Thoughts on BBQ

  • by Gitabushi

I live in the DC area, in Northern Virginia (if you do, too, let’s get together for a beer or something?).  While Virginia is “The South”, Virginia isn’t necessarily known for BBQ, and I don’t think anyone thinks of “DC” when they think of good BBQ.  On the other hand, DC *is* known for good restaurants, so why would that not include BBQ?

advertising image for Famous Dave's
Famous Dave’s All-American Feast

I’ve been to a number of BBQ restaurants around this area.  I haven’t been to Hill Country BBQ in the DC city center, mainly because I don’t really trust restaurants in that area…I’ve heard stories of roaches and rats, and had some experiences with both (albeit outside restaurants). I have heard that Urban BBQ is pretty good, but that’s all on the north suburbs of DC, which I don’t get to very often.  I have heard that Pit BBQ has great BBQ sandwiches (pulled pork?), but that’s in Baltimore.  I’m sure there are others I haven’t even heard of.

But let’s get a few things straight.

  1. Restaurants exist for a reason.  So many restaurants go out of business, if a restaurant lasts for any length of time at all, it is probably pretty good.  At the very least, enough people find it worthwhile to spend their hard-earned cash there.  So don’t tell me “That restaurant is garbage” or “Their BBQ is crap.”  I won’t listen, because you’re wrong.  It might not be the taste you prefer, or you may have a place you like better for various reasons, but [unspecified restaurant] is probably not garbage.
  2. BBQ, by definition, cannot be bad.  It can be badly made.  It can be made significantly less enjoyable by overcooking to the point it is dry.  But if that’s the case, call your waiter over and ask for a replacement.  We did that our second visit to Famous Dave’s once, and they gave us additional brisket for free, and it was tender, juicy, and flavorful.  It wiped out any bad experience of the first batch, which was edible, but dry.  But even still, if we’d slathered it with some sauce, it would have been edibly non-bad.  It’s *BBQ*.
  3. Meat is meat.  Unless you are BBQing Wagyu, a brisket is a brisket.  Heat is heat.  It is generally known that a certain poundage of brisket, cooked over such and such a temperature for a specified amount of time will break down the connective tissue and result in a tender, juicy brisket.  The margin of error when you are slow-cooking at low heat is broad.  You may prefer a certain type of dry rub.  Some place may be a little better about getting a thicker smoke ring on it, or a better bark.  But if you follow directions, you end up with good BBQ.  I’ve made roasted pork butt twice.  In the oven.  But I guaranteed you that you take a chunk of pork butt from your favorite BBQ restaurant, with all their experience, and if we cut off all the bark and just take a 1″ square chunk from the center, you will *not* be able to tell the difference.  I’d risk some decent money that despite my inexperience at cooking pork butt, with my family’s secret recipe, I could make a pulled pork sandwich that you’d prefer to almost any professional BBQ pulled pork, anywhere.  Which brings me to my final point:
  4. Since meat is meat, what makes good BBQ?  I like to analyze and over-analyze everything so here’s what I think makes good BBQ:
    1. Good smoke flavor on the meat.  Just heating meat for a few hours makes something you can call BBQ or can slather with BBQ sauce, but to be good BBQ, you need the red smoke ring and a smoky bark.
    2. Good sauce.  Brisket and sausage are intended to be eaten without sauce, but Brisket is not the totality of BBQ.  Pulled pork needs sauce. Ribs are better with sauce. Chicken needs sauce.  You can’t have a great BBQ place without great sauce.
    3. Great sides.  Anyone can make a meh potato salad. Anyone can open a can of bbq baked beans. Anyone can boil corn.  Making cornbread isn’t difficult.  Most coleslaw is the same.  You need to make something special to stand out.  There isn’t going to be much difference in the meat, as we talked about.  Sauce can make a difference, but the experience of eating BBQ should be the entire experience.  If you love the meat, but the sides are just filler, you’ve wasted some of your stomach space on “empty nutrition.”
    4. Value. All things being equal, spending $15/person to get stuffed with great BBQ is better than spending $20/person, and much better than spending $50/person.  And a place that offers a reasonably-priced combo is going to better than a place that makes it difficult to get a range of meats for one or two people.

