Google Reader tricks

A few months ago I made the switch from Bloglines to Google Reader. After a short adjustment period I’m completely happy with the move. There was just one thing I missed: Bloglines makes it easy to see how many subscribers each blog has, giving a rough indication of its popularity. Google, for some reason, buries the data. Luckily, there is a way to get it. Searching for a blog on the “add subscription” tab will show relevant feeds along with the number of subscribers of each.

A feature I wasn’t aware of until today is the trends page. Clicking on this provides information about your reading habits, such as the fact that in the past 30 days I’ve read (more accurately skimmed) 7,766 items from my 330 subscriptions.

So there you go, bloggers, two tools to show you just how much time you burn reading other people’s blogs and just how few people read your own. Cheers!

[Hat tip: Rumors Daily.]


Email issues

It’s come to my attention emails sent to my addresses at this domain are being very delayed or possibly lost before forwarding to GMail. If you’ve sent me something recently and I haven’t replied, I probably never received it. Please resend to my GMail address directly (jacobgrier@).

Details about the problem are here. I’m not sure to what extent the fault lies with DreamHost, but I’m still looking for new hosting recommendations. Thanks to everyone who’s responded already.


Eating Mr. Ed update

Last year I wrote an entry arguing against a proposed ban on selling horses for slaughter. That bill is still gaining traction and was recently critiqued by Ken Silverstein at Harper’s:

Most horses sent to slaughter are past their prime and unwanted by the farmers or ranchers who own them. Patricia Evans, of Utah State University’s Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences Department, says that more horses are being abandoned now that domestic slaughterhouses have been closed. The advocates “predicted that shutting down domestic slaughterhouses wouldn’t increase neglect and abuse, but we’re in the real world,” she said. “Unfortunately, kids get abused and so do animals.”

But on the other hand there’s this, my favorite comment ever on this blog:

How can you say things about wanting to try horses? they were at one stage the only method of transport. I am only 13 but i love the idea of a talking horse. i think it should be illegal to eat animals other than cows, pigs, and chicken.but politicians say”hey shes only a kid and only being 13 she wouldn’t know what we want.” it outrages me to think of a poor horse or pony being eaten, but as i said before. inm only a kid and many people dont agree with what i say. i love my horse as much as i love my mother but even when she kicked me and almost broke my nose i still love her. you are all stupid and dont know what you want. i am so angry right now i cant even type properly.

[Hat tip: Jesse Walker.]


Eternal Recurrence…

… is no more! Though with a finite number of desirable blog names and an infinite amount of time in which to use them, it will inevitably return.

In the meantime I’ve decided to remake the banner into something that better describes the content of the site. Eternal Recurrence seemed like a good name when I started writing in 2003, but no longer reflects much about what I’m doing here now. Obscure philosophy references out, SEO in.


Clover in The Economist

Nice to see the Clover coffee maker covered in the print and online editions of The Economist:

Near the hard-working espresso machine at Ritual Coffee Roasters, a café in San Francisco, sits a stainless-steel box about the size of a desktop computer. This box, the Clover, produces a cup of coffee with a spectacle of streaming water, whirring motors and an ingenious inverse plunger. Zander Nosler, the industrial designer who invented the Clover nearly three years ago, seems to have done the impossible: attracted a cult following for a new coffee-making machine that is both slower and vastly more expensive than other machines and requires the undivided attention of a trained operator…

In the past decade, changes in the way the finest coffee is produced and traded have given roasters unprecedented access to small lots of exceedingly good beans, spawning artisanal roasting and wine-like focus on terroir. These coffees are at their best in a lighter roast, and served as single-origin brews—neither of which works well in an espresso machine. Yet brewed coffee is the neglected stepsister in most cafés.

By allowing its operator such close control, the Clover permits super-speciality roasters to extend obsessive handling of their beans all the way into a cup and, if they are adept, to bring forth their best qualities. But a Clover is a big commitment. Bruce Milletto, a retail consultant to the coffee industry, notes that a typical American café spends around $50,000 on equipment, about one-quarter of which goes on an espresso machine. At $11,000, a Clover costs the same again.

Unfortunately you won’t find one of these in any DC shop yet, but you can catch one in operation on YouTube:

Coffee revolution?


Sova Espresso comes to H Street

Sova espresso now open

DC’s H Street NE has become a hot place for bars and as of last week it can also boast a hip new coffee shop. The road to opening Sova Espresso and Wine has been a long one, thanks in large part to the city bureaucracy, but now we can focus on the positive: thick, delicious, Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso.

Sova spro

I met the shop’s owner, Frank, when the place was in the planning stages over a year ago, so it’s great to see it finally open. From the bright copper counters to the red cow hide lounge chair, Sova’s among the most stylish shops in town. The Black Cat flows from a gleaming La Marzocco, bringing some much needed diversity to the DC coffee scene. Good pastries, tea, and free wi-fi, too. An upstairs wine and beer bar will be added eventually, but the license for that is still a few months coming. (Did I mention bureaucracy?) For those of us who have bemoaned Washington’s lack of good coffee shops, Sova is a very welcome addition. Go check it out, check it out now!

Sova is located at 1359 H St. NE. Hours are currently 6:30 am – 9:00 pm Monday – Thursday, 6:30 – midnight Friday, 7:00 am – midnight Saturday, and 8:00 am – 9:00 pm Sunday. Expect them to stay open later when the wine starts pouring.

More pictures below the break…

Frank at Sova

Sova spro

Sova cappuccino

So many choices

Sova La Marzocco

Sova downstairs

Sova upstairs

Sova seat

Sova outside


Hosting recommendations wanted

The downtime and slow response issues with my current hosting service have continued with no sign of getting better. My contract is up soon and, though switching servers is a pain, I’m looking to sign up with someone more reliable. The main requirements are multiple domain hosting, multiple databases, and actually being online most of the time. Any recommendations?


