Sonic cynic

It was shaping up to be a disaster.

It had started well enough: a fun driving adventure on a gorgeous Indian-summer afternoon through the southern reaches of golden, hilly wine country. The object of our quest: Sonic Drive-In, a new burger place that my sister Suzanne had suggested we check out. It sounded good — they serve cherry limeade! — and with a clear blue sky and a full tank of gas we needed little excuse to hit the road. The thirty-odd miles to the nearest Sonic presented no obstacle; quite the opposite.

Things changed as soon as we took the turnoff for state route 29, the main road through Napa. At lunchtime on a beautiful Saturday afternoon it was a parking lot. It took ten minutes to go those last two miles. Archer wouldn’t stop kicking the back of my driver’s seat, and after asking him several times, then giving a couple of warnings, I told him he’d lost a dollar of his week’s allowance — so he began sulking. Next to him, Jonah acted extra-sweet in a craven effort to contrast himself with Archer. As we inched along the road at one-tenth the posted speed limit, the fact that it was 90 minutes past our usual lunchtime started to make itself felt. Tempers flared. Patience wore thin. There was whining. My own vocabulary shrunk to monosyllables.

Finally we arrived at Sonic Drive-In which, despite its name, we were surprised to discover actually was a drive-in. We pulled into one of the order stalls in the parking lot. The prospect of eating in the same car where we’d been entombed in traffic did not exactly appeal, so I opened my door to discover whether there was any indoor seating. I say I opened my door, but note that I didn’t say I stepped out of the car, since the stall’s menu and ordering station only allowed me to open it a few inches. Nevertheless I extruded myself through the narrow gap and scoped out the restaurant. There were some nice outdoor tables, but Andrea nixed those, insisting it would be fun to eat in the car, vintage-drive-in-style. “Fine,” I monosyllabled through gritted teeth.

Then the kids had to decide what they wanted to order, then vocally change their minds several times, while I had to comprehend the visually taxing menu myself through the red haze that filled my field of vision. Even now that I’ve long since recovered I don’t care to recall those few minutes, for me the low point of our outing. Finally we placed our order and I walked outside around the car, trying to breathe deeply from my center.

(Luckily for all of us, Andrea was a beacon of sanity throughout, maintaining a level of composure that ultimately was the only thing that allowed us to get as far as placing an order — or to take pictures.)

Things started to look up a very few minutes later when to our delight, our food arrived on a tray carried by a friendly woman on roller skates. (To be honest, the actual first gap in the storm clouds was when I spotted tater tots on the menu. Tater tots!) She hooked it onto an open window and we distributed our food items to one another and tucked in. At the first bite, Samuel L. Jackson sprang to mind — This is a tasty burger! — and the tension melted away on a wave of beefy goodness. I popped a few tater tots into my mouth and an actual smile spread across my face. When I asked the kids (who’d clearly been affected by my mood and by hunger) how it was, I got two thumbs-ups.

With the edge taken off, we were able properly to enjoy the rest of our meal. We ordered ice cream cones for dessert. I apologized for my grouchiness. When it was time to leave, we were sorry to go.

When Suzanne suggested we visit Sonic she requested a full report of our experience, in fulfillment of which I can faithfully declare: Thank you Sonic, you saved my Saturday.

(Canned vs. frozen) x (Corn vs. peas)

Canned Frozen
Corn Yum Avoid
Peas Avoid Yum

So now you know.

What brings you here, 2007 edition

Here are some of the top queries from various search engines that resulted in hits on my blog during the past year or so, reproduced verbatim from my server logs. (Last year’s results are here.) Each related family of queries is listed with a main variant in bold and selected other variants, plus the percentage of query-hits represented by that family.

I was at first surprised to see that hits for “James Bond villains” outnumbers hits for “vampire lesbian girl scouts” (etc.) and “sex” (etc.) combined, but then realized: the percentages are a function both of the popularity of that search and of the ranking of my site in the search results. In other words, if you’re looking for anything about vampires or lesbians or sex I regret to say there are a lot of likelier websites for you to visit before mine.

