Friday, November 30, 2012

Apple, Still Going Out Of Business Better Than Ever


From October 2011 through September 2012, the combined net profit of Microsoft, Google, eBay, Yahoo, Facebook and Amazon was $34.4 billion.

Apple, in the same period, made $7 billion more IN PROFIT.

From October 2011 through September 2012, Apple's biggest industry competitors and associates; Dell, Asus, Intel, Acer, IBM, Lenovo and HP made $19.3 billion in profits.

Apple, in the same period, made roughly $22 billion more IN PROFIT.

The odd part is … Apple announced that their profit was below market expectations - the stock has taken a 70 point hit!

Meanwhile, HP announces massive layoffs.

Apple, on the other hand, is hiring and growing their payrolls by around 100 a week.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Movie Review: Cloud Atlas


I'm reviewing this movie a bit late to see it in movie theaters but the review will stand for a home video release. I wanted to make sure I saw this for the visuals on the big screen with great audio.

I really don't know how to review this movie … I've had a hard time figuring out if it was good or bad.

I certainly know that there are elements I really liked (Hugo Weaving) and elements I didn't like (unnecessary nudity and cursing).

The movie (and I presume, the book) follows the lives of 6 people at different time periods and how their stories are connected - even  though they really aren't.

Through the discovery of diaries, memoirs, and published works from the various characters - The movie switches between a story from the 1800's that follows a young Lord traveling to America to take part in his fiance's family slave trade to a 1930's composer discovering the memoirs of the Lord's travels to the 1970's with a reporter uncovering a scandal that inadvertently discovers love letters from the '30's composer to a future where a clone rises up to expose a horrific truth about existence to a post-apocalyptic world where some are far advanced and others are barbarians.

The plot borrows elements from so many stories and lacks overall originality.

Some visuals are stunning. Some of the acting is incredible as each "star" plays six or more roles in the film through different subplots.

Hugo Weaving as Smoke - The Devil
As always, Tom Hanks plays an excellent geek and weirdo, but the star of the film is Hugo Weaving in a portrayal of the Devil. He's truly terrifying and very original. While some portrayals are top notch, the actors and actresses in different makeups at times (throughout time) are very confusing.

I would rate Cloud Atlas (2 out of 5)

I'm not sure if the book is better, but it would seem that it couldn't be and might be even more confusing than the movie was. 

I'm also leery of one theme … that there are no heroes - we simply slip into slavery and servitude and the heroes matter not because we will soon slip again.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Recipe: Organized Joe


Sometimes our children won't eat food because it's so "blah" looking …

I've found that if I present the food in a unique way, my son is much more likely to not just try it, but like it ~ even if it's the same food I've always served.

The following is a way to make a healthy Sloppy Joe meal and organize it into a Bento Box.

This meal can also provide a small amount of dinner conversation and education …
Bento (弁当 bentō?)[1] is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. 
A traditional bento consists of rice, fish or meat, and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container.
If you'd like to know more about Bento meals & Bento boxes, see: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bento 

CLICK FOR LARGER, PRINTABLE VIEW

Organized Joe
Cost $13 / Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

(1) 1 pound 85% Lean Ground Turkey

(1) package frozen fajita blend peppers & onions

(1) package frozen chopped onions

(1) can sloppy joe sauce

(1) package of whole wheatslider buns

(1) block extra sharp cheese

(1) package 3 color deli slaw

mayonnaise

soy sauce

pickles

potato chips

Extras to consider: 

Bento boxes  … these may be hard to come by so I went to my local office store and bought two office drawer organizers for $2.99.

Chopsticks … easy to find at your local Chinese/Japanese restaurant or your local grocery store for free, just pick up some extras next time you eat out.

Edamame … these are unshelled soybeans. Vey high in protein and a great way to get kids to have a tasty protein.

Miso paste/Seaweed/Mushrooms/Tofu or Miso soup mix … this is good to have as a side soup or even a drink.

Special mayo: I mix a tiny bit miso, horseradish, soy sauce, and paprika into mayonnaise to make a special Spicy Misonaise.

Ambience … Oriental themes, candles. Don't go overboard, but a simple well placed table setting can go a long way to selling the novelty of this meal.

Instructions:

Brown ground turkey. Drain

Add (1) can "sloppy joe" sauce / follow directions on can

Chop & add frozen peppers to your liking

Add frozen onions to your liking

I mix the ingredients for the Misonaise (mentioned above) and put it as the "mayo" in my cole slaw and for organized joe ingredient.

Lightly toast slider buns in oven or toaster.

Sandwiches are assembled with sloppy joe mix, pickles, cheese, misonaise

Place ingredients (sloppy joe ingredients, chips, slaw, edmame) separately into organized compartments of the bento box (or poor man's bento box = drawer organizer).

Chopsticks may end up being more for decoration or novelty.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

How To Pair Most Jawbone Bluetooth Headsets

Since I frequent flea markets and love to try out technology … I often come across cool electronics.

I recently got a Jawbone headset for a dollar complete with proprietary USB charger and wall/USB AC adapter.

To pair a Jawbone bluetooth headset with your phone …

1) Make sure bluetooth is turned on on your cellphone, phone, or computer that you are pairing the device too.

