Apr 10

This is an analysis of the various options available for finding new music. As with anything the tools and techniques I’ll put forth are neither inherently good nor bad. If you use these tactics to steal music- shame on you. If you use them to get turned on to a bunch of new albums (some portion of which you end up buying) and it translates to more music purchases than would have occurred otherwise- then good for you (and good for the musicians). I’m simply going to explain the stages involved and the tools available.

The way I see it, from the time you first hear a new song that grabs your interest to the time that you plunk down money for it, there are three discreet phases that occur in this sequence:


These steps can be folded into one sitting but the chain is always the same in that you
a) discover the new music
b) listen to it more and determine that you like it enough to
c) go about purchasing it.
If we acknowledge these are the three stages we can examine which tools work best for each:


Think of the situations in which you are most likely to discover a new artist- listening to the radio, having a friend play a song that you like, catching an opening act at a concert that surprises you… Of the ones that you have some control over, here are some thoughts on how to maximize your exposure to music you will like:

Traditional Radio – this is all but worthless for music discovery unless you’re hoping to discover Nickelback’s newest single or the next YHBTIM nomination. I stopped listening to FM radio two years ago and felt immediately smarter for cutting out the commercials and radio show banter that cluttered my daily drive. I also found that removing my antenna gave my (plus it made for a great shishkabob roasting implement on our last camping trip).

Satellite Radio – I had Sirius Radio for awhile and it was better than FM for the absence of commercials but even the programming on that got stale eventually. I never did try XM radio but I know some people swear by one or the other. At $13/mo I eventually decided for the limited amount of time I spent in the car and the extended hours I spent at the computer, that money was better spent on a Rhapsody subscription being able to listen to any band on demand. I’ll discuss the iPod radio place-shifting concept for your vehicle below.

Internet Radio – this is a great way to discover new bands at work. Shoutcast servers broadcast audio streams that can be consumed by iTunes, Winamp and Windows Media Player for decent quality audio grouped by different genres. There’s few if any commercials and quality of playlists varies station to station but I’ve found to be much more variety and originality than traditional or satellite radio.

Indie Station Podcasts – Garageband.com maintains a huge listing of indie radio station podcasts that you can subscribe to via iTunes so it automatically grabs the latest MP3’s. This is somewhat a “needle in a haystack” smattering of mostly crap but with some real gems to be discovered. If you’re the type that likes to hit a bunch of yardsales and hunt through stacks of mostly junk because you can somtimes discover that obscure gem, this is probably for you. But if you want more “signal than noise” you’re probably better off finding a couple good Internet radio stations.

iPod Place-shifted Internet Radio – Now for some controversy. So you can listen to Internet radio while you’re at your computer but you can also rip the audio streams to your iPod and listen to Internet radio in the car. I know some people will say this is cheating and this is where it comes to how you use this tactic- if you use it like a Tivo to truly time/place-shift your Internet radio, then I believe it’s a valid use. If you’re using it to steal music which you listen to repeatedly but never buy, then boo-hiss on you. The quality is going to be degraded at an avg of 96kbps and you’ll most likely get streams that chop off the beginning and ends of songs but if you can put up with those nuissances, this is a great way to avoid crap radio stations in the car and discover new stuff. Stream ripper is an open source plugin to Winamp that let’s you rip a shoutcast audio stream and store it on your iPod. Pandora’s Jar is a windows app that will rip a pandora station to your hard-drive and allow you to store it on your iPod. I’ve not used Pandora’s Jar. Whether you consider these tools “Tivo for Internet radio” or instruments of a thief, you should be aware of their existence.

Online Discovery Services – There are a ton of services online that can be divided into two categories:

  1. Audio-based – Pandora and Last.FM are by far the two most popular though they use different methods for making recommendations. There is an excellent blog post that describes the essence of the difference in recommendation engines. Basically Pandora draws upon what is called the “Music Genome Project,” essentially a massive database of music classified by objective characteristics of the music itself (ie. tone, rhythm, timbre, etc). It’s a flash-based app that runs in your browser allows you to seed it with music you like and then give thumbs up/down as it makes recommendations to tune it to your personal preferences. Last.FM comes from the other angle making recommendations based on what’s called collaborative filtering, or purely by comparing listening preferences of people that share your likes. It doesn’t know anything about the qualities of the music itself. Last.FM is a client-based app that runs on Mac or Windows. Both produce totally different recommendations and can turn up some real gems based on your taste in music. And both have nifty widgets and online exposure tools if you run a blog to be able to broadcast your stations and listening history (see the audio section in the left side bar of this site). Mog and iLike are two relatively new entrants to the music recommendation game, neither of which I have tried.
  2. Visual-based – among the visual mapping tools for music discovery are Live Plasma and Musicmap. Live Plasma seems to have come a long way and when I just tested delivered a lot more recommendations with meaningful associations expressed via their slick interface. It also appears to handle movies now as well. Musicmap looks more like someone’s hobby site. Both let you branch indefinitely following nodes upon nodes of recommendations with the ability to dig in for detailed album info on amazon.

