Haagen-Dazs Green Tea: Take Two

In a previous post I talked about my excitement to discover that Haazen-Dazs had released a green tea ice cream in the USA, and my subsequent disillusionment when I discovered the contents were not the same as the Japanese version.

I have continued to eat—and enjoy—my stash of green tea ice cream. I am disappointed it’s not the same as the Japanese version, but I still maintain that it’s the best mainstream green tea ice cream you can buy in the USA. Apparently I’m not the only one that thinks that way, because Haagen-Dazs has decided to make it a permanent addition to their lineup—no more “Limited Edition” on the package.

Outlook Express Compact Messages

If you use Outlook Express to read your e-mail you’ve probably seen the message: “To free up disk space, Outlook Express can compact messages. This may take up to a few minutes.” What Outlook Express wants to do is make a copy of your message archive sans any messages you have deleted, trash the old message archive, and replace it with the new one. This is usually a good thing as it does indeed free up disk space and keeps your message archives in tip-top shape.

The problem is that in determining when to display the message, Outlook Express simply counts the number of times you close it and when it reaches 100 the message starts popping up. If you have multiple e-mail identities set up and switch between them several times a day you can see that message every couple of weeks. At that point it starts to get annoying. I have several years of messages stored and it takes quite a while for Outlook Express to complete the compacting process.

Unfortunately there is no way to turn off the message entirely, but you can make a quick edit to the Windows registry to set the counter back to 0 and dismiss the message (for a while, anyway).

Note: The following requires modifying your computer’s system files. Although I’ve tested and use these modifications on my own computer, I’m not responsible for any damage to your computer that might arise as a result of attempting these modifications—proceed at your own risk!

  1. Start the Registry Editor by clicking the “Start” menu, then choosing “Run…” and enter “regedit.”
  2. To start, navigate to the following folder in Regedit:
    “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\”

    In the “Identities” folder you will see at least one entry that looks something like this:
    {1A234BC5-6789-123D-456E-FG7H8912345I}

    The number of identities will correspond to the number of identities you have set up in Outlook Express. You will need to repeat the following steps for each identity.

  3. Continue to navigate to the following key, substituting “{identity}” for one of your identity keys:
    “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\{identity}\Software\Microsoft\Outlook Express\5.0”
  4. In the “5.0” folder you will see a key called “Compact Check Count.” Double click this key.
  5. Enter “0” for the value data and click okay.

Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 for all of the identities you have in the “Identities” folder.

It would be nice if there was some easier way to turn off the message but this is the only way I have found. As I said above, it’s usually a good thing to let Outlook Express occasionally compact your message archives and you should not continue to simply turn off the message indefinitely. I usually compact messages every couple of months.

BETRAYED!

I love ice cream. My favorite ice cream is Haagen-Dazs Green Tea.

You may have tried green tea ice cream at a Japanese restaurant and found it a curiosity but not something you’d want to keep in your freezer. Haagen-Dazs takes green tea ice cream it to a completely different level. It is luxuriously creamy with the perfect balance of sweetness and the bite of green tea. The only problem is that they don’t sell it in North America.

A few weeks ago I was browsing the ice cream case at my local Albertson’s and I spotted it: Haagen-Dazs Green Tea! I was elated—I swear I started to become emotional. But wait—emblazoned on the rim of the lid were the words, “Limited Edition.” I had to buy every carton in the freezer, 11 total. I abandoned the rest of my shopping to get home as quickly as possible; I could not wait another minute to taste my beloved ice cream.

As soon as I opened the lid and pulled back the protective plastic I knew something was wrong. The color was not as it should be; the Japanese version was a rich green color, like the color of tea leaves. This was a light green color, like the color of supermarket brand mint chocolate chip. One taste confirmed my fears: this was not the same ice cream sold in Japan. The taste was sweeter, the green tea flavor much less pronounced. It had been dumbed down for the American audience. I had been betrayed by Haagen-Dazs.

I thought about returning the plethora of pints, but after I ate a little more it grew on me. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. When it came down to it, it was still better than any of the other green tea ice creams you can buy in the USA. I decided to keep it. When they restocked the shelves at Albertson’s however, I didn’t buy any more.

Although I can’t enjoy my favorite ice cream in the USA, unique tastes are one of the nice things about travel. There are so many foods that you can get in Japan that you either can’t get in the USA or when you can they just don’t taste the same. I’ve never found rice crackers or takoyaki that tastes like it does in Japan. The same with green tea ice cream; you can buy it here, it’s just not the same and probably never will be.

CBS Radio Mystery Theater

Growing up I didn’t watch much TV; I preferred radio instead. I listened to a mix of music and talk. I almost never missed a Dodger game. When I couldn’t find anything interesting I would listen to news, specifically, KNX 1070 News Radio.

I was listening to KNX one evening when the news, weather, and sports surprisingly stopped. In its place was the sound of a creaking door, ominous music, and an authoritative voice announcing: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

It was an hour long drama, and at that time (the late 1970s) there was nothing else like it on radio. I was instantly sucked in. I don’t remember the show that first night, all I remember was being enthralled, so much so that I had to tell all my school chums about it the next day (I think I was in the 7th or 8th grade at that point).

