A Monday Moment

Happy-Labor-Day-Funny-4

I’m spending my three-day weekend sick in bed and I’m pretty much over it by now.

Here’s hoping you are having an enjoyable time.

I’ll see you on Wednesday.

Saturday Review: Netflix vs. Amazon Prime

You learned last week that we don’t have cable or satellite and get most of our television and movies from streaming services. Today, I’m going to give you our run-down on two of the most popular services – Netflix and Amazon Prime. We have both.

Let the battle begin!

boxe

First up, Netflix.

Cost: $8.99 per month/$107.88 per year

What you get: 10,000+ titles with unlimited streaming; shows from AMC and the Discovery Channel; access to original series; access on iOS devices, Android devices, major game consoles, FireTV, Roku, Smart TVs, Chromecast, Apple TV

Awesomeness: Netflix original series are generally excellent and – naturally – not available elsewhere. In a survey done by Lifehacker in March, Netflix had twice as many of the 250 most popular television shows. You have the ability to add the classic DVD service to your subscription to open up your choices even more.

Drawbacks: Netflix giveth and Netflix taketh away. New movies and shows are added as content contracts are negotiated and tastes change, but this means things are removed too. Your favorite movie might disappear. Additionally, there is usually a pretty significant lag time before new seasons of television shows are available.

Now, Amazon Prime.

Cost: $99 per year

What you get: 40,000+ titles, some with unlimited streaming, some individually priced; shows from HBO, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central; access on iOS devices, Kindle Fire, major game consoles, FireTV, Roku, Smart TVs

Awesomeness: Free two-day shipping comes with the Prime subscription; this applies to a huge amount of products available on Amazon. Kindle eBook lending and music streaming too! Want to watch movies and shows not available in the regular streaming? You can buy them or – in some cases – rent them. Your purchases are easily accessed in your library.

Drawbacks: The shows you can purchase by episode aren’t cheap. If you are trying to keep up with the current season of a show, expect to shell out $2-$3 per episode. Once you start doing this with a lot of shows, you reach a cost point where you are better off going back to a regular television provider.

Verdict: Well, there isn’t really a clear winner. It is all about finding the service that works best with your budget, watching habits, and taste. Personally, our household enjoys having both.

Dolly Dearest?

When I was a child, my family tormented me with a Mrs. Beasley doll.

First, let me tell you about my family. Well . . . they are fun and lovable and unique and crazy just like all families. On my mother’s side – the tormentors – I was the oldest grandchild and the only grandchild for a while. My mom is the oldest of five, so as I grew up I had many interactions with my younger aunts and uncles.

Now, let me tell you about Mrs. Beasley. She was a doll that belonged to Buffy on Family Affair. Mattel produced the doll and marketed it to girls during the success of the show. She was a cloth doll, talked, wore a blue polka-dot skirt and black glasses. The doll in my grandmother’s house no longer had her skirt or glasses, so she appeared with just her naked, but still blue polka-dot, body. Her hair had been cut off giving her a terrible just-escaped-from-the-mental-ward look. I remember pulling her pull string in the back, but can’t remember if she could still talk (I should probably call my grandma and ask).

Here, let me help you with your mental image. Watch this vintage commercial for the doll:

Did you watch that? Did it terrify you? Now imagine the doll looking like she had been in a rough toy shop gang fight. That is the image I was up against.

Mrs. Beasley did not like me. She used to tease me and steal my toys. I responded by yelling, grabbing her, and giving her a right going-over. Of course, I took it all out on Mrs. Beasley, not my grandmother and aunt controlling the doll. Oh no, of course not. Not my loved ones. My family who was supposed to protect me. It was the doll, always the doll.

I’ll see you in hell, Mrs. Beasley.
a002b855-2794-4696-acc0-49429834cdb0

Things You Should Know About Surviving When Your Blog Goes Viral

Well, mini-viral anyway.

1) Don’t feed the trolls . . . but maybe poke them a little.
So trolls suck and generally I am very much against feeding them. But. . . a few arguing trolls can really up your comment numbers. I’ll admit that I argued with a few of them to make them keep commenting and fuel the fire a bit.
NOTE: Don’t do this if the horrible comments trolls make bother you. You will just get sucked in to an argument you won’t win. Seriously, you won’t win. Trolls just move on to another comment or part of your statement if they get backed in to a corner. It isn’t legitimate conversation or conflict.

