Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Locker Room Burrito Is a Lie

I went to the gym tonight for the first time since I hurt my back a few weeks ago. To avoid hurting myself again, I only did cardio, which I need to focus on anyway.

In the locker room, there was this flyer taped to the mirror. After reading it, I needed to take a picture. (Yes, I was that guy using a cellphone camera inside the locker room):

The burrito is a lie.

It's a flyer for the relatively new Chipotle in Reston Town Center; the promotion involves showing your Fitness First membership card there on Saturdays in March for a free burrito (or bowl, tacos, or salad); the picture features a burrito, with the caption, "More Than Worth Those Ten Extra Minutes on the Treadmill."

Now, according to the ChipotleFan.com calorie calculator, a standard chicken burrito combination clocks in at just under 1100 calories.

Using any given calorie calculator (say, this one at SparkPeople), 10 minutes on the treadmill, at a basic 10-minute mile pace (6 mph), burns about 100 calories.

Unless you can run at 60 mph (you shut up, Mr. Steve Austin), what the ad implies is off by a factor of 10. It's a lot closer to two hours than ten minutes.

This does not mean that I won't be there on Saturday to snag a free burrito. (Hey, free burrito.)

I enjoy Chipotle, but I like Baja Fresh more, mostly because I raid the salsa bar and use the extra red salsa in meatloaf, marinades, etc. (Hate the new condiment bags, by the way -- they suck. I used to be able to fit 8 salsa cups into one of the old paper bags.)

Anyway, I did 20 minutes on the treadmill (brisk walking at about 4.4 mph -- running makes my knee hurt), then followed with about 10 minutes of jumping rope.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

An Afternoon of Mild Disappointments

After a haircut this morning (not disappointing), I went to see District 9. I liked it (especially the parts where the bad guys go *splash*) but I was mildly disappointed by it, mostly because it had been hyped so much and I went in with really high expectations.

Parts of it were uneven, and parts of it felt like a standard buddy movie (even with aliens, it's fairly well-trodden ground). Everyone was interested in collecting and using the alien weapons (robot fighting suits!) except the aliens themselves, which was odd, though I guess an alien uprising would have been a different allegorical movie. And the The Nigerian gangsters felt like they were spliced into the plot to provide a convenient device.

Overall, the plot left a lot unexplained, in a very unsatisfying way. At least with Alien Nation (to which this movie owes a lot), we knew the Tenctonese aliens were slaves, which is why they couldn't go home. In District 9, the aliens have the means to go home -- one really smart prawn has been hiding the key to their return for 20 years, and they even have the fuel -- albeit in a form they need to furtively scavenge and refine -- like meth cookers -- from recovered bits of their own technology.

Anyway, it seems fairly well set up for a sequel. District 10, anyone?

Afterwards, I stopped by Reston Town Center to visit the new Apple Store. Though I missed the grand opening festivities, it was still loud and crowded. This one, I didn't have big expectations for -- after all, it's just an Apple store -- but it's also disconvertingly small. Narrow. Especially when compared to the nearby stores in Arlington and Tysons Corner. It doesn't take up the entire former Eddie Bauer store space (there's another store next door).

Then I stopped by The Counter for a burger. The space is shiny and nice, the staff is friendly, they have beer, and the burger is... average. Maybe "solid" is a better word. I would say overpriced.

The fries are shoestring style and good, though I guess I'm a french fry philistine -- my favorite is still the heavily-seasoned kind that come frozen in an institutional-sized bag.

Anyway, here's a cameraphone picture:


I still haven't been to Ray's Hell Burger yet, so the best I've had around here is still Joe's Burgers in McLean.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Brunswick Stew: Electric Boogaloo

The title is a lie -- this is actually my third time slow cooking a Brunswick stew.

First off, it passes the spoon test quite handily (it's thick enough so that a spoon will stay standing up):

Passing the spoon test.

It's got some heat (due to the chili paste, some cayenne and Sriracha sauce), but it's not too hot -- just enough to overwhelm the taste of the stew, which unfortunately isn't very flavorful. It's also not as sweet or tangy as my last try, since I used less cider vinegar and Sriracha.

