Galaxy Armband[it]

Holy crap, it’s almost the end of the month and I’m down one.  Time to get on the stick (or rather the keyboard) and get the final post in for April.  I can’t believe how fast this month has gone.  For this entry I am going to share a bad experience with a recent online purchase.  Earlier in the year I broke down and upgraded from the Motorola Razor to a Galaxy Mesmerize.  This was a difficult task due to how reliable the Razor was and the hell I put it through while out working in the lot.  Let’s just say both the secret (yeah right) water disks were bright red from all the sweat and rain it was exposed to.  The new smart phone finally provided me the ability to map runs to Google with the built in GPS.  Probably more beneficial, it also provided  the ability to swap out the iPod Touch for my running MP3 player with the added benefit of now being able to call for help if I get lost or (knock on wood) injured while out on the long runs.  In order to do this, I had to purchase a new armband. Having checked out all the Internet stores (Amazon etc.) I decided to go with one I found at  There was some hesitation since I prefer to purchase things from companies I am familiar with, but this was pretty cheap and went ahead and used our Internet only credit card in case something undesired happen.  As a note, this was the only product that actually called out my specific phone model.  All the others explicitly stated it only fit one model (which couldn’t be validated since it was using model numbers that were different from the names the cell phone providers give them).  Soon after hitting the submit button, the PayPal notification email came confirming the purchase and indicated the charge will show up under Talisman LLC.  The email also provided their mailing address:

Merchant information
Talisman, LLC

Several days later we received another email saying the product had shipped and if there were any issues to contact Talisman LLC directly.  Sure enough the package arrives and the excitement starts to rise…. that is until I opened up the package.  There was a large glue stain on the inside of the clear front of the holder.

Hoping it was superficial I tried wiping it off with water, but that was futile.  With a heavy dose of disgust I dragged the camera out, took pictures of the armband condition, hunted down the memory card reader, transferred the images to the computer, cleaned them up in Photoshop to help cut down the glare, added the best one to an email along with some comments regarding my dissatisfaction with their quality control and sent it off.  Probably an hour of completely wasted time because of their poor attention to good service.  I did not expect an immediate email response, but actually expected something in a day or two.  This was an assumption based on their webpage that had the following comment:

“We are a small company, located in the USA. We ship our products anywhere in the world. We have a customer service team that will pick up the phone. And we will ship your products to you promptly, without error, guaranteed.”

Anyone want to take a guess on when they responded?  If you answered with anything other than NEVER, you are dead wrong.  A week had passed since the defective product arrived and there was nothing left to do other than contact them directly.  Back I went to their webpage to get the support numbers.  Oddly, the support number was added at the bottom of the page as a graphic and not basic text even though there were only letters and punctuation characters.  Their contact number at the time was 608.385.7795 (verified that it still has this number on their website).  With some angst, I picked up the phone, dialed the number and prepared myself for some serious ranting.  Unfortunately, that never happened because there was only an answering machine for a house realtor.  I ended up leaving a message indicating who I was, the reason for my call and even indicated where I got the number in case this was really a realtor and not the Talisman LLC customer service number.  That effort ended up with the same results as the email did… nada.  A few quick searches on the Internet located this site which looks almost like the Galaxy website with a few different colors, but the same Talisman LLC vendor and a different contact number.  Note, the products looks EXACTLY the same.  Thinking I was clever, I called that number hoping to be transferred to the real Galaxy number.  Failed!  That number was a Google Voice number which required me to state my name before putting the call through.  No one picked up on the other end and guessing they were using the forward or ignore voice feature.

In a last ditch effort I asked Linda to stop the payment assuming this particular vendor was not entirely on the up and up.  Guess what, according to our Visa research, we can only stop payment on a purchase if it is over $50.00.  Stick a screw in me boys I’ve been turned.  All I can do now is make sure others do not make the same mistake.  After some elbow grease and Goop I was able to get some of the glue off that makes it useable, but the quality of the product does not warrant that price tag.