I suggest you develop this attitude if you want to poke your trolls.
Bothers

2) Decide on a comment strategy asap.
Comments are going to start pouring in fairly quickly, so you need to decide how you are going to handle them. It became pretty clear to me that babysitting the comment section was just not going to be an option. I decided to delete violent comments (yes, violence over introverts), but not remove the insults various comments were slinging at each other. I edited my strategy just a bit when a commenter used “retard.” Totally unacceptable on my blog. This laissez-faire attitude might not work for you – especially you have a brand or image you are tying to protect/grow. Try to make your decision early so you remain consistent.

tumblr_mi33qwnzrN1qmvikho1_500

3) Be prepared to be saying a whole lot more than you thought.
I wrote a silly little blog post about introverts that was humorous and – frankly – not very original. I never expected it to take off the way if did. I was very surprised by the depth people could read into my post. All of a sudden a large group of strangers decided they knew all about me and my intentions from that one post. It was a little odd, to say the least. I’m not saying this is necessarily good or bad . . . just be prepared.

tumblr_m48au0gO4i1r5a2sv

4) Don’t change your focus, but do think about what you are putting out there.
This especially came up since I’m dealing with a personal blog.
Okay, so my blog is personal and it is probably always going to be personal. I’m not expecting 2 million readers to stay-on long-term, so I wasn’t going to cater to their interests (although obviously you would want to do that if you are blogging for another reason). I did want to consider what I had scheduled to post during the peak. I made the decision to move a couple of more personal posts. Now, you could argue that I’m putting all of this out there for public consumption anyway – which is true, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be smart about it. My stats were very likely to plummet to a more reasonable number and I adjusted my posts accordingly.

tumblr_n1eqnyk4p51r2tuixo1_400

5) Enjoy the ride.
Let’s face it; your popular post probably isn’t going to make you a blogging legend. Remember to enjoy it through all the crazy. I bragged as much as possible on my personal facebook (much to the annoyance of people reading, I’m sure). This probably won’t happen again. When a local radio station talked about my post without knowing a local wrote it? Awesome. I inflicted that brag on my coworkers.
Even if it is stressful, even if you are dealing with trolls, even if you are getting a lost of nasty . . . it is pretty amazing. Something you wrote touched a lot of people. Enjoy it.

anigif_jy-6963-1311881279-0

On My Television

of dolls and murder dioramaOf Dolls and Murder (2012)

From IMDB.com: “Of Dolls and Murder explores a haunting collection of dollhouse crime scenes and our universal fascination with murder. From CSI and real-life forensics, to the Body Farm and a crime fighting granny, John Waters narrates the tiny world of big time murder.”

My thoughts: This was absolutely excellent. It tells the story of Frances Glessner Lee creating her tiny “nutshells”- small dollhouse representations of crime scenes down to the blood spatter. She used these to help train police officers on the art of crime scene investigation. Kind of a pre-CSI. Baltimore still uses the nutshells in a training class today. Super neat.

Warning!: They don’t tell you the solutions to the crimes. No one ever finds out how the crimes were handled and ultimately solved (if they answers were common knowledge, the dollhouse crime scenes would lose their use as a teaching tool).

MV5BMTY4NDY4MDEyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjcyOTkxMw@@._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_AL_Beautiful Darling (2010)

From IMDB.com: “Candy Darling was a fixture in the New York Off-Broadway scene in the 60s, in Warhol films such as Women in Revolt and Flesh, and became a prominent personality in Warhol’s circles, influencing such noted contemporary artists as Madonna, David Bowie and Lou Reed. This documentary will use a series of interviews, archival footage, and images from Candy’s home in Massapequa, NY. Archival footage includes rare 25 year old interviews conducted by Jeremiah Newton with members of Warhol’s Factory and Tennessee Williams. The film features interviews with colleagues, contemporaries and friends of Candy.”

My thoughts: Pretty good. Pretty sad. I didn’t walk away with any real feelings one way or the other about this one, but it was a good watch.

