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Friday, December 29, 2006

Typo takes tourist 8,000 miles from destination

I came across this article today, which is pretty humorous. Unfortunately, laughing at someone else's expense -- but this guy from Germany ended up in Montana, high 36 degrees Fahrenheit rather than summertime in Australia. I cannot imagine his reaction and the struggle to then get to Australia. Luckily, he made it 3 days later!

BERLIN, Germany (Reuters) -- A 21-year-old German tourist who wanted to visit his girlfriend in the Australian metropolis Sydney landed 13,000 kilometers (8,077 miles) away near Sidney, Montana, after mistyping his destination on a flight booking Web site.

Dressed for the Australian summer in T-shirt and shorts, Tobi Gutt left Germany on Saturday for a four-week holiday.

Instead of arriving "down under", Gutt found himself on a different continent and bound for the chilly state of Montana.

"I did wonder but I didn't want to say anything," Gutt told the Bild newspaper. "I thought to myself, you can fly to Australia via the United States."

Gutt's airline ticket routed him via the U.S. city of Portland, Oregon, to Billings, Montana. Only as he was about to board a commuter flight to Sidney -- an oil town of about 5,000 people -- did he realize his mistake.

The hapless tourist, who had only a thin jacket to keep out the winter cold, spent three days in Billings airport before he was able to buy a new ticket to Australia with 600 euros in cash that his parents and friends sent over from Germany.

"I didn't notice the mistake as my son is usually good with computers," his mother, Sabine, told Reuters.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Photos are up!

Well, it had been a rough Christmas holiday season for me -- I caught the wonderful flu bug that has been going around and was "lucky" enough to spend the better part of 4 days sleeping. Not the most fun use of my Christmas vacation time.

However, photos from Christmas are up! Basically it's a two-day affair, with Ashley's side of the family coming over to our house in Thousand Oaks on Christmas Eve. We had a great time preparing meals and spending time together before partaking in the Christmas Turducken. It was pretty good this year, although it cooked slower and fell apart a little more than last years.

Then, for Christmas day -- we headed up to Bakersfield to spend time with my side of the family. This year, I brough my Nintendo Wii gift up there because I knew that everyone would get a big kick out of it. Let's just say the entire family played some Tennis, Baseball, Bowling, Golf, and Boxing.

Check out the pictures, they're hilarious!

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Help! Setup the Wii Sensor Bar without Problems!

I recently opened my Nintendo Wii and while the setup was pretty easy overall, I mostly stuggled with the appropriate setup of the infrared (IR) sensor bar that detects the movement of your Nintendo Wii motes. After reading the direction a few times, I finally figured it out.

If you're having problems with your Nintendo Wii setup, here are the directions on how to setup or fix any issues with the sensor bar:

You can place the Sensor Bar either above or below the TV screen. Please read and follow the instructions below to place your Sensor Bar (information on mounting the Sensor Bar in place is also provided on this page).

Connecting the Sensor Bar
Insert the Sensor Bar plug into the Sensor Bar connector on the back of the Wii console.

The Sensor Bar can be placed either above or below your TV screen. Decide which option best fits you and click the image below for additional set up help, including mounting the Sensor Bar and proper alignment.

Mounting the Sensor Bar Above the TV Screen
Remove the protective film from the foam pads on the bottom of the Sensor Bar.

For additional stability, you can add adhesive-backed foam tape from the sheet included with your Wii.

Mount the Sensor Bar to the top of the TV
To ensure the best game play experience, make sure that:

The front of the Sensor Bar should be aligned close to the front of the TV.

The center of the Sensor Bar should be aligned with the center of the TV.

Reception may be improved by mounting the Sensor Bar to the top of the TV with the Sensor Bar Stand. Click here for more information.

Important Note: If you have not already done so, be sure to set the Sensor Bar option in the Wii console's System Setting to "Above TV." This will help ensure an optimal experience. Click here for more information.

Go to Next Step (Connecting to the TV or VCR) >

Mounting the Sensor Bar Below the TV Screen
Remove the protective film from the foam pads on the bottom of the Sensor Bar.

For additional stability, you can add adhesive-backed foam tape from the sheet included with your Wii.

Mount the Sensor Bar to the front edge of the surface that the TV is sitting on. Do not place the Sensor Bar below the surface that the TV is sitting on; for example, on shelves below the TV.

To ensure the best game play experience, make sure that:
The front of the Sensor Bar is aligned with the front of the surface that the TV is sitting on.

The center of the Sensor Bar should be aligned with the center of the TV.

Reception may be improved by mounting the Sensor Bar to the top of the TV with the Sensor Bar Stand. Click here for more information.

Using the Sensor Bar Stand
Communication between the Wii Remote and the Sensor Bar may be improved in some situations by mounting the Sensor Bar on the Sensor Bar stand. (For example: if the TV is sitting on the floor.)

Remove the protective film from the foam pads on the bottom of the Sensor Bar stand.

For additional stability, you can add adhesive-backed foam tape from the supplied sheet. These can be supplied to both the top and bottom of the stand.

If you are using the extra foam tape, remove the protective film from the piece on the top of the Sensor Bar stand.

Mount the Sensor Bar stand to: the front edge of the surface the TV is sitting on, or to the top of the TV.

Important Note: If you have not already done so, be sure to set the Sensor Bar option in the Wii console's System Setting to "Below TV." This will help ensure an optimal experience. Click here for more information.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Bosh Darn It!

Bosh darn it. Can I say that? I have been banished to fantasy purgatory with the dreaded “out an indefinite period of time” label that has been placed on Chris Bosh’s status for the basketball season, due to discomfort in his knee. This might almost be as bad as the Latrell Sprewell situation. Ok, I am over exaggerating, but Chris Bosh was putting up 20 points and 12 rebounds every night.

Now, of course Paul Pierce goes down with a “stress reaction” on his left foot that “there is no treatment for” that sounds eerily similar to the situation that happened with Derek Fisher a few years back. How did that turn out – that’s right, surgery and 8-months out. Yes, and Piece was even a bigger monster, 27 points, 7.5 Rebounds, 4 assists, and 2.5 3’s a night.

Why do people get injured? Maybe I should rephrase that, why do two fantasy monsters on “my” fantasy teams get injured? These were my second and third picks to make matters worse. Do they not understand that my fantasy life is at stake here? Who cares about their teams, they are in the Eastern (Leastern) Conference, where nobody has a chance to win anything. I guess things could be worse – I could have traded for Carmelo Anthony.

Cornerstone Conference – enjoy feasting on Bio-Waste in the coming weeks. By the way, if you are looking for three’s, I have some talent up for grabs. Yeah, given my recent injuries, I need a lot – but I am especially thin in rebounds and blocks. Maybe even a guy who does this and shoots for a bad FT%.

On some happier notes:

  • My fantasy soul is more joyful than it ever has been. Year after year, I have begrudgingly cheered Kobe Bryant on each game during the regular season – fully knowing that his every success meant my potential downfall in the weekly standings. His gain was my loss. Not this year, with Kobe on my team – he can score 81 every night for all I care!
  • Order has been restored in Los Angeles. The Clippers for all their efforts have again sunk to the bottom of their conference and the Lakers are in the middle of the playoff seeding for now.
  • The Sacramento Kings still suck. The team that has never won anything and never will is again wallowing at the bottom of the standings. Why did they fire Rick Adelman again? I also have heard some calls for the return of Chris Webber.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Flipper Nation -- Check it out!

Just a short post on show called "Flipper Nation" -- a series of short episodes that track the lives of two a couple of guys trying to making their "fortune" by flipping homes in the crazy Los Angeles real estate market. The first episode tells the story of the character's first house "flip" and how they made $75 (not $75k) on it after several weeks of work.

There are some definitely some great laughs and some uncomfortable situations. I think my favorite line from the episode goes something along the lines of "waiting for markets being exploited before jumping in." This, I believe rings true for many of us a few times in our lives. Given the recent markets here in Los Angeles and Ventura county, as well as soaring median prices -- I am sure more than a few people find themselves in this situation -- show or not!

Anyways, here is the first Episode -- check out for the latest!

Flipper Nation: The First Flip

There's more where this came from at:
If you cannot view this video, you can check it out at YouTube instead.

Disclaimer: Yes, I am a little partial to the humor in the show. Ashley and I went to Pepperdine University with "David Kimball" (Alec McNayr). In fact, Alec was in the same fraternity as me -- Psi Upsilon (Lamda Omega Sigma). Check out the video and support them!