James Bond villains; The Villains of bond; deformed bond villains; “james bond” +villains +clothes 10.2%
William H. Macy; william h macy photos; face de William H. Macy 5.0%
Vampire lesbian girl scouts; lesbian vampires; naked lesbians; lesbian girl scouts; naked girl scouts; kissing lesbian girls; zombie girl scouts; evil girlscouts; girl scout decorated cake 4.5%
Sex etc.; horsey style sex; lesbian masturbation; “sex positions illustrated”; vampire sex; lesbians having hot lesbian sex; lesbian sex soundeffect; “San Francisco Masturbate-a-thon”; squat girl masturbate -cock -man -boy -blow; dildo attached to wall; sex positions kitty style; attach dildo to floor; How to convince my lady staf for sex?; sex positions in alphanumeric; “park and ride” “sex positions illustrated” 3.2%
Jaws ride; Jaws ride construction; jaws hitchcock 3.1%
e to the i pi plus one; pi relation to e; mathematical constant e Euler comic; relating pi, e, 1 and 0; “amazing relationship” e pi 2.3%
Don Fanucci; vito corleone fanucci 2.3%
Honeybee/Bees in chimney; humming sound when close glass fireplace doors; honeybees in chimney; bees in fireplace; bees chimney flying down 2.2%
Star Wars; 5th august 1977; star wars remake; hoth rebel base; “your tauntaun will freeze”; exegesis “empire strikes back”; star wars ben kenobi ghost; was obi wan strong enough to defeat palpatine; In Episode 5 what is the insult of Leia to Han Solo which Chewie laughed that Han called him “fuzzball” ?; lego star wars millennium falcon; star wars cassette tape 1977; “bob glickstein” “star wars”; mark hamill car crash empire strikes back monster; han solo slices open tauntaun quote; HOW DID THE FREAKIN EMPIRE BEGIN?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!; August+5th+1977; star wars novelization 1977; What does yoda say when luke comments that he is not afraid; why didn’t Luke kill the Wampa; “asteroid field”+”star wars”; star wars allegories; star wars 1970 nerd; “time magazine” 1977 “star wars” 2.1%
Pirates of the Caribbean; pirate medallion; does elizabeth swann love jack sparrow; elizabeth swann’s red dress; jack sparrow character motivation 2.1%
Widescreen viewing area; “what size tv to buy”; “square inches” diagonal widescreen chart; determine tv width given diagonal; 42″ 16:9 square inches; 16:9 4:3 screen equivalence OR correspondance; DIAGONAL ASPECT RATIO FORMULA; pythagoras 16:9 screen size 32″ 1.8%
Godfather; Godfather part II poster; Godfather Part 4: Fredo’s Revenge 1.8%
Susan Oliver/Orion Slave Girl; vina star trek; star trek green orion slave; nude Orion slave girl; orion slave girls makeup; orion slave girls color correction 1.7%
Cathy Lee Crosby/Wonder Woman; cathy lee crosby wonderwoman film download; cathy+lee+crosby+as+wonder+woman; wonder woman drag; WONDERWOMAN TV MOVIE 1.7%
Rogaine; scalp conditions; itchy scalp; rogaine results; scalp exercise; rogaine effectiveness 1.7%
Ursula sex; ursula undress; ursula dildo; ursula sex disney 1.6%
Comcast; comcast removes channels; comcast turn off service; comcast losing west coast feeds; complaints over comcast hbo; disable speed reduction comcast cable; compression artifacts comcast; how do i delete channels i do not watch in comcast; comcast crappy broadcast; comcast reduction in service; do i get a rate reduction when comcast removes channels; I want both west coast and east coast feeds 1.6%
Bob Glickstein; gee bobg; “bob glickstein” +yoga; bob glickstein andrea; bob glickstein imdb; growing up Glickstein 1.4%
Trophy; ugly trophy; dna trophy; bezos trophy 1.3%
Dog; how to draw dogs; “remington dog park”; dog pee drives away evil spirits; veterinary dogs and chocolate 1.3%
Lulav; lulav and etrog; big picture of a lulav and etrog; lulav by its self; lulav etrog chabad; sukkot lulav without etrog 1.3%
Star Trek/Enterprise/Kirk/etc.; spock uhura; Uhura uniform; 60 star trek uniform; bonk bonk on the head star trek; Captain Kirk’s Insignia; enterprise blueprints; happy birthday star trek; Klingons-Star Trek; Atheist Star Trek; 1.2%
Amy Linker; what happened to amy linker; amy linker and tv land awards 1.1%
