Consuming even more

The few people who pay any attention to my “currently reading” list on the sidebar may have noticed that it hadn’t changed in a while. It’s not because I’m a really slow reader, but because the site I use to update it, AllConsuming.net, was facing server problems. That was a minor annoyance to bloggers who use it and a major annoyance for Erik Benson, the site’s developer. The good news for the rest of us is that the crash inspired Erik to completely revamp the service with some great new features. He did this amazingly quickly, too.

When I first started using All Consuming back in September, 2003, I wrote that it made me “giddy with its niftyness.” Now the service is even niftier. Instead of being limited to a few predefined categories, users can organize their reading lists by creating their own sets of tags. For instance, I’m marking the books I’m currently reading with the tag “cbook” (for current book). I’ve set the single line of code that goes on the sidebar under “Currently Reading” to return only the books with that tag. This may sound complicated, but it’s pretty self-explanatory once you’ve set up an account with All Consuming.

So far, so what? The neat thing about the tags is that they can be anything a user wants them to be. If I want to display a list of economics books I like, I can give those books an “econ” tag and display them all by changing that one line of code and placing it wherever on my site I want to. It’s that easy.

The next improvement is the inclusion of music, movies, and other items available at Amazon; the old All Consuming was limited to books. By tagging the albums I’m currently listening to with “cmusic” and setting the code to display that tag, I added a “currently listening” section to my sidebar in a matter of minutes.

Another new feature is that each All Consuming account gets its own RSS feed. This makes it easy to keep up with what your friends or other bloggers are reading, listening to, etc. Just subscribe to their feeds and you’ll have automatic access to all the additions they make to their All Consuming accounts. Mine, for example, is http://www.allconsuming.net/person/JacobGrier/rss.

There are a few other positive changes, but those are the big three for me. Two of the old features I miss are the inclusion of the author (and now artist) on the individual items and the ability to use my Amazon Associates account when readers click on the links. Both of these are supposed to be added soon, along with some other goodies.

All Consuming is an excellent site that just got even better. Existing users’ data is saved; they just need to use the new code to get going with the new system. For bloggers who don’t yet publish reading/listening/viewing lists, All Consuming is probably the easiest way to add them. Sign up for the service here.

Coffee’s third wave

In the NPR piece about the National Barista Championship that I linked to last month, Murky owner Nick Cho referenced a “third wave” of coffee that is just taking shape in the U.S. He now has a full article about the concept up at CoffeeGeek:

…The idea is that the first wave of coffee across the country and around the world was the initial proliferation of coffee, which one might say peaked in North America during the post World War II era with freeze-dried coffee flooding the marketplace. During this time, coffee was ‘consumed’ more than it was ‘enjoyed,’ but at least people were drinking coffee.

The second wave is the introduction of espresso beverages to the world, as well as the elevation of overall coffee quality, abandoning all-robusta coffee in favor of the arabica species. Starbucks, the initial Juan Valdez Colombian coffee campaign, and the sudden ubiquity of espresso machines all over the continent are all part of this second wave.

So what of this ‘Third Wave?’ In an admittedly esoteric way, I usually refer to the ‘Third Wave’ as letting the coffee speak for itself. During the first two waves, we appreciated coffee for what it gives us: caffeine, a hot beverage to sip and enjoy a conversation over, a drink to modify with sweetener, dairy (or non-dairy) creamers, syrups, whipped cream, etc. The Third Wave is about enjoying coffee for what it is.

The beginning and end of the piece are specifically about promoting the newly formed Barista Guild of America, so many readers will want to scroll down to the section on the third wave for a good overview of the changes in labeling, training, equipment, and the role of the barista that will be required to make coffee all that it can be. The article is short and sweet — just like a perfect shot of espresso.

Behind the Accent

The new issue of Tunnel Vision, the Vanderbilt Student Communications alumni magazine, is now in the mail and available online. In it I profile Vanderbilt’s favorite Brit, Tim Boyd. Below that, Chad returns a favor and profiles me for my Alexander Award from last spring. The .pdf for the issue is here.

Welcoming Chad to D.C.

