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Thursday
Nov032011

West Bend Stir Crazy Deluxe Popcorn Maker Review (How to Make Real Movie Theater Popcorn at Home)

If you think microwave popcorn tastes great or is "good enough," you can stop reading now. However, if you love the crisp deliciousness of real movie theater popcorn and feel microwave popcorn is a poor substitute, please read on.

The Five Secrets of Making Real Movie Theater Popcorn 

  1. Fresh Corn
  2. Coconut Oil
  3. Flavacol Seasoning
  4. Even Heating
  5. Moisture Control

The Corn: Popcorn kernels contain moisture. It's the expansion of the trapped moisture that causes the kernel to pop when heated. Unpopped kernels gradually lose moisture over time, resulting in poor popping performance. Fresh kernels are a must. (Never store popcorn kernels in the refrigerator or freezer, it actually dries them out more quickly.)

The Oil: Plain and simple, coconut oil is the best-tasting oil for popping corn. Movie theaters used coconut oil for years but many have switched to canola or sunflower oil due to health concerns over saturated and trans fats. Happily, you can have your coconut oil and still be health conscious. More on that below.

The Seasoning: Theaters use a butter-flavored salt called Flavacol. If you want your popcorn to look and taste like real movie theater popcorn you need to use Flavacol.

Even Heating: Uneven heating results in hard chewy bits of husk left clinging to the popped corn. While there will always be some amount of husk left clinging to the popcorn, even heating of the entire surface of the kernel facilitates a better shatter of the husk and reduces the hard chewy bits. The best way to heat all sides of the kernel evenly is to use an appliance with a stir rod (just like the big machines at the movie theater). That, and a popping appliance that gets hot enough to help reduce old maids (unpopped kernels).

Moisture Control: Remember that moisture inside each kernel? When a kernel pops the moisture has to go somewhere. The huge popcorn machines at the movie theater have a heating lamp, a heated deck, and a very large capacity to help disperse the moisture. The front door to the machine is usually left open, allowing the steam to escape. You want the steam to escape because trapped steam finds its way back into your popped corn, resulting in soggy, chewy popcorn. So, aside from buying a large popcorn machine, how can you control moisture at home?  Easy, you use your oven!

Sound complicated? It's not. In fact it's incredibly easy if you have the proper popping appliance, the proper popcorn pre-packs, and an oven!

West Bend Stir Crazy Deluxe

West Bend has been making the popular Stir Crazy popcorn maker for more than 20 years. It's a great product and I've worn out several of them. But, frankly, the original Stir Crazy was a pain in the butt to clean because you couldn't immerse the heating base in water. Thankfully, West Bend just solved the cleanup annoyance with the recent introduction of the new Stir Crazy Deluxe.

Stir Crazy Deluxe (click image to expand)Stir Crazy Deluxe - Cover Removed (click image to expand)Here's the beauty of the new Stir Crazy Deluxe:  The popping plate with stir rod is removable from the heating base!

Stir Crazy Deluxe - Popping Plate (click image to expand)

Stir Crazy Deluxe - Popping Plate Bottom Side (click image to expand)

At first, I was concerned that the separate popping plate might result in inefficient heating and poor popping performance. My concern was unjustified. West Bend has equipped the Stir Crazy Deluxe base with a 1,000-watt heating element and it gets the job done, fast! In fact, the element is an instant-on design. It starts throwing off heat before you can move your hand off of the power switch! (Operating the heating element without the popping plate in place is not recommended!)

Stir Crazy Deluxe - 1,000-watt Heating Element (click image to expand)

Compared to my 5-year-old original Stir Crazy, the new deluxe model's quality of construction appears to be an improvement. Of particular note is the non-stick coating on the popping plate which appears to be a more modern process and likely more durable than the non-stick surface on the older popper. Time will tell. The original model lacked a power switch so finally having a switch is a nice plus too.

