Junk mail finds you

May 15th, 2007

It’s amazing how fast junk mail finds you.  After moving into my new place in March, it didn’t take more than 7 days for new junk mail with my name on it to show up in my mailbox.  I purposefully did not fill out a NCOA (National Change of Address) at the post office… since after working at a credit card company, I know about how databases are updated with NCOA info.  NCOA updates are usually considered the most reliable addresses for marketers, so even businesses with small marketing budgets will target NCOA folks.  I’m guessing that my name was found by recording my property deed with the county.  Either that, or my mortgage/escrow company sold my new address.  If you do move, one good thing is getting a bunch of coupons for local businesses…. so if you are planning on buying something from a hardware store, or crate & barrel, or any other housewares store, update your name/address at your local county recorder or NCOA (even changing your middle initial) and you should get a bunch of “welcome to the neighborhood” coupons.  At least junk mail comes with coupons… spam email on the other hand is just crap.

It’s horsey o’clock

May 9th, 2007

I just got back from a great weekend in Louisville, Kentucky.  This past weekend was the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby and my first time to the bluegrass state.  Each year, a crew of my college friends gets together for a weekend trip to reconnect.  This year’s trip to Churchill Downs was our 2007 get together.  Thursday night was a typical night out on the town with other rowdy crowds in for the weekend festivities.  Our hotel was great in that it offered complimentary mint juleps upon arrival.  I’ve seen free cookies or fruit, but booze when checking in was amazing.  Friday started with the typical country-style breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.  I’m sure those from the south see the C-B as something akin to Denny’s or other simple restaurant chains.  Since we were from Philly, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, the southern breakfast was a real treat.  From sweet-tea to cheese-eggs and grits, it surely filled us up for the remainder of the day.  We spent the next few hours finding auto repair shops to try and fix Adam’s Saab.  One of the vacuum hoses that controlled idling was broken and held on by duct tape.  When it would detach, the car would idle at 3,000 RPMs rather than the normal 1,100 RPMs.  Not good.  We found a few temporary solutions that would enable Adam to drive back to Philly on Sunday.  Apparently, Louisville doesn’t have many Saabs on the road, so parts were very hard to come by.  We spent the evening in the hotel chillin and playing jenga.  We had to take it easy since we wanted to get up early for Derby day.

We arrived at the Univ of Louisville parking lot at 8:30am to begin tailgating.  You’d think that with the Derby race at 6pm, we would be the only ones there that early.  You’d be wrong.  There were RV’s, horseshoe games, tents setup and thousands of folks sharing in our pre-derby celebrations.  The morning flew by and we made a bunch of friends, some of who we ran into later on in the throngs of people in the infield.  We got to the track at midday and made our first bets on race #3.  Surprisingly, a few of us won… not big, but enough to buy a drink or two.  The rest of the races were losers, but it still was a grand ol’ time.  The queen was supposed to arrive at Churchill downs, but I guess she wasn’t partying in the infield, so we missed her.  The race itself was fast, but the whole day was full of debauchery that reminded me of football tailgating with people taking every available square of grass to park their picnic blankets.

Louisville did leave a lasting impression on us.  The city knew thousands of people would come and therefore took advantage of the weekend visitors.  Prices went through the roof.  I understand that hotels can charge rack rate, and race vendors charge $4 for a soda, but regulated rates, such as taxi-cabs, were doubled or tripled during race weekend.  A cab to the hotel on Thurs was $24, but returning to the airport on Sunday was $50.  We even went into a bar that had a sign that said “$2 shot special ALLDAY EVERYDAY”.  After ordering a round of shots, my friend got the bill and because it was Derby weekend, the price was $10 per shot.  Without taking down the $2 sign OR putting up a $10 sign, the bar seemed to just make it’s own weekend prices.  I think it made the whole city seem greedy and I’d think twice about going back.  If the city is trying to make a positive impression on thousands of folks who may be visiting Louisville for the first time, it surely isn’t doing a great job.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a superb weekend… but Louisville has a lot to learn when it comes to treating its visitors fairly.

Visit from the parents

April 30th, 2007

My folks were up in Seattle visiting this past week…. and while they make up about half of my regular readership, I’ll still provide a few details on their recent visit. They mostly came up to see my house and do a few odd fixes that needed attention. Fixing loose plumbing fixtures, electrical boxes and door locks were typical changes needed for this 23 year old house. Besides getting the house in order, we also got a good helping of home-cooked food…mmm, quiche was good. We made a Costco run while they were here and added a highly anticipated device to my kitchen arsenal…. a deep fryer. With this new equipment, I’m looking forward to having a deep-fry party, where everyone brings something to fry up…. whether it’s something normal, like meat or veggies, or weird like twinkies and sushi, there’s gonna be some good ol’ frying happening in this house. If you have interesting ideas on what I can drop into the fryer, let me know.