So those are the basic methods for discovering new songs. Next we’ll talk about how “vet” the music to determine whether it’s worth buying.


Online – You’ve got two flavors, paid and unpaid services for exploring albums. You definitely get what you pay for in this realm. Although Rhapsody just raised the rates of their service ($10 -> $13) I still find it completely worth the price.

  1. Paid – all-u-can-eat music services like Rhapsody and Yahoo Music are great for when you hear a song and snag a name and want to dig into the rest of the album to see if it was a one-hit-wonder or if it’s truly representative of the rest of the album. I haven’t used Yahoo’s service but Rhapsody is great. If you’re on a mac you’ll want to use the YottaMusic.com player. It’s a killer ajax-based app that uses your Rhapsody account credentials to play music via the browser. It used to be pretty flaky crashing the browser but seems to have become much more reliable recently and I’m told by the Yotta team that the issue was actually a problem with the Rhapsody plug-in. I have no idea how these guys are making money but I would hate to see them go away at this point since they have such a valuable service.
  2. Unpaid – most of the discovery services will link to the album on Amazon and take a portion of the sale via the affiliate program. Amazon has short audio samples for most albums playable via browser but the quality is crap and you don’t get the flavor of the album, just a taste of each song. There’s a new one I heard about recently called Musotik but it seems fairly amateurish and had audio for maybe half the songs I searched.

Physical Stores– it probably doesn’t deserve mentioning but there’s the obvious option of visiting a Best Buy or Borders for it’s listening station to sample music from the album. Depending on how obscure the music you like is, this may or may not be an option.

So now that you’ve found the new sounds and determined which are worth purchasing, let’s look at the options for making that transaction.


iTunes– with the classic $.99 immediate gratification of purchasing legal music (and now the slightly more expensive option for purchasing non-DRM’d music), iTunes is by far the most common option for purchasing music online. Walmart entered the online music game and in their typical fashion tries to undercut the incumbent by selling at $.88/song but Walmart’s site was down when I checked it just now and they’re also a scourge to humanity so you should pay the extra and give it to a kickass company like Apple. There’s a Russian-based outfit called AllofMP3.com which supposedly has high-quality, dirt-cheap music but I understand there’s some type of sanction against them and Visa and Mastercard dropped them so they’re probably not honoring the licensing deals with the labels.

Local used stores– Let’s not rule out the trip to the local used record store that can provide both excellent recommendations from knowedgeable workers for discovery as well as second-hand copies of music you’re looking for (which is often cheaper than the online version if you are able to find it).

Mail-based clubs– there’s also music clubs like BMG. I’ve never used one of these but my brother built a massive CD collection fairly cheaply a few years ago by subscribing to one. The trouble is then you have a bunch of CD’s lying around.


There’s a lot of ways to expand your musical horizons. I find that listening to the same music repeatedly can put you in a rut and finding that fresh new band can propel you out of it. I also tend to associate the various chapters of my life with albums for some reason. I have no idea if musical variety is correlated with enhanced creativity but I would suspect it is. One other service that doesn’t fit into any of the above categories but that I’ve found hugely valuable for discovering music indirectly is the OnTour widget. They make both a Mac and PC version and it helps you find upcoming concerts in your area by scouring your iTunes library and then matching against a tour database and displaying the shows in your area of the bands you follow. My thoughts on the controversial ripping tools: if you use them as Tivo for Internet radio and doing so lets you discover more bands and buy new music you wouldn’t have bought otherwise, then it’s newfound revenue for the musicians and labels. If you disagree, cheers to having your own opinion and judgement. If you use other music discovery services or can suggest other methods for getting exposure to new music, please share.

