Tag Archives: Lifestyle

TED Talks Worth Watching

10 Jun

The annual TED conference is an event where people from various disciplines get together to share knowledge and ideas.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

Last month it was announced that local event planner and overall awesome person Susan Cope had successfully applied to host a TEDx (Independently Organized) event in Buffalo this fall.  As the planning continues and we get closer to the actual event, I’ll post some of my favorite TED presentations and help you get in the mood for an awesome event.

At a point in our national and global history where we face transformational economic and cultural challenges, we need to fundamentally change our consumption patterns, the way we interact and launch a foundational change in our practical wisdom.  These talks tell us why and how.

Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he’s drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.  If you don’t know what the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is, here ya go:

It is roughly the size of Texas, containing approximately 3.5 million tons of trash.  Shoes, toys, bags, pacifiers, wrappers, toothbrushes, and bottles too numerous to count are only part of what can be found in this accidental dump floating midway between Hawaii and San Francisco.


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Where I Get to Taste Fine Cuisine for Fun

22 Jun

I was honored to be one of three judges at the inaugural Nickel City Chef, a local variant of the popular “Iron Chef” series on Food Network. Today’s competition pit Krista van Wagner from Curly’s against Brian Mietus from Bacchus. Curly’s is known for eclectic dishes, while Bacchus is more of an American bistro.

It was a sellout crowd, and Seabar’s Andrzejewski was not only the color commentator, but also catered the event for the spectators. Bert Gambini was the MC, who did a bang-up job introducing the players to the crowd, explaining the philosophy behind Nickel City Chef, and otherwise keeping things moving.

It being the first-ever episode of Nickel City Chef, it was inevitable that there would be a couple of issues with the production. Mics cutting out and feeding back are nothing – during the competition, no one could really see what was happening in the kitchens, and during the tasting, many people couldn’t see what we were tasting. That’s easily fixable with a couple of extra cameras and some long cables. The absolutely gorgeous “kitchen stadium” that Artisan Kitchen & Bath set up in its Amherst Street warehouse has flat-screen TVs throughout. Also, the first 15 minutes or so of the battle don’t lend themselves to much commentary from the hosts because that’s a critical period of time for the chefs, neither of which wanted to give much away to the other side at that point. Instead, the secret ingredient should be revealed, the chefs told to begin, and then the hosts can do the introductions.

Both chefs prepared food that was to die for, and they proved that they are as good as any chef anywhere. They took one hour to make something extraordinary to showcase a pretty pedestrian secret ingredient.

I am proud to have been a part of this not only because I’m tangentially involved in the local restaurant scene, or because I’m a big guy who loves to eat, but because Buffalo’s restaurants and chefs are often overlooked by too many local people. This is a great and fun experiment, and with a couple of production changes, should air on local television once per month. Seriously good show by everyone involved, and a special thanks to fellow judges comedian Kristen Becker and Spiel the Wine’s Kevin LoVullo.

(A longer version of this, which includes my detailed description of the dishes each judge served will appear in an upcoming issue of the Buffalo Spree. All of this year’s Nickel City Chefs are now sold out. I dare say this is something that lends itself especially to wintertime, as a great antidote to cabin fever).

Car Browsing Redux

2 Jun

A couple of weeks ago, I did a post about my experiences at three auto dealers when I went out car browsing – not shopping – browsing. I made it crystal clear to everyone and anyone I spoke with that I was not buying anything that day, and that I was sniffing around, kicking the tires, looking around at stuff. I was not, at that time, in the market to buy anything.

But I probably will be in a month or two. So I was narrowing down my choices.

I was very critical of Dave Smith Ford. The owner, Dave Smith, left a comment yesterday:

Mr. Bedenko,
As the owner of Dave Smith Ford, I have to say that I am extremely dismayed at your opinion of our Ford dealership. I feel compelled to defend myself, and my salesperson whom you refer to as “a bit pushy”.
I read what you wrote on your blog, and from what it sounds like my salesperson did exactly what any good salesperson should be expected to do. Assuming that is you didn’t come into the dealership looking for a new washing machine. To sum up your experience, if I may:

1. He introduced himself,
2. He tried to determine your wants/needs,
3. He demonstrated the product,
4. He asked you to buy the product.

I sincerely apologize for not being able to get together on an aggreeable price. Unfortunately, (to my dismay) it seems as if price negotiations and haggling will always be a part of my industry. But from the sounds of it, you never intended to purchase a Ford Flex from ANY Ford dealership.

As for the decor of our dealership, I have to thank you for your advice! We have been planning on updating our office furniture for quite some time. However, with the recent downturn in our industry, we thought it better to put such purchases on hold.

