New Article at AskMen: Launching a Startup

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If you follow me on twitter, facebook, or this blog, you’re aware that I’ve been peppering the interwebs with news of my new startup, datesocial. This week at AskMen, I talked about some of the perceived roadblocks to starting a business, and hopefully motivated some people with ideas to get up off their asses and actually execute them. A snippet:

You don’t need (much) money

The biggest barrier to entry in the startup world is the perception of cost, and at one time that was a very real barrier. If you wanted to open a store, you needed retail space and product to sell. If you wanted to manufacture something, you needed materials and equipment. Thanks to the internet, that cost barrier has morphed into more of a cost speed bump, especially if you’re looking to provide a service rather than a good of some kind. Datesocial’s landing page is hosted by launchrock, a free service for startups. Customers will register and pay for events through eventbrite, which is free to use and allows you to pass on its (incredibly modest) service fees to your customers. Facebook and Twitter are where we’ve done most of our marketing, and those are, of course, free. I’ve paid for a domain name, a logo design, some business cards and a few traffic pushes on fiverr. Our gross investment at this point is right around $100. That’s a weekend’s worth of dinner and drinks. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you read about tech startups raising millions of dollars in funding, but if you’re willing to hack it at the start, you simply don’t need that.

I ended the article by saying I could go on for another 2,000 words, and that wasn’t an exaggeration. One thought that I did want to share, however, is the notion of technology and the role it plays in the startup world. Everyone, so it seems, wants to create a “tech startup”, a new app, a new website, etc. It’s all you read about at Valleywag, TechCrunch and whatnot, and it’s very easy to get caught up in the idea that a new business has to be cutting edge or rely on some kind of new technology. It doesn’t. The core concept of a business is finding a void with your consumers and then filling that void. You can do that by offering something that no one’s ever seen before, or you can take an existing model that’s broken and perfect it. It’s very rarely a tech problem.

When my wife and I were conceiving datesocial, our first thought was “Oh shit, we need a website and neither of us know how to design or build one.” We built a landing page at launchrock, but we were still focused on tech, tech, tech. We were building a startup, so we assumed it had to be a “tech startup.” It didn’t, and it isn’t. I had an epiphany when I was talking with my friend Ryan Melogy, co-founder of faithstreet. He said something to the effect of “Dude, you’re essentially trying to throw a party. Your first step is throwing that party and getting the word out.” That’s when it kind of clicked. Datesocial isn’t a tech company. In fact, it’s the opposite of a tech company. It’s real life, it’s on the ground, and it’s about interacting with real people and helping them interact with each other. Sure, we rely on tech to facilitate things, but it’s a vehicle, not the core concept. That’s why I don’t understand sites like Grouper, who purports to match people based on some kind of algorithm that examines their facebook data. It sounds like a cool science project, but I believe in people’s ability to do their own matchmaking. When you start a company that claims to connect people using something as detached as a computer program, you’re either way too deep in the weeds or unwilling to get out there and mix with your customers.

If you have an idea for a business, provided it’s not an actual tech product, tech should not be your first concern. Your first priority should be creating a prototype and testing it. There are so, so many free or cheap tech products out there that will get you where you need to be, or at least get you to where you can launch a beta product. You can (and should) hack it at the start. Why sink thousands of dollars into a web designer and developer when there are sites like facebook, twitter, and eventbrite that can serve essentially the same purpose (and make it easier to tap into social media to boot)? Unless you’re running a true “tech startup”, it’s not a tech problem. It’s an execution problem, or a motivation problem.

Read the full article at AskMen

Introducing Datesocial: A New Way to Meet People in DC

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The other week, my wife and I were having outdoor drinks at a local restaurant, and the bar next door was hosting some kind of speed dating event. It looked lame as hell, but it also seemed like it was serving its purpose: against all odds, scores of singles were awkwardly meeting other singles. We half-jokingly said that we could come up with something better. Well, now we are: introducing datesocial, a fun, casual way to meet people in the Washington, DC area.