Jodie Foster; jodie foster bugsy malone; YOUNG JODIE FOSTER; +”give a little love and it all comes back to you” +foster 1.1%
Joseph Costanzo; joe costanzo restaurant; Joseph costanzo primadonna 1.1%
The end of Superman; superman reverse time; superman in the end; superman earth spinning; can superman go the speed of light; how many times can superman fly around earth in 1 second; +”it is forbidden for you to interfere in human history”; superman rewind time; how many times does superman fly around the earth in order to reverse its rotation 1.0%
Frank Pentangeli; frank pentangeli hit; roth corleone Frank Pentangeli assassination; frank pentangeli johnny ola 1.0%
Thai gem scam; thailand scam; majestic export jewelry thailand scam; gems profit thailand; thai sapphire scam; thailand conman; buying gemstones, thailand, blog; thai Export Center scam; selling thai gems; what to do if conned in thailand; david maurer thailand 1.0%
Evil cats 0.8%
Food photography; food stylist; food styling “pasta”; food stylists cereal; food stylist burger; tricks of a food stylist 0.8%
Each daughter has the same number…; In a certain family each daughter has the same number of brothers and sisters. Each son has twice as many sisters as brothers. How many sons and daughters are there in the family? Now there are two ways to do this obviously, you can do it the hard way or the easy way. 0.8%
Fizzies; what ever happened to fizzies drink tablets; how do fizzies work; fizzies that are new; Fizzie tablet sex aid; truckload of fizzies; FIZZIES FOUNTAIN 0.7%
James Bond; vintage james bond girls; james bond toys; the bond men; Live and Let Die Band James Bond 0.7%
Pez museum; pez incredibles violet; batman pez dispensers; pez guns; why didnt violet parr become a pez machine; headless PEZ dispensers 0.7%
Vincent Price; old photos of Vincent Price; Vincent Price gay; “the saint” vincent price; 0.5%
Candy; old time candy; “dylan’s candy bar”; Candy of yesteryear 0.5%
Entenmann’s; golden cake; entenmanns’ chocolate chip filled crumb cake recipe; entenmann fudge golden cake 0.5%
Adam Stoller; why i owe adam stoller an apology; fish adam stoller 0.5%
MoveOn; bad; founder; move away from; moveon endorsements nov 2007 election 0.5%
Vertical speed indicator/Altimeter; static port; instrument dial Concorde speed; how does an altimeter work; pitot static instruments; ram air pressure pitot; how does the vsi work? flying 0.5%
Cigarettes/Camels/Still Life With Woodpecker; Joe Camel; tom robbins woodpecker; camel tom robbins 0.5%
Baron Munchausen; was baron munchausen an atheist 0.5%
Sharon Stone; sharon stone naked; sharon stone’ pictures, 1970; sharon stone en lingerie fine 0.5%
Computer; computers internet blog; “apple II home computer” 0.4%
xkcd; xkcd complex numbers; calculus xkcd; math xkcd 0.4%
Bob Falfa/Martin Stett; big bob falfa; purchase a bob falfa hat; falfa and milner 0.4%
Adrift/Open Water 2; “open water 2” true story tried everything; understand explain open water 2:adrift ending?; FORGOT TO LOWER LADDER ON YACHT 0.4%
Honda Fit; finding a honda fit; pre order “honda fit” bay area; vw rabbit or honda fit? 0.4%
Carl Sagan; “carl sagan” +billions; cosmos carl sagan vangelis heaven hell; “circumference of the earth” carl sagan; eratosthenes carl sagan; Carl Sagan and Star Trek 0.4%
Splashdown; splashdown lyrics meaning; i feel so elated would you please bring me joy lyrics; free splashdown downloads karma slave; lyrics so if your past approaches you pulled into a war you’ll lose; karma slave splashdown video; i feel so elated i do i do splashdown 0.4%
The Incredibles; Life Lessons The Incredibles; incredibles analogy of family togetherness 0.3%
Legobiggest lego city ever made; Cool lego creations; LEGO WORLD RECORD FOR MILLENIUM FALCON 0.3%
Birthday invitation; neverland invitation 0.3%
Mill Valley Pediatrics; what new rule causes pediatrician to close office; dr. Harris pediatrics mill valley 0.3%
BDSM; BDSM and rodent; hellium balloons bdsm; bdsm “trembling with fear”; professional bdsm pittsburgh; bdsm vanity plates 0.3%