MV5BMTc5MjU2NTEwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzU0NjQ2MQ@@._V1_SY658_SX450_AL_Miss Gulag (2007)

From IMDB.com: “Through the prism of a beauty pageant staged by female inmates of a Siberian prison camp emerges a complex narrative of the lives of the first generation of women to come of age in Post-Soviet Russia. Miss GULAG explores the individual destinies of three women: Yulia, Tatiana, and Natasha, all bound together by long prison sentences and circumstances that have made them the vigilantes of their own destinies. For these women, undoubtedly, life is harsh under the constant surveillance of UF-91/9, but it is no less so on the outside. Today they, their families, and loved ones are sustained by hope for a better life upon release. This is a story of survival told from both sides of the fence.”

My thoughts: When this came up in my Netflix suggestions, I recognized this beauty pageant immediately. Another good one that I don’t really have strong feelings about one way or the other.

Special Tacky Husband Saturday Review: The Roku 3

Recently, we decided to cut the cord. DirecTV, that is, and moved to an internet only household. For a tech geek, like me, this was not a problem. I would be happy with a computer plugged into the TV and a web-browser . . . but not everyone wants to use a mouse and keyboard to control their living room television. More importantly, my wife and kids don’t want to use a mouse and keyboard to control their living room television.

Once we cut the cord, I went a little crazy with testing different options. We’ve tried using the XBOX 360, Apple TV, Playstation 4, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and even a Windows 7 desktop computer (first running Windows 7 alone, then Windows Media Center, and lastly XBMC). While they all had their advantages and disadvantages, we’ve finally settled on the Roku 3.

We had previously used a 2nd Generation Roku HD in our bedroom rather than pay the extra fees for additional DirecTV boxes and installation fees, so we were familiar with the brand and comfortable with its interface and with the release of the Roku 3, I figured it was a good solution.

With the backstory done, let’s get rolling . . .B00BGGDVOO-roku3_amazona_page_cnet._V363540374_

The Basic Facts:
The Roku 3 is a small black box, measuring 3.5” x 3.5” x 1” and weighs only 5 ounces. It has rounded curves and a single white LED light on the front that glows when the system is on. The Roku 3 only uses HDMI for video (720p or 1080p) and audio (5.1 and 7.1 surround pass through). This model does NOT use any analog connections, so it will only work with an HDTV. There are additional models that offer other connection options. Also on the back is a port for the power connector, an Ethernet port for wired internet access, USB slot for (limited) local video and audio playback, and a small slot for a MicroSD card used primarily to download games.

How it Works:
The Roku 3 uses apps, called “channels”, to deliver content to you. These channels vary from the well known options like Netflix, Amazon, and Pandora to the unknown, random, and sometimes odd (like Fydo, which provides free full length films based on popular fan fiction. Any Harry / Malfoy shippers reading this? – http://www.roku.com/channels/#!details/24997/f-y-d-o). Services like Netflix, Amazon, and HBO Go require a separate subscription to use. There are free options for Roku, but in practice the content will vary wildly from neat niche channels to insanely bad.

The Roku requires an internet connection. To achieve this, the Roku has built in WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n compatible) and also an ethernet port to plug directly into your home network. (I personally use and recommend using Ethernet to connect to your home network. In use, I’ve found that video quality over WiFi can drop and become laggy due to the nature of WiFi and video streaming.)

What We Like:

The Remote!
The remote that comes with this thing is awesome. It’s small, measuring about 4 inches with a rounded bottom and smooth plastic feel. The buttons include an D-pad for selecting things, a Home and Back button, and an A and B button meant for games (like the original Nintendo controller). This remote uses a local WiFi connection between the Roku and itself to connect. What this means for you is you don’t have to point the remote at the box for it to work. (The Roku also supports standard IR, so your universal remote will work with it.) On the side of the remote is a headphone jack and volume rocker control. If you’re watching and don’t want to disturb your spouse or wake the kids, you can plug your headphones into the remote and crank it up.

The interface!
The interface of the Roku 3 itself is very speedy and responsive. There’s a nice menu on the left side to access your channels, movie and TV rentals (provided by Roku), news, and options. Selecting one takes you to a list of options on the right side. The Channels appear as icons.

