I Really Like “Like Crazy”

I went a great man-date with Julian last week and saw “Like Crazy” which stars Felicty Jones and Anton Yelchin as two college students who fall in love.  It’s not a rom-com but rather a romance.  Here are some thoughts…

The film is a very realistic portrayal of 20’s romance.  Anyone who has ever been in a long distance relationship in their 20’s will relate to this film.  You feel high on the relationship one second and then it drags and disappears.

Great use and progression of cell phone technology. Finally we see the impact texting can have on a character.  It always bothers me that this doesn’t happen more in movies. Also, the technology was pretty accurate – from the clamshell to the iPhone, it was some very realistic mobile movie footage. Continue reading I Really Like “Like Crazy”

Cool Green Stuff

As Kermit used to say, “it’s not easy being green,” which is why i thought these items were pretty cool…

First there’s a new Puma phone that was announced this week at MWC (the largest mobile conference in the world) and instead of trying to compete with iPhone/Android and trying to do everything it’s just a cool phone, with some cool “fun” features (pedometer, compass, audio player with turntable) and a solar panel on the back so you don’t run out of juice.  Pretty sweet.

Second, there is some more solar powered stuff:

These are lamps on a highway that are wind powered. As far as practical renewable energy concepts go, these wind-powered highway lights are pretty elegant.  I don’t see why we don’t get these on EVERY highway.

Finally, there’s just some bike new from LA:

Los Angeles is known for its freeways, and those guys are impossible to ride a bike on. That’s where a proposal from a cycling activism organization called the L.A Bike Working Group comes in. The group recently proposed a “Backbone Bikeway Network”–a system of bikeways that is comparable to a freeway for cyclists.  I don’t see this happening any time soon, but it would be really great if it did

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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LA, You’re Fired!

The fires in LA are both incredible and sad. The sight of them is unlike anything i’ve seen. Take a look at this video that Toby put up (click on it to watch video):
Picture 3

It makes me reflect on my time here in LA.  As some of you know, i’m moving to Denver in the next few weeks.  I’m out of here. While i’m excited about moving closer to the mountains and friends, i’m sad to leave LA.  The past 17 months have been an interesting time. Some thoughts on LA:

  • The people are not as bad a place as people think.  Sure, there are some shitty people – and most of them work in “the industry” but if you avoid the industry and industry parties, then you really don’t run into these people that often.
  • Side note: it’s interesting moving from one town where “the industry” was the government to LA where it is the film business.  As i see it, these are the two largest growth business the US will have in the next 30 years (except maybe health care) or if not the largest grown maybe the largest export
  • LA is very entrepreneurial. However, the people i met here are quite different than the entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley.  Up there, a startup is typically an academic thought-based exploration.  Down here in LA, it’s much more about the hustle.  When i think about the two types of startups, i’ve found that  LA is more focused on making money and less on the ideas and philosophy behind the deals.
  • Nature, nature, nature.  It’s all around LA.  People talk about Colorado’s proximity to mountains and nature – well it’s right here too.  You’ve got beach, mountains, desert – all within 2 hours.  And it’s beautiful.  If you can see past the smog, you’ll see some amazingly beautiful scenery. I wish i had spent more time exploring
  • The beach is underrated.  There are lots of parts of LA.  You’ve got the Valley, Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills.  But what all of those don’t have is great weather year round and the beach.  The beach brings a calm to people’s attitude and a coolness to the air.  Both make a big difference day in and day out.
  • Related to the above post: Beach Cruisers. I’ve always loved biking but it wasn’t till i moved to the beach that i discovered the cruiser.  This has 3 key characteristics: (1) a big comfy seat, (2) a basket for carrying stuff, (3) handlebars angled up so you can sit straight up and not hunched over.  All of these dramatically change the bike riding experience so it can be done recreationally and comfortably .  I love my cruiser
  • Food: I love the Tacos.  Cactus Tacos, Dos Burritos, Loteria or all the others.  My taco standards have been raised forever.   I also love In-N-Out and ate there almost twice a month the entire time, as noted by JT and Jstreet and Nader.
  • Movie theaters. As i’ve written before, LA does movie theaters the right way.  This means that they are big comfy seats and that you can pick your seat before you arrive so you can get there 5 min before showtime and have a nice center seat.  Or you can see that there are no good seats and wait for another show.  Game changer
  • Dartmouth surely represents.  No matter what i wanted to do in LA, i found that there was a Dartmouth alum and friend who had figured it out and could take me along.  I was so fortunate to have soccer teammates, pong partners, business thinkers, rock band drummers, talent agents, concert goers and providers, and lots entrepreneurs all over the place.  They made LA an easily place to join and a hard place to leave.  I see lots of vacations back in my future.
  • The Garfields.  Todd and Julie were one of my highlights of LA.  I’m very fortunate to have roped them into many meals and movies.

