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The Ice Cream Soda Float Challenge, Round Five

The Ice Cream Soda Float Challenge, Round Five

After exploring the various flavors of Cola, Cherry, Pepper, and Cream sodas paired with vanilla ice cream, we have arrived at the largest and most diverse round of them all, what we’re going to call the Fruit Round. Now not all the sodas here are technically fruit flavored. For example, Big Red is technically a red cream soda, but we are not going to explore a round of that specific type, and it didn’t really fit the regular cream soda round either, so here it goes, alongside the other bright rainbow-esque colors and flavors of the fruit sodas. Our possibilities were almost endless here, but we settled on eight and only eight, partially so our hearts don’t stop beating from diabetic shock.

The sodas include Big Red, Stewart’s Key Lime Pie, Grape Nehi, Orange Nehi, Flathead Lake’s Huckleberry, Coke’s California Raspberry, Coke’s Georgia Peach, and Swamp Pop, a strawberry flavored soda popular in Louisiana.

Yeah, that’s a lot of fruit soda…

(Cover Image: “Root Beer Float” by Sharon Drummond.)

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Ranked: Every Album by The Cars

Ranked: Every Album by The Cars

The Cars have been one of my favorite bands since around the time I transitioned from middle school to high school, which was the mid-90s, perhaps an odd time to become a fan of 80s New Wave. Nevertheless, I would listen to them obsessively on my Walkman cassette player and later on my Discman—so super cool, I know! Or rad! Or whatever we were saying back then. Anyway, after Ric Ocasek’s unfortunate passing this September, I revisited those Cars albums and decided to rank them in order of my personal favorites, because I’ve already done the same with so many other favorite bands, including my favorite of all time, Tom Petty, so why not The Cars? With that said, let’s go!

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The Ice Cream Soda Float Challenge, Round Four

The Ice Cream Soda Float Challenge, Round Four

We now have results from four rounds of ice cream soda float taste tests, with the Cola Round, the Cream Soda Round, the “Pepper” Round, and now the Cherry Round complete. I’m pretty confident that I can speak for both scientists involved when I say this has been the most delicious round yet, a round that included: Cherry Coke, Boyland Black Cherry, Virgil’s Black Cherry Cream, Stewart’s Cherries ‘n Cream, and Cherrwine.

(Cover Image: “Root Beer Float” by Sharon Drummond.)

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The Ice Cream Soda Float Challenge, Round Three

The Ice Cream Soda Float Challenge, Round Three

With the results from the Cola Round and the Cream Soda Round now tallied, we move on to the Pepper Round. Now this name might not quite fit since a couple of these sodas aren’t in the same exact vein as Dr. Pepper, but they share some traits and fall into that pepper/medicinal/spiced soda realm in one way or another. And we had to cluster at least four sodas together somehow, so this is what we ended up with: Dr. Pepper, Pibb Xtra, Maine Root Sarsaparilla, and Moxie.

(Cover Image: “Root Beer Float” by Sharon Drummond.)

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The Ice Cream Soda Float Challenge, Round Two

The Ice Cream Soda Float Challenge, Round Two

And now that we know the results of the Cola Round, we move on to another flavor altogether: cream soda. I have never had a cream soda float despite having a soft spot for root beer’s golden-pale cousin, so I was pretty excited to begin. Before I introduce the flavors we picked for this round, let me give you a quick recap of how we’re doing this challenge.

(Cover Image: “Root Beer Float” by Sharon Drummond.)

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The Ice Cream Soda Float Challenge: Round One

The Ice Cream Soda Float Challenge: Round One

Summer is coming…and I dream of cold drinks and icy desserts on the front stoop, in the back yard, at patio bars, and roadside ice cream stands. I have designs on a boozy hollowed-out pineapple cocktail complete with little umbrellas and twisting straws, and of course one of my childhood favorites, the root beer float. Or maybe a Coke float. Or a Big Red float. I’ve even had a Purple Cow, but how would that grape soda float hold up against one made with Dr. Pepper?

And thus came the idea for an ice cream soda float challenge: 25 flavors, one brand of ice cream, and eight nights of carbonated sugar highs that will not only threaten our bodies with immediate Type A through Z diabetes but also determine the greatest dessert-beverage question of them all: what soda is the best for an ice cream float?

(Image: “Root Beer Float” by Sharon Drummond.)

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Ranked: Every Replacements Album

Ranked: Every Replacements Album

Okay, we need to get one thing straight right away: there’s no chance in hell I can rank these albums from least to best because I love them all in different ways and their two best albums really are so neck-and-neck that a photo finish result would be useless to determine the all-time champ. Instead, these are ranked in order of which Replacements albums mean the most to me, or which ones I go back to more than the others. In that way, I was able to slightly differentiate these into a more cohesive and organized list. Again, I love each dearly, so I present these with all the sincerity I can muster. Let me know which one is your own favorite!

