Spaceward Ho! by Delta Tao Software

Concept: 5 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: Spaceward Ho! is a fantastic use of productive computer time.

The Long Version: It's hard to find a place to start describing a cowboy-themed space exploration game. First of all, it's by Delta Tao Software, which has versions for Mac OSX, Windows, and Palm OS. My only experience is with the Mac version, but I imagine that the version for Palm is also pretty good - they're more powerful than the computers the game was originally designed for. I started playing Spaceward Ho on a Mac SE and a Mac Classic, and whether those names ring a bell or not you'll have a pretty good idea how long ago that was. The game is now up to version 5, and it's matured very well.

Spaceward Ho's main attribute is that it's a complex game that isn't complicated to play. All resources are represented by two items, Metal and Money. Metal is the non-renewable resource, and it's primarily gained by mining it during the initial colonization of planets. Money can be earned from profitable planets or as interest from savings. When a planet is initially colonized, it requires money to support it, and a certain additional amount to mine the available metal and change the temperature into something more pleasant. Planets must have a suitable temperature and gravity to be profitable.

Money can be spent to transform planets, invested in technology, or saved up to build ships. Ships are used to explore the universe, colonize new planets, and expand the empire. I've tried playing with only one or two planets, but it's not nearly as interesting as taking a more expansionist approach.

But naturally there are others - Varlese - who are trying to build their own empires as well. It can be a multiplayer game, but the computer actually provides some stiff competition, especially when the resources are more limited. There can be as many as eight opponents, and they can either play in a free-for-all or as allies united against the human player(s). One neat idea behind the game is that everyone likes different temperatures and gravities, so it's possible that a planet that one player has rejected can be a profitable base for another.

If the computer players aren't arrayed against you, it's possible to form alliances with them. As with everything in Spaceward Ho, it's simple to do and free of any complication that will distract from playing the game. But don't get too comfortable, because sooner or later they'll probably break your heart.

And the only way to win is to be the last player standing. To get to that point you need to have made good use of our resources, chosen the right amounts to spend on technologies and ship savings, and made good strategic and tactical decisions. There's no winning formula, although there are certain techniques that work better than others, and there's also a bit of luck involved. It has a charming sense of humour, entertaining little quirks, and can be set up as a quick ten-minute diversion or an epic afternoon-long struggle.

At its very core Spaceward Ho is a mix of complex economics and strategy that's simple to play. It deserves to rank among the very best computer games.


Thinking With Type, by Ellen Lupton

Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: It's a great introduction for people who look at letters.

The Long Version: Ellen Lupton is quite an accomplished woman, and Thinking With Type isn't the only book of hers in the household. But it is the first book on typography that I've read, and I'm glad that it's the one that I found first. It's very clearly written, has excellent samples and examples, and is a very interesting book. It starts with the single line "Typography is what language looks like." on a page all its own, and it sets an excellent tone for the book.

Thinking With Type covers a broad range of subjects with ease and style. If you don't know what kerning, ligatures, or x-height is, don't be put off. There's plenty of technical information and background on significant fonts, but without bogging down in detail. The mix of very readable main text, side diversions, and illustrations makes for an interesting and varied experience. Its also a very recent book, ©2004, and has current examples and deals with web page design as well as printed material.

I've since moved on to more esoteric material, but Thinking With Type is the one I'd recommend to people who only have a casual or passing interest in type and graphic design. Its subtitle of "A critical guide for designers, writers, editors & students" is right on.

Olympus HLD-4 Battery Grip for the Olympus E-3

Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: It's tough being the E-1's younger brother.

The Long Version: I've had a hard time getting a grip. I really like the HLD-2 grip on my E-1, and rarely use that camera without it, but I've also really liked the feel and smaller size of the al fresco E-3. So there's been a long should-I-or-shouldn't-I process, but I finally decided to get the HLD-4 for my E-3 after I noticed how many of my favourite photos were taken with the camera sideways.

"Green and Fence," Olympus E-3, 35-100mm f/2

Like the E-3 itself, the HLD-4 grip suffers a bit from the incredible toughness of the E-1. It's just not as well built or designed as its predecessor, but it's also worth noting that the HLD-2 grip for the E-1 was priced at an absolutely ridiculous amount, easily twice what the HLD-4 costs. Almost nobody actually bought the grip for the E-1 until it was cleared out by an American stores' eBay auction site. I would say that the E-3's grip is below par compared to the grips that Canon makes for the x0D and 5D cameras, except that the Olympus version is weather-sealed to match the E-3. It flexes a little and creaks, similar to the original Canon Rebel. I've come to expect more from Olympus.