The problem with speed dating is that it’s awkward as hell. You’re lined up shoulder to shoulder, and you have, what, 4 minutes tops to make an impression on someone (and vice versa)? If you don’t hit it off, you’re stuck with that one person for what feels like an eternity. If you do hit it off, when the bell rings and everyone plays musical chairs, you’re forced to watch and listen while a new guy or gal hits on the object of your desire. No thank you. Online dating is even worse. If your profile sucks, you could be Ryan Gosling and not get any hits. Even if your profile game is solid, with so many people it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack made exclusively of needles. Datesocial is here to fix all that. Our official blurb:

No awkward speed dating, and no online profiles. Datesocial brings groups of guys and girls together to make meeting people fun and laid back, the way it should be.

At datesocial events, 20 guys and 20 girls are split into groups of four each. Register with up to three friends, or come stag (we’ll make sure you have a group). Each group of guys spends about 12 minutes talking to each group of girls – long enough to make an impression, but not so long as to make things awkward. At the end, turn in your card with up to 5 people you’d like to see again. If there’s a mutual match, we’ll re-introduce you via email within 24 hours.

Right now we’re working with bars in the DC area to secure fun venues and awesome drink specials. Enter your email address now at datesocial.co, and you’ll be among the first to know when we launch with our first event.

Unlike dating sites or quasi-dating services like Grouper, we don’t have the audacity to say that an algorithm can predict who you’ll hit it off with. Instead, we believe that people know themselves well enough to choose their own matches. If you find a match, great! If not, chances are you made some new friends, business contacts, etc. There’s always next time.

Right now we’re building a list of interested people prior to our first event. The best way you can help is a) sign up at http://www.datesocial.co if you’re in the DC area. There’s no cost or account to create, it’s just a mailing list for when we launch. b) share us with your friends. We’re on twitter and facebook, so follow us, give us a like, and share, share, share!

There’s nothing else like this out there, so we’re doing something big. We hope everyone’s as excited as we are.

Beyonce Doesn’t Want You to See This Picture

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Or any picture not provided to you by her publicists, to be correct. If you are a member of the press covering Beyonce’s tour, you may be bootylicious, and you may be crazy in love, but you may not take any damned pictures. Via Buzzfeed (ugh, sorry):

Outside photographers have been banned from the singer’s Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, which began in April and ends in September. So publications wanting to run photos from the show have to use pre-approved ones her management provides.

“Everyone has a camera at concerts these days,” freelance photographer Kyle Gustafson told TBD.com at the time. “And it’s unfortunate that they are trying to crack down on the professional photographers. People that are given photo access have more restrictions than people sitting in the front row with their cameras and their flashes popping off.”

I don’t have a problem publishing the above photo, for one because I’m not a journalist. And two, fuck Beyonce. Beyonce Knowles Carter is a rare talent, a beautiful woman, and deserves at least some credit for promoting the third wave feminism of the early aughts. That said, in terms of our greater cultural cannon, she Doesn’t Fucking Matter. She didn’t create a new genre of music, nor did she perfect an existing one. To my knowledge, she’s no great humanitarian. She’s just a talented artist and a marketing genius. If anything, she should be thrilled that anyone still wants to take her picture 15 goddamned years after the release of her first hit single.

Obviously, when you hit a certain level of fame, you begin to believe that the rules governing society don’t apply to you. That’s why Beyonce thinks it’s ok to hire a videographer to follow her around for 16 hours per day, and why she thinks it’s ok to tell the free press (the reason she is famous to begin with) that they aren’t allowed to do press things on her tour which, incidentally, I would not have known was going on had I not read about it in the press. As to her motivations behind the crackdown, who knows? Being caught in unflattering poses would make her seem more “real” and “accessible”, but I think by now it’s clear that Beyonce sees herself as someone to be worshiped, not someone “of the people” (to be fair, many of her fans agree). Maybe she’s just getting older and doesn’t want to be reminded of it.

It’s also possible that for whatever reason (being married to Jay Z, having met the president a few times), Beyonce thinks she is an Important Person, someone who actually has the power to dictate the actions of the press. This is false. No celebrity is bigger than the press. The press creates them, and the press tears them down. You would think she’d have figured that out by now.

