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20Oct/130

Top 10 Movies for Your Halloween Horror Movie Night

I'll dispense with the formalities and dive right in here. First off, I would like to start by saying this is not a traditional list. You aren't going to find your Evil Dead (though that is my absolute favorite series), Sixth Sense, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Exorcist, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saw, Paranormal Activity, Final Destination, Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Student Bodies, Pandemonium, Birds, Insidious, Blair Witch, Trolls, Critters, Gremlins, Hostel, Amityville Horror, Fright Night, Night of the Comet, 30 Days of Night, Underworld, Carrie, Christine, Cujo, Shining, Psycho, Alien, Thing, Rosemary's Baby, Phantasm, Chucky, Stepfather, Hellraiser, Poltergeist, Suspiria, Freaks, Jaws, American Werewolf, American Psycho, Scanners, Screamers, 28 Days Later, Ju-On, Ring, Battle Royale, Tale of Two Sisters, Omen, Fly, Changeling, Stephen King, George Romero, Hitchcock, Cronenberg, Corman, Wes Craven, or Dario Argento on the list. If that's what you're looking for, then you can use the previous sentence as a starting point.

No, this is going to be a list of fun horror films that you may not think of that would be good for a date night or to watch with a group of friends this haunted holiday season. It's by no means going to be obscure, it's just a list of films that don't usually make these sorts of lists. I selected films based on them having a good amount of scares and gore balanced with a solid cast and good writing that gives them personality.

I threw in an "Honorable Mention" for each entry in case you want to watch something different or make it a double feature. For example, if I suggest Body Snatchers (1993) with Gabrielle Anwar and Meg Tilly, I would give honorable mention to Night of the Creeps (1986) or Slither (2006) so you could watch a similar (but different) film instead or afterward. The suggestions should compliment each other well.

With 10 days left until Halloween, you'll be able to host a successful Halloween Horror movie night every day until the 31st.

Enjoy!

10: Below (2002):

Below (2002)

David Twohy crafts a claustrophobia inducing horror film set inside a submarine during WWII. Most of the tension comes from the interactions among the cast, and then gets ramped up when some twists are introduced. It's a smart and tidy thriller with excellent pacing. The cast is filled with recognizable B-list celebrities bringing A-list talent to the screen - including Zach Galifianakis who is perhaps showing his first real acting chops in perhaps his first somewhat serious role.

The film does sort of miss the mark in a spot or two, but overall is an abundant wealth of entertainment. It's the sort of film you might want to watch a second time to catch things that you missed. It's definitely an underrated film. Honorable mention for this spot would go to Event Horizon (1997) starring Sam Neill and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (his first horror film before later moving on to the Resident Evil series.

9: The Others (2001)

The Others (2001)

This was an excellent classic period haunted house film starring Nicole Kidman in one of my favorite performances of hers (right up there with Dead Calm - an amazing thriller by the way). It was directed by Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar who shot to global notoriety after directing the critically acclaimed film Open Your Eyes (which was later poorly re-made with Tom Cruise as Vanilla Sky). The Others has some real genuine chilling moments and creepy visuals. It came around at a time when the genre was getting a little stale. Though it wasn't the film that revived it, it certainly brought in a sense of high value and quality to horror that had been missing for a long time.

This film doesn't necessarily qualify as "fun," but it does qualify as good. If your crew is in the mood for a good tense haunted house film, this will satisfy. This film creeped me out and made my goosbumps crawl off my legs and arms. Best part is that this film will likely stand the test of time since it's a period piece set during the Civil War.

Honorable mention here goes to What Lies Beneath (2000) directed by Robert Zemeckis who had to be channeling Hitchcock when he made it. If you watch this film with that in mind, you will see a lot of very thoughtful and deliberate camera angles and shots. If you've ever taken a film class, you might have that extra level of appreciation for it. Otherwise, you may find it to be a fairly ordinary ghost story. Either way though, there are some good scares in it and if you end up hating the film, you'll be able to make fun of it as you watch. Another possible honorable mention would be The Orphanage (El Orfanato) (2007) in that it's a great haunting story with creepy children, and it has been nominated for and won loads of awards.

8: The Mist (2007)

The Mist (2007)

I know I said no Stephen King, but I mean how could he not end up on here? He'll probably sneak in somewhere else too I'm sure. Anyway, this one was directed by Frank Darabont and stars Thomas Jane as our hero. This list wouldn't be complete without a creature feature, and this one was an instant classic. A group of small town folk end up trapped inside a grocery store as a strange mist brings a swarm of insane bugs and monsters with it that all want to eat them.

The DVD allows you to watch it in color or in black and white. Either way, it's a great film with some good scares and gore. The cast is fantastic and perhaps the most interesting thing to watch about this movie is the characters unravel and turn on each other in their little micro-society. As with many Stephen King stories, this one is more about examining the human condition and how we react to extreme circumstances. I think it's something that many people don't get about King - it's easy to dismiss him as a horror writer, but he's pretty amazing at dissecting the human mind and knowing what we would do when pushed to our limits.

Honorable mentions here would have to go to Tremors (1990) starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward. It's basically land Jaws. Tremors is definitely lighter and funnier than Mist, but it's an excellent alternative for a good creature feature. This film is all about how the characters play off each other. It's written for dialogue with a man-eating sand-worm thrown in to give them something to talk about. The sequels are worth watching for die-hard fans, but skippable. Another mention goes to Lake Placid (1999) with Bill Pullman and Bridget Fonda for being just as witty as Tremors, and for being perhaps more of a send-up of giant monster movies than a serious attempt. It's highly underrated in my opinion, and definitely worth a look. Don't expect to be scared, but do expect Betty White to make you laugh.

