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Reviews / feedback / comments on books, movies, television, technology, food, etc. (These might be short snippets and not long reviews)

Written By: Gary on November 30, 2006 35 Comments

So I was watching television the other day and I knew the picture looked a little dim. I use a computer projector for my TV so I use the wall as my screen (it’s about 100 inches diagonally) and it’s great for movies and regular TV. So I checked the hours for the bulb and it was supposed to be good for another 350 hours but then it abruptly died that night.

My intent when I bought the projector a few years ago was to keep it until it died and replace it with a much brighter one with more features once I used up the bulb (bulbs are about $300). Projectors drop significantly in price all the time. For example, the cheapest Epson projector 5 years ago was in the $2200 range and now a significantly brighter model (possibly with a higher resolution) is now $675-ish (those are education prices and I’d have to pay more). But I don’t want the comparable model, I want the deluxe model!

So now I’ve got a dilemma, do I replace the bulb ($300) or buy the projector I want ($2000 that I wasn’t ready to spend) knowing the prices will keep dropping and features will keep growing?? The answer was the Black Friday ads, I saw multiple projectors for $400 (after rebate) and $500. I settled on the $500 Acer XD1150 DLP Digital Projector (from Staples), no rebate and it was available to ship. It looks like the one in the picture but the one in the picture is the next model up but still looks the same.

So, for spending $500 for the projector instead of $300 for the bulb, I got a new smaller, lighter (under 5 pounds) in-warranty projector a brighter bulb (1800 lumens vs. 1100 lumens) and it’s smaller. It’s got inputs for composite video (regular video), s-video (like from your DVD player) and SVGA (which doubles as a component video port which supports 480p). It doesn’t have any audio inputs but I run it through the stereo so that’s okay. It came with a remote and a great carrying bad too.

I like it a lot, even pulling it out of the box was nice. It was packaged excellent everything individually wrapped. It wasn’t the same experience of opening up an Apple product but it made me think of it. I came with a composite video cable, a 15 pin SVGA cable but no S-video cable. It came with a CD (which I haven’t looked at yet) and a 20 page manual. Actually it was a one page manual, the other 19 pages were the same page in 19 other languages. The zoom is limited but it got the picture where I needed it so I was okay with that. It’s also got a digital zoom which is great for watching non-HD shows on the HD channels. The focus was a bit touchy, I may need to look at another one later to see if it’s just mine or if they are all that way. All in all I’m very happy with my new TV!

I did just notice there is a 45 page on-line manual in English. I’d guess that’s on the CD if I had put it in…

Written By: Gary on October 12, 2006 No Comment

GooglemapstreoSo they finally released Google Maps for Treo so I can run it on my SPrint Treo 700p. With this application I can pull up Google Maps from an application, not just via the web! This means I can zoom, get directions, see satellite views, get very cool driving directions, find local businesses, see traffic patterns (this is a little hard to decipher) all while dragging the map around with my stylus. Very cool!

It’s been out for some other handhelds but it never ran on mine. It’s pretty zippy with the Sprint EVDO speed. It’s pretty big, it weighs in at 423k. It seems to do a good job caching the maps, I wonder how it runs on the slower models and slower networks…

You can down load it directly to your Palm (and other handhelds) from http://www.google.com/gmm

It’s missing two features:

  • The ability to look an address up from your address book.
  • The ability to add a local business that you find to your address book.
  • It’d be nice if I could look up the longitude and latitude for an address/location. (Just because)

    From the Google Blog.

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    Written By: Gary on September 10, 2006 No Comment

    So it’s a weird web world in MySpace. I’ve been playing around a bit these past few days (and created an account for me) for a few reasons. The original reason was because a few local bands and bars have “space” but not much else in the way of a presence on-line. Then (of course) I found some people I know and linked to them as friends and so on and it consumes a bit of time pretty quickly.

    One of the reasons it consumes time is that most of the pages are awful: they don’t load properly, millions of photos and flash slideshows all on one page and the MySpace servers just don’t seem to keep up. Part of this is a million sites with bad layouts that fall off the side of the page, sparkle too much or have transparent text/body and conflict with the background. But like the psychedelic LSD trip that some of these pages resemble, I keep coming back for more. Maybe that’s the appealing part? I’m not really sure. Maybe it should be called MyLSD…

    It’s just amazing how awful so many of the pages are. They don’t even render properly in IE on a Windows machine. It’s very bizarre. Please let me clarify, the original layouts load fine, it’s layouts people change (and comments people add). And while you can disable HTML comments, it still shows the HTML code instead of just ignoring it (you can’t edit other’s comments).

    But as I’ve said I’ve managed to get sucked in a few times. Adding more people and bands to my friends list (blogroll) and getting exciting when I see another person has added me (you can’t add someone without their permission and vice-versa). Is it worth the time to add myself to the friend roll of some non-local band like the Indigo Girls or Anna Nalick?

