Sunday, August 3, 2014

The trouble with Costco

(photo via Wikipedia)
First, a disclaimer: Costco is a fine store and I have nothing against their products or employees. They are fantastic at what they do, offer some of the best customer service around, and their products are great. It's the way they do business that I take issue with, and that's what I'll be discussing here. I do not hate Costco, please don't send me nasty emails.

I read an article several years ago that changed the way I perceive shopping forever. Everyone should read it, seriously. Go read it now and then come back, I'll wait.

Done? Okay, good. It's actually not an article, but an excerpt from a book called Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. I haven't read the whole book, but the excerpt article definitely makes me want to read more. Anyway, the excerpt article talks specifically about shopping at outlets. It describes the way outlet malls use mind games to entice customers to spend more money. Every store employs tactics like this, of course, but outlets do it in ways that seem contradictory. While a grocery store may put the highest margin products on an endcap where you're sure to see them, outlets intentionally make shopping difficult, appealing to mindset that inconvenience equals savings.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Starting to read again

I used to love to read. I remember spending hours in book stores ad libraries, perusing the shelves. In book stores, I usually hung out in the paperback aisles, since that's all I could afford. I spent lots of money on paperback books, and loved almost all of them. At the library, I'd spring for hardbacks, an expensive luxury in the stores.

I could recommend dozens of books that I read in those days, and in some cases, I still do.
Lately, though, I've fallen off. Between work, the kids, and all of my DIY homeowner projects, I haven't had the time to read books like I used to. I still read, a lot actually. Just not books. I've been reading blogs, tech news, and longform articles for years now, and they have slowly replaced books as my primary reading material.

I've tried to get back into book reading in the past. I've owned a Nook ereader and a Nook tablet, but neither were perfect for various reasons (both sold on eBay long ago). I've also tried reading ebooks on my phone, but that didn't work for me either due to distractions and battery concerns.

Well, I'm trying again. I now have a Kindle Paperwhite which I can honestly say is the nicest ereader I've ever used. I'll write another post about the Kindle later, but for now, I'll say that it is helping facilitate my renewed attempt at reading again. I want to get back into the habit of reading books regularly. I miss getting absorbed in a story and really enjoying a story. I want my children to grow up seeing me reading a lot.

So let's get started. I just finished a non-fiction book about how to improve the workplace, and now I'm reading a military thriller fiction book. I set up profile on Goodreads (add me as a friend if you want), and I'll report back with any books I find particularly enjoyable.

Reading is something I used to love. I want to love it again.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why I'm keeping my Pebble

In case you missed it, Android Wear stormed onto the scene recently, bringing three new smartwatches from Samsung, LG, and Motorola. The new watches promise to be the future of wearable computing, and provide Google's vision of what smartwatches should be. All three of the Android Wear watches have vibrant color touchscreens along with features like a microphone, accelerometer, etc.

I've had my Pebble since December 2013, and I was excited to see what kind if improvements Android Wear would bring. And it sure did bring some killer new ideas to the smartwatch arena, especially in regards to voice control. But after seeing the current crop of Android Wear watches, as well as the ones coming later this year, I will definitely be keeping my Pebble and not getting an Android Wear watch. At least not for a while. Here's why:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Making a grocery price book

I'm pretty fortunate in that I was taught how to shop for groceries at an early age. The importance of comparing unit prices instead of package pricing is something I've always known and it's helped me comparison shop for the best prices while staring at a shelf of a hundred different size containers of the same product.

The unit price comparison goes out the window, though, when comparing items between stores. It's all too easy to say, "I think the other store had this cheaper," or "This looks like a larger package than we usually buy, so that's probably why it's more expensive," or "I know we usually pay $10 for this product, but how much do we usually spend per ounce?"

Saturday, May 17, 2014

My advice for a Disney vacation

As a Disney annual passholder, I often get asked for advice on visiting various parks and how to make the most out of a Disney vacation. So here are some thoughts on the matter:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Roku 3 and finally giving up on Media Center

It's finally happened. I have abandoned Windows Media Center as the primary TV system in our house. It's sad, really. Media Center is easily one of the best products Microsoft has ever created, but fell victim to changing company focus. As Microsoft's living room priorities shifted to the XBox, the idea of a Media Center PC was abandoned.

This isn't the first time I've written about this. From my initial review of Media Center in Windows 7, to my thoughts on how my children will watch TV as they grow up, to my first thoughts of giving up on Media Center, this has been a topic on my mind for a long time.

A little over a year ago, I wrote that I was getting a Roku streaming box and experimenting with abandoning Media Center for good. That didn't happen. The Roku experiment didn't work very well for a number of reasons. Netflix wasn't as nice as it was on Media Center, Plex had trouble streaming a number of our movies, and on the whole, we all got frustrated with it and went back to the tried and true Media Center.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My thoughts on Disney World's new Magic Bands

Disney World announced their new ticketing system last year, and part of that new system included Magic Bands, which are bracelets that park guests wear instead of carrying a paper ticket. The bands didn't become widely available until last month, with only guests staying at certain Disney hotels getting them until now.

Last month, annual passholders finally got a chance to order the bands, and just last week, they were made available to general day guests. Hotel guests and annual passholders get the bands for free, general admission day guests have to pay $13 extra.

As annual passholders, we got our bands a few weeks ago and have used them several times now around the parks. Here are my thoughts.