Friday, April 29, 2005

I need to read more.

I'm now most of the way through the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Problem is, I've been most of the way through it for years now. Or at least halfway. The last three books were released lately, and I've finished the fifth one, and got a ways into the sixth, and then stopped reading. I need to do that when I don't have anything else to do. I usually end up goofing around on the web. Like now. I guess that's because there's always something else to do on the internet. It's getting to be worse than TV. For me, anyway, it's already far worse. I've got a list of sites that I go to everyday, at least 3-4 times per day. Some I visit much more often than that. I suppose it's better than watching TV, but only because there's a little more interaction. I need to read more. And get outside more, too. It's a shame the weather's been so crappy lately. It feels like fall, and it'll be May before the weekend's over. Oh well. O hope it gets better.

Here's a picture of Scout looking out the window. I converted it to B&W using Photoshop.
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All's well that ends well...

Well, the monitors are all sold. Shipped the last one's off yesterday. I'm not sure how much I'll clear on the deal, but it should be over $1k. Which is good, because I just ordered another D70. I wanted a new lens, and my buddy Jason wanted a new camera. As it turns out, I ordered another D70, and I'm selling mine to Jason. Good deal for the both of us. Especially now that we can share accessories. I ordered two extra batteries off of ebay, and a remote shutter release. The total for those was about $25. At a store, the batteries are about $50 a piece, and i don't know how much a remote shutter release goes for. They're generic, but I've heard people that use them swear by them, and I figure for that kind of savings, even if only one battery works, it's still worthwhile. Now I just need to get some crazy lenses. But I might wait until I'm done with Law School before I do that. Ex-pens-ive.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Don't buy the warranty, Part II

Just so you know, because many people don't, you can often get an extra year of warranty coverage for free. Many credit cards, my Visa included, will automatically double the warranty of an item that is bought with the card, up to 1 full year. Personally, I hardly keep anything for more than a year anyway, so I don't use this very often, but it's nice to know that it's there. And when I worked at CompUSA, many people paid up to $350 extra for a two year warranty. I get one for free when I pay with my credit card, and many, many others do too, whether they know about it or not. Anything that is covered by the manufacturer's warranty is covered by this one, since it is an extension. Plus, you can usually send it to the repair shop of your choosing, which is nice if there's a local one you can drop it off at. It's really surprising that more people don't know about this.

Be informed. There are a lot of perks to being a smart shopper.

This is me, taking a picture
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Dinner is served. These were good, I assure you.
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This is my wife, Hillary, hanging out with Scout and me while I grilled dinner.
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Another one of Scout. Took this while making kabobs. I really like my camera, and I think I'm beginning to get somewhere with Photoshop.
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This is one of Scout from a couple of days ago.
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Sunday, April 24, 2005

A little about Scout

This is probably pretty corny, but I wanted to talk about Scout for a little bit. He's really the best dog I've ever had. He's half Great Pyrenees, half Samoyed. Both breeds are white, so he doesn't look like a mutt. He always likes to be near either my wife or me. Even if he's asleep, if I get up and go to another room, he wakes up and follows me there. He has been almost completely housebroken from the time we got him at 6 weeks. He turned a year old on Friday, and has only made a mess in the house twice, and was sick both times.

I've heard dogs get uncomfortable when you look them in the eyes. Not Scout. He looks right back at me, and I know it sounds crazy, but it's like he knows what's going on. I learned in Professor McKenzie's Property class my first semester in law school that pets are considered chattel, or personal property. I thought that was kind of weird. I write a lot on this site about all of the nice stuff, especially electronics that I have.

I don't have any possessions that are more important to me than Scout.

Kinda lame, I guess, but then again most of you don't know Scout like I do.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

WOW... Talk about a deal.

I use a Dell 2005FPW 20" widescreen LCD monitor on my desktop. It's almost identical to the 20" Apple Cinema Display. The differences are that mine has inputs for two computers, as well as S-video and Composite, a 3 year warranty instead of a 1 year, and is more adjustable. Oh, and I paid $506 for mine. Apple wants a grand, plus tax.

Here's the kicker. I found a deal online where I could get one for $345. Free shipping, no tax. Plus I get until January of 06 interest free. Incredible. It's normally $750, and the best one around for that. So did I curse myself for not waiting to get it?

No. I ordered 19 of them. They're all going on eBay, unless I decide to keep one as a TV. I'm expecting to net close to $2000 dollars in profit, after expenses.

Awesome. Most people think I'm crazy when I do stuff like this, but I guess that's a good thing. If everyone thought it was a good idea, I'd have a lot more competition.

