Category: General

Oldest Concrete Street in America

I noticed an article in the Dispatch about debate on what to do with an historic landmark in my old hometown of Bellefontaine, Ohio. Apparently it is the old debate on what to do post-restoration: use it as a street, or close it and memorialize it.

I had forgotten that Court Avenue, in downtown Bellefontaine, is the oldest concrete street in America. This and the highest point in Ohio are part of the town’s legacy.

The tone of the article suggests that this issue is of such importance that it is splitting the community apart. My sense is that the larger issue affecting the community is the debate on wind turbines which may or may not be coming to the area.

Hartzler’s Dairy: Too Good For Cereal Duty

I decided to splurge and buy a bottle of Hartzler’s skim milk for making latte’s with. Why Hartzler’s? I remember hearing the producer of the Curt Boster radio show, ‘Young Daniel’ rave about it a few years back. That show is now gone, but the thought has lingered in my mind. Since a majority of the fluid volume of a cafe latte is milk, not espresso, I figured why not tweak the milk variable?

I steamed my first pitcher of it shortly after getting back from the store to make some latte’s for Rebecca and I. The microfoam was far better than any milk I have used before. I snuck a taste sample of the milk prior to combining with espresso. I immediately could tell the difference. Miles apart from the stuff in the plastic jug or even that Horizon Organic crap in the cardboard box. This is hands down the best milk I have tasted — or at least as I remember.

I grew up close to neighbors who had dairy cattle and on occasion I would spend the night at their house. I recall having fresh non-pasteurized, non-homogenized whole milk served at breakfast, which at the time was strange to my senses. I didn’t like it at the time, but I suppose it was actually better than Hartzler’s.

If you want to know why the milk is so good, you can read a bit about it at Hartzler Family Dairy. A key factor for me in addition to the production quality is that it is produced in Wooster, which is relatively close to Columbus.

There is a bit of sticker shock on this product. A half gallon of skim cost ~$4.50. However, $1.50 is a refundable deposit on the glass bottle which you get back upon returning to the store. I don’t drink a lot of milk at all. In fact, I usually only use milk in coffee or espresso based beverages, so to me this isn’t a huge barrier at all.

Full Service Only

Some time ago, I was in the Portland, Oregon area on a business trip with a few colleagues. As part of the usual drill of filling the rental car with gas prior to returning it, we discovered that Oregon is a Full Service Only gas state, meaning you can’t pump your own gas.

But what is the reasoning for this?

Found in Oregon Revised Statutes 480.315

You can read the details, but you’ll find arguments related to safety, jobs, etc. New Jersey also has a similar ban.

Was there some tragic event that caused these laws to be enacted? I recall that scene in Zoolander where the models are playing with the gasoline pumps and wonder if something like that really ever happened to prompt such legislation.

From what I can gather, the bans on self-service were designed to prevent smaller service stations from going out of business. Larger self-service chains with convenience stores were disruptive to the service station market and thus the bans came in to protect businesses. The safety claims seem to be thrown in for good measure. 23 states had such bans as late as 1968. Even today, you’ll find a city or two that bans the practice within its jurisdiction, presumably holding ground after the bans were repealed.

If anyone has more history, please pass along. I am intrigued by this.

Netflix Ready?

Netflix announced the first Netflix Ready device today. You may remember I recently bought an Apple TV and love it, so I am sold on movies/TV over IP.

The Roku box, at 99 bucks, seems a decent entry point for many consumers. But what this does, is basically allow you to do the whole Netflix Now thing on your TV without going through your browser. I have enjoyed my Netflix subscription, and while I like this idea, I am really not sold on the device yet. I am skeptical how it will work without having storage for the average consumer — even just for buffering, not long term storage. If anyone wants to send me a Roku to review, I promise to deliver an honest review.

Many stories I have read today indicate this will kill the Apple TV, but anyone who has used one will immediately see the things missing from the Roku to even be on the same playing field. Those who haven’t used the Apple TV might not be the wiser and below are my initial thoughts. In full disclosure, I am still bitter that Netflix hasn’t allowed Mac users to use the Netflix Now feature.

