Friday, July 31, 2009

Mom and deb are making what I affectionately call... "turdzels"

Supposed to be a pretzel, but the pretzel shape isn't turning out very well. ;)


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Miramonte & Trovas Apartments continue to illegally abuse the handicap spots

The black Jeep belongs to a leasing agent.

See and download the full gallery on posterous


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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rules for Bedroom Golf (SFW)

Rules for Bedroom Golf

1. Each player shall furnish his own equipment for play -- normally one
club and two balls.

2. Play on a course must be approved by the owner of the hole.

3. Unlike outdoor golf, the object is to get the club in the hole and
keep the balls out.

4. For most effective play, the club should have a firm shaft. Course
owners are permitted to check shaft stiffness before play begins.

5. Course owners reserve the right to restrict club length to avoid
damage to the hole.

6. The object of the game is to take as many strokes as necessary until
the course owner is satisfied that play is complete. Failure to do so may
result in being denied permission to play the course again.

7. It is considered bad form to begin playing the hole immediately upon
arrival at the course. The experienced player will normally take time to
admire the entire course with special attention to well formed bunkers.

8. Players are cautioned not to mention other courses they have played,
or are currently playing, to the owner of the course being played. Upset
course owners have been known to damage players equipment for this reason.

9. Players are encouraged to bring proper rain gear for their own

10. Players should ensure themselves that their match has been properly
scheduled, particularly when a new course is being played for the first time.
Previous players have been known to become irate if they discover someone
else playing on what they considered to be a private course.

11. Players should not assume a course is in shape for play at all
times. Some players may be embarrassed if they find the course to be
temporarily under repair. Players are advised to be extremely tactful in this
situation. More advanced players will find alternative means of play when
this is the case.

12. The course owner is responsible for manicuring and pruning any bush
around the hole to allow for improved viewing of, alignment with, and
approach to the hole.

13. Players are advised to obtain the course owners permission before
attempting to play the back nine.

14. Slow play is encouraged. However, players should be prepared to
proceed at a quicker pace, at least temporarily, at the course owners request
(Course time is Four to Five Hours).

15. It is considered outstanding performance, time permitting, to play
the same hole several times in one match.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Certified Farmers' Market Newsletter

hey friends,

we'll be at downtown sacramento's farmer's market this sunday--will we see you there? let me know via email or direct message on twitter! (direct message get sent as a text to my mobile. w & 8th st, downtown sac.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Certified Farmers Market <>
Date: Mon, Jul 27, 2009 at 11:46 AM
Subject: Certified Farmers' Market Newsletter

California Fresh Farmers' Market Update
Week of Monday, July 27th

Ready for Market

  • Several varieties of melons are now ready, including red and yellow watermelon, cantaloupe, ambrosia, and honeydew melons. Did you know a 1 cup serving of cantaloupe has only 60 calories, and over 100% your daily value of both vitamins A and C?
  • Peaches and nectarines of all sizes are available at the market. A true taste of summer is the plump and dark Fantasia nectarine. These are expected soon, so make sure you have a paper towel or a sink handy because they are juicy!
  • Plums and pluots of all colors are ready too. Green Gage plums are golden and green with a mellow and sweet taste. Dapple Dandy pluots are a favorite variety named for their signature red spots. Flavor King is a sweet-tart variety of pluot with darker skin. Apricots are reaching the end of their season.
  • Strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are still for sale at many markets. Of these, strawberries have the longest season. All of these berries are a good source of dietary fiber.
  • Now is a great time to make a vibrant and appetizing salsa. Finely chopped yellow and red onions and minced garlic are a must. California jalapenos will add plenty of spice. Fresh leaves of cilantro will provide authentic character. And four different colors of tomatoes are just more fun than one.
  • Red and yellow Bartlett pears have arrived. It is the first pick, so if you prefer pears that are soft, you may choose to place them in a closed paper bag to encourage the natural ripening process.
  • There are plenty of grill-friendly vegetables to choose from. Try seasoning thin slices of summer squash and Japanese or Thai eggplant. Huge Walla Walla Onions (also called Hangtown Sweets) are also available at several markets. And of course, don't forget the sweet corn.
  • Grapes are now ready. Seedless Red Flame are a popular and sugary sweet variety.

Tomatoes with History

Chances are, if you shop at the local farmers' market you've picked up an unusual looking tomato. Perhaps it weighed over a pound and had flame-like yellow stripes, and you remarked to yourself, "this is NOT your grandma's tomato!"

