Category: Personal

An open letter to my son on the eve of starting his first summer internship

IMG_1086Well, Justin, high school graduation is behind you, you’ve landed in San Jose, and tomorrow morning you’ll wake up in Mountain View to start your internship at Mozilla, your first real world, paying job that’s aligned with your career goals.

I am so proud of you for all that you’ve accomplished and I know you’re going to have a great summer. But I have this fatherly need to impart wisdom, and I couldn’t fit it all in at the airport drop-off this morning, so I’m putting it here and linking to it from Twitter where you’ll be more likely to read and absorb it…

1. Don’t stand around with your hands in your pockets.

In every business there is always work that needs to be done. Don’t literally or figuratively just stand there doing nothing. Jump in and contribute value.

2. There is something to learn in even seemingly crappy tasks.

Every project has less desirable tasks and someone’s got to do them. If that’s you, don’t get discouraged. Take the grunt tasks on with a smile, knock them out quickly with quality, and find a lesson those tasks offer. Learning something new makes any task worth it.

3. Learn something new every day.

Speaking of learning, try to learn something new, no matter how small, every day. Actually, this applies to the rest of your life, not just your work life. If you get to the end of the day and you can’t answer, “What did I learn today?” that’s a day wasted, and it’s on you to fix.

4. Be confident, but practice gratitude and humility.

You’ve contributed countless hours to Mozilla, you’ve honed your skills, and you’ve successfully navigated the vetting process. So be confident that you’ve earned the right to be there. But something to reflect on daily, maybe as you walk to work in that gorgeous northern California weather, is how fortunate you are to have this day, this opportunity, in this place, and what you will do now to capitalize on it.

5. Have fun. Live in the moment.

This summer is going to fly by. And you’ll have your whole life to work. So my biggest piece of advice is to have fun, try new things, and to savor every single moment. Seriously, it sounds easy but it is so hard to do. When you are with your friends, standing on that hill overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, I hope you’ll pause, take a few breaths, and really just soak it up.

So there you go. Hopefully, I’ve been working these in to your brain over the last 18 years so maybe it didn’t need to be said, but thanks for letting me say it anyway.

Oh damn, I almost forgot: Dress in layers, Facetime your Mom, Snapchat your sister, keep your wallet in your front pocket on public transit, if you’re on-time you’re late, be discreet and watchful at ATMs, always wear a helmet, be a thoughtful and considerate roommate, and stay away from the Tenderloin.

Ten games I love playing with my kids

We play a lot of games in my house, especially this time of year. I’ve always loved video games and my kids do too so we play a lot of those, but board games and card games are my favorite way to play. I have never done any research on the subject, but I’d like to think that ensuring my kids get a steady diet of healthy game playing makes them smarter and teaches problem solving skills that will help them later in life. Even if that is just wishful thinking, it’s still a great way to spend quality time.

I love helping people discover new games. I think many people limit their options to what they can find in big box retail stores, which is a shame. There is a whole world of great games out there if you just care enough to look. Fellow boardgamers, you local independent game store (if it still exists), and sites like Funagain Games are all great sources.

I recently asked my kids (ages 10 & 13) to name their top 10 favorite games in our game closet. I then picked my top 10 and compiled the results. Siblings being siblings, there were few clear winners. Here’s the list:

Pente & Pentago (3 votes). Pente was published in the late seventies/early eighties. It’s an abstract strategy game in which glass stones are placed on a grid. The object is to be the first player to place five stones in a row or to capture ten stones of the same color. It is reminiscent of Go but they are distant cousins, at best. For one thing, Pente games are much shorter. You can also play with multiple players. If you buy Pente, don’t settle for anything less than the edition that comes in a tube.

Pentago is very similar to Pente but it adds a literal twist: The grid is divided into rotating quadrants which a player twists 90 degrees at the end of their turn. Pentago also does away with captures.

Dominion (3 votes). Dominion is the newest addition to our game closet. The first couple of weeks we had it we were playing multiple games almost every night. This is a card game with a city-building metaphor. Your deck–your Dominion–starts as a modest collection of money and a few points, just like everyone else’s. Then, as the game progresses, you buy additional cards which help you improve your deck. Each turn, the hand you play is dealt from your deck, which is being continuously recycled. The goal is to acquire more points than anyone else by the end of the game. The trick is that you have to figure out the optimal way to leverage your resources to make that happen.

