Thank you!


I got a bajillion birthday wishes on Facebook today (OK, only over 140, but it’s still a hell of a lot), one on Google+, and even a happy birthday wish over the radio airwaves thanks to the ever-awesome Whip!

I almost peed my pants last night when Bethany told me she saw that Duncan Redmonds (of Snuff, Guns ‘n’ Wankers, Dogpiss, Billy No Mates & 300 other of my favorite bands) had wished me a happy birthday.

'nuff said.

'nuff said.

I just wanted to say thanks to all my friends & family for the birthday wishes.  I’m glad to each & every one of you, through the many interesting facets of life!  I had over 130 people say happy birthday and the day’s not over.  I’m glad I’ve made so many cool friends over the years, through school, work, camp, family, other friends, playing in bands, and even through social networking.

Bethany got me this cool Batman hat!

Bethany got me this cool Batman hat!

¿ɹoɟ ןnɟʞuɐɥʇ noʎ ǝɹɐ ʇɐɥʍ ‘os


Cover of "Cloak & Dagger"

Cover of Cloak & Dagger

OK, the last post was serious.  This one can be goofy …ridiculous even.  Help me out in the comments.

  • I’m thankful for my Dewey Decibel FlipOut because it hurts people’s heads.
  • I’m thankful that I can tell my wife to get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich, and she laughs & knows I’m not sexist.  It’s even better when I do something like this in the grocery store in front of elderly people.
  • I’m thankful that I don’t live any closer to the ocean.
  • I’m thankful that people read this blog, and pretend to find it entertaining.
  • I’m thankful that I’ve never purchased a Clarks album.
  • I’m thankful that I’m old enough to be like “back in my day” to you younglings.
  • I’m thankful that Al Gore invented the internet.
  • I’m thankful that I got to see Guns N’ Roses live before they imploded, and the Ramones before they quit & died.
  • I’m glad that I can remember the cold war.  Russians were much more fun than terrorists.  Cloak & Dagger or The Experts anyone?
  • I’m thankful that posting photos of food on Facebook is a ridiculously friend polarizing action.
  • I’m thankful that Boston Market is funny.
  • I’m thankful that I’m not these people or McDonald’s.
  • I’m thankful for kitten calendars.
  • I’m thankful that I’m not the person who bags giblets at the turkey factory, then shoves them in the turkey’s nether-regions.  (My apologies to those who are that person.)
  • I’m thankful for your eventual comments.

So, what are you thankful for?


OK, I do a lot of goofy stuff here on the blog.  I tend to rant about things, as this forum lends itself easily to that.  Hopefully those of you that know me IRL know I’m not always a grumbly curmudgeon.  I use ranting as humor, not as a way of life.

Tonight as this posts, we’ll be cleaning up the clutter, we’ve already chopped the bread for stuffing, and we’re probably prepping the turkey… but let’s not forget what’s important this time of year; It’s a great time to take stock of things, and be thankful for all that we have.  You can thank a higher power, karma, yourself, or other people in your life who have helped or influenced you.  When I think about it, I have a lot of things to be thankful for.  As you get ready for the holiday crunch, anticipated gatherings, getting the place clean or packing the car for a road trip… think about what you’re thankful for.  Pardon my foray into the mushy.

A wife that puts up with my shenanigans.  We can be goofy together, and it makes life fun.  We have different points of view on pretty much everything, so we’re always (OK, most of the time) looking at things from more than one perspective.  She supports my Batman and Star Wars obsessions, and I hate to say I’ve learned to like Glee.  That’s how we roll.

A big family.  I’m an only child, but I’m always surrounded by & get along well with my extended family… now extended to my wife’s family since they’re all also close-knit.  I’m thankful that things like Facebook exist to keep us all in contact.  I’m not a phone person, but I can do FB to keep tabs on the fam.  I’m thankful that when we get together at Grandma’s this year, we’ll be throwing dinner rolls across the dining room at each other, and discussing wildly inappropriate things at the dinner table.