New Article at AskMen: Be a Grownup and Enjoy Wine

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Wine is a beautiful thing. My wife and I started using wine as our go-to because it’s relatively cheap, and now we’re members at two (2) local wineries. For three seasons out of the year, I can’t think of a better weekend activity. It’s not nearly as yuppie and pretentious as you might imagine, though you can pretend it is if that’s your prerogative. It’s cheap. It’s social. It’s informative. Depending on where you are, it can even be a little historic. Virginia, for instance, has been producing wine for about as long as Virginia’s been a thing. Anyway, even though there’s no reason wine can’t be enjoyed by drinkers of all ages, it’s a little daunting for younger adults. That’s why I wrote this weeks column at AskMen.com with those readers in mind. A snippet:

Provided you have a handful of wineries within, say, an hour or two of your residence, there are a couple of ways you could go about visiting them. You can absolutely load your Forerunner beyond capacity with your bros, cue up a sick playlist on your iPod and let your freak flag fly. Jam out to the Black Keys. Pretend not to like it when “Call Me Maybe” plays. Laugh when Deanna Carter’s “Strawberry Wine” comes on, because LOL, guys, we’re going wine tasting! Then cry a little, because if you listen to the words, that song is actually pretty sad.

You could certainly do all that, or you could stop being a moron and go wine tasting with a single female, the way God and condom manufacturers intended. Women love wine tasting, probably more than they love wine itself. True fact, going wine tasting ignited the romance between me and the wife with whom I am now blessed (or saddled, it’s too soon to tell). It’s also a fine date alternative to coed bocce or kickball or whatever other contrivance young adults use as an excuse to cling to their youth and drink inhuman quantities of cheap beer.

Read the rest at AskMen here. Give it some facebook love, because right now it’s getting beat out by an article called “How to Lose Man Boobs.” If you are someone who enjoys reading things that are good, you simply cannot abide that.

Please do not Smoke. It is Bad For Business.

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I am a smoker. That is, I am addicted to taking small paper tubes stuffed with impossibly dry tobacco and God knows how many toxic chemicals, lighting their ends on fire, and inhaling the resulting smoke. Whichever of our prehistoric ancestors first thought to light a plant on fire and then breathe in its vapors was equal parts genius, daring, and probably mentally handicapped. Regardless, if you’re a smoker, you get it. That reassuring rush that somehow calms your nerves while simultaneously increasing your heart rate is second to none. If you’re not a smoker, I should say that the momentary buzz is not nearly good enough to warrant starting. Smoking, like getting shot or struck by lightning, is very detrimental to your health.

Despite being a smoker, I’ve never been a big “smoker’s rights” kind of person. Not allowed to smoke in a bar anymore? Fine with me. Don’t want me to smoke near a door or window or whatever? Ugh, ok, you’re kind of being a pussy about it but if walking 15 feet means it annoys you less, I’ll do it. I avoid smoking near children, lest a minute wisp of second-hand smoke reach their lungs or skin, stunting their growth or giving them asthma or whatever other health defect their parents can blame the smoke for in place of their own inadequate, worrisome genes. If I insist on burning and inhaling a smelly, unhealthy thing, I will concede your right to not be forced to also inhale that smelly, unhealthy thing. As long as we’re outside and there’s sufficient distance between us, all should be quiet on the Western Front.

That’s the precise reason why I chose to rent an apartment with a balcony. I can be outdoors without having to go all the way downstairs, and yet the design and location of the balconies ensure that my neighbors are sufficiently protected from the noxious fumes that hang around for a second and then disperse harmlessly into the atmosphere. Drinking beers, smoking cigarettes, and listening to music on my balcony is one of my favorite summer pastimes, right up there with golf and baseball. Well, according to the do-gooders who manage my apartment building, that’s all about to change. The following is an email sent out to all residents (emphasis mine):

Dear Valued Resident of Archstone Courthouse Plaza:

In Fall of 2012, [Apartment Name] began the conversion to a smoke free community. With the recent change in ownership, I wanted to make you aware that we do intend to continue the conversion to smoke free living. This will prohibit smoking in individual apartments (including balconies and patios), any common areas (both indoor and outdoors), as well as within 25 feet of the community. We will continue implementing and enforcing this policy immediately, and a smoke free lease addendum is now a part of all lease agreements signed under [Management Company]. This transition will take time, as current lease agreements do not contain the smoke free addendum and will not until the lease has expired. All new leases and lease renewals will contain the smoke free addendum. You will find the smoke free addendum below for your review, so you can familiarize yourself with the policy and restrictions. We appreciate your patience and support while we continue to implement this policy. Please feel free to contact the leasing office with any questions or concerns or simply reply to this email.

