Bargains

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UTstarcom SliceI pulled the trigger this morning after mulling it over all weekend. I’m switching my cell service from Verizon to Virgin Mobile.

I was very tempted to take their most basic phone, the Nokia Shorty, which comes free and with $20 worth of free airtime upon activation, but the old materialistic side of me wanted something that looked a little flashier.

I ended up selecting the red version of the UTstarcom 1400 Slice. It has the options I’d like to have on a phone, you know, like make and receive calls, and more critically, it looks, well, modern? I think that’s why it won out over the Nokia phone. Hey, even one of the reviews on Amazon said hers had been mistaken for one of those LG Chocolate phones… As far as I know, those are expensive.

This way, I get the expensive look without the hefty price tag. Besides, I don’t really know what BlueTooth is, I won’t listen to music on my phone (really, what’s the appeal?), and I’m not really interested in having memory for 1000 different contacts. I’m not sure I even know that many people…

Let’s see… There is Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Jokey, Vanity, Hefty, Baker, Handy, Sleepy, Harmony, and Clumsy… I guess to fill a few extra spots, I could put Gargamel and Azrael’s numbers in there too, but let’s be honest — I’m not actually ever going to call them. Seriously…

Total spent so far is $31.79. I should have the phone later this week at which point I’ll have to activate it. Did I mention that there isn’t a contract either? I’m really upset with myself for delaying this process for so long.

From the way I’m interpreting it, the flat 18 cents per minute plan is what will suit me best, and to keep my phone activated, I need to send in $20 every 3 months. The fine print is kinda tough to understand, but I believe that’s what it boils down to.

It’s unlikely, still, that I’ll use $20 worth of minutes at 18 cents in a 3 month span, but when compared to the $40 per month I’m sending to Verizon currently, this switch will save me over $400 per year.

And for that, I don’t feel so bad about paying $31.79 for the phone.

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My Verizon Cell PhoneAfter following the Happy Rock‘s postings this week regarding Virgin Mobile’s pre-paid cell plans, I’ve decided to follow his lead.

I’ve been a customer of Verizon for nearly a decade now. I’m on my third phone with them. The plan I’ve been grandfathered into is what I’d call an affordable rate these days. It’s just shy of $40/month with all of the taxes rolled in. Certainly within my budget.

Problem is — I’d say in that over the entire decade, I’ve used less than 500 minutes. That’s right. I average less than 5 minutes of airtime per month.

That, my friends, is a waste.

Thanks to the Happy Rock, my eyes are now open to the fact that I’m essentially paying $8 per minute at my current rate?

I always considered having a cell phone, given my daily activities and total lack of usage, to be a waste anyway, but on the freak chance I *needed* to make a call (such as after the accident, the convenience of having one available was worth the monthly bill.

Well, with more attractive alternatives out there, those days are nearing an end.

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UConn vs. Maine Football

Last night, my wife and I went to our first college football game. I’d actually been to many games in the past when I was in University, but in Canada, well, let’s just say college football isn’t exactly the “event” it is in the States.

We happened upon tickets to the University of Connecticut’s home opener when my wife was offered them by someone at work earlier this week — and seeing as we’d never taken in the ‘event’, and the price tag was $0, well, how could we not take that up?

So off we went to begin another inexpensive weekend activity. Let me start by saying that this was no Jordan Knight concert, but it was still an entertaining night.

Parking wasn’t so bad — it was included with our tickets. Making our way through the parking lots, or more actually a maze of tailgaters, though, was a little foreign to me.

The idea of tailgating doesn’t really have any appeal to me at all, though it seemed to be more popular than the actual game. Connectiut is a funny place like that. We’re posers. The number of people “pretending” to be big college football folks is downright astonishing. We’re not Purdue. We’re not Michigan. We’re not Notre Dame. We have a modest sized stadium that was built a few years ago — and now suddenly we’ve got acres of tailgaters with their little tents set up and flags flying high.

