November 24, 2015

Good Deal On Kindles This Week

$50 for a Kindle this week. That's the version with "special offers" which is nothing more than a static ad that appears as your screen saver after you've stopped reading. If that's too much for you, $20 more gets you a Kindle without that.

Even the somewhat nicer Paperwhite Kindle is available for $100 ($20 off).

permalink | November 24, 2015 at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

October 3, 2015

That Walmart Mailer

I assume every registered voter in Desert Hot Springs got the same mailer from Walmart that I got. In my short twelve years in California, this is a new thing for me — a developer building a political campaign before releasing the Environmental Impact Report. But I have to acknowledge that Walmart is probably the expert at stuff like this. It was not long ago I found out that in California a developer can resort to the initiative process in order to bypass the Planning Commission and City Council and seek approval directly from the voters. I would think this could explain some of the more horrible development projects I've seen around the state, but I know that there are enough incompetent Planning Commissions and City Councils in the state that we don't need any additional means to explain bad projects.

But to return to the Walmart mailer. This is the first direct interaction Walmart has had with the public here since they had a couple of preliminary EIR discussion meetings which took place some years ago. I favor eventual approval of a Walmart here (going through the usual Planning Commission process), even though I think Walmart is a sad and sorry place to shop. Clearly there are millions of shoppers out there who think differently than I. We know that LOTS of Desert Hot Springs residents already shop at Walmart. A good survey might even show that the majority of grocery shopping by DHS residents takes place at Walmarts in other cities. That's just a guess, but if you're already working in another city (and most are) and you're trying to extend your budget, it would be hard to skip past Walmart and go spend more for less at Vons.

Besides the shopping, we know that DHS is the big labor supplier to the valley. How many of our residents already work at Walmart? My spidey-sense tells me the answer is A Lot. The better ones will be able to transfer to a DHS Walmart, making everyone happier.

Some time ago, when people thought Walmart was coming faster than it was, some out-of-towners remarked during public comments at city council meetings that Walmart would destroy our downtown businesses - a standard criticism of Walmarts. I wanted to ask those out-of-towners to name one downtown business in Desert Hot Springs. A new visitor to our city seeing the empty storefronts in our downtown might reasonably assume there was already a Walmart in DHS. The optometrist at Pierson and Palm will experience some tough competition, as will the two auto supply stores. The supermarkets will be hard hit, but as Jan Pye observed once (I paraphrase), if Stater Bros. is an example of the best we can get from a supermarket chain with union labor, then we'd be better off with a Walmart. All of those business can compete by providing better service and better products, two areas of weakness at Walmart. But they need to start their improved competitive services now, as KMart has done, and not wait until the day the Chamber organizes the ribbon cutting at Walmart (and we know it will be the Chamber doing the ribbon cutting, because there's no way Sanchez will still be mayor then). Stater Bros. and the optometrist are the deer in the headlights, IMO.

I guess it's not popular or effective to point out that Walmart is a private corporation that owns the land where it wants to locate and that one does have the constitutional right to develop ones property, so long as it is in conformance with the law. The fact that one does not like the legal business practices of any particular corporation is not any justification to keep them out of the city. I'm sure some people object to marijuana dispensaries, but there they are. Some people find Dollar General offensive, but we've got one. Liquor retailers? How many have we got, despite the problems they generate? I have found the customer service at Rite-Aid stores to be consistently abominable, but you don't see me circulating a petition to drive them out. If free people want to spend their money at objectionable businesses, then we should probably let them, like pretending this is still a free America, you know.

But aside from all of that, here's what I found so objectionable in the Walmart mailer (yes, back to that). If you want to tear off the postcard that is attached to the mailer in order to get on the Walmart informational mailing list, you will also be endorsing the statement "I support Walmart and the jobs and benefits it brings to local communities." A pretty sweeping statement. I would be willing to say I support a DHS Walmart because I think they have a legal right to build and operate their store, but they don't give me that option. You can also check the box indicating you want to join the euphemistically entitled "Desert Hots [sic] Springs Citizens for Jobs and Economic Growth." If I found out that several of our local citizens had organized that group and then had a vigorous discussion about whether we would get more jobs and economic growth with or without a Walmart, then it might be a worthy organization to join. But we know it's nothing like that. It's a bunch of corporate lawyers and other paid shills for Walmart who want nothing more than to create a long list of names of unsophisticated, poorly informed DHS citizens. So I will not be putting myself on Walmart's mailing list.

I wonder if Walmart has considered making substantial contributions to all of our local organizations for youth, seniors, the poor (nearly all of us), literacy, animal care, and more? Would they volunteer to pick up half the cost of construction and operation of a new fire station somewhere in the Palm and Dillon vicinity? Wouldn't it be nice if Walmart would subsidize a food truck to show up every time the pick-up crew is at work? Or how about dropping a few million into the city's sidewalk fund? I would love to be bribed like that.

