Friday, January 31, 2014

Colorado sees surge in 24-hour-all-you-can-eat buffets

News - Business - January 31, 2014 

DENVER -- Citing an increased demand for mozzarella sticks, breakfast burritos, pizza, and buffalo wings, a spokesperson for the Buffet Division of the National Restaurant Association, Colorado chapter, announced Wednesday that several members would be expanding their hours to accommodate late-night patrons.

"What a month!" exclaimed Nicholas (Nick) Michaels, speaking on behalf of BD's Mongolian Barbecue, Golden Corral, Cici's Pizza, Bengal Buffet, and Country Buffet. "2014 is starting out as a banner year for our local industry."
Photo courtesy of the National Restaurant Association,
Buffet Division, Colorado chapter

When asked to clarify, Mr. Michaels explained, "I cannot comment on national trends, but here in the Centennial State we are already seeing a huge uptick in number of patrons, and increases in portion size and return trips to the buffet. We believe expanded hours, accompanied by a modest increase in prices during those hours, will help us capitalize on this newfound popularity."

Dean Costas, proprietor of Boulder's Buffs Bluff Grill, is equally excited about the opportunity for expansion. He added, "We have plans for a tiered selection of items to suit every taste.  For instance, students from the University of Colorado may prefer a separate, low-cost buffet with our most popular comfort foods, like Funyons, Ramen noodles, and raw cookie dough."

Experts credit consumer confidence and an increased motivation to eat outside the home.  Maria Thomason, an analyst with Wall Street Trends, explains: "Fast casual is a winning category, and metro Denver has always been a leader in food movements. Just as we saw this area pioneer (pun intended) the gluten-free phenomenon, we expect this 24-hour-all-you-can-eat buffet movement to ripple, especially as tourists cross state lines and bring the concept from Colorado back to their hometowns."

Not all restaurant owners see expanded hours and increased staffing as a solution for the overwhelming demand, however.  Jason Lin, owner of East Chinese Buffet, stated that he would instead be invoking the "Homer Simpson Rule."

"We reserve the right to refuse service to those who take advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet," explained Mr. Lin.  "We are not a super buffet or a chain.  We are a local, family-owned-and-operated restaurant. These newcomers who stay until the Sterno burns out are just taking food away from our neighborhood regulars."

Mr. Lin's newest neighbor, Travis Monarch, proprietor of the Cannabistro, which opened on January 1, wishes the restaurant down the block would be more accommodating of their shared patrons. But he remains in good humor about what some might find a tense situation.

Said Mr. Monarch, "Sorry, am I laughing again? I'll try to stop. I don't mean it. I feel terrible. I love that guy."

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A genius diagnosis

"Hi. I'm Shef, and I'll be your genius today."  Shef catches me looking closer at his ID badge and continues.  "That's Shef, like the person who cooks your food in a restaurant, but with an S."

"Is Shef short for something?"

"Yes, but I can't tell you, because then I'd have to kill you."

I immediately liked my genius with the scruffy red beard and stretched lobe piercings.  And liking my genius was important, because I was about to entrust him with my alter ego and her well-being.

"What seems to be the problem?" Shef asked.

I launched into detail with the royal we.  "We're tired, I think.  Sometimes, when we're doing too many things at once, we just shut down.  Usually it's when we have a lot of stuff going on.  There's no rhyme or reason as to why it happens.  Sometimes all we've done is switch from one activity to another.  Sometimes we're just trying to rearrange a few things.  But without any warning, we just quit because we cannot do anything else without taking a moment to reboot."

To his credit, Shef pretended not to psychoanalyze me.  I guess that's part of qualifying to be a genius.  ("Can you assess machines without also judging the user?")  He pondered my description, admitted that this was a really unusual problem, and then suggested a few diagnostics we could try.  I set my MacBook Pro on the counter and gave her a few gentle pats.

Shef first checked the issue log. "No issues in the last six days."

"Well, that's because I was supposed to come in on Monday, but I had to change the appointment because… Never mind.  TMI.  Suffice it to say I haven't been at my desk much in the past six days.  If you look back twelve-to-fourteen days, you should see records of my… I mean our issues."

Shef ran a preliminary diagnosis, and we got all green check marks.  I vacillated between being proud of my Mac (we passed! highest marks!) and disappointed that there wasn't a specific diagnosis yet (maybe it's just stress? or all in my head?).  Then he suggested we test the logic board.  Not wanted to seem a luddite in front of my genius, I pretended that I knew what the logic board was and agreed that sounded like a good idea.

After a few moments of gray screens and spinning wheels…
"OK," says Shef. "Now we know what we're dealing with, so if you'll just sign here, I'll send this baby off to Houston for repairs."

Houston, we have a problem.  (No, I didn't actually say that out loud. You're welcome, Shef.)

I walked out of the Apple Store, laptop-less and feeling a little naked and unbalanced.  I decided to do a quick Google search (on my phone -- oh, the hardship!) to see just what was broken inside... of my Mac.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that the logic board is just another name for what I grew up calling the motherboard.

Now, I myself have been known to take a metaphor too far, but really… the motherboard? The mother#@<%!~& motherboard.  The base that provides ports and anchors all connections -- external and internal.  The circuitry that creates ways for other components to communicate with one another.  The backbone of the machine.  That's what had failed?

