Cutting Down at Starbucks

I’m a Starbucks junkie. Not because of their coffee quality or any acceptable reason like that (my palate is none too discerning), but because I like that I can pay for coffee with my phone and earn digital stars.

Caveat: as a college student trying to cut back on spending and calories, Starbucks isn’t the best choice for me. I try not to go as often anymore, but it’s difficult to avoid when my school’s campus center has a branch right int the middle (although the long lines usually make me think twice). Anyway, here’s what I do to try to save a buck and a few hundred calories.


As a coffee newbie several years ago, I broke into the Starbucks scene with their sweet, practically-not-even-coffee Frappuccino line. These drinks are more milkshake than coffee, they are cold and delicious, and they are about $5 each.

While I can take a straight espresso or black coffee once in awhile, it’s not exactly my cup of tea (actually, tea is something I prefer to drink straight most of the time). But $5 for a drink every time I went to Starbucks? Not justifiable. So I switched to caramel iced coffee with milk. With this drink I got the cut in the coffee taste I needed and saved about $2.50.


Recently I was convinced to start counting calories as a way to regulate intake. I’ll admit it, I overindulge in treats and keeping track of what I consume has been eye-opening (it’s been helping, although it doesn’t always stop me). Remember the caramel iced coffee with milk I so happily switched to? Well, each of those, although about 300 calories less than a Frappuccino, still clocks in at 120 calories (for the grande), which does take a chunk out of my daily allowance.

In order to cut down again, I had a brief flirtation with artificially sweetened Americanos, which cost the same as iced coffee. All the water added didn’t leave a lot of room for milk, which I figured was good anyway as I thought milk was the primary suspect in the calorie count. But, today I figured out I was wrong! It’s not the milk, it’s the caramel syrup they add into the iced coffee (which never really stands out, anyway). I got an unsweetened iced coffee with milk and enjoyed my 40 calorie treat (even calculating with whole milk, the total doesn’t exceed 40 calories for a grande sized drink). Going on to add a packet of artificial sweetener gets the job done just as well as a pre-sweetened ice coffee.

Anyway, that was my Starbucks evolution. I still spend way too much money on pop coffee drinks, but at least now it doesn’t make too much of a dent in my daily calorie allowance. If you need a coffee-esque drink that’ll dent (but not break) the bank, which is sweet(ish) for the less-coffee-minded palate, and which has as few calories as possible at Starbucks, consider an unsweetened iced coffee (with or without milk). If you need something a little stronger you can go the espresso route. Now just don’t get me started on the pound cakes. I’m a lost cause.


From PC to Mac and back again

For the past month or so, I’ve been using a MacBook Pro that was assigned to me at work, since the systems I’ll be working on are all Mac-centric (and let’s be real, Ruby on Rails development is easier on Macs anyway — Ruby comes preinstalled! wow!). It took a little getting used to, but I was grateful to have the laptop especially because several keys on my Lenovo laptop had stopped working and I had sent it into the service center (which was a drag-out, complicated, monthlong debacle) to get it fixed.

I finally got my Lenovo back on Friday, with most of the stickers intact (sadly the ones near the keyboard had to go as they replaced most of the bottom part of the laptop), and I was very happy.

That is, until I started using it again.

Let’s just talk user actions, first. It was a little difficult to get into the flow of Windows 8 again, after being used to cmd-tab and cmd-` to navigate and pulling up terminal (which actually is a full featured command line interface!) or any other app with spotlight. Windows 8 might look more organized, but out of the chaos of windows that makes up a Mac screen, a workflow was born. And I love it.

Moving onto actual functionality — I had, in Don Norman’s terms, made affordances for the jumpiness of my trackpad, which even for PC laptops isn’t very good (my old HP laptop had a better one). Then look at the beautiful functionality of my loaner MacBook which is a few years old now, with its seamless multitouch gestures, and the contrast is stark. Not to mention the fact that on OSX a window doesn’t have to be active for you to scroll through it — this really saves a lot of time. (Someone tell me there’s a way to turn this on in Windows 8.)

I still love my little Lenovo, and it’s more comfortable to use since it has all my software and I can finally stop watching Netflix on my phone (since it felt too guilty to use it on the Mac). Plus, it is way lighter than the MacBook and definitely gives my shoulder a break. However, I can see where all the fawning over Apple products comes from. It may be taken to extremes, but the fact is that Apple continues to work on and improve a core line of products while competitors crank out new laptop after new laptop, none of which really hit full marks in all categories. I mean, Apple isn’t without its fault, and it takes some getting used to but the user experience I’ve been having has been very positive.