Congratulations are in order to Chad Wilcox, the newest member of the IHS team and D.C.’s libertarian community. Chad’s one of my best friends from Vanderbilt and I’m excited to see him leaving Nashville behind to enter the policy world here.

For more on Chad, click on over to his weblog, Quiet Declarations. Then add him to your bookmarks, blogroll, or Bloglines. And don’t forget to ask him all about this.

Hootie and the Blowfish, McGrouther and the Gelatinous Blindfish

And we’re back. After a long near-two weeks on the road, I’m back in Arlington, where I can finally get down to the important business of updating my blog, hanging out at Murky, reading books, and maybe even writing some things that people will pay me for. I was accompanied by a few friends for the drive from Nashville to here, which made the drive a lot more fun but also stretched it out quite a bit with things like a 45 minute breakfast at Hardee’s, a stop for me to pick up a magic performance table in Lebanon, TN, and night-time frisbee toss at a highway rest stop to try out a new light-up frisbee. The drive was capped off with me getting pulled over on I-66 in Fairfax and me getting out of the ticket for, I suspect, giving the officer such a ridiculous explanation for what why we were on a road trip.

Officer who has pulled me over for following another car too closely: So are you guys in a hurry to get somewhere?

Me: No sir, it’s just been a long day of driving. We’re coming home from a trip to Nashville.

Officer: Ah, what we’re you doing in Nashville?

Me, saying the first reason to come to mind: We went to a Hootie and the Blowfish concert.

Officer, laughing incredulously: You drove all the way to Nashville for a Hootie and the Blowfish concert?

As he laughed I ineffectually began to explain that there were other reasons, but by that time he was heading off to run my license and another car had pulled up. Soon another officer walked over and asked me to step out of the car. At this point I was expecting the worst, but his interrogation was pretty light. “So I hear you guys drove all the way to Nashville to see Hootie and the Blowfish?” He was laughing, so I agreed that this was a silly thing to do. He then asked if I had any explosives in the car (I didn’t) and sent a bomb-sniffing dog around it. The first officer came back, gave me a friendly warning instead of a ticket, and we were on our way.

I can’t know for sure, but my guess is that I owe my break to Hootie. Four guys traveling more than 10 hours for a Hootie concert, no girls in the car, and driving, of all things, a Pontiac Aztek, was probably enough strikes against us to make the officer decide that we had enough problems and that a ticket wasn’t necessary. So thank you, Darius Rucker. I’ll eat a Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch burger in your honor.

McGrouther and the Gelatinous Blindfish is not the name of a band, but it certainly should be. No, the gelatinous blindfish is a new addition to the Australian Museum Fish Site and another specimen from the NORFANZ expedition. Mark McGrouther sent me the link to this one while I was on the road, noting that a Mr. Blobby fan like me would like this one’s floppy jelly-like body and tiny eyes. Check it out here.

Notes from St. Louis

Imo’s Pizza: “The Square Beyond Compare” or “Cheese Whiz on a cracker”?

As regular readers of this weblog know, whenever I visit a city I usually have some idiosyncratic bit of local cuisine that I make a point of trying out. In Cincinnati it was Skyline Chili or Graeter’s Ice Cream or the Montgomery Inn’s baby back ribs. In Chicago, it was various coffee shops. In St. Louis, the single item on my list was Imo’s St. Louis style pizza. In contrast to the famed creations of Chicago or New York, you’ve probably never heard of St. Louis style pizza. That’s because Chicago and New York have done great things for the pizza art. St. Louis, in contrast, has not. The city took pizza one giant step sideways and somehow created a weird dish that’s surprisingly appealing to the locals, defining the way pizza is done there.

I say sideways because St. Louis pizza isn’t necessarily bad unless you walk into it with some preconceived notion of what pizza is supposed to be like. That’s what I did the first time I tried it with my family on a long-ago road trip when we all agreed it was terrible; Imo’s became synonymous with bad pizza for us for years to come. Then, a few years later, we were drawn to it once again upon our return to the city. “Could it have really been as bad as we remembered?” we asked ourselves. The theory had to be tested. The decision: Yes, it really was that bad. Well, maybe not that bad, but still pretty bad. Strike two for Imo’s.

