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March 2008

Written By: Gary on March 30, 2008 2 Comments

Can you suggest some Detroit-area people to follow on Twitter? I’m looking for something that has a local geographic flavor, like Dearborn (or Detroit) Michigan.

I’m always looking for more people to follow, but today I’m soliciting suggestions for the Detroit area just to get a slightly less global feel for this Twittery goodness/chaos. I’ve got a lot of great people that I follow, but I’d love to see some tweets about local restaurants, bars and music.

So send me a message @GaryLaPointe with suggestions or tell someone you know to follow me and I’ll find them or just leave a comment. Thanks!

Written By: Gary on March 28, 2008 2 Comments

So I’m using some Costa Rica photos to test the new free on-line edition of PhotoShop. It’s very cool, does more than what most desktop packages do, but while limited, I don’t need much more. They give you 2 GB of free storage. It’s got cool slideshows (full-scren if you like) but I’m sure it breaks some browsers…


Costa Rica Dec 2007

These photos are from when I was in Costa Rica in December 2007 and left Montezuma and took the ferry from the Lower Nicoya Peninsula (Paquera?) to Puntarenaas.

Looks like you can even download your photos in their original size. They’re still in beta so who knows what they’ll charge for more storage (or features?).

They do give you a way to put thumbnails and links to photos with having to use their viewer. Although it seems to be a 2 step process (thumbnail then link) for each photo. But it’s cheap, high-res and the flash interface is great.

If you love PhotoShop, I’m sure you’ll hate it. It’s pretty as spplications, but since I don’t use any features past version 1, it’s very nice and easy to use. Here’s a link to the palette with all the main options on it. It’s even easier to use than I need it to be (and it has more features to use too). It e-mails a really nice graphical html link to your friends too.

Written By: Gary on March 28, 2008 No Comment

I could work from home all the time, except for when broken stuff needs repair. We’ve got construction at work (and it’s a skeleton holiday staff) so there are carpeting (glue) and painting (paint) so many of us are working from home.

I could really handle this all the time. But I think I’d need something to track what I’m doing so at the end of the week I know if I’m working too much or not enough (I think it’d be the former). Obviously meeting rooms would need to be setup for video conferencing and a day a two a week would definitely be on site.

Pros (for my imaginary job):

  • I don’t have a specific time to be there, just times to be available. Similar to college professors, but more hours (and I’d actually be there).
  • It’d make others plan ahead and be more self-sufficient. No last minute stuff since I wouldn’t be there to swoop in and set up (what I probably shouldn’t be spending time on anyways).
  • When I’ve got a block on something, I can do something else (like laundry). Or solve some personal concern that might actually be distracting me from working efficiently.
  • I’d save gas and time on the road. If I just stayed home 3 days a week, I’d probably save 2 hours on the road and 4 gallons of gas. And less gas/money on going out to lunch.

    Cons:

  • I might not get out of the house at all. Unless I found some good restaurants/cafes/bars with decent internet access (and good lighting).
  • Not enough human interaction.
  • I’d need to buy more pajamas.
  • Ummm….
  • Written By: Gary on March 26, 2008 No Comment

    Biorhythm April 8 2008I wish I really believed in this stuff. Because in two weeks, on April 8th, I’d be having an awesome day!

    03 25 2008Although if you look at the second chart, it might explain why I’ve been so sluggish this last week.

    Actually, now that I think of it, on April 8th I should be having an awesome day!!! But you’ll have to wait until then to find out for sure.

    Tags: []
    Written By: Gary on March 23, 2008 One Comment

    So my philosophy in life is pretty much just to “be nice”.

    Maybe ‘karma’ and ‘what comes around, goes around’ and ‘do unto others as you want to them to do unto you’ want you to do the same thing (“be nice”) but they try to make you fear what might happen if you don’t. Really, they’re just slightly nicer versions of ‘an eye for an eye’ (the way most people interpret it).

    Douglas Adams pointed this out in in the beginning of two of his books,
    “nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree
    for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change”

    So maybe the above is an appropriate quote for this weekend, but it’s stuck with me for the last 20 years since I read it. It’s a pretty simple concept, be nice. all that confusing dying for our sins and betrayal really can confuse the whole simple concept.

