Category: Dining Out

To Insure Prompt Service T.I.P.S.

To Insure Prompt Service T.I.P.S.

 

A recent article about tipping brings to the forefront of our “things to talk about;” tipping.

Europe has simply raised the cost of goods and services 20% to 30% in their restaurants and stopped tipping. The money “supposedly” used to increase the wages of the employees as well as pay for things like health care. I do not see any issues here, do you?

In theory, it sounds great but what accountability is there on the shop owners that they will use that money for those reasons?  The answer is none.

I would prefer to TIP my server, as his or her service can be quantifiably assessed by his or her clients. They get immediate feedback.

Speaking of jobs if I could choose, I would like to be a restaurant critic.  I already am a foodie and know something about food.  I used to travel a lot, when on an expense account one of my companies allowed generous benefits in that area.   Taking clients out to dinner often times I went to 5 star places and came to know the difference between good, mediocre and bad.

If I could have dinner with one celebrity, it would be Gordon Ramsey.  In the world of IT, I am just like him, other than I can choose my vernacular better than he…I still have that style and appreciate an honest person.

Life is not fair.

Not everyone will have the same skills and talents.  When you as a younger person piss off your opportunities afforded to you in school, you relegate yourself to jobs that are currently being taken by others from other countries that think those jobs are sweet; you limit your possibilities!

In the food services industry, servers that are good, earn more money than those that work in the back room. 

I would point out that the kitchen helper position is not exactly a career choice that anyone should aspire to.  Much like working in the mailroom in a large corporation, those are entry points into the job market.  They are minimum wage jobs because they require little talent to perform.

Retail sales is not a career choice, it is an entry point.  The problem is that managers that work there will tell their people anything to encourage them to keep their nose to the grindstone and work hard as they see management potential in them.   Most of the time they are lying in an effort to placate you into giving them more of your time in return for part time minimum wage dollars.

“Time is expensive.”

When you boil it all down, what you are selling is bits and pieces of yourself through the time you invest.  We are all whores if you think about it; we will do almost anything for money.

“Money truly is the root of all evil!” 

People that find a way to live comfortably, without killing themselves to earn more money, are probably the true winners of the game of life.

Higher paying jobs are inherently more stressful, and stress kills.  Stress produces a hormone known as cortisol.  This hormone is the “fight or flight” hormone, released when danger is present.  When we stay in a stressed out situation, that hormone is released in copious amounts, and often…that takes a toll on your body and your health suffers.

If corporations had a brain in their collective heads, they would look into ways to reduce the stress on their employees; as stress leads to job burnout, sick time and turnover.  Those are costly!

If you can live on minimum wage, work your 8 hours and whistle while you work, your life might be sweet.

Those who chase the dollar their whole life, typically die young and leave their life’s work to their spouse or their greedy progeny to fight over, allowing attorneys to swoop in like vultures, and acquire the bulk of it.

Tips for success.

  • Get a good education.
  • Find a trade or skill that cannot be outsourced, and master it.
  • Discover all of your talents and skills.  What are they? Take an inventory of them.
  • Are any of them marketable?
  • Figure out what you like to do…what makes you happy?
  • Can you find a job doing that?

 

Keep toxicity out of your life.

If you have toxic friends, develop boundaries and keep them outside of them.  If your job is toxic, find something else as soon as possible.  We all have worked around toxic people who bitch and moan incessantly.  That is their own toxic cesspool, which they most likely have created.  Stay out of their sphere of influence.  Do not add to it and certainly do not marry into it.  You cannot fix stupid and you cannot help someone that does not know either that they need help or that they do not want it.  Some people actually enjoy being miserable.  They like to be the victim.  You cannot help them.

As a manager, identify those employees and try to work with them through HR, or get rid of them,  that BS is contagious.

Tomorrow is never coming back.  The time you spent reading this is gone, forever.  The time I spent elucidating my thoughts on these subjects is gone as well.  I hope that I spent that time wisely. I am optimistic in thinking that you got something out of it.

Time is your stock in trade. Time can be measure in heartbeats as you only have so many.  There is a finite number of times that your heart will pump that life force around your body. Do not waste it.

Now go take on the day!

 

-Best

© All Rights Reserved 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MÍ DÍA FROM SCRATCH Grapevine Texas

MÍ DÍA FROM SCRATCH Grapevine Texas

MÍ DÍA FROM SCRATCH Grapevine Texas

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As many of you know, I am somewhat of a foodie.  While I am not near the cook that I would like to be, I have traveled enough and have eaten at so many different places in my lifetime, critiquing restaurants is second nature.

Eating out to me anyway, should be a treat, and not the norm; as let’s face it, it is expensive.   Dave Ramsey once said in one of his courses, the only way that you should be inside a restaurant is “you are working there!”  Dave and I disagree on this point.

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Life is short, so an occasional foray into an eating establishment should be acceptable.  Even if you have to budget for it with disposable income.  That is why I don’t want to waste my money and or time in some place that is supposed to be good, and it disappoints.

Upon entering the parking lot around 6, there were few if any places to park.  It looked as though Valet Parking was going to be the way that I went until, as if on que, someone pulled out right in front of me.

If you get there at dinner time you might want to anticipate Valet parking.  I will do that as I don’t want to detract from my dining experience by looping parking lots, in some sort of conga line looking for a place to park.

Once inside it was standing room only, even though we had a reservation.  You must have six (6) or more to qualify for one.

