Lost - Not the TV show…. Although… I do enjoy it.

reviews

June 5, 2008

My Car

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It’s been almost six months now since I bought my first car (the 1990 Dodge Spirit that my parents bought when I was a Sophomore in high school doesn’t count).  It’s a 2008 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL (pictures here). Some thoughts as a first-time buyer after having lived with my purchase for a few months:

  • Be very wary of the person sells you finance for your car.  For me, it was a completely different person than the salesman who got me to buy the car in the first place.  When I got my car, I took a three year financing special at 1.9% APR, but after all was said and done I was definitely duped as a first-time buyer with nobody else there who knew better.  When the guy offered the “gold” package saying it was only $100 more per month (which is a very deceptive ploy) I agreed to it.  Although he claimed that it was only about $2000 overall, it was more like $5000.  Now I can have all the lipstick stains on my leather that I want!
  • The details were worth it.  I probably could have spent 25% less and still bought a pretty comparable car, but it would be missing a lot of the stuff that really make me happy with my car now.   Stuff like the paint color, auto-on/off headlights, line-in, mp3 CD player, push-button start, folding rear seats, keyless entry, xenon headlights and nav system are what make the purchase worthwhile.
  • Mileage should probably have played a bigger factor in choosing the car.  My car has averaged very close to 20mpg since I bought it (although I’ve only put about 1500 miles on it).  Fortunately, we carpool to work, so I’m not hit as hard by the rising gas prices.  However, when I *do* need to fill up my 20 gallon tank, it costs a pretty penny (about $70 last time I went)
  • Both the gas and brake pedals on my car are extremely touchy.  Perhaps it’s a Nissan thing, perhaps a Japanese thing, but it actually wasn’t something I noticed as much when I went for a test drive.  Even after six months, I sometimes accidentally jerk forward a bit when accelerating.  Fortunately, the CVT kind of balances things out, since I can accelerate from 0 to 60 and not really feel the gears change =)
  • edmunds.com is an awesome site.  They have a great comparison system that let’s you see things like shoulder and leg room for various cars side-by-side (stuff that is hard to find on other sites).  They were also really good about getting quotes from dealers.  I just checked a few boxes after picking out the options I was looking for an within a day I usually had two or three quotes from local dealers (sometimes it was within minutes!).

All in all, I’m pretty happy with my purchase - four and a half stars =)  In hindsight, there are a couple things I would have done differently:  I think I would have bought the hybrid Altima instead of the 3.5SL (I’m always amazed with how quiet hybrids are when they’re just on their electric motor) and I would have kept a closer eye on exactly what “extra options” I was getting.  Other than that it was actually a fairly painless experience for someone who was totally unfamiliar with the buying process.

funny

October 3, 2007

Our Internet Blows

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Speedtest

Yes, the right one is upload, the left one is download.

To be fair, we usually get 5kbs+ but I guess our phone line is throwing a tantrum or something.

funny

October 2, 2007

Do you want to buy “the goods” for “the price”?

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We put some of our stuff up on craigslist when we moved recently and some of the responses are great. I’m sure anyone who puts items up gets the same emails, but they struck me as funny. It’s amazing how generic they get. Like this one, in response to our classified for our grill:

Hi, is the item still available for sale now,I need this urgently, am willing to purchase the goods for the price, and i will be making the payment with money order, if this is still availabe please contact me back for the quick response, and with your information i need to require for the payment within today till next week. Because am inneed of the item, you can also contact me with my messeger crib_king78@yahoo.com
Thanks.

Or this one for our TV:

Hello seller,

I saw your advert while surfing via the internet and am
willing and interested to buy your items.Get back to me via my email
if the items is still available for sale.Are you the owner???State its
condition.What is your last OFFER????I look forward to read
from you about the items soonest.

Best Regards,

If you had no context, you’d think I was performing some kind of drug deal, selling “the goods” for “the price”. Surprisingly, they must have hired an army of non-english speakers to get their grammar this bad…

“and with your information i need to require for the payment within today till next week”? Impressive.

fun

July 16, 2007

Skydiving

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Tawheed, Garret, his parents and I went skydiving today at Bay Area Skydiving.