    I’m not pushing religion or any deep philosophies. I’m not even trying to figure out why we decorate and eat hard boiled chicken embryos or chocolate shaped in their image. I’m just trying to get people to think about being a little nicer, if for no reason other than they can.

    A character of Neil Gaiman (another British author) one said something like ‘It’s not any harder to be nice than it is to be mean and it’s not nearly as fun.’

    Written By: Gary on March 22, 2008 No Comment

    Over the last 24 hours:

    • I’ve been watching live video from DeLoach winery (in Napa Valley?) watching Kevin Rose, Robert Scoble, Gary Vaynerchuk (wine guy) and Tim Ferris ( The 4 hour work week ). And typing questions and getting answers from the live video! Plus we all got an invite to a wine party tonight, but I didn’t get on a plane and go, I really really should have. I think they’ve gone to several vineyards actually.
    • I’ve also sent comments to Alison Sudol of A Fine Frenzy and gotten responses.
    • I’ve also provided some tech support to a MySpace musician in Kentucky, I’m not yet sure if that solved her problem.
    • Ordered some Blu-Ray DVDs for only $7.99 each: Stargate, Terminator 2 and Total Recall. Now I need a Blu-Ray player…
    • Ordered a (probably mismarked) outdoor George Foreman grill that I probably don’t need for $45 shipped. Deal appears dead or I’d link it.

    And that’s just the out-of-the-ordinary stuff.

    Written By: Gary on March 20, 2008 2 Comments

    This is a great parody of “Rock Band” sung to the tune of “Roxanne”.

    Found at nehatiwari.com after catching her segment on PopSiren. A Revision3.com production.

    Written By: Gary on March 16, 2008 3 Comments

    So I’ve really been trying to use Twitter more. I read and tweet more at my computer than when I’m out. When I’m out I tweet some but don’t generally read. I do have it set to get a text message on my phone automagically if someone tweets my name. If you don’t know what Twitter is:

  • You can see what I tweet. All my personal blog posts get tweeted automatically.
  • You can see who I follow with twitter.
  • You can “follow me” (but you have to set up a free account with them) and get all my tweets sent to your cell phone so you can see what I’m thinking about an blogging about.
  • There is a nice mobile interface and you can even subscribe via RSS.

    I really got on the blogging boat late because I didn’t get it, but once I started I was hooked immediately. This isn’t working for me yet, but I’m still trying. On GeekBrief I saw the folks at CommonCraft created a video called Twitter in Plain English and it’s a pretty good explanation with interesting animation.

    But it still feels like Instant Messenger (IM) to me, but only 140 characters. It’s definitely more than IM, but it really just feels like the next step in its evolution. The clients feel like IM, and using the web interface at Twitter fells more and more like a web chat client.

    The biggest difference is that you direct your message to everyone in your group, not to a specific person. So occasionally you see a comment directed to someone else that you never saw the preceding comment, so then you can go see what they said and see if it’s someone else that interests you. You can send direct messages, but I don’t think that’s very common and I can never remember the command (it’s “D TwitterUserName TheText“).

  • Written By: Gary on March 15, 2008 No Comment

    I’m a huge fan of SpamArrest, a mail program that uses challenge/response CAPTCHAs to only allow mail from humans, instead of from spammers. It works great but the price has gone up from $60 for two years to $90, so I’m checking for other options. It’s only an additional $30 but if the price jump is $30 (or worse, 50%) every 2 years, it’s gonna get kinda pricey in the next few renewal cycles. The price jump is kind of large after a few years especially since I know many of their costs should have gone down (disk space, servers and bandwidth); the software is already written and has had minimal user changes over the last two years.

    Honestly, I’m sure it saves me more way than $45 a year worth of time. But can something save me more time, I know in the past MailBlocks saved me more time. So I’m looking for suggestions for some other Challenge/Responce mail system.

    There is one thing I really dislike about SpamArrest, while I can use any mail client to read my mail, to check and approve spam I have to go to their web site and that takes a lot of time (and this is a feature I miss from the now deceased MailBlocks). The reason I have to check it is for mailings from new companies that I deal with and for people who don’t pay attention to the e-mail that gets mail back to them immediately to ask them to confirm they are human (I even have info about me and a picture of me in the e-mail so they know it’s really me).

