July 31, 2006

1GB CompactFlash for $31

I know this makes 3 posts about Costco on the front page, but what the hell...

Through today, the 1GB SanDisk Ultra II CompactFlash card has a $15 painless rebate on top of the $46 warehouse price (hop on Costco.com, enter three things from your receipt, receive check).

The resulting final price is $31, which is a damn good deal. While you can purchase up to 3 of 'em at the warehouse price (happy face!), only 1 per membership qualifies for the rebate (sad face!).

These suckers retail for $75 a pop, so stock up at cheapo prices!

If you don't require instant need gratification or don't have a Costco card, Amazon's selling the same cards for $46.73 at the moment.

Posted by Colin at 1:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spreading the word

You are out to lunch with your parents on a Sunday. Your father swallows his bite of appetizer and turns to you.

"Do you have that South Park episode," he asks, "The one about the Mormons?"

You offer him a quizzical look, wondering where on earth this could possibly be going. He's seen it already, after all. But you humor him. "Yeah... Why?"

A grin spreads across his face. Swallowing another bite of artichoke dip, he lays it all out on the table: "Good! Some friends of ours just had their crazy Mormon relatives visiting, and they want to know more about the religion."

You never thought you'd grow up to be an inadvertent Mormon missionary of sorts.

Posted by Colin at 1:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 29, 2006

Printing at the Chandler Costco

I just got an 8x10 back from Costco. Good, but not super quality, because I misremembered the resolution their Noritsu printers are set for. As a result, my images were scaled by the printer software and lost a little bit of detail. (Not enough that anyone else notices it—my parents are thrilled with the quality of the portrait of my brother, but I can see where the softening occurred because I spent hours working on it in Digital Photo Professional and Photoshop.)

So, for the benefit of myself and anyone else in Phoenix printing at the Chandler Galeria Costco store, #736: Their Noritsu 3411 is configured for 320 ppi input. 300 ppi images will be scaled up by the printer and quality will be lost.

Posted by Colin at 4:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Stupid.

Sometimes I manage to amaze myself with my idiocy.

Today is one such day. I'm completely out of clean laundry (save for slacks and dress shirts, which aren't exactly "run errands in 115°" clothing), so I woke up, sorted everything by color and temperature, and started doing laundry.

Two loads in, as I was preparing to go to Costco, Target, and the storage unit (a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and a stick of btuter), I realized the jeans I was wearing—the last pair of clean jeans—were dirty.

So I added them to my jeans load, composed of nothing but jeans and a pair of cargo pants.

If you do laundry often, you can already see where this is going. What I neglected to remember is that denim takes forever to dry. And I'd only made things worse by creating a load of clothes that was essentially nothing but denim. So while the load of jeans did only take 15 minutes to wash, it's been in the dryer for over an hour now and the dial hasn't even begun to budge out of the "Automatic" section.

By the time I have pants, it'll be rush hour.

Posted by Colin at 3:05 PM | Comments (0)

Another one rides the (gay) bus

Look who's newly fabulous: Lance Bass of NSYNC.

I am vindicated! Back when NSYNC was actually still popular, I had an "argument" with two of my NSYNC-loving female friends: Lance, they said, was straight. No way, I said, he's totally gay. "But he has a girlfriend," one or both of them offered. Oh, girls...

Despite being completely lost about Lance, they then went and had a two-person committee that decided I could be bisexual and my friend Gerry and I would make a cute gay couple. I had (and still have) such wonderful friends!

Posted by Colin at 2:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monsooooon!

Monsoon season is here. It's really here, I mean. Not just those wussy storms that have passed for monsoon storms the past several years, but the kind that do it justice: booming thunder, pouring rain that drowns out all other sound, non-stop thunder... It took me back to when I was much younger.

I remember when I was a little one, we used to get out the lawn chairs, open the garage door, and sit in the safety of the garage to watch the storms move through and drop their torrents.

Last night's front (or last night's three fronts converging over the East Valley) was just that kind of storm. Except I watched it through the picture window, instead, which was all the more impressive when the power went out in time to a flash of lightning. And that itself was made more impressive by the lack of incandescent lighting suddenly making the lightning look distinctly blue.

Ah, thunderstorm season, I love you.

Posted by Colin at 11:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 24, 2006

Costco

There are many reasons I renew my Costco membership every year, but as an example, I've been shopping around for seat covers. My driver's seat has been getting pretty worn, and being a '93, Jeep hasn't had replacement fabric for years. About the only option is to go scouring around junkyards looking for a whole new seat and praying the owner wasn't a smoker or some sort of in-car masturbation aficionado.

So the more obvious solution has been to shop for seat covers. There are many custom-fit covers out there in varying levels of quality, but Coverking seems to routinely come out on top.

