My nearly vegetarian day

I’m a carnivorous kind of guy. I like meat in all its glorious forms, even its weird ones. I enjoy it with most meals and I’m pretty sure not a day has gone by for several years that I haven’t eaten at least a little of it. Yet last weekend in New York I realized I was having a perfectly vegetarian day: bagel and cream cheese for breakfast, pumpkin and rice for lunch, hummus and pita for dinner. I couldn’t believe it, but I’d actually gone three meatless meals in a row and was totally satisfied. Was this really happening?

baconbar.jpgBut then I remembered the chocolate. Yes, the chocolate. Between breakfast and lunch my friend and I had wandered over to the Vosges boutique with one goal in mind: obtaining the adventurous chocolatier’s new bacon bar.

Mo’s Bacon Bar,” as it’s called, is a delicious combination of rich chocolate, applewood smoked bacon, and smoked salt. Salt and chocolate can be a great pair on their own, but throwing bacon into the mix makes this a meat lover’s dream, nearly every bite accentuated by a crispy bit of tastiness.

The website is out of stock now, which is just as well considering summer shipping charges. Wait for the cooler weather or visit one of the retail stores if you want to try it out. Nice as my day of near vegetarianism was, tasting this bar made it well worth giving up.

Update 8/3/07: If you like this, don’t miss this list of other bacon-enhanced products. Via TMN.


The ‘L’ word

Writing in the Chicago Tribune yesterday, Clarence Page asks, “When did ‘liberal’ become a dirty word?” My quick answer is that it became a dirty word when people who call themselves liberals started putting big government over individual liberties, leaving people like me with the inelegant “libertarian.”

Page sort of agrees with that history, but he wants his fellow supporters of big government to proudly identify with the label. As he correctly notes, both major parties are pretty much on board with the program anyway:

In fact, when it comes to big government, it’s hard to beat Bush. Under his watch, according to a study by the libertarian Cato Institute, the federal government grew more than it did under Johnson and only slightly less than it did under fellow conservative Richard Nixon — and that’s not including Bush’s defense or homeland security spending.

Nixon famously said in 1971 that we are all Keynesians now, referring to the economist John Maynard Keynes, who believed government should play an active economic role. Bush might appropriately quip, “We’re all liberals now.”

Keynesianism was more complex than that. The theory explicitly predicted that a central bank could fight unemployment by increasing the money supply without fear of harmful inflation. The Federal Reserve of the 70s agreed, and the decade’s lousy economic performance culminating in a period of stagflation served as solid empirical evidence that Keynesianism was wrong. Since then the government has been plenty active in the economy, but the Fed has traded in its activist role for a restrained monetarism.

So I hope that Page’s metaphor proves to be apt. If big government liberalism today is to Keynesianism in 1971, it’s just a decade and a few disasters away from thorough repudiation.

Update 8/3/07: Ryan the Liberty Belle says it’s time for classical liberals to reclaim the word. I’m in!


Prodigal chancellor

Vanderbilt’s soon to be former chancellor Gordon Gee says that Ohio State is his real home. But in hiring the guy who’s held more university presidencies than any other American — this will be his sixth since 1981 — Ohio State has figured out that long-term incentives are a good idea:

Board Chairman G. Gilbert Cloyd said Mr. Gee’s contract is still evolving. But a draft of that contract calls for a base annual salary of $775,000. He would receive an additional $225,000 a year if he stays beyond five years.

Smart move.


Weird products I sort of want

Made for Manhattans

According to designer Josh Owen, “The design of the Aluminum Cube Jigger evolved from an experiment to compress the six most common liquid measures used to mix alcoholic drinks, into the smallest possible dispenser. The form was inspired by traditional box-shaped, Japanese sake cups, from which sake is sipped from the corners.”

For practicality, I’m not sure this can beat the OXO mini angled measuring cups (plastic or steel). They’re smaller, cheaper, and can be used without ever touching the rim with finger or table. But still, I love the design of this thing. Maybe for the home bar?

Made for DC

These five-toed shoes promise to act as a protective second skin. I really like the idea of being re-engaged with the feel of the ground beneath one’s feet. They seem great for the outdoors, but harder to pull off in DC. I’m tempted anyway.

[Hat tips to Better Living Through Design and BoingBoing.]


There are people like this

If you’re a normal, healthy person and you see that a cool new pizza place in your neighborhood has put a ping pong table outside, you’d probably think it’s a charming addition to the neighborhood. If you’re a petty local politician, on the other hand, you might stand across the street with a video camera and make an asinine YouTube video suggesting the table ought to be banned. That’s what Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Frank Winstead did:

As I’ve said before, there are people like this, and they are why the nanny state keeps growing.

[H/t To The People.]


These kids and their Facebook

I turned 25 last week so now I’m allowed to begin sentences with “These kids these days…” As in “These kids and their social networking sites.” CNET reports on how messages sent via Facebook and MySpace are displacing email among teenagers:

The future of e-mail might be found on the pages of and Facebook.

Just ask a group of teen Internet entrepreneurs, who readily admit that traditional e-mail is better suited for keeping up professional relationships or communicating with adults.

“I only use e-mail for my business and to get sponsors,” Martina Butler, the host of the teen podcast Emo Girl Talk, said during a panel discussion here at the Mashup 2007 conference, which is focused on the technology generation. With friends, Bulter said she only sends notes via a social network.

“Sometimes I say I e-mailed you, but I mean I Myspace’d or Facebook’ed you,” she said.