2) Turn the Jawbone device off. Hold the outer shell until the white light stops blinking.

3) Press & hold the Jawbone’s hidden "Noise Shield" button (the black end that connects to the charger, right under the word Jawbone) for 3 seconds until the LED status indicator alternately flashes white then red.

4) Type the pairing "0000" (four zeros) when your device prompts you for such ~ pairing mode will last for 2 minutes, or until pairing is complete.

Other information …

If your headset is older … it may seem like it won't "turn on" usually it just needs resetting.

Gently pry the top "design molded" piece upward with your fingernail or use a small plastic scraper. Be careful not to damage the tabs. Hold the center button down for 15 seconds.

Replace the top "designer molded" plastic piece.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Well, apparently you can't swap hard drives any more in Macs ...


So, I guess I've been out of the loop for a while.

It appears that starting with Snow Leopard (maybe sooner) you cannot take a hard drive out of one Mac and put it in another one.

It won't boot ~ even if you used it externally to boot your Mac.

You get the folder with a question mark on it.

It seems the MacOS now ties hard drive serial numbers to the motherboard.

So, with each new installation of a hard drive … you have to install a fresh (authorized) copy of Mac OS X then do a migration of all your files.

Boo.

Friday, October 05, 2012

So, what happens when you get the message: "A valid video device could not be found for playback [-70017]" on your Mac


So, what happens when you get the message:

"A valid video device could not be found for playback [-70017]" on your Mac?

Well, first let me say ... I looked at forum after forum and most seem to have tried to capitalize on this phrase so you'll have to view ads … but, they never give the reason you got the message , nor do they give the fix for it. Not even the Apple forums give the correct answer - I believe that the solution has been removed on purpose.

Here's why ...

The reason you got the message, that still allows your DVDRW/CDRW combo drive to read and to burn discs, is because you installed the operating system from another computer using a cloning program or tried to use the hard drive from another Mac.

That's it! 

Don't tell me there's any other reason. Don't put in the comments that you tried a fresh installation (that's authorized and legal) and it still gave you the message.

Plain and simple, every version of OSX after Tiger 10.4.6 (or thereabouts) -  must register components as it is installing the operating system.

So, therefore, your drive will work - it just won't read DVD video discs.

The "invalid copy of the operating system" won't allow you access to the video hardware acceleration for security purposes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

They Dished It Out, But I Couldn't Take It: The Nightmare Of Dish Network

In March of 2011, I decided to switch from 3 years of having DirecTV over to Dish Network … mostly to save money.

I had other reasons …
• Family had Dish and liked it. 
• There are a few features of Dish I liked better. 
• I really liked the Slingbox feature Dish had, I used to be a sling owner and loved watching TV anywhere on my laptop or iPhone. * Dish had purchased SLING about 3 years ago. 
• I was able to get several bonuses through various rewards programs that I belonged to that amounted to a little over $200 in almost immediate cash conversion.
I scheduled for my new satellite service with Dish Network to be installed.

The "Install Technician" came out promptly two days after scheduling the service.

He installed the new Dish Network dish right next to my old DirecTV satellite.

So began my first problem.

The "Installation Technician" noted that my signal strength was acceptable but (in his words) "by just a hair" and then with a followup, "It's going to go out in bad weather."

And so it did. I live in a valley. I have a 40 foot steep rise that leads to a train track on top of a plateau. The train track is about 50 feet from my front door. Every time the train went by, which was about 4 times a day, the satellite went out.

My first month's bill was incorrect. I got it corrected by calling customer service.

So, after two weeks of thinking it would get better and enduring three light rain storms where the Dish Network was out the entire storm … I called Customer Service.

A new technician came out, he made some adjustments.

A view of my DirecTV satellite dish.
This is the sky my DirecTV satellite dish sees.

A view of my Dish Network satellite dish.
This is the sky my Dish Network satellite dish sees.
I didn't have the same signal I had with DirecTV, but it was better.

My 3rd month's bill was incorrect, I got it corrected by calling customer service.

I got an occasional hiccup when a larger, heavier train would come by. The Dish would still go out in a storm.
* I know that DirecTV did go out … but I can't recall the times. The DirecTV was up seeming 99% of the time. Whereas DISH, I would give a 75% rating. 
I let a year pass as I became less and less interested in television and needed to focus elesewhere.

Then in June of 2012, my second month into paying full price … I noticed that my bill was $10 higher than it was supposed to be.

Dish automatically "leaves" the "maintenance fee" on your bill when you start paying full contract price. I was also being charged $4.95 for my satellite box … problem is, I owned my box. Dish had never given me a box.

I thought the phone call would have gotten the billing issues taken care of.

Nope, next month, same two fees were on my bill.

Since my son was home from school for summer vacation, I began to notice how often the Dish Network signal was going out.

The TV would often say, "SD Signal unavailable, tuning to HD equivalent". It was hit or miss - when or with what channel the Dish would tune to the HD equivalent. Usually, the screen would move to a "Partial Signal Loss" screen then to a "Complete Signal Loss" screen.

So, I had a different tech come out and look. He moved the location of my dish from one side of the house to the other. He also ordered me a new box (same as the one I had).

