Best French Fries

I certainly haven’t been everywhere in the world, but I have done my share of travelling. I have to say that the country that has the best French fries in the world – is Morocco.

It doesn’t seem to matter where I went, in hotels or around the souk, if they served chicken (I’m hoping it was chicken), then their French fries were wonderful.

Of course it depends on how you like your fries. But if you enjoy them julienne-style, a little crispy on the outside and moist inside then Morocco gets my vote!

Best Chicken Wings / Fries in Marietta

The best Chicken wings in Atlanta are to be found at the Halftime Café (Sorry, they don’t seem to have a web presence yet. Just this map.). It used to be the Three Dollar Café located on Windy Hill Road in Marietta, Georgia.

The name has changed for all the local Three Dollar Café restaurants in the area, largely to avoid the franchise fees, but the food has remained the same. And their Chicken Wings are the best basic wings I’ve yet encountered.

As an added bonus, their French Fries – despite being beefeater fries – are also excellent.

Some perspective on Wal*Mart

An excellent write-up on some of the issues facing Wal*Mart by Paul Jacob.

I was watching on the news yesterday how various groups were upset with Wal*Mart and are trying to get bills passed to force the retailer to provide health-care plans for its employees. Since when is a company obligated to provide such? Sure, plenty of companies do as a perk. Health-care plans are nice-to-have options that supposedly make some companies more attractive to work for than others. But using government power to force companies to provide this benefit is simply another example of government vastly exceding its mandate.
I have no problems with folks boycotting Wal*Mart, that’s their right and they are free to shop wherever they choose and to encourage others to do the same.

DirecTV TIVO 30 second skip gone?

*Update 11/21/2005* OK, I don’t know what is different today but trying to apply the TIVO 30 second skip hack works just fine now. I must have attempted to apply it a half dozen times on Saturday and now, *presto*, it works like a charm. I guess it was a false alarm.

I still mean what I say below about making the ads more enticing…
*End Update*

Hey, has anybody else noticed that the 30 second skip is no longer working for DirecTV’s TIVO? I use it all the time to jump past the less imaginative commercials. Now I find that it just suddenly stopped working. As near as I can figure, it seems like it disappeared sometime between November 17 and November 19. 🙁

I don’t see anything about this on the DirecTV site but I’ve sent them an email to ask them to confirm that this is so.

I’m not sure why we have to have this constant battle between advertisers and viewers. Surely it’s obvious that the reason folks don’t watch most TV commercials is that they are dreck.
The existence of TV programs dedicated to airing amusing or well done ads proves that folks are willing to watch them if they are entertaining.

The solution lies not in forcing folks to watch terrible ads, but rather to produce ads that folks are willing to watch. I personally will rewind and watch an ad if it looks like it was interesting or clever. And I will quickly skip past one that is not. It ain’t rocket science to figure out the solution here.

And given the ability of TIVO (and I’m sure other DVR / PVR solutions) to discern what exactly it is that you are viewing (this was highlighted in the Janet Jackson boob debacle) it certainly is not a stretch to believe that advertisers can find out what kinds of ads we are willing to watch and tailor their content to meet our tastes…

RFID Tags and their implications

I was just talking to my wife about RFID tags (yes, I know scintillating conversation for a Sunday morning) and we were discussing some of the both cool and scary uses to which the technology can be put.

On the one hand checkout at the supermarket can be as simple as just rolling your cart out the door (assuming you can bag your items in the cart while you shop). It’s just a matter of time until your credit and debit cards will also have little RFID tags as well. So, in addition to scanning your purchases the store also knows the means you have available to pay for them. All you’d need to do is to select from a list of cards that the scanner had detected on your person and the slowest part of the transaction would be having the receipt printed.

Now picture shopping with a friend. It might be fun if they walked through the shopping scanner with you. You could just select one of their credit accounts! 🙂 I know there will be some validation but the idea tickled me.