Ingredients, this time around:
* 4 chicken drumsticks
* Some olive oil for the skillet
* Cooking spray
* Handful of garlic cloves, minced
* 2 medium sized red potatoes
* 2 onions
* 1.5 cups frozen lima beans
* 1.5 cups frozen sliced okra
* 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
* 2 cans of corn (I used 1 can creamed, 1 can kernel. Just because)
* 2-3 tablespoons of chili paste (in retrospect, a bit too much)
* Couple of squirts of ketchup
* Couple of squirts of Sriracha sauce
* 2 splashes of cider vinegar
* The rest of a mostly empty bottle of Worcestershire sauce
* Half-cup or so of chicken stock (leveling out the ingredients)
* 2 chicken bouillon cubes (for extra chicken and MSG)
* Assorted powdered spices: salt, pepper, onion, cayenne, chili -- whatever's handy. Plus a bay leaf or two. Season to taste.

* Spray nonstick cooking spray into the crock pot.
* Heat oil. Start browning the chicken in a saucepan.
* Impatiently start chopping potato, garlic, onion.
* Inefficiently dash back and forth between the cutting board and stove until the vegetables are chopped and the chicken is browned.
* Add potato, garlic, onion. Place chicken on top.
* Add rest of ingredients. Place slow cooker on high. Go to bed.
* Wake up 6 hours later, to find that the stew has reduced, by bubbling all over the kitchen counter. On the plus side, the chicken has fallen off the bone, so strip the bones and shred the chicken.
* [Optional: Level off with some more lima beans, corn and okra, steamed.]
* Cook on high for 2 more hours.
* Book it. Done.

The taste is... nontraditional, mostly due to the chili sauce. I think I used too much. On the plus side, it's plenty thick

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Burger Time: Joe's Burgers in McLean

The other day, some of my cow-orkers were talking about burgers, and Joe's Burgers came up.

Since I am easily suggestible, I went there this afternoon. Taking advice from the review in the Washington Post, I called ahead for carryout (though it wasn't that crowded after 1pm on a Tuesday) and ordered the Black Angus Burger (Boursin cheese is standard, with added bacon and mushrooms):


It was pretty darn good. Messy, but that comes with the territory. The fries were shoestring-style; okay, but not my favorite. I would place it in the vicinity of Five Guys, but then I'm not really that picky.

Anyway, I'm not used to eating a half-a-pound of ground beef for lunch (nor do I plan to be), so I'm still feeling a little weighed down.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Metal in the Microwave: Not Just Fear-Mongering

Here's part of Saturday's chicken dinner in the microwave. See the green metal wire twist-tie? I didn't:


I was heating up the chicken to shred into some mung bean salad I'd had on hand (sauce: soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, siracha sauce, random spices, and *new addition* fish sauce -- picked up a few bottles at the Fresh World).

Somehow, a wire twist-tie made it into the bowl. (I use a glass pot lid to cover dishes -- the twist-tie was probably sitting in it, and got flipped into the bowl. Thus ends the post-mortem.)

I'd set the timer for a few minutes and went into the next room to read. I thought the popping noises were normal cooking sounds, but when I went back in, I smelled something burny. Then I saw the scorch mark.

The chicken still looked fine, but when I picked up the bowl, it splintered.

Anyway, the microwave still works and the chicken was still tasty. And here's the thing about twist-ties: You never need them when you have them.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Crowdsourcing a Restaurant: Good Luck With That

Today's Post has a front-page item about a DC restaurant-to-be (Elements) that's crowdsourcing its theme and menu: "Online, a Community Gathers to Concoct A Neighborhood Eatery."

The theme the community has picked is, er, a "sustainable vegetarian/raw food restaurant," with a community-center vibe.

Now, the article mentions that the owner/funder has the final say over all business decisions, so presumably she's crunched the numbers and sees a market opportunity that backs up the community's sentiment. I don't know anything about consumer demand for raw foods or the restaurant business (other than it's a tough racket), so I'll leave that be -- other than to say that what might work for a co-op or other collective endeavor, might not work for a 3,500 square foot restaurant with $1 to 1.5 million in startup costs, and that has to have appeal outside of the core community participants.

However, I do note a few caveats on relying on a community for feedback and guidance. I believe it's a valuable practice -- but you have to go in with your eyes open:

1. The loudest, most engaged people do not necessarily represent your entire target audience. Paying attention to users is important. Paying attention to all users -- not just the loud ones -- is also important. You need to capture the wants and needs of people who don't participate in the community, too, which requires looking at metrics, testing, and other forms of research.