PLEX!
One of the most common questions I’ve gotten from other nerdy friends is if the Roku can play your personal movies, tv, and music. Plex is a media center application. First you install an application on the computer your media is stored on and tell it where your media lives. It scans it, downloads the metadata (posters, descriptions, etc.), and it’s done. Next, you install the Plex channel on the Roku and it will find your Plex server giving you access to your media on your TV without a huge desktop. As a bonus, Plex works on LOTS of other systems including your tablet and smartphone.

Search!
Search on the Roku searches all of the channels you have. Looking to watch Braveheart? Search for it and the Roku will show you where you can watch it. This is really cool and rare in the media center world.

The little things . . .
The box is nice looking. It have rounded sides and is small. Since the remote uses wireless to connect, you can hide it in your entertainment center or behind the TV if you don’t like it.

Batteries last a long time. We made our purchase before Christmas last year and have not yet had to replace the batteries in the remote. It’s a small thing, but it counts.

The Roku 3 is weighted on the bottom. With the Roku 2, our HDMI cable would pull the box off of the desk it was placed on as it weighed more than the box itself. With this model, it feels sturdy on the top of the entertainment center.

What We Don’t Like:

Channels Interface
The channels, much like apps on your smartphone, differ wildly in quality. Some are top-notch like Netflix where the interface is smooth and clean and nice. Others are just ugly and difficult to navigate. Since the channels differ, the controls for the channels differ also. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon all work differently, sort their content differently, etc. This is not a Roku problem since they don’t control the channels, but it’s an issue either way.

Automatic Upgrades
Automatic Upgrades is turned on by default. If you’re unaware of this, it’s entirely likely that you’ll walk in and find a new interface on your favorite app.

“Free” Channels
The channels that don’t require a subscription are crappy. For the good stuff, you’ll have to opt into a subscription (or multiple). This is the case for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Go, and more. While these fees typically aren’t expensive, they do add up and quickly.

Final Thoughts:
The Roku is a great device. You will need a good internet connection to make it work properly and a subscription to a service or two to make it worthwhile. In my opinion, compared to the other devices I’ve used, the Roku is the easiest and best desktop streaming box available. Highly recommended.

It is Birchbox [and giveaway] time again!

You should all know by now that I love getting my box in the mail every month and absolutely think it is worth the $10. At this point, I’ve cancelled all other regular subscription services and the pressure is on Birchbox even more.

This month, they gave you the option of getting your regular random box or choosing an “Everygirl” box with pre-selected products. I decided to go with the Everygirl box, but ran into big problems with the website and was unable to complete my selection. By the time the website was working properly, the Everygirl box was sold out. I emailed customer support to ask if they planned to offer any more stock and – surprise! – they went ahead and confirmed me for the box. Birchbox customer support wins again.

Let’s check out what I received.
bb65_385x385_5
Number 4 Super Comb Prep & Protect ($4.80)
Harvey Prince Hello ($1)
Benefit They’re Real! Push-Up Liner ($1.80)
Not Soap, Radio Body Wash ($1.75)
Acure Organics Brightening Facial Scrub Sea Kelp + CGF ($3.75)

Total cost: $10
Total value: $13.10

(not the best value for a Birchbox, but still okay)

You probably noticed I didn’t review any of those products and borrowed the photo from Birchbox’s website. That is because I haven’t tried any of those products. In fact, I only opened the box to make sure everything was included.

Why? Because I’m giving this box away to one of you lovely readers! [insert cheers here] Head to the rafflecopter giveaway for details and to enter. Good luck!

And as always, if you want to sign up for your own Birchbox please be a dear and use my referral link.

DC – Day 3 and 4

– Day 3 –

First off, I overslept and missed the first plenary. I know lots of people skip the early morning plenary sessions at these kinds of conferences, but I don’t – I actually really enjoy them. When my alarm went off only 30 minutes before it started, I was a little sad. My fault though for not paying attention when setting it.

The rest of the conference day included great sessions and the Academy of Certified Archivists business luncheon. But you don’t want to hear about that. You want to hear about the sightseeing.

I headed to Ford’s Theater first. Like I mentioned before, I’m only visiting sites I’ve never seen before; all of the big landmarks and monuments are out. This was a biggie to cross off my list – I’ve only seen the outside.