But one of the best (ab)uses of RFID technology will be when this generation of tech savvy kids come into the living room on a blustery late-December morning and find grandma proudly placing carefully wrapped Christmas packages around the base of the tree. She’ll look up at them and see the eagerness in their eyes and admonish cheerily, “Now these gifts are to stay right where they are until Christmas morning.”. The children nod happily and pull out their gameboy (or whatever the current handheld gaming/PDA/Cellular Phone toy is called by then) and wave it over the base of the tree.

While turning to leave to go play with their friends outside they call back over their shoulder, “Thanks for the sweater Grandma, the size is a little small for me but I can exchange it for a larger one if you leave the gift receipt with mom and dad. And I can’t wait to play with that new Fast’n’Furious XXII!”

Good car repair experience

I took my venerable Honda Odyssey EX (1997) in for a combo 95K and 105K servicing – this was a biggie – timing belt, radiator flushing and pretty much everything else that you do to your car. I’ve got only 104,000 miles on her and those were the original brakes that were finally replaced. They weren’t even squeaking yet!

The last time I had my car serviced, primarily to reduce the “ticking” that comes from too much space between the camshaft and the valves, I didn’t notice any real change at all and was quite disappointed.

This time, however the engine purrs and a weird noise I used to get when the engine was shifting are now a thing of the past (turns out it was a broken engine mount rather than a transaxle issue I’d been fearing).

The only issue remaining is that now my front brake *does* squeal. I’ve got to bring the car back in for that 🙁 . But beside that I was very happy with Ed Voyles Honda here in Marietta.

No Comcast Internet connection

On Tuesday (July 19) I got home from work and found that my garage door wouldn’t open for me. There have been a lot of storms around here lately – fallout from the recent hurricane and just some really odd, pedantic weather systems. So I wasn’t too surprised when I found that the circuit breaker for my garage door opener had tripped.
However a little later I found that my Comcast internet connection also wasn’t working and my satellite receiver was complaining that it couldn’t receive signals on the second tuner.
To make a long story short, it turns out that we must have had quite a power spike if not a minor lightning strike against our place that not only tripped the fuse but also fried the single satellite tuner.
I have surge protection and UPSs on nearly everything of value in the house, but I only had the surge protection for one of my two Satellite tuner’s incoming coax cables. I guess this proves that the surge protection works as it is supposed to. Believe me, I’ll be getting a second protector when I decide to replace the tuner unit!

My gripe right now is with Comcast. The cable has been out for portions of several cities ever since Tuesday, meaning that I’m well into day two of no internet access. Since I’m also depending on my cable connection for my phone connection, well… Let’s just say I’m glad we have cell phones.

I’m really shocked and dismayed that Comcast doesn’t seem to regard themselves as anything more than a recreation company rather than a utility. I was on the phone with them yesterday and the only solution they could offer me was to contact the billing department so I could be reimbursed for the days of loss of service (probably amounts to about $4). I told them that that wasn’t the point, folks who use their internet service often depend upon it for business purposes as I do when I’m working from home or responding to work emergencies.

They had no answer for that. It seems Comcast simply isn’t ready to play with the big boys yet. I’m just happy that I use satellite for my TV viewing – I would otherwise be missing Lance’s road to victory in the Tour de France!

In the (how many now?) years that I’ve used DSL I’ve never had an outage of this magnitude. Especially since they corrected the intermittent line drop problem – an admirable effort on their part. I moved away from BellSouth because I did not like having my phone services bundled with my internet services and they would not separate the two. I may have to go back to them, warts and all, and just subscribe to a basic phone service in order to ensure a slightly slower, but more dependable service.

Anybody else have any experiences with BellSouth DSL or Comcast High Speed Internet service?

