Monthly Archives: October 2008

Pinball, does anyone remember what that is anymore?

Video games on our cell phones. PS3, XBOX, and Wii in our homes. Video games on the PC, on your web browser. Anytime you want to play a game, it is only an arm length away.

What about pinball? Any of you remember that? The big shiny stainless steel ball that rolls around the lit table, and you slap it with the flippers, one on each side?

Or is this something only 35+ year old people remember?

Tonight while picking up a pizza, I saw two pinball machines. That use to be the standard fare before. Visit a pizza joint, play pinball while you wait.

It’s actually a lot of fun.

Pinball is something that seems to have been lost in this day and age. The thought of playing something mechanical, yet electronic, based on skill seems to have been lost.

Today I had about 15 straight minutes of fun, for less than a dollar.

Even bowling costs more..

Maybe it is time to re-introduce pinball into our daily lives. Its a fun game, it just has been shunned over last 10 or so years, because so many new things seem to have replaced it.

But guess what? Nothing compares to pinball, we just need to stop forgetting about it. 🙂

Travel agencies aren’t utilized enough.

With the addition of the internet, people nowadays can book their flights and hotel packages online. This lets you get past having to pay a Travel Agent for their services (or artificially raising the price).

Here’s something I learned, and I’ll share it with you.

We were looking at booking a trip to Las Vegas from British Columbia, Canada. We were thinking of booking a package with Westjet as the carrier.

On a whim, while passing through the mall, we saw a travel agent that did not seem busy. (They are really not being given the business that they should).

We stopped in, and talked to someone. After logging into their specialized agent system, which was somewhat of a website backdoor into various airlines, she quickly gave us a quote that was about $s250 less than if we booked it ourselves.

“How can that be?” we asked.

Well she said, you have to be careful on the price breakdown that the retail travel websites give you. Everyone looks at the airfare price, and then quickly move through the ordering process, not reading the fine print. By the time you are done, there are all sorts of extra surcharges, levies, penalties, reservation fees, etc, that get tacked on to inflate the price.

When you book through us, we avoid a lot of those common pitfalls.

She quickly pointed out.. “Look here. See this, if I go through the website, it automatically adds on priority boarding surcharge of $20 and it didn’t even give me that as an option. It just added it on its own. Now look here, you said you were only going to bring 1 bag, but they’ve added a charge for 2.  You didn’t want cancellation protection, but again, they’ve automatically added it”

She then went on to explain how the taxes are much lower by flying out of Bellingham, Washington USA, than in British Columbia. You can save yourself another $150 just by driving to the other airport across the border.

She then went on to say “if you book it yourselves, and the airline carrier goes out of business or cancels the flight (and it does happen in the USA because airlines are having financial issues), you would not be protected. However, if you book through our travel agency, you are completely covered in the event of a complication like that”..

She added a lot of insight to the while thing, and it wasn’t just a sales picture. We actually saw the savings in our travel itinerary if we went through the travel agent.

We thanked her, and took a business card. We signed nothing, paid nothing, and were under no obligation. It was a very calm, informative experience.

Understand that while you may only book yourself a couple trips a year…

These people do it 9 to 5, five days a week, every week. They know where the deals are..

The airlines, the holiday package websites, are all made in such a way, to secure the most reservations while tricking the customer into spending the most..

Don’t be fooled, and don’t cheat yourself. At the very minimum, speak to your local travel agent before you hit the “charge my credit card” button on the website when booking your next vacation.

Good luck.

Gas stations and washer fluid. What is going on?

It is no secret that we are paying a premium for our gasoline these days. We also know that a tiny bottle of soda pop at a gas station is going to cost 2x to 3x what you’d normally pay in a grocery store.

The trip to the pump, is where you can drop $50 to $100 quite easily. Count in an expensive bottle of oil, and the whole gas station trip hits your wallet hard.

Now that’s just a fact of life, and something we all have to deal with.. But here’s a major pet peeve of mine. More often than not… actually the MAJORITY of the time, when I go to wash my car windows, they have just plain old water in the squigee bucket.

Is it really that expensive to put some soap in there?  For $3 you can buy a whole bottle of washer fluid. That would probably last the gas station 3 days… They could water it down as much as they wanted, but at least leave some suds in there.

No.. the gas stations these days would rather save $30 a month, by giving you water to wash your windows with.. with no soap.

Now they get away with it, because people would rather overlook the small things in life, and we look past it. It annoys and irritates us, but who has time to make a big deal out of these things? If you bring it up, people think your a little nuts and off your rocker.

Well I’m bringing it up anyway.

So if you’re reading this, and you work at a gas station, in any capacity, and have some control over adding a little soap to the washer fluid.. listen up..

That tiny bit of suds, will probably please a minimum of 20 or 30 customers that day who wash their windows. It will make people feel that little bit more comfortable to stop at YOUR gas station and bring their customer dollars to that particular street corner. We should be paying attention to customers, and trying to save $30 a month in soap, is ridiculous.