Fast forward six years and I’m back in St. Louis for this current road trip. I’ve been bitten twice now, yet still I’m drawn in by Imo’s enchanting lure. I have to try it one more time to compare my childhood traumas to the reality of this St. Louis staple. I go in with an open mind this time. The result? It’s ok. The crust is thin and crunchy, the cheese sticks to the roof of my mouth in a not particularly pleasant way, and the flavor is nothing to write home about. But I can sort of see the appeal now. It’s not evil. It’s not delicious. It’s inexplicalicious. Next to bubble tea, it may be the single most inexplicalicious food product on earth, making no sense, achieving nothing great, but somehow demanding to be consumed at irregular intervals. All one can do is submit, enjoy the experience, and ponder the odd taste of the people of St. Louis.

What makes St. Louis style pizza special? The super thin crust and the round pie cut into square pieces are two of its notable aspects; the Imo’s website suggest these may have been subliminally inspired by founder Ed Imo’s pre-pizza job as a tile installer. What really makes Imo’s unique, though, is its use of Provel cheese. From the “Special Foods of St. Louis MO” webpage:

Provel cheese – Developed as a shelf-stable topping for the next entry (St. Louis style Pizza), it’s name may lead some to think it is a shorthand name for provolone. It is in fact a processed cheese of cheddar, swiss and provolone as Velveeta (or any other American cheese) is a processed cheese based on cheddar and colby cheese. I suspect that this then is were the name comes from: Pro(volone)vel(veeta). Not too bad on salad.

Who doesn’t like a cheese that’s known for its shelf stability? Lest my lukewarm review be construed as the last word, however, I think it only fair that we get some opposing viewpoints. Let’s start with Teruah’s one-star review on epinions.com:

Ever had Cheese Whiz on a cracker before?

Pros
Came in a nifty cardboard box

Cons
Terrible pizza

I will be the first to admit that I am probably biased when it comes to pizza having spent the first 20 years of my life in Chicago. One of the first things I looked for when I moved here was a good place for pizza. Every St. Louis native talked to raved about Imo’s pizza. I heard love stories of crust, sauce and cheese that I never dreamed could be describing a pizza. I ordered my first Imo’s pizza with great anticipation. After all it was a “St. Louis original”. Well let me tell you why it is an original. No where else in this country could make something so horrible and pass it off as pizza.

Let me start with their ‘famous’ crust. It is hard and brittle and I nearly cut the inside of my cheek while eating it. Their wonderful cheese is actually provolone [JG: No, it's Provel. Think of the shelf stability!] which any true pizza lover know is not pizza cheese. Their cheese is quite sweet and actually reminds one of Cheese Whiz. The sauce is not horrible. It is comparable to Pizza Hutt or Dominoes. The main problem I had with the sauce is that you can see it through the cheese. There is so little cheese you can see through to the sauce. They must know the cheese is terrible so they limit what they force poor hungry people to endure. I figure it’s a mercy thing.

The toppings are sparse and consist of precut prepackaged veggies or frozen meat parts. The pepperoni had little flavor and the onions were thin and stringy. I have not had chance to taste too many other toppings since I would rather eat cardboard dipped in ketchup rather than pay money for that stuff again.

I am often confronted by quizzical looks from the natives here when I express my dislike for their favorite pizza. I decided they must be brainwashed as children to eat it. Either that or they have not had the opportunity to try anything better. In any case I sort of pity them. One day I will take them on a field trip to Chicago and show them what they have been missing.

Recommended
No

That’s a little harsh. My pizza was far from lacking in the cheese department and I didn’t notice any deficiencies in the toppings, though that may be because they were preserved in the layer of Provel like eons old flies preserved in amber. But I digress. Let’s hear now from Imo’s defender Pattiboy13:

Imo’s pizza is great!

Pros
Great Pizza and Service

Cons
Very Busy On Weekends

The Bottom Line
I enjoy Imo’s because of their quality service and large menu of great tasting food.

Imo’s is one of my favorite places to order pizza from. Imo’s is the “Square Beyond Compare” when it comes to pizza. This St. Louis original is loved by many.

