My No Caffeine Zone

I remember my sophomore year in high school where I decide for a New Year’s Resolution to give up soda (or as I called it then, “pop”) as I thought i was becoming a bit too addicted to caffeine.  After a few days of withdrawal, I was fine. I’ve never looked back.  Since 1993, I’ve been off the juice.  Other than a special Captain and Coke and super-rare RedBull and Vodka, I’m free of caffeine these days. 

I really enjoy it.  It keeps me balanced.  I have noticed that i’m more likely to do a run or cardio activity in the morning to get going as it’s really the only way I know to get my brain cruising. 

I’ve also noticed that in the rare occasion when i do have some caffeine, man does it hit me.  I go crazy.  I’ve also noticed that if i mix lots of liquor and caffeine, i’m sometimes sleepwalk – leading to some really weird stories. That’s another blog post. 

While i’m on the topic, a huge pet-peeve of mine is that lack of drinks available that are both diet AND caffeine free.  It’s usually either-or.  You have Sprite, 7Up and some root beers that are caffeine-free, and then you have Diet Coke, Diet Dr. Pepper and such.  You can’t have both for some reason.  That really bothers me. 

I was thinking about this habit of mine when I read a new article in Business Week about the decline of Coke.  There’s some fascinating stats in there list below. 

All in all, I like being off the sauce. 


  • During the 1970s, the average person doubled the amount of soda they drank; by the 1980s it had overtaken tap water. In 1998, Americans were downing 56 gallons of the stuff every year—that’s 1.3 oil barrels’ worth of soda for every person in the country.
  • Since 2000, soft-drink sales stabilized for a few years; in 2005 they started dropping, and they haven’t stopped. Americans are now drinking about 450 cans of soda a year, roughly the same amount they did in 1986.
  • For Coke this is a problem. Soda makes up 74% of its business worldwide and about 68% in the U.S. Sales of Coca-Cola’s carbonated sodas fell 2% in the U.S. last year, the ninth straight year of decline. Coca-Cola made $46.8 billion last year, down from $48 billion in 2012.
  • Diet Coke tumbled especially hard, dropping 7 percent, almost entirely the result of the growing unpopularity of aspartame amid persistent rumors that it’s a health risk.
  • Today, Coca-Cola has 130,600 employees and makes 500 different beverages that people around the world drink 2 billion servings of every day.
  • A quarter of all carbonated beverages consumed globally are made by Coke; Pepsi is at 11%.
  • By 1999, according to the CDC, a fifth of all U.S. adults were obese; today that number is 35%. Obesity rates among children have tripled since the 1970s.
  • Coca-Cola now knows that 40 percent of the drinks customers buy have an added flavor and that people over 34 drink mostly caffeine-free Coke in the afternoon.

Some things i’m changing in 2012

With the new year, i’m going to try to do some more things.  Here’s what i have in mind: 

Read More.
 I hit a reading rut in 2011 where i went a few months without finishing a book. This was for good reasons (i was pretty busy doing actual work), but I want to get back to reading a book a month. I’m already on a good path as i’m busting out Ebert’s memoir and also Lean Startup and i’m really enjoying both. 

Exercise More. I used to exercise every day and lately i’ve been finding myself at only 2 or 3 times a week.  I want to give crossfit a go and stay at 4 times a week for the entire year.  Some other goals are: biking to and from Boulder from Denver twice a month in the summer.  And, possibly, doing a triathlon if I can get back in the pool.  

Eating Better.   I still have horrible eating habits.  I eat portions way too large and i eat stuff that’s just not good for me (ahem, Domino’s pizza).  I haven’t been able to do smaller portions.  I think cooking will help this (see next).  

Cook More.  My goal is to cook at least once a month in 2012 (twelve times total).  I had the same goal in 2011 and failed miserably with only about 4 or 5 cooking attempts.  I’m looking forward to Liz’s blog (one that is going to tell me exactly what to make) helping me out here.  Hopefully I’ll be a master chef by the end of the year. 

These are my lifestyle goals for 2012.  You have any you’re doing that i’m missing? 

In-N-Out Burger

In N Out
Image by pescatello via Flickr

Just finished reading the book In-N-Out Burger by Stacy Perlman about the creation of the iconic burger joint. The book has some great stories about the original founders. The husband/wife team Ester and Harry Snyder worked tirelessly and with lots of integrity to create a burger joint focused on “doing one thing an doing it better than anyone else”

The book begins when they founded the company in 1950 and the depiction of that time in LA was really interesting to learn about. The automobile was just coming on the scene and fast food restaurants were just starting. LA was a hotbed for them. In-N-Out, McDonald’s, Carls Jr, Taco Bell an others all started around the same time in the LA area. Los Angeles at that time was the Silicon Valley of fast food in the 50’s  There was a hype and boom around it and it was making many food entrepreneurs millionaires.

From the beginning In-N-Out wanted to be a place that was family owned and run. Harry and Ester continually turned away offers to sell, expand quickly or even change the scope of the business. Whether it was stubbornness or not, staying small and focused was Harry’s belief and it helped shape a truly unique restaurant that has – relative to other burger joints – healthier, better tasting burgers and a friendlier and cleaner environment all at a low price.

The book is also very much a out the Synder family – the dad, mom, 2 brothers, and granddaughter. Over 60 years of operation each one of these family members eventually ran the entire company. Harry was the main entrepreneur who built the core. When he died, he gave it to his youngest son who was equally talented and capable and built it up to be most like what it is today.  When he died, the oldest son stepped in.  He struggled with drug use and 6 years after taking over died from drug complications. After that, Harry’s wife, Ester, at age 82 took over again until her granddaughter was able to assume control.