    All these people have blogs, but most of them don’t blog (or if they tried it gave up ages ago) so it’s just a weird commenting system. A few neat features: Friend’s can blast out a message to everyone who has them as a friend and it shows up in a window at the bottom of your home page (where you can go to edit your pages and be bombarded with advertisements of bands, TV shows and the hot women advertising true.com) where you can choose to read it or not (it’s kinda like a junk mail box from friends but if the title is inviting you may read it). So for example my local bar sent out a message that said something like “Come up tonight because Daniella, Pam and Jane are working tonight” which is interesting since if I was considering going (or actually hadn’t just come home) and knew three of my favorite staff were working I might have gone up.

    Some downsides from a Microsoft technical standpoint: The servers appear to get overloaded often, you can’t always login (“technical difficulties”), they seem to force you to have a blog, whether you post or not, the block HTML but still show the code thing I mentioned earlier, can’t edit comments. Every page has just a generic comment place at the bottom of your page (profile comments) but you can’t comment since you are not a friend of yourself nor can you add yourself (just a little odd).

    Written By: Gary on September 7, 2006 One Comment

    So I picked up The Rough Guide to Blogging by Jonathan Yang at borders this weekend. This is from the folks who do the “The Rough Guide to _____” different places to travel. It seemed to be a decent book, pretty cheap $10-ish. It had the basic ides, rss, hosting, audio, video, podcasting, increasing traffic and making money and (very) short reviews of 250 of the “best” blogs.

    It’s a nice intro if you have someone who’s been asking about it or if you’re a beginner and want to learn some more. It’s about 100 pages and then about 50 pages of types of blogs (politics, education, etc.) while mentioned some specific blogs and then a bunch of 1 line reviews. I haven’t read it yet, but all the pages I’ve flipped to look pretty good so far.

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    Written By: Gary on August 15, 2006 One Comment

    So I’ve mentioned Kyle XY before and I really like Kyle XY (the character) and “Kyle XY” the show. As I was watching this week’s episode I was afraid I was wrong and there were only 8 episodes and not ten, but I checked and there are still two more (Overheard and Endgame). I’m afraid they’ll rush it because they just introduced a new story arc. Some spoilers follow…

    In case you haven’t been watching, Kyle is super smart and he has no belly button. So there’s something odd about him on multiple levels. We found a picture of someone he looks like so I’m assuming he’s a clone, but that yet may not be the case.

    I’m really enjoying the series. It’s strange that it’s a Monday ABC Family show but it’s being carried (rerunning the previous Monday) on Friday’s on regular ABC in widescreen HD (high definition).

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    Written By: Gary on August 3, 2006 2 Comments
    Heroes – Normal people start to gain extra abilities all over the world.
    The 4400 meets the X-Files (maybe?). If you’ve ever read a super-hero comic or wanted to be different then this show is for you. We’ve got a lot of Lost-like coincidental meeting in this one. A great concept. We’ll see how it lasts. (What the heck is the girl in the mirror’s power?)
    Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – The director flips out on the air. They need new people in charge.
    Sports Night meets Saturday Night Live (with a little bit of Network thrown in). A great cast in this one, a lot of your favorites from Aaron Sorkin shows.
    Jerico – A little town in the southwest named Jerico. A mushroom cloud in the distance.
    The Day After meets Invasion. This one might get a little old. But the first episode was great. Be sure to listen to the answering machine; the first time and the last time gives the most chills. The post disaster stuff is already reminding me of the city in Invasion being cut off from civilization.
    The Nine – A bank robbery. Nine strangers. It’s 52 two hours later.
    They’ve bonded, they’ve lost one and they still aren’t sure what happened. A lot of familiar faces in this one. Lots of Lost-type flashbacks and they’re trying to piece it all together. Intense.
    Secrets of a Small Town – A murder in a small town. A reporter returns home after 5 years. A lot of other stuff/secrets I’m still clueless about.
    Twin Peaks meets (I’m not sure what yet). A cast of thousands. Lots of people with secrets. This one is definitely worth watching the first few ’cause if you miss them I don’t know if you can catch up later.
    Traveler – Two friends get blamed for a museum bombing. Their friend Will Traveler is missing. A coincidence?
    9/11 meets the One Armed Man. This might get old as they track down clues to clear their name. (There has got to be a GPS tracker in the watch).
    Written By: Gary on July 14, 2006 One Comment

    I finally hooked up my Oregon Scientific Weather Station and I really like it. It’s got a remote sensor for outside and shows the humidity and temp for both inside and outside (or I guess you could put the sensor inside somewhere else in the house if you wanted). It shows the moon phase and sets itself via the atomic clock. The instructions read as if the atomic clock sends out a signal constantly (I thought it was a once a day thing). I know it took awhile (overnight) for mine to get the signal (and then I had to go set the time zone). It even makes a weather forecast based on the barometer and the humidity and temp. It’s a nifty little device and it’s well worth the money I spent on it.

    It’s got an alarm clock and backlit display built into it too. Plus it shows if the temp, pressure and humidity are rising, steady or lowering. You can calibrate it for closer readings based on your altitude too. I think I paid more for just the little temp/humidity sensor I bought a few years ago.