Imo’s is not the place to be if you only enjoy thick crusted pizza because they only make thin crust pizza. One of the many good qualities of Imo’s is that they have a large menu to order from. This menu will make any person happy. They serve hot and cold sub sandwiches, chicken wings, ravioli, salads, and much more! They have there own house dressing that is very good. They also allow you to buy glass bottles of the dressing to enjoy at home. Most Imo’s offer dine-in, carryout, and delivery. The best thing to do is go eat in an Imo’s so your food comes out hot from the oven.

On the weekends Imo’s gets very busy. I find it hard to get through to Imo’s because of their busy phone lines. When I do get through, the wait for the pizza is often 45-60 minutes long. This is the only time that Imo’s has slow service.

There are many other places to order pizza from such as Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s. My favorite overall has to be Imo’s because of their great tasting pizza and quality service.

Recommended
Yes

Nothing wrong with that review, but one may find it curious that in a post meant to defend Imo’s pizza he spent most of his time extolling the restaurant’s other virtues. I’ll let that be the last word in the debate unless anyone else who’s had the Imo’s experience wants to drop a note in the comments section. And if you’re feeling adventurous but can’t get to St. Louis, you can buy your own St. Louis pizza kit right here.

Non-pizza material begins here

Crazy as I am, I didn’t go to St. Louis just for the pizza. An even bigger draw was a lecture by renowned close-up magician Michael Close. Close is one of the most creative guys in magic and many of his creations have found their way into my repertoire; if you’ve ever run into me at a party and asked to see a trick, odds are good that one of the effects I performed came from Michael Close. I’ve been reading his commentary and material since picking up my first issue of MAGIC Magazine in 1997, so finally getting to see him perform in person was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.

(One of the questions I’m often asked when people find out I’m a magician is where magicians learn their tricks, so now’s a good time to mention that lecture tours are one common source of information. Well-known magicians will go on these from time to time, traveling across the country from magic club to magic club. Admission fees and additional sales of books, notes, videos, and props that are often pitched during the course of the lecture generally finance the stops. Quality varies greatly, but Close’s lecture is one of the better ones. He’s blogging about his tour here.)

My other purpose in going to St. Louis was to check out the coffee scene around Washington University. It was on the whole unimpressive, so I won’t go into detail on most of the shops I visited over the course of two days. Only one coffee shop, The Coffee House out west in Chesterfield, seemed to be really in touch with espresso culture, and I had a good time talking with the owner there and working behind the bar for a bit.

Closer to Wash U, the only place I went back to was the new Kayak’s Coffee. If dining establishments could reproduce sexually, Kayak’s would be the love child of Caribou Coffee and Vanderbilt’s X-treme C Room. The owners went for the ski lodge look, using lots of logs and natural wood chairs and tables throughout the place; kayaks and other outdoor sporting gear hang from the walls and ceilings; stickers from various ski companies adorn the La Marzocco espresso machine. A philosophy grad student I talked to hated the artificiality of it, but I thought the owners did a great job getting the image they wanted. Perhaps my Yooper roots make me a sucker for the log cabin look (the wood even comes from dead trees in Michigan forests). It was the only shop around the university that I visited on multiple occasions.

Kayak’s hasn’t been open long but it’s clear that they’ve become the place to contend with in the Wash U market. The shop is large yet was filled almost to capacity with students on a Tuesday night. It’s located right next to the school and offers free wi-fi access. They do this in a way I haven’t encountered before: to guard against customers camping out at a table without buying anything, the network can only be accessed with a user name and access code. These come printed on the receipt for free with a minimum order and are good for 100 minutes. When your time is up, you need a new receipt. I got the impression that in practice they’re pretty loose about the rules, but this does provide a way of allocating a scarce resource at peak hours and guaranteeing a steady flow of business from the laptop using population.

The one real downside to the shop was that they use an auto-tamping grinder. The owners obviously did their homework because they have great equipment. It’s obvious they had plenty of money to invest in the shop, too. Their attention to detail is impressive, yet they completely forego the opportunity to encourage good barista techniques by making their shot preparation such a hands off process. The result is that the espresso puck comes out with lots of dust, the shot pulls too long or too fast (at least the one I had did, even after the barista adjusted the grind and poured out the first shot he made), and on milk drinks the milk is steamed and poured in the Starbucksy milk-with-plops-of-foam kind of way. They’re still above average, but it’s disappointing to see a new shop get everything else right only to get careless with the keystone product.

