Archive for the 'life stories' Category

Coldplay Interactivity

After watching this:

I now need to go see Coldplay live. What a fun show. Love the interactivity…

Really Frustrated with Bank of America

I’m pissed at Bank of America right now. And not because of the $5 fee they wanted to charge consumers for using their debit cards earlier this year. Not because I’m joining the 99% movement, or because I want to occupy anything. Not because the government had to bail them out again and again. And not because their stock price is tanking.

Because they made me feel like an idiot for doing business with them. Again.

Here’s the story:

In May of this year, I took my seven and five year old children to the local Bank of America branch on a Saturday morning, with about $115 each that they’d been saving. My goal was to open a simple savings account, so that they could start learning what it was like to have a bank account, and the value of saving money with someone you could look in the face and talk to.

We opened two savings accounts, with me listed as the custodian and deposited the money. They both wrote down their deposit in the free deposit book that BoA gave us.

I’m pretty sure I asked lots of questions about fees and interest rates, because I distinctly remember hearing that the interest rate was ridiculously low (like 0.1% interest) and I don’t remember hearing anything about fees. I’ve been screwed by BoA before on fees on other accounts I have open with them (they charged me a $25 service fee on an checking account with $50 in it, because I wasn’t using the account (WTF?)), so I know I asked about them, and I don’t remember hearing anything from the bank officer about fees, that said, I could be wrong. It was six months ago, and I made the mistake of trusting them again…

About a month later, the boys and I took another $100 or so in change to the bank, and had them sort and count it, and then we deposited the money evenly into both of their accounts.

Because it’s a savings account, we get a statement once a quarter.

This morning, we got the second quarterly statement from BoA, and I opened it, just because I wanted to see what their balance was.

I was surprised to see three $5 charges for “monthly service fees” on the statement.

I grabbed the paperwork we got from the bank when we opened the accounts, and the boys deposit books and drove to the bank to talk to the bank officer that I opened the accounts with.

She doesn’t work there anymore. Figures.

So I sit down with another banker. As calmly as I could, I asked her to “refund the money that they’ve taken from my kids, close the accounts, and give me the cash, so I can go do business with a bank that my kids can learn to trust with their money.” I should have said “stolen from my kids” btw, because that’s what it feels like.

I was upset. I was upset because I felt like an idiot. Here I was trying to teach my children the value of saving money, and working with a bank that they could go into and talk to a banker at, and what lesson did I learn that I can teach them?

I guess this statement sums it up: “Never use Bank of America for anything!”

Seriously. What other conclusion can I draw from the last six months?

We took our money into the bank. We sat with a banker for an hour while she explained the accounts to the boys and I. We got our deposit books, and while disappointed with the super crazy low interest rate, we figured that having the experience of walking into a bank every few months, depositing cash, getting a receipt and seeing our balance grow would be a super powerful lesson for them about the value of saving your money. Isn’t that what we should be teaching our kids, considering the current state of the economy?

Instead, we got a lesson that goes something like “Don’t trust your bank” or “You’ll make more money keeping your money in your ceramic piggy bank at home, than you will be entrusting it to a real bank.”

Ugh. So pissed at myself for trusting Bank of America.

Anyways, after the banker looked into the two accounts, she informed me that they’d charges us the $5 fee six times. Once each month since we opened the account.

I asked her as politely as I could to refund the entire $30 for each boy, close the account and hand me the cash. She told me that she wasn’t authorized to go back more than 3 months. I asked to see her boss.

He came over and told me he didn’t have the power to go back more than 3 months either. I asked if his boss was at the bank today. It was a Saturday, so his boss wasn’t there, but they both told me they could file a ticket and that the big boss would look into it on Monday.

“Fine,” I said, “close the accounts and I’ll deal with it on Monday.”

Moral of the story there: “Bank of America lets a stupid computer make a bad decision to charge us $5/month for six months, but won’t authorize a human the power to make a right decision and refund us $30.”

So, I closed the accounts, took the cash, and will be going into a credit union on Monday to open two kids’ savings accounts, or I might call USAA to open two kids’ savings accounts with them.

I’ve had an account at Greater Texas Federal Credit Union for almost 20 years now. It was my college bank, and when we got out of college, we left about $50 in the account. They’ve never charged me a fee for having that account open, and even pay us interest on it, and I trust them to not make me feel stupid for doing business with them.

Ditto Navy Federal Credit Union… my wife has used them for savings accounts and car loans for twenty years. Love them too.

I’ve used USAA for at least 15 years now too, and trust them to not make me feel stupid. In fact whenever I call them, I feel good about doing business with them. Every time.