My Dad and my Uncle also enjoyed this game. They are consummate card counters, which can be a nice skill to have when playing this game–keeping track of the distribution of certain cards in your deck is extremely helpful.

Dominion comes with an enormous set of cards, each of which do different things. Any given game uses only a subset of these cards which means you can change up the game dynamics (and winning strategies) with every game.

Coloretto (2 votes). Coloretto is a deceptively simple card game in which you collect colors. Every turn you have a set of cards to choose from to add to your collection. The goal is to collect only the colors you intend to specialize in and collect none of the cards you don’t. Because of how the hands are played, you often get stuck with colors you don’t want (either by accident or because one of your opponents intentionally stuck you with an off color) which brings down your score. A nice attribute of this game is that it is compact and travels easily.

Spy Alley (2 votes). This is a boardgame in which you are a spy, traveling around gathering spy tools. The goal is to collect your full spy tool set and get to your country’s embassy before your opponents. The rub is that no one else knows which country you are spying for but they do see what kind of tools you are collecting. So the successful spy attempts to deceive the others by collecting tools for multiple countries. If someone guesses your country, you’re out. And that’s one thing I don’t like about this game, which is that the chance component is way too high. A random guess can take someone out fairly early in the game.

Hey, That’s My Fish! (2 votes). In this game a set of hexagonal tiles are arranged in any pattern. Each tile has one, two or three fish. Each player has a set of penguins. The number of penguins depends on how many people are playing. The objective is to pick up tiles and have the most fish by game end. Penguins can move from tile to tile, as many tiles as desired, as long as they travel in a straight line and do not jump gaps. Therein lies the trick–as you pick up tiles the board becomes more difficult to navigate, ultimately stranding penguins completely, ending the game.

Multiple Solitaire (2 votes). My sister and I used to play this with my Grandma non-stop. Games of double, triple, and quadruple solitaire are quite fun. As the name suggests, each player deals a standard Klondike soliatire setup. What makes it crazy is that everyone can play on each others’ aces. Speed is the winning aspect here and clear ground rules banning two-handed plays and body blocks are critical. There’s no limit to how many people can play. My Uncle once did a 40-person multiple solitaire game once that left both people and card decks bruised and battered.

Incan Gold (2 votes). Incan Gold is about risk/reward tradeoffs. In this game you are a traveler venturing into Incan temples in an attempt to snag treasure. The longer you stay in the temple, the more you can potentially earn, but the risk of losing everything is ever-increasing. Every turn you decide whether you are staying or going, as do your opponents. It’s fun to watch my kids’ very different strategies in this game. One methodically gathers a minimal amount of treasure and heads for the tent while the other presses his luck every single time.

Wits & Wagers (2 votes). Wits & Wagers is best for large groups. It’s a trivia game in which the answers are extremely difficult to guess. But the cool thing is that everyone takes a guess (answers are always either numbers or dates), the answers are organized across a frequency distribution, and then everyone bets on the one or two answers they think are closest without going over. The frequency distribution determines the odds with outliers earning higher odds. The winner has the most chips at the end of the game. For younger players, we do have to provide a little bit of assistance because they often lack enough context to make a guess that comes anywhere close to the answer.

Go (2 votes). Go has very few rules but is an extremely difficult game to master. I’m an extreme Go novice–I’ve been reading books on the game and play when I can. For the kids, I’ve read that it is best to simply explain the rules and let them play without trying to go overboard on teaching openings, patterns, and end-games, which is a good thing as I’m still learning those myself.

That’s it for the top ten. The following games got one vote each: Ticket to Ride, Blokus, Quoridor, Tripoly, and Carcassonne. That last one breaks my heart because Carcassonne is my all-time favorite game. I’m bummed my kids don’t want to play it more often.

Settlers of Catan, Spades, Set, Backgammon, Octiles, Rummikub, Chicken Foot, Sequence, and Pictionary got no votes as “favorites” even though we play those a fair amount. We play Pictionary enough that we covered a fair amount of the game room wall with whiteboard material.

So those are some of the favorites from my game closet. How about you? Got any good game recommendations?

Seven tips after five years working from home

Yesterday morning I was enjoying a bike ride before work and it occurred to me that this month marks my fifth year of working from home. As with all things in life, there are both good and bad aspects to working remotely, but on the whole I think working from home nets out to a Good Thing: I see more of my family, I spend less time and money on driving, and I’m healthier.