    In the meantime, I’m using my free gMail account. I want to see how well that works, they give me all sorts of space for free and it’s pretty fast and it works well on cellphones (their client, their web interface and should work with phone clients). They’ve got a fancy web interface and plain web interface so it works pretty well everywhere. Although, with my client I can’t see the spam folder there either. Google lets you create additional addresses for the same account and have decent filters. Plus, they will let you use your own domain if you’d like to; so if it really works out, I’ll attach my GaryLaPointe.com domain to it and use it for my mail (as long as that supports IMAP). And if it works as well for me, it’s free! There’s some weird mapping between GMail and the Mac Mail.app (I think by default you get duplicates of the mailboxes) but there’s some work arounds, or maybe the new Mail.app in Panther fixes it…

    Also, I figure after trying it for a few months, SpamArrest might send me a promo to lure me back. If that’s the case I’ll know I’ve done due diligence to try another option and I’ll have possibly saved a few bucks in the mean time.Actually, I have one other minor complaint about SpamArrest, the interface could be faster. There’s something about the web interface that slows things down. I notice when I travel, it’s unbearably slow and I’m not sure why. But it’s a huge minus when I travel…

    I do get some referral dollar$ from SpamArrest (maybe $8.75 a year?), so I figure if I’m sending clients to them, so are others (therefore, they’re likely growing).

    Written By: Gary on March 15, 2008 One Comment

    Alison Sudol was excellent last night. A very small venue at The Shelter, the cancert was sold out but I’d guess there were only about 300 people there, lots of room. No one was back farther than about the equivalent of about 10 rows (no seats, general admission standing only with just a few tables). I’ve seen A Fine Frenzy before and it was a smaller venue so it was great having the small crowd and as a bonus it was a non-smoking show. A Fine Frenzy Alison Sudol March 2008 Detroit

    She’s has such a lovely voice and writes her own songs. She’s got this voice that’s kind of a Sarah McLachlan / Tori Amos voice and she’s just incredible. She so beautiful and has this sunning red head, and while it might not be naturally that red, she’s got that anemic porcelain look that so many red heads do, I’m assuming she’s actually a redhead. My camera in my phone takes pretty crappy pictures, but I tried to take a few.

    She’s so into when she plays, and every so often she looks at the audience, I feel likes she’s forgotten us and that her manager told her she has to make eye contact every so often and that’s why she looks up. I always think of ‘gracious’ when thinking about her personality, that’s just how I feel when she’s talking to us and that’s how I feel when she talks to you personally. I did get to get to say ‘hi” and get her autograph on a promo poster after the concert. She’s just so nice, even with just a 30-second conversation…

    It was a busy night as we had a fund raiser at work at six and the concert doors opened at 6 too (they’re about 25 minutes apart). So we planned to skip the opening act and just see her and depending on the time possibly go back to the auction. When I finally called the concert hall. They said she was going on in 15 minutes!!!!! So I had to find Kelly and Mark get out of there. We made good time, even with having to go a longer route, found free parking right around the corner and when we walked in the music was playing but she hadn’t uttered a word yet!! So it was a great night.

    One Cell in the Sea A Fine FrenzyWe never got back to the auction, even though it was only 9:30 when we left, it was just a little too late to head back. So I have no idea what or if I won anything. I probably had my name on about $400 worth of things, but I’m assuming I got over bid on more than a few of them (there was still 30 minutes left of bidding when we took off). I had some train tickets to Chicago, baskets of games, chocolate, theatre tickets, plus I bid on one of my donated items and a few more things. One of the items I donated was for my Cat in the Hat basket which had books/stuff and included a visit from me as the Cat in the Hat (for birthday parties, classroom visits and bachelorette parties), I drove the bidding up to $75 before I left, but if no one bought it I’ve purchased myself. While I love doing it, it’s not worth it to spend a hot summer day outside in the outfit if it’s only giving the school that much money so we’ll see how that went. I also donated a basket of coffee and chocolate covered coffee beans that I picked up the stuff the last time I was in Costa Rica; I’m wondering what that sold for, it’s was only at $17 the last time I looked…

    Written By: Gary on March 15, 2008 No Comment

    So I’m not just talking about regular mail, I’m talking shipping and receiving from companies and just getting deliveries. The way things arrive and the order in which they arrive is just strange sometimes.