Inside the building there is absolutely no place to stand without being underfoot of the servers, wait staff and other patrons.  There are tables by the front door in very close proximity to where people are waiting for tables.  When I say very close, imagine sitting at dinner and having someone standing within a foot of your table talking with their party complaining about the wait.  To me this is unacceptable.  Not only for the people who are now eating as you can hear everything that they are talking about but, for the patrons waiting to be seated.

While our table had been vacant, they had to make sure that they had someone to cover it before they sat us.  This process took about 25 minutes which one might expect without reservations.  If there had been a comfortable waiting area it might have been less objectionable.

The wait staff once seated was amicable. Getting our drinks took a little too long for me but the group that I was with seemed pleased with the outcome.  I was the DD or designated driver, so I ordered a soft drink.  The soft drink came in the original can, that was warm!

Folks!  I expect that from a greasy spoon, not from a restaurant of this quality.  Not only am I pouring my own drink from a can that I would buy in the store for .25 cents but, I know that I am going to at least pay $2 for the privilege and there will be no re-fills!  Canned drinks have a “can taste” and I typically will not buy them that way for that reason.

I ordered the table side Guacamole which could not be made “table side” as there was no room.  It was prepared somewhere else however, they had forgotten about it and we had to remind them, 30 minutes after the fact.  Yes, they were busy but, so what! If they can’t handle “busy,” people will vote with their feet and find other places that can.

I ordered:

BANANA LEAF WRAPPED SCOTTISH SALMON – 20
Rubbed with achiote, citrus & grilled. Served with morita whipped potatoes, sautéed chayote & mango-lemon grass mojo.

The presentation was nice and 180 degrees different than a can of soda.  The lemon grass mojo was placed on top much like a scoop of ice cream might sit atop pie.  I tasted it and was non to thrilled with it, off to the side.

The Salmon itself was cooked well, soft and tender as it should have been.  The whipped potatoes were light and fluffy with good taste, again as one would expect.

Part of the lemon citrus grass came with some sort of sauce that circled the potatoes in the bottom of the serving dish, much like a sauce.  Dipping the salmon in this produced and un-expected treat as the flavors coalesced to make a whole new taste for salmon.

achiote

The salmon was covered in “achiote” which is a red seasoning.  It is actually more than just a seasoning but a dye that is used for other reasons than for culinary work.  Much like eating cucumbers, this was the seasoning that kept giving for hours after the meal was over.

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On a scale of 1 to 5, I would give this place a 3.

While it was clean, it was way too crowded; and the overall appeal of this place just is not enough to encourage me to fight the crowd again.  The price was middle of the road but the canned soft drink really was a deal breaker. To me this is like buying a good looking car and putting a small gutless engine in it.  If you are going to go to the trouble of producing quality food, purchase a blooming soda dispensing machine so no soft drink cans are ever seen and, the glass can be easily re-filled.  On top of that folks, soda taste much better out of a machine, than a can!  By the way, does anyone else see the issue here with the name “made from scratch” and a canned drink!?  Is it just me?

Not all of us consume alcohol!  Some of us actually prefer to maintain our senses and be able to drive after the meal is over.

No review would be complete without a critique of the drinks however; so, I am happy to inform you that while I personally did not imbibe, those that did had more than one, and were complimentary of the drinks, flavor and presentation.

I think if they would change their policies to “reservation onlyduring certain busy times, they could please more people and have less people standing on top of other patrons.  Managing traffic in a restaurant is critical to pleasing the guest, as well as managing your staff.  This place has the ability to easily be a 4 star restaurant, with their quality of food.

-Best

© All Rights Reserved

http://www.midiafromscratch.com/index.htm

Dash Cam

Dash Cam

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Not terribly long ago I was headed to lunch.  Pulling into the parking lot I was met by a lady screaming out of the parking lot in “hot pursuit!”  She was flying out of the middle of the entrance to the parking lot!

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The driver was a Dallas Cop who had setup her “speed trap” in the parking lot of a busy restaurant in Addison Texas.  Evidently someone went a couple miles over the limit and she was going to stop them and protect us all from someone going 40 in a 35!

Tracy Jones, K. Beth Burnside, Mia Shagena, Sarah Ramsey, Melissa Person
Tracy Jones, K. Beth Burnside, Mia Shagena, Sarah Ramsey, Melissa Person

Had I not stabbed on the brakes, we would have had a head on.

You see, when you leave a parking lot headed for a main road there is this “stop sign” either painted on the road or standing there or assumed.  Even if they don’t have one, you should stop and look both ways before screaming out of the parking lot!  The drivers license manual even tells you to stop, use your turn signal and then proceed when clear.  No where does it say if “you are a cop it is OK to go blasting out of a parking lot without looking, stopping, using a turn signal etc!  Stop hiding in parking lots!   Had she not been blasting out of the parking lot she would have most likely been to the right of the entrance and we could have avoided one another.   She was in HOT PURSUIT! 

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The wreck was narrowly avoided but, had we collided who would have been at fault?  Let me re-phrase that, who would have been blamed?!  Do I trust the police???  I would rather not have to.  We have seen too many times where if there is a possible way to cover your ass, these guys are good at it!

She would have hit me left front.  I was traveling between 5 and 10 mph, no telling what she was doing, as she was flying!