Three years ago, before the stadium was even built, well, I’d venture to say many local high schools could boast crowds that rivalled Uconn’s crowds. That aside, being that Connecticut fans are classic fairweather fans, once they realize that beating up on teams like the Maine Black Bears (they shut them out last night; 38-0) week after week isn’t really all that much to get excited about. I can’t wait for the day that a team like Michigan agrees to come here — well, they’ll see where they stand. I’d venture to guess shortly thereafter, the crowds will disappear — kinda like they did with the Hartford Whalers.

The funny part, even dominating the game, by halftime, most of the crowd had left anyway. And honestly, most of the crowd hadn’t even entered the stadium until the second quarter. So, really, it truly was more about the tailgating and less about the game for most of the “fans”.

Okay, enough negativity. The real reason for this post was that I could not believe the mount of money some of these folks must’ve spent on their tailgating set-ups. Multiple gas grills, really nice tents, flags that go for no less than $50 each, and tons and tons of food. And don’t forget the alcohol. We’re talking probably over $200 worth of consumables per car. Seriously.

Now, I’m not from the school of no-fun, but all that, for a 4-hour (the parking lots open 4 hours before game time) party? I dunno, you have to think, the set-up time is maybe a half ahour, after sitting in traffic getting in for a half hour. Cut that party down to 3 hours now. Getting the grills going and food on the go, maybe another half hour. For me to set something that elaborate up — well, I’m going to want to use it for more than a couple of hours. Maybe that’s just me, but for that kind of money, it’s not worth it as far as I’m concerned.

Dive right in!  There has to be atleast $200 in it for you!

On the way out, I couldn’t help but take a picture of one of the dumpsters they have spaced randomly all over the lots. There was easily $200 worth of empties in each one. I’m all for free money, but I wasn’t about to dumpster dive — but it is something to keep in mind for those out there who are willing to get a little (or a lot) dirty. Really, you could walk out of there with $1000 worth of cans in a few hours I’m sure.

In the end, our night cost us $11 total. Two $4 sodas (cough! ripoff! cough!) and a $3 order of fries.

Not bad for the “event” of the week in Connecticut.

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Jordan KnightAs September rolls around, the “Agricultural Fair” season begins in New England. It’s a good inexpensive way to spend a day, that is, as long as you’re not into going on lots of carnival rides at $3 per ride.

Yesterday, we spent the day at the Woodstock Fair. It cost us $5 to park and $10 each to get in. Not exactly a cheap day, but it’s all about the quality entertainment. And did I mention the entertainment is second to none? That’s right. Second to none.

We saw Jordan Knight — of New Kids on the Block fame. Don’t laugh. I mean, in some ways it’s sad that his career has declined to the point that he’s doing county fairs and things, with the smell of cow poop and swine in the air, but I found him pretty entertaining.

He opened the performance with an upbeat song I’d never heard — probably something new — and then a couple of the slow NKOTB songs. Not exactly my favorite. I mean, being a guy, I didn’t exactly have a NKOTB sleeping bag in the late 80’s so…let’s just say it wasn’t my thing. I knew their hits though, but just because of their overexposure at the time.

The audience, well, there was a crop of late 20’s aged women singing right along and swooning through out but when he got up to the “Right Stuff” and did a snippet of the “New Kid” dance, well, he had the crowd. And only then could you tell he really was a pro and not just some crappy low budget entertainment.

The best part was that he even made fun of himself, saying things like, “This was a big hit with the honeys back in…”, then he’d pause and sheepishly say, “1988.” The women up front would scream like they would have back in 1988.

We sat a bit farther back and had some of the teenage “Paris Hilton” wannabes standing near us. You know, just kinda standing there with their mouths open in that “this is so lame, but I’m so hot” pose.

HUGE sunglasses are so NOT hot.They obviously didn’t get it, understandably because of their age, but to not be able to foresee that this was just Justin Timberlake up on stage in 10 years — you know, that sort of thing just went over their heads. At that age, I would have figured that out, but then again, at that age, I wasn’t wearing blinders, err, sunglasses that covered my entire head.

And you know what? Going back to their overexposure in the late 80’s, I wasn’t really a fan, but the New Kids were bigger than the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, and ‘nSync ever were, even all three combined. For a few years there, you couldn’t go to any department store without a full section dedicated to them. Towels, sheets, curtains, sleeping bags, underpants, toothbrushes, action figures. They even had their own shampoo. Everywhere you went, at all times, at least one pre-teen girl within a 10 foot radius had a NKOTB t-shirt on. Always. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a t-shirt, or a sleeping bag, with, oh, say Lance Bass on it? Have you?