This is what I get for deviating from my standard Internet purchasing process.  A lesson learned and another blog entry

She Said Yes! Introducing the BEAST

I hope my blog readers know by now that my wife and I share a photography habit… I mean hobby. Unlike Linda’s dog agility hobby and my addiction to running, this hobby is one we equally enjoy. It also gives us an opportunity to spend quality time together which is difficult in today’s hectic corporate world and what seems like an endless queue of errands and fix-its. It is also one of the few activities I willingly leave the comfort of my bed BEFORE the crack of dawn. Every once in awhile we get the opportunity to upgrade our equipment. This always a stressful event based on the fact that photography can be an expensive hobby and we have specific shooting interests that can, unfortunately, force you into higher dollar items. Lately, Linda has been shooting in low light facilities trying to capture dogs on the agility course. I am always trying to close the distance between my camera and wildlife. In both cases, the telephoto is generally the go-to glass. Up to this point, our workhorse has been the 80-200 f/2.8. This glass is solid and has never failed us, but the lack of VR can result in hand held fuzziness and probably more annoying, the inability to put a teleconverter on it (thanks Nikon) keeps us just out of optimal distance. To be honest, I will always complain that I am just out of optimal distance no matter what lens we have because that’s the wildlife photographer’s creed.

A few weeks back, we decided to pull the trigger on new glass. There were a few options in the zoom category we investigated including upgrading our 80-200 f/2.8 to the newer VR (vibration reduction), going with a superfast prime lens (300,400,500) or bite the bullet and go with a relatively fast longer zoom with VR. Linda wisely pointed out that buying another lens in the range we already have seems pointless (even if it has VR). The fast primes in the 400+ range is wicked expensive and really inhibits composition due to not being able to adjust the distance making it difficult to use for the agility ring. This left us with the longer zoom option. After much debate, sleepless nights and more than a hint of hesitation we pulled the trigger on the Nikon 200-400 VRII f/4 (end to end). The VRII offered some compensation for the uplift in aperture and fit our budget a little better than the house mortgaging below f/4 models. With that decision out of the way, the hunt was on to actually find one. The tsunami in Japan had a big hit in inventories leaving a few older models available and only ONE current model in stock across every photography retailer we could find on the Internet. Long story short, we took an availability premium hit and locked into the new lens.

After a quick inquiry as to the arrival date (since the delivery date was fast approaching without notification), we were informed it was on its way. I do not know if it was a result of the inquiry or in respect to the purchase price, but the glass was upgraded to two-day express. Sure enough, the package arrived as notified. This is when reality set in. Check out the packaging required. (Note, Rizzi was a reluctant participant, but I needed some scale)

Exactly what have we gotten ourselves into. We knew it was going to be larger than our current zoom, but this might be on a whole different level.

Hit the jump to see what was in those boxes.

Continue reading She Said Yes! Introducing the BEAST

Movie Recollection: Atlas Shrugged (and I Shuddered)

It seems a number of my friends have a lot of extra time on their hands.  The reason I believe this is they have read or listened to a novel by Ayn Rand called Atlas Shrugged.  I have held this novel in my hand in local bookstores only to decide that I am already convinced of the bad affects brought on by big government and reading a thousand page book to confirm that belief seems like a frivolous use of my precious time.  I even looked into the audio book but 63 hrs equates to 63 commutes to work and back which would seriously put a dent into my Lee Childs series… again, for something I already believe in.  For those unaware, this novel was Written in 1957 and explores the collapse of society as a result of too much government intervention (my interpretation from some Internet searching and what was gleamed from the movie).  Clearly the time was right for this particular movie adaption as the U.S. continues to be held hostage by a government driven by personal agendas, party bickering, bad economic decisions and confusing foreign policies.  So when my friends found out the movie was going to be at a local theater, I decided I would join them.  This, in part, to two of them agreeing to go see Sucker Punch with me the week before.

One member of the group (Pakage) showed up at the theater at the same time I did so we headed to the ticket counter together.  While I was waiting for him to pay for his ticket, a stranger came back into the lobby and asked if I was planning on seeing Atlas Shrugged.  I was a little apprehensive to respond half waiting for some liberal to start ranting about how stupid the movie was.  I confirmed and immediately had to internally apologize for my pre-judgement (I have to stop doing that, but Blink was right). Turns out he had an extra ticket due to his friend bailing on him and simply gave me his ticket for free.  I tried to give him half of the ticket price (thanks to that being the total amount of singles I had at the time), but he waved it off.  I have no idea who he is and I doubt he reads my blog, but just in case, Thank You!  While relaying this fortunate event with my friends, I was met with interesting comments regarding sharing the wealth and how that plays into the movie I was about to see.  Oh well, it was $7.00 in my favor and very appreciative.  Soon after, we headed into the movie a little earlier than are usual routine but there were some concerns over seats – especially with the large group we had.  I was absolutely shocked by the number of people in the theater.  Other than Avatar, I can’t tell you the last movie I saw that had a theater even a third full.  There were still some seats up higher in the theater, which we quickly laid claim too, but a pretty good crowd for a limited theater release with very little (if any) marketing.  While getting comfortable in the seat,  I took another assessment of the crowd (yeah, I can’t help myself) and noticed an interesting mix ranging from older couples, students, urban professionals and a smattering between.  The lights went down and I settled in see what this was all about.  For those keeping track, Sucker Punch wins the trailer score – Atlas has some uber-lame ones I can’t even remember anymore (one had Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks, but that’s ALL I remember).