Without dash cam footage, we would have to depend upon forensics and “he said she said” and she is a cop.  Had there been a wreck we would have had to call the “cops.”  Do you think for a minute that they would have sided with me?  Even with the overwhelming preponderance of forensic evidence that would have been there, I can hardly think that it would have ended well for me.  Maybe I am jaded but I have been around a long time, you don’t screw with cops!  They are innocent until proven guilty, and you are guilty until proven innocent; which with cops, your evidence may never see the light of day.  Just saying….

Would she have said, “Oh, I screwed up” and accepted the blame, or would she have somehow blamed me.

She has more to lose than I do.  Her job could be in jeopardy where, I would have simply had a wreck on my record.

Dash Cameras take the mist out of mystery.

Dash cameras in theory are supposed to record in 3 minute increments, a loop of events.

When the car is running the camera is running and not only does it get video but, it also serves as a “cockpit recorder.”  That is right, your voice or radio are recorded for posterity.  If there is no event within that three minute window, that section of “tape” goes into the queue to be recorded over.

If there is an event, there is a “g” sensor in the camera that acts as a mechanism to flag that section of tape(1) as nonvolatile or protected thus, ignored in the subsequent record process.  You can also activate that process by pushing a button telling the machine to save the last 3 minutes of tape.

Problems

  • The button to control that function needs to be easily pushed as we don’t want to cause an accident by saving the tape sequence that is important.  “Someone does something incredibly stupid and you want to upload it to YouTube!”
  • Two cameras that I have tested thus far put out copious amounts of RF that “swamp” the GPS as well as the Satellite radio.
  • The camera plugs into the cigarette lighter socket or 12v power source and starts shortly after voltage is applied.  Problem, those outlets are “hot: when the key is off so there needs to be another form of activation.  Not all cars are like this but mine is.

If I were designing the perfect dash camera, I would tie it to GPS and have it actually encode the coordinates into the data stream.  Along with the coordinates, I would encode speed.  I would make the camera function dependent upon movement either of the vehicle and I would look for movement within the cabin.  If someone gets into the car, the camera starts recording.

I would include a rear facing camera as not all accidents happen from the front of the car.

I would tie the camera into the Automobiles security system so if the shock sensor or other sensor is activated, it starts recording.

If it were a commercial vehicle I would tie it onto the on board computer to let me know if the lights were on, were the brakes hit, was the turn signal activated, What was the RPM of the engine, was it going up or down, what was the speed of the vehicle?

I would also offer a version of the camera that incorporated cellular technology that actually sent a data stream up to the cloud for later retrieval.  I would do this on all commercial vehicles so at any point in time the person responsible for them could go to a web site and see were their vehicle is, what it is doing and possible retrieve other information like the status of the vehicle.

The creator of such a camera could offer “cloud storage” as part of a complete package, thus not simply selling a device, but a service with a constant revenue stream that goes into perpetuity.

The RFI issues need to be resolved as we have come to rely on GPS as an everyday thing, much like road signs.

Shielding the camera to contain the RFI needs to be looked at, in the factory.

What is generating RFI in the GHZ range?  Is it the on-board processor? Can it be shielded?

This is not rocket science, it is simply best practice engineering.

-Best

© All rights reserved 2015

(1) Tape is simply used here as  vernacular that the public would easily understand.  There is in fact no more tape, as everything is recorded digitally.  The storage in most cameras are some form of memory card.

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#tips #time and #family attn: #Brinkers

#tips #time and #family attn: #Brinkers

To Insure Prompt Service  T.I.P.S

Growing up I spent much time at the local Denny’s drinking coffee with friends and eating food that was hardly good for me.  As I became acutely aware of what you eat you become; I switched to salads and more healthy choices even though I was still eating at a place that would have fried the coffee it were possible.

While there, I made many friends out of managers, servers and even the cooks.  As the matter of fact for many years, the crew at the local Denny’s became just about a second family.

There were also the regulars who also became familiar faces and it was not long before we had this huge round table grouping in the back which contained many of the locals, off the clock staff and of course myself.  I learned quite a bit about people while doing more listening than talking.  You do not have to be rich to be happy was one life lesson that I have never forgotten.  Having money is nice, but not a requirement for happiness.

I was living paycheck to paycheck, in very humble surroundings with a total monthly rent of $200.  My transportation was nothing fancy and if I had not learned to work on them “every weekend” I would most certainly have been living back in the bedroom that I grew up in.

Today, many “generation X folks” go to school on their parents’ dime (tens of thousands of dollars) and expect the corner office, six-figure salary and a house like the one that they knew as a child.

I was not one of those that attended a place of “higher education,” at my parents’ expense.  I am what some would call a self-made man.  Having tasted living like the rich and famous through my childhood friends and tasted living in little more than a tin box I knew that I needed to set my sites on a standard that was obtainable but not so high that I would never make it.  Aim High was the Air force slogan but after talking with recruiters regimentation and I were strange bed fellows as I often march to my own drum beat.

Since I had taught myself electronics at eight years old, I went to work for the local television repair place where some OJT was happening.  Information then is nothing like today.  If I want to know about a subject today, Google gets me more than enough to sate my appetite.

As a young person, I never stopped thirsting for information. The encyclopedia was my constant companion along with the college dictionary.  I made friends with Dewy and haunted the library as time permitted.  My appetite for knowledge was voracious however; my focus was extensive.  Selectively I gave attention to subjects that always seemed a little out of my reach.  Mechanic type stuff was easy for me but that is not what I wanted to do day to day.

