Friday, November 23, 2012

How to succeed in bidding on One Project Closer items

The Humble Brag Link Party

One of the many sites I visit on the interwebs is One Project Closer, a DIY blog written by two couples on the East Coast.  They have many good How To posts and often feature new tools, products and projects that I'm jonsing to try once we have our Forever Home.

Cannot wait to use the Nail Gun
They also feature a reward system and auction site.  You get points for visiting and commenting on posts.  You can use these points for bidding on auction items.  Here's a picture of some of the things I've won over the last year.

Having won the last four auctions I've participated in on OPC, I thought I'd give a little helpful hints on how to win on bidding. First you need to accumulate points so you have something to bid with. You get 2 points for visiting each day. Actually, you get 2 points for visiting every 20 hours so in theory you could get 16 pts a week if you are an insomniac. 

You also get 5 points for new comments on posts (follow up comments do not yield points). There is usually one post per business day so that's 25 more points for a potential of 41 pts/week.  Additionally, at the end of each post, before the comments, there is a section which features related posts. Most of these are from the days before the point system. So this is an excellent way to rack up some additional points.

Pro Tip:  They are very liberal in what constitutes a valid post and do not over enforce their posting policy.  Having said that, it is a DIY community that pleasantly lacks trolls (as far as I can tell) so please don't spoil it by making lame short word posts like "Looks Good" or "That Rules".  It doesn't take much effort to come up with a substantive post, especially if you ask a good question such as  "how much did that cost" or "could you have customized the dimensions to fit a different space."

They also have a sister site called The Better Half.  While they don't post quite as often as OPC, there are some interesting posts every couple of days and comments here earn you points as well.
Once you have enough points you may decide you want to bid on something.  Here's my technique.  It's not rocket science but I have won the last three auctions I've attempted.  Most of the auctions close at 10pm CST usually on a Saturday night, when most of the world is doing other things.  Fortunately for me, I'm an old married guy in a time when internet access is more prevalent than in my youth. 

So I set a simple Calendar alert on my Outlook Calendar on my PC and also on my smart phone for about an hour before the bidding ends.  I've found that it's best to access the bidding site via a desktop or iPad browser. [My android phone didn't work but Nightingale's iPhone did.]

Pro Tip: My secret for winning the bid?  When you log in, bid the amount that is currently listed.  Usually I'm the first and only bidder but at least two other times I was competing with someone else.  So the super secret technique that I alluded to?  If you find that you are competing with someone, bid all your points!

That's right, if you look at the current LeaderBoard, you'll see that I'm 7th though I've been as high as 3rd.  So theoretically, only six other commentors can beat me.  So by bidding all my points, the others have to decide if the item for bidding is worth giving up all their points.  Most are Risk Adverse and will not bet the farm for a power tool in spite of the following.

Now for the secret:  These points are not worth anything outside of OPC.  So there really is no reason to save them.  The current bidding schedule gives you enough time to replace whatever points your spend on an item if you win.  Worst case, you have to skip the next auction or two while you rebuild your points in the mean time you get to enjoy whatever item you won.  Good luck and remember, YMMV.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

One More Thing I'm Thankful For

Being a Subject Matter Expert as well as a customer of the No-Name Software Company, I was included in a Customer Briefing about questionable accounting and business practices by former management prior to the current companies acquisition.

Let me try to clear that up, when I first worked for the No-Name Software Company, it was called something. Through a merger/takeover, another company bought it and changed its name. I still get recruiters calling me to see if I'm interested in taking a contract job out-of-state for a position I have no qualifications for whatsoever. A simply reading of my resume and cursory understanding of the position you're trying to fill should make that self evident but alas, recruiters are mostly bottom feeders who couldn't make it into Human Resources.

Anyway, a few years after I left No-Name, another company acquired it. This is the company that allegedly implemented said questionable accounting and business practices and is now under investigation by the SEC and UK's Serious Fraud Office for civil and criminal investigation.

I have no way of knowing if the way they cooked the books is illegal, legal or just screwy.  It's probably one of those risk versus reward factoring chances of being caught scenarios.  What I can speak to is the culture that existed when I was there.  Everyone from the Top down had a culture of only sharing as much information as necessary and only when it absolutely needed to be released.  Development would release software with known issues and not share them with Consulting Services who would discover them at advanced installs and not share with Technical Support, who would discover work arounds and not propogate those back to anyone.

My point is that I probably left in the nick of time, though I had no idea at the time. Even though things were rough at the Low-Rent Consulting Company (C2), I did learn a lot of my current skillset and much more than I would if I had remained at No-Name.