Bizrate.com and some funny e-tailers

I was attempting to purchase a camera over the Internet. There seems to be a stock issue with this so some of the major e-tailers have already sold out. So I decided to take a look at some of the other offerings out there. In the past, I have encountered bizrate.com after I have made a purchase and thought this would be a reasonably reliable way to determine if some e-companies were trustworthy. I was a little disconcerted when I tried to find a source for this camera:

Working from the Bizrate.com search results :

I then checked out www.dbuys.com. This was a little shakier since I found nothing on them with the bbb and I found some conflicting reports about them in the newsgroups. I eventually decided to go ahead with them but they didn’t do SSL. This doesn’t bode well for an Internet storefront – it means they either couldn’t get a certificate from verisign – a bad sign that – or they are too cheap/naïve to get a certificate which means they don’t have any concern about my data. Sending my credit card info through in the clear just isn’t a good idea. Further checking their site I can see that they have a “VeriSign Secured” logo. This shows that their SSL certificate is supposed to be valid from Nov/03 through Nov/05. But try to access their site via https and you’ll find the connection is refused.

Then I decided to check out . I immediately noticed that, while the site is laid out slightly differently (graphics are modified), the actual deal for the camera was identical, right down to the confusing accessory kit offerings (though the price was different by $1). A quick “WhoIs” check shows that both IbuyDigital.com and dbuys.com are owned by the same company. Further, even though IbuyDigital.com also displays the “Verisign Secured” logo, it is also incapable of accepting https connections.

Next, www.digitalMegastore.com, surprise! same deal again as the previous two, no https ability (even though it also purports to have a valid verisign certificate. This time the WhoIs search yielded a different owner name (though with the same city / zip code) and the price was once again slightly different but the product offerings (the packages and the accessories) were all similar again to the previous two. The difference being that the price now ended in 77 cents.

Then came www.ibuyplasma.com which I didn’t even bother to check using WhoIs since that was listed in the administrative contact information section for the www.dbuys.com site. At least this site didn’t claim to be “Verisign Certified” as the previous ones did.

Checked out www.realdealshop.com. At least in WhoIs it purports to have a slightly different owner (still in Brooklyn, NY with a zip of 11223 instead of 11231), but the offerings on that page still look eerily similar to all of those above. No “Verisign Secured” logo here either and SSL connections were refused. For smiles’n’giggles I went as far into the checkout process here as to create my account and saw that the form is IDENTICAL to the one on dbuys.com.

Checked out www.bestpriceaudiovideo.com and though they had more notes indicating that “Store Pickup Available” as well as being “In Stock” well… they were out of stock..

Finally, with www.pcnation.com I was able to find a seller with both stock and SSL support. But a quick scan of the newsgroups and checking www.resellerratings.com and megapixel.bizrate.com curbed my enthusiasm for this retailer.

As an aside this has greatly reduced my opinion of bizrate.com. Having so many storefronts for a single retailer represented in their results greatly reduced my confidence in using them as a search vehicle for products.

Speaker Phone advice?

Say, does anybody out there know of a decent speaker phone?

I’m looking for something that has a cordless handset and has a base station that can operate as a really good quality speaker phone. I’m using Vonage now and I cannot tell if my old Panasonic KX-TCC912 is just becoming cantankerous or if there is some interaction between the two technologies.

Anyway any suggestions and personal experience that you’ve had with speaker phones would be greatly appreciated!

Is Spartacus diminished because he’s satarized?

Regarding “You Ain’t Spartacus“,

Hi Bertzen, I’m not sure if you read my entire post or not, but all I can add is that my own experience is what I am describing.

I’m not one to sample through libraries of older films. If I see a great scene from a movie (altered though it may be) and it inspires me to seek out that film, then I believe I’ve benefited in that way.

And if today’s kiddies see the bastardized version of the film and never learn any more about it or see it, then I cannot really see where the loss is. They didn’t know about it before and they still don’t care about it now.

I suppose folks who work in the industry may feel strongly about their work being used for other than it’s originally intended purpose. But as an individual who has enjoyed certain songs, plays, films, books and games throughout my life – some passionately – I can still appreciate the new perspectives offered and I don’t feel particularly betrayed or outraged by them. Sometimes they’re good and I agree with them, sometimes they aren’t and/or I don’t.

In our remix culture, planting a stake in the ground and declaring “these items are sacrosanct” is going to be a source of a lot of frustration for those who choose to do so.