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Unless proven otherwise, this will be another blog that I’ll fail to update after a week or so.

Demo: Viral

Saw this as part of a presentation on online learning tools.  Pretty cool.

Filed under: Findings, Random...What? Yeah!

Twit this – 10 words to sum up (Article Link)

I liked this article from Mary Schmich in the Trib. 10 words!

Filed under: Findings, , ,

Best friends come in all shapes and sizes (YouTube)

I’m not a huge animal fanatic, but I thought this was pretty cute.

Filed under: Findings, , ,

Volunteering at the Marathon – Gatorade, anyone?


T and I volunteered for the Chicago Marathon on Sunday morning, waking up at 5:45 am and filling up over 1,000 cups of Gatorade in preparation for the onslaught of runners at the finish line. There were an additional 15-20 other tables stocked 4 levels high for approximately 20,000 cups of Endurance Formula Gatorade (2 jugs of water to 1 jug of concentrate was the recipe for the still too sweet energy drink). So, after the debacle last year and the Olympic bid looming, Chicago was ready and prepared for the 80+ degree heat that once again plagued the 26.2 mile race. Interestingly, one drawback of all that preparation was that the Gatorade ended up tasting hot as a result of sitting under the sun for 3+ hours. Sorry, runners. T and I did try to pour fresh/cool Gatorade to all of our runners, and other tables started to do the same. Great job to all who beat the heat!

Filed under: Findings, , , , , , , , , ,

Google, Outlook, Plaxo, oh my! Syncing Multiple Calendars on the iPhone in Five Colors!

After recently getting married, I realized that my schedule is not the only one that I have to take into consideration.  Truthfully, T and I have been together for over 4 years, so our schedules have slowly merged anyways.  However, it’s nice to be able to view each other’s calendar during times when we need to consider making joint appointments.  I’ve been a Google Calendar convert for over a year now, but I still rely on Microsoft Outlook as my main organizational program at home.  On the road, I’ve got my trusty iPhone as my gadget to rule them all.  So, the question is, can they all get along?

Prior to the iPhone, I was a Pocket PC/Windows Mobile user, and Activesync made sure that my Outlook was kept in sync with my phone.  When I started using Google Calendar, I needed to find a way to keep that also in sync.  I can’t remember how many different programs I used.  I do remember some of their funny names, however.  Funambol, GSync, Goosync, and Plaxo were all services/programs that I gave the old college try with.  Plaxo was the one that I eventually stuck with, as it smoothly synched my Google Calendar with my Outlook.  It was not a cure for syncing my Samsung i760 to Google Calendar directly, but I was willing to live without that OTA capability in exchange for ease of use and reliability.  Thankfully, I did experiment with Plaxo enough that it remained on my computer when I switched over to the iPhone.  

Thus, Plaxo was still able to sync my Google Calendar to my Outlook, and with the iPhone 2.1 update speeding up the syncing process, I was now more inclined to experiment further.  Back to my marriage intro, I began to get greedy and wonder, “Can I sync multiple Google Calendars to my Outlook and then to my iPhone?”  Really, the question arose after seeing different colors of calendar items on another iPhone.  I said to myself, “I’m tired of red.  How can I get the blue and green colors?”  

A little google search revealed a nice post that discussed the setup that I eventually stumbled upon myself.  In the author’s post, he reveals how to sync multiple Google Calendars to your Outlook (using Plaxo), which then you can sync to your iPhone (via iTunes).  I can verify that this works smoothly, and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

Now that you’ve got multiple calendars on your iPhone, how can you assign the colors?  I mean, is it me, or is orange to close to red to be assigned as the second colored calendar?  Well, sure enough, there is a fix, and again, I can’t take credit.  Your iPhone can show calendars in the following colors: red, orange, blue, green, and purple.  The trick is that it assigns them in that order.  Fortunately, there is a fix, and the post will effectively walk you through.  However, I will add a suggestion that when you make a “dummy” calendar to take a color, make sure that you have at least one “dummy” event, as my iPhone didn’t recognize the calendar otherwise.  Again, feel free to leave a comment if you have questions.  I promise to respond in a timely manner.

Filed under: Findings, iPhone, , , , , , , ,

Cat in a Box: My official apology to “T and the Cats.”