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Milestone Reached!

The "Some Life" blog reach quite a significant milestone on Tuesday, December 19th. That milestone was passing 50 unique visitors during that day. What does that mean? I am not sure, but here are some thoughts:

About Some Life: This blog is really an experiment for me that started on October 28th, 2006. Yes, I know that I am late to the blog party. ;-) It is really about having a place to test out ideas, practice writing and share experiences that are important to me -- and hopefully relevant to you as well.

Back Posting: It's really tough to do. Not in the way that it is technically hard to figure out though. Rather, it is hard to catch up in addition to producing new content and thoughts. My goal, before the end of the year is to create blogs for some of the fun experiences Ashley and I had this year including our trips to: The BCS Championship Rose Bowl, Vacation to Germany, Vacation to New York, and our Vacation to Disney World with my parents. The last of which is "partially" completed.

Google Adwords: Google AdWords is a pretty nifty tool. This should not be a surprise to anyone, but I have been relatively happy with it. I need to work on the conversion rate. Visit a few of the sponsors and see how relevant they are to you.

Google Search: It takes a little over 30 days for a site you submit to Google to show up there in any meaningful way. Early on, it can be discouraging when you are posting content and nobody is showing up to read it. Persevere and keep with it, it does take time -- even in this world of instant gratification. It is also worth noting that beginning this week, Yahoo! searches began appearing.

Blogger Beta: The good thing is that it makes it easy to get started. The bad thing is that unless you want to dive into the world of programming and layouts, it can be a struggle to build the site as you want it. There are several things that I am looking to do that I have not been able to accomplish yet. However, it is a free service -- how can one complain?

Driving Traffic: I have attempted a few things, including using my "MySpace" profile as a means to drive traffic to the site. I will expand on this in the future, but right now I have just started testing, and Google Search seems to be the most effective.

A Polluted Blogsphere: There is a lot of blog trash out there. I personally, have encountered a lot of Blog Spam or Comment Spam depending on what perspective you take. 2007 seems to be the time when people anticipate it will reach its peak, especially as one article recently mentioned, certain web spam rings based out of Utah are generating $70k/month in AdWords type revenue.

Stay tuned, a lot more to come!

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Top 5 Ways to make eBay a Better Place!

As promised -- given my recent experiences on eBay, both the good, the bad, and the ugly, I am providing my top 5 list of ways to make eBay a better place. I have been on eBay since December 1995 when I started trading Baseball Cards, seeing a lot of changes take place on the site.

However, this Christmas holiday shopped season in particular has been a nasty one for both buyers and sellers alike on eBay – perhaps like never seen before. All one needs to do is to look at a number of auctions for the Sony Playstation 3 (PS3) and Nintendo Wii to see large quantities of Non-Paying Bidders, Shill Bidding, & Fraudulent sellers. The criminal community has found a way to really game the eBay system and now is time to stop it!

So, below you will find my “Top 5” ways that eBay can improve their systems to protect bother buyers and sellers in their auction marketplace.

1. Require Stronger User Validation. It is too easy to get an eBay account. They should require some sort of physical address, phone number, or other sort of verification that the person is who they say they are.

2. Require “authorization” of funds when bidding. A huge problem right now are people with zero or low feedback posting fake bids without an intention to actually make good on their purchase. By requiring a credit card authorization in the amount of their bid placed (whether or not they choose to pay via that method) is an option that may sellers would like to see as a requirement to insure the bidder “intends” to purchase the item rather than leaving the seller stranded with seller fees, frustration and lost time. This would also help prevent shill bidding as eBay could detect accounts using same name / credit card information to boost auction prices.

3. Create a more comprehensive scoring methodology. The current scoring system has become an outdated joke. Between 1-cent auctions, feedback rings, and other ways to “game” eBay’s feedback system – the system does not work anymore. However, it is not beyond repair. All eBay needs to do is come up with a score scheme that will incorporate important factors that contribute to the “authenticity and integrity” of the buyer and seller such as the dollar value of transactions, time it takes someone to pay, time to ship, and frequency of feedback left. That is just to name a few that could contribute to understanding more about the seller you purchase from.

4. Stop 1-cent ($.01) auctions. These are the biggest fraud on eBay right now. If you do a Google search, you will find hundreds of web pages that tell you how you can increase your feedback score in hours using 1-cent auctions. Their only purpose is to artificially increase feedback scores that give buyers/sellers unwarranted trust in a seller’s history and behavior.

5. Real, monetary penalties for failure to pay, ship, etc. If someone does not pay for an auction, charge then for the listing fees that the seller paid. Also, put a penalty of $5, $10, etc. that is partially paid to the seller and to eBay. This would put some real teeth into the non-paying bidder (NPB) policy.

These are some pretty simple ways that eBay could really improve on their already largely monopolistic website that they offer. While it may discourage a few people in signing up and using the service, the benefits to the entire community and with user retention would far outweigh that cost. I cannot tell you how many people have emailed me to say that they would not be using eBay after their experiences this holiday season.

Do you have other ideas? I would love to hear them. Next, you will be hearing from me on the Top 5 Ways to fix PayPal!

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Test Drive XM Satellite Radio for Free -- I am!

Recently, I have been thinking about getting Satellite radio. So, as one thinks this, naturally two choices are available, either Sirius or XM radio. The question I have is, if you do not care for Howard Stern, is Sirius radio worth getting? On a recent trip in my Father-In-Law's 2007 Mustang Shelby GT 500, I had the opportunity to listen to Sirius radio. I was not impressed.

However, I had not listened my to XM Radio either. However, today I came across an offer, and upon signing up (no credit cards required), I received a free Internet subscription to XM Radio through 12/31/2006, which is longer than their standard promotion by typing in the offer code of "THECHOSEN". If you have been thinking about choosing a satellite radio, it's an excellent opportunity to try! Just go to:

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Toy-R-Us with at LEAST 50 TMX Elmo's in stock on 12/18

Hot news off the press for all of you still trying to find those elusive toys! All Toys-R-Us stores will have at least 50 TMX Elmo's in stock when they open tomorrow. This may be one of your last chances.

The details from the email they sent out today:

- TMX Elmo - We've Got Him!

- Tomorrow December 18th every Toys "R" Us store will have at least 50 TMX Elmos when we open!

- One per family, limited supplies, & no rain checks, so COME EARLY. In-store only!

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Los Angeles Country -- KZLA to return? MOVIN (KMVN) 93.9 a Failure?

Well -- Los Angeles country fans, do you think you might get your KZLA country back? After the latest release of weekly ratings, it seems that the "new" format that Emmis Communications was so fond of is really in the toilet. Their current rating is only a 0.6 rating, continuing its trend down. If you look at the trend, it has gone steadily down in terms of share -- 1.2, 0.7, and now finally an awful 0.6.

This and country radio just had it's best quarter in terms of the national share with a 9.1 rating, the best since 1999 when it was a 9.5! Emmis Communications has really missed out on a lot of profits the past 4 months, and their shareholders are rumored to be pretty unhappy with the situation in the southern California market. KZLA's share was 1.7 for the latest quarter leading up to the format change.

This should not be a surprise, as many predicted, the Emmis Communications experiment with abruptly removing KZLA country from the radio in the Los Angeles market in favor of Rick Dees is a failure. Perhaps KIIS FM really knew what they were doing with bouncing of Rick Dees in favor of Ryan Seacrest. This attempted comeback by Dees in the Los Anageles market was a poorly planned and executed transistion after the unannounced cancelling of the country format on KZLA.

It seems like it will be only a matter of time until KZLA country listeners have their favorite personalities back on the air, Peter Tilden with Ashley & Buzz, Sean Parr, and more! Keep your fingers crossed!

In addition, for those who are interested in trying to help with the situation, there are two petitions to be signed:

In addition, on the, you can join the discussion and the latest news by clicking here.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Anatomy of an eBay Scam – Resolved –- Part II

Well, what do you know – I am hoping this will be the last in this long series of posts that has gone on much longer than I anticipated. I am happy to FINALLY (hopefully) report that I did receive my refund of $289.00 from my camera purchase on eBay from the seller. Absolutely unexpected, but on Thursday, a United State Postal Service money order in the total amount showed up in the mail. I was able to cash it, so it does not appear that it was forged. Good news.

What it came down to, is that the seller was concerned that either legal or police action would come down on them if I did not receive the refund. This person only resides approximately 60 miles from where I live, which most likely added to the concern. In the end, based on the content of emails and the mail, this may just be a kid.