SMOKE-FREE LEASE ADDENDUM
This Smoke Free Lease Addendum (“Addendum”) is dated and effective as of the date on the Residential Lease – Term Sheet (the “Term Sheet”) to which this Addendum is attached and made a part of (“the Lease”) and is made by and between Lessor and Resident for the Premises at the Community identified in the Lease.

You acknowledge that the building in which the Premises is located, and the Community as a whole, are smoke-free living environments. You and all of your occupants and guests are prohibited from smoking anywhere in the interior or exterior of the Premises (including balconies and patios), or anywhere else in the Community. This policy is intended to benefit all residents of the Community. You are responsible fo r any violation of this non-smoking policy by you, or any of your occupants or guests.

You understand that we will take reasonable steps to enforce the smoke-free terms of the Lease and to make the Community a smoke-free environment. However, because our ability to police, monitor or enforce the terms of this Addendum is dependent on the full cooperation of all residents, occupants and guests throughout the Community, we cannot guarantee that the Premises or the Community will be totally free from secondhand smoke.

If you or any of your occupants and guests violate the terms of this Addendum, such violation will be deemed a material default under the terms of the Lease, and we will be entitled to exercise all rights and remedies at law or in equity, consistent with the provisions of the Default Remedies paragraph in the Lease.

Sincerely,

[Name]
Community Manager

Leading up to this, the gist of their smoke-free messaging was basically “You talked, and WE listened!” There were claims of surveys being administered, complaints, etc. Bullshit. I’ve lived in this building since July of last year, and not once were we surveyed, nor were we notified of any complaints of people being bothered by cigarette smoke. And really, I don’t mind not smoking on our common rooftop area, even if it is completely outside and people are just being dweebs about it. But balconies and patios? Get bent.

I would be fine with it if this were a litter issue, because in fairness cigarette butts are gross and no one should have to pick up after you as a smoker. I could even get behind some kind of public health issue, even if that would be unlikely because again, I’m only smoking outside and there is an overabundance of air outside that is not smoke. If either of those were the case, they could just say so. But they don’t. The third, bolded paragraph tells me all I need to know about their motivations. Roughly translated, it says “We’re making this a rule, but in terms of practicality we cannot enforce it. We’ll rely on the community to police itself, and even then there isn’t much we can do about it.” So, there won’t be any smoking police, wearing crossing guard sashes and little train conductor hats adorned with a picture of a cigarette with in a red circle and slash emblem, to blow the whistle on nefarious balcony smokers. Why, then, would they implement a policy they’re incapable of enforcing?

Marketing. It’s all marketing. As a gigantic residential property company, my apartment’s owners are always looking for ways to make more money. The easiest way to do that is to attract wealthier customers, and you know who’s wealthier than an unemployed blogger and his questionably employed wife? Families. Families and their dirty, filthy children. A spawning pair of humans in the DC area is likely to be older, have more income, and be willing to pay more for a nicer place. What’s more, a family with kids is far less likely to pack up and move, meaning they’ll bend over and take rent increases year after year. By being able to tout their community as “100% Smoke Free!”, the management company can do a much better job of attracting fussy, neurotic parents and their disease-ridden offspring, even if the claim isn’t “technically” true.

Usually, when people hear a smoker complain about ridiculous policies, they say something like “well, if you don’t like it then maybe you shouldn’t have picked up such a disgusting habit in the first place.” Blow me. I’m the first person to admit that my “habit” (addiction) shouldn’t infringe on others’ right to clean air. I’m also the first to admit that a company shouldn’t bullshit and inconvenience its residents just to pad the bottom line.

Please do not smoke. It is bad for business.

The Secret to the Best Damn Sandwich

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A great looking sandwich that I did not make.