Side View: Olympus E-1 with HLD-2 Grip

Side View: Olympus E-3 with HLD-4 Grip

Not to dwell on this or anything, but look at how the grip wraps around the corner of the E-1 (top photo, above). That's a work of art. The corners on the HLD-4 match the E-3 like an APS-C digital sensor behind a legacy film lens. It's feels like a manufacturing and cost-cutting compromise instead of being part of an integrated system. Hopefully this means that it will be the first Olympus grip to be compatible with more than one camera. Time will tell. (Updated 1 Jan 09: the HLD-4 grip is also a mate for the recently-announced midrange Olympus E-30.)

Rear View: Olympus E-1 with HLD-2 Grip

Rear View: Olympus E-3 with HLD-4 Grip

In the view from behind, the HLD-4 shows another couple of differences. For one thing, the battery compartment now opens at the back, removing the need for a new battery a la HLD-2. I suspect that this big opening is the source for a lot of the flex in the Oly grip. Not that there's a lot of flex, but that this is where a lot of it comes from. When handling the E-3/HLD4+35-100/2 combination, the flex can be noticeable, especially with the other main difference between the old and new style.

The HLD-2 has a grippy rubber thumb cut-out and a more rounded bottom-rear corner, while the HLD-4's thumb rest is smooth plastic and has a sharper corner at the bottom. This makes the E-1 easy to hold with a thumb and middle-finger, which is a nice and light grip that doesn't lead to fatigue, but does make it harder to hold the camera securely while using the rear control wheel or buttons. The HLD-4 is easiest to hold between the fingers and heel of the hand, which is a stronger but more fatiguing grip that leaves ones' thumb free to do whatever it needs to. There's still a decent ridge for the thumb-and-finger hold, but it's too slippery for me to really be comfortable with that as my only hold on the camera.

But in real-world use I've found the grip to feel quite natural, and I smiled the first time I handled it. Pulling the E-3/HLD-4+35-100 out of the Glass Taxi - with the hood already extended, naturally - would be accompanied by heroic music if life was an action movie. It's not perfect, it's not even exceptional, but it is a good addition to the E-3 that tries to live up to some of the best cameras Olympus has ever made. I don't think I'll take it off very often.

In an unprecedented move, here are the other photos that I shot but didn't get around to using.

Olympus HLD-4: 

Olympus E-1 with HLD-2:


Olympus E-3 DSLR

Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: Don't worry, be happy now.

The Long Version: The E-3 is now a year old. When it first shipped in late November 2007, it was enthusiastically greeted by people who were waiting a long time for it, and not so enthusiastically received by everyone else. Looking back at the reviews that were written the camera seems to have been criticized for not being a Canon 40D, a Nikon D300, or even an Olympus E-1. Now, one year later, I'm already reading some grumbling about Olympus lacking A Next Big Thing to respond to the "ooh, Shiny" Canon and Nikon product launches. After all, Full Frame Cameras are now almost a mere $3000 each, and fifteen megapixels and a clean iso3200 are needed for any print larger than a business card.

I hate camera review sites.

Okay, I hate overly technical camera review sites.

The point behind comparisons is to find differences between similar items, and it's a part of human nature that the less significant the difference is the more weight people give to it. (This has been shown in scientific studies, but DPreview.com provides ample evidence.) I constantly see people paralyzed by meaningless technical specificity that means absolutely nothing. There's actually no real difference between 10 and 12 megapixels. One-third of a stop of dynamic range is imperceptible. And the Auto White Balance for every camera sucks in mixed or artificial light.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would debate whether Ferrari or Lamborghini was better. We were twelve. None of us could drive. Really, what was the point? And most camera reviews are no more meaningful. So with that in mind, here are my thoughts on the E-3, based on nothing more than common sense, fifteen thousand exposures, and broad but shallow experience with almost every SLR on the market.