For example, in product development communities, your active contributors may be power users or edge cases clamoring for features that have little value to the rest of your core audience. Overserving them can pull resources away from items of greater benefit to the larger community.

Look at the political primary system, where candidates cater to primary participants (the most engaged, active, and extreme sections of the electorate) to build momentum, then move to the center for broader appeal in the general election.

2. Don't forget about Participation Inequality. This is basically a restatement of point #1 -- the loudest users will dominate the conversation. Even if they are "influencers" with disproportionate impact on other people, you're still only hearing a few voices.

The Elements community has about 400 people -- here's a graph of their top 20 community points holders (which I will use as a proxy for participation -- I left out the #1 "Living Green" user, since that's composed of 4 people):

Elements community points graph
Sorry, no means, medians, or standard deviation -- this is as statistics as I get.

Since I'm not a member, I can't see the boards; even if we assume that semi-active participants (normally the "9" in the 90:9:1 ratio) number higher in this particular community, that's still not a lot of people, so you need to take care that you're seeing the whole picture.

3. If "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," wheels will find reasons to squeak. Again, this goes to audience tunnel vision. People are not wheels -- they like it when you pay attention to them, they get used to it, and they find ways to maintain your attention. You need to continually reach out to new voices (while at the same time, you can't alienate your early adopters -- it's tricky.)

4. Community drama can impact the business. Inevitably, every community goes through crises. Sometimes it's board drama that goes overboard. For activist-types, it's often a case of the revolution eating its own -- factions develop. In some cases, it's the introduction of a poisonous personality or incompatible culture.

If the business is explicitly tied to the community, this can be a problem. If you intervene, you're seen as taking sides. And if the community splinters in a meaningful way, you've got a big problem.

I don't have a case study, but I do have an anecdote, courtesy of subscriber letter in a March 1989 copy of Dragon magazine (I unearthed it and liberated it from my parents' house a while back):

A Dungeons-and-Dragons-type gaming group in Kentucky, numbering about 200, had an influx of what we today would call "griefers." This eventually caused group members to drop out, then splinter into smaller factions that eventually both withered away. In the process, the local gaming store (which provided supplies and a venue) saw its clientele dry up and subsequently went out of business. The community, which formerly sustained the business, took the business down with it.

The article says, "Unlike so many Web discussion sites, there are no angry or insulting posts in the Elements community." To that, I would just add, "Yet." Community conflict is inevitable... but it can be managed.

Anyway, the proof is in the pudding. Going to the community for feedback is great, but it's only one part of the puzzle. Unless the 10% of active and semi-active contributors is going to eat at the restaurant all-day, every day, the proprietors need to make sure they're not just catering to the whim of a select group of people, especially if they need to make a broader audience play.

(I was just going to add this to my del.icio.us slushpile for later neglect, but I'm making a conscious effort to reduce my post-procrastination; that is, post more, bookmark less.)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Needs More Mung (Soybean and Smoked Turkey Salad)

I finally made it through 3 sets of the conditioning workout that I'm trying to do in between regular workout days. (With the help of judicious pauses, and cheating on the Bosu ball push-ups, but at least I finished.)

For dinner, since I had to work my way through that two-pound bag of soy bean sprouts (not mung bean sprouts as I'd originally thought), I did a bean sprout salad, starting with a recipe from the Chowhound topic and modifying it along the way based on what I had on hand:

  1. Cover and microwave soy bean sprouts for 3 minutes (Or 3:33 if you're particularly lazy. Which I was.)
  2. Rinse under cold water, and drain.
  3. Add in splash of soy sauce, two splashes of vinegar, sprinkle of sugar, half a takeout container of hot salsa from Baja Fresh, a few pinches of cilantro (also from Baja Fresh), and a few drips of olive oil.
  4. Shred a few slices of smoked turkey and add it in.
  5. Spice to taste -- in this case I used, cayenne, garlic powder, chili powder, onion flakes, cumin, curry, black pepper, red pepper, and the spice flavoring from Shin Ramyun ramen (which I save in a container from the packets, since using a full packet in the soup is too hot for me).
  6. Toss, shake and serve.
It was pretty good -- crunchy, spicy, with lots of fiber and protein. (The vegetarian version works, too, but I wanted the extra suffering.)