So based on these parameters, I have to declare Famous Dave’s the best BBQ in the DC area.

We went to Dixie Bones in Woodbridge last week.  It was on Thrilllist or Yelp’s list as the best BBQ in DC and the #2 best restaurant in Woodbridge.  Nope. They had a great potato salad that appeared to be sour cream based, rather than mayonaisse based. It worked so well.  But that was it.  They chopped their brisket, rather than slicing it.  Their ribs were dry, and didn’t have much smoke flavor.  They had 4 sauces to choose from, and not only were none that toothsome, the spiciest sauce they had available was Texas Pete’s Louisiana-Style Hot Sauce, which is like Tabasco with all the spiciness surgically removed. We won’t go back there.

We’ve been to Texas Jack’s in Arlington.  There was nothing wrong with it. But I almost think of it as BBQ for people who don’t like BBQ.  Or BBQ for people who think regular BBQ is for hicks and rednecks and they want nothing to do with *those* sorts of people.  What I mean is, every dish was some sort of fusion flavor.  It’s been a while, so I can’t remember exactly, but it was things like “Peach Habanero sauce,” “ginger whiskey,” “Sriracha pickles,” or “thai-spice french fries”.  Things like that (although none of those specific flavors may be on the menu). It was all enjoyable, and we don’t regret going there or the money we spent (their prices moved them clearly out of the value category), and we didn’t vow never to go back, but when we have a choice, neither of us ever brings up Texas Jack’s.

We heard Willard’s BBQ in Chantilly was good. I went there for a business lunch, and enjoyed it.  I brought my wife there a month later, and it was good.  But it wasn’t memorable, it was difficult to get a combo that covered a wide spectrum of meats, and their sauces were average. They have great sides, though, particularly dessert. You probably have to try it to see if it hits your palate.

We stopped by Rocklands BBQ in Arlington, and for a long time this was our go-to BBQ.  Their meats are excellent.  Their sauce is very good on their ribs and chicken.  My wife loves that they have 50 different hot sauce bottles you can choose from; she loves spicy sauce on BBQ, spicy enough that most people scramble for bread and milk to stop the pain. They have various ghost chili-based sauces that I use sparingly and she uses liberally.  They are also probably the best value in BBQ in the DC area.  We can get a decent combo variety with a Ribs & Chicken combo and a 3 meat combo that gives you 2 sides, and we get stuffed with a few leftovers for $30.  But with that combination, we get a pulled chicken, which neither of us loves, and you get only 2 sides, and the sides are unremarkable.  I’ve been to Rocklands in Alexandria, too, and it was equally excellent.

This brings us to Famous Dave’s BBQ.  If you get the All-American Feast for Two, you get 3 meats (ribs, chicken, and brisket) and *five* sides: fries, corn, cornbread, coleslaw, and BBQ beans.  We’ve had 3 people eat that with some left over.  Other times we’ve had 3 people eat that and stretched our belts a little to finish it up.  If two of us eat it, we have at least one extra meal for lunch from the take-home leftovers.  $36 plus tip.   If you get the full-on All-American Feast,  which feeds 4-6, you get *four* meats (they add your choice of pulled pork or sausage) and an increase amount of all the meat and each of the sides.  We’ve had 6 people eat that with 1-2 leftover meals.  If I recall correctly, that is $56 plus tip and drinks.  If, for some reason, the food isn’t quite enough for your posse, you can easily add in an extra meat, a la carte.  We’ve given my mother a birthday party (so several had beers, all had drinks) there and had 6 people walk out, stuffed, for $80 total.  You can’t beat that.

Their ribs are good.  My wife loves their brisket.  Good bark, good smoke flavor.  I love their sausage.  There is simply nothing wrong with their meats.

