Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm looking forward to Chicago

And I'm really looking forward to Michigan. I need to get away for a little bit. I hope the weather cooperates.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Great resources

I'm really getting into a couple blogs that have some good suggestions for improving the quality of life. Unclutterer and Zen Habits are great. So is Lifehacker. Ways to simplify the things you do. Also, with the travel I've been doing lately, Onebag is extremely useful. Highly recommended. They've all received the Brad Raple Seal of Approval.

Fixing up the place

Hillary and I planted five trees last week. We also swapped out the landscaping rocks in the front yard for some nicer ones, and put down some mulch. I replaced our downstairs bathroom faucet a couple weeks ago. I just did both of the faucets in the master bath, today. The second faucet I did took about 1/3 of the time that the first one did, and the third took about 1/2 the time the second one did. The next one should be cake.

Hillary's been hard at work, painting the master bath, and has started on the spare bedroom. I think it'll look pretty nice, once it's finished. She mowed the lawn, and I did the trimming. I put together the tool cabinet I bought from Sears a week or so ago, on clearance. It's pretty nice. I bought a spare, and think I might keep it, and put it upstairs in the office closet. I could keep computer parts, tools, and camera equipment in it. I'll have to convince Hillary that it's a good idea. ;)

We're trying to get a fence rounded up for our backyard. It would make dealing with Scout MUCH easier. Also, I'd like to install an electrical socket in the office closet. That way I could move the printers, router, etc. in there, and get it off my desk. The less that's out there, the better.

In case the post below didn't make it clear...

Don't buy expensive cables. Or wall-mounts. Or extended warranties.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I couldn't agree with you more...

I hate Craigslist. I'm selling a MacBook Pro on there. I don't normally respond so harshly, but EVERY TIME I list something on there, people start emailing me about how they can get it cheaper somewhere else. That's pretty pointless in the first place, even if they were right. And like this guy, they're usually wrong. See the email exchange below:

Dale: Is this the new one with the multitouch trackpad? If so, why should I pay you $1900 when I can get the same from Apple for $1800?

Me: First, this is the previous generation. Second, retail on the new one is $2000, plus approximately $150 in tax. Third, what is with people on craigslist taking the time to email someone about how their prices are too high? If you're not interested, move right along.

Do you go into Best Buy and complain to the salesman how you can get their TVs cheaper online? In that case (unlike this one) it's at least true, but it's still a colossal waste of time for everyone involved.

If you're interested in making an offer, please do. If you'd like to argue about why I'm asking too much for this laptop, with no intention of buying it, please move on with your life, so I can move on with mine.


Dale: I was actually looking into buying a laptop. I'm a college student, meaning I get the educational discount at Apple of 20% making it $1800. More likely than not, especially during the summer, the people most likely looking for macbook pro's are college students. You might want to adjust the price since someone could literally go to and not only get a newer model, but for a cheaper retail price. (Alright, with tax, you'd be paying $50 more, but you get a lot more for that.) But hey, it's your laptop. Sell it for whatever you want. I just wanted to see what kind of incentive I as a buyer would have to buy a laptop for that price.

Also, funny you should mention BestBuy. I work at BestBuy and sell televisions! While you might find a TV of the same model and brand online, they usually kill you on shipping (especially if it's 37" and above) and sale prices are generally below retail. But yes, I see what you're saying, I've had customers like that before. But I respect the one's that aren't trying to be stuck up and are seeing exactly why (in case they're overlooking something) they should pay more here than online. Doing research on a purchase, even if it means they're not buying here, is time well spent on my mind.

Me: If you got 20% off as a college student, you should do that. But you should check your math. $200 off of $2000 is 10%, not 20%. Also, while the college laptop purchasing season perks up toward the end of summer, I think the vast majority of people looking for laptops, much less MPBs are not college students.

And while *someone* could indeed go to Apple's education store and get a new one for $1800 (plus tax) that's far from everybody. Just because college students (and teachers) get a discount, I'd be pretty stupid to assume that the only people interested would be college students and/or teachers. If it doesn't sell, I'll adjust the price, but I just posted it last night. I'm not panicking yet.

Believe me, I know all about retail electronics sales. When I was in college, I worked at Circuit City until they eliminated commission, CompUSA until they eliminated comission, AND Best Buy. Even when I worked at those places, and could buy things at cost, I almost always purchased my electronics online, because it was cheaper for me to do so. Shipping is usually less than tax, and the prices are much, much lower across the board, even on big screens. I've been watching TV on a 42" 1080P Sharp LCD I got online for about $900 less than it would have cost me at Best Buy. And I didn't have to sit through a mind-numbing extended warranty/Monster Cable pitch. And don't even get me started on extended warranties. I paid my cable bill, electric bill, cell phone bill, car payment, insurance and rent JUST with extended warranty sales when I was at CC. They gave me a straight 15% of the warranty price on my check. Not surprising, when the average failure rate of a flat panel TV is around 3%, and the average cost of repair is about the same price as the warranty.