I'd sign the petition, if I could log into the stupid site....

Remember Surge? The hardcore citrus soda from the late 90's? I was furious when they took it off the market. It was my favorite soda. Bar none. I'd drink about 6 cans a day. It was terrible for me, I'm sure, but it was so good. I've never been fanatical about any other kind of food product before, but I was seriously obsessed with this stuff. I never figured out why, but it seemed to be very controversial. People didn't just not like it. They HATED it. I talked to so many people that refused to try it. I guess it must have been the fact that it was bright green. I felt like Sam-I-Am trying to get people to try it. I think you can chalk it up to racism. Not giving green pop a chance.

This story is about this site that's all about bringing it back. I think they're down for the moment, because they got FARKed, but they'll hopefully be back later, so I can check it out and join the cause.

And before I hear complaining from anyone, I did the diplomatic thing and used both "soda" and "pop" in this article so don't complain to me that I'm a moron. Oh, wait. I forgot about Texas.

Surge was a "Coke" product. Happy?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Speaking of music

This has to be one of the coolest things I've seen from the industry in a while. Nine Inch Nails has released their first single off of their upcoming track for free.

Here's the kicker. It's not an .mp3, but it's in the Garage Band format. In case you didn't know, Garage Band is a program that comes included in the Apple iLife suite, which also includes iPhoto, and iDVD, and iMovie. (It comes with iTunes too, but that's free anyway) I don't think you could find equivalent software on the PC for less than 600 bucks. And even if you could, it wouldn't be as easy to use. They simply don't make a video editor that offers so much in such an easy to use package as iMovie on the PC. Believe me. I wish they did, so I could use it on my desktop. The fully interactive and professional looking DVD menus you can create in iDVD are amazing. iLife only costs 79 bucks for the whole package. Oh, and it comes free with any Mac purchase, including the 500 dollar Mac Mini. It's one of the most compelling reasons to get a Mac, even if it's just a spare machine.

But back to the song, it's in a format that allows you to remix the song easily, assuming you have Garage Band. Have you always wanted to hear Trent Reznor sing over a string symphony? How about bagpipes? What if you think that YOU can do a better job than Trent? Just delete his vocals tracks, and add your own. You can make it happen, easily. Kudos to Nine Inch Nails for providing the innovative music and idea, and to Apple for providing the unmatched software. I hope this catches on with more artists.

I heard an interesting thing the other day...

In my Media Law class we had a guest speaker the other day. He's an agent, representing musicians from all over the place. He's remained independent, and is based out of Lawrence. He described the problem with the music industry by using an antecdote that seemed very striking to me. He said that when he was younger, his friends used to get together and put on a record, and listen to one side entirely. When it ended, they'd flip it over and listen to the other side. They wouldn't speak while they were listening to it. They wouldn't be playing basketball, or video games, watching TV, reading, or playing around on the internet. They'd just listen to the music and do it for its own sake.

Now, to many people, music is more like a soundtrack. It's not something that we do for its own sake, but as a filler. Kinda like turning a fan on while you sleep. Often, I realize that I've got music on, but don't really pay attention to it at all. I got to thinking about when I used to listen to my Nirvana cassettes with my headphones on. I'd just sit there on my bed, and listen to the music. I used to listen to my Nine Inch Nails CD's before I'd go to bed at night. I remember that back then music seemed to mean a lot more to me.

I think I now understand why.

Monday, April 18, 2005

In case anyone wants to test my method...(and needs a new Hard Drive)

Go here. Print it out, or else grab the Best Buy weekly ad from the newspaper. Then go to your local Circuit City (or CompUSA, or Fry's, etc.). Have them price match it. And don't forget to have them give you 10% of the difference, if their terms offer it. Should be another 6 bucks. $24 for an 80 GB hard drive isn't too bad of a deal. I think I might go do it this weekend myself.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Money saving tip.

OK, here's the scenario. Best Buy has Item X, a cool new gadget you need/want. $200, BUT...they have a $50 mail in rebate. So it's $150. After 8-12 (or more) weeks that is, assuming the check comes. And it very well might not, even IF you can jump through the proper hoops. Circuit City (Or Company X for that matter) also stocks Item X. Like Best Buy, they charge $200, but don't have the rebate going. So, the choice is clear. Get it at Circuit City.


