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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!

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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 FlipperNation.com for the latest!

Flipper Nation: The First Flip


There's more where this came from at: FlipperNation.com
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: http://xmro.xmradio.com/xstream/index.jsp

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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:

www.ipetitions.com/petition/Country_Fan_Link
AND
http://www.petitiononline.com/KZLA939/petition.html

In addition, on the CountryBoards.com, 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!

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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........

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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 IGN.com 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.

http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB116588983025547206-E7NTlTuNUdpI5ZCgQGMwjOb3lrA_20071211.html

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 Amazon.com, 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 Walmart.com and GameStop.com, 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 Craigslist.org 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:

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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 pending_reversal@paypal.com 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.

Sincerely,
PayPal Account Review Team

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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.

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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.

THEORIES GALORE (Excerpt)

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.

THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT THOERY
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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