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June 2008

Written By: Gary on June 30, 2008 One Comment

Since my local Farmer Jack closed and went out of business I’ve been paying attention to different groceries stores and prices. I didn’t pay as much attention to pricing as I should since my mother worked at a Farmer Jack’s and I wanted to support them (also, I felt they had good prices). Plus, it’s just me and it’s not worth driving around all over to save a little bit when I don’t get that much (I average less than $30 a week but I do pick up some grocery items when on sale at Target).

My nearest FJ was purchased by Kroger. I’m not a big Kroger fan for two reasons: I’ve never been thrilled with their meat section that much and it always seems like their dairy products don’t have very long life for their expiration dates. Also, they never seem to have Orange Juice on sale for very good prices (I drink a lot of it).

So I’ve been checking out the other stores nearby: A Meijer which I like but isn’t very close and a Wal-Mart closer and on the way home from work. The prices are significantly different between the stores, I need to hit these other stores on purpose and more often. I need a grocery web site when I can put in (and have it remember) my most often purchase items: OJ, milk, cantaloupe, bananas, jumbo eggs, etc. and have it tell me where I should shop this week.

When my kitchen gets a lot smarter with RFID this will probably be a breeze. It’ll know what I need and tell me it’s time to go shopping or (better yet) tell me to wait a few days since everything I need goes on sale at one of the stores. And tell me while I’m not low on cereal it’s so cheap this week I should stock up.

Written By: Gary on June 29, 2008 One Comment

I use tech to complicate my life and make it better. Not simpler. I’ve never felt that it simplifies my life. Tech gives me information, organizes me and entertains me.

If I used just a few tech tools, it could simplify my life. An answering machine simplified it. And a fax machine. But those are very 1/2 duplex technologies, more like Web -3.0

Other basic tools like a calendar and address book help to organize my life, and make it so I don’t need to remember things which makes my life a little easier.

Much of what unsimplifies life are the more interactive technologies, the ones that require a response, especially the ones that require a response quickly. E-mail is my biggest interactive technology, I’ve tried so many of the others and while I enjoy them they just take up so much time… Twitter, IM, and other chat-type services. I really like Seesmic, but it’s hard to get a feel for what’s going on with just a glance, you’ve got to watch the video’s to see what they’re about; there just isn’t enough of a description to know what the conversation is about (or what it’s become after multiple responses).

And then there are all the interactive ones that you’re just exploring, there is so much out there and it’s so time consuming it’s un-simplifying my life in that it’s taking away time from the rest of it.

With it I can do more than without it. Do I need to be doing more? Probably not, but some of what I’m able to explore and experience makes it worth it to me.

Written By: Gary on June 29, 2008 One Comment

Picture 3-1So my favorite place in London (England) for discount theatre tickets is TKTS half-price ticktes located in Leicester Square, it’s sort of in the park so you can’t miss it.

I discovered they list the available tickets on-line so that’s a bonus for next trip, no reason to rush down for tickets if there isn’t anything you like!

They are opening a second location in the Brent Cross Shopping Centre officially on June 29, 2008 but since I’m not there I can’t go check it out (that’s today!). I think they carry the same tickets at both locations.

Written By: Gary on June 28, 2008 One Comment

Amazing episode! Should have been a movie!

Can’t say much about it without giving much away. But lots of names in the main opening credits…

BIG Cliffhangers!Sadly, the one thing that I didn’t want to happen appears to be happening (and I think it’s happening they way I particularly didn’t want it to). But it’s Russell T. Davies, so you never know what’s going to happen until it’s over…

The Doctor’s hand (Christmas 2005) got some excessive screen time this episode and this season, so there is still hope it might be able to fix the one item I’m not happy about…

Written By: Gary on June 28, 2008 One Comment

So the other day I purchased this Aiptek HD 720p Video Camera, I liked it but I saw it was on sale at this week so I went in to get the $30 price difference. Well, I couldn’t find the receipt so I went in to make sure it was the same camera first. It was not the same camera, it was the new better model, the Aiptek HD 1080p Video Camera, for $30 less. From the way it was on the rack I am pretty sure the old one was also on sale (i.e. clearance) since they didn’t have them any more and this one seemed to be replacing that one at the same price point.

