Reviews

Yesterday I took two shopping bags full of clothing to Buffalo Exchange in Long Beach. They only bought a few things, but I was happy that I walked away with $44 in store credit. Not bad, I figured…even though I still had two mostly full bags to carry back to my car.

Last night I tried to bring the “rejected” apparel to the Buffalo Exchange in Costa Mesa, but I got there only an hour before closing, and they had already cut off the line to sell.

Tonight, not discouraged, I drove my two shopping bags all the way back down to Costa Mesa…and they bought everything else! (Well, everything except a few graphic t-shirts.) They would have given me $110 in store credit, but at that point I decided it was better to take part of it in cash…to pay for all the gas I used driving to Long Beach and Costa Mesa.



Normally I wouldn’t break the grammar rules by alternating between spelled-out numbers (“two”) and numerals (“2”) in the same title, but these are the actual trademarks, so I have no choice.

I upgraded my smartphone. Literally upgraded, because I simply went from the HTC Droid Incredible to the HTC Droid Incredible 2. I loved my Incredible, but I decided it was imprudent to delay upgrading, especially considering that I could get the newer version of the same phone for only a penny. The Incredible 2 added a larger screen, front-facing camera, newer versions of Android and HTC Sense, and far superior battery life.

Oh, and the coolest part, even if I never use it? It’s a global phone, so it can roam anywhere in the world. I can even unlock the SIM card and use it on AT&T or T-Mobile here in the USA, although I have no idea why I’d want to do that.

10:09 am Reviews Comments Off on New Every Two™: Incredible 2™


I’ve been using a few Apple products lately, and I’m annoyed by the same basic problem in both the iPod Touch and the Apple Cinema Display monitor: Oversimplification of buttons for the purpose of clean design.

I get it, Apple. You think it’s cool to only have one button on the iPod Touch. Here’s the problem with that: It takes a bunch of extra clicks, not to mention a whole lot of counter-intuitiveness, to accomplish tasks that are simple and straightforward on an Android device. Not having a menu button is just like not having a right-click feature on a mouse; it makes tasks more complicated instead of simpler.

Yesterday I started using an Apple Cinema Display monitor in the office, and I’d never used one before. It’s a very sleek-looking monitor, and it has touch-sensitive brightness and power buttons on the right edge of the screen. However, I have a tendency to reach out and physically tilt the monitor up or down while I’m working. Sure enough, every time I do, I’m inadvertently adjusting the brightness or shutting off the monitor.

Good design doesn’t just mean that something is pleasing to the eye; it means that it’s actually well thought-out. There are plenty of things Apple does well, but they need a lot of help with buttons.



I got sick of my Droid Eris draining its battery and lagging all the time, so I upgraded early (via Craig’s List) to a Droid Incredible. It’s likely to have similar problems eventually since it’s also made by HTC, but it starts out with a faster processor, a newer version of Android, and a lot more storage space, so it should take longer to become obnoxious. My favorite feature of my “new” phone is that the camera has a flash; that should help make it a little more useful as a camera.

I thought about getting a non-HTC Android phone instead, but I honestly can’t get away from HTC’s enhancements for Android. Their mail client alone is worth dealing with their crummy phone book. And they really have made great strides from Android 2.1 to 2.2, an upgrade which the Eris would never receive.

This will at least tide me over until August, when I’m up for a real upgrade, and there should be a slew of 4G/LTE phones available.



I’m drinking a Spicy Hot V8, and man, that stuff is HOT! It’s tasty, and it’s great that I’m getting vegetable servings from it, but I definitely need to follow it up with something non-spicy and non-hot, such as ice cream. Oh! I have a great idea: They should make Ice Cream V8.

12:09 pm Reviews Comments Off on Spicy Hot V8 Isn’t Kidding Around


HTC Droid Eris Ash and I were both eligible for phone upgrades as of December 24, so we went out that morning and used our “New Every Two” credit to get two free (after rebate) Droid Eris phones.

The phones take a little getting used to since we’ve never had smart phones before. For instance, it automatically downloaded all my gmail contacts into my phone book, and I had to figure out how to stop that from happening. So there’s a learning curve. But it’s nice to finally have a device that I think is every bit as useful as the iPhone, yet on the Verizon Wireless network so it can make phone calls inside Friday’s at the Block, or at Rainforest Cafe, or at any other place where we’ve seen the iPhone fail at being a phone.



