March Randoms

Some thoughts from the month of March:

  • Am I the only person who consistently burns the hell out of the roof of my mouth whenever I eat French Bread Pizza? I am done with that stuff. I eat regular pizza multiple times per week with no mouth-scorching issues, but for some reason — perhaps the fact that French Bread Pizza seems much hotter on the inside than the outside — I just can’t eat the stuff without inflicting personal injury. I’ve tried Stouffer’s and Red Baron… both with the same result. The worst part is that often you don’t even know you’re burned until hours later.
  • Greg Storey taught me a new drink in Austin: The Rusty Nail. It’s two parts Scotch and one part “Drambuie” (a Scotch-based honey liquour, or something like that). I never drink Scotch or any other straight alcohol, but damn! Not bad! So I get back to Seattle and try to order it in three places and apparently barely anyone has Drambuie up here. I was so psyched to have one though that I ended up ordering a regular Scotch on the rocks for the first time in my life. I fear it’s only a matter of time before I become “one of those Scotch people”. Thanks Airbag. :(
  • Normally when I don’t have something nice to say, I try to shut up about it, but regarding SXSW this year: I’m sorry but 80% of the panels I attended were awful at worst and unenlightening at best. I did go to some good ones, so if you spoke on a panel and you got a good amount of laughter, engagement, and positive feedback, then you were probably on one of those. Just like last year, I made it a point to attend mostly sessions which were outside my normal line of work (i.e. no web standards, no CSS, etc), but even so, I learned very little. The most outstanding session to me by far was Harvard Psychologist Daniel Gilbert’s session about his book “Stumbling on Happiness”. I also found that in general, solo sessions were much more engaging than panels. When you have a panel full of people jumping from subject to subject and no experienced moderator to pull them together, the result is a mess. All future SXSW trips will be limited to solo sessions, daytime golf, and of course, the parties. I won’t even go into the parties because everyone else already has, but this year, they were great, great, great. To all of you who I met and consumed spirits with, thank you!
  • I was extremely happy to see so many Treos and Casio EX-Z750s down in Austin. I have written extensively about my love for both on this blog and it’s great to know so many people feel the same way. The Casio didn’t surprise me so much as it’s been the best ultracompact camera on the market since it came out a year or so ago, but I figured the SXSW crowd would be more into camera-centric flip-phones than business-centric Treos. I think that with both the Casio and the Treo, it comes down to one thing above all others: user interface. Neither can be beat in that department, as far as I’m concerned, and the SXSW crowd does seem like the type to care deeply about such things.
  • I could have been a big success story for Sprint and their Ambassador Program. I wouldn’t mind upgrading my two year old Treo 600 to at least a Treo 650 and I don’t mind switching carriers to do it. So what does Sprint do? They send me a free phone with six months of free unlimited voice, data, TV, and music service. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the phone is a flip phone with no qwerty keyboard or IMAP email support and it comes hardcoded with a Missouri phone number that cannot be changed. What am I supposed to do with that? The only thing I can think to do with it is just use it as a portable TV, but the screen is so small that it’s hardly worth it. On the bright side, it confirmed my long-standing opinion that I have very little interest and/or need for mobile video. It’s probably against the terms and conditions of the program, but I may give this phone (and service) away on Mike Industries. It’s a several hundred dollar value if you’re into it. By the way, I don’t mean to give the impression that the phone and the service suck… I think this is a great program for people who live in Missouri and like flip phones.
  • I don’t mean this in a rude manner, but does anyone know what causes “old person smell”? I think I remember seeing a Seinfeld episode about this awhile back, but can’t remember what the conclusion was. What I’m talking about is that distinctive scent that you can sometimes detect around elderly people. I smelled it again the other day in a coffee shop, and for the life of me I could not equate it to any known scent. I’ve had conversations with friends about this so I know it’s not my imagination, but the best we could come up with was that it’s either: a) an old perfume or shampoo that was perhaps popular around 50 years ago, b) medication related, c) denture related, or d) clothing related. I have a great respect for my elders and I’m interested in this subject only for its olfactory implications, but does anyone know what’s going on here?
  • If you’re into alcohol-free mouthwash and you think Biotene tastes gross, you should try Crest’s Pro-Health Alcohol-Free Mouthwash. It’s quite palatable.
33 comments on “March Randoms”. Leave your own?
  1. Jehiah says:

    I have to agree with your observation about sxsw panels. This was my second year and they were (as a whole) much worse than last year. I did however enjoy Daniel Gilbert’s session so i might try sticking to the solo sessions as well. Now that i think about it i’m slightly curious to the fact that last year i was turned onto Malcom Gladwell, and this year Daniel Gilbert. Both have absolutly nothing directly to do with web stuff but both have alot of facinating ideas.

  2. Nathen says:

    How do you pronounce “Drambuie”? Is it dram-bu-ee?

  3. Andy Hume says:

    Nathen – yes.

    I can believe what your saying about panels vs solo, Mike, based on my experience at these type of events. The panel discussions, although often touching on interesting stuff, never really get in to the real meat of many of the topics.