As I walked up to the counter I decided I didn’t want to bother to return the old one and buy the new one since the differences were minimal and there was a 15% restocking fee. I just wanted them to credit me the $30 for the old one. They couldn’t print me a new receipt, nor could they credit me the $30 without the receipt, but they would refund my money and they weren’t going to nick me the $30 if I purchased a new one, so I went back, got the better camera (which was even better than I thought) and got my $30 back too. From the receipt, it looks like they have the same SKU, so now I’m sure both were $30 cheaper.

Sadly it was a waste of materials and money (they’ll send it back to the manufacturer) since they didn’t have a mechanism in place to credit me back the difference. But at least I made out on this one: better camera, $30 and a new receipt.

Written By: Gary on June 24, 2008 4 Comments

I think Catherine Tate is going to be the new Doctor Who. I’ll tell you why, but first I’m going to tell you there will be some episode 11 spoilers in this post so read on if you’re willing….

I also have no idea how he could possibly regenerate / transmogrify into her. That’s unless she’s always been A / The Doctor and has forgotten; that would explain some of the specialness of her.This is all based on the possibility (rumor) that there might be a new doctor next season; if that isn’t true than the rest of this isn’t even worth reading…

The one thing I don’t like about this show is it changes too often, they can’t sit still for a fraction of an episode so them turning Donna into the Doctor isn’t outside the realm of possibility. I don’t think The Doctor has ever been a woman outside of a special or one-shot movie so this would shake things up.

Different things just from this latest episode:

  • Donna is “special”, she’s had something (energy) about her since she was born.
  • To Donna, “Who are you? What will you be?”
  • Doctor says “Sometimes I think there’s way too much coincidence around you Donna”
  • Doctor says “It’s like there’s something binding us together”
  • She’s the “most important Woman in the whole of creation”, not person, but woman. (Is the Doctor the most important man?)

    That doesn’t even factor in odd things said to/about Donna in earlier episodes, like the prophet from Pompeii and others I’m sure I can’t think of. And I’m trying to somehow factor in The Doctor’s Daughter into this theory too.

    The biggest piece that doesn’t fit is the woman from “The Library” who knew the Doctor but he hadn’t met her yet. That would mean he doesn’t regenerate and is contradictory, but then I never expected them to show them actually meet in an episode. This really fits more of a Donna is like the Doctor and sacrifices herself to save the multi-verse from the darkness; but I don’t like that plan any more than I’d like a new Doctor…

    And it doesn’t answer the question “where are the bees?!?”

  • Written By: Gary on June 22, 2008 2 Comments

    To make up for not seeing Donna last episode, I think we see The Doctor even less this time around. And while most episodes just take place in a different time/place, this is more of a a time-travel type episode (my favorite);it’s another excellent episode by Russell T. Davies.

    I won’t tell you much about the episode except that we still don’t know what’s up with the bumble bees (I’m starting to wonder if we will this season) but we do finally get to really see Rose. That’s not really much of a spoiler since Billie Piper’s actually in the main opening credits!I watched the amazing preview for next week: Imagine a guest star that could possibly be on the show and they’re probably on next week (or the week after), I’m so excited!

    It seems like there is so much to happen still? Are they going to have a cliff hanger? (No, that’ll goof up the Christmas episode). Continue it in another series? And who’s going to travel with The Doctor next series (season).

    Written By: Gary on June 21, 2008 3 Comments

    So I’ve seen these Aiptek HD 720p Video Cameras around and they’ve had it at my local Target for $149 (it’s only $135 at Amazon), I figured if it was awful I could return it for their 15% restocking fee. Actually, I’m now thinking it’s my new camera to keep in my bag at all times.

    It’s a

    • 720p HD video camera (which records to an SD chip) which is 1280×720.
    • 5 MP still camera.
    • Audio recorder.
    • and also records from a video source (haven’t tried this yet, but have read it looks great).

    Quality is great but if you move the camera too quick it could compress a little better. But for the price it’s awesome and it’s better than I would have expected.

