After a report which detailed HP’s Touchpad as a total flop, HP last week announced that they were not only discontinuing the product, but also dropping the MSRP from $400 to $100. I saw the headline which stated HP was discontinuing WebOS and the Touchpad but I didn’t actually read the article which detailed their price cut. I found out about it at work the next day when no fewer than 20 people asked me about it within the first hour of work.
Later that day we got a memo from corporate asking up to sell them all. The line started with one person and through word of mouth, quickly grew to about 75. Within an hour, we sold out of them. One per person. Quickly I would find out that that we just sold out of the hottest item of the decade. Why do I think a $400 tablet that no one wanted was the hottest item of the decade? An unprecedented demand for the tablet at $100. During the next few days, we would screen nearly 1000 calls a day at work asking whether we had the HP Touchpad in stock. Not to mention many people asking in store, so many that we printed signs and plastered the door stating that we no longer have any Touchpads.
The frenzy online was similarly frightening. Online discussion boards talking about this deal grew so fast it was like nothing that had ever been seen before. Once an online store would drop the price to $100, many of the sites got slammed so hard that their servers crashed. Others who managed to stay alive quickly ran out of stock within minutes. Interestingly enough, I managed to order one of these things from an online retailer. With 80% of orders being cancelled due to overwhelming demand, I was surprised when mine was delivered yesterday. I’ve not opened it yet but I am expecting it to be little more than a mobile browser. People will argue that it is not even worth $100 because of its lack of apps but I would disagree. Most people spend 90% of their time in a web browser and I am not that far off.
New bedroom furniture – This week (like 2 months ago) we got some new bedroom furniture delivered. The bed we had was sitting on top of a basic metal frame and the mattress had a broken spring or two. We originally went to the furniture store to buy a new mattress for Christine’s mother who’s mattress was in even worse condition than ours. We tried a few and saw one of these memory foam ones for $700 which seemed to be an enticing deal given that they go for well over $1000 most places. We went in with plans of spending $300 (for a single cheap mattress) and walked out spending 7x as much. We got a great deal on a bedroom furniture set (floor model), a memory foam mattress, two box springs and the mattress we had originally gone in to buy.
Change of address – After living here a year, I just got around to submitting an official USPS change of address form. This wasn’t such a pressing issue since most the mail I got was from financial institutions which I was sure to update their address on file once I moved. Strangely enough, I have gotten very few forwarded mail so far. I guess all the ads I used to get said "our neighbor" and not my name.
New patio furniture – When I moved in, the backyard was pretty bare in the sense of anything useful. Grass was up to your waist and like many backyards, big hard to get rid of junk lied around. After I cut the lawn, took a few trips to the city dump, hazardous waste plant and recycling center left the backyard pretty clean. It has remained much that way for the last year. This weekend we were at Home Depot and noticed that they had patio furniture on sale. Christine has always wanted some to fill our tiny patio and to make the backyard more enjoyable in our otherwise very sunny yard. We bought four swivel chairs, a glass top table and umbrella. The umbrella provides some well needed shade but things are a little cramped. We have plans to deconstruct and move a storage shed that currently sits on the patio to another part of the yard. Stay tuned, we have plans to make the backyard useable for recreation.
Marriage Proposal – On April 29th I asked Christine, my girlfriend of three years to marry me. I have always been indifferent about marriage. I am of the opinion that marriage it is something of a past time tradition and the title does not have a ton of meaning to me. Christine views it very differently and marriage is important to her. I am indifferent buy not opposed so I have always told her this day would come after I felt secure enough in the relationship.
Since the engagement, people have asked me how I did it. Should I be embarrassed to say that there was nothing romantic about it? Christine knew it was coming as she is picky and I had her pick out the ring days beforehand. The ring itself is very nice. I have never played attention to engagement rings in my life but since then, I have seen a few on peoples’ finger and Christine’s is definitely nicer. I applied for financing at the store I bought it from and got 18 months interest free. Funny thing is that it is the same HSBC credit card I sign so many people up for at Best Buy.
