Saturday, March 31, 2012

Another Dumb Video: Drive Thru of Interest

Of all of the stupid videos I’ve made, I think this one is my favorite one (so far). Please enjoy the world premiere of Drive Thru of Interest:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mow-day Monday

mower

All the Benadryl in the world can’t fix my nose and eyes right now. I spent my evening not only mowing the yard but also taking down the tore up trampoline and swing set. Both of those items were falling apart prior to the hail so the hail really just dealt the last blow. The kids hadn’t played on the swing set for quite a long time. They are just getting too old for that stuff – another milestone has been passed! Of course, they are begging for a new trampoline but that won’t happen until all of the repairs have been made to the house.
For now, I’m just happy to have all of my yard completely opened up. I can mow without moving that heavy trampoline. I can run around the yard in circles yelling if I want to and nothing will be in the way! Tomorrow I will have to make a run to the dump to get rid of all of the metal pieces.

That’s it. My only plan for the rest of the night involves sniffing and sneezing.
stow it

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I Check Out at Walmart

In this incredible sequel to “I Order at Taco Bell”, I give you, the reader, a chance to listen in on the excitement that is my life just about every Saturday morning.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Repost: More Magazine Mischief! Orbital Publishing Group sends a renewal invoice look-a-like

Update: I got another one of the fake invoices from Orbital this week. This time it was for my Bloomberg Businessweek subscription. It’s nice to know the good folks at Bloomberg so readily sell my contact information. I’m re-posting since the blog is under a new name now and I feel it’s important that someone write about this so that people won’t get duped into overpaying for their renewals.

Another day, another magazine renewal letter that gets my britches in a bunch.

I got a very-bill looking slip in the mail today that someone who doesn’t pay attention might have fallen for. It’s from Orbital Publishing Group in Reno, Nevada. It looks just like an invoice but there is print at the bottom that says NOT A BILL. Can you find those words with just a quick glance? They are hoping that you can’t!
orbital1_erased
They want to charge you $59.95 but you can go to Magazines.com and get a one year renewal for $15. I actually pay less than that each year.

What is especially disheartening is that Entertainment Weekly obviously sold my information either directly or indirectly to this company.

Here is the back of the slip:
orbital2
My favorite part is “As an agent, we do not necessarily have a direct relationship with the publishers or publications that we offer. With your purchase you authorize us and our suppliers to process and clear your order with the publishers directly or by whatever means available.” I think this means that they will pay the $15 (or less) and pocket the $44 difference. That’s quite a profit.

If you look at the “bill” above, you’ll notice that this company refers to themselves as Subscription Business Center and Publishers Billing Center. On the envelope, they call themselves Orbital Publishing Group. If you look at their Better Business Bureau page (they have a Grade F with over 500 complaints in the last three years), you’ll see that they have quite a database of names that they use:
Alternate Business Names
Orbital Publishing Group, Inc., Allied Publishing Services, American Consumers Publishers Association, Associated Publishers Services, Associated Publishers Subscription Services, Billing Services Association, Billing Services of America, Bradford Publishing Service, Circulation Billing Center, Circulation Billing Services, Global Publication Service, Global Publishers Center, Innovative Data Services, Lake Shore Publishers Service, Lakeshore Publication Service, Magazine Billing Network, Magazine Billing Services, Magazine Distribution Service, Magazine Payment Services, Magazine Subscriber Services, Magazine Subscriptions Center, National Magazine Services, Periodical Billing Center, Periodical Billing Services, Platinum Subscription Service, Publication Service Networks, Publishers Access Services, Publishers Billing Center, Publishers Billing Services, Publishers Consolidated Subscription Services, Publishers Distribution Center, Publishers Education Services, Publishers Magazine Billing, Publishers Magazine Payment, Publishers Marketplace Services, Publishers Network Exchange, Publishers Payment Services, Publishers Periodical Service, Publishers Processing Service, Publishers Services Exchange, Readers Billing Network, Readers Billing Service, Readers Billing Services, Readers Payment Center, Readers Payment Service, Seascape Publishers Network, Slo Call Center, Subscription Billing Service, Subscription Payment Exchange, Subscription Payment Services, United Publishers Services, Subscription Business Center, Seascape Publications Service, SPS, Publishers Billing Association, Seascape Publishing Services

Can you imagine going to Walmart every Saturday to get groceries and finding out that they are changing the name of the store every week?

