Stay with me on this.

Avid reader of The New Yorker here. A few years back I read an article by Malcolm Gladwell about an indian guy in the Bay Area who started coaching his daughter’s basketball team, a ragtag group of misfits some of whom had never played the game before. Given his background in software engineering and mathematics he devised a system of play that his girls could adhere to easily that would result in a higher winning percentage. That tactic? The full-court press. The result? They went undefeated. Un-de-feat-ed. Girls who had never played the sport were routinely mopping up the competition because they simply got more turnovers. The system? Simple. Lose the ball, lose the game.

As fate would have it, I came across this pre-Super Bowl edition of Real Sports with Bryant Gumble featuring Vivek Ranadivé, the new owner of the Sacramento Kings and former girls basketball coach. The same guy. Turns out he found a love for the game and used his tech millions to keep a team where the fans wanted it most: home.

Home. Where the heart is, right? During the Super Bowl few ads caught more attention (or flack) than the Coke and Cheerios ads (respectively, because Coke with Cheerios would be gross). The Coke ad in question offended people because it featured the song “America the Beautiful,” as an ode to pluralism, sung in several languages. 60 seconds designed to make the heads of xenophobes explode. The Cheerios ad in question was 30 seconds designed to make the heads of racists explode (for the second year in a row). They followed up their hugely popular and hugely controversial 2013 super bowl commercial with an endearing ode to family values…again. Coke’s vision of the US as a beacon of progress is what Ranadive cites specifically as his aha moment for coming to the US to study back in the 60′s. And family values are what brought him closer to basketball and, consequently, what kept their team in Sacramento.In his opening address at center court for this season, he addressed the fans thusly: “The team is yours and it’s here to stay.”

Barf your guts out, middle America. Tolerance is in. Big-time. Your Coke is love in a bottle. Your cheerios are little life vests after all. What are our Kings but those with daring dreams? Dammit if sports doesn’t bring out the best in us after all. And dammit if the full court press isn’t exactly what America needs from its advertisers too. Good for Cheerios on sticking with the game plan and Coke, too, heading into Sochi.

If you’re still out for red meat, you can take comfort in the fact that the Super Bowl got almost 16 times the number of views as Downton Abbey last night.

Super simple Chili recipe. Why? Because Mandy’s parents keep asking for it. Enjoy!


  • A pound of lean ground beef. 
  • One whole yellow onion, diced. 
  • Three cans of beans. Mix it up. Kidney, pinto, white, black, lima, or whatever.
  • One big can of whole peeled or diced tomatoes.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • Paprika, cayenne and hot sauce.
  • Shredded cheddar cheese.

Cooking instructions 

On high heat, with a bit of oil, fry those onions. Then add the beef and brown it. Add the tomatoes and beans and get to a boil then simmer. Do all of this in a sizeable sauce pan. Add salt, pepper and spices liberally to taste. I like it hot. 

After a half hour or so of simmering, scoop and serve with fresh grated cheddar cheese. Do the shredding yourself. It melts better that way. 

Final note. There’s a saying in Texas: “Anyone who knows beans about chili knows you don’t add beans to chili.” We’re not in Texas. Anyone who’s ever been to a taco stand in Texas and compared that to a taco stand in San Diego knows Texans have no right to lecture us on how to cook carne. 

Short version:
  • Come up with your theme. 
  • Set up your page. Here’s mine.
  • Invite your friends. 
  • Keep inviting your friends. 
  • Promote it every day on Facebook and Twitter and Email.
  • Don’t require any work from VOSD staff but make sure they are invited to attend. 
  • Have party. 
  • Give speech. 
  • Send thanks.
Long version:

