Sunday, December 31, 2006

What we loved, hated, and wished we loved - 2006.

This is the time of year when we review how products held up for the year. It is super easy to get excited about a new toy - but much less easy to be excited after a year of use. This is how things worked out for us.

First lets start with the things we love.

1. Weaknees. Hands down - the best customer support on the planet.



Way back here I was crying and bitching like a little girl about our Series 3 Tivo. Weaknees had a fix 3 weeks after I made that entry.

We paid to ship the box back to them. Weaknees sent us an email saying it was on its way back to our doorstep before I knew the machine had arrived at their support department. They turned the machine around with the upgrade in 1 day.

The drive is now completely quiet. The fix far surpassed our expectations.

2. The 2006 Pontiac Solstice.



Driving this car is like being one of the prettiest girls at every party. Even the drivers of more expensive exotic sports cars will turn to look when you drive down the road. You get so much attention - it actually freaked me out for a while to drive it.

People are more courteous to you, even while in bumper to bumper traffic. Driving the car is only half of why this was a great purchase. The buying experience is the other half.

Back in the spring these were pretty hard to find. There was about a 10% mark-up because of this. I started calling every Pontiac dealer-ship in Silicon Valley, and happened upon Lehmers Pontiac in Concord Ca. The dealer-ship quoted me a price over the phone. Because they were charging well under the 10% mark-up we went down that night.

They handed us the keys and let us take it for a drive. We were already sold at the point.. we just needed to make sure the car would comfortably fit someone who was tall. A very fun car - but the most impressive part of the experience is when we went to sign all the paperwork - the price was exactly the same as we were quoted. They didn't try to sell us anything extra. It was hands down the best car buying experience I've ever had. Dare I say.. even pleasant. We didn't even walk out with that feeling most people get from buying a car - screwed. The service department is equally impressive.

3. Fisher Paykel "Dish Drawer" dishwasher.



When I first saw these things I hated them. I thought there were a needlessly up-scale product. What caused us to buy one was the idea that you can run a load in each drawer independently. And I can not enphasize enough how useful that feature is.

4. Amazon.com & Amazon Prime

Often Amazon has items at our doorstep within 24 hours. Sometimes I think they ship products to us even before we realize we want them.

5. American Power Conversion UPS.

You can read about our experience here. We were so happy with the product we bought two more of them.

6. Pacific Laser Systems laser meter.



Lets face it.. everything can be made better with lasers - but if you do any remodeling you just have to get one of these.

7. On-Star.

We wound up using the system 3 times this year. Late this summer when a girl wound up rolling her car a couple of cars in front of my husband. When I hit that dog - here. And once for a road hazard.

I never in a million years thought we use ever use the system when he bought it.. but it really is worth the monthly fee to not have to search for emergency numbers in the middle of a crisis.

The feature that makes us even happier is the On-Star/Verizon partnership that enables us to use the hands free car-phone to link with the Verizon service. The car phone never cuts out like our normal Verizon cell phone service. Traveling the same span of road the cell phone will cut out on average 2 times. The car phone - never.

Next up - things we wished we loved.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Another Comcast Rant.

I swear to you - Comcast will not rest until they have you resent every experience you have with them.

Listen.. one of the few - and I stress FEW - good features Comcast Cable had going for them was the ability to watch trailers for movies. I have purchased a lot of movies I would have never chosen to buy if I hadn't been given the choice of watching a trailer.

With so much media choice I forget what a movie is about by the time I get around to viewing it. Yes.. I'm ADD to the hilt.

So this week - while wanting to figure out if we wanted to buy a movie - we were greeted with this new gem.




You can not turn it off. And it is really f-ing annoying.

I can only guess they did this because the menu system for buying movies through Comcast is really cumbersome. So.. why fix that? Just make it so your customers have a hard time trying to actually view the preview. Oh.. or make it even better by letting this fuck-tard talk about 2 minutes before letting you see a 1 minute clip.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

All for the sake of vanity.