Bank of America, you just lost my trust forever, and I’ll make sure my children never bank with you, and hope that everyone that reads this thinks very hard about doing business with you too.

A person would have to be an idiot to do business with Bank of America, and I refuse to be an idiot again.

I’ll be closing my business and personal checking accounts at BoA on Monday too, btw. I’m sure someone else will be happy to make sure I don’t feel like an idiot for doing business with them. I’m not the only person leaving BoA, there are lots of others. It’s not that hard to move your money, folks.

Want to read more stories like this? I’m sure you can find them on BankofAmericaSucks.com.

Fuck You! from the kids too!

New Projects and Passion

Heart by eyed mostafa zamani on FlickrNew projects are always exciting at first. Or scary. Depends on your mood and perspective.

Either way, your adrenaline gets flowing, whenever you start a new project.

In the last two weeks, I’ve taken on a few new projects.

First, I launched AggieCamusology.com, and pre-populated it with about 2 months worth of content, added some Google AdSense ads, so that maybe it’ll pay for itself later this year, and posted a few comments on Aggie related sites, so that we can start getting some natural search ranking and some free inbound traffic. Already, we’ve gotten about 10 page views… not bad for a site that’s less than a week old, and in a very very niche market segment.

The second project I’ve started is a completely new website, that requires me to open up my old PHP manual, and read a bunch on php.net or other sites, so that I can learn how the basics again. It’s super challenging (it’s been about 7 years since I’ve really looked at writing any real code) and super fun. Definitely gives me fuel to keep diving in, and opening up whatever possibilities might present themselves. I’m keeping this second project in beta for a little while, while I build it out more, but it’s fun so far, and I’m loving doing it and talking about it with others.

Third, I’m going to write more. More on that below.

One thing that I’ve noticed during the process of thinking about and starting these new projects:

Passion is what has enabled these projects.

  • AggieCamusology.com wouldn’t have gotten launched if I didn’t go to Texas A&M and have a decent amount of passion for the idea. Would you launch a website about kittens if you didn’t love cats?
  • The second project has been brewing in my head for months now, but I couldn’t justify investing much in the idea, because I couldn’t get around the “what problem does this idea really solve?” and then it struck me last night around 7:00… building this project doesn’t neccessarily solve a huge problem for anyone, but it will give me the chance to dust off my PHP skills, and that’s something that I will enjoy, and bam… work began.
  • I’m committing to writing more on inluminent.com, because I just got done reading pretty much every post on Spencer Fry’s blog, and am totally inspired by his writing. I’m not sure I’ll stack up to him after it’s all said and done, but I am inspired.

What is your passion? Can you make enough money to live on doing it? What are you waiting for?

The Luckiest – Ben Folds – a cappella

I discovered the a cappella version of “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds about a week ago, and I’m really really digging it:

I don’t get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls
Brought me here

And where was I before the day
That I first saw your lovely face?
Now I see it everyday
And I know

That I am
I am
I am
The luckiest

What if I’d been born fifty years before you
In a house on a street where you lived?
Maybe I’d be outside as you passed on your bike
Would I know?

And in a white sea of eyes
I see one pair that I recognize
And I know

That I am
I am
I am
The luckiest

I love you more than I have ever found a way to say to you

Next door there’s an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away

I’m sorry, I know that’s a strange way to tell you that I know we belong
That I know

That I am
I am
I am
The luckiest

And another version:

Stuff No On Told Me (but I learned anyway)

Found this web comic today by Alex Noriega. Great insight. Great writing. Great illustrations:














It’s fun to find a little inspiration when you aren’t looking for it.

I hope this guy comes out with a book someday… It would sell well, and I’ll be one of the first people to buy it.

Blacksmithing

Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve wanted to be a blacksmith. But not a regular blacksmith, making utiliarian things like horse shoes and what not… an artist… making jewelry or other gorgeous works of art.

I was inspired by Joe Eason, who was a family friend and owner of the Eason Insurance company in Houston, TX. Joe also owned a log cabin in Oak Hill, Texas, right outside of Bellville where I grew up. The Eason’s were famous for having a large fireworks display at their farm every summer, and people from all over would drive in and line Highway 159. which ran right in front of their land, just to watch the show.

Mr. Eason was a role model and hired my brother and I every winter to feed his cattle and buffalo. He also had his own smithy with a blacksmith’s forge in it, right outside his cabin, and that always inspired me.

I was reminded of this longtime dream today, when I saw these utensils on ThinkGeek.com.

Some day, I’d like to grow up to be a blacksmith. Someday.

Entrepreneurship is… throwing yourself off a cliff, and building a plane on the way down.

