Now I remember the other reason that I never go to the movies. 2 tickets, one popcorn, nachos, and a drink: $37!

The first reason, of course, is that in the past it’s been almost impossible to find a captioned showing. Lately that’s been getting a lot better; while you still can’t find a showing of anything with captions the week it comes out, it’s usually possible to see all the top movies.

So today we went to see Megamind open captioned…and of course, their machine was breaking down and the captions were extremely faint. You could still read them fine when the screen was dark, but they were almost invisible when the screen was light :p

Anyway, we enjoyed the movie, though following it was a struggle for me due to the captioning issue. We never got around to seeing Despicable Me (although I have it in our Netflix queue) but I’m a big fan of Dr. Horrible. There are no really big surprises in the movie, but it’s a lot of fun.

What Google Thinks About You

Ran across this today and thought it was kind of interesting.

When you have an adsense account, one of the things you can choose is whether or not to allow interest-based ads; in other words, advertising that’s based on the user’s search history rather than anything on your site. I have that turned off, because I’m currently targeting high value search terms and I want advertisements based on those; additionally, I want the user to see ads related to what they’re looking for right now, not what they were looking for a week ago.

Anyway, I found out earlier today that you can see what Google thinks you’re interested in; just go to According to Google, my interests are:

  • Games – Board Games
  • Games – Board Games – Miniatures & Wargaming
  • Online Communities – Blogging Resources & Services

I’m not sure where the minuatures and wargaming bit comes from, but the others certainly do fit what I’ve been reading about lately! (They probably also make me a lousy candidate for interest-based advertising; since I doubt any of those have a high CPC). You can also add interest categories yourself, so that you see advertisements for things you’re interested in; I took out wargames and put in abstract strategy games.

Of course, if you don’t like being tracked like this, there’s also the option to disable your cookie and get only contextual advertising rather than interest-based ads.

And that’s our random aside of the day..

Thinkgeek has the coolest stuff…

Check this out:

Even on sale for $70 ($20 off), it’s too expensive for me, but still…want!

Browsing Thinkgeek because I need a new wallet; had wanted one of the stainless steel wallets, but they cost too much so I ended up picking a duct tape wallet instead. I did have a hard time choosing between that and the dot matrix wallet! If Amanda and Raelene hadn’t given us some nice salt and pepper shakers as a wedding gift, I would totally be getting this set:

Salt and Pepper Shakers

Upgrading Old Sites to WordPress

I have a book review site that I’ve been updating on and off for over half a decade now; in fact, out of curiosity, I looked up the original (part particularly good!) 2004 design in the Wayback Machine. I’ve gone through, I believe, three different HTML editors, starting with NetObjects Fusion and eventually upgrading to Dreamweaver; my wife actually created the last design. The site never seemed to get updated much, though, partially because it’s a pain to do.

Enter WordPress! A quick installation, a few minutes moving over some of my reviews, and bingo..a shiny new site that couldn’t be easier to update! While I’m in the process of learning to create my own themes (the plan is that Brit will design new WordPress themes and I will code them), for now I used one of the free themes available on the net. It’s not exactly what I want – if nothing else, where are way too many links on the main page (although that may have changed by the time you read this, as I’ll be doing a bit of editing) but it works, was easy to install, and it looks good.

Why am I ramping this up now? I’ve recently been added to the list of regular reviewers with O’Reilly, so I’ll be getting a number of books from them; I’ve been wanting to get into web programming and thought that forcing myself to do regular reviews was a good way to do that. I’m also looking into possible book review columns in a few magazines and I needed some reviews to demonstrate to interested editors.

Anyway, this is what I love about WordPress: even for a site that’s not really a blog (at first I wasn’t even going to turn on comments), it makes keeping your content updated very easy. People think of WordPress as being just for blogging, but it really is a complete content management system.

Why I Love Amazon Prime

Several weeks ago, Brit ordered a large tent for the wedding from an Amazon third party seller, Aubuchon Hardware. The delivery window extended through July 22nd.

On the 21st, it still showed as “shipping soon”, so she emailed them to find out what was up. Their reply? It was backordered and expected around the end of the month. !!!

Obviously, she told them to cancel the order. Amazon doesn’t sell that particular tent themselves, but they sell a slightly better version that costs quite a bit more; on the bright side, we didn’t have to pay the $65 shipping. The page said that it would take an extra 4-5 days to ship, so I paid $3.99 for next day shipping to make sure it’s here in time for the wedding next week. This happened two days ago.

Yesterday afternoon, the tent was delivered. $4 for next-day delivery of a tent that, according to Amazon’s page, weighs 119 pounds (142 pounds shipping weight), and we don’t have to deal with incompetent sellers.

