My Year in Soda: 2014

I’ve been trying to remember to post my impressions of sodas that I try to Twitter through the year and figured I’d put together a Year In Review to collect all of the notes for posterity.

This year’s high points: Phancy Sparkling Limeade and Empire Spruce Beer.

New (to me) Sodas

I was doing some shopping today and ran across three new lines of soda that I had not previously seen. Haven’t tasted them all yet, but figured I’d at least mention them here before I forgot.

First up, while I was looking for the new Dry Soda flavors at Kowalski’s (which they did NOT have) I found Oogavé in Root Beer, Cola, Ginger Ale, and Watermelon Cream. I gave the Ginger Ale a miss this trip but if the other three are decent I’ll probably give that one a try as well. It was nice that the Cola was non-caffeinated and it’s great to see a different flavor like Watermelon Cream put out by anyone.

On the other side of the aisle in the drink mixers was Fever-Tree Ginger Beer. It’s diminutive size (200ml/6.8 fl oz) is what really marks it as a drink mixer instead of intended as a typical premium CSD and seems similar in approach to Fentimans line of smaller bottles for mixing. I do think it’s interesting on their website though that they appear to have both Ginger Bear and Ginger Ale flavors.

Later at Rainbow I saw they were carrying Big Bay Brewing Company Pierjumper Twisted Citrus and Oh Bouy! Cherry Cola. Unfortunately I skipped the Oh Bouy on the grounds that it might have actual cherry in it which wouldn’t do so well for me. (Oh, do I miss cherries…)

Hoping to take a couple of each to a party tomorrow night, so if you see me and want to try one just let me know!

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The Robot Adventure

Last week I attended BrickWorld Chicago 2011 and had a great time. Unlike last year however, J and the kids (M and K) were not able to join me for various reasons. Disappointed that he was not able to go, M (age 7) insisted that one of his LEGO MOCs (based heavily on something from a Space Police III set) go with me on the trip to hang out in the Micropolis layout. I imagine his reasoning was that if he couldn’t attend, at least one of the creations that he imbues so abundantly with personality would be able to do so and would be the next best thing. I thought of it as M sending along an avatar and decided that “Robot”, as M called him, would get to have an adventure.

The rest of this post is a collection of the updates I sent to Twitter and TwitPic saved here primarily for later nostalgic purposes though I may insert some additional commentary along the way. A comment about the photography: I am not a great photographer and was shooting all of this on my HTC HD7 smartphone, most one-handed, in highly variable lighting. Any blurriness, odd angles, bad lighting, or general bad image quality can be explained by the preceding note.



At least it’s trying to help…
At least it's trying to be helpful...

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Nathan Stohlmann


When I pack the quarter block Micropolis modules I tend to take the tall spindly things off before they come off in the bag in more pieces then I would like. Most of the process of assembling the city is taking items out of their containers and doing that big of reassembly. In the case of the water tower module, it’s just easier to pop off the water tower.

Or maybe not so helpful…

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I had already decided that Robot may not always be a nice creature. Posing him for this one was kind of fun.

I swear this was the robot honey!

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The Cathedral needed more help then I was thinking it would have. This is J’s latest build, and possibly one of her best. In particular the stained glass windows are pretty spectacular. I imagine we’ll have pictures up elsewhere eventually.

The robot has an appointment at the DEA Headquarters.

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Nathan Stohlmann


One of the best things about Micropolis is that we always exhort other people to bring their own modules to contribute to the layout. The layout is primarily populated with TwinLUG modules but only because we build the most of them so far. So it’s always nice to see stuff that other people bring. This module in particular is based on the actual DEA headquarters building which Michael Harrod brought this year. Michael hung out for quite a bit of the weekend and helped keep an eye on the layout that was much appreciated.

@ He’s taking a nap in my pocket.

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J had asked where Robot was the next day in her Twitter stream, so I kept this reply in the stream for reference. It was a good reminder to get it out again and start taking more pictures.

Robot likes the look of my almond cookie.

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The Westin Chicago North Shore has a couple of really good restaurants in it. Not too long after answering J’s question I was thankfully dragged to lunch at one of those restaurants by A and Other J. I got what turned out to be a modern western interpretation of a bento box, which came with a nice almond cookie. J’s earlier question had got Robot back in my mind so I figured it would be best to start playing around again. Later I decided that Robot probably doesn’t eat human food, but at this point I had not thought that far ahead.

Robot is sated from all the edamame.

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These last two also kind of epitomize the classic kinds of photos on Twitter: food people are about to eat and weird avatars.

Robot surveys the city. Is thinking he might want to travel a bit yet this weekend.

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Nathan Stohlmann




Robot has always wanted to see the Eifel Tower.

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FYI – That Eiffel Tower is as tall as I am. Better photo of it, along with the back of my head.