Jan 10

1. Loop it or lose it – put your foot down

travelTip-legLoop.jpgWhen traveling alone you will at some point find yourself in a crowded airport terminal or restaurant waiting with multiple pieces of luggage. Professional thieves choose this high-commotion areas to target unsuspecting individuals because there are a lot of distractions and they can quietly snatch a bag while you are preoccupied with something else. When I’m at the gate and I know I’ve got my boarding pass and I’m good to go, I turn on the iPod and snooze before the flight. And under normal circumstances if I were to leave my bags on the ground next to me, I would become a prime target for a thief to stroll by and lift them. As simple as it sounds, here is a technique that prevents this:

Put your foot through the loop or strap. When I lived in Ecuador there was a great deal of bus travel involved and fellow exchange students had their backpacks snatched multiple times. This trick never failed me – in the best scenario it served as a deterrent for the observant bag snatcher and in the worst scenario it simple burglar alarm / leash that kept my bag on my person.

2. Improvise a bag handle

travelTip-improvHandle.jpgUsing plastic bags as carry-ons is just never a good idea if you can avoid it. Not only are they flimsy but they eventually turn your fingers into sausage links if they’re loaded with heavy stuff and you have to carry them far.

If you have no other choice but the plastic bag as a carry-on, or even if your real luggage simply has a crappy handle, snag the cardboard tube from an empty toilet paper roll, cut it longitudinally and clip it over the bad handles. Obviously you can use other material to achieve the same purpose but I’ve found that the TP tube is a perfect solution and is guaranteed to be found anywhere you have a conventional toilet.

3. Ubiquitous travel doc accessibility

If you’re traveling internationally you should have your travel documents on you at all times. This is a no-brainer. I use a leather pouch with a belt loop that flips inside my pants. You should also store a copy of your passport and important docs in another location like your checked luggage while in transit or your hotel room while you’re there.

Another great tactic is to scan all your important credentials and then email them to yourself. Internet cafes are prevalent everywhere but the US so it works fairly well and you can get to your docs anywhere you can find Internet (use an encrypted zip file if you’re paranoid of storing them on gmail’s server). I came up with this idea last year– I happen to use gmail and emailed each scan to myself with the subject “vitaldoc: passport” etc. This allows me to pull up all my critical info by searching my gmail for “vitaldoc” anywhere I am that has Internet. I used this trick at the doctor’s office the other day using my treo’s web browser to get an insurance card I didn’t have in my wallet- very useful.

4. Protect your passwords on public Internet terminals

So how do you safely check email from public terminals while you’re traveling? This technique will not protect you from hardware-based keyloggers but it should defeat most software-based ones. Whatever you do, don’t type your password directly into the password field on a public terminal, rather put the characters you need (and then some) in the url bar and cut and paste your password together piecemeal from there. It’s debatable how effective this technique is as some keyloggers can store things like cursor position and clipboard elements. But, just like The Club (TM), if you make it tricky enough to determine yours over someone else’s, this should reduce the likelihood of someone jacking your credentials.

You can also put in a little time up front, bring a thumbdrive with the portable apps suite installed and setup secure POP to your email using the Thunderbird client (thanks Benny for that suggestion). At that point you also have the portable Firefox browser as well, so ideally with all your passwords stored in that instance you’re not entering them in the browser via the terminal. Just be sure to encrypt the thumbdrive, otherwise in the event you lose that, someone has direct access to all your accounts.

5. Free headphones for the in-flight movie

When the flight attendant strolls down the aisle peddling those $5 crappy plastic headphones that have been worn by 100 people before you, kindly decline, smile and bust out your own set. Airlines make a huge margin on those rental headphones so they’re not very motivated to disclose that every armrest has the standard headphone jack already in it.

6. The iPod hold button goes both ways

If you have an iPod you probably know that you can use the hold button to ensure that you don’t mistakenly bump the control wheel and change tracks or volume while listening to music. You may not know, however, that the hold button serves the same purpose of diabling the buttons when your iPod is off as well. I learned this while tinkering after a trip where I had left my iPod in my pack and found the battery completely dead upon arrival from having the buttons bumped repeatedly and continuously turning it on while it was in the pack.

7. Photos aren’t just for memories back home

If you’ve got a digital camera or camera phone you can use it to snap a quick picture of things you need to remember while you’re there like your hotel room number or parking space. Thanks to my friend Josh for reminding me about this technique. We used this trick extensively on our trip to Playa last year when we were bumped between three different hotels in order to remember our room number each time.

8. Diversify your portfolio

travelTip-passport.jpgWhen traveling in Mexico especially, I will split both my cash and credit cards in two places so that if my wallet is stolen I still have dinero somewhere else. If you travel with a money belt I recommend putting a credit card and a few bills there and leaving the rest in your wallet. Cash is king in an emergency situation but the credit card ensures you have access to larger money if you need it.

