A surprising thing about the Olive Garden

July 9, 2009

Most people probably don’t associate the Olive Garden was authentic Italian cuisine. Yet according to this article in this month’s Fast Company, the company actually puts quite a bit of effort into trying to recreate an authentic Italian dining experience.

Eleven times a year, the company sends 14 top employees, many of whom have never set foot in Italy, to spend a week in an 11th-century village in Tuscany and learn from Sergio and Daniela Zingarelli, a husband and wife who operate a restaurant, winery, and inn. The couple and other local experts expose the Americans to everything from how olive oil gets pressed to how to layer flavors in a Bolognese sauce. The Olive Garden employees buy fresh vegetables at a market in Florence and prepare a multicourse Italian meal.

People in Buffalo hate Canadian shoppers

July 1, 2009

Canadians tend to think of themselves as being super nice and polite, and many of us are afraid of being mistaken for boorish Americans when we travel. That’s why I found this facebook group. I hate Canadian shoppers at the Walden Galleria Mall, so funny.
In it people who work at the Walden Galleria, the biggest mall in the Buffalo area, complain about the Canadian shoppers who flood it.

Some of the complaints:

  • they go to the olive garden(where my family works) and complain all the time about their plum sauce. They also want CUTLERY(who says that) and some of their good ITALIAN SAUCE. Then they say it, eh?

  • It’s amazing how they come to the US, buy clothes at the stores and leave their old clothes/shoes in the parking lot so they do not have to claim the PST and GST on the new item’s they purchased. How cheap can you be? Littering just to save a few buck’s.. They could at least take the clothes and donate them to a charity instead of dumping them in a parking lot, and it’s not just at the Galleria.

  • I love how they will be walking and just stop dead and stare blankly. Then when u say excuse me, they will proceed to bitch you out for being rude to them!

  • First, most of the stores in the Galleria are corporate stores so there is no “owner” because if they really cared about getting all of your money from “Oakville” they would open a mall there…. Second, no one would mind you guys coming to our country if you didn’t have that stupid attitude that you think you’re better than us. Third, just because we work AT the mall doesn’t mean that we work FOR the mall, I was hired for sales not maintenance, so when you guys want to say “that what you get paid for” guess what, its not! Last, I’ve worked at that mall for 3 years and I can count on one hand the “nice” Canadians that I’ve helped.

  • I hate how Canadians can’t read the signs posted all over the store and feel it necessary to ask the most obvious questions over and over.

  • When I tell Canadians that anf doesn’t accept Canadian money they get all pissed up and throw a fit. Does any store in the mall take Canadian money?

  • Am I the only one who HATES it when they say, you Americans, how can you tell the difference between your money, it’s not colored… OH MY GOD! Are you serious? Can you not read numbers??? What happens when you’re color blind?? Really now people.. use some common sense!

  • I guess the lesson is that no one country has a monopoly on being annoying. It’s probably more of a universal tendency of people visiting other countries to act in a kind of thoughtless way. Also, the type of Canadians who’ll drive all the way to Buffalo and endure lengthy lineups at the border just to save a few dollars may not be an entirely representative sample of the population as a whole.

    Idea for a tv show

    June 28, 2009

    It seems like television programming is all about appealling to the right demographics. The logical extension of this would be to cater to the only demographic that actually matter: People with Nielson boxes, whose viewing habits are extrapolated out to generate the ratings.

    If you made a show about a family with a Nielson rating box, or one of those TV watching diaries, or whatever they use to calculate viewership, mightn’t actual Nielson families be inclined to watch it? Even if you shifted only a small percentage of these people, it would be reflected in the rating as huge jump, alllowing the network to charge more for advertising.

    I guess advertisers might be inclined to discount such an increase in ratings, but surely networks could find a subtle way to go about it. Maybe it could be given some kind of ironic treatment, and done very knowingly, like some kind of 30 Rock product placement joke kind of a thing.

    Alternatively, if you could create some kind of online community for Nielson people, it would be an idea spot for TV networks to advertise. Why waste millions on billboards and such to reach everyone, when all they need is to get the message across to the thousands of people whose viewership actually matters. How to bring all those people together might be kind of a tricky question, since by definition they’re meant to represent the full spectrum of demographic groups. But it must be kind of alienating to be a Nielson person, always filling in diaries and whatever, but unable to really talk about it to friends or co-workers or whatever who can’t really relate.

    Perhaps the ultimate meta realization of this would be to create an online show about a fictional TV network trying to create a show about a family with a Nielson box. Nielson people would hear about the show, they surf over to check it out, and thus create an audience that would be ideal for advertising network TV shows.