    FYI – It starting saying it’s got a connection with the Atomic Clock, I’m not sure how/why…

    Written By: Gary on July 1, 2006 No Comment

    So after Audra Kubat played last night, she was selling CDs and signing them and stuff. So I went and picked up an older one and got it signed. She’s very sweet and was chatty with people and I found out she plays locally at a place downtown somewhere a few times a month so I’ll be heading down there. I haven’t played the CD yet but I really enjoy the other one that I had. The TasteFest was a lot busier when we left, I bet it gets pretty crazy there over the weekend.

    Plus, seeing her completes another one of my 101 in 1001 list items. You know, I just realized I never talked about her other than at the Aimme Mann concert, I put together some info and never posted it so here you go some info, reviews and probably enough mp3s to make your own little sampler CD:

    Info at Times Beach Records (including a few MP3s) and here’s a few more MP3s and a video and another mp3 and a few more samples. Here’s some reviews from MetroTimes 1 2 (plus a few more MP3s) 3, VenusZine, Adequacy 1 + 2. Here’s a few more downloads on Audra’s MySpace page.

    Written By: Gary on June 30, 2006 No Comment

    Audra Kubat at the TasteFest

    Originally uploaded by garylapointe.

    So it’s really nice down here, she’s on stage down by the only grassy area I’ve seen.

    The tastefest is nice, not too crowded but yet still a lot of people. And of course Audra is great!

    We’ve got kids all over the place with hula-hoops and some are down by the stage (see photo). I might make my way back down here before ity ends on the 4th. (Later) Here’s the video with the kids, they were pretty hysterical playing down there (the audio is awful)

    Written By: Gary on June 28, 2006 One Comment

    So one of the things on my 101 in 1001 list is to make sure I own 50 excellent movies (if I don’t own then I need to buy them) watch them again and do a review on-line. By “excellent” it has to be something to have mostly wide appeal (I’m sure a few won’t) and I’m trying to have a range of the types of movies. I probably owned 15-20 I’d put in this category and I’ve probably already bought a dozen since.

    Without question StarGate would be one of those movies. And since I’ve been thinking about it a lot since my trip to Egypt. The ultimate edition actually includes the original and the longer cut on two DVDs (and gobs of extras). It’s a great movie with Kurt Russel as the action hero and James Spader as the geeky egyptologist who thinks that aliens might have actually built the pyramids. The government has some items they dug up a few years back and are trying to decipher the writings on it and they bring in the ridiculed scientist to come help them make it work.

    I can tell you why I was disappointed, I was hoping for more Egypt references but while I remember lots, this show did turn into seven seasons of StarGate SG-1 full of references so I guess that’s where I recall lots from, I just thought there were more in the original movie. There was a bit, I just hoped for more. Still a great flick, lots of action great scenery, some big explosions and some really great characters. And they really do have a good story tie into the creation of the pyramids. Plus he also finds what every geeky guy traveling across the universe needs, a beautiful woman who doesn’t realize what a geek he really is :)

    Written By: Gary on June 28, 2006 No Comment

    So I really liked Kyle XY. I’m not saying it’s a great show, but I really like the sense of wonder they give him as he figures things out. You can still get the episode oniTunes for free and I think ABC is rerunning it on Friday night. Here’s the premise: This teenager is found naked in the woods, he’s intelligent but no concept of understanding his surroundings. A psychologist (of some sort) takes him into her family with a teenage boy and girl and the story begins.

    Like I said, I really like they way they have him thinking and examining the world around him. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that he has no belly-button. Be sure to watch the news running on the television in the background when you watch it (you are going to watch it, aren’t you?).

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    Written By: Gary on June 19, 2006 2 Comments

    We went to see Brandi Carlile last Friday in Ann Arbor. She was at the Blind Pig and as always the small venues are always better, IMHO. The opening act was Penumbrae and they’ll get a separate post later.

    She was great, when she first walked out I thought she looked really young (I had thought she was in her mid-20s) and thought I had her music mixed up with someone else’s but once she started playing she was who I thought (she did reveal later she was 25 and she did look older later on…). She was excellent! She played a lot of different types of music, on her CD there is a song or two that has a hint of country and that come out in a few of the songs. She did a few acoustic and some with the band (four guys). I only knew her by name because they were playing her at Barnes and Nobel and I checked out what her name was. I knew I had to have heard some on TV or a movie (I was actually thinking a WB-type show), turns out she had three songs on Grey’s Anatomy last season (Tragedy, Throw it all Away and What Can I Say).

    Her music has a range, a few make me think Norah Jones, some the melody makes me think Indigo Girls. I met her and got her to sign the CDs that I purchased and she was just super nice to everyone there. I’d definitely see her again if she comes to town. I should have brought my camera in, I didn’t even think of it (it was way to dark for my cell phone camera but of course I tried anyways, here’s two from while she
    was performing and signing autographs).

    The concert was non-smoking which was great (it was by request of one of the bands). It was pretty cool in there (until the end of the evening) considering the heat outside Friday. Some of the people at the concert were load to the point of being rude, that’s one of the problems with inexpensive tickets some people just don’t value the experience.

    PS – The just re-released her eponymous album with two bonus tracks (and I think new versions of two other songs) so if you get it be sure to look for the one with more than 10 tracks.