Still outstanding is the $289.00 that was fraudulently sent to me from someone else’s PayPal account. PayPal is still investigating, whatever that means – and have requested the string of emails so they can piece it together. PayPal has put the amount on hold in my account, and I cannot refund it at this time, even though I would like to – since the money is not rightfully mine. We will see what the outcome is.

In this holiday season, full of eBay scammers, PayPal frauds and others, happy eBaying and be careful! Look on the bright side, I could have been caught in a Nintendo Wii or Playstation 3 (PS3) scam!

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Family dog missing since 2004 resurfaces near Chicago

What a good Christmas holiday story. A dog that was lost for two years because of a Florida hurricane was found because of a micro-chip embedded in the dog. What a great blessing for the family, we know it is something we are considering for our Chocolate Lab, Luey!


Family dog missing since 2004 resurfaces near Chicago
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. - A golden retriever missing from his family since a 2004 hurricane destroyed a backyard fence resurfaced this week near Chicago.

The five-member Baines family of South Tampa had finally given up the search this summer. They thought their pet was deceased.

No one knows how the dog, "Sam-I-Am," traveled the hundreds of miles and turned up as a stray at a shelter in McHenry County, Ill., this week. Shelter workers said they don't think he walked because there was no damage to his paws.

"He has wanderlust," Debra Quackenbush, spokeswoman for the McHenry County Health Department, told the St. Petersburg Times. "We've never seen a story like this. It was just meant to be."

Someone found Sam, now 5 years old, wandering around Woodstock, Ill., Quackenbush said. The rescuer kept Sam for five days. No one claimed him, and he was taken to the county's shelter.

When Sam was younger, a microchip was inserted between his shoulder blades. The chip, which costs $30 to $40 to insert, allows shelters and medical workers to scan and identify pets.
Because of the chip, the family knew it had the right dog.

On Thursday, Alice Baines, who works for a marketing company, took the day off and flew to Chicago to bring Sam home.

When they were reunited, Sam stepped on her feet and then sat on them, just like always, and still answered to Sam, Baines said.

After a few delays, Baines and Sam arrived home in Tampa

"He's home, that's all that matters," she said. "I think he's happy. He's not hurting for a meal. Whoever took good care of him: Thank you."

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

MySpace tops Yahoo for first time!

Not really surprising given the recent upheaval at Yahoo. There is no question that Yahoo is losing its place in the market quickly and with the publishing of the "peanut butter manifesto" -- the recent changes are just the beginning. However, a large issue is brewing and it has to do with the fact that page views are becoming an obsolete form of measuring a site. With the pervasive use of Web 2.0 technologies, a new measurement standard for the use of sites need to be determined. ComScore is yet to determine what this will be. However, a change needs to happen in the near future to help determine the true value of a visitor. For the time being, Yahoo still has the lead for the number of eyeballs on the Internet. Will we see that change over the coming months?

The article is below........

The online hangout MySpace got even more popular in November, beating Yahoo in Web traffic for the first time, a research company said Tuesday.

News Corp.'s MySpace recorded 38.7 billion U.S. page views last month, compared with 38.1 billion for Yahoo Inc., according to comScore Media Metrix. MySpace's growth was 2 percent over October and triple the 12.5 billion recorded in November 2005.

The numbers underscore the rapid rise of a social-networking site that encourages visitors to stay and make friends through free tools for messaging, sharing photos and creating personal pages known as profiles.

ComScore warned, however, that a one-month change could represent an aberration. Furthermore, Yahoo's page views could be diminished by the company's growing use of Ajax technology for maps, e-mail and other services.

Ajax is a set of tools that speeds up Web applications by summoning snippets of data as needed instead of pulling entire Web pages over and over.

Yahoo, which last week announced a major reorganization after finding itself repeatedly beat in advertising sales by rival Google Inc., still remains the leader in unique audience, with 130 million visitors in November. (Full story)

"Yahoo continues to be the overall Web audience leader with the largest number of unique users and most time spent online. The page view change in November is related to the use of Ajax and other Web 2.0 technologies across the Yahoo network," Yahoo spokeswoman Nissa Anklesaria said Tuesday.

"These technologies enhance the overall user experience, but do not either generate a page view or qualify to be counted as a page view while the user is engaged with the product," she said,
Fox Interactive Media ranked sixth at 73.8 million, including 57.2 million for MySpace. Unique audience is a measure of how many people visit in any given month; page views reflect how often they come back and how long they stay.

Including other Fox properties such as IGN Entertainment Inc., comScore said Fox had 39.5 billion page views in November. In a statement, Peter Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive Media, credited strong traffic at game site due to the release of Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Co.'s Wii video game consoles.

ComScore had planned to release the numbers Wednesday or Thursday, but word of the figures leaked in an analyst report from UBS Investment Research.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sony Playstation 3 Shipments Worse than Thought

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Playstation 3 shipments were much lower than thought last month. A total of 197,000 unit were shipped in November rather than the expected 400,000 availabel for launch day. In addition, it seems near impossible that Sony will be able to get more than 400,000 to market before the end of the year, which is less than half the 1,000,000 units they were shooting for. Here is the article from the WSJ.

Wii! Wii! Wii! This Holiday Season Has Been a Wild Ride for Nintendo
By JOSEPH PEREIRA and NICK WINGFIELDDecember 12, 2006; Page B1

Last week, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. advertised it would be selling Nintendo Ltd.'s new videogame console, the Wii, on Dec. 6. Steve Fortune and a group of friends camped out the day before in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Quincy, Mass., to make sure they would each get one. For food, they arranged for pizza to be delivered to them in line, confounding the delivery boy when they gave "the shopping-cart area" of Wal-Mart as an address.

Some of the fortunate few who got Nintendo's Wii game console in New York City.
"We didn't want to lose our place in line because we knew that everyone in the world wants a Wii," explains Mr. Fortune, who works at the local Wal-Mart himself.

Not everyone has been as fortunate as Mr. Fortune and his four friends, who each managed to buy one. The Wii, which retails for $250, has emerged as this year's biggest must-have game console for Christmas. Long lines form hours before electronics retailers put them on sale -- usually no more than a few dozen at a time, if that, and often only every other week. In fact, the Wii -- pronounced we -- has proved more popular and harder to nab than Sony Corp.'s higher-tech, higher-price and highly touted PlayStation 3, which has superior graphics and a built-in, next-generation DVD player. The Sony machine comes in two models, priced at $500 and $600.
"It may be because the PS3 is so scarce, consumers have given up looking for one and are going after the Wii with a vengeance," theorizes John Taylor, a videogames analyst at Arcadia Investments Inc., in Portland, Ore. He says that reports of Sony's production problems and consumer confusion over some of the PS3's technology has driven shoppers to the simpler and less-expensive Nintendo machine.

Despite grumbling from some consumers, Nintendo insists it isn't deliberately causing Wii shortages in U.S. stores, saying that the company simply can't make the console fast enough to meet consumer demand. "Demand, as you can see from the reaction of consumers, has been greater than even we had hoped for," says George Harrison, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Nintendo's U.S. division.

He says Nintendo tries to be fair in divvying up Wii shipments but makes a special effort to supply retailers that advertise the product. "We try to do it equitably, but we don't want to embarrass the retailer by having them have no product," he says. The retailers that have made such advertising commitments include Wal-Mart, Target Corp., Best Buy Co., Toys "R" Us, GameStop Corp. and Circuit City Stores Inc.

In all, U.S. retailers estimate that 1.4 million to 1.5 million Wiis will be sold by Dec. 25, roughly twice as many as the PS3. According to NPD Group in Port Washington, N.Y., Nintendo sold 476,000 Wiis in the U.S. last month, versus 197,000 PS3s.

The Internet has been abuzz with consumers sharing Wii buying strategies; a forum devoted to the Wii on, which sold out its allocation of the machine last month in under a minute, has drawn thousands of messages. "Where (physically) do you camp?" was the subject of one discussion.

So-called Wii finders have sprung up, offering to send instant email alerts whenever an online retailer offers the console online. Matt Lewis, a Los Angeles software developer, launched an online finder for the PS3 last month, but says he was deluged with requests for a Wii finder. Charging $6.50 for the service, he says his Wii customers outnumber PS3 customers by a 10-to-1 ratio, although he won't disclose how many subscribers he has.