    It’s got a record button on the front (where your trigger finger goes) and a record button on the LCD screen. On the back is a button for taking a snapshot at any time (other than when actually recording).

    Other features: It’s got a standard tripod mount and comes with a charger (but also charges off the included USB cable), lens cap, carry strap, standard video cables and component cables. It’s smart enough when you flip the LCD screen to flip the video image for self recording.

    Complaints: it sure could use image stabilization and audio-in for a microphone would be nice but I wouldn’t expect anything like that in a lower end product like this.

    Other things: I’ve only played with it a little bit but the imaging looks a little better when moving the camera quickly in the lower quality modes (720×480 and 352×240). It looks like it has an IR receiver in the front (where your hand would be) but I don’t know if that’s what it is.

    Written By: Gary on June 14, 2008 No Comment

    So it’s Episode 10 (Season/Series 4) of Doctor Who, it’s pretty much a Doctor Who only episode, Donna Noble hangs back at the spa so we see her about a total of 60 seconds. The episode “Midnight” is written by Russell T. Davies, the man who revived the Doctor Who series four years ago and is still executive producer for Doctor Who and does the same for spinoffs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures (occasional writes episodes for both).

    The conversation is cRaZy and and has a bunch of people talking and no one listening and when they are, they aren’t paying attention. It made me think of a David Mamet story multiple times, the conversations seemed so much like that of Oleana and other things he’s written, if you don’t know what I mean I’m not sure how to explain it. It was an interesting episode, if you watch the show you’ll see what I mean, if you know agree with me please let me know. Actually, it was a great episode, but it certainly wasn’t a “regular” episode.

    Oh, and Rose shows up on the monitors again. No big surprise there…

    I’ve got some spoilers (labeled with “SPOILERS”) but I’m going to talk about the next 3 episodes: previews, rumors and conjecture (some might consider the next few paragraphs spoilers too, so stop at any time). Generally Doctor Who seasons have 13 episodes and several times that last story has spanned the last three episodes (even if you didn’t realize there was more to come after episode 11) and generally the final episodes aren’t too much of a cliff-hanger since the Christmas Special (actually broadcast on Christmas between seasons of the show) has generally been meant to sort of stand on it’s own.Obviously at some time in the next few episodes Rose Tyler will return, we’ve seen her trying to contact The Doctor since the beginning of the season. Since I’ve heard that next episode is the opposite of this episode (not much of the Doctor) maybe it’ll be sooner than later. I’ve heard nothing about who’s going to be his companion next season (is Bilie Piper too busy with Secret Diary of a Call Girl?). But many months ago (I try not to listen much) I’ve heard that Rose, Donna, Martha, Capt. Jack Harkness and Sarah Jane Smith (maybe K-9 and Mickey too) will reunite to save The Doctor but that could just be a big rumor; I’ve seen nothing in the previews (they tend to give things away at the end of the Christmas previews) nor heard anything lately. But I’m pretty sure that John Barrowman (Capt. Jack) mentions that he’s in season 4 in his book Anything Goes so I’m assuming at least his part is true.

    Also, we’ve never gotten much from the multiple times that they’ve mentioned the bees have disappeared from Earth (early 20th century), I’ve no clue what they are going to do with that.

    SPOILERS – In this episode, Midnight, it really illustrates a really disappointing thing about the human race is we’re so stupid. No one wants to say “I don’t know” and no one wants to be the person that disagrees with the whole group, especially when it’s easier to agree with the whole group (especially if someone shouting you down). As the viewer you’ll see it, depending on how clever you are depends on how soon, but you’ll see it. The sad thing is because of peer pressure they almost sacrifice the wrong person and instead even more die.

    Eh, I probably had more semi-spoilers in the speculation paragraphs than I actually did in the one with this episode spoilers.

    Written By: Gary on June 11, 2008 No Comment

    So I got some more photos up. London Day one, not a lot, but I did do some okay descriptions :)

    Written By: Gary on June 11, 2008 One Comment

    Theatre-Drinks-Pict2475So at some of the theater’s in London (and I’m sure in other places in the world) you place your order and pay for interval drinks before the show starts. This way when it’s time for intermission, your drink is already ready for you and there is no line. Very civilized :)

    It’s just coincidence that it’s in “position L”, that was already on the sheet when I scribbled my name on it. So when I went to get my drink there was my bottle of Schweppes, a glass with ice and my order sheet (see attached photo).