Which they should—American made and carefully tailor-fit, they run $250 per row of seats for neoprene, both direct from Coverking and at their authorized retailers.

For Costco members, though, the exact same covers can be ordered through costco.com for $165. Someone with more money may disagree, but $85 savings is well worth the price of admission.

Posted by Colin at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2006

The 80s Were Ugly

There's something very important to note in an age where 80s pop culture has—for some inexplicable reason—come back in vogue:

80s fashion has not returned in full force. You don't see young women walking down the streets wearing off-the-shoulder slouch shirts with side ponytails. We're not all seething piles of day-glo fabric.

C'mon, what the hell were we thinking when side ponytails were cool?! Hello? McFly? Anybody? Bueller? That didn't stop half the girls in school from having one, though. With neon green and hot pink scrunchies, no less.

Posted by Colin at 1:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2006

Hmm. Oops.

I was reading something the other day—I don't even remember what—and it contained a Q and A about sensitive teeth.

One of the most common causes, the doctor responding said, was improper toothbrushing habits. People brush side to side and using too much pressure, he said, which tears up your gums and wears on the enamel, creating tiny weak points which your common sensitivity triggers (hot liquid, cold liquid, sweet, and salty) use to infiltrate your tooth and cause you pain.

And as I'm reading this, I realize I'm one of the people he's talking about. I've always found the "little circles" method to be awkward at best, and gave it up for scrubbing side-to-side a couple years ago. Which, perhaps not incoincidentally, is when I started having cold sensitivity in a couple teeth. My most recent brushing habits are perhaps best likened to using a wire brush to scrape old paint off the side of a house; I've now mended my ways.

Posted by Colin at 12:19 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2006

Jiffy Lube

It's always fun when a quick lube place comes up on an automotive forum. Everyone trots out their own "why I started doing my own oil" stories, which invariably involve being ripped off by the quick lube.

Such is my case. Between the insane prices they rocketed to a couple years ago ($40 for an oil change? I could run synthetic for cheaper!) and repeated problems, Jiffy Lube had just about pushed me too far. Left an oily rag on the engine once, constantly tried to sell me air filters by showing me my "dirty" (perfectly clean) air filter, lost three of my filter housing clips... but when I had to have an oil change and didn't have the time to do it elsewhere, I still fell back on Jiffy.

Until the last time. Yes, I needed new wiper blades. And the air filter attempts weren't outright lies, they were just preying on the unknowledgeable applying their household standards for dirty to their car parts.

But the last time, dude completely invented other services to cross-sell me. Shortly after Jiffy Lube had started offering differential fluid changes, I took my Heep in for a quick oil change. It took forever to begin with, but dude came in at the end with differential fluid all over his finger. "Hey, you should really get your differential fluid changed, dude. See this? It's supposed to be a honey color and yours is all dark and shit." (Nothing inspires confidence more than some kid in a jumpsuit telling you your fluids are "all dark and shit.")

Unfortunately for him, I had the upper hand: I'd just had the differential fluid drained and replaced the week prior. Even a complete failure of the differential wouldn't have left the fluid looking that bad in four days' time. I pointed this out, to which his response was well-played: "Well I don't know, man, you should take it back to wherever 'cause it totally looks burnt."

The best part was his mumbling "Damn, this shit stinks. I'm never gonna get that smell off" as he walked back out of the waiting room. Take that, suckafool! Yeah, buddy, all that sulfur in gear oil is pretty stinky. Guess they left that part out in the memo about selling more diff lubes.

Haven't been back to Jiffy Lube since, and nor will I be.

Posted by Colin at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

Grandpa

I do so love it when my father's parents call.

Grandfather: So, how many girlfriends do you have these days?

Me: ...

Grandfather: I bet you have at least one or two, right? How many? Two? Three?

Me: Sure, grandpa, I've got a couple.

Grandfather: I hope some of 'em are lookers. How many of them are real lookers? At least one of 'em, I bet.

Me: Yeah, one of them is pr...

Grandfather: They better be keeping you busy the right way, ha ha!

Me: (Oh Jesus, help me.) Ha ha, yeah... they keep me busy enough.

And then of course comes the inevitable:

Grandfather: You know, your father was about your age when he met your mother.

Me: Oh, was he?

Once in a very, very rare while I manage to escape a phone call with my grandfather completely forgetting to ask about how many women I'm seeing. But the majority of conversations always manage to work it in. We can be discussing something completely unrelated when WHAM! it comes back to my personal life.

If I didn't feel it incredibly rude, my once-and-final answer would be "I'm only in my twenties, and unlike you I'm not expecting to wake up dead tomorrow. Can it." But despite the truth in that statement (they've quit doing a variety of things because it's "too dangerous" and keep trying to get my dad to act like he, too, is in his late 80s and sure to fall apart), and how much I dislike the prodding, something just doesn't feel right about talking to your grandparents that way.