Just this weekend I was having a conversation with a friend about the annoyance of getting messages on social networking sites. We both agreed that we’d rather get email. We see the message faster, we don’t have to go to a separate website to read it, and it’s a lot easier to find in the future. Gmail is easier than Facebook is easier than (ick!) MySpace.

Yet when I needed to get in touch this week with some people I hadn’t been in contact with for a long time, I hypocritically turned my back on my expressed preferences and logged on to Facebook. This happens to be the kind of situation where I think messaging on social networking sites really comes in handy. Sending an email out of the blue would have been a little jarring and required some preamble. Facebook makes it casual. By being a part of each other’s news feed, attaching a photo to the message, and putting the message a click away from basic information like where we live, where we’re working, and what we’ve been up to lately, the site allows us to keep up the illusion of constant contact. The sudden email starts to feel like resuming a conversation you’d let drift just a few hours ago.

Clive Thompson at Wired describes a similar effect from using Twitter, another application that seems totally useless to people who don’t get the appeal:

When I see that my friend Misha is “waiting at Genius Bar to send my MacBook to the shop,” that’s not much information. But when I get such granular updates every day for a month, I know a lot more about her. And when my four closest friends and worldmates send me dozens of updates a week for five months, I begin to develop an almost telepathic awareness of the people most important to me.

It’s like proprioception, your body’s ability to know where your limbs are. That subliminal sense of orientation is crucial for coordination: It keeps you from accidentally bumping into objects, and it makes possible amazing feats of balance and dexterity.

Twitter and other constant-contact media create social proprioception. They give a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination.

Email, for all its benefits, is lousy at creating this kind of social sixth sense. Imagine instead that email and Facebook worked together, automatically including a photo and profile information in place of the usual text signature for emails sent between friends. That would link it into the benefits of social networks and take off some of the professional edge that’s creeping over email among the younger set.

And maybe this would be good for professional messages, too. In my job doing media relations, I’m constantly in email and telephone contact with journalists and people booking shows around the country. The vast majority of the communication is pleasant but utterly forgettable. That’s too bad, because at both ends of the line we’d benefit from sustaining professional relationships. Journalists like to have people they can count on to deliver a source, and I like to have journalists I can count on to be interested in what I send them. In the long run we might both benefit when it’s time to look for new jobs. Attaching a face and some memorable biographic info to our exchanges would facilitate this kind of communication a lot better than the dead end of a text email does.

I don’t want to see email replaced and I’d really hate to see it become a crusty old tool used only by professionals. Finding ways to let it tap into the benefits of social networks seems like it could be the necessary next step in the medium’s evolution.

[Update: Grant McCracken and I must have been drinking the same water last night. H/t Chad.]


Citizens untie!

The Italian health ministry is urging employers to let their employees go to work without a tie on. The reason? By lowering workers’ body heat, the air conditioning can be set a little higher and energy can be saved, aiding in the fight against global warming.

Ordinarily I’d express some skepticism about ideas like this, but this time I’m completely on board. Alas, I don’t think my employer would be amenable to the argument.

[Via New Scientist.]


Everything bad about DC

That pretty much sums up this article about elite DC socializing. My favorite bit:

The fundraiser may have been a bust, but Rodgers managed to pull off the main event. In June, she attracted a crowd to the Courage Cup, a polo match in Virginia that raises money to teach disadvantaged D.C. youths to play polo. Although the charity receives a fair amount of scorn (several posters asked why anyone would teach poor kids to play a game they can’t afford), it was one of the early summer’s most popular events.

[Via TMN.]


The LA Times discovers kopi luwak

My friend Toby writes to ask if I’ve tried kopi luwak, the novelty coffee made from cherries digested by civet cats. The coffee was recently featured in the LA Times, resulting in the usual wave of interest.

I haven’t tried it, mainly because there’s a lot of fraudulent beans sold as kopi luwak and because I don’t even know if the real stuff is sold freshly roasted. That and the fact that I don’t have $600 lying around in my coffee budget. Even so, I would drink it if I had the chance.

I’m more interested in the Jacu bird coffee, which I’ve learned via James Hoffman is being sold green at Sweet Maria’s. You’ve got to love a coffee whose grade is “avian selected.” I’m not sure if they have it in stock right now, but if I can get my hands on some I’d love to try it out on my friend Courtney’s roaster. Assuming she’ll let me back in her house after last year’s “incident,” that is.

Update 12/16: Mags in San Francisco offers a fitting limerick.

[Cross-posted at STC.]


Free the hops(icles)

Yesterday I went to Rustico for the Dogfish Head pint night and glassware giveaway with faint hopes of cooling down with one of their notorious hopsicles. No such luck. Instead they were asking people to write to the Virginia ABC in their support. If you’d like to write, send an old-timey paper letter here:

VA ABC Dept. of Hearings
P.O. Box 27491
Richmond, VA 23261

Or fax it to 804.213.4731


Credit card roulette revisited

I didn’t notice at the time, but my post about credit card roulette was quoted in The Chicago Tribune last month:

Some players have argued that as long as a group of people plays credit-card roulette frequently enough, over time, the cost will even out. That way, players can get some of the adrenaline rush of the game without suffering too much of the downside. But others have countered that individuals would behave differently if they knew they would be playing credit-card roulette in advance of the meal.

Jacob Grier, a blogger in Arlington, Va., related just such a debate he had with a friend in a post from last August:

“So my friend was incorrect,” Grier wrote. “Yes, in the long run, we will all pay the same amount on average. But we’ll be paying more than we would if we were paying individually. We won’t maximize our economic efficiency.

“The best time to play credit card roulette is when you can spring it on unsuspecting companions you’ve never met before and may never meet again.”

The article originally appeared at NYC24.