More Car Maintenance – Since I take Hailey to school every morning and rarely get a day off on the weekends, I need to have a functional car everyday. Over the last few months, my car has developed an oil leak in the gaskets that cover the spark plug wells. I had previously thought this fix would take a while as I needed to allow the gasket sealer to dry before I could drive the car. I waited till Hailey was on Spring Break to allow me more than 24 hours to fix the gaskets. Now having done it and consulting someone who is into car repairs, apparently I could have done it in two hours and had the car up and running that same afternoon. The car works well and there is less oil burn off now.
Great America – There is a former Six Flags theme park in our neck of the woods called Great America. It shares many of the same rides as Six Flags in San Antonio and has a water park as well. This week during Spring Break we decided to go along with two of Hailey’s friends and Christine’s mother. We all bought season passes and expect to go back several times this year unlike all the other times I have bought season passes to Six Flags. The water park was not open yet because it was too cold.
Third week of April
Wood fire oven – A few months ago our gas oven stopped working. The stove top burners still work but there is no way to bake anything. Almost everything I make I either fry, boil or microwave so a replacement wasn’t a huge priority for me. A few days ago we were in Costco and Christine was sold on an automated BBQ grill we saw. It is an outdoor oven of sorts. You feed it wood chips. There is a coil that heats up hot enough to ignite the chips. An auger controls the feed rate and consequently the heat output from the burning wood. There is a thermostat inside which automates the temperature. We are now using this full time to bake everything. Anyone want cookies with that BBQ taste? No problem, Christine has already made cookies in our new backyard oven.
Mean cat – Like most dogs, Marley loves to chase cats. When I take him for a walk, he often sees them way before I do, especially when it is dark outside and sometimes just because they are under cars. Recently during an evening walk on a street we always walk down (although the other side of the street), we neared a parked vehicle and he pulled me towards it. He could not fit under it but a house cat walked out from the other side. He ran around expecting it to run away just as all cats do but this cat just sat there staring him down face to face. After a few seconds, the cat snapped and attacked him. I put my foot between them, pulled Marley and started to walk away. We got about 10 feet away when the cat started to run after Marley. I put my leg in the cat’s path and the cat hit my leg and ran into the hedge. The cat’s owners heard the cat, came to the porch and called the cat. From the owners’ reaction, I doubt this is the first time that Katrina has attacked other animals. I have since seen the cat a few times, even on the other side of the street. I am sure to keep our distance now.
Last week to file taxes – Most people who have jobs are getting money back from their returns. Not me. For years I have owed money. It is usually nothing huge, $500-1000. For me there is no incentive to filling early so I usually file during the last month. This year I owed $800 or so. It is fairly predictable so I am never caught off guard. I used Turbo Tax this year instead of a tax service. From everything I know about income taxes, Turbo Tax seemed to be strictly by the book even though it promises a bigger return than H&R Block software. I find that hard to believe. This year I moved to California and there is a 1%-2% state income tax. Minor in relation to Federal but it increased what I owed by a few hundred.
Driving off the road – Because of the design of many on/off ramps in California, there is a little negotiation involved with using them. Specifically ones with clover leafs around them. They require an on comer and exiting party to both merge within a few hundred feet of road. When both drivers insist on being first rather than slow down and compromise, then things can get ugly. On the way to work this week, this happened to me. I figured I would speed up and just get ahead of the guy. This part worked however I was going too fast to make the turn onto the cloverleaf exit ramp and ran into the shoulder instead. But it gets worse. Sand at water on the shoulder didn’t allow me to stop so off the road I flew onto a downward slopped flower garden. Luckily there was no rail on this section of the road. The grass was wet and I was unable to get the car back onto the road. An officer eventually came and a tow truck had to tow me back onto the road. Luckily, no injuries to myself or the car. The funny thing is that before I got my driver’s license, I knew that if there was any part that I would hate about driving, it was having to negotiate with other drivers. Predictions coming true.
