I made three predictions last year, and two were correct: Steve Ballmer is a big part of the problem at Microsoft so he is resigning, and the Obamacare website remains the favorite to win “all time IT screw up”. I was however mostly wrong about Xbox One, which I thought would have to change their requirements for sharing, drop their price, and that it wouldn’t sell well--it sold out at full price. So, since “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”, I took the opportunity to end 2014 with some practical advice and predictions for the New Year:
1. Never sign up for auto renew online. Trying to stop the process takes more time and trouble than it’s worth, and even if your credit card expires, there is now software that will find out the new expiration date and enable your expired card to be continually billed, “not interrupting service” or more importantly for these companies, “not interrupting their billing stream”. Plus, there’s no worry the company will forget to remind you over and over to renew. In fact, you might get a better deal.
Sick of those annoying video advertisements every time you click to watch a video? Here’s a very easy way to get rid of them. It’s a cinch, and just takes one click.
On Google Chrome and Firefox there is a video ad blocker called “Ad Block Plus” that can be activated by going to ‘tools’ and then ‘extensions’ and clicking ‘enable’. This works great to skip those annoying ads that run whenever you try to watch a video on YouTube or Facebook, or the South Park video mentioned in this issue’s story about Blockbuster. Usually the video ads are simply skipped although sometimes you have to watch a blank screen for the length of the video ad, which I prefer to the ad itself. I’m not sure why Google has this feature available given that they own YouTube and sell ads, but I guess they figure that 99.9% of the people don’t know about it.
The Silk Road website is apparently back in business, thanks to the FBI as a trap or the original entrepreneurs minus the founder
Remember how in high school you learned about European merchants trading with China and the Middle East during the latter part of the Middle Ages? Merchants from Italian city-states such as Venice, including their most famous world traveler, Marco Polo, braved incredible hardships for years. Marco certainly put today’s ‘road warriors’ to shame—he was on the road for 24 years straight, allegedly to bring back ‘spices’ to be sold back home in Europe, with his goal to become rich.
Spices??? Merchants traveled for years just to bring back spices and silks from Asia? I doubt it. I’d be willing to bet that these intrepid explorers showed up with more than just salt, pepper and paprika stashed in their travel bags, after risking their life every day for years.Most likely they also returned home loaded up with opium, for which European royalty would have paid handsomely.
Oysters are one of my favorite foods—they're good for you, light and refreshing, and go great with a craft beer. I usually have them on the half shell at least once or twice a week, but sometimes I get ambitious and make “Oysters Rockefeller”. The below recipe was first published in 2009 when we were publishing Community Vine, an online local news magazine, and it’s something of an Internet ‘hit’, with about 5,000 reads. I have to say—I’ve had Oysters Rockefeller at some of the top restaurants in NYC and Boston, and I like my recipe the best…it’s quick and easy and most importantly, tastes great. All the recipe quantities are approximations—you can vary the ratios to suit your preferences.
If you don’t know how to shuck oysters, or where to get them, here are some helpful hints:
Although not yet technically bankrupt a second time, Blockbuster is shutting all it's remaining stores
The biggest surprise for me when I heard Blockbuster was shutting the last of its stores was that there are still Blockbuster stores open, and even more amazingly, that some knuckleheads (Dish Network) actually paid $234,000,000 for Blockbuster as recently as April 2011, when it emerged from its first bankruptcy and still had 1700 stores. It’s down to about 300 stores now and cratering to zero by early 2014. Although Dish Network is putting the best face possible on what is obviously a financial debacle, no one, particularly industry analysts, is buying their statement that "Despite our closing of the physical distribution elements of the business, we continue to see value in the Blockbuster brand, and we expect to leverage that brand as we continue to expand our digital offerings.” The analysts’ consensus is that the brand has little if any value, and if they’d been able to expand their digital offerings, they’d have already done so. Vudu, Netflix and Hulu have much larger selections of movies, while Blockbuster on Demand, offered on the Dish Network, often doesn’t even have HD versions of the few movies that are available.
There is an old joke about a wise man from a primitive tribe telling the youth of the village about the universe. “The whole world sits at the center of the universe, resting upon the back of a giant turtle,” he says to his class of rapt listeners.
Unfortunately there is one particularly inquisitive child in the audience. This young child thinks a bit, and then asks earnestly, “but wise man, upon what does that turtle sit? What keeps that turtle from falling?”
The wise man is startled, as no one has asked such as question before. He strokes his beard, thinks a bit, and then replies, “Why my child, of course the turtle sits upon the back of another turtle.”