    My most recent computer order is one example, I ordered a computer (with a larger hard drive so it had to be “built”), a spare battery and spare charger. The computer has already been assembled and shipped, the battery didn’t ship until a day later than the computer (I assumed it would have shipped the day before the computer) and the charger hasn’t shipped yet. Maybe, this is all a plan from Apple, they know how fast everything will get here so why have someone rush to ship the battery when they had something else to do, the computer system could be smart enough to do that. It just seems strange. Although, I find it strange it’s cheaper to do the final assembly in China and ship them here one at a time via FedEx.

    I’ve been on vacation and mailed postcards on the same day (from the same mailbox) to people in the same city and they arrive weeks later. Where was the other one? Stuck in someone else’s magazine? Did it travel a different route?

    I’m currently subscribing to the TicoTimes, it’s a weekly English paper that covers Costa Rica. It’s published on Friday and sometimes I get it the following Wednesday (5 days later). I’m not sure when they actually mail it, I’m sure on Thursday or Friday. But sometimes I get it days later, I think the record is 12 days (I think I got it 4 days later, on Tuesday once). Why such the time difference? It looks like they ship it from Costa Rica, I wonder if it makes more sense to ship all the US customers in one package (shipped faster) and have them re-mailed from the US. I know they ship to a few US newstands to sell them so the re-shipping wouldn’t be too hard.

    And I find it really strange when I order something from Amazon (in stock) and in the same order I get a used book from one of their used-partners and I get the used book days before the new one…

    Most of the time when I order from places like CDW, I get the item the next day even when I don’t pay for fast shipping (I almost always choose the cheapest).

    And my absolute favorite is when I pay big buck$ for overnight shipping and I don’t get it for 3 or 4 days. Their reasoning, we didn’t get it shipped the first day, but when we did ship it, it went out overnight. I love that Amazon clearly marks when you’ll get it with one-day shipping if you order it in the next “3 hours and 5 minutes” or something like that. When my oven broke a few months ago the GE site, clearly stated that when I ordered it by a certain time it would ship that day, I could of paid less ($10-$15) from a few other sites, but I couldn’t be certain when it would actually ship; so with that little piece of knowledge, GE got my money instead and they got a premium…

    Written By: Gary on March 12, 2008 2 Comments

    I can’t believe these prices. I only paid $3.23 yesterday but I paid $3.25 on Friday. I think that’s the highest I’ve ever paid. And “they” say it’s going to keep going up…

    I’m so glad I don’t drive far. Generally, less than a tank gets me through the week.

    Written By: Gary on March 12, 2008 2 Comments

    I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life, even since I was little. Not that Mom didn’t buy me stuff, but I always had some hobby that needed ca$h so I often had jobs. Beside maybe shoveling show or leaves and stuff like that I’ve started pretty early. I was thinking about this since I saw Miss. Britt do a section like this for her 100 things list so I started thinking about it.

  • I delivered the shopping news once a week (maybe every other week), a local ad newspaper, it didn’t pay much but it got me some money. I know I was pretty young but I really don’t know.
  • The little bookstore down the street gave me stuff to do here and there. The wonderful lady who ran it gave me cash or credit for books.
  • I had some paper routes for the regular newspaper too, The Detroit Free Press, but I hated the mornings. I think I gave it up for a while and then got it back a few years later (the money was pretty good). I quit the second time because the Lions club (or some other organization) did a fundraiser by selling subscriptions and they tripled my route size. I couldn’t get it done in the morning and the manager wouldn’t shrink my route (the assumption was after the 20 week promo ran out, many would drop, but I didn’t have three hours every day before school for the larger route).
  • I baby sat for my younger cousins pretty regularly in the ninth grade for a while.
  • I worked at the local bowling alley, Hartfield Lanes, in the evenings just picking up bottles and stuff as the leagues drank their way through their frames.
  • Eventually, I started working at the snack bar. This was a much better job and George pretty much let us run the place so it was a great job.