Richard S. Castellano 0.3%
Bugsy Malone/Scott Baio; coca cola jingle+you give a little love and all comes back to you 0.3%
Games magazine/Calculatrivia marathon; ken jennings calculatrivia; “games magazine” contest t-shirt 0.3%
Penis; Jonah Falcon penis; christmas penis drawing; penis peeing pictures; penis doodles; “draw a penis” 0.3%
Drawing/scribbling/doodling; kids scribbles 0.3%
Raiders of the Lost Ark; indiana jones medallion + raiders of the lost ark; indiana jones finds millenium falcon; indiana jones harrison ford sean connery 0.3%
I know it was you Fredo.; Johnny Ola Fredo; HOW DOES MICHAEL KNOW ABOUT FREDO; +”why” +michael +kill +fredo 0.3%
Federation Trading Post 0.2%
Funny epitaph; headstone humor; headstone for mom 0.2%
Batman; shark repellent spray; batman and the shark; batman robin “more toyetic” 0.2%
Handshadow; Hand-Shadow play 0.2%
Peter and the Starcatchers 0.2%
Watch neighbor undress; neighbor undress photo 0.2%
Lemon Ice King of Corona; queens ices 0.2%
Weight; weight graph; college freshman weight graph; jewish weight loss 0.2%
Marty Goldstein/Black Book; ‘marty goldstein’ ‘creative black book’; i remember going to the black book office zanetti 0.2%
Kinds of meat; meatballs three kinds of meat 0.2%
Fligth to Mars 0.2%
Supertanker; how much does a supertanker cost?; how many barrels of oil does a supertanker carry; how much money does a supertanker captain make; running costs for a supertanker; becoming a supertanker captain; supertankers are curved 0.2%
Jewish; jew obnoxious; jewish products; mormon jew; mountain jew; val kilmer sephardic jewish 0.2%
Cartelligent; Leigh Taylor, Cartelligent; cartelligent price for honda fit 0.2%
Sweetener; hooray sweetener; cyclamates popularity sodas; Is Cyclamates good for you; sodium bicarbonate sweetener cancer 0.2%
Captain Morgan rum 0.2%
Gerald Zanetti 0.2%
Bush smile 0.2%
Salt Lake flats; nevada open salt lake 0.2%
Disney; disney+AND+fingerprint; disney park hopper fingerprint; thumper disney 0.2%
Koyaanisqatsi 0.2%
Katharine Hepburn 0.2%
Incremental backup; jungledisk incremental backups; s3 backup incremental mirror linux; simple linux incremental backups; infinite backup 0.2%
Rhymes with Bethany; bethany accident utah; something that rhymes with bethany; poem for bethany 0.1%
Sci-fi spaceships; cool Scifi Spaceships; most beautiful spaceships 0.1%
I Dream of Jeannie; healey irresistible to when i dream of jeannie episode; i dream of jeanie colorization 0.1%
Laundry; how to get quarters laundry; cold undissolved laundry soap; monopolize laundry machines; laundry pile 0.1%
Anakin/Padme; How much do Anakin’s talent, pride and ambitions affect his decisions to turn to ‘the dark side’? 0.1%
Making Mr. Right; malkovich “making mr right” 0.1%
Pop-culture grid; “the pop culture grid”+last concert you saw 0.1%
Adventurer’s Inn; toboggan adventurer’s inn 0.1%
Clemenza; young clemenza; who killed clemenza 0.1%
Glenne Headley 0.1%
1776/“Yours Yours Yours” 0.1%
Nature of reality; 10 dimensions of reality; how to understand ten dimensional reality; three-dimensional pants 0.1%
Dunk tank; “spring carnival” dunk 0.1%
Misconstruction 0.1%
Sarah Jessica Parker; sarah jessica parker in square pegs 0.1%
Mr. Arrigo; Robert arrigo teacher 0.1%
Eli Attie 0.1%
Hog-calling time in Nebraska; What tune is hog calling time in nebraska sung to?; ORIGINS OF HOG CALLING; hog calling songs 0.1%
Eulogy for a friend 0.1%
Indiana University; indiana university hofstadter 0.1%
Cynthia Nixon; Cynthia Nixon manhattan project 0.1%
Pine Knoll Bungalow Colony; bungalow colonies in monticello 0.1%
Prison Break; prisoner 94941; michael scofield myer briggs; “prisoner number” scofield 0.1%
Winnemucca, NV; Winnemucca weekly pet friendly motels; reasons to love Winnemucca, NV 0.1%
Steve Volan 0.1%
P.S. 196; all teachers from p.s.196 0.1%
Knish Nosh; knish nosh health department 0.1%
Mucoshave 0.1%
Laser/Theodore Maiman; 1966 national geographic “the laser’s bright magic”; what kind of food does theodore maiman likes; did theodore maiman get alot of money for making the laser 0.1%
Universal Hall Pass 0.1%