The experience was great. Of course, we signed our lives away before going up. They also had us watch a crazy instructional video that was narrated by a guy that had a beard which must have been two or three feet long. I can’t imagine what it would be like to see him skydiving! We all decided to take the 14,000 ft jump. Tawheed and I thought about going for 18,000, but it was an extra $70 and they would have needed to bring oxygen in the plane, which was a bigger hassle, so we settled with 14k. We did both get video and pictures taken though. It took about an hour before we were all suited up and ready to board the plane.

Garret and his parents went up in the plane before myself and Tawheed. Garret’s mom was definitely the most nervous of the group. The people there are pretty cool though, and it’s clear that things don’t usually go wrong when you see that most of the instructors have several thousand jumps under their belt. Tawheed and I went up about 20 minutes after them, so we didn’t get to watch them drop.

Into The Plane

The ride up was interesting. I had never been in a small plane before, but it wasn’t too much of a shock. Once we hit the 14k mark, all the solo jumpers got to go while our cameramen stood outside the plane to wait for Tawheed and I to jump. It seems like it would be really hard to concentrate on keeping a camera on someone while jumping out of an aiplane, but these guys seemed to do it pretty well. Easily the scariest part was the first five seconds after jumping. It’s like the world spins around you until you orient yourself facing downward. After that, everything was pretty smooth. I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I expected on the way down. Freefalling is a very strange experience (and it made my mouth incredibly dry) but at 14,000 ft you only freefall for about a minute.

Freefalling

Once the chute was open, the ride down was pleasant if a little uncomfortable (the harness has a tendency to dig into your groin). Floating down was calm and peaceful. We were able to see all the way to San Francisco and we got to spin around with the parachute a bit as we made our way down. The landing, however, was a different story. There are a few people on the ground who are supposed to catch the tandem jumpers as they fall. Our catchers didn’t manage to catch us and we ended up off balance with my instructor skidding a bit across the ground with me on top of him. In the end, everything was ok though.

I would definitely recommend going to anyone thinking about skydiving. It’s an experience to remember.

UPDATE:  The video is now available =)

funny

May 17, 2007

i lol’d!

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For those who haven’t yet been exposed to the hilarity that is lolcat - you should head over to I CAN HAS CHEEZEBURGER. It’s gotta be the best lolcat site on the net.

i lol'd

tech

May 14, 2007

memcached::set

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For the three or four other people out there who are actually using memcached having problems using the set function because of expiration issues — expiration time is handled differently for anything over 30 days (as it was for us trying to make a year-long session here at Plaxo):

set
$memd->set($key, $value[, $exptime]);Unconditionally sets a key to a given value in the memcache. Returns true if it was stored successfully.

The $key can optionally be an arrayref, with the first element being the hash value, as described above.

The $exptime (expiration time) defaults to “never” if unspecified. If you want the key to expire in memcached, pass an integer $exptime. If value is less than 60*60*24*30 (30 days), time is assumed to be relative from the present. If larger, it’s considered an absolute Unix time.

From CPAN

The function has one of the strangest overloaded behaviors I’ve seen in a widely used structure. So, if you ever want a key to last longer than 30 days, you gotta make it a unix timestamp!

camera, reviews, tech

April 30, 2007

A Month Later

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It’s been about a month since I got my Pentax K100D and half that since I bought the DA 50-200mm lens for it. The camera is really nice, although it’s often not worth it to switch lenses. I find most of the time I want to zoom in more than I want to zoom out, so I’ve kept the DA 50-200mm one on most of the time.

K100D

The camera itself takes nice pictures, although I keep forgetting to change the shooting settings (so I end up trying to take a picture of a perfectly still flower in the “action” mode, which doesn’t make much sense). Unfortunately, I haven’t had many interesting things to take pictures of, so almost everything is of Lily or of our backyard. One annoying thing about the telephoto lens is that it’s difficult to focus on things close up. I need to jump back about a foot more than I prefer to get a close up of a lot of the flowers in the backyard.

