Over the top

Breakneck Creek in October

As I sat down to write up my post today, I discovered a draft of a post called “Notes from the woods.”  There were no words.  Just images.  The photos were taken back in October when there was still quite a bit of color in the woods.  I thought about trashing the post, but the photos insisted on having their day, and the woods were just too pretty to say no to them.

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Earth’s eye

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden, “The Ponds” (1854)

If you live in northeast Ohio and you’re a fan of Quail Hollow State Park, please read on.

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Super Tuesday

The title for today’s post might lead to some disappointment if you’re here about things of a specific political nature.  I have one brief, general thing to say about politics and then I’m moving on.

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217: Sometimes she roars

(Apple blossom.)

Mother Nature roared through here beginning around 2:00 this morning.  Literally roared.  And howled, moaned, screeched, and an assortment of other noises.  The news reports are that we had sustained winds of 30-40 mph, with gusts up to 69 mph (close to hurricane force).  Right now our winds are around 22 mph with gusts up to 41 mph.

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95: Sunday Signage

(Sign in front of the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland.)

Great sign.  What I was unable to capture in the same photo was the snow sitting on the canopy.  There is a lot of that around here.  We have several of those heavy ice and snow overhangs around the outside of the house.  It’s best not to stand under them.


At approximately 10:30 this morning my computer was hijacked by a malware program called System Tool 2011.  I don’t know where I picked it up but do know M picked it up on his laptop around the same time.  He caught it by running an anti-virus program, the same one I have that should have caught it before it hijacked my computer.  I am not a happy camper about that (or any of it, for that matter).   The malware takes over the computer with a message that your computer is filled with viruses and spyware, and the only way to fix this (of course) is to buy their program.  It’s a scam, of course, but someone not very computer savy might not realize it.  I was unable to run anything else while System Tool had control of my computer.  Fortunately M was able to use his laptop to find out how to get rid it.  It’s easy enough, but not so easy if you are unable to access the internet.

If you haven’t run an anti-virus, anti-spyware scan lately, you might want to do that.  It seems you can’t depend on it to stop this sort of thing before it happens even if the program you’re using has it included in their list of virus definitions.

While M was working on deleting the malware, I ran through a mental list of where I had been on the computer this morning.  I’m not sure it matters as I don’t know where I picked up the Trojan.  I was visiting TripAdvisor.com when my computer was taken over.  However, I can’t say for sure (or even as a guess) that I picked it up there.

Running down that list got me to thinking about how much time I waste doing silly things on the computer.  That time could be put to much better use so I’ve decided to give up the games I play.  Facebook and Twitter might be next on the list of things I need to relinguish.  We’ll see.

Today’s Walk

It is windy, cold, and snowing.  (No surprises there, eh?)  I’m not sure what the ultimate accumulation is expected to be.  I’m not sure it matter except that M and I are crossing the border into Pennsylvania this evening for our annual wingfest meet-up with friends at Quaker Steak & Lube.  Our friends live in California and have family in Pennsylvania.  We meet up with them every year around this time for an unhealthy (and fun) feast of fried and heavily sauced chicken wings.

(Today’s view of the pond.)

It is incredibly stark and white outside.  Finding color is difficult.  During my walk around the pond and into the woods I almost felt as though I’d stepped into a black and white world.

(A spot of color on the ground.)

My body is sore from the past three days of cross-country skiing.  That’s why I opted to walk instead of ski today.  Most of the soreness seems to be from that first fall.  Hopefully it will work itself out soon.

(Today’s view of the creek.)


There’s no such thing as a free lunch

Or dinner, as the case may be.

Back in June, while visiting Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, I wrote a post about The Anvil Restaurant. It was not a good review as our experience wasn’t particularly good.

So it goes. Right?

Wrong. That particular post would have faded into obscurity (it had not been getting many hits) had it been left alone.

Yesterday someone stopped by and left this comment on that post. I’ll go ahead and insert it here via the magic of copy/paste, saving you the trouble of clicking on the link.

kay turner

I don’t quite understand the problems that you have mentioned. I have been going to The Anvil for over 20 years and the food and service is always good. As every place can have their problems from time to time, I have been there when they were unstaffed and still had reasonable service and always good food and plenty of it. It is family owned and operated and I take offense to anyone saying not to eat there! After 23 years in business, they must be doing something right!
It sounds like you want something for nothing and if you complain, it is free is the new thing! Bash someone and get it free!
Shame on you for bashing them after you got the meal for free!