Like father, amazingly like sons

As we were heading out the door last night after finishing dinner at Milano Ristorante (try the eggplant-veal involtini!), the proprietor, a friendly old Italian man, ran after us to hand Jonah and Archer each a biscotti cookie. They dutifully thanked him, then asked me what they’d been handed. I said, “That’s an Italian cookie. It’s called biscotti.” They munched contentedly on their biscotti as I strapped them into their car seats. Jonah then blurted, “Hey! Biscotti — like Scotty from Star Trek!” Ten minutes later, Archer echoed the thought.

Andrea laughed and told me how proud I must be. Clearly the indoctrination is proceeding apace!

(We’ve seen a few episodes of classic Trek, but the kids know Star Trek mainly from the animated series on DVD. They’re big fans. Jonah loves to “read” the credits aloud in every episode. [It’s part reading and part recitation from memory, after asking me to read them to him about a dozen times.] “Star Trek! Created by Gene Roddenberry! Starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk! Leonard Nimoy as Mister Spock! And DeForest Kelley as Doctor McCoy!”)

Speaking of indoctrination, when I was out with Archer for a few hours over the weekend, Jonah asked Andrea to play “the capture game” with him. Yesss! My plan is still working…

Luck o’ the Jewish

It happened again: I left my wallet at home and didn’t realize it until I got to work (some fifty miles away).

On “in line”

New Yorkers don’t say “standing in line,” they say “standing on line,” and so did I for the first half of my life. My sister Suzanne noticed the change when I started saying “in line” instead, some time after I left New York for college. She ribbed me about going native, since in Pittsburgh (as in most other places), people say “standing in line.” I explained to her the real reason I switched: to avoid confusion with the computer networking term “online,” which in the mid-80’s had not achieved any meaningful linguistic currency outside the world of computer nerds, but which was part of my everyday vocabulary at Carnegie Mellon.

I discovered it while standing in line to buy some food at a local lunch joint, just like last time. Muttering a curse, I went back to the office unfed.