I think we would all be better off concentrating on what sorts of concessions we can extract from the fabulously wealthy Walmart corporation in their process of seeking approval for their store. I certainly wouldn't want to see the Walmart decision put to a vote. The Planning Commission (which is not the City Council, I take pains to point out) and the staff that supports them are far more knowledgable about what can and should be done in the approval process than all of our voting residents combined.

permalink | October 3, 2015 at 08:51 AM | Comments (2)

June 6, 2015

Costco Alhambra

A friend of mine visited the tire department at this Costco, which led me to look at the Yelp reviews of that store. I'm sure I have never before seen Yelp reviews like these in such quantity. And the fact that they are talking about a Costco makes it almost surreal. The place is some kind of phenomenon. The objective facts seem to be: the parking lot is terribly crowded; the store is terribly crowded; this may be the busiest Costco anywhere; and most of the shoppers are probably of some ethnic Asian background.

There are thirteen pages of reviews as I write this and the racism is palpable. Almost all of it is directed at those who appear to be Chinese. Quite a few reviews start out "I'm Chinese myself, but..."

One reviewer made a half-hearted attempt at being fair by saying that "Mexicans" and "Vietnamese" were just as bad. I'm only about a third of the way through the reviews and so far no one has said a single thing for or against black people, which really sets these Yelp reviews apart from traditional American racism.

On the positive side, when you hit upon one of the 5-star reviews (and there are many), it's such a relief from the anger it's almost like being served a dish of ice cream while sitting on the porch enjoying a cool evening breeze.

I want to know why the store is closed on Sunday while the Target in the same shopping center is open Sundays. Any ideas?

I'm going to have to make a point to visit this store (without a shopping cart) just to observe the raucous, dog-eat-dog scene. Do you think I ought to wear my GoPro camera to document it?

permalink | June 6, 2015 at 03:48 PM | Comments (4)

February 28, 2015

If I Had A GoPro Hero 3, 3+ or 4

I'd be all over this. A super-extended battery for those camera models. As I write this, there are still a few rewards available which will get you one of these batteries for $1 + $6 shipping! Once those are gone, you'll have to donate $35 to get one of the batteries.

This is a Kickstarter campaign and it has far exceeded its goal.

I found this video to be a little confusing. The Limefuel Epic is a battery backpack. The Limefuel Epic on its own is said to be able to power your GoPro for 7 to 12 hours. It includes a custom shell back to accommodate that big thing. It's bigger than the camera. You do not need to go around with the battery backpack plugged into a bigger separate power source. Why they put that view into the video, I don't know.

permalink | February 28, 2015 at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

February 1, 2015

Deal On A Google Nexus 7 Tablet

2013 model, Gen 2, 16GB, $170 at Woot. This price expires when all are sold or the clock strikes 2100 hours.

permalink | February 1, 2015 at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2014

Hoodies

I'm sure we've all noticed that the stores that sell souvenirs for tourists will have stuff bearing the name "Palm Springs" even in Desert Hot Springs. Well, take a look at what I found at Walgreen's today:
Desert Hot Springs hoody (2550)
They're marked $19.99 but ring up as $9.99 at the cash register. They were in only two colors: that sort of raspberry pink I bought (similar to that raspberry house on Cactus Drive) and fire engine bright yellow-green. That yellow-green color will make the wearer a little bit more visible in bad lighting, so if you know a chronic jaywalker, this might be a gift for them.

They are in men's adult sizes. I saw XXL, XL and L. I didn't dig through all of them, stopping when I found an XL. There is a limited supply and I don't see any reason why they wouldn't sell out of these pretty quickly. I mean, every City Council member is going to get at least one, right?

Made in Honduras and imported via Mexico.

permalink | November 29, 2014 at 05:23 PM | Comments (1)

October 21, 2014

GoPro Selfie Mounts

Of course, they can be used for more than selfies, but if you're going to spend $55 on an upgraded stick, then you are planning to use it for selfies. I might prefer something cheaper, but these GoPole products have some extras that might make them worthwhile for you.

Remember that guy who went down in the sort of "easy" plane "crash" in shallow waters not far from the beach on a Hawaiian island? Did you marvel (as did I) that he never dropped his GoPro during the crash or while swimming around waiting for a rescue? He was likely using a GoPole product. So, if a selfie of your near death experience is what you want to record, this is where to put your money.

permalink | October 21, 2014 at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2014

$500

If you follow Apple announcements then you've heard the brouhaha about the iMac with 5K Retina display (5K, 5K!, which is one more K than 4, starts at $2,500) and the iPad Air 2 (thinner, lighter, more powerful, starts at $500). But there never is any brouhaha about my favorite compromise that will put a real Mac on your desk for as little as $500: the Mac mini. This is what I have, but my model is a year old. It's not as powerful as an iMac.

