One area of the grocery shopping experience that is in need of an overhaul is at the deli counter. It seems that all grocery stores I have been to provide roughly the same frustrating experience. If I were in charge of store operations, I would run things differently. I have identified seven changes that I think should be put into effect in the deli department. See if you agree.
1) Add barriers to force a single-file line at the deli counter. I’ve always found it very frustrating that there is no sense of order at the counter. Customers are left to crowd around and jockey for position. It’s nerve-wracking. There needs to be one simple line that brings order to this chaos.
2) Increase the deli staff during the evening rush hour. I propose doubling the deli staff between the hours of 5pm and 6pm. All too often, I walk toward the deli, see a large crowd of people, then turn around and go buy prepackaged meat at the back of the store. I refuse to stand in a mob and wait 10 minutes to order some lunch meat.
3) Go faster. This is a simple idea, but worth adding. In my experience, the deli employees could move a lot faster. They generally don’t show any sign of urgency. I suggest hiring a staff of former bartenders that know a thing or two about how to hustle.
4) Allow customers to fill out an order form and place it on the counter so that they can continue shopping and return to pick up the completed order. This seems like a no-brainer. If this were an option, I wouldn’t have to worry about waiting 10 minutes to place my order, as I complained about above in item #2.
5) When there are a lot of people waiting to order, don’t ask each customer if they want a sample of the meat they are already buying. It takes too much time. Customers waiting behind them shouldn’t be forced to wait even longer while you stop working to offer up a sample to each person who orders. Skip this practice entirely.
6) Maximize efficiency. Here is something that drives me crazy. After each customer orders, the deli worker stops to wrap the meat they were using to put it away. This is inefficient. If the meat they are working on is one of the current specials, they should ask aloud if anyone else is going to want some before putting it away, instead of having to repeat the repacking process over and over again. The meat can sit out for a minute if the next person is going to want some.
7) Slice the meat thinner! This is of utmost importance. If I don’t specifically tell them that I want the meat sliced thin, they hand me a stack of thick slices of meat. I don’t understand why this is always the case. I suppose it is faster and takes less work. I’ll bet that if the deli employees had it their way, they would saw off a pound of ham and throw the entire mass in a bag and hand it to me. I want the meat to be as thin as possible. It should be the default.
There is a sad little bar in Raleigh that I’ve picked on for a countless number of years that I had never actually been to until a week ago. It is a small 40-year-old establishment called Sadlack’s Heroes, located on Hillsborough Street across from North Carolina State University.
I’ve maintained a long running joke about Sadlack’s. For some reason, it seemed that every time I’d get caught at the stoplight across from the building, I’d look over and see only one or two men sitting at the bar, heads hanging low, staring into their beer, looking depressed as all get out. I took it to be a very depressing place. I saw it as a sad, unkempt, run down place that old men would stumble to when their wives left them or they lost their job.
Last week I had some time to kill before meeting some friends in the downtown area. I decided to stop in for a beer so I could finally experience this bar first hand once and for all.
I should mention that I was there at 5:30 on a Monday afternoon. Considering the day and time, it wasn’t exactly bustling, and a single visit anywhere isn’t a true representation of the general customer experience.
Since this was an unplanned visit, I was there alone. I realized the irony of my circumstance. Passing motorists could see me sitting up at the bar alone, just like those sad, lonely guys I’d seen there in years past. In the eyes of passersby, I had assumed the role of a sad lonely guy drinking a beer at Sadlack’s.
When I arrived, I checked in on Foursquare in order to document my visit, and left a comment that the bar should post the number for the suicide prevention hotline over the door. I wrote that in jest, and I thought it was pretty funny.
Once I was inside, I found it to be small and somewhat dated. I read that the interior was remodeled in recent years, and I could tell that it had been. To my surprise, it seemed to be clean and well kept. That aside, the general atmosphere inside is, how should I say? Vintage? Let’s go with that.
They have only a handful of beers on tap, but the prices are reasonable. I was, however, put off by the use of plastic cups instead of real pint glasses. I suppose they don’t serve beer in glasses so people can walk around outside on the patio with their cups to converse and play darts and whatnot. I don’t enjoy drinking beer out of a small plastic cup, but it is what it is. I will say that the bartender was extremely nice and repeatedly asked if I was doing okay and if I needed anything. The level of service that I experienced on my visit was excellent.