This blog is many things (or few things, depending on whom you ask), but a food blog is not one of them. I hate food blogs, for the most part. Mostly because they’re all nearly identical: A picture of a quality I am simply not capable of producing, 600 words of nonsense and/or verbal autofellatio, and then a recipe. No thanks. But, as someone who occasionally eats food with a handful of readers/followers who probably eat food sometimes as well, every once in a while I’ll dabble in the topic.

Other than a laboriously created entree plate or maybe a nice salad, sandwiches are about the only food worth eating on a regular basis. Hot sandwiches, that is. A cold, mushy, lifeless sandwich is no one’s first choice. No one looks forward to the pitiful union of meat and bread shrouded in a brown paper bag that’s spent the last 4 hours getting even colder and mealy in the office fridge. Yuck. Given the choice, everyone wants a hot sandwich. The satisfying crunch of the bread, the gooey cheese and meaty juiciness dripping down your arm like the blood of a slain rival, and the warmth permeating your body like a glowing orgasm. A good, hot sandwich speaks to us in ways a Poet Laureate can only dream of.

The problem with making the perfect grilled sandwich is that the key players (bread, the stuff that goes between the bread) are at odds with regard to treatment. Getting the kind of crust that threatens to perform reconstructive surgery on your alveolar ridge requires high heat, like the sun with scarlet fever. On the other hand, melting and heating the filling calls for lower heat, the kind usually found in a loveless marriage or a flashlight that’s been on too long. Grill a sandwich too hot, and you wind up with two pieces of toast with cold stuff between them, which is technically a sandwich the same way RuPaul is technically a man. Grill it low and slow, and while the inside stuff will get warm and melty, the bread will brown without really crusting, because all the shit you stuffed in there makes it steam more than anything. Life is hard.

The solution, I’ve found, is simple and just as fast as grilling a sandwich the old fashioned (crappy) way: Just cook the ingredients separately! No, seriously. Below is the procedure for making the best goddamned grilled sandwich, period.

You’ll need:

– A griddle, or two (nonstick) pans
– Bread (two slices, something hearty and nothing frou-frous)
– Meat (as much or as little as you like, but don’t go crazy)
– Cheese (something that melts, nothing hard and nothing expensive)
– Your preferred sandwich spread (optional)
– Vegetation (also optional, and again don’t go crazy)
– Liquid fat (preferably melted margarine, but oil if you must. Not butter)

Step 1:
Pre-heat your griddle/pans. Go for medium, close to medium high heat. Don’t be a pussy about it. Modern non-stick pans are fine up to medium high. If you’re smart and own an electric griddle, peg it at about 375 degrees.

Step 2:
If using, apply a small amount of sandwich spread to both pieces of bread. I have a home made version of Shake Shack’s “shack sauce” that I like, or if I’m using salty redeye ham (the world’s greatest sandwich meat) some honey mustard is nice. If you’re boring, use mayo. Squirt or spoon a little on each half, and then make them love each other. Pretend you’re making your Barbie and Ken dolls makeout like you used to in 7th grade, and rub the two halves together so you get a thin, even coating of spread on each side. Leave your mayonnaise sandwich intact, for now.

Step 3:
Arrange your meat pile. I don’t care how you do it, as long as it comes out to be roughly the same size as the bread. If using deli meat, I like to fold them in half and create a beautiful cascading meat waterfall. If you’re some kind of sicko, you can just stack them together to form a dense, disgusting meat puck. As long as you can move the entire assembly in one piece with a spatula, go wild.

Step 4:
Grease your bread. Take your mayonnaise sandwich and brush (yes, use a brush) a thin layer of melted margarine on each side. Avoid melted butter or olive oil because they tend to burn a little too fast, and we are not making Cajun style sandwiches. We’re also not making health food, so two teaspoons or so of margarine won’t kill you.

Step 5:
Put your meat pile in one hot pan, and then immediately separate your greasy mayonnaise sandwich and put it in the other. Wait about 30 seconds.

