Trying to keep up with the Blogosphere

Sep 17

Part of blogging is the community and reading other blogs.

I used to be way more diligent way back when. I’d spend a few hours a day reading and commenting on other blogs. The problem is, I just don’t have the time for that anymore.

One thing I truly utilized way back when was Google Reader. It was a fantastic. You could go to your Google Reader each day and find out who has updated and what was there to read.

Then in 2013, Google ended the Reader, which was a total shame.

Since then, I’ve gone through different attempts at trying to replace it. And then for a few months this year, I slowed on blogging, so didn’t really pay attention.

But, I miss all that community. I miss reading certain blogs. I miss going back and forth with others. And I need to get back into it. And I have a lot of blogs I love to read.

So I need a new reader.  I love being able to see when there are updates. And if I do it right, I can have it be one of the pages that opens on my web browser so I see updates.

So what’s the best?

I know a lot of people use Bloglovin’ and I am a member there, too, but I have never really been able to use it to see updates. And if I was going to use that, I’d truly have to go through and clean it up. Mine isn’t organized and I’d really have to do some cleaning to get that going. Even still, it’s not what I’m looking for.

What I’d really like to see is something like Google Reader was – a replacement of sorts.

A quick Google search gave me a good article at Life Hacker has given me a few to try out. Now, to be fair, this will take me a little time because I want to find something that works how I am hoping it will.

Once in place, maybe I’ll be able to keep track of things again!

The two I am starting off looking at are:

The Old Reader: This seems like the feel of the old Google Reader (hence the name) and there are a lot of free features, but also a premium membership, which isn’t badly priced. However, I can’t seem to make folders, so I wonder if that’s part of the premium membership? I’m just starting to mess around with this one, so we’ll see.

The premium price isn’t bad ($3 per month or $25 per year) and there’s a 14-day free trial available, which is nice so you can check out the engine before you commit.

News Blur: I have signed up and it seems to have a somewhat Google Reader feel. Like The Old Reader, there are free options as well as paid ones. I’ll be digging into the free one to see how it works.

However, one issue is testing things out. They have a test setup so you can see how it works, but when you sign up for a free account, you are taken to a page asking you if you want to go premium. The message at the top says:

There are 13 people in front of you, all patiently waiting
on their free accounts on NewsBlur.

By going premium you can get full and immediate access to NewsBlur.

I’m not sure what I think of that. Look, I don’t mind paying a little for a product, but if I can’t test it out on my own without having to wait for others to stop using or something … that’s just stilly. I’m not saying I won’t eventually go with it, but this is something I will remember when making a decision.

But let me say this – again I understand companies need to sell their products and make money – but I waited about XX minutes to even see it. So does that mean only a certain number of free people can be on at one time? It seems that way to me. But I know this much – it turns me off ever so slightly with this because I am trying to get a feel of what a product is before dumping money into this.

Oh – and the premium is $24 a year, but there’s no opportunity to do a monthly setup, which I’d consider to try it out.

A little more than an hour later…

You are at the front of the line! Just a few more minutes
until you receive your free invite to use NewsBlur.

By going premium you can get full and immediate access to NewsBlur.

Turns out that hour-long wait may be to set up the account. In that case, it kind of makes sense with how it works. A free site takes a while to setup, while you can skip that step by going premium right away.

That means, I now have these two to test … and if there’s any more that I find.

Some others are Feedly, which I’ve tried and didn’t get a feel for, and Net Vibes, which is something I still need to work on signing up for and trying

So I ask my fellow bloggers and readers – is there something you use that is totally awesome and I should try? If so, please let me know!

 

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Summer of Baseball: Tri-City a fine place to catch a game

Sep 16

A summer trip to “The Joe” is definitely worthwhile, especially if you are within short distance of New York’s Capital Region.

Joseph L. Bruno Stadium sits on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College. It’s not what you would think about when you think of a community college stadium or one where a short-season Single-A team plays, that’s for sure.

A night of ball at The Joe!

A night of ball at The Joe!

Opened in 2002, the stadium is open-style, with a concourse that goes around the bulk of the stadium. There was spots to watch the game from the outfield and the main seating is fold-down plastic seats. There’s really not a bad place to watch a game, that’s for sure.

My first viewing of this stadium came several years ago, when I was still covering pro baseball for a local newspaper. The season before, the team I covered has been quite successful, so I got to head up the interstate to cover the opener at Tri-City. It was one of only two times I ever got to travel to cover the team, so it was pretty cool.