Spring brings sports & addictive television

April 11th, 2007

With April’s arrival comes another season of Mariner baseball. The team ain’t so bad this year, so far. They’re 3-2 and well rested after the snowstorm postponed games last weekend. I’m planning to go to Friday & Saturday’s games, so I’ll post pictures afterwards. Softball season is once again starting up, this time in a different community league. Apparently, the softball league we played in last year (where we were champions) didn’t have room for us this year…. so we have to play elsewhere. This isn’t the first time I haven’t been invited back after winning the previous year. Oh well.

April also bring some new addictive television. New seasons of The Deadliest Catch and Dog the Bounty Hunter just started and i just added it to the record list. The Deadliest Catch follows the Alaskan crab fishermen and is full of drama and dangerous activities. Dog the Bounty Hunter follows an unsophisticated family of bounty hunters tracking fugitives in my hometown of Hawaii. Their intentions are good, even though their methods may be a little “whiskey-tango”. Both shows have grown cult followings and I’m guessing this won’t be the last season of either one. Thank goodness for springtime and all it brings.

Get a $25 Safeway gift card

April 1st, 2007

Every once in awhile, there’s a weird sale.  I stumbled upon one this past week here at the Seattle Safeway.  They offered a free $25 gift card just for buying 10 “qualifying” items in one purchase.  Now, depending on what the items are, it may be good or bad.  Lucky for me, the qualifying items included 12-packs of coke and Hebrew National hot dogs.  Armed with my strategy to buy 10 items, I loaded up my shopping cart with eight 12-packs of Coke Zero (stuff actually does taste very close to the real Coke) and two packages of Hebrew National Franks.  10 items, check.  The hot dogs were $2.50 each and the coke was $3.50 each.  Doing the math, that’s a total of $33.00.  Factoring in the $25 gift card brings the total down to $8.  Not bad…. if the qualifying items were jars of mayonaise or bottles of prune juice, I may not have gone for it.  But since it was stuff that’s useful, sode and hot dogs, it made sense.  I’m not a 25-cent coupon-clipping fanatic, but if the discount can be calculated in dollars, or tens-of-dollars, then I’m all over it.

Tivo easily outperforms Comcast’s DVR

March 28th, 2007

After being a Tivo user for the past 5 years, I always thought other DVRs worked similarly. I was wrong. I recently started using Comcast’s HD-DVR and so far I am not impressed with the interface. To show that I’m not totally one-sided, there is one good feature that the Comcast DVR has; in that it shows a small screen of your TV show when perusing the schedule. I like being able to still watch the show while looking at the TV listings. Now let’s get to the things that make the Tivo better than the Comcast DVR.

  • The Tivo dual tuner lets you cache 2 different shows, so you can flip back and forth between them and miss the commercials. The Comcast DVR has dual tuners, but it only caches 1 tuner. The other tuner is used ONLY for recording purposes. So if you’re flipping back and forth between 2 shows, you lose your cached memory each time you switch channels.
  • When recording a series on the Comcast DVR, the default setting only records the show at THAT particular time. Example, if you want to record all new episodes of Heroes, it will only record episodes that start at 10pm (since the first episode on the list starts at 10pm). This is bad, since if NBC moves Heroes to 9pm one week, the Comcast DVR won’t find it. Tivo’s Season Pass WILL find all episodes of Heroes, no matter when it plays. You can manually change the Comcast DVR to record Heroes “anytime” a new episode plays, but shouldn’t that be the default setting?
  • The Comcast DVR uses only part of the screen for showing TV listings and DVR listings.  This limits what can be seen on 1 page.  Too much remote surfing required.
  • It seems like the Tivo has a quicker response to remote functions.  The Comcast remote either takes longer to process or something…. since it’s driving me crazy when I hit the down button 5 times and it only goes down 2 spots.

These are just the few things that have made me wish I still had a Tivo. I’m sure as I use my Comcast DVR more, I’ll get used to this inferior product. But if you have the choice between your cable company’s DVR and a Tivo, and if you can afford the higher cost of the Tivo ($700 for the Series-3 HD version), the Tivo is the way to go, hands down.