Because almost all retail chains have something called the price match. And while this seemingly doesn't give you a big advantage, it can, if you know what you're doing. You go to the place with the least amount of rebates, and have them match the place with the most. No one (to my knowledge) can match a mail in rebate unless they just cut it out of the price instantly. Saves you not only the hassle, but also the tax you would have had to have paid on the rebate amount.

It's a good trick. Makes me feel even better knowing that this usually drives the item below cost. Let me know what you think.

UK > US?

Ok, maybe that's painting with too broad of a brush. But I will give them the edge in romantic comedies. My wife convinced me to watch (most of) Bridget Jones' Diary, and then Love, Actually. I must say, it is much, much better than the utter crap that comes from Hollywood. Don't get me wrong, some American movies are good, but no American romantic comedies are good. I'm pretty picky when it comes to movies, but I must say, if there's one genre I really like, it's British movies. Snatch. Trainspotting. The Full Monty. All good movies that I was pleasantly surprised with. Now that I know that they can pull off the feared Romantic Comedy Genre, I'm very impressed.

I still don't think that even the British could pull off decent reality TV though. And don't tell me that it was all invented over there and then shipped over here. I know that. I doubt I'd like it anyway.

I'll have to ask my buddy Jason what he thinks when he gets back from London.

My Momma Told Me...'d better shop around. Oldies songs aside, it really does make sense. I can't believe how many people grossly overpay for stuff. Before I buy anything (especially with circuitry involved) I do some serious looking. I check out first, what I want to buy, by looking at reviews from several places, and by trying it out in a store if possible. You can't take the word of a salesman. Not that all of them lie, but many of them are using bad info they picked up from someone else and unknowingly pass it on. Many of them do know what they're talking about, but often suggest what they like the best, for their needs, rather than what might best suit you. Also, it is tough to pick out the ones that know their stuff from the ones that are parroting a company's press releases.

I always look at reviews at places like CNET or dpreview, and make sure to not just take the reviewer's word for it, but look at the user ratings from people that like/dislike the product. They bring up a lot of issues that many reviewers miss. Some of them are crackpots, but if more than 20% of people are dissatisfied, I usually will look for something else.

Then, once I have it figured out, I do some price checking at Pricegrabber, and look out for deals on Anandtech's Deals Site, or check FatWallet. Those are some great, addictive ways to "save" money. I put the quotes in because the low prices just end up making me spend more. But you can really save some cash. I ended up getting a 20" LCD for $486, with free shipping and no tax. If I would have driven to KC, I could have gotten the same monitor at CompUSA for $999, plus over 7% tax. And I know people pay that. I've sold them at that price. What I ended up doing then, was buying 10 more of the monitors at that price and reselling them, pocketing 50 bucks a piece. Paid for my monitor that way, and when I sold my old one, I was in the black.

Most people just don't know any better, but when they finally figure it out, look for the entire retail electronics business to cease to exist as we know it. You heard it here first.

Bad News

My hard drive crapped out, it seems. This happened on my last Western Digital drive as well. Looks like it's Seagate from now on. I'd switch now, except I'm getting this one RMA'd. A 5 year warranty is a pretty good deal on a drive these days. The pressure from Seagate has pushed WD and Maxtor to up theirs to 3 again, like it should be. The only thing I really like about the longer warranties is that it gives you an expectation that the manufacturer doesn't expect it to fail within that time, or else they wouldn't warranty them that long. I think for some reason the build quality is going down on these drives. I never used to have them go out.

Three year, five year, or 30 year, I don't want to ever have to use a warranty on a drive. It sucks reformatting. Especially if you've got a lot of important stuff on there. And especially after you've been drinking. But then again, drinking makes computer repair a little more palatable.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Monday, April 11, 2005

New Name...

I kinda like the new name. Sounds like, "The New York Observer" or the "Christian Science Monitor." Adjective followed by a noun. In case you don't know what Adverse Possession is, you should click here. One of my favorite legal subjects. Opens the door to a million weird possibilities, full of loopholes. Gotta love the common law.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

My Reasons for Owning a Mac (and a PC)

First, I should say that I'm not a die-hard, exclusive Mac guy. I started out on Windows, and still use it at least 30% of the time. I would use it more, but my laptop is my Mac, and that's all I have most of the time I'm on a computer. There are things I use each for. I truly think most people would be better off with a Mac. I finally got my parents switched to an iMac after their Windows box crashed for the 10th time. They love it. I've "switched" dozens of people from Windows to Apple while working at CompUSA, and none of them have ever come back complaining.

No one makes a more attractive laptop (I know, it's subjective, but this is all my opinion anyway) than Apple. I've always been a big fan of clean, understated design. And aluminum is always nice.