Image Quality:

I'll happily put the resolution and dynamic range of the E-3 up against any sub-$2K camera that's been run through a heavy rain shower. It's something that the E-3's designed to do, so why not compete on its own terms? Sure, the 40D shoots an extra frame per second, and the D300... well, it's the D300. But neither camera is as tough as the E-3, and neither are the lenses from any other maker. Weatherproofing and toughness are the reason why I bought the E-1 all those years ago, and it's still one of the best features of the E-3. It's a trait of all of the best cameras, which doesn't include anything else in the E-3's price bracket except for the Pentax SLRs. Considering the investment in bodies and lenses that (some) photographers make, buying an unsealed camera and lenses is very much like getting a car that can't drive in bad weather.

Design and Ergonomics:

The E-3 has two control wheels, and both can be configured to control different variables and do it differently in different modes. I have mine set to always control aperture or shutter speed with the rear dial and exposure compensation with the front. Auto-ISO and Auto-WB takes care of those settings, effective in-body image stabilization removes the need to think about shutter speed, and raw capture takes care of the rest of the settings. I'm not really concerned with where the rest of all the little buttons are. A faster way to change the focus points would be nice, but that's about it. I like the prominently placed Chimp button, and find the flip-out screen to be an amazing feature for shooting from the LCD. Beyond anything else, this is what other photographers notice. The E-3 is a well-designed and utterly reliable tool that is tougher than almost any other on the market and takes just as good photos.

And finally...

I could easily write a long an involved article about the E-3, but the essence is this: find the camera closest to you, make sure it has a fresh battery and an empty card, and go take some photos. When you get back to your base, pick a few of your favourites and print them. If the camera you used is an E-3, you'll probably really like your photos. If your camera isn't an E-3, you'll probably really like your photos.

Be creative and have fun.

Updated August 2009: I'm now using the E-3 alongside the Nikon D700. Don't forget to click on the other tags to read more, like the reviews of the Olympus 35-100 and 7-14, Nikon 50/1.8 and 85mm tilt-shift lenses, and others. Click on photography, cameras, lens, Olympus, or Nikon. Of course, as your best source for diverse and varied reviews of dubious consistency, there's a lot more here than photography gear.


Apple Magsafe Power Adapter

Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: It's been fixed, both generally and specifically.

The Long Version: The MagSafe power adapter than Apple introduced with its MacBooks is a really clever piece of design. I've seen plenty of power adapters for different brands of laptops, all the way back to the IBM laptops with the 1' power cable that left the adapter dangling off of the floor. At one point that was considered a design innovation.

Apple's design added a couple of interesting features. One is the fold-out prongs that give a convenient place to wrap the power cable that runs between the adapter and the laptop. The other is the interchangeable plugs that let the proud owner switch between a simple flip-out plug and a longer AC power cord. (And probably lets Apple's contract manufacturers localize the power adapter for different markets very cheaply.) Flexible, convenient, and a very clever idea.

Apple then went one step further by switching from a ho-hum physically-plug-it-in connection to a nifty magnetic attachment that would save the laptop from plunging to the floor by disconnecting if it was given a hard tug.

The problem is always in the details. The first generation of Magnetic Safety connections - MagSafe for short - has a design flaw that eventually leads to frayed wires and lost power. First the 'charge' light stops coming on, then the connection gets intermittent, and will eventually fail altogether. The links describing the fault are here (apple) and here (critique site).

The good news is that getting a replacement for my seriously-out-of-warranty power adapter was as easy as the Apple tech article describes, without the "only if you live in the US: if you need a replacement somewhere else you'll have to pay for it (if you can find it)" FUD from the other site. The afflicted machines are: the MacBook Pro (17-inch), MacBook Pro (15-inch Glossy), MacBook Pro (original), MacBook (13-inch), MacBook (13-inch Late 2006).

The new adapter has a slightly longer and tapered strain-relief collar that looks like it will solve the problem, and the lack of new computers on the list is reassuring. On the other hand, this isn't the first time I've had an Apple product taken down by a common manufacturing defect, it's just the first time Apple's fixed it. I guess A/C adapters are cheaper than dissatisfied customers.


Omega Seamaster 'Bond' and 'Diver' Watches

Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 5 out of 5
Yeah, but: Any watch that costs over $50 is jewellery.

The Long Version: This review is actually of two related items, the Omega Seamaster 300m GMT (a.k.a 'Bond GMT') reference 2535.80, and the Omega Seamaster 300m Chronometer (aka 'Diver') reference 2533.50. 

