Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Could I have this without the "user friendly"

My laptop is on the fritz and I was drug, kicking and screaming to Windows 7. Before I subjected my trusty laptop, repository of all knowledge of my life to repair people and an OS upgrade, I decided to backup my data to a DVD "just to be safe." In my day, this was a simple process -- "Backup C: A:" A bit frightening the first time, but... Now it took endless searching and numerous "You are not connected to the Internet" (of course I am not connected, my network adapter is fried) messages before I gave up on backup and just copied essential files to a DVD. When I mentioned this to the nice guy at the computer store, he seemed mystified as to why I would back up to a DVD and not to my second hard drive. I decided he thought these computers were bullet-proof. Then I was at another store looking for an alternative to the built-in wireless adapter. "But your laptop is more than two years old," he said, "surely you just want a new computer." He proceeded to tell me all the dreadful things to expect of my aging laptop. By the time he was done, I had absolutely no idea why the guy at the other place didn't comprehend the need for a complete back up not connected with the physical computer.
Our first computer lived a healthy 6 years. Frankly, we couldn't get a larger hard drive for it and we were finding that 5Mb was not enough for our needs. Our second lasted a similar time before we found we needed a 3.5" drive and there was no way to install one in the box. Its replacement is still in the basement, in case we need anything off the thousands of 3.5" floppies we have carefully stored away.
We live in a throw away society where user-friendly is so user-complicated we have to throw away good hardware because it is too user-friendly to keep it safe and working.
I think all this "user-friendly" stuff applies to far more than computers. I think we have come to depend on others to form our opinions for us instead of putting in the time and energy to form our opinions on facts rather than others' opinions. We saw this a year ago with health care when every fifth email I got was someone telling me what I should think about health care based on what someone told them. When I had the audacity to suggest that what was contained in the emails was less than accurate, the senders were offended, even when I gave them specific lines in the actual legislation so they would have complete information. Now we have people telling us that our current President got us into Afghanistan and people believe it despite that we were all alive to know that the President when we entered Afghanistan was George W. Bush and that the President in office when were sidetracked from Afghanistan to Iraq was named George W. Bush.
I can't even begin to understand those who, despite all the assurances from officials (including Republicans) in Hawaii that our President was born there, persist in believing someone who told them he was born in Kenya.
We've come so much to rely on "user-friendly" that we accept misinformation, mistaken information and pure lies rather than rely on our own resources, brains and (yipes) facts. We live in a time when it is too difficult to type "backup C: A:" and rely on some company which may have taken away our ability to backup our own data where we want to backup our data. At the risk of being called a Luddite (look it up, I am not going to be user-friendly with you), I think it is time we take back a bit of control over our information flow.