So we have a proper popping appliance. What about the corn, coconut oil and Flavacol? I like to kill all three birds with one stone!

Great Northern Popcorn Company Portion Packs

I've tried dozens of different popcorn/oil/salt combinations over the years. I've mixed and matched my own, experimented with various brands and types of corn and oil, and tried popcorn portion packs from multiple companies. After all of my experimentation I was thrilled to finally discover Great Northern Popcorn Company Portion Packs.

Great Northern Popcorn Company Portion Pack

Great Northern claims the "Best Tasting Popcorn In The USA!" I'm inclined to agree! Each portion pack contains just the right amount of coconut oil, Flavacol seasoning, and gourmet popcorn, all sealed in separate compartments. Individual portion packs are not only convenient, the sealed compartment helps the unpopped kernels retain their moisture. From Great Northern's Portion Pack Guide:

How should I store my popcorn?

Without moisture your popcorn can't pop.  If left uncovered you can lose 1% moisture on a hot day. This doesn't sound like much but if you lose 3% your popcorn will be "unpoppable".  GNP has taken the guess work out of the popping and guarantees freshness.  Our exclusive "sealing system" vacuum seals every pack individually to provide a shelf life that cannot be beat.  Please note, we recommend you store your portion packs in a cool, dry place. 

I realize portion packs aren't as cost effective as purchasing corn, oil and Flavacol in bulk. But portion packs aren't exactly expensive either. Amazon's current price for 24 portion packs (4-ounce size) works out to less than one dollar per batch. When you consider that a 4-ounce portion pack makes more popcorn than a typical bag of microwave popcorn, you quickly realize the portion packs are less than half the cost of name-brand microwave popcorn. If you love popcorn, the savings will quickly help cover the cost of a Stir Crazy Deluxe!

By the way, the 4-ounce portion pack is the correct size for the Stir Crazy Deluxe.

Here's the nutrition label for the Great Northern product.

 Great Northern Popcorn Company Portion Pack Nutrition

No trans fat, low in saturated fat, and the sodium isn't all that terrible either. In fact, for such wonderfully tasty real theater-like popcorn, Great Northern's product is about as healthy as it gets. 

Let's Make Some Popcorn

If you love popcorn, you'll love the Stir Crazy Deluxe. Great Northern recommends pouring in all of the ingredients at once. I prefer to add the coconut oil first. 

Stir Crazy Deluxe - Add the Coconut Oil (click image to expand)Coconut oil is a semi-solid at room temperature. Once the oil has melted, I add the corn and Flavacol.

Stir Crazy Deluxe - Add the Corn and Flavocal (click image to expand)On goes the cover (with butter cap removed). Notice that steam starts condensing on the inside of the cover almost immediately.

Stir Crazy Deluxe - Cover in Place (click image to expand)Thanks to the 1,000-watt heating element, it takes less than a minute for the first kernels to start popping.

Stir Crazy Deluxe - First Kernels Popped (click image to expand)

If you like to add butter to your popcorn just put some in the little well on top of the cover and it will melt down as the popcorn pops. (I prefer my popcorn to be as crisp as possible so I don't add butter.)

In approximately two minutes virtually all of the kernels have popped! The new deluxe model pops up a batch of popcorn faster than the original model.

Stir Crazy Deluxe - Popping Complete (click image to expand)

Next, turn off the popper, snap the butter cap onto the top of the cover, grab the red handles on the sides and invert the cover and popping plate together.

Stir Crazy Deluxe - When the Popping Slows it's Done (click image to expand)Remove the popping plate and feast your eyes on a bowlful of delicious—yet slightly soggy—popcorn!

Stir Crazy Deluxe - Looks Just Like Movie Theater Popcorn (click image to expand)If you like, you can enjoy the popcorn immediately. It will be good but not great. Immediately out of the popper the popcorn is too soggy and slightly chewy for my taste! Much of the released moisture (steam) escaped through the holes in the top of the cover during popping. But if you look carefully at the photos above you can see that lots of moisture remained on the sides of the cover and much of that moisture found its way into the popped corn. Let's take the last step toward creating a crisp, delicious batch of real movie theater popcorn at home!