I remember a time T and I were parked in our garage, and we had a minor tussle over whether the cats could respond to T’s voice when called. I claimed that it was purely coincidental, or the cats would respond to a certain sound rather than by their specific name. However, over the past year, after living with the cats on a daily basis, I have been officially converted into a cat believer. So, T, I apologize for doubting you and the cats. With that said, we proudly present to you the first of a series of videos featuring Jules the Cat.

Filed under: Findings, Random...What? Yeah!, , , , , , , , , ,

$1.08 DVD = Rise of the Redbox

For the past few months, T and I have been putting Netflix on hold, instead focusing more of our time on other things besides sitting in our tv room. We’ve been more selective of what we watch, recording our favorites (Top Chef, Project Runway, Cubs Games, etc.) on TiVo, and occasionally renting a DVD. If we were to head over to our local Blockbuster, we’d have to shell out $4-5 for a DVD. Instead, we take a leisurely walk to the neighborhood Jewel and rent a DVD from a kiosk called Redbox.

Redbox has been around for awhile here in Chicago, and after a little wiki research, I found out a bit more about how the company started with grocery items and DVD kiosks at McDonald’s. The company quickly discovered that the vending machine grocery thing wasn’t working, so they focused instead on the DVD kiosks.

If our neighborhood is any indication, I’d say that Redbox is on the upswing. Lines are common, and I noticed that another Jewel just added another kiosk. Some quick observations about the positives and negatives of the Redbox:

You may have to wait in line.
To avoid this, you can reserve your DVD online and just pick up your selection very quickly. However, if there’s a line, you still won’t be able to jump ahead.

The DVD selection is pretty weak.
Unless you’re a big fan of Saw IV, White Noise 2, or Little Mermaid 3, you’ll be fighting with others for the new releases and movies that most of us would want to pay to see. It seems that Redbox likes to stock up on low budget horror movies, family flicks, and 2nd tier dramas.

That being said, you can often rent for free. Redbox is currently offering free rentals on Mondays if you sign up for text messages. I also received free Wednesday rentals for August by doing the same. There’s also a website dedicated to free Redbox offer codes if you’re so inclined to do the research.

So, what’s the catch? I imagine the limited selection of movies has something to do with how Redbox makes money. There’s also the “late fee” that they’ll charge you if you don’t return the DVD by 9pm the next day. I had to pay a few bucks for a bad movie multiple times, but that’s nobody’s fault but my own. I will say that their customer service has been positive, as I had a problem returning a DVD to a kiosk, wrote an email, and was promptly credited with a refund.

In the end, if you’re looking for a cheap movie rental, and you don’t mind potentially ending up with a bad movie (I have seen a few good ones: Definitely Maybe, The Orphanage, No Country for Old Men), I’d recommend Redbox as a quick and easy way to rent a movie.

Comments? How about the worst Redbox movie you’ve rented?

Filed under: Findings, Reviews, , , , , , , ,

Hey Ma, I’m on WordPress.com News!

Sorry, I’m new to blogging, so I got a kick out of this:

On Tuesday night’s WordPress.com news page…

Scroll down to the Technology section…

…and there I am (4th one down, true, but still there nonetheless)! Yay!!!

No matter what happens from here, I can always say that on 8/19, I was going somewhere with this.

Thanks WP, and thanks to you, the reader, for bearing with me on this. Promise it won’t happen again. (Act like you’ve been there, I know…)

ADD (8/20/08): And poof, I’m gone. It was good while it lasted…

Filed under: Findings, , , , , , ,

Tickets for Less?

Ok, time to take a quick break from the iPhone jibber-jabber. Another thing I did this summer was investigate the secondary ticket market. In Chicago, we are fortunate to have a plethora of events come our way. From sports to concerts to theater, there is not a single day of the year where one can honestly say, “There’s nothing to do in this city.” Now, if you were to say, “I can’t go because I don’t have a ticket”, now there is a more realistic problem. For the past 3 months, I have bought and sold tickets to several major events, and I’ve made some interesting findings about the market. If you’re pretty web savvy or have bought/sold tickets before, these findings may be no-brainers. However, I’ve found that there are many people out there who are unaware of how they can get better deals for their tickets. Sellers, don’t fear. There will always be buyers as long as the demand is there. That’s the beauty of free markets, and that’s what keeps StubHub in business. All I’m doing is pointing out a few tips to help the individual buyer do just a little bit better.