Okay... I'll admit it. I was pretty blessed in the acne department. As a kid I rarely had blemishes. As an adult I occasionally get a blemish or two. They always come in these weird spots that hurt like hell. Like the corner of your lip or right on the tip of your nose. But with new technology why should I even suffer with those?

So when I got this little Zeno device which was suppose to rid me of these fall-backs to adolescence I was super skeptical. After all - blemishes are a way of life. You just suck it up and pretend you don't think everyone is looking at the giant zit on your nose. Which they are.

So far I'm loving this thing. It turns you into a pimple monkey. Searching your whole body for even the slightest blemish to target. I almost can't wait to get acne so I can play with the device. It has a super great ipod-ish sleek design.

It does take 2 minutes per application. But what else are teenagers going to do when they are sitting at home without a date from pizza face?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Lasers - lasers - lasers.

Lets face it... you can get us to buy anything if it has lasers in it. Lasers are the geek equivalent of a disco ball.



I haven't actually done much more than turn the thing on... but I do have to give some feedback so far on the company I-Tech.

When I started looking at these things before Christmas, I couldn't find them in stock anywhere but from the company web-site- which I have to say put me off just a tad.

The web order form was a little well... low tech looking. I couldn't get through on the phone the first time I tried. So I e-mailed the company. A gentleman named Eyal responded within a few hours. I was still unsure if I was just throwing money away, but I took the chance and placed the order after being told they were expecting an order from Israel, and we would have our shiny new toy by Christmas. Honestly.. I had low expectations... I never thought it would come before the holiday.

They delivered almost a week early. I like companies who respond to customers quickly, and ship on time. I will post a review a little later on. I already notice there is some dependency on how you hold your hands. The keyboard is not as responsive to the way I type vs. my husband. We can't figure out why yet.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Over-achieving Christmas!



Turns out I have a little sugar fetish. Not just any sugar.. but the large crystallized colored kind. Normally when I make Cherry Pie I just put some jumble of of red and purple. It comes out very pop-tart-ish. I don't know why but these sugars keep their shape and don't melt all over the place. So it gives the top an interesting crunchy quality.

So when I was in the store last.. I thought "maybe I'll just pick up another color", but they had this whole rack which made me go crazy and say -fuck it- and I got all the colors. This was the end result. My husband is a co-conspirator.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Living with E. Cuniculi in Rabbits.

This entry is really for search engine purposes. My regular eclectic readers should probably just pass this entry by.

It is always so crazy how life snaps you awake. And maybe it wouldn't have meant anything except it happened a year ago this week. It was the last thing on my mind. I'm just going to the vet to pick up eye lube for Jane. But there it is...in our file.. a printout.

You see about a month ago we had a titer retest on our bunny Fudge who had previously tested positive for E. Cuniculi. This - the 4th test - was negative. This was surprising, considering this was not thought to happen. One of the staff had done some research and placed this printout in our file for us. But oddly - I went in today. A year after we learned about this disease by a fatality. Our girl Amber. She tested E. Cuniculi titer positive at .1803. High positive. Before this, we knew nothing about it.

I told myself when I could - I would make an entry for those searching for information about having rabbits who have positive titers for E. Cuniculi. Mostly because there is come debate about what happens to rabbits who are infected.

We immediately set to get everyone tested. We thought because they all live within 25 feet of another there might be other losses. At the time we thought any testing positive would meet the same fate as Amber. What we found out was pretty interesting.

Amber - who tested the highest was 1.803. She was 3 years old.

Willow - tested at 1.083. We thought he might not live since he was very high. Even thought he was the healthiest bunny we had/have.

Jane - Willows' mate tested at 0.536

Fudge - who was housed next to them tested at 0.436

Paisley - housed the furthest away tested at 0.284

Kirby - housed 2nd to closest, tested Negative 0.139

We were amazed that a house full of positives would produce a single negative. Kirby. It also made trying to figure out how we became infected hard. We had gotten Kirby in the middle of the pack. Those before and after her were possitive.

