A brief review of Trolley’s

After receiving an email last week about Beauty and the Beast playing at Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts this weekend, I threw together a plan for a romantic evening with April. She loves Maria’s downtown, so I figured we’d go there for dinner, then go to the musical, and the whole thing would be a surprise.

More surprising was what we found downtown, though. Every restaurant was almost empty… except Maria’s, which had a line out the door! We couldn’t wait as long as it would take to secure a table, so instead we went wandering and ended up at Trolley’s. I hadn’t eaten there before and hadn’t heard much about it, despite it opening half a dozen years or so ago, so we gave it a try.

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Why reviews are kind of worthless

I’ve done a few reviews in my time, but it’s not something I’m really into. I look at reviews as being recommendations–here’s why you should or shouldn’t try/buy this service/product–and that’s great, but some just strike me as a bit… odd. There’s certainly validity in writing game, movie, or food reviews, because you can try something and then let other people know if they should spend their time and/or money on it as well. But sometimes, I don’t think writing a review is a good first step.

In this case, I’m talking about food reviews. You visit a restaurant and dislike it, so you write a review about it. That’s all fine and well–you’ve let other people know that it’s not worth their money–but maybe the restaurant just needs to change a few things. Sure, maybe they’ll change when/if they read the review, but by then the damage is done.

It’s sort of like when you find a major bug or exploit for a software program. Writing a review (or expose, or hacker’s how-to, or whatever) that talks about this is where we get “zero day exploits.” These are things that came to light with no forewarning and no opportunity for the software company to fix them. Now everyone knows about them and the company has to get a patch out as soon as possible to correct this horrible problem.

A better tack to take is to contact the company and say, “Hey, I found this exploit and you ought to fix it. In fact, I’d be happy to help you fix it if you want.” If they refuse to fix it, sure, out them: post it for all the world to see. But they should at least be given a chance.

Writing a negative review of a restaurant is like posting a zero day exploit. Maybe no one has ever shared these frustrations with them honestly, or maybe they just haven’t realized the problem. Working in Computer Services at Missouri State University, we regularly have recommendations brought to us that we just never thought of–we work so closely with our environment and systems that it’s hard to step back and see something that needs changed. When someone makes a good recommendation, though, we work to implement it. We often have conversations of, “That’s a great idea, why aren’t we doing that? Let’s do it!”

Instead of writing negative reviews, we ought to contact an establishment to let them know our concerns. The problem is that you can’t sell those communications. You can’t get page hits with no content. At best, your write-up would be delayed by weeks or months, and at worst you’d never write anything because there’s nothing left to write. You may not even want to post something about working with the company because it would still give a negative impression of them and harm your relationship with that company.

In the end, I think a lot of negative reviews exist to generate discussion, page hits, and attention. They’re definitely still valuable–I don’t want to go someplace that sucks–but I don’t think they’re as valuable as helping someplace improve.

Upcoming Events

We’ve got a number of social engagements coming up, and maybe you’d like to come to them? I don’t know, but if you did, here they are.

October 23, 2009 – Game Night

My D&D group usually meets on Friday nights, but with Ryan’s wedding and subsequent honeymoon our group hasn’t been traversing dungeons as usual. Since Ryan will be out of town this night, we’re going to shift to a board game, and I’m thinking Runebound just because it keeps with the D&Dishness of our usual Friday evenings. If you’d like to join in, the game can support six people and we only have… well, four, but feel free to come by and check it out! We also have several other board games as well as Rock Band 2, so there’s that.

October 27, 2009 – Pumpkin Carving

In preparation for our kickin’ Halloween Party, we’re going to carve some pumpkins for decoration. April and I will buy a few (probably 4-6) and people can carve on those, but people are welcome (and encouraged) to bring their own pumpkins and pumpkin it up! I’m scheduling this for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

October 31, 2009 – Halloween Party and Kitten Birthday

Yeah yeah, it’s Halloween, but our kittens are also ONE YEAR OLD. This is a BIG DEAL to April, so we’re having a birthday party for them.

We have a theme and that theme is DON KNOTTS. Dress up as your favourite Don Knotts character and we’ll be playing movies featuring him all night.

Party starts at 5 p.m. and will feature DISASTROUS DRINKS as well as TERRIFYING FOODS and fantastic Halloween Videos like Scooby Doo and… I don’t know, SOMETHING ELSE that may or may not feature Don Knotts. Our neighborhood’s also got a ton of kids, so we’ll be handing out candy pretty constantly for an hour or two.

If you’ve got kids and want to take them trick or treating, feel free to bring them around 🙂 Our neighborhood’s a good one for it. Just be aware that the party will be an Adult Party which means there will be Adult Language and Alcoholic Beverages. Younger kids might be bored and/or hear things you don’t want them to, so just be aware of this.