I left C2 to go to a Big Bucks Law Firm. I was there for almost 3 years before running, not walking away. While I wasn't the first rat to scurry off the sinking ship, I once again got out in the nick of time. Everyone was geting the hell out of Dodge including the CIO.  A few months ago, the FBI charged the replacement CIO with fraud. I was not involved with any of that.  However, it's just never a good thing to be in the vicinity of such impropriety if you can avoid it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It's All How You Look at It

We had another low key weekend!  On Thursday Nightingale had an afterwork event that we needed to attend. It required a suit although I was able to get away without wearing a tie. It just made sense to work downtown. I wore the suit and during lunch, ran into several ex coworkers from the law firm, including my old boss. It is a nice thing when people see you looking your best especially when some of them were expecting you to be down and out.

Friday I worked from home so I picked up our race packets (see below) and went to Andi's.  I like going there early before they run out of the good stuff.  It's a shame I don't speak Polish, I'd own that place.  There's a deli worker who simply stops working the counter when I am in line.  She either doesn't like me or is shy about speaking English.  Either way, I always get one of the ladies who doesn't speak English very well and we have to communicate with Clicks and Whistles.

Saturday we slept in and it was wonderful.  Don't recall what else we did that day.  I mean we straightened up the house and oh and we picked up something a neighbor was giving away that we will be able to use in the very near future.

Sunday we had the Lincolnwood Turkey Trot, which we pretty much do every year.  Some years it's freezing some years it's like yesterday where the weather is unseasonably warm.  Back in the day, it use to be just SHB and me doing the race but as of a few years ago, B and Na and of course Nightingale have joined in.  The last couple years we've had a cluster fuck rying to find a place to eat after the race so this year I took action and suggested a venue beforehand.  I chose Latitude because we happened upon it last year and we got seated immediately and pretty much had the place to ourselves.  SHB countered with a more fluffy choice in the same area.

When we learned it would be a 40 minute wait at SalMarie, I was instructed by Nightingale to start walking down Lincoln to see if other restaurants had less wait time.  The logic was since I walk fast,  I could get to Latitude and back before our table was ready.  I was going to try the Daily Bar and Grill but across the street was Fork.  I figured this was a step up from Daily and walked in to see if they could seat 7 adults and a 1.1 year old.  They said they could clear a table in 10 minutes -- one more reason cell phones are a necessity in life. 
And you think Garza Strip is bad:  B is still not speaking to Na.  I was surprised she joined us for brunch though she sat at the opposite end of the table, though also in part to take care of her 1 year old.  Na said hello to her at the race and she said hi back, but nothing more. 

Without going into the specific details of their "conflict" I can understand and appreciate the complexity of the situation.  Situations like these are rarely one issue incidences.  I think of my own Radio Silence with So-Suede.  From my point of view, I feel he's a dbag and am annoyed that our mutual friends have not called him out on it.  Our mutual friends are fatigue of having to walk on egg shells or pick sides and it's easier to hang out with him since he's not asking them to pick a side.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Free Safety

This was weekend was the first one in a long time where we didn't have some obligation that cut our day in the middle.  We didn't have any open houses to attend.  We didn't have guests in from out of town nor were we out of town.  No vet visits.  We even got our grocery shopping out of the way on Saturday which left Sunday completely open.  I was able to get a good bike ride in while Nightingale went to the gym with SHB.  We didn't do much in the afternoon other than some routine clean up. 

1)  Bathroom.  Once again there was some type of water leak that caused damage to my condo.  And once again I asked my upstairs neighbors if they had any issues.  I got an email from Mrs M3 saying everything was find.  However, at their Halloween gathering, Mr M3 admitted that they had some issues with their caulking and it was fixed now.  He said he would reimburse me for the $200 I spent.  That was 12 days ago and I've only had occasion to bring it up once (see #2).  Update:  he gave me the $200 in cash a couple days ago.

2)  So it was bound to happen sooner or later.  My Honda Element was violated a couple Fridays ago.  Theives removed my catalydic converter along with the oxygen sensors.  I knew the minute I started the car that was what had happened because of the noise.  I hoped that it was something else.  I prayed that it was something else. 