Step 6:
Flip your meat pile and cheese it. While the cheese melts, now is the time to add any vegetation, if using. This is a grilled sandwich, not some towering monument to sandwich superfluity. Be minimal. Maybe some pickles, tomato, or onion (OR, not AND) on what will be the bottom half of the bread, and some green leafy stuff on the top. The spread should keep everything stuck while providing just enough of a barrier to keep the green stuff from wilting.

Step 7:
Assemble. Transfer your meat pile to the bottom piece of bread. Put the top piece on top. Use your spatula to take a peek at the bottom. Whichever piece of bread is not yet perfectly browned, flip the assembled sandwich to that side and finish it off.

That’s it. Cooking the bread with nothing more than a thin layer of sauce allows steam to escape, creating a perfect crust. Cooking the middle parts on their own not only cooks out the nasty meat water that comes with packaged cold cuts, but also gets them piping hot without burdening the bread with heat transfer duties. The result is an ideal sandwich. Even though it’s seven steps long, the entire process doesn’t take more than 2-3 minutes.

Happy eating.

Livestrong.com: The platonic ideal of responsible journalism

Pictured: Food Detective

Pictured: Food Detective

Good God do I hate Lance Armstrong. I hate that he’s famous for riding a bicycle. I hate that, despite being better at riding a bicycle than anyone else, he doped his balls off (literally) to win in grand fashion. I hate that he lied about it. More than anything, I hate the pseudo-charitable “foundation” he started (but is no longer associated with), Livestrong. Their website, livestrong.com, is lousy with pointless, link-bait bullshit. Today, they’re bringing you a piece of crack journalism in which they dig up some real dirt on Taco Bell.

Taco Bell doesn’t just head south of the border – it crosses all the way over into dangerous high-fat, high-sodium territory with some of the items on its current menu. You would think that for a four-item meal, the ingredient list would be pretty simple, but that doesn’t seem to be true for this crunchy beef taco.

Uh-oh. This can’t be good. You mean to say fast food tacos might not be health food? Has anyone alerted president Obama? Good thing they have “detective” Dr. Gayl Canfield on the case to tell us about what’s in these “tacos de muerte”.

BEEF: Ground beef should technically be just one ingredient, but this brown mixture is made up of more than 20 ingredients. The beef seasoning alone contains oat product isolated, salt, pepper, chili, onion powder, tomato powder, oats, soy lecithin, sugar, spices, maltodextrin, soybean oil, garlic powder, yeast extract autolyzed, citric acid, caramel color, cocoa powder processed with alkali, silicon dioxide, natural flavors, yeast, corn starch modified, and natural smoke flavor.

Yes, ground beef should just be one ingredient. But this is seasoned ground beef, you twat. I swear, the gall of a food purveyor, putting seasonings in things that claim to be seasoned. Lock them up and throw away the key.

CHEESE: The “real” in “real cheddar cheese” might as well stand for “really processed.” According to FoodFacts.com, the cheese in this taco is made of milk pasteurized cultures, salt, enzymes, annatto color and anti-caking agents.

So, it’s the same as the shredded cheese I buy at the grocery store? I also like how the “expert” is citing foodfacts.com. You can’t put it in the internet if it’s not real, right?

SODIUM: This taco contains something of a salt assault. Everything but the lettuce is loaded with salt. While some sodium is essential for your body to function properly, exceeding the limit of 2,300 mg per day — two of these tacos make up more than 25 percent of your daily allowance — may increase your risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke heart attack and other health issues.

Holy shit, I could get 1/4 of my daily sodium allowance by eating 1/3 of my daily meals? Math like that is why I don’t trust BIG TACO. Also, “salt assault”. Ha.

Among the most suspicious items in the group, Canfield notes, is the yeast extracts and natural smoke flavor. “The yeast may cause a similar reaction to MSG sensitivities,” she explains. “There’s also been some speculation that the natural smoke flavor made from beech wood may be toxic in humans, but much more research and evidence is needed before we can rule it a problem.”

This is what really pissed me off about this article, and this site in general. In order to present the article as something shocking or ground-breaking to get clicks, they paid an “expert” to use weasel words like “speculation” and “may”. So, natural smoke flavor “may” kill you. So “might” getting hit by a bus. If you want to tell me about potentially harmful additives, fine. But the headline “What’s Really Inside That Taco Bell Crunchy Beef Taco?” makes it sound like it’s going to be an expose on horse meat or something. It’s misleading, it’s link-baiting, and it’s irresponsible. On the sidebar, I see an article called “How To Lose Leg Fat In Thirty Days”, as though there’s some magic bullet for losing leg fat as opposed to other fat.