Robot wonders if it’s old enough to drive a lightcycle.

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Lightcycles built by Chris Doyle of ReasonablyClever.com.

Robot finds melodrama incomprehensible.

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Chris also used these MicroFigs in his Brick House web comic.

Robot thinks living underwater would be fun.

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I tried a few different shots with Robot of this one but eventually settled on this. There was really an amazing amount of activity going on, just too much to really capture it all.

Robot did not find the M:Tron people to be very friendly.

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Nathan Stohlmann


I grew up on Classic Space and got out of LEGO just about the time that M:Tron was being introduced. Blacktron I loved, with the stark black and little bits of yellow for highlights. M:Tron always seemed too garish. That said there was a lot to like in this layout. There was some really cool parts usage and generally good building techniques. I just wish it could have been a better theme. :-)

Robot would like it known that it did not run away immediately. (It was too scared to run).

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The best thing about this build is the color scheme. Everything is greyscale except for some very specific colors in very specific locations. It’s a fantastic build and rightfully nominated for best creature..

Robot found a spot to see many places all at once!

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Arthur Gugick is well known for his architecture builds, and his mosaics. He is always up for one or two awards and actually got the Master Builder award this year, which was well deserved. I’ve had a chance to get to know him a bit over the last two conventions and can say that he’s great to hang out with and was one of the people involved in the late night emergency mosaic speed build.

Robot thinks the native Americans throw great parties.

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Nathan Stohlmann


A fun build by TwinLUG member Lisa Parker. She had to mod some parts to get the La Crosse sticks to work right, but I think it might have been worth it.

Robot really enjoyed visiting the future.

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This is the amazing Utopolis by Michael Labelle. I had several great conversations with him, and hopefully he’ll have a Micropolis module built for BrickFete!

Looks like Robot got back to the room pretty late last night.

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Nathan Stohlmann


There had been quite a bit of drinking the previous evening, some of which had inspired the previously mentioned mosaic speed build though no one involved had been drinking from what I remember. Seemed reasonable that Robot had probably imbibed as well. It’s entirely possible that this experience is what turned him off all organic foods in the future.

Robot is proving itself useful for checking the room before we leave.

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Yes, the original tweet had a typo. Thus, the advantage of editing.

Robot is taking a moment to check in with his famous new friends.

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Marc-Andre Bazergui does some really amazing Mindstorms creations, though his most famous are probably his Wall-E reproductions.

Robot hopes that the good guys win.

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The Lord of the Rings group layout was probably the second largest, after the Norther Illinois LEGO Train Club’s usual huge collaboration, and contained a good variety of MOCs from lots of different builders. There are better builds then Minas Tirith (The White City), but it made for a good shot with the army massed outside it. The guy who had built Khazad-dûm had apologized for being the likely reason that it had been so difficult to find the roof parts for J’s Cathedral this past spring.

Robot got a little dizzy riding the rides.

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Robot found some new friends that remind him of home.

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This one was entirely for M. It’s exactly the kind of thing he builds, and these will probably be the level that he’ll be building in about 10 years.

Robot thinks he may have found a faster way home.

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Robot got bored and decided to try skydiving.

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The crowds had started to thin out a bit and I was looking forward to the end of the public hours. In other words: Time to goof off.

Robot thinks the car is -very- full.

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I had wanted to do some pictures of Robot helping to pack up but we just didn’t have time. Public hours ended at 3pm and we had to have EVERYTHING packed and out by 4pm so that they could put in chairs for closing ceremonies. We got it done, and with time to spare, but there was absolutely no time for taking photos of the process. I was pretty amazed though that I was able to get everything into the car. I had made a few purchases (not more then a few thousand pieces. Well, not very much more then 10,000 pieces…) so the car that had been very full on the way to the convention was even more full on the way back.

Robot unfortunately agrees: Clown-Bot 6 isn’t very funny.

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This build is my Dirty Buildster entry that was titled, “ClownBot number 6 was never really very funny.” It’s not a great build, but I wanted to have at least one photo of it.

Robot is glad to going home, but is sad the convention is over.

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Taken from across the street after the traditional TwinLUG post-convention dinner. This year Buca was full so we ended up at the RAM.

Robot thinks waiting for a train is boring. Would rather be buying liquids for organic friends.

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Madison has a problem with their transit design in that a fairly busy freight rail runs right through the middle of downtown. Granted, building the city on an isthmus makes for limited options, but it can be irritating getting stuck.

Robot thinks that @‘s eyes may be bigger then his car.