But they get extra bonus points for their sauces: they have six, but we usually stick to the three spicier ones.  The Devil’s Spit is a nice, mildly (to me) hot sauce with good flavor.  My favorite is the Texas Pit, which has about the same heat as the Devil’s Spit, but has a great peppery flavor that goes great with chicken and ribs.  But I also like the Wilbur’s Revenge, which is hot enough to make me uncomfortable if I use it generously.  It’s hot enough to make my wife happy, too.

And their sides are unique and amazing.  The cornbread is simply the best I’ve ever had.  it might be simply that they add enough sugar that it is almost like a cake, but it is unfailingly moist and flavorful.  If there is one weakness to Famous Dave’s it is that we *always* have to ask for butter for the cornbread.  The BBQ baked beans are also the best I’ve ever had, but the margin is much greater than with anything else, to the point that I will never willingly eat any other BBQ beans again.  Rather than just being beans in an overly-sweet sauce like all other BBQ beans, Famous Dave’s bean sauce has some smokiness to it, some tang to it, and has large chunks of actual BBQ meat.  I think I’ve found both pulled pork and brisket, but it might just be pulled pork. But the effect is really more like they took some sauce with significant chunks of meat and added some beans to it.  My wife hates beans and will not eat them in any other context (no, not even chili!), but when I convinced her to try it once, she now eats some every time with zest. And the coleslaw has a little kick to it.  I can’t identify it with certainty…it might be a touch of horseradish. But it makes it unique, enjoyable, and cuts any feel of greasiness from the BBQ. Even better, it never suffers from an excess of anise/fennel/celery seed, like some coleslaw I’ve had does.

The bottom line is that every single bite at Famous Dave’s is pure eating enjoyment.  There is nothing that is filler. We look forward to every aspect of the meal with equal excitement. It is slightly more expensive than Rocklands, but we feel like we get a better spread of meat and sides.  We still go to Rocklands when it is more convenient to enjoy a spicier BBQ, but all things being equal, we end up going to Famous Dave’s about 4-5 times for every one time we go to Rocklands.

We still need to try out Dickey’s BBQ here, and Mission BBQ, I guess.

Also, Famous Dave’s promised me free BBQ for the rest of the year if I get 1 million retweets, so help me out!




The World Needs Another Frontier, Badly

– By Gitabushi

It is a common refrain among conservatives and science fiction fans that we need a new frontier.  I’m not above advocating what is already popular, but I think I can add some depth to the argument.

Science fiction fans want a new frontier because we were attracted to speculative fiction for the exploration of new ideas, new societies, and new worlds.  The Earth’s surface has been extensively explored. I would never claim we understand everything about the Earth, but there are few places that haven’t been thoroughly explored, categorized, and claimed.  But consider colonizing the moon!  Or terra-forming and settling Mars!  Or learning to live safely and profitably underneath the ocean’s surface!

For the Science Fiction fan, exploration, claiming, and settling new frontiers is a no-brainer: it’s what we do. We do it because it’s there. No other reason is needed.

For the conservative, however, and particularly for the libertarian, the idea of a new frontier is attractive because of the lure of liberty and freedom.  When man sets foot in new territory, civilized society, with all its laws and restrictions and control, can exert only a weak influence at best.  The Statists are constantly seeking to extend their control over ever-more-minute details of the everyday lives of citizenry: surveillance, taxes, restrictions, more taxes, nudges, property taxes, Sanitized by the Government for Your Protection, stealth taxes, corruption, etc.  Civilization is wonderful, but where civilization goes, Statism follows, and the infringements on liberty are incessant and pervasive.

I think there are additional reasons we need a new frontier, and we need it badly, and we need it as soon as possible.

I mentioned previously that where civilization goes, Statism follows.  But it is more than that. Systems and structure grow organically.  Interests and assets become entrenched.  The Left is decrying the collection of  wealth in the hands of the few, and always complaining how difficult it is for the unskilled and poorly educated to earn a living wage.