“Entrepreneurship is throwing yourself off a cliff, and building a plane on the way down.” -Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIN.

World of Warcraft – Buying an Account and Key Codes

About 4.5 years ago, my oldest son Jack was born. That summer, I bought a copy of World of Warcraft, or WOW as it has come to be called. And I waited until we were in the hospital after the baby was born to open it and install it.

I had no idea what it was. I figured it was just the next version of Warcraft, which I’d LOVED playing in college.

Come to find out, it was what it is… a massive online role-playing game. But there was one problem: I couldn’t play it at the hospital. I had to get online.

So I waited until we got home, and booted it up one night around midnight, while feeding the baby. And I started to play. And play I did.

I played WoW almost every day, for three or four hours at a time. It got so bad (I loved playing it so much) that I was even playing it during the day sometimes, while I was at work. Heh… Good times.

I played until I got to Level 60 (the highest you could go at the time), and I was pretty good. I started a guild, and got it to like 100 members, and had some “good friends” on WoW. And then Blizzard came out with an upgrade. Their first for the game. And I realized that I was screwed. I was going to end up playing even more WoW. So one day, I decided to quit. And I did.

Cold Turkey.

I sold everything I had… gave away all of the gold to my guild members, and turned over the guild to one of my co-leaders.

And it was like quitting cocaine or heroin, I’d imagine. It was tough. Trust me… quitting cold turkey like that. What was I going to do with all of that extra time? Heh.

Now that the boys are getting older, I’m actually starting to think about playing WoW again, but I don’t want to start over again at Level 1… at least not for my main character. So I’ve been looking into buy a character.

In my research, I’ve found BuyMMOAccounts.com, which offers cheap Alliance WoW Accounts, cheap Horde WoW accounts, wow key codes, and more. And the super Elite accounts they have aren’t all that expensive when you consider how long it takes one to actually achieve level 80. I found this Level 80 Human Death Knight for under $700, with two additional characters.

And they offer a 100% unconditional guarantee on the securitve of any accounts you purchase.

Love it. When I’m ready to jump back into WoW, I’m headed to BuyMMOAccounts.com.

Social Media is weird

If someone “friends” me on facebook, I usually just accept the request and move on. Sometimes people I really don’t know friend me… and I have no idea why. Take this recent facebook chat for example:

Charley: hi

John: hi there

Charley: you not talking to me for a wile

John: not for a long time

Charley: lol

John: do we actually know each other? I can’t remember…

Charley: hm…
Charley: no…/

John: so, why are we friends on facebook?

Charley: hm.. dont no

John: lol.
John: that’s classic.

Charley: so you wont to be m8s

John: we’ve never met
John: how could we me mates?

Charley: dont no up to u

John: lol

I unfriended him after that, btw.

The Crisis of Credit

Pretty good movie here that explains a lot about the credit crisis we’re in now:

Getting laid or getting paid

“I don’t know what’s better getting laid or getting paid … I just know when I’m getting one the other’s getting away” – Kanye West (in “This Way” by Dilated Peoples)

Quote: Today

“Today is the best day to do something, if you want something done.” – John Engler, 1/5/2009 in a IM conversation with a friend.

From a Baylor Fan on How To Cope with being in Last Place….

I got this from a friend on Thanksgiving this year. It’s no secret I went to Texas A&M, which has been doing pitifully in College Football lately. I got a good chuckle out of this:

From: Roy Hayhurst
To: John Engler
Subject: Fwd: From a Baylor Fan on How To Cope with being in Last Place….
Date: November 23, 2008

John: I thought of you when one of my Baylor alumni friends sent this to me. Hope you’re well and all of you have a Happy Thanksgiving. :)

From a Baylor Fan on How To Cope with being in Last Place….

I wanted to share some thoughts from the hit book, How to Handle Being The Worst Team in the Big XII South. This book, originally authored by fans of Baylor University, with foreword by Oklahoma State, has been a work in progress for 25 something years now.

Now that we have handed that prestigious torch off to your school, and it looks like it will stay that way for quite some time, you and your Aggie friends may want to really get into this material. Here are some highlights:

Chapter 1. Bring up past records when discussing your program with friends. The best way to do this is to start from the present and go back through the past until you can find where you have more wins than “x” team. Inconsistencies in time frame do not matter – it can be 5 years for one team and 45 for another.

Chapter 3. Find other parts of your athletic program that you can be proud of and meticulously learn and promote their accomplishments, no matter how embarrassing the sport. Baylor has done this recently with women’s basketball, tennis, and most notably, track and field (Olympic gold medalist anyone?). Rumor has it that your men’s club lacrosse team is pretty awesome. Just throwing that out there.

