Friday, April 23, 2004

American Splenda

So Coke announced this week that it was launching a "low-carb" or "mid-calorie" soda named "C2". The news reports I saw first called it "low-carb," which was confusing. Basically, it's a semi-diet soda. "Low-carb" is just the latest trendy term that they're using. This brought up the question -- what's in it?

I'm at the point in my life where I don't need to be gulping down sugary sodas all day -- on the other hand, I do rely on a certain amount of caffeine to get me through the day. And I don't like aspartame (Nutrasweet). A few years back, Pepsi came out with Pepsi One, which replaced some of the aspartame with acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), a more modern and better tasting soda. I drank that for a while, but it's really only palatable when you haven't had enough caffeine to wake you up to realize what you're tasting.

There's another "modern" sweetener that's been gaining popularity -- sucralose (Splenda). As far as I'm concerned, it's a fine sugar substitute and is incorporated into such products as Healthy Pop Kettle Corn. A widely available sucralose-powered soda is Diet Rite -- sadly, though, it lacks caffeine. The same people make Diet RC, but the only place I've been able to find that is Arizona.

Sucralose is also the key ingredient in Diet Cheerwine. I've been drinking a lot of that. Unfortunately, that requires loading up the car with 20-30 cases of Diet Cheerwine on every visit to North Carolina. I think the closest place that sells Diet Cheerwine is about 3 hours away, in Virginia. Right now I'm down to my last case.

While a "mid-cal" cola is not a "no-cal" cola, given the marketing prowess of Coke, it should be more widely available. I hoped that Coke would see fit to use sucralose in C2, to provide me with an alternative to filling up on Vanilla Coke (mmm...Vanilla Coke) when there's no Diet Cheerwine at hand. Well as this article explains, they do use Splenda, but...

Coke's product will apparently contain a veritable cocktail of all the sweeteners that could possibly grace a carbonated beverage. That's high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame (NutraSweet), acesulfam K, and sucralose (otherwise known as Atkins' favorite sweetener, Splenda).

Ironically, one sweetener missing is sugar, but that's understandable given the wacky sugar tariffs the US has in place. Given the present of aspartame, C2 doesn't seem to be a good alternative. Happily, the article also explains, "Pepsi Edge, on the other hand, contains high-fructose corn syrup and sucralose." So I'm looking forward to checking that out when it comes out this summer. And maybe Coke will see the light and ditch the aspartame...maybe by the time C3 comes out.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Books for Sale

I was looking at my bookshelf at work yesterday, and I realized there were a bunch of books I had bought while I was in grad school that I hadn't looked at in years. Since I can get most books I need through the library at work, and since I've been on a push to clear off my bookshelf (I've recycled a bunch of old journals), I thought I'd get rid of them.

But how? Well, I'm going to try an experiment by listing them for sale on Amazon.

The first one I have for sale is Differential Topology. I should have priced it lower -- I meant to undercut the other sellers. As soon as I can figure out how to drop the price, I will. This seems like a good way to clear off my shelves, make a little spare change, and get the books into the hands of people who are interested in them.

And if anybody reading this is interested in differential topology...

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

American Splendor

Christina and I watched American Splendor last night. It was an enjoyable movie. It's a weird subject: it's a movie based on a comic book based on Harvey Pekar's life. Pekar is in the movie in several different ways -- as an actor playing Pekar (the main way), as himself being interviewed, as an actor playing an actor playing Pekar in a play, in archival footage of Pekar on the Letterman show...

The movie, as you can imagine, plays around in interesting ways with frames of reference. As Christina remarked, it doesn't have much of a plot, though. I found it fairly enjoyable. It wasn't great, but it was worth a 101 minute running time.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Hugos vs. Nebulas

In a previous post from 2002 that kicked off my Hugo-reading project, I wrote:

The Hugos are awarded annually by a vote of science fiction writers (as opposed to the Nebulas, which are fan-driven).

Oops. Turns out, I had that exactly backwards.


I guess it's time to start over again. I made it up to 24 Hugos. Looking at the Nebula list, looks like I've read 11.

  1. 1965: Dune, Frank Herbert
  2. 1970: Ringworld, Larry Niven
  3. 1975: The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
  4. 1984: Neuromancer, William Gibson
  5. 1985: Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
  6. 1986: Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card
  7. 1992: Doomsday Book, Connie Willis
  8. 1993: Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
  9. 1994: Moving Mars, Greg Bear
  10. 1998: Forever Peace, Joe Haldeman
  11. 2002: American Gods, Neil Gaiman

Of course, there have only been 40 Nebulas awarded (to novels), so it'll be a shorter list to make my way through.


Sunday, April 18, 2004


Ah, the South. Last night, I went to a chili dinner hosted by one of the professors here. The directions took me into a relatively new housing development called "Belle Hall Plantation." I found myself turning on "Antebellum Lane" to get to "Old South Way." As I alluded to Friday, I find the nostalgia for the "good old days" down here somewhat frightening. I guess "Plantation" is supposed to convey lazy afternoons on the veranda sipping cocktails or some such...rather than slaves in the field picking cotton. Or if I'm suspicious enough, I would suspect it is supposed to convey the former for one set of potential home buyers and the latter for another...if you know what I mean.

If that's the goal, it didn't entirely work. As I approached the professor's house, I had to bring the rental car to a dead stop to avoid a couple of kids -- one white and one black -- happily playing in the street together. That's the weird thing about the South. For all the messed up racial symbolism, there's at least as much racial integration down here as there is in most of the North. I'm still glad I don't live on Antebellum Lane, though.