    Written By: Gary on June 18, 2006 One Comment

    So if you’ve seen any short test posts lately it’s ’cause I’m testing blogging clients for my new Treo 700p handheld. Some old some new, some worked some didn’t, some the new versions didn’t. I just updated this post since I got slightly confused between a few of the clients when writing this up. The winners IMHO are:

  • Mo:Blog – easy to use (but I did have to look at the manual a few times), stand alone. I only did a few test posts so we’ll see later. One bug – when getting the blog id from the site the numbering got goofed up somehow, since none of the other clients did this I thought I’d mention it. The other odd thing was you pick the category when you set the blog up, not on individual posts. It’s about $15.
  • Azure – I think this was my favorite on my old phone too. It requires some kind of Java environment (I used IBM’s) to be installed. It does allow for the extended entry (and one category) and will download previous posts (this always makes me nervous on the mobile clients due to field length). And it’s free. See below for install information.

    I’m always surprised at how hard it is in some software to find out the web site of the company that makes/made it. It’s not in the about, or in the manual. I’m especially surprised in the ones that want you to register, it might have been on the page where you got it, but it’s gone (or you forgot where you got it).

    For new users to mobile blogging Mo:Blog is probably better, the Java VM stuff is a little tricky (unless you’ve used it before).
    For those interested:

  • None let me use the extended entry (except Azure).
  • Most clients give an error when posting (but still posts). Flickr does this to me too, so it’s an MT thing or something with my install.
  • The other ones I tried include KaBlog 1.42 (limited but always reliable, couldn’t get newer versions to run once I hit edit post), plogit, blogplanet (stable but missing a few features), uBlog, handx, hblogger and I thought one other but…

    The thing is I can do most of this with the MT quickpost option and it lets me use the extended entry (I compose in memopad first). Several programs seem like they’ll work directly with the photos on the palm (and the camera) but no luck with any for me. But I can use the Flickr e-mail option to post photos and text to the blog for that (which works great).

    Decision, decisions…

    FYI – To install Azure: First download the IBM Java WebSphere Everyplace Micro Environment (CLDC 1.1 /MIDP 2.0) on your computer and install J9JavaVMMidp20.prc and JavaVMCheck_enUS.prc (in the JVM/ARM4T directory) on your treo. Then once that’s installed, launch it, say install and type http://web.vee.net/projects/azure/azure_0-5.jad and it will download it from the net and install it. Keep in mind when running Azure it’s got all the options in the menus (title, body, excerpt, extended, bold, paragraph) and you have to go “Back” for some menus. It takes a minute to figure it out, but it works. When it asks for your blog address, what it really want is the long xmlrpc address for your site.

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    Written By: Gary on June 12, 2006 3 Comments

    I just finished reading Stowaway by D. Ann Kelley and James G. Kelley (and I happen to know the authors). Most of it takes place in Michigan, it’s kinda part of a series but it’s by far the best one yet so I’d definitely recommend this one first. It might reveal a few details from the first few books but it’s the most polished and fast read of any of the stories. The endings still end kinda quick though.

    Jill Traynor returns as the main character (after the first book they started adding “A Jill Traynor Mystery” as the subtitle. One of the new characters chooses the Edumund Fitgerald as the ship to sneak onto, I think we all know how that’s likely to end. But the whole mystery revolves around the message they managed to get off the ship that reveals where the ________ is/are located. It’s got a bit of historical fact weaved in (and they clarify the details in the afterward). If you’re from Michigan or the Great Lakes area and like mysteries it’s a must read.

    As a reminder I’ve mentioned their books before, the first two books they wrote were Lighthouse Paradox and Legacy.

    I did have one big complaint about this book, I don’t know who/what did their typesetting but in more than a few spots there are definitely some problems (mostly related to carriage returns and spacing) that I’ve got to assume it was added goofed up in at the final stage of the publishing process…

    Written By: Gary on May 29, 2006 One Comment

    So with the sales today I bought a few things.

    Digtial Picture Frame
    I Saw these the other week at Target and said when they go on sale I’m gonna get one. It’s medium quality, it might go back the the store, but for $99 I didn’t really expect much. What I want to see is how it looks if I scale the photos first…
    These movies are for my 50 excellent movies item on my 101 in 1001 days list. Frequency is a great and slightly different time travel movie (for everyone, not just geeks). I considered putting this on the list, but when it hit $5.99 (at CC) it was a no brainer.
    The Long Kiss Goodnight
    Gena Davis as an action heroine.
    The Chronicles of Narnia
    It’s just plain great, I think anyone would like this even if they don’t know where Narnia is.
    Digital Thermometer
    This was on the clearance rack at Target for cheap and it’s got the humidity sensor, the outdoor connector (wireless), moon phase and syncs to the atomic clock. All this for only $12.50, I should have got two!

