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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

I have a confession to make: I don’t love Star Wars.  Shocking I know.  The admission surprises even me.  But there’s no denying it.  I just can’t get into it.  The Natalie Portman lead prequels were atrocious.  And that’s coming from someone who loves Natalie Portman.  The latest iteration was an improvement over the prequels but felt like more of a remake than a new take on the story.  The Kylo Ren-Han Solo I am your father storyline?  Rey not realizing that she’s a Jedi?  The emerging threat of a Death Star?  Sound familiar?

Admittedly the original trilogy was good.  Especially considering when it came out.  It was so far ahead of its time that it blew audiences away and became a cult hit.  But I didn’t have the benefit of watching it when it first came out.  I watched it on my VCR in the late 1990s before I could fully appreciate what I was watching.  As a result I wasn’t impressed with what I saw and as a result I never recovered my fandom.

But all that may be about to change because if there’s one thing I love more than a good space opera it’s a good immersive experience.  And thanks to Disney I may soon have the chance to live out an incredible immersive experience set in space aboard a spaceship.  An immersive experience that’s to be set in the Star Wars Universe for those of you who are into that sort of thing.

That’s right.  Disney just announced plans to build a Star Wars themed hotel in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida that is to be so immersive as to dominate every second of your day.  Every guest will be given their own unique story line to follow, the entire hotel staff will be in character, and the fun and games will never let up as you pilot the Millennium Falcon, partake in battles, interact with other guests in the Cantina, and fight the urge to join the Dark Side.

As TechCrunch states:

“In other words, it’s… like… Westworld (or, you know, as close as anyone can get) plus Star Wars, minus all the sexy and/or murdery stuff.  The potential here is incredible. I’d be excited about this even if it was just some haphazard third party throwing together a Star Wars-themed weekend. But with the might of an army of Disney Imagineers and Lucasfilm’s own stamp of approval on it? Oh man, oh man, oh man.”

Even if you’re not a Star Wars you’d have to admit that the idea of spending a weekend living out a fantasy aboard a spaceship is still pretty cool.  And if you are a Star Wars fan?  The kind of person who camps out the night before the movies come out, dresses up like a Storm Trooper for Halloween, has a life sized Yoda statue in their living room, thinks that they have actually successfully used Jedi mind tricks on their dog and ends every email by saying ‘May The Force Be With You’, well…you probably just lost your mind.

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Is an Immersive Star Wars Hotel the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Here’s a look at everything that I’ve been thinking about lately:

  • A new date night idea has gone viral.  You and your partner head to your local Goodwill and armed with just $10, buy each other a ridiculous outfit to wear.  You then have to head out to dinner or wherever else you were going wearing your ridiculous outfit acting like everything is totally normal.  If you’re looking for a new date night idea this should be worth trying.

 

  • By now everyone is probably familiar with the rear cameras that come standard in most cars, allowing you to glance at what’s behind you as you’re backing up.  But what about a front camera?  I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m pulling into a spot it’s hard for me to see over the front hood of my car.  As a result I’m often several feet away from the curb.  A front camera sure would help in those instances.  And come to think of it, a side view camera might be nice too for when I’m cutting a sharp corner, like when I’m in a parking garage.

 

  • I’ve been on the lookout for a new pen and/or pencil to use for quite a while now.  But every time I buy one from Staples I’m often disappointed in the performance.  There are dozens of options, all touting mysterious new features ranging from erasable gel ink to an ability to write underwater, and all of them underwhelm when I go to use them.  Why isn’t is possible to try pens and pencils before you buy them the way you try on clothes?  I know that some stores do offer this option for some pens but usually those pens don’t work and usually the places to right are quickly taken up.  That’s why there should be an entire store dedicated to trying writing utensils.  And I’m going to start it!  Store name options include: “Write Here, Right Here”, “The Mighty Pen”, and “Scribble”.