There was much discussion about re-testing with our vet. Since there has been very little positive information about treating for this illness, we collectively decided that now we have a base titer count we will wait and see. If anyone shows signs of anything - we will retest.

Willow was the obvious one to watch. His count is very high. He is going on 9 years, and is perfectly healthy. At this point, one could cautiously hope he will die from old age rather than E. Cuniculi. We don't know when he was infected.

Jane also seemed greatest as risk. She and Willow lived together. This was about the time her Glaucoma acted up. We also thought it was E. Cuniculi related and that she might perish. The eye turned out to be Primary Glaucoma, and she has also been very healthy now that they eye has stabilized for right now.

Fudge seemed in the grey area, but he has had more health problems - so has been tested 4 times. Positive 0.436, negligible, undetermined once, then Negative. He is also about 9 years old.

Who knows how this will turn out, but it is interesting just with our own small control group.

To learn about E. Cuniculi (Encephalitozoon Cuniculi) go here, here and here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Laundry Room Project

Another project we are trying to get finished is our laundry room. Some may remember we had to kick our contractors off the job earlier in the year here. So we are putting the cabinets up ourselves.

My husband and I took a little while to figure out what cabinets we wanted. A lot of our projects spend a lot of time in design. This is the rendering my husband did.



This is where we are at right now.



And I managed to find a before picture. One thing we are really bad at is taking before pictures. This is from the very first day we viewed the house, and the room really was that yellow.



The only hold-up?

Since we aren't contractors and can be slightly impulsive we sometimes run into roadblocks right when we get to them. It started out we were only going to set the larger cabinets, but that made the room look out of proportion. So we set out to the cabinet warehouse to buy what we thought was a standard 12inch cabinet addition. Of course... nothing we ever want comes in the sizes we want, so we wound up with 14 inch.



We get one up and notice we didn't account for that outlet. Now we have an add on project or ripping the wall open and rotating that outlet. But...it is way better than having to bitch about having someone else do it. I am pretty done with contractors for the year.

Links to other tile projects here.

Data closet.

Well... nothing has been pissing me off this week.

Got my cards in the mail last night. Which is a project I of course hate. When I got to one of those boxes they have on the street a gentleman was dropping off his cards also. He said he had just come from the post office and the boxes there were full. This was late night. When he went to shove his cards in the street box, this one was completely full too. So I crammed mine in there being really glad I don't send checks to anyone.

I'm mostly on technology reviewing hiatus until after the holidays. I don't want to spoil any fun surprises for my husband. I will be doing a best and worst of the year update.

So.. I'm just going to tell you what we have been working on. This weekend we made more progress on our data closet. In the beginning this seemed like a really simple project to do. But finding wire the was not only strong enough to hold tower machines - which will be on the bottom shelf - was not easy. Also, finding wire that would fit the general size of the closet without some wacky modification was much harder than it seems. Only one company we found - The shelvingsource.com had our size and they shipped it to us in 2 days (kudos to them) after I had a bitchfest here. So hopefully by next weekend my Alienware machine will have a permanent home.

I know you are saying "just stick in a shelf for f's sake". Well.. that would be the easy thing to do. We don't work that way. Also that is a big dust black-hole. The wire shelf method makes it much easier to keep the dust from collecting around the machines, and you don't have to move everything to dust.

I can't wait to sell this house and hear the feedback from our realtor when a prospective buyer wonders why the hell there are so many GFI power outlets in a bedroom closet.

Saffron has an oral fixation.



Links to other bunny pictures on this site here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How companies make it hard to buy from them.

Today I will be blog-burning Calyx&Corolla. Which is a bummer because they send phenomenal flowers. This is not my issue. Oddly - customer service is not my issue either. They have really good customer service.

Okay - I don't know about you, but sending flowers should be almost as fun as getting flowers. It is flowers for f's sake.

So, when my mother-in-law's birthday and imminent retirement came up this week, I wanted to send a huge bouquet. My mother-in-law loves to show off how much her kids love her. After all - this would be last big bragging opportunity. She can always brag to her friends.... but not quite as fun as bragging to all of her co-workers.