    Written By: Gary on June 9, 2008 3 Comments

    Sprint gave me a call to make sure I was happy. I told him I was expecting his call, he seemed surprised. I said my contract is up and they new iPhone looks pretty yummy, gotta be afraid of losing me as a customer. All he offered me was $150 off a new phone (you get that every 2 years no matter what, AFAIK).

    And he said I could use that for a new Treo 800 (I have the 700p) when it comes out; he insisted it’s a Palm OS device (not Windows Mobile) and I rephrased the question several times. Now that I’ve had time to Google it, I think he’s wrong and it’s a Windoze Mobile device.

    Tried to buy a wireless modem card from him, best he could offer me was $60 a month. I currently have internet on my phone for $15 and $25 more (total $40) lets me tether (connect) my laptop to it and use the internet. So if I drop the $25 and pay the $60, I’ve still got the $15 on the phone, now $45 more a month. You’d think he could offer me a better incentive than that. I do already have unlimited tethering, give me a little more incentive to sign up Sprint…

    Now that I’ve got the new iPhone specs and at only $199 to switch to AT&T I’ve got all sorts of other ideas in my head…

    Written By: Gary on June 8, 2008 2 Comments

    london04-707So for the Waffle Toffee Crunch score: We were there eight days (Saturday to Saturday) and I was able to have a Waffle Toffee Crunch dessert seven of the eight days! They only day I didn’t succeed was the day we left for Cardiff. In my defense we were on the way to the train station before Garfunkel’s opened and they didn’t appear to have any in Cardiff (they few people I asked didn’t even know what Garfunkel’s was).

    So I consider the dessert portion of the vacation as much of a success as possible :)

    Written By: Gary on June 7, 2008 2 Comments

    Cardiff-Photos
    So I’ve got a few photos that I put together from Cardiff City Center. I’m not sure if the castle is technically in the city center or not but I including those few anyways. There are captions on a few of the photos.

    Written By: Gary on June 7, 2008 No Comment

    It’s been a very long flight and we took off late so we’re going to get in late. They were having problems with one of the bathrooms and they tried fixing it, then they gave up and had to drain the tanks(?) and that took more time. The long bathroom lines are annoying slow but at least they’re moving. The flight home was already eight hours and fifty minutes; I’m glad it was a direct flight, I’m not sure how it’s affecting the the people with connecting flights.

    Saw some cool ice “stuff” while flying, not sure if it was part of Greenland or something else, it was a huge massive land formation that was all while and looked like it was ice.

    I’ve got a bunch of other entries and posts that I still have to put on-line (or finish and put on-line still) so they’ll be more to come on-line….

    Written By: Gary on June 7, 2008 2 Comments

    StreetcarSo at StreetCar you can rent a car by the hour. They’ve got 500 pickup locations (and I think this is just spots where parked on the side of the street). It’s about 5.95 pounds ($12 an hour) for a Golf (Polo for 3.95) an hour or 49.50 pounds a day (and you get 30 miles of fuel). You must be a member for 50 pounds a year (show your OysterCard and get two memberships for the price of one).

    Assuming you don’t have a need for a car very often, this is economical and ecological: you don’t need to pay for a car or insurance or parking, except for the times you need it; it’s such a waste otherwise if you don’t use it often. You don’t need to maintain it or anything like that. If I lived somewhere like London I would only need it a time or two a week (at the most), maybe big shopping trips.

    This is very cool IMHO, this is the idea of of Sci-Fi/Future Utopian stories. Every shares a car or bicycles and has great public transportation. This is very unlike Michigan with poor public transportation and everyone owns a car (or two).

    Written By: Gary on June 6, 2008 No Comment

    This was an off-“Broadway” show (called Haunted) we saw someone bring flyers into one of the restaurants we were eating at so we took one and it sounding interesting. Then shortly after we happened to walk by the Arts Theatre and Haunted stuck in our heads so we decided to go…
    Haunted-Play

    Nineteen empty flats and just one sold. Why? What’s wrong with the place? And why does it want Alex and her children?