Some online retail sites, including and, have been requiring Wii purchasers to buy a "bundle" of games, which can bring the total cost to nearly $700. Nevertheless, the consoles and game bundles have been selling out within minutes. GameStop didn't respond to questions about their bundling practices, and a Wal-Mart spokeswoman would say only that the retailer is "working to take care of our customers and re-stock this popular item on our Web site as shipments are received throughout the holiday season."

Meanwhile, on eBay the Nintendo machines have been selling for a premium of more than $200. Some users of have been posting offers to trade their unopened, more-expensive PS3s for the Wii, plus the price differential.

The frenzy has been welcomed by traditional retailers, even though many of their customers can't buy what they came to purchase. "All those lines in front of the stores brings a lot of energy and excitement to the gaming sector," says Jill Hamburger, vice president of movies and videogames for Best Buy, in Richfield, Minn.

Many analysts and industry executives credit Nintendo for pulling off a smoother launch than Sony, delivering a system with few technical glitches and a strong catalog of games. Sony's machine, which includes a new, high-definition DVD format called Blu-ray, ballooned its price tag, making it one of the costliest game consoles ever.

While the Wii offers its own innovations -- notably, a unique motion-sensitive remote controller that lets players, say, swing an on-screen tennis racket by swinging the device -- it relies on more proven technologies overall and is easier to manufacture than the delay-plagued PS3.
Game publisher THQ Inc. of Agoura Hills, Calif., predicted Sony would ship so few PS3s initially that it would be difficult to make money on games around its November launch. So THQ decided not to release any PS3 games until next year. The publisher was more bullish about the Wii, releasing four titles for its launch last month, says Brian Farrell, THQ's CEO.

Game-industry analysts say one factor in the shortage of the Nintendo Wii is the company's bottom-line focus. Sony and Microsoft Corp., maker of Xbox 360, are willing to lose money on their game consoles, making money on the games and accessories. But the more-conservative Nintendo is willing to lose only so much money. For instance, while Sony decided to ship all of its PS3s by air, Nintendo is sending slightly more than half of its Wiis from Asia by less-expensive boat transport. The ships take about 10 days to reach the U.S.

For Nintendo, the strength of the Wii this holiday season underscores how the company came back from potential has-been. During the last round of the console wars, Nintendo came in third behind Sony and Microsoft. While its much-larger rivals are focusing on providing the slickest, high-definition graphics, Nintendo chose to bank on novelties like its motion-sensitive controller -- a bet that seems to have worked.

It's too soon to know whether Nintendo will be able to translate its relatively strong launch into a more durable lead over Sony in the long term. "We feel very confident that the PlayStation fan is going to wait until they can get a PlayStation 3," says Dave Karraker, a spokesman for Sony's U.S. games division. "If they do pick up a Wii, it's as more of a novelty."

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Monday, December 11, 2006

The Anatomy of an eBay Scam – Reloaded

As eerie as this may seem, this recent eBay scam I have been caught up in has more turns and worse endings than the Matrix movie series. Just when I thought it was safe to come out of the woods, I find myself snarled in the eBay / Paypal ripoff gone wrong again. Wait until you hear what happened today!

I was planning on giving the Thousand Oaks police department a call today to update a police report / close it due to the fact that I received my refund from the seller as you read about in my article here. Then I got the following email from my good friends at PayPal:


It has come to our attention that you may be the recipient of potentially unauthorized funds. We have initiated an investigation into this event. In the meantime, we have placed a temporary hold on the funds in question until the investigation is complete. This temporary hold will show as a deduction in your available balance. In the meantime, you are free to continue transacting using your PayPal account.

Transaction Date: Dec. 9, 2006 16:46:35 PST
Transaction Amount: $289.00 USD
Payor's Email: ****NAME SCRUBBED****

If you have not delivered the goods or services related to this transaction, we ask that you delay or stop delivery until our investigation is complete as you may be liable for the amount in question.

To assist us in our investigation, please send an email to with the following information:

1. The item, service or purpose of the purchase, and the associated value;
2. The name and address given to you by the sender (if an item was purchased);
3. If shipped, the company used for shipping, date of shipment, and tracking number for the shipment;
4. Details of any other transactions related to the transaction(s) in question;
5. A phone number where you can be reached during the day and evening; and
6. Insurance information, if applicable.

Any additional information you have regarding this transaction, such as email correspondence, will further help us to expedite our investigation. Solving these cases helps us continue to offer PayPal as a secure and cost-effective payment service. We appreciate your cooperation and assistance.

PayPal Account Review Team


According to PayPal, it looks like I may be in receipt of a payment that was unauthorized. Even though the subject of the payment had to do with the “Refund of Canon SD800 IS Camera”, it looks like the users account that provided the refund may have been compromised. It appears that the person that I have been dealing with is into crimes much deeper than simple fraud. They may also be involved in some sort of phishing ring that is moving not only defrauding eBay users, but also compromising PayPal accounts and leveraging them to pay other individuals. Will wonders never cease?

So, I went ahead and contacted the seller – I am not expecting a returned email, but I demanded that the money be refunded from the account I originally paid in order for me to stop any proceedings against them.

In a couple of additional wrinkles, when I received the funds into my PayPal account, I immediately transferred them out to my bank account given my recent experiences. So, we will see how serious PayPal handles this mess than is even larger than before. I may just close my account!

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Can Google checkout get more pervasive any faster? Someone needs to replace PayPal in the market – they’re an absolute disaster.

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Sony Playstation 3 (PS3) in stock at Costco! ***Confirmed***

A quick note to all of those searching the myriad of stores out there right now: Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, Target, Fry’s, FYE, and others – I am confirming that Costco’s have received their final shipment of Sony Playstation 3’s (PS3). In most cases, an entire pallet of PS3’s were delivered – about 96 items by accident.

In fact, I stumbled onto this by accident. On an early morning run to Costco, it was discovered that an entire shipment of PS3’s made its way to the Westlake Village, CA Costco. A total of 96 at that store. We were able to pick up a bundle which includes Genji and a second controller in the bundle for ~ $750 with tax. By the time our shopping was completed, there were still 75 other Playstation 3’s waiting to be picked up. In fact, there was a lady standing with a sign – Playstation 3’s in Stock. Yet, there was no line, perhaps because this was expected.

Well, I went ahead and picked one up, which I have listed on eBay as item #230063402702. You can bid on it if you like by clicking here. I recently did purchase a PS3 bundle on eBay through PayPal and I am attempting to re-coup some of the premium I paid. Good luck!

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Anatomy of an eBay Scam – Resolved

Well, how things change quickly. I am happy to report that after 3 weeks of research, struggles and frustration, I have been refunded my money for the Canon SD800 IS purchase that I attempted to make through eBay. But, I want to be very clear that neither eBay nor PayPal did anything to help me out.

In fact, in a conversation with PayPal on Friday – I had a representative rudely hang up on the phone on my when I asked them not to continue to say they were "working hard to recover my money." Because, they are not -- PayPal does absolutely nothing to protect their customers or try to actively recover funds, especially if you paid a seller with your PayPal balance or via bank account. The representative even told me as much as you need to pay with your credit card if you want to be able to issue a charge back or dispute funds in the future. This, and PayPal continues to promote paying PayPal with your available balance.

All PayPal does to “actively” work to get your money back in the case of PayPal balance payment, is scan the other parties balance to see if money gets added. If nothing gets added, they do nothing. However, if you issue a charge back with your credit card, then PayPal actively works to get that back though any means possible, because it is money out of their pocket. Lessons learned, never pay with your PayPal balance, and never keep any funds in your PayPal account. This is the only way to really protect yourself using their service. And bottom line, PayPal does not care if you lose money using their service. They provide no additional value other than a clearing house for payments – as soon as it catches on, you can guarantee I will be switching to Google checkout!

So, you ask – how did you get money back if eBay and PayPal did not provide assistance? Well, I did it the old fashioned way. I went ahead and went through the process of contacting my local law enforcement agency to file a police report. At the same time, I contacted the seller to let them know I was pursuing this path. I almost immediately received a response asking that if I received a refund, would I stop pursuing this. I said yes, and almost instantly the $289.00 showed up in my PayPal account. So, now I just need to close out the police report as resolved and move on with lessons learned.

Was it truly a scam? I believe so, the last email I received asked my why I did not dispute it with my credit card company for resolution. This leads me to believe that this person or ring is attempting to use smaller (<$1,000) auctions and assume that eBay, PayPal, and the credit card companies will not pursue the smaller dollar values. Regardless, the user’s eBay id has been cancelled on eBay, they refunded my money and I learned some lessons that will make me more vigilant in the future!

