Friday, July 17, 2009

Cheap hotels and motels are better than fancy five star hotels

I have traveled a lot, both professionally and for pleasure. I have stayed at some complete dives as well as some great places, including five star hotels. Fancy hotels and five star hotels have been OK, from my point of view, worthy of only three stars. The cheap hotels and motels are generally first rate, four or five stars.

When I am traveling, I have simple needs. I want a clean room with a good shower and free WiFi. Nail those things and you get four stars. If your hotel/motel has a great location or the staff is especially helpful and friendly, you get another star.

Now let me pick on a couple of the five star hotels I've stayed at:

Ritz Carlton, South Beach
Sure, it was swanky, but they missed the details and that is what makes the difference between good and perfection. Location was good. But, the bathroom door was broken as was one of the side tables, that's pretty tacky, -1. No free WiFi, super tacky, -1. We checked in late with a tired two year old. We wanted to go straight to bed, but a knock at the door at 10pm wakes the baby. It's a steward with a some late night night complementary snack or something. Hello, we just checked in with a tired two year old! Thanks for waking him up, now get out! -1. Five minus three leaves you with two stars, bravo.

Wynn, Las Vegas
Impressive if odd designed rooms, very, very big, very spacious, totally over the top. The bathroom was bigger than most motel rooms I've stayed at. Not my style, but it is top tier for what it is. We had some trouble when checking in as well as some billing issues, but the staff were very responsive and acted with a great deal of professionalism. They knew they were working at a five star hotel and were more than up to the challenge. Rooms were clean, shower was great. But, no free WiFi, very tacky, -1. Seriously, it costs you next to nothing to offer this to your guests, you offer free HD TVs with free cable, that costs considerably more than free internet access. And the internet access charge was not all that much, so it is not like it's a big profit center, it's just tacky. Tacky, tacky, tacky. That leaves the Wynn as a four star.

Some Nameless Five Star Hotel in Shenzhen, China
I went there in 2000 and only stayed there one night and I just can't remember anything about it other than it cost me a whopping $34, it was beautiful, and the staff were great. I have vague recollection that it did have free (or maybe really, really cheap) wired internet access (2000 would have been a little early for WiFi). OK, fair enough, that really was a five star hotel.

Compared to The Holiday Inn Express in Quakertown, PA
Clean room, free WiFi, friendly staff, and though I have not tried the shower yet, the best lit bathroom I've ever seen. It's like a professional lighting studio. Not only is the WiFi free, it's also trouble free, no stupid sign in screens. I hopped on the network from both my iPod touch and my laptop. It's a little early to be calling this one, but it's at least a four star with a good chance of another star.

See, what is comes down to is, you just have to make me comfortable and happy. Oh, and don't be tacky.

What really annoys me is that all the fancy hotels have free cable TV, but I honestly can't remember the last time I turned on a TV in a hotel room. Yet, the one cheap thing that I really want, free WiFi, I have to pay for. And I have to pay for it each day. The cost is usually $10 to $15 a day. So, in as little as three days, I get to pay the hotel for internet access as much as I pay at home for a whole month!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Texas Furniture Makers Show 2009

Ten years! The TENTH Annual Texas Furniuture Makers Show will be held in Kerrville, TX and run from October 22 to December 5, 2009.

More information and entry form can be found at the KACC web site.

The Kerr Art & Culture Center has rounded up another great set of judges for this year's show:

  • Jonathan Binzen of New Milford, CT is a nationally known craftsman, author, contributing editor for Fine Woodworking Magazine and photographer specializing in furniture and architecture.
  • Spider Johnson of Mason, TX is a professional artist, writer, furniture maker, wood marquetry master and musician.
  • Curtis Whittington of Boerne, TX is a professional furniture maker and master craftsman.
Two dozen woodworkers have already been accepted into the show during the early registration period. If you are a Texas furniture maker, hurry to get your entry application in before August 15th.

As in past years, there will be a review with the judges the day after the reception. This is one the the smartest and most valuable programs any furniture show anywhere does.

Also, this year's continuing education will be, "The Contemporary Scene in Handmade Furniture" by show judge Jonathan Binzen.

The reception and awards ceremony will be on November 7th, 2009.

Cash Awards:
First Place - Best in Show: $1000
Best Craftsman Award: $750
Best Design Award: $750
Best Contemporary Style Furniture: $750
Best Traditional Style Furniture: $750
Best Texas Style Furniture: $750
Best Whimsical / Art Furniture Style: $750
Woodcraft's People's Choice: $300
Best Apprentice Furniture Maker: $250
Hill Country Turner's Choice Award: $100

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Google OS

Announced today, Google will create a computer operating system to compete with Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, and Linux named Google Chrome OS.

Initially, Google will be making Chrome OS for netbooks, a smart place to start as there are fewer compatibility issues with the simpler netbook computers. It is a good place for Google to cut its teeth on a new operating system. Google is currently working with netbook vendors and reports that Chrome OS will be shipping on netbooks by the middle of next year. After that, the implication from their announcement is that it will work its way up into laptops and then desktops.