I've been an admirer of Omega watches for many years, and am particularly fond of the Seamaster line. When it came time to choose a watch, I was in an excellent position to be familiar with almost the entire current line of Omegas and enjoy them without any sales pressure. While I like the idea of the Speedmaster 'Moon watch' I could never quite bring myself to buy one, as I wanted a watch with a screw-down crown. I take my waterproofing seriously, and while the toughness of that model is literally astronomical, the idea of water being able to get under a crown that was accidentally opened wasn't comforting. I also decided that I wanted a simpler watch without the visual and mechanical complications of a chronograph. Legibility, attractiveness, and reliability were going to be the deciding factors in my choice. The watch that I picked - after considering an rejecting the rest of the Omega line for one reason or another - was a black-dialed Seamaster 300m diver. An a few years later, when I was buying my second and final watch, the lure of the Seamaster was stronger than the desire to diversify, and I bought the pinnacle of Omega styling and technology: the coaxial Seamaster 'Bond' GMT.

Omega Seamaster Professional 300m GMT, reference 2535.80

This watch - in its normal 2220.80 non-GMT configuration - has been the watch for James Bond as played by Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. (These two gentlemen will be referred to as "Remington Steele" and "The New Guy" from here on, as this makes it easier for me to keep track of them.) Steele started wearing one because both he and his character were paid to do so, so it's not exactly a personal testament, but product placement and 'brand ambassadors' have long been a part of marketing. The Bond name is very heavily identified with the blue-dial and skeleton-handed Seamasters, and it's the most recognizable watch that Omega makes. The New Guy continues to wear one of these in the more recent films, but he also wears the bigger 'Planet Ocean' models. They've been heavily promoted as a tie-in with "Quantum of Solace", so only time will tell if the 'Bond' appellation applies to those as well.

The 'Bond' model that I have is the co-axial GMT chronograph, which essentially means that it tells two time zones and keeps very good time - about as accurate as a cheap quartz watch. But mechanical watches have a certain essence to them that no electronic watch can match; it's the difference between a cheap Nikon or Kodak point-and-shoot camera versus a hand-crafted rangefinder. A mechanical watch is archaic to the point of obstinacy, but there's just something about a finely crafted machine that has hundreds of parts and is able keep track of the sun with over 99% accuracy through all conditions. If that doesn't make much sense, or the idea of a watch that costs more than a hundred dollars seems ridiculous, I can't help you. Perhaps some of our other reviews will suit you better.

Prince William's Omega Seamaster

All of the co-axial Seamasters are a little thicker than the ones with the lever escapement. (Wikipedia
is our friend.) This new style of movement is a significant improvement over the standard escapement, increasing its accuracy and decreasing the frequency of its return to the mothership for servicing and lubrication. The GMT Bond also has some additional thickness from the clear sapphire caseback that shows off the rhodium-plated 2628 self-winding movement. I like both shiny things and the insides of machines, so when I can see the shiny inside of a machine I'm very happy. Otherwise the thicker watch isn't quite as easy to wear with a dress shirt with narrow cuffs, so just like with everything else, there are compromises to be made.

Back View, Coaxial Bond GMT, reference 2535.80

The Bond GMT is a thick, heavy watch. The bracelets on Omega watches are solid, making the folded-link manufacture of Rolex feel appropriately light and cheap, and it gives the Seamaster a nice heft and balance. On the other hand, it's also possible to have too much of a good thing; the Planet Ocean watches that The New Guy wears are gorgeous, but the large size weighs about half a pound. That's a little too much for me, so the 41mm case diameter of the 300m Seamaster was a better choice. If that's still too much, there's also the 'boy size' (officially the 'medium') that has only subtly different styling and is closer to a traditionally sized watch.

Omega Seamaster Professional 300m Chronometer, America's Cup edition,
reference 2533.50, on rubber buckle strap

The other Seamaster that I own is the black-dialed steel 'Diver' model. As it's an older watch it originally came on the bracelet that now only remains on the Bond styles, instead of the newer style that was introduced on the Seamaster GMT. I suspect that Omega brought in the GMT bracelet to show Rolex how one is supposed to be made, but the general consensus is that the Bond bracelet is both better looking and more comfortable. Regardless, even before I had the GMT Bond I usually wore the Diver on a rubber strap. It's lighter and more comfortable to wear for extended periods, and I like the look of the combination. A black dialed watch on a black strap accentuates the case, while a metal bracelet accentuates the dial. The buckle-strap in this photograph is off of a 2004 Olympics edition Seamaster, and is the new design that also appears on the Planet Ocean, but I also have a black rubber deployant strap as well. It was never sold in either combination, making this configuration unique. What can I say - working for Swatch Group Canada for so many years did have some advantages.

