Amazon Dash Buttons: 9 months later

Amazon Dash Buttons: 9 months later

The spread of Amazon is seemingly unstoppable. One of their latest ways to enter our homes are “Dash Buttons” that allow you to reorder products with the click of a (sponsored) button. The promo video for the product aired just before April Fool’s Day in 2015 and had some thinking it was more of a joke than an actual marketing campaign. But the Dash Buttons hit the market the following July, at $4.99 apiece. Amazon ostensibly wants to do away with any sort of physical shopping altogether; Jeff Bezos is now doing to grocery stores what he originally did to bookstores. Of course, shopping on Amazon is nice; they’ve created an entire culture not only of comfort and ease, but also of excitement – who doesn’t love getting Amazon boxes in the mail? – competing with the instant gratification you get from buying on site. Not only is one of the most comprehensive moves in Amazon’s “Internet of Things” strategy, it appears to be an attempt to revolutionize the way we shop. Again. This is the physical embodiment of Amazon’s, oft-maligned and joked-about, infiltration into our homes and nearly every aspect of our lives. Here’s how they work (from Amazon.com):   To use Dash Button, simply download the Amazon App from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Then, sign into your Amazon Prime account, connect Dash Button to Wi-Fi, and select the product you want to reorder. Once connected, a single press on Dash Button automatically places your order. Amazon will send an order confirmation to your phone, so it’s easy to cancel if you change your mind. Also,...
Wine and dine in St. Paul, Minnesota

Wine and dine in St. Paul, Minnesota

St. Paul is a city that is  “…put together in solid blocks of honest brick and stone, and has the air of intending to stay…” as Mark Twain wrote in 1882. You hear about the history; how charmingly quaint and quiet (though, for better or for worse, that is changing quickly) it is. But a unique place to wine and dine? Even though St. Paul is opening new and interesting restaurants left and right, it’s still Minneapolis that is thought of first as food-forward. But, that could be changing as well. There’s more than enough drinking and dining in St. Paul to fill an episode of a travel-based television show, impress any out-of-towner coming to visit, or, most importantly, serve the people who live here. Here is a quick look at a few of the the must-see, must-taste, must-feel places for a day of eating and drinking in the city.   In the morning: There is no shortage of brunch on the weekend. Virtually every restaurant in St. Paul does some sort of brunch, and people come in hungover droves for Bloody Marys and mimosas; for pancakes and Benedicts and burgers topped with fried eggs. Tongue In Cheek, Strip Club, Meritage, and Heirloom all come to mind when talking about fantastic dinner restaurants that also serve brunch on the weekend, and we’ll talk more about them later when it gets later in the day. Mucci’s serves awesome, old-school Italian for dinner. On weekend mornings, however, they also do donuts. There has been much fanfare surrounding these, and it’s worth getting in line to see for yourself for a quick breakfast treat. Although...
Is Chipotle’s E. coli scare over?

Is Chipotle’s E. coli scare over?

Chipotle was one of the few restaurant chains to graduate beyond chain status; one of those restaurants that, despite their corporate structure, enjoyed an almost cult-like following. They were socially conscious. They used quality, “fresh” ingredients. They had what we assumed was integrity, publicly dropping carnitas (one of their most popular protein choices) when they couldn’t source non-GMO pork. They seemed golden. But then, like a beloved Hollywood movie star who can seemingly do no wrong getting arrested on molestation charges, Chipotle fell from grace. One, two, three, then dozens of cases of foodborne illness linked to Chipotle were reported. People were getting sick all across the country, most notably from E. coli. 64 cases of Salmonella poisoning were reported here in Minnesota during August and September of 2015. The source was Chipotle’s tomatoes. It was all over the news. People sick. People scared. Chipotle was cleared by the CDC after the E. coli outbreak was linked to the Australian beef they were using (and their signs now tout ingredients “locally-sourced,” so, at least closer than Australia). They then dumped millions into a new marketing campaign, and even closed completely for a day in February for a “mandatory food safety training” session. But can they survive the scandal? Well, other restaurant chains have. Fast food giants like McDonald’s (in 1982, the first documented case of E. coli linked to food), Burger King (1997), Wendy’s (2006), and Taco Bell (2006, and multiple other times) have all caused foodborne sickness. They’ve continued on mostly unscathed, though without the level of news coverage that Chipotle received. Some might say that this is unsurprising; that when you...
Login with your ear? Yep. And soon.

Login with your ear? Yep. And soon.

We all know how easy it is for our online information to be hacked; for our lives (extending beyond just what is online) to be stolen from us by someone who knows more than we do. To help prevent this, we trust our information to passwords, to fingerprint scanners, to other security measures all the way up the line to what feels like James Bond-esque technology. But we also know how easy it is for these things to be faked. Fingerprints can be duplicated using Play-Doh, and something as simple as a 2D picture can often dupe an eye-scanner. And we all know how terrible passwords are at protecting anything. So, with that in mind, researchers from NEC (NEC; TSE: 6701) developed an ear-based login system, one that allows you to access sensitive information (banking, personal records, etc.) using your internal ear canal. This is not James Bond. Retina scans were James Bond. Voice recognition was James Bond. This is beyond James Bond. Here’s how it works: The system sends sound into the user’s ear and then measures the echoes they receive. The echo is based on sound reflected from the user’s external ear canal, called the tympanic membrane, and by sound that is reflected within the inner parts of the ear. The response received through the echo is converted into digital sound, and this “digital echo” becomes your unique ID. According to NEC (check it out here) accuracy currently stands at >99%, and takes about 1 second to measure. This will be especially useful for smart phones, which we already hold to our ears. As we conduct our business and our...
What is Lowertown missing?

What is Lowertown missing?

Lowertown is thriving urban village, but there are more than a few things that residents feel are still missing. A bowling alley – “There needs to be something to actually do  in Lowertown, more than just places to eat and drink.” A (small) grocery store – Something that benefits the people of the neighborhood. “The nearby Lunds & Byerly’s is nice, but it’s a further walk from the neighborhood, and its big, and it’s expensive.” A bookstore – “Subtext is a bookstore that recently opened downtown, but another in Lowertown couldn’t hurt as a gathering place for locals; a place to read and find unique and local literature.” An arts supply store – “This seems obvious for an ‘arts district’ doesn’t it?” A movie theater A distillery/cocktail room A brewery/taproom A salon/spa A store for basic need items – e.g. a toothbrush, cuff links, or pair of socks. “I don’t want to have to leave the neighborhood, let alone drive someplace just to get necessities.” An ice cream parlor – “Imagine a stroll though the neighborhood, or after the Farmer’s Market, with an ice cream cone in hand. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Maybe an Izzy’s or Grand Old Creamery could open another location in Lowertown.” Rent control and anti-displacement measures – “Gentrification has been an issue in Lowertown. The neighborhood will lose its bohemian charm if the artists’ community, the people who were there first and helped to create what we have today where the city failed, are chased away by rising rents. There needs to be more support for the artists that established the neighborhood as a destination in the...