    The ending of King’s Quest V

    June 19, 2009

    King Graham sure takes his time checking to see whether Cedric the owl is dead or not. Sure he was a pretty annoying owl, but it still seems kind of cold to be standing making introductions and setting up the plot for King’s Quest VI while Cedric is sprawled out on the ground.

    Zack Morris lives

    June 11, 2009

    This is brilliant. The giant cellphone is the perfect touch.

    Craigslist not unbeatable

    June 11, 2009

    For all the hype about Craigslist, it’s actually less popular in Canada than Kijiji, which seems to be sort of flying under the radar.

    You don’t see a lot of stories about how Kijiji is destroying newspapers, even though it’s the 11th most popular website in Canada. Craigslist, even before that whole Craigslist Killer thing, just seems to have a much higher profile.

    Similiarly, the search engine vmm.net, which I’ve never heard of, is more popular the much hyped Bing.

    And pornhub.com is more popular that any news site, the most popular of which is cbc.ca.

    Dogs with bling + Southern California = box office gold?

    June 7, 2009

    If David Lynch directed …

    June 6, 2009

    … Three Men and a Baby

    … Return of the Jedi

    … A Goofy Movie

    And, unembedable, Dirty Dancing

    A mall on the brink

    June 5, 2009



    Outside of Sears

    Outside of Sears

    Technically The Summit, a mall just outside Niagara Falls, N.Y., has been a dead mall for years. By the time it announced last month that it was closing its doors, it was down to 25 tenants in an 800,000 square foot space that once held over a hundred stores.

    It was meant to shut down on June 6. But this week a bankruptcy court granted an extension that will allow it to stay open at least until the end of the month.

    I hope that it manages to hang on somehow. I know that a lot of people don’t really lament the decline of shopping malls, dozens of which are a danger of going under this year in the U.S., but I like the fact that this mall still exists.


    Outside of the Bon Ton

    Known as the Summit Park Mall when it opened in 1973, the mall was pretty successful up into the 1990s.

    But then, as with so many things in the Niagara Falls area, things kind of fell apart. Some people blame the fall of the Canadian dollar below 70 cents U.S., and the resulting drop in cross-border shopping. The local economy probably wasn’t any great help either.

    The middle of the mall

    The middle of the mall

    Most of the chain stores that you see in any generic suburban mall, the Radioshacks etc., bailed out. But with admirable resilience, the mall soldiered on. It replaced some of the departed stores with local businesses, as well as non-retail outlets like churches and a community college.

    Map of the mall

    Map of the mall

    The potentially fatal blow may have come when discount clothing retailer Steve and Barry’s went bankrupt and shut their store, leaving a big stretch of space in the middle of mall pretty much dead. It also left Subway, somewhat incongruously, as one of the only national chains leasing a location in the mall.

    A store selling teddy bears

    A store selling teddy bears

    I guess the ambiance of 1970s shopping malls isn’t really seen as something worthy of preservation. But this mall had it, and it was a rare thing. Most older malls either fail and are knocked down or succed and are renovated so extensively over time that they retain little of their orginal charm. 

    But The Summit, despite some renovations, still had all the feel of a 1970s mall: The floor tiles, the benches, even the retro-looking payphone kiosks. Until last year it even had two arcades, though these were really just empty storefronts full of unattended arcade games from the early 1990s. 

    The Bon Ton end of the mall

    The Bon Ton end of the mall

    The Summit may yet manage to keep going. Its two main anchors, Sears and the Bon Ton, own their own sites at either end of the mall, and plan to stay open even if the vast stretch of mall between them is closed down. I guess there isn’t really anywhere else for them to go; the only other remaining mall in the Niagara Falls area is a much smaller, although very popular, outlet mall. with no space to house department stores.

    A local politician wants to have the New York Power Authority relocate to the mall. An earlier pipe dream involved building an Oz theme park nearby to draw in visitors. This may all come to nothing. But I find something hopeful about the idea of a cavernous, mostly empty shopping mall somehow continuing to exist despite some many forces converging to batter it down.




    A mural

    A mural

    A potential problem with trying to charge for online news

    June 5, 2009

    From Thursday’s Wall Street Journal:

    According to a limited study by the tracking service Attributor, for each person who reads a news story on an authorized Web site, five people access the same story on an unauthorized channel.

    And that’s with most online news stories being free (though not the one I’m quoting from). Though that number does seem kind of surprising. I don’t know why anyone would go to the trouble of reading news stories on an unauthorized channel, whatever that might be, when they could get the same content at the source. If iTunes were free, I don’t think there’d be many people downloading albums with bit torrent.