This blog is my attempt to reconnect with the world of chemistry. I have a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and make a living doing research for a large company in Michigan. As times have changed, that company has changed its focus and I no longer have as much chance to do the basic, fundamental research which I most enjoy. Through this blog, I am hoping to recapture the magic which I felt during my graduate (and undergraduate) days in college. Expect topics on chemistry and alchemy along with some non-chemistry related items which I think might be interesting.

"The chymists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasure among smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I would change places with the Persian King."

Johann Joachim Becher (phlogistonist)
Acta Laboratorii Chymica Monacensis, seu Physica Subterranea, (1669).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Restaurant Musings

This weekend, my wife and I decided to try a new restaurant near our house. Upon arrival we were surprised (not) to find that it was already closed – for good. This particular location appears to be cursed. Other restaurants in the area are having no problem, but this place has gone through 4 or 5 different owners since we first moved here. By my recollection, it’s been an Italian restaurant, a Chili’s type place, a fish place (identifiable from the street by large dolphin shaped door handles), a Mexican grill (the owner wisely deciding to forgo the expense of replacing the dolphins during its 3 months of operation), and then Italian again. The pattern is always the same. My wife or I will see the grand opening sign and we’ll say “let’s check it out before it closes,” but we never make it in time. I don’t know why people keep giving that spot another chance, but perhaps they just don’t know its history.

And this is where I see a market opportunity. Someone should start a business designed to keep track of property histories and, for a small fee, steer prospective owners away from disaster areas like this. Perhaps someone has, and I just don’t know about it (along with at least 5 other people). Of course this concept only works if the viability of a prospective restaurant is considered an important factor, which does not appear to be the case at all in my parents’ home of Springfield, Missouri. A quick drive down any street will reveal that Springfield has lots of banks, lots & lots of churches, and a googolplex of restaurants. Seriously, it’s reached the point where the number of restaurants exceeds the population of the city. As you might imagine, this can lead to certain logistical problems. Three Mexican restaurants at the same intersection, a block away from my parents, no problem. Unless everyone in Springfield is eating at least 5 or 6 meals a day, this economy doesn’t seem particularly viable. Every time I visit, countless number of restaurants have closed down and been replaced by new restaurants. Urban legends tell of customers who have witnessed restaurant changeovers during the course of their meals. I can only assume the large number of banks in Springfield are necessary to handle all startup financing and renovation work. If I might borrow from Douglas Adams’ "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy," Springfield is rapidly approaching what is known as the Restaurant Event Horizon (REH). At that point, it will become economically unfeasible to do anything but own a restaurant in Springfield. A scary proposition to be sure, but as long as the Steak n’ Shakes are still around, I’ll be happy.

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