At $79/year for the Prime membership (and free this year with my student email account), that’s what I call a bargain!

What I’m Reading

I’ve been reading quite a bit of different material lately; here’s a quick roundup.

As I mentioned last week, I recently finished and reviewed SEO Warrior by John Jerkovic; I’m currently reading books on iPhone application design and Javascript programming, which I hope to finish by the end of the month, and I have one on PHP I’ll be reading after that. I’m currently looking for full-time work, and I’ve always been interested in web development, so I decided to take advantage of whatever free time I have to pick up the skills that are in demand in this area. Thanks go out to O’Reilly for keeping me supplied with good books lately!

FiveThirtyEight has an interesting article, with discussion, about the history of countries cutting spending during a recession. The Baltic states, for example, slashed spending immediately after the credit bubble popped in 2008, and have since suffered the deepest recessions in Europe. China, on the other hand, increased government spending with a massive (relatively the world’s largest, although smaller than America’s in absolute dollar terms) that went towards infrastructure (as I’ve argued that most of ours should have); as a result, not only is the country being upgraded, but wages are actually increasing.  In fact, China’s economy grew by 8.7% in 2009.

I’m currently contributing five articles per month to BrightHub, mostly on the topics of college and graduate school (actually, all of my articles are in those two areas right now, but I’ll also be writing on family friendly games and web development). So far my most popular article by far is the one on choosing a PhD thesis topic, though  the one on PhD requirements is a strong second. Occasionally I’ll just browse through the articles and see if I find anything interesting. Today I ran across this cute Sunday School lesson about creation; if I still taught Sunday School I could totally see doing something like this.

Next week I’ll want to start reading up on the hot deals in Vegas in preparation for the honeymoon; we already got half-price tickets for Cirque,  but there are a number of other shows we’d like to see. I particularly want to see Lance Burton, since I just missed his last show when we were there before and this will apparently be his final season.

Have a .edu email address? Get Amazon Prime free has a cool promotion going – sign up for Amazon Student and get a free year of Amazon Prime (and they reserve the right to possibly extend that). For those not in the know, Amazon Prime is a $79 a year service that entitles you to free second day shipping on anything that’s eligible for free super saver shipping (ie, pretty much everything Amazon sells); next day shipping costs $3.99 per item.

When I saw this posted on Lifehacker, I ignored it at first because I already have Amazon Prime; I got in on a free trial years ago and found it to be too useful to do without.  Then a friend of mine who also has Prime added her student account and found that they canceled the remainder of her Prime subscription, refunded her for it, and signed her up for the free year. That got me moving; it turned out I was only a few months from renewal, so I got a year free and a $13 refund on my subscription. Woot!

Scam, scam, scam

I hardly ever get chain emails, because I have a tendency to do a “reply all” debunking everything in them, which annoys the people sending them. I don’t know if they stopped sending them or just stopped sending them to me; either way, mission accomplished!

However, my dad still gets them and he’ll pass them on to me to ask if there’s any truth in them (there generally isn’t). The latest one I got is regarding HR 1388, The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expands the size of Americorps and other volunteer programs. The email claims that Congress and President Obama  are secretly spending over $20 million to bring members of Hamas to the United States.

As with many email scams, it pulls from several actual bills to create something that will fool the gullible. HR 1388 is a real bill, that has nothing to do with Hamas, and Obama really did sign an order authorizing $20.3 million towards humanitarian needs in Gaza, on top of the $27.5 million that Bush  allocated for the same purpose two years earlier. Neither, of course, had anything to do with bringing members of Hamas (or anyone else) to the US.

Really, people, there’s a pretty simple rule you can follow: if you get it through email and it makes outrageous claims, particularly about the democrats in Congress, it’s almost certainly not true. I’ve gotten dozens of such emails, all of them claiming that Obama or (before Obama) the democrats were doing something nasty, and every single one was easily and demonstrably false; in fact, in every case, a quick trip to Snopes provided documentation to that effect. If you must pass on chain letters, fine, but please, take three minutes to do a little basic research; otherwise, you pass on misinformation and make yourself look dumb when someone takes the time to actually look it up.

Short version: gossip is bad; malicious third-hand gossip is worse and is probably wrong on top of that, particularly when it comes in through mass email. Knock it off!

Update 7/14: got another one today, this time the one that’s been going around since 2004 claiming the ACLU (another favorite target of fake emails)  is trying to keep service members from praying; as usual, a quick check of Snopes shows it to be 100% false. Chain emails, bad; forwarding emails without checking Snopes first, worse!