Life, Interrupted

Ah, blogging. I remember it well. Hopefully, I can get back on track here and return to my old self after the month I’ve had.

Where do I begin? Let’s start here.

Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, my mom was living with us here in our home from late December up until about a week ago and as a result, our lives were pretty much put on hold during that time. We just couldn’t live the way we normally do and, although it was my own mom, it was as if there was an outsider looking at us with each and every little thing we did. Blogging definitely took a hit as well since I felt my creativity was not where it should have been.

The problems, however, didn’t end there and before we knew it, Ann and I were verbally taking shots at each other. We had never done that in all of our years of marriage—17 this June—and we knew exactly why we were now. And then, about a week ago, Mom told us she made arrangements to live with a friend of hers.

Before she left, she told me that I hated her, and that I was “mean” and “evil.”

Okay, those who read my blog probably wouldn’t doubt the mean and evil aspects of my persona but all kidding aside, I didn’t give those comments much credence. All any of us did—myself and my cousins—was try and help Mom and in the end, we were all turned down. As a result, it’s sort of hard not to get “mean” or “evil” when you’re unemployed, you’re feeding an extra person who practically had to be begged to help contribute to the food and rising utility costs, did nothing to help herself find a place to live even though you found a place for $312 a month, and you’re having panic attacks because of all this.

All of these things did a number on our family dynamic which will take some time to repair. I haven’t heard from Mom or my brother since then and I’m not quite sure if I will. It’s up to them if they wish to get in touch with me.

Ah, what else? Oh, I know. Remember that fantastic Dell computer I was so patiently waiting for? Can you guess what I’m going to say next?

Yeah, you’re right: it took a dump after less than a month of use. Not that I’m all that surprised about such a thing because my father-in-law’s old Dell was also an unreliable piece of shit that was slow out of the box. So just the other day I went ahead and did a fresh install of Windows 7 and as of this post *knock on wood* it’s running smoothly. Fortunately, I had everything already backed up on the external drive so I didn’t lose a thing, but I had to re-install my most oft-used programs which aren’t much, but still a pain.

In the evenings I’ve been spending a lot of time on Forza Motorsport 3 (see current header), either playing or creating graphics for my cars (or to sell for virtual dollars), just to keep my sanity in place during that crazy month. It turns out that if you spend more time creating vinyl groups than playing the damn game, you can get pretty good at it. To see a gallery of my stuff, it’s up over at Flickr. No, it’s probably not the most elaborate stuff you’ll see but considering it was all made from scratch and with an Xbox controller, this failed Advertising Design major is damn proud of it.

And speaking of geeky things, now that I have webcam, I signed up for Skype. Because all of those long distance calls I make were starting to add up. Yeah…

Is there more? Why yes, there is. I am also coaching/managing a t-ball team this Spring with my own son on said team. I’ve been in constant contact with my Team Parents, making Excel charts for lineups, etc. so I’ve been busy there. Our first practice was cancelled due to our recent unusually wet weather and our next one on Wednesday is also in jeopardy for the same reason. So our first game is on February 27th and I’ve yet to meet my team or have a practice with them. Not good, so I just hope it clears up real soon.

If there is an upside to any of this bad weather—and I’m sure my friend Preston would beg to differ—is that it dumps tons of fluffy white stuff in our local mountains. So we headed up there one weekend just to get out of the house, and we had a good time:


You can see a Flip Video of me sledding on Flickr (because embedding it here isn’t quite working).

Evergreen Cafe in Wrightwood We ate at the Evergreen Cafe (see left) and I gotta tell you, the food and service were absolutely incredible. In fact, I had to ask the waitress if the bill was right once we decided to leave.

The cost for all three of us was less than $23. This is when you know you’re not in the big city anymore. That, and the friendly service, the homemade bread used for toast, the owner going to each and every table to see if everything was okay.

That’s what it’s all about, and that’s why we need a Wrightwood escape every now and then. It was just an incredible day all the way around. Not to mention that I found a several 45s for 50 cents each in one of the local shops: “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “I Melt With You” by Modern English and The Jacksons 5’s “I’ll Be There”.

