How times have changed

image I was going through some old digital photos recently (by old, I mean up to 6 years at max; let’s face it, that’s old for a digital photo) and stumbled across the photo there on the right of a gas station we stumbled across while in San Diego in March of 2003.

It was the first time that I had been to California and had to worry about putting gas in my own car, and I distinctly remember seeing the Chevron station and being amazed by the price.  I’m pretty sure that I handed Diann the camera and then made a (possibly illegal) u-turn to make sure we got a snapshot.  In my photo gallery, the caption for that picture is "Ye gads that is expensive gas".

Here we are, four-and-a-half years later, and I only wish I could get gas that cheap.  Current average price in my slice of the states is $3.16 for the "cheap" stuff.

Saffron has arrived

IMG_0252As promised, Jaden ordered me a year’s supply of Saffron.  USPS dropped it in my mailbox today.

I’m surprised by just how much Saffron a year’s supply is. I really think this’ll last us more than a year.

Thanks, Jaden!

Shame on you, MTV

image About two years ago, I opened up an URGE subscription account.  $15 per month for an all-you-can-eat music service was too good to pass up.  About a year ago, when I bought my Zune, I closed my URGE subscription account and that was that.

Today, I got an e-mail from URGE.  "Odd," I thought to myself, since URGE is basically ceasing to exist because they’re "teaming up" with Rhapsody.  I opened the mail, and it was basically giving me the run-down of the merger with Rhapsody.

The email indicates that I’m a current URGE By The Track member, which I’m really not.  I never outright bought a song, I only used the URGE Subscription service.  It also says that on October 25 (yep, that’s today, thanks for the heads up), my account will be converted into a Rhapsody 25 account.  Blah blah blah, boilerplate, marketing drivel, oh, and, by the way, we’ve transferred your credit card information over to Rhapsody.

What?!  You’ve given my credit card information to Rhapsody without me opting in to do so?

To be fair, I read their Privacy Policy and they classify credit cards as Sensitive Personal Information, and they reserve the right to disclose Sensitive Personal Information to 3rd parties in the event of a merger, bankruptcy, etc.

So, by the letter of their policy, they’re in the clear; but, this just seems wrong, dirty, and shameful.  I was never a URGE By The Track member and I haven’t been a subscriber to URGE in over a year.  Another irritating thing is that they don’t tell you what to do in the event that you don’t want to be a Rhapsody 25 account holder.  Now I have to dig through Rhapsody’s site to figure that mess out.

So I jump over to Rhapsody’s site, click on "My Account", which prompts me for a username and password.  I don’t have one of those, so I click on the "Forgot your password" link.  Punch in the email address, and I’m greeted with:


Great.  Now Rhapsody has my credit card number that’s not associated with any account, seemingly.  Wonderful, and brilliant.  Now I have to call Rhapsody.  Note to self: that number is 866-597-5465.

Click through for the full mail.

Mailing Services and English Nuances

One of the small perks we have at work is the ability to use our corporate mailing center for personal shipments.  I still have to pay the shipping costs, but do get to use our company’s bulk rate rather than normal rates.  It adds up pretty quickly, actually, but that’s not where this post is headed.

I was checking on packing up and mailing a rather large box, though, and decided to check on the size and weight restrictions.  I came across this:

The following items will not be able to be processed for shipping:

  • Packages weighing over 50 pounds and exceeding 120 cubic inches

Certainly, this was a mistake, I thought to myself.  Maybe if they had said "or" instead of "and", but 120 cubic inches is nothing – a 5 inch cube is more!  I also wondered how you could get 50 pounds into 120 cubic inches.  A bit of Wikipedia searching ensued.

Apparently, Osmium is the most dense element known to man, at 22.61 grams per cubic centimeter.  That information yields the following conversion:


So, it is possible to get 50 pounds of something into 120 cubic inches.  That said, Osmium has a street value of around $400 per troy ounce, which means it would cost $571,771 (and change) to package it.  I don’t think FedEx or UPS would insure that package.

Lead, on the other hand, would be much more cost effective and possible to obtain in large quantities.  Lead weighs 11.34 grams per cubic centimeter.  That would bring is to 49.118 pounds in 120 cubic inches.  Based on pricing at United Nuclear, this would only cost around $160.

image Obviously, the restriction about 120 cubic inches is wrong, and hopefully they’ll fix that wording on the web page soon.  What they likely meant to say was dimensional inches or package girth (which DHL defines as "the sum of 2 times the height plus 2 times the depth").

Mea culpa: This whole topic came up because I didn’t think it was possible to cram 50 pounds into 120 cubic inches, and my initial calculations showed that to be true.  But my initial calculations were wrong, converting square centimeters into cubic inches.  Geometry 101.

Redfin Updates

Looks like Redfin just did some maintenance and updates to their live service.

I’ve been using Redfin during our house hunting as our preferred directory of available houses.  I’m not planning on making my offer through Redfin – this is our first house in Washington state, and the market seems totally different than it is in Texas.  Our realtor has been great in giving us insight into the market, and I don’t think we’d be successful going this on our own.  Maybe next time we’ll go the Redfin route.

Anyhow, I went to check on some properties earlier today, and Redfin said they were down for maintenance.  A few minutes ago, they’re back up, and boy what a difference. 

My main complaint about them was that they were slow – dragging the Virtual Earth map controls around gave you a spinning searching prompt as it was looking for listings in the new area.  Now, it’s fast.  Takes maybe a second before it shows you listings, compared to the probably 5 seconds it was before.  It seems like they pull the new search results asynchronously.

I notice that the little icons for listings have changed too. One thing I wish they would do is use those icons to differentiate houses from townhouses and condos.  I know that I can limit my search one way or the other, but it would be nice to see that at a glance.

Can’t notice anything else that’s changed, but the speed improvements are all that were needed in my opinion.  Redfin is a great aggregator of MLS data, and it’s been very helpful to Diann & I as we’ve been searching for houses.

No updates on the updates on Redfin’s blog or on Matt Goyer’s blog (Matt is a former Microsoftie who now works at Redfin).

EDIT: Sasha Aickin wrote in to let me know they’ve posted details about the upgrade to the Redfin blog now.  heh, I scooped Redfin. 🙂