hit the jump to read the rest of my comments on this movie:

Continue reading Movie Recollection: Atlas Shrugged (and I Shuddered)

Bizarro Day

There are those days that are so monotonous you wished you had never left your comfy pillow.  However, there are some days that are full to the brim with bizarre events.  Saturday just happened to be one of the latter.  I generally do not provide a detailed blog account of my day because, quite frankly, my days are probably not that interesting (why else would I spend my time amusing myself by watching others).  Since there were so many oddities I decided to break from tradition and try to run you through my interactions today.

  • Eventually I shook off the sleep and checked out the weather.  Once again the Globull Warmers were eating crow as the temps were in the mid 30’s forcing me to choose the treadmill to get my 6 miles run in.  To keep the boredom to a minimum I decided to watch The Warrior’s Way thinking that sounded like an action packed movie that will keep my mind off the rubber belt under my feet.  That movie started out interesting and then went into a complete tailspin making my run feel like navigating through molasses.  If that wasn’t bad enough, about a third of the way through the run my heart took a jolt about throwing me into the wall behind the treadmill.  Some dumb*ss director decided the show wasn’t complete without a $#!#%@!$% clown.  A martial arts flick set in a Western setting must not of had the audience drawing power like a martial arts flick set in a Western setting with a clown!  I eventually got the heart beating normal again and closed out the rest of the mileage making a mental note never to watch anything from that director again.
  • With the weather as it was, there was not much I could do on the lot so decided to run some errands with Linda.  First off was lunch and that ended up being Panda Express.  While Linda ordered her honey walnut shrimp, I checked out the entrees and decided on one that had just been filled from the kitchen.  As I walked back to the clerk she asked me if I was with Linda and then handed me a shrimp on a stick.  For some reason I assumed Linda had asked her to give me sample of her selection or maybe they had too many to fit on her plate so just gave me a bonus shrimp.  having deduced that, I gladly accepted the shrimp and put the whole thing in my mouth at once.  Guess what?  It was not what Linda ordered, but rather their new hot/spicy shrimp.  In case you don’t know me very well, my body is a finely tuned ecosystem that runs on a spice scale of ketchup to mild Taco Bell sauce.  Ten seconds later my mouth was on fire and unable to really answer any of the clerks food selection questions.  Linda saw me in distress and I explained the situation.  Her response was “Just because they hand it to you doesn’t mean you have to eat it”, causing the clerk to laugh.  I think there needs to be a ruling here – I claim that if you are going to give someone a piece of food to try, you should be obligated to tell that person the spice level before handing it to him.  Anybody with me on that?  What if I had my gall-bladder out or not been in such peak physical condition … for the record, Linda is on the suck it up side of this debate.
  • With the fire in the mouth finally contained, we headed down to Running Central to pick up another pair of running shoes.  The weekly mileage is piling up as I set the groundwork for the half marathon later in the year (fingers crossed).  This is definitely the most miles I’ve logged this early in the season, but I am still 5 miles from where I need to be in September – but already at Bix distance and only 2 miles from the Steamboat run in June.  Two blocks from the store it literally starts to snow.  Last week I was running in 85 degree heat and this week I’m out in the snow.  Oddly, there was no place to park by the store so we headed around the block and parked in a community lot.  After a brisk walk to the store we opened the door to a totally PACKED store.  I’ve been going to this running store for years and it has never been this full of customers.  I took a glance out the window at the snow and then to Linda in hopes of an explanation.  My only guess is the local schools had track season starting and all the young kids in there were simply excited about getting their gear.  I think one of the female clerks recognized me and detoured over from her current customer and asked if she could help me.  As has been the case for the last 5 years my response was ” I need a size 10 Nimbus please”  Her response was “Wow, you’re easy I’ll go look for you”.  I mentioned her response to Linda as we headed to the car as a candid argument against her impression I’m full of strange quirks that puts me far from the easy category.  Funny enough, she didn’t even notice the lady ask me what I needed and didn’t understand why she was telling me they were out of what I wanted.  They offered to order a pair for me, but I always try them on since Asics has a tendency to tweak their Nimbus on every release and some of those are not for the better.  I was really happy with the service and that is definitely one of the reasons I take my business there.Hit the Jump to see the rest of the day with some fail pictures
    Continue reading Bizarro Day