Chapter 5. Find a couple of solid scapegoats and complain tirelessly about them. Your fan base has already advanced far in this area, with “Shermione” and “$Bill” taking the brunt of this effective relaxation technique.

Chapter 10. Pick a team to hate and root for their failure. For Baylor fans, this has been you, and look how well it’s worked! It’s like The Secret – the power of positive thinking. It’s very refreshing to change the channel from a frustrating loss and watch your sworn enemy fail. You may have to really dig deep here – you want a team that is average to pretty bad. You losing and them winning is a double whammy, so don’t set your sites too high (UT/Tech). Arkansas is a good start, they’re down this year.

Chapter 11. THIS IS A BIG ONE. Focus on moral victories. This chapter has a lot of content, so really pay attention to it. Within the umbrella of the moral victories chapter you’ll find subsections such as: a) Don’t pin your hopes on winning the game, pin your hopes on covering the spread. The spread is key, and beating the spread will bring you years and years of joy. b) Get excited about first downs. These may be harder to come by than you think, so really cherish them. c) Find remote stats that can highlight your improvement. Really dig into improvement. This should be a buzzword to use in the coming years.

Chapter 12. Talk about the other redeeming qualities of your school. This is tricky, because it’s actually really dorky to engage in academic smack talk, but, if done correctly, can deflect the focus of a conversation away from your school’s crappy football program and onto other areas where the playing field is more level. Now, I’m tailor making this to A&M a little here, but I would recommend you focus on your strong engineering and business school reputation, and don’t forget to bring up your various traditions! People never get tired of hearing about this.

Chapter 14**. Find another school to support on the side. This chapter is very controversial and was only added in later editions. I myself never went down this road, but several of my friends found a great deal of relaxation and comfort in finding a side school. While immediate family connections are the best (grandfather graduated from Penn State or mom and dad met at Florida), it is also valid to dig deep into your family’s history to find that great aunt that went to Alabama or that second cousin who got a masters at USC. The further away the school, the better. Claim that you have been watching them for years – especially as a little kid growing up. This helps ward off eye rolls and front-runner accusations from your friends. **Note: though highly successful, this chapter can be very dangerous, and is probably the only method that will incur hatred from fellow alumni and students. Use Chapter 14 at your ownrisk. Advanced students only. I’d say you’ll be there en mass around 2013 – although seeing how your fan-base is bailing after 3 losing seasons out of the past 24, you may be there as early as 2010. Talk about advanced students!

That’s it folks. I’ll send you a copy for free – we’re so excited to share this with a team not named Baylor. And you may read this and think: wow, Baylor is pathetic. This is really sad stuff. No, no! This is you! This WAS Baylor and now IS your school! I’m talking about what you and your fan base will be and have already started saying and doing.

So there you go. Gig ‘Em.

Charlie Brown Ad Agency

Merry Christmas Everybody:

George W. Bush endorses John McCain and Sarah Palin

This is priceless:

Did you vote yet? I did.

Go vote.

Ronald Reagan endorses Obama

You’ve gotta see this to believe it:

Shel Silverstein

I miss reading Shel Silverstein. I’m going to have to buy some books of his, to read to the boys. His books encourage the kind of limitless wonder all kids (and adults) should have:

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” –by Shel Silverstein

Classic Developer Humor

This came up on a phone call with a client today:

PR Spammers

I don’t know about the rest of you, but if you’re a blogger, you’re likely getting spammed by PR agencies. I know I am…

And so, in celebration of that fact, and hopefully, so I can make some money off the spam I receive, while also letting everyone know what the latest stupid Press Release I got was, I’m unveiling:

Unsolicited PR

Yep. It’s stupid, but simple…

And hopefully I’ll continue to get PR spam from stupid PR companies that aren’t paying attention to how they got my damned email address…

Ugh…

Canon Pixima iP1600 Error 5100

My wife was trying to print something the other night, and she was complaining that the printer was broken. I figured out what the problem was for me, so I’m posting this in case others have the same sort of problem (the answers I found on the web weren’t all that readable, and I spent a good ten minutes reading bits and pieces of answers to piece them all together).

So, I trudged down to the office to check it out, and sure enough, it wasn’t printing.

It was giving me an odd error that I wasn’t used to… and said something to the effect of:

Error 5100: Please turn the power off on this unit and turn it back on, and if you still have problems consult the User Manual.

So, I turned it off, and then back on again, and tried to print. Same error.

So, off to Google I went (we got this printer three years ago, and I couldn’t begin to tell you where the user manual is).