This is exactly why we need a new frontier.

Think for a moment, if you will, of the individuals who have an IQ of 80-90.  Just saying “that person has an IQ of 90” sounds like you are calling them stupid, doesn’t it?  How can someone with an IQ of 90 succeed in a world that is increasingly information- and knowledge-based?  And a person with an IQ of 80 is even more constrained by their limited intelligence.

But those with an IQ of 90 are just as numerous as individuals with an IQ of 110.

Sure, in the United States, it is still possible to work hard with diligent attention to detail and succeed.  Even more so if you can acquire a strong grasp of human nature and cultivate good judgment of character.

But those opportunities are dwindling.

The Elite protect their own.  With greater wealth, they are able to give their children more experiences. With greater status, they are able to give their children more opportunities.  That doesn’t guarantee any success, of course, any more than the lack of wealthy experiences and opportunities damns a child to failure.  A child’s future success still depends mostly on the child themselves, as they learn and grow and seek knowledge and ability. Parents can teach their values, schools can teach information, but it is always up to the individual to accept, grasp, mull, and apply the values and information into knowledge, life skills, and success.

However, I think no one has much heart to argue that the paths for lower-IQ individuals who start with a lower economic class base are fewer than just a few decades ago, and will continue to disappear in the future.

A new frontier multiplies those paths and opportunities.

First, wealth flows to those who risk and work hard.  Leaving civilization is a risk. Leaving, you risk death itself, but also encounters with the lawless that are beyond the reach of civilized law. Being a pioneer means investing yourself into risk, and the returns from exploring new frontiers are correspondingly rich.  You can actually *own* your territory without property taxes. With zero or minimal taxation, you can actually *own* the fruits of your labor.

Second, frontiers require labor.  Intelligence is absolutely required, as well…but a strong back and willing hands go farther in a frontier.  Remember, your earnings are not based on the value you provide (although the value you provide to your employer caps your earnings), but are based on how much it would take to replace you with someone equally skilled. Earnings for trades and other manual labor stagnate and sag in a civilized, established, knowledge-based economy because there are so many other people that can replace you.  There’s always someone else willing to work for just a little bit less, and the learning curve for the job isn’t that high.

But in a frontier, the risks reduce the ranks of those willing. Labor is always at a premium in a frontier.

Opening a new frontier should appeal to all people, regardless of political affiliation, ideology, or societal view.  If you want new worlds to explore, you want a new frontier. If you crave liberty, you want a new frontier. And if you care about the poor, the poorly-educated, the less-intelligent, the ones who did not do well in the genetic lottery, the downtrodden, those left behind, etc., then you should be clamoring the loudest for a new frontier, because it is the best way to provide new opportunity and new wealth to those currently experiencing extensive obstacles in our stratified, calcifying society.

What about snake swords…?

This one goes out to Georganne.

The other day I finally got around to watching The Road Warrior. It was time, given the maledictions of my peers. Make no mistake – the censures were meet and just. Every SFF buff should watch the second installment of the Mad Max series.

I won’t do a deep dive here, as I’m almost 40 years late to the party, but a few notes:

1. Ah, so that’s where the dog companion (especially in post-apocalyptic wasteland setting) trope comes from!

(Update: Nope.)


2. Great mix of low and high tech and interesting flavor choices. Gun ammo seems to be a rare and valuable commodity, so some firearms but not a ton. Flamethrowers, crossbows, gyrocopters? Yessssss.

3. Characterization wasn’t very strong, but it didn’t need to be. The main villain was kinda cool and mysterious. The sidekick was amusing. The townsfolk included a hot Amazonian chick. Mad Max was Mad Max (though his departure directly through the bad guys’ camp was a head-scratchingly dumb-ass move; would a survivor like him really do something so brazen and foolish?). The world building makes up for this.