More than that, though, was liking the stadium. I walked around some, I peeked at what there was to offer. The press area was nice and they took care of you. But, even more so, was the overall stadium. What a feel for a game. They draw good crowds. They have a good announcer. There’s something for everybody.

I had the chance to visit two times this year, once for the Summer of Baseball Tour, and a second time as my final game of the year when I went up for the final game of the New York-Penn League Championship. The atmosphere was similar each time, though the wind as taken out of the home team’s sails in the first inning of the championship when State College scored nine runs.

When you come into the stadium, the team store is on your right. The store has a lot of goodies and the prices are pretty good. Walking into the main area, you’re greeted by a customer service area (where, if it’s your first game, you can get a button). There’s lineups on the wall nearby and each  baseline has a plethora of concessions to offer. There’s the normal ballpark fare, then a pizza station and a taco stand, local beers and more. So there are some pretty good offers. I didn’t see soft ice cream, though, which always gets to me as I’d rather just have a soft serve cone than hard ice cream, especially at a game.

Everything I need at a game!

Everything I need at a game!

And like many newer parks, if you get up to visit a concession stand, you can see the field. The big scoreboard in right field is nice to keep track of things, too.

At the first game we attending, one friend caught a foul ball, so that was cool. The second game I went solo, so I just relaxed with my scorebook and watched the Spikes win the championship.

Parking, too, is plentiful — and free. This is also another stadium that gives programs away for free, which is always welcome. The atmosphere is nice and everybody I dealt with was extremely friendly and helpful when needed. If I lived in the Capital Region, I’d likely be a season ticket holder as it’s a great sport to watch baseball. If you are a baseball fan and are in the area, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Park Notes:  

Joseph L. Bruno Stadium — “The Joe”
Troy, New York
Home of the Tri-City Valley Cats (short-season Single-A affiliate of the Houston Astros)
Visited on: Friday, July 25 and Monday, September 8
Opponent: Staten Island Yankees (short-season Single-A affiliate of the New York Yankees) and the State College Spikes (short-season Single-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals)

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 8.5/10
  • Concessions: 7.5/10
  • Parking: 8.5/10
  • Ambiance: 9/10
  • Friendliness: 9/10

I am embarking on a summer of baseball with the plan to hit a minimum of 10 stadiums this summer. Hopefully, there will be more than that. I will report on each park that I hit on the blog.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Snapshot Saturday: Sept. 13

Sep 13

Another blast from the past!

I imagine it’s only fair seeing as I do this to others… I probably should for me, right?

Me and the old man

Me and the old man

Enjoy!

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It’s still just a number

Sep 12

I’ve never been much of a birthday person.

Sure, it’s a day many people celebrate. But our family hasn’t always been that way. We’d have a dinner with the birthday person choosing and all, but it’s never been too crazy. And I’ve always been a believer that age is but a number, thus meaning a birthday is but just a day.

I feel no differently today.

I’ve scheduled this to post a little later than normal because, well, it’s something I didn’t even know what I wanted to post. However, I did want to reflect on the last year or so, which has been one odd year.

Last year was a milestone birthday. It didn’t do anything to me, but at that point I was still unemployed. I didn’t know, at that time, where life was taking me. In fact, I was starting to really get to the end of my savings. I had applied for jobs at places like some big box stores, and never heard back. I wasn’t happy in life. It was a tough time for me overall.

As noted in that post last year, life is definitely a choose-your-own-adventure book.

Thankfully, my adventure really started a few months later.

I got a job to end a long bout with unemployment. I finally got a new car. I had a surgery that went even crazier than it should have. I finally took having diabetes seriously. I did some geocaching. A couple of us went on a Summer of Baseball. I smiled more often. I became a Godfather. We won a championship in softball.

It’s amazing, honestly, to think about it some. As bad as the past three years or so (2/2011-11/2013), it’s changed quite a bit since then

Still, age is only a number. And I’d like to think it will stay that way.

As long as I’m happy, anyway.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Going to dentist is no picnic

Sep 10

Many years ago, I needed to have a tooth pulled. So, I tried to get in with the local dentist. There was an issue, though. He wasn’t accepting new patients.

Crap.

Turns out if it was an emergency though …

Well, it was. My mouth was in a ton of pain. The next day I was up there, he yanked it and I was officially a patient.

Since then, I’ve had luck with dentists. I had a good one where I went to school as an undergrad (well, a good three of them. It was a father and two sons) and when I needed one pretty badly as a grad student, there was a guy around the corner from me and he was really good.