I asked the tech three separate times about getting charged for the lease of the new box and he assured me that because it was a basic box that I wouldn't be charged.

The new tech placed RF cable under my gutter all along the back side of the house - which seemed like a grounding hazard.

The new box came the next day via UPS. I installed it.

No luck, I waited two weeks … same results.

I scheduled for a technician to come out again.

The tech was a no show.

10 days later, I got a call from the local installation franchise and without apology was asked if a service tech ever came out and resolved my problem. The tech had put down that he had "already taken care of the issue so a 2nd visit wasn't necessary". I stated that my issues remained and that I still needed service.

It stated in the system that "a poll mounted dish is necessary".

The same tech came out again. He replaced the LNBs on the satellite dish, replaced the wall plate, replaced the cabling again. He stated that a poll mounted dish would be worse, so he didn't perform the "poll mount".
* LNB stands for Low Noise Block. This is the "white capped signal receivers" at the center of your satellite dish.
The tech also ordered me a 3rd box.

I got it on the third day after the tech had come. I installed it and sent it back via the FedEx box provided a week later.

Apparently, the box never arrived in their warehouse. It is my belief that the serial numbers didn't match up, but who knows?

To make my situation worse …a charge of $160.00 appeared on my next bill to reflect an unreturned box.

After proving with the tracking number that I had mailed it and arguing with a supervisor for nearly 30  inutes, the charge was dropped from my bill.

I called into Dish to get a service credit for my down time.

The customer service agent promised me a $15 credit per month for 6 months.

Ironically, this was the same time as the DirecTV/Viacom blackout / channel strike. Dish was VERY aware that they needed good customer service at this moment. It's my opjnion that the customer service rep was over-promising me something.

The customer service tech mentioned that ENCORE was on sale for ½ price and that I could get that for $2.50 a month for the next 6 months.

I wrote all of this down. I discussed EVERYTHING thoroughly with the customer service rep what a sample bill will be like. We came to a total, after the credits and purchasing ENCORE, of $33.37 a month for the next 6 months.

The next month my bill reflected the maintenance fee which was supposed to be dropped, a box lease which I was assured I wasn't getting, and a charge for Showtime which I didn't order. The bill was $47.32.

This caused a number of problems in my checking account as I use it mostly to pay bills and fund my PayPal account - keeping a tight budget.

I called to customer service again and stated that I wanted to cancel my service.

Even after reading all this trouble in the customer service notes, I was told that I would owe a cancellation fee of $160.00.

The supervisor wouldn't budge.

I asked what my options were after discussing that I felt like the Lemon Law applied.

They said a tech should come out and resolve the problem and that was my only option.

A technician did come out, and to try to shorten this story, 4 hours later, he gave up and I was able to get the local "Installation Franchise" to note in the account that "good service was not possible at my address".

So, this month, I'm "over the air"!

I'll eventually go back to DirecTV. For now, I'm happy with an extra $40 in my pocket and 9 free TV stations ~ including NBC, PBS, FOX, and CBS.

One side note that I learned in all this … DISH Network is unique in that you are not required to have an account to get the free channels that they offer each month + the shopping channels.

This has something to do with an government agreement from back in the days when they were Echostar.

A very cool feature. So, I went to the thrift store, got me a box, registered it, and will enjoy the free channels each month as well.

[UPDATE] To show you how much the robots at Dish care about me …


AND


[UPDATE II]

Received this very "unfriendly & unacceptable letter"
Dear Philip, 
You have recently cancelled your DISH subscription. Per your agreement, you are responsible for returning your equipment. For your convenience we will send you empty boxes and shipping labels. Please return your equipment in the box(es) provided. Should you also choose to use the labels we provide, a $17 per label box return fee will be charged to your account. 
We have worked hard to negotiate the best rate and have found that, in most cases, this fee is significantly lower than the rates you will find with UPS, FedEx or US Postal Service. You are not obligated to use the provided shipping labels in the event that you find a better rate elsewhere. Please review the information below to determine what equipment to return.  
RECEIVER ViP211k ------------- LEASED  
* This information can be found on the label located on the back or bottom of your unit Do not attempt to sell any equipment that does not need to be returned. This equipment is tied to your DISH account and cannot be transferred to another DISH customer.  
Thank you, 
DISH
Looks like another call to Dish is on tap! Why should I have to pay for something that's essentially trespassing on my property?

[UPDATE] After a call a customer service agent quickly and responsively waived the return postage fee.

Three days after mailing I received a confirmation that my returned box had been received.

[UPDATE II]

The nightmare continues.

On October 30, 2012 my credit card on file was charged $154.30.

So, 49 days after service cancellation … not only do I not have a refund of my last month's worth of service that I paid for and did not get … I have been billed for an early cancellation fee that I was PROMISED by Dish that I would not have to pay.

I am on the phone with the "Dish Resolution Department" as I type this, they tell me that they have documentation that I was told their would be a cancellation fee.

In fact, just the opposite.

I have documentation that the service tech told them on the phone that they could not get service to my home. I also have multiple witnesses to my MANY conversations with Dish Network … plus … I guess this article.

Looks like we are resolved at the moment with a supposed processed credit of everything I am due.

