Things I Learned Today: March 24, 2017


In an effort to keep this here blog of mine going I’ve decided to try something a little different.

They say that we learn something new every day, and today I found that to be exceptionally true. In fact, I started compiling a list in my head while on my drive to work and only found myself adding more things to it, so that didn’t really go as planned.

I’m not very good at mental note-taking so I tried my best to remember what it was I had thought of and haphazardly typed it into Word while on my break at the office. And now I present today’s list.

Things I Learned Today for March 24, 2017

1. People still use CDs in their cars. Shocking, I know. But I was reminded of this when I drove past a guy who had a Case Logic visor CD organizer that was filled with purchased CDs and burned-at-home CD-Rs. It all seemed rather ‘90s since my last two cars have had USB ports and my music has either been on a thumb drive or smartphone ever since. I’m not a big terrestrial radio fan and am a proud Spotify Premium subscriber so my music collection had been downloaded from there and is all on my iPhone. Also, Ann’s car doesn’t even have a CD slot – all music is played via Bluetooth or USB port.

2. The local daily newspaper now costs $1. There was a time when I had to scrape together four quarters to buy the Sunday paper in order to get all of the retail ads and coupons. The daily cost a fourth of that. But as with everything, technology has just about killed this format. Coupons and ads can now be seen online and with Amazon, you don’t really need ads anymore because chances are they have what you need for less and will ship it to you for free. Then why did I even bother buy a newspaper today? The Long Beach Grand Prix is approaching and there was a voucher for a free Friday ticket in today’s edition. That’s the day that the office sort of takes a rather long lunch since the event is literally across the street from us. So spending the $1 was well worth it. Any other day? Not so much.

3. Water refill stations still exist. Whether they are against the wall of the local Walgreens or fancy stand-alone jobs that look like a windmill, they are still around and people still use them. I found this out while researching them since we are in the market to have water delivered to us. I am still not drinking [diet] soda regularly, although there have been a few occasions while dining out when I did get one as a treat. Water is still my mainstay and I have an app to remind me to reach my daily goal of 100 oz., so I figured that having it delivered might be cheaper than buying a case of bottled water at the store. At $1.50 for five gallons from said refill stations, it probably will be. And while I don’t buy soda anymore, I have found a tasty substitute should I crave something bubbly. Highly recommended if you can find it in your area.

4. Domino’s pasta bowls are carb overload. This one may seem a bit obvious but I learned the hard way. Ann ordered three of them last night for dinner and being as hungry as I was when I got home from work, I devoured mine in no time. The bad part: I wasn’t running a marathon today. If I had been, the combination of pasta and pizza crust would have been an excellent source of fuel to burn off. Instead, they sat in my stomach all day and magically turned into sugar as they tend to do if you don’t use them. It was total carb overload, and I felt it all day long. Pretty stupid move.

5. Vans never go out of style. Last week we took Anthony birthday shopping at the local outlets. He loves Vans and has a pretty decent collection of them. In fact, his love ignited mine and I started to build my own collection which includes a pair inspired by The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (that I will never wear). I wore Off The Walls all the time as a kid – when we could afford them – so wearing them again on a regular basis is fun, and it doesn’t hurt that I can wear them to the office. I have an assortment of colors to choose from but I made a purchase at the outlets last weekend that I won’t soon regret.

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Depending on your monitor calibration, the brightness of your smartphone screen or any other number of factors, these Old Skool style Vans are bright pink with the signature Vans stipe running the sides in cyan. For $20 and 50% off a second pair, I couldn’t pass them up. They are a hit, inside the office and out. I actually had a guy stop me while I was on my bike ride to tell me how much he liked them and today while returning from a Starbucks run with a coworker, someone else walked past and complimented me on my choice of footwear – only I was wearing these instead.

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These are all purple with gold eyes. I also have pairs in dark green and blue, and I dig them all. All this admiration just goes to show that Vans are timeless and at least in their birthplace of southern California, they are more of a lifestyle than anything.

What will I learn tomorrow? Who knows. But I hope you enjoyed the list of things I learned today.

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A Summer That Won’t Suck, Outing 2


Happy Friday!

It was most definitely a happy one for me since I used one of my paid Summer Days to extend my Father’s Day/anniversary weekend by one day. And yes, it was worth it.

Today’s adventure took us someplace we had been just a month prior but because Ann wanted a pair of sandals she didn’t get then, we had to make another trip. Fortunately, traffic was extremely light on the way down to San Clemente – it’s about 40 miles from home – and we made incredible time. I was pretty shocked, actually.

Our first stop: the Rainbow Sandals outlet.