Listening to the show became a regular thing with me; it was how I ended my day. I loved it. I was particularly impressed with the show’s host, E. G. Marshall, who had a voice that was strong and sinister without being ghoulish. The voice actors were different every night, but Mr. Marshall was always there, and I became a fan.

As I got older and my social life took up more of my time I listened to the show less frequently. I never forgot about it though, and decided to look it up on the Internet and see if perhaps it was still in production. It is not; according to Wikipedia the show ended in 1982. However, I was delighted to discover that every one of the original shows—all 1,399 of them—are available for free online in downloadable MP3 format at mysteryshows.com.

Now I’m listening to them again. Boy does that bass clarinet bring back memories.

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

I was perusing Barnes and Noble’s shelves the other day and found an interesting book entitled Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. The format was almost like a children’s book—it was illustrated, there was only a line or two of large-size text on each page, and the pages were heavy card stock. The content of the book was short but powerful; I’m not qualified to comment on the rules themselves, but let me just say that Mr. Leonard cites John Steinbeck several times and that’s good enough for me.

When I returned home I researched this book and found out it was originally an article in The New York Times. Apparently the article was so lauded that Mr. Leonard’s publisher decided to illustrate it and put it into book form. The illustrations, by artist Joe Ciardiello, are spartan yet thought-provoking and the perfect compliment for the written content of the book.

Despite the fact that you can read the original online for free, the book itself is a piece of art in every respect and worth the modest price.

American Airlines: Thumbs Up

I recently flew round trip from Las Vegas to Tokyo. I chose American Airlines because they had the lowest fare. I had a bit of trepidation because I’d never flown American internationally (and only a few times domestically, none of which I can remember). However, despite a couple of delays the travel was an overall positive experience.

I liked flying American because:

  • Flying a single airline meant not having to deal with transferring baggage at Los Angeles. On the return flight I did have to claim my baggage in Los Angeles because I had to go through customs; however, there was a “recheck” kiosk just outside customs minimizing the hassle.
  • In Los Angeles, American’s domestic and international flights leave from the same terminal. This meant I didn’t have to hike over to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. In fact, it was only about a 5 minute walk from one gate to the other.
  • American uses Boeing 777s. I prefer these over 747s for a couple of reasons: 1) They are smaller, which means less time deplaning. 2) Each seat has its own video screen, and you can individually select what movie you want to watch.
  • I was treated well by American’s employees.

The only glitches were a couple of delays. On my outbound leg from Los Angeles to Tokyo, the plane had an avionics problem which took 1.5 hours to fix. On my return leg from Los Angeles to Las Vegas there had been a sick passenger and the carpet in the aircraft needed to be steam cleaned. To American’s credit, rather than make us wait an inordinate amount of time they put us on a different aircraft. However, it still took about an hour to make the switch. I consider both of these glitches bad luck and not the fault of American Airlines.

Overall it was a very positive experience, and I saved about $250 over my first-choice airline, Japan Airlines. Next time American will be my first-choice airline.

American Airlines Boeing 777

First Tracfone Problem

I’ve had a TracFone for almost a year now and have been completely happy with it. The only problem I had was that the phone I was using was not the filp-phone type; it had the buttons exposed on the front and when it was in my pocket the coins, ChapStick, and other loose items would depress the buttons. (A couple of times it pressed the right sequence of buttons and actually called someone from my phone book. Imagine my surprise when out of the blue I started hearing that person’s voice coming from my pocket!) I decided to upgrade to a better model, a slick Motorola flip phone that is based on their RAZR design (but lacks some of the RAZR’s high-end features, none of which I need).

After purchasing the new phone I called TracFone customer service to transfer my phone number and unused minutes to the new phone. I had read bad things about TracFone customer service, but other than the fact that I had to wait about 45 minutes on hold it went fine. The customer service guy was friendly and everything transfered smoothly. Well, almost everything.

I had purchased one of their “Double Minutes” cards for my old phone. A couple of days ago I added minutes to my new phone and did not receive double minutes! Not wanting to wait on hold I submitted a support request through their website asking why I did not receive my double minutes. Two days later and no response. Today I did some online research and it looks like the double minutes cards do not transfer under any circumstances. This means if you upgrade your phone or need to replace your phone for some other reason you can transfer your existing minutes, but double minutes on future purchases is gone.

I suppose this is a case of caveat emptor and the information regarding the double minutes not transferring is buried in the fine print somewhere, but even had I known this in advance I still would have upgraded my phone. The thing that bothers me is that I purchased $40 worth of additional minutes without knowing I wasn’t getting double minutes. If I had known I would have purchased the double minutes upgrade first. Live and learn.

Follow-up (11/26/07): I got an official answer from TracFone today! It says:

The Double Minute benefit may only be used once; it only applies to one TracFone cell phone and may not be transferred to another TracFone. This only applies for the life of a single phone. This can only be transferred in cases like technology exchanges (phone technology incompatible n the local area), defective phone (TracFone will send the replacement) and for TDMA migration cases. If you happen to purchase a new phone to replace your old phone, then the double minute plan will not be transferred.