I look forward to seeing it and will update this article again when I see the money refunded.

I made a follow up comment that I wanted my credit card removed from the file this time so that no more charges could occur. I may just go ahead and get a new card anyway - just to make sure.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

6th Circuit Court Says Warrantless Cellphone GPS Tracking Is OK

The 6th District Court has decided that police have the right to acquire your cellphone GPS tracking and location data on cellphones that are not on contract.

The decision was compared to using dogs to locate drugs or bodies.

Read more here:

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/08/14/sixth-circuit-no-expectation-of-privacy-in-cell-phone-gps-data

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Why is the inevitable, inevitable?


Two contradictory statements …

Statement #1…

The success of the iPhone really hasn't had much to do with the dock connector.

Statement #2 …

The success of the iPhone has been because the dock connector has become a standard.

The 3rd generation iPod released in 2003 began including a 30-pin dock connector, allowing for FireWire or USB connectivity.

This provided better compatibility with non-Apple machines, as most PCs didn't have FireWire ports at the time.

Eventually, Apple began shipping iPods with USB cables instead of FireWire, although the latter was available separately.

With the release of the 1st generation iPod nano and the 5th generation iPod classic, Apple discontinued using FireWire for data transfer (while still allowing for use of FireWire to charge the device) in an attempt to reduce cost and form factor.

With the release of the 2nd generation iPod touch and the 4th generation iPod nano, and iPhone 3Gs, FireWire charging ability was removed.

The release of the iPod shuffle made way for a new "headphone mini-jack charge/sync cable"

The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation iPod shuffle uses a single 3.5 mm jack which acts as both a headphone jack and a data port for the dock.

The dock connector also allowed the iPod to connect to accessories, which often supplement the iPod's music, video, and photo playback.

Apple sells a few accessories, such as the now-discontinued iPod Hi-Fi, but most are manufactured by third parties such as Belkin and Griffin.

Some peripherals use their own interface, while others use the iPod's own screen. Because the dock connector is a proprietary interface, the implementation of the interface requires royalty payments to Apple.

Apple is rapidly approaching 1 billion devices worldwide with the 30 pin dock connector - including the iPad, iPhone, and iPod. There must be countless billions (that's billions with a B) of 30 pin dock connector accessories. To say that the dock connector on an iOS device is nearly as popular as an American wall outlet may be an understatement.

And, while thinking about the American wall outlet - the 30 pin dock connector is an international standard - unlike the former. It is USB to 30 pin dock connector.

I wish there was some sort of data that I could find that shows how many USB cables have been sold vs Dock connectors shipped on various devices.

iPhone sync/charge cable @ Dollar Tree
Cables are so ubiquitous that you can find them in $1 stores like Dollar Tree. In fact, here's a picture of the cable (to the right) I use all the time that I paid $1 for! (Well, $1.06 after tax ;-)

Apple is changing the 30 pin dock adapter to a new smaller interface. Here's the reasons engineers are claiming why ….

First, I'm hearing that a dock adapter will be included in the box along with the iPhone 5. I also know for certain that you'll be able to get a new-to-old Dock adapter from Apple. I've seen one from an accessories manufacturer.

Apple recently included a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter with the latest shipping laptops, and in past years they've done this with a variety of display adapters.

NEW vs OLD Apple iPod/iPhone/iPad Dock Connectors
Likely, there'll be some accessories that, due to the physical size or shape, are awkward or impossible to use with the Dock connector adapter, but anything that doesn't require a tight, flush contact should be okay.

The reasons for the new, smaller Dock connector … at least, what analysts and engineers are claiming are the reasons … Apple needs additional space inside the iPhone 5 casing to fit an LTE chipset and the battery to go with it.

It's the same reason Apple went to a smaller SIM in the iPhone 4 and beyond and are rumored to be going with the nano SIM in the iPhone 5.

Supposedly, Apple is going to have a new type of glass on the front of the display that is thinner and integrates the touch panel. (Called "in-cell" technology)

With features like iCloud and PC-Free, as well as Wi-Fi sync and AirPlay, the Dock connector isn't necessarily needed to do everything it used to.

My beef is, I rarely use my docks for the purpose of using my iPhone's other features. I use it to test out docks, recharge just about anywhere - even in local grocery stores.

I would question how many people that are normal consumers are using iCloud too! I doubt it's many.

The transition to the new dock will take years to complete!

I don't buy the arguments above that just a few small bits of space would allow Apple to stuff new tech into the iPhone 5.

The phone itself will be physically be taller and therefore bigger. The new casing will be much thinner thanks to the reduction in glass thickness and the inclusion of a new rear thin metal panel instead of glass backing. Plus, has Apple not advanced ANY in two years since the release of the iPhone 4?

To me … why make it even that wide or take up even that much space? If the headphone port can just be used to sync on the iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano - why even bother? Wouldn't that yield a huge amount of space to eliminate the dock connector all together?

Honestly, for a while, I thought Apple was trying hard to be a standards based company. In the case of the iPhone, they had created a standard.

With the Mag Safe power adapter - they have yet to license it to third parties. The only way you can get an AC adapter is to get one from Apple. You can't just go anywhere and get a power adapter for your Apple laptop.

