Thursday, 13 March 2014

'80s memories "Call Me" as cellphone milestone "Rocks (Me) Like a Hurricane" (or whatever)

I get a touch nostalgic looking back at the early '80s -- the music, the movies, the clothes, oh my god the clothes. It's easy to gloss over the crappy bits of the era, such as that I was a kid with no money of my own living under the repressive and poverty-stricken regime of checked out parents. Or that I was trapped like a bug in the amber that was and is the public school system where freaks, geeks and cliques ruled, clashed and crushed one another at random.

Still, that little warm hum of wistfulness sneaks in when I think back, casting a soft glow and long shadow. What wasn't to love (if you ignored any negatives, obviously)? We had Stripes, Caddyshack and Ghostbusters in theaters, all by 1984 (RIP Harold Ramis, you will always be awesome); Duran Duran, Journey and Blondie on the radio; and fingerless gloves, shoulder pads and Members Only jackets on many, many bodies (this kept us amused when we couldn't find an episode of Evening at the Improv for a chuckle).

But I can't muster up fondness for the one area where the '80s sucked worse than a middle-aged cover band dressed in spandex and still singing songs of teenage lust -- and that area, my friends, is technology. I wouldn't go back if I could, not without my tech. And my own apartment. The ability to drive, a car, and ready cash despite my tender age would also help sweeten the deal should I ever fall into some crazy hot-tub-time-machine scenario.

The best example of how the '80s (at least regarding tech) kind of blew is emphasized in today's anniversary -- it was 30 years ago today that someone purchased the first handheld cellphone.

This cellphone was a huge step forward, but it still highlights the level of crapitude of '80s tech. This glorious dinosaur cost $4,000, weighed nearly two pounds, and was nicknamed "The Brick." I couldn't afford a version of this new-fangled device (albeit a more "modern" one that somehow maintained the chunky, feature-free sexiness of the original) until around 2001.

Fast forward to today (well, last week, actually) and I just bought my husband a new cellphone that is actually a small computer, camera, alarm clock and more rolled into one, all for the badass sum of $60. For those who give a fig, I got him the Nokia Lumia 520 Windows phone (which is exactly what I already have and love) from Best Buy. I also used a $25 gift card I "bought" with Coke reward points (that's a whole bargain-hunting side of me that could fill its own blog), bringing the out-of-pocket price to $35. Typical operating cost: a $10 top-up every three months from H20 wireless.

Suck on that, 1984.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Get in the groove with Orphan Black on Amazon Prime

The second season of Orphan Black premieres on BBC America on April 19, and if you didn't hear the buzz in time to catch season one, you can now stream it free on Amazon Prime in the US. It's a fast-paced science fiction mystery filled with clones and the kick-ass Tatiana Maslany portraying several parts.

When I first heard about this show, I was dubious because things can get real bad real fast when you have one person trying to realistically portray more than one character (see shows about twins and identical cousins for a glimpse of the dark side). But Maslany is a wonder, somehow creating a believable cast of clones that have different looks, vibes and even accents. I don't know how she does it, but it's loads of fun to watch.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Europe's love/hate relationship with America -- it's not just for breakfast anymore

Some Brits strike me as having a love/hate relationship with America, though they refuse to admit the "love" part. Apparently, this sentiment extends throughout Europe. It's a breezy, "cool kids" kind of attitude to espouse. Many see the U.S. as a blight on the planet, a land of loathsome or ridiculous people. A country whose movies, music, accents, outlook and holiday spots they also seem to love (at least the ones in NYC, Orlando and LA -- the rest are so far off their radar they'll merely blink if you say you come from Wisconsin and mentally insert the words "New York," as that is the vortex into which all other U.S. cities are sucked when you look in from the outside. Americans do the same thing with London, so it evens out) .

It's all a bit confusing and I've never been sure exactly how to explain it to those who haven't witnessed this split personality firsthand. Thanks to British writer A. A. Gill, I don't have to -- he's gone and done it himself, a whole book's worth of explaining in "To America with Love." I haven't read the book yet, but Vanity Fair did us the favor of printing an adapted article. It's interesting reading, and I admit, a bit surprising to see a Brit actually stick up for us Yanks.