Moisture Control

This is the most important step for achieving the taste and texture of real movie theater popcorn in your home!

Set your oven to 200 degrees.

Bake Out the Moisture - Oven to 200 Degrees

You need a baking pan to hold the popped corn. Any pan that is large enough will do. I use full size deep steam table foil pans. They measure approximately 21" x 13" and about 3" deep. One pan will hold two batches of popped corn (there's a single batch in the pan in the photo below).

Now slide the pan full of popcorn onto the center rack of your oven. Close the door and leave the popcorn in there for at least 30 minutes. Multiple batches require more time. Give the oven plenty of time to dry the popcorn. Your patience will be rewarded. When we host a movie night at the Booth Bijou I prepare several pans of popcorn in advance. The oven not only dries the popcorn but also keeps it hot for our guests. They love it!

For Real Movie Theater Popcorn, Bake the Moisture Out! (click image to expand)

After the popcorn has had time to dry and crisp up it's time to fire up the home theater and reward yourself with real movie theater popcorn!

Delicious Real Movie Theater Popcorn at Home! (click image to expand)

If you're entertaining guests it's fun to serve the popcorn in plastic reusable movie-style popcorn boxes!

Cleanup is Easy

West Bend's new Stir Crazy Deluxe makes cleanup a breeze! The convenient removable popping plate can be immersed in water and it's dishwasher safe. Cleanup is even easier if you can talk your spouse into doing it! :)

Stir Crazy Deluxe - Cleanup is Easy! (click image to expand)

It's Worth the Trouble, Really!

If you've gotten this far it's likely you're not part of the "microwave popcorn tastes fine" crowd. Life is too short to settle for "good" popcorn when you can eat great popcorn! If I had a large dedicated home theater room I'd probably equip it with a full-size popcorn machine (such as the Paragon TP-6) just for the nostalgia factor. But it wouldn't make popcorn that is any better than the process I've detailed above. And, quite frankly, the new West Bend Stir Crazy Deluxe is even easier to clean. It's the kitchen/home theater gadget of the year as far as I'm concerned. It earns my highest recommendation!

 

 

 

Monday
Oct242011

AppleCare+ Punishes the Careful

 

Apple recently introduced its new iPhone extended warranty and accidental damage plan, AppleCare+.  Every new iPhone comes with one year of hardware warranty and 90 days of telephone technical support.  Like basic AppleCare, AppleCare+ increases the iPhone hardware warranty and telephone technical support coverage to two years.  AppleCare+ also adds coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage with a $49 deductible (service fee) per incident.  AppleCare+ for iPhone is priced at $99 and it replaces the older basic AppleCare for iPhone, which was priced at $69.

I am not a fan of the new AppleCare+ plan.

I am careful with my electronic gadgets.  All I will ever want is the extra year of hardware warranty to protect against manufacturer defects.  Now Apple is requiring me to purchase an accidental damage plan at the same time and charging me an extra $30 for the pleasure.  The way I see it, Apple is punishing the "careful ones" by charging us for something we don't want.  Put another way, we are being forced to help subsidize those that are careless or accident-prone.

Another Significant Change

With the orignal AppleCare plan for iPhone you could wait a full year—until the day before the included one-year hardware warranty expired—before deciding whether to purchase a second year of hardware warranty.  This ability to delay the AppleCare purchase is something that made AppleCare plans different from other manufacturer's extended warranty plans.  It's part of what made Apple, well, Apple.

Delayed purchase also saves money for consumers because it gives them a chance to shop for the best deal.  Some retailers sell AppleCare plans at a significant savings over Apple's prices.