Most of these didn’t take five years to figure out, but here they are anyway: Seven Tips on Working From Home:

Tip #1: Take a shower and get dressed, for crying out loud

I know there are a lot of people that like to work from home in their pajamas, but I don’t see how they do that consistently. Can you really have a serious conference call about global strategy when you’ve got Yoda staring up at you from your lounge pants? Plus, I need that shower to wake me up. And, while they may be shorts and a t-shirt, putting clothes on is part of getting into the “I’m working” mindset for you and a good external signal to others around you.

Tip #2: Set expectations with your kids

My kids were 5 and 8 when I started working from home. That meant both were in school for most of the day for most of the year. The other key factor is that they were old enough to understand that Dad’s at home during the day to work, not to play. Younger kids don’t get that at all. And little kids don’t quickly grasp the all-critical Signs of Interrupt-ability:

  • Door Open = Come on in.
  • Door Closed = Think twice!
  • Door Closed with Headphones On = Interrupt only if you are bleeding uncontrollably or the house is on fire, also realizing that it may take several minutes for Dad to come out of The Zone such that he can form words and coherent thoughts.

Tip #3: Set expectations with your spouse/partner/roommate

Similar to the previous point, you’ve got to set some ground rules with your mate. For example, I don’t answer the door or the home phone during work hours. Or work on honey-do’s. Or tell one sibling to stop bugging the other. Or figure out why the printer doesn’t work. When I’m in work mode, I’m at work. Sure, I’m happy to have lunch with the rest of the fam or take a quick break to find out how the kids’ day at school went–that’s part of the appeal to working from home–but my family understands the limits of what they can get away with when I’m in the home office.

Tip #4: Establish a clean break between work and non-work modes

A common complaint from the families of people who work from home is that “they work all of the time”. It is easy to fall into that pattern. I think you’ve got to already have a handle on work-life balance before you start working from home or it can become a bigger problem. It helps if you have space you can dedicate as your work area and a time window you can designate as work-time and try to stick to that. When you are in serious work mode, don’t work from the couch. And on the weekends, don’t hang out in your office. Sure, in crunch times you’ll burn the midnight oil, but don’t let that be all of the time. And, if it is any consolation to your family, at least when you are working all night, you don’t have to drive home in the wee hours.

Tip #5: Collaborate with co-workers/clients in-person from time-to-time

It’s important to form bonds with the rest of your teammates. You can do this when you collaborate with remote tools like Skype and Webex, but it happens much faster in-person. My job involves a lot of travel, so I get plenty of opportunities for face-time with colleagues. When I collaborate remotely with people I don’t see in-person often, I make sure some part of our online collaboration is spent talking about non-work stuff. On client projects, we always tried to be on-site at the start of a project and again at major milestones.

Tip #6: Get out of the house

When your commute is measured in steps, not miles, it is easy to get cabin fever. Staring at the same four walls every day can be a drag. In America, our average day contains an appallingly low amount of walking or other physical activity. Working from home can compound the problem–you’re not getting that vigorous walk from the parking garage to the cubicle twice a day, after all! I try to go out to lunch with friends or family, ride my bike or go for a walk, or attend meetups or networking events. Anything to get out of the house, interact with people, and get the blood flowing. A nice thing about working from home is that it is easier to do a mid-day exercise break, whereas most people in a traditional office have to settle for working out before or after work. If you can take advantage of the opportunity for more exercise and combine that with less eating out, I think working from home can have positive health effects.

Tip #7: Invest in tools

If your company relies on a remote workforce you need to make sure you are providing top-notch tools and infrastructure to facilitate that (disclaimer: I work for a software company that produces content management and collaboration tools). At Optaros, we were a globally distributed team. We used Alfresco for document management, but for project collaboration we used Trac because, although Alfresco Share is awesome for content collaboration, it lacks some of the tools critical for collaborating on code-based projects, like source code control integration and automatically-logged real-time chat. (Those would actually make good community contributions, by the way, hint, hint). Regardless of what you use, the point is, there are a lot of great tools out there (both on-premise and SaaS) that can really make remote teams hum, and this ought to be considered critical infrastructure at your company.

So, overall, it’s been a productive and happy five years working from home and it would be hard to change now. I do miss the higher level of face-time with my teammates, and actually, sometimes I miss the drive–that’s when I did most of my music listening and thinking about the day. But the pros outweigh the cons, for sure.

How about you? Got any working from home tips I’ve missed?