Processor speeds:
iMac1.4GHz2.7GHz2.9GHz3.2GHz3.4GHz3.5GHz4.0GHz
Mac mini1.4GHz2.6GHz2.8GHz 


Graphics:
iMacIntel HD Graphics 5000Intel Iris Pro GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics processor with 1GB of GDDR5 memoryNVIDIA GeForce GT 755M graphics processor with 1GB of GDDR5 memoryNVIDIA GeForce GTX 775M graphics processor with 2GB of GDDR5 memoryNVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.AMD Radeon R9 M295X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
Mac miniIntel HD Graphics 5000Intel Iris Graphics 


Base prices:
iMac$1,099$1,299$1,499$1,799$1,999$2,149$2,499$2,749
Mac mini$499$699$999 

But I'd guess that if you don't know how much power you need, then an iMac is likely to be more than you need, unless, of course, you are modeling global weather or nuclear warfare.

Yes, the display, keyboard and mouse are extra on the Mac mini, while they are included with the iMac, so you've got to add that cost to the Mac mini. But that's actually another advantage for the Mac mini. You've got a wide range of products and prices to shop from. When you need to upgrade either your display or your CPU, those are separate purchases, but with the iMac the display and CPU are all one unit. If you need to upgrade or replace either, you've got to purchase both.

Small side benefits nobody ever mentions are that the Mac mini is more portable and more easily physically secured - unplug it, lock it in a drawer. Try that with an iMac.

Still, there is that 5K Retina display (with "organic passivation" - a new term to me that I plan to misuse as often as possible). If you're a professional photographer or if you've got the money to spend to impress friends, then get it. Here's a soft video (no real tech, but lots of gee-whiz) that I believe will play only in Safari or on an iOS device. Hey, Apple writes the rules, not me.

permalink | October 19, 2014 at 07:01 PM | Comments (1)

October 10, 2014

Sale On GoPro Hero3+ Black At Costco

If you've been lusting after a 3+ Black, the introduction of the 4 has brought you a deal. Costco is selling a Hero 3+ Black for $350. It comes with a few basic mounts, the waterproof case (of course), and an additional battery (total of two batteries). The battery alone costs $18. This is basically the same kit that B&H is selling for $400 ($418 with the extra battery).

The Hero 3+ Black was the top-o-the-line GoPro until they brought out the Hero 4 last week. Nearly all of the impressive GoPro videos that you've seen over the last year have been shot with a Hero 3+ Black. It's a great camera - and now cheaper. The list price of the Hero 3+ Black was $400 and the new 4 Black is $500. I wouldn't expect new Hero 3+ Blacks to go much (if any) lower. They sold well so there are probably no warehouses awash with old 3+ Blacks.

The holidays are coming and if your kids don't have to have the very latest thing, they can have last year's very latest thing at $50 off.

SD card required and extra. But Costco's got a deal on those too. Get the 64 GB microSD card. Get two, they're cheap.

permalink | October 10, 2014 at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 4, 2014

Grilled Cheese?

You are so behind in your technology if you still actually grill your grilled cheese sandwiches. You need a Boska Holland Toastabag (only $9.94 for a set of 3).

This smart little video will answer almost all your questions:

Unanswered question deserving some research: what happens if you put a couple of scoops of ice cream in the bag and toast that? Do you get ice cream that's crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside?

The real advantage, as I see it, that will appeal to the young single man (which seems to be their target audience) is that any grease that drains off the item being toasted stays in the bag so that you can pour it out and onto your food, assuring that you will always get your daily need for fat.

permalink | September 4, 2014 at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

July 5, 2014

The Desert Hot Springs Walmart Petitions

Rumors of petitions abound, but just try searching for them. Even knowing they are at Change.org doesn't help. A search there for "Desert Hot Springs" turns up all the names of people from DHS who signed other petitions, but not any Walmart petitions. Even Google can't find them. Fortunately another search engine (Michael Burke) told me where to find them.

Pro-Walmart

Anti-Walmart

I could spend a very pleasant afternoon helping both petitions by picking at their flaws, but I'll only say this:

The pro petition doesn't use the words "Desert Hot Springs" so using the most obvious search term will not help anyone find it.

The anti petition describes the large number of shoppers and the increase in traffic so magnificently, it makes it sound like one giant gold mine of economic recovery for this city. Send me to the yes petition.

permalink | July 5, 2014 at 04:06 PM | Comments (4)

July 1, 2014

Get Your Sugar On

Jack's Wholesale Candy Warehouse has moved to new, larger digs at 777 S. Central Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90021. Wholesale prices, but open to the general public. They even have free parking. If you want to shop for candy by color, they make it possible. (I want all my candy to be leopard-spotted.)