As I mentioned, the bar has an outside area. In front of the building are a few faded picnic tables. In the back there is a covered patio with dart boards and a few more tables. Unlike the interior, the outside has clearly not been remodeled in any way, and looks like it has been the same since the beginning of time. They have live music on the covered patio area at some point during the week, but I haven’t been there when that was happening, and I don’t know the schedule for that. I can’t imagine that many people could attend the live music because the patio is pretty small.
I expected to see a lot of college students at Sadlack’s since it’s located directly across from the university, but there weren’t many at all (at least while I was there.) The clientele largely consisted of old leathery, grizzled-looking men. I assumed that these men had probably been going to this bar for decades. I actually sent a text message to a friend and said that in comparison, some of the people made Willie Nelson and Keith Richards look like newborn babies. Ha! In fact, the #1 tip for Sadlack’s that a Foursquare user had written said, “I’m pretty sure this place has the highest concentration of missing teeth in all of Raleigh.” There is some truth to that statement, but I digress.
Sadlack’s is definitely not my style. I don’t see myself going back there, unless I did so ironically. I felt out of place the whole time I was there. I checked their rating on Yelp and I was baffled to see that it has an average customer rating of 4 stars. I was surprised by that. After reading the user reviews, my negative outlook on the bar softened a little. I found out through the reviews that the bar plays all of their music on real vintage vinyl records. I think that is really cool. I suppose it has its own unique charms that their customers have come to expect and appreciate.
Despite my ugly comments about Sadlack’s, the bar has been in operation since 1972. They must be doing something right to have been in business for such a long time. I imagine that they have a steady stream of regular customers. I’m glad that I finally had the chance to experience it first hand. The scene at Sadlack’s is just not for me.
If you find yourself perched at the bar at Sadlack’s, I’d be curious to know what you think. You may love it or you may hate it. As with anything, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
I began writing about the lackluster Reminders app in iOS 6 more than a week ago, but I thought I’d wait until after the announcement of iOS 7 to see if improvements were on the way. Since iOS 7 won’t be released for a few more months, I’ve decided to proceed with my issues about Reminders.
Reminders feels a little half-baked. Its primary purpose is to remind me about something, but that function is its biggest weakness. Hear me out.
When I get a text message in the Messages app, it will alert me twice if I don’t acknowledge it the first time. If my phone is sitting on the desk in front of me and it lights up with a text message, I can lean over and look at the lock screen and read it. If I don’t need to reply right away, I’ll just let it be. When I do this, the phone doesn’t know that I read the message because I didn’t physically interact with it. A couple of minutes later, it will chime again with the same message to make certain that I saw it. This behavior used to be optional, and I would usually leave that option turned off because I found it slightly bothersome. At some point in the updates to iOS, Apple, in its infinite wisdom, decided to remove the ability to disable the second reminder. I find that rather annoying because when I’m driving and the phone is in my pocket, I can’t tell if a second chime is a new message or just the same old one popping back up.
Contrast that behavior with the Reminders app. In Reminders, there is no option whatsoever for a second notification. None! You can’t get a second notification even if you wanted one. I find that to be ridiculous to say the least. Apple is so hell bent on making sure I don’t miss a text message that I can no longer disable second notices on them. But in Reminders, an app whose sole purpose is to remind me about things, I can’t choose to receive multiple notices. That single issue makes me not want to use Reminders at all.
When you go into the system settings and look at the available options for the Reminders app, you’ll notice that there basically are none. The only setting I see is being able to change the default list that future reminders will be added to. That is all. Below that is an empty screen.
I put Reminders on my home screen so that if I do miss an alert about a reminder, I’ll at least notice a red badge on the icon. The problem is that it doesn’t always work. I have missed reminders and later unlocked my phone to find no badge icon at all. Granted, it doesn’t fail every time. It usually works, but I have seen it not work a couple of times, and I have read complaints on online forums from other users registering the same complaint. This degree of unreliability is unacceptable.
Let me give you two examples of how I’ve used Reminders in different situations.
In one instance, I checked out a book from my local library. While I was leaving the library, I set my phone to remind me weeks later on the morning that it was due. I set it to remind me early so that I’d make sure to bring the book with me when I left the house in the morning. In that instance, I didn’t require multiple notifications. At some point during that day I’d notice the reminder and have time to return the book.