So I hopped over to the Calyx&Corolla web-site. It took me a while to decide, because this is the off season. Not as much selection, but that is to be expected.

This is the arraignment. Not my favorite. But...I thought my mother-in-law would like them.



Looking at the vase on the picture I knew it wouldn't be able to fit the extra large bouquet with 20 stems listed with this display. So I set off to find a vase of similar hight but a wider size from their list here.

After I had made a choice I called the company. Let me tell you, I'm not the kind of person who loves to take up customer service time. I would have loved to just order from the web-site, but I wanted to make sure the flowers fit the vase. When I asked the rep to make sure the flowers will fit, this set off on a 30 minute process of elimination call. I would have canceled the order all-together if I hadn't always gotten reports of amazing flowers sent from them. I kept apologizing over and over for taking up so much of her time.

The service rep pointed out that the flowers themselves are 18-22 inches tall. Anything in the 9 inch tall range is really pushing it. I would have just preferred to get a plain glass vase like the one featured here.. but that also wasn't going to be big enough. So basically my choice are this and this. And let me tell you.. if you have to call it an urn, that should give you a hint that most people will not buy it unless being sent to a mortuary. Sadly.. I'm pretty sure I already sent her a big bouquet of sun-flowers in this same exact vase this spring.

I started buying from Calyx&Corolla because one time I sent my mother-in-law flowers, and like all mother-in-laws she wanted to brag - and wound up sending us a picture of the bouquet we sent. Lets just say the contracted FTD company made liberal substitutions. I was not happy. Calyx&Corolla has never done that to us. We have spent really a lot of money with them. Especially this year. I don't know why they offer extra large bouquets if they aren't going to provide a vase choice. Its almost like they don't really want you to spend more money. I'm not even asking for anything amazing. Just a simple glass vase like the one they list with the arrangement. Right now I'm thinking the arrangement and vase look like really wild wallpaper.

Monday, December 11, 2006

What can you say?

Why the holidays suck.

1. Inconsiderate people. Obviously there are millions of examples.. but my husband related this one to me this weekend. He went into the post office just to mail a letter. Already stamped.. it just had to be slid into the slot in the wall. A woman apparently was at the front of the line placing stamps on envelopes one at a time and sliding them into the slot. This created a line where no line should ever exist. You just slide your stuff in and walk away. But this woman couldn't move to one of the tables and place stamps on her crappy cards - she had to do it right in front of the slot so other people had to wait for her.

2. Putting cranberries on everything. I hate that - and I love cranberries. I really don't want to get a salad that I have ordered 100 times previously and find it has cranberries on it. Since I always think a customer who complains is going to have ass rubbed on their food I never fuss about this kind of thing. I'd rather suck it up and pick them off - but please stop already.

3. The incessant need to have parties. Especially the office cubemunity parties. This is always a great fun because you really can't drink, and you can't tell outrageous stories. I mean... you can - in a sort of career limiting move.

4. Crappy cards. I am always under huge pressure about this whole card issue. Personally when I send a card I want people to think it was meaningful. I understand most of the world does not agree with me.. but honestly, can't the people at Hallmark step it up a bit and be a little more creative?

5. The old people. I know.. I'm an asshole about the old people. The holidays make them swarm out of their retirement villages like pouring hot water into an ant colony. And half of them have barely spent two days out of the lazy-boy rocker the whole year - so they are hobbling around like a toddler taking their first steps.

6. People who don't look before before walking out in front of cars. Okay.. this isn't really as much of a holiday issue and just something that really annoys me.. but the holidays make it much worse.

Stay tuned for additions...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It was all for nothing.

I have to admit, I'm not sure how I feel about this press release right now. I really expected them to only be sentenced right about now. I think I feel incredulous, and in a little shock.

Mostly I think it is really f-ed up that two men are going away for life for such a stupid f-ed up reason. From the day the allegations were read I was sure this would end just this way, but by a jury trial. I can't help but think about the huge amount of taxpayer dollars the city expended for these three men when they could have pled out three years ago. A huge jury pool was pulled upon. By my estimate around 800 people.

