Merry Christmas

I hope everyone (and, of course, that means the 3 of you reading this) had a Merry Christmas. Mine was excellent. Gifts that topped the charts (in random order):

Of course, Christmas is all about the spirit of giving. Or maybe it’s a religious celebration. I have no idea. In any case, one thing’s for sure: presents are awesome.

Namath, you dog.

I watched the Patriots game yesterday, but missed most of the first half at a Christmas party. Apparently I missed the best part (aside from us winning our 11th straight).

When Kolber asked Namath about watching this season’s Jets struggle, he launched into a rambling reply.

“I want to kiss you,” he said. “I couldn’t care less about the team struggling. What we know is we can improve. Chad Pennington, our quarterback, missed the first part of the season and we struggled. We’re looking to next season. We’re looking to make noise now and I want to kiss you.”

Advice for Easy Living

Since Schulte and Coon Dog recently had posts encouraging lots of commentary, I figured I’d do that too. One subject I try to excel at is minimizing the amount of stupid crap you have to do on a regular basis. Life is apparently made up largely of a bunch of hassles and chores. What are some strategies for minimizing them? I’ve found a few (more ideas welcome)…

  1. Buy all the same socks – I own approximately 40 pair of the same sock. They’re simple white socks that can be worn with normal clothes. I know the make and style so when I lose socks I can keep buying the same pair. Why? No more pairing up socks. One bag of socks which all match each other. You’ll still need random black socks for events and such, but this strategy solves 90% of sock hassles, and virtually ends the chore of finding socks that match.
  2. Toilet cleaners – those little tabs that you throw in the tank to keep your toilet clean? Say goodbye to one of the nastiest parts of toilet cleaning – the inside of the bowl itself. They work well, but you’ll still need to clean the top and outside of the toilet.
  3. Shower curtain liners – cheap, plastic things that hang inside your shower curtain. They cost like 2 bucks. I have never cleaned any aspect of the shower curtain. When the liner gets dirty, you just throw it away and buy a new one. The rest of the regular shower cleaning (around the tub and such) can be accomplished relatively easily with those “scrubbing bubbles” like products every now and again.
  4. The Roomba – I don’t own another vaccum. As I type this, it’s vaccuming my apartment. Every few days I turn it on before I leave for work. I empty it out when I come home, and the place is clean.
  5. Online Bill Payment – Not through the bank, but through the people demanding the bills themselves. Many of them allow credit card payments. So, I point them at my reward points credit card and let them go to town. I don’t have to remember anything. If a payment doesn’t go through, it’s there fault for not withdrawing it, as opposed to my fault for not paying it. The only bill I have to remember to pay is my rent (and even they’re movng to direct withdrawl), which brings me to the next strategy…
  6. Renting. Sure it’s more expensive and you don’t own anything. But in terms of hassle-free it’s tough to beat. I don’t have to: shovel, plow, rake, cut the grass, take out the trash, or fix anything that breaks. An apartment does come with some added hassles though. I can’t wash my car any place convenient, for example. The rent can also be an issue if they jack it up every year. By and large though, it eliminates more hassles than it adds. I walk into my buliding and it’s already warm (and it’s heat I don’t pay for). The water pressure is excellent, and if it isn’t, I call someone else and make it their problem.
  7. Candles – if your apartment doesn’t smell right, probably because you waited too long before doing the dishes, candles solve everything. Girls buy these big smelly candles like crazy, so they’re always easy to find.
  8. Hang crap up – I didn’t own an iron until my girlfriend made me buy one for when she visits. When stuff comes out of the dryer, fold it and/or hang it up. There’s also an ingenious product called Downy Wrinkle Releaser which can save you from having to iron if the clothes still don’t look quite right. It’s also helpful to have a job where you can dress casually, or else ironing might be inevitable.
  9. Live by yourself. After 4 years of roommates in college, and 19 years of living at home, the number of hassles you eliminate by living alone are virtually countless. First and foremost – everything is yours. No one eats, destroys, uses, dirties, or wears out anything you own. No one but you leaves messes, which no one but you can clean up, however no one but you tells you when to do that. Nothing takes up space unless you want it to. No one fights over bills, the television, the computer, the car, the chores, when you go out, when you come home, when you go to bed, when you wake up, what’s for dinner.
  10. E-Zpass and SpeedPass. As a frequent traveller of both the Mass Pike and occasionally bridges and roads in New York, you cannot live without the E-Z Pass. No more fishing for toll money, and no more waiting in long toll lines. As for SpeedPass, it’s just convenient because it’s a little quicker and you don’t have to dig out your wallet on cold days. It only works at Exxon/Mobil, but they’re pretty much everywhere anyhow.
  11. Plastic cups, and paper plates/bowls. Sure there are many times you’ll want to use actual dinnerware, but if you’re just making chicken nuggets or having a bowl of cereal, no sense creating something you’ll have to wash. Use it. Chuck it.
  12. Moving. Moving is a huge hassle. Whenever I buy something of any size, I think about how well I could move it. I can carry most of what I own. There are a few things that would take two average-sized people to carry (more for their size than their weight) but that’s probably limited to my boxspring, TV, computer desk, and futon frame. Possibly a table or two also.

