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Halloween Houses & Craft Shows

October 29th, 2018 No comments

Saturday (10/20) we went to Willowbrook High School for their annual craft fair but left empty-handed unlike last year. I did see a few things I liked, including a little fleece jacket for Wookie that fastened with velcro (which she prefers over wearing something that goes over her head) but the only version in her size was cut a little crooked so I opted not to get it. I took the woman’s card and I might purchase a custom made jacket at some point since her prices were reasonable and she’s local.

Joe had to go to court twice that week (10/22 and 10/25) to get his old child support accounts officially terminated so they stop charging us $36 annually to maintain accounts that aren’t even being used. I really hate the state of Illinois and the hoops they make you jump through. He sat in the courtroom all morning and part of the afternoon that Monday just to get a stamped piece of paper that took less than five minutes to receive. Luckily on his return trip he only had to wait around an hour.

In between that was our wedding anniversary (10/23) so we visited the arboretum and had a nice dinner at Jameson’s Steakhouse.

This past Friday (10/26) we drove around Carol Stream to look at the houses decorated for Halloween.

On Saturday (10/27) after Joe donated some blood we stopped at Sonny Acres for apple cider donuts and a walking taco for yours truly. I swear their prices keep going up. A half dozen of donuts was $9 and my walking taco was $4. That will probably be our last visit since it’s not that much fun anymore as it always seems cold and there’s nothing to do if you don’t have kids. Doesn’t really matter anyway since the property is up for sale and likely won’t be around come this time next year anyway. That night we stopped at Just Kabobs for dinner and then went on the Gallery of Ghoulish Homes Tour in St. Charles. It wasn’t judging night (which was the previous weekend when the weather was super windy) and we started a bit early (before 6 pm) than usual so it wasn’t the same. We didn’t get out of the car and I didn’t bother taking any photos. Traditions are nice but sometimes they start to get stale, you know? Perhaps that’s a hint we should move…

Yesterday (10/28) we went to Oak Brook mall because I had an appointment with the Apple store to have my iPhone 6 battery replaced since they are only offering the discounted $29 replacements until the end of the year. They wouldn’t do it, however, since I had already had the battery replaced by Batteries+ last year. Something about liability and for the protection of their staff which I guess I understand but still sucks. I debated just upgrading my phone now but other than the improved camera, I’m not all that thrilled with the changes that have been made to the latest iPhones and I sure as hell don’t like the price points. I can’t stand Android, though, so eventually I will have to upgrade, but I’m hoping my current battery will hold out another year and I’ll get whatever the latest and greatest Apple has to offer in 2019. I want to have a good camera in my phone for when we return to Disney World in spring 2020.

Today I went to Savers and then met my friend for lunch at Pot Belly. I struck out at Savers even though I did find a sweater I liked. It was The Loft too, for only $6, but was made with wool and rabbit fur which was itchy and made me sneeze so I passed.

Categories: Excursions, Love & Marriage, Pets, Tech Tags:

Low Batteries

October 19th, 2017 Comments off

Saturday was rainy so we ended up going to the cheap theater to see Despicable Me 3. They installed leather reclining seats since the last time we’ve been there (and raised ticket prices from $1.75 to $2.75). I can’t decide whether I love or hate the new seats. On the plus side it makes the aisles so wide  no one can reach your seat to kick it and the seats are large and comfy. The downside is I’m too short to sit normally because my feet don’t touch the floor so I have to recline and after a couple of hours it’s not really comfortable anymore. 

Later that evening we went to Batteries Plus and I paid $60 to have my iPhone battery replaced. I was sick of it losing 25% in mere minutes. It spent more time on the charger than being used and was a constant source of anxiety and frustration. Now it’s almost like having a new phone. I can use it all day and it still has 20-30% battery life when I go to bed. I hope it stays like that for at least another year since I’m not thrilled with the price or design of the latest phones; consequently I’m not in a hurry to upgrade. I’m holding off on installing iOS 11 too since it will kill some of my favorite apps once I upgrade. 

When I woke up Saturday with a slightly sore throat I knew I had caught Joe’s cold despite our best efforts not to infect me. I’ve spent the last several days feeling exhausted and congested. I haven’t been this sick in years; I even called in sick to work on Tuesday. I hadn’t gotten a flu shot yet or this might have been avoided but with the allergy testing I didn’t have any arms left to spare for more needles. In any case, I started taking zinc right away and I think it helped speed up the process since Joe has been sick for nearly two weeks and I’m already starting to feel better. That’s a good thing because I have a busy five day weekend ahead of me. More on that later. 

Categories: Health, Movies, Tech Tags:

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8-Inch Tablet

August 9th, 2017 Comments off

I bought a new tablet over the weekend! I also bought a new water bottle, some lightning cables, and some dog repellent to replace the mace I was carrying on walks, but lets focus on the tablet, shall we?