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Just look at that fancy, unintentional, not-made-with-an-app lens flare! And that gigantic flip-flop outside the store! In preparation for summer, we all got a new pair – even me, who has enough pairs to last the rest of my life. Plus I got a new wallet. I guess I have a problem.

Once our shopping here was done, we meandered our way up to the top of the hill to the outlet stores where we ate lunch. Granted, there aren’t many stores there but it’s still a nice place to walk around and waste the day. This would explain why we only left with one bag of stuff, all of it purchased at the Nike store. You know. I needed a new pair of running shoes. Or something.

I also checked out the Vans store and came across these that were, unfortunately, a size too big.

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And at $20, they were a freaking steal. Too bad they didn’t fit. I really wanted them.

Just as we decided there was nothing more we wanted to shop for, we made a stop for some frozen yogurt and pretzels. Anthony wanted the yogurt and while I would have gotten some, I was driving and already had my share of dairy product for the day with the pizza we ate for lunch. Lactose intolerance is a lovely thing.

As I was paying for our pretzel nuggets, I spotted a $1 bill on the ground near the register and asked the cashier if they had a tip jar. She said they didn’t so I stuck it in my pocket. I wasn’t going to argue and decided long ago that money found is worth keeping.

With that, we left the outlet from which you can see the ocean. It’s quite lovely.

And it’s where I was driving to next, unbeknownst to the family.

So with the help of Google Maps, we found our way down to Capistrano Beach (yes, it’s close to Mission San Juan Capistrano, also a beautiful place). We had never been there before and thought it would be nice to just have a stroll along the ocean.

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And that $1 bill? It paid for one hour of parking. Perfect! It was long enough for us to enjoy the sound of the crashing waves and take some pictures.

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Selfie stick? Nope. My long arms have been doing the trick since the late ‘90s. And yes, I need to shave.

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It’s scenes like this that make me hesitant to ever leave California, despite its faults. No earthquake puns intended, naturally. But I’ll take my chances with them over any other natural disaster – any day of the week – to call this my backyard.

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Going to the beach was also a great way to break in those sandals.

And yes, I will gather rocks when I go to the beach. I could take home buckets of them if I could since they are all different and appeal to me for different reasons. Today’s trip included these:

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This picture just does not to them justice. The colors are much more vibrant, even more so when glimmering in the sand after being washed over by the tide. You’re just going to have to take my word that they are pretty amazing and will look great on my desk at work.

Anthony swears the light one is quartz. It’s really milky and white, nothing like it looks here. I don’t care whether it is or it isn’t. It’s just cool and I’m okay with that.

After the beach, we stopped by and visited my high school buddy who owns a restaurant in the area. You know, the one I delivered pizza for on occasion? It’s always good to see him and we still have much to talk about even after leaving high school almost 30 years ago.

And that wraps up our Friday.

As for Saturday? It’s not as far but you’ll know when we get there. It’s someplace I haven’t been in years and a real hotspot for tourists. I usually avoid places like that but with this being A Summer That Won’t Suck, I’m pulling out all the stops.

Curious? Follow my Instagram feed and see for yourself. We’ll be there in the morning!

When Black Friday Comes…


Black Friday is quickly sneaking up on us, what with all the leaked ads popping up on sites and forums all over the Intarwebs. And yes, there are lots of great deals to be had provided you like to stand—or if you prefer, camp overnight in freezing conditions—and fight off throngs of rabid, maniacal shoppers looking for the same bargains you are.

Well, I’m not one of those. Not only do we normally stay as far away as possible from any retail establishment on said day, we usually have our Christmas shopping done well before Halloween and this year was no different. The only post-Halloween purchase I made was for Ann and myself, our early Christmas gifts to each other. They were good deals to begin with and we buy other good deals throughout the year so that once Christmas comes around, we don’t have to spend time fighting off crowds.

With social media being the thing these days and crazy kids shooting videos of anything and everything, we’ve all seen the YouTube clips of blood-thirsty consumers ramming the doors of their local Walmart and running over anyone who was reluctantly in their path. This, however, is nothing new. I recall the days when Ann and I worked for Walmart back in the early ‘90s, when she had to crouch down and sneak into the store through the little door used exclusively for shopping carts because of the crowd gathered around the regular entrance. Even so, with her name tag on and with an associate manning said door to let her in, her entrance nearly caused a riot amongst the crowd.

What is everyone celebrating again?

Maybe some find it fun to be around angry people who will just end up selling their stuff on eBay for a few extra bucks. Well, I don’t and I’ve worked enough years in retail, back when stores were still closed on Thanksgiving, to keep as far away as possible on Black Friday.