AppleCare+ changes all of that.  Now you have to make the decision to purchase AppleCare+ at the same time you purchase your new iPhone.  (Apple is granting a grace period through November 14, 2011 for new iPhones purchased on or after October 14.)  And I don't expect we'll see Apple, AT&T, Verizon or Sprint giving any discounts on the AppleCare+ plan.

Pony up the C-Note

If you're careful with your gadgets, the AppleCare+ for iPhone plan isn't a change for the better.  AppleCare+ is now more like a run-of-the-mill extended warranty plan.  It's not very "Apple-like" and it forces careful customers to spend an extra $30 for coverage they don't want and will likely never need.  Worse, it makes them pony up the $100 purchase price at the beginning of their new iPhone ownership.  Apple should have provided the accidental damage coverage as a separate plan that could be purchased in addition to the basic AppleCare plan.

I am sure that AppleCare+ will be popular with the iPhone owners that are more apt to drop their iPhone into a toilet or forget that their iPhone is in their back pocket when they sit down.  I'm simply not one of those owners.  And I don't like being forced to pay extra for something I don't need or want.

By the way, it brings me no pleasure to be critical of Apple.  I just think they missed the mark with this decision.

I sincerely hope that AppleCare+ doesn't spread to other Apple products.

 

 

Thursday
Oct062011

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

The release of Walter Isaacson's authorized biography of Steve Jobs has been moved up to October 24, 2011.  The previous release date was November 21st. Isaacson's book is based on over 100 interviews with family and friends and over 40 interviews with Jobs, the most recent of which was approximately four weeks ago.

 

 

Wednesday
Oct052011

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

 

You made the world a better place!  Rest in peace, Steve.

 

Here is Steve Jobs' 2005 Commenncement Address at Stanford University.

Tuesday
Oct042011

Amazon Reinstates California Associates

On Monday, October 3, 2011, Amazon.com sent an e-mail to thousands of their Californa Associates to inform them they may now re-enroll in the Amazon Associate Program.  Amazon had terminated their relationship with the California-based Associates on June 29 after Callifornia lawmakers passed new legislation that required Amazon to collect state sales tax on purchases made by California residents.  More recently, Amazon had reached an agreement with California lawmakers and Governor Jerry Brown whereby Amazon would be allowed to delay the collection of state sales tax until September 2012.  Amazon has also agreed to built several distribution facilities in California.

In Monday's e-mail to its Californa Associates, Amazon provided a link to allow the Associates to quickly re-enroll using their original Associate IDs.  Unfortunately, Amazon will not be giving California Associates credit for referrals their sites have generated between the end of June and October 3.

In the meantime, Amazon has agreed to lobby the federal legislature for a national policy on the collection of state sales tax.  Some have incorrectly assumed this will be some form of federal sales tax.  In reality, Amazon will be lobbying for the adoption of the Main Street Fairness Act which deals with leveling the playing field among participating states on how state sales taxes are collected.

Sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin and introduced in August 2011, the Main Street Fairness Act would allow states, provided they have met certain conditions, to require large internet and mail-order retailers to collect state and local sales taxes. 

To exercise this authority, a state must sign on to the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA) and adopt legislation implementing its provisions. This multistate agreement requires states to, among other things, adhere to uniform product definitions, adopt uniform requirements for filing sales tax returns, administer both state and local sales tax collection through a single state office, and allow retailers to register through a centralized, one-stop multistate registration system.

If the federal legislature is unable to pass the Main Street Fairness Act by July of 2012 Amazon will be required to start collecting sales tax on California residents' purchases in September 2012.  If the Main Street Fairness Act becomes law by July 2012 then the federal law will become the guiding document regarding the collection of state sales tax by retailers such as Amazon.

Some California Associates have expressed concern that Amazon will again terminate their relationship once September 2012 rolls around.  Those fears are unfounded.  Amazon originallly terminated those Associate relationships to eliminate the indirect business presence (a "nexus") Amazon had in the state.  Under the new agreement with California, Amazon has agreed to build the aforementioned distribution facilities in California. Once the first distribution facility opens Amazon would have a direct business presence in the state.  At that point, terminating their relationships with California Associates would not gain them anything with regard to the collection of state sales tax.

