This holiday season I’ve decided that I am going to try and entirely avoid gift cards. I want to give people gifts which are a little more thought out. While I acknowledge that gift cards allow the recipient to have their own choices in what specific gift they want, I don’t really feel that gift cards fulfill the true intention of what a gift should be. Sure there’s some cases where giving a gift card is really the only way to ensure that the person gets what they truly need, but in that case I’d rather just let them get that item on their own. Many gift cards expire after a certain amount of time passing with out use. Some states have laws which prevent this practice, but even in those cases there is a service fee charged for the time passed where the card is not used. On top of everything else, it’s important to take the recent change in our economy into consideration and look at a companies future. No one wants a gift card to a store who has gone out of business. Recently I had an email passed onto me from a friend which really opened my eyes to this.

Here’s a heads up in case you intend to give gift cards around the holidays. Be careful that the cards will be honored after the holidays. Stores that are planning to close after Christmas are still selling the cards through the holidays even though the cards will be worthless January 1. There is no law preventing them from doing this. On the contrary, it is referred to as ‘Bankruptcy Planning). So take a look at this partial list of stores that you should be cautious about.

Read more

The news stopped really accurately telling the “news” a long time ago in favor of stories that draw more viewers and generate more profit. Most people know that, or at least they should. I actually wrote three papers on this topic over a few years in college (totaling 35 pages of research papers). My first paper presented the background on two topics; Mass Media, and the Public Perception. In my second year I further explored the relationship of one on the other and wrote a paper entitled “The Mass Media & its Effects on Public Perceptions.” In my last semester, it was time again for the presidential election 2004. So I added the election into the paper, writing a paper entitled “The Mass Media & its Effects on Public Perceptions of the Electoral Process.” The other day, for the first time since writing these papers four years ago, I saw something that threw me right back into my research. You see it pictured to the to the right. What really struck me about this store window billboard was what it was making the election into. It would seem that the election has become nothing more then a game. It has become more important to sell cups of coffee bearing the name of “your candidate” then it is to choose the right person to run our country for the next four years.

Now, it just so happens that I don’t intend to vote for either one of these mainstream candidates, so seeing these cups portraying only two choices only makes me angrier. I urge people to try and see past the illusion of two choices. While I realize that one of these two candidates will win, I see past this. I think it’s extremely important to consider other options. Most people get their information exclusively form TV, radio, or the internet. All of these sources favor only two choices, and it seems to me, to be driven by ratings. It’s like turning the process by which we elect our government into the equivalent of a baseball game. Think about it, how different is the argument of McCain vs. Obama from The Red Sox vs. The Yankees?

Lately this summer I’ve been going into Boston a lot. The drive from Hingham isn’t too bad, but $4.00 gas is. This past year the Greenbush line of the MBTA’s Commuter Rail came into service in my area. I have a lot of friends who ride this to work, and really love it. After getting back from Washington DC a few weeks ago and seeing the DC Metro, I began looking more critically at the service offered by the MBTA. First off, The Metro is clean and efficient, something the MBTA is definitely not, but that’s really not what my complaint is. My main complaint about the MBTA is their hours of operation, at least on the main lines of the MBTA. Boston is a world class city, it seems inexcusable to me that the train closes by 1:00am every night. If Boston bars are open until 2:00am it would seem to me that something which would keep drunk drivers off the road should be open at least as late. I simply can’t come up with reason why this wouldn’t be the case. The only possible theory I can come up with is that DUI’s, while deadly, must just be too much of a revenue generator for the state.

Now, I’m not suggesting that the train should run every 15 minutes, but maybe every 30-45 minutes would be enough. Now that the Charlie Card is in place the staffing needs would be minimal. You would probably only need 1 operator per line, and some light security.
Just some food for thought. I know if the train were open that late, I’d take it. How about you?

It’s September and It’s time again for TV season to get started. I’ve set my PVR to record Heroes, a show I really got into last season, and Journeyman, a show that looks promising. Last season I learned that television networks have little to no commitment to new shows. I started watching Drive on Fox. After a busy week I sat down to catch up on my PVR’d shows, and after only a handful of episodes Drive had been puled and I was stuck with some rerun saved in it’s place. This season I have taken that lesson to heart and will DVR at least the first 5 shows of the season before I decide to start watching any new show. Why should I waste my time in gaining interest in a story line just to see it dropped. In a world with online media, DVR, PVR, and DVD box sets, why should you waste any time watching a story line you will never see completed.

There’s many options when it comes to recording television these days beyond VHS. With the recent advancements in digital television (and no, I’m not pushing HDTV, but that’s a story for another day,) VHS should be your last choice. Whether you get your TV fix from the Network’s website, a DVD recorder (which can be loaded with DVD-RWs for reuse,) a DVR, or a PVR, there’s no reason to be a slave to the networks saying what shows to watch, and when to watch them. What a time to be alive! Now if we could just find a way to avoid radio DJs spoiling television’s surprises the next morning…

Alright, again, I don’t like to get political on my blog, but right on the heals of my previous post about the “Boston Aqua Teen Hunger Force Hoax Devices” I saw a news story about how Geocaching can be mistaken as a terrorist activity.I can understand why, but this is a perfect example of letting fear stifle our liberties.For those who don’t know, Geocaching is a sport where users get GPS coordinates to where a box (or cache) is hidden.Users then use a GPS receiver to find the cache, and log the find in a notebook inside, and also online at a later time.Their reward for the find is to take a small treasure from the box.