There were a lot of cool fights and much violence, but my favorite element may have been the weaponization of snakes by the gyrocopter pilot dude. When I reflected upon this brilliance, a couple of Twitter friendlies pointed out that it was also done by Thulsa Doom.


True! I almost forgot about that!

Two things, though. In Mad Max, Gyro uses the snakes as projectiles at one point, tossing them from above onto baddies in punked-out roadsters. This is a bit different from Thusla Doom’s use – shooting them like arrows. If we had to give points here, I’d award them to Doom for style.

So far as precedent, though, it either goes to Mad Max or ends up a wash. Conan the Barbarian was released in May of 1982. The Road Warrior came to the US a few days later in the same year, but was released in Australia in 1982. So really Mad Max did it very slightly earlier.

Either way, snakes as ranged weapons: Yesssssss.





MUST READ SFF: The Minaverse, by Jill Domschot

  • by Gitabushi

I always have problems with reviews, I think. How do I make the book/movie/TV show sound interesting without giving too much away?  Do I talk about the writing style?  The characters?  What I find unique and/or worthwhile about it?

For me, there is no greater pleasure than having a story unfold for me.

On the other hand, I enjoy enough seeing how something difficult is pulled off that I don’t usually mind spoilers.

In any case, I’m going to try to walk the line here.

Flat-out: I think you should read The Minaverse, by Jill Domschot.


I know Jill through Twitter, through a loose collection of SF&F fans, readers, and gamers.  I don’t know her well.  She doesn’t owe me money, nor do I owe her money. We aren’t related. We wouldn’t recognize each other if we walked past each other on the street. I get nothing for plugging this book.

She was struggling with a blurb for her book, and I like to help and am usually a pretty good wordsmith, so I helped improve it.  To say thanks, she let me read an advanced copy of the book I just helped write the blurb for.

I’m very glad she did, because I really enjoyed this story.

As I started reading the book, I made little mental notes of the feedback I was going to give her: the character that was unlikeable, the times she told us instead of showing us, etc.

But starting almost immediately in Chapter 4, I forgot all that.  The story figuratively took off, and none of the criticisms mattered. I lost myself in the book and just enjoyed it.

The Minaverse is a semi-framed story.  The protagonist, Stephanie, wants to interview her famous grandfather and turn it into a biography that will provide her some career success.  That is the frame for the story of Oso Benat.  His narrative starts in Chapter 4, and that’s where I became entranced.

I say it is semi-framed, because Ono’s partner also gets a few chapters for his viewpoint.  And by the end, the life story fades away like a desert river moving underground, and Stephanie’s story becomes the main narrative.

And it works.

This book has several strong elements. I like how she really tried to provide a plausible development for human-like androids.  She skewers current society with an acerbic wit by showing where some of the trends we see today are leading. She provides some touching insight into love, (mis)communication, ego, ambition, loyalty, and even faith. Her characters are distinct and memorable, and each has their own voice.

The important thing, however, is it fulfills one of the prime themes and duties of good SF&F: it explores what it means to be human, and does it well.

It’s not a perfect book.  It breaks some rules.  But every time I tried to think about how it could be fixed, I realized that “fixing” it would mean messing with what was actually working.  I urged her to publish it as is (and I think she did).

Look, I’ve made it through some slogs before, but this is an easy read.  The book pulls you along by the force of its magnetic personalities, the challenges Jill sets up for them, and how they resolve them.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s a bargain. I think Jill may be one of the bright new voices of SF&F. Go buy it now.



Simplification and Nostalgia/Materialism

  • by Gitabushi

So we had a pipe burst in the basement. Nothing was lost, but they have to replace the floor and repair/repaint the walls.

Moving all my books from the bookcase, I was struck again by how many guitar books/resources I’ve rarely and/or never even opened. If I just went through and played through a new song in the AC/DC book each day, then back through, and again, by the end of the month, I’d have so many new guitar tricks, songs to play, etc.

…but for what?