I searched Google for canon pixima 1600 error 5100

And I read this results page, which looked helpful:

FixYourPrinter.com: Canon i550 Service Error 5100

And another results page that took me to a Yahoo! Answers page, which was only midly helpful.

Long story short, something was likely wrong with the printer carriage bar… or something was jammed that was causing the print head to not advance all the way across the bar like it should.

I totally believed that, knowing that I have a 3 year old that is most-likely playing with the printer from time to time when we aren’t looking.

So, I opened up the front cover, and sure enough, the print cartridges weren’t seated well, and one of them was hitting the underside of the cover about three-quarters of the way across.

So, I re-seated all of them, and then turned the printer off and on again, and did a nozzle-check print test. It printed fine. So, back to the computer to resume the print job, and viola… no more printer error.

On those other results pages, they mention things like “cleaning the carriage bar” or “checking for stuff jammed in the printer” so, if reseating your printer cartridges doesn’t work, keep looking for things that would cause the printing head carriage (the thing the print cartridges sit in) to not function properly.

Good luck.

Randy Raush’s “Last Lecture” with Oprah

This is a powerful video:

By the way, is everyone else consuming more and more video online, or is it just me?

HDTV rocks

If I haven’t said it before:

“HDTV rocks”

totally. Izzy Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy is so hot in HDTV. Heck, Callie Torres is hot in HD too.

If you don’t have an HDTV yet, get one. Seriously.

100 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids for Free or Cheap

100 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids for Free or Cheap

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How to be a Great Dad – 12 Awesome Tips

How to be a Great Dad – 12 Awesome Tips

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Apple’s Weather Widget Graphics

Only Apple can make sleet look fun:

It’s cold outside, rain/ice and sleet is coming down, and it’s been coming down for a good 36 hours now, and is forecast to keep coming down for another 36 hours.

I realize that for those of you that live north of Texas this isn’t a big deal, but this kind of weather in Texas makes people drive really badly… Not looking forward to driving to work in the morning.

Word of the week: frigtards

I gotta figure out how to use this word spotted in a recent Daring Fireball ‘Jackass of the Week’ article:

frigtard – as in “socially maladjusted frigtards”.

Love it.

Why I’m done with eBay

Over Labr Day weekend, I went to Tahoe with a buddy to shoot a wedding. It was my first real paid photography gig. Mind you we weren’t getting paid in cash, but we were getting a free 4 day trip to Lake Tahoe over a long weekend. Regardless, the experience was awesome, and, upon my return, I was totally psyched about buying some new lenses for my camera, so that I could upgrade my craft.

(I’m totally sold on the idea that “the difference between a good photo and a great photo is good glass” now)

So, I headed over to eBay last Tuesday, and started bidding. I usually bid on items early in their auction lifecycle, so I can just check “My eBay” to see how the auction is progressing, and jump in at the last minute with my real highest bid, before the auction closes.

I’m not doing that anymore, and I’m totally done with eBay as a buyer at this point.

You might ask “why is that John?”

The reason I’m done with eBay is because on each of the auctions I was bidding, I didn’t win, and as a consequence, I received a “Second Chance” offer to buy the item after the auction closed because “the winning bidder couldn’t pay.”

On receipt of the first offer, I thought “wow, that’s cool, I got a great deal on that lens”. Realize my bid had been about $800 on a lens that retails for close the $1,800. I couldn’t believe I got to buy the lens.

So, I went to eBay by typing in the address into my browser, and logged into My eBay to check the auction there, and something weird was happening… I wasn’t able to find a way to pay for the item I’d “won” as a Second Chance winner…

So, I read through lots of help documents on eBay’s website, and I was pretty sure at that point I was the recipient of a phishing attack.

So, I forwarded the email to [email protected], and sure enough, it was an attack.

What was weird was the fact that the person phishing me knew exactly what I’d bid, and had emailed me at my eBay email address… and had sent me a very professional looking copy of an actual eBay “Second Chance” winner email offer.

I’d been duped.

Once, I can forgive, but, over the past week, I’ve gotten 20 or so “Second Chance” phishing emails. Sometimes two or three on each auction I’d been bidding on.

I forwarded them all to eBay, but somehow I just don’t trust that they’ll actually fix the problem, and I’m not going to put myself at risk by trying to buy something again… It’s just not worth the hassle or time. Not for big ticket items at least.

And the sad thing, is I was thinking of selling some football tickets I have for a game this year that I should be able to sell for a nice $200 or $300 profit per seat on eBay, but, now I’m totally thinking of selling those on something like StubHub instead.

