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Diversions

Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz

The other night we decided to take in a show. Not just any show, mind you, but a musical. That alone should be a bit of a warning to you. It’s not every day that we go see something different, and it’s an even stranger occurrence that we check out a musical. The last show we saw was Mamma Mia! when it came to town last year (not reviewed, since we had seen it already), but before that it was likely Tryst nearly two years ago. That’s not to say that we don’t see shows – they just don’t bring ones to Charlotte that we’d like to see all that often.

So we decided that we’d see the touring production of Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz. Billed as What Happened Before Dorothy Arrived, that is only partly true – in fact, Dorothy arrives near the end of the show. So if you’re expecting a history lesson on Oz, you only get a sampling of that. In reality, you do get a bit of background, and it’s well-woven into the tapestry of the earlier tale (which actually takes place after this one), but it’s not like it took place years and years before this one. Just be prepared. Other than that, it’s not too bad, but make sure you see it at a good venue.

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Diversions

Ben and Jerry's Free Cone Day

Today, April 29, 2008, marks the 30th anniversary of Ben and Jerry’s Free Cone Day. Started way back in 1979, this event offers – you got it – free ice cream. What could be better? Well, perhaps a free steak dinner or just giving you free money, but free ice cream isn’t bad. According to various sources, there are more than one million free cones given away each year, and many of the company’s Scoop Shops have charitable organizations present, which benefit from the extra crowds who gather to enjoy the free ice cream.

The staff at the shops also offer tickets for sale that will get you to the front of the line – these ticketes start for auction at low prices, such as $1, and then frenzied bidding (which is actually not terribly frenzied) ensues, depending on how long the line is. We saw one go for $5. Since the line isn’t usually very long, I’m surprised that they make much money in this manner at all. Whatever is raised goes to the charity that’s at the shop.

What is probably most disturbing is that a large percentage of the line is made up of repeat customers – people who simply go to the front of the line, get their free cone, then go back to the back of the line to eat their cone while waiting to get back to the front. I mean I get the whole concept of wanting free ice cream and all. But first, that makes people who are actually wanting to enjoy a free cone wait longer and second, it means that the company who is doing something to give back seem like they are stupid for doing so. Talk about taking advantage…

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Diversions

Change Your Social Security Number at PayPal

As I’m recording information for taxes this year, I realize that once again, I’ve managed to forget to update the account information at PayPal, and the 1099 form has my personal Social Security Number on it, rather than the company’s Employer ID Number, which means that I personally will be paying taxes on any interst in the account, rather than the company. To make matters worse, the company taxes are already filed, which means that they have accounted for interest income, so it’s like a double whammy. About the only good news is that it’s not a huge amount. But still.

I figure I need to take care of the problem. The only issue is that there is no easy way to do it. The interface at PayPal, while not difficult, doesn’t seem to have a way to figure out how to change this information. In fact, there’s no obvious place to change your Social Security Number/Employer ID Number anywhere that I can find. I do manage to find a couple of places where you can contact them directly – both a local area code and an 800 number – so I try both. No such luck. After spending at least half an hour on the phone with various reps, being transferred more than once and being disconnected twice, I was still stuck with the same problem: My 1099 for next year was going to have my personal information on it, not the company’s.

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Diversions

Netflix DVD Rental Service

Last week I mentioned that we had tried out the Redbox DVD Vending Machine, so I figured it was only fair that I review the Netflix DVD rental service as well. While Redbox generally serves the impulse renter, Netflix is more for the serious consumer of videos. The reason being is that Redbox has no commitment. You walk up, choose a movie, swipe your card, and you’re done (except for having to return your movie, and even that is optional if you want to pay a hefty price tag for it).

Netflix, meanwhile, requires you to sign up. Now you can try out the service for two weeks – and during that time you can churn through about as many DVDs as you can handle – but you still have to sign up for it, meaning you have a commitment. That isn’t an entirely bad thing, however, as Netflix delivers the videos right to your door (well, the mail carrier delivers them, Netflix just sends them), and you can then drop them in the mail when you are done, shipped right back to Netflix. Postage is included in every plan. It’s actually a sweet system.

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Diversions

Redbox DVD Vending Machine

With the announcement earlier this week that Wal-Mart is going to be placing Redbox DVD vending machines in many of their US stores, I figured that it was time to see if any of them had made their way to Charlotte yet. A little over a year ago, when Peter mentioned Redbox on his site, I checked to see if there were any in Charlotte, and at the time, there weren’t. Now, there are a few, mostly at Harris Teeter stores.