 

  • I was recently searching for tickets to the hit Broadway show Hamilton on StubHub for an upcoming trip to Chicago.  To accomplish this I had to look for tickets five separate times, for each of the five show times across the three days that I was going to be in town.  It would have been better if I could have searched for tickets for all five show times all in one fell swoop.  That would have allowed me to find the cheapest ticket in my desired seating location without having to cross reference my findings.

 

  • The ability to conduct in depth searches of this nature would also be useful for airline bookings.  Let’s say I’m dead set on having an aisle seat.  Let’s say there are five flights in one day and my schedule is flexible.  When I’m searching for flights it would be great if I could see which flights have available aisle seats.  That information might help me decide which flight to take.

 

  • Speaking of airlines, I just tried to book a flight on American Airlines using a voucher from a previously canceled flight only to find out that I couldn’t do so because my voucher was only good for one year from date of booking.  Wouldn’t it have been nice if American Airlines would have notified me that my voucher was about to expire so that I could have used it before losing it?  Not telling me was horrific customer service on their part.  Not that I should be surprised.  This is an airline that we’re talking about after all.

 

  • What would Facebook be like if our profiles were public?  If we could broadcast our personalities to the world the way we broadcast our thoughts (Twitter), our pictures (Instagram), and our professional lives (LinkedIN) what would happen?  Would we share less?  Share differently?  Would we gain fame and fortune the way the best YouTube personalities have?  Could my mix of nature pictures, posts about ideas, and interactions with my friends, turn me into a star?

 

  • Speaking of social media, what would happen if we had a social media site dedicated to sharing personal stories, the kind of intimate stories about our sex lives that we’re generally ashamed of sharing?  Would people hesitate to share or would we openly share since we already share everything else?  And if we’re openly discussing our personal lives how would that impact the way we lead our lives?  Would we take more risks so we have better stories?  Would we be less embarrassed if we find out that other people share our opinions, fetishes, and worldviews?  Would it lead to a more open society?  If we had such a site, I’d call it: “Scarlet”, short for “The Scarlet (Open) Letter.”

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Is a Goodwill Date the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,111 – Wanderlust

Ask any single thirtysomething what their two biggest laments in life are and you’re likely to get the same answers: not having a love interest and not having someone to travel with.  That may be an over simplification but in my experience it often holds true.  Love and travel are intertwined.  You can’t have one without the other any more than you can have a butterfly without a caterpillar.  Even the lone traveler has fallen in love…with traveling.

Our yearning for love and companionship and our drive to explore, to seek out new environments, are evolutionary drivers.  It’s what causes us to seek new partners to procreate with and it’s what causes us to seek out new places to live, whether that’s an undiscovered land mass or a habitable exoplanet.  As a result we spend a significant portion of our lives searching for our soul mates.  Those that are lucky enough to find theirs not only wind up with a lover and a best friend but also with a partner in crime and a travel partner.  They have the best of both worlds as they crisscross the globe, fulfilling their primal urges for companionship and exploration along the way.

But what’s a single hopeless romantic supposed to do? How do you see all that the world has to offer if you don’t have anyone to see it with?  For several years I did what I thought was right.  I waited.  If I found a beautiful spot that I wanted to visit, say a tropical island or a quaint European village, I made a mental note.  I’ll get there eventually I would tell myself.  Maybe on my honeymoon.

Eventually I realized that this wasn’t a sound strategy.  My life was passing me by.  Was I really going to pass up the opportunity to visit a locale that would bring me happiness just because I was waiting for somebody else to accompany me?  What if I never found someone?  So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and just start doing more on my own.  Was it awkward when I flew to Maui and the airline gave out champagne to all of the newlyweds?  You bet.  Did I care?  Nope.  I don’t even drink.

Once I broke my travel alone seal I was off to the races.  Determined to visit all the cities across the United States that I had never been to before.  I traveled to Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Charlotte.  I hiked, took pictures, went antiquing, speed through museums.  If there were sights to see you can rest assured that I saw them.  No matter where I was I managed to have a good time.  So much so that I have to say that I don’t mind traveling alone at all.  In some regards, I even prefer it.  I get to set the agenda and only do the things that I want to do.  At no point am I forced to go somewhere or do something that I’m not interested in.  Better yet, I get to go at my own pace, never feeling rushed, or like I’m letting someone else down.  And best of all, if I don’t feel like doing something I can just blow it off guilt free.