In another instance, I was at a party. I set Reminders to remind me to send an important text message to a friend at a specific time during the night. I made sure that my phone was not on vibrate and that Reminders was using the loudest possible sound effect in my library. An hour after I was supposed to send the text message, I happened to pull my phone from my pocket to see a message from the friend I was supposed to have written. I’d completely missed the reminder. I couldn’t hear the notification because it was too noisy at the party, and I somehow didn’t feel my phone vibrate in my pocket either. The popup alert was also obscured by the more recent text message I’d received. This also happened to be an instance where a badge icon did not show a missed notification. The only way I knew I’d missed it (besides my friend writing me) was pulling down the Notification Center and seeing an entry for Reminders that I was supposed to have written them. It was that night that I knew that Reminders wasn’t up to snuff. In hindsight, I suppose I could have gone to the extreme length of setting an alarm in the Clock app, but I never dreamed that such a drastic measure would have been necessary.
Reminders does have a few cool features such as location-based reminders, although I’ve never used that and do not intend to. There is an option to set the priority level of individual reminders, but I can’t tell that the priority level does anything but change the appearance of the reminder in the app itself. I hope that in iOS 7 the Reminders app gets some needed new features and customizations. In its current state, it generally works, but I don’t find it to be entirely useful.
I’m currently experimenting with a third party app called Alarmed. It has a lot more features than Reminders, and allows for endless nagging at intervals as often as every minute! Alarmed lets you set quick reminders or “super reminders,” and has a large library of alert sounds to choose from. I find that it works well and it has positive reviews in the App Store. I’ll continue to use both apps, depending on my individual circumstances, and cross my fingers that Reminders gets an update in iOS 7 later this year that makes it useful for all of my needs.
I suppose I’m not hip to the times when it comes to buying movie tickets. Back in the day, I once worked at a movie theater. I rarely go to the theater to watch movies these days, but when I do, I almost always walk up to the box office and pay in cash.
Yesterday, May 21, I saw an announcement that tickets for the movie “Man of Steel” are already on sale. This is the new Superman movie that is slated to be one of the biggest 2013 summer blockbusters. I want to see it. My issue is that the movie doesn’t come out until June 14! I was puzzled by the ticket sale announcement. When did this trend of pre-selling tickets begin? I didn’t know that’s how it is done these days. I don’t think I like it.
Movies don’t share the same exclusivity as concerts, plays, or other live performances. Movies are easily reproducible. Moviegoers should have a reasonable expectation of being able to walk up to the theater and buy a ticket for a show right before it starts. If you let fans go willy-nilly on the Internet and buy tickets weeks ahead of time, then casual customers will be locked out of seeing a movie for days or weeks after it comes out.
You know what this is all about. It’s not about convenience. It’s about boosting sales. The presale of tickets amounts to a commercialized money grab.
The premiere weekend box office numbers for the new Superman will be astronomical. It will probably have the biggest box office weekend sales ever. That’s what the movie studios want. But it will be in part because people have three weeks to buy tickets before anyone even sees it! The studio will spend millions advertising the movie as the ticket sales roll in, without anyone being critical of the movie because the public won’t be able see it for weeks. If the movie ends up being underwhelming, it won’t get dinged by negative word of mouth or people trashing it online.
I do think that theaters should sell tickets all at once for every showing on a particular day. Everyone should be able to go online or stop by the theater and buy tickets for any movie playing at any time on that day. Just not days ahead of time.
I wrote all of this knowing that advanced ticket presales are probably here to stay, for better or worse. It all just feels a little dirty to me.
I used “Man of Steel” as an example because it’s the movie that brought my attention to this whole presale business. I’m sure that other movies have the same ticketing format. So don’t get me wrong, I do want to see this movie. It will be great to see on the big screen! I plan to go see it at some point after it comes out. I’m just not willing to schedule a movie night a month ahead of time and buy tickets weeks in advance. It isn’t a concert, it’s just a movie.
A few weeks ago I discovered the mobile game Temple Run, and was hooked immediately. I was actually introduced to this game by my niece. She asked me to play it on her iPod. After playing it, I downloaded it for myself right away. I don’t know how I hadn’t been aware of this game already. It was originally released way back in August 2011. For someone who likes to play games, I can’t believe I hadn’t already been playing this.
Temple Run is a production of Imangi Studios. It is an endless running game. Gameplay begins with your character running from a temple while being chased by some type of demon creatures. From there your character runs endlessly. It’s up to you to tap, swipe, and tilt to avoid obstacles and collect coins and power-ups. As you build your stockpile of collected coins, you are soon able to use them to purchase enhancements to the game. It is the coin collecting that has made the game so addictive for me.