My five year old iPad just keeps running slower and slower because as the apps are being updated to accomodate newer phones and iOS versions the device can’t keep up. It’s unfortunate because there’s nothing actually wrong with my iPad but it’s getting to the point where it’s becoming very frustrating to use. I’ve been waiting nearly a year to upgrade because I decided I wanted an iPad Mini which would be easier to handle and travel with. I was waiting for Apple to release a new version, but then they threw me for a loop when they didn’t release an updated Mini this year. Rumor has it they are phasing out the Mini completely, as are other manufacturers. Apparently that size is not as popular as I assumed.

In any case, once I learned this I almost ordered an Amazon Fire Tablet since for $50 how could you go wrong? I’m glad I did a little research first since it turns out the apps you can install on it are very limited and don’t include the Disney Tsum Tsum game I love. They don’t even have a YouTube app – you have to just use the mobile version of the site in the web browser! Plus after seeing one in action at Target I didn’t care for it. While there I spotted the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.0 which was on sale for $160. After a little deliberation I decided I’d rather spend $160 on two year old tech than $400 on the equally old iPad Mini, so I went back to Target the following day to buy one. Unfortunately they only stock the white version which I really didn’t want since I was afraid it would yellow over time. I ended up ordering a titanium one from Amazon instead for the same price which I received the following day (Sunday).

While the Android experience isn’t nearly as bad as it was five years ago when we bought an Asus tablet, I’m still not loving it. I don’t understand why developers don’t make iOS and Android versions of the same app identical. The iOS versions are easier and more intuitive so it’s frustrating using the same app on an Android device. I also don’t like how the emojis look on Android, or how the notifications work since you can’t customize them to the same level of detail as you can with iOS. Overall I’m a bit disappointed but not so much that I won’t use the tablet for its orignal intention – surfing, YouTube, and my game – so I can give my poor iPhone a rest as it’s coming up on three years and the battery life is sucking. Speaking of battery life – the new tablet only gets 8 hours before having to recharge which rather sucks.

One of the things that really bugs me, but might just be an issue with the tablet size/resolution in general, is how images render on it. For instance, thumbnails in apps like Reddit and Flixster look absolutely horrible – very low res and almost out of focus, but once you click on it and it opens the main page for the article/movie it looks fine. It’s just odd, but again, I’m not sure if the same thing would happen on an iPad Mini. I suspect not simply because there’s usually iPad specific versions of the apps, whereas with Android they just make one app that is supposed to work on all size screens but in practice really doesn’t function well.

Surprisingly, most of the people who commented on my new purchase are big Samsung fans and hate Apple. That really blows my mind. I do dislike how expensive Apple products are, but I disagree with the naysayers who claim iOS is not as user-friendly as Android. iOS is easier to use and is far superior to Android in functionality. I do not plan on buying another Android device again. Next time I’m in the market for a tablet I will be getting an iPad even if I have to compromise on the size.

Categories: Tech Tags:

Ting – Our New Wireless Service

April 3rd, 2016 Comments off

Thursday we initiated the process of switching our wireless carrier from AT&T to Ting. I had heard about Ting awhile back but was on the fence about switching. AT&T increasing the rate on our plan and Joe losing his job pushed us to reconsider the switch.

We ordered the SIM cards from Ting a couple of weeks ago. Since they are a pay for what you use type service they don’t give you the SIMs for free. Each one was $9 plus shipping so our total was $23. I read that most carriers do not prorate your bill so I felt Thursday would be the perfect time to start the process since it was near the end of the billing cycle and it gave us time to work out any lack of service issues.

I was also concerned AT&T wouldn’t unlock my phone in a timely manner since they won’t do it until after you’ve settled your final bill including an ETF (early termination fee). We’ve been with AT&T for seven years, switching from T-Mobile which we liked simply because at the time they were the only carrier that supported the iPhone. We stayed with AT&T because I was grandfathered into their unlimited data plan, we had a discount through Joe’s employer, and because our contracts were never in sync so there was always an ETF to consider unless we waited until both phones were off contract. However, after calculating how much we’d save with Ting, not to mention the referral fee from a friend plus Ting paying a portion of your ETF back in the form of an account credit, we decided to bite the bullet.

I requested Joe’s unlock at the beginning of the week since his phone was already out of contract and it was granted in less than an hour. Thursday evening I chatted with Ting and learned that I should request Ting to port over our numbers which would automatically cancel our AT&T account. The porting process took less than a half hour (although they do warn it could take up to 24) and we decided to deal with the AT&T portion and actually putting the new SIM cards in our phones on Friday morning.

That whole process was easy for Joe’s phone, and when I logged into our Ting account I got really confused because it was showing his test text message under my phone number. Long story short – I’m a doofus. The Ting account does not update immediately and the text message I was looking at (not carefully enough, obviously) was a text that had been sent to my phone the night before. I just never got it since I hadn’t yet asked AT&T to unlock my phone or put the new SIM card in. Derp!

On top of that, I got really pissed at AT&T because when I tried logging into our account to check the final bill it said we no longer had an account. Turns out they had sent an email to Joe (as he’s the primary account holder) letting him know our logins were changed from our phone numbers to a new login they had created. Why they do this I’m not sure, but whatever.