Besides, there are already good deals in the days leading up to it. We found this one today via the Walmart app:

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Here’s an iPad mini for $219 with free shipping and free case. Yes, it’s lacking the Retina display as well as the faster processor but some little boy in this house is going to be pretty happy when he opens this up on Christmas morning (compared to Dad who’ll open his Walmart credit card statement and gawk incredulously). All it took was a decision, made from the comfort of our couch, to buy this thing and have it delivered. Done and done.

Let’s compare that to what Wally World is having the evening of Thanksgiving:

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Same item for $20 less, however:

  • It’s Thanksgiving night at Walmart and not online. There are plenty of other places I’d rather be, like on my couch suffering from a tryptophan-enduced food coma.
  • “While supplies last” most assuredly means that unless you are a linebacker or an NHL power forward and can get to the Electronics Department before anyone, forget it.
  • Read the fine print. Nobody reads the fine print. Anything that requires wristband distribution is not promising and could get ugly when they run out.
  • The $30 gift card is a nice touch, but my deal included a case. I’d wager that most of those gift card will be used for cases anyway and those can average around $23. Almost a wash.

Even though the Thanksgiving Day sale may be a better deal in the long run, I consider the extra few bucks I spent a Convenience Fee in that I avoided everything I despise about Black Friday by ordering it now and even having it delivered. No fuss, no muss.

So when Black Friday comes, I’ll be somewhere far, far away from all this madness, and my shopping will be done. It’s just not for me.


I’m aware that this song is a reference to the stock market crash, but I’m playing on the title.

Is Amazon Serious About Prime Air?


prime-air_high-resolution01I had to check my calendar when the story first broke yesterday.

Yes, it was the 1st of the month but alas, the month of December not April. Yet I still thought this was a joke.

In case you missed it, Amazon announced that it had tested a new form of package delivery they call PrimeAir which promises to have your package – maximum weight of 5 pounds – at your door within 30 minutes of ordering. Kind of like the Dominos Pizza of online merchandise delivery.

The difference is this: while Dominos relies on a driver’s high-mileage 1999 Toyota Echo to get your bland pizza to your door, Amazon plans to enlist the help of drones (see photo) to carry package. Here’s the video of how it would supposedly work.

And here’s where the problems begin. I’ll go over a list of five things that I immediately thought of when I heard of this gimmick.

Problem 1: Liabilities
Have you ever tried to fly one of these things? My neighbor’s son had an AR Drone and all I remember seeing that thing do was crash into things – and hard. Granted, the ones Amazon shows being used in the video are nothing like the aforementioned models but still, I would imagine controlling one of these things would require patience and a good amount of training in order to have them fly safely.

And take a look at the photo above. Do you see what I see? Something along the lines of exposed rotor blades? Remember that scene from Raiders of the Lost Art when Indy is fighting the guy near the plane? Perhaps things may not get that graphic but all I’ll say is kids and animals can be very curious.

Problem 2: Crazy People
Let’s face it, not everyone is as sane as you or me. So let’s say Amazon ultimately decides that this is a grand idea and rolls it out to a few test markets. Who’s to say that said crazy people wouldn’t take it upon themselves to try and bring the drone down by whatever means possible? Idiots still shine lasers at incoming passenger planes so why wouldn’t they roll the dice and try their luck with a mystery 5-pound package? It could be anything from an iPhone to Q-tips. Then again, the seriously crazy people wouldn’t care about the package as much as they would reeking havoc on a remote controlled flying gizmo. It would be like the head of a trophy buck to them.

Problem 3: Hacking
Like mostly everything these days, a drone is a computer. On top of that, it’s got wireless receivers and transmitters on-board. It’s possible that these things could be hacked and the package delivered to someone other than the intended recipient. While I’m sure GPS will play a huge part in tracking the devices, I’m also quite positive a hacker could make the drone forget where it was last.

Problem 4: Bombs Away
While there is a weight limit to the packages that the drones can deliver, things can still go wrong. Suppose the battery suddenly goes dead or is starting to die and the drone begins to lose its power, the same power that probably controls the arms that hold the package firmly in place. If those arms suddenly begin to grow weak then there goes the little orange box. Watch out below. And hey, who’s to say that the aforementioned hackers wouldn’t do this very thing just for fun? Or what if the drones encounter bad weather that blows them off-course? So, so much that could go wrong.

Problem 5: Is This Even Feasible?
I’m not sure how many distribution centers Amazon has or how many markets they plan to roll this out in but it just doesn’t seem to make economic sense to invest in these delivery drones. We’re talking about delivering packages weighing under 5 pounds here. If someone ordered something they needed in 30 minutes, you can bet it probably wasn’t anything of significant value – or could it be? Either way, it doesn’t make economic sense to me, and that’s not even factoring potential item returns into the equation.