I suspect one of the real reasons is that Apple wants a new licensing mechanism. While Apple won't break down licensing in their earnings publicly … intellectual property and licensing are some of Apple's biggest assets. It costs relatively no overhead to maintain ideas.

Computer industry analysts and bloggers would love to tell you Apple is most concerned about hardware, software, and iTunes sales. The real gravy is in the ether of intellectual property.

While I will have to adapt … at least I know the real reason why.

This will be as difficult a transition for me as it was to go from my Powerbook G3 Pismo that I souped up with a 500mhz G4, SSD, and slot load DVD writer to an Intel laptop that only the memory and the hard drive could be upgraded on. I had my Pismo for 6 years … an eternity in computer life. I finally switched to a 2.0ghz CoreDuo black Macbook. I got the last model made of the Black Macbook - a 2.4ghz Core2Duo two years ago - that's what I have now. (Sigh)

* Some information in this article sourced from wikipedia

* I would still contend that the PowerBook Pismo is the best computer ever made!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises … All ears (and eyes).

I'm a movie buff. For those that don't know me and haven't seen my living room … I have 14 movie posters lining the walls. One of these posters is from the movie Inception.

The Dark Knight Rises, and the trilogy of the most recent Batman movies, have all been directed by Christopher Nolan ~ who is also director of Inception.

I'm a pretty tough movie critic. I have to be honest and say that I have liked most every Christopher Nolan directed movie except these Batman entries.

I love Batman, mostly because he could possibly be real. His powers as a superhero lies more in his spirit to fight injustice and perseverance no matter what the odds. I've always had this idea that someone like Bill Gates could really fund a secretive eccentric superhero double life.

Those themes certainly prevail in this movie. That said, there seems to be too much drama without any character development. It seems they made the movie 30 minutes longer than it should have been.

I'm not a fan of the "I'm going to talk deep, so you won't recognize my voice" voice that Christian Bale delivers. It almost ruins all of Batman for me.

I also have to admit that I wasn't a fan of Catwoman being portrayed by Anne Hathaway. I'm not a fan of Anne Hathaway looks wise or her acting abilities. But, she hit this out of the ball park! She also had one of the most clever costumes EVER in a movie. I won't give it away but it REALLY makes sense once you see it and makes you smile at the awesomeness.

Speaking of acting, actor Tom Hardy reveals one of the most convincingly evil roles as a villain to date.

Actor, Tom Hardy in Inception
I'm still going to say Jack Nicholson as The Joker is #1 in the Batman movies, but Tom Hardy nails this newer, more modern version of Bane ~ relating his evil to anarchy and lawlessness. His voice acting is incredible behind the Bane mask.

Hardy is said to have gained nearly 30 pounds of muscle for the role. It shows. He looks buff and like someone you do not want to mess with!

Actor Tom Hardy as Bane in
Batman: The Dark Knight Rises
Bane is one of my favorite Batman villains. He received the worst visioning of a villain in the 1997 Batman & Robin disaster ~ directed by Joel Schumacher. He certainly is done justice in this entry by Nolan. He's given a completely different story and purpose as a villain than he is in the previous movie adaptation and from the comics where he debuted.

Plot-wise - I do believe the movie could have been shortened - leaving out some of the Commissioner Gordon drama (Gordon is played by actor Gary Oldman). That said, you really can believe the terror plot to take over Gotham City and see how the government would be powerless against the plan that Bane puts into place.

I'd also like to mention that, like this summer's earlier superhero blockbuster, The Avengers … I was pleasantly surprised to not hear a single curse word. At least, none that I could put an ear on. The violence is very dramatic, hardly any blood. Their is neck snapping, but I do think this is truly a movie your children could see … they may start to squirm a bit during the dramatic parts though.

The ending is a typical Nolan plot twist and worth the ticket price just to see.

Rating out of 10 : 7.5.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Don't Eat @ Joe's: A Bad Experience @ Joe's Crab Shack [UPDATED 2X]


* This story has been updated on July 29, 2012

I know, I know … people rarely write reviews about good experiences.

For restaurants, especially national chains, one should expect consistency in quality, taste, and service.

When on vacation, you go to places like McDonald's because you know it will taste the same as it does back home.

There really isn't a need for a good review of a chain restaurant other than a recommendation to try a new special or point to a great discount.

___________________________________

For my daughter's 20th birthday, she wanted to celebrate at Joe's Crab Shack.

Joe's has 120+ chain restaurants across the USA.

I like seafood, but it's not something I crave.

I personally don't like the recent Joe's Crab Shack commercials.

I always check out restaurants and menus so I know what the prices are and have an idea of what to get once I get there. 

I also knew that Joe's ran occasional discount and appetizer specials. I printed off six different free appetizer coupons because that's how the bills would be divided.

Prices at Joe's are high ... averaging $18-$40 per person, not including drink or appetizers.

The atmosphere at Joe's is purposely set up like an old beach seafood restaurant and is very appealing to seafood lovers.

Joe's has outdoor seating that personally appeals to me.

The restaurants have a nice playground with sand for the kids to play and where they can be easily monitored from the outdoor seating area.