But at the end of the day I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that something was missing.  Traveling alone may be welcomed, even preferred, but it’s not the end all, be all.  I’d still sign up for a romantic trip for two in a heartbeat.  There’s just something inherently heart- warming about exploring a new place with somebody else.  Seeing the look on their face when they gaze upon a priceless work of art.  Watching their expression change when they experience a new cuisine for the first time. Engaging in a deep and meaningful conversation about the history of a place as you throw yourselves head first into the local culture.  When you travel to a new place you can easily get lost.  But you can also easily lose yourself.  Within your surroundings.  Within your partner’s gaze.

It’s with that in mind that I’d like to start a new travel service.  One that caters to our modern lifestyle but also to our ingrained desires for companionship and exploration.  One that would make it easy to travel the globe and fall in love at the same time.  Sure there are other travel dating sites already out there but none like the one I’m imagining.  None like Wanderlust.

What I’m envisioning is a service that would operate similarly to the dating site How About We.  Instead of saying how about we grab a coffee or how about we go ice skating you’d instead start out your post by saying how about we go to Hawaii.  The person posting the trip can set the parameters.  Is the trip all expenses paid? Or are you going Dutch?  Are you looking for romance or just friendship?  What are you hoping to do once you’re there?  Relaxation or adventure?  What does your itinerary look like?  Have it all figured out or need recommendations?

Wanderers (as they will become known as) will then get to pick their potential travel mate from a pool of those people who responded to their listing.  In order to find the right person to travel with Wanderlust’s algorithms will recommend the best match based on questionnaires that each person fill out.  Since there’s a strict vetting process in place Wanderers never have to worry about their safety.  Their won’t be any weirdos or escorts in the pool.  Every Wanderer will be a real reputable person.

Now here’s where things get interesting.  Wanderlust wouldn’t just be a travel company or a lifestyle company or a dating company.  It would be a technology company.  Meaning that in order to facilitate matches, regardless of cultural differences or language barriers, each Wanderer will be given a language translation device to take with them.  That way they’ll be able to communicate with their companion even if they don’t speak the same language.  This aspect of the service is a real game changer as it opens up a whole new world of possibilities.  Now your soul mate isn’t just someone who lives in the same town as you or works at the same company as you.  Now it could be anyone.  Anywhere in the world.

Wanderers would also be provided with devices that track their location and movements.  This would ensure their safety and also allow for perks and benefits to pop up throughout their trip through augmented reality.  Walk into a famous restaurant and receive a coupon for 50% off your meal.  Walk pass a museum and gain free entry.  You could even use the devices to leave messages for other wanderers or to learn more about the history of the monument you’re currently standing in front of.

Afterwards all wanderers will be rated by their travel companions.  Were they courteous and respectful? Fun to be around? Did they know their way around the city?  These ratings would form a reputation economy that would power the service just like how eBay and Yelp work.  Highly rated power users would reap the benefit of getting to go on the best trips.  Better yet, Wanderlust would also tip the best users making it possible to actually earn a substantial amount of income as a full-time travel guru.  These professional wanderers could either station themselves in a host city, entertaining guests as they fly in from around the world, or they could be travelers themselves.

Will this Wanderlust service solve all of our travel related issues?  Sadly, no.  Millions of people will still be stuck spending their entire lives in the same place they’re born.  Financial constraints, family obligations, and job responsibilities will still limit the amount and quality of travel that people can do.  But it will certainly help.  Making it easier for people to explore new places and potentially fall in love at the same time.  And if there’s even a chance that a service like this could help facilitate the start of even just one new relationship don’t we owe it to ourselves to try?

Related imageIs Wanderlust the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

 

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Thanks to Elon Musk’s proposed high speed travel concept, the Hyperloop, it may one day be possible to work in Los Angeles and live in San Francisco.  And now, thanks to a new hotel concept, it may be possible to take the idea of multi-city living one step further to include multi-city vacationing.