Back in my area, I went back to my original dentist.

With insurance, I go when I am supposed to now. I do as I am supposed to do and work to have healthy teeth (I even still have my wisdom teeth – and they are coming in without issue, though I have a feeling I will have to have them yanked at some point) and I go get them cleaned when needed etc.

Allow me to let you in on a secret though – back when, I used to think going to the dentist was kind of funny. Seriously.

Not so much anymore.

There was a time a dentist would drill and I’d see any sort of the “shrapnel” coming out and I’d laugh. Yes, you read that right. I even had them do a filling once without Novocain.

Not anymore.

Somewhere along the line I realized going to the dentist isn’t fun. Whether it’s a cleaning or a filling, it’s not enjoyable. I don’t laugh anymore. I kind of dread it all. I hate people pawing around or in my mouth.

That’s probably part of the aging process.

I recently had my teeth cleaned though. That means about six months or so before I have to do it again. Here’s hoping that time goes slow!

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Summer of Baseball: Philly is a great place to see MLB action

Sep 09

The Bank.

The Bank.

Ahhh Philadelphia … the City of Brotherly Love.

It’s the city where my parents grew up and where I still have a lot of family. And, it’s also the home of the Philadelphia Phillies – my favorite MLB team.

I usually try and get down to see a game or two each summer at Citizens Bank Park. It’s a great place to watch a game as the park features an open concourse and seating that is extremely fan friendly. The lone time I didn’t like my seat was one year we went and were stuck out in centerfield – and the seats just weren’t great for watching a game – at least on that day.

My first MLB game in my Eephus League Halfliner.

My first MLB game in my Eephus League Halfliner.

This year’s trip was done at the last second. In fact, a minor league game had been being planned but when Cole Hamels and Stephen Strasburg were scheduled to face off.

Score!

Tickets were soon purchased and we did this as a day trip. The seats we had were awesome, pretty much just off to the right side of home plate and on the first level. Needless to say, in all of the trips I’ve made to Citizens Bank Park, these were probably the best seats I’ve had.

Anyway, back to the park.

Like many major league stadiums, the parking is simple and the stadium is close to major highways. I got tickets through Stub Hub, which included a parking pass. Therefore, we didn’t have to pay for the parking. That being said, it’s like many other big-league places – there are big-league prices. Parking, if I remember right, was $15. That’s pretty steep, especially in a complex that includes the home of Philly’s NFL, NBA and NHL teams.

Mmm crab fries!

Mmm crab fries!

The stadium offers many things for fans of all ages. There’s a fine selection of food (including Bulls BBQ, cheese steaks, the normal ballpark fare and Chickie and Pete’s famous crab fries). The beer selection is pretty solid, too, considering each small stand had a different choice. There are microbrews and your everyday beers, too. So it’s nice. Prices for those are pretty normal for a MLB park.

Obviously, souvenir stands and the team store are well-stocked. The prices are what you would expect, but there aren’t many things you couldn’t get there. When I make my trip down, I usually pick up a program and the media guide for the year and it’s usually quite affordable. Sometimes, I’ll walk out with a hat or something as well. This year I didn’t leave with much, but prices were all pretty normal for what you’d see at places like this.

For the most part, it’s a friendly park. But, like any place with so many people working, there are those who are a little more “business-like” in their approach. The vendors are usually quite easy to get along with and customer service always does quite well when I’ve needed to use them.

Play ball!

Play ball!

It’s an easy park to navigate. No matter where you are, you can see the action. There is also a running “counter” around the park, so if you are eating and can find a spot, you can stand at the back of the seats and watch before heading back to your seat.

It’s definitely a modern stadium. Like many newer ones (Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004), it has an old-time feel with many modern amenities. You’re brought closer to the action, too, which is nice. But in the end, it’s not cheap to go to an MLB game, but this spot is well worth the trip.

Park Notes:  

Citizens Bank Park
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Home of the Philadelphia Phillies
Visited on: Saturday, July 12.
Opponent: Washington Nationals

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 9/10
  • Concessions: 8/10
  • Parking: 8/10
  • Ambiance: 9/10
  • Friendliness: 8/10

I am embarking on a summer of baseball with the plan to hit a minimum of 10 stadiums this summer. Hopefully, there will be more than that. I will report on each park that I hit on the blog.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Don’t charge my card, pal

Sep 08

When I was in the world of unemployment, I racked up some credit card debt. It’s something I’m working on trimming as fast as I can, so the reality is I don’t use these credit cards all that much.