Long Absence

So my blog has been functionally dead for some months now, and in the meantime a lot has happened: I graduated with my bachelor degree in computer science; I went home for the summer and had some great diving adventures; and I started my master’s degree in computer science in August.

I drafted a couple of blog posts over the summer, but due to the lack of internet access back home they never saw the light of day. One was a scuba day highlight reel, and the other was a review of a local internet cafe. Not sure if I’ll post either, but I may post some photos from the summer in the near future (once I can dredge them up).

Anyway, I am back, and I’m starting to use a lot of new programming tools and — dare I say — languages in the graduate assistantship I have started. I’d like to talk about that journey in particular, to help myself puzzle out and document everything I’m getting into. That post is forthcoming, but in the meantime, take this image as a hint:


Moving Directory: Replace-Merge-Skip instead of Just Replace

I’ve been using a Mac extensively for the first time at my new job, and I have to say it’s been quite the elegant experience. Installation by copying directories? Beautifully functional touchpad gestures? A gigantic glass screen across which my windows may splay comfortably? Yes, yes, and yes!

Yet, besides the strangeness of how touchpad scroll gestures are the opposite for Mac (swipe down to go down) and my Lenovo laptop (swipe up to go down, like on a tablet), the thing that has jumped out the most is that when you paste a copy of a directory in Finder, the automatic behavior is to replace the old one (after a prompt, of course). That just seems counterintuitive, especially where Windows gives you the option of merging, skipping, replacing, etc. I never realized how I depended on this functionality until it just wasn’t there anymore.

A helpful thread on suggested some downloadable apps which would add the functionality; someone mentioned that you could do this easily on command line (although I’m sadly still a cmd line rookie — but I used my first sudo command today :D). Someone else mentioned that it is now built into OSX Lion, though you have to hold down the option key after the replace prompt comes up, which doesn’t seem like too much of an improvement for users who wouldn’t know it was even there (plus I’m running an older version of MacOS, so it doesn’t work for me — sad face).

Another person on the thread said that this replace behavior is probably because application bundles are simply directories and they need to be able to install (move and replace older files) cleanly, but one feels like there could be an everyone-wins solution, like copying into the Applications folder would have replace as a default, whereas into other folders it would prompt the user to merge/update/skip/replace.

Well, in any case, it seems unlikely that anything further than the “hold down ‘option'” solution will be implemented in Finder, so what we all need to do is become command line experts 🙂

(I’m not the only person in 2014 thinking about this, so if you’d like a workable solution instead of a talking piece, there’s a great post on, Merging Directories (Folders) on Mac OS X).)

Spring Break

So, it’s about that hallowed time again. I have another week left before I get off for break, and I was thinking about doing a post to help out spring breakers coming to Oahu. I like to consider myself somewhat between a local and a transplant, since I’ve lived here a few years now, and I know a little bit of where to go and what to do. I was thinking something along the lines of an “insider’s guide” type post, perhaps about Waikiki, Honolulu, or even Oahu in general. There are a lot of different aspects to write from though — for people interested in beaches, nightlife, hikes, local treasures. Therefore, if anyone has any particular requests I’m open 🙂

My journey into the serious blogosphere

Well, it’s a little after midnight and I’ve created my first WordPress blog. Not my first blog by far. I’ve been on the internet for quite a while…

This blog is borne out of a desire to put the pedal to the metal, my nose to the grindstone; to get myself motivated to be productive in some way. It’ll also help me hone my writing, which is always useful. I have a big problem with motivating myself to do things, so perhaps a blog will hold me accountable.

But I haven’t released my stats yet, if you will: well, I’m a computer science student; I’m about to graduate with a BS degree from the University of Hawaii, in May; I’m interested in way too many things and not really a master of any of them. Following that, be forewarned that this blog may end up all over the place, but I’ll always try to make it interesting.

Oh, and one last thing you may be wondering: cactusea? What is that? Well, in my blog header (I’ll attach the picture for posterity should the layout change) you can see cacti backed by the sea. Interesting juxtaposition, I thought to myself, when I came across the tableau on a hike a couple weeks back. The portmanteau came from a friend who shortened my Instagram caption of “the cactus and the sea”.

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