I didn't realize that soy beans were comparatively high in fat (the package says 8 grams of fat in an 85 gram -- 3 ounce -- serving), though maybe I will switch to those mung bean sprouts.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Masala Wok Before Twin Tech

I had plenty of business cards on hand in preparation for Thursday's Twin Tech Party (at this point, recapped to death), but unfortunately they were all other people's, so I headed back home to restock.

I also did a quick workout, then proceeded to completely negate that workout by getting dinner at Masala Wok in Herndon, which had just gotten a writeup in Sunday's Post ("Curries on the Quick").

I had the Chicken Tikka Masala (medium heat):

Well-plated chicken tikka masala. Cameraphone pic.

It looked very appetizing. The chicken was tender and tasty, though the masala sauce was a little rich and creamy for my palate.

Also, I have to agree with some of the Yelp reviews: The "medium" heat was disappointingly mild. (And this is from someone whose thermostat usually tops out at "American hot.")

It was good and I'll probably give it another shot, though it won't replace Charcoal Kabob for me (I note it's almost finished its remodeling and bakery expansion).

Thus sated, I headed in to the Twin Tech Party. This was the first real test of the new GPS. Results were... mixed. I nearly got into an accident on the Whitehurst Freeway where it necks down to one lane (though that wasn't really the fault of the GPS), but it also took me through Georgetown at the height of rush hour.

The event itself was pretty good. There were jokes-a-plenty about picking out the scruffy startup folks from the whiteshoe NVTC types (though most of the sport coats and all of the suspenders, I'd wager, were from the latter group); it was hot as balls on the patio; I met a bunch of new folks and touched base with a bunch of familiar faces. All in all a pretty standard (albeit well-attended and good) DC tech event.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Running a Red Light When You're Leaving a Bar Is Never a Good Idea

For the NCAA Men's Final on Monday night, I was so tired that I thought I might stay at home to watch, but I ended up dragging myself down to Carpool.

Being Monday, it was pretty dead, though I did get to see someone get kicked out for trying to roll a joint at the bar (among other things).

As I was leaving at about midnight (remember, kids: make your free throws down the stretch), there were a couple of cars waiting at the red light to make a left onto Elden Street from the parking lot.

At the head of the line was a grey pickup truck, and after a few minutes, I guess the driver didn't feel like waiting any more -- he just up and went through the red.

This is not the first time at that light that I've seen a driver pull that move. However, it was the first time that I'd seen the driver get nailed for doing it (at least, I think it was the same grey pickup, pulled over by a cop down by the Urgent Care).

And the thing is, he did it for the dubious gain of about 15 seconds.

In other news:

Slow Cookers Are Slow: I did another Brunswick stew tonight. I started it at around 6pm, stripped the chicken off the bone at around 10pm, and tasted it around midnight. I used too much onion, but otherwise it's okay. It'd better be -- I'll be eating it for a while.

I've tried, but I just don't think I can make slow-cooking fit into my lifestyle. I just don't like the idea of leaving it going for however many hours when I'm not at home.

Because of the cooking, tonight was a pretty domestic night. Moreso than I'd planned -- I had to do dishes to clear out the sink, and then I splashed tomato sauce all over my shirt, so I ended up doing a couple loads of laundry. (Including some ironing. I hate ironing.) Also, there's flour all over the place.

An Isotropic Distribution of DVDs at Circuit City: I've been trying not to buy new DVDs until I can get through more of my purchased-but-unwatched ones, but I caved today -- I stopped by Circuit City and picked up Miami Vice, The Good Shepherd, Breach, and A Fish Called Wanda for $20.

The problem with the DVD section at Circuit City is that, as far as I can tell, their shelving system does not conform to any accepted organizational standards and practices. While it's not quite completely random, it is almost completely useless.

It might be a baroque experiment in applying isotropic distribution models to retail. Though I'm thinking it would be better if they just had an associate take a few hours to do some hard core alphabetizing (cheat sheets are available upon request).

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Monday, March 03, 2008

There Is Shit in the Meat

I just finished reading Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser's 2001 look at the societal impact of fast food.

It begins pretty gently, talking about the early chains, the origins of Carl's and McDonalds. It starts to rake a little muck when it talks about the exploitation of teen workers, the de-skillification of fast food jobs (even as fast food companies take millions of dollars in subsidies for worker training, and the problem of theft and robbery at fast food restaurants (usually involving current or former employees).