7: TrollHunter (2010)

Trollhunter (2010)

I figured instead of going with the obvious Japanese or Korean horror films as my foreign selections, I would do something different (and honestly, I could do a top 10 list of just Asian horror films). This film came from Norway, and is one of the more unique experiences you're likely to have. It's filmed more or less like a student documentary about some mysterious bear mutilations and turns into something else as they come across a Troll hunter. In parts of Northern Europe and Scandinavia, Trolls are common folklore. This brings the legendary stories to life in a way we've never seen before. The visuals are stunning and the acting is great. There's plenty of scares and humor sprinkled throughout this film to keep a room full of friends entertained.

Honorable mention here goes to Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) which is another Scandanavian film from Finland and Norway. It's also about legendary folklore like you've never seen. It's a dark and scary version of Christmas and Santa Claus. Santa's elves aren't cute little toy-making midgets - they're scary old men who want to eat your children. Anyway, this one has some humor as well, but not nearly as much. It's more on the scary side. I also put it on the list because you have to put a Christmas horror film on any list like this.

6: Idle Hands (1999)

Idle Hands (1999)

This film starring Devon Sawa and Seth Green is more of a comedy than a horror, but that didn't stop it from having some of the best jump scare moments of any film in a horror movie top ten list. It's about a lazy kid whose hand gets a mind of its own and goes on a killing spree. This film was critically panned, and audiences didn't have much love for it either, but I found it to be a steady stream of fun entertainment. I toss it in the DVD player just about every year, and have yet to be disappointed. It definitely helps if you have a good surround sound system.

Yes, it's kinda silly and kinda dumb, and one could argue that it doesn't really belong on any top anything list, but it's a great movie to flip on a watch among friends this season. The tone of the film never strays too far from horror film that you think you're watching a Wayan's Brothers spoof, and there's a good balance and pacing to keep you invested. If you're in doubt, then use it as a warm-up to a more serious film. This came out right before Devon Sawa hit it out of the park with Final Destination. Also, it was one of the first appearances of the lovely Jessica Alba as (technically) an adult.

Honorable mention goes to House (1986). William Katt gets tormented by a haunted house and is forced to look at his past. There was probably some deeper and darker subtext in here that didn't translate from the original writing onto the screen. There is a lot of humor and satire injected into what should have been a pretty grim story and subject. The follow-up to this one was not quite as good, but worth a watch. Another possible option might be Waxwork (1988), which also spawned a decent, but less exciting sequel. House and Waxwork ramp up the crazy and weird of the 80s as they try to mix in tongue in cheek humor with horror. It's interesting to see how they hold up today.

5: Dead Alive / Braindead (1992)

Braindead

Before Peter Jackson was following Hobbits around New Zealand, he made one of the goriest horror films ever put on screen. It's a zombie film set in the '50s as well as a love story. It's not only hilarious, it's a gore-fest of insane practical effects like you've never seen before. I'll let the trailer speak for itself...

Just trust me when I tell you it's a must watch. Honorable mention goes to The Frighteners (1996) - another Peter Jackson film. This one has Michael J Fox seeing and talking to specters in a scary/funny ghost-busting romp. It's all sorts of fun and scary, and nowhere near as gory as Dead Alive. Another option would be Cemetery Man (1994) (aka Dellamorte Dellamore) (1994), which is another zombie film from a brilliant foreign perspective. It's artful and fantastic and delightfully bizarre.

4: Trick 'r Treat (2007)

Trick 'r Treat (2007)

This film gets overlooked, but it's a solid entry into the genre. Four chilling stories are woven together seamlessly on Halloween night. It's the kind of movie you could pop in every year and enjoy yourself watching it. There's solid scary here, but it's presented with a touch of lighthearted fun behind it to disarm you just enough to scare your pants off in the next scene.

It's wildly entertaining, and good for group watching. Make sure you grab some popcorn and a blanket to hide under. Honorable mention here would have to go to April Fool's Day (1986) which isn't really comparable to Trick 'r Treat, but it's another film that is disarmingly charming enough that its scares are that much more effective. A group of friends meet up for a weekend at a remote island mansion and start to drop off one by one at the hands of a mysterious murderer among them. It's the sort of film that keeps you guessing if you haven't seen it before.

And if you want to pair it with something more recent, a good (and perhaps even better option) might be Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) which is a low budget horror romp starring Bruce Campbell (who has made it on this list a few times now) of Evil Dead fame as a depressingly aging (and still alive) Elvis fighting the forces of evil yet again. It doesn't have the same tone as the Evil Dead series, but Bruce delivers a pretty swaggy old-ass Elvis in a wheelchair.

3: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

This was the first entry of the Cornetto Trilogy (the other two being Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World's End (2013)), and arguably the best. It's a pretty hilarious take on a classic zombie survival movie. The filmmakers and actors are all huge horror movie nerds/buffs and it shows. The comedic timing is spot on, and there's enough gore and violence and even scares here to satisfy your thirst for blood. The comedic timing of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is on point. It's definitely worth your time to throw the other two films in this (not really a trilogy) trilogy on for good measure.

