Disgust discount

August 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

It is surely obvious, to most people who see me often, that I try to stick to a strict wardrobe budget – I have a lot of stuff in my closet, but by and large it’s inexpensive. Few of the individual items I wear to work cost more than $20. Maybe $25.

I have a couple of exceptions:

  • Shoes. I like name brand shoes that will last a while. I’m mostly in Merrells these days because they’re comfortable, not too flashy, fairly sturdy, and a Michigan company. I strive to find specials on them and routinely haunt the clearance section at Von Maur.
  • Adidas Michigan logo gear. I am fortunate to have a job where I can wear this stuff frequently. I particularly like to wear the Originals line and the Sideline polos to conferences, where I act as a beacon for other UM personnel who also happened to sign up for the conference but don’t know anyone else who is there.

Just wanted to share some observances about one of my frequently-visited stores, JCPenney.

I got my first Sideline polo, the Scorch series (Rich-Rod era) at JCP in 2010. It started off at $50. I was very happy to get a $10 off $10 or more coupon in the mail, which I stacked with a 20%-off-all-NCAA special to get me to about $35. I skipped the plain first sideline polo of the Brady era, although I priced it. It was $55.

In 2011, Ron Johnson left Apple to make over JCPenney. One of the central planks was the pricing system, in which prices would be lowered so much customers wouldn’t need coupons.However, the pricing on my polos didn’t budge. Penney priced and sold the Adidas Michigan items same as before, $55, though there were no sales or coupons to get a chance to reduce this.

I enjoyed seeing the changes made to our Penney store — the kids got haircuts there, I continued to buy some items at the everyday lower prices. I was disappointed when they rehired previous management and reverted to the old sales and coupon tricks — but maybe it would save me a few bucks on this year’s polo? I have Educause coming up and it would be nice to update.

I got the $10 coupon for this weekend and skipped into the store to find… this year’s ClimaLite polo is $65 now. With this coupon, I would be right back where I was last year.

Good luck, JCP. I think I’ll be haunting the Salvation Army more and more – I hear a lot of the athletic department’s castoffs end up there.

Thinning slowly

June 4th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

This past weekend I renewed my gym membership for an excellent reason — I’m the lightest I’ve been in probably at least a decade.

History of my weight, modern era —

1992-3 – I swam five days a week, training to earn American Red Cross certifications — first for Lifeguard, then Water Safety Instructor, finally Lifeguard Trainer. Swimming is arguably one of the greatest aerobic exercises. After a couple of months I weighed about 155lbs.

1996 – I spent a semester in Florida on the Walt Disney World College Program and receive a very physical work assignment — Goodyear Tomorrowland Grand Prix Raceway (it’s the “Tomorrowland Indy Speedway” now). I drank gallons of Cherry Coke, but otherwise ate pretty healthy. Favored boneless skinless chicken breast and hot dogs. I also liked Oreos and Soft Batch, but I usually ate only a few a day — more to save money than anything else. The unintentional portion control and hours a day spent running around the track (often followed by a walk around Epcot after work) caused me to drop to a 34 waist, though I wasn’t keeping close track of my weight.

1998 – I started in the NOC at ANS Communications. The NOC was a lot of fun, fueled by a lot of bad food — though catered meetings often left food, vegetables, and deli meat in the break room, there was a soda fountain in there too, and a culture that encouraged eating at your desk — come on, two giant screen displays and an enterprise-class Unix workstation on a major backbone of the Internet? Some nights I’d just clock out and stay there surfing for a couple of hours. This is when I first bought my trucker mugs so I wouldn’t have to go back to the break room as often to fill up. And there weren’t a lot of healthy options on the south side of town — I became friendly with the folks at KFC in particular, picking up lunch orders for ten of us or more every day, or getting in on a group order from Pizza House. I ate and sat, and sat and ate, hoped for a fitness center in the building expansion circa 2000 (it turned out to be a data center), and somehow won Abbey’s heart along the way. I could make a pretty good stir-fry, but rarely, and not much else. My favorite thing to make was two boxes of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese with a pound of ground beef dumped in it.

2002 – At the time of our wedding, I weighed in the low 230s. I started to cook at home again a little bit, but still relied primarily on takeout most of the day, most days. From 2003 on, I spent most days entirely on the road between clients — which meant I ate lunch anywhere and everywhere, and got myself giant size sodas whenever I was thirsty. We joined our first gym – that and the occasionally physical nature of computer delivery kept me stable.

2007 – I jumped to U of M, and this is where I started to lose weight again. Every year in the dead of winter, Active U begins, where teams of faculty and staff track their weekly minutes spent in fitness activity, for bragging rights. They got me hooked by offering a bonus for successful completion of the program – now I sign up voluntarily to be part of a team activity. It keeps me motivated — I don’t want to let the team down.