I had thirteen cars at one time as I purchased them in disrepair and repaired them and sold them.   There was always grease under my nails and my hands contained bruises or cuts on them from working in such a harsh environment.  Cars back in the day were nothing like today, they simply were not reliable.  Every weekend I was at the auto parts store or junkyard piecing together some car that some part had failed.  I do not look back at those times very fondly as being under a car when you had to have it, to be to work, grew tiresome.

I still made time for my friends at the local diner and enjoyed my “salt of the earth” friends. 

One day while eating my salad I overheard one of my favorite waitresses grumble about a tip.  Some elderly couple had eaten their dinner and after their fill before leaving he pulled out some change and left two quarters.  While I always over tipped, it was because I knew them, liked them and when I came into the place even before they knew me, the girls fought over which one got me and or my party.  “to insure prompt service”

What I was not aware of; the patrons in fact fund the wait staff.   If you have ever eaten at a restaurant you in fact are or have been an employer.  How did you pay?  Were you fair?

Typically, they make one or two dollars an hour from the business, which now goes to cover their taxes.  Back in the day, their tips were un-reported income for the most part and later some assumed value established to cover their part of the tax collection system.

Taxes are another subject for another day, today I am calling attention to the fact that these folks have a very irregular or inconsistent paycheck.  The friends at Denny’s and the story is over forty years old.  While it is not dusty in my mind and only seems like yesterday, the fact remains that this system is still in place today.

I saw a girl get a couple of quarters the other day from an elderly couple and could not help but think, surely by now, everyone knows that you are paying these peoples salary!

I have turned into a foodie over the years.  My palate has changed from forty years ago and I have not been into a Denny’s in about as long.  Eating fried food is not much better than smoking, of which neither I do.

While I am happy to report that automobiles are no longer the worrisome things they once were, they still however require maintenance, just not by me.  Either metallurgy has improved or the Japanese and other foreign automobile producers have forced a paradigm shift in the American automobile industry as now American made cars compete nicely with the others.

What has transfixed my attention as of late is the fact that we still do not understand as a people what a TIP is and what it is meant to be.  Some establishments use a kiosk of sorts at the table where you order, where one can entertain themselves while waiting and then where one pays for their food and service.  When you “check out” a scale appears on the bottom with a suggested “tip” amounts. If not that then at other places, printed on the ticket are different amounts so you can easily identify the percentage and add in the correct amount.

While I will not belabor the point of automation in this industry taking away from the “personal touch”, I will say that part of my “tip” is that I expect that personal touch.  When I go into such an establishment, I expect pampering.  Had I wanted self-serve, I would eat at home.

So here is my TIP to the industry and all who choose to work there.

When I arrive, I expect a warm and friendly greeting, and I want to feel as if I am important and welcome.  When seated; the table should be clean and dry and the chairs should be clean as well as the floor. The bathroom should be clean, and smell fresh.  I often find that if the bathroom is poorly maintained; the kitchen is as well.

The server no matter how busy should be able to speak with my guest and myself in a friendly conversational manner.  His or her knowledge of the food should be endless.  They must know the food, how it is prepared and be able to speak to its contents for those with food allergies or even particular taste. As menus are convoluted at times, they should be a sales type person able to ask appropriate questions and suggest items.

The server should be visible at all times and attentive without over burdening the guest with request about the food.  Water or other drinking glasses should never get below half-full. At no time should a guest have to go looking for their server or accouterments of some kind.

The food quality is not the responsibility of the server however, how he or she takes care of any issues is.  Tips should not be reflective of the food quality.  The server did not cook it therefore; they should not be punished, because the kitchen screwed something up.

There is a rule about Buffet’s and tipping, and it should be noted: that the more that one has to self-serve, the amount of the tip is reflected.  Tips are reflective of “customer service.”

I personally find the kiosk with games offensive, and counter productive to the whole “eating out” experience.  There are already too many distractions that keep people from “experiencing” each other and the whole “Event” of sharing a meal with someone.  Just as I find electronic gadgets at the table offensive, I find places that push this technology and even push the patron to use it as a method of paying, distasteful.

The simple facts are that the family unit as a whole is suffering.  They suffer from gadgets, screens of different kinds, or other distractions and the parents loosing control of what manners are.  Etiquette in fact is becoming a lost art.  

One of the reasons that I eat out is that I have the full attention of family or other guest without the distractions of the TV or other electronic things that amuse us.  Some restaurants have taken to bringing that home experience to you however as there are flat screens all over the place with anything that might interests someone.

James Stewart once said in “Mr. Hobbs takes a vacation. That what we need is an Un-Edison!”   Mr. Hobbs identified the problem, he just came up with an incorrect solution.  What we need is parents who teach manners, etiquette and hard and fast rules about TV’s and gadgets at the table.  Families should endeavor to eat at least one meal at the table without the distraction of TV or Facebook! 

When people look back at our history they will find that the decline of the family had much to do with these things of which I write. 

As we stray from our humanity, and trade social intercourse with pokes, and OMG, and LOL, we loose sight of many other things along the way including one another.

Allow me to leave you today with a verse from a book that most of you know, but may put aside for something else. 

Ecclesiastes

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

 

There is a time for LOL and OMG; there is also a time for family and friends and one on one face-to-face laughing, sharing, caring, crying, hugging, bracing your fellow man, and paying attention to who you are and what your purpose is here, today.

-Best to you and those that you care about!

Technology, Have we gone too far?