If anyone else has strategies for minimizing the usual crap you have to go through in life, I’d be interested to hear them (and adopt them). In particluar it would be cool if there was some device that could keep dust out of the air so I wouldn’t have to worry about that (not that I dust anyhow, but it would be nice if my tabletops were not dusty).

I was also going to suggest web logs as a great time-saver compared to actually having to talk to your friends, but I figure that’s understood.

Schulte's Wishlist

In browsing wishlists for holiday shopping, I checked out Schulte’s just for the hell of it (not that I’m going to buy him anything, because that would be gay).

At first I wanted to make fun of him for having the Shakespeare in Love DVD on there, but then I figured he probably wanted it because of the Gwyneth Paltrow nude scenes and/or the fact that it is actually a very good movie, just with a queer title.

The funniest part of the wishlist is the $4500 Segway Human Transporter. We’ll mail that right out to ya, good buddy.

The Next Phone War

Welcome to a world in which the phone becomes a computer, and the computer a phone. Sports Soccer is using voice-over-Internet protocol (VOIP) technology, which allows the transport of voice, data and video over the same network. And as the various kinds of communications become intertwined, the sum is greater than the parts.

I found this article fairly interesting, mostly because it talks a bit about the products I work on, and where the industry might be headed.

iPod's Dirty Secret

I missed this story when it came out on Slashdot, but it’s pretty amusing and the video is worth watching.

Brothers Casey and Van Neistat, who collaborate on video projects using Mac editing software, said they were told by a technical support representative at Apple Computer that the cost to replace the dead battery in an 18-month-old iPod would be $255–comparable to the cost of a new device. Irked at what seemed to be the early obsolescence of the music player, the brothers trekked around New York City stenciling the words “iPod’s unreplaceable battery lasts only 18 months” on all the iPod posters they could find.

Apple’s web site says it costs $99 for battery replacement, but it’s not clear if they started doing that before or after hearing complaints. $99 still sounds like a lot of money. I’m fairly certain I can get a car battery for cheaper than that (and I am certain I can get entire mp3 players for less than the cost of an iPod battery.)

Savvy Christmas Shopping

Shopping online used to be easy. You could browse a site like Amazon, find something that looked good and was well-reviewed, then search for the best price. Usually via MySimon or PriceGrabber.

Now things are stupid. Every company is partnered with everyone else. You run into lame crap like the softball bat thing I ran into a while back. Well, I’ve hit a similar incident in shopping for my mom.

She wants a decent set of computer speakers for music and such, so I found a 3-piece set that looked nice and appears fairly capable. Yesterday, I found it on Amazon for about $85. I pop over to one of those price comparison sites, and see some things that appear to be cheaper, but then of course you have to consider shipping. Amazon has free shipping. Upon closer inspection though, I didn’t get free shipping on the product I was looking at, because it was offered by Amazon “Featured Merchant” J&R Music World. I go back today and find the price dropped to around $80. How did that happen? Oh, now it’s offered by Amazon partner Office Depot. Still no free shipping.

Out of curiosity, I went over to Office Depot’s site and found the listing there. Luckily (for my sanity) it was the same price. After digging through some of those price comparison sites, I found it even cheaper elsewhere (because of free shipping). Where did I find it? An online store called Computers4SURE. What’s so special about that store? It’s f’n owned by Office Depot. Look at the page there, and you’ll see it’s exactly the same as Office Depot’s page, but has a little “Free Shipping” icon on it.

Well, computers4SURE here I come.

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Free Laundry

My apartment complex suddenly became #12.25 cheaper per month.

Earlier this year they, for some reason, switched from the perfectly functional coin-operated washing machines to a new smart card-based system. So, rather than me having to throw some quarters in a cup each each evening to use later on, now I have to walk to the office and replenish a stupid card.

The day before thanksgiving, I had a crapload of laundry to do and didn’t get home from work until after the office closed. No problem, since the machine is still accessible. I walk in, put my card in the machine so I can put some money on it, and up comes this fantastic message: “Your card is mute.”

So, I guess that means two things: 1) I won’t be able to add any money to the card, and 2) The machine won’t be able to figure out how much money I already had on there (since smartcards store that information on the card, as opposed to a credit card which stores it centrally and uses the magnetic strip to look up your balance). Great.

Just for shits, I took the “mute” card down to the laundry room. The card reader trys to read the card, and gives me the message “reading card…”. That message typically goes away, and the machine prompts me to spend the $1.25. In this case though, that message didn’t go away. It just sat there “reading”. I closed the lid of the washer, and the water comes on.

So I put in a load, and the same magic works on the dryer. The problem is that after I’m done, the card reader is still stuck in that “reading…” state. I unplug and re-plug in the machine, and the thing reboots back to normal. I swipe the card again, the machine enters that funky state, and I do another load.

I guess this laundry technology isn’t so bad after all.