After more than a year, I’m still in love with my Bacchetta recumbent

It’s been about a year and a half since I bought my Bacchetta recumbent. I’ve put about a thousand miles on it so far and I still love it. I ride as much as my schedule will allow, which, unfortunately, isn’t enough.

Jeff on his Bacchetta Giro 26

People are always curious about the bike. Other cyclists chat me up, pedestrians shout questions at me as I ride by, and one couple in a car even pulled out a camera and snapped a bunch of pics while we sat at a light. I have seen other recumbents in the ‘hood and on large organized rides, but they are a very well kept secret around here so the bike tends to get noticed.

To celebrate my Bacchetta-versary, I’ve compiled a list of the most common questions I’ve been asked about the bike over the last year. Maybe it’ll motivate you to give one a spin the next time you’re at your local bike shop.

“What is that thing?”

It’s a recumbent bicycle. It’s called a recumbent because you ride in a reclined or semi-reclined position.

Recumbents come in all shapes and sizes. There are Long Wheel Base (LWB) models where the front wheel is in front of the pedals and Short Wheel Base (SWB) models where the front-pedals are above or in front of the front wheel. There are some with Above-Seat Steering (ASS; seriously, that’s what they call it) and Below- or Under-Seat Steering (BSS/USS). Many recumbents have a standard-sized wheel in the back and a smaller wheel in the front. Others have the same sized-wheel front and back. There are tandem recumbents. There are recumbent tricycles. There are tandem recumbent tricycles. It is unbelievable how many different styles there are, with significant differences in application (heavy loads, long-distance rides, racing), performance, and cost.

Bacchetta Giro 26

My bike is a Bacchetta Giro 26 (ba-KET-a is the Italian pronunciation, but ba-SHET-a is okay too). It’s a “high racer” with a Short Wheel Base, Above-Seat Steering, and 26 inch wheels on the front and back. The Bacchetta Giro and similar models have a unique-looking frame design: the bike essentially has only one main tube running from the rear wheel to the crank on the front-end. The word Bacchetta is actually Italian for “stick” and that name is certainly fitting when you look at the bike. I chose the Giro 26 because it is exciting to ride and looks sportier than its Long Wheel Base cousins.


I could try to make an argument about better efficiency or aerodynamics but that’s not why I ride it. I ride it because it’s comfortable. Try this: Sit in a comfortable chair, put your feet up, extend your arms, but keep them relaxed, and lay back a little bit. That’s what it’s like. While my upright cycling friends are crunched over, staring at their front tires, I ride reclined in comfort, my head naturally positioned to take a look around and enjoy the scenery. The other day a red-tailed hawk flew next to me for a short stretch. I don’t think I would have seen it had I been heads-down on an upright. It’s this open, laid-back style of riding that makes me want to ride as often as possible, as far as possible.

When people ask “why” the question often includes either an implied or an explicit question-within-a-question: “Is there a medical reason you ride a recumbent?” It’s funny that these bikes are so different, people assume something must have happened to you physically to persuade you to not go with an upright bike by default.

In my early teens I did long-distance rides with my father and uncle. I did Freewheel, a week-long ride across the State of Oklahoma, several times. On those rides, it wasn’t uncommon to end a 60- or 70-mile day with various sore spots–hands, ass, crotch, and sometimes knees. On Freewheel, you camp out, so heading to dinner, the shower, anywhere, usually means getting back on the bike. There were times when that was the last thing I wanted to do.

Hardcore upright cyclists will say that on a properly fitted bike with the right gear, you should be able to ride pain-free. That may be the case and to each his own. But for me, on my recumbent, pain is just not an issue. Sure, on a long ride I get tired, but nothing hurts. I’m not an athlete in any sense of the word, but I really feel like time is my only limiting factor when I’m riding my Bacchetta.

(When I first began riding the recumbent I did have some problems with foot numbness but some Specialized shoe inserts fixed that right up).

“Is it hard to ride?”

Honestly, it can take some getting used to. Starts are the biggest issue. On my Bacchetta, my pedal is 27 inches from the ground at its lowest point and 41 inches from the ground at its highest. On an upright, when you first start, your weight pushes down on the pedal and gives you enough forward momentum to get going. On a recumbent your weight gives you no vertical advantage. When starting, you have to push hard on the pedal with one foot while you get your planted foot off the ground and up to the pedal fast enough to get that second stroke in before you lose momentum and fall over. I’ve had some awkward starts and some close calls but I haven’t dumped it over yet.