Same thing with all my fingerstyle books and magazines. I was actually a decent fingerstylist at one point. But then I got into electrics, and it consumed all my time.

I should sell the drums. I should just stick to guitar. It’s not like I’m actually going to join a band.

But I know if I sell them, I’m *really* going to regret it.

Also on the shelves were all my books. I’ve converted over to e-books. It is so much easier to take stuff with me on my kindle. I don’t have to worry about books falling apart on me as I read them, either. So I think I’m going to dump a bunch of books soon.

Just watch: there’ll be a civilization apocalypse right after I get rid of all my books, and I wont’t be able to get power to keep my Kindle charged.

Anyway, also on the shelves were my Avalon Hill games.

I bought a buttload of them back in the early 00s, part of nostalgia for my youth. I planned to teach my son. 15 years later, he’s out of the house and we’ve only played a handful. Hey, at least we played that handful. About 10 of them are solitaire games…I’ve never played one of them. The rest are solitaire-possible. I have the entire Advanced Squad Leader series. If I played every day, it would probably still take me 5 years to play through all of the scenarios, since I have to work.

And to be honest, computer games like Jagged Alliance really do seem to fill that need for turn-based strategy against a smart opponent.

So I’m thinking about selling them all.

But here’s the deal: I’m 6 to 10 years from retirement.  One of my plans was in retirement I’d have time to play all these games.  But the plan is also to be active enough to still enjoy life. When I think about it, I don’t want to spend my retirement indoors, hunched over a gaming table by myself.  Not to mention, we’re planning on spending 4-6 months every year out traveling in an RV.

Can’t take Avalon Hill strategy board games out in an RV. Can’t take an electric drumset out in an RV. Heck, even taking an electric guitar is problematic…although I might be able to do it with the iPad and the BIAS app suite. The current plan is to take only the acoustic guitar along and work through fingerstyle stuff.

I guess I’m at the age where I’m fighting twin urges for simplification and nostalgia.

Any thoughts?


Dilvish, the Damned: more “not Tolkien”

One of the things I enjoy most about old Appendix N work (and similarly classic and formational SFF) is that there’s so much “not Tolkien” fantasy to masticate. Don’t get me wrong – I love me some JRR hobbits and trolls, but I’ve gotten kind of worn out on today’s brand of knock-off Gandalfs and Legolas clones. Even when they’re Dark-Legolas.


So how about an Elfin hero who’s not so Elfy?

He’s got the green Elf-boots (TM) that assure he always magically lands on his feet, and seem to give him a vague sneaking bonus of some kind, but he doesn’t tote a longbow, thank God. Nor does he dual-wield any kind of fighting implements – no, he seems plenty comfortable with plain, old cold steel.

He doesn’t hear the whispers of the trees, nor does he charm animals, unless you count his companion/mount Black, the metal demon horse. And he doesn’t know any spells of protection or healing, but he does know a few incantations in the tongue of the underworld that can level cities.


Dilvish, the Damned is an interesting sort of protagonist, consorting with or banishing demons as called for in a given situation. Driven by a deep thirst for revenge against the Saruman-type who banished him to Hell, he still holds to his own strict moral code, which includes assisting the weak and needy when able, and killing only those who deserve it when it can’t be avoided. In the introductory stories, we see him racing, out of a sense of personal obligation, to save a city from conquest. Later on he helps various other unfortunates who just happen to be in his path. He doles out both death and mercy. Dilvish is no saint, but he’s clearly no villain, either.

My favorite parts of Dilvish, the Damned were the stories of gods and fantastical creatures with somewhat less-than-common spin. One story is about a meeting with a werewolf, whom Dilvish pities and would rather not slay. Now there are a lot of popular associations when it comes to werewolves – weakness to silver, the full moon, transformation. But all this story really focuses on is the unrelenting hunger of the beast. It struck me in a positive way.