    Four friends for supper. No supper.

    An extra guest. A kitchen full of implements.

    The evening veers off its polite rails and ends up somewhere very dark.

    (from the Haunted flyer)

    Now finding the place again was tricky, they didn’t bother to print the address on the brochure; it’s at 6/7 (Great) Newport Street, London WC2 in case you’re looking for it. But it’s only there until June 14.

    Great acting, it all took place in one room but it was done excellent! It was a little confusing at times, but it didn’t really affect the story: Were there spirits in the house? Were they a little cRaZy? Was it a bit in their heads? Was anyone actually possessed? I actually think you weren’t supposed to know…

    I think the stories based on the property are actually true (at least I read it on-line somewhere, so it must be true).

    My only ture complaint was that it ended abruptly, too abruptly for me, but Mom didn’t seem to mind…Rats, while putting this post together I just noticed I could have saved $13.00 by getting Mom the senior discount :(

    Written By: Gary on June 6, 2008 No Comment

    The Oyster Card is a debit-type card for using the Tube (subway) and bus systems. It’s very very convienent, why they don’t push the Oyster Card as an alternative for tourists I have no clue. There’s advertising everywhere but not pushing it for tourists (the airports and train stations would be a logical choice). It’s a “gift card” that you load up with any dollar pound amount and just tap it (like the new Visa cards with the tap or blink function) to get onto a tube train or bus. If you use it a lot, it can automatically top up from your credit card so you’ll always have enough (and I think you can get your photo put on a more permanent card).

    “Our aim is to ensure that Oyster always charges the lowest fare.
    Where it doesn’t, we will refund the difference.”

    It’s much easier and faster plus you don’t have to decide if you need a all day tube ticket or bus option or anything. It calculates the best possible fare for you at the end of the day and they promise it’ll be cheaper than tickets. Plus you can use it on the cool red double-decker busses!

    It’s a 3 pound deposit, but I’m under the impression that when we return our cards we get the 3 pounds plus any other cash we still have on it returned to us. Our only concern has been not having enough on it when we get on a bus (it’d be too late to put more ca$h on it then).

    So my vote is get a Oyster Card as soon you get to the London area!Later: We did get the deposit (3 pounds) and all our money back with no problem.

    Written By: Gary on June 5, 2008 No Comment

    Marguerite MusicalSo the first show we saw in London was a musical called Marguerite, it took place in German occupied France. Marguerite was married to a German general for convenience and falls in love with a jazz piano player. It was a beautiful old theatre with at least two balconies (there might have been a higher one but I couldn’t see it from the main floor).

    We had tenth row great seats (halfway between center and the edge); we picked them up from the TKTS booth at Leicester Square which has different discount (almost all are half-off) tickets every day (I usually look there first when looking for tickets). I think they just have tickets for “west end” theatre but I’m not sure where the “east end” is (or north or south for that matter).

    The writer/producer of Marguerite also did

  • Les Miserables
  • Miss Saigon
  • Martin Guerre
    It was fun, a little bit slow at times so we’ll see if it goes global. But, I thought Les Miserables was very slow and that one became “kind of” popular.

    Amazing scene changes on the stage! The way they transform one setting to another was excellent. Although it’s so good it really doesn’t leave much to the imagination which I think used to be a big part of the “theatre experience”.

    I’d definitely recommend this if this sounds like your type of musical. Heres a video clip.

  • Written By: Gary on June 4, 2008 No Comment

    Cardiff Words
    I cannot even describe to you how awesome the Wales Millennium Centre looked at night. All the letters were illuminated from the inside and it was just incredible! I just stared at it for a while, I’m sure I looked like such the tourist.

    All the little towers around the plaza (Roald Dahl Plass) were lit from the inside and the outsides were lit with different colors (which slowly changed).

    I thought it might be kind of busy down there, but since it had cooled off so it was pretty quiet down there. Sadly, I didn’t have my camera. I didn’t know where I was heading after so I didn’t bring it.

