Graydon’s Crossing, Grand Rapids, MI Review

I have visited Graydon’s Crossing in Grand Rapids, MI twice now, but I will never be back.

A short backstory: I moved to Grand Rapids this last week, and I now live within a mile of Plainfield Ave. Tonight, my roommate and I were looking to spend some money (payday!), drink some liquor, and watch the Tiger’s game. Well, that did NOT happen at Graydon’s Crossing tonight.

Since it was a PERFECT night out, we were looking for somewhere to sit outside to have a few drinks before moving inside for the game. We walked in to Graydons, and the sign said “Please wait to be seated”. I waited for about 20 seconds for someone to show up at their post, but nobody did, so I went looking for a seat myself.

Graydons has two levels. The first level on the outside was already full, so we doubled back and went by the hostess station again. No hostess there yet, so we took a gander upstairs. Plenty of room! We started moving towards a two-person table out on the deck but were intercepted by a young woman.

her: “Are you guys meeting anyone up here?”
us: “no… just here to drink”
her: “well, are you going to eat an entree?”
us: “umm….. what?”
her: “well, you have to order an entree to sit outside up here”

Now… there are some things you, the reader, should understand about this situation:

1. We were sober, and well-dressed.
2. There were PLENTY of open tables upstairs.
3. It was almost 9pm. I don’t think too many people are coming for dinner at Graydon’s Crossing after 9.

Needless to say we both walked back down the stairs and left the establishment, never to be back again.

Overall, I’m glad this happened, because I found an AWESOME bar just down the road. We walked about a block north and found Sazerac’s. Great food, a wide selection of beer, and an awesome bartender/owner. We watched our game there and had a great time. So take my advice: skip the English Pub and head over to the cozy pub with a New Orleans-style flair.

Summary: BOOOOOoooooo! Graydon’s Crossing turned away probably 100 dollars of business tongiht. The place has potential if they would stop turning away customers.

Review: Sea Turtle Inn, Jacksonville, FL

Last week for the 4th of July we stayed at the legendary Sea Turtle Inn on Atlantic Beach, in Jacksonville, Florida. The price was average for the area: about 160 a night, and the hotel was recommended by many friends, so we gave it a shot.
Sea Turtle Inn
The rooms
Our room was a beach-view double-bed. All of the direct ocean view rooms were closed due to renovations, which I’ll touch on in a moment. I was very impressed with the view though. I think I would have rather had a beach-view than the ocean view. With our southern view, we could see down Jacksonville beach for quite a ways, along with a lot of ocean. We could also see the city and the nightlife.

The room smelled like it may have been a smoking room at some point, but it wasn’t noticeable after a few minutes. The room contained everything you’d expect, an iron, ironing board, a refrigerator, TV, and an air conditioner that we had on the max setting all week.

The bathroom was nice, but the toilet didn’t have a very strong flush. When I’m on vacation I usually want to eat at the buffet with the confidence that comes with knowing that the toilet back at the room can handle the holy hell I put into it. This wasn’t the case with this toilet. It took several flushes for some of the larger loads last week.

As advertised, the hotel provided free wireless internet. The network wasn’t secure at all.. just a LinkSys router with no WEP, but it was easy to connect to, and I had a good signal the whole time.

There are two elevators, and that seemed to not be enough for the eight floors. There were always more people waiting for the elevators than could actually fit in them.

The Staff
The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. This was probably the highlight of the experience. The hotel manager was seen all over the place, and was very outgoing and friendly. The bartenders at the outside bars were perfect bartenders. They knew how to make just about anything, and would always recognize you the next day.

The Outside
The hotel is the ONLY hotel on the beach in the area. To find other hotels on the beach, you’ll need to head south several miles to Jacksonville Beach. The outside of the Sea Turtle Inn looked kind of crappy right now ONLY because they were renovating the ocean-front side. There was scaffolding against the building, which didn’t look all that great while sitting by the pool. The outside bar was a bit tiny, but it was never full. We could always find a place to sit, and get a drink while in view of the ocean.

The Restaurant: Plantains
We visited Plantains only once, to look at the menu. It looked delicious, and had ocean-front outdoor seats, but the prices were a little too high for me. The dinners were all between 20 and 30 dollars. Typical upscale dining prices, I suppose, but we vacationing on the cheap.

The Nightlife
There is PLENTY to do within walking distance of the Sea Turtle Inn. There were many bars within a half mile. The best probably being the Ragtime Tavern. The prices were a little high, but everything was great. The bartenders were very attentive, and the food was delicious. Our group of four racked up a $300 tab in no time!

If you’re not finding anything that fits your taste in Atlantic Beach, just head south a few miles (30 minute walk, or a 5 dollar taxi ride) to Jacksonville Beach. There are several EXCELLENT Irish pubs there that serve my all-time favorite cider: Magners. This is the first time I’ve seen this cider outside of Ireland (where it is called Bulmers). Worth the trip! We also visited a huge sports bar called Sneakers that was pretty cool. Many beers on tap, and the biggest projection screen I’ve ever seen.

All in all, the Sea Turtle was a great place to stay. If you are looking for something with a bit more history and class than the “Quality Inn”, try the Sea Turtle.