A band that is pretty ridiculous.  It’s cool to have a band that’s relaxed, and seems to get things done.  I have fun playing, and I hope people have fun listening and watching.  For me, it’s a creative outlet that can’t be matched.  To have the opportunity to write stuff, gig out, and now to get an “actual” album pressed & produced is a big deal to me.  When I say relaxed, I don’t meant to convey that a lot of effort doesn’t go into what we do… it’s just that we don’t stress about it.  It’s difficult to find a group of people on compatible levels of taste, work ethic, stage presence, talent, and most of all personality.  I think we have this one right.

Friends for the long-haul.  I know a lot of cool people.  I’ve met them through camp, church, rocking out with various bands, jobs, and all even these things that we used to call “message boards” back in the 1900’s.  There are friends I see often, some I see less so, but I think we’re all solid on where we stand, no matter the time interval that passes between hanging out & catching up.  You know who you are.

That’s just a few of the plethora of things I have to be thankful for… without even getting into material possessions, and resisting the urge to be a smart-ass.

Maybe I’ll add some more in the comments or another blog later.

What are you thankful for?  (Real sentiments and smart-assedness encouraged.)

And now, the stuffing…

And now, the stuffing…

Crazy weekend.


It’s been a great weekend, thanks to Batman Movie Night on Saturday, & the Food Allergy Walk today.  I hope to eventually blog about both… but I’m kind of up for just some relaxation tonight.  I just wanted to say right now that I have an awesome wife, fantastic friends, & a great family.  Thanks for helping me have fun whirlwind of a weekend!

Thanks to everyone who donated for the walk today… I’ll be shipping the special edition Ernie and the Berts King Krab Orange T-shirts from Erin “Ernie” Payne this week for those who qualify!

Anyone have a car jack I can borrow?  I think the thermostat needs replaced on my Subaru… looks easy enough to do, if I can get to it.  The car stayed at work over the weekend.

Ernie and the Berts needs your votes! (via Ernie and the Berts)


Click through to see a shameless plug.

So, Ernie and one Bert decided to crash a Houlihan's open stage last night in Robinson. Apparently it enters us into a contest. We'd like to take the other Bert to round 2, so we'd like you to vote for us. How do you do that? Like Houlihan's Robinson on Facebook. Vote for us here. This is what we sounded like: …sort of.  Imagine that you ca … Read More

via Ernie and the Berts

Thank You, Taco Bell.


OK, so I’ve messed with Taco Bell in the past with my Death Taco rant.  They actually sent me $25 in Taco Bell Bucks.  Today, strapped for cash, I used the last $5 taco bell certificate in my wallet.  I realized, you can get a ridiculous amount of food for $5 at Taco Bell.  (Or in today’s case, a KFC/Taco Bell.)

Check out my receipt…

#233 OUT
World Hunger – Now only $1!

I got change back, after using at $5 gift certificate, and $1 of Taco Bell’s money was used to donate to world hunger.  (Although, it looks like I bought world hunger for $1.)

It broke down like this…  There as a $2 meal that included a Double-Decker taco, a bag of Doritos, and a medium drink.  I added another Double-Decker taco (because I’m fat) for $1.59, & the girl asked if I’d like to donate $1 to world hunger, so I did… well, Taco Bell did.  It was their $1 in the first place.  Add in the tax, and I still got back 19¢… from money that I never had in the 1st place.  I know, little things amuse me.

Taco Bell has earned my respect, while their goofy cousin Pizza Hut (while also moving to lower menu prices) has not.  Where is my answer, Pizza Hut?

So Taco Bell, I would like to thank you for lunch, and world hunger would like to thank you for the dollar.

Taco Bell has purchased my gratitude!


I got a letter in the mail today from Taco Bell.  You may be familiar with my emails to them concerning the death-filled tacos that they were recently peddling.  This is perhaps the best reply I’ve ever received to any of my either serious or goofy letters to any company.

I’ll dispense with the usual long-winded introduction and get right to it…

Letter form Taco Bell about Shrimp Tacos and Taco Bell Bucks!

