Lakers vs. Pistons Photos

Snagged some 9th row Laker tickets last night and I got some great shots. I really love going to the games. Too bad you have to mortgage your house to be able to afford season tickets.

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Disneyland Dec 2010 Photos

Even as a kid, I was not a huge fan of Disneyland, but lately I have become I huge fan. I think having a daughter who is obsessed with Mickey Mouse and all the Disney Princesses has something to do with it. Whenever she sees the Disney logo with the castle in it, Sydney always tells me, “I want to go to the castle.” The place just makes her so happy, which I think makes me happy. We will be buying annual passes next month. They are a great value considering what you get and Disneyland is only 30 minutes away. Take a look at the photos and see the smile on Sydney’s face when she meets the Disney Characters…priceless. I also got some great photos of some of the scenery there, the sunset that day was spectacular!

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Nice day for a trip to the park…

As everyone on the east coast is digging out of a blizzard, we got to enjoy a day at the park. I think Sydney enjoyed it the most!

I got to play with my new Sigma 10-20mm wide angle, though I got a lot of flare from the sun. I also realized how awesome the bokeh (background blur) is on my 50mm f/1.4! Take a look at the photo of Allison to see what I am talking about. Good lenses make all the difference.

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Sunrise after a rainy day

The sunrise here in LA on Dec 26 was beautiful. It rained the night before so it was clear with just enough residual clouds to create some gorgeous colors. Check out the snow on the mountains and the panorama shot I made by stitching 3 photos together. These photos were shot on the bluffs above Playa Vista. The big grey building is an old aircraft hangar that they use to film movies. “Avatar” was shot entirely in that building and they are currently shooting “Iron Man 3″ in there.

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Christmas 2010

Sydney really enjoyed Christmas. This was the first year she was old enough to really know what was going on and to her it was PRESENTS!! Here are some photos:

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Is losing a lifetime customer worth $10?

I have been a customer of Toys R Us for 33 years. I have fond childhood memories of begging my mom to take me down to Toys R Us in Culver city to buy me some Legos. Now that I have a daughter, I thought it was kind of cool that I can now take her to the very same Culver City Toys R Us that my mom took me to as a kid.

Sadly, that era is over. I will no longer be going to Toys R Us becuase they clearly don’t value their customers’ loyalty. Back when my daughter was born, I joined their “Rewards” Club. You basically earn points and they send you coupons and reward certificates for $5 of $10 depending on how much you bought from them. The problem is that they have a limited expiration date. They usually expire 3-4 weeks after they arrive in the mail. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to use these stupid coupons and the cashier points out the expiration date in fine print and tell you you are SOL. While it is perfectly legal to put expiration dates on coupons, why put such a limited time on them, especially for “rewards” I have supposedly earned?

They also do a promo where they will give you a $10 gift card when you buy two boxes of diapers. Today I went to Toys R Us with one of those $10 gift cards in hand and went to buy my daughter’s Christmas gift. When the cashier tried to put the gift card through, it did not work. Even though expiration dates on gift cards are ILLEGAL in California, they refused to honor it and I am not alone. Since I did not want to hold up the horrifically long line and knowing the managers at Toys R Us care even less than the cashiers, I paid for my daughter’s gift and left.

To hell with nostalgia, I am tired of being abused by these idiots. Toys R Us has lost a lifetime customer  who was likely to spend thousands of dollars over the next 10 years on toys for his daughter over TEN DOLLARS! Unfortunately this penny wise, pound foolish attitude is a disease that plagues most retail businesses.

I am a huge fan of Amazon. While I have never spoken to a human being at Amazon, I have never had to because they never fail to ship on time, they have everything in stock and their user-friendly web site makes things like returning goods a breeze.Given the competition from web-based stores like Amazon who have got them beat on price and selection,the only way these brick and mortar stores can compete is on customer service.

While I don’t work in retail, I will BEND OVER BACKWARDS for my clients. I treat them like GOLD. Without them I would be BROKE. Despite what the majority of corporate America thinks, you can provide exceptional customer service and still make a great profit. Just look at Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, and even my employer, Cisco Systems.

So goodbye Toys R Us, it’s been swell but I wont be abused and swindled anymore.

By the way, the item I bought at Toys R Us today is $8 cheaper at Amazon (plus no sales tax). I will be ordering the item from Amazon and returning the one I bought at Toys R Us. I save $14 and Toys R Us does not get to keep my money. Did I mention how much I LOVE Amazon?