Once I got in the account showed a zero balance even though I was expecting an ETF, so I figured why not request the unlock? Worst they could do was deny it. Unlike Joe’s unlock request, mine wasn’t being granted as quickly, or so I thought. I called AT&T to find out what my final bill was, thinking the ETF was holding things up, and the rep told me my account was paid in full and the contract satisfied. Hmmm… that’s odd because last I had checked, my contract wasn’t up until September, but who was I to argue if they were going to let me out of my contract early and not charge the ETF? I went online to request the unlock again since the first time I put my name in and Joe is the account holder. I figured that might be holding things up, but after looking closer at the emails AT&T sent me, despite their VERY misleading verbiage, my initial request had already been granted shortly after submitting it. Derp again!

Needless to say, everything was smooth sailing from there. The only challenge is for me to not use my phone mindlessly when we’re not on a wireless network, although even if I did we wouldn’t be paying HALF what AT&T was charging us, so it’s really just a challenge to see how low we can keep our monthly bill. I love how you can log into your account and the system tells you what your bill is going to be based on your usage up to that point. I’m obsessed with it!

Ting

I also love that you can set usage alerts so you’ll know when you’re getting close to jumping into a different bucket for your minutes, messages, or data. On top of that, as seen in the screenshot, you can rename your phones instead of just seeing the phone number itself. Really cool service!

I’m pretty stoked that instead of being charged $135 per month our bill will be no more than $70 (based on our previous usage on AT&T). If you’re interesting in switching to Ting too, click my referral link, set up an account so you can purchase your SIM card(s), and you’ll get a $25 credit off your first bill! (And if you happen to forgot or not see the credit come up, just give Ting the URL since it’s unique to my account and they can retroactively apply it since that’s what I did with the referral link we were given).

Added on 4/11/16 – Well son of a bitch, AT&T reps don’t know what they are talking about (shocking, NOT). I just received a bill today for my ETF. On top of that they charge taxes on it for the remaining months so my final bill, which is just fees and no actual usage, is $173.75. Ting will give me back $36.25 of that, plus I received the $25 referral credit, so I’m out $112 for terminating my contract early. However, in two months we will have made up that difference and then it will be all savings from there, so it was still a good decision.

Added on 5/16/16 – Well AT&T once again baffles me. They sent me a second bill showing the ETF and all associated fees credited off the account. I have no idea why they did that, but I’m not going to argue. Woot! Also, our first bill with Ting was $34 but cost us nothing due to the credits we had so that’s awesome. I just realized we don’t have MMS with Ting, though, so I have to use my Google Voice # if I want to send pictures to people. Considering the fact that I’m not a big texter, and the people I do message I contact through Facebook Messenger and Trillian, it doesn’t really affect me much so whatever. I have noticed the cellular signal isn’t nearly as strong at AT&T was, however, which is a bummer, but for now it’s good enough and definitely saving us money which was the whole point of the switch to begin with.

Categories: Tech Tags:

Samsung 4K UHD TV

June 27th, 2015 Comments off

We finally decided to replace our ten and half year old 42″ Panasonic 480p plasma with a 55″ Samsung 4k Ultra High Definition TV we purchased from Costco for $1097 (before tax). We weren’t 100% sure we were ready to upgrade since the plasma’s picture is still quite good, but with Costco’s awesome return policy (90 days to try it and return it for a full refund), there was no risk in giving it a try.

New TV

What’s amazing is that we paid nearly twice that for the plasma. Honestly, though, I’m pretty bummed that plasma lost the HDTV wars even though they are a superior technology. Too bad Panasonic did nothing to promote it and allowed the inferior LCDs to win.

And while the new TV is impressive, it has its drawbacks, such as dark corners (which all LCDs/LEDs suffer from) as well as only being 60hz. But the only technology that is superior to plasma, OLED, is way too expensive right now, and will probably be out of our price range for several years. So our choice was to make due with the plasma for even longer, or make the new TV work.

The first few days with the new TV were rough and we were considering returning it. The picture was actually too crisp and life-like. I don’t want to feel like the actors are in the room with me – that’s creepy! Plus everyone’s movements were strange. We read some articles and played with the settings and now things are much better because we got rid of what is known as the soap opera effect. I could not see trying to watch anything larger than 55″, though. The room is just not big enough. As it is, it took some getting used to the screen. I felt like when you’re at the movie theater and get stuck in the first few rows and everything is overwhelming your senses.

I’m happy we were able to adjust to the new TV because it’s nice having four HDMI ports – all our devices can remain plugged in at once unlike before. Plus streaming from Amazon, Netflix and YouTube is so quick and easy. No more need for the Chromecast downstairs either. In fact, E and Joe moved the plasma into our master bedroom and we moved the LCD into E’s room and plugged the spare Chromecast in there. He loves being able to watch YouTube videos in there at night. And we love our new TV – in just nine days we watched all three seasons of Orphan Black. What a great show!

Categories: Photos, Product Reviews, Tech, TV Tags: