Written By: Gary on December 5, 2013 No Comment

So I’m checking out flight prices for a trip, baggage fees are always interesting. The flights that I’m looking at allow me to take two 70 pound bags down for free, but only allow me to bring on 50 pounds back for free.

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That’s a different carrier on the way back, but it’s all booked through the same airline. Even if I pay $40 for the second bag, I can still only bring back 100 pounds in my two bags.

I would never need more than 100 pounds, I’m just saying. Maxing out a pound bag on the way down is pretty easy for me, so I might need two on the way back since I only get 50 pounds for the first bag. But booking it that way looks like it’ll save me just over $100 so paying for the second bag certainly works out.

The airlines I was looking at weren’t too bad for luggage costs, but when you look at some airlines (Spirit) they give you no bags, how can you possibly go to another country for two weeks and not take any bags?!?

International flights used to always give me two bags (at least on the airlines I flew) so if I happened to go over the weight of the first bag I’d take a second smaller bag that actually fit in the first bag. I’d separate them to fly, but then combine them at the destination and I’d only roll around one bag. These days I’m taking a lot less books on a trip since I just take my Kindle with me although I still take one paperback to read during takeoff since they don’t like you to have electronics on; I know that rule is changing, but if I don’t know in advance for sure, I still have to be prepared…

Later: The more I think about it, 70 pounds seems to be a lot. Maybe 50 pounds is what used to be normal and I’m actually getting just getting extra in both bags on the way down?

More later: It turns out the two 70 pound bags on the way down were due to those seats being first/business class. I was shopping with points and didn’t really notice that it was that much of point difference.

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Written By: Gary on December 3, 2013 No Comment

So I’m pretty excited about the gas prices! I got it for $2.99 a gallon today!!! The funny thing is that gas only dropped a nickel in price, but it dropped under that $3.00 price that makes it seem so special. I probably only saved 50 cents on the ten gallons that I got.

But a few weeks ago gas dropped about a quarter a gallon, I’d have saved $2.50 on the same amount of gas, but it was nowhere near the same milestone (in my head).

It’s just kind of weird when you think about it. Do you feel the same way? Or are you happier just when it drops in price?

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Written By: Gary on December 2, 2013 No Comment

White House Down was a fun movie. Jamie Foxx as the president was interesting, most of the time he was pretty serious, but generally more playful than the president is portrayed in the movies (sometimes a little too playful).

white-house-down-poster.pngMaggie Gyllenhaal was excellent, I always see her in movies and think she’s great, but I never realize that it’s her. From Donnie Darko to Secretary to Stranger Than Fiction to a Secret Service agent in this movie is a bit of a wide range of characters.

Channing Tatum was the hero, he was there applying to be a Secret Service agent who was pretty much told he didn’t have the right stuff. He took his daughter on a tour after his interview and that’s when the terrorists attacked and they got separated.

Joey King played the daughter and she was amazing!!! At some point The President happens to walk by and she gets him to answer a question for her video blog (sorry, “YouTube Channel”) and se pretty much floors him with her question. She played the voice of the “china girl” in Oz the Great and Powerful and she was great in that too, I remember specifically looking up later to see who did the voice (but I had no idea at the time).

This movie is exactly what you would imaging. It’s Die Hard but at the White House. Too many bullets and missiles for the hero to survive, but they manage to do it (of course!).

I have to say it was way more fun than I expected. Lots of action, some good one-liners, trying to figure out what’s real and what’s misdirection made for a great movie. Also, it was 2:10 long and it sure didn’t seem it, sometimes even amazing movies start seeming long after a while. I enjoyed it but after yesterday’s weird movie review (Upstream Color) it was certainly a welcome relief!

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Written By: Gary on December 1, 2013 One Comment

I’m not sure why I watched Upstream Color in the first place, I read a good review, some actor I liked in it or exactly what it was. But once I started watching it, I couldn’t stop. There are some spoilers in here, I say “some” because it’s so strange of a movie I’m not sure if it’s actually revealing anything…

There is some new street drug and it’s got something to do with some kind of roly-poly bug that’s killing some plants. Plus, this woman, Kris (played by Amy Seimetz) gets kidnapped and manipulated (controlled) into giving away all her money. This is all in the first few minutes. Most of the story is her trying to get her life back, she remembers (mostly) nothing of what happened to her.