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The Cornerstone Conference -- At the Brink

Update: Since this message was posted, the owner who posted completed a trade, acquiring Carmelo Anthony and sending Dwight Howard AND Raymond Felton on 12/15. Just a day or two before the brawl at Madison Square Garden. What gives!

The fabric of our Fantasy Basketball league -- "The Cornerstone Conference" -- is at the brink. The brink of having a few owners drown in their frustrations. The below is a recent post from our league with an owner (to remain nameless) trying to encourage some activity. Somewhat of a harsh criticism of our league, however -- it's main purpose was to get something going.


Ok. Seriously. I have had Chris Paul on the block for over one week now. Will someone at least offend me with some ridiculous official offer. The closest I got was a tongue in cheek offer of Chris Webber for Chris Paul straight up. (After I dropped him the week prior) At this point I would consider the merits of such a trade if it was at least offered to me officially.

I ventured to try and trade with another owner in this league who shall remain nameless (Let me just say his team "stinks" and he should be looking for a trade) and after a few emails he just stopped returning my emails. Is there no etiquette in this league? Is this whole league so conflict averse that no healthy debate can happen? If anyone is interested in the facts unless the rest of us make trades here **** IS GOING TO RUN AWAY WITH THIS LEAGUE.

I tried trading with another guy and have so little clue of who is in this league that I sent an email to the wrong owner. This wrong owner promptly chastised me for making such a ridiculous offer. I'm a two time champion in this league. Make me an offer then....

Further I'd like to lob a bomb over to the commissioners office. Somebody needs to take you guys off life support. It is your responsibility to make this league work. (Never mind that the commissioner who runs your baseball league is lazy) Set some rules. Require that each person write one article of substance before the allstar break or risk losing some wins. C'mon! Does anyone have a pulse in this league?

Below is an excerpt of an article I wrote for my other league. While it doesn't portray this league in a very flattering light. I'm desperate. so here you go. To be honest based on my opinion of this league I'm guessing about two of you will read this.


My life as a fantasy owner consumes me. I liken my participation in fantasy hoops to my golf game. The more I work at it the more I suck. With an extra long off-season from fantasy basketball this past year, (having missed the playoffs in both of my leagues) I was left with plenty of time to think. A myriad of thoughts went through my head over the summer, many of which were not positive. I give to you a few examples of the thoughts that reverberated through the empty space between my ears regarding my fantasy lot in life:

  • I’m not getting better at fantasy, I’m getting worse.
  • I can’t keep up with the new breed of young, ingenious well read fantasy owners.
  • Maybe I’ve torn the ACL of my fantasy brain? If I were Amare, I would have packed it in. Maybe I should pack it in?
  • Fantasy league is not real. It has no meaning. Fantasy is stupid.

The last reason I must admit shook me to my core. Fantasy not real! Are you kidding? I know you all must be recoiling in horror at the blasphemous inference that fantasy league is an unreal endeavor relegated to those who have little to no capacity to make any real difference in this world. It was this “valley of the shadow of death” spot in my life that I grabbed the ladder to climb out of the pool of self pity I had been swimming in and begun to work my way back to fantasy respectability.

My first step was analyzing my weaknesses. I sought counsel from all over, while paying specific attention to the 3 most important people in my fantasy life: Me, myself and I….

Using the valuable insight provided, I was able to draw a series of conclusions that I believe to be the groundbreaking, paradigm shift, revelation type of stuff that I’m convinced all the great owners of yore surely received in the lowest points of their careers.

Further, as I sought the depraved depths of my fantasy soul for insight as to what would make me great, I became convinced that success could not come unless I shared this. By sharing, I would be set free. By sharing, I would cement my legacy years from now when some resourceful budding fantasy owner would dig up this piece and realize that fantasy greatness was prophesied by the Owner formerly known as ***. I share because I must. I share because I know many of you out there feel the same way. I share because I shudder at the thought of others dropping the much maligned art form of fantasy league for made up reasons such as: “I don’t have time to set my lineups daily” or “I have car pool duty”.

In fairness to me and my fantasy acumen I should tell you I have hoisted a fantasy crown twice in my lifetime, both times in basketball. However, as it is no mystery to anybody reading this article, never have I hoisted the 26by2sand3swinby4 crown. Thus I come, mercifully to my first epiphany.

Sure, I’ve hoisted the crown in my other fantasy league but who cares? This other league is the type that anyone in our existing league could have won. The type of league that when first launched I was able to get 3 of the players selected in the first round of our league…. With the 6th pick in the draft no less! Over the years I’ve spent less and less time with my other league, pouring my attention into 26by2s.

As I began thinking about my past success and pondering the playoffless plight of this past season, I realized I’d been entrapped by the issue that had plagued me since puberty. 26by2s had become like the girl I pursued but never got because I gave her way more attention than she deserved.

My other league was giving it up! Two first place finishes a couple of runner ups. Who cares if my other league is average looking and not that bright? Success is success right? As I pursued this line of thinking I realized much deeper things. How did I have success with the cute girl that would never go out with me all things being equal? Spend more time with the other girl!

Will success come in 26by2s for me? Who knows... I do know that last year I was not in contention for the first time in 5 years in my other league. Why? Too much time pining over 26by2s. Screw that. I’m getting my other league back!

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Monday, December 04, 2006

PayPal is a RIPOFF!

Can I say that PayPal is a ripoff? I mean, a serious rip-off. These people running the company truly have no concern for consumer safety or protection -- all they really care about is collecting their fees, even if the people using their services gets fleeced. It is not like there are a lot of viable alternatives, especially from an eBay perspective. eBay has basically tied their service to PayPal -- perhaps the justice department should approach them about possible anti-trust proceedings.

I have just completed using the PayPal dispute resolution process and whoever designed it should be fired. It exists only for appearances, and has no real teeth or meat to it. In fact, it benefits sellers and especially the fraudulent ones. Let me explain why I see it this way.
Today marks day 10 of my claim & dispute process. As of day 10, I was supposed to have the case decided in my favor and have the appropriate amount of funds returned to my account.

However, instead I found this description on my case:
"We have completed our investigation of this case. We attempted to process a refund from the seller's account to your account. Unfortunately, the seller's account does not contain the funds necessary to cover this refund. We were able to recover $0.00 USD. We have taken action against the seller and are working to recover the remainder of your refund. We will contact you when we have more information. No further action is required of you at this time."

Big woopty-do. Thanks PayPal for doing absolutely nothing. Not only did they not freeze the funds in the account when I reported the claim and submitted a notice of potential fraud, they allowed the user to completely drain the account. Let's also notice the complete ambiguity of the rest of their message about taking "addition action". A little more information would be appreciated.

So, basically in the case of this fraudulent activity, PayPal did absolutely nothing for 10 days other than sending automated emails to the seller. Not active investigation, no fraud holds, not freezing of funds. Great work PayPal on working for the fraudster.

I'm interested to see how this all turns out since, no further action is required of me at this time.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Anatomy of an eBay Scam - Revisited

'Tis the Season for eBay & PayPal ripoffs. Welcome to the Part 2 of my ongoing eBay & PayPal saga, "The Anatomy of an eBay Scam." To catch any of you up that are not familiar, as my OLD college roommate Josh reminded me -- "I got suckered." Basically, did a deal with an alleged criminal from West Covina attempting to buy a new Digital Camera, a Canon Powershot SD800 IS. Which, for those who know me -- know that I rarely get "suckered" -- being relatively skeptical and savvy. However, my desire to get a camera quickly got the best of me in this case!

Here is the updated status:

  • Still no camera as of Thursday, 11/30 -- no surprise here. A couple people thought in my previous post that I was being a little aggressive in terms of timing, but am glad that I was at this point.
  • The user, Nadia99a is no longer a registered eBay user. Which is basically code for eBay knows they were trying to defraud, rip-off, and/or scam people and put an end to it.
  • I have heard nothing from the FBI's IC3. Not sure what there response time is, but with cyber-crime -- timing is everything.
  • Still waiting on PayPal's resolution. December 4th is the day where they will supposedly decide the case and I find out if I will get any money back at all, should be interesting.
  • I have contacted two of the other auction winners from auctions by this alleged scam-artist and they are equally concerned. I encouraged them to also fill out the appropriate disputes and IC3 cases to hopefully increase the sense of urgency.
  • On a note of potential good news, I found that both the city (West Covina) and the area code (626) provided by the eBay seller are valid and match. While it may still be false, I have seen cases where they did not. So, if things continue down the current path, I will be contacting the West Covina Police Department really soon. Does that sound fun?