This just in, fast food might not be as wholesome and honest as you thought – kind of like Lance Armstrong.

If You Want to Outsell Food Trucks, Make Better Food

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Or, if you’re a DC restaurant, you bitch and moan about food trucks until the government steps in to fight your capitalist battles for you. After years of legislative uncertainty, new regulations for food trucks would effectively shut all but a handful out of DC’s busiest downtown areas. Trucks would be forced to compete for a handful of “lottery” parking spots. No other trucks would be allowed within a 500-foot radius of the allotted spots. The result is that most trucks would be forced to lower-traffic areas, and would probably go out of business. Why would DC’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs even consider legislation that would hurt small business owners and cost the city thousands in tax revenue? Is it a food safety issue? A public health concern? Nope. The city’s restaurants are just PMSing. Via Greater Greater Washington:

Many restaurateurs would prefer a downtown free from competitors, but it makes as much sense to give restaurants input on where food trucks can operate as it does to give food trucks control over prices restaurants can charge.

In heeding the concerns of restaurants, DCRA has strayed from the traditionally-accepted role of crafting regulations to preserve public health by attempting to control competition between businesses.

I get it. If you’re a restaurant, you aren’t thrilled about competition being able to park in front of your door. But what I want to know is which restaurants feel that they’re in competition with food trucks. If you are a regular, full service restaurant, complete with a full front of house and kitchen staff, you do not compete with food trucks. No one says “I was going to take my client to this nice restaurant, but let’s do a food truck instead.” So, not them. It’s also not the Subways, Chipotles, or McDonalds of the area. If you’ve ever been in downtown DC around lunch time, you know the chains aren’t hurting for business. Then who is it? who’s left that does most of their business during lunch, but offers neither a full-service environment nor the consistency of a chain? Ah, that’s right. Weigh ‘n pays.

If you’re not familiar with a weigh ‘n pay, it’s a combination of a buffet and sandwich counter that usually executes neither concept very well. The colloquial name comes from the fact that when purchasing food from the buffet, the price is determined by the weight. You weigh, then you pay. And oh, what a buffet it usually is. Imagine a spread of American and Chinese favorites, all either glopped in sauce or fried beyond the point of recognition. A weigh ‘n pay is no one’s first choice, reserved for when you’re super hungover or in search of a meal that matches the depths of your own personal failures. It should come as a surprise that tiny, mobile trucks are able to out-perform a brick and mortar establishment with a full kitchen and pantry, but for anyone who’s eaten at a weigh ‘n pay, it doesn’t.

The chief complaint among “restaurant owners” is that they pay property taxes to the community, while food trucks do not. Besides being an incorrect argument (food trucks pour plenty of money into the community through other things like parking tickets and sales taxes), it’s a pointless one. Brick and mortar establishments pay property taxes because they, in fact, have property. They offer space where their customers can dine, safe from the elements. They have full kitchens that (in theory) allow them to prepare a greater variety of food. They have refrigerators and freezers that should allow them to save money by buying in greater quantities. All of these things (storing, preparing, and serving food in the same place) should create economies of scale that allow them to offer food at market prices but for a higher margin. Apparently none of that is happening, because they’re getting beat out by a bunch of guys cooking food in the back of a truck.

Food truck operators have to store and prep food in one place, and then finish and serve in another, from a truck. Space does not allow for a support staff. Rules don’t allow them much time to settle in early in order to finish prepping. If an appliance in a restaurant breaks down, it’s an inconvenience to overcome. If anything breaks down on a food truck, they don’t make money that day. Still, food trucks consistently churn out better food than the average weigh ‘n pay, because the proprietors care. Weigh ‘n pays could probably obliterate food trucks by using cheaper, fresher ingredients and preparing them thoughtfully, but that would require planning, and work. Instead, rather than let the market decide who succeeds and who fails, DC restaurants would rather have the government create artificial barriers to entry.