These guys sound incredibly dodgy. I feel bad for all of the people who have fallen for crap like this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Garden Gnomes and Insurance Claims

I can’t believe that it is already Wednesday. I was off from work on Monday and Tuesday and those days flew by.

On Saturday, I got behind these goobers.
IMG01312-20120317-1136

Yes, these people have a concrete garden gnome in their back window. I would hate to be in that car or anywhere near that car in a wreck since that is a 25 pound (at least) projectile just waiting to be the first gnome astronaut.

On Monday, I got my latest eye exam. Needless to say, I can’t see ANY of the letters on this chart without my glasses. I have the E memorized so that’s just cheating.
eyes
There was no new news there – my prescription (my eyes are 20/500 on the 20/20 visual acuity test) has not changed in almost 10 years. This is a good thing because I can’t imagine them getting worse. With glasses, I am actually a tad better than 20/20 but even the thinnest lenses I buy have the look of Coke bottles along the edges. I have been a full time glasses wearer since 1980, so I am used to it. My new glasses will be in sometime in early April and I picked a slightly more modern look. They are also a bit lighter colored so they will blend in nicely with the white hairs slowly sprouting out on my head.

What I don’t get used to is the pressure test and the eye numbing drops and all of that. I can’t stand things touching my eye. It gives me the heebie jeebies every time. Just writing about this makes my eyes burn. Speaking of eyes burning, the pollen count here is over 300 so mowing the yard Monday was pure misery.
Yesterday was dentist time for the kids. Everything looked good there but then I had to go to Walmart and that just ruins a day off. They get slower and slower in there and the lines get longer and longer. I’m just not sure what to do about it since they are the closest and cheapest store in town. They’ve got us right by the coupons!

I also scheduled my first appointment with a contractor now that my insurance agent has turned in the report on all of my storm damage – a new roof, new siding, etc. It’s amazing what ten minutes of hail and 60 mph winds can do to a house. What I don’t look forward to is our home being turned into a scene out of The Money Pit for the next few months while all of this is fixed.
paint

In other news, I listened to the “Retraction” episode of This American Life twice through because Mike Daisey was just so unbelievably cocky and non-apologetic that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I’ve listened to This American Life for a long time and I’m pretty surprised that all of this happened. Something did seem fishy about the original episode Mike Daisey was on back in January. You can read how I summed up my thoughts on Mike Daisey earlier today in a comment on one of my favorite blogs, Herculodge.

Now that we’re almost through hump day, I’m just hoping that we’ll slide quickly down into the weekend.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Repost – New to Me Gadget: Dell Streak 7

(Repost – I am actually selling off my Streak 7. I’ll soon be writing up a review of the tablet replacing it that even surprised me – the Pandigital Supernova.)

My “new” refurbished Dell Streak 7 arrived today. The Streak 7 is a replacement for my Acer netbook that developed a weird short in the screen. The brightness just starts going up and down by itself any time the netbook is barely touched. Typing could have triggered epileptic seizures. It got so frustrating that I finally just shelved it.

I thought my iPod Touch was going to replace my netbook but the screen is just painfully small at times. With my eyes, this is not a good thing.

I really went back and forth on this purchase. I had read so many bad reviews that I didn’t know what to expect. People complain about the battery life (3 to 4 hours). My laptop battery barely gets two so this is an improvement. The screen is supposedly too “low resolution”. My eyes are old and tired so I can barely tell the difference. Also, I paid the refurbished price which is way less than an iPad and even cheaper than a Nook Color. All of these things considered, I am very pleased.
streak_1

I do have two complaints and they are not about the hardware. #1 – Dell Outlet barely even packaged this in the box. All of the accessories were loose (no packing) underneath a piece of cardboard with the tablet shrinkwrapped to the cardboard with zero padding or protection. I was amazed that the screen was not broken when I opened the box. I think FedEx deserves the credit for it surviving. My FedEx guy is not throwing anything!