Here are my do’s and don’t’s of ticket buying:

Do: Find out when tickets go on sale.

This seems obvious, but the best time to buy tickets (for face value) is when they go on sale. I’m not talking simply on the day they go on sale, but rather the second they go on sale. Better yet, have your computer ready to go a few minutes before, and starting clicking “refresh.” If the show has meager demand, you’ll end up with some pretty good seats. If there is a huge demand, you’ll then be subject to the “luck of the click.”

Do: Research presale passwords and/or join fan clubs for access to presale tickets.

Preseales are the going trend nowadays. Several major credit cards (Amex, Citibank) offer presale opportunities to their cardmembers. Chances are, you’ll have the card already. You just need to find out when to use it. The seats are usually better, but if you get in late, you might be better off waiting for the regular sale. With regards to fan clubs, I’m a member of the Cubs Club and the Dave Matthews Band club, paying $20 and $35 a year respectively. In exchange for those dues, I’ve received several opportunities to buy Cubs tickets to sold-out games and preferred seating for DMB shows. That, and a shiny Cubs Club membership card. Ooooooh. If you’re not a fan of the team/band, it’s probably not worth it to shell out the fee, but for me, it paid for itself after one game or concert.

Do: Wait as close to the event as possible to purchase secondary market tickets.

This is a biggie, and this is what drives those high prices on StubHub and Craigslist. People want their tickets in advance. You want to give the tickets as a gift to your hubby. Your parents really want to see The Eagles live. Your brother is coming to town, and he has to go to the Cubs-Cardinals game. You’re going to have to pay the big bucks. If you can wait, as the event gets closer and closer, you’ll witness those prices magically decrease. Let the law of supply of demand finally work for you.

Don’t: Buy on stubhub unless it’s under face value.

At the risk of alienating some of my own potential buyers, I’ve found that StubHub prices are generally the highest on the secondary market. It’s too easy for sellers to name their price, though I have seen instances where the free market system does kick in. This is mostly when the event gets closer, and sellers get into a minor bidding war to be the lowest price in order to sell their tickets. However, since shipping is usually required, you won’t be able to find as many last-minute tickets here than on Craigslist. If the event is a high demand one, sellers are able to test the upper price limits on Stubhub. On the flip side, for a low demand event, I have encountered a nice selection of tickets for prices below face value. This is a situation where the buyer is in complete control of the market.

Don’t: Buy tickets right after they’ve gone on sale.

This is when sellers begin to test their upper price limits. They just bought the tickets, know how much they paid, and want to make as much money as possible. You just got shut out of that Madonna concert. You really want to go. You check out prices on Stubhub, see a pair of tickets you like, and think that you’ll need to buy them now or else someone else will get them. Wrong. You’ll have plenty of options if you’ll just wait. But, then again, if your sister is coming into town that weekend, is a huge Madge fan, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime concert…

Don’t: Buy tickets over 1 month prior to the event on Stubhub or Craigslist.

This is when ticket sellers are drooling the most. As I mentioned above, the prices will almost always go down as you get closer to the event. One month out, and sellers have a good idea of what’s been selling and for how much. They are monitoring the prices, and are starting to get a bit eager to sell, but in a few weeks, they will be more than eager. Instead of SH or CL, check out eBay. You’ll have complete control of how much you want to spend, and on eBay, I’ve seen auctions get lost or poorly advertised. This leads to fewer bidders, and a lower price for you.

Conclusion:

So, there you have it. Again, some of these tips are probably a matter of simple Economics 101. And I’ve experienced a few events where the demand is so high (Cubs and Bears tickets), that prices don’t seem to come down at all. Even with the Cubs, though, I’ve been able to find tickets for face or only a few bucks above. That required a lot of time and patience on Craigslist. In the end, that’s what you’re paying for when you buy for above face. You won’t have to sit in front of the computer for hours, clicking refresh, and hoping that a good deal will somehow fall into your lap.

Agree? Disagree? Additional tips? Leave a comment.

Filed under: Findings, , , , , , , , , , ,

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