I got to play with Peter’s Canon Rebel XT yesterday also, for comparison. It was really good at taking quick shots where I find myself waiting for the auto-focus to finish on my camera. It seemed like it didn’t focus as well, though. I always felt like it didn’t quite have the smaller depth of field I wanted.

Either way - I’m pretty happy overall with the camera. It’s nice to be able to get new lenses if I want to try shooting some different things. There are some crazy telephoto lenses out there and lots of cool macro lenses. I can also upgrade to the K10D (or whatever new DSLR Pentax comes out with) in the future, if I really want.

activities, places

April 9, 2007

GRX and The Departed

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So, today was Easter Sunday and Garret, Pete and I went to church this morning. It’s only the second time I’ve been in my entire life (the other was in Ireland, of all places). Mark Jen was part of the team that helped put the service together. His church is called the Great Exchange and the Easter service was really cool. It was at the Hyatt convention center and they had five huge video screens and a sound crew. It was kind of like a christian rock concert in a way - there were people who played guitar and drums while singing about Jesus.

I’m not big on the Jesus thing, but the lighting, music, and effects were pretty cool. The best part was the dance team that performed a Stomp-like number. I’m always impressed when people can make such crazy rhythms with just their bodies. The were a lot of empty seats at the convention center, but Mark said that the 11:15 service is always a lot bigger. Overall, a pretty cool experience - but I can’t say I plan to start going to church =)

Pete, Garret and I also watched The Departed today. Neither Pete nor I had seen it before. The movie was really good. The cast that they got for it was amazing. Leonardo DiCaprio was better than I expected and pretty much every other face was a star actor. I’m always fascinated at the ability of movie-makers to come up with an ending that satisfies the viewer’s desire for justice, but leaves something the prevents it from being a “goodie two shoes” ending. I’ll avoid any spoilers, but sufficed to say it was a great movie with a great ending.

Incidentally, I ordered my camera today - it’s the same one that Garret has, the Pentax K100d (as recommended by Terry). It was so much cheaper than the Sony a100 or Canon Rebel XTi that I couldn’t justify those over it. Should be here this week if I’m lucky.

fun

March 26, 2007

Fired Up

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Today was the last day that Pete’s mom is here, so we decided to enjoy the weather and cook out on the grill. We used the 80/20 ground beef to make our hamburgers (the last time we used the 93/7 stuff). All was going well until we went to open the grill to flip the burgers one last time. When I tried to lift the cover, my knuckles almost got burned it was so hot inside. Apparently all the dripping fat had caught fire and there was a little inferno inside the grill. By the time we turned off the gas and got the fire to die down (Garret had to open it from a distance with the spatula), the hot dogs had become little more than charcoal. Apparently, they make excellent fuel. The burgers, happily, were still edible (albeit a little charred on the outside). Maybe we should splurge on the leaner meat in the future…

Also, Garret and I hung up the little basketball net in our driveway today. The basketball itself is half deflated, which makes throwing it a little awkward, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. Getting the ball into that tiny hoop is really hard. We’ve staked out a point in the back of the driveway where we’re trying to make a shot from. It’s kind of like trying to get a hole-in-one at mini golf.

Even more fun is throwing the ball up to Lily when she’s up on the deck and watching her catch it in her mouth and try to pull it back. She can get her head out pretty far and has become really good at catching the little basketball lately, but it’s like trying to pull your fist out of the pickle jar. Except the fist is her head and the pickle is a mini basketball.

In other news, we have removed those old, dirty curtains that were exuding their filthiness in our living rooms. They now lie in a pile in our basement, hopefully never to be placed on hangers again.

tech

March 23, 2007

It’s a start

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I’m not sure why I didn’t get a domain and hosting before this, but I finally just went and did everything a few nights ago. I guess I’m probably pretty lucky to have gotten christopherrivers.com after waiting so long. There are lots of other Chris Riverses out there. My hosting is with Host Gator. I was checking out a page about Ruby hosting services and they were top rated, so I figured I’d give them a try. Less than $10 a month for the basic plan, although they don’t have apache2 available.

Now if I can bring myself to post here when it’s *not* almost midnight and my eyes can barely stay open, I’ll be doing great =)