So Amazon, you got us. Your little delivery “innovation” seems like nothing more than a pipe dream or, which is most likely the case with Christmas shopping in full swing, free publicity by generating a buzz that included your name. It could just be nothing more than a commercial for the online merchandising giant.

We’ll see what eventually goes down in a few years but as for me, I just don’t see it happening. And if it does, I’m buying a hardhat.

UPDATE 12/3/13: That didn’t take long. Now UPS is in on the action? When will FedEx and the others join?

When A Bargain Isn’t A Bargain


People love their bargains and we’re no exception.

We’ve used sites like Amazon Local and Groupon to snag some fantastic deals in the past and all of them were handled the way we expected them to be. And the deals are usually comprised of the same formula: get $[retail amount] of merchandise/services/food for $[discounted amount]. Easy.

Past deals I’ve bought have included $40 worth of Restaurant.com credits for $10, $30 towards the purchase of Dodgers tickets for $7, and $5 for a $10 Amazon Gift Card. No doubt they were fantastic deals. You pay a discounted price and get more in return. It’s not a difficult concept.

Then there was today.

Ann had purchased the following deal on some new discount site I’d never heard of called Double Take Deals. Look closely and tell me if it follows the same formula as the rest.

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She figured hey, it’s nearing Christmas and this would be as good a time as any to refresh our decorations and at a bargain price. I mean, this seemed like a great offer so that’s why she bought it:

With this DoubleTake Deal, get festive with $50 of Christmas decorations including wreaths, greens, ornaments, figurines and more for only $25.

So if I read this right, we would get $50 worth of merchandise and only pay $25 for it. Am I right? It’s not that convoluted, is it?

After looking this Barcana place up online (and laughing at what seemed to be a Geocities-hosted website), we headed down there and looked around for a bit. It was our first time there and admittedly, they do have a great selection of decorations, so much so that we had trouble deciding what to buy. In the end, we decided that the tree would have a candy theme this year so we stocked up on candy-related decorations and placed them in the basket.

Once finished, we waited in line to pay and were pretty excited with all the stuff we had found. Ann started off by handing the cashier her Double Take Deals voucher which she would apply once she was done ringing everything up. Our total was $64.30 which, once our $50 was applied, would mean we owed only $14.30. Hey, we made out alright.

“So your new total is $39.30,” the cashier said.

Ann looked puzzled. She glanced over at me and I started to think, “That’s way too much.” Ann then asked her if the discount had been applied.

She went on to explain that the discount had been applied – all $25 of it, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Why would I spend $25 on a voucher that I’m going to use myself to only get $25 credit in the store? Isn’t the point of getting such deals is to, well, get more for less? Otherwise, it’s like we just bought $25 in Disney Dollars. This is not how it works.

As we continued to try and explain things to the cashier, she defended her position. Another one even intervened, condescending attitude and all, and spoke to us like we had just fallen off of the turnip truck. This is not how it works.

Here’s a copy of our receipt:

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As you can see, the “check” amount is the applied Double Take Deals amount or the amount we paid for the deal. But as the deal stated on the website:

With this DoubleTake Deal, get festive with $50 of Christmas decorations including wreaths, greens, ornaments, figurines and more for only $25.

After not arguing with the Cashier with an Attitude (there’s no sense fighting with someone like that), I spoke with a man who appeared that he might know what he was doing. He said it was their first time doing this sort of offer and that Double Take Deals had the wording all wrong. I didn’t understand this since it seems as clear as day to me: get $50 for $25. Even the screenshot about reads “Savings 50%.”

So what did they not word properly? The only thing that I could think of is that we’d get $25 off with a minimum $50 purchase which this offer does not state either on the website or voucher nor is that a savings of 50%. This is not how it works.

We feel conned and totally ripped-off by what transpired. Our only recourse is to contact Double Take Deals on Monday and see what they have to say about the matter. I’ve already tweeted my dissatisfaction to them but being their Twitter account was last update in August 2012, I doubt I’ll get a reply.

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If nothing gets done, then we’re out a hypothetical $25 and will never use them again. But even if they do resolve it and we get the extra $25 to spend at Barcana, it will be our last trip there. I have no time for cashiers talking to me as if I don’t understand what’s going on and talking to us like we were idiots. In this day and age of social media you’d think that people would be a little more courteous, otherwise those they were rude to might blog, tweet, Facebook, leave reviews on Fouraquare, etc.

Someone apparently hasn’t learned this lesson and what a huge disappointment this has been. Stay tuned for an update should anything change.

UPDATE 12/2/13: After a few days of emails between Ann and Double Take Deals, Ann was contacted by someone at Barcana who indeed told us that the deal was not done right. She has promised to make things right by issuing a $25 gift certificate.