IMG_20140814_014829Ford’ Theater visitor center – the actual theater is behind the scaffolding on the right

Ford’s Theater started with a small museum. It was visually striking and well interpreted. I enjoyed it. In the actual theater, I was creeped out by people taking photographs of their children in front of the box where a president was assassinated . . . to each their own, I guess.

A park ranger gave a short overview of the history. It was conversational and I think it held the attention of the children much better than the museum probably did. If your kids aren’t up for the museum, save it for another time and just do the theater/ranger program. Unfortunately, I was running out of afternoon and was unable to finish the tour with the Peterson House. I snapped a quick photo before heading back to the Metro.

By now I was getting pretty tired, but powered through on my way to the National Archives. I didn’t tour all of the exhibits (it was pretty busy and I was out of patience), but I saw the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. I heard a lot of people talk about National Treasure when talking about the document housing. That movie really made an impression.

20140814_154304National Archives

Next up, I needed a break. I spotted a Starbucks just off of Pennsylvania and indulged in a green tea lemonade concoction. After a little people-watching, I joined the commuters and headed back to the hotel.

IMG_20140814_043635A gorgeous day – the Starbucks is in the brick building in the center

The best part of the day was dinner with friends I had not seen in quite a while. We had great conversation and good food. I was sorry to see them go, but happy we had been able to meet up. Till the next time, I guess!

All of that and I was still in my pajamas by 9:15. Conference continues tomorrow . . .

– Day 4 –

This day was a huge conference day. With the exception of lunch and the evening reception, I spent all day shuffling from session to meeting to session. I won’t share the details of my archives day, but I will leave you with a few photos of my lunch. It was restaurant week and I indulged in one of the preplanned, multi-course meals.

20140815_131026

20140815_132339

20140815_132552

20140815_133545

– Day 5? –

Day 5 had a couple of final sessions, but was mostly a travel day like the first (although without the longer layover) and doesn’t really need to be recounted. I made it home around 9:30pm and was happy to see my bed.

DC – Day 1 and 2

– Day 1 –

My day started with a very horrible alarm clock as 3:30am. I immediately started questioning my sanity for booking a 6am flight. When I made it to the airport at 5, I was happily surprised to see my airline had curbside check-in. This made the check-in process a breeze, although I was starting to wonder why I was there an hour early if I didn’t have to stand in line to check my bag.

Another lucky moment, I got put in the TSA expedited screening line. I didn’t have to take off my shoes or remove my laptop from my bag. Plus, the line was short.

I made it to my gate by 5:16 and spent the rest of the time thinking about the extra sleep I could have enjoyed. ::sigh::

Flight #1: first class to Atlanta, slept, no turbulence
Layover: Atlanta, wondered around for a while, bought some hummus

IMG_20140812_091216

Cloudy at the Atlanta airport

Flight #2: first class to DC, flight crew late, plane slightly delayed, rained, no turbulence

It was raining when we landed and I didn’t get to enjoy the view of the city coming in. The Washington Monument was so foggy it might as well have been a smoke stack. I quickly caught my shuttle and headed to the conference hotel – with a van full of archival strangers.

IMG_20140812_125012

Reagan National airport

The hotel room was nice – standard business room – and I was excited to see my king sized bed. View was pretty lacking though. Oddly enough, you could open the windows.
20140812_145928

I grabbed lunch in one of the hotel restaurants and intended to settle in, but found a second wind when the rain stopped. A metro stop was right across from the hotel. I headed down and – once I got my bearings – set off towards Chinatown. Then Dupont Circle. Then I walked down to Nordstorm Rack and didn’t find one single thing to buy (that I could afford anyway). After about three hours I crashed back in the room.

IMG_20140812_052851

The Friendship Arch in Chinatown

I love exploring cities.

– Day 2 –

Prepare yourself for a very boring conference day. I don’t even really have any photos to share to make it more interesting. This is my real-life work travel though, warts and all.

I originally attended to get up early and head to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights (I’m limiting my sightseeing to things I’ve never seen before). Unfortunately, I misread my schedule and actually had to be in a meeting at 10:30. Good thing I remembered that before I headed out.