And, they've got a Facebook page.

permalink | July 1, 2014 at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2014

A Change At Apple

Has Apple ever before now introduced a cheaper, less powerful version of a computer? They have now. The newest iMac is $200 cheaper at $1,099. It's been reduced from the 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz to the 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz.

You can compare iMac models here. The hard drive is cut from 1Tb to 500GB (for $50 they'll upgrade it to 1TB).

permalink | June 18, 2014 at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon has introduced its Fire Phone.

I've watched the videos and read down the long page of features and it sure seems to do a lot of nice stuff. If only it had some way that you could make it connect to another device at a great distance so that you could, I guess, talk or sump'n to the person who has that other device. That'd be neat, but I guess that's some crazy futuristic thing we have to wait for.

Here's the product announcement video. The contrast between the excitement level of an Amazon audience and an Apple audience is really striking.

The phone appears at the 14-minute mark.

permalink | June 18, 2014 at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2014

"Is that communism?"

That's the rhetorical question asked by TheStreet in reference to (get this!) Costco.

The Glassdoor survey of Costco wages show a pretty flat salary curve, with pay ranging from $10-$23 an hour for cashiers and just $22-24 an hour for supervisors. No position averages much more than $22 an hour, but none averages less than $11 an hour either. Even the guy who checks your receipt and the woman who sells the cheap hot dogs take home a decent wage.

Yes, every time I see that case full of big roasted chickens at only $5 each I say to myself, "This must be communism!"

The article says cashiers at Sam's Club are paid as little as $8/hour while supervisors get an average of $25/hour.

Here are a few of the Costco wage ranges listed in the Glassdoor survey:

  • Cashier: $10 to $22
  • Supervisor: $20 to $24
  • Food Court: $10 to $15
  • Pharmacy Tech: $12 to $22
  • Pharmacist: $58 to $62 (this is the highest pay at Costco)
  • Cashier Assistant: $11 to $13
  • Cart Pusher: $11 to $12
  • Hearing Aid Dispenser: $23 to %$30
  • Licensed Optician: $23 to $28
  • Meat Cutter: $22 to $24
  • Meat Wrapper: $10 to $14

North Korean Chicken
This is what a communist chicken looks like. It takes one Supreme Leader and two high-ranking military officers to kill a communist chicken.

permalink | May 29, 2014 at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2014

Apple Breaks

Breaks with tradition, that is. For as long as I've been using a Mac, the base price for the cheapest laptop has always been $999. As technology advanced, Apple just kept improving it to hold that price. But now, now for the first time, Apple has dropped the prices of MacBook Airs by $100, across the board. The cheapest is now $899. This is despite the fact that they have upgraded the processor.

For $999 you can get the 13-inch Air. The top o' the line Air, 13-inch with 256 GB drive starts at $1,199. Naturally, you will want to double the RAM to 8 GB for $100 more. You can also get a faster chip ($150) and double the storage ($300).

They really like that 100 number at Apple, because they dropped the price in the UK by £100 which is $168.31 today. The starting price there is £749 which equals $1260.64, so no need to rush over there to try to score a bargain.

permalink | April 29, 2014 at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

April 2, 2014

Are You Not Getting Enough TV?

Amazon Fire TV, available now, $99.
A chart comparing the Fire TV to Roku, Apple and Chromecast prepared by Amazon, so we know it must be complete and accurate.

permalink | April 2, 2014 at 02:28 PM | Comments (1)

March 30, 2014

A Distraction

I just found out about an entertaining little controversy that can momentarily distract you from stories about Crimea, Afghanistan or the Affordable Health Care Act.

There's this Ford ad for its electric model:

BTW, French snails produce an excellent manure.

permalink | March 30, 2014 at 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2014

Empty Handed and Too Early

Zappos thought a couple of sparkle ponies showing up empty handed and too early on the Black Rock Desert playa would help sell shoes.
Zappos on the Black Rock Desert

The Man burns in 160 days.

permalink | March 23, 2014 at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2014

Commercial Drone Deliveries

QuiQui says they will start [no date specified] delivery of drugstore items (even prescription drugs) by drone in the Mission District in San Francisco. You will place your order via smartphone. When the drone arrives with your delivery it will signal your phone, you will walk outside, and with your smartphone order the drone to drop your delivery. "Drop it, drop it boy!" The drones will never fly lower than 20 feet, so either the drugstore will pack it so it can land without breaking, or you will catch it on the way down.

The only prank thing that I can think of right now for this system is to spot someone sitting outside who looks like they'll stay put for a while. Either sidewalk dining or a homeless guy on the sidewalk is what I'm thinking of. Phone in an order for something nice - candy maybe. When the drone arrives above that person, it calls your phone and you order it to drop the load. Do it right and it could be a sort of automatic piñata thing.

Or when there's one of those big street fairs going on (like Folsom), you could have drones dropping all kinds of fun stuff all over the place.

permalink | March 17, 2014 at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)