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Sunday, January 31, 2016

TravelTech: Overpriced + Poor Design + No Instructions = Not A Great Value

Golf Putting Alignment Mirror Training Aid - Practice Your Putting Alignment Tool
by B&T Golf
Available on Amazon.com


Although small and lightweight enough to easily carry while traveling, $29+ for this product seems excessive. It is likely made in China and probably costs less than $5 to manufacture, so a 600% mark-up is pushing it based on its somewhat flimsy and flawed product. 

A reflective surface with red and black lines (and logo) mounted on a very thin plastic base, it comes with a protective cover but no instructions. There are four holes in the rear which I assume are used to anchor it on the green with tees and/or limit your backstroke based on distance required for a putt ... I assume ... and you know what happens when you "ASSUME": you make an ASS of U and ME. The holes are too big for golf tees, so even with two tees anchoring the mirror it moves if touched (nearly impossible based on its purpose), requiring frequent repositioning if you are aiming at a golf hole.

I find the product useful for alignment and ensuring that eyes are positioned over the ball, but the design flaws, lack of instructions (paper or web-based - there is no B&T Golf Products website that I could find), and excessive markup make it a poor value. In the $9.95 to $12.95 range, I would rate it in the 8-10 "Bomb" range (4-5 Stars), but at nearly $30 ...

CombatCritic Gives The B&T Putting Alignment Mirror 5 Bombs Out Of 10 (Rounded Up To "3 Stars")

Five Bombs Equates To:


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Title:  TravelTech: Overpriced + Poor Design + No Instructions = Not A Great Value

Key Words: Golf Putting Alignment Mirror, mirror, training, aid, practice, putting, alignment, tool, B&T Golf, B&T, golf, Amazon.com, amazon, China, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, product, review

Translation for Civilians: Charlie-Mike = "Continue Mission"

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lawrence, Kansas: Price Increases And Poor Service (Literally) Left A Bad Taste In Our Mouths

Zen Zero
811 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone: (785) 832-0001
Website: zen-zero.com
Prices: $$$$

Unfortunately, Zen Zero is owned by the same group that poorly manages Genovese (and La Parilla), a very sad excuse for an Italian restaurant a couple blocks down the street on Massachusetts. I hesitate to spend our money at Zen Zero only because of the unpleasant experiences we have had at Genovese, but there are not many options when it comes to decent, reasonably priced restaurants in Lawrence, so we bit my tongues and returned after a long layoff.
Zen Zero's decor is modern, yet cozy with hints of Asian influence in select pieces of art on the walls, warm Earth-tone colors and an open kitchen emitting exotic sounds, smells, and flames as chefs prepare meals in view of customers. As you can see from the photo below, the lighting is much brighter than I remember, ruining the ambience we used to enjoy beside hurting my light sensitive eyes.
Our server arrived with a customary basket of Asian rice chips, light and crunchy, which are tasty but an accompanying sauce to dip in would have been nice, but seemed as though she did not seem overly eager to be there or serve us.
Sunday night used to be Zen Zero night in our house where draught beer is on special for $3.00 a (American) pint. They do not have a huge selection of drafts, a pale ale, a wheat, and a seasonal (e.g. Oktoberfest, Irish Red). I ordered the Irish Red (normally $4.50), two total over the entire meal. My wife had water.

The Fried Pork Momos (now $4.99) come with four dumplings and two sauces, a mildly spicy red tomato chutney and an almost white sauce that reminded me of very well-blended hummus. The Fried Chicken Spring Rolls (now $4.29) come with a sweet and spicy sauce infused with chili peppers. They were savory and crunchy, containing ground, seasoned chicken and, beside the small portion, they were also good. But having lived in McLeod Ganj, India for two months last year, a Tibetan colony and home of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, I ate Tibetan food three times a day, every day. An order of momos there consists of eight, double the number at Zen Zero, they are much better, and only cost $2.50, one-quarter the price at Zen Zero.
Meeting with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama - McLeod Ganj, India (December 8, 2014)
My wife ordered a vegetarian dish, Phad Phak Ruam Mitr ($7.99), a mixed vegetable stir-fry with broccoli, onions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers, snow peas, Napa cabbage, scallions, baby corn and tofu and served with Jasmine rice. It was light and not too spicy for an Italian not used to eating hot and spicy foods (penne arrabiata is as hot as it gets in Italian cuisine). The vegetables were fresh and crisp, and the sauce light yet complex enough to satiate the palate, but it left a strange aftertaste unlike when she has had it in the past. She could barely eat it and the server did not bother asking how our meal was or if there was a problem with the dish, bringing a to-go container and making us box it up ourselves.
I love curry and Zen Zero's Massaman curry (now $8.29, $10.28 with beef), a coconut curry from Southern Thailand with potatoes peanuts (no pork option), was as good a I remember. Having ordered my curry with the customary beef (an extra $2.99), the curry was rich and well seasoned. A thick red curry, Massaman comes with tofu or meat (other than pork - $1.99 to $3.99 extra charge for meat or seafood) with potatoes and peanuts in a huge bowl served with Jasmine rice. Not overly abundant in the beef department, I was not too disappointed because the thick curry sauce was nearly as good as the best I have ever eaten (the best was a similar curry at a small Vietnamese restaurant in Palos Verdes, California back in the late 1970s).
Our appetizers took quite a while to arrive and our entrees took even longer. I watched my wife's Phad Phak Ruam Mitr sit on the counter for at least ten minutes until my curry was finally ready, all the while our server was too busy talking on her cell phone to bring us our food and we had to wait even longer after my curry was finally ready.