Yeah, eBay, you’ve lost one customer… and that’s the problem. The domino’s start falling with one little push.

eBay really needs to lock down the bidding history and email addresses of their users better. I’m done with it.

Cellphones and wealth

It’s funny how many people I know in this situation today:

Courtesy of Hugh McLeod.

good morning

Ugh. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sitting in an airport at 6:05 am, after getting up at 5, so you can get on a plane at 7. I didn’t have any problems going through security this morning with my laptop, digital SLR or iPod, but I don’t have any deodorant or hair gel anymore.

You know, some enterprising entreprenuer should offer deodorant and hair product and makeup inside the security zone of airports. Call the store: “the stuff you want but can’t hav” or “Contraband”. I bet they’d make a killing.

lump in my throat

Talk about a way to start a morning. I just read “I can only imagine…”. It’s a moving story about love that every father should read.

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losing an aquaintance

I read Michael Bartosh Passes by TUAW today, and I though “man, that sucks.” Back when I helped run MacNN I used to call Michael every month or so, to learn what was new with Apple. At least that’s what I was trying to learn… typically, Michael would tell me he didn’t know, or couldn’t tell me, and then we’d talk about other stuff. Michael had gone to school at the same school I was at, and had gone to work for Apple at a really young age, cause he was one of those really smart people that Apple needed… he never had a huge role at Apple while I knew him, but he was a great guy that contributed where and when he could. It’s sad to hear that he’s gone, and at such a young age.

Busier than shit

So life has been keeping me busier than shit lately. Sorry folks, that’s just the truth of it.

I’ve actually got about 4 or 5 good posts about half written, but none ready to post.

Long story short, I’m running a company now, and it’s in an industry that’s new to me, even though I’ve been “in it” for the past 15 years… Yes, I can hear BNL singing “everything old is new again” when I typed that.

It’s an invigorating time for me, and I’m loving it, but the blog is suffering. Hopefully that’ll change in a week or two.

New job on 5/22

Just a note to say I quit my job on Monday. Or at least I gave them two weeks notice.

I start my new job on May 22nd, and will post more then.

I’ll also say that my former company is enforcing my non-compete, which limited the offers I could accept (I had three on the table). In the end, the job I’ve taken is going to totally kick ass, and I’m excited about it (it’s the one I wanted to take anyways) but I wanted those other options open for my own negotiation power… and they’re being dicks about the non-compete.

Lesson learned: don’t ever sign another non-compete. A NDA, or IP-clause, fine… but not a non-compete.

More on the reasons I left and where I’m heading next after I get my last paycheck.

Sidenote: I should be blogging more again soon ;)

How to get up right away when your alarm goes off

How to get up right away when your alarm goes off

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I love Rocketboom

After spending greater than 5 hours on a plane today, I gotta say this:

I LOVE ROCKETBOOM!

Yes. I do.

I started watching Rocketboom very infrequently about a year ago, then I bought an iPod Video (after losing my iPod nano) and that made it easy to watch videos when I was on the road traveling.

Right now, I’ve got a good 30 episodes of Rocketboom in iTunes that hadn’t been watched as of this morning… but I’ve watched 10 or so of them on my flights… love it, love it, love it. (I really only watch Rocketboom, or listen to podcasts in general for that matter, when I’m on a flight or in the car for longer than 5 minutes – no I don’t drive and watch Rocketboom on my iPod at the same time)

Thanks Amanda and Peter. Keep it up!

Oh, and I loved the TRM advertisements you made… very cool and fun. Think they’d sell me one? Who do I call? I need an ATM for the kitchen… I’ll put it right next to the microwave.

Love it when you use the word “verily” makes me think of Emily Bronte.

Jarhead

I haven’t written a movie review in ages, but since I’m on a plane heading home from Columbus, Ohio (where it was frickin’ cold today, btw) and I just finished watching it… I feel I have to.

This movie kicks ass! Seriously.

I was in the Corps at A&M in college, then spent a few years in the Army before I got a cush job in the real world… watching Jarhead brought it all back. No, I didn’t ever have to go to war, never even close, but just about every scene in Jarhead brought up two feelings:

1) Joy and Exultation: joy to know what it’s like to experience the twisted comraderie that military experiences make you feel… you may not realize it while you’re experiencing the pain, agony, etc… but looking back on them, you feel a common bond with anyone else that’s gone through that type of experience.

2) Apprehension and great sadness: To watch those young Marines head cheer about heading off into battle, as enthusiastic as they are, knowing full well that they don’t realize the peril they’re facing… nor have they yet realized how much the mundaneness of their daily existence while they “wait and wait” while the politicians figure out if they are going to get to do their jobs gets figured out.