The service is purposely aimed at being a kind of "yankee bad attitude" not really southern hospitality.

(Note: The restaurant originally started in Texas.)

My step daughter had made reservations two days in advance for 25 people at 6:45PM. This would require 4 outside tables ~ seating 6 at each table comfortably.

Approximately 12 of us showed up at 6:25PM.

We notified the staff that we had arrived. We saw them clear two tables as they emptied and put them together. Then, as the two other tables became empty, the hostess sat other waiting customers at those tables. This caused a delay for us to get seated and a lot of confusion as other members of our party arrived.

18 from our party had arrived by the time we were seated at 7:10 ~ 25 minutes after our reservation.

While the restaurant was filling fast, no one was really waiting to be seated except our party.

We were finally seated.

Our orders were taken.

The food came out unevenly. While it can be understood that 25 orders takes time, it took nearly 30 minutes for everyone to be served. Some had almost finished as other's food arrived.

My food - "A Steam Pot" was good but not outstanding and to me ~ not worth the $24.95 I paid for it. The corn seemed undercooked and the dish was rather oily.

The Crab Dip, Joe's signature appetizer, was very tasty.

Our party's drinks weren't kept full and I found myself needing water because of the saltiness and oiliness of the food.

My daughter's "steam pot" was cold, the corn on the cob even had ice crystals on it. It seemed as if the pot had been in a cooler and the cook skipped "steaming it".

Several in the party got the wrong dish or no dish at all and there was a significant delay in getting replacement dishes out. I was amicable and just accepted what I was brought.

When it came time for the bills … none of the appetizer coupons were taken off, the bills had added gratuity of 18% ~ higher than a customary 15% (but to be fair, this was understood before receipt). I just personally don't like tipping more than 15% for bad service.

Most of the bills had errant orders and some seemed unreasonably high.

My daughter had been told her meal would be discounted because of the "cold food" error. Her bill didn't reflect that credit.

We sent the bills back to recalculated three different times. The process took nearly 30 minutes to sort out.

Several discussions were made with the manager and assistant manager. A number of excuses, citing short-handed staff and a new cook; were given.

Because of delays and bill errors ~ the entire Joe's experience lasted 3.5 hours as we left at 10:35PM.

While certainly none of Joe's fault, I think the following is worth mentioning due to everyone in the party being exhausted and in need of leaving 2 hours sooner …

My 9 year-old son and his slightly older cousin were playing on the playground and had a bad accident.

The Joe's location was 25 miles from my home … we drove home towards a nearby hospital because my son was complaining of bad neck pain.

Fortunately, the diagnosis was a sprain.

This extended the trip to beyond midnight for my family ~ making it a 5 hour "from the front door and back" journey.

I sent Joe's an email through their "contact us page", I only received an automated response and never heard back from them regarding my issues.

What I had hoped to accomplish with this review … I personally think if you have another choice for seafood … I'd consider another establishment.

[UPDATE] After seeing this review, I was contacted by the General Manager of the Greenville SC location who was very pleasant and sincerely wanted another opportunity to impress me and my family. He's offered another chance via gift card. I declined, but he insisted and like I said, he was very pleasant. I'm always willing to chalk a really bad experience up as a "nothing seemed right night". I will update this review once I've had the chance to visit a second time.

[UPDATE II] I'm glad I gave Joe's a second chance! It's so hard for me to believe that so many different things could go wrong, but it seems like that is exactly case. We, along with other tables that I could see, were treated fairly ~ we got the "crab cracking bibs", the dancing waitresses, lots of visits to the table to ask how our meal was and to fill our drinks. <--- All things that didn't happen, that normally happen at Joe's.

My daughter's "steampot" was great this go around. In fact, everyone's food was perfect! My wife and I split the "Big Hook Up" and is was very tasty. My son got the "Kid's Steampot". We also got dessert this time and  the Key Lime pie, Apple Crumble with ice cream and the kids Painted Rice Krispy treat were all perfect!

While I definitely wasn't seeking out this completely gratis meal by writing this review and I don't write reviews to harm businesses; I'm very glad that Joe's stepped up to the plate to prove that they are tops in not only seafood, but customer service.

Time Changer

Plot:
19th Century Bible Professor Russell Carlisle has written a new book. He needs the endorsement of his peers, but a devout colleague believes that Carlisle's premise that morality can be taught independent of Christianity will seriously affect the morals of future generations. To prove his theory, he sends Carlisle more than 100 years into the future, offering him a glimpse of where his writing will lead.
I've been interested in the premise of time travel for a book I'm writing and I stumbled on this at my local library.

I started watching with the preconceived notion that it would be cheesy. I was pleasantly surprised.

This movie had outstanding writing and very good acting. It was also nice to see Gavin McCloud, the former Captain of the TV Series, The Love Boat.

The ending is a very well thought out cliffhanger.

Buy here through this link on AMAZON.COM.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Orgreenic "As Seen On TV" Non Stick Pan: Womp-waaaaah

I like to try out "As Seen On TV" products when I get the chance.

Usually I'll use a credit I have with Amazon or deep discounts at places like CVS pharmacy.

Most recently I've tried out the Orgreenic "Non Stick" Pan.