Honorable mention here will have to go to Dawn of the Dead (2004). This is a remake of one of Romero's best films, and it's one of the few times that a remake could be considered nearly as good as the original (if not better). It's a much more serious "of the Dead" movie to watch this October than Shaun, but there's still a good amount of humor in it. As with the original, a group of zombie outbreak survivors post up in an indoor shopping mall. It's not only a good character study, there's some genuine scary moments in it.

2: V/H/S (2012)

V/H/S (2012)

This one was a surprise to me. It's a low-budget entry into the "found footage" genre that's been really popular since Blair Witch and continued with Paranormal Activity. It's about a group of kids who film themselves performing various acts of petty crime and vandalism for money and end up in a creepy house searching for a rumored VHS tape they think could earn them top dollar. While watching tapes, they start to disappear.

They have a unique take here, and they really excel at ramping up the gore and scares and creativity. They manage to interweave crazy macabre stories with a main creepy thread. There's something genuine about most of the footage in this film. Each segment was directed by different up-and-coming young directors. I want to suggest you not even watch the trailer and let the film take you on its journey unspoiled, but here it is anyway.

It's surprisingly scary and unexpectedly engrossing. The follow-up sequel V/H/S/2 (2013) kept the same formula, but with some more well-known directors this time. They turned up the gore a bit, but some shoddy effects took away from the authenticity of the first one. It's still worth checking out the sequel, and the format of it lends itself to more sequels - hopefully every year.

Honorable mention on this goes to Grave Encounters (2011), which also spawned a sequel the following year. Again, this is a "found footage" series, but this one takes the angle of a group of reality show ghost hunters filming an episode of the show at an abandoned mental hospital and ending up unable to leave alive. It's surprisingly well-done for a low-budget feature, and it and the sequel both provided some solid scares.

1. The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Now, I'm not saying this is the best horror film ever by any stretch. I'm not even saying it's better than everything on this list. As I said, the purpose of this list is to give you ideas on what to watch with a group of friends on your Halloween movie party night. This recent film was hugely popular and critically acclaimed, and for good reason. It's a send-up of pretty much all horror films, while being a genuine horror film itself. I won't say any more about it because I don't want to spoil the fun, but I can tell you that it starts out as a traditional cliche group of college students heading off to a remote cabin in the woods where... stuff happens. You'll see.

This is a film for people who love horror films, and it's great for groups. I struggled a bit with coming up with a good honorable mention, but I think you'll have a good time watching Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) which is a reverse horror film in which a couple of hick buddies go on vacation to their shabby backwoods cabin and find themselves getting attacked by typical generic preppy college kids who keep murdering themselves around them. It's bizarre and hilarious and it has some entertaining scary moments in it.

Hope you have a good time this holiday season.

If you think I missed something, feel free to post a comment. There are literally thousands of great horror films, from Rec to Human Centipede to Night Watch to Descent to High Tension etc... even some of my own favorites didn't make it. I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions just the same.

Happy Halloween!

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26Jun/130

Windows 8.1 and the Start Button

Microsoft revealed their new update to Windows today. Version 8.1 includes a long list of minor changes and fixes and improvements. In many ways, it's in a similar fashion to how different Windows 98SE was to Windows 98.

The biggest point of contention for Windows users with version 8 has been the Start Button - or lack of a Start Button I should say. Consumers wanted their old desktop back with the classic Start Button they grew to know and love since it was introduced in Windows 95. The people want familiarity and ease of use. Microsoft has been working on ways to get rid of the button for years now.

Windows 8 did just that. They gave us Metro - which is essentially a big colorful and customizable Start Menu where you can put your most commonly used programs and get updated with information without having to open anything. Many people find it confusing - especially when they are using it on a desktop pc.

They are moving away from programs and toward apps. It's a tablet and cell phone culture now. That doesn't mean there's no longer any use for laptops and desktops. Touchscreens are convenient and small and they aren't going away... the market is going to continue to grow in fact, but desktop computers are going to be around for awhile. This is particularly true in business and publishing and design. Metro icons are a distraction and a hindrance of productivity.

Public outcry has been loud for Microsoft to return the Start Button to the desktop and allow users to disable Metro so they can get back to work. Microsoft responded by adding a Start Button back into Windows 8.1, but it's almost like a "fuck you" or a big "gotcha!" to consumers. All it does is pull up the Metro Start screen when you click it. Nothing else. That means there are now 4 ways to get to the Metro interface.

Microsoft brought it back with the thinking that novice PC users and senior citizens were having trouble navigating without the Start Button. The opposite is true as it would seem that most people who wanted the Start Button back are long-time users. I'm personally a bit offended and insulted by Microsoft's little trick. It's like they are saying, "here, dummy - here's your damn start button - it goes to Metro, LOL! Enjoy, asshole!"

I'll stick with Windows 7 until they get it right.

Start Button My Ass

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5Jun/130

Ladders, Crates and Toilets in Video Games…

Ladders:
Going Up = no problems.
Going Down = fall and break legs or die

Crates:
Conveniently located for cover from enemy fire or for getting to higher ground,
or
Melee smash giant crate until it explodes and splinters into a handful of toothpicks - the only thing inside was some pistol ammo and 2 AA batteries.

Toilets:
Walk up to toilet + press action button

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4Jun/130

The Mundane Adventures of the Aging Corporate Lackey

There was a time when I would attack my public internet diary with consistency and enthusiasm. It has been months since my last post, and really years since I've posted much of anything about myself.