Not those grandparents, anyway. I could get away with talking to my mom's mom that way. She'd think it was a riot. But she also doesn't live like she's going to break a hip (as well she shouldn't, since she's the bionic woman with her state-of-the-art aftermarket replacement parts) and wither away tomorrow. Nor does she pry into who I am or am not dating.

Posted by Colin at 12:23 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2006

Damn Dermis

Dooce's skin cancer scare reminded me that I have a nasty little bugger on my back that I should really go to the doc and have checked out. I'm reasonably certain it's a boring if bizarre freckle, but better safe than sorry.

I've got the exposure history that's pretty much doomed me to being on the lookout for skin cancer the rest of my years. As the result of a braindead babysitter, I suffered second-degree sunburns at a very young age. And I had many, many repeated run-ins with sunburn during my childhood and teenage years due to lackluster reapplication of sunblock and the occasional "eh, I'm not going swimming for that long."

Lately I've been much more cautious about applying sunblock and monitoring my exposure, but I've always thought the Skin Cancer Foundation's recommendation to wear sunblock every day was a little out there, what with the greasy feeling and the stink. Turns out Coppertone brought out not one but two entire oil/fragrance free lines of sunblock while I wasn't paying attention. They even claim they're non-comedogenic, so using them daily shouldn't result in building your own minefield of acne (which has always been a huge problem for me with normal formulas).

I know what I'm going to the store to buy tomorrow. Worst case, it sucks and I go back to staying in the shade as much as possible.

Posted by Colin at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2006

I eat meat.

It's always nice to meet new, interesting people. The kind that you don't mind talking to, that have a brain in their heads, and may even be pleasant to look at. It's sometimes refreshing to talk to someone new without the preconceptions and in-jokes long relationships tend to fall back on.

...Until they divulge that they're militant vegans and PETA members, and your eating meat just won't do.


Sorry, but in my book a well-cooked steak will win out over a relationship every time. Friendship or filet mignon? I'll take the latter, thanks.

Posted by Colin at 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2006

Sekonic L-358 Flash Meter

As I mentioned a couple days ago, I picked up one of Sekonic's incident light meters for a song. I've been drafted to do a bunch of portraits and I've been starting to toy with the idea of using studio strobes, so I really needed (1) something more accurate than the reflective meter in my SLR and (2) something that could meter flash.

Now that I've had a couple days to acclimate to the meter, I'm loving it. The basic functions are easy to figure out without reading the manual, and the rest of the features are really just a matter of trying it once or twice so it sticks. It's quite accurate in my brief experience, as well... It read out the sky in accordance with the Sunny 16 rule. I also shot off three quick shots of myself this morning with great results. Much better than the camera's meter—which eagerly told me I was underexposing by more than two stops—would have given me.

The L-358's a great product. My only complaints with it don't even relate to the functionality of the meter, but peripheral stuff. Stuff like the lanyard, which is not only way too long for human beings to wear (it leaves me with the lightsphere dangling in front of my own dangly bits, quite apropos, eh?), but has a discomforting springy quality to it. Or the carrying case, which is the most vile, retch-inducing kind of pleather China manufactures: Sure, it looks like leather, but it smells like an industrial accident at a chemical plant.

If you need or want a meter, I'd definitely recommend it. Not that you really have much of a choice, what with Sony reportedly having zero plans to continue producing Minolta's meters...

Posted by Colin at 1:33 PM | Comments (0)

July 9, 2006

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Tom Negrino made my day when he posted a crazy rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart involving asses hanging out of track pants and kitchen appliances. Granted, even that can't surpass the original Bonnie Tyler video in sheer weirdness, but it's a good watch.

Now for emotion—pure emotion—nothing can beat the lip synced rendition I found on Google Videos: Total Eclipse of the Heart at 90 MPH. The two guys have their moments, but that girl gives Bonnie Tyler a run for her money.

Posted by Colin at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 7, 2006

Hair spray

Today I discovered the wonders of hair spray. I've never been a big hair product consumer. Used mousse for a while in the 80s as a youngin', but since then it's been natural.

The end result of which is usually CrazyHair™ by the middle of the day.

Not today. Today I threw on a wee bit of hairspray. I just looked in the mirror, and behold, my hair looks exactly like it did when I got out of the shower this morning and brushed it into position. I think I will have to invest in more of this foreign substance.

Posted by Colin at 5:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Devil's in the Details

Chrysler is currently offering a 30-day return program on all their new vehicles and advertising the hell out of it: if you try one of their vehicles and decide you don't like it, hey, bring it back!

The fine print pretty much kills it, though.

Right out of the block, you don't qualify if you're trading in. That should skim half the potential customers off the top easily.