On the same note, I have been purchasing holiday items online since 1996. In fact, I do not know the last time that I went to a mall or store for a Christmas gift. While I have been aware of scams and cons around eBay, PayPal, and other online purveyors -- this is the worst I have seen it. Some of the examples I have seen include:

  • My case, where the buyer has no intent to deliver the goods being sold.
  • Seriously misleading buyers. There have been auctions for PS3's, Nintendo Wii's, and TMX Elmos where the description is intentially deceptive by covertly listing "box only" or "pictures of item only" with people looking to feed on a given frenzy.

Any to tell you the truth, I believe that both eBay and PayPal have made it too easy for these schemes to be perpetrated. It seems they have eased their development and efforts to ensure a safe environment and thieves have passed them. In an upcoming blog, I will suggest a few things that eBay and PayPal could do to prevent much of this in an upcoming post.

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Intuit to Acquire Digital Insight - Yay!

Well, the reason for this post, as most of you know I currently work for Digital Insight Corporation. I think this is an extremely exciting annoucement from Digital Insight and represents an exciting opportunity with Intuit! more news and excitement to come, I am sure! The press release is included below.

Intuit to Acquire Digital Insight
Stage Set for New Generation of Online Banking Solutions

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. & CALABASAS, Calif., Nov 30, 2006 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq:INTU) and Digital Insight Corp. (Nasdaq:DGIN) have signed a definitive agreement for Intuit to acquire Digital Insight. Under the terms of the agreement, Intuit will pay $39 per share in cash for each Digital Insight common share. The total purchase price is approximately $1.35 billion on a fully diluted basis.

The acquisition will bring together Digital Insight, a leading provider of online banking services, and Intuit, the leading provider of financial management software, to millions of small businesses and consumers. Together, the companies will serve more than 5,000 financial institutions, nearly 25 million consumers and nearly 7 million small businesses. The acquisition will combine Intuit's culture of customer-driven innovation and leading brands with Digital Insight's best-in-class distribution and application service provider model.
"The combination of two industry leaders will put Intuit in an excellent position to bring a new generation of online banking solutions to market in a way that will redefine the way small businesses and consumers manage their financial lives," said Steve Bennett, Intuit president and chief executive officer.

With the acquisition, Intuit will be able to combine work flows in its financial management tools with online banking capability offered by Digital Insight to create new, easier, and better-value offerings for consumers and small businesses.

"Online banking is growing rapidly, but today's solutions don't meet the needs of most small businesses and many consumers," said Jeff Stiefler, Digital Insight chairman, president and chief executive officer. "Digital Insight's and Intuit's combined assets and competencies will change the game for small businesses, consumers and the financial institutions that serve them. In addition to the clear business benefit of this proposed acquisition, both companies have already had the opportunity to work closely together to develop the mutual trust and respect that is a critical prerequisite for any business combination to be successful."

Following the closing of the acquisition, Digital Insight's business operations will continue to operate from its existing facilities in California and Georgia. The Digital Insight business operations will establish the foundation for a newly formed financial institutions business division within Intuit, with Stiefler serving as that unit's president.

The transaction is subject to regulatory review, Digital Insight shareholder approval and other customary closing conditions. After closing, expected in the first calendar quarter of 2007, Digital Insight will become part of Intuit, and Digital Insight stock will cease trading. Intuit plans to finance the transaction with a combination of existing cash balances and up to $1 billion of debt financing, although there are no financing contingencies in the merger agreement. The transaction is expected to be dilutive to Intuit by two to three cents per share on a non GAAP basis in its current fiscal year and slightly accretive on a non GAAP basis in fiscal 2008.

A live audio webcast conference call is available at The call begins today at 5:30 a.m. Pacific. A replay of the audio webcast will remain on the Intuit and Digital Insight Web sites for one week after the conference call. Intuit has also posted this press release on its Web site and will post the conference call script shortly after that call ends.

The conference call number is 866-837-9782 in the United States or 703-639-1420 from international locations. No reservation or access code is needed. A replay of the call will be available for two weeks by calling 888-266-2081 or 703-925-2533 for international callers. The replay access code is 1004956.

About Digital Insight Corporation
Digital Insight Corporation (Nasdaq:DGIN) is the leading provider of on-demand banking services to mid-market banks and credit unions in the United States. The company's extensive portfolio of on-demand applications is hosted in its world-class data center and securely delivered via the Internet. Outsourcing the management of online banking services to Digital Insight empowers financial institutions to generate new sources of revenue, increase customer retention and realize increased cost efficiencies. For more information, visit

About Intuit Inc.
Intuit Inc. is a leading provider of business and financial management solutions for small and mid-sized businesses, consumers and accounting professionals. Its flagship products and services, including QuickBooks(R), Quicken(R) and TurboTax(R) software, simplify small business management and payroll processing, personal finance, and tax preparation and filing. ProSeries(R) and Lacerte(R) are Intuit's leading tax preparation software suites for professional accountants.

Founded in 1983, Intuit had annual revenue of $2.3 billion in its fiscal year 2006. The company has nearly 7,500 employees with major offices in 13 states across the United States, and offices in Canada and the United Kingdom. More information can be found at

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Finally Found the Nintendo Wii – Thanks to!

To say that I was somewhat distracted by the Playstation 3 (PS3) release would be a slight understatement. If I would have had my wits about me, I would have insured I was able to get a Nintendo Wii on launch day. In fact, I happened to be at Best Buy in Thousand Oaks while they were handing them out on Saturday, November 19th. Had I jumped in line, I may have been able to get one.

Oh well, fast forward today. Since the day of launch, I have been keeping a close eye online for another release of Wiis. Yes, there have been a few additional brick & mortar opportunities, but they are a real pain in the rear. In fact, last Sunday morning, I drove by that same Best Buy just before 7am in the morning on our way to breakfast and noticed the line for the “guaranteed 12 in stock” was already around the corner.

So, I have continued to monitor various websites and finally today, I was able to bag a Nintendo Wii bundle from Walmart. Yes, everyone knows that bundle is seriously over-priced, since Walmart REQUIRES you to purchase 8 games with the initial bundle -- what a rip-off and margin padding scam applied by Walmart. The trick now will be to return the games to Walmart and just retain the console. Should be some serious fun coming up with Walmart

However, I left out one huge credit to my ability to score the Nintendo Wii. Over the weekend, I ran into a post on an forum that recommended a website called that put together a pretty nice Email/RSS notifier for when one of three products come into stock – it checks for the Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, and the TMX Elmo. I must give serious kudos to Justin the Webmaster @, as his tool notified me immediately. I hit the link in his notification almost instantly and the Wii was able to be ordered. Hopefully Justin’s tool will be able to help me pull off a PS3 before the holidays are up. Thanks Justin.

For any who want to try out Justin’s notifier, check out -- I hope Justin is setup with some affiliate programs on his links!

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Nintendo says sells 600,000 consoles in 8 days - whopee!

No huge surprise here. From what I have seen out there you can still come by the Nintendo Wii easier than the PlayStation 3. I would guess that less that 200k Sony PS3's have hit the market. However, the demand does not seem all that different --- I wonder if the Playstation's higher price point ($499/$599) vs. the Wii ($249) is having an impact on their market......

"SEATTLE (Reuters) - Nintendo Co. Ltd. (7974.OS: Quote, NEWS, Research) sold 600,000 units of its new Wii video game console in the first eight days after its release in the Americas, as the company vies with rivals Sony Corp. (6758.T: Quote, NEWS, Research) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) for gamers' hearts and wallets.

Including sales of accessories and games, Nintendo's Wii-related revenue had hit $190 million since the machine's November 19 release, the company said.

At $250, the Wii costs half as much as the cheapest version of Sony's (SNE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) PlayStation 3 console, which went on sale in the United States two days before the Wii hit the market.

Many fans of both systems lined up at retailers hours or even days in advance of the launches to guarantee they were among the first to claim ownership of the highly anticipated machines.
The consoles are also being hawked on Internet auction sites such as eBay (EBAY.O: Quote, Profile, Research) for several times their retail price tag.

"We've shipped retailers several times the amount of hardware the other company was able to deliver for its launch around the same time -- and we still sold out," Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said in a statement.