Who am I? What am I? Where's my inspiration?

The answers to these questions aren't really coming to me. Might have something to do with me getting an actual job as opposed to running my own business - now I have to consider how the things I say might be scrutinized by my employer should they happen upon this website.

That means, I can't really bitch or complain about work - which takes up about half of my waking life. It would be nice to be able to vent about work frustrations, but it would not look good. I should probably delete all of my old blogs as well considering the amount of soul exposure - they also don't reflect good upon me. I think I leave them there because I figure "well, they already hired me - can't fire me for being crazy a long time ago." Or can they?

Another part of it might just be that I don't really do much of anything terribly exciting or worth reporting. That's not really true though - thinking about it, there are quite a few stories from the past year or two that I would normally have been telling here. I mean, a few stories were perhaps not necessarily suitable for my employers to know about, but for the most part they were fine. That's not it either.

Why am I not writing or creating anymore? I don't write or draw or make music. I haven't been exercising my brain or my body. I've just been indulging. I've just been checking out. Consuming and coasting and generally sucking.

I know I've been writing something though - tweets and reviews of things and random forum chit chat. Nothing terribly creative or inspired. Nothing to keep my skills in tip-top shape.

Even now, I feel like I'm just writing something in hopes that no one sees it. Something to fill space. I feel like I have nothing to say, but I know I have a ton of shit to say. I just don't want to put something out there that will somehow be used against me.

I used to write to a pretty nonspecific small audience of people who were a mixture of strangers and friends - some would shower me with approval and encouragement and others were simply silent apart from adding numbers to the view count. Now, I can't even visualize who I'm writing to. This is a much more public space even though it gets less traffic than my previous home.

I used to write like I was naked - and comfortable being so... like skinny dipping with a huge group of friends and being the first bare ass to hit the water. Everyone would follow suit or laugh along with me. It felt safe and comfortable. I also didn't give a fuck who saw it or what they thought - I was just driven by the occasional encouraging comment.

Now, I feel awkward... like exposing myself here would be like being stripped down to my essence and shoved through a door into a huge auditorium filled with judgmental strangers - all random cynical high school and college kids and everyone I've ever worked with but not spoken to and everyone I've ever felt uncomfortable around - all of them going silent and staring at me... the moment before they all either burst into laughter, cringe in disgust, or ignore me completely stretches into eternity.

I need to write something though. I keep filling this space with text. I suppose I'm just practicing. Sorry this wasn't any good. Look, I'm even apologizing to whoever read this. What's wrong with me? Whatever it is, I know I have to figure it out and fix it. If I'm not improving (or at least maintaining), then I'm devolving - and I don't want that, now do I?

I can see 40 on the horizon, and it isn't a pretty sight.

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20Apr/130

Gold Mining TV shows & the decline of History/Discovery/TLC and cable tv in general

I'm not sure what the obsession is with gold mining these days, but you've likely noticed how shit cable tv has become over the years. TLC used to mean The Learning Channel. Honey Boo Boo was the nail in that coffin. History channel is now just pawn shops and pickin' and rednecks. "Reality" shows about moonshine and hoarding and being addicted to pizza dominate cable programming - they are cheaper to produce than paying a writer to come up with something original.

Make no mistake - most of these shows have writers, directors and editors etc, but they aren't as highly paid as the team that produces something like CSI. You also don't really have to worry about paying actual actors. It's our fault really because we watch all this shit, but it's a sad reflection on ourselves.

Anyway - the gold shows are getting a bit ridiculous...

Gold Rush: Alaska

Yeah, mining for gold in Alaska sounds rough...
but how about mining for gold at the bottom of the Bering Sea?

Bering Sea Gold

You thought mining gold in Alaska was tough and scary?
Well, these fucking failed real estate developers/mma fighters
are gonna mine for gold in fucking Ghana Africa, bitch!

Jungle Gold

Wait a minute, you thought Ghana was intense?
Well these failed realtors and construction workers from Alabama
are going to mine for gold in Guyana in the fucking Amazon!

Bamazon

Hold up... wow... sure, that looks really intense...
But not as intense as mining for gold among fucking ghosts and shit
in a motherfucking HAUNTED GOLD MINE!

Ghost Mine

Okay seriously - fuck all that weak ass shit.
We're going to mine for gold where it's really fucking cold...
so cold that experienced explorers die and shit. EXTREEEEEEME!!!!1111
Animal Planet, motherfuckers!

Ice Cold Gold

... have I missed any? Let me know in the comments below.

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14Nov/120

Uber Hits Phoenix

My girlfriend and I recently got back from a trip to Florida and a cruise in the Bahamas. I'll have to fill you in on the details of that later. This is just to describe and review a new service we used the night we left.

We had wrapped up all of our work things and scrambled to pack and find someone to watch the house and the animals. We had a ride to the airport prearranged. My girlfriend's super-reliable little sister was supposed to pick us up and take us. She just decided last minute to go to a concert at the Fair. She promised to leave the concert in time to pick us up. As the time of our flight approached, it was becoming clear that she wasn't going to make it. She finally called to let us know she was letting us down.

Well, we needed a ride - FAST! I flashed back in my head to using various taxi summoning apps or calling taxi services and having pretty crap experiences with sitting around waiting for someone to not find my house. It then occurred to me that a buddy of mine just got a job at Uber. I texted him to ask if the service was running yet - and he replied that today was the soft launch. Sounded a bit sketchy, but he gave me a 10 dollar off code and assured me it would be fine.

