from behind the bar

Sunday, November 19, 2006


I hate 'em! I don't like mowing. However, I'm just grateful it's not like our Oklahoma we had in CA. There is grass!

I started mowing at 6:30am this morning to beat the heat. It was humid and overcast. I was grateful for that. Right now the humidity level is 51%. Around here that's high. I hope it rains soon.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Some Thoughts on the First Amendment
Many of those in power says that because the founding generation was Christian, the United States is a Christian nation and must remain so. I don't think history gives us such a clear answer. Some of the Founders were probably Christian (as the religious right defines the term), some of them were Deists, and some of them were considered Christian at the time, but the sects they belonged to have nearly vanished today (how many Congregationalists and/or real Calvinists do you know?).

The point I wish to make is that even if the founders were Christians (as the religious right defines the term), why does that mean that we must follow their lead? Originalism is simply one way of interpreting the Constitution, but I think it cannot be usefully employed when it comes to the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment (and perhaps other portions of the Constitution, but my topic is limited). The basic idea of originalism is that we should interpret the Constitution in light of the intentions of those who drafted and approved it (The nuances of originalism are too complicated to go into here. Read Original Meanings if you are interested). If we want to change the meaning of the document, we should amend it. This is all well and good, but the amendment procedure is ill-suited to something as complex, personal, and fluid as religious belief. It would be nearly impossible to amend the religion clauses of the First Amendment. The wording would be hotly and endlessly debated in Congress and if, by some miracle, an amendment was passed that altered the text of the First Amendment, courts would be back to square one trying to determine the contours of the rights therein enshrined. Amending any portion of the Constitution is nearly impossible. Amending the Establishment and Free-Exercise clauses would be truly impossible.

I think the language that we have now is the best (and only) language we are ever going to get. The fact that we cannot change this language makes originalism terribly un-democratic with respect to the First Amendment (I am not arguing for or against originalism in all other circumstances. I think religion is an exceptional case and must be treated as such). We essentially have unchangeable text and a method of interpreting the text that does not allow us to change its legal meaning, even when each succeeding generation understands the text in a different way. The solution is to accept that judges will interpret the First Amendment in light of modern thinking, whatever it may be. The bare-bones, plain meaning of the text is unassailable (you cannot actually have an established church and you cannot actually make it illegal to exercise the religion of your choice), but anything beyond that should be interpreted in light of contemporary understandings and attitudes.

This is not a perfect solution, but it is an honest solution. There is an endless supply of historical data about what the founders believed and intended. We cannot know how this jumble of information would play out in modern society, especially in something as complicated and fluid as religion. Remember that abortion was not opposed on Christian grounds early on, nor was Christmas widely celebrated at the founding of the U.S. Things change. The law should acknowledge this. When our law cannot be amended according to the terms of the Constitution, we should do the best we can. This means vetting judges to make sure they are intelligent, willing to look at the world outside their chambers, of broad political and religious (or non-religious) backgrounds, and still insulated from removal like they are now. The judges will produce divergent and sometimes contradictory opinions, but that is no different than the results we get now. The difference will be honest discolsure about why the judges are doing what they are doing. There are already some areas of law where the Supreme Court recognizes evolving standards (what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment comes to mind). Adding religion to that list is not too far of a reach. The law should not change with every shift in the winds, but something as nuanced as the law of religion should change gradually as society's understanding of religion changes.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Guide to Tipping

A Guide to Tipping
Follow these simple lessons in tipping so you don't look like an ass next time you eat out.

It's impossible to discuss serving without covering its most basic foundation... tipping. It will be a recurring theme in columns to come, but for now, we'll try to limit the discussion to actually figuring out how much of your hard earned money should be left as gratuity for the service received. The truth is we know how much you're going to leave us, that before you even sit your hungry, food-stuffing ass into our booth you have decided how much to leave, and that unless we do something extremely special we're not going to see a penny more. Yet on the other hand, if we even so much as blink when we take your order, we've just dropped our total tip by a third.

Tipping dead babies is not acceptable

This talk of percents might get confusing, but it's how tipping is supposed to work. The simplest rule of thumb I can give your cheap ass is this...

15 Fucking Percent!

That means that you leave as a tip, at least fifteen percent of your check total as a tip. Hence, if your check is $100 dollars, you leave at least $15. Notice, I said at least 15%, that's because this is the base amount you should pay for decent service. If you receive excellent service, you should be tipping in the 20% range. Unfortunately this higher math escapes most people who's T-rex arms can't reach deep enough into their wallets to come up with the few extra dollars. Let's make it easy to remember.... 15% = good service... 20%= excellent service.... anywhere in between or above is fine depending on the situation... less is unacceptable and means that you are a cheap jackass.

Right now, you are probably saying to yourself, why are you bitching? What's the few extra dollars mean one way or the other, especially if it's a smaller check, and the difference is barely noticeable? Well, that's true, sometimes there isn't a big monetary difference between 15 & 20 percent, but we know the math, and how much you leave reflects on our service as much as it reflects on your cheapness. If you leave us a shitty tip when we've done a good job, it says to us that the extra attention and effort we paid went to naught. It's insulting, especially to those servers who actually take pride in doing their job well. And if you can't pony up the extra dollar or two on a small check to show us that the service was appreciated, then we know your stingy-ass isn't going to take care of us when you have a large bill. In that case it makes you look like an ungrateful and tightfisted douche.

"Yes, Mr. Douchebag, what can I get you to drink this afternoon?"

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating leaving a high tip if you receive poor service, it is perfectly acceptable to leave below 15% when your waiter, waitress or bartender is un-attentive and screws things up, but think before you rush to shortchange someone. Was whatever happened really the server's fault or was it a problem that was beyond their control? Remember, server's don't cook the food, they just act as conduits, so if your meal is wrong, odds are that the kitchen made the mistake. I could go on and on about mistakes and who to blame, but we'll save that for another installment, the point is however that if something is wrong, thing about who's fault it actually is before you declare your server a misbegotten, should-have-been-aborted-fetus and leave them a sub-15% tip.

For those of you who actually have some common sense and realize that waiters are not slaves there to treat you like royalty and wave palm leaves over your thrown to keep you cool, there are a host of factors other than check total to consider when actually calculating how much gratuity to leave...

If you can't learn to tip on a check, then start eating at Burger King

1. Did you get a discount? - Always leave a tip based on the original check total, not the after discounted price. We served it. You ate it. Tip for it.
2. Were you given something for free? - If the bartender bought you a round, or your server bought you dessert, remember that they're taking care you, so take care of them
3. Did you run your server? - If you sent your waitress on an errand, only to send her on another after she just returned from the first, you're running your server, pay for the work you're making her do.
4. Have you been sitting long? - When you sit at a table for a long period of time, you are preventing the server from "turning" the table and making money off their next party, so if you want to sit all night, start tipping out like you're paying rent.
5. Ordering take out? - At most restaurants, servers are responsible for putting together your takeout order. It's a bitch and interferes with their primary job of waiting tables, so pay them for the inconvenience.

There is much more to tipping than just what has been mentioned here, but I'm not trying to write War and Peace. The important thing is that you take care of the people who serve you, especially if you are a regular guest. We have long memories, and if you have made a habit out of leaving shitty tips, don't be surprised when you start getting shitty service. We're not going to waste our effort on someone who won't appreciate or notice it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The perspective of a Barman

Hi Tony is my name and observing people is my game.
From behind a bar at a downtime Hotel