Thursday
Sep292011

iPhone 5 to Support HSPA+ 21 Mbps Technology

According to Japanese site PC Watch, in a keynote speech at Macworld ASIA 2011, China Unicom's vice president of research, Huan Wenliang, told the crowd that Apple's iPhone 5 will support high-speed data transfer HSPA+ 21Mbps technology.  The statement was backed by a slide showing the evolution of the iPhone.  The year 2011 can clearly be seen under the absent image of the iPhone 5, underscoring rumors that the iPhone 5 will, indeed, be announced at next week's (October 4) Apple press event.

iPhone Evolution (click image to expand)

Apple's current GSM (AT&T) iPhone 4 supports 7.2 Mbps HSDPA technology which already gives AT&T's iPhone 4 customers faster data speed than is currently available to Verizon's CDMA iPhone 4 customers.  AT&T has already installed HSPA+ equipment in some markets so iPhone 5 customers in those areas can expect to see improved data speed versus the iPhone 4.

The HSPA+ technology is sometimes referred to as "4G" but the faster LTE 4G technology is not expected to hit the iPhone until sometime in 2012.

Wednesday
Sep282011

Kindle Fire First Real iPad Competitor?

At a press event in New York this morning, Amazon unveiled their new line of Kindle tablets.  Amazon's successful E-reader line with black and white screens has been expanded to five models; Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Touch 3G, Kindle Keyboard, and Kindle Keyboard 3G priced from $79 to $139 with on-screen advertising.  Without the on-screen advertising the five models are priced from $109 to $189.

The big news, however, is Amazon's announcement of the new color Kindle Fire!  The Kindle Fire features a 7-inch 1024 x 600 pixel multi-touch IPS display, dual-core processor (speed not specified), 8GB of internal memory, Wi-Fi, up to 8 hours of battery life for reading and up to 7.5 hours of video playback with Wi-Fi turned off.

The new Kindle Fire isn't exactly a surprise.  Developers have had them in their hands for awhile now.  What is rather surprising is Amazon's selling price for the new color tablet: $199!  Analysts were expecting the Kindle Fire to be priced at $249.

The sub-$200 price seems to be a sweet spot for American consumers when it comes to tablets.  Remember the HP Touchpad?  Touchpad sales were extremely disappointing until HP dropped the price to $99 (16GB) and $149 (32GB).  Then retailers couldn't keep Touchpads on the shelves.  And that was for a dying product.  The Kindle Fire is brand new, with a promising future, and price under $200!.  I'm confident the new color Kindle will be a huge success for Amazon.

But is the Kindle Fire the first tablet that can truly challenge the iPad?  More to the point, will Amazon's new tablet steal sales from Apple's wildly successful iPad 2?  The iPad 2 has a larger screen, longer battery life, two built-in cameras, at least double the memory and 3G models available.  The iPad 2 also starts at more than twice the price of the Kindle Fire.

The next few months are going to be very interesting!

 

Tuesday
Sep272011

Amazon to add 2,000+ FOX Titles to Prime

Amazon.com has inked a deal with FOX which adds over 2,000 movies and TV shows to Amazon's Prime Instant Videos streaming service.

Dear (Amazon) Customer,

I have big news for Amazon Prime members - we've just signed a deal with FOX to add a broad selection of movies and TV shows to our unlimited instant streaming service later this fall.  The new additions from the FOX library include 24, Arrested Development, The X-Files, Ally McBeal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and - available on digital video for the first time - The Wonder Years.  We now have deals with CBS, NBCUniversal, Sony and Warner Bros, and adding FOX will bring the total to more than 11,000 movies and TV shows available for unlimited instant streaming.