There are days that I long for the twisted pair; you know the POTS line or (plain old telephone service.)  Yes, the one that hooks up to the one phone, on the wall or in the hallway in that special little nook that was designed by the architect for it. I would even go back to the dial phone, as I think that it was not only a simpler time, but probably a more reliable form of communication. OK, maybe not, but since we were not on it all of the time we had no idea when it was not working.  The phone after all was not for kids..

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I don’t know how many of my friends had a dial phone but, if you did not, you missed out.  Calling a radio station to be the 25th caller was a real chore back in the day.  If you won and I did once, it was a real conquest!

Speaking for me personally, I have at least 6 email addresses, the cell phone, the business phone, fax lines, house phone and of course SMS text messaging and even IM on FaceBook.  I am also a ham radio operator and have half a dozen radios that can all be going at the same time, but most of the time not.

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No, not me, but my station back then looked a lot like this!

It would seem that I should be able to be reached.  Back in the day, I had a pager as well although, that thing was really nothing more than an electronic leash; for whoever had the number.

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When I was a kid if I wanted to talk with a friend, I would go get on my bike and ride to their respective homes and ask the “parent who answered the door” is “fill in the blank” home and can they come out and play?  Yes, a little like the Cleavers..

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When I was a little more sophisticated, (8years old,)  I used a Walkie Talkie to talk with my friends that lived within a half mile or so.  That in a large part prompted me to get my ham radio license at a whopping 13 years old.  With that; I have visited with thousands of folks all over the world, but that is another story for another day.

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The Smart phone, which is why I am writing today, is a marvel of technology.  It is the Swiss army knife of communication!  With that device I can call anywhere in the world from just about anywhere.  I can send text messages and pictures of whatever interest me.  I can get them as well.  I can send a video to someone or receive the same.  With Facetime or Skype, I can live video chat with people too!  I can watch movies or play games and yes, I can poke someone on facebook from the waiting room at the Dr.s office. The camera quality is such that if I had the mind to I could take a “quality picture of my dinner” and post it on facebook as we all want to see what you ate for dinner, right? Wink wink.  The camera part is really quite true, it is a really decent camera for a phone!

Mobile

There are some issues with this however; of which I wish to expound upon.  First and foremost, SMS text messages (at least with my phone and service) are not guaranteed to make it.  Back when e-mail was new, the common greeting on a phone call was “did you get my e-mail?”  E-mail is not 100%, it never has been, and it never will be.  E-mail is more reliable today as the servers are more persistent and the internet is more robust.  It is still not guaranteed to get there.

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Text communication whether SMS or e-mail or chat on some service can be dicey as you don’t get the facial queues that you do; well… in person.  One can discern some queues in tone of voice when on the phone but, without emoticons and “LOL,” we might not know if the person was serious or kidding!  That type if communication leaves lots of room for miss-communication.

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We are in fact a world in transition regarding our communication. I have many “friends” on Facebook but, how many of them know me personally?  How many of them know my favorite colour or type of food, or I theirs for that matter?  So one has to ask, just how good of friends are we?  Would they even want to be my friend in person?

Facebook_Waning

When is the last time that you spoke with your neighbors?  Do you know their names or anything about them?  I have two new neighbors of which I have made a point to introduce myself to, welcome them etc but, I also made a point to know their dogs name, and introduce myself to him as well.  You should have seen the owners face light up when I took the time to get to know his pooch! I am not bragging about myself; or chastising you, I mention this because I realize that most of us pull into the garage, and close the door behind us.  We leave the same way and “in my case” I use a lawn service so I don’t even have the opportunity to meet while I am butchering my grass. “hence the lawn service, I ruined the yard when I cut it the first time.”   It was tiff grass I think, and my mower was not made for it…. I think.  That is my excuse and I am sticking to it!

Don’t depend on text or e-mail as it is not super reliable.  There are times my phone will go off in the middle of the night, with all sorts of text messages, from days ago!  I keep it with me most of the time but I have to admit, it too feels a little bit like a leash at times.

You know the old story about the lost invitation to the party, it may really have gotten misplaced.  If something seems out of character with the person that you know, trust your instinct and call. If the invitation to the party does not arrive, call.  If you were not invited well, re-evaluate that friendship.  If you sent them a text, they may not have responded because they did not get it!

Finally, turn off the computer, phone, and tablet and unless you are watching a movie with the family, turn off the TV too.  Spend time with those that you love, as you never know when or if you might have the opportunity to do it again (if ever.)  Life is too short to have regrets and when I see complete families out at expensive restaurants, all on some phone, or some device well….it makes me a little sad for them.  What memories will the children have?  What about mom and dad when the kids are gone?

To me eating out is an event.  To some, who do it all the time it is simply eating.  I can eat at home but there is the preparation and the cleanup.  If I eat out I am “served!”  There is not preparation and no cleanup and there is also the friendly exchange of conversation not only between whom I am eating with but, I also make a point to learn the servers’ name, and use it.  While they are, “serving me;” I make certain that they know I appreciate them.

dining

Life is about making memories.  Good or bad, life is what it is.  One day, not too many years ago I was taking my daughters friend to a college across town.  After we left her college I picked up a bolt in one of my tires which left me and my daughter stranded on the side of the road in a less than great area of town.  It was summer about 110 degrees on the side of the highway.  It was about 300 after I got the car jacked up and about 500 when I discovered that the oil change service that rotated my tires had not put the tire lock key back in the glove box!  We had no water, and now I was back out in the heat taking the jack back from under the car all the while having her call the auto service. You know *4357… Yeah that one.