Heel touch

Tight turns are a little exciting. Because the crank is in front of the front wheel, and because I’ve got giant size 12 feet, it is possible for my heel to come in contact with the front tire. So turns take a little bit of foresight. Even with that in mind, tight turns can be a little unsettling. I can easily turn within the width of my neighborhood street, but our neighborhood bike paths aren’t happening for me. For that reason, you may want to think twice about a recumbent if you primarily ride on tight bike paths rather than on the road.

When I first starting riding it, I found the balance to be a little twitchy. When I was really stroking, it felt like my pedaling was throwing my balance off and I had to consciously correct. Even twisting the grip shift added a wobble. Over time, my body learned to compensate automatically and now it’s a very stable, comfortable ride. When you’re on a long, flat road, maybe with a little tail wind, clipping along at about 18-20, a quiet purr coming from the wheels on the road, you’re not thinking about balance any more–you’re in some sort of recumbent Zen state.

“Is it slow/is it fast/is it hard to climb hills?”

I’m not a hardcore cyclist. I try to ride 50 miles a week, but I don’t always hit that. And I’m definitely not a fast rider. Garmin says my average speed (with stops) is about 15 mph. The Giro, a touring/commuting bike, weighs around 32 lbs, depending on seat choice and pedals. Bacchetta does offer a performance line of bikes, including the all-carbon Aero that weighs about 20 lbs and costs three times as much as the Giro. So I’m a slow rider on a heavy bike. Are you faster than me? Probably. Am I faster on my recumbent than I am on an upright? I think so, but I kind of don’t care.

Hill-climbing is a drag on a recumbent. You can’t stand up, so there’s not much to do about it other than down shift and pedal hard. At least there’s a back rest to push against. When you do make it to the top, though, the reward is oh so sweet. There’s nothing quite like flying down a hill feet first.

“Have you had any problems with it?”

The usual bike stuff. I used to throw my chain all of the time until I figured out how to adjust the derailleur. I’ve had to adjust the disc brakes a bit. From time to time, it sounds like my brake pads are dragging, but it’s intermittent. Every once in a while the chain grabs a leg hair or two, but I figure that’s a self-correcting problem.

Transporting a recumbent can be challenging. I can get it into the back of a mini-van with no problem. I’ve got a Thule roof rack with standard trays. My Bacchetta just barely fits in the tray, but the clamp that would normally hold the down tube on an upright bike doesn’t work for the Bacchetta so I bought an arm that holds the front wheel instead. I’ve seen a Thule rack with a really long tray that actually pivots to make it easier to get a long and heavy bike (like a tandem) onto the roof, which is probably what you’d need for a recumbent with a Long Wheel Base. I’ve seen recumbents on hitch- and trunk-mounted racks as well.

I bought a Garmin Edge 705 GPS cycling computer that came with a magnetic pace/speed sensor add-on. The add-on works great when the magnet on your crank arm and the magnet on your wheel spokes can pass by the same sensor. I think making that work on my Bacchetta would require some soldering, so I don’t monitor my pace and I use the GPS for speed. The included maps still made the bundle worth it, though.

“Can I ride your bike?”

If you’re thinking about buying a recumbent, you need to ride as many different styles as you can. They all feel different. And, at least when you are starting out, it helps to have someone that knows what they are doing give you some pointers and fit the bike to you.

I’m 6’1″, so I ride the “large” version of the Giro 26. Once you’ve got the right frame size, there are still several things you can tweak. The seat moves forward and backward and the recline angle is adjustable. The handle bars can be brought forward or backward and the handle bar tilt can be adjusted. Because it is so adjustable, it is a bit of a pain to let someone with different dimensions ride it. But bike shops deal with that all of the time so don’t be afraid to ask for that test ride.

“Where can I get one?”

Some bike shops specialize in recumbents. These will have the best selection and the most knowledgeable staff. For example, if you’re in the Austin area, I highly recommend a visit to Easy Street Recumbents. Mike is super friendly and very helpful. Unfortunately, there’s not a shop that specializes in recumbents here in North Texas. Shops around here tend to have a limited selection or none at all. I bought my Bacchetta at Plano Cycling and Fitness. They were great and I’d recommend them in a heartbeat.

Sometimes you can buy directly from the manufacturer. Bacchetta has that option if a dealer isn’t in your area. Also check out used bikes on Craig’s List, recumbent forums, etc.