This particular 300m Diver is from 1999/2000, and was produced as a limited edition for the America's Cup and
Sir Peter Blake. While Sir Peter isn't as famous as the various 007 Agents, he's just as interesting a person and someone more worthy of admiration. The changes for this model are the words Limited Edition on the side of the case, one word on each side of the crown, the America's Cup logo on the dial, and a numbered case back. There was also non-limited version that kept the white-gold bezel with raised markers, and also an ugly version with a yellow-gold bezel and two-tone bracelet.

Aside from the different movement and the GMT function, the main differences between the two models is the dial and hands. The Diver model has much larger hands and markers, making for a bolder face that's easier to read. It's so luminous that I can see it from across a dark room, and the non-radioactive material remains luminous for hours. The markers themselves are simply 'painted' (I have no idea how it's actually put on) onto the dial, which is standard for the basic Seamasters. The non-limited watch with the same steel+white gold bezel has applied markers, so the version that I have is a cross between the dressier aspirations and the functional simplicity of a diver's watch. 

The Bond is a more stylish watch, and may work better with a tuxedo and evil-but-sexy villainess than a wet suit. The one real advantage to the skeleton hands is that it doesn't obscure the date display, which helps those of us with no short-term memory. The other real advantage to the skeleton hands is that it doesn't obscure the date display, which helps those of us with no short-term memory. The disadvantage is that legibility is good but not exceptional, and the watch is much dimmer at night or in the inky depths of the abyss.

Choosing one of these watches is a significant decision. They're not expensive for an expensive watch, but they're far more money than a sensible person should ever spend on one. (In my case, see my above comment about how working for Swatch did have some advantages.) With luck, this is a lifetime purchase. I'm pleased with mine, but that's no reason for anyone to take my advice, so go to a decent store and have a look at your options before you buy one. Other styles to look at would certainly include the new black-dialed Bond, although I'd skip the 007 limited edition version as I'm not a fan of the smooth face. The titanium Diver 300m Chronometer is a lighter (and warmer) watch, the Planet Ocean also has some Bond appeal with beautiful orange accents. The Aqua Terra - especially the stunning two-tone rose gold - is a fine dress watch, the Seamaster Chronographs have the ability to stop and start the chronograph underwater, and even the Speedmaster is an excellent watch with real historical value.

Just skip the Rolex section - unless you really want to spend far too much money to make most people to think that you're wearing a Seiko.


Camo Beer Cans

Concept: 2 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: I Still Like It

The Long Version: When I'm working there are only a few ways to save money on beer--if there's a comp'ed bar tab for the band, free beers from fans, or buying that night's "Special", which could be anything.
A lifetime of this (28 years, actually) has made me anything but a beer snob. Any beer will do, so long as I can see through it and it's cold.
At home, I favor the same beer that I started with in the mid '70s--Miller High Life.
A 6-pack of 16oz cans is around $4, and after the first two swallows all beer tastes the same anyway.

The point of this post is the camouflage cans that my brew has started wearing.
As you can see, it's the "Limited Edition FALL SERIES".
Is that why the price went up a little?

Obviously, the point of the camo is hunting season.
Nearly everything gets some camo in the fall here in South Texas.
Cans of beer, desperate to survive through the rut, hiding safely in plain sight?
If they were white!
There's no foliage inside my refrigerator or ice chest.
For the sportsmen in the woods, leaving the rest of the can bright shiny gold defeats the purpose, wouldn't you say?
And why are they drinking while still hunting instead of afterwards?
Is the camo a way to make littering less noticeable?

All kidding aside, they look okay, the printing is done well, and the beer still works just fine.
Right now I'm trying the big can of Foster's shown above and it's pretty good, too.


Seal Line Urban Shoulder Bag

Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: A good design is let down by a couple of material problems.

The Long Version: I bought the small size of the Seal Line 'Urban Shoulder Bag' in July as I was looking for a replacement for my too-small ninja-turtle-inspired mec Flux sling pack. I wanted something small enough to not be annoying, but big enough to carry my daily necessities to and from work, and there are bonus points if it's orange. I'm not an inherently colourful person, but I have an orange suitcase, orange sling pack, and orange umbrella. So when I found this shoulder bag from a reputable maker of outdoorsy-gear, I knew it was for me despite a fair bit of sticker-shock.