Of all of these, i think i’ll miss the beach and the people around the beaches the most.  Waking up to salt water in the air and a cool breeze is amazing.

Santa Monica

Thank you LA, i’ll miss you.

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.

dsc00925

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

New Media – What Will It Look Like

Toby and i have been debating and discussing what new media will look like.  His post today inspired me to lay down some of my thoughts. A lot of my thinking stems from this article in The Atlantic and Fred’s Post about his reading habits.

newspapersdead
The Atlantic post described how the NY Times is dead.  With $1 billion in debt, a $400 million dollar loan due in May and only $46 million in cash on hand, it is going down.  Even with the $250 million it got yesterday, it cannot continue to exist the way it is.  No newspaper can.  My beloved Star Tribune declared bankruptcy last too and that’s the beginning of the trend of all papers.

Why are they failing?  Because the business model is wrong.  They are trying to do too much.  They cover things that are commodities.  It’s as if every online music service tried to build an mp3 store to compete with iTunes and Amazon.  They don’t because those work great.  Newpapers try to cover every story: national and international news, sports, entertainment, etc. The local newspaper doesn’t need to cover most of they reports on today because their paper is not going to be the place where the public finds that information. When user’s get online, all of this news is available in other places, for free and in a better, deeper format.  For instance:

  • National and International news: this is covered by AP, Reuters, and CNN.com
  • Entertainment news: this can be found online (RottenTomatoes) or from national news and reviews from individual columnists (Ebert)
  • Sports: ESPN.com and bloggers will cover this

If a paper is covering any of these on their own, it is a losing proposition.  What’s left? The only thing is see is local news. I think local papers should focus on local news because everything else is a commodity.  Even bloggers will be able to fill the gaps left by major journals.

Toby talks in his post about the Huffington Post which i think is a piece of the puzzle but it’s only interesting because they are trying to be a news portal.  And i agree.  In my mind, most “papers” will shift online and instead of reporting the news, they will be filtering it. And if they don’t, they will die.  They better hurry up too, becuase places like the HuffPo are trying to get there first. You can already see how this is happening.  Filters are already part of people everyday lives the same way a paper used to be.  Technology aggregation and filtering is done at Techmeme, sport aggregation and filtering at ESPN, and news filters like CNN can replace almost any newspaper’s news coverage.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way.  More evidence came yesterday when ESPN announced a partnership with TrueHoop to place NBA blogs in their site because they know that they can’t cover everything.  You can see how techmeme is the “paper” of choice for Michael Arrington from TechCrunch.  He writes:

Image representing Techmeme as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

TechMeme is another four-year favorite. It is the blogosphere’s daily newspaper, and one of the sites we use most often in seeing how stories develop.

Will papers become local news sources?  I think that’s all that’s left for them.  But they better hurry up because local blogs like LAist.com and DCist.com are already attacking this niche and doing a better job than they are.

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The Ways Cities Talk

A city speaks to you mostly by accident—in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It’s not something you have to seek out, but something you can’t turn off.