I once read in Astrology in the Workplace (or something like that -- it was a manuscript someone sent my office to see if we would be interested in promoting the author and her work) that Libras, like yours truly, will work their @$$es off but then need a period to just rest and recharge.  We give it our all for as long as possible, but we cannot handle stress for interminable periods of time.  Balance is important.  This is very true in my case, which I'm not sure makes me a Libra as much as it makes me a human.

And then I thought about a very wise friend -- a genius in her own field -- who consults and blogs on nutrition and well-being. (Check her out!)  She has been on a self-care soapbox as of late. She emphasizes with her clients and her friends that taking a moment away from responsibilities it isn't an indulgence nor a cause for guilt.  Instead, we need to view self-care the same way as we view eating veggies, exercising, or wearing a coat in the winter.  It is a crucial form of preventative medicine and can keep us from having to schedule our own tests and diagnoses.  Not to mention that when we practice our own self-care, we model for the important people in our lives -- significant other, children, parents, colleagues, friends.

I discussed this with my friend Becca, whom I met for a longer-than-usual and laughter-filled lunch after my Genius Bar appointment.  And I was about to explain this to Nick that evening after he returned home from a four-day conference, when he beat me to the punch.  "How about if I take the kids tomorrow, and you get some time to yourself?"

I looked around at the Christmas decorations (half-taken-down), and the laundry (half-folded), and my father-in-law's insurance and tax papers (half-reviewed), and the research for my next writing project (half-read).  And then I looked at the hole on my desk where my laptop would normally sit.

"OK," I said. "Thanks."  Who am I to argue with both a genius and the stars?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Beginning again

1/1/2014 began with dog $#!%.

Stay with me on this.  Over vacation, Nick and I have been taking turns getting up with the dog, Luna, since she is the only one in our family not taking full advantage of the lack of 1) alarm clocks and 2) obligations of work and school.  Today was my day.

So I plodded down to the kitchen in my slipper socks (you may have noticed that wearing warm, fuzzy socks has now been mentioned twice in this blog -- Dumbledore and I have a lot in common in that regard), released the hound, and went about giving her breakfast.  After that I pulled on a jacket, grabbed a couple of bags, and went outside to pick up poop.  I've found it's much easier to collect when frozen (you're welcome), so first thing in the morning is a good time to clean the yard.  Plus, B. is having friends over this afternoon, and the last thing I need is an 11-year-old stepping in (by then thawed) dog poop, not noticing, and tracking it through the house.

Yep, those were my first thoughts of the new year.  Nice, huh?

Somehow, I doubt I'm alone in this.  Like waking up when you turn sixteen or twenty-one (or forty), when you know everything is supposed to be different but don't really feel much changed from the day before, waking up on New Year's Day can be a little anticlimactic.  Especially at forty.  Oh, have I mentioned that I turned forty this year?  You begin the routine again.  Another day, another few piles to be picked up.  The only real excitement is knowing that at some point you will write 2013 on a check and have a good laugh.

But then something happened.  It began to snow.  I swear to you, I had just put the bag-o'-crap in the dumpster and closed the back gate behind me when perfect little light and fluffy dots began floating down from a gray sky.

Selfie with snow and dog bowl
"Well, that's something new," I thought.

And it was.  The fact is that there is something new every day, but sometimes I am so bogged down in the ordinary that I don't take any notice of the extraordinary.  When I got back inside, this idea found reinforcement in the daily verse I receive via email.  Paul reminds us that it isn't turning sixteen or twenty-one (or forty -- did I mention that I turned forty this year?) that guarantees a brand-new day.  It is putting aside a worldly point of view (being over cluttered with the mundane) and living in Jesus's example and grace (everything is refreshed).  It is loving God and loving others, especially those who are unloveable, and remembering that the Golden Rule is the umbrella for all other rules.

Just then, Nick came downstairs.  Neither of us had had our coffee yet, so the first thing he muttered was, "Is that your dog barking outside?"*  Seriously?!  I thought.  That's your lede on January 1?  Um... I mean the 2013 me would have thought something like that.  But since today is the opportunity to try something new, I summoned up all the pre-coffee love I could find and replied, "Happy New Year."  We both smiled.  Wow, I guess a gentle answer turns away not only the wrath of others but also the inner wrath of a wife who resents that she had to get up first to scoop poop.

Last night at dinner I told my kids that my new year's resolution was to stop interrupting people.  I've realized lately that what I used to think was a friendly gesture to help others find the right words when they are struggling to finish a sentence is really more indicative of my own impatience.  And rude.  And something I don't like when it's done to me.  So I'm not going to do it anymore.  But maybe that resolution can be a part of a greater mandate for 2014 -- to watch, listen, and recognize what's new (and quite possibly surprising) in daily life, in others, and through grace.  Happy New Year.

*It was my (our) dog barking.  She plays tetherball with herself and loves it so much that she makes noises like she's being beaten to death.  There's no way the person whose turn it is to stay in bed could possibly sleep in through the ruckus. But it's adorable, as you can see here. #obnoxiouspuppymom