I am also a little perplexed the reason they pled was "to save the uncertainty of a trial." I am trying to understand how that played out, since I tapped out 2 days before they pled. I don't understand how the circumstances changed. I could almost bet they all ratted each other out, and there are video tapes of them giving each other up. So I just don't get it.

And lastly, as unfortunate as it sounds, I am 100% confident Defendant #3 will be back in the system. He was the youngest. You could tell he felt confident he would get a light sentence. While the other two men never turned around, Defendant #3 could often be seen smiling as he looked around the jury audience. Many times he would be trying to catch the eye of a few people - one who I would later come to understand was his baby momma. One of the last days of my service Defendant #3's lawyer walked right up to her and gave her a note. I was sitting a couple of rows behind her and to the left. From her response it clearly seemed like a love note. She seemed euphoric, and when he would catch her eye they would both smile at each other. How sweet.

Meanwhile the death-count marches on in Murder Mecca. 138 for the year.

11/15/06 7:20 PST

In an unusual legal move, an (city deleted) man has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other charges and accepted a state prison term of 35 years to life for killing a 19-year-old man three years ago.

Defendant 1, 37, pleaded guilty in the courtroom of (county deleted) Superior Court (Judge Deleted) Tuesday on the eve of a trial that he and two other men faced for the shooting death of Victim 1 in the 300 block of (Street and City Deleted) about 11 p.m. on March 25, 2003.

Three other people have also died in the aftermath of that bloody night.

Co-defendants (Defendant 2), 31, and (Defendant 3), 23, who is Defendant 1's stepson, also pleaded guilty to various charges after nearly two weeks of jury selection in the case.

"It's not every day that you find a defendant willing to plead to first-degree murder and accept a term of 35 years to life," said Deputy District Attorney (name deleted).

He said, "It took us all a little bit by surprise."

Deputy District Attorney said Victim 1 and his best friend, Victim 2, who was 17 at the time, were leaning against a car outside Victim 2' girlfriend's house when a blue van pulled up.

He said Defendant 2 and Defendant 1 got out of the van and accused Victim 1 and Victim 2 of taking a gun from them, but Victim 1 and Victum 2 said they hadn't done so.

The (Prosecutor) said Defendant 1 then opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol, striking Victim 2 and Victim 1.

Witnesses to the shooting turned and ran, so the van pursued them and Defenant 2 fired at them with an assault rifle but didn't strike anyone, (Deputy District Attorney) said.

Defendant 1 was arrested immediately after the shooting and Defendant 2 was found several hours later hiding in a nearby house. Defendant 3 was arrested in January of 2004.

Victim 1 suffered a massive head wound and never regained consciousness. He died 11 days after the shooting.

Victim 2 was paralyzed from the neck down, required a ventilator to breathe and was on life support. He died in August.

(Deputy District Attorney) said 38-year-old Victim 3 had been in the van with Defendant 1 and Defendant 2 and told (city Deleted) police the day after the shooting that the two men were responsible.

A week later, she was murdered in the (Street Deleted), in the same area as the original incident, he said.

Another witness, 22-year-old (Name Deleted), was murdered in broad daylight on June 14, 2003, in the parking lot of a KFC restaurant on (Street and City Deleted), according to Deputy District Attorney.

The murders of Victim 3 and Victim 4 remain unsolved, he said.

Defendant 1 pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and to using a weapon. Two attempted murder charges against him were dismissed as part of the plea deal.

Defendant 2 pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder, using a weapon, being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and possession of drugs and a gun. One count each of murder and attempted murder were dismissed. He accepted a 35-year state prison term.

Defendant 3 was also charged with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder but was allowed to plead guilty to being an accessory after the fact.

He accepted a sentence of four years and eight months, but was given credit for the time he already has spent in jail and was released from custody Tuesday night.

All three men are scheduled to be formally sentenced by (Judge Deleted) on Feb. 28.