You can see that along with the letter, I received five $5 Taco Bell Bucks certificates. That’s $25 in death-free Taco Bell food. That’s got to be the coolest thing I’ve ever received besides my T-shirt from Turner’s.  I’m not sure if they’re buying me off, rewarding me, if they make so much profit per item that it really doesn’t matter if they give this much away for free, or what.  This almost makes me want to write back to Pillsbury/Totino’s and make them feel ashamed for sending me three 35¢ coupons.  In fact, I may add that to the list.

The best, and I mean absolute best thing about this letter is that they’re forwarding my request to Pizza Hut.  Wow.  I trust you’ve seen my unanswered letters?  I can’t even express how hilarious and ridiculous and absolutely gratifying that is.


Death Taco


Death Taco. No, that’s not the coolest new metal or grindcore band, although maybe it should be.  It’s what I’m (of course) calling the newest Taco Bell menu item.  I have had some inquires as to why I hadn’t mentioned it yet.

Well, I did make a faint mention via Facebook or Twitter a while ago, but had declined to rant here as I’ve been relentlessly trying to contact Taco Bell.  You know how successful webforms are, so of course I got no answer from that, then I fished around for email addresses to send a full email, bugged them via Twitter for an address, and even posted an Ask Yahoo! question.  Out of nowhere, I finally received a reply, and I have no idea if it was in reply to the webform, my emails to random Yum! Brands and Taco Bell email addresses, or some other forum.

I’d like to share my original messages with you.  First the one via webform:

Hola, mis amigos de Titan Taco! Firstly, this isn’t about an incident at a specific Taco Bell, but the form didn’t allow room for general inquiries. I’d like to express my disappointment with a commercial that I saw advertising new shrimp tacos. Well, I guess my disappointment is not with the commercial, but with the product… and the main ingredient.  I don’t think I can express my thoughts in a box with a mere 500-character limit. Do you have an actual email address where I can contact someone?

…And this was to some email addresses that I found after some Googling.

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 4:11 PM
Subject: Taco Fail
To: webmaster@tacobell.com (and a bunch of other addresses)

Hola, mis amigos de Titan Taco!

I’d like to express my disappointment with a commercial that I saw advertising new shrimp tacos. Well, I guess my disappointment is not with the commercial, but with the product… and the main ingredient.

I have a severe shellfish allergy, and Taco Bell has been a shellfish-free dining safe haven for me for years.  It’s one of the few places where I never had to worry about shrimp, crab, lobster, oysters, etc. ending up in my food, or worse yet… crossing paths in the kitchen somewhere.

I will sadly have to cross Taco Bell off of my list of places to dine… but I’d like you to know that there are many of us out here with severe shellfish allergies who have an increasingly difficult time finding safe places to dine out.  Fast food joints have long been a safe-haven for those of us with a shellfish allergy… as most fine dining and now even chain family style restaurants have several shellfish dishes prepared on multiple kitchen surfaces.  Formerly, as long as I stayed away from Long John Silver’s, I was OK.  Taco Bell, KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, …were all safe places.

I guess I’ll now have to get my quick Mexican fix at Qdoba or Chipotle.

If you’d like to know what it’s like to dine out with a shellfish allergy, please read this blog post.

Here’s an excerpt…

If you know me in person, have dined out with me, or have ready any of my lunacy online… you most likely know what I have a severe shellfish allergy.  What does that mean exactly?  Well, it means that I can’t eat any shellfish, or I go into anaphylactic shock.  Not only can I not eat the shellfish (that’s crustaceans & molluscs including but not limited to ,shrimp, prawns, lobster, crab, crayfish, oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, octopi, squid, snails, and probably even scorpions and pill bugs), but I can’t eat any food that comes into contact with it.  That means, if you cook shrimp on the grill, take it off, and put my steak on  without washing the surface, it’s the same as me eating the shrimp.

I certainly can’t expect the restaurant to clean the grill in between every meal, as that’s certainly not productive on their end… I just usually try to see where the shellfish is prepared, and eat from another cooking surface.  That seems easy enough, right?