I signed up for the service and entered my details using my iphone. I used the Uber app to summon a car and started bringing my bags out to the front door.

A huge decked out brand new shiny black Escalade rolled up to my house, and Donald got out wearing a suit. He loaded our gear in the back and opened the door for us. It felt very much like we had a personal driver. I felt like a fancy lad.

He asked us what we wanted to listen to and adjusted the climate inside the car to our liking. We sat back in the plush leather seats and enjoyed the ride to Sky Harbor. During the ride we explained we that our friend was the community manager for Uber and sort of grilled him about how he liked the service and got some information about how it works from a driver's perspective. Seems like a pretty sweet deal both ways.

He took us right to the gate and helped us get our gear to the curb and that was it. I didn't have to sign shit or hand him a credit card or cash or hug "bye bye" or worry about a receipt. We did tip a few bucks, but he told us during the ride that it was included.

We found out later that we were actually the 2nd ride in Phoenix or the first non-celebrity ride or something. It went really smooth for day 1. Way to go, Gabe!

I highly recommend the service - it costs a bit more than taking a cab, but fuck taking cabs. I'd rather sit in someone else's pee than ever sit in the back of a smelly old cab. It's worth a bit more to ride in style - and it's especially worth it if you can use a code that gets you 10 bucks off your ride. Here's our code - please use it and ride around town like fucking P-Diddy. uber.com/invite/ubernom

Top 5 reasons I can think of off the top of my head to use Uber:

1. Cheaper, nicer, hassle-free one-way executive stretch "limo-esque" ride to prom - impress a bitch. Ballin'!
2. You want to get to the airport quick, not stressed out or smelling like a pine tree fart.
3. Drank a bit too much (or plan on drinking too much) at the company Christmas party. Like a boss!
4. Some hooligans stole the tires off your BMW and this girl you picked up at Mint's makeup is about to expire.
5. Role-playing with your significant other that you're the Beckhams or the Trumps (oh, the Trumps... so sexy) and roll around upscale neighborhoods pretending you forgot which mansion is yours... and then bone (when you get back home preferably - this isn't some skanky cab, it's a classy thing).

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29Dec/110

The GoDaddy / SOPA Fiasco… Do I Keep My Domains at GoDaddy?

I worked at GoDaddy for 2 years. I also have many friends that work there (some who have worked there close to a decade) and I know the inner workings pretty well. My take on the company as a whole is that it is run pretty well for such a large company. It is run like a small business. They keep all of their support free and domestic while many large companies either charge for support (Microsoft) or ship it overseas (DELL) or both!

I have to respect and support that GoDaddy values customer satisfaction so highly. The company I currently work for is the only one I've encountered (aside from Zappos) that works even harder than GoDaddy at providing excellent support. Calls are QA'd by seasoned staff and they have ways of measuring and rewarding good performance.

Aside from the antics of the CEO and the controversial and tacky advertisements, I have always had generally good feelings about the company. Their web interface can be admittedly frustrating to say the least (until you spend a few weeks training on it for customer support purposes), but it's all done in-house. Some people find it easier to use than any other thing they have tried. To each his own on that. The checkout screen does try to up-sell you things annoyingly, but that's probably what made the company so successful. In spite of these things, the service is cheap, reliable, and good.

GoDaddy is a one-stop-shop for everything you need for your online presence. It's the Wal-Mart of domains and hosting - without all the outsourcing and bad juju. It's the largest domain and hosting provider bar none, and as the largest it is prone to attack and scandal.

This brings us to SOPA - the Stop Online Piracy Act, as you're I'm sure well aware, is bad news for the internet. The language in it has caused a huge stir in the online community over what it means in what-if scenarios and because it puts the US on a short list of countries that censor the internet.

It's not just a bunch of people illegally downloading the latest GaGa album complaining - it's seemingly the bulk of internet users who oppose it. Companies like Viacom, Sony, Comcast, and Disney are among financial contributors to SOPA (to the tune of over a million dollars) because they want to protect their cash flow and cling to old school distribution and revenue models.

GoDaddy added their name to a list of companies that backed SOPA back in November because as a company, GoDaddy always sides with the copyright holder. One of the few positions GoDaddy takes is that they are against theft and piracy and try to protect copyright. I found this out the hard way when my server was shut down because a newsfeed website on it was accidentally set to automatically pull full articles from other sources rather than just the headlines and linking back to the source.

When I discovered GoDaddy was supporting SOPA, I was quite upset and angry and wanted to pull my domains out and move my hosting away, but I wanted to get some inside info and research more. Soon after this, they retracted their stance on SOPA and said they no longer support it.

This didn't stop the internet from roasting GoDaddy for ever supporting it in the first place. Reddit seemed to be nothing but post after post of anti-GoDaddy slander. Many competitor domain registrars advertised transfer deals with anti-SOPA and anti-GoDaddy messages. NameCheap has been the most vocal about it, but they are barely even a real registrar - they started out as an eNom reseller. They also made up lies about GoDaddy blocking transfers - this was absolutely false, but it still made it all over the news online.

The fact is, NameCheap never contacted GoDaddy to get their IP addresses whitelisted for WhoIs lookups. This "slowed down" the transfer process. This also makes NameCheap look like a bunch of idiots - but only to the few people who know the truth. The "news" is already out there. The mud hath been slung.