As the Points Guy puts it, “A new concept hotel would allow guests to travel between 13 properties throughout the United States in a matter of hours — without ever leaving their room. Brandon Siebrecht, a student at the University of Nevada, drew up the winning concept for the 2017 Radical Innovation Award, which encourages participants to come up with disruptive ideas that cater to the hospitality industry.  The idea? Rather than hopping on a train or sitting in basic economy, the futuristic ‘Hyperloop Hotel’ would link modular hotel rooms in New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Nashville, Austin, Chicago, Santa Fe, Denver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle via the hyperloop transportation system.”

The rooms would be made from modified shipping containers and would contain a bedroom, bathroom, and living room.  In theory, your entire room would be transported along the Hyperloop network as you traversed from city to city, allowing you to dock at the corresponding hotel of your choice.

It’s a cool concept but I’m not sure if it would work out logistically.  If everyone in the network wanted to be in the same city at the same time wouldn’t they run into a situation where there was no room for a pod to dock?  Or would every location have enough space to accommodate every available at pod at all times?

Even if the Hyperloop Hotel doesn’t work out it’s clear that the Hyperloop itself is an inevitability at this point.  Something that could start to revolutionize the way we live, work, and travel as soon as 2020.

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Is the Hyperloop Hotel the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Jeff Bezos is on record as saying that Amazon would never fulfill their true potential until they could figure out a way to sell food and clothing, two items that were notoriously difficult to sell online for obvious reasons.  Amazon’s acquisition the other day of Whole Foods could solve the first problem.  And now their new Wardrobe program for Prime members could solve the later.

What Amazon is offering is a chance for Prime customers to try on items such as clothes or shoes, at home, for free.  If you decide not to buy any of the items, there is no charge, and Amazon will arrange for free pickup from your home to complete the return.  If you do wind up buying any of the items that you try, there’s a sliding scale for discounts, so that the more you buy, the more you save.

As TechCrunch details, “First you pick at least three items, and up to 15, from more than a million Amazon Fashion options, including clothes, shoes and accessories for kids and adults, to fill your Prime Wardrobe box with no upfront cost. Brands available include Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Adidas, Theory, Timex, Lacoste and more.  Once the Amazon Prime Wardrobe box arrives, you can try on the clothes for up to seven days. Then you either schedule a free pick-up or drop the re-sealable box with its pre-paid shipping label at a nearby UPS to return whatever you don’t want. Keep three or four items from the box and get 10 percent off everything, or keep five or more for 20 percent off. You only pay for what you keep, with no charge upfront. Amazon Prime Wardrobe is free for Prime members with no extra fees.”

At this point you’re probably thinking to yourself: where’s the catch?  How could Amazon afford to lend out that much inventory up front, with no added costs, while also covering shipping fees, and how could they possibly handle the logistics of scheduling pickups, and restocking items that were returned.  Not to mention the hassle of figuring out if items were used before they were returned.

The short answer is because they’re Amazon.  When it comes to handing logistics there’s no one better. They can just have a drone pick up your items and a robot restock it.  They don’t care.  All they care about is reducing the friction from the online clothes shopping experience so that more people will buy directly from them.  And quite frankly they may have succeeded with this incredible offer.  Unsure if something fits?  Just order one in every possible size.  You’re guaranteed to find the one that fits and it’s now incredibly easy to return the rest so there’s no reason not to take this approach.

In fact, if you combine Amazon Wardrobe with the new Echo Look that provides fashion advice while taking pictures of you trying on clothes you come to the conclusion that Amazon could be on the verge of dominating the fashion and apparel industries just like how they’re about to dominate groceries and anything else that they set their sights on.  Is Amazon Prime Wardrobe excessive and unnecessary?  Probably.  But it’s also awesome.  Welcome to our new reality.