Ufology tips for the candidates

You’ve probably heard by now about Dennis Kucinich’s odd debate moment regarding his UFO siting. He is, however, in surprisingly good company:

When Chris Matthews, in a post-debate interview on MSNBC, asked Richardson what he thought of Kucinich’s response to the UFO question, Richardson smiled, giggled a little and explained that as governor of a state that depends on the UFO-enthralled tourist dollar, he was not in a position to criticize. (Though, he hastened to add, he has never personally seen a UFO.) He also said it was time for the government to “come clean” on the Roswell matter…

According to numerous media accounts, when Jimmy Carter was governor of Georgia in 1973, he filed a report with the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City claiming that he’d seen an unidentified glowing object four years earlier in Leary, Ga. He said later that he did not believe the object to be an alien craft, and some “ufologists,” as specialists call themselves, think he saw a halo around the planet Venus.

Ronald Reagan believed he had seen UFOs at least twice — once on the coast while driving to Hollywood with his wife, Nancy, and once, as governor of California, while flying on a plane near Bakersfield. In “Landslide,” their 1988 book about Reagan’s second term, journalists Doyle McManus, The Times’ Washington bureau chief, and Jane Mayer, now of the New Yorker, wrote that Reagan’s staff worked hard to keep the UFO sighting stories under wraps.

Kucinich is careful to stress the “unidentified” part of unidentified flying object, distancing himself from the appearance of belief in extraterrestrial visitors. As a service to him and any other presidential candidates with their eyes on the skies, I suggest carrying around my elementary school list of things that might be mistaken for UFOs.

[Via Tobias.]

Whatever happened to Grandfather Twilight?


Sexist? Moi?

At Slate, coffee-loving economist Tim Harford writes about a paper [.pdf] by Caitlin Knowles Myers finding that baristas can be sexist, forcing female customers to wait an average of 20 seconds longer for their drinks than men do. Does this mean women are suffering at the hands of chauvinist baristi? Aside from the meagerness of the time in question, I think the study misses an obvious point: faster service isn’t necessarily better service.

The difference might actually arise from reverse discrimination: perhaps women’s drinks take longer because male baristi are eager to impress them. Having worked in several coffee shops over the years, I will cop to sometimes putting excessive care into the beverages of female customers, doing my best to get the espresso and the latte art just right. Unless the customer doesn’t care about the presentation and quality of the drink — a minority in most of the shops I’ve worked in — that’s better service, not worse.

The author’s thoughts on tipping are also problematic. Myers believes that baristi may give lesser service to women to curry favor with supposedly higher-tipping males. This assumes that speed of service is the primary determinant of tipping. My experience suggests that this is not the case. Rather, one reason people frequent coffee shops is that they enjoy the feeling of community and recognition these places offer. As Michael Lynn’s research has revealed, intangibles in the customer-server interaction often have more to do with tip amounts than do objective measures of service. Spending more time with customers may be a way making customers happy and increasing tips, the exact opposite of what Myers’ paper assumes. A friendlier, mutually enjoyed greeting might be all that accounts for that 20 second difference.

Myers’ paper does present an interesting finding, but 20 seconds isn’t enough to convince me of nefarious forces at work.

[Via Radley Balko.]

Update 11/14/07: Myers has a very nice response to commenters at Tim’s FT blog, going into a bit more detail about the study and what it may imply.


Even the immigrant?

Though there’s much to object to in Sam Brownback’s Washington Post op/ed today, this paragraph stands out:

The pro-life and whole-life message does not stop with abortion. It embraces the child in Darfur, the woman struggling in poverty, the child born with Down syndrome, the man in prison and even the immigrant.

I don’t want to read too much into this, but it does seem a sad commentary on the party that in an appeal to his fellow Republicans Brownback seems to think showing compassion toward immigrants would strike them as more farfetched than caring about convicts.


Great fabric, great beer

Do you know what tomorrow is? It’s 11/11, the day that most resembles corduroy as declared by the incredibly awesome Corduroy Appreciation Club.

The New Yorker tells the story of the club in this intriguing article. A question left undecided is what drink most resembles corduroy. One member suggests a Manhattan, which with its complex hues of brown and red is a fine choice. However I think the most fitting drink is Guinness. With its soft, creamy texture, brown and black coloring, and conspicuously upwardflowing bubbles suggesting verticality, it’s the ultimate choice for 11/11.

I wonder if DC’s Corduroy restaurant has Guinness on the menu?


John Cusack says anything

My old coworkers used to make fun of me for never having seen a John Cusack movie, just one data point in my cinematic cultural illiteracy. But according to this interviewer, Cusack himself doesn’t find his movies worth talking about, so maybe I’m not missing anything after all. What Cusack does want to rant on is the war in Iraq and the Cato Institute:

“Do you think all these people work at the Cato Institute?” he continues. “No. Even the people who work at these places, I’ve met them. They don’t have any monopoly or insight into anything. Where does their intellectual or moral clout come from? Nowhere. The guy’s talking in front of a camera, reading from a teleprompter, bitching at people. I know enough to be intimidated by serious men and women, but I won’t be cowed by people like that.”

Three questions. Does Cusack actually think Cato is pro-war? Has he ever looked at the institute’s website? And where do we hide the teleprompters?

Tom Firey and Michael Cannon respond at the Cato blog.


Blogging live on NBC

By some strange sequence of events I ended up on NBC4 last night talking about blogging. Watch and learn how you too can make tens of dollars putting your opinion online! Also, keep an eye out for my mysterious twin brother “David” Grier, milk steaming action at Murky Coffee, and a cameo appearance by Chad Wilcox as blogger number 2. Partial transcript available here.