Deputy District Attorney said he accepted the guilty pleas and dropped or reduced some charges "to save the uncertainty of a trial."

He said the families of Victim 1 and Victim 2 "are very happy to put the court part of this behind them."

Defendant 3 attorney, (Attorney name deleted), said he didn't fire any shots and his only role in the crime was to drive Defendant 1 and Defendant 2 away from the scene.

Attorney 3 said Defendant 3 actually was a friend of Victim 1 and Victim 2 but fell under the influence of Defendant 1 and Defendant 2, who are much older.

Defendant 1 was dating Defenant 3's mother at the time of the shooting and later married her, Attorney 3 said.

Defendant 1's attorney, Attorney 1, couldn't be reached for comment today.

Attorney 3 said Defendant 1 agreed to plead guilty because he had faced up to four life terms plus 75 years in state prison if he'd been convicted of all the charges against him.

Defendant 2's attorney, Attorney 2, also couldn't be reached for comment.


Beginning of story.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The best 75 bucks we ever spent.

Normally - I am complaining about technology gone wrong, and how the man is trying to keep me down by not satisfying my customer service needs.... but not today.

Back-story
It all started last night about 8:20. We were blissfully watching The Amazing Race. It is down to the finally three.. so you know how world shatteringly important it was to see this episode. All of a sudden darkness. The power makes a feeble attempt to restart itself, comes on for a second, and goes down hard.

Out the living room window I see the sky light up.

It isn't that unusual for our grid to go down, but we started to notice a large swath of town was out. This was much bigger than we initially thought. At first we figured it was just our grid, but I'd say maybe 10 grids were down. We think "wow, what the hell happened - this is something more than just a power pole being taken out".

So we did the unsafe - unwise thing of getting in our car to see if we could find where the damage was. In my defense, the cities generators were powering all the lights. So really we weren't creating a safety hazard.

We find where the problem is, and the whole street is blocked off. Since we can't see anything we go back home. We still don't know exactly what the problem is. My mind immediately starts thinking that our emergency scanner isn't charged, and I become a little bummed. Mostly because we would be able to find out what happened, but it is also very helpful in finding out when PG&E expects to get things fixed.

I turn on the scanner hoping it would have just enough charge that it will run for a little while. Even though I know last power outage I ran it dead, and I didn't re-charge it. This is where the great part comes in.

We had just installed on of these battery back-ups from American Power Conversion:


Click to go to site.

Since we have so many very short power hits - we wanted to make sure they didn't wreck our TV. We just wanted something to regulate the power and shut everything down gracefully.

So - I'm flipping around with the scanner and my husband says " you know if we un-plug one of these devices maybe the UPS will have enough power to run the scanner. "Holy crap.... thats brilliant I say".

These UPS's say they will run a computer for about 15 minutes, so we didn't expect it to keep the power on very long. Slightly longer than a computer. After all.. we still have the TIVO plugged in hoping the cable company is still on the grid. After a little more than an hour the power comes back on. To our complete delight the UPS was able to keep the power on our TIVO and was able to record 45 minutes of The Amazing Race. We didn't miss one minute.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Who's brilliant marketing idea was this?



I was "all better" enough to brave a little technology shopping today, and these things struck me as odd.

This store display makes it look like there is no music on Sirius Satellite radio. And really - that can be debated. I mean... do I even need to make a comment about 50cent being grouped with Anderson Cooper, Martha Stewart, and O'Reilly? Couldn't Sirius get some washed up rockers like Ted Nugent, Sebastian Bach or Bob Dylan? Or wait... Bob is over there on XM.

Shouldn't these companies be at least trying to attract the iPod set? You know.... the 15 to 45 year old demographic. Does anyone under 30 even listen to Sirius? Really - I am curious. We subscribe to both XM and Sirius and even I wouldn't buy them based on this store display.

Oh yeah.... do we really need devices where the wire wrap anti-theft device is almost as big as the product you are selling?

 
http://www.wikio.com