The bits about french fries, and the science of artificial and natural flavors are really interesting.

Then it gets to the meat of the thing -- agribusiness and the meatpacking industry. It's blood-boiling -- it should be required reading for everyone, especially:

* Libertarians and Grover "drown government in the bathtub" Norquist-types to see just what happens when you neuter the FDA, OSHA, and the USDA and rely on industry self-policing (hint: E. coli 0157:H7 and bloody stools feature prominently). It's where the "shit in the meat" bit comes from -- fecal contamination, combined with sending all the meat through a few big processing plants, equals bacterial fun for everybody. Industry solution? Irradiation. So nuclear shit in your meat.

* Anti-immigration types, to see just how the meatpacking industry relies on and recruits illegal immigrants to staff their ultra-high-speed, ultra-high-turnover industries (hint: if you don't give full benefits until 6 months or a year into a job, high-turnover keeps employer costs down). Let's see if the neo-Know Nothings will put their money where their mouths when it comes to their food buying dollar.

* Terrorism Chicken Littles who fixate on bioterror threats to the food supply, yet turn a blind eye to agribusiness's steadfast opposition to real food safety and robust scientific testing measures.

Since the book came out in 2001, you can see how things have changed since then (Schlosser's warnings about obesity seem almost quaint now), and then, looking at the largest beef recall in the nation's history, seeing how they haven't changed.

Maybe I'm prone to being unduly alarmed by food threats -- I took a meat vacation for a few years after reading Deadly Feasts (about mad cow disease) -- or maybe because it's because I just really like hamburgers, but just looking at how corrupting the meatpacking industry in its race to the bottom on costs shows the dangers of unfettered capitalism.

Perhaps we need a new grass-roots advocacy group -- something to take food safety back from the vegetarians and animal activists: Hamburger Lovers for Food Safety. (Kind of how Ducks Unlimited is a wetlands conservation group for the purpose of having abundant ducks to shoot.)

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Trinity of Minor, Food-Related Suburban Miracles

Minor, Food-Related Suburban Miracle 1: An image of the Virgin Mary in the bottom of this can of cream of chicken soup:


Okay, maybe it's not the Virgin Mary. Possibly not even one of the Holy Trinity or the accepted canon of saints. In fact, it might be hedgehog of some sort. A ghost hedgehog.

Minor, Food-Related Suburban Miracle 2: I ordered pound of sliced turkey at the Giant deli counter, and the guy sliced it thin without me having to ask.

When I discovered this, I was so astonished, I almost forgot that he'd first called me "ma'am" (that's two so far -- one more ma'am and it's time for the first haircut of 2008).

Incidentally, I was buying groceries, not to stock up for potential February snowpocalypse #2, but to feed this damn fever. (You know what they say: "Feed a cold; feed a fever." Well, that's what I say.)

Minor, Food-Related Suburban
Miracle 3: Not really even a minor miracle, more of a brand manager's nightmare -- I was picking up lunch at Teocalli Tamale in Herndon yesterday (I'd been in the mood for a torta, which is basically a Mexican cheese steak, only with pork and avocado -- they seem to have expanded their menu over the past few months), when I saw a guy wearing a Baja Fresh manager's polo eating at one of the tables.

That's an endorsement, right?

In closing, this cold sucks, but at least it's not the flu. Also, an addition to the "locking the barn door after the horses get out" file: I finally caved and bought some hand sanitizer, including a little bottle to carry in my laptop bag. I may also spring for one of those fancy designer SARS masks (I already have plenty of vinyl gloves). Achoo and good night.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Trying to Reconcile the Brunswick Stew

I can't remember the last time I had Brunswick stew. It was definitely during a visit to Durham, probably about 10 years ago.

It kind of stays with you (there's something about how Southern cuisine likes to cook stuff until it falls apart.) Since I have a slow cooker now, I gave it a shot on Saturday:

My first attempt at Brunswick stew.

None of the recipes I found seemed quite right, so I ended up mashing a few of them together (primarily from About.com, Epicurious, someone named Amelia, and one that's on a few different blog sites but was actually taken from Southern Living).