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Oh wait, I forgot about the pigs, (that’s really important) there’s some stuff transplanted from her that’s injected into some pigs and the guy who did all this watches the pig. Maybe he still watches her too, but it’s hard to tell if he’s watching her or the pig sometimes. Sometimes what your’e watching is what they’re experiencing in their heads and not what they are seeing with their eyes.

Then Kris meets a nice guy who seems like he’s dealt with some trauma in his life so he’s willing to be with her. I can’t write much more without giving everything away. I think I give away less than the synopsis’s do, but some give away too much.

The visuals are very interesting. Shot in a weird way that I liked. The dialog was reminiscent of (what I think of) as David Mamet dialog, except his is usually more overly dramatic and misleading (in a conversational confusing way), this is just as intense but it’s noir misdirecting, it’s just cRaZy.

It’s insane. Completely weird. But I was compelled to see how this was going to get get all wrapped up to make sense, I will say it gets wrapped up, but I’m not sure about the making sense. This wasn’t weird in a “eXistenZ” or “Brazil” kind of way, those movies made complete sense.

I’m sure I’m missing some of the symbolism or at least missing the recreational pharmaceuticals to help me understand everything.

FYI, there was no one in the cast that I remember from anywhere else, the same for producers/directors. But I know the few places I looked the movie up, it also recommended/suggested Moon and Primer, both weird but very interesting and/or excellent movies in my opinion.

It’s available to rent or buy at Amazon, iTunes, etc…

Written By: Gary on November 24, 2013 No Comment

I love this program and it just did a major update so thought it was due for an update on the review I did before, but when I looked I realized I never reviewed this amazing app before, so here we go…

galileo-app.pngFirst of all this program should be thought of as a digital map, the GPS in your iPhone/iPad will find your location and keep the map centered but it doesn’t have directions (just like a paper map doesn’t have directions). What’s really nice about this program you can download maps and they stay on the device so if you’re somewhere with without data (say somewhere on a hike in Costa Rica) you still have your maps with you. Or if you’re traveling internationally and don’t have a data plan you’ve got the maps already, the same goes if you have a plan with a small amount of data, you don’t need to use up all the data.

galileo-maps-IMG_9096.PNGGalileo also has several ways to get maps onto your iPad or iPhone, but the newest way is the fastest and easiest. You just go in to the program, click download maps and pick your states, countries or providences and it downloads them and they are on your device. These downloads are relatively small, Michigan is about 30MB while Costa Rica was about 9MB, but have remarkable zoom levels and are very fast. I wasn’t sure how often they were going to be updating these maps, but when I went to get the screen shot, I see they’ve already updated several of the maps I’ve downloaded (that’s why the screen is downloading that map, it’s an update).

This program is free and the vector downloadable maps are free but the program has many other in app purchases (which I’ll talk about).

I use this a lot when I’m out hiking and biking and traveling. I know where I’m traveling, a question I used to ask all the time is “Where am I?” and people wanted to know where I was going but I’m just walking around taking in the sights and I want to know where I am (I quite often got confusing looks). I want to know where I am and zoom around quickly and not worry about how fast my data is or if I’m roaming somewhere. I get a pretty good signal in Michigan but if I’m in some state/national parks there isn’t always coverage.

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Maps show how fast you’re going, the scale of the map and (optionally) your longitude and latitude.

I like to sightsee / wander around and see what I can find, when I travel I try not to be in a hurry. I went up north to visit my Uncle Jim and Aunt Karen once and when I arrived around 5PM they said “What time did you leave?” and I said “Noon”, which got the reply “You made pretty good time” and then I had to clarify with “Noon, yesterday“! I like to stop and do things, I’d been to different places and going biking and rollerblading and taking pictures and been all over before I got there. It was fun and I saw things that I’d not have seen if I’d had a specific plan.