I responded, perhaps not as nicely as I could have. I was offended by the implications, something I’ll get to in a bit. I feel no shame in having stated my opinion about our experience that night. I do wonder, however, if Kay really read the whole post or just skimmed through it. I also wonder why someone should refrain from giving a bad review just because a meal was comped. No explanations or apologies were offered at the time. We didn’t even know the meal was comped until after a long period of waiting for someone, anyone, to come back to the table. That someone turned out to be our waiter with the check. He offered no explanations or apologies, either, but I’m not sure he knew what was going on since we didn’t complain to him but asked to speak with a manager.

Then it occurred to me that this would make an excellent post for today as it fits right in with the NaBloPoMo food theme. Thinking about the post I would write, I decided to check the reviews on TripAdvisor. M and I had checked the reviews AFTER we had dinner at The Anvil. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gone there for dinner that night.

Imagine my surprise when I found a response from the management on the first bad review and the name is “Kaybab the owner.”

Interesting coincidence, don’t you think? Two Kays in one day? With similar writing styles?

Anything is possible, I suppose.

I thought the Kay Turner who left a response on my blog might be a local who might know the owner or owners or some of the staff. It would stand to reason that a regular customer or someone who has a link to the owner or staff would have good experiences and more than likely get better treatment. That’s cool. That’s what friends are for. The differences in our food experiences can be accounted for by taste. That’s cool, too. We don’t all have the same tastes in food (or anything), and that’s a good thing.

But that doesn’t negate the experience M and I had.

The problem, as I see it, is that both Kays (if there are, in fact, two Kays) missed the point. In my case, the point was that the service was poor. I pointed out in that post, at least twice, that M and I were not looking for a free meal. We asked to speak with the manager thinking they might want to know that the dish was not as described, and that it might be possible the chef used the wrong broth. If it had been a case of our tastes not matching the chef’s dish, well, so be it. It happens. We don’t expect a free meal just because our tastes differ or because we tried something new and didn’t like it.

We were looking for good customer service, something that has been quickly declining over the past decade or so. We wanted some kind of acknowledgment of our experience, be it an explanation or an apology or both.

There’s a saying that the customer is always right. Having worked in the service industry, I know better. The customer is not always right. Good business practice says to suck it up anyhow so the customer won’t go off and complain to everyone they know. I don’t necessarily agree with this either, but can see why some businesses go this route.

I know there are people who complain just for the sake of complaining. It’s their thing or they’re only happy when they’re stirring up trouble. I know there are people who are less than scrupulous who complain not because they have a legitimate complaint but because they know they’re likely to be rewarded with something free.

Someone who is good at business, and has been at it for a while, should probably be able to read people well enough to tell the difference between a real complaint, and one that’s made for other reasons be it just for the sake of complaining or to try to get something for nothing other than being obnoxious.

I was offended at Kay Turner’s implication that M and are I either of those types, particularly the last. We rarely complain about meals at restaurants. When you eat at an unknown place, without benefit of reviews from people you trust or who have tastes similar to yours, then you take your chances. The same is true if you try something new. You may or may not like it.

I’ve had one other free meal from a restaurant. It was a high-end restaurant where the wait staff were courteous, friendly, and trained to be there when you need them. I had ordered a flat iron steak, not having had one before. I didn’t like it. There was nothing wrong with the steak. It was prepared beautifully, with a wonderful sauce, cooked as I had ordered it. But, as will happen, it turns out flat iron steak doesn’t suit my palate. The waitress noticed I wasn’t eating my steak. She came back with the owner/chef who asked if I was unhappy with it. I insisted that the steak was fine, but that it turned out to be something I just didn’t like. The owner/chef insisted on making me something else, even after I refused several times. He insisted, he said, because he wanted our experience in his restaurant to be a good one. A short while later I had a nicely cooked and seasoned salmon fillet, and we weren’t charged for the steak even though the chef boxed it up for us to take home so M could have it for breakfast the next morning.

THAT is good customer service. Well above and beyond my expectations, that’s for sure. I would go back to that restaurant, whereas I will never go back to The Anvil. Not willingly, at any rate.

Even the major corporations are trying to practice better customer relations. I recently saw a story on the news about how some of the big companies are monitoring Twitter for complaints so they can rectify the situation before too many people decide not to utilize a particular company because they’ve heard so many bad things about them. Twitter is good for spreading the news, good or bad, and big companies such as Kodak and Comcast are aware of that fact.

That’s the funny thing about my review. I wrote it here, at my little blog that barely gets more than about 50-60 hits a day. I could have written a review at TripAdvisor. I’m registered and have written reviews there in the past. Good reviews. I don’t really like writing bad reviews as I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt in most cases. But treat me badly, and I’ll write it.

So, yeah, Kay. I dared to complain even after getting the free meal, because it wasn’t about the meal. It wasn’t even about the staff. It was about the management, and the way we were treated. I’m glad I found that response from the management at TripAdvisor. It appears to make my point for me — that the management doesn’t care. But that’s just my view. Your view may vary.