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My sister Rachel pointed out that Robot does not actually appear in this image. It was just starting to rain so I wanted to get into the car relatively quickly _and_ somehow load the soda somewhere into the relatively full vehicle, but Robot had been left in the car. Rather then risk getting soaked I just took the picture without him. Hopefully it didn’t feel too left out.
In my own defense I had not been intending to buy three cases of soda, just one. When I arrived at Cost Plus World Market in Madison is when I found out that Bundaberg had released three new flavors at which point my path was clear. I was disappointed I was not able to get a case of the Guava as well as the Blood Orange and the Pink Grapefruit.

Robot is just fine sitting around and watching @ do all of the unpacking.

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Robot is overjoyed to be home and has decided to take a long and overdue recharge.

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I figured this was a relatively fitting end to the adventure and would allow for me to pick it up again later if the inspiration appeared. If I do then Robot is likely to get his own blog and Twitter account. I do have some ideas of where I could go with this, and at the very least I do have BrickFete in just a month, so we’ll just have to see what happens.

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Yellow no. 5! Yellow no. 5!

A friend who knows me well got a four pack of the “treat-sized” Jones Candy Corn soda and brought it in to work for me today. Good thing since I had not been able to find it at my local Target. A couple of notes:

  1. It is Yellow. (FD&C Yellow no. 5 to be specific)
  2. It smells exactly like good fresh candy corn.
  3. It is as or more sweet than candy corn
  4. It is really yellow.
  5. The flavor is not quite perfect, but in some ways that’s a good thing since it has some nice orange notes that keep it from being a complete sugar bomb.
  6. Did I mention “yellow”?

Anyway, fun stuff. Not recomended for daily drinking. Though if you can find some of their other holiday flavor, “Monster Mojito”, buy a case. It’s great stuff and this year’s cane sugar can only have improved it over last year.

Very good soda day

Yesterday was a very good soda day. Jennifer arrived for our usual date night with my birthday present a few days early: A mixed case of The Sopranos soda. (Do follow that link and make sure to watch the commercial, it’s fairly funny. The timing is a bit off but it works.) I’m drinking my first bottle of the Limoncello right now, and it’s pretty good if a touch more sweet than I necessarily like. The good news is that it isn’t a cloying sweet, it’s very clean and finishes exceptionally well. I have a bottle of the Chianti with me at work today as well and I’m hoping it’s at least as good.

After we had a nice walk around the trails at Wood Lake Nature Center and then taking a Kia Rondo out for a test drive we stopped in at the original Chatterbox Pub where I noticed for the first time that they had a “Scratch” Ginger Ale which turned out to be very good. It is definitely a Ginger Ale and not a Ginger Beer since it does go for more of the sweet than the hot and spicy, but it also has a really wonderful clove flavor that adds a lot of depth and character. Very highly recommended.

They’re back, and apparently with a sponsor

First things: For anyone who missed it the few times it’s made it’s way around the web there is a very entertaining video produced by EepyBird.com that replicates the (IIRC) Belagio fountain in Las Vegas with Diet Coke and Mentos.

This morning in my inbox is their most recent newsletter mentioning that they’re putting up their latest video this coming Monday (Oct 30, 2006) and like all good carnival barkers and priming the pump by posting a teaser video.

That, in and of itself, wasn’t what I found most interesting. The interesting part is at the very tail end of the video where they are apparently getting some sort of sponsorship from The Coca-Cola Company for some sort of “Poetry In Motion Challenge” that could produce some very interesting entries that I’m looking forward to seeing.

The sponsorship from Coca-Cola is hardly surprising given that judging from the number of Diet Coke/Mentos videos showing up on the equally quickly propagating video sharing sites sales of 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke have got to have received at least a slight boost in sales. Given that Experiment #214 is going to use at least 250 bottles of Diet Coke, I have to wonder if there wasn’t some material help performing the experiment, given that quantity has to be at least a significant proportion of an average Coke delivery truck.

Lavender Love

BevNet has a fairly positive review up of a new line of sodas with some fairly interesting flavors: Rhubarb, Lavender, Lemongrass, and Kumquat. The brand is called DRY Soda, and I only wish I could get some locally. With a mixed-case price starting at $25, plus shipping, I think I’m going to have to wait a bit before I get to try it.

I’ve actually been thinking that the people behind Snow would do a fabulous job with lavendar flavored soda.

Clovers where you least expect them

In the last two weeks I’ve run into something a little different at two places that I’ve been for dinner. It appears that both the new Chatterbox Pub location in Highland Park and Signature Cafe in Prospect Park are serving sodas from The Shamrock Group. So far, the cola and the root beer flavors that I have tried are pretty decent, though nothing stellar. It will be interesting to see if I seem them showing up elsewhere around town, I know the original Chatterbox Pub near my home still has Weinhart’s for their root beer.

And while I’m thinking about it, do give the Signature Cafe a try if you have the chance. It’s got a very interesting and varied menu and a staff that is… well, friendly doesn’t begin to describe it.