So what does this mean? Lesson One: A coffee shop can invest in all the best equipment and still put out an inferior drink if it doesn’t have good training. Lesson Two: None of this necessarily matters if the shop is right off a university campus, offers free Internet access, and the competition is worse.

Coming up: no more coffee shop reviews, the end of these lengthy travel notes, fun with projectiles, and a new fish from Eternal Recurrence favorite Mark McGrouther.

Notes from Chicago

I spent the past weekend in Chicago for a seminar about public choice economics sponsored by Liberty Fund and the Institute for Humane Studies. Somehow I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to this intellectually stimulating event even though it seems I only write about coffee and frisbees these days. The seminar was composed of about a dozen legitimate academics (with, like, .edu email addresses and everything) and ably moderated by Duke University professor Michael Munger.

For the unfamiliar, public choice theory is the application of economic methods to the study of how political decisions are made. Rather than assuming a single entity called “government” that can act with a single purpose, it analyzes the politics through the actions of politicians, bureaucrats, voters, lobbyists, etc. Asymmetric information, self-interest, and poorly structured incentives can all subvert the process, leading to government failures akin to the market failures predicted by welfare economics. Public choice theory predicts when these failures are likely to occur, informing us about how government should be structured and how we should reasonably expect it to perform.

While technically a positive theory, it shouldn’t be surprising that its normative implications mesh well with libertarianism. After all, it provides a rigorous counterbalance to that naive form of analysis that supposes a government corrective to every economic ill. For this reason James Buchanan, one of the theory’s founders, aptly sums it up as “politics without romance.” Public choice doesn’t reveal that government never produces efficient outcomes, but it does have a way of increasing skepticism by applying stricter scrutiny to the political process than is usually done.

The conversation at the Liberty Fund seminar was slightly more constrained by theory than the previous one I attended, which was about whether the libertarian-conservative alliance still makes sense in a post-Cold War America. Nonetheless, our sessions were marked free-flowing and intelligent conversation about the readings and I walked away with a deeper understanding of the theory than I had prior to the conference. Government Failure: A Primer in Public Choice made for a good overview of the subject, while specific readings from Buchanan, Hayek, Madison, and others provided more specific insights and jumping off points. I’d also recommend Charlotte Twight’s Dependent on D.C. as a pessimistic but informative selection of case studies on how concealed transaction costs have led to an undesirable growth of government.

Like all Liberty Fund events, this one was a great way to spend a weekend: smart and interesting people, excellent accomodations, high-level conversation, and enjoyable free time between sessions. An invitation to one of these seminars is not to be turned down. In fact, I’d almost go so far as to say that the opportunity to attend them is incentive enough all by itself to keep me writing about more than just coffee and frisbees. And soon I will, I promise! But a trip to Chicago wouldn’t have been complete without visits to a few key coffee shops, so let’s talk about those first.

The big one, of course, was Intelligentsia. They’re famous as one of the best shops and roasters in the country and their baristas took three of the top six places in the National Barista Championship. I’ve been a fan of their Black Cat espresso blend since sampling it at Fowler’s in Durham and at the recent Murky espresso tasting, so I was determined that if I did nothing else in Chicago I would finally make it out to their Broadway store and try it on its home turf. What can I say? It was everything I hoped it would be: a perfect double shot with full body and lots of tiger-flecked crema. This was followed by a few amazingly sweet sips of a friend’s Yemen Samani and a small latte to accompany the breezy walk back along Lake Michigan. If you’re ever in Chicago, you should definitely check them out.

That was Saturday. On Sunday I ended up finding a Peet’s coffee shop. Peet’s is the place that Californians who are too cool for Starbucks like to go. I didn’t know they had locations this far east, so when I found out they did I decided to see what they’re like. To once again use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice. Their shots had a decent flavor but were poured way to big. They seem like a pretty good chain alternative to Starbucks though.