    The solo presentations are by their nature better structured, more detailed, and invariably leave a longer lasting impression. Conference/event organisers take note. :)

  4. Christian Stewart says:

    Drambuie – Dramb_you_ee – nickname from these Scottish parts “Wee Hughie” (within the Drinks trade mostly). Rusty Nails – too many painful memories.

  5. Calichef says:

    Ummm… I’ll take that Sprint phone off your hands. ;) The phone I have now is part of a business plan and the owner is a bit of a Luddite and throws a fit if we use any data or text message services. In fact, they take those charges out of our paychecks! For some reason they can’t understand that it’s useful. Go figure.

    As for the French bread pizza, yeah, it’s hot in the middle because the bread’s air spaces act as insulation, along with the cheese sealing the sauce’s heat in. I still love it, but I’ve learned to cut it into pieces and slow down, or blow on it a bit before biting in.

  6. Bradley says:

    Yeah, I hear you on Stouffer’s at least.

  7. Marc says:

    Totally agree about the Crest Mouthwash — it leaves your mouth almost numb and tasteless for hours. No amount of “water” rinsing removes the feeling either.

  8. gb says:

    I have 4/5 of a bottle of that Crest nonsense in my medicine cabinet, and I doubt it’s going anywhere except the trash. Nasty, and it is impossible to get that foam out of your mouth. Gimme the hard stuff. Gimme my Listerine.

  9. Mark says:

    Medication definitely contributes to that smell of folks, sickness or disease probably goes in there as well. I’m not going to box in “old” people however. I can tell when my 20 month old daughter isn’t feeling well because she smells sick, even though she might be fresh out of the bath.

    One old people scent that I really miss is the smell of grandma’s house. Remember the days when houses captured all the aromas of the years along with the natural aging of the wood and such and presented in a nice package that just overwhelmed the senses with thoughts of love, comfort, peace and home? Modern homes just don’t capture that much anymore.

  10. Don says:

    My wife likes drambui we have it around here. Fairly decent quality stuff I guess. Don’t touch much beyond beer and whine [no sic] myself …

    I think the old people smell I know is mothballs over time.

    I sometimes burn my mouth even on regular pizza. I always approach with caution because the sauce can be much hotter than the cheese and crust. That doesn’t happen if you get it pre-cooked under the warming lamp or delivered, only when you order it in the restaurant. Nothing is worse than not being able to taste what you wanted so bad.

  11. I don’t know why the smell (elderberries perhaps?), but apparently their smell can make you happy

    I agree with you about the panels. This was my first SXSW and I felt I learned more by talking with people in the halls and at the parties (the few I didn’t get bounced from) than by attending most panels.

    There was too much bullshit flying around this year with talk of buyouts, “Web 2.0” (although I felt the only person overly-abusing the term in the panels was Kelly Goto), VC funding, and re-hashes of age-old accessibility rants that we all got 5 years ago.

  12. Reed Morse says:

    I just bought the Casio Z750, and my decision was based on your article. I’m really quite happy with it.

    As for the old person smell, I know what you mean. I’m almost positive it’s not perfume, shampoo, medication, or dentures. I don’t think it’s clothes either, but I know it’s not the rest of the things you mentioned. It’s just something that seems to… happen.

  13. Su says:

    Not French bread-specific, but The Thermodynamics of Pizza is a fun read.

  14. Greg says:

    does anyone know what causes “old person smell”?

    Drinking Scotch and Drambuie.

  15. Am I the only person who consistently burns the hell out of the roof of my mouth whenever I eat French Bread Pizza?

    I hear you on that one. I haven’t touched the stuff in years. Never had any problem with regular pizza.

    As far as SXSW…I wouldn’t know. Haven’t had the chance to attend. The Crest stuff is great in my opinion.

    As far as everything else I have no comment :)

  16. ruben says:

    Right on about the treo. I’m posting from my 650 right now!

  17. alek says:

    Just for you Mike – try having some Hulk Drop Martini – just don’t drink too many and try jumping off the roof like my big green buddy did … ;-)

  18. Jim says:

    Most any Tom’s of Maine mouthwash is alcohol-free and tastes and smells great, with no burn. And the ingredient list states the “purpose” and “source” for each listing, too. Responsible *and* forthright. :)

  19. Mike, are you sure you’re not down on the panels because you sign got dissed?

    (Editor’s Note: Yes, I’m sure. Flattered that the sign is cool enough to be mentioned in boring keynotes though.)

  20. Fred says:

    The Crest alcohol free stuff worked wonders when I had a wisdom tooth pulled and couldn’t use Listerine(my regular stuff) because of the alcohol. I still buy the Crest ProHealth for my kid.

  21. bre says:

    Jennifer and I shop at goodwill way too much and we’re convinced that they have a goodwill spray that they use to try and hide the old people smell. It doesn’t really work. It just makes everything smell like goodwill AND old people combined. Thankfully the smell goes away in the laundry.