Sony has not revealed how many PlayStation 3 consoles it has sold in North America so far, but has said it aims to have shipped 1 million units by the end of the year.

Microsoft has shipped more than 6 million of its Xbox 360 since launching it in November 2005.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved. "

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Playstation 3 (PS3) vs. Playstation 2 (PS2) Launch

Given that I have been caught up in the Playstation frenzy again -- although this time it is different, because it is the Playstation 3 (PS3) rather than the Playstation 2 (PS2). However, after following the madness for the last 10 days, I thought I would share some differences and similarities I see between the launch of the PS2 (October 26th, 2000) and the launch of the PS3 just a few days ago (November 17th, 2006). What do you remember about the launches?

1. The hype is higher for the Playstation 3 - FALSE. A lot of people have commented on various blogs and message boards that the is a lot of more hype surrounding the launch of the Playstation 3. However, my guess is that the majority of the people commenting either were not old enough to remember the launch of the Playstation 2 or did not follow it. But, the hype was just as high for the Playstation 2. I remember all of the articles and media coverage from that time. The entire industry had been waiting for the Playstation 2 for quite awhile -- there was no XBOX or similar competitor to mute the launch.

2. Product availability is less for the Playstation 3 - TRUE. Having waited through the launch night of both the Playstation 2 & Playstation 3 launches, there was much more product available at launch time for the PS2 -- especially in the online channels. While there was still a secondary market with markups for the PS2, it is nothing like what is currently being seen on eBay with 40k plus available at launch and over 7k available at the time of this post. Stores such as Amazon and Best Buy were having nightly online inventory releases. Thus far with the PS3 there have been a limited number of releases from Walmart, Toys-R-Us, Sony Style, & Gamestop while very large retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy have yet to hold and online sale.

3. I already had my Playstation 2, 10 days into launch - TRUE. Thanks to my tech-savvy self, I was able to assist a certain retailer with a problem on their website and they allowed me to get access to the early arrival of the PS2. Unfortunately, I did not learn my lesson and I failed to pre-order the PS3. It looks like I may turn to eBay if the online stores do not receive inventory soon. More on that to come soon.

3. Retailers are as bad as the eBay "scalpers" with their awful bundles - TRUE. Retailers, especially Walmart have put together awful and unreasonable bundles to take advantage of their customers and increase their profits. For example, Walmart is requiring the buyers to purchase extra controllers, 12 games, 2 DVDs for more than $1500+ with tax to take advantage of their allocation. All of that for a $599 machine. Walmart, Toys-R-Us, Circuit City, & Gamestop seem to be the worst offenders here. I doubt any of those who buy these bundles from Walmart will be happy with their purchase and return. Consumers are not being forced to buy these items, but still -- it is outrageous. While Target, Amazon, & Best Buy offer the items as the individual consoles, they have not had stock, so the point is moot.

4. Amazon's PS3 60GB forum seemed to be the favorite "camp-out" spot for online users - TRUE. For some reason, possibly because people anticipated that Amazon was going to receive an large allocation of PS3's. They have not, but still users have stuck around here. There is some speculation that Amazon's allocation was tied up in the Toys-R-Us arrangement that fell apart this past summer.

5. The number of rip-offs is higher - TRUE. This is mainly seen on eBay, but there seems to be a lot of fraud going on. eBay has taken some precautions to help prevent scams like requiring buyers to show pictures with their username and receipts. However, there are still a lot of scam-artists attempting to sell -- empty boxes, pictures of PS3s, etc. Buyer beware!

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Anatomy of an eBay Scam

Well, it looks like I may have been had. After over 10 years of being an avid eBay and PayPal user -- including 400+ positive feedbacks on my current account – it appears that I have run into my first scam at eBay. Better yet, it is the first time I have fallen for an apparent scam from an eBay user.

Everything started off relatively innocently – I was looking to add the Canon PowerShot SD800 IS to our camera inventory. While Ashley likes the pictures that our PowerShot G7 takes, it is a little bulky for everyday, in-pocket use. A natural alternative was to look at the smaller Digital Elph SD line. Given that the newer SD800 IS has two the most important features that our G7 has, the Digic III processor as well as image stabilization, it made perfect sense to pursue. So, in order to reduce the cost – I decided to look on eBay for a “lightly” used version.

After searching eBay for the right item to bid on, I came across auction #110056819205, which is for a like-new SD800 IS camera. After some basic bidding, I end up losing the camera by not bidding high enough. Now the fun was going to being. When checking the status of the auction the next day, I noticed that the seller (nadia99a) had re-listed the auction. Curious as to the reason, I noticed that the person who won the auction was “no longer a registered user”, so I figured the auction was now moot and contacted the buyer. After the exchange of emails, the seller and I agreed on a second chance offer price and decided to move forward. I figured with a 100% positive feedback rating of “8” that the seller was somewhat respectable. The buyer sent me the invoice and I paid via PayPal – this was on November 20, 2006. An interesting note here is that the eBay seller never sent the second chance offer, rather only sent the PayPal invoice – I did not notice this initially, but effectively for this reason the transaction was outside of eBay.

Upon completing the payment, I requested a favor of the seller. Since the seller lives a relatively short distance from my home in Thousand Oaks (45 miles or so in West Covina, CA) – I request that buyer ship the same day so I could use the camera during our Thanksgiving trip to Disneyland. The seller obliged and confirmed that it shipped out via USPS delivery. All seemed to be on track, so I was anxiously anticipating the arrival of the SD800 IS on Tuesday, November 21st.

The 21st came and went, no delivery of the camera. No cause for concern, the US Mail can be slow sometimes – I emailed the seller again – they confirmed that it shipped. The 22nd came and went, no delivery of the camera – now I am starting to get suspicious. I noticed that the seller still did not cancel the auction for which they supposedly were to selling me the camera, so I inquired – the seller responds that they have multiples. Then nothing came on the 24th, because it was Thanksgiving – then nothing again on the 25th.

Now things are really looking bad, so I decide to check the specific feedback of seller – all 8 of them are from the last week and for small purchases of only $0.01 each. Then, I noticed that the items that are being listed by the seller are identical to ones that recently sold. They are all small enough in value (a few hundred dollars), where perhaps they are thinking people will not make to big of a stink about them. The seller is also no longer responding to emails. It seems like a pretty clear case of eBay / PayPal fraud.

So, what to do now……thus far, I have :

  • Filed a claim (not just a complaint) with PayPal and hope that PayPal has frozen the appropriate amount of money in the PayPal account. This is set to resolve on December 4th, 2006.

  • Filed an incident report with the FBI’s IC3. IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center. They review reports and refer information to the appropriate local, state, or federal agencies.

  • Filed a report with eBay for an outside of eBay transaction.

I am hopeful the amount of money I spent on the auction will be returned to me, approximately $300 or so. However, the most important thing from my perspective is to make sure that the person perpetrating these fraudulent transactions is caught and stopped. If anyone is aware of any other appropriate actions, please let me know!

I will update my blog as information comes my way. Minimally, I have learned that I do need to look at the specifics of someone's feedback before bidding or doing business with someone. Especially in these types of cases where a lot of feedback has been generated in a short amount of time.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Disneyland for Thanksgiving? A Family Tradition!

Another year, another Thanksgiving Day at Disneyland in Southern California. What began as a trial a few years ago has now become a tradition, with the Brown & Hanscom families going to Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks in Anaheim. For 2006, this makes it the 3rd annual trip for our families which seems to be growing each year – as a total of eleven of us made the trek down to enjoy both theme parks and a great Thanksgiving meal at the Storytellers Café.

First off, let’s talk about the accommodations – we decided to stay at the Doubletree Guest Suites Anaheim Resort for our trip for a couple of reasons. The first is that the hotel is a Hilton family property and our family prefers to stay at Hilton because of the great rewards and the fact that all of us maintain Hilton Honors VIP Gold status. Secondly, they had a phenomenal deal on these dates this past summer and while we absolutely love the Disney Grand Californian – at $400/night, we prefer our $80 Doubletree rooms. Upon arriving we quickly realized the reason for the great rates – the hotel is a brand new property and the promotion must have been to help make sure the resort would be full over the holiday weekends. Overall, the Doubletree was fairly impressive – the entry was nice, there was a good assortment of a restaurant, bar, and a coffee shop making sure that all the needs were met. In addition, the rooms were great – relatively large suites, filled with great quality amenities, bedding, and fixtures.