…where I found aluminum catering trays full of white rice and Chinese vegetables, left over from someone’s lunch meeting. I heaped some on a plate and headed for the stairwell back to my desk. On the way there I encountered my coworker Cid, who asked me, “Do you eat meat?” “Sure,” I said, and he handed me a take-out box of leftover Szechuan chicken! Continuing to the stairwell I began trying to fetch my security badge (to open the stairwell door) while balancing the items in my hands — when my coworker Stefan saw me coming and held the door open for me.

Now it’s just after lunch. When I discovered my missing wallet I thought, “Well, at least this will help me lose a little more weight,” since my efforts in that department have plateaued — but I’m stuffed!

Relative weight loss is easy:
just fatten up everyone else

I just hope all this good karma doesn’t mean I’m going to get busted for driving without a license on my way home tonight. I’ll have to do something nice for my co-workers tomorrow.

What brings you here?

Herewith, a selection of search-engine queries that resulted in hits on this blog, according to my server logs.

watch neighbor undress; exploratorium; fizzies pulled; thailand’s greatest hits; what happened to fizzies tablets; what are the three kinds of mammals; violet incredible pez; watching neighbor undress; “new rabbi”; Rosh Hashanah; “the federation trading post”; persian candy floss recipes; “citric acid” science pop candy; supine lady; lesbian sex;; how to explain the theory of crystallization to third graders; evil cats; i feel like crying; Comcast Removes West Coast Feeds; boycott disney & abc path to 911; raiders-of-the-lost-ark Pirates-of-the-caribbean; “name the moon” greg; Reality an space-time; “francis heaney”; “smut shack”; squeamish cure; doggie style sex; webby awards; amy linker; cynthia nixon; quarks tangles; “mill valley pediatrics”; “dildo with suction”; proposition moveon endorsements; hypothermia kim; steve elliot bdsm; “instant soda”; trish gee wordpress; song meanings splashdown; “yours yours yours”; fligth to mars; “lesbian vampire fiction”; “needed a diaper”; disney fingerprints; fizzie drink discs; ben kenobi obgyn; linux backup s3; melissa kaplan sings; “adam stoller”; splashdown catalogue; “santa claus ain’t”; vote to boycott abc disney path to 911; joe costanzo; doggie style sex positions illustrated; Fizzies drink tablet recipe; “jack mccoy”; charteris; tune out, turn off; incremental jungledisk; “no fireflies” long island 2006; vampire lesbian; Thai Pilot; boisterous laugh audios; simpsons ulysses; sephardic pirates kritzler; backup osx hardlink incremental; karma slave karaoke; voyager pale blue dot send back the image; comcast digital artifacts; Con Edison; What year did the sitcom premiere I dream of jeannie; Recently got digital cable still receiving all premium channels; joseph costanzo, jr.; Superman reversing time; three kinds of meat; video koyaanisqatsi koyaanisqatsi; chabad palo alto; 9/11 personal; “Calculatrivia”; viscera at&t.

East is east and west is west

…and when it comes to varieties of Entenmann’s cakes, never the twain shall meet.

When I lived in New York (now more than half a lifetime ago, egad), my two favorite varieties were “Thick Fudge Golden Cake” and “Filled Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake.” But when I went to Pittsburgh for college, those cakes could not be found anywhere; nor (as I later discovered) are they available in California. This despite the fact that many other Entenmann’s varieties are available nationwide.

As if I have nothing better to do with my time, recently I decided to investigate. The Entenmann’s website sent me to the Entenmann’s distributor for the California region, an outfit called Bimbo’s Bakeries USA in Fort Worth, Texas. (That’s the second thing I’ve run across called Bimbo’s having nothing to do with actual bimbos, which is two more than I would have expected to find if you’d asked me.) I sent a polite and eloquent letter inquiring about the unavailability of these varieties in regions other than New York.


Sometimes, achieving a satisfactory outcome required persistence. My mom had it in abundance, as dozens of public-relations officers learned over the years to their occasional dismay. One of her favorite tricks, when on the phone with some peon who was trying to stonewall her or brush her off, was to say dismissively, “You obviously don’t have the authority. Let me talk to your supervisor.” The peon caved in to my mom’s demands nine times out of ten, just to prove her wrong.