The claims in the commercials show its durability and strength. The commercials show burning cheese, burning chococolate, cooking meat - all with no oil, butter, or "other lubrication". They also show cooking fried and scrambled eggs easily with no butter. The egg cooking is what most attracted me. For the first week everything seemed great. I was actually amazed at how the non stick "coating" was performing. But then … things began to be worse than ANY other cooking utensil.

First, on week two, the pan developed a scratch. (Something the commercials claim won't happen.) The commercial even goes as far as creating an elaborate computer animation of how they have a "patent pending" coating process.





Orgreenic Commercial Second, after about a month's worth of fairly heavy use - although caution not to scratch or abuse it - things are now regularly sticking and the pan is very frustrating to use. Recommendation: DO NOT BUY!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Men In Black III: Pssssssh, Girl, Naw


So far, I've liked the Men In Black series of movies; the first one being the best.

I'd rate the first Men In Black a solid 8 out of 10, the second, a solid 7 out of 10, and this 3rd installment a solid 7 out of 10 as well. (As goes most sequels and trilogies, right?)

I definitely think this movie has a much more serious tone than the rest and I didn't find myself laughing as much as I did sighing that something was clever or cute or a cool gadget.

The ending seemed to be a slight tearjerker for a few in the audience.

The movie stars Will Smith as "Agent J", Tommy Lee Jones as "Agent K", Josh Brolin as a younger "Agent K" and new MIB3 headquarters chief, Emma Thompson as "O"

Brolin’s perfect Tommy Lee Jones/Agent K impression is definitely the movie's highlight. The voice, the mannerisms, the delivery - it's almost as if Brolin was Jones' son or real younger self.

The plot centers around an imprisoned alien nicknamed Boris The Animal … an alien so dangerous that a specific area of a highly classified maximum security prison on the earth's moon houses him. Boris escapes and plots to time travel back to 1969 to kill Agent K the day that he was imprisoned. Agent J (played by Smith) makes the same leap to stop the alien from killing his Men In Black partner.

If you're a fan of the Men In Black series, you'll definitely like this installment. It's a good diversion.

I wasn't that impressed with the addition of cursing in this movie. They definitely push the violence and language barrier of the PG-13 rating.

No convincing love interest in this movie makes for a rather dull plot as well. The love interest in this third installment comes from Tommy Lee Jones rather than Will Smith. I missed the usual Will Smith movie tag line to a girl he has eyes for, "Psssssh, Girl, Naw!" We do get his other tagline, "Da-yummm".

Boris, The Animal, Boglodite Alien in MIB3
As for child appeal … As a parent, I'd wait for this on TV. I think the amount of cursing crosses the line - although by the time its on TV - it may not be edited out. I also think the alien ~ Boris The Animal is rather terrifying (played by Jemaine Clement of Flight Of The Conchords fame)

Again, solid 7 out of 10. If you can see something better … I'd probably go for it instead.

Will You Vote For Romney, Obama, Or A Condo In Cozumel? Telemarketers Illegally Using Political Surveys As Foot In The Door To Sell You Stuff

This story below may assist you with recording your phone calls and knowing your rights.

The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers that telemarketers have found a new way to harass you by phone and to get around the Federal Do Not Call List & Registry ~ hiding a sales pitch behind fake political surveys.

Telemarketers were barred from robocalling sales pitches, after a record federal settlement in a lawsuit filed by The Federal Trade Commission in April of this year. Shortly after the $30 million dollar settlement, a new phone campaign called "Political Opinions of America" started offering a "political poll," and then offered a reward that sounds a lot like a classic sales pitch for a timeshare condo.

An automated voice asks the call recipient to complete a quick survey with questions like:

“What’s the most important thing to restore our economy?”

“How would you rate the job that President Obama is doing?” 

After answering, one is then transferred to a live operator from “corporate travel services” @ The Berkley Group who is giving away free cruises or offering timeshares ~ with a small deposit per traveler of course … payable by credit card.

Contained within a statement on the website of Shapiro Haber & Urmy, a Boston law firm that is preparing a potential class action lawsuit against the Florida-based telemarketer The Berkley Group:
“We believe these companies make unsolicited calls, purportedly as a political opinion poll being conducted by ‘Political Opinions of America. Then, one is offered a ‘free’ cruise, which is really designed to expose people to sales pitches for vacation timeshares. If you received such a call, you may have a claim against these companies, whether or not you paid them any money.”
Clearly, The Berkley Group who is masking the political polling calls is in violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry, which bans unsolicited commercial calls to any number contained on the list.

Federal Trade Commission officials have not stated whether they are investigating the campaign, but the Florida attorney general's office has received dozens of complaints about the phone campaign, according to a spokesman for Pam Bondi, the Florida Attorney General.
"This should be a warning to all telemarketers. You can’t evade the Do Not Call Rule by disguising sales calls as surveys." ~ Lydia Parnes, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection 
Consumers who receive these types of calls should file a complaint at the official FTC website …
or by calling (888) 382-1222

Businesses must obtain your written permission before they can legally send you pre-recorded messages, even if your number is on the National Do Not Call Registry, and even if they have an established business relationship with you.