Many banks have the ability to issue a short-term, expiring credit card if you know you’ll be traveling. Your money is insured either way if your card is stolen but it’s a pain in the ass to cancel cards if you have any auto debits setup. Plus you’ll be without a card until the new one arrives when you return. Instead get a temporary card that you can use while on vacation. It’s very similar in concept to the tactic in gmail of using youraddress+thisvendor@gmail.com to be able to have a disposable email address for suspect sites you think will be spamming you. There’s also a free service now that does the equivalent for phone numbers – same concept.

9. Skype those International calls

Internet cafes love to sell international phone service because they make a killing on it. Get yourself a skype account before you leave and make your international calls for pennies of what you’d pay in phone charges. You’ll also find it’s more convenient because skype will have your call history stored so you don’t need to repeatedly look up phone numbers and type them in. Plus you generally have to have the attendant at the Internet cafe place the call for you or at least unlock the phone.

10. Retrieve your voicemails remotely without your phone

There are a couple ways to skin this cat. The treo makes it trivial to forward your cell phone to your skype account via the call preferences menu so when you know you will be somewhere without cell service, it’s easy to do ahead of time. Get the skype-in service and you can potentially answer your phone from a computer on the other side of the world and at the very least have access to the voicemails and change your outbound message. If you don’t forward your cell, you can still probably call into your voicemail remotely but I’ve heard people had problems doing this over skype and I know I’ve personally had issues using skype to call businesses with automated phone systems.

Anyways, these are some battle-tested travel tips from someone who has done quite a bit of traveling. Use them in good health.

Dec 19

vehicularThomasCrownePic.jpgWhat I’m proposing here is nothing short of the worldwide Vehicular Thomas Crowne Affair.

I hate photo radar. Hate it. And it’s not because occasionally I drive too fast and get a ticket. It’s because the city prostelitizes it as being a safety measure when in truth they’re using it purely as a revenue-generating tool. Last year in Scottsdale after only six months of installing speed cameras on the 101 highway, the city issued nearly $3MM in tickets… that’s just absurd. It didn’t make anyone drive slower. What it did was cause car accidents because inevitably some of the cars in traffic would hit the brakes as they approached the zones where they knew the cameras were. With a random fraction of the cars sporadically slamming on the breaks without warning, it’s no wonder that stretch of highway became one of the most dangerous in Arizona. Ultimately the City put an end to the experiment and pulled the cameras off the 101. Intersections throughout the Scottsdale still have red light cameras though, and the same problem exists- motorists become more concerned about avoiding a photo radar ticket rather than driving safely.

So if the challenge is how to defeat the photo radar cameras, you have a few options:

  1. You can obfuscate your license plate with a reflective spray or the little plastic shields that affix to your plate and make it difficult to read when the camera flashes. Those are banned in some states because they make it difficult to read the plate at night and worse for you the motorist and having one of will start you off on the wrong foot with an officer in the event you get pulled over.
  2. You can buy a radar and laser jammer to foil the speed-sensing mechanism on the units by disrupting the radio and light waves that bounce back and measure your speed. These devices are also illegal in some municipalities (especially if they employ active jamming techniques). Even if they are legal in your area, they too start you off on the wrong foot with a police officer.
  3. You could always get a paintball gun, be the defiant vigillante and goo up the cameras rendering them inoperable. This was actually happening in Scottsdale for awhile. Defacing city property however is against the law and this will get you fined if not thrown in jail when you’re caught. Plus it’s not a reliable or sustainable way to deal with the problem.
  4. You can accept the fact you’re getting ticketed and employ tactics like overpaying the fee to try and muck up the collection process once it’s issued. Also, because the ticket is not a certified, receipt-requested letter, you can ignore it and claim it never arrived. They will of course try to serve the ticket in person so be prepared to not answer your front door if you’re using this approach.
  5. Assuming that abolishing photo radar via policy is out of the question, you can get creative and think about the series of events through which these tickets get to you and approach the problem differently.