On Saturday (21 July), M and I went to lovely (ugh!) Camden, New Jersey for the XPN-Festival.

The weather was fairly decent. Sunny, warm, but without the soupy humidity that settles around this area in the summer months. Sitting in the sun for most of the late afternoon made us appreciate the cooling of the evening that much more once the sun set.

The XPN-Festival is a 4-day musical event sponsored by a local radio station (WXPN). It’s held in Wiggins Park on the Camden Waterfront. They have two stages set up as well as numerous vendors selling beer, food, other drinks, and a wide range of stuff (t-shirts, jewelry, etc.).

The directions to Wiggins Park provided by the XPN website were not very good. They got us to Camden, but didn’t lead us to Wiggins Park or the Waterfront area. This resulted in us taking a small and unwanted tour of Camden. I’m fairly well convinced that Camden is one big, bad neighborhood, but I could be wrong. The areas we found ourselves in made us both uncomfortable and it was good to find our way back on a main road and headed in the right direction.

The acts we heard/saw were great. Ryan Shaw was awesome. Good energy, great music, and I had the added advantage of being familiar with his music since we own his latest CD, This Is Ryan Shaw. I highly recommended it if you like R&B.

I also enjoyed Los Lonely Boys. I’ve only heard one of their songs prior to this concert so I wasn’t as familiar with them. Their music is pretty diverse, combining Latin sounds with soul, blues, and Texas-style rock ‘n roll.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals were the last act on the main stage. They’re best described as a blues-rock band. Grace Potter’s voice is a little like Janis Joplin and a little like Bonnie Raitt, but not enough to be anything other than her own style and sound.

The big excitement of the evening didn’t happen on the stage. Some crackhead, being chased by the police, drove into Wiggins Park.

M had gone in search of dinner for us. All the food vendors were located in one area. We had agreed on cheesesteaks. Our cheesesteak and hoagie time grows shorter and shorter. We indulge when and where we can now. (No doubt gaining weight in the process.)

The first time M went in search of food (leaving me behind to save our prime spot on the lawn by the main stage), it was between acts and the lines were so long that he decided not to wait but to go back later. This is an important detail to take note of, the fact that the lines were long and the food vendor area was massively crowded.

He went back later, while the Los Lonely Boys were playing, to find that the lines had died down considerably. He walked up to the cheesesteak vendor only to be disappointed as he wasn’t serving anymore. I don’t know why. Perhaps he ran out of cheesesteak ingredients. Since our second choice of food was gyros, M went to the gyro vendor.

While M was waiting to order our dinner, the above mentioned crackhead, driving an SUV, came barreling into the park. He smashed into the cheesesteak truck where M had been standing just a moment before. The idiot then smashed into the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream truck, swerved and hit a 10 year old girl who was thrown into a tree, then went barreling down a grassy area that had been coned/cleared out (thank the gods) for the performers’ vehicles to get through so they could bring their instruments down to the stage. He then ran into a truck near the porta-potties which finally stopped him. Had that clearing, with orange cones, not been there, or had there been an act performing on that stage, he might have driven over a lot of people sitting there.

It’s also a damn good thing the lines near the food vendors had decreased considerably. Otherwise, a lot of people could have been hurt in that area.

I saw none of this. I was busy saving our seat on the lawn and listening to the Los Lonely Boys. M came back with the food (amazing! I’d have forgotten about it), all wide-eyed and shaking from having witnessed the entire spectacle. Poor man. He was shaky for most of the rest of the evening.

You can read about the incident here.

It’s a miracle more people didn’t get hurt. It’s also a miracle that M had moved away from the cheesesteak vendor just before the crackhead showed up.

I suppose it’s not fair to call him a crackhead as I don’t know that he is a crackhead. Consider it a term of non-endearment. It’s said that alcohol and drugs were found in the vehicle.

Yet another reason to take those stupid SUV’s off the road. Not that it’s the SUV’s fault. There are too many stupid people driving around in those large, gas-guzzling vehicles. I’ve noticed, too, that a lot of SUV drivers act as though they own the road, without thought of who they might run over (as if putting a person in a large vehicle makes them invulnerable or something).

Didn’t mean to start ranting there. My apologies to any SUV drivers who know what they’re doing when they get behind the wheel.

You may have noticed the lack of photos in this post. I didn’t take my camera along. I sort of wish I had. Whenever we’re going somewhere that involves large crowds, I generally don’t take the camera as I don’t want to have to worry about it getting stolen. The crowd at the XPN Festival was a good crowd, though. Mellow. I don’t think I would have had to worry about the camera.