If you get a robocall from a company that hasn’t gotten your written permission first, it’s a scam.

A business that's legit will want to be compliant with the FTC and not risking the steep penalties of up to $16,000 per call.

The FTC guidelines state that if the purpose of the call is to sell something, it's telemarketing and all rules apply.

The tricky part is … politicians and political groups aren't bound to the same rules (or many rules at all) when it comes to calling, mailing, or marketing. Politicians can claim 1st amendment/free speech rights while unsolicited telemarketers are considered an invasion of privacy. When the FTC amended the Do Not Call Act in 2007, politicians specifically had it written into the act that they would be exempt.
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Two similar “fake survey sale pitches" have resulted in enforcement actions against companies.

In 2011, The Department of Justice filed a complaint that charged three companies in Utah for deceptive and illegal telemarketing strategies and for placing calls to more than 16 million phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry.

In 2006, the Department of Justice also charged another telemarketer of adjustable beds for allegedly making at least 900,000 unlawful calls over a three year span. FMFG, Inc., which also did business as American Adjustable Beds,  called consumers requesting they take a survey of their sleep habits and then were asked to schedule presentations in their homes.
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If you get such a phone call, you might be best advised to listen to the entire conversation and RECORD the conversation. Turning this information in to the FTC may even provide you with a reward.

Use FYT's ultimate phone recording reference found at:


Reference:


http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/04/dncfyi.shtm


http://ftc.gov


http://shulaw.com

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I'd like to welcome a new advertiser to fixyourthinking.com … www.recordingmagic.com.



Since about 2002, after having issues with contractors and business partners not holding their end of the bargain from their verbal agreements … I have recorded most of my phone calls.

In 2004, I was legally challenged for recording a call by OfficeMax corporate relations. After winning the court case, I decided to take all the research from my case where I represented myself and make a reference on www.fixyourthinking.com.

Since writing the reference, I've answered over 500 questions from readers all over the country and even testified as an expert witness in a few court cases. Attorneys from around the country refer to my reference on a regular basis.

I regularly field questions for recording phone calls in child custody cases, business negotations, and debt collectors. Court cases around the country have been won (and lost) because of the extensive reference that I've built over the years.

I told Jim at Recording Magic© that I'd like to share his products with FYT readers which include businesses, politicians, and just everyday folks like you and me.

Jim, at Recording Magic©, says he has lots of great insight to share … so FYT readers can look forward to something new … soon!

Please support FYT by visiting the links to advertisers and products to the side and please consider a donation if you've found an article helpful.

To read the phone recording reference or to bookmark it:

Movie Review: Avengers

I have to admit that Marvel Superheroes have never been my favorite. That said, all the X-Men films, Iron Man, and Spiderman films (with the exception of the 3rd film) have been top notch. I also liked the first Blade movie.


I've always thought that Thor was silly. I've never liked Captain America. I didn't like either of the Hulk movies. I don't even consider Hawk or Black Widow superheroes.


To me, the only well played villains are in the X-Men Series and the first two Spiderman movies. Even so, when I was kid, I thought the Goblin and Dr. Octopus were silly villains.


The best Superhero movies focus on developing the likeableness and believability of the villain. Superhero movies that focus too much on the superhero - don't really make for good scripts.


Very few Superhero movies do a good job with origin stories.


In The Avengers, we've already dealt with the villain; Loki.


Loki is portrayed in the 2011 movie Thor as Thor's evil brother.


While actor Tom Hiddleston does a very convincing job playing Loki, the villain itself is weak. All of the story behind Thor is weak and the character is just downright silly. While I realize that with all the stories and villains we are suppose to suspend our disbelief … I at least like to think that the Superhero I'm looking at is real. Spiderman, Batman, The Flash ... even Superman do a good job of this. The story of Thor just seems far fetched and ridiculous to me. Maybe, in a small part, it has something to with my religious conviction, but mostly, I just find Thor ridiculous.


Let me break the movie down into Pros and Cons:


Pros:


• Actor Robert Downey Jr. is top notch and a perfect fit for this movie and for Iron Man.


• Mark Ruffalo plays the best Hulk and Dr. Banner to date. I think they finally got his compelling backstory right and his transformation right.


• The movie is action packed and adds a number of original elements to the Marvel Universe.


• The movie contains welcome humor ~ mostly coming from Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man/Tony Starck figure.


• The movie contains some of the most realistic and completely amazing special effects of any move to date.


• I'm not sure, but I don't remember a single curse word being said in the entire movie. The movie almost could have been rated G.


Cons:


• The movie drags a bit … mostly due to the Thor/Loki plot lines.


• Samuel Jackson plays Samuel Jackson in this movie. I'm not a big Samuel Jackson fan, so I may be bias here. It seems this role is pieced together from the two dozen other blockbusters that directors love to put a Sam Jackson cameo into.


The Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansen and The Hawk played by Jeremy Renner are played well, but seem like weak characters.


Captain America is no longer a relevant or likable superhero even though he's played perfectly by actor Chris Evans.


• The enemy is in a way; undefined. The enemy isn't unique and while very interesting seems borrowed from other movies.


• Borrowed plot lines and effects.


Overall, I'd rate Avengers a 5 out of 10.