Here's a taste if you don't have time to read his article just now:

"Stronger in some countries like France, less so somewhere like Germany, but overall the Old World patronizes America for being a big, dumb, fat, belligerent child. The intellectuals, the movers and the makers and the creators, the dinner-party establishments of people who count, are united in the belief—no, the knowledge—that Americans are stupid, crass, ignorant, soul-less, naïve oafs without attention, irony, or intellect. These same people will use every comforting, clever, and ingenious American invention, will demand America’s medicine, wear its clothes, eat its food, drink its drink, go to its cinema, love its music, thank God for its expertise in a hundred disciplines, and will all adore New York. More than that, more shaming and hypocritical than that, these are people who collectively owe their nations’ and their personal freedom to American intervention and protection in wars, both hot and cold. Who, whether they credit it or not, also owe their concepts of freedom, equality, and civil rights in no small part to America. Of course, they will also sign collective letters accusing America of being a Fascist, totalitarian, racist state."

Go on with your bad self, Mr. Gill!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Pride and paper money

This just in: Jane Austen will grace Britain's £10 note. Suck on that, Brontë sisters.

Friday, 8 February 2013


I've got big news. It's actually old news, but it's new to y'all. I moved back to the States over the summer. It's been so hectic and stressful and just so everything that I never posted about it before now. But here we are, settled in mid-America. Sort of.

I always thought when I left England I'd make a big post of all the things I wouldn't miss there and all the things I was looking forward to in the US. Now that I'm back, the glaring differences are often the things that I *do* miss about the UK! How's that for a shocker? And that it's hard to settle back in, something we thought would be so simple. But there it is. We love finding products we couldn't get in the UK, but are shocked to find other things we've grown used to aren't in the grocery store at all. We constantly regretted how much cheaper it was in the States while in England, but now back home we notice certain things are much pricier here. Granted, the overall big expenses are still much less in the US (like housing -- man, is that cheaper Stateside), but I sure miss the little deals.

Like sponges. I could get a pack of 10 sponges with a scrubby on one side for a pound in England. Here it seems like it's a few bucks for a pack of two or three. I had gotten used to using a sponge once, maybe twice to clean dishes, then tossing it for a new one. Of course, here our dishwasher actually cleans the dishes unlike the sorry excuse for a dishwasher we had in England, so I don't need nearly as many sponges. Logic does little to ease the sticker shock.

And shipping for online orders. I had gotten used to it being free, or some low amount like 5 pounds for a whole order, even of heavy items. It was a bit of shock to come home and rarely find free shipping, or see that furniture shipping can be quite expensive. It only makes sense, as America is so much larger and the distance to deliver can be further, but it still came as a shock.

I guess settling in somewhere new is always hard for me, and this jerking around between countries is even harder. Add to it this go-round a crappy moving company (wait, that's pretty standard) and buying a new house as soon as we arrived (our first ever!), and it's been a stress bonanza.

Not that it isn't good to be back from Blighty, but, well, I'd finally settled in there. It took several years. Will settling in back in the States take as long? We shall see.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Kindle book deals rock

I love my Kindle. And I love a bargain. Here are a few deals I found that combine the two for folks who use Amazon in the States:

Celebrating and Savoring A Simple Christmas is just .99 through Thursday. I grabbed one for some tips and hopefully some stress-free recipes!

Check out the Kindle Daily Deal, well, daily. They used to be .99, and now they are typically $1.99. Still not bad -- today's deal is "Lit", by the author of "The Liars' Club" Mary Karr. I enjoyed The Liars' Club, so I grabbed this, too!

Bookworms Anonymous is a freebie -- that's a price I can really get behind! I haven't read it yet, but it seems to be for people who like bookclubs and well, I'll figure the rest out when I get a chance to read it.

Speaking of freebies, check out the list here for the Top 100 Free Kindle books.

Happy reading!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The cemetery at Cemetery Junction

Reading Old Cemetery, also called the cemetery at Cemetery Junction due to its location, is interesting and large, with rambling passages, timeworn tombs and monuments, and a smattering of deer and cats to keep watch on the departed. And yes, the Cemetery Junction in question is the one for which Ricky Gervais named a film.

Here are some pictures from my visit there in May.

This is the tomb of 21-year-old pilot Bernard Laurence who died
in a motorcycle and sidecar race after creating two world records.

The entrance at Cemetery Junction