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The RED Bookshelf: Free Books for Kids!

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I recently had an amazing experience volunteering at a local organization in Albany, NY that provides free books to children all over town. The RED Bookshelf not only sets up special red bookshelves at events throughout the year, allowing kids to rifle through gently read or brand new books to take home and keep as many as they’d like, but they also have permanent shelves set up all over town, in libraries, doctor offices, and in areas where kids might have have easy access to books, be it for geographic, financial, or other reasons. The RED Bookshelf accepts new or used books of good quality, and those are cleaned, organized, labeled, and distributed by a dedicated team of people eager to get books into the hands of kids, because a child that reads is far more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead in adolescence and adulthood. A reader is a thinker and we all know how much we need that in today’s world! If you’re interested in helping these great people get books into the hands and homes of children in need, you can check out their website and look for them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I loved spending some time with them and they will gladly accept any quality books, financial donations, or your personal time to help spread the joy of reading. Check them out!

Bookshop Hunter Column at FIVE:2:ONE Magazine

I've been seeking out bookshops and reviewing them at my other blog, The Bookshop Hunter, for a few months now. It has been a blast, and now I have a column over at FIVE:2:ONE Magazine about my bookshop hunting trips around upstate New York, NYC, and beyond. In this first column, "The Bookshop Hunter: Electric City and Beyond," I explore Schenectady, NY and other nearby towns. FIVE:2:ONE is an weird-baby consortium of awesome writers, reviewers, poets, columnists, artists, and plenty more. They always have something new going on and I highly recommend you check them out!   

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Ranked: Every Alan Furst “Night Soldiers” Novel

Ranked: Every Alan Furst “Night Soldiers” Novel

Alan Furst and his series of “Night Soldiers” novels focus the European underground résistance against the Nazis between the years of (give or take) 1932 and 1945, and they have been an absolute pleasure to read and re-read since I discovered him back in 2012. One aspect I appreciate most about the series is that the main characters are not your typical British or American WWII hero archetypes—spies, soldiers, or otherwise. Furst gives us more of a grassroots perspective of Europe’s turmoil in that time. Some main characters are Polish army officers, newspaper reporters, Russian spies, Greek detectives, French film producers, etc. They’re people from all walks of life, and they all start out fearful of the Nazi regime and are unsure of what they can do against Hitler’s minions, but each finds a way to help, somehow. My rankings tend to shift depending on which one I’ve read last, but there’s really only one I disliked. The rest range from solid to incredible, and I hope this list inspires you to give the series a chance!   

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My Top 5 Peep Show Episodes

My Top 5 Peep Show Episodes

One of my favorite televisions shows of all time is Peep Show, easily one of the most unique comedies ever filmed, in that the show is shot entirely from the perspectives of either Mark or Jeremy (Jez), two "odd couple" roommates who are both social misfits in their own spectacularly bizarre ways. I have to thank my former roommate Liz for bringing this gem into my life. I had given it a shot years prior and hated the only half-episode I watched, but then I gave it a second chance when she raved about it, and it quickly became our most quotable show. The five episodes I chose as my favorites, to my surprise, are almost all from seventh series (for those unaware, in the UK shows come out in a series, not a season), but just because 4/5 occur in that one series, I assure you that each year's offerings have stunningly hilarious moments, arcs, and characters that make every series worth watching. But these five are my absolute favorites and perhaps you'll like them as well.

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My Top Books of 2017

My Top Books of 2017

As with every annual list, I only include books I've read for the first time, but they can be from any year. It wasn't a bad year for reading but I feel like I read less and less every year since leaving NYC. I guess all that time reading on the subway actually made a bigger dent in my To Read list than I gave it credit for. But like I said, 2017 wasn't so bad. Here are some of my favorites. What were yours?

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Ranked: Every Spoon Album

Ranked: Every Spoon Album

Now that I’m on the cusp of crossing Spoon off my “Bands To See Before I Die” list, I thought it would be fun to rank their albums (no EPs or extras, of which there are many) based on my subjective thoughts on the quality of each and the album’s impact on my listening habits. And I should note I don’t dislike any of these albums, but there are certainly some that are stronger than others, and some remain in my heavy listening rotation long after their release for damn good reasons. Okay, let’s get to it!     