My Powerbook is also extremely functional. No viruses, spyware, etc. for me. Not a big deal for me, because I know how to keep a Windows machine running smoothly, but realistically, at least 80% of Windows users don't, for whatever reason.

The software packages are also top notch. MS Office works as well if not better on my Mac than it does on my PC. Add email, web-browsing, and photo manipulation, and that's what 90% of computer users do most of the time. A Mac is simply better for many of these things. The experience you get from the the iLife suite, which all new Macs come with, is something that can't be duplicated on a Windows machine, even if you were to spend hundreds of dollars on software.

The main things I do on my PC are DVD duplication and video games. I can do the DVD's on my Mac, but it's easier on my PC. Games you just simply can't do right on a Mac. Most PC games aren't available for the Mac, and they don't run as well on them because they're coded primarily for PC's. That being said, I also do a lot of Photoshop, and a ton of internet on my PC. If you use a decent browser, and have an antivirus, and antispyware program, and keep them up to date, you should be in for smooth sailing on a PC.

I'm not a die-hard, like I said. Windows machines are just as capable as Macs, but I think the problem is that most computer users aren't responsible enough to own one. They simply don't know any better, and end up getting viruses, worms, spyware, and then spread it on to the rest of the PC world. If you know what you're doing, and can keep the bugs out of your machine, Windows has some great things available on it. However, if you have to have your PC worked on by someone else when you get a virus, or if you don't know how to remove spyware, you might at least drop by an Apple Store and check one out. You might be pleasantly surprised.

My Equipment

I use a Nikon D70 digital SLR camera. I love it. I could go on forever about why it's that way, but don't take my word for it. Check out some of the pics they post. Incredible. I can realistically say that 10 years down the road, I won't be limited by the camera. They'll come out with something I want more in a matter of months, but after seeing some of the results that other people are getting with their D70's, I can only hope that I can become as good of a photographer. A camera can only do so much on it's own. People take the pictures, not the camera.

As for my printer, I've always been a Canon guy, ever since I actually did some comparison shots with the s900 from a few years back with the best that HP had to offer. I was converted instantly. Now I have a Canon ip5000, and I couldn't be happier. It prints the best prints I've ever seen from an inkjet that costs less than 400 bucks (I paid $160), and does it in a remarkably user friendly way. Very economical, especially on Matte Photo Paper. I've only been printing on 8.5x11. Makes a world's worth of difference seeing prints larger than 4x6.

HP's are good for some things, they're very reliable, for instance. Epsons are about the best photo printers you can buy, but you have to get above the $500 range for them to compete with the good Canon's, in my opinion. They're also a lot more finicky, and require some babying and tinkering. Epson also has a good line of document printers, the C and CX series. I've got one for printing documents and copying/scanning. Lexmarks aren't good for anything. They drink ink, and the photos are terrible, even compared to OLD Canon's, HP's, etc. Even if the printer is free, use it until it runs out of ink, and get rid of it. By the time my Epson ran out of ink the first time, I would have already dropped over 100 bucks on Lexmark cartridges. Dell's are even worse, because they're rebranded Lexmarks that don't take standard cartridges. You have to pay more, pay for shipping, and wait for them to get there. And you get all of the crappy things that go along with Lexmark.

Oh, and I have a Mac, but that's for a later post. (I have a Windows box as well.)

This is a shot from the parking lot of St. Mark's Catholic Church in my hometown. The skyline (ha!) you see in the distance is Colwich, Kansas.
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And yet more.
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Here's another one.
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My Nephew this weekend. I really like my camera. It's a Nikon D70, and I'm just beginning to figure it out.
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Don't buy the warranty!

Just so you guys know, when I worked in the electronics business, I was GOOD. I was consistently one of the best, if not the best salesman in whatever store I worked for. Most of these jobs were commission, and we were paid more based on how well we sold the warranty. This mattered over everything else. For instance, when I worked at Circuit City we were paid 15% of any warranty that we sold. So every time I successfully crammed one of those $440 warranties, I also increased my net worth by $66. If you were good at selling the warranty, you didn't get hassled. If you weren't good at it, you would constantly get raked over the coals by management, and would eventually lose your job. No matter what else you did, if you sold the warranty well, you were in good shape. So we did what we had to, and some of us made a good amount of money doing it.