The beginning is a great tale of growth and success, the middle is an interesting story of politics and growing pains, and the end is sort of tragic as the youngest Snyder (Lyndsi) is far from the dynamic inspiration of Harry nor nearly as competent.

I happy to have read the book and learn about In-N-Out’s secret sauce. If Harry, Ester or his son rich were still running the show I would bend I’ve backwards to eat there. But knowing that the company is now in somewhat incompetent and undeserving hands makes me believe that it’s only a matter of time before they chain tries to overexpand, maximize profits and become more of the same rather that a unique place with a special culture. Sure hope that doesn’t happen too soon

Some interesting facts:

  • In the 1950’s car hops were all the craze. In 1949 Harry built a two-way speaker system that allowed people to order their burger on the way in and pick it up on their way out in a fast, streamlined process.  While Wendy’s claimed to have invented the drive-thru in 1973, In-N-Out used it right off the bat for over 20 years prior to that
  • The entire chain lived by Harry’s quote: “Keep it simple, do one thing and do it the best you can”
  • Harry felt he had to own the entire process on how to make beef patties and deliver to stores on daily basis.  What you won’t see in an In-N-Out are: freezers, infrared lights. or microwaves
  • There’s a secret menu: the term, “animal style” came from the 60’s when the surfing community ordered the burgers with special sause.  The other customers who wanted the sause started calling it “animal style” as they viewed the surfers as animals.  Protein style. Lots think it came with the atlkins craze. But it came in the 70’s when the founder (harry) started eating burgers without the bun to try to lose weight.
  • Harry always paid his employees way over minimum wage.  In 1950, min wage was 60 cents and he started everyone at $1
  • Harry and Ester didn’t want to expand to more stores but their employees wanted more shifts.  Harry finally agreed to expand if he could staff an entire store with current employees and pay for it all in cash
  • Every store opened is completely paid for – there is no debt
  • LA is the birth place of fast-food and burgers.  Right by Baldwin Park in San Bernardino Valley, McDonalds opened it’s first store in 1948.  Similarly, Carl’s Jr started in 1945 and Fatburger in 1952 in LA
  • Ray Kroc, who is credited for building the McDonald’s empire actually approached 4 other chains before the McDonald’s founders decided to sell exclusive franchise rights to him.   In-N-Out was one of the 4.  Harry declined almost immediately.  At that time, many people were getting quite rich by starting fast food chains and franchising them.  Harry felt lots of pressure to do the same.  You can imagine how every one in your industry is doing something one way and you feel like doing the completely opposite.  While he could have definitely made more money franchising, he has created a cult and beloved brand by doing the opposite.
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S'mores Keyboard


This could possibly be the most delicious keyboard ever constructed.  As the Murdock family can vouch for, i’m a sucker for S’mores.  It’s probably a good thing this isn’t in my office or else i’d be getting fatter and way less productive as keys start disappearing.  Probably would last about 25 minutes.  I’d also probably rest it on my Macbook laptop so the chocolate would melt a little bit.  Yum

25 Random Things About Me

I got tagged in Facebook to do one of these lists.  I really enjoyed reading some of my colleagues and some of my old friends from high school so i thought i’d put one together.

The rules are that once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged or however many you want. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

Here are my items:

1. I don’t like fruit (with the exception of apples) and i’m happy that my sister’s the same way. It makes me feel less strange.

2. I tend to get around. I’ve been to 49 states and hope to get to the final one, Mississippi, sometime soon.  Since college, I’ve lived in Virginia, New York, Washington DC, Boston (sort of), and now Los Angeles.

3. I have no toenails on my 2 little toes.

4. I was born in NY, then moved to CA, then moved to Texas before i finished my youth in Minnesota.

5. I grew up in Minnesota.  When i moved east in 1996, i felt like a Midwesterner.  I then lived on the east coast for 11 years.  When i moved to California last year, i felt like an Easterner.  After a few years here, who knows who i’ll be.

6. i’ve never broken a bone. I attribute this to my love of milk.

7. I love the extended Lewis Family clan and feel so fortunate that i have such great cousins, aunts and uncles.

8. When i was younger I used to dress up like a ninja and wonder around in the woods with my brother.

Continue reading “25 Random Things About Me”

Session Beer

Got a good piece of knowledge dropped on me this weekend by Drew Mowery.

Check out what he said:

Now, you are probably aware that beers can be grouped by the type of fermentation that produces them (ale vs. lager), their flavor (porter vs. IPA vs. amber ale), and even their strength (dubbel vs. trippel vs. imperial).  Apparently they can also be grouped by their intended drinking style.

One of the more interesting designations that exists is that of a “session beer” — a beer of ~3-5 % alcohol with a with a good balance between malt and hop characters and a clean finish that gives it “high drinkability”.  Basically, one good beer to drink when you’re drinking more than one — literally a beer designed to be consumed in high volumes without overwhelming your palate or getting you so drunk that you can’t continue drinking.

The term originated in England during World War I when factory managers imposed two allowable drinking periods on shell production workers.  They had two 4 hour sessions each day when they were allowed to take a break and hit the bar.  Since they frequently went back to work after one of these sessions, the workers sought beer that they could drink for hours on end and still remain relatively coherent.  Thus, the session beer.

Proper grammatical usage:  “I went to the liquor store and picked up an imperial porter for a night cap, but wanted a good session beer for Saturday, so I grabbed a twelver of PBR” or “let’s session some Guinness tonight”