Me in the future

While we’re on the subject of sexism and coffee, this old Folgers ad is worth a link. Feministing aptly describes it as ” your daily cup of vintage patriarchy.”

Antiquated as the commercial is, I do sympathize with the husband in it. Just ask the baristas I put through training. When I’m married, I’m going to be just like that guy, always complaining about my wife’s coffee making skills. “Honey, you know I like you to dose with at least 18 grams, and I think your grind is set a little bit coarse. And please don’t forget to purge the steam wand next time, ok?”

Thus the honeymoon will end.


The best part of waking up

This invention — an alarm clock that releases a synthetic coffee smell when the alarm goes off — is sort of neat, in a tacky sort of way. I’m sure it doesn’t smell as good as real coffee. And more importantly, there is no real coffee, so if you use the thing you’re starting your day off with disappointment from the very first minute.

Better idea? An actual bedside coffee grinder/alarm clock. The whir of the burrs wakes you up while releasing the sirenous aroma of real fresh ground coffee. Say, Guatemala Huehuetenango. The coffee dispenses into the state of the art automatic bedside Clover, which brews a perfect cup before you even have time to remember the name of the alluring woman lying next to you. All for just three easy payments of $19.95.

(Pop quiz: Which aspect of my above fantasy is most unrealistic? Hint: It’s not the $60 Clover.)

I actually did have an idea for an alarm clock once, but it used a paper shredder instead of a coffee grinder. The shredder is in one room, such as the kitchen. It communicates wirelessly with the alarm clock in the bedroom and is set to turn on five minutes after the alarm goes off. Before going to bed, put a $20 bill in the shredder. Then you have to get out of to bed to save your bill, and by then you’re in the kitchen, so you might as well make some coffee. See my original post on the economics of the situation.

I’ve since decided a better alternative would be to give the money to the charity of one’s choice rather than shred it. Perhaps the alarm clock could communicate the time for which it’s set to your computer. In the morning, you’d then have to log in to your computer in time to prevent an automatic transaction from billing your credit card for a donation.

The drawback would be that if your Internet connection is down or your computer isn’t working, you can’t stop the transaction. The upside is that over the long term, you won’t mind if you overslept a few mornings and ended up donating $100 to the humane society. Yet since that doesn’t mean you want to donate $20 every single day, the alarm is still effective.

[Via TMN. Cross-posted on Smelling the Coffee.]


Two new blogs

After a long absence, my friend Chad Wilcox is back with a new blog, a new URL, and a new job. Check out the new Quiet Declarations.

Also, because three blogs just isn’t enough, I’ve started guest blogging on a fourth. I’m now writing for, the environmental policy website of the Institute for Humane Studies. If you’re tired of my food, coffee, and smoking ban posts, maybe this site will be a good change.

The RSS feed listed on the site is incorrect. This is the link that works.


Jello shot maker discovers Temperance

As someone who has spent numerous vacations in Ohio, I can tell you that easy access to alcohol would be a great boon to anyone living in the Buckeye State. So you’ve got to feel bad for entrepreneur Brian Pearson, a guy whose successful product launch brought down the holy wrath of Ohio First Lady Hope Taft and state liquor officials. Oddly, he found salvation in Temperance. Temperance, MI, that is…

Pearson’s story began in December 1998 when he was home on leave during a four-year stint in the Marines. He was helping his mom prepare for his sister’s 21st birthday party. “She told me to run to the store and go pick up some Jell-O shots for the party,” Pearson recalls. He laughed and told his mom you don’t buy Jell-O shots at the store. Then a light bulb went off in his brain.

He began making plans to prepackage the shots, find the perfect plastic containers, and develop a laminated aluminum foil lid that wouldn’t be affected by the alcohol content.

“Zippers, the Original Gelatin Shot” was born….

“We went from delivering cases, to delivering pallets, and then delivering by the truckload,” he said. “We went from one state to 24 states in a matter of a year.”

With success came attention. Not just from bar owners, but from the Ohio first lady, who was concerned the product’s colorful packaging might encourage the young to slurp:

He was sitting in his Toledo office one day when about 30 ATF agents and sheriff’s deputies — some with weapons drawn — burst into his business waving a search warrant based on allegations he was illegally manufacturing alcoholic products. They seized computers, monitors, printers, fax machines and even cubicle walls, but no manufacturing equipment was to be found. They also raided his Genoa, Ohio home. News outlets reported that he was being accused of manufacturing illegal products and that he could face felony charges.

As a result, Zippers took another blow.

“I lost almost all of my business in a matter of 45 to 60 days,” he said.

Fortunately, Pearson fought back and won. Though charges were filed, the grand jury refused to indict him and he has since successfully moved his business toTemperance, Michigan, where officials were glad to have him. Zippers are already selling again in 15 states. Good for him! Bad for Ohio!

Full story here.

Related: I like to imagine this old Cosby Jell-O commercial is really for Pearson’s Zippers.

[Via the Quick and the Dead, a blog I just discovered today but will keep reading. Also, I apologize for the cheap, obvious Ohio joke. I shouldn’t say such things about the state that’s home to Skyline chili, Montgomery Inn ribs, Graeter’s ice cream, and Tony Packo’s pickles. I’m sorry, Ohio. Don’t cut me off, ok?]


The ban, before and after

On January 1, I went out to a divey DC bar with some Bureaucrashers to enjoy a final night of legal and post-midnight illegal smoking in the District. (Something I never did before the ban, by the way. Though I do enjoy an occasional cigar, I almost always do so outdoors and in Virginia. I don’t find smoking indoors nearly as appealing as smoking outdoors on a nice afternoon.) It was a fun night of protesting, caught on the Bureaucrash video camera and posted here.