Great flick. If you ever spent time in a miliary environment: highly recommended!

Click the image above for a 3 minute preview of the movie’s beginning… and just for you that are wondering, I rip DVDs to my hard drive before I get on an airplane, so I can watch the movie(s) on the flights without having to deal with the DVD media, and so I can carry 2-3 with me at anytime (it also helps people watch them from my FrontRow enabled iMac at home when we have guests in the guestroom that wanna watch a movie).

Apple features EchoStorm

This is too cool: Apple has posted a case study about EchoStorm which just happens to be run my David Barton and Jason Barton… old friends from my Mac Web days. Congrats Jason and David. Nice feature… and nice little business you guys are building there!

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On Vacation

Just a note to say that the wife and I are taking a much needed vacation this week. We’ll think of all of you freezing your asses off here in the States, while we’re enjoying ourselves somewhere in the Caribbean (we’ll be on a cruise). If you email me, I won’t reply for at least a week… longer if I fall off the boat.

The Rocking Duck

A few weeks ago, I spotted a Rocking Duck from Playsam in Skandinavia (oh the wonders of the internet) and it was on sale (never mind that the shipping cost as much as the duck).

I ordered one on impulse, because it was so damned cute. It arrived today, so I put it together tonight, and the kiddo gets to try it out tomorrow:

Cool, huh? I’m totally loving it, and loving the linkblog that pointed me to it (whoever that is… sorry, I don’t remember).

Tank Battles

Tank Battles – this gets an old tanker totally psyched… man this would be a time consuming but totally cool hobby!

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How to do what you love

How to do what you love – one of the best essayists around, Paul Graham, teaches us how to do what we love to do. Love it Paul!

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1500

1500 is a great number.

1500 is a number that means a lot to lots of people.

1500 is the designation of Chevy’s standard 1/2 ton pickup truck. A Chevy 1500 is a good truck.

1500 is 3:00 p.m. in the Army. 1500 is a good time to have a meeting in the summer time (it gets you out of the heat) or a good time to be doing maintenance on your tank in the winter (it’s usually the warmest part of the day).

$1,500 is how much I spent on the engagement ring I gave my wife (realize I bought it from my uncle and got a good deal, in my opinion) 10 years ago (has it been that long?)

$1,500 is the amount of money we had budgeted for a cruise vacation in February.

$1,500 is the amount of money I’m going to spend on my cat this week. The cat a kidney stone and will be having major surgery today.

Damnit.

update: the kitty is doing just fine… turns out the kidney stone was actually in his bladder, and was three stones. Without the surgery we’d have had to put him to sleep… which wasn’t an option.

Purchasing Car Parts

This story comes from my Father-in-law, and since I’m really short on time to write up content, I’m posting this here. Hope you enjoy, and that you learn something:

The best advice I can give is shop around. Not just for lowest price but also for highest quality. Normally you wont find both quality and low price in the same place.

As an example, lets take a recent repair requiring parts.

My 1995 Toyota Camry had 144,000 miles on it when the radiator started leaking. In addition, the battery was over four years old and needed replacing to make sure the car would remain dependable. Unknown at the time, the alternator was also ready to fry its regulator and needed repair. I ended up replacing the radiator, battery, repairing the alternator, and installing a new timing belt, waterpump, and camshaft oil seal.

Toyota recommends timing belts be changed out every 60,000 miles. Since these really are belts and not chains, the chance of the belt actually breaking is a real possiblity. If this happens when the engine is running at speed, the loss of syncronization could damage pistons and valves.

The waterpump is hidden under the timing belt cover. The camshaft seal is pressed into the block behind its shaft pulley. Since the timing belt cover needs to be removed to replace the timing belt it makes sense to also replace the seal and waterpump at the same time.

I always like to get the parts I need before I start the job. Sometimes I dont use all the parts I get but they can always be taken back or used at some later date. The important thing is that I have what I need to get the car running again because I will be without decent transportation when the car is partially dissasembled.

So I found myself shopping for radiator, waterpump, timing belt, alternator, and oil seal.

I first checked eBay and on-line internet car parts stores to get an idea of prices. New, genuine Toyota waterpumps were price over $200. Genuine toyota timing belt kits were also offered in the over $200 price range. Genuine Toyota alternators were also $200 plus items. I did not bother to check the radiator prices.

Both the alternators and waterpumps were available as remanufactured for about half the cost of genuine Toyota parts. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing what you get with a remanufactured part. You dont know who did the remanuafacturing, where they are located, or to what specifications they were tested.