#2 – The Dell Outlet description said it already had Honeycomb (Android 3.2) but it actually had Froyo (Android 2.2). So, I didn’t want to install anything until I got the upgrade done. Well, tapping on Menu > Settings > About > System updates did nothing so I had to look all over the internet until I found out that I could download the update by navigating the browser to http://mobileupdate.dell.com/?version=GLUNB1A334430 and tapping on Download and Install. You can also just navigate to http://mobileupdate.dell.com/PackageProductionLocations/LG7-WiFi_506_19534_30.pkg.

Once I finally figured out how to download it, the Honeycomb update took about 15 minutes and it came up with a bunch of built-in apps and the Android Market works great. Every app I have downloaded so far has worked with no problems.
streak_2

So, why didn’t I want a Nook Color or Nook Tablet? I really wanted the Kobo app for reading and I also wanted all of the social networking and email apps (Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). And, I wanted the freedom to set up all of the screens in the order I wanted without being “locked in” like on the Nook Color or Kindle Fire. I was really leaning toward the Kobo Vox but this was just $10 more and is so much more flexible.

Here is my wife’s Nook Color next to the Streak 7. You can tell that the screen resolution on the Nook Color is a lot better but I’ll deal with that since there are so many other positives.:
streak_nook

I barely sneaked this purchase in before 2012 which I have declared “The Year of Buying No Gadgets”. I am spread out between a work laptop, a home laptop, an iPod Touch (apps / internet radio), a Zune (music/podcasts), and the new tablet. I have considered eliminating the Zunes from the mix but the iPod Touch music navigation stinks. It’s a shame that the iPod software (and iTunes) is not more user friendly. I guess one thing is certain - having too much tech is a good problem to have. It’s also helpful to learn more about Android when we have so many Android phones being used at work.

streak_3

I think that the Streak 7 is going to be a lot of fun and quite useful for me in 2012. It better be since there will be no gadget purchases for at least a year!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Good Music: “Her Town Too”– James Taylor & J.D. Souther

I’m not sure why I’ve had this song on my mind lately. I don’t think I’ve heard it recently. It’s a great one from 1981 and I had to write up a special post just to share it. I’m thinking that sharing it is the only way to shake it out of my mind.

Time it was, and what a time it was

Being the only one home this week, not only have I had plenty of time to go stir crazy in the silence, I have also had a lot of time to clean. Part of my cleaning list this week was going through boxes in the attic and that included my famous blue tote of school stuff.

It’s occurred to me recently that saving all of this stuff won’t mean a thing to anyone left behind if I croak and it could al be totally wasted if the next storm decides to take off the roof. Mindful of this, I scanned in a bunch of old programs, news articles, and pictures and uploaded it all to Facebook so everyone could join me on a trip down amnesia lane.

I am a terrible packrat. I believe I inherited this trait from my great-grandmother. She saved everything. I have fought that disease for years and have really slimmed down the amount of stuff I have saved. That’s why, a couple of years back, I got down to one blue tote of stuff that I decided to save. The rest went to oblivion. I’ve not sure why some items made it into this tote. This is one of those items:
DSCF1311

Yes, it’s my Trapper Keeper from the early 80’s. As if that is not nerdy enough, check out this Trapper Keeper folder that is inside:
DSCF1313

Ugh.

Also, a lot of us in college thought that going to Denny’s in the middle of the night was a cool thing to do so I saved this souvenir:
DSCF1315

That could almost be framed as art. I have many good Denny’s memories but I don’t think my family wants to see this hung up in the living room.