    So I think that the smell is related to the oil excreted from the pores of old people, since you can smell it on clothes.

    Good luck in your olfactory quest!

  22. Ben Byrd says:

    Hi Mike,

    Hi Mike, out of all the “web” conferences to attend where one could learn about upcoming technology and just get a lot of good information, which one would you attend?

    Anyone else have opinions on that question? Thanks.

  23. Brennen says:

    @Ben Byrd

    If you live in the Northwest, I recommend the Webvisions conference here in Portland (I’m not affiliated with them, either). It’s short, inexpensive and has a pretty high signal to noise ratio. It looks like this year’s line-up isn’t fully fleshed out, yet. But it’s getting there….

  24. Rob says:

    Drambuie is great stuff. Reminds me of my late father. He drank a shot of it several times a week to relax in the evenings. It’s made from almond extract, BTW, and too much too quick leaves your throat feeling really, really warm. It’s one of my favorite drinks. It’s best drunk neat.

  25. Rob says:


    I, too, tried Crest’s new Pro-Health mouthwash and let me just say that when this bottle is finished, I’m going back to Listerine Original flavor. Pro-Health leaves a really weird aftertaste in my mouth for up to an hour after I’ve used it.
    I don’t tend to have bad breath, even after something like pizza because I drink buckets of green tea, which, BTW, does a better job at killing stuff in your mouth than anything short of Listerine. It inhibits germs and plaque from forming on your teeth, as does, strangely enough, cheddar cheese. A little dental trivia there that I validated with dentist back in December.

  26. dan says:

    Re: The french bread thing with the roof of ones mouth.

    I get that too.
    I don’t think it’s burning but rather the roughness of the french bread crust.
    It doesn’t have to be hot, french bread crust just scrapes the roof of your mouth to ribbons.

  27. Nick says:

    I always burn the roof of my mouth on Red Baron deep dish pizza’s too, but I always thought it was because it smelled good and I was so hungry that I never could remember to wait until it was cooled down enough before I took a big bite. And even if the first bite was too hot, I still couldn’t help myself from continuing on. It was as if I was hurting myself, and I knew it, but I couldn’t stop it.

  28. Andrew says:

    “I’m sorry but 80% of the panels I attended were awful at worst and unenlightening at best.”

    80%? And people thought this year was worse than last year? Wow. I was pretty pleased overall with this year, and SXSW is notorious for being a basically low-content experience. I thought last year was so bad I almost didn’t come back (and I live in Austin), but this year I’d say was about 80% good.

    What annoys me every year is just how lazy many of the presenters are. I’m all for breaking down the barriers between presenter and audience, but a lot of people just don’t really prepare. Frankly Jeffrey Zeldman is one of the worst at this–his talks and panels have been amazingly poor.

    You gotta just walk out and pick another one if it isn’t happening: I avoided every panel or talk that mentioned “blogs” and I thought that worked fairly well.

  29. Caroline says:

    Ah, sweet old people smell. As a nurse working hospitals, I take a lot of old people – in fact I met a 101 year-old the other day – into my care. There are many smells, but I know the one you’re probably talking about. I think maybe it’s the smell of polyester, dust, out-moded toiletries, and early petrification.

    Some elders smell just wonderful. I’m not kidding when I say they smell sweet like babies and I just love to breathe them.

    Other elders have problems with neglected nether regions (including wrinkles that have long since become deep, dark crevasses), incontinence, ill-fitting dentures or rotting teeth, drool, dirty fingernails, and so on. It’s not like they’re always totally ignorant of the problem; it’s just they don’t always have the capacity to tackle it alone. Obviously this must be miserable.

    As Jarvis Cocker of Pulp would croon,

    “Help the aged
    ‘cos one day you’ll be older too –
    you might need someone who can pull you through
    and if you look very hard
    behind those lines upon their face
    you may see where you are headed
    and it’s such a lonely place.”

  30. Jared says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever burned the roof of my mouth on french bread pizza. Maybe it’s the shape of my mouth, maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s skill. The answer is really beyond me. I will tell you that Totinos Pizza Rolls never fail to burn. They’re filled with grease, and upon first bite, they pop. Yet I keep reaching back for more.

  31. William Bay says:

    I just moved to Austin. Didn’t get to see much SxSW unfortunately. Didn’t even know they had Web Development Panels. Although they don’t sound very useful. I’ve also heard from locals that the original spirit and the talent have gone downhill in the music department also.

    I would be happy to hook up with you and golf though if you’re ever in town again…


  32. eddmun says:

    I had a fear of french bread pizza until a few weeks ago because of the immense heat they can contain within them. Then I tried them again and burnt my self again.

    Stupid me.

    The worst part was that I was sitting watching 24 later on that evening and I could feel this flap of skin haning down from that bit just behind your front teeth. It turned out I had burned the first layer of skin form the top of my mouth with one bite.


  33. With regards to the “Wee Hughie”. You should try it with soda and lime on ice. (Or just lime on ice).


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