When we had finished, I gave our server a coupon we had received (2nd dinner half-off with purchase of an entree and two drinks), she told me she did not think we could use it. I asked, "Why?", and she told me "You have to order two drinks to get the deal". To which I replied, "We did, I had two beers" (and a couple appetizers to boot) to which she responded, "I'll have to check with my manager to see if it's OK". Really? I should not have been surprised because Zen Zero is owned by the same group that owns Genovese where we had a similar incident a while back (they also refused to honor a coupon). I find myself wondering why the owners bother printing coupons if they are just going to have their servers hassle customers who try to use them.

Zen Zero had become a staple in our house and we may likely be returning in the future even though they have raised their prices rather significantly in the past year and the service was not nearly as good as it used to be. Good restaurants are not abundant in Lawrence, particularly downtown, but Zen Zero is a welcome option, albeit a bit pricier than in the past.

I gave Zen Zero 9 Bombs Out Of 10 in a past review, but with deductions for their price increases, the delays in receiving our appetizers and entrees, the weird aftertaste in the Phad Phak Ruam Mitr, and being hassled by the server for using a coupon ...

CombatCritic Now Gives Zen Zero 6 Bombs Out Of 10 ... Bombs Are Good!







Six Bombs Equates To:
"Good To Go"


Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

TripAdvisor - Top Contributor

Tabelog - Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - #1 Ranked Foodie

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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Zen Zero Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Zen ZeroZen Zero

Title: Lawrence, Kansas: Price Increases And Poor Service (Literally) Left A Bad Taste In Our Mouths

Key Words: travel, value, product, restaurant, menu review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato, zen zero, zen, zero, Lawrence, Kansas, Massachusetts, Thai, Nepalese, Japanese, 66044, CombatCritic, TravelValue

Translation for Civilians: G2G = "Good To Go"

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Kansas City, MO: "Great War" Museum Not As Great As Expected


National World War I Museum and Memorial

Liberty Memorial
100 W 26th Street
Kansas City, MO 64108
Phone: (816) 888-8100
Website: theworldwar.org
Prices: $$$$

Maybe I was expecting more based on the reviews and word-of-mouth regarding the National World War I Museum, but comparatively speaking it is not even close to the top of my list of "must see" museums. Do not get me wrong, the grounds are impressive, the memorial iconic and spectacular, and the view of downtown Kansas City, Missouri unequaled, but the museum itself is overpriced and lacking in many ways.
Beside the numerous cannons and artillery, there are two airplanes, a tank, a couple vehicles and not very many World War I relics. Like the Eisenhower Library in Abilene a couple hours west on I-70, there are plenty of things to read and a couple movies, but authentic, original World War I artifacts and memorabilia are sadly lacking.
One interesting, interactive display is a large, life-size trench running down the right wall as you enter the first hall. You can access holes in the trench wall at various points as you meander through the first five or six exhibits. As you stick your head through the wall to get a glimpse of what might have been happening nearly 100 years ago, the voice of a soldier reading a letter home or making a diary entry automatically comes on, an interesting and surprising addition.



We paid $12 each with our military and teacher discounts, still a bit stiff considering the size of the museum and the number of exhibits. A significant portion of the museum is occupied by a large circular, central room containing what are supposed to be interactive displays on a variety of subjects. If they worked, they would have been quite interesting, even spectacular. Massive computer screens laid out like large tables, you are supposed to be able to use the little red flashlights, attached to the tables by a cord, to point to the horizontal screens and retrieve information on a particular World War I topic. However, the flashlights did nothing, so the screens displayed whatever they were programmed to display and nothing more. The most interesting aspect of these central rooms were the numerous soundproof studios where you can sit and listen to music and voices of famous people of the time among other things.

Another overly large exhibit portrays trench warfare in a 100 foot long trench, below the overhead walkway and viewing area, with soldiers marching and a bi-plane overhead, all in front of a large screen running a narrated video of how the US entered the war (undetermined schedule). The video was interesting, but we happened upon it by chance, having no idea exactly what it was at first or how often the 15-minute show ran. This exhibit, along with the central rooms with interactive displays discussed previously, take up at least half of the museum's square footage and could have been better utilized in my opinion.


There were several uniforms and guns, flags and banners, even two Congressional Medals of Honor, an early delivery truck, an ambulance, a mule train, a bi-plane and a tank. We had planned on spending an hour-and-a-half, but were done in a little over an hour.














At $14 for a two-day pass, I am not sure what you could possibly do for two days here, the museum is not particularly cheap. Something more in the $7 to $10 range would seem more appropriate. Don't get me wrong, the "Great War" does not get the attention it deserves and a far as Kansas City is concerned, this museum and memorial is a big, important attraction. But having seen the Smithsonian and National Air Museum (both free by the way), the Vatican Museum and the Forum in Rome, the Louvre, Musée D'Orsay and L'Orangerie in Paris, Del Prado in Madrid, the National Archeological Museum in Athens, and the British Museum, Tate Gallery and Tower of London in London (of course), just to name a few, this museum just does not stack up in terms of exhibits, artifacts and bang-for-the-buck. Did I say the view of downtown Kansas City is phenomenal?


CombatCritic Gives The National World War I Museum and Memorial 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!


Seven Bombs Equates To:
Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

TripAdvisor - Top Contributor

Tabelog - Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - #1 Ranked Foodie

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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!




Title: Kansas City, MO: "Great War" Museum Not All That Great

Key Words: National World War I Museum, national, Kansas City, Great War, great, war, World War I, museum, memorial, liberty, world, war, I, 1, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Translation for Civilians: S&G = "Shits & Grins"

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