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Showing posts from July, 2012

Small Business Culture

Earlier in the month Kojo Nnamdi spent an hour discussing the challenges that small businesses have in DC when trying to find affordable retail space. Small business have a tough time, even when they can afford to rent space, because landlords are often more interested in leasing to "credit" tenants who they believe are less likely to go delinquent on the lease.

One of the callers into the show brought up the small business culture in Portland, Oregon. This is something I intended to blog last winter, after I spent 4 days in the city.


(from dennis.tang on Flickr) 

 People in Portland absolutely love small businesses. It's like there's something in the air or the water there. They will go out of their way to patronize a small business in lieu of a chain business. I'm not sure there's another city where Powell's could not just survive but thrive, for example.

I went to one great little coffee shop in downtown Portland (it was not Stumptown, but it was a few bl…

On Being a Food Snob

Recently somebody accused me of being a food snob. This was the first time in my life this ever happened and frankly, caught me by surprise. Being called a food snob isn't a title that most people want. Being a called a snob of any kind isn't a title that most people want. When it comes to food though, this is completely backwards - people should strive to be food snobs.

(from Alph on Flickr)
What does that mean exactly? It doesn't mean that you go to fancy restaurants owned by iron chefs. Hell, it doesn't mean that you ever even go out to restaurants. Being a food snob means caring about your food, its freshness, how it's prepared and cooked, and what impact it has on your health.

A person who eats at McDonalds, buys boxed Kraft macaroni and cheese and makes sandwiches with white bread and American cheese wouldn't be considered a food snob.

A person who shops at farmers markets, buys fresh fruits and vegetables, and makes garden salads at home with feta cheese …

The Utility of Cars in Cities

As part of NPR's new Cities project, they recently aired a story about the "war on cars" on All Things Considered. It's kind of a stale topic in my opinion; but alas, here I am re-hashing it, so I'll admit to being complicit.

(from karen.j.ybanez on Flickr)
Now, I don't own a car. Neither do many of my friends. But almost all of us drive. How's that possible? Well... there's rental cars and car-sharing, to start. Not owning a car is not the same as never driving, a point that's frequently misapplied in these debates.

The bigger problem with this discussion is that it's framed as all-or-nothing when it's actually quite nuanced. Let's dissect a not-very-good argument from Chuck Thies, who's made some not-very-good arguments on this topic in the past. Here's his quote from the NPR story:
Take a look around. Right here, I see four bikes, five or six pedestrians; and I see, what, 50 cars? This is the predominant form of transportatio…

Drinking Beer as Presdient

Tom Rotunno has a fascinating article about beer and President Obama. I didn't realize for example, that the President is the first to home brew inside the White House (as opposed to at his personal home). Even more interesting is how beer plays into campaigning. While in Ohio recently, Obama drank Bud Light. Rotunno writes...
Marketing consultant Laura Ries thinks Bud Light is a good fit for the President.

“Going with Bud Light is a safe choice and is probably the best choice,” says Ries. “Bud says 'leader.' I think it is still believed by Joe SixPack across the nation to be an 'all-American' beer. Even though it is owned by a foreign conglomerate now, most people don’t think about it. The average person thinks of Budweiser as an American choice.”This is an interested tidbit about American business and politics. Even though both Bud Light and Miller Light are owned by foreign companies (InBev of Belgium and SABMiller of the UK) the typical Joe SixPack either doesn…

Creating Jobs (that People Hate)

I don't know how I missed this one. Cleveland's casino opened just under a few months ago and already there are reports that the new employees are quitting in droves. Well, OK, that's not all that surprising on the surface. The service industry is a sucky place to work. The pay probably isn't very good. The hours probably aren't very good. The customers probably feel entitled and treat the employees like dirt. I get it - I worked enough summers earning minimum wage at an amusement park to know the reality of these jobs.

(from Erik Daniel Drost on Flickr)
But the thing is... Cleveland's casino was supposed  to be a godsend to the city because of the 1,600 new jobs it was going  to "create" in a city where people are desperate for jobs. More than a few times I heard a phrase that went something like "the people who really hit the jackpot at the new casino are the people who found jobs after being unemployed."

These clearly aren't the kinds …