Missing from Roku’s Netflix Ready device which are on Apple TV :

  • Listening to my music collection, seamlessly. I have heard the ‘lessons’ learned of this complexity in earlier Roku products. Complexity is not a problem with iTunes/Apple TV.
  • Viewing YouTube Videos on demand
  • Purchasing TV shows that have just aired
  • Viewing my Photos
  • Downloading Video Podcasts on Demand

Missing from Netflix Ready in general:

  • HD movies. That’s kind of a big miss.
  • Most of the Netflix Collection. Only 10% is available in Watch Now. Go look at your account if you have one. I couldn’t find a single recent movie hit in the top 50 or recently added section. From a content perspective it is about as interesting as Joost or Hulu IMHO.

What I like so far :

  • The Roku will work fine on non-HD sets. Technically, my Apple TV did work on my non-HD set, but this offers perhaps broader appeal than Apple TV.
  • While the Watch Now catalogue isn’t the hottest content, it is interesting and could fill in what is missing from the iTunes offerings.

What I’d like to see:

  • Netflix has hinted the Roku is the first in a series of devices. Netflix Ready would make a wonderful addition to the Apple TV. In fact, such a partnership was the first thing I added to my Apple TV wishlist. That is just a software upgrade — the hardware is all there.
  • Continued improvement of these devices in general. I do love my Apple TV, but there is a lot of room for this idea to expand much further.

Loving Apple TV

The successes of iPod, iMac, MacBook and iPhone are well known. Yet quietly in the corner is Apple TV — not many talk about it. After just a few days use, I am surprised this device doesn’t get more love. Maybe it still needs to rebuild its reputation after the first expensive/not interesting version came out.

We bought one this weekend and let me tell you — this is an unbelievable value IMHO. We got the entry model (40GB) with a lower amount of storage space since we determined a lower need for persistent storage capacity.

In one device, I might possibly realize a la carte viewing.


In many ways, a DVR such as Tivo helps the cable/satellite subscriber achieve more value by recording shows they wouldn’t otherwise watch. But it hurts in much the same way that eating that Super Size Meal does — you feel obligated to consume more than you wanted because you paid for it.

With Apple TV, I can purchase the overwhelming majority of shows I want to watch only when/if I want to watch them. This fills in the gaps of shows I am not getting for free in HD over the air. I can definitely see this as easing the cutting of the cable/satellite cord. If the device added DVR capability it would be game,set, match.

Video Podcasts/YouTube

The other really cool thing is that all of those video podcasts I subscribe to really make more sense now on a television. Viewing YouTube videos on demand is wonderful entertainment. Video quality varies(obviously), but this is probably good for me or I’d be back to gorging at the video trough.


iTunes movie rentals are straightforward. I think the rental price is fair. Supposedly the HD quality isn’t technically HD or as good as Blu-Ray, but I thought it looked really good.


Yeah, it will play my music library too. That isn’t a small thing when pumped through your home stereo.


Being able to view my photos on the TV without needing to bring down a camera and plug it in is nice. And the interface is really slick. It adds Flickr support which doesn’t help me much as I am a SmugMug guy, but for a lot of folks this would be great.

Graceland Cellars

Recently, I noticed some bottles of wine from Graceland Cellars at the grocery. As an Elvis fan, I have rarely been surprised to see the King used to sell many things, but I must admit that the wine thing strikes me as odd. It seems neither campy enough for the King, nor sophisticated enough for the wine fans.

One thing is for sure, the label on the Jailhouse Red Merlot looks great.

Tivo, you no longer know me

Tivo picked up a show for us called ‘Aftermath:Population Zero‘, from National Geographic. It sounded marginally interesting, so we started to watch it. The only saving grace of this program was that its absurd premise was stated up front, so I had a good sense to bail out early. The entire show revolved around Earth’s fate if all of the humans vanished in a single instance. Not over time, mind you, but in a single instance. The premise also seemed to rely on this event only striking humans.

I used to be enamored with Tivo’s ability to pull out of the ether shows that it knew I would like. Over time, I am finding that virtually none of the recommendations are shows I actually do like. I have done my part by watching the shows and giving the appropriate thumb ratings. It is clear I am putting more into the relationship than Tivo is.