2012 — I seemed to be plateaued in the low 220s to high 210s. Those skinny people you see running on the side of the road? They’re running, not putting their feet in little ski thingies and figure-eightng. So I quit doing the elliptical and started doing the treadmill at 3MPH, level 1, weight loss program. It was boring, so I switched to the hill program. When it started to feel too easy, I increased the resistance. I’ve slowly been raising the speed too. Now I start out around 3.7MPH and level 13, typically increasing the speed to 4MPH with a burst at the end for like 30 seconds.

This past weekend I weighed in at 209.4lbs — I’m still technically obese, so I’m not doing cartwheels yet, but 200 is in sight, and so many of the shirts and trousers I’ve bought in recent years are almost too baggy to wear. I’ve begun to set aside the ones I just can’t stand to wear anymore for donation.

Also, I recently started swiping small dumbbells from the other side of the gym and carrying them for a minute here and there while on the treadmill — usually during the less-steep portions of the hill program, I’ll grab them and pump for a minute while I’m walking. We’ll see what happens. It’s the same “here goes nothing” attitude that has served me well in computer troubleshooting.

I am actually considering scheduling the Free Introductory Appointment with A Trainer that the gym offers – I’m pretty sure it’s just a come-on for regular appointments, but once every six weeks or so might be doable. I mainly set out on this path to increase the quality and longevity of life, not for vanity, but if I keep this up, I might look as good at 40 as I did at 20. I certainly can’t look any worse than I did at 30.

Penguicon presentation on presentations…

April 29th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Hey young world, I heard you like mobile devices and presentations so I did a presentation on presenting with mobile devices. Here’s stuff I used to make the presentation.

Apple side

MacBook with Mac OS X 10.7.3 and Keynote [$19.99 for the Mac from the Mac App Store, or $9.99 from iTunes for iPhone or iPad]

iPad/iPhone with Keynote Remote [99c from iTunes for iPhone or iPad]

Windows/Android Side

hp mini netbook with Windows 7 and PowerPoint 2007 with the Boja PPT Remote Control Server

Asus Transformer tablet with Android 4 [ICS] and Boja Powerpoint Remote Control [free from Google Play]

CC/GNU FDL Photos I used in the presentation:

Keyboard by orangeacid: http://www.flickr.com/photos/orangeacid/204145200/

Portrait by borediq: http://www.flickr.com/photos/borediq/286201990/

!!! at Festival do Norte: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:!!!_no_Festival_do_Norte.jpg

American Muscle Car 2010 by sinamigos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sinamigos/4710060863/

Guy Kawasaki by SpecialKRB: http://www.flickr.com/photos/specialkrb/3317209561/

Guy Kawasaki explaining his 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2005/12/the_102030_rule.html

Eating Atburger (@burger).

December 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

@burger was a burger restaurant that opened on Liberty Street in 2010.  It was a single location, operated by Big Boy and envisioned as the first of a chain of such restaurants.  It was a little too expensive for me to go regularly.  I wrote down some thoughts after my first visit but never published them.  Now they’re closed and I’m putting my thoughts up in case people wonder what that empty storefront used to be.

I don’t usually review restaurants, but until @burger goes wide enough to get a Tesg review, I’m jotting down a few thoughts here for the curious.

Atburger is so far only one store, with the potential to become an upscale fast-casual burger chain in the vein of Five Guys or Fuddruckers. Ann Arbor has neither of these yet, though Five Guys is coming to State Street soon. @burger has been open since July so now seemed like a good time to check it out.

The good things about the @burger website are the slight CSS rotation effect on the Story page, and the coupons on the Coupons page. The bad thing about the @burger website is its favicon. At that resolution, the @burger logo is too small to read, and in fact looks like a cartoon boner. I would’ve framed a closeup on the @ personally.

Ordering at @burger is a lot like ordering at Noodles & Co., or the self-serv option at Buffalo Wild Wings that I think the servers secretly hate me for. You place your order at the register by the front door, pay there, and receive a beeping vibrating tag that you hold up as a beacon when your order comes out. They bring it out for you, like Noodles, no tipping. You pull your own fountain drinks. @burger has beer taps at the register too, but they were not labeled and they didn’t seem to be serving beer. Maybe beer is only at dinner? Not sure.

Good things about soft drinks at @burger are Coke products at the fountain, and lemon wedges. Bad thing is no Cherry Coke.

The burgers come in “Small Appetite” and Regular. 7oz [the regular] doesn’t sound like so much on the menu but it was quite filling. The good thing is that it was grilled! With grill lines and smoky taste and stuff. The bun was quite good too. Sort of a cross between the Fuddruckers bun and those soft rolls you get with your meal at Bob Evans. It was maybe not quite big enough for the burger.