If you want people to choose your food over a competitor’s, start making better food than them. If all else fails, the food trucks can always come to Arlington.

11 Things Your Bar Customer Won’t Tell You

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Bartending, despite being a fine profession, is often a thankless one. I’m not a bartender, but I’ve worked in restaurants and customer service before. Everyone who has knows that while most customers are decent and benign, some are nightmares. It comes with the territory. “The customer is always right” is more of a guideline than a rule, and having to explain to a customer that they are wrong without sending them into a fit of rage can be a real headache. Still, if you’re in a position that requires you to deal with other human beings, if you want to keep your job it’s necessary to learn to navigate those waters. That is, unless you’re a bartender, apparently.

Buzzfeed just published this article called “11 Things Your Bartender Won’t Tell You”, and as far as I can tell it’s the rantings and ravings of a group of people who believe that they aren’t required to practice good customer service by virtue of being gatekeepers to the liquor I’d like to pay them for. Here are some highlights (emphasis not mine):

Do not try to get our attention. At all. We know you’re there, and we know the order in which people got to the bar. We know you want something. That’s why you’re at the bar. Do not wave. Do not yell.”

Hey, your bar’s on fire, but I’m going to respect your desire for privacy in a public setting.

“Honestly, the best method is to be obviously ready to order without asking a ton of annoying questions. Don’t worry, if they make eye contact, they’ll get to you. If you wanted to not wait for a drink, go to 7-11.”

And I guess if you wanted to make below minimum wage without interacting with people, go to the unemployment office

“Unless it is entirely the wrong drink, do not send it back. if your martini needs a ‘smidgen more olive juice,’ then shut up. Make it yourself next time.

“Have your friend drink it.”

“Hey Ralph, thank you for this report that I paid you a ridiculous markup to produce, but it’s not quite right. Can you revise it?”

“No. Make it yourself next time.” Or,

“No. Give it to Gene in the procurement department. He likes his reports that way.”

“Paying with a credit card is annoying if you are buying one drink. If you’re buying a round or keeping a tab open, it’s completely reasonable. Customers often don’t realize how much money bars lose on credit card fees.”

Yes, exchanging money for goods and services in a way that doesn’t require you to test the limits of your education by doing simple arithmetic is a real ball-buster. No, I don’t know how much money the bar loses on credit card exchange fees, but I’m confident it’s less than the profit they make off my $10 cocktail.

“I worked in a Boston pub, so anything that required more than three ingredients was annoying. It was the type of place where you ordered a beer or a gin and tonic. Simple stuff. Not a cosmopolitan-type place.”

Oh, I didn’t realize that your full bar stocked with lots of high-margin spirits and cordials for which I’m willing to pay you money was just for show. My mistake, scratch the cosmo and make it a bud light. From a bottle, please. I wouldn’t want you to have to wash a glass.

The best way to tell if your glasses are clean is to look at the lacing as you drink your glass of beer — basically, does the head kind of stick to the side as you drink it, making little rings around the glass as you drink it? If it does, you’ve got a really clean glass.”

Oh, you don’t wash glasses. Nevermind, then. Draught is fine.

“I personally hate making Long Islands, because I know that people are drinking them just to get fucked up.”

I personally hate manufacturing cars, because I know people are buying them just to drive places. The nerve. Sometimes I wish that there was a source of authority that would make someone stop driving their car if they abused the privilege or used it in an unsafe way.

There’s more, so click over to buzzfeed for more top-secret insider info like “don’t ask them for free drinks.” Since I’ve seen dozens of lists like this, I decided to make my own, only in reverse. The following are 11 things your bar customer won’t tell you:

1) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

2) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

3) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

4) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

5) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

6) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

7) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

8) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

9) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

10) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

11) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

That should cover it. A bartender deserves, like any other human being who hasn’t wronged you in any way, to be treated with a certain amount of dignity, patience, and respect, especially considering that they’re working when we see them. The same applies to a bartender’s customers, even if they happen to not be their platonic ideal of a patron. At my job, I can’t simply step back and be an asshat because I don’t like the people and/or practices I’m paid to deal with. The same should apply to bartenders.