Last night a few friends I went out to another bar for our first night of post-smoking ban revelry. The place was less crowded than normal thanks to smokers heading outside, the air smelled better, and our clothes were odor free when we left. All things considered, we liked the place a lot better now than we did before the ban, which elicited an apt remark from Chad. “This is how I know I’m not a hypocrite. I personally benefit from the ban, but I’m still against it.” (Of course the smokers in the group weren’t nearly so pleased, but their preferences no longer count in DC.)

Finally, check out the SomethingAwful thread spawned by my pizza delivery post for what has to be one of the worst debates about any subject ever.


Almost everybody likes free beer

I love this story for five reasons:

1) Free beer!

2) The nanny state lost.

3) The good guys are a major corporation.

4) The bad guys are small, artisinal businessmen.

5) Did I mention free beer?

I’m talking about a new law going into effect in California that allows breweries to offer free samples of their beers to customers in bars and restaurants, a right previously enjoyed only by wineries. Anheuser-Busch backed the law. As the company is getting into more esoteric styles of beer, it recognized that the best way to introduce drinkers to them is to give them a free taste:

“It’s an opportunity for us to get consumers to sample some of our new products,” said Andrew Baldonado, western region vice president of government affairs for Anheuser-Busch. “The winter’s bourbon cask ale is a seasonal beer that we’re doing. The best way to introduce those new products to consumers is to be able to have them sample them.”

Craft brewers actually opposed the law on the grounds that they can’t afford to give out samples the way big companies can. This seems a little short-sighted. If Anheuser-Busch succeeds in getting people to appreciate other beer styles, those customers aren’t all going to stay with Anheuser-Busch. Just as Starbucks eventually leads many consumers to try coffee from boutique roasters, I expect Anheuser-Busch will lead some of its Bud drinkers to true craft brewers. In any case, the small breweries succeeded in getting all kinds of restrictions put on the tastings:

The new law allows beer tastings at bars and restaurants. It limits the amount to no more than 8 ounces per person a day and requires the beer to be served in a glass. Tastings cannot last more than an hour and there are also annual limits on the number of tastings a single manufacturer, importer or wholesaler can offer at a particular establishment.

And then there’s this idiot, who clearly needs to attend one of these new events:

Fred Jones, legal counsel to the Sacramento-based California Council on Alcohol Problems, a coalition of religious groups, thinks the law was a mistake.

“It was jokingly referred to as the ‘Free Happy Hour’ bill (in the Capitol), so I think that gives you an image of what could happen,” Jones said. “What is the reason behind giving someone 8 ounces of beer free? One could argue that with wineries, each winery is different and every bottle is different depending on age or season. But we’re talking about beer here.”

[Via The Martini Lounge. Cross-posted on EatFoo.]


Pizza: the widowmaker

Now that the DC smoking ban has gone into full effect, my hobby has turned from fighting it to just antagonizing the people who support it. My favorite way of doing this is getting them to admit that they don’t really care much about worker safety, their favorite rationalization for presuming to tell everybody else what to do. Nobody I speak with actually knows anything about the subject, so it’s not very hard to reach this point. Asking if there is any worker safety issue about which they are at all informed that doesn’t also happen to make their weekends out more pleasant usually does the trick.

If I’m going to be asking such questions, though, I figured I at least ought to know a few things about workplace dangers, so I killed some time last night doing a bit of research. In the process I stumbled upon a class of service industry workers in even greater need of protection than waiters and bartenders. I also got a new question to pose to anti-smoking crusaders: “Ever order a pizza?”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a handy list every year of the jobs with the highest fatality rates. The leaders are generally the kinds of jobs you’d expect to be dangerous: logging, fishing, mining, flying small planes, building stuff. But one job stands out as a surprise. Driver-sales workers — pizza delivery guys, vending machine stockers, etc. — clock in as the fifth most dangerous occupation with 38 deaths per 100,000 workers every year. The risks of traffic accidents and crime combine to make this one pretty perilous profession.

[The numbers come from 2003. From what I can tell, ever since then BLS reports have combined trucking and driver-sales work into one category. Trucking has a significantly lower rate of fatalities, so 2003 is the most recent year for which I could find useful data.]

In other words, dialing up a pizza from Domino’s is just as bad, probably even worse, than lighting up in a bar. If smokers can’t force bar and restaurant workers to inhale their fumes, then surely people too lazy to cook or pick up their own dinners shouldn’t be able to force drivers to risk their lives delivering food. No worker should ever have to choose between his safety and his livelihood. How many innocents must die bearing midnight snacks for the gluttonous and slothful before we put a stop to such irresponsible behavior?

The lesson is clear. For the sake of the pizza delivery guys, we must ban pizza delivery. Working together, we can have a Delivery Free DC by 2008.

Who’s with me?


Optimism for the new year

The 2007 EDGE question and answers are up, and as always the responses thought provoking. Each year EDGE asks leading scientists and empirically minded intellectuals a single question. This year it’s, “What are you optimistic about? Why?”

I’ve only had a chance to read through about a quarter of the responses so far and couldn’t pick just one to quote. So instead, here’s a suprisingly theological answer from Martin Seligman:

I am optimistic that God may come at the end.

I’ve never been able to choke down the idea of a supernatural God who stands outside of time, a God who designs and creates the Universe. There is, however, an alternate notion of God relevant to the secular community, the skeptical, evidence-minded community that believes only in nature.

The rest of his response is here.

[Via BoingBoing.]