Now, onto the festivities – over the last couple of years, Disneyland has been relatively quiet on Thanksgiving Day. This year we were a little nervous that our secret was out, as in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, we heard many Disney radio advertisements encouraging people to enjoy a relaxing day at the theme parks. We kept hope that it would remain relatively calm for our Thanksgiving stay and I must admit, Thanksgiving Day at Disneyland was a great success! We arrived at the Disneyland Park right at opening – bright and early – 8:00am. We then made quick runs to Indiana Jones to get a Fast Pass for later, and then right into the line for Space Mountain. (Our technique that we have perfected over the past couple of years of season passes is to get fast passes as quickly as possible in the morning because you can get the early times and immediately be available to select another fast pass, which is a huge key. That way, you save the fast passes you collect in the morning for when it is more crowded in the afternoon. This also works well for California Adventure as you can have an active Fast Pass in both parks – which is great if you are not able to get your hands on the scarce “Dream FASTPASS” badges that are currently being handed out at random within the parks. I made somewhat of an attempt to locate one, but was not successful. We continued hitting all of our favorite rides Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Soarin’ Over California, Hollywood Hotel, and the Maliboomer until the time came for dinner.

We then went to our favorite (other than Club 33) Disney Southern California restaurant, the Storytellers Café – located in the Grand Californian Resort. Generally, we have always ordered from the menu, but starting last year we had the Thanksgiving Buffet. Overall, it was a decent meal aside from the Prime Rib which was not the best. However, the Storytellers Café really nailed it. All the trimmings including turkey, prime rib, ham, mashed potatoes, and stuffing! I even had a few extra helpings of the prime rib – which was greatly improved over the last year. In fact, trusty case member “Scott” was doing a lot of the carving on the prime rib & ham – he’s been a fixture the last 3+ years we’ve been going there and it was great to see him again!

After a great meal, it was back to the parks to enjoy the fireworks. While they were relatively good fireworks, it is simply impossible to compete with quality of the 50th Anniversary fireworks spectacular that we had been seeing the last 18 months. Disney has a lot of work ahead of them to really improve on that. However, it was FIREWORKS and it even “snowed” afterwards. It was a great Thanksgiving holiday with the family!

Friday, we made an “attempt” to visit the park again. Sleeping in a little to rest up from the previous day, we got to the park and promptly decided we had enough. Every line we went to had at least an hour long wait, including Pirates of the Caribbean – given the relaxing day that we had just one day previous – we made a quick exit for home!

Please check here to see the picture album from the day:

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

USC homecoming - Trojans trounce the Ducks

Having run across some tickets for Saturday's game, Ashley and I joined our cousins Scott (USC '06) & Heidi for USC homecoming on Saturday, November 11th at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The game of course was the USC Trojans vs. Oregon Ducks game and until a few weeks ago, the game was being built up as a major showdown with BCS implications. Since then, Oregon had lost two games and USC lost to Oregon State which I lamented about here. Still, USC was playing minimally for a Rose Bowl berth.

We arrived to the USC campus around 2:00pm for the 7:30pm game because of all the festivities and tailgate parties that go along with homecoming events. As anyone living in Los Angeles knows, traffic getting to downtown through the San Fernando Valley on an afternoon is an absolute bear. My cousins have a great parking location right near the stadium that is close, cost-effective, and secure -- that made the end of the trip fun. Upon arriving, we engaged in the usual fair, going through the tailgate and other parties as night time approached. Our seats, which were buried in the Oregon section "1CL" was the farthest away from the action, but still fun seats to have.

The game itself was the typical USC game that we have come to know over the past few years. A fairly intense first half exchange, but by halftime it was a 14-0 affair. The second half also had its share of excitement after two plays where a Dwayne Jarrett interception was followed by an Oregon fumble to really set the teams apart. Perhaps the most intense moment of the game what the referees ruling on the late game "touchdown" by the Ducks. In all, it took about 25 minutes for the refs to get to the decision. First they reversed the touchdown, then they reversed the reversal. In the end, everyone in the stands just wanted there to be a resolution to the play -- points or not. John David (JD) Booty, Chauncey Washinton, Dwayne Jarrett, & Steve Smith all had great games and it looks like the USC passing game is finally back!

Perhaps the biggest development during the afternoon was the string on top BCS teams that were upset during the day. First a highly-overrated Auburn team lost to Georgia, then Texas lost to Kansas State, in fact Florida almost lost to South Carolina. All of those were enough to boost USC to #3 in the BCS standings, perfect positioning for another championship run! At this point, if USC wins out -- against Cal 11/18, Notre Dame on 11/25, and finally at UCLA on 12/2, USC will go to the BCS Championship game this year. With simply a win next week, they will clinch a Rose Bowl berth. The end of the season is sure to be exciting, so stay tuned!

On a side note: Let me take a minute to get on my soap box about the fact that the Oregon Ducks have the ugliest uniforms in the PAC-10 and perhaps the entire NCAA. I know that they pride themselves on the fact they have about 30 different "kits" and the players choose before each game. However, it was a bad idea put together one that has what is supposed to be corrugate metail on the knees and shoulders. Because, when they play teams like USC, they look more like tire treads as they get runover. The good news is that this option is available for both away and home games, so they are equal opportunity when it comes to getting run over.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Canon PowerShot G7 has arrived!

The long awaited arrival of my new digital camera from Dell is here, the Canon Powershot G7 10 mega pixel camera! What's included in the box:

  • PowerShot
  • G7 Lithium battery pack
  • Battery charger
  • 32MB SD memory card
  • Neck strap
  • Digital Camera Solution CD-ROM
  • USB cable
  • AV cable
  • User's manual

My first impression on items included in the package is that I find it somewhat lacking. The inclusion of a 32MB SD memory card for a 10 megapixel camera is not only a waste of a card, but somewhat of an insult a you can get a total of about 8 high-resolution photos on that size of a card. Fortunately, I have been able to pick up both 1GB and 2GB cards on the cheap due to some recent deals from FatWallet.

Next, the inclusion of a full neck strap, but no wrist strap. While some might appreciate the next strap, this camera is no where near as large as a Rebel EOS SLR where a neck strap is necessitated. The inclusion of a basic wrist strap would have been nice.

And my last disappointment is the lack of a basic soft case for the camera. With my other Powershot line purchase in the past, a very basic soft case that protects against basic body and LCD scratches. I do not personally have the need for a larger case, just something basic. At this time, it does not look like Canon has produced a basic soft case at this point.

Now on to the camera itself. Initially, I am very impressed with the look, feel, & size of the Canon Powershot G7 camera. This is the first time that I have been able to put my hands on this camera, given my previously mentioned difficulties. My only initial concern is that if my hands were any larger, I would clumsily fumble around with all the various manual controls available on the camera. Other than that it feels extremely ergonomic and functional.

After charging the battery, I took a few test shots (to be posted soon). I am very impressed with the initial quality of the shots when compared with my previous Powershot (Elph) cameras. The differences, especially in night photos is amazing. The G7 powers on very quickly and is able to snap shots in repetition at high-resolution at a greater pace than I have been used to. The 6x optical zoom does a great job of enlarging distant objects without decreasing the quality.

While I only have taken a few photos thus far, I am very impressed with this camera. I will follow up with additional insights and opinions once I have used the camera more along with sample pictures. I am also going to be picking up a few additional accessories including a LCD scratch protector and extra batteries. At this point I would recommend the Canon Powershot G7 to anyone looking to capture high-quality photos with a relatively compact camera and still skipping the SLR for photography!

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Lights Out

Welcome to this year’s season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Tonight (11/07/06 – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves) was my first visit to Staples Center this year and I must say I was impressed. However, I am not only talking about this year’s team. The new ambience at the Staples Center with the “Lights Out” scheme they have put in place for the arena lighting is awesome!

Rather than flooding the entire arena with bright light, the lights are focused on the court with the stands being relatively dim. From our seats in the Premier section, it seemed to bring the court closer to us and make us feel like a part of the action -- more reminiscent of a boxing match. (see picture from my seat) Planning to attend several additional Lakers games this year, I hope they continue with this scheme, it is a winner.

Perhaps the lighting even has an influence on the players? While Kobe Bryant is still obviously coming into condition – the rest of the starting cast thus far in the season, and especially in this game are greatly improved in terms of skill and chemistry. Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar, & Andrew Bynum were absolutely impressive in their teamwork on the floor. Walton looked so good that I picked him up for my Fantasy team & Bynum looks to have matured about 5 years in his off-season work with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

This could be a great season for the Lakers!

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