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Is Amazon Prime Wardrobe the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I’m currently reading a riveting book about the history of innovation.  In How We Got To Now, author Steven Johnson traces the trajectory of six innovations that shaped the modern world.  What Johnson is particularly focused on in this book is the so-called Hummingbird Effect; how seemingly unrelated events are actually connected, such as the way that the Hummingbird evolved its unique ability to hover in place as a response to the way that the flower had evolved to attract pollinators.

One of the examples that Johnson gives is of the Gutenberg Press, the world’s first printing press.  This invention obviously had a huge impact on the world as access to information increased and literacy rates improved.  But it also had unintended consequences such as the spread of heretic ideas that undermined the authority of the church.  But that’s not all it did.  As a perfect example of the Hummingbird effect the printing press also impacted several other innovations that would have been impossible to predict at the time.  For instance, since people were starting to read more they realized that they were really farsighted.  This lead to an increased interest in correcting vision, which lead to an increased interest in lenses, which lead to the invention of the microscope and the telescope, which lead to advances in healthcare and physics.  If the printing press had never been invented we might not know what a cell was or that there are planets surrounding other stars.

Other inventions had similar long-term effects.  Shipping ice from Boston to the Caribbean to make ice cream and cool drinks created a global luxury market for ice which led to people taking an interest in cooling techniques.  This ultimately lead to refrigerators, which then lead to air conditioners, which led to the greatest mass migration the world has ever seen as warmer climes could now be settled, which led to a dramatic shift in the balance of power in U.S. politics with the Democrats losing control of Congress as population centers migrated South.  Political reverberations that are still being felt today.

The accidental discovery of glass, stumbled upon in the Sahara desert, had a far greater impact.  At first, the transparency of glass is what appealed to people as it became a key fixture in jewelry.  But later on mankind would start to tinker with some of its other properties, such as its strength and its ability to bend light, using it to make wine glasses and then beautiful stain glass windows.  Eventually it would make its way into eyewear and ultimately mirrors and that’s where things would get really interesting.

For the first time in human history people could actually see what they looked like, instead of forming a rough picture based off of seeing their reflection in a pond.  This fundamentally altered the way they saw the world.  Instead of relying on institutions such as their families or the church for guidance, they would instead start to rely more on themselves, even caring more about their possessions and their social status.  Not so coincidentally, it was around this time that there was also a rise in the number of self-portraits as artists took more of an interest in the proverbial selfie of the day.  This fundamental change just so happened to coincide with the Renaissance and while it would be foolish to say that the Renaissance was caused by the discovery of glass and the advent of the mirror, it is worth mentioning, at least, as a possible contributing factor, especially when you consider that the Renaissance was fueled in part by artists competing for recognition and commissions from the wealthy Medici.

This idea that the mirror could change the way people saw the world, and that in turn, could lead to the Renaissance is completely mind-blowing to me.  I’ve always just kind of taken our way of life, the modern human condition, for granted.  I’ve never thought philosophically about the way that I see the world; that perhaps there could be another entirely different perspective that one could take.  I never once considered that a new technology might be able to profoundly change my worldview.

Sure, there are plenty of people claiming that we are, in fact, currently undergoing a transformation in the way we see the world, for better or for worse, thanks to our reliance on computers.  On the one hand these machines may be making us dumber as we outsource our memories to them.  On the other hand they could be changing our understanding of the world around us as we start to equate naturally occurring phenomenon with programming the way that the invention of watches led to some imagining natural systems as a series of cogs and wheels. But, while both of those perspectives are true, it’s hard for me to imagine that computers are fundamentally impacting the way I see the world or that they could lead to another Renaissance.  Computers may be making us dumber but they also could be making us smarter, augmenting our performance and improving it bit by bit.  Either way, they’re not really altering our sense of self the way that the mirror did.  But there is a new discovery that might.  A breakthrough in our understanding of the human mind and how it works that could change everything.  A revelation that could lead to a heightened sense of self, unlike anything ever seen before in human history.

That bold claim is based on the working theory that consciousness has various levels of intensity.  You might want to imagine these levels on a baseline of 1-10 with one representing somebody in a coma and ten representing someone fighting in the Octagon with their fight or flight response in full swing.  But now we’ve come to find out that there’s a higher level of consciousness that’s off the charts.