Party goes to midnight, and April has a trip downtown to the Spook Show scheduled at 9 p.m. I don’t know what that is and probably won’t go so, YOU KNOW, whatever floats your boat.

PS if you’re dressing up as a (Don Knotts) pirate you should probably bring rum because there can never be enough rum yo-ho yo-ho

November 14, 2009 – Neighbourhood Dinner Party

This is for a relatively small group of people, but if you live around us, you should come to dinner on Saturday, November 14th at 6 p.m. I intend to bake a spiral ham and we’ll have water, iced tea, and wine. Please bring a side dish and/or dessert.

In particular this is for Vineyard Friends, but if you’re not a Vineyard person and still want to come, you ought to. Good times await!

Incisions in my life

I got my wisdom teeth out last Thursday, and though it wasn’t as horrific as some people made it out to be, it has put a bit of a crimp in my scheduled activities. I had expected to be all better by end-of-the-day Friday and return to writing on Saturday, but suffice it to say that did not happen.

This is just a short note by way of apology for suckiness and being such a wuss. I was going to have an essay about hospitality up today, but it didn’t happen. Instead, my weekend has been filled with downing pain pills, drinking almost all my meals, and napping with April and the kittens because I’m not capable of much else.

I did get our taxes done on Saturday morning, which was something of an accomplishment, and by using H&R Block’s TaxCut we got a couple extra hundred dollars more than we would have using TurboTax. Definitely recommend TaxCut.

I also recommend Campbell’s tomato soup, but am steering away from Slim Fast. I managed to drink two of them before being unable to take any more. I’d like to try Slim Fast mixed with coffee or milk, but haven’t worked up the courage yet.

How do you write, or function even, when you’re in pain and all kinds of lethargic? I suppose someone with more drive than me would have pushed through and done something, anything, but I did not. I read, and I’ve got some extra notes and outlines, and I’m all ready to be productive again, but it just isn’t going to happen this week. Subsequently, I also didn’t go back and revise the articles going live this week, so they’re a bit rough. Oh well.

It’d be nice to be full again, instead of always hungry. To eat chicken fried steak, or something with more flavour than mashed potatoes. We’re going to try and go out for sushi on Valentine’s Day, which would suffice, and hopefully I’ll even be able to eat it.

My mind’s all fuzzy. I know I had stuff I wanted to write and share, but I’ve got no motivation right now. Gonna go do something brainless, like nap some more or something. Adieu.

Housewarming Party Photos

Note: I’ve closed the massive photo gallery once hosted at SilverPen of well over 3,000 images we had taken and uploaded. We’ll continue to maintain a smaller set of public photos on Flickr, but will reserve the local photo gallery for our backups and friends/family who want to see more images.

I finally remembered to upload these (since we got Internet access last Wednesday night). Our housewarming party was a huge success; we had a great turnout, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Grilling was fun, and the food turned out well, though I certainly had a few lessons to learn about the process! I think I used about 3 times the amount of charcoal I needed.

We had about 20-21 people show up over the course of the 6+ hour party. All we supplied were hamburgers, buns, some condiments, and some drinks, and we asked people to bring whatever else they wanted. We ended up grilling some bison burgers, tofu burgers, Brian sautéed some mushrooms, and had an assortment of other things to eat and drink. In addition, since my birthday was the following week, April got me an ice cream cake ^.^

To celebrate, I bought some cigars, which we smoked on the front porch. Thanks to the wonder of foresight, I also bought some pipe tobacco; we didn’t have enough cigars for everybody (only 8-10 people had RSVPed, lol), but those who wanted to indulge were able. Brian won the contest for the longest ash, and Wacey got to enjoy the wonder that is Landshark (pipe tobacco available at Just For Him here in Springfield).

We ended the night with a 14-person game of Apples to Apples, which is always great at parties because you can have a virtually unlimited number of people playing. We didn’t start the game until around 11 p.m., and most of the group left after the first game. We only had 6 people for the second game, and finished around 12:30 a.m., at which point we were all pretty wiped out.

Thank you to everyone who came, and if you couldn’t make it, don’t worry, we’ll have another party of epic proportions just as soon as we can! Due to our schedule this semester, I think our next opportunity for a giant party of awesomeness +11 will probably be in December, probably just before the end of the semester. Mark it on your calendars and, until then, feel free to marvel at the photos (link below to the gallery). Thanks for making it a wonderful party and warming our home with your presence.


I would kill ((Not really “kill,” per se… though the bagel would certainly regret coming within my grasp.)) for a chocolate chip bagel from Panera. Or at least a chocolate chip muffin. It’s just one of those kind of days where I’m craving chocolate and fresh baked goods at the same time.

Can you believe that chocolate chip bagels are seasonal items at Panera? How is chocolate ever out of season?