Second week of April
Upgrading my PC’s hard drive – For the last decade I have always bought the fastest (reasonably priced) disk based hard drives for my PC. Generation after generation, Western Digital has always been able to edge out the competition with their Black series. The only bad side is that these drives do not have the best reliability. They come with a five year warranty and I have sent in many for replacement. Every successive generation of this line is a little faster than the previous. The most recent drive I have is 3+ years old and I have been itching to upgrade. But with a five year warranty, I feel as though I have some obligation to stick with this drive for at least five years.
More recently, the drive in question has gone bad and for a mere $15 shipping, I will be able to send it in for replacement. Or, I could use this as an excuse to get another drive. I mean 99-15 = 84, and that is comparable to $15 right? I decided to make the more economical decision and sent it in for replacement. Much to my surprise, my replacement drive was not identical to the one that was sent in. Unlike all my previous replacements, the new drive was one of the newer and faster drives I wanted to upgrade to. $15 is not a bad upgrade price.
Run away dog – Often on school day mornings I take Marley in the car when I drop off Hailey at school. When I take him outside, he thinks he is going for a walk and tries to pull me down the street. It is usually uneventful but this time he managed to wiggle out of his collar and ran down the street plus a few more blocks. Since him getting out the door and freely roaming the neighborhood happens once every other month, it is a good thing we live in the middle of a residential cluster. While chasing Marley, I spotted a man leaving for the day who had a chain-linked fence around the front of his house. I asked him if he was willing to open the gate so I could lure and trap Marley. He was fine with it and told me to take my time. Within minutes I had Marley’s collar back on and this time ready to go for a car ride.
I’ve gotten quite behind. I have at least jotted down events that I can write about. As always, I have separated them by week. Without further ado, here we go playing catch up.
First week in April
Officially an old man – April 2 is my birthday and this year I am officially 30 years old. I know it is just a number but it seems like a milestone. Maybe I just don’t like odd numbers. Whatever the milestone may be, my age will start with a 3 for the next ten years.
When I was younger, I used to eat out so rarely (we are even talking fast food, my mom cooked everything) that it seemed like something special we’d do on birthdays. Of course being such a common festivity for a celebration, I was taken out to the delicious Mimi’s Café on my birthday this year. Coincidently, I had gone there a week or two earlier. Eating out is pretty common now days and well, Mimi’s Café is just great. Also, we went for a round of mini golf with Christine’s nephew who also had a birthday during the same week. But this time, I actually won which is not all that common for me.
6th Generation iPod Nano – In response to what I believed was my old 3rd generation Nano going out, Christine bought me a current generation Nano as a birthday gift. I loved that I had more space for music and the small size of it was great for running with. However, learned to hate just about everything about this device in no time and ended up returning it with the gift receipt. Basically what set the iPod apart from most other digital music players was now gone. Also, the touch screen is way too small to even use for music controls. Rating music no longer exists, menus are awkward and the layout is very inefficient. Also, podcasts no longer play continuously. Most Apple products are great but this one definitely ranks among their lackluster products. The good news is that my old and much superior 3rd generation Nano still works just fine, it is just my headphones that don’t.
Revisiting JAVA – My brother Keith sent me an email one day asking for a recommendation on a good computer programming book. He said with his new computer, he’d actually like to use it for something other than just browsing the web. I recommended a JAVA book I used in school a few years ago and sent it to him via USPS. JAVA isn’t my favorite language but since he has a Mac, it needed to be one that was cross compatible. He has no experience in any programming language so this will be interesting to see if anything comes of it. I asked him about it now that it is one month later and he reports that he has been too busy with school to even read anything from it. I am hopeful even though he has a history of sticking with an interest for only a limited amount of time before moving on. Programming will definitely test his will power. The only reason I was able to stick with it is because I have a general interest in it.