I just moved to a new city and i couldn’t agree more with this statement. Over the past 10 years, I’ve lived in Palo Alto, Boston, New York, Hanover and most recently Washington DC and each one was a completely different experience. The people, the structure, the transportation, and the values all contribute to the conversation.  There is a feel to each city.  It’s very real

The article written here is called Cities and Ambition. It’s a great little essay and it argues that Cambridge is the intellectual capital of the world. He also comments on Los Angeles and it’s culture, saying:

The big thing in LA seems to be fame. There’s an A List of people who are most in demand right now, and what’s most admired is to be on it, or friends with those who are. Beneath that the message is much like New York’s, though perhaps with more emphasis on physical attractiveness.

Only a few weeks in and i can already tell that LA is a place that has several languages. The people “in the industry” have one culture and everyone else has another. One thing i have noticed is how entreprenurial people are in LA. One person remarked that this is because people have to be self-promoting in the entertainment industry. I’m not so sure. I think it’s because of two things in LA. First, there aren’t alot of steady, traditional jobs. Sure there are lawyers and consultants and bankers but most people in entertainment and “the industry” do not have a salary but instead or work for hire type people. Second, it’s cheap to live in LA. You can get a cheap apartment right in the middle of the city. So you mix lots of jobs that people can try for with an affordable surroundings and you get lots of people trying new things to make a buck or become famous.

The article also talks about ambition in general. Saying:

So far the complete list of messages I’ve picked up from cities is: wealth, style, hipness, physical attractiveness, fame, political power, economic power, intelligence, social class, and quality of life. I’d always considered ambition a good thing, but I realize now that was because I’d always implicitly understood it to mean ambition in the areas I cared about. When you list everything ambitious people are ambitious about, it’s not so pretty.

It is interesting to think about and makes you wonder which is worse, ambition of something ugly or no ambition at all?

I have loved living in the big cities of America. They are all different but great places that have changed my worldview. I’ve met very different and interesting people in all of them. I do believe it’s true that you don’t have to be raised in a city, and you don’t have to live in one later in life, but at some point you need to be surrounded by the conversations and the ambition that can be found in and about the bright lights of a big town. Or as the author says:

The Impressionists show the typical pattern: they were born all over France (Pissarro was born in the Carribbean) and died all over France, but what defined them were the years they spent together in Paris.

btw: please read the article. It’s good.

My new favorite radio station

I was always hearing from my friend Gum that there is this kickass radio station in Minneapolis called The Current. Living in DC, i never got into a station as they were all basically Clear Channel crap.  Seriously all the channels in DC play a limited playlist of Top 40 or mainstream music.  This is not interesting to me.

Recently though, i’ve been driving around LA and i have to say that i’ve grown to LOVE the station Indie103. Not only do they not have set playlists, but the DJ’s sometimes throw up just random good stuff. I was happy to see that Rolling Stone magazine agrees with me when they recently ranked 103 the best radio station in the country. Here’s what they said:

More like the adventurous rock stations of the Seventies than its current ultracorporate competitors, Los Angeles’ Indie 103.1 has challenged the city’s alt-rock powerhouse, KROQ, with broader playlists, fewer commercials and DJs who have cool taste and a distinctive point of view. The station, which also broadcasts online at indie1031.com, gives listeners the early jump on artists such as Tokyo Police Club and Black Lips, and also offers up NPR favorites like Feist and Bright Eyes, and album cuts from veterans including Morrissey and the Smashing Pumpkins. The station’s most popular shows are hosted by Henry Rollins, the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones, the Crystal Method and actor Danny Masterson, all of whom select their own tunes. “People wanna hear good music, and in the past few years, Indie 103 has become the only station that matters out here for good music,” says Masterson, who hosts Feel My Heat on Monday nights with his friend Brent Bolthouse. “I think it’s the best station on the planet, actually.”

So if you listen to music online or are in LA, you should check it out