After getting back in the car, the auto service had no information on me or the account and would not send a wrecker.  Even after I told them that I would pay the wrecker just please send one! They refused to help because I was not a customer they were not obligated to lift a finger.  The auto service was paid for through the cell phone carrier and it is insurance that you pay for monthly.  We were a customer and the customer service girl just fat fingered it when she looked up the phone number, you know the 10 digit phone number that should have been on the screen in front of her!?

Very long story short, after witnessing drug deals, going through gas to keep the air on and doors locked and wondering if the car would overheat, and having to go to the bathroom, we finally got a wrecker right at 5 in the afternoon, rush hour traffic!  We had been out since 9am without food or water or bathroom, on the side of a busy highway since about 10 am.

Even though that was not a great memory, it is a memory, and I did get to spend the entire day with my daughter with no computer to compete for my time with her.  OF course in retrospect, I don’t think either of us was real great company…

smartphone-manners

Is a poke on Facebook, or a text to someone, more important that being with friends or family in person?  I too am guilty but, I try to be aware of it and resist the temptation.

-Best to you and those that you care about!

The Great American Trailer Park Musical

Runway Theatre

trailerparkweb

 

For those of you who are into the theatre and who happen to be in the North Dallas area I have a treat for you.

 

In Grapevine Texas there is a place called the Runway Theatre.

 

http://www.runwaytheatre.com/TheGreatAmericanTrailerParkMusical.php

 

It is called this as it sits on the north end of DFW and frequently the sounds of Jets landing or taking off can be heard during a performance.  This does not take away from the play and most of the time it is not noticeable.

 

The historic area of Grapevine has many shops and places of interest so actually spending more than an evening there can be a good use of your time.  It is very close to DFW so, if you are in town for a day and have some time on your hands a quick cab ride to downtown for food and fun would also work.

 

Grapevine is rife with good restaurants, spending a Friday night or Saturday night in Grapevine is worth consideration.

 

Grapevine hosts a few restaurants which are landmarks.  Esparza’s, which is a great Tex Mex restaurant has a long history of satisfying their guest.

 

http://www.esparzastexas.com/home

 

There are others which I have tried and I will do a better job of talking about them in the future.  The cost varies, some are really overpriced; most are in the ball park of what you would expect.

 

If you are in the mood for something a little more traditional, try Tolbert’s

They boast a good chili and their fish is advertised as coming from Paris, Paris Texas…

 

http://www.tolbertsrestaurant.com/

 

Our usual evening consist of an early dinner with friends somewhere in the area, and then heading over to the theatre about 30 minutes before the curtain to visit with some of the other regulars and staff.   

 

These people go out of their way to make you feel at home.

 

The Great American Trailer Park Musical

Critics love this incredibly irreverent, hilarious musical which gives a whole new loving image of “white trash.” When a new tenant arrives at Armadillo Acres, she wreaks havoc all over Florida’s “most exclusive” trailer park. The bonds of friendship are sometimes closer than the bonds of family. When Pippi, the stripper on the run, comes between the Dr. Phil-loving, agoraphobic Jeannie and her tollbooth collector husband, the storms begin to brew, and hilarity ensues. 

Rated R *

 

Other than some language and suggestive situations, the show hardly should be rated R.  I would rate it PG 13.  I don’t know any teenager who has not heard those words but again, your mileage may very. Having said that, it is a laugh a minute and the cast and crew did an excellent job.  These are people that I would like to get to know... Some plays that you go to, you are looking at your watch wondering when it will be overI have been there and so have you.  This was over too soon for me.  One of the friends that went with us who admitted to not liking musicals, wanted to come back and see it again.  That to me was a breakthrough in and of it-self as if one musical can touch someone; maybe that will be open to others.  This was not Rogers and Hammerstein.  There was actually a live band for this performance which sincerely added to the quality of the play.

 

It is not unusual for the cast to come into the seats and involve the audience; so if you feel like being a possible bit player, sit on the isle and take your chances.  You never know if you will be involved in some small way.

 

One thing of note: this is an all volunteer production.  If you have time and would like to get involved, you can do anything from make popcorn to act, you have but to show an interest.

Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her. But once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.

Voltaire

 

*Taken from their web site.

Garage Sale, Antique Mall or eBay?

I have always looked at the Garage Sale as a method of cleaning the house and not just throwing it away.  You know how you collect things over the years and suddenly you can’t find what you are looking for because all of the other “stuff “is in the way. 

 Treasures quickly turn into clutter and before you know it, they are making a TV show about you.

 All it takes is the loss of a loved one to quickly turn your well organized home into a place that the “pickers” would like to visit!  I get it, it is hard to go through a loved ones stuff and get rid of it.  That stuff is “part of them” and getting rid of something that they once cherished, or had; for one reason or another seems like treason or blasphemy.

The Antique Malls are full of these types of things.  You can be looking around the bins and shelves of “stuff” until you come across a box of pictures that were once treasured family air looms of a sort, sitting in a box waiting for someone to think they recognize them and bring them home.

The Antique Malls or resale shops are such places where stuff has accumulated, waiting to be recycled, re-purposed or thrown into the dumpster

 

eBay is the ultimate place for “stuff.”  There you will find anything and everything. If you should decide to become a seller, your audience will be into the millions of perspective buyers.

eBay has caused some confusion in this area and I wish to clear this up for a few folks.