This tomato, an heirloom tomato, might not be your grandma's, but its history goes back many generations.

Heirloom varieties are tomato plants that have not been modified. Instead, many heirloom varieties are the same as they were 100 years ago. Their seeds were likely saved and passed down through family members, including grandmothers, through the changing generations. This is how they earned the name heirloom.

Now that heirloom tomatoes have gained popularity, their seeds and plants are more widely available, but their growing methods remain traditional.

Here are some varieties available at the market:

Black Prince: This juicy variety has a thin reddish-brown skin with green flesh in the inside. It is originally from Siberia, and was considered quite rare in the United States until recently.

Cherokee Purple: One of the sweetest tomato varieties. It is medium sized with a mixture of dark green and red on the inside. Many people believe this variety originated with the Cherokee Indians and is more than 100 years old.

Marvel Striped: This variety originated in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Zapotec people who were indigenous to the area over 2500 years ago are likely to have first cultivated this variety, as well as other pleated tomatoes. Marvel striped can be medium sized and round or grow large and pleated. It is always a beautiful warm gold with coral stripes, and has a lovely fruity flavor.

A similar-lookng fruit named Mr. Stripey originates from 19th century Mennonites who farmed in the Appalachian region of Virginia. It has a mild low-acid flavor. Note: some people refer to the hybrid Tigerella as "Mister Stripey," but this is an entirely different tomato.

Brandywine: Most of these tomatoes are very large and dense, and are prone to cracking. Sometimes the cracks and the heft are the best indications of a truly delicious Brandywine. They have bright colorful stripes and come in colors ranging from red and pink to yellow. It is said that the seeds came from the Sudduth family who had kept the variety for 80 years before passing them to an Ohio farmer, Ben Quisenberry. He introduced them to the Seed Savers Exchange in 1982 and the rest is... history.


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Sunday, July 26, 2009

I'm in ur sidewalkz, blockn ur wheelchairz --Signed, Miramonte Trovas Mgmt

Here's an example of the douchebag in Mitamonte Trovas's front leasing office who parks his motorcycle in the middle of the leasing office's entrance. He parks it there to demonstrate two things:
1. How much the staff and maintenance enjoy taking shortcuts and treating their residents (wow, especially their disabled residents) like sub-humans, and;
2. How safe it is to leave your vehicle out of sight in the parking lot. He wouldn't want someone taking off with his crotch rocket now, would he? No, of course not. So why not partially block one of the two entrance points?
So glad I am out of here. Do not rent here! Unless, of course you're ghetto-fabulous. In that case, move right in. You'll feel right at home.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Life Boils Down to 2 Questions

Life really boils down to just 2 questions...





1. Should I get a dog....?






2. Should I have children?




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Monday, July 13, 2009

Quicken: Bank of America and the OL-226-A Error

UPDATE: Are you still a Quicken user? What are you doing? Go download YNAB and change the way you budget... for the better.

----- Original Post -----

Here's a quick PRO TIP that WORKS for the infamous OL-226-A Error that Quicken produces whenever you try to download your Bank of America credit-card-only (i.e., you don't have a checking account with them, just a credit card) account information via Direct Connect:

Create a new account and choose Bank of America - All Other States. Once your new account is created you'll need to categorize all your transactions, but from here on out you should be able to download your monthly statement via direct connect without issue.

For years, I was an MBNA credit card customer. Then in January 2006, Bank of America bought MBNA, and I became a Bank of America customer by default. During this transition, an important banking feature seemed to become quite flakey: the ability to download account informaiton (transactions) directly into Quicken, without going to my bank's web site and downloading them separately.

The inconvenience of not being able to download transactions directly through Quicken was one reason I lost touch with my finances for some quite some time--it was always such a pain to go update my account that I kept putting it off until there was so much data to go through I gave up all together.

Recently, I found myself in a situation where it now made sense to track my income and expenses. I went through all the motions and downloaded my transactions from my financial institutions, categorized the transactions, etc. All was well--even Bank of America--until the very next day after I set up all my accounts.

For some reason, my Bank of America account was only able to download transactions the very first day. Today, it decided it didn't want to update. Now... having had plenty of problems with Quicken in the past, I immediately wrote it off as a quicken problem and began my search.

The error code Quicken gave me was OL-226-A. Seems like lots of people had this error, and most of them had to do with Bank of America. I later learned that many of *those* people were specifically using Bank of America - California specifically.