In Costa Rica, most roads don’t have names and it’s confusing to get around, looking at the map and seeing the icon where you are is incredibly helpful (you need an iPhone or an iPad with the GPS for this to show you where you are).

So my suggestion is download Galileo and grab a few maps of places you frequent so that you’ve always got a nice map in your pocket.

The rest of these features starts to get a little confusing, if the above doesn’t interest you and you don’t care about maps, you should stop reading. If you’d like to be able to download other types of maps and know more, then read on!

This is one of those apps with many 5-star reviews and many 1-star reviews. Although, if you read the 1-star reviews most of them complain about things that if they had read the description they’d know that’s not what the program is supposed to do.

The other thing you can do is choose other map sources: biking, hiking, tourist and it’ll download them, but it remembers the maps until you delete them, so if you want some specific maps you just need to download them and zoom in at different levels and they’ll save and be there for you later (you can set the time limit). Other maps cache this data but purges it when it feels it doesn’t need it any more, you don’t have control over how long the data stays around. That said, I still like pre-downloading them myself (see last item of this review) and installing on the device is my favorite way to go. This next map is a sample of a map that isn’t so much like the “normal” Apple or Google maps.

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Example of a different type of map with altitude/terrain markings.
Good to know if you follow that path you’re going up/down paths over 200 feet in height.

Other (paid features):
Bookmarks – You can leave bookmarks/pins at locations for easy finding later, incredibly useful for marking places that have no other frame of reference. If hiking, you can mark and interesting spot. If someone lives in the middle of nowhere and you want to find it again, leave a pin at that spot.

Breadcrumbs – It will record a trail of where you’ve been. You can look at this later or export the data for other uses later.

Generate off-line maps – Downloading other off-line maps (this is great and it why I got the app in the first place) you can get maps from different sources and build them (on your desktop computer with Mobile Atlas Creator) and put them on the device for later. I downloaded great maps with heights of the hills/mountains for where I hike in Costa Rica, I don’t need to use international data roaming for this since I built them once and they stay on the device.

FYI, the screenshots and map captures are clickable to much larger versions.

Written By: Gary on October 19, 2013 No Comment

If you’ve got an iPad and you occasionally use the $15 a month cellular data plan option, there is a way you can save a lot of money (and get more data!). The $15 data plan gives you 250MB of data per month, if you go over it either runs out or you have to start the next month early. logoatt.jpgAT&T has a new $25 plan that last three months and gives you 1GB (1000MB) of data. That works out to 333MB a month for about $8.33 a month, about a third more data for close to half the price. The other benefit of it is that since it’s spread over three months you could use 600MB one month, 100MB another month and 300MB the other month. It gives you a better chance to utilize more of the data since it doesn’t expire three times after 30 days, it’s once after 90. It also doesn’t auto renew, so after 90 days you need to add that service again; the benefit to you is that after it expires if you don’t use it for a few weeks, those days don’t count against your next 90 day block. This is in the United States, I’m not sure if they’ve adjust prices in any international markets yet.

I think AT&T is doing this to get people to use it more, some people would turn it on for a month and then turn if off for a month, this way they spend $25 instead of $15 and if they don’t use it AT&T makes more and if they do use it more, they might get hooked.

At this point it makes almost no sense to turn the monthly $15 plan on and off a half dozen months throughout the year (that’s $90), for $10 more you could have it on every month of the year and have even more data to use. If you kept the new plan for the whole year it would be $100 for 4GB of data, the old plan would have been $180 for 3GB of dat a (with monthly expiration).

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This is now cheaper than the cheaper data plans on the iPhone. Right now you pay $20 a month for 300MB of data (some people still have the $15 for 200MB data plan), that’s $60 for 900MB of data. That’s quite a bit of difference!

FYI, if you almost never use the cellular data, but once in a while wish you had it, they also offer a new plan for $5 for one day that gets you 250MB. This is not meant for daily use, but if you’re traveling for the day on train or waiting at airports, it might be worth it. Or even if you activated the data plan once in a while while you were traveling for the weekend, doing the $5 plan could be cheaper for two days ($10 instead of $15) or actually get you more data during that time.

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