Hoyas down the Tar Heels

March 25th, 2007

The showdown was inevitable…. my March Madness bracket had Georgetown winning the entire tournament, and Lee’s bracket had his UNC boys winning it all.  The confrontation would happen in the Elite 8 round, sending either the Hoyas or Tar Heels the Final Four.  It was tough to not root for the Heels, since the LeFever household is true Carolina Blue and I’ve grown to root for UNC (when they’re not playing my Penn Quakers).  Georgetown was down almost the entire game, by as much as 11 points midway through the second half.  Based on how the game was evolving, I figured I would end up losing my bracket.  But in a glass-is-half-full mentality, it would make the LeFever house happy, so a UNC win wouldn’t be that bad.  Fortunately for the Hoyas, they began playing better near the end of the game and hit a 3-pointer to tie the game in the last minute to send it to overtime.  UNC was the better team all day and arguably has the better set of players, but for almost the entire overtime, they could not buy a bucket.  Front rim, side rim, nothing…. the ball was doing everything in its power to not go through the net.  The Hoyas pulled out the comeback-overtime victory much to the dismay of the higher seeded Tar Heels.  While an unfortunate end for UNC, they played well throughout the tournament and had a good season overall.  On the bright side, my bracket is still in contention for the victory, as long as Georgetown beats UCLA in the finals next week.

The new home sweet home

March 23rd, 2007

Finally moved in.  It took about a week to slowly bring things over box by box, but I’m now living in my house.  After living in a small apt during MBA school and living at Lee & Sachi’s house for the past 18 months, I’ve finally got my own place.  The walls are white, the place is lacking furniture, but it’s perfect for me.  If you’re expecting a housewarming party, don’t get your hopes up…. there’s currently nothing to sit on, no chairs, no couches, no coffee tables, nothing.  That’ll eventually change, but for now it’s a blank canvas.

Lee & Sachi came over a few days ago to help move some stuff.  They brought the black dog with them, since Amos may on occasion need a babysitter and it’s good to introduce him to the new surroundings.  He didn’t like the hardwood floors, since it was slippery under his paws, so he mainly stayed in the carpeted rooms.  When we all went outside to the back deck, he was going around sniffing everywhere, which appeared to be normal investigatory activities for a dog.  What we didn’t realize though was that Amos is trained to go outside to pee/poop, and by walking out to the back deck, it triggered the need to pee/poop.  The back deck has a locked gate that connects to the grassy yard area.  Amos was searching desparately for a way to get to the grassy area before something came out.  We didn’t realize this and all of a sudden…. uh oh, Amos just pooped on the deck.  It was more funny than anything else, since he really tried to find grass, but couldn’t.

My new home base is in the Montlake area, so I’ve got a new neighborhood to explore.  If you have my old address, don’t worry, that still works, since it gives me a reason to visit Lee/Sachi to pick up my mail.   BTW, if you’re watching March Madness, root for G’town to win it all!!! Go Hoyas!

A penny saved is $100 earned

March 17th, 2007

I need a new fridge. But buying a fridge isn’t an easy decision…. since who really keeps up with which are good brands, what’s a good price, or where’s the best place to get one? I went first to the Internet to find places around Seattle that sell refrigerators. Arnold’s, Albert Lee, Sears, & Best Buy made the short list. My first assumption was that a fridge would cost around $400. Wrong! The start below a grand, but can be upwards of $6,000. For that much, I expect to open the refrigerator door and find a chef inside preparing my food for me. About a week ago, I heard about an outlet store that Sears uses to get rid of excess inventory and returned/reconditioned items. The place is way down in Tacoma, which is quite a ways to go to buy an appliance. But for a discount (supposedly 20-40% off retail) I figured it was worth it. When I called yesterday to find out the store hours, the salesperson told me that there would be a St. Patty’s Day sale today (Saturday). As a bonus, the first 25 people thru the door at 8am receive a $100 store coupon. Wow, a sale PLUS a bonus coupon. Count me in. So early this morning, my sister and I drove down to get there by 7:45 (in case there was a line) and got our extra $100 off my fridge. Would you wake up early on a Saturday to get a discount on an appliance? Before today I probably wouldn’t have…. but just goes to show the early bird gets the worm and an extra $100 off. In case you were wondering, I didn’t get the $6000 fridge. My fridge retailed at $2000, but was on sale for $1180, and with the coupon, came down to $1080….. not bad, not bad at all.

(Sachi waiting to get let in to Sears Appliance Outlet at 8am on a Saturday)

Penn vs. Texas A&M (Thurs 3pm EDT)

March 14th, 2007

My beloved Quakers play the over-hyped Aggies of A&M tomorrow in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. If you live near the Lexington, KY area, you’re lucky enough to possibly see the game in-person. Maybe in the Philly area, you’re able to see it on the local CBS affiliate. However, in Seattle, I’m stuck with the local Washington St./Oral Roberts game. Too bad. I guess I won’t be able to see my alma mater play……

And then there was light!

CBS has again made the first few rounds of the tournament available to watch online. All games from all regions can be seen live online. All you have to do is sign-up for March Madness On Demand from CBS Sportsline. If you have a computer nearby, and don’t mind watching a basketball game during work hours, I hope you’ll root for my Penn Quakers on Thursday 3pm EDT (noon PDT, 9am HST).