I don't think I got the proportions quite right -- it was kind of tough trying to reconcile the different recipes. Some called for differing amounts of cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce (which I had to get). I also ended up overfilling the crock pot, and it ended up being a little chicken-heavy.

After about 5 hours, I took the chicken out, shredded it and added most of it back in, along with adding extra corn, tomato, and lima beans, which helped the ratio.

I'd also made some substitutions -- instead of regular chili sauce, I used Sriracha. I also added okra, which I don't get to eat very often (I like it, in spite of, or perhaps even because of, its odd sliminess).

The Verdict

The taste was a little off -- an odd kind of sweetness. And not enough heat -- maybe more cayenne pepper next time. And I'd left out potato, which was a mistake: It wasn't quite thick enough (I didn't check to see if it passes the spoon test). But all in all, it was still pretty good.

It had better be -- unless I freeze the leftovers, I'm going to be eating it for the rest of the week.

Want some?

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Accidental, Homemade Refrigerator Raisins on the Vine

Sure, you can take your fancy cheese cloths and baking trays and "sunlight" to make your own raisins. Or, you can use the Joelogon method:

  1. Wash a bunch of grapes and put them in a container.
  2. Put the container in the back of the refrigerator.
  3. Forget about it for a couple of months.
  4. Find the container, then put it back.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4.
  6. Success!
Honestly, I have no idea how long they've been in there. But they're still edible.

On the plus side, my way is easier, plus the raisins stay on the vine, which is kind of neat.

On the minus side, it takes a lot longer, and you might have to pick out the moldy ones every once in a while.

(See more photos in the Flickr set. Though they all look pretty much the same.)

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beef Tendon, Chicken Feet, and Pig's Knuckles

I know no one cares what I had for lunch, but I this combination is a little different (for starters, it is very brown):

Beef tendon, chicken foot, pig's knuckles. Over rice.

I have to thank Mom for this particular combination. I brought all this -- and more -- back from home after Thanksgiving, and I'm trying to finish it before it walks away.

I don't have beef tendon all that often. It's very... chewy. And I can't say I'm that big a fan of chicken feet (too much effort, not enough payoff). But the pig's knuckles (a.k.a. pig's feet)... the way my mom makes them? Good stuff.

I don't eat it too often, though -- that stuff'll kill ya.

In other news, lots of folks are talking about the AP story on the report that says Washington Leads Metro Areas in Walkability. Ballston figures prominently, though I also enjoyed this quote:
"Leinberger attaches one major caveat to his report: The survey did not take into account the size of each walkable place. For example, midtown Manhattan is given the same weight as Reston Town Center, a lifestyle center outside Washington, even though the latter has only a tiny fraction of the office and retail space, residential units, and hotel rooms of midtown."
The only way Reston Town Center could compare to Manhattan would be if you limited the comparison to the Manhattan Mall.

My own particular pied a terre in Reston isn't really walkable (mostly because I am lazy), though that may change with the high-rises going up down the road (and if Metro ever gets out here).

The whole walkability issue is particular relevant when you look at the Tyson's Tunnel debate -- if the tunnel isn't going to be a viable solution (due to the need to secure federal funding), is there still a way to build walkable, high-density, mixed-use neighborhoods? I'm not an urban planner, but I'm hoping someone can figure out a way to do it.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Food. Need Food. Argh.

I'm fasting right now -- nothing major, just 12 hours in front of a routine physical. No problem, right?

Except at this very moment, I'm jonesing for... anything. Maybe the pho I had for dinner wasn't enough. And the multiple fun-sized Halloween fire sale candies (Baby Ruths and Snickers, mostly) weren't enough for dessert.

Yeah, I was front-loading before the 9-ish cutoff.

Worse, I was just watching Metalocalypse on Adult Swim (which, I must admit, I didn't get at first, but it's kind of grown on me over time). Of course, it's the one where they're talking all about food.

So I had to change the channel. Let's see, what else is on? Ah, back-to-back showings of Saving Private Ryan. No eating there.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Five Guys Shows How New Yorkers Are Kind of Dumb

Saw via Obscurestore.com that Five Guys opened its first location in midtown NYC on Thursday. Waits at lunchtime were up to 90 minutes, which is, of course, ridiculous.

(I like Five Guys' burgers, though I'm not really a fan of the fries.)