No, the brand name is not a sure way of finding out because it is quite possible that one faclity rebuilds on contract for multiple brands. Also, there is no way of being sure that the core that was rebuilt was a genuine Toyota core and not some cheap third party knockoff. Third party knockoffs were also available new at prices less than Toyota was asking. Not surprizing, the warrantys on the the rebuilt and cheap knockoffs were measured in months while the genuine Toyota parts had warrantys measured in years.

You can avoid the high cost of genuine parts and still get genuine parts by buying from a salvage yard that salvages from late model, low milage cars. Of course there is no way of knowing where a salvaged part came from. Most likely it was from vehicle similar to the one being repaired but that is about all that can be determined with any degree of certainty. There is a big difference in price. For instance an alternator for my Toyota could be purchased at a salvage yard for as little as $50. I dont live next to a slavage yard so there would probably be anther $10 t0 $20 involved in shipping the part. Then there is the possible delay involved in waiting on its arrival. Sometimes even a $150 savings may not justify the added work and inconvenience involved.

The alternator was finally taken to a local alternator repair shop. The regulator was replaced and the alternator was tested for proper operation. Cost was $70 including tax.

The timing belt, waterpump, and oil seal were purchased from NAPA along with some degreaser and anifreeze. The total for that came to just under $90. The timing belt was one of the long life, high nitrile belts, costing $34. The waterpump was a well known Japaneese brand and cost $32.

A new radiator was priced at $150 at NAPA. We elected to take the radiator to a radiator repair shop. The shop wanted $100 to repair the radiator. One of the tanks was cracked and the repair was non-trivial. They also offered to sell us a new radiator (aluminum) for $100. We settled on the new, aluminum, radiator.

The battery should have been a no-brainer but turned out to be an education in how badly a consumer could be taken. It would have made sense to go back to the place the old battery had been purchased. After all, it only cost $50 and had served well for over four years. Unfortunately that place was no longer in business so we decided to go to the better known Pep Boys.

The Boys had the battery we needed. They had it in two flavors. One at $56 with a one year warranty, and one at $66 with a two year warranty. We figured $10 bucks up front was better than another $56 after 12 months so we loaded up the $66 battery and headed for the checkout counter. After exchanging some information they claimed they needed for the warranty, the final total came to $87. We declined. There had to be other Mexican battery makers that were not as proud of their product.

Turns out we were right. Walmart offered the same battery with two year warranty for $37.99. We got out of there for $50 and a voucher for a $7 refund if we brought the old battery back.

It took two days and $340 to service the car. Low estimate on having the work done at a garage, a qualified garage (not a dealer), was $1800. You can save quite a bit of green by getting your hands dirty. You can also save quite a bit of green by shopping for parts. The parts we used were of Toyota quality. Had we used genuine, new, Toyota parts, the bill for parts alone would have been upwards, of $700.

There is another way to look at this experience. We like to view this experience from the perspective of having saved money. The other perspective is that you can be taken to the cleaners in a significant way if you are not careful.

Hopefully, I’ll find some time to start posting regularly again soon ;)

Pinewood Freak

Pinewood Freak – a blog for pine wood derby racers. Man times have changed since I was a cub scout! Good job Adam. Keep posting the tips. I’ll need them in about 10 years when my Jack is in cub scouts.

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Mark Cuban’s Investment Advice for 2006

If there is only one article you read this year on investments, read this one from Mark Cuban. It’s the one article I took time to read today…

Funny call with MBNA

This is hilarious: Listen to this guy’s Mp3 of call with MBNA trying to sell him a Visa card. So funny… lol… wait until then end of the call when he get’s mad … “wait a minute lady” … “you ought to quit your job”.

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DaVinci Code Trailer

If you’ve read the book, you really need to go watch the new DaVinci Code Trailer. Looks fantastic, though I don’t know that I’ve have pictured Tom Hanks as the main character when I read the book. If you’re planning on seeing the movie, I’d highly recommend reading the book first, if you haven’t yet. Great story.

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

I’m reminded of the old Dinah Shore and Johnny Mercer tune tonight:

Yes, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside“.

And the funny thing is it’s a lot colder in other parts of the country… like in the single digits in Denver and Chicago… brrrrrr.

Mexican Martini vs. the Margarita

On the difference between the Mexican Martini and the Margarita – I love me a Mexican Martini.

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The Darkness

If you’re a Queen fan, you should probably check out The Darkness, a Rock and Roll band from Britain that definitely sounds like modern day Queen.


Click for larger image

The iTMS has an exclusive EP for sale, but it’s not available for US iTMS shoppers… the other albums and singles are though.

Totally cool, and a great new band to put into the ol’ iPod.

Rock on!