I can tell you that almost 80% of our business is repeat and referral. And our CSI scores are consistently above our peers. Obviously, we don’t have to have the biggest, and fanciest facility to have happy customers.
In closing, I would like to say that we, as well as the majority of dealers out there, have been a member of the Better Business Bureau for over 30 years, we give roughly $15,000 per year to our local charities, we pay close to $100,000 per year in school/property taxes, we pay over $100,000 per year in health insurance premiums, we pay over $50,000 per year in liability premiums (I thought I saw one of your readers say you are an attorney so I’m sure you know all about the pitfalls of our litigious society), and last but not least we are proud to employ 65 of the BEST people in the Western New York! Yours truly, Dave Smith.

Attaway to completely alienate a dissatisfied potential customer. Frankly, I’m shocked that anyone would defend the anachronistic and yes – pushy – experience I dealt with.

Mr. Smith, I told your salesman over and over again that I was just looking, that I was in the market for a vehicle and the Flex was on my radar screen, but I wanted to check it out. I told him several times that I wasn’t in the market to actually buy anything that day. He wasted my time. By the time you came back having driven my trade, I was ready to go. Instead, I’m so polite I let your salesguy start haggling with me over a car I had told him time and time again I wasn’t going to buy that day. What part of that don’t you understand?

As I mentioned to your salesperson, and in my earlier post, I’m preliminarily looking around, winnowing down the list of potential vehicles to buy. Want to know what I mean by pushy?

1. Protesting and continuing with the haggling after I had gotten off the phone with my wife, found out that the baby was up from her nap, and it was time for me to go home. Your salespeople should listen to the words coming out of my mouth.

2. After completing a test drive of the white Flex Limited that had been driven up from Florida, asking me if that was the car I wanted to buy. I responded (again) that I wasn’t buying anything that day. Then he asked, well if you were, is this the car you’d be getting? I responded (again) I wasn’t buying anything, but if I was hypothetically buying a Flex, then I’d be interested in that model. That’s when he whipped out a “sold” sign and had me place it under the wiper. Subtle like a brick – trying to get me into the “I just bought a car, and I’m definitely buying this car” mindset by giving me the feeling of ownership, despite the words coming out of my mouth.

3. As he did the financial breakdown of that white Flex Limited, he wrote down all of its wonderful features, wrote down my trade and went over all of its fantastic features, broke down the price, and then drew a line with an x. He asked me to sign it, and had no good answer as to what I was signing. I’m a lawyer, so I know it’s meaningless. I know the elements of a contract, and we had none. An average layperson off the street might think you’ve got a contract the moment you sign something. That’s not just dumb and uncomfortable. It’s sleazy and deceptive.

4. I don’t need a babysitter. I need a salesperson. As I mentioned in my post, the Flex sells itself. I don’t need a hard sell from an eager salesperson. He was a nice enough kid, but wouldn’t leave me alone for a minute. The goal was to not let me leave the dealership without buying a car. Again – try listening to your potential customers once in a while.

Let me now address specifically some of your complaints:

I sincerely apologize for not being able to get together on an aggreeable price. Unfortunately, (to my dismay) it seems as if price negotiations and haggling will always be a part of my industry. But from the sounds of it, you never intended to purchase a Ford Flex from ANY Ford dealership.

That’s completely inaccurate. I told your salesman over and over again that I didn’t intend to buy any car that day from anyone. Thanks to your whiny and self-indulgent comment, when, in a couple of weeks, I am back in the market for a larger car, possibly with three rows, I may consider the Flex, but it won’t be from you.

That’s great that you’re generous with your salespeople and your charity. But that’s not what this is about. I’m not generally in the market for American cars because I perceive them to be poorly designed and unrefined. This is changing, and I’m opening my mind. I’m used to a certain level of service and non-pushiness from my car dealers – hell, Volkswagen of Orchard Park, where I’ve bought about 3 cars so far, also has a pretty crappy-ass dealership design, but they’re friendly and not at all pushy there. They let me look. They let me try. Then they back off when I make it clear I’d like them to back off.

So, kudos to you for your customer service scores and you have my condolences about the state of the auto industry today. Your customer retention rates are enviable.

But in a couple of weeks, when what I’m waiting to have happen happens, and I’ll be looking to plunk down money for a new, larger vehicle. I’ll be sure to look elsewhere, as you’ve basically told me to go screw myself.

Main Place Mall – It’s Failtastic!

1 Jun

Becky from Clarence Grad 72 took a trip to the Main Place Mall, and posted some pics and some reminiscences. The only thing I think of whilst strolling through the Main Place Mall is that it needs the Aud Treatment®. Just rip it down.

In any event, this made me laugh:

The “All About Buffalo” icon upstairs looks rather lonely, like “I stepped out of the nickel for this??”

Old Buffalo

27 May

A slideshow of photographs posted to Flickr by Fix Buffalo’s David Torke.