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My Top 5 H.P. Lovecraft Stories

My Top 5 H.P. Lovecraft Stories

If one were to build a Mount Rushmore of Horror Writers, you could easily suggest the faces of Poe, Shelley, and Stoker as starters, and some may propose Matheson, Blackwood, Jackson, and of course King, among many others, but for me, one name is a must—H.P. Lovecraft. Like Poe, Lovecraft’s work stands out from his contemporaries as so uniquely strange with such a singular aura that there hasn’t really been anyone like him before or since. Many were inspired by him, but few were as wholly odd in aesthetic, style, and life. 

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Young James and The Spooky Old Tree

Young James and The Spooky Old Tree

As a very young child, one of my favorite things to do was to curl up with a picture book and lose myself in the immersive illustrations. Even when I graduated into chapter books, something about really well-done picture books captivated the imagination. The one that dominated my youngest years was The Berenstain Bears and The Spooky Old Tree. This tale of three little bears adventuring into the night to explore not just a tree but underground tunnels and alligator infested waters and haunted old halls full of watchful paintings and suits of armor, and a whole lot more. It was indeed spooky, but also thrilling and comforting at the same time. It became a bit like my security blanket.

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If You Like Lore, These Will Give You Chills Too...

If You Like Lore, These Will Give You Chills Too...

At least once a year there's a podcast that strikes a chord and seems to take pop culture by storm. In 2014 it was Serial, and there have been others since, but the current podcast I hear everyone talking about is Lore, which is also now a "TV" show on Amazon Prime. As many of you already know, Lore explores different frightening myths and legends throughout history...except each one is based on true stories, real places, and horrifying moments in our past that still affect us today in ways both subtle and supreme.

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There Are No Rules: My Time Writing for Writer's Digest

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A few years back I worked for Writer's Digest, serving as an editor in both their book and magazine divisions, and one thing I loved to do was write for their advice blog, “There Are No Rules.” Not that I’m some bestseller rife with literary wisdom, but I always felt we each have our own writing insights, tricks, and habits that are helpful to us and might be helpful to others. Besides, what writer doesn’t like writing about writing from time to time? A lot of my old blog posts are about breaking out of writing slumps, self-editing and revision, how watching Star Wars or Hitchcock’s Rear Window can help your writing, the best books to read during Halloween, advice on self publishing (a bit dated but still useful), and there’s interviews with writers, editors, and much more. Enjoy!

Five Films That Make Me Want to Write

Five Films That Make Me Want to Write

As a writer, films about writing can come across as inspiring and rejuvenating, or as extremely hokey, or, I admit, both (looking at you Finding Forrester…"you the man now, dawg" still makes me cringe). When I’m feeling uninspired, ill, depressed, tired, or suffering through writer’s block (thankfully, this is rare), settling in for a good quiet film alone can help take my mind off things, while at the same time stoking the desire to get back in front of the keyboard. Here are some of my favorite films that make me want to sit down and write.

Additional note: I should say this is not what I’d call a list of the BEST films about writers or writing, but movies that get me feeling better about wanting to writing. They’re a bit of an endorphin shot in the creative arm, a cinematic sugar high to get me started, if you will.

Final note: I’m always open for suggestions about other inspiring films about writers/artists, especially since this list is admittedly narrow in its scope (white male writers of the 20th century). So please fire away with your favorites and I’ll be sure to watch!  

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Ranked: Every Ryan Adams Album

Ranked: Every Ryan Adams Album

I have friends who will kill me over these rankings, but I gave this a shot with Tom Petty’s albums so why not for another of my all-time favorites, Mr. Feelings himself, Ryan Adams. I’m loving his new album Prisoner, so I decided to test myself and see where it ranked on my own list of his albums. I should note this list does NOT include any of his compilations or live albums, none of his Whiskeytown stuff, or any of his many singles, bootlegs, unreleased tracks and albums, or side projects. Just Ryan Adams studio albums and his longer EPs.

I’d also like to say there’s only one album listed that I don’t like to some degree, so yeah, I’m pretty biased and this was ridiculously hard. Ok, let’s get in there.

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My Top 10 Books of 2016

My Top 10 Books of 2016

While I read fewer books than usual in 2016, this annual edition of my Top 10 lists covers a fairly broad range of styles—a rock & roll bio, some YA classics, poetry, apocalypse lit, historical nonfiction, crime, noir, and more. Despite being a pretty miserable year, the good books kept me going. As usual for these lists, I only include books I’ve read for the first time in 2016, but the books can be from any year, brand new or decades old, so long as they’re new to me. I’d love to know what your favorites were this year as well, so feel free to add those in the comments section! Most of all, I hope you enjoy these if you haven’t yet tried them for yourself.

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