Jeff comes home after a ride

I hate cold weather but I rode straight through winter this year. I couldn’t let it sit. I wanted to be out there, kicked back and pedaling hard. There’s something about riding that bike that I miss terribly when I don’t do it. I suspect many recumbent riders feel this way. The next time you’re about to yell, “Hey, nice bike!” at someone on a ‘bent, check to see if he isn’t already smiling.

Dopplr Counts your Carbon

I’m not sure when they added this, but Dopplr has a new feature that keeps track of your carbon totals by month and year. For 2008, I’m already at 6,000 kilograms. I’ll bet I’m not in Optaros’ top ten. Hey, Optaros, in the spirit of Earth Week, how about making carbon offsets a reimbursable business expense for us road warriors?

I’m in Bucharest

I’m visiting the Optaros office in Bucharest this week. I thought I might get a respite from the Texas heat but it’s much hotter here than it is in Dallas right now.

Yesterday afternoon I took a stroll around Herestrau park and this morning I explored downtown (Here are a few pics).

Off-topic: Lone Star shines bright in vacuum of Dallas airspace

With the exception of KERA 90.1 and KNON 89.3, Dallas radio has been a cold, empty place, completely devoid of decent music since the George Gimarc days of KDGE 94.5. Now a bright shining star has made an appearance: KZPS “Lone Star” 92.5 has changed its format from Classic Rock to Americana/Root Rock. In just a short trip running errands today I heard Ryan Adams, Black Crowes (they play a lot of Crowes), and Slobberbone. Todd Snider gets a ton of play as well as does Son Volt, particularly tracks off of their recent release, The Search. What’s even more amazing to me is that this is a Clear Channel station. If you like alt-country or Americana, give them a listen.

Thoughts on Atlanta

There’s “busy” and then there’s “five-days-a-week-travel-for-a-project-with-a-hard-deadline-busy”. As is obvious by the dearth of posts it’s been the latter for me the last couple of months. Now that the project is over I thought I’d re-cap my thoughts on Atlanta, my temporary home-away-from-home…

  • MARTA is the only way to travel, especially between downtown and the airport. Departing Delta travelers can save time by checking their bags just as they exit the MARTA turnstyles rather than using the regular ticket counters in the terminal.
  • The bison burgers at Ted’s are delicious. You might think the chicken-fried chicken would also be good but you’d be wrong. You’re in a bison place–eat the bison.
  • Who knew? Chicken and waffles taste great together! Gladys and Ron’s Chicken and Waffles: Best. Cornbread muffins. Ever.
  • The Georgia Aquarium has whale sharks. Whale sharks! But go early–that place gets seriously busy during the day, especially on weekends.
  • In Little Five Points (or “L5P” if you’re into the whole brevity thing) has a great pizza place called Savage Pizza. The “white on white” was close to the ever-elusive “perfect white pizza” I’ve been searching for ever since enjoying one for the first time as a child on a family trip to Winter Park. Plus there’s at least three independent record stores within two blocks of the place.

Aside from the aggressive pan-handling, which is among the worst I’ve ever experienced, my only complaint is the whole sweet tea versus unsweet tea thing. I know Atlanta is a Southern City and serving pre-sweetened tea is part of the kitsch, but as an avid unsweet tea drinker, it’s a real pain. Every time you order unsweet tea it’s like you’re the first person that’s ever done such a thing. It really throws a kink in the works.
Me: “…and an unsweet tea, please.”

Server: “Sweet tea, you got it.”

Me: “No, unsweet. UN-sweet.”

Server: “UN-sweet?”

Me: “Yes, UN-sweet. Not sweet.”

[Server delivers the tea. I take a sip. My head snaps back in disgust.]

Me: “Sorry, this is sweet tea. I ordered UN-sweet tea.”

This scene replayed itself every 8 out of 10 tea orderings. I kid you not. Once, they actually filled my cup from the container marked, “Unsweet tea”, but someone had inadvertently filled the container itself with sweet tea, thus thwarting the server’s valliant effort at serving me correctly on the first try.

I tried to explain to the Atlanta-ites how crazy and inefficient it is to offer pre-sweetened tea. “Can’t they just let everyone sweeten it themselves?” I asked. Apparently they “brew-in the sweetness” and no one could possibly make it taste just right on their own.

So if you’re an unsweet (UN-sweet!) tea drinker, be sure to factor in some extra time for your lunch and dinner outings.