In such ways did my mom eventually adopt the moniker “Superpest.”

When I was growing up, my mom was the undisputed champion of writing letters to companies, both to complain and to praise. In those good-old-days of corporate public relations, she almost never failed to receive both a polite, personalized reply and a handful of discount coupons for the company’s products, if not outright free samples. And very often, if the letter was a complaint, the company fixed the problem, e.g. by sending a refund.

These are no longer those good old days. The reply from Bimbo’s stated: “Those varieties are not available in your market.” Yeah, I know, that was kind of the point.

I was planning to look into the matter further, but (a) I do have better things to do with my time, and (b) started selling Entenmann’s products from Gristede’s in New York! So now I can get my old favorites again. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Now if only I can find good Italian ices

The candy that wouldn’t die

Who dumped a whole truckload of Fizzies into the swim meet?
— Dean Wormer, Animal House

(Sarah thought he was saying “feces.”)

Some time during the 1990’s I got word that Fizzies were being made again after some three decades of unavailability. I dimly remembered Fizzies from early childhood, when I used to mix up my own soft drinks with Fizzies tablets in my very own Fizzies Fountain. They were discontinued after health concerns arose regarding the sweetener they contained. When I heard about the reformulated version in the 90’s, naturally I ordered a large number of them in every flavor — which were all uniformly disgusting. I brought my stock of Fizzies tablets to work and shared them with a few not-very-enthusiastic colleagues.

Now they’re back again in a third incarnation. I got a shipment of the new ones on Tuesday (a small shipment — I learned my lesson last time) from Old Time Candy. They’re still pretty horrible, but not as vile as Fizzies Mark II were.

I can understand the many attempts to get Fizzies right. A portable way to create instant soda pop is somehow an extremely compelling idea. Unfortunately it seems that the presence of sodium bicarbonate in the recipe dooms it, flavor-wise; there’s no doubt you’re drinking flavored Alka-Seltzer. It may be that in order to really succeed, a Fizzies Mark IV tablet using real sugar might be called for, even if it is the size of a hockey puck (see below).

I regret I can’t recommend the new Fizzies, but I do recommend Old Time Candy, which has a wide selection of vintage candy from yesteryear, and good customer service.

Here is the e-mail message from 2003 in which I invited my co-workers to sample my surplus inventory of second-generation Fizzies.

Subject: “Hooray,” the scientist said

Live the legacy. Come get your very own piece of confection history from the 50’s and 60’s, briefly revived in the 90’s, now no longer available except from eBay and my desk.

I myself am just barely old enough to have some dim, fond memories of Fizzies from very early childhood, but be warned: after ordering a quantity of new improved Fizzies in a variety of flavors a few years ago, I tried one but couldn’t bring myself to try any of the other flavors, the first one was that vile.

Here’s an excerpt from the comically (and now, in retrospect, ironically) cheerful “Fizzies Story,” formerly at

Fizzies were invented by Emerson Drug Company. The idea derived from scientists working with chemical formulas similar to “Bromo Seltzer” and wondering if a fun, fruit flavored drink could be developed the same way. “Wouldn’t it be grand if we could drop a tablet in a glass of water and have an instant soda pop?”

After long hard work, they finally figured out how to combine the right combinations of fruit flavoring, sweetener, citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (a substance that is much like baking soda) into a magical tablet that when dropped into water, turned water into an instant sparkling, effervescent fruit drink!

“Hooray,” the scientist said. “Let’s hurry and share this with others!” So in July of 1957, just in time for the hot, summer weather, Fizzies was born and appeared in various local supermarkets.


Fizzies continued to grow in the national and international markets until 1968, many times exceeding Kool-aid in sales and popularity!

But in this same year, one of the ingredients called Cyclamates, an artificial sweetener, was banned in the United States, causing hundreds of food products to be pulled from grocery shelves all across America. At that time, it was believed that products that contained this ingredient were not good for you. Once this problem arose, the scientists who had been so happy to put sparkling smiles on thousands of children’s faces, decided to voluntarily pull Fizzies from all store shelves until they were able to find a better way to sweeten them. This was important, because sugar could not be used. If Fizzies were made with real sugar, a single tablet would have to be about the size of a hockey puck!