First, a Theme

My neighbors and I had been kicking around the idea of doing a block party in October to celebrate the beer-making we were planning on doing this summer anyway. When they didn’t brew any beer I called them on their second bluff: the block party. The only thing missing was a better reason to get together than just opening bottles of beer. 
From Balboa Park to Blocktoberfest
I first introduced my neighbors to Voice a year ago after we volunteered to help put the Lily Pond boxes together one Saturday morning. I had gotten wind that volunteers were needed because I attended Voice’s event held at the Natural History Museum capping Kelly Bennett’s excellent deep-dive reporting. 
What’s the Goal?
I set the bar a bit high. $2,500. But I also had a goal to get at least 60 people to come. I figured I could help Voice more if I simply got a list of people who’d be receptive attending events and becoming members. 
What’s the Message?
People want to party. Your friends will support your cause if you promise a party. So that’s what I did. The party was built-in, I suppose, it being a celebration of the beer I had brewed over the summer. I charged $50 per bottle which seems ridiculous until you account for the fact that nobody misunderstood the meaning behind the “charge.”
How did I raise the money?
Simple: - so simple anyone could use it. You can use the site to raise money for yourself, but you can also choose a registered 501c3 to be the beneficiary. They handle the sign-ups and e-commerce transactions for you. They also have a feature that helps you promote your campaign via social media and email. Bonus: they’re a San Diego company. 
Promoting the Heck out of it
I set up the campaign two weeks before the event. Basically then I put together a list of my groups of friends. There are the people I play soccer with, my professional cohorts and just regular old friends. I emailed each of the groups three times during the course of the two weeks leading up to the fundraiser. The pitch was simple: 

Hi, [Self-referencing group name]:
I’m throwing a party to taste my summer homebrews in a couple of weekends. I would VERY much like to see the [group name] contingent to show support of it. It’s a fundraiser for which you know has been doing some great work in promoting the tech and beer scenes locally in addition to being a fantastic resource for covering local politics, arts and education. They deserve some love. And you’re going to give it.
Plus: beer.
Plus plus: taco cart. 
Plus plus plus: [inside joke only this cohort will appreciate]. 
Details on the fundraising page. Go!

I made sure to follow up with at least two more reminders with special call-outs to anyone who already RSVP’d. I also posted public thanks to my Facebook friends who donated. It gives you a chance to report on your forward momentum as well as spreading the cheer.
Party Planning
The worst part was party planning. We like to host events at our place. But getting food and drinks ready for a big group like that is not easy. My work sponsored the food and drinks (in total they cost about $300. Karl Strauss donates regularly to Voice, so the session beer on-hand was left-over from them. The important detail here is that Voice staff had to do very little for this event. Zach, bless him, dug up the beer for me and tallied the number of VOSDers that would come. But beyond that, the only thing I wanted them to do was show up, have fun and make some of my friends theirs. 
The Party
By the day of the party I had raised about $1,800 online via I had a headcount of about 45 people including VOSDers. I figured I’d get a few walk-ins but those would cancel-out the no-shows. I was pretty much right. Our neighbors Russ and Carrie baked some muffins and brought the bounce-house. Our other neighbors Ken and Mandy brought over some outdoor tables and chairs. I made some pulled pork and carnitas. We iced some beers and put out snacks just in time. The invitation asked for folks to show up at 3 and leave at 6. We got our first guests at 3 and the last guest left at 9:30. We had no leftovers.
The Pitch
In my mind, I was hoping to give a brief speech about why voice is important to me. I botched this during the party. So don’t make the same mistake I did. I don’t know why but I felt like people weren’t mingling so I made a point of pointing out the cliques in an effort to get them to break up a little. I should have stuck to the script. I did give Scott a chance to talk though and he rambled a bit about me, actually. I was flattered. It worked. It made me feel good in front of my friends. But, again, it would have been better if either of us had pitched a harder sell for why becoming a member to VOSD is important. I won’t make this mistake again.
The Follow-Up has a nice feature that lets me email people and thank them directly from the site. I can personalize each message, which I did not do. But it’s important to make sure people do get your thanks. I also exported the names, email addresses and donation amount of each of the attendees so that Voice could add them to their donor database. This is key.

There’s not a lot of good options out there for short run beer makers like me. I starting brewing 5-gallon batches this spring and now I have 4 cases of 22′s for different types of beer. In my last post, you can see the labels I would have in my dreams. After some investigation, those labels would be quite expensive to make. So I did some research last night and came up short of any elegant solutions.

To be clear, I have a common problem up to a point.