    I’ll do reviews for the movies when I watch them. It seems like I bought more but I’m not going downstairs to check…

    Written By: Gary on May 26, 2006 2 Comments

    I read a great book yesterday. Please note I didn’t say I finished it, I read the whole thing! Orbit, by John J. Nance, is a novel about a man who wins a day trip into space. An accident causes the vacation to end abruptly and the adventure begins. After determining the ship will not fly and he has no radio contact with Earth he figures eventually someone will find his body either in the near future or the far future so in-between sleeping and watching sunsets and sunrises he starts to write his life story. From his current (disastrous) marriage to his first love (and first time) he blogs writes about it.

    What the heck, he’ll be dead by the time someone sees it, right? And if he’s rescued, he just has to delete it. Here’s the catch: keystrokes are recorded and sent back (one way) to Earth. He’s a hit, in essence it’s the most popular thing (blog?) ever, everyone is reading it and he doesn’t know it, everyone is talking about it (commenting) but he doesn’t know it. Since it’s keystrokes, they even see what he deletes. With nothing to lose he writes about everything: good, bad, regrets, just about everything.

    It’s much better than I make it sound. Partially since I’m not going to give the good stuff away and since I’m really tired (I was up late last night). If you’ve every wanted to go into space, write about your life or read about other lives, check out this book…

    Written By: Gary on May 16, 2006 4 Comments

    So I’m sure you’ve heard of Skype, right? You can use it to make “phone calls” from computer to computer for free. I used it to make phone calls from Egypt to the US while I was there, it cost me about 2.1 cents per minute to make a call to any telephone in the US (I could have called another Skype computer for free).

    They’ve just made it more free. Yes, I said free, to call the US and Canada for the rest of the year (2006). It shouldn’t matter where you are in the world, to call me would be free for the rest of the year. So download Skype now and give it a try.

    FYI, I’ve ditched my landline phone at home and have just my cellular phone. So I programmed Skype with my local police/fire number so if I ever have a crisis I can at least use my computer for an emergency phone call (if needed). I just called up and said, I’ve just got a cell phone what’s the best non-911 number to call when I have an emergency.

    Here’s how it normally works, they lease a bunch of phone lines around the world, it’s your job (using the Internet) to place the call using the Internet. Depending on the location they set the price, Egypt for example is 18.5 cents a minute, they don’t care where you are calling from (the USA, Egypt or from the same house you are calling to) it still costs 18.5 cents for them to make that call to Egypt. Except for now, calling to the USA and Canada is FREE.

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    Written By: Gary on April 12, 2006 2 Comments

    Tvisto2500So I got a new cool toy, it’s a TVisto Lite 2500. Think of it as a mini-hard drive that hooks up (and is powered) by your USB 2.0 port (Macintosh, Windows, probably anything), then you drag video, mp3 and photo files over to it. Then you go hook it up to your TV/stereo system (with the included cable and power adaptor) and a menu pops up and you can play the video, mp3 or photos on your TV and speakers. You can use the buttons on the box or the included remote control. It’s an easy way to get those files off your computer and play them on any other TV/stero at home or at a friend’s. It’s awesome!

    It plays MPGs, AVIs, MP3s and PGs (it plays some DVD files semi-successfully). When it arrived I was confused since it was only 5.2“ x 3.1” x 0.7“ (13.2cm x 7.8cm x 1.8cm) big. I thought it took a full size drive (my mistake I confused it with a larger model) and wouldn’t have ordered it had I realized the size, but I’m so glad I did (plus you can use it as a portable hard drive). You have to put your own drive in it (I put in a 10GB I had lying around the house) by literally popping it in and putting in 4 screws to close the case. I’m picking up a 60 or 80 GB drive the next time I see one on sale.

    This is the Official Site. They list some additional models that hold full size drives and some play some more file formats but this is great so far!

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    Written By: Gary on April 3, 2006 4 Comments

    She had 1 penny, $400,000 and $750,000 on the board so they offered her $375,000. A very generous offer as the show goes. If she doesn’t take the money she has to open one more. She said she was a gambler so this should have been easy and Howie pretty much spelled it out for her that there were 3 options if she picked the case:

  • She could pick the penny and the offer would go up (probably to about $575,000, IMHO) and you could play between $400k and $750k or go.
  • She picks the $400,000 case and the offer stays at about $375,000 (the logical spot is the same amount, but I think Howie inferred it’d go up) and you should quit.
  • This is the worse option, she picks the $750,000 and the offer drops to $200,000 (Howie did the math for her on this one and I’ve never seen him be specific before) and you’d have to quit then.

    It’s all a win at that point, so to me you keep on playing. At that point even making a bad choice you still have $200,000!!! And the good choices (66%) are better!

    She would have been my hero if she kept going but even so she’s still a winner (and she really doesn’t care what I think anyways). She took the $375,000 and ran. I would have been tempted too, but the odds were pretty good to keep going.

    God they dragged it out, she had already started playing last week and they kept her going for another 75 minutes this week (lots of ads). Although they did show some behind the scenes stuff…

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    Written By: Gary on March 27, 2006 2 Comments

    I love Deal or No Deal they offer people money and people constantly turn it down. It’s kinda funny actually giving away free money.