More Gems from Fail Land

Every once in awhile I take the time to read our local newspaper.  Actually, read is probably too strong of a word.  It is really more of a scan since most of the content is already old news previously obtained from sources on the net.  The cut and paste from the AP feeds is quite annoying to the point the only sections worth looking at are the opinions page and the city state page.  The latter providing  access to the local crime activities (and to make sure my name didn’t make it there by accident!).  On this particular scan, two things stood out.  One of them was this picture from the AP (rights remains with AP)

There are a number of things that caught my attention here. First off, anyone who thinks the economy is anywhere close to being out of the woods hasn’t been paying attention to the news at all and therefore wouldn’t be reading the paper in the first place – making this entry completely pointless (more filler). Secondly, I share those same initials giving me flashbacks of school ribbing. Third, did someone actually sit down an say to themselves “This would be an awesome name for my establishment”? If so, then this might be the same dude that thought Pen Island would be a great Internet company name for an ink pen wholesaler (hint, write out the obvious URL string – I just checked, it is still accepting http requests, but now has gone dark). Lastly, from the gutter, an image popped into my head with that name that made me shudder.

If that wasn’t enough, this add caught my attention from Illinois Furniture.

This store has been going out of business for at least a year now (likely even longer than that). It has become a local running joke to the point I think the city board is now investigating this store. This was a full page add so I cut it down for easier viewing.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this advertised both in local media and an army of people holding the standard “Going out of Business” placards on the street corners. But this is the part of the advertisement that caused me to burst out laughing.

So, I can save UP to 70%. Typically by all marketing standards I am familiar with, this is the highest amount of saving that can be assumed for the advertised store and this can have all kinds of devious interpretations depending on integrity of the company. But wait, it also says I can save “AND MORE”. What the hell does that mean? If I can save more than 70%, why did they cap my enthusiasm previously by indicating my ceiling of financial thriftiness was 70%? Now they have just confused me so I’ll head to Good’s instead.

Hit the jump to see a few more fails

Continue reading More Gems from Fail Land

Book Recollection: My Life as an Experiment

Unfortunately, I do not get to knock any height off the “to read” stack with this book since my brother Ron actually gave me this as a gift after I had compiled this year’s reading list.  With that said, it was definitely worth the time to read it.  I have been a fan of A.J. Jacobs since I read his first book The Know It All.  This led to the second book I read of his, The Year of Living Biblically.  This particular offering was previously published as the Guinea Pig Diaries and consists of a collection of short stories on various experiments A.J. has taken upon himself.  I happen to consider myself a lab rat as well but tend to put myself through experiments related to health and fitness (P90X, Core Performance, running philosophies, weight loss tricks etc.).  If there is a genuine thought on how to improve yourself physically or make you better at athletics, I’ve probably personally validated it or in most cases refuted it.  A.J. has taken this well beyond the next level and puts himself through some pretty bizarre experiments and in some cases, ones I would NEVER attempt.  Take for instance the Radical Honesty section where he tries out Brad Blanton’s philosophy to happiness.  You guessed it, say what you think without concern of implication.  Once again, we get a glimpse as to what an angel his wife must be to put up with these crazy ideas.  Linda would be horrified to have me around her friends knowing at any moment I could say something that might embarrass her.  A.J’s wife does take exception to his response to her friend’s meeting request, but for the most part is pretty tolerant of this specific experiment.  On a side note, this happens to be one of his funniest experiences I’ve read in all his books.

One of the nice things about this book was the ability to start and finish a particular experiment in a relatively short amount of time making it the perfect bedtime reading material.  That is, of course, if you can actually go to sleep after laughing so hard. One of these days I might have to catch his regular articles for the Esquire magazine.  If I remember correctly, most of the chapters in this collection were compiled from those articles.    If you enjoy journalistic experimentation and have a similar passion for human behavior A.J. is your guy.  On top of all this, his sense of wit rivals any stand up comic out there.  One word of caution though.  Do not and I repeat DO NOT let your wife or girlfriend read the section on Whipped – this is not a concept we want to get any traction.

Hit the jump for a summary of my take-aways from the read.

Continue reading Book Recollection: My Life as an Experiment