After lots of troubleshooting over many weeks and months, I finally broke down and called Bank of America, where I waited on hold for over 20 minutes before I spoke to a rep, who proceeded to tell me that I could not use Quicken for a Direct Download of financial transactions because I had a credit-card-only account. He went on to say that if I had a checking account with them, I'd be able to do it no problem.

"No way," I thought. I need a second opinion. So I spoke with the rep's manager, who proceeded to tell me the same story: I must have been downloading transactions all these years by, and I quote, "some unexplained glitch in the system."

I'm sorry, what did I just hear? That must mean that somehow I've been beating the system all these years until something went haywire.

Excuse me? I think I need to grab my boots, because the bullshit's getting pretty thick. I mean, what kind of shit is that? This is the largest fucking bank in these United States of America, and you mean to tell me that I can't download my transactions using the most popular financial software on the fucking planet? Something's wrong here. Something doesn't add up!

So after I got off the phone, flaming pissed, I set out to end this bullshit once and for all--after all, I can't leave my boots on forever.

About 15 minutes of serious digging landed me on this gem of a thread from Quicken, which I seem to have misplaced because I first started this post back in December of 2008. (Side note: wow, the blog post that time forgot.)

In any event, I was able to delete my current Bank of America account in Quicken, the re-establish it using this little trick: when Quicken asks you what state your account is located in, choose Bank of America - All Other States.

That's it! So far, it seems to be working well... but I must say, I'm a Mac user once again and I've been waiting eons for Quicken to come out with a Mac version of Quicken... and I've been let down yet again. Quicken Financial Life for Mac will not be coming out until at least February 2010. I say "at least" because they company has pushed it back several times since 2008. At this point, I think I'm considering moving on to something like -- I've been trying the two in parallel, and I'm noticing some interesting differences.

For example, Quicken only downloads Bank of America's credit card statements once per month as an entire statement; Mint, on the other hand, downloads transactions on a per-transaction basis, as if you were logging into the site directly and viewing the latest and greatest. This is particularly handy because after a month passes and I download all my transactions into Quicken, I often wonder what certain expenses are that I don't have receipts for. With Mint, I can check it daily, weekly, whenever the mood strikes me.

What's more, while both programs automatically categorize your downloaded transactions, Mint puts Quicken to shame because it is constantly improving its algorithms/database to predict which category your income and expenses really are. Unlike its aging great grandfather Quicken, which seems a bit like it's playing pin the tail on the donkey--in the dark.

Would I switch to Mint today? Probably not. While graphs are nice, I like the reporting in quicken because I use a zero-based budgeting system and need to make sure certain numbers get down to zero by the end of the month... reporting makes that easy. I also like the flexibility of entering transactions manually--like when you write a check today and nobody deposits it for a month--that Quicken has and Mint desperately needs. Sometimes those laggard checks get deposited at the wrong time, creating surprises. But had I been able to enter that transaction manually, I'd have seen that my balance really wasn't $1,000 but $1,000 minus that $500 check and, well, I wouldn't have bought that $501 collector's postage stamp. ;)

Phew, that was a long post. If you're still reading this, you either really liked what I had to say (thank you) or have too much time on your hands. Or both. ;)

Till next time, World!

Maintenance at Miramonte Trovas Apartments

Our apartment at Miramonte & Trovas, while recently built, has a moisture issue for reasons we have yet to understand. We have been told (and have tried) to open our windows, run our air conditioner more often, and basically "do it yourselves" to get rid of the moisture problem.

Well, we've finally had it with the maintenance here, and that is why we're moving.

When we walk into our apartment, it feels damp and muggy. There is a smell about the air--a musky smell. We generally sneeze and sometimes cough upon entry. Our eyes become irritated. Sometimes one sneeze turns into a sneezing fit that goes on a good 5 or 6 sneezes. We have no pets. Our doors have been closed all day. We're not allergic to anything inside our apartment--except the mold.

You see, the moisture problem has led to a mold problem, which management here at Miramonte Trovas doesn't seem to care about "unless there's staining or the bathroom walls are bubbling, because they're designed to do that when there's mold." Basically: unless you've got a full-blown mold outbreak from a leaky pipe and your wall or cupboard is mushy or falling apart, they could care less about your plight and give you the old "there's nothing we can do" attitude.

That's not team spirit. And certainly not representative of the way they feel about their tenants, right?