I have one card with a very small limit. I use that one sometimes to pay for online items – such as my geocaching membership etc.

One subscription I had renews automatically. In late August, I got an e-mail saying the payment didn’t post and the subscription was canceled. The reason? My card was denied.

I thought that to be quite odd, considering I knew I wasn’t maxed out. And, I didn’t think I was within the $30 of the max, which could also screw up this subscription.

So, I went to my online account and looked it up. Turns out I was within $30 of the max – because I had a charge for $49.95 – from somewhere I had no idea what it was.

Where did it come from, you may ask?

888-364-7209.com.

Of course, I went searching right away. Being this was a pending transaction, I needed to know what this was. Maybe it was something I had looked at? But I would remember a $50 charge, especially on a card I rarely use.

The website had a place for support. So, of course I went with it and my question was simple –

I see I have a pending charge on my credit card for $49.95 … what exactly is this company?

Once an operator finally came to chat with me, I needed to dig. But this person needed my e-mail address, full name, name of the merchant or company that billed me, first four and last four digits of the card being charged, date and amount and my zip code.

Seemed like an awful lot of needed information, especially being I didn’t know the merchant.

So I told the gentleman some basics … and the runaround came. I posed the question asking if they were a billing company. All I’m told is they need that info to locate the account in their databases.

Here’s the discussion:

07:58 Me: Does that mean you are a billing company? I don’t know the merchant that billed me because it just shows your company
08:00 Me: If I give you the other info are you going to be help me with what this is? Because I don’t know the merchant. And I don’t know this charge.
08:02 Me: Or is that not possible?
08:02 General Support: Well we need that information please
08:02 General Support: In order for a better assistance
08:03 Me: I don’t have the merchant info
08:03 Me: i don’t know what this charge is
08:03 Me: i’ve never heard of your website
08:03 Me: i haven’t used this credit card in a few weeks.
08:03 Me: What is your company? Why is it on my credit card?
08:04 General Support: Well we are customer support and we do provide customer service for a lot of companies world wide

So I relented. And I asked if I gave most information, would I be able to get the info. He assured me they would.

Meanwhile, I was also on a chat with my credit card company, who were trying to figure this out as well and be as helpful as they could be.

Back to our pal at this company … who is now looking this all up. I kept the timestamps on here, so you could see how much time they took with all of this.

08:15 General Support: Thank you very much. Please provide me with a few minutes to verify your information. I will be right back with you.
08:15 Me: thank you
08:18 General Support: Our records show that we have a one time purchase under your name for Raspberry Ketone Strenght which is a natural supplement that helps you to: – Increase the energy and lose weight

OK, I’m working on losing weight … but where would this have come from? I never would have given my card for this. I’m then asked what I wanted to do with this purchase?

Of course I tell him I never made that purchase and I didn’t want it. In fact, I wanted the purchase canceled and a refund given.

The response?

08:20 General Support: Instead of the cancellation/refund we can offer you an additional extra bottle, and this one will be send to your shipping address without any extra charge

Do you want to continue with this offer ?

Are you freakin’ kidding me, pal? You’ve somehow charged my credit card this crap and you want me to keep it and do more? Sounds like the Better Business Bureau should know more about you and your supplement.

And I respond in kind…

08:21 General Support: No. I want to cancel it and have it NOT appear on my credit card, or I will dispute it
08:22 General Support: I did NOT place this order. I do not want it. I do not want to be charged. I will go to the BBB and anywhere I have to if it is not canceled. I will dispute it on my credit card.

Apparently, they work quick, too:

08:23 General Support: Today we have cancelled your account and you will not longer be charged. Here is your confirmation number :XXXXXXX
08:23 General Support: We are very glad to inform you that your refund has been successfully approved today, and your refund confirmation number is XXXXXXXX

Please allow 7-10 business days (Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays are not included) in order for your bank or credit card company to complete the refund process.

But, of course, what is customer service without a little niceness at the end?

08:24 General Support: Thank you for visiting us. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us anytime. We are available 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.
Thank you for purchasing our product, we are looking forward to do business with you again.
08:24 Me: Well, I didn’t purchase the product. But thanks anyway.

Needless to say, now that I know what – kind of – happened here, I plan on requesting a new card and new number so it doesn’t happen again.

Has anything like this happened to any of you before? I guess it’s good to make sure you are always looking at the charges on your cards.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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