Although this reads like it was cut-and-pasted from a FAQ, I could not find this information anywhere on their website.

Marie Callender’s Feast Review

Thanksgiving was yesterday, which I celebrated with my parents and sister. My mom is getting to the point in her life where she doesn’t want to cook a huge meal, so we decided to go the Marie Callender’s Take-Home Feast route. We opted for the aptly-named Ultimate Whole Turkey Feast. Below is my assessment of dinner, with each element graded (in parenthesis) on a scale of 1 to 10.

  • Ordering: (10) You order over the phone and pay with a credit card when you order. The fellow I talked to was competent and polite.
  • Pickup: (10) They have a tent set up in the parking lot for you to claim your pre-paid bounty. Everything was exactly as ordered, and it came in a nice cardboard storage box that you can use for other things when you’re done. I remembered from when we had done this a couple of years ago that we ran out of stuffing, so I asked if I could purchase an extra side order of it. The guy gave me one for no charge. I tipped him the amount the extra side would have cost, and everybody was happy.
  • Turkey: (7) One thing you need to be aware of if you’re considering the Marie Callender’s Feast is that even though the food comes prepared you still need to heat it up; 2 1/2 hours was the recommended heating time for the turkey. It was reasonably tasty, not dry but not particularly juicy either. We were four big eaters and there was plenty left over.
  • Stuffing: (8) It was tasty, had a good selection of ingredients, and most importantly was not dry. It turns out the extra side of stuffing I asked for was not necessary, as the one included side was more than enough for the four of us.
  • Mashed Potatoes: (5) I was not crazy about the mashed potatoes. They were not very creamy and didn’t have a lot of taste.
  • Gravy: (5) It had a lot of flavor, but that flavor did not appeal to my palate. It was probably a personal-preference issue.
  • Yams: (2) The big disappointment. The yams were cut in squares and baked. They reminded me of those cubed “breakfast potatoes” but with harder skins. Sorry, I like my yams mushy and sweet. The only thing that saved them from me rating them a 1 was that they came with a sprinkle-on topping of brown sugar and dried cranberries, which gave this lame side dish its only taste.
  • Cornbread: (9) I love Marie Callender’s cornbread, which came deliciously complete with a side of honey butter.
  • Vegetables: (2) The other big disappointment. The vegetables were a mix of carrots and string beans that were tough and tasteless. I would have liked a better mix of vegetables and more pronounced seasoning.
  • Pumpkin Pie: (9) Marie Callender’s claim to fame is their pies. No disappointment here, other than the fact that I had to provide my own whipped cream.
  • Coffee: (10) This was the big surprise of the evening for me. The coffee was GREAT, a blended medium roast that was smooth and full of flavor. It came in a silver foil package with no marking, so I have no idea how to get more since Marie Callender’s apparently doesn’t sell their coffee packaged.

That’s it. I’m off to buy a new belt!

Edit with Photoshop…

I have a right-click context-menu shortcut for Photoshop that’s really handy. It allows you to right-click on any .jpg file and get an “Edit with Photoshop…” option conveniently located where you need it.

Note: The following requires modifying your computer’s system files. Although I’ve tested and use these modifications on my own computer, I’m not responsible for any damage to your computer that might arise as a result of attempting these modifications—proceed at your own risk!

  1. Open any folder (holding down the “start” key on your keyboard and hitting “e” is an easy shortcut).
  2. From the “Tools” menu choose “Folder Options…” then click the “File Types” tab.
  3. Scroll down and find the entry for “JPG.” (To make this quicker you can hit the “j” key on your keyboard to quickly jump down to the entries starting with “j.”)
  4. Click the “Advanced…” button, then click “New…”
  5. Under “Action:” enter: “Edit with Photoshop…” (without the quotes).
  6. Click the “Browse…” button and locate the “Photoshop.exe” application on your computer. It’s usually located at: “C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS2\Photoshop.exe” (assuming you’re using the CS2 version of Photoshop; other versions will be in a differently-named folder obviously).
  7. Click “OK” three times to get out of all the dialog boxes.

Now find a .jpg file somewhere on your computer, right-click on it, and see the “Edit with Photoshop…” option right at the top! You can also choose “Preview” to open it in the Windows Picture Viewer, and from there you can right-click on the picture and choose “Edit with Photoshop…”

This second tip is optional, and is a little more tricky (and consequently has a greater danger of something going wrong if you make a mistake). It will remove the “Edit” and “Print” options from the context menu, which I prefer not to have since I never use these.

  1. Start the Registry Editor by clicking the “Start” menu, then choosing “Run…” and enter “regedit.”
  2. Navigate to the following key: “HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\SystemFileAssociations\image\shell.”
  3. You may want to backup this key by right-clicking on the “shell” folder and choosing “Export.” If you save this key you can reinstall it should you ever need or wish to.
  4. Right-click on the “edit” folder and choose “Delete.” Click “Yes” to confirm. Repeat for the “print” folder.

Close the Registry Editor. Now you should be able to right-click on a .jpg file and see only “Preview” and “Edit with Photoshop…”