Monday, August 23, 2010

El Diablo

We're not trendsetters. We are decidedly not trendsetters. Normally, no matter how appealing the press, we wait a year or so for the crowd to thin out before we visit a restaurant. There are restaurants at the local mall that have been appealing to us since they first opened and I think that was more than a year ago. So what, pray tell, led us to a brand-new, just opened the day before restaurant?
We're planning a vacation in Mexico and there was this article about a new restaurant that offered high-end Mexican food and, most importantly, OpenTable found us a reservation time that worked for us.
So now you have the long story of how two old fogeys found themselves at El Diablo, 101 Broadway, Denver on it's second evening of official opening.
My advice, don't go unless you have time and don't expect to carry on a conversation. As is the current trend, the acoustics are lively and the room is noisy. At the risk of sounding even more old fogey than I already have, I am not a fan of noisy restaurants. As for needing a lot of time, the menu offers a lot of choices, even when the Tortas and Combinaciones sections are not available as was the case on Saturday. The kitchen is small. If you take this to the logical conclusion, it takes at least half an hour to get your meal. Were the room less noisy, one could enjoy a conversation with one's dining companion and the time would fly by. In a loud room, one can only look at the interesting decor and wish the headache would go away...
The drinks are served quickly. My fellow old fogey ordered the O.G which is described as their original house margarita, made with 30/30 reposado and triple sec. All margaritas are made with fresh squeezed lime juice. The drink had a bit twinge of unpleasant aftertaste, maybe the result of not-so-great limes or something.I went for the Especial, described as a coin style made with Gran Centenario Plata, Agave nectar and fresh lime juice. It was smaller, stronger and avoided the odd taste we both found in the O.G. Of course, by the time our food arrived, I had nursed my drink for far too long and the melted ice gave the drink a water-down tone.Still, I would order this drink again. One of the interesting things about the tequilas at El Diablo is that they are from small taquerias (I think I spelled that correctly) that do use only the best ingredients and do not sell in liquor stores. Also, El Diablo freely allows the customer to specify any tequila in any drink at no extra charge. The priciest of the margaritas is just $9.50, a very reasonable price in my experience.
When our meals finally arrived, they were tasty. Robert's Pecho de res, described as all day roasted organic beef brisket with chile cascabel, frijoles charros and cilantro rice, featured fork-tender brisket on a bed of rice (we didn't notice cilantro in the rice) with some beans and a couple of tortillas. There was a bit of annoying fat on the brisket which I know is typical of the cut, but it would have been nice to have had it trimmed before serving.I had nice guacamole tostadas, described as crisp corn tortillas with frijoles negros, guacamole, quesco fresco, "El Diablo" salsa, rice and frijoles negros. I think the frijoles negros must be listed twice because they appear in the tostadas as well as on the side. The rice was, I suspect, a casualty of the busy small kitchen rushing too fast and too new to the large menu to remember everything that is supposed to be on the plate.
I loved the freshness of the guacamole and the crisp tortillas, but the guacamole was piled high on the tostada and it was almost too much of a good thing to have two identical tostadas. It might have been nice to have a different flavor to the second tostada for more variety or just one tostada with the promised rice.
We split a dessert of Tres Flanes, which were actually creme brule, not flan. Each little cup held a treasure of flavor, the Mexican vanilla being the favorite of both of us. I expected that Robert would prefer the Abuelita chocolate, but it was more a nice chocolate pudding than either of us expected. A more intense chocolate, perhaps with the intensifying quality of certain chiles, would have been better. The third dish described as Horchata and translated by our waiter as a much loved drink of milk and rice, was a nice dessert. I like the idea of three choices, but each needs to have more intensity. The Horchata and the vanilla were rather similar and it might be nice to switch out one of them for a tropical fruit flavor like mango, but only if it had an intensity to stand as unique among them.
We will return in a few weeks to see how things sort out in this new restaurant, to see if the menu doubles in size as our waiter promised (and I hope it doesn't until the kitchen can handle what it has right now), and to see if the chefs make the necessary tweaks so the food lives up to its potential.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Amazing Deceptions

I just watched the You Tube video of Wendell Potter discussing his new book, out this fall, Deadly Spin. This former insurance industry spokesperson outlines in great details the techniques the industry uses to appear to be supporting reform while underwriting "grassroots" or "business people" shadow groups to undermine the same reforms. While I probably knew, deep inside, from my own years in public relations that a lot of this goes on, it turned my stomach to hear his description of something so detrimental to so many people in this country.
It makes me wonder how many other shadow groups operate in politics. Certainly we see less sophisticated and hidden efforts when Republicans are involved in crafting legislation they know they will vote against. At least they can't use a shadow group to vote...
We've seen something like this here in Colorado when the Romanoff campaign used someone to secretly shop a negative story about Bennett to national media. They may succeed in defeating Bennett in the primary. In the end, their opponents may publicize such under-handed techniques to the detriment of Romanoff. The end result? The people of Colorado lose! It happens all too often in politics. Good candidates knock each other out of the ultimate race with dirty tactics and negative advertising.
I was raised to be honest. My faith leads me to seek justice and truth. Everything in me seeks a way to help good people triumph over evil. Yet I am at a loss to see a way to overcome the evil that runs so deeply throughout the layers of society where real change can happen.