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TSA Madness: Media Hype vs. Reality

I have been watching the press coverage about the body scanners and the pat downs. I am not a fan of either though I would opt out of the body scan only because they do put out X-ray radiation and until I see an independent medical review (not one done by a government agency), I refuse to do it. Also, what good is a body scanner if you still have to empty your pockets, take off your belt and shoes and stand there for 10 seconds with your hands above your head like you are a hostage? If I could just leave everything on and walk through a body scanner, I’d probably do it just for the convenience. I am waiting for something like the “X-ray wall” from the movie Total Recall:

All that aside, the press is hyping this thing way too much. The press leaves out two facts in their quest for ratings:

1. You will only face the scanner if you set off the metal detector or you are “randomly selected.” The random selection is rare and you can reduce your chances of being selected by following my tips below:

2. There are very few body scanners deployed in airports and reports from Thanksgiving travelers indicate many of the scanners are not in use.

I used to be what the airlines call a VFF, very frequent flier; think George Clooney in Up in the Air. I flew American Airlines so much that they upgraded me to First Class 95% of the time. While I miss those perks, I’d rather be home with my family now. At least I hit 2 million miles with American which gave me lifetime Platinum status, so I can always use the first class check in and security lines and am exempt from all the stupid fees, etc.

I used to go through airport security at least twice a week and I have my system down. Follow these tips and you will pretty much never face a body scan or a TSA grope:

1. Pack appropriately: Before you go to the airport, make sure your carry on is free from any prohibited items. Make sure all your liquids are packed into a quart-size ziplock bag. Place the ziplock in an outer pocket in your carry on for easy access at the TSA checkpoint.

2. Dress appropriately:

  • Wear comfortable clothing that does not have a ton of pockets and is not baggy (I wore baggy cargo shorts once and got immediately selected for a pat-down).
  • Make sure the clothing does not have metal in it. Metal pants-fly zippers are OK, but that’s it.
  • Don’t wear any jewelry. Flying is not glamorous any more anyway.
  • Wear shoes that can be slipped on and off easily

3. At the airport:

  • No matter how grumpy the TSA folks may be, be nice to them. Ask the guy checking your ID how he is doing, etc. Remember most of these TSA agents are normal humans and respond to kindness. They are not used to people being nice to them and it goes a long way.
  • Be prepared once you get to the x-ray line. Here is my method:
    • After the ID check, I remove my belt, watch, jacket while waiting in line for the x-ray
    • Once at the x-ray, I grab 2 bins. My belt, jacket, watch, ziplock bag with liquids, and contents of my pockets go into one bin.
    • My laptop goes into its own dedicated bin. This is important and most TSA agents will give you grief if you don’t. I recently got one of those TSA-approved laptop bags, so I don’t have to take out my laptop anymore.
    • DO NOT put your shoes in a bin, put them directly on the belt. I am seeing the TSA enforce this more often lately.
  • Once you head to the metal detector, make eye contact with the TSA agent on the other side of the metal detector and wait for him/her to wave you through. You do not want to piss the metal detector agent off; he is the one who decides whether or not you get sent to the body scanner.

I agree with the TSA’s mission but not with their methods. Many of the TSA agents my not agree with their employer’s rules, but they are just trying to make a living.  I hate the TSA as much as the next guy but being an asshole, not following the rules or using the TSA experience to mount some sort of political protest will not do any good for you or soceity. If the TSA mistreats you, get their names, file a complaint and write your congressman. The moral to the story, follow the rules and be nice and your TSA experience will be smooth. Safe travels.

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Halloween 2010

I know I am so late in posting about halloween but I have not had time to do much blogging lately. Normally, I am not a huge fan of Halloween, but this year Syndey was old enough to pick out her own costume and go trick or treating. We had so much fun. Here are a few photos of Sydney in her various costumes. She loves to play dress-up!

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My Presentation Skills tips posted on my school’s web site

Go to Pepperdine’s Student Blog to check it out:

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It is so nice to get away.

I have been so busy with work and school. I did not get to spend time with my family, which was really stressing me out. I booked a getaway to Palm Springs, shut off my work email and did no studying for school whatsoever. It was so worth it. As busy as we are, we have to disconnect from all the crap and concentrate on what’s important. Work and school will always be there, but before I know it, my daughter will be all grown up. I don’t want to miss a moment of seeing her grow!

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