There are two unique features of this bag. One is the material, a waterproof coated fabric that's very lightweight. The other is the closure system. Instead of the ubiquitous velcro or plastic snaps, it uses broad metal hooks on elastic shock-cord under the lid that grip the plastic lugs on the body of the bag. It's an elegant system that's essentially silent, and became easy to use once I got used to it. Inside the bag is an organizer panel that holds pens and other small items, a slash pocket at the back that's good for slim books (but not even small laptops), and a good-sized main compartment with a soft elasticized bottle-holder on each end. One side holds my water bottle, the other holds my flashlight and orange umbrella. As much as anything else, these two holders was the reason I bought the bag. 

The back has a ventilated foam panel that provides good padding for the contents of the bag, and makes it comfortable to carry. The shoulder strap and its pad are also remarkably unannoying, with the pad staying in place on the strap without any fuss, and the times that I've been caught in the rain the bag has proven itself completely impervious to the elements.

It feels like there's a "but" coming, doesn't it?

Unlike some other bags, this one doesn't stretch or change shape to accommodate its contents. If I want to carry something that's just a little too big, it won't fit. As much as I like the quiet hooks that close the bag, those plastic snaps on long straps do a better job of holding oversized stuff. Day-to-day this isn't an issue, but it's a nuisance on those occasions when it is. It wouldn't be the best choice for someone who can't choose what they carry - maybe that's why Seal Line calls it a 'shoulder bag' instead of using the trendier 'messenger' word.

Since I bought it to carry a specific load and it does it perfectly, I really can't complain. My reason for only giving it an 'average' execution score is that after only four months of use is has already shown some flaws. The inner organizer pocket with a zipper - there's only one - is made of mesh, which has started to rip at the bottom. This is about the only place to put valuables without them sliding around when the bag is set down on its back, so naturally it gets all of my pocket change, wallet, and occasionally my 770SW camera. I suspect that it's the camera that did the damage, as it's fairly heavy, but I think it just accelerated the inevitable.

The other materials issue is that some of the fabric trim around the front flap has come unstitched, and the bag is showing some wear marks where it creases. I don't mind genuine wear and tear, and there are enough Timbuk2 bags out there proving that this can enhance a bags' appearance. The colour of the Seal Line bag has faded a bit to a more muted colour, and I like that it has its own personality now, but the flaw in the stitching speaks to a bag that's just not as well made as it should be.

I wouldn't say that it's particularly better than the various MEC-branded carryall bags that I've used but only cost half as much. I prefer the Seal Line's styling, closure, and trust its weatherproofing, but no longer expect that it will last me forever. I'd be kidding myself if I ever pretended that my quest for the perfect bag was over, but at least I've found a really good one for now.



Concept: 2 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: McDonalds is what the "solid average" rating was designed for.

The Long Version: Reviewing McDonalds for food quality is somewhat like running on a greasy floor: the results are likely to be unsurprising and possibly hazardous. Food-wise, McDonalds is about as unremarkable as it is consistent. In fact, it's consistency is about the only thing that's remarkable about it. It tastes the same across North America, and Australian McDonald's held no surprises for me except for the "McCafe" additions. It tastes about the same as what I got used to before I knew what I was eating, and I never expect to be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised by what I'm served.

As people who have read my "Columbus in America" review will know, I often use Google to check what the rest of the world is thinking. For this review I did an exact-match search of the phrase "McDonalds food tastes great". Usually results are in the thousands or millions: this time I got FIVE. Not million, not thousand, just plain old five. And two separate results were doubled, including one which says that Burger King is better. So all over the world, I'm only the fourth person to write that "McDonalds food tastes great", despite 'great taste' being part of their advertising taglines between 1984 and 1990.

click for a larger image

So the food's not great, but that's probably not a big revelation, so that's the end of my attention to that particular low-hanging piƱata. The fact is that the quality of the food really doesn't matter. It's a solid, dependably average performance from an organization that's never expected to do any better and rarely disappoints. And really, that's not so bad.

Postscript: From a McDonalds website: "Crew members represent virtually every age group, and almost every reason for working. ... Across the world, more than one million people choose to work at McDonald's every day." Is it just me, or does that sound a little defensive?

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