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January, 2010:

Flowers: any hour of the day or night [Open 24/7]

IMG_018124/7 Technology is one of the things that make America Great.

Some things—like drug stores, coffee shops and diners—are just meant to be open 24-hours. It is expected that the drug store will be open when you need it and that the diner will always have a light on for you. And when they don’t, it is deeply disappointing.

But this being America, there are a whole class of other establishments where the owners have decided to keep them open all night even though you wouldn’t expect them to be.  Examples include your 24-hour car-washes, all-night hair salons and mechanic shops.

I thought I had heard of every kind of 24-hour establishment, but the other day while walking through the East Village I stumbled on another one I had never seen before: a 24-hour florist.

It is a testament to the American entrepreneurial spirit—and a remarkable business insight—that someone had the audacity to open a all-night florist. But on reflection, it makes perfect sense. Domestic disputes don’t only occur from 9-5. If you have a falling out in the middle of the night and need to get off the couch, sometimes the only solution is stopping by a florist at 3 AM.

Thankfully in America, that is possible.

God Bless America!

(Hat tip: Roberta)

When it comes to grass v. corn, I choose delicious [food]

CowRemember how the food police told us that if we were callous enough to eat beef, we should at least limit ourselves to the grass-fed variety. After all, they said, feeding cows grass is the natural way to do it, and before massive post-war agricultural subsidies corn-fed beef was nonexistent.

Well it turns out that claim was BS.

Yesterday the Freakonomics blog posted a great take-down of the grass-fed beef myth.  As it happens, cows have been eating corn since at least the dawn of the last century—well before Big Agriculture came on the scene.

My take on the issue is simple. I don’t particularly care what is and is not the “natural” food for cows. After all, modern dairy cows are not “natural” animals, per se. We bred them over hundreds of years for two purposes: to give us milk and taste delicious.

It is the taste delicious part that influences my opinion in the grass v. corn debate. I’ve been to Latin America and had grass-fed beef. It didn’t taste as good as the corn-fed stuff we have here.* Kobe Beef, on the other hand, is delicious. And those cows are fed a steady diet of cornmeal and beer and their muscles are massaged with Sake daily.

So when it comes to the grass v. corn debate. I choose the taste of corn every time.

* This is likely because wandering around and looking for grass to eat is stressful and puts undo strain on the cows’ muscles.

[Freakonomics]

They thought car radios were dangerous too… [cell phone ban]

It strikes me that a lot of the hysteria about the dangers posed by cell phones in cars boils down to little more than plain old technophobia.

After all, there is no reason to believe that cell phones are uniquely distracting. Both academic studies and surveys suggest that they are in fact less of a distraction than numerous things we regularly cope with while driving; such as children, road-rage and attractive members of the opposite sex in adjacent cars, to name a few.

But despite the fact that our roads are safer than ever and both fatality and accident rates have plunged over the last decade, we have somehow come to believe that cell phones pose a unique and urgent threat—a threat which must be dealt with immediately.

I suspect that much of this misplaced fear stems from the fact that cell phones—especially those of the “smart phone” variety—are a relatively newfangled technology and therefore must be dangerous, particularly when used in cars.

Of course this is nothing new. Americans have always feared change when it comes to automobiles. As the letter to the editor above shows, people made the same arguments about the dangers of the radio in 1933 that we hear about cell phones today. But despite the grim warnings, people quickly learned to drive with the radio playing, just as they had adapted to the comfortable seats and fast engines that the “safety experts” also wanted to ban.

Free Refills Roundup [Constitutional Amendment edition]

US ConstitutionFree Refills are part of the American spirit and we tend to talk about them a lot–particularly on Twitter. So once I week  every one in a while, I post the best of the “Free Refills” chatter from the web. The fourth edition of the Free Refills Roundup features calls for a Free Refills constitutional amendment.

Took full advantage of free refills with 4 glasses of Pepsi! @DeadmanDBR

I don’t get going to coffee shops. Is it normal for everyone to come here and just get free refills of coffee and use the free wifi? @roleforlife

back in the states, thanking our forefathers for free refills and ice water ! @teaginmjom

Bars should be like fast food places. Free refills. @talling_icarus

We need a constitutional amendment explicitly stating we have a right to free refills on soft drinks. @JCCentCom

Cell phones aren’t dangerous, toddlers are.

Screamer.For months I’ve been saying that when it comes to distracted driving, passengers—crying children, in particular—pose a greater accident risk than cell phones. That is why I proposed banning carpooling.