Okay, so I’ve caught up on everything, I think. Hope it wasn’t too boring or whatnot. And hey, since we got our taxes done and have a little cash to spend, I’ll be out all this weekend beginning late Friday and through late Monday so I’ll try to get at least another post in. We’re taking Anthony to LEGOLAND* and the SeaLife Aquarium for an early birthday present…even though someone else’s birthday is actually on Sunday…*cough*cough*…

* LEGOLAND and LEGO are actually copyrighted as ALL CAPS. Check it out—they’ll never (officially) be lowercase in print or Web. The things you learn when you write for a magazine…

On the Cheap, Part Deux

Several posts ago, I was practically bragging about how I was getting a bunch of stuff for nothing or practically nothing. Well, I thought I’d take a moment to update you on all of this.

Lips (MSRP): $49.99
My cost (with Points and tax): $10.83
Savings: $39.16

Bad planning on Microsoft’s part has prevented me from taking advantage of this offer.

You see, Lips was listed on their ExpertZone site as one of the Rewards (with 500 Points and $10 + tax), so I went ahead and ordered it, thinking I would have some cool wireless mics in time for The Beatles: Rock Band release and get a game to boot.

About a week after placing my order, I checked its status on the Web site and I was dumbfounded when I learned that—at that very moment—my order was cancelled. I sent an e-mail explaining my situation and was told that Lips had since been discontinued and no longer being offered, so my order was cancelled. It was a good thing I was told about this ahead of time.

No, wait, I wasn’t. Because of this snafu, not only were my 500 Points credited but I was also awarded an additional 500 Points to use as I please. Good, but not exactly what I wanted. And no, I wasn’t charged for the order, either.

Office 2007 Standard Edition (MSRP): $399.95 (full version)
My cost: $0
Savings: $399.95

Where Microsoft failed on Lips, the made up for on Office 2007! I got my copy a few days ago:


The Beatles: Rock Band (MSRP, game only): $59.99
My cost (after two $25 GameStop gift cards from e-Rewards): $10 + tax
Savings: $50

After completing a series of surveys, they pretty much stopped coming in. My balance was stuck just below the $50 level required for the GameStop gift card and I was getting worried. Then they started to arrive in my inbox and after taking a few surveys I finally got to $50, where I immediately redeemed them for the $25 gift card.

The question then became, would it arrive on time? The e-mail said it could take up to 30 days, or 9/28/09—that would never do. I never had a problem with the gift cards arriving late in the past so I was hoping this would be the case once again.

And so it was. This arrived today:


I then ran a few errands and then stopped by GameStop. The Beatles: Rock Band has been paid for and will be in my hot little hands tomorrow! (And if they had a midnight release time, I’d be there for it!)

But wait, there’s more! In addition to all of this, I took more quizzes at the ExpertZone site and was able to buy a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate for $10, so I saved about $200 there.

So I lost out on one offer and gained another. I’d say that’s not too bad!

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On the Cheap

pink_piggy_bank-735041You know, your ol’ pal Dave considers himself to be pretty frugal, especially now when spending more than $30 for anything seems incredibly irrational. That’s why I’ve been pretty excited to be getting some goodies for practically nothing, and here’s how.

As a member of Microsoft ExpertZone (membership required), a site designed exclusively for resellers of Microsoft products, I take quizzes and get points redeemable for all sorts of merchandise. After a recent site redesign, I had to re-register, got a cool 1,000 points and used 500 (plus $10 cash) for a copy of Lips for Xbox 360. So…

Lips (MSRP): $49.99
My cost (with points and tax): $10.83
Savings: $39.16

Another ExpertZone offering was a free copy of Microsoft Office 2007 Standard Edition upon the successful completion of an Office product course, so after taking that course and passing it…

Office 2007 Standard Edition (MSRP): $399.95 (full version)
My cost: $0
Savings: $399.95

Granted I already have a copy of Office 2007 but I’m sure I can use this one on the laptop or the other computer–or Ann can take it to her office. Either way, free is free!