Wrong. We've been given lots of advice about how to stop the mold from growing... such sage advice as, "leave your windows open while you're gone during the day." Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, given that we're on the first floor. Oh, and then there was the obvious one: "you know, just keep your windows open... even when it's raining outside... I know it's tough, but that'll help keep the air flowing." Are you kidding me?

And then there was this: "78 degrees is a little warm for an apartment while you're gone all day... how about 70?" Wait, isn't the whole point of air conditioning to keep the place nice and comfortable while you're home? While we're at work, there's no point to keep the house at 70 degrees. 78 has been fine at every place we've lived in before.

Our conclusion: this specific unit has some kind of ventilation problem, but nobody wants to do anything about it and make it right. The manager even went so far as to say that all of the apartments have this moisture problem because of their "low ceilings" and the apartments being "on top of one another."

Excuse me, but aren't all multi-level apartments on top of each other? Oh, and by the way, in what world do "

And those mold home test kits? Don't even bother. According to our management here, you could set the petri dish outside and get the same results as what we got inside, which was nasty. So the mold test kits are worthless.

So, management offered to send out a ventilation expert, and see if there was something wrong with the apartment's ventilation system. Note I said system, not just a couple of fans. But you can guess what happened by now. No system was checked--just two fans. One in the bathroom, the other in the kitchen.

Here's the video below, complete with transcription based on what I could hear. The man in blue is our maintenance guy. The man in red is the ventilation expert. Mind you, these guys are supposed to try and figure out why our apartment is always so moist. Could be anything. Bathroom fan, laundry room fan, HVAC ductwork... and here's what they spent their time on. (Skip to 3:00 for entry into apartment.)


Blue: "Hello, Maintenance!"

Red: "Not the best location for one of those, that's for sure." "...ceiling..."

Blue: "They're all like that though."

Red: "Ah."

Red: "and then there's somethin about the kitchen fan, too--from what I was told."

Blue: "It's a recycler, there's uh--uh, there's no exhaust... they think it goes up to uh..."

Red: "Maybe that's what she's trippin about."

Blue: "What?"

Red: "The fact that there's no exhaust and she doesn't understand that."

Blue: "Oh yeah, duh"

Red: "It's smokin, and it's blowin out there."

Blue: "Yeah, they're weird dude."

Red: "Oh really?"

Blue: "Yeah, they give me the weirdest shit dude, like... I dunno, she's allergic to hot air or some shit."

Red: "Hot air?"

Blue: "And then she had something uhm, ... I just fixed her fucking doors or something."

Red: "Okay."

Blue: "Kinda weird people."

I dunno, I'm just drivin up here to check the fans, and it looks like all conditions are clean.

A fine example of how our apartment complex treats it's disabled residents and visitors

Here is a best-in-class example of how Miramonte Trovas Apartments treats its disabled residents and visitors. Not only are they parked in the handicapped parking space, but they're also blocking the wheelchair ramp. Stay classy, Miramonte!


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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

This is how you give great #CustomerService

I received an email the other day from the founder of Pandora, an internet radio service that plays only the music you like, based on a simple premise: start off your radio station with an artist or song as a "seed" and watch it grow as Pandora presents you with music it thinks you might like, based on your seed. All you have to do to improve the service is vote a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down to the song that's playing. It learns what you like and don't like, and then adapts to give you quite possibly the best "radio station" out there.

Needless to say, it's indispensable at work, the gym, parties, the list goes on. Apparently, I like it so much that the email from the founder said I was in its top 10% of users, and that my service might be changing slightly. It outlined the details, which seemed reasonable enough such that I was inspired to write back and thank him, cheer him on even.

What happened next was rare: I got an email from Steve, Pandora's Music Operations Manager, who actually sat down and took time out of his busy day to write me personally and make sure I knew it was personal by including a very unique word that I used in my email: "wallop". That's definietely not a word used in a canned response.

That's what inspired this post. It's a free advertisement/endorsement for Pandora and they paid absolutely zero dollars for it; well, let me take that back--all they paid was probably about two minutes worth of someone's time to sit down and write four sentences thanking me for writing, as well as reassuring me that they were fighting the good fight to keep internet radio alive. These guys are the real deal. I knew there was a great reason I loved them so much, aside from the must-have service that everyone (yes, even you!) should use.

Companies whose customer service sucks, please take note: you can change your ways and respond in a way similar to how Steve at Pandora did. This creates customer delight, such that they are inspired to be walking advertisements for you, wherever they go. I've signed up family and friends to Pandora and they report that they love it, too. So...