    What really happens is they have 26 briefcases with money in it from one cent to on million dollars (semi-evenly increments randomly placed) you pick a briefcase which is now “yours”. You then pick other cases to removed them from play, obviously whatever you pick is not in your case, then every so often they offer you money to “buy” your briefcase. The more big numbers left the higher they offer you, they don’t want you to walk out with $1,000,000. The numbers they offer you are often statistically sound, if it’s down to two cases they generally offer you somewhere in the middle. When it’s a half dozen cases it’s pretty scattered but I can still guess pretty close as to the offer.

    People really make bonehead moves though. They’ve got five low numbers and one high number and they keep opening cases. Yes, it drives the price up but if you hit the one case you lose! And they generally get too greedy. Or they keep going and then they chicken out and take the money when they were offered way more the previous turn.

    The weird part is you never see anyone get the $1,000,000. Why you ask? Because if it’s down to two case $0.01 and $250,000 and they offer you $125,000 are you really going to say no deal when you might only get a penny? Maybe if you have two cases and it’s $250,000 and $500,000 (offering you $375,000) you might take the chance since you’re a big winner either way (but statistically it’s still only $250,000 difference either way).

    I’ve still got a few more things so read on (I haven’t even discussed Schrodinger yet, nor the fact that it’s not really your case).

    Is it really “your case”, it’s purely psychological, you could just leave them all up on the stage and just ignore one and that one would be “yours” but you don’t have it near to you. I think the only time I’ve seen it down to to cases (of a reasonable amount) they actually offer for you to switch your case.

    Now the Schrodinger’s Case issue which is why I’m posting this (in addition to my frustration with bonehead players) I’ll assume you don’t know who Schrodinger is and why every geeky scientist on TV names their cat “Schrodinger”. You stick a cat in box (in a unobservable soundproof lead-lined box, etc.), with a poison gas in it that every half-hour their is a 50/50 chance the poison gas get released (this equals instant death). The question after a half-hour is the cat dead or alive. Here’s the kicker: since you can’t actually observer it and no one knows what’s happened the cat is actually both dead and alive (not have of each). Yes, I know it’s insane but until you actually observe it, it’s actually both (that’s the paradox). It’s a basic principal of Quantum physics and I can’t explain it (the original hypothetical experiment dealt with radioactive isotopes anf half-lifes and other complicated things) I tried to uncomplicate it. I’m not even going to mention that at this point the wave-function collapses and that in all likelihood we split into two different universes, one with dead cat and one with a live one.

    But the question is: if no one know what’s in the case (say they were put in randomly and blindfolded) could there be a million dollars and one dollar in it at the same time. So that you actually don’t know what’s in the case until you look? Wouldn’t the same be for all the cases? Can we influence what’s in the case by having cheerleader’s cheer? By yelling “Woo Ya!”? Or by praying? Or does it just doesn’t matter and you sould just start with case one and work your way up the list when choosing?

    Oh, and my last weird thought for the day: There are 26 cases, not a very normal number for this sort of thing, but it is the number of letters in the alphabet, why aren’t they numbered A-Z?

    Here’s more Schrödinger’s cat.

    FYI – Howie makes a great host!

    Written By: Gary on March 22, 2006 8 Comments

    First we digress: This post was supposed to be a follow up to a post that I thought I did but can’t find the message but I can’t really do the follow up first now can I?

    So I’ve always thought there were connections between Alex Rider and Harry Potter. Young English boys who are orphans and get to go on the adventure of a lifetime. Harry gets to be a wizard and Alex gets to be a secret agent. Both had father’s in the business but didn’t get to know them (or all the secrets). Plus they’re always getting injured…

    SPOILERS! If you haven’t read book four, Scorpia, don’t read on, I’m going to give the ending away.

    Here’s the thing, in the last book Scorpia as I’m reading along and recalling the similarities. They’re wrapping up the story, no I’ll correct myself they wrapped up the story, and as he’s leaving the leaving the building the bad guys sent a new teenage trainee to assassinate him and as he gets closer and closer to pulling the trigger you wait for something to happen, but it doesn’t. He pulls the trigger. Alex dies in a pool of blood and sees his parents in the light and the story ends (for good). There really isn’t any room for interpretation, IMHO.

    Here’s the other Harry Potter connection/question: Is this series similar enough that they did this to see how much outrage the reading public might have if they kill another English boy who is the hero of a story?!?

    By the way, until the last few pages it was another great Alex Rider novel…

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    Written By: Gary on March 7, 2006 One Comment

    TheunitSo I’m watching the pilot of The Unit, which sucked me in, it wasn’t my plan. I’m tired and I’m on call for the shelter tonight (until 8am) so I was going to hit the sack in case I go called. But I’m really liking this show. I like the cast (Dennis Haysbert, Scott Foley and others I can’t think of) and then after a few minutes I realized it was the David Mamet show I heard about, I hadn’t heard anything about it (I think I saw it on the front of the entertainment section but then missed the article). He usually does theater or movies, I’m guessing this is his first series. The one thing I remember hearing about him is that if he does something and didn’t write all it he uses a pen name for producing (or something like that). So back to the show, it’s a group of military guys in a unit, a unit that has no name, a unit that gets things done. I like it so far. (a lot)