And then there’s e-Rewards, where I take surveys, get actual dollar amounts which can buy gift cards, magazine subscriptions, or online discounts for various retailers. Right now, I’m working on my 2nd $50 level for a $25 GameStop gift card, which I will be using to buy The Beatles: Rock Band. And did anyone mention that this is going to be the greatest video game ever?

The Beatles: Rock Band (MSRP, game only): $59.99
My cost (after two $25 GameStop gift cards from e-Rewards): $10 plus tax
Savings: $50

See, the whole game thing is gonna work out. I figure that Lips comes with two wireless microphones which, if the rumors are correct, will work with TB:RB. So the way I look at it, ten bucks for a new game and two microphones is an incredible deal!

Want in on this? Well, I can’t help you with the ExpertZone membership, but here’s a link to the GameStop/e-Rewards Invitation-Only site. This is the only way you can get GameStop gift cards through e-Rewards; the regular site does not offer them. I’ve been a member for years and have had no problems with them whatsoever.

The final tally: $20 or so for almost $510 (MSRP) of merchandise.

Not too shabby, eh?

UPDATE: With the money I saved, I just renewed my Flickr Pro account so all previous links to said account that were inactive are not now active again 🙂

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Santa Arrives Early

As you may well know, my XBOX 360 met its demise not so long ago. And it wasn’t like I used a whole lot but during its absence, I sure did miss using it.

So imagine my surprise when Ann and her folks tell me that for Christmas this year…


…this is what they would get me! Yes, that’s right. I am officially back and playing an XBOX. I figure since it would have cost me $99 to repair my old system, it made more sense to get an entirely new one for $199 with six games and a new controller. All I did was snap on the hard drive from my old system and it was like nothing ever happened.

While this isn’t exactly what I had originally asked for, it will most definitely do. Thanks, Santa!

Oh, and as the blog tweaking continues, you’ll notice that I’ve added yet another way to share posts. Check out the “Via E-mail” icon at the bottom. When you click on it, your e-mail program will open and you can then send the link to whomever you chose.

All you do add recipients–I did the hard work for you already! Mad skillz, man. I has them.

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Fried XBOX

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post in which I briefly mentioned that I stayed home in order to wait for an electrician to show up after we suffered a power outage.

Naturally, when such things happen my first inclination it to see if it is localized or if the entire neighborhood went dark. After waking up 30 minutes after my normal time and calming Anthony down (as he was pretty upset about the house being half-dark), I went outside with 4D-cell MagLite in hand to see what was up.

Nothing was up. We were the only victims.

So I then went over to the electrical box and began to examine switches. The one marked “G.D.”, whatever that means, was thrown so I switched it back on. The box began to hum so I turned it off and on again.

When I did that, I saw a few sparks from underneath the panel. So by now I’m thinking, “Eff this. We need to get this fixed by someone who knows what they are doing.”

The electrician arrived at 4:00. Had I known that I would have went to work since I am off at 4:30. So after his examination of things, he determined that nothing was out of the ordinary but suggested that I keep some room around the power strips we have all over the house. It was his thought that something may have laid on one of the plugs and caused it to throw the breaker. I’m no electrician but whatever, I think blaming it on swamp gas is as likely a reason as any.

So what was the real reason behind out outage? Well, that’s where you come in, loyal readers! I’m leaving it up to you to decide by using my first PollDaddy poll here on the blog, a new feature offered by WordPress. Note that since I’m a cheap bastard the poll is limited to the first 100 replies. It costs money to get more results than that so if you want your vote to count, make it happen NOW!

Now you may be axing yourself, “Self, what does the title of this post have to do with anything?” It’s very simple. With all that switching of breakers, my XBOX 360 was somehow rendered useless. No, I don’t have the infamous RROD but instead, the light on the power supply remains orange and the unit will not turn on even after following instructions from the Microsoft Web site.

So now I have no XBOX and must (presumably) send it out for repairs, just when I was getting back into it. Meh, I was looking for a reason to play some PSone Gran Turismo anyhow.

Oh, and I am quickly approaching 500 posts. That number includes what I posted at my original Blogger blog which is still lingering but not by much. (Don’t worry–all of those posts were imported when I moved here.)

Stay tuned for more info!

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