I came home late because I stayed in the burbs for a friend's bday get-together at The Club House (suburban cougarville).  I thought I was lucky that I found a parking spot so close to my home, less than 50 yards away.  Unfortunately it was a spot that was between the two street lights range and thus was very dark.  This made it even easier for whomever came along and decided my car was the lucky one tonight.  Based on the surgical like cuts,  I don't think parking anywhere else that night would have made too much difference unless I could have been right under a street light.  Update: Filed a claim with Insurance Company and they quickly sent me a check which covered about half of the repair costs ($500 deductible).

3)  The Bears lost yesterday and now the talk about them not being a legitimate team is all abound.  You aren't gonna win all of them and after winning six in a row, albeit against inferior teams, they were due for a loss.  Even previously undefeated Atlanta got their first loss of the season.

As a fan, I want my team to win all their games and this was a winable game. A final score of 13-6 isn't as bad as some of the blowouts I've witnessed in my years of being a Bears fan.  It does suck that it happened on Prime Time where they just cannot seem to win consistently.  Note the eagles also lost their QB to a concussion as did the 49ers.

And I still had to paint it myself

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My thoughts on the Presidential Election

In 2008 I was invited to attend the Obama rally in Grant Park by Katness.  Her husband wasn't interested in going to a crowded event and I was apparently the first person to respond to her email.  Though an Obama supporter, I wasn't so much into the politics and policies other than wanting an end to the madness that was the majority of the Naughties.  Mostly, it felt like something special was in the air, and I naturally wanted to be part of it.

That November was unseasonably warm and perfect weather for a rally in Grant Park.  I'm sure a lot of people felt it was Divine Intervention, or at least Celestial Approval of our country's first black president.  Facebook was still relatively new to those who weren't members because of their college .edu email address.  I could barely get a signal in the park because everyone was tweeting, posting and texting to anyone they could about this historic event.  I do recall the temperature seemed to suddenly drop and it went from a pleasant autumn evening to a cold November night, a foreshadowing of the next four years it now appears.

In the days after the election, many of my conservative republican friends, especially the subset that are close-minded bigots, spewed hatred about what a mistake we had made.  Apparently Obama became the first president to do so much damage with his presidential authority before even being sworn in, a constitutional technically my bigoted friends chose to ignore.

Four years later, the weather was not as pleasant and instead of an outdoor rally, the Victory Party was held indoors.  Nightingale and I stayed home although I think Katness and J were in the vicinity of McCormack Place if not actually there.  The one thing that is the same is the hysteria, the venom and the crazy from the close minded bigots.  My Facebook feed is about evenly divided by those who feel we made the right choice and those who feel that we are dead in the water.

The thing is, I'm certain that if Facebook had been around during the 2000 and even the 2004 elections, a younger even less mature Icarus would be posting similar things about Bush.  All the people who are bitching and whining about Obama today would have been cheering and jeering about Bush back then. 

Just because Bush and Obama won their elections doesn't imply either has a mandate. That those elections were so close relatively speaking just means they managed to get a few more votes than the other person.

What it really comes down to is our country is so divided right now and has been for so long.  Instead of figuring out how to solve problems and fix this country, each side is bent on making sure nothing happens that could be perceived as a victory for the other party.

We need to come together as a country and figure out how to fix things instead of tear it further apart.  We need to truly understand the meaning of the word compromise and accept that we won't get anything we want if we aren't willing to make some concessions for what we don't want.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Art of Empathy

A long time ago, in my Single Decades, I reached out to some friends to try and vent a little about my lack of luck in Love and the frustrations of the dating scene I was experiencing. 

I recall one person eventually wrote back and said something like "sorry, I've been so removed from the dating scene for so many years that I cannot relate."

I was floored and didn't know what to say.  I felt bad for bothering that friend and that response has stayed with me all these years.  I think I honestly stopped emailing her with any life updates though I did continue to read her yearly newsletter about how the kids were in 864 different soccer games and they went on a family vacation somewhere.

Now I realize that it was really a douchey copout.  By that logic, if someone had a terrible accident and lost their legs does that mean you cannot empathize because you can still walk?    How hard is it to say "I feel your pain," or "from what I remember, dating sucks more often than not." 

Which brings me to today's rant.  My wife and I are looking for houses and not finding anything in our price range that we like.  What is really frustrating is that I don't have anyone to vent to about this.  My two closest go-to friends are not remotely in a position to buy a house right now so conversations about what we are going through are short and subjects changed faster than an ADD monkey on crack flings his poop.

The annoying thing is I've seen this movie before.  When they get to this station on the Experience Train of Life, they are gonna bombard me with questions and appeals for advice.  Hopefully I'm too busy unpacking in our new home to answer them.