Beyond that, though, you get to pay a restocking fee of 5% of the MSRP (not what you paid, but the sticker price—and consider that some models are selling for $10,000 below MSRP right now!) and 50 cents per mile driven.

Just for giggles and to provide numbers, I configured a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo to reflect what I would buy. The MSRP came out to $34,227. My restocking fee alone would be $1,711.35, regardless of the fact I could probably buy that vehicle for $25,000.

This being the Valley, let's assume I commute to and from central Phoenix every day, at a round-trip distance of 40 miles. Again, being Phoenix, let's assume there's a Jeep dealership within 5 miles of me (in my case, there actually is).

Simply by driving off the dealer's lot to my home, I already owe $2.50. After a week of commuting, I owe $105 if I choose to return the vehicle (a total of $1806.35 in return fees). And that's assuming I do nothing but drive straight to work and straight home. But we've got 30 days to make up our mind... what do we owe if we keep it for a month?

Taking this month as our example, we've got 20 weekdays and 8 weekends, ignoring partial weeks. 20 days * 40 miles * $0.50 = $400. Let's say that since it's July, I drive up north one weekend, netting me 250 miles round trip—conservative, yes, but I don't want to overinflate the numbers. 250 * $0.50 = $125. We're now at $525 in mileage fees without ever having done groceries, or gone out to dinner, or grabbed a burger, or stopped at Home Depot... To simulate that, I'll throw an an additional 18 miles for each of the remaining weekend days. 18 miles * 6 days * $0.50 = $54.

In our completely plausible simulation, we're now at $569 in mileage fees, for a total return cost of $2,280.35.

For comparison, it costs $250 to rent a Grand Cherokee for a week at Enterprise. To rent it for a whole month is $1254. Maybe it's just me, but that seems like a much more effective way to try out a vehicle than Chrysler's legalized rape approach.

Posted by Colin at 12:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 6, 2006

When Cameras Attack!

Oh, crappypants.

First it was Dyanna's 300D turned evil.

Now it's mine. For whatever reason, my DRebel has again lost its mind and no longer calculates auto white balance properly. Sure, it's possible to hand tune it after shooting if I shoot in RAW mode, but that's hardly why I bought a DSLR, and it's a pain.

I was having occasional problems before Christmas—a couple photos here or there that would come back funky. During vacation, nothing seemed to untoward and I got lots of nice shots. Back here today... hello, yellow.

The only relief is that I bought mine at Costco, so assuming I can find all the manuals it's just a matter of returning it and getting a refund. It's not a great solution (my camera bag and extra battery would have to be returned too), but it's better than $200+ worth of repairs on a body only worth about $200-$300.

Adding insult to injury, the Sekonic L-358 light meter I bought for portrait shooting should be arriving tomorrow.

Posted by Colin at 7:26 PM | Comments (1)

July 3, 2006

Sony

It's kind of interesting to watch Sony's attempts at imploding.

For example, they plan on bringing "over 7,000" PlayStation games to the PSP. And the PSP needs it, mind you, given its game library is rather sad. Granted, bringing PSX games to the PSP won't solve the PSP's main issue—that it has almost no portable-oriented games—but at least it will raise the bar a little bit.

You'd assume.

Until you consider the rather raging interface problem: The PlayStation's (appropriately named) DualShock had two precise analog sticks. Many of the most popular PSX games used them. And used them both. The PSP, on the other hand, has one rather aggravating analog nipple.

And then there's the issue of buttons. DualShock: 4 shoulder buttons. PSP: Only 2 shoulder buttons. DualShock: Both sticks also press in to act as a button. PSP: Analog nubbin doesn't click.

This isn't to say the games can't be brought to the PSP, but it's interesting that it's being referred to in the gaming press as "emulation" when the PSP is rather incapable of standing in for a PlayStation from a controller point of view. When you look at a popular PlayStation title like the original Syphon Filter, which used every button on the controller and both analog sticks, it's rather difficult to imagine how that would adapt down to the PSP without being rewritten specifically for it.

Also interesting is that the service is rumored (by the official UK PlayStation magazine) to be launching with Final Fantasy 7 and 8 among the available titles—games which shipped on four CDs each for the PlayStation. And the service will supposedly be an online one, where you purchase and download the titles you want to play.

Methinks Sony describing the service as "emulation" will turn out to be nothing more than whitewashing the amount of effort actually required behind the scenes.

Posted by Colin at 3:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 2, 2006

Imagine That!

I have absolutely no idea why, but a song from Sesame Street just popped into my head as I rolled out of bed and walked into the bathroom.

"Imagine That," sung by Ernie from Sesame Street, just started playing in my head for no apparent reason. I haven't heard that song in years, much less even thought about Sesame Street. But here it is this morning, a fun—if completely odd—reminder of years past.

Posted by Colin at 10:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack