Motorola Surfboard SB3100 cable modem not up to 10Mb speed

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With heavy heart, I’m about to say goodbye to my first, and extremely long-serving, cable modem. I can’t find a birth date for it, but I must have had it the best part of ten years, during which time Cambridge Cable/ntl/Virgin Media have increased speeds from “not that much faster than your old dialup modem, but hey, it’s always on!” to an impressive 10Mb. Read More

Business Class, direct from London Stansted to Las Vegas: it does exist!

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I’ve got to the point where I could cry every time I hear friends say they’ve just paid five hundred quid or (much) more each for the privilege of hiking all the way out to Heathrow airport and flying cattle class to the States. There’s an airline called Maxjet which flies non-stop (yes!), from Stansted (yes!), as business class only (yes!) at fares closer to economy levels (yes!). Their publicity, however, is so terrible that I’ve only ever come across one other person who’d even heard of them.

Maxjet flies from Stansted to New York, Washington and Las Vegas. The Las Vegas flights are non-stop too! Most other airlines going to Vegas force you to change somewhere rotten, making a long 11-hour flight into an unspeakably long one. Now, Dawn and I just flew to Vegas with Maxjet for about five hundred quid each. Admittedly, it was a special offer, but they have lots of those. I just looked up some alternatives which we could have taken, and admittedly we could have shaved a bit off that. But this is what we’d have got:
1. A trip to Heathrow (no thanks!)
2. Economy class
3. Less than ideal departure and arrival times
4. Longer flights, involving a change at Chicago, Houston, Washington or wherever

With Maxjet, we just had to pop down to Stansted (so much more civilised). We got ushered through security, into a lovely first-class lounge. The flight departed at 1pm (even more civilised), went straight to Vegas and oh – did I mention? – was business class throughout. So the seats folded flat for sleeping, the service was exemplary, and – you get the drift. To me, that lot was worth a small fortune. And indeed, other airlines do charge a small fortune for business class. I’ve flown with Maxjet four times now, and have never been on a full flight. Astonishing.

So has Maxjet got a non-existent publicity budget or is it just spending it very badly? I’ve no idea. Everyone we bore with this information (usually various friends who, like us, probably only visit the States every few years) says “I wish we’d known…” Maybe it’s all very web 2.0 – keep it a absolute secret and hope people like me start to spread the word virally and cheaply. I suspect not though. They could just stick a leaflet through every door in the Cambridge area and fill up most of their flights, so much do people round here prefer Stansted.

All you need is Love

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A lot of people, including me, got very excited about the Beatles’ Love CD when it came out. Wow: a remixed, remastered Stars-on-45 Fab Four Mash-Up overseen by Sir George – how exciting was that prospect? Sadly, the product didn’t live up to the expectation. But when you see the show, you realise why. Because then you see the Love CD for what it is – simply a soundtrack to a show. And in that context, it fits the bill perfectly. A Cirque du Soleil performance needs a swirling, fast-changing, continuous soundtrack, and that’s exactly what Giles Martin has created, using The Beatles’ music. Listened to in your living room, it’s the equivalent of listening to 90 minutes of Motty on Match of the Day with the picture off.

So what of the show? It’s an extraordinary spectacle, made even better by being performed in a state-of-the-art, purpose-built theatre with speakers in your headrests and so much moving scenery you get the impression that the whole building’s going to transform itself into something alien any second. For much of the show, you simply don’t know where to look. If you rate this sort of thing simply on the number of times you say “wow!”, it gets five stars without any question. It surpassed our already high expectations with ease, and would make a trip to Vegas worthwhile on its own. Fantastic.

Liza Minelli in Vegas: oh the glamour, darlings

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Short of an Elvis comeback, what could be more Vegas than seeing Liza Minelli? To be honest, we assumed the tickets would all have been sold, but wandering down to Tickets2Nite on the strip at 10.30am – when it opened – we were amazed to find they not only had a few tickets for that night, but they were half price too! The AmEx was out in a flash. And what a great show (at the soon-to-be converted Luxor theater). Sure, she’s a, er, veteran, and it was easy to feel slightly concerned for her during her occasionally alarmingly breathless anecdotes between songs. She turned the stage over to support acts on a couple of occasions to give her a break. But what a singer! One of the campest audiences I’ve ever been in simply adored the glamour of it all (of course Siegfried and Roy were there, and were introduced to the audience). We adored it too.

Spamalot in Las Vegas – review

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So after seeing Spamalot in London during the preview week last autumn (unintentionally: I just booked tickets online, not realising it wouldn’t even have “opened” when we went), guess what happened this month? We went on holiday to Las Vegas only to discover it was preview week for the latest “permanent” venue for the show – the “Grail Theater” (sic) at the Wynn hotel. Of course we pitched straight in for tickets, if only so I could say (and how nerdish is this?) I must have been one of the first people in the world to have seen the London and Las Vegas productions.

The main difference is that the production seems to have been shortened a little, to a straight 90-minute run-through with no intermission. There aren’t too many any obvious “edits” – I’ve just been going through the Broadway cast recording and I can’t remember hearing “All for One” or “Run Away”, but I may be wrong. In addition, there were two scenes which I also think were cut. Firstly, they just seem to give up on the shrubbery idea (I’m sure they found one in the London performance) and decide to put on a musical to appease the Knights of Ni. Secondly, there was no slapstick scene with the guards looking after Herbert (“stay here and don’t let him leave”) – Lancelot just piles in and kills them. Also, the gag at the beginning going round the map of Britain pointing out where there’s plague (i.e everywhere) was omitted.

The theatre is really nice, with some impressive Python displays in the foyer – you certainly get the impression they plan to be there for the duration. The performance is entirely in an English accent (well, apart from the taunting French, of course) and is very well done in that respect, with the exception of Herbert’s Dad’s Yorkshire which was a little, er, undefinable in origin. The cast are perhaps more uniformly competent than the London one we saw, which allowed lesser characters like Patsy to shine. But there was no stand-out like Hannah Waddingham‘s Lady of the Lake in London. Mind you, the “little and large” combination of Tim Curry and Hannah Waddingham was sadly missed in terms of staging impact.

Did I laugh, despite it being the second time I’d seen Spamalot? You bet. Did Mrs R enjoy it, not having seen it before, and not particularly liking Monty Python? Yes, she did. A really good night out, and a production which looks very much at home in Vegas.