Amazon recently added some additional CBS TV shows to Amazon Prime Instant Videos streaming, including a variety of Star Trek series episodes.

Amazon Prime membership costs $79 per year.  Prime members get free two-day shipping on the majority of Amazon products with no minimum purchase requirements.  The unlimited Amazon Prime Instant Videos streaming is included for no extra charge.

Tuesday
Sep272011

Route 66: Chicago to L.A. - Day 2

Springfield, IL to St. Louis, MO

After a three-month sabbatical I finally got myself motivated to continue with updates on our Route 66 adventure.  My thanks to everyone for hanging in there and not nagging me too much in the interim.

Our day one overnight was at the fabulous State House Inn in Springfield, IL.

The State House Inn in Springfield, IL (click image to expand)

The State House Inn is located along a pre-1930 alignment of Route 66.  The hotel featured beautiful and very comfortable rooms, as well as much-needed laundry facilities (many of us were on our sixth night since leaving home, those of you with Miatas will understand the limited trunk space available).

Lincoln's Home and Tomb

While I thoroughly enjoyed each and every day of our 14-day Route 66 adventure, day two was particularly special for me because we visited President Lincoln's Home, a National Park Service Historic Site and a real highlight of the trip.

President Lincoln's Home in Springfield, IL (click image to expand)

Lincoln lived in the home from 1844 until 1861 when he and his family moved into the White House.  His home and the four blocks adjacent to his home have all been restored to their 1860's appearance.  It is literally like stepping back in time.

 Lincoln's Neighborhood (click image to expand)After visiting Lincoln's home, Cathy and I drove over to Oak Ridge Cemetary to pay our respects at Lincoln's Tomb.

Lincoln's Tomb in Springfield, IL (click image to expand)

Follow the Red Brick Road

Continuing on the pre-1930 alignment of Route 66 out of Springfield led us to the famous 1.5 mile Red Brick section of Route 66 north of Auburn, IL.  Easily, one of the most scenic and all-together-too-short sections of Route 66.  It's a must-see on every Route 66 itinerary.

Red Brick Route 66 (click image to expand)

A Slight Detour for Lunch

One disadvantage of following the pre-1930 alignment of Route 66 out of Springfield is that it passes west of the town of Litchfield, IL.  Litchfield is home to the famous Ariston Cafe, located on the post-1930 alignment of Route 66.  The Ariston is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the longest-operating restaurant along the entire stretch of Route 66.  A detour east to Litchfield was deemed a must-do by everyone in our group.

The Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, IL (click image to expand)

Enjoying the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, IL (click image to expand)

We were very glad we drove that 10 miles east to Litchfield!  Our lunch at the Ariston Cafe was fabulous!  Owners Nick and Demi Adam treated us like family.  The Ariston is another must-stop for every Route 66 traveler regardless of which alignment you are following.

It's Rabbit Season

After lunch we headed back west to the town of Gillespie to rejoin the pre-1930 alignment.  That brought us to the town of Staunton, IL, which is where the pre-1930 and post-1930 alignments converge.  Staunton is also where you'll find Henry's Rabbit Ranch.  The Rabbit Ranch is owned by Rich and Linda Henry and is home to rabbits of many shapes and kinds.  Most famous of which is their whimsical tribute to the famous Cadillac Ranch (more about the Cadillac Ranch in a future update).

Henry's Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL (click image to expand)I somehow failed to take any photos of the mammalian rabbits at the Rabbit Ranch but I did manage to capture this humorous sign.

Henry's Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL (click image to expand)

The Henry's humorous nature is also evident in this yard sculpture tribute to the movie 'Cars'.

Tribute to the Movie 'Cars' (click image to expand)

Turn 22 Degrees to the Right (wish we could have)

From Staunton it was only 34 miles to the Mississippi River and the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Chain of Rocks Bridge (photo from Wikipedia - click image to expand)

The Chain or Rocks Bridge was built in 1929 and became part of Route 66 in 1936.  The bridge is famous for its 22-degree turn in the middle.  The Chain of Rocks Bridge was closed and abandoned in 1968 but a refurishment project in 1997 eventually reopened the bridge to pedestrians and bicycles.