    David Mamet did “Glen Gary Glen Ross”, “Oleana”, “Ronin” and lots more. The first two listed were originally plays, the later he used a different name and I think that’s the time that I had heard about the pen name thing…

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    Written By: Gary on February 21, 2006 One Comment

    So Panera (which in my opinion is the fastest restaurant ever) has implemented using those little pagers they give you at restaurants when you have to wait to get a table. Usually they are calling my name before I even get to the pickup area so this seems like a total waste. It’s something else to handle while getting change and your drink and napkins and stuff. Plus these pagers are the ones shaped like coasters, you don’t really have anything to “coast”…

    This post brought to you via free Wifi at Panera :)

    Written By: Gary on February 21, 2006 One Comment

    So Aimee Mann was in Ann Arbor tonight. It was in the Michigan Theater, I kept thinking Hill Auditorium and then I realized it was somewhere else. Obviously I figured it out, it was right around the corner, a really nice small venue and I was in the front row. It was a great seat, no one could even really be in front of you. I’ve been there before but I can’t remember for what (maybe something jazzy with Lou?). I got a Philly Steak sandwich and then a Long Island at the place that used to be Dooley’s. And the whole town appears to have WiFi (blogging and booze, now that’s just a bad idea).

    Aimee was great!!! She was excellent to listen to and interesting to watch. It was the last show of the tour so she kinda blamed the technical glitches on that. This would be the guitar (from hell) that wouldn’t tune, she thought it sounded so bad she stopped in the middle of the song and then apologized about a gazillion times. I didn’t get any pictures (that’ll come in Audra’s review) and he didn’t play some of her classics: Red Vines, Voices Carry and the 3rd one I had in my head when I started typing this sentence.

    Audra Kubat was the opening act. She was great too. I’m not even going to try to describe her, if I did it’d be some kind of quirky earthy tragic(?) poet chick, (that’s a compliment) and I think that’s what makes me like her. She’ll get a separate review later.

    Written By: Gary on February 10, 2006 4 Comments

    Napkins are napkins, right? Sure some might be bigger or fluffier or prettier but they’re all generally the same. At least in my experience. I picked up some America’s Choice generic napkins the other day and every time I use them I cringe. They aren’t very absorbent and kinda non-porous. Their qualities reflect that of paper more than napkins. I could probably run these babies through my ink-jet printer except they might not absorb the ink.

    Written By: Gary on February 2, 2006 No Comment

    Tristin beautySo my favorite beauty got kicked off of Beauty and the Geek 2 tonight but not before she had a few breakdowns. First she was watching her geek while he was speed dating (he forgot she was listening) and he insulted her intelligence. Then he screwed up the apology (a few times) and made her cry some more and insulted her again (so she cried more). Plus they got sent to elimination (the third time in a row) so she cried a few more times. And then the part that made me sad, they lost the elimination round and won’t be back. She was just nicer than the others and seemed more normal that the other ones.

    It’s interesting that the show and WB web site lists her as “Cocktail Waitress / Shot Girl” but her web site (www.tristinclow.com) says “Tristin is an aspiring singer and actress”.

    I like the show since I know people like these guys, some from high school and some from college but I knew people like this (and a few traits might apply to me to) so it’s extra hysterical. PopMatters suggests that next season might be the other way around with (hot?) geeky women and self-absorbed dense boys. That might be appealing too…

    Written By: Gary on January 22, 2006 No Comment

    LizphairitunesoriginalsSo I bought the iTunes Originals album with Liz Phair. It’s great so far I really like her commentary between the songs. I think it’s 12 songs and 11 commentary tracks for $9.99, now that’s a deal. She covers the whole range of her songs old and new so I think I’ll enjoy the rest. (There is a non-explicit version if you poke around the store, I’m assuming it’s missing a few of the older tracks).

    I’ve seen her in concert a few times and I’ve always enjoyed her (I’ve mentioned Liz Phair before).

    You can see all the iTunes stuff with Liz Phair here.

    Written By: Gary on January 3, 2006 No Comment

    ThecloserSo I really like The Closer on TNT. I didn’t catch it until the end of last season (I think it conflicted with something else so I didn’t see it much), I like if more and more each episode. It’s pretty much a cop show with Kyra Sedgewick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson who says ‘Thank You’ so much you could probably make a drinking game out of it.

    She’s got this great southern drawl and is always very politer (even when she isn’t). They just started rerunning them in order (I think) and I really like they way they are introducing the characters. She’s a messy, junk food junkie and she’s got an awful sense of direction so she’s late for everything.

    She was brought there for her interrogation skills and to “close” the interrogation but from what I’ve seen it’s more of a detective show. A special unit called the Priority Murder Section.