According to I Fucking Love Science:

“One way in which neuroscientists measure consciousness is to look at something called neural signal diversity. This assesses how complex a brain’s activity is at any given time and provides a mathematical index of the level of consciousness. For example, a waking brain has more diverse neural activity than a sleeping one, which means it has a higher state of consciousness.

When the researchers from the University of Sussex and Imperial College, London, looked at the neural signal diversity of volunteers given one of the three different psychedelic drugs, they found something surprising. The brain signal diversity was higher in those who had taken the drugs compared to a baseline of someone who is simply awake and aware, suggesting that they have a heightened sense of consciousness.”

Taping into this higher state of consciousness for the first time could have the same transformative psychological impact of looking in the mirror for the first time.  You’d suddenly realize that you have infinitely more potential than you had ever imagined.  Your perspective on life would instantly change as you begin to wonder what you could do with heightened senses, with better reflexes, with more situational awareness.  Your mind would race as you contemplate how much smarter you’ve become and if you’ve gained any new abilities.  And what about society as a whole?  If everyone was operating at this higher state of consciousness would it usher in a new era of creativity, a new Renaissance?  What innovations will this Great Awareness lead to?  What sort of Hummingbird Effects would it have?

The great thing about innovation is that it’s impossible to answer these questions from our present day perspective.  Johannes Gutenberg had no idea that the printing press would lead to the discovery of the cell.  The first person to stumble across glass in the desert could never have fathomed that it would one day be used as a mirror and lead to the Renaissance.  When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph he first thought it would be used to send messages from one person to another.  When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone he first thought it would be used so that a musician on one end could perform for someone listening on the other end.  They had no idea that the use cases for their inventions would wind up getting switched with the telephone getting used to communicate and the phonograph becoming a music player.

When it comes to innovation, it’s not always necessary to know where you’re going to wind up.  The only thing that truly matters is knowing when to start.  Knowing when the next revolution is about to begin. And I believe that our discovery of a higher state of consciousness is one of those key moments in history.  A pivotal moment that could change everything, even if we don’t yet realize how.

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Is a higher state of consciousness within our reach?

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#1,054 – Ghost Restaurants

Ghost Restaurant.  A haunted eatery that’s a sequel to the 2002 horror flick Ghost Ship? Or a new cuisine craze where specters serve “ghoul” food instead of soul food?  Turns out it’s neither.

As Fast Company puts it, “Hungry New Yorkers ordering meals through such online services as Seamless or Eat24 order everything from sushi to burgers to tacos. But when they order from certain restaurants like Leafage and Butcher Block, they might not realize that those restaurants aren’t restaurants at all. They are virtual eateries created by a company called the Green Summit Group that operates several food-delivery services out of central commissaries in midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Chicago. In New York alone, Green Summit’s brands offer all sorts of cuisine ‘concepts,’ including meatballs, salad/sandwich/juice, and burgers/grilled cheese.”

In other words, they’re ordering from ghost restaurants that exist in name only.  Weird, yet entirely practical.  The unusual setup makes perfect sense for busy millennials who are constantly ordering delivery while on the go.  When your office is a Starbucks and your living quarters a stranger’s spare bedroom you get used to unorthodox arrangements.  It doesn’t really matter to you that the restaurant you just ordered from doesn’t have a physical space that you can go to for date night since your date nights mostly just consist of Netflix and Chill anyway.

The arrangement makes sense for the chefs as well.  Why pay hefty rents for your own branded space when you can share a kitchen and pocket more of the profit?  Shared cooking spaces are likely to bring down other costs as well if the ghost restaurants are sharing supplies and even ingredients.

All in all, it seems like a win-win situation for everyone involved.  Unless, of course, you happen to be someone who actually likes to eat out.  Or,  you’re one of those people who is disappointed to find out that there aren’t any actual ghosts serving food.  But for everyone else…say hello to the latest food craze: ghost restaurants.  Coming soon to a front door near you.

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Is a Ghost Restaurant the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

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