Chain of Rocks Bridge - Missouri Side (click image to expand)

Our group visited both sides of the bridge and while we didn't venture very far onto the bridge (it was getting late, rain was threatening, and we had one more stop to make before our hotel), we did take the time to grab a few photos with our Miatas included.  A nice couple from the Netherlands shot this one for us.

Chain of Rocks Bridge - Illinois Side (click image to expand)

Meet Me in St. Louis

From the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge we followed the "City 66" alignment of Route 66 toward downtown St. Louis.  Per the recommendation found in the fabulous EZ66 Guide we left the old city route and briefly joined I-70 southbound to bypass the downtown area.  Shortly after hopping onto I-70 we were treated to our first view of the beautiful Gateway Arch.

Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO (click image to expand) 

A few miles after I snapped that photo of the Gateway Arch it began to rain.  Hard.  All of the Miatas were top-down but we reminded each other (over the CB) that if we kept moving we'd be O.K.  That's about the same time traffic on I-70 started to build and we had to slow down.  Fortunately, the rain stopped just as quickly as it started and we exited I-70 and made our way to the south side of St. Louis and eventually onto Chippewa Street—the continuation of The Mother Road—still relatively dry and cozy.

Frozen Deliciousness

Route 66 traveler or not, no self-respecting visitor to St. Louis should leave the city without stopping at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.  Ted Drewes is located right on The Mother Road and it's a very popular spot.  The place was hopping on this Friday night with a large crowd at the order windows as we pulled into the parking lot.  Our little caravan of Miatas was greeted with friendly hoots and hollers from the many people scattered about enjoying their cups of frozen custard heaven.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis, MO (click image to expand)

The frozen custard was tastier than I imagined and I'm glad I don't live in St. Louis or I'd probably be at least ten pounds heavier!  Looks like Jill might have had a bit too much.

Sun Sets on Day Two

Following our delicious treat at Ted Drewes we continued west on Route 66 before eventually breaking away to drop south to our hotel for the night.  We'd traveled approximately 120 miles and it had taken eight hours, an average of about 15 miles per hour.  So much to see and do along Route 66!

Blog and Photo Site for the Full Story

Many additional day two photos can be found on my photo site, The Photo Booth.

Click >>>HERE<<< for the start of day two photos!


 

Monday
Sep262011

Amazon to Relaunch California Associate Accounts

On June 29, 2011 California Governor Jerry Brown signed a tax bill that forced out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax on purchases made by California residents if those retailers had a "nexus" within California.  Upon the signing of the bill, Amazon immediately terminated its thousands of California-based Associates, thus elminating the "nexus."  Shortly thereafter, Amazon began a referendum process to allow California voters to overturn the new law.

More recently, Amazon extended an olive branch to Governor Brown and the California legislature and a compromise bill was introduced.  Assembly Bill 155 requires Amazon to start collecting sales tax on purchases made by California residents starting in September 2012 if Amazon is unable to come up with a federal deal in which a uniform online sales tax policy is adopted by Congress by next July.  On September 23, 2011 Governor Brown signed AB 155.

With this compromise in place I was curious if Amazon would reinstate their California-based Associate accounts so I shot off an E-mail to Amazon to ask that very question.  Here is the reply I recieved from Amazon on September 25, 2011:

Hello Mark,

As you may have heard, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation repealing the law that forced us to terminate our California Associates.

We're working to relaunch the Amazon.com Associates Program in California as soon as possible.  In the next few days, we'll reach out to all affected past Amazon.com Associates with information how to re-open their accounts.

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Good news, indeed!  Perhaps Amazon will go the extra mile and give California Associates credit for purchases made through their sites since June 29, 2011?  Time will tell.