I saved my high school parking tag. I miss the old two tone white and poop ‘85 Cavalier that this once hung in:
030

I saved my graduation invitations:
049

I have my first hat from my early career in fast food. I’m still amazed that we didn’t burn the place down:
DSCF1321

I even have not one Big Boy bank but two Big Boy banks:
DSCF1330

And, finally, I have these pictures. I don’t know any of these people but I can tell that this a party that I wish I had attended. I found these when the local newspaper was selling photos from the archives for a nickel a piece as a library fundraiser. This guy is freaking out!
Mike Nelson 001

Mike Nelson 002

At least these memories and many more are now being shared on the interwebs instead of just being back in the attic in their blue tote.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It took me five days to watch Desperately Seeking Susan

I first saw Desperately Seeking Susan in the theater way back in the summer of ‘85 and my only memories of the movie were that it was a bit dark and a bit weird. I was flipping through channels last weekend and it was about to start so I thought I would give it another shot.

dss

I watched the first 30 minutes, had stuff to do, and taped (or DVR’d – as the kids call it these days) the rest. I tried going back to it every night since and just couldn’t get into it enough to keep with it. I finally finished it tonight. It’s not really that bad – it’s just weird. Why would Roberta basically stalk someone simply based on an ad in the personals? Are there people out there using Craigslist to do that today? Was being married to the hot tub king of New York so bad that she needed to switch lives with Madonna? Talk about falling far from the perch.

And, DSS is not even a typical 80’s movie with typical 80’s stuff in it to make you reminisce about the 80’s. You’ll need to watch Valley Girl or Fast Times at Ridgemont High if you’re looking for that.
At least I don’t have to try to remember what this movie was about anymore. I finally got it out of my system. Maybe in another 27 years I’ll forget about it and watch it all over again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Roof Vultures won’t stop

They drive around the neighborhood all day long looking for their next sucker, uh, customer.

The salesman from Paul Harris Insurance Restoration Group ignored the No Solicitors sticker on the mailbox and came right up the driveway. Then, he ignored the one on the door since he pounded on it and caused the dogs to go nuts while I was on a conference call. He left me a nice hanger behind as a souvenir.
no solicitors

If you can’t read a simple sticker, I am certainly not going to let you up on my roof.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Panorama Solid State radio

I’ve been in major cleaning mode since Saturday and I finally stumbled upon one of my AM Transistor Radios from when I was very, very young. This one was not the best performer but it still works even though the dials are pretty scratchy now.
panorama radio

This is one of the two transistors I had. The other, and my main radio, was a Computron Green Transistor like the picture below. I don’t know what happened to it but I remember listening to all sorts of stuff at night on it. It was a pretty decent performer. It vanished somehow over all of the moves. This picture is from an eBay auction. I guess I’m going to have to pick up another one since they are so plentiful and cheap now. Also, they come in multiple colors. I could buy the whole set but I won’t since that goes against all of the purging I have been doing this week. More on that in the next post.
2

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Toshiba RP-1900M

For those readers who pop by that don’t care a thing about radios, you can skip this entry with my apologies. I am hoping that writing about radios is going to become a fairly regular feature around here.
When most other kids were listening to A Flock of Seagulls and Culture Club on their Walkmen at night when they should have been sleeping, I was listening to WLS, WABC, and WNBC on my green transistor radio with the old white earplug. Even when I finally got my coveted Walkman with equalizer and TV audio, it was still the far off AM radio stations that lulled me to sleep at night.
I had been looking for an older radio with BIG audio on eBay for a while when a listing for a Toshiba RP-1900M popped up for $24.95 Buy It Now! Now, I knew that price was too good to be true but I clicked anyway and a few days later, I was the proud new owner of a nearly perfect radio that sounds phenomenal on AM.
radio_3
There were three obvious issues:
  1. It was filthy.
  2. The dial calibration was off just enough to be incredibly annoying.
  3. The FM/VHF antenna was obviously loose in the housing.
radio_5
I “solved” the dial calibration by placing pieces of Scotch tape on the dial to show where it really lines up! I’m no electrical hobbyist so aside from sending it to a pro, this is as good as I can do. Then, I shined it up and the case looks just about perfect.
radio_4
The antenna was another problem. I had to open the case to solve that problem. On the bright side, this gave me an opportunity to take pics of the guts. The reason AM is so good is obvious – the ferrite antenna is huge! The Toshiba is now my go-to radio for daytime AM talk shows.
radio_1
But, to get to the rod antenna, I also had to take off the front of the radio. There was a plastic connector in there cracked off and the wire to the antenna had come loose and was only touching the rod when it was fully down in the radio. I still had my soldering iron from my big nerd days so I quickly repaired that and slowly put the radio back together.
Check out that ferrite up close! The DX on this radio is fantastic. It surpassed my Eton E5 which is no slouch.
radio_2
Plus, the audio from the big speaker is warm and clear. There was zero popping in any of the controls. No deoxit needed! And, this radio has all of the inputs you would want. They must have know that iPods would sound great on this!
radio_6
The only downside is VHF – it is virtually deaf. I can barely hear the closest weather station that is about 25 miles away. FM is fantastic – I easily get stations from southern Kentucky that other radios in the house (except for the E5) can’t pull in. And, the speaker on this radio is a huge step up from the E5.
radio_7
The pic above shows the one big blemish. Note that there is a crack on the side with the volume and tone knobs. It was obviously dropped at some point and that drop probably caused the antenna damage also.
All in all, this $25 was very well spent. I expect this one to give me plenty of joy for years to come.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The roof vultures come in after the hail and another company makes my deceptive mail shame list