I know how transfers work because I assisted with them daily for 2 years. They take about a week when transferring from one registrar to another typically. By law, a losing registrar has the right to hold a domain transfer for a week to give the registrant (domain owner) the opportunity to change their mind. Because they can, most registrars do.

GoDaddy is one of the few registrars that actually gives the option of transferring the domain immediately once you've completed all the steps when you're transferring your domain away. In fact, in my years there, I never encountered another registrar that allowed an instant transfer and they always took a week.

Today is supposed to be the day everyone transfers their domains away from GoDaddy. Most sites that have been tracking the number of domains GoDaddy loses over this are completely inaccurate since they are only tracking nameserver changes. Half the time when you transfer a domain, the nameservers don't even change. Also, people buying new domains will change the nameservers to cash park them or point them to their own server.

The annoying thing about the exodus is that people are just doing it because it's easier to move domains than it is to stop watching ESPN or cancel your cable and internet or stop using your computer (both Apple and Microsoft supported SOPA and perhaps still do). It's the protest for the lazy American.

Even now that GoDaddy no longer supports SOPA, people are still talking about leaving because they are flipflopping. I mean, you get what you want and you still punish GoDaddy? I don't get that. Warren Adelman took over as CEO the week this exploded - poor guy. I've met both him and Bob Parsons (and many other higher up in the company). None of them have some evil aura about them. I think people should calm down.

GoDaddy doesn't stand to gain anything if SOPA passes. Many articles online claim that GoDaddy helped draft part of it. I haven't seen any proof of this, but I know that companies like this seldom act as anything more than advisory - providing information to the legislators that draft these things. GoDaddy simply requested that their main nameserver (domaincontrol.com) be exempt from any blockage that would come about should SOPA become a reality.

This was to protect their scores of customers and to keep half the internet from being blocked because someone posts a Metallica bootleg on their GoDaddy hosted blog and Lars sues him.

After more investigation and in light of the backlash, GoDaddy removed their support of SOPA and called for it to be better written. They maintained their position on copyright and intellectual property protection, but recognized the negative impact SOPA could have. I'm really happy they retracted their support of both SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act - also awful).

I have to believe that they were merely distracted by the change of CEO (after a decade), the annual Christmas party, the new investors, and the busiest time of the year for them. People need to give GoDaddy a break. Some really great people work there, and not a single one of them individually would agree with SOPA or PIPA. I'm keeping my 100+ domains and all my hosting and email with them. I'm a firm believer in voting and voicing my opinions with my money. I will leave if they ever do me harm or provide bad service.

Here is a link to their official stance on both SOPA and PIPA if you care to read: http://www.godaddy.com/NewsCenter/releases.aspx?ci=50929

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26Dec/110

Amazing Yorkshire Pudding Recipe

Craig (aka Naughty James) is a photographer I hang around with on the internet. He made some Yorkshire Pudding and posted a photo of it along with a recipe. Here is the recipe as he wrote it:

yup.

makes about 24......

get a Pyrex measuring jug, (or similar) and break eight eggs into it, and pour into a large mixing bowl. give it a whisk, and then add as much (by volume) general purpose flour to the eggs and give it a vigorous whisk until all the lumps are out. you can sieve it at this point if required.

leave standing on the side for 30 mins, and at the end add a splash of cold water, and mix again.

pre heat your oven to the highest possible heat (i used 440 f)

meanwhile take a cupcake tray or similar and place a pea sized amount of lard (or beef dripping) in each section.

place in the oven and wait until the lard starts to smoke.

remove the tray and fill the spaces in the tray 3/4 with the mixture.

quickly replace the filled tray into the oven and leave until they have risen and browned, they should be crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.

easy peasy and yummy!

don't forget the beef and onion gravy!

This was added by robche:

You need to emphasize how important the heat is though - if you can handle it just slide the trays half out of the oven - the batter should bubble as it hits the fat or you'll end up with thick, soggy bottoms.

Also I'd add to NOT OPEN THE OVER FOR AT LEAST 15 MINUTES! treat them like a souffle. If you want them crispy all through then, after the 15mins, turn the oven to half heat and cook through for 10 minutes.

Gordon Ramsay thought they were "beautiful." Craig is from Yorkshire, so I'm sure he knows his shit. I'm going to have to tackle this one. If you do as well, post your findings in the comments.

This recipe has also been posted on Equal Table

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6Sep/110

5 Ways to Market Your Restaurant on the Internet

Advertising is essential to run a successful business. It has always been this way. People have to know about your services somehow, right? Simply telling another person that you have a business is as much "advertising" as a Superbowl commercial or the sign on the front of your building. I'm always amazed when a business owner tells me they don't do any sort of advertising - as though it's a dirty word. It's an absurd thing to say, and absolute nonsense.

Once upon a time (before the internet), restaurants had to advertise via brochures, yellow pages, billboards, TV and radio commercials, direct mail, and coupons in order to get the word out. Times are changing though. Marketing on the internet is becoming the most powerful form of advertising, and the old methods are on their way out.

You have to put your message in front of the eyes and ears. Your expensive Yellow Pages listing isn't going to do you any good if nobody opens the book. You might as well go whisper to a tree. Meanwhile, 78% of Americans use the internet, and half the population are frequent users. If you were wondering where all the eyeballs were, that's where, and if you aren't marketing your business there, you're making a huge mistake.

Below you'll find a list of ways you can market your business online. I've related them to something more familiar to make it easier to absorb. If you're new to all this, the list should help you get started.