UPDATE (July 13, 2006):
I got my bank statement a few days ago and noticed that the Sea Turtle charged my check card. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but upon checking out, my roommate presented his card to pay with, so I’m a little confused.

Additionally, they overcharged by about 400 dollars! We made contact with the Sea Turtle on July 11 and nothing has been resolved yet (I haven’t seen a refund). I will update again with what happens. Hopefully I won’t have to dispute the entire charge.
This really puts a black eye on the otherwise enjoyable vacation.

UPDATE 2 (a few days later)
All the billing issues were resvolved a few days later, thanks to the helpful manager.

Google Spreadsheets Review

Google Spreadsheets
Google Spreadsheets is a real lifesaver. Since the birth of Gmail, I have been storing data that I need access to in my drafts folder. This includes my checkbook ledger, songs I hear on the radio that I want to download later, and even bookmarks. Now, I can simply use a spreadsheet for all this information.

But how does Google Spreadsheet stack up against competition? Who is the competition? Well, Microsoft I guess. Nobody uses Lotus stuff anymore, do they?

I like Google Spreadsheets. It does what I need to do. It has most of the formatting that you would expect in Microsoft Excel. You can format the cells as money, dates, numbers… you can format the text in the cells anyway you want: bold, color, large font. The sorting and inserting of rows and columns is pretty intuitive.

You can also use math functions in cells! For example, for my checkbook ledger, I can have it sum up the columns from my checking and savings into a cell labeled as TOTAL. Just like you would in Excel!

Also, you won’t ever have to worry about losing data. Google Spreadsheets saves as you go!

My ONLY complaint was that I couldn’t find a way to drag out a pattern. For example, in Excel, if I wanted to continue a pattern of dates down a column, I would simply highlight the cells that defined the pattern, and drag down. I can’t find a way to do this with Google. This is, for a me, a pretty big dealbuster. I use that feature a lot.

But this makes up for it:
The coolest thing that Google Spreadsheets has to offer would be the collaboration features. With the click of a button, you can invite one or more people to view and edit your document in REAL TIME! You can actually see what changes they are making, as they make them. Very handy! While we are on the subject, if you don’t have an invitation to Google Spreadsheets yet, just find someone who does, and ask them to invite you to view a spreadsheet on their account. Doing this will grant you access! If you don’t have any friends with a Google Spreadsheets invitation yet, or don’t have any friends, post a comment here and I will do it for you.

Microsoft Streets and Trips 2006

About a month ago I purchased Microsoft Streets and Trips.

This software included a GPS reciever! Very cool. Out of the box, I had a few installation problems, but after a few tries, I had it up and running just fine. The GPS locks on very fast. Much faster than my old Garmin.

Microsoft Streets and Trips 2006

The talking directions are very handy, along with the progress bar that fills across the bottom of the screen. Without even looking directly at the laptop, I can tell how much further I have on each segment.

I also found out you can update the maps with construction information, although I haven’t had a chance to use that yet.

Overall, I would highly recommend this GPS if you are used to traveling with a laptop like I am.

Amazon is currently having a deal on it too. Only 79.99 (reg 129.99) on sale at Amazon!

Movie Review: The Weatherman

Yesterday, I saw The Weatherman. The film moved very quickly, held my attention and, overall, was very good. There are some funny parts, but it was a dark kind of comedy. Nicholas Cage played the role very well as a weatherman, not a meterologist, whose marriage has fallen apart, is alienated from his kids who have problems, and tries to win the approval of his famous father, Michael Caine. It was sad, I think, but not unlike many families today. It’s worth seeing.

I live here in Chicago, where the movie was filmed, so it was fun seeing the different locations. The only thing that made me shiver was seeing chunks of ice in the lake, reminding us that winter is just around the corner!

Serenity

Just got back from seeing it — not bad at all. I heard “Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and immediately rolled my eyes and expected it to be retarded, but it was actually pretty good. Aside from a few awkward bits of dialogue (oh look we’re talking old-timey-Western in space doesn’t it add to the ATMOSPHERE and then River collapsing into some weird language for no reason) it was one of the better, maybe one of the best, space movies I’ve seen.

Ghost Whisperer

My daughter taped Ghost Whisperer for me and I finally got to watch it. I really liked this show, most of the time I was in tears watching it. The story about a soldier in this episode was so moving.

The show is on Friday nights on CBS at 7pm (my time) at first I thought it would be more like the show The Medium, which I also like. Its not, its completely different, where the Medium works through her dreams this lady has spirits or what ever you want to call them come to her for help. Its a lot better than Ive described it. Watch this show if you can. The lead actress is Jennifer Love Hewitt and she is really good in this role.

Reviews of the Nokia 7710

Nokia 7710

By far, the best, most complete review of this very interesting gadget is over at GSMArena. Some of their highlights:

Benefits

  • large and high resolution display
  • excellent for browsing the Internet
  • quality sound
  • great for playing video
  • quality organizer functions
  • good pictures


Drawbacks

  • overall slow system
  • stability problems
  • yellow cast on the display
  • slow searching in the phonebook
  • it is not always possible to use it without the stylus
  • bad ergonomics in some cases

There is a very large review over there, with a ton of pics. So check it out.
Personally, I don’t think I have the money for this thing, so I’m sticking with my PocketMod.