    These were most of my jobs up to the time that I started getting computer jobs (not that there weren’t some non-computer jobs later on too). So I think I’ll wrap this up for now and make that a second (or third) part, this gets me through age 15…

  • Written By: Gary on March 10, 2008 No Comment

    One Cell in the Sea A Fine FrenzyA Fine Frenzy is playing in Detroit at the Shelter this weekend. It’s a really small venue so it should be a great show! I saw A Fine Frenzy in the fall (upstairs at St. Andrews)and it was an incredible show (they/she opened for Brandi Carlile). Ferras is opening for them, but I have no idea who that is, maybe someone American Idol-ish?

    If anyone is going please leave me a comment or send an e-mail and we can say “hi” while were there…. My mission for the evening is Happy Hour for dinner in Dearborn, a fund raiser auction for school in Redford (this is while we’re missing Ferras) and then get over to the theatre to see Alison sing and sign autgraphs…

    Speaking of the auction, once again as an auction prize you can buy bags of coffee, straight from costa rica with some chocolate covered coffee beans. Brought to you from central Amaerica by Moi! Also you can by a basket of Cat in the Hat stickers and books which includes a visit to your house from the Cat in the Hat himself!

    Written By: Gary on March 9, 2008 No Comment

    DST around the world (Picture from wikipedia)As usual, it’s that time of year when someone else thinks it’s better to (de)regulate my internal clock. It’s funny all the news stories this year that are commenting on the health issues, sleepy drivers and how much energy this is really wasting energy.

    For those of you in other places in the world that don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s Daylight Savings Time (DST).

    At least all my electronics seemed to adapt properly…

    Written By: Gary on March 8, 2008 2 Comments

    So after the MacBook Air not being what I had hoped for, I had been hoping for a 13.3 inch MacBook Pro and while the Air is small, I wanted something not so stripped down. Since then, I’d been trying to decide between a 13.3 MacBook and a 15 inch MacBook Pro (size vs. power, I’m used to the tiny 12 inch PowerBook), I thought I’d let fate decide for me and get the next one that they upgraded. Unfortunately, last week they did an upgrade on them both on the same, letting fate avoid making the choice for me.

    This week I was at a conference and was at the Apple Booth and was playing with the 17 inch MacBook Pro and asked if they had a 15 inch to look at and then I realized I was using the 15 inch model. It just seemed so large and bulky to me. I think I’m going to have to go with the 13.3 MacBook, I think it’s only about a half pound less in weight, but it’s a bit smaller. I’m not even sure how I’d fit the 15 inch on the back of an airplane or train seat tray.

    Of course, the day after I order it, they’ll release a 13.3 inch MacBook Pro

    Later: I went with the 2.4 GHz White MacBook (I couldn’t possibly justify the Black one for $110 more, that doesn’t even make sense!), with the 250 GB HD and lots o’ RAM. The biggest downside to not getting the Pro is that the glossy screen was the only option (and the non-backlit keyboard).

    Written By: Gary on March 5, 2008 One Comment

    Apple has released or upgraded/refreshed something new every Tuesday since MacWorld. This week there was nothing. The stranger thing is that I didn’t hear much (anything?) about it. I did recall him saying something at the keynote like ’50 more weeks to go’ and it was just odd at the way it sounded, so when they kept rolling things out I thought that was pretty great and maybe it was a weekly thing.

    But I see that Leo Laporte just mentioned an Apple Event tomorrow, so maybe there will be something announced there…

    After Google-ing around, I’m guessing it’s just the SDK kit for the iPhone / iTouch. Although if it’s not an actual product, it’s still not following the pattern.

    LATER REVEALED: I haven’t watched the Steve Jobs presentation yet. But it looks like it’s the SDK that was expected, it’s $99, I’m not sure if that was expected and it’s free (see comments). Also they have a way to be in the “Enterprise beta” program, but I don’t know if I’d want my enterprise testing new software if it’s not finalized yet. But the “remote wipe” sounds like a great option if you’ve got secure data. The “Exchange Sync” looks nice that’ll convince a few BlackBerry users to jump; is it coincidence that Google released an Exchange / Outlook to Google Calendar Sync yesterday?

    Written By: Gary on March 5, 2008 One Comment

    Haven’t blogged much, since not much has been happening around here. I’ve been sick for the last two weeks (missed a week of work) with bronchitis with a nasty couch and even nastier congestion. I feel like I’ve been eating lots, but I’m down about 15 pounds from where I’m usually at.