1. Social Media - (Word of Mouth) - This has always been one of the most effective and favorable forms of marketing. Word of mouth is perhaps the oldest and cheapest form of marketing. Having your existing customers bring you new customers is brilliant. What's even more brilliant is that these days, people have their "word of mouth" conversations over the internet for everyone to see - and these conversations are often searchable!

It may sound too good to be true, but it really isn't. Social Media websites such as Facebook and Twitter provide forums for people to communicate with one another. As a business owner, you can easily set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for your business and use it to join the conversations people are having about you. You can use it to promote, generate buzz, interact with customers, collect market research and create loyalty in your brand.

The best part is that this costs you nothing but your time (unless you hire a PR company to handle your accounts). These services are free and some of the most valuable resources available. If you don't have a business Facebook or Twitter account, set them up now and do some research on "best practices" for businesses. There are plenty of articles out there to keep you from alienating your customers. As long as you don't treat it like a place to advertise, you'll be fine.

2. Directories - (Yellow Pages) - This is an important one. This is where you should focus most of your marketing efforts. Sites such as Yelp, CitySearch, GrubHub, UrbanSpoon, OpenTable, Google Places, and Foursquare are free and most will list your business without you doing anything. Many of these sites have a social element to them as well. Some are even designed for users to post reviews of businesses.

This is free publicity. Pages and pages all over the internet all about you. Nothing is free though, right? Well, technically someone pays for it - and these sites make their money one way or another - usually from the traffic they receive for providing all of the data they have collected.

Restaurateurs should take ownership of their business listings. Make use of the social aspect of these sites and interact with your existing and potential customers. If the sites offer services like GrubHub and Opentable do where they will actually send you new customers, you need to jump on it. This is advertising you only pay for if it works, and you'll only pay a few bucks per new diner. No form of traditional advertising is that inexpensive, and nothing else is guaranteed to work, profitable and sustainable as is this.

Sites like Yelp and Foursquare provide ways for restaurants to offer reasonable discounts to customers that are already nearby. I've heard of restaurant owners demanding they get removed from these free directory sites - some even threatening to get lawyers involved. It's ridiculous. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the potential and power of the internet, and these same owners will spend $1000 on a Yellow Pages ad that nobody will see. These sites get traffic into the millions - to remove yourself from them makes no sense at all.

3. Website - (Brochure) - Think of your website as a glossy full-color fold-out brochure explaining everything about your business that you hand out to customers. They are typically expensive to create and maintain. They are pretty much necessary to have, but also not typically very effective for bringing new customers in. Restaurants don't need expensive websites unless they are a national chain.

When you create a website, it's really just another thing you have to market and advertise. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be expensive. Do you want people to visit your website or do you want them to visit your restaurant and eat something?

Now, a website can be a very useful tool - you can maintain a blog and post specials or provide online ordering (which can be quite expensive). Some services - such as GrubHub - will build and maintain a website for you completely free with online ordering built-in.

Websites can be cheap or they can run into the several thousands. As long as you spend your money wisely and appropriately, you can't go wrong.

4. PPC and Online Advertising - (Billboards, Newspapers and Commercials) - PPC means Pay Per Click so you only have to pay when someone clicks your link. This is a common form of advertising on the internet. The most common places to place your ads are Google and Facebook, but you can place ads on YouTube, Yelp, and even mobile phone apps and games. You can put an ad just about anywhere eyeballs go.

Effectiveness is often low on this one unless your goal is to get traffic to your website. It can also be fairly expensive. People tend to ignore ads online anyway. There are even browser plug-ins that make ads not show up. It can work really well if you target it right though - particularly if you hire a PR company to manage your PPC advertising campaigns and they are strategically planned.

You may want to consider putting part of your advertising budget towards this sort of thing. It's a gamble and the odds are stacked against you, but everyone buys a scratcher once in awhile right? These days, marketers are using ads more for bringing back existing customers. Keep in mind, each different type of online marketing will reach a different type of customer.

5. Daily Deals - (Mailer Discounts and Coupons) - Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are some of the latest and hottest marketing methods. They work by having you offer a deep discount on your product in order to gain many new customers all at once, and then splitting what little money was collected with the deals site. It works out to you discounting your product by 60-80%. It's like having a "going out of business sale." The problem with these sites is that the customers tend to follow the deals and they're not easy to convert into new customers at regular prices.

Daily Deals work well for some types of businesses - service-related businesses do best because they're only discounting their time. Restaurants are discounting their product which means they are out of pocket. Working with a daily deal site is like taking out a bad loan. For a restaurant, it can be a good way to go broke. I like a good bargain like anyone else, but I don't think these daily deal sites are helping the economy. There's bound to be a coupon bubble as soon as businesses all realize it doesn't work. It's not sustainable economically.

Sites like this are a dime a dozen and they are coming out of the woodwork. Even some of the biggest sites are trying their hand at it - Yelp, Google, and Facebook are all dabbling in daily deals. Small businesses get bombarded by salesmen from these companies constantly, and it can be frustrating. If you do decide to work with one, just be careful with what you give away. You can think of it as dollars you spend to per new customer gained. As such, if you bring them through the door - you had better be prepared to convert them into a repeat customer - and it's going to take more than just providing tasty food.