It's part of the flow of life up there, where something new opens or gets written up in the Times or New York Magazine or whatever, and then there's this mad hype leading to a huge frenzy and lines out the door.

Most commonly, it was a food fad: frites, Japanese egg/meat pancake-things, creampuffs, Soup Nazi, cupcakes. Usually overpriced, but still relatively accessible. It would run for a while, then burn out or fade away.

What really highlighted the ridiculousness of it all was when NYC got really excited for things that the rest of the country already had and took for granted -- like big-box retail: Home Depot. K-Mart. Bed Bath & Beyond. Whole Foods. Trader Joe's.

You can chalk it up to New York egocentrism, of course (even though it happens everywhere), but it's part of the sense of community up there. Waiting in line (and there's always a line, especially for the food places, which are invariably small), it's a bit of shared suffering, a little bit need to be a part of something fresh or big or cool, with a pinch of "if people are waiting in line, it means there's something worth waiting for."

Even when I lived there, I never bought into the whole "It thing" phenomena, mostly because it was stupid, plus I was oblivious and didn't have very much money. Later, when I saw it, it was as a tourist, which is never the same thing.

Anyway, since I am easily suggestible, I think I will go get a Five Guys burger now.

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Monday, October 15, 2007


I'm mostly recovered from my cold, though I'm still a little congested and have a lingering and nasty-sounding cough. So I was in the mood for a nice big bowl of pho tonight, with just the right amount of plum sauce and Sriracha. (Just enough for some nice heat, not so much you sweat into the soup. That's nasty.)

Unfortunately, all the local places I know were closed by the time I got out there, so I settled for an instant substitute -- Nong Shim-brand Shin Ramyun:


It's Korean-style beef-flavored ramen noodles. My mom sent me, like, a case of it last month. It's really spicy, too, which she neglected to tell me until after I'd tried it, dumping the whole seasoning packet in (my parents only use a third or half packet, and they can take the heat better than I can).

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

After-Action Report: Weekend Social Calendar (in Photos)

So let's see if the weekend turned out as predicted:

Went to blogger happy hour. There was a brass band at Dupont Circle. Didn't mingle as much as I should have. Carried an empanada around for the better part of an hour. Took photos of random hugging people on the Metro:

Saturday: Went to the Dulles Day Plane Pull. Saw planes. Saw people pulling planes:

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There was also a B-25J Mitchell:

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I also did manage to go to Ragtime afterwards.

Sunday: Made it out to the Adams Morgan Day Festival. There was steak in a sac and a cop on a Segway:

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There was street food (I had the pulled pork, myself) and street scenes:

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I saw baskets, and I shook the hand of DC Mayor Adrian Fenty:

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It was a pretty good weekend, even if I didn't save room for a falafel:


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Friday, August 31, 2007

The Moe's Burrito Was, in Retrospect, a Mistake

I grabbed a late lunch at the Moe's Southwest Grill just up the road (it's a Focus Brands property -- they do Carvel, Seattle's Best Coffee, Cinnabon, etc.)

It wasn't very good. And I'm not particularly fussy when it comes to burrito places.

I mean, I like both Baja Fresh and Chipotle, which are about as corporate as it gets.

The setup is basically Chipotle (big burrito they make in front of you) + Baja Fresh (salsa/hot sauce bar), with stupid names for all the menu items thrown in as an extra, unwanted bonus.

The burrito wasn't anything special (I wouldn't go as far as to call it "The Height of Moe-deocrity"), but the salsas were terrible; the "red" was basically some sort of chili oil.

Anyway, since I won't eat there again, it's not going to be a problem, though it may very well put a crimp in my plan to go the gym this afternoon. (I'm not going away this weekend, so I'm just going to hang out and slack.)


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

When Your Coffee Just Doesn't Have Enough Kick

Picked this up this morning at 7-11:

Stok Black Coffee Shot -- basically a caffeinated non-dairy coffee thing.
Not for those under 18, or pregnant women. Pregnant teens are doubly out of luck.

It's a Stōk ("stoke") non-dairy creamer (actually, since I haven't opened it yet, I don't know if it's actually creamer) that has 40 mg of caffeine, or the equivalent of a shot of espresso.

In other words, it a booster shot of caffeine for your coffee.

How perverse.