I’ve noticed that a lot of new GPS devices are “widescreen” (i.e., 16:9 ratio instead of 4:3 ratio). Call me crazy, but… isn’t a GPS interface actually better in the traditional full-screen aspect ratio? I’d rather see more of what’s directly ahead of me on the map than what’s directly to my left and right. For both televisions and computers, the wide aspect ratio makes sense: Movies are filmed that way, and documents can be viewed side-by-side. But I think they need to draw the line somewhere—based on the actual use of a screen—and that line should have been drawn before GPS devices.



Zuke's Mini BakesIt’s been a long time since Ilse’s been so excited about a treat (a treat meant specifically for dogs, not for people), so I have to blog about these. She absolutely loves these Zuke’s Mini Bakes that we got at Anaheim Feed.

I’ve never seen them at Petco, so I’m not sure how long they’ve existed. They only have the Zuke’s Mini Naturals, which smell gross. I went to Anaheim Feed to find a different treat but ended up deciding to try these. We got her the “Peanut Butter ‘n Blueberryz” flavor because she likes peanut butter more than turkey, and we think she’s allergic to chicken.

She’s been getting them for over a month now, but she still dances and acts crazy when she knows she’s going to get one. She usually loses interest in her treats pretty quickly, so her reaction to these is a welcome change. And they come in a huge box (325 pieces) for a low price (about $5), so that’s a welcome change too!

As a bonus, they’re made without wheat, corn, and soy, which is good if your dog has allergies, or if you’re a dog-allergy-hypochondriac.

8:11 pm Reviews , , Comments Off on Zuke’s Mini Bakes


By now I’m sure everyone realizes that “Free Credit Report dot com” isn’t really free; you have to enroll in their “Triple Advantage” program to get your free report, and if you forget to cancel, you get billed monthly for their credit monitoring service.

For anyone seeking truly free alternatives, I want to share my own choices for credit tools that don’t cost me anything but do a decent job of keeping an eye on my credit reports and credit score.

  1. To get your credit reports completely free once per year, you can use AnnualCreditReport.com. There’s no commitment and no cost. You just pick any (or all) of the three credit bureaus, and you can instantly get a free report once a year to see exactly what’s on your file.
  2. To check your credit score as often as you like (although I think it’s only really updated once a month), you can use Credit Karma. It only uses one credit bureau, but that should be fine unless you’re conducting a really sensitive transaction like a real estate purchase.
  3. To keep an eye out for identity theft, you can use a service that’s included as a free perk for members of the Auto Club: CreditCheck Select, which monitors your credit report and alerts you whenever there’s a change (like a new account or an inquiry). I know that’s not technically free, but it is if you’re already a AAA member.

Using those three services, you can keep a pretty close eye on your credit without having to pay anything extra!



I’m sort of annoyed with Chevron and sort of not.

The first time I went into the ExtraMile (that’s the convenience store at Chevron gas stations) to buy a cup of coffee, they gave me a punch card. Buy six coffees, get the seventh free. So here we are, a month or two later, and I recently acquired my sixth punch.

I went into the ExtraMile tonight and poured my seventh cup, and I brought it up to the cashier with my fully-punched card. “We don’t take those,” he informed me.

“But I got the card here,” I pointed out. “You’ve punched most of these yourself.”

“Yeah, we punch them, but we don’t give the free one. Any other ExtraMile will though,” he claimed.

Thoroughly annoyed with this suspicious lack of full participation, I reluctantly handed over my Chevron gift card to pay. The cashier went through the motions, printed out my receipt, and then stood there looking at it for a while. The card was pre-authorized, but then it charged me $0.00 for no apparent reason (even though the gift card has well over fifty dollars left on it). I offered to try paying again, but he told me to just take the coffee and not to worry about it.

So although I’m annoyed with their questionable “participation” in their own loyalty program, I did come away with a free coffee after all was said and done. And on top of that, I still have my fully-punched card, which means I still get another free coffee… if I can find an ExtraMile that participates in the redemption part of the punch card.

9:20 pm Reviews Comments Off on Chevron ExtraMile Convenience Store: Misnomer?


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