Think: How does the ticket find its way to you? the camera snaps the photo… someone has to look at the pictures and reference that plate number to a plate in the system… then that person mails the ticket to the address on file. Without physically altering your license plate to obscure it, how else could you make it difficult for that person to send the ticket? Simple:

Order a vanity plate with a bunch of characters that are confusingly similar in appearance.

vehicularThomasCrowne.jpgI just got my plate from AZ DMV and happily installed it this morning. It can still be read by the keen eye but from one of those crappy photo radar pictures it will be a non-trivial task to make out the characters. There aren’t many grey Tahoes in AZ that have a plate seemingly with all zero’s so with any amount of research effort the examiner could probably figure it out. But much like The Club causes enough of a nuissance to deter the would-be thief, this technique should cause the would-be photo examiner to pass over your ticket. And the more people that have plates with permutations of 0’s and O’s and D’s, the more difficult their task becomes: a veritable real life Vehicular Thomas Crowne Affair.

Is this civil disobedience? Perhaps. Is it a healthy thing to challenge the system when it sucks? You bet, especially when Scottsdale City Council has proven that all but one member is utterly incapable of performing their job (which should consist of listening to the citizens they supposedly serve and ensuring their concerns are addressed). You can go out and try methods #1-4 or you can abide by the current rule set, use your head and practice passive resistance. I propose the latter and suggest this tactic as a meme in order to send a message to the City of Scottsdale and other municipalities about how f’d up their financial printing press (ummm, I mean photo radar system) is. Research in Europe has already demonstrated that less signage, regulation and distraction makes drivers more aware of their surroundings and, consequently, more safe on the roads. The city needs to either admit that photo radar is a revenue-generating tool or do away with it. Period.

In Arizona getting a vanity plate takes $25 and all of about 5min to order online via this page on ServiceArizona.com. The plate arrives in the mail six weeks later and you swap it out. Done. You do have to specify the reason why you want that particular sequence of characters – I would suggest “Vehicular Thomas Crowne Affair.” Most plates have up to seven alphanumeric chars. Using O’s, 0’s and D’s there are a total of 2187 possible permutations for each state. Get your plate while it’s available! If you dig this technique, then digg this technique.

UPDATE 1/6/07: so this post has generated quite a local media frenzy while I was away on vacation. It made the Reddit homepage then was referenced from a Tribune article, TheNewspaper.com, and then yesterday Channel 3 and ABC Channel 15 interviewed me. I’ll be on KFYI talking about photo radar and the controversy of defeating it via this method and why I think it’s justified. I have not yet read the study on the 101 – if anyone knows where it can be found I would love to see the results and more specifically how it was conducted and how the researchers are interpreting the data. Call in to KFYI tonight at 7pm and chime in with your piece to take part in this discussion- I don’t see the phone # on their site but listen on AZ AM 550 and I’m assuming they’ll announce it. Thanks for everyone below who took the time to voice an opinion. From the comments below it’s clear that people have strong opinions one way or another and it should be a lively discussion.

LicensePlateOpEdarticle.jpgUPDATE 1/7/07: big thanks to Roberta Gale of KFYI for having me on her radio show last night. And here’s a salty op-ed piece from the Tribune. Betty Conklin clearly needs to switch to decaf and check her facts- a 16yr driving record with one ticket and one accident is hardly reckless.

This concludes the experiment. I registered the JumpBox vanity plate and will retire the OD00D0O plate when the new one arrives. It was never about evading the law or shrugging responsibility. It was about calling attention to photo radar and encouraging people to protest it. I have confirmed my suspicion before ever testing it on the road- the registration they issued me for my truck doesn’t even match the plate. It didn’t take photo examiner error for this technique to be effective- they err’d before the plate left ever the factory… Anyways, thanks for all the comments- I’m glad this experiment helped provoke some thought and stir people to consider some of the flaws with photo radar. It will be interesting to read the details of the independent study on the 101 photo radar safety survey when they finally publish it.

UPDATE 1/30/07- So this is the last update to this post- here is the new plate that arrived yesterday and has been swapped out for the 00DODO0 one – I’m happily sporting this one now but will consider changing to a new plate for all of ’07 for a six-digit sponsorship fee… ;-)


Here is the footage from the ABC “Good Evening Arizona” interview:

My favorite hate emails so far have been the ones where people say “what if someone is planning to commit a felony? You’re helping them get away.” Sorry, but which is more likely: that somebody planning to commit a serious crime will order a creative license plate then wait 6wks for it to arrive, or to just put duct tape over their plate and go do it? Oh crap I just told people how to put tape on their plate… c’mon people. I’m glad this experiment caused a stir and provoked some thought on the hypocrisy of photo radar. Aparently it made it all the way to Houston – sweet!