Will it run Microsoft Office? Will it run Adobe Creative suite? Will it run games? This question is more up to the creators of those applications than it is to Google. Microsoft, Adobe, and game makers will have to develop their applications for Chrome OS. Will they? This is a very important aspect of Chrome OS to watch, which application developers commit to creating, or porting, their applications for Chrome OS?

Will Chrome OS become a full operating system like Microsoft XP/Vista/7, Apple's OS X, and Ubuntu? It is too early to tell really what Google's full intentions are. They may be only targeting the casual netbook market. That market is both small and vulnerable. It is an awkward market as it sits between ever improving Smart Phones that are much smaller and full on laptops that are much more capable. Netbooks don't generally fill the role as a primary computer, they are secondary machines for convenience. Because of this the whole netbook category may just disappear. And there is a chance that if Google is not quick enough, Chrome OS might slip away with it.

Personally, I am very interested in Chrome OS. I use XP everyday and OS X a couple of times a week. I would use OS X more, except that the applications I use everyday are on XP and, as a web designer, I have to test my work on the most common browser, Internet Explorer anyway. Thankfully I am savvy enough to keep my machine clean without having to run any crushingly awful anti-virus software.

But, it sure would be nice to have a cleaner, faster, and more reliable operating system. There is by no means any guaranty that Google can deliver, I am wary as to whether or not they can deliver. For comparison, their web browser Chrome is great and it is my primary browser. But, I am typing this post out in Firefox because, ironically enough, Blogger (a Google property) does not work well inside Chrome. If Google can't get its own web applications to run perfectly in their own browser, how well are they going to be able to get everyone elses applications to run on their own operating system?

Another interesting question is who does this hurt and who does this help?

On the hurt side, Microsoft is the obvious target. As Rob Enderle said, "This is the first time we have had a truly competitive OS on the market in years. This is potentially disruptive and is the first real attempt by anyone to go after Microsoft." Except, of course, it is not. Rob apparently has not heard of a small company down in California called Apple. Which is funny as he tries to pass himself off as some kind of PC industry expert. I guess Rob has not noticed Apple's ever increasing market share? Or that on several college and university campuses Apple usage is over 20%? He also seems to be jumping the gun a bit here, Google does not yet have Chrome OS out. And their first foray into netbooks is a year away. So, it's not really, "...on the market.." He, and most other 'industry pundits' seem to be missing the story hear, I guess due to their Microsoft bias.

The interesting question is, how does this really effect the market? My best guess is that it has potential to hurt Apple more than Microsoft. This is because people who have a choice in what operating system they use often look for something better, faster, more reliable, and easier to use. Regardless of what fanboys on either side say, that better operating system is OS X. It is easier, it is faster (mostly), it is more reliable. It is my humble opinion that most people who use Windows are either forced to because of business issues, or they just don't know enough to look at something else. Microsoft clearly has a hold on the business community with applications like Exchange, Outlook, and MS Office. At least for the moment, Google Wave may change that. And I think Wave is more of an immediate threat to Microsoft than Chrome OS is because it might open up the business market. If that happens, the operating system people choose to use will be much less important. That, in turn, opens the door for competing operating systems to go up against Windows.

But back to why Chrome OS is bad for Apple. If Chrome OS looks to be a really strong operating system, it might draw away application developers from the Mac platform (OS X). That would be bad, because, as Steve Ballmer once said, "Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers, Developer...." Good developers (who seem to be turning more and more to the Mac) are what drive great applications and that in turn drives the market. If Apple looses developers, Apple is less relevant.

Also, because most Apple users have a choice in what operating system they use, they can switch much more easily. If Chrome OS is as good or better then OS X, then Apple has a real problem. Except that Apple is a smart and creative company that may well figure out a way to be more competitive. Apple's reaction will be very interesting. Google and Apple are quite friendly, and they will both be running on the same core (Linux). Who knows, maybe Chrome OS will be sold on Apple hardware, maybe Chrome OS will become OS 11 (because ours goes to 11)? This is just crazy talk at this point, but with Apple and Google, I don't take anything for granted.

Monday, July 06, 2009


Jeff Reese, AKA, "Solomon Kane" is a cool guy. He is a big guy, an imposing guy, a gentle guy, a sympathetic guy, a caring guy, a giving guy, a thoughtful guy, a trustworthy guy, a religious guy, a philosophical guy, a surprising guy, and a creative guy. Definitely a creative guy.

I met him many years ago when I lived in Houston and had a gallery. I was a little suspicious of Jeff the first time I met him. At the time, I was not used to people being so forthright and it threw me a little. But, thankfully for me, it did not take long to realize what Jeff is, Jeff is true.

He is a cop. He also makes trippy, colorful, crazy, and mind-bending paintings.

The point of my rambling is that I was very happy to see that he has been getting some press lately. Bravo Jeff and good luck.