Another tale includes the recounting of a deicide committed by an ancestor of Dilvish. Excellent dying words here:


I’ve become a big fan of short stories, and the episodic, yet continuing nature of Dilvish’s adventures scratches an itch. Although I really wish I knew what happened to that sweet invisible sword he picks up in one story and seems to lose sometime before the next. But alas, leaving some things unsaid or unexplained can be an effective storytelling technique.

The most disappointing part of the Dilvish stories has been Zelazny’s uneven writing, which is perhaps unsurprising for story written over the span of decades. Sometimes the writing is quite good and characters use archaic yet unstilted manners of speech (see above).

At other times the writing slips into a more…contemporary flavor.


This can be all the more jarring when the two writing/speaking styles intermingle in the same story. If you can get past this, however, the writing is pretty solid, even if not every story is a home run.

Dilvish, the Damned was a pleasant surprise for me. I enjoyed Zelazny’s Amber stories, but for whatever reason I was expecting a “hero” somewhere between Cugel and Elric. While Dilvish certainly falls short of the traditional Christian champion of yore, we do instead have a flawed but noble hero to cheer for.

He is named both “Damned” and “Deliverer” by characters in his world, and he indeed presents us with another (though lighter) shade of gray. But Zelazny still delivers us a hero, free of grimdark nihilism, and with enough uniqueness for me to recommend picking this one up if you get the chance. 4.5/5.




Book and game money

I’ve never really made a lot of money, but I’ve also never had to worry about living on the street or being unable to afford food or medicine. I’m blessed in that regard. Still, with my first kid due to make his entrance soon and my wife poised to quit her job, I worry about spending money now.

Luckily, there are plenty of games and books to be had on the cheap these days. If you’re willing to buy used or you can be content playing some indie titles instead of the latest and greatest AAA stuff, there’s a lot of entertainment to be had on a small budget.

Similarly, if you need to generate some pocket change to support such hobbies, there are ways. Some of you may be familiar with /r/Beermoney, a meeting place for all those netizens looking for ways to make a few spare bucks, mostly in their free time or as passive income.

There are services, such as, Perk, Swagbucks, and EarnHoney, that let you “watch” videos and ads to earn pennies, which add up over time and can be redeemed for cash or various gift cards (Amazon is my favorite). I run these from time to time, but they tend to be spotty and dependent on advertiser demand. They’ve also gotten fussier with their rules.

For example, many Swagbucks videos used to let you just keep a browser up on the side, unattended. Now most offers require you to either keep your mouse cursor over the browser (meaning you can’t be doing anything else with your computer) or else require periodic clicking to bring up new videos, which gets tedious fast if you’re trying to play a game or devote your attention to something else.

Lately, I’ve been leaning heavily on studies and surveys. Now, you’ve got to be careful if you decide to take this approach to Beermoneying. Services like Swagbucks will let you take surveys, but whether or not you actually get any payout is a crap shoot. Often the advertisers will trick you into answering 50 questions and then tell you that you didn’t qualify for the survey. “Sorry you spent 15 minutes answering our questions – why not try again?” F you.

My favorite service, at the moment, is (if you decide to sign up, feel free to use my referral link, or not!). Prolific lets you sign up and answer screening questions to see which studies you qualify for. There are several neat things about these studies:

1. They’re academic studies, so you’re helping students and researchers out.

2. If you’re a particularly benevolent soul, you can donate your reward money to charity.

3. The dashboard is useful and study descriptions are more adequate than others I’ve seen. You basically get the study name, the total amount of participant slots and how many are left, the max allowed time, the average time to complete, and payout information.

4. Because they’re designed by different people and systems, you’ll get a fair amount of variety between studies. Sometimes they’re kinda interesting, actually.

There aren’t always a lot of studies available, but I’ve found it really depends on the day. Sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot; this morning I banged out 3 surveys, about 10-15 minutes of my time total, for about $2.50. Not too bad!

Once you hit a certain threshold, you can cash out. Those $5 used books and $10 Steam games are within your grasp!