1 – I do small batches which would yield not more than 96 12-oz bottles.
2 – I make different beer in each batch.
3 – I don’t drink them immediately. I’m saving them for my blocktoberfest party to share with friends and neighbors.
4 – Labels would need to be easy to apply in short runs.
5 – Labels would have to be water-poof.
6 – I don’t care if they’re permanent, but if they are, all the better. I won’t be re-using the bottles. And if they get saved as mementos or collectors items, great!

Then here’s where I get a little atypical.

7 – I have well-designed, custom labels a friend made.

If all you want are labels for your bottle and don’t care much about the design, here are some sites you should check out.

Beer Clings


They make pre-fab, generic beer labels, some of which you can add your beer type by hand (as shown above).


Beer Labelizer

This is an online app that takes your inputs and spits out a custom JPG. You still have to do printing at home.


Label Creator

Same as the beer labelizer but with more design options.



Sticker Mule

On the custom side, there’s always high quality digital sticker printing that will do. Since my designs are non-standard in both size and shape, I’d need a die-cut sticker print run. They’re spendy, but in a perfect world, I’d have enough money and that wouldn’t matter.


Bottle Mark

I wish I’d known about these guys before I bottled my beers. They do short run digital prints on your bottle caps. I’ll do this for later batches so they all have my branded caps. Alas, I’m too late for the runs I’ve already bottled. I’ll definitely be getting some of these for future runs.

What’s next?

Steph had an idea to spray paint a stenciled design. She thinks it will be a lot of work for what amounts to 48 bottles. I’m not opposed to it, but I think she’s right. Right now the plan is to do a short run of custom, die-cut stickers with a space for writing in (or spray painting) in my beer type, date, etc. We’ll do one mass-run sticker that’s just the brewery logo and tag line. I’m not incredibly keen on my hand-writing so I’d like to, still, figure out a way to use a stencil to mark the bottle. So I’m thinking I might just use traditional numbered stencils and keep it simple. I found these numbered stencils on Amazon and will do some test spraying next weekend. My hope is to combine the uniqueness of the batch, serialize them for collecting purposes, and all the while upping the general game by having non-crappy printed labels that are both water-proof and durable.

Alexandria Brewing

The Labels for my New Venture. One must spoil his vices.

Steph forwarded this to me tonight. We love Fresh and Easy. We’d hate to see it fold. And we’re glad they’re communicating this to us directly even though we read the news too. Especially because we’re informed. We want them to say at least something. And this something, as little as it is, ain’t nothing.

Dear Stephanie,

Thank you for being a Friend of Fresh & Easy. We wanted to reach out to you to address numerous news and online reports about the future of our stores.

Our parent company Tesco is conducting a strategic review of Fresh & Easy – they’re looking at all options to find the best outcome for the neighborhood market that you – and we – have come to love. While we don’t know exactly what that outcome will be, or if Tesco will continue to own the company, we’re confident that Fresh & Easy can continue to be your favorite market.

We want to assure you: we don’t have plans to close stores. We’re still committed to providing delicious, wholesome and affordable food every day. We’re still Fresh & Easy; open for business with everything that you enjoy about our store, with even more exciting things to come. That’s why we’re going to keep on fighting the good food fight.

Now, more than ever, we appreciate your energy in our stores and being able to share a smile with you. We look forward to seeing you soon and thank you for your continued support.

The Fresh & Easy Team


Imagine what Amazon could do if it could get publishers to place its ads on their web site and connect those ads with their identities and share revenues with those publishers?

Originally posted on Gigaom:

To the untrained eye, all the suggestions we’re inundated with online might seem essentially the same. After all, there’s no big difference between “you might like,” “your friends liked” and “other people who bought this also bought,” right? Actually, there is, and the right approach to making recommendations can make or break a web business.

The trick to doing recommendations right, according to Eventbrite Director of Data Engineering Vipul Sharma (who will be speaking at our Structure:Data event in March), is rooted in both business and data architecture. Companies must know who their audience is, what types of data they can collect and how they can best use that data to discern what consumers really want. Or, to put it more succinctly, companies have to understand data science.

The Amazon microcosm

Amazon is a good example of the approaches a company might take. The e-commerce giant, Sharma explained, used to use…

View original 1,113 more words


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