He ended his show with “Hangin’ Tough”, which he called a headbanger from back in the day. Then he corrected himself and said, “Well, maybe it wasn’t a headbanger…” Either way, just listening to this version, if some band had the nards to cover a NKOTB song, I dunno, maybe a band like the Darkness, that one would work with a heavier sound I think.

During the last song, I think he did some of the old school dancing again, as some of the women in the crowd were doing it along with him. He got the crowd to do the “Hangin’ Tough” arm swing thing — my wife stopped me from doing it, almost immediately — but when it was all over, I was glad I’d sat and watched.

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They Might Be Giants - July 28, 2007 at the Mohegan SunSo, last night, my wife and I headed over to the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut for a free show by my favorite band of all time, They Might Be Giants.

They did a free show there last year and, while we had to stand in a line for 4 hours, it was good enough to have us head back again this year.

We stood in line for a good two and a half hours this time and had seats almost as good as last. In fact, the nice couple from Providence we shared a table with actually made the seats seem even better than last year.

While standing in line before the show, John Flansburgh (one of the two band members) quickly walked down the line handing out free stickers — and upon reaching me said, “Hey, nice t-shirt!” in regards to the 15 year old concert t-shirt I was wearing from their 1992 tour. I ‘sort of’ had a conversation with him. By ‘sort of’, I mean I just said “thank you” in response, but like I said, he was moving quickly and I wasn’t about to slow him down.

Anyway, what really stuck me was that *no one* in the line seemed to know who he was!?

Honestly, I’d think that if you’re the type that is willing to stand in line for hours on end to see a band as obscure as TMBG — chances are, you know exactly what John Linnell and John Flansburgh look like. You’d think anyway.

That experience was pretty cool. Not saying it’s one of those moments I’ll never forget in my life, or anything, but it felt pretty good.

Making the night even better, as we were seated, we were each given a signed copy of their newest album, “The Else“, which just came out earlier this month.

This worked out great as I’d not yet purchased the album (that saved me some coin), and the albums were both signed.

I’d always kind of wanted their autographs too, and checked on eBay every now and then for them, but it was never anything I’d consider paying a lot of money for. I’ve just always wanted to collect autographs of the people I liked from my youth. Silly, I know, but now John Linnell and John Flansburgh can join Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, and Bill Gates (I think his was done with an auto-pen) in my tiny collection.

The concert wasn’t as good as last year, as it heavily favored the new album full of songs that few people knew. But they played the standards you’d expect like “Istanbul”, “Birdhouse in your Soul”, and “Dr. Worm”. That last one I call a standard, but being an old-timer now, I think of it as a “new” standard.

They threw in a couple of old ones that I’d never seen live before like “Put Your Hand inside the Puppet Head” and “Letterbox” and one that I hadn’t heard since the 1992 tour, when I saw them twice, “Twisting in the Wind.”

Those three got some of the better crowd response. Or, more accurately, I thought so anyway — it was probably just the 30+ crowd that had actually heard those songs before they were re-issued on compilation albums — or owned them before CD’s even existed.

On the way home, we listened to the new album — not sure it’s a great one, but it’s definitely better than the last few they’ve released.

When I was a teenager, they were one of those bands where I could listen to the entire album through and through over and over again. That lasted for, well, I’d say their first 5-6 albums. Essentially, 1986 through 1994.

After that, for the next 6 albums, well, let’s just say I’ve used the fast forward button from time to time. That said, each album definitely has had at least two songs that would have fit seamlessly into their first group of albums, so they keep me coming back for more.

In the end, had I not bought a $25 t-shirt, the night would have cost $5 total. Two $2 sodas and a $1 tip. Not bad for a concert where you get to sit maybe 10 feet from the band and you get two free signed CD’s which just came out in stores at around a $15 each.

Now that’s a bargain Saturday night!