We had quite the weekend around here. A storm that eventually spawned an F3 tornado went directly over our house and dropped hail that was sized right between a golf ball and a baseball.
hail_6

Unfortunately, thousands of these little ice balls fell from the sky and, with the help of the 60 mph wind, punched little holes and cracks in all of the siding on the back of the house.
hail_1

hail_3

It wasn’t a pleasant way to start the weekend but it could have been far worse. It didn’t take long for the roofing companies to smell blood. The vultures were walking the neighborhood the next day and it hasn’t stopped since. Four more of these guys came by today. I didn’t answer the door for any of them since I am waiting on the insurance adjustor to get here on Wednesday. I did watch one guy walk up to the house, look up at the roof for about 3 seconds, and then place this card in my mailbox:
vulture card

I’m not convinced that I have roof damage and I’m certainly not going to let some guy from ‘who knows where’ climb up on the roof to convince me that I do just so he can cheat my insurance company out of money so my rates can skyrocket.

I can live with my holes until I get a good estimate from someone who is local and recommended. The good news is that cleaning the siding was on my spring to do list. I guess I can put that off for now!
hail_4

In other vulture news, I know someone who has a CD with SunTrust and they keep getting these things in the mail:
envelope
PLEASE SIGN AND RETURN THE ENCLOSED DOCUMENT! Of course, that document is selling you accidental death insurance. I think an older person might be mislead thinking that they must sign and return this as part of their investment. Also, the letter inside starts off with this text: “Important customer information. Please complete and return the enclosed Activation Form before April 5 2012.”

There is also a yellow slip in the envelope warning you: “IMPORTANT NOTICE – If you have not returned your Activation Form, you are not covered under this plan.”

They’ll “give” you the first month free. Notice what they put in BOLD in their letter: “We recently sent a letter to tell you that SunTrust Bank will pay for you to receive up to $125,000 of Accidental Death insurance for a full 30 days at no cost to you.” Wow! A full 30 days! I think they hope that most people will focus on $125,000 and no cost to you.

If they do confuse you into signing the form, they won’t make it easy for you to cancel. “This authority is to remain in effect until I cancel it by written notification to the Company at least 30 days in advance of the intended termination date of my coverage.”

There is also a list of things that will disqualify you from a payout, such as death during surgery, participating in a riot, and any act of war (declared or undeclared). I’m not sure what an undeclared act of war is but I guess it is something that would help them get out of paying out. Also, there is nothing you can do if the insurance company goes under : “This insurance product is not a deposit; not FDIC insured; not insured by any federal government agency; and not guaranteed by the financial institution/affiliate”. That’s right – this is not even a SunTrust product even though their name is all over the letter! They just make money off of it.

Last but not least, I got a new laptop Friday about two hours before the house got beat up by ice rocks! It’s an HP and it replaces my 6 year old Gateway that was running hot all of the time. The screen is incredible, the hard drive is gigantic, and I ended up only paying $300.96 after shopping around all over for a week and getting $75 trade in credit on my old XP laptop that the sound had died on!
hp

Now I can waste time in style.