Then one day, a group of “Baby Boomers,” who were children when Fizzies was popular and fondly remembered the fun they had with Fizzies, began a six year quest to return Fizzies to the market. Their mission? To fix the sweetener problem.

These Boomers, who had enjoyed the sparkling smiles Fizzies gave them as children, worked extra long hours for many years, but their work paid off.

Once the original formula was purchased, scientists and chemists worked around the clock until one day… HOORAY!!! The new Fizzies was developed!

It’s clear that a lack of marketing might resulted in Fizzies’ latest disappearance. Here’s the much more interesting paranoid conspiracy that resulted in Fizzies’ first demise (from

On Oct. 18 1969, holding a can of Tab, I watched Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Robert Finch tell the nation that because the sweetener posed a risk of cancer it would be banned. Just a few days before, I had seen a Food and Drug Administration scientist on television holding up deformed, sickly chicks that had been injected with cyclamates. At the time I was pursuing a doctoral degree in public health and knew that no sweeteners or other food additives had ever been cited as a possible factor in cancer causation. Why all this attention for a phantom risk? Why were we banning safe, useful products under the guise of cancer prevention? I have pursued an answer to those questions ever since.


FDA scientist Jacqueline Verrett appeared on the “NBC Nightly News” with her cyclamate-injected, malformed chicks. (She did not mention that injections of salt, water or even air would probably have had the same effect.) A few days later the manufacturer of cyclamates, Abbott Laboratories, released a study showing that eight out of 240 rats fed a mixture of saccharin and cyclamates–at levels equivalent to humans ingesting 350 cans of diet soda per day–developed bladder tumors. Finch announced the ban shortly thereafter.


An editorial in the international medical journal Lancet noted that “never have so many pathologists been summoned to opine on so few lesions from so humble a species as the laboratory rat.” The journal Nature warned that “it would be all too easy for public apprehension to be raised to the pitch where a fever of vegetarian faddism drives everything but mothers’ milk from the market,” adding in another editorial that the evidence against cyclamates was “about as solid as candy floss.”

[Cyclamates inventor] Sveda’s obituaries said he was not bitter about the banning of cyclamates, but in fact he was. He claimed that the original FDA decision was based on a combination of bad science and “sugar politics” (he thought the sugar industry was behind the health charges against cyclamates). He accused the FDA of a “massive coverup of elemental blunders,” and believed that the American public was due an apology for withholding an alternative to sugar.

Three kinds of meat

Lunch today is a container with a little bit each of sweet-and-sour meatballs, shredded pork in tomato sauce, and sausage-and-vegetables from the hot-food bar at Mollie Stone’s. Just thought I’d mention that.

It’s a far cry from where I was in the mid-90’s, when I toyed with the idea of becoming a vegetarian. That began when my doctor advised eating less red meat, and around the same time Andrea berated me for ordering veal at a restaurant, citing the plight of veal calves. This led to a discussion of the strange hypocrisy of some people who avoid eating charismatic animals like cute little lambs but do eat animals with less personal charm, such as chickens. I wanted a more scientific way to cut out red meat (including veal, for Andrea’s sake) that didn’t remove all meat from my diet. I finally settled on a taxonomic “class” as the dividing line: mammals. Eating mammals bad; eating non-mammals OK.

I stuck to this for the better part of a year, and now look how far back I’ve slid.

Mo’ moblogging

Well, no thunderstorms this trip (though I understood this to be one of New York’s thunderstormiest summers in living memory — perhaps its thunderstorm quota is depleted).

But I did hear the incredible SCREEEE of cicadas, and I ate a Knish Nosh knish, two New York summer attractions to which I had overlooked looking forward. And I don’t have the words to describe the trippy pleasure of watching one’s kids playing in one’s own childhood playground.