After they’d been open a while they started to offer bottled beer and the tap ultimately included PBR and some regional brews.  They had some odd t-shirts for sale too.  A pixel-art “1UP” burger was cute, but I couldn’t see anyone wearing the “@HOLE” shirt.  Five Guys appears to be thriving, and Liberty Street continues to languish after a slew of recent store closings and an increase in panhandling.

“Louie”: Louis CK trolls Nick DiPaolo

September 20th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

An early highlight of the terrific first season of “Louie” on FX. I clipped this scene so we can all watch it whenever, until Hulu breaks it anyway.

Hitler seems to be a recurring theme in Louis CK’s humor:

Louie namechecking the Fuhrer again when announcing season 2 of “Louie.”

A new webcomic about Hitler as an insufferable Williamsburg type.  [Not the Jews of W’burg, the hipsters.]

And of course all the Downfall videos. Is it safe to assume he would hate to be laughed at in this way? I hope so.


August 31st, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Sprout is a cable channel aimed at preschoolers and young kids.  This line from its Wikipedia entry will tell you all you really need to know:
Sprout is co-owned by ComcastSesame WorkshopHIT Entertainment and PBS.
Sprout originally hit the cable pipes a few weeks before our oldest was born.  In our bleary early days we may have leaned on the TV a bit much, but it didn’t seem so bad when you had low-commercial options like Noggin, Disney Channel1, and to a great extent, Sprout.  Back around 2005, Sprout subsidized their rerun-recycling with about one commercial every half hour, usually for the Honda Odyssey, laundry detergent, or Quicken Loans2.  I was disappointed to see them go when we rolled back to analog cable to save money.
We decided to budget a few extra bucks for glorious HD this year — it was easy because I waited so long to buy a new TV, it basically cost half of what I was originally expecting to spend — and we were delighted to see Sprout back on our channel guide.  However, they’ve gotten an aggressive new sales staff and dramatically increased the commercial content.  Every ten minutes or so it’s commercials with Montel Williams hawking easy loans, and those terrible Huggies ads for those terrible Huggies that look like jeans3, and in my personal circle of commercial hell — Pillow Pets.  IT’S A PILLOW!  IT’S A PET!
Our oldest has two to three quality pillows on her big-girl bed, and a lovely unicorn that she got for her birthday from Build-a-Bear Workshop, but right now she is convinced her life is not complete without a shabby looking hybrid of the twain.  I don’t understand it myself, but hating Pillow Pets is like hating Soulja Boy.  Neither of them are made for someone like me.  I accept this and try to understand them4.
I am hearing these tipped as the hot holiday toy item, so if you get stuck between a rock and a soft toy as I am: save those stupid coupons Bed Bath and Beyond sends you.  Steal them out of your neighbors’ recycling if you have to.  There are two funny things about Bed Bath and Beyond coupons:
  1. The expiration date on each coupon is moot.  Clerks will accept any Bed Bath and Beyond coupon no matter when it expired.
  2. If you have a bunch with different values, the helpful BBB clerks will often select the ones that save you the most money.

I know you don’t want to go to Bed Bath and Beyond because it’s just such a cliche, but they actually have these Pillow Pets, though you may have to ask for them at the counter right now [a lot of the toys are off the sales floor during college move-in].  At least save a few bucks.

Back to grinding my main axe: Sprout.  There are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

Watch [and DVR] real PBS.  A lot of your local PBS stations have a second and a third channel now with the conversion to digital TV; sometimes these channels are a time-shifted version of the “prime” channel, so you may be able to watch PBS Kids shows at odd hours [in Detroit, WTVS 56.2 does this].  Some PBS stations use the second channel as a “Family” channel with an expanded kids lineup  [in Toledo, WGTE 30.2 does this].  Either way, these are real PBS stations with the standard sponsorship rules.  Sprout happens to carry shows that also air on PBS, and sometimes refers to themselves as “PBS Kids Sprout,” but most of their on-air graphics actually omit the PBS Kids branding in the flower, and you get the feeling that if PBS complained enough, they could quickly rebrand as, oh, I don’t know.  NBC Sprout.

Watch the Sprout shows other ways. Last I checked there was quite a bit of Dragon Tales on Netflix Watch Instantly.  Or you can get DVDs of the shows.  My local library is a terrific resource for so many of the shows we also watch on Sprout.

Can you reason with kids?  I can’t.  Avoid my fate.

BONUS: If you watched Sprout back in the day and liked Kevin reading cards on the Birthday Show, you will love him as a grown-up Ryu on the webseries “Street Fighter: The Later Years.”