    Life’s pretty good otherwise, Work hasn’t been too cRaZy so I’ve not fallen too far behind. And I’ve got my next Costa Rica trip to look forward too next month.

    With the snow today it seems like an extra beautifully sunny day and that always has magical healing properties…

    Written By: Gary on March 1, 2008 10 Comments

    First of all, I love Medco for so many reasons, but the fact that all the annoying things they do basically annoy me sometimes makes me wonder if it’s worth it. I’ll list what I like:

  • I’ve been very fortunate and pay virtually nothing for my prescriptions, at a local store I pay $5 a month and with Medco I pay $2 (total) for 3 months. Now that’s my current insurance plan and not Medco so it’s not a plus just for them (and my co-pay is about to go way up).
  • I can call with a drug question at any time and they can get an answer for me (I’m not sure if they’re 24 hours, but I know I’ve called close to midnight on a holiday before).
  • I can renew on-line and see my history of everything they’ve mailed to me for a long while.
  • They give me postage paid envelopes to mail in prescriptions.

    So this is where my “What I hate about Medco” rant starts, it’s everything else they kind of make as annoying as possible and it’s got to cast them money and time (mine too!). It’s really strange considering they’ve got the normal part perfect from a customer service standpoint (see above). It’s the odd things that they handle strangely, for example:

  • They called me the other day and left a message so I had to call back and they had to transfer me to two other people to figure out why they called me (plus they disconnected me once). Here’s what it is: the off brand of something works better for me ansod the doctor wrote it that way, they were actually calling me to tell me that they’re shipping me what I ordered and next time I should check to see if they have it in stock. I’m sure I’ve been using this for several years and had it written the same way every time and it’s never wasted 20 minutes of my life on the phone before. Besides the doctor wrote it for the drug I want (DAW=dispense as written), they shouldn’t ship me anything but that, I shouldn’t need to call them for them to ship me the correct drug, right? Big huge waste of my time and theirs.
  • Most calls that I’ve had to return to them over the years go that way, it takes them a whole to figure out why I’m calling (and I have the ref number they gave me) and it just takes forever and it’s usually on something odd.
  • They don’t handle multiple addresses very well considering they do ship out drugs that need to be kept cold (in the middle of summer I ship that stuff to work). So you have to change the computer address when you have them refill that medicine so it goes where you want.
  • In the mean time if you mail in a prescription with the other address pre-printed on the form and circle it in red and write in big letters “ship here” they still call you to make sure that’s where you want it shipped (duh!).
  • And then all paper-work notifications go to the work address since you had to change your address to that location. They need a way for you “billing”/paperwork address to be a different address.
  • When you go on-line in February and they list drugs they can be refilled in March if you click “refill now” for many of them you will get mailings or phone calls (I can’t figure out how they choose) that complain that “you filled them too soon” even though they told you to!
  • Today, I got a phone call for some prescriptions that the doctor sent in electronically on Monday and they’ll ship on March 3rd. For one thing if I needed it today, I wouldn’t have mailed it in, but why did it take them until Saturday to not know they won’t ship it until next week?

    The other big annoyance is everything they leave you a message about is useless since none of it mentions the drug name. It’s all some prescription number which means nothing to me. I understand they don’t want to violate HIPA, but it’s simple enough to check the file and see that it says: this guy wants us to leave him his information in a message this would be convenient to him and not any kind of violation since he requests it. This seems like a pretty simple process for them to impalement for the sake of customer service (it’d be like locking or unlocking your domain name).

    They do e-mail me some information (generally on shipment) but it’s also lacking the drug name, which is silly since I assume most of the population (not me) uses the same password for their e-mail as they do for the medical website it’s probably not protecting anything. But I don’t understand why they just don’t mail me everything.

    So as I said, I normally pay $5 for a prescription and I can get 3 months from mailing in for only $2. But when my insurance changes that’s going to go up to $10 a month and mail-in will be $20 for 3 months. I’m still saving money, but can I do better (or just as well) with local stores and coupons or with bonuses that they always offer to switch stores? Sure that’d be an annoyance but at least they’d be annoying me on my terms…

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