Monday was my last day in the city and there was one more shop I wanted to visit, Metropolis Coffee. Their Red Line espresso blend was a hit with my group at the espresso tasting last month so I was eager to check them out. I’d spent the night in the south side at Chinatown; Metropolis is located on the north side of Chicago in Granville. Not knowing what the parking situation would be like up there, I opted to take the coffee’s namesake train line instead of driving. Compared to D.C., this was sloooow. Not including time spent waiting at the stations, it was about a forty minute ride each way, all to visit a shop where I’d have less than half an hour to hang out. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do for a good espresso.

Fortunately, it was worth it. I had a great double shot and a nice conversation with the friendly barista on duty, who also talked me into an extra half-pound of Ethiopian Harrar to take home. I like this shop a lot. It’s got a comfortable and stylish layout and though I was only there a short time it was clear that they really know and relate to their customers. They even devote an entire page on their website to their regulars. If there were a Platonic ideal of the neighborhood coffee shop, Metropolis might be it.

From there it was back to the train, into my car, and on to St. Louis, where I’ve spent the last couple of days exploring the local coffee scene. Now on to Nashville for what looks to be a wet and rainy Rites of Spring.

I’ve been memed!

I’m now in Chicago after a nice visit with family in Cincinnati. I’m both proud and ashamed to say that though I was in the city for less than twenty-four hours, I still managed to dine on a large Skyline Chili 3-way, a small 3-way, and three cheese coneys, and also grab a few cans to bring back to Arlington. Sometimes my intestinal fortitude amazes even me.

But enough about my strange obsessions. Tim has passed me the Caesar’s Bath Meme, so now it’s my turn to talk about the thing’s my friends like but that I just don’t understand.

Behold, the Caesar�s Bath meme! List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can�t really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), �Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice.�

Here we go…

Avenue Q: This musical broke new ground for the use of puppets and agressive marketing on Broadway. Many of my friends couldn’t get enough of it. It’s creative and funny at times, but it struck me as awfully pandering.

Chai lattes: I’ve served countless numbers of these things and never drank an entire one myself. Their mass popularity is an enigma to me.

The Magnetic Fields: I think Stephin Merritt’s unusual voice is what carries this group. It’s unique and I can enjoy listening to the group every once in a while, but I’m hearing them far too often lately. OK overall; what bothers me is that the sometimes inane lyrics refuse to be tuned out when sung by Merritt.

Going to the movies: $10 to sit in a dark room and to watch a video? I can do that at home for free! I make it to a movie theater at most a couple times each year.

The Stranger: I read this last spring for a class in which I came to appreciate some wonderful literature I’d overlooked before, but this one fell flat for me. Others think it’s great. In this case, I’m going to assume the fault lies with me, not the book.

Free markets: Yeah, they’re pretty good I guess, but I don’t know why my friends are advocating them all the time. What’s the big deal?

Only kidding about that last one. I now pass the meme on to Court, Chad, Mike, and Glenn Reynolds.

On my last day at Murky

Jacob: Hard to believe it’s my last day, isn’t it? We’ve had some good times together, hammering out a line of drinks for the Sunday morning church rush or relaxing with the perfect shot on a Friday evening. No matter what the challenge, you always came through, and now that I have to move on I just want to say that’s it’s been great working with you. I’m gonna miss you, man. C’mon, let me give you a hug.

Fellow barista: Um, thanks, but that’s not really necessary…

Jacob: Huh? I was talking to the Synesso.

OK, so that’s not really what happened, but yesterday was, sadly, my last official day on the Murky crew. As much as I’d like to continue as a barista there, I’m going to be traveling a lot in the coming months and allowing my lease to expire in June. I’m excited about the trips I’ll be taking (more on that later), but will certainly miss working the bar and meeting the friendly, interesting people who make serving drinks such a pleasure.