It is akin to a fine restaurant having a roll of toilet paper on the table to be used as napkins, because dinner napkins are too expensive.  Well maybe not that bad.. but guess what.. they are still WRONG THINGS TO DO!

Get some soap in those window washer buckets, and do it quick before I lose my patience!

Local casinos near you, what payoffs are you expecting?

We all know plenty about Las Vegas and the vast number of casinos there are there. We also have a good idea about the hundreds of thousands of people who cycle through that city in any given month.

As a result, there are huge prizes to be won on slot machines. You can win cars, diamond rings, huge piles of cash in a glass box, and more.

In addition, the casinos will give you free complimentary alcoholic beverages while you play, they offer nice buffets for $2, and they’re payouts are quite reasonable. Spin 10 times on a lot machine, and you’re bound to win something, even if it is only 1/2 your bet back.

So, let’s rewind to the casino in your neighborhood or an hour drive away from your home.

They advertise huge progressive jackpots like $250. Oh please..

The’re buffet runs from $9.95 to $19.95 … again, no biggy there.

Roll a slot, and amazingly 10 spins later, you have yet to win even one single credit back. (Sometimes you do, but sometimes you really don’t.. and that gets frustrating).

Last “domestic” local slot machine I played, it was $2.50 a spin on max bet. I hit a shiny silver star on all 5 reels. The credits started counting, I started getting excited, and then it stopped at $20

At $2.50 a roll, and with all 5 symbols on all reels… it seemed kind of cheap to me.

I looked up and the progressive (which stopped counting and stopped at $200) was another reason I thought I should leave.  Think about that… a progressive jackpot means that it keeps incrementing until someone wins it. WHY WAS THAT MACHINE’S progressive pot STUCK at $200 and it wouldn’t increment any further?

Are they suggesting that the $200 should have gone off a number of times, but rarely does? Are they worried that the machine will count too high because of the low payoff odds that are programmed into that slot machine?

What would happen if they let it count, even by adding a penny everytime the slot machine is spun? Would the progressive be up to $900,000 by now? How often do these guys pay?

Casinos in your home town may be regulated. But a high amount of the regulation, is based on the Province or State wanting their “cut”. That’s probably 80% why they are regulated. The other 20% of the regulations is to promote fair game play.

But what exactly is fair game play?

Another casino I went to, had a 1 cent machine. The LED scrolling at the top said “Play for only pennies”. Guess what the max bet was on that machine?  20 lines x 500 credits. That’s right, a whopping $10.00 a spin!

I started playing that machine for awhile, and figured, let’s try the max bet thing, surely it will give me something. I may not even win my bet back, but I should win something..

I did 6 spins at $10/spin = $60.00

NOT ONE SINGLE CREDIT was awarded to me. That’s 180 combinations of lines… and not one of them matched a single symbol to pay me a cent.

So I think its time to make a new rule.

Save your $200 casino night outs, and shove it into a bank account. With only 5 abstained trips to your local casino, you can buy a weekend package, which includes airfare, hotel, and even a few meals for under $1,000

Spend your gambling money in Las Vegas, and go for that car, diamond ring, or glass box of cash. You’ll have a much better time, and even if you do walk away with nothing, you would have enjoyed the trip away from home. Atleast then, you’re competing for more than just a “stuck” $200 progressive.. and going for the $200,000 and counting prize in Las Vegas.

At a local casino, if you lose $200, you think “oh well”, I came for the fun anyway.

But if you win and walk away with $400, you figured hey! I doubled my money.

WELL GUESS WHAT…

You risked $200 to make $200. That’s not that good of a payoff. Especially since 3 out of the 4 times you visit a casino, you’re going to lose in the end.

So you gamble $800, and lose $600, and one time you walk away with an extra $200

The casino’s getting paid by you all the time. So if you’re really out for a fun night gambling … do it where it’s right, a lot more fun, and much better payouts… That would be Las Vegas… 🙂

Buffet / Smorgasbord / All-You-Can-Eat etiquette

Most have us have seen the standard buffet All-You-Can-Eat restaurants. Many people like buffets because it means that you can choose your own plate, eat until your heart is content, and come back for “seconds” of the good stuff if you like.

The whole concept is decent, based on the fact that:

a) You have some say on what is served to you, based on the look of the food item

b) You can choose how little or much you want of the food items available

c) You can keep coming back for more as long as you are still hungry

d) The buffet / All-You-Can-Eat price is generally affordable… Less than $20 per person.

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From the restaurant owner’s perspective, this is a very dangerous game. Yes, some people will definately eat much less than the buffet price. However, those people who are (for the sake of argument) say “pigs” who overload their plates, eat until their stomaches are stretched to the max, and even waste food unnecessarily… ruin the business plan completely.