The reason eBay works is that you have a world wide audience.  Whatever you place on there, the odds are good someone will want it.  If the price is right, it will sell quickly.

 

The eBay Conundrum.

 

While eBay is a great place to buy and sell, it can be a source of miss-information for those of us who sell at garage sales and of course Antique Malls or Flea Markets.

 I have found more and more people looking on eBay, researching what they have and then pricing it accordingly.  On eBay that is ok because, that is where your market is.

If you look on eBay and see that your widget sold for $40, and you price yours at that price in an Antique Mall or Flea Market of Garage sale, guess what, you probably won’t sell it.

What will the market bear?

I recently spent a day in the sleepy little town of Gladewater Texas.  The town appears to have little industry to speak of.  Not knowing much about the town, I would guess that tourism is a big deal for them.  They are known as the “Antique Capital of Texas.”  I did not know this before I stopped by. 

My trip through their town was only slightly deliberate as I had business in East Texas so instead of traveling out on I20, I decided to take the less traveled and slower route out Hwy80, which cuts through many small towns.

First let me say that the down side of this is that there are several stop signs, traffic lights and slower traffic to deal with and, the speed goes from as high as 70 to as low as 30.The local constabularies are sitting behind the 30mph with the radar working so, watch out for that.

The upside is that most of the small towns have lots of charm and worth a visit.  I found antique stores in most of the little towns.  It would appear that a lot of them are mom and pop stores and are trying to make a living by selling stuff.  These stores are places that were once some sort of industry or store, which the big box stores put out of business.

The rub is that many folks price their stuff too high.  They have gone on eBay or some other place and found what top dollar is, and ask it.

In each of these scenarios, the antique mall, Flea Market and of course eBay; who makes the money?  The proprietors of the establishments make the money.  Both the Antique Mall and the Flea market make money if your stuff sells or not.  The same is somewhat true of eBay, as they make money when you list, but they also get a percentage when you sell.

If you are a seller in one of the first two places you need to price the stuff so it will sell.  If you price it too high what you are doing, is this.  You are providing the inventory for the “store” which gives the customers something to look at and a reason to visit.  You are paying a monthly fee to “ market or display” your stuff there and in fact you may very well just be giving your stuff to the store owner, as you may not even sell enough to account for what one months rent is.

When a customer comes in and sees something at your “booth” it should be clearly labeled and priced for what the traffic will bear, and not what eBay buyers are paying.  You must move inventory to make a go at flea markets, of antique stores.  I would try and negotiate a variable rate for the “off season.”

Your stuff should not look cluttered and should be clearly visible.  You should visit your booth and “freshen” it up weekly.  Move stuff around, keep your items that you want to sell the most at eye-level.  Stuff on the ground or too high will be missed by a large percentage of the customers.

If you really think you have some treasure, than put it on eBay where you have a much larger customer base.

I am much too lazy to do any of this, so my hats off to you for doing it.  I take the clutter to some charity where they will unload it and give me a receipt for it, which I than save for the accountant.

Why is eBay so successful?

eBay has worked long and hard at making it easy for you to buy and sell stuff.  Unlike the Antique Mall or Flea Market you can shop in your pajamas, in the comfort of your own home, and sort by category, price and condition with little or no effort.

The Apps that they have created make is incredibly easy to buy and sell on your smart phone!

Those of us who make the effort to come to your garage sale, or drive to places like Gladewater, should be rewarded for the effort by finding trinkets and things at reasonable prices. 

I do a lot of research on particular items and I am here to tell you that some of the prices I found this weekend were higher there, than on eBay!

Economics people, like it, learn it and live it!

No blog mentioning Gladewater would be complete without mentioning the Fork!

The fork is a little restaurant close to downtown.  The Waitress, a lady by the name of Katrina was jovial, pleasant and made the visit much more satisfactory.   The food was better than I expected, which is saying something, because I am picky when it comes to food.

I am not sure how they stay in business, because the prices were “very reasonable!”  

I would also like to mention that the curators of these shops were great at what they do, and made me feel like I was at home.  There is charm in East Texas. These towns are an easy drive from Dallas or Forth Worth. 

I would like to hear about your “antiquing “experiences.  Are you too finding eBay has had some effect on things that you normally sell or buy?

 

Happy Antiquing and enjoy your trip through memory lane. 

Bugged

I love chocolate; well to be fair, I love just about anything that is sweet and purports to be candy of some sort.  Like all the years before; I buy extra Halloween candy (the good stuff) and probably like most families, dig into it before the holiday.

The mini candy bars are my favorite for a number of reasons, but the main reason is that most of the time you really want to satiate the desire for the candy but not fill up on it.  Portion control is paramount for weight control, not to mention blood glucose levels; which is a topic for a different blog. The bite size goodness of Snickers or Butter Finger or that ever popular “Mounds Bar,” do the trick quite nicely.

After this particular holiday passed, in order to assist with my families desire to keep the sugar out of site, I put it into a Tupperware container and tucked it away where only I know where it was.  “Don’t Look behind the books that are not dusty…

Making my way through Christmas, Valentines and of course Easter (my favorite candy holidays) I went in search for that treasure trove of chocolate goodness from October 2012.

With my taste buds all primed for that peanut butter crunchy stuff covered with chocolate, opening the container and grabbing one of the Butterfinger bars I noticed something on it which looked like the remains of what used to be a creature of some sort.