(Email chain reprinted with permission.)


Here is Tim's original email:


On Jul 7, 2009, at 3:03 PM, "Tim Westergren - Founder, Pandora " <> wrote:  

Hi, it’s Tim - 

I hope this email finds you enjoying a great summer Pandora soundtrack. 

I’m writing with some important news. Please forgive the lengthy email; it requires some explaining. 

First, I want to let you know that we’ve reached a resolution to the calamitous Internet radio royalty ruling of 2007. After more than two precarious years, we are finally on safe ground with a long-term agreement for survivable royalty rates – thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our listeners who voiced an absolute avalanche of support for us on Capitol Hill. We are deeply thankful.

While we did the best we could to lower the rates, we are going to have to make an adjustment that will affect about 10% of our users who are our heaviest listeners. Specifically, we are going to begin limiting listening to 40 hours per month on the web. Because we have to pay royalty fees per song and per listener, it makes very heavy listeners hard to support on advertising alone. Most listeners will never hit this cap, but it seems that you might. 

We hate the idea of capping anyone's usage, so we've been working to devise an alternative for listeners like you. We've come up with two solutions and we hope that one of them will work for you:

Your first option is to continue listening just as you have been and, if and when you reach the 40 hour limit in a given month, to pay just $0.99 for unlimited listening for the rest of that month. This isn't a subscription. You can pay by credit card and your card will be charged for just that one month. You'll be able to keep listening as much as you'd like for the remainder of the month. We hope this is relatively painless and affordable - the same price as a single song download.

Your second option is to upgrade to our premium version called Pandora One. Pandora One costs $36 per year. In addition to unlimited monthly listening and no advertising, Pandora One offers very high quality 192 Kbps streams, an elegant desktop application that eliminates the need for a browser, personalized skins for the Pandora player, and a number of other features:>

If neither of these options works for you, I hope you'll keep listening to the free version - 40 hours each month will go a long way, especially if you're really careful about hitting pause when you’re not listening. We’ll be sure to let you know if you start getting close to the limit, and we’ve created a counter you can access to see how many hours you’ve already used each month.

We’ll be implementing this change starting this month (July), I’d welcome your feedback and suggestions. The combination of our usage patterns and the "per song per listener" royalty cost creates a financial reality that we can't ignore...but we very much want you to continue listening for years to come. 

Please don't hesitate to email me back with your thoughts. 




This is a one-time account message. 

© copyright 2009, Pandora Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

360 22nd Street - Suite 440 - Oakland CA - 94612 

If you have any trouble, please email Privacy Policy




My response:


Well, I think this is a great compromise. $1 is quite reasonable, considering how much it probably costs you to play just one song. Thanks for the heads up! I listen every day at work, tell all my friends about it (and invite them, too), and it's especially useful at parties. 

Keep up the good work and I hope you're able to knock some sense into the music industry because they sure deserve a wallop.





Final response from Steve:


On Jul 8, 2009, at 12:37 PM, Steve Hogan <> wrote:


Hi, I'm helping Tim out with these emails due to the large volume.  We're thrilled to have your continued support, and I'm glad to hear that you think one of our new options will suit your needs.  We'll do our best to keep Pandora as free as possible, and I hope we can be the soundtrack for your workday for many years to come!

We will continue to wallop as best we can!


Steve Hogan


Steve Hogan

Music Operations Manager



internet radio from the music genome project


360 22nd Street Suite 440        

Oakland CA 94612                    

tel: (510) 451-4100 ext. 447 fax: (510) 451-4286


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Saturday, July 4, 2009

View entire (paid) WSJ articles for free

This evening Debbie wanted to read an article she found on Wall Street Journal (WSJ) but the article ended after only a couple paragraphs. That's when she turned to a service called BugMeNot, which allows you to log into a web site with a (usually fake or generic) user ID created by one person solely for the purpose of sharing it with others so that others don't enter their personal information and get spammed by the site.

Well, paid sites are barred from BugMeNot, and that's where her search ended. Or so she thought. Just type in before the URL. (It will look like this: Then, just click Submit to Digg and sign up for an account if you don't have one. Once you've submitted it and you're logged into Digg, you can view the entire article for free. The reason this is possible is because WSJ and Digg have a little agreement between each other to make this happen. So you're not "cheating the system" or anything, you're just taking advantage of something that not too many people know about.


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