This is a sport that I took up over the summer, and it really disturbs me that I need fear legal prosecution for simply getting outside and enjoying the meshing of nature and technology.So during all the hype we are seeing from this “Boston Hoax Device” saga keep in mind the hobbies and other innocent pastimes which could become unnecessarily regulated.

I try not to let this page turn into a political forum, so I try not to discuss things that bring up politics too often here. In the case of the “Boston Aqua Teen Hunger Force Hoax Devices” however I feel that I must bend my rule and point out something absolutely ridiculous.

I think that no matter where you are in this country you have probably heard about the “Hoax Devices” found scattered throughout Boston. Many people are bursting brain cells trying to figure out who to blame. Who do we blame!?! Who will pay for this?!?! Well folks, the more and more I think about this situation, the more I deduce that this event really shows my political feelings/stance. Sometimes things, aren’t just black and white, hot and cold, liberal or conservative. Sometimes, things can’t just be put in one bin or another. In the world we live in we are but one small part of so many, many other parts. Sometimes we are bound to see something or some event we have never seen before. You can look back at this guerrilla marketing attempt and say what you will about it. You can say they should have known better, they should have warned people, they must have expected this reaction, or so many other things. However, the truth is, who knew what to expect, something like this has never happened before. The only thing I know for certain here is that “shit happens!” To this many people might say but what if someone had died? Well to that person I would ask if they knew how many people died making the Panama Canal, or how many people died during the construction of the Hoover damn. These are both things of value of great value that didn’t come with out great sacrifice. I can’t possibly understand giving away my freedoms and living in fear of something so simple as a Lite-brite giving me the finger.

I guess I would make a bad judge in the eyes of the public, because I think that in regard to this unprecedented event, I probably wouldn’t punish anyone. Instead , I would commend the response that was made. I certainly wouldn’t be happy that all this happened, but I would absolutely take the opportunity to point out some of the problems that this sort of thing did create. I just don’t think that I would, or could punish any of the involved people, because I see absolutely no intentions of malice from anyone who ever had anything to do with this.

The coolest thing happened yesterday. I had to get an oil change, and recently I have been in the position that I can not be without my car for the day. Since I get free oil changes where I bought the car, [Webber Dodge] I had to bring it there. I decided that I would get the oil change while I waited, but this meant that I had to sit and wait in the boring waiting room. Now here is where a little tip I read online came in oh so handy. I had read an article about “downtime.” In this article it was recommended that you make a list of things that you could do when presented with a little downtime. This includes things such as making that phone call you’ve been putting off, deleting those old contacts out of your cellphone that you haven’t spoken to in years & many other things (many of which made significantly easier having a Treo with Internet access.) In my case I decided that since I also had my camera with me I would take it out and repeatedly view the video that my friend had taken of me snowboarding. No I wasn’t being narcissistic, I have this thing that I “supposedly” do with my shoulders while making a turn. Well, after sitting and watching this video over and over, I finally found it, and even started to think of what I could do to eliminate it.

I can honestly say that without finding this free time while I sat there waiting for my car, I would have just continued to push this off more and more. Being forced to sit around in this case however helped me to finally accomplish a task that always seems to sit too low on the list to get accomplished, even though I have been wanting to get to it for a very long time. So that’s it, I strongly recommend taking that little note program in your cell phone and writing yourself a list of things you could accomplish the next time you find yourself waiting for that oil change or your doctor’s appointment that never seems to be when you appointment is actually scheduled.

Greed, say it out loud. GREED. It kind of sounds funny. It’s almost a taboo word in our culture. Why? I guess because we all are somewhat greedy in the United States. It’s ok, I don’t blame you, the average citizen. It’s large companies that portray materialism as happiness. One company that I have really seen as stepping up to the plate and hitting a real “Greed-Slam” is Apple. Today I am going to talk about them a little bit.

Apple is really no different then most tech companies. In our culture we crave the latest and greatest technology. I’m no exception (*brief pause to check this incoming email on my Treo 700w.*) The thing that I feel really separates Apple from the the rest of the pack however is how they like to keep their new products a complete secret until the day they release. I could go out today and buy a new iPod and tomorrow it could be yesterday’s big thing, and I consider myself somewhat on the pulse of new technology.

The thing which really possessed me to make this post however was this. Last night, while trying to set up my girlfriend’s new iPod, I ran into the following string of events:

-When Trying to hook up her iPod nano, I was told to update to iTunes 7.0.2.
-After downloading iTunes 7.0.2, I was told it couldn’t be installed without upgrading to mac OS x 10.3.9
-After downloading 10.3.9 I was told that I could not update unless I upgraded OS X from 10.2.8 to 10.3.x

Now, I’ve run into this before, and here’s the issue. Let’s say I bite the bullet and get this upgrade, it is often the case that after upgrading, some other program doesn’t work and you are forced to upgrade that. You find yourself stuck in this spiral, and the biggest spiral is the money spiraling out of your bank account.

So I guess my final thought is this. When it comes to those Apple ads with the 2 guys standing in front of the white wall (a PC guy & a mac guy,) don’t necessarily think that it comes down to good, and bad. Think of it rather as bad and worse, and I am not even going to say which is which.

Lately I’ve been noticing that people are flying the American Flag at half mast for way too long. I understand that it is perfectly acceptable to fly the flag at half staff to mourn & honor a passing president. Don’t get me wrong from what I know of Gerald Ford, he was a great president, however this is the second time in a short while that I am seeing flags flown at half mast for the better part of a month. Our Flag is supposed to be flown proudly, waving from the tops of flag poles, it seems to me that flying it any other way seems week and shameful. This is all just my opinion, but for what it’s worth even on Memorial Day the flag is displayed at half staff only until noon and at full staff from noon to sunset.