I get that it’s my responsibility.  Yes, I’ve had an epi pen.  But I’d really love to not ever have the need to use one.  I’ve even considered getting Allergy Cards, but they seem a little pretentious or something… like my verbal reminder isn’t enough.

Well, getting me in to a place with shellfish is an issue in itself.  Why?  Well in with the aforementioned cooking surface issue…

I hope that this helps explain what people like me go through, and I hope that you re-consider selling death-filled tacos!

Running from the border,

-Eric

And, this is the reply, although I’m not sure if it’s the reply to one of the above messages, or in poking around on Twitter:

From: Poetsch, Rob (Public Relations) <Rob.Poetsch@yum.com>
Date: Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Subject: Pacific Shrimp Taco Inquiry
To: “world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com” <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Cc: “Hunsaker, Brittany (Contractor)” <Brittany.Hunsaker@yum.com>

Dear Eric,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about Shellfish allergens concerning our new Pacific Shrimp Tacos.  We want you to know that we take these matters very seriously and that the business of our customers is our top priority.  We value loyal customers such as yourself and would like to take the opportunity to win your business back.

To ,  to our customers who might have Shellfish allergens, we have displayed information at multiple locations in our fish.  These include Shrimp allergen signs that are placed on our window and door clings as well as in our ads where orders are taken.  While the Pacific Shrimp Tacos are offered for a limited time only, all Taco Bell employees have been trained and certified to not have any food products come in contact with Fish and Shellfish during cooking and/or serving.

We would like to send you some Taco Bell Bucks as a token of our thanks, so please email me back with your mailing address.  We hope you will continue to “Think Outside the Bun” at Taco Bell, and appreciate you taking the time to write to us.

Sincerely,
Rob Poetsch
Taco Bell Public Relations

Rob Poetsch
Taco Bell Corp.
One Glen Bell Way
Irvine, CA 92618
O: 949-863-3915
F: 949-863-2252
rob.poetsch@tacobell.com

Of course, I needed to reply:

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Apr 1, 2010 at 5:15 PM
Subject: Re: Pacific Shrimp Taco Inquiry
To: “Poetsch, Rob (Public Relations)” <Rob.Poetsch@yum.com>
Cc: “Hunsaker, Brittany (Contractor)” <Brittany.Hunsaker@yum.com>

Hello Rob,

Thank you for the reply!  I was beginning to wonder if Taco Bell has a stand on the issue.  While I am pleased to hear about the allergen warning signs along with the employee training and certification, I must say that I still have some reservations about safety.  I am relieved to hear that the shrimp tacos are available for a limited time only.

It is great that you take responsibility in posting signs about allergy warnings.  Your fellow Yum! Brands organization, Pizza Hut, ought to take note.  They display allergen information on their website, noting that the pizza sauce may come into contact with shellfish… but there’s no shellfish on the menu.  When I asked where the contamination may occur (e.g. in the processing/canning facility?) they were unable (or I sadly suspect unwilling) to provide a detailed response.

Back to the subject of Taco Bell… the giant window-clings showing what I’m sure to many is a succulent appetizing piece of shrimp spilling out of a lovely soft taco shell looks to me like a giant Mr. Yuck sticker or the old-time skull & cross-bones “poison” logo that you’d see in cartoons.  They serve as an effective if not spine-chilling reminder as to the presence of shellfish allergens on the premises.  They would also kick my survival instincts into gear, not even letting me enter the presence.  Seriously.  I would wager that right now, it would be pretty difficult to physically get me into a Taco Bell restaurant. My Eustachian tubes are starting to itch just thinking about it.  I realize that this is also a highly personal mental health issue, but one that ought not be taken lightly, as it’s grounded in a very real fear.