So, 10:30-12:00. Leadership forum. Because I’m a leader. No really, I hold a leadership position. It was a very interesting meeting and I got some good ideas from the others at my table.

For lunch, I headed back to up my room and ate my leftovers from the night before. Yeah fancy, I know. It was all for a purpose though; I had to create and print a couple of documents for a meeting I was co-leading later in the afternoon.

After lunch I went to a great meeting for women archivists. The speakers were interesting and I really enjoyed myself. I almost decided to skip it – since it butted up against my meeting – but I’m really glad I changed my mind. Plus, great conversation with the other ladies at my table.

Next up was the meeting I was co-leading. I’m not going to tell you what it was because 1) it feels like the only thing I haven’t revealed and 2) you don’t care. I kind of steamrolled and talked way too much, but it was a good meeting. Afterwards a group of us headed to dinner at the nearby Lebanese Taverna.

Yum. I had chicken schwarma and a passion fruit mojito. It was lovely. The restaurant was wonderful and the staff did a great job dealing with our table of fourteen.

It was a beautiful night, so after dinner I took a little walk around the block to enjoy it. After that? Pajamas and television. The television in this hotel is lacking, so I spent way too much time just flipping through the channels over and over again.

Don’t worry – tomorrow there is actual sightseeing to tell you about.

How to Survive Saturday as a Non-Fan in a Whovian Household

The Doctor Who premiere is this Saturday. If you didn’t know that, this post isn’t for you. My husband and daughter are big fans and I’m . . . well . . . just not. I’ve never disliked an episode I’ve watched (and I watched all of #9’s season), I’m just not enthralled enough to watch it regularly.
clara-capaldi-danny-series-8
So here we go, my suggestions for surviving Saturday as a non-fan in a Whovian Household:

1) Watch the premiere.
This is the most obvious solution to your problem. Give in.
If you have ever thought that you might like to start watching, now is the time as we are starting with a new doctor. If you found the last few years to be a little too hipster for your taste, the coming season promises to take it back a notch. Look for a much more serious doctor and darker plots, not to mention the reappearance of classic enemies.

If you decide to go this route and don’t mind the previous seasons, I suggest a little Netflix marathon to get you in the mood. In my opinion, there is no better way to get excited about a show you aren’t previously committed to than to watch a few one after the other.

Let’s say you don’t want to do that though. Your next option is to . . .

2) Encourage your family to see it in the theater or at a viewing party.
This leaves the television remote firmly in your hands and – bonus! – lets your family enjoy the premiere surrounded by others just as excited as they are. Watch out though – if you aren’t careful with how you pitch the watch party, you could end up hosting a house full of Whovians.

Remind them to take their screwdrivers with them; they don’t want to feel left out. Moving on. .

3) Give in to that watch party, but also invite non-fans to do something fun with you.
Whovians in front of the television, Non-Whovians in the dining room. Whatever you like. Just make a whole lot of food, maybe break out the margaritas if you are into that kind of thing, and everyone gets to have their own fun. I suggest board games, a wine tasting, book club, or tag. If you happen to have access to a swimming pool, you are set! Neither group will bother the other.

Need food suggestions? How about a nice dish of fish fingers and custard followed by an assortment of jammie dodgers. For the kids, pick up some jelly babies. Your non-Whovians might not enjoy that menu, so make fajitas. Yum.

Still not your thing? How about . . .

4) Appreciate Peter Capaldi in other ways.
Peter Capaldi is the new doctor. Show you family you support their fandom by watching other shows featuring Capaldi. You have several options: The Thick of It features Capaldi in all his foul-mouthed glory (you can find it on Amazon Instant Video). Not your style? Check him out as a transvestite in NBC’s Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren (available on Netflix and Amazon) or as King Charles I in The Devil’s Whore (not as easily accessible for us yanks).

Are you reaching last resort? Try . . .

5) Hide in your bedroom.
Admittedly not my favorite suggestion, but it will work in a pinch. Watch your own favorite show in another room with a television, read a book, browse the net. Or hey! – come back and comment on this post about how oddly your family is behaving. The rest of us non-fans can commiserate together.

My most important tip for surviving Saturday?

6) Don’t blink.*

*Yeah, I’ve seen that one. It was good. Still not a fan.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,451 other followers