17 May

Quite the negative set of reviews here. I might have to check it out just to see if it could possibly be that bad.

NEXUS Update

16 May

We just underwent the NEXUS application process and interview. For the 4 of us, it took about an hour.

You’re allowed to bring your typical exemptions into and out of Canada, and they trust you to stick to that when using a NEXUS lane. They have zero tolerance for even the smallest infraction.

Notably, however, the NEXUS pass is recognized as proof of citizenship by the US, but not by Canada.

You still need a passport or enhanced driver’s license or passport card ready fob inspection when entering Canada via NEXUS lane. The Canadian interviewer anticipates that Parliament will change this rule sometime in 2009.

The cards should be here in about a week.

Spring Furreals

2 May

Not for nothing, but softball is being played, trees are budding, and lawns are being mowed. Enjoy.


1 May

Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 protection yesterday, clearing the way for a new round of financing and a deal with Fiat. Concessions from unions were already taken care of, so there is a lot of hope right now that Chrysler can emerge from a fast-track bankruptcy in a much stronger way with a widened and improved stable of vehicles. It’s hoped that the guy who turned Fiat around from GM-subsidized basket case to Chrysler suitor can do wonders here, too.

Chrysler and GM both suffer from a malaise that’s all too familiar to us Buffalonians – a distinct inability and refusal to adapt with the changing times. American automakers didn’t just fail because they were slow to recognize changes in buyers’ tastes, or because their strategy was short-sighted, or because they built cars that were, for the most part, far inferior to their Japanese or European counterparts.

They suffer from a mid-50s mindset.

Hopefully, these concessions, the influx of cash, and relief from debt will prompt GM and Chrysler to fundamentally restructure and re-tool. It’s hard to compete with a state-of-the-art Hyundai, BMW, or Toyota plant when you’re operating a 50s era plant under 50s era work rules.

All I know is that I want these cars in local dealer lots:


20 Apr

A huge thank you to Christina Abt, Paul Wolf, Evan Parker Pierce, Mamacrat, and Robert Harding, who all took turns contributing stuff here over the past week. I greatly appreciate it.

We were on Grand Bahama Island, a rather strange island that was built essentially from scratch beginning in the 50s – it’s run by a private corporation called the Grand Bahama Port Authority. The beaches are wonderful, and the island has a colorful history, but suffers from that 50s design plague of cul-de-sacs and sprawl. When visiting a foreign country, I love to explore a bit. In Freeport, apart from beach-hopping, exploring mostly means going from shopping plaza to shopping plaza. If you’re not in and around Lucaya Harbor, you need a car.

The first day we arrived, the hotel we had booked was pretty run-down, but we were willing to deal with it. After all, they promised to have the AC fixed within a couple of hours. At 9:40, just as I was putting the kids to bed, the fire alarm went off. We were on the 12th floor (the 13th floor, where Howard Hughes spent his final days, is closed), and made for the emergency stairwell.

It was pitch black for most of it, so at floor 6 we had to get out and take the elevator down the rest of the way. When we reached the “lobby”, we had to wade through scalding water pouring out of the ceiling and running down the hall. Interestingly, all day there had been well-dressed, not-touristy looking guys on laptops, using the free wifi, and yelling into headsets in either Spanish or some unidentifiable language. I have a feeling they were up to no good. Maybe I should learn Spanish and whatever the hell other language the guy with the leather flip-flops and oversized sunglasses was wearing.

We mustered in the main lobby and spoke with the other 4-5 rooms’ worth of people who had also evacuated. Every single room – the two Italian couples who had endured 14 hours’ worth of flights and connections to get there, the group of girls on vacation with their parents, and a few more couples in their 50s – none of us stayed in that hotel that night. Some waited around for the hotel to set them up with something different. I just got on the phone and found alternate accommodations that way. I wasn’t going to waste a moment of vacation I didn’t need to. Luckily, we had a car, so it only took 5 trips to get all 6 of us and our stuff completely out of the old room and into the new one. My Tripadvisor review is up and running.

Our alternate accommodation was the Westin at Our Lucaya – a beautiful facility that is well-kept and well-run, was completely relaxing, and across the street from the outdoor pedestrian mall/marina of Port Lucaya Marketplace. After checking in to that Westin, we only had to use our sad little Nissan Almera Classic (which is actually a Renault Samsung production) a couple more times.

One other interesting thing about Grand Bahama is that the car that can’t get sold on a used car lot in the States or Japan could easily end up there. It’s where old Nissans, Hondas, and Toyotas go to die – most of them RHD.

Also – would it kill US Airways to honor seat selections made months in advance, to offer ticket sleeves, pillows, and blankets? The last bunch of times we’ve flown, it’s been JetBlue or Southwest. Anyhow, back to reality.