The manufacturer, WhiteWave Foods, is the parent company of International Delight (no surprise there with the form factor of the package, right?), though one would imagine that they're going after a different demographic than blissed-out, flavored-coffee housewives.

Why did I not try it? I was already drinking the yellow-handled 7-11 Fusion energy coffee, which is spiked with ginseng (not traditionally noted for its energetic properties, but it is good with a chicken soup and I'm sure it increases your chi or your feng shui or something), yerba mate (a mild stimulant), and guarana (which is just another of caffeine).

With all that shit already in the coffee (plus two packets of Equal), I didn't want to push my luck.

Between the Fusion energy coffee and the Stok shot, all they have to do is start brewing the coffee with Water Joe or some other caffeinated water for some real fireworks.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Joelogon-Fast Diet Plan

It's real simple:

A donut for breakfast,
A donut for lunch,
Then a sensible dinner of a mushroom-swiss burger with french fries.

[Riffing on an old slogan, for the youngsters.]

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Monday, July 02, 2007

I Give Up: I Declare This GLUTTONY WEEK

It started on Saturday, when I read the story about the Dairy Queen Blizzard road rage incident and had to have one. This is despite the fact that I'd never eaten one before.

I only got the small, though. Heath bar.

It was okay.

On Sunday, I went grocery shopping. I was coming back from the Folklife festival and hadn't eaten anything all day except for a banana and a Kashi GOLEAN Roll! (they're really good), so I was in trouble.

I ended up buying a 6-pack of Klondike Heath bars ($1.99! That's 33 cents a bar! Such a bargain...), a pack of steaks (small ones), and two bags of Lay's Cheddar and Sour Cream potato chips (half-price). Oh, and my groceries.

Okay, all was not lost. I was going to go to the gym tonight.

But the Monday evening thing never really seems to work out for me (so to speak).

Then, tomorrow's going a pre-holiday, then of course, Wednesday is the Fourth.

So, fitness-wise, I'm writing off this week and going to be a glutton.

For my first act, I think I will finish off (another) Klondike Heath bar, covered in two kinds of pudding. Then, I will start alternating salty and sweet foods until my taste buds fall off.

I will have to play the rest by ear.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Eating Pre-Sept. 11 Raisin Bran

Here's the top panel from the box of Kellogg's Raisin Bran I opened for breakfast. Note the "Better if used before" date -- AUG 21 2000:


I would be lying if I said this was unusual for my pantry.

In addition to being about 7 years old, it's also Raisin Bran from another era.

Pre-9/11 Raisin Bran.

It tasted like... a more innocent Raisin Bran.

I got your Time Capsule right here.

Actually, it wasn't rancid or particularly stale. And being Raisin Bran, it's not like it's got a lot of flavor to lose in the first place.

I would definitely rate it first grade Raisin Bran (since it would be enrolled in elementary school by now).

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Second Donut Was a Mistake. The First Donut Was Also a Mistake

I think that's all that needs to be said about my breakfast yesterday.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Blackened Pizza and a Black Man With a Hammer

Burnt Pizza
Nasty looking, isn't it?

After coming home from last night's DC Fark party at RFD (I will get my pics up and post about it later), I put some leftover pizza in the oven for a snack.

Night of the Living Dead was on TCM. The last thing I remember was a black man boarding up the house.

When I woke up, I realized that, yes, I'd fallen asleep with the oven on again.

The pity of it is, even though it was a few days old, the pizza was leftover from Manhattan Pizzeria, which is not horrible if you like NY style.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

The Liberal Media Forced Me to Eat Ramen

Lately, I've found myself eating Ramen noodles again, after a break of about 10 years.

I blame the liberal media. Specifically, I blame Salon's "Ask the Pilot" column, a recent edition of which sang an airline pilot's praises of ramen.

It spoke to me, reaching some inner emptiness that could not be fulfilled by healthier, non-deep-fried instant noodle products (of which I have many, especially the Trader Joe's instant noodle soup bowls.)

I dug through my cupboard and found a few ancient packages, which to my ramen-deprived palate, tasted the same as if they had just been purchased yesterday.

I ran through those pretty quickly.

Fortunately, as luck would have it, a 10-pack of Maruchan brand (which is made in Irvine, CA and Richmond, VA) was on sale at the supermarket:

Ramen 8-pack

Now that's good eating, at only 380 calories and 14 grams of fat per two-serving package.

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