UPDATE 9/24/08: So the company behind the photo radar in Phoenix (Redflex) is more evil than I originally imagined. Apparently now they’re implementing active scanning of license plates of every vehicle that passes through one of their cameras, OCR’ing the plate and comparing it against a police database (cue Minority Report music).

Oct 10

I use the del.icio.us service for my bookmarks and make a habit of tagging the things that I don’t have time to read yet want to come back to with the “ToRead” tag. When facing a long plane flight you can certainly bring traditional reading material to fill your time but I like to catch up on the current information that seems to get neglected when I have an internet connection. The easy trick to do this is to open your “ToRead” taglist in del.icio.us and if you’re using Firefox as your browser run down the list of links and right-click “open in new tab” for each item.



You can use this same trick on a folder of bookmarks as well and it’s even easier since it allows you to open an entire set of bookmarks in new tabs with one click. I have a folder of bookmarks called “Time Wasters” that consists of links for non-essential leisure reading. I like to grab the homepage of each site and cache it in my browser before leaving for the airport. This allows me to catch up on a bunch of mindless stuff on the plane and if I run across a story in the air that I want to read more about, I select the text and drag it to the desktop (on a Mac this logs both the text as well as the source of the content) so I can come back to it later.

You can use this technique of opening a bunch of web pages on any web-based service that isn’t making use of AJAX to refresh itself. It works with Bloglines though the navigation on the left side will eventually die because it uses AJAX – the right frame with the content should remain in tact however. Gmail does not work with this trick because of its heavy reliance upon AJAX. If you find other creative uses of this tactic, please share them here.

UPDATE: no sooner do I publish this when I find this article on lifehacker. That proposed method is more automated but windows-specific. This trick with the tabs will work on any platform that supports Firefox and the files cached locally will automatically be cleared out (ie. it means you can avoid the manual process of removing them once you are finished reading them and instead just close the tabs).

Sep 14

togoFoodTrick11.jpgIf you find yourself driving alone with fast food that has spill-able contents like soups or primarily-liquid dishes in boxes, here’s a neat trick you can use to avoid from spilling your food. Take the “rabbit ears” of the bag, roll down your passenger-side window slightly, poke the knotted portion of the bag out the window and close it so it pinches the bag and suspends your food. You now have your own “gyroscopic to-go food transport pendulum” (?!?) that keeps your food balanced upright as you take turns on the way home. I came up with this technique while grabbing to-go Japanese the other night.

togoFoodTrick21.jpgOf course you look like an idiot driving with rabbit ears hanging out your window but hey, priorities… I had a bag that had a big container of miso soup in it and found myself holding it upright by grabbing the top with my right hand while driving home. It occurred to me that the window could achieve the same function so I tested it and was pleased with how well it worked.
*Note – Do not sue McDonalds or myself if you happen to spill a cup of hot coffee on your lap while using this technique. Think “passenger’s side when there’s no passenger.” It may keep your food from tipping over on the seat next to you, but it could also turn nasty if the window isn’t clamped tight enough. Use this trick at your own risk!!


Aug 11

StarbucksGreenTeaHack1.jpgSo I think I’ve broken the code on the green tea at Starbucks. By the way I’m addicted to this drink. Every day at 3pm I jump in my car and make the pilgrimage to the closest dealer –ahem, I mean Starbucks– to get my venti unsweetened shaken green tea. This habit which costs me $2.11 each day has roughly the same financial impact as the nicotine addiction for the smoker that consumes a pack of cigarettes every day (granted it’s a little bit healthier).

I had a good idea of what I thought was in their tea so I experimented a bit with making it on my own and I believe I have perfected the mix. I knew there was an echinacea flavor in there and I notice they use a syrup for the mix which seems to have a faint honey taste. Here’s the simple recipe I’ve arrived at:

  • two bags of green tea
  • one bag of echinacea
  • one teaspoon honey
  • one quart water

Brew this up, then ice it and I challenge you to do a taste test and pick the one that’s the Starbucks mix. You can get the antioxidant Celestial Seasonings Green Tea online 40 pouches for $6 and 20 pouches of the Echinacea for $4. The venti size at Starbucks is 16oz (1/2 quart) so for $13 (tea plus the honey – prices online are similar to store prices), you can get 40 servings. Assuming yours is a daily habit at Phoenix prices, ignoring gas and time savings, that translates to roughly $50 in savings per month. Plus you don’t have to deal with Starbucks zombies. If you are as addicted to this stuff as I am, this home brew trick just might save you enough money to be able to afford the green tea anonymous rehab treatment you will undoubtedly need. I’ll see you at the next session.

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