I know my fascination with coffee is seen as a bit eccentric among my libertarian and academic peers, so it’s not easy to convey how lucky I am to have spent the past six months working at Murky. Had I gone to almost any other shop I would have “mastered the craft” within a few weeks, content to use poor technique to pull mediocre shots on an imprecise espresso machine. I see baristas working at these places and think to myself, “There but by the grace of Nick go I.” Had Murky not been opening just three blocks from my apartment in the same month that I was searching for a coffee shop job, I might well be one of them. Instead, I’ve been welcomed into the burgeoning espresso community and learned an incredible amount about coffee and coffee preparation. More importantly, I’ve realized how much I don’t know. The barista learning curve slopes easily upward at first, giving it the disarming appearance of a job any teenager at Starbucks can do. But the curve does not plateau. It slopes ever upward, presenting new techniques to perfect and subtle nuances to savor.

Fortunately, I haven’t been immediately banished to the receiving side of the bar. I may fill in occasionally next month and Nick has kindly granted me visitation privileges to the machine to help ease the withdrawal symptoms. It’s possible I’ll even rejoin the crew if I move back to the area, which there’s a pretty good chance I’ll do thanks to my time as a barista. If I hadn’t enjoyed the work so much, or made so many (non-libertarian!) friends among staff and customers, or found a balance between political activism and other pursuits, I seriously doubt that I’d still consider D.C. a liveable area. Now it feels like home.

What comes next? More time for writing and magic, both of which I have admittedly neglected of late. Perhaps I’ll even restore this weblog to its former wacky but respectable glory. For now, though, it’s time to pack — I leave for Cincinnati in the morning, then on to Chicago, St. Louis, and Nashville.

Finally, a magazine for baristas, by baristas

I don’t know if any baristas read this site yet, but if they do they might be interested in this. The brand new Barista Magazine launches this month and Murky got the premier issue in the mail today. Publishing every two months, it features articles on techniques, technology, and workers in the field. Like all trade magazines, it appears to be supported by a heavy advertising base. That’s a good thing, as it keeps the subscriber cost down (just $15 a year) and allows for more pages of content. The first issue looks really good; I’ll be subscribing immediately.

The first casualty of spring

fallenaerobie.jpg

As warm, sunny weather arrived in D.C. today, I (not having a real job) went out with John Taylor (also not having a real job, but productively pursuing a Masters in Economics) to toss the Aerobie on the National Mall. Alas, today was the last day of flight for this particular Astonishing Flying Ring. After nearly a year of use — skimming across the fields of Vanderbilt, Rice, Brown, Georgetown, and Seattle University — its hardy inner ring finally gave out. We gave it a few last throws, for even a shattered Aerobie will still fly true, but now it’s time to put this one down to rest. Ashes to ashes, polycarbonate to polycarbonate.

Blog party

Finally, it’s time for another Blogorama! Julian Sanchez has announced that Rendevouz Lounge is the place to be this Thursday if you’re a blogger or blogger groupie in the D.C. area. There’ll be drinking, socializing, shameless networking, and, if things get really crazy, people whipping out their webstats for side by side comparison.

Rendevous Lounge is located at 18th St and Kalorama in Adams-Morgan. The fun begins at 7:00.

Latte art and libertarian purity

I had a bit of a slow day at work on Friday so I decided to take a latte art photo. The result now graces the banner of this page, courtesy of code taken from Chad Wilcox’s Quiet Declarations. I plan on eventually switching the weblog over to WordPress and incorporating a larger picture, but felt like getting some kind of graphic element on the banner until then.

Speaking of Chad, I owe him my results on Prof. Bryan Caplan’s Libertarian Purity Test. I ended up about where I expected, my 62 out of 160 narrowly beating his 54. That puts me about even with Dan Drezner but well behind Radley’s 98 from last year and my old boss Justin Logan’s recent 115. I did, however, blow Stephen Bainbridge out of the water. As Chad says, “I don’t know what Professor Bainbridge was smoking when he scored a 24 — though judging from his score it probably wasn’t illegal.”

Gene Healy, who scored a 105, once mentioned another question to separate the libertarian men from the moderately free market boys: “Would you allow heroin to be sold out of a vending machine to a small child?” I posed the same question to a friend who asked if there would be an admissions test to get into Court’s and my most recent party, to which he responded with the most correctly capitalist answer possible…

“Only if the profit margin covers the risk.”