In-app purchases are available for users who want to purchase coins outright, but I don’t see any need to resort to that. I think that the amount of coins and cost of enhancements is paced perfectly to keep one coming back for more. You can eventually unlock everything you need by playing the game normally.
Temple Run gets my highest recommendation. It is one of the most fun mobile games I’ve ever played. It’s available on iOS, Android, and even Windows Phone. It’s ultra-addictive. Since I downloaded the game, I’ve played it hundreds of times. If you haven’t played it yet, you must. Did I mention it is FREE?
Fans of the game will be pleased to know that Temple Run 2 was released in early 2013. I have the sequel and have played it some. The graphics are more polished in the new game. It is still true to the original, but a tad more complex and sports a few different features. Both are great games, but I’m still perfecting my craft on the original, so I’m trying not to get lured in just yet by the flashy newness of Temple Run 2.
I am not a fan of Radiohead in any way. In my opinion, they are a talentless band that creates hideous music.
I didn’t arrive at this opinion overnight. I’ve listened to their albums from “Pablo Honey” up through “In Rainbows,” some several times. I’ve tried for years to find something about their unique sound that I can appreciate. It just isn’t there. With the exception of “Creep,” their best song by a million miles, the rest of their catalog is pure shit.
Based on that harsh assessment, I’m tempted to consider Radiohead to be a one hit wonder. Creep is the only song that warrants being played in public. Beyond Creep, I will say that the songs “Fake Plastic Trees” and “Karma Police” are pretty good, but those are the only exceptions I can make.
I can barely bring myself to refer to their recordings as music. Their recordings are nothing but noise, pure unpleasant noise. There is no musicianship to be found in any of their songs beyond the two that I mentioned above. It’s as though the band members tripped over a pile of instruments, looped that recording, and put it out as an album. I am quite serious.
The lead singer of the band, Thom Yorke, has a singing style that amounts to nothing but indecipherable whining. I can’t understand a word he is saying. Every song is a four minute whine over a backdrop of ear grating noise. Also, pardon me for being so petty, but the name Thom? It has no impact on their music, but the name Thom makes my eyes roll.
I acknowledge that there will be a lot of people who wholeheartedly disagree with my opinion, my cousin Kevin among them. That is fine. Radiohead obviously has a large fan base, though I really don’t understand how or why. Personally, I find it baffling that they were rewarded a recording contract in the first place.
I wrote a blog post back in 2007 about how I wanted to see Daylight Savings Time abolished. I believe that in the 21st century we shouldn’t be moving the clocks back and forth.
Tomorrow morning, March 10 2013, we move the clocks ahead one hour. This is a perfect opportunity to inform all of you about a White House petition to end DST.
If you don’t already know, the White House has a website for citizens to create and sign petitions that people want the government to act on. The number of signatures required to invoke an official response to any petition is currently 100,000. There have been several silly petitions that people have created in the recent past, but I hope that this one will be taken seriously. I truly believe that the time has come to put an end to this practice. If you agree, visit the petition and add your signature!
In addition, I’m embedding a terrific video that explains in great detail all of the ins, outs, and absurdities of Daylight Saving Time. (Yes, the word “saving” in DST is not actually plural.)
After 23 days in waiting, I finally received my Windows 8 Pro install disc in the mail this past weekend. Actually, the package contained two discs, one DVD for 32-bit and another for 64-bit. I created a new 80 GB partition on my computer and installed Win8 64-bit. It installed in very little time, only taking about 10-15 minutes for the whole thing. That part was easy. I went about the business of getting it updated and activated before I attempted to install Battlefield 3.
Windows Update ran and found 22 important updates, totaling 324 MB. After it attempted to install those, it said that the updates failed and it rebooted and reverted the system changes. I cringed. I don’t know what that was about. After that snafu, I went to Windows Update in the control panel and manually selected various updates in small chunks. All of them installed without issue. Odd.
I then tried activating Windows with my product number and it wouldn’t let me. I was not surprised by this. I had read online that activation only works when you are upgrading in place, not creating a clean install. That is ridiculous and all part of Microsoft’s annoying upgrade pricing, but this is well documented. I soon discovered that I could change a small value in the system registry and it would activate. It did. Whew. You can find a link to those instructions here.
My Windows 8 install experience was fine, barring the complications I just mentioned. I have not experienced any system crash like I did when I installed my last copy. This time, I immediately installed the Apple Boot Camp driver package to avoid any driver-related failures. (More on those lackluster drivers later.)