  1. I bit the apple years before my children were born.  90% of the stuff that is pushed on Playhouse Disney viewers, like trips to Walt Disney World?  This life, I lead, is the stuff that happens between trips to Walt Disney World. []
  2. See?  Advertising works.  Especially when there’s less of it. []
  3. I want to take a moment to say here that there are few things cuter than real, small, baby-sized blue jean trousers.  Which makes these jean-colored Huggies even more bullshit. []
  4. On a related note, can someone teach me how to dougie?  Teach-me-teach-me how to dougie? []


August 19th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Whether you agree with the future of health care in the US or not, you have to agree that the woman shouting “Heil Hitler” at the Israeli man speaking highly of Israeli healthcare, taken at face value, is very, very wrong:

But it reminded me of a short film that hit the net a couple of years ago, which starts out as a harmless shill for a forgotten Judd Apatow comedy but quickly goes “off the rails” in a meticulously crafted “spontaneous” manner.

Compare the lady’s shirt to Craig Robinson’s shirt. Craig Robinson, I assume, wore the shirt to be ironic. What’s this lady’s story?

About the Kmart Photos

August 8th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Rear aisle facing east

[For a little background on this place, read the Wikipedia article on Kmart or google “prototype kmart” for the first few sentences of one of the old articles from Detroit newspapers when it opened in ’02.]

I read about the White Lake Kmart in the Freep, years before we moved to the area, and actually got lost on two separate occasions stopping in to see it on the way home from support clients in Detroit’s northern suburbs.  After we moved to Oakland county, I was delighted to discover that it was not that far from our place.

I started shopping here because… well, I’ve always had a soft spot for Kmart.
I guess that’s because I grew up going to Kmart stores all over downriver, and even a couple of the locations of their predecessor, S.S. Kresge & Co.  They were based in the area.  Walmart hadn’t become Walmart yet.  Heck, there were a small handful of Meijer stores in the area and they closed at, like, 11pm.

Although “societal mores” made it difficult to wear the clothes to middle school, the Toy department was epic.  So was the electronics area, with its Nintendo Entertainment System, right there on the counter, that you could totally play.  I bought my first hip-hop album at Kmart.  It was “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper” by Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.  [My second one was “Raising Hell” by Run-DMC.  Had to go to Discount Records for that — you know, because of the language.]

When we started to consider moving back to the Ann Arbor area, I realized that I was going to need to document this store to show it to my friends.  I had occasionally mentioned it in conversation — “oh yeah, I’m on my way home from the PROTOTYPE KMART near my house,” to — to what?  Impress them?  Make them think I lived in Tomorrowland, only with pontoon boats?  When pressed I would invariably describe it as “actually, quite like a Target, only green,” but I knew that didn’t really do it justice.

My other reason is that the retail world has changed so much since this store was developed.  Kmart has entered and emerged from bankruptcy and is now headquartered with its parent company in Illinois, far away from Troy — so this store will probably not get another makeover the one it got, in its time.  Most of the green accents in temporary signage have been replaced with the usual Kmart red, and this will probably continue until it is remodeled.

I spend far too much casual time on blogs like Labelscar and Malls of America, looking for pictures of the old days.  I didn’t grow up hanging out at the mall, exactly, but at the same time I have very vivid memories of them.  It is why, when we found out the child was coming, I told my wife it would always have a camera.  She has a nearly indestructible camera, and as much room as she needs to store her photographs.  Pictures are memories.  Mundane things are still memories.  Want proof?  Look at all the people mourning Livonia Mall.

I hope this store doesn’t get knocked down to accomodate a Home Depot, or anything else, in my lifetime.  But if that should happen, I think of this small set as a few handfuls of earth, ready to help fill the memory hole.

One thing I’ve never worked out was, how the hell did the stuck-up kids knew what discount store your clothes had come from, anyway, if they spent all their time at Jacobson’s?


March 26th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Awesome, no comments and no archives for… days.  It was a missing .htaccess file.

Bundle of Joy

March 25th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

A couple of things I noticed about the MacHeist 3 bundle [affiliate link] this morning:

Realmac’s Little Snapper is included.  Last year’s bundle included Snapz Pro, a similar product from Ambrosia [though the annotation and web storage puts Little Snapper closer in spirit to a product like plasq’s Skitch].

Espresso is a competitor of Macromates‘ TextMate [MH1].

Features in Acorn [and Picturesque to a lesser extent] sound a lot like Pixelmator, from last year’s bundle.

I am curious how developers from previous bundles feel about this.  Not enough to ask  them or anything — this isn’t Waxy — but it’s easy to see who isn’t bothered.

Ambrosia is apparently still on board, because WireTap Studio is included this year.  Likewise for MacRabbit [CSSEdit] and Espresso.  Boinx is a three-time MacHeist star, first with FotoMagico, then with iStopMotion, and this year with BoinxTV.  And I just realized, RealMac is the maker of RapidWeaver from MH1, which could be considered a competitor of Espresso.  [You could also note that FreeVerse (last year’s WingNuts 2) is back with Big Bang Board Games, but it’s not like you only need one game to do your job the same way you might only need one text or photo editor.]

Maybe I’m making a tempest out of a teapot?

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