Dumping the entire contents of the Tupperware out I noticed that there were several holes in the packages and lots of evidence of some happy bugs.  The candy which I was looking forward to made its way into to the bin, and I was left to wonder, how those creatures got inside that sealed Tupperware?

As it turns out; I bought them as part of the package.

According to ABC News, the average chocolate bar contains eight insect parts. Anything less than 60 insect pieces per 100 grams of chocolate (two chocolate bars’ worth) is deemed safe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration.  My guess is that eggs are considered part of the formula for “bug parts.”

Aside from chocolate, cockroach parts also make their way into peanut butter, macaroni, fruit, cheese, popcorn and wheat. The roach bits can affect people with asthma, as well causing migraines, cramps, itching or hives in people who are allergic to them.  Some people think that they are allergic to chocolate when indeed they are allergic to cockroach…

The prevailing wisdom is, in order to produce food without bug parts would necessitate more pesticides, which would be more harmful than eating ….BUGS….

If I had to offer my 2 cents worth, I am guessing that it is more of a financial burden than a worry about pesticides but, that is just my cynical self thinking out loud. They really need to kill anything in the food; and that could be done with radiation or some other process that would not harm the food, just the living bugs and or eggs.  While I would rather eat a bug than pesticides, I think that someone really needs to complain to the FDA and make a “federal case out of this” (no pun intended.)  This good old’ boy mentality of paying people under the table to do things on the cheap, or look the other way, really needs to stop.

Anyone who has not discovered a worm in an apple or peach (well, half a worm) is deprived of the gut wrenching decision whether to stick a finger down their throat or just role with it.  I have been in the finest of restaurants and noticed that acrid taste (more than once) of some sort of bug in my salad (well mouth.)  Chew, swallow without making a face, swish some wine down quickly and move on to the next dish.

In order to eat something without bug parts or bugs, one would just about not be able to eat.  At least with food that you prepare, you can cook the hell out of it so anything that made it past your watchful eye is at least dead!

The dilemma is this, being a huge fan of Chocolate; do I forget the bug parts and just continue on, or do I swear off of the one candy that really makes me happy…really happy…

I would think that the different chocolate companies could rake up if they could find a way to keep bug parts out of their product.  One final thought, who counts the bug parts in each chocolate bar to make sure that they are in “tolerance?”

Image

-Best to you and those that you care about!

Grapevine Texas and Dining

Dining In North Texas

They claim to have invented the Margarita….

If you are close to Grapevine Texas; this is a must try..  http://www.esparzastexas.com/

I first went to this place when they were operating out of a small wood frame house that had been retrofitted as a restaurant.  It was a favorite escape from work to eat here and catch a flavor of Tex Mex that is head and shoulders above the rest.

Every time I go, the food just seems to get better.  The wait staff is friendly and courteous and the food is always served at the correct temperature; and just like you expect it.

When you go, pay attention to the architecture for just a moment.  You will notice that by design there is probably not one square angle in the place.  The floor is not quite level and I don’t think the walls are exactly at 90 degrees either.  This all adds to the charm.

Over the years the place has grown in size and popularity.  I generally make a night of it when I go to the Runway Theatre also in Grapevine http://www.runwaytheatre.com/ .

There are lots of things to see and do in this town which has also grown by leaps and bounds over the last 20 years or so.  As it is so close to DFW one could actually spend some time here between flights! Check out the visitor’s information.  https://www.grapevinetexasusa.com/Default.aspx

If you are in need of other information, send a comment.  I have lived in the area for a very long time.  –Best to you and those that you care about!

Dining in North Texas

Dining in North Texas

It is no surprise to anyone that knows me; I enjoy eating out.

Today I wanted to talk about a Mexican Restaurant that I take clients to often called 7Salsas. http://www.7salsas.com

Today I took a client there early; as to get in and avoid the usual rush.  After parking and walking up to the door we discovered that the place was closed.  Somehow or other the city damaged a water line feeding the row of restaurants and shops thus putting them out of business, on Valentines day.

The lady that greeted us quickly explained the issue and handed us three discount tickets for their sister restaurant, Salsas Mexican Grill.  Upon arriving there, the parking lot was pretty much filled to capacity and I was afraid of a wait.  We made our way through the line to learn that you place and pay for your order, get your own drink and have a seat.

I typically avoid places like this for several reasons.  When I am taking a client out to eat I don’t want them “fending for themselves.” This was not much better than a fast food place.  With food prices being what they are, this food should come with a smile and lots of service.  I over tip, but I expect good service.  If you simply want to grab a quick lunch and get back to the office; than this place might work out for you.  The place was crowded, the isles were narrow and instructions as to what to do were lacking.  I had to ask as I thought that maybe we were in the takeout line.

I wish that I could rave about the food; I can not.  I have had Mexican TV dinners that had more flavor.  The chips were not warm, and when the food was delivered it was cool around the edges and barely warm in the middle.  In stark contrast to 7

Salsas which I would give a strong 8 out of ten; I would give this place a 3.

To their credit they were trying to recover from an unfortunate turn of events and very possibly on a normal day their food might have been better.  They made good on the coupons and tried to make up for the inconvenience, the food was not impressive.  We all ordered the special of the day which I thought would make it simpler, perhaps it was too simple.

Look for more reviews, as I am either impressed or stressed about dining places and other places that I try in the area.  –Best to you and those that you care about!