s cover-ups). But I still have to be thankful that I finally find a Spring here -- and through the glow of a this light aromatic liquid as well.

Not the usual thing I look for in Denver, but that's one of those little surprises that makes this city a worthy place to visit even for a have-seen-it-all New Yorker. Hey, even the waitress, Justina -- a former Oregonian from Roseburg -- found this place a better place to park oneself after a life of too many rainy days and gray.

And she doesn’t drive -- making the bus from Lakewood, CO, her main means of transport, a curious turn given that I'm in a place where people are so car-driven. So I linger over the saki as the 4:30 - 7 pm happy hour ends and my daughter makes her way from Aurora westerly -- late as usual.

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