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BMW MagazineLast week in the mail I received a copy of BMW Magazine. It’s come in the mail sporadically, I guess, since I bought my BMW.

I never paid much attention to it.

Actually, I take that back, I believe I planted my very first issue on my coffee table, displayed prominently at a ‘casual’ angle (like the one pictured) back when I was single and living in an apartment to give off the image of being a high roller. Sadly, I’m the only person who saw it sitting on that coffee table.

Anyway, it’s certainly not something I’d ever subscribe to on purpose and I can honestly say that since that first issue, I’m not sure I’ve taken the plastic wrap off of another issue… until this past weekend.

My wife opened it up and started flipping through. Wow. Can’t say I’ve been exposed to many magazines that have Cessna advertisements in them. Not that I need a new Cessna or anything…

How about an article about installing a clear floor in your private jet to showcase your 7-series in the cargo hold? Seriously, this stuff should be in a Bentley Magazine.

I guess I don’t consider your typical BMW owner (or Mercedes, Porsche, Lotus, etc…) to be in the same class as folks who own private jets large enough to park a car in. But hey, if someone out there wants to group people like me in there, I’m not going to complain. No matter how far from the truth it is.

So, you know those annoying thick paper stock cards magazines have in them that “force” you to flip to certain pages? Well, BMW Magazine has them too, but get this… One of them was to request your own free DVD of Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth direct from BMW.

Postage-paid even. I mean, this is really free. No strings attached. I don’t even have to test drive a car or anything?!

Now, I’m not really on the forefront of going green or anything, and I’m sure the movie has been on Discovery Channel a few times at this point, but I still haven’t seen it. And I am kinda interested in seeing it. And for free? On my own time? You can’t beat that.

So, apparently ownership does have it privileges. Now I need to add trying to dig up all of the back issues I never opened to my list to see what other freebies I can get…

On a related note, I still haven’t gotten my BMW back. Apparently BMW no longer manufactures the wheels I had and it’s holding things up. Bummer.

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Yesterday our local mall, which has been vacant for nearly a decade, had a liquidation auction as it’s scheduled for demolition later this year if everything goes as planned.

I saw it as not only an opportunity to see the inside of the old “crappy” mall one last time, but also as a chance to experience a live auction firsthand and maybe, just maybe, pick up something nice at a real low price.

Most of the items that were up for bid were from the insides of a Chinese Buffet restaurant. It was funny, there were three Asian groups there bidding on everything — once the restaurant was cleared, they all left. Some good deals were out there, though it kinda made me think twice about ever eating Chinese again.  The second hand equipment was not clean.  Not clean at all.  Really, my shoes still feel greasy.

Once out into the actual mall, I got more and more anxious as the auctioneer moved closer and closer to the item I had my eye on.

I had one rival bidding against me on the item. I raised my hand like an idiot a couple of times as we went back and forth, but quickly took on the role of a seasoned pro with a slight head nod to indicate my willingness to go higher. (Chalk it up to the years of eBay experience… no, this was a lot more thrilling.)

Sold to bidder number 40! My heart was racing. The item, as well as a quick high-five with my wife upon being proclaimed winner, generated a few smiles in the crowd. I’d won what I considered the pick of the lot.

Anyway, the item we bid on and won is pictured below.

My Little Cessna — the most recent impulse buy!

Yes, a coin-operated kiddie ride.

I barely fit into it.

My wife sorta fits into it.

So why’d I bid on and win it?

Well, even if I can’t get it to work (we haven’t plugged it in to test it yet. In fact, it’s still at the Mall as it was too heavy for us to lift), I still think it was a great value for something I’m positive that our future children will enjoy climbing all over and just plain sitting in.

If not, I know I’ll enjoy it. Though I’m not an airplane buff, I never rode this particular ride, and I’m not sure I ever even noticed it the few times I went inside this particular mall, I do remember when rides like this were outside of every grocery store, Ames, Zellers, and really any other department store that Walmart put out of business.

And what I remember most is that my parents rarely said “Yes” and supplied a quarter to make the ride do it’s thing, so in a way, this is like the Speak-and-Spell I asked Santa Claus for and ended up purchasing myself 25 years later.

Can You Dig It?

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