There have been even some fraternity initiations that have taken place at all-you-can-eat buffets, where the business proprietor has had to foot the bill, simply by having to live up to his advertised offering.

Since this has turned into more “the restaurant gives, and the customer takes” scenario, many buffet / smorgasbord owners will deliberately do things like:

a) Water down sauces

b) Re-heat and re-serve expired food

c) Over deep fry, and serve over-breaded items, since they expand in your stomach

d) Sprinkle MSG over almost everything (Monosodium glutamate) to which is officially known as a flavor enhancing drug, to make foods taste better

e) Serve the cheapest of meats, instead of expensive chicken breasts or wings, serve drumsticks or theighs, etc.

————–

Now while all this is going on, between restaurant owner and clientel, I have a major complaint:

People who stand in a buffet line, put food on their plate, and rather than wait 5 minutes, they begin eating right there, sampling food from their plate while they wait to get to the next dish.

I want to ask these people… Is there a reason why you must eat, right there in the buffet line, rather than wait 3 or 4 minutes for you to return to your table?

Why do you feel so comfortable chowing down right infront of me, with your fingers, with no cutlery whatsoever? Smacking your chops, eating with your mouth open, acting as if you are home, in your own kitchen?

This is a public place dammit. Have the decency to return to your own table. Sit down, put a napkin over your lap, and eat privately at your own table.

I really don’t want to see how impatient you are, that you must feel comfortable standing in a buffet line slopping down food, because you are so desperate to eat, you don’t care who is watching you..

People who sample food, or eat food while standing infront of a sneeze guard at a buffet line discust me. They are acting very informal, behaving in a childish manner, and show they have no patience or regard for the public setting they are actually in..

Let’s get away from food for a moment… To reillustrate this point.

Let’s say, you are out in the country. You’re by yourself, and you have a flatulence issue where you feel the need to “fart”. No one is around, you’re alone. So you let it your body’s internal gases release.

At the same time, if you were sitting at a table in a public restaurant, would you feel the same urge to publically fart and let your flatulence arise in public without excusing yourself to the restroom?

No?

Then why is it ok, to publically act like the restaurant is your own kitchen and dining room, where manners mean nothing? Is it really that impossible to load your plate of food and return to your table before you start chowing down?

I find it extremely disrespectful to those around you, to stand in a buffet line, and sample food from your plate, with your fingers, smacking your lips, acting like you are at home.

You are NOT at home, and this is not your own place. Stop acting like a pig, and pick up some manners… It is completely rude to eat before you return to your table.

Is it just me, or should we all act like we’re all standing at home, and no respect of formality should be taken when we are in public?

Online Bingo: Can you trust it?

Online gambling sites are illegal in many parts of the world. In order to run one in North America it isn’t easy. Therefore, many setup shop overseas. Once you do that, people worry about trusting the establishment, since they seem so unreachable. (Ie: Not easy to drive over to their office, or file a complaint with the local authorities).

So it’s about trust. It’s no secret that the early online casinos and online bingo halls were run by fraudsters and tricksters who would modify their software to give few few payoffs.

Things have changed now. I’ve been playing one tonight named www.bingosky.com and it seems very legitimate. There are rules and regulations that you do need to know about, but other than that, it seems like a real legitimate outfit.

For instance, in order to keep your “bonus dollars”, you must make a deposit (minimum $20) every 45 days, otherwise you just get to keep your current cash balance and any winnings. So when you are awarded a 500% bonus when you first login, it is important to make note of that fact.

If you do not keep your account “active” which means either buying bingo cards, or making a deposit once every 6 months, all money you have in your balance is forefeited and donated to charity.

These are big deals that many people do not read when they first login. So before you make that spontaeous decision to start playing. READ THE FINE PRINT. It is there to protect the online gambling site, but also to protect the consumer too.

Now that we’ve talked about the negative aspects of online gambling, let’s talk about the positive ones. You can gamble from the comfort of your own home. That saves on gasoline, wear and tear on your car. It saves on expensive food bought elsewhere. It guarantees you a comfortable seat, in a comfortable setting (your home). You have access to your own private washroom. Using a cellular phone or regular phone in the middle of the session is perfectly ok.

It’s really enjoyable to spend a bingo night at home.

The way I found www.bingosky.com was in a magazine advertisement. Right on their website it says that they have received a stamp of approval from the Internet Gaming Commission.

After doing some more reading, it appears that the Internet Gaming Commission (IGC) was actually a fake watch dog site, a parody of the real “Internet Gaming Council”

So what I’m basically telling you, that if you are gambling, realize, that the whole concept of gambling online is a gamble in itself. You might get paid, you might not. The payoff odds might be correct, or they may be in the house’s favor.

Either way, it is fun. Just be careful with how much you spend. Keep an eye on your credit card balance too. 🙂

Good luck to you.