    It almost made up for the tall fountain being broken…

    Written By: Gary on June 4, 2008 No Comment

    So we made it to Cardiff via Train from Paddington Station in London. Very easy trip, Cardiff is the end of the line so no chance of missing anything. Beautiful day here! And the view for the train ride was great too.

    800Px-Roald Dahl Plass - CardiffWhile I love Cardiff so far, I hate to say that it’s included the biggest disappointment of the trip. Why? Because the Roald Dahl Plass is under construction. I was very very disappointed that the very tall shiny waterfall and a bit of the Plaza (Plass) was closed (especially the waterfall).

    I haven’t seen any kind of internet cafe here, I’m at a pub using the ‘net. People seem like to party around here, lots of bars and discotechs. It’s a college town at one end, but I’ve not sure that’s who the party people are.

    I’ll check out the ones nearby after I go see what Cardiff Bay is like once it gets dark; especially how the Wales Millennium Centre looks.

    Just in the few minutes I’ve been here, it’s really started to fill up!

    Travel tips: The train was about 50 pounds for the round trip via National Rail (certainly not the deal that someone mentioned to me on-line) I think pre-booking is cheaper (although I think we’d have paid eve more the day of instead of the day before), but if we had left London before 9:15 am it was way more (almost double I think) so check the times (return time did no matter). Many hotels offer late check-out and early check-in, they charge for it (about 10 pounds the few places I’ve noticed it), but it’s worth it for hotels that that don’t have a place to leave your luggage. We were going to stay until 4 or 5 tomorrow, but since late check-out is only until 2 pm, we’ll be leaving at 2.

    * Photo courtesy of Wikipedeia.

    Written By: Gary on June 3, 2008 No Comment

    So we haven’t had a huge amount of sun this trip and that’s okay since that means it hasn’t been hot, but today has just been wet wet wet. I want a nice sunny day to take Mom on a boat tour on the Thames or up in the London Eye (huge ferris wheel). We’re off to Cardiff in Wales tomorrow so you know it’s going to be a sunny day in London!!

    Written By: Gary on June 3, 2008 No Comment

    london04-707At this point I managed to get my dessert four days in a row!

    Warm Belgian waffle topped with vanilla ice cream, maple syrup and laced with toffee crunch pieces.

    Garfunkel’s Menu

    I wonder if they have Garfunkel’s in Wales? I’d hate to blow my streak…

    Written By: Gary on June 3, 2008 No Comment

    photo_ukregentstreet.jpgMom is at Harrod’s.

    I’m in heaven! At the Flagship Apple Store on Regents street in London.

    It’s a huge store. A little bigger than in Chicago! Gotta go shop!

    Later – Turns out we have live music too! Jessica Hoop and Lissie, I’ll be checking them out on-line later…


     


     

    Written By: Gary on June 2, 2008 3 Comments

    The-Wolf-Man-Img 8520 2So while we were walking around there were a lot of film trucks and equipment, so I told Mom if she thought she saw anyone famous that it might be so snap a picture. The next corner we went around was all blocked off and looked like it was from the 1,800s.

    Turns out they were shooting The Wolf Man starring Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro; comes out April 2009. We never saw any of the big stars but it was all people in carriages and police carts all in old dress. It was very cool.

    If you look this photo you can see the rain machine up high on the crane. The worksers told us it was crazy when it was running and you don’t want to be anywhere near it.

    Written By: Gary on June 2, 2008 One Comment

    Big-Ben-Img 8549Here’s a good shot of Big Ben! We’ve walked and been around all over today. I think we were on the Tube 5 or 6 times today.

    We’ve got photos, but it’s wet out right now, so I’m not going to sit on the corner outside for free networking; I’m going to pay the big bucks pounds and use it in my room for a few minutes to get these of posts up.

    Written By: Gary on June 1, 2008 2 Comments

    Gary-Mom-Hpim0131So we’re having a great time. This is a photo (click to enlarge), we took somewhere near our hotel in the Kensington area.

    We’ve been all over the pace! It’s almost 1 am here (5 hours later). It’s been a little cool (I had to put on long pants tonight) but it’s been great!

    We took this with my Quik Pod which lets you take pictures farther away than you arms can stretch.

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