However, you have to realize why this was so important. At Circuit City (and everywhere else) the warranty is the highest margin product in the store. In a 1000 dollar computer, there was sometimes less than 5% worth of profit, BEFORE you add in the Mail In Rebates, which made the product a loss. However, if the salespeople could convince the customer to buy the warranty, high margin accessories, and other things, it made up for the loss on the product. USB cables were sold for $30-40 (with a cost of about $2.00), but at least they were something the customer needed.

The problem with the warranty is that most people will never need it, most of those that do need it could get the work done cheaper elsewhere, and even those that do use it have to jump through so many hoops to actually get the repair done that it simply isn't worth it. The most common problems often aren't covered. Viruses, physical damage, spills, etc. When I worked there (and maybe still) Circuit City wouldn't even cover the battery on a notebook, which is the one thing that for sure WILL go out.

There are a million other reasons not to get the warranty, but this post is already a tad lengthy, so I'll leave it at that.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Rebate advice

Good advice for anyone dealing with rebates. Pretty obvious to some, but it might be helpful to a lot of people.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

This should do the trick. Now maybe he'll stop telling people I'm in his entourage.
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Here's a good picture of Scout, but I think he might be getting a bit cocky with all of the attention he's been getting on my site. Maybe I should post some pics of him where he doesn't look so cool to bring him down a peg or two...
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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Here's another pic of Scout. He seems to be pretty popular. The one comment I've had that wasn't calling me a "weiner" said he was cute. You know what they say about publishing: If you want people to read your paper (or watch your show, or visit your website) show them what they want to see. Here you go.
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Best Buy Strikes Again...

You've got to see this. Guy goes to Best Buy. Guy makes purchase from Best Buy. Best Buy screws up, offers Guy discount. Guy goes home. Next day, Best Buy calls Guy, and threatens Guy. Wants to take back discount. Tells Guy he has to drive back to Best Buy and pay up, or Best Buy calls Cops. Guy pays Best Buy. Best Buy calls Cops. Cops arrest Guy. Cops call Secret Service.

Secret Service: "WTF?!".

Best Buy: "No comment."

Cops: "It's Osama's fault."

Stay tuned for the next episode, where our hero, Guy, meets his new sidekicks, the X-Lawyers.

I almost forgot...

Don't buy the warranty either. Details at 11:00. Or whenever.

Rebate = Scam

I've been in the retail electronics industry for several years, and have worked at all of the big places. Circuit City, CompUSA, Best Buy, etc. I'll probably be griping about stuff related to that fairly often on here. Here's a funny story I thought about when reading about CompUSA's settlement of a lawsuit regarding rebates. I sent in a rebate for a printer from CompUSA a while back, immediately after getting home, and followed all of the directions, etc. I've been doing this for a while, so I can jump through most of the requisite hoops blindfolded. Well, on February 21, I got a denial notice saying that I had missed the submission deadline. I knew that couldn't be right, since I mailed it off the day after buying it. So I called them, and the guy assured me that I had missed the deadline. I asked him when this deadline was, and he told me it was February 28th. I thought I must have misunderstood, so I asked him to repeat when it was. He did. I said, "So you're telling me that I missed the deadline of next week?" He got quiet for a minute, and then told me that it is obviously a mistake, and he can't imagine how that happend. Uh huh. And you wonder how they can afford to give you a printer for free that comes with $70 worth of ink. Bastards.

In related news, Best Buy apparently is phasing out rebates and giving lower prices instantly, but I doubt it's because they're nice guys or anything. I have a feeling they'll demand some kind of blood and/or organ donation in order to qualify for the "Instant Savings". Me? Unless I know they're selling it at a loss, I do my shopping on the wonderful world wide web. I prefer Newegg.

I remember looking for a stick of RAM for my Powerbook when I was working at Best Buy. I could get it about $30 cheaper online than I could at Best Buy AT COST. If I'd have been a retail customer coming in there, I would have dumped an extra $150 bucks down the tubes. Don't believe me? Click here and then here for a comparison. And don't forget to add tax to BB's price.

I'm telling you, Retail electronics will be dead before Gerald Ford is.

Got the photos figured out....

For the most part anyway. Now I need to figure out how to take better ones so I have something decent to post. In case anyone wants to know (in case anyone ever visits this site) Scout is a Great Pyrenees/Samoyed mix. He's technically a mutt, but both his parents were pure white, so he looks like a purebred something.

This is another one.
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These are some photos I took of Lake Michigan from the shore in Chicago.
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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Sunday, April 03, 2005


One of the big reasons I started to do this was so I could upload pictures easily to the site. I'm going to try and figure out how to do that over the next couple days.

Brand new, just testing this out.

I thought I'd set up a blog.