It seems that others are finally catching on. Today the Consumer Reports blog ran a post about how dangerous diving with kids can be and the best ways to minimize the risk. Of course, the post was inspired by the fact that the reporter had recently rear-ended a BMW while trying to deal with a distracting child.

[Consumer Reports]

This is where I draw the line [distracted driving]

Regular readers of this blog know that I am very skeptical of schemes to ban the use of cell phones in cars. After all, there is little reason to believe that using a cell phone while driving is any more distracting than, say, adjusting confusing radio controls or driving around with a car full of kids. So why ban cell phones and not carpooling?

But there is one distraction I think we can all agree needs to be banned: cooking-while-driving. I don’t care how much you spent installing a full-service kitchen in your car, cooking is hard enough as it is. Imagine trying to do it while cursing down the highway at 70MPH–you’d probably get distracted and burn your dinner!

#25. Delivery

You can order pizza online!

The French—and professional food whiners like Michael Pollan—might have the time to enjoy an organic, locally-grown, slow-food lifestyle. But for the rest of us,  shopping at the farmers’ market all day and slaving over a stove all night is simply out of the question.

We don’t have time to chop vegetables, marinade meat or sit around the table with our families. And even if we did, we probably wouldn’t want too. After all, there are a lot of demands on our time, like facebook, video games and NBC’s new lineup. And—let’s be honest here—no one’s family dinner conversation is more stimulating than The Office.

The truth is that at the end of the day we Americans are exhausted. Too exhausted to go to a restaurant, too exhausted to cook, too exhausted, even, to go pickup some carryout. But since starvation isn’t an option, we invented delivery. (For our European readers, “Delivery” is like going to a restaurant, except the waiter brings your meal to your house.)

Delivery technology may have been popularized by suburban pizza joints, but these days the dedicated couch potato can get just about anything brought right to the front door. Hot meals, dry-cleaning and groceries, you name it. In big cities like New York, you can even order your Amazon.com purchases with same-day delivery.

And thanks to the internet, the delivery experience is still rapidly improving. Earlier today I ordered two medium pizzas through the Dominos website. Much to my surprise, the system worked! Thirty minutes after placing my order two relatively hot pizzas arrived at my door. And thanks to the online ordering, I didn’t even have to talk to anyone on the phone.

If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.

God Bless America!

Will the soda tax drive New Yorkers to the bottle?

7 Eleven Beer Can, 1970's

Where has 7-Eleven brand beer been all my life?

Governor Patterson’s cent-per-ounce soda tax might be the most regressive new tax proposal around (as was pointed out in a previous post by commenter John), but it still has a silver lining—at least for the beer companies.

The New York Times’ City Room Blog reports that if passed, the soda tax would make some six-packs of beer cheaper than coke.

Now I enjoy an ice cold Coca-Cola as much as the next guy. But let’s be honest, if beer and Coke are even close to the same price, beer wins every time.

Of course entirely swapping beer for soda in your diet will be a little difficult unless they repeal some of our oppressive public consumption laws.

[City Room]

Give it cupholders and I’ll take it [Americanization]

Tata Nano - ( View In Large Size)

If only there was a place to put my Big Gulp...

America, they say, is a melting pot. We welcome foreign people and products to our shores with open arms (particularly if they are sleek, Asian-manufactured electronic products).

But is America really ready to embrace a $3,000 Indian “People Car” which gives new meaning to the terms “sub-compact” and “bare bones?” TBM’s Matthew DeBord thinks so—provided that engineers slap a few cupholders in the American version, that is.

[The Big Money]

Are soda taxes coming to NYC? [action alert]

Day 32 - GenericLast summer the sushi-and-tofu crowd tried to get Congress to pass soda taxes as part of the healthcare legislation.

Of course, levying extra taxes on American staples like Coca-Cola and orange juice is about as popular as a tax on Christmas cards so the proposal didn’t really go anywhere. But now it appears that the state budget crisis in New York might just bring the soda tax back from the dead.

According to an email alert from Americans Against Food Taxes, Governor Patterson is proposing a whopping 12-cent per can tax on soda and sweetened drinks.  If passed, such a tax would increase the cost of your average 12-pack by nearly 30 percent!

But you can help fight back.

The good folks at Americans Against Food Taxes have put together an email that you can send to your elected representatives. So join Coca-Cola, The American Beverage Association and countless bottlers, distributors and shopkeepers by telling Gov. Patterson not to tax the simple pleasures we all enjoy.

Click here to help!

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