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31Aug/114

Yelp for Dummies

Yelp is a website that lists businesses and allows the average joe consumer to post reviews about them. It's like a location-based search directory with reviews. There are dozens of sites very similar, but Yelp pretty much gets the most traffic of its kind. Businesses have a love/hate relationship with Yelp. Recently, Yelp has changed up their game and got actively aggressive with their marketing. There are rumors about review placements and scare tactics and bullying.

Still, Yelp must remain profitable. When you get as much traffic as Yelp gets, you need to have many servers to handle the load - you also have to employ many people to monitor the site carefully. It's a crazy business. A site like Yelp makes their money from advertising and that's about it - it's free to view and post reviews, and it's free for restaurants to get listed. Free advertising.

So many restaurants and small businesses have had business driven to them for free by Yelp. Before, outside of word of mouth, they would have to rely on expensive advertising in the Yellow Pages or newspapers. Yellow Pages still charges businesses hundreds to thousands of dollars to show up in their book - which today, nobody even reads. All you need today is the internet to find what you want. Call 800 343 7390, Mon-Fri 6am-5pm PST to cancel your Yellow Pages and save a tree.

Google has been the go-to for a few years now and pretty much sealed Yellow Pages' fate. Businesses can pay Google to show up at the top of searches now and they can also claim their own "Places" page for free... Google can be a free directory as well if you know how to use it. They even aggregate reviews like Yelp does. However, Google isn't specialized like Yelp is.

Business owners need to learn how to manage their online presence. It's a given that most Americans have a computer these days and a way to connect to the internet. Hell, there will be an estimated 80 million smartphones in the US by year's end. That's 80 million Americans who have access to the internet ALL-THE-TIME! If you don't show up on the internet, you're going to be lost.

I've been a "Yelp Elite" for about 4 years now and have written hundreds of reviews for local restaurants and businesses, and have had my reviews seen hundreds of thousands of times. Now that I'm working more closely with restaurants, I have found myself going back to old reviews and feeling genuinely bad about some of them.

I've worked retail. I've worked in the service industry. I even ran my own business for 14 years. I've been an internet expert since it came into existence. I've been a writer since I was in grade school. I've had opinions since I could talk. I've been an eater my entire life. With all that experience, there are still lessons to be learned.

First: Business Owners -

  • Take control of your Yelp page... you can do it. It's easy, and I believe it's still free to do so.
  • Correct information, submit photos, write a short bio explaining the history of your place.
  • See those reviews? Those are your existing customers talking to your potential customers.
  • Engage your customers. If you see a bad review, reach out to them and say you were having a bad day - as every business does - ask them to try you out again. Don't ask them to just change their review or tell them they are wrong or stupid.
  • If a review is particularly mean, your first instinct will be to find them and kill them. No need. Just reach out to them and try to make it right. You may dislike this person, but think of them as a gateway to other/better customers.
  • Potential customers read all reviews and generally take extreme reviews with a grain of salt. Don't sweat a negative review here and there.
  • Best rule of thumb here on reviews is to simply realize that you can't please everyone - not all reviewers are even please-able. Try to just focus on your positive reviews and thank your loyal customers for the business.
  • If you claim your business page, you can respond to reviews - do NOT argue with a bad review. Simply thank people for good reviews and invite them back, and ask a bad reviewer for the opportunity to try again.
  • Do NOT write reviews for yourself under fake profiles - Yelpers can see through this easily and will call you out on it.
  • Reach out to Yelp staff to see if they would do an event at your place, or you can simply post an event in the "Events" section for free. You may or may not get anyone to come, but it's more free exposure.
  • Owning a business comes with a certain amount of ego and it's easy to take things personally. You are your own PR. Treat others how you would want to be treated - not necessarily as a reflection of how they treat you. There's no shame or harm in asking for a second chance from some "nobody" who has been to your place only once and doesn't seem to have a clue.
  • Finally, the more active you are, the more people will respond to you. Just be awesome.

Yelp Reviewers -

  • Write more than once or two sentences. If you want people to read what you have to say, then have something to say. Otherwise, why even bother?
  • Check your spelling and grammar. Misspelled words and poor grammar leaves the reader assuming you aren't very bright and they aren't likely to take your opinions seriously. Learn your homophones!
  • One star scathing reviews are for places that have no redeeming qualities at all. A hair in your food doesn't mean the place should be condemned. Waiting 10 minutes for a drink isn't the end of the world.
  • Everybody has a bad day. Before you lambaste a place, consider that you may have only been there once and it may not be the norm there.
  • Be descriptive - liken the decor, atmosphere, service, food, etc... to a more common experience.
  • Always give both good and bad examples - a good review shouldn't be all praise or all complaints. There should be a balance. It shows that you are genuine.
  • Consider the feelings of the people who work there or who own the place. A bad review may feel like a satisfying way to take a stab at them for cold fries or bad service, but take it easy.
  • Have a look at your review overview - you should have mostly 3s and fewer 2s and 4s and even fewer 1s and 5s - if not a fairly even distribution. If you're all one way or another, you're probably doing it wrong.
  • Give a place a second chance - if an owner reaches out to you and invites you back so they can make it right - take them up on it, or at least adjust your review to indicate they at least tried.
  • Your review score should reflect the level in which a business owner cares about his business and customers.

I just want to remind everyone to not be an asshole. Life is too short.

Finally, I just want to remind you to support local businesses. Business owners, you should support your local community. I'll be writing a more in-depth "Best Practices" article for restaurant owners and how to control your presence on the internet. That's coming soon, so come back.

If you have any feedback or anything to add, feel free to leave a comment.

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