Recently I read the blog of a man who almost died when he ordered a vegetarian Indian potato curry dish that he was assured was safe.  Apparently the dish was flavored with a shrimp brine… which ought to be disturbing to vegetarians, vegans, kosher folks, and people with shellfish allergies.  This is alarming to say the least.  I realize that simple cross-contamination may not seem as serious as flavoring an entire dish with shrimp-juice, but I can assure you that it is indeed just as deadly.  Our friends with wheat/gluten and peanut allergies seem to get a lot of attention lately, hopefully it will spill over to the rest of us with the “big 8” and those who aren’t even covered by that umbrella.

Have you taken the allergen training, or do you know what’s involved?  I am finding it hard to tactfully express my concerns about the way that the message was conveyed to Taco Bell employees and the actual willingness of the employees to understand and comply.  We’ve all watched training videos on various subjects and rolled our eyes, promptly taken pamphlets and placed them in the trash, or been angered when someone who doesn’t do our job gives us a new or added process that we must adhere to when we’re sure that the person suggesting the changes has never been in our shoes.

While I mean no disrespect to Taco Bell or any fast food restaurant, have you been to a Taco Bell lately?  Sometimes I am concerned about the personal hygiene and motivation of the employees let alone the cleanliness and efficiency of the kitchen.  Sadly, the low quality and poor service of fast food establishments has become a passively accepted facet of 21st Century life in the United States.  For evidence, I give you the term “McJob“.

I have a theory that for so long now, it has been expressed to kids everywhere to get higher education so you don’t end up as a laborer, janitor, or fast food employee… that fast food jobs have garnered such a negative connotation, the only people left willing to take the jobs are the highly unmotivated individuals, people with no other options, or people using the part time jobs for extra cash with no real pride in their work since there’s no real fear of losing the job or striving to move up the chain of command.

I would invite you to imagine that in the Taco Bell kitchen where you are about to dine there are the standard (and innovative!) sour cream and cheese caulking-gun looking dispensers all loaded on the food preparation area… along side a caulking-gun-looking dispenser filled with a highly toxic pest-control chemical that looks interestingly enough like cheese or sour cream.  Would you still feel safe in eating there?  Sure.  The employees can read.  Sure, they know the difference.  Are they ever rushed in a fast food kitchen?  Do mistakes ever happen?  Of course.  I’m guessing you would at least think twice or watch closely before you dine.

I understand that this scenario is preposterous because I would hope that some sort of federal regulations would forbid any toxic chemicals from being stored in a food preparation area.  No such federal regulations exist for people like me, although Massachusetts is moving forward with this type of thing.

While I trust that your training an certification was put forth with the best of intentions, you must understand that I question its implementation, practicality, and how it’s received and practiced by what amounts to be the first line of contact with your customers… the Taco Bell team member.  What exactly does the certification say?  Does each employee have it, or does a certification apply to an entire restaurant or shift?

I challenge you to quiz the workers at Taco Bells in various locations… inner city, suburbs, malls, and the combo units, and see how much the workers really know about cross-contamination and allergy issues and how they’re observed in a Taco Bell kitchen.  (Hopefully, they fare better than Subway employees.)

All that said, I appreciate and applaud the considerable thought and effort that has already gone into allergen awareness.  Spreading knowledge is the first step.  Did you know that May 9th-15th 2002 is the thirteenth annual Food Allergy Awareness Week?  Now is the time to act and inform, my friend!

I would certainly appreciate some Taco Bell Bucks, if you’ll understand that I may hold on to them until well after the current Pacific Shrimp Taco promotion is over. (Pending reviews, it may not last all that long, eh?) Taco Bell had previously been a shellfish-free Mexican-ish fast food haven for me for many many years.  I can’t tell you how many tacos I ate at the mall nearby to where I grew up when I was a teenager.  A dollar went much further at Taco Bell than it did at McDonald’s, Burger King or anywhere else in the food court.

My address is…

Eric Aixelsyd
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Pittsburgh, PA  XXXXX-XXXX

I would like to thank you once again for your time and the thoughtful informative reply.  I look forward to perhaps what may be a continued dialog about allergy awareness issues in the fast food industry, and more specifically relating to Taco Bell and other Yum! Brands.

-Eric

Wow, do I hope they write back.