For a comparison on the Samsung LN52A550, check this out:

Here's Best Buy:

Here's where someone should buy it:

It's over $2650 from BB, after tax. From 6ave it's $1862, FREE shipping, NO tax. I'm pretty confident you'd end up spending more than $1862 on that TV at Best Buy even with your employee discount.

I also like how Best Buy recommends the $600 wall mount, and $170 HDMI cable for this TV. Monoprice has an equivalent wall mount for $50 (I own it), and cable for $4 (I own a bunch). So exactly why should a customer pay more at Best Buy than online? I know it's not the helpful service, or honest answers.

Case in point: The next time Monster Cable puts on a canned demo to show why their cables are worth 20x as much, look under the table. If it's like the one I they showed me on their speaker wire, they had identical speakers, and identical receivers (supposedly), one with Monster cable, the other with generic cable. Yeah, the Monster sounded better, until one of our audio guys lifted up the tablecloth, and showed that the Monster cable was about 4' long, and the generic cable was really a 100' spool of extremely low grade quality cable. You might also Google the blind "taste test" where audiophiles couldn't tell the difference between Monster cable and a coathanger. Seriously. But hey, they have a lifetime warranty, right? I guess if it wears out more than 20 times while I'm using it, it'll be all worthwhile. Which is ironic, because the ONLY cable that's ever failed on me was a Monster Component cable, less than 2 years after I bought it, and only about the 5th time it had been unplugged. The connector just fell apart. The $2 replacement I bought for it is still going strong, years later.

I'm not sure how long you've worked at Best Buy, but one of these days you'll figure out it's all a scam.

Dale: I regret ever contacting you about this. Good luck with everything.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Back to St. Louis on Friday...

...and then Ardmore, Oklahoma on Wednesday. Check this out:

"Ardmore, Indian Territory began with a plowed ditch for a Main Street in the summer of 1887 in Pickens County, Chickasaw Nation."


"[I]n 1915, ... a railroad car containing casing gas exploded, killing 45 people and destroying much of downtown, including areas rebuilt after the 1895 fire."

Sounds like a hopping town. Plus they have ridiculous Toughman competitions that air on Fox Sports.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It's 1 a.m. Do you know where your children are?

My mom could knock out 25% of that question by answering, "Downtown St. Louis. Reading expert witness deposition transcripts."

Sunday, May 04, 2008

More HDR examples

I was playing with the HDR program Photomatix today. The bracketing feature on my new D70 makes it much easier to use than it was on the D40. You get HDR pictures by merging photos with different exposures.

This was the middle exposure:

This was after merging three photos: one overexposed, one underexposed, and the middle one above.

This is another middle exposure.

This is another blend of three different exposures.

You can get much more dramatic examples, if you use the program more aggressively. Flickr's HDR pool is full of examples, although some of them are too over the top for my tastes.

What's old is new again.

I'm back to shooting with a D70. I traded my D40 and Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for a D70 with a Nikon 85mm f/1.8. My first DSLR back from 2004 was a D70. I eventually upgraded to a D80, then sold it for a D40. Now I'm back to the old standby. I think I'm going to like it. I do miss the really nice screen on the D40, and the SD capability, but I like most everything else about the 70.

Here are the advantages of each piece of equipment: (as relevant to me)

-Much better screen
-Takes SD cards instead of Compact Flash

-Has AF Focusing screw to allow autofocus with non-AF-S prime lenses (The deciding factor)
-Has a dedicated bracketing button (see the next post for examples)
-Has two command dials
-More dedicated buttons
-More autofocus points

-slightly faster (larger maximum aperture)
-AF-S (so it autofocuses on the D40)

-Better focal length for portraits (The deciding factor)
-Probably sharper

Who knows how long this will last me. Unless I find a really good deal on a D90 (or whatever Nikon calls it when it's announced) I'll probably stick with the D70 for a while.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Home Improvement

Got a grill today. We bought one last week, but I read a review on a supposedly better one before I had a chance to unpack it. So we swapped it out at Home Depot.

We also got some new dishes at Target. I hope they hold up.

I installed a new faucet in the downstairs bathroom. I'm getting ready to replace the rest. We swapped the showerhead, too.

We have some bathroom hardware to put up, too. Not to mention two ceiling fans.

I'd also like to put a socket in the closet so I can move my printer, router, etc. in there to get them out of the way. If I could run some coax in there it would be even better.

Lots to do. But I think I'm playing Mario Kart first.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, May 01, 2008

In the basement

Tornado sirens are going off. Sucks. I wanted to play Mario Kart. I don't think I'll get a chance before this weekend.

Sent from my iPhone