So we decided to try out renting from one of the machines to see what it was like. Overall, the result was decent. The idea certainly has merit, but there are certainly a few ideas where it can be improved. Being able to rent a DVD almost on impulse is pretty cool. I mean if it didn’t have some chance of success, why would just about every store have stacks and stacks of DVDs that you could buy on your way out the door? The main thing that we noticed was in time. That is, it needs to speed up the process just a bit. Other than that, it was a decent experience.

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Diversions

The Best Super Bowl Halftime Show Ever

No, I’m not talking about Tom Petty. Frankly, I didn’t even see him. As soon as the first commercial break was over, I flipped the channel to Spike to catch the MLE Championship. You can watch it on Spike’s web site, if you dare. I’m still deciding if I’ll plug it into this post or not. I think that I probably will, but I’m just not sure. Let me talk for a minute first.

If you have caught the prior MLE Chowdowns, then you have some idea of what to expect. The Turkey Bowl at Thanksgiving was awesome. The Table Enders were actually the best, chowing down tubes of cranberry sauce. But this was the championship, for all the marbles. With the awesome Kobayashi out due to his still-present jaw injury, the question was whether Joey Chestnut would be able to finally conquer Pat Bertoletti on Spike. So far it hadn’t happened.

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Diversions

Using Your Alltel Bluetooth Phone as a Modem

If you should happen to have connected your Alltel phone using Bluetooth – be it an LG 8600 like I used or something else – then of course the next question is how you go about using the phone as a modem. Of course if you have reliable broadband, then this isn’t a typical need, but it’s still nice to know how to do it, or if it’s even possible.

I did some reading on the subject, and it seems that there is no complete guide to this – perhaps because Alltel doesn’t want you to know how to do it or just because there isn’t a lot of call for it. When I called them, the only answer I got was that I could purchase a data card and a data plan for ~$60 per month. For a backup to a service that doesn’t even cost that, it’s not really feasible. So I decided to do some exploring. The good news it that it seems to work and the speed is good. The bad news is that the connection isn’t great and the unknown is what it will cost.

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Diversions

Connect Your LG 8600 to Your PC via Bluetooth

Now that I had picked up a Belkin Bluetooth adapter for myself, it was really easy to get it hooked up to my PC. Just plug it into the USB port and i was ready to go. Unfortunately I needed something that I could connect to before it would be of any use to me. Being a bit of a collector of gadgets, I don’t always think things through when I purchase them – it just seems like a good idea at the time, so I decide to do so.

Luckily, when playing with my phone, I remembered that it had Bluetooth. So I enabled it, and a whole lot of nothing happened. The two just sat there like the proverbial bumps on logs. It turns out that more needs to happen before you can do anything useful. But it’s actually not hard to make the two talk. You just need to know a few things that will allow a little back-and-forth action between the phone and the PC.

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Diversions

Where Have All the Good Sports Gone?

I understand that the NFL playoffs are in full swing, and this weekend was pretty good, as far as that goes. The Colts lost, as did the Cowboys, and though the Packers and the Patriots won, Brett Favre looked like a kid in the snow. It was a reasonably enjoyable weekend for watching football, all in all. Much better than the mess that was the college football season that finally came to an end. Maybe they will enact a playoff system when the current BCS deals expire.

Nonetheless, major league sports are, well, tired. It’s a bunch of overpriced athletes who get out there and play a game that, for the most part, they don’t seem to be interested in playing. To make matters worse, most of us are so busy sitting on our couches that we can’t even pretend to live our lives through them. Where are the dreams of growing up to be Johnny Unitas or some other big-league ball-player? I’m sure there are a few, and I’m sure that more than one kid wants to make it big, but it’s to land a rich contract or endorsement deal, not to be the hero on Sunday afternoons (or whenever). Where are the real sports?

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Diversions

Family Night at the Charlotte Checkers

On Tuesday night, we decided to head out for the annual Everitz Consulting Christmas Party. What’s that? You think just because I’m a Movable Type Consultant, I can’t have a Christmas Party? Think again.

Anyway, we decided that we’d take in a Charlotte Checkers game, which thanks to the North Carolina Zoo was just $49 for a family four-pack of tickets to get into the game, four hot dogs and four sodas. Pretty sweet deal all around, especially when you consider that the dogs and sodas by themselves would cost thirty bucks!