Now I come to the rough part — I installed Battlefield. After two install DVDs and a long time later, the game was on my system. The game had a slew of updates that were required after install. The download package was a whopping 7 GB. That took a while. After it installed all of the updates, it then wanted to download the expansion packs that have come since the original game was released. Those expansion packs contain a lot of map data. They totaled another 7 GB that I had to download. Again, that took a while. All in all, I had to download over 14 GB of data to have a complete install of this game.
Battlefield was able to run, but when it reached the game deployment screen, it gave me a nasty message about my graphics driver not being current enough. I wasn’t able to proceed. I could see the game menu but my mouse and keyboard could do nothing to make it go. I fiddled with this for quite a long time.
I set out to get new drivers for my graphics card. My computer is an iMac and the card is an AMD Radeon HD 6750. (AMD bought ATI a while back.) Apple provides drivers for the hardware on Windows via it’s Boot Camp software. That is all good and well, but the latest version of it doesn’t support Windows 8. It uses Win7 drivers for everything, which seem to work fine (at least on the surface.) I had no issues with the graphics display in Windows itself, but Battlefield wouldn’t tolerate it.
Here comes the rub, and the bulk of my problems. I went to AMD’s website and tried to download drivers that should work. They didn’t. I think Apple has done something to the hardware to mask it somehow. The AMD detection software (running on Windows) was not able to determine my graphics card. Hence, it wouldn’t provide me with a driver. The best I could do was use a Microsoft driver for my card that was as current as June 2012. That’s nice, but Battlefield still said it wasn’t good enough. I then found a way to download AMD drivers for my card elsewhere on the web. But when I went to update the driver in the system device manager, Windows reported it was not compatible with Windows 8 and it aborted every time. After countless hours of wrangling, I gave up and threw in the towel. I’d had enough!
I went for a long bike ride. After several hours away from my problem, I sat back down and tinkered with it again. I ended up reading user forums online for an hour and a half on issues similar to what I was experiencing. I found a guy who had the exact same problem with the same computer as mine. Someone had provided him with a link to the specific AMD driver that was needed to make it work. I tried it myself and lo and behold, it worked. It freakin’ worked! Windows 8 accepted it as valid, as did Battlefield.
The number of hoops I’ve had to jump through to play this game is absurd. I would never have done this from the start if I had known what I was in for. I’m almost tempted to advise everyone that if you want a hassle-free gaming experience, stick with Playstation and Xbox. PC gaming isn’t for the faint of heart.
My biggest concern about running Battlefield on Win8 is that I’ve read mixed reviews on the gaming performance. People have reported lagging and memory leaks. Fortunately, I have not experienced any of those problems. I’ve played the game twice on Win8 and it seems to perform better than it did on Win7. That is probably due largely in part that it is able to make use of my full amount of installed RAM. At any rate, I can say that in my usage, game performance has not been a problem. It’s a miracle.
As for my early reaction to Windows 8 itself, I’ll say that it is pretty nice. The interface is something I could get used to in time. I’m only going to use it for games, so I’m not installing any programs on it, not even Dropbox or an anti-virus. It is strictly for games and I want it to run at maximum speed. Having said that, I couldn’t help but feel compelled to delve into the tiled Start screen and customize things. It has potential. I’ve only had it for a few days so I’m not going to write any more about the operating system itself until I’ve had some time to experiment with it more.
I want to give a plug to Paul Thurrott’s website called WinSuperSite.com. He really knows his stuff. He also hosts a weekly podcast called Windows Weekly on Leo Laporte’s TWiT network. Everything you need to know about upgrading and installing Windows can be found on Paul’s site. I only wish I had read it before I started this whole process. It would have saved me a lot of pain and hassle.
It has been 12 days since I wrote part 1.
I am so angry! I still have not received the Windows disc in the mail that I was promised, but they charged me shipping for it.
It has been almost two weeks since I communicated with the support rep. Tonight I started another online chat to chew them out, and guess what. I found out that they haven’t even mailed it! Its status is listed as “under review.” I bitched at the support tech. He said that since Windows 8 is so new, it is taking longer than normal to get the discs in the mail. I am pissed. I told him that if my disc isn’t put in the mail I will call them back and demand a refund. I was not nice to him. I have had it with this.
So far this whole debacle has been a waste of time, money, and effort.