    I thought I had seen her in more movies but the only one I could recall for sure was Phenomenon about ten years ago, I also saw her in singles but I would have bet money I had seen her in more than that…

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    Written By: Gary on December 23, 2005 No Comment

    So I was watching “Coming Attractions” a weekly show on E! that shows six or eight movie previews in a half hour (I TiVo this every week). Three new ones (new to me at least) in particular caught my eye:

  • Take the Lead (March 24, 2006): A slightly new twist on the substitute teacher in the NY public schools detention room. Antonio Banderas is the former professional dancer (instructor?) who subs for the class during the day and brings ballroom to them. Based on the story of ballroom dancer Pierre Dulane. This looks really good.
  • Imagine Me And You (January 27, 2006 Limited Release): Another new twist on love, wanting what you can’t have and how to know if they’re “the One”. This looks great! It has a bunch of people I’ve never seen before (other than Giles from Buffy who plays the father of the possible bride to be). I’m looking forward to a trip to the Main or Maple in January (this would be the theaters most likely to get these limited release movies).
  • The DaVinci Code (May 2006): I’m only mentioning it because I was very interested in this movie. Tom Hanks with Ron Howard directing, it’s just got to be good. This preview was such a snoozer that I just had to mention it with my two good previews. Although I did like that Jean Reno was going to be in it, I’ve always liked min.
  • Written By: Gary on December 9, 2005 2 Comments

    anna nalick So Anna was great!!! She was at the Soaring Eagle in Mt. Pleasant, pretty small theatre, mostly good seats everywhere (try and stay away from the sides). We were pretty close up front (but to the side) and I snuck up closer to catch a few of the songs. She only played for about 40 minutes so that was a little disappointing but it was a great 40 minutes. No new songs either. I took a few shots but as usual the low light just didn’t come out very well. At some point she realized she didn’t have a set list and didn’t know what was next, she was pretty funny about it. She was very excited about her new boots and mentioned them a few times. And she was really cute in person too.

    Anna and GarySo afterwards (after Rob Thomas) she was at the souvenir stand doing autographs. Got over there pretty quick so there were only a few people in line before me. As she was signing my CD (I bought another one) she happened to look back and saw how many people were in line now and there were hundreds, she really seemed surprised there were that many, I’m not sure what happens when she plays in a larger venue. She seemed pretty normal with the stuff she talked about and they way she acting about things, that was really nice…

    I didn’t really know much of Rob Thomas’ songs (they seemed to think he was the headline act). I knew a few and a few of the Matchbox 20 songs that he played. And towards the end he did Let’s Dance by David Bowie and it was excellent. He also did a song with Anna at the end but I was way up front waiting in line to get my autograph.

    Written By: Gary on November 28, 2005 No Comment

    So I’m starting to come back around to what I call The “New” West Wing. I call it this because it’s like all the other shows that have a spin off. We’ve got Law and Order and CSI:Everywhere but you can’t have “The West Wing:Detroit”, that’s just not right. And I’m not really sure what’s in The East Wing so we have The “New” West Wing, it was really the only way to change it. It’s too bad, I really like the original, I mean I really really liked it. Now it’s just a decent show that’s getting a little better every time I watch it. And while it has some of the same characters, it’s not the same show it was and it’ll never be.

    So here’s my point (I actually have one for this post), if you gave it up last season (like I did), it’s time to come back and give it another try. It’ll take a few episodes to get your head back around it, but it’s worth the effort. Just remember, it’s kind of a spinoff…

    This is an entry I wrote a few weeks ago that I forgot to post :)

    Written By: Gary on November 14, 2005 6 Comments

    Why would they do this?!? Sugar Free? And the box looks the same! That’s just mean!

    So I was going to have a bowl of cereal as a little snack tonight and I was pretty disappointed. I don’t generally keep sugar around the house so I had to use powdered sugar. It actually worked pretty good, just don’t watch anything too funny when you eat it because if you laugh you might accidentally inhale some of the sugar…

    Think dry cardboard-ish Cherrios, but still in cool letter shapes.

    Written By: Gary on November 13, 2005 One Comment

    I had read the book a while back and enjoyed it, I remember it being odd, but I did enjoy it (it seems to me some of the sex stuff was a little odd, but I don’t recall why).

    So (and I bet you saw this coming) I saw the movie Shopgirl last night. It seems to be playing at a limited number of theaters. It’s more of an “arts theater” movie than mainstream. I don’t remember how much they used from the book but it was still enjoyable. So it’s really got an array of odd characters.

  • Mirabelle (Claire Danes), the meek/quiet beautiful woman who’s single and pretty much a cat lady waiting to happen.
  • Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), the eccentric slacker guy she meets at the laundromat and has a disastrous date or two with.
  • Ray (Steve Martin), the older wealthy gentleman who asks Mirabelle out. He wants her but not commitment.

    We’ve got some dry(?) humor, the characters say and do insane things. You know these people, you’ve seen them do and say the stupid things that happen in this movie.

    I can’t say it was a great movie. I can say I really liked it. The individual scenes were really good but the cuts seemed a little choppy. I had to think on a few if they decided to run some in a different order. And it needed a few explanations, like why Ray picked her and some other things that might not matter in the end but they still made me wonder…

    I noticed some characteristics in Mirabelle and Ray that I see in myself, but since some are good but some are not so good, we’ll skip over the particulars. But I could identify with them both and that’s probably why I really enjoyed it.

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